Island Story: Alan & Eric

 

 

Day 1:

 

Alan Morgigno stepped out of the departure tunnel connecting his plane to the main airport terminal. Glancing at the directional signs above him, he confirmed his memory of where the F concourse was located and casually, but with an air of purpose, strolled down the long corridor toward the tram system and his concourse. He was in no particular hurry, and allowed his mind to half drift forward several hours to his arrival on The Island and seeing Eric again, after a long month apart. Of course, they had talked on the phone virtually every night, exchanged hundreds of e-mails and, when it was too late for the younger man to receive phone calls but before his bedtime, chatted for hours over the Internet. All of these communications could not replace the actual face to face talks they had, the easy silences that they could share, and the simple completeness that seemed to encompass them when they were together. Lost in his musings, he started as he heard the overhead announcement that they had reached concourse F.

 

Picking up his bag, he walked off the tram with a smile on his face. Laughing, he shook his head, unable to believe how complete his life felt when he was with Eric, and how complete it would feel for them both forever after this weekend. It was Thursday, and by this time next week they would be back in Philadelphia starting their new life together.

 

Settling down by a window of the main seating area, Alan glanced at his watch. He still had 45 minutes before the small private plane that would take him and any other passengers to The Island would even board. The last four times he had been here the plane had been almost full, but on a Thursday morning he doubted that would be the case. Too anxious to concentrate on the work he had brought with him, a concession to himself for missing two days at the office, he idly studied the other passengers waiting, wondering if any of them would board the plan with him. Discretion and privacy were insured but there seemed to be a special air around The Island’s clientele that Alan had come to recognize. Automatically dismissing the large chattering group of women, as The Island was for men only, he turned his attention to two young men in the back corner. One looked to be college age and the other was older, maybe late 20’s, Alan thought. He looked familiar. The younger one, black hair with fair skin and glasses, slumped tiredly in his chair while the blond with the deep rich tan sat straight, turned slightly inward toward his companion and spoke softly to him. Alan saw the younger man nod once and be pulled into a slight hug by the blond.

 

Quickly dismissing a dozen people scattered around the waiting area for various reason, his focus settled on another man, approximately his own age, working on a laptop computer. The man’s attention was only half on the computer, the other half on the man standing by the window, looking out at the planes. He was bouncing slightly on the balls of his feet, hands nervously playing with the straw of the cup he was holding. As Alan watched, the working man called out 'Joel' and motioned for him to come and sit down.

 

Bending down and pulling a magazine out of the front compartment of his luggage case, Alan discreetly watched the two men’s interaction while pretending to flip through his Newsweek. Now that his young companion was safely seated next to him, the older man seemed to be able to concentrate fully on what he was working on at the computer.

 

He became engrossed in an article in his magazine, but his attention was pulled back to them when Joel whined, “Phil, can I go look around some?”

 

“No,” Phil answered, not bothering to look up from the computer. “We are going to be leaving soon and I want you where I can keep an eye on you. You have several books, why don't you read one of those.”

 

“But ...” the younger man started again, but quickly fell silent as his one word drew a hard glare from Phil.

 

Alan smiled at the exchange, the familiarity of it and the subtle undertones that would be missed by anyone not clued into what was going on.

 

 He looked out the window near him, his mind drifting back to eight months earlier and a life changing conversation he had had with one of the leaders of the S&M community in his area.

 

"'I'm just not finding what I want, what I'm looking for, Alison," he had explained to the small woman seated at the table with him.

 

It had taken them the entire dinner for the two of them to pinpoint exactly what he was looking for in a relationship or partner and decide that the S&M scene wasn't the right one for him.

 

"Let me ask around, Alan," Allison had told him. "What you are looking for is not that uncommon, but I do want you to get involved with a good group."

 

She had phoned him three days later with a name and phone number. She had already written a letter of introduction for him and sent it to the organization's leaders, and they were looking forward to meeting with him.

 

He called that very day and a week later was sitting in a quiet booth at a small restaurant with one of The Island's, as the community was always referred to, representatives - Jeff. They had talked until almost midnight about Alan, his background, his job, and his what he was looking for in terms of a partner. He had left the meeting feeling a sense of anticipation and happiness. The quiet man had not thought him strange or unusual in his comments and wishes for a committed relationship, one that was filled with love and order. Jeff had left with a signed disclosure statement giving The Island's staff full permission to run a background and credit check. He had promised to be back in touch with Alan within the week. Alan remembered that as the longest four days in his life and, as the fates would have it, he was out grocery shopping when the call came in. His heart had stopped when he retrieved his messages that evening and heard Jeff's calm, cool voice saying 'Alan, this is Jeff at The Island, please call me at your earliest convenience so that I might talk to you.' He had no idea where The Island, and presumably Jeff, was located. The number given was toll-free and unlisted so he dialed it and waited impatiently for it to connect. Two weekends later, he found himself in a small meeting room in New York with five other men, learning about the world of Tops and Brats and the place that was the center of this group's world, The Island.

 

Alan was jolted back to the present by the announcement over the intercom that all passengers for flight 397, his flight, please proceed to the tarmac and prepare for departure. Closing the magazine, he stood up, picked up it and his bag and walked toward the open door and the plane beyond.

 

Stooping slightly to enter the small cabin of the private jet, Alan saw that the businessman, Phil, and his companion Joel, were already on board. He caught Joel's eye at he walked down the aisle and the younger man smiled and said "Hi". Alan nodded back and smiled but did not speak. One of the first things that his initial classes at The Island taught him was that Tops were very protective of their brats and in dealing with an unknown couple, it was considered good manners to say hello to the Top first and allow him to introduce his partner when he felt comfortable with the situation.

 

Stowing his luggage in the overhead compartment, Alan sat down in the seat across from the other couple, buckled his seatbelt and opened his magazine again. He knew that it was almost useless to try to read anything, but next to this much more composed Top, he felt a need to at least pretend to be calm and collected during the two hour flight.

 

Another man appeared at the door of the plane, one of the pilots by his uniform and shut the door. "Looks like it's going to be a private flight for you all," he said with a smile. Walking down the aisle, he shook hands with the other two men. "It's great to see you guys again. It's been a while I think, right?"

 

Joel laughed, "Yeah, it's been at least six months since I've been able to drag him away. We just bought a house, and every weekend my slave-driver here," Joel smiled at his partner to take any sting out of the words, "has been working me like a dog, hauling and painting and scraping and doing anything else he can think of."

 

"So what brings you down now? The class this weekend?" the pilot asked.

 

Phil answered this time. "Yes. Joel has started exploring on the Internet, exchanging e-mails, and he wants to start chatting with people he has met online. We have some rules in place now, but this class sounded interesting, and hopefully I can pick up some more pointers."

 

"More rules, he means," Joel added with a smile and a wink toward the pilot.

 

Phil reached over and gently swatted the back of his head. "Maybe, brat. Depends," he said with a warm smile. "But we are coming in early for the sun and to relax a little."

 

"Sounds like a good idea to me," the pilot replied. Then, turning to Alan, he extended his hand and smiled. "Hi, my name is Hank, and I hope you’re Alan."

 

Alan shook the hand, "Yes, I'm Alan Morgigno. It's good to meet you, Hank. I've been on a couple of your other flights, but we've never had a chance to introduce ourselves."

 

"Ben tells me this your big trip, that you and your brat are finally going to be heading off together."

 

Alan smiled. "Yes, and I can't wait."

 

"We'll be leaving in just a few minutes," Hank said. "We're waiting for a couple more passengers, Tom and Will."

 

Just then the other two men Eric had noticed earlier came hurrying in the door.

 

"Sorry," Tom said, as he steered a pale and slightly ill-looking younger man down the aisle ahead of him. "We were in the restroom and didn't hear the flight announced.”

 

The concerned look and protective hand guiding Will left no doubt in Alan's mind who had needed the restroom right before the flight.

 

"Is everything okay, Tom?" the pilot asked in concern

 

"We're fine, thanks, Hank," he replied with a nod, before turning his attention back to Will, settling him in one of the back seats and murmuring to him reassuringly.

 

"Well, then, let me quit chit-chatting with you all and get us on our way. Nice meeting you, Alan." He turned and walked back up the aisle, disappearing into the cockpit.

 

A minute later, his voice came over the intercom. "All right, gentlemen, we have been cleared for take-off. Please make sure your seatbelts are fastened." The small jet began to taxi away from the terminal and five minutes later, they were airborne.

 

Glancing at his companions, Alan caught Phil's eye and the other man smiled.

 

"Hello" he said extending his hand, "Philip Quinn, and this is my partner, Joel Bryant. You are Alan, I believe Hank said."

 

"Yes, Alan Morgigno. It's nice to meet you both," he replied, shaking hands.

 

Tom and Will seemed immersed in their own little world in the back of the plane, so the other three men chatted easily on a range of topics, from current events to how their favorite sports teams were doing. About thirty minutes into the flight, Phil glanced at Joel, who had grown silent, and smiled.

 

"Finally," he said softly. "We both had a late night last night and had to be up early to catch our flight. I knew he was tired, but getting him to relax enough to sleep on a crowded public plane is more trouble then it's worth."

 

Alan leaned forward and looked over. Joel was leaning heavily against Phil's shoulder and was fast asleep; one hand curled in his lap, the other loosely gripping Phil's arm. He couldn't help but smile at the picture. Something deep in his brain told him that 'it', whatever 'it' was, was correct and right and good. 'It' was what he wanted and felt sure that he would find with Eric and on The Island.

 

"So it's worth it?" he asked Phil softly, not wanting to risk waking the other man.

 

Phil smiled at him, not needing to ask what it was, knowing that neither man had yet to find the words to describe their special relationships. "It's more than worth it. All the long nights, all the worry about if you are doing the right thing, handling him correctly, the arguments, the pain, it's all worth it. And I wouldn't trade it or him for anything." Leaning over, he laid a gentle kiss on his partner's hair. "I think, if you don't mind, I'm going to try to catch a small nap myself."

 

Alan smiled and nodded, and then turning toward the window, contemplated his future with Eric and what it might hold for them both.

 

Ninety minutes later, the jet touched down at the private airstrip at the end of The Island. There were no other planes yet there, but with the upcoming class, several more would be arriving in the next forty-eight hours.

 

As Alan left the plane, David, Eric’s Temp Top, greeted him. He looked around for Eric, but didn't see the red-haired young man. "Hi, David, where is he? In trouble again?"

 

On his first visit to The Island after their bonding ceremony, Eric had been in trouble and was grounded until Alan got there and could help David punish him.

 

"Hi, Alan." David replied. "No, he's not in trouble but he isn't feeling well. He's in the infirmary," he said, cutting off Alan's immediate question. "The doctor thinks it's strep throat. Two more of my brats have it, and one from our partner group. Come on, let's go see him. I'm sure he will feel much better with you here."

 

"Why wasn't I called?" Alan asked as they got into one of the electric carts used around The Island for small groups.

 

"You were already in transit and there wasn't any way you were going to get here any quicker then you did. Why worry you?"

 

Alan nodded. "No - you're right. I'm sorry, didn't mean to snap at you."

 

David glanced over at his passenger and smiled. "It's okay, Alan, I understand. Eric is not the first brat to get sick, and don't worry - if it had been serious, we would have contacted you. We haven't lost one yet," he laughed.

 

Ten minutes later, they pulled up in front of a two-story white brick house with green shutters. A low sign read simply "Infirmary".

 

Pulling the cart up beside two others, David said "Don't worry about your bags. Let's see how Eric is doing and where you are going to be staying first."

 

Alan nodded. "So how long do you think he'll be here?" he asked, walking up the front path toward the door.

 

"I honestly don't know. We'll ask the doctor."

 

Stepping into the small lobby, they were greeted by an older man seated at a desk filling out paperwork. Looking up, he smiled and stood up and extended his hand. " Hello. You must be Eric's partner, Alan. He's been telling me all about you. I'm Herman Marco, one of The Island's doctor's."

 

Alan smiled. "Yes - Alan Morgigno, Dr. Marco. It's a pleasure to meet you. How's he doing?"

 

"Oh, please, call me Herman, and he's doing well, although he would probably disagree with that assessment right now," he said with a grin.

 

Alan laughed. "Can I see him?

 

"Right this way," he said. "But please keep it down, we have some other brats who are also sick, and they are supposed to be resting."

 

Leading the way to a pair of white French doors, he opened one and stepped inside, Alan following close behind, and David bringing up the rear. They stepped into a cool room, the only light coming from two large windows. Inside were six beds, separated by privacy screens. They walked past three other occupied beds, each holding a sleeping young man, before coming to the last bed on the right.

 

Alan stepped closer and let out the breath he hadn't been aware that he was holding. Eric was asleep, curled up on his side, burrowed deeply under the sheet and navy blue blanket on the bed. Reaching down, he gently brushed a stray lock of hair off his forehead. Frowning, he softly touched the exposed check with the back of his fingers, turning to the doctor, he said, "He's hot - he has a fever."

 

Herman was reading the chart from the foot of the bed. "Yes - it was 101.2 earlier. He was given Tylenol and it dropped to 99." He felt Eric's forehead. "It does seem to be back up. Let me get a thermometer and check it again. Why don't you go ahead and wake him."

 

Alan moved and sat down on the edge of the bed, laying a hand on Eric's hip. He gently rubbed up and down the leg, coaxing him awake.

 

Tired, hazel eyes slowly opened and focused on David who had positioned himself against the wall. "Hi, Dave," he said in a scratchy whisper. "Is Alan here yet?"

 

"Hi, kid. Right behind you," David answered with a smile and nod in Alan's direction.

 

For the first time, Eric seemed aware that someone was sitting next to him on the bed. Shifting around, he broke into a wide smile. "Alan" he croaked, the happiness evident in his voice. "You came." Reaching out a hand, he touched the other man's knee. "You're real. You came."

 

Still rubbing his leg, Alan smiled. "Of course, love, and we are leaving together in a few days, as soon as you feel better. Did you really think I wouldn't come?"

 

Eric rolled over onto his back and slowly sat up. "I don't know."

 

Alan glanced at David in a silent question, but the other man shook his head.

 

"I’m sorry I'm sick," Eric said, his voice hoarse and low. "We were going to spend time together, do stuff, make sure you really want me." A stray tear escaped and he angrily brushed it away. "I don't want to be sick. I swear, I don't get sick often. Really..."

 

"Shhhhh - Eric, it's fine," Alan said, standing up, "I'm not mad and I know you don't get sick. It's just one of those things. It's not a big deal." He kicked off his shoes and moved to the head of the bed. "Here, little one, move over a bit. I haven't been able to hold you in almost a month and I miss it."

 

Eric looked up and smiled. "Me too."

 

Sitting down next to the other man, Alan put a pillow against the headboard and leaned back, opening his arms wide. Eric immediately curled up in them, resting his head against Alan's chest, arms encircling him. Pulling the blankets back up and around Eric's shoulders, Alan began to rub his back. "Why don't you just rest of a minute. Herman went to get a thermometer so we can check your temperature again - you seem warm."

 

"I feel like hell. My throat is killing me and I have a headache and my stomach hurts," Eric whispered, trying not to whine and act like a baby.

 

"I know," Alan comforted him. "We'll see if you can get something to make you feel better. Why don't you not talk for a little while? Your throat might feel better."

 

Eric nodded and fell silent. A minute later, he closed his eyes and seemed to fall asleep.

 

"So he started feeling sick this morning?" Alan asked David.

 

"Yeah, one of my other brats came down with strep and is passing it around. As soon as Eric told me he didn't feel well, I bundled him up and brought him here."

 

A male nurse stepped into the bed space. "I'm sorry for the delay. One of the Tops was brought in with a bad gash on his arm and Herm has to stitch it.

 

"Do you need me to get up?" Alan asked, starting to shift Eric off of his lap.

 

"No, you're fine," the nurse assured him. "I'm only going to take his temperature right now, and I can do that with him on your lap."

 

~~~~~~

 

"We're waiting for the results of the throat culture, but we're going to go ahead and treat this like a simple case of strep," Dr. Marco said. "We've started him on an antibiotic, along with Tylenol for the pain and fever. He should start feeling better within 48 hours, and this won’t delay your trip home."

 

Alan smiled and gave Eric a tight hug. The younger man had barely left his lap since he had gotten to The Island two hours earlier. "See, love, not a big deal at all. We'll see be able to leave on Sunday without any problem."

 

The doctor looked between the three men. "We would like Eric to stay in the infirmary under supervision, but we can move him to a medical suite if you'd like.

 

"What is a medical suite?" Alan asked.

 

Dave spoke up from the chair next to the bed. "There are four suites on the second floor of this building. They are reserved for visiting Tops and Brats if one of them get sick, or by any of the staff members who want to stay with their partners but need more direct care than they can get in their home. They are set up with all the equipment that the infirmary has, but it's more like a hotel suite then a hospital room."

 

"We still offer 24 hour care, if needed, and are only a call away, but I don't think you would need that with Eric," the doctor assured him. "He just needs to get plenty of rest and take his medication and he'll be fine."

 

Alan nodded. "I think that might be more comfortable for both of us. I'd like to spend some time alone with him." He smiled down at the sleeping figure on his lap and gave a small laugh and a gentle smile. "Even if he does sleep all the time."

 

Dave smiled back. "That's a good idea. Dealing with a sick brat can be a handful the first time, especially when he starts feeling a little better and wants to get up instead of resting. I'll be around if you need any help or tips, or just someone to vent to." He laughed and stood up, reaching down and gently pushing back the hair from Eric's forehead. "He's a handful sometimes, Alan, but more then worth any trouble he causes." Then straightening back up and putting on his professional air, said, "Let Herman and I take care of a little paperwork and we'll get you moved as soon as possible." He started out of the room, then stopped and turned. "Did you by any chance bring your Brat Book?"

 

Alan shook his head. "No, I'm not taking any classes. I just planned on spending some time with him."

 

"Okay, I'll round up a spare copy for you. You might find it helpful." He disappeared behind the curtain, leaving the two men alone for the first time in several weeks.

 

Alan sighed and leaned his head back against the headboard. He was tired. He had gotten up early to catch his flight and he had not slept well the night before. Thoughts of self-doubt still ran through his mind about whether or not he could manage this relationship correctly. Lying in bed, slowly watching the clock click over, he had argued with himself. Why did he think he was capable of doing this? But the staff of The Island had looked at him long and hard, so surely they would have picked up any inadequacies and not allowed him to continue with the process if they had any doubts. They did not strike him as a loose group, willing to let just anyone join their club. In fact, now that he thought about it, of the five men that had initially met together that weekend, he had been the only one accepted. That thought helped relieve some of the doubts, but not all of them. He laughed out loud. This must be what every groom feels on the eve of his marriage. The thought sobered him. That's what leaving The Island together on Sunday would be like; he would be basically making a lifelong commitment to another man, to love, to protect, to care for, to honor until they were separated by death.

 

Having come to terms with being gay almost 10 years before, he still had shied away from the scarlet G that some of society seemed to want to brand on him. He had never felt a part of the "Gay Culture" and since he came of age with the shadow of AIDS always looming, he had never experienced the heady swinging lifestyle of the '70s. That was almost a relief to him. Growing up in a conservative family, he held the act of sex in high regard, not something to be shared with anyone beyond a committed partner. He had never given marriage much thought as a kid or even in high school. It was almost a given that he would go to a good college, marry a nice girl, have a few children and basically follow the footprints of his father, his father's friends and every other man in his little niche in society. Then, when the reality hit that the 'nice girl' in his dreams was a 'nice boy', his whole world turned upside down. The house, picket fence, dog and lifelong marriage seemed as far away as the moon. Now, in less then a week, he was going to be living with the man that he pledged to spend the rest of his life with. Finally, on that thought, he had fallen into a restless sleep until the alarm clicked on several hours later.

 

Now, sitting in a hospital bed, the warm and comfortable weight of Eric nestled firmly on his lap, the self-doubt of last night loomed once more.

 

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

 

"Typically in these suites, we let you do all the care, or as much as you feel comfortable with. Eric doesn't need any special treatment and we'll bring meals and anything else you need. We would like you to jot down his temperature and how much he has had to eat or drink in this notebook," the nurse explained. "All his medicine is in the cabinet in the bathroom, along with any other supplies you might need. The best way to look at these suites is as if you're at home with him, but all you have to do is push the call button and someone will be here immediately. I'm sure that David will be often to check on you and we usually stop in two or three times a day."

 

Alan smiled. "Okay, I can handle this. I've been sick before and it seems like sleeping was the best way to get over anything."

 

"I think you're right. He needs to sleep and rest a lot for the next three days. Use your best judgment. I've found in all my experience that Tops make excellent nurses, especially when their partners are involved."

 

"Okay, thanks. I'm sure we’ll be fine." Alan said, walking with the man from the bedroom, through the small living room and toward the front door.

 

"You will be," the nurse repeated, then stepped out into the hall, closing the door behind him.

 

The door of the suite shut softly and Alan gave a small sigh of relief, glad that Eric was settled and they could be alone together.

 

He went back into the bedroom and looked down at the sleeping young man. Glancing at the clock, he saw that Eric wasn't due his medicine for another hour, so he picked up a spare 'Brat Book' off the dresser. Carrying it back into the living room, he settled down in one of the chairs to read the chapters on dealing with a sick brat.

 

Fifteen minutes later, Alan was shaking his head. "There is no way Eric would behave like this," he muttered. "This has got to be a worst case scenario."

 

The phone next to him beeped softly, interrupting his reading. "Hello?"

 

"Alan, hi. It's David. I was just checking in to see how you two got settled."

 

"Fine. Eric's asleep. He wasn't too thrilled about being moved in a wheelchair, but he settled down all right and went to bed right away."

 

David laughed. "Yeah, Eric is usually not one to hide his feelings. You want some company? All my guys down here are drugged to the gills and fast asleep, and I usually try to spend time with all the new Tops before they leave with their new partners. And, if you need any help with him when he wakes up, I can show you a few tricks, if you'd like."

 

Alan laughed. "That would be great, thanks. I'm fluctuating between 'I can handle this and everything will be perfect' and 'oh my god'."

 

"Perfectly normal," the other man said, laughing as well. "I was like that my first three months here."

 

"Good, so it's not just me?"

 

"Hardly," David laughed comfortingly. "I have to run back to the dorm and check on my only non-sick brat and talk to a couple of people. Why don't I come up in about hour, hour-and-a-half and we can talk. He should be due medicine by then, right?"

 

"Yeah. Actually in about an hour."

 

"Okay, you can handle it and if you run into any problems, I'll be along shortly. Why don't you lie down too. You must be tired."

 

Alan sighed, "I am. Didn't sleep much last night."

 

David laughed again. "No, none of you guys ever do. Go curl up with Eric and take a nap. He'll feel better with you in bed to curl up on, and I bet you will, too."

 

"I think you're right, Dave. Thanks. I'll see you this afternoon." Alan hung up the phone and stretched his arms up, moving his head around to work out the small kinks in his neck, then went in and sat on the edge of the bed. Eric was curled up on his side, his back toward Alan. He didn't want to disturb the young man, but he still couldn't help slowly rubbing the exposed back, marveling at the twists in fates that brought them together.

 

Eric suddenly took a deep breath and rolled over. His eyes were still half-closed, still half-asleep, but his smile was warm. "Hi," he whispered roughly.

 

Alan smiled back. "Hi. How are you feeling?"

 

The other man made a face. "Gross. And I'm cold. But it felt really good having you rub my back."

 

"Did it?"

 

"Yeah, but I'm cold, too." He scooted closer to the edge of the bed, making room for Alan.

 

Picking up on the clear signals, Alan kicked off his shoes and stretched out, spooning up behind his brat. Kissing a bare shoulder gently, he asked, "Is this better, little one? Why don’t we get you dressed in something warmer than just your boxers. I have a T-shirt you can sleep in." He wrapped one arm around Eric's waist and pulled him in closer.

 

Eric reached up and clasped his hands on top of the one around his waist. "Maybe later. Right now this is much better and it’s too cozy to move," he whispered, then fell silent.

 

Alan was starting to drift into a light doze himself when Eric spoke softly again, as if he was afraid of waking up the other man.

 

"I remember the last time I was sick, a year or so ago. I was so cold and no matter how many blankets I piled on, I couldn't get warm. Now, I'm warm and safe feeling with nothing more than a sheet and a simple blanket. It must be you that's making the difference."

 

A minute later, before Alan had worked out if he was supposed to have heard this private admission or not, the soft sounds of light snoring came from the man in front of him.

 

~~~~

 

"I'm hot. And my head hurts," Eric whimpered.

 

Alan sat on the edge of the bed and picked up his hand. "I'm sorry, little one. You have some medicine due. You want to try to take it now?"

 

"No." Eric struggled to get out of bed, fighting to get free of the tangled blankets.

                 

"Whoa," Alan said, grabbing hold of his partner. "Where do you think you're going? You're not getting up."

                 

"But I have to go to the bathroom!" Eric whined fretfully.

               

Alan winced at the tone. "Oh. Ask next time, and let me help you." He slid off the bed and helped the younger man up. "You had trouble earlier, going from bed to the wheelchair, and I'm not going to have you fall."

 

Eric leaned unsteadily against Alan as the walked to the bathroom. "My throat hurts. And you're not coming in with me," he whispered defiantly.

 

Alan gently kissed him. "I'm sorry you're throat hurts, and, yes, I am. I'll check your temperature and give you your pills as soon as you're done. That will make you feel better."

                 

"I can go by *myself*." Eric didn't quite stamp his foot.

                 

"I know you can, but you're not going to." Alan tried to keep his tone patient and even, as the Brat Book had recommended. "You don't have anything that I don't. I've seen you naked before. I've made love to you. I can help you to the toilet."

 

Eric burst into tears.

               

"Shhhhh, love, what's wrong?" Alan asked anxiously.

               

"I don't know," Eric sniffled. "I just don't want to be sick. I didn't mean to get sick. It just happened."

                 

"I know, and I know you didn't get sick on purpose. So let's work on getting you well." He stopped at the bathroom door. "Let's take care of business and then get you back to bed."

 

"O-okay." Eric sniffled again. "My throat hurts."

                 

"I know," Alan repeated patiently.

 

When Eric was done, Alan decided to forgo the slow and tiring walk back to the bed and instead bent down and picked the younger man up, carrying him back into the bedroom.

 

Eric rested his head on the broad shoulder with a sigh. "I'm sorry. I don't mean to be such trouble."

 

"You aren't any trouble. You're sick and I want you to get better. Now, bed or chair?"

               

"Couch."

 

"No," Alan said. "I don't want you out in the living room. It's a little chilly out there. Chair or bed only."

 

"But I want to watch TV," Eric explained, looking at Alan with big puppy dog eyes. "I always watch TV when I'm sick. Pleeeeese? I can use a blanket."

 

 Alan wavered. "Let's take your medicine and see what your fever is doing, and then I'll decide."

 

"My throat hurts," Eric pouted.

 

Alan took a deep breath. "Does it hurt too much to take your pills?" he asked as he settled Eric back in bed.

 

"Yes. It hurts to swallow. When can I get up and watch TV?” He wrapped his fingers into Alan's shirt, getting a firm grip.

 

"Okay, hold on then, and I'll see if I can get you a liquid or something." He untangled the fingers from his shirt so he could go get the phone. "Hi. It's Alan, up in Suite C. Eric is having a lot of trouble swallowing. I'm not sure if he can take his pills or not." He listened for a minute. "That's fine - either one." He hung up and turned back to Eric. "Someone is going to bring up new medicine that will be easier for you to take."

 

"It comes in a liquid?" Eric smiled.

 

Alan sat on the bed next to him, pulling Eric close. "I’m not sure, but it doesn’t really matter, you need to take it. Why don't you stay quiet for a few minutes and rest your throat."

 

 "Okay, then I can go watch TV," he whispered, resting his head on Alan's shoulder again.

                 

"Here, while you're quiet, let's see if I can get this thing to work," Alan said, picking up the ear thermometer from the bedside table.

 

"I don't like those." Eric eyed it suspiciously.

 

"I've never used one, but they don't look complicated. Why don't you like them, love?"

 

"I just don't," he pouted. "I don't like having stuff in my ear."

 

Alan sighed, knowing that his normal, wonderfully happy lover was still inside the whining demon on his lap. "I'm sorry, but we need to take your temp. Let's just try it." Turning Eric's head, he inserted the thermometer and pressed the button. Frowning at the results, he muttered, "That can't be right."

 

"It's never right," Eric whined, twisting away. "Why don't we just forget it?"

 

"Eric - stop. We're going to take your temp." He inserted the thermometer again, but Eric moved his head just as Alan pushed the button. "Eric!" he snapped.

 

He was interrupted by a knock on the door. "We still need to check your temperature," he said, attempting to get up. "Be right back."

 

"Don't leave! I won't move again! I promise!" the younger man cried out, twisting around and clinging desperately.

 

"Shhhh... I know - that's not why I'm leaving. The nurse is here with your medicine." He gave up on getting his sick limpet peeled off of him and called "Come in!"

                 

David came into the room, carrying a small tray. "Okay, what's going on?" he asked, looking at the young man with his head buried in Alan's neck, hand gripped tight into the shirt, oblivious to David's presence.

 

"He doesn't think he can swallow the pills right now and I can't seem to get a good reading with this thermometer. I don't know if his throat's getting worse, and that's why he can't swallow now, or what. He didn't have any trouble with it earlier. He does feel warmer to me, but I can't get a good reading on this thermometer, and he doesn't like it." He felt Eric shift in his arms so he could see who had come into the room.

 

"Why don't we talk in the living room?" David asked, with a warning look at Eric.

 

Eric pouted, but reluctantly slid off of Alan's lap and back under the covers.

 

"It's Okay, we'll take it one step at a time," David said, once they were out of Eric's hearing. He smiled, remembering the first time one of his brats had gotten sick, and how difficult the situation had gotten. And, unlike Alan, he had had several months of experience with the young man.

 

Smiling, Alan took a deep breath. "I'm sorry. I just feel so protective of him and he's in pain and I can't take it away and it's frustrating."

 

"I know. Don't worry about it. Did you look at his throat, or try an oral thermometer? Sometimes the ear thermometer is a little tricky. That's why they usually have all three kinds in the medicine cabinet in the bathroom."

 

"No, he said his throat was sore, so I thought I should try doing it in his ear. Do you think it would be better to do that first or give him his medicine?"

 

"Why don't we take a look at his throat and get his temp first? Would you like me to handle it this time, and then you can take over?

 

"That would be great, unless you think I should do it with you standing by."

 

David thought for a moment. "Why don't you let me play the mean ogre right now and you can be the nice one who comforts him? He's probably not going to be too happy for the next 10 minutes or so. Then, I'll leave and you can comfort him and calm him down."

 

Alan frowned. "I don't want him hurt or upset."

 

"He won't be hurt. Trust me, Alan."

 

"No, I'm sorry. I know that," Alan apologized. "I just don’t like to see him upset and I'm being overly protective right now."

 

"It's fine, don’t worry about it. I understand. Just remember, follow my lead and if you have any questions, it would be better if you wait until either we're alone or Eric's asleep."

 

"Okay, let's do this." Opening the door to the bedroom, Alan gestured David in.

 

David sat down on the bed. "Hi, Eric, how are you feeling?"

 

"Awful," the younger man whined, his face set into a familiar pout. "I'm hot, and my throat hurts."

 

David brushed the auburn hair away from the sweaty forehead. "I'm sorry. You do seem hot, but you don't want your temperature taken?"

 

"No. I don't like that thermometer. And I don't want to lie in bed. I want to go out on the couch, so I can watch TV."

 

Alan spoke up from the other side of the bed. "I didn't think he should go out there. It's chillier and the couch isn't as comfortable as the bed."

 

"Okay," David said, then turned back to Eric. "Alan said no. That means you stay here and we don't want to hear about it again. Understand?" he asked sternly.

 

Eric's lower lip trembled and his voice quivered. "But, Daaaaaaavid."

 

"Eric." he said, his voice brooking no argument, "Do you understand? Alan said no. So where are you going to stay?"

 

"In bed," Eric whined tearfully. "But I don't wanna."

 

Smiling and tweaking Eric's nose, David said, "Stick with your first answer, brat. It was the right one. Now that we have that established..." He leaned over and switched on the bedside light and bent it closer to the bed. "Open up and let me see your throat."

 

"It hurts," Eric mumbled even as he opened his mouth obediently.

 

David peered inside. "I'm not surprised it hurts. You have some lesions in your mouth and on your tongue. Herm said that's normal," he added reassuringly to Alan. "But it will make using the oral thermometer painful for him."

 

"Make it stop hurting. Please," Eric whimpered, ignoring the latter half of the conversation.

 

"Okay, but first we do need to check your temperature." David patted the other man's leg. "Do me a favor and roll over while I get the thermometer." He stood up and motioned to Alan to follow him into the bathroom.

 

"NO. WAIT! Why do I have to roll over? It goes in my ear!" Eric croaked in alarm.

 

"No, you said you didn't like it and you didn't cooperate when Alan tried. We can't take it orally because of the lesions, so roll over and I'll be right back," David said matter-of-factly, turning and walking into the bathroom.

 

"Roll over, Eric." Alan deposited a light kiss on his forehead. "Don't make this harder then it has to be." He followed David into the bathroom.

 

"But Daaaaaaviiiiiid! Aalllllaaaaannnnn!" Eric wailed as loudly as his sore throat would let him. "I'll hold my head still now. I WILL."

  

In the bathroom, David pulled out the supplies he needed. "We are going to take his temperature rectally. It has to be done and it doesn't hurt him. Just be matter of fact about it and refuse to let him turn it into a battle or a big deal."

 

"Are you sure we can't just use the ear one? Maybe you could show me how to use it correctly. He said he'd hold his head still."

 

"Don't beat yourself up about it, Alan. Eric's pushing right now. He's not happy, and he's not cooperating, either. You need to show him that he’s not in charge, that you are, and your will is law and just how it’s going to be."

 

Picking up the thermometer and Vaseline, the two men walked back into the bedroom. "Eric - I told you to roll over and I mean it. Now," David said sharply.

 

"You're mean. You don't care that I'm sick," Eric sulked.

 

David sat down on the bed, gently nudging Eric over and swatting his butt slightly. "I do care and, yes, I am mean." Looking up he saw Alan, standing off to the side, unsure of what he should do or where he should be. "Alan, why don't you come over here and talk to Eric. It might take his mind off what's going on."

 

Alan moved to the head of the bed and sat down. "It will be over in just a few minutes love," he said softly, kissing Eric's hair and brushing it back off this forehead.

 

"Nothing's going to take my mind off it," Eric whispered as he closed his eyes and tightly clutched Alan's hand.

 

"Okay, Alan, very simple," David explained, as he pulled back the sheet and gently pushed down the boxers, leaving Eric bare. "Just put some lube on a tissue, lube the tip of the thermometer, part his cheeks a little and slide it in."

 

He allowed the cheeks to come back together and pulled the sheet back over Eric's bottom and his hand. "Hold it in place for about four minutes. Very simple, and it doesn't hurt, does it Eric?" he asked gently, knowing that the younger man was embarrassed and feeling very vulnerable, regardless of how close they were emotionally.

 

Eric sniffled. "I don't like it," he whimpered as he tightened his grip on Alan's hand, shifting slightly.

 

Alan rubbed his hand. "I know, little one, but it will be over in just a minute. Lay still, please."

 

"I can't. It hurts and I want it out," he said softly, his voice trembling.

 

"Does it hurt?" Alan asked David with concern.

 

"No, not really. Does it, Eric?" David replied. "It might be a little uncomfortable, but it doesn't hurt."

 

"I don't like it."

  

"You don't have to like it, Eric," David said in his 'no nonsense' voice. "But it has to be done and you know it. It doesn't hurt and it takes just a few minutes." He glanced at the clock, removed the thermometer and wiped it off with tissue. "And it's over already."

 

"What's his temp?" Alan asked.

 

Eric sighed with relief, jerking his hand out of Alan's, and started to turn over and pull his boxers back up.

 

"It's back up to 102.3. Definitely time for Tylenol and antibiotics." Putting a hand on Eric's back, David kept him from rolling over. "Lay still, Eric, we aren't done down here yet."

 

"What?" he asked, puzzled. "You already took my temp. You don't need to--- Nooooooo!" he cried, as he figured out what else could happen. "No. No. You can't. I won't let you." He began to struggle again under the two sets of hands that were trying to calm him down. "Stop!" he cried out again, his voice cracking and rough with tears. "Please don't."

 

Leaning over and hugging the younger man tightly, Alan calmed him by voice and touch. "Eric, it's okay, and it will be over in just a minute. You know this is less painful than shots and I can do it myself instead of having a nurse come up here every few hours. Wouldn't you rather have me helping you, instead of a nurse?"

                 

"Yeah. But I can swallow. It hurts, but I can. Please?"

 

"Maybe in a couple of days, Eric," David said quietly. "You told Alan that you couldn't swallow and looking at the lesions in your mouth and knowing how sore your throat is, I think this is the best way." He quickly unwrapped the two medicinal bullets and, spreading the cheeks, he pushed them in quickly but gently. "There - done. Took just a few seconds and didn't hurt at all. Why don't you cuddle up with Alan while I wash my hands?"

               

"All right," Eric said, still crying a little as he pulled up his boxers and crawled into Alan's lap. "I'm sorry I'm being a baby."

                 

"You aren't being a baby, love," Alan replied, rubbing his back and making comforting sounds.

                 

"Yes, I am. And I'm ruining your trip."

                 

"Did I say that?"

                 

"No. But I am. I'm sorry," he whispered softly, yawning deeply and wincing with the movement.

 

Sliding his partner off his lap, Alan moved him down onto the bed to lay down. Curling up behind him, he pulled the covers up over both of them. "It's fine. Close your eyes and try to get some more sleep. I'll be here, and we have the rest of our lives together."

 

Eric nodded sleepily. "I am tired." Rolling over he rested his head on Alan's chest, gripping his shirt with one hand, the other tucked underneath him.

 

David came out of the bathroom drying his hands. “Is he asleep already?”

 

Alan nodded.

 

“What I was going to tell you earlier is that he needs to know that you’re in charge of the situation and that you’re handling it. Brats get so much security and comfort from knowing that their Top is taking care of things and will make sure their world is under control. This is doubly true when they’re sick or hurt.”

 

“I remember that from class. They feel out of control, and they’re worried about disappointing or failing.”

 

“That’s right. You have to bring control back and they trust that you will, even as they are reacting to feeling out of control. That’s why he’s pushing right now. He’s testing your control, to see how strong you are.”

 

“So just lay down the law and stick to it,” Alan said.

 

~~~~

 

Later that night, David sat at a desk in the main admin building reading over Eric’s file while the copier warmed up. He was making the standard copy of the brat’s file to hand over to Alan before the two left in a few days. Inside were Eric’s test scores, showing where he ranked on the B/T Line, his different evaluations marking his progress, reports by The Island therapists and David’s own reports. His reports were done twice a month and helped gauge where a brat was and how he reacted to different situations. There were separate reports of each punishment, indicating why it was carried out, what the punishment was and the brat’s reaction to it. Smiling slightly as he reread his comments, he was struck by a moment of sadness.

 

“What’s wrong, Dave?” a voice from the hall asked, startling the other man.

 

David jerked around, “Ryan, Hi. I wasn’t expecting to see anyone tonight.” Holding up a folder, he gave a small smile. “This is the first time I’ve had a chance to photocopy Eric’s file for Alan.”

 

Ryan, the Director of Brats, nodded. “I heard that three of your boys had strep. How are they doing?”

 

“Good. Sleeping, sore, but it’s just strep and they should be fine in a couple of days. One of Randy’s brats, Kirk, has it too.”

 

The other man nodded. “You seemed upset. Everything okay?”

 

David smiled. “Yeah. I just always get a little sad to see one of my guys go. Alan’s wonderful and is perfect for Eric, but ….”  His voice trailed off.

 

“You’re still having to let him go to someone else.”

 

“Yeah, and I just want them to be happy and right for each other.”

 

“They are, Dave. You know the matching process that we go through, you know the counseling they go through and you’re still going to have contact with him - mandatory for the first 6 months.”

 

“I do, but...”

 

“But knowing doesn’t make it easy,” Ryan said understandingly, having been through this countless times with other temp tops.

 

“It’s the right thing, and if we didn’t become attached to them and them to us, this could never work.”

 

“It’s a hard balance. Close, but not too close; attached, but not so attached that it impedes them finding their true partner.”

 

David smiled. “I’m okay. It’s the right thing to do and Alan is proving how perfect he is with Eric. He’s great, and really has the touch and personality.”

 

Ryan smiled back. “Good. Let me know if you want to talk. Or go see someone if you need to.”

 

“I will.”

 

“Okay. Good night then.” Ryan walked back into the darkness, leaving David alone to making his final break with one of his brats.

 

 

Day 2:

 

"I don't want it," Eric said stubbornly. "It's gross. It tastes like metal."

 

"That's because of the antibiotic," Alan reminded him patiently. "Everything is going to taste metallic while you're taking it."

 

"Then I'm not eating until I stop taking it."

 

"That is NOT an option, Eric Philip.”

 

Eric flinched at the strict tone, and Alan softened. "I know it's hard, love, but you have to eat. You don't want to be on an IV, do you?"

 

"No," Eric whimpered. "I want to go home."

 

"You can't go home if you're refusing to eat," Alan explained patiently. "Come on, babe. Just a few bites, then I'll give you a backrub, all right?"

 

"No. No backrub." Eric was adamant.

 

"Why not? You like having your back rubbed."

 

"No."

 

Alan rolled his eyes in exasperation. Trying to keep up with his brat's moods was severely trying his patience. "Why not? Yesterday you wanted a backrub. You said that it made you feel much better.”

 

"It also made me go to sleep," Eric muttered sheepishly. "I don't want to go to sleep."

 

"All right." Alan managed to hide his grin. "Eat a few bites and then I'll hold you and we'll watch TV."

 

"Star Wars?" Eric brightened.

 

"Star Wars," Alan agreed with a sigh. He didn't understand the obsession that had them watching the same video over and over again, but he could go along with it if it made Eric happier. "Five minutes of

movie for each bite you eat."

 

Eric did a quick mental calculation, not an easy task when his head felt like it was stuffed with cotton. Six bites would take them to the scene where Luke met Obi Wan for the first time. He could probably manage six bites if he swallowed without chewing. And after that... Well, they could always renegotiate, he thought with a smile. He opened his mouth obediently, waiting for the first bite.

 

 

Day 3:

 

"But Alan," Eric started, his face set in the beginnings of a pout.

 

"Eric." The other man said, tucking a blanket under his partner's feet on the couch. "I have to go see Ryan and fill out some paperwork about our insurance and contact information, and you know it."

 

"But--"

 

"No," Alan said firmly, then smiled and planted a quick kiss on the pursed lips. "One more word, brat, and you can take a nap back in bed instead of watching a movie. I'll be gone about an hour and then when I get back, IF" he stated firmly, "IF you're feeling okay, and IF your temperature is still low, we can stay up and play scrabble again. Okay?"

 

Eric pondered his choices for a moment. Then, with the warm smile and innocent expression that Alan loved, he said "I'm just going to sit here quietly and watch The Princess Bride, and maybe, if I'm feeling okay when you get back, we can play a game. Does that sound good to you?" Unable to keep up the innocent act any longer, he broke out into a laugh.

 

Joining him, glad to finally see the man he love returning in full force, Alan said in mock seriousness, "I think that sounds like a wonderful idea."

 

"Good. Aren't you glad you're committing to someone so smart?"

 

Five minutes later, Eric was wrapped snuggly in a blanket, with a pillow under his head. A bottle of juice and a small plate of peanut butter and jelly crackers sat on a plate next to him. Watching his partner bustle around the small rooms, he had to laugh.

 

"Go, Alan," he said firmly. "I'm warm. I have juice. I have crackers. I have the remotes. I've gone potty like a good boy. I won't leave the couch until you come back." Then giving his best imp smile, he held up three fingers on his right hand. "Scout's Honor," he intoned solemnly.

 

Leaning in for a good-bye kiss, Alan landed a hard swat on his brat's thigh. "Just make sure you stay on the couch, little one. The only place you're allowed to go is the bathroom or the bed." Kissing Eric lightly, he whispered softly, "I'm glad you're feeling better, love. I've missed the man I fell in love with."

 

"Me too," Eric said, smiling as he wrapped his arms around Alan's neck and hugged him.

 

Twenty minutes later, Eric decided he was in hell. Some idiot had put Beaches in The Princess Bride box. "I refuse to watch Beaches" he muttered to himself, flipping the channels on the TV. "WHY is there even a copy of Beaches here. Shit!" He complained, throwing the remote on the coffee table in front of the couch, barely missing the glass of juice. "There is nothing on!"

 

Slowly making his way down the stairs, Eric glanced down the hall, on the look out for any of the staff. The coast clear, he quickly made his way across the hall and into the ward. Shutting the door behind him, he smiled at the startled looks of his cottagemates. "Who else is tired of being stuck inside?" he asked with a smile.

 

"Where did you did you find these, Alex?" Kirk asked a little while later, taking a deep swig of the cold coke before passing the can to Daniel sitting next to him on the wall behind the infirmary.

 

Alex laughed and took a long drink from his own can. "Yesterday morning, the orderly brought me a can of Sprite to mix with my juice. I figured if they had Sprite in their frig, they'd have coke. I'm sorry they only had two, though."

 

"Don't worry about it. Splitting one is better than none, and none is what I've had for the last three days," Kirk complained.

 

"God, I'm so SICK of juice," Eric moaned from further down the brick wall where he was laying down enjoying the feel of the warm sun on his face. "Hell, remember," he paused for a moment to search his memories, "six weeks ago? They said no sodas for any of the brats until they figured out who had the black market going, trading cokes for chores."

 

"That was the longest week of my life. But I can't believe one of the committed brats ratted on them. I would have thought they would have had more loyalty or something," Dan commented.

 

"Well, they were being deprived, too," Eric grinned. "And the ringleader wasn't from The Island. He came with the new Top. Who knows what his background was and how many other brats he's been around. And normal people don't have their coke doled out like it's a controlled substance. He might not have really known it was a big deal," Alex said. "Who was working for him, anyway? The guys in 8?"

 

"Nah, those brats over in Cottage 7. You know them, they're a bunch of troublemakers."

 

Laughter filled the small grassy area. "Oh, yeah, we're angels compared to the 7s," Kirk said.

 

"Angels with seriously warped halos."

 

"Shit!" Kirk yelped, jumping at the stern voice. 

 

Eric sat up, almost losing his balance, while Dan and Alex tried to discreetly drop their cans behind the wall.

 

"Don't swear, Kirk. Daniel, Alexander, pick up those cans and you all get down from that wall," David said, snapping his fingers to get the four startled men moving quicker. Alan stood a half a step back, his eyes focused firmly on Eric.

 

"All right, you three, back inside, plant yourself in separate corners. It seems my instructions not to get out of bed and to take a nap were unclear. I'll have to correct that as soon as Randy gets here to take care of you, Kirk." They all started moving slowly back toward the infirmary. "Use the front door this time, boys, not the window that you went out of."

 

Seeing Eric following them across the lawn, Alan called out in a tone that he had not yet used with the young man. "Upstairs, Eric. There's a nice corner in the main room. I'm sure you'll find it more than adequate to help jog your memory on what I said when I left you all of," he glanced at his watch, "forty-five minutes ago."

 

As the two older men walked back to the front of the infirmary, David slapped Alan on the back. “Very impressive. I have to admit, I was a little unsure of how you were going to react to Eric being outside.”

 

When Alan glanced at his feet, David continued, concerned that he had offended the other Top. “I don’t mean that…” he paused for a moment to collect his thoughts. "The first time one of my guys got in trouble while they were sick, I really had to almost force myself to be firm with him, and not allow him to get away with breaking the rules simply because he was sick. Now, for those three,” he continued, motioning at the disappearing young men,  “they all know the rules about coke and about naps when they’re sick. But Randy, Kirk's temp top, and I will take into account the fact that they’re sick, they’re bored, and it was more of a group activity and maybe a little pushing than them meaning any serious harm. It’s easy for brats, I’ve learned, to get caught up in going along with the crowd.”

 

“I think Eric has earned a spanking for this, without a doubt. I told him,” Alan said in frustration, “not to leave our rooms. Being bored is not an excuse to disobey me.”

 

“Well Alan,” the other man said with a laugh, “welcome to the wonderful world of brats.”

 

The other man smiled back. “I know. And it’s fine. I’ll take care of him.”

 

“I know you will and it’ll be fine. It was going to happen sooner, rather then later.”

 

Stepping into the room, Alan saw approvingly that Eric had taken off his pajama bottoms and was wearing only boxers and a long t-shirt, standard spanking attire on the Island.

 

He couldn’t help but smile when he saw which corner Eric had picked, though. Standing in the upper right corner of the room, right next to the window, the young man had a wonderful view of the compound and, across the treetops, the placid lagoon. He decided not to make an issue of it. The corner of the downstairs guest room that Alan had decided to use as their ‘discipline’ room in his - their - home offered a fascinating view of dove gray paint.

 

Alan sat on the arm of the couch. “Eric, come here please.”

 

Slowly, Eric turned from the corner and dragged his feet over to where his partner sat. "I'm sorry, Alan. I was just bored and my movie was messed up and..."

 

"And you decided to ignore what I told you and go outside, and talk your friends into going along with you!" Alan said evenly.

 

"My dad always said I could talk St. Peter into trouble. I don't mean to, really. I don't know how it happens. Once, I accidentally talked some friends into changing a billboard near the school right before a big football game. He told me that's I'd never amount to anything if I continued to skate though life just talking people into what I want. He made me write an essay about the power of persuasion and the dangers of it. I still have it. It made that big of an impact on me." He looked down at the floor, not wanting to meet Alan's eyes and muttered something.

 

"What, Eric?" Alan asked gently.

 

The other man chewed on his bottom lip. "I said," he whispered, "that I never want to do that to you. I never want to have that control over you like I've had with other lovers. That's one thing I loved about you. It didn't seem like that was going to happen."

 

"No, it's not going to happen," the older man reassured him. "I know where we need to go and what we need to do. You can try all your persuasion tricks on me and the end result isn't going to be any different then before you started." Kissing him softly and stroking his check, Alan smiled. "Trust me, little one. You aren't going to push me around."

 

Eric nodded, slightly alarmed now at having his normal defense taken away.

 

"You'll have to let me see your essay when we get home, okay? There's so much we have to learn about each other and I'm looking forward to slowly discovering you over the years." Kissing him gently, he brushed the red hair from the younger man's face. "We have a good relationship started here, little one, and it's going to just keep getting stronger and stronger."

 

Taking a deep breath and letting it out in a sigh, Eric hugged him back. "I know. It's just scary sometimes and I don't want to fail or push you away."

 

"You aren't going to fail. We aren't going to fail. I'm not going anywhere, neither are you. And," he paused and pulled back slightly, his voice turning stern, "the only thing you have to worry about is what I'm going to do to you for totally ignoring my orders and going outside."

 

Eric frowned, half hoping that Alan was going to let that slide. "Yeah," he said softly. "But I'm not afraid of you or what you're going to do. Not looking forward to it, but not afraid."

 

"Good. Then let's get this over with, young man."

 

Getting up, Alan led him over to the small table. Letting go of Eric's hand, he pulled out a chair and placed it in the middle of the room, well away from the table. Sitting down, he looked at the younger man. "Eric, let's go. No sense putting this off any longer. You and I both know leaving the room after I told you not to was going to lead to this. You decided to anyway, and there are consequences to your actions. I'm not mad, but when I tell you something, especially when it comes to keeping you safe and healthy, I won't put up with you choosing to ignore my orders, simply because it's not what you wanted."

 

 As Alan finished, he wondered briefly where that had come from and was amazed at how strong and confident his resolve was. It was much different than when Eric was punished for the first time in front of him a couple of months earlier. 'That's because he now belongs to you; he's your responsibility and in your care' a little voice in his head said knowingly.

 

Eric's eyes had filled with tears during Alan's small lecture and he looked close to crying as he, with Alan's help, lay down and across the other man's knees.

 

"Alan, I'm really sorry. I am," he gasped, wiggling as he tried to find a comfortable position.

 

"Yes," the older man said evenly. "But that doesn't really change anything, does it?"

 

"But, I'm…noooo, please don't!" Eric let out a small whimper as Alan pulled up the back of his shirt and tugged down his boxers, leaving him bare.

 

Raising his hand quickly, Alan brought it down sharply, leaving a red mark across one cheek.

 

Eric jerked slightly, unprepared for the sharpness of the first swat. His fingers dug into Alan's calf and a small cry escaped him.

 

Tightening his grip on the small waist, Alan delivered another hard swat several inches below the first one on the same cheek. He didn't bother to lecture, concentrating instead on the sounds and cries coming from Eric, and on the pattern of spanking he had learned in class.

 

"You'll find your own rhythm in time and discover what works best for your brat," the instructor had lectured. "Until you're more comfortable with his needs, you might find this pattern helpful. It helps alleviate the problem that some new Tops have of spanking almost solely on their dominant side and it evens things out." He then demonstrated the six-pattern, where two swats were laid down in quick succession on each cheek and in the center, one swat laid high, one laid lower. At each cycle, the swats were moved an eighth of an inch down until the entire bottom was red and hot. "Expect to complete between five to eight cycles before your brat will cross that critical point where he is learning from the experience to where he is in so much pain, that nothing else matters. You are responsible for learning where that point is and what your brat sounds like at that point and what he sounds like when he is past it. Most brats are convinced that they are past the point of learning after one cycle." This comment had broken the tension in the class as the responsibility and the reality of their new relationships were hitting them squarely in the face.

 

After completing four cycles, Alan paused for a moment, listening to Eric's cries and pleas for Alan to stop. He repeated how sorry he was and how the disobedience would never be committed again, never even dreamed of again. Judging that Eric was at the edge, he delivered three hard swats in the center of Eric's butt, ending the spanking.

 

Eric lay over his knees for several long moments while Alan gently rubbed his back and softly assured him that it was over and done with, and that everything was alright now.

 

Finally slipping off Alan's lap and onto his knees, Eric buried his head into Alan's leg. "I'm so sorry," he cried, tears running down his face. "I don't know why I did it, even after you told me not to."

 

Pulling the younger man up, Alan half walked, half carried him over to the couch. He sat, cradling the younger man in his arms, turning him gently to keep the weight off his butt.

 

"Shhhhhh," he said gently, rocking his partner slightly. "It's over with. You've learned your lesson and you're forgiven."

 

"I know," Eric began, still crying and sniffling. "I'm sorry and I promise it'll never happen again. But I didn't want this week to be like this at all and I'v just screwed everything up and--"

 

Kissing his forehead, Alan interrupted, "Eric, love, you are fine. Perfect in fact. No, this isn't how I had planned this week, but we were together, and even though you've been sick, we've had some great talks and had fun together. In fact," he paused to hand the younger man a tissue to wipe away some tears and tighten his hold on the still shaking body, "I think going through something like this so early in our relationship will make us all the stronger. We know we can get through the hard times. It's forced us to face some issues that otherwise we might not have faced for months, or even years. It's not how I would have picked to spend the time," he repeated, "but it's still been a good week and we have the rest of our lives together to have fun."

 

Curling up tighter and burrowing his head into Alan's shoulder, Eric whispered, "Okay, if you say so."

 

"Yes, I say so, little one," Alan said firmly. Freeing one hand from Eric, he reached behind them and pulled off a blanket that had been laid on top of the couch. Shaking it out the best he could without disturbing the man on his lap, he was able to cover the figure.

 

"Thank you," Eric whispered, "I always get cold after I get in trouble."

 

"I'll remember that," Alan said. "I'll make you uncomfortable when I have to, but when it's over, I want to make you as comfortable as possible."

 

Five minutes later, Eric drifted off into a light sleep, still tucked safely, and now warmly, on Alan's lap.

 

Alan settled in for as long as it took for his brat to wake back up, refusing to disturb him now.

 

Downstairs, David was dealing with his own multitude of problems.

 

After insuring that the three other brats were safely tucked into separate corners and none of them were sicker because of their trip, David picked up one of the internal phones and dialed a number, then at the beep punched in a code and the infirmary extension. The phone rang 45 seconds later.

 

"Randy? We have a problem."

 

~~~~

 

Holding Daniel firmly around the waist and adjusting his leg, David brought the younger man's bottom up slightly for easier access. Laying his right hand on the bare flesh, he continued his lecture. "I don't believe you sometimes, Daniel. What part of 'You're sick, take a nap and don't get out of bed' was unclear to you?

 

"I don't know, David," Dan squirmed, hating the position and hating where this conversation was leading.

 

David lifted his hand and delivered two sharp swats to the other man's butt. "That's unacceptable, Daniel. You must have had a reason for going outside, not to mention the decision to drink a Coke."

 

"I wanted to go outside," the other man blurted. "I was bored and Eric came down and asked and I didn't want to say no. I'm tired of being bored and I'm tired of laying around and I'm tired of being sick," he finished with a whine and a small sniffle.

 

David rubbed his back. "I know, little boy. It's tough being sick. But, it's my responsibility and the responsibility of the nurses and doctors here to keep you safe and get you healthy when you're sick. And when I tell you that you're not well enough to be out of bed and outside, you have a responsibility to listen to me and to obey me - whether or not you agree."

 

"I know," he whispered.

 

Without another word, David lifted his hand and began to deliver a hard and thorough spanking.

 

Still standing in the corner, Alex's eyes filled with tears as listened to his two friends' cries and pleas while the two tops expressed their extreme displeasure at their brats' wandering during the afternoon.

 

"Randy, please," Kirk cried out, squirming and struggling hard against the hand holding him down.

 

"I will never put up with you blatantly disobeying me when it comes to your health," Randy lectured as he repeatedly swatted the bare bottom over his knees.

 

"I know. Never again. I swear!"

 

"Daaaaaviiiiddd!" Dan wailed loudly, causing Alex's stomach to clench and his eyes to burn with unshed tears in anticipation of his own session with David.

 

Several long minutes later, David stopped and simply held his brat close, rubbing his back and whispering soft, comforting words; sure that the lesson he wanted to teach was understood by his brat and hopefully wouldn't be repeated any time soon. As Dan's cries trickled off to sniffles instead of the soul wrenching cries, David carefully stood him up and tugged up his shorts, covering him. "Okay, little one," he said hugging him tightly, "corner time while I talk to Alex."

 

On the other side of the room, Randy had stopped spanking also and was working at calming Kirk down. They were hidden from sight by a pulled curtain but the sound of crying and the low murmurings of Randy were audible.

 

Escorting Dan to the corner right next to the curtain, David turned his brat toward the wall, giving him a last hug. Peeking around the curtain, he met Randy's eyes, gesturing for him to keep an eye on Daniel while he attended to Alex.

 

Mentally preparing himself to repeat the needed discipline with Alex, he walked back over to the other waiting brat. "Come on, Alex.Your turn," he said firmly.

 

"I'm sorry, David," Alex said in a shaky voice, a tear leaking out of watery eyes.

 

"I'm sure you are, and you are going to be even sorrier in a few minutes, young man."

 

 

Day 4:

 

"All packed?" David asked, sitting down on the edge of the bed.

 

"Yeah, I think I got everything," Eric said, checking the drawers one last time.

 

David smiled.  Every Brat assured him that he had everything, and every Brat called within a week, urgently demanding that David mail his forgotten loafers as soon as possible.

 

"I-" Eric hesitated. "I'm going to miss you. And The Island. I'm really exited about going, but a little scared too."

 

"I know." David patted the bed beside him in invitation. "It's a big step."

 

Eric sat on the bed and David put an arm around him, squeezing gently. "It'll be great, Eric."

 

"I know. I really love Alan, and I'm looking forward to being with him. But... What if I screw it up?"

 

"You aren't going to screw up.  It might not always be perfect or easy, but you are both committed to this relationship, and that commitment, plus your understanding of each other, is going to see you through the rough patches."  Hugging him again,  "And you know that I'm going to following you closely for awhile and you can come to me anytime."

 

"I know. But you're going to be getting another brat, and you'll be busy with him."

 

"Eric, I've been busy with you, but I've still had time for Mark, haven't I?" he asked, mentioning the Brat that had left right after Eric arrived. "Alan is the right man for you, and I'm happy that you're going to be with him. But a small part of you will always be mine, and I'll always find time for you if you need me."

 

"Thank you, David," Eric said shyly. "That means a lot to me. Oh, that reminds me. I have something for you. Alan picked it up for me." He jumped up, worries temporarily forgotten, as he got a small wrapped gift out of his suitcase and handed it to David. "I hope you like it."

 

"I'm sure I will, Eric. Thank you." he carefully unwrapped the flat package.

 

"It's for your collection," Eric announced anxiously. "To remember me by. I know that your other Brats gave them to you, so I asked Alan if he'd do one for me."

 

David gazeed at the simply framed picture. It was one that had been taken at an Island picnic the month before, the two of them standing together, arms over each other's shoulders, both laughing. "Thank you, Eric. It's great," he said sincerely. "I'll put it on the shelf next to the others. Now, I have something for you, too."

 

"What?" Eric asked unsuspectingly.

 

David ceremoniously removed the red-bordered id that identified Eric as an Orphan Brat. "You won't be needing this anymore," he said with a smile. "You don't belong to The Island, or to me, anymore. You were meant to be with Alan and he was meant to be with you.  I'm just glad that I was able to be a part of getting you two together.  You belong to each other, now."

 

"Or at least I belong to him," Eric blushed.  "He was pretty clear on his many roles in my life yesterday."

 

"You all deserved it yesterday.," the older man pointed out sternly.

 

"Yeah, I know.  And it felt," he paused for a minute, searching for the right word, "right and good and like it's where I did belong."

 

He brushed the unruly hair off of Eric's forehead and kissed it one last time. "Take your bag out

to the living room, all right? Alan's going to be here in a minute, and we don't want to keep him waiting."

 

Eric nodded silently, fighting tears. Giving David a quick, embarrassed hug, he picked up his suitcase and left the room.

 

After he had left, David sat back down on the bed and rested his head in his hands, fighting his own tears. He knew that Eric was committed to a good man, knew that he was going to have a happy life. Why was this always so hard?

Taking a deep breath, he turned off the light and walked to the door.  The cleaning staff would be by tomorrow, ready the room for the next brat to be assigned to him, probably within a few weeks. Closing the door behind him, he continued into the living room where they would be waiting for him to drive them both to the plane.

 

~~~~

 

Saying goodbye to The Island and all his friends left Eric quiet and subdued through the boarding and take-off, but fifteen minutes into the flight, boredom set in.

 

"When are we going to get to the mainland? How long is the flight to Philadelphia?”

 

Glancing at his partner, Alan said, "In about two hours, Eric.  Then about a four hour flight home. Why don't you try to get some sleep?"

 

"I'm not tired. Can I go sit with Hank for a while? I’m sure he wouldn’t mind."

 

"I bet you are, if you'd close your eyes and relax. No, I don't want you up. You can sit here with your seatbelt on and read if you're not tired."

 

 "Fine," he muttered, getting out book and idly kicking the seat in front of him.

 

"Stop, Eric," Alan said, not looking up from his own book.

 

Eric stopped kicking and began to tap his fingers on the armrest.

 

“Stop," the older man ordered, putting his hand over the tapping fingers. "Hold your book with two hands. Feet flat on the floor."

 

Giving a dramatic sigh, Eric glared at his partner, face set to a full pout while ostentatiously holding his book with both hands, feet flat on the floor.

 

Alan ignored the attitude, willing himself NOT to respond or comment, feeling that any attention paid to the bratty behavior would only encourage it.

 

"Alan, could you turn the page for me please?" asked an innocent voice three minutes later.

 

Glaring at his brat, Alan said firmly, "Eric, I'm not putting up with this attitude for the next six hours. You can turn the page yourself."

 

"But you TOLD me to hold the book with both hands. I'm only trying to do what you TOLD me to." 

 

Gritting his teeth against the whine, Alan grabbed the book and, putting a piece of paper in it for a bookmark, closed it. "You're obviously tired. Lean your seat back and close your eyes, Eric."

 

Snorting to himself, the other man pushed back his seat and angrily turned his back to his lover.

 

Alan began chanting to himself. ‘Don't get angry. Don't give him anything to feed off of. Be calm and ignore it. He’ll stop when he doesn’t get the attention he wants.’

 

"Alan," Eric whined a minute later. "I have to go to the bathroom."

 

"No, you don't. You went before we left."

 

"Fine. I don't. But when you're sitting in a puddle, you just remember that I asked," Eric ordered dramatically, and turned away with a flounce.

 

"I'll remember that. Thank you for the warning." The chanting continued in his head. ‘Don't get annoyed. He's just testy because he's tired and he's scared. Be firm, you can handle this and handle him.’ He began to rub Eric’s back while reading, hoping to put the younger man to sleep.

 

The only response from Eric was another dramatic sigh.

 

Ignoring it, Alan continued rubbing. A moment later, as he felt Eric’s slight shiver, he got up and fetched a blanket from overhead, spreading it over the prone figure.

 

Eric yawned and his eyes fluttered, and Alan could tell he was fighting his body’s need for sleep.

 

He reached over and lowered the window shade, then turned off the overhead light, smiling to himself. He was proud of how he had handled the situation. His brat was going to sleep and that would help the developing attitude.

 

"I still have to go to the bathroom."

 

Alan sighed. "No, you don't. You can go when we reach the mainland."

 

"Yes, I do," Eric said, rolling over in his seat, shifting his weight uncomfortably. “Guess I shouldn't have had all that O.J. at breakfast."

                 

"Fine. Straight to the bathroom, use it and come straight back," Alan ordered, wondering if he was making a huge mistake by not sticking to his guns.

                 

Eric hurried to the bathroom, stopping briefly on his way back to say a quiet "hi" to the other brat on plane, keeping a wary eye on Alan the whole time.

 

Letting him back into the window seat, Alan decided to ignore the comment to the other brat. “Now, close your eyes and go to sleep. You were falling asleep a few minutes ago."

 

"But..."

 

"But what, Eric?"

 

"But I'm not tired."

 

The little voice in his head that moments ago had been congratulating him on how well it was going, groaned at being back at this conversation. "I didn't ask you Eric. I *told* you. Now lay down, close your eyes and sleep. At least rest. We don't need to have another discussion on obeying me when it comes to your health, do we?"

                 

"No, Alan," Eric replied in a subdued voice. "I'm sorry. Can I put my head on your shoulder?"

                 

"Of course." He moved up the arm rest and leaned his seat back, then held out his arm. "Come here, little one."

                 

Eric snuggled against the warm arm and sighed contentedly, falling asleep within minutes.

 

The little voice inside of Alan echoed the sigh. ‘Yes," he thought to himself. "It’s worth it and it’s right.”

 

He leaned back and followed his brat into sleep.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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