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Friday, June 10, 2016

Quitting Time [Drabble]

Duncan found that mornings always came too quickly and he thanked whatever luck it was that meant he didn’t have to work until the afternoon this particular day. He slipped into the warm, Beau-scented space the older man left behind and went on dozing when his Top got up to his own early-morning alarm. He woke when his lover leaned down to demand a kiss before he left for the day.
“I’ll be home by six; you’re finished at five, hm? I expect you home by no later than five-thirty – that’s plenty of time to deal with any rush hour traffic you might encounter, Dun,” Beau said, tone one of warning.
Duncan clung to him, arms tight around his neck. “I will, Beau, I promise,” he grinned, sleepy still. Beau smiled and settled him into the sheets. “Please get up no later than nine, my boy. You can’t sleep all morning or you won’t sleep tonight. I love you; I’ll see you tonight.”
Warm, comfortable, Duncan didn’t respond other than to wave him away as he was tucked back into bed. He saw Beau fiddling with the alarm clock and he knew he was resetting the alarm, but he simply closed his eyes and went back to sleep.

            It was six on the nose when Beau pulled into their double lane and parked his SUV. There was no sign of Duncan’s beat up pickup and he held back the sigh that had started to make its way out of his mouth. He wasn’t really surprised – this was a weekly occurrence for them.

            He grabbed his briefcase and went inside. Dinner was prepped and put in the oven with a timer in no time before he retreated to the solitude of his office upstairs. From there he could look out on the street and wait for Duncan to come home.
            He didn’t need to be able to see him to know he was coming – his truck made more racket than a warzone on a good day. He heard it long before he saw it, and he stood from the work he was doing to watch at the window.

            He went down the stairs when Duncan had slammed his door shut. His brat found him halfway down the stairs, looking very formal still wearing his business suit. Duncan grinned at him, always quick to play innocent.

            “Duncan Weston, what time is it?” Beau asked as he went down the last four steps. Duncan dropped his shoulder bag and hung his coat on a hook. “Uh, five thirty?” he asked, kicking his steel-toed boots off. Beau looked pointedly at them until he put them in the boot tray neatly.

            “Try again, Dun,” Beau said.

            He looked around the solid wall that was his Top and shrugged helplessly – he couldn’t see the clock. Beau casually raised his arm and looked at his watch.

            “Six forty-three. You are an hour and thirteen minutes late, my boy.”

            Duncan almost shrugged, but he wasn’t that stupid. He could hear the anger in Beau’s voice – no, not anger, he thought. Disappointment. With his boots and coat properly away, he stood and gave Beau his most winning smile.

            “I got caught up on the site, Beau. It won’t happen again,” he promised.

            Beau lifted a brow at him, arms crossed as he leaned against the bannister.  “What was so important that you couldn’t leave?” he asked him. Duncan shrugged one shoulder, trying to move past him.

            “Nothing, Beau. Work. I was working,” he said, stomping when Beau didn’t move out of his way.

            “And what did I say to you this morning?”

            Duncan rolled his eyes very obviously with a loud groan. “Be home by five-thirty. I know. But it’s stupid, Beau. You don’t have to be home at five-thirty, so why do I?”

            He knew he was getting out of hand when Beau fixed him with the Look, but he couldn’t seem to stop this train-wreck he was on. He glared back; chin up in defiance.
            “I work until five-thirty, Duncan, and my drive takes longer than yours. Your shift is over at five. We have discussed this, I thought to death by now, but obviously the last spanking didn’t register or something?” he asked. Duncan hated when he did that, and he hated the way he was leaning so casually, as if they were discussing a rugby game or something.

            “Well, I had work to do, Beau! I can’t just put everything down and say ‘sorry, my boyfriend wants me home by five-thirty!’ and leave them in a lurch!” He was stomping his foot at intervals, his own arms crossed over his chest.

            “Duncan, watch your tone,” Beau warned, and Duncan gave a shrill agitated squawk and stomped again.

            “You are to be home at exactly five-thirty, Duncan. Whether or not I am here to see it is beside the point. You promised me this morning that you would be home on time. Your work does not have to be completed; those projects can run into the next day. I am not asking you to walk away from a crane dropping the roof onto the house or from a cement truck pouring a foundation – but nobody would be stupid enough to start something like that so late in the day, and you know it. Let me guess, you were working on shingling?”

            Duncan bowed his head, anger dissipating as Beau spoke.


            “Yes, Beau. I was shingling. And you know I hate when it’s not finished, what if it rains tonight and the roof were to leak! It would be my fault! And besides, if I left it then someone else would finish it before I got in tomorrow, and the pattern would be all wrong and I’d have to see it every day when I drive by and I can’t stand that.”

            “Were there others still on site, Dun?” he asked. Duncan flushed and shook his head.

            “Why was that?” he asked him.

Duncan frowned.  “Because it was time to go home,” he admitted, knowing he was in the wrong.

The oven timer went off and Beau hesitated a moment. It was too annoying to ignore, however, so he took Duncan by the wrist and led him with him to the kitchen. “Corner, hands behind your back,” he directed, and Duncan went without a sound while his Top got their dinner from the oven.

He felt like he was there for a long time, years even, before Beau finally called him from the corner. He took his time making his way over to his Top, head down.

“Duncan, tell me again what the rule is?” he asked, casually.

The boy sighed. “Home by five-thirty on weeknights. No staying late. No working alone,” he said the last with a very furrowed brow.

“And which rules did you break, my boy?” Beau asked, and waited.

“All of them? But Beau, I couldn’t just leave,” he tried again, which only earned him a swat to his behind.

“No, Duncan. You follow my rules because they are important to us and to our relationship. You do not get to pick and choose which ones you’re going to follow and when. You follow all of them, or there are consequences. Am I right?”

Duncan’s nod was very slow. He didn’t protest as Beau pulled a chair out from the table and sat down, drawing him to his right side. He did squirm when he realized what was happening and he tried in vain to escape Beau’s strong grip as the older man pulled him over his lap. Duncan’s hands went to the floor to support himself while Beau’s left arm wrapped around his waist to keep him secure on his knees.

“Our rules are in place for a reason, Duncan. When you work late, we miss out on time that could be spent together. You also run the risk of being hurt and nobody knowing anything because you are alone on a construction site!” he added. “I cannot stress enough how dangerous that is, my boy. And you know that.”

Duncan squirmed as his pants were pulled down, followed by his boxers. Pale behind exposed, he exploded in movement, trying to get off his lover’s lap. But Beau held him fast and wouldn’t let him move.

“Lie still Duncan! You’re only going to make this worse,” he warned, and the boy flopped back, wailing. Beau’s spankings always hurt, and this was no exception. His hand felt like a strap or a paddle as it landed on Duncan’s behind again and again.

He didn’t let the boy up despite his squirming; when Duncan threw a hand back to cover his butt, the man simply pinned his wrist with a strong hand and went on smacking. It took nearly three-dozen swats before he was satisfied. Duncan sank to the floor in front of him, burying his face in the man’s stomach with a sob.

Beau rubbed his shoulders and smoothed his hair back gently while the boy cried. “That’s my boy, you’re alright now. Deep breaths, baby,” he soothed. It took some time before Duncan settled enough for him to pull him up from where he knelt on the floor to hug him hard. Duncan sniffled and nuzzled him roughly, earning himself a kiss to his temple.

“Alright, Dun. We’re okay now,” Beau promised. "We'll try again tomorrow. Hopefully your butt can remind your brain when it's quitting time," he teased the brat in his arms with a grin. Duncan groaned and sank down in his lover's arms with a mutinous whine.

Bedtime [Drabble]

           The red numbers on the alarm clock changed from 1:36 to 1:37, and Duncan rolled onto his back and looked to the ceiling. He had been awake since just after one a.m. and he was having a difficult time getting himself back to sleep. He cast a glance at his partner asleep beside him, on his stomach in his usual leopard-lounging-in-a-tree position, and he sighed with some annoyance.
            Why was Beau always able to sleep at night? Duncan came home exhausted from work most days, body aching from heavy lifting and climbing scaffolding and working with heavy machinery – he should be able to fall asleep instantaneously! Meanwhile Beau, who worked in a skyscraper in an office day-in, day-out, was able to fall asleep when his head hit the pillow.
            He tried his best to lie still, willing himself to relax. But when he glanced at the clock and it had only hit 1:39, he let his exasperation get the better of him and he cautiously slid out of bed on his side. He barely had his feet on the carpet before he felt Beau’s hand on his elbow, drawing him back down.
            “Where do you think you’re going, Duncan?” he asked, sleep making him sound hoarse. Duncan resettled where he was drawn, under Beau’s heavy arm. He felt his Top’s hand caress from his shoulders to his butt where he gave him a warning swat.
            “It is bedtime, my boy. You know the rules,” he said, and Duncan chewed his lip momentarily before he recited: “stay in bed all night unless it’s to go to the bathroom. If you can’t sleep, try breathing exercises or some other silly thing your silly Top devises.”
            That earned him another swat, this time to his hip, though it wasn’t meant to hurt. “And if nothing helps?” he prompted, and Duncan finished in a rush “then wake you up and talk it over. I know, Beau, but it just seems senseless. You have to work in the morning and I don’t want to keep you awake because I can’t sleep!” he protested.
He saw Beau start to sit up in bed beside him. “And who gets to make the decisions regarding my sleep around here, Dun?” he asked the brat.
Duncan ducked his head, peering at him through long lashes. “You? But Beau, I really don’t think that’s fair to you that I’m going to keep you awake. I mean, I know you think it’s okay, but it’s really not good for you to be kept up like this? Your REM sleep has been interup- Ah!” he yelped as Beau pulled him over and swatted his behind three times, hard.
Who makes the decisions regarding my sleep, Duncan?” he repeated.
Duncan shrugged. “You.”
“And who makes the decisions regarding your sleep, Duncan?” Beau asked, his voice low.
Duncan let out a sigh, beginning to realize that he was not going to get his way this time. “You do, Beau,” he mumbled. He felt Beau’s heavy hand come down on his behind again before he was easily dumped back into the sheets, adjusted so he was pinned under Beau’s arm and the quilts drawn over him.
“Lie still and count to five,” Beau instructed. “Five things you can see; four you can hear; three you can feel; two you can smell; one you can taste.” The arm around him was somewhat comforting Duncan had to admit. His familiar weight kept him pinned to his side and he did as Beau had asked.
Without closing his eyes, he found five things at hand to think about: the rumpled sheets pulled up around Beau’s head, the way the light from the window cast shadows on Beau’s bare chest, the dark brows slightly furrowed as his lover started to fall asleep once more, his own hand lying palm-flat on the sheets beneath him, the tan of his own skin from hours spent working outside in the sun.
This kind of activity always calmed him down, forcing him to focus on something other than the thoughts that usually ran rampant in his head on sleepless nights. He listened carefully and caught four sounds easily: Beau’s light breathing, the sound of an owl from a distance, the rustle of his feet on the bedding as he turned under Beau’s arm, the wind whistling through the open window.
He could feel Beau’s heartbeat when he touched his palm to the man’s chest, which always calmed him down, knowing he was real and there beside him; the cool wind coming from the window to touch his hand that was touching the bedsheets.
Smelling was always the hardest for him. Two things he could smell, when there were no baked goods or coffee brewing or anything else to taunt his nostrils? But as he burrowed closer to Beau, he found he could smell the lingering remains of his aftershave and his cologne, and when he kissed his bare shoulder he could taste the salt of his sweat.
It was enough. Feeling sleepier now, he pressed himself closer to Beau’s warm chest and closed his eyes. It didn’t take long for the comforting sound of his Top’s light breathing to put him out.

Wind in my Sails

Wind in my Sails

“How long are you going away for, Beau?” Duncan asked from where he was sprawled on the bed watching his Top pack his suitcase. He had a hard time keeping the whine from his voice, which earned him a grin from his partner.
            “Five days, tiger,” he reminded him. “Are you going to help me pack or are you just going to lounge, Duncan?” he asked, reaching to pull the sweater from under his boy to fold up and pack neatly amongst the rest. Duncan rolled onto his stomach, head pillowed on his arms; he shrugged as Beau continued packing.
            “I’m going to miss you, Beau,” he whined after a while, lower lip slipping out despite his best efforts. “Five days is a long time to be home alone,” he whispered.
Beau leaned down to kiss his pouty boy, running a hand down his back. “I know, darling. That’s why you won’t be alone, tiger; you’ll be staying with Jack and Peter,” he informed him, to which he was gifted with a very pronounced eye roll and groan.
“No Beau, I can stay home alone!” he protested, pushing up on his hands and knees on the bed. “I’m a grown man! I don’t need to be babysat,” he said, glaring at his Top, who simply went on packing his suitcase. “Beau!” he growled.
“This isn’t up for debate, Dun,” the older man said simply, hoping that his boy would heed the warning in his tone. “I’ve already arranged it with Jack.” Duncan let out a huff at his Top and flopped back down into the sheets, hugging his pillow.
“You could at least let me stay with Ryder,” he grumbled. He didn’t get along with Callum, Peter and Jack’s brat, like he did with Ryder.
            Beau shook his head at the boy’s pouting, thinking grown man, my ass. “Aaron has enough on his hands with his own two this week without having to worry about you underfoot as well,” he said quietly. “He works nights this week and Ryder starts working tomorrow, remember? Aaron doesn’t have time to keep an eye on you too, Dun.”
            Duncan went on pouting. It wasn’t fair! He got along well with Aaron – the Top was so easygoing! And Ryder was his best friend, and he didn’t even really mind Shiloh so much. The thought of having to stay with Jack (who was tougher on him than his own Top) and Peter (who was the complete opposite of Jack) and their brat Callum (who Duncan fought with every time he saw the kid) was making him miserable.
He kicked a dramatic foot out and knocked over a pile of Beau’s shirts, looking to Beau to gauge his reaction. Beau didn’t rise to the bait. He picked the shirts up, refolded them and packed them away, giving Duncan’s perky behind a swat as he past him.
“I don’t need someone to keep an eye on me, Beau,” he mumbled into his elbow. “I can stay home on my own,” he tried again, but the look he got from his Top quietened him quickly. He went on glaring for some time before Beau finished his packing and zipped his case. Without another word, he patted Duncan’s butt appreciatively and padded out of the room.
Duncan tried to keep up his pouting but the thought of being without Beau for five days and knowing he only had one more night with him made him rethink that quickly. He clambered out of bed and raced down the stairs with the usual heavy tread that always made Beau think he was living with a baby elephant instead of his handsome brat. Duncan found him in the kitchen, colliding with his lover’s back in a hard hug.
“Beau! I’ll be good now, I’m sorry!” he whined, turning his Top to get in his arms for a needy hug. “I’m just mad ‘cause I don’t wanna be alone,” he pouted, very convincingly.
Beau pressed a gentle kiss to his hair. “I know, tiger. I’m going to miss you, you know. I always do when I have to go away,” he soothed, running his strong hands up Duncan’s broad back. He never understood the other Tops with their petite brats – he loved being able to hold onto Duncan’s solid frame.
“What time are you back on Saturday?” he asked, pouting. “Will you be home by bedtime?” He hated sleeping alone and hoped Beau would be home in time to take him back to their house so he wouldn’t have to spend Saturday night at Jack’s house too.
“If the flights line up, I should make it to the airport by noon on Saturday. If you want to pick me up when my flight lands, I wouldn’t be opposed to seeing your handsome face,” he grinned. Duncan smiled and rose up the scant couple of centimeters to brush Beau’s lips with a biting kiss.
“I’ll be there!” he promised, leaning into his lover when Beau leaned against the counter. “Do you want me to drop you off at the airport tomorrow morning too?” he questioned, running his hands up and down along Beau’s broad chest. He shimmied a bit on the spot when his lover’s hands dropped to his waist to hold him there.
“Nah, Jack said he’d drop me off in the morning before he headed to work – you work early don’t you? I figured you’d already be gone by the time I had to get to the airport for my flight at ten,” he explained when he saw Duncan’s forlorn expression.
“How about we have a nice night tonight before I go, alright?” he suggested, patting Duncan’s behind. He gave his boy a sound kiss and turned him in the direction of the fridge to get started on dinner. He intended to make it an evening Duncan wouldn’t quickly forget.
When Duncan came home from work Monday evening, he had every intention of locking the doors, turning his phone off and ignoring the outside world. Toeing his shoes off and tossing his keys, he wandered through to the living room to drop onto the couch.
A sheet of paper on the coffee table caught his eye and he grinned as he snatched it up. Beau had left him a note!  He wasn’t really the romantic type, but he thought it was cute nonetheless. He settled back to read it with a silly grin on his face, admiring as always Beau’s neat, looping handwriting.
I love you and I miss you already, my boy. I’ll call when I land this evening – you’ll have to be at Jack’s place to catch my call though! Be good and get your little butt over to his place before he has to come find you! I have given him permission to tan your little hide if he sees fit, so try not to give him a reason to do so. I will see you Friday at four.
All my love,
PS: Jack knows our rules.
            PPS: That’s a warning not to break them. Behave yourself!

Duncan groaned, tossing the letter aside. He stomped his way upstairs, knowing he wouldn’t get out of this alive if he refused to behave. Jack was not the kind of Top he wanted to mess with; he had big hands and he knew how to use ‘em! Grumbling to himself, thinking of what he needed to pack for almost a whole week away from home, he froze in the doorway of their room, suddenly grinning.
In the middle of their bed, Beau had packed a small suitcase for him. He strode over and picked it up, glancing in the closet briefly to be sure his favourite shirts had been packed. Still smirking to himself, he ran down the stairs, donned his shoes and grabbed his keys and headed for Jack’s house.
Jack seemed to have been anticipating him, for when he knocked the door opened right away to the older man. “Duncan,” he said, stepping aside to let him in. “Shoes off, bag up to the guest room,” he directed. “Pete and Cal have dinner almost ready; don’t be too long. If you want to grab a shower first, there are fresh towels in the bathroom for you,” he assured him.
Duncan awkwardly returned the man’s hug and then darted up the stairs, making as much noise as possible. When Jack heard the shower running, he asked Pete to keep dinner warm while they waited.
Showered and feeling fresh, Duncan raced back down not even ten minutes later. He awkwardly greeted Peter in the kitchen with a hug. “Dinner smells good,” he said politely, taking the utensils that the Top handed to him. Cal carried glasses of water to the table alongside him while Pete dished up their dinner.
“How was work, Duncan?” Jack asked as he joined them at the table. “You work early tomorrow again, so we’ll make sure you get to bed at a decent hour,” he said, and when Duncan gave him a look, he explained: “Beau gave me your schedule before he left.” With an effort, the brat resisted the urge to roll his eyes at his Top’s thoroughness.
“Yes, I work at 6:30 all week,” he said. “I usually go to bed at eleven when I work early,” he said, keeping his voice level and trying to sound very sure of himself so the Top wouldn’t have a reason to second-guess the late bedtime.  
Callum snorted at the attempt and even Peter had to chuckle. Jack merely smiled – he knew how brats worked; Duncan had to test the waters. “I think Beau mentioned something about reading in bed until nine-thirty,” he said, much to Duncan’s dismay. Beau had thought of everything! He didn’t argue, though; Beau wouldn’t appreciate hearing that his first night there had been spent disrespecting the other Tops.
Clearing up and socializing wasn’t hard, he found – Peter was always friendly and Callum was making an obvious effort not to get on his nerves, which was nice. When Beau called the house at seven-thirty, he waited with growing impatience while Jack spoke to his Top before the phone was passed over to him. He raced up to the bedroom to talk to his lover for nearly half an hour before Beau let him go, and he flounced back to the couch to watch television with Cal and Peter.
It wasn’t so terrible being with the other men until bedtime rolled around. Cal had already been sent up at eight-thirty, but Duncan had managed to convince them to let him finish the television show they were watching.
At nine, Peter reached over and shut the TV off, patting Duncan’s outstretched feet. “Up to bed now kiddo. Brush your teeth and get into bed. You can read for half an hour; Jack will come up at nine-thirty to make sure your lights are out.”
Duncan grumbled but dragged himself up off the couch to do as he was told. He gave Peter one last imploring look, batting his lashes in his direction, but the Top wasn’t falling for his charms. “I bet that doesn’t even work on Beau, you little brat. Get moving,” he said in a stern voice, but he was grinning.
Duncan ran up the stairs and did as he had been told. When he opened his suitcase, he found the book he was currently reading at the bottom of the suitcase along with his raggedy stuffed lion. He pulled on the soft pajamas Beau had packed, shouldered into Beau’s old college sweater and slid into bed with the stuffed animal and book.
He read until Jack knocked at the door and he obediently set the book aside on the nightstand. Jack double-checked the alarm clock for him, moved his phone away from the bed to plug it in and tucked Duncan in, much to Duncan’s embarrassment. Jack was gentle and kind, if a little awkward when it came to other people’s brats, but he was Beau’s oldest and best friend and Duncan trusted him.
“Get some sleep, Duncan. If you need anything, come and wake me up, okay? Don’t let me catch you out of bed without good reason – I know Beau’s rules regarding staying in bed through the night,” he said, warning in his tone as he smoothed Duncan’s hair back from his forehead. He kissed the boy’s temple and made sure he was securely tucked under the heavy quilt. “Sweet dreams, tiger,” he purred, and Duncan blushed as he ducked under the blankets until he had gone.

            Duncan was out of the house by six am, stopping for a coffee like he usually did in the mornings. He had been careful not to wake anyone while he showered and got ready to leave. Arriving on the site around six-twenty, he sat with Ryder and smoked until they were directed to start on schedule.
            Around eight, a police cruiser pulled up and he saw the officer speaking to one of the other traffic control workers; he stood on his toes to look over his sign at their exchange. When he was waved over, he left his sign and hurried to the cruiser.
            “You forgot your lunch,” Jack said simply when he had approached, offering him the brown bag lunch he had packed for the brat. Duncan flushed and thanked him, taking it. Jack gave him a broad smile, told him to have a good day and lay off the cigarettes and then drove off, leaving Duncan embarrassedly holding his homemade lunch.
            He stuffed it in his bag and hurried to get back to his post, directing traffic once more. Ryder gave him a grin from where he was, taunting him with a tongue out in his direction; Duncan ignored him.
            Ryder teased him endlessly about his bag lunch even as he opened his own that Aaron had packed him. Duncan was a bit jealous that Jack and Aaron did this sort of thing all the time for their boys; Beau let him pack his own lunches or go hungry at his discretion.
As he dug to the bottom of the bag and pulled out the plastic baggy of cookies, he grinned at the scrawled note that he found, from Peter – Have a great day! Be safe! Eat all your lunch or Jack won’t be happy. (;
When Jack got home that evening, Duncan was sitting out on the front steps smoking. The Top didn’t look too pleased to see him with the offensive cigarette but he kept his mouth shut – he knew Beau let Duncan smoke just as Aaron let Ryder. He wasn’t his brat to take in hand, though sometimes he wanted to.
“Thanks for the lunch, Jack,” Duncan grinned up at him when he approached, finishing his cigarette and stamping it out on the concrete steps, much to Jack’s dismay. “I ate everything but the cauliflower – I gave that to a squirrel,” he announced as he hopped to his feet. He didn’t have a key and so had been waiting for one of the three men to come home since a little after four.
Jack let him in ahead of him and Duncan ran up the stairs. “I’m gonna shower!” Duncan shouted down to him, as if he needed to explain what he was doing. When Jack didn’t respond, he came barreling back down. “Jack! I’m in the shower if you need me!”
Jack gave him a look from where he had crashed on the couch and waved him off. The brat bounded away, satisfied that the Top wouldn’t come looking for him anytime soon.
When he finally reemerged, Peter and Cal were home and dinner was on the table. Cal gave Duncan a shy smile as they ate, talking quietly with his Tops about his day. He could understand why men like this went for guys like Callum and Shiloh – they were small and lean and boyish and they just exuded neediness like a beacon. Callum was really quite cute he had to admit, even if he was just a terrible brat.
He didn’t think he was like them; he was a lot more independent and capable. Sure he missed Beau but he didn’t need him like these other brats did – with twenty-four hour surveillance and so many restrictions. If Duncan wanted to visit Ryder, Beau let him go without much thought; here Cal was arguing with Peter that he hadn’t seen his friend in a week and his Tops weren’t relenting!
“I wanted to stop over and see Ryder later,” Duncan piped up, looking to Jack. “I could take Cal with me to say hi to Shiloh?” he suggested. Callum looked to him with such hope in his eyes and murmured “please Jack?” in a way that Duncan was sure would melt any scrooge’s heart. Jack softened like butter and agreed, on the condition that they were home by 8:30 at the latest.
Excused from tidying by Peter, Duncan grabbed his keys and tugged Cal out to his truck. It took the kid some time to scrabble up into the tall truck and he buckled up with a sheepish grin at Duncan.
“Thanks for your help,” he said. “Jack never lets me do anything unless either he or Peter’s with me.” He rolled his window down while Duncan turned the music up. In no time they were turning into the lane and he parked his truck alongside Aaron’s car.
They were barely out of the truck when Ryder came out with a grin to show him his bike and Shiloh waved shyly from the doorway as Cal climbed down from the truck and went up to sit on the swing with him.
The boys were whipping up and down the street on Ryder’s newly painted bike when Aaron flagged them down, phone in hand. Duncan dashed over to the Top to take the phone with a grin.
“Beau?” he greeted, moving out of earshot of the others.
“Hi tiger. How’s my handsome boy?” Beau purred in his ear. Duncan blushed as he squatted on the lawn, pulling at the grass. “Hi Beau. Ya miss me?” he demanded as he flopped back in the grass.
“Yeah, I miss you every second, kid,” Beau promised. “Are you behaving for Jack and Peter?” he questioned. Duncan grinned. “Yes Beau! I’m being so good. You’d be impressed. I think I deserve a medal or somethin’ this time, Beau,” he teased. He loved to hear Beau’s rumbling chuckle; it made his heart flutter.
“How’s work? How’s the conference? Do you have a nice hotel room this time? Did ya eat dinner yet?” he demanded, the questions coming out rapid-fire. Beau laughed again at his brat.
“It’s been pretty boring so far,” Beau admitted. “Day two of sitting on my butt, listening to speeches and plans and everything else that’ll probably never see the light of day,” he said. “The hotel is nice, though; I had dinner in my room and I went for a run in the gym tonight. I thought maybe I’d try and seduce you over the phone, but when I called Jack’s he said you were with Ryder, so I guess that’s out of the question, huh?”
Duncan cursed himself for being stupid enough to go out when he could have been home listening to Beau in his ear telling him what to put where. “What if I went home now? Or you call me in a bit, Beau?” he whined.
Duncan heard him sigh. “Sorry tiger. It’s late here already. I don’t think I’ll be able to stay up until you get your butt home.” Duncan chewed his lip.
“But Beau-”
“Don’t ‘but Beau’ me, brat. I love you very much and I miss you, but I’ve got to be headed to bed at a decent hour. Have a good time with Ryder and behave yourself for Jack and Pete,” he warned. Duncan swallowed a sniffle and hugged his knees to his chest.
“I love you Beau. You’ll be home Saturday, huh?” he asked sadly. “Call me tomorrow? Please? I’ll be home tomorrow and we can talk all night, okay? Maybe Jack’ll let me use his computer if you want to chat?” he said, the whine evident in his voice.
“I’ll call you tomorrow, seven-thirty your time bud. I love you very much. Go have fun with Ryder now. I’ll call you later,” he promised. Duncan responded to the kissing noise he made into the mouthpiece and he smiled despite himself. He said another quick I love you before he ended the call.
He couldn’t help the tears that came unbidden to his eyes.

Duncan was up in the early hours of the morning. He had tried everything he could to stay in bed where he knew he was supposed to be - he had tried all of Beau’s breathing exercises, counted sheep, read by the light of his phone. Nothing was working, and so by three-thirty he found himself carefully crossing the landing to head downstairs to try and get something to eat.
He had only been out on the patio in the dark and solitude of the backyard for a few minutes when he heard footsteps approaching. Turning, he saw Jack moving across the floor towards him and he worried that he was in trouble until the older man pressed something into his hands and ushered him out to the swing, closing the sliding door behind them.
Duncan stared into the swirling liquid while Jack set the swing in motion, rubbing his shoulders. “It’s warmed milk and brandy, Dun,” he told him. “It’ll help you sleep.” He lifted the mug to the boy’s mouth and Duncan swallowed a healthy mouthful, making a face at the lingering sting of the brandy. He tipped the glass up himself after, enjoying the warmth.
He resisted Jack’s discrete attempt at manhandling him into his side but he didn’t protest when Jack resumed his gentle circles up and down his back. They sat in the silence of the early morning and Duncan sipped his drink, trying to force a calm he didn’t feel. Suddenly, and not sure quite why, he found himself crying into his hand beside Jack. This time he allowed the Top to draw him into his side where he clutched at the man’s shirt and sobbed openly.
Jack went on swinging, silent and calming, until Duncan got himself under control. The brat didn’t move away from his side, however, and Jack hugged him tightly around the shoulders, thumping his side.
“I know that you miss Beau,” Jack said finally, voice low, chest rumbling. Duncan ducked his head to hide his blush, though it wasn’t possible to see in the dark anyways. “You’re allowed to miss him; nobody is judging you for that,” he said softly. Duncan’s fingers tightened in his shirt.
“You’re quite safe with me, Duncan. Beau trusts me; do you?” he asked. The boy let out a quiet sniffle, nodding very faintly against his chest. Jack smiled, patting his back. He let the silence lengthen again, simply rubbing Duncan’s back until the boy let out a quiet yawn against his chest. He stilled the swing, took the mug from Duncan and drew him to his feet.
“Come now, kid, before you fall asleep out here,” he teased, taking the boy back up to the guest room. Duncan slid under the covers when Jack moved them aside for him. “Get some sleep, tiger,” he said, sounding just as calm and reassuring as Beau always sounded. Duncan didn’t move away when he leaned down to press a warm kiss to his dark head.
“G’night Jack,” Duncan yawned into the pillow as he rolled onto his stomach. He was asleep before Jack had closed the door and the man lingered a moment to make sure he was really asleep before he climbed back into his own bed and tugged his needy brat close.

            The sound of sirens didn’t seem to be too much of a deterrent for the four young men on their street bikes. Two were standing on the side of the old dirt road, cheering the other two on – one executed an impressive jump over the ramp that had been set up and then came to a skidding halt at the sight of the police cruiser parking nearby.
            “Shit,” Duncan muttered under his breath as he straightened on his bike and took his helmet off. One of the young men watching looked equally nervous at the sight of the broad-shouldered officer getting out of his car.
            “Duncan,” Jack greeted as he approached. Some silent motion had Ryder shoving off the fence and trotting over, helmet in hand, head down. Jack did not look pleased as the other two gathered nervously.
            “I believe this is not a registered stunting ground,” he said simply, giving the boys a hard look. One of their friends wilted under his gaze and shook his head faintly. “N-no sir,” he said. Duncan’s brow furrowed. “The park was too busy, Jack; there were too many people there,” he informed the man. “Loren has his gear so we thought we’d come out here where it’s quiet and get some practice in,” he said, standing as tall as he could in front of the Top.
            The other young men seemed surprised that he knew the officer. Ryder remained silent, head bowed, and the two others – Danny and Loren – tried to look away. Jack held Duncan’s gaze, a silent battle waging, and then he pointed to the equipment behind them.
            “Get this cleaned up and get out of here. You know the laws on stunting – you either go to the appropriate venues or you don’t partake. This is your first and only warning,” Jack said, to all of them. “If I catch you again, you’ll all be fined.”
            Duncan watched Loren and Danny scramble to put the ramps and jumps away in Danny’s truck. Ryder was still looking at the pavement as if he found it the most interesting thing in the world, avoiding Jack’s eyes.
            “Josiah Makenna Campbell, I know you have been warned about this before,” Jack said quietly, and Ryder looked up at the use of his loathed full name, brow furrowed. “I also recall stating last time that that would be your last warning,” he reminded, and Ryder, understanding dawning on him, shook his head fiercely, eyes welling.
“I have spoken to Aaron about your escapades numerous times; so this time will not be a warning for you, my boy,” Jack said, taking out his notepad and beginning to write up his ticket. “I’m sorry you weren’t able to learn the lessons that Aaron tried to teach you – if indeed he tried at all,” he said, knowing how easy Aaron tended to be on the brats in his life. “But I hope this will make you understand that your actions have very real consequences,” he said, handing him the ticket when he was finished.
Ryder hung his head, scrubbing at his eyes in embarrassment. Jack hooked him close and hugged him tightly, kissing the top of his dark head. “You need to learn, Ryde. I’m sorry. Tell Aaron he can call me if he needs to discuss anything,” he said, refraining from adding: or if he needs to borrow a paddle or belt.
Duncan didn’t look at his friend, aware of how upset his Top was going to be with him. Warnings for stunting were one thing – but getting a ticket? He knew Aaron wouldn’t take that lightly, despite Jack’s obvious belief that the other Top was shirking on his responsibilities.
“Go get your bike put away, Ryder,” Jack directed. When Ryder shuffled away, Jack turned to Duncan, reaching for the brat. Duncan ducked out of his reach and gave him a nervous look. “Dun, don’t make a scene,” Jack said in a low grumble; Duncan stood still.
Jack turned his face up with a gentle hand on his chin and appraised the boy – the set of his jaw, the determined look in his eyes. “Beau would be very disappointed in you, kid,” he said quietly, and recognized the look of hurt that crossed his features at those words. Duncan tried to pull away again but Jack had caught him by his upper arm and held him in place.
“I had hoped we wouldn’t have to do this while Beau was away, Duncan, but you’ve really given me no choice. I want you to take Ryder home and then go straight to my place. Wait in the corner in my office upstairs until I get home – if Peter asks, tell him I am dealing with you. We will finish this discussion at home,” he said.
Duncan nodded faintly and fled when Jack released his arm, gathering his bike to lift up into the back of his truck. Ryder was in the old beater already and Duncan waved to Danny and Loren who left ahead of them. Jack waited until the two trucks were out of sight before he walked back to his cruiser and headed into town.
It was nearly an hour later that he parked the cruiser in the lane and headed inside. He was pleased to see Duncan’s truck was parked on the street in front of the house. He hung his jacket and aligned the shoes neatly – everyone here had a habit of kicking their shoes off and leaving them where they lie, which drove him endlessly insane.
Peter spotted him from the kitchen and he detoured there first, accepting his lover’s gentle kisses. “He doesn’t look happy, Jack. Wouldn’t tell me what happened, just said you were dealing with him. What did he do?” he asked, brow furrowed. “His nose has been in that corner for forty-five minutes! If he’s anything like Cal, he’ll be in a state by now,” the younger Top warned.
Jack shook his head, kissing his cheek. “He’s nothing like our Cal,” he grinned. “He’s going to be spitting fire the second I walk in the door.” Peter watched his lover’s face, concerned, and Jack gave him a tight hug.
“I’m going to shower. A few minutes more won’t hurt him. Stay down here; if Callum comes home, keep him down here,” he added as an afterthought before he padded up the stairs to the bathroom. The shower was much needed and very relaxing; he could feel the tension running down the drain with the scalding water.
Emerging, he dried and dressed in jeans and a sweater, drying his hair and leaving it to its own devices – something Peter was forever chiding him about. He selected a well-worn leather belt from his drawer, testing its strength. Then he padded softly down the hall and into the office, closing the door behind him.
“Duncan, come here,” he said to the boy in the corner. Duncan made no move to leave the safety of the space, head bent, his shoulders around his ears. Leaning against the desk, legs crossed at the ankles and arms folded over his chest, Jack looked quite intimidating. The heavy belt hung from his right hand.
“Duncan Weston Hayes, I will not ask again,” he growled. Duncan jumped at the tone and spun around, walking out of the corner towards the big Top. He was just as tall, if not taller than his own Top, but in broadness they were almost matched. Looking up the broad expanse of Jack’s chest, he could almost imagine it was his Beau standing there holding the belt.
“Duncan, you know very well the dangers of stunting,” Jack began without preamble. “You have seen firsthand what can happen when stunting in public places goes wrong. Was it not your friend last year who was hit by that car when he was thrown off his bike?” he reminded, seeing Duncan’s hands curl into fists at his sides.
“And what would I have told Beau, hm? Should I have just called him up and let him know he needed to cut his trip short because his partner was on life support in the hospital and might not make it?” he asked. Duncan muttered something that Jack didn’t catch and the man stood his full height, pushing off the desk.
“Duncan Weston, LOOK AT ME WHEN I AM TALKING TO YOU!” he bellowed. Duncan jumped, looking as if he might wet himself, and his head shot up, but he didn’t lose all of his defiance. “Do you act this way with Beau?” the Top questioned. Duncan shrank a bit, shoulders dropping a little of their defensive height.
“N-no sir,” he muttered.  
“I didn’t think so,” Jack said. “I expect to be treated with the same respect you show your own Top, Duncan, and you know that,” he said. “Nothing has changed since the last time you were left in my care.” Duncan nodded, hot tears coming unbidden to his eyes. Jack watched the slow progression of one that fell from its holding and tracked its way down the young man’s cheek before Duncan brushed them away and tried to set his jaw.
“You know how Beau feels about stunting. You know how I feel about it. If you are in the correct environment for it, where the equipment is secure and the course is monitored then that is a different thing altogether. I still don’t approve of it fully, but at least you are a bit safer where you are being watched and there are fewer external risks,” he said.
“What if your friend’s equipment broke? Or skidded across the pavement when you had made a jump? You would have been hurt, Duncan! You weren’t even wearing full gear! You think I want to get a phone call saying come collect your skinned brat from the roadside?” he asked, angry and obviously upset.
“N-no,” Duncan whispered, hanging his head. He managed to blurt out “I’m not your brat” defiantly, still finding it hard to meet Jack’s dark eyes fully. Jack’s mouth quirked up at the corner at that comment, and he shook his head at the boy. “You’re my pseudo-brat, kid. I wouldn’t be having this discussion with you if you weren’t,” he reminded, and Duncan blushed and hung his head.
“Do you understand why I am upset, Duncan?” he asked. “You were not only doing something illegal but also highly dangerous. And, furthermore,” he said, “I had no idea where you were! You know my rules – they’re very similar to Beau’s. You tell me where you are going to be – we both have phones; call or text me and let me know. Or if not me, then Peter. You are in my care and I need to know where you are,” he said gruffly.
“So. By my count that’s three things deserving of punishment today, at least. First, for breaking my rules and not letting me know where you were, second for stunting illegally in a public place, and third for putting yourself and your friends at risk of injury or death with shoddy equipment,” he counted off. “A fourth if we count your attitude and insolence just now,” he said, to which Duncan paled.
Jack picked up the belt that at some point he had laid behind him on the wooden desk. Gripping the buckle, he curled it once around his fist and let the end hang. “Pants and boxers off, hands on the desk, in position. And don’t tell me you don’t know what position – I’ve heard Beau belt you before,” Jack said, moving away from the desk.
Duncan unbuttoned his jeans slowly, refusing to beg him not to. He wasn’t like the others – he wasn’t a little wuss like Cal or Shiloh who pleaded with their Tops not to hit them. He knew he deserved this. It didn’t make it any easier to accept, of course, which is why he took his time getting the pants undone and then pushing them down his hips. Unashamed of his nakedness, or at least trying not to be ashamed, he gave Jack one last look of defiance before he turned and leaned down, hands flat on the desk beneath him.
“Ten for each offense,” the Top said behind him. “And fifteen for your attitude, Duncan; I won’t tolerate it,” he said, and when the boy had stilled, he raised the belt and began. All colour drained from Duncan’s body and pooled in his behind at each swat.
He knew how much of an effort it was to hold in his cries of pain. After the first twelve, Duncan began to falter, feet moving incrementally on the carpet beneath them in a tiny dance of anguish. He loosened his bite on his lower lip when he tasted blood and his fingers tried to dig into the varnished wood beneath his palms.
After fifteen, he let out a few whimpers and threw his hands back to try to cover his ass. “Put your hands on the desk, Duncan! Don’t move,” Jack warned, forcing him back into the position when the kid refused. He resumed his barrage. At thirty, he stopped; Duncan was openly crying now, uncaring that he looked just like every other brat in the world right now. Jack’s hand on his back was a welcome thing and he leaned into the touch while the man soothed him a moment.
“We’re not finished yet, Duncan,” Jack said, steeling himself. He settled him back against the desk and shortened the length of the belt again. Keeping his hand on Duncan’s back, holding him by force in place, he rained down the last fifteen swats with a lecture about getting his attitude in check before Beau got home. Finished, he turned Duncan into his arms and hugged him, sinking down into the desk chair with the boy between his knees on the floor before Duncan’s trembling legs gave out on him.
Duncan was sobbing and gasping, trying to reach around to touch his blazing backside. Jack hugged him hard, kissing the top of his head. “It’s over, Duncan, it’s done. You’re okay,” he breathed, feeling the kid’s arms snake around his waist before he buried his face in Jack’s stomach, crying hard. Jack hugged him and smoothed his short hair, whispering nothings to him as the boy calmed incrementally in his arms.
It took some time before he was able to help Duncan to his feet, noting the trembling in his thighs still. He turned him to examine his behind, checking the welts there with an expert eye. “You won’t sit pleasantly for a couple of days, tiger, but you’ll be okay,” he promised, hugging the boy back to himself. Subdued, Duncan clung to him a while longer, settled in his lap on his hip so his butt wasn’t in contact with the man’s jean-clad thighs beneath him. Jack kissed the top of his head as he smoothed his hands down his back and Duncan burrowed his face into his neck.
When he was once more breathing normally, Jack stood and got him on his feet. “Go wash up, tiger, and get into some sweatpants,” he said. He handed him his boxers and jeans and let Duncan give him another shy hug. “Go on, Pete probably has dinner waiting. Five minutes please.” He watched Duncan disappear down the hall and the bathroom door closed – he could imagine the kid was examining his own butt in the mirror, the universal action for all freshly-spanked brats.
When he came down for dinner, Jack didn’t say anything but Duncan was grateful for the cushion Jack had slipped onto his chair in the dining room.

            Jack wasn’t surprised to find Duncan more subdued the next morning. He had gotten up early and made coffee so that when Duncan came downstairs from his shower a little after six, the older man was waiting for him. He put bread in the toaster and pushed the mug of sweetened coffee towards him, smiling faintly. Duncan sheepishly moved around the counter and into Jack’s outstretched arms, burying into his warm embrace.
            “Peter packed your lunch, kid. Make sure you eat all of it,” he said. “When I get home tonight, we’re going out for Chinese, so don’t go overdoing it with snacks at work,” he teased, knowing his propensity for leaving on his breaks to get sweets at the local coffee shop now that Ryder was working with him.
            When the toast popped, he gave Duncan’s back a rough rub and turned him to spread his toast and eat. He leaned against the counter and sipped his coffee. When it was time for Duncan to leave, he gave the Top another hug, grabbed his lunch and dashed out. Jack heard the sound of the truck fading away into the distance and then he went back upstairs to climb into bed for the last half hour before his alarm went off for work.
            Duncan was home by three-thirty and he sent Jack a text to let him know he was in the backyard, lounging in the sun so that the Top wouldn’t find cause to spank him again tonight for not knowing where he was. He must have fallen asleep in the sunlight, for he woke to a terrible tickling sensation under his nose and opened his eyes to a grinning Callum above him, a blade of grass held under his nose.
            “Cal!” he growled, rolling onto his stomach to haul himself up. Callum giggled and rolled away, squealing as Duncan chased him across the yard. “Duncan! We gotta go, Jack’s waiting!” Cal shrieked. Duncan caught the slippery brat at the edge of the garden and tickled him fiercely, laughing himself at the boy’s loud giggling. Peter came to his brat’s rescue, opening the back gate.
            “Come on boys, Jack’s getting impatient,” he said, watching as Duncan released the boy and ran to the gate to escape the yard. Cal followed him and clambered into the back of Jack’s SUV and they were off to their favourite Chinese restaurant.
            Almost two hours later, stuffed full, Duncan wanted nothing more than to go home when Jack suggested they go for a stroll along the river. Cal thought it was a grand idea and Peter was agreeable to anything. With the bill paid, they left the restaurant on foot and walked down to the familiar paths near the university.
Cal walked hand in hand with Peter, keeping up with his long-legged Top ahead of the other two. Duncan was tired and too full to do much more than maintain a leisurely stroll. Jack kept pace with the brat, hands in his pockets.
“I spoke with Beau this afternoon,” Jack said quietly. Duncan looked up, concern mingling with excitement on his features at the mention of his Top. Jack smiled faintly at the boy. “He’s alright, kid. I just wanted to let him know we were going out for dinner so he wouldn’t call and miss us,” he said. Duncan’s shoulders dropped as he relaxed, and Jack reached out to tug him close, an arm firmly around his shoulders.
“What’s eating you, tiger?” he asked quietly. Duncan shrugged and looked up at Jack briefly, then back to the gravel path underfoot. Jack dug his fingers into the boy’s upper arm. “Talk, you little mute,” he grinned, and Duncan laughed softly.
“Think Beau’s going to be mad?” he asked Jack quietly, worried for the fate of his already sore behind. Jack gave him a squeeze, shaking his head. “We dealt with it, remember?” he soothed. “Or was it not a strong enough punishment?” he teased the boy. Duncan squirmed and let out a louder laugh when Jack tickled his side.
“No! It was enough! More than enough,” he squealed, trying to pull free from the Top’s grip. Peter up ahead glanced back at the sounds of them roughhousing and shook his head at them before continuing along the riverbank with Cal.
Jack stopped his attempts to tickle the brat and simply tugged him back against his side. “Why do you think Beau’s going to be upset?” he asked him quietly, rubbing his arm. Duncan shrugged and let out a little sigh.
“You said…you said Beau would be very disappointed in me,” he said quietly. “Have you told him yet?” he asked, looking up at the man. Jack shook his head, eyes softening. “No, Dun. I haven’t spoken to him about it yet. I will be telling him what happened, and that I dealt with it. Beau won’t be disappointed; he’ll understand that we have handled it and laid the issue to rest. It’s in the past; it’s all over now,” he assured him.
Duncan stopped and hugged Jack hard. The older man ran his hands down the boy’s back, hugging him back as tightly as he could, one of his crushing embraces that went right down through his bones. “Thanks Jack,” he whispered. “For letting me stay with you and Peter,” he added in a mumble, nuzzling the Top’s jaw.
Jack gave him a rough nuzzle and thumped his back. “You’re always welcome with us, kid. No need to thank us,” he assured him. Beau was his dearest friend; he would do anything for his brat, just as he knew Beau would do anything for his Cal.
Duncan pulled away when he saw Cal and Peter returning, and he shimmied out of Cal’s way as the little brat barreled down the path and flung himself into Jack’s arms. He grinned as they spun and Peter jogged over to join them, laughing.
He missed Beau with a suddenness that shocked him. He might not be just like the other brats, but he was still a brat. And a brat without a Top was like a boat without a sail, floating aimlessly. He could still be a brat, but who was going to keep him in line when things got out of hand? Who was going to unfurl the sails and keep him in the current if he didn’t have a Top to do it for him?
He understood why Beau wouldn’t let him stay home alone while he was away. He had always balked at it, at what he perceived as being treated like a child in need of a caregiver when its parent was out. But deep down he understood the subconscious, acute need of a brat for their Top. His absence was a dull ache; an anxiety-inducing crush on his heart.
Jack motioned for him to follow and Duncan ran to catch up with the three men further up the path. He hesitated a moment before he caught Jack’s outstretched hand and felt the answering squeeze of the surrogate Top’s clasp. Tomorrow he would have Beau back; tomorrow he wouldn’t have to worry about a thing because his partner took on the heavy burden of both of their worries and concerns.
But tonight - tonight too he knew he had nothing to fear. Jack was capable of shouldering the weight of anything on his broad shoulders. If he said everything was fine, Duncan knew it to be true.

         Duncan had never been a patient boy. Waiting alongside Jack in the airport, he tapped his fingers on the armrest between them until Jack caught his hand and stilled it. Duncan grinned up at him sheepishly and sank lower into his chair.
            “Settle down, tiger. He’ll be here any minute,” he said quietly, keeping an eye on the screen that notified passengers of arrivals, delays and cancellations. He checked his watch and stood when he saw that Flight 182 had landed and was disembarking.
            Duncan jumped to follow him, trailing him to the gate where other people were milling about. In no time passengers were beginning to come through the sliding glass doors, bearing luggage and coats, looking tired and annoyed. Duncan watched a little boy run to greet his mother and he smiled at the innocence of the display.
            When he looked up from the scene at hand, he saw his Top. Beau was struggling with his rolling luggage and he looked more than slightly frustrated as he dropped the bag and bent to retrieve it. Duncan grinned and escaped from Jack’s arm over his shoulders to run to his partner, uncaring that he looked very much like the toddler with its mother.
He must have shouted, because Beau looked up from his bag and then stood, arms opened to his lover. Duncan was sure Beau’s smile could have made even the darkest day bright. He flung himself at his Top with abandon and Beau readily gave up the fight with his bag to spin his brat in his arms, somewhat mindful of the people still walking out behind him. Landing kisses on the boy’s face and lips, melting at the sound of his giggling, he hugged him hard and Duncan felt the lingering impression of his touch long after he had pulled away.
            Beau touched his cheek with a gentle palm, his smile echoing Duncan’s. “My boy. God, I missed you, Duncan,” he breathed. “Help me get this bag; I want to be home,” he said, patting the boy’s cheek. Duncan kissed him again, stealing his breath, before he grabbed up his lover’s bag with ease and took his hand.
            Jack grinned from where he stood watching, shaking his head at the men walking towards him. Duncan blushed and ducked his head, letting Beau go to hug Jack briefly.
            “Thanks for keeping my boy safe.”
            Duncan held onto the back of Beau’s shirt, half-listening to the Tops. He could practically feel Beau’s familiar rumble through his grip on his shirt as he pressed against him. He felt Beau’s arm come around to draw him back to his side, hugging him hard with an arm around his shoulder. He reveled in the kisses his lover dropped in his dark hair as they walked out to find Jack’s SUV.
            And when Beau stopped to kiss him, sweet and pressing in the parking lot, ignoring the teasing eye roll they received from the other Top, Duncan felt the wind come back in his sails and set him on course once again. Jack had kept him anchored, safe in harbor until Beau returned, and for that he was grateful.
But it was always Beau who made sailing possible.