Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Nature's Torment

 Title: Nature's Torment
Authors: Rolf and Ranger
Couple: Kier & Ian, and friends Allen & Jamie
Warnings: Nature. Natural. All-natural. (You get the picture) Fish.



"Are you ready to talk about it yet?" Ian asked gently from the desk. Kier didn't move. His arms were tightly folded, his forehead pressed to the plaster in his corner. Ian's voice crispened when he didn't answer.

"Kiernan. Put your hands down, stand up and answer me please. Are you ready to talk about it?"

Kier didn't move, too angry. The sound of Ian getting to his feet made him drop his arms and straighten up in a hurry.

"No."

"No what?"

"No I DON'T want to talk about it." Kier said angrily. He heard the creak of the chair as Ian sat down again.

"Allright. Let me know when you are."

Kier wanted to kick the wall, but the last time he did that he got spanked and put right back in the same place. Instead, he stared hard at the wall, imagining Ian in all manners of bad spots, from drowning in a lake to being hit by car to being hit with a brick that Kier had thrown. He got tired quickly of imagining as the paint strokes on the wall stared back at him. He tried to stand still, but it was pure torture. Five hours later, Ian called to him again.

"You've had fifteen minutes more to think about things. Are you ready to talk now?"

Kier knew where the conversation was probably going to end up, but he was sick to death of the corner. "YES."

"Leave the attitude and come here then."

Kier sighed and headed down to Ian.

Ian reached out and pulled Kier down to sit in his lap. "Why did you choose to work two hours late today, when I specifically told you no?"

Kier kicked his foot, never liking owning up to his mistakes. This was still new to him.

Ian stilled his foot with a firm hand on his leg. "Answer me."

Kier shrugged angrily, scowling at the floor.

"I don't know."

"You don't know why you stayed at work so late?"

"You're being horrible!"

"I'm still waiting for an answer." Ian said mildly. "I want to know why you stayed two hours late at work?"

"I had things to do!" Kier said savagely. "I can't just drop everything and walk away saying 'my boyfriend says I have to be home by five'-"

"What exactly had to be done?" Ian interrupted. The tone penetrated Kier's, without Ian's voice having risen at all. Kier stopped, not sure why.  Then swallowed.

"I don't know... tidying up.. point work..."

"Could that have been left to the morning?"

The shrug this time was awkward and half hearted.

"I don't know...?"

"Could it?"

"Yes- but-"

"What time did I tell you to leave work?" Ian asked gently. Kier,lost for any other answer, turned around and buried his face in Ian's neck wrapping both arms tight around his neck.

Ian gently pulled Kier's hands apart and took Kier by the chin. "What time did I tell you to leave work?" Ian asked again, not losing eye contact.

Kier finally gave in. "Five."

"I did. So I think you should stay close to home for the next week.  Home by 5:30 each day and the weekend will be spent here."

"Ian! We had plans to go to the movies on Saturday!"

"Not anymore. And this is the second time in as many weeks that we've had this discussion. What did I say the last time?"

Kier's anger at losing the weekend plans was immediately replaced with a very sinking feeling in his stomach. He tried once again to bury his face in Ian's neck, but Ian was ready for the move and held onto his arms.

"Kier. What did I say?"

Kier sat and fidgeted. When the burning eyes didn't waver, he finally choked out the answer. An answer he could barely bring himself to say. "A.....a....spanking - but --"


Ian put Kier on his feet and worked at the button on his jeans. "I gave you a clear warning the last time this happened."

"Ian no!" Kier squirmed, trying to pull out of Ian's hands. "I won't do it again, I promise I won't-"

"If you can't remember to come home on time because I ask you, then obviously you need a stronger reminder." Ian tugged Kier's jeans down and turned his struggling, whining lover over his lap, holding him firmly. "Five pm MEANS five pm Kiernan. I don't ask you to do anything without a good reason, and when I do, you need to listen."

"I'm sorry!" Kier, in his least favourite position, twisted, trying to at least see Ian's face. He'd never yet found the magic combination of words that helped once he was at this point, but he never lost hope of finding them. "Ian don't, please, I'm sorry!"

"Saying you're sorry doesn't change the fact that you disobeyed me." He raised his arm up and brought it sharply down across the white bottom across his lap.


Kier tensed and quickly turned away, biting his lip. The sharp sound of the impact of hand hitting flesh always shocked Kier, along with somehow forgetting how much that stung! He kept his mouth shut tightly, afraid to speak now as he was trying to swallow the lump that had formed in his throat. He kept thinking that he should be able to handle this, that some people LOVED getting spanked and could accept swat after swat for what seemed like hours without shedding a single tear.

Ian covered every inch of flesh with spanks, at least three times on every spot.

Kier only lasted about ten swats before the tears came and he gave up all pretense of dignity. It just somehow never seemed to matter at that point.  He tried promising again through his tears, but Ian wasn't paying any attention.

That hurt as much in some ways. There was nothing to do except lie right where he was and kick and cry until Ian stopped. For a few minutes he lay where he was, gradually calming down. Ian replaced his shorts and jeans and lifted him to his feet, turning him around and settling him back in his lap.  Kier struggled with his usual mixture of feelings, conflicting urges to escape, to sulk, to turn and cling to Ian and cry again- the urge to cling as usual, won out. Ian hugged him, stroking his hair.

"All you have to do is listen. It isn't THAT hard."

"I didn't MEAN to be late!"

"No, you just didn't think, did you?" Kier felt the heavy, reassuring pressure of Ian's lips on his forehead. "I hope you will the next time."

Kier could do nothing but nod fervently, certain at this moment in time he'd never do anything like that again.

Ian set him on his feet. "If I'm not mistaken, there's a hockey game on. Why don't you settle down to watch that as I have some paperwork to finish with before tomorrow's shift?"

Kier sniffled once. "Okay." He headed to the sofa, choosing to flop face first on it and turned on the television. He gingerly rubbed his throbbing backside, thankful for the short cuddle afterwards, and the quiet moments he was now allowed alone. Ian seemed to know exactly what he needed and when.

Ian fiddled with the papers in his briefcase long enough to make sure Kier was allright and settling down in front of the game, then went upstairs and left him in peace for a while. He worked upstairs for half an hour, the door open, hearing the hockey playing on below. When the papers were finished, he turned the office light out and headed quietly downstairs. The lights were still off, Kier was still on the sofa, hunched and small but eyes dry. Ian sat down beside him, aware of Kier tensing.  "Who's winning?"


"The home team. 3-2."

"Exciting game?"

Kier nodded.

"Come here?" Ian asked, holding out his arms.

Kier took a moment to decide if his sulk was over. Ian's open arms were too much for him and he snuggled close, his face buried against Ian's side, his eyes still on the television.

Ian smiled, and gently ran his hand through Kier's hair and down his back, watching the game as well.

Kier relaxed completely, knowing he was safe and all was forgiven.

"I was talking to Allen at lunchtime." Ian said in his ear as they waited through a commercial break. "He had a suggestion for us for this weekend."

Kier turned his head to look. "What?"

"He and Jamie are going up to Weatherfield moors on Friday night- camping.  Just until Sunday afternoon, but if the weather's fine it should be fun. He asked if we wanted to go along."

Kier turned his head slowly back into Ian's shoulder.

"Want to give it a try?" Ian said gently. "You've never tried camping. Or at least not with me."

"You used to go with Allen all the time."

The 'before me' was unsaid, but still audible. Ian ruffled his hair.

"Yes, I've always enjoyed it. I'd like to try it with you."

"I've heard that one before." Kier said wryly. Ian laughed and kissed him.

"What do you think?"

"Just the four of us? In the middle of nowhere?"

"Yes, the four of us. And it's not exactly in the middle of nowhere," Ian said.

"What would we do?" Kier asked, looking up at Ian from his lap.

"Whatever we want. Hike. Swim. Just relax by the fire."

"Is there any electricity?" Kier asked hopefully.

"No! And you do not need your Nintendo to have a good time. It will be a weekend of roughing it and you should have a wonderful time. Come on, say yes?"

Kier rolled his eyes. "Okay, okay. If you're so insistent on it, I'll go.  But I reserve the right to tape my shows this weekend, and watch them when we get home."

"That I can live with." Ian said mildly. Kier settled back.

"Are you sure Allen and Jamie want me to go?" he said after a few minutes.

Ian's answer was prompt and definite. "YES. Jamie apparently said if I couldn't convince you, he would. They both love you, you know that.  And I'm certainly not going without you."

"You could you know. I wouldn't mind."

"Kier, I WANT you to come." Ian said patiently. "It'll be fun.  Honestly."

The hockey restarted and Kier didn't say anything further. He fell asleep before the end of the match and Ian had only a half hearted attempt at waking him. Kier looked adorably young when he was asleep- a little face under heavy head, incongruous with the long limbs and man's body. Ian gathered him up, flicked the tv off and headed upstairs.






"Allen said you were coming?" Jamie asked on the phone the next day.

"Yeah, I guess so," Kier answered.

"YAY! Oh, it'll be SO fun having someone there to do stuff with. I mean, Allen's great and all, but I'll have stuff to show you."

"Yeah? Like what?" Kier replied, playing with the phone cord.

"There's actually a really cool cave that Allen won't let me explore.  We could check that out. And there's the lake to explore. Just lots of neat things!"

Kier laughed, hearing how excited Jamie was. "You LIKE being with a television?"

"Believe it or not, you don't even miss it. Just make sure that you go shopping with Ian, get lots of good food. If you don't have that, THEN it gets boring."

"Where do you sleep?"

Jamie snorted. "Camping? In a tent, idiot."

"On the ground?!" Kier demanded. "Aren't there things crawling?"

Jamie opened his mouth to answer, then shut it and grinned.

"Oh no. They don't get inside the tent. Its great fun Kier, really, Ian's great - last time we went, we fished in this stream off the river and he and I spent hours teasing Allen about being bitten by the pike."

Kier hesitated, once more aware of the fact that Ian had been single for some years before they met- and he'd spent a lot of weekends first with Allen, then with Allen and Jamie, enjoying a friendship built without Kier.  This was the first time Kier knew he'd be stepping inside one of that friendship's favourite traditions.

"I need to go, Ian just said to let you know."

"Don't worry about it, eh?" Jamie said gently. "It'll be fun."

Kier hung up the phone, none too sure of that.


"We need to find you a sleeping bag, hiking boots, and we need to finish the food shopping," Ian said, getting his car keys from the table.

"I'm in the middle of the game," Kier said, flopped on his stomach on the couch.

Ian went around the couch in front of Kier. "I'd buy the stuff without you, but you need to be there for the shoes. Come on," he said, holding out a hand to Kier.

"I could use my shoes?" Kier said, sitting up.

Ian went over to the closet and grabbed Kier's shoes, handing them to him. "Come on, get a wiggle on. The shops'll be shut by the time we get there."


"And that would be a problem WHY?" Kier said under his breath. Ian snapped the tv off and lifted his chin.

"What was that?"

Kier flushed and pulled the shoes on. "Nothing.".


"WHY do I need hiking shoes?" he demanded when he'd rejected all six of the pairs Ian suggested. Naturally all the ones with the colours and styles he liked were 'impractical', 'impossible' or 'garuanteed to sprain your ankle in five minutes' according to Dr Roberts. Ian picked up the six pairs and laid them out in a row.

"Because trainers are going to give you blisters and no support over rough ground. Which?"

"I don't like any of them, I tolllllllllld you........"

"Well pick the ones you hate the least or I'll choose."

"That pair over THERE," Kier said, pointing to one on the wall in bright purple.

"Fine, you like these," Ian said, picking the sturdiest of the six pairs he had it narrowed down to and putting the rest away.

Kier crossed his arms and slid down into the chair, watching under lowered lids as Ian put the shoes back into the boxes. Maybe he'd just conveniently forget them when it came time to pack.

Ian finished putting the shoes away and stopped in front of Kier's chair, bending down to get to eye level. "We have more shopping to do, and I'm not going to walk around the rest of the day with you in full pout because you didn't get the shoes you wanted. Am I making myself clear?"

"NO." Kier said hotly. Ian straightened up and held out a hand.

"There's a bathroom over there- want to go and discuss it?"

Kier hesitated. He knew- from experience- that Ian was perfectly serious.  And he did NOT want to discuss anything with Ian, here, at home, now or ever.

He shook his head. Ian clicked his fingers.

"Then come on and lose the scowl."

Kier sighed and got up. The rest of the shopping took forever. Kier hated grocery shopping anyway. Elbows propped on the shopping cart he lifted his feet and rode down the aisle past the cans Ian was examining. Ian looked up with exasperation at the crash, brought the cans over and watched Kier hurriedly picking up This Week's Amazing Offer from the floor.

"WHAT are you doing?"

"It was an accident."

"Then STOP it." Ian took the cart away from him. "Pick some fruit."

"I HATE fruit."

"Well I don't. Please find some fruit."

Kier wandered over to the fruit aisle and watched as a youngster reached up for a grape and popped it into his mouth. He looked around, not spotting any adults and headed over to the grapes. "They good?"

"Mmmhmmm. Very good," the child said, grabbing for another.

"Ever roll them on the floor?" Kier asked after taking another quick look around.

The child laughed. "No!"

"Watch." Kier took a grape and rolled it down the aisle.

The child laughed hysterically, then grabbed a grape and did the same thing.  Kier pretended to be looking at the fruit as the kid rolled several more.  Ian's fingers slid down the back of his neck, took firm hold of his collar and pulled him around the corner into the health and beauty aisle, parking him beside a sinister row of hairbrushes.

"HERE are my car keys, go and wait in the car. I've had enough of you being an accident in search of somewhere to happen this afternoon. MOVE."

Ian's voice was sharp enough that several people turned around to look. Kier flushed scarlet.

"I'm sorry, I'll stop."

"Too late." Ian held out the keys. "Wait in the car, touch NOTHING."

Great. Now he was really in trouble and all over a couple of grapes.  Kier headed slowly for the exit, seeing the kid grabbed by an irate looking mother who retrieved the grapes and swatted the kid, who burst into tears.  Guiltstricken and definitely sympathetic, Kier wandered across the carpark and unlocked Ian's car. This was turning out to be a bad idea this camping trip; everything associated with it went wrong. Horrible shoes.  Horrible shopping trips. Ian appeared within a few minutes, stowed the shopping in the boot and slammed it shut in a way that suggested Kier had better not push his luck any further this afternoon.

"I'm sorry." Kier said as soon as he opened the door.

Ian got in, slammed the door shut and turned the engine over.

"So was that poor child you got into trouble."

"It was only a few grapes!"

"You don't play with food, particularly that which you haven't purchased!"  Ian said, starting out of the carpark.

"It was just a few grapes," Kier said quietly, sliding down into his seat.  The ride home was short.

Kier got out and was headed towards the door.

"Kier? I need help bringing the shopping in please." Ian handed over several bags, grabbed what was left and shut the boot.

Kier deposited the bags on the counter and tried to head towards the living room.

"You can help me put this away, please," Ian said in his best no- nonsense voice.

Kier complied, not wanting to push his luck any farther. He didn't even get a chance to turn away before Ian was telling him to sit down.

"Why?"

Ian got some paper and a pen out and laid it on the table in front of Kier. "You can write 200 times for me 'I will not play with food in the grocery store'."


"Ian!" Kier stammered.

"Go on. And be thankful I didn't swat you like the mother did her son," Ian said, heading out of the kitchen. Kier scowled and took his seat, resentfully picking up the pen. Camping was going to SUCK.


"Kier, that looks like Ian." Jim called up shortly after three pm.  Kier tipped his hard hat back and hung over the scaffolding. The truck pulling up was Ian's, and it was loaded. Ian got out and whistled, waving. Kier gave him a reluctant salute back.

"Where are you going?" Jim asked, watching him slide down the scaffolding instead of using the ladders. Kier paused to pull a face at him.

"Camping."

"Sounds like fun."

Sounds like torture, Kier said under his breath. Ian had been horrendous about packing. No, you won't need that. NO you're not taking that.  NO, that will only get in the way....everything warm, pleasant, necessary, every luxury he'd relentlessly unpacked, as many times as Kier discreetly repacked.

"Hi gorgeous." Ian said cheerfully, leaning on the open truck door. "Get your jacket."

"I didn't-"

"You DID bring a jacket, go get it. Plus anything else you're going to want to come back for in an hour from now, because we're not coming back until Monday. Go on." Ian kissed him and gave him a gentle push.

Kier went over to the work trailer and retrieved his coat, saying goodbye to the site manager. He walked back to the truck, seeing Ian so excited about going. He was still very unsure of the entire trip, but it looked like the time to back out was long past. He got into the truck amid a few cat calls from his co-workers who were all very jealous of the long weekend Kier was going to enjoy.

"Isn't it the perfect day?" Ian asked as he backed out of the lot.

"Yeah, I guess," Kier replied.

"You guess? You GUESS? It's seventy-five, a light breeze, bright sun.  The perfect weather for hiking, for camping. Not the warmest weather to swim, but that hasn't stopped any of us before. We can hike without having to stop every five minutes to cool down. The nights are going to be perfect for a campfire, and sleeping will be wonderful."

"I'm thinking I should drive," Kier said "because it seems that SOMEONE has had a few drugs before hitting the road."

Ian laughed. "I guess I do sound a little high, but it's only the thought of spending a long weekend with you that has gotten me this way. It's been a long time since we've taken a few days off together."

"I guess it has. The last time was.....a weekend at your mothers."

"And I don't call that quite vacation."

"No, not when your mother wanted her fence to be repaired!" Kier said, remembering the hottest weekend in a long time and they were outside working. Or rather, Ian was and Kier tried NOT to.

"No phones. No patients. No family. No television news. Just a perfectly blue sky, friends, and fun."

Yeah. Kier tried to return Ian's smile and curled up in the passenger seat.  Ian put a hand across and shook his knee gently.

"There's some sandwiches in the box down there if you're hungry. It's quite a drive."


It was nearly seven pm when Ian turned off the track they'd been following for a while and the truck began to climb open land, moving slowly over the grass. Kier was woken by the juddering and slowly straightened up, looking around. Over the next hill, Ian turned towards the line of the woodlands and Kier caught sight of a pitched tent and Allen's big landrover. Jamie, on his knees and feeding a cleared fireplace, waved. Ian pulled in beside Allen and swung down out of the truck, stretching his shoulders. Kier followed more slowly, watching as Jamie paused by Ian for a hug. Allen, still tightening the ropes on the tent, got up and brushed his hands off.

"Hey. You took your time."

"Someone had work to finish." Ian said easily. "What's for dinner? Or do we get to drive back down to the village for fish and chips tonight?"

Jamie promptly took Ian's car keys back out of his pocket and put them in his hand. Allen laughed.

"Kier? Sound good to you?"

Kier managed a gesture between a nod and a shrug. Allen unhurriedly put the last peg in place, came over to them and gave him a crushing hug.

"Wake up sleepy head. It's good to see you."

"I'll go with Ian? Now? Please?" Jamie was already steering Ian away.  Allen gave him a brief Look.

"Ian might be tired of driving."

Ian shook his head. "I don't mind. Kier, coming too?"

"Why don't you stay and help me put up the tent?" Allen suggested, putting a hand on his shoulder. "Go on you two, we're starved."

Kier watched with some trepidation as Ian left with Jamie, who was nearly bouncing out of the truck seat. He hated that Jamie was so comfortable with Ian, when he didn't feel any of that towards Allen.

"Come on kiddo, let's see if we can get this up before they get back," Allen said, picking up the bag that he had set down.

Kier trailed him over and picked up the sticks in the area that Allen pointed out. It was a flat spot under a large tree.

"Put these poles together while I work out unrolling this. I swear, Ian always did have to have a king-sized tent!" Allen said, laughing. Allen kept an eye on Kier, and when he realized he was having problems, went over to him.

"Try the bent pole in the one you're holding."

Kier grabbed the bent pole angrily and shoved it in. He managed a short thanks to Allen and went to put the other three together.

Allen went back to the tent and got it ready for the poles. "Got them finished?"

"Yeah. Didn't realize you needed a degree to put a tent up."

"It'll get easier. At least you aren't putting it up in the dark, in the pouring rain with the temperature a cool 45 degees."

"Who'd put a tent up in weather like that?"

"Ian," Allen said, inserting the first pole into the fabric of the tent. "We'd driven for five hours, and he was dead set on not going back until he absolutely had to."


"And you enjoyed yourself?"

"Not that time, no. We got the tent up, got inside and rolled up in the sleeping bags, fully clothed. Waking up the next day we found an inch of standing water inside the tent. We packed up and went home and upon arrival, both of us had the beginnings of a cold."

"And this is what you call fun?" Kier said drily. Allen grinned.

"I don't think even Ian enjoyed that one. That's it, pass the other section over."

Kier handed the pole over and stood back as Ian hooked that in, then watched in wonder as the material and poles were raised and actually resembled a tent. He looked over at Allen and Jamie's and laughed. "It looks like we could ALL sleep in this one!"

"Told you Ian likes his space. Unzip the door and window flaps and let it air out. Smells a little stale there."

Kier fumbled for a moment with the opening zipper and then went inside. He could almost stand completely up in the center, and definitely wouldn't have to curl up to sleep. He unzipped the two side windows and stepped out, wrinkling his nose. "It does smell a little."

"It'll go away quickly. Shhhhhh."

Kier stopped moving and looked quizzically at Allen.

"They're on their way. You can hear the truck when it passes on the road down there," Allen said, pointing.

Kier looked and could barely make out the dirt road. "Where's the truck?"

"They've just gotten off the road."

"Oh. I didn't see when we did that."

"Asleep?"

"YOU try listening to Ian's music!" Kier said, laughing.

"I know. Some of it IS rather slow. Every time I see ER I imagine Ian operating and the rest of the surgical team pleading with him to change the CD." Allen tugged the last of the flaps straight. "Suppose I find some plates?"

Kier jogged across to the truck and hugged Ian as he climbed out of the truck. Ian, slightly surprised, but understanding, kept an arm around him as he locked the truck up. Jamie, carrying the paper wrapped parcels, headed across to Allen and the plates.

They ate in the growing dusk, Kier close to Ian and getting steadily closer as the evening cooled. Jamie casually built the fire up and lounged full length on the grass beside Allen until Allen nudged him.

"Its getting cool, get yourself a rug or sit on a chair."

"I like the grass."

"You won't like a chill if you take one."

"It's fine," Ian said cheerfully, "I have a full medikit with me, plenty of injectable antibiotics."

Jamie pulled a face at him and took a rug out of his and Allen's tent. They talked as it grew darker until the only lights were the fire and the couple of oil lanterns. The wildlife noises changed and grew louder around them, and the fire sparks shooting up into the darkness became brighter.  Kier mostly listened to the conversation, despite Allen and Ian's attempts to draw him in. Some time after nine Ian glanced at his watch and shifted, raising Kier's sleepy head off his shoulder.

"Come on. You did a long day's work today, change and get yourself settled down."

Kier pulled down Ian's hand and looked at his watch. "It's only 9:15."

"And you're getting sleepy. Go on."

"I'm fine," Kier said, trying to keep the whine out of his voice.

"Kiernan," Ian said in his warning tone.

"I THOUGHT this was vacation!" Kier spat, sitting up and hugging his legs. He wasn't about to be the first in bed while everyone else sat outside.

"Into the tent young man," Ian said sternly.

Kier stared hard at the fire, finally kicked his foot and got up, grumbling. He quieted some when he heard Ian behind him.

Ian held open the tent flap and followed Kiernan inside.

"I can change my own clothes, thank you," Kiernan tried, digging into his bag. He stopped when Ian's hand closed around his arm and pulled him face to face.

"Do you really want me to see if I can soap your mouth out at this time of night in the middle of a field?"

Kier opened his mouth, and then closed it again, and shook his head. Ian pulled his sweater over his head, stooped and found the sweats Kier had brought to sleep in and pulled the top down over his arms.

"Brush your teeth then."

Kier felt through his bag and found what he wanted. Ian spread out his sleeping bag and unzipped it, putting the lantern by the tent doorway. It's gentle light lit the tent interior. Shivering, Kier pulled the sweat pants on and crawled into the sleeping bag. Ian shook out a blanket over the top of him and stooped to kiss him.

"Jamie and Allen are just outside. I'm going for a short walk, I won't be long. Sweet dreams."

Kier didn't answer, watching him duck the tent flap and the sound of footsteps on damp grass move away. Jamie and Allen's voices were too soft to hear the words, just a faint buzz a way off. Kier rolled over, the scent of earth and grass sharp in his nose, curled up in the cold sleeping bag and wished he was anywhere but here.

He tried listening for Ian's feet, certain he'd return quickly. Instead, all he could hear was the gentle conversation between Jamie and Allen, discussing something about Jamie's current class and how that related to the stars in the sky. He still couldn't figure out why he was in his sleeping bag, and everyone else was doing something else.

By the time Ian got back, Jamie and Allen had retired to their tent and Keir was in full sulk mode. He kept his back turned towards Ian and didn't acknowledge his presense. Ian saw the hunched shoulders and was well aware his partner was still awake. Kier in a sulk was often best left to himself: he was a volatile man with intense emotions, but naturally sweet tempered, he rarely stayed cross for long. Ian kept quiet and undressed rapidly, shivering in the evening chill. It was a beautiful night outside, he loved the sounds, the scents, the immediacy of the open spaces and reality of the world outside, just separated by a few pieces of canvas. He pulled sweats on and slid into his sleeping bag, leaning over to turn the lantern out. He put a blanket in Kier's reach and pulled the second over himself. Kier felt the touch of the blanket laid near him, and Ian settling down against his back. Ian's arm hooked over him, pulling him close. For a minute, still angry, Kier considered shaking it off, but settled instead for pretending he was asleep. Ian took no notice. Just pulled him close and the hand on him stroked soothingly. Kier shut his eyes and took no notice. Within a few minutes however, hypnotised by Ian's steady breathing and the steady stroking of that hand, Kier found himself too tired to remember what he was supposed to be annoyed about. Ian waited until he was sure Kier was soundly asleep before he relaxed and closed his eyes.

The light through the canvas woke Kier. He rolled over with difficulty and for a moment wondered where he was. Then he leaned up on his elbows and peered through the tent flap. The sky was orange. Ian, beside him, was still fast asleep. Carefully, Kier eased himself out of his sleeping bag and crawled to the tent entrance, standing up on bare feet on the wet grass outside. The view was stunning. The field stood on a slope of a valley basin- woods and open fields surrounded them in every direction, and the grey shimmer of cloud in the valley suggested that a large body of water was somewhere near.

"Kier?" Ian's sleepy voice said from the tent.

"Here." Kier said softly, glancing at Allen and Jamie's tent. Ian sat up, blinking.

"What are you doing?"

"It's morning."

Ian glanced at his watch and smiled. "It's four thirty. Come back here."

"I'm awake now."

"Come back here anyway." Ian held out a hand. Sighing, Kier padded back to him, leaving the tent flaps open. Ian moved over in his sleeping bag, unzipped it and held out his arms, waiting until Kier fitted in beside him, snuggling up despite himself. Time and convenience to cuddle like this in the mornings was an unusual luxury and one not to be passed up. Ian winced, wrapping himself around Kier's chilled body.

"Your feet are freezing...... go back to sleep for another couple of hours, we don't need to be up yet."

"Not sleepy," Kier said against Ian's chest, shivering.

Ian held him tight, stroking his back, and soon fell asleep himself.

Kier drifted off into a light doze, warmed by Ian's body, until he heard movement outside the tent. His eyes snapped open and he stopped breathing, listening intently. He was certain some animal was loose and there the tent flap was, unzipped. He heard a few sticks breaking as something with big jaws was chewing through the wood. He SO wanted to wake up Ian, but he was afraid to make a sound. His chest was burning against his will to not breathe.

"Allen, come back here before I have to do it myself."

A soft laugh could be heard, then movement, and the sound of a zipper being pulled down. Kier exhaled loudly in a mixture of anger and relief at finding out the monster was Allen starting a fire. He ducked under the edge of the sleeping bag to shut out the sounds from the tent next to theirs, wishing himself in the front of a television.

Twenty minutes later, Kier was startled when the top of the tent started to shake. "Ian, Kier, wake up. Coffee's on."

"Jamie! I said wake them up, not give them a jump start for the day." Allen said as he put the coffee pot into the fire.

"You KNOW Ian always sleeps late if we don't," Jamie responded, walking back over to the fire.

Kier unzipped the side of the bag and sat up. "Asshole."

"Hey. It's alright, he didn't mean to scare you," Ian said sleepily.

"He still DID."

"He just gets a little over excited, that's all. Put something warm on, it's still chilly."

"Rubbish." Allen said cheerfully from outside. "Its going to be a beautiful day."

Kier crawled out of the open flap and staggered to his feet. It was already warm outside and promising to be hot later. Allen was making coffee. Ian came out of the tent behind him and stretched. A minute later Jamie hit him in the back, locking both arms around his neck.

"Fishing!"

"Later!" Ian said, laughing. "Maybe an early fish tomorrow morning. Dawn. Kier was up and raring to go then."

"I wish you luck getting Jamie up for dawn." Allen said dryly. Ian shook Jamie off and dug his fingers into his ribs, making him scream.

"That's usually enough."

"Who wants bacon?" Allen passed coffee to Ian and pulled bacon out of the cold box. He paused and smiled at Kier, who was standing, feeling a little lost by the fire.

"What do you like to drink Kier? I know you're not a coffee fan."

"Coke?" Kier said hopefully.

"ONE a day." Ian said behind him. Kier pulled a face.

"Milk?"

"Not enough." Jamie said, escaping Allen. "We only have enough for breakfast anyway."

"I packed some juice in the cooler, get that," Ian said as he sat down in one of the chairs they brought, sipping his coffee.

"I don't want juice," Kier said irritably.

"You're going to be stuck with juice and water whenever you don't drink your coke, it's up to you when that is." Ian said reasonably.

Kier snarled to himself, wondering why in the world he couldn't like coffee like Jamie did, and not get singled out. He snatched a water from the cooler and found the only chair available, between Jamie and Allen, with Ian on the far side of Jamie.

"We'll go walking after breakfast Kier. It'll be fun." Jamie said excitedly.

"Walking is fun? Whatever."

Jamie gave up trying to talk to Kier and turned instead to Ian. "You remember that time when we were down by that stream, and you fell into the water?"

"I didn't find that funny, young man," Ian said, trying to sound stern, but the smile playing havoc with that.

Jamie leaned back and laughed hard. "He was....oh my goodness......he stepped on this moss covered rock, and the look on his face...."

Allen started laughing as well, remembering the perfect look of horror that crossed Ian's face as both feet went up in the air much like a cartoon and he landed flat on his back in the icy cold water, spraying both of his partners. It was all Jamie and Allen could do at the time not to bust their guts as Ian came up out of the water faster than a policeman goes for the doughnuts and angrier than a wet hen.

"He was so mad he couldn't get his footing up the bank and we were laughing too much to help him." Allen said, grinning. "He was spitting feathers by the time we got him out."

"I damn nearly pulled you in." Ian admitted. "Bacon sweetheart?"

Kier shook his head, pulling a roll out of the packet, head down. Allen slipped a few pieces of the bacon onto his plate, apparently not seeing the glare Kier aimed at him.

"Where shall we go today then?" Jamie demanded, oblivious.

"Its going to be hot." Allen handed him the last pieces of bacon and took the pan off the fire. "How about we walk up to the top of the Sugar Loaf hill and take stuff with us to picnic up there for the day? It'll be cooler up there and there's a lot more shade."

From Jamie's enthusiastic approval, the top of that hill was- marginally less boring than all the other grass hills around them. Kier ducked his head over his plate, wishing he was sitting next to Ian. Or that better still, he'd made Ian come on this trip alone; all he wanted to do right now was go home, away from feeling quite so out of his depth, in the way and thoroughly unwanted. Jamie poked him in the ribs, and unprepared, Kier dropped his plate. Allen leaned over to pick up the roll and bacon, giving Jamie a look.

"DON'T poke people when they're eating! As a matter of fact, don't poke them at all."

"I only meant wake up!" Jamie protested.

"Whatever you meant, don't do it." Allen leaned over for more bacon but Kier got up, hastily finishing the rest of the water. "Its okay thanks, I'm not that hungry."

"Are you sure Kier? It's a long walk."

"I'm fine, really. Thanks." Kier made his way over to the tent and slid inside, falling down on his sleeping bag. He pulled his backpack over and pulled out one of his handheld games that he'd been able to get past Ian Security and became engrossed.

"I didn't MEAN to do that," Jamie said quickly.

"That's okay. Kier just isn't too enthused this morning, but I think he'll come around when he realizes how much fun this really is," Ian said.

"I hope so. It IS fun, isn't it?"

"Yes. And Allen, this bacon is cooked to perfection. I don't know why you don't just remove your stove and install a fireplace. You're excellent with open flames."

"Thanks," Allen said, laughing. He started to get up when Jamie did.

"I'll get the dishes, don't worry," he said, holding out a hand.

"Thank you. I could use another cup of coffee," Allen said, coughing discreetly.

Jamie grinned, taking the plates and heading over to the truck where they had the trash and a large bottle of water. Jamie made quick work of the couple of dishes and cleaned up every bit of trash. "Who's doing the lunch planning?"

"I'll do that," Ian said easily. "Turkey sandwiches, crisps, fruit?"

"Yes! Lots of fruit," Jamie said eagerly.

"I packed enough," Ian said as he got up and headed over to the cooler, kept in the shade of the trucks. He quickly made six sandwiches and grabbed several pieces of fruit, packing those in a backpack along with a couple bags of crisps.

Jamie got together the water needed on the hike while Allen finished his coffee, savoring the quiet of the hillside. He was trying to pick out the different bird's calls when he heard an electronic sound. Putting his coffee cup down, he got up and followed the sound to Ian and Kier's tent and looked inside the window.

"Whatcha doing there?"

Kier jumped guiltily, shoving the game under the pillow before he realized it was Allen.

".....nothing....."

"Gameboy?"

At Kier's flush and nod, Allen grinned. "I'd be a little more discreet with it unless you want it to end up in Ian's pocket. Come on, we're about ready to go."

Oh joy. Time to walk miles up a hill, for the sheer hell of walking up a hill. To sit on a hill all day. And then walk back down again. Kier slowly climbed out of the tent and went to stand with Ian. Who took one look at his footwear and shook his head.

"Put your boots on."

"I HATE wearing the boots!"

"You'll have blisters in half an hour with those. Boots. WITH the thick socks. Bring them out here, I'll lace them for you."

"They're too heavy!"

"Kier." Ian turned to look at him, lowering his voice, but the tone was no less impressive for that. "Boots. Now."

Close to snarling, Kier stamped back into the tent, kicked his trainers off and dragged out the hated boots, which, having been packed by Ian, had the right pair of socks already tucked inside them. Five minutes later he was sitting on the grass outside, watching and scowling as Ian laced them onto his feet, fitting them carefully and tightly. Allen, having chased Jamie until he caught him, and then wrestled with him until he was slathered in sun cream, came back to them, wiping the residue off down his own arms.

"Fit to go?"

"I think so." Ian got up and pulled Kier to his feet. "Up and onward."

Kier followed Ian into the trees, nearly stumbling several times as he got used to the heavy boots. The path was single file at the best of times, sometimes becoming completely blocked by fallen trees. Kier, usually a nimble climber, found himself having a hard time with the boots on. His scowl grew darker still as he listened to Ian and Allen talking easily, with Jamie getting in his two cents whenever the opportunity presented itself.

Kier was just about ready to tell them to go on without him when they broke from the trees into a small clearing around a babbling brook.

"Ready to take a break?" Ian asked.

"I LOVE this spot!" Jamie said, walking over to the stream and looking in the deeper pools of water. "It's the perfect spot."

"It's a freaking stream in the middle of the freaking woods in the middle of NOWHERE!" Kier thought to himself.

"Come have a seat, Kier," Ian said as he sat down on one of the many boulders that littered the area.

So they thought he wasn't only tagging along, he was also slowing them up?

"If you're stopping because you think I'm tired, I'm not." Kier said shortly, taking a few deep breaths to cover his own breathlessness. "I can keep going as long as you can."

Jamie glanced up uncomfortably, hearing his tone. Ian unhurriedly got up again.

"Okay, then we'll walk on a little way. Allen, why don't you two take your time here and catch us up when you're ready?"

Allen nodded, going to sit on the bank by Jamie and taking no further notice of them. Ian waited, standing at the exit to the clearing and waiting for Kier to move ahead of him. Kier's stomach promptly sank, recgonising Ian's tone even through it's cover. He knew exactly what he was being set up for. And there was nothing he could say now without making a serious fool of himself in front of Allen and Jamie.

Hating the wood, the situation and life in general, Kier stalked up the path Ian indicated, moving ahead of him with his heart beating steadily faster as they put more distance between themselves and the other two. Where the wood ended, bounded by a wooden fence and stile leading on the grass meadows of the hilltops, Ian put a hand on his arm and turned him, lifting the rucksack down from his back and taking his hand.

Kier went in silence, lip slipping further and further out. Ian sat him down on a fallen log and took a seat beside him, voice quiet and stern.

"Allright young man. We've put up with pouting and sulking and muttering ever since you and I arrived last night. Now you're starting to make Allen and Jamie uncomfortable and to be downright rude. I won't put up with this kind of behaviour from you for any reason, there IS no excuse for it. Now I want to hear your side of it. If you've got a problem tell me. Whatever's on your mind, tell me. Because this prima donna act stops right here."

"There's nothing wrong." Kier muttered, embarrassed. Ian's grip on his wrist tightened, pulled, and Kier pulled back, hurriedly and hard as he realised what Ian intended. It made no difference. Ian was built long and lean, but he used his height and leverage well when necessary and Kier found himself face down over Ian's jeaned lap, his face inches away from the pine needled ground and Ian's arm around his waist, pinning him where he was. A hard, sound swat landed on the seat of his jeans, making him yelp.

"I asked for your side of it Kiernan. I don't intend to repeat myself."

"Okay! Okay! I'm sorry!" Kier said, struggling to get down.

"Sorry for what, exactly?" Ian asked mildly, not letting him go.

Kier realized in order to keep this from happening, he was going to have to settle down.

"For grumbling so much. I'm sorry."

Ian let Kier down, pulling him down to sit next to him.

"Why are you grumbling so much?"

"It's just....you wouldn't understand."

"Try me."

Kier looked at the ground, wringing his hands. "I'm not....one of you. You and Jamie and Allen, you've all done this. I haven't. I'm like the outsider."

"I think all three of us have tried very hard to make you feel welcome because we know that." Ian gave him a rather stern look. "Or are you saying that you don't think we should go camping any more because of that?"

"No." Kier said uncertainly.

"Meaning yes." Ian put an arm around him and hugged him, kissing the top of his head. "I knew nothing about ice hockey when I first met you: I did however quickly taken on board that you love it and it's important to you, and that it's something we can enjoy together."

"What if you'd hated it?" Kier burst out. Ian considered, rocking him a little.

"That's a fair comment. I wouldn't have demanded that you give it up- but yes, I might not have wanted to be involved. Likewise, if you really can't take camping, then we'll organise it for weekends when you have other plans, and there are plenty of other things we can do together. But I don't think you've got any objections here to the situation, and I think you'd love it if you stopped concentrating so hard on how left out you feel."

"You and Allen and Jamie were friends LONG before me...." Kier said unhappily. "You all like being together, this is something you DO together, Jamie's all over you..."

"Jamie and Allen are very old friends." Ian said patiently. "They're neither of them my partner though. Are they?"

Kier shook his head slowly. Ian turned his chin around and gave him another, more thorough kiss.

"So we just need to talk about your behaviour this morning."

"Iaannnnnnn........." Kier clung on, resisting being slid down to his feet with a very good idea of what was about to happen. Ian detatched his hands.

"If you weren't happy, you could have taken me aside and talked about it at any moment. You do NOT sulk and strop and make people uncomfortable when you have a problem, particularly when they're trying to enjoy a rare chance for a holiday."

"I won't do it again!"

"No, I want to make sure of that."

"I AM sure!" Kier said, panic creeping into his voice at the thought of getting a spanking in the middle of nowhere, afraid that Allen and Jamie would burst through the trees at any moment. He started to struggle away when Ian's voice stopped him.

"Don't fight me, you're only going to make it worse. It's going to happen, kiddo, let's just get it out of the way."

Kier stood unhappily, looking over his shoulder several times as Ian unbuttoned his pants and he soon found them, along with his shorts, in a bunch around his boots. He pulled gently away, but soon found himself back over Ian's lap, the sun hot on his bared backside. It became much hotter all too soon for Kier's like.

Ian spanked quickly and hard, though not long. He simply wanted Kier to remember what could happen if he didn't straighten his act up. When the tears and wriggling really started, Ian stopped.

Kier scrambled to his feet as soon as Ian let him, trying to rub the fire out and get his pants up as quickly as he could. Ian helped him dress, straightened his clothes and drew Kier down on his lap, handing him a clean handkerchief and watching him hastily mop up his face.

"The river curves around again a little further up." he said gently when Kier's sniffling quietened. "How about we walk up there, you can wash your face, and we'll wait for the others?"

Kier slid off his lap, held onto the hand Ian offered him and walked with him, still feeling thoroughly squashed. The stile over the fence took them out onto the meadows that covered the hill tops, in bright sunshine. Ian kept an easy pace, there was no sign of the other two, and by the time the river cut through the grass ahead of them in a steep curve, they were some way off. Ian peeled his rucksack off, dropped it on the grass and dug through it for a thermos flask. Kier knelt on the bank and dipped a hand in the water, pulling a face.

"This is NOT going to be clean..."

"Au contrair my boy, it's filtered straight through the limestone rock and it's immaculate." Ian wrung the handkerchief out in the water and handed it over. "Here."

Kier dabbed at his face, beginning against his will to absorb the sunshine and the open space of the grass. They were the only people in sight and the view must have encompassed several miles of open land. Ian pulled his ankles across and unfasted the boots, peeling them and the thick socks off.

"It's safe to wade, it isn't deep and there's hardly any current."

Experimentally, Kier dipped his bare feet into the water, and within a few minutes was sitting with both legs over the edge of the bank, enjoying the cool and the movement of the water around him. Ian stretched out full length, a mug of tea in hand, and poked Kier with a bottle of water.

"Here."

Kier accepted the water and took a few long pulls before screwing the lid back on. He decided to wander in the water a bit more.

"Be careful. The rocks can be sharp."

"I will," Kier said as he wandered in the shallows, looking for interesting items.

It was about fifteen minutes later before Allen and Jamie broke from the trees and started the long trek to the riverbank where Ian and Kier were.

Kier remained in the water, the spanking all but forgotten for now. Ian remained stretched out in the grass, enjoying the quiet peace and the occasional splashes as Kier moved about in the water. Jamie and Allen reached them, hand in hand, and Jamie sat down on the edge of the bank, instantly pulling off his own boots. Allen did the same, but only sat on the bank, hanging his legs over into the water. Jamie waded slowly up towards Kier, and something about the smugness and satedness of the smile spoke to Kier before he saw the pine needles still in Jamie's hair.

"You didn't!" he demanded involuntarily, shocked. Jamie laughed, blushing a little.

"NO.. well sort of." He amended. "I've always had a thing for woods. Dappled shadows, the smell of pine...."

Kier splashed him, interrupting the purr. "I don't believe you two."

Jamie grinned, splashing back goodnaturedly. "So you've never been hit with a sense of The Moment? Are you ok?"

There was enough gentleness in Jamie's voice for it not to be a casual inquiry. Kier flushed far darker than Jamie had.

"Yeah."

"I'm sorry." Jamie said, brushing his shoulder. Kier glanced up, hearing the sincerity in Jamie's voice. Jamie was pretty much an open book- he carried with him a sense of life being too short for messing around, of an emotional honesty and frankness that Kier had always been drawn to and it reminded him, abruptly, that he actually loved Jamie and how good a friend he was. And how much of the last day and a half he'd wasted. Jamie saw his face change, put an arm around his neck and gave him a rough hug.

"It's amazing how a spanking clears your head sometimes, isn't it? It's ok. Really."

"I'm sorry I was such a grouch." Kier said awkwardly but sincerely.

"We all have our ---- AAAUUUGGGHHHH!" Jamie yelled as he stepped on rock that tipped over, dumping Jamie backside first into the shallow water. He landed on his butt, hands in the water, a shocked look on his face.

Ian sat up abruptly, wondering what had happened.

Kier turned and was going to hold out his hand to help Jamie up, but started laughing instead. It was a slow bubble of laughter that grew in intensity as Jamie's shocked look turned into one of chagrin, and then laughter himself. When Kier put out his hand to help him up, Jamie pulled Kier off balance and he landed in the water, spluttering in between gales of laughter. After a few minutes of playful horseplay, Allen and Ian pulled out the two drowned rats and stripped them of their clothes, letting them dry by the riverbank as they ate their lunch. Kier caught a glimpse of something in Ian's rucksack as he pulled out food and grabbed the rucksack from him.

"Did you SERIOUSLY bring dry clothes? What are you, my mother?"

"Just the way history keeps repeating itself made me think it might be a good idea." Ian said, grinning. "Don't dress on my account, I like the view."

Kier wriggled at the hand Ian ran down his back and settled down in the grass, continuing to munch his way through a packet of biscuits.

"Where do we go now?"

"Nowhere." Allen said peaceably. "We just take our time hanging around here for so long as we happen to feel like it."

"There's a book of yours in my bag." Ian added.

"And cricket gear in mine." said Jamie cheerfully. "Only the lightweight stuff but we can play two on two."

"Its hot Jamie, don't make people run around." Allen said mildly. Jamie gave him an exasperated look.

"I'm not going to MAKE people do anything!"

"Good. Because no one's rushing anywhere for at least an hour after we eat and until the midday sun's gone."

"Yeah, I know. All that activity you got earlier was too much," Jamie said, slyly.

Allen Looked at Jamie, who settled down with only a slight blush. Ian ducked his head, trying not to laugh. Kier was still buried in his biscuits, enjoying his friends around him.

In the event, they lay sprawled on the grass, reading for a good hour after they'd eaten, with the exception of Jamie who was no lover of literature. Allen called him quietly, hand held out, when he got to the edge of the water, and while he pulled a face, he came back and lay down on the grass in Allen's shade, one arm over his eyes. Allen went on reading, one hand resting on Jamie's hip and rubbing soothingly. Kier, who knew he would have probably pushed until Ian was compelled to come and get him, never mind be sulking furiously now, watched Jamie peaceably fall asleep with some sense of embarrassment and still more of curiosity. He'd been making Ian show him 'stop' signs all day, far more obviously than Allen used with Jamie, and Jamie accepted with far more grace. Since the day he met Ian he'd been both demanding and fighting those limits, and privately, Kier knew he'd be ashamed for Jamie and Allen to realise just how MUCH he fought them. He put his head down on his arms, somewhat red faced at the thought, wondering more than a little if Ian was living in hope of him learning to have the calm, easy acceptance Jamie did. He risked a glance through his arms at his lover's face. Strong features, a naturally somewhat stern expression when those features were at rest but Kier was much more familiar with the liveliness of Ian's smile and the gentleness there could be in his eyes and mouth- the expression Ian's patients saw as much of as he did. And the determination. They were both stubborn men, but Ian's stamina to see things through could be- incredible. Kier, who's volatile temper could fill and blow and be left exhausted, knew Ian at the end of that time would still be sticking to the exact same point he'd made at the start of the discussion. For the first time, Kier wondered if he was forcing Ian to go through such scenes against his will- if the proper way to do things was the way Jamie did. Just a quiet and untroubled acceptance. And maybe Ian was just patiently waiting for him to realise this and get past his difficult stage.

Somewhat upset, Kier left the book and edged a little closer to Ian, who muttered a vague protest about cuddling in this heat, but resignedly rubbed his back. Kier buried his face in his arms, not wanting to leave the comfort of that touch, but also increasingly unhappy with himself.

They played cricket for an hour when the sun became less fierce, trying not to sky the light ball over too great a distance, and when the sun began to turn gold rather than a white/yellow, they packed up and began the slow walk down through the woods.

Kier wanted to linger in the clearing by the creek, but remembering what had happened the last time, and what Jamie and Allen had done there, he chose not to stop. By the time they made it back to camp, Kier was tired and achy, not having been used to that amount of walking, especially in the boots. He stretched out full-length in the grass, trying to kick his boots off.

"Kier, untie them first," Ian admonished.

"Will you?" Kier asked, moving his feet closer to Ian.

Ian snagged Kier's feet, untied the boots and pulled them off his feet. "Get those socks off and something else on your feet. It'll cool off quickly."

Kier acknowledged Ian with a groan, choosing to stay on the ground.

"Come on, before you get settled. Kier?" Ian said as he reached down to pull Kier's arm up.

Kier stumbled to his feet and over to the tent, climbing into the hot interior. He left the door open for the air, searching around for some thinner socks. Instead of finding them, he found his pillow and fell asleep almost instantly. Ian found him a few minutes later, stifled a laugh and left him in peace. Allen, full length on the grass outside, looked in little better condition. Jamie, who had energy to burn at most times, was laying the fire. Ian quickened his pace and confiscated the lighter fluid and the matches, pocketing both.

"If Allen was awake enough to see that-"

"Allen IS awake." Allen said without opening his eyes. "What should he be watching?"

"Nothing." Jamie said, pulling a face at Ian. Ian grinned and took a seat beside him, straightening out a few of the more haphazard sticks before he crumbled firelighters and put a match to them. Jamie bounced up the minute it was done.

"That's sorted out- do we need any shopping?"

"No, I think we got it all yesterday." Ian said, checking the cold box. "We need to go into the town tomorrow."

"Then how about a walk down the hill?"

"Jamie, I'm knackered. We walked about twelve miles today."

"We did it slowly!"

"No." Ian said mildly. "I think I'm going to get a book and read. Kier's out for the count-"

"Cricket?"

"Jamie." Allen said warningly.

"You're all so boring!"

"And people need to rest. Come and lie down."

Jamie didn't move, scowling. Allen opened his eyes and propped himself up on his elbows, giving him a warning look.

"Jamie. Now. Come on please."

The pout got a lot worse, but Jamie moved slowly over to his partner and dropped full length on the ground, face down. Allen ran a soothing hand over his back and shut his eyes again. Ian pulled his book out of his rucksack and lay down, finding his place marked with a blade of grass. The stillness was broken only by a deep sigh from Jamie a few minutes later. Ian looked up, close to laughing, and Allen quickly put a finger to his lips, dropping his voice.

"He's the only man I ever met who can be sarcastic in his sleep."

"He's gone?"

"Out like a light. I swear, he's like a toddler when he's overtired. The more he needs to stop, the faster he gets."

Ian smiled knowingly and went back to reading. Within about ten minutes, he was the only one that was still awake. He put his book down about thirty minutes later and quietly started to make dinner.

Kier woke up, still hot from the tent. He grabbed his socks and climbed out of the tent, not hearing anything going on outside. He saw Ian with his nose in a book, and smelled something wonderful coming from the fire. He wandered over to Ian and took a look at the fire.

"What's that?"

"Potatoes and vegetables. Sleep well?"

Kier shrugged. "It was hot. Guess I'm not the only one that was tired," Kier said as he sat down in one of the chairs. "What else are we having?"

"I figure we can grill those hamburgers we have. Sound good?"

"Yeah. You did make some without onions, didn't you?"

"Yes I did. This will take another thirty or forty minutes, so I'll start the burgers in about fifteen to twenty minutes."

"Good, I'm hungry," Kier said, standing up.

"Why don't you get a water and drink that? You've been pretty busy today."

"Okay. Want anything?"

"No, I've got a drink here."

Kier walked over to the cooler and pulled out a water, drinking deeply. He looked over to the woods, spying a couple of bushes moving.

"I'm going to wander over there," he said, starting to walk off.

"Shoes."

Kier went into the tent and got his sneakers, tied them on and then continued into the woods. The fierce heat of the day was long gone- the evening was cool and humid and the shade in the woods was as pretty as the dapple of the evening sunlight through the trees. He had no problem understanding why Ian, who loved quiet and beauty, was drawn back again and again to this area. The sensory stimulation was entirely different to that of daily life- stronger, gentler, far more immediate. Kier found himself remembering something Ian had said, about adults being sensory deprived in their daily life. For the first time, it made sense.

He wandered for a while, following paths, finding the red clay gurgle of a small stream and a few fish darting where the stream grew deeper. Maybe further along was where Allen liked to fish. Deciding he needed to follow that further tomorrow, maybe with Ian, Kier turned and headed slowly back, emerging from the woods into the meadow and walking slowly up the hill to where the two tents were pitched. Ian waved from the fire and stood up to watch him. Allen was sitting, elbows resting on his knees, hands loosely linked, face turned up to the sun. Jamie, sitting close beside him, looked tired, and definitely on the pouty side. Wondering what the problem was, Kier ducked around the fire and went to sit by Ian, snuffing at the hamburgers.

"I'm starved."

"Why don't you get the plates, buns and forks, and we'll eat?"

"Okay," Kier said brightly, getting up to get the requested items.

"Why don't you get the drinks out Jamie?" Allen said, getting up to help Ian with the vegetable packet.

"Who wants what?" he said ungraciously.

Allen Looked at him, though didn't say anything.

"Coke for me," Kier said, missing the look.

"Two teas for Allen and I," Ian said, after checking with Allen.

Five minutes later, everyone was served a plate and conversation ended as they had all worked up quite an appetite from the day's activities. Jamie finished first, getting up and dumping his plate in the trash. He wandered a little ways towards the trees before Allen called out.

"Jamie? Stay here please, the sun's going down."

"I'm not GOING far."

"Stay here anyway." Allen said more firmly. Jamie didn't look around, scuffing at the grass and still heading down the hill- just a little more slowly and less determinedly. Allen's eyes stayed on him, his voice becoming definitely more distinct. Kier, who knew that tone in Ian's voice, jumped a little, starting to feel awkward.

"Jamie. Back here please. Now."

For one fairly horrible moment, Kier thought Jamie wasn't going to respond. Then he turned slowly and came back up the hill, heavy footed and scowling.

"What AM I? Little Red Riding Hood?"

"The ground's unstable and full of rabbit holes. I'd rather you didn't break or sprain anything." Allen said simply, pointing at the grass beside him. Jamie sighed, but dropped full length on the ground, arm over his eyes.

"It's BORING."

"Would you like to go to bed then?"

Jamie scowled at him. Allen didn't respond, voice still calm and perfectly polite.

"Would you?"

"No." Jamie said eventually, sullenly.

Silence resumed. Or rather peaceable quiet. Kier finished his meal, stacked his plate on Ian's and stretched out, leaning against Ian's jeaned legs. Jamie rolled over on the grass and propped himself up on his elbows.

"We could go to that irish pub in town."

"Not tonight." Ian said mildly. "It's miles away."

"Then Kier and I could go!"

"No."

"Iaaannnnnn. You know the place -"

"That's enough," Allen said firmly.

Jamie scowled harder, but stopped talking.

"Why don't we play some cards?" Ian suggested, trying to get the light mood to return.

"Yeah, I'll get them," Kier volunteered quickly, getting up to retrieve them from the tent. He returned and it was decided they'd play rummy.

Jamie wasn't interested in playing in the least and he let it be known during the first couple of hands. Finally, Allen had had enough.

"If you'll excuse us for a moment? Jamie, I'd like a word with you," Allen said as he stood up.

"What?" Jamie asked, irritated. He jumped up when a hand of steel closed on his upper arm and pulled, jumping forward with an embarrassed yelp when Allen's free hand connected solidly with the seat of his pants.

Allen took him a few paces away from the fire and their friends. Turning Jamie to face him, he spoke.

"I've had enough of your bad attitude and pouting and I'm sure Ian and Kier have as well. This is your last chance. The next time I need to speak to you, you're going to bed, if not receive a spanking. Do I make myself clear?"

Jamie wanted to say something smart, but realized at this point it would only get him that spanking. He finally managed a "Yes, sir."

Allen stared for an extra minute, making sure that Jamie knew he was serious. "Then lets continue the game."

Jamie quickly walked back, thankful the fire wasn't bright enough to show his face as he felt very flushed. He dropped back on the grass and took the cards that were dealt to him.

Kier watched Jamie, wondering what had been said. He had heard, but couldn't make out the words of what had been said. It was painfully clear two hands later that whatever was said wasn't listened to.

"Will you PLEASE play Kier? You pick up a card, you put -"

"That's enough. You owe an aplogy to Kier and Ian for your behavior, young man," Allen said firmly.

Jamie blushed and muttered an apology.

"Goodnight, Jamie," Allen said meaningfully.

Jamie jumped up with the cards still in his hand and ready to throw.

"Do you want a spanking?"

"No!" Jamie said quickly, dropping the cards and stalking off to the tent.

Kier scooted closer to Ian. Allen caught his eye and gave him a quick smile.

"How tired are you?"

"Not very." Kier said softly. Allen leaned over and pulled the cards back into a pile.

"Another game then?"

There was nothing further from Jamie. They played another few hands before Allen went to bed, and Kier and Ian lay for a while watching the fire die down.

"Will you go fishing tomorrow?" Kier asked softly. Ian hesitated.

"Not unless you want to come?"

"I hate fishing." Kier took a deep breath. "You go, I'll be fine."

It was genuine, not bravado. Ian smoothed his hair back off his forehead, not wanting to reject the offer but still anxious.

"Are you sure? I don't have to."

"I want you to." Kier tipped his head back for a kiss. "You go tomorrow."

"If the weather holds, it will be perfect for bass. What do you think you'll do?"

"Thought I might just go down the creek, exploring that. Don't you think Jamie'll go with you?"

"Not necessarily. He enjoys fishing, but he also likes to just wander. It'll be tomorrow before we know his choice. Ready for bed?"

"I suppose," Kier said, standing up.

"Let's get this fire out. The shovel is over there," Ian said as he kicked down the last few embers. He took the shovel from Kier and covered the ashes lightly in dirt, then followed Kier to the tent.

"It's not so hot in here now, is it?"

"No. The sun warms it up quick, but as soon as it goes down, it does get chilly. Why don't you find your long sleeves to sleep in tonight?"

"Nah. I have other ways to keep warm," Kier said with a wicked grin as he started to pulls his pants off in the dim light of the single lantern.

Ian just as quickly disrobed, blowing out the lantern and setting it outside before zipping the tent shut. The fingers reaching around on both sides of him left him in no doubt he wasn't sleeping right away.

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

Kier was vaguely aware of Ian slipping away at some unGodly hour-there was a brief, murmured conversation which on his part consisted mostly of "mph" and a kiss he surfaced long enough to accept. When he woke in response to daylight and the crackle of the fire outside, Ian was gone. He crawled out of the tent and found Allen frying eggs, already in short sleeves as the sun hit their hillside. He looked over and smiled, flipping eggs on to a plate.

"What can I fry you? On the condition you don't tell Ian or mention cholesterol."

Kier grinned. "Eggs and bacon please."

"Atta boy." Allen cracked more eggs into the pan. "Put something on your feet, the grass is still wet."

Kier pulled clothes on, ran Ian's battery powered razor over his jaw and headed out into the sunshine, hearing a car engine. Jamie, wearing shorts and little else, got out of his car and locked it, bringing milk and bread across to Allen.

"There. I thought that'd be enough."

"Where's the chocolate?" Allen inquired. Jamie grinned.

"Come on, think I'd try that just wearing shorts?"

"Yes." Allen said frankly, waiting. Jamie laughed and went to sit down. Allen grabbed his wrist before he got there, turned him around and held out his hand.

After a moment, Jamie sighed and surrendered two large blocks of chocolate from the depths of his pocket.

"OKAY."

"Thank you." Allen put the chocolate in the cold box. "Get yourself something to drink. We'll discuss smuggling later."

"It isn't smuggling, its CHOCOLATE." Jamie said, scowling.

"Can you get me a coke?" Kier asked Jamie.

"Make that juice or water. Ian would be less happy with me if you mixed that with breakfast."

"Apple juice," Kier said resignedly.

"Sir Allen has spoken," Jamie said in a tone which he thought was under his breath.

"What was that Jamie?"

"NOTHING," Jamie spat ungratefully.

Allen stood up, taking the pan off the fire. "If you'll excuse us a moment?"

Kier nodded, head going down. He didn't know what had gotten up Jamie's nose, but he sure wish he'd sneeze it out - and soon.

Jamie scowled, and yelped when Allen's hand swatted him towards the vehicles. He hurried ahead of Allen, stomach sinking.

"WHAT is going on with you?" Allen asked firmly when they reached the trucks.

"Nothing."

Allen just continued looking, and waiting.

Jamie started to fidget.

"IS it nothing?"

"Yes."

"That had better be the last outburst today. You will stay within camp for the rest of the day. Is that clear?"

"Allen!" Jamie said, indignantly. "That isn't fair!"

"Does it need to get more unfair or is that clear?" Allen said meaningfully. Jamie took a deep breath but didn't push his luck any further.

"Clear."

"Good." Allen put a hand on the truck bonnet, fencing him in. "Now I want you to go back to the tent, get comfortable and try to get another couple of hour's sleep. I'll bring you some breakfast over."

"Noooooooooooo, I'll be good!" Jamie, outraged, abruptly lost his scowl. "I promise, I won't say anything else..."

"I'm not cross with you." Allen put an arm around his neck and gave him a quick hug. "We're on holiday, we came out here to rest and recuperate and I think you need some more rest. Go on. Get yourself comfortable, I'll be over in a minute. Go on."

"Allen pleeeeease-"

"Go on." Allen said firmly.

Lip out, not happy, Jamie headed for their tent. Allen went back to the fire and put the pan back over the flames. Kier risked a glance at him and Allen gave him a reassuring smile.

"Would you mind reading or walking around the camp this morning? I want Jamie to try getting some more sleep if he can, he's been working hard lately and I think it's catching up with him. It often does when he starts to relax. He doesn't handle being tired well."

"I was just going to exploe the creek a bit."

"I think I'll head over the hill there and see if I can get us any dinner. As fine a doctor as your partner is, he's not always the best fisherman," Allen said, laughing.

Allen fixed up a plate and took it over to their tent, then returned and finished breakfast with Kier. When he finished, he took his rod and reel and headed off over the hills.

Kier wandered over to Jamie's tent. He heard the snore before he lifted the flap. Snorting, he walked off down the creek to see what he could find.

Jamie woke up twenty minutes later. He listened for a few minutes and didn't hear any camping sounds. Sticking his head through the flap, he looked around. Not finding Allen anywhere, he put his shoes on and climbed out of the tent, zipping it shut behind him. He headed straight for the icebox and took out one of the bars of chocolate adn tried to take a bite. It was too hard, so he put it in his pocket to thaw.

For about the next twenty minutes he did everything in camp that seemed interesting. That got boring quickly. He saw Kier in the distance walking back towards camp. He headed straight for him.

"Hey."

"Sleep well?" Kier asked.

"I only laid there for Allen's benefit," Jamie said quickly.

"And you snored for mine?"

"Yes, yes I did," Jamie said, blushing slightly.

Kier frankly laughed. Jamie scowled, then the scowl unwillingly melted to a rueful grin.

"Okay, I was tired. Did Allen say when he'd be back?"

"He went fishing- he's only on the other side of the hill if you want him."

"I've had enough of him and sleeping for this morning." Jamie fell into step with Kier back towards the camp. "What are you upto?"

"Just wandering. Looking around."

Jamie gave him a sudden dig in the ribs that made him cough. "HEY. I never showed you the Tarn, did I?"

"The what?" Kier said, confused. Jamie grabbed his arm. "Up the hill. It's a natural stone formation, it's called the Tarn. It's great for climbing, there's an amazing view from the top."

"Shouldn't we leave a note?" Kier said hesitantly. Jamie snorted.

"It's in shouting distance, as soon as Allen yells we'll hear him."

The two hour's extra sleep had certainly helped: Jamie seemed his usual sunny self. Kier climbed the hill with him, very glad to see it and reflecting too on Allen's understanding of his partner.

The Tarn was thirty feet high, a steep, rocky cliff where the limestone hill had suffered a landslide centuries before. A shallow beachlike ledge lay at the foot of it, floored with the gravel of broken up rock and shale softened by years of the water flow off the cliff.

"It's almost a waterfall in winter." Jamie said cheerfully. "Pours over the top and runs down the hill."

"Have you seriously climbed it?" Kier said a little warily, looking up the steep rockface.

"Of course! Just can't do it when Allen's watching. He's SO over protective it isn't even funny. And you climb up and down scaffoldings all day, so you shouldn't have a problem at all!"

Kier looked back to the rockface and then back to Jamie. He did climb on scaffolding, but not that high. And scaffolding was easy to hold onto. The rocks he wasn't sure about. But he wasn't about to give Jamie ammunition to call him a wuss.

"I'll race you to the top!" Kier said, jumping up onto the first boulder and putting his foot on the next one.

Jamie followed suit and started climbing the left side of the cliff. The two young men moved fairly quickly, though neither was taking unnecessary chances. Jamie was adept and not the least bit frightened.

Kier, however, was getting extremely uncomfortable. He was on a small ledge, littered with gravel. He stopped for a moment to catch his breath. Some gravel sliding off the edge caused him to look down. He caught his breath when he saw how far up he'd come, and how far down it was if he fell. He turned the other direction to see Jamie, and noticed he was just slightly higher than he was. Finding another handhold, he pulled up. He put his foot on a smaller rock, which gave way when he put his weight on it. He screamed as the rock tumbled out and bounced off the ledge.

Jamie quickly looked over and watched in fear as Kier hung for a moment, before being able to bring his right foot back onto the ledge.

"You okay?" Jamie asked worriedly.

Kier was hugging the wall as tightly as he could, remembering his fall from the scaffolding only a few short months ago. He was panting heavily.

"Kier?" Jamie said again.

Kier shut his eyes, for a moment feeling again the sickening sensation of falling, knowing there was nothing below but dry, hard grass, and of the thud of impact... the horrible hour that had followed, strapped into a stretcher, Ian's face when he reached casualty- he shut his eyes, nausea washing him.

"Kier it's ok- I'm up here, just reach up. There's a hand hold right above you."

Kier opened his mouth and nothing would come out. Terror washed through him again, and for a horrible few seconds he was afraid he would pass out. He clutched the wall, eyes starting to stream involuntarily.

"Kier?" Jamie slowly made his way down to Kier's level and tried to take his hand, intending to guide it to the ledge above. Kier's face, once he had a clear view of it, shocked him to the core. Kier had frozen. His body, his face, even his breathing had frozen. Jamie pulled at his hand gently, trying to prise his fingers off, and found he couldn't shift them. He pulled again with frustration, fright starting to take over.

"Kier, you're only fifteen feet up- you could JUMP this far-"

The scream he got made him let go in a hurry. Kier's eyes were closed and he was the colour of cheese. Jamie took a deep breath, panic setting in. And with panic, there was only ever one thought on his mind.

"Hang on." he said to Kier, summoning up all the conviction and calm he could. And began to scramble down the wall with more haste than caution, jumping the last six foot to the ground before he yelled with all his strength.

"ALLEN!"

He took off down the hill, still shouting at the top of his lungs.

"ALLEEEEEEEEEEEEEEN!!!!"




He was half way down the hill when he saw Allen. It was very rarely he ever saw Allen at full sprint, and it was never good when he did. For a staid and usually dignified man, he was startlingly fast. Jamie flew down the hill at the sight of him, losing his own hold on his panic now he knew Allen was there to take over.

"Kier- up on the Tarn, he's stuck-"

Allen didn't stop. Jamie chased him back up the hill, arriving out of breath and with shaking legs in time to see Allen drop his watch and keys and move to the foot of the wall, looking for handholds and talking quietly and soothingly to Kier. From the ground Jamie could barely see his face.

"It's allright sweetheart, I'm coming up. I'm going to come up beside you and I'll bring you down with me, just wait a minute."

"Kier, I'm down here." Jamie called, peering up. Allen didn't look around, picking the first of his footholds up.

"Jamie, get the first aid kit from the camp and bring my phone back with you, move it."

And in that tone, you didn't hesitate. Jamie headed back to the camp at a run. Allen pulled himself up the wall as quickly as he dared, picking his route very carefully and reflecting with no little concern that as he'd told Jamie numerous times, it was totally unsafe for climbing, even with full equipment.

"You're doing fine Kier, keep absolutely still pet. I'm nearly there."

He hadn't time to spare to look up, but he was aware from the corner of his eye that Kier hadn't moved. He could hear very faint, stifled sobs that told him he was beyond negotiation. He'd first met Kier when he was recovering from a fall from scaffolding a few months ago, and he'd been quite badly hurt. It had taken him several weeks and a lot of pain before he was on his feet again, and he knew from Ian, the fall had shaken him badly. Allen found one more foothold, reached over and cautiously transferred his weight onto it, stabilising himself before he reached over to Kier, putting a hand gently on his back.

"Ok. I've got you, you're doing great. Now listen to me."

"I can't move."

He was crying, it was very hard to hear what he was saying. Allen gave his shoulder a gentle squeeze, longing to hug him but too afraid of shaking his balance.

"I know, that's a natural reaction. Listen to me Kier. I want you to try moving your head. Just your head. Look at me."

Kier hesitated, a bare second when he tried, then his eyes shut again and he clutched tighter, tears running. "I'm going to fall."

"No you're not, I've got you." Allen said calmly. "Just your head. Move your eyes.. and your mouth.. now try moving your head- atta boy! That's good, well done. Now try the fingers on this hand, hmm? Don't let go, just try moving them."

Kier shut his eyes, Allen's quiet voice gradually easing the edge of his panic and his encouragement drawing his focus gently away from his immobility. With nothing else to turn to, Kier rapidly found himself putting his trust totally and absolutely in that voice to his left and to the strong hand on his back, and trying in all earnest to follow the very easy instructions he was being given. Gradually movement came back to his hands, he became aware of sensation in his fingers again and his breathing began to steady. Allen moved very slowly around him and halted, beside and half behind him, and took a hand hold down until he was low enough to guide Kier's feet.

"Allright sweetheart, I'm going to show you exactly where to move. All I need you to do is hold on and put your weight where I tell you. We're not far up, we can do this in half a minute. Ok?"

"Ok." Kier managed unsteadily. He felt Allen's grasp on his ankle, found the foothold he was being steered to and Allen reached up to steady him, talking quietly.

"A little down and to your left is a ledge. Hold onto that and put your weight down to here."

Blindly Kier reached and grasped, and let Allen steer him. Step by step they moved down the wall, taking their time, until Kier heard Allen's boots crunch on gravel and Allen's hands grasped his hips, steadying him the last step down. Unable to help himself, Kier spun around and clutched at Allen as if he was still falling, breathing once more going ragged with shock. Allen hugged him tightly, rocking him.

"Well done. That's it. It's all over."

Jamie sprinted up the hill, first aid kit in hand, and flung himself on Kier. "You're ok! JEEZ I thought you were going to fall-"

"Easy." Allen said firmly, putting him back. "Everyone's allright, Kier doesn't need to be jumped on. Kier, lets get you onto the grass and you can lie down for a while."

"I'm okay." Kier said unsteadily, letting Allen go with some difficulty. Allen pulled him down onto the grass.

"Good. Lie down for a moment, get your breath and let me see your hands. Jamie, is there any water in that kit?"

It was some time before Allen would let him get up, by which time his hands were washed and covered with antiseptic, and the last of the shakes had left his legs. Allen still kept hold of him down the hill and once they reached the camp, spread a rug out in the shade in front of the tent and sent Jamie for his pillow, insisting until Kier lay down to rest. He then made them both lunch, during which Ian's truck came over the brow of the hill. Kier sat up, waiting somewhat shamefacedly while Ian locked the truck and carried a cold box towards them. Within a few steps the significance of the rug and pillow hit him and Kier saw his face change and his stride quicken.

"What happened?"

"I'm ok." Kier said fairly convincingly as Ian grabbed him. It was still impossible not to bury himself in Ian's arms as he'd been wanting desperately to do for the last half hour. Ian's hands made a rapid inventory of him, even as he looked to Allen. Who nodded.

"He's just scraped and shocky. Jamie took him rock climbing up the Tarn."

"WHAT?" Ian found Kier's scraped hands and winced. "Kier what on earth possessed you to climb up there? You must have seen it isn't safe!"

"Well, Jamie said..... I thought it looked like fun and I thought I could do it," Kier said, changing his mind on what he wanted to say. He realized that Jamie had said Allen didn't like him to climb it and didn't want Jamie in any more trouble. He had obviously been very worried about him.

"I didn't think I needed to tell you about the Tarn, first because Jamie knows better than to try climbing it, and second, I thought you'd know better just by looking at it!"

Jamie was trying to disappear into the grass, hearing Ian tell that to Kier. He'd felt bad enough that Kier got stuck, and with all eyes on him and worried about him, he hadn't thought too hard about what a dim view of that Ian would take, much less Allen.

"I didn't fall!" Kier said, a little hotly.

"You weren't far from it, were you?" Allen asked gently.

Ian took another long, searching look at Kier, to make sure he was allright. Still pale, still volatile, and still clutching a little too tight to be feeling quite calm. He settled down on the grass, pulling Kier closer and hugging him tightly, a bone crunching hug that he felt Kier respond to with a sigh of comfort like a petted cat.

"We'll stay out here where it's cool, but you can settle down and rest this afternoon. Are you sure the only thing hurt were your hands?"

"He was wearing jeans." Allen said mildly. "At least they were that sensible."

He left it there, since Ian clearly wanted Kier to rest and to calm down. Jamie was looking at him, somewhere between miserable and apprehensive, and he looked quickly away when Allen caught his eye. Allen got up, picking the dinner plates up with him.

"Jamie, give me a hand to clear up please?"

Jamie's stomach twisted, but he got up to help with the quick cleanup, trying to steer clear of Allen alone. When they were finished, Allen simply said "tent."

Jamie went slowly, crawling into the tent and sitting in the far corner, knees up and his head resting in his arms on top of them. He was listening with rapt attention to the sounds Allen made outside, dreading hearing the footsteps approach his refuge.

Allen drained the last of his water and tossed the bottle into the trash. He looked over, nodding at Ian, then headed for his tent.

Jamie heard the footsteps approaching. His arms hugged his legs tighter and he fought back the childish urge to burst into tears. He kept his face buried in his arms as he heard Allen enter the tent and sit down.

"Jamie?"

"What?" came the muffled reply from his knees.

"Look at me."

Jamie barely managed to get his face out of his hiding place. Even with Allen sitting cross-legged in the tent, he was still an imposing figure.

"What did I ask you before I left?"

Damn. Allen got straight to the point, and that point wasn't a good place to start. Jamie tried to shrug.

"Do I need to get the paddle out to help you answer the questions?" Allen asked sternly.

Jamie squirmed at the mention of the paddle and managed to get out a quick, "No, sir."

"What did I ask you before I left?"

"Not to leave camp?"

"Does the Tarn constitute our camp?"

"No, sir," Jamie said miserably.

"Why did you leave camp?"

"I was feeling better. I just thought I'd go find Kier."

"Did I say you may leave camp when you were feeling better?"

Jamie looked back down, finding no way around this. "No, sir," he conceded.

"Look at me please."

Damn. Swallowing back the rising lump in his throat, Jamie made himself look back into Allen's face. Usually beloved, it was unpleasantly stern and definitely displeased.

"Is the Tarn somewhere you're allowed to be alone?"

There was no point in debating this. Jamie took another deep breath, keeping his voice as steady as he could manage.

"No sir."

"Why?"

"Because it crumbles... there's landslide there sometimes... but not in this weather!"

"IS the rule that you may go to the Tarn alone at certain times of year?" Allen said sternly. Jamie looked down at his knees again, eyes starting to prickle.

"No sir."

"Why else may you not go to the Tarn alone?"

Allen, watching Jamie, saw his face go still redder and his head duck even further at that question. His voice was almost inaudible.

"Because I tried to climb it last time we were here, after you'd told me not to."

"And now, the very next time we're back here, you not only go straight back and climb it AGAIN, but you take Kier with you!" Allen leaned on his knees, glaring at the top of Jamie's head. "LOOK at me please. WHY do you persist in climbing it?"

"Because I can!" Jamie said, anger boiling over slightly as he could only take feeling shame for so long.

"You've been LUCKY young man. And Kier was luckier still that nothing happened to him! HOW do you think Ian would have felt coming back from his fishing trip to find Kier was injured, or worse?"

The tears that had been threatening overflowed at that comment. He cared deeply for Ian, he was one of their closest friends. He hadn't thought Kier would have a problem, and he'd thought less still of how that would have affected Ian.

"I'm sorrrrrrrrrrry," he sobbed, head going back down on his knees.

Allen wanted nothing more than to pull Jamie in for a hug, but he needed to make SURE that Jamie thought long and hard before he did anything like that again.

"You're going to be a lot sorrier when I'm finished with you. The Tarn is dangerous, and it is OFF LIMITS to you. If you can't stay off that rock because I asked you to, then you'll stay off that rock to avoid a spanking again." Allen leaned over and pulled gently on Jamie's arm, pulling him closer.

Jamie untangled his arms and legs and crawled over to Allen. His sobs increased when he was guided across his lover's legs and his pants and shorts uncerimoneously yanked down, exposing his bottom to the elements. He buried his face in the sleeping bag, arms above his head.

Allen placed his left arm around Jamie's middle and brought his right hand down sharply, connecting with the right cheek of Jamie. That elicited a yelp to which Allen answered with just as firm a swat across Jamie's left cheek. He continued his assault on his lover's dancing bottom, intent on making this a lasting message.

Jamie felt bad enough about everything not to beg for him to stop - at least until the tenth swat as the pain was building in increasing waves. The pleas fell on deaf ears and Jamie saved his breath as he needed every ounce between swats just to feel like he could stay alive. He continued to kick uselessly, and pulled the sleeping bag into a heap under his head, but it was doing nothing to alleviate the deep burning pain nor the sharp sting of the new swats as they rained down.

Meanwhile, Kier had his head tucked firmly against Ian's chest, his grip around him tight as he listened to the sounds emanating from the tent a short distance away. There was no point in trying to distract him. Ian folded an arm around his head, giving as much cover to his ears as he could manage, and rocked in silence. Still fairly new to their relationship, he was sure this was the first time Kier had been faced with the reality of a spanking he wasn't directly involved in, and Kier adored Jamie.

"Why is he in trouble?" Kier demanded against his chest, not turning his head to make his voice any clearer. "I went up there because I wanted to, I didn't have to, he didn't make me-"

"He climbed too. And it is a rule between them that he doesn't go to the Tarn and he doesn't climb it." Ian said calmly. "He's tried it before, he's been in trouble for it before. He knows it's dangerous and he should have told you it was."

"I could see it was dangerous!" Kier argued. Ian ducked his head further over Kier's to hear him.

"When?"

Silence. Then Kier muttered.

"Once I started climbing."

"Who's idea was it to climb?"

".............Jamie's." Kier admitted.

Temporary lunacy. That was the only excuse. Ian found himself with no sympathy at all for Jamie.

"The same rule goes for you." he said in Kier's ear. "The Tarn is offlimits. And you never climb anywhere unless I'm there and I've told you it's safe. And you're wearing a helmet if it's a rockface like that one. Is that clear?"

Kier nodded silently. Ian kissed his forehead, roughly and hard.

"I like your head in one piece. As it is, you're going to have some lines to write this evening. Your common sense should have told you that climbing up on the Tarn was a bad idea, even if Jamie was insisting it was a good one."

Kier was about to argue about the lines when it got slightly quieter. Jamie was still crying, hard, but at least not howling as he had been. And upon further thought, Kier thought it best that he write a few lines, if a spanking was the other alternative. He was still getting used to the idea with Ian, and hadn't given much thought to being disciplined with anyone near like Jamie just had. He thought he'd far rather die a slow death than to think Allen and Jamie were within hearing and heard Ian spank him. He felt horrible for Jamie, wondering how he'd face the two of them and how awkward it was going to be. If he were in Jamie's shoes, he'd just stay in the tent the rest of the weekend and gladly roll himself up in it when it was time to go. He'd started to feel a bit closer to Allen earlier when he'd helped him off the cliff, but now he wasn't so sure what he thought of him. Ian leaned past him, shook the pillow up and gave him one last hug.

"You lie down for a while. How about I put the radio on?"

"Don't go anywhere?" Kier pleaded, holding on to him. If they were about to face an embarrassing and difficult reunion with Allen and Jamie, he wanted Ian's moral support as close as possible.

"I'm not going anywhere." Ian said reassuringly. "Just let me put the fish somewhere cool, get my book and I'll be right back. I just want you to rest, you must have had quite a shock with that near fall."

Somewhat comforted, Kier lay down and watched Ian tune in the radio, turning it softly onto a local music station. He stowed the fish in the shade under the truck, still in its coolbox, then collected his book from the tent before he came back, settling down on the space on the rug Kier left for him and resting a soothing hand on Kier's hip.

The music had all but drowned out the last of Jamie's sobs. Kier tried not to listen but was all too aware of them fading away, then of a long period of silence. Knowing the muddle of shame, resentment, vulnerability and fragility he felt after a spanking, Kier could imagine all too well how Jamie was feeling and how little he would want company. He flinched when the tent flaps parted, avoiding looking up. He heard footsteps across the grass, then Ian grunted and Kier jumped, looking around in time to see Jamie wind his arms around Ian's neck, red eyed but apparently calm.

"I'm sorry, I'm really sorry, I didn't think about Kier I just thought it would be fun."

"Your sense of fun is going to get your neck broken one day." Ian said exasperatedly, hugging him back. "After all we've said to you about the Tarn and you have to take Kier up there with you and convince him it's climeable......? He might have been badly hurt Jamie!"

"I know, I'm sorry, please don't be mad?" Jamie pleaded. Ian shook his head.

"You're going to teach Kier not to trust you if you're not careful. Or teach me not to trust you alone together."

"Do you want me to cry again?" Jamie said plaintively. "I promise, I'll never do that again."

Kier had the feeling Ian was a little used to Jamie's heartfelt promises and ducked, startled as Jamie's hug was transferred to him.

"And I'm REALLY sorry I told you it was safe and to come climbing, I DIDN'T mean you to get hurt and I'm sorry you got hurt, I promise I'll never do that again. And I did say I was sorry to everyone except the cliff so please don't be mad with me any more?" Jamie added, transferring his attention straight back to Allen who'd settled on the other rug by the radio. Allen pulled Jamie down beside him, running a hand through his hair with a calm, "Good boy."

Jamie snuggled his head into Allen's lap and curled up, his still tearstained face a little pathetic but apparently contented. Kier frankly stared at him, not understanding in the least as Allen settled with his book, one hand absently smoothing Jamie's hair. Ian, seeing his face and understanding, rubbed his back discreetly.

"Lie down sweetheart."

Kier gave him a look of frank confusion, but lay down.

"Allen, where did you put the chocolate?" Jamie demanded, without lifting his head from Allen's lap. Allen didn't look up from his book.

"You're a total brat and you're in disgrace. You may never eat chocolate again."

"You're meeeeeeeeaaaaaaaan....... Ian, where did he put the chocolate?"

"I only give out chocolate on prescription." Ian commented, turning the page.

"Kier, where's the chocolate?" Jamie asked, quite undaunted. Allen gave Kier a look over the edge of his book.

"Don't tell him. All he gets to eat tonight is liver, with onions, and spinach AND sprouts-"

"That's grounds for divorce!" Jamie protested.

"WITH a six pm bedtime, AND the superman pyjamas." Allen went on remorselessly, winking at Kier. Jamie's wail was somewhere between indignation and laughter.

"You're HORRIBLE, Ian heeeeeeeeeelp-"

"You're on your own." Ian pulled Kier closer against him, moving the book to where they could both read. The totally confused look on Kier's face was too adorable and he dropped a quick kiss on his forehead.

"It's alright." He continued reading, absently petting Kier, who quickly curled up like a contented cat and fell asleep. It took Jamie a little longer to fall asleep as he was still hurting, but it was a nice, deep, after spanking sleep. Ian and Allen both enjoyed their books, the shade cool and inviting and the sounds of nature soothing.

About two hours later, Ian got up and started work on the fire for dinner. He left Kier sound asleep on the rug. Allen got up a bit later to stretch.

"Where you going?" Jamie asked sleepily.

"I need to move the legs."

"Me too?" Jamie asked, pushing himself up on his side.

"Come on then," Allen said, holding out a hand for Jamie. "Want to come?" Allen asked Ian as they passed.

"No, thanks. Go ahead, I'll take care of dinner. Maybe an hour?"

"Great, thanks," Allen said, pulling Jamie close and walking towards the woods.

Ian worked with the fire and the fish, taking his time to prepare them well. He smiled at Kier when he arose.

"Where's Jamie and Allen?" Kier asked as he walked over to Ian.

"Went for a walk. How was the nap?"

"Nice. It's nice to sleep outside in the shade."

"I couldn't agree more."

"Want anything to drink?" Kier asked, heading over to the icebox.

"Water, thanks."

Kier returned with a water and a coke for himself, settling down in a chair next to Ian.

Ian glanced up at him and went on with the fish. "What?"

"Nothing."

"What?" Ian said again, patiently. Kier didn't answer for a moment, watching Ian's long hands working neatly. He loved watching Ian's hands. Deft. Skillful.

"I don't GET them." he said eventually.

"Jamie?"

"He got- into trouble for Pete's sake!" Kier swallowed coke, baulking on the word itself. "And then he's out here, all happy and bouncy like it never happened and he doesn't care at all that we were here- what's that all about?"

"How would you feel if it was you?" Ian asked mildly, skewering another fish. Kier blanched.

"I'd DIE. It was bad enough- in the woods when-"

Hot faced and thoroughly discomforted, Kier broke off and drank more coke. Ian leaned over and gently took the can away from him.

"Why?"

"It's....You know...."

"Tell me," Ian gently prodded.

Kier squirmed a bit more, trying to put all the words together to make sense. He had enough trouble saying some of the words still, and now he needed whole sentences with them.

"It's not like they don't know you're spanked."

"Ian!" Kier said indignantly, looking around.

"We decided to live this way, didn't we?"

"....Yes."

"Then what does it matter what anyone else thinks?"

"Because....because they'll THINK things."

Ian sat back on his heels, listening. "Like what?"

Kier looked at his hands. "Like...I'm stupid or something."

"Why would you think people would assume that?" Ian said gently.

Kier managed an awkward half shrug. "Because I...because you were spanking me."

Ian watched his bent head with tenderness, thinking for a moment. The he sat back down on the ground and held out a hand.

"Come here. Do you think Jamie's stupid?"

Kier went to him slowly, still not at all sure that he wanted to have this conversation. "No... he's not."

Ian took his hand and pulled him down, putting an arm around his shoulders. "He just got spanked, why don't you think that about him?

Kier shrugged, head down.

"Why Kier?" Ian said patiently.

Kier didn't answer for a moment, pulling at the grass between his feet. "Its.....it's them. It's....who they are.

Ian tousled his hair gently. "So why does Jamie being cheerful bother you so much?

"It didn't affect him!" Kier said hotly. Ian snorted.

"I heard him crying. He sounded very affected by it."

"I know." Kier said impatiently. "But then he came out of the tent like .... like nothing in the world was wrong with him."

"What do I say to you after you've been punished for something?" Ian asked. Kier thought, still blushing.

"It's- it's over?"

"Exactly. If Jamie does something wrong, and they deal with it, then it IS over. Why does Jamie need to stay upset about it?"

"He doesn't NEED to. I just thought he would....." Kier said helplessly. Ian looked over at him.

"How would you feel?

"Upset."

"Why?" Ian asked. Kier didn't look up.

"Because i don't like to get spanked."

"I don't think Jamie does either."

That raised a half smile. Ian tightened the arm over Kier's shoulders, shaking him gently.

"You and Jamie are different kinds of people. Jamie doesn't care what anyone thinks and he knows once he's been punished for something, it IS over. Allen isn't angry with him, he doesn't have any need to worry about it any more. They've dealt with it and it's gone."

"Allen..." Kier said awkwardly. "He's good about that."

"How?"

"Joking- about liver and stuff.

Ian smiled. "He and Jamie tease the life out of each other, they always have done." He paused, still looking down at Kier's bent head. "And Jamie knows Allen doesn't think any the less of him for getting into trouble. It isn't some failure. And it isn't any failure in him that means he needs Allen to discipline him."

Kier didn't answer. Ian went on rubbing his back, letting Kier think it over for a while, until he said tentatively,

"Is....is it wrong that I don't take things the way Jamie does?"

"Why would it be wrong?" Ian said mildly. "You're not Jamie."

"Because I'm not so....graceful."

Ian shook his head against Kier's, decisively. "There are no rules for how you have to feel or what you have to do sweetheart. We're not Jamie and Allen, they're not the text book couple. No one's going to make us sit exams on this."

That raised a small and rueful smile. Kier lifted his eyes and risked a brief glance at his lover. "Good. Cos I just don't think I can be as bouncy as he was."

"Well since I'm in love with you and not Jamie, that works out fine, doesn't it?" Ian said easily.

He got a shy smile in return, which made him turn up Kier's chin and kiss him, gently and thoroughly.

"Going to help me with these fish sweetheart?"

Kier flinched, eyeing the still shining scales in the cold box.

"Uh..... no?"

"No? This is the essence of camping... living rough, eating off the land...."

"It's FISH. I don't eat fish?"

Ian grinned. "It's that or the liver."

Kier slid away from him, already on his feet. "I'm sure you'll do a wonderful job of fixing the fish. I have some business to take care of....."

He yelped as Ian's hand closed firmly on his ankle.

"Fish."

"Ian I'm NOT handling fish!"

Ian pulled Kier off balance and caught him as he fell, pinning him in his lap and leaning over for a fish. "Uh huh. You need the full camping experience...now what you do is-"

He was nearly deafened by Kier's scream as the fish came near his hands.

Jamie and Allen were on their way back when they heard a piercing scream. They both started to jog back towards the campground, running up to where Ian seemed to be cradling Kier.

"What happened?!" Allen asked as he dropped to the ground.

"Allen! I'm sorry," Ian said, letting Kier get up.

"He's trying to make me touch fish!" Kier yelled, scrambling away.

"Hasn't anyone ever told you you're not to play with your food?" Allen asked Ian sternly. "And ESPECIALLY, not to play with MINE?"

Ian started to look contrite, then changed his mind. "Considering *I* am the one that caught this fish, and *I'm* the one that is being so very nice and fixing some for you....."

Jamie died laughing. "Allen! Stop bugging him! I'd far rather eat a side of his fish, rather than the sardines you catch!"

Kier was waiting for the perfect opportunity. When Ian finally put the fish down, he took it. Ian's breath whoosed out of him when Kier hit him from the back, knocking him to his side. Kier immediately started tickling him, and Jamie and Allen jumped on for moral support.

"UNCLE! I SAID UNCLE!" Ian yelled from the bottom of the heap, struggling to no avail to get away. "Three against one is SO unfair!"

"PROMISE I won't have to touch the fish! PROMISE!" Kier said, still tickling.

"I PROMISE!" Ian said, laughing.

Allen and Jamie stood back and Ian was able to manhandle Kier off of him.

"NO fish." Kier said warningly, struggling upright.

"No fish." Ian sat up, panting.

"Except this one." Jamie said reasonably, dropping the trout down the back of Kier's neck.










~The End~


Copyright Rolf and Ranger 2010

1 comment:

jen vieira pinto said...

Damn, I really wish we could have seen Kier's reaction to the fish down his shirt! I was laughing so hard just thinking about it! LMAO!

Most of the artwork on the blog is by Canadian artist Steve Walker.

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