M/M discipline, spanking. References to child sexual abuse. If the idea of a discipline relationship between adult men offends you, so will this story.
ELIZABETH MARSHALL STORIES
Maybe they won't find me, Rudolph thought, eyeing the setting sun hopefully. He had been gone since noon and as yet no one had retrieved him. He couldn't think of anywhere to go, or anyone who would believe him, much less help him, but nothing, Rudolph thought, nothing could be worse than remaining here with his uncle.
"Where do you think he could be, then?" Thomas and his dog combed the outlying fields methodically, looking for His Lordship's missing nephew. There were not that many places on the estate for a young runaway to hide. In the last year or so since Rudolph had turned fifteen, it seemed that he was constantly in trouble. Not the sort of random mischief that Thomas had engaged in at his age, but a serious, deliberate rebellion.
Thomas sighed. It was none of his business; the boy's uncle was certainly more than capable of handling his young ward. It was just puzzling, how little regard the young man seemed to have for his guardian's wishes. Thomas would have done anything at fifteen to make his own father proud.
Hearing Thomas's voice, Rudolph curled into a tight ball at the foot of the stone wall, hoping to escape detection. The dog had no trouble scenting him.
"Go away, leave me alone!" Rudolph hissed, his dream of escape vanishing before his eyes.
The shaggy shepherd dog was not deterred by Rudolph's attempts to drive her off. A lost sheep or a lost boy, it was one and the same to her. All instinct told her that neither belonged outside, alone, in the cold and the oncoming dark.
"What have you found?" Thomas asked his dog, crouching down to look.
"Go away! Go away now!" Rudolph kicked petulantly at Thomas. Thomas worked with the stock and in the stables. He was no more than a few years older than Rudolph. Most of the time Rudolph was glad to see him; Thomas was handsome and had a nice laugh and Rudolph had more than once dreamed of him and woken to damp sheets. But right now, Thomas was an obstacle between him and freedom.
"Stop that now!" Thomas sidestepped Rudolph's kicks, shaking his head. "Enough, Rudy, you're not being sensible. It's going to be a cold night. Come with me, Rudy."
"NO! Go away, go away, go away!" Rudolph's voice rose. "Go away!!"
"Why so angry, Rudy? Here, let me help you up." Thomas felt an unaccountable spark of sympathy for the spoiled youngster.
"NO! Leave me alone! Don't touch me!" Panic in the young voice. "Please don't make me go back to him, Thomas!"
The boy was obviously beyond reason. Without further ado, Thomas hoisted the youngster over his shoulder. His burden continued to kick, rather ineffectually. Thomas shook his head, wryly amused. Though a scant five years older, he outweighed the younger man by a good thirty pounds.
"Stop that, Rudy," Thomas said firmly, resettling Rudolph further over his back. "You are in enough trouble without making matters worse. Be still."
It was pointless to struggle, Rudolph decided, slumping over Thomas's shoulder.
Thomas was glad to reach the warmth of the mansion. He closed the door securely behind him and set his burden gently on his feet in the hallway.
"What do I do now?" Rudolph mumbled to himself under his breath, so quietly Thomas almost missed it. Thomas took Rudolph's arm and turned Rudolph gently towards him so that their eyes met.
"Just take your punishment, Rudy, and learn from it for the future," Thomas said softly. He knew what it was like to anticipate a whipping. "Be a good boy."
Rudolph shivered as his uncle entered the hall.
"Excellent advice, Thomas. Thank you for returning my wayward nephew unharmed." His Lordship gave Thomas a chilly smile. "Go to my rooms, Rudolph, and wait for me. But first, thank Thomas here for bringing you home safely."
Rudolph looked stonily at the two men. Without a word, he turned and left the room.
"I hope you won't be too hard on him, sir," Thomas said, surprised at the empathy he felt for the sullen youngster. Rudolph deserved to be punished. Didn't he?
"Don't trouble yourself further, Thomas. My brat of a nephew is not your concern."
Something in the man's voice made the hair on Thomas's neck rise. For a moment, he sympathized wholeheartedly with Rudolph's wish to escape.
"Good night, sir." Thomas crossed himself as he left the house. Gave silent thanks for his own father's sweet, loving nature. He had been gone several years, but Thomas still thought of him nearly every day.
Two days later Thomas caught sight of Rudolph in the far pasture, gazing meditatively into the distance. Thomas shook his head. He hoped Rudolph wasn't planning any more unauthorized excursions. Something about returning Rudolph to his uncle had left a bitter taste in Thomas's mouth. Best, thought Thomas, to have a quiet word or two with the young miscreant.
"Hello, Rudy," Thomas said gently. "Why are you out here alone again? I thought you would have learned something after the last time."
"Perhaps I'm enjoying the view?" Rudolph held himself stiffly, as if recently hurt. "Or perhaps not. He beat me, you know."
"I imagine," Thomas said sympathetically. "You still look it."
"I hate him."
"Because he beat you for running away, Rudy?" Thomas asked. "It's not fair to resent him for doing his duty. All fathers beat their sons."
"Do you think I mind that he beats me?"
Thomas was taken aback at the bitterness of the boy's tone.
"What is it, then?" Thomas asked quietly, seeing something ugly in the boy's expression.
"Lie with me, Thomas." Rudolph turned to face Thomas, rose on his toes and kissed him full on the mouth.
"What is the matter with you?" Thomas thrust him roughly back.
"The same thing that is the matter with my uncle." Rudolph met Thomas's eyes and smiled mockingly. "Love. You have no more choice than I had. If you won't lie with me, I'll tell my uncle that you attacked me. If a physician examines me he will find proof I am telling the truth."
"Rudy, what you're asking me is wrong!" Thomas said. "Love has nothing to do with what your uncle does to you, or with what you are asking from me."
"I was forced against my will. Why shouldn't you be?" Rudolph said, with the impeccable logic of the conscienceless. "He has his way with me; I wish to have mine with you. He is my master; I am yours,"
"That's where you're wrong," Thomas said grimly. He shoved Rudolph aside and headed for the barn.
"Come back!" Rudolph launched himself at Thomas, furious. Thomas turned the small body easily aside, but Rudolph would not be deterred. He followed Thomas at a few paces, unsure what Thomas intended.
Thomas called his dog to him. Collecting his knife, a small wooden cross and his blanket, he inclined his head graciously.
"Good bye, Rudy," Thomas said.
"You can't go! Why are you going?" Rudolph looked aghast. "Where are you going?"
"I'm going," Thomas said gently. "That's really all that's important."
Rudolph watched as Thomas turned his back and walked away from the barn. Away from the manor, away from his life, with only the clothes on his back, the dog at his side, his meager possessions and his freedom. It was the last Thomas saw of home, family or Rudolph for the next fifteen years.
"Leave!" Rudolph screamed after him. "Leave me then! I don't need you! I hate you!" He wrapped his arms tightly around himself. It didn't matter. Nothing mattered. No one mattered.
"Rudolph, there you are." His uncle's servant looked at him measuringly. Rudolph cringed at the knowledge in the man's eyes. "His Lordship asks that you attend him. Now." There was a hint of mockery in the man's voice.
Rudolph swallowed hard. He was sore from the beating he'd gotten for running away, but that was the least of it. He felt his gorge rise at the thought of what his uncle assuredly expected.
It was never going to change. Rudolph thought dully, huddling under the covers afterwards. He was nothing but a thing to be used for his uncle's gratification. There was no pleasure for Rudolph in the exchange, just relief that his uncle had not wanted the act that hurt the most badly.
Rudolph's eyes were absolutely dry.
Thanks to his quick wit and natural charm, Thomas was able to make his way as a trader, rising gradually in wealth and importance from a mere peddler to a prosperous merchant.
Thomas was delivering goods to the monastery when he heard the screams. He knew the voice: It was Rudolph. He had heard the rumors; here was the proof.
"No!! I'll do anything, please, not the fire! I'll do anything, please, not the fire! Not forever!" Rudolph screamed. "I'm afraid! I'm afraid!"
"He does well to be afraid," the priest keeping vigil said tendentiously. "It is not our place to judge, which is why we allowed him sanctuary here after he escaped justice. Nevertheless, there are souls past saving and his is one of them."
Thomas looked past the priest to Rudolph's beaten form. It was clear what "justice" had consisted of.
"I'll sit with him awhile, if I may," Thomas murmured to the priest, seeing not the infamous captain of the guard, but the fifteen year old he had returned to his uncle's cruel attentions. "I knew him when we were both young. He was made a monster, not born one."
"He is not the only man who was ever ill-used in his youth," the priest said. "Many learn great empathy and kindness from their own sufferings. He chose the path he took."
"That is all true," Thomas said. "Still...I feel I owe him something, for the sake of the boy he was. Please, let me take him home with me. He's no danger to anyone in his current condition. He has nothing left but his capacity to feel pain and his fear of damnation."
"There is no reason for him to still be alive, except that he is too afraid of the fire to let go. He may die if you move him. Still, if he lives it will be safer for him not to be found and taken prisoner again in this area," the priest said. "In any case, have a care that the poison in his soul does not infect your own."
Rudolph was breathing rapidly and unevenly. He grimaced at Thomas's approach.
"Easy, Rudy, I won't hurt you, shh," Thomas said soothingly. " It's Thomas. Rudy, do you remember me?" Thomas used the man's pet name from almost two decades earlier.
"Thomas?" Rudolph sounded uncertain.
"Yes, Rudy, it's me," Thomas said, stroking Rudolph's hair.
Rudolph flinched. Thomas realized that human touch did not mean comfort to him.
"I won't hurt you, Rudy. You have been hurt all your life, I know this now, but I am not going to let you be hurt any more."
"Why should I believe you?" Rudolph asked with something of his old asperity.
"If you don't let me help you, if you can't let me help you, you will die, Rudy."
"I'm afraid of dying," Rudy said very quietly. "I'm afraid of the fire."
"Rudy, we are taking a journey. When you wake up, we'll be in my home, and you'll be safe. I am going to give you some strong medicine to make you sleep. Drink this, please." Thomas's voice was gentle, but Rudolph began to shake nevertheless. Soft speech was not a sign of kindness in his experience.
"I promise it will not hurt you. You are going to have to travel a long way and sick as you are, it will be unbearable for you awake." Thomas held the small vial of liquid to Rudolph's tightly pressed lips. Seeing no other choice. Rudolph drank the bitter drug and fell deeply asleep despite himself.
Thomas saw Rudolph strapped to a stretcher and placed in his carriage. It was dangerous to linger. Soon they were off at a fast pace. Home, Thomas had the still unconscious Rudolph transferred to a bed.
Thomas himself stripped and washed Rudolph, not wanting to risk having rumors of his presence spread any faster than necessary.
Pain. Nightmarish, unending pain. Rudolph was burning with fever, his eyes bright with terror.
"I'll do anything, please, not the fire!" Rudolph begged, desperate and disoriented. "Please, I'm afraid of the fire, don't put me in the fire, I'll do anything, please, not that. Not forever!" Pain, with no hope of relief.
"This isn't hell, Rudy," Thomas murmured. "This isn't hell, and I'm not the devil." Thomas stroked Rudolph's forehead with gentle fingertips, but Rudolph didn't respond.
Hours of cool cloths and sponge baths, and still Rudolph writhed with fever. Thomas summoned his own physician.
"A cool douche will cool his body faster than any other method," the doctor counseled.
"If you're sure it's necessary." Thomas wished it were not. He could only imagine how frightening the invasive treatment would feel to the helpless Rudolph.
"This fever is dangerous, Thomas," the doctor said. "I know who he is, Thomas. Surely a man who has done what this man has can stand to suffer a little pain himself." He looked at Rudolph disdainfully.
"You're a doctor." Thomas looked directly at the physician, warning him. "He is a sick man. I expect you to be as gentle with him as you would be with any other patient."
Rudy was silent as his night shirt was raised to his hips, his buttocks spread and a slender wand pressed firmly within. He didn't protest the penetration, having learned a long time ago that resistance only prolonged the pain, but he could not help groaning miserably as his bowels were flooded with water.
"Rudy, I only want to help you. Try and trust me now." Thomas rubbed the small of Rudolph's back sympathetically and prayed that the treatment would be successful.
Over the course of several hours and several more treatments, each as unpleasant as the first, Rudolph's fever dropped. Finally he slept. Thomas sat beside him, not wanting him to find himself alone when he woke.
"No, no, no..." Rudolph moaned into his pillow.
Automatically, Thomas ran a gentle, comforting hand over his back.
Rudolph screeched and pulled away, banging his head against the headboard in his panic.
"Shh shh shh..." Thomas didn't attempt to restrain Rudolph, just watched him quietly, making soothing noises. Gradually Rudolph's eyes refocused and his breathing slowed.
"Don't touch me," Rudolph hissed. "I hate when people touch me."
"I'll remember," Thomas said calmly. "I'm sorry, Rudy."
"See that you don't do it again," Rudolph said crankily, curling back under the covers.
"I would suggest a little less arrogant attitude, Rudy," Thomas said gently. "Under the circumstances."
"Certainly. Are you going to beat me?" Rudolph asked in the same tone he would have used to inquire about the weather. Refusing to let the fear he felt color his voice.
"I'm going to take care of you, Rudy." Thomas shook his head, the fierce protectiveness he felt for the abused child he remembered transferring itself to this battered man. "I couldn't help you then. I won't fail you again."
"Oh," Rudolph said, striving for indifference. "How long has it been since we've had the pleasure, Thomas?"
"Nearly fifteen years," Thomas said easily. Thomas offered Rudolph a glass of water and the younger man drank thirstily.
For the first week, Rudolph drank when he was prompted to and slept the rest of the time, too weakened by his ordeal to do more. By the second week, Rudolph was strong enough both to eat regular meals and to chafe at his confinement.
"Feeling better, Rudy?" Thomas asked, placing a tray of food and utensils before his houseguest.
Rudolph took the knife from alongside his plate and turned it meditatively in his hand. Pricked his finger deliberately. A drop of blood appeared.
"No. Put the knife aside, Rudy." Thomas said firmly.
"Or what?" Rudolph asked insolently. "You'll do what? I'm not afraid of you, Thomas. You're a good man." Rudolph said the words as if they were a curse.
Moving almost lazily, his grace disguising his skill, Thomas divested Rudolph of the knife. Tilted Rudolph's face towards him. Rudolph yelped involuntarily and went still.
At the change in angle, Thomas could see the tears glazing Rudolph's eyes.
"Do I frighten you that much?" Thomas asked, releasing Rudolph. "I won't hurt you. I won't let you hurt anyone, even yourself. And I won't ever let anyone hurt you again."
"So you say," said Rudolph doubtfully. "I spent quite a number of years making myself valuable to the government and despicable to everyone else. I don't imagine you'll make many changes on either score."
"Oh don't you?" Thomas asked with deceptive mildness. "You are no longer in the military, that's one, and you are no longer the scourge of the countryside, that's two. I have plans for you."
"Oh." Rudolph considered this new information. He pulled away, turning to face Thomas. "And if I don't agree?"
Thomas lifted an eyebrow.
"I was just inquiring," Rudolph said acerbically.
"Rudy," Thomas said very quietly. "I am not going to let you hurt anyone, ever again. If I hadn't brought you here, they would have hung you. You know that, don't you?"
"Perhaps, Thomas," Rudolph answered, his voice equally quiet. "Don't think me ungrateful. But surely you realize that I am still of considerable value to my former superiors? My tactics, distasteful as you find them, brought good enough results that my personal peccadillos are scarcely an impediment to continued employment."
"You are mistaken, Rudy," Thomas said gently. "Your employers have too much to lose in popular opinion, to admit any knowledge of your less savory activities. They have disowned you."
"So I am in your debt, after all," Rudolph said. Two bright spots of color appeared high on his pale cheeks, the only sign that the news affected him. "Thomas, what exactly is our relationship? Am I your prisoner?"
"I prefer to think of you as my guest, Rudy," Thomas replied. "And I don't mean for you to be a prisoner in your rooms. Feel free to explore the house and to visit the gardens. In return, I expect only that you will behave in a kind and reasonable manner."
Thomas looked from an upper window and noted with pleasure that Rudolph was walking in the garden and talking with one of the young gardeners kneeling in a flowerbed.
Suddenly, Rudolph grasped the gardener's arm and yanked the young man to his feet.
Thomas took the stairs at top speed and almost collided with the gardener racing desperately into the house.
"Are you hurt?" Thomas asked the fleeing man urgently. "Are you hurt or are you only frightened?"
"He, he, he," the young gardener stuttered. "I didn't mean any harm, sir, it was only, he, he...he asked me...I got scared..."
"You did right to run." Thomas patted his back gently. "Go to the kitchen and tell them I said you should have a cake and whatever else you would like. You are excused from the rest of your afternoon chores."
Relieved that his reaction hadn't angered Thomas, placated by the thought of an extra meal and a few free hours, the gardener collected himself and headed more slowly for the kitchen.
"A mere cake? I would have given him a coin at least, if he'd served me as I requested," said Rudolph with a cold smile.
"I don't think you understand quite how seriously I view this, Rudolph," Thomas said. "Go to your rooms, please."
"I think not, Thomas," Rudolph responded. "I don't think you understand quite how little I care." Bowing mockingly, he walked out into the orchard instead.
Thomas caught up to Rudolph easily. Seizing his arm, Thomas turned Rudolph to face him.
"No, Rudolph," Thomas said grimly. "You do not attack people."
"Or what?" Rudolph asked insolently. "You'll beat me? I don't care, Thomas."
"Who taught you not to care, Rudy? Your uncle?" Thomas remembered the young Rudolph, huddled in the cold at the foot of the stone wall, begging not to be taken back. "Oh, Rudy, you're better than he was. I know you are."
What had he committed himself to?
Thomas had felt a sharp stab of pity for the tortured man he'd found facing death; he had rescued the man for the sake of the boy he had been. And that moment of compassion had led to this moment of decision.
He was now responsible for a healed and dangerous man. To release Rudolph among people was as dangerous as releasing a wolf in a sheepfold. But what to do with the man?
Thomas sighed, and returned his attention to the cruel, wounded man who now eyed him nervelessly.
"I won't beat you, Rudy," Thomas said. "But you are going to learn to curb your unwholesome appetites. If I have to punish you in order to teach you, I will."
"I'm damned, you know," Rudolph said quietly. "Thomas, you would beat me if you know the truth about me."
"If you're damned, then I'm damned along with you, for freeing you," Thomas said. "I know a great deal more about you than you'd be proud of me knowing. You'll pay for your sins, I'm sure, but I'm not the one you'll render payment to."
"I rather think you'd let me off more easily than he will." Rudolph laughed softly. "Thomas? I don't think you'll be damned, just for freeing me."
"Rudy, I hope I am. Or else how am I going to keep you out of trouble in hell?" Thomas teased gently.
"You bastard. It isn't funny." Rudolph's voice was flat.
Thomas shook his head at Rudolph's lightning shift in mood. It was one of the more disturbing things about the man, the way he could drift from fear to laughter to fury, in almost no time, as if none of his emotions were quite real. It wasn't a thing you could fault him for, exactly; it just felt wrong.
"I'd follow you into the fire, Rudy," Thomas said, and there was no more laughter in his voice either. "Come, Rudy, let's go to your rooms. We need to come to an understanding. I'm not going to beat you, Rudy. But you will learn to behave."
"I'm not afraid of being punished, Thomas." Rudolph showed his teeth in what might have been meant as a smile. "Son or schoolboy, which play do you prefer?"
"No, Rudy." Thomas was sickened by Rudolph's tease. He forced himself to breathe evenly. "This isn't a game, Rudy. I won't find punishing you erotic." Thomas held out his hand. "Come, Rudy."
Thomas's invitation was not the response that Rudolph had expected. Rudolph's deep dislike of being touched warred with his more human desire for contact. The latter impulse won out.
"Yes, Thomas," Rudolph said resignedly, taking Thomas's hand.
Still unconvinced, Rudolph let Thomas lead him through the garden to the house, through the house to his rooms.
"What now, Thomas?" Rudolph raised his eyebrows.
Thomas considered the matter for a moment. Rudolph had been abused, but Thomas doubted he had ever been fairly disciplined.
"The gardener is young, Rudolph," Thomas said quietly. "You frightened him badly."
"No one ever concerned himself with my feelings," Rudolph said coldly. "Why should I concern myself with his?"
"How old were you when your uncle first took you that way, Rudy?" Thomas saw Rudolph start slightly.
"Twelve," Rudolph said morosely. "He wasn't an especially kind man before that, but I wanted him to love me. He said it was something a man taught his sons..." Rudolph shrugged. "I was a stupid child."
"You were a child," Thomas said gently. "Not stupid, Rudy. A child. Children trust the people who care for them."
"But Thomas?" Rudolph asked, a rare shyness in his voice. "What if there was something dark in me to begin with, that drew my uncle to me in that way? That is what he said, that I seduced him, that it was my own fault..."
"You should know that, now, for the clever lie it was. Is that what you think, that you are corrupt?"
"But of course." Rudolph smiled ironically. "Would a man who was not corrupt, do the things I have done? Thomas, you love me for reasons of your own, but surely you see me for the manner of man I am?"
"Rudy, you were bent from youth onward; you merely incline the way you were warped. But that you were hurt does not give you the right to hurt others," Thomas said.
"Their pain is of less interest to me than my own." Rudolph shrugged, unconvinced.
"If the only pain that you feel is your own pain, then I will make sure that any hurt you cause pains you as well," Thomas said soberly.
Rudolph opened his mouth to argue, but yelped instead as Thomas swatted him, hard, bringing the discussion to an end.
"I am going to spank you now, Rudy." Thomas guided Rudolph to the bed. Swatted him again through his breeches, before undoing them and tugging them down.
Seating himself on the bed, Thomas arranged Rudolph over his knees. Thomas rested his palm on the bared flesh and felt the muscles beneath flex under his hand. He could feel Rudolph's stomach muscles tensing against his thigh. Rudolph dropped his head.
"You do know what this spanking is for, Rudy?" Thomas asked softly. "Don't you?"
"Yes, Thomas," Rudolph whispered. "I frightened the gardener. I hurt him and now you are going to hurt me. Please, Thomas, let me up."
"That's right, Rudy. And after this, you won't ever do it again. Trust me, Rudy."
Rudolph jerked wildly as Thomas applied a forceful series of solid spanks to the fleshiest part of his buttocks. Thomas rearranged Rudolph across his lap, holding him firmly. Rudolph yelped as Thomas delivered a second series of staccato smacks to the lower curves of his ass.
Thomas spanked Rudolph hard and thoroughly. Rudolph didn't cry until the very end, when his backside was scarlet and the tops of his thighs a matching hue. But once he began to cry, he couldn't stop.
Thomas eased Rudolph from his lap onto the bed, careful of Rudolph's seared buttocks.
"All done, Rudy." Thomas stroked Rudolph's hair gently. Rubbed Rudolph's back in slow, centering circles. "Shh, we're all done. I'm going to take good care of you. Sleep now. I'll be here when you wake and we'll talk some more. Sleep now, you're safe with me." Thomas stretched out alongside Rudolph and both men drifted tiredly to sleep.
Thomas and Rudolph woke early, a longstanding habit for both of them. They regarded each other warily, each man well aware of the other man's morning erection.
Thomas traced Rudolph's lips with a gentle finger. Rudolph flinched.
"You're not ready, Rudy." Thomas swung himself upright and held out his hand to Rudolph. "Will you join me downstairs for breakfast?"
"Thank you." Rudolph let out his breath. He had been afraid that Thomas would want to possess him.
"Thank you," Rudolph repeated hoarsely, as he let Thomas draw him upright. "Thomas, what's going to become of me?"
"There are plenty of opportunities for a charming and intelligent man in trade," Thomas said wryly. "As I found out some fifteen years ago."
For the first time since Thomas had known Rudolph, Rudolph looked abashed.
"I'm sorry, Thomas. I know that this is not only an inadequate, but probably an insulting apology. And yet..." Rudolph lifted his eyes to meet Thomas's. "I have apologized for very few things in my life, Thomas."
"Rudy," Thomas said. "I forgave you a long time ago."
Thank you, Hedeia and Rusty, for your willingness to read (and reread and reread), your patience and your tact. Without you, H, there would have been no story.