M/m sex, discipline, spanking. Memories of child abuse. If the idea of a discipline relationship between consenting adult males offends you, so will this story.

ELIZABETH MARSHALL STORIES

Touch Me

"What's wrong, Alex?" Walter asked very softly.

For the third time in as many days, Alex had turned away from him after they made love. Alex's retreat was subtle. If Walter hadn't known him so very well, he would have been fooled by Alex's rounded back, spooned against him.

But usually Alex cuddled after sex. Snuggled his head on Walter's chest, left damp, breathy kisses in his dark fur.

"Tell me what's wrong, Alex?" Walter asked again.

Silence.

Walter tugged Alex's head onto his chest. Stroked his sable hair gently, cherishingly.

"I want to die. When you fuck me. I lie there and I wish I were dead," Alex said flatly.

Walter was appalled. He took a series of deep breaths, aware that he was shaking. Tried to contain his own anxiety and focus on Alex's overwhelming need for uncritical acceptance. He knew he should feel honored that Alex trusted him enough to share even these thoughts with him.

Some honor.

"This is something you need to raise with the therapist, Alex. This is not something I can deal with alone."

"Fuck you too," Alex muttered, rolling free of Walter's embrace. He curled into himself, hugging his good arm to his chest, mouthing his hand.

"Alex," Walter said, pitching his voice soothingly low. He rubbed gentle, comforting circles over Alex's back and shoulder blades. "I didn't mean to hurt your feelings. You can always talk to me. I'll always listen. I'm just worried about how bad you feel." He was silent a minute. "And I'm upset that you feel like that with me."

"I'm not telling you to hurt you," Alex whispered. "Just I never felt this way before. I'm so scared, Walter. Each time it starts out good and then suddenly I just want to die. And then it's over." He sniffled. "And I need you to fuck me, Walter. I feel dead when you don't. Even I can't be this fucked up." He laughed mirthlessly.

"It's all right," Walter said. "I love you, Alex. I don't understand what's happening, but we'll find out, and we'll get through it. I love you; I'll always love you. Come to me now." Walter rolled Alex to face him, meeting no resistance. Kissed him, watching his green eyes carefully. Noted the moment arousal changed to terror, and stopped.

Alex moaned despairingly.

"Shh, Alex, shh," Walter soothed, massaging Alex's cheek with his flat hand. He stroked his thumb across Alex's slack lips. "We'll be OK. It's all right, Alex, I love you. We'll straighten this out. Promise."

Alex closed his eyes, swallowed hard. I love you, Walter, he thought silently. He wanted to say the words aloud, but his throat hurt too much to speak.

"My Alex," Walter said gently. "I know. It really is all right, Alex." He was gratified that even in his upset state, Alex still let himself be held and eased into sleep. No matter what was wrong with Alex, much was still right with them.

Alex awoke overtired and unsettled, already regretting his confidences of the previous night. Sex was both a skill and a defense, an essential source of comfort and connection, a core part of his identity. He felt betrayed by his body, bitter and angry at the feelings flooding him.

Sex was the only thing that ever soothed Alex's anxiety. Alex slunk provocatively through the morning, missing no chance to flirt, fondle and grope.

Walter felt more pity than arousal at Alex's determined attempts at seduction.

He held out for almost five hours, well aware that what they needed was not the sex Alex craved, but rather a joint appointment with the therapist.

However, Alex's increasing desperation was hard to resist. Noon found Alex in Walter's lap, his arm around Walter's neck, his crotch pressed to Walter's groin.

"Fuck me Walter, please. Fuck me," Alex begged shamelessly, his green eyes dark with need. "Oh, please..."

Walter let himself be tugged to his feet and led upstairs.

Alex stripped efficiently. Undid his prosthesis. He sprawled back on the bed, his legs spread wide in invitation.

Moving considerably more slowly, Walter seated himself next to Alex.

"Is this what you want, Alex? May I touch you?" Walter asked, taking Alex's hard cock in his hand. He ran his fingers over Alex's balls, stroked the soft skin beneath. Smiled as Alex moaned incoherently.

"Please, Walter, more, I--"

"How about this?" Walter murmured, bending over Alex. He brushed his lips over Alex's cock.

"It's good, Walter, shit, it's so good."

Walter grinned inwardly. Seeing Alex abandoned, relaxed, enjoying himself was a great pleasure.

"And how does this feel, Alex?" Walter asked. He pressed Alex's legs toward his chest. Spreading his buttocks apart, Walter swiped his tongue over the crinkled opening. Alex's back arched reflexively. Walter held him open as he licked him again.

"Walter! Oh shit, that feels good. That feels fucking unbelievably good, Walter!" Alex gasped.

"Do you want me to keep going?" Walter lifted his head.

"Fuck yes! "

He ran his tongue in gentle swirls around the twitching opening. His finger traced the moist path.

"I'm going to do this so slowly, Alex," Walter crooned. Reclaiming the tube from the night table, he put a generous quantity of lube on his finger, slipped it easily inside Alex's anus.

Alex sighed with pleasure at the familiar sensation. Carefully, Walter worked a second finger alongside the first. Angled them into the sensitive knot of nerve endings.

Alex's head snapped back abruptly. Walter's heart broke at the terrified expression on his face. Alex breathed rapidly and shallowly, his heart racing, his skin flushed. His pupils dilated. Alex was frozen, unable to move.

"Alex," Walter said very, very softly, carefully withdrawing his hand. "Alex, where are you? Come back to me now, it's all right, you're safe, I'm not going to hurt you. Alex, come back now. It's all right." He chafed Alex's cheek gently, trying to get Alex to look at him.

"It's all right, Alex, you're safe," Walter soothed. "Breathe. Let me help you." Walter ran his hands over Alex's motionless torso.

Movement returned with a vengeance. Alex bucked wildly against Walter, reminding him of the early days, when he had literally had to pin Alex beneath him before Alex would allow himself to be touched. Walter held on, trying to keep his tone even, his touch soft.

As suddenly as it had begun, Alex's panicky thrashing ended. He lay still, his face emotionless.

"What are you remembering, Alex?" Walter asked gently. "Do you know?"

"I have no idea." Alex shrugged.

What those bastards did to Alex, Walter thought bitterly. He drew his lover closer.

"The nice ones, the ones who just touch me, I don't mind at all," Alex mused in a very small, very young voice. "The ones who hurt me are scary. I don't like the mean ones."

Alex spoke in the present tense, adrift in a sea of past cruelties.

Walter tried not to overreact, although every nerve in his body begged him to scream at Alex that there were no "nice" child molesters. Alex's childlike perspective only revealed how very, very young Alex had been when the abuse began.

"My poor, poor Alex," Walter said softly, drawing Alex to him. I wish I could give him his childhood back. I wish I could kill the men who hurt him, he thought bitterly. "How old you were when--"

"I told you before, there was never a time they weren't using me. That's just how it was," Alex said bluntly. "Why do you care? Do you remember the first time you got fucked?"

"I remember the first time I had sex. Made love," Walter said, taken aback at the crude question. He felt Alex shudder and regretted his cold tone.

"Talk to me, Walter," Alex begged, frightened at the anger he sensed in Walter. "I'm sorry."

"I'm not angry at you, Alex. You're not the one who did anything wrong. Shh, it's all right. I'm not angry at you." Walter softened his voice. "It's all right, Alex. That's it, relax, I got you. Good, Alex, good."

Alex snuggled into Walter with a troubled sigh.

"I'm making an appointment with the therapist, Alex. We both need some guidance here," Walter said.

"I'll do whatever you say, Walter," Alex whispered. "I'll be good."

"You are good, Alex," Walter said, his voice warm and sure. "You are good. We'll get you well, too."

"I hate this, Walter," Alex said bitterly. "I liked it better when I didn't feel anything at all." His voice was hoarse with unshed tears. He tensed as Walter stroked his cheek, not wanting the offered comfort.

"Don't pull away, Alex," Walter said. "It's a rough passage, but we'll come through it. Trust me, Alex. We'll be OK. Let me help you now."

"I don't want help," Alex said bitterly. "I want to be left alone."

"Not an option," Walter said softly, as he dragged Alex into his arms and snuggled him against his chest. "Not an option."

Alex wished bitterly that he had never confided in Walter. He hated Walter's solicitous glances, his kind reasonableness. They interfered with his attempt to stuff his feelings back into the deep recess they belonged in.

"We don't need to do this, Walter," Alex moaned as Walter pulled the car into the therapist's parking lot. "It's too fucking expensive."

"Who decides what we do or do not 'need' to do, Alex?" Walter asked sternly, shaking his head at Alex's transparent excuse. Frugality was not one of Alex's usual virtues.

"You do, Walter." Alex fell silent. Without further protest, he followed Walter up to the therapist's office.

"Walter, would you like to share with Alex what you told me earlier?" the therapist asked.

"I don't understand what's going on. The sex has always been good for us. I can see Alex is miserable every time I touch him. I don't know what to do. I don't want to frighten you, Alex."

"And Alex, would you like to share what you're feeling?"

"Shit, I hate this. I wish I'd never told Walter. Why does he have to make such a big fucking deal out of it!"

"It is a 'big deal' when our lovemaking scares you, Alex," Walter said. "It's a very big deal to me!"

"I'm sorry, Walter," Alex said unhappily. "I wish I could fuck and not feel anything. I wish I were dead."

"Alex, how does it feel to trust Walter enough to tell him when you're having these feelings?"

"Like shit," Alex said sulkily. "Walter will probably spank me for saying it. Shit."

"Walter? Is there something you want to clarify for Alex?" the therapist asked.

"Talking about suicide and threatening it are different things, Alex," Walter said mildly. "I won't ever punish you for talking to me."

"Alex, can you hear what Walter is telling you?"

"Shit," Alex repeated. "I don't want to be spanked."

Walter sighed. Alex sounded very, very young.

"Walter, you seem unhappy. Can you share what you're feeling with Alex?"

"I can't talk to him when he's acting like a child," Walter said. "I can't treat him like a partner. I--"

"Fuck you, you bastard. I hate you! I fucking hate you! Fuck this, I don't need this shit--" Alex was out the door and down the hall. Walter started after him, caught him in a few loping steps.

"Shit! Let me go! Fuck you, Walter, let me go!" Wrapping Alex's good arm across his chest professionally, Walter forced Alex back into the treatment room and down on the couch.

"No! No!! No!!! Walter, please!" Alex twisted desperately.

"Easy, Alex, easy. You're not going anywhere. Easy, " Walter said firmly.

The therapist watched carefully.

Alex struggled for another minute and then, realizing it was useless, went limp.

"Stay put." Walter cautiously released Alex.

"Let's continue, shall we?" the therapist suggested.

Alex looked aghast; Walter resigned.

"How the fuck can you say 'Let's continue,' just like that?" Alex asked, bewildered. "He fucking insults me, he drags me back in here, he pins me on the fucking couch, and all you say is 'let's continue'?"

Alex glared at the therapist.

"You're the one who fucking needs therapy. Tell him not to hurt me anymore!"

"Alex, I can hear how angry you are," the therapist began.

"You fucking well can't! I hate him, I hate you, I hate being here. I hate being alive! I hate hate hate--" To his shock, Alex was crying, hot, angry tears. He shook his head.

"I'm crying, oh shit, I'm crying. Don't hurt me," Alex whimpered, curling into himself.

With infinite gentleness, Walter drew Alex to him. Alex shuddered visibly at Walter's embrace.

"What should I do?" Walter appealed to the therapist.

"How would you like me to answer that, Walter?"

"I need some direction. I don't understand what's happening with Alex. He was doing so well..."

The therapist nodded.

"Believe it or not, Walter, this is progress. He's feeling safe enough with you that memories are surfacing that he's never processed. Somatic memories, body memories, which probably precede language. He was abused from the time he was young, Walter. Very, very young."

"He's just getting worse," Walter said miserably. "He functioned better before we became involved. He was an undercover operative." Walter brushed lightly over the euphemism. "That took control, planning, an ability to function in the world. Now there are days he's barely able to get out of bed."

"Walter, don't be fooled. Yes, he gave the appearance of functioning in the world. And in a very limited context, he did very well. Survival is a great motivating factor. The human organism is designed to survive." The therapist took a deep breath.

"Functioning as Alex did was very expensive. What he gave up was empathy and any hope of connection. When you took him in, he was on the road to killing himself. You said he was hurt during rough sex?"

Walter nodded slowly.

"How do you think he ended up in that position?" the therapist asked. "He had no judgment, no sense of his own self and safety. Safety to him meant only not angering the men who controlled him. On his own, he was unable to cope."

"You've always asserted that your goal was to help him function as a whole man, not someone whose skills were for sale to the highest bidder. What you've got here is a desperately damaged human being, who for the first time in his life feels safe enough to be present in a relationship." The therapist's eyes met Walter's.

"It is an enormous trust Alex has placed in you. And I imagine that at times it must feel like an enormous burden."

"He's not a burden, " Walter said softly. "I love him."

"Shit," Alex said abjectly. "I don't see why, Walter."

"Walter, would you like to answer that?" the therapist prompted.

"Alex, you are a brave, brave man, who's endured more pain and cruelty than most people could imagine. When I think of how you were treated as a child, how you were hurt..." Walter swallowed hard.

"I love you, Alex. Nothing will ever give you back your childhood. But I'll be damned if I'll let what those bastards did to you ruin the rest of your life. I love you, Alex. I want you to get well."

"Oh," said Alex very quietly. He mouthed his good hand nervously. "Take me home, Walter?" he asked softly. "I don't feel so good."

Walter looked at the therapist. She nodded her agreement.

"Our time's just about up anyway. Walter, I'm going to talk to Graham, and I imagine he will want to speak to you. We want to be certain Alex is getting adequate medical support."

Walter nodded wearily.

"Review the body awareness exercises together again. They are very important. They can help Alex contain the feelings that are flooding him, Walter, but only if you practice regularly when Alex is calm. Daily, Walter. Twice a day if possible."

"All right, we'll do that," Walter responded. He reached under his glasses, kneaded the bridge of his nose. Sighed heavily.

"Walter," the therapist said compassionately. "You are doing a very fine job, in a very difficult situation. You need to take time to eat properly, to work out, to get adequate rest. You need to take some breaks. You cannot afford to burn out."

"I'm all right." Walter managed a smile. "Worry about Alex."

"That's your role, Walter. My role is to support you so that you can continue to support Alex," the therapist said.

Alex walked shoulder to shoulder with Walter back down to the car. Save for the necessity for Walter to drive, he would have glued himself to Walter the entire way home.

Walter pulled the car into their driveway, killed the engine. Alex looked at Walter uncertainly.

"Am I going to get a spanking? For what I said?"

"Alex." Walter shook his head. "You need to be able to express yourself openly in therapy. I'll never spank you for what you say during a session. But you don't storm out when it gets tough. I am going to spank you for that, Alex."

Alex hunched his shoulders miserably as he preceded Walter into the house.

"Please don't spank me, Walter."

"We have an agreement, Alex. You stay in the office for the full session or I spank you."

Walter was right; they had agreed. Already teary, Alex let Walter lead him across the living room to the couch.

"Look at me, Alex," Walter said, seating himself and tugging Alex between his knees. It was unusual for Alex to show this much emotion before a spanking. Walter wanted to be sure the reason for the punishment was clear to Alex.

"Why am I going to spank you, Alex?"

"I ran out of the office. I'm not allowed to leave in the middle of a session without permission. Please, Walter, don't spank me. I'm sorry."

"I know you're sorry now, Alex. But this is a rule we both agreed on, and a punishment we also agreed on. Over my lap please."

Alex obeyed, lowering his pants and underwear automatically.

Alex needs these boundaries, Walter reminded himself. It is your responsibility to enforce them. Steeling himself, Walter peppered the lower curves of Alex's tense buttocks with quick, hard swats.

"OW! OW!!" Shit, Walter's hand stung! Alex's yelps became soft, sad sobs.

"My Alex?" Walter wondered out loud, ending the spanking and easing Alex sideways into his lap.

Alex laid his head against Walter's chest. Took comfort from Walter's steady heartbeat beneath his shirt. Tucked himself closer and tighter to Walter, as if he wanted to disappear into him.

"Are you sure you want me, Walter?" Alex asked sadly. "I'm no fucking good to you. All I do is take from you."

"Alex, that's not true." Walter rubbed soothing circles over Alex's back, saddened by Alex's words. "We're going through a rough passage, but after today's session I think we at least have a grip on what's happening and why. We'll get through this. You're mine forever, Alex."

Walter tilted Alex's mouth to his, leaned forward into the kiss. Saw the lightning flash of terror before Alex's green eyes went dark and blank.

What they did to you, Alex.

"It's all right," Walter reassured Alex, trying to keep the bitterness out of his voice. Letting Alex's head droop forward, he deposited the gentlest of kisses on Alex's dark hair instead.

"Don't be so fucking considerate, Walter," Alex hissed. "You make me do a lot of things I don't want to do. You make me come to bed when I'm not tired; you make me eat when I'm not hungry. Make me give it up."

Walter glared at Alex.

"What, Walter, what? What did I say?" Alex asked crabbily.

"Alex, I can't believe you think I'd derive any pleasure from forcing you to have sex," Walter said in disbelief.

"Just use lots of lube so I don't get torn up," Alex said callously. "I'll learn, Walter. Shit, I learned before."

Walter turned abruptly away, sickened by Alex's offhand remarks. Alex's casual equation of their lovemaking with the Consortium's sexual coercion hurt.

"Walter? What did I say that was wrong?" Alex stared at Walter with genuine incomprehension.

"Alex, I will never hurt you sexually." Walter's voice broke.

"Shit, I don't fucking care if it hurts. We're no good when we don't fuck, Walter!" Alex protested.

"That, Alex, is enough." Walter clenched his teeth.

Alex licked his lips anxiously. His continued survival had depended on reading people right. Walter was furious, and Alex couldn't for the life of him understand why.

"I'm sorry, Walter. I promise I'll be good," Alex said reflexively.

The formula didn't seem to work. Walter still looked angry. Shit.

Walter felt rigid with tension. If he didn't do something to relax himself, he would explode in an entirely uncharacteristic display of temper.

"Alex, I'm going to work out downstairs and then have a shower." Walter tried to keep his voice even. "Find something productive to do in the meantime."

"Yes, Walter," Alex said diffidently. "Is it all right if I go for a walk?"

Walter nodded absently.

Alex headed towards the little drugstore where he bought their daily papers. A quick conversation with the pharmacist and Alex reemerged, a small bag stowed safely in his jacket.

Alex studied the vial of pills, resolutely pushing aside the thought of the spanking he would surely get if Walter discovered his attempts at self-medication.

Nothing's any good when we can't fuck, Alex thought dispiritedly. How could it hurt to help myself a little?

Walter watched Alex stumble, grazing the bedpost, as he rounded the bed.

Goddamnit. Walter was immediately alert.

Alex sober was unfailingly graceful. Alex clumsy was either drunk or drugged.

Walter tumbled Alex backward onto the bed. Caught his jaw in one hand, forced Alex's eyes to meet his own.

No smell of alcohol.

"Alex, tell me what you took," Walter said firmly.

"You'll spank me!"

Walter gritted his teeth. Would he ever!

"We're not going to talk about punishment now. Tell me what you took, Alex."

"Inderal. Clean shit."

Walter turned paler with each word. He. Was. Going. To. Kill. Alex.

"I'm taking you to the emergency room." For once, Walter lost his composure. "Damn you, Alex, you promised me! You swore you'd never do this again!"

"I didn't try to off myself! And I'm not going to the fucking hospital, Walter! I was just dizzy for a second. Look at me, I'm all right!"

Walter hesitated a moment, trying to remember what he knew about Inderal. The blood pressure medication seemed a strange choice for a suicide attempt.

"I'll call Miller. We'll see what he says." Walter stalked out of the room.

Alex curled sadly on his side. I just want to be able to fuck without losing it. The last session with the therapist rose unbidden in his mind.

"I wish I could fuck and not feel anything. I wish I were dead."

"Alex, can you hear what Walter is telling you?"

"I can't talk to him when he's acting like a child. I can't treat him like a partner."

I'm not a child, Walter.

He's acting like a child.

I'm not a child, Walter. Please don't hurt me.

Alex shivered and wrapped his good arm around himself.

Please don't hurt me.

Oblivious to the terror gripping Alex, Walter dialed Dr. Miller. To Walter's relief, the psychiatrist answered his own phone. He listened silently as Walter told him about the Inderal.

"He's in no danger, Walter. It's actually a rather clever strategy on Alex's part, although I doubt a successful one. However you --"

"Please don't please! Don't! Don't!! Don't!!!"

Walter started at Alex's anguished scream.

"Doctor, I'll call you back."

Dropping the phone, Walter took the stairs two at a time, every trace of anger forgotten, his heart racing madly.

"Alex, it's all right, I've got you. Shh, shh, you're safe."

"Don't! Don't!! Don't!!!" Alex arched against the bed, lost somewhere inside himself.

"I'm here, Alex, I'm here. It's all right now." Walter pinned Alex's rigid body beneath his own heavier frame, hoping that somehow, on some level, Alex would respond to his touch, to his love.

Gradually Alex relaxed; his body had learned that it was safe to trust Walter.

"Walter?" Alex asked, in a hoarse, hesitant whisper. "Walter?"

"I'm here, Alex, I'm right here," Walter said soothingly.

"Why, Walter, why? There's no fucking reason for you to keep me, Walter. I'm garbage. A piece of bastard trash the Consortium broke and used and threw away. Why would you want me?"

Alex began to cry quietly, his tears hot and wet against Walter's skin.

"I'm nothing, not even a good fuck anymore. I hate this."

"I love you, Alex. I want you. Let me take care of you now. Please, Alex, I need you to trust me."

"I do trust you, Walter. But I don't get why you'd want me," Alex said glumly. Abruptly, Alex remembered the unfinished business between them.

"Shit, Walter. You're going to spank me." Alex sounded thoroughly miserable.

"Jesus, Alex..." Walter liked the idea even less than Alex did.

"Please don't spank me." Alex snuffled, dragging his hand across his nose.

"Shh..." With a sigh, Walter cuddled him closer. Kissed his dark head gently.

"Listen to me, Alex. Do you seriously think I only want you so I can fuck you? Is that the kind of man you think I am?"

Slowly, Alex shook his head. No.

"You don't seem to understand what you mean to me. I love the sex, but our relationship is so much more than that. I love you, Alex."

Alex shivered.

"Shh..." Walter rubbed gentle circles on Alex's back. "I'm not going to spank you when you're this upset, Alex. Just rest now. I love you, I'm going to help you. You don't have to do this alone. We're going to be all right."

Alex thrust his pillow under his hips. Widened his legs.

"Just fuck me, Walter," he said woodenly. "I need you to fuck me. I feel dead when you don't fuck me."

Walter shook his head.

"No, Alex. I'm going to have you do some writing."

"Lines? Lines?? I fucking hate lines! No, Walter, I won't do it." Rolling onto his back, Alex glared at Walter mutinously.

"You will do what I tell you to do, Alex," Walter said calmly. "And I'm telling you you're going to write lines."

Alex took a deep, shuddery breath and sat up.

"Come downstairs, get some loose-leaf and a pen and sit at the table. I've got a stack of paperwork; I'll keep you company."

Alex's shivering had stopped. Sulkily, but without further protest, he followed Walter down to the dining room.

"I hate this, Walter," Alex said without much heat.

"I know," Walter responded. "It will help you think, Alex. You need to engage that good brain of yours."

Silently, Alex offered Walter the tablet of paper and a pen.

Walter wrote a single sentence in his neat, bold hand:

We show our love in many ways.

Alex read the words silently. Took a deep breath, blinked hard.

"Walter, what the fuck did I ever do to deserve you?" Alex's voice was gravelly with unshed tears.

"Don't curse," Walter said reflexively. "Write. I love you too."

Day and night and day again.

Walter coached Alex through the relaxation exercises; made sure Alex kept his appointments with the therapist. Alex was edgy and difficult.

The therapist was keenly aware that sex was one of the main ways Alex balanced his emotional economy. It was unclear whether he had rejected this outlet entirely.

"Alex, do you masturbate?" the therapist asked in a calm, professional tone.

Alex started. Licked his lips, playing for time.

"What the fuck kind of question is that?" Alex asked querulously.

don't touch yourself don't touch yourself it'll hurt worse if you're soft

"It'll hurt worse if I can't get hard." Alex eyed the therapist blankly, his face white and wet, his breathing rapid.

"Where are you now, Alex?"

Alex slumped forward, his eyes averted.

"Alex, can you look at me?"

don't touch yourself don't fucking touch yourself

"Alex, sit up!" the therapist said sharply. "Feet flat on the floor, Alex. Straighten your back."

Woodenly, Alex obeyed.

"Alex. Feel your boundaries. I know you can do this. Feel the contact your foot makes with your boot; your boot makes with the floor. Feel the cushion against your back. Feel your boundaries. Feel where you are."

Alex shifted slightly. His breathing slowed. He raised his head.

"Where are you now, Alex?"

"I'm here...in your office," Alex said finally, taking a deep breath. "I'm here."

"Very good, Alex," the therapist praised. "Do you remember what we were talking about?"

"Jerking off," Alex whispered. "We were talking about jerking off."

"Alex, it is important that you become re-accustomed to your feelings of arousal under circumstances that you control. Masturbating will give you a chance to control the pace and intensity of the sensation you receive. If it gets too frightening, stop."

"Walter won't like it," Alex said miserably.

"How do you know that?"

don't touch yourself don't you'll get the shit beat out of you if you do that again

"What are you remembering?"

"Please don't please don't please don't..." Alex began to chant.

"Alex," the therapist said loudly. "Alex, stop. Can you hear my voice?"

Alex looked blankly at the therapist.

"Alex, I want you to stay here. You're safe here. Feel where your feet are. Feel where your foot touches the inside of your boot. Can you feel your boundaries? Can you feel the floor underneath you? Where are you, Alex?"

Alex shuffled his feet. Shuddered. Took a rasping breath, shook his head hard.

"Alex, are you here now?" the therapist asked quietly.

"Oh, shit, I did it again, didn't I? Alex said wretchedly. "Am I ever going to be okay?"

"What do you think, Alex?"

"I think you should answer my questions, not just ask me more questions! Is that so fucking hard?" Alex's hand strayed reflexively to his butt.

"I'm sorry. I didn't mean to curse."

"You're allowed to be angry in this room," the therapist said. "You're allowed to curse if you need to."

"You just don't care," Alex said sulkily.

"I care a great deal, Alex. But I do not believe you deserve to be punished for expressing your angry feelings."

"Does Walter know about this shit?" Alex sounded doubtful.

"Does Walter punish you for what you say, Alex?"

"I get spanked if I curse at him." Alex stared at the therapist defiantly.

"And how does being spanked make you feel, Alex?"

"Sore," Alex said.

The therapist waited without speaking.

"Safe," Alex whispered.

"What else does Walter do that makes you feel safe, Alex?"

"He feeds me. He gives me baths. He brushes my hair," Alex said softly. "No one ever took care of me before. Walter takes care of me."

"What about sex?"

"It was always good with Walter," Alex sighed. "Now I lie there when he fucks me and I wish I were dead."

"What thoughts run through your mind when that happens?"

"Thoughts? I don't think anything. I just can't breathe. Like I'm going to die. And then it's over. It's so fucking stupid. I wish he'd just fuck me until I stopped feeling anything. I did it before. I can do it again."

"What do you mean, you did it before?"

"I learned to suck them off, I learned to take it up the ass and I learned to get it up when they touched me. I learned to do it; I learned to like it." Alex bared his teeth in a facsimile of a smile.

The therapist watched with silent empathy as Alex shivered involuntarily.

"Only learning to kiss was different." Alex's grimace softened at the sweet memory. "Walter taught me to kiss. Learning to kiss didn't hurt at all."

"Would you like to share what that experience was like?"

"Would I like to share--" Alex mimicked. "Fuck no, I don't want to talk about that. I don't want to talk about anything. This is so fucking stupid."

"Alex, I hear how angry you are. What do you need from me, right now?"

"I need you to talk to Walter," Alex said bitterly. "I need you to tell him to fuck me. I don't fucking care how it feels."

The therapist listened carefully.

"All right, Alex," she said eventually. "I'll see Walter tomorrow."

Alex stared straight ahead.

"Alex, take a deep breath. Good. Feel the floor under your boots. Feel the chair against your thighs. Breathe."

"I'm okay." Alex shook himself hard, like a dog emerging from water. "I'll tell Walter to come in tomorrow. See you." He slipped silently out of the room, never meeting the therapist's eyes.

Breathe, Alex, breathe. Feel your boundaries.

Alex scowled.

"Breathe, Alex, breathe," Walter prompted again. "Feel your boundaries."

Fuck breathing. Fuck boundaries. I hate this, I fucking hate this. Nothing's fun when you can't fuck, Alex fumed silently.

"Alex, you need to concentrate," Walter said. "These exercises are important because---."

"I know, I know, " Alex said nastily. "'What I'm experiencing is as much physiological as psychological.' I know the fucking drill! Flight, fight, freeze. Hyperarousal. Autonomic nervous system. It's all fucking bullshit, Walter, and I hate it! "

"That's enough lip, Alex." Walter said firmly. Alex wielded insight like a weapon. "Stop being smart and concentrate on the exercises."

Walter's patient persistence irked Alex.

"Fuck you, Walter, what's the fucking point? It's all bullshit. I'm never going to be normal. Fuck you, either fuck me or leave me alone!"

"Are you really this anxious for another spanking, Alex?"

"Fuck you!"

"Don't curse at me, Alex."

"It doesn't matter anymore." Alex threw himself facedown on the floor. "Spank me, fuck me, I don't care. I wish I were dead."

"All right, Alex, I'll spank you. Since you're determined to provoke me."

Moving swiftly, Walter straddled Alex's prone form.

"This is for being a royal pain."

He gave Alex's denim clad buttocks a dozen solid swats, just enough to make Alex squirm.

"Come here, Alex. " Dismounting, Walter rolled Alex onto his back, drew him into a sitting position. He ignored Alex's flinch as his butt made contact with the floor.

"Up. You'll be more comfortable on the couch." Walter drew Alex with him as he rose. Settling himself on the couch, he tugged Alex into his lap.

A very subdued Alex rested his head against Walter's chest.

"That wasn't much of a spanking, Walter. I'm sorry. I don't mean to be such a prick." Alex's voice was quiet and sad.

"I know, Alex. I know. We'll get through this together, I promise. We need to finish up with your exercises. You need to practice containing the feelings flooding you. You need to know how to make yourself feel safe."

How natural the therapeutic jargon had become to him, Walter thought ruefully. Sharon would have laughed.

"The therapist wants to see you tomorrow, Walter," Alex said softly. "I think I'm in trouble."

"Alex and I had a difficult session yesterday, Walter," the therapist said. "I understand that Alex refuses to see Dr. Miller?"

"Yes. I've been in touch with Dr. Miller and he doesn't feel pushing Alex to see him would be useful in the context of the PTSD symptoms Alex is experiencing," Walter said resignedly.

"Walter, perhaps you should see Dr. Miller alone. The amount of stress you're under must feel close to intolerable."

"I'm fine," Walter said dismissively. "Worry about Alex."

"Worrying about Alex is your job. Mine is being sure you are getting sufficient support. Alex has nothing to give to your relationship at this point."

"I'm fine," Walter said stubbornly. "Look, I don't care whether we have sex or not. If it's too much for Alex, let it go. I still love him. I'm not going to leave him."

"Walter, I hear what you're saying. And I also know the sexual component of your relationship is important to both of you. You are not doing Alex a favor if you allow him to retreat from that arena. He neither wants nor needs that."

"I don't mean to be difficult." Walter dropped his head to his hands. "I know it's important; it was one of the problems with me and Sharon. But the look in his eyes..."

"You're not being difficult, Walter," the therapist said. "You are in a difficult position. There's a difference. Alex wants the sexual connection as much or more than you do do. He has repeatedly suggested that you just override his fears and have sex with him despite his anxiety."

"I'm not going to push him if he's scared. That's what they did to him. I will never duplicate that. I don't understand why he would even say something like that." Walter ground his teeth in angry frustration.

"Arousal is physiological. It's possible that he's hardwired at this point to need that push, Walter."

"He can just rewire himself then," Walter said stubbornly. "I'm not turned on by scared partners. Not in reality, not as a game. It's with his full consent, or not at all."

"In that case, try letting Alex control his own arousal. Have him masturbate while you're with him. And let him touch you. Push a little further each time. Make him tell you when he's afraid. It's all right to continue if he's nervous, but stop before he panics."

"Have you discussed this with Alex?" Walter asked.

"We've talked about it," the therapist said. "Masturbating in front of you frightens Alex. He's been punished for gratifying himself in the past."

"Figures," Walter muttered angrily under his breath.

"Would you like to share what you're feeling, Walter?"

"It figures the bastards took even that away from him. It makes me sick," Walter said bitterly.

"Walter, you need to stay in the present. Alex needs your support. Joining him in the place he's in right now accomplishes nothing."

"You're right, of course." The habits of a lifetime were strong. Walter resolutely pulled himself together. "I'll work with Alex. I'll go see Dr. Miller. Thank you for your input."

"Alex is a badly damaged man. He is functioning better, with your help, than I would have believed was possible. You're doing a fine job, Walter."

"I appreciate that. It just feels so hopeless sometimes. I'll see you next week," Walter said tiredly.

The therapist watched Walter leave.

"What, you want to watch me jerk off?" Alex went white, outraged. "You sick fuck!"

"Don't curse, Alex," Walter said reflexively. "No, I don't want to watch you jerk off. I want to hold you while you touch yourself. I know you've discussed this with the therapist."

"I told her I couldn't do it! Fuck you, Walter, fuck you. I don't want to do this, you can't fucking make me, you motherfucking sonofafuckingbitch."

"Enough, Alex," Walter said, reeling at Alex's compound curses, realizing all at once how truly afraid his lover was. "No more cursing."

"What are you going to do, spank me?" Alex spat angrily.

"I will if you don't stop cursing."

"Fuck you!" Alex accompanied his shout with the classic gesture.

Alex underestimated how fast Walter was. Not ten seconds passed before Alex was pinned on the couch.

"I am going to spank you, Alex," Walter said calmly. "You do not curse at me."

Alex fought frantically to escape.

Walter merely held on. It was one of the oldest interactions between them, and Walter knew Alex would eventually settle.

True to form, Alex abruptly went limp.

"Okay now?" Walter asked gently.

"Hold me, Walter?" Alex whispered.

Walter shifted so that he was lying on his back with Alex cuddled to his chest. He stroked Alex's hair gently, rubbed small circles over Alex's torso.

"I love you, Walter," Alex whispered. "I don't like when you spank me."

"I don't like when you curse at me," Walter responded.

"Yeah." Alex lay quietly. "Could we get it over with?"

"Up you go," Walter said, helping Alex sit. He righted himself as well, patted his lap. "Over my knee now. "

Alex undid his jeans, shoved them and his boxers down. Arranged himself over Walter's lap.

"For cursing. I'm not allowed to curse at you. Cursing is hurtful and doesn't solve anything and only puts distance between us," Alex said, not waiting for Walter's cue, knowing precisely what the spanking was for.

When stressed, Alex cursed reflexively. When cursed, Walter spanked.

"You should probably wash my mouth out or something, too," Alex muttered unhappily. "How many times have we done this?"

"Several dozen, I'm sure," Walter said gently. "No soap. I promised you I'd never do that again."

"That's why I love you," Alex said softly. "You keep your promises."

Walter repressed a sigh. He really didn't want to spank Alex. It felt cruel. And yet he knew Alex craved limits, that not enforcing this rule would only prompt Alex to push harder in an attempt to find his boundaries.

Steeling himself, Walter cupped his hand slightly and brought it down solidly across first one pale buttock, then the other. He continued to spank Alex soundly, deepening blush to bloom, until Alex was sniffling.

"You don't curse at me, Alex. You talk to me. I will always listen to you," Walter said, as he let Alex stand up.

Alex's face was pale and wet. His cock was small and totally soft, almost hidden in its furry nest. He fumbled at the waistband of his boxers.

"I'll help you. Come here, Alex."

Alex stepped in closer and let Walter draw the soft cotton boxers over his sore rump. Bit his lip as Walter eased his jeans back up and zipped and buttoned them.

Walter stood up and gently propelled Alex into the kitchen and over to the sink.

"Blow, Alex." Walter held a paper towel to Alex's nose. "You're okay now." Walter wet a dish towel in lukewarm water, rung it out, and gently wiped the remaining snot and the still spilling tears from Alex's cheeks.

"Shh, Alex, I've got you. Why are you crying?" Walter asked gently.

"Why do you want me, Walter? I'm no good for anything. I'm not an assassin; I'm not even a decent whore anymore. Why would you want me at all?"

"I love you, Alex." Walter drew Alex into the sheltering circle of his arms and kissed him gently, lightly on the lips. "I can't imagine my life without you."

"Oh." Alex sniffed, hard. I love you too, Walter, he thought silently. I love you so much.

Alex stood quietly, thinking.

"So you still want me to do that jerking off shit? I mean, I'll try, okay? I just don't think there's much point." Alex sighed deeply.

Walter smiled. Wringing a concession like this from Alex was a tough feat.

"Let's go upstairs, Alex. I'm going to take good care of you. There is nothing to be afraid of."

Their bedroom was cool and dim. Light filtered through the tilted blinds, making striped shadows on the ceiling.

Walter undressed quietly and efficiently.

Alex fumbled at his fly, tension making him awkward.

"Shit. Help me, Walter?"

"I'll always help you, Alex," Walter said softly, undoing the stubborn button and sliding the zipper down. "Arms up." He tugged Alex's tee shirt over his head. With the skill of long practice, he released Alex's prosthetic arm, set it gently on the dresser. Pushed the waists of Alex's jeans and boxers down. "Step out."

"I can't do this, Walter," Alex whispered, even as he obediently stepped free of his jeans and underwear.

"Yes, you can. Let me hold you." Gently, Walter moved them toward the bed, turning the covers down with one hand as he eased Alex back with the other. With a sigh of relief, Walter slipped beneath the sheets.

Tentatively, Alex curled into Walter's arms.

"Good, Alex," Walter praised. "Lie back now, I've got you. Shh...deep breaths, nice and easy now."

"Do you hate me, Walter?"

"I love you, Alex. Let me hold you while you touch yourself." Walter hugged Alex gently.

"I can't," Alex moaned, pulling away.

"You can. I want you to touch yourself." Walter hugged Alex tighter.

"NO!" Alex struggled to squirm loose.

Walter shook his head. Alex determined to be difficult was difficult indeed.

"Alex. Do what I tell you or I'm going to spank you again."

"Walter, you can't spank me for not jerking off!"

"I will spank you for disobeying me, Alex. We have an agreement. You do as you're told or I punish you."

"I don't like you," Alex said sulkily. Reluctantly, he began to caress his own cock. "Shit. Do you have to look at me, Walter?"

"You're beautiful, Alex." Walter felt himself harden at the sight.

"Go away." Alex screwed his eyes shut, as if to make Walter disappear. The childish gesture made Walter cringe. His arousal faded as his awareness of just how frightening this was for Alex increased.

"Walter?" Alex asked tremulously. "Do I have to?"

The fear in Alex's voice...

Those bastards, those perverted bastards. I hope they burn in hell for this, Walter thought for the hundredth time, cursing the futility of his fury.

Any sexual kick was gone. Walter felt nothing but aching sadness.

"You don't have to do anything, ever again," Walter said tenderly. "I love you, Alex. You're mine. I won't let anyone hurt you again."

Alex rolled over, his cock still flaccid, and buried his face against Walter. Walter rubbed his back in slow, reassuring circles, as Alex's hot tears soaked the fur on his chest.

"Help me, Walter. Make me. I need you to make me." Alex raised his head to look at Walter, his cheeks tear-stained.

Walter remembered the terror he had seen in Alex's eyes.

"Alex, I can't. I don't ever want to do to you what they did."

"You couldn't, Walter," Alex said practically. "I'm all grown up now."

Walter looked at Alex's beautiful face for a long moment, imagining the child he had been. Those evil, evil bastards. He sighed. Wrenched his thoughts back to the present.

"A warm bath might be nice, Alex." Alex let Walter shepherd him into the bathroom. Walter started the tub running and added bath oil. He watched Alex inhale deeply and relax as the room filled with warm, scented steam.

Not long ago, the idea of bathing in the huge tub had left Alex vomiting on the tile floor. Now he smiled in happy anticipation.

"Come on, Alex." Walter drew him into the tub.

With real pleasure, Alex leaned back against Walter. Walter soaped the washcloth, carefully worked the lather over Alex's shoulders and back. Washed his damaged arm with infinite gentleness. Alex didn't flinch as Walter cleansed the surface of his stump, just relaxed into Walter's affection and care. Walter washed Alex's good arm and hand, then belly, cock and balls, with the same soft touch.

Cupping his hand, Walter gently rinsed Alex off. Alex relaxed even more deeply, sprawling in the warm water. Walter felt his cock hardening with pleasure at the sight and feel of Alex snuggled to him.

His long-term fantasy had so nearly gone unrealized, Walter thought. Save for the poison ivy, Alex might still be taking showers. Walter remembered how he had pressed Alex, hot, itchy, and miserable from the poison ivy rash covering his body, into the tub.

Alex's terror and vomiting, the horrible sense memories of what he had been forced to do to service the Consortium elite, his hysterical refusal to consider bathing in the tub: All had fled in that moment.

The elusive connection Walter sought pushed its way through to conscious thought. With a growing sense of deja vu, Walter remembered the other forms of contact he had forced an initially reluctant Alex to endure.

He had held Alex, stroking him, petting him, until Alex lost his fear and touch became pleasure, not pain.

He had kissed Alex, sweet liqueur seducing Alex's tongue and mouth into accepting the pleasure of Walter's breath mingling with his own.

He had made Alex swim in the cool lake in midsummer.

He had made Alex bathe in the large tub.

Sex was part of the continuum, Walter thought to himself.

Alex had told the therapist what he needed:

"Tell him to fuck me."

Alex had told Walter what he needed:

"Make me. I need you to make me."

Walter had refused to push Alex into having sex, yet he had threatened to spank Alex for not masturbating. It was ludicrous.

I will put an end to this farce right now, Walter resolved.

Alex was not a frightened child. He was a man, Walter's lover. He had given Walter the right to discipline him. He had given Walter the responsibility of caring for him. He had given Walter his trust.

Walter was going to prove himself worthy.

Walter took a deep breath. Time to suit action to thought. He knew Alex would just as soon lounge in the tub for another hour.

"Come Alex, let's get out of the water before we shrivel up."

"I'm already shriveled," Alex said wryly, glancing down. "Nice to have an excuse." He stood obediently and let Walter wrap him in one of their large towels.

Slinging a towel around his own waist, Walter led Alex back to the bedroom. Patted Alex dry through the thick terrycloth.

"Go on, Alex, get under the covers. I'll be right back." Pulling on clean boxers, Walter headed down to the kitchen. He returned with a plate of sandwiches and two beers on a tray.

Alex took one look at the tray Walter held and went white. Without warning, he began to cry. Walter quickly laid the tray aside.

"What is it, Alex, what's wrong?" Walter asked gently, seating himself alongside Alex and stroking the sable hair back from Alex's streaming eyes.

"Luis used to Luis used to Luis used to," Alex sobbed.

"What did Luis use to do, Alex?" Walter asked, keeping the distaste he felt for the man out of his voice.

"Feed me. Sandwiches. Beer."

Alex had told Walter about Luis; Walter remembered the whole sad, sordid story. The man was an abusive bastard, Walter thought bitterly. Yet he was the closest thing Alex had had to a friend. Sex had been Alex's only human connection for most of his life. Luis had offered Alex at least a few crumbs of kindness along with his cruel attentions.

Walter's mouth soured and he fought to steady his breathing.

"Should I bring up something else, Alex?" Walter asked in a neutral voice.

"No! I'm fine!" With a supreme effort, Alex got his sobs under control. Hiccuped.

"What the fuck is wrong with me? I never cry like this." Alex scowled. "I must be having a fucking breakdown. Shit, Walter, I'm pathetic."

"You're human, Alex," Walter said.

"Right. Just give me the food, Walter. The beer's a nice touch. Are you trying to seduce me?"

"What do you think, Alex?" Walter asked curiously.

"I wish," Alex said. "Up yours." He twisted off the bottle cap and drank deeply.

"Alex, is that truly what you want? For me to make you make love?"

"Yeah. You think I'm a fucking asshole."

"No, Alex. I think you're the bravest man I've ever known. Do you want a safeword?"

"Fuck consensual." Alex looked squarely at Walter. "If I can't trust you without a safeword, I won't trust you with one."

"I love you, Alex," Walter said softly. "I'm not going to hurt you." Walter took the empty beer bottle from Alex, set it aside, and eased Alex back onto their pillows.

"Fuck you, you bastard!" Alex kicked out wildly, determined to resist Walter's gentle hand.

Walter rolled on top of Alex and held on. Slowly, inexorably, using the advantage weight gave him, he pinned Alex to the bed despite his resistance.

Walter rubbed his palm lightly over Alex's chalky cheek. Felt and ignored Alex's flinch.

"I'll never hurt you, Alex." Walter rubbed his lips gently over Alex's mouth. He waited until Alex, with an exhalation that could have been either plea or protest, yielded to his exploring tongue.

"Good Alex, very good," Walter said softly. He intensified the kiss. Steeled himself for the bright flash of terror in Alex's eyes.

When it came, it was hard to withstand. Walter parried past it, holding Alex's jaw steady, kissing him more deeply, coaxing his mouth wider, before easing into a lighter, gentler kiss.

Alex's gaze softened, blind terror resolving into a muddled mixture of fear and hope.

"I'm okay," Alex whispered, as much to reassure himself as to reassure Walter.

"Yes you are," Walter agreed. "You're okay. I have you."

"I know that." Alex nodded shakily. "I love you, Walter."

"I love you, Alex. It's going to be all right."

Rolling onto his side, Walter tucked Alex's head into the crook of his elbow. Threw one heavily muscled leg over Alex's, effectively trapping him. Having arranged Alex to his satisfaction, Walter rubbed his hand firmly down Alex's chest to his belly. Slid his hand over Alex's hip, insinuated it between his thighs.

Alex arched upward.

"Please, Walter, please," he begged. "I need this so bad."

"I'll always give you what you need," Walter said reassuringly. Then, as Alex tensed. "Relax. I haven't hurt you yet."

Alex froze.

"Easy, easy, easy," Walter murmured, trying to keep his voice soft and relaxed. "You're safe, it's all right, I'm here. Stay with me, Alex. Feel your boundaries. Feel where your body touches the sheet. Where are you now, Alex? Talk to me."

"You scared me," Alex said reproachfully. "What you said before? They always said that. And then they hurt me."

Walter tasted bile in the back of his throat. Forced his roiling stomach down.

Alex was lost, drifting between present and past. The important thing was to ground him in the here and now before they went any further.

"I'm sorry what I said upset you. I'm not them, Alex. You know I would never hurt you." Walter felt awful.

"You scared me." Alex sounded like a petulant child.

"That's it. We are taking a break," Walter declared. "We both need to calm down."

"No! Don't leave me, Walter!" Alex wailed.

Walter closed his eyes, repressed a sigh.

"I'm not going to leave you, Alex. I just think we need a time out."

"Fuck you! No! Just fuck me and get it over with!" Alex's voice rose even louder.

"Enough, Alex," Walter said sharply, breaking through Alex's mounting hysteria.

Firmness succeeded where softness had failed.

"I'm sorry, Walter," Alex said, repentant. "I'll behave."

"Come here, you," Walter said gruffly, retrieving the tray of sandwiches and his beer. He sat himself up against the headboard and drew Alex to him. Uncapped the bottle, held it to Alex's mouth. Took a few swallows himself. Fed Alex a bite of sandwich. Ate a few bites himself.

"I love it when you feed me," Alex said dreamily, happy to be back in Walter's good graces.

"You can't make love on an empty stomach," Walter said dryly.

Alex snorted and reached for another sandwich. He leaned back against Walter, totally relaxed.

Walter was reassured by Alex's quick return to good humor. Alex had handled the feelings his arousal provoked better than Walter had expected.

Walter's natural optimism returned. He would get Alex through this. Alex was going to be okay.

Once again, Walter rubbed his hand in slow, sensuous circles over Alex's chest, brushing his palm over the tight, flushed nipples. He worked his way in gentle strokes down Alex's torso. Skirted Alex's stiffening cock, bobbing upward toward Alex's flat belly.

Walter placed his knee between Alex's, resisting Alex's attempt to close his splayed legs. He toyed with Alex's wrinkled scrotum, rolling his balls between gentle fingers. Brushed over the soft slip of skin between balls and anus.

"Oh god, Walter, god, what are you doing?" Alex moaned, his breath quickening.

"Just touching you, Alex. You're so beautiful. I love looking at you. I love how you feel." Walter took Alex's cock in his hand, stroking it, circling his fingertip around the flared base of the head. Traced out the swollen veins.

"Fuck yes!" Alex groaned, arching his back upwards, trying for more stimulation. Want and need outstripping fear.

Walter brought his hand to his mouth and licked his palm, moistening it. Recaptured Alex's turgid cock and began to work it firmly. He knew from long experience exactly how to bring Alex to orgasm.

Alex's body had learned Walter's hand, had learned just how to position itself in Walter's embrace. With no tension at all, Alex leaned his head back on Walter's shoulder, eyes half shut, throat exposed. Walter kissed him deeply. Alex's cock grew even harder as he returned Walter's kiss.

Alex relaxed into the familiar sensations with mounting pleasure. His buttocks tensed, his back arched higher, and with a groan he came, hard, in Walter's insistent hand.

"No! No!! No!!!" The abrupt fall into terror was worse than ever.

Alex went absolutely still. Face flushed, breathing fast and shallow. His skin clammy, his eyes vacant. His body rigid.

dying I'm dying dying I'm dying

"Alex? Come on now, Alex, you can do this. " Walter took charge. "Breathe, Alex. Feel your boundaries. Feel the sheets against your body. Feel where your feet touch the blankets. Feel the pillow under your head. Find your boundaries. Breathe. You're safe, Alex, you're safe."

Alex panted rapidly and Walter cupped his hand gently under his jaw, trying to reach past Alex's panic.

"Deep breath, Alex, deep breath. Nice and easy. That's it, nothing's going to harm you." Walter's voice was calm and certain.

"'M'okay, 'm'okay, 'm'okay," Alex gasped. "I'm okay now, Walter. I'm okay."

"You were so scared, Alex. What happened?" Walter asked softly.

"I couldn't breathe. I knew I was going to die. I just knew it." Alex began to cry.

Walter stroked his hair gently, not trying to stop his tears, only wanting him to know he was safe.

"I've got you now, Alex. You're safe. You're alive." Walter said.

"You made me come, didn't you?" Alex asked, his voice awed and quiet. "Wow. We did it. I love you, Walter."

"Are you scared now, Alex?" Walter asked gently.

"I'm not scared," Alex said in a wondering tone. "I'm not scared at all." Alex stretched luxuriantly, pressing his body the length of Walter's.

Walter ran his hand over Alex from nape to buttocks, relishing the feel of his finely muscled torso. Rolled Alex onto his back and straddled him, his knees on either side of Alex's hips. Leaning forward, his weight on his hands, he kissed Alex's slack mouth. Nuzzled Alex's neck, trailed his tongue over Alex's chest and over his flushed nipples. Blew lightly at the damp surface, felt Alex quiver.

Backing up, Walter kissed Alex's belly gently. Shifted until he lay between Alex's legs. He mouthed Alex's inner thighs, felt Alex tense.

Slipping his hands under Alex's thighs, Walter pressed Alex's legs apart, his knees to his chest. Dropping a feather light kiss on Alex's flaccid cock, Walter sucked carefully on Alex's balls. He felt Alex tense even further.

Walter nosed his way behind Alex's scrotum, kissed the hidden skin with gentle lips. Extended his tongue and probed Alex's anus with the moist tip.

"Shit!" Alex's back arched sharply. "Shit, that's good. Stop, Walter, that's enough--" Alex's protest ended abruptly as Walter's tongue delved deeper, opening him intimately. Alex's cock grew stiffer.

Walter sat back on his heels. Holding Alex's gaze, Walter drew his index finger across Alex's lips, gradually parting them. Pressed his finger in Alex's mouth, stroked it over Alex's tongue until Alex suckled it reflexively.

"Good, Alex. This is going to feel nice."

Withdrawing his saliva-slicked finger, Walter parted Alex's buttocks and gently inserted the finger into Alex's ass.

"Lube," Alex whimpered. "Please, Walter. Don't hurt me. Lube."

"Shh, Alex, it's my one finger, that's all. Easy, you know you can manage one finger," Walter said soothingly, carefully stretching the tight ring of muscle. "Just my finger. Feel how easily it slides into your ass. Doesn't it feel nice?"

"I'm scared, Walter." Alex's admission was barely audible.

"I know," Walter said. "Trust me, Alex. Trust me anyway. I'll take good care of you."

"I trust you, Walter, but I'm still scared," Alex said fretfully.

"It's all right to be afraid, Alex," Walter reassured him. "Is what I'm doing now scary?" Walter stroked his finger slowly in and out.

"No." Alex sounded surprised.

"Does it feel good?" Walter asked.

"No," Alex said honestly. "I can hardly feel it at all, Walter."

"And that's without lube. Your body knows I won't hurt you, Alex," Walter said quietly, withdrawing his finger. "Let's take it a little further. Hand me the lube, please."

"But Walter--" Alex began to protest.

Walter interrupted him with a quick headshake.

"This isn't a negotiation, Alex. Hand me the lube now, please," Walter said firmly.

Breathing hard, Alex rolled sideways, retrieved the lube from the night table drawer and silently offered it to Walter.

Walter flipped open the tube and took a generous quantity in his hand. Still watching Alex's face, Walter slicked his cock with the gel.

"Don't--" Alex's request was tentative.

"Shh," Walter said. "Trust me, Alex. You're ready for this." Holding the shaft of his cock in his hand, Walter stroked the head gently over Alex's anus. The small opening winked open and Walter guided his cock inside. Grasped Alex's hips securely.

"Push back to me," Walter coaxed.

"No," Alex whimpered.

"Yes," Walter said, his voice calm and certain as ever. He tugged Alex to him, the motion seating his cock firmly inside Alex's ass.

"Look at me, Alex. I love you." Walter lowered himself on top of Alex until they were pressed belly to belly.

"Open your eyes, Alex. Kiss me," Walter demanded. He thrust gently with his hips. "Open for me. That's it, Alex, that's it. Look at me."

"Walter?" Alex gazed into Walter's brown eyes, struggling to contain his mounting panic. Tears glazed his green eyes, threatening to spill over his dusky lashes.

"I'm right here, Alex. That's my cock you feel. I've got you. You're safe."

Walter remained still, letting Alex accustom himself to the swell of his cock inside their linked bodies. Gradually Alex's breathing steadied.

"You feel so good, Alex. I love you so much," Walter crooned, thrusting rhythmically. "My good Alex. All mine. Can you feel me inside you, Alex?"

"You feel good, Walter." Alex lay quietly under Walter, his body soft and willing, his eyes clear, his breath even. "I'm all yours. Come in me now, Walter. Please, Walter, come in me."

"Is this what you want?" Walter thrust deeper, watching Alex's face carefully.

"Yes," Alex moaned. "Oh yeah."

"I love you, Alex." A few hard thrusts and Walter came with a satisfied groan.

For a few moments, Alex and Walter lay face to face, panting, their bodies pressed together in one unit.

Carefully, Walter pulled out. He sprawled on his back alongside Alex.

"Come here, " Walter coaxed.

Alex rolled obediently to Walter; laid his head on Walter's chest. Listened to Walter's heart pounding. Rubbed his cheek against Walter's soft, dark fur.

"I love you, Walter. I'm okay, I really am okay." Alex marveled, pure joy in his voice. "We did it!"

"My brave, brave Alex," Walter said proudly, smoothing Alex's disheveled black hair. "We certainly did."

"I'm all yours. Keep me forever, Walter." Alex snuggled trustingly into Walter, his eyes closing sleepily.

"Forever, Alex," Walter said, his voice hoarse with love and gratitude. "I love you, Alex." He watched tenderly as Alex's breathing grew slow and even. Gradually, Walter drifted off to sleep as well, feeling as if a great stone had been lifted from his heart.

Walter woke to an empty bed and the sound of Alex in the shower. Walter listened to the water, aware how unlike Alex it was to willingly leave their warm bed first.

"I hate that fucking soap," Alex said bitterly as he dripped his way across the bedroom.

Walter forbore to mention that the soap had never irritated Alex before.

"I can't find a fucking thing!" Alex dug through his drawers in a wholly uncharacteristic manner, strewing clothes left and right. "Shit!"

"I think we need to talk, Alex," Walter said gently. "Something is obviously upsetting you."

"Fuck you, Walter," Alex said nastily. "So now you're a fucking psychologist? Shit, I've got the therapist, I've got Miller, and now I've got you, too? Fuck that!"

Walter was out of bed and beside Alex in seconds. He took Alex's good arm firmly and turned Alex to face him. Used his other hand to tilt Alex's chin so that their eyes met.

"You do not curse at me," Walter said slowly. "I know this has been an emotional roller coaster for you. I am prepared to cut you a considerable amount of slack. But I am not going to be cursed at by my own lover, in my own house. Do you understand me, Alex?"

For a moment it seemed as if Alex were going to continue his self -destructive trajectory. His lips were already forming the letter F when his eyes dropped.

"F-fine," Alex amended his answer. "I hate this, Walter. I know I'm being a prick and I don't know why. I'm just so angry, Walter. Fuck this, fuck all of this." He threw himself backward on the bed.

"Fuck shit shit fuck fuck shit," Alex spat defiantly. "There. Are you going to spank me?"

Walter shook his head. He mostly ignored Alex's habitual obscenities, reserving spanking for those occasions when Alex deliberately cursed at him. Alex was obviously baiting him.

Why is Alex so angry with me? Walter asked himself. Oh. Walter winced at his sudden epiphany.

It was so simple. He had forced Alex through a difficult passage. Alex was angry at having been pushed, still angrier at himself for being angry. A spanking would right Alex's emotional economy and make it possible to avoid examining his conflicted feelings.

Walter sat down on the bed beside Alex.

"I'm not going to spank you, Alex," Walter said softly. "You have a right to be angry at me. Lovers don't make each other have sex. What I did to you was done for good reasons, but that doesn't mean it didn't feel awful at parts. I'm sorry, Alex. I do love you."

Alex's face crumpled and he began to cry, his high, pitiful sobs unlike any sound Walter had ever heard him make before. Walter sat silently, witnessing the tears Alex had never been allowed.

Alex's sobs grew deeper for a time, then tapered into whimpers and sniffles.

"Will I ever stop feeling this way?" Alex asked Walter, his eyes red, his white skin blotchy from crying. "Or am I screwed forever?"

Walter was silent for a long minute. He rubbed Alex's back gently.

"You're doing all the right things, Alex. You take your medicine and you see your therapist. You've come a long way. I think it'll get better, Alex. I really believe that."

"I love you so much, Walter," Alex said softly. "Don't ever leave me."

"Where would I go without you?" Walter asked gently. "I love you, Alex. You are my heart."

***FIN***

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

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