M/m sex, spanking. If the idea of a discipline relationship between consulting adult men offends you, so will this story.



His longest teaching day was over, it was downhill the rest of the week, and Donovan was very glad to be home. He fished his portfolio from the car and looked at his house with a sigh. The lights were on, the blinds open.

Donovan unlocked the door. Stepping inside, he sniffed hopefully; sighed again. No welcoming smells, no indication that Loren had thought to start dinner. Just the raucous laughter of sitcom reruns blaring from the television.

Leaving his things in the hallway, Donovan walked to the living room. Loren was sprawled across the floor, a bowl of chips and a soda next to him, watching a commercial.

"Honey I'm home," Donovan said. The joke was lost on Loren. Donovan bent over; ruffled Loren's hair. "Turn that off and come talk with me while I make dinner."

"'kay." Loren rose to his feet without enthusiasm. Gathered his leftovers without prompting.

"Good day, Loren?" Donovan asked conversationally.

"Yeah. I guess." Loren rinsed out his Coke can, stowed his chips in the cabinet. Watched Donovan turn the chops over in the broiler.

"My class started glazing their bowls today," Donovan said. "Set the table please, Loren. Steak knives." He transferred the meat from the broiler to a serving plate; placed it on the table. "Some of them did a really nice job. I think I'm going to put together a show of student work at the end of the term. Wash your hands."

Loren sat quietly at the table, dispiritedly stabbing his lamb chop with his fork.

"It's already dead. Eat, Loren," Donovan prompted.

"I'm not hungry," Loren said sulkily.

"Eat your dinner now please." Donovan's voice was calm.

Loren fled the table.

Donovan followed slowly in his wake, shaking his head. He hadn't a clue as to what had prompted Loren's flight. He tracked Loren to their bedroom.

Loren lay curled on his side, crying. Donovan sat down on the bed beside him.

"This isn't about dinner. What's the matter, Loren?" he asked softly.

Loren shook his head, crying harder.

"How can I help?" Donovan tried another approach.

Still no answer, only more tears.

Donovan stretched out behind Loren, spooning around him. Drawing Loren to him, he hugged Loren gently. Loren cried harder, even as his body molded to Donovan's.

"I don't want you to spank me!" Loren wailed. "I hate it! I don't want you to do it anymore! I hate you, Donovan, you made me love you and I hate being spanked and I don't want to leave, but I can't live like this!" The words poured out in a rush and were followed by wild sobs.

"Easy, Loren, shh, it's going to be all right," Donovan crooned softly, even though his heart was racing and he felt lightheaded with shock at the intensity of Loren's misery.

"You can cry if you need to, it's all right, but just try to hear what I'm telling you. I love you. You don't have to be spanked to stay in this relationship. Do you hear me, Loren? You don't have to be spanked. I'll still love you. I'll still take care of you. You don't have to be spanked."

Loren quieted almost instantly.

"Really?" he asked.

"Really," Donovan affirmed. "I'm not spanking you for my own amusement. I want to help you learn, and a spanking seems to get your attention, fast. But we don't have to do it that way. There are a lot of other options. No, don't start crying again. I'm not going to kick you out, Loren. I'm not going to leave you. I love you. You're mine. I'll always take care of you."

"No one ever wanted me for long before," Loren sniffled. "I though you just wanted someone to play spanking games with."

Donovan sighed. His head hurt. Loren's confusion was painful to witness.

"Loren, what we do isn't a 'spanking game.' It's discipline. I spank you as punishment. It isn't intended to be sexually stimulating."

"But you hold me afterwards," Loren protested. "That's almost like fucking." He sounded wistful.

"Cuddling isn't always sexual, Loren," Donovan said quietly. "I hold you to let you know you're safe, you're forgiven, I care about you."

"Would you still cuddle me, if you didn't spank me?" Loren asked.

"Of course," Donovan promised. His poor brat was feeling very scared and very fragile, he could tell.

"Come here, babe," Donovan said, suiting action to words. Lying back, he drew Loren's head to his chest, wrapped his arm around him, and kissed his tousled hair softly.

"Donovan," Loren whispered. "How else would you punish me?"

"Corner time. Writing out lines. Extra chores. No dessert." Donovan said. "Not to worry, Loren, I'm a clever man."

Loren sniffled.

"But you won't spank me anymore?" Loren asked.

"Is that what you're after, Loren? A discipline relationship, but without corporal punishment?" Donovan asked.

Loren was quiet.

"What if I say yes?" Loren asked softly.

"I'd be willing to do that," Donovan said.

Loren looked anything but reassured.

"Donovan? What if I can't do it? What if I can't learn without being spanked?" Loren asked unhappily.

"Loren. You need to make a choice. Trust me to punish you as I see fit, or trust me enough to tell me what your limits are." Donovan studied his suddenly angry brat.

"Fuck you," Loren said, not wanting the responsibility of choosing.

"Loren," Donovan said warningly.

"I'm sorry! Okay, I trust you. You decide what's right, okay? But I hate when you spank me!"

Donovan shook his head.

"Behave yourself, Loren, and I won't spank you," he said softly.

"I hate you," Loren said, even as he snuggled into Donovan's arms.

Donovan stroked his thumb over Loren's lips, studied Loren's eyes. Kissed Loren, widening his lips, probing Loren's mouth with his tongue.

"More," Loren moaned as Donovan deepened and intensified his kiss. Loren shivered as Donovan reached forward and stroked Loren's hard cock through his jeans, squeezing lightly.

"Please. Please. Please!" Loren moaned.

"After dinner, brat," Donovan said. "Get your appetites in order." His smile took the sting out of his words.

"You're so mean, Donovan." Sighing, Loren trudged back to the kitchen. Settling into his chair, he poked his food glumly.

"How about dessert?" Donovan asked, taking pity on Loren. He took Loren's unfinished plate to the sink. Returning to the table, he plunked down two wedges of pie and two mugs of coffee.

"How do you carry all that shit at once?" Loren asked, momentarily distracted from his misery.

"I waited tables at college," Donovan laughed. He slid back into his chair.

"I hate this," Loren said, staring at the table.

"Talk to me, Loren," Donovan said firmly. "I'm not a mind reader."

"All the time I was growing up, I thought about being an adult. And I was glad that one day no one would be able to hit me, ever again, without me slamming them back? Then I get into this fucking S&M stuff, and it's like wow, okay, whip me. Then I meet you, and it's like, okay, you can spank me. I'm sick of it, Donovan. I want to screw up like everyone else, without being punished. Without being spanked." Loren shrugged. "I'm an asshole, okay?"

"No, babe, you're not," Donovan said slowly. "You make a lot of sense. What you're telling me is, this never felt like a choice for you. You've always been smacked around, you've always been punished, you never had the option of saying no, and you don't really expect you ever will." Donovan looked very sad.

"You mad at me, Donovan?"

"No, Loren," Donovan sighed. Loren could never distinguish between distress and anger, not Donovan's, not his own. "I'm sad, Loren. Because I love you and I want to do right by you and I don't think what we're doing is working."

"No, it's fine," Loren said hastily. "Donovan, please, I was just talking. Don't be mad."

"Loren. I'm not angry. I'm right here; I'm not going to leave you. We can talk about things, we can disagree about things, and no one has to leave. Shh, it's all right, Loren."

"Just forget it, Donovan. It doesn't matter anyway." Loren put his head down on top of his folded arms, face turned to the side.

Donovan watched the play of emotions over Loren's features, the mixture of resentment and resignation, and felt his own face fall into matching sadness. Loren was miserable; that was clear.

"Loren, it matters to me. It matters a lot. Come, sit with me?"

"Sure, Donovan," Loren said, bewildered.

Donovan helped Loren to his feet, led him into the living room. Drew Loren into his lap and settled him comfortably. Loren snuggled; he had become fond of the feeling of safety and security he found in Donovan's arms.

"I don't know what to do," Loren whispered. "I'm scared, Donovan. I never thought, I never imagined...anything like this." He waved his hand, indicating the room lined with bookshelves, the chair in which they snuggled. Donovan.

"It's not your fault," Donovan said staunchly. "I should have realized before this, you never had a choice. I'm the one who should have known better."

"You won't want me anymore," Loren said miserably.

"That isn't true, Loren." Donovan tried to ease Loren back against him, but Loren's body was stiff and unyielding. Donovan settled for letting his hand rest on Loren's thigh, rubbing through his jeans in slow, settling circles. Loren shifted his hips incrementally, leaned into Donovan. Without talking, the two men fitted their bodies closer together, until they were molded to each other. With a sigh, Loren buried his face in the side of Donovan's neck.

"I'm sorry," Loren whispered.

"I know you are," Donovan said softly. "It isn't something either of us did on purpose, Loren, I know that. We didn't plan on this happening. Don't worry, Loren, we'll get past this. Together."

"Yeah, right," Loren said wistfully. "I know you played, Donovan. I asked around. You like the scene, you don't want some vanilla relationship. I know that."

Donovan was silent for a few minutes, thinking.

"It's like this, Loren," he said slowly. "I like the scene, but I don't need the scene. I love you. I need you. If you don't want to be spanked, ever again, I still want you for a lover. I still need you for a lover. I love you, Loren."

"I don't get why the fuck you would," Loren said unhappily. "I'm stupid, Donovan. I dropped out in tenth grade. I don't know anything, I've never done anything. Your friends think I'm an asshole and that you could have done better. I've never had a real job that lasted. I don't even want to be alive, sometimes."

Donovan tried to breathe through the sudden rush of terror Loren's words prompted.

"What do you mean, you don't even want to be alive sometimes?" Donovan asked, striving for calm. "Talk to me about that, Loren. Are you saying you've thought about hurting yourself?"

"Yes. No. Yes. Forget it, okay," Loren mumbled. "Ah fuck, I didn't mean it like that, all right? Let me alone, Donovan." He tried to stand upright, but Donovan held him back.

"Do you know how much you matter to me, Loren? I would never get over losing you, if you hurt yourself," Donovan said. "Never."

"All right!" Loren snapped. "I was just talking, all right? All right?" He jerked free and stood back, breathing hard.

Donovan rose slowly to his feet.

"Loren? I'm not angry with you. I want that to be clear. But I am concerned by how unhappy you sound. I need you to promise me something. I want you to promise you will not hurt yourself. Will you do that for me?" Donovan fastened his eyes on Loren.

Loren scowled, feeling the power Donovan's concern gave him. Hating the feeling.

"Fuck you! Fuck you Donovan!" Loren said, raising his finger deliberately. "What are you going to do about it, hey? You going to stop me?"

Two strides and Donovan had Loren by the arm. He spun Loren in towards him, effectively restraining him with his own arm, and swatted him twice. Hard.

Loren blinked, astonished.

"You spanked me, Donovan," Loren said wonderingly. "You didn't listen to me when I told you to fuck off. You spanked me."

Donovan smacked Loren again.

"YOW! No more!" Loren yelped.

"You! Scared! Me! Loren!" Donovan said, accompanying each word with another sharp swat. "You! Don't! Play! Games! Like! This! With! Me!"

"All right! OW! OW!! I'm sorry!" Loren moved quickly from astonishment to repentance. "I'm sorry!!" He began to cry.

"Shh, shh," Donovan murmured, hugging Loren to him. "I've got you, don't be afraid. I won't let you down. Shh, shh..."

Loren, what am I going to do with you, Donovan thought to himself. You scared yourself too, babe, I know that. You can't imagine love without pain, and you need both, or you think you do. What am I going to do with you?

Aloud, Donovan said only one word.

"Bed." Donovan turned Loren towards the stairs and gave him a meaningful shove. "I'll be right up. Don't bother washing up, just stretch out and wait for me."

Loren shucked his jeans and shirt, leaving only his tee and briefs, and crawled gratefully under the covers, relieved to know that the slight punishment was all he was getting. Donovan never spanked him in the bedroom. Being in bed meant only love and comfort. He didn't have to wait long before Donovan joined him.

Donovan stripped quickly and efficiently and slid under the covers. Drew Loren to him. Slipping his hands under the hem of Loren's tee shirt, he eased it over Loren's head and dropped it on the floor beside the bed. Worked Loren's briefs down, feeling Loren stiffen against him.

Loren kicked his feet free. Now completely naked, he rolled on top of Donovan. For a minute there was a mild struggle, as Loren tried to control their kiss and Donovan refused to allow it. Finally, Donovan flipped Loren onto his back and using his superior weight, pinned him to the mattress. Kissed Loren deeply, his tongue insisting that Loren open his mouth to its explorations. Loren shuddered in pleasurable acquiescence.

Donovan teased Loren with lips and tongue as Loren played at trying to escape, his giggles a clear indication that it was play, not real. Donovan trailed kisses down Loren's throat and belly, enjoying Loren's squirminess, his moans of mingled protest and encouragement. Licked the head of Loren's eager cock, laughed at Loren's gasp.

"Fuck me, Donovan? Please..."

Donovan stroked his hand over Loren's flank to his ass, dipped his fingers into the cleft between his taut buttocks, explored gently. Loren caught his breath.

"Feel good? Or sore?" Donovan wanted to know. "I'm not going to enjoy this if it hurts you, Loren."

"I want you to fuck me, Donovan," Loren said, pressing back against Donovan.

"Well..." Donovan bit his lip. He too wanted Loren, wanted to thrust deep into his lover, wanted the trust this intimate joining implied. He stroked the pad of his forefinger over the sensitive opening.

"Ahh..." Loren's slightly strained exhalation did not reassure Donovan.

Donovan withdrew his exploring finger. Running his palm over his open mouth, he took Loren's cock in his hand.

"Lie still, be good," he admonished Loren, as Loren tried to position himself for penetration. "We'll do what I want us to, Loren, don't argue." Donovan might be willing to forgo the more physical elements of BDSM, but the mastery and the power he brought to their union went beyond games and props.

Loren melted before Donovan's heat. He arched into Donovan's caress, sighing. Donovan handled Loren's cock surely and confidently. He kissed the tender head, teased the weeping opening with his tongue. Loren twisted, but Donovan's mouth was sure and determined.

Loren gave himself up to Donovan's demands, to the warm mouth, the persistent hands. Came hard, muscles rigid with the intensity of his orgasm, gasping for breath.

Donovan teased the last spurt of cum from his lover; snuggled Loren close.

Loren turned himself so that his cheek lay on Donovan's hip, and extending his tongue, tasted Donovan gently. Donovan's cock bobbed against his belly, and slipping lower, Loren traced his tongue over the swollen veins, the darkened head. Widened his mouth and took Donovan deeply, his mouth hot and tight and eager. Donovan groaned with pleasure.

"So close! Use your hand." Donovan shoved gently at Loren's head, knowing Loren did not like to swallow. This time Loren ignored his signal.

Donovan drew Loren's face level with his and kissed him fully, tasting himself on Loren's lips. Loren widened his mouth, his tongue dancing with Donovan's in lazy, sensual swirls.

"I love you so much," Loren whispered.

"I love you, Loren," Donovan replied softly. "My own Loren. All mine."

"You keep me, okay?" Loren snuggled contentedly.

"You stay," said Donovan, smoothing Loren's hair. "You stay, Loren. I'm not the one you have to worry about."

"You're still mad," Loren said unhappily.

"I'm not angry, Loren, I'm being realistic. You're the one who ran away; I didn't put you out. I want you, Loren, I love you and I want you for a partner, a lover, a friend."

Loren was silent.

"I hurt you? When I went with Pete?" Loren asked tentatively.

"Yeah," Donovan said. "It hurt. I hurt. I love you, Loren."

"You're still mad at me," Loren repeated.

"No. We dealt with that; it's over. I'm not angry. I just want you to know that you're not the only one who's afraid sometimes. Who worries about our relationship. I need you too, you know."

Donovan could see Loren struggling with the concept. Donovan shook his head, tucked Loren closer and kissed him soundly.

"Go to sleep, babe," Donovan said. "I love you. I got you. You're safe. Go to sleep."

Loren's eyes closed. After a little while, his breathing deepened and his body slackened into sleep. Donovan shifted Loren back onto the pillows, spooned him close, and slept himself.

As always, Donovan rose with the sun. On non-teaching days he put in a full day in his studio.

Donovan loved the early morning hours almost as much as Loren despised them. They had reached a compromise whereby Donovan drank his first cup of coffee and set up his day's work before waking Loren.

Donovan shook Loren gently.

"No….shit, leave me alone!" His night's sleep had clearly not calmed Loren.

"Up, sleepyhead."

"Shit, leave me alone..." Loren surfaced. "Shit. I'm up!"

"Come have breakfast." Donovan stroked Loren's hair, smoothing the tawny mass back from Loren's eyes.

"You mad?" Loren asked reflexively, rubbing his stubbled cheek against Donovan's hand.

"I'm not mad," Donovan reassured him.

"Come back to bed?" Loren licked his lips, grinned.

"Breakfast, Loren," Donovan said firmly. "Not that you don't look edible."

Donovan watched Loren eat, wondering what might settle him. He needed to put in a few solid hours in his studio and Loren looked as if he might be better off productively occupied. He had a project in mind.

Loren looked at the paper and pencil, tilted his head consideringly.

"Go on," Donovan coaxed. "Let me see what you do with it. Just give it a shot, Loren, there's no pressure."

"Okay," said Loren reluctantly. He had always liked making drawings, but lately they had only gotten him in trouble, and his innocent pleasure in the process was gone.

Donovan had chosen well. The drawing he had set for Loren to copy was one of those deceptively easy to understand nineteenth century art school exercises, seemingly straightforward, but informed by years of drafting by the student, years of tapered lines and practiced curves. Loren was caught up in its intricacies despite himself.

Donovan could almost see the moment when all consciousness of time left Loren and he slipped into the flow of the work. Certain now that Loren would continue without prompting, Donovan left the room.

Loren worked certainly and steadily, his hand sure, his usual tentative approach completely absent. The satisfaction of seeing shape take form before him lured him on, kept him going. The light from the window shifted before Loren finished. Stretching, he turned the paper, squinting. Suddenly lonely, he went to hunt for Donovan.

Loren had a very ambivalent relationship with Donovan's studio. On the one hand, the studio fascinated him. He had only been in there a few times, but he loved the high windows, the sense of order and industry, the machines and the earthy odor of damp clay.

On the other hand, he resented the studio as he would another lover. Donovan spent what seemed to Loren an inordinate amount of time sequestered there. Doing whatever it was that he did. Loren scowled. Donovan's absence on teaching days was easy to understand. Donovan's dedication to pursuing his craft in the solitary confines of his studio ate at him.

Loren envied Donovan's privacy and in some inchoate way, envied Donovan his work as well.

Loren had no work. After the disaster at Matthiesen's, Donovan had pretty much backed off from his demand that Loren find a job. Loren knew Donovan was uncomfortable letting him out of his sight for long, and Loren bitterly regretted the loss of Donovan's trust. At the same time, Loren was glad to see his days settle into an easy pattern. A few light chores, a lot of time for television and the internet, following Donovan from gallery to party to school and home again. It was a life.

It's not a life, Donovan thought unhappily. He slammed the failed figurine into the plaster bat, flattening it. It's not enough. Loren has got to do something, damn it. I have got to push him. But what? He's not interested in anything, as far as I can tell. I'll be damned if I'll put him through school if he's not motivated to learn. He'd need to do his GED first, anyway.

Donovan kneaded the clay, his fingers working out his aggressions on the compliant medium. Unlike Loren, clay was obedient. Cooperative.

Donovan sighed. Jay had read him the riot act again the previous day.

"He needs a job, Donovan. He's twenty-two, he's a man, not a pet. He needs work, Donovan, work that interests him preferably, but work that gets him out in the world, definitely. Insist, Donovan. You're not doing him any favors."

The thing is, Donovan thought, I know Jay's right. How many dads of the guys I grew up with ended up drinking because there were no jobs in our area? How many of those guys died in their fifties from alcohol and ennui? Why did Jay and I run as fast and as far as we could?

But what can I do? I'm his lover, not his parent, not his teacher. I can't tell him to just get a job or else. Or else what? What am I going to do to him if he doesn't?

"Discipline, Donovan! What part of take a hand in this don't you get?" Maurice glared at Donovan.

Donovan laughed. Maurice's indignation was so much a part of who Maurice was. Driven himself, Maurice could not understand how anyone would not need a professional outlet. Loren's laid back attitude really irked him.

"Maurice, I can't spank Loren for not working, can I?" Donovan said. "Be reasonable."

"No," Maurice said slowly. "That isn't what I'm saying, not exactly. But you know, you could set goals for him, Donovan. You could insist he call about six want ads, or fill out job applications at six stores, or whatever you thought he could manage. You could demand he live up to your expectations in that regard. And you could spank him if he didn't."

"Goals." Donovan considered Maurice's suggestion.

"Performance goals. He needs that. Look, Donovan, I know I haven't taken to him, and I'm sorry. He just gets to me, I don't even know why. Jay says it's my problem, that I just have to accept..." Maurice flushed.

"Maurie? It's all right," Donovan said gently. "He hurt your feelings and you think of that every time you see him. Don't you know I realize that?"

"I'm trying to let it go, Donovan!" Maurice said defensively.

"Maurice. I still think about it. How I practically pinned him to the exam table, that first night. I didn't think of it as abusive. I still think we made a reasonable decision, under the circumstances. We both know how Pete plays; we assumed Loren was hurt and needed our help." Donovan sighed.

"We didn't get his consent first. But Maurice, we made a mistake. We didn't deliberately coerce him into a scene he didn't want to do. We didn't know what he thought it was."

"Donovan? Does he still think I'm some kind of pervert?" Maurice voiced the question that had been haunting him.

"He thinks all doctors are perverts," Donovan sighed. "He thinks all men are perverts."

Maurice grimaced.

"Except for Pete," Donovan said bitterly. He shook his head.

"Loren still trusts Pete?" Maurice asked, fascinated and horrified.

"Loren would follow Pete into the fire," Donovan said sadly. "Loren says he loves me, and I believe him. But I don't have him hooked like Pete did. It sucks, but what can I do?"

"You can punish him, Donovan. For his own good. Scare him a little. He may need that, Donovan. Some people do." Maurice spoke very gently. "Donovan, you're a top. Use that. Loren needs a top, Donovan."

"He doesn't want me to spank him," Donovan said.

"Then let him behave himself."

"Maybe he's not ready for a discipline relationship, Maurice."

"Maybe he's just going to have to trust you, Donovan." Maurice took a deep breath. "You're the best thing that ever happened to Loren, Donovan. I know it, Jay knows it, you know it."

"There's a sucker born every minute, is what you mean," Donovan said ruefully.

"I've got to meet my afternoon class. By the way, I'm doing a studio demo for my students on Wednesday, so I'll have to skip lunch. Sorry."

"We'll get together later in the week. Jay is planning something Thursday after work; I'm sure he'll call you." Maurice stood up, taking his coffee. "See you then, Donovan."

"So there are going to be about a dozen people altogether," Donovan said to Loren, bundling up a month's worth of newspapers and magazines. "Take these out for me?"

"Can't we leave them here?" Loren asked.

"I want the place to look decent," Donovan said, looking around the studio.

"But you've been fussing around in here all morning! It's not fair," Loren griped. "I want to do something fun. This is boring."

Loren picked up the first neatly tied pile.

"It's heavy." Loren dropped the pile, splitting the string. The papers scattered. Loren kicked them angrily.

"Stop that, Loren." Donovan sounded unimpressed.

Loren kicked over the second stack of papers. They too scattered.

"Your call, Loren," Donovan said evenly. "Stop acting out, or be spanked. You decide."

Loren kicked over the third stack of papers, annoyance overtaking caution, and was rewarded with a sound swat.

"OWW!! No fair, Donovan!" Loren yelped. "I hate this! I hate you!" Loren kicked the papers across the room. "I don't want to do this. I don't see why I should have to help out. I don't want to meet these people. They're smart and I'm dumb and you like them better than me--"

Donovan reached Loren in two strides, drew him away from the papers and into his arms. Held his squirming, agitated brat in a firm hug.

"Settle down, Loren. I didn't realize. Settle down now," Donovan crooned, not letting go.

"No! I hate you! Let me go, please, Donovan, I don't care. No!" Loren struggled against the gentle arms that firmly, inexorably held him close.

"Shhh, shhh," Donovan repeated. "Shhh, Loren, I've got you. I love you. It's all right." He could feel Loren's wildly racing heart.

Loren shook his head hard, took a deep gulp of air and laid his head tentatively on Donovan's chest. His eyes welled with tears as Donovan's large hand rubbed slow circles over his back, easing him incrementally closer.

"They're my students, Loren. You're my lover. There's no reason to talk like that," Donovan chided. "You're every bit as smart as anyone else, and a hell of a lot more talented than most. There's no good reason to work yourself up like this, Loren." He continued to rub Loren's back until he felt Loren's muscles loosen. "No reason at all."

"Are you going to spank me, Donovan?" Loren asked forlornly.

Donovan hesitated. His gut said no, but his brain said yes. He tried to weigh his choices.

"Yes," Donovan said finally. "You're twenty-two, you're an articulate, capable man, you don't sulk and sabotage and generally disrupt our household without at least making an effort to tell me what's bothering you. I'm not a mind reader, Loren. You saw how hard I was working to straighten up; in five minutes you undid two hours of work. You are getting a spanking."

"Shit," said Loren ruefully.

Donovan drew a wooden chair from the wall; seated himself.

"Pants down, over my lap," said Donovan quietly. "I really wish I didn't have to do this."

"Me too!" said Loren fervently. "You don't have to spank me! Donovan, don't spank me!"

"Now, Loren," Donovan said implacably. "Or else I'm going to help you." He waited a moment, then began to undo Loren's fly. Turned Loren facedown over his knee and tugged his jeans and boxers down.

Loren kicked experimentally, was rewarded with a firm swat, and drooped unhappily.

"Why am I spanking you, Loren?" Donovan asked gently.

"I ruined everything," Loren mumbled.

"Not everything, Loren," Donovan said. "But you made an incredible mess, and you did it on purpose. "

Donovan spanked Loren briskly, quickly reddening his buttocks. Loren was squirming within the first few smacks, crying within the next few. Donovan dealt out a few more hard spanks, wanting to be sure the lesson went home, and then eased Loren up and held him while Loren sniffled into his shirt.

"Better, babe?" Donovan asked presently, brushing Loren's bangs back from his eyes.

"I'm sorry," Loren said, shamefaced.

"I don't want to have to do this again," Donovan said seriously.

"What if you get sick of me?" Loren asked anxiously. "Donovan, you love your students!"

"Have a little faith, Loren, " Donovan said. "I like my students. I love you." He sighed. "What am I going to do with you, Loren? You're it for me, babe. And anyway, I never get involved with my students."

"Right," said Loren skeptically.

"You don't believe me?" Donovan asked curiously.

Loren shrugged.

"If they're cute..." Loren's voice trailed off.

"Never." Donovan said matter-of-factly. He kissed Loren thoroughly. "Come on, brat, now you can help me clean up."

"Lucky me," Loren muttered, but he obeyed with alacrity.

Donovan greeted his students. They were clearly awed by the studio; Loren watched admiringly as Donovan welcomed them with casual good will, setting them at ease.

One of the young men looked familiar. Loren studied him, trying to place him.

The dark-haired man looked up, feeling Loren's eyes on him.

"Loren!" Scott exclaimed. "Shit, I don't believe it. How are you?"

Scott. Loren swallowed hard. It was the first time his past had caught up with his present.

"You look good, man," Loren observed.

"I got fucking lucky, you know, Loren." Scott rubbed his hand over his mouth.

Loren looked at him.

"What happened with that German guy? John? Hans? Whatever his name was. The rich bastard."

"Emphasis on the bastard," Scott said. "He beat the shit out of me. I got out of there. I'm here now. End of story."

"Shit," Loren said.

"How about you?"

"Same story, sort of," Loren said slowly. "I'm here now. With Donovan. Except..." His voice trailed off.

"Except what?" Scott said, somewhat impatiently. He began to remember what had always annoyed him about Loren, that maddening vagueness.

"Whatever." Loren shrugged. Donovan had been coaching him on social skills, but under stress he still fell back on his strengths, brazen nerve or submissive silence.

Scott eyed Loren judgmentally, trying to decide if the vulnerability he projected had always been there, or whether it was new. His own experience had sensitized him to signs of abuse he had never picked up on before.

Scott looked from Loren to Donovan. Donovan Moore had the same air of utter confidence about him that Scott recognized in Leo.

Leo must know Donovan, Scott realized. I'll ask him about it. Leo will know what to do. The thought was eminently reassuring.

Loren meanwhile was panicking. Quietly, but definitely. He ducked out the studio door and headed across to the house. It was raining hard; he was drenched in even the few steps the trip took. He slammed the door behind him, hard, and without turning on the lights, headed for the bedroom.

Miserably Loren kicked off his sneakers, dropped his wet clothes on the chair Donovan insisted they be piled on. He dove into the bed, buried his head in the pillows and cried himself to sleep.

Dusk, the interlude between day and night. Donovan sat alongside Loren on the bed and ruffled his hair gently.

"Wake up, babe," Donovan coaxed, his voice gentle. His brat was overwhelmed and miserable; Donovan had noted the dried tear tracks on his cheeks. "Come on, Loren, I feel like eating out tonight. Come on, babe, up now." Donovan teased his way down Loren's back, scratching lightly, coaxing Loren awake.

"Donovan? Are you going to spank me?" Loren asked sleepily. He didn't sound scared; he did sound like he wanted to be reassured.

"Of course not, babe. You didn't do anything wrong. You panicked, Loren. I'll never punish you for something you can't help. Shh, babe, trust me a little." Donovan rubbed Loren's back gently, his own cock hardening at the sight of his beautiful young lover's stretching.

"Fuck me, Donovan?" Loren said, ever hopeful.

Donovan sighed, deflating. Loren's crudeness bothered him, but he didn't want to hurt Loren's already wounded feelings further.

"Maybe later, " Donovan said, kissing Loren firmly. "Up. Shower. Get dressed."

Scott sat at the kitchen counter, coffee in hand, feet curled around the bars of the stool he perched on.

"You're not going to believe who I saw at Moore's studio," Scott said.

"Try me," Leo said, pushing the plate of biscotti closer to Scott, and dunking his own cookie in his coffee.

"This guy I knew from the scene. Loren. Only...Leo, how well do you know Donovan? Because Loren was, well, I mean, he acted shit scared. You think Donovan beats him?"

"Donovan?" Leo choked on his coffee.

"You're laughing at me?" Scott stared at Leo, outraged.

Leo roared with laughter, tried to stop, started again.

"Okay, okay, what's the joke?" Scott finally said, his indignation mellowing as Leo struggled visibly for control.

"Donovan? Abusive? Scott, Donovan is infamous for taking on wounded subs. The man's got the patience of a saint." Leo sobered. "Donovan left the scene because the community wouldn't blackball a top he held responsible for pushing a sub to kill himself. Scott, I would trust Donovan with my life, and I mean that sincerely. If your pal Loren is skittish, then he came to Donovan wounded."

"I don't know much about Loren," said Scott. "We're not really friends. I only knew him a little while. Shit, just forget it. I'm an asshole, all right?"

"Scotty, shh, I'm sorry." Leo put his coffee down; touched Scott's cheek gently.

"Whatever. I'm going to lie down." Scott walked stiffly out of the room. Threw himself angrily onto their bed, feeling upset and unsettled.

Leo followed Scott. Flopping alongside him, he flipped Scott onto his back, straddled him and kissed him.

"I'm not laughing now. Talk," Leo said.

"Seeing him was weird. I mean, I'm a sub, okay, but Loren's really subby, not like me," Scott said defensively.

"Oh yes, you're a tough guy. Hugely, obscenely tough..." Leo's hand strayed lightly over Scott's jeans.

"Hugely, obscenely hard," Scott smirked.

"Let's see about that," Leo said. He worked Scott's jeans open.

Scott lifted his hips helpfully as Leo slid his jeans off. His erection strained against the thin fabric of his underwear. Leo teased his hand inside.

"Ohhhh...." Scott moaned, arching into Leo's touch. "Oh yes."

Leo shucked his own clothing.

"You look good, Leo," Scott said.

"Take off your shirt, Scotty, let me enjoy the view," Leo said. "That's it. Yum."

"What am I, eye candy?" Scott laughed.

Leo kissed Scott, starting with his mouth and working his way down Scott's throat. Licked his way lower, skirted Scott's bobbing cock, much to Scott's frustration.

"Leo! Leo!"

"Patience, brat, or you won't get any," Leo teased.


"What do you want, Scotty?" Leo asked, cupping Scott's balls and massaging them gently. "What do you want?" Leo teased a finger over Scott's asshole, watched the small opening wink open.

"You! In me. Please Leo please Leo please..." Scott groaned, his eyes screwed shut, his hand stroking his cock.

"Like this?" Leo tore open a small black packet, smoothed the condom over his erect cock. Took a hefty gob of lube on his fingers and slicked himself, then pressed carefully into Scott, taking Scott's legs on his shoulders, his eyes on Scott's face, alert to any sign of discomfort.

"Ahh, yes," Scott pulled at his rigid cock, desperate for release. He came hard, back arching.

Leo thrust hard a few more times before he too came. Withdrew carefully, holding the condom. Tied it off and dropped it alongside the bed.

Sighing with satisfaction, skin sleek with perspiration, the two men lay sprawled together.

"Love you so much," Scott whispered.

"I love you too. You're so good, Scotty, so good." Leo tugged the sheet over them. Scott stiffened.

"What is it, Scotty?" Leo tried to tuck Scott closer, but Scott refused to budge. Leo tickled him gently, ignoring his scowl, until Scott unfroze and curled into him.

"People trusted Johann too, Leo." Scott sounded distant and distressed.

"You want me to check up on Donovan," Leo guessed.

Scott nodded uncertainly. Leo kissed Scott gently.

"I'll have lunch with him," Leo promised. "I'll try to get the scoop on Loren. Scott, I know you got hurt. It shouldn't have happened. I'm so sorry it did."

"Was it my fault?" Scott asked softly, not looking at Leo. "The therapist says I have to take responsibility for my choices. I hate her."

"Fault and responsibility are different things," Leo said. "It wasn't your fault. Do you really hate your therapist, Scotty?"

"I don't like her." Scott shrugged. "She doesn't like me either, Leo."

Leo smoothed Scott's hair back from his forehead.

"There are other therapists, Scotty. We can find someone you feel more comfortable working with."

"I don't want to see a therapist at all. It's a waste of money. I don't get why I have to," Scott complained. "Why can't I just talk to you?"

"I'm your lover and I'm your friend and I want to be sure you're all right," Leo said quietly. "There are some things that a professional can help you with that I can't, no matter how much I love you. Trust me on this one, Scotty, please."

"It's your money," Scott said nastily. "Sorry, Leo, I didn't mean it like that."

"Watch that sharp tongue," Leo remonstrated, patting Scott's butt firmly. "We don't talk to each other that way, remember?"

"Sorry," Scott repeated, snuggling into Leo. "I remember."

Leo lost no time in making a call to Donovan.

"Donovan, it's Leo Cantrell. I'm going to be over in your neck of the woods on Friday. Would you like to grab lunch together? Great! I'll meet you over at the faculty lounge, all right? Noon? No, one's fine. See you then."

"Good to see you, Leo," Donovan said, as they settled their trays on the table. "I saw Mitch's review of the show at Matthiesen's; he liked your piece a lot."

"I'm surprised you didn't give them anything, Donovan," Leo said. "I thought you and Barry had worked together before."

Donovan's jaw clenched visibly.

"Let's just say Barry and I are no longer on speaking terms," Donovan said. "He did a nice job on my partner."

"That'd be Loren?" Leo asked, watching Donovan's face carefully.

"Nice to know the grapevine's still working," Donovan said ruefully.

"No, no," Leo laughed. "Actually, you've got my boyfriend in your ceramics class. Scott Miller?"

"Oh!" Donovan exclaimed. "Scott. Nice guy. How long have you been seeing each other?"

"Try 'living together,'" Leo said with a wink. "That's why he's over here instead of at my school. I figured it would be cleaner. Less possible conflicts of interest, you know."

"So he and Loren recognized each other, the day I did my studio demo," Donovan mused, putting the pieces together. "Let me guess, you're here to check up on me. Scott told you Loren was a nervous wreck and you want to be sure I'm not beating him?" Donovan's tone was light, but his eyes were troubled.

"Donovan. Donovan, I know you. You'd no more hurt your partner than you'd...." Leo fell silent. "Well, I don't know what. I know you, Donovan, I know you personally and I know your reputation. But Scott came to me out of a bad relationship and he spoke to Loren at your place and he asked me to check on you. I'm sorry, Donovan; this is very awkward."

"I'm sorry Scott went through something like that," Donovan said. "He seems like a nice young man who's got his head screwed on straight. I'm actually impressed that he asked you to feel me out about Loren; it shows a lot of empathy. The truth is, Loren came out of a bad situation. You remember Pete Hahn?"

"Unfortunately," Leo said, grimacing.

"Loren was Hahn's sub," Donovan said bitterly.

"Christ." Leo shook his head. "Wow. I'm sorry, Donovan. Shit."

"Yeah." Donovan voice hardened further. "I am not going to let Pete destroy another life, Leo."

"I'm sorry to pry, Donovan." Leo said softly.

"No, don't apologize, Leo. If more people pried, pricks like Hahn and the bastard who hurt your Scott wouldn't get away with their shit."

"Thanks, Donovan," Leo said. "It's not that I don't trust you, but Scott..." Leo's voice trailed off. "Scott was pretty insistent."

"Leo, it's all right. Really. It was decent of Scott to be concerned and it was decent of you to follow up. I'm not offended." Donovan was entirely sincere.

"Okay. So what does Loren do, Donovan?" Leo asked.

Donovan sighed.

"He's not working," Donovan said.

"You sound concerned," Leo observed. "Is this a problem?"

"It's a problem in that I don't think he's happy this way," Donovan said. "I don't mind supporting him, I just want him to have some focus. Something to get up for in the morning."

Leo was silent a moment.

"How old is Loren, Donovan? If you don't mind."

"Twenty two," Donovan said. "A young twenty two."

"Any college?" Leo asked.

"He dropped out in tenth grade." Donovan shook his head grimly. "He's a bright guy and he draws like an angel. But he's never held a steady job and he doesn't seem to care much about where he's going. It's like he doesn't even think along those lines. It's so frustrating."

"You say he draws? What, cartoons? Comics?" Leo asked curiously.

"No, real drawings. He can copy anything; I've never seen anything quite like it."

Leo was suddenly quiet.

"What is it?" Donovan asked.

"Probably nothing," Leo answered. "It's just... Donovan, over the last six months or so, I've been asked to authenticate a number of drawings, and about half of them weren't mine. And I've asked around, and I'm not the only one. Someone's passing some damn good forgeries."

"Pete. Fuck him. He's at the bottom of this, too," Donovan said bitterly. "Pete buttered Loren up, screwed with his head and seduced him into doing some work for him. I know it."

"Donovan, I'm not out for blood or anything," Leo said softly. "It may not even be connected."

"It's connected," Donovan said bitterly. "I don't believe in this kind of 'coincidence.'"

"It doesn't matter to me," Leo said staunchly. "You just might want to watch who else you tell. Not everyone would..."

"Not everyone would think Loren was innocent," Donovan said. "Yeah. Thank you, Leo. Listen, it was good to see you. Give my best to Scott; tell him to say hello after class."

Donovan waited until they were snuggled on the couch after dinner before broaching the subject with Loren.

"There have been a lot of copies of contemporary drawings making their way onto the market in the last few months," Donovan said, watching Loren carefully. "Some of the forgeries are almost better than the original drawings."

"What does this have to do with me?" Loren asked defensively.

"You tell me, Loren," Donovan said softly.

"I don't know." Loren was pale and tense, his pupils dilated. His breathing shallow and fast.

"Did you copy more drawings, for Pete?" Donovan asked.

"I don't know!" Loren's breathing hoarsened.

"It's a simple question, Loren," Donovan said, exasperated. "I want you to tell me the truth."

Loren cowered back.

"Loren--" Donovan took a deep breath. Loren's appearance told him everything he needed to know.

"Loren, it's okay," Donovan said quietly. He drew Loren to him, rubbed his back until Loren's breathing steadied and some color returned to his face. "I've got you, babe. We're okay."

It took every ounce of willpower Donovan possessed to stay calm and loose until he had resettled Loren in front of the television. Slipping away, Donovan called Jay.

"The question is, can you take Pete down without implicating Loren?" Jay said practically. "My guess would be 'no.' Walk away, Donovan."

"I hate this," Donovan said bitterly. "I hate that he gets away with his shit, whether it's on the scene, or as a private dealer. How did he get to be Teflon, Jay?"

"He doesn't care and he's got money," Jay said calmly. "You know how that goes. It's the ones who care who get hurt, not the ones who don't give a shit. He's going to walk away from this thing at the beach house, too, just see if he doesn't."

"Loren's going to have to testify, isn't he?" Donovan asked.

"Along with everyone else the police spoke to that night and the next day," Jay said resignedly. "Maurice. Me."

"You and Maurice weren't even out there," Donovan said.

"Our names are on the deed for the house; we're involved," Jay said. "There may still be a civil suit, a wrongful death action, even if no one is criminally charged. Donovan, does Loren know who did it?"

"He says no, but I don't buy it," Donovan said bitterly. "I have a bad feeling about it, Jay."

Jay was silent.

"Look, whatever," Donovan said, exhausted by the conversation. "I'll talk to you soon, all right?"

"Ciao." Jay's voice was flat. He broke the connection; he knew he had hurt Donovan.

I just don't want Loren to take us all down with him, Jay thought.

Loren lay face down on the bed, feeling sick and shivery and cold. He wanted Donovan.

For the third time in as many days Donovan arrived home to find Loren asleep, his face buried in the pillow. Seating himself alongside Loren, he ran his hand gently over Loren's back.

"It's me."

"Hey, Donovan." Loren rolled onto his back, his hair in his eyes, his waking erection obvious through his jeans.

"What have we here?" Donovan stroked his hand over Loren's groin. He leaned in, kissing Loren thoroughly. Loren sucked hungrily at Donovan's tongue.

Donovan tugged off Loren's shirt, caressed his smooth chest, his fine rose brown nipples. He undid Loren's jeans, freeing his upward-straining cock. Eased the waistband of his briefs over his erection, pushed both jeans and briefs down Loren's thighs. Loren raised his hips helpfully.

Donovan leaned forward and took Loren in his mouth. Enjoyed the velvet feel of him, the slightly bitter taste of him. Teased Loren, nibbling gently with lip-shielded teeth.

"Yeah," moaned Loren, "Oh yeah. Shit that's good." He relaxed into the stimulation, comfortable with their predictable routine.

Loren had been surprised at Donovan's desire to satisfy him sexually. Loren was accustomed to providing satisfaction, got off on it, even. But being made love to, that was very different.

Loren came fast and hard, his hot cum coursing into Donovan's mouth. Arched into Donovan, sighing.

"Good?" Donovan wiped his hand over his mouth, grinned at Loren and kissed him.

"Eww, Donovan," Loren protested half-heartedly, not happy with the taste of himself on Donovan's lips. He tried to squirm away.

"Oh no you don't!" Donovan drew Loren back against him, laughing. "You taste good!"


Donovan tickled Loren, enjoying Loren's giggles. Getting Loren to relax in bed had been a project and a half. Loren had viewed sex as a transaction; his body as trade. The extreme stimulation of BDSM games was the only play he understood. Donovan had kissed and cuddled and petted Loren until, gradually, his touch had become familiar and welcome.

Loren ran his hand over Donovan's crotch, tracing the bulge with his fingers.

"Take these off," Loren said softly. "Let me make you happy." Donovan complied.

Loren admired Donovan's heavy cock for a moment, then took it in his hand. Donovan laced his fingers through Loren's hair, cupped his palm against Loren's skull, coaxing him closer. Loren widened his mouth to take all of Donovan, his eyes hazy with arousal. Donovan thrust carefully, deeply into Loren's throat. Loren's muscles contracted around him and he came, hot essence pouring into Loren. Loren swallowed convulsively.

Loren snuggled against Donovan, sated and smug.

Donovan grew serious at the expression on Loren's face; he looked happy and proud of himself. If only I could see that look in another context, Donovan thought wistfully.

"Loren, you're so much more than what you do in bed," Donovan said aloud.

"Huh?" Loren opened his eyes, tensing at the sadness in Donovan's voice. "Donovan, you mad at me?" he asked nervously.

"No, babe, I'm not angry," Donovan said. Just sad, he thought to himself. He stroked Loren's hair gently. "I'm not angry at all. I love you, Loren. I want you to be happy, that's all."

"I feel good," Loren said, misunderstanding Donovan's concern.

"I'm not just talking about in bed," Donovan said. "I want you to be happy the rest of the time, too, and I can see that you're not."

"I'm not unhappy," Loren shrugged. "You're good to me, Donovan, I have stuff to do, we have fun together. I don't get what you mean."

"You were asleep when I came in," Donovan said gently. "Yesterday and the day before, too. Happy twenty-two year olds don't take naps. Are you sick? Do you feel tired? Are you bored?"

Loren rolled onto his back.

"What's going to happen, Donovan?" Loren asked, staring at the ceiling. "Am I in trouble?"

"What do you mean, Loren?" Donovan asked, willing his voice to stay soft, his muscles relaxed. He didn't want to spook Loren.

"If I did copy some drawings for Pete?" Loren asked softly. "Donovan, it was just because..." He was silent.

"Because?" Donovan coaxed Loren to continue.

"Because he thought it was sort of neat. And Donovan, I can't do anything else that's special!"

"Did you know what Pete was going to do with your drawings, Loren?" Donovan asked, watching Loren's face carefully.

"No!" Loren sounded frantic. "Donovan, I really didn't know! "

"Okay," Donovan said softly, hating the desperate look in Loren's eyes. "I believe you, Loren. It's going to be all right. I promise."

"How?" Loren asked. "How can you know that?"

"I'm going to talk to my attorney and find out what you need to do to protect yourself," Donovan said calmly. "You meant no harm. Loren, you're not alone here. I'm going to see you through this. It's going to be all right."

"My stomach hurts," Loren said sulkily.

Donovan reached over and rubbed Loren's belly gently.

"When did you have your last enema, day before yesterday?" Donovan asked softly, knowing Loren hated the procedure.

"You're not giving me another enema! Shit, Donovan, I don't want this. Leave me alone!" Loren snapped.

"Loren. Dr. Gordon said every other day. Either do it yourself or let me help you," Donovan said, his voice deliberately neutral.

"No!" Loren jerked away from Donovan.

Donovan counted silently to ten. Spoke compassionately, without irritation.

"Loren, I know you don't like this. It's necessary though. I am not going to fight with you every time."

"What are you going to do, spank me? Fuck you, Donovan!" Loren spat.

Donovan caught hold of Loren's forearms, forced Loren to face him.

"Think, Loren. Be quiet and think," Donovan said firmly. "Would I do that?"

"Let go of me!" Loren sounded panic-stricken.

Donovan gentled his voice.

"I'm not hurting you, Loren. Easy now, breathe, you're all right. Think, Loren." Donovan softened his grip on Loren, running his hands gently over Loren's arms, wordlessly coaxing Loren closer.

"Loren." Donovan's voice was gentle. "Would I spank you for refusing an enema? Would I?"

"Donovan..." Loren buried his face against Donovan's chest. "I don't want an enema," Loren whispered. "Please, Donovan? Don't make me."

Donovan hugged Loren. He took a deep breath, wanting to make certain his voice was steady.

"Loren, you are going to have an enema every other day until Dr. Gordon decides you should stop the treatment. This is a medical decision; you don't get a vote. You do have a choice. You can give yourself the enema or you can let me help you."

"But I don't want an enema, Donovan," Loren said unhappily.

"I know, little one." Donovan rubbed Loren's back. "How do you want to do this?"

"You help me," Loren whispered.

"All right then. Come on, stretch out and we'll get this over with."

"Make me!" Loren snapped.

"No," Donovan said calmly. "Loren, I told you before: I am happy to help you, but I am not going to fight with you every time we do this. Either you make up your mind to cooperate, or we go back to Dr. Gordon and insist on some treatment alternatives. There are also other doctors," Donovan said.

"No!" The panic in Loren's voice was real. "Don't call another doctor, Donovan, please! I'll be good."

Donovan winced. He had meant it as an option, not a threat, but Loren had misunderstood.

"Loren, let's get this over with and then we can enjoy the evening," Donovan said gently.

"Enemas hurt, Donovan," Loren said in a small voice, even as he rolled obediently onto his side and drew his knees up.

"Did I hurt you last time?" Donovan asked, his heart going out to his lover.

Loren nodded yes, not meeting Donovan's eyes.

"My poor baby," Donovan said, stroking Loren's hip. "It's not supposed to hurt, Loren. I'll call Dr. Gordon; maybe he'll have some suggestions for us."

"Donovan? It didn't hurt that bad. Don't call him." Loren said miserably.

Donovan made a decision.

"Loren, I really think the reason it hurt last time was that you were already sore. We can do this without hurting you, if you relax. Trust me?"

"Yes." Loren's response was a whisper.

Donovan tore open the blue and white drugstore carton, removed the plastic wrapper from the small, pre-packaged enema. Uncapped the squeeze bottle. Added a dab of lubricant to the pre-lubed tip. Spread Loren's buttocks, lubricated his clenched anus carefully.

"Take a deep breath and hold it. Good. Breath out," Donovan instructed, easing the slender nozzle in as Loren exhaled.

Loren resigned himself to the penetration. He didn't flinch as Donovan squeezed the fluid filled bottle slowly, emptying it into his bowels. Tried not to focus on the unpleasant sensation of liquid flowing deeper within him. Tensed as Donovan withdrew the slender wand.

"Hold it, that's good. You tell me when you need to go." Donovan pressed Loren's buttocks together gently; quietly massaged the small of Loren's back.

"Now!" Loren said, several minutes later. He bolted for the bathroom.

Empty and exhausted, Loren snuggled under the covers. Let Donovan fuss over him, sipped ginger ale through a straw, warm broth from a cup. Closed his eyes and let sleep take him far away.

Donovan sat at the kitchen table and stared sadly into the darkened sky. Star light, star bright, first star I see tonight...I wish Loren were all right. I wish I could make it all right for him.

The light from the distant stars was very bright and very cold.


The waiting room was empty except for the two men. Scott sat next to Leo, his head on Leo's shoulder, his eyes closed.

"You're overtired. You need to turn in earlier," Leo chided. "Turn off the computer at midnight."

"Tonight," Scott promised, crossing his heart.

Leo laughed.

"You're cute, Scotty, you know that, don't you?" Leo cupped Scott's chin in his hand, kissed him gently.

Scott kissed him back.

"Hello, Leo, Scott." Dr. Gordon strode into the waiting room.

"Jamie!" Leo grinned at his old friend.

Jamie Gordon shook his head. Leo looked like the proverbial cat that had swallowed the canary.

"Who's my patient today? Scott?"

"Yes, sir." Scott said politely, rising.

"Come on in, let me take a look at you," Dr. Gordon said.

"Wait for me, Leo?" Scott asked softly.

"Sure, Scotty," Leo said easily, giving Scott a light pat on the butt. "I'll be right here."

"Your new boyfriend being good to you?" Dr. Gordon asked, as he escorted Scott to the exam room.

"Yeah," Scott said shyly. The word "boyfriend" still made him blush.

"I'm glad," Dr. Gordon said with a smile. "Leo's a good man. So tell me, how are you feeling? Everything moving again?"

"Um, yeah. Mostly," Scott said, reddening further.

"Mostly?" Dr. Gordon asked.

"It still, um, hurts to go sometimes," Scott mumbled.

"All right, let's have a look. Everything off. Gown on, opening to the back please." Dr. Gordon tactfully left the room.

Scott sighed unhappily, but undressed as he'd been told. Slipped into the gown and sat on the examination table, swinging his legs restlessly.

"I understand you're taking classes, Scott," Dr. Gordon said. He checked Scott's ears and nose. "How is that going? Lie down please."

"Good," said Scott. He tensed as Dr. Gordon pressed his stomach carefully.

"Roll onto your side and bend your knee up. I just need to check you. Try to relax, Scott." Dr. Gordon snapped a clean glove over his hand, applied lubricant.

Scott took a deep breath, reminded himself that he was doubtlessly healed. Endured the brief penetration.

"You and Leo are using protection?" Dr. Gordon asked, rotating his finger.

"Um, yeah, for some stuff," Scott said, blushing.

"You need to have your blood work redone in another five months; if you're both clean and you're monogamous, you can stop using condoms after that."

Scott grinned, then reddened even further.

"Everything looks good, Scott. You healed nicely. Make sure you're drinking enough water and eating enough roughage; that should take care of any residual constipation. Any pain you're still having should go away over the course of the next few weeks as your muscles recover." Dr. Gordon stripped the latex glove from his hand, dropped it in the garbage.

"Thanks," Scott said. "And thank you for helping me, before."

"You're welcome, Scott." Dr. Gordon smiled.

They shook hands.

"So it went okay?" Leo asked.

"Pretty much like I expected," Scott said. "Um, Leo? He said five more months, then we can stop using stuff." He flushed.

"That'll be special. We'll see if we can't get away for a few days, to celebrate."

"Really?" Scott looked at Leo. "You act like it's a done deal. How do you know you won't get tired of me?"

"How do you know you won't get tired of me?" Leo asked.

"I love you," Scott said.

"Bingo. Come on kiddo, let's get something to eat." Leo took Scott's hand. "I love you too."


THANK you, Hedeia, for your careful reading and your helpful comments, your support and your late night reassurances. EM