Meet Dean

Dean is 22 years old, sings in a night club to support himself while pursuing an English course. His dream is to be a writer. He has a thick mass of dark blond hair, and a fine pair of bewitching green eyes. He is 5' 10", slim built.

Temperament : spit fire temper, untidy, disorganized, moody, likes to sulk, can be rude when crossed.

Meet Malcolm

Malcolm is 28 years old, with masses of untidy dark brown curls, and hazel-coloured eyes. He is built on slightly smaller lines than his partner, standing at 5' 8" in his stockinged feet. He is calm, genial, outgoing, imaginative, organized and ... a bit eccentric! Malcolm is a patient man and tolerant to a point; beyond that watch out. He absolutely dislikes tantrums and rudeness of any sort.

He runs a vintage clothing, costume shop.

chapter 1

Dean stood in the shadows, straining to hear the conversation beyond the small stage. Peeping cautiously from behind the pillar, he watched as the club manager talked to the new girl who had just come in to audition.

She had been good; in fact she had been great. And Dean had known it the minute she opened her mouth to sing. She had held him mesmerized. Obviously Omar, the club manager had felt the same too. He had come over immediately and was now trying to sign her on for one or two appearances a week.

Omar liked to fill his club with bright and promising youngsters, give them a chance to perform, earn a few bucks, and perhaps even catch the eye of a talent scout. So he hired them for a few shows a week, rotating their schedules to give his audience a range of talents. It was a good ploy, his club was always packed and the crowd loved the variety.

Dean didn’t feel threatened. He was himself very popular and he had a good following, although Dean knew his voice was only just above average. He would never be a star from his singing but that was okay. He didn’t intend to sing forever. He was only doing this to support himself while he finished his English course and then he would write!

Watching Omar shake hands with the girl, he realized the deal had been made and he turned to leave. He could be magnanimous. The girl really deserved a spot in the night club and he would make sure he told her that when they next meet. He picked up his guitar and headed out to his beat up old mini.

God, but some days he just felt like kicking the lamp post. Or drowning his misery in a gallon of beer or some bad wine.


Malcolm Innes kept a close eye on the lobster tails sizzling on the grill, as he tossed a simple salad of romaine lettuce, tomatoes and large black olives, marinated with his own special blend of sweet vinegar and herbs. Add a crusty French baguette, seasoned olive oil for dipping, a bottle of chenin blanc and you had, in Malcolm's not too humble opinion, the perfect meal.

You would never know it to look at him. He looked a bit like an overgrown Hobbit with his slight figure and curly mop top. But appearances can be deceiving and all that, because Malcolm was a top, and more than capable of changing a certain recalcitrant young brat into an obedient one. Often with just a glance, or by altering the tone of his voice. Well, usually. Sometimes he had to resort to the well placed swat or two, corner time and further discussions. Sometimes. And woe to the recalcitrant young brat when he did.

Speaking of which, where was Dean?

Dean was caught in the middle of the devil’s own temper and an urgent desire to nestle in Malcolm’s arms. He was out of sorts and he had no idea why. These moods just come upon him at random and there was nothing he could do about it. Well, Malcolm might say differently but then what did Malcolm know?

With a deep sigh, Dean climbed out of his little car and stretched, then grabbed his guitar and trudged up the drive to the porch. He was tired and hungry and miserable and something smelt damn good as he yanked the front door open.

“Malcolm!” he shouted, as he let the front door slam.

Malcolm winced as he took the lobster tails off of the grill; by the time he had carried the platter to the table, he was frowning. He went to confront his brat. "This is not a large house, Dean. There is no need to shout nor slam the front door hard enough to rattle the windows. You know how I feel about both those things."

Malcolm then gave Dean a hug and a swat on the rear. "You look like you've had a beastly day, and while I do sympathise, it is not an excuse to storm in like an invading army of Huns." He pulled Dean's head down and gave him a quick kiss."Why don't you wash up while I finish, then you can tell me all about it while we eat."

Dean calmed as he breathed in Malcolm’s scent. Must have been a dog in an earlier life, he thought to himself. He went to the washroom off the kitchen and splashed water on his face. He let the water run down his hands to form small pools on the bathroom floor. Then he dried himself with a face towel, which he then carelessly tossed on the mosaic counter top. Satisfied, he went back to the kitchen.

Dean came up behind Malcolm and put his arms around the older man, squeezing him tightly. Malcolm turned around and returned the hug, and planted a kiss on the hollow of Dean's neck. He shooed him towards the table, so he could finish up.

Dean obeyed readily, relishing the many ways in which Malcolm consumed him. It was not just the coddling and the pampering – it was the way Malcolm infused himself into so many aspects of Dean’s existence, the almost complete consummation of his life. He liked Malcolm’s firm tone, and how Malcolm had chided him for slamming the door, and then bullying him to get clean. He would even like the way Malcolm would scold him when he saw the tossed face towel and the wet floor.

"You seem to have calmed down and you certainly smell better. I hope you picked up after yourself and didn't leave your usual disaster in the bath. Last time there was so much water on the floor I could have sailed a toy boat."

Dean smiled vaguely and looked with interest at the table. His spirits picked up when he spotted the lobster tails and the accompanying bottle of wine. Ah - another characteristic of their relationship which filled Dean with satisfaction. Malcolm always did things with style. Sliding into his chair, Dean held out his glass, thirsty and hungry.

Malcolm filled the glass a little over half full. "To start you out, and there is a glass of water for you as well. Drink the water first if you are thirsty. Wine should be savoured." Malcolm took his own seat with a sigh. "Do you have any idea of the self control it took not to eat while I cooked?” He broke off a piece of the baguette and dipped it into the seasoned olive oil, then stuffed it in his mouth and smiled in pure bliss.

Dean sipped his wine and then quickly put it down, replacing it with the water goblet as he felt Malcolm’s eye on him. He reached for the bread and nibbled at it, ignoring the olive oil. He appreciated the good life and loved rich foods and expensive wine, but he was always careful about what he consumed. He watched his intake like a hawk and was prone to wasting food if there was any danger of it impacting his waistline.

Malcolm, who had the metabolism of a hummingbird, watched Dean nibble. "Olive oil is very good for you, and you're not a bloody fashion model, so don't nibble, eat. Enjoy it; don't turn it into a battle between the food and your trouser size. Life's too short." Malcolm tore off another piece of bread, dunked it into the seasoned olive oil, tilted his head back and then let the olive oil drip off the bread and into his open mouth. Some made it onto his chin before he finally ate the bread. "Delish. Want to lick my chin? “Malcolm laughed and took a sip of his wine.

Normally, a remark like that would have catapulted Dean off his chair and onto Malcolm’s lap, happy to oblige. But not today. Dean was in battle mode, so he glared at his lover and picked up his wine glass. Narrowing his eyes in a definite challenge, he threw his head back and downed the liquid with a few lustful swallows.

“No nibbles there, my darling! There – all gone!”

"You don't nibble wine, sweet cheeks, you sip it. And you are about two shakes from eating your dinner from a tray while standing in the corner with a sore bum." Malcolm took Dean's plate and put two lobster tails and salad on it, then passed it back to him. "I can tell you are in a snit, and I am willing to discuss the cause of it. Civilly. Without the attitude, if you please. This is your first and only warning." Malcolm served himself, replenished his glass of wine and waited for an answer.

Dean fumed, but quietly. He had learnt to mind Malcolm over the years and knew when not to push, unless he was in the mood to bear the consequences. And dammit, there were times when Dean just needed to feel the power of having Malcolm in charge. It was a weird inherent yearning that Dean couldn’t understand, but strangely which Malcolm did. It was like an occasional hunger, a security blanket, sometimes an aphrodisiac even. And once Dean found Malcolm, he was sold. Finally a man who knew what he needed and supplied it swiftly and effectively.

He accepted his plate and ate silently, avoiding Malcolm’s eyes. He didn’t have to try very hard not to nibble; the lobster tails were very tasty and he finished them with alacrity.
Malcolm closed his eyes briefly and resisted the urge to rub his temples. Dean had gone from giving him attitude to giving him the silent treatment. At least he was eating. "So, are you going to tell me about what it is that is bothering you, or am I going to have to resort to torture? I'm quite prepared to tickle you mercilessly until you talk." Right now Malcolm was being patient, but it wasn't going to last forever.

The lobster tails must have been really exceptional for Dean gave in to a gurgle of laughter and he looked up with a sudden flashing smile. “Oh no, you won’t Malcolm. You know you can’t really hold me down if I don’t want to. I am stronger than you!”

Malcolm raised an eyebrow, a twinkle in his eye. "You may be taller than I am, dearest, but you are not stronger. And no, I won't enter into some macho contest over it. The only type of wrestling I have any use for is erotic wrestling as you well know." Malcolm rolled up the sleeve of his t-shirt and flexed his arm. "Look at that muscle." Nothing much was happening "Wait, now look. Oh bugger it anyway." Malcolm laughed. "Now tell me your sad tale of woe."

The corners of Dean’s mouth suddenly drooped and he looked at his plate again, tossing his uneaten salad around. “Nothing to tell. No tale, no woe! Absolutely nothing at all. There is however a new talent in town and she is wonderful! Truly magnificent. I would kill to get a voice like hers. Do I sound jealous? Envious? Do I? I am not you know. I am just saying.”

Malcolm, having had a few years’ practice, was an expert on 'Dean-speak'. It's not what he said you had to pay attention to; it was what he didn't say. Droopy mouth, droopy shoulders, lack of eye contact. He got up, walked around to Dean's side of the table, kissed him on the top of his head and massaged his tense shoulders. "Your shoulders are hunched all the way up to your ears, babe, so no use keeping up the pretence; I can tell you're upset. You're winding yourself up. It'll be ok, trust me. Take a few bites of the salad please and after we've finished and tidied up I'll give you a proper massage."

The massage sounded good; yes he could do with some pampering. A whole lot of it actually. Dean pushed his plate away and stood up. “Oh I am done. Can we leave the dishes in the sink? I am really tired and I want to shower now. Come Malcolm, be good to me!” he ordered.

One eyebrow raised and then the other followed. "Excuse me?" He swatted Dean and pushed him back onto the chair. "Three bites of the salad. Not nibbles, actual bites. This is non-negotiable. Then we will tidy up. It won't take long. I prefer to have all those unpleasant but necessary tasks out of the way. Do not make me add spanking you to the list. I'm tired as well."

Malcolm folded his arms and waited.

Dean gasped as he felt himself thrust back into his seat. “NO!” he said, impetuously, without thinking, for if he had thought he would never have said no to Malcolm. “I mean, no, I do not want you to add spanking to the list,” he quickly said, “ ... oh, all right, I am eating!”

Dean forked a few pieces of lettuce and one small piece of tomato and put that gingerly into his mouth. He chewed with exaggerated effort and swallowed, but he ate another forkful, and then another, and glanced at Malcolm before he got up.

Malcolm, far from being angry, found Dean's exaggerated performance amusing. Well, to a point. Dean was walking a fine line between complying and acting out. "Thank you. Spanking averted."

“You promised me a massage.”

"I did. You shall have it after we tidy up and don't roll your eyes at me please. Remember, I am within easy reach of a variety of wooden spoons." Malcolm smiled. "So let's get to it, shall we?"

And that was that.


The massage had been good, but the sex that followed was even better. Malcolm had been brisk and firm and a little rough, just what he needed in this mood. Dean lay on his back staring at the ceiling while Malcolm snoozed beside him; lost in the kind of drop-dead but satisfied exhaustion immediately after glorious love making. Malcolm lay on his front, with one heavy leg flung possessively over Dean so that he could not move without disturbing him.

Damn, Dean felt like creeping away to steal a smoke. He wanted a smoke so badly. If Malcolm knew, he would be in trouble. But when had that ever stopped him?

Malcolm wasn't aware of much of anything at the moment, only that a sense of being uncomfortable had intruded into his dreams. With a mild grunt, he rolled over on his side. Much better. He must have been on his stomach again. He mumbled a bit, something about a giant chocolate bunny, and then was quiet once more.

That gave Dean the opportunity to slide out from under Malcolm. Creeping softly out of the room, Dean headed down the stairs and fished a crumpled pack of cigarettes out of his guitar case (the perfect hiding place) before he went out the kitchen door into the little porch at the back. He leaned against the porch railing and gleefully lighted one. He was well enough away from the front of the house for any tell-tale smoke to permeate Malcolm’s slumber, but he wasn’t kidding anyone. Cigarette smoke clung on to you forever, especially when you wanted to avoid detection, and unless he planned on sleeping downstairs, it was highly unlikely Malcolm would not discover his truancy.

Dean gave a mental shrug; that would take care of itself. The immediate need was nicotine in his system. He felt the first kick and the rush of blood through his veins. The cigarette was a bit stale but it was better than nothing.

Malcolm turned over once more. He frowned in his sleep. The sheets felt cool. That wasn't right. He fought his way towards consciousness, knocking giant chocolate bunnies left and right. He blinked and looked at the empty half of the bed. Dean's half.

"Dean?" Malcolm padded naked to the bathroom. No light, no Dean. Curious.

He went back to the bedroom and slipped on a pair of boxers, and then he went on the hunt. He headed down the stairs with purposeful strides and stepped out the front door and paused. He smelled smoke, but no sign of a fire. He went back in. No Dean in the living room, but ah! the hallway light was on. He continued on his search. No Dean in the kitchen either, but wait, the kitchen door was slightly ajar.

To quote Alice in Wonderland, things were getting curiouser and curiouser. No sign of the human but so many clues to follow. And the scent of smoke was getting stronger. He followed his nose and found Dean, puffing away on a death stick. For a few seconds he stood there, watching the smoke curl. Dean had his back to Malcolm and was still unaware of his impending doom.

Welly. Welly.

Malcolm walked over and gave Dean a smack on the ass that sent the cigarette flying. He delivered another and then one more. He shook his smarting hand. "Make sure that is properly out, then go to the bedroom and pick a corner." Malcolm went back inside.

Dean thought for a moment his heart had stopped beating. True, he had not had high expectations that his smoking spree would have avoided detection but to be so rudely smacked and without any warning from behind was just ... too much! He turned around with a loud yelp, which was both indignant and resentful and was even angrier when he found no one there.

Welly. Welly.

Chewing his lip, he wondered if he should dignify the request (okay, order) by obeying, or pretend he had been knocked unconscious by the painful smacks.
Malcolm was trying to calm down a bit; he was on his second shot of rum. He frowned. He heard no door opening, no panicked scampering of feet up the stairs. He set his glass down and walked back outside. Dean was still standing there.

"Dean? Have you suddenly lost your ability to understand the Queen's English? I said go upstairs and pick out a corner. Now. Or I will get a switch and start things off right here, right now, and provide a year's worth of gossip for the neighbours. And I will have the remainder of the cigs." Malcolm held out his hand.

Dean was still rubbing his backside. “I don’t have any more! That was my last one!” he said, his thick lashes fluttering like they always did when he lied. He began to move back into the kitchen, keeping a wary eye on Malcolm. Malcolm sounded much too cross for Dean to want to keep him waiting.

Malcolm gave serious consideration as to whether he needed to have a third shot of rum as he followed Dean inside. Dean was lying about the cigs, he knew it. No, a third shot might interfere with his hand-eye coordination and he was going to need that to be in good working order. He followed Dean's slow progression upstairs. As Dean picked out a corner, he spoke once more. "I know you still have cigs, Dean. Turn them over to me, right now, or it will be the cane instead of the paddle. Last chance."

Shit! Dean found himself in a quandary. He had already said this was his last cig. So now if he brought out the rest of the pack, it would be evidence of lying. And lying was a serious offence in Malcolm’s book. On the other hand, if he continued to stick to his story, and if Malcolm found out, he would be in even worse trouble. Did Malcolm mention the cane?


Damn ... it was hard to think when you have a foot-tapping Top breathing down your neck!
"Finding ourselves in a bit of a quandary are we? Let me make things a bit easier for you."

Malcolm reached around Dean's waist, untied the sweats and then yanked them down just far enough to expose his bum. Malcolm smacked him hard. "Point one, I caught you smoking, which is strictly forbidden." He smacked Dean again. "Point two, this means you have been hiding cigarettes." He smacked Dean a third time. "Point three, I know you have more cigs, which means you lied about that as well."

Totally at a loss for words by now, Dean did the only thing he could think of; he stamped his foot. He would have snarled as well but Malcolm was too quick for him. Malcolm didn't say anything after that, letting his hand do the talking, until Dean's bottom was light red. "Do you have an understanding yet of just how much trouble you are in?"

Dean leaned his head against the wall and silently mouthed the words ‘no’ defiantly, but only to himself.

Malcolm sighed. "I'm sorry, but I think you've earned a caning for this, Dean. Six of the best, as they say. I want you to take off the sweats and put on a pair of boxers. I plan to make an impression, and the sweats offer too much protection.”

Dean’s heart made a plunge to his stomach and he turned red-rimmed eyes to look at his Top. “No,” he said again, this time with a whole different meaning.

“Look on the bright side; it will be over far faster than a paddling."

“There is NO bright side,” Dean protested loudly, not moving an inch as he watched Malcolm fetch the cane from the wardrobe.

Malcolm tapped the cane while he waited for Dean to comply. "Would you rather have them on the bare?”

Dean gave Malcolm a look that spoke volumes. His Bambi facing the Hunter look. Malcolm was decidedly unmoved. Bugger.

“I am going to count to three. If you haven't moved by the time I'm finished, I will add a stroke. One......Two....Thr..." Dean walked out of the corner at a snail's pace.

“I’m going ...” Dean muttered in between clenched teeth.

Malcolm ignored Dean's cheek and pulled the desk chair out into the room. "I'm thinking I've been far too lenient of late, and this is the result. So I need to tighten your leash a bit. We can discuss that tomorrow. Right now, I'd like to get this over and done with, so we can get to bed." Malcolm gave the cane a few practice swishes.

Dean took the crumpled pack of cigarettes out of the pocket of his sweatpants and handed them to Malcolm, who placed them on the bedside table. Dean then changed into a pair of boxers.

Dean had been in this predicament often enough to remember how to position himself. Feeling decidedly nervous, he bent himself over the back of the chair, grasping the front legs, so he was nicely stretched. Well, that was what Malcolm says anyway; like he would know. All he could see was the floor and the chair legs.

"Wait. It needs one more touch." Malcolm took a cigarette from the pack and placed it in Dean's mouth. "There. Don't let that fall out." Malcolm didn't worry about Dean leaving his position before the punishment was over. He'd done that once, and Malcolm had made sure to impress upon him the importance of remaining still. It was for Dean's safety.

Dean’s eyes filled with tears even before the cane fell.

Malcolm rubbed the cane with a piece of chalk; this enabled him to see where the stroke landed, so he could aim the next one a bit lower. Not too high and not too low. He touched Dean's taught buttocks with the cane, lightly, taking his mark, and then he struck. Dean's cries of distress cut into him, but he didn't waver and he didn't hold back. He couldn't if he was to keep Dean safe and healthy. So he methodically administered another five strokes in the same fashion.

Dean bit back his cries the moment the cane stopped falling. That didn’t stop the pain from searing his backside though, nor did it make it any easier to breathe. He sniffled quietly while his muscles remained tense as he held on to the chair legs, waiting desperately for the smart to lessen. They would, he knew they would, but damn it took ever so long.

The caning had been as painful as he remembered. No, actually it was more painful than he remembered or he would not have been so foolish as to work Malcolm up. Malcolm was mostly a good and kind Top but he had very little patience with tantrums and defiance and especially not when he wanted to sleep. And Dean knew that perfectly well.

Dean shifted his feet slowly, carefully allowing the soft cotton boxers to move on his blistered bum. He wouldn’t get up till Malcolm let him. Pain filled a big part of his brain, but as the pain subsided, it was exchanged with a feeling of total surrender.

Malcolm wished he could snap the damned cane in two and never have to use it again, but it was a very effective teaching tool and like his father always said, you use what works. Which had been the bath brush in Malcolm's case. He returned the cane to the wardrobe, and then helped Dean to stand. He took the cigarette, stood up on his toes and planted a light kiss on his brat's swollen lips. He wrapped his arms around Dean and rubbed his back.

"I'm going to have to start wearing platform boots or something, it's just not right that you are taller than me." Malcolm eased his right hand beneath the waist band of Dean's shorts and lightly fingered a welt.

Dean hissed and tried to shy away.

"Why don't you just take those off, you'll be more comfortable not having anything touching. It's warm enough to not bother with the bed covers."

Dean buried his head on Malcolm’s neck, holding on to him tight. He shook his head, not wanting to move, not wanting anything except to be held by his Top. He slipped his own hand down into his boxers and gingerly followed the line of the welts on his behind, and swallowed hard. Malcolm caned as hard as he paddled. He had been mad to have baited his Top, but it was partly Malcolm’s fault. He had not said anything about the wet bathroom or the untidy towel.

Malcolm continued to rub Dean's back, soothing him. Dean always required a lot of soothing. "You know, you can just come up to me and say 'Malcolm, I need a spanking' anytime. You don't have to push and push until you get more than you wanted, like tonight. I will admit to being preoccupied lately, so I may have missed the signals. And no I did not miss the mess in the bathroom; I had planned to discuss it in the morning, when both of us were better rested. Obviously, I should have addressed it then and I will make it a point in the future to address behavioural problems as they arise. So be warned. The next time you throw a paddy in Tesco's, I will escort you to the loo and warm your bum then and there."

“Promises!” Dean muttered with a mischievously sidelong glance and a twitch of the lips. At this point in time, besides the horrible sting in his backside, he felt a deep calm. He was in a strange place of mixed emotions. Before he met Malcolm, he had not known such peace existed, or how to find it. But Malcolm had made him give over control so completely that it made him realize he had never been so contented in his life. It wasn’t always easy being subjected to Malcolm’s strict rule. But it made him complete.

“We don’t need to discuss the bathroom tomorrow you know, Malcolm,” Dean said kindly.

"We don't?" Malcolm raised an eyebrow. "You plan to go in there right now and tidy up, do you? As late as it is and with a sore arse? Well far be it from me to stand in your way if that is the case. You know I encourage your fits of tidiness. But I don't want a representative of the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Brats showing up at my store tomorrow. I have a fringe theatre group coming in to look at my vintage Carnaby Street mod clothes." Malcolm yawned.

Dean pouted and heaved a sigh. He really was sore and he wanted nothing more than to curl up in bed in his Top’s arms. “Come to bed, Malcolm,” he commanded primly. “You need your beauty sleep now, I can see how tired you are. No wonder you were such a bear. You know its not acceptable to throw a paddy just because you are tired ... how many times must I tell you ... “

Malcolm snorted. "Don't get cheeky sunshine. You trying to get all Toppy is like a Chihuahua trying to pretend it's a Great Dane. Doesn't work, luv." Malcolm made his way to the bed, towing Dean behind. He lay down and Dean joined him, slowly. They lay there, Dean draped partially over Malcolm's chest, and drifted off to sleep.


Chapter 2

Dean counted his money and slid the notes into his wallet, with a nod of thanks to Omar. He had come in to collect his week’s earnings, and also to catch the last part of Alicia’s performance. He loved to hear her voice although he would rather be bald than admit it. The crowd cheered enthusiastically; much more warmly than they ever did during any one of his sessions, Dean thought ruefully. He couldn’t really blame them; she was brilliant.

Dean decided to stop by the bar and get a drink. Malcolm had said he would be late and Dean didn’t fancy going home to an empty house. Malcolm had also said he was to get a decent dinner, so Dean snacked on the crisps and nuts and washed those down with cold beer. Perfectly decent!

Out of the corner of his eye, he observed Alicia leave by the side door. She was a quiet one; she hardly spoke to anyone and never about her personal life. Ah well, all sorts congregate here. They weren’t obligated to share and tell - this was no Sunday school. Dean considered ordering another beer but Mick the bartender was a good pal and advised him to get his butt moving before ‘the boss guy’ came to haul it home.

Dean grinned and slapped down a note on the counter. “You’re a busybody, Mick!” he said cheerfully. “I curse the day I told you about Malcolm. I was drunk, you know, and you shouldn’t believe all the drunk stories you hear.”

The fresh air outside hit him and Dean pulled his jacket closer. It was the end of fall and the leaves were glorious, all dark gold and red and rust-coloured. He inhaled deeply, got into his mini, and began to pull out of the kerb. As he turned the corner, he saw two figures struggling in the car park. He recognized Alicia at once, her red curls unmistakable. His first thought was that she was getting mugged and he got out and began to run towards her. As he got closer, he saw that they were actually arguing and the man was trying to grab her arms.

He pulled back slightly, not wanting to get in between a personal argument. Dean paused, and would have backed off, if he had not seen the man shove Alicia roughly.

“Hey!” Dean shouted, coming up to them. “Alicia, you ok?”

The man turned with an ugly snarl at Dean and Alicia took the opportunity to slip around him and ran straight to Dean. The man tried to make a grab for Alicia but she was too quick for him. Dean quickly stepped in between them and the man halted. Voices floated over, some people were walking towards them, unaware of the altercation in the car park.

Alicia raised panic-stricken eyes to Dean and said quickly, “Dean? Oh thank God! Please let’s go. Let’s get into your car ... please? quick!”

Dean felt her fingers on his sleeve and making sure the man was keeping his ground, he turned with Alicia and all but ran with her into his car. They both jumped in, he started his engine and they drove off.


Malcolm was tired, he was peckish, and well, he was royally pissed off. No surprise, doing inventory always had that effect on him. Especially the costume rental section. It was always cocked up. Nothing was ever put back properly, and he'd spent two hours looking for a missing bear head. He'd found it modelling a vintage top hat. He'd put the bear head back where it belonged and had taken a fancy to the hat. It was purple, very Alice in Wonderland Mad Hatter's Tea Party. Dean would cringe, but Malcolm's clothes often made Dean cringe.

The house was dark, no surprise since he'd told Dean he would be late. Dean hated coming home to an empty house. Malcolm poured a generous amount of rum in a glass and rummaged through the fridge, trying to decide on what to fix for dinner, He'd told Dean to have a decent dinner, but knowing Dean, he'd probably dined on beer and nuts. That wouldn't do at all. So, a salad and what else? Bread of course, and was that a container of soup? Aye, the tomato basil soup he'd gotten from Leon. Dean loved Leon's tomato basil soup. He'd heat that up, pop some bread in the oven to toast and voila. A quick meal and not too heavy. He sliced a couple of apples and drizzled cinnamon and sugar on them for dessert. He'd badger Dean into at least having a bit of the soup. In the meantime, he wanted another rum.

Just as Malcolm finished his second rum, he heard the sound of Dean's car in the drive. Perfect timing. He went to meet him, and speech temporarily deserted him as he got a look at Dean's companion. His female companion. How odd. How awkward.

“Oh hi Malcolm, this is Alicia,” Dean said, a little self-consciously. He wasn’t exactly in the closet but neither did he advertise the fact that he was gay to everyone he met. He had briefly mentioned to Alicia during the ride home that he lived with his boyfriend and he now watched her for signs of discomfort or embarrassment.

There was none. Alicia shook Malcolm’s hand in a friendly way and looked around her, taking in her surroundings. “Hi Malcolm, so sorry for dropping in on you like this, without any warning. I told Dean it was ok to just drop me off at the bus stop.” She turned to Dean. ” ... really it’s still not too late to do that Dean.”

Malcolm recovered quickly, it was one of those things he prided himself on. "Nonsense. Have you seen what rides the busses this time of night? I wouldn't get on one myself unless all my shots were up to date and my will was in order." Malcolm smiled "A bit of an exaggeration maybe, but not much."

Dean shoved her further into the hall and quickly explained what had happened. “I thought it might not be quite safe to send Alicia home, in case her ... um ...”

Malcolm was not exactly thrilled that Dean had put himself at risk, and resolved to talk to him about it later, but he did understand. "Well, you can't stand by, do nothing and still call yourself a civilised person. And I agree it would not have been the wisest course of action to send Alicia straight home after that episode. At least, that's how I see it. I am glad you are both unharmed. And Alicia looks like she could use a drink."

“That’s what I thought you would say too, Malcolm. So Alicia, no more objections, just take your coat off and I’ll get you a drink.”

Alicia’s shoulders suddenly sagged and she dropped her head, trying to hide her tears. “Thanks,” she whispered. “I was ... so scared.”

Malcolm's inclination was to give Alicia a hug, but he didn't know how well it would be received, so he handed her a box of tissues instead. "Well, I promise you the scariest thing about me is my taste in fashion, at least according to Dean. Come on into the kitchen, I was just throwing together a light dinner, and there is plenty to go around. And I don't want to hear that you've had dinner Dean. You will at least have some of the soup. It's Leon's tomato basil soup." Malcolm set out cutlery, bowls and plates for three, water to drink.

Dinner was, surprisingly, enjoyable. Alicia turned out to be a gracious guest and once she had drank half a glass of wine and found no censure from her hosts for invading their home, she warmed up enough to explain her situation. “We broke up a couple of months ago, and Jack has been bugging me since then. We have been together so long, you see ... and he just couldn’t accept the fact that I no longer wanted to be with him.”

“What happened, I mean why did you two break up?” Dean asked curiously.

Malcolm cleared his throat and gave Dean a 'look'. "I apologise for Dean's insatiable curiosity, Alicia. It is a personal question and you don't need to feel obligated to answer simply because I've fed and watered you."

Dean glowered at the brief reprimand and fell silent.

Alicia smiled. “Its ok, I don’t like to talk about it but after what Dean saw in the car park, well, there’s not much left to hide. He – Jack that is – can be rather ... physical. He has a temper and he can be ... sometimes quite ruthless and unreasonable. I just couldn’t take it any longer.”

"A hot temper and a propensity for physical violence make for a very bad combination."

Alicia nodded her head gravely. “I can’t agree more, Malcolm. I grew up in foster homes, no parents, no relatives. I saw a lot of violence during that time. It is – a horrible way to grow up.”

“Bastard! Is that where you met this Jack of yours?” Dean asked, unable to resist.
“I met Jack when I was thirteen, we were both foster kids but he had been in the system much longer. He is almost five years older than me. He took a liking to me,” she smiled, at some memory, “looked out for me, and when he reached the age limit to leave, he kept in touch. I have been with him since then. He took good care of me in the beginning, he was really sweet you know, but every now and then he would get into these wild rages.” Alicia shuddered.

"That's not uncommon. His sort preys on vulnerabilities. Nice in the beginning, but later the chains come out, and he makes sure you know who holds the keys."

“I didn’t even realize it but I was slowly losing all my friends. I couldn’t get close to anyone. Jack made sure of that. Once, I had a girlfriend who tried to help me, she thought Jack should go for some anger management classes, but Jack got so mad he frightened her off. “

"Isolation." Malcolm nodded his head. "Classic abuser. Anger management my arse. What ol' Jackie boy needs are a few sessions with a dominatrix. I can suggest one; put you in touch with her. You can say you've decided to come back and you've got a peace offering gift. Get him to the place and I'll get the dominatrix there."

Alicia giggled, and wrinkled her little nose. “I would love to see his face! Ah, Jack in the hands of a dominatrix ... um ... what exactly is that?”

Malcolm raised an eyebrow. "A dominatrix is a woman who, well, dominates. Complete control achieved through discipline and humiliation. She'd have Jack begging to be allowed to lick her boots."

“Oh.” Alicia’s eyes opened wider, not quite sure how to respond to that bit of information.

“What if he comes back, Alicia? Where are you staying? Does Jack know where to find you?” Dean shot off the questions, not the least bit interested in any dominatrix, and trying to grapple with too many things all at once.

“Jack knows where I work of course but I didn’t tell him where I was going though; I packed my stuff and left when he.... well, um,”

Dean caught Malcolm’s eye and forced his mouth shut on the obvious question. Malcolm ignored both Dean’s mute appeal and Alicia’s discomfort, and said smoothly, "So, you've made arrangements, then?"

Alicia responded immediately to Malcolm’s question, grateful for his tact. “I work days at this grocery store along Almond Avenue and there is a small room at the back of the store. The boss kinda lets me stay there, temporarily only, till I get things sorted out. “

Malcolm nodded. "Decent of him."

“He’s been really good so far, hasn’t kicked me out or mentioned about me moving on. And I sing a couple of nights a week.”

"Aye, I believe Dean has mentioned your singing to me. Once or twice." Malcolm winked at Dean. "He says you're very good."

Dean had the grace to blush.

“Well, yeah, that’s no chore!” Alicia chuckled softly. She spoke matter-of-factly, not at all boastful or bragging about her talent. “I know I am blessed, thank God for my voice, it’s the one good thing in my life and I could always lose myself when I am singing. It also helps to pay the bills!”

Dean listened and sipped his wine slowly, feeling a rush of emotions run past him. He had been envious of Alicia right from the start. He had even harboured ill-feelings against her, for not fault of hers. And here she was, hurt and in despair, with no real friends and no one to turn to. And only her voice for comfort. Dean felt ashamed.

"You've had a beastly evening, well up until Sir Galahad here rescued you and brought you home to our castle. It's well past the witching hour and Dean is due to turn back into a field mouse at any time. We have a guestroom, nothing fancy. No mints on the pillows or fluffy guest bathrobes. I think there may be a ratty chenille one in the wardrobe. You are welcome to stay."

Alicia looked undecided.

Dean smiled at his Top, suddenly wishing he could reach over and hug Malcolm, needing to feel the security of his arms. Malcolm always managed to make him feel proud to be associated with him. And he so wanted to make amends for the way he thought of Alicia in the beginning.

Dean turned to Alicia and urged gently, “You don’t know us very well, I realize that, but I assure you we quite safe, and I really think it might be best if you didn’t go home tonight. I bet Jack’s probably waiting for you ...”

"Dean!" Malcolm couldn't keep the exasperated tone out of his voice.

“But it could be TRUE!” Dean protested.

Malcolm gave Dean his level two warning look.

"Well, I haven't heard Alicia decline, so I'll assume she is staying.” Malcolm put his hand on Alicia’s and gave it a small squeeze. “I do agree with Dean and think it might be the wisest option for now. Unless you really feel uncomfortable about ...”“Oh no,” Alicia cut in, hastily. “I just didn’t want to trouble you further. You’ve both been so kind already ...”

Malcolm nodded decisively, making it unnecessary for Alicia to finish her sentence. “In that case, Dean can show you to the guest room, while I tidy up."

Dean immediately got up, cheerful at the prospect of having an overnight guest, no matter how unexpected. “We have a spare toothbrush, let me get that. And I think you can borrow one of my t-shirts to sleep in. Malcolm, perhaps you can loan Alicia a pair of your shorts? mine will be too big ...” He grinned cheekily at his lover.

"Oh, that's bloody it!" Malcolm got up, grabbed Dean and tickled him mercilessly. "She can borrow a pair of sweats."

“Pyjama parties, you know!” Dean said with a wicked wink.

“Yes, it is just like a pyjama party!” Alicia said with a little laugh, though her eyes were sad.


chapter 3

“So are you sure you will be all right?” Dean asked as he drove Alicia back to the lot by the club, where she had left her car overnight. “I can follow you ...”

Alicia snorted, then patted Dean’s hand comfortingly. “I’ll be fine! Jack has these spurts. After last night, he’ll stop bothering me for at least a week before he finds a new way to torment me.”

Dean frowned but kept his mouth shut.

“Dean,” Alicia said, turning to smile at him. “I can’t thank you enough ...”

“Silly goose!” Dean replied, a slight flush creeping into his cheeks. “I am glad we got to know one another. I thought you were a show-off!” he taunted.

Alicia snorted. “And I thought you were a snot!” she threw back.

Dean laughed. “We should do it more often then!” And he suddenly realized he meant it.

Alicia looked a bit surprised, but pleased as well. “Really?”

“Heck yeah ... Malcolm likes you. I could tell straight away he did.”

“He’s sweet ... and yes, I’d like to get together with both you guys some time. That sounds great. Well, you better be off for classes. I’ll see you around, Dean.”

Dean watched silently as Alicia made her way to her car. He saw her turn her head to scan the vicinity and realized she wasn’t as sure as she sounded. He put the car into gear and drove off slowly, the wheels turning in his head. He watched through his rear-view mirror and waited till Alicia had exited the car park and on impulse, decided to follow her.


Jack took one more puff on his cigarette, and then tossed it out the window. He wasn't concerned about Alicia spotting him. He was driving his mate Eric's car, his own had gone into the mechanics for repairs. She was with a bloke, the same one who had stuck his nose in Jack's business earlier. Jack watched as Alicia, looking as nervous as a mouse at a cat convention, made a quick scan of the area and then go into her car. A few moments after she pulled into the street, her knight in shining armour followed her. Jack, well, he followed both of them. He didn't pass up a chance to settle two scores at once. He'd bring Alicia back into line and he'd make sure the do-gooder stayed out of his business.

Alicia couldn't shake the feeling that she was being followed. Maybe it was just left over nerves from the previous night. Jack knew where she worked, but hopefully he didn't know about the spare room. Her boss had made it clear that Jack wasn't welcome in his store, so hopefully the bastard would keep away.

Alicia arrived at the store in good time. It was still early and Mr Greene wouldn't be in until later, so Alicia let herself in with her key and locked up again, ever-cautious soul that she was. She headed towards the back room, to have a quick change before she started the day.

Meanwhile, Dean had driven past slowly, making sure Alicia had gone in safely and was just about to head off to classes when a chance glance in the mirror brought him up short. A car had parked right in front of the shop and a familiar shape got out.

Dean jammed his foot on the brakes and swerved to the kerb, parking his car precariously. He cursed as he saw Jack approach the store front and pound on the door. Dean didn’t hesitate. He jumped out and ran back, shouting as he approached Jack, “You stay away from her, you bastard!”

Jack turned around, slowly. "Bastard? You don't know me, mate. And you don't know Alicia. So fuck off."

“I’m her friend, and she wants nothing to do with you!” Dean replied hotly.

"And I'm telling you it's none of your fucking business. Do you really want to mess up that nice shirt you're wearing fighting for the chit's honour? 'Cause she's not worth it. Trust me."

The commotion brought Alicia to the front door speedily. “What in heaven’s ....? Oh my God! What do you want, Jack? And what are you doing here, Dean?”

"I want to talk to you Alicia. Just talk. Tell your guard dog to go home."

Dean blocked the way so that Jack could not enter the store.

"Move the fuck outta my way." When Dean didn't move, Jack threw a half hearted punch at him, hoping to send him scurrying off with his tail between his legs.

Dean ducked and threw out a punch himself, although rather blindly. He felt his fist land on something soft and he heard a grunt of pain. Before he could derive too much satisfaction from it, he felt his head knocked backwards and stars exploded before his eyes. He knew a moment of numbness immediately followed by a streak of pain in his jaw.

“Ouch!” Dean yelled as he threw his hands up to protect his face. Somewhere far away, he heard Alicia’s shriek.

Another punch landed on his stomach, expelling the air from his lungs. He doubled over and would have collapsed onto the floor if the door hadn’t stopped his fall. “Bastard!” he cursed as he gathered all his strength and lurched forward, tackling Jack.

Jack fell to his knees. His arms were free and he pulled Dean's head up by his ears and butted him hard. The impact left Jack temporarily stunned.

No one knew what would have happened after that, but suddenly Jack was yanked away from him and Dean found he could breathe again. He peered up through half closed eyes and saw a large burly man holding Jack’s arms and giving him a powerful shake.

“Oh thank God, Mr Greene!” Alicia cried out, as she sank to her knees to tend to Dean. “Dean, Dean ... are you all right?”

Dean shook his head to clear his vision and sat up, looking with grim enjoyment as Mr Greene ordered Jack off his premises. “I’m fine, its ok ... I’m ok!”

Jack stood there, glaring at the three of them, wiping a slight trickle of blood, from his nose. "This isn't over. You hear me, Alicia? This isn't over." He went back to the car and drove off with a screech of tyres.

Mr Greene held out a hand and hauled Dean to his feet, looking him over critically. “And who might you be?” he growled.


Dean looked ruefully at himself in the mirror. He had decided to skip classes that day; after what that monster had done to him, he didn’t think he could sit through three hours of lecture.

Alicia had been so kind, and so had Mr Greene, once he had been brought up to date on the situation. They had all gone into the store and sat in the back room, drinking hot tea with honey. Then Alicia had put an ice pack on Dean’s jaw and told him that he would get a beautiful bruise by tomorrow.

Yeah – like he needed to hear that.

“Ouch!” Dean grumbled to himself, as he touched his chin gingerly. His stomach hurt as well, but hopefully Malcolm wouldn’t notice that. He groaned as he thought about his Top. What would Malcolm say when he saw the shiner on his jaw?

“Alicia,” Mr Greene said, rather grimly, “I am not too sure if it will be safe for you to stay here alone at night. I am not chasing you out, mind you. But I think you are courting trouble if you remain here any longer.”

Alicia paled. “I will be all right ... he doesn’t know I live here ...”

“That man of yours is a wild jackass, and I wouldn’t put it past him to come back later today, just to stalk you – he will figure it out soon enough you are staying here.” Much as he hated to scare Alicia, Mr Greene was not mincing matters. Much better for her to be anxious than for her to be hurt.

“But ...” Alicia murmured, stammering slightly.

“You can come back to our place,” Dean offered, on impulse. He should have checked this with Malcolm first, he knew, but under the circumstances, he didn’t think Malcolm would mind. “Malcolm won’t mind,” he said out loud.

Alicia shook her head. “Oh no, you have been too kind already ... I can’t involve you in my troubles ...”

“Nonsense,” Mr Greene boomed. “This nice young man here is offering you a solution. It will buy you a few days to think of other options. But at least tonight you won’t be here alone. Think Alicia! You need to be smart about this!”

Dean leaned over and patted Alicia’s hand. “Look, if you are worried about Malcolm not quite liking it, I will call him now and clear it with him. If he is not comfortable with the idea, I will tell you, I swear I will not lie. Okay?”

Dean smiled and stood up. “I’ll call Malcolm outside – won’t be a sec.”

Alicia nodded, though her raised eyebrow communicated very effectively that she knew Dean was going ahead with his plan, Malcolm's approval or not.

Mr. Green took advantage of the lull to put another pot of tea on. Tea always made things better, calmer, clearer.


Malcolm wanted to tear his hair out, every single last jaunty curl of it. He knew it was a bit of a leap from dislike to loathing, but bugger it all, he loathed Beatrice and the broom she rode in on. She was making his morning hell, sheer absolute hell. He popped a couple of aspirin and sipped his ginger tea, as he watched his beleaguered staff try to please the harridan. Soon, she and her waifish assistants would be gone. Soon, he would no longer have to listen to her voice - grating and strident one minute, coy and sickeningly sweet the next. Soon. Bugger it he hated these fringe theatre poseurs. The only silver lining in the gloomy cloud hanging over his head was that he would make a nice bit of profit.

His cell phone rang and he frowned. When he heard Dean at the other end, the frown deepened. Malcolm rubbed his temples. "Dean? Shouldn't you be in class?"

“Um, yeah, I’m not exactly in class at the moment.” Dean replied.

"Do tell." Malcolm's tone was heavy on the sarcasm. "I expect there is a long, convoluted explanation for you missing class, but I haven't time right now, so just give me the highlights."

Dean gave Malcolm the brief version of the morning’s happenings. “Just as well I was around or he would have broken his way into the store.”

Malcolm drummed his fingers on the counter. "And how, pray tell, did you prevent this from happening? Call it my need to know."

“Well, I kinda ... blocked his way?”

Malcolm paused and rubbed his temples once more. Patience. Patience is a virtue, as his mum always said. So he took a deep breath and tried to be patient. "Are you hurt in any fashion, gallant knight?"

“I’m okay, honey. Just a bit of a bruise on my jaw, the bastard threw a punch at me. But hey, I punched him back real good. I definitely landed a fist in his stomach – I think.”

"Bravo. Words fail me." Malcolm paused for a few seconds. "You fought with an opponent who, sorry to say sunshine, outclassed you. You are lucky that you came out of it with only a bruised jaw. I am not at all happy about this Dean."

“Aw, come on!” Dean said irritably, “can we talk about that later? Look, reason I am calling is I invited Alicia to come back to stay with us, at least for a few days? Is that ok? She didn’t want to but I said you would be fine with it. She wanted me to check with you ... ”

"Oh we will be talking about it later, I promise. Well I'll be doing most of the talking." Malcolm was feeling that urge to pull out his curly locks again. "I have no problem with Alicia staying for a few days, but her being in the house is not going to save your arse."

Dean glared at the opposite wall and mouthed a few really nasty phrases, but wisely kept his language acceptable, albeit a little surly, “I’ll tell Alicia then. And Malcolm,” he paused, “I think you are being VERY unreasonable about this whole thing.”

Malcolm did not care for Dean's tone of voice. Not a bit. "You think I am being unreasonable and difficult, eh? Dean, sweet brat of mine, I can make you PRAY for difficult. I want you to go home, and stay there." Lucky bastard, Malcolm thought. He wished HE could go home and have a rum or two. "Do you need to see a doctor?"

Dean suppressed a sigh. “Yes, yes, I will be home right after this and NO – I DON”T NEED A DOCTOR!”

"Do not shout at me Dean. You are in enough trouble."

“I’m sorry.”

Malcolm sighed. "I'm sure you are, sweetheart. Beatrice is headed my way, so I will see you later. I will be home at my usual time, and I would appreciate it if you would have a rum and coke waiting for me. A large one."

“Bye Malcolm, see you tonight. I’ll fix dinner since I will be home ahead of you.” Dean hoped that would mollify his Top somewhat. It would not do to rile Malcolm up too much or Alicia might be in for some surprises tonight.

Dean swallowed as he snapped his mobile off. Shit! He had not thought about having a third person in the house and what kind of difficulty that might bring. He had reacted out of kindness and genuine concern; but his relationship with Malcolm was not one which everyone can understand and accept. And as Malcolm has already said, having a third party in their house was NOT going to save his ass if he screws up.

Well, there was no point worrying about it now. Pushing his qualms to the back of his mind, he went back to the cosy little sitting room and announced brightly, “Malcolm is delighted you are coming back to us tonight Alicia. So you pack for a few days and I will expect you .... um, what time do you get off work? Are you singing tonight?”

Alicia shook her head. “No, I am not. I got yesterday and again on Saturday. I should be able to get to your place around 6.30pm? Can I bring something for dinner?”

“Oh no! I am cooking tonight,” Dean said with a crooked smile. “So be forewarned. You’ll probably get grilled cheese sandwiches. Malcolm is the real cook in our home.”

“Well, I must contribute something. So let me cook dinner for tomorrow night then?”

Dean nodded. “OK, sounds like a plan!”

Mr Greene seemed satisfied with the arrangements for he said, “I’ll make sure she doesn’t leave too late, Dean. In fact, I will close up for the next couple of days, in case that nasty bastard comes back.”

Alicia suddenly leaned across and kissed Mr Greene on the cheek. “I don’t know how to thank you enough ...”

“Pooh!” Mr Greene’s cheeks flushed pink. “You are like a daughter to me. I would have invited you back to my place if Mrs Greene was not doing so poorly. But she will be pleased to know you are taken care of.”


chapter 4

Malcolm managed a smile for Beatrice, thinking he should get a bloody award of some sort for pulling it off. When Beatrice and her crew finally left, the store was in a shambles. Malcolm put the closed sign on the door, locked it and helped his staff sort things out. But, as he looked at the day’s receipts, he couldn't help but grin. The store had made a month's worth of profit. Malcolm sent his staff home for the night and locked up.

Dean spent the day cleaning up and preparing dinner. He wasn’t much of a cook but he could prepare simple meals and with some effort, make them rather elegant. So after he had cleaned up the bathrooms and vacuumed the floors, he roasted a chicken with some new potatoes. Nothing elaborate; Malcolm had taught him to rub salt and pepper on the skin of the chicken before sticking it into the oven, set the correct temperature, and then just wait. He also threw together some lettuce and Japanese cucumbers and cherry tomatoes for a salad, which he left in the fridge. Feeling pleased with himself, he went to shower and wait for his Top to return.

In fact, Dean hoped very much that Malcolm would come home early so that they would have some time alone before Alicia arrived. He was not too sure what Malcolm meant about ‘talking” and the veiled reference about Alicia’s presence not saving his arse was rather ... ominous! Dean knew his Top could be strict but surely he wouldn’t really fault him for helping Alicia? Would he? What did Malcolm take him for, if he thought Dean could stand by and watch while Jack abused Alicia? Did Malcolm expect him not to jump in to help? Jeez ... Dean shook his head and tutted to himself in the mirror, as he checked out his jaw for about the 10th time that day.

Well, Malcolm would definitely NOT be pleased with that bruise. But sacrifices were expected.

Malcolm pulled into the drive, switched off the engine, and sat there for a few moments, gathering his thoughts. He'd love to go in, have his rum and coke, and prop his feet up. But that wasn't going to get things sorted out with Dean. He got out of the car and went inside. The aromas from the kitchen made his stomach grumble and he smiled. Until he got a look at Dean and more importantly, Dean's jaw. "Bloody hell!!"

Dean turned his face away and said as cheerfully as possible, “Hi sweetheart. It’s so nice to see you too!”

Malcolm made a noise that was sort of like a snort. "Well, if he'd of hit a bit higher, you'd be looking at me from one eye. I'm most unhappy about this Dean."

“Oh come on!” Dean cried indignantly, turning fully to face Malcolm. “What did you expect me to do? Just turn and run away with my tail in between my legs?”

Malcolm held up a finger in warning at Dean's tone. "No. What I expect is for you to yell at the top of your lungs and draw the attention of passerby, and call for backup. You have no training in boxing or any martial arts as far as I'm aware. Barring a lucky punch, you're more like to be the injured and not the injurer."

“I felt responsible for her!” Dean protested, totally frustrated at Malcolm’s attitude. He just could not understand why Malcolm could be so stubborn and unreasonable. “She is my friend. Our friend, for God’s sake!”

"YOU are my responsibility, not Alicia. You should have gleaned from your first encounter with the wanker what sort of bloke he is. Trying to take him on is like, like a poodle trying to best a pit bull." Malcolm waved his arms in the air. "Don't give me that look, sunshine. I understand you jumped in to save the fair lady from the cad. If Alicia's boss hadn't intervened, we might be having this conversation at casualty. And that, you see, is why I have a problem. And why you now have a problem. Are you at a point where dinner preparations can be paused?"

“W..why?” Dean stammered.

"Because we have unfinished business, and I would like to have it over and done with. It's been a bitch of a day."

“How can you be so unreasonable?” Dean exclaimed hotly. “I didn’t do anything WRONG!”

Ignoring Dean for the moment, Malcolm browsed through the collection of wooden spoons in the kitchen and selected one. He tapped it against his hand and looked at Dean, one eyebrow cocked.


"Pardon me? Would you like to try that again?"

“The chicken will burn!” Dean said, desperately clutching at straws.

Malcolm checked on the chicken. "It will be fine." He pulled out one of the dining chairs and took a seat. "Come on then."

“Alicia will be here any minute!” His face registered horror at the very thought of Alicia walking in on them. “Malcolm, pleeeeassssee.....”

"Then we had best get started, and save you from any further embarrassment. I have no problem with Alicia staying with us, Dean, but she is not going to affect how we live our lives. If I feel you need to be spanked, I will still spank you. You'll just have to behave." Malcolm patted his thighs. "Trousers down please."

Dean saw no way out of it. Once Malcolm had decided a spanking was due, there was no argument on earth Dean could come up with to change his mind. Well, none that Dean knew of anyway. And Malcolm was right; the faster they got it over with, the better.

For a change, Dean removed his jeans with alacrity. No point in delaying the unavoidable; he would DIE if Alicia arrived while the spanking was in session. He placed no dependence on Malcolm to practise tact or to try to save his face. That man was unfeeling and heartless.

Malcolm adjusted Dean's position a bit, and then lowered his boxers. Wasting no time with a warm up, he smacked the lower part of Dean's buttocks and his upper thighs hard and fast with the spoon. It was an intense spanking, but it would be a short one. Sitting for supper wasn't going to be pleasant.
Dean sucked in his breath at the first smack. Oh shit! That damned spoon bloody STUNG! Another smack fell and Dean, who had intended to practise silence and restraint during a spanking, gave up his resolve and yelled. “OW!”

Malcolm’s hand continued to methodically rise and fall and Dean was jerking to get off Malcolm’s thighs with every spank. He clutched Malcolm’s calf and kicked his feet, trying to find some leverage to somehow escape the evil spoon. No chance – Malcolm’s grip around his waist was like a clamp.

“Please Malcolm! Please stop!” Dean cried. His tears were dripping onto the kitchen floor as he yelped for mercy.

Malcolm stopped, not because of Dean's pleas mind you, but because he felt the message had been received. He rubbed circles on Dean's back. "Shh. All over and done with and no Alicia in sight. I love you Dean, and I will take whatever actions I feel necessary to keep you safe. I understand why you did what you did, but it could have ended badly." Malcolm helped Dean to stand and dress.

Dean pulled his jeans up as soon as he was allowed up, casting a furtive glance at the hall leading to the front door as if he could spy whether Alicia had arrived. “You weren’t there!” he muttered under his breath, the devil in him still unwilling to it let go completely. “But I will remember what you said,” he finished mulishly when he saw the glint in Malcolm’s eye.

Malcolm stood up on his toes and planted a kiss on Dean's lips. "You look a mess. I will finish up in here while you go splash some cold water on your face."

Unable to keep up his cold front, he leaned into his Top and pressed hard against Malcolm. “Please don’t spank me with Alicia in the house?” he whispered.

Malcolm wrapped his own arms around Dean. "It does present a bit of a problem, doesn't it? I can't very well ask her to go out for a movie or a long drive every time you are going to be spanked. You could promise never to misbehave or disobey me, but we both know you wouldn't be able to keep such a promise. And even if I use something that's fairly quiet, your howls would alert her as to what was happening. I could leave some literature out for her to find and read. I still have this pamphlet my friend Alec put together called 'Discipline Relationships for Dummies.' I'm sure that would raise some questions and an eyebrow or two, and then we could clue her in as to what's what. Better she knows beforehand. It would be more than awkward if she, having heard your howls, came rushing in to save you. Or worse, called the police."

Dean felt the flush creep up his face. “You mean let her know?” He sounded aghast.

"You invited her sunshine, and I have no problem with that. You'll just have to live with the consequences."

“There is another option!” Dean protested, “You don’t spank me!”

"Non-spanking is not an option."

“B..but ...”

"But nothing. I'm not giving up my Top given right to spank. Besides, when I ground you, I end up being the punished one."
The pout was in place. “This is supposed to be something private between us!”

"Well, there was just supposed to be the two of us in the house. Now there will be three, if only temporarily. As for privacy, most of our friends know about our lifestyle and I think my mum suspects. She'd never bring it up, though. It's nothing we need to worry about tonight, unless you plan on royally misbehaving again." Malcolm gave Dean a gentle pat on the bum. "Now go wash up."


Malcolm set the table for three. The food would be brought out when Alicia arrived. Though Malcolm couldn't help a quick sampling of the chicken. He was a notorious nibbler. He fixed a large rum and coke, went into the living room and collapsed on the sofa.

The bell rang just after six thirty and after waiting to see if Dean would answer the door, Malcolm sighed and got up. The Brat had not made an appearance since he went upstairs to wash up.

Alicia was waiting on the other side of the door. "Hi Alicia." He motioned her to come on inside. "You're very punctual. Perhaps you could teach Dean that trick?"

“Hi Malcolm,” Alicia’s voice was apologetic. “I am being such a nuisance, I know. You must think ...”

Malcolm waved a hand dismissively. "You're no nuisance. It's been a while since we've had any guests other than family. We always need to unwind a bit after one of my mum's visit. Now there is a nuisance."

“You guys are so kind.” Alicia sounded sincere. In fact, she was more than touched. Up until last night, these people had been strangers and now they were inviting her into their home and making her feel safe. Her heart was filled with gratitude.

“Where’s Dean? Is he ok?” Alicia asked.

"Is Dean ok, now that's a question for the experts." Malcolm chuckled. "He went upstairs to freshen up and he hasn't come back down. He's got a nasty bruise on his jaw."

“He was so brave,” Alicia said.

"Well, that is not the word I would choose to describe his behaviour. Rash comes to mind."

Dean, just about to come down the stairs, grimaced. He hurried down, hoping to squelch any more undesirable exchanges on that subject, no matter how well-intentioned.

Alicia smiled as Dean appeared, holding out a hand for her bag. “I’ll take that. Is that all you got?” He asked.

“Yes, I don’t intend to make a long stay you know.” Alicia smiled. “Besides I go back every day to the store.”

Malcolm looked at Dean who wouldn't meet his eyes. Malcolm felt the faintest tickle of a hair pulling urge, and finished his rum and coke.

“I’ll take the bag upstairs,” Dean offered, his eyes cast down. “You can help Malcolm set the table, if you don’t mind.”

Malcolm took Alicia to the kitchen. "You look like someone who knows her way around a kitchen. Do you think you can handle this while I go speak to Dean for a moment? Or if you want, you can fix yourself a drink instead. I have rum, brandy and whiskey in the liquor cabinet. I'll be back in two shakes."

Alicia looked at the liquor cabinet and said, “Good idea. I will get myself a drink, thanks. I do need one. And I will set the table as well, so just take your time. I know where the silver is.”

Malcolm headed upstairs after Dean, a determined look on his face, and confronted him in the guest room. "Dean, sweetheart, I know you are upset, but enough of the Pitiful Pearl routine. I'm not in the mood. Did you put some arnica on your bruise?"

Dean tried to move past Malcolm into the hall but was stopped by a firm hand.

"I believe I asked you a question, Dean."

“I said no, you just didn’t hear me!”

"Well it is hard to hear or understand you when you are mumbling with your head down. I'm not THAT much shorter than you are." Malcolm took Dean's chin and raised his head. "And I would appreciate it if you would look at me when I am speaking to you."

Dean remained tight-lipped.

"You are headed for the boring corner or maybe even another trip over my thighs."

“Why? I didn’t say anything!”

Malcolm stared hard into Dean's eyes. "You are on incredibly thin ice, you're wearing heavy boots and the ice is cracking."

Realising the situation would soon spiral out of hand if he didn’t take control of himself, and totally NOT in the mood for any more trouble, Dean capitulated, saying disjointedly. “I’m just ... I am sorry ... didn’t mean to ...!”

Malcolm let go of Dean's chin. "I know you didn't mean it sunshine, but it's nice to hear you say it. You are winding yourself up and you know how that is likely to end. I don't want to have to make excuses to Alicia, but unless you can settle down and behave, you won't be joining us for dinner. You'll spend it standing in the corner with a stinging arse. Can you behave?"

The answer was immediate. “Yes!” Dean was surprised at himself too. Usually, once he had set himself on the path of destruction, he would be unable to stop himself; not even the threat of a second spanking in one evening had had the power to do so in the past. But the thought of Alicia downstairs, listening to a spanking where he was the main star, was an absolute (and effective) deterrent. “Yes! I promise to behave!”

Malcolm gave his Brat a hug. "Good. I will hold you to that promise and make one of my own. The slightest hint of a sulk or paddy and I will march you back upstairs and blister your arse. Let's not let things come to that, though, ok?"

Dean could only nod his head, his throat suddenly too dry for him to answer.


chapter 5

A few times over the next few days, Dean seriously considered the possibility of letting Alicia in on his lifestyle with Malcolm. What Malcolm said was true, all their close friends were aware of their arrangement and one other couple they knew also practised DP themselves. None of them seemed to do more than raise an eyebrow when they first learnt of it. Even Malcolm’s mom seemed to have taken it pretty much in her stride, that is if she knew at all. Malcolm seemed to think she did; Dean tried very hard not to think about it at all. He would be so embarrassed if she ever asked him about it.

But it was getting increasingly difficult to hide the fact that Dean was a Brat. And a very high maintenance one at that. He still fretted when things didn’t go his way, he still left his clothes untidily strewn in the bathroom, he still tried to get out of hateful chores or eating what he did not like and he certainly still felt compelled to bait Malcolm every chance he got.

Malcolm felt at the end of his rope, or did he feel like tying Dean up with one? Whatever. Dean was winding him up mercilessly and Malcolm's muscles were in knots, begging to be released. His palm itched every time he looked at Dean's backside.

Whether or not Alicia had noticed anything, no one knew. Malcolm had discreetly swatted Dean a few times while Alicia was in a different part of the house and it had been all Dean could do not to yelp and swear at the smart. But so far Dean had managed to get out of a full blown spanking over his Top’s lap. Or rather Malcolm had restrained himself from delivering one.

Malcolm sipped his ginger tea, and nibbled on a biscotti. No more, Malcolm decided. No more discreet swats in dark corners. No more warning looks. Next time, the iron hand of judgement was going to wield the mighty hairbrush of doom on young master Dean's behind.

A barbeque had been planned for the weekend after Alicia came to stay, and so she was naturally included in the plans. Malcolm hoped everything went smoothly, but he was realistic about the chance of it.

Saturday evening, right on time to the second as usual, Simon and Russell arrived. Dean had never quite figured out how Simon managed to do that, since Russell was not a punctual Brat. Dean greeted their guests at the door, grinning at Russell and allowing Simon to give him a quick hug.

"You look well. Where is the demented hobbit?"

“Malcolm, they are here!” Dean yelled.

A smiling Malcolm came walking up to them. "Yes, I can see that, thank you. And the neighbourhood thanks you as well." Malcolm was wearing a purple top hat that would have looked smashing on Lewis Carroll's Mad Hatter, a cook's apron and a pair of paisley printed velvet trousers.

Simon was nonplussed. "What?" He just gestured at Malcolm's clothing. "I think you've outdone yourself this time. I don't know where you dug up those trousers, but they should be buried again. Deep." He laughed and gave Malcolm a hug.

Russell looked and shuddered. He was a ‘fashion designer’ mind you, and lately gaining a pretty celebrated name for himself. He was beginning to be courted by some very prominent fashion houses in London, and even once invited to participate in a fashion show by a French couture house.

“Hello Malcolm,” Russell said politely, giving up his cheek to Malcolm for a chaste little kiss. He would have liked to have said something to Malcolm about his choice of costume, but since Simon had warned him about tact, he decided to keep his mouth shut. Russell thought nothing of the unfairness of their relationship where Simon could make disparaging remarks to his heart’s content while he had to mind his tongue. It was an accepted aspect of their lives and he was happy with Simon’s strict rule.

Alicia hung shyly in the background while the two couples caught up with greetings. Then Malcolm beckoned her over, drawing her into the circle.

"Alicia, this elderly gent is Simon and the fidgety one is Russell. Alicia is staying with us for a while." Malcolm wasn't going to give the details; it was Alicia's story to tell or not to tell. Simon snorted at the 'elderly' comment.

“Nice to meet you,” Alicia said, shaking hands with both Simon and Russell.

Simon smiled. He had a lovely smile Alicia noted. "I apologise for Malcolm. As you are no doubt aware, he's a bit odd. As fond of him as I am, I'm not sure I would brave living with him."

“Well, this is only a temporary situation,” Alicia hastened to explain. “I am, um, in the midst of getting a few things settled ...”

“She sings a couple of nights at the club too,” Dean explained, and then added enthusiastically. “Hey, you should go listen to her act, she sounds like an angel and the club is always full when she performs.”

“What’s to stop her singing for us tonight?” Russell asked. “We wouldn’t have to queue up and wait, it would be a private performance and what’s more it would be free!” He grinned mischievously.

"Russell." Simon said with a warning tone.

Russell batted his eyelids at his partner and winked at Dean.

“We’ve got a new BBQ stove.” Dean said, pushing Russell towards the kitchen. “And this time you won’t even have to light the fire ... all done! Do you want a beer?”

"I actually managed to get the grill lit without blowing myself up or setting fire to the rose bushes." Malcolm was quite proud about it. "Much better than last time. Come keep me company Simon."

The couples parted naturally, the two Tops going into the backyard to admire the new stove and Malcolm’s handiwork while the two Brats pulled drinks out of the fridge. Alicia began to put a salad together, feeling very at home and enjoying listening to the two Brats as they chatted.

There was a dynamic and often tumultuous love-hate relationship between Dean and Russell, borne of envy and camaraderie. Dean envied Russell his decided fashion flair; while Russell coveted Dean’s writing talent. Russell was also invariably jealous whenever Dean’s singing drew praises from Simon; no one he knew actually went to fashion shows so how was he to show off his talent!?

But perhaps what drew them both together the most was the lifestyle they had both adopted. Both were similar creatures of natural untidiness and chaos, and both craved for the firm, if strict, hand their Tops provided.

Malcolm put the steaks on the grill and breathed deeply. He did love the smell of roasting meat. Very primal. Almost made him want to beat his chest. Almost. Dean would be mortified.

Speaking of which. "Simon? I could use some advice. Dean has been winding me up, well no more than usual, but I've not dealt with it like I should have. This whole Alicia thing."

"Sounds like someone is making excuses." Simon cocked an eyebrow at Malcolm, as he took a sip of his beer.

"No. Well, maybe. With a non-lifestyle guest in the house, things have gotten cocked up."

"Do YOU need a spanking? You're spouting rubbish. If Dean needs to be spanked, you spank him. I can promise you I'd have no problem with it, just ask Russ. You should have explained how things work in your relationship as soon as Alicia walked through the door, bags in hand."

"Just the one bag." Malcolm said. "It's just so bloody awkward."

"Yes it is, but you are going to do it. Tonight. I'll be more than happy to stand as your second, for moral support."

"Was that supposed to be reassuring?" Malcolm put his special marinade on the steaks. "Because it's not."

Back in the kitchen, the conversation was going on a slightly different vein. One bottle of beer gone within minutes, Russell retrieved a fresh one from the fridge and tossed another to Dean.

“You sure you don’t want one, Alicia?” Russell asked.

“No, thanks. I will stick to my green tea. I don’t think grilled meat drowned in beer is too healthy.”

“Well, I am sure Simon will say so too if he were here. But he is not, so I will thank you to not mention it later on,” Russell said placidly.

“And you think he won’t ask how many you’ve had?” Dean quipped.

“He might.” Russell shrugged. “I’m not allowed more than one beer at a time, you know,” he informed Alicia. “At least for now. Things may improve later.”

Alicia raised her brows but did not say anything.

Russell continued coolly. “He’s being particularly anal lately – did you know he made me sell my red sports car?”

Dean’s opened his mouth in shock; Russell adored that car! “And you did it?”

“Not without a fight,” Russell declared. “But it wasn’t worth it in the end. My butt was suffering too much.”

Dean felt a flush rise to his face. Trying to switch subjects, he asked, “How’s the salad coming along, Alicia? Need any help?”

“You can chop up those walnuts if you want. I intend to throw them in to give it a bit of crunch.” Alicia handed Dean a bowl, casting a sidelong glance at Russell. “So Russell, do you always do what Simon tells you to?”

Russell laughed - a delightful and infectious chuckle. “Do you see Dean doing everything Malcolm tells him to?” he asked. “Brats don’t do that, we resist, we put up a fight, and we argue and throw a tantrum, that’s what we do! And then our Tops step in and straighten us up."

“She didn’t need to know that!” Dean protested under his breath, feverishly chopping nuts.

“What? Doesn’t she know? I thought she stayed here?” Russell was obviously surprised.

“She’s a guest!” Dean snapped and stopped himself from chucking the bowl of walnuts at Russell.

Alicia wisely remained silent, digesting the information. The evening promised to be an interesting one.


Malcolm flipped the steaks. Just a bit more for the one he was setting aside for himself. He liked his meat medium rare. Ok. He preferred it bloody, but it made Dean nauseous to watch, so he'd resigned himself to cooked meat. One more basting with the marinade and then he set his steak to one side.

Simon cleared his throat. "Malcolm, that piece of meat cannot be well cooked. You aren't still eating it raw after having ended up in casualty are you?"

Malcolm gave Simon a look that clearly stated he should mind his own business, but he did set the steak back on the grill. "I asked for your advice on my Alicia problem, not my eating habits, thank you very much. I was thinking about opening up discussion after dinner, I have a bread pudding with brandy sauce."

Simon stroked his chin. "Well for starters, you should remove the hat. It's not the sort of hat one wears when one wants to be taken seriously."

"You're not being very helpful Simon. You seem to find this very amusing."

"Oh, I do dear boy, I do. One thing I will say for you Malcolm. You are NEVER boring." Simon finished his beer. "Ask Alicia if she is familiar with disciplinary relationships and go from there. She may run out the door, she may sit there in shock or she just may surprise you. It's more common than you think. It's going to embarrass the hell out of Dean though, so be prepared."

"Oh, I am. I bought this new Kent hairbrush, 'By appointment to her Majesty the Queen' it says. Lovely thing. Well not for Dean." Malcolm laughed.

"A suggestion. I would have Dean write down, every and I mean every thing he has done in the past week. Every untidiness, every stamped foot, every bit of sass and cheekiness. Then you should give that new hairbrush of yours a proper workout."

Malcolm laughed again.

Apart from Dean looking slightly green when Malcolm cut his steak, dinner went off without a hitch. Luckily (for the Brats at least), no one counted the number of beer bottles left in the fridge or in the rubbish bin.

“What’s for dessert?” Russell asked the minute the plates were cleared. He loved sweets and Malcolm always provided something special.

Malcolm smiled at Russell. "Bread pudding with brandy sauce. There's brandy in the bread pudding as well. I poked holes in the pudding while it was still warm and poured brandy over it. Not a lot, just enough to add flavour. The sauce is in the small pot on the stove, you can add sauce to your personal taste."

Dean shook his head. “None for me, thanks. I already ate too much.”

"Meaning you had more than ten bites. You had the smallest steak, I made sure of it. You have room for a bit of bread pudding."

“But I don’t ...

Russell stared at Dean in disbelief. “You must be crazy to want to miss Malcolm’s bread pudding. With brandy sauce too, did you say?”

Dean turned and let his eyes roam up and down Russell’s slim form, and then said sweetly, “You should be careful too, Russell. I swear that paunch was not as big the last time I saw you.”

Russell opened his mouth in horror. “I do not have a paunch!”

Dean laughed.

Malcolm gave Dean the LOOK and Simon did the same to Russell. In a calm, reasonable voice Malcolm said "If you do not want the bread pudding Dean, you will sit here, QUIETLY, and keep us company while we have ours. Any more out of you and you will find yourself sent upstairs. And you know what that means."

Dean blushed beet-red. He glared at Malcolm and then dropped his eyes. Satisfied that his Brat was acquiescent, Malcolm turned back to the other dinner guests.
He paused a few seconds."Now where was I? Ah yes, pudding."

“I’ll help,” Alicia jumped up. She had watched the exchanges between the two couples and was forming a quick uneasy impression in her mind already. That wasn’t to say she wasn’t enjoying their company. The conversation was witty and their interaction easy-going and they were so much fun to be around. Still, Dean was obviously unhappy about Malcolm’s strict attitude and she was not sure if something was not quite right. Did Malcolm have the right to speak to his partner like that?

Malcolm, ignoring the storm clouds gathering about Dean's brows, firmly but gently guided Alicia back to her chair. "Nonsense. You have already done enough."

Simon took advantage of the diversion to have a few quiet words with Russell. Best to nip this sort of thing in the bud.

Russell’s eyes brightened when he saw the pudding. He picked up his fork in anticipation. “Thanks!” he said, ignoring Dean and gladly accepting his plate.

"You are quite welcome."

"I've always said you missed your calling, Malcolm. You should have been a dessert chef." Simon's eyes were closed in pure bliss.

"I hated the uniform, especially the hats." Malcolm set Dean's portion in front of him. "All that bland white."

Bullied, Dean poked at his share and put a spoonful into his mouth. It was good, too good in fact and he was afraid he would end up finishing the plate, which would mean an extra two miles on the treadmill the next day.

Malcolm ate a bite of his dessert and looked over at Simon, who nodded. He cleared his throat. "Alicia, you know that Dean and I are a couple, but what you may not know is that we have a discipline partnership."

"Discipline what? What is that?” Alicia asked, instantly intrigued.

Dean put his fork down in a hurry and glared at Malcolm. “What are you doing?” he inquired through gritted teeth.

Malcolm looked Dean straight in the eyes. "I would think it obvious. I am tired of walking about on eggs or is that eggshells. Whatever. "

Simon looked over at Russell and put his fingers to his lips. Russell silently mouthed back 'You're no fun'.

“Honestly Malcolm! This is hardly the time ...” Dean hissed.

"Well, when WOULD be a good time Dean? When you've finally gotten so out of control that I forget Alicia is in the room? I'm asking sunshine, because I'm almost there. Is this making you uncomfortable Alicia?"

Alicia, adventurous and open-minded as always, shook her head at once. "Oh not at all, I would love to know more.”

Malcolm nodded at the mortified Dean, who was viciously stabbing his bread pudding. "Well, the short and skinny of it. There are those adults, let's call them Brats, who have a hard time functioning on their own. They usually skew towards the high end emotionally, and some are self destructive in their choices. They wind themselves up tighter and tighter until they explode in socially unacceptable ways. They need someone to provide stability and discipline, so they feel safe. Let's call those folks Tops. Russell and Dean are Brats, Simon and I are Tops. Tops set the rules and we enforce them. We scold, we lecture, we ground and we spank. But most importantly, we provide love and support. Dean knows if he falls, I will be there to catch him. I might spank him when I do, but I will be there. He has agreed to discipline being part of our relationship."

“And Brats, um I mean are they really okay with ... this?” Alicia’s gaze shifted to Dean, who was looking absolutely mutinous.

Malcolm stifled a chuckle, which would have been disastrous at this point. "Well, they don't like being in trouble or spanked, but it's a part of the lifestyle. Some Brats don't even realise what they are until they accidentally cross paths with a Top. Then there is this light bulb effect over their heads."

Dean exchanged a pained look with Russell, who simply rolled his eyes.

“And trouble is in the form of ...?” Alicia asked, warming quickly to the theme.

Simon nodded. "For me, the worst infraction is lying, which covers a multitude of sins, such as actual lies, or hiding things that are forbidden, or not communicating when you are upset. Tantrums follow a close second."

“Ah, I am beginning to understand ...” Alicia said, bits and pieces from the previous week beginning to fall into place.

“This is SO inappropriate! And you stop laughing!” Dean spat at Russell.

“Why?” Russell asked immediately. “You are blushing Deano-Beano!”

“Stop calling me that, you rusty mongrel!”

Malcolm slammed his hands down on the table. "Quiet. Now. Unless you want me to give a hands on demonstration?"

Simon just contented himself with a long piercing look at his Brat.

Dean subsided, deciding that life had nothing worse to offer at that point, and he might just as well accept what Malcolm was doing. In a way, it might be easier all round. He didn’t really mind Alicia knowing, if only she didn’t think him a complete wuss. He stole a look at her and was relieved when she threw him a smile.

Malcolm took a deep calming breath. "I love Dean and my job is to help him stay safe and secure, and to do that we need rules and consequences. We also need communication and trust. Dean and I worked on the rules together somewhat, though I had final say. And I ALWAYS decide on punishment."

Simon nodded in agreement. "It can be a difficult adjustment, letting someone else take control."

“I think Tops are too anal,” Russell offered, as he polished off his pudding. “Is there more?”

Simon stapled his fingers and peered over them at Russell. "I think one serving is plenty, Russell. It's rather rich and I don't want you moaning all night. Well, not about your stomach anyway." Simon laughed.

“Is this even a topic of conversation ...? Hellooo ...?” Dean shook his head, disgust apparent in his face.

Malcolm shrugged. "I think I've said all I need to on this topic Dean, unless you have something to add? No? Then you can help me clear and clean up. It will give us a chance to chat a bit."

Taking the hint, Simon motioned to Russell and Alicia and the three left, Simon leading the way to the living room. Once there, he took a seat on the sofa and Russell curled up next to him, resting his head on Simon's shoulder. Simon patted Russell's thigh affectionately.

"So Alicia, any thoughts or questions about all of this?"

Alicia didn’t need to be invited twice. She jumped right in, her natural inquisitiveness triggered. “So you both are in a – discipline type of relationship as well, like what Malcolm described? You Simon are a Top? And Russell is a ... um, Brat?” She sought verification, before venturing further.

Simon nodded. "I think that about covers it."

“What made you decide?” Alicia asked.

"Well, I've always known I was a Top, and I could tell when I first started dating Russell that he was a Brat, and not simply because he behaved like one. So when the relationship started to switch from non-exclusive casual to something more serious, I discussed discipline with Russell, to see if he was agreeable."

“Well, it wasn’t like I had much say in the matter,” Russell complained. “He just spanked me into submission!”

Simon snorted. "I achieved a temporary victory, nothing more. You behaved only until your bum recovered, then you were at it again."

Russell had the most impish grin and he used it shamelessly when he looked over at Alicia.

Alicia’s eyes twinkled. From what she had seen of Russell, she was well able to be of the same mind with Simon about his propensity for exaggeration and drama. “Oh yes,” she agreed readily, “I can quite see how Simon is subjecting you to the most horrible torture and persecution.”

"Yes, I'm quite the unfeeling monster." Simon dug his fingers into Russell's ribs and tickled him.

Russell shrieked as if he were being slaughtered. When Simon finally stopped his assault, Russell, slightly out of breath, made a confession. “I shouldn’t say this but I wouldn’t give this up for the world. I would be a wreck without the restrictions in place and so would Dean. We both know it. We just don’t admit it openly. "

Simon raised an eyebrow. "It's a shame we aren't recording this, but Alicia will be able to verify your statements."

Russell shook his head sadly. “Malcolm must have put more brandy in the pudding than he let up, geez, its making me sprout nonsense!”

"Oh, I think you are making perfect sense, sweetheart."

Meanwhile, Malcolm, along with a pouty Dean, had cleared the table, and washed the dishes. In silence. Then Malcolm wiped his hands on the dish towel and cleared his throat. "All right then. Things have not been normal this past week, and I take partial responsibility for that. I've let far too many things slide by and as a result, you're all wound up, fidgety and cranky. Simon had an idea, a good one I think.”

Dean’s eyebrow went up warily.

Malcolm continued calmly. “I want you to write down all your misdemeanours, large and small, since Alicia came to stay with us. Every time you were untidy, when you argued with me, when you sulked or pouted, when you acted out, when you were disrespectful and cheeky. Don't give me that look, or better yet, you can add it to the list. You don't have to start this instant, but I will expect you to work on it, diligently, tomorrow morning." Malcolm paused. "When you have finished, we will discuss it."

Dean listened quietly, outwardly mulish but inwardly with a sigh of relief. It appears Malcolm was finally taking charge of the situation. Having to write a whole week of infractions sucked – big time. Furthermore Dean had no illusions that once the list was compiled (to Malcolm’s satisfaction), the penalty would be paid. But it promised a return to normalcy for Dean and that was vital to his temperament. He didn’t deal well with upheavals and changes in both routine and expectations.

“Yes Malcolm,” Dean murmured softly.

Malcolm gave his Brat a hug. "It'll be ok, sweetie. We'll get it all sorted out and things will be back to normal." Malcolm didn't feel the need to mention spanking, it was a given. "It was necessary to let Alicia in on our little secret."

“I guess ...” Dean shrugged, not willing to submit totally yet. “She didn’t seem too surprised though. But I was SO embarrassed!”

"Really? I never would have guessed that it bothered you in the least." Malcolm gave Dean a wink.

“You could have warned me!”

"Dean, if I had warned you, what would have happened?"

“I don’t know ...” Dean shrugged again.

"Well I do. You would have acted out in spectacular fashion. There would have been yelling, stamping of feet, maybe even projectiles. I still remember you throwing the pan through the kitchen window that time. I bet you remember it too; you didn't sit comfortably for several days as I recall. I would have had to make our apologies to Simon, Russell and Alicia and the evening would have been spoiled for all of us. This way we all had a relatively pleasant meal." Malcolm gave Dean another hug. "You handled it very well, all things considered, especially Russell's teasing."

Malcolm gave Dean a kiss, and then the two of them went to join the others in the living room.

chapter 6

Dean darted a look over his shoulder and instantly turned back to the boring corner.

Malcolm, sitting in his favourite overstuffed chair, looked up, and then returned to the book he was reading, 'Lord of Chaos'. It was the sixth book of Robert Jordan's Wheel of Time series. A customer had recommended the series to him and he was quite enjoying it. He took a quick glance at the clock, Dean had been standing in the corner for around ten minutes, though he was sure Dean would think it much more. Malcolm shook his hand, which still stung a bit.

God, it WAS SO BORING! He had been sniffling in the corner for at least twenty minutes, and Malcolm had taken no notice of him, much less displayed any sympathy. His trousers and underwear were pooled around his ankles, and his usually fair butt was exposed and already faintly pink. The swats Malcolm had placed there earlier had been more than effective to grab his attention and get him focussed. In fact, it had successfully driven any other thoughts out of his mind except what Malcolm was about to do to him. He didn’t even care if Alicia had heard him, or was about to hear him.

Malcolm had moved this chair upstairs - well Dean had done most of the moving. Malcolm really preferred administering his punishments in the time tested way of OTK, with the Top sitting in a chair. A comfy chair. He put the book aside and gave another quick perusal of Dean's list. It was quite a list.

Dean heard the shuffle of paper and sighed; not a good sign. He so hated the waiting. He knew it was far from over. The list which he had written out that morning had been long, rather too long for his liking. Malcolm, despite his eccentricity (and Dean gave an irrepressible grin at the thought), seemed to have an excellent memory and had made him add at least another half a page of misdemeanours, which Dean would gladly have left out.

Malcolm had shut the bedroom door prior to the first part of Dean's punishment. He had no idea whether Alicia was in the house or not, and frankly didn't care. The minute the door closed, Dean had hissed, “She’s in the house!”

"Is she? Well, no matter, she can always switch the telly on. We really need to get this sorted out."

There was truly no answer for that, and then ... well, Dean hadn’t much cared either. Malcolm’s hand had been extremely firm and the dozen or so swats, applied on bare skin to propel him into the corner, had provided such ominous promises that Dean had quickly shut up.

"Dean? If you will come here please?"

Dean jumped at the invitation. “Huh? Now?” he asked, quite irrelevantly.

"Yes, now. Think of it this way, no more staring at the boring corner."

“It’s so not fair,” Dean mumbled as he shuffled his feet to get over to where Malcolm was sitting.

Malcolm took Dean's hand without bothering to respond and gently guided him over his waiting thighs.

“You already spanked me! And I’ve already stood in the corner - forever. Why am I getting another spanking?’

"You were standing there a total of perhaps ten minutes tops, sunshine. You are not getting a second spanking; this is still part of the first." Malcolm paused. "That's not a bad idea though, considering the size of your list."

Mistake! Dean thought to himself as he felt Malcolm’s hand on his bare backside, adjusting him. I should never have agreed to write that stupid list!

Malcolm placed him in the position he desired, which would give him good access to the lower part of Dean's buttocks. He picked up the brand new Kent hairbrush, and sudden panic made Dean loquacious.

“You are punishing me for a whole week in just one sitting? How can that be fair? I think there is a law somewhere which prohibits Tops from doing that to their Brats. It’s called double jeopardy, except in this case its multiple jeopardies, which is then even worse!”

"I'm afraid you are mistaken. Double jeopardy applies to criminal cases and its purpose is to prevent you from being tried twice for the same crime. In the States it is mostly used in murder cases. Besides, you confessed."

Not quite ready for the dreaded hairbrush, Dean continued talking rapidly, hoping to postpone the inevitable. “I am sure it also applies to such cases as this, Malcolm. You being ignorant does not mean it does not exist!”

"Dean, I do not think you are in a position to argue the point." Malcolm patted Dean's bare bum.

Ouch! He has a point, Dean conceded. But he had to try, one last ditch effort. “And what about your responsibility, Malcolm? Who is going to punish you?”

"I'll have you know that my hand still stings like hell. That is punishment enough. Your arse is much too hard."

“Ha!” Dean scoffed.

"Hah nothing, it bloody well smarts."

“Well you said it was you who had let things slip this past week. So it IS ACTUALLY YOUR FAULT, not mine!”

"Regardless of what I did or didn't do, you and you alone are responsible for your actions. Isn't that correct?"

“If you put it that way .... Yes.”

"Right. We can proceed then."


Malcolm raised the hairbrush and brought it down solidly on the lower left cheek of Russell's arse and watched the area pinken quite nicely. Yes this would work.


Malcolm followed with a smack to Dean's lower right cheek. "I may just toss that smaller paddle out, this is much more effective." He took tighter hold of Dean and began to deliver hard smacks, alternating cheeks. "You know, I've heard some Tops do what they call 'Maintenance' spankings, what'd you think about that?"

The hairbrush was burning a trail on Dean's cheeks and he heard those words through a cloud of pain, but he managed to protest. “No! No, oh God ... please Malcolm!”

"Yes, it seemed a bit extreme to me too." Dean was really starting to squirm, so Malcolm delivered a quick volley of warning smacks to his thighs. "You know this goes much faster if you stay still."

Dean was scrambling to get off Malcolm’s thighs by now, and crying out loud, “I’m sorry Malcolm, please! Please .... I promise no more tantrums, I promise ...”

Malcolm shifted Dean just a bit, to adjust for all the squirming. Then slowing his smacks, he aimed for the sensitive area where bum met thighs. "Almost done, sweetie."

Dean could only gasp as he tasted the salt of his tears. Malcolm had been extremely thorough and his whole backside felt tender, throbbing unbearably. “Please ... stop, Malcolm. I promise to behave ...” His legs kicked weakly.

"Of course you do, Dean, and I'm sure you mean it." Malcolm didn't stop though, not yet.

Dean had stopped his squirming, but not his howling. Malcolm delivered five more smacks – with poor Dean jerking with each one that fell - then set the hairbrush down, and began to rub circles on Dean's back. "Shhhh, it's over. Shhhh." Malcolm continued to rub circles.

Dean slid to the floor and buried his face in Malcolm’s thighs. His hand crept to his butt and gingerly touched the burning flesh - he was sure he would not sit the entire week.

Malcolm ran his fingers through Dean's hair. "You're getting my trousers all soggy, luv. Do you want a tissue?"

Dean buried his face deeper and babbled something that sounded like ‘my butt hurts’.

"Well, when you are ready, let me know, and I'll go downstairs and put the kettle on. I think we both could use a cuppa. I can bring it upstairs if you'd like, so you won't have to face any curious looks from Alicia. You might find it more comfortable to change into sweats or pyjama trousers."

Dean lifted his head and his mouth hung open. “Alicia?” he choked.


Once the sniffling Dean was back on his feet, Malcolm opened the master bedroom door and stepped cautiously out. He could hear the sounds of the telly, turned up rather loud.


He came downstairs, went into the kitchen and put the kettle on. Taking a breath, he braved the living room.

"I'm putting the kettle on for tea, Alicia..." He started to say, and then Alicia looked him straight in the eyes. Her's were wary and slightly troubled he noted.

“I know it’s hardly my place to ask, but what in God’s name did you do to Dean?” she asked. She looked rather pale.

"Uhm, well I spanked him." Malcolm ran his fingers through his curls. “I do that on occasion. I thought we had already discussed this?"

“Yes, yes of course ... It’s just that he was ... it sounded ... you must have ...” she stammered, and then blurted it out, “it sounded like you were abusing him!”

Malcolm sighed. "Yes, I imagine it did. Please keep in mind that Dean is a bit of a drama queen and he's very vocal. He totally missed out on that stoical Brit gene. He squirms quite a bit as well."

Alicia looked embarrassed for a moment, the images swirling around her head.

"Best not to think about it too much. Dean will be mortified that I let that slip."

“Well, this is totally new to me and I have to admit my utter ignorance, but I know what I heard. And it seemed like you were hitting him pretty hard.”

"Well, I smacked him hard enough to leave a lasting impression. So he'd have a little something to jog his memory every time he sits down for a few days. No permanent damage."

“He can’t have enjoyed that!” she said, shaking her head in a nonplussed manner.

"No, if he enjoyed it, there wouldn't be any point in doing it, would there? It's supposed to be a deterrent, not an aphrodisiac. We don't have a sado-masochistic relationship. I don't like spanking Dean and he certainly doesn't like being spanked."

“And yet you both agree to have this discipline element in your relationship.” It was more of a remark than a question. “In fact, you want it to be part of your lives. Hmm ... I think I may need some time to grasp that.”

"What can I say, I've always been bossy." Malcolm chuckled. "Discipline relationships are a lot more common than people realise, but they're still pretty much closeted. Taboo."

“Please don’t misunderstand me, Malcolm. I am not judging you or anything. The Lord only knows how grateful I am to you both for all you’ve done for me. But even without that, I wouldn’t be so foolish as to draw any conclusion without really understanding this dynamics.”

"Don't worry about it. Judge me or judge me not, I'm not tossing you out. All that matters at the end of the day is that a discipline relationship works for me and Dean."

“You know Malcolm, I have been thinking ...”

"Good thing to do, think. If I could only encourage Dean to do more of it."

Alicia grinned. “Yeah, well I couldn’t help but think of some ... um, incidences in the past week. I mean, it didn’t strike me earlier, but now that you have triggered me, I am beginning to put some things together. Like last Wednesday, did you sort of like, ah smack Dean in the kitchen?”

"Aye. I smacked Dean a few times this past week. In the kitchen, which you witnessed. There were a couple of times in the bath, which I hope you DIDN'T see. And once in the hall.

“Ah, I see.”

"As far as the smacks in the kitchen went - I was there, Dean was there, and the wooden spoon was there. I took advantage of the opportunity after Dean was particularly snarky."

Alicia studied Malcolm thoughtfully. “So you decide – unilaterally – when to smack and when to really spank, and for how long, and with what? And Dean has no say whatsoever? That’s a lot of trust for one person to place on another.”

"Yes it is, and it can be very hard for beginners. Dean had to learn that trusting me involved letting me into every aspect of his life. He had to tell me about everything, large and small. All his fears, his worries."

“And that’s also a hell of a lot of responsibility for the other partner to bear. To have to think for both of you, always be careful, do the right thing ... I didn’t think I would ever say this but I do believe it’s harder to be the punisher than the one punished.”

"Oh you are a dear, aren't you?" Malcolm sighed. "It's a heavy heavy burden I bear Alicia."

“Sure,” Alicia said with a smirk and raised eyebrows. “Well, how do you know when to stop? How do you know it’s ok to continue spanking?”

"Most spankings are done on the bare, so I can see the effects and which areas need more attention. I know Dean very well, and I know his body language, so I can tell when the punishment is having the desired effect. I quit when he stops resisting me, physically and mentally. When he truly accepts that what he did was wrong and accepts that he deserved to be punished for it. When I use the cane, it is done over boxers, never bare. And it is always six strokes, no more and no less."

Alicia gasped in spite of herself. “Caning?” she echoed faintly.

"I don't use it very often. The cane is reserved for what I regard as the most serious offences. The last time I caned Dean was for hiding cigs and smoking on the sly."

“And Dean has no choice but to take the caning if you decide he deserves one?”

"Dean, from the beginning, agreed to abide by my judgement. He could always refuse, he could walk out the door, but he won't. And I think that is the kettle, so if you'll excuse me, I'll be back in two shakes."


Malcolm waited until Alicia had poured a cuppa for herself, then he put kettle, cups, milk and a couple of almond biscotti on a tray and carried it up to the master bedroom. Dean had tidied up, though he still sniffled dramatically. "If it makes you feel better, Alicia is not happy with me right now. She came just short of calling me a monster before she calmed down a bit." Malcolm dipped one of the biscotti into his tea and nibbled on it.

Dean’s face lighted up. “Really? What a dear!”

"Aye, I knew you'd like that. She's still trying to figure our lot out." Malcolm poured them both a cuppa. "Drink it. You don't have to eat the biscotti."

“I think she is sweet, really I do.”

"And it doesn't hurt that she seems to be solidly in your corner when it comes to the question of spanking. She is rather sweet though."

Dean was about to respond when a tentative knock on the door interrupted him and they both looked up.

"Hullo? If that is Alicia, it's safe to come in dear. If you aren't Alicia, then quietly go back the way you came and wait downstairs."

Alicia’s head appeared around the door. “Hi guys,” she said, rather shyly. “I was just wondering if I should make lunch?” Her eyes wandered to Dean and there was a questioning sympathy in them which made Dean respond at once.

“Hi Alicia, come on in. We are just chatting.”

Malcolm nodded and sipped his tea. "We do the odd chat, you know. It's not all lectures, swats and finger waving. We talk and have sex, just like other couples."

Dean rolled his eyes.

“Are – you sure?” Alicia asked, but she did step into the room and look around. “What a charming room!” she exclaimed.

Malcolm grinned. Dean cringed. "Alicia, this room has been called many things, but never charming. Dean calls it glam rock meets drag queen with a bit of funk thrown in. Marc Bolan meets Ru Paul meets George Clinton. Simon just calls it bloody tacky. Russell refuses to set foot in here. I'm a bit more eccentric in my fashion tastes, I like a lot of colour and I don't care if I mix patterns. Out of consideration for company, I restrict my fashion outrage to this room."

Alicia’s eyes grew round as she looked about more carefully. There were a pair of ceramic pink flamingo lamps, complete with tropical print shades. She couldn't think of anything they would match. Most of the room was like that. “Well, I think those lamp shades are really very ... interesting.” And this dresser, it must be an antique?”

Malcolm positively beamed. "Well, it's from the 1960's, so it might be considered an antique. I had the finish restored on it. It's made from an exotic hardwood called leopard, for obvious reasons. Very hard to come by these days."

“Don’t encourage him, Alicia, please!” begged Dean. He was standing by the bed, holding a cup in his hands. Suddenly, his stomach rumbled, and all eyes turned to him.

Dean laughed. “Sorry, I think that was my stomach making an announcement.” He had been too wound up to eat in the morning, but now that the drama was over, he was suddenly ravenous.

"Yes, its saying 'feed me'. I should see about making some lunch before it gets any louder. How does soup and sandwiches sound?"

“Oh I said I would – I don’t mind making lunch, Malcolm,” Alicia protested. “You both enjoy some quiet time – I am sorry for intruding ...”

Malcolm shook his head. "No need to apologise. You do far too much of that you know. Sit down, have a chat with Dean. I will make lunch."

“Yes, do let him go, Alicia, and you stay and keep me company for a while.” Dean waved at Malcolm dismissively. “Malcolm’s got a wonderful recipe for toasted ham and mint sandwiches, don’t you honey? And perhaps some melon and cucumber soup as well? Alicia and I are going to bond.”

Malcolm gave Dean a kiss on the cheek. "Smashing. I'll leave you to it then and go putter about the kitchen." Malcolm left.

“Come sit,” Dean invited, and he patted the bed. “If you don’t mind, I will lie down on my stomach instead.” They both settled on the foot of the bed and Dean said with a slight blush, “Malcolm told you what he ... what happened?”

“Well, he didn’t have to. I um, ah, heard ...?”

“Oh,” Dean dropped his eyes to the bed and his flush deepened. “I am kind of a noisy one when it comes to ... you know.” He said with a laugh. “But it’s probably not as bad as you may think. Of course when it’s happening, I think otherwise.”

Alicia looked solemnly at Dean. “Tell me, is it really all right for you? You are not angry at Malcolm? You don’t feel compelled, or abused in any way?”

Dean laughed out loud, the embarrassment swiftly receding now that they were openly discussing the subject. “Heck, no of course not. This is not abuse, Alicia. I know it may be hard for you to understand, especially with the way things have been with Jack, but believe me it’s different. Malcolm is very strict and comes down hard when I’ve messed up but at no time is he unreasonable or unfair, and definitely never abusive.”

Alicia smiled. “I just wanted to hear you say that. I didn’t think so, mind you. I’ve been around you guys long enough to know you love one another. But it’s comforting to hear it from you.”

Dean reached out and patted Alicia’s hand. “And what about you? I have been so wired up this week, I haven’t checked on you. Has Jack been bothering you lately?”

“Well, he called a few times, I just let it ring. I try not to pick up my phone if the number is not familiar.”

“Must be tough, having a boyfriend like that. I can’t even imagine how I would feel if Malcolm ever treated me like that.” Dean saw Alicia’s grimace and tried to change subject. “Russell has invited me out next week, to catch a movie maybe. You wanna come with us? I am sure he wouldn’t mind.”

“Sounds nice, but you should check with Russell first. And what about Malcolm and Simon?”

“Oh the Tops have their own nights out, m’dear. We need some time away from them sometimes. Otherwise, we ... “Dean cocked his head. “Is there someone at the door?”

Alicia listened too. “Yes, sounds like Malcolm talking to someone. Shall I go see?”

Dean laughed, delighted with Alicia’s reaction. “He spanked me; he didn’t maim me you know! I can walk downstairs and do all manner of things. Well, perhaps I can’t sit too well at present, but that’s about it.”

Alicia poked Dean in the ribs. “Hey, I was just being thoughtful!”

“I know,” Dean said softly. “Thanks.”

There were footsteps on the stairs and Malcolm appeared.

"Alicia? There are police here. Apparently Mr. Greene told them you were staying with us."

Alicia immediately paled; in her experience, having police at your front door rarely meant welcome news. Her hand flew to her throat, and then reached out as Malcolm came forward. Malcolm took hold of Alicia's right hand and gave it a squeeze. "I think it has something to do with Jack." He gave her hand another squeeze. "From their expressions, it's something serious."

“D..did they say what?”

Malcolm shook his head. "No. I think they are waiting to speak to you."

“Oh, yes of course, I will come down right away.”

"We'll go with you. Come on Dean."

Dean scrambled up and together all three went downstairs.

chapter 7

It was late afternoon by the time the three of them arrived home. They had spent the last few hours at the police station, where Alicia had met with a couple of detectives and answered a barrage of questions. Malcolm and Dean had waited patiently outside the room, silently providing moral support.

Well, Malcolm had been patient and silent; Dean had grumbled a fair bit about how slow the process was. Still, when Malcolm had offered to send him back home, Dean had declined, preferring to be bored at the station with Malcolm than to be bored alone at home.

Malcolm unlocked and opened the front door and was almost trampled by an eager Dean.

“I am so hungry I could eat a cow!” Dean declared, making a beeline to the kitchen.

"Now that is something I would pay to see, considering how hard it is to get you to eat more than two mouthfuls of anything. You can't be that hungry, I did give you some chocolate."

“The chocolate you gave me, my dear Malcolm, was a paltry piece, hardly able to satisfy my hunger.” Dean complained, as he rummaged through the pantry for some biscuits.

"Biscuits, while yummy and enjoyable, are not part of a good, nutritious diet. So, no more than one please, and don't you give me that look."

Alicia sank into a chair at the kitchen table and laid her head down on her arms. “I am sorry guys, for dragging you through this. I seem to be nothing but trouble ...”

"Oh piffle, you're no trouble. I had Russell for a week once when Simon had minor surgery. Longest bloody week of my life. Why Simon has not throttled him yet is beyond me."

“Malcolm’s right, Alicia!” Dean turned back to the kitchen, his mouth full and his hand holding a box of cheese crackers. “Want some?” he offered.

"Are you trying to do an impression of a hamster, Dean? And I believe I said one biscuit. Put them away, please."

“All I want is to crawl upstairs to sleep,” Alicia said.

"You need to eat." Malcolm started to rummage through the cupboards. "I can make my famous potato soup, it won't take long and it's chock full of nutritious goodness."

“So have you decided what you want to do now, with Jack finally out of the way? You must be relieved.” Dean put another cracker into his mouth.

“Relieved?” Alicia sat up, her face thoughtful. “I don’t know really. Strangely enough, what I feel now is – just sadness.”

Malcolm walked over, took the crackers away from Dean and swatted him. "No more." As he was putting the crackers away, he looked over at Alicia. "It's understandable; you did have a history with him."

“We did have a lot in common, you know. Growing up in foster homes, you cling on to what you can, and Jack was there for so long. I don’t know what went wrong, and I don’t know if I contributed to any of it.”

Dean jumped in at once. “Of course it’s not your fault. Jack is the mean guy in this story. And he deserved everything he got in the end, even getting shot in the head ...”

"Dean!" Malcolm paused in his chopping of celery and onions and carrots. He was taking a cooking shortcut by nuking the potatoes in the microwave.

“Well, but that’s what he got,” Dean said reasonably. “No point pretending it didn’t happen. You always say to tell it straight, Malcolm. So Alicia, did the detectives tell you how he was involved?”

Alicia shook her head slowly. “They are still investigating. They think he might have offended some gang members, or some deal with them went sour ... I can’t imagine Jack being involved with such people. He had a foul temper but I never thought he would go that way!”

Malcolm added the potatoes to the rest of the vegetables, and then it was time for the milk. He let is all simmer on low heat and the aroma filled the kitchen. When it was ready, he dished out a bowl for each of them topped with grated cheese. A quick and easy meal. Well, it was missing hot bread, but they'd survive.

Dean passed a bowl to Alicia and took his own to the table. “You’ll feel better once you eat a little. You would have thought the police would have been more considerate! Imagine keeping us for so long without providing us with any food. Maybe that is their intention – to starve you into confession!”

"I'm sure that was their intention Dean, how clever of you to have ferreted it out." Malcolm sat down with his own bowl and started to eat.

Alicia stirred her soup and felt the stirrings of hunger as the rich aroma assaulted her nostrils. She ate a small spoonful and then another bigger one. Malcolm was indeed a good cook – the soup was rich and thick and tasty. Once her stomach had settled comfortably with the hot broth, she said, “I think I should be getting back to my own place. No reason to be afraid now. I don’t know what I would have done without you guys, and Mr Greene.”

Malcolm said placidly, "No need to rush things. You're welcome to stay as long as you need to. Perhaps it might be wise to move to a new place. Have a fresh start."

On impulse, Alicia got up and went over to Malcolm and flung her arms around his neck. “Thanks,” she whispered, her voice with a definite catch.

Malcolm was a bit nonplussed and automatically gave her a pat on the back. "You're quite welcome." Women had always been a mystery to Malcolm. They cried when they were happy, they cried when they were unhappy, they cried when they were angry. They seemed to come with an inexhaustible supply of tears.

When Alicia went to hug Dean, she wiped a tear away surreptitiously. “You have been such a ... good and wonderful friend ...”

Dean had to choke down the lump in his throat.

"Well, like I said, there is no rush. Anyone want a brandy?" Malcolm decided a distraction was needed, otherwise Dean would start to sniffle, then Alicia would turn on the waterworks and he'd have to find a towel. No one took him up on his offer of brandy, but no one started crying either.


The club was packed but Dean had wisely booked their table early and they had an excellent view of the stage.

“These are great seats!” Russell exclaimed appreciatively. “For once you did good.”

Dean scowled but said cheerfully enough, “And for once I don’t care how crude and rude you are, Russ.”

Omar came over to make sure they were comfortable. “She pulls in the crowd all right,” he said. “I told her she should consider singing professionally ... but she was always afraid of the publicity. Well, maybe now she will.”

Malcolm placed an order for a gin and tonic. "I'm hoping her life will have nothing but sunshine, lollipops and ponies from here on out. I think she'll be able to put the past behind her and move on, Alicia is a strong woman."

Simon raised an eyebrow at Malcolm. "Sunshine, lollipops and ponies? She's not ten, Malcolm. Russell, you may have ONE alcoholic drink, your choice." Simon ordered a scotch, neat.

Russell thought for a bit, so many of the mixed drinks were considered girl's drinks, and then finally decided on a Crown of Roses. Dean threw him a slightly disgusted look and settled for a draft beer.

“So tell me again what happened with that boyfriend – what’s his name, Jack?” Russell demanded, once the drink orders were done with. “I have never met anyone who knows someone who is murdered, much less someone who is related. Shit – was it exciting when the police came?”

Dean scowled again, more markedly this time, but Simon cut in before he could reply.

"Russell, I don't think exciting is exactly the word to use here." He gave Russell one of his patented 'you are treading water and there are hungry sharks circling' looks.

“What? I was only asking ... jeez!” Russell mumbled under his breath, one wary eye on Simon.

"It is a sensitive subject, Russ." Malcolm had one eye on Dean, ready to jump between the two brats at a moments notice.

“I think he is not only crude and rude, but also horribly insensitive!” Dean said disdainfully.

"Yes, well, but remember Russell is not known for his tact, Dean." Malcolm said soothingly.

Russell looked offended and began to retort, but clamped up when Simon laid a firm hand on his knee. Russell’s brows shot up in righteous indignation. “What?” he mouthed, but after encountering Simon’s eye for a moment, he backed down and slumped his shoulders.

Malcolm wondered if one drink was going to be enough. "Well, you know a bit of the background, why Alicia was staying with us. We were discussing lunch when the police showed up at the door, having tracked Alicia to our house. To say it was a bit of a shock would be criminally understating matters. Murder is always a nasty business, and this was an execution style slaying."

Simon nodded. "Well, dance with the Devil and you get burned."

“I’ll say! Sounds like a real nasty fellow,” Russell added. “At least she does not have to worry about him any more.”

“That’s why Alicia has decided to move back to her own place, get her life together again, you know,” Dean said, a little sadly. “I’m gonna miss her,” he said, looking over at Malcolm. “I really am.”

Malcolm patted Dean on the arm "It's not as though she's leaving the country, Dean. She'll be welcome to visit anytime."

Russell snorted. “Would you rather she stayed on and hear you getting spanked?”

Simon was this close to escorting Russell off to some quiet corner for a bit of correction. "You keep this up and I will invite her home with us this evening. Give her a demonstration for comparison purposes. You yell every bit as loud as Dean."

Malcolm coughed to hide his chuckle, as both Russell and Dean blushed.

“What did she say?” Russell asked, full of curiosity.

"Russell!" Simon and Malcolm said simultaneously.

“She was cool about it!” Dean said calmly, although his cheeks were a bit flushed.

Russell opened his mouth to reply and suddenly shut it again. “Hey,” he said, peering at his friend, “you really do like her don’t you?”

“What do you think?” Dean asked irritably. “Asshole!”

Russell sank back into his chair. “Well, I’ll be damned! You like Alicia! A girl!”

“Not that kind of like, you moron!” Dean gritted his teeth.

“Well, what kind do you ... what?” Russell turned huge innocent eyes to Simon.

"Don't give me those puppydog eyes, Russell. Won't work anyway, I've been inoculated. You are continuing to provoke Dean."

“I wasn’t! I was ... ,” Russell started to protest.

Simon held up a finger. "I'm not going to argue with you about it Russell. Stop it"

“B-but ...”

"I said stop it, and you will stop it or I will haul you out of here by the ear to the car. And you do NOT want me to do that."

“You always take his side,” Russell grumbled.

"Only when he is right, sunshine."

“Oh be quiet!” Dean snapped, and then looked apologetically at Simon. “Sorry, she is about to start.”

"Thank the Gods." Simon muttered and Malcolm chuckled.


Malcolm was glad to be home. Russell had been in fine form, with the usual result of getting Dean all stirred up. He followed Dean into the living room and watched him take out his frustrations on one of the sofa cushions. "You know, I believe that cushion is an innocent party in all of this."

Dean threw the cushion angrily away and watched it fall to the floor. “Russell is so stupid! I don’t know why Simon lets him get away with all this crap.”

Malcolm picked up the cushion and placed it back on the sofa. He walked over and put his hands on Dean's shoulders. "Simon did not ignore Russell's behaviour."

“Well, you could have fooled me! All night he was being an absolute asshole and Simon did nothing! He allowed him to misbehave! Don’t you Tops have some kind of rule book? Some sort of guidelines for acceptable behaviour? He deserved more than just that feeble warning. Much much more!”

"What Russell deserves or does not deserve for his behaviour, which I agree was out of line, is between Russell and Simon." Malcolm rubbed Dean's shoulders. "He only stirs you up because you allow it."

“Why am I not surprised you would take their sides? Tell me, if I had been half as annoying as Russell was tonight, would you have just WARNED me? Huh?”

Malcolm removed one of his hands and gave Dean a pat on the bum. "No. I would have found a dark corner and given you a well earned swat or three. I doubt anyone would have noticed. I can promise you that Simon will be having a similar discussion with Russell once they are home. Simon had an arse frying fire in his eyes."

"Good. Russell is such a prat. I was this close to planting my fist in his face!”

"Well, I'm glad you didn't, you'd have been sleeping on your stomach for the next few days. You need to learn to just ignore him when he's being a wanker."

“I KNOW!” Dean moaned, just short of a stamp, and then suddenly burrowed into Malcolm. “The house seems a bit empty, Malcolm.”

"Well, I'm here and you're here. It's still far too early to go to sleep."

“U-huh ... So what did you have in mind?” he asked sweetly, one finger beginning to trace lines on Malcolm’s chest.

Wagging his eyebrows, Malcolm pulled Dean closer, unfastening his trousers with practiced ease. He kissed Dean, while one hand worked its way beneath Dean's shirt, and the other worked its way into Dean's shorts.

Dean squirmed as Malcolm’s hands began to roam over his slender form. “Oh ...” he closed his eyes. Within a few short minutes, he was gasping for breath. “Oh Malcolm ...” Dean whispered weakly as his Top stopped his ministrations long enough to pick him up in his arms and stagger toward the stairs.

"Put me down before you hurt yourself Malcolm." Dean gurgled with laughter.

Malcolm decided Dean had the right idea, and set him down, huffing. "I really need to start going to the gym. I'll just ravish you on the sofa instead.”

“Come get me!” Dean hurriedly pushed his jeans and underwear down and stood waiting.

“As soon as I get my breath back." He took Dean by the hand and headed back towards the living room.

Then he pushed Dean onto the sofa and pounced on him.


Malcolm roused from his post coitus stupor and padded naked and barefoot to answer the phone. "Hullo?"

“Who is it?” Dean asked. He was lounging comfortably on the sofa, reluctant to move a muscle.

"It's Russell. I think. The voice sounds a bit odd." Malcolm paused. "Yes, it's Russell. I can hear Simon in the background."

“I don’t want to talk to him,” he said immediately. But he had lifted his head and seemed to be weighing his options. Russell may be annoying but gossiping with him was usually fun. “What does he want?” Dean finally asked, capitulating.

"He probably wants to apologise. You be nice!"

Dean’s eyes gleamed and taking the receiver put it to his ear. “Hi.”

Malcolm debated whether to wander off to the shower and give Dean and Russell some privacy or to stay and eavesdrop. He stayed.

Dean waited for Russell to say his piece and then said airily, “Yes, I totally agree with Simon; you were a beast all right all night.”

Malcolm sat down on the sofa next to Dean and rolled his eyes.

Dean tapped a finger on Malcolm’s thigh, listening. “What does that mean? How sorry are you?” Dean waited for the response and then snorted loudly, and said with unbecoming glee. “I hope he paddled you. Well, did he?”

Malcolm silently mouthed "I'll bet he did" at Dean.

Dean glanced at Malcolm and gave him the thumbs up, before he waved at him to go away. “I can’t, Malcolm is right here with me and I am not allowed to swear and curse.” He grinned boyishly at Malcolm and blew him a kiss.

Malcolm smiled back and patted Dean's bare thigh.

“Oh, all right then, if you insist. Movie and pizza as well. But this doesn’t mean I forgive you totally. I’ll see you tomorrow.”

Malcolm took the receiver back from Dean and returned it to its proper place. He stretched and held out a hand to Dean. "Bed time, sunshine. Sounds like you and Russell have established a truce if nothing else."

“Aha,” Dean said, uncoiling slowly and getting to his feet. “He said Simon paddled him at least twenty times. Have you paddled me twenty times before, Malcolm?”

"Hmmm...let me think." Malcolm frowned a bit. "I'd have to say yes."

“I wouldn’t know. I am usually way past being able to think, much less compute numbers after the first three swats. The damn paddle bloody hurts, or do you need me to give you a demonstration?”

"If it will make you feel any better, I tried the paddle out on myself, before I ever used it on you.”

Dean stared in disbelief. “You tried it on yourself?”

“Just the one swat, so I'd have an idea of what it felt like. I remember thinking all right, that's quite enough of that."

Dean choked. “One swat! That’s all? Just one swat - and you give me twenty?”

"I saw no reason to continue with the experiment past one swat. I just wanted an idea of how much it truly hurts. You start howling and twisting about after just a few. Drama queen."

“Ha! Well, there isn’t much point in giving me more than three swats. Just like you, I am sure one swat would be all I need in the future.” Dean said encouragingly.

"I'm afraid that one swat or three wouldn't be sufficient. It usually takes at least ten before I have your full attention. I could put a little more power into my swats, that might shorten things a bit. How's that sound?"

Dean pulled a face and stopped just short of sticking his tongue out. "That's a horrible idea.” He decided he was not going to win this one, so he switched subject and said coolly. “I am going upstairs and into the shower, and while I am there, I will be thinking of what we just did on the sofa. Or what you just did to me. I will be all wet and slippery, you know...”

Dean looked over his shoulder and batted his eyelashes. “And I will ... probably stoke myself because I just LOVE the feel of soap ... and the suds ... running down my back ... aha ... and getting in between my cheeks... ” Dean looked down and saw his Top’s cock stir. He smiled slyly. “My, my, look who’s getting hot and bothered all over again?”

Malcolm strode purposefully forward and placed a firm smack on the retreating bottom. "You little tease! It doesn't take much, you know. Lead on."