Dark Side of the Moon

by Julnick


"I understand... I'll be there... Yes... Thank you for calling... I know, I'll be there." He slowly let the phone fall back into the cradle feeling an aching numbness spread through his chest. He let his back rest against the wall and he slid down to the floor, curling up on himself, gasping at a pain he couldn't understand. He clutched at his gut as sobs and tears came uncontrollably.

*****

Tem tramped in, stomping dirt from his boots then kicking them off into a haphazard pile. He padded, sock-footed, down the hallway to the kitchen in search of an afternoon snack to hold him until dinner. He stopped dead in his tracks at the doorway. "John?"

His partner was huddled in a tight ball on the kitchen floor, face buried in his knees, his body shaking silently. Tem's stomach felt like ice as he carefully approached. "John, are you hurt?" His voice was shaking more than he wanted to admit. Slowly, he knelt beside the trembling form. A gentle touch to John's shoulder brought no response. "John, its me... Tell me what's wrong..." Possibilities were spiraling out of control through his mind, but he reined himself in tightly. He put his arms around his partner pressing their bodies as close together as he was able. John's skin was cold through his shirt. Tem pressed his cheek into John's hair and put his mouth close to his ear. "I'm here. What happened?"

John muttered something muffled and indecipherable. Tem took a deep breath, steadying himself. He hadn't realized until this moment how tense he was. "I didn't understand you baby, say it again?"

John lifted his head slightly. Tem pulled back to look into his eyes and cringed. They were dull, lifeless, empty. "He's gone."

John's face was tear-streaked. The moisture glistened in the grey light coming through the kitchen window. Tem didn't need to ask who. Though, personally, he was glad to hear that the old bastard had finally kicked it, the look on John's face and the hollowness in his eyes left a catch in his throat and made his own eyes sting. John tucked himself back into his protective ball, closing himself away from Tem. The movement left a stab of hurt in Tem's chest, but he stayed close, arms around John, alternating rubbing his back and stroking his hair.

*****

The kitchen had long since faded into darkness before John raised his head and turned to press his face into Tem's shoulder. Tem, ignoring the distant, indignant barks of Wolf left in his run after sundown, held John tighter until he slowly uncurled and let himself be held against Tem's chest.

Tem didn't think to even check the time until John's breathing was slow and steady and his desperate, clinging grip had loosened around his chest. The clock glinted in a pool of moonlight, ticking patiently to the tune of now bewildered barks and howls. It was a quarter 'til eight. He'd been sitting on the floor for three hours and John had been there for God knew how long before he arrived. He took a shuddering sigh, letting his breath carry the tension out of his muscles. There was a raspy meow, and Buck butted his head up between the two of them, seeking an interested hand. Tem felt John shift and look down at the cat, then he let go of Tem to reach down and stroke the questing head. Tem let himself pull back slightly, tentatively. John didn't react. "You okay here while I turn on the lights?" He barely made out John's nod in the faint moonlight and eased himself, stiffly, to his feet.

He walked to the stove, vaguely aware that he was moving silently, his body alert, battle-ready. He took another breath, trying to come down from the hyperawareness, but old instincts were flashing danger lights that he couldn't shut down. He turned on the light over the stove flooding the kitchen with a dim, warm glow and stood still, breathing slowly, watching his partner try to coordinate his petting with the cat's constantly changing demands. John's face was very white. Another piteous howl broke the silence. John looked up at Tem.

"Will you be okay here while I go get him?"

John nodded.

"Are you sure?"

Another nod.

Tem sighed not feeling terribly reassured, but he walked down the hallway to the back door. Not bothering to put on shoes, he moved silently across the short expanse of scrubby grass to the dog run, his ears straining for and sorting every sound, his eyes open wide to the darkness. He unlatched the chain link gate and hissed sharply at the giant black form that tackled him from the other side. "Down!"

Enthusiasm undiminished, the creature galloped toward the house, tail swirling in huge arcs. Wolf waited at the back door, wagging his tail so hard that his entire backside followed suit. Tem proceeded with more caution and opened the door letting Wolf push his way in first then locking it behind himself. He rushed after the dog and barked an order at him before he could molest John who was still on the floor holding the, now bristling, cat on his lap.

Tem pulled the pantry door open with his foot and scoured the shelves for an easy meal. He ended up with a can of soup and some crackers. He found a couple of fresh carrots left in the fridge and some cheese, which he dumped on the counter with the soup and crackers. John seemed to shake himself out of his trance and rose slowly from the floor, displacing a very indignant cat. While Tem wrestled with the can opener, John washed the carrots and began to silently slice them into matchsticks.

Buck mewled unhappily from the floor where he'd lost his warm lap and Wolf trundled between their legs nearly tripping them both until Tem growled at him and the dog slunk away into the shadowy hallway.

Tem put the soup into a pan to heat and began to slice the cheese feeling uncertain in the continuing silence. "So..." He licked his lips nervously, hating the sound of his own voice in the vacuum. "Do you want to talk?"

John began on another carrot, chopping mechanically. "No, thank you."

Tem winced at the cool formality in his partner's voice. "Okay..." He refocused himself on the cheese. From the corner of his eye he saw John stop and raise one hand in front of his face. Looking over, the streak of crimson caught his attention first, and he grabbed John's wrist tightly constricting the pressure points. "Shit, John!"

"Sorry," he muttered.

Tem grabbed for a dishtowel and wound it tightly around the wound. Taking John's right hand, he put it at his wrist below his own. "Here, hold here. Tight " John obeyed, his face devoid of emotion. "Don't move..." Tem ran to the bathroom and came back with the first aid kit. Blood was beginning to dot the outer layer of the towel. Tem cursed quietly as he searched the blue plastic box. He found sterile strip bandages and took them out hesitating as he looked at the towel. He could hear his sergeant's voice in his head. Never remove pressure bandages. Fuck.

He grabbed another towel and tore a strip from it. Wrapping the larger piece around the first towel, he tied it tightly with the strip. John looked at him with faint disapproval but said nothing. "Come on." Tem said pulling John by the arm. "You might need stitches."

John balked. "I am NOT going to the hospital." It was the most emotion he'd shown in an hour and Tem would have been thrilled...under different circumstances.

"You are." He said flatly, tugging his partner by the arm.

John pulled back. "No. I don't need stitches for a cut finger."

"John, its deep, and its bleeding a lot, please don't fight me."

John stared at him. "Have you forgotten who makes the rules around here?" He demanded.

Tem paused, chewing his lip. "Okay, here " He went to the kitchen drawer and took out the wooden spoon. Setting it on the table he said, "You can spank me when we get home. Now, move."

"Tem!"

But Tem was stronger and more determined not to mention the energy John had already spent on an emotional afternoon. Tem managed to drag his partner out the door and into the car. It took half an hour for them to get into the nearest town big enough to have a hospital. John rode in silence scowling into the darkness through his window. With occasional prodding from Tem he kept his right hand tight around the other wrist.

The nurse at the emergency room was particularly unhelpful until Tem unwrapped the outer towel showing that the first one had nearly soaked through with blood. Suddenly, they were ushered into a curtained off cubicle. John sat on the bed and glared at Tem silently. Tem finished the paperwork for their insurance, then fiddled with the rolling stool, trying to keep himself from going to the nurses' station and demanding attention in very impolite terms.

Finally, to help pass the time for both of them, he decided to risk broaching the topic of the death once more. "Is there going to be a funeral?"

John looked at him for a long time. "Yes," he said eventually, his expression unreadable.

The entrance of a nurse ended further pursuit of the conversation. She quickly examined the wrapped appendage and peeled back the towel slightly. She gave a small frown. "How did this happen?" She asked brightly. John scowled at her.

"Accident with a kitchen knife," Tem offered helpfully. John turned the scowl on his partner.

"Alright, the doctor will be right in, it looks like stitches for you tonight. " Her tone was entirely too chipper for the circumstances. John blinked slowly and looked about to say something unpleasant when Tem jumped in.

"Is there any tendon damage or anything like that?" He asked more to keep John at bay than anything else.

"Probably not, by the location of the cut. He'll be fine." She gave him a bright smile and stepped out beyond the curtain.

John hissed softly through his teeth. "You are so dead."

"Yes, dear." It had been far too long a day. He wasn't sure if John really intended to punish him for this. If his lover were in his right mind, he would never spank him for doing what was necessary for John's own health. But, he wasn't entirely sure John was in his right mind. His stomach tightened slightly at the thought of a spanking. "Are you going to go?" He asked, changing the subject before the butterflies got out of hand.

John gave him a blank look.

"To the funeral."

John opened his mouth slightly and closed it. "Yes."

The curtain was thrown open and a youngish-looking man swept into the cubicle followed by the chirpy nurse. She began gathering supplies from the cabinet behind Tem. He scrambled to get out of the way. The doctor carefully unwrapped John's hand. "Let's see what we've got here, shall we?"

"Let's," John said through his teeth.

The nurse slid a rolling tray under John's hand and set a bowl on it.

In a very different tone, the doctor gave some incomprehensible instructions to the nurse, who set several more items on the tray.

"Playing with knives, I see," said the doctor in the same paternal drawl he'd initially used.

John gave him a tight smile. Tem hoped they would get through this visit without more bloodshed.

The doctor examined the wound carefully, the bleeding seemed to have stopped for the most part. The nurse poured a clear fluid over the finger letting it run off into the bowl. Then, she gently cleaned away the blood with a piece of gauze. John watched her, expressionless.

When the blood was cleared away the doctor examined the gash again, giving more instructions to the nurse. She prepared a syringe and jabbed it quickly into John's hand. He jumped and flinched. Tem winced in sympathy, almost wishing he hadn't dragged him into this.

The doctor patted John's shoulder. "Just give that a minute, I'll be right back to stitch that up for you. We'll have you out of here in no time. " John glared daggers at the man's back as he and the nurse left once more.

"John, you can't sp..." He hesitated, reconsidering what he wanted to say given they had only as much privacy as three walls of cloth. "You can't ... be mad at me for this... What if it had been me that was bleeding?"

John stared at him in silence. Tem sighed and shifted on his stool, wondering if it was going to be one of the last times he would sit comfortably for the foreseeable future.

"I'm sorry about your dad."

"Don't be."

Tem didn't know what else to say, but he didn't like the silence. "Look, I know I always said he was a bastard, but I know what this means for you, and I'm sorry."

The nurse bustled back in before John could answer, carrying a covered tray. She set it on the counter to the side and disappeared again.

"You should have let me bleed to death."

Tem's eyes widened in surprise. For several moments he was stunned into speechlessness. He wasn't sure how to take that comment. John certainly didn't believe he'd die from so minor an injury. But had it been carelessness or an intentional act? Tem hadn't thought to question it before.

The doctor came back into the room. John looked away staring pointedly at the wall as the doctor carefully closed the wound with even sutures. When he finished knotting off the thread he taped a brace to the finger to prevent flexing and tearing the stitches before they had done their job.

Tem only half-listened to the doctor's instructions for after care. He was distressed by the idea of John actually wanting to hurt himself. And, if he hadn't done it on purpose it still wasn't like him to even say something like that. He had always been so steady. If anyone was going to start hurting himself, it would be Tem. His little bout with self-injury had earned him some of the worst punishments he'd ever gotten. He didn't know how to handle it in John. His anchor was suddenly pulling loose and it scared him. It reminded him of the time his commander was captured. They'd brought him out naked, bloody, filthy and broken. The man Tem had always looked to for his orders, depended on for his very life, the man who'd never even shown fear was crying and clinging to him as he dragged him away from the compound. Tem had felt as if the world were pulled out from beneath his feet. And now, it was happening again.

John was again quiet on the trip back home. Tem was too lost in his own thoughts to try sustaining conversation.

Wolf greeted them eagerly at the door. John gave him a mindless scratch behind the ears then headed upstairs. Tem, needing comfort, knelt on the floor in the mudroom letting the massive furry head bump him and the huge paws clamber onto his thighs. He buried his face in Wolf's fur, breathing the scent of dust and mountain air and dog musk that mingled in the strands. He stroked the animal until Buck came mewling jealously, and he had to pull himself away to pet the cat.

Finally, he rose, took off his shoes and padded into the kitchen silently. He pulled a banana from the fruit bowl and sat down to listen to the messages on the voice mail while he ate it. There were several messages from John's multiple siblings regarding funeral arrangements. Two of his sisters seemed to be handling most of that end of it. There were two messages from brothers who had arrived from out of town. Tem wrote out all of the messages dutifully, hesitating as he transcribed the number of the last caller, Jay. John's twin brother.

Tem fought with a fatalistic jealousy toward him. Jay and John shared an almost psychic connection. They could have entire conversations in total silence. No matter how close Tem was to John he'd never have that, and he hated it.

Tem hung up the phone staring at the last number. He listened to the quiet in the house. The clock ticked loudly above him. Ten-thirty. Biting his lip he picked up the receiver once more.

"Hello?" The voice was warm, cheerful and hauntingly familiar. Tem never got over that part.

"Hi, its Tem..."

"Temoko," Jay said with a hint of mirth. It was a running line of contention between them. Tem hated his given name, and Jay hated his own.

"Jakob," he replied coldly.

He could hear the smile in Jay's voice. "How are you doing? How's John?"

"I'm fine. John isn't handling things so well. I thought, maybe, you could talk to him. " Tem felt his jaw tightening. He didn't like asking for help, especially Jay's help.

"Losing Daddy has him bothered, then?"

Tem's hatred slipped from passing to active. "You know perfectly well what he's going through. Don't you dare fuck with him."

"He's my brother, Tem. " The humor was gone. "You keep your Marine machismo out of it."

"I was in the Navy," Tem said flatly.

Jay snorted softly. "Whatever. Is he still up?"

"I don't know, we just got home, he's pissed at me."

"Oh? And why is that?"

Tem fought down the urge to tell him just how little of his business that was. "I made him go to the hospital. He cut himself. He needed stitches."

There was a long silence on the other end of the phone, then "I'll come over now."

Tem ground his teeth but thanked him politely and hung up the phone.

He ripped off a piece of banana and chewed it angrily.

*****

Throwing away the banana peel he stomped upstairs. As quietly as one can stomp without fear of waking one's partner anyway. He needn't have worried. Entering the bedroom, he found John in the office, typing one-handed. Tem sighed and leaned against the door frame.

"You can spank me if you want."

"I don't need your permission to spank you, Tem."

Tem looked at the floor.

"Well, are you going to spank me?"

"For what?"

"For making you go to the hospital..."

John typed for a moment. "No."

"Why not?"

Another pause. Keys clattered. "I don't want to."

Tem had almost hoped he would. It would be something to show he was still in control. He slid down to sit with his back against the doorframe. John had yet to look away from the monitor.

"Your brother is coming over."

The typing stopped and John turned to stare at him. "Which one?"

"Jay. He's in town, I checked the messages and I called him."

"Why did you do that?"

"What?" Tem felt his defenses prickling.

"Call him?"

"I wanted him to talk to you."

John stared at him some more. Then, finally, turned back to his typing. "That isn't your place."

It was Tem's turn to stare. Stung. He pulled himself to his feet and went to John's bed stand drawer. He pulled out the wooden hairbrush and carried it back into the study with him throwing it down on John's desk with a loud clatter.

"If you want me to be a good little slave, you're going to have to beat me into submission. Until then, I'm going to continue to take care of you if, when and how I deem necessary."

John looked at him, but he didn't stop to notice. He stomped out of the room and down the stairs not bothering to be quiet this time. In the living room he flopped down on the couch in front of the dark fireplace and wrapped his arms around a pillow, tears streaking his face. Wolf jumped up bouncing the cushions to Tem's side and laid his chin on Tem's leg. Big, brown eyes looked up at him from sad, drawn eyebrows. Tem, feeling exhausted, confused and helpless fought back a sob and laid his hand on the beast's giant head.

He allowed himself the luxury of tears for about fifteen minutes then forced himself back into control wiping his face dry with his shirtsleeve. John hadn't come downstairs. Tem listened carefully and could just make out the soft clatter of the keyboard upstairs. Being ignored nearly tripped him over into a fresh crying jag, but he pulled himself together with a stern admonishment. He wasn't going to meet Jay red-eyed and sniffling. Jay knew far too much about the nature of Tem and John's relationship. He'd make entirely the wrong assumption.

Displacing Wolf gently, he rose and went into the kitchen. Despite a lack of appetite, he was beginning to feel faint from hunger. He'd eaten only a banana since morning and it had been a very draining day.

*****

He was eating warmed-over soup and some crackers when the knock at the door startled him and he splashed soup over onto the table. He swore softly grabbing a napkin to clean up the mess then got up to let in the evil twin.

Jay grinned at him. Tem tried not to scowl too obviously. "Been naughty again, little Temoko? Your eyes are red."

The three inch height difference bothered him much more with Jay than it did with John. He stopped trying to hide his disgust. "I'm tired," he muttered leading the way into the house without further comment. He stopped at the foot of the stairs. "He's in the office." Jay raised an eyebrow at him but walked up the stairs without provoking him again.

Tem took a deep breath letting it out slowly and turned around nearly tripping over Wolf. "Dammit, Wolf!"

The dog growled softly. The twin thing bothered him, too. Tem sighed and scrubbed the dog's neck. "Its okay, boy. I understand."

*****

Tem was sitting in the mudroom in the dark, staring at the moon through the slanted glass roof when Jay came back downstairs. He was walking softly, but Tem's keen senses tracked his movements easily. Jay came up and leaned against the wall behind Tem. Tem said nothing.

The silence stretched out for several minutes. Finally, Jay broke it. "Beautiful, isn't it?"

Tem didn't answer. The moon, a milky white pearl, glowed brightly against a velvet night cloth sprinkled with glittering diamond dust.

"Very metaphorical... The light side... The dark side... Yin and yang. Good and evil. Kind of a twin theme, hm?"

Tem tried to think of an appropriately nasty thing to say, but Jay was speaking again.

"People aren't so black and white. John and I aren't opposite sides of the same coin. And, we aren't interchangeable. No more than you and I are. I will never replace you. You're not losing him, Tem."

"I never said I was," Tem shot back, angry.

"You're scared, that's why you hate me so much."

Tem rose abruptly, turning sharply on the other man. "I hate you because you're a fucking bastard," he hissed and strode out down the dark hallway into the kitchen. He banged pots around and finally burrowed into the cupboard, coming up with a bottle of Jack Daniels. He hesitated, knowing John would kill him if he was caught mixing alcohol with his medication, but... John wasn't here. He splashed some into a glass and swallowed it angrily, nearly choking as it seared his throat.

Jay stood in the mudroom for a moment more before following the angry young man into the kitchen. "I'm not trying to patronize you, Tem."

"Fuck off. Are you done with John?"

"We need to talk."

"I have nothing to say to you."

"Then you can listen."

Tem turned on him, furious. "I asked you here to help John not analyze me. If you're finished with John, you can leave."

Jay slid into a chair at the table and looked at Tem patiently. "We need to talk. About John."

Tem glared at him for a minute then grudgingly slid into a chair across the table crossing his arms across his chest. "What about him?"

Jay looked thoughtful for a moment. "He's been estranged from our father for a long time."

"I know that, " Tem shot back.

"So have I."

Tem was silent.

"The difference is, I left by choice. He...didn't."

Tem listened quietly, his arms still crossed but the scowl softening slightly.

"You took him to the hospital tonight."

Tem felt all the frustration and anger at being blamed for that all evening boil to the surface. "What in the FUCK was I SUPPOSED TO DO?? He was fucking BLEEDING! Why can no one grasp this simple FUCKING CONCEPT?"

Jay waited out the tirade without comment. When Tem finally fell silent, breathing heavily, he spoke again his voice calm and even. "I wasn't blaming you for your actions, Tem. He needed to go to the hospital. I'm telling you why he reacted the way he did. Alright?"

Tem didn't answer so Jay continued.

"We spent...an extraordinary amount of time in emergency rooms as kids. All the boys in the family. We were...very clumsy...apparently" Jay seemed to be picking his words very carefully, Tem read between the lines, seething. "We fell down flights of stairs quite often. Fell off our bicycles... Fell off the monkey bars... And, whatever couldn't be explained, well, that was fighting, rough-housing, boys will be boys and all that..."

Tem realized his jaw was locked and concentrated on relaxing before he cracked his teeth.

"The bleeding, they didn't even want an explanation for that. I think they didn't want to know. It fucked with John's head. It fucked with all our heads, but when he started to realize he was gay it fucked with his worse than the rest of us."

"Bleeding..." Tem repeated faintly. This was something new...

Jay had fallen silent. Tem glanced at him then followed his gaze to the doorway. John was standing, eyes locked on his brother's. A wordless communication was going on over Tem's head. He fought down a surge of jealousy and waited. Finally Jay smiled at him, some of his cockiness returning. "Well. Nice chatting, Temoko."

Tem was still processing too much information to get angry, he just nodded. Jay rose and John led him silently to the door. Then, John came back into the kitchen and picked up the wooden spoon from the table where it still lay from earlier in the evening. Tem jumped, he'd forgotten about it. He winced as he wondered what Jay had thought when he'd seen it there. But he didn't have long to ponder, John was extending his hand to him. Tem took it tentatively, his stomach suddenly turning icy, and allowed himself to be pulled to his feet.

"I appreciate you taking care of me, I know you did what you had to with respect to the hospital. I'm sorry I was hard on you. However. You do not swear at people, and you do not EVER treat people with the kind of disrespect you showed Jay tonight. Do you understand me, young man?"

Tem's knees went weak and his eyes widened in horrified surprise.

"Yes, I heard you. I don't care how you feel about him he's my brother. And, he's a human being who has not done anything to warrant being cursed at and called names."

"He..." Tem began to object, but John cut him off with an abrupt jerk of his hand. Motioning to Tem's waist he said, "Down."

Tem was too tired to face this, he felt his eyes stinging as he fumbled to unbutton his jeans. "Now, Tem. Its nearly midnight, let's get this over with so we can get some sleep."

Emotionally battered and exhausted, Tem couldn't stop the tears from falling as he unzipped his pants and shoved them down, he hooked his thumbs into his shorts and stalled, beginning to cry hard, his breath coming in halting gasps. John's faced hardened. He quickly grabbed the waistband of Tem's shorts and pulled them down himself. Then he set the spoon back on the table, sat down on the kitchen chair and pulled Tem down across his lap. Tem was shaking with hard crying. This was his time to let go, he wasn't even sure why he knew it, but as long as he needed to be strong, he could be, then when John could take over, it was his time to be free, and this had been a hard stretch of it. John sighed and rubbed Tem's back for several minutes.

Tem relaxed, letting himself cry, letting himself need John's hand, his touch. Eventually, the hand moved to his bottom, and he sobbed. As much as he craved the control, the discipline, he hated the actual moments of the spanking. John's hand moved in gentle circles for a minute, but the agony of anticipation overshadowed any comfort from the act. Tem let himself fall forward onto his forearms, his head nearly touching the floor, his full weight supported by John's lap.

"Tem, calm down," John's voice was soft and warm. Tem could hear kindness and love and caring in his tone. The confusion and the frustration and the helplessness of the evening melted away.

"I'm sorry," he moaned, trying to control the sobs.

"Shh, breathe. Save something for the spanking."

Tem laughed through his tears and tried to obey the command. Slowly, he got his breathing back close to normal although he couldn't stop the tears.

"That's good, baby," John said softly. "Are you ready, now?"

Tem fought back another sob. "Yes...sir..." And he yelped as the first swat fell hard. For some reason, be it emotion or exhaustion, his defenses were totally obliterated this evening. Each swat felt like an electric shock through his entire body.

"OW! OW! OW! John! OW!"

"I'm sorry, hon, but you aren't going to get away with that kind of behavior, do you understand me?"

"OW! Yes, sir! OW! Please!" Tem was beginning to squirm in spite of himself, but John's strong hand kept his bottom an easy target. Tears began to flow easily, pooling on the kitchen floor. Tem alternately clenched and opened his hands trying to manage the painful assault. "Owww," he cried, voice trembling.

"My being inattentive to you is not an excuse for bad behavior, Temoko." This time Tem sobbed at the sound of his name. John only used his full name for very serious lectures which always seemed to coincide with very long and very painful spankings.

"I wasn't... I didn't..." He tried to form a coherent sentence long enough to explain he hadn't done it because he thought he'd get away with it. But each swat interrupted his train of thought and he ended up crying something incoherent.

"I know you didn't do it intentionally, Tem, but you can't let yourself fall apart just because I'm not around to hold you together."

Tem only cried harder as John cracked open one of his biggest fears. John sensed his partner's distress.

"I'm not going to go away and leave you to fend for yourself if I can ever help it, but sometimes I'll got through short times where I can't be there for you. Like today. You did great today. You took care of everything for me, you helped me get through it, and what you couldn't handle, you got help with. And, I do know how much you hated asking Jay for help."

Tem sobbed, just listening and wondering how John could know him so well.

"You did wonderfully up until the very end. I need you to understand something, Tem."

Tem wailed and kicked as four particularly hard swats rained down on the tender underside of his bottom.

"Are you listening?"

Tem could only nod vigorously, desperate to show he was paying attention.

"You are irreplaceable to me. No matter how I feel about Jay, he will never be you. You are the one I choose to come home to every night, the one I choose to spend each day with. You are the most important person in my life. " John maintained a steady rhythm of spanks to punctuate each sentence. "Jay will never be able to give me the things that you give me. I will always be close to him, he will always be my brother, but he will never replace you, he will never be more important than you."

Tem just cried helplessly.

"Do you understand?" He asked, punctuating each word with a hard spank.

Tem nodded weakly.

"Good." The spanking stopped.

If Tem had been supporting his weight he would have collapsed with relief... until he heard the scrape of wood on wood behind him.

"Now, I thought we'd had a discussion about drinking while you're on medication..."

Tem's heart sank, he'd forgotten to put the bottle back in the cupboard. He froze for a moment then began to struggle violently, but he was helpless. He twisted, putting his right hand back to protect his bottom. The first swat of the spoon fell on the top of his left thigh and took his breath away. John never spanked that hard with the spoon. The second spank caught the top of his right thigh and he found his voice again, howling and writhing.

"Move your hand, now!" The command was accompanied by two more swats to his thighs, and Tem jerked his hand out of the way quickly.

"If you ever...again...drink alcohol...while you are taking...medication...I will blister you..." He punctuated himself with hard swats that made Tem alternately gasp and scream.

Tem desperately wanted to assure him it would never happen again in this or any of his next fifty lifetimes, but he couldn't coordinate his mouth and brain to form coherent speech. With a final four smacks to the underside of his bottom, the spanking ended and Tem nearly choked with relief. It took him several minutes to stop wailing, John rubbed his back, speaking things in soft tones that Tem heard but didn't understand.

When the sobs had given way to gentle crying, John helped Tem to his feet and turned him to sit on his lap. Tem whined and struggled against being set onto his sore and blazing backside, but John tugged him down firmly and ordered, "Sit."

The pain brought on fresh tears and significant squirming, but Tem managed to perch himself on John's thigh. John smoothed Tem's short hair away from his forehead and kissed him gently. Tem shifted, trying to find a less uncomfortable position.

"I know, baby. You're going to remember this one for a while."

Tem sniffled and leaned against John's shoulder, exhausted and not ready to trust his voice.

"I know you think I read Jay's mind, but I don't do half bad with yours, do I?"

Tem looked at his lap, too weary and too ashamed to smile.

"It's okay, baby. I understand what you feel. I just can't condone how you chose to act on your feelings. Do you understand the difference?"

Tem nodded, tears now wetting the front of his shirt. John sighed and pulled the young man close to him, kissing his hair.

"Are you ready for bed?" Tem nodded. "Okay, baby."

Not ready to put his clothes back on, John helped Tem get out of his jeans and shorts and followed him upstairs. Tem immediately collapsed face-down on the bed. John smiled faintly and knelt on the bed beside him, carefully pulling Tem's shirt over his head. He went to the bathroom and got Tem's evening pills and a glass of water. Tem felt like he was floating in molasses he was so tired. He felt John undress him, but he couldn't bring himself to help.

When John started to pull him upright, he protested, moaning pitifully. But, John was strong and he managed to drag Tem up to a sitting position. As soon as his bottom hit the sheets, Tem's eyes flew open and he gasped. "Owwww!" Tears welled up and he began to shudder, lip trembling.

"Stop it, Tem. Just take your pills and you can go to sleep."

"Hurtsss..." He whined, too tired to care what he sounded like. John's expression hardened, he grabbed Tem's arm and pulled him to his feet swatting him hard. Tem yelped, tears spilling and new sobs working their way up through his chest, but he took the handful of pills and swallowed them quickly.

"Go brush your teeth," John ordered. Tem scrambled to avoid another swat.

As he stood in front of the mirror his entire body felt like lead, he ended up doing more chewing of the brush than brushing of the teeth. His arm was too heavy to hold up at his mouth and as he spit the foam into the sink he nearly toppled forward. John grabbed his arm and took his toothbrush from his hand and guided him back to the bed which he had turned down while Tem was in the bathroom. Tem flopped down and was asleep, literally, before his head hit the pillow.

*****

It had been two days since the spanking, but sitting on the hard wooden bench had Tem's bottom sore and itching. He listened to the brief eulogy given by one of the siblings he didn't know as well. The mood in the room was suitably somber but no one seemed to be shedding an undue number of tears for the old man's passing.

Tem thought about what Jay had told him and wondered what was going through John's head at this moment. John's hands were folded loosely in his lap and he was staring straight ahead, his face expressionless. John didn't like any public displays of affection, he was still uncomfortable. Tem thought he understood that feeling a little better these days. Regardless, he decided to risk it. He slipped his right hand into John's left.

John's gaze and expression didn't waver, but his fingers slowly closed about Tem's and remained there. Tem pressed his lips together and bowed his head against his smile. When he had his expression under control again he looked up at the face, visible above the rim of the casket.

He's mine now you old bastard. You'll never touch him again, he thought furiously giving John's hand a gentle squeeze.


~ Julnick

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