Elizabeth Marshall Stories


“Christ, I’m glad that’s over with. I can't believe we did it.” Freddie yawned and stretched, the gesture lifting his tee shirt to expose his flat stomach, his navel with its twist of down and the elastic of his briefs. His fine red hair was gelled back from his face, but the heat of the lights had freed one lock. Freddie shook it out of his eyes; caught a glimpse of Chad grinning at him. “You can put the damn paddle away now, Chad, the camera's off. I didn't think it was all that funny.”

“Sorry about that, Freddie,” Chad said, laying the implement aside. “I still think we could have done without that shot, but Richie–“

“Insisted. I know,” Freddie said. "Nothing too subtle for our Machiavellian friend here."

Chad and Freddie looked across the now-dim set toward Richie. The slender, dark haired producer was tapping notes into his handheld while talking rapidly into his cell.

"One minute," Richie mouthed silently, seeing their eyes on him. Then, out loud, "Ciao." Richie cut his caller short and turned to smile at Chad and Freddie, a grimace that didn't quite reach his eyes.

“It’s impossible to underestimate our audience’s taste,” Richie said, his speech slurring as it always did when he was tired. He tired easily these days.

Freddie and Chad exchanged concerned glances.

“Come on, Rich, let’s go home,” Freddie said, reaching for Richie's gear.

"You just had a national audience drooling to see you paddled, brat,” Richie said, bristling at Freddie's take-charge air. "Don't you give me orders. Brat!"

Freddie flushed red at the tease. Clenched his teeth, biting back the obvious retort.

“Listen to me, Richie, because I'm only going to say it once." Chad spoke sharply. "Talk like that to Freddie again and it’s a lot more than a glimpse of a paddle you’ll be getting.”

"Got it." It was Richie’s turn to flush. "Sorry, Freddie."

“Come on now, Richie, ease up,” Chad said more gently. “We did what we needed to. Let’s go home.”

Freddie gathered up Richie’s stuff, understanding better than Richie knew the exhaustion that fueled Richie’s mouth, and forgiving his lover.

Chad took Richie’s arm, ignoring Richie’s half-hearted attempt to shrug free and escorted Richie to the garage. Freddie followed silently, his faked “victory” ashes in his mouth. By mutual agreement they piled into Chad's car. That Richie didn't protest at leaving his own car behind in the employee parking area was proof of how utterly wasted he felt.

The three men drove through the bleak no man's land that separated the lively city from the slumbering suburbs. Their house was at the rear of their development, backed by wetlands and marsh. The outsize lot kept their neighbors at bay and meant their domestic arrangements attracted little attention.

Some months ago, after several futile attempts to involve Richie in the decision making process, Chad and Freddie had taken advantage of one of Richie's business trips to relocate their furniture, upstairs to down, making the family room they all loved into their only living room, and refitting their formal living room as a master bedroom.

Richie had walked into the house, taken one look at the rearranged rooms, cursed them both out long and loudly, and locked himself in the downstairs bathroom.

Freddie, who had been so quiet, so calm, through all the tests and all the changes that had followed in their wake, had finally cried then. Chad set aside his own sadness, cuddled Freddie until Freddie fell silent, and waited Richie out.

When Richie finally emerged, dry-eyed and stony faced, from his refuge, Freddie was asleep on their bed, his face tracked with tears. Richie watched silently as Chad eased himself free.

Chad took Richie into the adjacent living room and delivered a thoroughly memorable spanking. After that night, there was no more discussion of the new room arrangements.

Richie was miserable tonight. Even walking from the garage into the house was painful. Richie tried to resist the overwhelming, itchy fatigue that characterized his illness. In the low dosages that were all he could tolerate, medication did little to ameliorate the uncomfortable sensations. He fell onto the couch and buried his face in the cushions, not wanting to give in to the exhaustion he felt. He sighed reflexively as Freddie began to rub his back.

“Oh god that’s good.” Richie relaxed into the careful, gentle hands that worked at the tightness in his lower back. Freddie had a gift. Somehow he knew just where to press harder, just where to go lightly. ”Where did you learn how to do that?”

“I love you, Richie,” Freddie said simply, continuing to work at the tight places. Glad for the comfort his hands could offer.

Chad watched his lovers for a moment, drawing strength from the sight of them. The deep physical bond between Freddie and Richie was a thing of beauty. Reassured that Freddie had Richie in hand, Chad moved to the kitchen. The comforting ritual of cooking always relaxed him. He hummed to himself, letting the memory of the day's spectacle slip away as he chopped vegetables and boiled water, started the broiler and laid the table.


“Do you want me to bring your plate over?” Freddie paused his massage; looked questioningly at Richie.

Richie shook his head slightly. No.

“I'll sit up. Don't worry, Freddie." Richie dragged himself upright.

“So are we okay for awhile now?” Freddie asked his lovers as they settled at the table. “The money will help, right?”

“It’ll help a lot,” Richie said appreciatively. “Thank you both. I know it was...excruciating. But a hundred thousand at one shot...wow. It’s going to help a hell of a lot.”

“It was worth making a fool of myself, then,” Freddie said. “And of course, seeing our Chad sorting through the riffraff was kind of a kinky thrill, if you know what I mean?”

Richie laughed.

Chad shook his head, marveling at how quickly Freddie was able to put the day behind him. And how easily Richie followed his lead. They were both like that, quicksilver. It took Chad longer to shift gears.


“Chad? You mad at us?” Freddie asked anxiously, not sure what to make of Chad's thoughtful expression. "You know I hated it too, right?"

“No, babe, of course I'm not mad,” Chad reassured him. "I know it was even harder for you than for me. You're a trooper. I wanted the money as much as you did and robbing banks didn’t look promising.”

“We’ll save that for a few months down the line,” Richie said bitterly. “Once I can’t work anymore.” He stood abruptly. Swayed.

Chad was on his feet just as quickly, bracing Richie.

“Easy, slow,” Chad cautioned.

“I’m all right, Chad! Don’t treat me like a goddamn invalid,” Richie flared.

“I’m going to treat you like a Class A brat who needs his mouth washed out if you don’t watch that tone,” Chad said evenly. “Upset or not, you don’t talk to me that way.”

Freddie pushed back from the table and hastily left the room. Curled up on top of their bed, snatched the remote, flipped to the night's game and turned the tv up high. He had no desire at all to hear the rest of Chad and Richie’s little discussion. Resolutely, he focused on the thrilling beer commercials that seemed to take up more time than the game itself.

Flopping dramatically onto his stomach beside Freddie, Richie contorted his mouth, trying to get the lingering taste of soap out. Freddie slipped a tissue into Richie’s hand and Richie spat gratefully. Grimaced, spat again. Wiped his mouth with the back of his hand, making a disgusted face.

“Poor Richie,” Freddie said sympathetically. He kissed Richie cautiously, not wanting to risk tasting soap.

Richie returned the kiss, fuller and deeper, not caring about the consequences for Freddie. Needing the reassurance that he was fully, deeply loved.

“Get Chad for me? Please?” Richie asked plaintively.

“Sure, Richie,” Freddie agreed without moving, knowing Chad would come when he was ready, not before. Meanwhile, he would let Richie kiss him, even though Richie had already gotten soap in his mouth.

By the time Chad appeared, a glass of water and a vial of pills in hand, Richie was out cold. Chad put the drinks and the medication aside and made a place for himself on the bed.

"It didn't take him long to fall asleep, did it?" Chad commented. "Did he complain much?"

“He doesn't feel good! Why do you have to do that to him?” Freddie remonstrated with Chad. "Why are you so mean to him?”

“Freddie, baby, I know you're upset, so I'm not going to point out just how out of line that question is.” Chad tugged Freddie back against him. “Let me handle Richie. You need to trust me on this, Freddie.”

“Yes, Chad, I'm sorry, Chad,” Freddie said automatically. He wasn't reassured. “But I would just hate it so much if you punished me when I was sick!” he said vehemently, pulling away.

“I know, baby.” Chad could tell Freddie’s protest was serious. “But you're not Richie." Richie got what he deserved, Chad thought. What he wanted. He usually does.

“No more now.” Chad didn’t want to discuss Richie’s emotional needs with Freddie; of necessity, the demands of Richie’s illness already occupied more of Freddie’s energy than Chad was comfortable with. He tried again to ease Freddie closer.

Freddie stiffened against Chad in silent protest.

“Easy, Freddie, come, try to relax." Chad sighed. "I didn’t mean to cut you off,” he apologized. "We can always talk if you need to talk."

“I want him to get well, Chad! I want him to be all right!”

“So do I, Freddie. Listen, we got fifty thousand each for making fools of ourselves in front of an audience. At least we can afford the drugs for awhile longer.”

“Maybe there’ll be a miracle?” Freddie wanted, so badly, for Chad to agree.

Chad wished that he could.

“Never mind, I know,” Freddie sighed as he curled into Chad. “Reality shows! Our Richie was really ahead of the curve on that one. And this one...I'm surprised the network went for it!”


“I know! 'Called to Order: Top Top tames Brattiest Brat.'” Chad almost choked on the show's title. "How he comes up with these things! How did he know the audience would eat it up?"

"He knows what sells," Freddie said. "And he's not fazed by how gross it all is."

"It's a peculiar gift." Chad shook his head. "I keep thinking about your expression when you saw that obscene paddle. Poor Freddie, you should have seen your face!”

“Well, it was so over the top...” Freddie laughed at his own pun, and Chad laughed too, glad to see Freddie’s mood lighten. Freddie yawned sleepily, worn out by the day's emotional excesses.

“Go on, you wash up first.” Chad gave Freddie a gentle nudge towards the bathroom. He waited until the door closed behind him to rouse Richie.

“Come on, Richie, meds. Sit up for me,” Chad coaxed their sleeping partner.

Without rousing completely, Richie sat up, swallowed his pills, and snuggled into his pillow, his back to Chad. He was asleep by the time Freddie returned.

Chad took his time washing up, wanting Freddie to have a chance to settle where he felt comfortable. Some nights, Freddie needed to spoon protectively around Richie. Some nights, Freddie needed Chad to spoon around him.

This was a Richie night. Chad kissed Freddie, smoothed the covers over his pair of brats, and took advantage of having his side of the bed unencumbered for a few hours. Sprawled comfortably and subsided into blameless sleep, knowing full well where Freddie would end up.

It was barely dawn. The ringing phone started, was caught by the answering machine. Went silent for the ritual exchange of messages, then rang again. Two, three, four cycles.

“Ah, fuck it.” Richie swore to himself and got up. Chad and Freddie were curled up together, deep asleep. No matter where he began the night, Freddie inevitably migrated to Chad’s embrace. “Yeah, what?”

“You're busted, you prick. You and your fucking friends." His boss’s familiar voice was hard and loud. "What the fuck were you thinking of, leaving together? Some asshole saw the security camera and tipped off the press.”

“Ah shit.” Rich glowered at the phone.

“Rich, we’ve got tabloids, we’ve got tv news, we’ve got every fucking story monger in this city in front of our building, crying foul. What the fuck are we going to do?”

“Fire me,” Richie said flatly. “That was always the failsafe. Fire me and you're in the clear. And tell them go fuck themselves.” He slammed down the phone. “Assholes."

“Richie? What’s wrong?” Freddie had woken at the sound of Richie’s angry voice. Now he hovered nearby, watching Richie’s face apprehensively.

“The shit just hit the fan,” Richie said evenly. “They got us on the video feed leaving the building in one car. We were stupid.”

“What does that mean?” Freddie asked, his face paling under its sprinkle of freckles.

“It means I’m out of a fucking job. Don’t worry, you and Chad are fine; Chad talked with our lawyer before you signed your contracts with the station. You’re both within the letter, if not the spirit, of the law. If they come after me, I’ll tell them all why we did it.”

“Why the shouting?” Chad asked, emerging from the living room turned bedroom. Freddie was in Chad’s arms before the Top knew what had hit him.

“Freddie, what’s wrong?” Chad eased Freddie back, trying to see his face. “Richie? Talk to me, please.”

“We got caught,” Richie said succinctly.

“Ah shit,” Chad said.

Richie snorted, surprised into laughter by Chad’s rare expletive.

“Do I have to get the soap, Chad?” Richie asked.

Chad laughed appreciatively.

“Is it funny? I don’t understand?” Freddie gaped at his lovers.

“Do I have to get the soap?” Richie could barely stop laughing long enough to get his line out again.

Freddie began to laugh as well, but within moments his laughter edged into hysteria.

“That’s enough,” Chad said firmly.

“Ah fuck it, he’s a fucking baby, let him laugh,” Richie snapped. “What fucking difference does it make–“

“You too, enough.” Chad swatted Richie’s butt.

“OW! How come you love Freddie better?” Richie asked sulkily.

“Enough.” Chad refused Richie’s gambit. “What happens now, Rich?”

“We sit tight. I guess you’ll want to call Aaron so that he’s prepared to sort out the legalities. If we’re lucky the news trucks won’t find us. If we’re not...” Richie shrugged. “What are they going to do to me? I can look as pathetic as I need to. Who’s going to want to put a sick man in jail?”

Chad winced at Richie's bravado.

"But what are we going to do?" Freddie asked anxiously.

"Right now we're going to eat breakfast," Chad said decisively. "Then we're going to do the laundry and straighten the house. Freddie, you're going to prime those bookshelves we're repainting. Richie, I believe you have a doctor's appointment; I'm coming with you."

"Okay!" Freddie sounded relieved.

"No way." Richie shook his head. "I'm not going to see Nat today. I'm just not up for it."

"Too bad," Chad said unsympathetically. "You can go comfortably or you can go after I spank you, but you're not skipping this appointment just because you don't want me to hear what Nathaniel has to say."

"Stop it!" Freddie's wail caught both men by surprise. "Stop it stop it stop it..."

"It's all right, Freddie," Chad said quietly.

"Christ, Freddie, put a sock in it!" Richie snapped. He hugged Freddie hard, the warmth of his gesture belying his harsh words.

Freddie sniffed miserably. He hated fights, he hated shouting, he hated feeling like the wimp of the three.

"Come on, Freddie, have a little coffee," Richie said, patting Freddie's cheek. "Buck up, it's not as bad as you make it seem. I'll go to the doctor, Chad and Nathaniel can plot my medical micro management and you can meet me and Chad for lunch after we're done. I'll even treat."

"Okay," Freddie said softly, basking as always in the warmth of Richie's charm.

"You're just lucky I'm not going to spank you for your smart ass attitude, Richie." Chad was a good deal less charmed than Freddie. But then, he thought wryly, Richie had always charmed Freddie. From the very beginning...

The doorbell rang and rang and rang. Chad groaned as his eye caught the clock. Five am. Richie must have forgotten something in his haste to show up on the predawn set of his news show. Probably his keys!

As he sleepily made his way downstairs, Chad was shocked fully awake by the sound of breaking glass.

"You can't do this, you can't fucking do this," the vandal outside raged. "It's not fair!" Picking up another of the ornamental black stones that surrounded the drive, he hurled it at another of the small paned windows.


"Open the door! You have to talk to me! It's not fair, Richie, I need to talk to you!"

Another stone thrown, another crash of glass.

Chad peered cautiously through the front door's peephole at the source of the destruction. One young man. Unintimidated, Chad opened the door.

"What the hell do you think you're doing?" Chad demanded.

"You're not Richie." The interloper froze in mid-throw. He gaped at Chad in pitiful confusion. His face was bleached white in the faint light, his red hair was sodden, his lips were blue with cold, and he was obviously very, very drunk. "Who are you?"

"I'm Richie's partner," Chad said. "More to the point, who are you?"

The young man stared at him, comprehension slowly dawning.

"He didn't tell me!" The young man swayed unsteadily, undone by emotion and drink. "I didn't know. What do I do now?" he asked hoarsely, all fight gone out of him.

Chad and Richie had been together a long time. Long enough for Chad to recognize one of Richie's casualties. Long enough that Chad was less shocked than resigned.

"You may as well come inside," Chad said with a sigh. This young man wasn't fit to go anywhere.

"Inside?" The young man repeated the word, confused. "Why? Is Richie there?"

"Oh, he'll be here soon enough," Chad said grimly. "Come on, it's cold out here."

Chad led the dazed young man to the living room and watched with a certain degree of sympathy as he fell back onto the couch.

"I feel like a fucking asshole!" The kid dropped his face to his hands, drunk enough that his crying didn't embarrass him.

"Look at me, please." Chad seated himself on the coffee table in front of him. "I'm Chad, Richie's partner. What's your name?" Chad asked gently.

"Freddie. "

"Okay, Freddie, tell me what happened," Chad said. He watched Freddie's face carefully.

"He's got me blocked, he doesn't pick up my calls, he won't see me..." Freddie's voice trailed off. "I really, really liked him," Freddie said softly. He closed his eyes and passed out on the couch.

Rising to his feet, Chad walked into the kitchen and called Richie.

"Get your butt home this instant, Richard Michael Desalvio."

Richie gulped. Chad seldom even used "Richard." First and last name together was bad. First, middle and last name together...shit. He was in serious trouble.

"You should have just called the cops," Richie said again, not at all moved by the sight of the stuporous Freddie curled on their couch. "You're just encouraging him."

"You didn't see him, Richie," Chad said tiredly. "You can't play these kind of games, Richie, it's flat out wrong. That kid–" He held up his hand, halting Richie's protest. "I know, I know, he's over twenty one. That kid is in love with you, Richie. You can't just block his mail, block his messages, wipe his calls and pretend he never happened."

Turning on his heel, Richie stalked upstairs to their bedroom. Chad followed him.

"What the fuck do you want me to do? So I fucked him a few times. He's nothing to me!" Richie said savagely. "Christ, Chad, I know I'm a bastard, but I was in over my head and I didn't want to hurt him."

"And this is your idea of not hurting him?" Chad asked coldly.

"Chad, I can't deal with him, he's needier than me. I did him a favor, cutting him off," Richie said sanctimoniously. "Do you know I hit him, the last night we were together?"

"Did he hit you back?" Chad asked.

"No, why?" Richie asked, startled by Chad's response.

"Too bad," Chad said succinctly.

"Hey!" Richie protested, surprised into indignation. "You wish he'd hit me?"

"Yeah. A fair fight I can understand; it can happen. Slapping a lover is just wrong."

"I know," Richie said wretchedly. He did know. "Hey, wait, what are you doing?" He backed hastily away as Chad unbuckled his belt and pulled it from its loops. "Chad, no! You remember, we agreed: If we were careful, we could play around once in a while. Remember?"

"I know what we agreed." Chad doubled his belt in his hand and glared at Richie. "A little friendly extracurricular fucking and breaking a kid's heart are two different things, Richie. I'm not going to whip you because you hooked up with him. I'm going to whip you because you're riding roughshod over the feelings of a kid who did nothing but make the easy mistake of falling for you."

"You can't whip me for that!" Richie was stunned. He watched as Chad gestured towards the bed in invitation.

"Can't I?" Chad asked evenly. "Pants and underwear off. You're not going to want anything touching your butt when we're done here."

"Oh shit." This sounded like serious punishment. "Chad, no!" Richie backed stealthily toward the door.

"Don't you dare leave this room, Richie." Chad caught his arm before Richie could bolt. Slowly, inexorably, he drew Richie towards the bed.

As always, Richie reacted with fury and indignation to Chad's attempt to upend him. It was a futile rebellion; Chad was taller and heavier and quite used to his recalcitrant lover's theatrics. The largest part of Richie's protest was show, anyway; Chad had little real difficulty pressing him face down across the mattress.

"I don't want to do this!" Richie arched his back, refusing to the last to yield.

"Neither do I, Richie, trust me." Chad rubbed the small of Richie's back until Richie surrendered enough to droop resignedly.

"You don't play games with people's feelings," Chad said forcefully. He brought his belt down sharply.

"AAAAAHHHH!!!!!" Richie's instincts were right; this was serious punishment. He screamed each time the doubled leather met his buttocks, his initial rage giving way to sheer undifferentiated emotion. "No! No! NO!"

Chad whipped Richie soundly, putting his arm into each swing. It was still some time until Richie gave up protesting and began to cry hoarsely.


"Chad, please, I'm sorry!"

Chad dealt out another half dozen whacks and then dropped his belt to the floor.

"It's over." Seating himself alongside Richie, careful not to jostle the mattress, Chad rubbed Richie's heaving shoulders in slow, quieting circles. "We'll figure this out. Shh, Richie, shh, it's over now. Shh..."

Freddie awoke to a pounding headache and a dry mouth. He vaguely remembered the cab ride to Richie's house. Begging...his mouth soured and he gagged.

"Let it come up," a gentle voice said, holding a basin to his mouth. "That's it, you're going to be okay, let it come up. Easy, Freddie."

Who is he and how does he knew my name? Freddie thought, instinctively obeying the man's instructions. Oh god, my head. I think I'm going to die.

He must have spoken out loud.

"You're not going to die," Chad promised, his sympathy laced with practicality. "Trust me. Come on, sit up, have a swallow of this. I know you don't feel like it, but do it anyway."

"Yes, sir," Freddie said automatically, responding to the note of command in Chad's voice. He took the glass Chad offered him, sipped the fizzy solution tentatively. Made a face, but continued to take small sips.

"Good boy," Chad praised. "That'll help settle your stomach a little. Slowly, that's it. Very good."

"Thank you," Freddie whispered. "Why aren't you angry at me? Why don't you hate me?"

"I don't hate Richie's friends," Chad said quietly. "Life's too short."

"I feel so sick." Freddie shook his head as if to clear it; thought the better of the gesture. "Ow."

"You had quite a lot to drink last night," Chad observed. He studied the soft-voiced, sad-eyed young man carefully. Freddie was similar to him in coloring and build, except that Freddie's hair was a flaming, true red, unlike his own subdued dirty blond. At least I know Richie's taste hasn't changed much, Chad thought ruefully.

"Richie's going to be down in a bit, Freddie," Chad said.

"Ah, shit, I'm sorry," Freddie said wretchedly. "I didn't mean to cause trouble. I'll go. I won't bother you anymore. I'm sorry..." His apology trailed off as Richie entered the room.

"Don't beat yourself up, Freddie. You're a sweet guy," Richie said softly. "I didn't mean for this to happen. I just wanted..."

"You just wanted a quick fuck," Freddie said bitterly. His face flamed, and to his dismay, he felt tears prickle the back of his eyes. "Oh shit. Just let me get out of here."

He stood too quickly, lost his balance and cracked his head hard against the wooden arm of the Mission couch. "OW!"

"That was a stupid thing to do!" Richie snapped unsympathetically.

"I didn't do it on purpose you know!" Freddie swiped at the tears that slid traitorously down his cheeks.

"Oh for Christ's sake, kid, get a grip! Goddamnit, Chad, I can't deal with this!" Richie slammed out of the room, guilt fueling his anger.

"I'm sorry..." Freddie was as miserable as he had ever been in his life. And now his head was throbbing even more painfully and he was dizzy, too...

"You're hurt." Chad's voice was calm and matter of fact. "Sit down a moment and I'll get you some ice. That's some whack you took. Here..." He helped Freddie lie back on the couch.


"It's going to be all right," Chad said. He handed Freddie a wad of tissues. "Blow your nose, that's a good kid. I'll be right back."

As Chad left the room, Freddie turned on his side. He buried his face in the cushions, wishing fervently he could just die and be done with it.

"Here we go." Chad placed a towel-wrapped ice pack on Freddie's head. "You're going to be all right," Chad said, rubbing Freddie's back. You're going to be all right because I'm going to make sure of it, Chad thought to himself.

By mid-afternoon Chad was concerned about the possibility of a concussion. Freddie was clearly in pain and had vomited, not once, but several times.

Richie stalked angrily through the house, jealous of the attention Chad was paying to Freddie. Unable to bear the yearning look he saw in Freddie's eyes each time his pacing brought him into view. Shit, the kid had it bad.

"You're not going to invite him to stay! You can't! Chad, I don't want him here!"

"You liked him enough to seduce him, you can put up with him in the spare bedroom until he's feeling better," Chad said firmly.

"No, I won't!" Richie glared at Chad.

Chad seized Richie's arm and spun him around.

"You take responsibility for what you do! You do not take that tone with me!" Chad emphasized his statements with two hard swats.

"All right already!" Richie yelped, his hand going protectively to his seat. "I'm sorry, Chad," he added repentantly.

"I hope so," Chad said sourly. "Because I'm warning you: The next time you talk to me like that you are getting a sound spanking, whether or not your ass is still sore from the last one. Do I make myself very clear?"

"Yeah, Chad, I got it," Richie said soberly. "I'm sorry. I didn't mean for this to happen, Chad, I hope you know that."

"I know. Remember, you've had the only warning you're getting." Chad refused to let Richie charm his way out. "Go keep Freddie company. I want him to stay awake until I'm sure he's all right. And take it easy on him; he's a sweet kid."

"Bet you never said that about me," Richie scowled.

"I tell everyone you're the devil." Chad softened his words with a kiss. "Sweet's not everything. I like my coffee black, after all."

"Hey, Freddie, how's the head?" Richie asked.

"I didn't do it on purpose, Richie." Freddie was sad and embarrassed.

"I know, Freddie," Richie said in a rare moment of empathy. He sat down on the edge of the bed. "You wouldn't, I do know that. I'm sorry, Freddie, I'm a prick, I really am."

"I don't care!" Freddie arched upwards, yearning for Richie's touch. "I need you!"

Richie hardened automatically. His body had learned Freddie's and was drawn to his heat. Richie pulled abruptly away.

"Please!" Freddie tried to cling.

"Get off me!" Richie slapped at Freddie's hands.

"OW!" Freddie yelped.

"That's enough!" Chad's voice cut across both men's growing agitation. "Richie, walk out of this room. Freddie, lie down and be quiet. Now."

Both men responded to the authority in Chad's voice.

"I didn't start it," Richie said as he passed Chad.

"I didn't do anything," Freddie said defensively, as Chad turned toward the bed. Chad waited without responding until Freddie slumped against the pillows with a defeated sigh.

"Freddie, I know you like Richie," Chad began.

"I don't like him, I love him," Freddie protested.

"You don't know him well enough to say that," Chad said.

"Yes I do!"

Chad sighed, used to Richie's histrionics, not surprised by this young man's either. He could see that Freddie was used to getting his own way. Only this young man was much softer than Richie, eager rather than defiant.

"I like you too," Freddie said tentatively. "Maybe we could do a three way thing? I'm up for it if you guys are."

Chad gulped. This was not what he had anticipated at all.

"It's not that you're not attractive, Freddie," Chad said gently. "You are, very. But I don't think–"

"Don't think, then," Freddie pleaded. "Let me show you. Just let me be with you once, I swear it'll be good."

"Freddie, how old are you?" Chad asked.

"Twenty one," said Freddie proudly. "I'm totally legal."

Chad sighed.

"He's a good fuck," Richie said from the doorway.

Freddie cringed as if he'd been slapped.

"Richard Desalvio." Chad's voice was cold.

"I'm sorry, all right?" Richie said, seating himself at the foot end of the bed. "It was a fucking joke."

"Please?" Freddie said again, looking from Chad to Richie. "Please?"

"Come on, Chad!" Richie grinned, pure lust in his eyes. "It'll be hot."

"Richard Michael Desalvio, what in God's name is the matter with you?" Chad's voice was deceptively soft.

Richie's grin faltered. Freddie's eyes widened apprehensively as he looked from one man to the other.

"Christ, Chad, I was kidding, all right?" Richie glared at Chad. "Jesus. He's hot, he's a good fuck, we're not exclusive...what the fuck is your problem?"

"We are not having this discussion here," Chad said, emphasizing the last word of his sentence.

"Discussion." Richie swallowed. "Chad, please..."

"Not here." The warning in Chad's voice was even clearer now.

"All right. You win, you vanilla bastard." Richie stood abruptly and stomped out of the room.

"I didn't mean to cause trouble," Freddie said apologetically. "Really, Chad."

"I know," Chad said gently. "You didn't do anything wrong, Freddie. But you're not in any shape to make a proposition like this today, Freddie. I would never take advantage of you like that. Try and rest a little, it's the best thing for you. I'll be back in a bit."

"Yes, sir." Freddie said, yielding gracefully.

Ah, the kid was so sweet. Chad brushed his fingers lightly over Freddie's cheek before leaving the room.

Despite his headache, Freddie felt better. Chad hadn't said yes, but he hadn't said a very convincing no, either.

"Fuck me," Richie said. He was face down on the bed. Naked from the waist down, his buttocks still emblazoned with stripes from the whipping he'd gotten earlier.

Chad shook his head. A guilt-stricken Richie was a challenge and a half.

"Are you asking for a spanking?" Chad wondered out loud.

"No! I'm asking you to fuck me," Richie said grouchily.

Chad sat down alongside Richie. Ignoring his bare butt for the moment, he ran his hand over his lover's tight shoulders.

"Come on, take off your shirt," Chad coaxed. "Let's do this right."

"Right is a fast, hard fuck," Richie said sulkily. "Come on, Chad, just do me. Please."

"No. Richie, take off your shirt," Chad insisted.

With a sigh, Richie rolled onto his back.

"Why won't you fuck me?" Richie asked.

"Because you're acting like a spoiled teenager. I'm not a machine, Richie. A little romance, please." Chad stroked the angled planes of Richie's face lovingly. Barely mid-afternoon, and already a hint of five o clock shadow showed blue beneath his lover's pale skin. He leaned in and kissed Richie thoroughly and deeply.

"Chad..." Richie sighed and opened his mouth to Chad's tongue. Arched his back in mounting excitement as Chad kissed his way down his throat and sucked gently at his small, dark nipples. "Oh god Chad. Oh. OH!"

Chad smiled smugly as he teased Richie's bobbing cock with his tongue.

"Ask me nice or you won't get any, Richie."

"Please! Please Chad please Chad please Chad..." Richie moaned as Chad snuffled at his balls, as he felt Chad's finger ghost over his opening. He scrabbled for the lube that lay on the night table and handed it to Chad.

Chad flipped the cap open one-handed. Coated his cock and without further hesitation, lifted Richie's legs on his shoulders and entered his tight and willing lover. Pressed forward, knowing Richie's gasping breaths meant Richie was getting the intense sensation he craved.

"Oh god Chad, that's...oh god..." Richie's head arched back as he luxuriated in the feeling of being taken. He pulled hard at his engorged cock. "OH! Mmpff..."

"Be quiet!" Chad clapped his hand firmly to Richie's mouth. "We have company!" Pressing his own mouth to Richie's shoulder, he came hard inside his lover.

"Oh god," Richie said softly, as Chad collapsed on top of him. "Chad."

"Richie." Chad rolled over and tugged Richie's head onto his chest. Richie was smiling, his eyes bright and clear. "Love you, Richie."

"Yeah." Richie snuggled. Richie still long enough to cuddle was something Chad loved. His slender lover was a perpetual bundle of nerves and energy, except after he'd come. Chad loved the moments afterward, when Richie was quiet and happy to be held. He listened to Richie's soft breathing and felt utterly, ridiculously lucky.

Chad kept a close eye on Freddie throughout the afternoon and evening. By dinnertime Freddie was able to keep down clear broth. Chad sat next to him on the bed, keeping him company as he ate.

"Freddie, where do you work?" Chad asked curiously. "Do you have any sick time?"

"Borders," Freddie said with a shrug. "Nah, but they like me, I won't get fired, I just won't get paid."

"You should call in," Chad suggested. "What do you do when you're not working? Are you in school?" Chad asked.

"Sort of," Freddie shrugged. "I can only afford part-time, so it's taking awhile. I'm going to graduate, though."

"That's good," Chad said. "Good to get the degree if you can. Where do you live, Freddie?"

For the first time Freddie seemed reluctant to answer.

"What is it?" Chad asked.

"With this guy. Well, in his apartment," Freddie said uncomfortably.

"In his apartment?" Chad looked at Freddie.

"Look, I needed some place to live, okay?" Freddie said defensively. "He's not there all the time, he's still got a wife and a couple kids he goes home to some nights, you know what I mean?"

"I know what you mean," Chad said disapprovingly. "Freddie, that's really not a very nice situation."

"Yeah, well, no one single wants me, okay?" Freddie flared. "I don't know why! It's not like I look for these things!" He closed his eyes. "I'm sorry, I didn't mean to shout. I'm sorry, Chad."

"I know, baby." Chad stroked Freddie's cheek gently. "Freddie, you can stay with us if you'd like. No promises, no expectations. I don't like the sound of the situation you're living in."

"For real?" Freddie gaped at Chad. "You don't know me at all!"

"You're Richie's friend and you're no one's rent boy," Chad said quietly. "I know both those things. We'll pick up your stuff when you're ready."

"Yeah. Okay. Wow." Freddie closed his eyes. "Will Richie mind?" he asked softly.

"It isn't up to Richie, Freddie," Chad said.

"Oh." Freddie wasn't sure what to make of that statement.

"Freddie, Richie and I have an understanding. I'm the boss of him," Chad said with a smile.

"Will you be the boss of me too, if I stay?" Freddie asked, knowing the answer before Chad nodded.

"Yes. I am the head of this household. Is that a problem, Freddie?"

"No, sir," Freddie said, his eyes meeting Chad's squarely. "Not a problem. Not at all. I think I'm going to like this a lot."

"So he's moving in?" Richie asked Chad.


"Does he know about...what we do?" Richie licked his lips nervously.

"He knows we have an arrangement. I'm the man in charge. He's fine with that," Chad said.

"Yeah, well, I knew he was a sub," Richie said. "But Chad, did you tell him that you spank me?"

"I didn't mention it specifically, Richie. Why?"

"Oh. Are you going to spank him, too?" Richie asked.

"We haven't discussed it. I think we need to give this some time. The only reason he's moving in is that I don't like the idea of him continuing to be someone's kept boy. It's not a healthy thing for a young man. And he's better than that. And Richie...you owe him."

"Yeah." Richie looked down. "But we're okay now, you and me, right? I was punished."

"You were punished," Chad agreed. "It's done. We're all square."

Freddie didn't have much to move besides clothing, electronic equipment and books. Chad shook his head at Freddie's extensive, expensive wardrobe, while Richie teased him into modeling his leather pants.

"What are you taking this semester, Freddie?" Chad asked, as Richie and Freddie hung Freddie's shirts carefully in the closet in the guest room.

"World History from the First World War to the Cold War," Freddie said. "Spanish."

"How far into the semester are you?"

"Um, a few weeks?" Freddie answered, a little taken aback by Chad's questions. "I have midterms next week."

"Are you ready for them?" Chad asked. "Where are your notes?"

"Mostly I don't take notes," Freddie said. "I just read the books. I've got a great memory." He grinned at Chad.

"I see," Chad said sourly. "What happened in 1917?"

Freddie looked at Chad blankly.

"You need to start taking notes," Chad said. "I'll give you a hint. What prompted the US to join the war?"

"Hey, no fair! My test's not till next week," Freddie protested.

"Which gives you a week to pull together a study outline," Chad said.

"Chad used to teach, Freddie," Richie interjected. "He's a fanatic about these things."

"Oh..." Freddie looked unhappy. "Maybe I'm not a very organized student," he admitted softly.

"Maybe you need to improve your study habits," Chad said briskly. "And with a little help, I'm sure you will."

"Well, okay," Freddie said, chewing his lip nervously.

"By help he means a hickory stick," Richie said with a straight face.

"Richard." Chad glared at Richie. "The only one who needs a little help from a hickory stick is you, I think. Don't tease Freddie."

"Sorry," said Richie unrepentantly, amused at the look of irritation on Chad's face. "What I meant to say was if you need a little hands-on help, Chad's your man."

"Richard Desalvio, I'm warning you..."

"Are you guys into spanking and shit?" Freddie asked, fascinated. "I never tried it, but I hear it's hot–"

"Not spanking for fun," Chad said quietly. "Disciplinary spanking. Domestic discipline, some people call it."

"I've heard of that," Freddie said. "Cool."

Chad and Richie looked at each other in amazement, both remembering the long weeks of negotiation their own discipline relationship had been founded on.

"'Cool'? Freddie, do you understand what I'm talking about?" Chad asked.

"Yeah, you're the alpha around here. We get our butts tanned if we're bad. No big deal," Freddie said. "I think it sounds fine."

"Well, all right," Chad said, a little disconcerted at how easily the discussion had gone. "So, you're going to put together a nice little outline for me by tomorrow, and we're going to go over it together?"

"Yeah, sure," Freddie said. Setting priorities was hard; if Chad wanted to help him, so much the better.

"So explain to me why, if you had already agreed to work overtime, you promised me you'd spend the afternoon studying?" Chad asked Freddie the next day.

"I'm sorry. I forgot, Chad. I'll study tomorrow." Freddie smiled winningly.

"Not good, Freddie." Chad shook his head. "I'll give you one more chance. But if it happens again, you're going to be punished."

"I understand. It won't happen again, Chad." Freddie felt a slight frisson of excitement stirring in the pit of his stomach. He didn't like the idea of pain and yet there was something attractively masterful in Chad's stern tone.

What would it be like to be punished? To be spanked?

Two days later he found out.

Richie returned from work to an unusually silent house. Already he had become accustomed to the music that emanated non-stop from Freddie's room. Curious as to the reason for the sudden quiet, Richie made his way upstairs. He found Freddie lying face down on the bed.

"Freddie? You all right?" Richie smoothed Freddie's hair from his wan face, took in the reddened eyes, the slight puffiness underneath.

"Chad gave you a spanking." It wasn't a question.

"Yeah," Freddie whispered. "You never said how much it hurt."

"What did you think?" Richie asked. "He doesn't do it for fun."

"I knew that, but...it hurt, Richie." Freddie sounded stunned. "You didn't tell me it really hurt, Richie!"

"Baby," Richie said, taken aback. "Let me get Chad. Sit tight."

"No! Richie, please, I'm not complaining. I'm just saying: He's never going to have to spank me again. I'm going to be good." Freddie closed his eyes. "He'll see. Don't go, Richie, please."

Gritting his teeth, Richie made himself wait until Freddie was asleep before confronting Chad.

"Richie, he asked for it." Chad's reply was calm and matter of fact. "I know he was upset and I'm not happy about that, believe me, but he had a warning and he chose to ignore it."

"I never was that upset afterwards, never! I'm sure of it! This isn't right for him, Chad, it can't be. I don't want you to spank him anymore!"

"Richie, this isn't about you," Chad said, almost amused at Richie's transparency.

"It is too about me! I'm upset! And it's your fault!" Richie glared at Chad. "It's not fair!"

"Would you like a spanking, too? Would that make it fair?" Chad dried his hands on the dishtowel. "Come here."

"Um...no? Chad..." Richie hung his head contritely. "Don't spank me, please."

"Come give me a hug, then, and settle down." Chad was willing to humor his volatile lover. Richie was so patently confused by his own feelings: Genuinely upset by Freddie's reaction and at the same time, jealous of the growing bond between Freddie and Chad that the spanking only served to emphasize.

Richie came into Chad's arms and Chad hugged him tightly. Felt Richie first stiffen, then lean into his embrace, his lithe, slender form molding to Chad's more solid body. Chad lifted Richie effortlessly in his arms and carried him into the living room. Sat on the couch, Richie in his lap, and lay back on the cushions, drawing Richie down on top of him. Chad rocked his hips gently, enjoying the growing swell of their cocks against each other.

Richie pressed forward atop Chad, groaned and reached for his own zipper.

"No." Chad seized Richie's wrist. "When I'm ready."

"Oh yeah," Richie moaned, loving this game. "Please?"

In answer, Chad pressed his other hand to the back of Richie's head, and with Richie thus trapped, kissed him hard and deep, his tongue sweeping Richie's mouth. Richie moaned incoherently.

"Suck me," Chad commanded, shoving Richie downward.

Richie undid Chad's fly and pushed his pants and underwear out of the way. Drew back his lips and slid his mouth down the length of him. Was gratified to hear Chad moan.

Richie worked steadily over Chad's engorged cock until Chad came, hard, pumping into his mouth, rivulets of cum spilling over his lips and chin.

"How good am I?" Richie teased, wiping his hand across his mouth and sliding up to snuggle against Chad.

"Very. Good enough to deserve a little yourself," Chad said, placing his palm on Richie's flat belly and working his way into Richie's pants. The pressure of his wrist was enough the pop the snap. The zipper slid down of its own accord. The trace of precum from the slit in Richie's cock barely lubricated Chad's hand, but it was all Chad needed to jerk Richie off.

"Shit shit shit shit," Richie gasped, as Chad rapidly forced him over the brink, the sheer intensity of sensation leaving him breathless and incoherent. "Oh shit that was good."

"You're easy." Chad trailed his nails lightly over Richie's nipples.

"Ahh, no more!" Richie shivered reflexively. "Chad, enough!"

"Is it now?" Chad laughed as Richie pressed closer, making further teasing impossible. He stroked Richie's back gently. "Shh. Love you, Richie."

"Love you." Richie was silent. "Chad? You really like him too?"

"Don't you?" Chad asked.

"Yeah. I really, really do," Richie said. He rested his head on Chad's chest. "It was only supposed to be sex, Chad. I don't know how it got so complicated. I'm sorry, Chad."

"Shh. Don't be sorry. You're better than your behavior, Richie. It got complicated because people are complicated." Chad smoothed Richie's hair back from his forehead. "Are you crying, Richie?"

"I didn't mean for this to happen, Chad! I don't want to have to share you!" Richie wiped angrily at his eyes. "Shit!"

"It's all right, Richie," Chad said gently. "It doesn't have to go any further. A discipline relationship, while he finds his way. Nothing more. It's not the same as what we have."

"But Chad?" Richie swallowed. "I want him, Chad. I get hard just looking at him."

"You need to decide what's more important to you," Chad said quietly. "Having me to yourself, or having Freddie, as well as me. Because that's what it comes down to. Either we make a life together, the three of us, as equal partners, or he lives here as a guest under our roof until he finishes school and then goes on his way. One or the other, Richie."

"Occasional fuck buddy isn't an option anymore?" Richie asked ruefully. "OW!"

"You're lucky I'm a good tempered man," Chad said, rubbing his stinging palm over Richie's butt despite Richie's squirming. "No, Richie, casual sex is off the table for good. No more open relationship for us. Whether it's just us, or whether it's us and Freddie, is your choice. But no more of this committed, but not monogamous, bullshit. That's finished."

"Negotiable?" Richie searched Chad's eyes.

"No." Chad kissed Richie, a hard, bruising, possessive kiss. "No."

It hadn't taken Richie and Freddie long to resume their sexual relationship. Chad could tell to the day when the two men had become intimate again. Their softened postures and the way they leaned easily into each other were a dead giveaway.

Richie still traveled a lot in those days. He was away, and Freddie and Chad alone, the night Freddie appeared in Richie and Chad's bedroom.

"I had a bad dream," Freddie said, looking very tempting in his boxers, with his tousled hair and his heavy, sleepy eyes. "Can I come in for a little while? Please?"

"Come here," Chad said sleepily. He slid over and flipped back the covers.

Freddie lay down alongside Chad.

"You're icy cold," Chad said, tucking a warm arm around Freddie's waist and spooning him close. "No wonder you have nightmares. Why don't you have another blanket on your bed?"

"I kick them off. This is nice." Freddie squirmed even closer, felt Chad harden against his back. Shifted so that his own burgeoning erection nudged Chad's hand. "Please?"

Chad felt Freddie gently through the thin, soft flannel of his boxers. Freddie arched his back and moaned encouragingly.

Pushing up on his elbows, Chad rearranged Freddie so that they faced each other.

"Just tell me, Freddie: Did you and Richie set me up?"

"How did you know?" Freddie's eyes widened in dismay.

"Richie's consistent." Chad didn't want to upset Freddie; he had just been curious. Leaning in, he kissed Freddie gently on the lips. They had gone this far before. But this time, Chad gently opened Freddie's mouth with his tongue.

Freddie's nipples stiffened as Chad brushed his palm over them. His cock was rigid against his stomach. Gently, Chad eased his boxers down. Took Freddie's cock in his hand and stroked his thumb over the flushed velvet head, as Freddie moaned incoherently and pressed into his touch.

Unlike Richie, Chad had felt little need for sexual encounters beyond his primary partnership. It had been a long time since he had been with anyone except Richard. Exploring Freddie's softer, more generous body, more like his own than like Richie's taut, tight frame, was intensely erotic.

Freddie was a slow, quiet lover, easy to direct. He yielded to Chad without reservation. Trustingly, with his whole heart. By the time Richie returned from his trip, Freddie was firmly ensconced in their bed.

The triad worked. Freddie loved Richie and Chad; they loved him. If Richie had not gotten sick, if his odd constellation of complaints had not coalesced over the last year into a clear diagnosis of multiple sclerosis, the three men would have been entirely happy.

"Thank you for coming in, Chad." Dr. Nathaniel Roseman stood as Chad entered his private office.


"Have a seat. I'm concerned about Richard," the doctor said without further preliminaries. "While MS is a chronic, progressive illness, most of the complications, at least at this stage, are manageable. Yet Richard doesn't seem to be thriving. My concern is that he's not following through on my suggestions."

"He's having a lot of trouble staying on track," Chad admitted. "What are our alternatives?"

"We can start him on an antidepressant. That may help him stick with his regimen. Depression is certainly a factor in noncompliance. But he's already on four medications; it would be better not to add a fifth. Can you...motivate ...him? It would be better in the long run, if you were willing to...take a hand in this."

"Nat? We've known each other a long while. What are you asking me to do?" Chad met the doctor's eyes squarely.

Dr. Roseman took a deep breath. He had rehearsed this speech for days and yet it was still awkward.


"Chad, please understand, these...disclosures... came about accidentally. As you know, we did a colonoscopy with IV sedation last week. Richard talked quite a bit throughout; he was disoriented. One of the things he asked repeatedly was, was he getting a spanking. The nurse was a little concerned."

Chad was silent.

"I know a little about domestic discipline." Dr. Roseman fiddled with his stethoscope. "I took a sensitization course in alternate lifestyles in medical school."

"All right," Chad said. "I think we understand each other. Let's hold off on the antidepressant for now and see whether I can't take a more active role in keeping him on track."

"I asked him to make an appointment in two weeks. I want to monitor this situation closely. I'm willing to work with you on this, Chad. I like Richard." The doctor extended his hand.

Chad shook it firmly, sealing the bargain.

That the Top/Brat "reality show" was a good deal less-than-real proved to be of little interest to the press that week. A sex scandal involving the city's mayor and her husband's brother, found in a hotel room in a very compromising position, played itself out in the tabloids. Richie's nonchalance about media exposure was proof, if proof were needed, of exactly how savvy about the business he was.

Richie was not feeling well. Out of deference to his morning loginess, the threesome had fallen into the habit of eating their breakfast together in bed.

"All right, I'm going to shower. I've got a meeting." Putting aside his half finished omelet and his empty cup of coffee, Richie got out of bed.

"You're not quite done here, Richie." Chad held up his hand.

"What?" Richie asked querulously.

"I think you forgot something," Chad said, holding a small silver and blue wrapped suppository in view.

"I don't need that," Richie said rebelliously.

"Nathaniel said you do," Chad said firmly. "It's not negotiable, Richie." He beckoned Richie back toward the bed. "I understand you don't like it and I'm sympathetic. I'm not going to punish you, but since you're not behaving responsibly about it, I'm going to insert it myself today. Come on now, lie down."

"No, Chad, don't make me. Please. I've tried it before and it hurts, Chad." Richie backed towards Freddie. "Freddie, make him listen to me! It hurts!"

"Easy, Richie, don't get upset." Freddie sounded worried. "Maybe you shouldn't do this, Chad," Freddie added hesitantly. "Maybe you should call Doctor Roseman again?"

Richie smirked, knowing Freddie was on his side.

"I want you to leave the room, Freddie." Chad forced himself to speak gently. He eased Freddie towards the door, away from Richie. "I need a few minutes alone with Richie. Don't leave the house; we need to talk."

"Please don't do this to him, Chad!" Freddie tried to replace himself between Chad and Richie. "I don't want you to hurt him!"

"I have this under control and I need a few minutes alone with Richie," Chad ignored Freddie's statement, but kept himself between the two men. "We'll talk when I'm through. Leave the room, please."

Freddie glared at Chad. Turning on his heel, he walked out of the room without answering.

Chad sighed. Freddie had always been the easy one. Chad could count on the fingers of one hand how often he had spanked him, whereas Richie...Richie needed frequent, physical reminders. It had been that way from their earliest days together.

"He's not part of this!" Richie turned on Chad, even more irrationally angry at his momentary distraction. He wanted, needed, Chad's exclusive focus. "Why do you need to talk to him?"

"Richie, you're the one who dragged him into this," Chad pointed out, mildly exasperated. "Besides, we're all part of this. What happens to one of us affects all of us. Now come on, Richie, enough histrionics. It's time for you to take your medicine."

"I don't want to! No, Chad, don't!" Richie tried to pull away, but Chad had a firm grip on his arm.

"We're doing this." Chad tugged Richie toward the bed, his free hand swatting Richie's rump in warning. "Lie down, babe. Don't make me spank you first."


Recognizing that he had pushed far enough, Richie complied, rolling automatically to his left side and bringing his knee up.

Chad slipped Richie's shorts down and parted Richie's cheeks. Richie tightened rebelliously.

"Easy, Richie, don't make this harder than it has to be.." Chad stripped the small suppository of its foil and pressed it firmly home.

"I hate this," Richie moaned, protesting the slight penetration. "I don't want you to do this to me!"

"All done," Chad said. He patted Richie's rear end gently. "Next time do it yourself, without the drama. Otherwise I'm going to spank you, Richie."

"You're mean," Richie muttered. "Fine!"

"Rest quietly and give it a little time to work before you shower. I'm going to talk with Freddie," Chad said. "There are a few things we need to get cleared up." He washed up and headed down the hall.

Freddie was sitting at the kitchen table, fidgeting with an empty glass. Chad ruffled his hair affectionately. The fact that Freddie didn't respond with his usual purr told Chad how angry his lover was.

"I think, Freddie, that we need to have a little discussion about what's going on here. I am getting a little tired of being challenged, argued with and generally made to feel like a jerk for doing what I'm supposed to do. Let me spell it out: I decide what's appropriate for Richie. You don't."

"I hate this relationship!" Freddie flared.

Chad froze at the bitterness in Freddie's voice.

"I don't want to do this anymore! I don't, I can't, I won't! I hate how you push Richie. He's sick, can't you understand that? And I don't want to worry about being punished when I stick up for him. What you're doing is mean, Chad!"

That said, all his courage evaporated and Freddie began to cry, hugging himself.

"I'm sorry, Chad, I'm sorry! I didn't mean it, Chad!" Freddie wailed. "I'm sorry! I'm sorry!"

"All right," Chad said very softly. "Freddie, listen to me. I hear what you're saying. I'm going to touch you now."

"Please don't." Freddie looked up through tear glazed eyes, his arms wrapped protectively around himself.

"You need to let me," Chad said gently. He drew Freddie into a tight, reassuring embrace, replacing Freddie's arms with his own. "I've got you, Freddie. It's going to be all right."

Freddie buried his face in Chad's chest, seeking the comfort he had so long counted on finding in his arms.

"Oh my," Chad said sympathetically. "You are having a rough time, aren't you, my Freddie? It's all right, we can work this out, I promise it's going to be okay."

"What's going to happen to us?" Freddie cried harder.

"Freddie, I promise, we'll get through this together." Chad knew what Freddie was afraid of.

"If I lose Richie..." Freddie voiced his deepest fear.

"You love Richie," Chad said gently.

"You're mean to Richie!" Freddie sobbed. "You keep hurting him!"

"I would never hurt him, Freddie," Chad said softly. "Shh, take it easy, you know I would never hurt him."

"You're pushing him too hard! You're making him sicker!"

Chad sucked in his breath sharply at Freddie's charge. He hadn't anticipated that.

"I'm sorry!" Freddie cried even harder, ashamed of his outburst, ashamed of his doubts and miserably worried about Richie.

"Shh, shh..." Chad abandoned any attempt at talking sense to the thoroughly unhappy man in his arms. He kissed Freddie's hair tenderly and, with murmured reassurances, let Freddie cry himself out.

Finally Freddie was quiet. Chad held him as his breathing steadied, then eased him onto the chair as he stood up. Chad ran cool water over a dishtowel, then wrung it nearly dry. Used it to clean Freddie's hot, tear streaked face and bleary eyes.

"Take a sip." Chad placed a glass of water in front of Freddie. Freddie picked up the glass; swallowed convulsively. Chad took the seat next to him and took Freddie's other hand in his. They sat quietly together as Freddie finished his water.

"Better, Freddie?" Chad asked presently.

"I'm sorry," Freddie said softly.

"I know this is very hard for you, Freddie," Chad said. "And you may not like what I'm about to say." He ran his thumb gently over the back of Freddie's hand.

"I'm putting my foot down. No more second guessing. Argue with me again about something that has to do with Richie's medical management and I am going to spank you." Chad looked at Freddie's unhappy expression. "Is that clear? This isn't your responsibility and I do not want you to complain about or undercut my decisions. Do you understand me?"

"Yes, but..." Freddie said reluctantly. "I don't think you're being fair, Chad," he burst out resentfully.

"Understood. That doesn't change what I just said, does it?"

Freddie shook his head negatively, keeping his eyes down.

Chad knew this was hard for Freddie. He also knew that this was a line that had to be drawn. Richie was manipulative in the best of circumstances; sick, his needs could drive any relationship. Chad was determined not to let that happen.

"Freddie, I am going to be cracking down on Richie. I know this isn't something that's easy for you."

"It's not easy for any of us," Freddie sighed. "Not me and not Richie and not you, either. I do know that, I do. I'm trying so hard to do the right thing, Chad, I really am..."

"Shh..." Chad stroked Freddie's hair gently. "I believe you, Freddie. You need to trust me, too." He wanted to kiss Freddie, but he knew that Freddie was still too angry to accept anything but the most neutral touch.

The week wore on.

Richie glowered at his reflection in the mirror. He looked gaunt and worn, and in a business where appearance mattered, his wasn't helping him any. His body had been the source of such intense, essential pleasure, and now it had betrayed him and he hated it for that betrayal.

"Richie, how are you doing?" Chad called from the other room.

"Fine. Almost done." Richie quickly clicked the doorknob lock shut.

"Richie!" Chad rapped sharply on the bathroom door. "Unlock the door, please. What are you doing in there?"

"Nothing," Richie grumbled, unlocking the door and opening it. He glared at Chad. "Can I have a little privacy, please?"

"Not if you're going to play games like this." Chad held up the box of suppositories. "When's the last time you used one of these?"

"Yesterday," Richie lied.

"Richard Desalvio."

"I can't do this, Chad! I'd rather be dead than deal with this." Richie ineffectually to push past Chad.

Shaking his head, Chad wrapped his arm around Richie and tugged him into the bedroom.

"Lie down, babe."

"No, Chad, no! I don't want you doing this! It's my body, not yours! I'm doing the best I can! Just leave me alone!"

"Richie, you know I'm not going to do that. if you won't handle this yourself, then you have to let me help you," Chad said.

"I don't want your help!"

"You promised to follow Nathaniel's instructions, which includes using the suppositories. Now lie down, Richie." Chad's voice was stern. "Either you insert them yourself or I'll do it for you."

"Leave me alone! Get off me, Chad! No!"

"Richie...OW!" Chad swatted Richie sharply. "Don't you dare kick me!"

"Leave me alone, Chad! Let go my arm!" Richie tried to shake free. "OW! You're hurting me."

"I'm not hurting you, you're hurting yourself." Chad hung on grimly. "Stop fighting me, Richie. You need to do this."

"OW!" Richie yelped. "No! I don't want to."

"Please, Chad," Freddie begged. "Don't do this!"

"This is your last chance, Richard. Either do it yourself or lie down quietly and let me help you."

"No, Chad! You can't make me do this, you can't!"

"Please, Chad, let him alone," Freddie added his plea. "Please!"

"Fine, Chad, you win! Let me go, damn you, I'll do it myself!" Richie grabbed for the box of suppositories and backed into the bathroom, slamming the door. "I hate you, Chad!"

Chad took a deep breath.

"Freddie, I want to see you upstairs. Now, please."

Alone in the bathroom, Richie flushed two of the suppositories down the toilet.

Freddie lay face down on the covered daybed in what they generally considered the office and a storage room. His hands clenched the pillows, knuckles white with strain. He didn't look at Chad.

Chad sighed. This was not going to be pretty.

"Let's get this over with, shall we?"

Taking Freddie's silence for assent, Chad seated himself alongside Freddie. He ran his hand over Freddie from head to bottom in a gently possessive gesture, before beginning to rub soothing circles over his back. His hand was warm and heavy and after a few circuits, Freddie softened under his touch.

"I love you, Freddie," Chad said softly. "I know you hate being spanked. I know, Freddie, I know."

Freddie began to cry.

"I'm sorry it's come to this, Freddie," Chad said calmly. "You were warned, though. Weren't you?"

"Yes," Freddie sniffled. "But it's going to hurt, Chad! It's going to hurt me! I don't want you to hurt me! I don't want you to spank me! Please Chad, don't spank me!"

Chad shook his head ruefully. There was nothing to say. This was one of the reasons he spanked Freddie as seldom as possible. Freddie never reacted well. But occasionally it was necessary to make a statement, and this was one of those times.

Chad rubbed Freddie's back for a long time, until with a heavy sigh, Freddie curled into a sitting position, undid his jeans and slid both pants and underwear off.

"Please don't, Chad?" Freddie asked again, this time only half-heartedly. Without waiting for Chad's answer, he shifted uneasily over Chad's lap. Striving to make himself as comfortable as the awkward position allowed, Freddie buried his face in his folded arms. "I hate this, Chad," Freddie said, his voice muffled. "I don't want to do this, Chad, please don't make me."

Chad took hold of Freddie's outside hip and eased his buttocks closer. Adjusted his own position slightly.

Freddie tensed involuntarily, recognizing that punishment was imminent.

"Ah!!!" Freddie yelped as Chad brought his hand down forcefully. It hurt! "Ow!!" Freddie was spanked so seldom that he was inevitably shocked at the pain.

And it was just starting! Freddie willed himself to breathe. Though the initial impact had made him cry out, he took the next few minutes of his punishment quietly and bravely.

Chad spanked hard and methodically, determined to make this spanking memorable. The physical pain was nothing compared to the emotional wringer it put Freddie through; Chad did not want to have to orchestrate a repeat performance.

Freddie's control began to slip. His breathing roughened; he began to cry quietly. Chad continued to spank him hard until a few swats beyond the point where Freddie's crying edged into ragged sobs.

"All right now, we're all done," Chad said, resting his stinging palm just above the glowing buttocks. "It's over, Freddie. Come, babe, come to me." Chad shifted Freddie from his lap onto the bed. Reclined alongside his crying lover and drew him into his arms.

"I'm sorry I'm sorry I'm sorry," Freddie wept, his face against Chad's shoulder, one hand hovering gingerly over his flaming butt. "It hurts it hurts it hurts, Chad, it hurts!"

"I know, Freddie, I know. Shh...I know.... Shh...." Chad knew how hard this was for Freddie. "All over now, shh, Freddie, I have you. Who's my good boy? Shh.. It's all right, Freddie, it's all right..."

Chad was sprawled on the couch, eyes closed, trying to lose himself in the music of his favorite CD, when Richie came looking for him.

"What did you say to Freddie, Chad?" Richie asked. "Why's he hiding upstairs? What did you do to him?"

"I spanked him," Chad said succinctly.

"Oh." Richie processed this information. He had a pretty good idea what the spanking had been over. "Got it. Shit, Chad, did you have to do that?"

Chad took a deep breath and sat up. Clicked the stereo quiet.

"I'm getting a little tired, Richie, of having every call I make questioned by the two of you. Would I really have spanked Freddie if I didn't absolutely have to, Richie? Do I spank either of you for the fun of it?"

"No," said Richie, abashed. "I'm sorry, Chad, I didn't mean it the way it came out. Really, Chad, I'm sorry. I know you hate to spank him." He leaned into Chad, seeking a hug. Chad obliged. "It's my fault he got spanked, isn't it? Shit."

"Richie, it's not a matter of fault. We're all trying, you, Freddie and me. It's not an easy time for any of us." Chad kissed Richie. "And I do know it's not your fault."

Richie opened his mouth, encouraging Chad to deepen their kiss. Chad knew Richie wanted to be reassured, that sex would be the ultimate way for them to reconnect, but he was exhausted. Richie bounced back easily from a spanking; at times he seemed to welcome the catharsis it provided. But Chad seldom had to resort to corporal punishment with Freddie and each time he did, it took time until his confidence in his own judgment returned.

Uneasy and unsatisfied, Richie made his way upstairs. Freddie was still resting face down on the bed in the office.

"Hey, Freddie," Richie said. "Chad told me. I'm sorry, Freddie."

"Richie!" Freddie came to Richie, needing contact, needing comfort. "It hurt! Chad was mad at me, Richie! He spanked me!"

"I'm sorry," Richie said contritely. He hugged Freddie, feeling Freddie's tears start again as Freddie buried his face in his shoulder. "You never talk back to Chad, never. You did it because of me."

"I'm sorry!" Freddie heard how out of control he sounded; sniffed his tears back, hard. When he spoke again, his voice was steadier. "I shouldn't have challenged Chad, I know he wants what's best for you, I just..."

"You're a sweetheart, Freddie, and I'm a brat," Richie said ruefully.

Freddie laughed, and kissed Richie sweet and soft. Richie's tongue found Freddie's and as their kiss grew more intense, they tumbled onto the bed, working each other's clothing free.

Chad looked at his sleeping brats. Feeling his gaze, Richie opened his eyes. With a mischievous look, he untangled himself. Freddie slept on, relaxed and unconcerned.

"Want some too?" Richie whispered to Chad, who shook his head and gave him a half pat, half swat on the butt.

"How did that happen?" Chad asked.

"I came up and it just...happened. He's hot, you know."

"Swear to god, Richie, nothing stops you," Chad said wryly. "Was he okay afterwards?" Chad asked concernedly, trying to read Freddie's sleeping face.

"Yeah." Richie looked at Chad. "I cheered him up."

Chad swatted him again, a little harder.

Richie made a genuine attempt to use the glycerin suppositories the next morning, but his little deception of the previous day had tipped the balance against him. Embarrassed, disheartened and very, very uncomfortable, he called Dr. Roseman's office and made arrangements for a visit.

"Definitely an impaction." Dr. Nathaniel Roseman finished his careful digital examination. Stripping the latex cot from his finger, he shook his head. "It needs to be extracted, Richard."

"I hate this so much," Richie moaned. "Why is this happening to me?"

"It's not a question of fault, Richard." Dr. Nathaniel Roseman shook his head. "But if you followed the regimen I recommended, this probably wouldn't happen."

"I do the best I can," Richie said sullenly. "Nat, it isn't my fault! It takes too much time in the morning! It hurts!"

"What do you mean by 'hurts'? Is it painful or just uncomfortable?" Dr. Roseman asked.

"I don't know," Richie said, scowling. "Uncomfortable. Very uncomfortable."

"We can adjust your oral medication and see if that doesn't help soften things up a little," Dr. Roseman suggested.

"No," Richie moaned. "I don't want to go through that mess again. It's horrible not to have control over my own bowels. I don't care what you have to do, I'd kill myself before I'd go through that again."

"That's very dramatic," Dr. Roseman said slowly, noting the tension in his patient's voice and posture. "I would really like to discuss this with Chad too, Richard."

Richie hesitated, torn between wanting Chad's support and wanting to avoid confessing his failure to follow his regimen to Chad. Chad would have some choice things to say about that; it was a discussion that Richie knew he would not enjoy.

"If it happens again, you can talk to him," Richie temporized. "I'll deal with it myself this time. It will only worry him."

"All right. Lie on your left side and pull your leg up, that's it." The doctor snapped a fresh pair of gloves over his hands. Applied a generous amount of lubrication to his fingers. Waited for it to warm. "Try and relax now, I'm going to remove the impacted material. It may be a little uncomfortable..."

An understatement if there ever was. Half an hour later a pale and shaky Richie agreed to let the doctor place a phone call. He huddled in a chair in the waiting room and hoped Chad would come soon.

"How's my boy?" Chad asked gently, running his hand over Richie's back. "Come on, babe." He drew Richie out of the seat. "I took a cab over. Where did you park?"

"Underneath the building," Richie said faintly.

"Give me your keys." Chad walked him to the car. "In you go. It's all right, Richie. I'm here to take care of you. Take it easy now, everything's all right. Everything's fine."

"I'm sorry," Richie said, his voice hoarse. "I thought I could deal with it myself. It's my own fault. I didn't want you to be disappointed in me. I'm sorry, Chad."

"Everything's all right," Chad repeated. "Put your head back, Richie, and just rest. We'll be home soon."

Chad pulled Richie's car into their garage. Opening Richie's door for him, he drew Richie upright, put his arm around Richie's waist and shepherded him into the house.

"Bathroom?" Chad asked. Richie shook his head negatively. "Bed then, Richie. Come on, easy does it." Chad helped Richie stretch out. Took off his shoes. Unbuckled his belt. Undid his pants and slid them down, eased his turtleneck over his head. Ignored Richie's trembling until he had finished stripping him to his underwear.

Then Chad slid into bed alongside Richie and pulled Richie into his embrace. Drew the covers over both of them and held Richie tightly as his lover cried himself to sleep.

Chad eased himself cautiously from the bed. Richie was usually a light sleeper, but mercifully he didn't react. Chad tucked a pillow firmly against Richie's back and tucked the covers around him tightly, knowing Richie slept better thus cocooned.

Freddie was methodically wiping down the counters in the kitchen. Chad recognized the impulse to do something, anything, constructive; it was one he often felt himself.

"Is he all right?" Freddie asked Chad. "Can I do anything for him?"


"He's sleeping," Chad said wearily. "It's the best thing for him."

"Can I do anything for you, then?" Freddie asked. "Chad?"

"Would you bring me a cup of tea? That would be awfully nice," Chad said gratefully.

"Sure, Chad," Freddie said. Impulsively he leaned closer and kissed Chad lightly. It was a simple gesture, but it had been a long time since Freddie had been this openly affectionate.

"My Freddie," Chad said softly, savoring the sweet taste of his young lover on his lips.

"Let me get your tea," Freddie said, the tenderness he felt surprising him. It had been days since he had felt in tune with Chad. But seeing Chad's face as he emerged from the bedroom had reminded Freddie just how much Chad loved their Richie.

"What did the doctor do to him, Chad?" Freddie asked. "He looked terrible."

"Freddie." Chad took a deep breath. "All right, he's your lover too, you have a right to know. It's unpleasant. You know that Richie's having stomach problems. Doctor Roseman had to extract some impacted feces."

"I don't get it?" Freddie looked at Chad blankly.

"The doctor had to remove a mass of dried out stool," Chad explained bluntly. "Manually."

"Oh shit," Freddie moaned. "Oh God, that's disgusting. Chad, that's so gross!"

"Is it? Constipation is a common complication of MS." Chad looked into Freddie's eyes. "Freddie, you said I was cutting you out of the loop, not letting you know what was going on with Richie, so I'm trying to correct that. Is this too much for you?"

"No," Freddie said softly. "I do want to know, Chad. I do want to understand. I just didn't realize...poor Richie."

"He doesn't need your pity, Freddie. He needs your help. And the best way you can help him is by supporting me," Chad said quietly.

"I will, I promise," Freddie said. "I want to help him, Chad. It's just so hard to see him punished when I know he's sick and miserable."

"I understand that, Freddie," Chad said, drawing Freddie down onto his lap. He took Freddie's chin and tipped his head so that their lips met. "Trust me, Freddie."

"I trust you," Freddie said. "I love you, Chad."

"I love you, Freddie. And I love our Richie, as much as you do. Trust me on that."

"Yes, Chad." Freddie snuggled closer and let Chad love him.

Chad knew from long experience that Freddie needed exactly the sort of sweet, easy time together that had been scarce lately. He resolved to make more of an effort to make this sweet, easy brat of his feel loved and cared about.

Chad and Freddie had finished installing their carefully repainted bookshelves by the time Richie awoke in the late afternoon. They sat together at the kitchen table, Chad and Richie drinking coffee, Freddie drinking coke.

"We're not going to have any more incidents like this, Richie," Chad said. "You are going to follow Nathaniel's routine to the letter."

"Fine," Richie said sullenly.

"Please, Richie, listen, we can help you with this," Freddie said.


"What are you going to do if I don't, spank me?" Richie ignored Freddie to glare at Chad.

"Paddle you," Chad said, not giving an inch. "It's gone way beyond spanking. You don't lie to me about taking your medication, Richie, you just don't."

"Please, Richie, listen to Chad," Freddie begged. "It won't be so bad."

"How the fuck do you know? No one's sticking anything up your ass!" Richie turned on Freddie.

"Don't yell at Freddie," Chad said.

"Fine," Richie said. "I'll let the baby alone."

Freddie hunched his shoulders. Chad looked from one of his lovers to the other.

"Freddie, leave the room."

"I'm fine, Chad," Freddie said hastily. "Don't..." His voice trailed off. "Yes, Chad," he mumbled obediently. With a sad glance at Richie, he walked out the door.

"You are getting a spanking for that meanspirited little display," Chad informed Richie calmly.

"No!" Richie tried to muster a token protest, but it was a sham, and both men knew it.

Almost gratefully, Richie let Chad divest him of his pants and underwear. He kicked just enough to prove that he was still Richie as Chad arranged him across his lap.

It was a serious spanking and it continued long after Richie started to cry, until his face was hot and wet, his breathing uneven and his bottom very sore. Only then did Chad gather Richie into his arms.

"No more, Richie," Chad said softly. "No more."

"I hate this," Richie said bitterly. "I hate feeling bad all the time. I wish I could die and get it over with. I hate waiting for things to just happen to me, I hate it!"

"We're all going to die someday," Chad said quietly. "Not just you. We're all going to lose parts of ourselves that we value. We all have our aches and pains. Just because you have MS is no reason for you to give up. I won't let you do that, Richie."

"It's not up to you! If it were, I wouldn't be sick!" Richie cried.

"That's right, Richie. If it were up to me, I'd make you well. But I can't. What I can do is make sure you give yourself a fighting chance. That means following the routines Nathaniel's worked out for you. From now on, you do things the way you're supposed to or you are going to be a very sore and sorry young man."

Freddie curled protectively around Richie that night, rubbing his stomach, trying to ease him into sleep. But morning found Freddie, as always, folded fast in Chad's arms.

"I think you've got something to take care of," Chad reminded Richie after breakfast. They were once again taking their morning meal in the kitchen.

"Leave me alone!" Richie pushed his chair back abruptly and stomped into the bedroom.

"This doesn't look promising." Chad sighed.

"Are you going to spank him?" Freddie asked. His face was pale.

"You might want to go for a walk, Freddie," Chad said, his meaning clear.


"I'll get my sneakers," Freddie said softly. Putting both his and Richie's breakfast dishes neatly in the sink, he headed into their bedroom.

"Go away!" Richie was curled into a tight ball on the bed, his face hidden, his back to the door.

"God, Richie, why are you being like this?" Freddie bent over Richie and tickled him gently. "Roll over. Talk to me."


"I hate it!" Richie said vehemently, flopping onto his back and glaring at Freddie. "I can't do it!"

"Ask Chad to help you," Freddie suggested.

"You're fucking nuts! I can't ask him to do that! Would you?"

Richie's challenge hung in the air.

"Yeah, I would," Freddie said, shrugging. "I'd want someone to help me."

"Not Chad," Richie said softly. "I can't ask Chad to help me do this. I won't!"

"I'll help you, Richie." Freddie tried to keep the tremor out of his voice.

"Please don't hurt me." Richie pushed his briefs off and rolled onto his side, automatically pulling his knees up. He passed Freddie the package of suppositories.

"I won't hurt you." Freddie stroked Richie's bare buttocks gently. Opened the small package and unwrapped one foil covered bullet before spreading the tense cheeks apart.

"Deep breath, Richie." Freddie cautiously pressed the suppository into him. "Almost done." He patted Richie reassuringly. "You okay so far?"

"I guess, Freddie." Richie sounded sad and defeated.


"Take a magazine and go sit a bit," Freddie coaxed. "Come on, Richie, give it a chance to work."

"Yeah." Richie got out of bed and headed for the bathroom.

"Freddie." Chad stood in the doorway.

"I was getting my sneakers, Chad," Freddie said softly. "He just looked so miserable. I'm sorry, Chad."

"It's all right, Freddie," Chad said. "I never want to punish him, you know."

"I know." Freddie came to Chad and Chad hugged him tightly. "I love you, Chad."

"Is this a private moment or can anyone get in on it?" Richie demanded. The morning's trauma behind him, he was already rebounding.

"Anyone, no," Chad said. "You, always." He gathered Richie into his arms along with Freddie.

For a few minutes the three men clung to each other. Then, with faces wet, but hearts light, they turned to face the day.


Thank you, Rusty, for your patience and good advice. Thank you, Hedeia, for your support. EM