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



The room under the ancient inn's rafters was cool and breezy. The bedding, though old, was clean. Thomas and Rudolph shared the same bed, but slept apart, each keeping firmly to his own side of the mattress.

Rudolph moaned and shifted restlessly, caught in the grip of an old, old nightmare. Heart pounding, he flattened himself to the bed, desperate to evade the clutching hand of his unreal assailant.

"Wake up, it's all right! You're dreaming!" Thomas grasped Rudolph's shoulder, shaking him gently.


"Stop that!" Rudolph started at the all-too-real touch.

"Shh," Thomas crooned. "You're all right, Rudy." He rolled towards Rudolph, instinctively stroking his arm comfortingly.

"Remove your hand, please," Rudolph said irritably. "I'm fine, Thomas. I've already told you, I dislike being touched." He curled away from Thomas, not wanting the comfort he offered.

"Easy, Rudy, easy. I know you don't like when I touch you, I'm sorry, I didn't think first." Thomas shifted back to his own side of the bed. "Come, Rudy, be comfortable. Go back to sleep." He grasped the blankets, resettling them with a smooth, easy shake.

"I'm fine," Rudolph said without much conviction. "It was just a dream. Good night, Thomas. I'm sorry I woke you." He rolled onto his back and lay rigidly, his eyes closed. Just a dream. Just a dream. Just a dream. His heart thumped in rhythm to the chant in his head.

Poor Rudy, poor Rudy, poor Rudy. Thomas's heart thumped out its own refrain. That Rudolph's nightmares were not merely dreams, but rather visions from the past, was Thomas's secret belief.

"Good night, Rudy," Thomas said, closing his own eyes. He was tired. They had been on the road since early that morning. It had been a busy and profitable day. A good night's rest and he would be ready for tomorrow.

For the second time, the night was shattered by a scream.

"Shh, shh, shh..." Thomas was awake instantly. This time he was careful not to touch Rudolph. "Rudy, sit up."

"I hate this," Rudolph said savagely. "I'm going for a walk." He reached for his clothing.

"No, Rudy," Thomas said. "It's late; you are not going out alone. Sit in the chair for a bit if you want. Take a drink from my flask. Wrap my cloak around you, please, the room is cold." His voice left no room for argument.

Rudolph obeyed. He slumped tiredly as he sat, finally falling into an uneasy sleep.

"No!" Rudolph clamped his mouth shut on his involuntary cry, but Thomas was already awake. He knelt alongside Rudolph, taking his hands in his own despite Rudolph's attempts to draw away.

"Shh, Rudy. Listen to me. This is no good. We both have need of sleep. I give you my word I will not touch you in the ways you fear. But I will hold you safe against the dreams that trouble you."

Thomas coaxed Rudolph out of the chair and into the bed. He curled himself around Rudolph's back, tucking the other man into him, and rearranged the covers over both of them. "I have you now, Rudy. No more dreams."

Rudolph was bone weary; the comfort Thomas's body offered was more than he could resist. Closing his eyes, Rudolph snuggled into the warmth and was immediately asleep.

Even knowing it was only exhaustion that let Rudolph accept his embrace, Thomas was heartened by Rudolph's response. No further nightmares troubled their sleep.

Dawn broke, clear and chill. Both men were early risers. Thomas felt Rudolph ease himself free.

"Good morning, Rudy," Thomas said gently. "Come, we can get a hot meal downstairs before we continue."

"A hot meal?" Rudolph sounded puzzled. "For breakfast, Thomas?"

"Yes, Rudy," Thomas said with a friendly laugh. "Working men need full stomachs."

"I see," Rudolph said doubtfully. "I am still not accustomed to much in the way of breakfast, Thomas. Some tea, a sweet roll..."

"Eggs. Porridge with milk. Bread," Thomas said practically. "The innkeeper lays a good table. Come, Rudy, you'll fare better with something hot inside you." He held out his hand. He was unsurprised when Rudolph didn't take it.


"I wonder at your appetite, Thomas. Had I been a more worthy bed partner, I would be less astonished."

Thomas laughed. Rudolph nodded, acknowledging the success of his jest.

"We're going to eat now, Rudy. We have a long journey ahead of us. We will have plenty of time to talk on the road. One thing, though, I would make clear: There is nothing, not one thing about you, that is not worth something to me. Do you understand?"

Rudolph raised his eyes to Thomas's face; saw the conviction there. More fool Thomas, then. Rudolph's voice when he replied was bland and chill.

"I understand, Thomas. I am grateful for your charity." Pretty phrases, recited by rote and meaningless.

"Rudy." Thomas longed to fold Rudolph in his arms and kiss him until his brittle politeness melted, but he knew it was a futile longing. Rudolph clad himself in politeness as if it were armor. "Come, Rudy, let us go eat."

Rudolph tore a piece from his roll and chewed it savagely. Thomas imagined his thoughts were equally fierce. Thomas himself ate slowly, steadily, enjoying the plain fare. He slipped the serving wench a coin as they left the inn.

 She smiled and curtsied, giggling.

"How kind of you," Rudolph hissed through clenched teeth. Clearly it wasn't a compliment.

"You do not care overly much for anyone but yourself," Thomas replied sharply. "That was not a compliment either, Rudy."

Rudolph scowled, but did not respond. He settled sulkily on the seat alongside Thomas. He had not slept well, the unfamiliar food hurt his stomach, and the routine of a traveling merchant's life held few charms for him.

The steam rose from the back of the well-fed team as the matched pair of bays clip-clopped along the hard packed road. Dew dried in the grasses along the side of the lane as the day wore on and they drove further afield. Bored by his own bad mood, Rudolph cast about for conversational distraction

"Do you enjoy the sexual act, Thomas?" Rudolph asked curiously.

"I do," Thomas said, wondering what had prompted Rudolph's question. "And you?"

"It depends." Rudolph lifted an eyebrow. "Perhaps I find that most are sweeter forced, than willing." He smiled as Thomas recoiled.

"That is enough, Rudy," Thomas said through gritted teeth. "If I believed for a moment that you truly meant what you are saying, I would slit both our throats."

"What, Thomas, my tastes offend you?"

"A liking for rape is not a matter of taste, Rudy. It is a matter of morality. It is wrong."

An eloquent shrug of the slender shoulders.

"Rudy." Thomas brought the carriage to a halt. Rudolph stiffened. "Rudy, you are trying my patience. Why?"

"Why what, Thomas?" Rudolph tilted his head. "I don't know that I understand your meaning."

"Why are you deliberately saying things that you know will provoke me?" Thomas asked. "What is troubling you, Rudy?"

"Nothing at all, my dear Thomas. I'm quite happy that you have seen me crying out in my sleep like a child, quieting only when taken in your arms like a babe to his mother's breast. Why you think that would unsettle me is beyond me!" Rudolph said savagely.

Thomas exhaled slowly.

"What? What? Oh, but that you have no answer for!" Rudolph was pale with anger.

"Rudy, Rudy, it's all right," Thomas said softly.

"How? How is it all right, Thomas? I've nothing left, neither land nor rank nor now, even, pride! How is it all right?" Rudolph glared at Thomas.

"It is all right because I say it is all right," Thomas said calmly. "Stop it, Rudy. There is no need for this."

"Who are you to tell me to stop?" Rudolph glared at Thomas.

"I love you, Rudy." Thomas looked squarely at Rudolph. "I cannot bear to hear you wield words as weapons against me. Please, be silent now."

Rudolph looked at Thomas. A muscle twitched in his cheek, the only sign of the struggle within. He nodded once, dropped his eyes, and was quiet.

"Rudy." Thomas steered the carriage off the road, toward a clearing a little out of the main way. "Come, we are going to stop here awhile." He climbed from the wagon and tethered the horses.

Rudolph watched warily as Thomas spread a blanket in the shade of the wagon.

"Come, Rudy," Thomas coaxed. "Neither of us slept much last night. You are unsettled and I am short tempered. I have no wish to quarrel with you. Let us rest quietly together for a little." Thomas sprawled full length, yawning exaggeratedly.

"You may sleep, Thomas. I'll keep watch." Rudolph seated himself carefully at the blanket's edge.

"Come here, Rudy," Thomas said. "There is nothing to watch for. Let us both sleep a bit."

"I don't want you to touch me."

"Rudy, I am not going to touch you that way. I am going to hold you in my arms as I did last night."

"Thomas, I can't bear this!" Rudolph looked away.

"What can't you bear?" Thomas asked gently. "To be vulnerable? To let me hold you? To let me love you?"

"Thomas, I–" Rudolph's voice broke. "All of it. None of it. Let me be, Thomas!"

"Come to me, Rudy," Thomas said, very quietly, but very firmly. "I won't hurt you. I won't let you be hurt again. Come to me now."

Rudolph backed tentative closer to Thomas. He lay back awkwardly, tensing as his head came to rest on Thomas's shoulder.

"Good, Rudy." Thomas's breath was warm in his hair. "That's the way. My Rudy."

"Thomas? I can't." Rudolph sighed.

"Shh, shh, shh..." Thomas crooned. "You are, Rudy. You are. Shh..." He shifted slightly, easing Rudolph against him. "You don't have to do anything except trust me." Thomas closed his eyes, breathing slowly, and let himself sleep.

Rudolph had no intention of sleeping, but it was very hard to stay awake and alert while lying in the shade of a wagon on a soft blanket with his head pillowed on Thomas's broad chest. Rudolph was tired and his heart hurt. With a muffled sniff, he closed his eyes and ceased to struggle.

The two men drowsed until mid afternoon. Thomas stirred first. The sun had shifted lower in the sky; already the temperature was dropping.

"Rudy, it's time to wake up. Rudy..." Thomas jostled Rudolph gently. Rudolph's eyes were closed, his lips slack. Asleep, he looked both younger and more innocent than he was.

"Stop that."

Thomas shook his head at the imperious tone that came so easily to Rudolph. To the manor born, he thought to himself.

"Come, Rudy, we need to get started."

Rudolph stood up, shaking himself. He had healed from his captivity, which he had mercifully little memory of. Silently, he shook out and folded the blanket and took a seat alongside Thomas on the front bench of the carriage.

The pretty pair of matched bays ambled along. Thomas had an eye for good horseflesh and his showy team was a treasured indulgence. Rudolph admired Thomas's driving; he was a quick, economical handler of the reins.

"Thomas, are we going to find somewhere to stay at this hour?" Rudolph asked uncertainly, as it grew darker and there was still nothing in sight.

"There is an inn I am fond of, a little way from here," Thomas said reassuringly. "Have no fear, Rudy, you'll have a proper bed to sleep in tonight."

"I am not anxious," Rudolph said quickly. Thomas saw his jaw tighten. Rudolph abhorred showing any weakness.

"That was a small jest, Rudy, not a reproof." Thomas wanted to be certain Rudolph has understood his intent.

"Yes, Thomas." Rudolph wanted the conversation over.

Thomas was right; they reached the small hostelry just as dusk deepened to dark. The place was clean, if unexceptional, the food at least to the usual standard. Thomas ate eagerly, exchanging easy pleasantries with the other patrons.

Rudolph trimmed his meat carefully, picked at the good bread the publican provided, and downed several glasses of porter before even beginning to relax. He kept his face turned away from the fire, and Thomas, seeing his discomfort, unobtrusively turned the conversation away from him. Rudolph was glad when Thomas rose to retire. Making their goodbyes, they took the stairs swiftly. Thomas locked the door to their room.

"You seem troubled, Rudy. Perhaps you would like to share some of your thoughts with me?"

"I have slept in your arms twice today. I do not understand the way it makes me feel. I am afraid of what it presages, and yet I crave your touch, Thomas." Rudolph shrugged disparagingly.

Thomas recognized the gesture for the question it was.

"Rudy, you need go no further than you desire. If you so choose, we can be lovers, but if what you want is friendship, I will be happy for that. There is no wrong choice for you here."

"I'm tired! I want to sleep," Rudolph said querulously.

"So let us sleep," Thomas said, not reacting to Rudolph's tone.

"I'm not tired," Rudolph said.

"Rudy." Thomas shook his head. "It is time for bed. Come lie down."

Clearly glad for the firm directive, Rudolph obeyed. He lay tensely alongside Thomas for a few minutes, then twisted violently and pinning Thomas beneath him, kissed Thomas on the mouth, hard and deep. Thomas let him.

"There! What are you going to do now?" Rudolph asked hoarsely, glaring at Thomas.

"I am going to kiss you too, Rudy." Thomas rolled Rudolph onto his back and kissed him tenderly, his lips gentle against Rudolph's. He nibbled at Rudolph's lower lip, teasing Rudolph's mouth wider with his tongue. Deepened the kiss, not stopping until Rudolph sighed and gave himself over to it. Pressed his pelvis against Rudolph's; felt Rudolph shiver. There was no indication that Rudolph was aroused.

"I'm not going to do anything you don't want," Thomas said, his voice as soft as his sex was hard against Rudolph's thigh. "There's nothing to be afraid of, my Rudy. Yes, I desire you, but I am not going to act on that desire. Be at ease, Rudy."

"Off!" Rudolph said in a strangled voice, and Thomas rolled aside. "No!"

"Shh, shh, shh," Thomas crooned, understanding Rudolph's ambivalence better than the man himself did. "Never through force, Rudy. Never. I promise."

"Leave me alone!" Rudolph turned his back to Thomas, curling into himself.

"Never that either, Rudy." Thomas spooned carefully around Rudolph, not letting Rudolph retreat into his misery. "You are not alone, Rudy. I am here with you." He kissed Rudolph's soft hair gently.

Rudolph held himself tensely, anticipating the moment when Thomas's patient facade would crumble and he would insist on his own pleasure. Tried not to think of the inevitable humiliation that would follow, of the shame of being taken ignominiously.

"Good night, Rudy, sleep well," Thomas said, closing his eyes.

"Good night?"

"Shh. Good night, Rudy." Thomas dropped another kiss in Rudy's hair. "Only good dreams." He turned slightly, his cock still stiff, but so tired that desire easily yielded to sleep.

Rudolph lay, quiet and disbelieving, waiting for sleep to come. Trust was not an emotion he had any experience of. Thomas had never lied to him, though.

"Thomas?" Rudolph whispered.

"Yes, Rudy?" Thomas replied, sleepily.

"Some other time, perhaps, we will do more than sleep. But I thank you, Thomas, for tonight." Rudolph turned to Thomas and kissed him again. This time his kiss was sweet: A present, not a challenge.

"Thank you, Rudy." Thomas snuggled his lover-to-be closer. "Good night."

By morning Rudolph was overlapping Thomas, his arm over Thomas's hip, his leg over Thomas's thigh. Both men were erect.

Thomas felt Rudolph tense suddenly as he came awake and realized how he was positioned.

"Easy, easy," Thomas said sympathetically, soothing Rudolph as he would have soothed any skittish creature. "It's all right, Rudy, it's all right."

Rudolph swallowed hard and tried to steady his breathing. He willed his racing heart slower .

"Easy, Rudy." Thomas knew Rudolph had yet to understand the idea of arousal without action, need without demand. Rudolph's early experiences had blurred the distinctions. Thomas lay absolutely still, waiting for Rudolph to settle. "Better, Rudy?"

"Yes, Thomas. I'm sorry, Thomas." Rudolph sounded angry. "Damn you, Thomas. Damn you to hell!"

"Rudy, there's no need for that tone," Thomas said reproachfully. "Take a moment to consider, before you take this further."

Rudolph rolled off the bed, landing catlike on his feet. He glared at Thomas, unable to take his eyes from Thomas's hardness.

Thomas drew the blanket over him as he sat upright. He met Rudolph's stare, then dropped his own eyes to Rudolph's still partially engorged member. Raised his eyebrows.

Rudolph reached for the closest object, his own empty flask, and heaved it at Thomas.

Thomas ducked and was out of bed and alongside Rudolph before Rudolph thought to move.

"Let me go! Let me go!" Rudolph hissed, as Thomas seized his arm. "Let me go!"

"I will never force you, Rudy."

Rudolph froze as the quiet clarity of Thomas's statement cut through the red haze of emotion that threatened to engulf him..

"Thomas?" Rudolph sounded suddenly much younger. "I didn't mean–"

"Easy, Rudy." Thomas recognized Rudolph's overreaction for the unpremeditated gesture it was. "You're safe now."

"I wish you didn't know of my shame, Thomas, and that my history was not an open book to you." Rudolph looked away.

"Isn't it better that I understand?" Thomas asked. He touched Rudy's face gently, tilting it back towards him. "Look at me, please. Rudy, you did nothing wrong. You were a child, your uncle abused and betrayed you, and you are not in any way to blame."

"But you left," Rudolph pointed out. "I remained."

"Rudy, it was not your uncle who made advances to me. I do not know what I would have done, had it been."

"Ah yes, he was an accomplished seducer, and I but a novice. A pity, Thomas, that the wrong man propositioned you."

"Hold your tongue, Rudy. We are going down to breakfast now." Although Rudolph was determined to provoke a quarrel, Thomas was equally determined not to be provoked. "Come, Rudy."

Rudolph ate lightly, still unaccustomed to the workingman's breakfasts that Thomas had grown up with. Thomas purchased extra bread and cheese for a lunch for the road, knowing that Rudolph would be hungry midday. Thomas talked to Rudolph as they followed the route Thomas had worked out over a number of years, carrying goods too delicate to entrust to rougher hands. He explained some of the intricacies of his business and the history of the various clients he serviced. Rudolph listened attentively, as much for the pleasure of hearing Thomas's voice as out of interest in the information he shared.

Toward noon, Thomas found a quiet grove and tethering the horses, unpacked the lunch he had bought at the inn. Took out a bottle of wine from the stores he carried.

Meanwhile Rudolph silently shook out the blanket in a flat, lightly shaded spot.

They ate quietly. Rudolph downed several cups of wine, causing Thomas to raise his eyebrows. Rudolph was not usually a heavy drinker; he used alcohol to steady his nerves or when he was in pain.

"Rudy? Is something wrong?"

"No!" Rudolph's answer came too fast.

"Rudy, you are distressed. Let me help you," Thomas coaxed. "What is the matter?"

"I hate that you know of my shame," Rudolph said bitterly. "I cannot think of you, of anything we might share, without remembering it, and that you know of it."

"Ah." Thomas was silent. "I cannot change the fact that I know, Rudy. But you are mistaken in thinking that I judge you for what was done to you."

"How can you not? I judge myself for it!" Rudolph protested.

"You judge yourself unfairly, Rudy," Thomas said. "You were a child. You did nothing wrong."

"I do not understand anything I feel," Rudolph said soberly. "Help me, Thomas. Please."

"My Rudy." Thomas took Rudolph's hand and reclining, tugged Rudolph down alongside him on the blanket. He took Rudolph's chin in his hand and tilting Rudolph's face upward, kissed his thin, strained lips.

Rudolph kissed Thomas back. For long moments, they feasted on each other's mouths. Their tongues fenced together and Rudolph's lips parted to allow Thomas to explore his mouth.

"Thomas," sighed Rudolph. "I have wanted this forever. You aren't angry at me?"

"Angry, Rudy?" Thomas shook his head ruefully. "Rudy, I am as far from angry as heaven is from hell. You taste as sweet to me as honey in the comb. Why do you think I would be angry?"

"The first time I kissed you, you were angry," Rudolph said.

"That was many, many years ago, under entirely different circumstances," Thomas said. "Compulsion, Rudy, is not love. Hush now." He kissed Rudolph very gently, wanting to erase the harsh words and harsher memories.

For an answer, Rudolph dropped his hand to Thomas crotch. Groped him through his breeches, his hand eagerly stroking Thomas's hardness.

"I will be guided by you, Rudy. Show me what you need." Thomas loosened the string at his waist and let Rudolph undress him.

A noise from deep in Rudolph's throat. He undid his own pants. He was half hard. He pressed his cock to Thomas's, grasping both in one hand, jiggling them for friction.

"Slow, Rudy, slow," Thomas cautioned, not quite sure what to make of Rudolph's sudden avidity. "We have time, Rudy."

Rudolph pushed Thomas's legs abruptly apart. Fondled his balls, a little too hard.

"Easy! That hurts!" Thomas winced, pulling away involuntarily.

"Bastard. Whoreson. Sodomite." Rudolph cursed, gripping Thomas's hips roughly.

"Enough!" Thomas rolled over, pinning Rudolph beneath him. "I don't--Rudy?" Thomas realized with shock that Rudolph's eyes were blank. Rudolph shivered underneath him.

"Rudy!" Thomas rolled cautiously sideways, taking care to hold onto Rudolph even as he held his voice steady.

"Thomas?" Rudolph's eyes refocused as his trance state faded.

"Rudy, you are safe, there is nothing to fear." Thomas watched Rudolph, concerned at his pallor and shallow, rapid breathing. "You were overcome by some madness."


"I hurt you." Rudolph's voice was flat and without hope. "I hurt you. What are you going to do to me?" Rudolph feared he was going to be spanked, if not worse.

"I am unharmed," Thomas said gently. "You will not be punished for anything you did here today. I promise you that."

Rudolph's shrug told Thomas that his words meant nothing at all. Rudolph moved slowly and stiffly, as if every movement pained him. It took all of Thomas's tricks to coax Rudolph into sitting quietly alongside him in the carriage.

They took their dinner in their room that night, claiming weariness as an excuse.

"Come, Rudy, time to sleep," Thomas said softly. He turned down the bedcovers. His back to Rudolph, he undressed and lay down on the bed.

Rudolph stripped and took up a place on the other side of the bed, his back to Thomas.

Thomas drew the covers over both of them. He spooned around Rudolph, not reacting to the tension in his body. Thomas ran his hand familiarly over Rudolph's arm and shoulder. Rudolph started nervously at every movement of Thomas's hands.

"A kiss goodnight, Rudy?" Thomas kissed the soft skin behind his ear, nibbled his way along Rudolph's jaw. He gave no indication that anything had gone badly between them.

Rudolph rolled to Thomas. He searched Thomas's face, looking for something he did not find.

"You aren't angry." Wonderment in Rudolph's voice.

"I am not angry," Thomas confirmed. "You were very far away at that moment, Rudy. I do not blame you for your actions."

"It was as if I were possessed." Rudolph shivered.

"You were afraid," Thomas said kindly. "I understand that, my Rudy."

"I was not! I felt nothing, Thomas, nothing at all." Rudolph scowled.

"Nevertheless, you were frightened, Rudy," Thomas said. "You are not ready for intimate relations yet. Kissing is a fine pastime and more than enough for the present." He tilted Rudolph's face to his; suited action to speech.

"You are very good to me, Thomas." Rudolph relaxed into the kiss, no longer afraid of what it might lead to. Trusting Thomas not to go further.

Thomas noted that although Rudolph seemed to enjoy the kissing, his cock remained soft. Not so his own.

"Rudy, I am going to pleasure myself. Will it distress you? I expect nothing of you."

Rudolph flushed.

"Rudy?" Thomas prompted.

"You do not want me to–" Rudolph gestured with his hand toward Thomas's hardened member.

"I do not want you to do anything," Thomas said firmly. "You may watch or turn aside, as you prefer." He began to stroke himself unselfconsciously.

Rudolph listened as Thomas's breathing roughened; felt a sympathetic quiver in his own loins. He watched as Thomas brought himself to the peak of pleasure, saw the contortion of Thomas's face as his seed spilled over his own hand.

Thomas used his handkerchief to dry himself. Yawned and stretched and turned with a sated smile to Rudolph.

"You excite me very much." Thomas kissed Rudolph gently. "Good night, my Rudy."

"Good night, Thomas." Rudolph let Thomas spoon around him, feeling very comfortable in the knowledge that Thomas had already spent himself. "You are good to me, Thomas, little as I merit it."

"I care for you, Rudy," Thomas said quietly. "I will never hurt you."

Rudolph twisted in Thomas's arms, burying his face against Thomas's chest. Thomas was well aware of Rudolph's cock between their pressed thighs. He stroked Rudolph's back, glad that Rudolph didn't flinch from his caress.

"Must I accompany you on the next tedious trip?" Rudolph asked querulously as they readied themselves to descend for breakfast. "Is there any point in my enduring the discomforts of the road with you? I think it is clear I am not going to be a satisfactory catamite."

"Hush, Rudy." Thomas shook his head ruefully. Rudy might cling to him in the night, but he held himself coolly aloof in the morning's light. "There is no need for mockery. What we share between us in private is special to me."

Rudolph bowed his head, accepting the implied reproof.

"Yes, Thomas. I am grateful for your patience with me. Thank you."

"Hush, Rudy," Thomas repeated, not liking Rudolph's deference any more than he had Rudolf's self-denigration. "Let us eat now and we will talk further as we drive. I am glad for your company, Rudy."

They drove in silence. Rudolph admired Thomas's team, far too good for an ordinary merchant. Thomas drove well and economically, without any ostentatious movement of reins or whip.

"I like having you alongside me, Rudy," Thomas said. "Your place with me is not dependent on you rendering a particular service in my bed. I value your presence."

Rudolph gulped.

"What prompts this fine declaration, Thomas?" Rudolph asked, hiding his astonishment behind sarcasm. "Do you wish a favor of me? I am yours to command."

Thomas shook his head, laughing.

"What?" Rudolph demanded.

"Rudy. Did no one ever tell you how amusing you are?"

"Amusing?" Rudolph glowered at Thomas. "For the most part I inspired fear, not compliments on my wit, or so I prefer to remember."

"Come here." Thomas put his arm around Rudolph and tugged him closer. For a moment Rudolph froze, but his body had learned Thomas's in the night. "That's right, Rudy." Thomas smiled as Rudolph softened into his embrace.

It felt oddly good to be close this way, Rudolph realized. There was no threat in it, only the satisfaction of feeling Thomas's thigh pressed against his own, Thomas's arm snug around him. Rudolph let his head rest tentatively on Thomas's shoulder. Sighed as he felt Thomas kiss his hair gently.

"When will we be home, Thomas?"

"Late tonight, Rudy," Thomas answered. Home. Rudolph had said home. Thomas brushed his lips over Rudolph's hair and felt entirely happy.

The long drive had tired Rudolph. He slept, leaning unselfconsciously against Thomas, to Thomas's pleasure. Thomas shook Rudolph gently. Rudolph stirred, blinking sleepily.

"We're home, Rudy," Thomas said softly. "Come, wake up. Can you walk to bed?" He steered Rudolph towards the house, helped him up the stairs.

"Thomas?" Rudolph hesitated at the doorway to his bedroom. "Thomas, may I sleep beside you? My dreams are most unpleasant. I do not like to be alone with them."

"Of course, Rudy," Thomas said, turning Rudolph and walking them both to his own bedroom. "You are always welcome in my bed, Rudy. You need no more reason than that you wish to be there."

Thomas turned back the heavy cover on his bed and plumped the pillows at the head. The room was cold; no one had made a fire in the grate, as Thomas had sent no advance warning of his return.

Rudolph sat heavily on the edge of the bed, utterly exhausted. He didn't react as Thomas eased him out of his clothing.

"Lie down, Rudy," Thomas coaxed. "Do you want food? No, I guess not." Rudolph was asleep before Thomas had pulled the covers over him. Thomas puttered idly, happily about the room, settling in. Every now and then he looked over at Rudolph, fast asleep in his bed, and smiled. After making sure all was in order, Thomas washed up hastily in the cold water in the pitcher on the dresser, and joined Rudolph in bed.

"Thomas." Rudolph sighed and turned so that his head rested on Thomas's shoulder. "Thomas."

Thomas stroked Rudolph's cheek gently, knowing that by morning Rudolph's bright veneer would be firmly in place, but cherishing the sweetness Rudolph at his most tired and vulnerable. Rudolph had made incremental progress; he no longer flinched from Thomas's touch, but rather turned into it. It's only a matter of time, Thomas thought hopefully to himself. Just thinking of the future they might share made Thomas harden. He stroked himself efficiently to orgasm, keeping his movements small and economical, pleased that even his final shudder didn't wake Rudolph.

Thomas kissed Rudolph's hair softly and closed his eyes.

Rudolph let his breath out slowly. He had wakened at the familiar rhythm of Thomas pleasuring himself. Had feigned sleep, both fascinated and frightened by Thomas's sensuality. Now Thomas slept, soft and satisfied, and Rudolph was frustrated and confused.

"Shh, shh," Thomas murmured, feeling Rudolph stiffening against him. "Shh, I love you, Rudy. Sleep."

Easy for you to say, Rudolph thought resentfully. You just came. But Rudolph was tired and Thomas's bed was warm and sleep took him despite himself.

The morning sun woke both men. They lay nestled together. Rudolph had sprawled across Thomas in the night, the sweet weight of him coaxing Thomas erect again. Rudolph too was hard, whether due to Thomas's presence or the natural influence of the dawning day.

This time, Rudolph did not retreat into himself at the feel of Thomas's erection against his thigh. Thomas smiled as he kissed Rudolph carefully, his lips politely closed. Rudolph returned his kiss, stroking his hand over Thomas's stubbled jaw and continuing the caress lower, over Thomas's chest. Thomas's nipple crinkled and peaked as Rudolph brushed lightly over it.

Thomas lay very still as Rudolph touched him. Rudolph's hand was gentle and tentative. He traced Thomas's collarbone. Drew his fingers down the midline of his chest, let his thumb rest in the slight depression of Thomas's navel. Thomas's cock bobbed involuntarily and Rudolph laughed.

Thomas took his own cock in his hand and stroked it slowly, encouragingly. Rudolph watched as the slit in the head began to glisten with precum. His hand went to his own erection, and he pulled at himself roughly, almost cruelly.

Thomas watched with interest as Rudolph drove himself to orgasm. Rudolph handled his cock harshly, not granting himself even the slight lubrication of spit. It was as if he were punishing himself for this need. Thomas's own cock quivered and he came easily, stimulated by the sight of Rudolph's climax. But Thomas was disturbed at the cruelty with which Rudolph drove himself. Sexual gratification was far from the easy pleasure for Rudolph that it was for Thomas.

Rudolph eyed Thomas coldly. He felt suddenly furious.

"I will sleep in my own bed tonight." Rudolph stood quickly, casting around for his clothes.

"Stay a little while," Thomas suggested. "Please, Rudy."

"If you don't mind, I will go to my rooms now. I will see you downstairs presently," Rudolph said haughtily. Turning his back on Thomas, he walked stiffly out of the room.

Ah, Rudy, you are not an easy man to know, Thomas thought. But know you I will, your mind and your body. I can be patient.

Rudolph was nibbling at a sweet roll slathered with butter when Thomas came downstairs. Thomas thanked the servant who brought him his own heartier breakfast and began to eat with a will.

"Are you planning a day in the fields?" Rudolph asked archly, eyeing Thomas's meal.

"Ah, Rudy, you have never been hungry," Thomas said with a smile. "It is one of the great pleasures of my middle age, to be sure of a full meal not once, but several times each day."

A shadow crossed Rudolph's face.

"I was sent to bed without my supper many a time, Thomas. I have been hungry often."

"I am sorry, Rudy," Thomas said sincerely. "I never imagined... I am sorry."

"It matters little," Rudolph said. "I am a stronger man for it, perhaps? My uncle failed to consider that aspect. As my uncle said, it is a matter of will. He meant to break mine, but his attempts rather strengthened it." Rudolph bared his teeth in the expression that always reminded Thomas more of a wolf's warning than a human smile.

"Have another roll, Rudy," Thomas said softly.

"Perhaps I will," Rudolph said. The tension ebbed from his body and he dropped his stare. "Thank you, Thomas, I think I will." He buttered his prize ostentatiously.

"Your uncle was a cruel man." Thomas shook his head. "Ah, Rudy, we none of us knew the truth of it. You seemed a wild and intemperate child, a difficult and defiant youth. I wish I had known then what I know now. I am sorry, Rudy."

"It's past," Rudolph said, brushing aside Thomas's apology. "I tried to tell you, the night you brought me back. You didn't believe me."

"I am so sorry," Thomas said.

"I would not have believed myself," Rudolph said sadly. "I do not blame you exactly, Thomas, except that I was so very alone after you left."

"Is there aught I can do, today, to ease some of the memories that seem so fresh in your mind?" Thomas asked.

"I don't know!" Rudolph clamped down on his own cry. Looked to be certain his outburst had not been overheard. Thomas took his hand gently.

"Come, Rudy, walk with me outside. It is a beautiful day. Let us see how the garden has fared in our absence." He drew Rudolph to his feet.

The two men strolled arm in arm through the garden and beyond, into the orchard, and then farther afield, up the rise that backed Thomas's land.

"You acquired all this through your own efforts?" Rudolph asked admiringly.

"And through the grace of God," Thomas added.

"You are too modest." Rudolph looked around. "It is a very beautiful estate, Thomas, and you keep it up well. Although you allow your servants too many liberties, if you don't mind my saying so." He scowled at two workmen in a far field below, sitting in the shade of a tree.

"They have been working since sun up; they have earned their rest," Thomas said easily. "I would not mind sitting myself, even though I have done nothing more strenuous than climbing this hill." He lowered himself to the sun warmed stones that made up the top of the small mountain.

Rudolph sat alongside Thomas. The sun was warm on their faces and the stones reflected a pleasantly relaxing heat. With a sigh, Rudolph lay back. Then, watching Thomas carefully, he shifted so that his head was cushioned in Thomas's lap. Thomas brushed his hair idly back for his forehead. Leaning forward, he kissed Rudolph, opening his lips with his tongue. Tasting tentatively at first, then more surely.

Rudolph kissed him back. He had begun to like kissing, something he had never imagined as particularly pleasurable. Thomas's patience and self restraint made Rudolph feel very, very safe.

Thomas reclined further, keeping Rudolph's head cradled in his arms, away from the hard ground. Their bodies pressed together as they explored each other's mouths. Rudolph no longer flinched from Thomas's hands. His own kisses were gentler, more giving. It was as if his mind and body were relearning old lessons, as if the link between arousal and anger was becoming more open, as if pleasure was again a possibility. As if there might even be such a thing as love.

Thomas felt Rudolph's hardness against his own. Rudolph locked eyes with Thomas as he undid Thomas's pants and then his own. He gripped both their cocks and froze.

"Go on." Thomas cupped his palm over the back of Rudolph's fisted hand, pushed gently downward.

"I can't," Rudolph said. Already he was softening slightly, ambivalence replacing arousal.

Thomas nudged Rudolph's hand aside and replaced it with his own. Gently he massaged his own hardness, using the trace of precum at the slit to moisten his palm. Teased Rudolph's cock, brushing his hand lightly over the shaft. Drawing his finger delicately over the ridge beneath the head. At the same time, he leaned over Rudolph and kissed him, sucking at his tongue.

"Ah." The faintest of exhalations. Rudolph opened his mouth to Thomas's explorations. Let his thighs part as Thomas fondled him, allowing Thomas to stroke his balls. "Oh."

"Good Rudy." Thomas played gently with Rudolph, encouraging him to widen his legs. He felt the tender skin between scrotum and anus. Rudolph was hard again, his cock swaying against Thomas's wrist. "What do you want, Rudy?"

"I don't know!" Rudolph panted.

Thomas took Rudolph at his word. He cupped Rudolph's balls in his palm, stroked upward over Rudolph's stiffness. Traced the trail of hair that ran from the springy tufts at the base of Rudolph's cock to the fine tendrils curling into his navel.

"When you know, you tell me." Thomas kissed Rudolph. Cupped his jaw in his palm, ran his thumb over his cheek. "I love you, Rudy. We have time."

Rudolph swallowed hard, then raised his mouth to Thomas's, arching into a deep, hard kiss.

"Thomas? You haven't yet--"

"It was only this morning that we spent side by side in my bed," Thomas chuckled. "I am well-satisfied." Thomas rearranged Rudolph in his arms so that they lay beside each other. Rudolph closed his eyes.

"Thomas? How can you be satisfied with me? You earn your livelihood transporting precious goods unharmed. How long will damaged goods satisfy you?"

"Rudy, you are not 'damaged goods.' You are a child of God, precious in his sight and priceless in mine."

"You would have made a fine priest." Rudolph sat upright and scowled at Thomas. "Religious cant and celibacy besides."

"Temper, Rudy?" Thomas reached for Rudolph, but Rudolph pulled back. "No, come here."

"I am not yours to command," Rudolph said, neatly evading Thomas's grip. "Really, Thomas, you forget yourself."

Thomas got to his feet slowly, the morning's euphoria fading before Rudolph's onslaught.

"That's right," Rudolph spat. "Go away. Leave me."

"Enough." Thomas drew Rudolph to his feet. Swatted him once, hard. "Be mannerly, Rudy, or I will spank you right here." Thomas in fact threatened spankings far more often then he actually administered them, but Rudolph had no wish to push his hand.

"That will not be necessary," Rudolph said archly. "Unless you would find that exciting? Some do, you know, even if you yourself eschew such base pleasures."

"Rudy," Thomas groaned. "You have the tongue of a serpent. Have a care that you do not poison what is between us."

"And what is between us?" Rudolph asked savagely. "Charity, on your part? Gratitude, on mine?"

"Faith, hope and love," Thomas said succinctly, laughing at Rudolph's outraged expression.

"You mock me!"

"No, Rudy. I tease you; it is different. Come here, I do not wish to quarrel." Thomas tugged Rudolph into a hug. Rudolph stiffened and then, with a sigh, dropped his head to Thomas's chest and leaned quietly into him. Thomas rubbed his back reassuringly. "My Rudy."

"I give you nothing, Thomas," Rudolph whispered. "Why are you still kind to me?"

"I love you," Thomas said quietly. "Love is not an exchange of favors, it is a meeting of souls. Ours recognize their destiny in each other."

"Poetry, religion..." Rudolph sighed. "Thomas, I do not understand. One would think you had been raised the gentleman, not I."

"I was raised gently, if not as a gentleman," Thomas said. "I was a great deal luckier than you."

"Or a great deal more deserving," Rudolph said morosely.

"You did not deserve to be hurt," Thomas said. "You deserved what all children deserve: A safe place to grow. What your uncle did to you was evil."

Listlessly, Rudolph let Thomas lead the way home. The sun was shining overhead, but its warmth did nothing for the chill in Rudolph's heart. He was gripped by a sense of shame and despair. Nothing had ever been different; nothing would ever be different.

"Rudy?" Thomas shook Rudolph gently. "Rudy, where are you?"

"Lost." Rudolph met Thomas's eyes for a brief moment.

Thomas recognized the utter truth in Rudolph's statement.

"Come, Rudy, I am going to help you," Thomas said certainly. He led them up the stairs to Rudolph's rooms.

"What are you going to do to me?" Rudolph asked.

"I want you to rest quietly, Rudy," Thomas said. "You are not yourself."

"Are you going to punish me?"

"Why do you ask that, Rudy?" Thomas asked curiously.

"I wish to know!" Rudolph snapped. "I need to know what you intend to do to me. Please, Thomas?"

I intend to love you, Thomas thought. I intend to bed you when the time is right. I intend to share my work and my house and my life with you, if you are willing.

"I intend to eat lunch with you and then nap with you until mid-afternoon," Thomas said, unperturbed. Rudolph's mercurial temper would calm as he felt more secure in his new life with Thomas.

"Oh." Rudolph shook his head. "Thomas? I find you very kind."

"I'm glad, Rudy," Thomas said.

The noon meal was trout, caught fresh that morning in the estate's brook and cooked in a sauce of cream and dill. There were fresh rolls and a full dish of new butter and wine and a dish of stewed apples. Both men enjoyed their meal.

"I need to express my compliments to my cook," Thomas said. "He outdid himself today."

"Your people like you," Rudolph observed. "Mine never did. Then again, I never gave them reason to."

"Hush, Rudy," Thomas said, putting the tray aside and drawing Rudolph toward the bed. "What's past is past. You will do better from now on."

Rudolph let Thomas help him out of his clothing. Thomas eased Rudy into the bed and undressing himself, lay quietly alongside him. The ironed lined sheets were pleasantly cool.

The shutters were open. Thomas studied Rudolph's scarred body in the light, touching the gently. Rudolph let Thomas touch him, his eyes on Thomas's face.

Thomas kissed Rudolph and then gently nibbled his way down his throat, down his chest, down his belly...He raised his eyes to Rudolph, waiting for his slight nod, before beginning to tease Rudolph's cock with his tongue. Rudolph lay quietly, content to let Thomas play with him.

Thomas took Rudolph's still soft cock in his mouth and suckled it gently.

"Oh..." Rudolph moaned, hardening under the heavenly feel of Thomas's lips.

Not rushing, Thomas worked patiently, gently, steadily over Rudolph, coaxing him to his full length. Rudolph's buttocks tensed, his hips rising, encouraging Thomas to continue.

Again and again Thomas's mouth descended over the thick shaft, until Rudolph arched upward with a sharp cry, spilling his seed in a paroxysm of pleasure. Thomas licked and sucked until Rudolph was fully spent. Wiping his face against the sheets, Thomas lay back and gathered the unresisting Rudolph into his arms.


"Yes," Rudolph sighed. "Yes." He took a deep breath. "Take me, Thomas."

"Is that what you want?" Thomas asked, studying Rudolph's flushed face carefully.

"I want to give you pleasure," Rudolph said. "And I have been told, that it need not hurt?" He sounded hesitant.

"I will not hurt you," Thomas said. "Have you never enjoyed it, then?"

"No." Rudolph shook his head. "Nor have those I have taken." His eyes met Thomas, asking for reassurance.

"We will go very slowly," Thomas said. "And you are to tell me if it pains you. I will not hurt you, Rudy, I promise." Thomas stroked Rudolph's cheek gently.

"I believe you," Rudolph whispered, turning into the caress. He made to roll onto his stomach. Thomas stopped him.

"Stay as you are. I want to see your face. I am going to touch you now, and you have only to tell me, what feels good, what does not. I will not do anything you do not want. Remember that, Rudy. Tell me what you like."

Reaching over to the discarded luncheon tray, Thomas coated his fingers with butter. He parted Rudolph's thighs gently with the back of his hand and began to caress his secret opening. Using the greased pads of his fingers, he massaged small circles around the tightening muscle, patiently waiting for Rudolph to stop tensing against him..

Rudolph felt a reflexive stirring in his loins. He took a deep breath, willed himself to think only of Thomas and Thomas's seductive, pleasing hand. Clenched his buttocks momentarily as Thomas probed his entrance carefully with his smallest finger. Breathed out, and felt Thomas breach him.

"Ahhh..." Rudolph tried to stay soft, to accept the invading finger easily.

"You feel so good," Thomas whispered. "So hot, so tight. Rudy, I am going to open you a little more. Breath for me, Rudy." Thomas withdrew his pinky, substituted his butter-slick index finger, and pressed it deeply. Turned his hand palm upward and deliberately crooked his finger to stimulate the knob of sensitive tissue within.

"Yes." Rudolph arched his neck, his head pressing against the pillow, throat exposed He pushed back into Thomas's hand, seeking the wonderful sensation. "Oh yes."

Thomas played with Rudolph's ass, rotating his finger, coaxing the sphincter to loosen further. Used his thumb to be certain his middle finger was smooth and lubricated, and withdrawing slightly, pressed both fingers together into the warm depth of his lover.

"Oh..." Rudolph had been reduced to wordless sighs. He spread his legs shamelessly, granting Thomas full and easy access.

Thomas teased Rudolph until he felt Rudolph shiver at every pass of his fingers over his tightening prostate.

"Rudy, I am going to take you now," Thomas said. "I am a large man and you may feel stretched as I enter you. I want you to trust me. Once I am fully inside you I will make you feel very, very good. Do you want that, my Rudy?"

"Yes, Thomas," Rudolph said, his voice darkened with desire. "I want you, I want you inside me. Please, Thomas."

"Turn over, Rudy, it's easier so." Thomas rolled Rudy gently onto his belly, nudging his knees forward so that his ass was slightly lifted, aware of how much trust it took for Rudolph to let himself be positioned thus. Spreading Rudolph's buttocks, he reapplied a generous amount of the soft buttery lubricant to his anus, taking care to coat the muscle both inside and out. Rudy widened himself, letting Thomas have free rein.

Thomas coated his own weeping cock with the rest of the butter, careful to slick every swollen inch of himself from head to shaft. He kissed the nape of Rudolph's neck through his hair, nibbled his shoulder gently.

"Mine." Positioning his cock at Rudolph's opening, guiding himself with his hand, Thomas pushed inside, slowly but inexorably, until the widest part of his cock was beyond the tight ring of muscle.

Rudolph knew that the almost painful stretch would ease as soon as Thomas was fully seated. He pressed back to meet his slow inward thrust. Sighed with relief as he felt his outer muscles relax over the slightly smaller diameter of Thomas's stiff shaft.

"Good, Rudy, so good," Thomas crooned in Rudolph's ear. "You are so hot, so tight. I've wanted you so much. I love you so much. My Rudy, you feel wonderful."

"You. Do. Too." Rudolph's voice was high and giddy. "Oh. God."

Grinning at his lover's clear delight, Thomas began to fuck him slowly, carefully. He took most of his friction on the backstroke, moderating the inward thrust of his hips, wanting to make this very, very good for Rudolph.

Even as he came, Thomas was careful not to force himself too hard into his lover. He felt himself soften and he let the natural contractions of Rudolph's body ease his spent member out.

The sheer rush of sensation over, Rudolph began to shiver. Thomas wrapped his arms around his lover in an embrace as snug and close as ever two men could be. Drew the covers over them and kissed Rudolph, wordlessly coaxing him to trust Thomas to hold him safe.

His tremors ebbing as his body took in Thomas's reassurance, Rudolph returned Thomas's kisses. His breathing slowed and he closed his eyes.

"Stay, Thomas." Rudolph drifted into boneless sleep.

Thomas lay awake a few more minutes, savoring the warm weight of Rudolph's body molding to his own. Then, with a sigh of utter contentment, he too slept.

It was very late in the afternoon when a sharp rap at the locked door brought both men awake.

"Make up the fire, sir?" the upstairs servant asked.

"Come back in a little while," Thomas called easily from the bed. "Thank you."

Rudolph turned in Thomas's arms and pressing himself into Thomas, kissed him thoroughly. The two new lovers smiled at each other.

"I never knew that it could feel like this, Thomas," Rudolph whispered. "I never imagined enjoying it. I thought that it might not really hurt, but I never thought it would feel so right. God, Thomas, that was incredible." He yawned and stretched, arching backwards.

"I'm glad, Rudy," Thomas said, touched by Rudolph's soliloquy. "I love you very, very much. I want it to be good for you. It was wonderful for me." He ran his fingers through Rudolph's hair, untangling the errant strands. Stroked Rudolph's back, cupped his buttocks gently in his hand. Rudolph sighed with pleasure.

"My Rudy. All mine."

"Body and soul," Rudolph said. "Although if you don't offer me some sustenance soon there will be precious little of the former left, Thomas. Sinful pleasures seem to take a great deal of energy, even if one is, how shall I put it, at the receiving end?"

Thomas laughed and rolling out of bed, retrieved his own clothes and gave Rudolph his. The two men dressed swiftly. Thomas unlocked the door and opened it.

"Shall we go downstairs?" Thomas asked. He extended his hand to Rudolph.

"Please." Rudolph took Thomas's hand. "Lead the way."


Thank you, Rusty and Hedeia, for reading multiple drafts and for your tactful encouragement. EM