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Page history last edited by PBworks 17 years, 3 months ago

Clean Cut


Author: NA27

Fandom: Original

Pairing(s): Original

Warnings: Dom/sub relationship, consent issues, underage

Spoilers: none

Summary: Trenton Vittelli and Clive are a happy, firmly established couple, but not all relationships are as good as theirs.


Bryant McAllister is Trenton's team mate. He is also caught in an abusive, exploitative relationship with his swim coach.


Trent and Clive take an interest in Bryant. Clive is angered when he learns that Priory Lowell, in order to gratify his own twisted desires, has forced Bryant into a submissive role.


Bryant is confused about his own sexuality and his place in the world. Clive, sensing a fledgling Dom, helps him find the determination to break free.

Nominated Category:

Best Original Fic - Slash


Chapter 1: New Boy


Trenton drifted up from sleep, lured by the faint grey light that was seeping through the French doors. The first thing he was aware of besides the light was the weight. There was a heavy, muscular male body lying face down over his own torso. It rested at a slant, so that his bed partner's groin was lying against his left hip. One leg had been crooked so that the left knee was over his own left leg, as if the older man was trying to crawl over him. A slightly shaggy dark blonde head rested on his shoulder, and Trenton could feel a slow, moist breath warming his skin. He sighed contentedly. He just loved waking up to a Clive-blanket.


*And I just love waking up my Clive-blanket.* He shifted slightly, sliding his left hand down his side. At the movement, Clive growled softly. Trenton stopped for a moment, craning his head for a look at his lover's face. No, Clive was still asleep. As a rule, it wasn't wise to disturb the Dom when he was sleeping, but Trenton was sure that Clive would like what he had in mind.


He let his hand slip farther down, till he felt the back of his hand brush against a crinkly puff of pubic hair, then a warm, solid mass. Trenton grinned. *All right, only half-hard! There's a good chance it isn't just tinkle-time stiffness. Time to play.*


Trenton carefully turned his wrist till his hand cupped Clive's incipient erection. At first he just held it against his palm, letting the heat of his hand transfer to his lover's flesh. After a moment he began a soft, rhythmic squeezing. He was gratified to feel Clive's prick begin to firm and thicken. He switched to light, gentle stroking, running his fingertips the length of Clive's shaft, over and over.


Clive's cock grew and hardened. Trenton had to stretch and shift, but he managed to touch the cockhead. It was slippery with pre-come, and Trenton began to slide his fingers around and around, teasing the slit.


Clive groaned deep in his throat and thrust lazily. He slid through Trenton's circling fingers, and his glans painted a warm, wet trail along the boy's hip. The Dom lifted his head and looked down at Trenton sleepily. "Good God, darling. Don't tell me you're feeling frisky after that shagging I gave you last night?"


Trenton gave Clive's cock a squeeze. "Feels like I'm not the only one feeling frisky."


"That isn't frisky, pet--it's horny. We'll have sex, but this isn't going to be frisky by any means." Trenton shivered as he felt Clive's firm, smooth hand engulf his soft dick. "Mm, got me started without having yourself ready, too? Naughty boy. Does that deserve a spanking?" Trenton kissed Clive humbly. "All right. But you don't come till I give you permission, or I will be very displeased."


"Yes, sir."


Clive continued to rub himself against Trenton's smooth hip while he masturbated the boy, bringing him quickly to full erection. There were whispered words of affection and lust between the two, the comfortable exchange of lovers who are very familiar with each other, but have not reached the point of satiation, and are not likely to.


When he was finally satisfied that Trent was aroused enough, Clive climbed the rest of the way on top of him. Trenton spread his legs, making a space for Clive, and the older man settled between his thighs, aligning their hard cocks. Then he began to rock against Trenton with a slow, easy movement.


Trenton sighed voluptuously as Clive undulated over and against him. Clive had braced his arms on either side, lifting some of his weight off the boy, and Trenton reached up to run his hands lovingly over his Dom's smooth, sculpted chest. Clive might be moving into the tail end of his thirties, but he kept his body hard with regular workouts. Trenton settled his fingers over Clive's copper colored nipples and began to stroke and rub, at first gently.


Clive grunted his approval. As the flesh firmed into stiff peaks, Trenton became rougher, pinching. Clive ordered, "More!" Trenton used his nails, scraping and pulling. Clive's eyes sparked with pain and lust. His hips moved faster and harder, and he bent his head to begin nipping sharply at Trenton's shoulder. Trenton threw his head back, arching his neck in invitation. He loved it when Clive marked him, sucking and biting passion bruises on the tender skin of his throat.


As Clive began to suckle a patch on the side of his throat, Trenton could feel the sperm beginning to boil up in his testes. "Clive!" he panted. "Please! I'm close."


Clive lifted his head and stared down at the boy, his brown eyes almost black with his lust-dilated pupils. His voice was hoarse and commanding. "Remember what I told you, boy! Not till I say so."


Trenton was thrusting up to meet him. "Please, master! I can't hold it much longer."


"Yes, you can, Trenton. Do what I taught you." Clive paused in his movements. With a whimper, Trenton reached between their bodies and circled the base of his cock snuggly with his thumb and forefinger. He tightened his grip till it ached, pinching the seminal tubes closed in much the same way a cock ring would. Clive watched him closely. A seasoned Dom, he could tell as the boy's expression relaxed minutely that he was backing off from the edge of orgasm. "Are you all right now, pet?"


Trenton nodded. "Yes, sir. Thank you."


"What a good little subbie." He resumed moving, this time humping strongly, thrusting against Trenton's stiff cock and smooth belly with an increasingly ragged rhythm. Trenton was panting and shuddering, his eyes wild as he once again began to approach climax. "Hold on, Trenton. Just a little more." Clive lay flat on top of his young lover, gripping his hips firmly, and came. He closed his eyes in ecstasy as his balls clenched, and he spurted a hot, sticky pool between their bodies.


Trenton was mewling frantically, teeth clenched, hands fisted in the sheets as he struggled not to come. Clive looked down into his wild eyes. He kissed him gently, murmuring against his lips, "Come."


When Trent wailed, Clive thrust his tongue into the boy's mouth, swallowing the sound as he felt the burst of hot liquid that joined his own spunk. Trenton tried to jerk his hips, but Clive held him firmly, and he could only tremble as the heat and pleasure washed over him.


At last they both lay quiet. Clive released Trenton's mouth with a final lick. "Good boy. You did that perfectly."


Trenton smiled proudly. "I've been practicing."


Clive sighed. "Ah, youth. Energy to spare. Well, let's peel apart and go shower."


Trenton looped his arms around Clive's neck and purred, "Half hour more?"


"I know it's your job to tempt me, lover, but not this morning." He rolled off Trenton and sat up, patting Trenton's sticky hip. "If you're planning on keeping your schedule of workouts and attending Bettina's party this afternoon, shouldn't you go in for an early swim?"


Trenton was suddenly wide awake. "Oh, yeah! I forgot about that." He got up. While Clive went into the bathroom, Trenton did his morning chore of stripping the soiled sheets and replacing them with fresh ones. When he brought the linen into the bathroom Clive was in the shower. Trenton stuffed the sheets into the hamper, then opened the shower and stepped under the spray.


Clive smiled at him, shifting aside so the water would hit Trenton. The boy turned, getting himself thoroughly soaked as Clive lathered a wash cloth, then began to clean him. Trenton stood docilely, basking in the warm water and gentle attention. The bathing was sensual without being sexual. Sex was over for the morning--it was time to prepare for the day.


Trenton knelt on the tiles so Clive could comfortably shampoo his hair. While the conditioner worked they quietly discussed their plans for the day. For Trenton there was a swim workout, two classes, and then he'd pick up lunch and bring it to Attitudes. After that he'd observe Clive or the other operators work. He wasn't going to start his cosmetology classes till his third year of study, but by then he'd have a firm grasp of most procedures through apprenticeship. Clive had a shipment of supplies coming in. He'd had troubles with this shipper before--several times stock he'd been counting on had been irreparably damaged, and the proper attitude of remorse had been lacking. Clive had promised himself the luxury of kicking someone's ass if this shipment wasn't satisfactory.


In the kitchen, Trenton set the table while Clive started breakfast. That was the usual distribution of duties. Trenton didn't cook in the mornings because Clive liked him to remain naked till he had to leave, and he wasn't going to let the boy around the stove in that state. While Clive was dividing the scrambled eggs onto two plates Trenton poured a cup of coffee and set it at Clive's place. He picked up another mug and Clive said, without turning around, "Trent, do you intend to have soda at Bettina's party?"


Trenton paused, knowing exactly why Clive had asked that question. He sighed and put down the mug, then poured himself a glass of milk. He'd been restless in his sleep lately, and Clive had ordered him to cut back on his caffeine. Trenton wasn't one hundred percent happy about it, but it was working. Clive knew best--always.


While Trenton got dressed Clive put on a load of laundry, including the clothes Trent had worn last night. He would pick them up the next time he slept over. On the drive to the university, Trenton was allowed to choose the radio station. Luckily, through his association with Scribe, Clive had developed a taste for pop songs, so both men were happy.


Clive pulled up next to the gymnasium, and Trenton slid over for a final kiss before getting out. When they drew apart, Clive inclined his head slightly and said, "Trent, darling, who's the angel in white?"


Trenton glanced back toward the building. "That's Bryant McAllister. He's on the swim team with me."


Clive gave the young man a leisurely once over. He was about twenty, and it was hard to say how tall he was since he was sitting on the steps, elbows on his bent knees, hands dangling in the space between his thighs. *Body looks good, though--long and lean, like Trent.* Even if his build hadn't marked him as an athlete, the gym bag near his feet did. *But that hair... *It was white blond, and given that Bryant didn't have the colorless skin and washed out eyes of an albino, the color was patently false. Oh, it was striking, especially since his hair fell several inches down his back in a thick ponytail. Clive's fingers itched.


The young man was, as Clive had observed, all in white--soft tee-shirt under sharply pressed shirt, cream jeans, and pristine sneakers. Clive imagined a pair of scarlet briefs under all that snowiness, and found it very pleasing. "Mister McAllister seems to be interested in us."


"He does a lot of people watching. Doesn't interact much, though. I get the impression that he wants to, but something is holding him back. He seems like a good guy. Maybe I'll try to make friends."


Trenton climbed out and started toward the building. Bryant watched him approach. His expression was neutral, but he leaned forward slightly, a sense of hopefulness exuding from his posture. Trent stopped on the steps below him, and they exchanged words. Bryant stood up, picking up his bag, and the two young men entered the gym together.


Clive put on a pair of sunglasses and pulled out, murmuring, "Yes, pet, make friends. You just do that little thing."



Chapter 2: Domesticity


*My butt is getting numb, damn it.* Bryant shifted, trying to stimulate the blood flow to his slowly deadening buttocks. *There's a perfectly good bench down there, completely empty. Why can't I go sit on it?*


Bryant sighed. He couldn't because Pri had told him to sit on the steps, and that meant steps--not bench, grass, or chair in the gym entry hall. It was always the same when he had to wait out here. He'd asked why once, and Pri had casually replied that it was because he looked good like this. *Which makes as much sense as the reasons for some of the other things he makes me do,* Bryant grumbled mentally.


He didn't see why he couldn't go over to the student union while he was waiting for Priory to finish up with the beginners class. Having to actually teach the freshmen HOW to swim (instead of working with the older students on refining their techniques and improving their speed) always left the swim coach in a foul mood, and Bryant was heartily sick of being responsible for putting him in a better one.


*I could have asked to go to the library, I suppose--he usually allows that.* Bryant wasn't aware of it, but he was scowling. It was a surprisingly dark expression on a face that seemed meant for something much sunnier.


He shifted again. His life 'in the system' had taught him patience, and he knew how to wait, but being uncomfortable while he did it was irritating as hell. At least when he'd been waiting for a case worker to finish paperwork or a foster parent to remember to pick him up there had always been decent seats.


He heard a stir behind him--the slap of feet and buzz of conversation in the gym hall muffled by the doors, then clear as the students moved out into the late afternoon sunlight. Bryant kept his head slightly down, not looking around in case Priory had come to the doors. He did that sometimes--checking to be sure that Bryant wasn't paying too much attention to the freshmen bouncing past him, all of them glowing from their showers, but still smelling faintly of chlorine. He wasn't supposed to be interested in anyone else, but he couldn't help it sometimes.


Like this morning. He hadn't been waiting for anyone--Priory had told him to sit outside the gym till just before his scheduled workout time. Again, no particular reason. It was pure chance that Trenton Vittelli had decided to come in for some early laps. Bryant snorted softly. *Yeah. Try to convince Pri of that if he finds out. He'll be sure that either I or Trent are plotting something. I'm not sure which assumption would be worse. I guess I can handle a few more stripes on my ass easily enough, but I'd hate for him to start harassing Trent if he got suspicious. Trent's a good kid.* Bryant felt no irony in thinking of someone just two years his junior as a 'kid'. Somehow it just seemed natural.


Trent was also a very hot kid. Bryant remembered that morning. The snazzy sports car would have gotten his attention, even if the fine guy in the front seat hadn't. But he noticed. Oh, yes, he noticed. He recognized his team mate immediately--that mop of red-brown curls was hard to mistake. Bryant waited for him to get out, anticipating the glimpse of jeans-clad butt he should be able to get as Trenton climbed past him.


The boy had slid across the seat and kissed the driver. That had made Bryant blink, because the driver was another man, and this wasn't any on-the-cheek 'see ya later, bro' sort of buss. Judging from the tiny motions of Trent's head and the way the other man's hand had played in the boy's hair it was a full-fledged lip lock. Bryant had licked his lips without realizing it.


They had parted, and the driver had glanced over Trent's shoulder. Bryant had found himself looking into chocolate brown eyes, and he had dropped his gaze quickly. The face had been strong, humorous--and interested. Bryant had been a little naive when he entered college, but he'd gradually become aware of the effect he had on some people, and he'd come to enjoy it. But Trenton was obviously involved with the blonde man and even if Bryant hadn't been involved with someone, he wouldn't have wanted to risk hurting the young man.


Trenton and his friend had passed a few words, then Trent had unfolded himself from the low slung car, grabbing his gym bag out of the narrow space behind the front seat. Bryant had watched as Trent approached, moving with a loose-limbed, easy grace. Instead of passing him, though, he had stopped just below him. "Hey, Bryant. I'm glad to see I'm not the only early bird."


It would have been rude to ignore him, so Bryant looked up to answer, and was captured. *I thought green eyes were supposed to be cool,* he had thought. But Trenton's were warm, as warm as the smile he was offering. Bryant almost smiled back, but caught himself. "Hi, Trenton."


"You are going to swim, right?"


Bryant had nodded. "Yeah. I need to do at least twenty laps, but thirty would be better."


Trenton had checked his watch. "Well, come on, then, or we won't be done before our first class. We can be swim buddies."


"That would be cool." He'd stood up, taking his bag, and they had gone up into the gym. Bryant had glanced back to see the driver slip on a pair of shades before driving off. Had that been another look?


Bryant closed his eyes, smiling faintly as he remembered that morning. He'd forced himself not to stare while they changed, though he'd had to turn his back when Trenton skimmed down his briefs and reached for his trunks. As they swam, Trenton's smooth, sleekly muscled body inspired heated thoughts. Luckily the water in the pool was a little chilly, and he was busy with his own exercise, so he hadn't run the risk of getting an embarrassing, hard to hide boner. When they'd showered, he'd turned his water full on 'cold', just to be on the safe side. Trenton had caught some of the spray, and had yelped, dancing back. "Damn, man! You trying to toughen up, or what? Heck, self-denial should only be taken so far."


That had been when Bryant took his first really good look at the naked Trenton, and he was suddenly gratefully for the chilly water. Trenton had a pale honey colored, all over tan, no white patches, so he must sunbathe nude. The images that called up made Bryant's mouth go dry. And, aside from the hair on his head, he was completely and totally smooth--there wasn't a pubic hair in sight. It made him look more naked than Bryant had ever imagined was possible. Bryant knew that some serious swimmers shaved their body hair, but he'd always assumed they drew the line at the pubes.


He had jerked his eyes away from the tempting sight of Trenton's cock resting against velvety soft balls, then had quickly looked to Trenton's face when he found himself staring at the younger boy's cold-puckered nipples. Trenton had just smiled and patted his arm, saying, "Hurry up, before you faint from hypothermia. Then I'd have to warm you up." Bryant, shivering and dripping, had stared after Trent as he went into the locker room to dress.


The memory of the flex of Trenton's buttocks sent a pleasant twinge of warmth through Bryant's crotch. He was going to remember that image later tonight. Bryant closed his eyes. *Yeah, only this time the water will be steamy. I'll push him up against the tile wall, and he'll squirm, but he won't be trying to get away, and I'll just rub all over that sexy body. Then I'll take the soap and...*


"What the hell are you grinning about? You look like an idiot, sitting there with your eyes closed and a shit eating grin on your face."


Bryant had trained himself too well to sigh--that might have earned him a cuff. He opened his eyes to look up at the middle aged man standing beside him, staring down with his usual displeased expression. Bryant carefully arranged his face into a bland mask before answering. "Private joke, sir."


Priory Lowell slapped him on the back of the head. "When are you going to learn, son? You don't have anything private from me."


Bryant gritted his teeth, but only for a second--Priory could notice that, too, and he didn't fancy a beating when they got home. "Yes, sir. Sorry. We were reading P.G. Wodehouse in English today, and I was just remembering something in one of the Jeeves and Wooster stories."


Priory snorted. "Lot of fag nonsense, if you ask me. They ought to be teaching you Hemingway." Bryant had read Hemingway, and the sparse writing style had bored him to distraction, but he wasn't about to say that. "Well, don't just sit there. Move your lazy ass." The older man started down the steps without a backward glance, confident that Bryant would follow. Bryant did.


In the SUV Priory gave Bryant a raking look as the younger man snapped on his seat belt. "How many laps this morning?"


"Twenty." At the hard stare Bryant said, "It was all I had time for. I had to pick up a book at the library."


"Why didn't you do that last night?"


"Because it hadn't been turned in yet. They left a message on the answering machine for me to pick it up before class if I wanted it. Didn't you check the messages?" He knew that remark was a mistake the moment he said it. It hinted that Priory might have neglected something, no matter how trivial. Bryant said hastily. "No, wait... I erased it." He hadn't, but the first thing Priory did when they got home was take a pee, then get a beer. Bryant should have time to get to the answering machine before he did.


"Erased the message before I had a chance to hear it?" Priory's voice was hard. They were stopped at a light, and the older man turned icy grey eyes on Bryant. "What exactly are you hiding, boy?"


*Shit. Why do I try? I can't win.* Bryant didn't try to stifle his sigh as he slumped against the door. Might as well be hung for a sheep as for a lamb. They rode the rest of the way home in ominous silence.


As he had known he would, Priory went into the bathroom, and Bryant was able to get to the phone and erase the message. Then he went to his room.


Bryant paused in the hallway, staring in loathing at the strings of clear beads that curtained the door way to his room. Priory had removed the door two months after Bryant had moved in, making some lame excuse about redecorating. He'd done the same thing with Bryant's bathroom. It was made clear without a word being said that Priory intended to be privy to every corner of Bryant's life.


*I should have left then. I should have just said fuck the scholarship and took a job digging ditches. But no, I had to have an education.*


Bryan pushed his way through the beads. One good thing about them--Lowell couldn't come into his room unannounced. The clashing always gave him away, but Bryant could never be sure how long he had stood in the darkened hallway--watching.


Bryant went into the bathroom and quickly stripped, depositing his clothes in the hamper. He checked himself to be sure he hadn't sweated during the afternoon. If he had, he'd have to grab a shower before Priory came. The older man took it as a personal affront if Bryant ever smelled of anything but soap or the fruity cologne he gave him on Christmas and birthdays.


Noting a hint of musk, Bryant gave his pits and crotch a thorough wipe, then spritzed on more of the sweet cologne. Satisfied that he wouldn't offend Priory's senses, he went into his room, smoothed the already neat blanket on his bed, and arranged himself across the mattress on his belly. Then he waited.


He hadn't finished his preparations a moment too soon. It wasn't more than a minute before he heard Priory's heavy footsteps in the hallway. The way he was positioned, Bryant was facing away from the door way. The beads clattered and he heard the squeak of athletic shoes on the bare wood of the floor. The steps stopped just behind him, and he heard the slither of a belt being pulled from its loops. There was a faint gurgle as Priory drank the last of his beer, and Bryant had to fight down a flinch. There was one video involving bottles that Priory was particularly fond of, and Bryant dreaded the idea that he might someday decide to recreate the action. He was relieved when he heard the click of the bottle being set down on his night stand.


"Why do you deserve this?" Bryant knew that Priory was trying to sound cool and magisterial, but there was a tone of nasty satisfaction in his voice.


*What will earn me the least number of strokes without it looking like I'm trying to get out of it?* "I was wasting my mental effort on frivolous things. I varied my ordered schedule without asking permission. I didn't inform you of the message." *Even though you probably would have clouted me for waking you up.* "I erased the message before you could hear it. I tried to make excuses for my transgressions." *Even though they were trivial and mostly not my fucking fault! *"And I had a bad attitude." *There. That covers a multitude of imagined sins.*


It satisfied Priory, because he said, "What do you deserve?"


"I deserve to be punished, sir. Please correct me."


The belt swished, and Bryant braced himself. The stroke only stung--it didn't bite, and he almost relaxed. Priory wasn't in as bad a mood as he had feared. The whipping was short and almost mild. He doubted that there'd be any welts.


When the belt stopped falling across his ass and thighs, Bryant waited warily. Priory would either get the lube out of the night stand, open his pants, and fuck him, or put his belt back on and go out to the kitchen for another beer. He let his head drop with relief when he heard the subtle sound of the belt being drawn back through its loops. "Hurry up and fix dinner." The beads clashed again, and the footsteps retreated down the hall.


Bryant rolled over on his back. The sting was already fading to a tingle. He stared up at the ceiling, wondering what would happen if he ever just snatched the belt out of Priory's hands and wrapped it around his bull neck, and...


He sighed, sitting up. He'd never do it. For one thing, he knew what happened to people who committed murder. There was no chance that the authorities would believe it was anyone else but him. In fact, he often found himself hoping that Priory would be careful on his infrequent drunken pub crawls. If he was ever killed in some back alleyway, Bryant wanted to be damn sure he had an unshakable alibi.


He pulled on his clothes--another white tee-shirt, and baggy white shorts. He wasn't allowed to wear any color, even when he did his chores. Consequently he went through a lot of clothes, since stained and dingy garments were automatically destroyed. He seldom had time to get anything broken in before it was discarded. That was something else Priory held over his head--the cost of clothing him. Bryant knew better than to tell him that HE wouldn't mind it if he occasionally wore something more than fifteen or twenty times. Insolence was severely punished.


In the kitchen Bryant checked the refrigerator, and was relieved to see that the chicken he'd taken out that morning had thawed. He stewed it with dumplings, and made a salad. He knew that Priory would drench the lettuce and tomatoes in sweet dressing, then pick out the croutons and leave the rest, but he also knew that the older man would pitch a bitch if he thought Bryant hadn't expended enough effort on the meal.


When it was done they ate in silence. Bryant wasn't to speak unless spoken to, and Priory was immersed in the latest issue of Sports Illustrated. That was fine with Bryant, since he had nothing to say to the man. He was irritated, though, because he couldn't start the dishes till Priory was done and left the table, and Priory had found something to interest him. Bryant sat while the gravy congealed on the dishes, hands clenched in his lap so he wouldn't fidget.


Finally Priory stood, stretching. He burped loudly, then reached over and mussed Bryant's hair with a grubby hand. His voice smugly contented, he said, "That was half-way decent, son. You'll make someone a fine wife some day." He walked out, chuckling, and Bryant's fists tightened till the strong muscles in his forearm twitched, and his knuckles were white.



Chapter 3: Discussion


bump bump


Clive stalked toward the front door, calling, "If someone is kicking my front door they had better be a double amputee!"


He opened the door to find Trenton smiling sheepishly and holding two large foil wrapped plates. "Will you have mercy on a healthy boy who has been loaded down with goodies by a generous, eccentric old Hungarian lady?"


"Did you wear rubber soled shoes?" Trenton nodded, balancing on one foot to show him his tennis shoes. "Forgiven." He let Trenton in. "What delicacies has the delightful little Hungarian paprika pot piled upon you now, pet?"


Trenton entered and put the plates on the dining table. He pointed. "Orange-pecan balls and marshmallow fudge."


Clive groaned as he peeled the foil back and gazed at the food. "Oh, dear. Well, one more trip to the gym this week in penance, I suppose." He picked up one powdered sugar covered ball and bit into it, moaning happily at the citrusy-sweet burst of flavor.


"Yip?" He looked to see Trenton, dangling his hands in front of him in the classic pose of a dog begging. At Clive's look he flapped his hands loosely and let his tongue loll out. "Whine?" Smiling, Clive popped the other half of cookie into Trenton's mouth, then held still as Trenton industriously licked the sugar from his fingers.


After giving his lover's head a brief rub Clive went back toward the living room, saying, "Bring some of that fudge, pet." Trenton got a paper towel and chose several pieces of candy, then joined Clive on the sofa. They took a while, trading off feeding each other, enjoying the intimate play as much, or more, than the luscious sweetness. Clive loved this as much as Trenton did, but he seldom did it in public. Some people just weren't very understanding, and he felt inclined to get in their faces when they made disapproving noises about what he chose to do with his lover. He preferred not to have Trenton upset.


Finally they were done with the sweets, and Clive pulled Trenton over onto his lap. "So, tell me, how are things in Glocamoraugh?"


When Trenton had come to Attitudes that afternoon, things had been frantic. The shop had been booked heavily, two of Clive's friends had come to him in tears. There was a drag queen ball on that night, and the scheduled hairdresser for Louis (or Louise), the femme of the pair, had airily cancelled hi/r appointment. When they had protested the man had snippily told the femme to 'just wear a wig. It's not like it makes THAT much difference'.


When he could see straight again an outraged Clive (muttering darkly about having a discussion with 'certain people' about professionalism) had seen the weeping Louis/e into his private station (this time leaving the door open, since this was a committed couple). He'd had Trenton bring nerve soothing Irish coffees for the pair, then proceded to outdo himself once again.


Clive had coaxed the delicate young man into trying 'just a tiny bit of a weave. Usually I don't recommend this, darling, but you're spectacular enough to carry it off'. Wash, conditioner, trim, tint, weave, style, and Clive had finally called a nervous Clarence in to view his creation. The patrons and cosmetologists had all looked at each other when they heard the scream. A moment later the delighted couple had walked out arm in arm, the smaller of the duo wearing a shimmering copper colored hairdo that Scribe would have described as 'Veronica Lake-ish'--a thick, waving fall half hiding one eye.


The salon had applauded, and the now beaming young man (looking remarkably like a pretty, albeit flat chested, young woman, even in his masculine street clothes), had dropped a delicate curtsy before his proud mate had swept him off. Clive had called after them, "Clarence, you be the giving sort if you do anything before you go to the ball. I will have a fit if you grab and pull that hair before it makes its debut." Clarence had blushed, but Louis/e had giggled happily.


Trenton stayed long enough to see the finished effort, but then he had to hurry home, since he'd promised his mother he'd cook dinner, as she was working late. Thus the two lovers had scarcely exchanged a word from Trenton's arrival to his departure.


Trenton contentedly rested his head on Clive's shoulder and began to tell him about his day. His English paper had kicked butt, he'd done better than he had expected on his math exam. He eyed Clive with a touch of waryness. "An 89."


Instead of scolding him for not getting that extra point to make it an A, Clive had given him a proud, congratulatory kiss. "You see, lamb? I told you that extra study you grumbled so much about would help. How was your morning workout?"


"Great! I enjoy pairing with Bryant. He's good--he really makes me stretch myself. I don't know why Coach Lowell always gives him so much grief."


"Perhaps he just wants him to be the best he can be, pet."


"You want that for me, but you don't ever make me feel like I'm a lazy idiot. I mean, he's no cheerleader for any of us, but with Bryant he's fucking harsh."




"Sorry, but it's true."


"True or not, you need to watch the obscenities..." he stroked Trenton's cheek, "unless we're playing. Remember, pet, if you sprinkle them through your conversation as freely as a baker tosses sesame seeds on a bun, they lose whatever effect they might have. So, Coach Lowell is harder on Bryant than the rest of you. Some coaches use that method with their best athletes."


"But Bryant isn't the best. Oh, he's good, and he works hard, but he's third at best. Marshall Bloom is best, and I" he wiggled his eyebrows, "am second best."


Clive gave him a deeper kiss. "Only in the matter of split seconds while dripping wet, my dear."


Trenton wiggled happily, but then sighed. "I can't stay long. Marshall is coming over to my place so we can work on our scene for drama. We have to write it and perform it."


"Oooo, a scene!" When Trenton rolled his eyes, Clive chuckled and hugged him. "Yes, pet, I know--not our sort of scene. I suppose that would be a bit much for the freshmen. What's this scene going to be about?"


"They didn't give us any real specifics. Just that it had to be longer than five minutes, less than ten, and while it could have a funny moment or two, it couldn't be a comedy sketch, and it should contain strong emotions and have some sort of ending instead of just trailing off."


"You should be a natural for this, Trent. You're always so creative when we do our scenes. Do you have any ideas yet?"


"Some, but I'll have to talk with Marshall. I'm not gonna try to bulldoze him."


"Of course you won't." Clive started stroking Trent's fly slowly. "You're not the bulldozing sort, are you, my little subbie?" Trenton just smiled, leaning back so that he was lying across Clive's lap instead of sitting on it. Clive laughed. "Sometimes I think you channel the spirit of a cat, Trent. You just go boneless..." he rubbed harder, and Trent's breathing speeded up, "except where it counts. No, you don't shove, you coax and wheedle, and lead gently." He reached deeper between Trenton's spread legs and kneaded, massaging his balls.


Trenton moaned happily, basking in the firm, masterful touch of his Dom. Yes, Clive was right--Trent had no desire to lead--he was a devoted follower. But that might be because he had chosenhis leader, and trusted Clive to never take him anywhere he wouldn't be delighted to be.


"Close your eyes, lamb." Trenton obeyed, and felt Clive begin to unbuckle his belt. "Now, tell me what you're thinking of for your scene?"


Trenton felt anticipation mixed with the tiniest bit of dread. He knew now that this was going to be one of the sessions where he was required to continue acting in as normal a manner as possible, no matter what Clive did to him. He loved it, as he did everything Clive did to him (aside from a few serious spankings when he pulled a major transgression), but it wasn't easy. It required a lot of concentration not to descend into incoherence when Clive really went to work on him.


"I was thinking maybe we could do a police interrogation scene, but I'm not sure..." he didn't let his voice waver as Clive opened the snap on his jeans and pulled down the zipper, "if I could handle being either a hostile crook or a tough cop. Maybe a worried, weaselly crook." Clive had slipped his hand into the gap he'd formed, and was stroking the growing mound of Trenton's erection through the thin cotton of his boxers. "Or I was thinking of a job interview between two people who had a bad history." Clive's hand slipped inside his comfort slit and closed around his cock. He stopped moving--just holding Trenton's fast swelling cock.


Trenton resisted the urge to push up into his grip--that might end the session. "You know? Maybe they went to school together, and the guy applying was a BMOC, and the interviewer was one of the stepped on geeks. Maybe the job hunter stole the interviewer's girl at some point." Clive's hand started to move. Trenton's breath hitched, but he kept on. "So now the interviewer has the upper hand, and he's making the other guy sweat, and the guy needs the job so badly he feels like he has to put up with it."


Clive worked Trenton's cock through the comfort slit in his underwear and took a moment to admire it. Trenton had such a beautiful prick. He was a 'grower'--his size changed significantly when he was aroused. When Trent was soft he was not much longer than Clive's palm, but when he was aroused he was almost nine glorious inches from base to tip. *I will most definitely have to give the little love a demonstration of 'topping from the bottom' soon. I think he'll be surprised to learn that he can have his cock in my ass, but I'll still be fucking him.* Clive began to jerk Trent off briskly. "That has marvelous possibilities."


"Yeah." It was almost a pant. Trenton arched his back slightly, lifting his pelvis pleadingly. Clive granted the unspoken request by digging Trenton's balls out of his pants with his free hand, gently rolling and squeezing them as he masturbated the boy. "Bryant audits that class."


*Mm, so Bryant is on your mind, too, is he?* "Yes?"


"Yeah. He comes in most days and sits in the back. He even takes notes, but I know he isn't on the roll. He really seems interested."


"Marvelous." Clive smiled as a clear bead of pre-ejaculate oozed out of Trent's pee slit to quiver atop the boy's cockhead. Clive paused and touched one fingertip to it, then spread it over the the flushed knob. Trenton moaned, and he stopped, saying with gentle warning, "You have something to say, pet?"


"I... I wish he was taking the class. There are times when he looks like he wants to say something, and I'd like to hear it." To his infinite relief Clive continued his manipulations, rubbing and pinching gently, spreading the slippery fluid gradually down his shaft. "You know how some people are quiet, and you know it's because they don't have anything to say? Well, with Bryant I get the idea that he's just boiling with things to say, but for some reason he doesn't."


"Mm." Clive speeded up his movements, jerking Trenton hard and fast. He touched Trent's cheek, signalling the boy that he could move, and immediately Trenton began thrusting strongly into his grip. "Sort of like a river in winter--a smooth surface of ice, but things running hell for leather underneath."


"Yes," Trent panted. "But the ice metaphor isn't quite right--he isn't cold. I don't care about the snow hair, he isn't cold. Not after the way he was looking at me in the shower."


"Oh, ho. Were you teasing him, Trent?" Trenton shook his head, eyes still closed. "Are you sure?"


"Yes, sir."


"But you wanted to, didn't you?"


"Yes, sir, but I wouldn't do something like that without discussing it with you first."


"Good boy. You deserve a reward for resisting that temptation." Clive dipped his head, and Trenton tried to muffle his cry as he felt Clive's velvety tongue swirl over his glans. Apparently he was allowed to make noise now, because Clive didn't stop. He gripped Trenton's dick and licked it like a child with a particularly delicious popsicle. When he took the head in his mouth and began to push down on it, sliding the length deeper and deeper, Trenton went not so quietly crazy.


Clive would have smiled if his mouth hadn't been full. As it was he used both hands to pin Trenton's hips and devoured his submissive, happy that he'd long ago learned the technique that allowed him to take Trenton's generously sized prick all the way down his throat. Soon he felt the boy's balls draw up tight. He pulled off, removing a handkerchief from his pocket, and brought Trenton to climax with another few hard strokes, catching the hot gush of sperm neatly in the cloth. As Trent recovered, trembling gently, Clive used the kerchief to wipe the boy clean, then 'put the toy away', closing his pants again.


Clive pulled Trenton back up into a sitting position and finger combed his young lover's curls back into some semblance of order. Trenton put his arms around Clive's neck, resting his forehead against Clive's, and said, "You?"


Clive patted him, then urged him to stand up. "Not this time, love. This was for you. Why don't you speak to Bryant and see if he'd be interested in working with you on your drama assignments? I know that sometimes it's difficult for you students to co-ordinate your schedules."


"Yeah, especially since I'm studying at Attitudes, and Marshall has a part time job. And I know Bryant does good in math. Since he's ahead of me in courses, maybe I could talk him into tutoring me."


"Excellent idea. Now, wait a minute while I wrap up some of those goodies for you to take home. The less that is here, the less I will eat, the less time I have to spend working it off. I'll want to send enough for you, Marshall, AND Lynette. Mrs. Havasnark will be overjoyed to find out that she's feeding not only another young man, but also your mother. She hasn't forgotten that you and Lynette adopted one of her kittens. How is the furball, by the way?"


Trenton watched as Clive filled a small container with treats. "Poochy is doing great. He stopped spraying the furniture, so Mom is letting him keep his equipment."


"Good. I can't help but feel a wince of sympathy every time I see one of Mrs. Havasnark's 'retired' tom cats. She's still trying to figure out HOW her last little princess got preggers, since ALL her babies are supposed to be fixed. Either there's an opening somewhere in the building I'm not aware of, or it was a virgin birth, a tiny star appeared over my house, and the cat messiah has been born." He handed the box to Trenton. "I'd say stay on Poochy's good side, just in case."


He walked Trenton to the door. Trenton hesitated as he was going out, saying, "So, would it be all right if I brought Bryant to Attitudes, or maybe over here to, like, study--maybe use the computer? I've seen him waiting in line to get on one of the computers at the uni-library."


"That would be fine, pet." He tousled Trenton's hair again, before brushing it back into place. "I trust you not to get up to anything you shouldn't while you're here."


After a final kiss Trenton made his way downstairs and out onto the street. As he walked to the bus stop he thought *And that's what it's all about, isn't it? Trust. I trust Clive, he trusts me. I wonder,* he thought as he stepped up into the bus. *I wonder who Bryant trusts?*



Chapter 4: Negotiation


The lanky, dark haired boy was clearly trying not to fidget. He sat bolt upright in his chair. His hands were clasped so tightly in his lap that they were making a double fist, knuckles white, but his smile was almost painfully bright. "Yes, that's right. It must be five years now."


The boy sitting at ease on the other side of the desk didn't smile, but his voice was pleasant. "Small world, isn't it? I must say, Marshall, that I didn't expect to see you again after graduation," Now he did smile, but it wasn't really a friendly expression because it didn't reach his eyes. "except maybe on Monday Night Football. What happened?"


Marshall shrugged, and his shoulders didn't entirely lift again, staying slightly slumped. "Um... well, you know, I did pretty good in the draft--I was fifth." There was a tinge of pride in his tone, but it disappeared as he said, "But I cracked up my car during training camp, and the knee is just never going to be the same."


"That would have been the Ferrari, right? The one you got with the loan arranged by one of the alumni, through the car dealer who was also an alumni? I forgot--how low was the interest and down payment? You know, you must have told me a hundred times, but for the life of me I just can't remember. That's funny, because I remember thinking at the time how absolutely ridiculously low they were."


"I can't remember," he said uncomfortably.


"Well!" The russet-haired young man said brightly. "Too bad about the accident, but at least you have your business degree to fall back on. Now, you're applying for a mid-level management position with our firm." He picked up a sheet of paper and scanned it, then frowned. "Marshall, your work history doesn't show any experience in this sort of work, especially at this level." He raised an eyebrow, and there was a nasty, teasing edge to his voice, "Getting a little ambitious, aren't we? Are you sure you don't want to apply for a place in our, mmm, support pool?" Marshall's shoulders slumped a bit more, and Trenton's smile widened.


Bryant McAllister, sitting at the top of the bleachers that formed a semi-circle around the stage/floor thought, *They're the best ones so far. Half the others weren't even ready. Boy, I thought that last girl was going to piss her pants when the teacher asked for a copy of their script before they started.*


He watched the scene continue to unfold, taking note of the subtle, but effective, body language the two boys used to convey the feelings of their characters. *I never would have thought that Trent could be so... so... insidious. * He felt a flash of unreasoning distaste. *He almost reminded me of Pri there for a minute. Thing is, with Trent it's acting--with Pri, it's his nature.*


The scene ended with Trent telling Marshall with deceptive gentleness that he 'just wasn't suitable' for the position. Marshall had left the stage, his gate that of a man approaching the gallows, and Trenton had leaned back in his chair with an small smile and an unholy light in his eyes. The applause of the class was enthusiastic, and Bryant joined in wholeheartedly. It was a relief to be able to express his enthusiasm. He didn't even dare clap too hard for his teammates at swim meets, lest Priory think he was 'interested'.


The rest of the scenes were anticlimactic. When class was over Bryant sat in the bleachers, watching as the students clustered around Trenton, congratulating him on his performance. Bryant imagined going down the steps and moving through the group till he was face-to-face with Trenton. He imagined the slight tilt of Trent's head as he looked up, and the way those green eyes would shine, waiting and wishing for his approval. *Dream on, Bryant. Trenton Vittelli sure doesn't need your attention.*


Then Trenton glanced up, and their eyes met. Trenton's smile broadened, and Bryant felt his heart beat just a little faster, because there was unmistakable encouragement in those bright green eyes. *I think he wants to talk to me. Shit, if Pri found out I went out of my way to talk to another guy he'd bat me, but good.* Bryant's eyes narrowed unconsciously. *Fuck it. Pri isn't here.* He stood up, gathering his books, and started down the steps.


Trenton responded to his classmates, but his eyes were fixed on Bryant. He could tell the exact moment when the tall, blonde boy made up his mind--his wide, firm mouth had suddenly tightened and the pucker between his brows had smoothed. He came down the steps and approached the thinning cluster of students gathered around Trenton. He didn't push, but somehow he made his way through the little group till he was right before Trenton. Trent directed his smile at his teammate. "Hey, Bryant. I was hoping you'd be here today."


*You were?* Bryant felt a flush of warmth. "Wouldn't have missed it. You were good, Trent." He flicked a glance at Marshall and added, almost as an afterthought, "You and Marshall. That was fantastic, especially since you only had three days to work on it."


"Yeah. We had to spend most of two evenings thrashing it out, but it worked." Bryant blinked. Trenton had no way of knowing it, but the thought of being able to spend such a length of time with someone was almost alien to Bryant. "I want to go over to the student union for a coke. Walk with me?" Bryant hesitated. "If you have a class..."


"No." Bryant was thinking quickly. Priory had a freshman history class right now. It should be safe. "No, I'd like that."


They walked over to the student union. Bryant kept up his end of the conversation, but Trent noticed that he kept shooting glances at the Liberal Arts building, as if he expected to see someone waving to him from one of the windows. In the lounge Trenton bought an orange soda, then stepped away from the vending machine to let Bryant get to it. The other young man shrugged, saying, "No change."


"Oh, well." Trent plugged two quarters into the slot. "Pick your poison."


Bryant flushed. "I can't do that, Trent."


Bryant started to reach for the change return switch, but Trenton caught his wrist. Bryant froze at the touch, hoping desperately that he wouldn't start to get hard, as Trenton said, "Nuh-uh. My treat today--you can buy next time."


*Next time? Oh, God, I'd love for there to be a next time.* Quietly he said, "Trent, I can't guarantee I'll be able to pay you back. I'm, uh, financially embarrassed."


*A twenty year old guy, and he might not be able to pay back a four bit loan? And he isn't trying to be a deadbeat, either. He's flushing--he's really embarrassed about this. * "As Clive would say 'Don't sweat, pet'. We'll work out some sort of trade."


Bryant felt his mouth go dry. *Well, I could use that soda now.* "What sort of trade?"


"Pick your drink first. I ain't telling till you're obligated." Bryant's hand hovered over the root beer button longingly, then he pushed the diet cola button. "No root beer?"


"Too much sugar."


*Whoa, that was flat. It was like he was reciting something, not really expressing a thought.*


Trent started to sit near the vending machine, but Bryant moved toward the back of the room, saying, "It's quieter back here." That suited Trent fine, so he followed Bryant. He noticed that Bryant took a chair behind a pillar, completely screening himself off from the rest of the room. *I'll be damned if I'm not beginning to get the feeling that he's making this some sort of illicit rendezvous. But hell, it's just a coke in a public place. Who could object to that?*


They both opened their sodas and took deep drinks. Trenton put his can down and said, "Okay, time to pay up." He opened his calculus textbook, flipping the pages. Finally he tapped the page. "This is giving me hell."


Bryant looked at the page. "Limitations. Yeah, that can be a booger, all right. Give me your pencil, and a piece of paper. Okay, look at it this way..."


Trent bent close, watching as Bryant's large hand moved the pencil across the paper, scratching those almost mystical looking symbols. Trenton forced himself to ignore Bryant's clean, musky scent, and the warmth of his body. His skin was very tanned against the white of his shirt. "...see?"


Trenton found himself looking into pale blue eyes. "I'm afraid my attention wandered. Could you explain that again?"


Bryant frowned slightly. He surprised both Trenton and himself by tapping the younger boy on the nose with the pencil. "Pay attention!"


That was the firmest statement he'd ever heard Bryant McAllister make, so it ought to be reinforced. "Yes, sir."


Bryant blinked slowly, the dark lashes so at odds with his white hair flickering. Trenton could see his hand tighten on the pencil. Finally Bryant said gruffly, "You don't have to call me sir. I'm not that much older than you."


Trenton shrugged. "It isn't always age. Often it's attitude." He saw a slight flush rising in Bryant's cheeks, and cocked his head. "That wasn't an insult, Bryant."


Bryant was quiet for a moment. *I think he means that.* Then he said, "Sure. Thanks. Now, pay attention." He went over the information again, then had Trenton explain it as he understood it. *He's bright. He got it almost perfect.* Bryant corrected the slight mistake, and Trenton nodded, studying the paper intently. Bryant was pretty sure that the next time he wouldn't make a mistake.


"Thanks, Bryant. Will you help me again if I get into trouble with this stuff?"


A chance to see Trenton again, one-on-one? A chance to sit close beside him, close enough to feel his body heat, and have him turn those remarkable green eyes up to him? God, he wanted that! But Pri... "Maybe. It depends on my schedule. It's pretty tight."


"Hm." Trenton steepled his fingers under his chin, looking at Bryant in a considering manner. "I can see that I'll have to offer something other than a soda to tempt you." Bryant almost stopped breathing. Being tempted by Trenton Vittelli. What a positively bone melting thought. Finally Trenton said, "I remember seeing you at the library Wednesday, waiting a turn on one of the computers. Did you get on?"


Bryant scowled, remembering this. "No, I had to leave before my turn came up. What's that got to do with anything?"


"I have a friend who has a computer that I can use any time I want, and it has an internet hook-up. If you tutored me over at his place, you could use it."


The idea was stunningly attractive. To be in a private place, to have the freedom of the internet, to be with Trenton. *There's got to be some way to do it, dammit. There aren't any physical bars, and Priory isn't a rocket scientist. But he's paranoid, and sly. I'd have to be careful. * "I could try to clear some time tomorrow evening, if that would be all right."


"Oh, I won't need any more help till we start the next chapter." Bryant's heart dropped, but Trenton continued, "But if you'd like to just come over and hang around, cruise the net, meet my friend, that'd be cool."


*It would be bad enough if Pri found out I'd lied and gone somewhere to study. If he found out I went to just be with someone...* "I'd like that. Can I let you know tonight if I can make it?"


"Yeah. Technically I should ask permission from Clive to bring you, even though he has said I could have friends over. I'll give you the number." He held out his hand for the pencil.


Bryant stared at Trent's hand, feeling that he didn't dare let himself touch the other boy. He put the pencil on the table and pushed it toward Trenton. Trent took it, looking slightly hurt, and Bryant wanted to hit himself. But Trent scratched out the number and handed it to him, saying, "Call when you know."


"It might be a little late." *I'll have to wait for Pri to go to sleep.*


Trenton bit his lip. "Well... I'll warn Clive. I don't think he'll mind for this, but I gotta warn you--he can be a bear when he's awakened unexpectedly."


Bryant finished wiping the last plate and put it away. They had a drain rack, but he wasn't allowed to leave the dishes in it for any appreciable length of time. For once he didn't mind--it had given him time to consider what would be the best approach to take. Tomorrow night was Pri's poker night--that would help a lot. He never got in before two or three am, even if he was losing.


Bryant thought he had finally come up with a plot that would give him an excuse to be out of the house, so that Priory wouldn't call to check on him. It would give him an alibi for several hours, and by then Priory would be too deep in whiskey and cards to bother checking in. Priory was nothing if not predictable, and for once Bryant was grateful for this.


Priory was watching a football game on television when Bryant went to the living room. He sat beside the older man, not touching and not speaking till a commercial came on. Finally he said, "Sir?"


Priory didn't take his eyes off the screen. "That talking Chihuahua is a fucking hoot, you know that? How do they get his mouth to move like that?"


"Either peanut butter or computer generated graphics." The moment he said it he wished he hadn't.


Now Priory did look at him. He sneered. "Well, aren't you just the little know-it-all."


"I just read an article about it in a magazine. Sir, I want to ask permission to go to the movies tomorrow."


Priory scowled. "What kind of Hollywood bullshit do you want to muck your mind up with now, boy? And you know that it's a weeknight."


"This isn't just for entertainment, sir. They're showing different movies portraying the Civil War at the Starlight Cinema tomorrow evening--Intolerance, Gone With the Wind, and Glory. Our history teacher will give us bonus points for attending."


"How does she know you won't just say you went?"


"I have to turn in the ticket stub to prove I was there." Priory was nodding. *Yeah, that's just the sort of thing you'd think of, isn't it?*


"Do you need these points?"


"I've got a B+ in that class," he lied. "This should kick me up to an A, and it's always good to keep my scholarship on firm ground."


The game came back on. "I'll think about it. I'll let you know at half-time."


Bryant endured the next quarter. He hated football. Somehow it just seemed like a hell of a lot of energy and power was being expended in an arbitrary manner. *If they harnessed that, we'd probably come up with a cure for cancer.*


Finally the commentator assured them that they'd be back with the half-time show right after these important messages from their sponsors, and Priory turned to Bryant. "You really want to go to that show?"


Bryant got a sick feeling in the pit of his stomach. *Oh, God, not again.* But he nodded. Priory cocked his head and gave him that nasty, sly look. Bryant knew that Lowell thought that it made him look wicked and dangerous. There had been a time when it had inspired a tingle of dread, but long ago that tingle had turned to simple distaste. It made him look like the patriarch of a family of inbred throwbacks.


"How bad do you want it, boy?"


Bryant forced the words out. "Very badly, sir."


"How much is that shindig going to cost?" Bryant quoted the student admission price. "Mm. Then there's bus fare back and forth, 'cause I'm sure as shit not going to drive you or pick you up. And I suppose you'll want to get some kind of crap at the concession stand."


"I don't need it, sir."


"Damn straight you don't, but you want it, don't you?"


By now Bryant knew what Priory wanted to hear. He gritted his teeth for a second, then said, "Yes, sir."


"Thought so." He snorted. "You're still such a child, Bryant. I bet you want soda, popcorn, and candy, and that'll cost a ton." His voice dropped to an oily purr. "How you gonna pay me back, son?"


That was his cue. Bryant dropped his eyes and said, as humbly as he could, "However you say, sir." *Think about an entire evening of freedom, Bryant. Think about being with someone who doesn't treat you like a bitch. Who knows when I'll get this chance again?*


"Tell you what, boy." He heard Priory unbuckle his belt and lower his zipper. "That half-time show is going to last for another fifteen minutes. If you can keep me hard for that long, without coming, then I'll give you a twenty, and you can go to your little movies with your little friends."


*Oh, Jesus. * He'd done this sort of thing before, but not often. It was a bitch. If he managed it his neck and jaw were going to be so stiff that he'd have a headache approaching migraine levels, but he wanted this chance.


Bryant wanted to close his eyes as Priory untied the band he'd been using to hold back his hair, then sank his fingers deep into the thick mass, but he couldn't. He needed to be able to see until he got the range right. If he missed with the first lick he'd get a slap across the back of the head.


Priory tugged Bryant's head down roughly. It had been ages since Bryant had shown even token reluctance, but Priory's technique never got any gentler. Bryant wasn't unacquainted with cocks, at least not visually. Hell, he was an athlete--you couldn't hang around a locker room without seeing a good number of three-piece sets. Then there were the videos. Priory had started off showing him the videos, hoping to entice the increasingly horny boy into offering sex. Finally he'd gotten tired of waiting and just flatly told Bryant that he was 'owed, goddammit'. But visuals were as far as it went. He'd never touched another dick, other than his own and Priory's.


Now he was confronted with that same prick again. Bryant tried to remember if he'd ever found that stumpy tube of flesh desirable. *No,* he decided. *Never. I've never felt anything toward it but a certain amount of curiosity in the beginning. Now that I'm familiar with it... What's that old saying about familiarity breeding contempt?*


He heard the first brassy notes of the marching band as he put out his tongue and made the first swipe over Priory's cockhead. Priory groaned. *Shit! I'm going to have to hold him tight as a cock ring to keep him from shooting.* Bryant knew exactly how to bring Priory to climax quickly, and that was what he usually did. The less time he spent on these sort of chores, the better, but this was different.


Bryant licked Priory's dick, base to tip, till he was almost fully aroused, and clear pre-ejaculate was oozing down his glans, dribbling over the thick wrinkle of skin at it's base. Priory was the only man he'd ever known who seemed to be halfway between circumcised and natural. He never dared to ask, but he figured that Mrs. Lowell's obstetrician hadn't been very thorough when he cut the hood, and his parents were either too ignorant or too cheap to have things fixed. Consequently Priory had hygiene issues. Luckily he'd taken a shower earlier. He didn't, always. Bryant had learned not to puke after the first time he was thrown against the wall. Gagging was allowed--Priory kind of liked it when he gagged. It made him feel big. Puking wasn't allowed, though.


Pri was whispering to him. "You like that, don't you, boy? Sure, you do. You'd rather suck cock than eat. Aren't you lucky that I can give you all you need?"


Now that the pre-come had started he could begin sucking. Bryant circled the base of Priory's cock, his thumbs resting on the older man's balls, ready to tighten his grips if he felt any change that might herald approaching orgasm.


Bryant worked very, very slowly. Every dozen or so strokes he'd pause, holding Pri in his throat for a few seconds. He was careful not to swallow, or make any noise, so that the vibrations wouldn't stimulate him any further. He heard the commentator introducing the second band. *Half done. I probably shouldn't be praying for skill at cocksucking, but please, God, you understand. Just let me hold him off long enough. Please.*


Priory was trying to thrust up into his mouth. Bryant risked angering him by leaning his weight on the older man's thighs. It might anger him, but if he allowed Pri to fuck his mouth he'd never hold his orgasm off as long as he needed to.


That damn band. Were they ever going to stop? Song after song, all melding together into bright noise. He thought he recognized snatches from songs that had passed from popularity into the nebulous land of elevator muzac and commercial jingles, but he really couldn't concentrate on that. Finally he heard the disembodied voice from the television saying, "And there they go. As the band leaves the field, we'll pause for just another few ads, then right back to this exciting game.


Feeling a huge sense of relief, Bryant opened his hands and plunged down, taking Priory as deeply as he could, swallowing hard. Priory was coming in less than two seconds. As Bryant gulped the bitter fluid he thought, *He's always so proud about being in control, and I can make him come anytime I want. * For a moment an alien idea hovered at the edge of his mind, but he was distracted by Priory trying to force him down even farther. *You stupid fuck! You don't HAVE anything left for me to swallow.*


When the last trickle stopped, Bryant pulled off. He finished his chore by licking Priory's limp, sticky dick clean, then went and got a washrag for the final cleaning. When he was done Pri put himself away, zipping up, saying, "Well, you're getting even better, boy. I really didn't think you'd manage it, but I keep my promises." He got out his wallet. Removing a twenty, he threw it in Bryant's lap. "There ya go. I'm not as proud as some men--I don't mind paying a good whore. Now, get me another beer, then go to bed." As Bryant reached the kitchen door he added, "And brush your teeth." He snickered. "Don't wanna walk around with come breath."


The sofa's back was to the kitchen door. Priory didn't see the frozen look that came over Bryant's face. His lips, swollen from the marathon abuse, tightened into a hard line, and his eyes glittered. He stalked into the kitchen and grabbed a beer out of the refrigerator, setting it on the counter as he searched the drawer for a church key. He noticed that his hand was trembling.


Bryant looked at the crumpled twenty that he'd laid on the counter. Suddenly he spat on it, snatched it up, and wadded it into a ball. He held it over the garbage disposal, his hand on the switch, then paused. He got a paper towel, carefully smoothed out the bill, and wiped it dry. Then he stuffed it into his pocket, flipped the top off the beer, and walked into the living room.


When he heard Bryant's footsteps approaching Priory reached back over his shoulder expectantly, eyes still riveted on the screen. Bryant paused, staring at him. "Well, what the fuck are you waiting for?"


Bryant looked at him coldly, then spat quietly in the bottle and handed it to Priory. He waited as Pri took a deep swig, the older man sighing in voluptuous enjoyment.


Priory hadn't heard Bryant leave. He hooked his arm back over the sofa, half turning to frown at the boy. "What?" He held out the bottle, saying sarcastically, "Want a taste?" He was looking forward to telling Bryant he couldn't have any, but the boy surprised him.


Bryant gave him a small, cool smile, said, "Pass," and went back to his room.


Chapter 5: Meeting Clive


Bryant lay in bed, listening. The snores drifting down the hallway had settled into deep, even rasps. These were a better indicator of deep sleep than REMs. Priory would sleep heavily for another three hours or so, then (since he'd had that second beer) he would get up to pee, probably banging his foot along the way. He'd swear (at half volume). On the way back he'd pause outside Bryant's door and peer through the beaded curtain to be sure that he wasn't indulging in anything illicit (like reading, listening to the radio, or jerking off without permission). Then, since he had had that second beer and there was work tomorrow, he'd go back to bed instead of coming in.


This had been the pattern for the three years Bryant had lived with Priory, and he would have been damn near astonished if it had varied. The fact that Priory was so fucking predictable was the only thing that had kept Bryant going for the last year. He'd used the man's never changing habits to find little ways around the thousands of restrictions.


Bryant got out of bed and slipped his hand into his pillowcase. He felt around till he found the slip of paper that Trenton had given him that afternoon. Bryant padded softly into the kitchen, bypassing the living room extension, even though Priory would be unlikely to hear him. *Better safe, and all that.*


He studied the slip, memorizing the number, then quickly dialed. While he listened to the first burr of the ring, he lightly stroked the strip of paper over his lips, remembering the way Trenton's tongue had peeked from the corner of his mouth while he was concentrating.


There was the click of a receiver being lifted and a sleep-roughened voice said, "It's before midnight, so I'll let you live, but you had damn sure better have a good reason for calling."


Bryant couldn't help smiling at the grumpiness in the voice. "Is Trenton Vittelli there?"


There was a rustling sound--someone moving under sheets. "Not tonight. Tonight he's home with the lovely Lynette."




Now the voice was darkly amused. "That's his mother, pet. You're one of Trenton's friends?"


"Yes." Thinking the man might take things the wrong way, he said hastily, "Just a friend."


There wasn't a thread of suspicion in the voice. "Of course. This would be Bryant, then, would it?"


"Yes--Bryant McAllister. I'm on the swim team with Trent."


"I know, pet--he's told me. I'm Clive, Trent's significant other." Bryant felt a flutter in his stomach at the casual statement. Priory was so adamant that Bryant was not to refer to their relationship in public, except to acknowledge Priory as his coach and landlord. Clive was continuing. "Is there anything I can help you with? Take a message, perhaps?" Bryant thought. "Hurry up, darling, or I will get miffed. I'm supposed to go over the books early tomorrow morning with my accountant, and I'll need all my strength to resist strangling the anal little weasel."


Bryant smothered a laugh. "I just wanted to confirm that I can make it tomorrow. That is all right, isn't it?"


"It's splendid. I'm always pleased when Trent brings over a school friend. The boy spends most of his time away from school at Attitudes, and the company there is sometimes a bit mature. It's good for him to be around others in his own age bracket. Plan to stay the evening, and we'll do something for supper."




"Don't mention it, precious. Now, if you don't mind, Morpheus calls. Sweet dreams."


There was a click, then the steady burr of a closed line. Bryant put the receiver down gently, trying to recall the last time anyone had wished him sweet dreams. Had anyone ever wished him sweet dreams? He made his way silently into the living room, but half-way to the hall he froze.


There was a shuffle, and the sound of someone's shoulder impacting as Priory swayed into a wall. Bryant froze, then quickly flattened himself against the near wall, holding his breath. *Fuck! He must've gotten a third beer after I went into my room.* Priory lumbered past the archway, headed for the bathroom at the far end of the hall. He never spared a glance at the living room.


Bryant, heart thudding, waited till he heard the creak of the bathroom door, then the tiny waterfall sound of Priory peeing. *Thank God he never turns on the lights. Maybe I'll make it.*


Bryant tiptoed quickly to his room, took a handful of bead strands, and stealthily lifted them aside. There were muted clicks, but the sound probably wouldn't reach to the bathroom and if it did, hopefully Pri would be too sleepy and too fixated on emptying his bladder to note it. Once in his room Bryant lowered the strands back in place, trying to get them as motionless as possible. He heard the grunts that signaled that Priory was shaking off. They were easily recognizable--part of his 'training' had been 'bathroom duty'. He'd probably assisted Priory with clean-up more often than Pri's own father had back when the coach had worn diapers.


Bryant slipped into bed and jerked the covers up, settling himself on the pillow and draping his hair half over his face. Then he forced his body to relax and closed his eyes till they were no more than slits.


There was no flushing, and Bryant mentally cursed. Another little present for him when he had to clean the bathroom. The man was a pig. Priory's footsteps moved closer, then paused. Bryant could make out the hulking shape of Priory Lowell standing just outside the beaded curtain, staring in at him. He kept his breathing deep and even.


When Priory didn't move, Bryant shifted slightly, as if searching for a more comfortable position. *What the hell excuse am I gonna give if he doesn't buy it?* He couldn't claim a midnight snack, since those were forbidden. If he wanted a drink of water there was a glass on his bathroom sink, so that was bust. After his last venture out into the backyard to just look at the night sky Priory had put a padlock on the back door. *And he slapped me a good black eye and split lip that time. If he finds out I used the phone...*


Bryant's pulse started to slow down as Priory moved down the hall. He listened as the older man slammed his foot into the door frame, swore, then settled back into bed. In minutes the snores had resumed, and he breathed a sigh of relief, then smiled up into the darkness. *Not as fucking perceptive as you like to think, eh, Pri?*


Trenton was drinking the last of the milk from his cereal bowl when the phone rang. He answered, "Vittelli residence."


"Hello, I'm looking for a gorgeous eighteen year old boy who enjoys swimming, dramatics, and cocksucking for the right person."


Trenton grinned. "That would be me. Good morning, Clive."


"Good morning, lover. How's your mom?"


"She's in the shower. She had a date last night, and I think it went well. She's singing."


"Fabulous. I had a call last night from Bryant McAllister. He says that this evening is a go."


"Great! Is it all right if I bring him by Attitudes before we go to the apartment? I'd like to introduce him to you and my mom."


"Wonderful idea, pet. You know, the whole time he talked to me last night, he whispered. It was as if he were afraid of waking someone."


"That'd be Coach Lowell. Bryant boards with him."


"Boards with him? Good lord, that sounds positively turn of the century."


Trenton shrugged, even though Clive wasn't there to see it. "That's what I heard. Bryant was a foster care system kid for a long time. They were just going to kick him loose when he turned eighteen, but Coach Lowell had taken an interest in him when he was sixteen or seventeen, after seeing him swim in a citywide meet. I think he even helped arrange Bryant's scholarship. You know, having someone in the system who's interested and pulling for you can make a lot of difference." Trenton himself had been offered a full scholarship, but it had been to an out of state college. After discussing his options with his mother and Clive, he'd taken a partial scholarship at the local university instead.


"Still doesn't quite explain the hushed tones, darling."


"Why not? He probably didn't want to wake Coach Lowell."


"Do you whisper when you're on the phone if you aren't in the room with someone?"


"Well, no. I may not talk as loud, but I don't whisper."


"So, if the coach wasn't napping in the kitchen or living room, that means that if Bryant was whispering out of consideration for his slumber, he must've been beside the man, in a bedroom of some sort."




"Yes--oh. Well, it's none of my business, of course. After all," his voice was warm, "if they are a couple, Lowell isn't the only man in Metropolis who has a much younger lover."


"Anyone I know?"


"Brat. Yes, bring him by. I'll bring something home from Lavender's Green for dinner. When I tell Elise she'll be cooking for another gorgeous man besides you and I, she'll lay it on thick."


"Elise always lays it on thick. She's still trying to plump me up--she admits it. I keep telling her I just burn it off, but she says she loves a challenge. I think she likes to see people eat as much as some people like sex."


"We all have our kinks, darling. Her's benefits many, many people. See you this afternoon, precious."


"Later, lover."




Bryant was on edge all day, nervous that Priory might change his mind, just to be perverse. It wouldn't be the first time he'd promised Bryant something that he was really looking forward to, then reneged at the last moment, simply to demonstrate that he was in charge.


He tried to anticipate any possible excuse Priory could have. He'd gotten up an hour early and given the house a quick once over. He was lucky that the poker buddies were going to a pizza place before the game, so Bryant didn't have to cook for Priory. Bryant skipped lunch to practice, doing an extra five laps above his usual number.


His last class was swimming, shared with the rest of the swim team. He met Trenton outside the gym. Trenton smiled at him as he came up the steps, saying, "I talked with Clive. I'm glad you can make it. Can you leave right after class, or do you need to go home?"


"No, I can go straight from here, but Trent, I need you to do me a favor."


"Sure, what is it?"


"I need you to not mention this in class, okay?"


Trenton studied him, saying slowly, "Sure, I can do that."


Bryant said hastily, "It's not that I'm ashamed that I'm going to be visiting you, please don't think that."


Trenton shook his head. "I didn't."


The older boy looked relieved. "Good. I can't explain it, but it's just better if no one knows. And if I'm a little stand-offish, it doesn't mean anything."


"Okay." Trenton patted his arm reassuringly. "Don't worry about it, Bryant."


The class went off without incident. As usual, Bryant spoke only when absolutely necessary. Trenton followed Bryant's wishes by paying no attention to him. After class the entire class showered and dressed quickly, anxious to get to their after-class freedom.


Trenton was sitting on a bench, tying his laces, when Coach Lowell walked past and turned into the next dressing space. He heard him say, "Did you do your exercise today, McAllister?"


"Yes, sir, plus a few extra laps." Trenton heard a grunt, as if for some reason, the answer didn't entirely please Coach Lowell. Then Bryant said quietly, "I just want to thank you again for your generosity, sir. I'm really grateful for the opportunity you're giving me tonight." There was another grunt, then Coach Lowell exited the dressing area and walked back to his office.


Trenton finished stuffing his things in his gym bag and went out to wait on the bench in front of the gym. Bryant came out a few minutes later. Trenton sat up a bit straighter, but Bryant mouthed the word 'please'. Coach Lowell was right behind him. Trenton pretended to fiddle with his bag while Bryant walked past without a word or look, crossing toward the student union. Coach Lowell stood for a moment, watching him. Trenton piped up, "Hi, Coach."


Lowell flicked a glance at Trenton, then returned his gaze to Bryant. "Hello, Vittelli. Good 50 yard sprint today. You're improving on your push off."


"Thank you. I'm working on it."


"Keep it up and you'll make the cut for the Olympic's trials. I expect to send at least two of you boys this year."


"Maybe three, huh? Marshall and Bryant are both doing real well, too."


He turned cool eyes on Trenton. "We'll see." He hitched his belt up. "It's my decision, and there's more to be considered than just speed. Attitude is real important."


"I couldn't agree more." Lowell nodded, looking satisfied, and strolled off. Trenton's eyes followed the stocky figure, and he thought, *Though we might have different opinions on what constitutes an acceptable attitude.* When Lowell disappeared around the corner of a building, headed for a parking lot, Trenton got up and started toward the student union.


Bryant was waiting just inside, peering through the tinted glass windows. "You were terrific, Trenton. Thanks."


"No trouble. I kind of enjoyed it, since I'm sort of a ham." He hesitated, then said, "Look, I know we're not really close or anything, but I'd like to be your friend, Bryant. That means you can tell me things, and they won't go anywhere outside of," he tapped his head, "here. I'm not pushing, but anytime you feel ready, I'm a great listener."


Bryant stared at him. He hadn't given confidences to anyone for a long, long time. It was too dangerous. But now... He looked at Trenton's open expression, the honest concern that shone in his eyes. "Thanks, Trent. I'll remember that."


"Great. Now, c'mon--the bus will be here any minute."


The bus was just pulling up as they came to the stop. Trenton went ahead, dropping a token in the box and starting down the aisle. Behind him he heard the bus driver say, "I can't change that, man."


"That's all I have."


"I can't change it. The sign says nothing larger than a five. C'mon the fare's only a buck-fifty. Don't you have change?"


Bryant's voice was tense. "I told you, no. It's all I have."


"Well, you'll just have to go get change and catch the next bus."


Trenton walked back and dropped another token in the box. "C'mon, Bryant."


"I have money, Trent. You don't have to pay my way." There was a flush of embarrassment and anger rising in Bryant's cheeks.


"Look, kid, I've got a schedule to keep. On or off," the driver snapped.


"Bryant, it's all right. You can pay me back."


Scowling, Bryant mounted the steps. The bus driver shut the doors so abruptly that he barely missed catching the boy's foot. Trenton moved back and put a hand on Bryant's back, urging him back into the bus. The driver said, "Go sit down, kid, so I can get going."


Trenton leaned over his shoulder. "Look, Mister," he glanced at the license mounted on the visor, "Claudio Durgins, license number 1020354. Maybe you've forgotten, but part of your job is being not only decent, but actually pleasant to your passengers. Yes, you have rules, but I don't think your supervisors mean for you to do nothing but follow them and not cream pedestrians. Are you familiar with the concept of the 'secret shopper'? Someone hired by a company to go around testing the efficiency and courtesy of employees? Are you familiar with the concept of a 'secret passenger'?" Durgins had started to sweat. Trenton patted him on the shoulder and whispered, "I'm sure you'll do your best." He went back and sat beside a now smiling Bryant.


The driver kept casting nervous glances in his rear view mirror, toward the pair. Bryant muttered, "Trenton, you're not majoring in drama, are you?"


"Nope. Double major--cosmetology and business."


Bryant blinked. "You're not joking, are you?"


"Nope. You'll understand after you learn about Attitudes. I'm shooting for a partnership."


When it was time for them to get off, the driver said brightly, "Thank you for your patronage, sir. Watch your step, and have a nice day."


Trenton gave him a cheerful wave. "Drive carefully." He hefted his gym bag up on his shoulder and patted Bryant on the shoulder. "Right over here." Attitudes was between a furniture store and a deli. The frontage was stylish glass brick, with large windows. Through them Bryant could see what looked like a typical, if elegantly appointed, beauty salon.


Trenton led the way in. The moment they entered there was a cheerful chorus of greetings from beauticians and customers alike. They walked back into the shop. A tiny, elderly lady, her hair done up in what looked like strips of aluminum foil waved eagerly, and Trenton went over, grinning. She piped, "Hey, Trent! Got any sugar for me?"


"For you, Miz Havasnark? Always!" He dropped a kiss on her cheek.


She looked at Bryant with lively interest. "And who's this pretty man?"


Trenton laughed. "You flirt! This is my friend, Bryant McAllister. He's going to be spending the evening with me at Clive's," he made a swooping motion with his hand, "surfin' the net."


"Oh, isn't that just the most wonderful invention?" she burbled at Bryant. "I just love it! I have the Chippendale Gallery on my Favorites list."


Trenton grinned at Bryant. "Bri, give her a kiss, or she'll never let us pass." Bryant pressed a kiss to her soft, wrinkled cheek. "Watch her, Bryant. She'll pinch your butt, given half a chance. C'mon."


Bryant followed Trenton farther into the shop, to a station where a pleasant looking middle aged woman was taking a woman's hair out of rollers. "Bryant, this is my mom--Lynette. Mom, Bryant McAllister. You know, my team mate."


"Why, of course! I'm so pleased to meet you, Bryant. Trent tells me that you've helped him so much with his swimming this year." Bryant gave her a puzzled look. Aside from the classes together, he'd only practiced with Trenton that one time. "He says that using you as a standard, and pitting his performance against yours has really inspired him to greater efforts."


Bryant looked at Trenton, who shrugged sheepishly. "Mom, is Clive in?"


"Yes, honey. He's in his station giving the deli's delivery boy a new hairdo. You know how much those ol' floppy bangs bothered him. He's been in there about three-quarters of an hour."


Trenton laughed, and explained to Bryant, "Jake from next door. He had a kind of English sheepdog thing going, and Clive says it gives him hives just looking at it. He's been trying to talk Jake into his private station for a month." He led Bryant back to a plain, unmarked door at the very back of the room. "Have a seat. He shouldn't be much longer." They sat. "So, I'm taking more courses next semester. Any tips on who's easy, who's good, and who to avoid?"


There was a muffled squeal from behind the door. Eyeing it distractedly, Bryant said, "I don't socialize much."


"Bri, I meant the teachers."


"Oh. Um..."


Another squeal. Faintly he heard a voice, gradually rising, "Oh... oh... Oh! Oh! Clive!"


Trenton flicked a glance at the door, then looked back at Bryant, amused. "You'd never know it. Jake doesn't usually say two words past telling you how much your order is. Shouldn't be long now. How about math? I want to take number theory, and I hear it's a bear. Any professor have a rep for being particularly patient?"


"I... Professor Wilkins is pretty laid back."


The door opened. A young man who's dark, gleaming hair was parted in the center to fall back in two smooth waves came out. He shuffled toward the front, a bemused smile on his face, his expression somehow both energized and peaceful.


The man he'd seen in the car with Trenton followed him out, calling, "Tell Monique it's five dollars, and I'll expect you back every month for a touch-up."


"Yes, sir."


Clive patted the boy on the butt. "Good boy. And be so good as to bring over a cheesecake," He looked at Trenton, smiling. "Any preference, love?"


Trenton looked at Bryant. "They make a terrific raspberry crunch swirl, or the ammaretto's pretty good. Then there's always the chocolate chip, strawberry and cherry." His forehead wrinkled. "What did I forget?"


"Plain, precious," said Clive, amused. He smiled at Bryant. "Trenton is intimately acquainted with Flaubert's cheesecake."


Bryant said, "Raspberry?"


Clive tapped him on the shoulder. "Don't sound so doubtful, dear. Speak your preferences boldly. That will be one raspberry crunch swirl cheesecake, Jake. Put it on my tab." Jake was smiling at Bryant. Clive patted his bottom. "Toddle off, darling." Jake nodded, ambling off, and Clive turned his attention back to Bryant. "Trenton, now that dessert is settled, are you going to introduce me to your new friend?"


"Clive, this is Bryant McAllister, from my swim team. Bryant, this is Clive." He tucked his arm through Clive's. "My man." Speechless, Bryant shook hands.


Clive gave him a thorough once over. "Pleased to meet you, Bryant. I do hope you won't take offense, but your roots are growing out." Bryant blushed hotly. "Oh, dear, I've embarrassed you. I don't mean to, pet. It's natural for me to notice."


"Yeah, Bryant. No one would notice it except Clive," Trenton assured him.


"They aren't very long yet, and they aren't very dark, but they will be noticeable soon," Clive continued. He cocked his head. "Are you absolutely sure you're happy with that color, dear? Or rather the lack of color."


"It's the color it has to be." Bryant hated the platinum blonde, bleached-out look that Priory insisted on.


"Mm. Well, if you decide to go back to your normal color, let me know. At least you seem to be using a proper conditioner on it, but if you keep up with that sort of treatment it's bound to damage it."


Trenton said, "If you're wondering why I don't say something about how it's rude for him to comment on your appearance..."


"You see," said Clive, "Hair is my profession, my avocation, and my burning passion. I'd have to be gagged to keep from talking about it, and while I have no objections to gags on the whole..." He shrugged.


"I better get Bryant out of here before he runs away," said Trenton.


"Oh, Bryant isn't the running type," Clive turned a sharp, but friendly gaze on Bryant, "Are you?"


*Am I?,* thought Bryant. *Pri says I am. He says I'm always trying to run away from my responsibilities, from what I am. But Pri doesn't know me like he thinks he does.* "No," Bryant felt a little surprised. There'd only been that brief flash before he'd answered, no real thought or consideration. He looked at Clive again and said more firmly, "No, I'm not."


Clive watched the two young men walk back to the front of the shop and go out onto the street. He murmured, "No, you're not, but there was just the teensiest bit of hesitation in that reply." *Methinks pretty Bryant might be just a tad confused. Mmm. I think Bri may need to be, pardon the expression, straightened out.* He smiled. *What a perfectly pleasant prospect.*



Chapter 6: Getting Acquainted


"Damn, Trent! This is one hot computer." Bryant, sitting before the computer desk, ran an admiring eye over the computer set up. "Seventeen inch monitor, fiber optics mouse, scanner/fax/printer..."


"And more power and speed than an Indy 500 race car," Trenton said cheerfully. He had insisted that Bryant take the padded swivel chair, and had brought another chair from the dining area to sit beside him. ("I'm used to it. Clive and I cruise the 'net together a lot, and I can't sit on his lap all the time.") "It took me forever to talk Clive into buying a 'puter, but when he buys something, he goes for quality. Just click on that icon there for a connection."


Bryant did. "How long can we stay on?"


"Till you're sick of it. Clive sprang for unlimited access." Trent grinned. "I introduced him to fanfiction a few months ago and he didn't stop sitting up till all hours reading it till I pointed out that he was getting circles under his eyes. He said he wasn't ready to go for the 'debauched' look and started sleeping reasonable hours again."


Bryant gave Trenton a curious look. "You told him to go to bed, and he just did it?"


Trenton laughed heartily. "No! Gah, me ordering Clive around--what a concept. I just made an observation as a friend and he respects me enough to take it seriously. Okay, what do you want to do first? Have you got an email account yet? There are a lot of places you can get one for free..."


Clive left Lynette to close up at Attitudes, promising to give her love to Trent when he saw him. At Lavender's Green Elise, the rotund, jovial cook, was as thrilled as he had predicted. Clive left the club loaded down with enough food to comfortably feed five people. *So if Bryant eats like Trenton does, there should just be enough for everyone.*


Upstairs the boys, studying a site dedicated to famous swimmers (*Johnny Weismuller, yeah,* Bryant said. *Mark Spitz? Sure. But Esther Williams?*) looked up as they heard a chorus of mews drift up from the downstairs hall. Trenton smiled. "Clive's home."


Bryant frowned in puzzlement. "How do you deduce that from a bunch of caterwauls?"


"Oh, those aren't caterwauls. You'll know the difference if you're ever around when two of the males have a face-down. That signals Clive's arrival with dinner because Missus Havasnark's cats are the best chow detectors in creation. They can smell the sausage on a delivery pizza a half block away." As he spoke, Trenton was moving toward the door. He opened it just as Clive was stepping onto the landing. "Hey, babe. Wow, Elise loaded you, didn't she?"


"She was in her element, and I am instructed to bring Bryant by for an introduction sometime in the future." Clive dropped a kiss on Trenton's offered cheek. "Your mother sends her love. Now take some of this, please." An orange tabby ran past him into the apartment. "Oh, I don't think so! Smuckers! You know very well you aren't allowed in here without your mother." The cat leaped up on the couch and settled down. She squeezed golden eyes at Clive and started to purr. "Sweet talk won't work. You just wait till I put this down, young lady, and you're going right back out."


"I'll do it--you're busy." Bryant got up and went to the sofa, approaching cautiously. "Hey, kitty." When it didn't run, he reached down and gently lifted the little animal, cradling it carefully in his big hands. Walking toward the door he said, "Clive says go, you go, cutey." He set the cat down just outside the apartment door. Smuckers looked up at him, meowing softly. He looked at her sternly. "No nonsense. Go home." When she didn't move he leaned down and patted her on the bottom. "Scoot!" The cat scampered down the stairs, and Bryant shut the door. He turned to find Trenton and Clive watching him. He shrugged. "I like cats. They used to have them at the foster homes, and sometimes they listened better than the people did."


Clive started unpacking the food. "You handled that very well, Bryant--gentle, but firm. Now, you'll find glasses in the cabinet on the right, sodas on the top shelf of the fridge, and ice in the freezer. Trenton, how much soda have you had today?"


"None. I had apple juice with lunch."


"Good boy. You can have soda, and you can even have a second one after dinner."


"Hot dog! C'mon, Bri. I'll get the plates and silverware."


In the kitchen Bryant began filling glasses with ice while Trent rummaged in drawers and cabinets. Bryant noticed that Trenton was very much at home in Clive's kitchen, knowing exactly where everything was. *He must spend a lot of time here. I guess he really meant it when he said that Clive is his man. And Clive did give him orders about the drinks. But it's nothing like the way Priory is with me.* "Trent?"


"Yeah?" Trent had his hands full of spoons and forks.


"You sure Clive isn't your father, the way he orders you around?"


Trent laughed. "He's not my father, but he sure as hell is my daddy."


Bryant frowned. "What's the difference?"


Trenton bit his lip, smiling. "Bring the stuff into the dining room, okay?"


Bryant followed, figuring that it was too touchy a subject for Trent to explain. But as he deposited his load Trent said, "Clive, Bryant wants to know what the difference is between a father and a daddy. I thought I'd let you explain."


Clive looked up from the container of gravy he'd just opened. "Heavens. I've done a good bit of informal sex ed, but usually not around the dinner table. You boys start helping yourself while I consider how to phrase this."


They loaded their plates with the good things Elise had sent: fried chicken, pot roast, macaroni and cheese, and six different kinds of vegetables, then sat down and began eating. After a moment Clive began, "Well, I divide the father question into three separate categories. First, there's the sire. He makes a baby, that's it. Doesn't necessarily have anything to do with the lamb once it's planted, though he might. Anyone with a set of gonads can be a sire. Then there's the father. He also does the fertilization, but he sticks around and provides support, both financial and emotional. Then in our little corner of the world we have daddies. A daddy is the more mature man in a sexual relationship, one who provides direction, discipline..." he reached over and ruffled Trenton's hair fondly, "and love for his brat."


"Oh." Bryant thought about this for a moment, chewing slowly. Finally he said, "What do you call someone like that who provides the discipline and direction, but not the love?"


Clive eyed Bryant shrewdly. "Personally? I'd call him an exploitative asshole. There are Dom/sub relations where there's no exchange of affection, but... Well, it seems a little cold to me. I never have sex with anyone I don't at least like." He smiled. "Luckily I find it fairly easy to like people."


They ate some more. Bryant said, "Can I ask you something personal?"


"Go ahead. If I think it's out of line, I'll tell you."


"Do you and Trent really sleep together?"


Trenton snickered. "Yeah, we do, sometimes. We also have sex together." He glanced at Clive. "A lot." Clive mimed a kiss at him.


Bryant drew a deep breath. "And Clive, you're a... a Dom?"


"Is he ever!" said Trent enthusiastically.


"And Trenton is the sweetest little submissive in creation," Clive added. "Now, since we've answered your questions, why not tell us a little about your own lifestyle?"


Bryant suddenly lost his appetite, poking at his food, scowling. He'd never discussed his private life with anyone--Priory had made it clear that he shouldn't. Besides, Bryant wasn't exactly proud of it. But Clive and Trenton were being open with him, trusting him with information about their lives that could prove damaging in the hands of someone careless or vindictive. He figured he owed them honesty, and he had the feeling that anything he said would stay in this room.


Clive thought that he wasn't going to get an answer, then the young man said quietly, "Well, Trent knows that I live with our swim coach--Priory Lowell." He paused, and Clive nodded. Bryant sighed. "Yeah, we have sex, and he likes... no, he has to be in control--all the time. I do the housework and cooking, and I bottom, so I guess I'm a submissive."


Clive frowned, as he and Trenton exchanged glances. "Dear, you don't sound like a submissive. Is it possible that you're a switch? You know, Dom one time and sub then next?"


Bryant shook his head firmly. "Me, top with Pri? He'd cut both our throats first. Anyway, I wouldn't want to. I'd rather cut my dick off than stick it in him."


There was a vehemence in his voice that was impossible to miss. Trent knew it wasn't any of his business, but he couldn't help it. He blurted, "Then why do you stay with him?"


Bryant shrugged. Clive said, "I usually don't pry into other people's relationships," he looked at Trenton sharply, "and others should follow that example." Trenton blushed, resigning himself to a spanking later. "But I think I have to echo my mouthy sub. Why don't you leave him? From what I've heard, you don't find the arrangement satisfactory."


Bryant shrugged. "He took me in when I was processed out of the system. I wouldn't have had anywhere else to go. He helped me get my scholarship." He looked down at his plate. "He's the only person I've ever been with."


Clive's eyebrows climbed. He said softly, "Tell me, Bryant. Where you two intimate before you moved in?" Bryant shook his head. "If I ask you anything too intimate, just tell me to go fuck myself--it won't be the first time. All right?" Bryant nodded. "How old were you when you first had sex with Priory?"




"I won't report him, then. And who's idea was the sex?"


Bryant blushed. "I... I'm not sure. A couple of times when we were watching videos I got excited, and he put his hand in my lap. I was too horny to push him away. Eventually I did it for him, too. Then..." he looked away. "Then he said it was time I started taking care of business."


Trenton watched as the color began to rise in Clive's cheeks, and thought that it was a good thing for Priory that he wasn't there. His voice was very soft, and Trenton knew that when he spoke in that gentle voice he was at his most dangerous. "Bryant, precious, do you mean to tell me that sex is required as part of your duties?" Bryant nodded, his expression sour. "It's a chore and not a joy?" Another nod. Clive began drumming his fingers rapidly on the tabletop. Now his voice was hard. "Does this Priory style himself as a Dom?"




"Bryant, did Priory inform you that you were a submissive, or did you decide that yourself?"


Bryant thought about it. "I... I don't know. Y'see the words have never been used. He's never baldly said, 'I'm a Dom, you're a sub'. I just never got in the top position. I suggested that HE suck MY cock once--once." He rubbed his jaw. "I left it alone after than."


He looked up quickly as Clive stood up abruptly, scraping his chair back. "Excuse me." He went into the bedroom, walking stiffly.


Bryant looked at Trent, who was looking after his Dom with concerned eyes. "I'm sorry, Trent. I didn't mean to upset him."


"He's not upset with you, Bri, believe me. He just wanted a little time to himself so he wouldn't break anything. I think Pri better hope he never runs into Clive in a dark alley." Trenton shrugged. "What am I saying? Clive would kick his butt in the middle of main street at high noon, if he thought he deserved it. Priory really hits you?"


"When I piss him off." He paused. "Clive doesn't hit you?"


Trenton looked both astonished and horrified. "No! Oh, he spanks me sometimes, and I'm on intimate terms with all sorts of paddles, switches, and straps, but that's different. It's part of our play, and I have no objection to it. Beating is something entirely different." His green eyes narrowed. "Sounds like Lowell doesn't know the difference, though."


Clive came back, looking calmer. He went into the kitchen and returned with some whiskey over ice. "Pardon me, but I feel the need for something a bit stronger." He took a swallow, then sighed. "I have news for you, Bryant. Your Priory is not a Dom, no matter how he likes to flatter himself. He's just an abusive bastard."


"I'd kind of been getting that idea, watching you and Trent."


"And I also don't believe that you're a submissive. A submissive wants to submit. Needs to submit."


Trenton nodded. "Craves domination." He smiled at Clive. "From the right person."


"Maybe you're right. I damn sure haven't felt comfortable about this. But this is all I know."


"Then it's time your education was furthered. What you need is to see a few real Dom/sub relationships in action." He reached over and took Trenton's hand, squeezing it. "While what Trenton and I have together is special, it's not unique. A Dom/sub couple can be just as loving and supportive as any plain vanilla one. There's a perfect opportunity coming up next week."


Trenton looked interested. "You mean the monthly meeting of Doms and Dommes?"


"I mean exactly that." He looked at Bryant. "It's a little group I belong to, Doms of both sexes and their submissives. We have regular gatherings to socialize and promote the D/s lifestyle. One of our main aims is showing the vanilla community that there's a difference between what we do and abuse." He bared his teeth. "People like Lowell set us back."


Bryant knew immediately that he wanted to go. He'd been so isolated in his life with Priory, he was hungry to see what it was like for others. "When is it?"


"Next Friday, eight o'clock."


Bryant thought. "Yeah. He has a ticket to a basketball game, and it starts at eight. He'll leave early and be back late, 'cause he always drinks after a game. If his team wins he drinks to celebrate, if they lose he drinks because he's pissed off." Bryant's expression tightened. "I don't like it when he comes home drunk and pissed. It gets unpleasant."


"I'm finding more reasons to dislike this man all the time," Clive drawled. "We can pick you up at your place." Bryant looked worried. "I can wait till you call and tell us the coast is clear, Bryant, but I really wish you'd just tell him. You're a grown man--you shouldn't have to answer to him about your social life."


Bryant fidgeted. "I know, but I don't want to hassle with him unless I have to."


"Understandable in the short term, dear, but you'll have to face this problem sooner or later." Clive gave him a considering look. "And you will. I think you're not really a passive resistance sort."


Bryant's voice was bitter. "I haven't done much rebelling so far."


Clive smiled. "Perhaps you're just a late bloomer."



Chapter 7: Party Preparations


Bryant was antsy the rest of the week, waiting for Friday to arrive, but the anticipation made Priory's usual shittiness more bearable. Whenever Priory railed at him for some minor fault or belittled him for not shaving another fraction off one of his sprints, he just reminded himself of Friday. Priory began to get suspicious. His house pet was smiling more than usual, and for no good reason that he could see.


Thursday he sat across from Bryant at the supper table, staring at the tempting lasagna that Bryant had just placed on the table before him. Priory got first choice of the food, of course. He glanced from the bubbling, delicious smelling dish to Bryant, who was stripping off his oven mitts. "Lasagna on a weeknight? Don't you usually do those on the weekend, since they're so much work?"


Bryant shrugged. He couldn't very well tell Priory that he was feeding him up in the hopes that he'd be so stuffed and content that he wouldn't notice anything out of the ordinary. It looked like he'd achieved exactly the opposite of his goal. "I just know how much you like it, so I thought why not have a treat."


Priory grunted, taking up the serving spoon. "It ain't like you to go out of your way to please me, boy."


He was concentrating on scooping up the rich mixture of noodles, cheese and sauce, so he missed the quickly repressed scowl on Bryant's face. You self-centered idiot! When do I do anything but try to keep you happy so you'll stay off my ass?


Bryant helped his plate and started eating, not missing the suspicious glowers Priory kept shooting him. Damn it! If I'm not careful, that paranoid will cancel his basketball game to keep an eye on me tomorrow. What can I do to make sure he goes? Well, he's simple minded, I guess simple subterfuge will work.


Bryant heaved a deep sigh. Priory looked up immediately. "What the hell is that all about?"


Jesus, can't I just need oxygen? Bryant sighed again. "I guess I can't fool you, Pri."


Satisfied that he'd caught Bryant out at something, Priory said, "Of course, you can't, so you might as well just tell me what it is you're up to."


"Well, it's just that you've been spending so much time away from home in the evenings. There are your poker games, and basketball, and almost every other night your friends want you to go out. And here I am, stuck at home with nothing but the television..." If I can convince him that I'm lonely for his sorry ass, I deserve a Tony award. But it has to work.


Priory sat back, a smug look on his face. "Aw, is he feeling neglected? Poor little boy."


"I just don't see what it would hurt for you to stay home a little more, or maybe take me with you occasionally."


Priory pointed his fork at Bryant, saying sternly, "I'm a man, understand? I go where I please, when I please, and no little slutboy is going to tie me to his apron strings."


Bryant quickly put his hands in his lap so Priory wouldn't see that he'd clenched his hands into fists. He forced a pleading tone into his voice, but kept his eyes on his plate because he knew that he could not manage the expected submissive look. "Well, at least come right home after the game, tomorrow."


Priory's voice was ominous. "Are you trying to give me a curfew, Bri?"


Bryant let a slight shakiness creep into his tone. "No, it's just that sometimes you're out so late. It's hard for me to sleep until I know that you're home safe. You could at least consider how worried I get, never knowing if you're all right or in a ditch somewhere. You don't know how relieved I am when you check in. At least then I know..."


"Stop your whining. I never heard such a load of crap in my life! I do not 'check in'. Shit, you make it sound like I'm some sort of kid you let out on sufferance. Listen, you, I'm going to the basketball game tomorrow night--alone. After the game I'm gonna go to Scores for a few drinks, and I probably won't be back till it closes. And I am not 'checking in' with you, understand?"


"Yes, Pri." Bryant's voice was as close to meek as he could manage, but inside he was crowing. He didn't like having to manipulate Priory, but it wasn't for any reason having to do with consideration for the older man. No, it was just that Bryant was an honest man. He would have preferred just telling Priory that he was going out Friday, but he had the feeling that one of them might end up in the hospital if he was that abrupt.


Friday afternoon, at the swim team's training session, Bryant waited until Priory was involved in timing the relay teams. He and Trent had finished their sprint practice by then and gone into the locker room. Keeping his gaze on the door to the pool, watching in case the coach came in unexpectedly, he said, "It's set." He smiled. "He won't even bother to call and check to be sure I'm home after the snow job I gave him. He'll be gone to all hours to prove that I don't have any hold on him."


Trent looked up from under the towel he'd been using to tousle his hair after his shower. He said quietly, "You decided not to tell him?"


Bryant frowned, looking away. "I'm not ready, Trent."


Trenton put his hand on Bryant's bare shoulder, "It's okay, Bri. This is something you have to do yourself, and you'll find the right time. I understand. I don't like confrontations, either, but it's different for me because of what I am. I think it's hard on you to keep backing down." He patted him. "You're gonna give yourself ulcers."


They heard approaching voices, and Trenton quickly stepped back, turning away slightly a moment before Priory and the rest of the team entered the room. The boys went into the showers, and Lowell stopped at the section where Trent and Bryant were dressing. "Vittelli."


Trenton looked up from buttoning his shirt. He was glad that he'd gotten his clothes on before the coach came in--Lowell's eyes had a nasty habit of crawling over him that made him distinctly uncomfortable. "Yes, sir?"


"You're friends with a hairdresser, aren't you?" Priory gave the word 'hairdresser' a faint, condescendingly amused twist.


"Yes, sir--Clive."


"Clive who?"


Trenton smiled faintly. "Just Clive."


Lowell scowled. "That's all?"


"That's all that's needed."


Priory gave his head a dismissive shake. "Bryant's been letting his hair go too long, and the roots are growing back. His last beautician quit working--silly bitch got pregnant, and he needs another one. Is your friend taking new clients?"


Bryant's heart started to thud in his chest, thinking about Clive, his clients, and what they might get up to in his private station. I couldn't be that lucky, could I?


"Clive doesn't cut hair on a regular basis these days. He only works on people he finds interesting."


Priory snorted. "Huh, nice work, if you can get it."


"I think he'd be willing to take Bryant on, though," Trenton's tone was innocent, but the look he slipped Bryant was wicked, and the older man had to fight down a smile. A smile would have piqued Priory's suspicions. "I'll talk to him, and see if he'll set up an appointment."


"You do that. I don't want to shell out too much, but I'm willing to pay to help the boy keep up his appearance." Priory gave Bryant's long, ice white hair a possessive look before leaving, without further words.


When he was in his office Trenton whispered, "It's true, you know. I bet Clive would love to get you in his private station."


"To get his hands on my hair?" Bryant asked, answering Trent's teasing tone.


"Among other things."




Bryant tried to reinforce Priory's perverse need to thwart him without going overboard and alerting him that something was up. Instead of protesting about his excursion, Bryant drooped slightly, making his eyes large as the stared at him in reproachful silence. It worked wonderfully. By the time he left, Priory was determined not to return till the bars closed down, and then to go straight to bed without letting Bryant know that he'd come home.


Bryant watched him leave with satisfaction, but he waited for ten minutes before he dialed Clive's number. "Clive? You can come get me now. How should I dress?"


"Any way you like, darling, though I have a sneaking suspicion of your color scheme."


Bryant scowled. "Unless I wear some of Priory's things, and I'd rather go naked."


He heard Trenton's voice call, "We'd rather you went naked, too!"


"Trent!" Clive scolded. "Are you going to make me spank you before we get to the party?" Bryant heard laughter, and it made him smile. "Honestly, that boy! He knows I can tell when he's really being naughty and when he's just trying to provoke me into warming his ass. Now, what's your address?" Bryant told him. "That's not too far. We'll be there in ten minutes." There was a soft, coaxing, murmur. "Trent, behave. We'll be at the party in just a little while, and then..." Another murmur. "Hmmm, make that about a half hour, Bryant. See you soon." Just before he hung up, Bryant heard Clive say, "Come here, brat."


Bryant smiled wryly, but a little wistfully. He couldn't imagine himself ever being playful with Priory.




Bryant was waiting expectantly when the neat little sports car pulled up outside. He was out the door and down the walk before Clive or Trenton could get out. "Really, pet, we would have come to the door."


"I'm not trying to be rude, Clive, but there's always a chance that Priory might decide to talk to the neighbors, and he'd want an explanation of anyone who got anywhere near the house." He looked inside the car. "There's no back seat."


"No. However the front seat is a bench. Slide over and give out guest some room, Trent." Trenton scooted over next to Clive, and Bryant settled into the space he'd vacated. The seat was still warm and his shoulder and leg brushed the other boy as he sat. "See? Nice and cozy without being squashy."


As they drove, Clive said, "Trent, dear, explain the rules to Bryant."


"Sure. Bryant, the rules are really important in a Dom/sub gathering. They're necessary so that everyone knows the limits. First thing--you do not mess with someone else's submissive unless you are given permission. Permission can be given verbally, or with signs." Trenton hooked a finger under a slender chain he wore around his neck and pulled out an X shaped pendant. "If they're wearing one of these, that means hands off unless you are specifically invited by the Dom. At the door we'll be given the party 'safe' word. That means that whatever you're doing, if a sub uses the safe word, you stop. No exceptions. Not even if it gives you a near fatal case of blue balls. The safe word must be sacrosanct."


Clive was nodding. "Tell him yours, precious."


"Swan dive."


"That's two words," Bryant observed.


Trenton laughed, and Clive tossed him an arch look. "No one's ever called him on that," Trent said. "But when I have to use it, it usually runs into one word, anyway. Now, let's see... You don't give any food or drink to a submissive without permission, and if they beg for it, they ought to be reported to their Dom for misbehaving. Safe sex is a must, since we're dealing with people who are into multiple partners, and not everyone bothers to get a full medical workup."


Clive broke in, "And by safe sex, dear, we mean whether your partner is anatomically capable of getting pregnant or not, whether it's hips or lips. At present everything that can be caught can be cured, but I have a friend from..." He smiled. "Well, very far away who told me absolute horror stories about certain health nasties that appeared more or less out of the blue and were rampant before anyone realized it. Don't worry, though. There's always more than enough protection to go around."


Trenton snickered. "You're telling me? There are bowls of condoms on practically every flat surface, and you have to look where you sit down so that you don't squash a tube of lubricant. I have this theory that all Doms and Dominatrixes have been in the scouts at some point in thier life."


They drove to the edge of town. Trenton pointed to a long white wall running beside the road. "Our hosts live in a gated community, and that's the start of the property. The entrance is just up there."


They turned into a side road and Clive drove up to a massive set of gates, stopping near a small guard booth. A uniformed man came out, carrying a clipboard, and took note of their license plate number, then came up to the driver's side and peered in. Bryant noticed that he wore a gun on his hip, and another similarly armed man was watching them from the other side of the gates.


Clive presented his driver's license. "Clive, Trenton Vittelli, and guest."


The guard studied them all carefully, then handed the license back and said courteously. "Nice to see you again, sir. You know the way?"


"Yes, indeed."


The first guard waved to the second, who flipped a switch in a box mounted on his side of the fence. The gates swung outward, just enough to allow the car entrance, and Clive drove in. Bryant twisted his head to look back, and watched as the gates swung shut again behind them.


Trenton said, "They have walkie-talkies, and an alarm system that alerts the police and brings a dozen more guards on the run if anyone tries to force their way in."


"You're sure we'll be able to get back out?" Bryant's tone was joking, but Clive noticed an edge to it, and wondered if the boy often felt trapped.


"There's never any problem with leaving. It's just that these people cherish their privacy, and can afford to have it, and their families, well protected."


There weren't many houses, as far as Bryant could see. No more than thirty, he would have guessed. Each one had expansive lawns and gardens around it, and was set off from the others. They made their way almost to the back of the area--Bryant could see the wall gleaming beyond the house they pulled up to.


There were cars lining the circular drive, and spilling out along the street. Bryant was a little surprised when Clive drove up to the front door. A young man standing beside the door hurried over and opened the door for Bryant. Clive and Trenton exited the car, and Clive dropped his keys into the young man's hand. "I know that you'll take good care of my baby."


"Yes, sir!" said the young man, and he startled Bryant by giving Clive a low bow.


As he drove off Bryant said, "That's the first time I've ever seen a parking valet act like that without a tip."


"That's because he's a submissive. The ones with good driving records take turns parking cars at our events. He'll join us as soon as all the invited guests arrive."


"My turn comes up in a couple of months," said Trenton. He rubbed his hands together gleefully, "and I'll finally get to drive Clive's car."


"And you know what will happen if I hear any racing motors or squealing tires." Clive pushed the door bell, and chimes rang inside.


Bryant could hear voices and music inside. Trenton, standing beside him, was already beginning to move, shifting his shoulders and his feet. He grinned at Bryant. "My type of music tonight. Sometimes they have blues or jazz, which isn't too bad, but when they have classical..." He rolled his eyes.


"It wouldn't hurt you to get a bit more cultural, darling," Clive admonished him mildly.


The door opened. A tall, well-built man in an elegant silk dressing gown, his hair graying at the temples shook hands with Clive, smiling. "Clive, you dog! Glad you could make it. Since when are you fashionably late?"


"Logistics this time. It doesn't sound as if the party has suffered by my absence."


"We're struggling along. Trent!" He embraced the young man, unselfconsciously giving his ass a friendly squeeze. "Scrumptious as always." Bryant noted that Clive expressed no jealousy or irritation, so apparently this was allowed, though whether it was because they weren't yet inside or because Clive extended special privileges to the host, he couldn't say. The man turned lively, bright blue eyes on Bryant. "And who's this beautiful thing you've brought with you?"


"Prescot, this is Bryant McAllister. Bryant, this is Prescot."


Bryant shook hands, "Another single name?"


Trenton chuckled, and Prescot smiled wryly. "No, son, just a father with a twisted sense of humor. Our last name was Prescott, two tees. He named me Prescot, one tee. It's caused me no end of trouble with paperwork and business done over the phone."


"Why don't you go by your middle name?"


"Because it's Adonis." He sighed. "Mother was into mythology. Come on in."


They were in a long hallway. The entrance was floored with patterned ceramic tile that gave way to gleaming hardwood farther down. Most of the noise was coming from a archway halfway down.


Prescot closed and locked the door, then gave Bryant a searching gaze. He reached into his pocket and pulled out a necklace, offering it to Bryant. "Will you be needing this, son?" Bryant noted the small X dangling from the chain. He considered it for a long moment. "These are for submissives who don't want to participate in strong play."


"Trenton explained it to me." He thought. "No, I don't need it." He didn't miss Trenton's grin and Clive's pleased, knowing smile.


"I'm glad to hear it." Prescot slipped it back into his pocket. "Now," he gave Bryant a thorough head head-to-toe examination. "I have a question. Are you refusing it because you're a submissive ready to play, or because you're a Dom? I can usually tell right off the bat, but I admit you've got me stumped."


As they started down the hall, Bryant answered the question by evading it. "I'm not surprised. I've even got myself puzzled."



Chapter 8: Affirming and Enlightening


Half way down the hall Clive said, "Just a moment, Prescot. I need to put the finishing touches on Trenton's ensemble." Prescot and Bryant paused. They watched at Clive, humming busily, unbuttoned Trenton's shirt, untucking it from his waistband. He checked to make sure that the X pendent was clearly visible. "Present arms, precious." Trenton turned his back to Clive, putting his hands behind his back with his wrists close together. Clive pulled a pair of gleaming handcuffs from his pocket and snapped them on. "How does that feel?"


Trenton tugged experimentally. "A little loose."


"Mm. Feeling a bit insecure tonight, are we? All right, one more notch, but that's all. You know that it cuts off your circulation if I make them any tighter." Clive adjusted the cuffs with a click.


Trenton sighed. "Thank you, sir."


Clive kissed his neck. "You're welcome, precious." He stepped back and took hold of Trenton's arm to guide him. "Prescot, what's the good word for tonight?"


Prescot slapped his forehead dramatically. "What sort of host am I? The word for tonight is radish."


Bryant smiled faintly. "Radish?"


"Yes. If you can think up a reason for that word to come up in run-of-the-mill sex play, then you're kinkier than I am, and I'm pretty damn kinky." They entered the room.


Aside from being roughly three times as large as any room Bryant had ever seen in a private residence, it looked like a normal living room. Well, normal if you have an income in the upper six figures, Bryant amended. Instead of the wall-to-wall carpetting Bryant usually associated with luxury, the furniture groupings rested on thick, exoticly patterned rugs, with hardwood flooring gleaming between them. The furniture was contemporary, and somehow managed to walk the line between comfortable and elegant.


There were about thirty people in the room. Some were milling around a buffet, others waited their turn at a bar, and the rest were scattered about the room, chatting. Clive said, "Bryant, come along and I'll introduce you. Don't worry if you don't catch names--I promise that they'll remember you."


They were greeted warmly by each guest, and Bryant found that he was studied very carefully. He had the feeling that there was a lot of assessing going on, but, oddly enough, he sensed no judgement being passed.


As they made the rounds he noticed more and more differences from the general run of party guests. For instance, the couples were diverse. There were same sex couples as well as mixed, and several May/December pairs. There was even one obvious trio--two bare-chested men catering lavishly to one serene, but very ordinary looking woman.


Trenton wasn't the only guest whose dress would have raised eyebrows elsewhere. There was a lot of leather and suede on display. One girl seemed to be dressed in a patent leather bikini, but Bryant finally realized that it was actually made of shiny black rubber. And the two men weren't the only ones who were bare-chested. There was one particularly well-endowed red-headed woman who sported gold rings through her pink nipples. When she noticed Bryant's stare, she winked.


When they had greeted each of the other guests they headed for the bar and buffet. Bryant agreed to pick up a glass of red wine for Clive and a Virgin Mary for Trenton. As he waited he watched as Trenton followed Clive down the buffet, indicating the foods he was particularly interested in. Clive only ignored his suggestions on the cocktail sausages because you know they give you gas, love, an I have to sleep with you.


Clive staked out a place for them on a sofa while Bryant went and got his own plate. The spread was lavish including pate, caviar, and some colorful, odd looking items that one of the other guests informed him was sushi. Curious, he took a few of the jewel-like morsels. Bryant enjoyed his own cooking just as well, since if I don't cook it, I don't eat but anything prepared by someone else was a treat.


He went to sit beside Trenton on the sofa. Clive was conversing with another leather-clad man sitting in a wingbacked chair on his other side. A pretty blonde woman, dressed in what looked like a see-through nightie, knelt at the man's side, and he stroked her hair idly as he talked. She had been looking up at him adoringly, but when Bryant sat down she regarded him closely.


Bryant was unsure of the protocol for dealing with a submissive who was showing interest, so he ignored her. Clive leaned forward to look at Bryant over Trenton. "Bryant, we're discussing a possible fundraiser for one of our charities."


The other man spoke up. "The Wishes Fulfilled group. You know, the one that grants wishes for gravely ill children? Some wonderful people donate their time and talents. Last year Batman gave a little girl a ride in the Batmobile." He smiled. "She specifically asked to sit on Robin's lap."


"What a precocious little thing she was, too," Clive said dryly. "With excellent taste. Anyway, we're trying to come up with some fresh concepts. Any suggestions?"


Bryant considered this, sipping his own wine. "Are you shooting for the mainstream, or your own niche?"


Clive smiled at him. "Very good, pet. It isn't difficult to raise money among our peers--we could just have a slave auction. But if we want the vanillas to contribute, we have to find something that won't stop their dear little hearts."


"Well," Bryant said slowly, "Do your members have any businesses or special talents? They could donate goods or services to be auctioned off, or offered in a raffle."


The other guest gave a wicked smile, and Clive shook a finger at him. "Not that kind of services, Levi, and not those kinds of talents. That's a good suggestion, though. Louise could offer a specialty cake or, say, a pastry a week for a year from her bakery. You could provide use of a limo for a night." Clive smiled. "I could offer their choice of a year's appointments with one of my stylists, or one session with me."


Bryant said, "I thought you said none of THOSE kind of goods."


They all laughed. "You're notorious, Clive," Levi told him.


Clive was feeding Trenton, popping morsels in his mouth now and then, holding his drink to his lips. When he got involved and neglected to attend to Trent for longer than the boy wanted, Trent would rest his head on Clive's shoulder. Once when Clive pointedly ignored him Trent sighed, then started nipping Clive's neck. When Clive started to scold him, Trent said innocently, "Well, if you aren't going to feed me I need something to nibble on."


The blond girl tugged on Levi's hand and he bent down so she could whisper in his ear. Levi sat back up, smiling. "Bryant, Linda asked me to ask you if you'd like to give her a spanking."


Bryant was so startled he almost choked on a mouthful of wine. Carefully setting aside his plate and glass he said, "What has she done wrong?"


"Absolutely nothing. In fact, she's been a perfect angel all week, and that's why I'm inclined to indulge her in this. Would you mind? She really does deserve a treat."


Bryant looked at Trenton and Clive. They both gave him encouraging smiles. He looked back at Levi. "I don't have any real experience in this. I can't guarantee how I'll do."


Linda looked up at Levi, who nodded. She looked back at Bryant with a sweet smile. "I'd be honored to help you practise, Master Bryant." She squirmed a little. "And I won't be able to help but enjoy it, as long as your aren't purposefully brutal."


"It doesn't have to be much-just a few swats." He caressed the girl's shoulder. "She warms up quickly. In fact, you'd be doing me a favor. I did a few more reps than I should have at the gym today. My arms are a bit sore, but I'd hate to disappoint her."


The idea intrigued Bryant. Priory accused Bryant of deliberately provoking him in order to get a licking, just as Clive had said Trent did. Bryant had been spanked countless times, but he'd never looked forward to it or enjoyed it in the least. "Well, if she's willing to try, so am I."


"Excellent!" Levi stood up. "Have my seat--you'll have more room." Bryant and Levi changed places. Linda rose gracefully to her feet, then arranged herself across Bryant's knees. "Just start slowly, Bryant, and build up. Don't worry, she'll use the safe word if she needs to."


Bryant studied the girl draped over his lap. After a moment's thought he lifted the hem of her diaphanous garment. For a moment he thought that she was naked underneath it, but then he noticed the strand of materiel around her waist and realized that she was wearing thong panties--red, judging from the color of the strap.


The buttocks that were presented were very white, and very round. Bryant ran his hand over them experimentally, and was surprised to feel the girl shiver. Could just his touch really affect someone that strongly? He flattened his palm, then brought it down on the left cheek in a medium strength slap. The flesh jiggled a bit. Bryant tried another slap, a bit harder, on the right cheek. Linda looked back over her shoulder at him. "I won't break, you know. Not from a simple spanking."


"Oh, well, then." Bryant smacked her sharply, and she made a startled peeping sound.


Levi laughed. "That'll teach you to brag, Linda."


Bryant found that he liked the feel of the smooth skin under his hand. He set up a brisk pace, smacking Linda's ass with steadily increasing forse. She started to squirm and moan, but Bryant could tell that there was pleasure mixed in with the pain. He watched the pink flush rising in the pale globes, felt the heat as her flesh warmed under his blows. His palm was cracking against her butt now, and a faint sheen of sweat, not entirely from his exertions, dewed his forehead.


The woman was moaning and gasping now. She groaned, "Please, mister, I'll be good! Please stop!" Bryant hesitated for a split second. In that fraction of time he felt Clive and Trenton watching him. He continued to spank Linda, and from the corner of his eye he saw Clive nod his approval. She hadn't used her safe word-she didn't really want him to stop. She was playing.


He was astonished to feel a warm wetness on his leg. At first he thought that she'd lost control of her bladder, but then he realized that it wasn't that sort of wetness. Linda was getting hot, and this was the juice of her arousal. He noticed also that the front of Levi's trousers was tented, and his face was flushed.


Bryant regarded the glowing, pinkened skin of Linda's buttocks. It really was beautiful. He bent down and pressed an admiring kiss to one soft curve, and was answered by a soft hum. Bryant hooked a strong arm around her waist and stood up with her, then set her on her feet. He pulled the hem of the nightie down till it barely skimmed along the undercurves of her buttocks, then gave her a little push toward her master.


She turned, back, though, and dropped her head, whispering, "Thank you."


Levi got up and shook Bryant's hand. "Yes, thank you. You've made my girl very happy. The only thing she likes as much as a good petting is a good spanking." He dug his hand into a glass bowl sitting on the side table. Bryant had assumed that it was a dish of candy, but now he saw that it held small, square packages of foil or plastic. He could see that the clear wrapped ones held flat circles in an astonishing array of colors. Now he spotted other bowls scattered about the room. Trenton hadn't been kidding--there had to be enough protection here to suppy the fleet on shore leave. Levi fished out several packages and strolled toward a hall that led off the living room, Linda, with a dreamy expression, trailing behind him, rubbing her rump.


Bryant sat back down in the chair and looked over to where Trent and Clive were smiling at him. "What?"


"Are you sure you've never done this, dear?" Clive asked. Bryant shook his head. "Well, you're a natural. You managed to find that place between abandon and restraint. It's a small space, and not everyone can balance there."


Bryant was glad that he really didn't have the sort of complexion that came with the pale hair Priory made him wear. If he had, he would have been blushing pinker than Linda's ass. He couldn't remember the last time that he'd been praised by anyone for anything.


The evening progressed pleasantly. At one point a young man wearing nothing but matching studded straps around his neck, his waist, and his very erect prick came up beside the chair and silently pushed his head up under Bryant's hand. Bryant petted his head, much as Levi had with Linda, and scratched gently behind his ear, which made his leg jerk and his eyes squeeze with pleasure. Then Bryant swatted him lightly on the butt and he crawled off to begin rooting between the spread legs of the woman who had brought him.


Clive and Bryant talked about school, and Bryant confessed that he really wanted to take dramatic arts, but was studying business instead. "But why?" Clive objected. "From what I can see, you'd be quite good."


The older man had his hand in Trenton's open shirt and was rubbing and pinching the boy's nipples. They were already stiffened into tight buds, and Trenton's expression said he was riding the edge between pleasure and discomfort, and enjoying the journey. When Clive dropped one hand into the boy's lap, squeezing the mound that pushed against his fly, the boy's head fell back, his mouth dropping open slightly.


Trenton rolled his head to idly lick Clive's neck. He caught Bryant's eye and smiled. Bryant felt a rush of blood to his crotch. Trenton studied him for a moment, then lifted his head and whispered in Clive's ear. Clive tilted his head as he listened, then looked at Trenton gravely. "Are you sure, pet?" Trenton nodded. Clive smiled, and Bryant was a little surprised to see a hint of wistfulness as Clive stroked Trenton's cheek. "I knew this day was coming, and I've had a suspicion of your choice for a little while now. If that's what you really want, pet, I highly approve."


Trenton's voice was small. "But with you there?"


"He'll have to agree, dear. If he doesn't, you'll just have to wait. I'm not quite ready to hand you over for unsupervised play. Sit up." Trenton did, turning slightly so that Clive could unlock the handcuffs. He massaged the boy's wrists, making sure the circulation was all right, then he kissed the boy and looked over at Bryant. "Trenton, can I explain a little bit about why this is so special?" Trenton hesitated, and Clive said softly, "I won't if it makes you uncomfortable."


Trenton shook his head slowly. "I'm not giving it another second of my lifee. Go ahead."


"Bryant, I need to explain something to you. Trenton and I have only been together physically for a little over a year." He slipped an arm around Trenton, squeezing him. "We fell in love a long time before that, but I have strong thoughts about age appropriateness, so we waited. There have been only two other men in Trenton's life," his face darkened, "and neither of them were good experiences for my lamb. Both betrayed him, and one forced him through deception."


Bryant winced in sympathy. That sounded too familiar for comfort. Clive noted his reaction, but continued. "Trenton came into this knowing that I'm not physically monogamus. He has no problem with that because he knows that I love him, and no one will ever take his place. Now, perhaps you're wondering why I've rinsed our laundry in front of you."


Bryant said, "A little, but I'm honored that you've trusted me enough to tell me."


"Trust is really what this is all about. Trenton has been curious about being with another Dom for some time, but there's never been anyone he was attracted to that he felt comfortable with-until now. He trusts you, Bryant, and he thinks you're incredibly hot. I have to say I approve of his taste. Bryant, as a favor to us both, would you have sex with Trenton?" Bryant's jaw dropped. Clive laughed. "Oh, please, dear, it can't come as that much of a shock! He's been flirting with you shamelessly." Clive cocked his head. "You aren't going to tell me you aren't interested?"


"Hell, no!" Bryant responded. "I'm not going to lie about that. But..." He sighed, rubbing his forehead, and said slowly, "Clive, I like your and Trenton--really like you both. I've never really been close to anyone, and I'm not sure I want to risk our friendship by putting sex in the equation."


"You're wise beyond your years, Bryant. Sometimes sex does queer the gears, but I don't think that will be a problem in this case." He caressed Trenton's throat. "You even have my permission to fall in love with my lamb... Well," he kissed Trenton, "it's hardly possible not to fall in love with him. As long as you remember," now there was a steel edge in his voice, and the look he turned on Bryant was honestly warning, "that he's mine, and he won't be leaving me." Trenton bit his collar, tugging lightly, and Clive turned a tender look on him. "Oh, all right, pet." He looked back at Bryant. "We belong to each other."


Bryant said, "I should feel hesitant about this. I mean, I've only been with one other man, and only in private. Why don't I feel more hesitant?"


Clive said quietly, "Bryant, when you find the right way, when you find a path you know deep inside is right, your steps speed up."


Bryant looked at Trenton. "Trent, that's really what you want?"


In answer Trenton slid down to his knees and crawled slowly to Bryant, keeping his eyes on the older boy's face. Trenton knelt before him and rested his hands lightly on Bryant's knees. "This is my idea. Clive would forbid me to go with anyone he thought would be bad to me, so we both trust you, Bryant." Trenton slid his hands slowly up the muscular columns of his teammate's thighs. "Yes, I really want this." He urged Bryant's knees apart, leaning in, and pressed a kiss to his fly. "I want you."


Bryant drew in a slow, shaky breath. His voice was husky when he spoke. "How do we do this?"


Clive stood up. "We go find a room. Come along, youngsters." He watched in approval as Bryant snagged several condoms from the hospitality bowl before following him and Trenton.


They walked along a hallway till they came to an open door, and entered the room. Clive shut and locked the door, then looked around the room with satisfaction. "Prescot always has things done up so nicely." The bed was already turned down, and the sheets looked silky. Clive reached down and picked up something from one of the pillows. He tossed it to Bryant. "But he has a sense of humor." It was a mint.


There was a comfortable chair along one wall, and Clive pulled it near the bed and sat down. He crossed his legs and his arms and said, "You two have fun, but just remember, Bryant--radish or swan dive."


For a moment Bryant and Trenton just stood and looked at each other. Finally Trenton smiled and said, "Bryant, I can start things if you want, but I warn you, I'm a lot better at taking directions than giving them."


"I don't think that will be necessary." Bryant reached out and lifted Trenton's loose, open shirt from his shoulders, sliding it down his arms. But instead of sliding it off, when it got to Trenton's elbows he brought both sides together, holding them tight, so that Trenton's arms were held to his sides.


Trenton smiled slowly. "I think you're going to be good at this."


Bryant tugged, pulling Trenton flush against his body. Trenton had no objections. In fact, he leaned against Bryant, lovered his eyes, then peeked up at him through his eyelashes.


Bryant peered around Trenton at Clive. "You're right-he's asking for it."


Bryant twisted the cloth once around his fist, tightening it. With his free hand he reached up and gently pinched one of Trenton's nipples, then rubbed his thumb over the firm point. Trenton gave a small, happy groan. "You know, Trenton, it's like I've been on a starvation diet all my life, then suddenly found myself with a banquet spread out before me. Everything looks so good that I just don't know where to start." Bryant touched a finger to Trenton's forehead, then slowly traced it down his nose and ended up with the tip pressed to his lips. "I think I'll start here." Trenton parted his lips, licked Bryant's finger, then sucked it into his mouth. "Oh, God what a tease."


"Mmm, I think that's the wrong term, dear. Trenton tempts, but since he intends to carry through, I don't think I'd classify it as teasing."


Bryant pulled his finger out, but he cupped Trenton's chin and rested his thumb on the boy's chin, keeping his mouth slightly open. Then he bent his head and licked between his lips. Trenton sighed, and his tongue darted out to meet Bryant's.


Bryant enjoyed the duel for a few moments, then moved his hand to hold the back of Trenton's head. Trenton, an intuitive submissive, read the signal and went still, allowing Bryant to be the aggressor. Bryant pushed into Trenton's mouth. The warm, meaty taste was intoxicating, and he pressed harder, exploring the welcoming mouth.


Trenton could scarcely move his arms, with the restricting shirt, but Bryant felt his fingers delicately fluttering agains his hips, scratching lightly at the denim of his white jeans. A little breathless, Bryant pushed Trenton away and said, "Undress."


While Trenton let the shirt slide off, Bryant peeled his tee-shirt over his head. Clive watched with appreciation. Trenton had seen Bryant naked before, but this was a new treat for Clive.


The boy had the long, lean muscles of a swimmer, and he was just as smooth as Trenton. It was obvious to Clive's trained eye that he didn't have much body hair to remove anyway. Bryant's puckered nipples were dark, another hint that his hair color was not natural.


Trenton quickly stripped, folding his clothes neatly and setting them on the nightstand. When he was naked he took Bryant's shirt and did the same with it while the other boy removed his shoes and socks. When he turned back, Bryant was reaching up behind himself, unwinding the rubber band that held his hair in a tail. The motion made the muscles of his chest and abdomen flex, and Trenton's eyes were caught by the smooth play.


Clive, however, was rivited to the sight of Bryant shaking his hair loose, so that it flew about his head before falling in shinying waves over his shoulders. He said quietly, "Oh. My. God. Darling, you are having an appointment with me some time very, very soon."


Bryant smiled, lifting a heavy hank of hair away from his gray eyes. "Priory said something about that, too. I don't think I'm interested in having what he wants done, though."


"When I do someone, what other people want is not a prime consideration. It's between me and my client."


Bryant reached for his belt, but Trenton laid his hands on his wrists, saying, "Please?" Bryant let his hands drop to his sides. Trenton unbuckled the belt and opened Bryant's fly with slow, sure motions, his eyes never leaving Bryant's face. Then Trenton slowly worked the pants and underwear down Bryant's thighs, sinking to his knees before Bryant as he pooled them around his ankles. Byrant stepped out of them, kicking them away.


Bryant was already half hard, a well formed cock rising slightly from a well-trimmed light brown pubic thatch. Trenton started to reach for it, but Clive said sternly, "Manners, Trenton."


"I'm sorry, sir," Trenton said meekly. He looked up at Bryant. "Please, may I touch?"


"You may not only touch--you may taste."


"Oh, thank you, sir!" he breathed. Trenton put one hand on Bryant's hip and used the other one to cradle his prick. Then he leaned forward and lapped delicately at the flushed cockhead.


Bryant's eyes drifted shut as he shuddered with pleasure. Priory occasionally caressed Bryant with rough, near indifference, but he'd never put his mouth on him. It was sheer heaven. Trenton took the glans into his mouth, sucking it softly, swirling his tongue over the crown. Bryant's head dropped back, and he put his hands in Trenton's head as the boy began to bob up and down, taking a little more of his length with each pass.


When Bryant opened his eyes again, his gaze met Clive's. Clive nodded. "Yes, he's very, very good."


"He is," Bryant said hoarsly. He pushed Trenton back. The boy whined quitely, and Bryant said firmly, "You have to stop, Trent. That isn't how I want to come the first time I'm with you."


Trenton's disappointed expression melted into a warm smile. "How do you want me, sir?"


"Get up on the bed."


While Trenton obeyed, Bryant looked around, scanning the room. Clive lifted his eyebrows questioningly. "I'm looking for something to lubricate him. I don't want to go in dry, and he deserves more than just spit."


"I was hoping you'd say that, so I wouldn't have to. Check the nightstand."


Bryant opened the drawer and removed a small plastic tube. He read the packaging, and pursed his lips, obviously fighting a smile. "What is it, precious?"


"I didn't know you could get this stuff flavored."


"The world is full of wonders, my boy."


Bryant looked at Trenton, who'd stretched out on his belly. "It sure is." He knelt beside the prone boy squirting the clear gel on his fingers. "How do you feel about being cherry-flavored, Trenton?"


"I've been flavored a lot of things, Bri." He looked back over his shoulder, grinning at his lover. "Clive is into food play. Ya know, there's not really much point in having flavored lube if it's not gonna be tasted."


"Was that a hint?" Bryant looked at Clive, amused. "I think that was a hint."


He parted Trenton's buttocks and wiped the gel over the velvety crinkled skin. "We'll see." He hesitated. "Clive..."


Clive's voice was calm. "Just massage around the anus till you can feel him start to relax, then slowly and gradually slip the first finger in. Once it's seated and he's had a moment to adjust, work it in and out."


Bryant rubbed around the little pucker slowly and firmly. Trent hummed happily. Bryant carefully placed the tip of his finger over the little star, preparing to push. Trenton suddenly pushed back, and Bryant made a surprised sound as his finger was enveloped in snug, moist heat. Clive said sharply, "Bryant, you smack his ass for that! He knows better than to hurry-that's how impatient submissives get themselves hurt!" Trenton sheepishly pressed his face to the pillow. When Bryant hesitated, Clive continued, "I mean it! He knows that you're inexperienced with this side of the scene, and he's responsible for not trying to goad you into going too fast."


Bryant didn't remove his finger, but he did give Trenton's ass cheek a slap, hard enough to make a sharp crack. Trenton squeaked and said, "I'm sorry, Bryant. I'm sorry, Clive."


"You just settle down, brat, and let Bryant take his time."


"Yes, sir."


Bryant went back to working his finger in Trenton's body, twisting it. "Trenton, are you ready for another finger?"


"Yes, please." Bryant added more lubricant, pressed the two fingers close together, and slid them home. Trenton made a soft whine, then said, "His hand is bigger than yours, sir."


"Don't tense up, Trent, and you'll both be fine. Bryant, be sure to gradually spread you fingers apart." Bryant did, scissoring them as he pumped. Then he got a very intense look on his face. He shifted, his hand flexing as he curled his fingers. Clive knew what he was trying to do, but refrained from giving him directions. He was keeping a close eye on the proceedings, but it would be best for the fledgling Dom to find his own way.


Trenton suddenly moaned, rubbing his cock against the sheets, and Bryant's expression turned triumphant-he'd found Trenton's prostate. Clive watched with a fond smile as Bryant massaged the little pleasure nub, driving his submissive crazy. Trenton knew he was only allowed to squirm a certain amount, and it wasn't easy to restrain himself with the bursts of hot pleasure rolling through him.


It had taken Priory two weeks and a beating to get Bryant to rim him, and even then Bryant had refused unless he'd seen Priory clean himself. He'd thought then that it was singularly unfair for Priory to expect him to lick his asshole without the inducement of being able to fuck it. But this... His mouth was watering.


He pried Trenton's buttocks apart, pressing his thumbs to either side of the glistening, slightly spread hole. Inserting the tip of the tube, he squeezed lubricant into the passage. Trenton whispered, "Brrrr."


"Shit, I'm sorry, Trenton." He made a mental note to always warm the lubricant, and didn't even pause to marvel that he was assuming there would BE a next time.


Laying aside the tube, Bryant bent and blew a warm breath across Trenton's crack, and the boy twitched. Bryant said jovially, "If you wink at me, Trent, I have to kiss you."


Trenton almost melted when he felt the smooth touch of Bryant's lips against his anus, then the wet swipe of his tongue. He didn't get time to adjust to it-Bryant set up a steady rhythm of firm licks, then pressed the tip of his tongue against the loosened opening and pushed, entering him shallowly. Pleased by the boy's response, Bryant moved his tongue in and out, pressing deeper, wiggling in the narrow channel. Trenton was moaning steadily.


Bryant sensed someone nearby, and looked up to find Clive standing by the bed. For a split second he froze in apprehension, certain that Clive had changed his mind, and was about to thump his ass. But Clive just turned Trenton's head so that the boy looked up at him and said, "Trent, slow down. Get ahold of yourself or you'll come before Bryant even gets inside you, and neither one of you wants that." Trenton nodded mutely.


"I'd better get on with this," Bryant said, "Or I won't last long enough to give Trent a good time. Get up on your hands and knees, sweetheart," he ordered. As Trent obeyed, Bryant tore open a condom and rolled it down over his straining cock. Though he hadn't had cause to use one himself, Priory liked to have Bryant 'bag' him, so he knew how to go about it.


Trenton spread his knees eagerly, making room for Bryant to move up behind him. Bryant gripped the boy's hips, feeling his excitement rise. He had been fucked many times, and finally HE was going to do the fucking. The idea of sheathing himself in Trenton's hot, willing body was almost overwhelming. I have to hang on. Damn it, I am not going to come as soon as I get inside. I've waited too long for this. He paused, gripping the base of his cock tightly. It always worked on the few times he actually tried to make Priory last longer (usually in order to avoid some form of punishment).


Trenton wiggled and whined plaintively, and Clive stroked his back. "Sh, love. Don't be impatient. He's not doing it to torture you--he just wants to be sure it lasts."


When Bryant was sure he could control himself, he slowly pushed forward, and moaned as he sank into what felt like a furnace that was lined with moist silk. Trenton's head dropped and his back arched as he whispered, "So good, so good."


Bryant felt a surge of pride that he could bring such a beautiful young man so much pleasure. He was approaching ecstacy himself, but he was determined to hold back till he could coax Trenton into a climax. Somehow bringing Priory to orgasm had never given Bryant a sense of accomplishment--it had been nothing more than a chore, and an upleasant and tedious one at that. Now he was beginning to see what sex could be.


He moved slowly, stroking in and out of the tight heat, feeling how perfectly Trenton cradled him. Holding on with one hand he reached under, finding Trenton's rigid, swaying prick and beginning to masturbate him, pumping in counterpoint to his lunges into Trenton's ass.


Trenton's breathing was deep and ragged, and Bryant could see a blush spreading from his neck down to the top of his back. He knew that the boy's face would be flushed and damp. Trenton, his voice shaking with each jolt of Bryant's thrusts, said, "Can I move now? Please, sir, can I move?"


Bryant sped up his efforts. "Go on, Trent. Let go."


Trenton gave a soft cry and bucked up against Bryant, then surged forward into his grip. He continued moving, hips whipping back and forth jerkily as he frantically strove toward his orgasm. Instinctively Bryant slid a hand up to Trenton's chest and raked his nails roughly over the hart peaks of his nipples.


Trenton wailed, and Bryant felt the boy's body convulse around his buried prick, milking at it. Bryant bit his lip till it bruised and continued fucking him, never missing a stroke as Trenton shuddered and filled his hand with hot sperm. When Bryant felt the rhytmic squeezing begin to taper off he gripped Trenton tightly, slammed in as deeply as he could, and held himself there as his orgasm burst over him. He filled the condom, feeling the hot liquid ooze back along his encased cock, and he pumped another couple of times, just to enjoy the friction.


Finally it was done, but Bryant stayed where he was for a moment, letting his cock soften enough to eventually slip out, while he rubbed Trenton's back in silent thanks. He backed away from Trent, and the boy collapsed onto his stomach, panting.


Bryant went to the bathroom and disposed of the filled condom, the got a cloth and cleaned himself. Without really considering it, he rinsed the cloth and went out to clean Trenton.


When he came back Clive was sitting on the bed beside Trenton. His pants were open, and Trent had rolled over far enough so that he could comfortably fellate his lover. Bryant stood quietly in the doorway, not wanting to interrupt the couple, but he didn't turn away.


Clive caressed Trenton's hair, whispering to him. The boy pulled off for a moment, hugging him about the waist and pressing his face to Clive's silk shirt before he went back to sucking him. In a few momentss Clive held his head, thrust up into his mouth a couple of times, and came. Trenton swallowed busily.


When he was done, Bryant came over and gently wiped Trenton's ass and crotch while the boy licked Clive clean. Trenton finished and rolled over onto his back. He gave Bryant a contented smile and held out his arms, like a sleepy child begging for a hug.


Bryant joined them on the bed. Soon all three were stretched out, Clive and Bryant snuggling Trenton between them. Clive reached over and patted Bryant's arm. "Thank you for being so good to my dear pet, Bryant. You made his first real time with someone else a positive experience."


Bryant kissed Trenton. After a moment's thought he leaned over the boy and kissed Clive, too. Clive allowed it with an indulgent smile. "Thank you two. This has been..." he searched for the proper word. "affirming, and enlightening."


"So, you've looked at life from both sides now, from top and bottom. What do you think?"


"I think," he said slowly. "I think... that I'm going to have to do a lot of serious thinking about my life from now on."


Chapter 9: Setting Up

Clive and Trent brought Bryant home a little after one, and Bryant got them to drop him off a block from the house. "He's not likely to be home yet, but if he is, I'll tell him I felt sick and took a walk to clear my head."


"Precious," Clive said, "You're going to need to face down that asshole you stay with sooner or later. Sneaking around like this is no way to live."


Bryant was half out of the car and he paused, not looking back. "Hell, I know that. I'm not living--I'm existing."


Trenton laid his hand on Bryant's back, rubbing. "You deserve more than that, Bri. Just remember, if you need anything, even if it's just to talk, Clive and I are here."




Clive pulled away as Bryant started down the sidewalk. Trenton grabbed at his arm saying urgently, "Wait! I want to watch to see he gets home okay."


"So do I, dear, and we're not going to do it. We're going to leave him his pride and his dignity--two things which I have a feeling have been under attack for a long, long time."


Trenton turned, kneeling in the seat to peer out the back window. Bryant was easy to see, even though the street was dark. He was living proof of the safety admonition that wearing white clothes after dark made you more visible. Trenton watched him till they turned a corner, then turned and sat back down, leaning his head against Clive's shoulder. "I'm worried about him."


Clive patted his thigh. "I know, pet. The more I hear about this Priory person, the less I like him. But Bryant is a strong person. He just hasn't discovered it yet."


It was no secret when Priory came home. Bryant heard him even before he got out of the car. His arrival was announced by thumping music ('Glory Days'), and the screech of tires as he swerved around the corner. Luckily he'd slowed down enough to avoid running into the backyard fence when he pulled into the driveway, though the suddenly mushy sound his tires made announced the fact that he'd drifted off onto the lawn again.


There was the slam of a car door, loud enough to wake all the neighbors that the blaring radio hadn't. It took him at least three trys to get his key in the lock, judging from the muffled swearing. Once inside he tripped over the coffee table that was in the same place it had been for the last three years. Then he kicked the offending furniture and swore even harder when he bruised his two. Bryant sighed, pulling a pillow over his head. Same song, second verse. And third verse, and fourth verse, and fifth verse...


Priory hesitated in the hallway outside Bryant's door, and Bryant felt a sour rush of apprehension. He started coughing. He heard the click of beads as Priory stared to part the curtain, and put a phlegmy rasp into it. It hurt his throat, but it had worked before (Priory was an awful hypochondriac), and he was desperate. He knew that he'd throw up if Priory touched him after the beautiful, sensual experience with Trenton and Clive.


Priory didn't move. Bryant made his voice sound clogged and called out, "Pri? Could you bring me some Milk of Magnesia? I don't know what's wrong, but I've had to go to the bathroom six times tonight, and..."


"Check your fucking medicine chest, you baby," Priory slurred. Bryant heard the beads clash together and the heavy stumble of Priory's footsteps move on down the hall. Relieved, he turned over on his belly, pulling his pillow up under his chin in his most comfortable thinking position.


Clive and Trenton had both accepted him as a Dom, or at least as a top. The others at the party had also gone along with that. None of them seemed to have sensed the inborn submissiveness that Priory assured him was a part of his nature.


Bryant got up and went into the bathroom, waited moment, flushed the toilet, and opened and shut the medicine cabinate, just in case Priory was still conscious and listening. All the while he swore mentally at having to resort to this subterfuge.


I wonder what it would be like to come and go as I pleased, without having to account for my movements to anybody. Christ, what with the group and foster homes, then here, I don't think I've ever really known. It must be nice.


He thought about it. He considered being able to just drop by a bookstore on his way home if he felt like it, or talking for five or ten minutes to someone at the convenience store rather than rushing home to be sure he didn't go over his allotted time limit. Then he thought, People do that every day, every day of their lives--and I dream about it. Before he went to bed, he cast a resentful glance toward the hall that led to Priory's room.


"You what?"


"I have to study with him." Bryant stared Priory directly in the face. "My history professor got creative. We're supposed to collaborate with the dramatics class and present historic vignettes. We can't do monologues, so I had to pick a partner. I know Trenton from the swim team, so I picked him."


It was mostly the truth. He didn't mention that Trenton had talked his teacher into the project, and that she had then talked his professor into it. "The scenes have to be presented in two weeks, and we're required to do at least five out-of-class study periods." That was a blatant lie. They were just instructed to have the scene ready in two weeks, and have it at least seven minutes long and containing historic facts from whatever era they'd been assigned. Bryant was confident that Priory wouldn't check up on the details--he hated interacting with the other teachers, especially the ones in 'creative' subjects. Translation: anything but science, math, and athletics.


"That's just so much bullshit," Priory scowled.


"Maybe it is, but it's required. If I don't do it, it could drop my grade below a B, and that would put me on academic probation for the swim team." Priory's complexion was darkening, and Bryant knew that he'd have to present enough restrictions to make it acceptable to Priory. Knowing what the reaction would be he said, "I can have him come to our place to work on it."


"Fuck no!" Priory said. "I'm not having someone hanging around our place, bothering me during my free time."


"We could do it at his place. He lives with his mother."


Priory was quiet for a moment, then said, "His mother, huh?"


"Yes, sir. He complained that she always hung over him whenever he had friends over."


"I guess that would be all right, then," Priory said grudgingly.


Gotcha, Bryant thought. Yeah, Trent lives with his mom, but we won't be studying there--we'll be at his lover's.


"And what about your hair?" Priory tugged on Bryant's ponytail, none too gently. "Your fucking roots must be a half inch long."


"It takes money to get a haircut," Bryant said curtly. As soon as he'd said it he knew that the tone of voice was going to get him in trouble.


Priory scowled. "Shit, you always want money. I'll be glad when you graduate and get a job and start contributing to the finances."


Bryant's mouth dropped open. How many times had he pleaded with Priory to let him get a part time job? He'd always said that they didn't need the money enough to justify Bryant spending so much time away from home. He felt his temper starting to rise, and he couldn't hold back the next comment, though he knew he was going to pay for it. "Well, if you can't afford to give me the money to pay him, I can always offer to give him a blowjob in trade." He jerked, twisting away, and the fist clipped him on the back of the head instead of the jaw.


Bryant ran. The only way he was going to get out of this without a beating was to get in public, fast. Luckily the front door wasn't locked, and he made it out into the front yard a couple of steps in front of Priory. He'd schooled himself not to make too much noises during his whippings, but now he yelled, "Don't do it! Don't do it, Pri!"


Thank God old Mister Bellows was mowing his lawn. He used the old fashioned roatary type manual mower since his lawn was so tiny, and he had no trouble hearing the yell. He stopped immediately, looking toward their yard with eagle eyes.


Everyone in the neighborhood knew that there was something hinky about the relationship between the two men living in the little house. Yeah, the coach was supposed to be just helping out a poor student, but... Bellows had seen more than one abusive relationship in his life, and he knew the signs. Privately he hoped that the young blonde boy would grow some balls and kick the shit out of that asshole, Lowell.


Bryant stopped at the sidewalk, chest heaving. The adrenaline that had flooded his system put a metalic tang in his mouth, and his head was buzzing. Priory had stopped halfway down the walk. His eyes darted between his errant lover and the neighbor who was watching him so closely. His first instinct was to chase Bryant down, grab him by the hair, and drag him back inside for a sound thrashing, but he'd always been so careful to present an inoffensive front to the neighbors.


He called, "Bryant, you get back in the house, right now!"


Bryant shook his head. "Not when you're like this."


"Bryant! I don't want our laundry hung out in the street. Get inside!"


Bryant stared at him. He came a little closer, still careful to stay out of reach, though he knew Priory wouldn't dare grab him in front of a witness. In a low voice he said, "Look, I pissed you off. I'm sorry, okay? I know it was wrong, and I didn't mean it. You know that. You already got in a shot, can you leave it at that?" Priory was silent. "Priory, can you leave it at that? Remember that there's a pair of eyes over there, cataloguing everything."


It was the first time that Bryant had used the threat of letting someone else know about what Priory did to him. Priory's eyes flicked to the avid Mister Bellows, then back to Bryant. He scowled again, turned, and went back inside.


Bryant slumped a bit, feeling suddenly limp. He was pretty sure that he'd be able to go inside without risking a beating now. Still, he hesitated.




Bryant looked over. Mister Bellows had come to the edge of the lawn and was watching him with nervous concern. "Yes, sir?"


"You're Bryant, right? Son, do you need to call anyone? Police, maybe?"


Bryant felt a sudden pricking at his eyes, and was startled to feel them moisten. It was just such a shock to suddenly have someone, especially this gruff, stringy old man, expressing concern. He fought back the tears. "No, sir. I'll be okay. He won't try anything now."


Bellows nodded reluctantly. "I know it's none of my business, but I've heard some things and seen some things. I'm sorta ashamed that I haven't spoke up before, but I'm tellin' you now--next time I hear or see anything, I'm calling the police. Even if you won't."


Bryant nodded. "Thank you." He looked at the house, then back at his neighbor. "You may not have to worry about it much longer."


"I sure hope not."


Bryant went back in. Priory was watching television, and didn't look up as he came in. Bryant was relieved to see that he wasn't drinking. If he stayed sober there was a good chance that this could pass without further violence.


Bryant considered carefully, then sat down on the other end of the couch. A half hour passed without comment. He's giving me the silent treatment, Bryant thought, and he actually believe's it's a punishment. God, he doesn't have a clue.


Finally, not looking over, Priory said, "I should kick your ass for that. If I let it slide this one time, am I gonna have to worry about you getting smart on a regular basis?"


"I have better sense than that."


"I hope so. I shoulda licked it into you by now. There's a twenty on your dresser. Set up the appointment and get your hair fixed. And you can do the study dates, but you call me to check in while you're there."


"No problem." After all, it isn't as if you'll be able to tell where I'm calling from, is it?


Bryant, chin propped in his hand, looked up from the list he was perusing. "Lewis and Clark?"


"Definitely doing it," Clive said calmly.


Trenton cast him an amused look. "What about Sakajawea?"


"She was their guide, precious, and already had a baby, if I remember correctly. Anyway, I have a hard time believing any two men could make a trip like that without at least a little hanky panky going on."


Trenton looked at Bryant. "Clive is firmly convinced that everyone is bi, if given the right circumstances."


Bryant smiled. "Actually what I meant was how about doing Lewis and Clark for our scene?"


"That's okay, but I'd rather do something more recent. How about McCarthy in front of the congressional inquiry?" Trenton made his voice stentorian. "Have you no shame, sir? At long last, have you no shame?"


Clive leaned over and kissed him. "Absolutely none, pet."


Both the younger men laughed. Bryant said, "Works for me, but what makes you think you'll get to be the inquisitor?"


Trenton shrugged goodnaturedly. "I have here a list of 27 high ranking officials in government agencies who are card carrying members of the Communist Party!"


Bryant held out his hand. "If you'll be good enough to show me that paper, sir?"


Trenton pretended to clutch a paper to his chest. "Sir! This paper cannot leave my hands. This information is a sacred trust, a trust bestowed on me by the loyal American patriots who have risked life and limb to provide..."


Bryant pounded his fist on the table. "Evasions, sir! You claim knowledge, but refuse to give anything but innuendo!"


"Shouldn't one of you be writing this down?" Clive asked, getting up to remove the empty potato chip bowl. When Trenton started to stand up, reaching for their glasses, he said, "No, dear, you stay there and work with Bryant. This is supposed to be a study date, after all."


Bryant looked at his watch. "Crap! I have to phone Priory."


"Go ahead, lamb. You know, that's the first white leather wristband I've ever seen."


"I couldn't have a watch till he found it," Bryant grumbled, dialing. "I don't know what his obsession is with having me all in white. There must be a psychological term for it."


Clive came back out of the kitchen. "I think it's a variation on the madonna/whore complex. He treats you like a whore, but likes to think of himself as being in possession of someone who's pristine."


"I told him I'm at Trenton's place, Clive, so I have to ask you to..." he held up a finger in front of his lips, and Clive nodded. "Pri? Yeah. Yeah, I'm here at Trenton's. His mom is really nice. You don't have to worry about leaving supper for me--she fed me." He paused, and rolled his eyes. "No, Pri, I'm not saying that I expected you to cook for me. What?" His expression tightened, his eyes darting to Clive. "She's kind of busy right now... Okay, wait a minute." He covered the receiver and whispered, "He wants to talk to Trent's mom!"


Trenton and Clive exchanged looks. Clive pointed toward the door, then down, and mouthed 'meow'. Trenton's face brightened and he said loudly, "My Mom? Hang on, Bryant, she's out in the kitchen." He hurried out of the apartment, leaving the door open, and Bryant heard him pound down the stairs.


Bryant uncovered the phone. "He'll be right back. What? I don't know. I think she's washing dishes." He got a pained look on his face. "Pri, please don't use that term about his mother! Yes, I know he can't hear, but still..." There were two sets of footsteps coming up the stairs now. Bryant's eyebrows climbed as he saw Trent usher Mrs. Havasnark into the room.


The little old lady (who's hair was an unlikely shade of red-gold) marched up to him confidently and held out her hand. Bryant handed over the phone and she chirped, "Hello, is this Coach Low One? Oh, Lowell." The three men had to fight down laughter. "Yes, yes. Trent told me about you. Oh, no. Bryant hasn't been a bit of trouble! I'm so glad that he came over to help Trent with his school work. It was very nice of you to give permission. Yes." She looked non-plussed. "Well, if you think it would help, I'd be happy to, but maybe he should just take a course in home economics. Good-bye." She handed the phone back to Bryant.


Bryant said, "Satisfied? Oh, about another two hours. What? Yes, I've made the appointment for day after tomorrow. I can get there by bus, and he said he'll give me a ride home. What?" Bryant scowled. "Okay." He hung up. "I'm going to hear about hanging up without saying good-bye."


Mrs. Havasnark said, "Bryant, dear, who was that asshole?"


Bryant choked back laughter. The casual assurance with which the dainty, elderly lady used the term was startling. "He's somebody who thinks he owns me."


"Well, he's a thoroughly unpleasant person. I didn't talk to him two minutes and I could tell."


Curious, Trenton said, "What was the home economics thing about?"


"He suggested that I give Bryant some housekeeping tips. Said he could always use improvement."


Bryant hugged her. "Thanks, Mrs. Havasnark. Sorry you got dragged into this mess."


"Not at all, dear." She patted his back, and gave his butt a quick squeeze before letting him go. "It was a treat for me. I still get an occasional commercial, but I haven't done any real acting in ages."


Bryant's eyebrows flew up, and he pointed at her. "You're the Casbah Cookies lady!"


She smiled. "My best known role." She looked at Trent and Bryant. "The campaign ran for two years. I still get an occasional residual check."


"I used to see your commercials all the time when I was a kid!" Bryant marvelled. "You were always giving out cookies to the neighborhood kids. I used to wish you were my grandmother."


She made a face. "Curse typecasting. I'd rather have you think of me as a sexy older woman."


Clive kissed her cheek. "As we all do, darling. You tell Bettina that the next coloring is on the house."


"You already give me a discount, Clive, but far be it from me to turn down a bargain. Just let me know anytime you need me to cover again."


Trenton offered her his arm. "C'mon, Snarky, and I'll escort you to your door."


"Good. I have some marshmallow fudge I was going to bring up later, and you can take it and save me a trip."


Clive groaned as they exitted. "Ah, well. One more trip to the gym this week. What was the problem with the ride right there at the end?"


"He doesn't want me riding with you. I'm to take the bus to the campus and wait for him to finish his class, then go home with him."


"Ah. Well, I'll just have to see that you look spectacular, won't I? And I'll drive you to school. Public transportation should be avoided unless absolutely unavoidable." Trenton came back in, carrying a plate of fudge, and offered it to Bryant, who shook his head, then Clive. Clive took a piece, sighing. "I become more convinced each day that the woman is in league with the devil." He took a bite. "But I'm willing to hold judgement. She's promised popcorn balls next week. Tell me, Trent, do you think our friend Bryant would feel at home at Lavender's Green?"


"No more than, say, a fish in water. Why? Are we taking him there?"


"Not today. But Bryant has expressed an interest in employment..."


"And Toddy just lost his assistant barkeep to matrimony," Trenton finished, catching the idea. He looked at Bryant. "Wilson went into his wife's family's machine shop."


"He's promised to weld me a specially designed rack when he gets a bit of experience," Clive said, running a finger down Trent's back. Trenton shivered. "If you want the job, Bryant, I'm pretty sure you'll get it. Want me to talk to Toddy?"


Bryant hesitated. There was no way Priory would allow him to take a job, despite what he'd said before about Bryant earning his keep. Priory was too fixated on being Bryant's be all and end all. If he took a job it would mean moving out. As tempting as that idea was, he wasn't sure he was ready for it.


Clive saw his indecision. "Just think about it. Wilson gave two weeks notice, and Toddy won't start seriously hunting for a replacement for a few more days. But you know, Bri, that if we do what we discussed with your hair, it may be very, very dicey at home. I don't think Priory will like it."


Bryant's jaw hardened. "I know he won't like it. And, frankly, that's the main reason why I want to do it."


Clive smiled. "Ah, rebellion." He gave Trenton a mock stern look. "Don't get any ideas, lamb."


Trent kissed him. "Clive, you have to be in a situation you don't like to want to rebel."



Chapter 10: Small Defiance

Notes: About the 'free clinics' comment. In Career Girl Blues, Clive was sold to Dick Greyson at a charity celebrity auction, held to benefit Metropolis's free clinics. He brought about $4000, and gave Dick an education he didn't expect in the cloakroom.


It was a small defiance, but it was defiance nonetheless. Priory blinked stupidly, staring at Bryant's feet. He liked Bryant to take his shoes off when he got home. He made jokes about keeping him barefoot and pregnant--that was about the level of Priory's humor. And when Bryant had come to sit beside him on the couch, he was wearing sneakers, but that wasn't the full extent of the defiance.


He pointed. "What the fuck is that?"


Bryant glanced at his feet. "I think you mean what the fuck are those--plural."


"You gonna correct me, punk? I'd slap your head around backward if I wasn't in such a good mood. Now, again, what the fuck is that?"


"Those are sneakers. Remember? You gave me money to pick up a new pair because those stains weren't coming out of the other ones."


"But those are fucking black sneakers!"


Bryant made a show of looking down, then glanced at him with mock surprise. "Why, so they are!"


"Bryant, they're black! You know I don't want you wearing anything but white."


"Look, Pri," his voice was wearily patient, as if he was explaining something for the hundredth time to a cranky toddler. "This was all they had in my size for the price I could afford. You only gave me twenty dollars, remember?"


"Are you trying to kid me? They have specials at the Shoe Bin all the time."


"They sell crap at the Shoe Bin! The soles would have parted company with the canvas the second time I washed them."


Bryant knew that there was going to be some reaction, but it came so abruptly that he couldn't avoid it. Priory grabbed him, hauling him down across his lap and laid a smack on his butt before he realized what was going on. Bryant squirmed, but Priory tightened his arm and continued to spank him. "Stop it, Pri! I haven't done anything wrong."


His hand fell harder, and more rapidly. "The fuck you haven't! Your attitude stinks, mister, and you're lucky I don't pull my belt and stripe you good!" He was really slamming Bryant now, his palm cracking against the taut, denim clad buttocks.


Bryant was disgusted to feel a nudge at his abdomen--Priory was getting excited, damn him. He thrashed--hard.


It took Priory unawares. Bryant always took his discipline quietly, only moving when the pain became too great for him to stay still. His sudden, violent motion broke the coach's hold, and Bryant rolled off the sofa. His elbow cracked against the edge of the coffee table, and he cried out with the sudden burst of pain. It felt like a red-hot spike had been jabbed into the joint and up along his forearm.


The flare of agony stunned him for a moment, long enough for Priory to grab him. He caught a handful of Bryant's hair and slapped him, then slapped him again. "What is this shit?" he bellowed. "First the shoes, now you try to get away from an ass whipping you deserve!" This time he backhanded Bryant. His hand came away smeared with blood, and he saw that there was a crimson trickle running from Bryant's nose.


He hesitated. This was the first time he'd drawn blood, but the kid was really pushing the envelope, and he deserved more. He drew back his hand, and Bryant said, "My face, Pri! You'll leave marks, and I have to go to school tomorrow."


Priory lowered his hand slowly. He let go of Bryant's hair with a shove, so that he fell back against the coffee table again. He stood over Bryant, pointing a trembling finger at him. "You're getting too big for your britches, young man. I think I'm gonna have to look into that collar I talked about. Maybe if you have leather around your neck it'll remind you of your place in the world."


He stomped off to his room. Bryant curled on the floor between the sofa and the table for a moment, fighting back nausea and tears. The nausea was from the adrenaline rush, and the pain, but the tears were from anger and a sense of helplessness. He cradled his injured arm close to his body and poked at the elbow gently, trying to assess the damage.


Another sharp pain made him hiss. The least movement of the joint was agony. Priory came back into the room, grabbing his keys off the table. "Pri? My arm is hurt."


"That'll teach you to fight." He started toward the door. "They have a prize fight on at the sports bar. I'll be late."


"Pri, I mean it--it's really hurt. I need to see a doctor. I may have broken something."


The older man sneered. "Bullshit! You didn't fall more than a few inches. Don't be more of a pussy than you have to, Bryant. Put a compress on it." He left.


Bryant tried, but he couldn't get the ice out of the trays with his arm injured. He tried rapping the trays on the counter to break the ice loose. It came loose, all right. It came loose and flew all over the floor. He started to pick it up, squatting gingerly for each cube, then stopped. Disgusted with himself and the situation, he kicked a cube across the floor and went into the living room.


It wasn't easy to make the call--he had to lay down the receiver to dial. It rang a couple of times before it was picked up. "You have Clive, you lucky devil."


"It's Bryant, Clive."


His voice was pleased. "Bri, good to hear from you! I've spoken to a few of the other guests at the party last weekend and they asked after you. You made a very good impression, and..."


"Clive, please. I hate to interrupt, but..."


Clive's voice was immediately sober. "What is it, pet? What's wrong?"


"I need to ask a favor. Could you drive me to the emergency room?"


"I'll have an ambulance and the police there in no time flat. Just hang up and..."


"No! No, please, it isn't necessary."


There was silence for a moment. "Is he there? Are you afraid to talk because he's watching you?"


"No, he's gone. He'll be gone for a while. That's the only reason I could call. Please, Clive. You've said you're my friend. Just help me out here, okay?"


"I'll be right there."


"But no police."


Another silence, then a sigh. "All right, dear. I won't be long."


"Thanks, Clive."


In less time than he would have expected, Clive's car pulled up in front of the house. Before Bryant could get the door open, Clive exited the car and was halfway up the walk. The hairdresser stepped inside, sharp eyes quickly assessing Bryant. His expression hardened, and he pulled a handkerchief from his pocket, gently wiping Bryant's upper lip. The ache in his nose intensified, and Bryant said quietly, "Ow."


"I'm sorry, pet, but you don't want to go driving around looking like that. Any traffic cop who pulled alongside would pull us over for an explanation." He showed the blot of blood to Bryant, who looked surprised.


"I didn't think it bled that much."


"Come on." Clive took Bryant's arm, but released him quickly when the boy stiffened and gave a small grunt of pain. "Your arm?"


Bryant nodded. "Maybe it's just a sprain."


Clive looked skeptical, but he opened the car door and helped Bryant into his seat. When he got into the car the younger man was struggling to fasten his seatbelt. Clive pushed his hands away and snapped the belt in place, then started the car.


On the way Clive said, "How did this happen?"


"I fell."


"Oh, God, darling!"


"No, really, I did. I fell and hit my elbow on the coffee table."


"Mhm. And how did you come to fall?" Bryant said nothing. "I thought so. Not that people like him need an excuse, but what was his excuse this time?"


Bryant sighed. "It started out with the sneakers."


Clive glanced down quickly, and a smile ghosted across his lips. "I do believe that is the first speck of any shade of color I've seen on you, pet. I take it he was displeased?"


"Pissed. Maybe he'd have been satisfied with making me throw them away if I hadn't smarted off to him. I was sarcastic, and I more or less called him cheap, so he started to spank me." He frowned. "I don't know what came over me. I've never fought him before, but I just couldn't take it this time."


"Everyone has limits, pet."


"And I reached mine?"


They were pulling into the hospital parking lot. "Oh, no, precious--you haven't reached your limit yet. If you had, Priory would need a trip here, too.


Bryant refused Clive's offer of a place to stay overnight. They were driving back to the house, Bryant's left arm splinted and in a sling. The elbow was sprained, and there was a fracture of the ulna. "I have to get back. He'll have cooled down by now, but if I'm not there when he gets back he could go crazy."


"And beat you even more severely," Clive said grimly. "Or kill you."


Bryant shifted uncomfortably in the seat. "He wouldn't kill me."


"Bri, love, that's hardly a recommendation for the man. Besides, you never can tell. People who lose their tempers like this asshole are unpredictable. Sometimes in domestic abuse cases murders are set off by tiny things."


"You're making me sound like a beaten wife." Bryant winced, slipping lower in the seat. His voice was pained. "I guess I am."


"How young were you when Priory got his hooks in you?"


"I was seventeen when I moved in with him."


"And you hadn't been out in the world much, being in the system. He was looking for a bitch, Bri, and he picked out someone he thought he could control and mold. I think he made a bad mistake."


Bryant laughed harshly. "Yeah? I cook, I clean, I do what he says, I bend over or get on my knees any time he says..." His voice was rising in frustration.


"And you hate it. You're not a natural submissive, Bryant, no matter how Lowell has tried to convince you. Despite his attempts at brainwashing, you know that this life isn't right for you. You've finally been exposed to a real Dom/sub relationship, and you've recognized exactly how bogus what Priory is practicing is. He may have intimidated you when you were younger, but you're starting to see him more clearly now, aren't you?"


"He's a bully," Bryant said. "A bully and a coward."


"All bullies are cowards, dear, deep down inside. Can you see now that you can not only survive without him, but also thrive? Because I'm positive that you can. You could fly, Bryant."


They'd pulled up in front of the house. Priory's car was still gone. Bryant sat for a moment, shaking his head. "It's complicated, Clive. I'm so dependent on him financially."


"I've already told you, son..."


"I know, I know. But I'm not sure that a bartending job would provide all I'd need. If I lost my scholarship it wouldn't be enough to support me and pay for school."


"Why should you lose your scholarship? Certainly you won't be able to swim for awhile with that fracture, but it's not a permanent injury."


Bryant smiled sourly. "You don't think he'd let me stay on the team if I left him, do you?"


Clive sat back, indignant. "I can't imagine he'd be allowed to cut you for that!"


Now Bryant's voice was sad. "He's a winning coach, Clive. Sure, the swim team doesn't bring in the cash like football or basketball, but it's still a prestige sport. He has more pull than you'd imagine."


"Bryant, you need to get out of there."


"I know." His voice was low. "You know, when he took me out of the group home to live with him, I was so excited. I already knew he was a little..." he cut a glance at Clive, who shrugged. "But he made it sound so great--like I'd finally be living my own life, wouldn't have to answer to anyone. Then he took down the door to my room, and one day I came home to find that he'd thrown away all my clothes and replaced them with..." he picked at his white T-shirt, "with this monochrome wardrobe. I got a drop of blood on this. If I can't get it out, I'll have to throw it away." He opened the car door.


"How are you going to explain this to him?"


"I'll tell him that Mister Bellows drove me to the hospital. He won't bother to check up on that, because he hates Mister Bellows. He's been giving Pri dirty looks ever since he chased me out into the yard. And I'll tell him that the hospital is going to mail the bill. I'll find a way to pay you back, Clive."


Since Bryant was without insurance the hospital had wanted cash. Clive had paid, muttering about 'where the hell has all that money that we raised for free clinics gone'? Clive waved away his promise. "Don't worry about that, dear--I trust you. Will you be able to make the appointment tomorrow?"


"I'm not about to pass it up. Priory didn't like the idea of it being in the evening, but my natural hair color offends him so much that he was willing to make an exception."


Clive's smile was a little nasty. "In that case perhaps I can help you toward your freedom without taking direct action."


"How so?"


"When Priory gets a look at what I have planned for you, he may very well die of apoplexy."


Chapter 11: Appointment


Priory didn't like Bryant having gone to the hospital without his permission, but he didn't feel like making a fuss over it. He did berate Bryant about being stupid enough to get himself injured. "You're going to have to miss at least one swim meet, and you're going to have to train twice as hard once you get that thing off so you'll be ready for the next one. Christ! If our ranking falls because you were stupid enough to get yourself hurt..."


Bryant listened while he huddled against the SUV's door on the way to school. His elbow was throbbing again, because Priory had grabbed his arm to examine the splint this morning. It would have to be the left one. That's the one he usually grabs me by. Damn. I'm going to be lucky if he doesn't break it again before it heals up.


"Did you remember to bring the money for your dye job?"


"Yeah, I did."


They'd pulled into the lot behind the gym. "Good. I'm sick of that two-toned look." As he was getting out he said, "Make sure he gets the roots to match the ends."


Bryant dragged his book bag out, considered trying to hook it over his shoulder, and let it dangle instead. "Oh, don't worry about that--they'll match." He allowed himself a small smile as Priory stumped away. You may not care for the matching color, though.


Bryant didn't see Trenton that day, their schedules setting them on different paths. He rode the bus out to Attitudes right after class ended, ignoring Priory's directive to stay in the library till just before the bus arrived.


He'd just stepped off the bus when Trenton came out of Attitudes and hurried toward him. The boy's green eyes were dark and concerned as he approached, studying the sling. As he arrived, Bryant said quietly, "It's all right, Trent."


Trenton's expression was pinched. "No, it isn't. Clive said you wouldn't let him call the police."


Bryant shook his head. "I don't want to talk about this out on the street, Trent."


Trent made a noise of disgust. "What am I thinking of? Come on inside and I'll get you something cool to drink."


Clive was preciding over a streaking job. Bettina's client was engrossed in a fashion magazine, and paying little attention to what her beautician was up to. That wasn't very wise, even with Clive overseeing.


The customer wore a clear plastic cap, one that was perforated with a multitude of tiny holes. Bettina was carefully poking an instrument that looked like a crochet hook through the holes and gently teasing out thin hanks of hair. Clive pointed. "Bettina, love, you're clumping. The idea is to have a balanced streaking, not one solid clump--like a skunk." He twirled his finger. "Scatter, dear, scatter. Perhaps a bit thicker around the face." He looked up, smiling, when Bryant arrived. "Well, you're early, you eager beaver."


"I don't mind waiting, Clive," Bryant assured him. "I enjoy spending time here."


"Of course you do, lamb. The environment is stimulating, and the denzins are charming. Your appointment is scheduled right around closing, and I want to wait till then. Just wait till Bettina finishes the pull-through and we'll go have a chat in my office. She has the actual dyeing process down, but she hasn't perfected her sense of proportion yet. I decided to supervise this personally after I recalled last year's Christmas Tree." He shook his head. "One side red, one side silver."


"I can't help it if the ornaments were stacked that way," Bettina protested.


"We won't say any more about it, Bettina. It certainly provided fodder for conversation for a few weeks."


Bryant sat at an empty station nearby and watched. Trenton came from the back and gave him a soda, then went to stand beside Clive, leaning against him. Clive looped an arm around the taller boy's waist, letting one hand rest casually on his hip. Bryant didn't exactly feel envious--he liked both of the men too much for that. But he did feel wistful. He wondered if he'd ever have a realtionship like theirs. Not as long as I stay with Priory, he thought. Another good reason to leave him.


Finally Bettina had the hair pulled through to Clive's satisfaction. She recited a recipe for the bleaching solution, eyes squinched in concentration. Clive nodded and gave her a kiss on the forehead. "Very good, pet. Just be sure to watch the clock carefully. She wants it lightened, not stripped." Bettina beamed happily. "Come back in my office and we'll have an natter, Bri."


Bryant and Trenton followed Clive back into his office. It was neat, but not fussy, and there was a small sofa instead of the straight backed chairs you usually found in a small office. It made it a bit crowded, but gave it a homey feel.


Bryant sat on the sofa while Clive shut the door. Then Clive went to sit behind the desk, and Trenton came and stood in front of Bryant. He pointed at Bryant's lap with a grin and said, "May I?" Returning the smile, Bryant patted his knee. Trenton settled across his lap, leaning against his torso and looping his arm around the older boy's neck. "Bri, how long are you going to be restricted from swimming?"


Bryant sighed. "The doctor said probably about six weeks. It wasn't a bad break, but you don't want to over do it. He said that I might be able to take the splints off a little earlier, as long as I didn't do anything heavy with it, and wore the sling most of the time I'm up. I asked about the swimming, and water exercise shouldn't be too much of a strain, as long as I don't, like, misjudge a dive and slam my hands on the bottom of the pool."


They talked for awhile as the noise and bustle out in the shop gradually died down. Finally there was a knock on the door, and Clive called, "Come." He lifted an eyebrow at Bryant, "Not that it's that simple. If it was, there'd be no need to set up scenes."


Bettina didn't understand why Trenton and Bryant were laughing, but she was perfectly willing to join in. When the chuckling died down she informed Clive of the day's take and was instructed to lock it in the safe and toddle off home.


When she left, Clive turned back to Bryant. He smiled, but his eyes were serious. "All right, pet. It's time to go over the rules. You are aware that more than haircare goes on in my private station?"


Bryant was rubbing the back of Trenton's neck. "I am aware of that, yes."


"And you have no problem with that? I can give you a perfectly normal, vanilla cut, rinse and style at one of the front stations, if you'd prefer."




Clive's lips quirked. "To the point. Now, then, we come to a very important point. Bryant, I'm convinced that you are very likely a Dom, and are at the very least a switch. I want to ask you to allow me to top you."


Bryant was silent, watching him, his hand still kneading the back of Trent's neck. The boy laid his head on Bryant's shoulder. "You won't regret it, Bryant."


Bryant bit his lip and said slowly, "It isn't that I don't want to be with you, Clive, but... But that's what I have with Priory, and..."


"No, pet!" Clive said firmly. "I've told you, you do not have a Dom/sub relationship with that asshole. He abuses you and uses you. You've never been taken care of by a caring Dom, so you don't know what it can be like. I'm suggesting this because, well, I want to have you, of course. I never said I was altruistic. But I also want to give you this because it can benefit you as a top." At Bryant's skeptical look he said, "No, really. How can you be the best Dom that you can if you don't know how your actions affect your sub? You need to know what the sub is going through. Every Dom needs to spend a little time submitting sometime in their life."


Bryant said, "You don't mean to tell me that you...? No, that I won't believe."


Clive shrugged. "Not for a long, long time, dear, but when I was young. Not much older than Trenton, actually. And I enjoyed it, too, but it wasn't who I am. The experience helped me learn that. It made me sure of who I am. I think it could do the same for you."


Bryant considered. Yes, what I had with Trent was different from what Priory does to me, I'm sure. And the way Clive is with him... I do wonder what it would be like. His voice was soft. "I'm not sure how much I'm ready for, Clive."


"No discipline," Clive said promptly. "No spankies for you this time, Bri. Priory has used that to hurt and control. It can be used as a punishment..." Trenton nodded. "or as a treat." Trenton nodded even more vigorously.


"I got that impression from Linda."


"No, this time there's just be a bit of restraint, I think. And direction. Could you handle that?"


After a long moment Bryant said slowly, "I think so."


"Trenton, lamb, stand up."


Clive's voice was quiet, but firm, and Trenton immediately scrambled up, smiling at Bryant. "Scene's started."


Clive came from behind the desk and stood about a foot in front of Bryant. "Your safe word for tonight will be 'balance'. What is your safe word?"


"Balance." Clive gave him a stern look, and Bryant felt a sudden surge of heat in his crotch. He did something he'd never sincerely done for Priory. "Balance, sir."


"Good boy. Stand up."


Bryant stood. Clive didn't pull back, and they ended up standing toe to toe. There was less than a half a foot between their eyes. Bryant knew immedieately that this was going to be different. Clive's eyes were warm, and calm. There was hunger there, but no greed. Bryant felt himself relax slightly. It was going to be all right.


Clive reached out, his arms going around Bryant, but he didn't embrace him. He simply unwound the thick rubber band that Bryant was using to keep his hair in a tail, and he never broke their gaze. Dropping the band on the desk, he slid his hands up under Bryant's hair, holding the heavy mass for a moment, then letting it trickle through his fingers.


"Your hair is in wonderful shape, considering the harsh treatment it's received. The rinse I'll put in it will be much gentler than the stripping process you've had before, and once it grows out..." He smiled. "It's going to be utterly magnificent, I promise you."


"Clive doesn't lie," Trenton said, "and when it comes to hair, he isn't even vague."


"Hush, lamb, or I'll gag you," Clive said absently.




"Yes, Bryant?"


"First, sir, I find that I don't mind calling you sir at all. With Priory it stuck in my craw." Clive smiled. "Second--may Trenton be present?"


"There's a question I don't have to ask, then. You get your show, lamb. Go into my station, Bryant."


Bryant walked into Clive's room and stopped just inside, looking around curiously. He'd caught glimpses before, but this was the first time he'd been inside. It was fascinating. Trenton and Clive didn't follow immediately, but Bryant stood in one spot, craning his head to look around. Priory might not be a true Dom, but Bryant somehow knew that 'staying in his spot' would be just as important to Clive as it was to his keeper.


Trenton came in a few moments later, carrying one of the chairs from the waiting area. He considered a moment and placed the chair against one wall, then moved it near the styling chair. "Clive will be here in a minute. He's picking and choosing the chemicals. You're going back to your natural color?" Bryant nodded. "And you're getting it cut short?" He nodded again. "Are you going to talk?" Bryant shook his head, tilting it toward the door, and Trenton smiled, nodding in turn. "Right. You weren't given permission to talk."


Bryant opened several drawers and began to lay out a wide assortment of combs, brushes, pics, and scissors. After a moment's thought he added an electric shaver, plugging it in. "I've helped out since I was about fourteen, but I wasn't allowed to touch his instruments till I started training last year." He carefully adjusted the arrangement, lining the objects up carefully.


Clive bustled in, carrying a small box of supplies. He paused and studied the arrangement on the counter, then nodded his approval. Trenton beamed.He unpacked it on the counter and squirted solutions from two bottles into a small bowl, stirring it with a small paddle. "I won't need much of this. If I was going to do your whole mane I'd need a lot more. Now, we'll just let this sit while I get my hands on that lovely hair. Take off your shirt." Trenton and Clive watched silently as Bryant stripped his white T-shirt over his head, enjoying the flex and bunch of his muscle. When Bryant finished, he folded the shirt and laid it on the counter. Clive pointed. "Sit."


Bryant sat in the chair. Clive passed his hand over the instruments laid out on the counter, pausing here and there. He was like someone faced with an elaborate assortment of chocolates, trying to decide where to begin. Finally he settled on a wide toothed comb and went to stand behind Bryant.


He set the comb to his scalp at his hairline, then slowly drew it back through the thick, white wave of hair. It slid though smoothly, without hitting any snags. "Oh, you must use an excellent conditioner! I won't have to comb this to untangle it at all."


"But you will comb it," said Trenton.


"Of course I will. You don't think I'm going to pass up the chance to play with it while it's still attached?"


Clive spent several moments leisurely combing Bryant's hair, then switched over to a soft bristled brush. He brushed till Bryant's hair gleamed like fresh snow. Clive ran a hand caressingly from his crown to the ends, then put away the brush. "Darling, if you were an angora cat, you would most definitely win best of show at the Metropolis Cat Fancier's Annual Purebred Show. I am most definitely keeping this. Trenton, sweet, get Daddy a box."


Trenton went to the large, dark wood cabinet in the corner and opened it. There was a stack of flat boxes, rather like candy boxes, and Trenton took one of them. Bryant didn't turn his head, but he cut his eyes for a look at the cabinet. He caught glimpses of long items dangling from hooks, some of them glinting, and the warmth he'd been feeling since Clive had told him to stand up increased.


Clive had pulled a black plastic cape out of a drawer, and he fastened it snuggly around Bryant's neck. "I'm going to cut your hair first, pet, then wash and color it." He took the box and laid it in Bryant's lap. "Hold that for me, dear. Now, you're going to lose your back support for a bit. Don't fall back." Clive did some adjustments with levers and switches. The back of the chair lowered. "I can also raise the bottom section, so that we have a table."


"Wow." Bryant said quietly.


"Yes, isn't it? I designed it myself."


Bryant's eyes were suddenly rivited to the mirror, particularly to Clive's reflection. He was stripping. Clive had exposed himself at the party, long enough to receive head from Trenton, but this was the first time Bryant could get a good look at his body.


Trenton took, folded, and neatly deposited each garment on the counter. When Clive was gloriously nude he gave a long, catlike, satisfying stretch. Bryant watched the smooth shift of his muscles, feeling himself begin to harden. Clive wasn't particularly big, but everything he had was solid and toned. He noticed Bryant's gaze and did a turn, his expression amused. "Yes, I am vain, but it's justified by the hard work I put into it. Now, then, Trenton. I think this occasion calls for a bit of a special costume, in Bryant's honor. You may choose."


Trenton didn't exactly scamper to the cabinet, but he moved quickly and eagerly. He opened and shut drawers, murmuring to himself. Finally he returned, what looked like a pile of straps and silver cradled in his hands, and offered it to Clive. Clive lifted a handful, then nodded his head. "Good choice, precious. The red would have been a bit too frivolous, and I've never been entirely satisfied with the white. I think I may get rid of it at the next charity auction."


He stepped back and Trenton began to arrange the straps on his body. Bryant saw that it was actually a harness, made of soft, thin black leather, with chrome buckles and rings. He couldn't get a really good look at it without turning his head, but he noticed that it it had big Xs across the front and back of the torso, the straps joined with rings about the size of a coaster. A wide strap went around the waist, buckling at the side, and more circled the hips and dipped between the legs in an arcane pattern, crossing in a manner that framed his pubic area.


Trenton had knelt to buckle the last straps around Clive's thighs. He finished by stroking the firmly muscled columns, leaning forward, and giving the tip of Clive's awakening penis a soft lick. Clive took his arms, lifting him to his feet, and pushed him toward his chair with a slap on the rump. "No, no, lambie. This is all for Bryant tonight. You have to wait till we get home."


Trenton tried to pout, but his smile kept overwhelming it. "May I jerk off, sir?"


"Oh, if you must. Just remember, you'll be the one cleaning the floor. Bryant, look at me." He did. "No, pet. Look at all of me. That's right. Has that waste of oxygen you live with ever done any actual bondage with you?"


Bryant shook his head, his eyes flicking from one detail of Clive's body to another. "No, sir. Well, not lately. I drove the SUV once. I was staying home sick, and I really needed some cough syrup, and he didn't feel like getting up. He tied me to the bed for a couple of days for that." Bryant felt his face flush. "I didn't like it."


"I don't blame you! I'd say this bastard belongs in an asylum, but I don't think he's crazy, I think he's just a mean asshole. Again, that wasn't bondage, love, it was abuse, and imprisonment, I might add, and very, very illegal. Bondage is the use of restraints to give the submissive a greater sense of vulnerability, to let them completely turn over all control. They abdicate all decisions. It can be very liberating, if I may be allowed the contradiction of terms. I want to restrain you. Normally I don't give my submissives a choice in the matter, but in your case... Since you've had nothing but negative experiences with it, you may wait, if you wish. But think about it for a moment."


Bryant thought. He recalled his rage and helplessness as he'd lain bound to the bedframe, wondering if Priory would release him in time for him to avoid the humiliation of soiling himself. Then he took in Clive's steady gaze, nothing like the nasty, gloating expression Priory had worn. "What would you use?"


"Touch the harness, pet." Bryant did, running a finger over the straps. They were incredibly soft, almost silky. "Would something like this suit you?" Bryant nodded slowly. "Trenton, top left drawer. Two of the supple, plain black straps."


"No buckles?"


"I know you aren't questioning me, precious."


"No, sir!"


While Trenton got the requested item, Clive said, "Take your arm out of the sling, then lay your wrists against the chair arms. No, dear, back to the arms. Yes, like that." Clive passed a strap around the chair arm and Bryant's wrist, then quickly tied a simple, but efficient knot. "Try that, dear." Bryant tugged lightly. "No, try it. Bondage can be an intense experience the first time around, and I want you firmly fixed." Bryant tugged strongly, the muscles in his forearm bunching. The strap held firm, but Bryant didn't feel pinched or cut. "How's the sore arm? Any pain?" Bryant shook his head. "Very good." Clive repeated the process on the other side.


"Now." Clive knelt on the table behind Bryant and held out his hand to Trenton, like a surgeon awaiting his instruments. "A comb, and the heavy shears, precious." Trenton laid a pair of bright, sharp scissors and a dark comb in his palm. Clive hooked his fingers in the handles and snapped them a couple of times. "Are you sure about this, Bri? I could give you something a bit less extreme, if your really want."


Bryant's eyes met Clive's in the mirror. "Do it, sir."


"My brave boy." Clive used the comb to separate a section of hair, smoothing it and bunching it. Then he slid the blades around it and closed them slowly. There was a soft sound, almost like fine silk ripping, as the strands separated and the hair came away in Clive's hand. He paused, rubbing the mass of bright hair against his cheek, and sniffed it happily, sighing. Trenton was standing beside him, and he playfully drew the strands over Trenton's face. "I'm half tempted to get you to grow your hair for a year or two so I can do this for you, love, but I'd miss your trims."


Clive leaned around Bryant, holding his shoulder for balance, and laid the hair carefully in the box. "Why are you saving it, sir?"


Clive chuckled. "You know, Bryant, hair has been used down through the centuries in crafts. The Victorians used to make jewelry from the locks of their loved ones--brooches and bracelets mostly." He squeezed Bryant's shoulder. "I generally use what I collect for more practical purposes. It can be braided into lovely rope. Remind me to show you my Scribe cord sometimes."


He continued cutting, and Bryant felt the weight gradually lessen as the box filled with hair. He was feeling a firm nudge against his back. Clive laid the last hank in the box, and Trenton closed, then removed it. While he was replacing it in the cabinet, Clive climbed down and went around to the front. He took Bryant's chin in his hand, turning his head and examining him critically. "Oh, that's a great improvement already."


He stroked a thumb over Bryant's cheekbone. "The long hair softened your features. This way the planes are thrown into sharp relief. You're quite dramatic looking, my dear. The heavy work is done, and we're ready for the artistry. But first..." He reached under the poncho, his hand settleing on Bryant's distended fly. "Ah, yes. We're coming along nicely."


He slowly pulled down the zipper, never taking his eyes from Bryant's. Bryant closed his eyes as Clive's hand slipped inside his fly, fingers working to find the slit in his underwear. "No, don't close your eyes, Bryant," he ordered. "Watch me. Remain in the here and now."


It wasn't easy. He was used to closing his eyes during sex--he never felt compelled to look at Priory while he was sweating over him. But this was different--he found that he enjoyed watching Clive, watching him. Clive gave him a few slow, squeezing strokes, then pulled away. Bryant bit back a frustrated moan, and Clive smiled. "Don't be impatient," he whispered.


Clive finished the styling, using a short, slender bladed pair of scissors. "The dye job will be quite easy, pet. Your roots have grown out enough so that there won't be but an inch or so to finish, and it won't take long for the color to set."


He pulled on a pair of latex gloves, took a small, stiff bristled brush, and began to worke the liquid into his hair. When he had the hair saturated he pulled a plastic cap over Bryant's hair. "Now, we just let that sit for awhile. It won't take long. Your natural color isn't all that dark to start with, a shade or two brighter than my own. Trenton, dear, I'm going to need a cock ring." He stroked his erection slowly. "I want to be sure that I last long enough to make this special for our friend."


Trenton went to the cabinet again, returned, and knelt before his lover. He stroked Clive's hard-on a few more times, then snapped the strap tightly around it's base. "Now," he pointed at Bryant. "Do you see that pretty man there, precious? He has something very, very nice in his lap. Go find it."


Trenton crawled over and poked his head up under the poncho. "Oh, man," Bryant said quietly, as he was enveloped by warm, wet heat.


"Slowly, lamb," Clive cautioned. A clear bead of pre-ejaculate had appeared at the slit in his cockhead, and Clive rubbed it over the flushed head. "I don't want him to come till I'm inside him." Bryant shuddered, and Clive noticed the reaction. "Oh, yes, precious," he said softly, "I'm going to fuck you. I can't resist. I'm guessing that it hasn't always been a pleasant experience for you?"


"No, sir. Not at all."


"Another reason why Lowell should be horsewhipped. And believe me, horsewhipping is not recreational. You've seen how much Trenton enjoys it, Bri, so you know it can be good."


"I know it can be good for him, sir. And I'm not doubting your skill as a lover..."


"Very wise."


"I just don't think it works for me." He was flushing, and not just from the pleasure caused by the soft, wet suction caressing his cock.


"Darling, you haven't been associating with the right people. It can be fantastic. I seldom take it up the ass myself, but I do have a few toys I'm particularly fond of." He petted the lump moving up and down in Bryant's lap. "I've trained Trenton to use them on me, and it's a wonderful spice to our routine. Trenton, that's enough. I need to check his color now."


Trenton backed out from under the poncho. He was breathing heavily, and his face was flushed pink. His mouth was moist and soft, and he gave Bryant a dreamy smile. "You taste good."


Clive turned the chair and helped Bryant lie down so that his head was over the sink set in the counter. He removed the cap and rinsed a small section of hair. "Oh, that's lovely!" He held a hand mirror so Bryant could check. "A nice, bright Autumn Wheat. Your eyes will go beautifully with this, precious. That grey looked washed out with the white hair."


He shampooed Bryant's hair, rinsed, and conditioned it. When he rinsed out the conditioner he spent a few moments strongly massaging his scalp. Bryant felt his nipples hardening. He never would have imagined that could be an errogenous zone.


Clive sat Bryant back up, and Trenton tousled Bryant's hair till it was slightly damp. Clive examined Bryant closely, then smiled and touched his fingertip to the boy's forehead. "You have a lovely widow's peak, dear. I'll work with that." When he was done, Bryant's shining hair swept down on either side from the center peak, falling in two thick commas on his forehead, accentuating his clear grey eyes. Clive used the clippers to neaten his neckline and edges, then clicked it off with a flourish. "Done. What do you think, boys?"


Trenton threw his arms around Clive's neck and kissed him, then did the same to Bryant. "You've always been gorgeous, Bryant, but now you look like you."


Bryant stared at his reflection. He said slowly, "You're right, Trenton. I've looked how Priory wanted so long that I should be thinking 'that's not me'. But it is. I look... I don't know."


"Stronger," Trenton supplied.


"Trenton," Clive removed the poncho, carefully shaking the fluffs of hair to the side. "would you please take care of those pesky pants?"


Trenton finished opening Bryant's pants. Bryant braced his weight on the chair arms and lifted his butt so that Trenton could remove his pants and underwear. The leather was warm when he lowered his naked skin to it, and he shivered at the feel.


"Help him lie back, dear," Clive said, moving to stand before Bryant. Trenton helped Bryant ease back till he was lying on the half-opened chair, his legs now dangling. Clive had reached into a drawer and removed a tube and a small foil packet, setting the latter on the counter. He moved up close to the chair. "Help me arrange him."


Trenton helped lift Bryant's legs, spreading them, and positioned a foot over each of Clive's shoulders. Clive pulled and moved foreward till Bryant's knees were hooked over his shoulders, leaving his back slightly curved, and his ass comfortably presented.


Clive stroked Bryant's leg, speaking to him soothingly. "You're tensed, dear. You need to relax. This doesn't have to be painful. I'm going to prove that to you." He squeezed a thick smear of clear gel onto his fingers, handing the tube to Trenton. He rubbed his fingers together. "I'm warming this. Cold lube can be quite a shock."


Bryant shivered when he felt the first touch, but it wasn't from cold. The slick touch on the sensitive skin was undeniably erotic, but still he tensed. This was always where Priory rammed a finger into him, pumped a few times, then mounted him.


Clive massaged the ointment into the skin slowly. He massaged around Bryant's asshole, relishing the springiness of the taut muscular ring. He doesn't seem to have been damaged, thank heavens. A thoughtless sex partner like Priory could have done a lot of damage, even if he wasn't deliberately trying to inflict pain, and I'm not at all sure that he wasn't.


He worked patiently till he felt Bryant begin to relax. When the muscles had softend he squirted some more lube on his finger, then slowly sank his finger deep into the snug sheath of Bryant's body.


Bryant's eyes widened, and he whispered wonderingly, "It doesn't hurt at all."


"I told you, precious." Clive worked the finger carefully, twisting it for maximum friction. "Passive can be just as delicious as active. Are you ready for a second?" Bryant nodded, and Clive carefully inserted the second finger, keeping them close. Bryant groaned quietly, and Clive paused. "Do you need to use your safeword?"


"No," Bryant's voice was a little breathy. "Please."


"Yes, dear." Clive began to scissor his fingers apart, spreading them gradually. "We'll have you nice and open in no time. Tell me, has that selfish prick Lowell ever given you a prostate massage?"


Bryant snorted. "He's accidentally hit it a few times when he was fucking me. He tries not to, 'cause he says it makes me squirm too much."


Clive's head jerked up, eyes flashing, and he hissed, "I'm surprised the man has ever managed to have any sex other than by rape or paying for it! We're just going to remedy that oversite, my lad. You just hold on... and I mean that literally."


Clive pushed deep, and Bryant took a breath. He'd never enjoyed having Priory shove into him, but somehow... There was an abrupt, intense burst of pleasure deep inside him. He cried out in surprise, his body jerking. Trenton laughed happily. "Clive is the best at treasure hunting!"


"Hush, precious. Daddy's busy." Clive located the little bump again and rubbed it firmly. Bryant yelped. His hips jerked frantically, and Clive quickly held them down with his free hand. "Trent, grab his dick!" Trenton quickly wrapped his hand around the base of his friend's cock, squeezing firmly. "Hold on, Bryant! Don't you dare come yet."


He paused in his manipulations. With Trenton's tight grip, Bryant managed to force back the orgasm, but he felt like he was going to explode. "Please, sir!" he gasped.


"Please what, Bri?" He rubbed again. Bryant almost sobbed with pleasure and frustration. "Tell me what you want."


"I want you to fuck me. Please, Clive."


Clive pulled his hand free and reached behind him for the condom. As he opened it and rolled it on his cock he said, "Trenton, be careful. He's going to be jouncing, but I want you to keep your grip till I say so."


He slathered a thick coating of gel over his cock, then nudged his latex sheathed glans up to the slightly spread, glistening hole. Slowly he pushed in two inches, then pulled back out till he was barely touching Bryant. Then he did it again. And again. On the fourth insertion Bryant make a sound of frustration and tried to push back, wanting to impale himself, but between Clive and Trenton he was held firmly.


"Do you want it, Bryant? Do you really, really want it?" This time he sank in half-way before stopping.


"Yes!" Bryant cried. "Please, Clive!"


They both sighed as Clive finally entered him fully. Then Clive just stood there. He was well endowed, and he wanted to give Bryant a moment to adjust. It was important to him that the boy experience no pain during this act. It could color his attitude toward sex for years to come.


Finally Clive started to move, pumping in and out with long, slow strokes. "You're so good, Bri," Clive whispered. "So tight, so hot. God, darling, you're such a beautiful, strong man, and you're so generous to give me this."


The words stroked over Bryant, intensifying his pleasure. The emotional caresses were as stimulating as the physical ones. Priory seldom said anything to him other than that he was 'a decent fuck'.


When Clive saw that Bryant was enjoying it, he increased his pace and the strength of his thrusts. "Trenton, love, help him now." Trenton quickly squirted some of the lube into his palm and began to masturbate Bryant. The double pleasure overwhelmed Bryant. He tried to buck, not sure whether he wanted to impale himself more deeply or push farther into the smooth, firm grip.


Bryant cried out as he climaxed, his seed spilling hotly on his bare belly. Trenton continued to stroke him, and bent down to give Bryant a gentle kiss, an almost brotherly kiss. He knew what Clive could do for his lovers, and he was happy that his friend was finally enjoying it.


Clive had pressed forward till Bryant was almost bent double. He felt Bryant's already tight body clamp down on him, his internal muscles milking at him as his orgasm washed over him. He grunted and filled the condom. Clive went still, letting the last tremors pass out of his body. Finally he kissed Bryant's calf, then pulled out and carefully lowered the boy's legs.


Clive rubbed Bryant's legs, making sure that there would be no cramps. "That was absolutely delicious, angel." He raised the chair back up into the proper position. "Trent, lover, get the floors clean while I take care of our guest." While Trenton carefully swept the floor, Clive wet a towel in the sink and wiped Bryant clean. He removed the condom and tossed it in the wastebasket, then wiped himself as Trenton was dumping the clippings.


Finally he untied Bryant's hands, rubbing his wrists. "How's the circulation? Any numbness?" Bryant caught the back of his head and pulled him in for a deep kiss. "You're welcome, pet."


"That was... I'd have to get a thesaurus for the right words. But..."


Clive smiled. "But it isn't what you really want out of life, at least not on a regular basis. I understand. Not everyone is meant to be a submissive. Hell, darling, as much as I hate to admit it, not everyone is suited for the B and D lifestyle." He sighed. "There have to be SOME vanilla people in the world, I suppose. But you see what I meant about what Lowell does not being true Domination, with a capital D."


"Yes. He's fooling himself." Bryant's voice was grim. "And he's been fooling me, a long time."


He stood up and began to dress. Clive eyed Trenton, and said, "I think I'll just put my clothes on over the harness." Trenton beamed. "Yes, you just think about that, precious, all the way home."


As he was zipping his fly Bryant said, "Clive?"




"Clive... Priory is really going to be pissed."


"Yes, I think he will."


"I mean 'whip my ass' pissed. Possibly 'put me in the hospital' pissed."


Clive's expression hardened. "I respect your choices, Bryant, but I won't allow that."


"I was wondering, could I stay at your place tonight?"


Clive sighed in relief. "Bri, darling, I was so hoping you'd ask. Of course you can. You can stay as long as you like."


"Can I use your phone? It isn't that he'd worry about me, but he's likely to call the cops if I'm gone all night, and I don't need them looking for me."


"It's at the front counter." Trenton started out after him, but Clive caught his arm. "No, dear. Pride and privacy, remember?"


Clive finished dressing, while Trenton stood near the door, straining his ears. He heard the quiet murmur of Bryant's voice. Then there was another faint buzz of noise. Trenton blinked. Son of a bitch! I can hear the jerk all the way back here! I hope Bri has the receiver away from his ear, or he might end up deaf.


Bryant had hung up, and was staring at the phone when they went up. He didn't look up from it, but said softly, "He called me a whore. He called me a cunt. He told me he was going to break both my legs so I couldn't run after cock. He said he was going to beat me till only a blind man could stay around me without wanting to puke. He said he could find someone who'd neuter me like a tomcat."


Trenton wanted to go put his arm around his friend, to comfort him, but Clive held him back. "And what did you say to him, precious?" he said quietly.


Bryant lifted dry, burning eyes to him. "I told him to fuck himself."



Chapter 12: Scene


Bryant sighed. "It might be a good idea for us to go on now. Lowell might do something stupid. He doesn't know where you live, Clive, but he could easily find out where Attitudes is located."


Clive's eyes narrowed. "As much as I'd love having the prick try to start something with me, I'd just as soon Trenton wasn't exposed to such idiocy. Let's go."


At Clive's place, Mrs. Havasnark opened the door as they came in. "Hello, dahrlinks! Who's your new friend?"


Bryant smiled at her. "Hello, Mrs. Havasnark."


The old lady blinked. There was a pair of cat-eye framed glasses hanging on a chain around her neck, and she perched them on her nose, then peered at Bryant, noting his splinted arm. "Oy! It's the boy with the ponytail. You've changed, dahrlink."


He nodded, amused. "Like it?"


"Love it! I'm thinking that now you look like God intended you to. Give an old lady a kiss."


Grinning, he dropped a kiss on her proferred cheek. "Have you always been this big a flirt, Mrs. Havasnark?"


"Dahrlink, ten years ago I would have dragged you into my place." She shook a finger at him. "You wouldn't have escaped." She looked at Clive. "Clive, bubbie, have you and the toothsome twosome eaten yet?"


"As a matter of fact, we haven't, precious. I know that I have an appetite, and hungry is the natural state of the young male animal. What have you in mind?"


"I have in mind a nice, big bowl of my goulash. You know I always make extra. So? You'd be doing me a favor, helping me clear my freezer."


"We accept, oh Lady Bountiful."


Trent and Bryant spent the next minute or two herding curious cats back into the apartment while Mrs. Havasnark was getting their meal. Clive remained aloof, arms crossed and ignoring the cats, except that Bryant noticed that when one little black cat rubbed its cheek on Clive's boot, the Dom moved his toe back and forth, gently stroking the appreciative animal.


Mrs. Havasnark returned, carrying a box that contained a large covered dish, a foil bundle, and a small, cloth draped basket. "Here. I have some corn muffins and some brownies, too." As Trenton accepted the box, Mrs. Havasnark pinched his cheek. "I know this one needs his chocolate fix."


They said goodnight, and she went back into her apartment. As they climbed the stairs, Trenton said, "I'd say she's like the grandmother I never had, but she'd be outraged that anyone would consider her grandmotherly."


In the apartment, Clive took the supplies. "I'll get this warmed up. Trent, you call Lynette right now, so she doesn't worry about you."


Trenton nodded, reaching for the phone, but said, "I'll be glad when I move out, so I don't have to worry about checking in all the time."


Clive poked his head back out of the kitchen and glared. "You never outgrow giving peace of mind to the ones who love you, little boy." Trenton saluted. Clive snorted and went back in the kitchen.


Bryant sat on the couch as Trenton talked to his mother. "Hey, Mom. Yeah. I'm at Clive's. It's okay if I stay over? Yeah, thanks." He paused, listening. "Goulash and brownies. Yeah, I don't know how she does it, either. Hm? Oh," he glanced at Bryant, smiling. "It turned out terrific We should have done a before and after picture. If for some ungodly reason Clive ever needed to advertise, it would have been perfect. Yeah? I'll tell him. Love you, too, Mom." He hung up and called toward the kitchen, "Mom sends her love, like she didn't see you this afternoon."


Clive came out of the kitchen, wiping his hands. "She gives the lie to all mother-in-law jokes. It will all be heated in a few minutes." He came and sat on the sofa by Bryant. "You know, pet, I was very proud of you back at Attitudes. Sometimes it isn't easy to stand up to someone who's had so much control of your life, even over the phone."


Bryant scowled. "I'll admit that made it easier."


"It's perfectly natural to begin asserting yourself by stages. It's how every child gains independence." Bryant's eyebrows lifted. "And before you get your back up--no, I'm not being condescending. Truthfully, Bryant, you've spent most of your life in an environment that does not encourage self-determination. I think that's one reason why children raised most of their life in the system seem to have such a dismal record outside it--they haven't been taught to be their own person, or take responsibility for their own life. Then they're just dumped, all safety nets cut. It isn't surprising that so many get into trouble, and often end up back in another, stricter section of the system."


There was the ding of a timer in the kitchen, and they all pitched in to distribute the food. Mrs. Havasnark was an excellent cook, and there weren't more than a couple of ounces of food left by the time they were done. Clive said, "Trent, darling, why don't you go and grab a shower while Bryant and I clear up?" Trenton gave him a slightly suspicious look. "That wasn't really a suggestion, pet."


Trenton grinned at Bryant. "My master's voice." He went back to the bedroom as the other men began to clear up the few dishes.


As soon as he left the room, Clive got up. "Come on, hurry. We don't want him to get finished before we're through."


Bryant began to help him, grinning, "What sort of scheme are you cooking up, Clive?"


The other Dom's smile was sly. "Ambush. You like play acting, don't you, Bryant?" Bryant hurried.


Trenton loved Clive's bathroom--all that black marble. And the shower was great--big enough for more than one person (they'd proved that, many times), with multiple showerheads that could be set for anything from fine mist to pound-you-into-submission pulsation. Trenton scrubbed quickly and efficiently, then just stood, luxuriating in the steamy water as it rinsed him clean.


The sound of the water covered the sound of the bathroom door opening, and the footsteps that approached the shower. The shower door jerking open took him by complete surprise. He was momentarily blinded by the water and steam. As he wiped the moisture out of his eyes, the taps were shut off. By the time his eyes were clear, Clive was withdrawing his hand from the stall.


Trenton blinked silently at his Dom. Clive was filling the open space, and he had changed clothes--at least shirts. Now he was wearing a familiar denim work shirt, one that had an eight-digit number stenciled on the breast and, he knew, though he couldn't see it, across the back. Trenton's eyes flicked past Clive, and he saw Bryant standing behind Clive, dressed in a similar shirt. Then he noticed the sharp, predatory expressions they were wearing, and his heart started thumping. A scene. We're gonna have a scene!


Clive let his eyes slide slowly down the length of Trenton's body. Trenton, immediately getting a feel for the scene, quickly shielded his genitals. That made Clive smile. He drawled, "Well, well, well. Look what we have here." He turned his head to speak to Bryant. "You weren't shitting me, Bri. He is sweet."


Trenton just gaped, feeling the beginning of a heat that had nothing to do with the shower. Omigawd, the new prisoner scenario. He knows how hot this one makes me, but now I've got two veteran cons. God, I love my man! Trenton found his voice. "I'm done, guys. You can have the shower."


Bryant laughed. He leaned on Clive's shoulder, giving Trenton a nasty, merry smile. "Oh, it ain't the shower we want, Cupcake."


Clive crooked a finger at Trenton. "Come here, pretty boy."


Trenton swallowed. "Look, I don't want any trouble."


"And you won't get any trouble, if you just come out of there and be nice." Clive waited. Trenton shook his head. "Oh, he's going to be difficult." He looked back at Bryant. "He's going to play hard to get."


"That's okay," Bryant said cheerfully. "I like it when they squirm."


It's a good thing Clive sprung for the soundproofing, though I guess Mrs. Havasnark would know enough not to get alarmed by anything she heard from up here. He yelled, "Guard! Help!"


Clive was shaking his head. "You'd be surprised at what fifty bucks can buy in prison, sweet thing. In this case it bought us a half hour with you--no interruptions. But it's just a half-hour, so tick tock." His expression grew menacing. "Get your ass out here--now." He waited a beat. "Fine, however you want it."


He lunged, grabbed Trenton's arms, and jerked. Trenton tried to brace his feet. The shower floor was non-skid, so his feet didn't slide. They didn't slide, but Clive's tug jerked him off balance, and he stumbled into the Dom. Clive immediately wrapped his arms around the taller boy and dragged him out of the shower, into the bathroom.


Trenton squirmed, but despite his slipperiness Clive didn't lose his grip. He turned and pushed Trenton backward toward Bryant. Bryant caught Trent. One arm went around his waist, and he looped the other, the one with the splint around Trenton's neck. He pressed the stiff splint against the boy's throat, hard enough to make him gasp before he eased up a little. He whispered in Trenton's ear, "I could just choke you unconscious, but like I said--I like it when you squirm. Besides, there's always the chance I could misjudge and kill you, and it would be a fucking shame to waste such a choice piece of tail."


He dragged Trenton backward into the bedroom. Trenton struggled. He was really trying to get away--it wouldn't be any good if it weren't as realistic as possible. He'd even get out of the bedroom, hell, out of the apartment, if he could, buck-naked. That's what a new fish being assaulted by two other convicts would do--try to get to help. Anyway, he knew that he didn't have a snowball's chance in hell of actually making it out of the apartment with Clive there--he'd tried before.


He fought as much as he could without using the defense techniques Clive had taught him after he'd come back from that disastrous junior year trip to Paris. He almost managed to tear himself out of Bryant's grasp, but Clive grabbed his kicking legs and the two Doms lifted him and tossed him on the bed.


Before he could wriggle away, Clive landed on his back, shoving his head down into the smooth sheets. Still Trenton thrashed, and Clive growled, "Bri, get up here and help me hold this little bitch!"


Trenton was flipped onto his back. As he tried to sit up, Bryant moved up on the bed behind him and slid his arms under Trenton's then locked his hands behind the other boy's neck, immobilizing him with a full Nelson hold. "Got 'im! Have fun, boss."


Trenton kicked at Clive desperately as the older man climbed back on the bed. Clive caught the flailing feet and growled, "Look, kid, for every bruise you lay on me, I'll give you a dozen. It would hurt my feelings if I had to mess up that pretty face of yours. Sometimes broken noses don't heal straight, you know?" Trenton stilled. "Good." Clive dropped Trenton's legs on either side of himself. He pulled a small tube of hand cream out of his pocket, opened it, and smeared it on his fingers. "Bend your knees." When Trent just stared at him, Clive slapped him. Not too terribly hard, but it was enough to rock his head to the side. "I said bend 'em and spread 'em!"


Trembling, Trenton obeyed. "Good boy. You just keep on doing as you're told and you'll come through this just fine." He reached down and rubbed over Trenton's exposed anus, smearing the thick, slick ointment over the crinkled skin. "Since you're such a tender little package, I'm going to be using lube and a condom. Aren't you special? Say 'thank you, sir'."


Trenton turned his face away. Bryant tightened his grip, causing Trenton to wince. "You heard your daddy, punk. Say it!"


"Thank you, sir," Trenton whispered in a strained voice. His cock was throbbing into erection without a single touch.


Clive was rubbing firmly, massaging the taut little circle of muscle. "What a good boy. Try to relax, little bitch, and it won't hurt." He sank a finger deep into Trenton's rectum, moving more strongly and quickly than he usually did, and Trenton groaned. Clive laughed, pumping. "Listen to that, Bri--he likes it. Oh, he's a hot one, all right. Does that feel good, pretty green eyes?"


"No!" Trenton gasped.


Clive grabbed Trenton's rigid cock with his free hand, stroking him firmly. "Liar. You like it, all right. Yeah, it feels good." He let go and opened his own pants, pulling out his hard-on. He got a condom out of his pocket, opened it, and put it on quickly. Then he lavishly smeared the hand cream over his latex clad prick. "It's gonna feel even better when I shove this into you and bust your cherry."


"I'm not queer!" Trenton protested. "I'm not!"


Clive snorted. He grabbed Trenton's knees, pushing them back toward his chest as he edged closer. "Like I give a fuck. Anyway, I'm going to teach you to love cock, little boy. You're gonna get on your knees or drop your pants any time I say, from now on. You're gonna suck or take it up the ass any time Bri wants, too. We own you now, kid." As he had spoken, he had fitted his cockhead against Trenton's slightly loosened hole. When he said 'own', he shoved in, hard.


Trenton stiffened, giving a strangled cry at the mingled pain and pleasure. But it was good. Clive knew just how much he could take before the pain went past titillating into real pain. Clive grabbed Trent's hips, tilting the boy's pelvis for a better angle, and began to fuck him with short, brutal jabs. He wasn't a lover now; he wasn't the strong, but tender man who made love to Trent for hours. No, he was a predator, a rapist, taking what he wanted, and if Trenton didn't like it, too fucking bad. The Dom was so intense that if Trenton hadn't known Clive so well, and loved him so well, he would have been genuinely frightened.


"Fuck, he's tight!" Clive growled. "Oh, man, Bri, this is one time sloppy seconds ain't gonna be too bad."


"Just hurry up, man. I'm hard as a rock already." He craned his head, licking Trenton's cheek. Trenton made a sound of distress, cringing away, and Bryant laughed. "He has a cock up his ass, and he's worried about a little tongue."


Normally Clive would have held himself back till Trenton climaxed, but that didn't fit in with the scene. Anyway, judging from Bryant's flushed cheeks and dilated pupils, he'd be more than ready to finish Trenton off. Clive thrust into the sweetly familiar clasp of his lover's body again and again, shoving him back against Bryant. He came with a grunt, grinding deep into Trenton's ass, fingers leaving bruises on the boy's hips--bruises that he knew he would kiss later.


"Damn, that was good," he sighed contentedly, pulling out of the boy's ass. "How do you want him, Bryant?"


Bryant's voice was eager. "I want him to sit on it."


"Good one. I've got him nice and broken in for you." Clive laid a headlock on Trenton. "Let go and get yourself ready."


Bryant released Trenton's arms, and the boy grabbed at Clive's arm, only to have it tighten across his throat threateningly. "Simmer down, young blood. You're almost done here. You just be good a little while longer, and you can rest." As Bryant opened his pants and coated his straining cock with the cream, Clive used his free hand to stroke Trenton's hair. He whispered, "It won't be so bad, sweetheart. We'll take good care of you, keep the wolves off you. You won't have to make it with anyone but us," he chuckled, "and maybe one or two good friends."


"I'm not a whore!" Trenton protested.


"Oh, yes, you are, baby," Clive assured him. "You are if I say you are. Bri, hurry the fuck up, before he cools down."


Bryant sat higher up on the bed, propping his back against the headboard. His stiff prick rose from his groin like a thick exclaimation point, drooling and eager, glistening with the ointment and his own pre-ejaculate. As Trenton watched, he rolled on a condom, then held out his arms. "Bring him here."


Clive dragged Trenton up the bed, dragging him between Bryant's spread legs. Trenton shuddered as he felt the hot length of Bryant's cock nestle in the crack of his ass. Bryant reached beneath him, and Trenton cried out as a finger was shoved into his tender hole, fucking him roughly. "Oh, yeah, Clive. This is gonna be sooo good. Help me."


Clive pulled upward, saying, "Get on your knees, whore." It was either obey or strangle, and Trenton managed to rise to his knees, placing them outside of Bryant's thighs. He felt the older boy grip one buttock, pulling it aside. There was a nudge at his rectum, then Bryant grabbed his waist and slammed him down.


Trenton shrieked as he was skewered, the thick, hot staff feeling as if it were splitting him in two. But it hit his prostate, and the shriek carried an element of hunger. His cock twitched, clear fluid drizzling so copiously that it slicked the entire length of his swollen cock. As he was held, impaled, Clive reached down with his free hand and gripped him, hard, giving him a few squeezing strokes. "Yeah, you found his sweet spot, Bri. He's wet for you, baby. Give him what he wants."


Bryant reached up and around, finding Trenton's thrusting nipples. "Move, bitch." When Trenton just trembled, he pinched harshly, snarling, "I said MOVE! Fuck yourself on my cock." Trenton bunched his thigh muscles and pushed up, groaing at the feel of the hot flesh sliding inside him. Bryant's hands dropped back to his waist and gripped hard, stopping his upward movement. "Don't pull off my cock, dumb ass. Just bounce." Trenton obeyed, moving as if he were just going to touch his butt to the empty space between his spread legs, then rising and doing it again. "Ohh, yeaahh," Bryant moaned. "Like that! Faster, punk--harder!"


Trenton obeyed, literally fucking himself on Bryant's rampant cock. He found that he could hit his own prostate on almost every pass, and soon he was riding the other boy frantically, desperate to reach orgasm. Clive had gripped his cock again and was masturbating him hard, the motion of his hand and Trent's movements sometimes causeing an almost painful pull that only made the boy being mock-raped even more frantic. Clive crooned, "Yeah, yeah. Oh, you're so hot, pretty boy. Nothing better in the world than someone who just got shown what he really wants.


"Fuck!" Bryant rammed Trenton down hard, burying himself to the roots in the hot, sweet grip of his friends body as he shot his load. He reached back to play with Trenton's nipples, pinching and scratching lightly as Clive ruthlessly milked the boy's aching cock. Trenton came with a choked cry, his sperm splattering the leg of Clive's dark pants. He went limp, hanging breathlessly in the older man's grip.


"Now look at the mess you made." Clive's voice was almost amused. The red-haired boy was still sitting on Bryant's softening cock when Clive took a tight grip in Trent's hair and dragged his head down till his nose was almost touching the pearly drops of come that streaked the Dom's pants. "Be a good boy and clean that up." Quietly, humbly, Trenton licked the come away, then rested his cheek against the damp fabric of Clive's pants. Clive's grip in his hair gentled, and he caressed the boy. "Scene's over, pet."


Trenton more or less fell off of Bryant, collapsing bonelessly to the mattress beside him. Bryant's voice was concerned. "Trent, are you...?"


"He's fine, dear," Clive assured him. "It's just that he gets very deeply into these acts, and sometimes it takes him a little while to come back." Clive lay beside his young lover, taking him into his arms and kissing him. "He just needs to rest, and be held for awhile."


Bryant slid down beside them, spooning up against Trenton's naked back, putting an arm over his waist. He smiled as he felt the younger boy's hand cover his own, pressing it against Trenton's warm, flat stomach.


Bryant drifted off to sleep, hearing the soft murmurs of a couple in love, and feeling not at all out of place for one of the few times in his life.


Chapter 13: Decision


It was a good thing that it had been a Friday night, because Priory Lowell was in no shape to teach class. Came the dawn, he was sitting on the couch, staring blankly at some happy-talk, caffeine-fueled morning bullshit chatter show. The coffee table was littered with empty beer bottles, and one empty whiskey bottle. The whiskey bottle had been only a third full when he'd run out of beer and started on it, and that was either a good or bad thing. It was good for the world at large, because a drunk Priory was not a good thing. It was bad for Priory, because he could still think, and that both hurt, and pissed him off.


I cannot fucking believe it. That ungrateful little bitch! Staying out all night--all night! Where the fuck did he spend the night? He doesn't have any place else to go, he didn't have enough money for a motel room. Priory sneered. Not unless someone else paid for it. That wouldn't surprise me. He probably picked up a trick--that's really why he didn't come home. Yeah, that's it--instead of getting his hair done he decided to have some fun and went to a bar and let himself get picked up and spent the night with some stud's cock up his pretty white ass.


Priory felt a stir of desire at the thought. The idea of his younger lover prostituting himself, offering up his body to the lusts of anonymous strangers was as erotic as it was enraging. Where the fuck does he get off, doing that? If I wanted that, I could find him plenty of customers myself. He snorted, beginning to search through the bottles on the table in hopes of finding one more swallow. Bet he'd be a good little moneymaker, too, but I'm not gonna have my personal pussy being used by anyone else.


Priory sighed aggrievedly. I take him in, I feed him, I clothe him, I help him get a scholarship, I instruct him in everything important, I give him all the sex he can handle, and what do I get in return? Nothing but aggravation and ingratitude. I'm going to have to slap that boy back into his place. Maybe if he can't get out of bed for a couple of days it'll get through to him. And I guess I'll have to go ahead and get those shackles and make him wear them around the house. Conway ought to be able to get some for me from that security supply company.


Sometime during the night Priory had considered throwing Bryant out, just letting the punk come back to find all his stuff scattered over the lawn. That fantasy had only lasted for a couple of seconds. Bryant was his, and he wasn't going to give up his property. No, he was keeping Bryant. He'd fixated on the boy when he was barely sixteen, and had worked for over a year to win his confidence and convince the foster care system that he would be a suitable guardian for Bryant. After helping to arrange his scholarship at Metropolis University, he'd managed to get the boy released from the system a few months early, assuring them that he'd have a stable home for as long as he needed.


Then there was all the time he'd spent training him, molding him to be the perfect bitch. It hadn't been easy. Initiating the sex hadn't been as easy as he'd hoped, either. He'd started off gradually--leaving his porn mags where Bryant had easy access. That had worked--he'd found more than one with sticky pages. Then he'd progressed to renting porn videos and leaving them in the open. Finally he'd popped on in when Bryant was studying in the living room. When the boy got up to leave, Pri had casually assured him that he could stay and watch--it didn't bother him.


After the first time, Priory had opened his pants and masturbated, casually saying that he knew that Bryant wouldn't mind, since he was a man, too. He noticed that Bryant got hard, a luscious bulge distending the fly of his jeans. The boy squirmed, but didn't do anything. Finally Priory had reached over and lightly traced the damp patch that was soaking through over his cockhead. Bryant had thrown him a startled look, those clear gray eyes huge and wary. Priory had kept his eyes fixed on the screen, where one man was being sodomized while he fucked a blond woman. He didn't remove his hand, just letting it rest there. Bryant had swallowed, then looked back at the screen, saying nothing. Priory had smiled slowly, knowing that he'd won. He unzipped the boy's jeans, pulled out his beautiful, young cock, and stroked him to a shivering, moaning orgasm. When he was done Bryant had slumped there for a moment, stunned, then jumped to his feet and run into the bathroom without a word. Priory had gotten a beer to celebrate.


He was disappointed when the boy hadn't automatically reciprocated the next time, but he had eventually. When he had shown no sign of going any further Priory had become impatient and dragged his head down into his lap. The subsequent blowjob had been amateurish, but knowing that it was the first time Bryant had ever had a cock in his mouth made it sexy as hell. He'd had to slap him for spitting out the come afterwards, but things had gotten better.


Every now and then Bryant showed a flair of independence that had to be stamped out quickly and efficiently. The tennis shoes had been a prime example. Then the kid had compounded his offense by trying to escape his just punishment. Priory felt justified when he learned about the broken arm. He'd figured that the boy would think twice before he sinned again, but apparently he'd been wrong.


Priory hurled the beer bottle across the room, yelling, "All fucking night!" He flinched as the bottle clanked into the TV screen, but luckily the tube didn't shatter. The bottle, made of more fragile glass, shattered though, leaving a heap of shards and souring beer dregs on the carpet. "Fuck! Now look what you made me do, you little shit! I oughta make you lick that up, once you pick up the glass."


Priory sat back and began the pleasant task of plotting out Bryant's future punishment.


Bryant woke up to the novel and pleasant sensation of being held. Priory never wanted to share a bed for anything but fucking, and that had always been perfectly all right with Bryant--Priory was no one's idea of snuggly. This was different.


He was laying on his back, and Trenton, on his side, was right up against him, a foot hooked over his leg, and his head resting comfortably on Bryant's shoulder. Clive was spooned up against his younger lover's back, a possessive arm draped over his waist, and his hand resting warm on Bryant's abdomen. Both he and the older Dom had stripped before drifting off to sleep, and the skin-to-skin contact was a sensual delight, only part of it sexual. It was more the closeness, the feeling of being so comfortable with someone that you could be naked and close without anything being demanded.


Bryant reached down and began to trace patterns on the back of Clive's hand. The older Dom grunted softly, still asleep, and began to mirror the actions, stroking Bryant's flat belly. Bryant took hold of his wrist, lifted his hand, and slipped two fingers into his mouth, sucking softly. He could see Clive's face from where he lay. Clive's eyelids twitched, but did not open. The corners of his wide mouth turned up, though. Uh huh. Bryant gave him the edge of his teeth. The smile broadened. He nipped.


Clive was over Trenton and on top of Bryant in a flash. Trent was abruptly awakened by two laughing, wrestling Doms about to shove him out of his cozy nest onto the floor. "Hey! Trying to sleep, here! Some people sort of wore my ass out last night, and I think I deserve..." he trailed off. Both the other men had gone still, and were watching him. "some consideration?"


Bryant and Clive exchanged looks. Trenton squawked and tried to scoot away, but found himself pleasantly buried under a pile of hard, warm, active male flesh. They ended up with Clive pinning down his torso, and Bryant lying across his thighs. "Uncle!" Trent gasped. "Uncle, uncle!"


"No, pet--daddy. I thought you knew that by now," Clive scolded, licking Trent's neck, causing him to squirm happily.


"I think he means me," Bryant offered. "I guess I'm Dirty Uncle Bri now."


"Oh, I don't know about the 'dirty' part," Trenton's tone was sarcastic. Bryant sighed. "He really asks for it, doesn't he?" Clive nodded, looking mock sad. "I guess I'll just have to prove it. Prepare to be molested."


"Clive! Are you going to permit me to be violated?"


"Permit? Lamb, I'm assisting."


Trenton groaned as Bryant gripped his cock and started to caress him with firm authority. "You're both wicked, evil men, and I don't love either of you one little bit!"


"You spank him for lying, right, Clive?"


"Is he lying?"


"I think I have proof positive right here. Look at this."


Clive twisted his head and looked back and down at Trenton's thickening cock. "Oh, yes, very nice, and I'd say, um, hard evidence." Trenton groaned, and Clive turned a stern look on him. "Something you want to say, boy?"


"No, sir. Just no spankies this morning, please."


"That depends. Were you lying?"


Trenton studied his lover carefully, weighing his reply. "I was playing."


Clive smiled tenderly. "Perfect answer. No spankies this time. Bryant?"




"Do me a favor--suck his brains out his dick."


"Happy to."


Trenton would have yelped as the hot wetness enveloped his cock, but all he managed with Clive's tongue in his mouth was a moan. Clive was the best in everything sexual he'd ever experienced, of course (love would do that to you, but he felt sure he was being pretty objective--Clive was just that good), but there was no denying that Bryant was an exquisite cocksucker--and a ruthless one. He pinned Trenton's hips to the bed and devoured him with near ferocity. He didn't try to coax the boy along and make it last--he just took him, and Trenton was thrilled down to his toes. He had a lovely, mewling, shivering orgasm while he was being held by the man he loved. Was there any better way to start a morning?


When they were done Clive and Trenton showed Bryant that the shower could accommodate a threesome very nicely. The two Doms chatted while Trenton gave each a thorough, efficient wash. Then he stood, eyes closed in bliss as they returned the favor. When they were done, Bryant and Clive dressed while Trenton performed his morning chores of changing the bed and setting the linens to wash. Clive found some clothes for Bryant in his extensive collection of play costumes. Bryant was quietly pleased with a perfectly ordinary pair of blue jeans and a dark green Henley shirt. It was just so nice to be able to wear colors. He wondered if most people realized what a real pleasure that was? Nah. They'd have to spend a couple of years, 24/7 in a monochrome uniform to understand it.


In the kitchen Bryant watched Clive preparing breakfast, listing to the bright pop music Trenton had been given permission to put on the radio. "You don't make Trenton do all the household chores?"


"Good God, darling, why would I do that? We have a Dominant/submissive relationship, not a Master/slave." He smiled fondly, "Though we do like to play at it occasionally. He makes a lovely slave boy." Clive sighed. "We were given the most beautiful copper collar by a friend--it's just luscious with his hair and skin tone. And there's a very fun scene with a mock branding..."


"You wouldn't really brand him?"


Clive froze, then carefully lifted the pan of eggs off the burner, setting it down before turning to look at Bryant. "Pet, I'm going to put that question down to inexperience," he said quietly, but his eyes were hard. "I hope you realize that I would never do that to my precious boy--I'd never mutilate him like that."


Bryant bit his lip. "I'm sorry, Clive. Priory's talked about giving me a 'Property of' tattoo a couple of times."


The tenseness went out of Clive's stance, and he shook his head. "I should have known. Something like that would occur to him." He sighed, rubbing his face, clearly considering his words. "Branding is done--but only by the very, very deeply committed, or the exploitative. I would be highly suspect of any branding that wasn't done after the slave himself requested it. I'd also want a waiting period, and convincing arguments. It's just so fucking permanent, pet, and it's dangerous. Even someone with experience--and there are those, can make a mistake. You can never be one hundred-per cent sure of how an individual will react. I know of one time--no I wasn't there. I don't promote such things, so I don't witness them, but a close friend told me about it. It was the sweetest little submissive--just a little doll of a woman. She was in a committed relationship, and wanted to do this for her lover. He tried to talk her out of it, but..." he smiled, "Well, some submissives can be very headstrong if they're doing something to please their Doms. I guess I'd better take care of these eggs, before they go cold. Make toast, would you, dear? Trent likes that foul Nuttella on his, and he's allowed, on weekends."


As Clive scooped the fluffy scrambled eggs onto plates, he continued. "As I was saying, the girl finally managed to convince her lover, and they called in someone who is as expert in this thing as you can find these days. He could have made a good living in the Orient in the middle ages, adorning the concubines of sultans with body art and jewelry. The girl refused any sort of tranquilizer or anesthetic--allowing that was a huge mistake, but she wanted to experience it all, offering up the pain to her Dom. The brander allowed her to go without restraints, which was a horrendous mistake on his part. Believe me, he lost a lot of clientele after this incident--and rightly so. But she was such a bitty thing that when she asked to just have her Dom hold her, everyone thought it would be all right."


Clive snorted as he put the plates on the table and went to get silverware. "Any fool knows that in a situation like that, the fear and tension is going to simply flood the blood with adrenaline, and even frail people are capable of a lot when they're pumped up like that. Long story short, and yes, I know it's too late for that--she panicked. The brand has to be applied firmly, to get a good, clean burn. Well, doll baby turned into a bucking bronco at the first kiss of hot metal. The artiste got off balance and instead of the iron being thrown off, he accidentally drove his weight against it. The metal was white hot, and it sank in almost an inch." Bryant paled, and Clive nodded. Anyone who'd ever had a burn could empathize.


"It wasn't a pretty, clean burn, either. And to top it off, the poor lamb went into shock. They had to rush her to the emergency room. Oh, she was all right, aside from a hideous mark that will require plastic surgery to fix. But darling, they had a hell of a time trying to explain a third degree burn wound in the shape of the lover's initials." He heard Trenton come out of the little laundry room, and his voice lowered. "Let's not discuss this any more. Trenton knows about it, but it upsets him."


Bryant nodded his agreement as the other boy breezed into the kitchen. He was moving to the song on the radio, and as he entered, he finished singing the chorus, "...walkin' on sunshine, and doesn't it feel good?" He did a spin, and Bryant burst out laughing. "Hey, I happen to know that I'm a good dancer!"


Bryant waved his hand, chuckling helplessly for a moment. Finally he said, "Yeah, you are. It's just that I wasn't expecting a nude floorshow with breakfast."


Clive sounded amused. "If it bothers you, I can have him get dressed."


Bryant snorted. "Totally unnecessary offer, and you know it, Clive." He grinned at Trenton. "Don't get all formal on my account, babe." He glanced at Clive, touching his thigh. "May I?" Clive nodded, and Bryant patted his leg. Trenton immediately sat on his lap, hooking an arm around the other boy's neck.


Clive brought the food to the table, and watched fondly as Bryant fed Trenton, licking away the Nuttella when the chocolate-hazelnut paste smeared Trenton's mouth. They had a leisurely, pleasant breakfast. Clive had generously given everyone at Attitudes the weekend off ("Lord, dear, everyone needs a weekend to themselves sometime."), so there was nowhere he or Trenton had to be.


Trenton hopped up to remove the dishes, and said, "So, what's the plan for today?"


"Well," Clive combed his hand thoughtfully through his hair. "I'd say it depends on our guest. There's a new exhibition of Impressionists at the museum, and it's lovely weather, so we could have a picnic in the park, or..." he gave Bryant a level look. "we could do something more constructive."


There was silence for a moment. Trent paused in wiping a plate, but said nothing. The sort of decision Bryant had before him couldn't be made based on the arguments or pleadings of others--it was far too personal, and important.


Bryant blew out a breath. "Or I could ask you to help me go get my things from Priory's place." His wide mouth tightened. "I won't say 'home'. It's never been home to me. Fuck, it's never even really been shelter. It's been a cell." He straightened a bit, eyes lighting. "It's been a waiting room."


Clive nodded in satisfaction. "Yes. You've been marking time till you were ready to be yourself, and it looks like the time has come."


Trenton walked over and silently hugged Bryant. Bryant returned the hug, and said, "I don't want you to come, Trent." Trenton started to protest, and Bryant put his hand over the boy's mouth. "Don't argue about this. I know you want to help, but Priory isn't... he isn't stable, Trent. I don't think he'll do anything too stupid if there's a witness, but I can't be sure, and I'm not going to risk you."


Trenton turned pleading eyes to Clive, but his Dom shook his head. "No, precious, he's right about this. Before you get huffy, I'm not denigrating your manhood."


Trenton snorted. "Well, I know that."


Clive rolled his eyes at Bryant. "Don't you just love a man who's comfortable with his sexuality?" Clive stood and took the boy into his arms. Trenton scowled, stiffening, and Clive jogged him gently. "Precious, I know that you wouldn't back down from... from Lex Luthor himself if it was to help one of your friends, but the fact is that you are not an aggressive person, and you know that, don't you?" Trenton nodded reluctantly. "There's no point in you being put in the way of possible violence, if it can be avoided. Agreed?"


Trenton sighed. "Oh, all right. But if you come home lumped up, I'm going to 'I told you so' to death while I tend your booboos."


Clive kissed him. "Good boy." He pushed Trenton away and swatted him on the bottom. "Go get dressed. I talked to Elise, and she's willing to teach you how to make her special rum balls, and you can go down to Lavender's Green today. You said you wanted to do those for Christmas, didn't you?" Trent brightened, and went out to dress. Clive tipped a look at Bryant. "Whatever you do, you are not to let him know that we're taking Mrs. Havasnark, and not him."


Bryant gaped. "We are?"


"Darling, according to Mrs. Havasnark, she has faced down both Cossacks and Bolsheviks, and I wouldn't put it past her. Anyway, the more witnesses, the better. Besides, she has a larger car than I do--it'll be easier to carry things."


"That won't be much of a problem," Bryant said. His voice was tart. "All I really want out of there is me."



Chapter 14: Freedom


Bryant looked around the car's interior, wide-eyed. "Mrs. Havasnark, this is the biggest car I have ever seen in my life."


Mrs. Havasnark, behind the wheel in front, was sitting on a phonebook, and her head still barely cleared the dash. "Nice, isn't it, bubbie?"


"You could do gymnastics in this back seat."


"I suspect that some people have," She glanced at Clive, who was in the front seat with her, riding shotgun. "Clive has borrowed it a time or two to take Trenton out to ahem look at the lake." Clive whistled, looking out the window. "So, Bryant, darling, do you think there will be trouble with this mamser?"


"I don't know what a mamser is, but I have a feeling that it's not very complimentery. If we're really lucky he'll be gone, but my luck usually doesn't run that good. He's going to be nasty. I'm just hoping that he's not so drunk that he'll be stupid with witnesses present."


"Well, I think we can be ready for that. Clive, dear, open the glove compartment."


Clive did. "Oh, dear!" He took out a tiny pearl handled derringer. "Precious, this is gorgeous!"


"Yes, and it's real, too."


"Well, I didn't suppose it was a cigarette lighter."


"That was given to me by Buffalo Bill Cody, back when I was working as an Indian squaw in his Wild West Show." She giggled. "I was the only red-headed Comanche they had. I used to keep it tucked in my bosom in case I needed to protect my virtue." Clive snorted softly. "I did so have virtue at one time." He cocked an eyebrow. "Well, anyway, I had standards--still do."


"It's lovely, dear, but should you be hauling it around? Isn't it slightly illegal?"


"I have a permit. I got one when I was having that fling at being a private eye, and I just kept it up."


"Thanks for the thought, Mrs. Havasnark, but I'd rather you didn't bring that with you," Bryant said. "I don't like guns. Much as I hate Priory, I still don't wish him dead or disabled."


"He wouldn't be unless I intended him to be, dear, but as you wish. Put it away, Clive."


As they neared Priory's house, Bryant said, "Clive? I'm not sure how this is going to go, but I want to ask a favor of you."


"You want me to hold back--not just kick his ass on general principles."


Bryant nodded. "Something like that. I have to be the one to make this break--it won't work if someone just gets me out of there. As it is, Priory's going to see this as me leaving him for you, or you taking me away, no matter what we say--it's just how his mind works, but I'm going to make it as clear as I can." He smiled. "Of course, if it's obvious that I'm outclassed, and he's pulping me, a little help would be appreciated. I'm proud, but I'm practical."


"Will do, precious. Restraint until it's 'send in the Marines' time. Then," Clive's eyes glittered, "I will not be polite and gentlemanly."


Mrs. Havasnark mimed a kiss at Clive. "You're always a gentleman, bubbie. It's just that sometimes you're a kick-ass gentleman." They had pulled to the curb in front of Priory's house, and she was surveying the area with shrewed eyes. "Say, who's the hunk next door?"


Bryant looked, and choked down a chuckle. Mister Bellows was down on his knees, weeding his flowerbed. He was wearing only a pair of baggy shorts, tennis shoes, and a straw hat, and his narrow butt was pointed toward the street. "That... um, that would be Mister Bellows. I think his first name is Walter."


"Hmmmm... Married?"


Clive had his hand over his eyesas Bryant answered. "Widowed."




"Snarky, we are here on a mission," said Clive sternly.


"Of course, of course."


They got out of the car and started up the walk. Mister Bellows got up and walked over to the edge of the lawn. "Hey, Mister Bellows. Lawn's looking good," Bryant observed.


Bellows nodded. "Just enough rain this season. You know, this is the first time I've ever seen anyone but Lowell's poker buddies come to this house. Nice to see you finally having some visitors, Bryant." He was talking to Bryant, but his eyes were on Mrs. Havasnark. Mrs. Havasnark was toying with the long strand of glittering beads she was wearing, and she was smiling at the old fellow in a decidedly interested manner.


Bryant took a closer look at Mister Bellows. He noticed that the old man was a little on the skinny side, but his thin arms and legs were corded with muscle, and his narrow chest was thickly dusted with hair that still had a good bit of dark in with the grey. And, while his face was seamed, it had the type of weathered good looks that some actors seemed to manage. I'll be, Bryant thought, he is a geriatric hunk. Havasnark, you devil. "Mister Bellows, these are my friends--Clive and Mrs. Havasnark."


Bellows bowed slightly as he took Mrs. Havasnark's hand. "Charmed, dear lady." He gave Clive a doubtful look. "You would be Mr. Havasnark?"


Mrs. Havasnark giggled like a schoolgirl. "No," Clive said dryly, "I would not."


"My name is Letitia," she murmured, "But you can call me Lettie."


"How lovely. Lettie, I'm Walter."


"Can I call you Wally?"


"I hope we will find enough time together for you to do so."


"As much as I hate to break up The Dating Game," said Clive, "We're here for a reason."


Bryant took a deep breath. "Have you seen Priory today?"


Bellows frowned. "No, I haven't. But I heard an almighty 'thunk' come out of there a while ago. Sounded like he threw something."


"Ugh. Not a good sign. Mister Bellows, I'm moving out today, and Priory doesn't know it."


Bellows' jaw tightened. "Good for you."


"I was just wondering if you'd mind kind of hovering in the background? The more eyes, the less likely he is to get stupid."


"You mean stupider than he usually is. I'll be happy to, son."


"Thanks. I appreciate it. You know, the only thing I'm going to miss about living here is having you for a neighbor."


"Bryant, you're going to be staying with Clive for the time being?" said Mrs. Havasnark. Clive nodded. "Well, we aren't all that far away. I see no reason why Wally couldn't come around and visit you now and then. If you're out..." she fluttered her eyelashes, "he can wait for you at my place."


"I... yes, that would be... nice." Bryant squared his shoulders. "Let's do this."


They went up the front walk--Bryant in the lead, then Clive, with Mrs. Havasnark and Mister Bellows trailing behind. Bryant took out his key, slipped it into the lock, and hesitated. He'd spent most of his life trying to avoid confrontations--now he was walking into one with his head up and his eyes wide open. He felt Clive's hand on his shoulder. He simply gripped him silently for a moment, then gave him a pat before letting go. The silent support did what was needed--Bryant turned the key, opened the door, and stepped inside.


It was dim in the house. Bryant came down the hall far enough to peer into the living room. The lights were off, and the curtains were drawn--the only light filtering through the slit. His eyes darted around the room, quickly cataloguing details. The phone receiver was dangling from it's cord. That didn't mean much, though, since the other cord had been ripped out of the wall. The coffee table was littered with an assortment of bottles, and there was a pile of broken glass in front of the television. Yeah, that's Priory--get pissed, and his first instinct is to get drunk and hurt someone, and since I wasn't here, he settled for breaking something.


Priory wasn't in evidence, but the doors to the hall bathroom and Priory's bedroom were closed. "He may be sleeping it off," Bryant said quietly. He went into the kitchen, leaving his friends in the living room.


Mrs. Havasnark was looking around with a disapproving expression. "It has about as much personality as a motel room," she whispered. "And I'm guessing that it's the goniff's idea, not our Bri's." Bryant came out carrying a box of garbage bags. Mrs. Havasnark said, "No suitcases, sweetie?"


"Snarky, when did I ever get a chance to go anywhere?" Clive was grinding his teeth when he passed him. "This won't take long, Clive. It's not like I'm going to be packing." He went into his room.


Clive stood in the hall, staring at the beaded curtain in disbelief. Mrs. Havasnark whispered to him, "It looks like a Turkish brothel I once visited--strictly as a tourist of course."


"Of course. And I have a feeling that Bryant would have gotten more respect if he'd been working in one of them," said Clive grimly. He watched as the boy opened drawers and unceremoniously dumped armloads of clothes into the sacks. He emptied the dresser, then went to the closet. Clothes were stuffed into the bags, hangers and all, with shoes going in on top of them. Byrant paused, and threw a pair of white loafers on the bed. Clive applauded softly.


Bryant carried the first two bags to the door of the room. Clive took them and handed them off to Bellows and Havasnark, who began to ferry them out to the car. Bryant began to clear out his desk, carefully and quickly collecting all his school papers, notes, and textbooks.


He was just knotting the bag shut when he heard the door to Priory's bedroom open, and a slurred voice call, "You! Wha' th' fuck are you doin' in my house?"


Bryant groaned. "Shit! Almost." Clive had turned slowly to stare the few yards up the hall to where Priory, rumpled, unshaven, and smelling bad enough to wrinkle the Dom's nose even at that distance, stood swaying in the doorway to his room. Bryant said warningly, "Clive."


"I know, dear, I know." He glared at Priory. "As to what I'm doing here, I came at Bryant's invitation."


"Oh, you did, did you? Well, this is myhouse, an' I wanta know where that little whore thinks he gets off, bringing his fuckbuddies home to screw under th' roof that I'm payin' for."


Clive's voice was deceptively soft. Anyone who knew him knew that it was time to start stepping very carefully when his voice took on that timbre. "I was under the impression that this was Bri's home, too. As such he should be able to have over people when he..."


Bryant stepped out into the hall, saying heavily, "Clive, don't waste your breath. He'll never grasp the concept."


Priory scowled. "You! So, you finally decided to come home, did you? You walking bowlegged, boy? How many cocks did you have down your throat and up your ass, huh? How many?"


"God, I want to say something so bad," Clive snarled.


Bryant put his free hand on his friend's arm, silently asking him not to. Priory noticed the casual intimacy of the touch, and dull rage flared inside him. He came closer. "Well, I knew you'd come back sooner or later. You can't make it on your own out there--you're too fuckin' stupid. You'd end up beaten to a pulp and in some pimp's stable inside a week without me to look after you. You can stay, but you're gonna have to clean your act up. There's gonna be a new order around here, and you..."


"Priory!" Bryant interupted. Priory was so surprised to have Bryant dare to break into one of his rants that he fell silent. "I'm not coming back to you--I'm only here for my stuff."


Priory took a few seconds to digest this information. His face was already flushed--now it started to slowly turn purple. "You're leaving me?" He started down the hall slowly. "You're leaving me?"


"We heard you the first time," said Clive. "Do you need me to say it for you in French or Spanish--will that help you grasp it?"


"Shut up, faggot." Clive stiffened. "You think I spent all that time and effort getting this bitch trained just to let you waltz in and hustle him away?"


"I think you wasted your time, you stupid bit of gutter trash."


"Why, you...!"


"And I'll telly you right now that you might just as well have tried to turn a hunting hawk into a fucking canary. This boy is no more a submissive than I am. He's something you will never be, even if you get a balls transplant and a stiff shot of testosterone. He's a Dom--a true Dom, not some jumped up schoolyard bully wannabe like you."


"Clive," Bryant sighed.


"I'm sorry, precious, but some things cannot be allowed to pass."


Priory was so stunned and angry that he wasn't able to react for a few moments. He was just standing there, his eyes beginning to bug, his mouth hanging open. Bryant moved into the hall, putting himself between Priory and Clive. "Look, Pri, it's over, okay? Yeah, you did a lot for me, but you damn sure got compensated for it, so just let it lie. I'm just taking my stuff and going."


Priory's voice was a whisper. "You can fucking well leave all that shit here."


"Son of a...? Why? You can't wear any of the clothes. You can't use any of the texts."


"Sure I can. I've been wanting to have a good bonfire in the backyard, and that shit will burn just fine, so you can leave it here."


Bryant stared at him, disgusted by his pettiness. "It's already in the car. You had your chance to do the offended lover crap last night, and you blew it," his voice was rising, "and I'm not your fucking lover, anyway, so just stop the shit!"


Priory raised his hand, "Take that bass out of your voice, pussy!"


Bryant didn't back down. Instead he leaned toward Priory, expression stiff, and for once Priory actually saw the heat and hatred blazing in the boy's eyes. It made him hesitate for a second. But then he convinced himself that this was just his bitch, and he could make him submit, like he always had. He slapped Bryant.


Mrs. Havasnark and Bellows came in just as the flat of Priory's hand smacked into Bryant's face. Mrs. Havasnark cried out in indignation, and Mister Bellows yelled, "You keep your hands off that boy, Lowell!"


Clive, hands fisted and white knuckled, had started past Bryant, but the younger man put out his arm, barring his way, and said hoarsely, "No! This is my business." He glared at Priory, baring his teeth. "That was your last free shot, Pri. Anything else, and I hit back--hard. I'm going to walk out of here, and if you have any sense you'll just let me pass, and get on with forgetting that we ever had anything to do with each other--that's what I plan to do." He started past Priory.


Priory grabbed his shoulder, squeezing hard. "You don't give me orders, slut!" This time he punched Bryant, but the boy was already drawing back, and it only glanced along his jaw.


Clive was prepared to leap into action, but it didn't come to that. Bryant staggered a step with the force of the blow, dropping his bag and catching himself against the wall with his left hand. With no more than a split second's pause he drew his right arm across his body for maximum force, then swung. The cast on his right forearm caught Priory squarely across the nose. There was a crunch, and Priory gave a muffled scream as he clutched at his injured face, blood flowing between his fingers.


He pulled away his hand and stared stupidly at the thick crimson stain on his hands. "You fucking broke my nose!"


"No? Really?"


"You bitch!" Priory reached for him again.


Something inside Bryant snapped. This time he threw a left, and it caught Priory square in the mouth, slicing Bryant's knuckles, but loosening three of Priory's teeth and knocking him on his ass. "Stop it! It's over."


Priory started to stand. When he was almost upright, reaching for Bryant again, the boy grabbed his shoulders and raised a knee into his crotch. This time when Priory collapsed, he wasn't going to get up any time soon. He couldn't even scream, he could just groan and puke. Bryant stood over him, breathing rapidly. He said roughly, "Let--it--go! God damn it, Pri--it's fucking over!"


On the floor, Priory choked, "Police... have your ass arrested for assault. You're gonna be the most popular girl in the cellblock, kid."


"I don't think so," said Mister Bellows. "Not with witnesses to the fact that he was defending himself. And I think Bryant is going to have a bruise on his jaw--another bruise. Boy, I'll be happy to give a statement if you decide to file charges on this bastard."


"I don't think that will be necessary, sir." Bryant bent over Priory. "Cause you know how they'd list anything like this, don't you, Pri? They'd list it as a domestic disturbance. Yeah, they'd put it down as a couple of boyfriends having a spat that got out of hand." Priory was silent, and Bryant nodded. "Wouldn't that look just lovely to the administration?" The swim coach stared at the boy with frank hatred. "Thought so." Bryant picked up the sack again. "Let's go, folks. I really want to get the smell of this place out of my nostrils." He dropped his key in front of Priory, then turned and walked to the front door.


Mrs. Havasnark took a step toward where Lowell was huddled on the hall floor. "If I wasn't such a lady," she said coldly, "I'd spit on you. Sometimes I curse my genteel upbringing." She turned majestically, took Bellows' arm and sailed out.


Clive, the last one in the house, paused before Priory. He squatted down and said softly, "You know, I haven't had the hindrance of a genteel upbringing. Bryant asked me to leave this to him, and so I shall, but he's going to be in my home and thus under my auspices. In case that word is too big for you, it means encouragement, approval and support, or protection, if you prefer. I will take it very badly if you try any shit with him." Clive patted Priory's cheek. The gesture was gentle, and very insulting. "Keep that in mind." He left.


Priory retched again, listening as the car outside pulled away. He muttered, "Oh, I'll keep that in mind, all right. I'm damn sure not going to forget that."



Chapter 15: Independence


Clive ferried the bags up the stairs while Mrs. Havasnark took Bryant into her apartment to tend to his wounds. When Clive finished and came down he found Bryant sitting on an overstuffed sofa, knuckles bandaged, with two cats jostling for possession of his lap. He was munching a Snickerdoodle while Mrs. Havasnark showed him one of her scrap books. Every time Clive was tempted to put Snarky's claims about her past down to wishful thinking he reminded himself of the multitude of programs and clippings that featured her name (even though it was often lost in the tiny print near the end, a half-step up from 'and others').


Bryant pointed at one playbill. "Tannenbaum--I've seen that one. They took all the kids at the group home one Christmas when I was about ten." He was smiling in fond nostalgia--it was apparently one of the few good memories he had of his childhood.


Mrs. Havasnark smoothed the piece of paper. "Wonderful review. It's been running unchanged at the Metropolis Art Center for the last forty-five or so Christmases."


Bryant squinted at the paper, chewing thoughtfully. "I guess I didn't see you. This bill is from before I was born."


"Yes, bubbie. I did six years in that production, but it was cough awhile back." Her eyes were shining with fond memories. "I started out as a tree ornament--a red one, of course. Then I worked my way up through tinsel and snowflake to elf. My last two years," her bosum swelled proudly, "I was featured as the ballerina doll." She sighed. "The Raggedy Andy I danced with was such a cutie under all that baggy fabric. I had to keep telling myself, 'Lettie, you're dancing for children. Keep your thoughts pure.'" She shrugged. "I was marginally successful."


Clive patted her shoulder. "You two can stroll down memory lane later, doll--I want to take Bryant down to Lavender's Green. As fascinated as Trent is by cooking, he'll be worried about us, and Bryant ought to talk to Toddy about finalizing that job."


"Sure, sweetie. Trenton and I are going to be recipe swapping buddies before too long." Her eyes crinkled at Bryant. "I do believe that between the two of us at Christmas, we'll give our loved ones something to make New Year's resolutions about."


"I have no doubt, you fiend," said Clive dryly. "My gym need never fear losing my membership as long as you reside here."


They both dropped kisses on Mrs. Havasnark's soft, wrinkled cheeks, then made their way out to the street. As they drove toward Lavender's Green, Clive said, "I don't have to tell you how proud I am of how you handled yourself, Bri."


Bryant flushed a little. There hadn't been many people in his life who'd expressed pride in him. "No, you don't--I can tell. But still, it's nice to hear."


Clive nodded. "When you get to a certain stage in your life, you no longer need the approval of the world." His expression softened a little. "But you never stop needing the approval of the ones you care about. That's why I'm always so careful to praise my lambs when they've done well."


When they arrived at Lavender's Green, it was settled into its usual afternoon quiet. Toddy was at his accustomed place behind the bar, surveying his stock and jotting down notes. When he saw them, he grinned widely. "Thank heavens! Now you can rescue my cook from your boy. Elise is too much of a professional to let dinner slide, but when she has Trenton to distract her, she's likely to wait so long to get started that she almost bursts something making the deadline. He's gone through rum balls and lemon teacakes, and was last heard coaxing her about fruitcake gems. She's holding firm only because we don't have any candied orange peel or citron right now."


"Really? Considering the sort of drinks Scribe has taught you, I'm surprised you don't keep a supply on hand," Clive said wryly.


"Toddy," said Bryant, "I've resolved my previous problems. I'm ready to start whenever you need me."


"Are you, now?" Toddy sounded pleased. "Well, then, you just march your butt behind the bar and we'll start with showing you how to fix garnishes and set up your station." As Clive walked back to the kitchen, Toddy was saying, "I have a notebook of the most popular drinks, and I'll loan it to you to study. Guard it with your life. I've had very tasty sums offered for a peek at it from other bar owners, but I'm not about to do it. We're the only purveyor of official Scribe introduced drinks, and I intend to keep it that way."


The kitchen smelled even better than usual--a combination of vanilla, sugar, spice, and the warm, indescribable scent that accompanied any kind of baking. There was a handful of plates on the table, piled high with fragrant circles and balls. Elise was supervising Trenton, who was at the counter, hands buried to mid-forearm in a huge mixing bowl, working industriously. Elise was saying, "That's right, honey. Make sure you get all that dry stuff worked in good. Nothin' nastier than bitin' into some dry flour when you're eatin' somethin' nice."


"Unless it's biting into an uncooked patch," Trenton ammended. "Ick. If I want raw dough, I'll eat raw dough."


"Yes, I've noticed that. Child, if I let you have your way, I don't think more'n a full dozen of those cookies would have made it into the oven." Elise looked up at Clive, her dark face splitting in a blinding smile. "Well, lookee here. Trent, it's your other half."


Trenton turned immediately, face anxious, and Clive said quickly, "Exactly as last seen, pet."




Clive made a face. "Some skinned knuckles, but I know that he's happy to have them, considering how they were acquired. Elise, has this brat run you completely ragged?"


She chuckled. "He tried, but I'm tougher than the chicken yard's last rooster. Trenton, honey, go on and get cleaned up and go with your man. I have to get started on dinner, or the evenin' crowd is gonna go hungry, and you know Elise doesn't do that."


"But what about the cake? I still have to add the apples and nuts and cherries, and then we have to bake it, and..." Trenton protested.


"That can wait till tomorrow," said Elise firmly. "One thing about baking, sweetie--there aren't too many things that are the worse for resting in a refrigerator overnight."


"But you said we could serve it as a featured dessert."


Clive's tone was firm. "Take that whine out of your voice, young man."


Trenton's attitude changed instantly to contrite. "Yes, sir."


Elise hugged him, careful to stay away from his goopy hands. "Don't fret, Trenton. It'll just be tomorrow's dessert." She winked at Clive. "Something good is worth waiting for, isn't it?"


Trenton went to the sink to wash his hands as Elise covered the bowl of batter and put it away. Clive came up behind him, slipping his arms around the boy's waist as he washed his hands. "Precisely what was that you were fondling, precious?"


"Polish Apple Cake. The batter is so thick that you can't mix it except with your hands--Elise warned me about that." He made a face. "I tried anyway and broke one of her wooden spoons."


Clive tipped his head to look back at Elise. "Dear, do I need to spank this brat for you?"


Elise was removing carrots from the vegetable crisper, and she chuckled. "Only if you really want to, Clive. I've done punished him already. I told him he doesn't get dessert when he eats here for the next week."


"You're a gentle woman."


"Talk to my younguns an' they might tell you a different story. I've worn out a few bottoms in my time." Her eyes twinkled. "Not for exactly the same reason you have, though."


Trenton finished his washing, and he and Clive went back out to the club. As soon as he spotted Bryant, Trent cast a glance back at Clive, and recieved a nod. He loped over to the bar, draping himself over it, and was immedieately lost in conversation with his friend. Clive could tell by Trent's intensity and Bryant's reassuring expression that the older boy was setting Trenton's worries at rest.


Tinkerbelle, one of the club's waitresses, paused in wiping down a nearby table. "Hey Clive. Do we have you to thank for the new talent behind the bar?"


"I pointed him here, but he's beholden to no one."


She paused, leaning on the table negligently, watching Bryant with marked interest. "He's his own man, huh?"


"Absolutely, precious." Bryant glanced up from his work and his conversation with Trenton. Tinkerbelle stood straight, casually giving her top a tug that revealed another quarter inch of cleavage. Most people would have missed the tiny curve at the corners of his mouth, but Clive didn't. And you just might be the right sort of light romp to reinforce his newfound sense of control.


Clive went over to the bar and hooked a finger in the back of Trenton's belt, tugging lightly. "Time to go. Go get a plate of those goodies for your mother."


Trenton turned what Clive called his 'puppy dog eyes' ("Though I've never yet seen a puppy with eyes that shade of green.") on him. "I thought I'd spend the night."


Clive shook his head firmly. "That would be five nights this week, precious, and I don't want Lynette to have to start resorting to your picture to remember what you look like." Trenton trudged toward the kitchen, dragging his feet. "And if you keep acting like a four year old, I'll treat you like one, and you'll spend your next visit with your nose in a corner." Trent picked up his feet the rest of the way.


When the kitchen door closed, Bryant said, "Clive?"




"I know I don't have to suggest that you tell me this is none of my business, because I know you will, if that's how you feel."


Clive drummed his fingers on the bar. "Yes?"


"Why aren't you and Trenton living together?" Bryant waited. Clive didn't say anything, but the silence wasn't ominous, so he continued. "Granted my personal experience with domesticity has been particularly shitty, but I know it can be good, and anyone but a blind imbecile could see that you're right for each other."


"He's still very young in some ways, Bri."


Bryant smiled faintly. "I've seen you two together, remember?"


Clive shrugged, then said quietly, "His father died when he was quite young. It's been Trenton and Lynette for quite some time now. Perhaps Trenton is ready to move out, but I'm not entirely convinced that Lynette is ready for it."


Bryant had met Lynette at Attitudes, and had taken an immediate liking to her. Part of it was the obvious love for her son that shone through every moment she was with him. Mostly it was the fact that Lynette knew of the relationship between Trenton and her boss and not only had no problem with it, but blessed it. "I don't think she'd try to persuade him not to."


"I know she wouldn't, no matter how badly it hurt her. That's why I have to be the one to say 'no' for all of us--until the time is right, and that may be soon. She's been seeing quite a bit of a man named Henderson Barbieri. He picked her up at work once--seems like a decent sort."


Bryant shook his head. "Does Havasnark know about this?" He was smiling mischieviously.


Clive snorted. "Are you joking? Trenton and I have been very careful not to mention it to her. Among her many careers, Snarky claims to be an acredited matchmaker, though WHERE one would get a degree, and what sort of classes would be required to earn one quite escapes me. We do not want Barbieri to be confronted with a determined Havasnark, lest he spook and flee for the hills." Trenton emerged from the kitchen with a foil covered plate in hand. He was chewing, and when he noticed Clive watching him, he swallowed quickly. Clive rolled his eyes. "Elise may have a firm hand with her children, but I think she treats you more like a grandbaby. She let you have a sweet, didn't she?" Trenton ducked his head, nodding guiltily. "Oh, don't look so hang dog, dear. I'm not in the habit of enforcing other people's punishments unless they ask nicely. Say goodbye to Bryant."


"Bye, Bryant. Seven tomorrow?"


"Make it eight. I don't know how late Toddy will need me."


In the car Trenton said plaintively, "Clive, Henderson is coming over for supper tonight. They aren't going to want me hanging around. I'll just end up in my room, so they can have some time alone together."


Clive was tempted, but he held to his decision. "Trenton, you don't want to look as if you're avoiding him, do you?" Trenton shook his head glumly. They were stopped at a red light, and Clive reached over and patted his thigh. "Lambie, you know I'm right."


"Yeah, I know." He took Clive's hand and kissed it briefly before letting it go. "It's just... It's just hard sometimes, you know?"


Clive reached toward Trent, but the light changed, and he had to drive on. His voice was a little bleaker than he would have liked when he spoke again. "Yes, baby--I do know."



Chapter 16: First Facedown

Bryant's first night working at Lavender's Green was hectic, but happy. The crowd was more laid back than he expected, cheerfully patient with the newbie bartender. Of course his good looks and sexy body helped--the regulars were willing to overlook a lot for those. But by the time Toddy showed him how to shut down the bar, he was very pleased with his new employee.


Toddy found Bryant standing behind the bar, staring at the brandy snifter that was half filled with coins and bills. There was a piece of masking tape across the front of the glass, with BRI written on it. "Haven't counted your tips yet?"


Bryant gave him a wondering smile. "I can't believe it, Toddy. I don't know how much it is, but I can tell just by looking that it's more money than I've had at one time in years."


Toddy patted his arm. "Well, some of it's because you're new. You just have to be sure that by the time your novelty wears off, you're so good that they keep up the level. I don't think you'll have any trouble."


Bryant emptied out the jar, counting it quickly. "I'll be able to take a cab home."


"I'm sure Clive would come pick you up."


"I'm sure he would, but I like the idea of standing on my own two feet, Toddy. Clive gave me a key before we came here." Bryant felt his chest swell slightly with pride. "Trenton has the only other one."


Bryant called a cab, and Toddy waited with him outside till the taxi arrived, talking quietly. Bryant told him that he was pretty sure there'd be no problem with scheduling classes the next semester so that he could continue to work. Toddy assured him that he could have all the hours he could handle. During the taxi ride to Clive's apartment, Bryant again counted his tips. With the salary Toddy had offered him, he'd do all right even if the tips weren't consistent. The idea of actually earning, getting money that was all his to do with as he pleased, was intoxicating.


He was whistling as he went up the stairs and unlocked the apartment. The front room was dark, save for the glow of the computer. Clive was sitting in front of it, typing. He glanced up as Bryant entered. "How was your first evening?"


"Hectic, but it was a blast." He locked up and took his jacket off, hanging it on a peg near the door. "I have to tell you, Clive--I don't think most people appreciate how wonderful it is to just be able to talk to someone without having to worry about getting thumped for it if a particular person finds out."


"Many of them are blissfully unaware, but I can't say I'd truly wish the knowledge on them."


Bryant came over. "I planned to sneak in so I wouldn't wake you. I thought Trent said he'd talked you into going to bed at decent hours?"


Clive sighed. "I do--when he's here." Bryant noticed a nearly empty glass sitting on the desk. It smelled sharply of alcohol. He gave it a questioning flick. "Yes, I have been drinking a bit. No, I have not drunk too much. I don't often drink alone, Bryant. It's just..." his voice faded for a moment, his hand moving over to touch a small framed photograph. It was a picture of Trenton--showing him in a maroon and gold graduation gown and mortarboard. The boy's expression was grave, but even in the dim light Bryant could make out a mischievous glint in his eyes. "It's just that lately 'alone' has seemed even more so, if you can understand that."


"I can," Bryant said quietly.


Clive traced a fingertip along the lean line of the image's jaw. "But I DO need to get to bed. Busy day tomorrow at work. I'll just finish up this email to Scribe."


Bryant pulled back a little in surprise. "You can write to Scribe?"


Clive held a finger to his lips. "Sh. We don't want word to get out. The poor lamb would be beseiged."


"But HOW? She's in another dimension, isn't she?"


"Dear, I don't ask. She put her head together with Superman and some of his Justice League cronies, and they figured out a way. She's the only one on her end who can send, and there's only three or four of us over here with the technology to send to her. Apparently it's all due to a teeny chip about," he measured a scant length, "this big. I don't even pretend to try to understand--I just enjoy it. She amuses herself, and us, by sending naughty fictions to mailing lists over here. She writes under her own name, but of course no one believes it's HER. There must be several hundred people using variations of her screen name just in Metropolis. In fact, she is occasionally chastised for using her own name. She assures me that she laughs her ass off over those. In any case, I like to write her when I feel a little blue. She's very good for cheering one up."


"Tell her hi for me."


"I've told her a bit about you. If you'd rather I didn't, I can delete that portion."


"No, no, that's fine. I'm not going to be buying ads in the newspaper, but I'm not going to be ashamed of what I went through, either."


Clive patted his shoulder. "That's the way to live, dear." He typed rapidly for a moment, then clicked the mouse, and shut off the computer. As he stood, he said, "I've made up the other bedroom, Bri, so you have a choice of where you'd like to sleep tonight. I will advise you that I believe that the next time Trent sleeps over, I'll want my room for just we two."


Bryant smiled. "Sure, Clive, I understand. If you don't mind, I'd like to sleep with you tonight. Waking up with someone, especially someone I like, is still a novelty to me."


"May you never grow blase about it, precious." He patted Bryant on the shoulder, then headed for his room. "But I'll warn you that all you're getting tonight is the sleeping part. I'm more tired than I'd thought. You know, I often tell Trenton that he exhausts me, but usually it's not that at all." He smiled at Bryant as he began to unbutton his shirt. "Being around Trenton is rather like being hooked up to a vitamin B-12 drip. He just energizes me."


As Bryant undressed he thought, I guess this is one of the down sides of being in love. You can feel at sea when you can't be with the one you love. He thought of how Clive and Trent were together--the silent comfort, the unmistakable warmth, the light in their eyes when they looked at each other. It's worth it, he decided.


On Saturday, Trenton helped Elise in the kitchen while Bryant received more training, and Clive did the books for Attitudes at one of the tables. When Clive caught Bryant eyeing his glasses with amusement, he said tartly, "No, I do not like wearing them, but if I don't, I squint when I do close work. I'd rather look silly for a little while than develop crow's-feet before I have to."


"They make you look... interesting."


"God, darling, that is such a loaded compliment. It can mean anything from 'oh, you troll', to 'lay down so I can jump your bones immediately'."


"Somewhere closer to the bones jumping end of the spectrum."


"Thank you."


"Clive, I was wondering."




"I think it might be a good idea if Trenton skipped gym class and practice on Monday."


Clive put down his pencil. "Do you believe that Lowell will be a problem?"


"Oh, Priory will be a problem, all right. It's his natural state. I don't think he'll get violent--he wouldn't want to risk his job--but I can practically guarantee you that he'll be nasty. I'll deal with it, because I'm not going to let the shit screw my life up any more than he already has, but there could be some fall-out. I don't want Trenton to get caught in it, if I can help it."


"You do have Dom instincts, Bri--thinking of a submissive's safety first. I appreciate it, but Trenton wouldn't stay home even if both Lynette and I ordered him to, and this is one of the very few instances where I would expect him to disobey. But he knows that I'm not going to try to forbid him to lend support to a friend. Don't worry. I believe that Lowell is even more of a physical coward than he is a bully."


"That's what I think, but I didn't really expect him to try to get physical in front of so many witnesses, either." Bryant sighed. "Maybe it was just that he was feeling more secure on his home turf. Then again, he was still drunk. Maybe sober, in public, at his place of WORK, he'll have enough sense to reign it in."


"Yes, dear." And pigs may fly. Clive stood up. "Judging from the ambrosial aroma drifting from the kitchen, that apple cake Trenton was obsessing about yesterday should be done. I am informed that it is best eaten warm, with a generous smear of butter. I have great respect for my boy's opinions, but I intend to find out for myself."


Priory wasn't in the locker room when the boys arrived to suit up for practice on Monday. This wasn't unusual enough for comment, even though the coach usually stalked through the locker room, beginning his training needling early. And copping a good look at all the bodies, Bryant thought.


They were gathered at the pool, chatting idly while they waited, when Lowell entered. The conversations died as he stalked toward the group of young men, then the whispering started.


Priory's face was a mess. Not only was his nose splinted, but his right eye was black, the jaw on that side was swollen, and he had a cut lip. Trenton viewed the damage, then glanced quickly at a stoic Bryant. In Lowell thought that his students knew how he had come to be so battered, there could be trouble.


One of the freshmen, who really should have known better, piped up, "Geez, coach, what happened?"


Priory scowled, then winced as the expression pulled at the healing skin on his lip. "Car accident," he said shortly.


The same freshman (and oh, this kid really needed to grow some common sense--fast) said, "But I saw your car in the parking lot, and it doesn't look..."


"What the fuck are you loafers doing, standing around and jawing? We have that meet coming up, and by Christ I intend to take home first place. If I don't, I'll have you swimming sprints till you all fucking grow gills!"


The boys quickly lined up to begin their relay practice. Priory pointed at Bryant. "You--McAllister. Why are you suited up? You can't swim, and you know it. Get back to the locker room and change into your civies."


Bryant eyed him coldly, suspecting what he had in mind. "I can help with the timing, and I'd rather not risk getting my clothes wet."


Priory's eyebrows lowered. "Are you arguing with a direct order, boy? In case you don't remember, kid, I'm in charge here."


Bryant didn't like it, but he couldn't very well object to what was, on the surface, a perfectly reasonable order. It might raise a stink, and that might make Priory even more pugnacious. Hating the fact that he was giving in yet again, even on such a small thing, he turned and headed for the locker room.


The other boys started their practice, with Lowell and a couple of the senior students timing them. Trenton, waiting his turn, watched Lowell. He wasn't very subtle, impatiently glancing toward the door to the locker room every few seconds. Trenton could see it coming. Sure enough, Lowell handed his stop watch over to a student and told the class to keep practicing, he'd be right back.


Trenton could feel his gorge rising with apprehension. He waited for only a moment, then slipped out of line and padded after Lowell, moving softly when he reached the locker room. He slipped between the banks of lockers, headed toward where he knew Bryant had stowed his gear. He heard the voices, low and intense, and stopped to listen, feeling absolutely no shame at eavesdropping. This was serious business--he was worried about his friend.


"...don't try to tell me you aren't fucking him. There's only one thing a fag like that could want from someone like you."


Bryant's voice was cold. "I'm not denying it, but it's none of your fucking business anyway. Can't you get it through your head, Pri? We're through! You have no say--none--in where I go, what I do, or who I do."


"It has to count for something, Bryant. Four years. Four years I sheltered you, clothed you, fed you..."


"Fucked me, made me your houseboy, beat me. You might think that was a fair exchange, but I have news for you, Pri--it wasn't. The only thing I can say in your favor is that you never once said you loved me. At least you were honest about that, but it is fucking frigid comfort, man. Now, why don't you go back and do your job, and let me finish dressing in peice? I don't like having you for an audience."


Lowell's voice was low and hard. "I can make things bad for you, McAllister."


Trenton raced silently back to the front door, then came boldly down the main aisle, letting his feet slap loudly on the tile. "Coach? Coach Lowell?"


Bryant and Lowell were standing close together, both of them flushed with anger. Lowell looked at Trenton and snapped, "What the hell are you doing here? You're supposed to be doing laps."


Trenton developed a limp, his face twisting in mock pain. "I got a charlie horse. Can I have some of the heat rub?"


Lowell rolled his eyes. "Every other goddamn swimmer is a pussy. Go on, you know where it is."


"Sit down, Trent, and I'll bring it to you," ordered Bryant. Lowell gave the blond boy a hard stare, but Bryant ignored him, walking to the medicine chest that hung on the wall beside the lockers. Bryant brought the tube of cream back to where Trenton had eased himself down on a bench. "You can go supervise the class, coach," said Bryant cooly. "I can take care of this, since I can't join in the practice." Lowell grunted, but went back out to the pool.


Bryant knelt at Trenton's feet, offering him the tube. "Squeeze some in my hand--I can't do it while I'm stove up like this."


"Bryant, I don't really need this."


"I know that, Trent. But this will give us an excuse to stay here a little while." Trenton squeezed a dab of the ointment into Bryant's palm, and the older boy began to strongly massage Trent's calf. "Thank you for caring enough to come in, but it wasn't necessary. I was doing fine."


"I know you were, but I worry. I'm a worrier. Clive says that I occasionally channel a Jewish bubbie."


"Mm. How does this feel?"


"Pretty damn good."


"Not too warm?"


"No, this is really mild. Sometimes I use it to give Clive rub-downs after he's had a hard day."


Bryant was now massaging Trent's thighs, stroking first one, then the other. "Really, now? What sort of massage?"


"Full body--and I mean full. Do you seriously think there could be any other kind with Clive?" Bryant's strong fingers were working on the muscles of Trenton's inner thighs. "Man, that feels good, but you'd better stop."




"It feels too good. I can't go back out there with a boner in these trunks."


"No, you're right about that. We'll just have to do something about that pretty thing." Bryant rose to sit beside Trent, and slid his hand down the front of Trenton's swimsuit. Trenton gasped, his eyes darting wildly toward the door. "Don't worry. Priory will make it a point of pride not to let anyone come back here. He's determined to prove that he couldn't care less about me, so we have a little time. Forget about him, and think about me."


His hand enclosed Trenton's half-hard prick, squeezing gently. "I'm taking you at your word that this stuff is mild, Trenton. What's your safe word?"


"Swan dive," Trent breathed.


"Use it if you need to." Bryant began to knead at his handful of flesh, feeling it thicken and firm rapidly. Trenton's breath speeded up, his head dropping back. "Yes, that's nice, isn't it?"


"Oh, man. So warm."


"Not too?"


"No. Perfect."


Bryant squeezed as he stroked and Trenton cried out softly, biting at his own hand to still the sound. "That's right, Trent. You have to be quiet, very quiet." Bryant's hand moved faster, more strongly, pumping the turgid cock. "Mm, you're getting all slippery. I'd like to taste you, but I don't think it would be wise. I mean, really--if someone walked in and I had your cock down my throat, sucking you off..." Trenton moaned at the lascivious words, "Sound, Trenton, sound. I'll tell Clive to spank you, if you aren't good."


"Yes, sir," Trent whispered. "Oh, please... please."


"Mm, you're close. Maybe just a little." He let go. "Trunks down, and lay back on the bench." Trenton obeyed swiftly, skinning off his swimsuit and lying lengthwise on the bench. His legs dangled off to each side, leaving his crotch raised, his long, hard erection wavering. Bryant straddled the bench, gripped the tempting cock, leaned over, and deep-throated his friend. Trenton clamped his hands over his own mouth to muffle a scream of pleasure, hips arching as he shot his load.


Bryant swallowed quickly, leaving only faint traces of semen on Trenton's softening dick when it slid out of his mouth. "Wash up at the sink, Trent," he said as the dazed boy got to his feet. "You can't go back into the pool like that."


Trenton cleaned up and put on his trunks while Bryant finished dressing. The red-headed boy went to the blond and silently laid his head on the older boy's shoulder for a moment. Bryant stroked Trent's damp curls, then patted him on the rump, and they headed back out to class.


At the pool, Bryant got a stop watch and began timing sprints, under Lowell's frowning supervision. One of the other boys asked Trenton, "Are you okay now?"




"Coach said you had a cramp. Is the stiffness gone?"


Trenton gave him a blinding smile. "It sure is."


Chapter 17: Consideration

Bryant had to spend an hour studying at the library that afternoon. When he stopped by Attitudes it was busy, as usual. Bettina was at the front counter, and he greeted her cheerfully. "Hey, little bit." She giggled in response. Bryant was discovering the ability he had to cause a response in others, and he was enjoying it. It gave him a sense of power, but not arrogance. "Are the bossman and his sidekick available?"


"They're back in Clive's privates station." Bryant arched an eyebrow significantly, and she giggled again. "No, not like that. Well, you never can tell what's going to happen when Clive gets Trent back there."


"Bettina," his voice was teasing, "have you been peeking through keyholes?"


"No! Do you have any idea what Clive would do if he thought... Well, anyway, without permission, and..." She blinked. "You! You're teasing me. You're worse than Trenton is, Bryant." He bowed. "Anyway, I don't think they're, er, up to anything. They took one of the mannequin heads and a wig back there with them. I think Clive is coaching Trenton on some of the hairdressing techniques that aren't covered very much in cosmetology school. He says that by God anyone he takes on as an apprentice is going to have a thorough training--in everything. Everything... Well, maybe they are..."


"I get the idea, Bettina. Thanks." He started toward the back of the salon.


Her eyes got round. "You're going back there without a specific invitation? You're brave."


Bryant walked back to the private station and rapped once on the door. He heard Clive call out, "Who is it?"


"It's Bri."


"Come in, lamb--it's unlocked."


Bri went in, shutting the door after him. He wasn't sure what he'd expected, but there was nothing remotely sexual going on. The mannequin head was on the counter, long blonde wig firmly in place. Trenton, wearing the traditional white cosmetology student smock, was laboring over it. He was concentrating so hard that the tip of his tongue was poking out between his teeth, and Clive was watching that with a great deal of interest. *Maybe I was wrong--maybe something sexual is going on, at least for Clive.* "Hey. What's up?"


"Trenton is learning the fine art of making pin curls," Clive answered, not looking away from his lover. Trenton had separated a long tress, no more than half as wide as his little finger, and was carefully winding it into a flat coil. "That's it, pet--go slowly. You don't want the individual strands unraveling." Trenton pinched the completed curl between thumb and forefinger and groped on the counter, scrabbling in a pile of bobby pins. "And I told you, if you'd keep one or two of those in you mouth, you wouldn't have to grope for them."


"Ew." Trenton managed to tweeze up a pin and clipped the curl.


"Those are brand new, sweetheart, and quite sanitary. We pitch them after one use--that's why they're such a significant item on our budget, and why I spanked your tushie when you made those chains to decorate the store last Christmas. It would have been cheaper to buy tinsel strands. Now, if you'd just asked..."


"Yeah, I'm sorry." Trenton was trying to scrabble up another pin, without much success. "Drat! Just cut my nails, and I don't have anything to pick up with." He gave Clive wide, puppy eyes. "Clive, would you...?"


"This time." He handed Trenton a bobby pin, then picked up several more, and poked them gently between the boy's lips. "Now, hold those!"


Trenton rolled his eyes at Bryant. "Ee ah-ays icking uh-ing ih eyeh ou."


"Say what?" said Bryant.


Clive translated. "He says that I'm always sticking something in his mouth, and he's quite right. Now, how was your day? Was Priory as much of an asshole as I think he was?" Bryant glanced at Trenton, who was again combing out a hank of hair. "No, Trenton didn't betray any confidences, and I wouldn't have asked him to. He knows that he's only to tattle in extreme cases where there might be actual danger involved, and apparently it hasn't reached that stage yet. You're free to tell me to butt out, of course, but my submissive is going to be in the vicinity of a lot of your interaction with that clod, and I'd like to know what's going on."


Bryant sat down in the chair. "Nothing much, Clive. Just what you'd expect. He's still mega-pissed with me, and that isn't likely to go away any time soon. He got me back in the locker room for a little more accusation and verbal abuse. Oh, and he offered to take me back, if I was properly humble. I didn't laugh in his face, but it was a temptation." He shrugged. "He hinted around about making trouble for me, but nothing specific."


"Hm. Well, if he ever does get specific, you go straight to the police. There's such a thing as terroristic threats, and I have a few friends on the force who would take the complaint very seriously."


Bryant lifted his eyebrows, smiling. "Cop friends?"


"My dear, uniforms and handcuffs--how could some of them not be 'our kind'?"


"Good to know." Bryant folded his hands over his belly, watching as Trenton carefully rolled up another curl. "Just out of curiosity, who the heck wears pin curls these days?"


"Either our more *cough* mature customers, or someone going for a retro look. There was a revival of a 1930s musical a couple of years ago, and I taught their hairdresser how to do these. They looked fabulous."


"Wouldn't expect any less from you, Clive."


He bowed. "Dear, I've picked up a couple of change of address forms for you, if you need them. I seriously doubt that Lowell would be good enough to forward any mail to you."


Bryant frowned. "Not really. There was never anything in my name, so I don't have to worry about notifying utilities, magazines, or stuff. Just the Uni, and I can go into Student Affairs to do that tomorrow." He sighed. "You know, when I'm ready to get my own place, it's really going to be a bitch. Since I don't have any record of payments, I'm going to have to have a security deposit for every utility I get turned on."


"No, you won't. They waive that if you have someone willing to sign on as a reference, and I'll be happy to do that."


"I hate to ask you. I really, really want to be responsible for myself."


"You will, Bryant, and you're not asking--I'm offering. I have no doubt that once you get your feet under you, you will have absolutely no trouble standing alone."


"Okay, what do you think?" Trenton stood back from the dummy head.


Clive inspected it thoroughly. "Not bad for a first effort. But look here, darling--see how you've gotten a bit of a clump in this section? I think you were standing in that one spot too much. Remember to move about as you need to--a good hairdo must be observed from all angles."


Trenton nodded, expression free of disappointment or hurt. Bryant reflected that a lot of people, upon receiving a less than glowing appraisal from someone they admired, would have been disappointed. Trenton, on the other hand, knew Clive well enough to know that there would be no false flattery, especially not when it came to something as vital as hair dressing. But he also knew that he would receive instruction rather than criticism. Clive would never just belittle his efforts--he would offer constructive comments.


Trenton had started to unpin some of the curls, ready to correct his mistake, but Clive stopped him. "No, dear, leave it. We'll check it tomorrow, and you'll see what I mean. There's nothing like an object lesson. Tidy up the area, like a good boy, and we'll go on home."


Trenton grinned at Bryant. "Mom's going dancing with Henderson tonight, so I get to sleep over at Clive's." He twirled a bobby pin between his fingers. "It's as much for her as it is for me. She knows that if I'm with Clive, she can invite Henderson in for an *ahem* nightcap."


"I'd tell you not to be so saucy about your mother's love life, if I didn't know how delighted Lynette is," said Clive. "Work. Come along, Bri. I want to have a little talk away from the brat."


They left Trenton tidying the station, and went into Clive's office. Clive shut the door as Bryant sat down. Then, instead of also sitting, Clive began to pace, going back and forth across the narrow space before the desk, hands clasped behind his back. Bryant waited quietly for the Dom to decide to speak. Finally Clive perched on the edge of his desk. "I want to ask your opinion on something."




"How do you feel about May/December romances?"


Bryant didn't answer immediately. He gave the question careful consideration. *He's not referring to Priory and me--he'd hardly classify that as a romance.* "Well, it depends. Some are doomed, but others work--and work well."


"There can be a lot of crap involved in them, from the outside, I mean."


"Yeah, but you can say the same about almost any relationship. I'm sure that even Barbie and Ken have their detractors."


"God, I should hope so, precious! Imagine, only smooth plastic where the fun bits should be. It's just that even when a situation isn't illegal, it can still be viewed askance by society."


"Clive," Bryant said quietly, "I never would have thought you'd give a damn about what society thought."


"I wouldn't, dear--but I'm not the only one who'd be involved."


Bryant smiled, "Well, if Trenton is the May, I have to say that I don't picture you as December. Maybe a really vigorous late July, or mid-August."


"Flatterer." He sighed. "He's eighteen, Bryant, and I'm thirty-eight, and if you tell anyone that, you'll suffer. I'm more than twice his age."


Bryant sat forward. "Some people are old before they're thirty, and some people just flat fucking don't age. You're one of them, Clive. I can tell. You're gonna look pretty much the same for the next twenty years..." He smiled. "Unless you decline to use your own talents, and go gracefully gray. But it's not just physical, and you know it. It's something inside, the attitude. Take Havasnark." He laughed. "I'm pretty sure she wishes you would. They're going to have to nail that little woman in her coffin to get her to go, and even then I bet she makes the daisies over her grave dance. Anyway, why are you asking me this? You and Trenton have been lovers for a year already."


Clive took a deep breath. "Yes. But there are different stages to everything. I find that I have been contemplating a step I've never taken before, and it's one that may lead to another that I thought I'd never consider." He looked down at his toes. "I've been thinking about asking Trenton to move in with me." Bryant was silent, and Clive glanced up at him. "Well?"




Clive smiled faintly. "Not feeling very equivocal today?"


"Clive, it's right--that's all there is to it. It's as right as what I had with Priory was wrong. Anyone who sees you two together for any amount of time can tell. Why are you hesitating?"


"He's just so young. Oh, yes, he's a man now--I've watched him grow from a boy, and believe me, I'm very aware of that. But all that time before, he was his mother's son, then he became my lover, and now... Now I'd be asking him to become something else, but something that was still mine. He's never been just his own person."


"You're wrong there." Clive arched an eyebrow. "Yeah, not used to being contradicted, are you? But you're wrong. Trenton is very much his own person. Clive, the boy knows exactly what he wants. Didn't you tell me that he targeted you when he was fourteen, and stayed right on course for three years? Is this someone who doesn't know their own mind? No, Trenton is his own man, but he chooses to give himself to you. He loves you, man, and he knows he's safe with you. He wants to belong. I'm gonna admit, after the crap I've been through with Priory, I can't feel that way about anyone. I may never be able to. I need the independence, but that's me. Stop and think, Clive. Could you be hurting him by insisting on giving him what you think is acceptable to society, instead of what he really needs?"


Clive's expression darkened. "You know, Bryant, I pushed him to be independent once before. I insisted that he go away from me for awhile, experience new places, experience different people." He closed his eyes briefly, and a flicker of bone deep pain and sorrow passed over his face. "Something very bad happened to him then. I've damned myself to hell countless times for letting that happen to him." He gave a ragged laugh. "I have friends who've told me I shouldn't feel like that--that I couldn't have known, that I couldn't have prevented it." His voice hardened. "But they're wrong. He didn't want to leave me, and I made him. And he was hurt. I made a vow then that I was never going to let anything or anyone hurt him again."


He looked at Bryant, and there was no hint of his usual wry humor. "I call him precious all the time, but he really IS precious to me. I'd convinced myself that I might love a number of people, but I was never going to be in love." He smiled. "Aren't I a silly nit? I think I was a goner the second I saw him standing there in front of my counter, looking up at me with those improbable eyes."


"Well, if that's the case, don't you think that it's time you admitted it? You've been waiting even longer than Trenton did."


Clive nodded slowly. "Thank you, Bryant."


Bryant snorted. "For what? For confirming something you already knew in your heart?"


"Something like that."


Bryant stood up. "There's no class tomorrow. Tell you what, Clive--don't expect me home till way late tonight--possibly in the wee small hours. I may go see a movie after work, if there's anything good at the all night theater."


"And if there isn't?"


He shrugged, smiling slyly. "I may be able to find a better option before I leave Lavender's Green. There's been a number of ladies and gentlemen who've mentioned something about taking me to a good show. Or was that showing me a good time?"



Chapter 18: Asking


"Care for a beer, lamb?"


Trenton was in the living room, locking the door, and Clive had gone into the kitchen. He smiled and called, "Are you having one?"


"I thought I might."


"Okay--that'd be good." Trenton had occasionally pushed to get beer when he was younger, nudging gently at the boundaries Clive had set, only to be met with firm resistance. He hadn't been displeased. It was comforting to know that there were set limits, and to know that they were there for a reason--not just because Clive felt like it. As soon as Trenton had turned eighteen the ban on alcohol had come down, but by then the urge to experiment had faded. Trenton didn't plunge into indulgence, as many boys his age did. He drank only on occasion, and never alone. The truth was, he just wasn't all that fond of the flavor. He much preferred a plain soda, though some of the funky-named mixed drinks that Scribe had introduced were rather tasty.


Trenton slipped the key back into his pocket as he went to the couch. Clive had given him a key to his apartment over a year ago, when they first became lovers. Clive had shared himself physically with many people, but he could be intensely private about his personal life. Trenton recognized the symbolic nature of the gift of the key, and he cherished it. He was the only person who was given free access to Clive's home--he was trusted.


Clive entered the room and sat beside Trent, passing over a bottle. They were both silent for a few moments, taking the first few sips. Clive set his bottle on the table and sighed, reaching down to begin unlacing his boots. Trenton immediately put down his own bottle and moved to kneel at Clive's feet. "Pet," Clive said quietly, "there's no need."


"I know," said Trenton simply. "But I want to. You going to tell me no?" He watched Clive shake his head, smiling faintly. "Then sit back." Clive did so as Trenton removed his boots, then slipped off his socks. The boy sat back on his heels, taking one of Clive's feet onto his thighs, and beginning to massage it. "Tired?"


"A little. I do love my boots, but God, darling, they're heavy by the end of the day."


"It's the steel toes, you know. Maybe you could consider having a few non-insurance grade pairs, just for around the house, or work."


Clive smiled as Trenton released one foot to begin on the other. Most submissives were very hesitant, even wary, of saying anything they thought might hint that their Dom was not the be-all and end-all of What Was Right on every subject. Trenton was thinking of Clive's well-being, so he spoke up: respectful--but he spoke up. "There's a thought. I suppose it would be all right. Even without the armor I could do a lot of damage, if necessary."


Trenton pressed a kiss to the arch of Clive's foot before releasing it and getting up. He toed off his own sneakers, stripping the socks to tuck them into the shoes. He resumed his seat, this time curling his legs up so that he was almost sitting sideways, his back against Clive's shoulder. He took another sip of beer, then put the bottle aside and let his head fall back on his lover's shoulder, giving a sigh of utter contentment.


Clive looked down at the dark head so close to his own. He lifted his hand and thoughtfully stroked Trenton's hair, letting his fingers sift through the soft curls, watching the red glints shoot in its depths, under the lamplight. Trenton's eyes were closed, his expression soft and unguarded. It was the expression of someone who felt totally safe--and at home. Clive loved to see him look like this. He hated the other expression that he'd seen so often in recent days--the tense, lost look that would come when it was time for Trenton to leave again. "Was your day good, lamb?" Trenton made an agreeing murmur. "Tell me."


Trenton didn't open his eyes. "Well, nothing special happened. I mean, it wasn't, like Christmas good, or birthday good, but it was--good. Mom was singing while she made breakfast. We've always done okay together, but Henderson... Henderson really seems to have given Mom something extra, you know? Sometimes she giggles worse than the freshman girls at school." He smiled. "I always thought she was beautiful, 'cause, well, she's my Mom--but she's pretty, Clive. You know?"


"Yes, dear. The right person can bring that out. Go on."


"Let's see... I was on time for all my classes, I was prepared..."


"And well you should have been."


"Yes, sir," his voice was playfully singsong. "And I aced a test in trig that had been bothering me, thanks to Bri's coaching. Coach Lowell didn't speak to either of us. He just glowered a lot, but I can handle that. I shaved another fraction of a second off my 50 meter. I'm almost positive I'll make the Olympic tryouts next year. Um, they had that goulash I like in the cafeteria at lunch. I got the last chocolate milk..." He cracked an eye and said quickly, "I counted that as my dessert." Clive nodded, and Trenton went on. "And pin curls were actually more fun than I thought they'd be. Hmm... Dinner from Elise was the usual feast, and..." his voice was proud, "that Polish Apple Cake I made was so popular that it was gone before I could have a piece." He chuckled. "She said the Lavender's Green crowd was doing their 'plague of locusts' imitation." He sighed, rolling his head to press a soft kiss to the base of Clive's throat. "And I got to come here with you. All in all, a pretty perfect day."


"Can you think of anything that would make it better?" Trenton rolled his head a bit more and looked up at him, wiggling his eyebrows. Clive smiled. "Besides that, precious."


"No, not really."


He was silent for a moment, then opened his mouth, but shut it again. "No, dear, go ahead and say it."


Trenton turned his head away. "Nothing."


Clive shifted, pushing Trent up into a sitting position, and gripped the boy's chin, directing him to look into his eyes. "You were going to say something." Trenton was blushing now, trying to avoid his gaze. "Tell me what it would take for this to be the perfect day."


"I... it's not important, Clive."


"Trenton, look at me." Reluctantly Trenton looked into Clive's eyes. He felt some of the apprehension that had begun to build inside him melt away at the warmth in that beloved brown gaze. "I cannot do my best for you," Clive said softly, "unless you tell me what you need, baby boy. Need, and want."


"I don't want to push."


There was a sadness in the boy's tone that plucked at Clive. "Trenton, if you're worried about pushing me away--don't. You can't do that, precious, believe it. Now, tell me."


Trenton took a breath. There was one thing that he'd wanted from the very beginning of this relationship, but he hadn't dared speak of it. Clive had already given him so much, and he was hesitant to ask for more, but... *But this is a need--soul deep.* "I... if I just didn't have to go back to the apartment tomorrow... it would be perfect. If I didn't have to go back at all... except to visit..." He trailed off.


Clive stroked his chin with his thumb. "If you lived here."


Trenton could feel tears moistening the corners of his eyes. "I know I'm selfish..."


Clive pulled him into his arms, tucking the boy's head down into the crook of his neck. "No, lamb, you're not. I'm the selfish one. I've known what I need to do for a long time, but I've been holding back, telling myself that I was being thoughtful, trying to be sure what was right for you. I'm going to ask you a question, and I don't want you to answer right away. I want you to just sit here and let me hold you while you think for a little bit. This isn't a decision to be made lightly."


There was a brief, bright, unreasoning stab of terror and pain as Trenton thought, *He's going to tell me it's over.*


Then Clive was saying, "Trenton, would you like to move in here, and live with me?"


Trenton's eyes flew wide in wondering shock. He abruptly clutched at Clive, needing the solid anchor of the Dom's body to reassure him that he hadn't imagined this--this thing that he'd wanted for so long. He felt Clive's hands, big and sure, stroking over his back, and he started to cry.


Tears had not been entirely unexpected. Clive knew that Trenton was an emotional little thing--it was part of what made him so talented in dramatics, and role-playing. But the good emotions, the real ones that had just been tapped, could be so intense that they were painful. So he simply held his boy, reassuring him with his touch and gentle, meaningless sounds of love.


After a few moments Trenton stopped crying. His face still streaked with tears, he looked up at Clive, searching the Dom's face. He didn't really believe that Clive would be so cruel as to toy with him in such a manner, but he had to be sure--and he was. There was as much love and acceptance in his lover's eyes as there had ever been, but somehow they seemed just a little deeper, a little sweeter. And far at the back, there was the tiniest hint of anxiety. Trenton suddenly felt the power that he'd always been told that a submissive possessed. Clive had told him that many people outside their life didn't realize just how much control a submissive gained when they gave up control to a loving, responsible Dom.


Trenton kissed Clive, then rested his cheek against the older man's forehead. "Yes, Clive. Oh, yes, yes, yes. This would be..."


"It will be your home, love. Yours, and mine. Is Lynette ready?"


Trenton sat back a little and answered him seriously. "Yes. She might not have been a few months ago, but now--yes. She has Henderson. I mean, I know it's not like replacing a puppy..." Clive smiled at this, pinching his butt, and Trenton chuckled. "But she won't feel alone now. And... and I think she's been expecting this." He gave Clive a shy smile. "I think she's been wondering what was taking you so long."


Clive rolled his eyes, but said, "You got that impression too, did you? I think there's been a time or two she was just about ready to have a talk with me. I'm glad that I decided to move before she put her dainty foot up my leather-clad butt."




There was such eager joy in the single word that Clive had to hug him again. "Soon. We don't want to show unseemly haste, love. Tomorrow or the next day we will speak to the lovely Lynette and get her official dispensation, then we can begin transferring your belongings--gradually. You live close enough that if we don't get everything vital in the first trip, and I have no desire to kill either of us by engaging in activities more suited to a pack mule, it will be readily accessible." When there was a hint of hesitation in Trenton's nod, Clive jounced him lightly. "But our first trip will be to bring most of your clothes and all your school things, so that you can stay here comfortably. I'm not putting this off, Trent."


Trenton pressed his face to Clive's chest, hugging him and rubbing his cheek against the silky texture. "I'm scared."


Surprise colored Clive's voice. "Precious, whatever for?"


"It's everything I've ever wanted, Clive. Our philosophy lecturer told us that perfection is not possible in this imperfect world. If anything perfect ever came into existence, then it was doomed by its very nature. It couldn't be."


"Pfft. And there you have my opinion of most philosophy--at least that which is taught to freshman and sophomore classes. Trenton, dearest, the only philosophy worth having is that which you develop yourself, through observation and life experience. And besides, lover," his voice was grave, "this relationship isn't perfect." Before Trenton could speak, Clive said, "Oh, I grant you that it's as near as anything you're likely to find on this weary old planet, but it isn't. You, my treasure, can be an absolute brat sometimes, and I... I make mistakes." Trenton started to protest again, and Clive said firmly, "No, love. I do. There are some areas of my life where I have been an utter fool, and not snatching you to my bosom ages ago is one of them. I've known for a long time that you aren't just IN my life--you ARE my life, and still I kept that little distance between us. I honestly can't say what I was thinking of, Trent, but I've seen my error now, and I'm acting on it. To be sloppily romantic, and quote poetry, 'Come live with me, and be my love...' And I'm not going into the rest of it, because the bloody poet was a shepherd who was going to drag his love off to some sort of pastoral frolic. But you get the idea."


Trenton grinned at him. "I promise not to tell anyone you quoted Marlowe."


Clive waved his hand dismissively. "You may tell Bettina if you like--she'll think I'm quoting a hard-boiled detective." Clive stood, picking up the two bottles. "And now I think it's time for bed." When Trenton reached for the beer bottles, Clive said, "No, I'll take care of this. You go on and get into bed." Still holding a bottle, he brushed the back of his knuckles down Trenton's cheek. "You're tired, precious. The long, thick eyelashes are drooping over those pretty green eyes."


"I don't know why I am."


"I do. Emotions can be as exhausting as physical labor--you'll learn that in time." Trenton nodded, going into the bedroom. Clive threw the empties in the trash, then went to the bedroom. He paused just outside the door, a full, warm feeling welling up inside him. His lover was waiting for him in their bed--not his bed--their. He went in.


Trenton was under the sheets, his clothes in a neat pile on the dresser. The room was dark, except for a very pale glow that escaped from under the closed bathroom door, but this scene was familiar to Clive--he had seen it many times before. Clive came over and sat on the edge of the mattress, reaching out to trace the lines of Trenton's face. Trenton reached up and caught Clive's hand, pressing a kiss to the palm.


Again Clive said, "You're tired, Trent. Would you like to postpone making love?" Trenton bit his lip doubtfully. "Darling, remember that you're not a sex slave--you're my lover. You don't have to bend and spread on demand. True intimacy is more than just sex, Trenton. You know that."


Trenton nodded. "Could we just hold each other tonight? I'd like that."


"So would I."


Clive stripped and got into bed, then held out his arms. Trenton moved up against him, settling into the shelter that his older lover offered, throwing an arm possessively over Clive's waist. Clive kissed his lips, then his hair, and lay back on the pillow, gently rubbing the young man's shoulder. After a moment Trenton said sleepily, "It's nice--belonging to someone."


"Yes, love," said Clive. "It is."



Chapter 19: Moving


Bryant, hands on hips, surveyed the boxes sitting on Lynette Vittelli's kitchen floor. He called back, "Is this it, Trenton?"


The younger boy appeared from his bedroom, carrying another box. "Of course it isn't. No one ever gets everything on the first go-round when they move." He set the box down, dusting his hands. "Well, maybe obsessive-compulsives, but then they aren't likely to be moving--too much chaos."


"Getting your money's worth from the abnormal psyche class, aren't you?"


Trenton grinned. "It's fun watching the reactions of the other freshmen in the abnormal sexuality lectures. Now that everyone has access to the Internet, it's hard to credit that they're still managing to reach college that naive."


Bryant tweaked his nose. "Don't judge 'em by yourself, Trent. You're a special case."


"So I've been told."


Bryant glanced casually at the cabinet doors. "I guess you don't need anything from here?"


"Don't be so sure about that." Trenton opened one door and pulled out several pans. "Spring form, souffle pan, Mom said I could have the fondue pot she and dad got as a wedding present..."


"I forgot that you're also a budding chef."


Trenton shrugged as he tucked the items into a box. "It's a different form of creativity." He cut a look at Bryant. "If I get time, after I finish with my cosmetology training, I was thinking about looking into studying culinary arts. Clive is still talking about some day setting up a restaurant with Elise, and he isn't one for spinning daydreams without acting on them."


"Nope. Clive is pretty much a 'make it so' guy."


Bryant watched as Trenton removed a half-full box of chocolate snack cupcakes, and raised his eyebrow questioningly. "These are mine," Trenton said defensively. "I bought them, and Mom doesn't eat them, anyway." Bryant said nothing. "And I like Henderson, but I'm not leaving my goodies for him."


Bryant laughed, shaking his head. As Trenton hefted one of the boxes and started for the front door, he said, "You're not going to wait for Lynette to come back?"


Trenton paused, looking back at him, and his eyes were serious. "No. She's visiting with Henderson, and she's going to stay there till this evening." He hesitated, then said quietly, "She's happy this is happening. She knows that it's what I want, and she wants it for me, but it's still hard for her. For the longest time it was just us, and now..." He trailed off.


Bryant went to him, putting a hand on his shoulder and squeezing gently. "You're very lucky, Trent. You've had so much love in your life, and the terrific thing is that you know it, and appreciate it. Lynette's going to be all right. You both are."


Trenton nodded soberly. Then he smiled and bumped Bryant with his hip. "Make yourself useful, wouldya? With both of us, this shouldn't take long."


Bryant gave Trent's hair a quick scrub. "Bossy bottom."


He received a shrug and a grin in return. "Bryant, you don't mind being pushed out into the smaller room, do you?"


"Are you kidding? You never saw where I was existing before, did you? Notice I said 'existing', not living. Clive has made it clear that's MY place for as long as I want it. I'm taking advantage of his generosity for a while longer, but as soon as I really get my situation shaken down, I'm going to want my own apartment. After all, I'm starting to get my own social life." He winked at Trenton. "And though I don't think you or Clive would mind, some of them might be a bit shy."


They finished carrying the boxes downstairs, then loaded them on the dolly that Toddy had lent them from Lavender's Green. Clive had given Trenton a choice--do it this way, or wait till his day was done at Attitudes, because Trenton was not getting his car to move. "You're careful, love, and so is Bri, but at your age insurance companies practically pee their pants, and that pesky piece of paper can make a BIG difference in my budget if anything happens. If Bryant is willing to drive, you can go ahead."


Downstairs they loaded the boxes into the trunk of the car. As Bryant shut the lid, he shook his head. "Three trips."


"And it's a good thing we have a backseat, too. If this was one of those bucket seat jobs we'd have been all day. It's amazing how much a person can accumulate in their life, and mine hasn't been all that long."


Bryant clapped Trenton on the shoulder. "I moved with a couple of garbage bags, but then I wasn't really coming from a home. I didn't really have anything that was mine. I'm looking forward to accumulating my own pile of stuff." He grinned. "Including what Mrs. Havasnark refers to as 'tchochkies'. She gave me my first one." He held up his thumb and first finger, a couple of inches apart, measuring. "It's a little cat figurine, no bigger than that. She said she wanted to be the first person to give me something totally useless."


"Snarky's one of a kind."


"Thank God. Can you imagine how exhausting a gaggle of her would be?"


They drove over to the apartment. With the two of them, it didn't take long to get the boxes upstairs. There was a covered plate sitting by the door in the upper hall, with a note on it. As Trenton unlocked, Bryant picked it up and read it. He grinned. "It says 'Trent, pretend I don't do this all the time, and consider this a welcoming gift. Love, Snarky--who now has three good looking mentshes living upstairs.'"


"It's a good thing I swim. The practice keeps me from porking up. What did she send us this time?"


Bryant peeled the foil up off the plate. "Hm. Can't say. It looks like a sort of butter cookie, but with nuts and... Well, the only thing that luridly red would have to be chopped marischino cherries."


"I love it when she experiments. I can't wait to see what she names these."


They moved the boxes into the apartment, settling them with the ones they'd brought up on the previous trips. Bryant locked the door, and turned back to find Trenton hugging himself, gazing around the room with shining eyes. He looked at Bryant silently, and Bryant just nodded. Trenton had been her countless times, but this time--he had come home. "Trenton, would you like me to find somewhere else to sleep tonight?"


Trenton went to him and hugged him. "No. Part of this being my home is that I'll have a say in who comes into it, and I can't think of anyone else I'd want here more than you, Bryant." He put his head on Bryant's shoulder and whispered, "I've had some rough spots in my life, but I know I'm blessed. You... You've had so little, and you deserve so much. I'm happy that I can give to you."


Bryant returned the embrace, gripping Trenton's hair and gently shaking the boy's head. He could feel tears pricking his eyes, but he knew they wouldn't fall. He wasn't sure if he'd ever be able to cry again. *Was I ever this young? There's only a couple of years difference between us, but I feel like I've been old all my life.*


He pushed Trenton away gently. "Trent, you just being happy with Clive is a gift to me. Let's start putting this stuff away."

~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~

Clive unlocked the door to his apartment. Bryant was sitting on the sofa, watching television. He looked up quickly, but Clive put a finger to his lips, then mouthed the word 'where?'. Bryant grinned, and tipped his head toward the kitchen. Clive shut the door quietly, then raised his voice. "Honey, I'm home."


Trenton came pelting out of the kitchen. He skidded to a halt in front of Clive, almost vibrating with excitement, and Clive said, "What on earth are you waiting for? Give me the first 'welcome home' kiss." Trenton proceeded to wrap himself around Clive. Since he was the taller of the two, he was pretty damn effective at it.


He kissed his lover thoroughly. When he broke the kiss, Clive took a deep breath, and Trent grinned at him. "Made ya breathless."


Clive kissed him again, briefly, then smacked his ass and pushed him gently away. "You always take my breath away, darling. Of course the fact that you have lungs like bellows from all that swimming helped you, here." He sniffed. "You didn't have to cook your first night here."


"I know," said Trent cheerfully. "But since this is now MY place, too--I WANTED to. I'm making pot roast--Mom's specialty. We have about another half hour." He trotted back into the kitchen.


Clive sat down beside Bryant. Bryant noticed his fond look after Trenton, and said wryly, "You do realize that you might own the rest of the apartment, but that is now his kitchen?"


"Bri, dear, that's been his kitchen for a long time now. I have no problem with him having his little domain."


"That's nice. With Pri the kitchen was my responsibility, but it damn sure wasn't my kingdom."


"Speaking of assholes, has he been giving you any more trouble?"


Bryant scowled, but said, "Not really."


Trenton was coming out of the kitchen, carrying two bottles of beer. He handed one to each of them, then said, "Tattletale warning: he is so. He's being a real creep, Clive. Coach has never been all that lavish with praise, but now Bryant can't do anything right. His push offs are wrong, he isn't cutting the center of the lane clean enough, he needs to do more practice laps."


"It's nothing."


"Bri, he gave you a demerit for bad hygiene because your toenails were too long! Since when does he check toenails except to look for athlete's foot? And if he's going to do that, what about Clancy? He looks like he has werewolf blood--claws!"


"Trent!" Bryant's voice was firm--the voice of a Dom--and Trenton instinctively bowed his head. "I don't want you getting upset by this. It's irritating, yes, but it's nothing compared to what I've been through. Right now I think that it's most effective to just ignore him. Pri wants either submission, or confrontation," he smiled coldly, "indifference stings him like vinegar on raw skin. Just let me handle it in my own way." His tone gentled. "I don't want you making a target of yourself trying to defend me. Understand?"


Trenton peeked up, biting his lip. "Yes, sir." He went back into the kitchen.


Bryant let his head drop back on the sofa, staring up at the ceiling. "It's strange."


"What is?" Clive asked.


"Having someone care about me. I'm not used to it." He smiled. "It's nice, though."


"Isn't it? Reciprocating is nice, too."


"Yes, it is." He glanced at Clive. "Okay, enough of the stoic crap. Priory is being a dick. I thought when he got a little time between him and my leaving he'd start to get over it, but he's getting worse. I mean, I used to feel like he desired me, but didn't really LIKE me--now I think he hates me."


"I wouldn't be surprised. He's the sort to hate what he wants, but can't have. You dared to leave, instead of waiting to be discarded." Clive half turned toward him, propping his elbow on the sofa back. He took a thoughtful sip of beer, then said gravely, "Bri, any social worker or psychologist will tell you that the most dangerous period in any domestic abuse situation is just before and just after the victim leaves. You avoided some of it because the break was so abrupt. If Lowell had the time to sober up a little, it might have been a lot nastier." Bryant nodded his understanding. "I want you to be very, very careful. So far Priory has relied on his fists and his attitude to keep you in line. Well, you've shown him that isn't enough. There's a chance he might... escalate."


Bryant grunted. "I've thought about buying a gun. I don't want to."


Clive's expression was sober. "I won't advise you on that. It's a very, very personal thing. I don't like them, but the sad fact is that they're readily available to the worst sort of people. I will ask that if you decide to do that, you don't keep it here."


Bryant nodded, then smiled. "If I decide to, I'm sure Snarky will be happy to hold it for me."


Clive laughed. "Snarky will take you to her shooting range on 'Bring a Friend Friday'."


Trenton leaned through the door. "Anybody interested in making a salad?"


Bryant jumped up. "Me! Has Elise showed you the quickest way to clean and chop a bell pepper?"


As he went toward the kitchen, Trenton was saying, "Bell pepper? Ew! If you make me eat raw bell pepper, I'm counting it as a punishment."


Clive chuckled, listening to the teasing banter in the kitchen. The chuckle faded a little as he took another drink. Yes, Trenton was a bit of a worrier, and yes, Bryant had to handle this situation himself. But when Clive considered Priory Lowell, he couldn't help but feel that somehow Bryant's break with him had gone too smoothly. He just had a premonition that anything involving Priory was going to be a lot uglier.

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