Practical Penance

by Jane Davitt

The hand slapping his ass feels hot, has felt that way since the first solid crack against his skin. He'd seen that heat in Shawn's face before this began, anger, hurt and relief combining to make him fever-hot, shaking.

Shawn's not trembling now. Sure and fast, the slaps rain down, until Carlton's silent promise to himself not to make a noise, nothing, just let Shawn dispense as much justice as he sees fit, is broken.

He cries out, hears the pain in his voice -- and, yes, this hurts -- and bites back on the groan that follows, stifling it.

It's still enough to throw Shawn's rhythm off. Fuck. The next slap is hesitant, placed on Carlton's thigh, high up, yes, but on unmarked skin. Somehow it smarts more than the ones that have been landing on skin spanked bruised and mottled with scarlet handprints.

"Don't --" Carlton says, the first words he's spoken in what feels like hours. "Don't stop." It's difficult, even contrite as he is to add the next word, but he says it anyway. "Please."

This doesn't happen often; Carlton on his stomach on their bed, a pillow under his hips to lift his ass high. He's usually the one with the view of Shawn, wriggling and squirming until the measured beats of Carlton's hand or Shawn's favorite hairbrush bring Shawn the ability to lie still, accepting what he'd begged for so persuasively.

It's a measure of how well Carlton knows Shawn now that he understands why Shawn can ask for a spanking, cajole, beg, plead, demand it even and then fight Carlton every step of the way when it's delivered, breaking position, whining, running his mouth until Carlton wants to gag him quiet. He never does. Later, Shawn will break for him, whimper, mewl, and by then they're both too busy to bother with untying knots or straps.

Carlton's asked for this exactly once, just to see what it felt like, a curiosity he regretted at first. Shawn had been so very enthusiastic and so very inexperienced. Carlton had found himself instructing Shawn in how to properly punish him, a tutorial that'd ended abruptly when he found himself coming, shaken with an arousal so intense that he couldn't control himself.

He's never asked for it again, not directly, not with words, the way Shawn does so blatantly, but sometimes he sees Shawn eying him thoughtfully, and he'll snap at him, brusque and angry, slam around their apartment and fuck Shawn with a roughness they both enjoy, but that isn't like him, not really, until…sometimes he finds himself like this, cuffed to the bed, so it's not his fault, nothing he can do, and Shawn's so good at spanking him now, so very good…

Tonight isn't like that. He's not cuffed to the bed, not tied down by anything but his agreement to let Shawn do this to him. Shawn's not giving him something he needs to take the edge off, the edge his job hones to razor-sharpness. Tonight, Shawn's furious, panic fueling his anger, and it's Shawn who needs to calm down through transferring the heat of his emotions to Carlton's bare ass.

"Please," Carlton says again, but it's no use. Shawn, even in this mood, won't go past a certain point and they both know that if Carlton cries out like that, it's because he's hurting. He doesn't break the way Shawn does, a slow dissolve into a fleeting, intense submission. Carlton shatters and it's messy.

Shawn rests that hot, hot hand against Carlton's steaming, sizzling ass and it's like being branded.

"Tell me you won't do that again. Ever." Shawn sounds used up, exhausted, but he's hanging on. Carlton doesn't think Shawn ever gives up. Gives in, yes, sometimes, gives up, no.

"I won't. God, I'm sorry, okay? It was a stupid joke and I --" Carlton closes his eyes. He's hard, his body too stupid to realize he's in disgrace, but he doesn't plan to do anything about it now or later. It's his own private penance. "I thought…I was trying to be --"

Like you. Amusing. Goofy. Imaginative. His one joke had been payback for Shawn's many and it'd been a spectacular flop.

He'd known that Shawn routinely rifled through the papers on his desk and why. Planting a request for his transfer to a town in Colorado had seemed so harmless. Shawn would see it, explode, and Carlton would admit the deception and add some pointed comments about prying.

"I thought you were leaving," Shawn says, his voice raw. "You don't get to leave, Lassie. Ever. I'm the one who -- I leave -- " He pauses, swallows audibly, but his next words are a faint whisper. "Never knew how it felt to be left behind."

Oh. Carlton feels a pang of hurt at that. Shawn's more upset about what he put Gus and Henry through in the past than losing him to a new job in a distant state. Well, he supposes he deserves that reminder that he's not important to Shawn, not really --

"And it's freezing there in the winter," Shawn continues, his voice firm now. "I can't imagine what your feet would've been like in bed. And I don't look good with a red nose. Rudolph can carry it off, but not me. And then there's Gus. He needs me around or he lapses into normality. It's not a pretty sight."

Carlton twists around, his heart pounding. "Wait -- you were planning to come with me?"

Shawn blinks at him. "You wouldn't have taken me along?"

"I'm not going," Carlton says, " but if I had to -- I'd never leave you behind."

They stare at each other in silence. Carlton can feel all the ragged, jagged edges inside him smooth away and he watches Shawn visibly calm down, regroup.

"So," Shawn says, tracing a pattern only he can see on Carlton's ass, his finger leaving friction burns. Carlton's cock is rock-hard, aching and full. Self-denial isn't all the nuns told him it was. He wants Shawn inside him, all frantic energy and scattered tenderness. He doesn't deserve it, but he needs it and that's usually all the rationale Shawn needs, after all."I guess you're not interested in the traditional make-up sex?"

Carlton rests his head on his arms and smiles, unseen. "I said my ass was yours for the night, remember?"

He hears Shawn chuckle and then there's one more slap, just one, gentle enough that it barely counts.

Still hurts. God, it hurts so good.

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