They're in the darkness and the leather is creaking against his wrists, and all Midnighter can do is close his eyes and flex his hands against the cuffs and pretend that there aren't a million ways of taking Apollo down for doing this.
Apollo once called Midnighter's submission the sweetest thing, and pinched his cheek. Jokingly, of course, but there was always an undercurrent of darker meaning.
Midnighter's good at figuring things out. He does crosswords in his head, a whole archive of pre-solved puzzles in squares, in grids, everything orderly.
The hardest thing is not trying to figure Apollo out, not to peel him apart, layer by layer, the way he does with everything else.
The first impact of the riding crop is on his left asscheek, and he's calculating the probability of where it will land next, mentally going through everything Apollo's ever done to him in a split-second, weighing how he would kill him, before closing his eyes and steeling himself for the next blow.
It's a fake-out, and he knows it is, but for Apollo he deliberately tries not to know, predicting the wrong possibility at the very instant that all of them narrow down to one option.
The blow to his right almost comes as a surprise, and he half-gasps.
Third blow, and almost every thought in Midnighter's brain is dedicated to convincing himself that it will be to the left as it comes down on his asscrack, and the remaining portion are just involuntary reflexes.
It's natural to moan as Apollo puts an unnaturally warm hand on his face, stroking it like it's fragile.
Fourth blow, and Apollo's picking up the pace, the next three blows are successive and delivered with increasing amounts of force. Obviously Apollo's taken his advice not to stop until there's a physical reaction to heart. The blows are coming so fast that he's having difficulty predicting them, and he relaxes into the familiar sensation of pain, the unpredictable pain that he deserves.
His buttocks are thoroughly reddened by then, flaming hot and stinging.
That's when Apollo adjusts Midnighter's position on his lap, ass-up, and starts delivering an open-handed spanking, and Midnighter whimpers slightly, his hands flexing behind him, pretending that he's more powerless than he actually is. The sensation is almost unbearable, at that moment, and he tries to rub his cock against Apollo's broad thighs to get some friction (just a bit more and there's a 90% chance of coming within 20 seconds), only to be stopped. The large palm prevents him from moving, then continues delivering the spanking, and his brain is so short-circuited that he cannot think of anything to do at that moment except go with the sensation, disregarding the undercurrent of darker thoughts, raising his ass up a little for Apollo.
The spanking ends abruptly, and Midnighter's ass is so sensitised that he makes a little sound as Apollo draws a finger across it.
"Hold still," Apollo says, as he prepares Midnighter for him. They'd tried it without lube, but even if Midnighter could take it, Apollo didn't want to cause even more deliberate pain.
He doesn't bother with stretching, though, he has to make some concessions to Midnighter.
His rhythm is erratic, but not deliberately, casually erratic enough to make prediction difficult, and they're both so on the edge that it only takes a few minutes before Apollo's grasping Midnighter's hips in a deathgrip, moaning his name, as Midnighter clenches around him and they both gain their release.
Midnighter's mind starts to reboot as Apollo withdraws from him, then kisses him, embracing his temporary victory over Midnighter's programming.
(It could end in a bite that severs Apollo's tongue. It could end with Apollo's skull fractured. There's a higher probability of them dying on the next mission than living for one more month. It would be easier to end it now. It should end.)
Apollo puts a hand on Midnighter's neck.
Midnighter leans into the touch.