There once was a book called The Scientific Method. Then there was a second book, which was called Hugh’s New Dude. Now there is a single book, which tells the story of three men, and how they came to form their unique take on a committed relationship.
This is Catalysts.
I made a rambling video where I talk about deciding to take this project on and why I feel it sets up the series better than either TSM or HND alone ever could. (I have no idea if it’s coherent; I don’t watch my videos so as to maintain the precious illusion that they don’t exist.)
Without further ado, please check out the excerpt. Note to folks who read TSM and HND before they became Catalysts: while it isn’t necessary to read it in its current form, there is some new stuff in there, and there’s a lovely new ending that solidifies exactly how the relationships between these guys stand as you head into the rest of the series.
Will Derrie lay back and thought of England.
Specifically England, the fictional dominatrix he’d invented for moments like this one. But at least Susan liked to be on top. Even Mistress England couldn’t get him off when his girlfriend was waiting for him to—uh—pound her into the sheets, or something.
This has to stop.
Susan, moaning, touched her clit. “God, Will, you feel so good!”
Wrong script, hell. He wanted her to pull his hand to her, force his fingers into the right rhythm, the right movement. He wanted her to say, “Do it right or I’ll slip a cock ring over your dick and ride you until you pass out.”
“Fuck, fuck, yes.” Susan bounced a little and Will’s imaginary dominatrix ramped up her threats. “I’m coming, Will—I’m coming—”
He had to come right now. If he didn’t, she’d want to relax, god, maybe tell him how hot he was, how good he was in bed, and that would fuck everything up.
Will ran the story reel through his brain, imagining his hands bound to the bed frame (his real hands clamped down on it), imagining the intense, leather-garbed Mistress England pinching his nipples between talon-like fingernails, or maybe scratching down his chest, yeah, that was good. He shut his eyes to fix the images more clearly and finally tipped over the edge of orgasm, the physical rush far outpaced by a chorus of thank god, thank god, thank god.
“Whoa, tiger,” Susan said, and settled beside him. “I get first shower. Are you spending the night? I should let Alisha know, if you are, so she doesn’t, like, freak out.”
“Nah, I’ll go home.”
“You sure?” Susan didn’t pout, exactly, but her disappointment still felt heavy on his skin. “She’s okay with you, really, Will. She just likes a little warning before she walks in high and hears you snoring.”
“I don’t snore,” he said, and managed a weak smile. “Alisha’s fine, Suze. But all my clean clothes are at home, so.”
“Yeah, okay. See you later, stud.” She kissed him.
The kiss was very sweet. A thank-you kiss. A goodnight-see-you-tomorrow kiss.
Will escaped her dormitory with a guilty fantasy of Mistress England, who didn’t kiss sweetly. Or call him “stud”. No, Mistress England would yank his hair, plunder his mouth, and tell him maybe she’d call him, if he was lucky.
You gotta lay off reading shitty porn on the Internet, he scolded himself as he trudged toward the crummy room on Durant. He shook out his hands and arms as he walked, tugging the backpack tighter, trying to wake up. If Ads was home, maybe he’d have wild, distracting stories about whatever frat party he’d gone to tonight, or some elaborate plan to bungee jump from the campanile or something. At least one of them was normal.
Or, okay, normal was stretching it. But Ads actually liked having sex. Normal sex. With normal girls. Ads didn’t close his eyes, lie back, and think of freaking England.
This has to stop. He’d break up with Susan, gently, like he had Cynthia and Maritza. Eventually he couldn’t pretend anymore, and then they just ended up hurt anyway, and it wasn’t their fault he was all screwed up in the head. Better to do it right now, before she started saying things like, “Hey, I got you an extra toothbrush, just in case, y’know?” (That had been Cynthia, of the artistically ripped jeans and dyed black hair. And the hopeful smile. God. She was a really nice girl—)
He let himself into the stale-smelling vestibule and hit the stairs. Adam might be home. And if not, Will would just take a shower and go to bed. It was late, he was tired, and he had class in the morning.
No Ads. Just a dingy room with stinky sweat socks hanging from the ceiling fan. (He didn’t remember anything from that night except eventually Beccs, Adam’s girlfriend, had forced them both to drink an entire bottle of water apiece while she actually read to them from some kind of dreary feminist text book. Then she shoved them into their beds and told them they’d better not fucking puke ’cause she wasn’t gonna clean it up. Actually, that part could have been a dream. He wasn’t so sure.)
Will grabbed his shower junk and headed down the hall, starting to rehearse his break-up speech.
“Out. Of. Bed.”
“Mmph?” Will squinted. “The hell?”
“We have a coffee date. Also, you owe me fucking big time, Willie, oh yeah.”
“Don’t call me Willie.”
“So here’s what’s gonna happen, Willie, and I’m preemptively overruling all the arguments you’ll come up with when you finally wake up.” Adam jumped up to sit on the bed. On his leg.
“Sorry.” Only he so obviously wasn’t. “I get it. We all have twisted little secrets, brother, though maybe not everyone searches for ‘bdsm’, ‘bondage’, and ‘dominatrix with a whip’ every single time they want to get off, like you do—”
Will rolled into a ball and tried to die quietly by holding his breath.
“And seriously, you should probably clear your search history when you look that shit up, all right? I’m just saying. One stupid time I forget the name of that book I need for lab and innocently hit the history to see if it’s still up on Amazon, and bam! A peek into your twisted little head.” He knocked, on Will’s head, for emphasis.
Concentrate on death. Guys in India can levitate; you ought to at least be able to think yourself unconscious.
“Anyway, you owe me. We gotta go. Get up.”
“Fuck you, Ads.”
Adam laughed. “God, Will, that would have been worse. What if it was all incest porn? No! Twincest! What if it was all twincest porn?” With a cackle of merriment—Adam had the audacity to be merry, the sick bastard—Ads jabbed him one more time in the skull and jumped back off the bed. “Get up. I got you a dominatrix. Actually, I’m totally not paying her, so I guess I’m only introducing you to a dominatrix. But if fucking Lucy Martinez comes around saying I owe her after this, I’m gonna beat your ass.” Another cackle. “And you can write the twincest porn.”
“I know! Ha! Get your ass up.”
What else was he gonna do? He got up. And anyway, what the hell was Ads talking about? How do you get someone a dominatrix? Aside from the obvious.
The obvious. A dominatrix. Will shivered.
* * *
The dominatrix was a short Latina lady who looked like she could kick both their asses at the same time, and enjoy the hell out of doing it.
“Adam Derrie, you delivered. I’m impressed. What lies did you have to tell your brother to get him here?”
“Like I had to lie. I said ‘dominatrix’ and he couldn’t pull his shit together fast enough.”
Will went for an elbow in the side, but Ads, anticipating it, moved out of the way.
The dominatrix laughed. The guy sitting next to her smiled a little and met Will’s eyes, so Will looked away as quickly as possible.
God. What the hell was he doing here? First of all, he wasn’t even really awake. And second: not a single crazy idea of Adam’s had ever worked out well for him. The only person whose ideas were consistently worse was their cousin Frankie. If she had a good idea, you better check your bank account for bail money before you even got started.
“Lucy,” the woman said, and held out her hand (but didn’t stand up). “You must be the well-behaved one.”
“I’m Will. I—don’t know what Adam told you—or how you know each other—” He broke off, suddenly hung up on the end of that sentence. Yeah. How the hell did Ads know a dominatrix (and her prices)?
“Not like that, gutterbrain. Beccs introduced me to Lucy.”
Beccs? Beccs, Adam’s third wave feminist girlfriend, introduced him to a dominatrix?
“I love that girl. I wish she’d let me tie her up. You boys gonna sit down? I’m getting a neck cramp.”
“I gotta run—hey!”
He shoved Adam in first, then sat down next to him.
“Aw, it’s okay, baby. I only bite a little.”
“Unless you’re into that sort of thing,” her friend added.
“Touché. Adam, Silent Will, this is my friend Hugh. He’s not a scary dom anymore, but he does play one on TV.”
“I really don’t.” The guy reached across the table. He shook hands with Ads first, then Will. And Will was pretty sure he was smirking.
“Hugh’s just along ’cause he was bored and I bribed him with promises of closeted kinksters. So?”
“Hey, hey, hey, I’m not—whatever. I like sex without Google just fine.”
The dominatrix and her friend both turned to Will at the same time. Like they’d rehearsed it or something.
“I just woke up,” Will said. “Also, sorry about Ads. He doesn’t know what he’s talking about. We gotta go.”
“Do you?” the guy—Hugh—said. “Have to go, I mean?”
Will searched for something clever and casual to say, something that would let him off the hook, but the guy kind of raised his eyebrows, like he was waiting for a real answer, and fuck it. “No.”
The dominatrix smiled. “That’s ‘no, sir’ to you, kiddo.”
“Huh. That’s funny, Will. I mean, a dude. Ha. I didn’t even know a dude could be a dominatrix.”
“Top or dominant, anyway.” The dude dominatrix shifted in his seat half-sideways, so he was kind of basically looking at Will across the table. “If you don’t have to go, we can talk for a couple of minutes. Don’t mind Lucy. She gets aggressive when she senses fear.”
“Mm, I do love the scent of blood in the water.”
Talk. Christ. Will flashed to Susan, to the fucked up relief he felt leaving her room at night (escaping). “Ads, this is a shitty intervention.”
“Well, I thought getting Mom and Dad and Jer and the cousins involved would be worse. So I found you a dominatrix. And look, she brought a friend. Though I kinda thought you’d, like, take him back to your place for a beating in your dungeon or something, Lucy.”
“He can’t afford my rates. Hugh, though. Hugh works cheap.”
“Luce, stop torturing the kid.”
“Torture is one of my favorite hobbies.” She leaned across the table, pushing her coffee to the side, and caught Will’s eye. “You want to be tortured, Silent Will? You want to be tied up and teased until you scream?”
Will’s gut twisted into knots and his pits started to sweat cold into his T-shirt. Shit. Time to go.
“Lucy,” the guy said, like he was scolding her.
“Fine. You draw out the cute, submissive straight boy.”
“Because I am the dream of all submissive straight boys who don’t have the funds to visit you,” he muttered. “Will? Here’s my card. When Lucy’s done toying with you, give me a call. To talk, nothing else.” He pushed a business card across the table.
“Aw, you’re ruining my good cop bad cop act by ending the scene.”
“This isn’t a scene, Luce.”
“Anyway, you should do that, Silent Will. Hugh’s gonna be a shrink, so he could definitely use the practice talking poor punk kids down off the ledge.”
He glanced up and she laughed. Her laughter hit like cymbals, just this side of unsettling and far too loud.
“I have class.” Adam punched him in the arm. “Let’s go, Willie.”
I am an adult. I’m not intimidated. I’m not embarrassed. I’m an adult. I can talk to other adults about adult topics like an adult.
“That went well,” Lucy said as he got up to follow Adam out of the coffee shop.
“You wanted to alienate a kid who’s already isolated?” the guy asked. “Congratulations.”
The door shut, cutting off whatever Lucy’s reply to that was.
“Whoa,” Ads said, once they were walking down the sidewalk, in sunlight and fresh air. “Okay. Maybe not one of my better ideas.”
“Thanks anyway, Ads. Even though that was by far the most fucked up humiliating shit you’ve ever pulled on me.”
“What about that time I—”
“This was worse.”
“Huh. Fine. I’ll butt out.”
Will didn’t reply. Because in the first place: it was a lie. And in the second: he didn’t actually mind Ads butting in sometimes. If Ads never butted in, he wouldn’t have ever had one girlfriend, let alone three. And he’d still be wearing the clothes Mom liked to buy them. So it was okay, Ads butting in a little.
“No more coffee dates with the dominatrix, Ads.”
“I hear that.”
They split up at the corner. Adam went to class, Will went home, and they didn’t talk about the dominatrix (or her friend) for another week.
He broke up with Susan. Gently.