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Tuesday, October 27, 2015

TLR Chapter 23

Chapter 23
Snarks, Rosemarie, PJ

Mutt's stomach sank somewhere down into his pelvic region.  He'd been hoping to stall his punishment for just a little while longer.  Perhaps circumvent it all together if he could get enough beer into Jeff.  He sighed. He was only fooling himself, Jeff wasn't a big drinker, and he made it a rule to never drink when he was upset.  He allowed Jeff to take him by the hand and lead him into their bungalow.

Mutt placed the cardboard box on the counter took off his leather jacket and hung it up neatly on the hook behind the door.  No sense tossing it on the couch and irritating Jeff any more than he already was.

Jeff took Mutt by the biceps and turned the younger man toward him to get a better look at his face, until he noticed the expression of pain that replaced the apprehension that had been there.

Without asking, Jeff peeled Mutt's shirt off and suppressed a curse when he saw the very obvious black and blue imprints of Gene's thumbs and fingers where they'd dug into his husband's arms.  Mutt glanced down and noticed the marks with somewhat detached surprise.  His chin was grasped lightly but firmly and his face turned once again toward Jeff's concerned one.  He felt a gentle thumb run along the still slightly swollen lip, carefully avoiding the split.  He felt gentle fingers brush along the bruise on his face that he hadn't even been aware of until now.

He pulled Mutt back in for another hug, holding as much of his husband as he could, just to reassure himself that Mutt was really there and in one piece,  grateful that the worst he had to show for his bad decisions were a split lip and some bruises.

"Why?"  Was all Jeff could get out.  Mutt laid his head against Jeff's chest and could hear the rapid beating of his husband's heart.

Mutt drew in a shuddering breath and held Jeff more tightly as he fought back the tears that threatened to escape.  "I'm sorry." he whispered.

"I know, love.  I know you're sorry."  Jeff replied softly.  "I need to know why.  Jax told you what the man was like.  Why on earth would you go there?  He could have done worse than this, and if he had, how would I have found you?"

"I'm sorry, Jeff."  Mutt repeated.  "I just thought, it was the same distance from here to Elmville as it was to Stonemill.  Jax was worried about his mother and it would have taken another day or two for the letter to reach her.  I thought I was doing a good thing, delivering it in person.  I... I never even considered that I'd run into his stepfather."

Jeff ran his hands up and down the smooth skin of Mutt's back and held him until the beating of his heart returned to normal. How was he going to deal with this?  He couldn't bring himself to turn his young husband over his knee, not when he was already hurt, but this couldn't go unpunished.  He shook his head.  Right now all he wanted to do was get Mutt into the shower and then to bed.  That was until he heard the very loud and definite sound of Mutt's stomach growling.

Of course Duke wouldn't stop along the way to get a snack.  Not when he knew how important it was to get Mutt back home as soon as possible.  Jeff felt a pang of guilt and determined that he would buy his buddy dinner within the week to make up for the lost meal.  In the meantime he had his own hungry man to deal with.  

He gently pushed Mutt away and looked into his husband's eyes.  "You go take a shower.  I'm going to make us a snack, and then we're going to sleep.

Mutt turned concerned, questioning eyes up toward Jeff's.

"We'll deal with this in the morning hon.  We both have tomorrow off, barring emergencies.  We'll decide what to do then.  All right?"

Mutt sighed, frustration and relief warring with each other.  If Jeff were going to spank him he'd just as soon get it over with.  Jeff heard the sound and aimed a small, understanding smile at his husband.  "I think we both need time to unwind and think things over, especially you."

"Jeff, I know what I did was stupid.  Hindsight being 20/20 and all that.  I had time to think while I waited for Duke and his brother to get there."  Mutt said, trying to keep the plea out of his voice.  He really wanted to put this behind them and get on with their lives.  "Please, can't you just... you know...” he said, blushing, mentally berating himself for being so wishy washy.  Hadn't he just been the one trying to put off the inevitable?  And now here he was practically begging Jeff to do what he'd been dreading.

"No, Matthew,” Jeff replied, using his husband's real name to show the younger man that he was serious.  "Go take a shower, put on something comfortable.  We'll eat, and then sleep on this.  There's nothing that can't wait till tomorrow."

Seeing Mutt's hesitation, Jeff took Mutt gently by the hands and pulled him forward until they were chest to chest before wrapping his arms around the smaller man once again.  "I think you've been through a lot today. And I think you need some time to unwind and recover." 

"You're not going to punish me?"  Mutt asked, trying to keep surprise and hope from his tone.

"I didn't say that.  What you did was careless and dangerous.  No one knew where you were.  You weren't answering your cell phone.  And you were still grounded."  He took a deep breath and let it out slowly in an effort to calm himself.  "Go take your shower.  Now.  We'll talk more when you come out.  Now get going."

With a careful hug and kiss, Jeff turned his husband around and aimed him toward the bathroom with a light swat.

Heartened by the gestures, Mutt did as he was told and was back in the kitchen within fifteen minutes, hair still damp, wearing his favorite flannel pajama bottoms and a tee shirt.  He sat down to the meal that Jeff had made.  

Mutt looked down at the roast beef, lettuce and tomato sandwich, his favorite, and his stomach growled again, even more loudly than the first time, but he couldn't bring himself to eat it, his stomach was weighted by guilt and anxiety.  He picked up the glass of cola and took a sip to quiet the noise.

Jeff, more than familiar with his husband's quirks, took a sip of his own soda and clasped his hands on the table.  "Do you want to get this out of the way now?"  He asked gently.

Mutt nodded, still looking at his sandwich.

"Look at me, little boy."  

Mutt looked up into his husband's kind blue eyes and felt the pressure of tears behind his eyes.  Jeff should be yelling and angry, not being kind and understanding.

"Talk to me."

Mutt took a breath and looked back down at his sandwich, hands in his lap. He couldn't bear the thought of what he'd put Jeff through.  "I only wanted to help."  He said, his explanation sounding lame even to himself.  He told Jeff about what he and Jaxon had talked about, and his decision to go straight to Elmville.  

"I just didn't want her to worry any longer than she already had.  I mean, he'd been gone for weeks.  Even if they weren't close... I mean... she's still his mother.   Jeff, you had to see the look on her face when she answered the door and how she lit up when I told her I had a letter from Jax and that he was all right."

"But you didn't think you'd run into this stepfather of his."

"It never even crossed my mind."  He admitted, ashamed and embarrassed.  "When I didn't see his car in the driveway I just figured it was safe.  I didn't even think that he might come home while I was there.  I mean, I had this feeling in my gut that something was wrong but I thought it was just worry about getting back before you noticed I was gone." He admitted.

"You admit that you knew you shouldn't have gone without telling me where you were headed, then."  The tone was not accusing.

"Yes sir."

"Matthew, look at me."

Mutt raised sorrowful brown eyes and managed to look into Jeff's blue ones. Kind, loving, gentle, ocean blue eyes that he loved to get lost in.  Eyes that by right should have been sparking with anger and disappointment.

"You can't disappear without telling me where you're going.  Even if you think it's only going to be for a little while. You can't ignore your cell phone when I call you.  That defeats the purpose of having one, doesn't it?  If you'd been hurt worse, if that man had..."  Jeff didn't finish the sentence, closing his eyes against the image of what could have been.

"Jeff, I'm so sorry."  Mutt said, sincerely.  "I didn't think.  I'm so stupid.  I'm selfish..."

For the first time since they'd begun their conversation, Jeff's eyes became hard.  "Don't talk that way about yourself, Matthew Elijah.  Yes, you didn't think ahead, but you are by no means stupid.  And if you were selfish, then none of this would ever have happened.  You'd never have written the letter.  You'd never have gone to deliver it.  You did what you did for a friend that you care about.  Selfishness doesn't even come into it."

"I was selfish because I didn't think of you, and how you'd feel."  Mutt countered sadly, his gaze dropping to his hands which were now twisting the fabric of his pajama pants.

Jeff got up and came around the table to wrap his arms around Mutt.  He gently rubbed the marks that showed on his husband's arm.  "You're impulsive, yes.  But you have a kind heart, and your intentions were well meant."

"And the road to hell is paved with good intentions."  Mutt said into his husband's shirt front as he wrapped his arms around Jeff's waist.

Jeff hugged his husband more tightly and planted a kiss on top of the unruly hair.  "Matthew,” he said in a gentle tone, "Do you need me to spank you?  Will it help to alleviate some of the guilt you're feeling?"

"Weren't you going to anyway?"  Mutt asked, confused.

"No, honey, I hadn't planned to.  I really do believe that you've gone through enough today.  But if you feel you need it..."

"What... what were... are you going to do?"

"All right.  Fair question.  You, Matthew Elijah, are still grounded.  That means that you will not leave resort grounds unless James specifically needs you to.  You will go to work as usual, but you're to come straight home when your shift is over because you'll be writing a paper for me, defining the word Impulsive, outlining the many ways in which you are impulsive, how you can work to lessen your impulsive tendencies, and techniques you can use to make wiser choices."

Mutt's eyes widened.  "I won't get to talk to Jax?"

"If you see him, you can of course say hello, but you will not be allowed to spend any length of time with him or any of your friends until your grounding is over."

"When will that be?"  Mutt asked anxiously.

"When you deliver a well thought out, cohesive paper to me.  One inch margins, double spaced, no less than ten pages."

"Ten..."   Mutt sputtered.

"We could make it twenty, single spaced."  Jeff countered, raising an eyebrow.

"No, ten is fine."  Mutt said quickly.  "Ten is more than fair."

"Now, do you need me to help you with guilt and tension release, or is the grounding sufficient?"

"Can I have the spanking and forget the grounding?"  He asked hopefully.

"You can be grounded, or spanked and grounded.  I'll leave the final decision up to you."  Jeff said rationally, returning to his seat, picking up half of his sandwich and taking a bite.

Mutt's stomach growled again, more insistently.  He grudgingly picked up his own sandwich and took a bite.  "Ten pages.  One inch margins.  Double spaced."  He replied morosely.

"I'll expect the first outline before lunch tomorrow, and if that doesn't need revision, I'll want the first draft before dinner."

"First...what?  Jeff!"

"I've seen your college papers, and several of your technical reports.  Compared to those, this will be a piece of cake."  Jeff smiled.

"Piece of... you are out of your ever lovin'..." The younger man muttered.

"I'd end that sentence right there and moderate your tone with me."  Jeff warned, the steel in his eyes belying his mild tone, "Or I can promise you, you will be sitting on a sore backside while writing that paper."

Mutt unsuccessfully fought back a scowl and moderated his tone.  Unfortunately for Mutt, it was not the tone Jeff was looking for. "Yes, sir.  Sorry, sir."  He replied sarcastically.

Jeff stood, his six foot one frame rigid as he advanced on his husband.

Mutt stood as well, eyes wide, hand over his mouth, wishing heartily that he could rewind time and take back the last thirty seconds.  "Jeff!  I... I..." Mutt stammered as he backed up.

Jeff stopped short and put a hand on the table to steady himself.  "Get to bed.  Now.  Double time!"  He ordered, pointing toward the stairs.

Mutt tucked in his backside as he ran past his angry husband and did as he was told without another word.  

Jeff took several deep breaths to calm himself.  When that didn't work, he dropped and did fifty rapid pushups.  Feeling marginally better he went about clearing up the kitchen, wrapped the uneaten sandwiches and threw out the paper plates.  He tossed back Mutt's soda, put the glass in the sink, then picked up his own.  Resisting the urge to put a little rum in it he took it into the living room and turned on the television.  He knew he wasn't in any condition to deal with his young husband at the moment, so he sat down and channel surfed, finally coming to rest on an old black and white movie.

He stared at the screen, seeing shadows, hearing the voices as though at a distance, but not really taking anything in. Little by little he felt his blood pressure, heart rate and breathing returning to normal.  He flexed his shoulders and felt the muscles begin to loosen up.  He let his head droop toward his chest and forced himself to relax. 

He fought down the guilt that had been building since he'd scared Mutt.  He knew that Mutt's father had been a very hands on disciplinarian.  He knew that Mutt's father had been a guilty until proven innocent sort of guy.  He knew that Mutt's father was a hit first and ask questions afterward sort of guy, and he'd sworn that he would never be like that.  It had taken all of his military training and self-control to keep his hands to himself after Mutt's blatant disrespect.

He sighed and rubbed at his eyes, which were becoming grainy with fatigue. It was then that he felt the couch sag beside him and a tentative hand reach out and rub his shoulder.  A quiet voice invaded his thoughts.

"I'm sorry, Jeff.  I'm really sorry.  For everything I've done today.  For what I said to you.  For being disrespectful.  You were being kind and I was being..."

"A brat."  Jeff replied, his eyes still closed as he maintained his calm.  "And not the good kind."

His eyes opened wide in surprise as he felt Mutt crawl over his lap.  "Mutt, I..."

"Please."  Mutt said, looking back over his shoulder.  "I deserve it.  I should never have spoken to you like that.  Especially after everything I put you through, and after you were so good to me.  I... please."  He continued softly.

Jeff pulled down the back of the sleep pants and felt Mutt tense a little over his thighs.  He rubbed his husband's back until Mutt relaxed marginally.   He delivered five sharp smacks to the center of Mutt's backside, then pulled the sleep pants back up.

Mutt looked back over his shoulder, confused.  Jeff patted Mutt's back and motioned for him to get up.

"Feel better?"  He asked.

Mutt got up and rubbed at the mild, lingering sting.  He shrugged, nodded, then shrugged again.

"You've been through a lot today, Mutt.  You're no doubt going to be sore tomorrow, once your brain finishes processing the abuse it experienced today.  I don't plan to add to it.  I think the combination of what you went through, and what I gave you are more than sufficient.  Don't you?"

Mutt thought for a moment, then nodded.  He curled up on the couch beside Jeff, his head in his husband's lap.  Jeff put his arm around the younger man.  Mutt grabbed Jeff's hand, planting a kiss on it and held on until he felt his eyelids drooping.

"Come on,” Jeff’s voice wove itself into the relative quiet.  "Let's head upstairs."  He helped a sleepy Mutt up the stairs and tucked him in.  Mutt was asleep, circles of exhaustion beneath his eyes.  Jeff got into bed, gently kissed the undamaged side of Mutt's mouth, wrapped his arms around his husband and fell into a contented sleep.

His husband was home and safe.  No matter what else happened, his husband was safe.


The next morning Mutt lay fast asleep on his left side.  Jeff snuggled with his husband, gently rubbing the very visible, purple black bruises on the exposed bicep.  Mutt awakened slowly at the touch and began to roll over to give Jeff a good morning kiss, instead he yawned and let out an exclamation of pain.

"What's wrong, hon?"  Jeff asked, concerned, rolling Mutt the rest of the way over.  When he saw dried blood in the corner of Mutt's mouth, the swollen lip and the purple black bruise that covered the lower part of Mutt's cheek, the corner of his mouth and just below the lower lip, he glared, silently vowing to have a long talk with the jerk who had done that to his husband.

At first Mutt thought that the anger in that gaze was meant for him and despite his efforts his eyes began to tear.  "I'm sorry, Jeff!  I really am!  I know I shouldn't have gone to Elmville but..."

"No, you shouldn't have, hon.  But you already apologized to me, and we took care of it.  What's the matter, love?  Don't cry.  Talk to me."

"You... I mean... you just looked so angry.  I'm sorry I upset you so badly."  Mutt replied, his voice muffled as he tried to avoid moving his mouth and jaw, which felt stiff and sore.  His lip felt as though it had grown two sizes while he'd slept, despite the ice pack that Jeff had placed in a cloth and had insisted that Mutt keep it on his face for fifteen minutes.

"I'm not angry with you, babe."  Jeff reassured him.  "I'm angry with the brute that did this to you.  The coward who feels that his size and weight make him right,” Jeff said, getting up to get a warm, wet cloth to clean Mutt's face with.  He gently looked inside and saw the cuts where his lip had been cut against his teeth.

"I don't want to think about that."  Mutt pulled Jeff down beside him and pulled the other man's arms around him.  "Just hold me, please? I want you near me.  To feel you.  I don't want to think," he said, his voice pleading.

Jeff wrapped his arms around Mutt and pulled him close, absently running his fingers through his husband's hair with one hand and rubbing the bruises on the other arm.  Mutt didn't flinch but the way his arm was positioned, Jeff knew his Mutt was in pain.  He did his best to keep his face neutral and his arms loose.  He began to hum a tune that Mutt liked.

Mutt placed his head on Jeff's chest and breathed in his husband's scent, listened to his heartbeat, strong and steady.  He reached out to rub Jeff's hard, flat stomach, made his way up to caress Jeff's face.  He giggled when he felt the morning stubble.  He always told Jeff that it felt like a baby porcupine.

Jeff gently turned Mutt's face up to his and gave him a soft kiss on the un-bruised part of Mutt's mouth.

Mutt snuggled in closer to Jeff, burying his face in the other man's chest, and began to fall asleep again, but Jeff nudged him awake.  At Mutt's groan of discontent he planted a kiss on top of his husband's head.  "I need to get up.  I'm going to call Heath and ask if he can see you this morning."

Mutt's eyes flew wide open.  "I'm fine!  OW! Damn!"  He said, putting a hand up to his sore face.  

"Yes, I can tell you're fine.  Now get up, take a shower, and get dressed while I call Heath."




Jeff raised a hand over Mutt's hip.  

"OK! OK! Sheesh, I'm getting up."  He muttered.

Jeff was glad that Mutt had given in so quickly,  he hadn't really intended to swat him and knew he'd have had to if Mutt had balked again.  He was not a fan of idle threats, he believed in consistency and follow through, and he'd have hated to have to give his husband even a mild swat after what he'd already been through.

"Take a quick shower, then come down."  Jeff said, picking up the phone and calling Heath.

"Yes sir!" Came Mutt's smart tone through the bathroom door.

"A little less sass and a little more shower, little boy."  Jeff replied with just a hint of steel in his tone.

"Yes sir."  Was the slightly chastened reply.

The phone rang three times before a fully alert Heath answered the phone, his doctor's training kicking in.

"Heath, it's Jeff.  I'm sorry to call you so early, but I'd like you to have a look at Mutt."

"What's wrong?"

"He had a run in with Gene Thomas, Jaxon's stepfather, yesterday afternoon, and came home with a split lip.  He was shaken up but he seemed all right otherwise. "

"A run in... what happened?  How bad is he hurt?”  

"Split, swollen lip.  Bruising on his face and arms, some cuts to his inner lip from where his teeth cut in."

"Is he coherent?"


"Why didn't you call me last night?"  Heath asked, a hint of a scold in his voice.

"Other than a split lip and a few bruises on his arms he was fine.   Awake and alert, just shaken up.  I fed him and then we went to bed.  I had him keep an ice pack on his lip ten minutes on, ten minutes off, but he fell asleep on that side and it's worse today."

"How is he otherwise?"

"He's his typical Mutt self,” Jeff tried to joke, "Sass and all."

"Keep to his usual morning routine, give him something soft and acid free to eat.  No orange juice or grapefruit, then bring him over.  We want him feeling comfortable and relaxed when he gets here. "

"Already on it."  Jeff reassured the doctor.

"Good then, I’ll see you both in say, half an hour?"

"We'll be there.  Thanks Heath."

"Any time." Heath replied before he hung up.

"Mutt!  Matthew!  Finish up in there, hon.  Heath is going to meet us at the infirmary in a half hour and you still need to eat breakfast."

"Get up, take a shower, hurry up, get dressed." Mutt grumbled.

"What was that?"

"I said yes, sir."

"That's what I thought. Get a move on."

Mutt emerged from the bathroom minutes later, shirtless, dark hair tousled from a quick toweling, skin paler than usual from pain and in comparison to the bruises on his arms and face.  

"Feel any better?"

"I ache."  Was all Mutt could say.

"That's to be expected, hon.  Let me help you get your shirt on.  There.  Come on, love, we have to have some breakfast.  We’re expected at the infirmary in a little while, then we have to go to James and Heath's.  You have some explaining to do, and I'd suggest that you apologize while we're there." 

Mutt blushed, “Do I have to?  It's already embarrassing enough that I have to tell James I'm grounded."

"You know the rules.  You broke them.  Your actions have consequences, little boy.  Now hop to."

"Yes sir,” Mutt replied unhappily.

The two men finished dressing, then went to the kitchen for breakfast.  Jeff made maple and brown sugar oatmeal, Mutt's favorite, so that Mutt wouldn't have to do much chewing, and gave him a glass of warm milk to sooth the cuts inside his lip.  He then made Mutt swallow a couple of ibuprofen for the pain.  Jeff looked at the box and the counter and asked his husband about it.

“Oh,” Mutt said, “Jax’s mom gave that to me to return to him.  It’s a chess set his dad made for him.”  He spooned the last of the oatmeal carefully into his mouth.  “That big jerk, Gene, knocked it out of Jax’s mom’s hands and stomped on it when she was handing it to me.”

“He didn’t hit you again did he?” Jeff hissed.

Mutt laughed, “No, he never got the chance.  Duke had him by the shirt front before Gene knew what was happening.”

“Duke told me he didn’t fight the man.”

“He didn’t.  Dean pulled him off before he could smash in his face,” Mutt explained.

“Then I’m glad Dean was there,” Jeff said relief in his voice.  “Do you want to take the box to Jax?”

“No, not yet,” Mutt answered.  “I want to see if I can fix it before I give it back.”

Once Mutt finished his breakfast the two men cleaned up the few dishes and then slowly walked to the infirmary.

The three men arrived at the infirmary at the same time.  Heath took one look at Mutt's face and covered his surprise and shock as he'd been trained to do, but he couldn't help but feel anger at Jaxon's stepfather for doing this to Mutt, and a little angry at Mutt for putting himself in a position where something like this could happen to him.  He put his professional mask firmly in place and smiled at the younger man.  "All right, mister, let's see what we've got here."  He said as he unlocked the door and led the other two men inside.

"I'm fine, Heath, really, just a little sore."  Mutt protested.

"Hush now.  Take your shirt off and have a seat on the table, I want to have a good look at you."

"Get up, shirt on, shirt off, sit down, make up your minds."  Mutt griped softly.

"Matthew." was all Jeff said.

Mutt huffed a sigh and took off his shirt, wincing in pain as the collar scraped against his face. Jeff helped him up onto the paper covered examination table.  For some reason he felt worse now than he had earlier.

Heath frowned as he took in the purple black, finger sized bruises on the young man's arms.  He took Mutt's face between gentle fingers and turned his head so that the bruises and split lip were in the light.

"Open your mouth as wide as you can."  Heath requested.

Mutt tried to open his mouth but winced in pain, then winced again as the motion caused more pain.

"OK then," Heath said, putting on surgical gloves and taking a sterile tongue depressor out of it's packaging, "I want you to open your mouth again, slowly, so that I can have a look inside."  Heath examined the cuts, a couple of which had started to bleed slightly, and checked Mutt's teeth for any that might have been chipped, broken or knocked loose.

Mutt did as he was told and endured the examination of his mouth.  He wasn't aware that a tear had escaped until Jeff's thumb wiped the moisture away.  Jeff sat on the far end of the exam table so that he could be closer without getting in Heath's way.  Mutt extended a questing hand which didn't stop until Jeff caught and held it.

Satisfied with the findings of his exam so far, Heath gently felt Mutt's head, neck and shoulders.  Mutt winced again, then tried to school his features into a bland mask to keep from causing himself any further pain.

"Pull your head forward toward your chest, slowly now." Heath ordered gently as he put his hands on Mutt's neck.

Mutt did as he was told.  Heath made him move his head back and side to side, feeling with gentle fingers.  Then he had Mutt move his arms to test their range of motion.  

"You're feeling stiff and sore?"

Mutt took a deep breath.  "Yes, a bit."

Heath looked at Jeff.  "I'm just going to take some x-rays to be sure there's no damage.  I can't feel anything other than stiff muscles, but I want to make sure I'm not missing anything."

"Whatever you have to do." Jeff asserted.

"I'm fine!"  Mutt protested, "Just a little sore."

"You're going to be even sorer if you don't cooperate with Heath."  Jeff replied in a matter of fact tone that spoke volumes.  

Mutt sighed again.  Jeff wasn't a yeller by nature, and Jeff speaking in that tone under these circumstances was a warning sign.  He would much rather have been in bed, sleeping and comfortable, but it was best for his backside to do as he was told.  "Yes, sir."

Jeff sat in the examination room while Heath took full x-rays of Mutt's head, neck, shoulders and arms, as well as some chest shots.  Then he sent Mutt to sit with Jeff while he developed the films.  He was back shortly with the good news that nothing was broken.

"I could'a told you that."  Mutt griped quietly.


"Sorry."  Mutt responded, not sounding very sorry at all.

"You're going to have to take it easy for a few days, Mutt."  Heath said, getting the conversation back on track.  "There may be nothing broken but you've been bruised up pretty well and your range of motion in your neck and arms is not up to standard.  You're going to feel worse before you feel better.  Keep up with the ice packs for today, keep taking the ibuprofen... if the pain increases I'll prescribe something a little stronger." He promised.

"Don't eat anything hard or acidic for a couple of days.  No apples, oranges, things like that.  Stick with soft foods and be careful chewing so that you don't accidentally bite the wounds inside your lip and set them bleeding again.  I have some numbing balm you can use for the inside of your lip.  I only want you to use it at night and only if the pain is keeping you awake.  Understood?"

Mutt nodded.

"In the meantime, would you like to tell me what happened?"

"We're headed over to your place to see James.  Come with us, we can tell everyone at once."  Jeff suggested.

"That makes sense,” Heath conceded, even though he was bursting with curiosity.  He locked up the infirmary once again and accompanied the two men to the home he shared with James and Jax.

Once there Heath opened door and let the two men enter before him. James stood, wrapping Mutt into a hug before leading the men into the living room.

"Come in Jeff...Mutt," he invited.  "Heath,” he added, a soft smile on his face.  Then he looked back at Mutt.  He was alarmed by the bruising around Mutt's mouth, and the split, swollen lip, but he knew he'd get the story in full if he were just patient.

Jeff nudged Mutt and gave him a meaningful look.

Mutt looked at the floor, his face turned so that he wasn't looking straight on at the men in the room. “I'm sorry for last night.  I'm sorry I worried you all."

James nodded. "Why don't you all come in and have a seat," he invited. "I know you're sorry usually are once you realize you've crossed the boundaries. “  

Jaxon hung back by his bedroom door not sure what was going to happen or if he would be part of it.

James walked over to Jaxon and smiled. "Come on Jaxon...this involves you as well, as I understand things."  He said as he pushed the wheel chair back across the living room then leaned over and plucked Jax out of his wheel chair and deposited him on the sofa.

Jeff and Mutt sat down together on the love seat.  Mutt shot Jaxon a shy smile but didn't say anything more, preferring to sit close to Jeff with the left side of his face resting on Jeff's shoulder.  Without thinking, they were holding hands, and Jaxon felt a pang of jealousy which he quickly quashed.

Jax sat between James and Heath.  He didn't say anything but he felt badly that Mutt was so angry with him that he wouldn't even look at him.

Heath could feel Jaxon's unease, and put his arm around him.

James smiled at Heath and Jaxon, glad Heath had taken the initiative. "Mutt...I'd like to know what exactly happened.  Would you start by explaining the bruising on your face and lip?"

Noticing the bruises more now that James had pointed them out, Jax blurted out, "Gene hurt you?"

"Just a little,” Mutt admitted, "But he didn't get away Scott free."  

"Well don't leave us in suspense."  Heath said, "Tell us what happened!"

Mutt glanced up from beneath his lashes, his hair down in front of his eyes, and began to tell the story.  "Well, he grabbed me by the arm and shook me.  I tried to get loose but he slapped me and just gripped even harder.  Before I knew it he had me by both arms and hoisted me into the air.  At first I was scared and my legs were just dangling..."

"Hoisted..." Came Jeff's voice, cutting though the relative calm with a voice as sharp as a knife.  "When did he do that?  And why didn't you tell me?"  He demanded.  "I want that man's address.  I'm going to drive out there and have a talk with this animal."

"No, don't!'  Mutt cried.

Jaxon blanched, “You can't, Jeff.  He's..."

"Calm down, Jeff,” James said, a hint of the old Captain coming through.  "If you go to this man's house he can have you arrested for trespassing, and if you threaten or hit him, which by the looks of you you're planning to do, you would be charged with threatening, assault and battery.  And the law will be on his side, regardless of what he did to Mutt."

"I'm just going to have a little talk with him."  Jeff maintained angrily.  "He can't get away with what he did."

James gave Jeff a very familiar Look.  One he'd used many times when they'd served together and Jeff had come close to crossing a line.  "Stand down, Lieutenant!  I'm not saying that you can't take him if it comes to a physical altercation, but he's not worth going to jail for."


"Jeff!"  James replied, the old steel in his voice and the LOOK turned up full force.

Jeff LOOKED back for a moment, the old battle of wills between himself and his best friend being fought until Jeff huffed a laugh and smiled, "Yes sir, Captain!"

James smiled and laughed as well, shaking his head in amusement.  "Good job, Lieutenant."

"Besides, I made him regret picking me up.  I kicked him where it counts... I can almost guarantee that you won't be bothered with a bunch of little brothers and sisters any time soon,” he said to Jaxon with a smile.  "And Duke put the fear of God into the man.  He didn't have to lay a finger on him, he just talked.  Gene said he was going to sue Jax for the canoe and, Jax, your mother came to the rescue, told Gene off but good."  He finished proudly.  "You had to see Gene's face.  He was green as grass.  I thought he was gonna sh...uh,  I thought he was going to have an accident."

He glanced at Jeff who tried not to smile at the almost slip.

James shook his head. "Sounds like our Duke. He can be rather intimidating when he chooses."

“And Jax?"


"Your mother said she loves you.  She stood up to that goon and told him to back off, I think you're safe from him.  No.  I know you're safe now.  He won't be bothering you anymore.”

Heath felt Jax tremble slightly and squeezed him a little tighter.

Jaxon didn't look at the other men as he tried to control his emotions.

Mutt saw his friend tremble and quickly added, “Duke scared the pants off of him.  Gene may be big but he's a bigger wienie.  Duke straightened him out but good.  He came that close," Mutt said holding his thumb and finger next to each other, “to decking him and probably would have if Dean hadn’t stopped him.  Gene just didn’t know when to stop.”

James filed that information away and then smiled at Jax. "I'm glad the man has been taken care of by more than one person and that he won't be bothering you any longer and...That your mother truly does love you." He put an arm around Jax along with Heath's and squeezed the boy.

“Yeah, but she waited long enough to tell me,” Jaxon whispered. 

James said gently, "But at least she finally did. Some have never had a parent come around Jax."

Mutt pulled a wry face.  "Jax, my folks never told me they loved me.  Ever.  It wasn't how they were raised.  Some people just can't say what needs to be said until it's too late."

"Yeah, I guess so,” Jaxon said.  "Better late than never."

James glanced at Heath to see what he would say on the subject.

Heath looked up and caught James' eye.  "She knows you are safe," Heath said to Jaxon.  "And Gene knows not to mess with you again."

Mutt couldn't help but to hear the bitterness in his friend's voice and he wished he could find something to say to cheer Jax up.

James nodded. "Exactly." He glanced at Jeff and Mutt. "What has Jeff said about all this went into a dangerous situation?"

Jaxon leaned back glad for the change of subject.

Mutt looked at Jeff, a pleading expression on his face.  Jeff shook his head and motioned toward the other men,

"I'm grounded." He admitted quietly.  "I can't go off of resort grounds unless you specifically need me to, James." he glanced at Jaxon and blushed again.  

“Grounded?" Jaxon demanded.  "You're 30 years old."

"Mutt, I'm not tryin’ to make things more difficult for you, but maybe you should explain to Jax what that means," Heath said.  He didn't want to embarrass Mutt, but Jax needed to know why Mutt was grounded.

James said quietly, "In a discipline partnership one person might need the other person to rein them in from time to time. Mutt has a bad habit of doing things first and thinking of the consequences later," James tried to explain. He looked at the other men for their input.

"I love Mutt with all my heart, but he repeatedly does things without thinking, as James said.  He needs a firm and loving hand, and I provide that," said Jeff.

"Is that what you were trying to tell me when we first met," Jaxon asked Mutt still confused.

"Yeah,” Mutt replied, looking at Jaxon from under his lashes, “Yeah, that's what I was trying to tell you.  I didn't really go into it because I was afraid you wouldn't understand.  I was afraid you'd think badly of me."

"Hey, who am I to judge," Jaxon said.  "I don't really understand but it might be nice to have someone love you that much."

“It is.  And I need it.  I need Jeff,” He said shyly. 

Jeff put an arm around Mutt and held him close.  Jaxon couldn’t help but to see the looks of contentment on their faces.

James smiled down at Jaxon. "You can have that too if you want it fact two someones who love you very much and would care enough to help you and discipline you if the occasion warrants it."

Mutt grinned at Jaxon, waiting to see the young man's reaction.

"Rea...really?" Jaxon questioned.  "But you two have each other.  There's no room for me."

Heath pulled away from Jaxon and tapped his shoulder.  When the young man looked at him he said, "We’ve made a place for you ever since I found you."

James shook his head and said, "Jax...Heath and I've been taking care of you all this time...there's certainly plenty of room as far as we are concerned."

Since the cat was out of the bag anyway, Mutt said, “Remember what we talked about?  About three ways?"

"Yeah, you said they were weird," Jaxon grinned.

James arched an eyebrow at Jeff. "Weird hmm?"

“I also said that if I had found two Jeffs, I could live with it," Mutt said quickly, laughing.

James smiled and said, "Well now...I'm not sure I can take two Jeffs." He teased his friend thinking of their military days.

The other men laughed too even Jeff.

“So Jax, don't feel badly if Mutt doesn't come around to see you much in the next few weeks."

"You said until I finished the paper!"  Mutt protested.   It shouldn't take weeks!"

James nodded. "A writing assignment, Jeff?"   He asked.

Mutt scowled.  "I have to write a paper, no less than ten pages long."

Jeff nodded, “Yes, he's going to write a paper about being impulsive and how he can think things through before acting.  So don't feel badly if you don't see much of Mutt for a while Jaxon.  At least until the paper is done to my satisfaction."

"Groundings, writing papers," Jaxon said. "Next you're going to tell me you spank him."

Mutt looked up at Jaxon, surprise written all over his face, and blushed hotly.

James squeezed Jaxon and said quietly, "Yes, Jax...spanking is another form of discipline that is used, not without consent and the people in the discipline partnership negotiate the rules as part of the relationship." He explained.

"Oh," Jax whispered.

"Yeah,” Mutt admitted, “He does spank me sometimes.  But if I told him I didn't want him to do it, he wouldn't.  We would work something else out.  But for me, a spanking provides release, and relief.  I get into a lot of trouble, and Jeff helps me.  He helps me focus.  He reins me in before I can spin out of control. There's a quote that I like,” he continued, “By Jim Rohn.  It says 'We must all suffer one of two things, the pain of discipline, or the pain of regret or disappointment.'"

"I'd rather take the discipline, in whatever form it takes, than to continually feel regret for what I've done, or knowing that Jeff is disappointed in me.  A spanking hurts, sure, but once it's over the matter is over and done with, and... I'm forgiven.  The reason I'm writing a paper instead of getting a spanking is because Jeff is a fair guy, and he felt I'd been through enough.  All of the lessons I learn are not necessarily delivered on my backside,” He grinned ruefully.

James said, "It's one of the reasons men come learn about a discipline partnership and how to do it properly where both partners benefit and conduct the relationship properly.  In our case, if it's something that we may want all three of us would discuss and agree on how it works including the disciplines to be used."

“Um, I think I need to go to the bathroom,” the young man said.  He stood then Heath helped him back into the wheel chair.  Jax slowly rolled the chair into his room and shut the door.

"Do you think one of us should go after him?"  Heath asked, concerned.  "He may need someone to talk to."

"I think we need to give him time to think,” Jeff suggested quietly.

James nodded. "Heath and I are here if he wants to talk about it some more and ask questions." James added, "It's a lot to take in all at once."

Jaxon splashed water on his face once he was in the bathroom.  He did need time to think.

"In that case, we'll be going,” Jeff said.  "Mutt has his first outline to work on and we have a young man coming in soon," he reminded James.

James nodded. "All right, you two go on."

Heath stood and walked the two men to the door. "Mutt, Jax will be ok and I'm sure he values your friendship," he said trying to comfort their young friend.

Mutt shrugged, “Give him time, if this is something he wants he'll say something."

"We'll see you soon,” Jeff added before guiding Mutt back to their bungalow.

James went to check on Jaxon. He called, "Are you all right in there Jax?"

Jax opened the bathroom door, "Yeah, I'm ok. Just confused."

James smiled. "It's understandable. The three of us can talk about it when you're ready to."

“Did you and Heath mean what you said about me, about us?"

James nodded and looked into Jax's eyes. "Absolutely, meant every word," he said seriously. "A Marine doesn't give his word lightly." He told Jaxon.

Standing at the bedroom door Heath agreed. “We weren’t planning on bringing it up this way, Jax, but yes we meant every word.”

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