Monday, September 24, 2012

Texas, Our Texas 1

This is a story started at the request of Dizzy. Several years ago she asked to play in my universe and created the characters of Samuel and Jonah. She began a story which she  pressed me into completing. This story became Texas, Our Texas.

As the story progressed, it became clear that my Samuel and Jonah could never be the men Dizzy envisioned, and her characters could never inhabit the Reality Check Universe. I originally tried to straddle the divide, but the divide was impossible to bridge. 

Following recent events which I will not discuss in public, it has become clear to me that I must delineate the divide between the characters which Dizzy writes and those which were developed for this story. The Samuel and Jonah of this story and in subsequent stories on this site are completely my own and share only a name with Dizzy's characters. Dizzy's version neither reflects characters nor a storyline which I would have proposed for this universe. She imagined them as inhabiting a more standard discipline fiction world with Jonah as the top and with an entirely different conclusion to the dilemma I found when I took charge of them. To be more consistent with my interpretation of the Reality Check Universe, these characters were re-imaged to appear in this world. The direction of this story is clearly my own and reflects my own views of the two characters and the world they inhabit. I have re-edited this story to remove any strands that were originally placed in the story to connect them with her Samuel and Jonah. I have chosen not to rename them primarily to prevent confusion with readers already familiar with the story.

The characters of Samuel and Jonah which appear on Dizzy's site are not canon for the Reality Check Verse and have no connection with this story or with Reality Check Verse. However, I would still like to thank Dizzy for the inspiration for the story. Without her request to untangle her story, Texas, our Texas would not have been born.

Texas, Our Texas
Chapter 1
Jonah studied Samuel in the corner, his temper swirling and unconstrained. He slammed his fist into the table. This was the promised United States. All this effort and risk to come here, and he was surrounded by lunatics. His own partner had descended into the crazy fantasy of this place—public displays, shouting and carrying on like a child, a fascination with deviant sexual orgies. 
Homosexuality was illegal in Texas, but these blatant displays made Jonah long for the discretion of home. He was not having a boy who acted like a lunatic and disobeyed him at every turn. Samuel had deserved the belt. He deserved his welts and tears.
Jonah turned away and tried to block the noise. He needed to think, plan his next move. Their escape from Texas had been hasty and desperate, and Jonah was still off balance. He’d thought he’d been secure, well-camouflaged. He’d even had a first class job, professor at the University of Texas. Everything had vanished in an instant, and they were desperate refuges. A threatening email and two shadowy men in the street and time had run out. He still didn’t know what had happened. Samuel probably, he’d always been too open and friendly. He was naive and reckless. He’d never seemed to realize how close they were to public shaming, arrest, or commitment to a psychiatric hospital.
Fool boy.
Jonah turned back toward his Samuel. “Enough tears. You don’t need to keep carrying on like a little girl. Be a man.”
“Yes, sir,” Samuel choked, wiping a sleeve over a snotty nose and swallowing another round of tears.
“We have to be safe,” Jonah mumbled, heart softening. He loved this foolish boy. Why couldn’t he make Samuel understand that all he wanted was his safety and happiness? He closed the distance between them and ruffled his fingers through Samuel’s short hair. He saw these men kiss and hug at all hours of the day and night, but gestures of affection didn’t come easily for him. He wan’t a touchy-feely man. He was a real man.
“We are safe,” Samuel said in a voice that he obviously hadn’t meant to be heard.
“Surrounded by these deviants,” Jonah retorted, anger rising again. He slammed his hands into his pockets and turned away. “I’m going to find us a place to live. Pull yourself together.” He tried to control his stride, but in reality he bolted for the door. He had to get out of here.
"Samuel, are you all right?" Landon didn't need to ask the question. He knew the look of a boy after punishment: the hunched shoulders, the stiffness in his walk, the still too pale look in his cheeks. If Samuel was still this upset, where in the hell was Jonah, and what on earth had Samuel done? This morning everything had seemed fine; both Samuel and Jonah had eaten breakfast, and Samuel had been roped into some project in the ski rental shop. Eric had a gentle touch, and he'd automatically taken Samuel under his wing.
"I'm fine," Samuel said in a voice that made it clear he wasn't fine.
Landon caught Samuel's wrist and spun him around; he had plenty of experience catching evasive young men. “Hey, I’m not the enemy. What happened?"
"Leave me alone." Samuel tried to pull from Landon's grasp.
“Samuel, how long have you known me? Do I seem like a person who is easily put off?” Landon asked, giving Samuel a cocky grin. This kid needed to quit hiding in his own shadow. Something was going on. Landon had been doing this long enough that he listened to his gut, and his gut told him to interfere. He needed to keep an even closer eye on Jonah.
They’d worked with Texans before, usually individuals fleeing or the lucky children of parents who were smart enough to get their kids out of there. They’d also worked with abuse victims, the prey of idiots who hid battering behind the cloak of domination. Landon would swear this was the second.
“Samuel.” Landon softened his voice, looking for the tone of wise uncle and confident. He wasn’t this sort of dominant and neither was Gordon, but damn he could act. “Why don’t we raid the kitchen for some sticky treats and indulge ourselves? I do know the cook; he won’t shout too loud.”
Samuel shook his head, blinking back tears. “I’m just going back to my room. Jonah will be mad.”
“He’s already mad, isn’t he?” Landon asked, dropping his arm over Samuel’s shoulders and herding him toward the small sitting area at the end of the hallway. “He beat you, didn’t he?”
“No!” Samuel jerked away.
“I wasn’t born yesterday.” A quick sidestep and Landon blocked the exit. “Let’s try that again.”
“Please, no.” Samuel cringed, his eyes darting wildly.
“Easy.” Landon reached out and wrapped his arms around Samuel’s shoulders. He might get punched for this, but it was worth a split lip.
 “He belted me.” Samuel confessed, leaning into Landon as if he were starved for comfort.
“Where is Jonah now?” Landon fought to keep his tone steady. If he saw Jonah, he’d more than give him a piece of his mind. It might only be two weeks, but Gordon needed to lay down the law. Maybe force was the only thing he understood.
“Don’t know. He said he needed to do some things.”
“Ass” Landon couldn’t keep the out out of his voice. Jonah better not run into him. He was liable to kick his ass all the way to the next county.
“I’ll be fine. I need to get back to the room.” Samuel started to pull away.
“No, you stay with me,” Landon said, searching for a soothing but firm voice. “You don’t need to be alone right now.”
“But Jonah said to stay. I shouldn’t be out here,” Samuel said in near panic.
“Shh. You’re with me. I’ll work it out with Jonah.” Yeah, he’d make sure Gordon laid a dozen stripes down Jonah’s backside and threw him out into the snow. The man deserved not to sit for a month. “It’s OK.” Landon rubbed the back of Samuel’s neck. “Why is Jonah upset with you? You’re always polite and well behaved when you’re around us. Do you turn into a gremlin when you’re alone?” Landon asked, trying to gather information and at the same time lessen the panic he could feel in Samuel’s clammy skin and shallow breathing.
“Dunno,” Samuel said, sounding very small and very young. He turned away trying to hide the fresh tears streaking down his cheeks. “I was with Eric, hanging out with the guys. Jonah’s very protective; he thought it was too dangerous. I didn’t mean to scare him. I wasn’t trying to be bad.”
“You’re never bad.” Landon wrapped his arms around the sobbing boy and hustled him down the hall, knocking briefly before he pushed him into a room. This was going to stop. Jonah wasn’t touching this boy again until he got a few things straight.
Milton looked up from his packing, alarm and shock briefly flitted across his face before being replaced with studied calm. Milton was good. He’d be able to handle this, and even Tilden with his persnickety attitude would be good for Samuel. Tilden wasn’t frightening; he just wasn’t much fun.
“What do you need?” Milton asked, already moving to fold Samuel into his arms. 
“I’ll load the car,” Sheldon said from the other room. Sheldon could be a first class brat. He regularly drove everybody to the brink of insanity, but he’d recognized true distress instantly, and he was no longer that obnoxious red-haired menace, but Milton’s partner ready to help. He passed them quickly, two bags swinging from his shoulders. “You’re in good hands, Samuel,” Sheldon said, his voice loud enough to be heard over Samuel’s sobs. “Milton and Landon have a lot of practice dealing with me. They can fix anything.”
“Car, boy,” Milton said over Samuel’s head with a knowing glance and a slight smile at Sheldon.
Sheldon obviously understood.  “I’ll be outside. Come when you’re ready.”
“What do you need?” Milton repeated as the door closed, his attention focused on the crying young man in his arms.
“Take him back to Boston with you. They need space.”
Milton raised his eyebrows and shifted his gaze to Landon. “Bad?” he mouthed.
Landon nodded. He couldn’t explain, not where Samuel would hear him, but Milton wouldn’t need the explanation. He would understand.
“I can’t leave,” Samuel choked, struggling in Milton’s arms.
“It’s for a few days,” Milton said soothingly. “You’ll like it. A bunch of great guys live with me. Trent and Mace can cook anything and everything. I bet they can make real Texas barbecue. Tilden can babble at you in a half dozen languages that no one can understand. Sheldon and his brother are guaranteed to do something crazy, and Luke and Mike are always a surprise.” Milton kept up the reassuring babble while maneuvering Samuel toward the car and the safety of Boston.
“I can’t go with you. I need to be with Jonah.”
Landon placed one hand on Samuel and the other on Milton’s car door. “Samuel, look at me.” He waited for Samuel’s bloodshot eyes to meet his. “Have I ever steered you wrong?”
“No,” Samuel said softly after a moment of silence.
“I’m not steering you wrong now. It’s been a big adjustment for Jonah moving to America. He needs to know you’re safe for a few days while he works things out. Milton is the safest guy I know.  Can you go with him for Jonah?” Landon knew he was being shamefully manipulative, but he didn’t care. He wanted Samuel safe, and right now safe was away from Jonah.
“I should be with Jonah,” Samuel protested halfheartedly. 
“Go with Milton. It’s what you both need. You can tell Jonah all about it in a few days. It’s not everyone who gets to visit with the next head of the Green Mountain Boys. You’ll learn all his secrets like Milton can’t iron tablecloths. They look like an elephant sat on them.”
“That’s why dry cleaners were invented,” Milton retorted. “They are equipped to iron oversized items.”
“Are you sure it will be all right to go?” Samuel asked in a near whisper.
“Yes.” Landon kissed Samuel's forehead fiercely, pushed him into the car, and shut the door firmly. “Take care of him, Milton. Don’t let your boys eat him alive. Gordon and I will deal with his idiot partner.”
“Let me know if you need any help.”
“Take care of him. We’ve got this end.”
“Gordon,” Landon said sharply, throwing the door of Gordon’s office open “I need you now.”
Gordon held up a finger, signaling that he needed a moment.
“No. Now. You’re retired. Whatever head of whatever can wait!” Landon pushed the disconnect button.
“Boy, this had better be important.” Gordon pushed Landon into the nearest chair and stood over him. “Explain now.”
“I just sent Samuel home with Milton. Jonah’s your problem, but he’s not belting that boy one more time on my watch.”
“Don’t shout at me and froth on important papers. Tell me what happened without the second rate dramatics, my lad.”
“I found Samuel wandering the halls, tearful and devastated. That useless partner of his had belted him for some unfathomable reason. It sure as hell wasn’t about sex or power games. That man should be put back on a train to Texas. He’s an abusive bastard. They can have him!”
“Landon, that is not the way we talk about a guest.”
“Would you speak nicely about an axe murderer if he’d found shelter under our roof? There’s a limit to our hospitality, and Jonah’s exceeded my goodwill. We have to protect Samuel.”
“Does Samuel want protected?”
“He doesn’t know any better. He thinks he’s in love with that stupid ass.”
“He is in love with that man,” Gordon said mildly. “I don’t believe Jonah’s inherently cruel. He’s frightened and he lashes out. I don’t know what happened in his past; he’s tight lipped and evasive, but he’s hurt, maybe more hurt than Samuel.” Gordon hesitated and reached forward, running his fingers down Landon’s cheek. “You know me, all of me. You know my past.” Gordon’s voice had dropped to a private whisper, all pretext of being anything but two men who knew each other’s souls gone. “He’s a survivor, a victim of untold crimes as much as Samuel.”
“He’s as stubborn as a mule. We’ve both talked to him until we’re blue in the face.”
“He lived with fear for many years. Fear and hatred of his own sexuality and nature. Landon you’re no fool. You must see what I see.”
“He’s a submissive,” Landon said, knowing Gordon was only reiterating what they had both seen and felt. The Texas program offered shelter to any refugees fleeing the morality laws of their southern neighbor. Recipients of assistance didn’t need to be involved in a power exchange. They didn’t even have to be gay, but most were.
“Most likely, but that is for him to choose, not for us to dictate.”
Landon only nodded. This was an old argument and one that he never won.

Jonah hurried back toward his room. The calls had taken longer than he’d thought, but he’d finally found two places to stay that seemed promising. He hoped one of them would work out. He needed to get Samuel away from here. This was destroying them. He’d thought he’d understood, and he had compromised. He yielded to the need for necessities and the need to take their charity, but they wanted to take more. This wasn’t right. This wasn’t how he understood the mission of the Green Mountain Boys. Samuel was his. They had no right to interfere. Their system might work for these spoiled American boys, but it wasn’t right for Samuel. Jonah rubbed his forehead, trying to ease the tension; hopefully he had some aspirin back in the room.  He’d almost been taken in by these shysters. He’d been naive. He’d almost fallen for it. He’d almost failed to protect Samuel. That was Jonah’s role. He was the shield and the sword.
Jonah pulled open the door. “Where’s Samuel?” he asked, his voice rising in anger. Samuel wasn’t in the room. Gordon was sitting on the sofa, calmly staring at him as he set his book aside.
“Sit. We have much to talk about.”
“Where is Samuel? What have you done with him?”
“He’s safe.”
Jonah moved through the suite, quickly opening the doors to the bedroom and bathroom. “Where is he? He didn’t have permission to go out.”
“I asked you to sit down.”
My partner’s more important than your petty manners,” Jonah shouted. “Where is he?”
 “Please sit. I’m not accustomed to having conversations with overactive, rampaging young men.”
“I don’t care what you’re accustomed to,” Jonah roared. “What have you done with my partner?”
“Sit,” Gordon demanded, not raising his voice, but his tone was unmistakable. 
“I’m not being bullied by you.” Jonah braced himself and refused to yield. He’d always been immune to the old and rich, but somehow Gordon’s voice penetrated him as surely as a sword.
You are the only one shouting and working yourself into a lather. You are in the Green Mountain Boys’ protection. I expect to be obeyed, not insulted.”
“No. We’re leaving. Where’s Samuel?”
“He’s no longer here. Landon was concerned for his safety.”
“What?” Jonah lunged at Gordon. He grabbed the lapels of Gordon’s tweed blazer. What had they done with him? These impossible interfering Americans. “Where’s Samuel?
“I’m rather immune to coercion, but I would prefer you not tear my jacket.”
“Where is Samuel? What have you done with him? He’s mine. I must protect him.”
“Calm yourself.” Gordon said, his voice quiet and unruffled by the near panicked man in front of him.
“You’ve spirited away my partner, and you tell me to calm myself. God help you if he’s hurt.”
“Kindly take your hands off my jacket. If you wish to have a brawl, I’m sure I can find a younger man who would be a more worthy opponent.”
Jonah jerked his hands off as if they’d been burnt and shoved them in his pants pockets. It was something about this man’s calm; he couldn’t explain it. He couldn’t think at all. He could feel his breath whistling through his lungs in ragged gasps. His nails drove into his palms as he clenched his fists. 
“I don’t think you’re a violent man,” Gordon said, pitching his voice to be barely above a whisper, “but you are dangerously close to assault.”
“I hurt Samuel.” Jonah’s voice was a keening whine, an animal suffused with distress and horror. He staggered and crumpled onto the floor, burying his face in his hands. His shoulders shook with unchecked sobs. He couldn’t stop himself; he curled into a ball, shameful tears coursing down his cheeks.
He didn’t know how long he cried, but his throat was raw, and his cheeks were chapped with dried tears. At some point Gordon must have gotten down on the floor because he now knelt beside Jonah, his hand resting supportively on his back.
“Frightening, isn’t it?” Gordon asked. “You do love that boy.”
I hurt him.” Jonah hugged his knees to his chest. He couldn’t stop the shaking. He was the weak, useless boy that his father had always claimed, and now he’d hurt the one he claimed to love. He was no better than his father. The apple hadn’t fallen far from the tree.
“Yes, you did,” Gordon said flatly without censure in his voice. His fingers stroked through Jonah’s hair, brushing it off his face. “The damage is not irreparable. You will listen to us now.”
Jonah nodded dumbly. He swallowed the bile in his throat. He’d hurt Samuel. He’d hurt his precious boy, his joy and light. “What have I done?” He buried his face in his hands, fresh tears dampening his cheeks.
“Enough,” Gordon said sharply. “There will be plenty of time for tears later, but now we must move forward.”
Jonah swallowed hard, wiping his eyes with his hand. He was a beast like his father. He could still hear the sickening crack of his father’s hand as he casually backhanded his mother while screaming vile abuse. He’d sworn he’d never be that person. “I abused Samuel, and I almost assaulted you,” Jonah whispered, the shame overwhelming him. 
“You abused Samuel’s trust and his love. Physically he is unharmed, but you will have to rebuild the joy and the absolute trust that is the heart of any relationship. This isn’t about fear. We do not take by force.”
“I ruined it.” Jonah buried his head on his knees.
“No, you don’t get to hide.” Gordon pulled Jonah against him and forced his head up with his hand. “Now it is time to find your real courage. I know you’re not a coward. You escaped with your lover from Texas. You have tried to give him a better life. You must make that happen.”
“I can’t even provide food and shelter for Samuel. What kind of man am I? I beat him.” Jonah choked back a wail, fighting to keep his voice level.
“I have no doubt that you will become gainfully employed once you settle in your new environment. Your qualifications will transfer, but employment should not be your concern. You are your concern, and Samuel is your concern. You must make it right between the two of you.”
Jonah fought to keep his gaze steady. He’d hurt his partner; he needed to make amends. “What do I do?” he whispered, his voice hoarse from crying.
Gordon brushed the hair back and kissed Jonah’s hot forehead. “You made the first step. You recognized the problem.”
“Where is Samuel?” Jonah tried to keep his voice soft and deferential. He knew Samuel had to be safe, but he still couldn’t bear not knowing.
“He’s with Milton,” Gordon said. “Milton is very good and very safe. He’ll take good care of him, and that passel of crazies will teach your Samuel much. Samuel must find himself also. He will not forever fade into the woodwork and drift behind you.”
“Sheldon’s a menace,” Jonah said, remembering a shouting match at dinner one night. Well, it really hadn’t been a shouting match. Sheldon had been doing all the shouting; Milton had looked at him coolly and casually flipped his partner around and landed several hard spanks. He’d seemed unperturbed by the whole scene. Jonah would have been mortified if Samuel had acted that way.
“Sheldon is Sheldon. He can be loud, wild, and hyperactive, but his heart is in the right place, and he understands what it is to be a boy in his bratty way. I couldn’t live with that creature, but he suits Milton. They balance each other well. Milton likes to micromanage, and Sheldon thrives on that degree of control. Samuel will have to decide for himself who his is, but Samuel will learn from Sheldon to ask for what he wants and needs. Sheldon is not a passive partner. He will teach Samuel how to tell you no. Sheldon has very strong limits, and even Milton can’t move them.”
Jonah knew he was staring at Gordon. This was not how he understood these relationships. The dominant made the decision, and the submissive obeyed. How else could he protect Samuel? Samuel couldn’t decide those things; he would run wild.
“This isn’t an absolute dictatorship; it’s an agreed on dictatorship, and the submissive must give of himself willingly,” Gordon continued, his hand stroking Jonah’s back. “Samuel is gentle; he is confused about his new freedoms and may at times overstep and behave irrationally. He needs to be guided gently back into line. Confusion and shyness doesn’t equate with submission. To dominate a man physically or mentally who has not self-identified as a submissive is abuse. I will not pretend otherwise. Why did you belt him today?”
Jonah swallowed. It sounded so awful. “He-- he was away from me. Skiing, I think.. I was afraid.” Jonah flushed with shame. Samuel hadn’t deserved it. He’d been with Eric. He wasn’t in danger.
“I see.”
“No.” Jonah flushed again. “I was wrong. I was scared.” Jonah tugged at the cuffs of his sweater. “I didn’t want him trailing after everybody else. I can’t protect him if he’s not with me.”
“I think you’re scared often,” Gordon said softly, squeezing Jonah’s neck. “Frightened people make poor decisions. This is not Texas. You must learn to allow him to interact with his peers. It’s not healthy to be isolated.”
“I know,” Jonah dropped his eyes to the carpet.
“Yes, you do,” Gordon said. “This place is full of men with more experience. You ask someone before you act out of fear or ignorance. There is no excuse for the type of behavior you displayed earlier. You punished your lover harshly and without cause. That is assault or abuse, not discipline, not understood erotic play. We do not tolerate that behavior, and we will protect Samuel for as long as necessary.”
“It won’t be necessary. I understand.” Jonah felt his face redden with shame. “How do I make this right?”
“It will take time,” Gordon said with surprising gentleness. “I cannot wave a magic wand and make this go away.”
Jonah nodded and buried his head in the neck of his sweater. “I’m not worth your trouble,” he mumbled.
“No,” Gordon said sharply. “Samuel still loves you; that makes you still worth it.”
“Why haven’t you thrown me out? I’ve seen the way Landon looks at me.”
“Landon is very protective, and he is not a patient man. I train men, submissives and dominants. You are my responsibility, and I am fully taking it. I have tried to guide you, but I have deferred to your previous experience. I was in error. I need to assume you know nothing, not even your own identity.” Gordon leaned forward. “Do you want to make this right?”
“Yes, sir.”
Gordon’s smile was soft and somehow superior without being painfully arrogant. “You are drawn to the power exchange.”
It wasn’t a question, but Jonah nodded anyway. He was drawn to the power. He knew it. He wanted Gordon’s easy command, his poise, his strength.
“We will see. If I train you, obedience is expected and demanded.
“I’m not a submissive.”
“We will see, but all who learn from me start as a submissive. Milton spent years on his knees. It will do no harm.”
“No, it’s either everything or nothing. Decide.”
Now. Without warning. “I—“
“It’s simple, Jonah. Either yes or no.”
Jonah stared at the calmness and certainty of Gordon. This was a man who practically ruled an empire. Would it be so wrong to defer to him?
“Yes, sir.”
“Good boy. Kneel for me.”
Kneel. He wasn’t a sycophant slave. He didn’t kneel.
“You just agreed. Have you changed your mind already?”
Jonah shook his head, flushed, and searched for an escape. There was none. He dropped to his knees, unable to look at Gordon.
“Shoulders back. Eyes on me,” Gordon barked. “You do not delay or search for alternates. I am going to punish you. This is not about your past or your treatment of Samuel. This is about now and our agreement.. My goal is not behavior management through fear or pain. I am going to spank you because you must experience from my hands punishment not administered in anger or fear, but punishment with compassion and care, a punishment to which you must freely submit. I will not force you. Submission is a gift to be cherished, not something to be wrenched from someone through pain and fear.”
Jonah watched Gordon rise to his feet and remove his blazer. He sank down on the sofa, moving the extra cushions to the far end.
“Stand, boy.”
Jonah struggled to his feet. He wasn’t graceful with his hands behind his back.
“You needn’t hold your hands behind your back. Lower your trousers and over my knee.”
Jonah moved as if he were in a fog. His feet moved to Gordon’s side, but he didn’t remember directing them. With shaking hands, he lowered his pants. He deserved this beating, he thought grimly as he struggled to balance himself, Gordon’s sharp knees poking into his abdomen.
“You know this happens here. Do the submissives looked harmed?” Gordon asked, his hand resting on Jonah’s back.
Jonah shook his head. He saw more smiles in a week than he could remember in a lifetime in Texas. These men loved each other. He couldn’t deny it, not when he heard so much laughter and saw so much exuberance. 
“Breathe,” Gordon demanded, his hand warm against Jonah’s back. “Despite my reputation, I don’t beat people.”
Jonah took a shuddering breath; he hadn’t realized he’d been holding it.
“Good. Again.”
Jonah took another long shuddering breath. He felt his boxers being pulled down, and Gordon’s hand landed with a sharp sting. The first dozen slaps were bearable, and Jonah stayed frozen and braced against Gordon. He felt a blow land on his thighs, harder and more painful. Jonah yipped before biting down on his lip to stop the noise.
“No, boy. This is about showing me your emotions.” Gordon landed a flurry of spanks, all landing on the same spot.
Jonah bucked and couldn’t stop the whimper that escaped his lips. His thighs burnt. This was as bad as the belt.
“That’s right boy. Let it out.” 
Gordon continued to spank. Jonah squirmed against the unrelenting blows. His face was wet; he couldn’t stop the tears. Racking sobs tore through his chest. He couldn’t hold out any longer. He hung limply over Gordon’s legs and cried. Jonah didn’t know exactly when the blows stopped or when Gordon had somehow maneuvered him so he was on his side, his head in Gordon’s lap.
“Better, boy?”
Jonah licked his lips and tried to clear his throat. He finally only managed a nod.
“I’m going to get some water and a cool cloth.” Gordon slid out from under Jonah and as promised quickly returned with the items. “Drink, boy. All this crying will have made you dehydrated.” Gordon wiped Jonah’s face, and Jonah unashamedly leaned into the comfort. “You’ll be OK, boy. Can you sit up and talk to me? Bring your legs up and shift over on to your hip. You look like you’re sitting on a hornets’ nest.”
Jonah grimaced. He was in no mood for twisted humor. Gordon may be head of his band of little merry men, but he had no reason to make fun of him.
“Jonah, I was trying to put you more at ease, not humiliate you. It was a small joke that for you was obviously inappropriate.”
“I didn’t say anything,” Jonah muttered.
“No, but it’s my duty to watch your expression and body language. I just punished you. I must now offer comfort and reconciliation. I had no intention to shame you further. My apologies.”
Jonah nodded and tucked his feet under him. He was more comfortable. He couldn’t figure out these people. Were all Americans this contradictory?
“Jonah, you have to learn to talk to me. You said yes to me. I have rights over your body and your mind. You gave them to me.”
“I don’t want this. I’m not one of your little boys.”
“No, you're a man who escaped tyranny. You have lived through horrors that most cannot imagine. I know that, Jonah, and I won’t take that away from you, but my little boys who make you sneer in derision know far more of this life. Do not dismiss the ones who can most help you and most understand you.”
“What can they understand? I’m not a submissive. I’m a dominant. It’s my job to protect Samuel. It’s my job to keep him safe.”
“You can only protect him if he chooses to be in your protection. A submissive chooses to give himself to his dominant, to follow his rules. A submissive chooses to put limits on his freedom; a dominant doesn’t unilaterally take them.” Gordon held up his hand to stop Jonah’s protest. “In Texas it was different. There true danger lurked around every corner. This is America; you both must adjust.”
“Right and wrong doesn’t change with geography. He must obey me.”
“No, he must choose to obey you.”
“He obeys me; I’m his partner.”
“Does he give his obedience, or do you take it?”
“What is the difference? I protect him. He obeys me for his protection. I don’t force him.”
“Are you sure?” Gordon asked mildly.
Yes Jonah wanted to protest, but now he wasn’t sure. Samuel hadn’t agreed to be punished today. He’d protested the entire time. Samuel didn’t always protest. He might be hesitant and upset, but today he’d fought Jonah, and Jonah had refused to hear the difference. He’d thought Samuel was being stubborn. His Samuel wasn’t stubborn. “I didn’t listen to him.” Jonah hung his head. “He was upset today. It was unfair today.”
“Yes, it was. He was in no danger. He was not defiant. You were frightened and Samuel suffered. This is not easy.” Gordon looped his arms around Jonah’s shoulders. “You lived in a very black and white world. You hid everything about yourselves. Now the world is alive with color, and fear must not be your primary motivator. You will learn. You love Samuel. You will learn,” Gordon repeated, “but for now you will learn at my feet as my boy, and we will manage Samuel. You need a break from each other, or you will destroy all that you have tried to save and protect.”
“No, now it’s time to obey. Come, boy. You need to rest and think. I will put you in my quarters. You and Braxton will be good for each other. Milton’s stayed with Braxton a few times. It’s always enlightening.” Gordon stood, held out his hand, and waited for Jonah to take it. “You will be all right, boy. I have faith in you. You will make this right.”
Jonah meekly followed Gordon. He hoped Gordon had the answers. He was too muddled and too exhausted to do more than trail behind, the lamb led to slaughter.

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