M/m sex, spanking. If a discipline relationship between adult males offends you, so will this story.



Walter Skinner took another gulp from the chilled bottle of antacid and shook his head. Trust the doctor he usually consulted to be away the very same week his incipient ulcer was acting up. He followed the protocols they had established years ago, the tablets and the diet. But he didn't feel any better. He considered making an appointment with someone else, but it didn't feel urgent.

He was surprised as anyone when a coughing fit in his living room left him hacking blood as his lover Alex Krycek dialed 911 for an ambulance.

After the ambulance left, Alex was lost. He stood in a corner of the kitchen, trying to control his breathing. The EMS team had said he could follow in his car.

Alex found his keys. Already he was changing, shutting down. He was no longer afraid. He felt...nothing. He shrugged into his jacket, closed the door silently behind him. Didn't bother with the seatbelt, or with warming the engine. Rocketed backward into the quiet road, gunned the engine forward. Drove straight down the median, paid lip service to the stop signs, peered cautiously into the main intersection and ignored the red light as he went through it.

The hospital was gray and landscaped with generic cheer. Alex left his car in the Employees Only lot and tried to figure out how to do this. He had to see Walter. He had to go in there. For a minute something flickered in his green eyes and then was gone, as the efficient operative took over.

Meanwhile Walter lay quietly in the emergency room. The paramedics had started an IV en route and he was already feeling less frightened. He was almost certain the blood had come from his ulcer, nothing more serious. Sick as he was, he thought worriedly about Alex. The look of sheer terror on his face as Walter vomited blood, the stain spreading over the carpet. The icy calm with which he'd summoned the ambulance. The grace with which he had accepted being shoved into the background by the EMS team. Walter grimaced. He hoped Alex would be able to pull himself together enough to get his butt in here. I should have talked to him, he thought, although he realized that he had not been in any shape to do so.

The green-eyed man disdained such niceties as a stop at the reception desk. Carefully he slipped inside the emergency room. It was much busier than he remembered. He spotted a familiar pair of feet sticking out from one curtained alcove. Walter.

"Hey, Walter," Alex said, almost shyly. "How are you feeling?" Walter reached his hand out and captured Alex's.

"Better, especially since you're here. Come on, give me a kiss, I'm going to be OK," Walter said. Alex brushed his lips over Walter's.

Alex stayed until Walter was settled into a room.

"Go home, Alex," Walter said. "I'm going to be fine. Get some sleep."

Melvin Frohike slipped into the bar, anticipating a few hours distraction from what passed for his professional life. Frohike looked around the room, started as he recognized the good-looking man in the leather jacket at the end of the bar. Alex was staring into space, drink in front of him. Occasionally someone would sit by him for a few minutes, until the affectless green eyes scared him away. Frohike cursed to himself, then moved to stand beside Alex.

"Alex," Frohike said, "Walter wouldn't want this. Come on, Alex, let's go home." Alex's eyes stayed fixed on something visible only to him. Melvin Frohike took a deep breath and deliberately sharpened his tone.

"Krycek! You're with me. Now." He stood up and turned towards the door, everything in him willing Alex to follow. He could feel the footsteps at his back.

"Get in the car, Krycek," he said firmly, not looking directly at Alex. Obediently Alex opened the passenger door and sat down. Frohike headed back to the bunker.

"Come on in, Alex. Make yourself at home. I'm going to call Walter," Melvin said. Alex flinched.

"Thank you, Melvin," Walter said quietly. "I owe you." He tried not to groan at the thought of how much trouble Alex could have gotten into.

"It's fine, Walter. I just wish I knew what to do with him. He's spinning out."

"Melvin, can you hold him there?" Walter asked. There was silence.

"How, Walter? I don't think he's going to stay." Frohike's voice was strained.

"I'm sorry, Melvin." Walter sounded exhausted.

"Maybe you should talk to him, Walter," Frohike said. He handed Alex the phone.

"Alex, I want you to stay with Melvin," Walter said firmly.

"No, Walter, don't ask me to do this. No!" Alex protested, his voice panicky. Walter tried to break into the rapidly building tirade.

"Alex, Melvin told me where he found you. You need to have someone supervise you. And I trust Melvin."

"Well, I don't," Alex flared. " Walter, please, I'll do anything you say, but please, please don't make me do this." Walter sighed, accepting that for the moment, he wasn't going to get any cooperation from Alex. There wasn't going to be an easy way to do this.

"You are staying at the bunker, Alex. This is not negotiable. Do what Melvin tells you, Alex," he said firmly. "I expect you to listen to him the same way you would to me."

Alex was miserable. Frohike seemed determined to keep him in view at all times. Ringo Langly studiously ignored him. And John Byers was sympathetic, which was the worst torment of all. Alex missed Walter with a ferocity he had never imagined was possible. After a day of feeling either underfoot or overlooked, Alex curled up unhappily on the couch and slept despite himself.

It wasn't just one scream, it was a series of screams. John Byers was there first, unsure of what was happening. Alex was flailing wildly.

"No! No, please don’t…" Alex whimpered. Byers stared at the sleeping man. His face was streaked with sweat, his hair soaked through. Impossible as it seemed, Krycek was shivering with fear. It must be a hell of a nightmare, Byers thought.

"Wake up," he said, shaking Alex tentatively. Alex's reaction was so fast Byers was stunned. He found himself held by the throat, Alex's forearm pressed against his windpipe.

"Hey," Byers choked out, "I was just trying to help…"

"Don't touch me," Alex rasped, as his hand relaxed. He shook his head as if to clear it, visibly steadied his breathing. Saw whom he was holding. Saw Frohike and Langly watching him, judging him.

"Oh shit, John, I'm sorry, I'm really sorry. I was dreaming," Alex whispered.

"It's OK, Alex, I'm fine. I'm not upset." Byers' eyes were sympathetic, even as he struggled to catch his breath. He waved Melvin and Ringo away.

"It was a really bad dream. I was lying on the concrete. I kept trying to give Walter my gun. And he kept shooting me again and again and again," Alex offered softly. Byers winced.

"I hurt you," Alex said guiltily. "I'm sorry." He felt miserable. Byers studied him thoughtfully, taking in the apologetic green eyes. He knew Alex hadn't eaten all day.

"You know what would make me feel better, Alex?" he said quietly. "If you'd sit down and keep me company while I had some dessert." Alex nodded. It was the least he could do, he supposed. John poured two glasses of milk, cut two slabs of pie. Urged Alex to sit with him at the table and insisted he eat, too. The sweet apple filling perked Alex's uncertain appetite and he polished off the slice and gulped the milk thirstily.

"Come on, Alex," Frohike said. "Visiting hours. Get your jacket, let's go see Walter." Alex really didn't think Walter would want to see him. Not after he'd screwed up like this. Was Frohike doing this just to torture him?

"No, fuck you, go away," Alex spat. Frohike closed his eyes.

"Curse at me again and I tell Walter," he warned. "I mean it, Alex. Watch your mouth, get your jacket and let's go. Walter's waiting." Alex would have walked away, but John Byers was already helpfully handing him the jacket, and he felt obligated to take it. From there, it was a small step to find himself climbing into the Gunmen's beat-up old van.

His terror of hospitals warred with his desperate desire to see Walter. Just to know he was all right. Not even protesting the claustrophobic confines of the elevator, he trailed Frohike and Byers to Walter's room.

He stood awkwardly at the door as the two men greeted Walter effusively. Walter smiled at him encouragingly.

"Come here, Alex," he said. "How are you doing? Let me take a look at you." Alex looked away. Walter had the feeling Alex was willing himself not to bolt.

"Can you at least look at me, Alex?" he asked quietly. Alex raised his eyes reluctantly. Walter held out his hand.

"Come here, Alex," he coaxed. "It's all right, I'm going to be fine, come here now." Alex approached him reluctantly. Walter took Alex's hand.

"What's the matter, Alex? Why won't you come to me? Are you angry at me?" Walter asked softly. Alex flinched.

"You told me to stay with the Gunmen," he said. "You don't want me anymore." Walter, Melvin and John exchanged bewildered glances.

"No, Alex, you misunderstood. I want to be sure you're safe until I come home, that's why I told you to stay at the bunker. Of course I want you. I just think you need someone to keep an eye on you while I'm sick. Speaking of which, I'm not too happy with what I've been hearing, Alex. Melvin, John, can Alex and I have a few minutes to ourselves, please?" The two men left the room.

"John and Melvin are trying to help you and you're being impossible. I'm disappointed in you, Alex. Do better. I think you deserve a spanking, Alex," Walter said quietly. Alex tried to back away, but Walter held his hand firmly. He hoped a physical reminder of their relationship would help center Alex. To his practiced eye, Alex looked close to the edge.

"Don't argue with me, Alex. I'm not up to chasing you. Come here, you know you deserve this," Walter said implacably. Alex crept closer to the bed.

"What do you want me to do, Walter?" he whispered. "Climb in bed with you to get my butt blistered?"

"That would seem to be the basic idea, Alex, since you don't seem to have any intention of listening to Melvin Frohike." Alex froze.

"Walter...Walter, you wouldn't let him spank me, would you?" Alex asked, real fear in his voice.

"No, never," Walter soothed. "This is only between us." Alex looked at him, then threw himself facedown on the bed alongside Walter. Walter almost smiled as Alex twisted and turned, trying to bring his ass within comfortable spanking range. There was something both comical and infinitely touching in Alex's desperate craving for Walter's hand across his butt. Walter really did not feel up to spanking Alex. With a sigh, he delivered a few tepid swats to Alex's ass, hoping the symbolic spanks would suffice.

"I can barely feel that, Walter," Alex protested unhappily, wishing Walter were well. Wishing Walter were once again strong enough to turn him over his knee, take down his boxers and spank him the way he knew he deserved to be spanked. Walter held Alex firmly against him, calming him with long strokes of his hand over the tense back.

"When I feel better," Walter said in a conversational tone, "You are going to get the spanking of your life. You are not going to sit comfortably for days, Alex. I can't do it now, because I'm still not well, but believe me, I'm not going to forget."

"Promise?" Alex asked wistfully. Walter shook his head.

"Punishment, Alex, is something you don't want. You look entirely too happy about this," he said ruefully.

"Does that mean you won't spank me?" Alex asked.

"No, Alex. I am definitely going to spank you. And you are definitely going to enjoy it a lot less than you seem to think," Walter said musingly.

Frohike sighed. If Walter didn't get better soon, Alex was going to be in real trouble. He wasn't doing well at all. Frohike knew Alex was a little bit afraid of him, and he used that to keep him in line. But he also knew that without Walter's steady hand and strong but loving discipline, Alex would spin out even further. Already Alex had given up sleep, preferring to prowl the bunker till dawn, then doze for a few hours. He nibbled on the odd candy bar or handful of chips, but unless John Byers sat down and coaxed Alex into joining him, Alex ate no meals.

Frohike was torn between worries about Walter and fears for Alex. It was a blessing in disguise that Alex had overreacted so badly to John's attempt to wake him from his nightmare. He was ashamed of how he had grabbed John and so continued to try to make up for it through obedience. Melvin watched as John encouraged Alex to drink some hot soup. He was patient and persistent, relying heavily on guilt to motivate Alex.

Langly was just out and out jealous of the attention Alex garnered.

Walter sighed. Alex looked worse each time he saw him. The green eyes were haggard in the ravaged face. Walter didn't know what to make of Alex's hospital visits. Walter would have liked to spend the time with Alex cuddled to him, but Alex was cool and distant, desperately afraid he was no longer wanted. Convinced Walter's illness was his fault.

Alex stood at the door of the bunker uncertainly. Frohike, Byers and Langly were arguing. Alex heard his name and Walter's. He was only in the way here, Alex thought. He needed to go. He needed Walter.

A sober Melvin Frohike and John Byers went together to break the bad news to Walter. Alex was missing. None of the three men were optimistic about the situation. Alex, panic-stricken and on his own, posed a serious danger to both himself and others.

Meanwhile, hidden in the bathroom adjoining Walter's room, Alex let himself sink to the cold tiled floor, his back braced against the wall. Hugged his knees to his chest and dropped his head. He could hear the worry in Walter's voice. The guilt in Melvin Frohike's. The sadness in John Byers. It hurt to know how badly he had disappointed the three men. If only Walter were well again, he would know what to do to. If only Walter were well again. Alex's eyes were totally dry. To look at him was to see only the hardened contract killer he had been before Walter had first taken him home. Alex let the ice creep through his body. It didn't matter. Fuck them, none of them mattered. He didn't matter.

Walter felt aggrieved. All the time he had spent advocating for Sharon in the hospital and now here he was, in need of his own advocate and rather than helping, Alex was causing more headaches. He would sell his soul for an extra pillow. Jesus, for what they were charging his insurance company, you'd think he could have a whole sack of pillows. But he remembered this from before, too, that the little comforts, pillows, extra blankets, seemed to be rationed stingily.

"Goddamnit Alex, I wish you were here," Walter said aloud to the empty room. There was a stir in the adjacent bathroom, and a familiar shape emerged.

"Walter?" Alex whispered. "Walter, do you want me?" Walter felt tears springing to his eyes.

"Damn you, Alex, how I've missed you," Walter said. At the intensity of his voice, Alex froze, fear playing around the edges of his eyes. Walter realized all at once how fragile Alex really was. Sick or not, he was still the one who was going to have to do the caretaking, at least until Alex calmed down a little.

"Shh, Alex, it's OK, everything's all right now. Come here, Alex, of course I want you, come to me now, come on, that's it, come here." He patted the bed alongside him.

"Please, Alex, do this for me," he coaxed. Alex sat next to him, his body rigid. Carefully, Walter slipped his arms around Alex. Rubbed his back gently.

"Shh, Alex, that's it, come to me now. No, what's this, why are you fighting me?"

For Alex was suddenly even stiffer, trying to pull away.

"Oh shit, Walter, let me go. I can't do this, I don't deserve this, I'm a selfish, motherfucking rat bastard prick. Let me go," Alex cursed bitterly, his voice harsh and husky with tears he didn't even realize he was hiding. Walter let his breath out slowly. He didn't have the physical strength to handle Alex at the height of his most desperately self-loathing hysteria. He forced himself to relax and inhale deeply.

"Stop it, Alex. Right now," he said, his voice sure and demanding. Alex started. Walter realized just how glad Alex was to be taken in hand.

"Stretch out and put your head down. Now," Walter said, pushing Alex into the pillow. "Lie still and don't move," he continued. Alex obeyed, his eyes wary and relieved at the same time. Walter rolled onto his side and propped himself up on his elbow, surveying his anxious lover. With his free hand he made gentle circles over Alex's cheeks, stroked his eyelids, smoothed lank black hair back from his face. He used his thumb to part Alex's lips, ran it confidently over the sharp edges of his teeth. Stroked the fine throat, massaged the bulge in it as Alex swallowed reflexively. Teased his fingers under the rounded neckline of the black tee shirt, massaged the top line of the muscled chest.

After days of shutting himself down, days of convincing himself he felt nothing, Alex was lost in the pleasure of once again being held. Loved, cared for, wanted. Walter's.

Alex snuggled against him. For the first time in days, the green eyes closed in restful sleep. Walter reached over the sleeping form and dialed the Gunmen.

"I've got him," he said. "Come pick him up."

"Thank God, Walter," Frohike said. "I was afraid he was gone for good. Listen, I know it's your own business, but he needs to be punished." Walter laughed.

"You don't say, Melvin," he said. "I think I figured that one out already." The two men laughed companionably. A soft cough drew their attention.

"Look, I know it's none of my business. But does it ever occur to you that you're just feeding into his sickness? Victims of abuse often manage to engineer situations that mirror the abuse. I mean, do we all agree that this is a very fragile man? Because if you don't see it, I do. I think a little more talk therapy and a little less 'hands on' approach would help," Byers said earnestly.

"Those are valid points, John," Walter said sadly. "But Alex and counseling...I don't think so. Trying to get him to talk at all has been a long, hard struggle. And he'll keep pushing until he finds a wall he can't breach. To survive inside the Consortium, he had to be hard. I don't know if you can expect Alex to change."

John Byers had taken Alex down to the hospital cafeteria and now sat across from him, encouraging Alex to eat. Alex's eyes were filled with a difficult to read mix of exhaustion, relief and apprehension.

"I thought Walter looked a lot better today, Alex. It made a big difference that you were here." John said. Alex looked surprised.

"Do you think they'll let him come home soon, John?" he asked. John smiled reassuringly.

"I think the doctor said by the end of the week, Alex," he answered. "You probably want to get some things done before then." Alex looked at him blankly.

"Things, John?" he said uncertainly. John realized all at once how overwhelming normal life could be for Alex, who had no experience coping with its mundane details.

"Groceries, fresh sheets, catch up on the laundry," he said. Alex nodded as if he understood, hiding the panic he felt. The Consortium had provided no training in ordinary, independent living.

Meanwhile, Walter was blissfully unaware of how frightened Alex was. He was looking forward to being back in their house.

Alex looked around the house. I can do this, he thought, steeling himself.

For starters, it was already neat. Alex sighed with relief. Walter had a military man's practical neatness. Alex had a double agent's instinct for covering his trail.

Groceries. Ohhh-kaaay, Alex thought, I can do this. He tried to calculate what they would need, starting with breakfast, continuing with lunch, on to dinner. He looked at his figures incredulously. Did two men really eat that much food? Carefully, he counted up how many eggs, how many slices of bread, how many pieces of chicken...it was overwhelming. He systematically made out a shopping list. Did everyone but him know how to do this? Surely normal people didn't go through this every time they went shopping, otherwise the supermarkets would be empty.

Laundry. Underwear. Towels. Walter had ruled Alex was Not To Touch his dress shirts under any circumstances. Just because I didn't know about not crowding the fucking hangers, Alex remembered unhappily, his hand rubbing his ass. Well, Walter wasn't going back to work for awhile. Maybe John had overstated the importance of laundry.

As for sheets...I didn't sleep here at all, Alex thought unhappily. They're still fresh. And if Walter finds out, I am going to be sleeping on my stomach for the rest of my life.

All in all, the homecoming went well. Walter was impressed that Alex had had the foresight to do laundry and stock up on groceries and told him so. Alex kept his fingers crossed behind his back as he graciously accepted Walter's praise.

Crisis past and new medication routines in place, Walter recuperated quickly. Alex, however, was doing far less well. Walter watched as Alex began to back apprehensively out of whichever room Walter entered. It was obvious Alex remembered Walter's promise to spank him. We're going to have to get this over with soon, Walter decided.

"Come here," he said, reaching for Alex's good hand. "Let's go in the living room."

Now that the day of reckoning was here, Alex began to think that maybe a spanking wasn't such a good idea; in fact, that it was a Very Bad idea.

The look of panic on Alex's face made Walter change his plans. What Alex needed right now was soothing, not punishment.

"Alex, calm down," Walter said quietly. "You know I'll never punish you unless we agree. I just want you to sit with me. Easy, Alex, it's OK, I have you now." Alex didn't struggle, but he shivered as Walter hugged him.

"Alex, tell me what's going on? How can I help you?" Walter asked gently.

Alex turned on him bitterly.

"You left me," Alex said accusingly. "You left me with Melvin and I hated it. I needed you and you weren't there!" Walter was relieved Alex was finally expressing the anger he'd known had to be there.

"I know you're angry at me, Alex, and it's OK to feel that way. But you have to know I didn't leave you alone on purpose. I was sick. These things happen," Walter said calmly. Alex looked shocked at his own outburst.

"I'm sorry, Walter, I'm sorry. I didn't mean it. I know you were sick," he groaned miserably, ashamed to his core.

"Beat me, Walter. I deserve it. Stop fucking around. Teach me a lesson. You can't just spank me and expect me to learn anything. Do something to make me hurt. Please, Walter, can't you see I'm fucking begging you!"

"No, Alex," Walter said softly. "I will spank you, if that's what I have to do to drive a lesson home, but that's all I'll do. You were a horrifically abused child and I'm not going to let you replicate that in our relationship, no matter how hard you push." He combed his fingers through the tangled black hair, massaged the tight scalp.

"Alex, my ulcers are not your fault. I'm all right, Alex. I'm doing fine. It's all right to feel angry. You did all the right things. You called an ambulance; you made sure I was taken care of. I know the hospital scared you, but you came anyway. This is not your fault. People get sick."

"Melvin said stress--" Alex began. Walter groaned.

"Stress is a part of life, Alex. You add so much to the quality of my life. A little extra stress is tolerable. What would be intolerable is living without you."

"Walter, why won't you at least paddle me? That's not bad, I could take it, it'd just be a little more intense..."

"Precisely, Alex. You'd adapt to it, and in a week you'd be asking me to strap you. And in another week, that wouldn't be enough. Alex, you have an enormous tolerance for pain. Part of it's the way your body's wired; part of it is what you've had to go through to survive. What we want here is to get you used to behaving without being hurt. You need to want to be safe. I'm willing to spank you with my hand; it's unreasonable to expect you not to need some sort of physical discipline. But you're going to have to work through what happened to you in a way other than reliving it in the context of this relationship. I recommend talking, Alex. It helps."

"Alex, do you have any idea how important you are to me? How much I missed you when I was in the hospital? How sorry I was that you were so scared? Do you know how I bad I felt when Melvin found you in that bar and took you in? When John told me you were having that nightmare again, about me pulling a gun on you? Alex, I know my being sick was very, very hard for you. I'm not angry with you getting upset. I'm just worried about you. If you can't manage to maintain our routines when you're on your own for a few days, then what would happen if I were sick for a longer time, a few weeks or--"

He broke off as Alex fled the room. A second later, he heard Alex retching in the bathroom. Wearily, Walter shook his head. Great. That had certainly gone well. He followed Alex into the bathroom. Alex was sprawled in front of the toilet, his face white. He spat in the bowl, trying to rid himself of the bitter taste. Walter slipped his arm around him and helped him to his feet. He flushed the toilet and filled the cup on the side of the sink with water. Alex rinsed his mouth and spit the water into the sink, looking disgusted with himself.

"Oh shit, Walter, I'm sorry, I really, really am," he said angrily. "I promised myself I wasn't going to do this any more. I'm such an asshole." Walter was chagrined at how hard Alex was being on himself.

"Alex, it's OK, you're not doing this on purpose. Don't you think I know that?" he asked. Alex shook his head.

"I need you, Walter. I get scared by myself. Melvin said I was 'manipulative,'" he said softly. "Am I, Walter?" Walter looked at Alex for a long moment. He's really trying, he thought to himself. And just as obviously, not succeeding.

"No, Alex," he said with a sigh. "You're a survivor. I don't blame you for that. But now there's no need to twist and turn like that. You need to trust me. And if I tell you to trust someone like Melvin, you need to listen to me. It's clear to me that you aren't ready to be on your own."

It was so hard to know the right thing to do. He could push Alex towards greater independence and hope that Alex's fragile psyche could take the pressure. Or he could tighten up on Alex, and hope that the additional support and discipline would buttress his shaky emotions. At the moment, though, the only thing to do was to try to calm Alex down.

"Come here, Alex," he said. "I'm going to put you to bed for a couple of days." Alex looked at him, bewildered.

"I'm not sick, Walter," he said plaintively. Walter nodded his head.

"I know, Alex, but you are definitely in need of some TLC, and this is the best way I know to ensure you get it." And, thought Walter, maybe by modeling caretaking behavior for Alex, he'd be able to teach Alex a few important skills towards the next time he needed Alex to care for him, much as he hoped it wouldn't happen.

"Trust me, Alex, I'm going to take good care of you," Walter said softly. "Come on, upstairs now. Let's get you washed up and into bed." As if Alex were much, much younger, Walter gently shepherded him into the bathroom. He reached over the tub and started the water running.

"I want you to get out of those clothes and into the tub, Alex. Can you get undressed yourself, or should I help you?" Alex looked at Walter with puzzled eyes.

"Why are you doing this?" Alex asked, bewildered. Walter shook his head.

"You are a bundle of nerves, Alex, and I want to calm you down. Warm water always helps."

"I'm not getting in that fucking tub, Walter," Alex said mutinously.

With a few swift movements Walter stripped off Alex's shirt and pants and boxers. Removed the prosthesis; set it carefully aside. Took a few minutes to gently rub the red marks the harness straps always left. Alex leaned into his massage gratefully.

Walter pushed him gently into the tub. Before Alex could form a coherent protest, Walter had soaped the soft, thick washcloth and was rubbing him down with it. Alex's face shifted from tense to delighted as Walter worked his way across his shoulders, down his back, over his chest.

"That feels so good," he whispered. Walter merely smiled.

"Now will you trust me, Alex?" he asked gently. Alex nodded.

"Whatever you say, Walter, just keep doing that, OK?" he said softly. Walter continued to massage the soft cloth along Alex's torso and limbs, and smiled as Alex pushed back into his hand, enjoying the sensation. Carefully, he dipped the cloth in the water and rinsed Alex clean.

"Put your head back," he coaxed. "Let me do your hair, OK?" With a groan, Alex slid deeper into the water and let his head drop back into Walter's waiting hands. Walter warmed the shampoo in his palm before massaging it gently but deeply into Alex's scalp. Helping Alex drop his head further back, he cupped his hand and gently rinsed the shampoo off.

The warm water had had exactly the effect Walter wanted. It left Alex relaxed and calmer than he had been in a long time, and ready to accept that Walter knew what he was doing. Walter opened a fresh, thick bath sheet and helping Alex to stand, wrapped it around him as he helped him onto the bathmat. He patted Alex down through the thick towel, letting it absorb the last drops of water. Rubbed a smaller towel over Alex's wet hair, partially drying it. When he was satisfied that Alex was dry enough, he gave his butt a gentle shove towards the bedroom.

Alex sprawled happily on the large, four poster bed in their bedroom, enjoying the feel of the starchy white sheets against his naked skin. Walter licked his lips. He had seldom seen Alex so unconscious of the appearance he was making. Walter felt his cock harden at the sight. He slipped his polo and tee shirts over his head, swiftly unzipped his fly and stepped out of his workaday jeans. At the sight of Walter's hard cock, Alex flashed a grin of pure lust. He stretched himself back on the bed and drew his legs up. His hand caressed his own hard cock. Walter leaned over Alex, reached for the lube on the night table. Took a generous gob on his fingers and began to massage the tight, puckered opening in Alex's waiting ass. Slowly insinuated one, then two, fingers into the ring of muscle. Alex thrust his hips forward, trying to fuck himself on Walter's fingers.

"Easy, Alex, easy," Walter crooned. "Lie still, Alex, let me take care of you. Shh, slow down, listen to me, we have as much time as you need. Shh, slowly, that's it. How's that feel, hmm?" He loved these moments of closeness with Alex, when Alex seemed to trust him to take care of him, to show him how well loved he was, to enjoy being touched. He worked his two fingers as deeply into Alex as they could go, enjoying the hoarse pants of excitement Alex tried to suppress. Felt the hot, smooth channel relaxing, widening under his continued stimulation. Withdrew his fingers, hushing Alex as he whimpered for more, and slicked his cock with another gob of lube. Rolled Alex onto his belly, sliding a pillow under his willing hips.

"Shh, that's it, oh God Alex, you're so tight, it's so good," he crooned, pressing his cock slowly, deeply, all the way into the tight orifice. Alex pushed back against him, widening himself, welcoming him inside.

"Oh god yes, Walter, I need this so bad, oh please, please, fuck me, hurt me..." Alex moaned. Walter stilled instantly.

"Alex? Alex, does it hurt?" he asked softly. Alex continued to beg. Walter felt his erection dwindle. He eased himself back on his heels, his cock at half-mast, and rolled onto his back. Reached for Alex and cuddled him close against him. Alex's arousal-glazed eyes began to refocus.

"Walter," he whispered, "Walter, I'm sorry. Did I say something wrong? Walter, please don't be mad at me, don't push me away..." Alex closed his eyes.

"Shit," he said. "Now I'm really in trouble." Walter watched the emotions skimming the surface of Alex's mercurial face: passion, self-loathing, regret, and disappointment. An impossible to decipher mix of feelings.

"Alex," Walter said gently. "I'm not angry at you. You just surprised me, that's all. We've never played at hurting each other during sex. I guess I need to talk about it first. Not that there's anything wrong with the fantasy. I just need a little more time to feel comfortable." He rolled onto his elbow, studied Alex's face carefully.

"What does it do for you, Alex?" he asked softly. Alex shrugged.

"You didn't punish me," Alex said. "You said you'd spank me, but you haven't. I need to be punished, Walter. It's too hard to figure this shit out. I'm afraid, Walter. I can't do all the stuff you and Melvin and John do. Fucking laundry, fucking towels, fucking underwear. Fucking shopping. It's too fucking hard."

Walter realized he'd made a mistake. Alex didn't need softness right now. Alex needed structure, needed to be taken tightly in hand. Needed to feel his boundaries. He was stressed beyond what he was capable of by the responsibilities he'd had to assume. He'd tried to rise to the occasion; succeeded on some counts, failed on others. But now, he needed to be reeled back in.

Walter slipped back into his boxers and jeans, tossed Alex a clean pair of sweats.

"All right, Alex," he said quietly. "This is what's going to happen. I'm going to punish you for the poor choices you made while I was in the hospital. Then I'm going to punish you for your behavior at the bunker. Then I'm going to punish you for hiding from all of us. Finally, we are going to make love and this time, no telling me what to do. I'm going to do precisely what I want, and you're going to take it. Do you understand me?" He looked at Alex sternly, trying at the same time to see if Alex was really as comfortable with this barrage of threats and orders as he seemed.

Alex nodded obediently. He looks happy, Walter thought to himself. He looks relieved.

It was true. For the first time since he had called the ambulance as Walter vomited blood, Alex felt absolutely safe.

"Walter?" Alex asked softly. He waited until Walter nodded to continue.

"Only a hand spanking, right?"

"Only my hand, only across your bottom," Walter said reassuringly. "Come, Alex," Walter continued, extending his hand. Alex took it without protest.

"Let's go back into the living room." Walter led Alex to the couch and seated himself, maneuvering Alex in front of him.

"Alex," Walter said, "Can you tell me why you're being punished?" Alex hesitated a moment.

"When you were in the hospital, I went out drinking by myself. I didn't listen to Melvin and John and I was nasty to Melvin sometimes. I ran away --only Walter? I don't think you should spank me for that. I didn't really go anywhere, I just hid next to your room. I was scared, Walter."

Walter thought a minute. Alex had been sorely missed, not only by Walter, but also by Melvin and John.

"You were still wrong to run away, Alex. Melvin, John and I were really worried about you. We didn't know you were hiding nearby. If you had tried to explain your feelings to us, we would have tried to help you. So yes, Alex, I will spank you for that. Anything else this punishment is for?"

"Walter, I'm not sure...did I make you sick? Are you going to spank me for that?" Alex asked tentatively. Walter shook his head. He had figured that was still on Alex's conscience.

"No, Alex, you didn't make me sick. I have a chronic problem with ulcers. Most of the time it's well controlled. This was a freak thing. It wasn't your fault. You are not responsible for my ulcers. I won't punish you for that," Walter said decisively.

"Walter? Am I in trouble for what I said when we were fucking?" Alex asked in a worried voice.

"No, Alex, you're allowed to ask for what you want in bed. I'll never punish you for that," Walter sighed. One of these days he was going to convince Alex that there were other synonyms for sex.

"I think the best thing to do is to get this over with, Alex. You're not going to gain anything by waiting. Come on Alex, over my knee now, " Walter said gently. Talking at this point was only prolonging the inevitable.

Walter tugged Alex forward, made sure he was positioned comfortably. Slid Alex's sweats down over his narrow hips. Walter paused to rub the small of Alex's back gently.

"Okay, Alex?" He waited until Alex nodded.

"Walter? This is for everything, right?" Alex asked in a whisper.

"Yes, Alex. This clears the slate," Walter answered reassuringly, then brought his hand down smartly on the naked bottom before him. Alex quivered, but didn't try to escape. Walter continued to rain hard smacks in a random pattern on the pale flesh, grimacing at the red marks his hand made. He really didn't like doing this. He knew Alex had taken much worse in the past, but something about feeling Alex shiver at each smack made Walter aware just how much they hurt his lover. And yet...Alex needed this. That thought allowed Walter to continue to spank Alex, even as Alex whimpered for release. It wasn't until Walter heard Alex beginning to sob, deep in his throat, that he knew it was time to stop spanking him.

"Shh, all over now, it's OK, Alex, you're all right, come here now, shh," Walter pulled Alex into a hug, mindful of his bottom, not surprised when Alex wrapped his arm around his neck as if he was planning to hold on forever. Walter gently tugged Alex's sweats back into place. He carefully eased Alex down onto the couch on his side, let him pillow his head in his lap. Stroked the sweaty black hair back from Alex's face. Didn't try to stem the tears that were tracking their way down the pale face, only tried to be certain Alex knew he was wanted, knew he was loved.

"I'm sorry, Walter, I'm sorry," Alex sobbed. "I'll do better next time, I promise. Oh, Walter, this is hard, this is so hard. I never wanted to care like this. It hurts too much, Walter, it hurts..." Walter knew it was Alex's heart and not his butt that hurt unbearably. He continued to cuddle Alex, wanting him to know he was as safe as Walter's love could make him. Gradually Alex quieted.

"I'm thirsty, Walter," Alex said hopefully. Walter smiled.

"Right back, Alex," he answered, depositing Alex on the couch and heading into the kitchen. He debated between juice and ginger ale, decided Alex deserved a treat and opted for the soda. Wrung out a dishtowel in cold water and brought it with him into the living room.

He helped Alex into a semi-upright position, used the couch cushions to support him comfortably. Handed Alex his ginger ale and used the damp dishtowel to clean his sweaty, tearstained face. Alex managed a tentative smile.

"Walter? When I said before I wasn't going to learn anything from 'just' a spanking?" Alex asked. Walter nodded.

"I'll learn, OK? I promise I'll learn. You won't have to punish me any more." Alex sounded a little more anxious than Walter liked to hear. He reseated himself alongside Alex, tugged him back against his chest, kissed the rumpled black hair.

"Alex, I don't like to punish you. But I will do whatever I have to to make sure you are safe, including spanking you if you make foolish choices. I am not going to let you get hurt," Walter said quietly. Alex seemed glad that Walter had taken a harder tack with him. For the first time in a long time, he relaxed into Walter's arms.

"Are you going to fuck me now?" Alex asked softly. Walter remembered his earlier words. Damn, he wished he hadn't said that. He really didn't want to do anything in bed that would remind Alex in any way of his miserable past sexual history. But he could tell from the way those green eyes were hazing over with arousal that Alex was looking forward to the experience. In a very deep, poignant way, Alex needed both the comfort that only sex ever gave him, and the reassurance that, even in this most private realm, Walter had him in hand. Walter took a deep breath and closed his eyes, gathered his energy.

"This is not punishment, Alex. I am going to take very good care of you, I promise. I am not going to hurt you. But you are going to do what I tell you to." He placed his hand in the small of Alex's back and propelled him into the bedroom. Stripped off Alex's sweats, pressed Alex gently onto the bed.

"Lie down, Alex. Back to me." Walter reached his hand under Alex's legs, adjusted them so that Alex was bent at hips and knees, calves parallel to his body. Used pillows to nestle Alex's arm, made sure Alex was lying securely.

"Comfortable?" Walter asked. Alex nodded nervously.

"What-what are you going to do to me, Walter?" Walter stroked Alex's hair gently.

"Relax, Alex, take deep breaths. I'm just going to touch you for now, nothing we haven't done before. I don't want you to be quiet, do you understand me? Tell me how you're feeling. This is supposed to feel good, not hurt. Understand me, Alex? Answer me now," Walter said.

"Yes, Walter," Alex said, then, very softly, "I think I'm scared." Walter winced. He had thought this might be the case.

"OK, Alex, OK. We'll just stop now," Walter said quietly. He ran his hand gently over Alex from scalp to buttocks, then rolled Alex to him.

"This is too scary for you, isn't it?" he said gently. Alex's wide, unfocussed eyes made it abundantly clear that the answer was "yes." Walter cursed himself for a fool. Took a deep breath to recenter himself, once again wondering what had ever made him think he knew what the hell he was doing in this relationship.

"Alex," he crooned, "It's OK, Alex, stay with me, it's OK now, you're safe, easy, everything's all right." Alex closed his eyes, nestling into Walter. Walter winced when he saw Alex's hand approach his own mouth tentatively. The childlike gesture always struck him forcefully, reminding him of Alex's unloved, uncomforted youth in the Consortium's thrall. Very carefully, he placed his hand over Alex's and stroked it, acknowledging both the gesture and the years of loneliness behind it.

Alex snuggled into Walter's warm, hard bulk, knowing he was safe. The spanking had hurt, but it was a good hurt, a reminder that he was no longer alone, no longer dependent on his wits. That Walter had immediately backed off when the sex game became too frightening touched something very deep in Alex. So many times he had been afraid and no one had cared at all. Certainly, no one had ever given up their sexual agenda in deference to his fears.

"Walter," he whispered, "I'm a sorry sonofabitch, aren't I?" Walter rubbed Alex's back, his hand circling the tense shoulders, kneading the tight muscles at the nape of his neck. He ran his hand under Alex's hair, used his thumb to massage the tense bumps at the base of his skull.

"Alex, I love you. For whatever it's worth, I think you're an amazing man. That you're capable of caring, of loving, after everything that was done to you, is a testament to the human spirit. I make mistakes too. None of us are perfect. But you're pretty damn close, Alex." Alex rolled on his back, his eyes searching Walter's face for signs of mockery. Careful to keep his weight on his arms, Walter leaned over and kissed Alex soundly. Alex opened his mouth, arched his back. Widened his legs.

"Walter," he begged. "Fuck me." Walter grinned.

"Ask me nice," he said. Alex tilted his head, puzzled.

"Please fuck me?" he asked experimentally. Walter waited.

"Walter? Help me out here?" Alex pleaded.

"'Please, Walter, make love to me,'" Walter prompted. Alex took a deep breath.

"Please, Walter, make love to me," he whispered, tears at the corners of his eyes. Walter brushed them away with gentle fingers.

"Good, Alex, good," he soothed. Draping his body over Alex, he reached for the lube, coated his fingers generously. Reached between Alex's thighs and rubbed a blunt finger gently around the tense anus. Let the ring of muscle soften before working his finger inside. Felt Alex widen at his touch. Removed his hand, slicked his cock with gel and slowly, carefully pressed inside. Felt Alex's legs wrap around him, drawing him in.

They rocked, slowly, as Walter worked his hand between their pressed stomachs, wrapped his fingers around Alex's rigid cock. Walter thrust deeper into Alex, letting his weight fall forward until they lay chest to chest. Lowered his mouth to Alex's, which opened to him, eagerly, trustingly. Felt Alex's cock pulse, felt the hot fluid spill over his fingers, between their bellies. Walter gave one final push with his hips, felt his own orgasm take him, and felt Alex tighten around him as his cum spurted deep inside his ass.

For a long moment the two men lay together, wordless, incapable of movement, their bodies melded from shoulders to thighs. Finally Alex shifted, and Walter rolled beside him, pulled Alex into his arms.

"My Alex. Love you so much," Walter said quietly. Alex licked his lips.

"Love you, Walter," he whispered hoarsely. "I'm all yours."

Walter awoke when the late afternoon sun was just visible through the tilted blinds. Yawning loudly, he stretched luxuriously, enjoying the feel of the warm, rumpled bed. Hearing Walter, Alex made his way upstairs, a glass of milk in his hand. Handing the glass to Walter, he dug a vial of pills out of his pocket.

"Medicine time," he said softly, seating himself next to Walter on the bed. Walter watched bemusedly as Alex opened the bottle cap with his teeth, shook out two pills, and handed them to him. Walter swallowed them easily, finished the milk.

"Thank you, Alex," he said sincerely, "That was thoughtful of you." Alex grinned tentatively.

"I take good care of you, right?" Alex asked, the flicker of anxiety in his eyes betraying how much the answer mattered to him. Walter's hand tightened on Alex's.

"You take good care of me, Alex," he said. "Very good care." He brought Alex's hand to his lips, kissed it softly. Alex looked away, a smile quirking the corners of his mouth.

"I love you, Walter," he whispered. Then, briskly, "We should shower."

Walter raised his eyebrows.

"I invited Melvin and John out for dinner," Alex said. "I figured we owed them." Then, hesitantly, "Did I do the right thing, Walter?"

"Better than right," Walter said slowly. "Perfect. Good thinking, Alex." Alex grinned, this time more confidently.

"I'm learning, Walter, I'm learning. I made reservations for eight at Malone's," Alex continued, "So we have about an hour and a half to get out of here."

"Alex, you amaze me," said Walter with frank admiration. Alex leaned in for a kiss.

"Come on," Alex said, his hand teasing over Walter's groin. "Let's shower together. That way, we won't have to wash up twice."



THANK you, Lorelei, my beta and my friend. EM


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