M/M sex, spanking. If the idea of a discipline relationship between consenting adult men offends you, so will this story.
ELIZABETH MARSHALL STORIES
Stay Right Here
"Loren, you're ready for more space," Donovan said, surveying the wilderness of paper and miscellaneous art supplies that had once been a usable dining room. Stepping back into the adjacent living room, he nudged Loren with his foot. "Come upstairs with me; I want to show you something."
"I'll pick up my stuff," Loren protested. "Please, Donovan, I don't want to work up there, I hate being up there alone." Still grumbling, he took Donovan's proffered hand and let Donovan tug him from his comfortable spot on the rug in front of the television.
"Look how well this would work," Donovan said, walking Loren into the spare bedroom. "You'd have a window." He pushed back the curtain, revealing a view of trees and the back gardens of an adjacent row of brownstones. "You'd have a table you could spread out on." He closed the door so that he could open the closet beside it. "You'd have storage space. We could push the bed into that corner and you'd have a place to curl up when you're drawing; you like working that way--"
"I hate it." Loren glared at Donovan. "I don't want to work up here; I won't work up here. This is the worst fucking idea you've ever had!" Loren was shaking. "You can lock me up here as long as you want, I don't fucking care, I'm not going to do this!"
"What are you talking about, Loren?" Donovan asked quietly, blind sided by Loren's fury. He stepped toward Loren; Loren backed away.
"I hate being shut up alone! I hate it, I fucking hate it!" Loren's voice continued to rise. "I hate this fucking room and I'm never going to work in it. Never! I hate you, Donovan!" He reached for the door; jerked ineffectually at the knob. "Fuck this!"
"Turn the doorknob--" Donovan began; Loren kicked the door viciously.
"Ow! Motherfucker!" Loren was barefoot; the door was solid wood. It wasn't much of a contest.
"Loren, don't!" Donovan said sharply, as the door shuddered from the impact of a second kick.
"Ow, my foot!" Loren yelped. "Ow!"
"It's all right, Loren. Easy, easy now." Donovan closed in, wrapping his arms around Loren, regretting not having restrained him sooner, before Loren had hurt himself. "It's all right, I've got you..." Donovan held him snugly, letting his body press firmly against Loren's, and Loren began to cry.
"Open the door, please. Open the door," Loren moaned, miserable. "My foot. Ow, my foot."
"God help you if you broke something," Donovan muttered, releasing Loren and turning him around. Already badly upset, Loren misunderstood his intentions.
"Donovan, no, please, don't spank me!"
"Shh, Loren, of course not," Donovan said softly, concealing his dismay. "Shh, Loren, you're being foolish." Donovan turned the doorknob, easily opening the unlocked door, and coaxed Loren into the hallway. "Come on, babe, let's see what you did to yourself."
"I'm sorry, Donovan." Loren took a deep, shuddering breath, clearly struggling for control, and limped before Donovan into their bedroom.
"Let me see." Donovan helped Loren sit down on the bed and manipulated his foot carefully, Loren whining with each movement. "How bad does it hurt?"
"I'm not going to the hospital," Loren said quickly, his breathing shallow and uneven. "You can't make me go."
"Easy, Loren, I'm not going to force you to do anything. Lie down for me, please." Donovan stroked his palm over Loren's cheek, over the throbbing vein in his neck, down the center of his chest. He could feel Loren's heart racing.
"What just happened, Loren? Can you tell me?" Donovan cupped his palm around Loren's jaw, tilting Loren's face toward his own. He traced gentle circles with his forefinger over the tense lines around Loren's eyes.
"I'm a fucking idiot," Loren said harshly. "One minute I was fine and the next–" He closed his eyes. "I'm a fucking idiot."
"You panicked," Donovan said matter of factly. "That doesn't make you an idiot, Loren. But you do know I didn't mean to scare you? I thought you might like having your own private space. I love my studio. You know you can work anywhere in the house that you like; I'm not shutting you up anywhere."
"Yeah," Loren's voice was flat.
"Do you know why it scared you so badly?" Donovan smoothed Loren's hair, watching his face for clues.
"Oh yeah. When I was a kid..." Loren's sentence trailed off; he shrugged. "I don't want to talk about it. It really doesn't matter." His voice was flat and hopeless.
"Oh Loren," Donovan said sorrowfully. "Of course it matters."
"Does it?" Loren looked puzzled.
"Of course it matters." Donovan drew him into his arms, holding him tightly. "What happened to you matters to me, Loren."
Loren let Donovan cuddle him, even though he really didn't understand why Donovan seemed so distressed. It didn't matter, did it? Loren closed his eyes and let himself sink into Donovan's warmth. Gradually the icy blankness that had followed his panic melted.
"I feel bad, Donovan. I didn't mean to freak out like that. I'm sorry."
"Happens," Donovan said philosophically.
"I'm sorry." Loren ran an inquiring hand over Donovan. "Want me to do something for you?"
Donovan winced; he hated when Loren offered sex as an apology. It was the least erotic thing Donovan could imagine. He stroked his hand cautiously down Loren's front, not surprised to find that Loren wasn't hard, either.
"Mmm," Donovan murmured in meaningless, noncommital response, knowing an outright refusal would hurt Loren's feelings. He continued holding and soothing until Loren subsided into sleep.
Donovan took a deep breath. Even though over time he had come to almost expect Loren's unexpected reactions, it was impossible to anticipate every trigger. He was drained, totally drained, by the crisis of the afternoon; he craved the refuge of his studio. He covered Loren lightly, tilted the blinds just enough that the afternoon light wouldn't jar Loren awake, and quietly made his way downstairs and across the driveway to his most loved space.
As always, the studio's earth scented air calmed and centered Donovan. He slipped automatically into his familiar routines. Scooping a gob of fresh clay from the wooden bin that kept it soft and fresh, he sliced the moist grey mass in half over the wedging block and threw the second half into the first, hard. Slice, slap, slice, slap...the rhythm absorbed him, absorbed the swirling emotions of the afternoon.
Donovan transferred the now airless and supple clay to a plaster bat and let the work draw him in. It wasn't until the light shifted and the studio's windows began to reflect the long golden rays of late afternoon sun that Donovan resurfaced. He studied the shapes he had formed, set four aside as having possibilities, kneaded the rest back into formless clay and returned the clay to the bin.
Donovan found Loren sitting at the kitchen table, a coke in front of him. He smiled wanly at Donovan, still a little embarrassed by his earlier outburst. His hair was wet from a recent shower and he was barefoot.
"How's your foot doing?" Donovan cupped his hand around Loren's jaw and tilting his face upward, kissed him thoroughly.
"Hurts a little," Loren said, shrugging. "Not bad."
"Let me look at it again." Donovan seated himself and took Loren's foot in his lap. He rotated Loren's ankle, flexed his arch and toes carefully. Loren didn't protest. "It's not swollen. Can you walk on it?"
"Yeah," Loren said. "It just hurts a little."
"The ER's going to be insane this time of evening. There's nothing much they can do if it's a broken toe, and I really doubt it's even that. I'll take you in to the doctor tomorrow if you like."
"Not particularly," Loren said unhappily.
"Let's see how you feel in the morning." Donovan saw no point in making an issue of it; they'd know soon enough if Loren needed professional care. "My poor Loren. What would cheer you up? Do you want to eat out tonight?" Donovan looked hopeful. "I passed an interesting looking Vietnamese place a few blocks over the other day. We can grab a cab if you're not up to walking; I don't want to try to find parking over there."
"A new place? Sure, if you want to go." Loren didn't care where, or even, given his total lack of appetite at the moment, whether they ate, but he wanted to make Donovan happy this evening.
"I'd like to go." Donovan smiled at Loren, recognizing his wish to make amends for the afternoon. Loren knew him well: New restaurants did make him happy.
The restaurant's white formica tabletops and spartan decor were far from impressive, but Donovan sniffed the air hungrily and smiled happily. He studied the painstakingly translated menu and ordered shrimp rolls and a noodle soup with fish and vegetables, chicken sauteed with lemon grass and sliced and marinated beef with roasted peanut sauce.
Loren swallowed hard, hoping Donovan knew what he was ordering. He guessed he could eat the shrimp rolls; they at least were somewhat familiar.
"You're going to like this too, Loren. Promise," Donovan said reassuringly, well aware of Loren's dislike of novelty. He dished up noodles and a little clear broth; was rewarded by Loren's smile of relief. Loren could see the chicken was inoffensive, and the meat didn't look particularly intimidating, either.
"So not so bad?" Donovan asked as they finished, knowing the answer.
"Pretty good actually," Loren said to his own surprise. "I wouldn't mind eating here again."
"How's your foot?" Donovan asked.
"It's better. I can walk on it," Loren said. "We don't need to take a car home. Thank you, Donovan, that was a good dinner."
"Now you can say you like Vietnamese food." Donovan grinned happily and took Loren's hand as they slowly walked the few short blocks back to the house. "The next time someone asks you at an opening."
They made love that night, Loren willing, Donovan gentle.
"Is this good?" Donovan asked softly, before taking Loren in his mouth, all the way to the root of his cock.
"Stop!" Loren arched upward. "Don't stop! Stop! Oh god that's good."
Donovan pressed a slick finger deep into Loren; Loren's head snapped back.
"Don't stop! No! Oh god don't, don't stop!"
Donovan didn't stop until his mouth was filled with Loren's essence and Loren was panting on the bed.
"A little more?" Donovan stroked Loren's thighs gently, spreading him wider. Rotated his inserted finger.
"No? No no no no...no?" Loren whimpered at the prolonged stimulation. It was not the eager protest of before; it was a real, if tentative, refusal.
"It's all right, Loren, easy." Donovan heard the change in Loren's tone and withdrew his hand, tamping down his own desire. "I'm not going to do anything you don't want." He knew that Loren had no faith that his "no" would be honored and that it made the intense sensation of being handled post orgasm frightening. Loren still couldn't trust that he wouldn't be pushed past the boundary of pleasant overstimulation into acute pain.
"You okay?" Donovan asked softly. "Loren?"
Reassured by Donovan's backing off, responding to his dependable gentleness, Loren relaxed.
"I'm okay now, Donovan. I'm sorry."
"Nothing to apologize for," Donovan said easily.
"I can do something for you if you like?" Loren snuggled into Donovan. "I didn't mean for you not to get any."
"I'm good for now, Loren. Later." Donovan took his pleasure in Loren's nearness, in the soft, slowing rhythm of his breathing as he subsided into sleep.
Loren cringed at the sound of the alarm clock, burrowing deeper into his pillows.
"I'm sorry," Loren said ashamedly. "I didn't sleep well."
"I can see that," Donovan said. "I'll get us coffee."
"Nightmare?" Donovan rejoined Loren in the bed. He leaned back against the headboard and Loren leaned against him. "You can always wake me up if you need to, you do know that, don't you?"
"Yeah," Loren said quietly. "I didn't need to, Donovan. I never remember my dreams anyway; I just wake up." He took the cup of coffee Donovan offered. "Thank you."
"So what all do you have to do today, Loren?" Donovan asked, wanting to shift Loren's focus to the day ahead.
"I don't know," Loren said unhappily. "I can't finish the drawing unless I can see the house for real, or I don't think I can? I don't know how to do this, Donovan. I'm stupid."
"You're not stupid, Loren, you're just inexperienced. You've never done this before, but I have. I'm right here, I'm going to help you. It's going to be all right, I promise."
Loren forced himself to take a deep breath.
"That's my boy. It's going to be all right." Donovan rubbed Loren's back encouragingly.
"I don't know what to do." Loren heard his own whine and winced; tried to modulate his voice. "I have photographs. Sterling said something about taking a car out to the house midweek, when the people weren't there?"
"Ah." Donovan took Loren's hand. "Okay then, call Sterling and work out what day you want to go."
"Could you call him?" Loren asked hopefully. He rubbed his cheek against Donovan's chest. "Please, Donovan?"
"He's *your* dealer, Loren. You really do need to talk to him directly." Donovan thought a moment; he realized that the social skills involved were unimaginably difficult for Loren. Loren had had zero opportunity to practice this kind of exchange. "I tell you what, let's both go by the gallery this morning and we can talk to him together."
"Thank you, Donovan," Loren said softly. "You think I'm being stupid."
"No, I think you're nervous and I think that's very normal," Donovan replied. "It's going to be fine, I promise."
Loren leaned into Donovan as they walked the short distance to the Center for the Rare and Extraordinary Arts, seeking support from the physical contact. Donovan kept up an easy stream of patter, calling Loren's attention to a new display in a shop window, a new store, an odd looking dog out for a walk with its equally odd looking owner, trying to engage Loren and put him at ease. His strategy worked; by the time they reached CREA Loren was no longer taut with nerves.
"Loren, how nice to see you." Sterling's smile was genuine; he liked Loren. Sterling respected Loren's abilities at the same time as he made allowances for Loren's skittishness. "Donovan."
"Hey," Loren said diffidently. No matter how many times Sterling greeted him warmly, Loren was still surprised, every time, that Sterling seemed to like him.
"Hello, Sterling." Donovan had enormous respect for Sterling's patience with Loren.
"Do you have time for coffee?" Sterling offered genially.
Loren looked at Donovan, hoping for a cue. Even such simple courtesies were mined with the potential for disaster, in Loren's jaundiced opinion.
"Yes, thank you," Donovan said. He didn't particularly want coffee, but he felt it was important to model this basic social exchange for Loren.
"Sugar? Cream? " Sterling knew Loren would never ask without a prompt. Loren's total lack of initiative in everyday transactions contrasted sharply with the sureness of Loren's hand in his drawings. Loren was a fascinating contradiction and Sterling, who loved mysteries, enjoyed puzzling him out.
"If you went out midweek, you'd have the place to yourself, Loren. I have a car and driver I use regularly," Sterling said. "He's an ex cop, very competent, very kind. He could take you out to the house, let you have a few hours on your own to work, and pick you up afterward. Let me check my calendar...would Thursday work for you, Loren?"
Loren looked at Donovan.
"You should be fine," Donovan said encouragingly. "I have to teach Thursdays, but you have your cell phone if you need to get in touch."
"Yes, Donovan," Loren said softly. "That'd be good, Sterling."
On Thursday morning, Donovan made sure Loren was showered and dressed before he himself left to teach.
"Call me any time you want." Donovan cupped Loren's jaw in his hand and kissed him. "Any time, understand me? I'll leave my phone on vibrate; I won't mind if you interrupt me. You have your lunch, right? Good. Take it easy and try to relax. I hope you get some good work done."
Relax? Loren sighed; Donovan had to be kidding. Huddled in the back of the comfortable town car, Loren tried not to think about anything but the sketches he needed to make.
The driver left Loren off at the house just as Sterling had directed.
Loren walked around, relaxing in the open air, quietly taking in the shape of the house, the bright sky beyond, the ocean half hidden beyond the dunes. For the first time Loren appreciated the sharp eye Jay brought to his work. It was like Jay himself, all angles and no softness, and very little regard for the spectator. It worked–
Loren yelped in startled terror as a hand descended on his shoulder.
"What are you doing sneaking around?" A tall man Loren's own age glared at him.
"I'm supposed to be here!" Loren had relied on Sterling's assurance that the owners would be in the city during the week. There had been no reason for Sterling to suspect the owners' dilettante son would be doing a little illicit mid week partying out at his parents' house. "I'm doing some sketches–"
"So you're the artist that's doing the picture of the new house? Cool. I didn't mean to scare you, dude, don't look so freaked. Come inside." It was a command as much as an invitation. "I'm Mitchell."
Placate authority: It was Loren's most deeply ingrained response. He trailed Mitchell inside, retreating into the passivity that had long characterized him.
Inside was a gaggle of twenty somethings, thin and bright eyed. A small mound of white powder graced the glass coffee table. Mitchell cut Loren a line. Loren quickly and expertly sniffed it, lost himself in the rush.
Sterling's driver returned at the agreed upon time. He was surprised to see that the door to the house was wide open. Something felt wrong to him. Getting out of the car, he walked cautiously into the house.
A white sofa and trapped in one corner, Loren, his face as white as the upholstery.
"Come on, Loren, get up. It's time to go home now." Something about Loren spoke to the ex cop's protective instincts. Loren let the driver shepherd him into the car.
"Loren!" Donovan met him at their door. "Everything all right?"
"I know I should have called you, oh shit, I know you're going to kill me--" Loren threw himself into Donovan's arms.
"A little party going on out at the house, it seems." The driver had trailed Loren to the door. "I didn't realize that when I dropped your boyfriend off. He looked pretty scared when I picked him up."
"Thank you for rescuing him," Donovan said sincerely. He peeled several twenties from his billfold and handed them to the driver. "Come on, Loren, you're home now. It's all right." Donovan drew Loren inside, closing the door behind them.
Loren's eyes were bloodshot and he was jittery, unable to keep still. Damage control was the only option at this point. Donovan tried to get some food into Loren, offering soda, cookies, all the temptations Loren generally wouldn't refuse, but Loren would neither drink nor eat. He was restless and twitchy and he couldn't stop pacing.
"Please, Donovan, I need some Valium," Loren begged.
Donovan had Valium in the house; he had gotten it for a pulled muscle in his back and never finished the prescription. Unhappily, Donovan retrieved the bottle from the medicine chest, shook two pills into his hand and gave them to Loren with a glass of water.
The speed with which Loren gratefully downed them confirmed what Donovan already knew; Loren was far too familiar with how to come down after partying. This was no first time indulgence and that, Donovan thought, answered the question of whether he could just let this go. No.
Loren fell asleep, and a miserable Donovan called Jay to remonstrate with him.
"I don't vet my clients for character," Jay said sharply. "They have money, Donovan, who the fuck else builds on the waterfront. That Loren doesn't have either brains or self restraint has nothing to do with me at all."
"I know," Donovan said apologetically. He realized he was being unfair. "I'm not really blaming you. I just wish it hadn't happened, Jay."
"You'll do what you think's best," Jay said. "All I can say is, you'd better make it very expensive for him to make those kinds of foolish choices. And very painful, do you understand what I'm saying, Donovan?"
"Yes," Donovan said.
"I'm serious, Donovan. If you don't make your point now, you're going to end up very, very sorry."
"I hear you, Jay," Donovan sighed. "May I speak to Maurice, please? I've got a question for him."
Jay handed Maurice the phone and listened shamelessly to his side of the conversation.
"How much did you give him?" Maurice asked. "That sounds safe enough, Donovan. He should be all right when he comes down."
"What did Donovan do?" Jay asked curiously after Maurice had hung up.
"Gave Loren two Valium so he could sleep," Maurice said.
"What do you mean, he gave him Valium so he could sleep! What the hell was Donovan thinking?"
"It was the sensible thing to do, Jay," Maurice said calmly.
"Sensible to give him more drugs? That doesn't bother you, Maurie?" Jay was taken aback.
"When I've treated patients with cocaine withdrawal issues, I've tried to ameliorate the damage. Valium is the drug of choice in that situation, Jay; Donovan knew exactly what he was doing."
"I will never understand Donovan," Jay muttered. "Why didn't he take Loren to the emergency room?"
"Because Loren would have ended up in five point restraints. Donovan knew exactly what he was doing," Maurice repeated, no doubt whatsoever in his voice.
"My father always wanted him to go to medical school," Jay said, traces of an old hurt in his voice.
"I know," Maurice said gently. "Come to bed, Jay. Let it go."
Loren awoke in the wee hours of the night, unhappy and uncomfortable. Donovan brought him a drink, chased him into the bathroom and coaxed him back into bed. Loren curled into a small, pathetic ball.
"You're going to beat the shit out of me. I hate you, Donovan. I hate myself."
"I love you, Loren, and you know it," Donovan said softly. "I'll never beat you and you know that, too." He spooned around Loren and lulled by his comforting presence, Loren fell back asleep. Donovan lay awake a long time, listening to Loren breathe and trying not to think about what he was going to have to do the next day. Finally he too slept.
Morning dawned clear and chill. As always, Donovan woke with the first light. He got up, showered, made himself a cup of coffee and sat at the kitchen table, nursing his hot drink, until it was nine. Time to wake Loren.
Loren was still buried under the blankets, face deep in the pillows.
"Hey, Loren." Donovan ruffled his hair, shook his shoulder gently. "Wake up for me. How's my boy?"
"Donovan?" Loren's eyes fluttered open. "Go away. You can't want me anymore, Donovan, you can't."
"That's foolishness," Donovan scolded. "Loren, whatever happened, I'm not going anywhere. I want you. I love you."
"You shouldn't." Loren swallowed hard, well aware that he was in deep. "You're going to punish me. Are you going to use your belt?" he asked in a very small voice. The thought made his stomach turn over.
Donovan saw Loren's shiver.
"Don't you think I ought to?" Donovan's voice was gentle, as gentle as his hands as he drew Loren toward him. His words, however, were harsh. "I think you know that using cocaine is illegal and unsafe and all the rest of it. I don't want you to do it again. Ever, do you hear me?"
Loren nodded, his heart racing. Donovan's indictment hurt, perhaps as much as any whipping could.
"You know better." Donovan rested his hand on Loren's ass, feeling Loren wince. "Don't you?"
"Yes, Donovan. It was a mistake? I'm sorry! Please--" Loren suddenly panicked; Donovan gave very few severe punishments. "Please, Donovan, don't whip me? Please, Donovan? I'm scared, I'm so, so, so, so scared." He was shaking now; this was no pretense.
"You don't need to be so scared, Loren," Donovan said quietly. "You're just getting a spanking, although God knows you deserve a whipping." Donovan rubbed Loren's back until Loren's breathing steadied and he was calmer.
"We'll deal with this after breakfast. You haven't eaten since yesterday, Loren, you need some food in you. Go shower, get dressed and come downstairs."
"Yes, Donovan," Loren said obediently, reassured by Donovan's matter of fact approach to his crime, and enormously relieved that Donovan wasn't angry. Breakfast and a spanking; it might not be a great way to start the day, but it was hardly a novel one.
Loren picked at his breakfast, knowing Donovan wasn't going to let him get away with not eating at all, but seriously doubting his own ability to keep much down. He looked appealing at Donovan, who understood Loren's nerves well. Donovan had no appetite either, neither for breakfast nor for the punishment he was committed to delivering.
"All right," Donovan said. It was clear there was no point in putting it off any longer. He stood up and responding to his cue, Loren rose as well. They walked quietly down the hallway, into the living room. Donovan seated himself on the couch and Loren stood quietly as he was stripped of pants and underwear. Donovan turned Loren over his knee.
"Please," Loren begged, even before the spanking began.
"You don't use illegal drugs, Loren. You just don't do it. You call me if you're in over your head," Donovan said soberly. "No cocaine, ever. Do it again and I'll take my belt to you no matter how scared you are." He began to spank him hard and methodically.
"Ow. Ow. Oh please, Donovan, no more..."
Loren had to learn, Donovan reminded himself sternly. Loren had to learn to use some independent judgment, not fall under the sway of the first person who offered him drugs or anything else. He didn't stop spanking until Loren's words had fled entirely. What Donovan had left by the time he was done was a sore and sorry sinner. He eased Loren sideways into his lap.
"Come on now, it's all over, it's all right." Donovan rubbed comforting circles on Loren's back.
"Owww..." Loren clung desperately; it took the better part of an hour for him to subside from sobbing to sniffling.
"A little better, Loren?" Donovan asked.
"I don't feel good, Donovan," Loren said tiredly.
"Let's go upstairs. You'll be more comfortable in bed." Donovan eased Loren upright and helped him upstairs and into their bed. Loren curled onto his side.
"I hate when you spank me," Loren said miserably.
"Act right and I won't need to spank you," Donovan said soberly, seating himself along Loren.
"My stomach hurts." Loren inched closer to Donovan, seeking comfort.
"Just rest now." Donovan rubbed Loren's belly and gradually Loren's eyes closed. Once he was certain Loren wouldn't reawaken, Donovan slipped out of the bedroom.
Donovan showered quickly and headed to the sanctuary of his studio. He moved into his familiar routines with the ease of a hawk riding the air currents, unthinkingly, letting himself be guided and supported by what was there. He lost himself in the clay, and at the end of his session, compacted his day's work without ire and returned the formless mass to the bin, feeling entirely satisfied with the activity despite the lack of tangible results.
Donovan let Loren doze until mid afternoon before rousing him. The room was comfortably warm. The blinds' tilted slats made striped shadows on the ceiling.
Loren resisted being shaken awake.
"I don't feel good," Loren whimpered. "My stomach hurts, Donovan."
"Ah." Donovan seated himself alongside Loren, exploring Loren's tense stomach with a careful hand. "We can do something about that. Will you let me help you?"
"Yes, Donovan. Please."
The routine was familiar to both of them. Loren rolled onto his left side, let Donovan slip the thick doubled towels under his hip. Donovan retrieved the necessary equipment from the bathroom, prepared the buffered solution Dr. Gordon had prescribed, and returned to hang the clear bag over the back of the bedroom chair.
"I don't feel good," Loren said piteously.
"I know." Donovan seated himself alongside Loren, rubbing his belly gently. There were no words necessary. Without prompting, Loren bent his right knee toward his chest and exhaled as Donovan eased the well-lubricated tip of the enema nozzle into him.
"Donovan?" Slightest quiver in Loren's voice; Donovan heard it and deepened his massage, trying to get the cramping muscles in Loren's stomach to relax.
"Owww..." Loren groaned and shifted uncomfortably. "Owww."
"I know, babe, I know. Blow out. Let's stop for a minute." Donovan clamped the hose, stopping the flow of warm water.
"Just get it over with, Donovan, please," Loren said miserably.
"That's just about it, anyway." Donovan patted Loren's hip reassuringly and eased the enema nozzle out. "All done."
"Owww." Loren groaned again. He waited a minute for the cramps to subside and then rolled himself upright and lumbered toward the bathroom.
"I don't feel good at all." Loren reentered the bedroom and flopped face down onto the bed. "I hate this."
"Give me a minute to wash up and we'll talk." Donovan took the equipment into the bathroom, cleaned up quickly and efficiently. He reseated himself on the bed next to Loren, his warm, heavy hand making slow, comforting circles over Loren's lower back, coaxing Loren to relax.
"Did it hurt that much?" Donovan asked softly. It was unusual these days for Loren to react this strongly to the procedure.
"I don't know," Loren said into the pillow. "Maybe? I wish I didn't need this, Donovan. I'm sorry; I'm a lot of trouble."
"That's foolishness. So you need a little extra caring for; that's no big deal." Donovan stroked Loren's hair, untangling the snarled mop with his fingers. Loren had let his hair grow longer in homage to Donovan's own style; the tawny mass was nearly shoulder length. "You're no trouble at all."
"But I am a lot of trouble, Donovan." Loren sighed and rolled over onto his side, snuggling closer into Donovan. "I know I am."
"Loren, I love you. If you need caring for, I take care of you." Donovan stroked his cheek. "That's love, that's not trouble."
"I guess." Loren shrugged; he felt stressed and unhappy. "I don't see why though."
"Because I do love you," Donovan said calmly. "That's reason enough."
"You make everything sound so fucking easy," Loren said unhappily. "I can't do this drawing, Donovan, I can't." Loren twisted around and clung to Donovan.
"Shh," Donovan soothed him. "You can. I know you can. I'll help you."
"How?" Loren asked petulantly. "How, Donovan? I'm so fucking stupid, Donovan!" Loren had never had a teacher, had never had a friend to look at his work, had never had the experience of working with someone on a project. He had no idea what Donovan was offering.
"You're not stupid. Let me see your sketchbook."
"Why?" Loren asked plaintively.
"I want to see how far you've gotten," Donovan answered, his eyes scanning the sketches. "They're not bad, Loren. This view, with the ocean at the top? I think that's a nice one, it shows the house well and gives a sense of place, too. Why don't you work from this one? You can add some of the detail at the front and maybe rotate the house a little, so you get the porch? Leave the ocean the way you have it, it doesn't have to be so literal. Can you do all the windows the way you did the upstairs one? That's a very nice effect."
"Yeah, sure, that's easy." Loren said. "Donovan? If they hate it?"
"They won't. And if they do, it doesn't matter." Donovan touched Loren's damp cheek gently. "If you give Sterling a finished drawing, I'll be satisfied. That's all I expect from you. Let Sterling take it from there."
"You won't spank me if I don't get it right?" Loren tried to smile, but couldn't quite manage it. He shrugged self consciously.
Donovan looked at Loren, recognizing the question was only half a joke.
The downtown bar was dark, unfashionable and seldom crowded, which was precisely what Donovan loved about it. It was located conveniently enough that Jay overlooked its faults.
"It's not like he *has* to do it, Jay," Donovan said unhappily, toying with his beer. "It's not imperative; commissioned work is hardly an artistic triumph. Sterling can find someone else to do a drawing for your clients. They're not going to care."
"Damn it, Donovan, do you want him to be a glorified pet or do you want him to be your partner?" Jay took a deep breath; he knew that as close as he and Donovan were, they were friends, not lovers, and there were boundaries. "Loren needs you to support him in this, not rescue him from it. Push him a little."
"Yes, Jay," Donovan said dutifully. "I do see what you're driving at, Jay, but Loren–"
"–is *your* Loren. Donovan, is that what you want him as, a pet?"
Jay's question hung between them for a moment.
"No!" Donovan said vehemently. The need to nurture ran deep in Donovan, but so did the desire to see Loren grow into his fullest self.
"Then treat him like a man. You do it for your students; you do it for your friends. Do it for Loren. He's got the ability, as far as the drawing goes. It's just anxiety; he has to work through it like every other functional adult on this planet."
"He's sick over it."
"So what! Damn it, Donovan, didn't you ever get sick before an opening?"
"No," Donovan said quietly. "But you did, I remember that very well." He did remember. It had been Jay's show of drawings for his senior project, before he had gone on to his graduate degree in architecture. Jay had been violently, wretchedly sick the afternoon of the opening. Oh yes, Donovan remembered.
"Did you tell me I should quit?"
"No," Donovan said softly.
"You sure as hell didn't. You rubbed my back while I was sick, and you gave me a glass of water to rinse out my mouth, and a cold cloth for my face, and a pep talk and a fresh shirt. And then you wished me good luck, told me I could do it, and sent me back out there," said Jay. "Now why the hell won't you do that for Loren?"
"Because with you it was just a moment of stage fright, and you would have killed me if I'd let you back out," Donovan said. "You I pushed a little; Loren's frightened!"
"I was shit scared! We're all frightened sometimes, Donovan. You're too close to the situation to make a good call here. I know you love him, I know you're protective of everything you love, and I also know how important it is for a twenty three year old man to have a job. Push him. Hell, give him a good shove if you have to." Jay reached for his wallet. "I've got to be off. I'm right, Donovan."
"Aren't you always, Jay?" Donovan laughed. "Let me get these. Tell Maurice I said hi; I'll see him tomorrow for lunch. Ciao."
"Thanks, Donovan. Ciao."
Donovan slowly finished his beer. Although Jay had scant sympathy for Loren's neediness, Donovan had no doubt that Jay was also right at some level; who could be happy without meaningful work? Donovan knew what that did for a man; he felt the joy of it every time he entered his studio, every time his hands touched his clay.
More than anything, Donovan wanted to share that joy with Loren. But it wasn't a push or a shove Loren needed, it was to a safe space in which to grow into himself. There were no quick fixes for Loren, just the slow and steady experience of what it felt like to do meaningful creative work.
Donovan was satisfied that Loren had at least made a start. He no longer shied away from the room they'd designated for his studio. That was progress; the rest would come.
"Hey, doc!" Donovan looked forward to his lunches with Maurice. He'd managed to grab their favorite table by the cafeteria's windows. He smiled at Maurice. "Good to see you."
"You too." Maurice put his tray down and slid into his seat. He transferred his meal and drink to the table and stacked his tray with Donovan's already empty one. "How are you? Jay told me he made some 'tactful' suggestions about Loren?"
"'Tactful?'" Donovan made a rude noise.
"Believe me, I know Jay's version of tactful," Maurice said sympathetically.
"I'm sure." Donovan sighed. "Maurice, Loren *is* fragile, I'm not just coddling him for the sake of coddling him."
"Loren's neediness is a swamp. You need to get him into therapy, Donovan," Maurice said. If it were up to him, it would be Donovan exploring his own motivations in therapy, but he knew that was a futile wish; even Jay wouldn't support him encouraging that.
"Maybe." Donovan sounded reluctant.
"Donovan, for an intelligent man, you're awfully skittish about therapy," Maurice said. "Would you like to talk about it?"
"It's not that I don't think it has its place, it's just that I'm a typical old school artist. I think that emotion, including pain, fuels art," Donovan said. "I don't think that's pathological; that's one of the beauties of art."
"That's a fine philosophy, if a person's thriving," Maurice said. "Can you really say Loren is?"
"What is it with the tag team approach?" Donovan asked, shaking his head ruefully. "Maurice, you and Jay both need to back off, all right?"
"Yes, Donovan," Maurice said quietly.
"You're a good friend, Maurice," Donovan said gently, recognizing he'd hurt Maurice's feelings. "You're a good friend, and I do appreciate your candor. It's just...I would really, really appreciate your support."
"I'm sorry, Donovan." Maurice swallowed hard; he'd forgotten how finely tuned Donovan's ear was. It was one of Donovan's great strengths, both as a friend and as a Top: To hear what wasn't said.
"So what are you doing this weekend?" Donovan eased the conversation onto smoother ground.
"We're seeing a modern dance thing at BAM Saturday afternoon, someone gave Jay the tickets, and then we're going to hear a harpsichord recital up at the Met, that's my revenge for Jay's dragging me to the dance thing," Maurice said with a smile. "What about you?"
"We're staying close to home. If you're going to be in Brooklyn anyway, would you like to come by?"
"Thanks, Donovan." Maurice knew Jay would be glad of the invitation.
"We don't have to have them over often," Donovan said wearily. "But they're going to be practically around the corner and I would like to show Jay my new work; I'm excited about it. Loren, all I'm asking you to do is move your stuff from the dining room table to your studio. Is that really such an imposition?"
"It's fine." Loren sullenly gathered his sketches. "I don't want any of this shit anyway."
"Loren, just stack them and take them upstairs," Donovan said. "Remember, we have a rule."
"I'm not allowed to destroy my work," Loren said in a singsong voice. "I know, Donovan. Shit, I wish you'd give me credit for something."
"I've about had it with the hateful attitude, Loren," Donovan said. "They're only going to be here for an hour or so. It can't possibly be as bad as you think."
Just watch, Loren thought to himself as he trudged upstairs. Despite himself, he couldn't resist another look at the drawing he'd left out on his work table. He reached for a pencil. Just a little more shading...
Lost in his work, Loren didn't come down until the doorbell chimed.
"Hello, Loren," Maurice said. He smiled at Loren; to his mind, they had made some progress toward friendship.
"Hello, Dr. Napier," Loren managed to reply, but he looked at the floor and not at Maurice; it was as if they had never shared those small moments of connection.
Maurice was frustrated and disappointed. Loren's inability to engage appropriately gave him a headache; it was as if there was zero carryover from one interaction to the next.
"Christ, Loren, you can call him Maurice, you know," Jay said sharply.
Startled, Loren shrunk closer to Donovan, frightened by Jay's overt anger.
"Easy, Loren," Donovan's voice was gentle. "Please, Jay, don't."
"Damn it, Donovan, he's not the only one who's sensitive." Jay looked directly at Loren. "You hurt Maurice's feelings. He thought you were friends."
"I hurt his feelings?" Loren looked from Jay to Donovan. This had to be a joke. Didn't it? But both Donovan and Jay looked serious. "*I* hurt his feelings?" The concept eluded Loren completely.
"Yes," Donovan said simply.
"But Donovan, he's a doctor!" Loren's bewilderment was plain. "He doesn't need anything from me!"
"Loren, have you ever had a friend?" Donovan asked gently. "Does someone have to need something from you to want to be your friend?"
"Yes?" Loren's eyes searched Donovan's face anxiously, rightly deducing that his answer distressed Donovan. He knew he was failing this test, but what he was getting wrong, he didn't know. "I don't understand, Donovan." Loren's voice rose anxiously.
"Just let it go, please," Maurice said to Jay and Donovan, the two spots of color high on his cheeks the only sign of how embarrassed he was. "Let it go."
"I want to show you something, Jay." Donovan broke the awkward silence. "Would you come out to the studio for a minute with me? Maurice, you're welcome to join us."
"No, thank you," Maurice said. Donovan and Jay talking art was not a conversation Maurice felt he had any part of; he didn't begrudge them their privacy.
"We'll be in in a bit," Donovan said. "Make yourself at home."
Maurice made no attempt to engage Loren in conversation. What was the point? He settled on the couch, reached for one of the new art journals piled on the end table alongside the lamp and began to read.
"Um, Maurice?" Loren took a deep breath and stepped off the precipice. "Do you want to see my studio?"
The room felt very quiet. Maurice put his magazine down and looked directly at Loren. Loren met his eyes for a scant moment and then lowered his own.
"I'd like that very much," Maurice said softly, not wanting to spook Loren with too much enthusiasm, but genuinely touched by his offer.
"I'll show you." Loren swallowed hard.
Maurice followed Loren upstairs. He looked curiously around the reconfigured spare bedroom. The bed had been pushed against the wall and there were throw pillows on the floor beside it; clearly Loren liked working seated on the floor with his back braced against it. Loren gestured toward the table by the window and Maurice looked at the drawing of the house.
"It's very good, Loren," Maurice said slowly. "It really is. The detail...I love this kind of intricate work. Really, you did an excellent job. I'm impressed."
"You like it?" Loren smiled then, his head tilted to the side, eyes searching Maurice's face hungrily.
"I like it a lot," Maurice said. "Thank you for letting me see it, Loren."
"You're welcome?" Loren said quickly and nervously.
Maurice smiled at Loren, trying to convey his approval.
"You're welcome, Maurice," Loren said more certainly. "Thank you, too. They're back, if you want to go downstairs? I can smell the coffee. I'll be right down."
Loren was quiet for the rest of the visit.
"Talk to me," Donovan coaxed. "Something's troubling you and I want to help if I can. Is it about the visit?"
"I hate them." Loren said. "I hate Jay, I fucking hate him! He makes me feel so stupid."
"You're not stupid." Donovan took Loren into his arms. He stroked Loren's hair, thinking to himself. Jay was bossy; Jay was rude. Jay was also his closest friend and Jay loved Maurice. Donovan sighed. "Jay was pretty obnoxious."
"I shredded my drawing. And my fucking sketches," Loren said flatly. "Every fucking one."
"You destroyed them? Loren, why?" Donovan was flabbergasted.
"I'm not going to finish this fucking drawing for them, Donovan. I don't want to sell it for money like a fucking whore," Loren said bitterly.
"Getting paid for your art is being a whore?" Donovan shook his head, bemused. This was a new one. "Loren, you do know I sell my work?"
"Shit. Oh shit. Shit." Loren looked at Donovan, stricken. "I'm sorry, Donovan, I didn't mean it like that. Oh shit. Donovan, I didn't think! I'm sorry." He closed his eyes. "I wasn't thinking about that at all. I just hate Jay."
"I understand, I think," Donovan said quietly. Loren's convoluted logic made a curious sort of sense. Neither his talent nor his body were something Loren had ever felt he owned. Loren had traded both for affection, for safety, for the dream of love, but he took some small, vestigial pride in not being paid in cash.
To share his work as a gift, as a bid for friendship with Maurice, was one thing; to sell it to Jay's clients, was another. They had hurt Loren; Jay had hurt Loren. Donovan understood exactly how Loren felt.
"Loren, I'd never force you to sell a drawing you didn't want to. We could have talked about this; we could have worked it through. But we have a rule: You're not allowed to destroy your work. We've gone through this before, haven't we?"
"Yes. Are you going to spank me, Donovan?" Loren asked miserably. He knew the answer to his question.
"What did I tell you the last time?" Donovan stroked Loren's hair back from his forehead, wanting to see his eyes. "You don't hurt yourself; you don't destroy your own hard work."
"I don't want you to spank me! I hate when you spank me!" Loren's response was instant, bitter and heartfelt. "Shit! Shit! I'm crying, how fucking stupid is that?" Loren dashed angrily at the tears falling from his eyes. "Let me go, Donovan, let me go! I can't breathe!"
"It's all right. Easy now, it's all right. Look, I'm not holding you." Donovan held his hands up, palms turned toward Loren. "Will you come to me, Loren?" Donovan asked. Loren's misery was hard to witness.
Loren shook his head no, even as he buried his face in Donovan's shirt. Donovan rubbed comforting circles on his back, feeling Loren's breathing slow and steady.
"I wish I weren't," Loren said mournfully. "I don't want you to spank me."
"I know, Loren," Donovan said gently, rubbing Loren's back. "I know. And I don't want you to destroy your work. You don't hurt yourself to make a point. Everything down, please." Seating himself on the bed, he drew Loren over his lap, caressed Loren's lower back for a moment and then stroked his hand regretfully over his buttocks.
"You talk to me when you're upset, you don't destroy your work," Donovan said soberly. He spanked Loren slowly and thoroughly, heat building under his hand, until Loren was sniffling and his buttocks were pink.
"I'm sorry, I'm sorry. Don't hate me, Donovan!"
"I love you, Loren. You need to learn to take better care of yourself and your work. Until you can, I'll take care of it for you," Donovan said, easing Loren and himself back on the bed. "That's what this is about and that's why I spanked you. Understand me?"
"Yes, Donovan." Loren closed his eyes again. "I'm sorry. Please don't hate me, Donovan."
"I love you so, Loren," Donovan repeated. He cupped Loren's jaw in his hand and kissed him; drew Loren closer. "You're it for me."
Loren rested his head against Donovan's chest, comforted by its slow rise and fall. Outside it had started to rain; Loren could hear the raindrops drumming on the roof in gentle counterpoint to Donovan's steady heartbeat.
"I'm all yours, Donovan. There isn't anyone else for me." Loren was quiet for a long moment. "I wish you wouldn't spank me anymore. I want to fuck up and have nothing happen to me at all. Like normal people. No one fucking spanks them."
"You know, Loren, it's not a make or break issue for me. I am fine, totally fine, with the idea of agreeing not to spank you again. Corporal punishment isn't for everyone, I understand that. All actions have consequences, though," Donovan said quietly. "Don't you think?"
"Other people's don't!" Loren said bitterly. "Everyone but me does whatever the fuck they want and nothing bad ever happens to them!"
"Ah," Donovan said. It wasn't the spanking that was upsetting Loren as much as what he perceived as the unfairness of life in general. "A lot of bad things have happened to you, Loren." It was a statement, not a question.
"I guess." Loren shifted uneasily. "I don't want to talk about it."
"I've got you now." Donovan stroked Loren's hair; let his hand rest, warm and comforting, at the nape of Loren's neck. "You're going to be all right."
"You can still spank me, Donovan," Loren said softly. "I trust you." Loren closed his eyes and let Donovan's breathing lull him to sleep.
"My Loren." Loren would be all right, because Donovan wasn't allowing him any other option. Everything about Loren, his strengths and his flaws, bound Donovan to him. "I love you."