Adult readers only. If the idea of a discipline relationship between consenting adult men offends you, so will this story.
ELIZABETH MARSHALL STORIES
Donovan and Maurice both enjoyed their twice-weekly lunches. They had a standing date on the two days the doctor taught his college anatomy class. There was something about the faculty cafeteria's casual, bustling atmosphere that made conversation easy.
Most of the time.
"It's going to be gorgeous this weekend," Maurice said. "Donovan, won't you reconsider? We've always gone up together..." He sounded wistful. "First you wouldn't come out to the beach anymore, now you won't come upstate... please, Donovan?"
Donovan tried not to sigh out loud. Maurice was genuinely upset; the fact that he'd brought it up yet again was proof of that. And it was tempting: Donovan loved nature, albeit in small doses.
It was a tough call. Loren would find it difficult. No matter how Jay and Maurice tried to tamp down their qualms about Loren, they came through loud and clear. It didn't make for a comfortable situation.
"Loren's never going to forgive me, is he?" Maurice asked soberly.
It wasn't simple. Maurice was as sensitive to Loren's rejection, as Loren was to his.
"That's not true, Maurice. He doesn't think there's anything to forgive, because he doesn't think that you did anything wrong. He just thinks that it was a bad scene, a humiliating and frightening one. Not that you were wrong, but that he was scared and that he hated it."
"It happened so fast," Maurice said. "Pete left Loren just like that." Maurice snapped his fingers. "He looked like death warmed over, do you remember?"
"I was genuinely concerned, Donovan. And I was careful, I was gentle, I treated him as a patient." Maurice had clearly gone over this many times before. "I didn't have a clue that he considered it a scene."
"I know," Donovan said. "I know you, Maurice, and you know me, and neither of us caught it. I knew Pete pimped his subs out, I should have been more sensitive, too. I should have known from how Loren reacted to me from the first, that he didn't know he had a choice."
"Jay says I need to let it go," Maurice said with a sigh.
"Jay's right, Doc," Donovan said. "Let it go. What do you want for dessert?"
"Jay says I need to cut back on dessert," Maurice said morosely. He looked longingly at the brightly-lit display of pies and cakes by the cashier.
"Well, it's possible Jay's not always right," Donovan laughed. "Have the chocolate cake. My treat." He got up, bought two slabs and returning to the table, passed one to Maurice and dug into the other.
"You're a man after my own heart, Donovan." Maurice tasted his chocolate-frosted chocolate cake and smiled.
"We'll come up for a few days, Maurice. But we'll rent a room over near the big lake. I think it'll be better that way."
"It's better than nothing," Maurice said ungraciously. Reflexively he moved his cake plate closer.
"You can just bet Jay would have taken your dessert away for that crack." Donovan shook his head. "We'll still have fun, Maurice. You'll see."
Donovan came home to find Loren absorbed in copying what looked like a charcoal study for an allegorical painting. He looked over Loren's shoulder, his admiration for Loren's sure hand one artist's for another's gift.
"I missed you." Loren stretched backwards, pressing into Donovan. He tilted his face up for a kiss. "I worked."
"So I see. That's some drawing, Loren. Where did you get the reproduction?"
"I found it in one of your old Sotheby's catalogues," Loren said. "You like?"
"You've got everything," Donovan said admiringly. Loren's quirky talent for mimicry let him capture the period piece fluently.
"Too bad I can't sell it; I did a nice job," Loren said flippantly. "You want it?"
"You did a very nice job," Donovan said. "It's a fine drawing, Loren. And thank you, I'd like it very much. Add it to the collection when you're finished, please."
Loren had done a half dozen drawings over the course of the last month; they were piled neatly on the sideboard. Donovan was planning to have them matted and framed; he'd thought it would be a nice thing for Loren to see his work presented as the real art it was. Donovan smiled, remembering Loren's pleased surprise at the idea.
"Let me tell you what we're doing this weekend, Loren," Donovan said. He laid out the plan, emphasizing that they were not going to stay at Jay and Maurice's.
"Whatever." Loren was clearly unhappy with the idea. He didn't resist as Donovan tugged him into his arms, but he didn't snuggle into Donovan as he usually did.
"It won't be as bad as you think." Donovan rubbed his back gently. "Let me just check on the kiln and then we'll talk about it. It's going to be all right, Loren."
"Whatever. I don't care, Donovan," Loren muttered, turning away.
"Loren. You don't have to pretend it's okay," Donovan said softly. He sighed; firing a kiln was a time-sensitive process and he had to check the cones now, not later. "I know you're upset. I'll be back in less than ten minutes and we'll talk. All right?" He waited for Loren's nod before letting himself out.
Motherfucking bastards, I hate them all. Loren shivered, not knowing how to contain the icy white fury he felt.
Loren took his stack of drawings from the sideboard and heartlessly, methodically ripped them to shreds. He clicked on the television and sprawled on the floor of the darkened living room, his eyes fixed on the screen. He didn't look up as Donovan came back in.
Donovan took in the scene at a glance. Shredded paper scraps carpeting the floor; an empty space where Loren's drawings had been piled. Donovan clicked the television off.
"You destroyed them, Loren?" Pain in Donovan's voice.
Loren looked at him without interest.
"I was gone for less than ten minutes, Loren! Why did you do it?" Donovan asked, trying for calm.
"They were mine, Donovan. Why do I have to explain it to you?" Loren shrugged.
"You have to explain it to me because I love you," Donovan said. "I don't like wanton destruction; it's wrong. I want to know why."
"I don't know."
"Loren, that's not an answer. I want you to explain to me why you did this."
"I don't know!"
"I'll make this very simple, Loren: Give me a reason I can understand, or I'm going to spank you." Donovan was serious.
"They were mine, Donovan!" Loren said, suddenly tearful. "Mine!"
Donovan followed Loren's logic with sad resignation, understanding the hurt and anger that fueled it at the same time as he rejected its expression. He made sure he had a firm grip on Loren before rendering his judgment.
"I hear you, Loren. Yes, they were yours. But that doesn't give you the right to destroy them. I understand you're upset about the weekend and we would have talked about it. Instead you chose to destroy your own hard work. You're getting a spanking, babe. Up you go."
"No, Donovan, please..." But Loren knew Donovan well enough to know there was no appealing his sentence.
Donovan wasted no time in further conversation. Drawing Loren off the floor and over to the couch, he undid Loren's jeans. Hooking his fingers under the dual waistbands, he tugged Loren's pants and underwear down his thighs.
"Step out," Donovan ordered, and Loren complied, shifting nervously from foot to foot. Donovan eased Loren over his lap, his hands gentle. Loren drooped miserably, knowing what was coming.
Donovan brought his hand down fully as hard as Loren expected.
"Ow!" Being spanked hurt! "Oh, ow..."
"You're not allowed to destroy your work, Loren. It represents your time and your talent and your energy and you're not allowed to destroy it."
"It's mine! Ow! No! It's mine!"
"Exactly, Loren," Donovan said. "It is yours, and I expect you to value it. I will–" He brought his hand down again and yet again, each time leaving a rosy mark on Loren's pale skin.
"Not–" Another hard spank; another wail. "Have–"
"Ow! Ow! Please!" Loren twisted desperately; Donovan held him firmly.
"You. Destroy. It." Each word accompanied by a sharp slap. Donovan knew Loren and he knew that spanking Loren, without keeping him present, was pointless. It was Donovan's disapproval, as much as the pain of the spanking, that Loren needed to feel. And Loren needed to be kept grounded or he would lose himself in the sensation and feel nothing.
Loren began to cry. Donovan knew him too well. There was no escaping the hard, arrhythmic spanking. There was no escaping the knowledge that Donovan was disappointed in him.
"Don't. Do it. Again." Each word hurt as much as the individual spank that accompanied it.
"I won't, I won't do it again," Loren choked out the words between his yelps at each impact.
"I want you to promise." Donovan rested his hand on Loren's red splotched buttocks.
"I promise, Donovan."
Donovan circled his palm lightly over the sore places, hoping he'd made his point. Loren flinched at his touch.
"Easy, Loren, we're done, it's all right now," Donovan said, easing Loren onto his side on the couch. Loren buried his face in Donovan's lap and cried.
"I'm sorry, Donovan, I'm sorry! But they were mine, Donovan. You're not fair! Donovan, they were mine!"
"They were yours, Loren, yes, but you don't have the right to abuse something just because it is yours."
"Someone should have told my fucking bitch mom that," Loren said bitterly. "Shit." Loren seemed shocked by his own outburst; clearly this was not something he had meant to say.
"Oh my Loren, I'm so sorry." Donovan shook his head. This was about a lot more than just the drawings. Taking a handful of tissues, Donovan mopped Loren's sopping face. "Shh..."
"But why, Donovan? Why would you care?" Loren sounded bewildered.
"Because I love you, Loren. Because I care about you," Donovan said.
"Oh." Loren sighed, sniffling. "I don't like when you spank me, Donovan."
"I don't like spanking you," Donovan said. He helped Loren stand and walked him down the hall to their bathroom. "Wash up now, Loren. We'll talk in bed."
Loren crawled gratefully under the covers. He was more exhausted from the shock of his own emotional reactions than he was sore from the spanking. He sighed as Donovan curled around him.
"I'm sorry this is so stressful for you," Donovan said softly, rubbing Loren's back. "It's only for two days, Loren. It means a lot to me to spend some time upstate with Jay and Maurice."
“I know." Loren sighed. Donovan kept socializing with Jay and Maurice to a minimum to accommodate him; it was not unreasonable of Donovan to expect of him to endure a few hours over the course of a weekend. "We can go. It's just that hanging out with three tops--"
"You think Maurice is a top?" Donovan asked, too astonished to censor himself.
"He's a fucking doctor, isn't he?" Loren propped himself up on his elbow, gaping at Donovan. "Wait, Donovan, you mean...does Jay spank him?"
"Now how would I know that, Loren?" Donovan asked, trying not to laugh out loud.
"Shit," Loren said. "I hope he does." He shifted so that his head was pillowed against Donovan's shoulder. "I hope he whips him. Lots." Loren sounded inordinately pleased at the thought.
"Sweet dreams?" Donovan wondered out loud, shaking his head, but Loren was already asleep, worn out by his own emotions. Donovan stroked his hair, mourning the loss of Loren's pictures. There went over a month's work in ten minutes of pique. Who knew if Loren could be induced to try again?
Wearily, Donovan closed his eyes.
Donovan rose early as was his wont. He packed a small suitcase with clothes and a cooler for the road. Coaxed Loren out of bed and into the car before he was awake enough to protest.
They followed the old post road that meandered along the edges of smaller towns into the mountains. Loren was quiet and subdued. He sipped soda, nibbled on sandwiches at Donovan's urging, and stared out the window without interest. Donovan gave up pointing out interesting features of the landscape and concentrated on making good time.
Donovan was very glad he'd refused Jay and Maurice's invitation to stay at their tastefully appointed house. The charmless generic pine and gingham of their motel room was a small price to pay for the privacy they needed.
“It's not fair, Donovan,” Loren said sulkily.
“I know, Loren, but it's the way it is. You wouldn't have wanted me to wake you up early for this, would you now?” Donovan asked mildly, turning back the bedcovers and spreading a doubled white motel towel over the sheet. Unzipping his shaving kit, he withdrew the necessary items and arrayed them neatly on the bed. The enemas were an unfortunate fact of life and that was that.
“No, but Donovan, it’s really not fair.” Loren regarded the familiar Fleet package and KY tube balefully, but nonetheless he undressed and centered himself on the towel, automatically rolling onto his side. "I hate this."
“I know, babe. Deep breath, please.” Parting Loren’s buttocks, Donovan added a quick smear of lube to the pre-lubricated tip of the small Fleet enema. "Blow out." He slid the tapered nozzle gently into Loren and squeezed the plastic bottle firmly.
“I hate this,” Loren complained again, disliking the feel of the solution entering him.
“Almost done, baby.” Donovan was inured to Loren’s protests. “Hold it just a bit.” He pressed Loren’s buttocks together as he carefully slid the enema out.
“That’s long enough, move your hand, Donovan!” Loren squirmed free. “I need to go!”
“Go on, Loren.” Donovan watched Loren dart for the bathroom. Shaking his head at Loren’s fussing, he tossed the small disposable container into the garbage and remade the bed. He heard the toilet flush and the shower start.
It was far from a perfect system, Donovan thought, but it was working for now. He unpacked their bags, putting their things away neatly.
Clad only in a towel, Loren dripped back into the room.
"What are we doing now, Donovan?” Loren sounded distinctly livelier.
“Jay and Maurice were talking about hiking in to a little lake they found and doing some fishing this afternoon,” Donovan began.
Loren’s face fell.
“Loren, we don’t have to go with them,” Donovan said quickly, pushing aside his own feeling of disappointment.
“No, you all like fishing together.” Loren’s voice was flat.
"Don't sulk," Donovan said, tugging Loren into his arms. “Talk to me. It’s your vacation, too, and I want you to have fun. What would you like to do?”
“Lie out by the pool in the sunshine. Swim a little when I get too hot. Maybe have a drink or two.” Loren shrugged, a little embarrassed at the banality of his ideal afternoon. “I’m sorry, Donovan.”
“No reason to be sorry, babe,” Donovan said, patting Loren’s butt gently. “Nothing wrong with that.” Donovan tried not to think about land-locked salmon and lake trout.
“You could go with Jay and Maurice, and I could just hang here,” Loren suggested tentatively. “I can just laze around and you’ll have more fun without me anyway. I don’t mean that in a bad way,” he added hastily.
“And we’ll get a late dinner out together. Fresh fish if we catch anything large enough to give to the chef, steak if we don’t,” Donovan proposed. “Sounds like a good plan, Loren. I’m glad you spoke up.” He kissed Loren appreciatively.
“I hope we get to eat steak," Loren said. "I don't like fish."
“You’ve probably jinxed me now,” Donovan said with a laugh. “You can have steak even if we catch something, brat."
Loren pulled on his swim suit and a tee shirt and grabbed his towel. Donovan left him basking by the pool.
"Donovan should have stayed with us." Maurice liked hosting special friends for the weekend. He and Jay had put a great deal of time and energy into making their house nice. It irked him that Donovan had taken a room elsewhere because Loren was uncomfortable staying with them and because, as usual, Donovan had accommodated Loren's limitations.
“He spoils him, Jay,” Maurice groused.
“Maurice, I’ve talked to Donovan. I’m sure you’ve talked to Donovan?” Jay waited for Maurice’s nod. “Then let it go. Let Donovan have his pet brat.”
“A lover’s not supposed to be a pet,” Maurice objected. “I just don’t like seeing Donovan made a fool of.”
“I’ll make a fool of you.” Jay turned down the matelasse cover, folding it neatly. Pressing Maurice back into the downy white sheets that graced the antique maple four poster, he kissed his petulant lover into satisfied silence, before proceeding to satisfy him entirely.
Donovan negotiated the twisting local roads from the motel to Jay and Maurice's with easy speed, his radio up, his window down. He knew that Maurice would be anxious to get out to the lake while it was still bright.
Donovan turned into the gravel driveway and parked in the turnaround in front of the house. He made his way around the side, to the shady deck in back. As he expected, Jay and Maurice were outside enjoying the country air. Jay's chair was tilted back, his feet were crossed on the railing and the paper was open in his hand. Maurice was leaning back in his chair, his finger marking his place in his book.
The three men exchanged greetings. Donovan noted Maurice’s bare feet and uncharacteristically laid back expression and smiled to himself.
“Very relaxing up here,” Jay said, reading his old friend’s face with practiced ease.
Donovan gulped and bit the inside of his cheek, hard.
“Are we going or not?” Maurice wanted to know, putting on his socks and boots and hoisting his tackle box and fishing pole. Maurice had come late to fishing, and he was by far the most enthusiastic of the three men. “Come on!”
Jay and Donovan exchanged a private look. They were both happy to see this more light-hearted version of Maurice emerge. It was a side of the doctor that few people had ever seen and both his lover and his friend cherished the privilege.
The hike in to the lake was short and easy. There weren't many mosquitoes about; they would come later, as it got closer to dusk. The three men spread out over the marshy shore. Jay and Donovan each had their own firmly held opinions about which spots looked most likely. Maurice looked between one and the other and then followed Donovan. He wanted to talk to him out of Jay's earshot.
“So where is Loren?” Maurice asked Donovan, disapproval in his voice. He knew Jay wouldn't have tolerated him begging off like this. Donovan was too soft on Loren. It irked Maurice.
"He just wanted to laze around by the pool. Why not?" Donovan shrugged. "He'd only have been unhappy if I'd dragged him out here. It's better this way, Maurice, it really is."
"Well." Maurice tried to believe Donovan. He didn't like Loren, but he tried, hard, to feel charitably towards him. He felt he owed Donovan that courtesy. For the sake of Donovan's emotional investment in Loren, he hazarded another question. “What sort of schedule does Jamie have him on? Is it any easier?”
“Every two days,” Donovan said. “It's much easier. He carries on a little, but basically he's cooperative. He seems pretty much resigned to it. I know it’s not ideal, but it seems to be working all right for now.”
“Well, it’s not going to do any damage and you can always taper off if and when things improve,” Maurice said practically. “Donovan, you can't just let Loren laze around and do nothing all day while you work, it’s not fair!” He looked nervously over his shoulder. “Don’t tell Jay I’m saying this, okay? He’ll kill me.”
“There’s a good reason I told you to drop it.” Jay appeared on Donovan’s other side. He looked darkly at his partner. “I’m not happy, Maurice.”
“Ah Jay, he’s not saying anything you haven’t already said to me yourself. Let him be,” Donovan said.
“I need my tackle box rearranged.” Jay ignored Donovan's protest. “I left it back by the big pine. Maurice?”
“Yes, Jay,” Maurice said resignedly. He put down his rod with a smothered sigh. “Worse than death,” he said in passing to Donovan. “Your friend is mean.”
Donovan shook his head. Jay’s methods of enforcing his edicts were unfailingly original. "Mean" wasn't really an exaggeration, if you came right down to it.
“He’s very intelligent,” Jay said sarcastically, reading Donovan's mind correctly. “He can make the connection. He’s not your wilted flower.”
“Jay, you just punished Maurice for lecturing me and what are you doing? Lecturing me!” Donovan blew out his breath.
“I told him to drop it and he didn’t. That's the issue here,” Jay said sharply. “I don't want him obsessing over Loren, Donovan, but that doesn’t mean that I think he was wrong in what he said.”
"I saw something break the surface," Donovan said, looking towards the middle of the lake. He was not going to justify his relationship with Loren to anyone.
"Liar." Jay punched Donovan's arm with the familiarity of an old, old friend. "Fine. Let's see what we can get. What are you using?"
Loren was relieved that he'd evaded Jay's judging eyes and Maurice's condescension a little longer. He sprawled in his lounge chair by the pool. The late afternoon sunshine was pleasantly warm. Loren felt lazy, loved and as happy as a clever cat.
“You look relaxed,” a female voice said.
Loren tensed. Opening his eyes, he regarded the two giggling teenage girls who'd settled on the adjacent chair uneasily.
“It’s pretty here, isn’t it?” the blond girl asked, batting her eyelashes. Her brown-haired friend giggled shyly.
Why did they have to talk to him? Loren swallowed hard. He didn’t like girls and he didn’t do small talk well. He wished they’d go away.
“Yeah, it’s nice,” Loren said diffidently. He and Donovan had been working on that politeness thing.
“You staying here by yourself?”
“With a friend."
“Where is she?” The girls giggled harder. Loren licked his lips nervously, suddenly feeling cold despite the sunshine.
"Aw, he's shy!" The girls's laughter rose higher and Loren's heart fell further. "Do you want to swim?"
"Swim?" Loren froze as the girls grabbed playfully at his hands, meaning only to tug him upright..
They're just babies, they can't hurt you, nothing's going to happen. Shit.
"I'm sorry!" Loren grabbed hastily for his towel and retreated to the safety of his motel room. He cranked the air conditioning, welcoming the white sound that blotted out the laughter he dreaded. Flopping face down on the bed, he grabbed for the remote, turned on the television and did his best not to think at all.
The room grew slowly darker as the sun sank lower. Loren lay listlessly in the electric blue light of the television, his eyes glued to the figures on the screen.
"Hey!" Donovan greeted Loren cheerfully. Closing the door behind him, kicked off his muddied sneakers. They hadn't caught anything worth saving and he'd had to wade in to unsnag his line, but it had been a great afternoon nonetheless.
Loren didn't respond. Even from across the room Donovan could see that he was chilled; he was clad only in his swimsuit and prickled with goose bumps from the unneeded air conditioning. Donovan turned the air off; cracked the window for a bit of warmth. Automatically muting the television, he stretched out alongside Loren and folded Loren into a hug.
"Rough afternoon? What happened?" Donovan asked gently, searching Loren's eyes for a clue.
"I didn't do anything wrong!" Loren roused from his daze at Donovan's touch. He clung desperately to Donovan. "Don't spank me, Donovan, I didn't do anything at all!"
Loren's "don't spank me" was more a rhetorical tic than anything else; nonetheless it stung Donovan, just a little. Donovan took a deep breath and let it go.
“Everything's all right, Loren, I’m not going to punish you.” Donovan petted his unhappy lover until Loren finally settled more easily in his arms. What had spooked him so badly? “Easy, easy, it's all right. You got scared, Loren, I know that. Easy, Loren, I'm here now, it's all right.” Donovan could feel how fast Loren's heart was pounding.
"Are you mad at me?" Loren's eyes flooded again.
"No," Donovan said firmly. "Not at all, Loren." He kissed Loren, stroking his hair at the same time.
"Talk?" Donovan prodded gently. "Loren? What happened?"
"Nothing," Loren said, his eyes blank, his voice flat. "I don't like girls, okay? I just don't. They're liars. They want things, and then if you don't do what they want, they say that you did. They say you did because you didn't, how fucking stupid is that?"
"What girls, Loren?" Donovan wanted a little clarity. What could have happened, to upset Loren like this? He'd been fine when they'd parted.
"All girls!" Loren was rigid with angry tension. "They want to do stuff and then they lie. The places I lived in, the people always believed the girls, they never believed me. And I didn't ever do anything with them, they said I did but I didn't. Couldn't. Whatever."
"It's all right now, Loren, it's all over now." Donovan was still in the dark about the specifics of the afternoon, but he knew that once again, Loren's miserable years in foster care were at the root of this current meltdown. "There's nothing to be afraid of anymore. Come on, let it go. I've got you now."
Donovan held Loren tightly for a very long time as Loren cried himself out.
"Do you think you could pull yourself together for dinner?" Donovan asked once Loren was calmer. "I'd really like us to go."
"Yeah," Loren said dispiritedly. He wasn't hungry and he didn't want to be with people, particularly not with Jay and Maurice, but Donovan was looking at him hopefully and Loren didn't want to disappoint him again. "Let me shower, okay?"
"My brave Loren."
Loren didn't feel particularly brave, but nevertheless he felt a little better at Donovan's praise.
Dinner started out a subdued affair. Loren kept his reddened eyes fixed on the tablecloth or on his plate. It was unclear to Jay and Maurice if he'd been reprimanded or if he was just unhappy. Donovan shook his head slightly, indicating that there was nothing that needed to be said, and gradually Maurice and Jay relaxed and began to talk with Donovan.
It might have looked from the outside as if he were being ignored, but it didn't feel like ostracism to Loren. Surrounded by the rising and falling cadences of the three men's conversation, increasingly relaxed as he realized no one would make any demands on him, Loren felt safe for the first time since the girls had spoken to him at the pool. He inched his hand towards Donovan's. Donovan covered it with his own.
"Do you want to rent a boat tomorrow?" Donovan asked Jay and Maurice. "See if we have any better luck out on the big lake?"
"Sounds great!" Maurice was all for it.
"Fine with me," Jay said, enjoying Maurice's enthusiasm.
"You'll come, won't you?" Donovan asked Loren.
"Yes," Loren said, a little too quickly.
Donovan winced. Clearly Loren was only afraid of being left on his own again, not happy about the prospect of being out on the water. Still, it was very beautiful out there. Maybe it would speak to something in Loren.
"We'll bring coffee and stuff," Maurice said.
"The dock at six okay with you, Donovan?" Jay asked.
"Sounds good." Donovan smiled. "Guess we'd better call it a night then."
Loren quailed at the thought of an early wake up call, but really, rising pre-dawn was just one more misery heaped on an already heaping plate. At least dinner was over; they couldn't leave soon enough for Loren.
Loren was very glad to return the comparative sanctuary of their room. He stripped down to his shorts and tee shirt and curled up in a tight ball on the bed. His stomach hurt, the mattress felt wrong and he wished they were home. He really, really hoped Donovan was too tired to want to fool around or anything tonight.
My poor sweetheart. Donovan read Loren's body language clearly. It saddened him that Loren would still hope silently, rather than trust him enough to say what he felt. Donovan swallowed hard. Sometimes it hurt to love someone as wounded as Loren. It didn't mean that Donovan loved him any less; it just meant that it hurt.
Donovan washed up quickly. He draped his jeans and shirt over the back of the chair by the dresser. Usually he slept nude, but tonight he left his shorts on, hoping the light layer of cotton would somehow reassure Loren. He lay down alongside Loren and tapping the light by the bed, darkened the room. Drew the sheet and blanket up to cover them both.
"Let's go to sleep," Donovan said softly, spooning around Loren. He tugged his anxious lover closer; felt Loren tense against him. "Easy, Loren, you can uncurl, we're going to sleep." He saw Loren let out his breath.
"Ah, babe," Donovan whispered, his lips brushing Loren's light brown hair. "Loren, you can always say 'no' to me, try to remember that. I'll always listen. I won't love you any less."
"I don't get why you love me," Loren said fretfully, kicking at the covers. " I don't get it at all."
"You're it for me," Donovan said, resettling the blankets. He smoothed his hand along Loren's side, over his hip, down his thigh. "I love you because you're my Loren. Shh, go to sleep now, you'll feel better in the morning. I love you."
Morning dawned bright and chill. Donovan loved being out and about early, but Loren was still drowsy when they reached the dock.
"Hey guys. I hope you remembered breakfast, I'm starving! Did you get us a boat?" Donovan grinned as Jay flashed a thumbs up.
Loren managed a mumbled hello.
Jay and Maurice had brought a huge thermos of fresh coffee and a bag stuffed with muffins and fruit. Donovan poured for Loren and himself; handed Loren a plain corn muffin.
"Thank you," Loren said softly, not looking at anyone. He knew Donovan's iron rule regarding breakfast. Appetite or no, he was required to eat. He chewed resignedly on the muffin.
By silent mutual agreement, Jay took the wheel. He'd loved the water since he and Donovan were boys and he knew every inch of the lake. They slipped easily into the channel between the shore and the big island. Once they were clear of the rocks, Jay opened the throttle.
"I love this." Maurice leaned back in his seat, sighing with pleasure as the boat skipped along the water.
"Yeah, this is the life," Donovan responded. "You feel good, Loren?"
"I'm good." Loren felt the spray mist his face as he gazed out over the water. He still didn't believe it. He'd never imagined being out on one of these boats with a boyfriend who cared about him, never imagined anything like this morning's fishing expedition.
"Nice, huh?" Donovan said softly.
"Oh yeah." Loren grinned at Donovan.
"You've been out here before, you grew up up here, right?" Maurice asked, meaning only to be friendly.
Donovan felt Loren shut down entirely.
"Whatever." Loren said flatly. His face went blank and he shrugged inexpressively. He'd grown up in the miserable poverty of the county poor; he knew less of the lake than Maurice and he felt shamed by Maurice's question.
"Fine." Maurice clenched his teeth, misinterpreting Loren's embarrassment as rejection. Jay patted his leg gently.
"Let it go," Jay said quietly. "It's not what you think. Here, take over for a bit. Take us around to the far side; there are always fish out that way." He slowed the boat and let Maurice take the wheel.
"I said let it go, Maurice," Jay repeated. He kissed Maurice firmly, patting him gently on the butt. "Go on."
Loren was far less resilient than Maurice; he'd retreated inward and Donovan knew no kiss, no caress, would pull him back again.
"You know, you really need to teach him some manners," Jay said to Donovan, not caring that Loren heard him, too.
"You're a fine one to talk," Donovan said, exasperated. "For godssakes, Jay, have a heart." He got up and walked to the back of the boat. Jay followed. For a few minutes they leaned silently on the rail, watching the white rush of the boat's wake.
"Maurice was being friendly," Jay said. It was as close to an apology for his own rudeness as he was willing to offer.
"Don't you think I know that?" Donovan sighed. "Loren's skittish, Jay, he can't help it."
"He's going to have to get past it sometime, Donovan. If he really is the man you think he is, then stop letting him off the hook every time he squirms a little. Push him. You aren't doing him a favor, to coddle him this way."
"He needs time." Donovan looked at Jay. "He had it rough, Jay. It's not going to go away just like that."
"Then get him into therapy and let him work it through. What you're doing now isn't helping," Jay said bluntly.
"I've already got an appointment with someone this coming week, Jay. Loren just needs a little time," Donovan said with equal certainty.
"I really don't think time's going to do it, Donovan. You can see for yourself that he's got serious issues. Do you feel sorry for him, Donovan, is that what this is about?"
"I don't feel sorry for him; I like him. I don't quite get why this is so hard for you and Maurice to understand," Donovan said. "He just does it for me." Then, firmly ending the conversation: "What are you using for bait?"
"Let me see what I've got." Jay reached to the bench behind him for his tackle box.
Despite the beautiful lake and the beautiful day, none of the four men were sorry to return to the dock. They said their goodbyes without discussing lunch; it was clear to all of them that a little space would be a positive thing.
Loren was very quiet on the ride back to the city. He helped bring their suitcases in without prompting. Gratefully accepting the soda Donovan proffered, he sprawled on the living room rug, turned on the television and did his best to forget the weekend.
Donovan left Loren lost in his favorite escape and headed out to the studio. He puttered idly, the happiness he always felt in the presence of the tools of his trade soothing and centering him. He checked to make sure his open clay was damp enough to be workable in the morning. Inspected the greenware he'd left drying. Looked over the bisque he'd fired the day before they left.
Fully revived, he returned to the living room. Prodded the comatose Loren with his toe.
"Want to eat out, Loren?" Donovan asked. The country always left him hungry for their neighborhood's ethnic restaurants.
"Whatever you want, Donovan," Loren said. He didn't care if they ate in or if they went out; he was just glad to be home.
"Let's go then," Donovan said. "I could use a little Indian food. I'll find you something that's not too hot, don't worry." He held out his hand to Loren, drawing him to his feet.
The small pink-walled restaurant was comfortably full. Donovan ordered for both of them, chicken tikka and a vegetable biryani, nan and dal. None of it very spicy. He spooned the flavored rice onto Loren's plate, added a few pieces of almost sauce free chicken and nudged the bread toward Loren.
Loren ate quietly. Unlike Donovan, he had little liking for variety in food. He had gradually learned to trust that no matter how exotic the restaurant, Donovan would order him something he could eat. The nan Loren actually liked; the flattened bread was warm and chewy and tasted good. Loren smiled and ate both his piece and Donovan's.
Loren and Donovan walked back to the house. They were both tired and an early bedtime seemed appealing.
"Dr. Gordon gave me the name of a therapist he thinks is very good. I made an appointment for us for tomorrow," Donovan told Loren as they got into bed.
"Both of us?" Loren looked puzzled.
"Yes," Donovan said firmly. "We're going to go together." He tugged Loren into his arms.
"You did that because you thought I wouldn't go otherwise." Loren rubbed his cheek against Donovan's chest. "What do you think he's going to want to know about us?"
"I imagine she'll probably ask a little about our backgrounds, families, stuff like that." Donovan smoothed Loren's hair.
"She?" Loren stiffened. "Oh no, Donovan. I'm not going to talk to some bitch, no! Fuck that! Fuck you, too," Loren added under his breath, twisting away.
"Hey!" Donovan hugged Loren before Loren could get clear. He'd expected some resistance to the idea of a woman therapist; he hadn't anticipated this intense a reaction.
"Let me go!" Loren was frantic. He pulled against Donovan and when he couldn't loosen Donovan's grip, kicked him.
"Cut it out, Loren, I mean it!" Donovan didn't let go. "Don't you dare kick me!"
With a massive effort, Loren reined himself in. Sagging into Donovan, he let himself be held.
"That's better," Donovan praised him. "Easy, Loren, I've got you now, it's all right." He rubbed Loren's back gently, listening to Loren's harsh breathing. Gradually Loren settled.
"I'm sorry, Donovan, I didn't mean to flip out. But I'm not going to talk to some bitch," Loren said more quietly. "I won't."
"Loren, I know you have major issues with women because of what happened with your mom," Donovan said. "A woman therapist might be a good thing."
"You can't make me talk to her! You can spank me as hard as you like, I still won't do it, Donovan."
"Don't talk like that, Loren," Donovan said reproachfully. "Have I ever, ever spanked you for being afraid to do something? Think, Loren, you know me pretty well. Have I?"
"Are you mad at me?" Loren asked, unsure how to interpret Donovan's tone of voice.
"I'm not angry, Loren." Donovan sighed. "It just hurts my feelings when you talk as if I spank you for any and everything."
"Don't be mad at me." Loren really didn't get the difference between upset and anger. "I'll do whatever you want, Donovan."
"I want us to keep this appointment, Loren." Donovan didn't want Loren to feel coerced into going, but he did want him to go.
"Yes, Donovan," Loren said unhappily. He wanted to please Donovan, but he really didn't think he could do this. He closed his eyes and snuggled into Donovan. At least the mattress felt comfortable; at least the room felt right.
Safe in the darkness of their private sanctuary, Loren slipped beneath the covers, taking refuge in the one act he knew he was competent at. He took Donovan in his mouth, relishing the heft of his cock, the soft crinkled skin of the shaft and slight salt taste of the head. Donovan stiffened in his mouth and Loren released him. Rolling onto his stomach and tucking his knees beneath him, he offered himself to Donovan.
Donovan fished for lube in the drawer of the night table. Coating his fingers with gel, he spread Loren's cheeks and pressed two fingers into the clenching ring of muscle, coaxing it looser. Slicked his cock and guided it into position. Loren arched back against his thighs and Donovan sheathed himself in his heat. They moved together, both needing the connection, both needing the melding of flesh to flesh.
They were home.
I should have known that was too simple, Donovan thought ruefully the next morning, trying yet again to get Loren moving. They were due uptown in an hour; Loren was lying there listlessly on the bed, dressed only in his underwear.
"What's wrong, Loren?" Donovan asked, already steeling himself for Loren's inevitable refusal.
"I'm sick," Loren said. He curled more tightly into himself, hugging his pillow against him. "I can't go, Donovan, I'm sick, my stomach hurts! I can't go!"
"Are you really that sick, baby?" Donovan seated himself alongside Loren. He stroked Loren's hair back from his forehead, trying to see his eyes.
"Yes!" Loren's voice rose and he stiffened at Donovan's touch. "I'm not faking! I'm sick!"
"All right, Loren, take it easy," Donovan said softly, resigning himself to the situation. They weren't going anywhere. "You just rest, Loren. Let me call the therapist and cancel. You just rest."
Loren's breathing steadied as he listened to Donovan's one-sided conversation. He was safe.
"Yes, I understand, that's fine," Donovan said. "Yes, I've got your address. I'll send you a check. No, I'll call back to reschedule another time, thank you anyway."
"What's the check for?" Loren asked Donovan.
"It's a cancellation fee," Donovan said. "Pretty standard for canceling on such short notice. "
"Shit," Loren said guiltily. "I'm sorry, Donovan."
"Don't worry about it, Loren, I can pay it. That's the least of it. How bad do you feel?" Donovan asked, placing his hand over Loren's lower abdomen. He rubbed Loren's belly gently. His kindness made Loren feel even worse.
"Let me alone!" Loren querulously "I hate when you do that! Get off me!"
"Shh, Loren, that's enough now," Donovan said firmly.
"Are you mad at me?" Loren asked, unable as always to identify any emotion other than anger precisely.
"No, Loren." Donovan sighed. "Let's see, you're due for an enema today. How about we take care of that now and see whether we can't get you a little more comfortable?"
"Is it punishment, because I screwed up our appointment?" Loren asked unhappily.
"Loren." For a moment Donovan was at a loss for words. "You're being foolish, Loren." Donovan sounded as taken aback as he felt.
"Okay." Loren sounded miserable. He rolled onto his side, facing away from Donovan. "I just wondered."
"Are you okay?" Donovan asked.
Loren shook his head. No.
"Loren, we do this all the time." Donovan rubbed gentle figure eights over Loren's hip, front to back, not liking the tension he felt. "This isn't a punishment, it's a medical procedure. You do know this, baby. Try and relax."
"I know! But Donovan, I just know you've got to be sick of dealing with this! I know I'm sick of it!"
"I know it's hard, Loren. But we're in this together." Donovan chose his words carefully, sensitive to how many issues were involved. "Eventually you're not going to need this anymore, but for now you do. Let's get it over with and see if it doesn't help you feel a little better."
"All right." Loren was unenthusiastic.
Donovan headed into the bathroom to ready the necessary items and returned with them to the bedroom. Loren eyed the enema with loathing. Donovan hooked the bag over the high back of the chair next to the bed.
"Roll over, baby." Donovan coaxed Loren onto his left side. Took Loren's shorts down and eased his right knee toward his chest. Loren blew out his breath as Donovan lifted his upper buttock, exposing his anus, and slipped the lubricated nozzle into the small opening.
"Are we doing okay?" Donovan asked. Loren nodded and Donovan unclamped the tubing and let the solution descend.
"Wait!" Loren whimpered, tensing as the liquid entered his bowels. "Ow."
"Does it hurt?" Donovan asked, stopping the flow of solution and rubbing Loren's stomach in quieting circles. "We can take it slower, Loren. There isn't any rush."
"It doesn't really hurt." Loren sounded shaky. "A little crampy. I'm sorry, Donovan."
"Nothing to be sorry for, Loren, we're not in any rush here." Donovan continued to massage Loren's belly gently until the spasms eased.
"I'm all right now," Loren's voice was steadier.
"That's my boy." Donovan lowered the enema bag, decreasing the pressure, and restarted the flow. Loren lay quietly on the bed as the treatment finished. He tried to focus on Donovan's lulling voice, his gentle hand, rather than the sensations within.
"Go on now, get rid of it," Donovan instructed, helping Loren up.
Loren emerged from the bathroom looking pale. Donovan hugged him and walked him back to the bed.
"Come stretch out a bit. Rest now, it's all right, shh. " Donovan tucked Loren under the covers. "It's been a rough morning, I know that, Loren. Shh, shh..."
"Oh Donovan." Loren yawned wearily and closed his eyes.
Donovan smoothed the lines around Loren's eyes with a gentle finger. If only we could get this thing under control, he thought wistfully. He was glad to see Loren fall asleep.
Donovan cleaned up carefully. Heading out to the studio, he loaded now thoroughly dry greenware into the kiln and set the cones. Started it heating. Checking his watch, he put in a call to Dr. Gordon.
Jamie Gordon listened empathetically as Donovan poured out his tale of woe.
"Do you think I let him off too easily?" Donovan asked.
"No, I think dragging him into her office if he's not willing to make at least a minimal effort is pointless," Dr. Gordon said quietly. "There are other therapists; I'll get you another name."
"Thank you," Donovan said sincerely. "I appreciate your letting me unload on you."
"Not a problem. But truthfully, Donovan? I feel Loren is getting his needs for support met; I'm not really worried about him. For whatever it's worth, I think you're the one who could use some support right now."
"Don't laugh," Dr. Gordon said. "I'm serious. Have you ever considered therapy, Donovan?"
"You really think this is a good idea, don't you?" Donovan shook his head, glad Dr. Gordon couldn't see his exasperation over the phone.
"I do, Donovan. Loren's neediness is rather overwhelming. It might be a good idea for you to explore the issues surrounding your attraction to him."
"Issues?" Donovan sighed. "I love Loren. Love's more than just pathology."
"I know you do," Dr. Gordon said. "He's very lucky to have you. I'll try and get you a name." There was nothing more to say.
"Thank you. I'll talk to you soon," Donovan said softly. "I appreciate your concern."
Loren slept for hours. He awakened to the homey sounds of Donovan cooking, the clatter bang of pots and pans and rustling of cellophane wrap. He lay quietly, certain that Donovan would be in to check on him shortly. It felt good to be able to count on that.
Donovan left his stew simmering and went to see how Loren was doing. He was glad to find him awake.
"How's my boy?" Donovan brushed Loren's hair from his eyes, kissed him gently.
Loren wrapped his arms around Donovan's neck, pulling him closer.
"I need you," Loren whispered. "Please?"
Donovan ran his hand over Loren's chest and flat belly, feeling for signs of arousal. He caressed Loren's half hardness with his thumb. Loren flushed.
"My Loren." Donovan studied Loren's expression carefully, not wanting to make any mistakes."You feeling good?"
Loren nodded yes. He spread his legs; shivered in pleasurable anticipation as Donovan's hand slipped lower, his fingers brushing the tops of Loren's thighs, teasing the soft skin between balls and anus.
"Please..." Loren whispered. "Oh god yes Donovan, please!" Loren arched upward as Donovan took hold of his cock and began to stroke him firmly, precum easing the motion.
Donovan worked Loren steadily, refusing to hurry despite Loren's begging. Loren's writhing only intensified Donovan's own pleasure. Finally, giving in to his lover's desperate pleas, Donovan pumped him over the edge.
Loren clung to Donovan, too breathless to speak, too moved to let go, his body still trembling from the aftershocks of his orgasm.
"I love you, Loren." Donovan was breathing hard too, enjoying the rush of control. He kissed Loren, relishing the smell and the taste and the feel of him. "I love you so much."
Loren nodded in agreement and smiled, high and hazy and blissful.
"I hope nothing burnt," Donovan said ruefully, untangling himself. "And I hope you're hungry for food, too." He tickled Loren gently. "Come on, Loren, pull something on and come eat."
They ate in companionable silence.
"I'm going to lock up the studio," Donovan said as they finished. "Clean up the kitchen, please, we should make this an early night."
"Yes, Donovan," Loren said obediently.
Donovan checked the kiln, put his plaster bats to soak overnight and brushed the dry clay from the worktable tops. Each familiar routine calmed and centered him.
Loren sat at the dining room table, his elbows on the table, his fingers interlaced, supporting his chin. He studied the drawing before him intently. His pencil lay beside him; he had clearly just stopped sketching. He started at Donovan's approach.
"Don't look!" Loren curled his arm protectively over his drawing. "Please."
"It's all right," Donovan said calmly, respecting Loren's desire for privacy and not at all offended. He started to turn away.
"You're not going to spank me, are you?" Loren asked reflexively, looking down.
"Loren. I really don't spank you for no reason, do I?" Donovan understood the years of uncertainty that fueled Loren's question, but nevertheless, it hurt to hear it asked repeatedly. He took a step closer to Loren. Stroked his hand gently over Loren's cheek and cupping his chin in his palm, tipped Loren's head upward. "Loren, look at me please. Have I ever forced you to share anything you didn't want to?"
"No?" Loren said, his rising voice making his answer a question. He hesitated a moment, hearing something in Donovan's tone that he wasn't sure he quite understood.
"I'm sorry, Donovan?" Loren hazarded an apology. "I didn't mean to hurt your feelings?" He held his breath, hoping he had gotten it right. Watched the smile spread across Donovan's face and knew he had.
"I know you didn't, Loren." Donovan tousled Loren's hair. "I just don't like the thought that you're constantly worried about being spanked."
"I'm not afraid of you spanking me, Donovan." Loren tried to explain. "It's just something I say. I wouldn't ask if I wasn't sure you'd say no. I just like hearing you say no." He shrugged awkwardly.
"I'm glad you're telling me this, Loren," Donovan said. "I understand better now."
"Yeah, whatever." Loren was a little embarrassed at his own neediness. "Would you like to look at my picture?" Loren offered tentatively, shifting his paper so that Donovan could see it easily.
Donovan leaned over Loren's shoulder. To his surprise, Loren had drawn, not a copy, but a scene from memory. He'd captured the view of the lake from the boat, the curve of the far shore, the dark bulk of the trees and the shimmer of the water.
"It's decent, right?" Loren asked, pressing his head back into Donovan so that he could see his face.
"It's very beautiful, Loren." Donovan swallowed hard. "Thank you for sharing it with me."
"Would you like it, Donovan? Maybe you could keep it somewhere safe." Loren rubbed his head against Donovan's arm.
"Does it need protective custody?" Donovan chose his words carefully, watching Loren's face for a clue.
Loren flushed at Donovan's turn of phrase. He swallowed hard, considering his answer.
"No. I promised, Donovan."
"Put it on the sideboard, Loren," Donovan said. "It'll be safe enough. I know you try hard to keep your promises; that's one reason I love you." He folded his arms around Loren, hugging him firmly. "You're mine; you're safe now."
"I'm yours now," Loren agreed. "That's another reason I love you, Donovan." Rising from his chair, Loren placed his drawing carefully on the sideboard.
"Bedtime, Loren," Donovan said.
"I think I just want to sleep," Loren said softly. He took Donovan's extended hand and followed him unhesitatingly down the hall.
Thank you, Hedeia and Rusty, for reading multiple drafts and for your friendship and support. EM