Notes and Disclaimers at end
Christmas II: Green
Fox awoke that Sunday morning to a cold, empty bed. He blearily opened his eyes and looked around the bedroom, then squinted at the clock. It was nearly ten in the morning. Why hadn't they woken him up? He grumbled as he swung his long legs over the side of the bed, running a hand through his sleep-tousled hair. The sounds of cooking and conversation drifted up the stairs, along with the smell of bacon and eggs.
He shrugged into his robe and stomped into the bathroom to brush his teeth. Walter's deep laugh carried up to him over the sound of the running water and he scowled into the mirror. His foul mood was threatening to work itself into a full-fledged snit. He rinsed the brush and stuffed it back into the holder, then scrubbed at his face roughly with a wet washcloth. He smoothed his hair with damp fingertips, not bothering with the hairbrush. Why should he? It wasn't as though they would notice. Seemed like lately Walter and Alex only had eyes for one another. Why else would they be downstairs in the warm, homey kitchen, cooking breakfast together, while he lay upstairs, left alone in the big empty bed?
Fox was in full pout mode as he entered the kitchen, hands stuffed mulishly into the pockets of his striped bathrobe. Walter sat at the kitchen table, engrossed in the Sports section, spearing a forkful of scrambled eggs from the plate beside him. Alex sat, feet hooked around the rungs of his chair, poring over Newsweek as he spooned up Muesli and fruit.
"Morning," Walter said, glancing up from his newspaper.
Alex looked up from his magazine and smiled.
Fox scowled, not returning their greetings.
"Why didn't you wake me up?"
Walter shrugged and reached for a piece of bacon.
"You were sleeping so soundly, we hated to wake you. Have some bacon and eggs, Alex cooked plenty."
Fox grunted and stomped over to the refrigerator. He opened the door and started to reach for the milk, then paused. He saw the large pizza box on the bottom shelf and an idea came to him. He removed the box from the refrigerator and put it on the kitchen counter, casting a surreptitious glance at Walter. Walter didn't notice, munching thoughtfully on his eggs as he turned the page of his paper, looking for the hockey scores. Fox reached back into the refrigerator for a can of Coke, popping the top and taking a big, greedy gulp. He closed the refrigerator door and glanced over his shoulder as he opened the pizza box. He looked down at the pizza. The triple-cheese and sausage special had looked a lot more appetizing the night before. Fox looked longingly at the bacon and eggs, his resolve momentarily weakening, then turned obstinately back to the pizza.
He pulled out a large piece and turned toward Walter and Alex as he took a huge bite, chomping determinedly even as his stomach protested. He just knew Walter was going to have something to say about this. Fox had endured many a lecture on taking proper care of himself and thanks to Walter's perseverance, had actually managed to introduce a modicum of nutrition into his previously haphazard diet. Fox took another big bite of pizza, smacking his lips loudly, and waited for Walter to notice.
Walter glanced up from the paper and then back down, reaching for another slice of toast.
"You ought to microwave that, Fox," he said, searching for the continuation of the article he was reading. "Take the chill off."
Fox forced himself to finish the large slice of pizza, then took another swig of Coke to try to chase the taste of the congealed cheese from his mouth. He watched Walter and Alex eating and reading and not paying the least bit of attention to him. He cleared his throat again.
"So, any plans for the day?" he asked, a false note of cheeriness in his voice.
Alex grinned mischievously, raising his eyebrows at Walter.
"Oh, we don't have any," he said slyly. "Do we, Walter?"
Walter folded the paper and got up, stretching as he did so. His heather grey knit shirt rode up a little as he did, exposing a little of his flat, lightly furred stomach. Fox's cock twitched a little, his eyes drawn inexorably to the section of bare skin and lower, to the bulge behind the zipper of Walter's jeans. Fox licked his lips. God, that was one sexy man. He coughed a little and turned slightly, trying to distract himself. He was pissed off and determined to stay that way.
Walter poured himself another cup of coffee and winked at Alex.
"Nope," he said with a grin. "Nothing at all."
Fox shoved the pizza box back into the refrigerator, then tipped the can of Coke up. He drained it, tossed it into the garbage and belched loudly.
Walter sipped his coffee. Alex ate his cereal. Fox stared at them for a moment, then whirled and headed for the stairs, making plenty of noise as he ascended. Alex looked at Walter.
"What's the matter with him?"
Walter shrugged and began clearing up his breakfast dishes.
"Just woke up on the wrong side of the bed, I guess."
He put the frying pan into the sink to soak and smiled at Alex over his shoulder.
"Hurry up and finish, Rat. We've got a busy afternoon ahead of us."
Upstairs, Fox looked out of the bedroom window at the overcast, grey December morning. He called the number for the local weather and the computerized voice informed him that the current temperature was 34 degrees. He smiled grimly, glancing out of the window again. Drops of rain had begun to bead the glass. Raw, cold, wet. Perfect. He dressed quickly in sweats, thick socks and running shoes. Pasting an expression of casualness on his face, he bounded downstairs and into the kitchen.
Walter was leaning against the counter, savoring the last of the coffee. Alex was putting his dishes in the dishwasher, looking oddly sweet with the dishcloth tossed over his shoulder. Fox had a sudden urge to go to Alex and take him into his arms and kiss him, but he stopped himself. He wasn't ready yet to abandon his snit. He frowned, watching as Alex reached for Walter's now-empty coffee mug, his hand brushing Walter's. Fox watched, his pique threatening to mushroom into full-blown jealousy as chocolate brown eyes met green and they smiled at one another, Walter leaning toward Alex to whisper in his ear. Alex's laugh, a sound Fox normally treasured, longed for, worked hard to coax from his sometimes reticent lover, now seeming almost to taunt him. So, they had plans today that obviously didn't include him. Fine.
"I'm going for a run," Fox said loudly.
He waited for Walter to tell him he shouldn't. Waited for Walter to tell him it was too wet, too cold, that he'd get pneumonia.
"Okay," Walter said, "better wrap up, it's pretty raw out."
He began rummaging in the kitchen drawer.
"Alex? Have you seen my checkbook?"
"Don't tell me you've lost it again," moaned Alex. "Wait, I think it's on the hall table. I'll go look."
Fox stood, his mouth open in disbelief. Just what in hell did he have to do to get some attention around here? Furious, he turned on his heel and opened the back door. He stepped outside, slamming it hard. He went to the end of the driveway, the cold already making his eyes water. He ran through his stretching exercises perfunctorily and then headed out for his run. Soon he was lost in the rhythm of his pounding feet, his adrenaline pumping as he ran faster and faster, his anger and jealously growing with every step. His throat was beginning to hurt a little, but he took deeper breaths of the icy air, pushing himself harder.
Fox finally slowed as he neared the park. The light rain had dampened his clothes and he was wet and miserable. He stopped near a bench, bending over with his hands on his knees, catching his breath. He sat down heavily and glanced at his watch. He had been gone about an hour. He thought longingly of home and of warmth. A fire in the fireplace, and he and Walter and Alex on the sofa, cuddling under the soft throw Walter's mother had given them the Christmas before. Tears pricked his eyelids and he crossed his arms sullenly, looking down the road toward home. Nice fantasy. Except Walter and Alex had plans of their own and obviously didn't give a damn that he was out here, practically freezing. He glanced at his watch again and then got up, walking in the opposite direction from the house. If they wanted the Invisible Man, that's exactly what he'd give them.
Fox sat in the small cafe', nursing a cup of hot tea. He stared glumly out the window, watching the cars go by. He checked his watch again. He'd been gone almost two hours now. Surely by now they'd notice he hadn't come back. He wondered if Walter would be angry. He'd been spanked before for pushing himself beyond his limits. Walter knew all too well how Fox liked to run to take his mind off his problems. He remembered going for a run the summer before, the oppressive heat wrapping itself around him like a hot towel, how he had run and run until he was sick, kneeling in the grass by the side of the road, vomiting and shaking.
Remembered Walter pulling up in the car, strong hands lifting him, concern creasing those handsome features, tears in those kind brown eyes. Remembered coming home from the emergency room with the stern warning from the doctor still ringing in his ears. Heat stroke. How close he had come to really doing himself serious harm. Home again and a cool bath, falling asleep in Walter's arms, Walter's hands stroking his hair, Walter's voice whispering his love. Remembered the way Walter had taken him over his knee and blistered his bare butt two days later, Walter's voice, rough with emotion, rising over the cracking sound of the paddle, promising him more of the same if he ever did anything so reckless and foolish again.
Fox looked up anxiously as the door of the cafe' opened, but it was just a couple of truck drivers, stepping in out of the cold for a bowl of chili. Fox sighed. He really didn't want another paddling, but if that's what it took to get Walter to notice him... He fiddled with the empty sugar packets, smiling a little as he thought of Alex, the reformed assassin, with his incongruous love of all things sweet. The way he and Walter ducked their heads in mock embarrassment in restaurants as Alex dug into the sugar bowl, stirring spoonful after spoonful into his coffee until it resembled maple syrup. The candy bars that seemed to unerringly find their way into the pockets of his tough-boy leather jacket.
Alex. It was hard to remember what life had been like without him, before he and Walter had found him, dazed and bleeding, a Consortium bullet in his chest, lying like a bundle of rags in a corner of the deserted warehouse. Before they had brought him home, frightened and hostile, and reluctantly nursed him back to health. Fox's eyes filled with tears as he remembered the way he had treated Alex, the vile words he had hissed at his wounded enemy, the infinite care he had taken to ensure that the man who lay silently in their guest room never forgot for a moment how much he was despised. How his very life depended on their generosity and restraint. Fox stirred a little more sugar into his cooling tea and smiled a little as he remembered the better times that had followed those difficult days. Remembered how it felt to finally let go of the past, let go of the pain and fear and anger. To be brave enough to face the unthinkable love that was right in front of him. How those first nights felt, the three of them in one bed, the warm weight of Alex between them unfamiliar and yet so right, so perfect.
Fox looked out the window again at the cars passing by, their tires hissing on the wet pavement. He bit his lip, thinking again of his lovers. He did love Alex, he loved them both, but he couldn't help feeling jealous sometimes. He knew Walter and Alex both loved him, and even though he knew he was being irrational, he couldn't help a certain tiny resentment at having to share Walter with Alex. It wasn't just the two of them anymore, and sometimes it seemed Alex needed a lot of Walter's time. Fox got up from the table, paid for his tea and started for home.
Fox walked into the kitchen and closed the back door behind him, stripping off his hat and gloves, stomping his feet a little to get the feeling back into them. Delicious heat began to thaw him and he rubbed his hands together to help it along.
"Hello!" he called, a little hesitantly.
His stomach knotted and he began to think that maybe this wasn't such a good idea after all. His bottom clenched involuntarily and he decided it definitely hadn't been a good idea. He really didn't want a spanking. He glanced into the living room. The fireplace was cold, the television silent.
"Hello?" he called again. "Walter? Alex? I'm sorry I was gone so-"
Then he saw the note on the table. He picked it up and read it.
We've gone shopping. Hope you had a good run. See you later.
P.S. Please take out some steaks for dinner.
"Fuck!" Fox growled, balling up the note and throwing it in the general direction of the trash can.
Hot tears sprang to his eyes and he blinked them away. He knew he was behaving like a four year-old, knew he was being completely irrational, but he was too mad to care. He stomped up the stairs and turned on the shower. He'd show them.
It was after dark when Walter and Alex bustled in the back door, their cheeks red from the cold. Groaning, they dropped their packed shopping bags in a pile by the door and shrugged out of their coats.
"I'm exhausted," Alex moaned. "The gulag had nothing on the mall at Christmas."
Walter laughed and ruffled his hair.
"Come on, Rat, let's get this stuff hidden in the spare room before Fox sees it."
The two men carefully hid their purchases behind a pile of boxes in the spare room, whispering excitedly. Fox was going to be so surprised! Alex grinned as they closed the door, making sure to lock it. He had been afraid they wouldn't be able to find the right gifts for their lover, but they had, and now he couldn't wait until Christmas morning.
Returning to the kitchen, Walter noticed a folded piece of paper on the table. Picking it up, he read it quickly, concern rapidly clouding his features. He handed it to Alex, troubled and confused.
"Read this, Alex," he said worriedly. "What on earth do you suppose got into him?"
Alex took the note and read it.
I'm going out. I'd tell you where but it's not as if you care. Hope you two had a great time together.
Alex's eyes widened.
"Did you two have a fight?"
Walter shook his head.
"No. Did you?"
Alex shook his head.
"No. Did he seem that upset to you?"
Walter thought for a moment.
"Well, he was pretty grumpy this morning, but I didn't think he was really upset about anything." He glanced at the clock. "It's almost nine o'clock. There's no telling how long he's been gone. I'm going to go look for him."
Alex stopped him with a hand on his arm.
"Please, Walter," he said hesitantly. "Let me. I want to."
Walter looked into Alex's eyes and then drew him close for a hug.
"Okay, Rat. But take the cell phone and keep me posted. Are you sure you know where to look?"
Alex began pulling his coat back on.
"I'm pretty sure," he answered. "There's only so many places he'd go when he's upset."
He looked at Walter, his expression suddenly uncertain.
"Do... do you think," he faltered, "do you think it's me? That he doesn't want me around?"
Walter quickly crossed the distance between them and pulled Alex into his embrace again before tilting Alex's face up for a kiss. The kiss was long and deep and left Alex flushed with pleasure. Walter's voice was soft and serious.
"You are loved." He said simply. "Fox loves you. I love you. He's upset, but when you find him and bring him home, we'll get to the bottom of it."
In more ways than one, he thought to himself. There was always the chance that Fox was genuinely distressed about something important, and if that turned out to be the case, Walter would move heaven and earth to put it right. But this had all the earmarks of a classic Fox Mulder temper tantrum, and Walter had just the cure for that.
Alex went to three bars before he finally hit the jackpot. He walked into Under the Table, a popular gay bar on 15th Street, and spotted him immediately. Fox was working on his fourth bourbon and Coke and didn't notice Alex standing behind him. Neither did the man who had been insistently pestering Fox for the better part of an hour to go home with him.
"Come on, sweet thing," the man cooed, close to Fox's ear. "A pretty boy like you shouldn't be all alone on a cold night. Let me take you home and warm you up."
He reached for Mulder's arm, only to be stopped by a black-gloved hand wrapped painfully around his wrist. The man turned and found himself the focus of a pair of blazing green eyes. The man scowled and tried to twist out of Alex's grip.
"You got a problem?" he snarled.
Alex's voice was soft and deadly.
"Why?" he asked, increasing the pressure on the man's wrist. "You looking for one?"
Something in Alex's eyes made the man decide that he would like to leave now, and quickly. He mumbled an apology, grabbing his hat and scarf from the bar. Alex released his hold on the man's wrist and Fox's would-be date hurried from the bar. Alex sat down on the barstool the frightened man had just vacated. He watched with concern as Fox drained his glass and ordered another.
"How many have you had?" Alex asked quietly.
Fox glared at him unsteadily and turned back to the bartender.
"Make it a double."
Alex caught the bartender's eye. He slipped the man a fifty and mouthed the words "No more." The bartender had witnessed the little scene between this leather-jacketed man and the creep that had been bothering the pretty boy, and cooperation seemed to be a very good idea. He pocketed the fifty and nodded, placing a large glass of iced water in front of Fox.
"Hey," slurred Fox loudly. "I din' order vodka, thash Alex's drink!"
"Fox, let's go home," Alex said quietly. Fox glared at him again.
"Lemme 'lone. Who cares."
"We care, Fox. Walter and me." Fox took a gulp of the iced water and looked at Alex with an almost comic air of tragedy.
"Walter and me," he mimicked. "Walter and you. You and Walter. What about me?"
"Is that what this is about?" Alex was hurt. "Fox, we love you. I love you." He stood up and tugged insistently at Fox's arm, not about to take no for an answer. "Let's get you out of here. We can talk about whatever's bothering you at home." He caught a whiff of Fox's breath and grimaced. "After you sober up, that is."
He bundled his inebriated lover into his coat and led him to the car, practically having to prop Fox up so he could get the passenger side door unlocked. He belted Fox in and closed the door before walking across the street to where Fox's car was parked. He checked to make sure the doors were locked and the windows rolled up. Once satisfied that the vehicle was secure, he returned to his car and started it up. He turned toward home, glancing over at Fox. Fox was apparently asleep, his mouth hanging open as he snored softly. Alex shook his head. He knew they were in for a long night.
Walter jumped up from the sofa as the back door opened, letting in a blast of cold air. Alex struggled in, half-dragging, half-carrying Fox, who was obviously dead drunk. Walter stood speechless for a moment, his hands on his hips, then rushed to help Alex. He wrinkled his nose at the smell emanating from the nearly unconscious Fox, guiding him into a kitchen chair. He and Alex quickly divested Fox of his coat, hat and gloves. Fox groaned loudly, squinting in the bright light of the kitchen.
"Turnat out," he mumbled. "Too bright."
Walter began brewing a pot of strong coffee, shaking his head.
"Were you able to get anything out of him?"
Alex shook his head in consternation, going to the closet and hanging up his and Fox's coats.
"He seems pissed off at us, that's all I know. He wasn't making much sense."
Walter got down three mugs and made sure the sugar bowl was full before sitting down across from Fox with a sigh.
"I doubt we'll get much out of him until he's had a chance to sleep it off. Let's get some coffee into him and then get him to bed."
The following evening, Fox stood, fidgeting nervously, his nose pressed firmly against the wall in what was unofficially "his" corner, by the archway that led into the kitchen. His nose was itching, but he didn't dare scratch it. The silence in the room was overpowering. Walter sat on the loveseat, Alex on the sofa, concern evident on his beautiful face. Fox didn't know how long he had been in the corner. Long enough to do some serious thinking. His stomach rolled nervously as he thought about the punishment that awaited him. Punishment he had gone to great lengths to earn. That day had been a long one, and Fox had grown increasingly nervous as he awaited the penalty for his behavior the night before.
He had been almost relieved when Walter, satisfied that Fox was now fully recovered, had summoned him into the living room and directed him firmly into the corner, leaving him with one stinging swat to think about. A taste of what was to come. Fox gulped and dared to sneak a glance at his lovers. Alex sat on the edge of his seat, gnawing at his bottom lip. Walter glanced at Fox and crooked his finger at him.
"Come here, Fox."
Fox started guiltily and walked over to the loveseat, his head bowed. His cheeks burned with shame at the little he could remember of the night before. He remembered drinking, remembered a man bothering him, trying to get him to leave with him. Remembered Alex, remembered the black leather cool against his cheek as he clung to his lover, trying to remain upright as Alex manhandled him into the car. Remembered two sets of hands leading him up the stairs and stripping off his clothes, guiding him into bed before tucking the covers tenderly around him.
Walter looked at Fox for a long time. Contrite hazel eyes flickered up from the carpet and looked miserably down again.
"Well, Fox," Walter reluctantly began.
He would so much rather be spending the evening rolling around in bed with his two gorgeous lovers, then sprawling, sated, the sweat drying on their naked bodies. Arguing over who was going to leave the delicious warmth of their bed and go downstairs for snacks and for a monster movie to pop into the VCR. He sighed and turned his attention back to the miserable young man who stood before him humbly, his hands behind his back.
"Would you like to explain just what got into you last night? What possessed you to pull a stunt like that?"
"Fox William Mulder..." Walter began, a warning tone to his voice.
Fox hesitated. He had been so angry the day before, had felt so ignored, so unwanted. Now, he was beginning to realize how silly he had been. Alex had come to get him, had refused to allow him to drink any more, had brought him home. They had made him drink coffee, had tucked him into bed. They had let him sleep while they had gone back to the bar to get his car and bring it home. Fox blinked back tears. He always made a mess of everything. He had been angry yesterday, and he still resented Walter and Alex excluding him from their plans. But it hadn't been worth the trouble he was in. He glanced up and saw Walter's eyes, the tight line of his jaw suggesting he was getting short on patience. Fox cleared his throat.
"I... I was mad," he whispered.
Walter reached out, waiting for Fox to take his offered hand. He drew the troubled young man down beside him and put an arm around him, just holding him for a moment. Alex watched silently, anxiously.
"Tell us, Fox," Walter said quietly. "Tell us what upset you."
Fox looked down and mumbled.
"Sounds stupid now."
"I'm sure now that you've had time to consider the situation and how you could have handled it, it does seem that way to you," Walter replied. "But something made you upset enough that you went out and got blind drunk. Upset enough that you didn't tell us where you were going or give us any way of getting in touch with you."
He paused meaningfully and grasped Fox's jaw lightly, tilting his face up so that he was forced to meet Walter's stern gaze. Walter continued.
"Upset enough that, instead of taking a cab to the bar so that you'd be assured of a safe way home, you drove yourself there. Which leads me to believe that, no matter how much you had to drink, you intended to drive yourself home."
Fox paled. He was in so much trouble.
"I..." he swallowed and looked down. "I'm sorry."
Walter squeezed his hand.
"You still haven't told us why."
Fox blinked back tears. He bit his lip, looking first at Alex and then back at Walter.
"I... you both seemed to be so... at breakfast yesterday, it was like you didn't even need me." He heard the whiny, plaintive tone of his own voice and cringed a little. "I just felt, it just seems like lately, you don't notice me, and then you went out and didn't even ask me if I wanted to go. I just felt invisible, like you-" he broke off, biting his lip. A tear escaped and trickled down one cheek. "Like you love him more," he whispered.
He glanced at Alex and saw him pale. Saw naked pain in those emerald eyes. Saw him stand up to leave.
"No!" Fox shouted, rushing over to Alex.
He grasped both of Alex's hands and led him back to the sofa. Alex sat rigidly, not looking at Fox. His eyes were bright with tears barely held back. Fox knelt, burying his face in Alex's lap.
"I'm sorry," he said, his voice thick with emotion. "Please don't go. I love you, Alex."
He looked up into Alex's face searchingly.
"I love you. Walter loves you." He swallowed hard. "I love that Walter loves you. We all love each other, and what we have is rare and special and I treasure it every day of my life."
Alex's mouth dropped open slightly as Fox lay his dark head on his thigh, his tears forming a damp spot on Alex's jeans. Fox had never spoken so openly, the words had never been so obviously torn from his heart. Fox sniffled and raised his head, hazel eyes boring into green.
"I love you," he said again. "Both of you. I'm so lucky and sometimes I forget that. I acted like a selfish, spoiled brat and I'm sorry. I'm sorry. I know Walter is going to spank me hard and I deserve it. I acted like a jerk. Please forgive me."
Alex leaned down and wrapped his arms around Fox, holding him tightly.
"Moi lisitsa," he whispered. "Moi lyubov."
Fox closed his eyes. He heard Walter rise and move toward them, then felt two strong arms surrounding them both.
"I love you both," Walter said, his voice shaking with emotion. "Never one more than the other. Equally. With all my heart, with all I have."
"Me too," Alex whispered. "All that I am, the both of you, it's yours to share, forever."
Fox squeezed his eyes shut tightly against a renewed flow of tears, then opened them again to look at his lovers.
"I love you," he repeated. "I know I behaved badly. I know I should have told you how I was feeling. I thought only of myself and I did the wrong thing. I'm sorry."
He took Walter's hand.
"I'm ready," he said simply.
Walter nodded and returned to the loveseat, waiting as Fox stripped, placing his clothes on the sofa next to Alex.
Alex looked up at Fox, standing naked, his mouth set in a determined line, ready to do penance for his wrongdoing.
"If you want me to leave, Fox..." he said softly.
Walter watched the two men, waiting to see what Fox would do. Fox looked down, then back up at Alex with tenderness in his eyes.
"No," he said firmly. "I want you to stay. I made you worry about me, too. You had to come and get me, you had to protect me from that creep in the bar. This is a part of the life we share and it's only right that you should be here."
Alex nodded and sat back, his hands twisting nervously in his lap. He knew Fox had to be punished for what he had done, but he wasn't looking forward to it. He bit his lip. Walter saw the tension in Alex's face and looked at him, nodding encouragingly. He looked at Fox.
"Come on, Fox."
He guided Fox facedown across his lap, positioning the pale buttocks over his thighs. He raised his left thigh slightly to present Fox's bottom at the correct angle for punishment.
"You know what you did was wrong."
"Yes, sir," Fox whispered. "I know. I'm sorry."
"I'm sorry, too," Walter answered. "I'm sorry I have to do this. But you have to learn not to take foolish risks with your health and well-being."
He reached over to the small table that stood next to the sofa and picked up the small, leather-covered paddle. Alex blanched. Walter had only used it on him a few times and then only for serious offenses. It had made a lasting impression.
Walter brought the paddle down hard, leaving a bright red splotch in the center of Fox's right buttcheek.
WHACK! WHACK! WHACK!
"Ow..." Fox grunted between clenched teeth. He tried to stay quiet, but he knew he'd be bawling like a baby before long.
Walter paddled Fox's bare ass, leaving no part of it unscorched. The paddle came down again and again, producing a more vocal response with every smack. Fox began to whimper steadily as the paddle unerringly found its mark. His backside felt as though it had been doused with gasoline and set ablaze. He kicked a little as Walter turned his attention to the sit spots. Walter's voice rose above the loud cracks of the paddle.
"Why are you being punished, Fox?"
"F-for being jealous! For being selfish!" Fox cried.
Walter paused for a moment, stroking Fox's naked back.
"No, love," he said quietly. "Try again."
He waited a moment and then landed two more blistering blows to the vulnerable sit spots.
"Ow! Ow, Walter!"
"Come on, Fox," Walter pressed, raising his arm again. "You know what you did wrong."
Fox began to sob loudly, forcing the words out between gulps of air.
"I... I went out and got drunk... OW... I drove myself, I didn't tell you where I was going!" He hung his head and cried in earnest, hot tears dripping from the end of his nose.
"I was upset and I didn't tell you, I didn't come to you! I should have come to you and told you how I was feeling! I shouldn't have handled it the way I did!"
"That's right, Fox," Walter said soothingly. "Almost over now. I want you to listen to me very carefully. All right?"
"Y-yes," Fox gasped as Walter began to blister the tops of his thighs. It was impossible not to squirm as the tender flesh was set alight, and Walter had to keep one arm across Fox's back to hold him still.
"Do you understand what could have happened if you had tried to drive yourself home after drinking?"
"OW! Yes, Walter!"
Fox's voice was rough from crying. He swallowed and tried to talk through the tears.
"I could have gotten pulled over and arrested, it could have hurt my career! I-I could have had an accident! I could have hurt someone or hurt myself or," he gulped, "even worse, I could have c-cost someone their life."
"That's right," Walter said, his voice trembling. "Do you know what it would do to me to lose you?"
"Yes, Walter," Fox whispered. "I'm sorry."
"That's good, Fox," Walter said approvingly. He dealt Fox two more swats on each side. Fox wailed and sobbed.
"Now tell me what could have happened if Alex didn't arrive at the bar in time to deal with that creep who was pestering you."
Fox wiped at his eyes with one hand, clinging to Walter's leg with the other.
"He could have gotten angry. He could have tried to slip something into my drink or follow me out to my car. He could have h-hurt me..."
Walter gave Fox's scarlet backside four more swats, then lay the paddle down. Fox cried hard, his shoulders shaking, his anguished sobs filling the room. Walter gently pulled him into his lap, making sure not to touch Fox's throbbing backside, and held him. Fox lay his head on Walter's shoulder and cried, cried it all out, all the petty jealousy and misplaced anger and loneliness. All the fear, the worry over losing this wonderful gift he had been given. The two wonderful gifts he had taken for granted.
"Let it go," Walter said gently, stroking Fox's hair. "That's it."
He looked at Alex. Alex stood and walked over to the pair, leaning down and kissing the top of Fox's head. He looked at Walter, biting his lip again. Walter looked at him with concern and held out his hand. Alex took it and squeezed it gently.
"I know you have to do it," Alex said softly, tears shining in his eyes. "But it's hard."
Walter looked at Alex with understanding.
"Yes, Rat," Walter agreed. "It's hard."
Alex looked into Walter's eyes and nodded.
"Hardest for you," he whispered.
Walter nodded, tears filling his own eyes. Alex smiled.
"I'll be upstairs," he said.
Walter returned his smile.
"We'll be up in a minute."
Alex turned and went upstairs. He found the bottle of aloe and went into the bedroom, turning back the covers and getting into bed to await his lovers.
Fox had stopped crying and now lay quietly in Walter's arms. Walter rubbed circles on his back, enjoying the feel of the smooth skin under his sore palm.
"Fox? You okay?"
Fox nodded against Walter's shoulder.
"Yes," he answered, his voice muffled. "Except my butt's on fire."
Walter hugged him tightly.
"I know, Fox," he said. "But you had it coming."
Fox looked up.
"Yes," he said quietly. "I earned every swat."
Walter gazed down at him tenderly.
"Fox," he whispered. "How could you ever think I love Alex more than you? That we would deliberately exclude you?"
Fox looked down again.
"I don't know," he said. "I guess I just felt left out. Sometimes it seems you... spend more time with him."
Walter considered this. That he had inadvertently made Fox feel unwanted pained him.
"Fox, I never meant for that to happen. I can only say that Alex is still trying to adjust, still trying to change. He needs a lot of guidance, and I'm sorry if I neglected you. I love you, Fox, more each day. I never meant for you to feel left out. I'll try to make sure it doesn't happen again. Okay?"
Fox grinned and nodded enthusiastically.
"Okay," he answered. He stood slowly, his scorched butt making its presence known as he moved. He winced.
"Alex is waiting upstairs with the aloe," Walter said, smiling. That was all Fox needed to hear. He headed for the stairs, then stopped, turning to Walter with a curious expression.
"Where were you two yesterday, anyway?" he asked.
"Fox. Have you forgotten it's Christmas? All I can tell you is that it was a mission of absolute secrecy."
Fox's eyes lit up.
"You mean you were shopping for me? Where did you go? What did you buy?"
Walter swatted playfully at Fox's red rump. Fox jumped out of the way with a yelp.
"I'd tell you, but then I'd have to kill you," Walter mock-growled. "Now let's get upstairs and get you cooled down."
Fox threw his arms around Walter's neck and nipped at his ear.
"I'm just getting warmed up," he said breathily.
Walter chased him up the stairs, enjoying the view of that gorgeous well-spanked bottom as Fox bounded up the stairs ahead of him.
Fox lay on his stomach, his head on Walter's lap. Alex gently spread the aloe gel across Fox's tender backside, being careful not to press too hard as his fingers passed over the welts.
"Mmmmm..." Fox murmured, lost in a blissful haze.
"I'm sorry, too."
Fox raised his head and looked over his shoulder. Alex was gazing at him with a troubled expression.
Alex capped the bottle of aloe and put it on the nightstand, then lay down next to Fox, lifting one hand to brush an errant lock of hair out of Fox's eyes.
"I heard you and Walter talking downstairs, after," Alex said, looking down. "I'm sorry, too. I didn't mean for you to feel left out. I didn't mean to ignore you. I guess I was just preoccupied with the shopping trip, I was so excited about picking out your gifts. I promise I'll try not to let it happen again."
Fox leaned up and kissed Alex, caressing his cheek with one hand.
"It's okay, Alex. I know you both love me. I should have come to you and talked about it. I promise to do that if I ever feel that way again."
Walter leaned down, determined to get in on the action.
"And I promise to make sure you never do," he said huskily, drawing his two naked lovers into a tight embrace. "Never again."
Notes and Disclaimers