Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Winds of Change

Title: Winds of Change
Authors: Rolf and Ranger

"That's it," Ian said, shutting the door with some difficulty. "The power's down and it's going to be down a while, I found the line. It's on the road and sparking, the police are shutting the road around it."

Kier, who was huddled by the fire, in two sweaters and with a magazine- not his first choice but with the tv and playstation down there wasn't much else to do- and got up to look out of the window. Ian was dripping, his hair on end and his jacket soaked from the rain and the growing winds outside. Ian hung his jacket up, shook water off his hair and hands and pulled him gently back.
"Not too close to the windows, there's debris starting to fly around."

"There's glass between me and the debris. I don't think I'll get knocked out," Kier muttered, stepping back only because Ian was pulling him.

"And what if that glass breaks? You'll be fine when you're covered in glass?" Ian replied as he headed into the kitchen to get some paper towels to dry off with. Kier followed him in.

"When are Jamie and Allen coming?"

"They were leaving as soon as they could pack a few items. Shouldn't be too long, at least I hope not," Ian said, tossing the wet paper towel away. "It's already ugly enough and they're saying it's going to get worse and stay that way for several days."

"It's just wind and rain, it's not like it's snowed fifteen feet and the entire country can't move."

"You know what their house is like." Ian said patiently. "It's ancient, draughty and in this kind of gale half the roof will come down anyway. They've got no gas laid on there, if their electrics go down- and they will- they'll be cold, unable to cook and it'll be completely miserable for them. They're much better and safer coming here to us and being IN town than out there alone."

Kier didn't answer, scuffing back to the magazine and the fire. Not that he didn't like Allen and Jamie- they spent a lot of time together and he loved Jamie's company. But the idea of sharing the house for what looked like being the entire weekend was not so attractive. He liked his house - and Ian - to himself.

A horn blew in the driveway and Ian quickly walked over and opened the kitchen door, waving Jamie into the house. Jamie arrived like the storm, bursting in and dripping wet, nearly doing the splits as his water-soaked and leave-covered trainers hit the slick kitchen floor.

"Nine point four, with mandatory deductions for leaving a mess on the kitchen floor," Kier said, arms crossed and resting against the counter's edge.

Jamie's rebuttal was cut off as Ian and Allen came in with a suitcase and a duffel bag, shutting off the howling wind by closing the kitchen door back and locking it securely. The kitchen wasn't small by any means, but it felt like it to Kier, the only one of the three not wet and laughing.

"TRUST you to get the floor plastered in one go." Allen said, taking his own drenched outer clothes off. Jamie grinned at him, pulling off his trainers and going to get the mop.

"You try walking in wet shoes on a slippery floor?"

"Darling I took my shoes off first." Allen pointed out. "I see the road's shutting? We had to seriously coax the police to be let through the cordon, we probably only did it due to Jamie's eyelashes."

"Or yours." Jamie added, mopping the floor.

Kier headed back into the lounge, still further annoyed that both Jamie and Allen knew where everything was in this house. Sometimes he felt they knew it better than he did, even after six months of living here. The chatter in the kitchen was constant, the sounds of coats shaken out, then Allen came into the lounge and put the cases at the foot of the stairs, smiling at Kier.
"Hi there. Staying warm?"

"Too warm," Kier replied, peeling off the outer sweater so that he didn't look like a stuffed animal. "House okay?"

"Yes, it was fine when we left it. Made sure everything was turned off and safe before leaving, now we just have to hope the storm blows itself out without doing any damage to it."

"Hopefully it won't last as long as they say." Kier headed upstairs without taking a bag.

"All cleaned up," Jamie said, walking into the hallway. "Where did Kier go?"

"Upstairs," Allen replied, kissing Jamie before he walked into the living room. "Thank you again for your offer of lodging Ian."

"You're always welcome, we didn't like to think of you out in the wilds, freezing." Ian said easily, dropping into an armchair.

"Are you sure it wasn't you rather than 'we'?" Jamie said bluntly, leaning against the door post. Allen gave him a warning look but Ian only shrugged, smiling.

"Of course it's 'we'. Do you two want some lunch?"

"Yes, I'm starved! Allen wouldn't let me take time to eat."

"We're lucky we got here when we did," Allen said, eyeing Jamie who'd made them later than Allen wanted to be.

Jamie's eyes sparkled and he gave his partner a knowing grin before skipping down towards the kitchen. "What do you have?"

Ian grinned at Allen and walked to the bottom of the staircase. "Kier! We're getting lunch together!" He then followed Allen into the kitchen and began pulling out the sandwich fixings.

Kier, upstairs, dropped backwards on the bed and glared at the ceiling. He made it about five minutes before Ian came upstairs and shut the door, giving him a look he knew well.

"Kiernan I'm not going to coax, I'm not going to reward this kind of behaviour in any way, this is rude. Come downstairs, right now. We have guests."

"They're YOUR friends more than mine," Kier replied, petulantly.

"We've gone through all this before, several times, and that does NOT excuse you being rude." Ian said sternly. "Get up, right now."

Kier remained on his back, staring at the ceiling. "I'm not hungry."

"Then I'll spank you right now and get it over with." Ian said, taking a seat on the bed. "Come on, lunch is on the stove."

The word spank had the desired effect, Kier's stomach tightening quickly. He moved his legs and sat up on the other side of the bed. "OKAY, I'll go downstairs. You don't have to get THAT way about it."

"I do if it's going to come to the same thing in the end." Ian told him, giving him a very direct look. He sounded alarmingly matter of fact about it: something Kier still found very inappropriate when they were discussing this ever uncomfortable subject.

"If it's going to take a spanking for you to quit sulking and being rude, then I'd rather we got it done now and cut the time and the trouble for both of us."

"I said you don't have to TALK like that," Kier said, standing up and wanting to move towards the door. The only problem was he'd have to pass by Ian and at this moment in time he didn't want to be anywhere near his partner.

"Yes, I do." Ian said frankly. "We talked about this, and you agreed. We have this every time Jamie and Allen come to the house and it's not fair, they shouldn't have to be uncomfortable. If you really had a problem you know I'd understand and I'd want to help with it, but the one problem here is you being determined that you have to be shut out. And you always push until I prove to you I AM still paying you attention. So let's go, I'll pay you that attention right now and we can enjoy ourselves this weekend without any more unpleasantness."

"No, it isn't necessary," Kier said, the whine creeping into his voice against his will. He was playing with the fringes of his sweater. And Ian was right, but he couldn't just STOP with the thoughts. It always DID seem that there were three of them together and one of him on the outside, no matter what he tried to think.

"Are you sure?" Ian said sternly, watching the struggle pass over Kier's expressive face. He wasn't at all unsympathetic: Kier wasn't the most secure person in the world, but he had no intention of letting this drag on for the rest of the day.

Kier nodded quickly, before managing to say "Yes, sir," hoping those were going to be the magic words to keep this spanking from happening, and for Ian's friends - their friends - not to know he'd screwed up again.

Ian returned the nod, getting up. "I'm going to hold you to that young man. Right now you can stand right here." He pointed at the carpet beside the bedside table, while he opened the drawer and withdraw a small, rounded paddle, laying it on the table surface. "And have a good look at that and think carefully about whether the effort to join in and take care of OUR guests is a better option. Because it's entirely your choice."

Kier had walked over slowly to the table, and blanched as he saw the paddle. "Ian!" he said indignantly and not a little afraid. "You - that -"

"Stand there." Ian said, moving him to stand beside the table. "I'll come up and get you when it's lunchtime. And I want you to think HARD about whether it's worth your while to make that effort. You will in the end, you'll enjoy this weekend in the end, the question is whether you decide to enjoy on your own or with my help. Don't move."

Kier was left with his mouth hanging open, staring at his partner's back as he left the room. His eyes went back to the paddle and he could feel the hot burn on his face. He looked back to make sure the footsteps on the stairs were Ian's, because if it was anyone else's, he wasn't going to be caught dead, staring at the paddle.

Ian headed downstairs, giving Jamie a firm look as he reached the foot of the stairs. "Kitchen. He does not need an audience."

"What are you making him do?" Jamie asked, following.

"Mind his own business." Ian said succinctly. "What do you want to drink, trouble?"

"Got any Sprite?"

"If we have it's in the cellar. Be careful, there's no light down there, the power's out."

"Need anything else while I poke around down there?" he asked, getting into the drawer that held the flashlight.

"You can bring up some wood while you're at it." Allen said over his shoulder, where he was heating soup. "The fire's running low."

"I was talking DRINKS," Jamie said as he descended the stairs.

"You'll live." Allen turned the stove off and poured soup into bowls. Ian finished setting the table and took bread out of the oven, brushing off his hands.

"Are we all set? Help yourselves, I'll go get Kier."

"Aaaaahhhhh!" Jamie yelled from the basement, accompanied by sounds of him falling, then silence.

Allen bolted for the stairs, closely followed by Ian who snatched a flashlight from the cupboard on his way.

Jamie had turned his flashlight off and was hiding behind the stairs, waiting for them to get all the way down.

"Jamie?" Allen felt his way across the cellar as Ian jogged down behind him with the flashlight, casting it rapidly over the floor.  "Jamie? Are you ok?"

Jamie turned the light on. "Yes, I'm fine. Just needed help with the firewood."

Allen straightened, waiting a minute for his heart to stop thumping.

"You didn't think I was hurt or anything, did you?" Jamie asked innocently, picking up the bottle of sprite from the floor before going over to the firewood pile.

Ian lowered the flashlight and handed it to Allen, giving Jamie a long look before he headed upstairs. Allen reversed Jamie by one arm and swatted him hard before he bent to pick up the scattered wood.

"Have you ever heard of the boy who cried wolf? Or the guy whose partner died of fright?"

Jamie wanted to laugh but the look Ian had given him took some of the fun out of it. "I just thought it would be funny, and I needed help with the wood."

"Your sense of humour is going to get you strangled." Allen said pointedly, picking up one armful of the wood and chasing Jamie back up the stairs.

Kier was sitting at the table, looking undamaged and stirring soup.

Ian had the phone in his hand and looked apologetically at Allen.  “Yes- just a minute, he’s here.”

”No!” Jamie said, outraged. “HOW did they find you here-“
”I told them.” Allen said, putting down the wood to take the phone. “Sit down and eat. Hello, Allen Maurier.”

Ian took the rest of the wood from Jamie with a firm look to be quiet and Jamie unwillingly sat down, watching his partner with anything but equanimity.

“Yes.” Allen said quietly. “Yes. Ok, I’ll be as a quick as I can. I’m sorry,” he added to Jamie as he shut the phone down. “That WAS the hospital, they have an emergency and I do need to be there. I won’t stay any longer than absolutely necessary.”

”What about whoever of your team is on duty?” Jamie demanded, following Allen to where he was shouldering into his coat.

“They want one of the senior surgeons.”

”Then they can get someone else!”

”I won’t be long. Go and eat before it gets cold.” Allen kissed Jamie and looked past him to Ian. “Sorry.”

”Drive safely.” Ian said sympathetically. “And find your ID card- you might need it to get past the cordon on the road, if they won’t let you through they might give you an escort to the hospital or at least find you a safe route.”

"Thanks. See you in a while," Allen opened the door and ducked out quickly as the wind and rain blasted him from all sides. Once he got into the car he flipped open his wallet and removed his medical card and backed down the drive, stopping to talk to the officers and to determine the fastest route to the hospital.

"Is it just me or has the temperature dropped outside?" Ian asked when the door closed.

"It's freezing." Kier said, shivering. Jamie didn't answer, looking with dislike at the soup on the table.

"They ALWAYS call him because they know he'll never say no. It's fine because he doesn't have kids, it's always ok to wreck his weekend."

"The weekend isn't wrecked, hon.” Ian said firmly. “Try and eat something, you’ll be hungry later. Kier, where did you put your other sweater?"

"It's by the fire." Kier dipped the last piece of bread and ate it as Jamie was now moodily eating soup.

"It ISN'T fair. You don't get called out half as often as he does. They take advantage because he won't say no."

"They take advantage of his expertise," Ian said as he walked down the hall to retrieve the sweater. "And Allen wouldn't go unless he wanted to or thought he could help. It's just a few hours at best, it's not like he's trying to cover someone's entire shift," Ian said as he laid the sweater against Kier's back, rubbing his arms for a moment before sitting back down to eat his own lunch.

"He never wants to stay home and spend a weekend with me then." Jamie said sourly, getting up to drop the plates in the sink. "I'm sorry. I'll wash up."

"How can you say that?" Kier finally spoke up. "How can you say he doesn't want to spend time with you, because he just gets a call to do an hour or two? hen Ian gets called it could be an hour or a day, it's never on a case by case basis."

"I said I'm sorry." Jamie said bluntly, filling the sink with water. "It just pisses me off that he never says ‘No, call someone else, I'm busy’.”

Ian got up and gave Jamie a hug from behind, speaking over his left shoulder. "You know he'd say no if you needed him to. Right now, all we're doing is huddling in the house away from the storm. He can be of help to someone, and you'll be fine without him for a couple of hours."

Jamie didn't answer, but he shut the taps off with an exasperated jerk and began to wash plates in a way likely to take off the pattern. Kier got up and added his plates to the sink, himself somewhat cheered. Jamie alone was very different from Jamie with Allen- the afternoon was looking up, once Jamie's mood lifted.

"Thanks for the cleanup," Ian said as he went back to the table to collect his dishes. "Kier? Help me get a couple more loads of wood upstairs so we don't have to go back down later tonight."

Kier sighed, but got up and went to help, picking up the flashlight to find his way downstairs.
They were scooping up wood when they heard a crash and a loud, vivid curse from upstairs.
"If he is messing about again," Ian said, heading up the stairs, "I'll swing for him, I swear it."

"What are you talking about?" Kier asked, following to find out what the commotion was all about.

Jamie was in the kitchen, wringing a cut hand and still swearing over several smashed dishes on the floor.

Ian stepped over the wreckage and took his wrist, putting the hand directly under the tap.

"I've got it." Kier put the flashlight down and took the dustpan and brush, sweeping the broken crockery out of the way.

"Open your hand, let me see the cut," Ian asked gently, keeping the water running over the hand.

Jamie opened his fingers with another curse he didn't bother to stifle. "I slipped on the stupid floor, it was wet."

"It's okay, I'm not worried about the dishes." Ian looked at the cut and determined there was no glass still in it and it wasn't too deep. "Keep that under the water and your hand limp. If you keep fisting it you'll keep it bleeding. I'll be right back with a bandage. Okay?" he asked, checking Jamie's face for confirmation, and to make sure he wasn't in shock.

Jamie gave him an irritable look, leaning on the draining board. "It's very minor Dr. Robertson, no need to panic, I'm fine."

"That's good to hear," Ian said, walking off. "But I'm still getting the bandage."

Jamie muttered a few more obscenities at the running water. Kier put the broken crockery in the bin and wiped the water off the floor, dropping the wet cloth on the draining board with a peer at the cut still welling blood. "Good one."

"No shit," Jamie replied, in no mood for small talk.

"One more like that and I'll wash your mouth out." Ian said bluntly, putting antiseptic, cotton and a bandage down on the counter. "Let me look."

Jamie moved his hand from beneath the running water and watched as it ran off his hand and onto the floor. Ian tore off kitchen roll to dry it, put antiseptic onto cotton and pressed down on the cut, holding the hand up to slow the bleeding. "Want to sit down? This'll take a minute."

"I guess," Jamie said, pulling out a chair and sliding down into it.

"Is that going to need stitching?" Kier said, keeping his face straight as he leaned on the table.

"No, it's not that deep. Just a bad bleeder," Ian replied, not letting go of Jamie's hand.

"Shame, I love watching you suture." Kier gave Ian a wink.

"Sod off, Kier," Jamie spat.

"You, stop." Ian said evenly. "Kier, go find something to do."

"Like what?" Kier said, pulling a face. "There IS nothing to do."

"Get the wood upstairs, five loads of it, please," Ian said, looking at Kier.

"Ha ha." Kier told him, shaking his head and heading downstairs for the wood. He began to whistle on the stairs, snapping the flashlight on to see where he was going.

Ian gently pulled the cotton away and, satisfied that it was no longer going to bleed profusely, quickly bandaged it up. "I know the bandage is a little large, but that should keep it closed and let it heal. We can change it out for a smaller one tomorrow."

"Great." Jamie said grimly, flexing his fingers as he got up. "That ought to add to the afternoon."

Ian caught him by the arm before he could swing away. "Take care of that hand, and lose the attitude. You're not going to be barging around here like this all afternoon," Ian said in measured tones.

Jamie pasted on a patently false, sweet and sarcastic smile and pulled his hand away.

Just as swiftly, not breaking eye contact, Ian’s deft hand snapped across the seat of Jamie’s pants, soundly and accurately, making Jamie jump. "I mean it," Ian said firmly. “Your choice.”

The sarcastic smile was gone and he got a mumble of agreement that might have been acknowledgement: enough for him to relax and let Jamie head out of the kitchen. Shaking his head, he went over to the sink and finished cleaning up from lunch.

Jamie dropped on the sofa and gazed at the fire, hand very sore and his temper a little sorer. The work discussion had been a sensitive point over the last few weeks and Allen mildly but stubbornly refused to turn down emergency calls on the grounds that the other dentists on the hospital call list all had young children.

"How's the hand?" Kier asked as he carried a load of wood over to the fireplace, stacking it carefully to the side.

"Fine." Jamie said shortly. Then relented and got up to help. "Sorry."

"It's okay," Kier replied, putting the last piece of wood on the top. "One down, four more to go," he said, standing up and heading back out. He came back a couple minutes later with another armful.

Jamie took them from him and began to stack them, interrupted by Ian who came in from the kitchen and saw him.

"Jamie leave that, sit down and keep that hand still or it'll keep on bleeding."

"I'm just moving a few pieces of wood," Jamie shot back, continuing.

"And I said no." Ian repeated, taking the next armful of wood from Kier and bringing it over. "Sit down."

Jamie got up and flopped face down in the couch, hands crossed beneath his head and sighed.

Two of them being temperamental and the power down, Ian reflected, stacking wood. This could be a LONG afternoon. He dusted off his hands as Kier brought the fifth and last load across and stacked it, adding some logs to the fire.

"Kier, why don't you get some board games? While we've got enough daylight to play."

"Okay," Kier said, heading over to the kitchen to wash his hands and close the cellar door before he went to find a board game. Rummaging in the closet, he pulled down Monopoly and Scrabble and headed into the living room. "Which game?" he asked, holding them both up.

Jamie looked up at both boxes and groaned, dropping his head back down. "NOT scrabble, Ian always wins, and Monopoly goes on forever. Do you remember that Christmas we were playing for four days straight?”

"Yeah, that was the longest game I've EVER been involved in," Ian replied. "So if it's not these two, then what do you want to do?"

"Four days?" Kier asked, dropping the games on the table.

"Ian was going home to his parents for Christmas and all the flights were cancelled through snow at the last minute. So we dragged him back to join us and we were snowed in- we spent hours playing that flaming game, drinking some revolting sweet alcopop thing that someone gave Allen a crate of and digging the front door free." Jamie said, giving Ian a subdued grin.

"And after two of those your banking skills went into the toilet," Ian replied, laughing at the memory.

"I can't play that damn game anyway!" Jamie argued. "You and Allen gang up and plant hotels everywhere, and I spend my whole time trying to get out of jail!"

Ian was about to make a caustic reply when he saw Kier drop into the chair with a glower at Jamie. Changing his mind, he said, "Why don't you get trivial pursuit? We're all pretty good at that."

"If that doesn't hold any bad memories?" Kier said, trying to keep his voice light. He hated reminders of just how long and solid the friendship was between Ian and Allen and Jamie. They'd been his family for some years while he lived alone, and it never failed to spark jealousy. They knew this house, they knew where everything was, they knew Ian, they had a history with Ian that Kier could never share.

Ian threw his partner an exasperated warning look. "Trivial Pursuit. Jamie, sound good to you?"

Kier silently got up and went to get the box.

"Whatever," Jamie said, content that he had gotten right up Kier's nose.

Ian leaned over to clear the table and gave him a very clear look.

"I've warned him, I'll warn you for the last time. Belt up and now."

Jamie didn't reply, just sat up and pulled his feet underneath him, waiting for the game to be set up.
Kier brought the box back and handed it to Ian who set it up, just as the phone began to ring again. Kier got up and went into the kitchen, pulling the receiver off the rest. Allen's voice answered, sounding tired and hassled.
"Kier? This is going to take a lot longer than I thought. Can you let Ian know and apologise to Jamie for me? We're going back into surgery now, this case is going to need some real work doing, and then apparently there's another case just come into A&E with major facial injuries, they want me to hang around until they're sure they don't need me involved. If the roads get really bad I'll sleep the night at the hospital."
"Okay," Kier replied, before thinking to add "good luck." He hung up the phone and headed back into the lounge.
"Who was it?" Ian asked as he got the cards situated for the game.
"Just Allen," Kier replied nonchalantly.
"What did he say?" Jamie asked, louder than Ian was currently doing.
"Oh, just that he was busy. Going back into surgery and all, and another case coming in. He might sleep at the hospital.
"He said WHAT?" Jamie demanded. Ian put the board down and gave Kier a hard look, cutting across Jamie's rising voice.
"Kier. What exactly did he say?"
"Just that." Kier said, slightly abashed at the expression on Jamie's face as well as his partner's. "The case he was called in to see is bad, he's got to go into surgery, and there's a case come into accident and emergency with facial injuries that they want him around for. He said he'll stay as long as he's needed and if the roads are bad he'll sleep at the hospital."
"I TOLD you." Jamie said bitterly, scrambling to his feet and brushing by to get to the stairs. The board, knocked half off the table, scattered pieces everywhere.
Ian mentally counted to three before raising his voice. "Jamie, come here."
"I'm TIRED," Jamie said, stomping up the stairs.
"JAMES." Ian repeated, louder.
Kier gave him a slightly nervous look. He'd never yet heard that tone from Ian addressed to anyone else, certainly not Jamie who tended to be a lot more of a grownup than Kier knew he was.
Jamie stopped when he was almost to the top of the stairs, knowing that tone and what it meant. He wasn't quite ready to give in though. "What?"
Kier winced, knowing very well what Ian usually made of that particular response. And knowing too that Jamie would have been as aware of it as he was. Ian walked to the foot of the stairs, his voice positively arctic.
"I BEG your pardon?"
Jamie couldn't keep the whine from his voice. "I just wanted to lie down."
"I BEG your pardon young man?" Ian repeated, louder.
Jamie crept down the stairs. "Yes, sir?" he replied quietly, stopping two steps up.
"I said come here." Ian said sternly, still waiting.
Stepping down the last two steps took a little courage, but Jamie did it as he didn't have a choice.
Ian pointed him towards the fallen board. "Pick that up please. All of it. No one is storming off upstairs."
"Yes, sir," Jamie said, swallowing hard as he stepped around Ian, who seemed to have grown a few stones heavier. Jamie bent and put the board back on the table, trying to ignore Kier as best he could.
Ian stood, waiting until all the pieces were back in place and Jamie ran out of things to do. Then gave him another, steady look.
"Allen is going to do what he needs to do. You wouldn't expect him or want him to leave the hospital when he was needed, and you know he wouldn't stay unless he really WAS needed."
Jamie nodded, face flushed knowing that Kier was sitting right there and watching him.
"And you wouldn't want him driving either on unsafe roads when he's somewhere safe," Ian went on, just as sternly. "Would you?"
"No, but -"
"And he knows you're somewhere safe." Ian went on.
"Yes," Jamie said frostily.
"So you can go stand in the corner in the kitchen and think about that, as well as whether or not 'what' is an appropriate answer to give to me." Ian said firmly. "Go on please."
Ian waited.
Feeling Kier's gaze burning the back of his head while his face flushed, Jamie stepped quickly out of the lounge and made his way into the kitchen, doing everything but stomp his feet on the floor.
Ian followed him, watching until he was sure Jamie was settled in the corner, then went back to the living room and finished setting up the pieces on the board, handing the dice to Kier.
"We...we're going to play?" Kier asked, confused.
"Why not?" Ian said mildly, settling down beside him. "You like this don't you?"
"Yes...but....." Kier trailed off, playing with the dice in his hand.
"What?" Ian separated the cards into two piles, put one into Kier's reach and leaned back into the sofa, sliding an arm around Kier's waist. "You start."
Kier tossed the dice and moved. "Green."
Ian flicked one handed through the cards.
"The Amazon river originates in which country?"
"Africa?" Kier asked cautiously, mind still on Jamie in the other room. He'd be in a state if Ian had stuck him there and Jamie was in his place.
Ian turned the card over and groaned as the doorbell rang. Keeping hold of the card he got up and went to answer it, glancing through to the kitchen where Jamie was still standing. One of their neighbours was on the doorstep, looking anxious.
"Ian- I'm sorry, could you come and look at my wife? She's had a fall, and with this weather I don't want to drive to the hospital unless you think she really needs to go-"
"Of course." Ian pocketed the card and picked up his bag from it's usual place in the hall. "Kier, you and Jamie stay inside, I won't be long. Leave Jamie alone."
Kier watched as Ian headed outside into the wind and rain. When the door shut out the loudness, he got up and wandered around the lounge, trying to keep himself busy.
Jamie, stood in the kitchen still smarting under Allen's abandonment and Ian's glare, looked around in growing outrage.
"Has he gone out?"
"Not for long, I don't think," Kier replied, heading in the direction of the kitchen.
"Well if he can't be bothered to let me know, I can't be bothered to stand here!" Jamie said hotly. Headed for the stairs, he met Kier in the doorway and glared, not willing to move out of his way.
Kier's mouth dropped open a minute before he could stutter, "he'll be back in a minute!"
Jamie waited for Kier to move, barely keeping his temper. "Or he could be back in an hour, who knows?"
"Are you stupid?"
That was neither tactful nor welcomed. Jamie simply shoved Kier aside and ran upstairs without answering, slamming the door of the guestroom behind him.
Kier stood for a moment, shock turning into anger that Jamie would ignore Ian's instructions. As much as Kier hated standing in the corner or doing anything much in the way of punishment, he knew Ian wouldn't have said anything if he didn't think it was the best choice for the moment. Wishing Allen would come back and take Jamie down a peg or two, he grabbed a coke out of the fridge and popped the top.
Upstairs, Jamie threw himself face down on the bed and surrendered himself to the full backwash of temper created from a still sore hand, Allen working and Kier daring to suggest he wasn't acting exactly appropriately. As if Kier was any judge. Fuming, Jamie glared at his watch and considered ringing the hospital. If Allen wasn't yet in surgery there was a chance he'd answer his phone, and Jamie would welcome the chance to explain a few things to him in detail.
Ian finished up quickly, finding the man's wife was going to have an extremely ugly bruise but nothing else. After making sure she was comfortable, he headed back across the street, having to watch his feet carefully to avoid stepping in several large puddles and a river going along the side of the road. He blew into the house and shut the door behind him, taking a moment to shake the water from his hair.

Kier gave him a slightly apprehensive look from the sofa where he was lying alternately flicking through a book and drinking coke.
"It's a mess out there," Ian said, hanging his jacket up and stepping out of his shoes.
"How's Mrs. Haitley?" Kier watched his partner come round to the fire, trying valiantly to keep his own eyes from flicking towards the kitchen.
"She's fine, if a little shook up. Missed the last step and cracked her leg against the banister. Nasty bruise but no broken bones," Ian replied, warming his hands at the fire. "You didn't read the questions while I was gone, did you?"
"No, I forgot all about the game-" Kier started, and broke off, looking at his book. "It was your turn anyway."
"Let me see if Jamie is ready to join us first," Ian said, turning to head into the kitchen.
Wincing, stomach tight, Kier slid a little further down on the sofa and tried to concentrate on his book. Ian got only two steps down the hall when he realised that Jamie was no longer standing there. "Kier, where is he?" Ian asked firmly as he made an about turn at the door.
"I don't know," Kier said, way too quickly, trying to sound offhand. "I think he might have gone upstairs?"
Ian nodded grimly and started up the stairs at a measured and foreboding pace.

Kier turned a page and then shut the book, well aware he wasn't even seeing the words any more. Stomach twisting, he heard Ian cross the landing and then a sharp knock at the guest room door.
"Leave me alone!" Jamie said loudly.
"James." Ian said once and very sternly.
Jamie winced, saying almost questioningly "Come in?"
Ian opened the door and gave him a long, steady look, taking in the sprawl on the bed. Jamie's face started a slow burn but he couldn't bring himself to say anything.
"I thought," Ian said seriously, "I told you to stand in the corner?"
Jamie sat up slowly, balancing between an angry outburst or one of surrender. He stayed on the fence by saying "You left the house."
"Did I tell you to leave the corner?"
"No, but you left," Jamie replied petulantly.
"Are you concerned I'm not capable of making decisions regarding care of you in a corner?" Ian said bluntly.
Jamie shook his head no, the burn growing hotter on his face.
"Then I don't believe I told you to leave it?" Ian went on politely.
Jamie waited a long minute, not wanting to answer. "No," he finally said.
"Then may I ask why you did?"
Jamie picked at his jeans, not able to look up.
"I'm just mad that Allen is at work and you left too!" Jamie said furiously.
"I asked if you felt I was competent in supervising you in the corner." Ian said in a tone that cut straight across his. "IF it had been necessary for you to leave that corner, or IF I had been waylaid for any length of time you can be sure that I would have made sure that you were not either ignored NOR forgotten about."
Jamie sat still, staring holes in the carpet that should have set it on fire.
"Which means," Ian went on, "That we need to deal with the fact that you left the corner without permission to continue with the tantrum that had you there in the first place. LOOK at me please."
Jamie looked up slowly, his stomach tightening in response to the firmness with which Ian was speaking. He usually responded to Allen this way, but it wasn't a foreign concept that Ian was to be respected just as much.
"DO you treat me or my requests with that kind of disrespect?" Ian asked sternly.
"No, sir."
"Would you behave like that with Allen?"
"No, sir," Jamie said, if possible his face even redder than before.
"Then what makes you feel you can behave any differently with me?"
"I didn't mean toooo," Jamie whined after a few moments of very uncomfortable silence.
"I won't put up with it, and you know I won't." Ian said matter of factly, taking a seat on the bed. "Come here."
Jamie looked over in growing horror, knowing he wasn't being asked to come for a cuddle. "But Ian - I - you know -"
"You know if you're sent to stand in a corner, you don't wander off and then hand me a mouthful of attitude." Ian said firmly. "Come here."
"Ian, please!" Jamie pleaded, slowly getting to his feet but not moving any further towards Ian. "I'll stand still, I promise," he said, shooting looks to the door and who lay beyond and downstairs.
Ian leaned over and took his hand, drawing him quicker than he wanted to go onto his right side, and started to unbutton his pants.
"We're past promises."
Jamie was dealing with his usual pre-spanking panic, made only worse because it wasn't his partner but his friend that was going to do it. Tears smarted hotly in his eyes and he found himself very quickly over Ian's knees, struggling to get comfortable. Ian held his waist firmly, moving the t shirt back out of the way.
"What's this for, Jamie?"
"Ian, PLEASE," Jamie begged, turning to look at him. Ian waited, returning the look.
"Leaving the corner," Jamie finally said quietly, turning back to face the bed and tensing his body.
Ian steadied his grip on Jamie's hip and lifted his hand, landing it firmly and squarely across Jamie's bottom. While far more familiar with Kier and his reactions, he was nonetheless still aware of Jamie's from experience and was prepared for Jamie's violent jerk and immediate intensified squirming although he didn't actively struggle. Firmly Ian covered both cheeks with sound, well placed swats, keeping a firm hold of his twisting waist. Jamie's tears overflowed almost immediately but he tried to keep from actively sobbing. He was very aware of how loud the spanking was in the room, and knew most, if not all, could be heard from downstairs. He was ashamed enough that Ian was spanking him, but even more so that Kier was probably well aware of it. And as hard as he tried, the sobbing started anyway. The free release was typical of Jamie as much as it was unlike Kier who'd grit his teeth and hold on as long as he possibly could. Ian knew him well enough to take little account of it, and carried on. He wasn't enjoying this, although he was sure Jamie was enjoying it far, far less, but it was a job that needed doing and doing properly, and he didn't stop until Jamie went limp over his lap, most if not all of his struggling giving way to sobbing. Then he laid a hand on Jamie's back and waited, rubbing slightly, giving him time to get his breath.
Kier hadn't realized it, but when the sharp swats stopped falling upstairs, he found himself with his knees drawn up to his chin and his arms wrapped tightly around them. His hands would have been shaking if they hadn't been so tightly clasped. It was awful to hear- possibly even worse than being involved, he knew it all from the tones of voice if not the words, to the silence and then the sharp, steady sound of slapping, and worse still, Jamie's cries.
He could still hear Jamie sobbing faintly. His own stomach twisting, his mouth dry, Kier slid off the sofa and escaped into the kitchen. There, once the immediate horror of hearing it began to wear off, a second ramification sank in. It hadn't just been that Jamie had been spanked. IAN had done it. It had been Ian who took Jamie over his knees, and if Kier was any judge from the sounds, it had been bare. Ian who had turned Jamie over his lap, who had spanked him - and Kier, swallowing carefully on a still very dry mouth, wasn't at all sure how he felt about that.
Finally, starting to feel actively sick, he slipped his coat off the peg in the hall, quietly opened the kitchen door and went outside, wanting to put some serious distance between himself and the house while he tried to think.
Jamie's sobs changed within a few minutes, from those signalling that he was dealing with the pain to those of dealing with his emotions. Ian allowed him to stand up, and Jamie quickly straightened his clothes, hoping that by covering his still burning backside that he would also cover some of the invariable shame that accompanied any spanking. Ian helped him pull his sweater down, took Jamie's hand and pulled Jamie down into his lap this time instead of over it, wrapping his arms securely around his still very tearful friend. Jamie worked hard on stemming his sobbing, wiping at his face when the traitorous tears continued to fall. He was down to jerking hiccups when Ian spoke.
"Why did we just need to do that, Jamie? You know me better than that, and you know Allen better than that too."
"I don't know," Jamie replied between sniffles. "I was mad, I AM mad that Allen isn't here. That's why I ended up in the corner in the first place, then you go and leave too. It was...just too much."
"When you're standing in a corner is it about whether I'm watching or paying attention? Is that what you're there for?" Ian said mildly.
Jamie shook his head no, then followed up with "no, sir."
"No. I wouldn't expect Kier to understand that yet, but I know you do. If I tell you to go and stand in a corner and it's from the phone, several hundred miles away, I still trust you to go and stand there and do what you know you're supposed to be doing. Which is what?"
Sniffling still, Jamie answered "remembering why I'm there."
"Staying there until you say I'm done."
"Which is when?"
"When you say, not I."
"And you know that." Ian said gently. "So why push me? You knew exactly what would happen?"
Jamie threw his arms around Ian's neck and hugged hard. "I'm sorry," he said between renewed sobs. I just want Allen heeerrrreeeee."
"Why?" Ian hugged him back, rocking him. "Why now? What's wrong?"
"I just do, there's nothing wrong."
"You get Allen's work, you always have done, it's not like you to melt down because he gets an emergency call. Why today?"
Jamie sat silent for a few minutes. He started tentatively. "I guess because we're here. He should be here too."
"Why?" Ian said quietly. "What's going to happen?"
"What if he gets stuck at the hospital? He could be there for days if the storm is bad."
"Jamie he's safe there isn't he?"
"Yes, but he's not HERE. With me."
"What's going to happen while you're not looking?"
Jamie didn't say anything but settled down again.
"He's safe where he is," Ian repeated, still not entirely sure what was at the bottom of this. "And you're safe here. If the storm goes on all week you're safe here. It's not even likely to get that bad."
Jamie rubbed at his face one more time, then stood to his feet. Ian got up too, keeping hold of his hand.
"How worried are you about this storm?"
"I don't like the lightening and thunder," Jamie confessed.
If that was at the bottom of this, it was a secret Jamie had been successfully keeping through a lot of years of friendship. Ian pulled him close, gave him another tight hug.
"The house is safe. Allen is perfectly safe where he is. Nothing's going to happen to either of you, this might not get any worse than rain and wind."
"I want to go wash up," Jamie said, pulling out of Ian's hug.
"Go and do that." Ian let him go, giving him a clear look. "And then you've got a corner you need to be in. If you've got a problem you need to talk to me about it, not throw a fit."
Jamie's shoulder's slumped, but he managed to say "yes, sir," before he headed into the bathroom to wash the worst from his face.
Ian headed downstairs, satisfied that Jamie was settled and now prepared for a certain amount of indignation and uncertainty from his own partner. He couldn't have heard much of what went on, but he would have been well aware Jamie was in trouble and Kier was still new enough to the relationship to find that unsettling.
Jamie took his time washing up, not at all keen on heading downstairs so soon after a spanking but knowing he had no choice. He walked slowly back down the hall and down the first few steps, before trying to adopt a casual air, even if his face was still bright red. Ian met him at the foot of the stairs, pulling a coat on and looking anxious.
"Kier's gone out, I need to go call him in- do you want to come with me?"
It took Jamie a minute to close his mouth on his surprise, but going outside at the moment sounded much more inviting than the corner.
"Yes, I'll help," Jamie said, stepping over to get his own jacket off the peg in the hall. Ian waited, trying to school his face and body to calmness. Taking Jamie outside in this weather, a few moments after an admittance that the storm was upsetting him, was very low on his list of things he wanted to do- and worse than that, he was starting to worry what Kier had heard or thought to send him outside.
Jamie opened the door, both of them getting a stiff blast of wind as they headed outside. "Where do you think he went?
"Just for some fresh air I hope." Ian headed down the drive at a swift pace, pausing to check the garage, the cars and the side entrance to the garden. An emergency team was still blocking the north side of the street where the line was down- which meant Kier's only route could have been south. Jamie was busy looking at the clouds, making sure that there didn't appear to be any lightening anywhere close.
"Which way?"
"This way I think." Ian linked his arm through Jamie's, glancing at the sky himself. The wind was high but there was no rain as yet. "Come on, we'll try a quick look around. If he's not in sight we'll just have to wait until he decides to come home."
"He's crazy to come out here," Jamie replied through the wind.

Ian wasn't about to disagree. For twenty minutes they checked the local streets and finally Ian turned back towards home just as the sky began to release a slow but steady drizzle.
"No, this is not helping. Come on, we'll head home, he'll come in when he's ready."
Jamie stepped quickly alongside Ian as they made their way back to the house. They were both damp but not soaked when they made it into the house. Jamie took his time hanging up his jacket, unsure of what to do next and not wanting to ask if he still had to stand in the corner.
Ian shut the door, checking quickly through the downstairs with growing anxiety, as there was still clearly no sign of Kier. He opened the door on the fire in the lounge and gave Jamie a nod towards the kitchen.
"I think there was a corner you had an appointment with."
Jamie's face fell. When no reprieve came, he headed slowly into the kitchen, his still sore bottom now making itself known again when the world shrunk to boring paint strokes. Ian ran upstairs and checked each room thoroughly, then pulled out his cell phone and dialed Kier's number. When he heard the ringing from the table downstairs in the hall, he shut it off again, resisting the urge to swear. There was nothing he could do. At all. Except wait and try not to let Jamie get any more nervous.


Allen finished up in the operating room, tossing his scrubs into the container on the way out of the operating suite. He'd had only a little work that had needed doing, but he was one of the last doctors that needed to work and the waiting was the hardest part. He immediately dialed the phone outside in the hallway to check his messages and found that Dr. Severnson had come in and taken care of the second patient and was on call for the remainder of the day. He headed into the lounge and quickly showered, changing back into his sweater that he'd worn to the hospital. He pulled his jacket further up around his ears as he walked through the covered carpark, thankful for the roof even if the wind seemed to cut right through the building. He drove slowly, particularly around the park as he wasn't sure if there would be any trees in the road. He looked over at a bench, surprised to see a familiar jacket huddled on a bench. He parked on the curb and walked quickly through the mist to the huddled form.
"Kier? Is that you?"
Kier jumped, not expecting anyone else to be around, especially not someone he knew. Allen looked startled and worse still, increasingly concerned. Heart starting to thud, stomach dropping, Kier got up. "Hi- just out for a walk, it's fine."
"Just out for a walk? In this?" Allen asked incredulously. "Does Ian know that?"
Kier shook his head, defeated, scared and thoroughly miserable. For a fleeting second he just wanted to run. Except he knew what Ian would make of it when he knew Kier had refused to co operate with Allen. And knowing what had just happened between Ian and Jamie, Kier was left with some serious uncertainty as to whether Ian would expect the same to apply between himself and Allen. He had only just started to fully understand the relationship that he and Ian had- the thought of being disciplined by someone else, by Allen who was a friend- was as terrifying as it was unthinkable.
"I should thrash you myself," Allen said firmly, taking Kier by the hand and walking quickly over to the car. He held the door open for Kier to get into the passenger seat, then slid into the driver's seat, putting the key into the ignition but not turning it on. He softened his voice at the clear panic in Kier's face. "What happened?" he asked gently.
Kier stared at him dumbly, almost shrunk back against the passenger door of the car.

Allen wiped his damp hand on his jeans before reaching over to take Kier's hand in his. "It's okay. If I know Ian, he's going to be spare wondering where you are. How long have you been outside?"
Kier pulled away from his hand, folding his arms tightly, very near to tears with confusion and increasing fear. "I don't want you to touch me!"
"Hey," Allen said a little more firmly. "Do you think I'd hurt you?"
Kier, not at all sure how to answer that honestly, gave him a shrug. There was no mistaking his eyes. He was genuinely, seriously frightened.
"Have you known me to hurt anyone in the months you've known me?"
That brought to mind all too many incidents to Kier's mind- of him in trouble with Ian, of Jamie's half serious, half jokingly told fragments of trouble he'd been in with Allen- tears over flowed in spite of himself and he wrapped his arms tightly around his knees, trying to hold onto some last remnant of self control. "I just want to go home. I don't want you to touch me, I just want to go home."
Allen took in the look and did what came naturally - he slid over and pulled Kier to him, wrapping both arms around the younger man and mumbling soothing words to him.
Kier's immediate response was to struggle wildly, trying to prise his way out of Allen's embrace, then the tone and the security of the arms around him began to sink in, he went limp and burst into deep, serious sobbing. Allen relaxed fully, hoping that would translate into Kier as well. He kept his arms around him and mumbled when he needed to, waiting for Kier to settle enough that they might be able to find out what was at the bottom of this. Something had happened at home, enough that Ian was distracted long enough for Kier to be able to leave without getting called back.
It took several minutes to calm down, by which Kier was starting to feel a lot better and thoroughly embarrassed at the fuss he was making. Easing back out of Allen's arms he rubbed his face and dug in his pocket for a handkerchief, trying to regain full control of his breathing.
"Sorry. I'm fine now. I didn't mean to get in that kind of state."
"Why don't you shrug out of that jacket. I think you'll be a little more comfortable."
Kier obediently pulled his jacket off, still sniffling but too limp to think of arguing any further.
"We ought to go home. Ian's going to be upset, I didn't say I was going out."
"A few more minutes won't matter," Allen said, taking the jacket from Kier. "What happened at home to send you outside?"
Kier looked down at his hands, still more embarrassed and not at all sure he wanted to try to explain. He was ashamed enough of having gone semi hysterical in front of Allen, who he usually at least tried to behave in front of.
"Was Ian being unreasonable?" Allen ventured when Kier remained silent.
"No." Kier shook his head whole heartedly. "No it wasn't Ian. Or not like that."
Allen took that in and let it roll around for a moment. "Ian did something. What was it?"
"It was stupid." Kier ran another hand over his face, trying to make his voice steady and his eyes feel less stiff and sore. "I just got wound up, I'm sorry."
Something was strange with the information so far. Ian was somehow involved, Kier got wound up but wasn't stopped by Ian when he left. He was starting to think Jamie was involved somehow. "Was Ian talking to Jamie when you left?"
Kier nodded, still looking at his hands.
"Do you know why?" Allen asked gently, seeing a light at the end of the tunnel.
Kier shrugged somewhat awkwardly, not wanting to get Jamie into trouble. "They were just-"
"Was Jamie upset that I went into work?"
Kier nodded slowly.
"Enough that he got himself into trouble?"
Kier nodded again still more faintly, with no idea how to say it.
Allen took a stab. "Did Ian spank Jamie?"
Kier didn't answer but he flinched, visibly.
"Kier?" Allen said gently, taking his hand and pulling Kier's face around to his with the other. "Is that what happened?"
Kier nodded slowly, hating the fact his eyes were starting to fill with tears again. A wash of shame and confusion ran through him, making him pull away from Allen and drop his eyes, not wanting to look or to think too hard about it.
Allen, knowing that Kier was still new to a lot of concepts that he and Jamie took for granted, kept probing. "It's not nice, hearing that going on in another room, is it?"
Kier shook his head fervently, not knowing how to put the worst of it into words. Less what happened than Ian being involved. Ian and Jamie.
"It happens sometimes, even though we'd all like to avoid that. Ian must have had a very good reason for spanking him, don't you think?"
"It wasn't that." Kier blurted out.
Allen took that in stride, though it surprised him. "Then what is it? Can you explain it to me?"
"It was Jamie." Kier said helplessly, not at all sure how to explain it any better, or feeling this stupid about it he even wanted to try.
Allen tried taking that in as Kier would have meant it but he couldn't come up with anything. "You didn't think Jamie should have been punished?" he asked, still in gentle tones.
Kier shook his head, putting a hand up to wipe his eyes. "I don't want to talk about it, it's ok."
Allen captured the hand and made Kier face him. "You're upset by something, and I want to know what it is. Is it Ian or Jamie you're more upset with?"
"I don't know!" Kier said helplessly. "It's stupid, I don't even know why I ran out!"
"Emotions are hardly logical things. None of us have Vulcan training to curb them. Having emotions isn't stupid in the least, is it?"
"It was Jamie." Kier tried again. "I didn't think they'd-" he trailed off, with no idea how to explain.
Trying to see the relationships from Kier's point of view, Allen realized that Kier had probably never been witness to a spanking before.
"You didn't think Ian would spank Jamie?" he asked, thinking that maybe Kier thought all discipline would be behind closed doors and extremely private.
Kier nodded, relieved for Allen to put it into words. "I never thought it through. I've heard Ian tell him off before now, but I just didn't- think, or realise I suppose."
"That Jamie would push far enough to make Ian spank?"
"That Ian would..... he's MY partner," Kier finally managed. "I don't know I LIKE him handling someone else like that, especially a friend. I TOLD you it was stupid."
The root of the problem, and why Kier was so afraid when Allen had brought him into the car.
"Kiernan," Allen said a little more sharply. "Your thoughts aren't stupid and I don't want to hear that phrase again. It was a new experience and new things sometimes are upsetting in ways we don't expect at the time."
"You and he and Jamie have been friends forever!" Kiernan burst out. "I don't KNOW what it's like, I don't GET half of it anyway, and now it isn't even just me and Ian!"
"It's you and Ian, it's Jamie and myself, and it's all four of us or any combination thereof," Allen said, having heard from Ian many times how unsure Kier was of their friendship. "You're every much a part of this relationship as any of the three of us now. We can't change that we knew each other before we were all lucky enough to meet you, and come to know you, most of all Ian. That's history and as much as any of us would like the ability to, we can't go back and rewrite it with you in it. We, you included, are making new history, and I hope it's a history that you'll look back on one day and have very fond memories of. It's not that often that people are lucky enough to have such close friends, as close as we are. Do you know how much easier it is to know that if anything ever happened to me, that Jamie has Ian AND you to rely on? Much like today - I was able to do a much better job because I knew Jamie had the two of you to keep him busy and safe. He did start to lose control, and I'm grateful that Ian was there to settle him down. It would bother me a lot more to think that Jamie was all kinds of upset and with no outlet if Ian hadn't been there. Does that make sense?"
Kier nodded slowly, still aware he was leaking tears. "I know. I'm not proud of feeling like this. It was just- a shock I suppose."
"There's no shame in feeling shocky," Allen replied, rubbing Kier's hand. "The only thing there is to be shameful of is leaving your house without a word to Ian. We really should get you home before we're both in the doghouse," Allen finished, winking at Kier before he turned back to adjust himself in the seat.
"Is it because he and Jamie were friends before he met me?" Kier asked somewhat hesitantly as he started the engine. "You don't mind- does Jamie?"
"Jamie would say in an instant that he didn't appreciate Ian taking such a hands on approach with him," Allen said as he pulled out into traffic. "But I don't think he'd trade that relationship in for any other, and I’m not sure he’d handle Ian NOT being prepared to get that hands on with him when he pushes. He's got someone he can go to that he trusts, someone he can rely on to set him straight. You've got that too, you know."
The look he got was one of frank alarm.
Allen knew nothing he said was going to get through in the right context at the moment. As they pulled into the drive he said, "You know you can come talk to me about anything. I don't bite. At least not hard, I've been told," Allen finished with a twinkle in his eye.
Kier didn't answer. He was feeling better, somewhat reassured, but that wasn't exactly the answer to the question he had. On the other hand he didn't want the answer at this moment in time. And as they turned into the drive of home, he had other things to worry about anyway. Ian's immediate welcome home was likely to be an unpleasantly warm one: Kier knew he would have been seriously worried.
Ian pulled open the door and ran out, having seen two heads in the car rather than just one.
"There he is," Allen said as he put the car in park and turned off the engine.
The expression on Ian's face turned Kier's heart over. Temporarily forgetting about his own apprehension he got out of the car and clung to Ian as his partner grabbed him. "I'm sorry, I'm really sorry, I didn't even take my phone-"
Ian hugged him hard, unable to speak for a moment, then pulled away. "Are you okay? Where were you? Were you at the hospital?"
"The park." Kier stood back to face him. He didn't realise but the marks of tears were clear on his face, he looked tired, stressed and upset, and Allen was working hard on catching Ian's eye over his head.
"The park?" Ian asked in confusion before the rain really started. "Get inside, go, where's your -" Ian stopped as Allen held up the coat and the two of them quickly followed Kier inside to get out of the rain.
"Give him a break." Allen said under his breath, catching Ian's wrist as Ian shut the door. "I'll explain, but he's been sobbing his heart out for the last twenty minutes, this was panic."
Ian nodded his understanding before telling Kier to get himself in front of the fire to warm up while he made some tea to help them all warm up. Jamie was sitting on the sofa, and Kier, expecting to see signs of subdued, shamefaced introversion was totally surprised by Jamie bouncing past him to throw himself at Allen.
"Hi! I didn't think we'd see you before morning, was surgery horrendous?"
"Not as horrendous as things were here," Allen replied, hugging his partner back just as hard.
"WHO told on me?" Jamie demanded. "Unfair! I was freaked because of the storm with you five miles away. De nada."
Allen settled into the chair, pulling Jamie down into his lap. "Surgery went fairly easily once it was my turn. And Dr. Severnsen came in to work on the second patient so I was able to come home early."
"Perfect." Jamie shifted slightly to get comfortable, winding his arms around Allen's neck. Kier, still shivering, was hovering somewhat hesitantly at the far end of the kitchen, well away from either Allen or Ian. Ian brought through the tea tray, shepherding Kier ahead of him. Stuffing a mug into Kier's hands with instructions to drink, he served Jamie and Allen a mug as well, before settling on the couch. "Come sit with me?" he asked Kier.
Kier went to him, but to the far end of the sofa, where he sat on the edge of the seat, hands cupped around the mug in the 'prepared to run' position.
"Over here," Ian said, patting the couch next to him.
Kier shuffled slightly closer and drank tea, giving it his full attention. Ian reached out and pulled until Kier was next to him, then yanked the blanket across the back of the couch down and settled that across Kier's shoulders, settling back with him into the cushions. "I'm glad you're okay," Ian said softly.
Kier stared hard at the tea, wishing Allen and Jamie were anywhere but here. He still felt slightly tearful, which was something he was not at all comfortable with in front of anyone but Ian, and what he really wanted right now was to cuddle up with Ian and talk this whole difficult situation through with him.
Jamie and Allen finished their tea quickly. "Ian, Kier, if you don't mind I'd like a long, hot shower, and I need to have a talk with my partner. Give us a couple of hours for dinner?"
"Alleeeeeeeeeeeen........." Jamie began, without any enthusiasm at all, as Allen saw Kier's eyes lift in total relief.
"Yes of course." Ian said politely. "Help yourselves to anything you need."
"A few candles for the bathroom should do us for now. Go collect them," Allen said to Jamie as he put him on his feet. He gave a small smile to Kier and ruffled his hair as he walked past, heading up the quickly darkening staircase.
Jamie pulled a face at Ian, went into the kitchen for candles and headed upstairs. The quiet after they'd gone was welcoming. Kier listened until the bathroom door shut, then leaned to put his mug down on the floor, tucked his legs under him and lay down against Ian's side, letting go a long, shuddering breath.
"You scared me little boy," Ian said without rancor. He brushed the hair from Kier's face gently.
"I'm sorry." Kier said penitently. Oddly enough now they were alone, the urge to cry was fading, along with the worst of the emotion. He felt tired and a lot calmer, reassured not just by Allen's matter of fact kindness but Ian's obvious concern. It covered his worst fears, making them as unreasonable as really, logically, he knew they were.
"Do you want to talk about it?"
Kier took another shuddering breath. "It was hearing you and Jamie. It just came as a bit of a shock. I needed to get out of the house and think, Allen picked me up by the park."
"I'm sorry that you had to be witness to any of it. I didn't want to spank him but he gave me little choice in the matter when he left the corner," Ian replied, slowly running his hands through his partner's hair and down his back.
"I know, it wasn't so much that. It was that- you've done it before haven't you? Jamie wasn't surprised."
"Spanked him?"
"Yes, on a few occasions. I guess you didn't know that, did you?"
"I didn't think about it." Kier said uncomfortably. "I didn't think it would happen with you - with us."
"I'm sorry," Ian said thoughtfully. "It sort of comes....naturally. And what don't you think will happen with us?"
"I mean I didn't think you'd do that with him now you were with me." Kier said, getting steadily more embarrassed. "I mean- I could hear, it was bare-" he broke off, aware of his face getting steadily redder. This wasn't a subject he was yet that comfortable discussing even just in the context of himself and Ian.
Ian could feel the heat growing in Kier's cheek and didn't want to embarrass him further. He just kept up the gentle touches and talked quietly.
"I didn't spank Jamie just because I didn't have anyone of my own to do that to. And it isn't just the spanking either, its the entire realm of discipline. Just because you're my partner doesn't make me discipline you, or stop disciplining Jamie. That's part of loving you both, even if it is in different ways. Does that make sense?:
"That's kind of what Allen said." Kier admitted. "He was really nice. And I probably wasn't too nice to him."
"I'm sure if he was offended he would have said so," Ian said soothingly. "It's kind of how we're built, all four of us for that matter. I care a great deal about Jamie as a friend. If I see him doing something that I know isn't in his best interests, or something I know Allen doesn't approve of, I know what Jamie responds to. He'll listen to me, and if he doesn't, he knows that I can make him listen by disciplining him. He responds to that, which means he stays safe and happy."
"I guess I never thought of you and him like that." Kier said awkwardly. "It just made me feel - weird. Especially knowing how long you two have been friends. I know you love him."
"As a friend," Ian said, pulling Kier up. "You're my partner, and the only one I ever want to call that," Ian said, planting a firm kiss on Kier's full lips.
Kier hugged him, mind still on other things. "Would you..." he began when Ian let him go. "Allen wouldn't uhm...."
"I think he'd do what he thought necessary, same as I did with Jamie," Ian said gently.
"But you wouldn't let him?" Kier said in shock.
"If I wasn't available, I'd trust that Allen would keep you safe. I trust his judgement, and if he thought that needed to happen, I'm sure I'd agree.”
Kier swallowed, not really sure he was happy with that answer.
"Honey, it's nothing you have to worry about. It really isn't."
"It is!" Kier found the tears overflowing, a mixture of stress and anxiety that finally boiled over. "I'm NOT happy about it, I DON'T belong in all this, I don't even KNOW Allen!"
Ian pulled Kier close, holding him tightly. Kier clung to him, tearful as much from the strain of the last few hours as anything else.
"Shhh," Ian kept saying, brushing the hair back from Kier's face. "How often do I spank you?"
"That's got nothing to do with it." Kier sobbed back, somewhat incoherently.
"It's got a lot to do with it. I don't spank you all the time. I don't look for reasons to spank you. Isn't that true?"
"That's true." Kier said shakily, not at all sure where this was going, or that he wanted to be distracted away from his central line of fear. There was one thing he wanted to hear and one only. 'No, I'll make it clear to Allen he never touches you'. And that wasn't forthcoming.
"The focus of our relationship isn't the discipline," Ian explained quietly. "The focus is our love for one another, and what we do to support each other. We use the discipline as a means to support you where it's needed. Does that make sense?"
Kier nodded, trying to hold onto the meaning of the words. They still weren't what he wanted to hear, which was more than he could understand. He was making it clear to Ian now he was scared and upset, and in his mind Ian should have the answer clear!
"Discipline would never be the focus of your relationship with Allen either. He's a very close friend to both of us, and as that friend, you can rely on him when you need support, or caring, or understanding. He'll tell you himself, you can go to him for anything. But he's a close enough friend, and understands our relationship, that if he saw you doing something that was dangerous or wrong, and I wasn't around, he'd probably discipline you as well. He's not going to do anything to hurt you, or scare you, but he will be there for you in all respects."
"I don't WANT that relationship with him." Kier said pitifully. "YOU're my partner, not him."
"What are you most worried about?"
"I DON'T want him to spank me." Kier was scarlet faced but got it out clearly and emphatically.
"Do you ever want me to spank you?"
"That's different."
"Do you?" Ian pressed.
"It's never a pleasant experience, but it happens. And it doesn't happen unless you let it, does it?"
"It's NOT the same." Kier said passionately, trying to squirm out of Ian's arms. "I don't know him, I don't TRUST him, I don't want him to touch me, and I don't believe YOU're happy about that!"
"What did Allen do when he found you this afternoon?" Ian said, holding on to him.
"He said he should "thrash me himself," Kier said heatedly.
"And did he?"
"No," Kier grudgingly admitted.
"What did he do then? He found you out in the middle of nowhere doing something you very definitely shouldn't be doing, and clearly upset."
Kier gave a long, shuddering sigh. "He took me to the car, out of the rain, and we talked."
"Just talked?"
Kier nodded. "He wanted to know why I was outside. I didn't want to tell on Jamie."
"And you came home with him."
"Yes," Kier said hesitantly, not sure where this was all going.
He'd stopped struggling. Ian held him, leaning back into the chair. "You're a lot fitter than Allen. And you're not short on assertiveness or common sense. Or strength. So I'm guessing Allen didn't do anything during all that that made you feel unsafe or uncomfortable. Am I right?"
"No. He wasn't mean or...or scary," Kier replied.
"And I don't think you'd allow him or anyone else to do anything that you found mean or scary," Ian said gently. "No matter who they are."
Kier was struggling with trying to back up his position. "He hugged me after I told him several times not to touch me," Kier said a little indignantly.
"And that made you uncomfortable? That was against your will?" Ian asked quietly.
As much as Kier wanted to say Allen made him do something, he really hadn't. He'd walked him out of the rain, allowed him to try to explain things, and took him home where he wanted to be, with Ian. He shook his head no.
"And you pushed him off? And made it clear you weren't happy with him touching you?"
Kier shook his head no again. "It...it was okay."
Kier struggled to explain. "I didn't want it at first. But then....."
"It sounds like you were pretty upset and you needed a hug." Ian said gently.
"Yeah, I guess so," Kier said grudgingly.
"I'd expect Allen not to walk away from you in that state, the same way he knows he can trust me not to walk away from Jamie, no matter how upset Jamie was or what he said to me." Ian ran his hand through Kier's hair, smoothing it back. "And quite apart from because he's my friend, I don't think Allen could see you upset or in need without helping because he likes you and he cares about you."
Kier accepted that without comment, not sure what to say.
"Honey, do you really think, knowing that, that Allen would do ANYthing with you- anything at all - that he thought was going to upset you, frighten you, that you weren't comfortable with?"
Kier twisted in Ian's lap, trying to figure out what to say. It - spanking, or discipline for that matter - was a very uncomfortable subject for Kier. He knew he was doing better with Ian's help. Lots of things were better and he could actually look forward to the future, rather than wondering what calamity the next day would bring. But whenever Ian corrected him, whether in complete privacy or within eyesight of someone if not exactly earshot, it still bothered him. The looks Ian could shoot him could take ten years straight off his age without trouble. Being brought down to that level always got his attention, and a spanking only intensified it. When he overstepped his bounds, or even if he got caught doing something when he wasn't expecting it, the feelings just, were hard to explain. It was awful when he was in trouble. It was awful having to own up to something, more awful still having to pull off his own pants so Ian could spank him. His partner, the one person who knew him inside and out. It didn't matter that Ian had seen him in all manner of dress or undress, happy or sad, healthy or sick. A spanking, a baring of his bottom for punishment was still one of the hardest things Kier had to do. It was embarrassing and humiliating as well as painful. And to think of someone else doing that just made him ill. It was bad enough that they even KNEW it a was a possibility between him and Ian. He couldn't remember a time when he'd actually been spanked in front of them, or rather within their hearing. He'd certainly been taken down a peg or two in front of them and that wasn't fun.
The distress in Kier's face was tangible. Ian hugged him, trying to find the words to reassure and well aware Allen would be equally distraught and concerned that Kier was rapidly writing him into the role of both threat and ogre. He was well aware that was the very LAST part Allen would want to play in Kier's life, or feel Kier was at all in need of.
"Kier. Look at me. If you'd done what Jamie did this afternoon- stormed off out of the corner after several warnings- what do you think Allen would have done with you?"
Kier shrugged, unable to meet Ian's eyes directly.
"What do you think?" Ian pushed gently.
"He....he would have been upset," Kier said unwillingly.
"What do you think he would have done?" Ian insisted.
"He would spank Jamie," Kier said, dropping his eyes again.
"What about you?"
Kier squirmed a minute longer, a flush growing in his face. "Me too."
"No, I don't think so at all. I think that would be the last way he'd handle it." Ian said matter of factly. "And I thought that's what you'd think."
Kier looked up a little surprised. "No?"
"No." Ian said definitely. "I think he'd make it clear to you that he'd be letting me know about it, and you might find yourself marched back down to the corner, but I certainly don't think he'd even consider spanking you."
Kier thought that one over for a few minutes. IF he was sent to stand in the corner and IF he left it and IF Allen told on him, it would lead to a spanking from Ian, he was sure. But he couldn't imagine doing anything in front of Allen that would make Allen send him to the corner in the first place. And having Allen there today was - actually kind of nice. He wanted to go home, but he wasn't sure how long it would have been before he'd managed to do it on his own.
"I've known Jamie for years." Ian said gently. "And Jamie is Jamie, he's a very confident, outgoing guy who doesn't have a lot of reservations when he loves someone. You're not Jamie and you haven't yet known Allen long or built up much of a friendship with him. And when you do it won't be like Jamie's and mine, it'll be unique to the two of you. And you're both pretty reserved people. Allen knows that. I'm not going to tie Allen's hands, I want him to be there as you need him, HOW you need him - I expect that of him and I expect you to show him the same respect and attention you'd give to me. And I trust him to do whatever he thinks is needed, in the right way and a way he knows you’re okay with. If I get hit by a car tomorrow I'm safe knowing someone is there with you who is going to do what you really want and what you really need- not just listen to the first thing that comes out of your mouth and be afraid to push past that. But Allen is not now or ever going to want to do anything that would genuinely frighten or hurt you- any more than any friend of yours would want to- and I would not allow anyone to harm you in any way. More than that Kier, you are a strong, assertive guy, you are not a push over. You're not going to LET anyone do anything to you that you don't agree with or you aren't happy with. If you'd seriously not wanted Allen to touch you today when he tried to hug you, you'd have broken his jaw and run."
Kier sat for a moment, taking that in. It did all make sense. He really would have left Allen if he didn't want to be there. He would have left Ian several times already before, during or immediately after a spanking. But even after all the trauma, it was still Ian who was there, who loved him, and who made life a lot more fun 98% of the time. He wouldn't have it any other way. And he did like Allen, who reminded him of a fluffy teddy bear most of the time. If all the good stuff came with some bad stuff once in while - and he could always tell Allen to stuff it - then he wouldn't mind so much.
"Do you feel better about it?" Ian said seriously. "Really? Because I don't want you to be afraid of Allen and I know Allen doesn't want you to be afraid of him."
Kier shrugged, then said truthfully "I guess so. I mean - I don't want anything to happen. But I'm not afraid of Allen. I mean, I DO like him. He's a nice guy, I see why you'd like him too."
"He is a nice guy." Ian said gently. "I trust him with you. And all I expect of you is that you show him the same respect and that you listen to him as you'd listen to me. I do NOT expect you to allow him or anyone else to do anything that you aren't happy about or comfortable with. And you can say that to Allen at any time and be completely sure you'll be listened to and that he’ll find a way to handle the situation that you ARE comfortable with. Do you understand that?"
Kier nodded slowly.
"Good." Ian kissed him and put him on his feet. "Go use our bathroom and get yourself into a hot bath. I'll start dinner."
Kier started towards the stairs, then turned and went back to where Ian was just getting to his feet. He put his arms around him and said, "I love you."
Ian hugged him tightly, lifting Kier off his feet. There wasn't much difference in their heights but there were times when Ian needed to hold all of him. "I love you too." he said when he let Kier go.
Kier smiled and headed on up the stairs for a bath, ignoring completely the howling gale outside. Allen met him on the landing, just coming out of the guest room and closing the door softly behind him. He smiled when he saw Kier and gestured to be quiet.
"Jamie's asleep. I don't know if he told you but apart from thinking I work too many weekends, he HATES storms. Always has done. I think he spent all morning working himself up into a state."
"What's he afraid of?" Kier questioned.
Allen hesitated a minute. "It's not exactly afraid in that way, he knows it's irrational - when he was a child his father made fun of anything he showed he was scared of. I think he must have been very frightened of thunder and lightening and wasn't allowed to show it, which is why it comes out around people he does feel safe with. I'm very sorry that meant you ended up in a situation that made you feel so uncomfortable today."
"It's okay," Kier said quickly, wondering how the conversation went from Jamie to him so quickly.
Allen gave him a look that said clearly he knew it wasn't, but paused on his way past on the stairs, put an arm around Kier and kissed his forehead.
"I'm still sorry. Where's Ian?"
"Starting dinner," Kier said on the way down. "Thanks," he said before he closed the bedroom door behind him.
Ian glanced up as Allen came into the kitchen, giving him a quick smile."How does it feel to be utterly terrifying?"
"GGGGGRRRRRRR!" Allen said, stepping behind Ian and wrapping his arms around him while he sank his teeth gently into Ian's shoulder, still growling.
Ian laughed, not bothering to shake him off while he started to chop vegetables.
"I always knew you were seriously sinister. Did he give you any trouble this afternoon?"
"Man, this isn't fun being scary if you're not scared," Allen joked as he let go, stealing a carrot stick to munch on.
"No, no, not at all," Allen said as he leaned against the counter. "I knew something had gone wrong here as I didn't think you'd just let Kier wander out into this weather alone. I got him into the car and we just talked."
"Was he as upset as he sounded?" Ian said apprehensively. "We've just had twenty minutes of tears and panic that you're going to grab him the first time he puts a foot wrong within your line of sight- I never realised what a tyrant you must be when I'm not around."
Allen gave him a calm shrug. "You know how young he is. He was witness to the spanking you gave Jamie, even if he wasn't in the same room. That can be traumatic on its own, but when he kept connecting you and Jamie, all he could do then was connect the two of us. I think the only thing he was centered on was a spanking, nothing more, nothing less."
"He's so - innocent? in some ways." Ian dropped vegetables into water, giving Allen an apprehensive look in spite of himself. "Not fragile, but he's all noise and bluster, when you get right down to it he's pretty easily scared, it's not been long enough yet for him to feel totally secure even when it's just between him and me. You just need to be very aware of how unconfident he is."
"I am," Allen replied firmly. "Once we'd worked the problem out with why he left, we headed back here. He'll be fine, Ian, we all will."
"And I'm fussing." Ian pulled a face at him and got chicken out of the fridge. "Yes, I know. Jamie's just so blasé about the whole thing-"
"He's got a few more years on him, and that wasn't always the case. Do you even remember way back when and you spanked him for the first time?" Allen asked, his eyebrow raising in merriment.
"Yes. He practically forced me into it, had hysterics and then dragged me out to breakfast in some appalling diner near the hospital and ate like a horse, it was ME who was shattered!" Ian dug Allen in the ribs. "Pass me the olive oil and you can chop some potatoes if you'd like to be useful. Jamie was BORN confident."
Allen got the olive oil and potatoes and started chopping. "I checked my messages that afternoon and found the panicked call telling me he was moving to London proper because you hated him and therefore I was going to hate him. The very next message was all about this disgusting heap of breakfast he ate and that we'd have to go there immediately upon my arrival home," Allen said, trying not to laugh.
"That sounds like Jamie." Ian shut the fridge with his hip and came to take the potatoes. "Kier just would have moved. No word, nothing, I'd have had to head him off at the pass. Or the airport."
"Maybe five months ago, but I think you're underestimating yourself. I saw his face light up when you came out of the house, even though he wasn't sure if he was in trouble or not. He loves you, Ian and I don't think that'll change. Not even if you have an ogre for a friend."
"I can't imagine life without him." Ian admitted. And pointed the vegetable knife at Allen. "Of course it goes without saying. Scare him and I'll......"
"Lose a hand?" Allen joked back, holding out his much bigger knife triumphantly. "Shut up Ian and chop your chicken."
Ian grinned and turned back to his chicken. "Yes sir."

Copyright Rolf and Ranger 2010

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