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



"Change." Glen scowled at Rory from the entryway.

“But Glen, they said nice shorts were all right! It's hot in the old stacks."

"It's always an argument with you, Rory! I said change,” Glen repeated. “Wear your khakis."

Rory hesitated; looked quickly at his watch.

“I'll show you late." Glen closed in. Catching Rory's arm, he half turned him and whacked him across the backside, hard. “I said 'change' twice and I don’t appreciate your smart attitude!"

Rory flinched as Glen’s hand reconnected with his butt.

"I'm sorry, Glen, don't be mad, please." Rory felt the sick, familiar feeling of despair in the pit of his stomach. "I'll change!" He retreated to the bedroom. Dug hurriedly through his closet, unable to spot the pants he sought.

"Stop dawdling." Glen grabbed Rory’s arm and spinning him around, shoved him face down across the bed. Rory felt his button and zipper give as Glen yanked his shorts down.

"You’ve been asking for this all morning." Glen snaked his belt through its loops and doubling it over, whacked Rory, hard. "When I tell you to do something, you do it, you don't argue with me."

“Jesus, Glen, stop it,” Rory wailed as Glen swung the belt again, catching him across the backs of his thighs.

“Is that enough to get your attention?” Glen paused briefly.


"Please don't..." Rory moaned as the next lick caught the tender flesh at the base of his buttocks.

“Are you going to play with me like that again?” Glen whacked the belt across the earlier stripes, eliciting a yelp.

“No, Glen, I promise!”

Rory flinched as he felt Glen’s hand on his shoulder, pulling him up.

“Now get your pants on. You've made us late enough.”

Glen threaded his belt back through its loops as Rory dressed numbly. Meekly, he let Glen escort him out of the house and into his SUV.

His fury spent, Glen negotiated the short drive to the university smoothly.

"You sulking, Rory?" Glen reached over to pat Rory’s leg. Rory cringed visibly against the seat.

“Don't be such a baby," Glen said. ““You were pushing me and you deserved what you got. You know what, though, I'll treat you to lunch." He waited for Rory to thank him for the offer.

No, Rory thought, panic rising. He hated Glen with every fiber of his being.

"Sorry, Glen, they're short staff, they won't let me take a full lunch," Rory said softly, hoping Glen wouldn't get angry again.

Glen looked at Rory suspiciously. Rory schooled his face into blankness.

“All right,” Glen said. "I'm really too busy to play these little games with you anyway."

He tried to slip out of the car before Glen could kiss him goodbye.

“What the hell's the matter with you?” Glen asked, grabbing his arm and holding him back.

“I…nothing,” Rory said.

"I love you.” Glen leaned over to Rory and kissed him firmly. "Go on."

Rory's heart resumed beating as he shut the car door behind him, careful not to slam it. He waved a mechanical goodbye, happy to escape Glen for even a few hours.

The musty smell of the unrenovated old library was comfortingly familiar. Rory made his way slowly up and down the stairs. Bringing books to and from the closed stacks to the reserved carrels took no thought at all, leaving him far too much time to go over his nightmare morning.

Just my luck, Rory thought miserably, seeing the name Professor Somerset on his call slip. Theodore Somerset and Glen went way back. In better days Glen and Rory and Theo and his partner Danny had been fast friends.


Theo looked up as Rory deposited the books he'd ordered in his carrel.

"Morning, Rory, how are you?" Theo asked with genuine interest.

"Just great," Rory muttered. Now the foursome never socialized and rarely even crossed paths, except here in the library where the distinguished Professor Somerset and lowly page Rory both toiled. Rory wished Theo would stop looking at him with those disconcertingly light blue eyes.

"What happened, Glen beat you up again?" Theo took a shot in the dark.

"No!" Rory answered too quickly, his brown eyes wide, a deer caught in the headlights.

"Shit. Rory, you've got to leave him."

"Fucking easy for you to say. I don't have anywhere to go," Rory said despairingly.

"You could stay with us," Theo said. "You know it's an open offer."

"Glen would kill me!"


"Enough's enough." Theo stood up. "I'm not going to let that prick keep beating you."

Rory cursed himself for having been fool enough to admit he was hurt. This was so fucking embarrassing. If it hadn't been for the fact that Theo's question had caught him off guard, while he was still reeling from the morning's fight with Glen, before he'd had a chance to pull himself together...

"Do you know how many people in this country stay in abusive relationships because they're ashamed and afraid of what people will think of them?" Theo addressed the air rather than the sad young man before him. "Do you know how long it took before people accepted that a man could be abused?"

"Yes." Rory took a deep breath. "Help me, Theo?"


"Let's get your stuff and bring it over to our place," Theo said practically. "That's the way out of this mess, one step at a time. It's going to be all right, Rory, I promise."

Theodore walked Rory over to the library's central desk.

"Kid's sick," Theo told the librarian. "I'm going to run him home."

"Feel better, Rory," the librarian said, taking in his pallor. "Thank you, Professor Somerset, that's very kind of you."

Theo packed with the speed and efficiency of a man long accustomed to a nomadic academic's life. Rory packed with grim fairness, taking only those possessions that were unarguably his own. In under an hour they had Theo's car filled to the roof.

"That's everything I want," Rory said hoarsely. He put his keys on the table and slammed the door behind them as they left. "Sonofabitch!" He kicked the locked door angrily.

"Bastard," Theo agreed. "Come on, Rory, let's go home."

Rory was quiet on the ride to Theo and Danny's place. Inside it looked as cluttered and casual as he had remembered it. It had been months since he'd been there, but to his eye it looked like no one had picked up a book or paper in the interim. It was a stark contrast to his and Glen's almost military neatness.

"Why don't we set you up in the front bedroom on the second floor," Theo said. "Come on, let's get your stuff inside."

Rory looked around at the big room, now crammed with his stuff, and sank, exhausted, onto the bed. Every muscle in his body ached from the racing up and down stairs to pack up and then unload, and every fresh bruise from the morning ached twice again as much.

"How do you feel now?" Theo asked."Do you need to see a doctor?"

"No! I'm fine!" Rory snapped. "No!"

"Easy, Rory," Theo said sympathetically. "I was just making sure. It's all right, Rory, you don't have to do anything you don't want to. Shh..." Theo wasn't surprised at Rory's volatile emotions.

Rory's phone chirped.

"What should I do?" Rory looked at Theo, barely suppressed panic in his voice.

"It's up to you, Rory."

"Shit." Rory opened his phone, too well trained not to. "That's because I'm not at home. No, I'm not sick, Glen, I'm just not doing this anymore. It's over. No. No, Glen!" Rory's voice rose as Glen cut him off with a curse.

"He's really, really mad." Rory looked despairingly at Theo.

"You're safe here," Theo said, drawing himself up to his full six feet plus. He looked very certain and very sure of himself. "I'm not going to let him hurt you again." Theo's phone chimed and he glanced at the number. "Hey, Danny."

"I just hung up on Glen. Thank you, Theo," Danny said softly. "How's Rory?"

"He's going to be all right," Theo said.

"That bad, huh," Danny said grimly, hearing the truth in his lover's voice. "Really, Theo, thank you."

"Nothing to thank me for, Danny. The man's an abusive bastard and he's no longer my friend. Rory is our friend." Theo emphasized the "our."

"I love you," Danny whispered. "Gotta go." He smiled as he slipped his phone back in his pocket. He'd missed Rory.

"Come on downstairs, Rory, I'm going to make tea," Theo said, extending his hand to help Rory up.

Rory cringed and Theo withdrew his hand, politely pretending not to have seen.

"Danny got these from the Polish bakery downtown." Theo nodded towards the pound box of krusczyki on the kitchen table. "Why don't you have some while I get lunch started." Theo helped himself to a cookie and began to lick off the powdered sugar.

"Before lunch?" Rory asked reflexively and Theo looked at him, startled. "I'm sorry, Theo."

"We're pretty lax about that sort of thing around here, Rory," Theo said easily. "Don't sweat it. Sit down and be comfortable, just move some of those books out of the way."

"You've got stuff everywhere," Rory said, looking around. "How do you ever find anything?"

"With difficulty. Only half of this mess is mine," Theo laughed. "The rest's Danny's."

"You let him leave his stuff around like this? Don't you have any rules?" Rory demanded. "I thought you were, you know, the same as us. That Danny got... That you... Oh shit, that's why you dropped us. You must think I'm a fucking asshole."

"No, Rory, I don't think that at all. And it was Glen who cut us off. We never, ever stopped caring about you."

"You guessed," Rory said softly.


"That's why you gave me your cell number. And that's why you tried to talk to me, even when I blew you off..."


"Glen grounded me. No phone calls, no email, nothing," Rory said uncomfortably.

"Oh." Theo kept his voice carefully neutral, but he was seething. "For how long, Rory?"

"Till I did better," Rory said miserably.

"That's a pretty stiff punishment," Theo said.

"Not really." Rory shrugged. "Not as long as I honored it."

"He spanked you if you didn't?"

"Oh yeah."

"And you never thought that was a little bit questionable?" Theo asked.

"Of course I did! But you know how it is, it's part of the relationship, you spank Danny!" Rory flushed. "Don't you?"

"At times, but the discipline's only a small part of our relationship. What Glen did was abusive and those were beatings, not spankings, even if he hit your ass and not your face."

"I don't know," Rory said. Part of him wanted to believe Theo, but Glen's litany of justifications still echoed in his head.

"My suggestion to you is, give yourself some time," Theo said, hearing the stress in Rory's voice. "You did the right thing by leaving him. I know that wasn't easy, and I give you a lot of credit for making that choice."

"Yeah?" Rory ran his hand over his face. "I don't know, Theo."

Theo didn't try to convince him. He placed a bowl of minestrone soup and a spoon in front of Rory.

"Go on, don't let it get cold. I'll be right over." Theo turned back to the counter and began to assemble a plate of roast beef and turkey sandwiches.

The soup smelled good. Rory hesitated a moment.

Seating himself across from Rory, Theo started on his own soup.

Theo eating meant he could as well. Rory picked up his own spoon. The soup tasted as good as it smelled. Rory ate steadily, young enough that sorrow didn't dampen his appetite. He yawned.

"You've got to be exhausted," Theo said sympathetically. "Why don't you lie down for a while? There are fresh sheets on the bed, get yourself a towel from the linen closet at the end of the hall if you want to shower. Make yourself at home."

"Thank you," Rory said sincerely. "I can't believe I left him."

"You made a very good choice," Theo said. "You're a strong man."

"I don't know about that," Rory mumbled, his eyes down. "If I were stronger, I wouldn't have gotten into this mess."

"The fact that Glen abused you is not your fault, Rory," Theo said. "And you got out, which to me says you're a strong man."

"Thanks," said Rory softly, trying to speak past the lump in his throat. It had been a long time since he'd thought of himself as anything but weak. "I think I'll lie down like you said."

Early evening, and Danny came flying in the door with his usual enthusiasm.

"Rory's sleeping." Theo kissed Danny back, shushing him in the next breath.

"How is he?" Danny asked quietly.

"Overwhelmed," Theo said. "Take it slow with him, Danny, he's been through a rough time. He's going to need little time to settle down."

"Why didn't he say anything?" Danny demanded. "He wasn't a kid, he could have left, why did he stay? I don't get it."

"He loved Glen; he thought Glen loved him. I'm sure it didn't all go bad at once, Danny, it seldom does. It got crazier as it went along and by the time Rory realized what was happening, his confidence was gone, Glen had cut him off from everyone and he felt trapped," Theo said. "It's classic."

"I just wish he'd told me, Theo." Danny looked so distressed that Theo hugged him tightly. He felt Danny shudder.

"Rory's going to be all right, Danny," Theo promised. "He's out and he's alive, that's what matters. The worst is over."

The voices in the kitchen woke Rory. He came downstairs tentatively, unsure of his welcome.

"Have a good nap?" Theo asked gently.

"Yeah, I guess. Hey, Danny." Rory looked at his old friend. Danny had lost the last traces of adolescent gawkiness over the last year, but his lightly freckled face was as open as ever. There was nothing there but love and concern.

"Hey, Rory. I missed you, man." Danny punched Rory's arm. "It's good to see you again."

"You too," Rory said, letting out the breath he hadn't even been aware he was holding.

"Go wash up, Danny, it's almost dinner time. Rory, you want to set the table for me? Plates over there." Theo gestured toward the china closet.

Rory distributed plates and cutlery and filled water glasses, trying not to cry as the homely chores reminded him both of better times with Glen and of how it had all gone bad.

Danny came downstairs in jeans and tee shirt just as Theo was putting the finishing touches on dinner. Danny reached into the refrigerator and distributed three beers. Rory looked at the bottle Danny handed him in astonishment. Glen had rationed beers; only on weekends and even then, only if he was in a good mood.

"Thanks, Danny," Theo said, snapping the cap off against the counter lip. He took a swig from the bottle. "Nice."

"Here." Danny passed Rory the bottle opener. "Not everyone knows Theo's trick. I can never do it that way, either."

"Thanks, Danny," Rory echoed Theo's words, trying to keep the envy he felt from his voice. Danny had landed in clover, the lucky sonofabitch.

Theo kept the conversation light throughout the meal. It wasn't until after he had retreated to his study, leaving the two non-cooks to finish cleaning up, that Rory and Danny began to really talk.

"I didn't know what Glen was doing to you," Danny said. "You never said shit to me! I thought you were okay, I just thought it was the way you guys did stuff." Danny looked miserable. "Rory, you told me over and over that you were okay with it!"

"I thought I was," Rory said. He began to cry. "I thought it was supposed to be like that! Oh shit!"

"Easy, buddy, easy." Danny slung his arm over Rory's shoulder. With a hard sniff, Rory brought his tears under control.

"Danny? Does Theo still... spank you?" Rory had to know.

"Yeah." Danny flushed red. "Not as often as he used to. I don't act like I used to, Rory," Danny added.

"You graduated and everything?"


"You're so fucking lucky," Rory said hoarsely.


Both men felt it in the same moment. One moment their embrace was supportive, friendly, and the next moment their lips came together in a kiss so passionate it left both of them shaky with need.

"Please," Rory whispered. "I'm so hard, Danny, please, just a quick fuck, that's all, like we used to."

"I don't do the fuck buddy thing anymore," Danny said. "I love Theo, Rory."

"We could make it a three way," Rory said. "Come on, it'd be a kick, ask him, Danny!"

"Theo!" Danny yelled. "Theo, come here!"

Theo bounded back into the kitchen, hearing the urgency in Danny's voice. Took in the expression on his lover's face. Looked at Rory's matching leer and groaned out loud, even as his cock hardened involuntarily.

"This," said Theo, "Is so not a good idea, Danny."

"I want it so bad," Danny begged. "Come on, Theo, we used to make out, side by side, when it was the four of us, three ways it would be even better? Please, Theo, Rory's hot! I'm so hot for you, please..."

"Whoa," said Theo. "Take a cold shower, Danny, you'd regret this more than any of us. The answer is no." Theo knew Danny too well to think Danny would share him so easily.

"You're no fun," Danny groused, but Theo could hear the tiny undercurrent of relief in his voice and knew he'd called it right. Danny trying to nerve himself up to do something he feared exuded enthusiasm; he really didn't know what it was he wanted. Danny had been brought up with very little attention paid to his feelings or needs and Theo had spent a lot of time trying to convince Danny that his inner voice mattered, that he could trust himself.

"What am I supposed to do?" Rory whined. "I'm dying here." He looked meaningfully at the bulge in his jeans.

"Make believe you're sixteen again. Use your hand," Theo said shortly. "Come on, Danny, shower." He gave Danny a gentle shove towards the hallway and turned to follow him.

"Fuck you, Theo," Rory said under his breath. "Fuck you, Danny. Fuck you both." He shoved the table angrily, his voice rising. "Fuck you, you bastards, fuck you both! I hate you, you fucking--"

Rory was screaming, his face red, the tendons in his neck rigid cords and then Theo was alongside him, hugging him, holding him.

"It's all right, Rory, it's all right," Theo repeated, not letting go. Rory's fury faded abruptly, leaving him pale, sweaty and shaky.

"It's going to be all right." Theo eased Rory into the living room and down on the couch. "You're not going to faint on me, are you?" Theo chaffed Rory gently. Rory shook his head, feeling miserably overexposed and wishing fervently that he were somewhere or someone else.

"It's all right," Danny echoed from the doorway, all hint of levity gone. "Rory, we're your friends, we really are."

"Don't look at me," Rory said miserably. "Please, Danny, go away."

"It's all right," Theo repeated. "Danny, can you get a glass of water for Rory, please?" Theo propped Rory up, stuffing an extra throw pillow behind him. "Thanks, Dan. Come Rory, take a sip, that's it."

Rory drank the water slowly, his breathing steadying, his color returning.

"That," Rory said, "Was weird. Shit. I don't know what happened, I just lost it. I'm sorry, guys." He shook his head. "Shit."

"Rory, listen to me," Theo said calmly. "You've got to give yourself time. You're going to be okay."

"I'm not," Rory said, beginning to cry. "Oh shit, oh shit, leave me alone!"

"Do something, Theo," Danny begged, genuinely distressed by his friend's tears. "Help him!"

"All right," Theo said. Seating himself alongside Rory, he began to rub his back in reassuring circles. "Shh, Rory, we're here, we've got you, you're all right now. Shh..." He continued making soothing figure eights until Rory's crying jag ended.

"Come on, Rory, you need to get some sleep," Theo said softly. "Bedtime."

Rory stood up obediently.

"Good night," Danny said.

"Yeah, for you," Rory muttered. "I'm not getting any." He shuffled up the stairs.

Danny's eyes were bright with hurt, his cheeks fiery with embarrassment. Theo pulled him into his arms.

"You didn't do anything, it's not you, Danny," Theo said, "Rory's been through a rough time, we need to cut him a little slack."

"I don't see why we couldn't all..." Danny said.

"It would be taking advantage," Theo said firmly. "We're not going to discuss this. Come on upstairs with me and I'll make sure you don't feel deprived." He gave Danny a long, deep kiss. When they broke apart, Danny's mood had shifted from upset to aroused, and there was no more talk of threesomes that night.

I didn't deserve it; it was all my fault. I was the victim; I was to blame. It wasn't my fault; I deserved it all .

"Shut up," Rory muttered to himself. "Just shut up already!"

"Huh? Did you say something, Rory?" Danny asked.

"Remember the night we met Theo and Glen? Theo spoke to *me* first," Rory said petulantly.

"Rory, you said you were fine!" Danny said, made uneasy by the reminder. "I asked you so many times..."

"I'm not blaming you, Danny. Shit, how the fuck would you have known, I didn't even see it myself." The bitterness in Rory's tone made Danny wince.

"It's hard sometimes, to see it till you're out of it." Danny's voice was low. "My father used to beat me. I never knew any different until I met Theo."

"You never told me that," Rory said. "I guess we weren't such good friends as I thought."

"I don't know," Danny said softly. "You were *my* best friend, Rory."

"Danny." Rory leaned in and kissed Danny on the lips.

"Don't." Danny closed his eyes.

"You taste so sweet," Rory said. "You always did."

"Theo," Danny murmured.

"We asked him," Rory said.

"Yeah." Danny wavered.

"Come on," Rory said, unzipping his fly. "It'll be like before." He pushed his jeans and shorts down, his cock already fully erect. "Come on." He pushed Danny back on the couch. Danny let Rory undo his pants. He arched into Rory's hand, hard and needy, reaching for Rory at the same time.

Their bodies hadn't forgotten. A few hot, silent minutes and both men came, heads thrown back, flushed and panting.

"Well that was fast," Rory smirked.

"Oh shit, I don't believe I did that." Danny was shaking.

"Hey, you asked him if he wanted to get it on with us, too." Rory shrugged. "We just jerked each other off. We've done it a hundred times before."

"That's not the point," Danny whispered. "I cheated on him, Rory. I fucked up big time."

Pulling his pants up swiftly, he left the room.

Theo's going to kill me. Rory began to shiver uncontrollably. He barely made it to the bathroom before throwing up.

"Hey Danny," Theo greeted his brat cheerfully.

"You're going to hate me," Danny said in a strangled voice.

"What's wrong, Danny?"

Danny shook his head.

"Nothing's that bad," Theo coaxed. "Come on, Danny, spill it."

"I did it with Rory," Danny said wretchedly. "I'm sorry, Theo! It just happened, I don't know how!" His eyes flickered nervously over Theo's hands. He wouldn't have blamed Theo for slugging him.

"I'm going upstairs, Danny," Theo said softly. "Don't follow me. I won't be responsible for what I say if you don't leave me alone. I don't want to see you for the next few hours." He slowly mounted the stairs.

Danny sat at the kitchen table, his head on his arms, and felt the ice creep through him. It grew dark outside. Danny thought wistfully of the usual pattern of their evenings, of Theo's cooking, of their easy conversations. Of everything he had put at risk.

Finally, when he could wait no longer, Danny tentatively followed Theo upstairs. Theo was lying on their bed in the dark room, his arm over his face.

"What are you going to do, Theo?" Danny asked softly.

Theo half-sat at his voice and looked at him, and Danny realized with sudden shock that Theo had been crying.

"I'm sorry, Theo!" Danny began to cry too. It was maybe the only right thing he could have done, because Theo opened his arms and then they were clinging to each other, crying, but holding on to each other like lovers.

"Don't leave me, Theo," Danny begged. "Please Theo, I made a mistake. Don't leave me."

"That's a hell of a mistake, Danny," Theo said.

"I know, Theo, but it really was a mistake!" Danny insisted. "Please, Theo, don't leave me." He shivered and backed away, wrapping his arms around himself, looking very small and very sad. "I'm sorry."

"I'm not leaving," Theo said quietly. "I'm not happy either, Danny. This goes way beyond the boundaries."

"You could punish me," Danny whispered. "I'll take anything you think is fair. Theo? You could even use your belt."

Theo knew that Danny despised the belt, that it was not only the pain it caused, but the memories it revived, that made it the worst punishment he could imagine. Angry and hurt as Theo was, he didn't want Danny to worry about that.

"I told you a long time ago, Danny, punishment's not an endurance test. I'm not going to use my belt on you. Ever."

"Can I still sleep here?" Danny was afraid to meet Theo's eyes.

"Yes, Danny," Theo said with a sigh. His initial outrage and hurt were already fading. It wasn't, thought Theo, quite the betrayal he had seen it as.

He loved Danny and he knew Danny loved him. Danny was impulsive; Danny had boundary issues. Danny and Rory had been fuck buddies as well as friends, before Theo, before Glen. Rory was spinning out and desperate for contact. It was easy to see what had happened.

It didn't make it much easier to bear, but Theo did know that Danny hadn't meant it as the betrayal it seemed.

"Come, Danny, it's going to be all right," Theo said, tugging Danny into his arms. "We're not going to break up over this. Shh, Danny, I know, I know."

"I'm sorry! I'm sorry!" Danny cried himself to sleep. He wasn't the only one.

Theo was up early the following morning. Rory was already downstairs, gulping a can of coke. He hadn't been sure if he still had the right to start the coffee maker or touch anything else in the house, after yesterday. He stiffened as Theo entered the kitchen.

"Easy," Theo said reflexively. "I won't hit you."

"Right," Rory said skeptically, keeping his distance.

"Can you be ready in five minutes? I'll give you a ride over to the university if you want."

"Theo, listen, I–"

"I don't feel like talking this morning, Rory. Let it alone."

"Do you want me out?"

"I'm not asking you to leave. We'll talk, Rory, just not this morning," Theo said, starting the coffee. "Want a cup for the car?"

That Theo would still extend that kindness to him was what broke Rory. He sank into a chair, pillowed his head in his arms and began to cry.

"Shh," Theo said, "It's not the end of the world, Rory, shh..." He walked behind Rory and began to rub his back gently. "Shh, you're in no shape for work." He punched in the library on the phone, handed it to Rory. "Tell them you're sick."

Opening his own cell, Theo made a quick call to his secretary, determined there was nothing that absolutely required his presence on campus that morning, and opening the refrigerator, began to scramble eggs.

Danny made his way downstairs slowly, did a double take at Rory.

"I thought you had work."

"I told him to call in sick," Theo said.

"Oh," said Danny, swallowing hard. He'd hoped the discussion he anticipated would be a private affair.

"There's no rush on that," Theo said meaningfully to Danny. "Sit, Danny, we may as well take advantage of being home."

"I feel sick," Rory said.

"Good," Danny answered.


"Stop it," Theo said. "The both of you. Danny, do better, we're way beyond this point. Rory, I'm not your top, so I'm telling you this strictly as a friend. You and Danny made a serious error in judgment. I don't like what you did, but it's not a deal breaker in my book, for either of you. Danny's still my partner; you're still our guest. Eat."

Rory began to cry again midway through the meal.

"Post traumatic shock," Theo said quietly. "Rory, you need some help. I'd like you to see a doctor, Rory."


"You don't have to take my advice, Rory, but I'd be remiss in not at least suggesting you speak to someone."

"You can't make me!" Rory said.

"Are you sure of that? I won't, but I could." Theo shook his head. "Rory, believe me, I could manhandle you into the car, but I wouldn't. I don't have that right."

"Glen didn't even have to do it to me; I did it to myself," Rory said bitterly. "All he had to do was whack my ass a few times and I did whatever he asked. Christ, I'm an asshole, I'm so fucking stupid, I..." He kicked viciously at the table leg. "Ow. Shit."

"I know you feel like that now, but Rory, it isn't true," Theo said softly. "You were abused, Rory, it wasn't your fault. Trust me, Rory, it wasn't your fault."

"How can you stand there and call it abuse when you fucking well know I know you beat Danny's ass when he pisses you off?" Rory glared at Theo.

"I do not beat Danny, ever," Theo said. "I would walk away from this relationship before I'd do that. I would tell Danny to leave me."

"Well, maybe you don't really love him as much as Glen loved me," Rory said. "He'd take me back, I know he would!"

Theo forced himself to breathe deeply rather than react.

"Of course he would," Theo said. "You're a hot young man, who wouldn't want you?

"You don't want me." Rory slumped suddenly.

"Rory, I love Danny," Theo said. "We agreed on a monogamous relationship. I know you're lonely and that you miss Glen and that you think becoming a threesome would be the simplest solution to your problems, but it's not. It wouldn't be fair to Danny, it wouldn't be fair to you, it doesn't feel fair to me."

"You could spank me, if that'd make it all right again," Rory said. "Oh fuck it, I've screwed up everything, you think I'm a fucking stupid sonofabitch. I wish I were dead."

"Shh..." Theo couldn't help but be touched by the absolute misery in Rory's voice. "Rory. I don't have the right to spank you, we don't have any sort of relationship that'd give me that right. And you're upset, you've been through a really bad patch, but you're not stupid and you haven't screwed everything up, you've made some mistakes, maybe, but nothing so bad as it seems to you at the moment. Shh..." Against his better judgment, Theo rubbed Rory's back in gentle circles, moved by his obvious misery.

"I'm sorry," Rory moaned. "Please, Theo, I don't know what to do, you have to help me!"

"Breathe," Theo coached Rory gently. "That's all you have to do, Rory, just breathe. It's going to be okay. We're your friends, we'll help you, nothing that happened last night changed that. Breathe, Rory, it's none of it the end of the world. It's not even close."

"Would you consider a threesome, ever, Theo?" asked Rory hopefully.

"Rory, there's no question about it, you're a sweetheart." Theo shook his head. "But it takes a lot of maturity to make a poly relationship work. I just don't think either you or Danny would be very happy in a relationship where you had to share your Top's attention."

"I need someone to help me," Rory said. "Theo, I can't do this by myself, I can't. Please, Theo."

"I won't, Rory," Theo said gently. "I love Danny."

"And you don't give a shit about me."

"That's not so, Rory, I like you very much. But you're not my boyfriend and I'm not going to have sex with you and I won't take the responsibility for punishing you."

"Oh." Rory gave up for the moment. He wasn't fully convinced, but he sensed this was not the time to press his luck further.

"I'll see you in my study, Danny," Theo said. "Whenever it's convenient for you." He put the last of the dishes in the sink and walked out of the kitchen.

"Shit," Danny said succinctly.

"Are you just going to walk in there and get your ass beat?" Rory asked in disbelief.

Danny looked at Rory for a long moment.

"Of course," Danny said simply. "I love Theo, Rory. It'd be so much worse if we didn't do this." He walked through the dining room, into Theo's study, and closed the door behind him. Theo was already seated on the couch. He put his book aside and looked at Danny expectantly.

"I'm sorry," Danny said. "I'm really, really sorry, Theo." He undid his jeans and stepped out of them. With a sigh, he draped them over the far arm of the couch. Slowly and unhappily, he lowered himself over Theo's waiting lap. "I'm sorry, Theo!"

"I know you are," Theo said, resting his hand on Danny's boxer clad butt. "That doesn't change anything that happened though, does it?"

"I know," Danny said tearfully. "I deserve to be punished. But Theo, it's really, really not fair! How come I'm getting a spanking and Rory's not?"

"Danny." Theo stroked his lover's back. "If you don't know the answer to that question, we're not going to do this today."

"No, I know! But you're supposed to like me more!" Danny began to cry before Theo's hand had even descended once.

"Shh..." Theo's voice was gentle. This was a hot spot for Danny, Theo knew. Fairness. Danny felt the world was chronically unfair, and unfair particularly to him. It had taken many discussions, both face to face and with Danny face down over Theo's knees, to make a dent in Danny's sense of disenfranchisement, and Theo was aware that Danny's petulance was not a small thing.

"If you *love* me and you *like* him, how come I'm getting spanked and he's not?" Danny wailed.

Theo didn't attempt to answer the question while Danny was mid-tantrum. He eased Danny upright and into his lap and stroked Danny's back gently, letting Danny know that he was not going to be abandoned, that he was there, that he was held, but he didn't try to talk until Danny had cried and screamed himself out.

"Better?" Theo asked softly, as Danny subsided into quiet sniffles.

"I'm sorry, Theo," Danny said hoarsely.

"I know you are, baby." Theo also knew these meltdowns were far harder on Danny than they were on him. He had never seen any point in punishing Danny for them. He stroked Danny's hair back from his wet, sweaty face. "Stay put, I'm going to bring you a drink." He rolled Danny onto the couch. "Right back," Theo promised.

Rory was hovering near the door and he took advantage of Theo's trip to the kitchen to check on his friend.

"What did he do to you?" Rory asked.

Danny blinked.

"Nothing yet," he said hoarsely.

"Nothing?" Rory glared at Danny. "You liar! You were screaming your head off, what the fuck are you talking about?"

"Go away," Danny said fretfully. "Go *away,* Rory, you don't know anything. Go, please." He curled into himself.

"Oh man, what did he do to you?" Rory asked, worried now.

"Rory, I haven't even spanked him yet," Theo said.

"I don't understand," Rory said.

"Go away!" Danny moaned. "Theo, make him go away!"

"Shh," Theo said, torn between both men's needs. Rory might not be his responsibility, but he was confused and upset and Theo felt he needed to offer some explanation, some support. At the same time, he knew how vulnerable and exposed his own partner felt.

And he hadn't even punished Danny yet. Theo shook his head, wondering at his own lack of foresight.

"Rory, sit down," Theo said, seating himself alongside Danny. Rory sat down at Theo's feet. All right, Theo thought. I can deal with this.

"Danny, sit up," Theo coaxed, helping his lover sit and propping him against the cushions. "Take a few sips, that's it, breathe, you're all right."

"You're giving him *soda*?" Rory was incredulous.

"Shut up! You asshole, just shut up!" Danny yelled."You're not my fucking Top, Rory, shut up."

"Rory, be quiet," Theo said. "Danny, drink your Sprite. Rory, soda wasn't illegal last time I looked."

"Glen never let me have soda," Rory said softly. "Sometimes I snuck a coke at lunch."

Danny and Theo looked at each other, dismayed.

"I'm sorry I cursed at you, Rory," Danny said. "I'm all right, Rory, it's really true, Theo didn't spank me. Yet," he added. "I'm probably still going to be paddled. But I was crying because I was upset, not because I was punished."

"Glen didn't like me to make a lot of noise," Rory said. "It was one of his rules."

"Theo?" Danny looked at his Top, worried.

"Make all the noise you need to, Danny." Theo ruffled Danny's hair. "Here's the place for it, safe in your own home with me."

"I don't think you really know what you're doing," Rory muttered.

"I don't think it's really any of your business," Theo said softly. "It works for Danny, it works for me, keep out of it, Rory."

"But..." Rory buried his face against Theo's leg and began to cry, hoping that the understanding Theo showed Danny would extend to him.

"I know, Rory, I know. It's very hard," Theo said softly, stroking Rory's hair.

"Please, Theo, Danny, I need you guys," Rory sobbed. "Let me in."

"Oh shit, Theo, help him. He needs you to." Danny rolled over, leaving a space next to him on the couch. "Come here, Rory."

"This is not a good idea," Theo said, standing up. "Rory, stay here if you want to talk or go to your room if you'd rather not; it's your choice. Danny, go to our room, now, please."

"But–" protested Danny.

"But–" protested Rory.

"Danny, you need to listen to me," Theo said, ignoring Rory's protest. "Go to our room now."

Theo very seldom gave orders; when he did, Danny didn't ignore them twice. He headed obediently toward the stairs.

"Please come up soon, Theo." Danny swallowed hard and forced himself to obey Theo's command.

"I'm sorry! I need you to help me! Theo, please, you don't get it," Rory said, trying to sound reasonable, all too aware that his voice was rising and tears were starting again.

"I think I do," Theo said gently. "You've been through a rough time, I know that and so does Danny. No one's angry at you, Rory, just try and keep it together a little, okay? I'm going to make us some tea. Come on, why don't you sit in the living room for a bit?"

Rory sniffed hard. Theo's easy, level-headed approach was eminently reassuring. For the first time Rory got a sense of what it felt like, to be taken kindly, lovingly in hand. It wasn't Glen's rigidity; it was a gentle push to live up to the best that was in him. He did as Theo had requested.

Theo came back into the living room holding two cups of tea. He handed one to Rory. Rory sipped it, it was strong and sweet, and suddenly Rory remembered an early dinner at Theo and Danny's house, when he had still loved Glen, and the taste of the same tea...it was too much. Rory fled for the bathroom and doubled over the toilet as his heaving stomach emptied itself.

Theo sighed. He had meant to bring Danny the second cup, but he couldn't leave Rory to be sick without being available to help. He put the cup down and waited quietly for the sounds to stop.

Rory didn't reemerge; Theo went to look for him. Rory was slumped on the floor, pale and sweaty. Theo flushed the toilet and closed the lid, helped Rory to sit up on it and handed him a glass of water.

"Rinse your mouth," he instructed, and Rory did, spitting into the sink. "Again, babe, that's right."

"I'm sorry," Rory said dispiritedly. "I'm sorry, Theo."

"Shh, you didn't do anything wrong. Shh..." Theo wrung out a washcloth in cool water and wiped Rory's face carefully. Rory shivered. "Shh, I know it's cold, we'll get you warm in a minute. Shh..."

The instinct to care for someone hurt ran deep in Theo. He could no more abandon Rory to his own devices than he could make himself prefer women to men. Taking Rory by the arm, he helped him to his feet and upstairs to his bedroom.

"Why don't you get into bed," Theo suggested, turning his back tactfully. "You're worn to a frazzle, Rory, a nap will do you good."

Rory undressed and got under the covers. It felt wonderful to stretch out; even more wonderful to have Theo take charge, to not have to sort anything out, to be helped along.

"Theo? I just wanted... I wish..."

"I know, Rory. But it's a bad idea. Shh, just rest now. Everything's fine." Theo smoothed Rory's hair from his face and straightened his blankets before leaving the room.

Danny was curled on their bed, reading. He looked up as Theo came in. Theo stretched out on the bed and Danny shoved his books aside and curled into Theo's arms.

"Love you," Danny whispered. "I'm sorry, Theo, I really am."

"I know," Theo said. "Rory's a pretty determined young man and he likes his own way."

"Yeah," Danny said. "He's always been like that. Theo, we'd done it before, you know?"

"I remember," Theo said.

"Just fuck buddies," Danny clarified. "I mean, I'm not saying that's an excuse, but Theo, I wouldn't have done it with anyone new, you know what I mean? Not that it was right, but..."

"In your mind, it didn't really count as cheating," Theo said.

"Yeah. God, I wish you weren't going to paddle me." Danny sniffled. "Please don't, Theo?"

"Danny, I spank you for little things. I think it's fair to paddle you for cheating." Theo shook his head, not quite believing he was having this conversation.

"I'm sorry!" Danny began to cry. "Theo. If it were anyone but Rory, I wouldn't have, you have to believe me. Please, Theo, don't hate me."

"I don't hate you," Theo reassured Danny. "I love you very, very much. And because I love you, I'm hurt and very disappointed in you. It's going to be a long time until I fully trust you again."

Theo's words made Danny cry harder. He knew Theo was telling him the truth; he bitterly regretted his actions.

Danny should be upset, Theo reminded himself. Keeping that thought uppermost in his mind, Theo tugged their small leather paddle from his pocket where he'd stowed it earlier that day. He ran his hand over the surface automatically, checking for any rough spots or cracks. No, it was fine.

Seating himself on the bed, Theo helped his thoroughly miserable Danny arrange himself across his lap. Theo stripped Danny of his flamboyant boxers. They slipped off easily.

"Don't, Theo," Danny begged. "Oh Theo, please!"

"Sorry, kiddo, you have this coming." Theo wasted no time, just tucked Danny securely into him and brought the paddle down hard.

Danny never stopped crying, even for a moment, but Theo knew that being able to cry was important to Danny. Stoicism wasn't a good sign with Danny; it had only been a means of avoiding still more punishment at his father's hands. Danny still had faint white scars above and below his knuckles, from biting his fist to keep from crying out. It was one of the habits Theo had put an end to.

Rory listened intently to the telltale sounds of somebody getting a very sound paddling, his own buttocks and stomach tensing spasmodically. He was very glad when the noises stopped.

But relieved as he was not to have been the one punished, Rory knew he would have accepted anything if he could have curled up in Theo's bed and been loved afterward.

It wasn't fair, Rory thought bitterly. They had both spotted the two older men that first night; he shouldn't have gotten Theo and I...

Shouldn't have chosen Glen. But I did, fucking asshole that I am. Glen, clean cut, with ripped muscles. The better dresser, the first to put his hand on his wallet. So strong, so in control, so sure of himself. Rory fell asleep remembering how Glen had touched him for the first time, that first night, when it was still good.

"Rory? Wake up, Rory, it's a dream, you're dreaming," Theo said, shaking Rory's shoulder. "Come on, Rory, wake up, that's a good boy."

"I can't! Please don't make me!" Rory surfaced slowly. "I'm sorry, Glen..." Not Glen, not with that gentle hand, that gentle voice. "Theo?" Rory asked cautiously.

"Yes, just me. Shh, you were having a nightmare. Shh, easy now." Theo cuddled Rory close. "You're okay now, I've got you, you're safe."

Rory shivered and Theo reached for the blanket and draped it over Rory's shoulders.

"You don't have to do that," Rory said grouchily, in a tone Theo recognized, having heard it many times from Danny, a combination of resentment and gratitude.

"I know," Theo said comfortably. "Come here, Rory, I've got you now."

Rory buried himself in Theo's arms. Theo gave Rory a hard hug.

"You want a cup of tea?"

"Ugh, no, I can't ." The thought reminded Rory of his earlier nausea.

"I'll make you hot chocolate then. Come on, Rory, let's go downstairs."

Danny woke to the voices in the kitchen. Still a little shaky after having been paddled, he made his way down, hesitating for a moment in the kitchen doorway before Theo spotted him.

"I'm sorry, Danny, did we wake you?" Theo apologized. "Rory was having a bad dream; I thought he could use something warm to drink." He took Danny's hand, drawing him into the kitchen. "You okay, kiddo? I didn't think you'd wake up." He smoothed Danny's hair, studying his expression.

"I only woke up because my butt hurt when I rolled over," Danny whined, but he couldn't hide his smile.

"Um, thanks for the cocoa. I'm going back to bed." Rory fled the kitchen, feeling both in the way and bitterly envious. He'd no more have teased Glen after a paddling than he'd have taken a bone from a pit bull. Glen would have paddled him a second time for a crack like Danny's.

"Is he okay?" Danny asked Theo uncertainly, looking after his friend.

"I don't think so." Theo grimaced. "It's not going to be a quick thing, Danny. Rory was with Glen for close to two years. It takes time to bounce back from something like that."

"You could help him. We could help him..." Danny's voice trailed off. "Theo? You're not mad anymore?"

"I'm not angry, Danny. You've had all the punishment you're going to get; let's move on. I'm still a little upset, I think that's only natural, but I'm willing to accept that you made a mistake. We're not going to dwell on this, brat. Now come back to bed." Theo lead the way upstairs. They climbed into bed, Danny cuddling close to Theo.

"Theo? Could it have happened to me? If I'd gone home with Glen instead of with you?" Danny's question hung in the air.

"Don't go there, Danny, there's no point." Theo stroked his hand over his brat's back. "You're mine now."

"Okay." Danny closed his eyes. "Love you, Theo."

"I love you, Danny." Theo lay awake, remembering the first months of their relationship. It hadn't been smooth sailing at the beginning...

"No no no no no no no..." Danny wailed. I wasn't planning to get caught, he thought, though he knew better than to offer that while Theo was peppering his ass with stinging spanks for his failure to attend the "optional" study sessions. Not so optional, Danny winced. "Theo, stop, OW OW OW!"

Theo shook his head ruefully and continued his assault on his lover's already glowing backside, going for the lower slope of his buttocks and the tops of his thighs. If Danny had to sit on a pillow for a day or two to study comfortably, it'd serve him right.

Finally it was over.

"All done, all done now," Theo crooned, helping Danny stand and rising to draw him into a tight hug. "Poor baby, I know."

"I'm sorry, Theo, I'm sorry!" Danny sniffled into Theo's chest.

"I know, baby. Bed now, Danny." Theo walked Danny up the stairs to their bedroom. Flipping back the covers, he drew Danny carefully down on top of him, mindful of his sore and stinging ass.

"You don't hate me? You don't think I'm just some fucking faggot?" Danny whispered.


"You're fine, Danny," Theo said. "You're just what I want, Danny. I love you."

"Me too." Danny was crying hard now, trusting Theo not to slap him in reproach..

To be spanked hurt, but to be allowed to express that hurt, and to be loved despite his tears, felt better than anything he'd ever imagined.

You're a hell of a lot finer than the man who raised you to doubt yourself, Theo thought, rubbing Danny's back. You're smart and you're a sweetheart and I'm going to take good care of you.

It pained Glen to admit it, but Rory was a disappointment. Glen prided himself in his skill at choosing the best restaurants, movies, vacations and furniture, yet somehow he had chosen this deliberate provocateur of a boyfriend, who challenged his authority repeatedly.

"We have a contract. I wrote it down; you signed it." Glen tapped the paper thoughtfully, eyeing Rory.

"I'm sorry?" Rory tried his nicest smile, his stomach flip flopping with mingled desire and dread. He wanted this, he did, but... "Give me another chance, Glen?"

"Don't ask me for a second chance; I don't give them. You've got a whipping coming and you're going to get it," Glen said coldly. "Take your pants down and bend over the couch."

Rory's skin prickled at the scathing, masterful voice. He was a little scared, truth be told. But oh God, to be taken in hand by someone who knew what it was about...

The actual punishment was nothing like he'd envisioned it. It hurt like fucking hell.

Glen whipped him with his doubled belt, hard and long, pausing only to get his breath. It was only when it became clear that the whipping wouldn't end until he broke down, that Rory cried, miserably confused and humiliated.

"You won't disobey me again, will you?" Glen shook his head contemptuously; he'd hoped Rory could take more than that.

"No, sir."

It irked Glen, how Rory cringed from his raised hand after that. It irked him enough that he ordered him to stop, and spanked him, hard, when he didn't.

After awhile Rory learned to avoid flinching. Most of the time.

"I don't like it," Theo said to Danny, as Glen canceled the foursome's plans yet again. "Something's not right. Have you seen Rory around at all?"

"He dropped a couple classes, I think, but he's fine," Danny said. "I asked him, Theo, I did what you said. They're just busy, is all, and Glen said he could cut back to part time. Full time's a lot of work, Theo! Maybe I could take just two classes next semester..."

"No," Theo said. "School's your job and it's a full time job. Everything else is secondary. This isn't open for discussion, Danny."

"All right," Danny grumbled. He'd known Theo's answer even before asking. But talking about Rory made him nervous. Rory hadn't been very friendly lately and Danny's feelings were hurt. Theo's solicitousness seemed misplaced; Danny considered that he was far more deserving of concern than Rory.

Theo's fears were not assuaged by Danny's report. He'd known Glen long enough to feel entitled to push him for answers.

"Thanks for meeting me, Glen," Theo said, as Glen slid into the booth across from him. "It's been awhile since we've seen you guys. What's been up? How's Rory?"

"Rory's been giving me a hard time." Glen grimaced. "Forget going out with friends and relaxing; I've got to stay on top of him every moment. Damn good thing he's a good fuck. What about Danny? Are you getting through to him with those spankings they write about online?" Glen asked. "Aren't you ever tempted to just beat the shit out of him?"

"Never. Do you really feel that way, Glen?" Theo asked, looking straight into Glen's eyes. "Because if you do, I think you need to take a hard look at what's going on between you and Rory. You may not be right for each other."

"Ah, fuck it," Glen said. "Rory's such a little baby about the discipline. Well, fuck it, we made a deal. I support him, shit, I'm letting him work just part time while he goes to school; he does what I want him to. The least he can do is keep up his end of it or take his medicine when he doesn't!"

"Glen, if he's not learning from the discipline and you're not growing closer, I think you have to consider this may not be right for you. There's a line, Glen, and you sound awfully close to it," Theo said. "The details of the discipline may differ from household to household, but you have to have a basic respect and empathy for your partner and I'm not hearing that."

"Jesus, you sanctimonious prick! Forget it, Theo, I don't need to hear this shit from you." Glen put a twenty dollar bill on the table. "My treat; I'm not the one living on a junior faculty salary. Rory's grounded until his behavior improves, Theo. Don't interfere again." He turned and walked out the door.

Theo hoped fervently that he had not made matters worse.

Rory started at the sound of the front door closing. It had not been a good day. It had not been a good week.

"No kiss?" Glen's face creased in the half smile that usually made Rory's cock harden a little. Today it only made Rory feel emptier. "What's the matter, brat?"

"It's not working for me," Rory said softly. He'd been folding the contents of the laundry basket, not certain whether to put his clothes back into his drawers, or pack his bags. "I don't know what to do, Glen. It's just no good, what we're doing. I'm sorry."

"Don't make such a big deal out of it, Rory," Glen said, crossing his arms over his chest. He leaned against the doorframe, making certain Rory wouldn't be able to slip past him easily. "I wouldn't have spanked you that hard if you hadn't pushed me, Rory. I love you, you know that, right? Come on, I'll take you to dinner."

"Glen, it's not that I don't love you–"

"Then there's no problem. Come on, Rory, don't make a federal case out of it. Maybe I shouldn't have spanked you, but you're not really hurt, are you?"

"No, but..." Rory's voice trailed off. His stomach hurt. He felt shamed by the fear the memory of the beating he'd gotten inspired. Shamed at his own weakness. Tempting, then, to trust Glen to explain it to him, to make it okay. And trust was what these relationships were about, wasn't it? And he'd let Glen spank him, he hadn't fought, he hadn't called the cops...maybe it wasn't a big deal, that he'd been scared. That Glen had scared him. Maybe..."

"Come on, Rory, stop sulking. We'll get a nice steak and come back and..." Glen smiled at Rory. "Come on, Rory, people make mistakes. We're going to be fine if you just trust me."

"Well," Rory said indecisively. His ass wasn't really that sore. Maybe Glen was right, maybe he had to just trust him on this. Maybe it wouldn't happen again.

It didn't, at least not right away.

"Glen's abusing him," Theo said, his teeth clenched tight. "Danny, Rory's got to get the hell out of there."

"Rory says he's fine, Theo! You worry too much." Danny cuddled closer to Theo. "How come you care so much about him anyway? Do you want to trade me for him?"

"Danny, that's a foolish thing to say. I love you. I'm just concerned because Rory, like you, is young." Theo stroked Danny's hair gently. "I don't like the vibe I'm getting from Glen. Something's wrong there."

"Rory can be a prick sometimes," Danny said softly. "Like me. You wouldn't want someone second-guessing you, would you?"

"Something's not right," Theo said. "I can feel it."

"You can 'feel' it," Danny mimicked. "What are you, a girl?" He poked Theo, wanting to shift his attention and his mood. It worked, but scarcely the way Danny had expected.

"Where'd you pick that one up, Danny?" Theo asked, capturing Danny's hand.

"Huh?" Danny was baffled; he'd heard the insult so many times that he didn't really *hear* it anymore.

"'What are you, a girl?'" Theo laced his fingers through Danny's. "What does that mean to you?"

"Nothing! I don't want to fight, Theo." Danny tensed. "I'm sorry, okay?"

"Shh..." Theo softened his tone. "We're not fighting, we're talking; there's a difference. I just want you to think a moment about what you said. Words are important, Danny. Feelings aren't the sole property of women any more than intelligence and strength are the sole property of men." Theo cuddled Danny closer, rubbing his back, waiting.

"My father used to say that," Danny said finally. "Whenever I cried, or let stuff get to me that he didn't think mattered. I think he must have known I was gay from the beginning."

"Ah." Theo was quiet. "I don't know, Danny, it sounds like he was just looking for a way to hurt you. Shh, I've got you now, it's all right. Shh..." Danny leaned into Theo and Theo held him for a solid quarter of an hour. Neither man spoke.


"I think I'm going to run, Theo." Danny rose gracefully to his feet, stretching unselfconsciously. "You want to come too?"

"Go ahead, Danny, it will make you feel better. I'll be here when you get back." Theo directed an easy play spank at Danny's butt. "Have fun."

Two years, Theo thought, where did the time go? He and Danny had grown together, one strengthening the other, while Rory had been left to Glen's untender mercies. That he had known in his heart that Rory was being abused and had not found a way to intervene sooner gave Theo pause. His unhappy musings were interrupted by the shrill of the phone.

"Thank God for campus security," Danny said grimly, hanging up the phone.

"What happened? Is Rory all right?" Theo asked. "If that bastard touched him--"

"He's okay, Theo," Danny interrupted. "Glen was tailing him. One of the security guards noticed his car before anything happened. That sonofabitch had better stay the fuck away from Rory if he knows what's good for him."

Danny snatched his keys from the hook, fuming.

"Just keep your eyes on the road." Theo waved Danny out the door.

"I'll be careful," Danny promised. He was a good, focused driver, both swift and attentive. It took less than twenty minutes for him to retrieve Rory from the campus's security office.

"You okay?" Danny asked.

"Yeah. Thanks for coming," Rory said diffidently. "Is Theo mad at me?"

"Mad at you? Rory, he's worried about you!"

"He warned me to check for Glen's car before I left the library," Rory said. "He told me a couple of times."

"He still won't be mad. I promise." There was no uncertainty in Danny's voice; he knew Theo.

"You're so lucky," Rory said succinctly. He eased himself into the passenger seat and leaned back, closing his eyes. "I feel so sick."

"Shit." Danny's stomach did its own set of queasy flip flops. He felt totally out of his element. Theo would know what to do, he reminded himself. "We'll be home soon."

Theo ushered both men into the house. He gave Danny a quick, discreet kiss before turning his attention to Rory. Overriding Rory's protests, Theo settled him on the couch and brought him his supper.

His stomach unknotting as the truth of Danny's promise sank in, Rory let himself sink into the warmth that surrounded him.

"Thanks, Theo, that was good. I feel better now." Rory leaned back against the piled cushions on the couch and put his empty dish aside.

"I'm glad," Theo said gently. "Rory, I know we talked about this possibility. What did we agree?"

"That if I saw his car, I would stay inside the library and call you to come get me," Rory said softly. "I didn't look, Theo. I'm sorry."

"The most dangerous time for a person in an abusive relationship is when he or she tries to leave it. It's a known fact, Rory," Theo lectured.

Rory hung his head.

"I'm not going to say anything more," Theo said. "Thank God you didn't get hurt. Just be more careful, Rory. I don't want anything else to happen to you."

"I'll meet you after work tomorrow," Danny said.

"You don't have to–" Rory began.

"That sounds like a good idea," Theo said. "You're a good friend, Danny."

"Yeah," Rory said. "You are. Thank you, Danny."

"I'm a prince." Danny smirked at both men, needing to lighten the atmosphere. They laughed on cue.

Rory threw a pillow at Danny; Danny fired it back. Theo shook his head ruefully; two pillows winged him from opposite sides. He thunked one over Danny's head and tossed the other one back at Rory.

For a few minutes the living room was chaos. And then they were on the floor, giddy with relief at Rory's narrow escape from danger. Theo was pinned on the carpet, Danny straddling him, Rory attempting to bop him with one of the sofa cushions. Unseating Danny, Theo flipped him over, pinning him. Rory landed on Theo's back, trying to pull him off Danny, but only succeeded in being pinned as well.

 All three men were panting. All three men were hard.

"We really should talk about this first..." Theo said weakly, as Rory twined his arms around his neck, sealed his lips to Theo's and kissed him.

"Please," Danny moaned, arching his back, his cocked pressed to Theo's in bruising need. "Please Theo please please please?"

"Please!" Rory interrupted their kiss, adding his voice to Danny's.

Theo wavered, the sweet drug of sensation almost blinding him to the intimate danger of what they were doing. Using every last ounce of willpower he possessed, Theo pulled back from the abyss.

"No, Rory." Theo disengaged himself and stood slowly. "Stop begging, Danny, the answer is still no."

Rory and Danny looked at each other and shrugged. They'd been close to swaying Theo and they knew it. Theo's body didn't lie; Theo had been as hard as they were.

"Put the room back together," Theo said heavily. "I'll make us some tea. We need to talk."

Seated at the dining room table, the three men looked everywhere but at each other.

"It would have been hot," Danny said regretfully.

"I love you," Rory said hoarsely. "I would have made it good for you. I love Danny and I love you, Theo. Please, Theo, let me in."

"I don't think either of you understand how complicated a triad can be," Theo said quietly. "I've never lived in one, but I've studied people who have, and it can't just be about three way sex if it's going to work."

"I know that." Rory all but rolled his eyes. "I understand what a discipline relationship's about, Theo. I'll listen to you. I'll follow your rules. I'll be good, Theo."

"Rory, that's not the issue here." Theo doubted that Rory had any idea what a good discipline relationship really was.

"It is too the issue," Rory insisted. "Please, Theo, give me a chance."

"It's not just your choice, Theo," Danny said.

"This is my call, Danny," Theo said softly.

"Please, Theo," Danny was pale and determined. "We need to talk about this. Theo, it's important."

"All right, Danny," Theo said. He walked behind Danny's chair and leaning over, gave him a quick, reassuring hug. "I hear you, Danny. Rory, we're going to table this discussion for now. It's not over; I'm just postponing it."

"What are you going to do to Danny?" Rory asked protectively.

"I'm not going to punish him, if that's what you're asking," Theo said. "Not that it's really any of your business, but under these circumstances, I can understand why you're concerned. Danny has the right to ask me for a conversation. That's not a challenge to my authority, Rory, it's what couples who love each other do."

"I wouldn't know," Rory said stiffly, flushing red. "I'm going for a walk."

"What's on your mind?" Theo asked quietly. "Can you tell me about it?"

"I want to try it," Danny said to Theo.

"Why, Danny?" Theo asked. "For the sex? Is it that good?"

"No," Danny flushed. "It's not that, Theo. It's that I feel so bad, I was happy with you all the time he was getting the shit beat out of him, and I didn't do anything to help him." Danny struggled for control. "I feel like I owe him."

"There are other ways to make amends, Danny. Guilt's not a solid basis for a relationship," Theo said gently. "I'll talk to him about school, I'm willing to pay his tuition so that he can finish up. That's money I would have spent on us, so it's from you, too."

"It doesn't feel like enough, Theo," Danny said.

"It's as far as I feel comfortable going, Danny," Theo said. "I think I'm as open minded as the next person to alternative lifestyles–"

"Too open to some of them," Danny muttered.

"Just be glad I'm not into whips and chains," Theo teased. He waited, hoping for a laugh that didn't come, before continuing. "Adding a third person to a relationship is a huge commitment. There's no going back once you've done it."

"Rory's my friend. You've always liked him. Please, Theo?"

"This just seems very sudden to me, Danny," Theo said. "I thought monogamy was important to both of us."

"I like looking at threeways online," Danny said defensively. "It's not like I never thought about it before."

"Sex is just part of it. Rory's going to need a lot of attention and time until he settles in anywhere, Danny," Theo warned him. "I think you'd find it very frustrating."

"I find *this* frustrating!" Danny glared at Theo.

"I know you do, Danny, and I'm very proud of the way you're handling it," Theo said mildly.

"You are?" Danny searched Theo's face for signs of mockery.

"Very. Telling me that you want to talk about it. Talking it through with me. I'm very, very impressed, Danny."

"I love you, Theo," Danny whispered, burying his face in Theo's shoulder. "I love you so much."

"Well, I love you too, Danny." Theo rubbed Danny's back gently. "Shh. Shh. It's going to work out, you'll see. It's going to be all right."

"Are you going to register for classes this week, Rory?" Theo asked that evening.

"I guess." Rory was silent for a minute. "The semester's starting in a few weeks. It took me the last two years to do 24 credits. I still need another 36 credits to graduate. I'm never going to be done, Theo."

"You could do that in a year and a half if you went full time," Theo said. "Why don't you quit the library gig and finish up, Rory? I'll pay your tuition."

"Why? Why would you do this for me, Theo?"

"I'd like to see you finish the degree, Rory. For two reasons: First of all, for yourself, because it gives you more options." Theo took a deep breath. "And secondly, selfishly, because if things go any further between the three of us, I need to know that you're staying with us because you love us and want to be with us, not because you haven't got the credentials to make your own way."

"Oh." Rory swallowed hard. Glen had authorized two classes a term and resented contributing for those. "Thank you, Theo. I don't know what to say."

"'Thank you' works for me," Theo teased Rory gently, lightening the mood. "How about going to sleep now, Rory?"

"Sleep sounds good," Rory said huskily. "Theo, I...wow. I didn't expect this."

"I'll always help you if you'll let me, Rory," Theo said quietly. "I wish you had felt you could let me help you with Glen."

"It didn't seem so bad, at first?" Rory shook his head. "I don't know how to explain. I thought I was fine, that I could handle it. Could handle him. And then all of a sudden I couldn't." He closed his eyes. "All of a sudden I couldn't seem to do anything at all."

"Shh, you did the right thing," Theo said. "You kept your head and in the end you got out. You need to give yourself some credit for the fact that you did leave."

"You know what scares me, Theo? If you hadn't been at the library that morning, I don't know if I would have left."

"Rory, let it go. You did leave, that's the important thing."

"I'm crying!" Rory swiped angrily at his overflowing eyes. Theo drew him onto the couch and they sat thigh to thigh. Rory let his head rest on Theo's shoulder.

"I don't feel good, Theo."

"Shh, I know, Rory. I know." Theo watched Rory's dark hair flutter in the small exhaled breaths that accompanied each of his soothing words. Such a sweet young man, really. "It's going to be all right."

"I'm scared, Theo!" Rory shivered, cuddling appealingly closer.

"It's all right, Rory. I've got you." Theo knew he was being manipulated, but it didn't matter. Rory's need for love and for support was genuine. "All right then. Come on now, upstairs. Let's go see Danny." He led Rory to their bedroom.

Danny was sprawled face down on their bed, reading a paperback. He looked up as Rory hesitated in the doorway, Theo's hand under his elbow.

"Please, Danny?" Rory licked his lips. "Please?"

"Oh yeah," Danny said, sitting up and dropping his book over the edge of the bed.

"Are you sure?" Theo asked Danny. "I mean are you *absolutely* sure? Because after this, there's no going back."

"Oh yeah. I'm sure." Danny stripped his tee shirt over his head. Lifting his hips, he pushed his boxers down and kicked them to the floor.

Theo and Rory exchanged glances and without words began to undress.

Clothed, Theo gave the impression of scholarly asceticism. Naked, his rangy frame was more substantial than Rory had imagined. Rory took in the red pelt covering Theo's muscled chest, the darker line of hair from navel to the thick patch surrounding his thick cock. Theo, he realized for the first time, was a very powerful man. Every bit as much so as Glen, Rory thought, suddenly anxious.

Rory's well developed muscles testified to some serious gym time. The skin sagged slightly over them, a clear giveaway that there had been scant time allotted to workouts of late. Theo guessed Glen had had something to do with that, too.

Danny's wolf whistle interrupted Theo and Rory's sizing each other up.


"Are you just going to look at each other?" Danny batted his eyes campily. He stroked his cock, watching them expectantly.

Theo walked to the bed. Bracing his hands on the mattress, he leaned in and kissed Danny. Danny let Theo tumble him backward onto the pillows. He sighed with pleasure as Rory seated himself on the bed alongside them. Rory let his hand rest lightly on Danny's groin, fingers splayed on Danny's thigh.

"Please," Danny said, shifting so that his cock nudged Rory's hand. Keeping his eyes on Theo, Rory caught Danny's hardness in his fist.

"Lie down," Danny moaned. "Theo, hold me! Rory, don't stop there!"

Theo lay down alongside Danny, wrapping his arms possessively around him, spooning him tightly. Danny writhed in pleasurable agony in Theo's arms, his buttocks grinding into Theo's crotch, as Rory worked his hand over Danny's cock. With the sureness of experience, Rory pumped Danny over the edge.

Fascinated and turned on by Danny's spilling orgasm, Theo's hand dropped to his own cock. Locking eyes with Rory, he began to work himself slowly and methodically. Rory watched pre cum bead at the tip of Theo's cock and began to stroke his own cock at the same time.

Theo brought himself to orgasm just after Rory did, smugly satisfied at Rory's incoherent moans. Rolled onto his back, panting.

"God that was beautiful." Danny yawned and snuggled into Theo's shoulder. His eyes closed and he was out.

"Beautiful," Theo echoed with a smile. "Danny, are you sure you have enough room?"

Danny spread out still further, encroaching even more on Theo's space.

"Kind of takes up the whole bed, doesn't he?" Theo indicated the sleeping Danny to Rory, laughing ruefully.

"I could sleep in my room?" Rory tried not to sound hurt.

"Rory, you belong right here." It was a big bed and Theo had been joking; in reality there was plenty of room for three. "Come on, let's get comfortable." Theo straddled Danny and slid him to the side of the bed. Reclaiming the center of the mattress, Theo spooned around Rory. He wrapped his arm around Rory's waist and tugged him into a secure embrace. Rory tensed as his buttocks met Theo's hard-muscled thighs.

"It's okay, Rory, shh, we're just going to sleep," Theo soothed his new lover, saddened by Rory's reaction. "I'm not going to take you like that, don't worry."


"You know?" Rory whispered.

"You're not very hard to read, Rory," Theo said gently. "That, and it's not so uncommon. When someone's been abused physically by a partner, there's usually a sexual element, too."

"Shut up!" Rory was furious. "Shut up shut up shut up–" Panic in Rory's voice. "I don't want to talk about it!"

"Okay, Rory, okay," Theo said gently. "You're all right now, I've got you, it's all right, Rory. Shh."

Rory let Theo's warm breath and warmer words lull him into the sweet oblivion of sleep.

Danny had been right about one thing, Theo quickly realized. Rory could be a prick and a half. He was superficially deferential to Theo; it was Danny who bore the brunt of his aggression.

"But they were *my* papers," Danny said. He still couldn't believe they were gone. "Mine, Rory. You had no right to throw them away!"

"You shouldn't leave your crap on the dining room table," Rory said.

"I always leave my fucking papers on the fucking table! Theo doesn't mind!" Danny said loudly. "Rory, that was just... it was *my* fucking stuff, it wasn't bothering you, why couldn't you just leave it alone?"

"Aren't you going to tell him to stop cursing?" Rory demanded, turning to Theo.

"Danny's cursing isn't the issue here, Rory. He's cursing because he's upset and frustrated, and he has a right to be both those things," Theo said.

"I'm sorry," Danny muttered, calming a little at Theo's supportive words.

"The place needed cleaning up," Rory said tightly. "I just cleaned up!"

"By throwing away our stuff? That wasn't right, Rory. Danny and I like the house the way it was. We both feel more comfortable with our junk around."

"Well it's a goddamn stupid way to run a household!" Rory glared at Theo. "Your way it's a fucking pigsty!"

"That's as may be, but it's my call, Rory, not yours. You don't just throw away our stuff without asking," Theo said sternly. "It would be one thing if it had been a mistake; it's quite another that you unilaterally decided your way was better."

"Are you going to punish me?" Rory asked softly.

"Do you deserve to be punished?" Theo turned the question around.

"I guess so," Rory said unhappily. "Yeah."

Danny slipped silently out of the room.

"Come here please, Rory," Theo said very quietly, taking Rory's arm. "I'm going to spank you now, my hand on your bare butt. I know you're afraid, but it's going to be all right, I promise."

Rory swallowed hard and let Theo guide him closer to the couch.

"Take off your things, please," Theo said, seating himself.

Rory unbuttoned his fly, pushed jeans and boxers to his knees, feeling totally exposed, although his shirt was so long and loose that little actually showed. Theo steered him gently face down over his lap, letting Rory take his time settling into position. It took a very long time indeed.

"All right?" Theo folded Rory's shirttail out of the way. Rory shuddered; he was clearly scared. "Rory? Talk to me."


Theo hesitated. Rory certainly had a spanking coming, but imagining his palm print emblazoned on the tight-clenched white buttocks of the silent brat before him made Theo nauseous.

"This feels all wrong to me." Theo tipped Rory gently out of his lap. "I can't in good conscience spank you, Rory. Go on, get dressed now. We're not doing this."

Rory pulled his underwear and pants up mechanically, not certain yet whether he was relieved or whether he regretted Theo's backing down.

"Go sit down at the table," Theo said firmly. "I'm going to set some lines for you and I want you to write them out now."

"Um...I don't want to?" Rory's voice rose in a question.

"I said sit down, Rory. I didn't ask if you wanted to," Theo said cheerfully.

Feeling both a little foolish and a lot reassured, Rory did as he was told.

"Write four or five 'I statements' for me," Theo said.

"What do you mean?" Rory dropped his eyes, not wanting to challenge Theo. "I'm not being smart, Theo, I really don't get it?" Rory caught his bottom lip in his teeth, worrying it.

"You can always ask me to explain if something confuses you, Rory, I'll never take offense at that." Theo extended his hand toward Rory's face; Rory stiffened.

"And you can be sure I'll never hit you," Theo added. Rory flushed and nodded. Theo cupped Rory's jaw in his palm, smudging his thumb over Rory's lip. Rory's eyes filled at the gentleness of the gesture and he blinked hard, forcing the tears back.

"Easy, Rory, there's nothing to be afraid of here, I promise," Theo said, his palm making a gentle circle over Rory's cheek. "This is all I want from you: Write four sentences, starting with the word "I," that express something that feels true to you. I'll pull out something from there for you to write."

"I don't think this is how people do this," Rory said crabbily, shifting away from Theo's touch and turning toward the paper and pen Theo had unobtrusively set on the table. "You're not supposed to make me do the work."

"Says who?" Theo asked comfortably. "It's my call, not yours, Rory. Write me four sentences, please. Now."

"I need to stop being a jerk. I want to stay here. I can't do this. I'm an asshole." Rory wrote quickly.

"Hmm..." Theo studied the lines, unsurprised by Rory's negativity.

"I am a valued partner in this relationship." Theo wrote. "There, Rory. Write that for me two hundred times, please."

"It's not fucking true," Rory flared.

"Isn't it?" Theo looked at Rory. "If you really believe that it's not, Rory, then get up from the table and find yourself something more constructive to do. Because I'm not going to punish you if you're not even willing to consider that that sentence might be true."

Rory hunched his shoulders protectively and Theo softened his tone.

"I'm not doing this to make you feel worse," Theo said gently. "Just write, Rory. Don't struggle so hard. Write."

Danny was pacing from room to room upstairs, opening doors and reclosing them forcefully, but just shy of banging them. Clearly unhappy, clearly uncomfortable, and just as clearly, angry at himself for feeling unhappy and uncomfortable in the first place.

Theo shook his head. Talking to a restless, jealous Danny would be asking for trouble. There was an alternative, however.

Theo patted Danny's butt gently as Danny leaned over to snatch angrily at an invisible thread on the carpeted floor.

"Hey," Danny mock-protested.

Theo caught his hand and tugged him closer. Kissed him, while slipping his fingers inside the front waistband of Danny's jeans and feeling him lightly.

"Umm." Danny's cock lunged upward. "Oh yeah."

Theo backed Danny toward the wall and held him there by pressing his hips into him.

"Maybe?" Danny whispered, pointing with his chin toward their bedroom, with a quick flicker of his eyes downstairs towards the dining room where Rory was still writing. "Please?"

Theo followed him to their bedroom, closing the door quietly. Danny was out of his clothing in a flash and Theo wasn't much slower. Danny rolled onto his back and Theo lowered himself on top of him, their cocks fencing, lips seeking each other's hungrily.

Theo nibbled at Danny's ear and down the side of his neck, making Danny squirm and shiver. Pinched Danny's nipples between his thumb and first two fingers, shaping them in stiff, crinkled peaks.

Without a word and with the sureness of practice, Danny took some lube in his own hand and stroked Theo's cock, coating it and stiffening it before widening his own legs and lying back on their pillows.

Theo raised Danny's legs on his shoulders and leaning forward, pressed firmly into his lover. Felt Danny strain against him for a moment and paused until Danny relaxed again before sheathing himself to the balls.

"Oh god," Danny exhaled, and then there was only the wordless slide of flesh against flesh. Theo stroked Danny's cock as he thrust steadily into him, savoring Danny's throaty groans and the frantic arching of his back as he let himself be brought swiftly over the edge.

No longer needing anything more complex than sleep, Danny rolled onto his side and closed his eyes contentedly. Theo curled around him, smugly pleased at his effect on his lover. All his.

"Yeah," Danny murmured, as if hearing Theo's unvoiced claim. "All yours."

Rory hadn't been unaware of Danny and Theo's disappearance, but he was sufficiently grateful that Theo had commuted the spanking, which he'd richly deserved, but was anything but ready for, to continue writing.

It had been just a quick interlude, but Theo knew from Danny's reaction that it had been both right and necessary.

Theo would happily have napped alongside Danny, if he hadn't assumed responsibility for Rory as well. Leaving Rory alone while he was writing lines for the first time struck Theo as a singularly bad idea. Theo ran his hand gently over Danny's blankets, tucking them under his sleeping form, and went downstairs.

"How are you doing with those, Rory?" Theo asked, seating himself across from Rory.

"Almost done," Rory responded. His color was good, his voice steady; the punishment had had the desired effect of making him slow down long enough to think, but not cowing him. He smiled at Theo, a clear, happy smile. "I am a valued partner in this relationship. Thank you, Theo."

"Good job, Rory," Theo said. For the first time since they had expanded into a trio, Theo felt reassured that he had made the right decision in allowing it to happen. Rory was taking hold, Danny was settling down; he himself was feeling he had the reins to his team firmly in hand.

Lying beside Rory, bedroom blinds tilted against prying eyes and the afternoon light, Danny was sunny with love and possibility. He worked his hand down Rory's hardened cock to the root, feeling the press of wiry curls against his wrist. Turning his hand, he slid his fingers deeper into the thatch of springy pubic hair. Lifted Rory's balls, stroking the soft flesh beneath.

"Stop it." Rory's voice was tight. "Stop it! Cut it out!"

"Okay, okay, sorry!" Danny backed off. "Let's just..." He leaned forward, taking Rory in his mouth.

Rory tangled his fingers in Danny's hair and thrust into the wet warmth of him. A little too deeply.

"What's the matter with you?" Danny gagged and pulled away sharply. The two men glared at each other.

"I'm sorry." Rory dropped his eyes first.

"Yeah." Danny was quiet a minute. Introspection was a new skill for him, one Theo had fostered. "Glen liked it rough, huh?"

"Yeah." Rory rolled onto his back, his forearm hiding his face.

"Shit." Seeing Rory was still half-hard, and still slightly horny himself, Danny touched Rory's cock tentatively, but neither man's heart was really in it anymore. He sprawled alongside Rory, his eyes on the ceiling. "Rory? It sucks, that that happened."

"No shit." Rory sat up. "I'm going for a walk." He fished for his jeans, pulled them on and up and headed down the stairs. Danny heard the door slam behind him.

"Shit." Danny stared morosely at the ceiling, lost in his own thoughts. He started at the sound of Theo's footsteps.

"You run at all these last few days?" Theo asked. Danny shook his head.

"Usually it makes you feel good," Theo said gently. "Better than a late afternoon nap; you know that, Danny."

"I was fooling around with Rory." Danny was cranky and unsatisfied. He was gratified to see Theo flinch. He savored the feeling of power for a moment, then shame overtook pleasure. "We had a fight."

"Come here, tell me what happened. " Theo seated himself on the bed and pulled Danny into his arms despite his token squirming. "Come on now, talk to me."

"We were fooling around," Danny repeated. "I had my hand up between his legs and he freaked out. So okay, my bad. I wanted to make it all right, so I started to suck him off, and he was...really rough...and then we just stopped."

"Are you okay?" Theo turned Danny's face gently toward his own. "Danny?"

After a moment Danny nodded.

"You sure?" Theo pressed.

"Yes! Yes, I'm fine!" Danny tried to shake free.

"Stop that." Theo held on. "Talk to me, Danny."

"I can't! It's stupid! It's too late anyway!" Danny said wretchedly. "Theo, I don't like him anymore!"

Theo wasn't upset by Danny's contradictory feelings. Danny, however, was horrified by his own outburst.

"I'm sorry, Theo. I just hate this."

"So, you don't like being part of a threesome." Theo resisted the temptation to say "I told you so." Danny was right: It was too late, in any case.

"Even more sex doesn't make up for sharing you," Danny said unhappily. "Especially when it's lousy sex! I didn't mean to spook him, Theo. I hate this."

"Of course you didn't," Theo said. "Danny, Rory's reactions are all over the place right now, which isn't unusual for abuse survivors. But you didn't push his buttons on purpose and he had no right to retaliate like that."

"Are you going to punish him?" Danny asked, ambivalent about what Theo might answer.


"No." Theo kissed him. "Why don't you run, Danny? Get some of this out of your system."

"Run with me?" Danny asked hopefully.

"I hate running," Theo said. "You have fun." He swatted Danny's rump gently.

It was an old exchange between them. It made Danny laugh, albeit little shakily. He buried his face in Theo's shoulder for a moment before scrabbling under the bed for his sneakers.

Pride goes before a fall, Theo thought ruefully to himself, remembering his smug assurance that he had gotten them all on track. He had allowed the force of Rory's need and the strength of Danny's desire to tumble them into this relationship. Now came the hard part: Making it work.

Dinner was a somber meal.

Danny diced his food into slivers, piled it into an unappetizing heap and then left the bulk of it uneaten.

"Jesus, don't you know there's people in this country who are starving?" Rory looked critically at Danny's plate.

"Whatever," Danny said morosely. "God, Rory. I just ran; I'm not hungry."

"Do you even care what he's doing?" Rory asked Theo. "Jesus!"

"Don't worry about it," Theo said mildly. "Would you like more mashed potatoes, Rory?"

"I don't know?" Rory knew better than to pick at Danny in Theo's presence. Was Theo's question a trap? Was Theo setting him up?

"Easy," Theo said, sensing something of the conflict that left Rory frozen and speechless. "It's not a trick, Rory, easy. I don't play games like that." He replaced the serving bowl on the table. "Feel free to help yourself."

"Asshole," Danny muttered under his breath. Theo looked at him for a long, silent moment. Danny hunched his shoulders, but didn't apologize.

"I think an early night's in order for all of us," Theo said. "Danny, check the front door and then go on upstairs. Rory, you can help me clean up."

Both Danny and Rory were glad for the clear directives. Rory kept his eyes on the plates he was scraping until he heard Danny's footsteps on the stairs.

"What are you registering for, do you know yet?" Theo asked conversationally.

"Huh?" Rory was taken aback. He'd expected Theo to lecture him on his behavior.

"What classes are you taking?" Theo waited expectantly.

"Um. Uh. Yeah. Sociology. Intro to Statistics. A music thing, and Chaucer. Is that all right?"

"Sounds good to me, Rory," Theo said comfortably. He felt rather than heard Rory let out his breath. "You're going to be busy."

"I know they're not the most practical and maybe I should have registered for some other kind of program and–"

"It's all right, Rory." Theo cut Rory's anxious explanation short with a solid hug. "It's all right. Trust me, Rory. Shh."

"I'm okay." Rory tried to shake free.

"I know you are. Shh, stay with me a moment anyway." Theo didn't let go and gradually Rory softened against him.

"I'm sorry, Theo," Rory whispered. "I didn't mean any of it, not this afternoon, not at dinner. I don't know what's wrong with me." He sniffed hard, close to crying. Ah, fuck. "I need a tissue; I might be getting a cold."

"You're not." Theo cupped Rory's chin in his palm and tilting his face up, kissed him gently. "You're safe now, Rory. It's just going to take you a little time to feel it." He turned Rory toward the stairs and led him up to bed.

Morning came quickly. Danny snuggled into Theo, their bodies fitting easily. Rory wormed his way between them, a little jealous of their closeness, Theo hooked his fingers into the waistband of Rory's shorts and started to edge them lower.

"Get your fucking hands off me," Rory yelped, his buttocks clenching reflexively. "Don't fucking touch me! Don't hurt me!"

"Quiet down, Rory," Theo said calmly, hugging him. "I'm not going to hurt you, shh."

"Let go!" Rory twisted angrily, trying to free himself from Theo's embrace. Theo was having none of it.

"Rory, be still." When Rory continued to struggle, Theo simply rolled him onto his back and lowered himself on top of Rory.

"All right, all right already." Rory let himself go limp. "I give up."

"Good boy," Theo said, brushing his lips over Rory's before cautiously shifting his weight. Rory remained still. "Okay now?"

"Everything freaks him out," Danny said bitterly. "Every fucking word you say! And God forbid you lay a finger on him, then it's 'oh no, don't hurt me!.' Jesus, Rory, you're the one who fucking pushed us into this. Fuck you!"

"No! No! No! That's not what happened," Rory protested.

"Enough," said Theo. "I'm calling time out."

"Don't take his side!" Danny said furiously, sitting bolt upright. "No! I didn't do anything wrong, Theo!"

"I know, Danny, I didn't say you did," Theo said, wishing he had four arms. Danny was spinning out, Rory was shaking, and he was only one person.

"You're not being fair, Theo! I hate this! I'm out of here!"

"Fuck you, Danny," Rory flared. "That's right, leave!"

Danny swung out of the bed and was dressed and out of the bedroom in a heartbeat. The outside door slammed behind him.

Theo ran his hand through his hair. This was no good!

"Fuck you," Rory repeated. "Fuck you both."

"I said enough, Rory. Shh."

Cupping Rory's jaw in his palm, Theo stroked his thumb slowly and firmly over Rory's lips. Rory quieted and Theo kissed him gently and thoroughly. Neither man closed his eyes.

 "I have to listen to you, don't I?" Rory asked quietly, as Theo broke off the kiss.

"You do. That's part of the deal, Rory," Theo said. "You knew that going in."

Rory was reassured by Theo's staying with him; he'd have bet money that Theo would have abandoned him for Danny. His trembling faded; he let himself relax into Theo's embrace. Maybe Theo could make it okay.

"What if I can't ever do it again?" Rory whispered.

"Can't ever have anal sex, Rory?" Theo asked gently.

Rory made a disgusted face at the clinical sounding term.

"Rory, baby. We need to be clear here." Theo kissed Rory gently, almost chastely.

"Glen was the first time I ever," Rory whispered. "It's not that I didn't want it. And he made it good, it's just later...well, he liked toys, you know? And sometimes I wasn't sure, and he made me anyway. I mean, I like that, sometimes, but... Oh, I just can't explain."


"I think you explained just fine," Theo said. "It takes trust, Rory, and I don't think Glen gave you much reason to trust him."

Rory swallowed hard and let his head rest on Theo's chest. He listened to the slow, steady thumping of his heart and for the first time in forever, felt utterly safe.

"I trust you, Theo," Rory whispered. Then even more softly. "I want you to make me. Please."

Theo knew Rory's anxiety about penetration masked his greater anxiety about ceding control. Rory was asking, as directly and forthrightly as he was able, for Theo to take his choices away from him.

Theo kissed Rory again, deeper and harder, his tongue probing deeply, demanding Rory yield to him. Rory's jaw softened and he closed his eyes.

"Lie back, baby." Theo ran his flat hand over Rory's chest, over his belly. Over his cock, feeling it jump in response.

"Turn over, please." Theo nudged Rory's hip.

"You won't hurt me." It was a statement, not a question; nonetheless, Theo winced.

"Never, Rory," Theo said soberly. "Lovers don't hurt each other. That's not love. Turn around, Rory."

"I don't want to," Rory said sulkily.

"I want you to." Theo cheerily overruled Rory's objection and firmly guided Rory onto his knees. "Drop your head, there's a good boy."

Rory hugged his pillow, resting his cheek on it. He watched silently as Theo reached for the tube and package beside the bed. Theo put a dab of lube on his cock, sheathed himself and smoothed a generous layer of lubricant over his covered cock.

"Spread your legs." Theo patted Rory's inner thighs lightly, coaxing them apart.

Rory sighed reflexively as Theo traced his asshole with the pad of his index finger.

"Go slow, Theo," Rory begged. "Please."


"Very slow, Rory, I promise," Theo said, stroking the soft flesh between Rory's buttocks. "You feel so good, so hot." He circled the small opening. "Open for me."

"Please..." Rory gasped as Theo inserted a slick finger, his erection flagging.

"I'm not hurting you," Theo said, not withdrawing, but acknowledging Rory's exhalation.

"Theo, I can't!"


"You can, Rory. You've done this before. Breathe, Rory, you need to breathe," Theo coaxed, his hands holding Rory's hips so that he could not pull away. "Good boy." Positioning his cock carefully, Theo pressed forward in one smooth, unhurried stroke.

"Oh god." Rory arched his back. The sensation was intense but not unbearable. The aching stretch of entry gave way to filling pressure and warmth as Theo took his pleasure in slow, easy thrusts, each one a deep caress.

Rory's every nerve ending was singing and he was panting, hard, long before Theo completed his demonstration of who was in control and of how pervasive that control was.

"Good boy." Theo praised Rory sincerely as he rolled onto his back and wrapped his arms around Rory, holding him close. "Are you crying, Rory? It's all right, let it out, I've got you. It's all right, Rory, it really is all right."

"I'm sorry," Rory sobbed. "I'm sorry, Theo, I'm sorry, I'm sorry." Christ, he hadn't cried like this when Glen had beaten him. When Glen had hurt him. But Theo had taken him fully and gently and here he was, sobbing like a fucking baby. "I'm scared!"

"I know," Theo said. "I know. But there's nothing to be scared of anymore, Rory, you're safe now. Shh, I've got you. Shh..."

Danny walked until he was sick of walking. Slapped his empty pockets regretfully; he'd forgotten his phone and would have to walk home, too. Theo would call this a natural consequence, Danny thought with a rueful shrug. He was tired by the time he got back. It had been a hell of a lot shorter walk in the other direction, when he was still pumped with righteous indignation.

"Hey, Theo." Danny approached Theo tentatively, hungry for a hug, and Theo held him a reassuring few seconds longer than usual, not sure of his mood.

"You all right, Danny?" Theo probed gently.

"I am now. I was pretty wound. I walked forever and then I had to walk back, too."

"No phone," Theo deduced. "Thirsty? Hungry? What can I get you?"

"I don't know." Danny flopped into a kitchen chair.

"Start with this." Theo set a glass of water in front of him.

"Thanks." Danny sipped gratefully. "I didn't mean all of it, Theo."

"I handled it, Danny." Theo looked straight at Danny.

"You...oh man. Theo--" Danny met Theo's eyes.

"It was my call," Theo said evenly, his gaze holding Danny's. "Do not second guess me, Danny."


"I'm not," Danny said hastily, hearing the clear warning in Theo's voice. "You're right, Theo. Your call." Danny dropped his eyes. "Totally."

"As long as that's clear." Theo said, barely managing to keep the exhaustion he felt from his voice. He dropped a gentle kiss on Danny's hair. "I'll be in my study if you need me."

Danny plodded upstairs. He found Rory on his back in their bed, stark naked, his eyes on the ceiling.

"You okay, Rory?" Danny shifted awkwardly, wanting things to be all right between them. "I'm not mad anymore."

"Yeah," Rory said. He was quiet for a moment. "It wasn't deliberate, Danny."

"Yeah." Danny sat uncomfortably on the bed. "So Theo..." His voice trailed off.

"Yeah. And he was right to. It was a pretty basic lesson," Rory said softly. "A lesson I needed." He closed his eyes, remembering. His hand strayed to his inert cock, patting it tenderly. "I guess I should get up." Rory flexed his muscles experimentally. "Ahh. Oh god."

Danny winced empathetically.

"Jeez, Danny, don't look at me like that." Rory laughed, reassuring both Danny and himself.

"We're good, then?" Danny sighed with relief at Rory's confirming nod. "I'm glad, Rory."

A solid day's work at his desk steadied and revived Theo. By the time he emerged, it was dusk. Danny and Rory were cooking companionably. Theo noted with relief that they seemed to have negotiated a sort of detente. Rory's orderliness tempered Danny's exuberance just enough that the usual chaos that was Danny cooking was contained to two counters.

Sensing Theo's eyes on him, Rory ostentatiously scooped his finger through the sauce and then licked it clean, clearly confident that there would be no reprimand. Cautious optimism replaced the stone that had been weighing on Theo's heart. Maybe they would be all right.

Danny ate lightly, having also tasted freely while cooking. Rory eyed Danny's half-eaten meal, choked back the comment he was about to make, and refocused his eyes on his own food.

"That's my boy," Theo said softly, appreciating Rory's effort, and Rory smiled ruefully.

Dishes washing in the machine, kitchen cleared, the trio headed for their bedroom. Rory undressed swiftly and determinedly and placed himself in the center of their bed, legs splayed, cock semi hard. Theo and Danny shucked their clothes and arrayed themselves on either side of Rory.

"Yes, oh yes," Rory moaned, as Theo wrapped his fingers around Rory's cock. Rory arched upward into Theo's fist, precum easing the slide of Theo's hand. "Oh god...."

Danny kissed Rory, silencing him, and Theo nudged Rory's legs wider and dropped his head between them, mouthing him. Rory gave himself over to the four hands that roved over his body, floating on the sensations. He fussed, a little apprehensive, as Theo's finger traced his still-sensitive opening, but his objections melted as Theo shifted his attentions and swallowed him whole. The caress of Theo's throat on his cock, the tease of Danny's teeth against his nipples: Rory came in a gasping rush of pleasure, his heart racing madly.

"Good?" Theo teased, his light eyes sparkling. Rory could barely nod. Now on his hands and knees, Danny straddled Rory. He dipped forward, kissing him, and Theo slicked himself, knelt behind Danny and buried himself to the balls in one exuberant shove. Danny took him with practiced ease, rocking back against him, his hand working his own cock. He came quickly, cum hot against Rory's belly, as Rory sucked hard on his tongue. Theo groaned as Danny's spasming muscles took him over the edge.

The three men lay in a sweaty, sticky heap, all slightly stunned by the intensity of the experience.

"That was good," Rory said, giving voice to what all of them felt. "That was fucking unbelievably good."

"I guess it's worth putting up with you after all," Danny said, poking Rory.

"Danny!" Theo exclaimed, but Rory was already laughing and after a moment Theo joined in.

"I love you both so much," Rory said soberly.

"You're not so bad yourself," Danny said. He kissed Rory gently, the gesture saying "I love you" more clearly than any words. "You too, Theo."

"I love you," Theo said. "Rory. Danny. I love you."


Thank you, Rusty, for your encouragement throughout and for your thoughtful questions. Thank you, Hedeia, for your careful attention to the nuances of meaning and for your tactful

suggestions, which strengthened the story. EM