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



"May I come in?" Donovan always paused at the door of the upstairs bedroom Loren now used as his studio; he wanted Loren to feel it was his space.

"Donovan." To Loren it was a rhetorical question; he couldn't imagine any answer but "yes." It was Donovan's house.

Accustomed to Loren's diffidence, Donovan stepped inside.

"I'm hungry. Want to get some tapas?"

"Tapas," Loren repeated without enthusiasm. "At that Spanish bar? Yeah, whatever."

"Or we could do sushi." Donovan studied Loren carefully. "You feel all right?"

Loren sniffed again, the third or fourth time in as many minutes. Donovan gritted his teeth at the uncharacteristic sound. Unfortunately, he could make a pretty accurate guess what that was about, and it was no good at all.

"Let me have the rest of the cocaine, Loren." Donovan held out his hand. "Now, please."

"I don't know what you're talking about," Loren protested.

"Loren. Just let me have it." Donovan's hand stayed out.

"Shit." Loren drooped and with a defeated sigh, scrabbled under the papers heaped on his work table and surrendered a small glassine envelope.

"You made me a promise." Donovan looked from the white powder to Loren, his disappointment clear.

"Donovan, don't be mad, I'm sorry!" Loren licked his lips nervously. He remembered all too well what Donovan had assured him would happen if he used cocaine again.

"I warned you I'd punish you if you used cocaine again." Donovan had hoped that his threat alone would be enough of a disincentive; apparently not.

"You're going to beat me!" Loren backed away, his already pale face whitening further, "Please, Donovan, I'm sorry, please--" Loren came up hard against the wall and unable to retreat further, slid to the floor, back pressed flat to the wall, knees drawn tight to his chest.

"When have I ever beaten you?" Donovan shook his head, torn between exasperation and pity. He blamed the drug for Loren's heightened volatility. This was precisely why he didn't want Loren using cocaine even occasionally. Donovan took a few deep breaths, centered himself, and crouched in front of Loren.

"Loren, you know you're safe with me," Donovan reminded him gently. "But you need to listen when I say no. You're not allowed to use cocaine and you deserve more than just a spanking for buying this shit."

"Please don't use your belt." Loren shivered. "I'm sorry, Donovan. Please, give me another chance?"

"This was your second chance," Donovan said quietly. "Loren, do you remember what I told you last time?"

"You said you'd use your belt," Loren said without inflection. "You said you'd use your belt no matter how scared I was." Loren repeated the threat mechanically, his eyes wide and vacant.

"Oh Loren." Donovan extended his hand to touch Loren's cheek and Loren flinched and then froze, his lips drawn back in a facsimile of a smile. At times like these Donovan despaired.

"Listen to me. Everything's all right, Loren, everything's fine." Donovan's voice was gentle, giving no hint of his distress. "Come here, babe." Donovan tugged Loren upright and eased them both onto the daybed in the corner of the studio. He leaned back, drawing Loren into an easy hug, letting the familiar feel of his body lure Loren back from wherever he'd retreated.

It took some time, but Loren gradually reinhabited his body. Then came tears, quiet and hopeless.


"Do you still want me, Donovan?"

"I'll always want you, Loren," Donovan said wearily. Loren's terrible insecurity was exhausting. Donovan rubbed Loren's back in slow circles.

"I'm sorry, Donovan," Loren whispered. "I feel so sick."


"Come on, let's get you into bed," Donovan said kindly, unable not to respond to the misery in Loren's voice. He led Loren to their bedroom, turned down the bed and helped Loren undress.

Loren's skin felt clammy and he was trembling. Donovan knew from their last experience that two Valium would give Loren at least some relief. Donovan hesitated for only a moment before deciding this was the most humane option.


"Thank you, Donovan." Loren kept his eyes down as he gulped the pills and water Donovan handed him. "I'm sorry, Donovan."

"I know you are, Loren." Donovan knew it was true; he also knew that he couldn't leave it at an apology. They would have to deal with this, only not tonight. "It's going to be okay. You just sleep now; I've got you. I love you, Loren."

"Still?" It made no sense to Loren, but he'd been with Donovan long enough to believe that he could trust Donovan. If Donovan said he loved him...

"I do love you, Loren." Donovan cupped Loren's face in his hands and kissed him gently. "Always." 

"I'm sorry." Loren curled closer. "I'm so sorry, Donovan."

"I know, Loren. Shh, I've got you." Donovan was glad to see Loren relax into sleep. He had no appetite for administering the punishment he'd threatened. Yet Loren needed to know that his actions had consequences, that he was accountable for his choices.

Cocaine was a dangerous drug for Loren. It exacerbated his impulsiveness and his paranoia, it reduced his already uncertain appetite and when its transient high abated, it left him more depressed and anxious than ever. Donovan intended to make very clear to Loren that his prohibition on cocaine use was set in stone.

Tomorrow was not going to be pleasant, Donovan thought. Meanwhile he would draw strength from the knowledge that Loren trusted him enough to sleep peacefully in his arms. To have Loren's trust was no small thing.

As always, Donovan awoke just after dawn. He left Loren asleep in their bed. Tarried in the kitchen just long enough to start coffee and without waiting for it to brew, made his way out to the studio, needing the comfort of the rich clay smell, the pale yellow sunlight making shafts across the dun colored floor, the crackle hiss of the cooling kiln. Donovan puttered, setting out plaster bats, turning greenware so that it would dry evenly, rearranging bisque in orderly rows.

There was no putting off the inevitable any longer. Donovan returned to the house. The rich smell of coffee filled the kitchen. Donovan poured a cup and sat at the kitchen table alone, savoring the warm liquid and steeling himself for the task ahead. Hoping for the best, he went to wake Loren.

"Morning, Loren, time to get up," Donovan said cheerfully, hoping to start the day off with some degree of normalcy.

"Nnn–" Loren started to mumbled in sleepy complaint, only to fall silent abruptly. He sat up, clutching the blankets to him. "Don't hurt me!"

"Loren." Donovan knew that Loren's reaction was more reflex than real fear, but nevertheless it stung. "I know you're worried." Donovan tilted Loren's face upward, relieved that Loren didn't flinch from his hand. He leaned in and kissed Loren gently; Loren's mouth opened to his.

"I'm scared, Donovan." Loren rubbed his stubbled cheek against Donovan's hand, his lips grazing Donovan's palm.

"Everything's going to be fine, Loren. I promise." Donovan stroked Loren's hair back from his gray eyes, pleased when Loren finally looked quickly at his face. "Go on, wash up and come have breakfast."

"Yes, Donovan." Loren swallowed hard and obeyed. Clinging to Donovan's promise, Loren walked slowly into the kitchen. He poured himself a cup of coffee, topped off Donovan's cup, and sat down at the table. Accepted the plate of eggs and toast Donovan handed him with what he thought was an inaudible groan.

"You don't have to eat the whole thing." Donovan's hearing was excellent.

However, Loren had hardly eaten the previous day and without the cocaine depressing his appetite, he found to his surprise that he was actually hungry.

"I'm going out to the studio for half an hour, there's a few things that can't wait. We'll settle up when I come back. Put your dishes in the sink, clean up the kitchen, and wait for me in the living room. You can put the television on if you want." Donovan watched Loren intently, gauging his response.

"Donovan? Are you mad at me?" The terror Loren had felt yesterday was gone; this morning he was just apprehensive.

"I'm not pleased about the cocaine, " Donovan said, understanding that Loren couldn't not ask. "I expected you to listen to me about that. It's just common sense, Loren: Cocaine is an illegal drug, you don't buy it and you don't use it. I will not let you hurt yourself his way."

"Yeah." Loren sighed; no surprises there. He already knew Donovan was serious about punishing him.

"I love you, Loren. You're going to be all right." Donovan took Loren's face in his two hands and kissed him full on the lips, a lover's kiss. "Okay, babe?"

"I guess." Loren shrugged. Donovan touched his cheek gently and left the room. Loren curled into the couch and clicked on the television, letting the meaningless drama of the morning talk shows wash over him like white sound.

"Loren?" Donovan was back. He turned off the television and Loren winced at the sudden silence. "Come on now, let's get this over with. Take your jeans and underwear off, please."

Loren undid his fly and reluctantly peeled his jeans and underwear down and shoved them into a corner of the couch. He swallowed hard as he watched Donovan undo his belt.

"You could just spank me, Donovan," Loren said tightly. "I'll never do it again. Please, Donovan, I'm sorry." Loren began to cry.

"I spanked you last time, Loren, I told you no more cocaine and I meant it." Donovan gritted his teeth as he pulled his belt from its loops. Loren's abject misery was painful to witness. "I warned you. You need to listen to me, Loren. Come on, over my lap." Seating himself, Donovan drew Loren into position. He leaned his left forearm across Loren's back and took a firm grip on his hip; folded his belt into his palm, leaving a short length of leather free. Loren moaned and shifted unhappily.

"You don't use illegal drugs. You don't use cocaine. You just don't do it," Donovan said sharply, punctuating his lecture with quick downward snaps of his belt, deliberately avoiding any rhythm. Loren whimpered at each impact. Donovan knew how to keep him grounded so that he felt every lick of the leather. "I will take my belt to you each and every time, Loren, do you understand me?" Donovan paused for a moment. "I want an answer, Loren."

"Yes! Donovan, please, I won't–" Loren promised fervently, overwhelmed by the combination of pain and shame. "I'm sorry, Donovan, please–"

Donovan gave Loren another half dozen arrhythmic whacks with his belt for additional emphasis. Loren cried quietly. He was too miserable to do more than slump listlessly when Donovan finally laid his belt aside. 

"All right, it's all right now, we're done. Shh, shh, shh..." Donovan eased Loren from his lap and drew him into his arms, leaning back on the couch so that Loren's body draped across his own. "Do it again and you'll get another licking. No more cocaine, Loren."

"I promise," Loren said fervently. He gave a deep, shuddering sigh and burying his face in Donovan's shirt, cried himself out as Donovan rubbed easy circles over his back and shoulders.

"Don't go, Donovan, don't leave me," Loren whispered.

"Never," Donovan said, and Loren knew he could believe him. Donovan kept his promises, even the hard ones. Loren sagged into Donovan, his breathing slowing. Donovan shifted him onto the couch and straightened up.

"Stay here!" Loren clutched at Donovan.

"My Loren," Donovan said gently. "I'm just going to get you a little something to drink; you need the sugar. I'll be right back. My Loren."

Loren could count on one hand the number of times Donovan had used his belt to punish him. I'll be good, Loren thought, lying on his side and sipping the soda Donovan had brought him. He won't ever have to do it again.

"Ow." Loren put his empty glass on the end table next to the lamp. "Ow."

"I know," Donovan said. "Do you want to lie down upstairs?"

"Will you stay with me?" Loren asked.

"For awhile." Donovan helped Loren to his feet and trailed him upstairs. He eased Loren into bed and lay down beside him, taking Loren in his arms. Loren began to cry again.

"I know you're sore, I know you're sorry," Donovan said softly. "Shh, shh, you're all right. Shh..." He smudged the tear tracks on Loren's face with the pads of his fingers, flicking the moisture away. "You're all right. My Loren."

"Yours." Loren sniffled and closed his eyes. "My stomach hurts," he whispered.

"Shh..." Donovan tucked Loren closer and began to rub his belly, his hand warm and heavy and comforting. "Shh..." He felt Loren's cock rise to nudge his hand; felt Loren shiver at the contact. "We're not doing that now, babe. Shh..."

The next day was a teaching day for Donovan. After he left, Loren cleaned up the kitchen, still a little tentative in his movements. By mid afternoon he felt less sore than bored with himself. A walk might be good, Loren thought. In the back of his mind was the hope that Sterling might have something distracting for him to do. He didn't want to be alone.

He was a half block from the gallery when he saw them leaving. Three men, hooded sweat shirts under their jeans jackets, low slung pants and something off, something odd, in their movements. Loren shivered and walked faster, spurred on by the sudden flash of fear he felt. He pushed open the gallery's front door, and froze. Sterling lay motionless on the floor. Blood pooled beside his head.

What to do? Gulping down his panic, Loren called 911 and asked for an ambulance. He answered the operator's questions quietly and politely, ending every sentence with ma'am. Then he called Donovan.

Just beyond the automated doors of the hospital's emergency room was a somber waiting area, dim except for a ceiling mounted television's blue light. Loren was slumped on the couch, his chin on his folded hands, his eyes fixed to the screen. He didn't move as Donovan came toward him. Donovan crouched beside him, resting his hand on Loren's thigh.

"Is he–" Loren clamped his mouth shut, afraid of even asking the question.

"He's still unconscious, but he's alive and his condition is stable. That's really all they know right now. "

"There was so much blood," Loren whispered. "Fucking junkies."

"I know," Donovan said. "Come on, Loren, we need to go home now. There's nothing we can do tonight; we're not going to be any use to Sterling if we don't get some rest."

"He doesn't have money at the gallery, for fuck's sake, what do they think, it's a fucking bodega, art instead of groceries?" Loren raged as they walked home. "Fucking junkies. I never thought about it, Donovan, I never thought about this shit...I'm so fucking stupid, Donovan."

"You're not stupid, Loren," Donovan said quietly. "No one likes to acknowledge their private drug use has any connection to street violence." He knew that was true.

"Shit! You know everything, don't you? Fuck you!"

"That's enough, Loren." Donovan kept moving.

"Fuck you, Donovan," Loren repeated without heat.


"Knock it off, Loren," Donovan said, sharply enough that he cut through Loren's halfhearted attempt at provocation. "You don't curse at me. You're not going to feel any better if you goad me into spanking you. I know it hurts, Loren, I know you care about Sterling, but this isn't the way you show that."

"But I don't know what I can do!" Loren wailed.

"It's hard," Donovan acknowledged. While he couldn't completely assuage Loren's guilt, he could offer him some comfort. "What happened to Sterling was not your fault and you don't deserve to be punished." He took Loren's hand, drawing him closer, chafing Loren's knuckles with his thumb. Loren drew a series of deep breaths and quieting, let Donovan lead him home.

The hospital had been willing to accept Donovan's identification of himself and Loren as Sterling's next of kin. The neighborhood it was located in was only slowly being gentrified and its staff was used to ad hoc families. The next morning found Sterling's doctor happy to relay the welcome news that despite the concussion he'd sustained, Sterling was conscious and stable.

"Thank God." Donovan was smiling when he hung up the phone. "He's going to be all right."

"Those fucking bastards." Loren's voice trembled; Donovan hugged him tightly. "I was so scared, Donovan."

"I know," Donovan said. "But you did everything right, Loren: You called 911, you got an ambulance and you called me. You did everything right."

"Yeah?" Loren sounded doubtful, but at the same time, mildly pleased at Donovan's praise. It made him feel competent and intelligent, feelings Loren had very little experience of. "You think?"

"I know. I'm very proud of you, Loren," Donovan said firmly. "I want you to remember that."

"Thanks, Donovan."

It was a teaching day for Donovan. Loren kissed him goodbye and sat down at the kitchen table to finish his coffee.

"You did everything right," Loren whispered, repeating Donovan's words. Wow.

The Center for the Rare and Extraordinary Arts was Sterling's baby; somehow it felt wrong to Loren to leave it alone and unattended. Without any clear sense of why, Loren felt drawn to CREA. He had the keys, although he generally didn't use them. He walked the short block to the gallery and hesitated in front of it, rattling his key ring indecisively.

Ah, fuck it, what could it hurt? Loren opened the gallery's door tentatively, then closed and locked it behind him. The space was bright despite the drawn blinds. It was chilly and smelled faintly of paper and paint.

Loren avoided looking at the bloodstain on the floor where Sterling had lain. He ignored the debris the EMTs had left behind in their haste. He knew what he had to do.

Loren looked around the gallery, at the drawings distributed evenly about, leaning against the walls. He could see the rhythm of the layout, he could imagine what Sterling had intended for the show, he knew Sterling's preferences for numbers and labels. He could do it.

Loren washed his hands. Picking up the hammer, nails, tape measure and level from the shipping desk, he took a deep breath. Then he carefully began the laborious process of hanging a show to Sterling's perfectionist expectations.

It looked good, fucking unbelievably good; Loren could see it. He'd gotten the spacing entirely right, the drawings perfectly level. He smiled. It occurred to him that he could go visit Sterling, that he could bring him the good news. Sterling had always celebrated with Loren when they'd completed hanging a show.

Loren thought he might bring Sterling a treat. He hoped he was doing the right thing. No one had ever visited him when he'd been hospitalized. Nervously, Loren studied the offerings at the block's storefront bakery and decided on a small box of the rich Italian cookies Sterling relished. He touched his tongue to his own teeth, remembering, and indicated to the bakery clerk which particular cookies he wanted.

Sterling was sitting up against the elevated head of his hospital bed. He was pale, but awake. His face was bruised and his head bandaged.

"It's good of you to come." Sterling smiled at Loren. As badly injured as he was, he was still aware of what a stretch it was for Loren to manage a hospital visit.

Unsure of how to respond to Sterling's greeting, Loren mutely extended his gift.

"Thank you." Sterling was used to Loren's silences. He opened the box and looked at the cookies. He knew the bakery's usual assortment well. This was different; these cookies had been individually chosen for softness. Loren had been careful to bring only what Sterling's battered jaw could actually handle.

"You're very kind, Loren." Sterling smiled at Loren, who ducked his head in embarrassed pleasure at the compliment.

"I hung your new show," Loren said softly.

"You hung my new show," Sterling echoed. "Extraordinary." Almost no one who knew him would dare even try to meet his perfectionist display standards. And here was Loren, the least confident man he'd ever met, coolly telling him he'd hung his new show.

It was of a piece with Loren's absolute sureness when drawing. With a rush of excitement Sterling realized that if Loren had hung the show, it was going to be fine.

"Thank you, Loren. You're very, very kind," Sterling said humbly.

"I don't know?" Loren shrugged, uncertain if he deserved praise and unable to bear Sterling's warm gaze a moment longer. "Feel better, okay?" He darted from the room.

"Extraordinary," Sterling whispered to himself. For a little while his pain subsided, as he let one sweet cookie after another dissolve in his tender mouth and lost himself in contemplation of the rare piece of work that was Loren.

Donovan returned to a dark and silent house. He wasn't entirely surprised to find a half-dressed Loren drowsing upstairs on their bed.

"How's my boy?" Donovan stretched out alongside Loren. Loren's bare legs felt chilly. His body was rigid, every muscle tight with nerves.

"Come here," Donovan said, turning Loren on his side and spooning around him. He felt Loren quiver at the touch of his partially erect cock and sighed. All Loren's old anxieties reemerged when he was stressed. "Breathe, Loren, I don't want anything from you, we're just going to talk. Trust me."

"Okay," Loren said, taking a deep breath and blowing it out slowly. "You know I went back to the gallery today?"

"Sterling told me that you hung his show," Donovan said. "And that you came to see him. That was very nice of you, Loren."

"Yeah?" Loren loved Donovan's praise. He pressed back into Donovan, his whole body relaxing. "I don't know what to do about the floor, Donovan. There's still blood."

"Does Sterling have a cleaning service for the gallery?" Donovan asked practically.

"Yeah," Loren said, surprised that he knew the answer.

"There's probably a card with a number for them near the shipping desk. Call them and explain that there was a robbery and that they'll need to clean up some blood stains," Donovan said calmly. "Find out when they can come and be there to open the gallery for them. Lock up when they're done."

"Okay." Loren took a deep, sighing breath. "You know everything, Donovan."

"My Loren," Donovan said, smiling at the relief he heard in Loren's voice. "I do know a few things. But let me tell you, I don't know how to hang a show to Sterling's specs. And you do. You're doing a good job, Loren. I'm proud of you."

"You can fuck me if you like?" Loren offered, pressing back into Donovan.

Donovan repressed a sigh. Would Loren never lose the sense of his body as merchandise, something to offer in exchange for affection or praise? It was pointless to remonstrate with Loren; it only made him anxious.

"Just say 'thanks,'" Donovan said, rubbing his lips over Loren's soft hair. "That's all I want from you, Loren." He knew he'd called it right when the last remnant of tension left Loren's body and Loren's breathing deepened to a sleepy snore. "It's not about trading, Loren," Donovan whispered, knowing Loren couldn't hear, and wouldn't understand even if he did.

At his insistence, a barely healed Sterling was released from the hospital the morning of his exhibition's scheduled opening. Invitations and press releases had been sent out six weeks in advance; there was no way to adjust the date without wasting expensive publicity. Sterling had spoken to the caterers from the hospital; they had agreed to handle the wine as well as the food. He had spoken to Loren and Loren had agreed to admit the caterer.

Sterling went home only long enough to shave, shower and change into a good suit. It was late afternoon before he arrived at CREA. Everything was in order; the gallery looked as flawless as ever. There was no hint of the violence of the previous week in the pre-opening hush. Loren emerged from the back office and came quietly to Sterling's side.

"Welcome back," Loren said.

"Thank you, Loren," Sterling said. His voice was shaky. He looked around at the perfectly, perfectly hung show, then at the young man next to him. "You did that all by yourself." It wasn't a question.

"Yes?" Loren tilted his head to the side; smiled tentatively. "I wanted it done right?"

"You did, didn't you?" Sterling shook his head. He went through art handlers like water; most of them couldn't understand his perfectionism, his museum standards. Loren intuitively understood. A small gap in spacing, a drawing hung too high or too low, bothered Loren the same way it did him. "I can't tell you how touched I am, Loren."

The opening was in full swing when Donovan arrived. Donovan made his rounds. He listened to Sterling praising Loren, and watched Loren basking in the glow of approval. Loren felt competent and appreciated; he was slightly giddy with the novelty. He was, for one of the few times since Donovan had known him, unreservedly happy. He'd done something without prompting and it had turned out well. It was a clear triumph.

Home again, Loren rubbed against Donovan, his happiness translating itself into arousal. Donovan enjoyed Loren's rare bubbliness. He let Loren tease him into bed.

"I love you," Loren whispered. "Donovan, this was the best evening ever."

"The show looked beautiful. And you made Sterling very, very happy," Donovan said.

"It looked good, didn't it?" Loren preened, a gesture so rare that Donovan's heart caught at the sight.

"It really did, Loren. You can be very proud." Donovan kissed Loren chastely. He wanted Loren to experience the fullness of satisfaction at his own achievement, to enjoy a feeling of mastery that wasn't sexual.

"Donovan?" Loren didn't understand Donovan's response. It felt like withdrawal and it frightened him. "Are you mad at me?"

"No, Loren, I'm not mad at you." Donovan kissed Loren again, this time more deeply. Sighing with mingled lust and relief, Loren opened to Donovan's tongue. He let his head drop back and Donovan kissed his throat, sucking hard at the exposed skin, leaving his mark.

"Yes," Loren moaned, as Donovan's mouth moved lower. Donovan licked at the puckering nibs of flesh on his chest, his clever fingers pinching one into a crinkled peak while his teeth worried the other. Loren arched and twisted and Donovan shifted his weight so that Loren was pinned under him.

"Yes!" Loren's legs splayed open and he bucked his hips against Donovan's, letting Donovan feel his arousal, relishing the hard pressure of Donovan's cock against his own groin. "Please Donovan please please please–" No hesitation, no fear, just forthright need.

Donovan snagged a tube from the night table drawer and squeezed, caught the glob of lubrication in his hand and quickly coated his fingers. Rocking back on his heels, he anointed both their cocks and then slipped his hand lower, slick fingers seeking Loren's tense opening.

"That's it, that's my boy," Donovan crooned, pressing inward. He could feel Loren softening to admit his questing finger. He withdrew, added a second finger and worked Loren looser, twisting his hand to be certain Loren was well coated. Then he reached for Loren's legs, lifting them to his shoulders. Positioned the head of his cock at Loren's opening and leaning into Loren, pushed inside.

"Yes, oh yes, yes!" Loren bore down, meeting Donovan's thrust. "So good so good so good–"

Donovan took Loren in long, easy strokes, relishing his little gasps and whimpers of pleasure, enjoying the heated feel of him. Loren stroked his own cock, moaning as he got closer. His body stiffened as he brought himself over the edge; he panted as he milked the final spurts from his suddenly sensitive cock. Donovan thrust faster and deeper and came hard, his cock jerking inside Loren. He eased out and turning onto his back, drew Loren into his arms in a full frontal embrace.

"Oh god oh god oh god," Loren babbled into crook of Donovan's neck. "So good, Donovan, so good. I love you. I love you."

"Mine." Donovan kissed the top of Loren's head. His hair was damp with sweat. Donovan smiled, pleased at the evidence of Loren's arousal. His own body was wet, too. Reaching for the edge of the bed sheet, he shook it out over both of them, sheltering them from the room's chill.

"You love me," Loren said contentedly. "I love you so much, Donovan."

"All yours," Donovan said. "I love you, Loren. I'm so proud of you." For Loren to risk hanging Sterling's show, for Loren to risk believing he was loved, showed rare courage on Loren's part. "My brave Loren."

"I am," Loren said sleepily, sounding pleased himself. "I'm happy, Donovan." He closed his eyes.

Donovan hoped the feeling would last.

Sterling's body was healing well, but his nerves were shot. He still jumped at the slightest sound and his usual smile was missing. Loren was sympathetic; Sterling's reactions resonated at gut level.

"Donovan?" Loren asked over breakfast, moving his eggs around the plate. He took a few bites, knowing Donovan was watching him, made nervous by his own question. "Donovan, do you think Sterling might, I don't know? I mean I don't know, but he's all by himself and he seems so sad. I mean we have guests sometimes, you know...he could come here maybe?" He looked hopelessly at Donovan, not knowing whether it was a legitimate request.

"Loren, would you like to invite Sterling for dinner?" Donovan asked, surprised at Loren's question and pleased at the thought of Loren reaching out to the dealer.

"Yes?" Loren asked softly. "I mean if you think it would be all right?"

"Absolutely," Donovan said. "Loren, it's a very nice thought."

"You ask him," Loren said.

"Loren, you can ask him," Donovan said.

"But it's your house!" Loren said.

Donovan looked at Loren. He had never realized Loren felt that way.

"Loren, it's your home, too," Donovan said. "You're not just living here on sufferance, you know."

Loren shoved his chair back from the table, stood, turned and fled the room.

Nothing with Loren is ever simple, Donovan thought to himself. Slowly he followed Loren upstairs. Loren lay across their bed, face down. Seating himself, Donovan ran his hand over Loren, from his hair to his hips. Loren shook his head, refusing to look in Donovan's direction.

"I'm stupid!" Loren said bitterly into the covers.

"Hush, stop that," Donovan scolded, his voice gentle. "Loren, come here, I want to hold you." Donovan lay back on the bed and drew Loren on top of him. "It's all right, Loren, I've got you. What happened, babe?"

"I feel sick," Loren said. "Let me go! My stomach hurts."

"Poor baby." Donovan rolled Loren onto his back; rubbed his stomach in gentle circles, his hand sure and easy. He could feel Loren quivering. "Breathe, you need to breathe. That's it, it's all right. You were fine until I said this was your home too," Donovan said. "Why does that scare you so much, Loren?"

"I'm not scared!" Loren twisted irritably, scowling at Donovan, then sighed and settled closer. "Donovan, I don't know what happened. I'm sorry."

"It's all right, Loren. I've got you," Donovan said. "I want to understand, Loren. Talk to me?"

"I don't want to care," Loren said fiercely. "I don't want to care about it, I don't want to care at all. It's bad enough loving you! I don't want to care about being here, I don't want to miss it the way I'm going to miss it when it's gone. I don't want to care because it is going to kill me when I lose it."

"Loren." Donovan ruffled Loren's hair gently. "Loren, listen to me. I love you. This is your home. I'm not going away, it's not going away. I understand what you're afraid of, I think it's natural for someone who never belonged anywhere, to be frightened. But you're safe now."

"Fuck you, Donovan, let me alone. I hate you."

"I love you." Ignoring Loren's curses, Donovan once again gathered Loren in his arms. "I'm not going away; none of this is going away. You're safe now. I've got you."

Loren lay quietly, his breathing gradually steadying, his racing heart slowing. He tucked himself closer to Donovan.

"I'm sorry, Donovan," Loren said hoarsely. "I didn't mean...I don't know what..." His voice trailed off.

"Happens," Donovan said matter of factly. "I know that, Loren. You're entitled to a few moments now and again." He turned Loren's face to his, kissed Loren thoroughly. "It's all right now."

Donovan worked it out in his mind. It was always Loren's biggest leaps that prompted the worst of his reflexive panic attacks. Whether it was showing Maurice his studio or inviting Sterling to dinner, any increase in intimacy prompted the same terror of loss. Loren had no reason to believe that there was anything in him worth loving.


Donovan held Loren and kissed him, gently, and then with increasing force, until Loren moaned and opened to him, his mouth gone slack and eager, his eyes on Donovan's begging for more. With quick nips and licks, Donovan worked his way down Donovan's middle, to his cock, and then to the soft skin behind. Loren drew his legs up and Donovan scrabbled in the drawer of the night stand for lube and slicking himself, took Loren in one smooth stroke.

Loren strained upward to meet him, his breath coming in hard pants, and Donovan grasped his cock and worked Loren mercilessly, driving him quickly to completion, before taking his own pleasure.

"Owwwww," Loren moaned in pleased complaint as Donovan pulled out and flopped alongside him on the mattress. His legs sprawled wide and loose. He grinned. "God, Donovan. That was...oh god."

"I love you, Loren," Donovan said.

Sometimes the intensity of sex kept Loren present in the way few things ever did. He could get lost so easily, and Donovan worried about the craving for sensation that seemed to drive him. But sex, hard sex, could center Loren. Donovan enjoyed it, not as much as he enjoyed the slow savoring of his partner's sweetness, but sometimes Loren needed it to hurt just a little.

At Donovan's urging, Loren tendered the invitation himself, only slightly unnerved by Sterling's positive response. Next came the discussion of practicalities.

"Of course I'll cook, Loren," Donovan said gently. He knew now that Loren didn't understand the most rudimentary principles of having guests. A person who had never had a home wouldn't, couldn't. "Sterling is our guest, Loren. Both of ours. That's how this works."

"Oh." Loren looked pensive. "Donovan? Is that why you want me to be friendly, when Jay and Maurice visit? They are both of our guests?"

It was a very basic question; Donovan knew it was sincere.

"Yes, Loren."

"Oh, shit." Loren hunched his shoulders. "Shit. I've screwed that one up then." He looked sad. "Shit. No wonder Jay hates me."

"Jay doesn't hate you, he's just a prick sometimes. And you've tried to be friendlier to Maurice, that helps. Jay will have noticed that and he'll appreciate it," Donovan said consolingly. "It'll all get better, I'm sure."

"Yeah." Loren didn't sound at all reassured. "My stomach hurts, Donovan."

"It's been two days; I'm not surprised. We can do something about that," Donovan said quietly. When Loren's only response was to hunch his shoulders higher, Donovan ruffled the hair at the nape of Loren's neck with a gentle hand. "Come on, babe, upstairs."

"I hate this," Loren complained, but he came willingly enough.

Dr. Gordon had been right about the comfort Loren found in Donovan's caretaking, but mistaken in his suggestion that Donovan handle the enemas as coolly as possible. Loren needed Donovan's emotional engagement in order to get through the procedure without becoming overwhelmed.

Donovan placed a high backed chair beside the bed, turned back the bedcovers and spread a thick, doubled towel over the sheets. While Donovan went into the bathroom to prepare the emollient solution, Loren undressed and lay down on his left side, right knee drawn up. He didn't flinch when Donovan returned with the full bag, just waited patiently for Donovan to hook it over the back of the chair. Donovan took a tube of lubricant from the top drawer of the bedside table and seating himself alongside Loren, gently massaged a dollop of it into him. He lubricated the nozzle and touched it lightly to Loren's opening.

"Ready?" Donovan waited for Loren to nod yes. "Take a deep breath. That's it, now breathe out." Donovan gave Loren a few seconds to adjust to the intrusion before opening the clamped tube and letting the solution flow.

Loren lay quietly, his eyes half closed, his attention divided between the dual sensations of being slowly filled and of Donovan's hand rubbing a reassuring pattern of figure eights over hip and belly.

"Almost done," Donovan said. "How are we doing?"

"'m'okay," Loren sighed. "Just...full."

"That's all of it now," Donovan said, clamping the tube. "Try and hold it a bit; it's more effective."

"I know." Loren tried to relax into the cramping sensations and failed; they were too strong. "Donovan, please!"

"Nothing to panic over." Donovan slid the nozzle out. "Go on now."

Loren jerked the bathroom door shut behind him. After a few minutes, Donovan heard flushing and then the sound of the shower starting. He took the towel from the bed and wrapped the enema equipment discreetly. Pushing the chair back to the wall, he left the bundle on it for later clean up.

A rosy, damp Loren returned to the bedroom. He leaned unselfconsciously into Donovan, accepting the hug he knew would be forthcoming.

"You're shaky," Donovan said. "Lie back down for a bit and I'll get you something to drink."

"Yes, Donovan." Loren felt lighter, but a little tender. He let Donovan tuck sheet and blanket around him and waited quietly. There was enormous comfort in knowing Donovan had things in hand.

Donovan took the lead in preparing for Sterling's visit. He knew Loren was more than a little overwhelmed at the idea of having his own guest.

"Pleasure to see you again, Donovan," Sterling said, extending his hand. "Loren."

Although Sterling smiled appropriately, Donovan saw immediately what had resonated with Loren in Sterling's changed manner. It was the nervous way the man looked around at every sound, his usual easy cheer missing. And of course Loren would understand that, Donovan thought, because really, it was the way Loren himself was. Still, that Loren had responded by wanting to share the security of his home and his relationship with Sterling touched Donovan deeply.

Sterling had brought a fine bottle of wine and the three men drank several glasses, Loren waiting every time until Donovan refilled his.

"It's quite shocking, that sort of injury," Sterling said. "The helplessness I felt...extraordinary. I realized all at once that I could die, and there was nothing I could do about it. It's a sobering realization, we protect ourselves in so many ways from that feeling of powerlessness?"

"It is," Donovan agreed. "I was in a car accident once, a truck hit the car I was in and took us right over the side of the road, onto the downhill slope of a mountain. I remember looking down from the side the next day, where we'd gone through the guard rail, and thinking how close we'd come. I had to walk away before I was physically sick."

"You don't always feel that way?" Loren asked, his habitual caution diluted by the wine, his sincerity obvious.

Donovan and Sterling inhaled simultaneously.

"You poor boy," Sterling said quietly.

"My poor Loren," Donovan said sadly.

Loren looked from one man to the other, embarrassed by their reactions, embarrassed by his own revelation. He was relieved when Sterling's next words were directed at Donovan, an innocuous question about the house's age. That this was tact and not accident escaped Loren entirely. The conversation resumed, and Loren was happy to let it wash over him, the rise and fall of both men's voices as soothing and meaningless as the sound of the television he used as an anodyne.

The evening proceeded to its natural conclusion. It wasn't until they were in bed together that Loren raised the matter again.

"I'm always scared," Loren said softly. "Not just one time, or of just one thing." He curled into Donovan.

"I know," Donovan said sadly. He did know. He wished he could wave a magic wand and make Loren's terrors go away.

"It doesn't matter?" Loren sounded doubtful. It never had, and yet Donovan's distress made him feel uneasy as well, as if something coiled deep inside were lifting itself and pressing to be released. Loren twisted uncomfortably, not liking the sensation.

"It matters, Loren," Donovan said. He drew Loren into his arms, stroking Loren's back.

"Stop it," Loren snapped, pulling away. "Shit, leave me alone. Please?" he added, his voice rising in confusion. "I'm sorry, Donovan!"

"Shh, shh, shh," Donovan said, not releasing him. "Loren, what happened to you matters to me now, and it should have mattered then, too. You were a child, you were entitled to care and consideration and too often you got neither. It's not all right that you were hurt, Loren. It was wrong."

"I don't know," Loren said quietly. Donovan's firm hold comforted him and contained his anxiety. "I don't want to remember." Loren rubbed his face against Donovan's chest, taking comfort from the feel of him.

"When you're ready, Loren, I'm here." Donovan didn't push further.

Loren began to divide his time between assisting Sterling at CREA in the morning and drawing in his own studio in the late afternoon. He rather liked his newest project, a series of small interiors, each imagined space replete with detail. Loren thought they just might be working.

For two hours Loren had been drawing steadily and pleasurably, his lines supple as snakes, his shadows subtle as smoke. Without warning, the fine, white rush of inspiration vanished. Loren's joy evaporated as if it had never been, leaving him listless and bored. His skin felt tight and itchy and he wanted only to shred the pathetic little pictures that had seemed so fine and now lay revealed as nothing at all.

But there really was something in them before, Loren thought, stubbornly blocking out the mocking voices in his head. I know there was.

You stupid little fuck.

Gritting his teeth, Loren forced himself to gather his drawings despite his suddenly shaky hands. He brought them downstairs.

"I want to show you something." Loren dropped the sheaf of drawings on the kitchen table before Donovan.

"What are these?" Donovan looked at the series of intricate drawings. Each one was small, only eight by ten inches, but the amount of detail was immense. Jesus. Loren has the finest hand of anyone I've ever known. "Loren, these are gorgeous."

"I don't know," Loren said fretfully. "They're very small, Donovan. They're not really anything?"

"Loren, they are good. I'm going to take them," Donovan said. He was well aware that they could vanish in moments if Loren panicked, and Loren sounded dangerously close to panicking. It would be wrong, somehow, to leave these in Loren's custody.

"Yeah," Loren said. He was relieved Donovan hadn't asked permission; it felt safer, to Loren, to have his work held for him. He felt blank and empty and incapable of caring about anything, least of all himself or his own creations.

"Come here," Donovan said firmly, setting the papers safely aside. "We're going up to bed." Loren's dull voice and empty eyes worried him. He knew from long experience that sex was the best connection for Loren in this near fugue state, less damaging than the pain Loren craved.

Donovan stripped them both and pressed Loren onto the bed. He tried to gentle Loren into kissing, but Loren lay limp and unresponsive. When his loving kisses had no effect save to render Loren even more distant, Donovan rolled Loren onto his belly and parted his thighs roughly. A modicum of force was often the best way to bring Loren back from the edge.

For the first time, Loren responded, widening his legs. This is a good sign, Donovan thought to himself. He reached for lube, slicked himself, and then slipped a coated finger into Loren. Felt Loren will himself to accept the penetration without tensing.

"You're going to be good for me, aren't you?" Donovan said, withdrawing his finger and positioning his cock. "Very, very good." He pressed forward, gripping Loren's hips with his hands as he sheathed himself. Loren's head came back, he panted and a fine sheen of sweat broke out across his back. "That's right, take it, take all of it."

"Yes," gasped Loren. "God Donovan god, oh yes, oh god yes."

"Up." Donovan tugged at Loren's hips, encouraging him onto his knees. Loren obeyed, dropping his head to the mattress, cradling it on his crossed arms.

Understanding what Loren craved, Donovan reached for Loren's cock and began to stroke it firmly, just a little faster than was entirely comfortable for Loren. It was enough to overwhelm Loren's boundaries and Loren responded with groans of pleasure. Donovan finished first, his final thrusts pushing Loren over the edge, and Loren came hard, cum spilling over Donovan's fist. Donovan flopped onto his back on the mattress and pulled Loren over him, holding him tightly.

"Mine. My best Loren."

"Oh god Donovan," Loren mumbled, rubbing his cheek against the familiar dark fur on Donovan's chest. He closed his eyes, his heart still racing. He could feel Donovan's heart beating equally hard. Loren sighed and cuddled closer. "Yours."