M/M sex, spanking. If the idea of a discipline relationship between two consenting adult men offends you, so will this story.
ELIZABETH MARSHALL STORIES
It was barely dawn. Rudolph shuddered awake, still in the grip of an unpleasant dream. Thomas soothed him sleepily. Although Rudolph's tremors subsided, the nightmare images of fire and death did not. Fearful of falling back asleep, Rudolph abandoned their warm bed and not wanting to wake Thomas further, retreated to his own room to perform his morning ablutions.
Rudolph stood before his dresser, his fine linen lawn shirt still unbuttoned, his breeches still unlaced, and looked at his own face in the glass, not certain he recognized the man who looked back at him. Refusing to yield to the lingering malaise the dream had prompted, Rudolph filled the blue and white china washbasin with water from its matching pitcher and leaned over it to splash his face. Without warning the door to his bedchamber swung open.
The serving woman, fresh linen in her arms, gave a frightened little mewl; she had not expected to find anyone within. It was common knowledge among the staff that Rudolph spent his nights in the master's rooms. She met Rudolph's eyes for a brief second and then dropped her own, but not before Rudolph had seen her look of avid curiosity, mingled with fear. She tittered in nervous embarrassment and crossed herself, backing toward the door.
"Bitch!" Rudolph hissed, furious at both the gesture and the emotions behind it. He heaved the heavy pitcher across the room. It shattered against the doorframe and panic stricken, the woman dropped her linen and fled into the hall, screeching. Rudolph followed her. She dodged him and in so doing, brushed against the lit taper on the opposite wall. It was loose in its sconce and fell, setting her skirt alight. She screamed in purest terror and ran faster, her motion fanning the flames.
"Fool!" Rudolph tackled her and taking her to the floor, rolled on top of her, using his own body to douse the flame. The fire went out, but her clothes were hot and smoking. Rudolph stripped her of her skirts, tearing the garments from her as she lay pinned and sobbing beneath him.
It was thus they were found. Rudolph was dragged to his feet and restrained while the woman was helped upright and drawn aside, her hair stroked, a sheet wrapped modestly around her.
The toppled taper, the broken crockery, the torn, smoking garments...by the time a hastily awakened Thomas appeared, drawn by the shouting and trailed by the remainder of his drowsy household staff, it was clear that none of the bystanders knew what had actually occurred. In the face of the evidence of fire, the harsh accusations of rape had subsided; there was tentative acknowledgment that Rudolph's intentions had been good.
Rudolph glared silently ahead, his eyes cold and distant. He had been released, but there were finger welts on his arms where he had been held. His cheeks were white except for two small spots of red over the bone. He had fastened his breeches hastily and the strings were knotted carelessly. His white linen shirt was buttoned askew.
"Is a physician needed?" Thomas asked; the cooing women sheltering the terrified maid shook their heads negatively. "Then please, take her downstairs to the kitchen and find her some refreshment. I want to speak with everyone who came upon the scene of this unfortunate incident, singly, in my study," Thomas said calmly. "If those of you who were here would kindly proceed downstairs and wait for me? Thank you; the rest of you may go about your duties." Thomas beckoned to Rudolph. "Come with me, Rudolph; I would like to speak to you first."
His head held high, Rudolph haughtily followed Thomas downstairs. Nothing in his demeanor betrayed the numb despair Rudolph felt.
"Well, Thomas, are you sorry now that you invited the wolf into the sheepfold?" Rudolph asked lightly, as Thomas closed the study door behind him.
"This is no joking matter, Rudolph." Thomas shook his head, well used to Rudolph's studied carelessness. "I would like an explanation, please."
"What is there to say?" Rudolph smiled icily at Thomas. "You will not believe me, in any case."
"Rudolph!" Thomas softened his voice. "Rudy, I would like to know what happened."
"The bitch entered my room unannounced, crossed herself in fear and disgust when she saw me, and fled as from the devil himself. I threw the water pitcher at her. Unfortunately I missed and instead of striking her, it struck the doorframe. It is no more. A pity, Thomas, it was an expensive piece, I am sure. You have excellent taste in china."
"Did you mean to harm her?" Thomas ignored Rudolph's deliberate attempt at provocation.
"When I threw the pitcher in her direction? Yes. Would I had not missed; she deserved to be knocked unconscious and perhaps her flesh would have been kinder to the pitcher than the wood was." Rudolph bared his teeth in a facsimile of a smile. "When I threw her to the ground and tore her skirts from her? No. Not that you, nor anyone else, will believe me. The little fool backed into the candle in the hall and knocked it from its place. Her skirts were alight, Thomas, she fled in panic and in so doing, fanned the flames. Fool that I have become, I intervened and stripped her of her burning garments." Rudolph shrugged and looked away. "An unlikely tale, is it not? Perhaps, then, I lie? Beat me, Thomas, I do not care."
"Rudolph, I will never beat you," Thomas said quietly. "And I do not think you lie. You may have acted rashly in throwing the pitcher at her, but I trust you know that by your quick actions you saved her from being badly burnt, and you may well have saved her life."
"Does it matter, Thomas?" Rudolph said bitterly. "Only you are fool enough to think I might play the hero."
"Hush, Rudolph." Rudolph in this mood was a challenge at the best of times; Thomas needed to respond to the morning's excitement now, before rumor and innuendo destroyed all hope of its private, quiet resolution. He did not have the luxury of time in which to sort out his prickly lover's ambivalence.
"I must finish interviewing the other witnesses, Rudolph," Thomas said gently. "I would like you to wait quietly for me in the dining room, Rudolph. Speak to no one; do nothing rash. I will be in as soon as I can."
"Yes, Thomas," Rudolph said resignedly. He expected to be punished for his part in the morning's fiasco; his stomach flip flopped anxiously at the thought of what that punishment might entail.
"It will be all right, Rudy," Thomas said softly, understanding something of his lover's anxiety. "I promise."
Rudolph wanted to believe him.
By the time everyone had been spoken to and Thomas was satisfied that Rudolph's part in the incident had been fairly established, it was midmorning. Thomas was tired and quite hungry. He joined Rudolph in the dining room and signaled for food to be brought.
"Thank you," Thomas said politely, as a platter of cold meat and bread was placed before him. The serving man bowed and quietly withdrew.
"Come, Rudolph, join me." Thomas gestured at the chair beside him and Rudolph reluctantly abandoned his position at the mantel and seated himself as Thomas requested.
"I assume they all hate me?" Rudolph said idly.
"No, Rudolph. Fortunately for you, your temper is well known; no one doubts that you threw the pitcher without premeditation. What happened afterward was an accident, that too is clear to everyone, and that you acted as you did only to save the girl is equally clear."
"Next I will be giving pennies to beggars and attending church twice daily," Rudolph said sardonically.
"Hush." Thomas sighed. "If I did not love you I would despair of you. Here, perhaps a taste of good wine will sweeten your tongue."
Thomas poured two glasses from the bottle on the table and offered one to Rudolph.
"I will be sick if have anything, Thomas," Rudolph said, making a face. "Please, let me be." He pushed his chair back from the table; Thomas stopped him with a gentle hand on his arm.
"A little bread, if you have no taste for wine," Thomas suggested.
"I cannot." Rudolph shook his head. "I will be sick. Please, Thomas."
"All right." Recognizing the futility pressing Rudolph further, Thomas let Rudolph go.
Rudolph paced while Thomas ate slowly, enjoying the taste of the food, gradually relaxing. Despite the stress of the morning and his concerns about Rudolph, he was happy. Nothing truly terrible had happened. The woman, thank God, was unharmed.
"Thomas," Rudolph said, looking at Thomas, his eyes wide and distressed. "Thomas, I think I am ill."
"You are not ill, my Rudy," Thomas assured Rudolph. "You feel guilty. You are disturbed by the events of the morning, which are prompting feelings that you would perhaps rather not have. You are upset and confused. We will discuss what troubles you and you will feel yourself once more."
"No, I am ill!" Rudolph insisted. "I have a pain in my chest, my throat is tight, I cannot breathe deeply and speech is hard. I am ill."
"Hush, Rudy, come to me now."
"I do not need petting, Thomas, you mistake me." Rudolph glared at Thomas. "I will not accept your pity, Thomas, I refuse. I do not need you to countenance my behavior! I will do as I please. I will hurt who I please. I will throw what I please when I please at who I please–"
"Come, Rudolph, let us walk awhile." Thomas's soft response was not what Rudolph had anticipated. Caught off guard, Rudolph followed Thomas quietly.
They set out at a good pace for the hill at the back of the far field, a favored walk for its views and pleasant trails. Reaching their favorite stopping point near the pinnacle, Thomas sat down.
"I am ill, Thomas." Rudolph stared off into the distance.
"My poor Rudy. You had a difficult morning," Thomas said sympathetically. "Will you not let me comfort you? Lie down, Rudy." He patted his lap and with a slight, scornful shrug of his shoulders, Rudolph slumped to the ground beside Thomas and turning sideways, rested his head against Thomas's thighs. Thomas undid the ribbon that held Rudolph's hair in an untidy tail, and at the gentle, homely gesture, Rudolph began to cry quietly.
"I feel sick!"
"You feel guilty," Thomas corrected him gently, well aware that guilt was an emotion previously unknown to Rudolph. Rudolph had felt shame, but never guilt.
Thomas stroked Rudolph's hair for a very long time, not sure whether there was really anything else he could do. It wasn't until the sun had moved so that the grassy knell they were sitting in began to be uncomfortably chilly that Thomas urged Rudolph to sit up. With sure, gentle fingers, Thomas combed Rudolph's hair into a presentable state, straightened his shirt and tightened the strings of his breeches and helped Rudolph to his feet.
"I wish you weren't so nice to me," Rudolph said sadly. "I would feel less guilty, I think, Thomas, if you were less kind."
"You would feel less guilty, my Rudy, if you simply moderated your actions in the first place," Thomas observed. "Anything that I do or do not do is secondary to that. You must think, Rudy, before you act, how you will feel afterward."
"I never felt *any* way before this!" Rudolph's frustration was plain. "I did as I pleased and I never felt anything at all!"
"That is not a good thing, Rudy," Thomas chided. "You must feel to be human." He took Rudolph's elbow, turning him toward home.
"I don't want to go back," Rudolph said unhappily. "They all know. They all saw. It is not a pleasant thing, to be universally despised."
"You are not universally despised," Thomas said. "Hush, Rudy, it was not near the catastrophe you make of it."
"It is! And I imagine you are going to beat me for my part in it, little as I deserve it."
"It was not a catastrophe. Thanks to your quick actions, the woman was unharmed. And I may on occasion spank you, but I will never beat you and well you know it, Rudy," Thomas said lightly. "I do not even intend to spank you today. Rudy, what happened this morning was an accident. She overreacted, so did you, and it went from there."
"I did not attempt to rape her," Rudolph said. "Yet that is what they will all say."
"They are not fools, Rudolph, they will hear the whole story, to your shame and to your credit," Thomas said. "You do not throw things, no matter the provocation, which in this case, I believe, was unintended. Yet you saved her from burning. In the end you did more good than harm."
"You, Thomas, are a fool," Rudolph said.
"Hush, Rudolph. Do as you are told, and hold your serpent's tongue. We are going home."
Once they were upstairs in Thomas's rooms, the door securely locked behind them, Thomas undressed Rudolph and himself and aligned them both on the bed so that they could see each other's faces. He winced at the fright in Rudolph's eyes.
"What is this about, my Rudy?" Thomas took Rudolph lightly by his forearms and shook him gently until Rudolph's eyes focused on his own. "Think. I am not going to force you to do anything; I am not going to hurt you."
Rudolph swallowed hard and nodded.
"Tell me what troubles you, Rudolph."
"I cried, Thomas. I cried because I wished her dead! I, who I have killed more people than you in your wildest dreams can imagine and cried for none of them," Rudolph said. "I do not understand, Thomas, what you have done to me, to make me hurt so inside. I have never felt this before, there is a pain in my heart and my side and my head and I wish you would beat me for what I did not do, and forgive me what I did, because I did so much less than I wish I had done. Oh Thomas, how can I hope you will understand me, when I do not understand myself?"
"I do understand," Thomas said, stroking Rudolph's hair gently. "Rudolph, I cannot absolve you for the sins you committed in the past. I can only assure you that you have committed no sin here today. To loathe someone in your heart, and yet not hurt them, is better than to feel nothing, even though I understand that you do not find this true."
"It is not better for me!" Rudolph said bitterly. "It hurts me, and the other never did. I despise this feeling, and I despise myself for caring, and I despise you for..." His voice trailed off. "I do not despise you, Thomas," Rudolph said sadly. "I love you beyond all others. But Thomas, I am truly in pain and I fear dying. I do not want to burn, Thomas, I have been burnt and I fear the fire. I have seen others burnt and not aided them and so shall it, perhaps, be done to me and I am afraid, Thomas, I am so very, very afraid."
"Whatever you have done, you are a child of God and the just and merciful God I believe in will not let a child burn through all eternity," Thomas said quietly. "Hush, Rudy, I am certain of this."
"You can't be certain," Rudolph said.
"I am certain," Thomas said. "I do not know how or why I know, but I do. Hush, Rudy, do not think on this anymore, you will drive yourself mad."
"Do madmen feel pain?" Rudolph asked sadly. "It might well be worth being mad, Thomas, if I could feel nothing again."
"Hush, Rudy," Thomas said. He turned aside long enough to fill a glass with strong spirits; offered it to Rudolph. "Slowly, slowly. You need to sleep, Rudolph. Hush."
Rudolph drank quietly, grateful for Thomas's sureness and kindness. Rudolph let the warmth of the alcohol numb him. He fell asleep in Thomas's arms, quiet and no longer afraid. By the time he awoke it was dark and very late. Thomas was sitting at the small table near the fireplace, reading by a lit candle.
"Good, Rudolph, you're awake." Setting his book aside, Thomas joined Rudolph on the bed. He helped Rudolph to sit up against the headboard. "How do you feel? Are you hungry?" He offered Rudolph a filled bowl.
"What is it?" Rudolph sniffed curiously.
"It's a custard, Rudy. Try it; you will see it is very nice." Thomas nudged a spoon into Rudolph's hand. "My cook worries over you."
Rudolph tasted the custard gingerly. Its sweetness was pleasing.
"But why would he make something like this for me?"
"Perhaps it is because he takes pride in his talents and sees your slenderness as a reproach to his meals." Thomas smiled. "He favors you, who can say why?"
"I do not understand!" Bewilderment in Rudolph's eyes. "Thomas, in all the years I lived with my uncle, no one ever offered me any kindness. All the times I was sent to bed hungry, no one ever brought me food. All the times I was compelled to serve my uncle's pleasure, no one ever showed me any pity. Yet you take me to your rooms and a treat appears. Thomas, why? I do not understand."
"My people know I love you," Thomas said quietly. "I think they understand that it is not my intention to make you suffer. I am so sorry, Rudolph, for what you endured. You were a child; you deserved compassion and you received cruelty. I am so very sorry, my Rudy."
Rudolph was shaken at the gentleness of Thomas's response. He had not expected his outburst to be met with sympathy.
"I regret everything," Rudolph said dismally, laying his spoon aside. "Everything."
"It is all past. It does no good to dwell on it," Thomas said with great certainty. He launched into a stream of easy, reassuring chatter: What they might do in the next few days. A spider sighted on a recent walk. Whether adding a pair of gray geldings to his stable was a foolish indulgence or not.
Thomas waited until Rudolph seemed sufficiently distracted and then, dipping Rudolph's discarded spoon into the custard, offered it again to Rudolph. Rudolph took the spoon automatically from Thomas's hand and slowly finished eating as Thomas continued to talk quietly.
"Thomas." His dish empty, Rudolph melted into Thomas's arms, burying his face in Thomas's shoulder. "Thomas I do not deserve you, but I am grateful you have chosen to love me."
"You are very sweet, my Rudy," Thomas said, hugging Rudolph tightly. "Much of the time."
"You are perhaps the only person who has ever thought that of me." Rudolph looked away; when he turned back to Thomas, his face was wet with tears. "Thomas, you ought to beat me."
"I will not," said Thomas quietly.
"You are a fool, Thomas," Rudolph said.
"I love you, Rudolph. I am not going to beat you," Thomas said, shaking his head at Rudolph.
"I wish you would," Rudolph said, even as he turned awkwardly to sprawl face down over Thomas's lap. "Please."
"Perhaps a spanking, then." Thomas drew Rudolph carefully forward. He stroked his hand over Rudolph's spine, smoothed the pale flesh at the small of his back and caressed his hips, before letting his hand come to rest on the lower portion of his buttocks.
"A spanking," said Thomas. "Not a beating. Never a beating. I do this only because I love you, Rudy."
Thomas lifted his hand and cupping it slightly, brought the palm down firmly across Rudolph's seat. Repeated the gesture, no harder, no rougher, alternating from one buttock to the other, watching the skin blanch and then blush. Rudolph lay quietly, reassured by the thorough, careful spanking.
And suddenly Rudolph was crying, crying openly, certain Thomas would understand his misery, his regret, his shame at everything that had been done to him, his guilt at everything he had done himself. Thomas continued to spank him, not forcing the tears, but coaxing them, each spank a reminder: You are mine now.
"Enough," Rudolph whispered. "Please Thomas, enough."
"Yes," Thomas said. "I agree." He rolled Rudolph onto the bed, stretched out alongside him and took him in his arms. For a long time, Rudolph rested, sniffling, his head on Thomas's chest, taking comfort in his nearness, in the sound of his heartbeat, in the feel of his hand stroking gently through his hair. "My Rudy."
"No one else has ever punished me because he loved me," Rudolph said. "I did not know before I knew you, that it was possible for such a thing to be true."
"Do you know it now?" Thomas asked gently.
"Yes," Rudolph said. "I will remember for the rest of my life, Thomas, that you spanked me and held me and comforted me. That you loved me. I am grateful."
Thomas finger combed the strands of damp hair back from Rudolph's warm, wet cheeks and kissed him gently until Rudolph began to respond with kisses of his own.
"You are so very dear to me," Thomas said quietly. "I am grateful, too, for the pleasure you bring me. For your trust. For your love, which I know you think a small thing, but which is not small to me."
"Take me, Thomas, for I am yours entirely," Rudolph whispered. "Love me, Thomas."
"I do love you, Rudy." Thomas dipped his hand into the small jar on the table beside the bed and parting Rudolph's thighs, caressed the tight ring of muscle with well-greased fingers, waiting for it to soften before probing deeper. Rudolph sighed with pleasure and withdrawing his hand, Thomas slicked his swelling cock and pressed inward.
"I love you," Rudolph whispered, tilting himself to meet Thomas's thrust, accepting him, welcoming him, taking him to the hilt. "I love you."
And then there was only pleasure, their bodies joined, the rush of heat and joy and they were falling, only to be caught in each other's arms.
"I love you." Rudolph rested his head trustingly on Thomas's chest and let his eyes close. His breathing slowed and deepened and he slipped into sleep.
"I will always love you." Thomas arranged the covers carefully so that they covered both of them. "My Rudy."