We’d like to thank, first off, the divine Ms. M for her hard work at beta’ing this.  It’s the longest Island story from us so far but she did a great job.  We appreciate all her hard work, especially during the holidays.

 

As always, this story is dedicated to our personal L&Ms.  Without their love, support and encouragement, this never would have been written.

 

We’d also like to dedicate this to everyone out there who recognized and knows the difference between abuse and discipline.

 

Also thanks go out to D&D who recognized the dragon being fought and allowed the fight to go on even when that meant putting aside personal desires.

 

DAJ

 

 

The Island Series: Peter and William

by: Dash and AJ

 

 

“Get your ass in that corner! I don’t want to see your face until I tell you to come out!” Peter Melnyk yelled at his partner.

 

“Peter,” Will began, holding up his hands trying to calm his outraged lover and Top.   His lightly tanned face showing a red mark from an earlier slap. “It was an accident, and I was going to clean it up.  It’s not that big of a deal. Look--"

 

Another savage slap to the face and a hard shove toward the wall cut off his explanation.  “Shut the fuck up, Billy!  I don’t want to hear it!  I don’t care!  I told you to get in the corner and stand there until I tell you to come out!”  Peter’s face was red with anger and small drops of sweat were forming on his brow.

 

“No,” the younger man said. “We need to talk about this--“ Again he was cut off. 

 

“Did you just say ‘no’ to me, boy?” the angry man asked, his voice going dead calm.

 

Will’s stomach clenched at the new tone.  Anger he could deal with, but the cold, dead tone that Peter sometimes used was when the real trouble began. The angry tone told him that Peter was still feeling and acting on his emotions, and emotions, Will had learned, could be changed.  But the dead tone, as he called it, meant that Peter had shut the door and was no longer able to be reached.

 

“Get in the corner. Don’t make me tell you again.”

 

Bowing his head and pushing his thick blond hair away from his face, he quickly adopting the submissive posture and attitude that the last year had taught him, Will went over to the corner in the living room, not daring to glance at his partner.  A moment later he heard Peter walk into the kitchen and then return.

 

“Drop your pants and bend over,” came the cold order.

 

Knowing that it was useless to argue and would only aggravate the situation, he gritted his teeth, and blinked back tears, pushing down his pants and underwear in one quick motion.  Bending over, he braced himself with his hands flat on the wall.  Barely a second later, the paddle slammed into him, driving him forward into the wall.  The paddling continued with the only sound that of the instrument hitting flesh and Will’s half-stifled cries. Pain shot through his body at the first stroke.

 

“I had hoped we wouldn’t have to have this lesson again, Billy.  When will you ever learn that you don’t say no to me?” Peter asked calmly, breaking the silence as he continued the paddling enunciating each word with a hard swat.  When the younger man didn’t answer, he delivered five especially hard, quick, whacks to the center of his bottom, the last again driving him into the wall as his hands gave out.  “Answer me, boy, when I’m talking to you.”

 

“I’ll learn, I swear.  It won’t happen again,” he managed to choke out through clenched teeth and in between silent sobs, struggling to breath through the pain.

 

“I doubt it," Peter said with disgust, resuming the paddling. "You never seem to learn and I’m getting pretty damn tired of having to teach you. I guess I’m just not working hard enough to get my point across.”  He stopped ten minutes later, the paddle hanging limply at his side.  “Get up and face the corner.” he panted slightly, out of breath from the exertion, “Don’t move until I give you permission.”

 

Stiffly, using the wall for support, Will pulled himself up straight and tried to stop the tears which at times infuriated Peter.  Behind him, he heard his lover - /No,/ he thought to himself, /NOT lover, NOT partner, NOT anything/, move around in the kitchen, then the sound of a door opening and closing.   A moment later, the garage door opened and the sound of the car being backed out and going down the driveway filled the younger man with a small sense of relief.  Peter would be gone at least 30 minutes.  Tonight’s episode and beating was the result of spilled water on the living room rug.  Barking out a half laugh that turned into a sob, Will began to shiver.

 

"It’s not supposed to be like this. I may be stupid; I may be lazy and worthless and good for little more than a quick fuck," Will muttered to himself as he slowly made his way toward the kitchen and a phone, "but I do know its not supposed to be like this."

 

Picking up the phone, he began to dial a number he had memorized so that Peter could not take it away from him.  As the phone on the other end began to ring, Will was struck with the fear that they wouldn’t be home or that Peter would come back before he got through to them.  Those thoughts turned his legs into Jell-O, collapsing him on the cold floor, shivering, mindless of the extreme pain it caused his abused butt.  His heart was beating so fast, he missed the voice on the other end of the line.

 

“Hello?” the voice said again, this time with a trace of annoyance.

 

Swallowing his immediate response that it was wrong to have bothered these two men in the evening, Will whispered back, “Philip?”

 

“Yes?” the voice answered, not unkindly, but slightly wary of who the caller was. “Who is this, please?”

 

“Philip?” Will said again, the shivering making his teeth chatter into the phone. “It’s me, Will - William Riddick.  I’m hurt and I need help.”

 

“Will?” Philip asked, alarmed. “Where are you?  What’s going on? Where’s Peter?”

 

“Can you come get me, please?” he answered, the tears flowing unchecked down his face.  “Peter took the car and I….”  he voice trailed off as a new wave of fear and shivering overcame him.  In the background, he heard the low murmuring of voices.  “Oh, God, Philip, I’m sorry,” he said, suddenly afraid that he had interrupted something important and he was bothering the older man. “Please, don’t bother.  It’s okay, I’m fine, I didn’t mean to interrupt anything.  Don’t worry --“

 

“William!” Philip said harshly after his gentler attempts to break through the other man’s litany of apologies didn’t work.  “You are not bothering me.  I was just getting Joel over to the phone.  Why don’t you hang up and call 911?”

 

“NO!” Will cried forcefully. “It’s not that bad and I don’t want to involve anyone else.” 

 

“Okay, calm down. I’m going to let you talk to Joel while I drive over. He’s going to stay on the line with you and talk to you until I can get there.  You’re at the house, yes?”

 

“Yes,” Will replied softly, comforted by the other man pushing through his protests and taking over, but at the same time disgusted by the need for that comfort.

 

“All right.  I’ll be there in about fifteen minutes.”  He wasn’t exactly sure what was going on but the younger man sounded as if he needed help badly and his Top wasn’t home to help.  He’d assess the situation in person and could always call 911 from the house, regardless of Will’s feelings on the matter.  Handing the phone to Joel, he told his lover, “Talk to him. Don’t let him hang up the phone unless it’s to call 911.”

 

Joel nodded, concerned about what was going on.  They didn’t know Peter or Will that well, having only met them twice since the other couple moved to Chicago two months before.  /But, that didn’t really matter/ Joel thought to himself.  /They both wore rings from The Island and that gave them a bond and a responsibility to help each other when needed/  “Hi, Billy,” he said out loud. “Phil’s on his way over and he’ll help you, okay?”

 

 “Will or William,” answered a shaky voice. “Please don’t call me Billy.”

 

“Oh, sorry about that, Will,” Joel said quickly, and proceeded to babble on for the next twelve minutes about the new house that he and Phil were building and the annoying decorator who thought that just because they were gay, they knew all about color and design. 

 

Will made a few comments but was mostly silent.  Suddenly he broke in with a scared voice, “Someone’s here.”

 

Joel's heart beat faster, “Someone?  Someone’s in the house with you?”

 

“No, a car just pulled up. Oh, God,” he cried. “What if it’s Peter?”

 

Not understanding, Joel answered, “Good.  He can help you.”

 

Giving an anguished cry, Will hung up the phone.  Moving as quickly as possible, he dragged himself up off the floor and, again using the wall for support, made his way to one of the front windows.  Hiding behind the curtain, he peeked out.  Relief, followed by self-hatred for that emotion, flooded through him as he saw Philip hurrying up the walk, toward the front door.

 

“Will!” he yelled, pounding on the door. “It’s me!  Open up, please!”

 

Desperate now to get the front door open, fearful of what would happen if Peter arrived home, Will ignored the pain from his abused muscles and lurched toward the door, yanking it open. 

 

Catching the stumbling man, Philip held tight, then pulled slightly away. “Will … William, what’s wrong?”  Then he got a look at the face, stained with dried tears and blood. “Who did this to you?” he demanded.

 

“Please,” the other man choked out. “Please, let’s go.  I don’t want to be here when he comes back.”

 

“Who?  Who did this?  Shouldn’t we wait for Peter?  And we need to call the police.  They have to be notified about whoever beat you up.”  Philip tried to still the trembling man and move him back into the safety of the house.

 

“No!” Will cried again, struggling to stop Philip’s progression.  “Peter did this to me and I don’t want him to come home and I need to leave now because he might come home any minute.”  That admission took the majority of his strength and he sagged against Philip.

 

Philip was stunned into silence.  “Peter?  Your lover Peter?  He did this?”  He reached up toward the other man’s face as if to confirm that the bruises and blood were for real.

 

Will ducked his head away from the questioning fingers. “Yes,” he admitted softly.

 

Shaking his head in disgust, Philip bent down and quickly but gently scooped up the smaller other man in his arms, carrying him down the steps to his car.  Setting him on his feet, he unlocked the car’s doors.  “Get in.  I want to get your wallet and some clothes and then we are getting the hell out of here.”

 

 “No, let’s just go. Please.”

 

“William,” Philip said patiently. “You need your wallet and you need some clothes.  Get in the car, lock the doors.  If Peter comes home, you have the keys,” he continued calmly, handing them over. “Drive away and call the police.  He won’t hurt me.”

 

Will nodded and moved into the drivers' seat, wincing in pain as his bottom made contact with the soft seat.

 

“Lock the doors,” Philip ordered again before walking quickly back to the house.  Making his way upstairs, he found the master bedroom and began grabbing pieces of clothing from drawers and the closet.  Spying a wallet on the dresser, he glanced quickly at the license inside to confirm it was Will’s and left the bedroom and the house.  Despite his strong words to Will, he was in no hurry to meet the man who could treat his lover, his Brat, in such a manner.

 

Through the windshield of the car, he could see Will twisted around, peering down the dark street, anxious and worried about seeing the headlights of an approaching car.  He was so engrossed with his watch, that when Philip rapped gently on the car window, he jumped, jarring his already bruised muscles.  “Sorry,” he said quickly, reaching over to unlock the car door.

 

“That’s okay.  You have every right to be jumpy and scared,” the other man reassured him, opening the back door and depositing the clothes on the seat.

 

Will moved slowly over to the other seat and hunched down.“ Can we please leave now?” he asked softly, the fear evident in his face and voice.

 

“Yes.  I think it would be better to get you some place safe and then we’ll sort this all out.”

 

Driving as quickly as possible on the dark streets, Philip reviewed in his mind what he needed to do.  As he pulled into the garage, Joel opened the door and peered out anxiously.

 

"What's going on?" he asked.

 

Getting out of the car, Philip hurried to the other side to assist William.  "Joel, could you please call Dr. Johnson at home and tell him that we have a friend who's been beaten and needs to be seen immediately."

 

"What happened?" he asked again, eyes wide at the sight of William.

 

"Honey," the Top said with as much patience as he could muster. "Please do as I told you.  When that's done, come into the downstairs guest room and sit with William while I make a call."

 

Nodding, Joel hurried into the office to call their doctor.  Five minutes later, he knocked self-consciously on the doorframe to the guest bedroom.  Inside, Philip was pulling covers over the still-shivering William, talking softly to him. 

 

Stepping out of the room, Philip gave his partner a quick kiss. "Thank you.  Can you sit with him for a few minutes while I call The Island?"

 

"Yeah.  Sure."

 

Philip nodded once and then walked quickly down the hall, shutting the office door behind him. Fifteen minutes later, the door to the office opened again and Philip returned to the bedroom.  Sitting down on the bed, next to Joel, he spoke softly to William. "Ok, I've contacted The Island and our doctor.  They're sending a Top named Jeffries over to be with you, but, right now I want to take you to our doctor and get your checked out.  Is that okay?"

 

William simply nodded.

 

Gingerly helping the other man into the back seat of the car so he could lay down, Philip drove quickly to their doctor.    Joel had been left at home and was going to be in contact as soon as Jeffries knew what time he would be arriving.  The heat was turned up full blast, but a quick glance in the back seat confirmed that Will was still shivering and very pale. Pulling the car up to the side entrance ten minutes later, he was happy to see the lights on and Dr. Johnson's car in the lot.

 

"Okay, William, we're here, and we're going to get you some help.  Dr. Johnson's great and he's very much aware of these relationships. He knows that what happened isn't normal and isn't warranted."  As he spoke, the side door opened and a gray haired man came out.  Propping the door open, he walked quickly to the car.

"Evening, Phil," he said calmly, as if nothing out of the ordinary was happening.

 

"He's in the back seat, Doc," Philip explained, shutting off the car and unlocking the doors.

 

The doctor opened the back door and knelt down. "Hi, William.  I heard that you received quite a beating tonight."

 

The other man barely met his eyes and gave a small nod before growing still again.

 

"Do you think you can get up on your own to come into my office or should I get a wheelchair for you?" the doctor asked, lightly touching the man's hand, alarmed at his pallor and coldness.

 

"He's been moving very stiffly and has had trouble sitting. I think his partner took a belt to him or something," Philip said softly.  "Why don't I carry him in?  Might make things a little easier."

 

"'Okay, then, my young man," Johnson continued matter-of-factly.  "Let's get you out of the car and then we'll look at making you feel better."

 

"Did anyone follow us?" Will asked softly, not moving.

 

"No," Philip replied firmly. "I was very careful.  No one followed us from your home or from my house.  There is no one here besides the three of us and I can't see any other cars at all."

 

"Are you sure?"

 

"Yes."

 

Pushing himself up with a wince and a groan, Will sat up and slid out of the car.  His legs started shaking as soon as he stood up.

 

Both men were alarmed by the small, wet patch of blood on the seat of his pants.

 

Bending down and lifting him up, Philip carried him into the clinic, following Dr. Johnson.

 

"Okay, first things first, my boy," the doctor said in the cheerful, matter-of-fact manner that seemed to put his patients at ease.

 

"Is the door locked?" Will asked, interrupting the doctor.

 

"Yes.  The door is locked; the alarm is turned back on.  No one is coming in and we will know if anyone even tries."

 

The young man nodded and seemed to relax a little.

 

"Now, I need you to get undressed and put on a gown for me.  I need to check you over and I'm concerned about the blood on your pants."

 

Almost thirty minutes later, the doctor stepped out into the waiting room where Philip sat flipping through a magazine.

 

"You think there is any chance that William will fill charges against that bastard?" he asked, sinking into a chair opposite his friend.

 

Philip looked up and frowned. "No, probably not.  How bad is he?"

 

The doctor sighed. "I gave him a shot of Valium to get him to relax a little.  He is tense and nervous, of course, and it was the best way I could get him to relax enough to let me examine him.  I tried to do a rectal exam and he was too tense and it was going to be painful.  I'll do a full internal exam as soon as he's asleep.  I think, judging by the blood and the tearing I can see, he's going to need at least a few stitches.  I'm not doing that to him while he's awake."

 

"Stitches?  From what?  What the hell did Peter beat him with?" Philip asked, disgusted with the other Top's actions.

 

"It looks like he was paddled tonight, or at least hit with a blunt instrument.  There is plenty of bruising and marks to tell me that."

 

"Where is the blood coming from, then?" the other man demanded.

 

"My best guess would be extremely rough anal penetration, lack of lube or a combination of the two.  The external tears are at least 24 hours old, but the beating tonight probably burst one of the internal tears open and that's what's causing the bleeding.  Without a full internal exam, I can't say for sure, of course, but that would be my best guess."

 

"Jesus," Philip muttered.  "What kind of monster would do that to the person they made a vow to love and cherish and protect?"

 

"I don't know, Phil. I honestly don't know."

 

*****************

 

The first shrill ring of the phone jerked Mark Doggertt awake.  “Hello,” he answered, blindly reaching for the light switch.

 

“Mark, it’s Hayes,” the Director of Temp Tops said.  “Sorry to wake you, and I hope I didn’t wake any of your Brats.”

 

“It’s fine.  What’s wrong?” His boss never called this late unless there was a problem.  Expecting to hear that one of his Brats had a family emergency, he was shocked at the news he received.

 

“William Riddick is in a private clinic outside of Chicago.  It seems that his Top, Peter…”

 

In the background, Mark could hear the other man fumbling with papers. “Melnyk.  Peter Melnyk,” Mark supplied without hesitation.

 

“Right, that’s it.  Anyway,” Hayes said with a sigh. “It seems that William has been badly beaten and there is some indication that there is sexual abuse involved, as well.”

 

“Oh, God,” Mark whispered, closing his eyes, trying to block out the picture of the sweet young man lying in a cold clinic, battered, bruised and bleeding.  “I can take the plane and go get him.”

 

“You can’t--“

 

“What the hell do you mean, I can’t?” he asked, raising his voice. “Then, at least the boat.  I’ll get a commercial flight to Chicago.  I have to go to him. He trusts me, he needs me.”

 

“Mark,” the older Top said in a stern, but calming, voice, “listen to me.  We’ve already sent someone.  Jeffries was in Milwaukee to interview a prospective Top.  We’ve contacted him and he’s enroute to Chicago now.”

 

“But he needs me, not someone he doesn’t know.”

 

“He’s asleep right now, Mark.  He won’t know you’re there.  Philip Quinn, you know him, right?  Partnered with Adam’s old Brat, Joel Bryant?”

 

“Yes, I know him.  Good man.”

 

“William called him, and Philip is at the clinic.  It’s their personal physician, so he’s well aware of the needs of Brats.”

 

“Jeff won’t be able to handle him,” the Temp Top said. “I need to go, Hayes.”

 

“Jeff will be able to handle him.  Ryan, Emerson and I discussed this.  It’s only going to be for 24-48 hours and then we are bringing William back here.”

 

“I want him in my cottage.  I have the room.”

 

"The Board is meeting tomorrow and I'll tell them that.  Ryan might want him in a less crowded cottage though, Mark.  You need to be prepared for that.  You already have two other Brats and Andrew has three."

 

"He needs to come back here, Hayes.  We had a great relationship and we've been talking at least once a week since he left…." his voice trailed off.  "Why didn't he tell me?  I just got an email from him and he said everything was FINE!"  Mark's voice rose in pain.

 

"Mark," Hayes said sharply. "Stop.  We have no idea how long this has been going on.  For all we know this was a one-time event--"

 

"It's not going to be repeated," Mark interrupted.

 

"No, it's not. But we have to remain calm.  This is going to shake up all the Brats here. The Board is going to talk about this.  But, right now, you need to remain calm.  William is coming back home to us and we, as a community, will help him heal.  We make that promise to every Brat that comes to us, and we are not going to fail this one when he needs us the most."

 

“I know.  I owe it to him not to fail him again."

 

Hayes sighed. "We all owe him and we are all going help him.  This is not on your shoulders alone, young man, understand?"

 

"Yes, sir."

 

They talked a few more minutes before hanging up, and Mark felt calmer.  He was startled by a light knock on his door.  Getting out of bed and straightening his t-shirt, he walked through the sitting room to the door, opening it to reveal one of his Brats, Chris Matthews.  Mark frowned. "Chris," he whispered, "what's wrong?  You're supposed to be in bed."

 

The other man frowned and rubbed his eyes with one hand. "I heard the phone and wondered what was wrong.  And I wasn't asleep, anyway."

 

"Why weren't you asleep?" 

 

Chris shrugged. "I don't know."

 

He sighed. He wanted nothing more then to go back to bed and think about how best to deal with William's arrival, but he felt a strong urge to take care of this Brat, as well. He smiled. "You want some hot chocolate and maybe curl up with me and watch a little TV?  Just a few minutes, though."

 

Chris nodded, looking almost asleep.

 

"Okay.  Go get your pillow and I'll go make hot chocolate."  Returning five minutes later, he found his Brat curled up on the couch in his sitting room, asleep.  Putting down the extra chocolate, he went to the computer, activating his email account and slowly began to reread a year's worth of emails from William, trying to figure out how he had missed whatever had happened.

 

*****************

 

The Board of Directors that sat around the conference room table the next morning was unusually quiet and grim.  Word had spread quickly that William Riddick was coming back to The Island after his partner had beaten and, by some reports, raped him.

 

"Jeff was in Milwaukee with a potential Visiting Top, and last night we sent him to be with Will and to bring him back.  He is supposed to call and be conferenced in so we can all get the full story firsthand," Ryan explained to the group.  "I appreciate you all getting here early and I don't think I need to tell any of you that we need to keep this quiet and away from the Brats until we have the full story.  Hayes and I spoke this morning, and we agreed that the best way to tell the Brats what is going on is to have the Temp Tops explain the situation to their individual groups privately, after curfew this evening."

 

Hayes nodded in agreement and then broke in. "I emailed them all this morning just to give them a heads up.  I don't know how any of the Brats could have found out already, but God knows they seem to find out things in a hurry.  I already have a meeting with them scheduled for this afternoon and I'll go over what's going on, and we can talk about how to explain the situation to their charges and how to answer any questions."  He looked at his notes and then around the room again. "I also personally informed Mark Doggertt, William's old Temp Top, of the situation early this morning.  He was, as you can all imagine, very upset.  He feels very strongly that William should come back to his Cottage.  Right now, he has two Brats, both of them well established with no major problems."

 

Ryan nodded. "It makes sense that William would go back to him.  We do that if for some reason a commitment doesn't work."

 

Emerson broke in. "I agree, on one condition.  I want to know if Mark could have picked up on the fact that something was wrong." He held up a hand as Hayes started to jump to his person's defense. "Wait.  I'm not saying he could have.  This could have been a one-shot deal.  There might have been absolutely no indicators leading up to this.  I just want to look into the situation."

 

The others around the table nodded.

 

"I don’t see a problem with that.  I know Mark.  He's a wonderful and responsive Top, and I don't think he missed anything."

 

“Okay, all of this can be handled in the next week or so.  William will go straight to the Infirmary, like all new Brats, for at least a few days, depending on his injuries.  For all we know, he won't want to go back to Mark or might need one-on-one attention for a while.  We will just have to wait and see.  Right now, we have to deal with the immediate need to fill the Brats and the Temp Tops in on the situation."

 

Calvin, Psych Director for Brats, chimed in. "Our department is scheduled to meet after this meeting. Hayes, I'll write up our suggestions and send it over to you.  It might help your Tops in their conversations tonight."

 

"Good idea, thanks."

 

Just then the phone next to Ryan rang.  He picked it up and said hello, then listened for a minute.  "Great, I'm glad you're there, Jeff.  Hold on while I put you on speaker phone."

 

A second later, Jeff's voice filled the room. "Good morning, everyone."

 

A chorus of hellos and good mornings answered him as Ryan adjusted the volume a bit.  "So, Jeff.  First and most important, how is William doing?"

 

"He's still asleep in one of the recovery rooms that Dr. Johnson, the doctor that Philip brought him to last night, uses for in-office surgeries.  I haven't had a chance to speak with him yet.  I'm faxing over his current medical report right now."

 

"When do you think he'll be waking up?" Ryan asked.

 

Jeff sighed. "Dr. Johnson gave him a sedative last night, so I'm honestly not expecting him to be awake until later this morning.  I probably won't have his side of the story until this afternoon."

 

"Why was he sedated?  Herman Marco asked.  "How upset was he, or how much pain was he in?"

 

"When he was brought in last night, he was experiencing some rectal bleeding and, because he was so tense and stressed, not to mention in considerable pain, the doctor felt it was best to give him a mild sedative to help during the internal examination.  That examination revealed several old tears that had reopened during the beating last night and needed stitches.  William was still extremely tense, and to avoid any further pain or risk hurting him further, he was given a stronger sedative.  He woke up from that fine and is now just sleeping off the lingering effects, plus the strain of the last several days."

 

"What caused the tears, Jeff?" Herm asked.

 

"Are we sure that this was a true beating and abuse, and not just rough sex that got out of hand and then a harsh discipline season?" Jake Mullins asked.

 

"I contacted Peter Melnyk last night when I arrived, told him that William was safe and was receiving medical attention for recent injuries.  He was relieved to hear from me and sounded frantic about what had happened to William.  According to him, he was forced to paddle him last night - he did not say for what - and then afterwards, received an emergency call and had to leave. Again, he did not say for what.  William was fine and had fallen asleep in their bed before he left.  When he returned approximately an hour later, William was gone."

 

"Did you ask him about the tears?" Emerson asked.

 

"No, my main reason for the call last night was to let him know that his partner was safe and that I was in town and we *would* be meeting this morning," Jeff said with a small laugh.

 

Ryan had to smile at that comment before turning serious. "Did William tell the doctor anything?"

 

"Yes, I was getting to that.  According to Johnson, when William was awake last night, he asked him about his injuries.  Will confirmed he was paddled and told him it was for spilling water on the living room floor and that when he tried to talk to Peter about it, he was slapped and pushed into the corner in the living room.  The injuries to his rectum were caused on Sunday afternoon, which fit in with the doctor's estimate of their age.  He said Peter forced him to wear a large metal plug for several hours.  The doctor wasn't exactly sure on this point and I'll clear it up with William, but either the plug was never inserted with lube, or it was initially inserted with lube, fell or was forced out because of the weight and then reinserted without lube, with some force.  Either way, it sounds abusive, in my personal opinion."

 

"Please don't take this the wrong way," Mullins said looking around the room. "I agree with Jeff, that does sound abusive to me on a personal level, but I'm just trying to cover every angle here.  That almost sounds like an S&M game.  Do they play in that scene at all?"

 

Hayes spoke. "After Ryan called me about which of our members were involved, I pulled both of their files for review.  Peter did come to us from the S&M scene, but then again, many of our members start out there.  William's profile and files gives no hint that he was ever involved or wished to try that scene.  He tests out at a B4.3 and Peter at a T6.1"

 

"Again," Jeff said. "That's something that I'll try to clear up when I talk to Peter and Will, and report back to you."

 

"Right.  And," Ryan said, "it really doesn't matter.  Will has called for help and will be coming back here as soon as possible. We can sort out what happened then."

 

"He should be ready to travel tomorrow, especially since we are on the private plane the whole way back," Jeff said.  "What do you want me to do if he doesn't want to come back?"

 

"We can't kidnap him, but in Brat and Couple contracts, it does say that The Island has the right to call them back if we feel there is a problem that needs to be addressed here," Hobbes offered. "That should be enough of an excuse to overcome any resistance he might have."

 

The call ended a few minutes later.

 

"I'll be in contact with you during the day after Jeff meets with Peter and William and hears both sides.  Let's try to keep this as low key as possible, people.  Unfortunately, even with all our testing and screening, bad apples still slip in and then back out.  We need to focus on getting that young man back to good emotional and physical health."  Glancing at his calendar, Ryan continued, "Why don't we meet again during the dinner hour and go over Jeff's report.  Hayes, why don't you look at which TT should handle William if he needs one-on-one; Herm, your staff needs to be prepared for him coming in tomorrow, and Cal, figure out what sort of schedule we can get Will into and who will be handling him.  Don't forget you also are going to be writing up something for Hayes that he can give to his Tops this afternoon."

 

"Right, Ryan." Cal said jotting down a note.

 

With that, the meeting was adjourned.

 

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

 

Jeff glanced at the paper with the address again before pulling into the driveway of the attractive brick ranch-style house.  Before he was even out of the car, the front door of the house opened and Peter Melnyk stepped out onto the front porch.  He was a big man, easily 6'4 and 250 pounds, mostly of muscle, but with the slight beginnings of a belly and love handles around his waist.  Short dark hair emphasized his tanned skin, and the small mustache did not give him a softer, more approachable, air.

 

"Did you bring Billy back?" the man asked shortly.

 

"No Peter," Jeff said evenly. "In fact, Will and I will be returning to The Island shortly.  After we get there and after Will has had time to recover, we'll need you to come down so we can get this matter straightened out."

 

"Why?  What has he been telling you?" the other man shot back angrily. 

 

Jeff glanced around the quiet neighborhood. "Do you want to have this discussion on your front lawn or may I came inside?"

 

"Fine.  Come in," the other man said, turning and stalking back into the house, leaving the door open.

 

Shaking his head, Jeff followed him in, shutting the door softly behind him.  Sitting down in one of the chairs in the living room, he glanced around the large neat room as Peter sat across from him.

 

"So what has Billy been telling you?" he asked again.

 

"Actually," Jeff said, pulling out a small notebook, "it doesn't really matter what Will told us right now.  I need to hear your account of what happened last night.

 

"It's pretty basic, really.  Billy brought a can of coke into the living room, even though I'd told him not to several times.  He's not the most graceful person in the world and is always spilling or knocking over things and you can imagine how many problems that causes.  I wasn't able to get the coke entirely cleaned up this time." He indicated a small stain by the coffee table and then paused, seeming to wait for approval or comment from Jeff.

 

The other man simply looked back, giving neither a sign of approval nor disapproval.

 

“Anyway,” the Top continued, “I ordered him to stand in the corner while I cleaned it up and decided how to handle any additional punishment.”

 

“What sort of additional punishment were you thinking of at this time, Peter?”

 

“I had given him lines to write last week for this exact same problem and that seemed to make no impression, so this time I was thinking of a spanking.”

 

“How many lines did you have him write earlier?”

 

“500.”

 

Impassively, Jeff jotted that down in his notebook. “So then what happened?”

 

“He pitched a fit about it.  Refused to stand in the corner, basically crossed his arms and said ‘No’.”

 

“Okay.”

 

“I told him again, and again he refused; swore at me, said I was out of line and had no right to dictate what he did in his own home and said ‘No’.”  Peter glanced down remorsefully. “That’s when I slapped him.  Across the face.  He calmed down and I stood him in the corner while I cleaned up the coke.”

 

“You know The Island strongly discourages slapping a Brat in the face, don’t you?” Jeff asked flatly.

 

“Yes, and I’m sorry I did it.  I just lost my temper with him for a moment and it happened.  I apologized to him afterwards.”

 

“But it was this behavior that made you paddle him?”

 

Peter nodded. “I was already going to spank him, but his attitude and language about going into the corner escalated it into a paddling.”

 

“I can understand that.  He has to know that you are in charge and he is not allowed to talk back or disagree with your orders.”

 

“Right,” the other man said, sounding relieved that Jeff understood where he was coming from. 

 

"Is this an ongoing problem with William?  His questioning your authority?"

 

Peter sighed. "It is.  He is always trying to control situations, working them and me to try to get what he wants.  I'll tell him to do something and instead of a 'Yes, sir' I get whining or backtalk.  We're working on it and working on him losing that independent streak of his."

"Okay.  So, last night, he's in the corner…" Jeff said, his voice trailing off, indicating that Peter should continue his story.

 

“After about 15 minutes in the corner, enough time for him to calm down and think about what happened, I fetched the paddle from the kitchen, sat on the chair over there,” he indicated a straight back chair at the dining room table, “ and pulled him over my lap.  We talked about why he was going to be paddled and how he could have avoided it, and then I paddled him.”

 

Busily making notes, the other man asked, “How many times do you think you paddled him?”

 

“I would estimate between 10 and 15 swats.  You know how it is, you are more concerned about getting the point across to them than actually counting the number of swats.”

 

Again Jeff nodded. “Yes.  The point and the idea of the punishment is more important then the actual number of swats most times.”  Checking his notes again, he continued.  “When William was brought to the doctor, he had several rips and tears around and inside his rectum.  He said that you forced a large metal plug inside of him.”  He looked at the other Top, waiting for an answer.

 

 “Oh.”  That information seemed to surprise Peter, and he was momentarily off-guard.  “I didn't know he had gotten hurt."

 

"What happened?"

 

"Again, he wasn't listening to me and being a tease.  Trying to control me."

 

"A 'tease'?" Jeff asked without emotion.

 

"It was Sunday morning and we were lying in bed reading the paper and eating donuts, and he was teasing me. Making noises and gestures, lying on his stomach with his legs up and spread just enough to tempt me.  We ended up kissing but he tried to stop without actually letting me mount him and take what is mine."

 

"Yours?"

 

"My Brat and his body belong to me. When I became committed to him, I took on the responsibility and burden.  And at the same time, he pledged to obey me and do what I wished and ordered.  He cannot pretend to be open and available and wanting me, then withdraw and try to control me that way."

 

"So you saw William's refusal to have sex Sunday morning as direct disobedience of your orders and wishes?"

 

"Of course.  Wouldn't you?"  Peter shot back, the annoyance clear in his voice.

 

"Actually, I'm not in a committed relationship right now.  My job doesn't really allow me to spend the amount of time with a Brat that is needed."

 

"Ah, then that explains it.  Trust me, my boy," the other man's voice took on a condescending tone. "They can be such a burden at times. You can't leave them alone.  They can't handle stress or disruptions.  Brats are always high strung and apt to act up or throw a tantrum at the least little thing.   You have to keep them on a short leash, tight control, not allow them to get away with the smallest amount of disobedience or attitude.  Otherwise, you will spend the next couple of weeks paying for it."

 

Jeff suppressed a shudder at the other man's words and what they implied and struggled to get back on topic.  "So, that Sunday morning, Will wasn't in the mood to make love, you were and decided that he was only acting up and trying to control you."    

 

"We had purchased several metal plugs about 4 months and had used them several times when he needed to be controlled or put in his place.  He was always willing to replace a plug with my cock when I suggested it.  Why would I give up a chance to fuck just to put a plug in him?  It's not like I get any pleasure from having it shoved inside him.  So, on Sunday, I got the large plug and lube and pulled him over my lap and put it in him.  I told him it would come out when he was willing to have it replaced by me.  He refused, again, trying to control the situation and control me.  I wasn't going to put up with it."

 

"Did he ever indicate that plug was hurting him or that it was too big or there wasn't enough lube?"

 

"He, of course, cried when I put it in him.  He was trying to control me and I wasn't letting him.  Of course he's going to be upset about that.  I made him stand in the corner at first, while I was still reading the paper.  I still thought that he was going to get tired of this game he was playing and admit he wanted to fuck in a few minutes.  I guess I put too much lube on the plug because it fell out or Billy pushed it out.  Another example of him trying to control the situation.  I pulled him back over, put the plug in again and this time gave him a small spanking to enforce that I was in control, not him.  He didn't push it back out again," he finished with a satisfied nod.

 

"How long did he wear the plug?"

 

Peter thought for a minute. "I would say about 4 hours.  He cleaned the bathrooms and the kitchen and then we ate lunch.  He finally stopped trying to control the situation and agreed that he was being a tease.  I removed the plug and we fucked.  I didn't notice any blood then or later."

 

"The plugs sound like a prop for a scene.  Are you and William playing with S&M scenes?"

 

Peter shook his head. "No.  I still have some toys left over from when I was with that community that we do use from time to time, but nothing formal.  Several months ago, we did talk and agree that he wanted and needed more control in his life then I was giving him then.  We discussed it and decided on tighter boundaries for his behavior and more total control and the final say given to me about what he did or didn’t do.  It was working very well and he was flourishing. The plugs were something we bought several months ago, like I said. He's always enjoyed plugs but they were also a very good discipline tool.  It was teaching him that I had the ultimate control of him and his body.  Something we both agreed that we wanted."

 

Jeff closed his notebook.  "I appreciate you taking the time to talk to me, Peter.  As usual, it seems that there was a lot of the story that the Brat had left out."  He suddenly coughed several times, then, clearing his throat, he asked, "Could I please bother you for a glass of water?"

 

Peter stood up, smiling. "Of course." As he walked into the kitchen, he used the same condescending tone that he had earlier. "I'm not surprised that he lied about some things.  That's another thing that you learn quickly.  Brats will lie at the drop of a hat if they think it will get them out of trouble."

 

As soon as the other man was out of sight, Jeff went to the only open corner in the room.  On the carpet there, he found several more drops of blood and a small smear on the wall about two thirds of the way up.

 

Five minutes later, he was back in his car; driving away from Peter and the house, back toward Dr. Johnson's clinic. He felt mildly ill after his meeting with the other man and the exposure to his twisted ideas.  The long drive back to the doctor's office gave him time to calm down and begin mentally preparing his reports for the Board back on The Island.  

 

Carrying a bag with his lunch from McDonalds, his notes and his laptop into the clinic, he nodded to the front desk receptionist.

 

"Oh, Mr. Jeff, Dr. Johnson said you could use the conference room in the back.  Do you know where it is?" she asked.

 

"Yes, thank you.  I saw it this morning.  Do you have William Riddick's file?"

 

She handed it to him, saying "Such a shame what some people will do.  A real shame."

 

He nodded again before slipping past her and down the hall.

 

Opening his lunch and setting it out, he booted up the laptop to begin his report while he ate. Twenty minutes later, he picked up the phone and dialed Ryan's private number.

 

"Hi Ryan, Jeff.," he said.  "It's an interesting situation….." Fifteen minutes later, he hung up with grim determination, then called the front desk. "I need to speak to Dr. Johnson as soon as he's available, please." 

 

"He's with a patient right now but I'll give him the message.  Also, I wanted to let you know that the young man that was brought in last night is awake.  We tried getting him to eat something but he wasn't interested.  If you'd like to talk to him, you can go in now."

 

"Yes, thank you."  Picking up his notebook and a pen, Jeff left the conference room and walked down the back hall toward the recovery room where William was situated.  Knocking softly, he waited until the voice inside bid him to come in.  Opening the door, he walked in. "Hello, William.  I'm Jeffries from The Island, do you remember me?"

 

William shook his head against the pillow. "No. I'm sorry.  I'm sure I should, but I don't."

 

"That's okay.  I'm not on The Island that often and I don’t have that much contact with the Orphans.  My main job is to handle the recruitment of incoming Visiting Tops.  Basically, I'm the one who does the first couple of interviews and tests before they even get to The Island."  He paused to sit down on the edge of the bed.  He couldn't help reaching up and brushing the long blond hair off of the Brat's face.  "I'm here now because Philip Quinn contacted The Island and reported what Melnyk did to you.  I'm going to take you back to The Island to recover.  We also want to see if this is an ongoing situation with your partner or if something else is going on." 

 

"I'm not going back," William stated firmly.

 

"No, we would never ask you to go back to Melnyk.  If--" he stressed the word, "if this was a one-time incident, maybe you two could work something out after extensive retraining and counseling. But that is entirely up to you.  You're welcome to stay on The Island as long as you'd like and maybe you can find someone else if you're interested.  If not, we of course have plenty of members you can be assigned to for supervision. In fact, we could even check with Philip --"

 

"I said NO!" the young man yelled, jerking to a sitting position and propelling himself into the corner of the bed against the wall.  He drew his knees up against his chest, heedless of the fact that the hospital gown he wore provided no privacy in that position.  "Leave me alone.  I'm not going back to Pete.  I'm not going back to your precious island.  You had your chance.  You fucked up.  You made me go with that monster.  You told me that it was okay for him to beat me.  You told me that I belonged to him." His voice cracked and his face twisted with emotion. "You made me go with him and I'm not giving you a second chance to fuck up my life!  That bastard almost killed me, probably would have, but I escaped him!  I got out and I'm not going back!" He bowed his head against his upturned knees and began to cry, sobs shaking the thin body.

 

"William," Jeff said, reaching out to touch him.

 

"Go away.  Get out.  I don't want you here," he said through the tears, jerking away and going further into the corner.  "I just want to be left alone.  I got out by myself and I'll be fine by myself.  I don't need you.  I don't need anyone."

 

"I'm sorry this has happened to you.  I'm sorry that your partner did this--"

 

"He's not my partner," the Brat said savagely, looking up. "Partner implies some sort of partnership, some sort of relationship.  We didn't have that, at least not for the last year.  I was only there to be his slave, to do his bidding and be a convenient, disease-free ass to fuck whenever and however he wanted.  That's not a partnership.  That man was not my partner."

 

Jeff nodded. "All right.  I'm sorry. I misspoke." He paused and then began again. "I'm sorry that Peter did this to you but The Island never would have supported this…. relationship if it had been aware of what was going on."

 

"Fine. I believe you.  You're innocent," he replied tonelessly.

 

"We do want you to come back, though.  You need a safe place to recover and I'd really like you to talk to someone.  Even if you don't stay very long, I'd like you to come back with me tomorrow morning.  Dr. Johnson wants to check you out one more time before releasing you.  Then, we'll go back to my hotel and The Island's plane is waiting to take us back."

 

"Do I have to?"

 

The quietness and sadness in the voice caused the Top to instinctively to sit down on the edge of the bed, reach out and begin rubbing the other man's arm and shoulder. This time Will did not flinch away. "Yes.  I think it would be for the best.  And, remember, in the contract that you signed, you agreed to come back to The Island if something went wrong, or if the Board and your old Temp Top agreed that you should.  They sent me to come and bring you back home to us."  He held his breath waiting for some response from the younger man.  With the sudden shifts in mood, Jeff wasn't sure what to expect. He knew the contract was unenforceable; it was there simply to give some stability to Brat's lives when they first came to The Island and a sense of safety once they left.  If William refused to go back, there would be nothing he could do about it.

 

"Mark knows about what happened?  He wants me back?"  Will asked, speaking of his Temp Top.

 

"Yes.  He wanted to come himself so badly, William, but there wasn't time to get someone to cover for his other Brats and the Board wanted someone here right away.  I was the closest person. He wants you back in his cottage, though, and he has room for you."

 

"He's not mad at me?"

 

Completely unsure of where that came from, Jeff started making it up as he went along, praying it sounded right. "No.  Not at all.  He wants you back.  He wants to help you.  He knows this wasn't your fault and that you did everything you could to make it work.  When you left, he told you that you would always have a home with him and part of you would always belong to him.  That he would always be there for you.  He's hurting so badly about this, William.  He wants to help you, to help make up for some of the pain that you've gone though."

 

The younger man shifted in bed, wincing with pain. "Okay," he said softly. "Just for a little while. And if I can be with Mark again.  I don't want to be with anyone else."

 

"That's not a problem.  They are already planning on that.  Now, why don't you lie back down, you look like you're in pain and I don't want you hurting yourself.  I'm going to go see Dr. Johnson and see about getting you checked out of here.  Would you like to leave tonight, if I can arrange it?"  He was suddenly anxious to get this one back to the safety of The Island and into the capable hands of people who really knew him and knew how to help him.  He knew how to handle Tops, not Brats and definitely not Brats in this much distress.

 

William shrugged. "I don't care."

 

"OK. Let me see what's going on and then we'll deal with it."

 

Lying back down and pulling the covers up, he said again in the same quiet voice, "I don't care.  Whatever."

 

When Jeff returned to the room ten minutes later, William was asleep.  Annoyed at the relief he felt that he wouldn't have to deal with the unfamiliar situation, he quietly left the room and returned to the conference room, intent on keeping his promises to William about Mark.  Picking up the phone, he dialed Ryan again, eager to have someone to talk to that would understand and maybe give him some pointers, and also eager to hear that the promises he had made would come true.

 

*********************

 

Later that evening, he half supported, half carried William out of the car and into the hotel.  A stressful and painful examination by Dr. Johnson, combined with a shot of something to relax him and take away the pain, was making the younger man sleepy.  Jeff had been impressed, but also worried that the exam had taken place without a sound coming from William.  The only sign that it had caused him any distress at all was the tight grip he kept on the Top's hand, and the fact that he had wanted him in there at all.  Jeff had sat facing him so as not to invade his privacy, and kept up a running monologue on the different additions and changes to The Island since Will had last been there.  Finally, armed with a bag of medicines and firm instructions to see The Island's doctor when he arrived, he had been released into Jeff's care.

 

"Thank you," Jeff had told the doctor sincerely after getting the young man tucked into the backseat of the car. "If you ever decide that you want to work on a tropical island somewhere or even just branch out into the Discipline scene, I'd be more then happy to recommend you for membership.  I, and my whole community, thank you for the good care and compassion you've shown him."

 

"Not a problem.  And I might just take you up on that offer, Jeff.  Winters in Chicago are appealing less and less at my age."

 

Jeff laughed. "That would be perfect timing for us.  We get a large influx of Brats from about November through March and can always use an extra hand.  You have my card and The Island's private number, just give me a call."  With a final shake of hands, he got into the car and drove carefully away from the clinic.

 

*********************

 

Andrew sat on the arm of a chair as the combined cottage Brats wandered in.  It was after dinner and past curfew so they were all home, doing homework or chores, or just watching TV or reading, relaxing after a long day.  /This was his favorite time of the day actually/ he thought to himself. All his Brats were home, safe and sound, and it was easy to keep an eye on them or to see if anyone was having trouble he needed to address.  As Mark went to fetch John from his room, he said firmly,  "Taylor, turn off the TV, please.  Mark and I have something that we need to talk to you all about."

 

"But it's Buffy! Can't we talk afterwards?" Jason complained from his spot on the couch.

 

"No, Jason.  We need to talk now. It's important.  Taylor, turn it off."

 

"Can we record it for later?" Jason countered, already getting up for a tape, while Taylor frantically began to program the VCR.

 

Andrew sighed, but saw no reason to say no.  "If you do it before John gets in here, yes."

 

A moment later, a red faced John was escorted into the room, rubbing his hip. "Sit there," Mark said, pointing to a spot on the floor. "And next time don't make me come and get you, young man. That's the last one, I think," he added with a small laugh and a wink at John to take some of the sting out of his earlier swat and scolding. "I always feel like we should do a headcount to make sure we don’t have stragglers hiding somewhere."

 

"Oh, please," Brent spoke up from the other chair, making a face. "You guys know exactly where we are every second of the day."

 

Andrew laughed. "And don't forget knowing what you are doing and what you are planning on doing."  Everyone in the room laughed at that, and he smiled. It was definitely his favorite part of the day.

 

Sitting in the chair that Andrew was perched on, Mark started.  "Some of you might have already heard that William Riddick is going to be rejoining us.  Most of you don't know him, but he was an Orphan up until about 14 months ago when he and his partner committed."

 

"What happened?" Chris asked in a worried voice.

 

"Did something happen to his partner?" Jason wondered, more curious then concerned.

 

Mark's eyes met Andrew's for a moment, communicating silently.  "It turned out that his partner couldn't handle the responsibility of being a Top."

 

"Is that what the guys in 8 were talking about earlier?" Taylor asked.

 

"What does that mean ‘not able to handle the responsibility’?" Chris asked at the same time. "Did he hurt him somehow?"

 

"Yeah, he raped him and beat him and then left him bleeding to death," Jason chimed in.  "I told you they didn't make it up.  The 8s always have the best information about what's going on."

 

"Jason, that's not true," Andrew said, frowning at his Brat.  "We've talked about you believing and going along with everything the 8s say, haven't we?"

 

"Yes sir," he muttered, looking downcast until Taylor nudged him and rolled his eyes, causing him to smile in return.

 

"Yes, Jason, his Top lost control and he was injured.  He was not raped nor he was left bleeding to death.  But, he's going to be a little sore and might need to stay in the infirmary for a few days after he gets here."

 

"He should be here tomorrow and I expect he'll be moving in with us by this time next week. I might bring you over one at a time so you can introduce yourselves and say hello.  It might make him feel more comfortable and would be the polite thing for you to do."  Andrew looked around the room at each of them. "And I know what polite young gentleman you all are." 

 

Jason snorted at this comment while Chris and Brent actually laughed out loud.

 

Mark continued, more seriously. "He will be moving in to this cottage as soon as he's able.  I was his Temp Top when he was here before and he and I have stayed in contact since he left."

 

"How did this happen? We thought the Tops were all screened," John asked, looking at Mark.

 

"They are, but once in a while, people change.  Problems they have don't appear or don't exist while they are being screened," he explained evenly, trying not to sound defensive. "There is a lot of responsibility that comes from being a Top and, while we try to screen and test out people who would react badly, sometimes one gets through."

 

"So it can happen again, right?" Taylor said, sounding slightly worried.

 

"This is the first time anything,  *anything*," Andrew repeated, "like this has happened in ten years.  The Island has been around for over 40 years and this is only the third time a Brat has been abused.  And on one of those occasions, the Top developed a brain tumor that effected his mental state."

 

"But it can happen," Chris said quietly from the floor next to John.

 

"Yes, Chris." Mark said. "It can happen again.  But it's not going to.  An asteroid could hit the earth tomorrow, but it's not going to.  When you find your partner, he will be well checked out. He'll go through the classes and pass them all.  I'll meet him and get to know him.  So will Andrew."

 

"But you met with this guy's partner too, right?" John asked.

 

Mark took a deep breath and felt Andrew's hand, hidden from view, rest supportively on his back.  "Yes, I did.  I've reviewed my notes, my emails from William, everything I have.  So has Hayes.  We can't find anything that indicated that this could happen.  At this point, for all we know, this was a one-time deal."

 

"Are you in trouble?" Brent asked worriedly.

 

"No, I'm not.  I'll meet with the Board, probably later this week, and we'll all go over what happened and see if there is something we did miss or should have picked up.  This way," he said, looking around the room, "we will make sure that it doesn't happen again."

 

Taking a deep breath, he continued. "I want to point out something to all of you.  The Island might have missed something, I might have missed something or this could just be one of those things that no one could have prevented.  But, William got out.  The Island, our community, that you are all a part of and learning from, taught him the difference between discipline and abuse.  He knew enough and was strong enough to leave his partner because he knew their relationship wasn't right.  He contacted an Island member like he was supposed to and got help.  Now we are bringing him back here to care for him, support him and protect him.  That knowledge and that support will be with every one of you when you leave.  Once you are part of this community, you are never alone again." Mark looked around and was pleased to see that his words had seemed to quell some of their fears.

 

"Is he going to be disciplined, like everyone else?" Jason asked after a moment of silence.

 

"Yes," Andrew replied. "William will have the same structure and rules that you all have.  I don't think they've decided if he'll have classes like you do, but he will be an Orphan, like you.  But, he might be nervous.  Remember how it felt when you first came here?"  They all nodded.  "Okay, he might be like that.  He's going to need you all to be friendly and helpful.  Don't stare at him and don't ask him a lot of questions about what happened. He'll talk to you if he feels like it."

 

"So, in other words, be the 'polite young gentleman' you know we are," Taylor said with a laugh that broke the solemn mood in the room.

 

Looking up at Andrew, Mark laughed, as well. "Are you still operating under that delusion, Andy?"

 

"Well, they are when they're asleep," Andrew said, grinning.

 

Mark glanced at the clock. "Guys, I know you'll all do fine with Will and you know that you can come talk to me or Andrew if you have any questions or concerns, right?"

 

A chorus of yesses filled the room.

 

"Good.  Now, West Wing is going to be on in about fifteen minutes, and, because of the trouble everyone has had getting up the last two mornings, Andrew and I agreed that we need to have lights out 30 minutes early for the rest of the week. That means everyone in bed at 10."  They all groaned at the announcement.  "So, why don't you all get ready for bed now, so you can watch the show and go to bed right afterwards.  And," interrupting another round of groans, "if you all get back here on time and are quiet, Andrew's dads sent him fudge that I think he can be persuaded to share.

 

"IF you're quiet and IF the bathrooms don't look like swamps when you all get done," Andrew yelled as the Brats quickly scattered toward their bedrooms.

 

Fifteen minutes later, the fudge was passed around while everyone found a comfortable spot.  Neither Top was surprised when their Brats chose spots closer to them than normal. Special announcements and unsettling news had that effect on most Brats.  Andrew thought, as Brent lay down on the floor, his head resting on a pillow in Andrew's lap so he could be petted, and Mark's Brats got into similar positions on the large sofa, Andrew thought that this was probably being repeated in every cottage on The Island.

 

Later that night, well after midnight and after the last reluctant Brat had fallen asleep amidst protests of not being tired, Mark turned over in Andrews arm's, rising up on his elbows to plant a soft kiss on the other man's lips. "Thank you."

 

"You don't have to thank me. It was good for me, too. It's been too long since we've had time or the energy for anything."

 

The other man smiled in the darkness. "I meant for your support tonight, jerk.  You have no idea how badly I feel about this.  How scared I am that I missed something and I could have stopped it."

 

"I'm sorry, Mark. I know it's hard, but you've been through your files; Hayes has been through your files, if there were anything to catch, one of you would have.  Hell," he said in frustration, "I met the man, too. He was considering Jack Blankenship before he met Will.  I could just as easily be in your place."

 

"It's scary," he said softly.  

 

Just as Andrew thought he had drifted back to sleep, Mark stirred and got up. "I need to get back to my room.  I don't want any of them getting out of bed to come find me."

 

"You know they would look here if you're not in your room, just like mine would look in yours."

 

"I know, and I know they know we sleep together.  But I don't want them to ever worry about coming to get me, or you for that matter, out of fear they are going to interrupt something."

 

"You're right. Which is why we have sex about three times a month," he laughed.

 

Mark laughed back. "Hey, we're lucky you and I get along so well.  Think of poor Tony in 3. He and his Cottage Partner both top exclusively. I don't know how they manage."

 

"Either go to another Cottage, which is a problem, or plenty of cold showers."

 

"Neither of which is much fun.  Good night. See you in the morning, Andy."

 

"Night, Mark." Andrew rolled over and went back to sleep, trying to ignore the voice in his head playing the What If Game with Jack Blankenship and Peter getting together 14 months earlier.

 

*********************

 

The next morning, Jeff woke up and immediately panicked. William was not in his bed and the bathroom was dark.  Jumping up, he grabbed his jeans, silently swearing to himself for sleeping through the young man's escape.  Just as he was zipping his pants, his eyes fell on the door and the security chain that was still firmly in place.  Shaking his head, he walked over to the other bed, confirming that it was empty.  Just as he started to walk into the bathroom, his eye caught sight of the young man curled up in a tight ball on the floor, in the narrow space between the edge of the bed and the wall.  Crawling over the bed, he reached down and gently touched a shoulder, deciding not to call attention to the sleeping place. "William.  We need to get going."

 

The sleeping man jerked awake, hitting his head on the wall. "What?" he muttered, wincing as he sat up.  "I'm sorry.  I didn't mean to delay you."  He struggled to get up, his muscles having stiffened overnight and legs twisted in the small space.

 

"No, you're fine." Jeff reached down and gently helped the other man stand up and then sit on the bed.  Seeing his wince, he gently nudged him down.  "Why don't you lie back down?  We have a few minutes and I want you to take some of the pain killers that Dr. Johnson prescribed for you."

 

"No, I don't want to take them. They make me feel all dopey and out of it."

 

Jeff frowned, but was about to say all right, when Will spoke again.

 

"I'm sorry," he apologized, his voice slightly frantic as he started to get up. "I'll take the pills.  That's fine.  Let me go get them now." 

 

Jeff reached out, stopping him and forcing him back on the bed. "I would prefer you took them.  I think it'll make traveling a lot more comfortable for you.  But I'm not mad at you for saying no," he explained, really not sure if he should be mad at the younger man for saying 'no' to him or not.  He wasn't his Top or even Temp Top; did he have a right to order this man to do something against his will just because of his personality?  "Lie down for me while I get your pills, and Dr. Johnson sent along some cream and suppositories for your injury site," he added matter of factly.  "Do you want me to help you with those or can you take care of them?"

 

"I can take care of it myself," Will replied with a slight blush.

 

"Okay, not a problem.  Either way.  Lie down for me for the next 30 minutes, though.  You're cold and you aren't suppose to be sitting up too much."

 

The younger man lay down, curled underneath the blanket.  Just as Jeff was returning with his pills and some water, he sat up.  "Shit!" he swore. "I need my computer."

 

"Don't swear," Jeff said automatically. "And we'll have Peter ship your computer to you on The Island, or you can just use one of the ones there."

 

"No," he said, "you don't understand." His frustration was almost palatable. Running his fingers through his hair worriedly, he said, his voice growing frantic and stressed, "I have to go back and get it."

 

"I'll understand if you talk to me and not just get upset, William," Jeff said firmly. "But you can forget about going back.  What is on that computer that you need so badly?"

 

"My work.  I'm a book editor.  I have all my books at home and all my notes are on my laptop."

 

"Okay.  If I leave you here, alone, will you stay in bed and get some more rest?"

 

Will nodded. "Yes sir," he replied softly.

 

"Okay.  Tell me what to get and where it is, and I'll be back in about an hour."  As William made a list, he picked up the phone to call the pilot and explain the delay.  Turning back to William, he said, "Stay in bed.  Don't answer the door; don't go outside.  Understood?"

 

The solemn young man nodded.

 

Luckily, Peter wasn't home, even at this early hour and Jeff was able to make several trips between the house and car, getting a load of books, the laptop and another suitcase filled with clothes and personal items. He hurried back to the hotel, worried about leaving Will alone for very long.

 

"Will?" he called as he unlocked the door and walked into the room." Will?" he called again, looking around the empty room.

 

The bathroom door opened and Will peered out, then came out and silently put the iron back on the stand.

 

"Are you ready to go? Have you taken all your medicine?" Jeffries asked, tactfully ignoring the action.

 

"Most of them. There's one I don't take until we're on the plane," Will replied.

 

"Let's go then." Jeffries shouldered his bag and looked around to make sure they hadn't forgotten anything. "We still need to get breakfast, and Hank is waiting at the airport."

 

"We can go straight to the airport. I'm not hungry."

 

"Well, I am, and you need to eat something, too," Jeffries replied. "But we can just go through a drive-thru, if you'd rather."

 

Will started to protest, then nodded a silent agreement and followed the older man out of the room. "Did you see Peter?" he asked as they entered the elevator.

 

"No, he wasn't there," Jeffries said reassuringly. "I got your belongings with no trouble at all."

 

"I hope he isn't waiting at the airport," Will said apprehensively.

 

"I don't think we need to worry. He doesn't know when we're leaving and security is pretty tight at the terminal."

 

Will continued to worry, though, until they were on the plane and it was taxiing down the runway. Only then did he take the last of his medicine and settle down with a sigh. When Jeffries checked him a few minutes later, he was asleep.

 

****************

 

Sitting in the passenger seat of the cart, Mark bounced his leg nervously, scanning the sky. 

 

Hayes was on the radio and, without comment, put his hand on the bouncing knee, smiling at the other man.  “He’s almost here,” he told him and then spoke into the radio. “Okay, great news.  Thanks.”  Disconnecting, he smiled.  “They just received the 10 miles out message. They should be landing in about 10 minutes.”

 

 “Did they say how William is?”

 

“No, but we have the infirmary truck standing by in case he had a rough trip.” He nodded toward one of the few vehicles on The Island.  “He’ll be fine, Mark. He might be sore and emotionally shaky, but we have people to help him and we will all get through this.”

 

The other man nodded, eyes in the direction he knew the plane was coming from.

 

Seeing that Mark was barely listening, Hayes gave up conversation and instead went over in his mind any problems that might come up and possible solutions for them. He was jolted out of his planning by Mark’s voice.

 

“Here they come,” he said, starting to get out.

 

“Wait,” Hayes said, putting one hand on his elbow.  “Just sit in the cart until they land and come to a stop.  If William didn’t have a good trip, Jeffries might want to get him settled with the Infirmary workers before you can see him.”

 

Shrugging off Hayes's restraining arm, Mark quickly got out of the cart and was standing next to Herm and his assistant when the plane rolled to a stop and the door opened.  A moment later, William slowly came out of the door and down the steps, carefully supported by an anxious Jeff. 

 

"Okay.  Herm's here and we're going to take you back to the Infirmary for a while.  We'll get you something for the pain and make you a bit more comfortable in just a minute.  All right?" the Top asked as they reached the bottom of the stairs.

 

Will didn't say anything, his eyes locking with Mark's. He pulled out of Jeff's hold and took two hesitant steps toward his old Temp Top.  "Mark?" he asked, his voice cracking.

 

Immediately forgetting what Hayes had told him, forgetting the slight professional detachment he usually carried, Mark closed the gap between them and embraced the young man.  "It's so good to see you again, little one. I'm so sorry I couldn't come and get you myself the way I wanted to. But I'm glad you're here now."

William wrapped his arms tightly around the other man, burrowing his head into the soft folds of Mark's polo. Ashamed of the tears he could feel running down his face, he didn't - couldn't - answer. 

 

Feeling him start to shake, Mark held him tighter. "Shhh, it's okay. You're here now. You're going to be fine," he whispered, stroking the fine blond hair and kissing the top of his head.   He pulled back enough to look at the younger man. "You're going to be coming back to my cottage in a few days - as soon as Herm checks you out." He nodded in the direction of the man waiting patiently beside a stretcher. "It's going to be okay," he whispered again, brushing the tears from William's face.  


"No. I don't want to go with them. I want to stay with you. Please let me stay with you." 

Pulling him back into a hug, Mark softly reassured him. "Shhhhhh. Will, little one, you need to go with them. I'm not going anywhere, but you need to stay in the Infirmary for a few days first." He motioned Herm and the attendants forward. "Let's go with them and I'll stay right with you."


"NO! I don't want to go with them! I'm all right. I'm fine. I just want to go back to the cottage!"
 
"William," the Top said firmly, brushing back the hair and stroking it gently. "Stop. You can't go back to the cottage right now. You've been hurt and you need medical attention."

 

Herm stepped in. "Come on, William, it's fine. It's just for a few days and Mark can come visit as much as he likes."  He took the young man's arm and, with Mark on the other side, helped him to the stretcher. 

 

"Lie down, Will." Mark ordered firmly, seeing him wince as he sat down.

 

"You'll stay with me?" he asked, sniffling a little and reaching out toward Mark. 
 
Mark grasped the offered hand and held it tight. "Of course. I'll stay with you the whole day, if necessary. Okay?"

"All right." His eyes closed for a moment, but with the movement of the stretcher, they jerked open again. "Don't go away, okay?"


 "No. I'll stay right with you,” he repeated firmly, walking with Herm and attendant towards the truck. "Why don't you close your eyes and try to relax, okay? You look tired."

"All right." Will closed his eyes and seemed to relax a little, but he still kept a firm grasp on Mark's hand.

 

"Good boy."


Hayes walked over to the small procession. "It looks like you have it under control, Mark, so I'll get back to work. I'll let Andrew know that you're going to be tied up all day and he'll cover with your brats. Call me if you need me."

Glancing down at William, Mark smiled.  "Thanks Hayes, I'd appreciate it. I'll let you know how it goes. I'm sure we'll be fine."

Over an hour later, Mark sat on William's bed with a chocolate milkshake, trying to coax the tired and cranky young man to drink.  He had endured a painful examination by Herm, who had been as gentle as possible, with only a small initial fight.  He had quietly put up with the shot to help with the pain, and with the suppository to help heal the area and to prevent further injury.  And he had tolerated being undressed by Mark and a nurse and put to bed with a dressing between his legs to catch the small amount of discharge and blood from the recent move.  Now, he was tired, wanting to be left alone, and Mark was not cooperating.

 

"Here you go. Just a few sips please," Mark said, holding out the glass.


"No, I don't want it," he whined wearily, turning his head away.

 
Leaning closer, Mark brushed the cheek gently as he turned the head back to face him. "William, you need to drink. You've barely had anything to eat or drink today and you don't want an IV, which is what Herm wanted to do to you. But I told him I could get you to drink this." Rubbing the other man's leg, he continued coaxingly, "So, come on. Just a few sips."

Eyeing Mark suspiciously, he took the glass and a small sip before thrusting it back.  "Later."

 
"No. You need to finish this now. Not later." He held the glass out again. Seeing the long hair fall back into his brat's eyes, he reached out to brush it away, then froze at William's involuntary flinch.

 

"I'm sorry. I'll drink it. Don't hit me. Please don't hit me," the young man cried, ducking away from the outstretched hand.

Mark frowned and put the drink down to pull the young man onto his lap. Rocking him gently, he whispered, “Shhh, I'm not going to hit you. You know that."  Feeling Will's arms tighten around him, he continued the gentle motion. "It matters if you drink this, but I'm not going to hit you over it. You know we don't work that way."

 

"I'm sorry, I don't mean to be a problem. I'll drink it now." Will spoke softly into Mark's neck, making no move to get off or let go.
 
Settling him more securely on his lap, Mark pulled the blanket up over his bared legs and picked up the drink. "Okay. Take it slowly, though. I'm so happy to have you back with me. I'm sorry it's this way, but you know that I never stopped caring about you."

"I know. I'm sorry. I wanted to call you so many times," he whispered back, taking a small sip of the drink, his head still resting on Mark's shoulder. 

They sat in silence for several minutes, while the Top gently rocked him and rubbed his back, watching the shake slowly disappear from the glass. “Why didn't you tell me, little one? I got a note from you just last week and you said everything was going good. Was this the first time?" he finally whispered, asking the question that was burning in his mind. 

 

"No," Will answered quietly. "Not the first time. But HE said that I shouldn't tell you. That he was my Top now and I shouldn't go running to you with all my problems and complaints.  He knew what I needed and what was best for me.  And you'd be ashamed if you knew how bad I'd been. I didn't want you to be mad at me, too."

Mark tightened his hold and swallowed his rage at Peter. "I understand and I'm not angry at you, not at all. I don't think you were bad. You were never bad during the eight months I had you, and I don't think you've changed that much. Finish up now. You're tired and you need to sleep." He kissed him gently on the forehead before continuing, "You're back now, that's all that matters."
 
"When can I go back to the cottage with you? I'm fine. I don't want them messing with me anymore, I HATE it!" 

 

Taking the almost empty glass and putting it on the nightstand, he answered firmly, "Herm said 2-3 days, so that means by the weekend. They aren't messing with you; they have a job to do and you need medical attention and care." He pulled back slightly so he could look at the younger man. "I'll be by all the time to see you and stay with you until you come home with me."


"I know, but I don't want them touching me there. I don't want anyone to touch me there."

 

"I know, little one, and I'm sorry. I don't think you have much of a choice. It won't be for long. Would it help if it was me or for me to be here any time they did anything to you? I can do that."


"Please? It helped when you were here today." Burrowing his face in Mark's neck again, he continued sadly, "But what about your other brats? They need you. I can't take you away from them all the time. I'll be all right. You'd better go to them. I'll be okay."

"It's all right. I'll get your med schedule and make sure they beep me if anyone needs to do anything to you, so I can be here. And don't worry about John and Chris. They're fine and they understand. Andrew - you remember him, right? He can watch out for them until you're well enough to come home."

 

"Tell me about them, what're they like?"

 

Mark smiled. "Okay.  I'll do that on one condition; you close your eyes. You look tired and I know that shot had something in it to make you sleepy."

William nodded and shut his eyes while Mark continued to talk softly about his two other brats.  Twenty minutes later, he gently slid William back onto the bed and covered him with the sheet and blanket.  Standing up, he offered up a brief prayer of thanks to whichever deity was responsible for his safe return, before turning and walking out of the room, leaving the small bedside lamp burning.

 

After a quick chat with the nurse on duty, he made his way back into the warm afternoon and hurried to his cottage.  

 

*************

 

Will was curled up on the recliner reading a book when Mark knocked on his open door. “Hi,” he said, looking up and smiling.  His smile dimmed when he saw a younger man trailing into the room behind the Top.

 

 “Hi, babe,” Mark said, as he walk over and kissed the top of his head, brushing the hair back.  “I wanted to check on you and to introduce you to John Wolf. He’s one of the Orphan Brats in my cottage."  When Will didn’t say anything, Mark continued, “Remember?  I told you that I was going to bring them by so you would know their names at least.  Might not be quite so overwhelming when you move in.”

 

Will seemed to recover as he stood up and extended his hand.  “Hi, John. I’m William Riddick. It’s nice to meet you.”

 

John smiled and shook hands.  “Nice to meet you.”

 

The room fell quiet, both of them looking slightly uncomfortable and unsure of what to say, and Mark spoke again.  “How about if I get some cokes from the fridge and we can all go sit outside on the patio for a while.”  Not waiting for them to answer, he smiled brightly and started out of the room. “John, why don’t you and Will go ahead out?  I’ll be there in a minute.”  With that, he left the room, leaving them alone.

 

An awkward moment later, John looked up from studying the floor and smiled. “Want to go?” he asked uncertainly.

 

“Yeah.  I guess we need to.”

 

“Okay.”   

 

Neither of them moved for a moment and then John laughed, breaking the silence.  “Come on. I’m not going to be explaining to the L&M why we are still standing here after he told us to go outside.  And," he paused, "you look like you could use some sun and fresh air anyway."

 

Will nodded and smiled slightly as he followed the other man out of the room and down the hall. 

 

"God," the other Brat commented looking around, "being back in this area sure brings back some memories."  He smiled.  "When you were here for the first time, did they house you on this floor, too?"

 

"I think so.  The rooms have changed a little, or at least the first one I had wasn't as nice as mine now.  But I think the procedure of having incoming Brats stay here while they get sorted out is pretty much the same."  He looked hesitantly at the other Brat, before continuing.  "What's L&M?  You said in the hall you didn't want to explain to the L&M …" he trailed off.

 

John gave a laugh. "Oh.  Lord and Master." He laughed again. "Jason, another Brat in the cottage started it when he first came and I think we've all just picked it up."

 

Will gave a small laugh as well. "That's good. I'll have to remember that one."

 

When Mark appeared ten minutes later bearing three cokes and a bag of Oreo's, he found the two Brats happily talking about a new movie that Will had seen last month and that was being shown in The Island's small theatre that Friday.

 

They sat out in the sun talking and eating for almost a half an hour until Mark looked at his watch as an Infirmary nurse came out onto the patio.  It was almost 2, time for John to head back to the Cottage and lie down.  Will was kept on the same schedule and it was more strictly enforced than at the Cottages.

 

"John?" Mark asked.  "Can I trust you to go back to the Cottage on your own and lie down?  I'd like to stay with William for a little while longer."

 

Smiling sweetly, John nodded and jumped up. "Of course, Mark.  Not a problem.  Straight back to the cottage, straight into bed."

 

Standing up, Mark took the Brat's arm and delivered a light swat to his butt.  He smiled at him.  "I'm serious, little boy.  Back to the cottage and to your room.  Andrew is waiting for you and I will check with him to see what time you got in.  I can't imagine it taking more than five minutes."

 

Making a face and rolling his eyes, John winked at William, who was still sitting quietly.  "You'd think he didn't trust me or something."  Turning, he gave a bow to Mark, said "Your wish is my command," and hurried into the building.

 

Shaking his head, Mark smiled at the other man. "John is wonderful.  I'm glad you two seemed to get along so well."

 

Smiling back, Will replied, "He seems nice.  Has he been with you long?"

 

Just then the nurse spoke up. "I'm sorry to break this up, but it's almost 2 and William needs some medication before he lies down."

 

Mark nodded. "OK.  Let's go back, then."  Holding out his hand, he helped William up and then turned to the nurse. "I'm going to stay with him for a while this afternoon but I'll make sure he rests."

 

Hurrying back to the Cottage, John began to get his thoughts in order.  When Mark had asked him to go visit William, he immediately told his cottage mates that one of them was going to meet the Brat that everyone was talking about.  They had known, courtesy of one of the 8s, of his arrival two days before, and everyone knew that Calvin had been seen visiting several times at day, but no one had actually seen him yet.  Until now.  He couldn't help but laugh out loud. Having actually seen and spoken to the mysterious William Riddick, was going to make him and his Cottage very popular.  Finally, they had information that even the stupid 8s didn't have.

 

Rounding the corner of the walkway, he saw Andrew casually sitting on the porch swing reading a magazine. "Thank you, John," he said as the younger man walked up the porch steps.  "I didn't want to have to tell Mark that you didn't make it back in time, especially when he's busy with William."  The Top stood up and opened the door, ushering him in.  "Into your room, please, and lie down."

 

"I know," he said with a smile. “I'm going, I'm going."

 

Andrew laughed. "Okay."  After watching him head down the hall to his bedroom, he went into the kitchen for a drink and then to his computer to finish a report.

 

Undressing, John lay down and picked up his book, prepared to pass inspection if Andrew should pop in to check on him.  When the Temp Top didn't appear for 10 minutes, he figured he was safe. 

 

Knocking on both of his walls twice, he sat back down on the bed.  A few seconds later, Chris opened his door, smiling, quickly followed by Taylor, Jason and Brent. 

 

"Sorry it took me so long. I had to make sure Andrew was gone and not planning to check on me."

 

"Excuse, excuses," Taylor said with a laugh. "But we are all screwed if Andrew decides to check our beds."

 

"He won't though," Jason said, and then wiggled his eyebrows. "That's one of the advantages to being a 4 - they expect to you behave reasonably well." 

 

They all laughed.

 

"So, what's he like?" Brent asked eagerly.  "Did he look really beat up? Did he really need 50 stitches?"

 

"No," John said with a sigh. "You can't even tell anything is wrong except that he moves sort of slow and careful, and he's really jumpy."

 

"Did he give you any details?" Taylor asked.

 

"No. We didn't even talk about it."

 

"Well, what was the good of seeing him, then?" Brent asked in disappointment.

 

Well, he's not a circus animal, jerk." Chris smacked the back of his head playfully.

 

"We're supposed to be getting to know him one at a time," John said, hitting him with a pillow at the same time. "And we aren't allowed to ask him about it, remember?

 

"Yeah, and remember, he's been sick," Taylor said. "If he meets all of us at once it might give him a relapse or something."

 

"I wonder if Mark will really discipline him if he does something," Jason said.  "Do you think he's going to take classes again with us or be more like a committed brat?"

 

"He'd have to, won't he? It wouldn't be fair otherwise."

 

"I wonder if he'll freak the first time he's spanked."

 

"God, Brent, would you *stop*?"

 

"But I want to know," Brent protested plaintively. "And what are we going to tell the 8s?"

 

"We'll make something up," Jason said. "That's what they do."

 

"Shhh," Taylor said. "I think I hear Andrew."

 

They all scattered back to their own rooms.

 

********************

 

Two weeks later, William sat with his legs curled up under him in the large chair in the corner of Calvin’s office, looking out the window.

 

“What are you thinking about, William?” Calvin asked quietly.

 

“Nothing.”

 

“It doesn’t look like nothing to me.  It looks like an awful lot of something.”

 

The other man shrugged his shoulders. “I don’t know.”

 

“Okay then, how about just answering my question with whatever comes into your head.  There’s no right or wrong answers. I just want to know how you feel about being back here.”

 

“I don’t know.”

 

“Not even a little bit?"  When the other man did not answer, Cal tried another approach. "What’s the first word that comes into your mind when I ask the question, then?” the therapist asked patiently.

 

“Shame.” Will said quietly, still looking out the window.

 

Cal glanced at the clock above William’s head and groaned silently.  /The brat has done it again/ he thought, /third time he’s held off making any sort of progress until we have less then 5 minutes of the session to go./  This defensive tactic had become a pattern, one that he was determined to break the next time. “Okay, William, in your journal for the next couple of days, I want you to think about why being back here makes you think of shame.”

 

“Do I have to?”

 

“No, you don’t have to.  If there is something else you would prefer to explore, that would be fine, too.  I’m more interested in finding out what’s going on in that head of yours than dictating what you write about.  But,” he said, pausing for emphasis, “I want more than what you did after we talked last Monday. Okay?”

 

 “I guess.  I just don’t know what to write. There’s nothing going on in my head,” he said, uncurling his legs and standing up.

 

“Well, I don’t believe that one and I’m not accepting it as an excuse, either.  So, Monday, more in your journal, please,” Cal said firmly.

 

“I’ll try.”

 

Giving the younger man a brief hug as they walked out of the office, Cal said softly, “I know and I know it’ll be good.”

 

The only answer he received was a shrug.

 

Mark was waiting in the reception area for them.  He stood and smiled. “Ready to go?” 

 

“Yeah, more then ready,” Will said, inching toward the door, away from the other two men.  “I’m just going to go down to the cafeteria and see if I can get something to eat. I’m starving. Okay?” 

 

“No, not okay.  Hold it for a minute,” Mark said firmly.  “You can get something to eat in the kitchen back at the cottage.  It’s almost quiet time and I don’t want you roaming all over the compound.”  As a mutinous scowl appeared, he added in a serious tone, “Don’t push about this, William. You know the rules.”

 

 “So I’m just suppose to sit here and starve to death while you and Calvin go in the back and talk about me?”

 

Mark answered cheerfully, refusing to rise to the bait. “That sounds like a plan.  Just make sure it’s quietly.”  Pointing to a chair, he added, “Sit.”

 

Flopping down with a dramatic sigh, Will muttered, “Yes, Master.”

 

“Good boy,” Mark said with a smile before following Calvin back into his office.

 

“Good way to handle him, Mark,” Cal said, shutting the door behind him.

 

Shaking his head, the Temp Top smiled. “It’s the only way really.  Reacting too much just encourages them.” Then, turning serious, he added, “How’s he doing?”

 

“You’re probably a better judge of that than me.”

 

Making a face, Mark shrugged as he sat down on the sofa. “That’s the problem.  I’m not really sure.  One minute, he’s happy, seems like he’s settling in. The next, he’s angry at me, at himself, at The Island, the world.  A minute later, he’s locked himself in his room and just wants to be left alone. But then if I really leave him alone, he clings and gets upset."

 

"But he was willing to walk down to the cafeteria alone just a minute ago?"

 

"I don't know. He really hasn't gone anywhere on his own yet.  He'll drift off to his room, but rarely stays there for long before drifting back.  I think that's a good word for what he's doing right now, drifting.  Or roaming," he added.  "About the only time he seems settled is when he's with me, and then he's great.  He laughs, he jokes, he smiles, but I've seen him across the compound, and he's completely different.  I'm trying to juggle which is correct.  What's really going on?" 

 

“It’s a hard balance but I’m sure you’re doing a good job.  You love him and you have a relationship of trust and respect already. That’s what’s going to help the most.” 

 

Mark nodded. “I hope so.”

 

"I get the feeling he doesn't know what's going on or, maybe, what's expected of him.  I'm beginning to suspect that not having him attend the Brat classes is a mistake.  I know he works and I think that's important, but right now, he's in limbo.  Is he an Orphan Brat?  Is he a Committed Brat?  Does he even want this type of relationship again?"

 

"I honestly don't know.  I think yes, he still wants this type of relationship.  He responds to it and he's not making the kind of push that we see when it's a bad match.  He pushes, but you show him the boundary and he stops."

 

"It'll be better for him, I think, once the business with his partner is settled.  And, I think I am going to recommend that he be re-profiled, to see where he's standing now and work at getting him back into classes and into the role of an Orphan Brat."

 

Mark nodded. "You're probably right.  And Melnyk will be here in two weeks, I think, and that will help close that chapter, to some degree."  Looking out of the window for a minute, he added, "I don't see him matching with someone again soon, though."

 

"No, of course not.  And there's no rush.  The best course might be for him to get comfortable and then return to the mainland for a while, under the supervision of one of our committed members. Then, in a year or so, whenever he's ready, he can come back for the purpose of being matched."

 

"That might work." Standing up, Mark continued, "All of this is down the road, though.  I want to get the business with Melnyk settled and William more settled.  Then we'll look at his future." 

 

Cal smiled and nodded.  "You're right, we've got time.  I’ve given him a writing assignment for his journal.  Do me a favor, spend some good quality, quiet time together with him between now and Monday.  Maybe have him curl up on the sofa with you while you both read, or sit on the sofa while you do paperwork in your office.  Something quiet and just being together.  He needs to feel very loved and protected right now, but it has to be on his terms.  Pushing him right now about it won't work.  He's been hurt too badly for things to be rushed."

 

"I know.  I can see him withdrawing when the cottage gets loud. He might stay in the room, like at dinner, but I can just see him pulling inside himself."

 

"He'll come around.  He just needs to relearn that he's not going to be hurt."  Tapping his bottom lip, he thought for a minute. "Thinking about how unsettled he is, I wonder if a different approach might work.  Don't treat him like a committed Brat or even one that knows what's going on.  Treat him like a new Brat, jittery, unsure of himself, unsure of what's going on and very gun shy."

 

"Okay, thanks.  I'm not sure if I'm treating him like a committed Brat or not, but I'll watch it.  I might be; it's easy to fall back into our old relationship and habits.  I'll keep you posted. I better go before he starts getting too restless." 

 

Opening the door and walking back into the main room, they were greeted by the sight of the young man sprawled face down over the arm of the chair, apparently not breathing.

 

Rolling his eyes at the therapist, Mark ignored the figure and opened the main door to the outside. Clicking his fingers, he said firmly, "Get up, William. Let's go eat."

 

"It's too late," the figure groaned. "I've starved to death."

 

"Oh well.  Thank you for doing it quietly, at least." Clicking his fingers again, he repeated. "Let's go.  I'm hungry too and you need a nap."

 

"Ogre," Will muttered, standing up and following the older man out the door.

 

"Brat," he replied, slinging an arm around the other man's shoulders.  He felt William tense up at the contact, but he maintained it.  By the time they reached the cottage area, the shoulders were relaxed again and he was smiling, laughing at the light banter.

 

"Go get undressed and into bed, please," Mark said, opening the cottage door. "And no stopping to say hello to anyone else. They are in their rooms already and we're both late."

 

William gave a small laugh. "So, since you and Calvin made me late, does that mean that Hayes is going to spank you and Hobbes is going to spank Calvin?" he asked with a smile.

 

Turning him around toward his room and landing a soft swat, he said, "No, brat, that means that you better get into your room quickly, and be grateful that I'm bringing you food even though you had lunch two hours ago."

 

Hunching over in a Igor impersonation, Will said in a breathy nasal voice, "Yes, Master."

 

Mark nodded and smiled. "Good, that's what I like to hear. Go."

 

Five minutes later, carrying a plate with a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, he knocked on the closed door.  Entering a moment later, he found William already in bed.  "Here you go, little one," he said softly, closing the door behind him.  Sitting on the bed, talking quietly while the younger man ate, Mark couldn't help but send a silent prayer to whatever god watched over brats that he had managed to escape a dangerous situation with the few scars he had. The outcome could have been much worse.

 

*******************

 

Dinner had been good.  Sunday nights were traditionally relaxing nights in the Cottage.  Sitting around watching a movie while they ate pizza and drank coke was a treat that they all enjoyed.   This was the first night that this had taken place since Will's arrival in the Cottage.  Last Sunday had been a celebration dinner for a recently committed couple.  After John and Brent arrived back with the pizza, everyone gathered in the living room around the TV.  Will chose to sit next to Mark on the loveseat, unwittingly displacing Chris from his normal place.  Seeing the frown when the brat noticed his seat taken, Mark had quickly jumped in.  "Chris, sit here, please." He pointed to a spot at his feet.  "This way you can put your coke on the table and lean against the loveseat."

 

"That's OK.  I'll just sit over here so I can see the movie better." 

 

Mark watched with some concern as Chris settled down across the room.  Many brats did not handle change well, and the introduction of William was the first big change that had occurred in the Cottage since Chris's arrival 2 months ago.  Hoping that their late night discussions had eased his fears, Mark promised himself to keep a close eye on the young man.

 

"There's no pepperoni and sausage left," Chris said halfway through dinner.

 

"Oh," Jason replied with a slight smirk. "This must have been the last piece." He indicated the untouched piece on his plate.  Before Chris could open his mouth, he smiled sweetly and, picking up the piece, took a large bite out of it.

 

"Jason!" Chris yelled. "You're such an asshole!"

 

"Christopher!" Mark chastised him.

 

"Jason!" Andrew said at the same time.

 

The other brats, save William, all chuckled softly behind their cokes.  The relationship between those two was never placid. Either they were best of friends and plotting some scheme or they were at each other's throats. 

 

"He took the last piece of pizza that I wanted, and then he deliberately took a bite out of it, even though he knew I wanted it!" Chris yelled, pleading his case to his Top.

 

"It was MY piece!" Jason countered.  "I got it first. It was on MY plate. Why shouldn't I eat it?"

 

"That is no excuse for using language like that," Mark answered Chris.

 

"You're allowed to eat it, but you're not allowed to deliberately taunt someone with it.  Give it here," Andrew told Jason, holding out his hand.

 

"Apologize," Mark ordered his brat. "I don't want to hear you calling someone that name, or anything else vulgar, again."

 

"NO!" Jason protested. "It's mine.  I can't help it that he's a big baby."

 

"Young man,” Andrew said calmly, but firmly, still holding out his hand.  "One.  Two--"

 

"Fine!" Jason shoved the plate and the pizza in Andrew's direction.

 

Taking the plate, he Looked at his Brat.  "I highly suggest you drop the attitude right now, or you and I are going to go back into my study and discuss it.  You also owe Chris an apology."

 

"And I told you to apologize, Christopher," Mark repeated.

 

Jason looked at the other brat, and said in a toneless voice, "I'm sorry I taunted you with the last piece of pizza you wanted."  He risked a glance at his Top and, at Andrew's expression, he hastily added, "Sorry, Chris.  I was just kidding around."

 

Mark held his breath, hoping that Chris was not going to push, but his hopes were dashed and he was already on his feet when he saw his Brat's expression.

 

With folded arms and a stubborn expression, he announced, "I'm not apologizing to that asshole."

 

Snapping his fingers, Mark said, "Christopher, get up.  Come with me."

 

"No.  I don't want to," he replied stubbornly, face set in a pout.

 

Walking over and crouching down beside him, Mark said quietly, "Christopher, get up and come with me.  You're in trouble already.   This performance is only getting you further in trouble."  Standing back up, he held out his hand patiently.

 

Chris closed his eyes for a minute, swallowing hard and then, opening his eyes again, took Mark's hand.  He was shaking as they walked out of the room together and down the hall.

 

"Ok, everyone, back to the movie, please," Andrew said. "Mark will take care of it, and it's none of anyone else's business."

 

A few minutes later, Chris's voice could be heard from down the hall.

 

"NO!!  Mark! Please, don't!"

 

Will's head snapped up at the sound, turning toward the hall, his face growing pale.

 

"Stop!!" Chris yelled again, sounding truly panicked.

 

At that cry, Jason and Taylor turned toward the hall.

 

Getting up, Andrew walked over to the connecting door and shut it firmly.  "It's all right.  You all know that.  Chris is probably getting his mouth washed out.  He's fine."

 

"That stuff is horrid," Brent spoke up. "I'd be yelling, too."

 

"Yeah, Andrew, do you guys put something in there to make it taste especially bad?" Taylor asked with a laugh, and the atmosphere relaxed for everyone but William.  He was still sitting stiffly on the couch, ears straining to hear down the hall.

 

The Top smiled. "Is there something else you would like yours to taste like, Taylor?  If I remember correctly, the last batch I made up for you was flavored with squid ink and cod liver oil, with a little bit of bitter root thrown in for that extra kick."

 

"Oh, is that what it was?  See, Jason, I told you it was bitter root!"

 

Jason laughed and teased back. "Did you put that in my soapsicles, too, Andrew?"

 

He smiled and said with mock seriousness, "Yes.  I found after years of research that while cod liver oil coats the mouth with a disgusting taste, the bitter root flavor stays there long after the soapsicle has been removed and the Brat has been allowed to rinse."

 

"Wow," Brent said in mock admiration. "Think how lucky we all are to have your years of experience and hard work, helping to mold us into Brats that make The Island proud."

 

They all laughed, the tension gone from the room.  Down the hall, water ran for a brief minute before shutting off again.

 

Andrew heard it and said, "Taylor, why don't you rewind the movie to where we were before we were interrupted?  This way no one misses any of it."

 

A moment later, while the movie was rewinding, the door to the TV room opened and a red-faced and tearful Chris stepped in, followed closely by Mark.

 

"I'm sorry I called you a vulgar name, Jason," he said simply, his voice still thick with tears.

 

"Good boy," Mark praised, sitting back down on the loveseat.  He held out his arms to Chris when he saw the young man hesitate. "Come on.  Come sit with me for a few minutes and watch the movie.  I don't think we've missed anything."

 

Chris settled down on his lap, facing the TV, his head resting against Mark's chest, with a heartfelt sigh.  Tightening his arms around him, the Top kissed his forehead and whispered something too soft for anyone else to hear.  Catching Andrew's eye, he gave a wink and a small smile.  Andrew smiled back and shook his head slightly.  Both conveyed the same message of love, respect and slight bewilderment for the Brats placed in their care.

 

Glancing over at William, Mark noted with satisfaction that he seemed all right, happily watching the movie and eating well.  He did not see the tightly clenched hands in the young man's lap, helping to control the waves of fear that were racing through him.

 

The movie ended an hour later, to everyone's disappointment.

 

"Can we watch another one?" Brent asked, hopefully.

 

Andrew shook his head. "No, not tonight.  It's a school night and you all need to get ready for bed in an hour.  I'm sure you can find something on regular TV to watch for an hour, assuming that your homework is all done."

 

"I'm hungry," John announced.

 

Mark laughed. "You just ate."

 

He shrugged. "I know, but I'm hungry."

 

"Is anyone else?"  After a quick chorus of yesses, Mark gently nudged Chris, who was still curled up on his lap.  "Can you lose your seat for a few minutes while I go and make some popcorn?"

 

The Brat nodded. "Thanks," he whispered. "I'm sorry."

 

Mark kissed him on the forehead again. "It's okay.  Just keep your mouth clean and I won't have to wash it out for you."

 

He nodded again and wiggled off Mark's lap, sitting back down on the loveseat next to William as Mark stood up and walked into the kitchen.  "You're being quiet," he commented.

 

Will looked at him. "Oh.  Just thinking, I guess."

 

"Okay," he smiled.  "We're all really glad you're here. This is the best cottage to be in.  Not too restrictive, but enough that it's good. And Mark and Andrew are great.  But you already know how great a Temp Top Mark is."

 

Will smiled back, relaxing slightly. "Yeah.  It seems like it."

 

"Andrew!" Mark called from the kitchen. "Your private line is ringing."

 

"Answer it for me, please. I'll be right there," he called back, standing up.  "Taylor, pick something and stop flipping channels, please."  He headed into his room to pick up his line in there.

 

Jason glanced toward the swinging door and then turned to Chris.  "God, you're such a baby, Chris.  Can't you even take a joke?" he jeered, throwing a small pillow at him.

 

Catching the pillow and hurling it back, Chris shouted, "You're the baby, Jason! You started it!"

 

"Only an asshole like you wouldn't be able to take the joke, and get us both in trouble!" Jason retorted, throwing the pillow full force at Chris.

 

"Guys…" Taylor said, "you both better cool it or you're going to end up sleeping on your stomachs with soapy mouths."

 

Jason smirked. "Too late for some of us on that score, huh, Chris?  God, we could hear you all the way in here, crying like a little baby."

 

"Shut up, Jason!" John said, jumping to his friend's defense. "You're so full of shit.  That was low, and we've all heard you do your share of crying in Andrew's office."

 

"Stay out of it, John!" Brent shot back.  "Chris is the one who turned Jason's stupid joke into a big deal!"

 

Chris had stood up and stalked over to Jason, who had jumped up, still holding the pillow.  "Take it back!  I'm not a baby!" he spat.

 

"You're full of shit!" Brent yelled back, jumping to his feet. No one cared any longer if Mark or Andrew heard; the emotions were running too high.

 

"Baby, baby, baby!" Jason taunted a second before Chris hit him.

 

Andrew heard the yelling from his room and quickly said to his father, "Got to go!" before hanging up and hurrying back to the living room, just as Mark came through the back door, carrying the empty garbage can from the kitchen. 

 

"What is going on?" he asked, following Andrew into the living room.

 

Rushing into the room, the two Tops were momentarily stunned by the chaos.

 

Brent and John were standing face-to-face, trading insults, while Chris and Jason were rolling around on the floor, trading blows.  Taylor had moved against the wall to be out of the way, and William sat on the couch, watching the four combatants.

 

"Stop!" Andrew ordered, his voice barely above his normal speaking voice, but the tone freezing everyone.

 

Ten minutes later, after much finger-pointing and denials, sentencing was passed.

 

"Brent, wait for me in the corner of my bathroom.  Jason, corner in my study," Andrew ordered, with Mark issuing similar orders to his two brats. 

 

After the four sulked off to their respected places, Andrew and Mark conferred quietly.

 

"Soap and a spanking for Chris and Jason?" Andrew asked.

 

"That's what I was thinking. Just soap for John and Brent since they weren't actually physically fighting."

 

"I was thinking three minutes for the soap."

 

"I think that's good, except for Chris.  I have to go up to four with him.  We just talked about this," Mark complained in frustration.

 

"I know."  Patting his friend on the shoulder, Andrew said, "I'll talk to you later tonight, after they are all settled."

 

Mark nodded.  Walking back to the loveseat, he sat down with William.  "You okay?" he asked.

 

"I'm fine.  I understand.  I remember what being back in a Cottage is like," he said simply.

 

"And you're okay with that?  With what's happened tonight?  With what's going to happen?"

 

The other man nodded. "Yeah.  It's fine.  I understand."  Standing up, he shrugged off Mark's hand. "I'm going to go ahead and turn in.  I'm tired and there's nothing on TV.  Cal suggested a book I might like and I'm trying to finish it before he and I meet again."

 

"Okay.  I'll be in to check on you after I get Chris and John settled."

 

Shrugging again, he said, "If you want.  I'm okay, though."

 

As they stood up, Mark embraced him. "I'll be in to check on you in about an hour.  And," he said before Will could open his mouth, "I know you're okay, so just consider this therapy for me."

 

Walking to Will's room together, Mark gave him one last hug before continuing down the hall to his own suite.

 

Once inside, he saw Chris standing in the corner stiffly, biting his nails.  "Hands down, Christopher," Mark ordered.  "I'll be back to deal with you in a few minutes. Until then, you can stand there and think about the conversation we had less then two hours ago, and why we are repeating it.  Go ahead and remove your jeans. You know the penalty for fighting."

 

"Yes, sir," the other man replied miserably.

 

Opening the small refrigerator that he kept in his study, Mark removed a container with John's name on it, then continued on into the small bathroom.  Pausing for a moment in the doorway, he saw John nervously shuffling in the corner there.

 

Sighing, Mark shut the door. "All right, turn around."  John turned, but didn't look up, instead finding comfort in the floor tiles.  "Look at me, please," Mark said, setting the container down on the sink and opening it.  "Anything you want to say, besides the finger-pointing I heard in the living room?"

 

John shook his head. "I'm sorry.  I just lost my temper."

 

"I know," Mark said, turning on the water and briefly running the soap under it.  Shutting the water off, he shook the soap off a little to remove the excess liquid.  "Open up." He stepped toward him.

 

John balked slightly, leaning away from Mark and the soap. "I'm sorry," he said again.

 

"I know.  But that doesn't change what you said in the living room and the fact that you know it's not allowed.  Now," he ordered firmly, "open your mouth."

 

"How long?" John asked, opening his mouth and scrunching his eyes shut.

 

"Don't worry about.  I'll let you know when you can take it out," Mark told him calmly, putting the soap in. "Close your mouth and turn back around."  Glancing at his watch, he leaned against the sink and watched without pleasure as John squirmed in the corner, reminding the young man several times to stand still and to keep his hands down.  After three long minutes, he said softly, "Okay, little one.  You can turn around."  John turned, tears streaming down his face, and quickly opened his mouth.  Removing the soap by the protruding stick, Mark stepped back from the sink, saying, "Go ahead, you can rinse for a minute or so."

 

While John tried desperately to remove the foul taste from his mouth, Mark put the soap back into its box and returned it to the refrigerator.  Returning to the bathroom and again closing the door, he said, "Okay, that's enough."  He opened his arms and John fell into them, crying softly and promising never to swear again.  It didn't take too long for John to calm down enough for Mark to walk him to his bedroom.  Watching him get ready for bed, Mark said, "I'll be back to check on you later.  No getting up.  The taste is suppose to stay in your mouth for a while."

 

Nodding dejectedly, John murmured a soft, "Okay" and continued to get undressed.

 

Sighing to himself, Mark went back to his rooms, steeling himself to deal with Chris.

 

Chris was still crying and pleading after Mark led him out of the bathroom five minutes later.

 

"Nooooo," he moaned. "Please don't, Mark!"

 

Ignoring him, Mark sat down in one of the chairs, slid Chris's boxers down, and pulled him over his knees.  "Why, Christopher?  We've talked about not letting Jason get to you.  We had this very conversation not two hours ago, when you got in trouble for swearing at him."

 

"I don't know.  I'm sorry.  He just gets to me!" Chris whimpered through his tears, struggling to get up.

 

Tightening his hold, Mark began to rub the other man's back. "I know, but we need to work on it.  Each time you let him get to you, you're going to find yourself in trouble.  How many times do we need to have this conversation?"

 

"I'm sorry! Please, don't!  I won't do it again," he cried, his voice rising.

 

"Well, that's up to you.  But you know, each time you do, you're going to find yourself in this position, and since this is the third time, young man," Mark lectured, raising Chris' t-shirt and exposing his bottom, "if it happens again, you're going to be paddled for it."  He raised his hand and brought it down sharply against the bare skin, leaving a red handprint.  Methodically, the Top covered every inch of the exposed bottom until it was red, hot, and angry.  He ignored the cries and pleas for him to stop, cries that slowly tapered off as the reality that the punishment was going to continue, regardless of promises, sank in. 

 

Several long minutes later, Mark sensed a change in the young man over his knees. The pleas and wails had turned into more repentant cries, and the struggles had all but ceased.  Judging that his message had gotten through, he delivered five quick, hard swats to the center of Chris' bottom and then laid his hand on the hot skin.

 

"I'm so sorry," Chris sobbed, his nose running and his voice thick.

 

"I know.  It's over now," Mark soothed as he rubbed the Brat's back and allowed him to calm down a little.  A minute or so later, he let him slide down to his knees, bringing fresh tears and cries at the movement of abused muscles.

 

Letting him stay there for a minute, Mark sat in the chair, hugging him from above, continuing to whisper comforting words. "Come on, little one," he finally said. "Let's go lay down in your room, okay?" 

 

Chris nodded and, without letting go of the death grip he had around Mark's chest, slowly and stiffly stood up. Crying again at the movement and sheer emotional release, he stood there, tightly gripping Mark's shirt for a long moment.

 

Gently moving him along, but without requiring that he let go, Mark made their way slowly down the hall and into the darkened bedroom.  Not bothering with lights or clothes, he peeled the damp t-shirt off the shaking body and gently helped him into bed.

 

Chris rolled immediately onto his stomach, clutching his pillow and crying softly.

 

Sitting on the edge of the bed, Mark rubbed his back and whispered comforting words in the darkness.  Twenty minutes later, the crying had slackened off to the occasional sniffle and wiggle to get comfortable, then he heard the other man give a deep sigh and become still.  From past experience, he recognized the sign that the Brat was now fast asleep, and would probably not awaken until the morning alarm.  He quietly slipped out of the room and into John's room next door. 

 

He was fast asleep, the light on and a book still open on his chest.  Brushing back the tangled hair and straightening the covers, Mark marked the place in the book and turned off the light.

 

"Is Chris okay?" John’s sleepy voice asked from the dark.

 

"I thought you were asleep," Mark whispered back, sitting down on the bed.

 

"I was, but I could hear him crying and yelling and he sounded pretty upset, and I was--" his question was interrupted by a loud yawn. "I was just hoping he's okay."

 

Smiling in the dark, Mark leaned down and kissed the other man. "He's fine.  He's asleep, like you should be.  You know how he is. He screams, cries and begs and is always okay."

 

"Yeah.  Good night."  Another yawn broke free and a minute later, he was asleep again.

 

Slipping out of that room, and continuing down the hall, Mark paused outside Will's door, frowning at the light coming from underneath it.  Knocking, he waited a moment before going in.  The sight before him left him stunned for a moment.

 

"What are you doing?" he asked, trying to keep his voice level and calm.

 

Will looked up from his packing, tears streaming down his face. "I can't do this.  I have to leave," he said breathlessly.

 

"What?  Why?" Mark asked, struggling to catch up by shift in events.

 

"I can't deal with that." He waved his hand in the general direction of Mark's office.  "I can't.  I can't hear the screams of pain and someone begging for help and wait for you to stop beating him and you NOT!" his voice broke.  "I thought you were different.  I thought this place was different."  Sobbing, he continued to shove items into his suitcase.

 

Walking over to him and gently taking his hands, Mark softly ordered, "Stop, William."  The other man tried to jerk away but the Top held firm. Thinking back to his conversation with Cal the week before, he decided the therapist might be right.  Drawing William away from the bed and suitcase, despite the protest, he sat down in the large, comfortable chair in the corner, and forced the young man down on his lap.  "You need to be still for a few minutes, and we're going to talk about this and what's going on."

 

William struggled to free his hands and get up. "Nooo.  I want up.  Let go of me.  You can't keep me here!"

 

"Yes, I can, William," Mark said calmly, his voice low. "Now, calm down.  We aren't talking until you calm down and you aren't getting up until we talk."  When Will didn't answer, he continued,  "I know this is upsetting."

 

"You don't know anything," Will accused hatefully.

 

"It's hard to hear someone you like and consider a friend be upset and in pain.  And," Mark continued, "he was in pain tonight.  It hurts to be spanked.  It's not pleasant to have your mouth washed out.  But he wasn't injured.  If you asked him now about it, he'd tell you that.  Chris is a very vocal individual, he screams and cries loudly and often when he's being punished.  That's just who he is."

 

"But you didn't stop, even though you hurt him," Will said softly. "I thought you were different.  I thought you cared."

 

Hugging him tightly, Mark was happy to feel him relax slightly into his arms. "No, I didn't stop just because he asked me to.  He was being punished and part of the deterrent to bad behavior is to make the consequences unpleasant enough that the person thinks twice before doing it again."  Letting go of one hand, Mark began to rub Will's back gently, feeling the younger man relax more into him.  "I do care.  Chris has a problem with his temper and letting people to get to him.  He needs to stop or he's going to end up in serious trouble.  That's the behavior I'm trying to curb."

 

"Peter didn't stop, either, even though I begged him to,” Will said softly, and then, turning his head into Mark's shoulder, began to cry. "I swear I did.  I tried to pay attention to what he wanted and remember and not cause problems.  But he wasn't clear and things seemed to change all the time.  I tried.  I swear to you…"

 

Mark held him close and rocked him gently. "I know, little one.  I know you did, and it wasn't your fault.  I'm sure you were as good as possible.  But I don't think good had anything to do with it.  Peter has problems that have nothing to do with you or your behavior."

 

"Maybe Chris is like that.  Maybe he's trying but you keep changing the rules on him.  And you keep punishing him and beating him and it's not his fault," he said, still crying.

 

"No, it's not like that.  Remember how this works?"

 

Will shook his head.

 

"There are specific rules that Chris - that everyone - knows.  Remember?  They're in your book about The Island.  And I didn't beat him tonight.  I spanked him."

 

"Peter spanked me, too."

 

"A discipline relationship involves more than spanking someone, Will. There is a lot of discipline going on in this cottage that doesn't involve any punishment at all. It's about setting rules for a Brat that will help him grow, about taking care of his emotional needs."

 

"But he set rules for me."

 

"He set rules for you, but he wasn't interested in making sure that you understood them and that you could follow them. He was interested in power and control. That is Not discipline." Mark tried to explain things clearly and simply, wishing that he had Cal or Ryan were there to help him out. "Look at the committed Tops and Brats on The Island - Emerson and Philip, Hayes and John, Ryan and Ben. They obey their tops out of love and respect, because they know their Tops care for them. They don't like discipline, but they aren't afraid of it."

"I'm afraid of Peter," Will admitted softly.  "I hated hearing his car come up the driveway.  I'd get this sick feeling in my stomach.  I'd be paranoid about what I had done during the day or not done or what would set him off."

 

"And that's a clear sign that you need to get out. If you hate your partner and you're afraid of him, if the rules change too fast for you to keep up, there is something very, very wrong." He wrapped his arms more tightly around the younger man. "We're sorry, Will. We're so, so sorry that this happened to you.

 

Will shrugged. "It's fine."

 

"It's NOT fine, Will. It goes against everything we believe and everything we stand for. We work so hard to show that discipline and abuse are totally different and it takes one man like Peter to ruin everything we've accomplished."

 

"I don't know.  Tonight just really upset me.  I'm sorry, it won't happen again."

 

"No, Will." Mark spoke firmly, wondering if he was getting through. "Don't try to hide your feelings. They're valid. You have a right to be unsure or afraid. But the only way we can deal with those fears is to bring them out in the open."

 

"Yelling just really bothers me," Will confessed quietly.

 

"Have I ever yelled at you, Will? Did Andrew yell tonight?"

 

"No," he admitted, "you didn't.  Neither one of you did. But Chris screaming for you to stop really bothered me."

 

"Chris is a very vocal young man. When he *doesn't* yell is the time I worry about him. But you won't hear a Top or a Temp Top ever raise his voice in anger while you're on The Island. We are taught that you should be able to handle the situation, and yourself, without giving even the appearance of being out of control."

 

"I didn't remember what it was like."

 

"What what was like?"

 

"Here… this place.  Not being afraid of a spilled glass of coke or a raised voice."

 

"No, there's nothing to be afraid of here," Mark assured him gently.

 

They stayed silent for a long time before Mark spoke again. "I'm going to talk to Brothers, in Education, and get you in some Brat classes.

 

"But I've taken them already.  I don't need them and I have a job. I have to work. They count on me!" His voice rose again. "I'm sorry.  I know I've done a horrible job, but I can do better.  Please don't send me down."

 

"Shhhh," Mark said. "This has nothing to do with you or how well you've done.  I just think that being around more Orphans, listening to the lectures and reading their materials, would be good for you right now.  I think you've forgotten some things that are very important about Discipline relationships and what they mean and what they don't mean."

 

"If you think it's a good idea," Will hesitantly gave in.

 

Mark pulled him in close and kissed him on the forehead. "I do."

 

********************

 

“I don’t want to see him,” William said firmly. “I hate him and I don’t want to see him again.”

 

Cal nodded. “I know, and you don’t have to see him.  No one is going to force you to see him.  He won’t be allowed anywhere near you.”

 

“Okay. I just don’t want to deal with him,” he repeated.

 

“You won’t.  You won’t even know he’s on The Island.  But, in order to permanently remove his membership, The Island’s policies do require a meeting by the offender and the Board.  I’ve talked to them all and Mark can read your statement.  If there is anything they need to ask you, Mark will get you on speakerphone and we’ll take care of it that way.”

 

“Will he be able to hear me?”

 

“Yes, but he won’t be able to speak to you.”

 

William nodded and then grew silent, laying his head on his drawn up knees, looking out the window.  After a minute, he said softly, “His membership needs to be removed and he can’t be allowed near any other Brats.”

 

Getting up, Cal stood by him and hugged him as best he could in his position. “It will be.  Ryan is determined, and is also determined to blackball him from the entire discipline community.”

 

A day later, the private plane set down with its single passenger.  Jake Mullins, Director of Security, and two of his men were there to greet the plane and Peter.  As the Top stepped off the plane, Jake stepped up to meet him. 

 

“Mr. Melnyk, I’m Jake Mullins, Director of Security for The Island.  We have some ground rules that we will need your understanding and agreement on before we can allow you any further.  If you don’t agree to these restrictions, Hank will be happy to fly you back to the mainland and your membership with this organization will be terminated by default.”

 

Peter shook his head. “So I’m already tried and found to be guilty before I’m even allowed to present my side.  Go ahead with your rules, Director of Security Mullins. I’m not here to cause problems, just to retrieve my runaway brat and clear my name.”

 

Ignoring the other man’s tone, Mullins continued, “Good.  Problems will make your time with us much more difficult.  First off, you will be escorted everywhere by one of my men.” He indicated the two men standing nearby.  “Tim Runyon and Ron Emmons will be your shadows.  If they are not with you, you are not allowed to leave your suite.”

 

Peter interrupted angrily. “So I’m to be under constant guard like a common criminal?”

 

“We take the safety of this island’s occupants extremely seriously, Mr. Melnyk, and you are charged with causing extreme harm to one of The Island’s Brats. You will be under constant supervision.  If you don’t agree, the plane is still here to take you back.”  He paused, looking the man straight in the eyes.  When Peter did not answer, he continued.  “Your meals will be taken in your suite.  The Cafeteria, the Brat Cottage Compound and the Classrooms are all off limits to you.  If you are found in any of these areas or anywhere else on this island without an escort, you will be taken directly to the airport or harbor and escorted off The Island, forfeiting your membership.”

 

“Fine.”

 

“You are not, under no circumstances, to try to talk to or pass a message along to any Brat or Temp Top here. Again, any violation of this rule will result in immediate expulsion.  Is that clear?”

 

 “Crystal.”

 

Mullins looked at him. “Mr. Melnyk, you are only going to be here for two days. Make life easier on yourself. Drop the attitude and obey the rules.  If you’re innocent of these charges and a truly concerned Top, then you understand that the safety and well-being of the Brats is placed above everything else.”

 

“I understand. I just want to see my lover and know he’s okay.  I haven’t seen him or heard from him in a month and it’s killing me.  I’m sorry I’m acting this way.”

 

 “It’s fine, Mr. Melnyk.  I’m just doing my job, my men are doing theirs and it will make life easier on all of us if you simply follow the rules. Now,” he said, indicating the cart, “why don’t we escort you to your suite and you can relax before your meeting this evening.”

 

“I will, and thanks for your help and understanding.” He smiled at the security officer.

 

Throwing his bag on the bed, Peter paced angrily around the well-appointed suite.  Looking out the window, he saw that he had a wonderful view of the harbor from the third floor room in the Administration Building.  Leaning out as far as he could,  he still was not able see any part of the main compound or it’s occupants.  Picking up his key from the table, he jerked open the door and stepped out.

 

 “Can I help you, sir?” a voice asked from behind him.

 

Turning, he saw Emmons standing there.

 

“Just getting a coke from the machine.”

 

“Actually, sir, if you’ll check in the refrigerator, it should be fully stocked.  If not, please let me know and I’ll have housekeeping bring some up for you,” the man answered pleasantly.

 

Forcing himself to smile, Peter nodded his head and thanked him before stepping back into his rooms and shutting the door. 

 

Three hours later, he found himself sitting in the large conference room two floors below his suite.  Ryan, Emerson, and Hayes sat across from him. 

 

“Mr. Melnyk, we are here today to address the charges brought by your partner, William Riddick.  It is our understanding that you dispute the charges and wish to retain your membership with The Island,” Emerson, as Director of Tops, started.

 

 “Yes.  The incident that occurred on Sunday and Monday night last month was nothing more then a discipline session that my Brat balked at after the fact. He then ran away crying wolf as soon as my back was turned.”  He paused and looked around the room. “I understand your concerns and I realize that some of my actions were uncalled for and out of line--"

 

“Which actions are those, Mr. Melnyk?” Hayes asked, interrupting him.

 

“There are two that I regret.  First, slapping Billy across the face for talking back to me Monday night.  That was completely out of line and even though I apologized, it never should have happened in the first place.  I would be very open to counseling or retraining classes, whatever The Island feels best.”  He glanced down at the table briefly, as if ashamed of himself.  “The second was carelessness on my part.  I knew that Billy and I had engaged in rough sex on Sunday.  Even though I checked him on Sunday night and Monday morning, I should have continued to check him, especially after being forced to paddle him on Monday.”

 

“We have your full account of those nights in your report?” Emerson asked, indicating a file on the table.

 

“Yes, sir.”

 

“Just so that we are all aware of what is going to happen over the next couple of days,” he explained, “let me go over it.  Even though this is a private club and we have the power to simply dismiss people at the will of the Board, we try to be more fair.  We will start with William’s version of the two nights, followed by impartial testimony by Jeffries, and in the form of several reports submitted by Dr. Al Johnson and The Island’s own physician.  Then, you will present your version and any evidence you have, character statements, whatever you wish to counter William’s claim.  Please understand that if William does not wish to return to you, he is under no obligation to do so and may stay on The Island as long as he wishes, regardless of our ruling.  This conference is to solely decide if your membership is to be revoked or not.”

 

“So, even if I’m found innocent by the Board, I still won’t be allowed to see Billy?” Peter asked, his voice thick with emotion.

 

“That’s for William to decide, not us,” Ryan replied crisply. 

 

“But,” Emerson said, interrupting Ryan, “if you retain your membership with The Island, I’m sure that some compromise can be worked out between Mark - William’s Temporary Top - the counseling staff and you, to see if your relationship can be worked on and maybe, through re-education and counseling, saved.”

 

Peter nodded. “Okay.  I just love him so much.  I want to at least have the chance to talk to him, find out what happened and see if there’s any hope of us getting back together.”  He twisted his Island ring nervously. “I just can’t imagine my life without him.” 

 

“You may need to accept the fact, though, that he can imagine his life without you and it’s looking pretty good,” Ryan shot back.

 

Giving his friend a brief, hard glare, Emerson spoke up again. “I think we all need to keep in mind that we all want what’s best for William, and until your membership status is cleared, Mr. Melnyk, it’s a bit premature to be talking about your relationship with him.”

 

Peter nodded gravely. “Of course.  I understand, and I also want what’s best for Billy.  It’s just that it's been a month since I’ve seen him, and I miss him.”

 

"Yes.  Of course," Emerson said, rising to his feet and indicating the meeting was over.  "We'll see you tomorrow morning at eight.  Enjoy your evening." The other men stood and began to gather up their notes.

 

"Mr. Emerson," Peter said hesitantly, "do you think it would be possible for me to see Billy tonight?  Under any circumstance you all want," he added quickly.

 

"No," Ryan stated firmly before Emerson had a chance to say anything, and then turned and walked out of the room.

 

Ten minutes later, Emerson knocked on Ryan's door and walked in, not waiting for an invitation.  "What the hell, Ry?  You may not like Melnyk, I may not like him, he may be Satan incarnate, but we have a policy about innocent until proven guilty.  And unless you want to bring it to the Board to adopt a more Napoleonic code around here, he deserves to be treated civilly, Ryan.  If you can't control yourself better than this evening, I think you need to excuse yourself from tomorrow's hearing." 

 

"Are you quite done?" Ryan asked coolly.

 

Emerson rolled his eyes. "Don't give me that tone, Ry.  You learned it from your father and I knew him, too. And he," he paused and smiled sweetly, "did it a hell of a lot better."

 

The two men locked eyes for a long minute, before Ryan finally broke contact.  "He just makes me so mad, Em."

 

"I know.  He is trying to play us.  Brats have been known to blow things out of proportion, that's true, but Will isn't acting like that.  He's acting like someone who's been abused and more than once."

 

"I hope the others can see that tomorrow."

 

"They will, no doubt in my mind.  And, you know, if they don't, William is still safe from him.  We'll require that he have a cooling off period and then some retraining before he's allowed anywhere near the Brats."

 

"Yeah.  It'll be okay," Ryan said, picking up a pencil and twirling it on his fingers.  "We aren't going to fail him again."

 

"No.  We won't."  Then, taking a long look at him, Emerson smiled.  "Go home, Ryan.  You have a brand new Brat waiting for you at home.  Let him take care of you; enjoy going home to someone.  Eight months is too soon to start working all hours and spending the night in your office."

 

Ryan laughed. "Yeah.  Benjamin is amazing.  I can't believe I'm fortunate enough to come home to him every night."

 

Later that evening, Ryan lay face down on their bed while Ben straddled him.  "You need to relax, love.  I hate it when you get so tense." he said softly, rubbing his partner’s shoulders.

 

"I'm sorry, Benlove.  Just a bad meeting today."

 

"You meet with that Top that beat up his partner?"

 

"Yeah.  He's playing games."  Ben didn't say anything, just continued rubbing across Ryan's shoulders and down his back.  "I'm worried that the Board is going to fall for them."

 

"They won't, don't worry about it.  If you can see through him, they can."

 

"I just don't know … I feel so responsible for what happened to William."

 

"But you're not responsible," Ben said softly, leaning down and kissing his shoulder blades.  "No one here would knowingly allow something like this to happen.  So, you do the only thing you can do after the fact.  Pick up the pieces and try to fix it."  Getting off his partner, the younger man stretched full out on the bed, facing Ryan.  "I know you and I love you.  I know you'll make it right," he said with a kiss.

 

"Your faith in me is a little scary."

 

Leaning in and snuggling up close, Ben said softly, "Not to me.  I have complete faith in you and I know you.  I wouldn't have committed to you if I didn't have that.  Now, close your eyes and let me take care of you for a little while."

 

"I thought I was supposed to take care of you in this relationship?"

 

Ben laughed. "Nope.  Not all the time.  I can give as good as I get."

 

*************

 

Carefully holding a folder full of papers, Peter sat down in the same chair that he had earlier in the day.  Before him sat 13 members of the 15 member Board.  He smiled at them briefly before pulling out and organizing his papers.

 

Glancing at the clock, Emerson said, "All right.  I think we can begin.  For the record, the Board of Directors is assembled in it's entirety, save the Director of Budget and Direct of Human Resources, both exercising their right to reserve judgment since their departments are not affected.  Also in the room are Mark Doggertt, past and current Temporary Top of William Riddick, and Peter Melnyk, current partner of William, and whose membership is up for discussion today. This morning we heard those speaking for William. This afternoon we'll be going over your version of the incident."

 

"I really appreciate the opportunity to talk to you all and hopefully get this settled," Peter said, smiling a little, nervously holding a file of papers.

"Good. We'd like to get this cleared up as soon as possible," Emerson said for the group.  Several other Board members nodded and murmured their agreement.

Peter glanced at the table, and sighed slightly.  "It's been a long month and I really miss having Billy with me."

 

"We can understand that. But we need to determine what's best for everyone," Dr. Herman Marco said evenly.


"Exactly. I only want what's best for Billy. That's all I've ever wanted." Peter looked around the room. "If I may," he held up the papers, "I'd like to share some references from members of our own community, to show you how strong our relationship is. I'm not sure why he's doing this, but I'm not angry. I just want it settled."

Emerson nodded his agreement and held out his hand for the papers that Peter passed to him. 

 

After they were distributed to the various members, Jake Mullins, Director of Security asked, "Which community is this? Are any of these from people associated with The Island?"


Flipping to a table of contents, Peter said, "Yes, pages B, E and G are The Island members. The rest are various members of the S&M community, the discipline community and members of our churches in Chicago and our previous home in Boston."

There were several minutes of quiet while the members flipped through the report and read sections of the letters.

 

"Thank for this information, Mr. Melnyk, I'm very impressed by these people's opinion of your relationship with William and how William has grown in this relationship," Emerson said, with the agreement by Mullins and Brothers.

 

"I'm sure that we'll be speaking to these people. Meanwhile, could you tell us your version of what happened on the day in question?" Ryan asked tersely.

 
"Please contact them. At the bottom of each statement, you'll find their contact information." He looked around again, "Basically what happened that evening was that Billy spilled a coke in the living room, after many discussions about not bringing drinks into that room. His attitude and refusal to be disciplined forced me to increase his punishment to a paddling. After that was over, I had an emergency with a mutual friend and, after checking on Billy, left for approximately 50 minutes. When I returned, he was gone. I received a message from Philip Quinn about 30 minutes later. That's all."

 

"What about his charges that you raped him?" Hayes asked.

 
"I'm sorry. I don't know what you're talking about. I've never raped him," Melnyk replied in a stunned voice.

 
"According to the medical reports..." Herm began, indicating a folder next to him.  "There were several lacerations and tears indicated forceful entry, with lack of preparation and lube."


"No. I'm sorry. That was not rape. Billy had a choice, and we had talked about me taking more control over him. He could, and later did, choose to make love. We talked about it and we both decided that as his Top, I had the ultimate say over his actions and his body. This was something we both talked about and agreed to. He was fine with what happened. He was fine and not hurt at all Sunday night or when I left him Monday morning.  He was home all day alone. It's possible he was pleasuring himself with the plugs after I left and accidentally hurt himself."
 
"I've had several conversations with William," Cal began, emphasizing his name. "He clearly states that he was not happy with the situation and he exhibits all the signs of an abuse victim

 

Shaking his head slowly, Peter said, "I'm sorry. This is coming as a surprise me, too. We talked about this, we bought the plugs together, we used them several times together. He never gave me any indication that he was unhappy."

 

"And you didn't realize that he was torn and bleeding after their use?" Cal asked.

"I think he already said that, Cal," Pritchard said curtly.

 

"I would never have proceeded if I knew he was torn. I routinely checked him out after each session. I'm sorry that he was hurt. It was never on purpose and I would have taken him to the doctors immediately if I had known. You have to believe me." His voice cracked

A murmur briefly filled the room before Emerson called the group back to order.  "Let's proceed, people."
 

*************

 

“I’m sorry Ryan, I’m not saying that Riddick is lying, so much as I’m saying that we can’t be completely sure about what really happened,” Mullins said evenly.  “We all know that Brats sometimes exaggerate, sometimes make a mountain out of a mole hill, and, " he looked around, “sometimes they out and out lie if they think it will save their butts.”

 

Ryan frowned at him, “That’s not the case here.  Melnyk beat and sexually abused his partner.  I know it, Mark knows it, Jeff--“

 

Hayes interrupted, “Ryan, calm down please--“

 

“Don’t tell me to calm down, Hayes! This is a serious matter that we can’t just blow off and dismiss because it’s a Top’s word against a Brat’s word, and you all are jumping to the conclusion that the Brat is lying!” he exclaimed, his voice rising in frustration and anger.

 

“Ryan,” Emerson said firmly, “no one is jumping to conclusions or automatically dismissing this as a Brat crying wolf.  We all have an equal vote here and it’s a vote we need to consider very carefully.  No one is automatically saying yea or nay.”

 

 “I have no problem doing that,” Ryan replied stubbornly. “This man is evil, and I don’t want him near any of my Brats.”

 

“Why are we bothering to discuss this then, if Lord Ryan has spoken?” Mullins asked sarcastically.

 

Feeling a bit like one of the Temp Tops with a cottage full of quarreling Brats, Emerson bit back a reply, focussing instead in on the mild and soft-spoken Director of Matches, Prichard.  “P, what’s your take on this?”

 

“I just have a comment that I think we all need to keep in mind. We, The Island, have always prided ourselves as being open to any gay man who wants to live full time in a discipline relationship.  We teach them, both Brats and Tops, what that means and what that doesn’t mean.  We give them the skills and the knowledge to handle and accept their partner for who they are, as well as the knowledge and confidence to accept who they are themselves.  We provide a guideline, but we cannot force a narrow set of rules on them. Because,” he paused, looking around the room, “we all know that each Brat is special, each Top is special.  How they mesh together forms a unique combination that has to find it’s own unique set of rules and guidelines for their own life.  That’s what my department does.  Maybe we didn’t do a good job with this match.  These two men might simply be looking for different things.  Listening to Melnyk talk, reading his reports, my impression is one of a lack of honest, open communication about each partner’s expectation.”  Prichard sat back, having had his say and now content to slip back out of the spotlight.

 

 “That’s my point,” Mullins said calmly.  “I’m not saying that William is lying.  But, I also can not, just based on what I’ve seen and heard today, vote for Melnyk’s membership to be revoked--“

 

“That’s because you’re blind,.” Ryan interrupted.  “What concerned Top shoves an 8 inch metal plug into his partner and then spanks him and forces it back in when it comes out?”

 

“How about a couple that is experimenting with new toys? Or a Top that is trying to give his Brat the kind of control that he asked for?” Mullins asked evenly.  “Ryan, you’re forcing me to play devil’s advocate here and I don’t appreciate it.”

 

Looking at his friend, Emerson nodded. “He’s right, Ry.  We know how you feel.  We all want to do the right thing here.  While, to some of us, the case is cut and dry, and we believe that Melnyk deserves to wear cement shoes at the bottom of the harbor-” a light spattering of laughter relieved the tension filling the room, “some of us feel that if we are to maintain a spirit of acceptance here, we must not condemn this man for something that his brat might have wanted.”

 

Glaring at Emerson, Ryan turned to Herm. “Did his injuries really look like them playing with a new toy or something that could have happened with normal precautions and care?”

 

Closing his eyes briefly, the doctor sighed.  “I have very mixed feelings.  That plug, in my opinion and in the opinion of Dr. Johnson, was forced in with considerable pressure or complete lack of lube or a combination of the two.  To me, that is not responsible play or sex.  That is abuse.  But,” he said raising a hand to cut off Ryan, “Melnyk testified that he checked William out at least twice after the plug was used and found no damage.  I did not find any bruising on the inner thighs or in the inside split of the buttock.  Bruising to me would indicate force.  The lack of bruising doesn’t mean that it wasn't abuse, but it does help support Melnyk's claim that it was consensual, at least to a point."  He paused again, searching for the right words. "It's a hard call and one that I don't think we can make hastily."

 

Ryan snorted and started to argue but was silenced by Hayes. "As much as I respect Jeffries and his take on the situation, I don't think we can totally dismiss these letters of recommendations from several very respected members of our community, not to mention the other members of their own community."

 

"Exactly," Prichard said quietly.

 

Jerking up, almost upsetting his chair, Ryan looked around the room with disgust.  "I don't believe you all.  This Brat was abused!  His partner beat him and then sexually abused him at least once that we know about!"

 

"According to Will, this was the only time anything like this has happened," Hayes said quietly.  "Not that once isn't one time too often, but do we have the right to label someone a abuser just on one person's word when there are many other voices saying something different?"

 

"But, we are talking about allowing someone in a relationship that can be easily abused.  Can we take the chance that this was a true abuse case and Melnyk is lying?  Can we risk him around other Brats?" Herm asked. “Remember, Mark said that William indicated to him at one point that this was an ongoing situation.”

 

“I've tried to keep an open mind about this and not judge.  My job is to help Will deal with his feelings about what happened, not really caring too much, especially right now, about what actually happened." Cal took a sip of water before continuing.  "William strongly feels that both acts were abusive and happened without his permission or real provocation."

 

Hayes nodded. "I remember that in his testimony he said he spilled water, right?  Not coke?"

 

"Right!" Ryan said, pacing around the room. "Doesn't that prove to you that Melnyk is lying?  He said coke, when it was really water.  And what Top would paddle his Brat over spilled water?"

 

"Just playing devil's advocate again, but Jeffries said he saw a dried stain that looked like coke in the living room.  Can we be sure that Peter is the one who's lying and not William?"

 

Glancing at his watch, Emerson rapped on the table.  "Gentleman," he said and waited for the side conversations to die down.  "This can go on all night and it's already been a long day.  I move that we break for the night, do some individual soul-searching this evening and come back and finish this discussion tomorrow.  What do you all think?"

 

"I think that's a good idea," Mullins said, nodding his agreement.

 

"How about, in order to speed things along," Hayes proposed, "we all write out a short statement about why we are voting the way we are.  Either Yes or No on the proposal to revoke Peter Melnyk's membership."

 

Herm nodded. "I think that's a good idea.  It's easier to put thoughts down on paper when you're calm than trying to keep things sorted out in the heat of a discussion."

 

 “What do you all think?  A good idea?” Emerson asked, looking around the room.  At their nods, he continued. “Okay.  A short statement, people, no more than a page or two.  I know this is a difficult situation, but we can work through it and, I trust, make the right decision.  See you all tomorrow morning at 8.  I’ll go out and explain the delay Melnyk, and tell him that we’ll reach our decision tomorrow.”

 

The group gathered up their papers amidst general talking about plans for the evening and the weekend.  Ryan stayed in his seat, idly drawing doodles on a legal pad in front of him.

 

Hayes hung around until everyone had filed out of the room, and Emerson had gone to talk to Melnyk, before walking over to his friend.  Sitting on the table, looking at him, he gently nudged the sullen man with his foot.  “Ryan,” he said in a coaxing tone.  “Come on, man, don’t be like this. “

 

Glancing up at his friend, Ryan scowled. “Be like what, Hayes? Concerned about a Brat’s safety?  Worried about letting that monster loose on The Island to prey on other Brats?  Upset that my friends and co-workers, who are also supposed to care about these men, don’t?”  He stood and angrily pushed back his chair.  “What exactly should I not be, Hayes?”

 

“God, Ryan, you’re acting like a Brat. Keep it up, and I might just treat you like one,” Emerson said, reentering the room and shutting the door behind him.  “This is not a dictatorship, nor is it your private Island, Ry.  The other directors have as much of a right to their opinion as you do.  Personally, I don’t like Melnyk, but did he actually abuse William?  Looking at the evidence, I can’t honestly say.”

 

“Right,” Hayes chimed in. “I don’t like him.  I think his rating at a 6 is too low, and I’m to recommend that he be reevaluated as part of his probation and training, if he stays a member. But,” he added, shaking his head and glancing at the pile of paper in front of Ryan, “I don’t honestly know what happened in the house those nights.  Can I vote to remove someone simply because I don’t like him personally?  My gut tells me, no, I don’t have that right.”

 

Ryan slumped back down into a chair. “I just know he did it.  There is something about him that just sets off all my warning bells.  I don’t trust him and I don’t trust him with any of the Brats.  I don’t want him anywhere near William.” Laying his head down on folded arms on the table, he asked softly, “Do you think I’m just looking for him to be a monster so I feel like we can prevent this from happening again?  Like, toughen the screening process or something.  Do *something*,” his voice was thick with emotion, “so it doesn’t happen again.  Maybe appease some of this guilt for letting it happen in the first place?”

 

Emerson shot a worried glance at Hayes before going over to Ryan.  Rubbing his shoulders, he said softly, “I don’t know.  I think that’s some of it.  We all want to do the right thing.  It’s just hard when the right thing *might* go against what we want to do.  Like this case,” he added gently. 

 

 “Do you two think I’m being too harsh?  Am I condemning this guy on really bad evidence?” Ryan asked, sitting up and looking between them.  “Honestly.  Just between us.”

 

Hayes shook his head, “No, I think your concerns are very valid.  There’s something about this guy that’s just off.  His ….” he paused looking for the right word, “I don’t know …. I guess maybe feelings about being a Top seem off.  At least to me.  He seems to see it, according to Jeff, as a burden, and, because of that, he finds it easier to make all the decisions than to teach the brat to make the right ones"

 

Emerson nodded. “Yeah.  I’d agree with that, but I don’t know if right now, with the evidence we have, we can vote to remove him.”

 

“You know,” Hayes said calmly, “it doesn’t have to be either removal or totally innocent.  We, the Board, could tell him that we have enough concerns about what happened to require some restrictions and a probation period.  Rescreening, retesting, mandatory counseling with Hobbes, and then, when we have a better picture of exactly what’s going on, say …. in 6 months, we do another vote and decide then.”

 

 “Until then, no contact with any of the Brats,” Ryan said firmly.

 

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

 

Tim Runyon walked with Melnyk down the hall and back to his suite.

 

“What time would you like to have dinner brought to you?” he asked when they reached the room.

 

Peter shrugged and replied in a slightly sarcastic tone. “Whenever it's convenient. It’s not like I’m going anywhere tonight.”

 

Tim ignored the tone. “Okay.  I’ll tell them around 6:30 or 7.  The main rush will be over then, since most of The Island will be down at the movies.”

 

Peter perked up. “Any chance I can go, too?” he asked hopefully.  “I won’t do anything or try to talk to Billy.”

 

“No, I’m sorry.  I can ask Mullins, but I doubt he’ll agree.  But cheer up. From what I heard during your meeting, this will all be over by tomorrow.”

 

Peter smiled. “Yeah.  I hope so.  I am so anxious to see Billy again.  Are you in a relationship?”

 

“No, not right now.  Nothing serious yet.”

 

“Then you have no idea how much I miss him.  Just hearing his voice, talking to him, feeling him, even the mundane and boring stuff was so much better when we were doing it together,” he said softly. “I’d do anything just to spend 5 minutes with him, to tell him I love him, to tell him how much I’ve missed him…. anything.”

 

Clearing his throat, unsure if Melnyk was asking him to do something or just talking, the other man stammered, “Well, the Board seems very fair to me.  I’m sure you’ll be able to tell him that yourself soon.” Then, backing away slightly, he added in a businesslike tone, “I’ll tell the Kitchen to send your dinner up to you in a couple of hours.  Let me know if you need anything.  I’ll be right out here.”

 

Giving him a sad smile, Peter nodded, "Okay, thanks.  I've got a bit of a headache; I think I'll lie down until then.  Just knock when dinner's ready, please."  He shut the door, and the smile dropped from his face.  "Shit," he muttered to himself before storming into the bedroom.  Picking up a picture from his bedside table, he glared at the smiling image of William for a long moment before letting it drop onto the bed.  Getting his suitcase out of the closet, he pulled out a shampoo bottle, uncapped it, and took a long drink from the vodka hidden in it as he went over to the window.  Standing there, looking out on the beautiful scene, he brooded and plotted on how to get William back.

 

Two hours later, a knock on the door startled him out of his thoughts.  “Just a minute!” he called.  Hurrying into the bathroom, he swished out his mouth to remove any smell of the alcohol.  

 

After depositing the dinner tray on the table in the small kitchenette, Tim looked at the Top.  “I wanted to let you know that I checked with Jake Mullins about you going to the movies tonight. Unfortunately, he doesn’t think it’s a good idea until after the Board makes its final decision tomorrow.”

 

“Does he think the Board will rule against me?”

 

Runyon glanced down for a second, not wanting to reveal that Mullins was having serious doubts about this man’s membership and the Brats' safety with him around. “I don’t know, really.  He just said he didn’t feel comfortable with it, and that the Board was going to be meeting again tomorrow morning.”  Inching his way toward the door, he added, “Anyway, enjoy your dinner.”

 

Forcing himself to smile and thank the man, Melnyk was glad to see him disappear behind the closing door and leave him to his thoughts of William again.

 

As he was finishing his meal, a loud alarm suddenly shattered the silence.  His door jerked open before he had a chance to move, and Tim burst in.

 

“Stay here.  There’s a fire in one of the other buildings.  I’m relying on your honor to stay in this room.  You’re in no danger, but I have to go.”

 

Peter nodded, standing up. “Of course, GO!  You have my word.”  Standing there for a long minute, an idea slowly formed in his mind.  /This was the perfect opportunity./ he thought.  /If I can get to Billy, I can convince him to come home, and with Billy’s approval, the Board will have no power to revoke my membership. Even if they do, I don’t care.  I’ve got my Brat and I don’t need them or their self-righteous ideas of what he needs./  Cautiously opening the door in case Tim had changed his mind, he peered around and saw no one, and heard nothing but the alarm.  Making his way down the stairs and out of the building, he casually strolled toward the Brat Cottages and his runaway Brat.

 

At the theater, there was controlled chaos.  The sprinklers had gone off within seconds of the small explosion, soaking everyone with dirty, rusty water.  As smoke filled the air, the handful of Tops that were there had quickly, but calmly and without panic, herded everyone from the theater.  The yard around the building was crowded with wet, excited Brats and overwhelmed Tops trying to keep the situation under control.  It was further complicated by the arrival of The Island’s security detail, barking orders to clear the air and move everyone back.  The Brats, excited by the commotion and the prospect of watching the building burn down, were all eager to stay as close to the action as possible.  With the alarm, all the Temp Tops were notified automatically and the number of them trying to find their individual charges further added to the noise level and chaos.

 

Mark and Andrew hurried from their Cottage to the theater at the first sounds of the alarm and split up once they reached the crowd, agreeing to meet back at a designated spot with as many of their cottage brats as they could locate.

 

 “Jason! John!” Mark yelled, spotting two of them at the edge of the crowd, trying to peer into the building.  Reaching them, he took hold of their upper arms and tugged on them. “Come on.  We’re leaving.”

 

John pulled back, trying to break the hold, “No, come on Mark.” he whined. “We won’t get in the way, we just want to watch!”

 

Tightening his hold on John’s arm, Mark said quietly,  “Tough.  You’re coming with me.  It’s not safe and it’s too crowded.  Plus,” he added, dragging them away, “there’s nothing to see.”

 

 “Okay,” Jason said, winking at John.  “You’re right.”

 

Distracted by the need to find the other Brats, Mark was just grateful to have their acceptance and didn’t worry about why.

 

When they reached the designated meeting area, they found Andrew already there with Brent.  “Did you find Taylor or Chris?”

 

Mark shook his head. “No.  Didn't you?”

 

“No, but they were here.  Weren't they with you guys?”

 

John spoke up. “Yeah, we were all sitting together, but Chris and Taylor left to go to the bathroom before the alarm went off.  Jason and I got rounded up by someone--“

 

“And one of the Visiting Tops snagged me,” Brent said. “But I haven’t seen Taylor at all.”

 

Mark and Andrew exchanged brief worried looks.  “Okay - you three go back to the cottage and wait for us please,” Andrew said firmly.  “Mark and I will be along with Taylor and Chris as soon as we can.”

 

 “Okay,” Jason said. “No problem.”

 

 “But I want to wait---“ Brent was cut off by a hard pinch to the back of his arm by John.

 

“It’s fine, it’ll be okay,” John said, dragging the still-protesting Brent off with him and Jason.

 

“Okay,” Mark said to Andrew “Let’s go find security and tell them we have missing Brats, and pray they're  not still in the building.”  He glanced at the smoking building as security guards hurried in and out.

 

"But I wanted to stay!" Brent protested, pulling against the other two.

 

"No, you don't," Jason told him. "Don't you realize what this means? No supervision. We can watch that movie John's friend sent us!"

 

"Oh, yeah," Brent smiled in anticipation. "Let's go!"

 

************

 

A small sign by the front door clearly marked the cabin Peter wanted -  '4B, Mark & Andrew'.  He glanced around the quiet area, making sure that no one was in sight.  The Cottage itself was quiet and dark. Through the window in the door, he could see a table lamp on, but nothing else.  Quietly turning the doorknob, he stepped inside.  He had only been in this cottage a couple of times when he was first getting to know William, but he thought he remembered the correct side.  A sound from the back of the Cottage startled him and made him step back into the shadow of one of the corners.

 

Carrying a glass of orange juice and a handful of cookies, William made his way across the darkened living room.

 

Stepping from the shadows, Melnyk cleared his throat and William froze.

 

"Hello, Billy," Melnyk said. "Didn't expect to see me, did you?"

 

"You're not allowed here," William said nervously. "Mark--"

 

"Is rescuing precious brats from the fire. There's no one here but you and me. And we're going to have a little talk."

 

"I'm not talking to you. They said I didn't have to talk to you!" William backed away, never taking his eyes off Peter.

 

"When are you going to learn that what they say doesn't count, Billy. I'm your Top. You obey *me*.  Now put down that food and come here."

 

"No," William said defiantly. "I won't."

 

“You know you’re not allowed sweets after dinner, Billy,” Peter said sternly.  “I hope that I’m not going to have to reteach you all over again once we get back home.”  He smiled. “That was such a painfully long and humiliating process for you.  I would have hoped it would have stayed with you longer then a month.”

 

William said nothing as his face grew pale and he began to shake.

 

Walking slowly across the room, Melnyk took the glass from him and placed it on the coffee table near his leg.  Then, holding out his hand, he said, “Give me the cookies.  You know you’re not allowed to have them.”

 

William slowly began to open his hand and then closed his eyes and took a deep breath. When he opened them again, they were filled with a sense of determination.  Closing his hand tightly, he shook his head. “No.  Mark said I could.  I’m allowed.  He’s my Top and he decides what I do, not you.”

 

Peter’s nostrils flared and his eyes narrowed as he held his hand out closer to the Brat, and said, “I was going to try to do this the easy way but you’re insisting on being difficult.  Now, give me the cookies, William.  You belong to me.  I tell you want to do, and you obey me or you *will* be punished.”

 

Will shook his head again. “No.  I don’t belong to you.  You--“

 

His protest was cut off by a savage slap to his face, jerking his head around and causing him to stumble.  He felt a hand grab his, prying his fingers apart.  “Give me the fucking cookies, Billy!” he heard through the ringing in his ears.  

 

“NO!” he shouted angrily. “I’ll die first!  I will NEVER belong to you again!  I’m not some piece of property to own!”

 

“You belong to me and you always will!” Melnyk screamed, and William screamed, as well, as he was forced to his knees and one of his fingers was bent back far enough to break it.

 “Will!” a voice shouted from the doorway.  John, Jason and Brent stood with stunned expressions on their face.

 

“Who are you?  What are you doing!” John asked, entering the room.

 

Still grasping William’s hand, Peter glared at the younger man. “I’m Peter Melnyk, Billy’s Top.  I’ve come to take him home, back were he belongs.”

 

“You aren’t Will’s Top,” Jason said, coming to stand by John. “Brent, go get Mark and Andrew or someone. NOW!”

 

After a moment's hesitation, Brent spun around and darted back outside, the sound of his running footsteps echoing down the path.

 

“Turn around and follow your friend, boys,” Melnyk ordered coolly. “Billy’s in trouble and needs to be punished.  If you don’t want the same, you’ll turn around and march yourselves back out that door and keep your mouths shut.”

 

John laughed and rolled his eyes. “Oh, please.  You’re not my Top and you're not Will’s Top anymore. You can’t tell us what to do.”

 

“John,” William said quietly, tears of pain streaming down his cheeks, “It’s fine.  Go on. Go get Mark or Andrew.  I don’t want you getting hurt.”

 

"We aren't going to get hurt, Will, so don't worry about it.  And," Jason said firmly, "this is not fine.  Nothing about this situation is fine."

 

"This is your last chance, boys," Melnyk warned.  "Turn around and leave now, and I won't have you punished for disobeying a Top."

 

Jason laughed, moving to the right. "You're not a Top."

 

"I don't know what you are," John said as he moved to the left. 

 

"Stop right now!" Melnyk shouted, his eyes darting between the two other men.

 

Will struggled back to his feet. "This is it, Peter.  I don't belong to you. I never belonged to you. You can't own another person against their will."

 

"I never did anything to you that you didn't want me to! That you didn't need me to!"

 

Shaking his head, Will said softly, "That's part of the problem. You have no idea what I want or need.  You were so concerned about maintaining control that we had no relationship.  Part of that is my fault. I should have said something to you sooner, but …." his voice trailed off and he ended in a whisper. "I don't know really. I don't know if anything could have changed the outcome."

 

"So," Melnyk said savagely, "you fucked up, but it's my fault?  My reputation is ruined because you didn't talk to me and you lied to me!" He raised his fist.

 

In a perfect form that would have made his teacher proud, John delivered a swift kick into the man's knee, causing it to buckle beneath him and sending him crashing to the floor. At the same time, Jason leaped on him and within seconds the two brats were sitting on him, pinning him down.

 

Melnyk struggled wildly, screaming, "Get off me!  I'm going to kill you both!"

 

Ignoring his screams, John looked up at William encouragingly. "You want to kick him, maybe?  Get in a few good shots while we hold him down?"

 

Will shook his head slowly, staring down at his ex-partner.

 

"Oh, come on.  We've got him---" Jason began.

 

"Jason," Mark interrupted from the doorway "That's enough." Ryan and two security guards were right behind him.

 

The two guards hurried over as Jason and John scrambled to get off Melnyk. 

 

As soon as he was free, he stood up, wincing as he tried to put his weight on the leg John had kicked.  "I demand that those two brats," he pointed at Jason and John, "be severely punished for what they did to me!  I'm a Top and what they did is---"

 

"Shut up, Melnyk!" Ryan barked.  "I think we've all heard enough."

 

A half hour later, they gathered in front of the hastily assembled Board to repeat the story.

 

Will, secure in Mark's arms while Herm splinted and bandaged his finger, said very little except to fill in the details before John and Jason's arrival and to confirm their version of the story.

 

Unable to put any sort of positive spin on the events, Melnyk brooded silently in the chair, flanked by two guards.

 

"I don't think we need to adjourn to discuss this, do we?" Emerson asked, looking around the table.

 

The board members shook their heads or murmured no, all of them stunned at the turn of events.

 

"I think we have all the evidence we need. Your membership is revoked as of this moment, Mr. Melnyk. You will be escorted from The Island as soon as it's light. Please give me your ring. Security will pack your things and you will be under constant guard until you leave."

 

"Fine!  I don't need this place or your hypocrisy!" Melnyk pulled off his ring and threw it across the table.  "You give me a troublemaker and then yell when I discipline him.  You tell me he belongs to me and then yell when I try to take him back.  He'll come back to me, begging for me to take him back, because he needs the strong hand that I provide for him.  Something that none of you have the stomach to do."

 

"I'd rather die first," Will said softly.

 

"I think that's your answer, Mr. Melnyk," Ryan said. "Jake, can you find a secure place for him to spend the night?"

 

"We have the isolation room in the detention center," Jake replied. "It's the closest thing to a cell we have on The Island."

 

"Take him there, then," Emerson ordered, and the two security guards hurried forward to escort him away.

 

"Come on, guys," Mark said, helping Will up and gesturing to the rest of his brats. "I think we need to get back to the cottage and start settling down for the night."

 

"I'll walk back with you," Herm said. "I'd like to check this young man one more time and give him something to help him sleep."

 

"I think I'll walk along too, if you don't mind," Cal said.

 

In the end Emerson, Hayes, Ryan and David also joined them, sitting around the living room sipping hot chocolate and repeating the story for the benefit of Andrew and the other brats. Chris and Taylor were very disappointed that they'd missed the excitement, especially since the great fire had turned out to be firecrackers in the ventilation system.

 

"I can't believe he thought he could get away with attacking Will like that." Andrew shook his head.

 

"I can't believe the Board fell for that innocent, grieving Top act," Jason said.

 

Andrew frowned at him. "I think it's past bedtime for some Brats," he said.

 

"Oh, come on," Chris started to protest, but Taylor surreptitiously pinched him.

 

It was an unwritten rule that the Brats didn't argue with their Temp Tops in front of Hayes.

 

There was a chorus of good-nights, and Herm stood up, as well. "I'm going to give Will something for pain, then I need to get back to the Infirmary. I have a couple of other patients to check on."

 

"Is he all right?" Ryan asked in concern. "This didn't aggravate his other injuries, did it?"

 

"He'll be fine," Herm replied. "His prior injuries are pretty well healed, and the finger is a clean break. It is painful, though, and he'll sleep better with a mild pain reliever."

 

"The emotional damage is another story," Cal said after they had left the room. "I'm afraid it's going to be a long time before he trusts anyone enough to bond again.  Even though I’m sure this confrontation with Melnyk helped some, there’s still a lot of healing to do."

 

"We could have avoided some of this if people had been willing to listen to me," Ryan said bitterly.

 

Emerson sighed. "Ryan, no one said you were wrong, but we have a policy here that we have to follow."

 

"Yeah, and that policy got one of my Brats hurt tonight! I'm going to bed. Good night." He stormed out and Davis followed, leaving the others looking at each other in dismay.

 

"Get that man off The Island and away from my Brats!" Ryan snarled at his assistant, stalking away into the darkness.

 

Davis hurried to catch up with his boss. "Ryan, wait!"

 

The other man paused but did not turn around, tension radiating in every movement.  "What?" he growled.

 

"What do you want to do about him?  Kick him off The Island, of course.  But blackball him from the Discipline Community?  Let the S&M one know about him--"

 

"I don't care what you do with him!" Ryan interrupted.  "I just want him off The Island as soon as possible.  I want you to send a letter to everyone we deal with informing them that he is not welcome on The Island and should be considered dangerous around any Brat, sub, or slave. We're just lucky that tonight wasn't worse." 

 

Then looking up at the clear sky and stars, he said softly, "Thank you for taking care of this for me, Davis.  I need to go home and get away from this for a while. I think Ben and I are going to go for a long walk on the beach.  If you have any questions, I'll deal with them tomorrow."

 

"No problem.  Go home and spend time with Ben.  Get him to give you a back rub," he said with a smile.

 

Ryan nodded tiredly. "Yeah, that sounds good.  Thanks."  He turned and continued down the path, disappearing into the darkness."

 

Watching him for a minute and then cutting across the lawn, Davis headed for his office to make immediate plans for Melnyk's removal.

 

<Main Ending>

 

Picking up the phone, he dialed Hank's cottage.  When the other man answered, he said, "Hi, Hank.  Sorry to wake you up but we have a problem.  We need a Top off The Island first thing in the morning."

 

"Sure, not a problem.  Where am I flying him to?"

 

"Just the mainland.  He's on his own after that."

 

"Is this that jerk I brought in yesterday?"

 

"Yeah, Peter Melnyk."

 

"Right.  Ryan told me that I might be flying him out today or tomorrow.  I've been expecting your call.  I can be ready to go by 7. There's enough light by then to take off safely."

 

"Perfect.  I'll call security and they'll have him there waiting for you. I think Mullins will be flying with you, just to make sure he doesn't give you any trouble."

 

Davis ended the call a few minutes later and placed one to security informing them of the plans.  Then, sitting down at his computer, he began composing a simple, but straightforward, letter that would be sent to their members and the various groups they associated with. 

 

He was up and dressed by 6:30 and hurrying in a cart over to the small runway.  As he pulled up to the parking area, he could see Jack Mullins just walking Melnyk toward the plane.  He hurried over to them, stopping them just before they got on the plane.

 

"Good morning, Mullins," Davis said with a small smile.  "Rough night?"

 

Glancing at the silent man standing beside him, he shook his head. "Nope.  Quiet as a mouse. Guess none of my men were small enough for him to beat up on." 

 

"Good."  He turned to Melnyk, holding out his hand. “I have your ring, but I need your membership card."

 

"Fine," the man said savagely, pulling out his wallet. He took the card out, but instead of handing it to Davis, he ripped it to shreds, then dropped them on the ground at Davis' feet.  "I'm still a Top without your precious ring or card."

 

"You're an out-of-control bastard who hurt their partner and their Brat.  I don't know a Top anywhere that does that." Sitting in his cart a few minutes later, he watched the plane taxi down the runway, grateful that such a destructive force was gone and the healing of all of them could truly begin.

 

 

The End

 

 

 

 

 

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