Notes and Disclaimers at end
The Scent of Battle
Walter Skinner put his key in the front door, already feeling twenty pounds lighter. It was Friday evening. He had a whole weekend ahead of him. Time to forget about work, about Kersh, about budgets and briefs and memos. He hung up his coat, stowed it and his briefcase in the hall closet, took off his jacket and loosened his tie, whistling a jaunty little tune. Another long hard week was over and now all he wanted was to have a glass of wine and then take his boys out to dinner.
Walter smiled as he went into the kitchen and got a wine glass down from the rack. He poured himself a glass of Chardonnay and sipped it with a sigh of pleasure. Now all he needed was a good hot shower and a change of clothes, and they would be off to Georgetown, to that intimate little steak place they all loved so much. Candlelight, burnished wood, the rich heavy draperies shutting out all thoughts of the outside world...Walter sipped again and closed his eyes. A slab of Black Angus grilled to perfection, Fox and Alex, dressed in their finest, enjoying a wonderful evening together, just the three of them, and peace and quiet...
Walter jumped, sloshing wine over the side of his glass.
"What the hell?!?" he spluttered. He hastily put his glass down on the counter and hurried into the living room.
Another bone-rattling crash from upstairs. Walter stood slack-jawed as bits of plaster rained down from the ceiling and the picture of his mother fell off the wall and disappeared behind the sofa. Walter turned toward the staircase just as a series of bumps and thumps sounded, followed by what sounded like yelling.
Walter took the stairs two at a time.
He followed the sounds to the master bedroom and then to the en suite bathroom. He hit the door running but what he saw made him stop in his tracks, frozen in place as his eyes tried to process what they were seeing.
The bathroom was in shambles.
The door to the medicine cabinet hung crazily from one hinge. Assorted bottles of cough syrup, disposable razors, cotton swabs and pill bottles littered the vanity. Walter's pot of ivy, which had sat on a small shelf above the toilet, now lay on the floor, the ceramic pot broken and surrounded by potting soil. The shelf lay beside it, upside down, the bottles and tubes of lotions and creams it had also held scattered around it.
And in the middle of all of this, stark naked, were Fox and Alex. Shouting, cursing and growling at one another, rolling on the floor, each obviously intent on doing the other serious bodily harm. Walter gaped in astonishment. They had seemed to be bickering a lot lately, but this was the first time things had escalated to the point of an actual fight. Walter stood, momentarily distracted by the sight of two sets of bare, delectable buttocks, flexing and writhing as his lovers tussled on the tile floor. Walter shook himself out of his reverie. His jaw clenched and his temples began to pound. So much for the romantic evening he had planned. He took a step forward.
Then the smell hit him.
Walter staggered back, his eyes watering. It smelled like someone had lobbed a hand grenade into the men's toiletries department at Macy's. He stood back a little from the doorway and gasped for air. He scanned the room, quickly finding the source. There, lying on the bathroom floor, just inches from where his naked lovers were grimly fighting one another, lay the bottle of Dolce and Gabbana cologne he had given Fox for his birthday. Broken. The green glass bottle was in pieces, surrounded by a pool of yellowish liquid. Walter took a deep breath and headed into the fray.
Fox had Alex on his stomach, one hand full of dark hair, trying to rub his face into the bathmat.
"You did it on purpose, you Rat!" he yelled. "And I'm going to hear you admit it!"
Alex managed a deft maneuver and threw Fox off him, quickly leaping atop the sprawling man.
"I told you it was an accident! I am so sick of your pouting! If you hadn't grabbed me it never would have happened!"
Furious, Alex felt around beside him and came up with a handful of damp potting soil. He grinned.
"Don't you DARE!" Fox yelled, trying to twist out of Alex's grip.
"What's the matter, Foxy?" Alex taunted. "Scared of a little dirt?"
Fox managed to hit Alex's hand, making him drop most of the soil. Alex growled and they began to wrestle again.
The two loud whacks sounded like gunshots in the small room.
"OWW!" Fox and Alex yelled in unison. They looked up, their jaws dropping and their eyes widening in horror as they realized the mess they had, literally and figuratively, gotten themselves in.
Walter stood, hands on hips, his rumpled shirt and loosened tie in no way detracting from the image of a stern and very angry AD intent on pounding some sense into two very bare bottoms. Walter looked at the bottoms in question as their owners scrambled to their feet. Each of his boys now bore a perfect red handprint on one formerly unblemished buttock.
Fox and Alex stood before him, their eyes looking in any direction but his, biting their lips and shuffling from foot to foot. Each was tempted to sneak a hand back to rub but they were in enough trouble already.
Walter's voice was calm and terrible.
"Would either of you," he paused and glared meaningfully at each of the two miscreants, "like to tell me just what the hell is going on?"
Two sets of eyes studied the tile floor.
"NOW!" Walter roared. Fox and Alex jumped, then began talking at once, their voices rising and mingling into an unintelligible din that made Skinner want to put his hands over his ears.
"That's enough," he snapped. "Fox, start talking. Alex, I'll hear your side in a minute."
Alex pouted, as much as he dared. Fox glanced fearfully at Walter and then began to tell his story.
"We were getting ready for dinner, Walter. Alex had taken a shower and I was about to take mine, when I came in and," he paused, glaring accusingly at Alex, "I found him using MY Dolce and Gabbana cologne!"
Fox's eyes flashed as he relived the story of the outrage he had been obliged to suffer.
"It's the cologne you gave me for my birthday," he sniffed. "He knows it's special to me, and it's two hundred dollars a bottle! He didn't even ask me first, he just took it!"
"I just wanted a couple of drops!" Alex yelled. "I didn't think you'd mind! We always share everything!"
"Alex..." Walter said warningly. Alex flushed and looked down, biting his tongue.
"That's not the point," Fox said icily. "You know it's my favorite. You know it's special, because Walter gave it to me for my birthday. You should have asked."
Fox looked back up at Walter, his eyes brimming with tears.
"And when I came in and found him stealing my cologne, he threw the bottle on the floor and broke it!"
Walter looked at Alex with surprise. That didn't sound like his Rat at all.
Alex could not keep silent. Tears of anger and frustration sprang to his own eyes as he pointed at Fox with a shaking finger.
"It's not true, Walter!" he shouted. "Fox grabbed my arm and I dropped the bottle! I didn't mean to! I didn't!"
Fox glared at Alex.
"You're jealous. Jealous of me and jealous that Walter gave me the cologne I wanted even though it was so expensive. You're always jealous." Fox felt the anger rising in him and knew he was about to go too far, but he just couldn't stop the hurtful words before they made it out of his mouth.
"Once a thief, always a thief! You always want what I have! Doesn't that explain why you're here?"
Alex gasped and went white. His face seemed to clamp shut and he turned and ran from the room.
Walter looked at Fox, aghast.
Fox blushed furiously and looked down, unable to believe what he had just done. He was too ashamed to look at Walter, but too angry to apologize.
Walter grasped Fox firmly by the shoulder.
"Downstairs, now, and find your corner. I'm going after him. I'll be down in a few minutes and if I find you doing anything except pressing your nose against the wall then your butt and my belt are going to have a serious discussion."
Fox paled and rushed from the room. Walter took another look around at the mess Fox and Alex had made of their lovely bathroom and shook his head sadly. He turned on the overhead fan and closed the door, hoping it would help clear the smell of the powerful cologne out. The mess would just have to wait. He had another, more important mess to clean up.
Walter found Alex in the bedroom. He took one look at his Rat and felt cold all over. Just that morning those green eyes had sparkled at him across the breakfast table, every glance saying "I love you". Now those eyes were flat and without hope. Tears ran silently down Alex's face as he quickly stuffed clothing into his knapsack, not even looking at the crumpled shirts and underwear he was grabbing from the bureau drawers. He had taken time to throw on a pair of jeans and a T-shirt, apparently not noticing that the T-shirt was on inside-out.
"Alex," Walter said softly. "Alex, stop."
Alex didn't respond. He bit his lip and pulled another drawer open, unable to stifle a sob as he began grabbing handfuls of socks and shoving them in with the shirts and boxers.
Walter sat on the edge of the bed.
"Alex," he said again. "What are you doing? Where are you going?"
Alex shrugged, trying not to cry.
"I don't know, Walter. He...you heard him. I'm just in the way. I'm just someone trying to take what's his. He doesn't...doesn't want me..."
Alex broke down and sobbed helplessly, his knapsack in his hand, hurting and unsure of what to do. He was angry at Fox, it was true, but what Fox had said had cut him to the heart. He stood in front of Walter, shaking, miserable with the fear of leaving. Terrified of staying and facing what seemed to be Fox's hatred of him. The pain in Alex's eyes made Walter's chest tighten a little. He looked into those eyes, held them with his steady gaze. Held out his arms.
"Alex," he whispered. Alex dropped the knapsack and hurled himself into Walter's arms. He buried his face in Walter's chest and cried as though his heart would break.
"I don't want to go, I don't want to go..." he said over and over, between sobs. Walter held him, making soothing noises, rubbed his back.
"I know, Rat," he said quietly. "I know."
At length, Alex's tears subsided. Walter sat Alex beside him on the bed, wiped away his tears. Alex looked down, picked at the comforter with one hand.
"Alex," Walter said gently but firmly. "You do know that Fox didn't mean what he said, don't you?"
Alex shrugged a little, his chin trembling a little.
"I'd like to. But...he said it, Walter. What if that's how he really feels?"
Walter took Alex's chin in his hand, cupping it and feeling the trembling subside. He brought Alex's face up, looked into his eyes.
"Alex," he began. "You two had a fight. A bad one. It's probably fair to say you both said some things you didn't mean. Isn't it?"
Alex nodded guiltily.
"Now," Walter continued. "Nothing has happened that can't be fixed. You're both upset right now. But we will work through this. After all that's happened in the past, everything we've overcome, I don't think we're going to let a broken bottle of cologne ruin everything, are we?"
Alex smiled a little. He looked up at Walter hopefully.
"I...I guess you're right. But Fox is still so mad. And I..." he hesitated.
"Yes?" Walter prompted.
Alex felt himself pouting and couldn't help it.
"Well...he was wrong," he said at last. "I...I guess I'm still mad too."
Walter laughed and kissed Alex.
"I know. I know you both think you were right and the other was wrong. But as I said," Walter paused and gave Alex a meaningful look, "we're going to get to the bottom of it. Right?"
Alex gulped and nodded.
"Now," he said, pointing toward the bedroom door. "Get those clothes off and get downstairs. Find your corner and do some serious thinking about your behavior this evening. Fox is already there and he had better be doing the same thing. Make no mistake, Alex," he said, his tone growing slightly more gentle. "I love you. With all my heart. You and Fox both. But you both behaved appallingly tonight and you will both be punished. Is that understood?"
Alex quickly began undressing. He swallowed hard.
"Yes, sir," he said softly.
"Good," Walter said, mentally wiping his brow. He watched as his skittish young lover finished taking off his clothes and left the room, his footfalls sounding on the stairs. Walter looked at Alex's forgotten knapsack, lying on the floor next to the bed, and sighed. Another narrow escape. He was worried that one day Alex really would leave, that his fragile security would be irrevocably broken and he would be gone forever. Walter forced that thought from his mind. He thought about what awaited him over the rest of the evening and wondered if it was worth going into that bathroom again for the antacid. He started for the stairs, musing disappointedly on the restaurant and the splendid meal they would now miss. He hoped there was some chicken salad left in the fridge. He would consider his lovers' punishment while they ate. He paused in the hallway and went back for the antacid.
Walter passed through the living room, noting approvingly that both Fox and Alex were doing as he had instructed. The red handprints on their lovely bottoms were fading now, but Walter intended to mark them and mark them well when the time came. He stopped on his way to the kitchen and regarded the two naked combatants, slumped miserably in their corners.
"I don't want to hear a word out of either of you," he said sternly. "I think it goes without saying that dinner out tonight is cancelled. I am going to fix dinner for us all, soup and sandwiches. You will remain in your corners, thinking about what you did, until I return."
Walter went into the kitchen and leaned against the counter. He took off his glasses and rubbed his eyes. He replaced his glasses and went to the freezer, taking down a large container of homemade broccoli and cheese soup his mother had sent home with him on his last visit. He quickly and efficiently set the table, stirred the rapidly thawing soup. A short time later, Walter went back into the living room. He sat down heavily on the sofa.
"Come here, you two," he said, not unkindly. Slowly, Fox and Alex came to stand before him, their hands behind their backs, not looking at each other.
Walter regarded them silently. After a few minutes, they began to fidget nervously.
"I am absolutely horrified at your behavior tonight," Walter finally said. Alex winced. Fox bit his lip. Walter eyed them both sternly and continued.
"I came home tonight, after a long and stressful week at the office, looking forward to taking the two of you out for a beautiful dinner at our favorite place, and what do I find? Do I find my two gorgeous lovers dressed and waiting for me? Happy to be together? Happy to have this lovely night, the three of us? No."
Fox and Alex looked more miserable with every word.
"What I find is, my lovers, on the floor, INTENT ON BEATING THE SHIT OUT OF EACH OTHER!" Walter roared, banging his fist on the arm of the sofa. Alex and Fox jumped.
"I'm sorry, Walter," Fox said quickly. "But he broke my cologne bottle on purpose!"
Alex stared at him in amazement.
"I did NOT!" he yelled. "He grabbed me! He accused me of stealing! We always share everything! He's just acting like a spoiled brat!"
Fox whirled on Alex.
"ENOUGH!" Walter roared. "Stop it, the both of you!"
Fox and Alex closed their mouths and lowered their eyes, their bottoms clenching involuntarily. Walter only raised his voice when he was truly upset.
Walter stood and waited for their eyes to rise and meet his.
"Now, I've had just about enough of this. You've been bickering and sniping at each other a lot lately and I don't know what the problem is but I guarantee you, it's going to stop. I think you've lost sight of just what's really important around here. You've lost sight of each other."
Fox and Alex looked at one another uncomfortably. Walter folded his arms and eyed them evenly.
"You two need to learn a lesson about just how important you are to one another. For the rest of this weekend, you will not leave this house. You will not speak to one another. You will not, under any circumstances, touch one another. Each infraction is worth six strokes of the cane. Am I understood, Fox?"
Fox studied his feet.
"Yes, sir," he mumbled softly. He risked a glare at Alex. Alex glared back. Shouldn't be too hard to go a whole weekend without talking to him, they each thought. Walter cleared his throat.
Alex looked at Walter.
"Good," Walter said. "And one more thing, boys. You will remain naked for the duration. Now, into the kitchen. Dinner is ready."
Dinner was a silent and tense affair. Walter was beginning to feel as though he were punishing himself as well. He missed the banter, the hands touching across the table, the sly games of footsie under it. He sighed and took a bite of his sandwich. They had to learn.
Fox and Alex stared at their plates as they ate, occasionally looking up to shoot an accusing glare at the other. Walter caught each of them casting nervous looks at the rattan cane that he had placed in the center of the table as a reminder.
After dinner, Walter led his naked lovers back into the living room and parked them in their corners.
"I'm going to clean up the kitchen. I'm leaving the door open and I don't want to hear any talking."
Two dark heads nodded, two noses found their marks on the wall.
From his corner, Fox coughed, to draw Alex's attention. He glanced nervously toward the kitchen door. Walter hadn't said they couldn't cough, had he? Alex looked warily at Fox. Fox shot him a hard look, pointed his finger at him.
"YOUR fault," he mouthed.
Alex scowled and held up his hand. He used a different finger.
Walter came into the room, wiping his hands on the dishcloth.
"Do you two need some help understanding what's expected of you while you're in your corners?"
Two dark heads shook emphatically.
Walter led them back into the now spotless kitchen and seated them both at the kitchen table. He had to use all of his strength not to smile at the twin looks of revulsion on their faces when they saw the new legal pads and pens laid out for them.
Walter left the kitchen door open again. He paused before going back into the living room.
"All right. Fox, you will be writing 'I will learn to treat Alex with love, consideration and respect. I am lucky to have him in my heart and in my life' one thousand times. Alex, you will do the same, substituting Fox's name for your own. I want it neat and I want it legible and I want you both to think about every single word you write. I'm going to clean up the living room."
He placed the cane back on the table. "I want two hundred and fifty out of each of you before bed. And you know what happens if I hear a word out of either of you."
Walter went into the living room and got the carpet sweeper to clean up the plaster that had been knocked down from the ceiling. He fished behind the sofa for his mother's picture and hung it up again, glad the glass had survived intact.
In the kitchen, Alex and Fox stared at one another for a long moment. Finally, Alex bit his lip and picked up his pen. Fox picked up his as well and they both began to write, occasionally stealing a look at the other's paper, to see who had written more.
Walter stood in the bedroom, with Alex and Fox in front of him. They had finished their two hundred and fifty lines in a dead heat, and had spent another hour silently cleaning up the bathroom under Walter's watchful eye.
"Now," Walter said. "Bedtime. Alex on the right, Fox on the left, and I will be in the middle. There will be no talking and no touching. I suggest you both stay well to your own sides of the bed because if you touch even accidentally, you will be punished."
Walter got into bed first, followed by Alex. Fox stood, his eyes inexorably drawn to Alex's naked body as he got into bed beside Walter. Fox felt his cock begin to fill. Walter gave him a warning look.
"In bed, Fox. Now."
Fox quickly climbed on the other side of Walter, unaware of the green eyes that watched him as he did. Alex lay on his back, closed his eyes. Fox had such a beautiful ass, even more beautiful in motion. The way the muscles moved under the skin when he walked, the way they flexed when he bent to lift the edge of the comforter. Walter leaned up on his elbow and kissed them each on the mouth.
"I love you both," he said. "Good night."
Saturday was Hell. Walter had them up early and marched them downstairs, still naked. Breakfast was eaten in silence, the dreaded cane ringed round with cereal bowls and juice glasses. After breakfast came an hour of corner time. Then Alex was put to work cleaning the downstairs while Fox was sent upstairs. Walter read the newspaper, noting the dejected slump of Alex's shoulders as he ran the vaccuum cleaner, the unhappy look in Fox's eyes when he came downstairs for glass cleaner and paper towels.
Lunch was sandwiches and leftover soup. After lunch, another hour of corner time, followed by cleaning and organizing the basement. Then they were back at the kitchen table to write lines until dinner. Walter stayed in the kitchen with them, sitting at the table, balancing his checkbook. The only sound in the room was the scratching of pen on paper. Walter hid his smile as he caught hazel eyes looking longingly at Alex. Right on schedule, Walter thought. His satisfaction grew as green eyes lifted to watch Fox hungrily, as twin gazes of misery and wanting met and held one another. Walter cleared his throat. They started guiltily and got back to writing, stealing the occasional look at one another.
After dinner, while Walter cleaned up after their meal of broiled chicken and salad, Fox and Alex found themselves again in their corners. Alex looked over at Fox, his beautiful lover, so graceful, so precious, and felt his eyes fill with tears of shame. Fox heard Alex sniffle and looked at him, felt his own face grow hot as he remembered the hateful words he'd spat at his beautiful Alex. Alex looked down, the tears threatening to spill over his lush dark lashes. Fox blinked back tears, wishing he could hold Alex just for a moment.
Alex raised his head and looked at Fox. Green eyes met hazel and each knew what the other was thinking. Alex trembled with the desire to touch Fox's soft skin, to bury his face in that thick sweet-smelling hair, to feel their hearts beating close to each other. To press against him. To murmur his love, to shout it, again and again. Fox's hands itched to reach out for Alex, to draw him into his embrace, to show him how much he loved him, how much he treasured him. To make him safe in his arms, to keep him there, to take him, and be taken by him. Fox shivered, suddenly cold. The thought of Alex leaving, really leaving, made him feel sick. He had almost driven Alex away with his temper, with his jealousy and his angry words. What would it be like, to never hold Alex close again? To never touch that smooth skin again, to never see those gorgeous eyes roll back in pleasure, to never make him make those husky, desperate sounds he made when he came? To never hear him say "I love you, Fox" again? Fox made a small sound in the back of his throat.
Alex looked at Fox, the picture of abject misery. He wished he had never picked up the bottle of cologne. Deep inside, he had thought that Fox might not like him using it, at least not without asking first, but something had made him use it anyway. He knew the cologne was a special gift to Fox from Walter, and part of him, the part that still felt like an outsider, like an interloper, no matter how hard Fox and Walter tried to make him understand that he was loved, that he was there to stay, wanted to take it, wear it, be a part of it. Have the scent of Walter's love on him, too. Alex silently berated himself. Stupid! You know Walter loves you. You have bottle after bottle of cologne. You could have used any one of them and saved all this trouble. Alex looked at Fox again, apologizing with his eyes. Fox's eyes answered back, with all of his heart. Without realizing it, each took a hesitant step toward the other.
The sound of Walter clearing his throat was very loud in the quiet room. Fox and Alex froze, tearing their eyes away from one another to look at Walter.
"Have you boys forgotten the rules and the consequences for breaking them?" Walter asked. Alex and Fox were torn. Walter felt his heart swell as he saw them there, so beautiful, wanting one another so much. He saw them hesitate, saw them bite their lips sadly. They wanted to obey. But in their eyes he saw them weighing the price. Six strokes of the cane for a moment in each other's arms. Walter felt torn as well. He wanted nothing more than to see those forlorn eyes happy again, to see his lovers as they were meant to be, full of love and pleasure and passion. But they needed to learn. Had the lesson he had been trying so hard to teach truly gotten through?
Almost as if they could read his mind, Fox and Alex broke from their reverie and rushed to him. They stood close together, as close as they dared, but still did not touch.
"Please, Walter," Fox begged, his voice cracking. "No more. Please let us touch, please let us talk to each other. We've learned our lesson, we're sorry. I swear nothing like this will ever happen again."
Alex sought Walter's eyes and spoke, his voice trembling.
"Please," he said, wringing his hands nervously. "Please, Walter. I know it's supposed to be the whole weekend, but-" he swallowed hard, "please, we've learned. We won't fight anymore, we're sorry."
Walter considered them thoughtfully.
"You're really sorry?" he asked.
The younger men both nodded frantically.
"Yes, Walter, we are, we're really sorry," said Fox.
"Really sorry," Alex echoed sincerely.
Walter waited a moment, then smiled. He looked at them with all the kindness and love in his heart.
"Don't you think you're telling the wrong person?" he asked. They looked at him, their expressions hopeful but unsure. He nodded at them and their shouts of happiness rang out as they found themselves wrapped in each other's arms. Fox held Alex tightly, almost as if he wanted to climb inside his skin. Alex clung to him, whispering his remorse into Fox's chestnut brown hair.
"I'm sorry, Fox, I'm so sorry. I should have asked. I knew you wouldn't like it. I'm so sorry for everything."
"Shhh," Fox murmured, stroking Alex's hair. "No, baby, I'm the one who should be sorry. I'm the one who grabbed you, who acted like a jerk and had a temper tantrum over nothing. You're worth more than all the expensive cologne in the world."
Alex made a choking sound and looked up at Fox, tear-tracks on his face.
"I didn't break it on purpose, Fox, please believe me. I swear I-"
"Shhh," said Fox again, kissing Alex's neck. "I know, I know you didn't. It was my fault, it was all my fault. Those...those things I said to you...God, Alex, I'm so sorry..."
Fox began to cry, his sobs muffled against Alex's chest.
"It's okay, Fox," Alex soothed, his voice shaking with emotion. "I know you didn't mean it. We both said things we didn't mean. I'm sorry too, for everything. I love you, Fox."
Fox raised his face, the tears shining on his cheeks.
"I love you, too," he whispered. Strong arms surrounded them both.
"I love you both," Walter whispered, tears standing in his kind brown eyes. "More than anything. Enough to make you see how much you need each other. How much we all need each other."
Fox looked at Walter, his eyes full of remorse.
"This has been awful for you too," he whispered. Walter nodded.
"I'm sorry," Fox said softly.
"Me too," Alex added. "We love you, Walter."
"More than life," Fox whispered.
They stood like that for a little while, just holding each other, no one wanting to let go. Finally, Walter took off his glasses and wiped his eyes, gave them each another long, loving bear hug.
"I'm proud of you both," he said, his eyes shining. "You realize now how important you are, to each other and to me." Walter's tone changed to one full of genuine regret. He looked at his boys, and knew he would be doing them a disservice not to follow through, not to make sure they understood the consequences of their behavior.
"I hope you both realize that this little exercise was not a punishment. The lines, not allowing you to touch or talk to one another, it was to get you to see how much you need one another. How much we all need each other. There is still the matter of your little scrap upstairs."
Fox and Alex gulped and nodded.
"You still have to be punished for fighting."
"Will...will we get the cane?"
Walter's heart melted as he saw them both standing there, heads bowed, dreading the cane but willing to accept it if that was what he deemed fair.
"No," he said softly. "No cane. Just my hand will do nicely."
Walter sat down on the sofa.
"Alex, you first."
Alex lowered himself down over Walter's lap, resting his head on the sofa cushion.
"Fox?" he said quietly. "I can't see you."
Fox quickly moved into Alex's line of sight, kneeling down beside the sofa.
Alex raised his head to look back at Walter.
"Please, can he hold my hand?"
"Of course," Walter said. He waited until Fox had Alex's hand in a firm grip. He felt Alex settle and then he began.
"Alex, what is this punishment for?"
"For fighting," Alex replied softly. "For fighting with Fox and for yelling and cursing at him, and for threatening to throw potting soil on him, and for using his cologne without asking."
"All right, Alex," Walter said, raising his hand reluctantly. He hated to have to redden the pretty white bottom that lay across his lap but he knew it had to be done. Alex and Fox both needed closure, to feel they had been properly punished. Walter never wanted to come home to another scene like that again. Anger and resentment had been so much a part of their past. He was determined to make sure it had no place in their future.
Walter brought his hand down sharply, drawing a hiss of pain from Alex. Walter spanked him steadily, making sure not to neglect the tops of his thighs, and quickly turned the entire area a vivid red. Alex was sobbing by the time the last ten spanks rained down.
"I'm sorry! Ow, Walter, I'm sorry! I swear!"
Walter shushed him and pulled him into his arms, motioning to Fox to come and sit beside them on the sofa. Together they held Alex, dried his tears, kissed him gently.
"I'm sorry," Alex choked again.
"It's all right, Alex," Walter whispered, knowing how important it was for Alex to understand he was truly forgiven. "It's all over now. Fox loves you and I love you. You've been punished and it's over."
"I love you, Alex," Fox whispered. "Will you hold my hand, while Walter spanks me?"
Alex nodded, rubbed away the tears.
"I love you," he said again. "Love you both."
Alex knelt by the sofa, holding Fox's hand, biting his lip at the sight of Walter's big hard hand poised over Fox's vulnerable bottom.
"What is this spanking for, Fox?" Walter asked.
Fox swallowed hard.
"For f-fighting with Alex. For throwing a temper tantrum over a bottle of cologne and for grabbing him and making him drop it, and for the...the awful things I s-said..." he trailed off, his throat too tight for him to speak. Alex stroked his hair, whispered to him. Fox smiled a little and continued. "For the things I said, the hurtful and mean things I said to Alex. For cursing and yelling."
Walter nodded approvingly.
"All right, Fox. Alex got twenty-five but I'm giving you thirty for the things you said to Alex. That was totally out of line and I know you understand that."
"Yes, sir," Fox whispered.
"Let's get this over with," Walter said quietly. Fox gritted his teeth and took his spanking quietly, trying not to kick and yell. By the twentieth swat he was doing both.
"OW! Ow, Walter, please! I'm sorry! I won't ever do it again! I promise!"
Walter stroked Fox's hair for a moment before placing his arm back across the younger man's waist.
"I know, Fox," he said. "Only ten more."
Walter made the last ten count. By the time the last whack blazed across Fox's bottom, Alex and Fox were both sobbing.
Walter drew them into his arms again, showering them with kisses, soft murmurings of love.
"It's all right, Fox. You're forgiven. It's over and you're forgiven."
Alex and Fox clung to Walter, kissed him, loved him.
"I love you, Walter," Fox choked, resting his head on Walter's chest.
"I love you, too," Alex said softly. "Thank you for loving us."
They stayed there, just touching, no words except the occasional soft whisper, for quite some time. Then, Walter looked at his lovers fondly.
"Bedtime, I think. Tomorrow you'll get dressed and clean out the garage, and finish those thousand lines."
"But you said the punishment was over," he said plaintively.
"It is. But the garage does need cleaning out and it will do you good to complete a project together. And I did say a thousand lines and you've only done eight hundred and twenty and Alex has only done eight hundred and forty-four. So, you will finish those, and clean out the garage. But for now," he grinned and paused to nip at a ready earlobe, "let's not let all this bare skin go to waste."
He chased them up the stairs. They raced ahead of him, their peals of laughter ringing off the walls, their sore bottoms the last thing on their minds.
They lay in bed in a tangle of long limbs, content in the damp and rumpled sheets.
"What happens after we clean out the garage tomorrow?" asked Alex hopefully. "Could we...I mean...maybe we could have that dinner out?"
Walter thought for a moment.
"I'd like that," he said. "But we have to do something else first."
Fox and Alex groaned, obviously dreading what was coming next. What other chores would they have to do? Would there be more lines? Walter laughed.
"We're going shopping for cologne. Dolce and Gabbana. I'm buying a bottle for each of you."
He felt his lovers snuggle closer. Fox's sleepy voice drifted up to him from somewhere in the vicinity of Alex's thighs.
"That's okay, Walter. One bottle's all we need. We can share."
Notes and Disclaimers
Title: The Scent of Battle