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Tuesday, November 3, 2015

TLR Chapter 26

Coral pulled the blanket back up over Ryan for the third time.  Relieved that the young man was finally peacefully sleeping after the rough night he had had.  Walking out of his bedroom where he had let Ryan stay Coral grabbed his phone off the night stand and called Duke.

Duke picked up and said, "Montgomery here."

"Heya, big guy, how you doing this morning?" Coral asked.

Duke smiled. "Okay Coral. Doc says I'm doin' better, but he still won't let me return to work quite yet. Then there's physical therapy," he sighed.  "What can I do for you?"

"Well, I was hoping you were free to come stay with Ryan again this morning.  I need to pick up some supplies and check in with James and I really don't want to leave him alone," Coral explained.  "He had a bad night but is sleeping now."

Duke said, "Sure Coral. No problem, it's not like I'm doin' anythin' anyway. I'll get dressed and be right over."

Ryan stirred and sat up and scooted to the edge of the bed for a moment. He glanced over at Coral on the phone, but stayed where he was, his feet on the floor,  getting his bearings after a bit of a rough night.

"Man, I'll sure be glad when you can come back to work.  Being in charge is ok for a little while but I'm not cut out to be a boss," Coral laughed.

Coral watched Ryan wondering what he was going to do.

Duke shook his head. "You're doin' fine from what I can tell, but I can't wait to get back to work too. I'm not cut out to do nothin'.

"Yeah I bet you aren't."

Duke smiled. "Well give me ten minutes and I'll be there.

"Ok, see you then and thanks."

Duke said, "You're welcome.” He disconnected the call, got dressed and headed to Coral's place.

Ryan made his way out of the bedroom to the bathroom and then to the kitchen. "What's to eat?" He demanded.

Coral expected the irritability Ryan was showing.  "What do you feel like eating?  What do you think you can keep down?"

Ryan shrugged. "Maybe some oatmeal with raisins and brown sugar? Baked?

"Baked?" Coral shook his head.  "How about the stove top version?  It's faster?"

Ryan pouted. "I like baked oatmeal."

"I only have flavored instant, or regular long cooking.  Can either one of those be baked? And if we bake it how long does it take?" Coral asked, never having made baked oatmeal before.

Ryan said, “The long cooked kind. You make it, put it in a bowl and bake at 350 until it's a light brown on top so it's not so gooey." He told Coral.

"All right, I don't have raisins, can't stand the things, but I do have brown sugar, cinnamon, things like that.  Is that all right?  At least until I can go out shopping." Coral said.

Ryan snapped, "Who doesn't like raisins and what's oatmeal without raisins, cinnamon and brown sugar?"

Coral took a deep breath, he knew that irritability was one of the symptoms of Ryan's withdrawal, and Heath had warned him that things would get worse before they would get better.

"OK then, Ry.  Why don't you let me go and buy some raisins, and I can make the oatmeal the way you like.  It'll be a little while longer to wait though.  Can you hold on till I get back?"

Ryan arched an eyebrow at Coral. "Forget the oatmeal, what else you got?"

"I can make you cinnamon French toast, pancakes.  I have several different kinds of cold cereal.  What are you in the mood for?" Coral asked patiently.

“Cinnamon French toast sounds good," Ryan said.

"French toast it is then.  It shouldn't take too long." Coral said with a smile, glad that Ryan appeared to be cooperating for the time being.  He turned toward the cabinet next to the stove and took out a griddle.  He turned the heat on low beneath it while he went to the refrigerator to get the eggs and butter, swiped the cinnamon and bread from another cabinet and began making breakfast. 

Ryan watched him, fascinated by how easy it all seemed for the older man to do.

Both men heard a knock at the door.

Ryan looked at Coral. "Now who the hell is that so damn early in the mornin'?"

Coral raised an eyebrow in Ryan's direction and stopped what he was doing.  "Come in, the door's open!"

Duke came in. "Good mornin' Coral.  Hi there Ryan."

Ryan frowned. "You called the jailer?"

Coral laughed.  "Duke is hardly a jailer, Ry." He replied.  "Duke, why don't you sit down and join us for breakfast?"

Duke grinned. "Love to and Coral's right, security maybe, way." 

Ryan asked, "Then why are you here?"

"To keep you company while Coral goes out for some groceries." Duke answered.

Ryan frowned, "So instead of a jailer I got a baby sitter." He said petulantly.

Duke looked at Coral.

Coral raised his eyebrow at Ryan again, he knew that the young man wasn't entirely himself yet but the boy's attitude was getting on his nerves.

"I'm a glass half full kind of guy, Ry.  Don't think of Duke as a babysitter, think of him as a friend who's come to keep you company while I'm out." 

Duke nodded. "I'm here just to keep you company and to help you if you need anythin' since you’re not used to livin' here."

Ryan glared at Duke. "I'm security remember?  I know every nook and cranny of this place!"

Duke sighed. "Look Ryan, just let me have somethin' to do. I'm bored to death and you'd be doin' me a favor by lettin' me hang out with you." He replied reasonably.

Ryan considered this and then shrugged. "'Kay." he said, "Better make a double batch then, you know how much this hollow tree can eat."

Duke chuckled, his huge appetite was well known throughout the resort.

Coral grinned, broke more eggs to scramble and took out another griddle.  With little effort, Coral made stack after stack of French toast, barely keeping ahead of Ryan and Duke's voracious appetites.  He was pleased not only that the two of them seemed to enjoy the meal but that Ryan seemed to be keeping the food down with no problem.

"You guys want juice or coffee?"  He asked.

Ryan said, "Juice."

Duke said, "Ditto, I'm not drinking coffee so much right now."  He looked at Coral, "Ain't you gonna eat too?"

"I use to make meals for my little cousins when they came to visit, so I'm used to making sure they were full before I made anything for myself." He grinned as he lowered the heat to get glasses and juice.  He poured three large glasses and placed two of them in front of his guests.  He guzzled down the third one himself without having to stop to take a breath.

As soon as he finished the juice he returned to his cooking, serving up eight more slices of French toast.  "How are you two feeling?  Anywhere near full yet?"  He joked.

Duke chuckled and sipped at his juice.  He said, "I'm about filled up, maybe another dozen slices should do it." He teased.

“I think I'm about filled up. Don't want to get sick," Ryan said. The young man looked at Coral. "You got a lot of little ones in your family?" He asked curiously.

Coral smiled.  "When I was younger my two older sisters took care of me and our little sister.  When I got a little older they taught me how to cook and my aunts and uncles used to ask me to baby sit.  And yes, there were a lot of them.  The Okoro family is big and gets bigger every year."

Ryan shook his head. "Must be real noisy around holidays."

Duke sighed and stayed quiet thinking of how he cared for Dean and a mother who never cooked but Duke had scrounged up whatever he could for him and Dean until they went to live with their grandparents.

"It's hellacious," Coral joked.  "Everyone talking at once, the kids running around like wild things.  Mom and Pop host nearly every holiday, and the kids take advantage of it, since they know they can't act like that at home."  He laughed. "The kids know they never get in trouble when they're at Gramma and Grampa's."  

Ryan shook his head. "I can't imagine. I'm an only child."

Duke just shrugged. "It was just me and my little brother Dean." He knew that Coral had met Dean before.

"Well, we're going to have to do something about that." Coral said, hiding his sadness at his friend's admissions.  "Con," he continued, referring to one of TLR's rangers, "Always teases me that I must be at least half Italian if my family is that large and loud.  His partner Brian says I must be half Irish for the same reasons.  I asked my father if we could have Italian or Irish roots and he just laughed and said anything was possible.  I'll have to invite you guys to my next family reunion."

Ryan finished with his breakfast pushed his plate away and said, "We'll see. He got up and opened the fridge and frowned when he saw the beer missing. "You drink all the rest of the beer?" He asked Coral.

Duke said, "If Dean can come too it might be fun...” He frowned at Ryan. "It's too early for beer anyway Ry."

Ryan gave Duke a look. "It's never too early for a beer."

Duke shook his head. "It is for most people Ry...”

Ryan snapped, "I ain't most people!"

With a raised eyebrow Coral looked at Ryan.  "No. I didn't drink the beer, Ry.  I threw it out.  It wouldn’t be fair of me to be drinking it when you can't."

Ryan scowled. "That was stupid. I coulda drank it for you if you didn't want it."

Coral slapped his hand down on the table in front of Ryan.  "We discussed this already little boy," he growled.  "You will not be drinking anything stronger than a soda for a long time to come." 

Ryan jumped at Coral's reaction and looked down, "Yeah you said that."

"And I meant it so if you want to discuss it further I'll be glad to stay here and do just that."

Ryan shook his head and said, "No, it's okay."

“Good,” Coral said.  “Now if you think you can behave I’ll head to the store.”  He turned to Duke “I should be back in a couple of hours.  I need to stop and see James too.”

“Sure, Coral, we’ll be ok,” the big man said.


Once Coral left to get the grocery shopping finished Duke tried to clean up things. "Ry, why don't you help me clean this up?"

Ryan shrugged. "You're doin' a good enough job, besides you're the one who said he was bored and wanted somethin' to do." Ryan snapped.

Duke frowned. “Ry, I can't do it all in the splint, you need to help."

Ryan shrugged. "Leave it then. Coral can clean it up when he comes back."

Duke shook his head. "Ry, that wouldn't be fair, he did all the cookin'," the big man said reasonably.

Ryan snapped, "It's his problem, I didn't ask to be dragged here and I'm not his maid!"

Duke bit his lip, "Calm down Ry."

"Don't tell me what to do!” Ryan snapped. "You can just go. I don't need to be baby sat. I can play my video games."

Duke said, "Ry..."

Ryan shouted, "Just shut up Duke, you’re no damn angel either you know!"

Duke said, "Ry...come on...settle down."

Ryan cried, "I gotta get outta here! I don’t need a keeper!” He said angrily.

"Ryan...stop!"  Duke growled and blocked the door.

Ryan backed off.  He knew there was no way he was going to get past Duke, even with the man wearing a splint.  He stomped into the living room, contemplating how else he could get out of there.

Duke pulled out his phone and dialed Heath.

"Hello, Heath speaking," the young doctor answered.

Duke said, “Heath, It's Duke. I'm here at Coral's and Ryan's out of control. He's pacin' and snappin' at me. He wants to leave and Coral wants him to stay put. I don't wanna hurt him if he tries anythin’ stupid."

"Ok, I'm on my way," Heath said.  "Where's Coral?" He asked still holding the phone to his ear as he ran to his cart.

"Coral went shoppin' for groceries." Duke told Heath.

"Ok, call him, and try and keep Ry there.  I'm almost there."

Duke said, "All right, I'll do my best." He hung up with Heath and called Coral before going back into the living room where Ryan was still pacing and looking at his video game set up and then looking outside. Duke said, "Ry, why don't you come and sit down here on the sofa with me?"

Ryan snapped, "Why? You gonna sit on me until I promise I won't go anywhere?"

Duke thought to himself it wouldn't be a bad idea, but said, "Of course not, I'm your friend and I just want to help."

Ryan gave Duke a look, but couldn't help pacing.

Duke watched Ryan carefully and prayed it wouldn't be too long before Heath came.

Heath pulled up to Coral's place and bolted up the steps.  He didn't knock as he entered the bungalow.

Duke was poised to snag Ry if he moved to the door. When he saw who it was, the big man sighed in relief. "Hi Heath, he's been really agitated."

"How you doing Ryan?" the doctor asked.

Coral had only just gotten to the store when he got Duke's call.  He immediately turned his cart around and headed back home.

Ryan turned on Duke. "You snitch! You told on me!" He tried to push past Heath now.

Heath stepped in front of Ryan, "Settle down, now," Heath said in full top mode.

No one heard the sound of Coral's golf cart pulling up, or the man as he ran up the steps to the door.  He was just in time to hear Ryan yelling and Heath's words.  He opened the door with a deep frown on his face and demanded to know what was going on.

Ryan snapped, "None of your business!  I thought you were goin' for groceries!"

Duke said, "He’s tryin' to get out and won’t settle down."

"It's the withdrawal, Coral," Heath said, "He doesn't know what he's doing."

Ryan snapped at Duke. "You shut up snitch!"

Duke was ready to grab Ryan, but refrained, scowling at him instead. "I should fire you for insubordination!"

Ryan said, "You can't do're not on duty or workin'!"

"No, but I am, young man, and we're putting an end to this right now." Coral growled.

Duke said, "I'm still head of security and if you don't stop snappin' at me I'm goin' to fire you!"

A wolf whistle split the air as Heath called a stop to the scene in from of him.  "Enough," he commanded.

Duke and Ryan stopped their arguing at the sharp sound.

"Duke stand down.  I think Coral and I can handle this and it might be better if there were less people here.  Ryan, calm down and sit down."

Ryan huffed. "I don't want to sit down! He's a jerk!"

Duke just shook his head looking at Coral.

Coral crossed his arms and half sat, half leaned on a table, watching and taking in everything that was happening around him.  "Ry, I know you're not feeling yourself right now, but you don't talk to a friend... hell, you don't talk to anyone like that.  Now do as you were told, young man, and sit.  Or I'll be happy to make sure that you won't be able to for a while." 

Ryan glared at Coral, but sat, fidgeting in his seat.

"That's better," Coral said.  "Ryan, anything that Duke did, he did to help you. To protect you.  That makes him a good friend, and he doesn't deserve your abuse.  Am I clear?"

Ryan glared at the big man. "He ain't gotta tell me what to do." He replied stubbornly.

Duke said, "You were hell bent on leavin’ and Coral wanted you to stay put.  I don't know why you’re so insistent on leavin’, but if it’s to find a drink I can’t in good conscience let that happen. I don’t want you to get all messed up drinkin' on your meds."  The big man said quietly thinking of his mother.

"He's your elder, and he's your friend.  It's obvious you can't take care of yourself, and right now you need all the help you can get.  That includes Duke or any of us tellin' you what to do.  Cleaah?" Coral said sternly, not realizing that he had lapsed into his old Boston accent in his anger.

Heath knew what Duke was thinking of and pulled him closer.  "We'll make sure that doesn't happen, big guy."

Duke leaned in toward Heath, finding himself wishing that it was Jake there instead.

Seeing Duke's reaction, Coral felt a pang of guilt.  He knew his friend's history and felt badly that he hadn't seen how this had been affecting Duke up til now.

Ryan glared. "Yeah since I got no choice but buckle under."

Heath walked over to his bag and pulled out a syringe.  "I'll give him something to help him calm down and sleep."

Ryan's green eyes widened at Heath's words. "You ain't gonna stick me with no needle!" the young man cried fearfully. Ryan had a huge fear of needles. “Can’t you give me some of those butt things you gave me before?”

Heath shook his head. “No Ryan, what I need to give you comes in only injectables.”

"I think we've all had enough right now, Ryan.  You are going to go to my bedroom and lie down.  Heath is going to go in and give you any sort of medication he deems necessary, whethah it's a shot or ah pill, and yoah gonna cooperate with him unless you want to feel my hand on your backside."

Ryan huffed at Coral's words and stomped into the bedroom muttering under his breath about everyone being bossy.

Coral breathed a sigh of relief.  He knew Ryan was sick and really didn't want to have to punish the boy, even if he seemed to be asking for it right now.

Heath smiled and slapped Coral on the back.  "I think you are just what that boy needs, my friend."

Coral smiled, suddenly tired, “Thanks Heath.  Right now he needs a healing hand more than a heavy one, I think."

Duke stood up. "I think I'd better go home."

"I'm sorry you had to see this Duke.  I'm sorry you were treated so badly." Coral apologized. 

Duke sighed. "It's alright, it ain't like I ain't seen it or lived it before." He told Coral.

"Why don't you stop in and see James before you head home Duke?" Heath suggested.

Duke bit his lip and then shook his head. "Naw...I'll be all right. He's got enough with Jax and stuff."

"OK, but we are here for you too," Heath reminded him.

Duke nodded. “Yeah, I know and thanks doc.”

The two men didn't see Coral stiffen up, but they were both startled when the large black man fairly ran into the bedroom only to find Ryan in the process of trying to climb out the window.

Heath followed Coral into the room, the syringe ready in his hand.  He stood back waiting to see what Coral was going to do. 

Duke seeing the other two men run into the bedroom shook his head and sighed, heading out of the bungalow and toward his own place. He didn’t really want any part of this unless it was in the capacity of his duties. He’d lived through enough of these scenes with his mother. He trudged to his own bungalow, wishing for Jake. He went inside and plopped down on the sofa. He couldn’t help the memories that were hitting him at that moment and tried to pray like he had when he had been a teen and his mother was in these situations. It had always helped and it seemed to bring the big man a sense of peace now as well.

When Ryan saw Coral enter the room, he tried to jump out of the window, both to get outside and to escape the dreaded needle, but Coral grabbed the boy around the waist and pulled him back into the room.  At his wit’s end, he tucked Ryan under his well-muscled arm and landed six or seven hefty swats to the boy's rear end.

Ryan yelped and squirmed, but was no match for the older and stronger man as he delivered a short, but effective spanking to the young man.

"Oww! That hurts!"

Coral scooped Ryan up and then dropped him on the bed. Both he and Heath talked to him with Coral stroking the sandy hair trying to calm the boy enough so Heath could give him the shot he needed.

As Ryan sniffled and grew a bit calmer as a result of his stinging bottom, he allowed Heath to insert the needle. 

"Now no more of yah shenanigans, Ryan O'Donnell, yah heyah?" Coral demanded.

Ryan mumbled. "Yes Sir." as he drifted off to sleep.

Relieved for the moment, Coral pulled the blanket up to Ryan's shoulders and tucked the boy in.  He looked at Heath, “I don't know about you but I could shoah go for a cup of coffee right about now."

"I think a strong cup is in order and then I'll stay here while you finish shopping."

“Sounds like a plan my friend,” Coral grinned. 


A few days after coming back from taking the letter to Jax’s mom, Mutt saw his young friend sitting by the pool, to all appearances quite alone, enjoying a large glass of chilled orange juice and soaking in the sun.  He approached the young man with a smile and sat down across from him.  "Heya Jax!"  He said excitedly, sitting down across from the younger man.  "Boy I've missed you.  How are you doing?"

Jaxon looked surprised but pleased.  "Hey!  Not that I'm not happy to see you, but aren't you grounded?"

"Yeah, but Jeff said that if I saw you by the pool or something I could stop to say hello.  So... Hello!"

"How long can you stay?"  Jaxon asked happily, 

Mutt shrugged, “I dunno.  Probably not too long, but I couldn't just pass you by."  Mutt smiled.  It was easier to smile these days.  The soreness on his mouth had diminished somewhat, and the bruises had reached the green and yellow stage.  Cold compresses applied throughout the day had caused his lip to go back to normal size, and thanks to some medicated lip balm that Jeff insisted Mutt carry with him and use several times throughout the day, the split was all but healed.

"Well, great," Jaxon replied, lowering his voice and glancing around for Heath or James, “because I have a ton of questions that I've been afraid to talk to Heath or James about.  Do you have a minute?"

"For you my friend, I have two.  What's bothering you?"

Jaxon looked around anxiously and began to talk.

"Well, first I was wondering if you really know others in a three-way?" Jax asked.  "And how does that work.  And how does this DP thing work? And what...

"Whoa!  Slow down!"  Mutt laughed.  "One question at a time. OK?

"Sorry, but I'm all confused and excited," Jax said.

"I can understand that. Getting together with James and Heath is an exciting thing.  Yes, I know some people in three way relationships.  My best friend Adam is in one.  And so are a couple of the other guys I work with. They love it.  Adam is in a three way with a Top and another bottom, or brat as the Tops like to refer to us."

"I've never really had a relationship with one guy.  I'm sorta scared to have one with two guys. And then having to deal with punishments, well, it just feels like I'm a little kid again," the younger man whispered.

"James and Heath will never treat you like a kid.  They'll only punish you when you've done something really wrong, and like I said, it's not always a spanking.  It’s consensual."

"I know James is what you call a top and I'm pretty sure Heath is too.  And if I'm honest I do like them taking care of me," Jax said, "but would it be two against one."

"Well, I only have Jeff to deal with, but I've spoken with James and Heath at one time or another when they've caught me doing something I shouldn't, and they, and Jeff, will always talk things over with me before deciding anything.  I'm sure that if you had any qualms, they'd listen to your side before coming to a decision.  You'd be an equal partner in the trio, and your input would mean something."

"You're not a child, you're an equal, an adult, and you'll be treated as an adult by them.  But if you do something, like run away,” he said significantly, "and endanger yourself, then they'd step in and deal with it."

"I think they are waiting for me to come to them about really becoming a trio," Jax said. "But I needed to talk to you because this is more than just loving them, I need to trust them too."

"I can understand that.  It took a while for me to trust Jeff too.  Coming from a household where my father ruled with an iron fist and my mother ruled with a steel one, I was a little leery about allowing myself to trust someone... anyone... not to harm me.  When I met Jeff, he took his time with me.  I know that Heath and James will take their time with you and you'll learn to trust them as well."

"I know how easy trusting someone can go wrong, but I want to trust them.”

"As far as trusting them, I can tell you that they're good, honest, kind men.  Stay with them, get to know them.  I know you'll learn to trust them, and...if I'm not wrong... you already have feelings for them.  I know they do for you.  I can tell by the way James looks at you."

"Yeah, I do.  I think I have from the beginning.  But it was confusing.  I mean which one would want me?  And then James is 30 years older than me and Heath is older too," the young man poured out his concerns.  "But then they seemed to be a couple so I couldn't hurt either one of them.  It floored me when they said they both wanted me to become a part of them."

Mutt laughed quietly.  "I'll tell you a secret.  James and Heath were brought together because of you.  They weren't a couple until you came along.  Their feelings for you are for real.  They both love you. I... well... I've seen how they are with you.  You complete them."

Jaxon blushed, "Really? You think so?"

"I know so.  James smiles more and his eyes sparkle whenever he looks at you.  Heath is all over protective of you, not just as a doctor.  I've never seen him like this with anyone else.  And believe me, age differences mean nothing!  I can tell you some stories about Jeff one of these days,” he laughed.

Jaxon chuckled, "I'll hold you to that, Mutt."  Then more serious he continued, "They make me feel good and comfortable and safe and, well...and um..."

"Loved? Protected? Valued?"


Mutt smiled kindly, "That's love. That's real love. When the other person in your life, or in your case, people, put you before their own needs and wants.  When you are the center of their world.  When they'd give up everything to make you happy."

"Well, I'm not sure they would go that far but even half of that is more than I ever hoped for," Jax stated.

"You're a great guy, Jax.  I'm very fond of you myself.  I'm glad I found you as a friend.  I count myself lucky, and I have the feeling that Heath and James do as well.  You're what they've been waiting for.  You'll learn to believe that more when you get to know them better."

"Think of it this way.  Did Heath have to help you?  No.  Did James have to list you as a guest here to protect you?  No. They wanted to.  And the more they got to know you, the more they found to love."

Jaxon was blushing bright red as Mutt listed all the things his men had done for him before they really knew him.

Mutt tried not to laugh, he put a friendly hand on Jaxon's shoulder.  "Everything happens for a reason.  And I think you ending up on our shore was meant to happen."

"Yeah, I'm beginning to think you're right, Mutt."  Jax agreed.  "Fate dropped me here practically in Heath's lap."

"And if I read him right, he likes you right where you are."

The two young men were deep in conversation when a shadow passed over them.

"What may I ask are you doing here talking to Jaxon when you're grounded and supposed to be working?"  Jeff demanded. 

Jaxon jumped at the tone.

Mutt blushed but held his own.  "You said that I could say hello if I saw Jax, and I saw him so I came over to say hello."

"I've been watching you, young man, and you've been saying hello for a good twenty minutes.  And Jaxon, you know that Mutt is grounded and the conditions of his grounding.  What was so important that you both disregarded those conditions?"

"Well, he, um, he was helping me,"

Jeff raised an eyebrow and looked at Jaxon without saying a word.

Jaxon's gut clenched.  "Um, I needed to know some stuff and Mutt was explaining it."

Mutt stood up.  "It's nothing important, Jeff... Sir.  I was talking his ear off.  He told me that I shouldn't be sitting around and talking but I... um... well I miss him and just wanted to catch up a little."

"Are you lying to me, Matthew?"

Mutt swallowed hard but didn't reply.

Jaxon watched the exchange between his two friends.

"Finish up with what you were doing, Mutt.  We'll talk more later." Jeff said, pointing vaguely toward the left. 

Mutt sent a quick smile toward his friend before heading off to finish his work.

"Speaking of talking, Jaxon, did Mutt answer your questions?  You know that if you have questions you can ask James, Heath or myself?"

"Yes, sir, he did or at least he helped," Jaxon answered.

"I'm glad he was able to help then."  Jeff said, smiling.  "However..."

"He's not really in trouble is he?" the concerned young man asked.

"He knows the rules and he knows he broke them.  Don't worry about him," Jeff continued, smiling gently at the young man.  "He'll be fine.  He may have a little trouble sitting for an hour or so, but he'll be fine."

Jaxon looked up at Jeff and swallowed hard.  He blushed but didn't say anything for a minute then he asked Jeff, "Why do you and Mutt live this way?"

Jeff looked enquiringly at the younger man.  "In what way? The discipline aspect of our relationship?"

"You know, you telling him what to do and not do and then spa...correcting him."

Jeff sat down so that he was more at an eye level with Jaxon.  "We need each other.  Mutt needs me to remind him to think about the consequences of the things he does.  He is a smart man, an intelligent man, but he doesn't use the common sense he was given and that gets him into trouble.  I love him with all my heart... the idea that he has done something that could end up with him hurt or worse is my worst nightmare.  My disciplining him helps him refocus on what's important."

"He loves you too, I can see it in the way he looks at you or talks about you," Jaxon said.  "But what do you get from the relationship?"

"I get the love of my life.  The man who means more to me than the world."  Jeff said fondly.  "If my spanking him on occasion, or giving him lines to write, keeps him alive and healthy, then it's worth it."

"Do you think James and Heath will ever think about me that way?"

Jeff smiled again, a genuine, happy smile.  "I think they already do.  I've known James for a very long time and I've never seen him as happy as he's been since he met you.  And Heath, I think Heath loved you from the day he helped you off the beach."

"It's hard for me to understand or accept," Jaxon said softly.  "No one except my Dad ever loved me.  It's just really hard to get my head around and the DP thing scares me."

"It can be scary to someone who's never been in a partnership like this.  It scared Mutt too, at first.  But he came to trust that I would spank him, but never cause him harm, and that my love was unconditional, and that he would always be forgiven.  If he decided that spanking wasn't for him, he'd tell me and we'd talk it out.  As it is, he actually asks for it sometimes. Literally.  Sometimes I agree with him, and sometimes I don't.  But we always discuss things first."

"What?” Jax said, shocked, "He asks for it?  Why would he do that?"

"Because for him, a spanking brings release.  Release of guilt, anger.  It brings him the feeling of a clean slate.  Once he's been punished it's over and done with.  I will always love him, and he knows that whatever he did, that he's forgiven as well."

"Mutt, said something like that at the house and again today.  I'm not sure I understand but he didn't seem scared even when you caught us talking."

"I may spank him, but I'll never hurt him.  I'll never give him more than he can handle or more than he deserves.  He knows that. He may not like the spanking itself, but he always feels better for it afterward."

Jaxon looked at the water in the pool for a minute as if pondering Jeff's words.  Then he finally looked back at Jeff and said, "I think maybe this is something I need to talk to James and Heath about."

"Absolutely.  That's what they're here for.  I hope I helped, even if it was just a little,” Jeff replied softly.

"Yes, sir, you did help and so did Mutt," the young man answered.  "Please don't go too hard on him, Jeff, I asked him to talk to me."

Jeff patted the younger man on the shoulder and stood to leave.

"Don't worry.  He'll be fine.  You're a good friend.  Will Heath or James be here soon to help you back to the house or are you going to hang out for a while longer?"

Jaxon shifted from the lounge chair to his wheel chair.  "I can get there by myself.   Thanks again Jeff,” Jax said and slowly and carefully started to roll away.

"Young man, are you supposed to be doing this by yourself?"

"Heath says I can move around if I'm careful,” Jax answered looking over his shoulder at Mutt’s husband.

"Let me put this another way.  Did Heath clear you to wheel yourself back to the house?  Did he clear you to wheel from the pool to the house on the gravel path, or only in the house?"

"Um, well, he said I could wheel around in the house and this isn't much different than in there."

"Stop. Now.  I'll call Heath or James to help you get back."

"Jeff," Jaxon whined, "I'm not your brat." 

Jeff's eyebrows raised in surprise.

Jaxon saw the eyebrow go up and he wisely chose to stop and wait.

“No, you're not my brat but you belong to two of my best friends, and that makes you my responsibility as well.”  He pulled out his cell phone and called Heath.  "Jaxon is ready to go back to the house.  Would you like me to help him or will you come out for him yourself?"

"But...but they’re busy."

"No buts about it.  Heath has asked me to take you home."

"Oh come on you didn't have to call him," Jaxon snapped.

"You may not be my brat but you will watch your tone with me.  Understood, young man?"  Jeff said firmly.

"Yes sir," Jaxon wondered where that came from but it was so natural.

"Come on, be careful and go slow, I don’t want you flipping that chair again.  Let’s get going.”

"You mean you aren't going to carry me?" Jaxon grinned at Jeff. Jeff patted the young man on the back and the two of them headed to the house together.

Jaxon was glad Jeff walked beside him because the gravel path was a bit tricky to maneuver.

Jeff settled Jaxon into the recliner with the remote, a drink and a snack.  "Just relax, it's nearly lunchtime and James and Heath will be back soon."

"Ok," Jax answered not wanting to take a chance and cross Jeff again.

"You have all of our numbers if you need anything."  Jeff said with a smile.  "I’ll check in on you later if James or Heath are held up."

“Ok, but you do know my knee is getting better and I can get around," Jax grinned as he started to get up.  "Look I can even get to the bathroom by myself."

"Sit."  Jeff commanded in a no nonsense tone.

“Ok, Ok, I'll stay here I promise.” Jax laughed.  “I can’t wait to get my crutches and the walking brace so you guys won’t have to babysit me,” he added a bit more solemnly.

“None of us look at it as babysitting you, Jax,” Jeff assured the young man.  “We only want what is best for you and right now that includes keeping you safe by being here with you.”

Jaxon blushed, ashamed he’d voiced his insecurity.  “I know, Jeff.  I’m sorry but sometimes it just feels like I’m taking up everyone’s time because I need so much help.”

“This isn’t going to last forever, bud.  Before you know it you’ll be good as new,” Jeff said.  “And then you’ll probably wish you have someone here to get you drinks and snacks.”

Jax giggled, “Yeah, I guess you’re right.  I’ll miss all the attention.”

“You do know that you have two men that will give you all the attention you can handle when the time is right,” Jeff said tussling Jax hair.  “Now you stay put until one of those men get back and I’ll go find my boy.”

“Thanks Jeff.  And I’ll stay put.”

"Atta boy," Jeff praised before opening the door and leaving.

Jaxon sighed with relief when the door closed behind the man.

Moments later he heard a tapping at the window.  He looked up to see a grinning Mutt slide the window open and climb inside.

"Mutt, you're never going to be able to sit again," Jax chuckled.

"Eh, it's worth it."  Mutt laughed.  "I saw you talking with Jeff.  Everything go ok?  I was too far away to hear anything good."

"Yeah, we talked a little, but let me tell you that man can be scary," Jax said shaking his head.

"Tell me about it.  When he goes all Gunny on me it's all I can do not to stand at attention and salute!"  Mutt laughed.  "But he's sexy as all hell when he does go Gunny."

"I think I did salute," Jax grinned.

"Did you find yourself saying 'Yes Sir'?"

'”Yeah a couple of times.  He gets a bit cranky when you do something he doesn't think you should do, doesn't he?" Jax chuckled

"Hole in one, my friend."  Mutt giggled.  "He seems like a real hard ass until you get to know him.  Then he's just a hard ass teddy bear."

Jaxon laughed at Mutt's perfect description of his husband.

"Well, you don't seem any the worse for wear after your excitement with Jeff.  When are Heath and James coming home?"

“Jeff said soon so anytime, I guess," Jax answered.  "Maybe you should leave."

"Yeah, I guess.  I just wanted to make sure you were ok.  I'll see you again soon."  Mutt winked.

"Ok, thanks, Mutt and I am good, maybe even great," Jaxon said happily.

He peeked out of the window before sticking a leg out.  He glanced at his friend and saw the contented smile on Jaxon's face and couldn't help but to smile back.  With a gallant wave, Mutt was over the sill.  He closed the window and ran toward home.

Jeff, just out of sight but near enough to see what had happened, suppressed a smile and followed his boy.


After they finished their coffee, Heath went back to the infirmary, promising to return later in the day to check on Ryan again. In the meantime, Coral laid down next to Ryan and tried to get some sleep.  It seemed as though he'd just fallen into a deep sleep when he felt Ryan moving next to him.  His eyes opened immediately, alert for any trouble.

Ryan stretched carefully and bit his lip. "Sorry, didn't mean to wake you Coral."

"It's all right, Ry.  How are you feeling?" 

Ryan said, "BeTter. My bottom still stings though, you walloped me hard." He pouted.

"I'm sorry for that," Coral admitted. "But you were out of control.  Do you remember trying to jump out of the window? Or the things you said to Duke?"

Ryan bit his lip and nodded. "Yeah...I was bein' a real ass." Ryan looked away. "I guess I've caused you a lot of trouble. Now that I'm feelin' a bit better I can just go back home. I think I can still make it with the income from the firing range if I get fired and banned."

"You're not causing me trouble, Ry, we're friends, and friends help each other.  You can't go back to the trailer right now.  Even though it's been cleaned it's still uninhabitable.  My friend Aaron, you know, Dodger?  He's keeping an eye on it and making sure the range stays open.  In the meantime, it's best that you stay with me."

“Ok,” the younger man said softly.

"Listen, Ry.  I'm not sure I should be the one to tell you this, but I think it's important that you hear it," Coral said gently.  "Are you willing to listen now?"

Ryan looked at Coral. "Sure, I'm willin' to listen but why is my place not fit to live in?  I've lived there the past four years Coral...thanks for gettin' it cleaned up for me."

"To answer your first question, I want to tell you something about Duke.  Duke was really hit hard by some of the things you said when you weren't quite yourself.  See, he watched his mother drink herself to death while he struggled to keep himself and his brother clean and fed and out of the hands of DCF.  Watching you... I know it upset him, not only because of the memories it had to have dredged up, but also because one of his friends, someone he's fond of, seems to be going down that same road."  Coral began.

Ryan stared at Coral. "Oh my gosh...I had no idea stupid. I'm gonna have to tell him how sorry I am. I wouldn't want to hurt Duke for the world." He said quietly.

"As far as your trailer, it's been cleaned up but Mutt says there's a mold problem.  It’s not safe to live in.  I also don't think you should go back because it's clear to me that you need some company other than your video games.  I'd like you to stay with me indefinitely."

Ryan's head came up at Coral's words about his trailer and him living with him. "Indefinitely? really want an ass like me livin' with you?"

"You're not stupid, Ry." Coral said comfortingly.  "You didn't know.  You had no way of knowing, it's not something he talks about a lot.  And you're not an ass," He reassured the younger man, “It was the alcohol talking.  Not you.  We understood that.  But now, more than ever, you're going to need someone to be with you, support you, catch you if you feel like you're falling.  Keep you dry when you get cravings... and you will get cravings.  You can beat them, but you'll need help, and I'm volunteering myself to be that help."

Ryan studied Coral and then nodded. "All right Coral, I don't deserve you, but thank you.”

Coral put a gentle arm around his friend's shoulder.  "You are a good person, Ry.  And you are a deserving person.  You're also a very lonely person from what I can see, and you deserve better than that." 

Tears pooled in the green eyes and Ryan brushed them away impatiently. "Yeah, but it seems I've been lonely my whole are you goin' to help me?"

Coral smiled a little, trying to hide his own sadness as he imagined this  young man alone and lost for so long and no one knowing or noticing... including himself.  "I'm going to be here for you, to lean on when you need a shoulder, among other things.  You need companionship, direction.  I want to give you those things."

Ryan nodded. "I don't know how you'll do that, but I appreciate the effort."

"We talked a little bit about this before.  I don't know how much you remember." Coral said, dark eyes capturing and holding green ones.

Ryan said, "I remember something about spankin' me for drinkin' and smokin', but I don't smoke."

Coral huffed a laugh.  "I know you don't smoke, that was just an example.  You need guidance and direction, and as your friend I'm going to help you find that.  I'm going to help you to control your drinking by being available to you whenever you feel cravings, but you have to work with me.  Don't rationalize things by thinking I'm too busy or not right next to you so you can have 'just one' and I won't know.  One leads to two, two leads to more... that's one of the things you'd be spanked for." 

Ryan said, "Sneaking drinks, what if I go to the bar at the lodge and drink openly?"

"Ryan," Coral said sternly, "You should not be drinking at all, sneaking or not.  You have a problem, and drinking is just going to make it worse.  Your drinking problem will become worse if you don't nip it in the bud right now.  You have to be responsible, and part of that is to recognize that you do have a problem and admit to it.  I'm here to offer direction and correction when you need it." 

Ryan looked at Coral. "Okay, I'll try it your way, but are you sure one drink will hurt?"

"People who haven't touched a drop in years still call themselves alcoholics because they know that even one drink will undo all the progress they've made over the years, Ry.  Yes, one drink will hurt, and your butt will hurt if I find out you've been drinking."

Ryan squirmed a bit the lingering sting reminding him of just how that might end up for him. "Yes Sir." He said quietly. "I don’t want to be spanked. That hurt but I'm not too sure I cannot at least have one beer either. It will be hard."

"I know it's going to be hard, Ry," the older man agreed.  "And that is why having my support as well as the support of the others.  We will help you even when you're sure you don't want or need it."

"I didn't think it was a big deal, but if everyone else does I guess it must be. I could tell James wasn't happy with me showin' up like I did either. I just don't know...I'll try."

"All I ask is that you try and that you accept my help," Coral said.

Ryan gave a deprecating smile. "Even when I don't want or need it? I have a feeling that won't give me much of a choice."

"You're right, Ry, we're not going to sit by and watch you destroy yourself.  You're a young man, and I always knew you had great potential.  I won't let you ruin that."

Ryan nodded. "All right Coral and thanks for bein' a good friend."

Coral drew the young man into a hug.  "You're welcome, kiddo." 

Ryan snuggled into the hug despite himself and smiled. "I might not like the way you're goin' to help me some of the time, but this part feels really good." He told Coral.

Coral rolled off the bed when he heard a knock at the front door.  He could see Heath through the window.  "Come on in Heath."

The doctor pushed the door open and entered the bungalow carrying a large covered try.

Coral breathed in appreciatively.  "Something smells wonderful!"

Ryan sat up and said, "Mmm...somethin' smells good."

“We thought you guys might be hungry so I had Gary fix up a plate of ribs."

Coral went to Heath and helped him put the tray down on the bedside table.  He took the cover off and smiled.  "Thank you Heath, this is just what we needed!  Tell Gary we said thanks as well.  Hold on while I get some plates and napkins and we can have dinner together."

“I can't stay long, Coral.  James and Jax are waiting dinner on me," Heath said. "But I did want to see how Ry was doing."

"He's doing much better right now." Coral said with a smile.  "We had a long talk while you were gone.  He's going to stay with me." He continued quietly, pride in the boy showing in his face.

"I'm better, Doc," Ryan answered then blushed.  "Sorry I was such an ass."

"Thank you, Ry.  I'm glad you are feeling better." Heath replied.  "I, we, know it was the alcohol talking and not the real you."

Ryan sighed and blushed once more. "Yeah and I really need to tell Duke how sorry I am for treating him so badly."

"Yes, I think that is a good idea."

"You can do that in the morning, Ry.  I still have some shopping to do in town, so if you don't mind having a babysitter," He grinned, "You'll have plenty of time to apologize in person."

Ryan’s stomach growled and he looked at Coral, "Can I have some ribs or do I gotta wait?"

He turned to Heath. "I wish I knew about his background earlier. He never said anythin'."

"You, young man" Coral replied sternly, "Can sit there and watch me eat."  He laughed.

"Ry, I'm not sure you would have treated Duke any differently because it was the booze talking and the withdrawals." Heath reminded him.

Ryan sighed. "I suppose you're right and I won't mind him comin' over. I can apologize to him when he does."  He looked at Coral and shook his head as the man laughed after speaking so sternly.  He reached out for a couple of ribs. "What will you do if I get barbecue on your bed instead of crumbs?" he asked with a grin.

"You, my little brat, will get to treat and wash the sheets and change the bedding." Coral smiled. 

Ryan gave Coral a look. "I don't know how to do that. I can just throw them away and buy new ones." He told Coral.

Heath laughed.  “I think I better get going before things messy around here.”

"Wait! You can't leave me here!  He's going to make me work!" 

"Sorry you're on your own kiddo."

"Thanks Doc. We'll see you soon I'm sure." Ry laughed.

"Thanks again, Doc.  Give my best to James and Jax.  Now, Mr. O'Donnell, let's dig in."

Ry grinned and did exactly that.

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