Adult readers only. If the idea of a discipline relationship between consenting adult men offends you, so will this story.



"But I don't want a spanking," Silas said reasonably, making no move to come closer to where Richard was seated on the bed.

"What a surprise."

Silas flinched and Richard regretted his sarcasm. He took a deep breath and tried for a calm, matter of fact tone.

"Take your things off and come here please, Silas."

"No?" Silas tilted his head and gave Richard a hopeful, sultry look from beneath half lowered lids. "No?"

"I said come here." Richard leaned forward as if to stand up and Silas's veneer of calm cracked.

"No!" Silas backed away. "No, you bastard, you sonofabitch, you don't touch me, you don't fucking touch me!" He groped frantically behind him, grabbed the first object that came to hand, a book, and lobbed it at Richard. Richard deflected it easily, but the impact left the book splayed, its spine broken, on the floor alongside the bed.

"Shame on you." Richard gritted his teeth, willing himself not to say more, and walked out of the room.

"Shame on *you,* you fucking bastard, you made me do that!" Silas screamed after him. "Come back, you fucking bastard, you fucking prick, that's right, go away, I hate you, I fucking hate you!" No logic to Silas's cries, just blind fury.

Downstairs, Richard looked at his watch. Half an hour, he estimated grimly, another half an hour until Silas wore himself out. He'd called it right; thirty minutes later Silas's shrieks had faded and the house was once again still. Richard returned to the bedroom, took a look at the heap of misery that was Silas and with a sigh, seated himself alongside him on the bed.

"I'm sorry!" Silas's voice was hoarse, his face pale and slick with tears. He sniffled. Rolling over, he squirmed sideways so that his head was pillowed in Richard's lap. Richard stroked Silas's wet cheek, feeling the fine stubble just below the skin's surface. He cupped his palm around Silas's chin and tilted Silas's face toward his own.

"What happens when you curse at me?" Richard asked, resolutely ignoring the teardrops still glistening in Silas's lashes. "What happens when you throw things?"

"You hate me." Silas looked unhappily at Richard, searching his face for some hint of pity.

"You're far too free with that word," Richard said disapprovingly. "I love you, Silas, and despite the things you say, I do think you love me. And people who love each other do not treat each other like that." He extracted the paddle from between mattress and box spring and laid it on the bed.

"Don't, please," Silas begged, beginning to cry again. "Please Richard please please please–" Silas gagged.

"Easy now." Richard grimaced at the choking sound, drawing Silas upright into his arms and shaking him gently. "Look at me, Si, listen to me. Breathe, you're okay." Silas's head dropped to Richard's shoulder and Richard rubbed his back, trying to control his own breathing. "I can't punish you, Silas, not if you're going to fight me like this. I'm not trying to torture you."

"I don't know what to do!" Silas hadn't the words to explain the panicky surge of rebellion he'd felt. He wiped his dripping nose ineffectually with the back of his hand.

"Tissue," Richard said brusquely, handing Silas a wad of them. "Silas, have you forgotten everything we practiced?" Exasperation in Richard's voice.

If Richard couldn't see it on his own, then there was no point. Silas cried harder, ignoring the tissues in his hand.

"Let me..." Richard retrieved the crumpled tissues from Silas's grip and dabbed gently at his tears. "Shh.." He smoothed Silas's bangs back from his forehead. "I'm worried about you, Silas. I love you, but I don't know how to make this easier for you, I really don't."

"Richard?" Silas took a deep breath. "Richard, I'm not asking you to, really I'm not? I know I fucked up. I just...I don't know how this all happened, okay?" His voice rose in frustration. "I'm stupid, Richard, fucking stupid. I'm sorry. I love you too, Richard."

"Why?" Richard asked.

Silas looked at him dumbly.

"Why do you love me?" Richard leaned back, waiting, letting the silence draw an answer from Silas.

"You're always nice to me," Silas said slowly. He'd never exactly put it into words before, not even to himself. "Even when it was just sex, at the resort, it was good between us, it just worked, you know? And in the hospital, when Mack set me up, you didn't believe him, you believed me. And every time since, when I've needed you, you've been there. And you're smart, Richard, and you smell good, and your hands are always clean..." His voice trailed off.

"Okay," Richard said, laughing. It was an eccentric list, but it was sincere, and a part of Richard was gratified that it was about his body, his scent and his hands. Silas was needy, Richard thought to himself, but he wasn't a materially greedy man. "I want to make this work, Silas, and I do think my being in charge would be best for both of us. And I think you need clear consequences when you disobey me. But it has to be your choice to agree or not; I can't make it for you."

"It--" Silas hesitated.

"Talk to me, Si?" Richard jostled Silas gently, as if doing so could loosen his words.

"...when you paddle me," Silas mumbled. He looked away.

"Could you say that again for me?" Richard asked, turning Silas's face back toward him. "I couldn't hear you."

"It hurts too much, when you paddle me," Silas said, biting his lip and looking reproachfully at Richard, his pretty eyes already hazing over again with tears.

Richard thought about promising to burn the paddle and then he looked, really looked, at Silas, at the careful picture Silas was presenting. Loving support, steady consistent discipline, not indulgence, were what Silas needed.

"Stay the course." His therapist John's phrase echoed in Richard's head, strengthening his resolve.

"Then behave yourself and I won't have to," Richard said, faking a sureness he didn't yet feel. "You don't curse at me and you don't throw things. Period. You have this coming." He reached for Silas's fly and undid the snap and zipper.

Richard knew he'd made the right call when Silas let his breath out with a sigh and of his own volition turned face down over Richard's lap. Silas raised his hips cooperatively and Richard drew both underwear and jeans down, leaving Silas bare from waist to mid thigh. Richard let himself draw strength from Silas's trusting acquiescence. He stroked Silas's back, relaxing into his own authority, and tucked Silas's hips more firmly against his own.

"I don't spank you without a good reason," Richard lectured. "If I tell you you're getting a spanking, you cooperate, that's part of the deal. You don't try and seduce me and work yourself into hysterics when I don't go for it. I understand it's not an easy thing to bend over my knee, but you need to do it anyway. And you don't curse and you don't throw things, and if you do, I'm going to paddle you. Every time, Silas."

"I'm sorry!" Silas was already crying. Richard steeled himself and brought his hand down smartly. Silas cried through the thorough spanking, but made no attempt to get away. Richard didn't stop until Silas's buttocks were tinged with color.

"You don't curse at me. You don't throw things. You cooperate when I tell you you're being punished." Richard picked up the paddle, took a deep breath, made himself remember the flying book, the hateful words, and with renewed determination, proceeded to turn Silas's ass a glowing shade of red.

"Ow," Silas moaned. "Ow. Ow. Ow." It hurt a lot, a truly horrible amount. Silas cried miserably. He was only marginally aware of Richard stopping.

"All done, good boy, I'm proud of you," Richard said quietly, stroking Silas's heaving back. "Deep breaths, that's it. Come on now, come to me." He gathered Silas into his arms, turning him considerately sideways. Eased Silas out of his twisted jeans and shorts and lay back so that Silas was sprawled half on, half next to him. "You're all right."

"I'm sorry, I'm sorry, I'm sorry," Silas whimpered. "Ow. Ow. Richard, that *hurt.*"

"I know it did, Silas," Richard said. "I don't want to have to do it again."

"Me either," Silas said fervently, burrowing deeper into Richard's arms. "I'll be good, I promise."

"Go wash your face and come right back," Richard said after another ten minutes had passed and he judged Silas sufficiently calm to be able to cooperate.

Silas obeyed with alacrity, Richard's orders making him feel safe and cherished. He splashed his face with cold water, combed his hair and maneuvered cautiously back into Richard's arms, wincing. Richard rewarded him with a deep, claiming kiss.

"I could do something for you?" Silas offered tentatively, trailing his hand down Richard's front.

"Silas," Richard said gently. "Relax." He pressed his palm over Silas's hand, splaying it against his thigh. Silas looked at him quizzically, not certain he understood the gesture.

"You try very hard, Silas, I see that and I appreciate it," Richard said softly.

"I could show you just how...hard...I can try?"

"No," Richard said simply. "We're not doing this now."


"You're still mad at me," Silas said unhappily.

"No, Silas," Richard said gently. "Listen to me, please. You were just punished, you're sore, you're going to rest and be quiet and think about making better choices next time. Shh, I'm not angry, I do want us to be close now, but we don't need to have sex to be close."

Richard wanted to change what he saw happening between them. Sex was now virtually the only easy connection they shared. He wanted more than that, he wanted the sort of companionate relationship that included conversation as well as romps in bed.

Richard was aware of what their relationship looked like from the outside: Well-off professional with his trophy boyfriend. It wasn't true. If there was catering being done, at this point Richard was doing it. Silas was work, hard work, emotionally high maintenance. Silas had been good at being sociable, once upon a time, at chattering and charming. But Mack Davis had shaken his confidence badly and he no longer had any faith in his ability to entertain Richard except in bed.

"What are you thinking?" Silas was sad and subdued, aware of Richard's distraction and made nervous by it. "Richard, I'm sorry, I'm really, really sorry." Silas licked his lips. "You could let me pay for it another way?"

"Silas, damn it, don't say things like that!"

"Don't you want–" Silas started to work Richard's buttons open, Richard's irritation fueling his anxious desire to please.

"No! I said, not now." Richard said, stilling Silas's hand for the second time. He took a deep breath. Getting angry at Silas was ineffective; what he needed to bring to this was calm and certainty.

"Let's try this conversation again." Richard kissed Silas gently. "I want to hold you, I want you to lie here with me for a little while. Not sex, Silas, just cuddling. Does that make you nervous?"

"I don't know." Silas shrugged. "I can do cuddling, Richard, but I mean, it's not like it does much for you, you know? I like it,'s not very...mature?" His voice trailed off uncertainly.

"I say it's fine and what I say is what you need to pay attention to," Richard scolded, but his voice was warm and his slight harshness paradoxically reassuring to Silas. "I like the sex; I've never had a lover as wonderful as you! But it's not only about sex, Silas .I like holding you, I like the way your hair tickles my nose, I like the way your skin feels under my hand."

"You held me, the first time we did it," Silas said. "After we were done. I remember that."

"You smelled like the ocean," Richard said.

"I did not!" Silas protested, laughing. "I'm sure I showered first." His giggles pleased Richard enormously.

"Salty and delicious." Richard kissed Silas long and deep, feeling the tension ebb from Silas's body. "Good boy, that's right, you're a good boy. I love you, and I love being close with you in a lot of different ways. Kissing is good, talking is good, cuddling is good."

"I love you." Silas closed his eyes and sank into Richard's embrace, his ass sore, his heart soaring. "I love you."

Richard was sitting at the kitchen table with his coffee and yogurt when Silas came down the next morning. Silas's hair was damp from the shower and he was dressed, but still barefoot. He came to Richard, seeking a hug, and Richard obliged. Silas winced as he settled in Richard's lap.

"Ow." Silas shifted, trying to get comfortable. "I'm sorry."

"You're entitled to a few groans." Richard hoped he hadn't been too severe. Some residual soreness after a paddling was inevitable, but it made Richard as uncomfortable emotionally as he had made Silas uncomfortable physically. Richard stroked Silas's freshly-shaven cheek gently. "How do you feel? Would you like to go out for pancakes?"

"I'd rather eat in, if that's okay?" Silas shrugged. "I'll make you pancakes if you like?"

"Could I get an omelet instead?" Richard asked.

"Sure," Silas said, kissing Richard. "Coming right up."

"Thanks," Richard said. He watched Silas gather his ingredients, noticing the occasional hissed breath. Silas didn't seem to dwell on it and Richard forced himself to put his own reservations aside. If Silas needed that sort of discipline, Richard would provide it and not be squeamish about the aftereffects.

"Richard?" Silas looked anxiously in Richard's direction, sensitive as ever to Richard's mood. "We can go out if you want?"

"Silas," Richard said shortly. Seeing Silas stiffen at his tone, Richard took a deep breath and reached for his gentlest, most reassuring voice. "Si, you're being a little bit silly, you know? I love your omelets and I love having breakfast together at home. Everything's fine, we're good." He smiled at Silas.

Visibly relaxing, Silas grinned back and began melting butter in the pan.

He's so sensitive, Richard thought to himself, I wish he'd tone it down. On the heels of that thought came the realization that Silas simply couldn't, not without his help.

"That smells good," Richard said.

"Yeah," Silas said, smiling. "You want cheese or just mushrooms?"

"Both," Richard said with a laugh. "It's Sunday."

"Enjoy!" Silas slid the omelet from the pan, folding it neatly in half, and presented it to Richard with a hopeful look.

"Thank you, Si, it looks delicious," Richard said appreciatively. He tried not to sigh at Silas's smile of pleasure. Why should he feel burdened by Silas's desire to please him?

"Do you feel like coming shopping with me, Silas? I need a new suit."

"It's going to be a good day," Silas said enthusiastically. He liked doing almost anything with Richard.

Richard looked at the gray sky outside and knew Silas wasn't talking about the weather.

Richard resolutely tabled his uncomfortable feelings. He'd wanted Silas to be cooperative and pleasant; Silas was trying his best and Richard was damned if he was going to let his own ambivalence spoil the day. He'd discuss his issues with John when he next saw his therapist.

"Do you dislike having him along?" John asked.

"No," Richard said. "He's good company. I just feel guilty dragging him on errands. I'd hate it if I were him."

"Does Silas feel it's an imposition?"

"God no! Silas loves it," Richard sighed.

"So the problem is..." John said.

"It's not a problem per se," Richard said, frustrated. "It just feels off to me. I just never thought of myself as the sort of person who expects his partner to dance attendance. You know John, I wasn't looking for this kind of relationship."

"Nevertheless, Richard, you've committed yourself to a partner who needs this kind of relationship. I'm not just talking about corporal punishment, that's not the heart of it. I'm talking about the degree of emotional engagement he needs to function. You can either accept that responsibility, in which case he'll settle down very nicely, or you can vacillate, in which case he is going to run both of you into the ground."

Richard closed his eyes.

"Richard," John said gently. "Richard, what are you feeling?"

"I'm so tired, John. I love Silas, but loving him demands too much energy!"

"I appreciate that it's hard right now. Stay the course, Richard. You've already begun to see progress. He'll moderate his demands as you make it too expensive for him to continue his unacceptable behavior. Stay the course."

"I hear you, John. See you next week." Richard handed John his check and headed home.

"John convince you to get rid of me yet?" Silas asked. He wished Richard would dump the therapist.

"Silas, stop." Richard sighed. "Stop fishing; what John and I discuss is between us."

"Well,*sorry*," Silas said unrepentantly.

"I need the outside support," Richard said patiently. "It's no reflection on you."

"Well fuck you too," Silas said. "You're always a bastard when you get back from a session, you know that?"

"What did you just say to me?" Richard asked darkly.

"I said fuck you, Richard. What, you're going to punish me for that?" Silas rolled his eyes.

"Yes," Richard said. "You don't curse at me."

"No!" Silas gaped at Richard. Shit, Richard was serious! "NO! Fuck you, Richard, that's not fucking fair, I hate you, I fucking hate you, you bastard, you miserable prick–"

Richard took a deep breath. He caught Silas's arm, pulled him close enough to deposit a hard swat on his butt.

"Be quiet," Richard said sharply. "Right now, Silas, I mean it. Upstairs."

Suddenly appreciating just how much trouble he was in, Silas stopped his tirade.

"I'm sorry, Richard? Please don't spank me?" Silas sniffled and took advantage of his closeness to Richard to bury his head in Richard's shoulder and begin to cry.

"Shh, shh," Richard said, automatically embracing Silas. "Shh..."

"I didn't mean it! Please Richard, I'm sorry I lost it, I promise I'll do better."

Richard held Silas until he felt Silas's breathing steady.

"I'm sorry, Richard," Silas whispered. "I didn't mean the stuff I said."

"Don't you think I know that, Si?" Richard asked. "But I also know that you know we made an agreement."

"Shit." Silas began to cry again, this time in earnest, not making as much as a pretense of being stoic. It was something Richard accepted as Silas's way of expressing his feelings, but it made it very hard to punish Silas. "Please, Richard, don't spank me..."

Silas sounded so miserable that Richard almost yielded. Yet it would be a mistake to let Silas off and Richard knew it

"I love you, Silas," Richard said. "You can cry if you need to, I understand you're upset, but we're still going to go upstairs and I'm still going to paddle you." He rubbed Silas's back in gentle circles, hoping he was making the right call. Stay the course.

Silas finally nerved himself up to release his death grip on Richard and turn toward the stairs. Richard followed him to their bedroom, closing the blinds and pulling the curtains. Silas stood indecisively near the bed, not convinced he wanted to do what came next.

"You know what to do," Richard said quietly, seating himself on the bed.

Silas sniffled as he undid his fly and eased his jeans and underwear down and off. He shivered, but let Richard draw him over his knees without struggling. Took a quick, deep gulp of air as he watched Richard extract the paddle from under the mattress.

"No more of this nonsense, Silas. You have more self control than that."

Richard spanked Silas briskly. He knew from the way Silas flinched that Silas was still sore and he didn't prolong the spanking; as soon as Silas's buttocks were pink flushed, he took the paddle in hand and gave Silas a few hard swats, more for the symbolism involved than because he had any desire to. Silas was crying hard enough that Richard was worried he'd make himself sick; he was glad to end the punishment and gather Silas in his arms. Richard hoped he'd done the right thing in following through.

"Sorry! Sorry! Sorry!" Silas sobbed. "Ow. Ow."

"I know, Silas, I know." Richard cuddled Silas, stroking his hair from his wet face. "You're a good boy. Shh, shh, I know."

This time, Silas didn't offer sex, he just closed his eyes and let Richard soothe him. Richard was suddenly very aware that Silas was making progress. They lay together quietly as the room grew darker.

"Come on downstairs with me, Si," Richard said. "It's time to start dinner."

"I don't know why I can't do that," Silas complained as he trailed Richard around the kitchen. "Richard, please, why won't you sit and let me cook?"

"Because you must be sore?"

"Please, Richard, I want to do *something* for you," Silas pleaded. Richard wrapped his arms around Silas and kissed him, persisting until Silas melted into him and widened his mouth.

"Silas, you don't have to 'do' anything for me, just be yourself," Richard said gently. "Do you really want to cook? Would that make you happy?"

"Yes, please?" Silas shrugged. "I like cooking, Richard. It's one of the two things I'm any good at." He winked at Richard.

"Silas." His blithe putdown saddened Richard. "Okay, you're in charge. Can I help with anything?"

"Sit and talk to me?" Silas asked hopefully. He loved Richard hanging out with him. "If you want, you could set the table?"

"Sure, Si." Richard had resolved to spend more unstructured time with Silas; it seemed to mean so much to Silas and it was really not an imposition. It wasn't that Richard disliked it, it was just a change for a man who had lived much of his adult life alone and he didn't crave it the way Silas did. And yet...he wanted a companionate relationship, and this was a component. Silas had to learn to trust that his company brought Richard pleasure, to believe that he wasn't valued only for his good looks and his skills in bed.

Lamb chops roasted, salad dressed, bread heated: Silas let out his breath and sat down carefully, swallowing his reaction.

Richard averted his eyes tactfully. He uncorked a decent bottle of California cabernet and poured them each a glass. Silas looked surprised; he hadn't expected Richard to offer a treat like that.

Silas cast about for a topic of conversation and came up empty.

"Silas," Richard said gently, aware Silas was struggling. "Enjoy your wine. Relax. You don't have to entertain me. I just like being with you."

"Thanks," Silas said, his pleasure in the compliment making his eyes sparkle. He tasted his wine. "It's very nice, Richard."

"As I remember, you found me some nice wines at the resort," Richard said.

"Thanks," Silas said slowly. "I liked the resort, I liked helping the guests."

Richard thought wistfully of the easy going, happy Silas he had known at the resort. He wondered what could have been, if he had acted on impulse, if he had invited Silas home with him then. If he had spared Silas his misadventure with Mack Davis...

"Richard?" Silas's voice rose fretfully.

"It's all right, Silas," Richard reassured him automatically. He sipped his own wine. "It is nice, isn't it? I got this bottle downtown, there was a good sale..."

Richard talked easily on as they finished their dinner and most of the wine. Silas watched him with worshipful eyes. Richard in control; Richard pleased with him. Everything in Silas unfolded in the sunshine of Richard's attention.

Richard's own energy rebounded in the light of Silas's blatant admiration. He reached for Silas's hand across the table; caressed his knuckles.

"How do you feel, Silas?"

"Let me make you happy," Silas whispered. He slid to his knees at Richard's feet, the combination of alcohol and arousal fading the residual pain of his earlier paddling into a generalized excitement. He rubbed his lips over the crotch of Richard's pants.

Richard could feel Silas's warm breath through the fabric. Richard leaned back, reflexively spreading his legs, and tangling his fingers in Silas's hair, tugged his head gently back so that he could see Silas's face.

"Are you sure you want to do this here?" Richard asked. Silas had been punished only a few hours before; Richard was somewhat surprised he was this eager.

Silas's answer was to grin shamelessly. It was a real smile; his eyes sparkled and his cheeks were flushed with excitement. Releasing Silas's hair, Richard unzipped his pants, freeing his hardening cock.

Silas held Richard's cock aside as he leaned in closer and tongued his balls gently, savoring their velvety texture, the faint musk smell of them. He stroked Richard's cock slowly; widened his mouth to take it entirely. Richard stiffened as Silas pointed his tongue, teasing the tiny slit in the head of his cock. Silas could taste the first beads of precum welling as he licked the sensitive opening. He took his time working his lips up and down the lengthening shaft, enjoying Richard's moans of pleasure. Richard rested his hands lightly on Silas's head, his thighs tensing, his back arching, and Silas took him even deeper, bobbing his head in rhythm with Richard's jerking cock as Richard came hard in his mouth.

Richard sank back in his chair, panting for breath.

"More?" Silas grinned smugly.

"Brat." Richard stroked Silas's cheek tenderly. After a few minutes he could talk again. "Upstairs now. Let's see if there's any life left in me." Richard laughed as he hauled a giddy, giggling Silas to his feet. Slipping an arm around his waist, he propelled him to their bedroom.

"Take your clothes off," Richard said and Silas obeyed. Richard undressed himself as he watched Silas strip. Lying back in the center of the bed, Richard spread his legs.

"Get me hard again," he commanded. Silas got on his hands and knees, straddling Richard's thigh, and bending his elbows, lowered himself and took Richard's cock in his mouth.

Richard propped himself up on his pillows, one hand behind his head, the other straying over his own nipples, and enjoyed the picture Silas servicing him presented. He could feel himself growing hard again.

"I think that's enough of that," Richard said. "Let me at that ass of yours."

Silas crawled toward the head of the bed, dropping his face to his pillow, his ass in the air, and Richard rolled to kneel behind him, snagging the lube as he went. He slicked himself, using his hand to bring himself fully erect.

Silas's buttocks were still splotched with red, but he didn't protest as Richard parted his cheeks and opened him with his index finger. He sighed as Richard withdrew his finger and replaced it with his cock, and sighed again, even more deeply, as Richard sheathed himself to the balls.

"You're going to be a good boy for me, aren't you," Richard said. "You're going to let me fuck you and you're going to stay quiet and take it, because you're mine, and I can do whatever I want to you, and you're a good boy, that's right..."

"God, Richard, please..." Excited past endurance, Silas pushed back to meet Richard's thrusts. Richard reached for Silas's cock, fisted it hard, and Silas writhed under him, groaning into his pillow as he came. Richard spasmed deep within Silas and Silas let out a final, thoroughly taken moan as Richard's hot essence penetrated him even deeper. Richard withdrew slowly, rolling onto his back alongside Silas.

"God, Richard." Careful, now that arousal's analgesic effect had faded, of his tender buttocks, Silas draped himself over Richard.

"I love you, Silas." Richard stroked Silas's tawny hair gently back from his damp face and smiled as Silas leaned into his caress. He shifted Silas so that Silas's head lay comfortably on his chest and fell asleep holding Silas close.

The twinges of tooth pain started sometime during the night. Richard ignored them until late afternoon, by which time it was clear to him that a visit to the dentist was in order. He made an appointment for the following day, took some tylenol and went about his day.

By the time his alarm woke him the next morning, the pain was well established. With a sigh, Richard fished in the back of the bathroom medicine cabinet for the tylenol and codeine he kept on hand for emergencies; he knew tylenol alone would do zero good. He shaved gingerly, careful not to press against his tender jaw, showered and padded back into the bedroom. Discarding his towel, he began to dress for the day, his back to their bed.

"Come back to bed a minute," Silas said hopefully from the warmth of the covers.

"Not today, Si," Richard said.

"Can I meet you for lunch, maybe?" Silas asked, picking up on a faint something in Richard's voice. He crossed his fingers unconsciously.

"Not today, Silas." Richard finished dressing without turning around.

"Richard? Are you mad at me?"

"No, Silas, why would you think that?" Richard would have gritted his teeth, except for the fact that his tender molar made it impossible to even close his mouth tightly. He looked over at Silas, who was now propped up on one elbow. Silas tilted his head and fluttered his lashes, deliberately vamping.

"For chrissakes, Silas." Richard's tooth hurt.

"Sorry." Silas hunched his shoulders at the sharp reproof and Richard relented. It was unfair to expect Silas to read his mind.

"I'm sorry, Si, I didn't mean to snap at you." Richard came closer and stroked Silas's hair gently in apology. "I've got a bad toothache."

"Are you going to the dentist?" Silas asked, immediately concerned. "Do you want me to drive you?"

"It's okay, I don't need you, I'm just going to go in from work. I'm fine; don't worry about me."

"Okay," Silas said softly. He forced a smile. It wasn't like Richard was trying to make him feel bad, but... Silas tried very hard to conceal his hurt feelings, certain Richard would see them as inappropriate.

"Can you eat something soft, Richard? I could make eggs, or cereal, or–"

"No, thanks. I'm just going to go." Even the thought of eating made Richard's tooth ache worse. "Have a good one, Si, don't forget your walk. The yard could use a little attention if it warms up later." He gave Silas a quick, perfunctory peck, and was gone.

"I hate you," Silas whispered to himself, listening to the garage open and Richard's car pull away from the house, tears of frustration in his eyes. "Sometimes I fucking *hate* you, Richard!" He closed his eyes and sniffled hard, willing himself calm. He didn't like to think what Richard's reaction to his outburst would have been.

"Sometimes you're not *nice,* Richard," Silas said softly, forcing himself to get up. He felt dull and quite useless and lingering in bed seemed very tempting. But he had rules, he was supposed to shower, dress, and eat. He was supposed to walk and he was supposed to deal with the yard. Silas knew the rules were for his own good and he wanted to do the right thing. As little as he felt like doing anything at all, he hewed to his routine. Finishing his toast and coffee, he put his dishes in the sink, shrugged into his jacket and locking the door behind him, strode out.

It was chilly, but the sun was already burning off the morning damp and it seemed like it might turn out to be a nice day. Silas's spirits lifted as he walked. His ability to be distracted was as much blessing as curse; he couldn't help but be cheered by the pair of Irish setters that happily attempted to climb on him. Silas petted their soft fringes and laughed as they tangled their extendable leashes. The stolid Russian housekeeper ostensibly in charge of them let Silas sort them out. She scolded the dogs in her own tongue and remonstrated with Silas about his unzipped jacket in precisely the same tone. Silas smiled, ducked his head and with a final set of pats for the dogs and a wave for their person, continued his walk, smiling. Pretty dogs.

By the time he circled home, Silas had shaken off his mood of the morning. He looked at the scant scattering of leaves on the lawn and shrugged. Raking was a pain. He'd leave them for now; with any luck the day would be windy and then the leaves would be somebody else's problem.

Pruning, however, was fun. Grabbing Hefty bags and clippers from the garage, Silas worked his way around the shrubbery, hearing the soundtrack from "Edward Scissorhands" in his head. He hummed tunelessly, wishing Richard were around to share the joke.

Nothing would have struck Richard funny that morning, however. His tooth was getting worse by the moment. At eleven he resigned himself to the inevitable, cancelled his afternoon appointments and phoned the dentist again. The receptionist took pity on him and moved his appointment up to noon.

"You're going to need a root canal, Richard," Dr. Santiago said. "I'm going to call over to Dr. Gautam's office and see if he can fit you in. Is there anyone who can meet you there? You're not going to be in any shape to drive home alone."

Richard called Silas, gave him the endodontist's address, and instructed him to take a cab over. Silas was sitting in Dr. Gautam's waiting room by the time Richard emerged from the surgery.

"Hey," Silas said gently, coming to his feet. "How're you doing?"

Richard pressed the gauze to his numb and swollen mouth and gave a wan half smile. He looked pale and shaky.

"I'll get the paperwork." Silas went over to the reception desk, offered his credit card, signed where indicated and took the forms the receptionist offered. Meanwhile Richard had shrugged into his coat. Silas opened the door for him and they went down to the parking lot.

"We'll be home in just a few minutes," Silas said, taking Richard's proffered car keys and getting behind the wheel. He seldom drove Richard's Lexus and under other circumstances he might have enjoyed having a turn at it, but he was too concerned about Richard to care about anything but getting home as smoothly and quickly as possible.

Worn out from pain and faintly nauseous from the combination of novocaine and still more tylenol with codeine, Richard couldn't undress and drop into bed fast enough. Silas hovered, offering sugared tea, broth, soft pudding, a back rub, but Richard wanted only to be left alone to sleep. He pulled the covers over himself and turned away. Silas tamped down his own anxious desire to be helpful and left him in peace.

Silas tiptoed through his afternoon and evening routines, feeling off balance and lonely. He kept the TV low and his clattering to a minimum. At midnight the clock's chime signaled bedtime, but Silas was far too keyed up to sleep. He hesitated at the bedroom door; finally took himself off to the bathroom. He jerked off quickly and efficiently, needing the physical relief. He cleaned up neatly and slid into bed, careful not to jostle Richard. Thanks to the aid of the world's oldest soporific, Silas slept.

Richard woke before his alarm clocked sounded. He was thirsty and fiercely uncomfortable. He wandered, bleary eyed, into the bathroom. Fished in the medicine cabinet for the tylenol and codeine and popped two, wincing as he swallowed. Knowing that it would take a while before the painkillers kicked in, he crawled back into bed.

"How do you feel, Richard?" Silas asked sleepily.

"Sore. I'm going to go back to sleep for a bit," Richard said.

"You don't look so good, Richard." Silas tried to cuddle closer, but Richard pushed him gently back to his side of the bed.

"Please Si, I just need to sleep a little longer," Richard said.

"Are you mad at me?" Silas asked.

"No, Silas, I'm not mad. My tooth hurts. Please, let's just go back to sleep." Richard tried to be patient, but it was hard.

"You're being so *mean*, Richard!" Silas's voice rose.

"And you're being selfish," Richard said. He didn't have the energy for this. "Just stop it, right now. I don't feel good, Silas."

"I don't care!" Silas glared at Richard for a moment and then began abruptly to cry. "I'm sorry!" Silas wailed. "I'm sorry!"

Richard sighed. He knew Silas was genuinely upset. Silas might be being selfish, but he was also panicking. This was no good for either of them.

"Silas, just stop it, right now," Richard said again, using the warmest, most authoritative tone he could muster. "Come here and I'll pet you." Richard patted the bed alongside him.

Silas slid closer to Richard, moving carefully so as not to jar him. He laid his head on Richard's chest, precisely the way he knew Richard liked to hold him. His body was rigid with tension.

"I'm sorry, Richard." Silas sniffled quietly. "Really." He felt guilty. "I'm being good now, Richard."

"I know it's hard for you to stay calm when you're worried because I'm not well," Richard said, putting names to Silas's feelings. "When you're feeling neglected." Richard ruffled the short hairs at the nape of Silas's neck and Silas sighed and cuddled closer. Richard stroked his lips over Silas's thick, disorderly hair, mindful of his sore mouth, but enjoying the feel of the soft strands.

Silas relaxed into Richard's embrace, his heartbeat steadying, his breathing slowing, drawing comfort from Richard's presence. Richard felt his own heartbeat steadying, his own breathing slowing, as his body relaxed into Silas's trust.

By the time his alarm went off again, the medication had kicked in and Richard was feeling better. Silas stirred in his arms, tilting his face up to Richard's. Richard kissed him gently. Silas pressed his morning erection into Richard, hinting.

"No," Richard said regretfully. "We've got something to discuss first." He shifted Silas over to his own pillow and looked down at him, stroking his hair gently back from his eyes. "I just had a root canal yesterday. My tooth hurts me and I'm tired. It's not fair of you to behave that way."

"I'm sorry, Richard. I didn't mean to lose it like that." Silas swallowed hard. "You know I didn't mean it?"

"I know, Si. But you can do better; we both know that." Richard seated himself on the side of the bed and patted his lap.

"But I don't want a spanking." Silas began to cry quietly.

"I know." Richard stroked Silas's wet cheek sympathetically. He understood that Silas's crying was not entirely within Silas's control. He also understood that it didn't mean Silas shouldn't be spanked. "You're getting a spanking. Come on now, you know what to do." He waited patiently for Silas to position himself over his lap. Hooking his fingers under the elastic waist of Silas's shorts, Richard carefully drew them down.

"No," Silas moaned.

Richard gave Silas a moment to ready himself and then began to spank him, carefully and thoroughly. Richard spanked hard; Silas's buttocks were pink and he was crying freely before Richard considered he'd been spanked enough.

"You're a good boy. I know you can do better," Richard said firmly, easing Silas sideways and into his arms.

"Yes." Silas sniffled agreement into Richard's shoulder. "I will, Richard, I promise."

Richard held Silas until Silas's tears stopped and his breathing steadied before giving him a gentle shove toward the bathroom.

"Wash up. Get dressed. I'm taking the day off," Richard said. Silas's face brightened. "Come on, Silas, get a move on. I'm hungry."

"Yes, Richard," Silas said. "You want eggs or pancakes?"