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

ELIZABETH MARSHALL STORIES

Come Away With Me

"Goddamn it, Donovan, return your calls! They're not going to hold it forever. "

Jay's message on the answering machine was puzzling. Jay's tone, imperious as always, made Donovan laugh.

"Jay, it's Donovan."

"About time! I left you three messages."

"I got one."

Silence.

"I don't understand. Talk to me, Jay."

"Ask your brat, Donovan, ask your brat. Either your machine's broken or Loren's playing Rosemary Woods."

"And just what is he supposed to have erased?"

"Matthiesen's is looking for an art handler. I told them I had someone. The firm's spent quite a bit there lately; Barry was glad to do me a favor."

Matthiesen Fine Arts specialized in rare eighteenth and nineteenth century drawings. The job Jay had snagged for Loren was a plum.

"Jay, thank you for putting in a good word for him. I don't know what's going on, but I'll get to the bottom of it. Nice that you're laughing, at least," Donovan said ruefully.

"I'd get to the bottom of it with a riding crop if I were you. All I can say is better you than me, Donovan. Call me back." Jay hung up.

Donovan found Loren in the living room, sprawled on the floor in front of the television, watching sitcom reruns.

"Loren, sit up please and look at me. We need to talk."

"Fuck you too," Loren answered, without moving his eyes from the screen.

Donovan sighed. Loren in this mood was a very trying brat to endure.

"What happens, Loren, when you curse at me?" Donovan asked mildly.

"You fucking spank me, asshole," Loren said venomously.

"Get up, Loren," Donovan ordered, bending over and seizing Loren's arm.

"Fuck you, Donovan, let me go!" Loren pulled back.

Donovan hung on grimly to his snarling brat, knowing the worst thing he could do would be to let Loren's bad temper go unchallenged. Using his superior strength and weight, he hauled Loren to his feet.

Loren kicked out, struggling to free himself from Donovan's grip.

"Stop fighting me!" Donovan swatted Loren sharply.

"Ow!" Loren yelped. His layers of denim and cotton lessened the smart of Donovan's swat, but not the sudden rush of fear it inspired.

"Stop, Donovan, STOP! Donovan, NO! NO!! NO!!!"

Loren's protest was disproportionately frantic.

"Loren, that's ENOUGH." Donovan's voice was sure and calm. Wrapping Loren's own arms around him, Donovan pulled him in close.

"Breathe, Loren. I'm not spanking you now. Breathe."

Donovan eased them onto the couch, hugging his shaking brat firmly. Taking Loren's chin in his palm, Donovan forced Loren's eyes to meet his own.

"Shh, Loren, you're all right. Just sit with me now."

"I'm not faking, Donovan, I swear." Loren's teeth chattered.

"I know that, Loren," Donovan said quietly. "I believe you. Just breathe. Nice and easy."

Loren had been dragged to his feet in the middle of a tantrum many times, in many places. Harsh punishment inevitably followed such a display of temper. Yet to Loren's astonishment, Donovan didn't seem angry.

"You're safe now, Loren," Donovan crooned, cuddling Loren close. It was still

ten minutes before Loren stopped shaking.

"Feeling a little better, Loren?" Donovan asked, rearranging Loren so that he could see his face. "Would you like some water?"

Loren licked his lips reflexively.

"I'll be right back." Donovan returned with a tall glass of chilled water. He handed it to Loren.

Loren gulped thirstily.

"Slowly now," Donovan cautioned. "We've got plenty of time."

Loren pressed the cool glass tumbler to his throbbing forehead, grateful for more than just the water.

"You're good to me, Donovan." Thank you for believing me. Thank you for stopping. Thank you for holding me.

"I've got you. You're safe here," Donovan replied, hearing Loren's unvoiced litany of thanks.

Loren leaned into Donovan, sighing heavily. Might as well enjoy the comfort while he could, he thought to himself. He didn't imagine Donovan would forget what had prompted his meltdown.

Donovan closed his eyes, centering himself. Much as he would have liked to drop the matter, he and Loren still had unfinished business to attend to.

"I spoke to Jay, Loren. He tells me he left three messages on our answering machine. I found only one. Do you know what happened to the other two?"

Loren shrugged and looked away, unwilling to meet Donovan's eyes.

"Loren. Tell me why you erased Jay's messages," Donovan said firmly.

"He was making fun of me," Loren spat. "Jay said, 'Gainfully employed'! 'Your little hooligan'! Donovan, he hates me!"

Donovan winced. Jay's sharp tongue was legendary. Donovan was used to it, but Jay's sarcasm had obviously unnerved Loren entirely.

That was Jay to the core. As was his use of his influence to secure Loren an excellent job.

Donovan sighed. Jay was a complex man.

"Loren, what Jay said was not nice. I understand it upset you, but you still don't censor my messages. Ever. Is that clear?"

"Yes. Please, Donovan, give me another chance," Loren appealed. "I'm really sorry I erased your messages. I'm really, really sorry I cursed at you. Are you still going to spank me?" Loren held his breath hopefully.

"Yes, Loren, I am going to spank you." Donovan's voice was steady, his answer matter of fact.

Loren tensed, no longer fooling himself that this spanking was avoidable. It was going to hurt, he thought miserably. How he'd ever imagined that Donovan's spankings wouldn't, he couldn't remember.

"Loren, I know you're sorry, now. Now's too late. You need to think about your choices before you find yourself in this position." Donovan tugged Loren face down over his lap. He reached around Loren's slender hips and undid his fly; eased Loren's jeans and boxers to his knees.

"You talk to me when you're upset, you don't lie on the floor sulking and you certainly don't curse at me when I try to find out what's wrong. You don't erase my calls."

Donovan spanked hard and thoroughly. His first circuit of swats had Loren sniffing back tears. His second circuit of swats left Loren crying openly.

Gritting his teeth, Donovan forced himself to apply a third round of sharp swats to Loren's hot and shiny bottom.

Loren was sobbing when Donovan ceased spanking and eased him sideways into his lap. He buried his face in Donovan's shirt.

Donovan rubbed Loren's quivering shoulders patiently as Loren cried himself out, wanting Loren to know that he was held. That he was loved.

By degrees Loren brought his tears under control.

"I'm sorry, Donovan. The messages were for you. I had no business erasing them. It was just..." Loren's apology tapered off.

"I know, Jay hurt your feelings," Donovan said sympathetically. "Next time it happens, just tell me. Jay's my friend, but you're my lover. I'm in your corner. " Donovan kissed Loren gently on the lips.

Loren returned the kiss, trusting Donovan not to take it further. Loren closed his eyes, suddenly, overwhelmingly, tired.

 

Donovan understood Loren's enervation. He was worn out himself. The roller coaster of emotion punishment involved had taken its toll on both men.

"Come, babe," Donovan coaxed. "Let's stretch out."

Loren let Donovan lead him to their bedroom, almost tripping over his own feet in his exhaustion. A spanking veteran by now, Loren knew to lower himself into bed face down.

Donovan bit his lip so as not to smile as Loren, pouting, carefully inched

his way onto his pillow.

"Come here," Donovan said, sprawling on his back.

"I don't want to," Loren protested, sulky and sleepy. "You hurt me."

"Do I really?" Donovan wondered softly, tucking Loren snugly against him.

"No," Loren admitted. "You spank me. You never hurt me. I'll be good, Donovan, I promise." Loren closed his eyes.

Donovan stroked Loren's light brown hair gently, smoothing the errant strands back from his forehead.

"My good Loren. I don't like to spank you anymore than you like to be spanked," Donovan whispered, knowing Loren was too deeply asleep to hear his confession.

From long-standing habit, Donovan woke with the sunrise. Loren was still cuddled to him, fast asleep. Donovan cautiously eased himself upright and looked over his sleeping lover carefully. Noted with approval that every trace of redness had faded from Loren's buttocks; scowled unhappily at the finger bruises on Loren's arm. Goddamnit. Knowing how easily Loren's fair skin bruised was no comfort.

After adjusting the covers to keep Loren warm, Donovan headed for the kitchen. He started the coffee, took out eggs and bread and milk. Loren liked French toast; Donovan was inclined to offer him a treat this morning. He glanced quickly at the clock and dialed Jay's number.

"Morning."

"Morning, Donovan," Jay said. "Your brat going to be able to sit today?"

"Yes," said Donovan shortly. "Come on, Jay, lay off Loren. Please."

"I'm sorry, Donovan. He just rubs me the wrong way, " Jay said flatly.

"I know he's not your type, but he's it for me, Jay," Donovan said quietly.

"It?"

"It," Donovan affirmed.

"You're going to get hurt again, Donovan," Jay said, sadness for his friend in his voice.

"Maybe yes, maybe no," Donovan said philosophically. "I'll take my chances."

"What is this need you have to heal the wounded? I'll never understand it," Jay sighed. "Can you get your brat over to Barry at Matthiesen's this morning? He'll like Loren; God knows the kid's ornamental enough."

"Thank you, Jay. I really appreciate it," Donovan said sincerely.

"Let me know how it works out. And Donovan? Just be careful. Ciao."

"Ciao." Donovan replaced the receiver.

Leaving the slices of bread to soak in their milk and egg mixture, Donovan went to rouse Loren.

"Morning, Loren." Donovan stroked Loren's hair gently.

Loren burrowed deeper into his pillow

"Wake up, sleepyhead," Donovan coaxed. "You have a job interview this morning."

"I do?" Loren sat up, astonished. "OW! Shit, my butt still hurts." He looked reproachfully at Donovan, remembering last night's spanking.

Donovan chose to ignore Loren's pout.

"Do you know Matthiesen Fine Arts? They have an opening for an art handler. Jay recommended you." Donovan grinned at Loren.

"Jay recommended me? Donovan, Jay doesn't think I'm qualified to flip burgers at McDonald's!" Loren was stunned.

Donovan laughed.

"This is a good opportunity, Loren. You'll see some great drawings, the sort of art you like. I know your taste."

Loren looked uncertainly at Donovan, suddenly nervous.

"I don't have 'taste,'" Loren objected.

"Sure you do," Donovan responded. "You like figurative art. You don't much like abstraction. You like two dimensional work..."

"No!" Loren sounded uncomfortable, almost panicked. "Donovan, you know this shit. I don't! This is a bad idea--"

"Easy, Loren, easy." Donovan hugged Loren hard, cutting off his anxious stream of words. "I didn't mean to rattle you. You'll be fine, Loren."

Donovan considered mentioning Loren's looks as a prime qualification; discarded the idea. Let Loren start trading on something more substantive than his appearance.

"Donovan, do I have to do this?" Loren asked.

"Yes. Everybody works in our house. I have a job; you need one, too." Donovan sounded certain.

Loren sighed. For a tiny moment, he wished he were back with Pete, sleeping in, looking forward to nothing more strenuous than an evening at the club...

Easy drugs, easy sex...

Writhing under Pete's less-than-gentle ministrations. Wondering whom Pete might want to trade him to, for what purpose.

No, he'd take Donovan's rules, Loren thought. Shivering, Loren leaned into Donovan, wanting the contact.

Donovan ruffled Loren's hair, his hand gentle against Loren's scalp.

"Come downstairs, I'm making French toast," Donovan said firmly. He headed for the kitchen.

Loren made a face at Donovan's back. He wasn't hungry. However, it was useless to argue with Donovan about breakfast. The fact that he had managed twenty-two years without a morning meal cut no ice with Donovan.

A cup of coffee and two slices of French toast later, Loren licked the residue of syrup from his fork, perfectly aware of how seductive he looked.

Donovan groaned.

"Nice, Loren. Go on, shower. We want to be on time."

We? Loren thought, shaving quickly. You want to be on time. I want to go back to bed. I want you to fuck me.

Stepping under the shower, Loren indulged in a brief fantasy of just what that would be like. Came hard in his hand. Cleaned up quickly and dried off.

Loren hung his towel neatly. Years of foster homes had left Loren compulsively careful about certain particulars, and clueless about others.

Padding to the bedroom, Loren pulled on jeans and a tee shirt and sneakers.

Donovan shaved and showered, combed his dark hair back from his forehead. Shrugged into an un-ironed white cotton shirt. Buttoned his jeans and cinched a thick leather belt around his waist. Toed into soft, well-polished boots.

Donovan studied Loren wryly. Loren's jeans were worn almost white at strategic places. Donovan shrugged. Barry liked looking, not touching. Loren's dubious virtue would be safe enough.

Loren eyed the three-story townhouse that housed Matthiesen's with growing interest. It looked like money. He had accompanied Pete on enough occasions to know the general territory, if not this particular gallery.

Donovan entered the gallery confidently. Despite his deliberately understated attire, he looked every inch the successful artist he was. He introduced himself to the receptionist and waited calmly for Barry to come forward.

"Donovan, pleasure to see you," Barry said. "Jay mentioned you might have something for our Contemporary show. We're honored to include you."

"Thank you, Barry," Donovan said, amused at Barry's transparent toadying. Barry was a skilful art dealer, smooth and well prepared.

"Jay also mentioned Loren, Barry? Loren Potter, Barry Matthiesen."

Donovan nudged Loren, who offered his hand obediently.

Barry smirked as he shook hands. Donovan's boyfriend was hot. There was a week's worth of good lunch stories here.

"Take good care of him, Barry," Donovan said, deliberately choosing to ignore Barry's lifted eyebrow. "Loren, you'll be fine."

Yeah, right, Loren thought dolefully. He tried to smile.

"Call me later," Donovan said softly, wishing he knew what, other than drugs, would ease Loren's anxiety. Loren needed to do this despite his qualms.

By eleven o'clock, Loren was thoroughly caught up in the rhythms of the back room. He had assisted Pete in his private dealing often enough that the trappings of the salesroom were no mystery to him. Carefully, Loren negotiated the miscellany of precious clutter in the stacks, pulling out items for show and shipping. Stood quietly, deferentially aside, as Barry presented his various clients with various works of art.

Gabriel Matthiesen slid into the gallery in thin-soled Italian leather shoes and soft wool unstructured suiting. Gabriel Matthiesen, first born son, rightful heir to his father's firm, and so entirely devoid of his father's ethics and conscience that the elder man had cut him out of the family business entirely and left his second son, Barry, in full charge.

Gabriel Matthiesen, thoroughgoing bastard.

"Who's that sweet piece of ass in the back, Barry?" Gabriel asked his brother with an evil grin.

"Our new art handler. Hands off, Gabriel, he's Donovan Moore's boy. We can't afford to antagonize Moore," Barry said warningly.

"Barry, you think I give a shit?" Gabriel asked, his face hardening.

Barry made a moue of distaste.

"Like that's news, Gabriel? When did you ever give a shit about anything but yourself?" Pete Hahn asked, as he strode into Barry's office. "That'd be Loren, Donovan's new reclamation project. Pretty, isn't he? He's a hot little slut and he does everything. Like me to introduce you, Gabriel?"

"Please, Pete," Barry said with a fastidious shudder. "Gabriel is already far too interested in Loren. Moore's agreed to give us something for our Contemporary Americans show this spring. I don't want Gabriel fucking that up."

"The only thing I want to fuck is that kid, Barry, not your fucking show. And it takes one to know one, Pete. Prick." Gabriel made the classic "fuck you" gesture with his hand.

Pete laughed. Barry sighed.

"Barry, I may have a buyer for a Moreau drawing. Bring the folder down and let me pull something." Gabriel spoke again to his brother.

Barry pressed the intercom.

"Loren, bring the Moreau drawings down to my office, please. Thank you."

Loren carried the folder containing the unmounted drawings into Barry's office. Did a double take at the sight of Pete.

"Nice to see you too, Loren," Pete drawled. "I'm surprised Donovan expects you to work. Lay the drawings out for us, that's a good boy."

Loren obeyed silently. Shit. If he lost this job the first day, Donovan would kill him. But remaining calm in the face of Pete's supercilious stare was hard.

Resolutely, Loren forced himself to focus on the drawings. They were old, at least eighteenth century, probably before 1750. Despite his anxiety, Loren was thoroughly intrigued by their wealth of anecdotal detail.

"These won't do at all, Barry," Gabriel said. "My buyer is looking for something looser, more like Moreau's paintings. Do you still have the large pastel?"

"I let Aaron take it for a few days. I do have a small oil sketch that I just got in. It's up front if you want to take a look..."

Gabriel followed Barry out of the room.

"Put the drawings back in the folder and I'll take them, Loren," Pete said.

Loren complied.

"No hard feelings, Loren?" Pete asked, slipping the folder in his portfolio.

Loren looked at Pete doubtfully.

"How about I buy you a drink?" Pete said with the perfect imitation of a friendly smile.

Loren sighed. Donovan hadn't exactly said he couldn't go out for drinks, but somehow it felt wrong.

"Or doesn't Daddy let his little boy drink?" Pete needled, perfectly aware of Loren's dilemma, and enjoying his distress.

"I'm no one's 'boy,'" Loren spat. "I'll have a drink, all right?"

"No need to get huffy, little boy," Pete said meanly. "I'll be back at five thirty. Looking good, Loren." He patted Loren's ass with a smirk, tucked his portfolio under his arm, and left the office.

Loren shivered.

The day flew by. Barry ordered lunch for himself and the staff; there were too many clients in the gallery for anyone to think of going out. Loren gulped down a Diet Pepsi and a handful of chips.

I could call Donovan and ask, Loren thought to himself. But what to say? "Pete invited me for a drink, is that all right?" Shit, he doesn't own me. I don't need his permission to have a drink. Do I? Oh shit, I don't know.

"Loren! I've called you twice! I need the large Juniere drawing in the gilt frame, now!" Barry shook his head. "Pay attention to what you're doing, Loren. I swear, I may owe Jay a favor, but goddamnit, I need an art handler who can do the job."

Loren flushed red at Barry's jibe. Mutely, he went in search of the requested drawing. Shit. He had forgotten that he was merely there on sufferance.

Feeling very, very small and very, very worthless, Loren finished up the day without further incident. Any thought of appealing to Donovan for aid had long fled. Loren was tired, hungry and sure only of one thing. He was worth shit, to anyone.

Pete reappeared at ten minutes to closing time. He was taking no chances on letting his little former sub slip his trap. He needed Loren.

"Hard first day, Loren?" Pete asked sympathetically.

Loren winced.

Gotcha baby, Pete thought smugly. He smiled at Loren.

"How about we swing past my place and I make you a drink? You look like you could use a little white stuff, too."

Loren felt the trap closing, but he was powerless to resist. He was already in trouble, of that he had no doubt. So why not go along? In for a penny, in for a pound...

Pete was careful not to spook Loren further. He could bide his time. He needed Loren to do a job for him first.

The little brat is going to regret he was ever born by the time I'm finished with him, Pete thought coldly. Stupid little fuck.

Talented little fuck.

"Would you like to see the Moreau drawings again, Loren?" Pete asked silkily. "You like that sort of stuff."

"All right," Loren said uncertainly, not sure where this was leading. Pete seemed to want to be friendly. How could Loren argue with that?

Loren studied the drawings hungrily. Moreau's lines were beautiful. His ability to call forth figures out of shadow, his grasp of nuances of form, were extraordinary. Loren sighed in appreciation, unconsciously tracing his finger in the air above the drawings.

Pete smiled coldly. Time to spring the trap.

"I wish I could afford them," Pete said wistfully. "They're amazing. It would be nice to be able to have them for myself."

"Yeah," Loren said. "Me too. I could make you copies, if you wanted?" His voice trailed off hesitantly.

Gotcha, you little idiot.

"Could you, Loren? That would be lovely. Here, I have some good paper. Why don't you go ahead and do that."

Pete pulled six blank sheets from his carefully aged and foxed store.

"You know I like your drawings, Loren."

Flattered, Loren set to work.

As always, Pete marveled at the rapidity and fluidity with which Loren drew. His lines flowed, clear, black and certain, from pencil to paper. Loren's virtuosity at drawing was something quite apart from his hesitancy in other areas of life.

Loren lost himself in the pleasure of the work. All awareness of time left him. He didn't notice the darkness descending outside; he didn't notice when Pete turned on the lights in the apartment. Nothing existed but the drawing materializing under his hand. He didn't even notice when Pete slipped his cell phone from his pocket and turned it to off.

Goddamn him. Donovan tried Loren's phone yet again. It was still off.

He's with Pete. I know it. I am going to kill both of them.

The last drawing finished, Loren came back to himself with a sigh.

"What's Donovan going to do when you wander in at this hour?" Pete wondered out loud.

Shit! Loren looked at the darkened skyline, his stomach sinking.

Pete laughed. It wasn't a friendly sound.

"Go home to Daddy, little boy." Pete smirked at Loren. "If you're lucky, he won't do more than spank you. If you're not lucky, well, it was nice knowing you. Ciao."

Pete handed Loren his pilfered phone, steered him out the door and shut it firmly behind him. Smiling, he returned to the table where Loren's drawings lay. Nice.

Pete had neither explanation for nor curiosity about Loren's unusual talent for mimicry. His interest in Loren's drawing was purely economic. With a feral grin, Pete placed Loren's drawings in the folder that had held the Moreaus. Still smirking, he reached for the phone.

Eyes dull, head down, heartsore and weary, Loren started towards home. Did he still have a home? Loren couldn't even think about that possibility.

Maybe Donovan would just kill him. Right now, that was a very appealing idea.

It started to rain.

Donovan was waiting at the door when Loren arrived home. Loren was shaking, soaked and cold. Donovan drew Loren inside, knowing he was too angry to even begin to address the reasons that Loren was late.

"Bathroom. I'll run you a hot bath," Donovan said, propelling Loren down the hall with a soft hand at his back.

"No!" Loren protested. "I don't deserve this!"

"Shh, why not?" Donovan asked quietly as he turned the water on. Furious as he was, he could not help responding to Loren's obvious misery.

"I've been bad," Loren whispered.

"Loren, freezing you to death isn't my idea of appropriate punishment." Donovan sighed. "Clothes off, into the tub. "

"Yes, sir." Loren was shaking. Donovan hugged him, hard.

"Loren, I need you to look at me," Donovan said.

Sniffling, Loren tried to meet Donovan's eyes; failed to hold his gaze.

"Donovan, not 'sir.' You know that, Loren. You're home. You're safe. All I expect right now is for you to get into that tub and warm up. Then I am going to feed you some dinner. We'll settle up once you're warm again." Donovan tilted Loren's face to his own; kissed Loren gently.

Loren's eyes welled with tears.

"Go on now, Loren," Donovan coaxed. He watched carefully as Loren undressed and slipped into the tub, relieved to see no new markings on Loren's pale skin.

Donovan let Loren soak for twenty minutes, checking the water's temperature twice, each time letting in a little more hot water. He was satisfied to see Loren's color begin to return, albeit slightly.

"Time to get dressed now," Donovan said gently, holding up a large fresh towel. He wrapped Loren snugly, escorted him into their bedroom. Found him boxers and jeans, a long-sleeved tee and a sweater. Stood over Loren as he dressed, handing him each item as Loren hesitated.

"Kitchen, Loren," Donovan prompted.

"My stomach hurts," Loren whispered unhappily.

"You don't have to eat much, but you need a little food, Loren. Come on now," Donovan responded.

Loren had to admit, the homely chicken noodle soup tasted good. The ginger ale, the thick slice of fresh bakery bread. Tears sprang to Loren's eyes at Donovan's kindness. He blinked them back, hard.

"I need to close down a few things in the studio, Loren," Donovan said, eyeing the clock. "You finish eating, then put your dishes in the sink and wait for me here."

"Yes, Donovan," Loren said resignedly. The formerly tasty food turned to sawdust in his mouth.

Donovan took refuge in the grounding routines of studio life. He stacked the empty plaster bats, scraped down the worktables and the wheel top, made sure the fresh clay was securely wrapped in plastic. Checked the gauge on the kiln. Satisfied that all was in order, he returned to the kitchen.

Donovan did a double take at the collection of objects arrayed on the table.

"What's this about, Loren?" Donovan asked, surveying the hairbrush, wooden spoon and coat hanger.

Loren shrugged.

"I deserve to be punished; I thought I'd help you out," Loren said softly.

"Loren, you don't need to do this." Donovan ran his fingers over the back of the hairbrush; shook his head disbelievingly.

"A hairbrush? You must be feeling pretty bad about what you did, if you think I might be tempted to use this. I know your mom did. I know how much you hate it."

Loren looked down.

Donovan picked up the wooden spoon, smacked it against his hand, hard. Loren cringed.

"Scary?" Donovan asked conversationally. "Who used that, Loren?"

"A lot of people," Loren whispered. "Sometimes I deserved it. I deserve it now, Donovan. I deserve to be scared."

"No, Loren," Donovan said. "Discipline is meant to teach you something. It's not an endurance contest."

He picked up the wire hanger.

"Do you seriously think I'd ever use this on you, Loren?"

Loren shrugged again.

"Loren, listen to me. Beating someone with a wire hanger is abuse. Always has been, always will be. I will never abuse you." Donovan bent the wire hanger in half and shoved it aside. "I am, however, going to spank you."

Loren started. Shit. He had hoped his demonstration of contrition would be sufficient.

Donovan pulled out a wooden chair and turned it away from the table; seated himself. Motioned Loren to him.

"Please, Donovan, I didn't know," Loren whimpered. "Please don't spank me, Donovan!"

"You damn well did know, Loren! I've warned you before: You do not socialize with Pete Hahn. The man's a menace and I don't want you near him."

"Don't spank me!" Loren objected vehemently. "I don't want you to spank me!" He elbowed his way into Donovan's lap, buried his face in Donovan's shirt and began to cry, clinging desperately.

"Settle down, Loren." Donovan rubbed Loren's back slowly, trying to sort out what was going on. Was Loren as afraid as he seemed or merely being manipulative?

"I'm scared!" Loren wailed.

Afraid and manipulative, Donovan thought to himself. Both emotions are genuine.

"Settle down now, Loren," Donovan said quietly. "Settle down; I've got you." Donovan continued to cuddle Loren until Loren's crying ebbed. "Let's get this over with, Loren."

"You're still going to spank me?" Loren gaped at Donovan, astonished.

"Certainly I'm still going to spank you," Donovan said calmly. "You knew better than to go with Pete. Don't do it again! Jeans and boxers down, please. Over my lap."

Loren looked at Donovan in mute appeal. Donovan returned his gaze, his eyes steady and resolved.

"Now please, Loren. This isn't negotiable."

"Yes, Donovan." Loren undid his fly; dropped his jeans and underwear. Arranged himself over Donovan's lap. Tensed as Donovan adjusted his position, raising his bared bottom higher.

Donovan spanked hard and thoroughly, heating every inch of the squirming mounds before him. Steeling himself, he layered smack upon smack until Loren's ass was a dusky pink and Loren was crying steadily; hoarse, painful tears.

"All right, Loren, we're all done. Shh, spanking's over, you're all right," Donovan crooned, tucking Loren sideways into his lap and letting him huddle, soggy and shaken, inside his sheltering arms.

"I'm sorry! Sorry, sorry, sorry," Loren repeated, over and over.

"I know, Loren, I know. You're sorry now, I understand that. And I forgive you. But you need to listen to me. Pete Hahn is a dangerous man. I do not want you to associate with him."

"He came into the gallery," Loren whispered.

"The art world's a small place. You may well run into him. If Hahn visit Matthiesen's, show him whatever Barry tells you. But that's as far as it goes. Do you understand me?"

"Yes, Donovan," Loren whispered. He had never seen Donovan so implacable. It felt good. He felt safe. Despite his throbbing buttocks, Loren felt held and well loved.

"Come on, Loren, let's get you to bed. You've got to be up early tomorrow." Donovan helped Loren to his feet and escorted him upstairs. Eased Loren onto the bed; straightened up himself.

"Don't go!" Loren sounded panic stricken.

"Shh, I'm just going to lock up, turn out the lights, and bring you some water," Donovan said reassuringly. "I'll be right back. Trust me a little bit, Loren."

"Yes, Donovan," Loren said, biting his lip, his eyes brimming. "I'm scared!" He grabbed for Donovan's shirt.

"Loren, you can do this," Donovan insisted, gently untwining Loren's hand. "I won't be three minutes. Breathe, Loren, you're okay."

Donovan was true to his word. He was back before Loren had managed to work himself up past sniffling. Smudging the tear tracks from Loren's face, Donovan handed Loren a tall glass of water. Shook his head as Loren took a small sip and pushed it away.

"Drink it all, Loren, your body needs it," Donovan instructed.

Loren took a few more swallows, looked at Donovan appealingly.

"My stomach hurts."

"All right, Loren." Donovan took the glass from Loren and placed it on the night table. Shucked his shirt and jeans and stretched out alongside Loren, spooning Loren to him.

Loren flinched as the seared skin of his backside encountered Donovan's muscled thighs.

"Shh," Donovan soothed. He hooked his arm over Loren's waist, massaged his knotted belly gently.

Loren relaxed into the comforting sensations. No one had ever made Loren feel this way before. Wanted. Cared for. Held.

Loved.

Loren's last thought, as he drifted into sleep, was that he should tell Donovan about the drawings...

Morning found Loren chastened, subdued and not very hungry. He said as much.

"Eat something anyway, Loren," Donovan said quietly. "You really do not want to push me this morning."

Loren chewed resignedly on a roll. He was not looking forward to returning to work.

Donovan could see that Loren was unhappy about being urged out of the house. Loren was still shaken from his spanking the night before and being separated would be hard. But Loren was going to have to learn to function like everyone else. Unhappy or not, he had a job to go to.

"Shower, Loren," Donovan prompted. "You're due at work at nine thirty."

With a reproachful look at Donovan, Loren slumped into the bathroom. The warm water revived him somewhat. By the time he finished dressing, Loren was almost himself again. He kissed Donovan, a soft, grateful kiss, and headed uptown.

Loren mounted the proud steps of Matthiesen's brownstone building with innocent relish. He had never held a real job before. He greeted the receptionist politely.

She tilted her head sideways, tapped a long, startlingly manicured nail against the kidney shaped desk. Her eyes were cold.

"Barry wants you in his office. He said, don't go upstairs, just go straight back."

Loren shivered at the edge in her voice. He knew that tone; his mother had used it often enough.

"Why?" he asked forlornly.

The receptionist shrugged. She could work her ass off every day and still someone's pretty boyfriend would get preferential treatment. It sucked, but there was nothing she could do about it.

Watching this boy go down was no heartbreaker.

"Well, Loren, you are a nice piece of work," Barry said coldly.

Loren froze.

"What did I do?" Loren's voice was flat. He knew how scenes like this were played. There was no winning. The sooner he found out the bottom line, the better.

"Pete Hahn called me last night. You miscalculated. You thought he would be glad to take the portfolio of drawings, but he was more honest than you gave him credit for. He brought them back this morning. I'd fire you right now, you piece of shit, except that you're Moore's piece of ass and I need Moore's drawing for my show."

Loren licked his lips. Pete had, Pete had...

"Good morning, Loren," Pete said from the doorway. "Barry, your drawings."

"Listen, Pete, I sincerely appreciate this. I won't forget what you did. I don't suppose you have any bright ideas about what to do with Moore's little boy here?"

Pete smiled.

"Oh, I have a few ideas, all right. Loren? Should I have a little chat with Donovan?"

"Good morning, gentlemen," Gabriel said from the door. "What brings you out so early, Pete?"

"Our new art handler seems to have liberated a few drawings," Barry said tersely. "He tried to sell them to Pete. Pete called me."

"Pete, an honest man? I'm shocked," Gabriel said sarcastically. "Let's see the drawings."

Barry unpacked the folio. Loren was horrified to see Barry display, not the originals, but his copies.

Barry didn't flinch. Gabriel, however, had his father's eye for art, an eye Barry could only envy.

"I think we need to have a little private talk, Pete," Gabriel said slowly. "We'll take Loren along with us for now."

"I don't care," Barry said. "Handle it however you want, Gabriel, just keep the gallery out of it. I'll speak to Jay and let him talk to Donovan. I just don't want this to screw up my Contemporary show."

Loren was shaking. Gabriel and Pete exchanged glances, understanding each other perfectly.

"You look upset, Loren. Would you like a drink?" Gabriel asked unctuously.

Loren wavered. He should protest, but somehow it didn't seem worth the effort. Shit, he was fucked anyway. Donovan would never know.

"Do you have your car?" Gabriel asked Pete quietly.

"Right out front," Pete said, smiling wolfishly.

"Excellent. Let's get him out of here." Gabriel gripped Loren's arm roughly. "Move, Loren. Now."

Gabriel on one side, Pete on the other, they stuffed a mute and disoriented Loren into the car. Pete tousled Loren's hair with a proprietary hand. Loren stared blankly into space.

"You're a bastard, Pete," Gabriel said with a hard laugh.

"Tell me you don't want to play with him, Gabriel?"

Gabriel licked his lips. Loren was hot.

"What would you say to a trip out to Long Island, Gabriel? I know a special place. It's about a two-three hour drive."

Loren heard the car doors lock.

"Let me out of the car, Pete," Loren yelped, frightened.

"No, slut," Pete said cruelly. "Get his phone, Gabriel."

Gabriel pinned Loren briefly; Loren felt Gabriel's hand snag his phone from his pocket. Gabriel fondled him teasingly, smirking as Loren squirmed.

"Please, Pete, let me go," Loren begged, hope fading fast.

"You need to remember who you belong to, Loren. After tonight, there won't be any doubt. Where would you go anyway, Loren? Barry's called Jay by now. You won't have anything to go back to when they're done talking to Donovan."

Loren gagged. Pete rolled down the window hastily; Gabriel thrust Loren's head clear and watched as he retched miserably, bringing up ropes of mucus. Pete turned away fastidiously.

"Fucking slut," Pete admonished Loren. "Do a thorough job now. I don't want you puking in my car."

Nauseous, dizzy, terrified, Loren was silent. He didn't protest when Gabriel pulled him back inside and tipped his head into his lap.

"Let me play with him, Pete?" Gabriel asked. "I'll make it worth your while."

"Enjoy him, Gabriel. I'll use him when you're done."

"Suck me." Gabriel undid his fly.

Loren opened his mouth obediently.

"Shit!" Donovan swore softly. "I don't believe it, Jay."

"Enough's enough, Donovan. Cut him loose," Jay said, exasperated. "Donovan, Loren stole that folio of drawings. At least Pete was honest enough to turn them back over to Barry."

"Pete's a liar. Loren's not a thief," Donovan said stubbornly.

"Come on, Donovan, why would Pete lie? What's the profit in it for him?" Jay asked cruelly. "Loren's a whore and a thief. Cut him loose, Donovan."

"You're too late anyway, Jay." Donovan sounded sadder than Jay had heard him since his father's funeral. "Loren's gone. He's not answering his phone."

"You're well rid of him, in my opinion," Jay said.

"I love him, Jay," Donovan said.

The words hung between them.

"Shit. Shit. Ah Donovan, I'm sorry, I really am. " Jay sighed. "Why do you go for the wounded ones, Donovan? They'll hurt you like nobody else."

"I love him."

"Shit. I'm sorry, Donovan," Jay repeated. "I wish I could change the facts. I can't, though. And I've got to go round up Maurice now. Want to join us?"

"No." Donovan's voice was flat. Whatever Jay thought of Loren, Donovan refused to believe things were as they seemed.

Hahn's at the bottom of this, I know it, Donovan thought grimly. He headed for Pete's apartment.

The doormen had seen neither Pete nor Loren. Donovan waited patiently in the lobby, oblivious to the glances of curious passersby.

Ah Loren, my Loren. Please call me. Please come home.

It was after midnight when Donovan abandoned his futile vigil. Heartsore, weary, he sat sad and silent at his kitchen table until the cold light of morning finally lured him to his studio.

Forget him. Forget him. Forget him.

Donovan wedged his clay viciously. Sliced it across the taut wire, slammed first one half, then the other, against the board, forcing the air out.

Forget him.

Sad. shallow, stupid kid.

Slice, slam, slam. Slice, slam, slam.

For once the familiar rhythms of his studio offered no comfort. Donovan slumped disconsolately over his worktable.

My poor brat. What could I have done, what should I have done?

Regret. Useless.

Donovan's phone shrilled.

"Hello?"

"Have you had the news on, Donovan?"

"No. What is it, Maurice? What's wrong?"

"Donovan. Listen to me. There's a kid dead out at the beach house. Leather bondage mask. Asphyxiated."

Donovan sank to the floor, back to the wall, knees to his chest, heedless of the clay dust rising in clouds about him. Phone gripped tight.

"Oh please God, no, no. Maurice, is it Loren?"

"Donovan. We don't know who it is. Jay's driving out now. The police asked me to turn over some of my medical records."

It had been a nerve-wracking, chaotic morning. The police had been in and out, interviewing tops and subs alike. Word of the grisly death had spread quickly and speculation was rife as to who was responsible. Loren had stuttered incoherently through the police interview, prompting the officer who spoke with him to shake his head pityingly and tell him to "get lost."

Loren wished fervently for a line or two of cocaine to counter the terror he felt, but Pete had made his stash vanish at the first hint of trouble. Loren lounged back against the porch, trying to look cool and hoping someone might be interested in staking him to something.

Loren recognized Jay's distinctive car. He stole an anxious glance at Jay. Jay had his cell phone out.

Shit. Jay looked very angry.

"Loren, come here!"

Jay's voice was as hard as his expression.

Loren approached the car apprehensively. Impossible to imagine that Jay would help him.

"Why Donovan puts up with your shit is beyond me! Get in the car, now."

Loren hesitated. Impossible to imagine that Donovan would still want him.

"Do as I say, Loren. I'm not Donovan; I expect you to mind me," Jay said sharply. Donovan's brat was exasperating. "Get in the car. Put on your seatbelt."

"Yes, sir," Loren replied fearfully, even as he followed Jay's instructions. Fumbled with the seatbelt, his eyes cast down. "Sorry, sir. I'll be good."

Goddamnit to hell. The kid was scared shitless.

Jay took a deep breath and tried to soften his tone. He knew how gently Donovan handled his skittish brat.

"You're going to be all right, Loren. I called Donovan. He wants you home."

"Thank you, sir," Loren whispered, huddling against the car door. Why would Donovan give a shit anymore? What was Donovan going to do to him?

Donovan was sitting quietly on the low brick wall before his house, surveying the street. He got to his feet as Jay's car slowed.

"You stupid, stupid, stupid kid." Donovan folded Loren into a fierce hug. "Thank God you're alive!"

"I'm sorry, Donovan, I'm sorry! Don't hurt me," Loren wailed.

"My poor Loren. Shh, I've got you now, " Donovan soothed his hysterical brat. "There's nothing to be afraid of, little one. I'm just glad you're safe."

Jay recognized Donovan's tone; he had heard it before. Jay's own father had used the same voice with his patients.

"I'll call you tomorrow, Jay," Donovan said absentmindedly, his attention already focused on Loren, huddling into him.

"Right, Donovan. I won't tell you to be careful," Jay said. "Why waste my breath?" Donovan had an unfailing ability to find the broken ones.

"Thank you, Jay," Donovan said, tiredly but sincerely. "I owe you." He ushered Loren into the house.

Seating himself in his chair, Donovan tucked Loren into his lap and held him for a very, very long time, rubbing gentle circles on his back. Gradually Loren's sobs subsided into hiccups.

"He wanted me to play with him," Loren sniffled softly. "Pete said I was too badly behaved and he should pick another sub. I wanted to play with him, Donovan. I didn't want to play with Pete anymore. Pete hurt me." He began to cry again.

"I know, Loren, I know," Donovan said hoarsely, resuming his reassuring massage.

"You don't know! Pete HURT me, Donovan," Loren sobbed.

I. Am. Going. To. Kill. That. Bastard. Donovan thought in silent fury. Out loud, he murmured soft reassurances to Loren, rocking him against him until Loren yawned tiredly.

"Come on, babe, stand up now. How does a hot shower sound?" Donovan asked softly.

"No shower!" Loren pleaded, panicky. "P-p-p-lease, Donovan!" Loren's teeth were chattering badly.

"All right, Loren, easy now, everything's going to be okay." Hiding his dismay at Loren's untoward reaction, Donovan steered Loren to the bedroom.

Loren continued to shake as Donovan undressed him. Donovan scowled at the new marks on Loren's body. The scabbed indentations along the tender nipples and the blue bruises on belly and chest infuriated him. Did Loren even comprehend the meaning of legitimate BDSM play?

Loren flinched from Donovan's hands in a way Donovan had hoped he would never see again.

"A warm bath might take some of the sting out, Loren," Donovan suggested again, his voice low and steady.

"No! Please, Donovan, I'll do whatever you want. Anything. Only not that again. Please..."

"Loren, talk to me. What happened, baby, to scare you like this?" Donovan stroked Loren's hair gently back from his eyes.

"Pete gave me an enema. I almost shit the bed." Loren flushed, embarrassed eyes pleading for understanding. "It wasn't my fault! It hurt so bad, Donovan."

"Pete got really angry. He said I needed to learn a lesson. He made me get in the bathtub. He screwed a shower shot nozzle onto the spray attachment and put it up my ass. It hurt, Donovan, it really, really hurt." Loren's voice was dull and affectless.

Donovan scowled, infuriated. The last thing Loren had needed was to have his bowels painfully flushed out. Even a small Fleet enema had frightened Loren badly. How much more frightening had Pete's humiliating scene been?

"You're safe now, Loren." Donovan forced a calm he didn't feel. "Stay with me. I won't let anyone harm you."

"Why the fuck do you want a piece of trash like me anyway?" Loren asked miserably.

"You're an interesting, talented, nice-looking guy, Loren," Donovan said with a deep sigh. Loren's self-loathing was painful to witness. "You need to be taken care of and I need someone to care for."

"Those are stupid reasons," Loren said sulkily, frustrated and unable to understand. Loren had no context in which to frame Donovan's concern. "You don't know anything."

"I know who you are," Donovan said softly. "We come from the same place. We're both poor white country boys."

"Huh?" Loren's jaw dropped. He looked very surprised.

"We're not so different, Loren. Except that my daddy was never a mean drunk, and while my mama was alive, she kept his drinking in hand," Donovan said softly. "But your mama was on her own and she could barely care for herself, much less care for you."

 

"That fucking bitch," Loren spat. "She was a mean drunk. She beat me all the time, from when I was small, till the day they took me away. Foster care sucked. I got hit a lot. What the fuck, I was used to it anyway." Loren shrugged, refusing to let it touch him.

"No one gives a shit about a punk kid in care. Unless he says someone fucked him. Then it's a big deal," Loren said bitterly. "They took me to doctors who touched me some more while some fucking bitch nurse told me to be good. Then they sent me somewhere else. Who the fuck cares about this shit anyway? I fucking don't!" The anguish in Loren's voice belied his words.

Donovan listened intently as Loren looped and dipped over the shattered landscape of his childhood, absorbing a sense of Loren's life in foster care. The fragmented relationships, the tenuous connections, the abiding sense of inadequacy. The desperation for someone to see him. The occasional kindness of a stranger, turned over like treasure.

The terror of aging out of foster care at seventeen. No home, no job, no skills and no money.

To a child whose mother had hurt him badly, men seemed safer than women, stronger and calmer. It wasn't hard to learn to do what they liked. Blow jobs, sex: No big deal. His body had not ever been his.

The first man who took him in had fucked him and fed him for a week or two and then introduced him to the scene. At first it was pain and terror, mitigated only by the drugs. And then one night, at the far edge of sensation, the sudden rush of endorphins kicking in hard.

Huddled against Donovan, Loren told in fits and starts of his days as a temporary sub. Of Pete, masterful and sure, who had claimed him as his own, mingling drugs and erratic kindness with his inventive cruelties.

"Now do you want me to leave, Donovan?" Loren asked softly.

Donovan took Loren's face in his hands, turned Loren's eyes to meet his.

"Never," Donovan answered. "You're mine, Loren, mine. Mine for keeps."

"Please don't send me away! I'll be good, I'll try harder, I promise. Please keep me!"

Donovan stroked Loren's hair, thinking sadly of his litany of foster homes, wondering how often Loren had begged in just this way for a second chance.

"Loren, I'm not putting you out. You're mine, all mine. You're the one who ran away," Donovan pointed out gently.

"Most people don't want runaways back," Loren sniffled. "Please Donovan, are you going to punish me? What are you going to do to me? Please don't spank me!"

"I'm not going to punish you until after Dr. Gordon has a look at you. Once he says you're okay, then I'll kill you," Donovan joked gently.

"No! Don't make me see Dr. Gordon again! He'll tell you! You'll be angry! Please, Donovan, don't make me go!" Loren was frantic.

"Tell me what, Loren? Why do you think I'll be angry?"

"I let Pete fuck me," Loren said dismally.

Donovan sighed.

"I know how Pete plays, Loren; I assumed you slept with him. That's old news. I want Dr. Gordon to look you over. I want to be sure you're not hurt."

"Donovan?" Loren whispered. "Dr. Gordon was there. At the beach house."

"That I didn't know." Donovan closed his eyes. Well, he had known Gordon played; his awareness of and comfort with the scene had been a major reason Maurice had recommended him.

"I won't hold it against him. A lot of couples play out there; it used to be a nice place," Donovan said grimly. "But I will talk to Dr. Gordon before he examines you."

Donovan lost no time calling Dr. Gordon and securing an emergency appointment.

"Come in, gentlemen." Dr. Gordon himself greeted Loren and Donovan at his office door.

Donovan regarded Jamie Gordon steadily.

"What do you know about what happened out at the beach house?" Donovan asked without preamble.

Dr. Gordon met Donovan's eyes, his gaze and conscience clear.

"I was there," Dr. Gordon said. "I tried to revive the kid, but it was too late. I don't know who the bastard who was playing with him was. I hope the cops find him."

"Loren was out there that night. With Pete Hahn," Donovan said.

"That man's a menace," Dr. Gordon said icily. "I've treated a few subs who've played with him."

"I agree a hundred percent," Donovan said. "Loren's a fool for him, though.

"Don't be mad at me, please." Loren began to cry. "Don't hurt me."

"No one's angry at you; no one's going to hurt you here, Loren. Let's take this one step at a time," Dr. Gordon counseled. "I'll need to do some blood work. Meanwhile let's see whether there's any damage and go from there."

Loren closed his eyes and gripped Donovan's hand tightly.

"Stretch out on the table, Loren. Lie on your left side and bend your knees."

Loren tensed at the snap of the latex glove.

"Relax, Loren. I'm going to touch you now. You tell me if I hurt you." Dr. Gordon studied Loren's bruised perineum, his mouth a tight line.

"So Hahn's responsible for what I'm seeing?" Dr. Gordon asked, probing cautiously.

Loren was silent.

"At least partially," Donovan said stoically, when it became apparent Loren was beyond speech. "I wasn't there. I don't know who else Loren may have played with."

"Loren, Donovan, I'm going to have to do an internal exam with a speculum. I see bruising; I need to see what else is involved. I need you to speak up if it hurts, Loren. I'll stop if you're in pain."

Loren shivered.

"I'm going to insert the speculum now. Try to relax, Loren."

Loren made a soft little distressed sound as the instrument nudged its way into his rectum.

Donovan stroked Loren's hair, wincing sympathetically.

Dr. Gordon finished his exam, carefully narrowed the speculum's bills and slipped it out. Loren was breathing hard.

"Very good, Loren," Dr. Gordon said, easing off his latex glove. "We're done."

"I don't get this," Loren complained. "Are we still playing? I don't get this at all." This was not how these scenes were played. And Loren could not understand how this wasn't a scene.

Dr. Gordon and Donovan locked eyes, equally distressed by Loren's obvious confusion.

"This is not a scene, Loren, it's a medical exam," Dr. Gordon said. He laid a gentle hand on Loren's hip.

"Get off me!" Loren jerked away.

"All right," Dr. Gordon said quietly.

"I'm sorry!" Loren whispered.

"You didn't do anything wrong, Loren," Dr. Gordon said. "Please get dressed and then join me inside." Dr. Gordon closed the door gently behind him and returned to his office.

Loren shifted uncomfortably as Donovan helped him to sit upright. Donovan handed him his clothing.

"I don't see any lacerations, just swelling and some slight surface abrasions," Dr. Gordon said. "Loren, I doubt you are going to be able to have a bowel movement without an enema until your system rights itself."

Loren flinched.

"Surely there are alternatives?" Donovan asked.

Dr. Gordon shook his head.

"Strange as it sounds, there aren't, Donovan," Dr. Gordon said practically. "If you want me to do it as an in-office procedure, with some sedation, I can accommodate you. It is medically necessary, Donovan. Don't fool around."

"Thank you, Doctor," Donovan said. "Loren, please meet me in the waiting room. I need to speak to Dr. Gordon privately for a minute."

"Sure, Donovan," Loren said slowly. He left the office, looking anxiously over his shoulder.

Donovan closed the door behind him and turned to Dr. Gordon.

"I need your medical opinion," Donovan said. "Can I safely punish him? Can I spank him?"

"I have real reservations." Dr. Gordon looked grim. "I have to tell you, Donovan, I've never really "gotten" discipline relationships. Although if I didn't know Loren was in your hands, I might be tempted to spank him myself," he acknowledged ruefully.

 

"Loren has that effect on a lot of people," Donovan said with a half-laugh. Then his voice sobered.

"There's spanking, that's true. But a discipline relationship involves a lot more than corporal punishment. A discipline partnership requires a real commitment from both partners to each other and each other's needs. " Donovan spoke quietly, but there was strength and dignity in his words.

"Your brat doesn't have the brains he should have been born with." Dr. Gordon shook his head. "Loren's not in any state to commit to anyone or anything at this point."

"Understood. And I respect your opinion. But what I need to know, Dr. Gordon, is whether Loren is well enough that I can spank him without harming him physically?" Donovan's question hung in the air.

"A sound spanking is not going to harm Loren physically," Dr. Gordon said slowly. "But God help you, Donovan, I hope you know what you're doing."

"I know what I'm doing," Donovan said quietly.

Dr. Gordon watched as the two men left the office, Loren leaning slightly into Donovan.

The drive home was somber.

"You're going to spank me," Loren said as they entered the house. It wasn't a question.

"Living room," Donovan said quietly. "There's no reason to put this off, is there?"

Loren shook his head resignedly. No.

"Loren, has Pete given you any reason to trust him?" Donovan asked.

Loren shook his head again. No.

"Yet you repeatedly take off after him, despite my express instructions. I've told you not to go with him, haven't I?"

Loren nodded.

"You need to listen to me. We've talked about your cutting out before. I thought I made clear that you just don't do it. But obviously, I didn't make it clear enough. So, Loren, I am going to take my belt off and give you a real licking, and you are never, ever going to run away from me again. You do not run off. You stay away from Pete. "

"Please, Donovan, no! You promised you wouldn't beat me," Loren protested, astonished.

"Did I say I was going to beat you? Loren, I am going to give you a licking. My belt, across your ass. Tell me how that's a beating?"

"It's going to hurt!" Loren wailed.

"It's going to hurt," Donovan agreed. "That's why I'm doing it, Loren. You almost got yourself killed, you foolish, foolish boy. I thought you were clear about my rules, but obviously I was mistaken." Donovan swallowed hard.

"You need to listen to me when I tell you something, Loren. I mean it. Across my lap, now."

"Please no?" Loren sniffled abjectly

"Loren. Across my lap. Pants and boxers down. Same as when I spank you." Donovan touched Loren's face gently. "Nowhere except your butt. I just don't think I'm getting my points across with my hand, Loren."

"I trust you, Donovan, " Loren said sadly, undoing his clothing. He squirmed into position with a sigh.

Donovan accordion folded his belt in his right hand, leaving a short portion of the leather end free. Brought it down, hard.

Loren jerked at the impact. It hurt. It stung in a way Donovan's hand never did.

But it wasn't scary. Safe across Donovan's lap, Loren was aware that he was loved, that Donovan was holding him close.

Donovan studied Loren's body with interest. Goddamn, the kid was deep into subspace. Rather than cringing from the belt, he opened to it, widening his legs, welcoming the pain.

This was no punishment. Loren was getting off on this.

Donovan sighed, recognizing a natural pain slut. Not Loren's fault that his body easily processed pain as pleasure.

Except that this whipping was punishment. And Donovan was determined that Loren would feel it that way.

"Loren, why are you being punished? Loren, talk to me. Why I am punishing you?"

"You love me," Loren said dreamily. "You want me to be safe. You love me."

Donovan sharpened his voice, intent on dispelling any pleasure Loren might take in the process.

"Loren!" Donovan brought the belt down hard. "This isn't a scene, Loren."

Loren shifted uncomfortably, the zone he sought eluding him.

Donovan held him firmly in place, his left hand at the small of Loren's back.

Another sharp, arrhythmic crack of the belt.

"Why am I punishing you, Loren?" Donovan asked sharply. "Answer me, now."

A hard slap of the belt across the junction between buttock and thigh.

Loren yelped unhappily.

"You ran away!" The belt emphasized Donovan's reproach.

Deliberately avoiding any pattern or rhythm, Donovan concentrated on delivering individual sharp, hard strokes.

Loren began to cry.

Donovan steeled himself to continue despite Loren's tears.

"Donovan, no, Donovan, no," Loren sobbed miserably. This wasn't play; this was punishment. Donovan was bitterly disappointed in him. Donovan's belt stung, but his disapproval was what really hurt.

I hate this, I truly do. Donovan laid his belt aside. It was a close question as to who was more relieved to be done with the whipping.

Donovan stood Loren up, rose himself. Slung Loren over his shoulder in the classic fireman's carry, brought him into the bedroom and deposited him gently sideways on their bed. Stripping Loren's remaining clothes, Donovan pulled sheet and covers carefully over Loren.

"Shh, Loren, I've got you, you're safe now, you're all mine." Donovan petted him gently, smoothing his hair out of his eyes.

"I'm sorry, Donovan. I'm sorry," Loren said sadly.

"Just tell me why, Loren? Why did you go with Pete?" Donovan asked quietly. "Please, Loren. I want to know what really happened."

"Pete lied! He took the drawings, not me! I saw him put the folder in his portfolio; I didn't know it was wrong! That's why I didn't say anything to Barry. But it's more than that," Loren sniffled.

"What, babe?" Donovan asked, wondering inwardly how many secrets Loren had.

"Pete said he liked the drawings, could I just make him copies, I was so fucking good at it," Loren whispered. "Those weren't Matthiesen's missing drawings Pete brought back to Barry, they were mine! I did them for him!"

In a rare display of temper, Donovan slammed his hand against the wall, hard. The sound reverberated throughout the room.

Loren flinched, his arm coming up automatically to protect his face.

The reflexive gesture reminded Donovan just how confused his brat was. Donovan seated himself on the bed. Softened his body, tried to modulate his voice.

"It's all right, Loren, I'm not going to hurt you. Don't be afraid of me. Let me see you." Donovan carefully drew Loren's arm away from his face.

"I copied them, Donovan. I did it because Pete wanted me to! But I didn't know why he wanted themů" Loren cried harder than ever, his slender body shaking.

"Loren, stop, listen to me. Pete is at fault here, not you. Do you understand what that means?"

"You don't hate me, then?" Loren asked abjectly.

Donovan looked at Loren's pale, unshaven face and blue shadowed eyes.

"I could never hate you, Loren," Donovan said, tracing Loren's cheekbones with a gentle finger. He was about to join Loren in their bed when the doorbell chimed.

"You stay put." Hastily, Donovan made his way downstairs and opened the door.

Pete Hahn stood at their threshold.

"I need to talk with Loren, Donovan," Pete said without preliminaries.

"Forget it." Donovan folded his arms, blocking the doorway.

"I recognize that protective look, Donovan," Pete said snidely. "I take it our Loren's been whining that I hurt him. But of course, we both know our boy is into pain--"

Pete backed away as Donovan stepped forward abruptly.

"You abusive bastard," Donovan said icily. "He is not 'our Loren.' He is not your anything. He is mine, and I don't share. Come near Loren again, call him, touch him, reach out to him in any way and I will ruin you."

"I saved your fucking brat's life, Donovan. He owes me. You owe me," Pete said, his eyes hard. "Let me talk to Loren, Donovan! I was with him, all night. He fucking well knows that. The cops are looking at me and I am not going down without a fight."

"I'll talk to him," Donovan said unwillingly. "That's all I'll promise. Now get away from my house."

"No," Loren said softly. "I won't help the motherfucking bastard."

"It's the right thing to do. Pete's in the clear; you know that." Donovan's voice was bitter. "It may have been unintentional, but he may have saved your life, Loren. You told me yourself, the other Top wanted to play with you, and Pete refused to share you."

"Because he wanted to humiliate me! Because he wanted to hurt me! Not because he was protecting me, Donovan!" Loren said, becoming more and more agitated. "I wouldn't even have been there except that Pete lied!"

"I know, Loren," Donovan said soothingly.

"You don't know! You don't know how much he hurt me, Donovan! I don't know what he did to me, inside, but I'm fucked, Donovan, and he did it to me."

"That doesn't mean you should let him be locked up while the sonofabitch who killed the kid goes free. Loren, nothing would give me more pleasure than to see Pete rot in jail," Donovan said wretchedly. "But it wasn't him."

"I don't care! I don't get anything I want, ever! Why the fuck should I worry about anyone else?" Loren was angry and agitated. "Who made you my boss, anyway?"

"You did, Loren," Donovan said calmly.

"You never play with me! You never fuck me! Why should I listen to you?" Loren glared at Donovan.

Donovan chose to ignore Loren's tone, focusing on Loren's raw anxiety instead. He drew Loren onto the couch and sat alongside him, lending his reassuring presence, until Loren finally calmed and became immersed in the mindless distraction of the television.

Leaving Loren quietly vegging out, Donovan slipped into the kitchen. He dialed Jay's number.

"We've got a problem, Jay. Let me fill you in," Donovan said shortly. "You might want Maurice to pick up, too."

"You okay, Donovan?" Jay asked, motioning for Maurice to grab the extension.

"No, I'm not. That motherfucking bastard!" Donovan's voice was bitter.

"Who, Loren?" Maurice asked.

"No! Pete Hahn. That sonofabitch." Donovan was angrier than Maurice had ever heard him.

"We know what you think of him, Donovan. Stop cursing and talk sense," Jay said curtly.

"He set Loren up!" Donovan said bitterly. "And the worst part is, I've got to get Loren to give a statement to the police in support of Pete. Pete's a sadist, but he didn't kill the kid. And Loren's his alibi."

"It's making me crazy." Maurice turned his pillows over, punched them down.

"I told you, I'll speak to our lawyer in the morning. It's all right, Maurie," Jay said, resettling their covers.

Maurice sighed restlessly and rolled onto his stomach.

"Come back here," Jay said, shifting Maurice to face him. "What's eating you?"

"I don't understand Donovan at all," Maurice said, irritated. "He pretty much left the scene over the house not blackballing Pete. Why would he even consider coming forward to help him? He hates the bastard."

"If Pete had killed that kid, he would deserve whatever he got. But neither Donovan nor I think he did it. We both know how he likes to play. He likes to watch his subs's faces. He likes to see them cry, " Jay said thoughtfully.

"Do you really think Loren will tell the truth?" Maurice asked skeptically.

"Loren will do as Donovan says," Jay said. "Make no mistake about it, Maurice, Donovan is a very strong Top. He knows Loren; he knows where Loren's coming from," Jay said. "He'll get the truth out of him."

"I don't know what he sees in that miserable piece of trailer trash," Maurice said petulantly.

Jay studied Maurice's closed, angry expression. Loren's vicious verbal attack over dinner had thrown Maurice badly. Maurice was having a hard time getting past his outrage and an even harder time getting past his underlying hurt. His affection for Donovan only made it worse.

"They're both poor white boys, Maurice," Jay said softly. "Rural poverty. I remember Donovan coming by our house, mornings in winter when it was cold, and my dad making him take an extra sweater, an extra pair of gloves."

Maurice closed his eyes in silent empathy.

"Donovan never complained, even after his mother passed on, and his dad started drinking hard," Jay continued. "But it wasn't easy for him, coming up."

"Shit. Maybe I should call Donovan," Maurice said, rolling away from Jay. "I wasn't very polite about Loren. I don't know, Jay, the kid just rubs me the wrong way."

Jay draped himself over Maurice, kissed him insistently.

"It's late. Let it go, Maurice. You can talk to Donovan tomorrow. Tonight's for us. Pay attention to me, Maurie. You didn't do anything wrong. Donovan's your good friend and we'll get used to his brat eventually. Pay attention, Maurie. Kiss me."

"But--" Maurice met Jay's exasperated eyes.

"Maurice. Stop thinking, stop talking, and kiss me. Now." There was a distinct "or else" implicit in Jay's tone.

With an effort, Maurice focused on Jay until everything else slipped away.

This really is the evening from hell, Donovan thought wearily. And it's not over yet.

Loren prowled restlessly from room to room, obviously uncomfortable.

"Come sit with me," Donovan coaxed.

"My butt hurts." Loren scowled at Donovan.

"You want to stretch out?" Donovan asked, willing to be conciliatory.

"That won't help. My stomach hurts," Loren said moodily.

"We can do something about that," Donovan said quietly.

"No!" Loren was adamant. "I'm not having a fucking enema!"

"Think, Loren, we've done this before. Was it really that bad last time?" Donovan asked softly, deliberately ignoring Loren's panicky cursing.

"No," Loren conceded grudgingly.

"Then let's just get it over with, all right?" Donovan took Loren's arm, meaning to steer him upstairs.

"NO, Donovan!" Loren jerked away. "I'm sorry! I'm sorry!" Loren sounded near tears.

"Shh, Loren, sorry for what?" Donovan asked,

"For being so much trouble..." Loren's voice trailed off.

"You're not so much trouble. Shh, Loren..." Donovan hugged Loren. "Shh..."

"You mad at me, Donovan?" Loren asked.

"No," Donovan sighed. Loren inevitably mistook Donovan's distress for anger; he seemed to find the two emotions indistinguishable.

"Will you spank me if I don't let you do it?" Loren asked.

Donovan was silent.

"I'm not being stubborn; I'm scared," Loren said, shaky voiced. "Donovan, I'm not fighting you, I just really don't want an enema."

"This isn't about fighting me," Donovan said softly. "This is about you needing medical treatment you're afraid of. I won't punish you. I won't spank you."

Loren began to cry. Donovan drew him closer; rubbed his back patiently.

"There's no rush, Loren." Donovan made no attempt to interrupt Loren's crying, but only held him securely, wanting him to know he was not alone and that his pain and fear were heard

Loren cried until he had no more tears. His face was blotchy, his throat sore, his eyes red.

"I can't do it, Donovan," Loren said finally. "I can't."

"Whenever you're ready, Loren," Donovan said. "Shh, don't cry anymore, you'll be sick. I've got you now. Shh..."

Donovan shepherded Loren upstairs. Lying Loren back on their bed, Donovan massaged his stomach in easy circles, trying to ease the worst cramps.

"I love you, Donovan." Loren sighed deeply, his eyes closing tiredly.

"I love you too, Loren," Donovan said softly. "I wish you'd let me help you."

As always, Donovan woke with the dawn. It was a teaching day. One look at Loren, burrowed deep in their blankets, convinced Donovan that his brat needed to sleep himself out. Donovan left juice, a muffin and a note by Loren's side of the bed. He kissed Loren's forehead gently.

"You be good, babe," Donovan said. "I'll be back after my afternoon class."

"I love you, Donovan," Loren mumbled without waking fully.

The morning flew by. Classes over, Donovan scrubbed his clay-covered hands and headed for the cafeteria, snagging his favorite table by the window.

"Donovan?" Maurice asked, approaching tentatively.

"Hey, Doc. Have a seat." Donovan's easy smile made it clear Maurice was welcome.

Maurice set his plate on the table with a relieved sigh.

"What'd you get?" Donovan asked, in their usual ritual.

"Chicken. Salad. Bread." Maurice said.

Donovan studied Maurice's plate, taking in the unbreaded chicken breast, plain green salad and unbuttered roll. He raised his eyebrows.

"Jay read you the riot act about your lipids levels?"

"Not only that," Maurice sighed. "Jay dropped my clubs at the pro shop to be 'refurbished.' I can't pick them up until Wednesday."

Donovan choked on his coffee. Jay was diabolically clever at times.

"It's supposed to be gorgeous this weekend. Jay's playing both Saturday and Sunday. Without me." Maurice sounded despondent. "It's not worth it."

"Physician, heal thyself?" Donovan asked.

"Exactly what Jay said," Maurice said ruefully.

"Ah, Maurie. There'll be other nice days," Donovan commiserated. "Jay wants you around to enjoy them."

"I know. It's just hard sometimes, Donovan..." Maurice sounded wistful.

"Life is hard sometimes," Donovan said matter-of-factly.

Maurice scowled at his Spartan lunch; eyed the grill station longingly.

"Maurice," Donovan said pleasantly. "You're getting your blood work redone in two weeks, right? Do you really want Jay to decide you're deliberately endangering your health?"

"Do pigs fly? Christ, Donovan," Maurice complained as he picked up his fork, "You're a mean sonofabitch."

"Am I?" Donovan laughed. "Talk to Loren; you don't know the half of it." He sobered abruptly. "Truthfully, Maurice, I'm worried about Loren."

"Why, Donovan?"

"It's not exactly table talk." Donovan grimaced. "I talked to Dr. Gordon. Loren needs a series of enemas to help restore normal bowel function after what Pete did to him. Loren won't cooperate."

"Donovan, it's never pleasant to give an enema to an unwilling patient. For you, with a lover, it's got to be awful. But you have to trust Jamie Gordon's judgment; he deals with a lot of BDSM-related health issues and he knows what he's doing. If he says Loren needs this, Loren needs this."

"Loren's so scared. He cries, Maurice."

"He's being manipulative, Donovan."

"I don't think so, Maurie. I don't know what to do."

"Donovan. It's your responsibility to take care of Loren, this way, as well as every other. It's Loren's responsibility to trust you. It's not your fault that he can't."

"He cries."

"He has to trust you. It doesn't hurt that much. "

"But are you sure, Maurice? I'm not being cruel? Pushing his limits?"

"You're the kindest man I know, Donovan. Don't let Loren's confused perceptions confuse you. This has nothing to do with limits. This isn't a scene; it's a medical necessity." Maurice shook his head.

"You know it's not cruel, Donovan. It has to be done. You've got a tough brat who needs caring for. You're doing the right thing."

"Thank you, Maurice," Donovan said sincerely. "I know you're right. I just needed to hear it. Thanks."

The two men finished their lunch in companionable silence.

Loren was pacing uncomfortably when Donovan arrived home.

Donovan wrapped Loren in a tight hug. Tilted Loren's head back, kissed him thoroughly. Cupped Loren's face in his palm.

"Come on, babe," Donovan said. "Let's get it over with."

Loren let himself be guided upstairs.

"What if I have an accident?" Loren's cheeks flamed.

"It doesn't matter. See how I do this? I'm putting this waterproof sheet on the bed. Then some towels. See, even if you did have an accident, no harm done."

"You wouldn't punish me?" Loren asked.

"No, Loren."

"Pete did."

Donovan refused to let the fury he felt show in his expression or his movements. He forced himself to breathe, to keep his voice soft and even.

"I'll never punish you for an accident, Loren," Donovan said gently. "You're safe with me."

"Will it hurt?" Loren asked shakily.

"Loren, this isn't the first time I've given you an enema. It won't feel anything like what Pete did. Don't be afraid, Loren, I'm going to take good care of you," Donovan said.

"I still don't get this. Why the fuck do you make me do this if it isn't for kicks?" Loren demanded irritably, as he stripped off his pants and boxers and stretched out on the bed.

"To help you get well," Donovan said for what felt like the millionth time, shaking his head. "It's not a scene, it's a medical procedure. You know that, Loren."

"I still don't want to do this," Loren said unhappily.

"Try to think about something pleasant. Think about something you'd like for a treat when we're all done," Donovan counseled, stroking Loren's hair reassuringly. "Something you really want.

"I just want to get this over with," Loren sniffled.

Donovan eased the small syringe from its packaging. Carefully lubed the enema nozzle. Applied a generous dab of lubrication to Loren's anus, massaged the small opening with the pad of his forefinger until it softened.

"Okay now, take a deep breath. That's it, I'm just going to insert the--"

"NO! Stop, Donovan, stop. You're hurting me!" Loren wailed, scrambling away.

Donovan laid the enema aside. He had barely touched it to Loren's ass. It was fear, not pain, that was fueling Loren's terror.

"Shh, Loren, shh..." Donovan rubbed Loren's back until he quieted. "Do you want to insert it yourself, Loren? It might be easier..."

"No, no!" Loren cried harder than before, not wanting the responsibility. "I don't want to do this at all!"

"That isn't an option, Loren. Either let me insert it, or insert it yourself, but you are going to have this enema. It isn't negotiable, Loren." Donovan's voice was calm but absolutely certain.

"You do it. I hate this, Donovan, and I hate you," Loren said miserably.

Donovan sighed and resigned himself to a slow, uncomfortable process.

"Let's try this again, Loren. Lie back down. Bend your knees. Breathe."

With infinite gentleness, Donovan relubricated the outside of the clenched muscle, then the nozzle itself. Very carefully, very slowly, Donovan pressed the slender wand inward.

Loren's breathing hitched as he tried to relax under Donovan's hand. He didn't mean to be difficult. It was just that he was still tender inside. And the whole thing just felt so demeaning, as well as physically uncomfortable.

"You're all right," Donovan said softly, feeling Loren tense up again. "I've got you, babe, just breathe. You're safe with me."

Donovan's utter certainty was reassuring. Loren relaxed into the soothing voice, gave himself up to the pleasure of trust.

Donovan helped Loren to the bathroom; closed the door gently behind him. The solution worked its magic.

Afterwards Donovan held Loren for a long, long time while Loren cried.

"Loren," Donovan said gently, as Loren's tears subsided. "I need you to talk to me about what Pete gives you. Is it the sex? Is it the scene? Do you need that to be happy?"

Loren looked at his hands.

"I don't like it when Pete hurts me," he whispered. "But there's something about being whipped..." He flushed, embarrassed. "I get off on it. And Donovan, you don't fuck me. I need the sex." Loren looked abashed and nervous.

"Loren, I'm so proud of you," Donovan said softy. "These aren't easy subjects to talk about, and you're doing great."

Loren looked surprised.

"You're not angry at me, Donovan?"

"No, I'm glad you're being honest. Every couple has issues they need to work through. Loren!"

Loren had launched himself into Donovan's arms and was clinging to him, hard.

Donovan took Loren's chin in his hand, stroked his thumb over Loren's lips. Kissed Loren, widening his mouth.

Loren moaned as Donovan deepened and intensified his kiss, probing deeper with his tongue.

Donovan eased off from the kiss, studied Loren's eyes.

"More?" Donovan asked softly.

The doorbell rang. Donovan and Loren exchanged rueful glances.

"Come on, we'd better see who it is," Donovan said. Loren trailed Donovan to the kitchen, hovering close.

It was Jay and Maurice.

"How are you, Donovan?" Jay asked, giving Donovan a hard hug. Donovan returned the embrace.

"How's the brat doing?" Maurice asked.

"His name's Loren," Donovan said evenly.

"Hello, Dr. Napier," Loren said softly. "It's nice to see you."

Maurice looked at Loren, astonished at his sudden mastery of social pleasantries.

"Very nice, Loren," Jay praised. "It's good to see you making progress. Donovan must be proud of you."

"I hope so," Loren said softly. "He makes me practice enough." He flashed a quick, engaging smile.

Jay laughed appreciatively, drawing an anxious glance from Maurice.

"We're heading out to the beach house for a few nights, Donovan. We need to sort some things out. We just wanted to say a quick goodbye before we left town," Jay said.

"Thank you, Jay," Donovan said. "For everything."

"Yeah, well, we've been friends a long time. You better be good to him, Loren."

"Loren's good for me," Donovan said.

"Take care, Donovan," Maurice said. "You too, Loren. You're in good hands."

"The kid looks awfully good, Jay," Maurice said, as they settled into their car. "Don't you think?"

"Way too high maintenance for me," Jay said, hearing the undertone of anxiety in Maurice's voice. "Fortunately you're more my type."

"You just like me because I'm easy. In every sense," Maurice groused, half-joking, half-serious.

"You're not easy, Maurice," Jay said, sensitive to the insecurity underlying Maurice's glibness. "But you are a strong, whole man, every bit my equal, and I love you for that. What draws Donovan to Loren, that terrible neediness, has zero appeal for me."

Maurice let out his breath.

"It's not just me, then?" Maurice said with a shaky laugh. "Because I swear, Jay, I would like to strangle that brat sometimes."

"It's not just you," Jay said reassuringly. "I would have killed him by now, too. It's not for me, Maurice. I don't want a partner who needs the kind of care Donovan gives Loren. But Donovan's always gone for the wounded ones. I was afraid Loren would hurt him, but maybe, just maybe, Loren is going to give Donovan something, too."

***FIN***

THANK you, Hedeia, for your constructive suggestions and encouragement.

Dedicated to my mentor, Lorelei, with love and respect. EM