Part I

Simon sighed and remembered why it was he never took long vacations. Things got cocked up at the shop when he did. Sydney and Dominic were competent enough, but they didn't look at things the same way he did. He looked at things from the perspective of a shop owner - meaning if money goes out, you need money coming in, preferably in at least equal amounts. Sydney had taken a sick day due to an abscessed tooth, leaving the shop in Dominic's hands. An opportunistic dealer, one Quentin Boswell, had pressured Dominic, acting as Simon's agent in his absence, into agreeing to purchase a rare books lot from an estate sale at a very inflated price. Dominic did not deal with pressure or confrontation very well; he usually made a few noises then disappeared into the loo for a good cry. So he'd caved in without much of a fight. Simon had consulted with his solicitor, and found out there was nothing to be done about it. So he was trying to salvage what he could from the bloody fiasco, and do it without yelling too much at Dominic.

All of this had left him tired and distracted. He was neglecting Russell shamefully, and he realized it. Russell was anxious and winding himself up for a glorious future tantrum. Simon didn't know whether to step in now or to buy his ticket and wait for the show. He watched Russell slam the cupboard doors for the fifth time, put down his empty cup of tea, stood up and went over to his brat. He wrapped his arms around Russell and gave him a squeeze. "I've been a very bad, neglectful Top, haven't I?"

Ah – finally the moment he had been waiting for. Well, about time too!

Russell wiggled out of Simon’s arms and turned his back. He pretended not to hear and proceeded into the narrow hallway that led to their living room. This was a very pleasant room and Russell’s favourite. He loved this room, especially in autumn. Simon had set up a little work area for him next to the bay windows, so he could look out as he pored over his sketches, and watch the golden leaves as they floated softly in the wind.

This morning however, Russell had no inclination to look out the window. His movements were precise and sharp, as he marched quickly instead towards his work space and started to sort through his papers. Where was that damn design he had been working on? He could have sworn he had it there just that morning. Mumbling to himself, he swept a hand across the table in a daring artistic flourish and watched with satisfaction as the papers floated into the air.

Ah – that felt good!

*And here we go* Simon thought to himself. As far as Russell's tantrums went, it was fairly low key. He walked over to where Russell stood, wearing a smug smile. "Yes, you've certainly showed those papers who is boss. Those blasted designs won't be hiding from you again."
Simon took Russell's hand. "I think we need to have a little talk. Come sit with me on the sofa, please." Simon's gentle but insistent pull made it plain he would not be taking no for an answer.

Still unwilling to concede, Russell sat down at his work table instead. He crossed his legs, and folded his hands primly over one knee. “I am terribly busy you know, Simon. I have tons of work to do and not quite enough time. You will make it quick, won’t you darling?”

Simon pulled Russell to his feet and smiled. "Whether or not this is quick depends entirely on YOU, darling. Come along now." Simon sat on the sofa and guided Russell to a spot beside him. He sighed, frowned, and then sighed again. "There really is no way to put this except to say that I have been neglecting you of late, and I apologize. If you wish to report me to Tops International, I will understand." Simon ran his fingers through his Brat’s hair. "I've had to deal with a rather large mess at work and I know that doesn't excuse my actions, anymore than it would excuse yours. And no, you can't spank me." Simon raised his right eyebrow. "But you are allowed to be bloody annoyed with me, up to a certain point."

Russell was mollified – to some extent - at Simon’s words. Apologies from the Top were not to be casually tossed aside and Simon did have a lot to be sorry for. Night after night, Simon had been distant, and had not said anything much. No way could Russell put up with that. Being unresponsive to one’s Brat’s sighs and pouts was almost a cardinal sin.

Strangely though, once the apology had been spoken, it suddenly took a twisted turn and rapidly blossomed. Something had been niggling at the back of Russell’s mind for days and as perverted as it sounded, the apology was exactly the catalyst needed to set Russell off. At the furthest end of his subconscious, Russell had already convinced himself that Simon was hiding bad news and that his behaviour stemmed from a dread of hurting him.

Simon could tell that Russell had enjoyed his apology, but there seemed to be something more. Simon knew he wasn't perfect, and he was willing to admit when he was in the wrong. Not that he hadn't taken notice of Russell's various slammings, stompings and huffings mind you; he had filed them away for later.

"Russell? Despite what you may believe, I can't read minds, so a response would be appreciated."

“Well, in that case, do you have any explanation why you have been so negligent?”

"Exhaustion mostly, I suppose. I was just so bloody drained by the end of the day. You were fretting over your designs and I didn't see the need to burden you with my problems as well. I'm afraid I got an over dose of the British stiff upper lip gene." Simon leaned over and kissed Russell on the cheek. "You see, I'm supposed to be your white knight, charging in to vanquish your enemies and save the day. It's what a Top does, you know."

“I see.” Russell studied his feet carefully, admiring his pedicured toes. “Is there anything else you haven’t told me?”

Simon was flummoxed, absolutely flummoxed. Not for the first time, he wished that Brats came with some sort of manual. "What else could there be?"

Russell wasn’t crowned drama queen in his senior year in high school for nothing. Simon was being evasive, that was obvious. And Russell knew exactly what he was hiding. He, Russell, had given Simon a chance and had bravely put ‘the issue’ out in the open and it cut him to the core that Simon had not been upfront with him. The hint of moisture glistened on the ends of his long eye lashes.

*I would have been much better off studying psychology at University* Simon thought to himself. *I would have been better prepared.*

He didn't miss that Russell was on the verge of tears. "Russell, sweetheart, I'm totally in the dark here."

“I would rather you be totally honest with me, Simon.” Russell’s voice shook. “I am not such a weakling as you think. I can be tough. I can survive without you.”

Simon blinked and raised both eyebrows. "Russell, I'm being totally honest, to the best of my knowledge." Simon gently brushed Russell's hair back from his face. "I love you and I'm not going anywhere. The drama award is yours, now will you please tell me what this is all about?"

Russell blinked his tears away; he was not going to let Simon see how affected he was. “I would rather YOU tell ME!”

"I would love to accommodate you Russell, but I have no bloody idea what has put you into such a dither."

With a shuddering breath, Russell got up and went over to his worktable. From under a thick design catalogue, he withdrew a postcard and swung around to regard his lover.

“What,” Russell demanded, waving the postcard in the air, “do you call this?”

Both eyebrows rose once again, Simon responded in a calm manner. "I think that is a postcard."

Russell scoffed. “That is so perceptive, darling. Yes, it’s a postcard. But don’t tell me you don’t recognize whose postcard it is?”

*Ah* Simon began to understand the crux of the matter. "With you waving it about in that fashion, it's hard to get a good look at it, but I believe it's a postcard from Remy."

“Bloody right it is!” Russell pounced like a cat. “Remy’s secret love note to you! And don’t you try to deny it – I saw this in the post last week?”

"I can't very well deny receiving it since you are holding it in your outraged hand. And no, it’s not a love note, secret or otherwise. Just a postcard, Russell, as you very well know."

Russell scoffed again – this time with a theatrical shrug. “I know nothing of the sort. Why did he need to send you a postcard anyway?”

"Remy sent me a postcard so that I," Simon paused and amended his statement. "So that we would have his and Gene's new address."

“And when were you planning to tell me about this? Or am I not supposed to know?” Russell’s eyes glinted green.

"I suppose I set it aside and forgot about it, having more important matters on my mind."

“I always knew ...” Russell began.

Simon held up a finger. "Stop right there Russell. There was nothing going on between myself and Remy apart from what you conjured up inside your mind. Nothing. Remy has Gene and they are very happy with each other."

“He has always had his eye on you! Right from day one.”

"Well, I am gorgeous." Simon joked, trying to lighten the mood. Russell just upped his glare. "Really Russell, Remy is French, he flirted with every man there."

“You included! I saw it with my own eyes – showing off his ... everything ... and this before you’ve even been properly introduced! Ha! This is the kind of man you fancy? Unscrupulous, devious, scheming ...?”

Simon sighed. This wasn't going at all well. "Remy was already at the pool when we arrived, Russell, and already nude. It's not as if he performed a strip while flicking his tongue at me. He casually walked over and introduced himself. There is nothing unscrupulous or devious about him. Mischievous perhaps. You are being silly."

“What? I am silly?” Russell gasped with dramatic licence. When he saw Simon open his mouth to speak, he covered his ears with both hands, the postcard still trapped between the fingers of one hand. ““NO!” Russell screamed. “I don’t want to hear it!”

Simon was still trying to be patient at this point, but his patience was wearing thin. Paper thin. "I don't suppose you do, since what I'm saying doesn't go along with your jealous paranoia. But it happens to be the truth, so let's give the drama queen a rest, and discuss this in a civilised manner."

With his eyes blazing with anger, Russell tore the postcard into several pieces, threw them at Simon and ran up the stairs.

*Or not* Simon sighed as he gathered up the pieces of the postcard. He'd have Russell put it back together later.


Simon walked upstairs and found their bedroom door locked. He counted to twenty and knocked. No response. He knocked once more, and then counted to twenty a second time.

"Russell, if I have to take the door off, I give you my word as a Top that you will not be able to sit for a month." Simon had reached twenty for the third time when the door slowly opened. He stepped inside.

Russell’s eyes were red-rimmed and his face was beautifully tragic. His lashes fluttered nervously as he peered at Simon’s face. Strategically, he moved behind the bed, keeping a safe distance between them.

Simon knew and Russell did as well that when Russell had stormed up the stairs and locked himself in the bedroom, he'd earned himself a bum blistering. Simon opened the drawer on the bedside table and took out a small leather paddle in the shape of a slipper sole. He sat down on the bed and crooked a finger at Russell.

Russell swallowed the lump in his throat, and managed to croak out. “I am not the one who should be spanked! I was not the one who lied or cheated!”

"I have done neither of those things Russell, and you know it. You had your chance to discuss this civilly and declined, throwing a tantrum instead. Well, now it's my turn to talk, and I promise you that you will listen. Come here, please."

Russell remained on the other side of the bed, his eyes fixed on the dreaded paddle.

"Now! If you make me chase you, you will sorely regret it."

Russell jumped at the sharpness of Simon’s voice. Oh shit, he sounds really mad, Russell thought. It would be wiser to obey the finger even though he could hardly bear the thought of getting paddled when he had been the one WRONGED.

“It’s SO UNFAIR!” Russell protested loudly as he inched closer to Simon.

Simon nodded and made a tsking sound. "Yes, well, you should know by now, Russell, life isn't fair. You knew what would happen the minute you ripped up the postcard, ran upstairs, and locked yourself in the bedroom." Simon reached out and took hold of Russell's arm.

Russell made one last desperate attempt to divert Simon. Tearfully he said, “Why is it when I forget to tell you something it’s called lying and when YOU forget, it’s perfectly all right?”

"Possibly because you often forget things when it's to your advantage, Russell. It's very selective. And what I do or don't do has no bearing on whether or not I take you to count for misbehaviour. This is about you, not me."

Russell stamped his foot and yelped when he was unceremoniously yanked to Simon’s side. Simon put the paddle down on the bed beside him and deftly unfastened Russell's jeans, then pulled him over his thighs. Russell tried to jerk away but Simon had the advantage in terms of strength and a whole lot of practice and dexterity in undressing him. He pulled down Russell's jeans and underclothing without much difficulty despite Russell’s squirming, and adjusted Russell's position for maximum accessibility.

“Omph!” The air rushed out of his lungs as Russell felt himself tilted face down and looking at the floor. At this point, Russell accepted the inevitable and grabbed Simon’s ankles for leverage.

Simon didn't waste time with a hand spanking. He picked up the slipper paddle and began smacking Russell's bum rapidly and with enough force to drive home his point. Russell reacted loudly and strongly, emptying his lungs with the first swat. Simon watched Russell's ass go from its normal creamy white to an angry smarting red. The small leather paddle would leave a stinging smart that would last for a few hours. Then Russell would just be sore. Judging from Russell's increasingly desperate wriggling and hoarse gasps for air, it was having the desired effect.

"It didn't have to end this way, but I will not tolerate tantrums, Russell." Simon adjusted Russell's position, and then moved down to the back of his thighs.

Russell blinked as he felt himself re-positioned. His surprise turned to outrage as the paddle landed on one thigh. He immediately attempted to spring off Simon’s lap, at the same time eliciting a very loud howl. “Bastard!” He cried.

"Perhaps." Simon agreed. "But I don't think you are in any position right now to point out my shortcomings. It wouldn't be very wise."

Russell honestly thought his skin had been peeled right off like a piece of sticky plaster. His whole backside was already sore and added to that the backs of both thighs now stung like hell. He kept kicking and cursing.

Simon kept on smacking. "I can keep this up far longer than you Russell. If you choose to continue to be stubborn then I will continue to blister your bum. It's entirely up to you. And Russell? There will be soap and corner time for the swearing."

Russell was running out of steam by then. He was mentally and physically exhausted and he wanted desperately to reach behind to try to rub away the sting. Movement was however extremely limited; Simon was holding him down so firmly he could hardly move.

“Please ... Simon, no more please ...” he began to beg. How he was going to wear his jeans he had no idea, never mind about sitting; he would likely be eating on his feet for the next couple of days.

Finally, Simon began to sense that they were entering into the home stretch. It was about bloody time, his arm was getting tired. He made a promise to himself not too get so distracted in the future that he neglected Russell.

“Ow! Ow! Stop!”

"l'll stop when you express remorse for your actions and are ready to discuss matters. It seems to me right now that this is the only way I have of reaching you."

“I am sorry! I really am.” Russell sobbed, totally contrite by now. Another spank landed and he jerked involuntarily, and then cried louder.

Simon put the paddle on the bed. "So, tell me why you were punished."

Russell blurted out jerkily, “I am not allowed to lock myself in the room.”

Simon slowly rubbed circles on Russell's upper back. "And what else?"

“I am not allowed to t-throw a ... a paddy ... or ... and ... or run away ... please Simon, I want to get up now.” Russell sniffed pathetically.

"I find it curious that you seem to be in a hurry to stand in the corner with a bar of soap in your mouth. You've left out one thing, though."

“That’s all!” Russell muttered stiffly. “I’ve done nothing else!”

"There is the matter of the postcard you ripped up and will be putting back together."

“But that postcard is the cause of all this trouble! I had every right to destroy it. You don’t need it anyway, so why can’t I throw it away?”

"The postcard is not the cause of all this trouble, your deluded jealousy is the cause of it. You did NOT have the right to destroy it and if you still feel that way, perhaps further discussion is needed." Simon rested a palm on Russell's sore bum, and then gave it a soft pat. "It's up to you."

Bloody Hell! Russell thought mutinously. He hated it when Simon said that. Nothing was further from the truth. Nothing was ever up to him, as far as Russell could remember. If it were up to me, Russell thought, I would be sitting comfortably downstairs eating ice-cream.

But the hand on his bum was sending off warning jibes and Russell gulped down his resentment and said the politically correct words. “Oh all right then! I should not have torn up that blasted postcard.” He made a face at the carpet.

Simon suppressed a smile. That was about as close to an apology as he was going to get and he knew Russell would make a face. He couldn't see it, but he figured it was the squinched up one with the tongue sticking partly out.

“So can I get up now? I feel dizzy!” Russell complained.

Simon raised his right eyebrow. "That wasn't much of an apology, but I suppose you can get up and go stand in the corner now. Come on, then."

What? After that paddling, he now had to stand in the stupid boring corner?

"Don't dawdle Russell, I would like to finish this. You can pull your shorts and jeans back up or not, I don't care. Hands on head please."

There – was that up to him? Of course not! Nothing ever was so why did Simon keep saying that? He was such a liar!

Once Russell was in the corner, Simon left to fetch the bar of nasty tasting soap he kept on hand for Russell's cursing fits. He touched the tip of his tongue to the bar and started spitting immediately. Gods, that was foul. He didn't understand how Russell managed to keep it in his mouth, not that he had a choice in the matter.

Russell waited till his oh-so-strict Top had left the room and then he reached behind to squeeze his bum. It was still throbbing though not as painfully as before. This was manageable but God only knows when he would be able to sit in comfort again.

Russell moved over to the mirror and tried to see the damage on his butt.

Simon cleared his throat as he came back into the bedroom. "I thought you were supposed to be standing in the corner, Russell, not admiring your glowing arse in the mirror." Russell scrambled back into the corner. "This is for the bastard and the other swearing. Open wide please."

Russell glared at Simon. “No!”

"Did you just tell me no, Russell? I'm within easy reach of the hairbrush, you know."

“I mean NO PLEASE!”

"No please, is still no Russell. You know what happens when you swear. Stop being difficult."

“I am not being difficult."

Both of Simon's eyebrows rose. "Yes you are, though I suppose you feel you are being perfectly reasonable. This is not a battle you can win, Russell. Trust me on this."

“But I will throw up if you put that disgusting thing in my mouth. I swear I will, and then you will have to clean it up because I will be too sick to do it and then ... arggg....!”

Simon knew that Russell would continue to stall the inevitable and simply took the opportunity to stick the bar of noxious soap into his mouth. Then he turned Russell back into the corner. Russell was stunned for a moment, and then a tear ran down his cheek. Nope, he hadn’t really been optimistic his pleas would be attended to. The bar of soap suddenly grew and consumed his entire mouth cavity; he gagged as his taste buds threatened to overpower him.

Simon sighed. It was always this way when he took Russell to task for swearing. He probably would get sick as a way of getting his revenge. Maybe he should start dosing him with cod liver oil instead. Leaving Russell to stand in the corner and contemplate the taste of soap, Simon went downstairs to make hot cocoa. When it was ready, he poured it into two mugs, grabbed a package of almond biscotti, put it all on a tray and carried it back upstairs.

Russell made desperate gurgling noises the minute Simon’s footsteps were heard. “Um ngot ta-ing ... ah teh ya ... shick ... ah AM!”

Simon set the tray down on the bed, then went over and took the soap out of Russell's mouth. "Go and rinse. Make sure you do a good job, I don't think soap goes very well with chocolate."

Russell rushed into the bathroom and bent over the sink. Then promptly threw up.

Simon uttered some soft curses of his own. At least Russell had made it to the sink.

“I told you!” Russell spat a few more times, more tears leaking out from the corner of his eyes as he bent over the sink once again. “Yaks .. phooi! Yaks ... phooi!” He groaned for effect.

Simon almost rolled his eyes, but he decided that was too much of a Russell gesture. So he settled for a sigh, then he went into the bathroom and placed a cool rag on the back of Russell's neck.

Making a real effort to swallow, Russell finally got himself under control. He knew he didn’t really need to throw up if he didn’t want to, but he had a point to make. Enough of the stupid soap. He had to make sure once and for all Simon never made use of it again. It was simply too vile for words.

"Are you finished making your point about the horrid taste of the soap?" Simon rubbed soothing circles on Russell's upper back.

“You better give me some cocoa quick before I throw up again. It’s threatening to come up any time now, Simon.” Russell loved it when Simon fussed over him and rubbed his back and he was milking every second of it. “I feel ill.”

"Well, come on into the bedroom and drink your cocoa then. There are almond biscotti for dipping."

Russell’s eyes grew big. Almond biscotti and cocoa were his favourites. Well, two of his favourites. There were so many actually.

Simon handed Russell a cup of cocoa and a biscotti. "I got the biscotti from that new specialty bakery down the road. They're not too shabby."

Russell popped the whole biscotti into his mouth. “Nog ah awl ...”

Simon laughed. "So I see. You're going to choke."

“Yummy!” Russell’s eyes gleamed as he reached for another. “Have one, Simon,” he invited genially, his aching bum forgotten for the moment although he had remained standing.

"So kind of you to ask." Simon dipped his biscotti into his cocoa and nibbled on it. "See, this is the way it's done...dip and nibble. So, if the drama queen has been put back up for now, we can have our talk."

Russell pouted. “I don’t want to talk about it any more, if you don’t mind!”

"We haven't had a talk as such yet, Russell. You made that quite impossible, which is why you were spanked." Simon took another nibble of his biscotti.

Russell rolled his eyes. “Yes! I am sorry about the postcard. How many times do you want me to say it?” A sniff accompanied that remark. “You should be grateful I am the jealous type. It shows how much I care!”

Simon put his mug back on the tray. "You don't have to throw jealous fits to show that, Russell. You need to understand that I'm not going to leave you, not for Remy or anyone else. I love you truly, madly, deeply."

Russell turned to his Top and buried his face in Simon’s chest. Simon could still make him weak in the knees after so long.

To love Russell, one had to understand him. And Simon most definitely did. Simon was up to his every trick and didn’t allow him to destroy himself. He dealt with each of Russell’s episodes with patience and firmness. He spanked him often and he forgave him always, and allowed them to start over. Who else could do that?

Russell knew Simon would never let him down. He knew he could rant and rave and complain, and his Simon would remain steadfast. All his attention-getting tantrums and drama were just that – to get Simon to re-affirm his love.

His arms went around Simon’s neck and he clung on tight as he leaned against him.

Simon nuzzled Russell's neck. "So, everything tidied up now? Tied in neat bows?"


"Excellent. Then once we've finished our cocoa, you can put the postcard back together."

“Oh!” Russell lifted his face and looked at Simon. “We still on about that?”

Simon chuckled. "Of course. Think of it as a puzzle. You love to put puzzles back together."

Russell grumbled under his breath. “Should have burnt it when I got the chance. Just as well I didn’t tear it into tiny pieces. ” He peeked up at his lover’s face.

Simon nipped Russell on the nose. "Brat."

Russell sighed with contentment. Simon always knew exactly what he needed to get straightened out. He decided he wouldn’t bother with his jeans after all. Clad only in his silk boxers, he followed Simon downstairs, the picture of docility and sweetness.

The doorbell rang just as Simon handed the torn pieces of postcard into Russell’s hand.

"I think there is some tape in the kitchen drawer where we stick miscellaneous items. Go ahead and get started while I answer the door."

Bother it, couldn't be worse timing, in Simon's opinion. "Hell..." he started to say hello, but lost his voice in his astonishment.

There on the doorstep was Max, possibly the last person he expected to see. Max, though not on the top of his list of people he hoped to never see again, was somewhere in the middle of it.

Hell indeed.

End of part one

Part II

Max waggled his fingers at Simon, who continued to stand there like some well chiselled English statue. "Simon, could you at least invite me in before I pee all over your doorstep?"

Simon blinked. Invite him in? He'd rather extend an invitation to a vampire. Well, maybe that was a tad exaggerated. "Come on in Max, there is a half bath down the hall to your left."

Max didn't wait, he ran to the bathroom, waving at Russell as he did. Simon shut the door and went back to the kitchen. Simon noticed that Russell had stopped working on piecing the postcard back together. Russell looked confused. He was adorable when he did that.

"Yes that was Max and I think I need a brandy."

“I can see that is Max, but what on earth is he doing here?” Russell whispered.

Simon shrugged. "Well, I can promise you that he isn't here to see me."

“I didn’t invite him over, if that is what you think!”

Simon gave Russell a hug. "I know you would not invite anyone without telling me about it first. You're not daft."

Max bounced, that was the only word to describe it, into the kitchen and took a chair.

"Much better. I hate peeing on airplanes, even when I'm in first class. I know it doesn't go out into the atmosphere, but I keep having this image of my pee falling from the sky and landing on some little old lady walking her dog or something. I didn't want to pee at the airport 'cause the guys stare and ask questions and I was in a hurry."

“Hello Max!” Russell smiled sweetly, and politely extended a hand. “What brings you to our humble abode?”

Max stood up, ignored Russell's extended hand, grabbed him, planted a sloppy kiss on his cheek and sat back down. "You've seen me naked and having my brains fucked out Russ, I think we're kinda past handshakes." He winked. "Simon? Be a good lad and bring in my duffle bag. I left it just outside your front door."

Russell had stood stock still when Max planted the kiss on him, but he grinned when Max nonchalantly ordered Simon to get his bag. “Go on honey,” Russell shooed his lover gently. It was good to see Simon’s outraged face. Besides, Russell had always liked Max; Max led such an exciting life.
Simon frowned, caught between his inherent good manners and wanting to toss the little upstart out on his arse. Good manners won out and he fetched Max's duffle bag. He dropped it by Max's chair.

"What brings you here, Max?" A thought occurred to Simon, a horrible thought. "You're not planning on doing a shoot here?"

"Here?" Max said in a tone of voice that Simon found vaguely insulting. "Nope. Just passing through. And I brought gifties."

He dug through his duffle bag and pulled out several DVDs. "My, what you call it, oeuvre. My body of work. I've autographed them for you."

Russell gave a small whoop of delight and grabbed the DVDs eagerly. “Is this what I think it is? Damien will DIE of envy! He will be so jealous; autographed you say? Oh my ... I’ll just go call ...”

Simon rubbed his temples. "No, Russell."

“What?” Russell turned and looked inquiringly at Simon.

"No. N...O...” Simon pointed to Russell's chair. "Sit back down."

“But I was just going ...”

"To get Damien stirred up and no you're not. You're going to sit back down and continue working on repairing the postcard."

Max meanwhile was rummaging through his backpack, looking for the plastic bag containing his piercing jewellery. "Another thing I hate about flying, having to take all this shit out so I pass security."

Russell reluctantly came back, a beautiful pout on his lips. "You're no fun at all today Simon."

"So sorry." Simon responded in a sarcastic tone that would have gotten Russell swatted. "I guess I need to get in touch with my inner Eddie Izzard."

Max shook his head at the two of them. "Damien is off at some groomer's convention, at least that's what Miles told me on the phone. Too bad, I really wanted to do you both together."

Simon started to cough. "Pardon?"

“Pardon?” Russell echoed Simon and blinked.

Max laughed. "I meant give you guys your DVDs at the same time, but a threesome would be kinda fun too. You could watch and scowl, Simon." Max toyed with his leather collar. "I'm kinda taking a break from Jordan."

“What?” Russell leaned forward, fully animated. “You left Jordan? What happened?”

"Not left left, but left as in he's back in the US and I'm here."

At this point, Simon left to pour himself a glass of medicinal brandy. He returned with the bottle and two more glasses. He didn't expect Russell to partake, but he thought Max might.
Max did, though brandy wasn't his favourite. He preferred whiskey. He took a sip and smiled, closing his eyes while Russell watched him with obvious impatience.

“Well, aren’t you going to tell us what happened?”

Max took another sip of his brandy. "We didn't have a fight or anything like that."

“Don’t stop there - I want to hear all the sordid details!” Russell flashed a wide grin at Max. “So go on! Tell!”

"There's not a lot to tell." Max shrugged. 'We've been sharing a condo, and it's been fun. Like being roommate fuck buddies." Max pulled out a sterling silver bracelet made to look like half of a pair of handcuffs. "He gave me this, and he got a matching one for himself. I began to get this prickly feeling that the relationship might be getting serious and I guess I wigged."

Russell the eternal romantic was beginning to get the honey-glaze look in his eyes, while Simon sat and quietly sipped his brandy.

“So you just hopped onto a plane and ... came here?” Russell sighed softly. “Luckily you kept our addy ... but isn’t this a wee bit far to go just to throw a tantrum?” Russell knew all about tantrums but he wouldn’t have flown a few thousand miles away from Simon no matter how cross he was. How on earth would Simon find him, and what good was a tantrum then?

"Tantrum." Max giggled. "I didn't throw a tantrum. A tantrum is something a Brat would do and he'd make sure his Top could find him. I'm not a Brat and I don't want to be found. I'm more of a sub, I guess, but I've never done that 'cept in role play. I just needed to get away and think. Remy and Gene would be too busy and your name and Damien’s just sorta popped up in my head."

Mad Max the Masochist, Simon thought, might have more of the Brat in him the he realised. But that was for Max and Jordan to figure out. Not his problem, thank God.

“Nothing for it, you’ll have to stay here. We'll show you off ... er, I mean around.”

Simon choked on his brandy. "Stay here. As a guest?"

“Of course.” Russell glared at Simon. “Didn’t you say Max is a guest?”

Simon searched his memory. He invited Max in, was that saying Max was a guest without actually speaking the words? Bloody bugger it. "I don't remember saying that, but I suppose Max would qualify as a guest."

Max beamed at Simon. "Good boy. See, that wasn't so hard, was it? No really, I just need a place on the floor for a couple of nights, and then I'm off. Maybe back to London, see what the club scene is like these days. Once I've worked things out in my head, I'll go back home to Jordan."

Russell’s eyes sparkled. “London?”

"It's not happening, Russell." Simon stated.

Max looked over at Simon. "Sorry, Russ. I don't think your leash reaches that far, does it Simon?"

“That would be SO COOL,” Russell said, ignoring both Max’s taunt and Simon’s frown. “I haven’t been to London in ages. I think I need to visit my agent.”

Simon cleared his throat. "Then maybe you and I can take a trip there in the future. But I am not letting you run amok through the gay bars of London with Max."

Russell scowled.

Simon stood up. "Why don't you take the pieces of the postcard to your work table, then show Max the guestroom. Meanwhile I'll throw something together for supper."

Max rubbed his hands together. "That sounds great. I'm starved. The flight meal for first class was lobster and so I didn't have anything to eat. No shellfish for Max, remember?"

Russell shook his head and mumbled something rude about lobsters and underserved privileges under his breath. “Come along,” he said to Max as he led the way to the stairs. “We have silk sheets, crystal chandeliers and gold taps in our guest room; you’ll be very comfortable I am sure.”

Max laughed. "Very Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous. I'd be fine with a pillow, a blanket and a clear space on the floor."

“Make yourself at home, Max.” Russell made a sweep of his hand in a grand way. “This is where we house royalty and visiting porn stars. Do call if you need anything else.”

Max dropped his rucksack on the floor of the guestroom and poked around in the wardrobe. He was hoping to find some tools of the trade, so to speak, but it was empty. "So I guess all the brat tamers are in the master bedroom wardrobe? I'd love to have a looksee."

Russell cocked his head to one side. “Brat tamers? Oh,” he suddenly blushed. “You mean - implements?”

Max nodded, a wistful expression on his face. "With apologies to Julie Andrews. Floggers and tawses and paddles and switches. Hair brushes, razor strops, whips and wrapped birches. Flexible rattans that leave a nice sting. These are a few of my favourite things." he sang, mostly in tune.

Russell burst into laughter but shuddered at the list sprouting from Max’s mouth. He recalled the flogging Max had taken from Roy during their shoot at the gay resort and felt the hair stand on his arms. “We don't have floggers or birches, sorry to disappoint. There’s only a couple of paddles, a collection of hairbrushes and bath brushes – Simon’s favourites - and a cane somewhere, which fortunately is not much used.”

Max sighed. "Jordan's really good with a cane; he's got a few of them. One's acrylic, but that just doesn't do it for me, you know? It's more of a thud than a sting." He giggled. "I really am a masochist."

Russell smiled weakly, properly horrified. He would never understand Max’s world.


Back in California ...

The first thing Jordan would do each day when he came home was to walk over to the phone and check for messages, no matter what time he got in. Then he would pick up his mail and sort through them while he went to get himself a drink, beer or wine or whatever struck his fancy. A well-stocked bar sometimes made the evenings a lot less lonely.

That had been his routine for many years.

In the last several weeks though, this routine had changed. He had found himself looking around and listening for sounds around the apartment the minute he pushed the front door open. Strange how that had become second nature in so short a time. And if he found none, instead of heading for the phone, he would quickly poke his head into all the rooms to try to find out where his Max was.

“Max?” he called out when he came home that day. “You here, sweetie?”

No answer.

Well, that happened sometimes; Max had a busy schedule himself and Jordan understood that. The boy had other commitments and Jordan was ok with that so long as he left a message. Looking around, Jordan frowned. There was something different that day; the usual neatness was gone. In fact, the place was a mess!

Striding purposefully through the condo, Jordan felt a chill go down his back. “What the hell ...” He had entered the master bedroom and went over to the walk-in wardrobe. It was apparent someone had packed in a hurry. Several valises and bags were lying discarded on the floor amidst shirts, jeans and socks.

Jordan cursed under his breath. He was not a pessimistic man and he rarely allowed anything to get him down, but somehow he didn’t think he would find a message from Max in his answering machine. He went to retrieve it anyway.

Jordan was right.

The only thing he found was Max’s blackberry, sitting quietly on the kitchen counter.


Dinner had been quite good for something that had been, in Simon's words, thrown together at the last minute. A tossed salad to begin with, followed by roasted peppers with onions, served over flat noodles. Wine with the meal. Ben and Jerry's Chunkey Monkey for dessert. A light meal, but satisfying.

Russell did the clean up, with Max over seeing. Simon took the Times and went to his study to escape for a little peace and quiet. It was still a bit too early for bed.

Max waited impatiently for Russell to finish drying. "How about some coffee? I'm gonna crash without it and I've got plans for the evening."
Russell’s eyes opened wide. “Plans? Er ... I don’t think Simon is going to let me go out with you tonight...”

Max shook his head. "No, no, no. I meant plans here. Talking, watching porn, whatever. We could even talk while we watch porn. It's not like you're gonna miss some great dialogue or anything. Just a lot of grunting and moaning."

“Watch porn here?” Russell’s voice squeaked. “With the three of us?”

Max laughed. "You, me and Simon Sunshine? Nope. Just moi et toi. Me and you. We'll have to shoo Simon up to bed."

“Simon likes to go to bed around eleven thirty. He’s got work tomorrow so he won’t stay up too late. I can make an excuse to stay up a bit with you.”

Max rolled his eyes. "Just say I'm having a crisis and unless he wants me sobbing in his arms, he better let you stay up and talk to me. That should do it."

The idea immediately appealed to Russell. “I can’t wait to see Simon’s face when we tell him that! So what have you got?” Russell found himself asking in a conspiratorial whisper. “It can’t be too long coz I can’t stay up too late either.”

"What, you turn into a heterosexual if you're still up at sunrise or something?" Max laughed as Russell made a face. "We could watch one of these mastercrapfests I'm in. I have more than one scene in 'Think Twink'."

Once the kitchen was neat and tidy (the way Simon insisted it should stay), the two young men went into the living room and plopped onto the sofa. Max sipped his second cup of coffee while Russell turned the TV on.

Max looked up as Simon came in. "I need to borrow Russell for a bit before he goes to bed, Simon. Don't worry, I'll have him upstairs and curled in your arms before dawn."

Simon looked over at Russell, who was looking anywhere but at Simon. Simon sighed and nodded. He didn't like this, not one bit, but he was too tired to deal with a tantrum. "Not too late Russell.”

Russell had thought he would enjoy tricking Simon, but when it actually came down to it, he felt quite uncomfortable. Damn, he thought, Simon has conditioned me so I can no longer lie with pride!

“Russell? Will you look at me please? Thank you. I want you in bed at a reasonable time." Simon paused, and then amended his last statement. "What I regard as a reasonable time."

Russell nodded, and then stiffened up with guilt when Simon gave him a quick hug and a longer kiss goodnight, before going upstairs.

Max rubbed his hands. "Excellent." He selected a DVD and put it into the machine.

“Turn the volume down please,” Russell instructed, his eyes darting up the stairs.

"I can turn it off, like I said, these things aren't dialogue driven." Max set the remote down on the floor and took a seat on the sofa next to Russell.

“I wish Damien was here – he will kill me for not inviting him!”

"Remember, Miles told me Damien was at some groomer's convention. So if it turn's out he wasn't, then Miles lied and Damien will kill him." Max laughed. "I'm in the scene after this one and the fourth one and a bit of the sixth."

Despite himself, Russell watched the scene with interest as Max’s face appeared. Actually, Max’s face was hardly given any air time – it was the other parts of Max that held centre stage. Russell felt the same horrified fascination he had experienced when he and Damien had witnessed Max’s shoot. The porn itself didn’t unsettle him, but sitting so close to the star as the movie was played was once again surreal.

Russell swallowed nervously, not quite sure if he was required to make any comments, or perhaps a compliment?

"You know, I really like Jordan. I might even love him. It's just ... I’m, I dunno, scared? Does that make sense?" Max snuggled up to Russell.

“Relationships can be scary.” Russell carefully shifted slightly away, to give Max more space.

"Were you scared with Simon or is it just me?"

Russell looked down in surprise as Max began to stretch out and his head landed on Russell’s lap. Max was beginning to look very tired indeed, and Russell didn’t have the heart to disturb him. Jet-lagged probably.

“Well, I think I was a bit scared too ... you know, one can never be entirely sure if one had made the right decision. Especially for this type of relationships.”

Max thought Russell had a very comfy lap. "I panicked and ran. I hope it's not because of something common like commitment issues. I'd just die. I like to think I'm having a minor dramatic meltdown. It's just, one minute me and Jordan are fuck buddies and the next one he's giving me a sterling silver handcuff. Scared the crap outta me."

“Vanilla would have been scary enough, but to allow your partner to discipline you makes it ... scarier?”

Max shook his head. "That part doesn't scare me. I trust Jordan. You have to trust your partner. What scares me is having a relationship that's more than casual."

“What’s Jordan like?”

Max smiled. "Wonderful. He looks after me, but he doesn't smother me. He understands the business 'cause he works in too, so that isn't a problem. He's a great spanker, really skilled. We always do that as part of sex, and we vary the implements. It's been fantastic; he's the first partner I've had that seems to understand my needs."

Silently Russell gulped. Spanking as part of sex was just not his thing or Simon’s. He felt nothing but grief and remorse when it had brought them to that stage. He asked politely, “So what are you going to do?”

"I don't know." Max groaned. "I shouldn't have taken off, I shoulda talked to Jordan about this, but I had a full blown diva panic attack.”

Russell rolled his eyes; this was something he DID understand. “Tell me about it!”

“Jordan's probably worried sick.”

Max’s head was heavy on his lap but no longer intrusive. Russell leaned back more comfortably and sighed. “He’ll probably kill you when he finds you, if he finds you.”

“What if he decides I'm too much of a flake? What if I go home and he's changed the locks and given all my shit to the Salvation Army?"

“Oh.” Russell pondered a moment. “Well, I am thinking if it were Simon, he would kill me but he wouldn’t change the locks. He would ground me or chain me to his side for the rest of my life but he wouldn’t throw me out. Is Jordan like Simon?”

Max yawned. 'I don't know. We haven't been together that long and this is the first time I've done something so stupid. I guess I'll find out. Whatever."


Upstairs, Simon showered, changed, and then went to bed. Sleep eluded him at first. He lay there trying to sort out his feelings about Russell and Max. Was it concern or jealousy or a mix of both? As much as he hated to admit it, watching Russell and Max together did bring out a bit of green-eyed monster in him. Max was closer in age to Russell and bloody cute on top of it. Small, and slight of build - a tattooed and pierced pocket pet. Well, on the bright side, he wouldn't be here for long.

With that comforting thought, Simon fell asleep. What seemed like only moments later, he awoke with a start and looked at the time on the clock. Almost two am. No Russell in the bathroom, no Russell in the bed. All right. This needed to be sorted out. Without bothering with a robe or slippers, he went downstairs.

He found Russell and Max on the sofa, both asleep. Max was lying with his head in Russell's lap. A little puddle of drool had formed. Simon cleared his throat.


Jordan settled down in his home office, his face stern and determined. He was a man on a mission. On his right, he had a note pad and pencil. On his left Max’s Blackberry device. In front of him, his 29 inch LCD screen showed Google earth. He was going to track down and find his Max if it was the last thing he did.

He called up address book on the blackberry and scrolled down the list, scrutinizing the names. He mentally crossed off those which were for work, Max’s agent, his manager, his personal trainer, etc. He ignored those for restaurants, shops, tailor and shoes. That still left a sizeable list of what Jordan thought made up Max’s friends and acquaintances.

Not one to be easily daunted by any task, he began to swiftly jot the names and numbers down on the notepad. In between names, he sipped from his glass of whiskey. He needed a stiff drink this time.

He stopped when he came to a name he vaguely remembered: Russell & Simon, UK. Hmm ... interesting ...

Then he started to make the calls.


Russell stirred and looked around with half-closed eyes. His neck felt stiff and Max’s head was really heavy by now. His lap felt hot and numb and ... oh yaks! Russell saw the drool and grimaced. He was about to slowly slide out from under Max when he felt another presence in the room.

"Comfy?" Simon asked.

“Oh shit!” Russell jumped, effectively jerking Max’s head off his lap. “Bloody hell, you scared me!”

Simon smiled. "My apologies. I believe your movie has ended."

It always took Max a while to fully wake up, even under the best of circumstances. "Where am I?" he mumbled as he tried to get his eyes focused. He'd had a nice comfy pillow. Where was it? He shook his head vigorously, trying to clear the fuzzies. A large something was scowling at him. His shook his head again.

“We ... I ... we fell asleep,” Russell said, undecided which pronoun sounded worse. He was still breathing hard from the scare and definitely not thinking straight. “What time is it?”

Simon answered him. "TWO AM."

Max had finally achieved a bit of clarity. "Hi Simon. Maybe we should have left the volume turned up, Russ."

"I find it a sad commentary on your films Max, when neither of you can stay awake." Simon arched an eyebrow.

"Looks like you woke up on the bitchy side of the bed." Max retorted.

"Indeed. Come along Russell. Max, you know where the guest room is, or you can crash on the sofa."

Russell put his hand into Simon’s and obediently followed Simon up to their room. He quickly undressed, one wary eye on Simon. By no stretch of his imagination did he think two am was a reasonable time for Simon.

"When I am growling at Dominic tomorrow, or I guess today actually, I will tell him it is your fault." Simon yawned.

Russell giggled, relieved his strict partner was actually joking at two in the morning. “We were talking – mostly about how Jordan would kill Max when he found him. And then I guess we just fell asleep. Max was really really tired?” Russell hoped that might elicit some sympathy for his friend.

Simon gave Russell a reassuring hug. "I'm not angry with you Russell or Max for that matter. The two of you fell asleep. Which proves what I've always believed, that porn is boring."

This time Russell gurgled with mirth. “It wasn’t that bad ... even though I cannot believe some of the things they put him through ... oh Simon, there were chains, and whips, and you should have seen ...”

Simon held up a finger. "I'd rather not see, if you don't mind. I'd rather remain blissfully ignorant."

“Oh well, if you really don’t want to know.” Russell shrugged his shoulders eloquently.

He paused, waiting for Simon to change his mind. Disappointed when Simon remained unresponsive, he continued. “Damien would have begged for details ... anyway, coming back to Max. He sounded so lost and worried about Jordan. I guess he just needed someone to talk to. I gave him a LOT of advice, you know. Fortunately I’m a good listener, which I’m sure you realize by now ....” Russell snuggled into bed, eyes wide open by now and more than inclined to chat. “Isn’t it weird ... it must be fate for Max to come here instead ...”

Simon gave Russell a light kiss on the lips. "You are a sweet lad and a gem. Now shut up and go to sleep."


After two dozen calls, Jordan had drawn blank. He was no where closer to locating Max. No one even knew that Max had bolted and Jordan had had to exercise all his tact, diplomacy and ingenuity to make it sound as if he had just misplaced his bedroom slipper. Max wouldn’t be able to afford a scandal and he knew how fast the slightest hint of a disappearance could be whipped totally out of proportion.

He stared at the next number – which was a long distance one all the way to the united kingdom. It was quite unthinkable that Max would go so far, but then again it was Max. He acted without thinking ahead. He was impulsive. He was strong-willed and bull-headed. He never gave any thought to consequences and had the most horrendous aptitude to disregard protocol. He was all that and Jordan loved every bit of him.

Shaking his head forlornly at himself and at how he had fallen, Jordan slowly dialled the country code, then the area code and finally the listed number on the note pad.

Something told him this would be the call.


There was a buzzing noise near the bed. Simon groaned and sat up.

Next to him, Russell slept on, curled up like a cat and blissfully unaware. Simon sorted out that the noise was actually the phone, and acting on instinct, he answered it. A call at four in the morning? It was probably something important.

"This had better be a national or family crisis." He growled into the phone.

A brisk, business-like voice assaulted Simon’s ear from the other end of the phone. The voice sounded much too chirpy for four in the morning.

“Hello, I am sorry to trouble you ...” The man did not sound in the least sorry. “My name is Jordan Griffin and may I speak with Max Langer please?”

Jordan had decided the direct approach – in this situation - would be the best strategy. When in unknown territory, sometimes it was better to charge forward and not give your adversary any time to prepare.

Simon glowered at the phone. It would be someone looking for Max, another barbarian more than likely. The accent was Yank. "Who the bloody hell did you say this is?"

“Jordan Griffin ... er, is that by any chance Russell or Simon?”

"This is Simon." Simon rubbed his temples and moved quietly out to the corridor. Russell was still soundly asleep and he didn’t want to wake him.

“Hi Simon. I believe we met earlier? At the Inndulge resort Key West?”

Simon searched his memory, which was a bit fuzzy at present. It needed a caffeine reboot. "Ah, yes. I remember. You directed Max's porn shoot."

“Yes, this is a long-distance call actually. I am calling from California. Oh God - I am so sorry!” This time the voice held a sincere note of apology. “I totally forgot about the time difference. Did I wake you?”

Simon sighed. "Yes, but this is the second time my sleep has been disturbed this night. I will just reset my alarm for 8am and have one of my employees open the shop."

Jordan apologised again. “I am terribly sorry to bother you, but could you ... I mean, is Max there with you guys by any chance?” Diplomacy hell, Jordan thought. He was exhausted, he was irritated and anyway, this was the UK. If Max was indeed there, it would be useless to try to wrap it up in lamb’s wool.

*Damn Max*

"He was on the living room sofa last I checked, when I shooed Russell to bed. He may be there still or he may be in the guest room. Do you want me to fetch him? He was rather jet lagged so I don't know how coherent he'll be."

“No!” Jordan’s voice stopped Simon. “Actually, I have a better idea. Can you hold him there for twenty four hours, Simon? I would be so grateful. Keep him safe with you; I’m coming to get him personally!”

*So now he was a porn star wrangler, was he?*

“I will be at my shop, but Russell will be at home. Max will probably sleep most of the day. He was pretty knackered, probably a combination of jetlag and stress."

Jordan grunted. “I’d appreciate you didn’t tell him anything. He ran once, I don’t want him to run again. We have a few things we need to settle when I catch up with him.”

Simon chuckled. "Yes, I expect that you do. Max had a panic attack, Jordan, a rather grand one. Russell's had a few, though so far he's not run off to another country, just to London. Max might very well take off again if he knew you were coming here. I have mixed feelings about it, but I will keep Russell in the dark also."

“Can you do that? That would be the ideal. Thank you so much, Simon.” Jordan quickly confirmed the address he had on the blackberry, and continued. "To be honest, I was beginning to worry ... anyway, I’m just glad he is safe and with friends. Once again I am sorry to call so late, or rather so early.” There was a definite smile in Jordan’s voice.

*Well someone found this funny*

Simon wished Jordan a good night and safe flight, then he ended the call and crawled back into bed next to Russell.


All it took was one phone call and Jordan got himself a first-class ticket to London that flew out of LAX at midnight that night. He had time to throw some things into a bag, collected his passport from his home safe, and called for a cab.

He spoke to his personal assistant in the cab and told him he would be gone for about a week. All his appointments were to be rescheduled. No schedules. No mails. No calls unless it was an emergency.

Jordan was taking his first vacation in ten years.


Max began the slow process of waking. He rolled over and was at first puzzled by the lack of Jordan. He managed to get his eyes open and saw he was still wearing the clothes he'd had on the day before. Euw. He smelled.

Where in the hell was he and why did his head feel all fuzzy and not in a good way? He walked to the window, pulled back the drapes and hissed as the sunshine came streaming into the room. Fucking hell, it had to be about noon. He grabbed a change of clothing and hit the shower. While he stood under the steaming water, he remembered the events of the previous day and groaned. When you fuck up Maxie, you really fuck up.

Once out of the shower, he dried off, got dressed and padded downstairs. He found Russell puttering around the kitchen.

"Coffee?" Max asked. "I didn't make an ass of myself last night did I, 'cause I can't fucking remember."

Russell poured out a cup of steaming black liquid and handed it to Max. “You were a real mess,” Russell said cheerfully.

Max didn't bother with cream or sugar, he sipped the coffee. "More of a mess than usual, huh? That's kind of scary. So, what's the plan for today, or what's left of it? "

“Well, Simon said to stay home and he would be back early today.”

Max nodded. "I'm kind of out of it still; I wouldn't trust me on a bicycle right now. So I guess it's lunch time or whatever you call it here?"

“It’s way past lunch actually. I made a cheese sandwich ... do you want it?” Russell held out a plate.

"Sure." Max took the cheese sandwich. Not his favourite, but it was food. "Just keep the coffee coming."

Russell thought for a moment on how to keep his guest entertained. “I do have something I need to get done before Simon comes home, do you want to help? It’s a stupid postcard. And then I could show you some of my designs?”

"I just need to sit and try to get my brain to function again. I think it's still in L.A. I keep feeling I'm a beat or two behind, yah know? I'd like to see the designs. I don't know who you work with, but I know some people back in the states, I could give you names."

Russell happily brought out his sketches and proudly showed them off to Max. He was a talented designer actually, and loved his work. He was never so happy as when he could talk about his ideas and concepts and creations. Max and Russell spent a quiet afternoon talking and looking at Russell's designs. The two of them did manage to put the postcard back together and Max shared a few funny stories about Remy and Gene. Remy was, in his way, quite the loon. If Gene had been the sort to pull out hair, he'd have been bald within a few months.

When Simon arrived home, Russell was working at his desk and Max had passed out on the sofa. Simon walked up behind Russell, draped his arms around Russell's neck and planted a kiss.

"Evening, Sunshine. I have take-away from that new Indian place. Naan bread, tandoori chicken, samosas for appetizers and chai tea. See if you can rouse Max."

Russell had no problem rousing Max; he loved Indian food and he was hungry. A good combination for Russell.

Max still had dark circles under his eyes, but he felt a little better. "Oh...tandoori chicken and samosas and even chai tea." Max snagged a samosa and stuffed it into his mouth with a blissful expression.

Simon raised his left eyebrow. "I don't know what they do back in LA, but here we use plates and cutlery." He handed the giggling Max a plate.

"Sorry. I'm starved." Max grabbed a chair and sat down. Russell and Simon soon joined him, and the dining area filled with the sounds of happy sighs and contented munching. Their peaceful repast was interrupted by the sound of the doorbell.

Russell looked surprised when the door bell rang. “Are we expecting company?” he asked Simon.

Simon wasn't looking his way at the moment and Max snagged another samosa with his fingers. "I'm not."

Simon was expecting someone, just not this early. "I will go answer it, you two stay here and Max? Use a fork, please. And yes, I do have eyes in the back of my head, just ask Russell."

Jordan tapped his foot impatiently as he waited for the door to open. His flight had been uneventful and he had reached London around six in the evening. Even though he had flown in first class comfort, he had hardly slept. He was too uptight and tense to relax, despite the numerous martinis that had been served to him. The minute he cleared immigration, he immediately hailed a taxi and gave the address to the driver without even bothering to book himself into a hotel. He had intentionally left that detail open – what happened next would depend very much on his reunion with Max.

He was deep in thought as he stood in the semi darkness. Knocking on some stranger’s front door in a foreign country at a terribly inconvenient time of the evening was not how he envisaged spending his time. But Max had to be rescued.

“Hello.” Jordan looked up as the door opened. He squinted his eyes, which were indeed tired. “I’m Jordan. Are you ... Simon?”

"Last I checked." Simon reached out for Jordan’s bag. "Max is in the dining room with Russell. I brought home Indian takeout, there may still be some left if you are interested. Chicken tandoori, samosas, that sort of thing."

Jordan stepped into the small foyer and looked around. Very English, he thought. Rather charming actually, might even be a suitable setting for some movie some time in the future. He pulled his thoughts away when he saw Simon watching him, and forced his mind back to the present. “Oh what’s that? No, no thanks. I am fine. I just want to see Max, if you don’t mind.”

Max had heard Simon speaking softly with someone at the door, but hadn't paid it any further mind. It sounded like Simon had invited the person inside, he could hear footsteps. They stopped at the entrance to the kitchen, and then Russell choked and kicked him underneath the table, hard. Max was sitting with his back to the doorway and hadn’t bothered much about the visitor – probably a neighbour who came to borrow some eggs or sugar? He looked up from the piece of chicken he was gnawing and frowned at Russell.

Russell was staring at something behind his back and at the same time making all sorts of faces at him - trying to tell him something, but what?

Someone cleared their throat, not Simon, and Max turned his head towards the sound. And froze. Oh fucking hell.

"Jordan?" he managed to squeak out.

Jordan heaved a sigh of relief when he saw Max, sitting in the kitchen eating as if nothing was wrong. He nodded briefly at Russell and turned his eyes on Max. “Hello Max,” he said coolly.

"How?" Max asked. "Ok. I know how. Plane. But how did you find me?" before Jordan could respond, Max answered his own question. "Never mind. My Blackberry." He muttered something along the lines of 'shoulda password protected the fucking thing.'

Jordan walked into the kitchen and laid a hand on Max’s back. “We need to talk ...”

The hand on his back was all that was preventing Max from bolting. Talk? Why the fuck did Jordan think he'd taken off? So he wouldn't have to talk that's why. Lot of fucking good that had done him.


Jordan turned to Simon. “I’m very sorry to intrude ... I can see it’s your dinner hour. Look Simon, is there somewhere I can speak with Max, alone?”

Simon nodded. "You can use the study, it’s just down the hall to your left. The door is good solid English oak. Should offer you enough privacy. Should you require discussion aids, I have a few tried and tested ones in the master bedroom wardrobe."

“Perfect!” Jordan nodded. “Come Max, put the chicken down, I’ll feed you later.” His hand on Max’s arm left him no choice but to stand and follow him out to the hallway.

Simon watched the obviously nervous Max and Jordan make their way to the study. He put the remaining samosas on Max's plate and set it aside.

Russell had stared with partially open mouth throughout the whole, and finally found his voice when Max and Jordan had disappeared. “What the fuck ...? How the hell did he find him here?”

Simon cleared his throat. "I told Jordan Max was here when he called. I think he'd gone through most of Max's contacts by then, and was becoming desperate." Simon paused.

“You told Jordan?” Russell wrinkled his pert little nose, a gesture which usually got Simon quite excited. “Ewww ... betrayal!”

"Not at all dear boy" Simon responded. "I'm just being a Top."

“Crazy Americans!” Russell shook his head. "I mean Max turns up out of the blue one day and the next his boyfriend is right here on our doorstep! And they don’t even live on the same continent!”

"I can't argue with your conclusions in this instance, Russell. They are certainly a colourful lot. With all this madness about, I need to keep a clear head and nothing settles the mind like a good cuppa."

Russell nodded absently, and followed Simon to put the kettle on. “Tea is good I suppose,” Russell said and then asked. “It’s rather dashing what Jordan did, don’t you think Simon? Flying out here without a moment’s hesitation. Coming after Max?”

"Russell?" Simon paused to gather his thoughts. "Do you ever find me stodgy or dull? I have a few years on you and I sometimes wonder if I, well, am a bit too set in my ways."

“Stodgy?” Russell wrinkled his nose for the second time that night. “Whatever do you mean?”

"Stodgy, being old-fashioned in a prim Victorian way. A bit too proper."

Russell was plainly surprised. “Why, of course you are ...” and then he quickly swallowed his next words. “... oh um, yes, well to be perfectly honest, there are moments when you are rather um, rigid? Sometimes even slightly unreasonable, unbendable, you know what I mean?”

Simon raised his left eyebrow and crossed his arms. "Indeed. Please continue. I find this fascinating."

“That is not to say you aren’t endearing. No, no, you mustn’t think that. At any rate, you are never dull! But you can be a bit anal and ...”

Simon couldn't help it, he started to laugh. He took the kettle off the stove, deciding tea could wait. He walked over, cupped Russell's chin in his hands and kissed him deeply. "You are a treasure, Russell." he said after breaking off the kiss.


The door to the study remained closed for a very long time. A murmur of voices could be heard from time to time, but nothing much apart from that. Whatever was going on seem to be pretty amiable and peaceful.

Simon and Russell had finished dinner and cleaned up the kitchen, and were sitting in the living room when the door finally opened. Jordan and Max came into the living room, hand in hand.

"All sorted out?" Simon asked.

Jordan inclined his head, with the slightest of winks at Simon.

“Your samosas are cold,” Russell informed Max.

Max snorted. "I kinda figured they would be, Russ. But thanks for the info."

Jordan lowered himself into an overstuffed chair and Max curled up on his lap. “Are you still hungry, brat?” Jordan asked Max.

Max frowned at the 'brat'. "You wouldn't know it, seeing how skinny I am, but I can out eat Arnold Schwarzenegger. And I'm not a brat. No offence Russ, but I'm nothing like you and Damien. Or my friend Piper, back in LA. He could out-brat both of you guys."

"Might I make a suggestion?" Simon said. "You look positively knackered Jordan, and Max is already set up in the guestroom. The two of you should stay the night."

Jordan’s eyebrows went up. “To be honest, I wasn’t exactly sure what I would find here, so I didn’t make any reservations. If you are sure it’s all right, I will take you up on your offer Simon, thank you very much.”

Max toyed nervously with his handcuff bracelet. "Simon has a cane." he whispered a bit too loudly to Jordan. "Bet he'd let you use it."

Russell’s eyes nearly popped out of his head. He rolled them at Simon, half-panicked. He broke out in a cold sweat every time Simon took out the cane. Never mind who it was for.

Simon had to stifle a chuckle at Russell's reaction. "You are welcome to use anything you find in the wardrobe and I believe there is a very nice bath brush in the guest bath."

Jordan’s eyes gleamed and they met Simon’s for a moment. “You go on up to bed then Max. I will be up shortly.”

With a put upon sigh, Max relinquished his comfortable perch. He stretched. "Don't take too long, Jordan." He trotted out of the living room and headed for the stairs, eager to get things started.

Simon shook his head as he watched Max leave. "That lad is totally barmy; no offense meant of course Jordan."

Jordan smiled. “He is one of a kind; his capacity for pain is legendary in the industry.”

Simon shook his head again. "I can honestly say I've never met anyone quite like him. But the BDSM lifestyle has never held interest for me. There might be hundreds of Max's out there and I wouldn't know it."

“No – how can anyone tell just by looking? They are the same as you and me, just with a different set of needs and propensity for pain,” Jordan said quietly.

"I believe the term is 'alternatively pleasured'. One of those wonderful Yank pc terms." Simon chuckled. "As the great John Lennon sang, 'Whatever gets you through the night'."

“Well, Max is about to find out exactly what is going to get him through this night. He is going to learn the difference between a scene or staged flogging versus a real-live discipline spanking very soon, and he is going to know how un-pleasurable it can get if I don’t provide him the right stimulus and headspace he needs to enjoy the physical release.”

"I don't think he is going to appreciate the lesson." Simon chuckled.

“It’s time Max learnt a little discipline, Simon. Despite of what he thinks, he is sometimes very much the Brat he thinks he is not.” Jordan’s mouth twisted into a crooked smile. “He’ll learn.”

"They usually do." Simon turned his attention to Russell. "Russell, would you like to walk down to the pub for a pint?"

Russell struggled for a moment. He really wanted to see how Max would ‘learn’ and yet the thought of Jordan yielding bath brushes and canes was just a wee too much. Simon’s tug helped him decide. “Okay,” he said.

Simon nodded. "It will only upset you to stay and listen. To be honest I'm not certain I want to either." He glanced over to Jordan. "An hour or two should be sufficient to sort Max out, you think?"

Jordan nodded. “Oh, that would be perfect!”

"All right then, we shall catch up with the two of you in the morning." Simon said, as he wrapped his arm around Russell and steered him towards the door.

Jordan held the door open for them, looking very much the owner of the house. “You boys enjoy yourselves. And don’t forget the key!”


Max listened to Jordan snoring softly beside him with a certain amount of resentment. Jordan was totally out, having hardly slept in the last forty hours. Bastard, Max thought as he glared at Jordan’s sleeping form. He hurt too much to sleep.

His backside felt like one gigantic throbbing bruise. He could feel the raised welts from the cane and knew without looking that they were a glorious purple black. It hadn't been what he expected at all. Pain, yeah, he knew it would hurt. Even when you wanted it, getting caned still hurt. But there would also be the pleasure of his partner's soft caresses upon heated, over stimulated flesh. Not this time.

Oh he had enjoyed it at first, but when it became apparent Jordan had changed the rules, he quickly lost his taste for the game. He'd even tried using their agreed upon safe word. Nope, Jordan just kept on going. Bastard. Somehow it was a different Jordan that night; his touch was much sterner, and every stroke was delivered with a severity which made Max shiver just thinking about it. The caning wasn’t overly harsh or ruthless but Jordan had made it perfectly clear what he had delivered had been a punishment, and not a scene.

Max decided he needed to talk to someone who knew what it was like to be on the receiving end, though he doubted Simon had ever punished Russell so severely. He quietly got out of bed, slipped on a pair of pajama bottoms and limped down to the master bedroom. He opened the door and walked over to Russell.

"Russ?" he whispered. "I really need to talk. Wake up."

Russell stirred and brushed the hand away.

Max frowned and risked poking Russell in the arm.

“Go away ... wha ...” His eyes flew open as he felt a hand clamp over his mouth.

"Shh. It's just me, Max."

The panic died out of Russell’s eyes. “What?” he mouthed angrily, aware of Simon breathing evenly beside him.

Max sighed and put his mouth next to Russell’s ear so that they wouldn’t wake Simon. "I'm sorry to wake you. Well, no I'm not. I really need to talk to you."

Sliding stealthily out of bed, Russell tip-toed out the room and then glared at Max. “It’s the middle of the night! Can’t this wait?”

Max shook his head. "Nope. What part of really need to talk to you didn't you understand?"

“Oh, all right, let’s go down to the kitchen ... no, bad idea. Come into the study instead – its almost sound proof. I hate it when Simon takes me there. It always means a horrible spanking!” Russell led the way, grumbling.

Max followed Russell into the study. "Ok. First I need your feedback on this." Max turned his back to Russ and dropped his pajama bottoms. "On a scale from one to ten, how bad is it?"

A loud squeak escaped from Russell followed by a horrified gasp. “He did this?”

Max pulled his pajama bottoms back up. "I'm telling ya, Jordan acted like an evil twin or something. I didn't get a warm up, and I always get a warm up if it's gonna be a severe spanking. It was fucking horrible, Russ."

“I’ll say,” Russell said weakly, sinking onto the sofa. He shuddered.

Max ran his fingers through his hair. "Jordan comforted me a bit after, but I don't know what to think. That's why I need to talk, 'cause you and Simon have a disciplinary relationship. You screw up, he spanks you. For me, it's always been a part of sex."

“It is totally non-sexual for us,” Russell stated firmly. “My God, that would be the last thing on my mind after a spanking! On Simon’s mind too ... I would hope!”

"So you never get aroused or anything." Max started to sit down and changed his mind. "I guess it's that way for most folks. For me it's always been a real turn on, at least until tonight."

“How you can get turned on by pain beats me,” Russell cast his eyes upwards. “It’s the last thing I want, pain that is. Actually the real last thing I want is Simon pissed off at me. Maybe that is synonymous with pain ... I don’t know. It’s too early in the morning, you think?” Russell yawned deliberately.

Max shrugged. "I stopped trying to figure myself out after my fifth shrink. I mean, except for liking pain, I think I'm pretty normal. I don't hate myself, I'm happy, and I've never used drugs."

Russell yawned again. “I wouldn’t call liking pain ‘normal’ but then again ... to each his own. Could you really like ... that?” Russell pointed a finger at Max’s butt.

"Yeah, this is kinda on the extreme side, but Jordan was really pissed off." Max laughed. "I guess you can tell, right. I've been paddled, strapped, birched, switched, caned, and even whipped. But it's always been carefully controlled, on a film set, at a scene happening or with my partner. I know what to expect, ya know? Tell you what, I've had enough of the cane for awhile."

“I hate the cane too!” Russell said with vehemence. “It’s an evil thing and I would break it in a minute, but I think Simon would replace it and then there’d be hell to pay.”

"So it's always Simon's choice then?”

Russell looked surprised. “Why, but of course!”

Max shook his head. "I've always had a say in what gets used. Does Simon make all the decisions then?"

“I get a say of course, in some things. Some times. Like I get to decide where we should go for our holidays or which restaurant to eat in. But I don’t get to decide if I deserve to be punished. And I don’t get to decide how I get it, and for how long, that sort of thing ... unfortunately ...” Russell sighed soulfully.

"Well, that's what Jordan did to me tonight and it pretty much sucked. I used our safe word and I've never done that before, much good it did me! And you are ok with this?" Max frowned.

“I think you are not getting it, Max. This is the way I want it! I mean, I don’t want to make those kinds of decisions. And I want Simon to tell me where I can go and where I cannot go. And what I can do and what I cannot do. Oh, shucks I guess that makes me kinda weird too huh?”

"Well, I have issues with authority. It's why I left home at fourteen, and went to live with my uncle. My mom's new boyfriend was a decent guy and all, but he wanted me to follow his rules. And the thing about me and rules is that I always feel I have to challenge them."

“Like I said, you’re not – quite normal. But I do understand what you are saying about rules. I hate it too sometimes, which is precisely why I need someone to enforce it. It does not mean I am loved less.” Russell’s eyes drew together. “At least I don’t feel that way. In fact, I think I feel more loved when Simon gives me rules and disciplines me if I don’t follow them or break them – and if you ever tell him I told you that I will kill you.”

Max laughed. "Well, you're a Brat and Simon is a Top. And not only a Top, A British Top. Kind of like an uber-Top. Never fear, you're secret is safe with me. You can't draw the lines yourself."

“Right ... I like Simon to draw the lines for me.”

“Borrowing Simon's cane was my idea. If I'd known Jordan was going to go evil twin on me, I'd have suggested something else. Maybe a slipper. One thing's for certain. I gotta get Jordan out of here before Simon gives him a crash course in Tops 101."

“Take a lesson, dear boy, never, and I mean NEVER bring up the cane. It’s the absolute worst idea in the world. I nearly died when you told Jordan Simon has one. I thought you had fucking lost your mind.”

"I could tell from the expression on your face. Normally, I kinda like it." Max laughed again. "Really, I do. But as Jordan pointed out to me, I'd never had a punishment caning."

“I am extremely careful not to earn it, so Simon rarely has to take it out. So it was just the cane you got or ...?” Russell left the sentence hanging, almost afraid of the answer.

"Jordan had me fetch the bath brush, and he was going to use it. But he found this great rhythm with the cane, and so he just used that. He said something about all the hours he'd spent playing tennis were coming in handy."

Russell gagged.


Simon rolled over and immediately noticed the lack of Russell. Growling softly, he threw on a robe and padded downstairs. There was a light visible underneath the door to the study. Without knocking, he opened the door and glowered at the two young men. "Do you have some sort of compulsion to disturb the slumber of this household, Max?"

Max looked at Simon standing there, glowering, his hair sticking out every which way, and he laughed. "You have bed hair Simon."

Russell giggled and got up. “It is his fault Simon. He came to get me. But I am ready to go to bed now.”

"I'm glad to hear it, not that you had any choice in the matter."

Max rolled his eyes. Tops. "I needed to talk to someone who was not a card carrying member of Tops International."

Simon gave Russell a swat to speed him on his way. "Why this couldn't wait until morning is beyond me. Bed. Now."

“He’s the one who invited m ... ow!” Russell yelped at the swat and hurriedly exited the study as Max stretched out to sleep on the sofa.

Simon marched Russell up the stairs and back into their bedroom. He sat down on the bed and pulled Russell beside him. "Shall we try to salvage a few more hours of sleep?"

Russell placed a hand on Simon’s shoulder and drew small circles. “Well, actually now I am wide awake. Again!”

Simon sighed. "I think I am as well. If Max and Jordan stay another night, I vote Max be placed in restraints at bedtime, even though he'd just enjoy it."

“Shut up about Max, will you?” Russell whispered, snuggling against Simon. “Since we are up ...” His hand slid down.

Simon quirked an eyebrow. "You keep that hand there and I will most definitely be up." He rubbed the palm of his hand on the growing bulge in Russ's pajama bottoms. "Those will have to go."

“With pleasure!” Still trapped safely on Simon’s lap, Russell managed to manoeuvre his pajama bottoms off and kicked them away. He giggled and squirmed as Simon’s hand fondled him.

Simon gripped Russell's cock gently and rubbed a thumb over the sensitive tip, enjoying the reactions he was getting. Still gripping gently, he slowly moved his hand up and down, pausing on the down-stroke to fondle Russell's balls. His left hand went underneath Russell and squeezed the smooth cheeks. Russell gasped as he felt a finger lightly touch his opening, teasing it. He clung on to Simon’s neck and kissed him deeply as he enjoyed Simon’s ministrations. He wanted more but Simon had already withdrawn the finger and was pushing Russell off his lap.

Russell found himself sliding to the floor, kneeing in front of Simon. He gazed up at his Top, who was looking at him with the sexiest eyes ever. His stomach gave a lurch as Simon, in a very toppy voice, ordered, “take me in your mouth.”

Without a moment’s hesitation, Russell obeyed.

Simon sucked in his breath as he felt his cock surround by the warm moistness of Russell's mouth. He ran his fingers through Russell’s hair as he bobbed. Simon let Russell set the rhythm, trusting that his brat knew what he liked.

Russell felt Simon harden and grow in his mouth as he moved up and down the entire length. His own cock was hard and leaking. The fact that Simon had teased him earlier and then not only withdrawn the pleasure but ordered him to give oral sex was exciting. It showed who was in charge and to Russell that was all the headspace he needed.

Simon leaned back, supporting his weight on his arms, his eyes closed. He could feel the delicious tightening, like a coiled spring, that signalled his approaching orgasm. Normally, he would delay gratification as long as possible, so that the release would be all the sweeter. But the hour was late, or early depending on how one viewed it, and upon his release, he still needed to bring closure to Russell. So he let himself reach the point of inevitability and came.

Russell dutifully kept his lips tightly clasped around the ejaculating cock and swallowed everything that Simon gave. It wasn’t his most favourable thing in the world but Russell didn’t mind because he knew how much Simon enjoyed it.

Simon fell back boneless and gasping for breath. When he had control of himself once more, he pulled Russell up to his feel and pushed him backwards onto the bed. Simon positioned himself between Russell's spread legs and ran his finger across the slit of Russell's cock. The milky substance that leaked forth let him know that Russell was on the verge of orgasm. So Simon grabbed the base of Russell's cock firmly, and then wrapped his lips around the swollen head, the tip of his tongue teasing the fraenulum on the underside. With his other hand, he inserted two fingers into Russell's rectum and moved them in and out while he sucked.

All it took was a few flicks of Simon’s tongue, coupled with the pressure from the two fingers, and Russell erupted. His hips spasmed as he arched his back, pushing his cock as deep as possible into Simon’s inviting mouth.

“Jesus!” Russell breathed out before collapsing back into the soft bed. “I think I can sleep now.”


Jordan opened one eye slowly, then the other. The sun was filtering in through the open window He felt Max beside him straight away and he carefully reached out a hand, already awake enough to remember what had transpired the previous evening. Gingerly he peeled back the sheets and as he had expected, Max had slept in the raw, on his front. Which made the sight of his buttocks all the more glaringly awful.

Jordan studied the criss-crossed marks silently, and decided the damage was mostly skin deep. With some soothing cream, the skin should heal in a couple of days. Max would have some difficulty sitting for a while, but nothing he couldn’t handle.

Jordan knew he had caned Max more severely than Max had expected, but he had spent some long hours of anxiety about Max’s whereabouts and safety and as much as he needed to let it out, he also wanted to ensure Max understood what the caning was about. It certainly wasn’t about giving him pleasure. Max’s movies, publicity and lifestyle sometimes attracted the wrong type of fans and he needed to learn not to take off without a word to anyone, or without any thought for his own safety. And so Jordan had changed their roles. Gone was the masterful lover; instead, Jordan had been nothing more than a strict disciplinarian.

A bit unfair, admittedly, but the boy deserved that. In all likelihood, that was probably the only time Max had felt punished. Jordan didn’t think it would be his last.

Max groaned and opened one eye. He didn't remember leaving the sofa and coming upstairs to bed. But here he was, so he must have done that. Jordan had been dead to the world and Simon sure as shit hadn't carried him upstairs, undressed him and put him to bed.

"You awake long?” Max asked.

“A few minutes. And I am starving!” Jordan said, as he rolled out of bed.

"And that's it? That's all you have to say after last night?" Max had hoped for an apology, but didn't expect one.

“Well, that’s all that I need to say at this point. Unless you feel my cane had not been eloquent enough last night?”

Max shook his head. "As usual, your technique was sheer poetry." He reached back and carefully touched his ass. "That said, I didn't enjoy it much."

“No. Last night was not about pleasure.”

Max rolled his eyes. "Nope, it wasn't. You made that crystal clear. You took no prisoners and slaughtered my poor ass. I'm in mourning for it."

Jordan laughed heartlessly. “We are going to spend a week together, Max my pet, and during this week, we are going to be doing some serious talking. Some things are going to change. But first thing’s first. Up, shower and breakfast. Then I need to see about getting us a limo to London and getting us booked into a hotel. I think we’ve both intruded upon these nice people long enough, don’t you?”

"Well Russell is nice, anyway. Simon probably wants to shake your hand and give you a rousing Brit huzzah for a job well done." Max slowly made his way to the shower.

The shower didn’t take long as Max was not in a chatty mood and Jordan had his ear stuck to his mobile phone, pre-occupied with arrangements. There were already sounds coming from the kitchen as they made their way downstairs.

Max nodded to Russell and took the empty chair next to him, sitting carefully and slowly. It still hurt, but Max felt he could deal with it well enough. Simon put a cup of coffee in front of him and handed him a plate with hash browns, sliced tomatoes, mushrooms and an egg. A similar plate was in front of Russell.

“Mushrooms?” Russell picked up his fork with gusto. “My favourite!”

Max was still in a dither over the events of the previous evening, and he picked at his breakfast.

Jordan watched Russell for a moment, fascinated. “I don’t know how you manage to keep that figure ... anyway,” Jordan turned to Simon, and said, “anyway, I think its time I took this troublesome young man off your hands. We have intruded enough and shall be leaving right after breakfast.”

Simon nodded. "No problem really, it's good to shake the cobwebs off your daily routine every so often. Shall I call you a taxi or offer a ride to the train?"

“I have booked a limo, thanks very much. It should arrive in about thirty minutes, I imagine. That just leaves the small matter of getting a good but quiet place to stay, preferably somewhere private and ...” Jordan paused.

"I can give you the name of a few five star hotels in London that are gay friendly and discrete. The Sofitel London is in central London and right near the theatre district. It's very modern. Or there is the Metropolitan, which is near Hyde Park. It's also very modern and up to date. Russell and I have stayed there in the rooms with a view of the gardens."

Jordan raised an eyebrow at Max. “The theatre district? Mm ... well, any preference, Max?”

Russell smirked at Max before he could respond. “See, you are getting to decide too ...”

Max glared at Russell. He would have liked to do more but not with Jordan present in the room. "It doesn't matter, Jordan."

“Right, it’s settled then!”

While Max had a second cup of coffee with Russell, and continued to pick at his breakfast, Jordan went with Simon to the study and quickly booked a room at the Sofitel.

“Easy enough,” Jordan hung up the phone and said with a friendly smile at Simon. “So – how long have you and Russell been together?”

"Let me think. How many grey hairs have I plucked?" Simon chuckled. "As a serious couple for almost three years. Our third anniversary is coming up soon, that usually means a trip to London for shopping, theatre, whatever else takes our fancy."

“Ah, that accounts for it then. Max and I are still trying to work out the kinks in our relationship. Which is my way of saving face ... on account of him running away from me ...” Jordan gave a low half-embarrassed chuckle.

Simon shook his head. "Max didn't run away from you Jordan, not really. I don't think Max has ever had anything but casual relationships. This time, it's a bit different and he doesn't know how to handle it, so he had a panic attack. One severe enough to send him fleeing across the Atlantic ocean."

“Well, I am planning to spend a quiet uneventful week with him, doing all the things normal visitors do and ... hopefully getting him to open up to me.”

Simon thought Max and normality would mix about as well as oil and water, but he kept that thought to himself. "Might I suggest the zoo? I think Max would enjoy that. Russell does."

“The zoo?” Jordan looked as if he didn’t quite know what that was, and then said with a hollow little laugh. “Do you know Max has never really been on holiday before? He has been working since he first got into the business and I sometimes think he doesn’t know how to be a normal young man. He went from being a boy to a porn star, practically overnight. Not the most favourable way to grow up I guess, but sometimes that’s what life has to offer and you have to grab it or miss the boat. At least that’s the way it is in Hollywood and all that crap.” Jordan looked out the window and there was sadness in his eyes.

"Hollywood is a place that feasts on its young. I think Max is savvy enough to realise this, and work the business to his advantage. With you there to watch his back, he'll be one of the lucky ones." Simon smiled at Jordan.

Jordan returned the smile, this time with his eyes. “I am glad I made the trip out here. One of the best decisions I ever made.”

"Max, consciously or unconsciously, left behind clues so that you could find him and take him home. He wanted to be found, he needed to be found." Simon paused. "He needs you."

The melancholy mood was firmly buried and Jordan’s mouth twitched. In this line of business, one couldn’t afford to get too soft or sentimental. “I hope you are right, Simon. Well, any time you need a favour, and if it is within my power, you know it’s yours for the asking. I owe you one. We both do.”

Simon waved a hand. "It was no bother, goes along with being part of the tribe, the global brotherhood of gay Tops."

“Gay Tops?” Jordan threw back his head and laughed. “Well, I never thought to hear myself described as one, but I gotta admit I like it. I better get back to the kitchen then, to see if ‘my Brat’ has nibbled his way through breakfast.”


Simon stood with Russell at the front door and watched as the limo pulled away with Jordan and an over- caffeinated Max. He wrapped his arm around Russell and gave him a kiss on the cheek.

"Our anniversary is coming up in a couple of months and we need to think about how we want to celebrate.”

“Aha,” Russell said in a distracted voice. Now that Max was gone, he didn’t find the prospect of spending time in London all that exciting after all. The lure was only as good as it was forbidden.

Simon looked down at the fair head. “We usually go to London ...”

“Aha,” Russell said again, scuffing his toe against the porch floor tile.

“... Which is fine,” Simon continued smoothly, “but I was thinking maybe someplace different.”

An eye rolled upward. “Yes?”

“How about ... a long weekend in Paris, perhaps. What do you think?”

Both eyes darted up, a brilliant smile plastered on Russell’s face. “Paris?” He whispered in an unsteady voice. “Really?”

Russell threw both arms around Simon’s neck and almost choked the life out of him.


The End