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



Richard eased the Lexus out of the icy hospital parking lot, dodging the worst of the deep ruts. The feeble morning sun hadn't a prayer of melting the piled snow. He checked the dashboard display. It was not yet nine, which gave him a little over an hour to check out the newest therapist and make it back in time for his meeting at ten.

Not yet nine, and already Richard was tired, the sort of tired no amount of sleep alleviated. Richard sighed; a relationship just shouldn't be this hard. Silas seemed more determined than ever to evade all responsibility for what should have been a mutual effort at partnership.

Richard knew that Silas considered his search for a therapist sheer folly. As far as Silas was concerned, Richard should serve as his therapist, as well as his lover and his Top. So typical of Silas, Richard thought wryly, to expect me to do all the work.

Richard had made sure another psychiatrist was writing the prescriptions for Silas's medication; he wanted those boundaries to be clear. Richard felt Silas would benefit from some talk therapy as well. Someone who was supportive and empathetic would be a good fit for Silas. This morning's candidate was less experienced than Richard would have liked, but she seemed warm and kind.

"There's one more thing," Richard said, trying for a pleasant, matter of fact tone. Now came the disclosure that had gotten steadily harder as Richard had interviewed more potential therapists. "We use corporal punishment in our relationship."

"Corporal punishment," the therapist echoed, clearly playing for time. "By corporal punishment, you mean–"

"I mean that I spank my partner. As a punishment, not as a sex game." Richard made himself answer calmly and not defensively. Nothing to be embarrassed about, Richard told himself firmly, feeling the heat in his face. All kinds of people do this. Nothing so outre about it.


"And your partner has agreed to this?" Doubt evident in the therapist's tone.

"Yes. We discussed it, months before he deteriorated to this point. It was a lifestyle we were both attracted to."

"You spank him," the therapist said, her struggle to keep her voice neutral quite obvious to Richard's sensitive ears.

"Are you familiar with the term 'domestic discipline'?" Richard asked, forcing himself not to overreact. She's new to this, she means well--

"I've heard of it, yes," the therapist said, "I'm not entirely sure I feel it's an appropriate label to place on what it is you do. I know there are heterosexual couples who believe that their innate needs for male dominance and female submission are best met by establishing the husband as the head of their household. You're a gay couple; how it applies to your situation is difficult for me to understand."


"Thank you for your time." Richard gave up. He wasn't about to try and educate her; he wanted someone who was comfortable with the idea. "You might want to do a little research before this comes up with another client." Rising, Richard extended his hand, ending the session. The therapist shook it politely. Richard handed her his already prepared check and let himself out, closing the suite's door quietly behind him.


Richard headed back to the hospital, barely making his ten o'clock meeting. He was thoroughly discouraged. He was a psychiatrist himself; it should be easier than this to find the right person for Silas to work with! Seeking a therapist for Silas meant dealing with insurance shortfalls, explaining their lifestyle choices to strangers, broaching issues he felt uneasy and uncomfortable with. His own training analysis had been one thing; this humiliating overexposure was quite another.


Keith studied Richard covertly from across the conference table. Richard jabbed his stylus at his PDA with unnecessary force, twirled his pen in his fingers, checked his watch surreptitiously. He looked like a man with a lot on his mind and Keith was pretty certain of the source of his stress. Keith had been treating Silas when Silas had made his suicide attempt, and Keith had no illusions about how difficult a position Richard was in.


"Care to talk over lunch, Richard?" Keith asked tentatively as the meeting broke up. His relationship with Richard was complicated; they had been more than colleagues, but less than friends, even before Keith had treated Silas. However the good will between them was palpable.


"I'm going by the house to check on Silas at lunch." Richard sighed. It had been a long morning. "But I could do with a quick cup of coffee and a chance to unload. Thank you."


"Sounds like you've got a lot on your plate right now," Keith said empathetically.


They headed toward the hospital cafeteria as Richard made a mental note to remember that Keith was a very skilled therapist. It was early enough that there were no lines at the cashiers. They paid for their coffees quickly and settled at a table by the plate glass windows overlooking the interior garden court. It was buried in snow, its only color the few berries the birds had yet to snatch from the holly bushes.


"So how is Silas doing?" Keith asked quietly. "More to the point, how are you holding up?"


"We're all right, I suppose. He's taking his medication, at least. I leave an hour earlier in the morning so that I can swing by the house for lunch before heading over to my office," Richard said, looking a little defensive. "And I've shifted my office hours an hour later, so that gives me an hour and a half midday with Silas, most days."


Keith was stunned. That workaholic Richard would alter his schedule to make time for lunch daily was as huge a demonstration of Richard's commitment to Silas as he could have ever imagined.


"Unfortunately, I spend most of that time prying him out of bed. I'm exhausted, Keith." Richard winced at his own words. He couldn't feel less qualified as a clinician than he did at the moment. "Silas needs some outside support, hell, I need him to have some outside support! But I'm finding it very difficult to find him someone who's open to, even if not well versed in, discipline relationships. I don't want him to work with someone who's going to make our lifestyle and the fact that we use corporal punishment into the central issue."


"Truthfully, Richard, this is why I'm a little surprised you didn't encourage Silas to work through the conflict with Dr. P," Keith said. "Dr. P is knowledgeable about both BDSM and leather lifestyles. I know Silas winged him with a tissue box, but impulse control is an issue with Silas; that was nothing compared to what we saw on the ward. You and I both know that Silas is capable of far more extreme acting out."


"Exactly. Impulse control is a major issue with Silas, and that's precisely why I was disgusted with how Dr. P handled the incident. Keith, Silas was distraught when he was dismissed," Richard said shortly. "I understand setting reasonable limits, I understand expecting more of an outpatient, but Silas was barely out of the hospital. Do you know he sat for two hours in an ice cold car before I finally managed to get him on his cell? Hell, Keith, it might not meet the standard for malpractice, but it was damn cruel."


"I didn't know about that part, Richard. Dr. P is usually very good. Poor Silas; I'm sure he scared himself badly." Keith looked genuinely regretful. Squaring his shoulders, he continued. "Richard, I understand that you don't feel that your lifestyle should be the major issue a therapist addresses, but I think the...discipline...in particular, is an issue that needs to be sorted out. I've been educating myself about this lifestyle and I'm not convinced that Silas really understands his role very well. There's a hell of a lot of 'help me' and not a whole lot of choicefulness in his approach to all of this."


"Are you saying that you think I've coerced him into a relationship that's unhealthy for him?" Richard searched Keith's face, wanting a real answer.


"I don't know that, Richard," Keith met Richard's eyes; neither man blinked. "But I do think you need to consider the question. Do you know the name John Noland? He's a licensed clinical social worker and psychotherapist who is openly involved in the leather scene. I had a conversation with him myself, about power exchange relationships. He's very intelligent and very experienced and I think you might benefit from consulting him." Keith emphasized the "you." He was as concerned about Richard as he was about Silas.


Richard made a mental note to remember that Keith didn't mince words.


"Thank you, Keith. If you email me his contact information, I'll make an appointment."


"I'll do that," Keith said. He hadn't missed Richard's emphasis on the "I", either. "Give my best to Silas, please. And Richard? I really am on your side."


"Thank you," Richard repeated, knowing it was true.


Traffic was light midday, the drive was almost pleasant, and Richard made it home in less than half an hour. He let himself into the all too quiet house. The kitchen was spotless, exactly as it had been when he'd left early that morning. Richard lifted the coffee carafe; it was still full. Clearly Silas hadn't even come downstairs.


With a sigh of resignation, Richard made his way to their bedroom. He'd opened the blinds before he left and daylight spilled across the room, but Silas had turned away from the windows and drawn the covers up so that not one ray of sunshine reached his eyes. All that was visible was a tangle of hair.


Richard touched the fine, soft strands wistfully. He'd always loved Silas's tawny hair.


"Come on, Silas, it's time to get up now." Richard took the covers in hand and pulled them back.


"No, go away," Silas moaned. He burrowed deeper into the pillows. "I don't feel good. Leave me alone."


"It's time to wake up now. Silas, what did I tell you when I gave you your medication this morning?"


"I don't know. I don't care. Leave me alone, Richard." Silas shrank from Richard's touch. "I just want to sleep."


"Silas, look at me." Cupping Silas's stubbled jaw in his palm, Richard tried to coax Silas into turning toward him.


"No." Silas kept his eyes resolutely closed.


Richard sat down alongside Silas, stroking his face gently, refusing to be discouraged. Eventually his persistence was rewarded.


"That's it, Silas, open your eyes." Richard leaned in, kissing Silas gently. "Come on, babe, you need to get up. Shower, get dressed and come eat breakfast."


"Go away, Richard." Silas shrugged off Richard's caress. "Leave me alone."


"The pills aren't magic, Silas," Richard said quietly. "You have to help yourself, too. Get up, shower, get dressed and come sit in the kitchen with me for some breakfast."


"Leave me alone."


"Come on now." Richard's sympathy for Silas was quickly eroding in the face of Silas's stubbornness.


"Leave me alone!"


"You aren't responsible enough to be left alone," Richard said sharply, not a little miffed at Silas's attitude. "Obviously. Now get up."


"Fuck you, Richard, I hate you too," Silas said tiredly, hearing only the irritation in Richard's voice, not the concern that underlay it. He rolled over so that his back was to Richard.


"Don't talk to me that way, Silas." Richard patted Silas's butt lightly in automatic reproof.


"No! Leave me alone!" Silas jerked away from Richard's hand, his voice soaring in a impassioned crescendo. "No! No!! Don't spank me! NO! NO!!"


Richard's heart raced crazily; Silas's outburst had caught him completely off guard.


Silas's reaction made Richard angry. Yet Richard firmly believed that the very last thing Silas needed was to be rewarded for a tantrum. Any attention at all just reinforced Silas's propensity towards hysteria. Accordingly, Richard forced himself to take a deep breath and stand up. Tamping down his own roiling emotions, Richard walked out of the room.


"Go away! Go away!! Richard, don't leave me! You can spank me! Richard! Come back! Come back!!"


Richard rolled his eyes at the litany of contradictory demands; Silas hadn't a clue what he wanted. It was a long half hour before Silas's screams quieted. Richard gave Silas another five minutes to reconsider his behavior before reentering the bedroom.


"A little better, Si?" Richard asked, prepared to retreat if Silas resumed his tantrum.


"Richard?" Silas's voice was hoarse; he was obviously miserably embarrassed. "I'm sorry, Richard. I didn't mean it. Any of it." Silas's hair concealed his eyes, but not his shame.


Silas's acute misery made no sense, Richard thought, except that it was such a classic reaction for Silas to be hurt when his hysteria failed to elicit the sympathy he craved.


"Why do you do this to us?" Richard smoothed Silas's disheveled hair back from his forehead, in equal measure frustrated and concerned. "Silas, all you have to do is talk to me. All you have to say is, 'I'm scared,' or 'I'm upset,' anything at all that would clue me in. Instead you push and you push until you provoke a response from me and then you collapse in hysterics. Silas, this is no good at all."


"I'm a royal pain, aren't I? I'm harder work than your real patients, Richard," Silas said dully. His throat hurt from screaming. He wished he'd gotten up, he wished he'd gotten dressed, he wished more than anything that he didn't have to see Richard's disappointed eyes.


"Don't frame it in those terms, Silas." Richard winced, uncomfortable at the juxtaposition of his different roles. "It's hardly the same thing."


Silas mistook Richard's unease for censure, his usual sensitivity to Richard's signals blunted by his own anxiety. Already tense, and now made even more nervous by the misunderstanding, Silas tried to appease Richard in the most elemental way possible.


"Come back to bed with me," Silas said softly. "Let me show you that there's at least there's one thing I can still do right." He licked his lips, teasing them with his middle finger.


Silas's ploy failed utterly in its intended effect. Richard was less charmed than affronted.


"You're not my whore," Richard said sharply. Silas's offer bothered Richard too much for him to be tactful, much less kind. "That's no way to talk about yourself, Silas."


"I'm sorry, Richard," Silas said automatically, feeling even cheaper and more shamed. The pity he saw in Richard's eyes was humiliating; Silas knew for certain now that Richard despised him.


"Silas, I didn't mean to make you feel worse," Richard said more gently, hearing the resignation in Silas's apology. "I just hate that you seem to think that the sex is the only thing that makes you valuable to me. Is that what you think of me?"


"I don't want you just to feel sorry for me," Silas said softly and unhappily, tempted to provoke Richard again. Anger, punishment: Anything was better than pity.


"I don't *just* feel sorry for you," Richard reassured Silas, sensing the embarrassed fury coursing through Silas's body. This was Silas at his most vulnerable; Richard wanted only to soothe and comfort him. "I do feel sorry about what just happened, though."


"Yeah?" The quiet firmness in Richard's voice calmed Silas.


"Yes. Now come on, Silas, it's very late. Get up." Richard helped Silas to his feet. "Shower, babe." He walked Silas to the bathroom. Scanned the room, taking in the razors alongside the sink in an uneasy glance.


"Leave the door open, Silas." Richard watched as Silas shucked his shorts and reluctantly got into the shower. He didn't leave the room until he heard the water starting.


Silas's suicide attempt had shaken Richard to the core. Richard might be willing to avail himself and his patients of all the wonders of modern psychopharmacology, but in his heart of hearts he didn't believe that Silas's suicide attempt had been purely a reaction to his medication. Richard believed that Silas had willingly risked his life in his desperation to demonstrate his misery. Richard was determined never to let Silas feel that alone again.


Showered and dressed, his wet hair combed neatly, Silas sat quietly at the kitchen table, drinking coffee and listening to Richard talk. Gradually he began to hear what Richard was actually saying.


"Silas, I want to do right by you." Silas's little attempt at seduction had left Richard feeling thoroughly misunderstood. "I hate that you seem to think that the only thing that matters to me is that you open your mouth and your legs for me. You're not just a hole in which I put my sex. I'm not that kind of a man."


"I don't think that, Richard," Silas whispered, shocked that Richard would put it in such ugly terms. "Just I don't think I'm giving you anything else! I used to make you laugh. Now all I do is worry you. I hate it, Richard, and I hate being like this. I used to at least think I gave good value for the money, you know?"


"Silas." Richard's first impulse was to take Silas back upstairs, tumble him into bed and prove to Silas that if sex alone were the basis for their relationship, it was at least still damn good sex.


Richard's second impulse was to move Silas and his clothes into the spare bedroom and call a halt to their sexual relationship; he did not want, he had never wanted, Silas only as a body in his bed.


Richard's third impulse was to turn Silas over his knee, right here in the kitchen, and spank a little self esteem into him, which made no sense whatsoever.


Thwarted, Richard settled for a deep sigh. Gritting his teeth, he attempted to explain to Silas what exactly was so disturbing about what Silas had just said.


"Silas, that isn't how I see our relationship, a quid pro quo, sex and charm in exchange for whatever. I don't want to live like that. It hurts me, Silas, that you see me that way."


"I'm sorry?" Silas didn't know what else to say. He hadn't meant to offend Richard. "I love you, Richard; I want you to love me, too. I don't know why you would. I'm not what you need. At least I'm some good to you in bed."


"I do love you, Silas." Richard was frustrated that Silas didn't seem to recognize his caring attention as an expression of love. "And what do you know about what I need from you?"


"I'm sorry, Richard." Silas sounded more despondent than before.


"Silas, don't fret." Richard regretted his impatience. He knew Silas was depressed; he knew it was unfair to press him. "All I need you to do are a few simple things every day, things that I know will help you feel better: Get up, shower, get dressed, eat breakfast.


"Yes, sir," Silas said softly, not sure whether he was in trouble or not.


"Don't say sir to me, Silas," Richard said with a sigh. "I've told you before, I don't like it."


"I know Richard, I'm sorry. But Richard, why? Why don't you like me to say sir?"


"I don't like it," Richard said flatly. "I don't find it appropriate in an intimate relationship with a partner, Silas. "


"Oh." Silas was quiet. "Richard? I didn't mean anything bad by it, it's just habit, you know? I was expected to say it, growing up, it's just...respectful."


"I'm not angry, Silas." Richard tried to explain his feelings more clearly. "It's just that I really want you to take an active part in our relationship, Silas, and when you say sir to me, I feel as if you're relinquishing your role, as if you don't understand that your role is as important as mine."


"I won't say it anymore, Richard," Silas said. He really didn't understand Richard's objections, but more than anything else, he wanted to please Richard. To get at least one thing right. "You can, I don't know, wash my mouth out or something if I do? Though I kind of think that would be a first..." Silas ventured a tentative smile.


"I'll bet." Richard shook his head ruefully. "Silas, I know you're joking, but I don't really like the whole soap thing. It makes me very uncomfortable. I deal with food issues with my patients; this is just too close."


"I'm sorry, Richard!" To Silas's dismay, his small joke had fallen flat. Silas raised his eyes to Richard's in apology and then lowered them quickly, flushing red with embarrassment..


"It's all right," Richard said, not happy with Silas's overreaction to his comment. He hadn't meant it as a reproof. Richard reached his hand out to stroke Silas's blazing cheek reassuringly.


Silas recoiled.


"Silas, I wasn't going to slap you. I'm not Mack, Silas."


Richard felt a flash of pure hatred for the man who had reduced Silas to this traumatized state. Silas had been so lively, Richard thought, remembering watching Silas playing volleyball on the shore at the resort: So filled with joy, so easygoing. Now Silas's nails were bitten stubs and he cringed at an upraised hand. Whatever Silas's faults, whatever his foolishness, his Cinderella fantasies, he hadn't deserved to be broken like this.


"I'm not Mack, Silas," Richard repeated, lowering his hand.


"I know that, I know that, I know that!" Humiliated at his own reflexive cringing, Silas tried to justify himself. "But you did slap me. Once."


Richard knew exactly what Silas was remembering.


"That was a very bad day for both of us," Richard said softly. "Silas. You were hysterical, we were outside, I was afraid someone was going to call the cops. Those were not ordinary circumstances, babe."


"Yeah." Silas sighed. "I don't want to talk about it, Richard." He hung his head.


"We really do need to talk about this, Silas." Richard didn't particularly want to discuss it either. He'd made a judgment call, he still thought it had been justified and in the same situation he'd probably do it again. "It's important."


"I can't!" To his disgust, Silas began to cry. "Oh shit."


"It's all right, Silas, it's all right now..." Richard put his arms around Silas and Silas buried his face in Richard's chest and sobbed out his hurt and humiliation.


This time there was no short circuiting of Silas's misery, no offer of a small pill to quiet him. Richard let Silas cry until he was done, petting his still damp hair, feeling the same combination of protectiveness and love Silas always roused in him.


The problem for Richard was that Silas's neediness seemed like a bottomless pit. Judiciously ignoring Silas's acting out in an attempt to tamp down his neediness had proven to be a futile strategy, but Richard didn't know what to try next. Silas needed more contact and more support than Richard had the energy to provide. No matter how much time and attention Richard gave him, Silas never seemed satisfied. His hunger for attention was never sated; his appetite only increased.


Richard resolved to take Keith's advice and make an appointment with John Noland. Perhaps a therapist with roots in the leather community might prove a good source of insight and might offer some direction.


John Noland's office was a warren of books, plants and haphazardly arrayed photographs. Richard was amazed at the sheer volume of things spilling from the half dozen bookcases that lined the walls of the small room; he marveled that anyone could work in such chaotic surroundings. John himself was a little older than Richard, with a shaved head and an earring. He listened empathetically as Richard summarized what had prompted him to seek a consultation.


"If what you're looking for is someone to work directly with Silas, you'll have to look elsewhere. I don't believe in working with the submissive partner in a power exchange relationship," John said. "However, I think that you and I could work productively together. I can help you to be clearer about your expectations for your partner. As his Top, you're responsible for him and you need to insist that he do the things that you know will help alleviate his depression."


"I've done that!" Richard said, stung.


"Not effectively, Richard, or else by now your partner would be in better shape." John responded.


"Let me understand: Are you blaming me for Silas's depression?" Richard tensed, prepared to leave if John said "yes."


"No, Richard, of course not." John softened his voice, realizing all at once how guilty Richard felt about his partner's state. "The responsibility for his actions is always Silas's. I don't 'blame' you for anything Silas does. What I do fault is your response to his behavior. You need to overcome your reluctance to punish him."


"Are you always this directive?" Richard asked, taken aback at John's bluntness.


"Yes," John said. "I believe in modeling for my clients the skills that good dominants need."


Richard considered John's answer for a long moment and then nodded his understanding.


"All right. Explain to me, then, how I can punish Silas for being depressed," Richard said. "Because I don't think I understand what you're suggesting."


"You can't punish him for being depressed. But you can, and should, establish routines for him to follow and you can, and should, punish him for not following them," John said.


"We've tried that. He has a routine: He's supposed to get up, shower, get dressed, eat breakfast. Your basic activities of daily living."


"Does he?" John asked.


"Not on his own," Richard said, his frustration audible.


"How do you punish him when he doesn't?"


"I don't punish him," Richard said. "I get him up, I get him into the shower, he gets dressed and I sit with him while he eats. That's the problem: He doesn't do anything unless I'm there to supervise him."


"Why don't you punish him when he fails to meet your expectations?"


"He's depressed! He tried to kill himself, for godssakes! What am I supposed to do, spank him?" Richard glared at John.


"Yes." John sounded very sure. "Don't make it more complicated than it is, Richard. Your expectations are reasonable. You've told him to do four things: Get up, shower, get dressed, eat breakfast. Either he does them, or you spank him. Questions?" John raised his eyebrows.


"I don't know," Richard said uncertainly. "I don't want to be too hard on him."


"What are you afraid of, Richard?" John asked.


"What am I afraid of? You know about his suicide attempt!" Richard took a deep breath. Lowered his voice, looked at his hands. "John? What if I make a mistake?"


"Ah." John was silent. "Silas sees a psychiatrist for medication for his depression, correct?"


"Yes," Richard said.


"And do you have confidence in his doctor?"


"I suppose so," Richard said. "Yes. It's just..."


"It's just that Silas's suicide attempt scared you. And you're afraid to push him for fear he'll try it again. But Richard, you can't walk on eggs forever. That's giving Silas far more control in this relationship than is good for either of you."


"So let me understand: You're advocating spanking as a cure for depression?" Richard sounded frankly skeptical.


"No, Richard. I'm advocating action as a cure for depression. And I'm advocating you use the preexisting discipline relationship you have with Silas to spur him to action. The rules don't change because Silas is depressed. You're his Top; he needs to listen to you. You need to make disobeying you expensive, Richard."


"He doesn't want to be spanked, John."


"Imagine that." John looked squarely at Richard. "Then use that, Richard."


Richard took a deep breath and considered John's suggestion.


You expect your clients to trust your professional judgment, even when they find it hard, Richard reminded himself. Because it makes no sense to pay good money to work with a therapist and then disregard his advice.


"All right, John, how do I handle this? Silas screams hysterically when I threaten to spank him."


"Let me ask you a few questions before I answer yours, Richard," John said. "Did you and Silas ever discuss what your complementary roles in this relationship are? Did Silas agree to a discipline relationship?"


"I've tried over and over to have a rational discussion about our relationship with Silas. He won't talk about it calmly, he insists he wants me to decide everything and he cries and is verbally abusive if I try to push him to talk further," Richard said heavily. "Does that constitute discussion? Silas loves the idea of a discipline relationship, all right, he just doesn't want to take any responsibility for his role in it. He's willing to have me do everything and he's not willing to be held accountable for anything."


"That doesn't sound very fair to me, Richard." John was silent. "It sounds as if Silas isn't just consenting to a discipline relationship, he's demanding one. And if he wants the benefits, he has to take the consequences as well," John said. "So as to your original question: Silas shouldn't have the option of refusing a spanking. I think you ought to paddle him for that sort of deliberate defiance, Richard."


"We don't have a paddle," Richard said. "I've never bought one."


"Why not, Richard?"


"It's always seemed so...purposeful," Richard said sheepishly. "I know that's not entirely a rational objection."


"Be practical, Richard. If Silas has a poor attitude about accepting deserved punishment, a few sessions with a paddle will put an end to that nonsense."


"Is this something I should discuss with Silas, do you think?" Richard asked tentatively.


"Oh, absolutely. Show him the new paddle and explain what offenses it's going to be used for. That *is* what you meant, Richard?" John crooked his eyebrow inquiringly.


"I hear you," Richard said. He swallowed hard. "It's my responsibility. By the way, John, *I* was taught not to be sarcastic with my clients."


"Thank you for sharing that, Richard." John smiled appreciatively; he felt Richard had for the first time given him a glimpse of his real self. "By all means, discuss the ground rules of your relationship with Silas and be certain he understands them. His willing submission is one half of the equation; that's absolutely true. But deciding what implements and what penalties are appropriate *is* your responsibility, Richard."


Amazing, the things the internet gives access to: Richard's favorite domestic discipline site had a supplier of paddles listed among its links. Richard read the descriptions carefully, eventually choosing a round, medium-priced, medium-weight ten inch paddle. It was small enough to use in an over the knee position and yet sturdy enough to sting.


Richard filled out the order form, paid the premium for rush shipping and surrendered his billing information. A neat, clean transaction: It didn't make Richard feel good, precisely, but there was relief in having made the decision to take a different approach to meeting Silas's needs.


Two days later, the discreetly wrapped package arrived. Richard opened it while Silas was asleep. He examined the wooden paddle carefully. The pale wood had been sanded satin smooth and varnished. Richard ran his hand over it, trying to imagine what it would be like to spank Silas with it. It wasn't a pleasant thought. And yet the thought of going on the way they had been was even less pleasant. Richard tucked the paddle into the bottom drawer of his desk. He would talk to Silas over the weekend.


Richard didn't keep Saturday office hours. He returned from his hospital rounds before eleven. Rather than coax Silas out of bed, Richard stripped and returned to bed himself.


Sex might be a soporific for some, but morning sex usually energized Silas and lightened his mood. Richard trailed kisses down Silas's torso, and Silas slipped easily, happily, into the spirit of things. Silas returned Richard's kisses with interest, curling over Richard's cock, taking it deep in his mouth. Richard arched into the tight warmth, all cares forgotten for the moment.


His mouth still salty with Richard's cum, Silas kissed Richard full on the mouth. Richard made a face and flipped Silas onto his back. Pinning Silas against the pillows, Richard slicked his palm with saliva and grasped Silas's cock firmly. A good hand job, Richard had found, was the best way around the tendency of antidepressant medication to delay orgasm.


"Please, please..." Silas came hard, panting with pleasure. "I love you, Richard. That was so good."


"I love you too, Silas," Richard said, rubbing his sticky hand over the pool of cum on Silas's belly. "Come on, it's time to get up. We can shower together."


Silas grinned. Usually showering was just one more miserable thing he had to do. Showering with Richard, however, was a different thing altogether.


Richard and Silas luxuriated in the water's warm spray. Richard soaped himself and then soaped Silas, enjoying the warm feel of his wet lover against him. Silas kissed him playfully, giggling as Richard ran his hands over his ticklish ribs, down his flat stomach, over his tight ass.


"You're looking good," Richard said admiringly. Silas bucked his hips against Richard's, laughing at the compliment.


Dried and dressed, Richard and Silas headed downstairs.


"Would you like breakfast out?" Richard asked. "Or would you rather eat in?"


"I don't know," Silas said softly, his good mood evaporating along with the last drops of moisture from their morning shower.


"Never mind. We'll eat here." Richard pretended not to notice Silas's sigh of relief at having even the slight decision taken out of his hands. Silas still had a long way to go.


"I could cook?" Silas offered. He knew he had disappointed Richard and he wanted to do something to redeem himself.


"Thank you," Richard said, pleased at Silas's small show of initiative. "I'll start the coffee."


Cooking was easy and familiar. Silas made french toast and bacon. Richard enjoyed the food, but even more he enjoyed this rare return of the Silas he loved best. It made him feel hopeful.


While Silas cleared the dishes and washed the pans, Richard retrieved the paddle from his desk. He reseated himself at the table, careful not to let Silas see what he'd brought with him.


"Come sit with me, Silas. We need to talk," Richard said quietly.


"Do we have to?" Silas hated Richard's insistence on talking. Words were slippery things and Silas never felt he fully grasped them. He wished Richard would just tell him what to do. It would be so much easier. "Okay, whatever. You're mean, Richard."


"Do you really think I'm being mean to ask you to sit and talk with me, Silas?" Richard asked.


"I don't know, Richard. I don't care." Maybe mean was the wrong word? Maybe care was the wrong word, too? "I never know what you want me to say, Richard!" Silas chewed his lip nervously.


"It's all right, Silas. Don't do that, please, you'll hurt yourself," Richard said gently. "Silas, I've been thinking about our relationship. I have some ideas about what will make it stronger and better, but before I explain them to you, I need to know that we both understand what it is we're doing here. Tell me, Silas, what does being in a discipline relationship mean to you?"


"It means that I do what you say or else you spank me?" Silas knew it meant more than that, but he was at a loss to explain what he knew. "Why do we have to talk about it, Richard? I hate this! Just tell me what to do and I'll listen to you."


"I'm not trying to make this stressful for you," Richard said. "But we really need to be certain we understand each other. So, Silas, are you saying that you agree to do what I think is best for you?" Richard pursued the question.


"I said that! You tell me what to do and I'll do it." Silas felt Richard was making this so much harder than it was. "And you can spank me if I don't."


"But you don't do what I say, Silas," Richard said softly. "I ask you to get up and you don't. I ask you to shower, to get dressed, to eat, and you don't."


"I do what you say, Richard, I do! I try to be good. You're not fair, Richard, you're just not fair!" Silas's voice rose. He felt blind sided: Hurt and enraged. "I hate you, Richard, I fucking hate you! You're not fair!"


Richard was unsurprised at Silas irrational response. Unfortunately they'd done this before; most of Richard's attempts to get Silas to discuss their relationship had ended just this way.


"Enough now, Silas," Richard said, as calmly as he could. The resignation in his tone brought Silas up short.


"I'm fine with the whole discipline relationship thing, I just don't want to talk about it, Richard," Silas said more softly. "You decide, Richard. I love you."


"I love you, too, Silas." Richard wondered whether John would consider Silas's statement consent. It wasn't ideal, but Richard felt that it was the clearest agreement he was likely to be able to get from Silas. Silas was determined not to take responsibility for the shape of their partnership. Well, if he wanted Richard to make the decisions, Richard would.


"Listen to me carefully, Silas," Richard said quietly. "I'm making a new rule. The next time you call me names, or curse at me and tell me I'm mean, or throw a tantrum about being spanked, I'm going to paddle you."


"'No! I'll try harder, Richard! You don't have to threaten me!" Silas began to cry. "No!"


Richard nearly yielded at the sight of Silas's tears. He forced himself to breathe deeply.


"Yes. I bought a paddle, Silas." Richard placed the paddle on the table before Silas, not sure what sort of reaction to expect.


"You're going to use this on me?" Silas asked, his voice shaky. "Oh shit." Silas touched the polished alder wood with a tentative finger. This paddle would hurt. Shit. He looked wide eyed at Richard.


Richard leaned forward, smudging the tears spilling over Silas's cheeks with gentle fingers.


"No more cursing at me, Silas. No more tantrums before you're spanked. Do those things again and I will paddle you. And you still need to get up in the morning, shower, get dressed and have breakfast, because I am going to spank you the next time you're still in bed when I come by at lunch."


"Just spank me, not paddle me, right? The paddle's just for big shit?" Silas asked, even as he braced his elbows on the table, buried his face in his hands and began to cry harder.


"Yes." With a little portion of his mind, Richard noticed that Silas was not so distraught that he was unable to negotiate. Still wishing he had never heard of discipline or John Noland, Richard set both thought and paddle aside. Moving to stand behind Silas, he massaged Silas's shaking shoulders in reassuring circles until Silas's sobs ebbed.


"I'll do better," Silas whispered. "You won't need to paddle me, Richard."


"That would be good." Richard swallowed hard. "I do love you, Silas."


Monday morning came too quickly. Richard silenced his alarm and rose quietly from their warm bed. He showered and dressed without waking Silas, then opened the blinds as always.


Silas stirred sleepily. Richard smoothed Silas's hair gently back from his forehead and kissed Silas's cheek gently.


"Sit up Silas." Richard gave Silas his pill and a small glass of water and Silas swallowed automatically. Richard's low key, professional attitude toward administering medication had eased Silas's acceptance of at least this part of his routine.


"Remember what we discussed all this weekend, Silas," Richard said, brushing his lips over Silas's. "This is very important, Silas. You need to get up, shower, get dressed and have breakfast. This isn't negotiable any longer, Silas. I'm going to spank you if you don't."


"Yeah yeah yeah." Silas nodded a bleary-eyed yes to Richard's reminder and burrowed back into the pillows. "I know, I know, I hear you, Richard."


Unhappy with Silas's response, but unable to linger longer, Richard left. Silas pulled the covers over his face and went back to sleep. He was still in bed when Richard swung by the house at noon.


Richard was not really surprised to find that his early morning exhortations had had no effect whatsoever on Silas. Richard closed his eyes for a moment, steeling himself. Then he leaned in and shook Silas's shoulder.


"It's noon, Silas. Wake up now."


"Go away, Richard." Silas mumbled, as he always did. "Let me alone."


Richard pulled back the covers and seated himself on the bed. This time, though, Richard didn't gently coax Silas awake and through his morning routine.


"You didn't get up, you didn't shower, you didn't dress and you didn't eat." Richard listed the activities Silas had agreed to, and failed to, perform. "You're getting a spanking, Silas,"


"What? No!" Silas was suddenly wide awake. "No! No, Richard, please, give me another chance! I don't want to be spanked. It's not fair, Richard, no! Leave me alone, I don't want this."


"You're not supposed to want this. That's why it's called punishment," Richard said. "You may not want to talk about our relationship, but you know how it works, Silas. You had your warning; now you are getting a spanking."


"But...I don't want you to spank me! No! No!! NO!!!" Silas flailed and kicked at the bedcovers, frustrated, furious.


This time, though, Richard didn't walk away. He remained seated, watching Silas without replying, neither retreating nor reacting. Determined to follow through.


"NO!!" Silas's tantrum ebbed abruptly in the face of Richard's impassive audience. Shit, Silas thought to himself, Richard was serious about this. Silas shivered.


"Richard, please, give me another chance? Please? I don't want this." Yet even as he begged, Silas edged closer to Richard. Still quivering, he crawled forward to assume the correct position over Richard's lap. "Please Richard, don't spank me? Give me a break, just this time?"


Somewhat bemused by Silas's acquiescence--he didn't know what he'd expected, but it hadn't been this--Richard eased Silas's shorts down. He rested his hand for a moment on the bared ass before him. Silas began to cry in nervous anticipation.


Richard spanked Silas briskly and certainly, sparing neither of them. Silas cried harder, his breathing rapid and noisy, as Richard concentrated on making each swat count. Silas's buttocks were a bright and shiny red before Richard stopped.


"Ow. Owowow," Silas moaned. His face was wet, his nose was running, his butt was on fire, he felt thoroughly chastened and utterly miserable. He tried to squirm away, but Richard wouldn't let him go.


"Come here, Si," Richard coaxed, lying back on the bed and pulling Silas down with him. "Shh...shh...shh..." He cuddled Silas close while Silas cried himself out.


"Why did I spank you?" Richard asked quietly when Silas finally stopped crying.


"I didn't get up this morning?" Silas's voice rose on the last word.


"Is that a question or an answer?" Richard rubbed Silas's back gently. "Do you really not know, Silas?"


"Because I didn't get up this morning," Silas said dejectedly. "Richard, you're being so mean."


"No, Silas, I'm not being mean," Richard said firmly. "You knew exactly what to expect when I found you in bed. What are our rules?"


"I get up, shower, dress and eat," Silas mumbled.




"Or you spank me. But you never have before!" Silas protested. "I've slept in before, Richard."


"You have," Richard agreed. "But we went over what I expected, didn't we?"


"I guess," Silas said.


"You guess?"


"Yeah, we did." Silas shivered. "But I don't like this, Richard."


"You're not supposed to like being spanked, Si, that's what makes it punishment," Richard said in a matter of fact tone of voice. He rolled Silas off him and sat up. "Now get up, go shower, get dressed, and come downstairs for some food."


"But you just spanked me!" Silas sounded outraged.




"So why should I listen to you now?! You already punished me!" Silas glared at Richard.


Richard took a deep breath, willing himself to stay calm. He should have known this was too simple. He smoothed Silas's sweaty hair back; stroked Silas's cheek with gentle fingers.


"Silas, you need to listen to me because I know what I'm talking about. Getting up, showered, dressed: These things are for your own benefit," Richard said calmly, not reacting to Silas's anger.


"No," Silas said flatly. "Why should I listen to you? You already spanked me. I hate you, Richard, go away!"


"All right then," Richard said more forcefully, not backing off. He was heartily sick of trying to do the right thing by Silas and being reproached for his efforts. "One, you listen to me because that's the way we've agreed to do things. Two, you listen to me because you don't want another spanking, and that's what you're looking at if you argue. You've had the only warning you're getting."


"Fuck you, you bastard." Silas didn't know what to make of Richard's newfound certainty and he didn't like Richard's shift from coaxing to commanding. The change in Richard's attitude made Silas nervous and he pushed back, hard. "Shit! No! Richard, I won't! Fuck you!"


Silas had cursed and called names in the past, and Richard had turned and walked away, chalking up Silas's verbal abuse to a combination of lack of impulse control and depression. But having laid out the new regimen for Silas, Richard felt committed to following through. Consequently he took a firm hold on Silas's arm, took a deep breath, and delivered the bad news:


"That outburst, Silas, has just earned you a paddling."


Silas stared at Richard in disbelief. Disbelief turned quickly to dismay, as Silas realized Richard was dead serious. With a screech of mingled protest and fright, Silas struggled to get free of Richard's grip.


"Settle down, Silas." Richard hung on grimly.


"Let me go!" Silas managed to pull himself upright.


"Stop that!" Richard swatted him smartly. Silas was still sore from having just been spanked and so the crack of Richard's palm across his butt had greater than usual resonance. Silas froze for a second, shocked at how much it hurt.


"I warned you what would happen, Silas. Now show a little class."


Silas hesitated a moment more at Richard's reproach. Before he quite knew what had happened, he found himself hauled, face down, over Richard's lap He made a half-hearted effort to right himself again.


"Lie still," Richard said sternly. A bit awed by Richard's new assurance, Silas did. Richard reached between the mattress and box spring for the new paddle. "You do what I tell you to, Silas. These rules are for your own good. And you don't curse at me and call me names just because you're upset."


"I'm sorry, Richard, I'm sorry! Please Richard, give me another chance," Silas begged. He suddenly realized that Richard was serious about paddling him. "Please, Richard, don't, I'm scared! Richard, don't hurt me!"


"Shh...shh...shh... Breathe, Silas, you're going to be all right," Richard said quietly. "Breathe, that's it." He ran his hand over Silas's back, feeling Silas flinch at his touch. "I know it's going to hurt, Silas, but we did talk about this. You need to trust me."


Richard rubbed Silas's back for a few more seconds until he felt Silas's breathing steady. He rested his hand across the already reddened buttocks before him, steeling himself as well.


"Ow! Ow," Silas wailed. He'd just been spanked, surely Richard wasn't going to... A second's relief, as Richard lifted his hand. Then, out of the corner of his eye, Silas saw Richard reach for the paddle.


"Please! Richard don't! Don't! Please!" But Silas knew it was too late to beg.


"Breathe," Richard repeated. He took a firm grip on Silas's hip, pinning him in place. "You're going to be okay, Silas. Just breathe." Taking a deep breath himself, Richard brought the paddle down across Silas's tightly clenched buttocks.




Silas's scream made Richard grateful his neighbors all worked. Richard hardened his heart and brought the paddle down again.


"OW! OW!" Silas screamed even louder at the second impact. "Stop, Richard, stop! Please! OW!!"


"Did you stop?" John asked. Richard sat across from him, pale and plainly shaken. He had called John to schedule an emergency session.


"No." Richard swallowed hard; it was clear that he was still uncomfortable with the memory. "I didn't stop. I paddled him until he was limp. He was very, very upset." He raised his eyes to John's face, looking for a condemnation he didn't find.


"Did Silas do what you told him, after you were all done?" John asked, pushing past Richard's discomfort, wanting to know the facts. "Shower, dress, eat?"


"Yes," Richard said. "He was very, very subdued, but he didn't argue anymore, he just did it." He hesitated, not knowing what else to say. He just felt so cruel.


"Then I think you handled it well. Good job, Richard." John could feel Richard bristling at the compliment. "What is it that disturbs you so much, Richard?"


"Paddling him was awful. He didn't just cry, he screamed," Richard said. "He screamed at the top of his lungs. I thought he'd make himself sick."


"Did he throw up?" John asked.


"Well, no," Richard admitted.


"Then maybe you're wrong about just how stressful it was for him?"


"I suppose," Richard said, feeling defensive. "But he *was* distressed, John."


"What happened after you paddled him?" John settled back to listen as Richard recalled the afternoon.


"All done, Silas," Richard had said, trying to keep his own voice steady.


Silas had lain quietly across Richard's knees, his breath coming in gasps, his buttocks flaming. He had found the energy to resist Richard's attempts to gather him in his arms, but Richard had refused to let go and after a minute's silent struggle, Silas had crumpled into Richard's lap and buried his head against Richard's shoulder. Richard had held him, rubbing his back, until Silas had finally stopped crying.


Feeling like an absolute heel, Richard had made himself insist, once again, that Silas get up. Shower. Dress.


Silas had obeyed without a word of protest. Richard had heard Silas sniffling miserably in the bathroom; clearly the shower's spray on freshly paddled skin had stung and stung badly. Toweling dry had elicited whimpers, putting on underwear and jeans had produced more yet. Richard had hardened his heart to Silas's small, sad noises.


"Now come downstairs," Richard had said quietly after Silas had complied with his previous commands.


Silas had taken the steps gingerly, wincing at each one. Silas had flinched visibly as he seated himself at the kitchen table. Much to Richard's surprise, though, Silas had not complained out loud. He had sipped the coffee Richard poured him and had eaten the bowl of cold cereal and milk that Richard placed before him without a single protest.


In truth, Richard realized as he described the aftermath for John, it seemed that while being paddled had hurt Silas physically, it had upset Silas a whole lot less than paddling him had upset Richard. He said as much; John nodded sagely.


"He seemed almost all right with it," Richard said, shaking his head, trying to take in what he himself had just realized. "I'm not, though. I want to burn the damn paddle, John. I don't think I can do this another time."


"If you did it right, there won't need to be many more times," John said. "Richard, you need to change what at this point is an established pattern between you. Silas is a strong, manipulative man. You aren't doing him a kindness in indulging him. You are in charge and he needs to accept that. He can do better, he will do better, if you set firm limits for him."


"Paddling him after I'd already spanked him was so hard," Richard said softly.


"I imagine it was. I'd worry if it weren't. Richard, Silas needs that sort of firmness. You're not being kind to back away from punishing him when he deserves it." John could see Richard struggling with the concept.


"You don't know Silas." Richard tried hard not to glare at John. "I don't think you understand how cowed he was when he first came home with me, after Mack. I don't want him to be hurt again."


"Richard, if you think there is any question of there being a parallel between your relationship with Silas and Mack's relationship with Silas, let's get that out on the table now. Because you've given me to understand that both you and Silas have agreed to a discipline relationship. And what Mack did was abuse Silas."


"Would I know?" Richard asked. "If I were abusing him? Would I know?"


"Are you?"


"No!" Richard snapped. "What kind of insane question is that? What's the matter with you?"


To Richard's surprise, John laughed.


"You've just answered two questions for me, Richard. One, you don't in your heart of hearts believe your relationship is abusive or has any parallels with what Mack did. And two, you are every bit as emotionally intense as your partner, just with a good deal more impulse control."


Richard couldn't help it; he laughed too.


"Yes," John said. "You've got a temper, and you've got it well in hand. Did it hurt you, learning to control it?"


"No," Richard said. "I couldn't function professionally if I didn't. And really, tantrums lose their effectiveness once you're past the age of what, four?"


"Exactly. Taking control of Silas's behavior, reining in his impulsiveness, refusing to allow him to manipulate you with his tantrums: None of these things are going to hurt Silas, none of these things are going to erode the core qualities you love in him. Richard, Silas is far more than those things, or you wouldn't feel so strongly drawn to him. Trust that. It may be a few months before he settles down, but it's time well invested, for you, for him, for you as a couple. Richard, these are not unresolvable problems."


Meanwhile, Silas was a lot less shaken than Richard feared.


Richard had left Silas dozing on the couch, wrapped in a blanket, the television on quietly for distraction and company. Silas had taken Richard's departure with unusual calm. His ass hurt, his throat was sore, and at the same time he felt a curious lightness, as if something inside him had shifted. He ached, oh how he ached, and yet already the memory of the paddle's sting was merging with the memory of Richard's quiet exhortation to breathe and the memory of Richard's hand on his hip, steadying him.


Being spanked had hurt, being paddled had hurt worse, yet what Silas felt was less the pain of the punishments than the relief of having been taken firmly in hand. Feeling thoroughly chastened, thoroughly loved and thoroughly confused, Silas eased himself tentatively from the couch, wincing with every movement, and proceeded into the kitchen. He studied the collection of takeout menus by the phone and ordered a pizza delivered for dinner.


Richard came home a little earlier than usual. He had expected to find a cold, empty kitchen; instead he found a pizza being kept warm in a low oven. He had expected to find an anxious, tearful Silas; instead he found a contented, if somewhat sore, Silas, who had ruefully provided himself with a cushion to sit on and who listened quietly and attentively while Richard talked about his day.


"I think we should turn in early," Richard suggested after dinner. He cleared the dishes, tossed the leftover crusts into the garbage, and helped Silas stand. "Come on, let's go upstairs."


"Yes, Richard," Silas said. He washed up quietly and sprawled face down into bed, crawled tentatively forward until he could make a pillow of Richard. Winced as Richard drew the covers up over both of them, tucking them in tightly against the winter night's chill.


"Being paddled hurt, Richard, I mean it really hurt." Silas snuggled deeper into Richard's chest. "Please don't do it again."


"I'm sure it did," Richard said sympathetically, stroking Silas's bare back beneath their quilt. "Don't be hateful and I won't have to do it again." His hand drifted under Silas's waistband and gently over Silas's ass. It still felt hot.


"Ow." Silas sniffled a little. "Ow, please don't do that, I'll remember next time. Please, I'm so sore."


"Remembering next time would be good. No more next times would be better," Richard said, trying to keep his voice steady. Richard was glad Silas's hair was thick enough that his own tears barely dampened the top layer. It was better if Silas didn't know quite how much paddling him had hurt Richard, too.


"Yeah," Silas agreed. "I love you so much, Richard." Silas's eyes closed. His ass hurt, but his heart didn't. For the first time in a long time, no nightmares troubled his sleep.


The alarm rang too early. Richard dragged himself out of bed, showered, dressed, started coffee. Ate his usual yogurt and fruit while listening to the morning news. He wished it were already the weekend; he wished he didn't have to leave Silas to his own devices this morning. He hoped Silas wasn't going to court another spanking. Silas might survive another afternoon like yesterday, Richard thought ruefully, but he was quite sure it would kill him.


As always, Richard stopped upstairs before leaving to give Silas his antidepressant medication and to kiss Silas goodbye.


"Sit up, Silas," Richard said, rousing his sleeping lover. He handed Silas his medicine and a glass of water. Silas swallowed the small tablet with alacrity.


"Good," Richard said, taking the empty glass from Silas. He cupped Silas's face in his hands and leaning over him, kissed him gently. "Silas, listen to me. I expect to find you up, showered, dressed, and breakfasted when I come by. I don't want a repeat of yesterday, understand?"


"Yes, Richard," Silas mumbled. "I understand. Yes."


With a last encouraging kiss, Richard left. Silas slept on. He ignored his alarm clock's summons, slapping it into silence. He was still dozing when he heard Richard's voice in the kitchen.


"I'm up!" Silas catapulted out of bed as Richard entered the bedroom. "I'm up! I'll shower, I'll dress, I'll eat!"


"I'm glad to hear it." Richard took a deep breath, trying to center himself; sarcasm was never helpful when dealing with Silas. Richard knew what he was obligated to do, but it was hard. Concealing a sigh, he sat down on the bed. "Silas, we both know that you were supposed to already be up, showered, dressed and fed. What did we agree would happen if you didn't follow through on your routines?"


"You're going to spank me?" Silas was outraged. "Richard, that's not fair! No! Please! I got up, you can't–" His eyes met Richard's. "You're serious? You're going to spank me?"


"I'm going to spank you," Richard confirmed. "Come here, Silas."


Silas hung back. He still couldn't believe that Richard intended to spank him. Again. It wasn't fair! He'd *meant* to follow through on his promises to Richard...


"I said, come here." Richard hoped Silas would listen. He didn't want to spank Silas, but he'd do it. He didn't think he could paddle Silas again.


"I got up!" Silas protested weakly.


Richard just looked at him and reluctantly, Silas acknowledged to himself that Richard was in the right. Contrite tears already spilling, Silas came to Richard. Richard drew him carefully down, face first, over his lap.


"Silas, these are basic, essential activities. You get up, you shower, you dress, you eat. Every morning, every day, whether I'm here or not. Or else I spank you." Richard hooked his fingers under the elastic of Silas's shorts and drew them down. Paused at the sight of the still blushed buttocks; steeled himself. Silas was crying in earnest now.


"Up, shower, dress, eat," Richard reiterated. "And breathe, Silas. Breathe." Richard brought his hand down sharply.


"Ow," Silas cried out. "Owowow."


Richard winced and continued to spank Silas hard and thoroughly, not stopping until Silas was crying hard and sincerely.


"Silas, we're done, come here now," Richard said gently, drawing Silas into his arms. He felt decidedly unhappy himself. He'd let Silas get away with much more egregious violations of their rules; spanking him past the point of tears for this felt odd.


And yet this time, Silas didn't struggle against Richard's embrace. That fact registered with Richard quite as strongly as his own discomfort did.


So Silas knew damn well he deserved that spanking, Richard thought ruefully. Silas had pushed and Richard had held firm and Silas in some way appreciated Richard's holding the line.


Richard forced his own thoughts back for later examination and refocused on Silas, his face buried in Richard's chest, his tears soaking through Richard's shirt.


"Breathe, Silas, you're all right now, breathe. I've got you." Richard rubbed Silas's back and stroked his hair and held Silas close until Silas's great gulping sobs subsided to sniffles. "Go on now, Si, shower. Get dressed and come downstairs."


"He didn't even protest coming to me afterwards," Richard said wonderingly to John at their next session.


"That's a very good sign." John was impressed at Richard's fortitude in following through. It was quite clear that Richard was finding the process of disciplining Silas effectively far more painful emotionally, than Silas was finding getting spanked.


"Are you certain that it means I did the right thing?" Richard asked. Clearly he was far from certain himself. "Or does it mean I was too harsh? That he's afraid to defy me?"


"What do you think, Richard?" John wanted Richard to answer his own questions.


"I think that it means it was the right thing for Silas," Richard said slowly. He did think that, but...


"Do you think it can be right for Silas and wrong for you?" John asked.


"I don't know," Richard said. "No, I guess not. It felt strange, though. Not wrong, exactly, but strange. Then again, I think new behaviors do. I know new behaviors do." Richard sounded slightly more assured. He did know this.


"Exactly," John said. "You're the Top in this relationship, Richard, that means you deal with your own discomfort and you make sure Silas feels safe and held. That's your part of the bargain; that's what Silas needs from you. You get outside support, if you need it, to enable you to adequately support Silas."


"I just don't know if I want to do this, John," Richard said softly. "I just don't know if I really like this degree of engagement."


"It's a little late, now, Richard, not to go forward," John said, not very sympathetically. Richard's second-guessing himself at this point did no one any good. "What are you afraid of, Richard?"


"I don't want to make him into someone he isn't. I don't want to change him," Richard said.


"Richard, you had better hope that you can change him, because some of his behavior needs changing. That won't make him into someone else; that will only help him be more fully who he is."


"I never saw anyone with as much life in him as Silas had when I first met him," Richard said dreamily. "So spontaneous, so in the moment, so alive. When I saw him again, strapped to that cot in the hospital...it was like seeing a butterfly with its wings pulled off."


John winced at the image. It explained a lot about Richard's sense of Silas's fragility.


"Think a moment about what you just told me: Silas was strapped down, he was literally powerless, and yet he managed to manipulate you into freeing him, despite all hospital protocols. And he's gotten you to feed, clothe and shelter him since. Silas is tougher and more resourceful than you give him credit for, Richard."


"Why do you call him manipulative?" Richard asked. "The feeling I'm getting from you is that you dislike Silas."


"Describing Silas as manipulative isn't meant as a slur, Richard; it's merely an observation."


"A negative observation," Richard said.


"Are your clients manipulative, Richard?" John tried a different tack.


"Oh yes," Richard said. "A client with a severe eating disorder can manipulate her entire family."


"Does acknowledging that mean that you dislike your clients?"


"Of course not," Richard said. "I'm often very fond of them. Describing them as manipulative isn't a value judgment. Their coping strategies are as expensive for them as they are for their families. They don't get anyone what they really need."


"Very good, Richard, you got it in one," John said, shaking his head. Other therapists were at one and the same time the best and the worst clients, in equal parts perceptive of others and blind to themselves. "Silas's strategies are expensive for both of you and they don't get either of you what you really need, which is why you, Richard, need to change them. This is your role in your relationship. Your own discomfort is something you need to endure in the short term."


"In other words, suck it up," Richard said ruefully, and John joined in his laughter.


It got light incrementally earlier each morning. Richard welcomed the hint of seasonal change, but it made no impression on Silas.


"It's still too early," Silas moaned as Richard roused him for his medication. He gulped his pill and closed his eyes again, trying to block out the hint of morning sunshine. "I'm tired, Richard, I just want to sleep."


"Silas, I want this to be a good day." Richard finger combed Silas's snarled hair. Smoothed Silas's lips with his thumb and kissed Silas thoroughly. Felt himself stiffen as Silas sucked teasingly at his tongue. "Be good, Silas."


"I am." Silas gazed appealing at Richard from beneath lowered lashes. "Stay home, Richard?"


"I wish I could," Richard said fervently. "Get up, shower, dress, eat. I'll see you at lunch. It would be awfully nice to do something other than spank you."


"I hate when you go to work. I hate when you spank me," Silas said petulantly


"I hate spanking you," Richard said, meaning it. "Get up, shower, dress, eat. Then I won't have to."


Richard returned at noon to find Silas in bed: Hair damp from the shower, fully dressed, and fast asleep. Richard shook his head, recognizing Silas's challenge for what it was.


"Wake up, Silas." In what was becoming a familiar routine, Richard seated himself on the bed. "What part of up is hard to understand? You're not allowed to go back to sleep."


"But it's not fair!" Silas wailed. "I was tired! I just lay down for a minute and I fell asleep. Richard, you can't spank me for this, it's not fair!"


"Now please, Silas." Richard patted his lap.


"I don't want to." Silas shook his head.


"I'm not asking you whether you want to. Come here; you're getting a spanking."


"I don't want you to spank me," Silas said softly, not retreating, but not coming forward either.


"I know," Richard said, willing himself to follow the course he'd decided on. For him to commute the sentence was not what Silas needed, even though in this moment, it was what Silas wanted. "Last chance, Silas. Listen to me. Come here now or I'm going to paddle you."


Silas folded at Richard's threat, the memory of the first time Richard had paddled him too fresh for him to risk a second time. Sniffling, he arranged himself over Richard's knees. Silas cried mournfully as Richard spanked him soundly. But he didn't refuse Richard's embrace afterwards and he cuddled quietly, watching Richard's expression out of the corner of his eye. Richard looked unhappy. It was clear to Silas that Richard was disappointed in him, and Silas had to admit Richard's disappointment was justified.


"Now come downstairs and eat, please." Richard's palm hurt. Spanking his lover was a singularly unpleasant way to spend his lunchtime.


Silas winced as he sat down, but he didn't try to engage Richard's sympathy, and after that he called no more attention to the spanking he had just gotten.


"I love you, Richard," Silas said softly as Richard kissed him goodbye after lunch. "I'll do better, okay?"


"Silas." Richard's heart soared. "I love you, too."


Silas watched from the window as Richard drove off. For the first time in weeks, Silas was eager to cook, eager to dice onions and wash greens, salt fish and sliver garlic. He hummed contentedly as he set pots to boil and pans to roast. He wanted to have something to offer Richard, some tangible evidence of his own good faith.


Richard was shocked at the good smells that greeted him upon his return home.


"Thank you, Silas, that was a very fine dinner," Richard said appreciatively afterwards. He held out his arms, and Silas settled in his lap.


"I'm glad you liked it," Silas said. He kissed Richard, his lips soft against Richard's own. "I love you, Richard. I really am trying."


"I love you too, Silas," Richard said, his throat tight. "I'm trying, too. Shh, what's this now, are you crying?" Richard hugged Silas, cupping his face in a gentle hand. "What's wrong?"


"Are you going to leave me, Richard? I'm a lot of work, I know I am. Are you going to leave me?" Silas's question hung in the air.


"I love you, Silas. I'm not going to leave you," Richard said. He shook his head sadly. "You're the one who almost left me, Silas. You're the one who tried to kill himself. You scared me so badly, Silas. Don't ever, ever do that again."


"I'm sorry, Richard," Silas whispered. "I scared me, too."


"I know, Silas." Richard swallowed hard. There were things he felt needed saying. "Suicide's never the answer, Silas, understand me? Never. If you want a different kind of relationship, one that doesn't include discipline, we can do that. Or it you want out entirely, that's your prerogative. But suicide is *never* the answer."


"I don't want to talk about this anymore, Richard!" Silas felt overwhelmed by the conversation. He didn't want to even think about the alternatives Richard was offering. "I won't ever do that again, Richard. I promise. I love you, Richard. I want this. I want you." He arched into Richard, wanting even more to put an end to any more talk.


By this time Richard too was ready to take refuge in the one exchange that inevitably satisfied both their needs. Like so many of their conversations, they ended this one in bed. Richard rolled Silas onto his back and kissed him. Silas opened his mouth, letting Richard taste him. Accepted the hard, sucking kiss on his neck that he knew would leave a red weal. Widening his legs so that Richard's hand could prepare him, Silas breathed through the aching stretch of entry, tilting his hips to meet Richard's firmness.


Richard took Silas just a little harder than usual, so that in the end Silas was sighing at each stroke, feeling every thrust of flesh inside him, opening him. When Richard came Silas was close enough to the edge that the fall of Richard's weight against their pressed bellies brought him over, too, in aching release.


"I need this. I need all of this," Silas whispered. "I need you. I love you, Richard."


"I love you too, Silas." Richard tucked Silas tightly against him and they slept.


Morning came too soon. Richard left the house with his usual injunction to Silas to rise, shower, dress and eat. To Richard's great delight, Silas was puttering about the kitchen when he came home at lunchtime.


"Do you want a sandwich?" Silas asked. "Or some kind of salad?"


One day, two days, three days... The weekend came and went.


Perhaps, thought Richard, the worst was over...


...or perhaps not. Richard came through the back door and glimpsed Silas, fully groomed, fully dressed, sound asleep on the couch in the den. Now this was a new wrinkle.


"Wake up, Silas." Richard looked down at his sleeping partner, not sure whether to be amused or irritated at his ingenuity in finding new ways to test his limits.


"I'm up, I'm up! I'm sorry! Don't spank me!" Silas sprang to his feet, a little flushed, a little disoriented. "Richard, I didn't mean to go to sleep! I was only going to lie down for a moment! Please don't spank me!" A note of pleading in his voice that Richard hadn't heard for awhile.


"Shh, shh, it's all right, Silas," Richard said automatically. Something was different here; something was wrong. "Hush, Silas, come here. Come to me."


Already sniffling, his eyes wider than they ought to have been, Silas obeyed. Richard slipped his arm around Silas and drew him in. Silas felt warm to his touch.


"Silas, are you sick?"


"No?" Silas looked uncertain. "I don't know. I don't feel good, but–"


"You're feverish," Richard said gently. "Silas, you're sick. That's why you're tired. Shh, shh, shh–"


"I'm sorry!" Silas was crying. "I'm sorry!"


"Shh, shh, it's all right," Richard reassured Silas as he eased him toward the bedroom. "Shh, it's all right. Get undressed and under the covers, I'll bring you some Tylenol. It's all right, Silas, I'm going to take good care of you."


Silas swallowed the pills Richard brought and closed his eyes as Richard drew the covers up over his chest.


"You just rest," Richard said gently. "I've got you."


"I love you, Richard," Silas whispered.


"I love you, too," Richard said. "Go to sleep now, Silas, I've got you. It's all right." He petted Silas comfortingly until Silas's slow, even breathing indicated that Silas was sound asleep. Leaving the bedroom door ajar, Richard went into his study and called John.


"I was *that* close to spanking him, John," Richard said, his voice tight with nerves. "It scares me."


"Why does it scare you, Richard?" John pushed gently.


"Because it would have been all wrong, damn it," Richard exclaimed. frustrated. "He was sick!"


"And it took you, what, Richard? Fifteen seconds? To register that?" John asked blandly.




"I doubt it took even ten seconds," Richard said ruefully. "I get your point. I will know, won't I?"


"I'd think so," John said. "The horror stories, about bad mistakes, are just stories. A good Top knows his partner. You're not going to make any bad mistakes, Richard. Trust yourself."


"I did know," Richard mused. "It wasn't even a close call. You know, now that I think about it, it's actually reassuring." Richard laughed and John joined in.


"I would hope it would be, Richard," John said after he finished laughing. "Seriously, I hope it helps you see that being the Top in a discipline relationship doesn't make you into a caricature of yourself. You're still you, Richard."


"I hope that's good enough," Richard said softly.


"Good enough is just that," John said. "You don't have to be perfect. Silas doesn't need perfect, he needs you. You're good enough, Richard."


"Silas?" Richard jostled Silas just enough to rouse him. "Are you okay by yourself for a few hours? "


"Yeah, I guess," Silas said. He tried not to whine. "I'm okay, you go work, I'm all right. I just want to sleep anyway."


"That's my brave boy," Richard said, dropping an approving kiss on Silas's forehead. "I'll come home as soon as I can and I'll leave the phone right next to you in case you really need me."


Silas slept past dinnertime, into the evening. Around eleven o'clock, reasoning that he had already been exposed to whatever Silas had, Richard joined Silas in their bed.


"I love you, Richard," Silas whispered drowsily. "I don't feel good."


"I know, Si," Richard said, spooning around Silas. "I know. Shh...shh...shh. Just sleep now. I've got you."


Richard's alarm began to play when it was barely light. Richard hit the snooze button, but Silas was already stirring.


"Richard? Richard, I'm sick," Silas moaned.


"I know, Silas. Shh..." Richard stroked Silas's hair sympathetically. "Just rest."


Richard shaved and showered, dressed and gulped a quick breakfast. Coming back upstairs, he shook Silas gently awake.


"You need to drink this and then you can go back to sleep," Richard said, handing Silas his antidepressant medication and a small glass of water."


"I'm nauseous," Silas said unhappily. "I don't think it will stay down, Richard."


"Poor baby. All right then, I'm going to give you something for that," Richard said, setting the pill and drink aside. "I'll be right back."


Richard kept Tigan suppositories in the bathroom medicine cabinet for just such eventualities. He removed one foil wrapped bullet from the cardboard box. Turned on the faucet and let the cold water run until it was really cold, then held the still-wrapped medication in the cold stream for half a minute to harden it slightly so that it would be easier to insert. Slit the foil with his fingernail and unwrapped the suppository. Holding it by the blunt end, Richard ran the water for another second, wetting the suppository to make it slippery, and walked back into the bedroom.


"Roll over, this will help," Richard said gently. "Relax, Silas, you'll barely feel it."


Silas rolled over obediently. Richard had given him medication like this before; Silas knew it wouldn't hurt at all. Richard lowered Silas's shorts, parted Silas's buttocks and pressed the small cylinder past the tight ring of muscle, deep enough inside Silas that it would stay put.


"There." Withdrawing his index finger, Richard let Silas's buttocks close, patted them gently and slipped his shorts back in place. "All done now. Give it a few minutes to work.


"I feel so sick," Silas groaned. "So sick."


"I know," Richard said sympathetically. "I'll be right back." He washed and dried his hands and returned to sit with Silas. He stroked Silas's hair while talking softly about nothing in particular, wanting to keep Silas awake and distracted.


 "A little better?" Richard asked after fifteen minutes had passed. "Think you can take your medicine now?"


"I guess," Silas said unenthusiastically, but he did feel better. His head had stopped spinning and he no longer felt as if he'd throw up if he drank anything. He swallowed his pill and finished the glass of water Richard gave him.


"Very good," Richard said. "You sleep, and I'll be by at lunch to make you some tea and soup. Call me if you absolutely need me; I'm leaving the phone on your night table. You've got water, you've got crackers, you've got the remote. Stay put, understand me?"


"Yeah yeah yeah," Silas mumbled. "I'm all right, Richard, don't worry about me. I *have* been sick before, you know?" Silas managed a wan smile.


"I just want to take care of you," Richard said, stroking Silas's cheek gently. "Today's orders are to *stay* in bed, you hear me? You're sick."


"You're good to me. I love you, Richard." Silas was already dozing off again.


"Love you too." Richard smoothed Silas's hair and tucked the covers closer about him. Richard had the vague feeling he was making a tactical error in allowing Silas a free pass, but he didn't feel he could in good conscience expect Silas to complete his usual activities while he was sick. Yet letting Silas sleep the morning away seemed like the first step down a slippery slope.


"It's frustrating! He takes one step forward and then two steps back, John. Now he's been in bed for two days, he hasn't got a fever, he's not really "sick" sick any more." Richard ground his teeth. "But when I suggest that he might want to get up, shower, get dressed and come downstairs to eat, he cries and cries and carries on as if I'm a bastard and a half. I don't know what to do. I don't think I can punish him when he's this miserable."


"He's only going to be more miserable if you let him use illness as an excuse for getting away with this nonsense. That's not what he really wants or what he really needs. Silas needs to follow the routines you've laid out for him and if he doesn't, there need to be consequences. A sound spanking is certainly not going to harm him, Richard."


"But I don't want to spank him. He was just sick. He seems so vulnerable right now." Richard sighed. "I know, I know: He's testing me."


"Exactly, Richard," said John. "You know it, I know it, he knows it. Stay the course, Richard, and he'll settle down. It will get easier once Silas realizes that you're not going to give in."


Silas was still huddled in bed when Richard arrived home at dinnertime.


"You're well enough to get up, shower, get dressed and eat breakfast tomorrow," Richard told Silas. They were both propped up on the bed pillows, eating takeout.


"No, that's not fair, Richard. I don't feel good," Silas protested. He liked being coddled, he wasn't ready to give up the perks of being sick.


"If you're well enough to wolf down Chinese food tonight, you're well enough to get up tomorrow, Silas."


"You're so mean, Richard." Silas shoved his container of fried rice aside and flopped down, his back to Richard.


"Silas, don't sulk." Richard set his own plate aside and leaning over Silas's back, kissed the side of his cheek gently. "Come on, babe."


"Leave me alone, Richard, you're mean. I hate you, I fucking hate you, Richard!" Silas's voice rose. "I hate you! Go away! Leave me alone! I hate you!!"


"No," Richard said clearly. "We are not going to do this anymore."


Silas rolled over on his back and stared at Richard; Richard's eyes met his without wavering. This was entirely new.


"Um...Richard?" Silas was nonplused. "What are you going to do to me?"


"I'm going to paddle you, Silas," Richard said. "I warned you, very clearly. You don't curse at me, you don't say 'I hate you,' and you don't have a tantrum when I don't let you off the hook."


"But I don't want you to paddle me," Silas objected. "I'm sorry, okay? Please, Richard, give me another chance?" Silas licked his lips and widened his legs, watching Richard's face hopefully.


"Oh, Silas." Richard stroked Silas's cheek, gently, wistfully. It would be so much easier to just let this go.


Richard was used to Silas's mercurial temper. Richard was used to Silas's seductions. What Richard was not used to was holding Silas accountable for his behavior.


Richard seated himself on the side of the bed and extracted the paddle from beneath the mattress. Resolutely ignoring the twinges of sympathy he felt, he eased Silas over his knees. Hooked a finger under Silas's waistband and slipped Silas's underwear down, careful not to catch the elastic waist on his soft cock or tender balls.


Only the trust Richard had developed in John's judgment over the last few weeks made it possible for him to persevere. That, and the alacrity with which Silas had yielded to him: Silas needed him to stay the course.


Richard grasped the paddle firmly, positioned it carefully and brought it down sharply.


"OW! Owowow..." Silas jerked against Richard's thighs at the first crack of wood across his bare buttocks. "OW!!" He cried loudly and miserably, without holding back.


Yet again, Richard was surprised at how easily Silas came to hm afterwards. Silas clung, his body molding itself to Richard's. Richard held him, not pushing him to stop crying before he was finished, but just wanting Silas to know that he was loved.


"I'm sorry, Richard," Silas said, his voice hoarse. "I'll do better. I'm sorry, I know you hate having to do this." He kissed Richard sweetly, affectionately.


"Do you know that?" Richard asked, his own throat tight.


"Oh, yeah." Silas shrugged. "Richard, I deserved it. I'm sorry. I'll do better, I promise." Closing his eyes, Silas rested his head against Richard's chest. His breathing evened out; he slumped heavily.


"And then he fell asleep!" Richard reported to John, shaking his head. "He's never been relaxed enough to fall asleep in my lap before. I guess you called it right, John."


"Thank you for the compliment, Richard, but it's you who got it right. I've only supported you in following through on what you already knew," John said. "You're a natural Top, just as Silas is naturally submissive. That's part of what drew you together from the start."


"It was only supposed to be a vacation fling," Richard said.


"Then what made you take him home, Richard?"


"What Mack did to him was evil. That bastard treated Silas as if he were nothing but some kind of sex slave," Richard said, anger returning at the memory.


"But you'd already rescued him from Mack, you'd given him money, you'd lent him your car," John pointed out. "Why take him home?"


"I wanted Silas to know that he mattered to me, that I hadn't just used him for a few nights. That he was someone to me: A person, not a body. I didn't think it through logically, it wasn't supposed to be a long-term thing, but..."


"You fell in love," John said.


"I fell in love," Richard agreed. "It makes no sense, and yet, I do love him. He's not the partner I imagined, but I look at him sleeping next to me at night and I want him more than I've ever wanted anyone. It's frightening to love someone so fragile."


"He's really not as fragile as you think," John said wryly. "You can expect a lot more of Silas than you do, Richard, which is why I'm encouraging you to set clear, consistent expectations for him and make sure that he meets them or takes the consequences."


"It's so hard and I'm so tired," Richard said softly. "I was hoping you'd be able to help me find a way to tone down the intensity of our relationship, to eliminate the constant drama. All I've been doing so far is putting in even more time and attention than I was before. I don't know if I can sustain this degree of involvement."


"This is what a loving discipline relationship is about, Richard," John said. "This is what you signed on for."


"I don't know if I like this very much," Richard said glumly. "It just seems different in the stories I read online about discipline relationships." He gave a self-mocking shrug.


"What you read online is fiction," John said. "Most of it's as much of a fantasy as the airbrushed photos of fashion models your anorexic clients admire are. What the fantasy doesn't address is the uncertainty that you're feeling. Granted, not every Top is as inclined by nature and training to be as tentative about taking charge as you are. Not every submissive partner has as many issues as Silas has."


"It's just so hard and I'm just so tired," Richard repeated. "I don't have the energy for this kind of drama. What I want in a relationship is calm, order and easy affection."


"What you want in a relationship is what Silas needs, too. It's your responsibility to put an end to the dramatics, by offering loving support and steady, consistent discipline. Three or four months from now, if you stay the course, Silas will settle down. It's not going to be this hard once it starts to work right, Richard."


"Stay the course." Richard shook his head. "I think I've heard that one before. All right, John, you've convinced me. I'll see you next week, if I live that long."




Silas smiled at his reflection in the bedroom mirror. Richard was taking him to lunch and he was happy. He raked his fingers through his hair; he had finally gotten it trimmed and it felt right again. He had plowed through the list of activities he and Richard had agreed he would do daily. He had walked outside for the ritual half hour that Richard had prescribed. There were still piles of snow on the lawns and in the gutters, but there were also signs of the coming of spring. Stems swelled with buds and early snowdrops nodded over frozen soil.


Richard smiled as Silas clattered unselfconsciously downstairs, so very far from the anxious, nervous man he had lived with for so many months. Richard tangled his fingers with Silas's, took him in his arms and kissed him warmly and appreciatively.


"Out to lunch?" Silas tilted his head, his grin creasing his eyes. "Or back to bed?"


"Brat." Richard smiled, glad that verbal repartee was once again alive between them. Only recently had Silas had ventured even the mildest tease; Richard had missed that badly.


"A very good brat," Silas said self righteously, bumping Richard playfully with his hip.


"Very good indeed," Richard agreed. He kissed Silas again, enjoying the sweetness of him.


Silas leaned into the embrace, feeling Richard's hardness pressing against him, letting Richard feel his matching hardness against his leg.


"Bed," Richard decided. They made their way upstairs. Shoes and clothing were quickly dispensed with.


"Lie down, babe." Richard coaxed. "Let's see what feels nice." He slid his hand up the inside Silas's thigh, teasing his fingers over his bulging cock, cupping his balls, making him squirm. Coaxed Silas onto his stomach, pressed his buttocks apart and stroked the soft skin between. Silas spread his legs willingly, letting Richard reach deeper. He moaned as Richard's spit-slicked finger opened him, his back arching into the sensation.


Coating himself with gel, Richard pressed his cock slowly into Silas, feeling Silas stretch to accommodate him. Heard Silas sigh as he was deeply, fully penetrated. Richard worked his cock slowly in and out, enjoying the sight of his swollen member disappearing deep into his lover's body. Silas groaned at the heat of it, his own cock pressed between belly and mattress. Richard leaned forward, his lips to the back of Silas's neck. Reached around, grasped Silas, and helped him over the edge before letting himself come, too.


Richard showered and dressed while Silas dozed, and then chased Silas into the bathroom. He smiled as the sound of running water merged with the sound of Silas's off key singing.


"Still hungry for lunch, babe?" Richard teased as Silas emerged from his second shower of the morning. He drew Silas, moist and luscious, to him and kissed him warmly.


"I was hungry before. Now I'm absolutely starved, Richard!" Silas squirmed free of Richard's arms, laughing. "I'm ready to go! Unless..." Silas ran an exploratory finger over Richard's fly.


"Oh, no," Richard said firmly, catching Silas's hand and turning him toward the door. "Lunch. The afternoon awaits."


Without protest, Silas let Richard lead him out of the bedroom and into the world.




Thank you, Rusty, for reading multiple drafts, for your clear thinking, for your frankness and for your patience. EM