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



"I do not think this a very constructive use of my time, Thomas," Rudolph said from the chair in the corner. He had turned it away from the wall, so that he faced Thomas, and now sat elegantly at his ease, his legs crossed.

"Indeed," Thomas said, continuing to peruse the papers in front of him, jotting notes as he did so. "Turn around to the wall, Rudy, and sit quietly."

"I don't think so," Rudolph said, uncrossing his legs and shifting forward as if to stand up.

"Rudolph, what did I tell you I would do if you stood from that chair?" Thomas asked pleasantly.

"Damn you, Thomas, I don't like this!" Rudolph flared.

"And I don't like having my negotiations compromised by your inability to hold your tongue," Thomas said with equal force. "And you are going to master your temper. Now turn your chair back to the wall and sit quietly and think on your mistake."

"I despise this." Rudolph turned his chair around. He started as he felt Thomas's hands on his shoulders. "Thomas, please, I complied with your request!"

"Shh, I'm not going to spank you," Thomas reassured Rudolph. He rubbed Rudolph's back gently. "Why so angry, Rudy? Is this really so unfair a punishment?"

Wordlessly, Rudolph shook his head. He leaned into Thomas's hip.

"Please may I get up?" Rudolph asked. "Please, Thomas, I am not myself at the moment. I do not feel well."

"My Rudy." Thomas took Rudolph's elbow and helped him rise. "Come, I will see you to your rooms."

"Are you going to spank me?" Rudolph asked quietly.

"Not for your actions of today," Thomas said ruefully. "I cannot predict the future."

"But for now I am excused?" Rudolph asked.

"Yes. Come, upstairs." Thomas walked Rudolph to his room.

"How long must I remain here?" Rudolph asked tentatively.

"It is entirely up to you, Rudy," Thomas said. "You are not being punished. I have commuted your sentence, as you claimed to be unwell." He lifted an eyebrow inquiringly.

"I truly did not feel well," Rudolph responded. "And while I desire to avoid another spanking from you, I find it enervating to sit for so long in silence."

"It was not even an hour," Thomas said gently. "That is not so very long, Rudy. A merchant must be learn to be patient."

"I am not a patient man, Thomas!"

"Really!" Thomas shook his head. After a moment, both men laughed.

"Stay with me a little?" Rudolph looked hopefully at Thomas. "Please."

"All right." Thomas locked the door. "Perhaps you should undress and let me examine you," Thomas teased gently. "I would not have you unwell and unattended."

Rudolph tilted his head, puzzled.

"A jest, Rudy." Thomas winked at his lover. "Perhaps we should both undress. I fear I too am...suffering."

This time Rudolph laughed. He toed out of his shoes, tugged off his shirt and untied his breeches. Tumbled backward onto the bed. Thomas stripped just as quickly. Straddling Rudolph, he dipped his head and began to kiss him gently, thoroughly. At the now familiar sensations, Rudolph's skin flushed with excitement and his cock began to stiffen. Thomas took him in hand, caressing him encouragingly. He trailed his lips over Rudolph's chest and belly, bent lower and took Rudolph in his mouth.

Rudolph arched upward into the tight heat, his leg muscles knotting, his breathing quickening as he came closer to his climax. Thomas replaced his mouth with his hand and with a firm grip and a few hard strokes brought Rudolph off.

"Oh oh oh," Rudolph panted. Thomas let his own cock prod Rudolph's thigh and belly as he stretched out alongside Rudolph, kissing him.

"You want me to--?" Rudolph licked his lips, feigning eagerness, but Thomas heard the apprehension in his question.

"Use your hand," Thomas said, guiding Rudolph's fingers. "That's right, oh yes, that's very good." Thomas inhaled his lover's scent, imagined the day when all the shadows of the past would be gone from Rudolph's eyes, and let his dreams and Rudolph's hand make him happy.

The two lovers napped, entwined, for a brief hour.

"Wake up, Rudy," Thomas tickled his lover gently, but persistently. If Rudolph slept now, he wouldn't tonight. "Come on, Rudy."

"I'm tired!" Rudolph burrowed deeper in the covers. "I want to sleep. Please, Thomas, I truly do not feel well."

"You seemed well enough but a little while ago." Thomas gathered Rudolph in his arms so that they lay face to face. "What troubles you, Rudy?"

"I do love you, Thomas," Rudolph said after awhile. "I had thought it would be easier to reciprocate your attentions. I am sorry, Thomas."

"Do not distress yourself, Rudy. I do not find you wanting." Thomas stroked Rudolph's cheek and kissed him. "It will get easier with time. I am a patient man, Rudy."

"At least one of us is," Rudolph muttered. Sighing, he turned so that his head was pillowed more comfortably on Thomas's shoulder. "What is to become of me? I have not the temperament for a trader, Thomas."

"I do not find you wanting," Thomas repeated. "Not in bed. Not in business." He smoothed Rudolph's hair back from his forehead. "You are quick and canny and charming. You will do fine. Your way is different than mine, but I think we will accomplish much together." He chafed Rudolph's cheeks with a gentle thumb. "Smile?"

"You are good to me." Rudolph closed his eyes. "Must I get up, Thomas?"

"Yes," Thomas said firmly.

"If I were a better catamite, would you let me linger longer in bed?" Rudolph asked. "That might be motivation enough for me to refine my skills."

"You are fine, Rudy." Rudolph's attempt at humor pained Thomas. "Do not fret."

The men sat across the table from each other, enjoying the venison Thomas's cook had roasted. It was accompanied by a cold dish of field greens. Rudolph poked at it suspiciously.

"I am assured that it is good for the digestion," Thomas said with a laugh, taking a portion on his plate.

"I rather doubt that." Rudolph helped himself to another slice of venison. "I prefer to let the stag do the work of digestion, and then consume his meat."

"Even wolves eat vegetation from the bellies of the animals they slay," Thomas said. "I have seen sheep killed and their innards–"

"Do you mind?" Rudolph pursed his lips fastidiously. "Thomas, if I did not know better, I would accuse you of deliberately spoiling my appetite, so as to preserve a larger share of this fine roast for yourself." Rudolph sipped his wine, his face relaxed, his eyes sparkling.

Thomas enjoyed Rudolph's good moods. They were still too rare, but Thomas hoped they would become more frequent as Rudolph settled into his new life. He smiled at Rudolph.

"Despite your best efforts at sabotage," Thomas teased Rudolph, "I have managed to plan a series of trades that should in the end result in the exchange of a small manuscript on the significance of the iconography of the Eastern church for a quantity of felted wool for vestments for the abbey's priest."

"It appears they were hardly my best efforts, then." Rudolph rolled his eyes.

"Be that as it may," Thomas said, shaking his head ruefully, "We are going to take to the road tomorrow and purchase the felt from an estate some hours west. We leave at dawn."

"Yes, Thomas," Rudolph said, looking down.

"You seem troubled, Rudolph?" Thomas nudged Rudolph's hand gently. "Tell me?"

"I have little fondness for the west," Rudolph said softly. "Many things happened there that I do not care to recall."

"We are not going deep into that part of the country," Thomas said. "I do not think you need be fearful."

"I am not fearful," Rudolph snapped. "I am not afraid, Thomas, really, you do exaggerate!"

"You forget your manners, Rudolph," Thomas reproved him. "Come, Rudolph, we have a long day ahead. Let us retire." Thomas felt Rudolph flinch as he took his arm. Not responding to the gesture, Thomas led Rudolph upstairs.

They undressed silently. It wasn't until they lay comfortably together, Rudolph's head pillowed on Thomas's chest, that Thomas asked the question that was troubling him.

"Did you think I meant to strike you, Rudy?"

There was a long silence.

"I didn't really think it," Rudolph said softly. "I didn't really think at all, Thomas."

Thomas recognized the telltale tremors of Rudolph's body. He stroked Rudolph's hair gently as Rudolph cried himself to sleep.

The weather was stormy, the trip tiring. The negotiations proved stormy and tiring as well. Rudolph, fidgeted, bored with the endless round of courteous bickering.

"Perhaps you would like to unpack our bags, Rudolph?" Thomas suggested, aware that Rudolph had reached the limits of his patience, and not wanting to push him further. "I am sure our host will excuse you."

"Thank you," Rudolph said, bowing. Thomas almost smiled at the relief he saw in Rudolph's step as he left the room. Not a patient man, indeed.

Thank God! Rudolph made his way to the rooms they had been assigned, relieved to be excused. A woman was bent over the fire, stirring up the coals. She turned to face him, and froze, an expression of horror on her face.


"I know you, sir!" The woman made the sign of the cross before her.

"Mistress, what ails you?" Rudolph was taken aback.

"Murderer! You killed them, you killed them all!"

"Be silent!"

"Butcher! They said you were dead, burnt as the fiend you were!"

"Hold your tongue, or I will cut it out!" Rudolph snapped, pressing the woman hard against the wall.

"Please sir, have pity," the woman pleaded, her voice high and terrified.

"I may have spared you once, but I will not spare you again," Rudolph spat.

"Unhand the woman! Mistress, away." Thomas's voice cut across the woman's scream. Rudolph stepped back and the woman fled the room. Locking the door behind her, Thomas turned to Rudolph.

"That was unworthy of you, Rudolph. I had thought better of you than this."

"Are you going to beat me?" Rudolph's voice was flat and without affect.

"I should," Thomas said grimly.


Rudolph went white. He swayed, suddenly faint.

Thomas caught Rudolph's arm and helped Rudolph to the chair by the table. Rudolph dropped his head between his knees, forcing himself to breathe slowly.

"Rudolph, what happened?" Thomas crouched so that his face was level with Rudolph's. "Do you know her?"

"She knows me," Rudolph said dully. "She would see me dead. Leave me, Thomas, my presence only endangers you as well. I would not see you suffer for my sins."

"Do not talk nonsense," Thomas said sharply. "I will never leave you. Follow me, quickly." Rudolph hesitated. Thomas swatted him, hard. "We have no time for argument, Rudolph. Move."

They took the back stairs to the stable. Thomas hastily harnessed his team. With Rudolph, stunned and silent, at his side, he drove out into the wild night.

Thomas's prized bays were lathered and blowing by the time Thomas judged they had put sufficient distance between themselves and the estate to be safe. He loosened the reins, allowing the horses to pick their own pace in the moonlight. Still, it was not until they were once again on Thomas's own lands that Thomas relaxed.

Thomas left his team and carriage to the care of a quickly roused stable hand. Taking Rudolph's elbow, he urged him to the house. He guided Rudolph up the stairs and into his room.

"Sit, Rudolph," Thomas said. "You are safe here."

"I will never be safe." It was the first time Rudolph had spoken since their flight.

"You are safe with me, Rudolph," Thomas said. "Now talk to me. What was it that she blamed you for?"

"The death of her family, I presume," Rudolph replied without emotion.

"Did you kill her family, Rudolph?" Thomas asked, very quietly. Dear God.

"Really, Thomas, do you think me fool enough to respond?" Rudolph smiled coldly.

"You smile?" Thomas ran his hand through his hair in agitation. "God!"

"He does not seem to hear you," Rudolph said sarcastically. "I imagine he has more important concerns than the trifling moral obsessions of a traveling merchant."

"Rudolph, hold your tongue," Thomas said sharply. ""I will not betray you, no matter your answer. But I would like to know. Did you kill her family?"

"I don't know," Rudolph said venomously. "Not with my own hand. But was it done by men under my command? It is quite possible. Was hers the only life I destroyed? Hardly. And now that you have your answers, Thomas, do they make you happy?"

"Be quiet, Rudy!" Thomas said despairingly.

"I have done many evil things. Thomas, I am going to burn in hell. Do you wish me to leave you?"

"I love you, Rudy. That hasn't changed. Do not speak of leaving."

"What then?" Rudolph demanded. "Do you wish to beat me?"

"No, Rudy," Thomas said, sitting tiredly down on the bed. "I wish to sleep. I want you to lie down with me, please." Thomas sounded sad and subdued.

"No! I don't want to." Rudolph was angry and upset. Thomas knew guilt was a new emotion to Rudolph.

"I didn't ask if you wanted to. Come to bed, Rudolph. Now."

"What are you going to do to me?" Rudolph's voice was tight with anxiety, but he obeyed Thomas's order. To Rudolph's surprise, Thomas took a moment to rub his back gently before drawing him down and spooning around him.

"You still love me," Rudolph said disbelievingly.

"You're mine," Thomas said. "Hush, Rudy. I am so very tired. Please, let me sleep."

Rudolph lay motionless in the circle of Thomas's body, trying to make sense of Thomas's behavior. Thomas was furiously angry with him, of that Rudolph had no doubt. And yet Thomas curled around him, protective as always.

Don't leave me, Thomas.

His throat constricting around his unvoiced plea, Rudolph cautiously pressed into the welcome warmth at his back.

Please don't leave me.

"I'm here, Rudy. Hush now, sleep."

Morning light woke the weary pair. Neither had slept well. Thomas's face looked grave and lined. Rudolph's pale skin was blue under his eyes and his lips were tighter and even more pinched than usual.

They dressed silently.

"You are still angry at me!" Rudolph said accusingly.

"It is not anger I feel," Thomas said thoughtfully. "It is guilt. I have avoided until now thinking too closely of your sins. I freed you; I brought you here. I am responsible for your avoiding the consequences of your actions,"

"Thomas, I cannot change what I have already done!" Rudolph's frustration was obvious. "Punish me, then, if you feel it is warranted!"

"How, Rudy? Just how do you think you deserve to be punished?"

Rudolph shrugged.

"The same authorities who countenanced my crimes, as long as it suited them to have me feared, meant to hang me once I was no longer of use. What do I deserve, Thomas? I do not know!"

Thomas remembered the tortured, fevered man he had rescued from the monastery. There had been no question of leaving Rudolph to his fate.

"You could beat me daily for the rest of my life, Thomas, and it would be no more than I deserve," Rudolph said. "Perhaps that would be a fair punishment."

"I am not going to beat you in cold blood. I am not going to beat you at all!" Thomas exclaimed in frustration.

"I would rather that you beat me, than that you hated me," Rudolph said.

"I don't hate you," Thomas said tiredly. "I can't, Rudy. I see the child you were and I pity him."

"I don't want you to pity me," Rudolph said.

"I pity the child you were, not the man you have become. You are responsible for what you make of the rest of your time on earth."

"And now you have made me your catamite, Thomas, does that redeem me or damn me further?" Rudolph hissed. "Do you know, Thomas? Do you know what it was like for me, to hold the whip in my hand, and not the other way around? Do you know what it is like, even now, to lie beside you and know I am damned?"

"I have you, Rudy, it's all right." Ignoring Rudolph's provocations, Thomas drew Rudolph into his arms, holding his rigid form tenderly. "It's all over. It's all right."

"It's never going to be over. It's never going to be all right," Rudolph ground out bitterly. "Never! Never!"

"Shh, that's not so, easy now," Thomas said softly. "Easy, Rudy, I've got you, you're safe."

"I will never be safe. I hurt inside, Thomas. I wish I had not done any of it." Rudolph looked away from Thomas. "I wish none of it had been done to me. I don't know anything anymore, Thomas."

"Rudy." Thomas tucked Rudolph closer to him, stroking his hair.

"There isn't any forgiveness for me," Rudolph said sadly. "Thomas? Will I burn forever, do you think?"

"Rudy." Thomas closed his eyes, wishing he could reassure his lover. Wishing he himself knew the answer. "I can't believe God is that cruel."

"Why bother to try and make me good, now?" Rudolph asked dully. "I can't change anything in the past."

"No more can I," Thomas said. "But we are together now, and now is all the time we have, any of us, in which to be good."

"Please, Thomas, I don't feel well," Rudolph said very quietly.

"You are not ill, Rudy," Thomas assured his lover. He was used to Rudolph's using physical symptoms to describe his emotional ills. "You are upset, which is a natural consequence to what has occurred. Come, Rudy." Thomas's hand on Rudolph's arm was careful and discreet. He gently guided Rudolph into the morning room.

Thomas's breakfasts at home were closer to the light refreshments Rudolph had grown up on than the heartier peasant fare Thomas ate on the road. Rudolph drank his tea and picked at a roll, his thoughts grim and far away.

Thomas refrained from prompting Rudolph to eat, knowing from past experience that Rudolph in this mood was apt to bite the metaphorical hand that fed him, and not eager to provoke a display of Rudolph's infamous temper. He concentrated on swallowing his own breakfast despite the tightness in his throat.

"I am sick," Rudolph said sullenly.

"We will walk a bit in the garden," Thomas temporized. "Nature is healing to body and soul."

"I am sick." Rudolph hunched his shoulders. Exercise was the last thing he wanted.

"We will walk." Thomas wanted Rudolph out in the sunshine among the flowers, breathing the fresh scents of the morning. Left to his own devices, Rudolph would work himself deeper and deeper into his misery.

"And if I refuse?" Rudolph glowered at Thomas.

"Come, Rudy," Thomas said briskly, rising and tugging Rudolph from his seat. "I wish you to walk with me." He smiled at Rudolph. "I cannot kiss you here, but there is a place at the far side of the garden..."

Rudolph's bad mood weakened before Thomas's charm. No longer protesting, he let Thomas lead him outside.

Safely ensconced in the little grotto at the entrance to the woods, Rudolph sank into Thomas's arms. Thomas kissed him with increasing ardor, not satisfied until Rudolph returned his kisses. He nudged Rudolph's thighs apart with his knee, leaning into him.

Rudolph was totally soft. Thomas rubbed against him carefully, getting no response.

Thomas gentled his kisses. Seating himself, he drew Rudolph into his lap and cuddled him, his own erection softening.

"I'm sorry." Rudolph closed his eyes. Thomas rubbed his back, picking his words carefully.

"I know you are distressed, Rudy. If I could ease your conscience, I would. But I cannot. All I can do is to love you, now, here, as you are. And I do love you, Rudy. Nothing has changed."

"I'm sick," Rudolph moaned. "I don't feel well, Thomas."

"Up, Rudy, let's walk a little more, shall we?" Thomas suggested, easing Rudolph from his lap.

"I don't feel well," Rudolph said sulkily. "I want to sleep."

"You are upset, not ill," Thomas insisted. "A walk will do more to restore you than any amount of sleep. Come." He held out his hand.

Rudolph batted Thomas's hand away.

"Behave." Thomas took Rudolph's arm. "Come, let us walk."

The gentle exercise and fresh air relaxed and revived Rudolph, as Thomas had known they would. By mutual, unspoken agreement, they made their way up the hill that backed the estate. Thomas seated himself on the sun-warmed rocks and Rudolph stretched out alongside him, resting his head in Thomas's lap.

Thomas undid the ribbon from Rudolph's hair and finger combed his soft locks carefully. Rudolph sighed.

"Tell me?" Thomas asked.

"I don't feel well." Rudolph sighed. "I really don't."

Thomas was sure that Rudolph was not ill, but he was willing to indulge his lover.

"I shall send for my physician," Thomas offered. "Perhaps he can bleed you, or provide a tonic."

"Please don't." Rudolph twisted so that his eyes met Thomas's. "Please don't, Thomas."

"But if you are ill..."

"No." Rudolph shuddered. Thomas's physician might have cured his fever, but his methods had been harsh and Rudolph's memories were humiliating.

"All right, Rudy." Thomas smoothed Rudolph's hair, not wanting to upset his lover further. "My regimen is perhaps as good as any physician's. Come to me." He leaned forward and kissed Rudolph, his tongue probing gently. Rudolph surrendered, his mouth opening. Thomas continued the kiss for several long moments, finally evoking a groan from Rudolph.

"Yes, Rudy?" Thomas drew back, smiling.

"You take unfair advantage of me, I think," Rudolph said huskily. "Thomas, I cannot resist your kisses, you know that."

"Oh, you seem pretty resistant to me," Thomas teased. "Come, let us go about our morning activities, and after that we will rest in your rooms a little, I think."

"I am sorry, Thomas," Rudolph said soberly. "You lost an enormous commission due to my presence this past night."

"It is of no moment," Thomas said. "It is only a matter of business. It weighs lightly compared to my affection for you. We will not speak of it further."

One day passed, and then another. Rudolph persisted in his complaints. His head hurt, his chest throbbed, his stomach cramped. He had no appetite. He could not sleep. Despite his firm belief that Rudolph was troubled and not sick, Thomas called in his physician. He left the two men alone in Rudolph's chamber.

"It is obvious to me that your humors are unbalanced," the physician opined. "It is a simple matter to bleed you and–"

"Bleed me? You will not, sir!" Rudolph objected.

"Indeed I shall," the physician rejoined. Reaching into his bag, he placed a sharpened blade on the table. "As it is necessary for you to remain still during the procedure, I will simply bind your arm to the bedstead–" He withdrew a leather strap from his bag.

"Damn you!" Rudolph grabbed the leather strap in his two hands, holding it like a garrotte. The physician stumbled in his haste to escape. Rudolph moved in quickly and the physician screamed in alarm. His scream brought Thomas through the door.

"Step back, Rudolph." Thomas extended his hand to the physician. "Please sir, on your feet. Are you unharmed?"

"My lord, you are harboring a demon," the physician said angrily.

"He is the demon, not I," Rudolph said sourly. "He said he would bind me to the bedstead. He meant to stab me."

"I meant only to bleed him!"

"Enough," Thomas said wearily. "I am sorry, sir, for your inconvenience. Perhaps this will encourage you to forget your patient's ill humor." Reaching into his purse, he handed the physician a hefty gold coin. The man's scowl faded as he pocketed it.

"Thank you, my lord, you are generous indeed."

"You are welcome," Thomas said courteously. "Please go about your business."

With a slight bow, the physician backed hastily from the room.

Thomas closed and locked the door.

"Rudolph." Thomas shook his head. "You almost throttled the man. You endanger yourself and others with your uncontrolled reactions and I will not have it."

"He said he would bind me to the bed! He had a knife! He seized my arm!" Rudolph glared at Thomas. "I did nothing wrong."

"Rudolph." Thomas heard the harshness in his own tone. Took a deep breath and let it out slowly. Closed his eyes for a brief moment. "Rudy. You were frightened, Rudy."

"I was angry!"

"Come to me, Rudy," Thomas coaxed. Shoulders slumping, Rudolph moved forward. He allowed Thomas to enfold him in his arms. With ill grace, he allowed Thomas to ease him onto the bed. Thomas pressed him gently back against the pillows.

"Rest, Rudy." Thomas stroked his cheek with gentle fingers. "I am so sorry that he frightened you so badly."

"I was not afraid," Rudolph muttered. "Really, Thomas, you must think me extraordinarily weak."

"I think you too smart to attempt to strangle your physician without good reason," Thomas said. "And I would prefer to think you panic-stricken than murderous."

"Oh." Rudolph settled deeper into the bed. "Thomas, why do you persist in thinking well of me? You are a bit of a fool."

"A bit of bitter willow bark in your mouth might curb your sharp tongue," Thomas said ruefully. "But I would be wrong to punish you for speaking the truth. I am a bit of a fool for you, as you say." He tickled Rudolph's ribs lightly, trying to ease the tension.

"I would not have asked the physician to attend you, had I believed he would hurt you. There is no shame in fear, but neither is there any need for it here. Try to trust me a little more, Rudy."

"He hurt me, before," Rudolph said sulkily.

"His treatment was painful," Thomas agreed. "But Rudolph, he did not 'hurt' you. His intention was to heal you."

"He hurt me," Rudolph said stubbornly. "I don't understand you, Thomas, you tell me I am not sick and yet you send your physician to bleed me!"

"No, I do not believe you are sick. However I thought perhaps the treatment might ease your mind," Thomas explained.

"I am sick, Thomas, I am so sick. Why can't you understand that?"

"I know you do not feel well, but you are confused and upset, Rudy, not physically ill," Thomas said. "You are sad and guilt-ridden and angry."

"Yes, surely you know my feelings better than I do myself, as did my uncle," Rudolph said, a sudden fury in his voice. "Do forgive me, Thomas. Your catamite forgets himself."

"Do not be hateful, Rudy," Thomas said reprovingly. "I understand that you are distressed and that you do not feel well. And I understand that it angers you, to feel I disregard your feelings. But I know you, Rudolph, and I know your sickness stems from your soul, not your flesh."

"Leave me alone." Rudolph buried his face in his pillow.

"You aren't alone." Thomas stroked Rudolph's neck and shoulders, easing the taut muscles. "You are not alone anymore." He rubbed Rudolph's back soothingly while Rudolph cried himself out. Sat quietly alongside his lover for an hour while Rudolph slept, exhausted from his outburst.

"Thomas?" Rudolph roused slowly. His throat hurt from crying; his face was tear-stained and creased from the pillow.

"Ah, Rudy, you are awake, very good." Thomas concealed his sympathy behind a brisk facade. "I want you to sit up now. Wash your hands and face and come walk with me in the garden."

"No, damn you, Thomas! I will not; you cannot make me."

Thomas swatted Rudolph smartly.

"Ow!" Rudolph sat up, scowling. "You, Thomas, are an exceedingly mean man."

"You, Rudolph, are an exceedingly stubborn man. Sit up, wash, walk. Now."

"I suppose I have no choice?" Rudolph cocked an eyebrow at Thomas.

"None whatsoever." Thomas assured him.

Rudolph washed his face and retied his hair, frowning at his reflection in the glass. Toeing into his shoes, he accompanied Thomas outside.

As usual, walking revived Rudolph. By the time they had completed their circuit of the entire garden, he was laughing in response to Thomas's witticisms, his color was better and the lightness had returned to his step.

"Perhaps you are right, Thomas," Rudolph conceded grudgingly. "I enjoy our small excursions. But Thomas, I would ask you, please, do not make me accompany you abroad again." Rudolph swallowed hard, not wanting to admit he was afraid.

"I have no wish to endanger you, Rudolph, but I am loathe to leave you behind."

"You do not trust me then, Thomas?" Rudolph scowled.

"My people are afraid of you, Rudy," Thomas said gently.

"Indeed." Rudolph was silent. He walked quietly alongside Thomas for several paces, struggling for a blase tone. "That should not surprise me, I suppose. Still, Thomas, this knowledge pains me."

"They may come to trust you better as they come to know you better." Thomas took Rudolph's arm, turning him toward the house. "It need not always be this way, Rudy."

"I would like to believe that," Rudolph said. "It is not quite the pleasant thing I once imagined it, to be distrusted and feared. Even if one has earned the privilege." He sighed. "You have ruined me, Thomas. You have made me care."

"It is a good thing to care, Rudy," Thomas said. "I am glad that you care."

"It hurts, Thomas." Rudolph shrugged. "I know, I know: I am not ill." He managed a sheepish grin. "Nonetheless, it pains me."

"It may be this is the answer to the question you asked me the other morning. Your salvation may well lie in learning to feel just this pain."

"I have said it before: You should have been a priest, Thomas," Rudolph said wryly.

"I am very glad I did not make any vows. I should be very tempted to break them," Thomas said with a pretend leer, wanting to lighten Rudolph's mood. His gambit worked; Rudolph smiled and shook his head.

"You are good to me, Thomas," Rudolph said. "I am not very hungry for dinner. Perhaps you would let me retire early?"

"We will take supper together in our rooms tonight," Thomas said, recognizing how vulnerable Rudolph felt and understanding his need to be insulated from the household staff's scrutiny. "I think it better if you are not left alone to sink deeper into your melancholy."

Supper was a sober affair and Rudolph was glad when, albeit with a sigh, Thomas accepted his lack of appetite and put the tray aside.

"Can I help you, Rudolph?" Thomas asked gently. "What is it that you want?"

"I don't know," Rudolph said dully. "I want to feel something, Thomas. I feel nothing, Thomas, nothing at all."

"Come to bed now," Thomas said softly. He drew Rudolph into his arms, kissing him. Rudolph lay quietly, letting Thomas have his way. "What do you want, Rudy?"

"I don't know! Please, Thomas, help me. I want to feel something."

Thomas pressed his own cock against Rudolph's flaccid member. Stroked the inside of Rudolph's thigh with his hand. Rudolph groaned, arching his back reflexively, and Thomas smiled at the sound and rolled on top of Rudolph, trapping both their cocks between them. Rudolph's cock began to stiffen.

"What do you want, Rudolph?" Thomas whispered, kissing Rudolph deep and hard.

Rudolph opened his mouth to Thomas's questing tongue.

"What do you want?" Thomas ground his hips against Rudolph's and Rudolph arched upward again, almost unseating him. "What do you want?"

"I don't know, Thomas! I don't know! Help me!" Rudolph begged.

"All right," Thomas said quietly. Reaching for the vial beside the bed, he anointed his cock with the oil, letting the heat of his body make the sticky fluid slick and slippery. "You know what I want you to do, Rudy."

"Yes, Thomas. I trust you, Thomas." Rolling onto his stomach, Rudolph dropped his head to his crossed arms and drew his knees under him, giving himself over to Thomas.

Thomas penetrated Rudolph firmly, first with his coated finger, then with his cock. Thomas took Rudolph hard, thrusting until Rudolph gasped and jerked under him in pulsing spasms.

"I love you," Rudolph whispered, as Thomas filled him with his own essence. Thomas rolled onto his back and Rudolph came to him, sheltering in the hollows of Thomas's body.

"I love you." Thomas stroked Rudolph's back from nape to buttocks, tucking him even closer. "You will still feel me tomorrow, I think."

"It was what I needed, Thomas," Rudolph assured him. "I have never before in my life felt so thoroughly known, as I do at this moment. That is worth aching tomorrow." He yawned and snuggled into Thomas.

Thomas kissed Rudolph gently.

"Thomas?" Even in the dark, Thomas could hear Rudolph's smile. "Perhaps I am not, after all, a total failure as a catamite."

"Go to sleep, Rudy," Thomas snorted, swatting what seemed approximately the right place.

"Yes, Thomas. Your servant. Ouch."

"Go to sleep." Thomas ran his hand gently over Rudolph's back. "I love you."


Thank you, Hedeia and Rusty, for candor and kindness. EM