One of Those Days


Title:  One of Those Days
Author:  PJ
OC: Link & Wes, and a visit from Ken and Wes’s parents
Implement:  Hand
Wes slammed the heavy front door shut.  Out of habit he reached for the row of switches on the block wall and flipped them.  Light flowed across the ceiling.  He stormed past Ken’s office, never noticing the big man at the desk.  If he had noticed him, Wes would have seen Ken come to the office door, filling the opening as he followed his shop manager’s movements.
When he reached the bank of lockers, Wes jerked the metal door to his locker open, shoved his black denim jacket in then slammed that door too. The clang echoed around the shop.  He didn't feel his boss's questioning eyes follow him as he moved to the band saw.  Picking up the piece of cherry he had been working on the day before, Wes fed it into the revolving blade with a bit too much force and jammed it.  “Fuck!” he gasped when his thumb slipped and clipped the blade.  He grabbed the closest shop towel and clamped it over the cut, applying as much pressure he could while chastising himself.
“Turn it off!”  Ken growled as he stalked across the concrete floor.
Wes jumped at the roar and whirled around to see Ken bearing down on him.  “Shit, what are you still doing here?” he demanded.  “Why isn’t your truck out front?”
Ken reached past him and flipped the switch on the saw.  “Let me see your hand and then we can talk about why I’m in my own shop,” Ken barked after the blade stopped spinning.
Wes didn’t produce his hand, instead he told Ken, “My hand’s fine.  I only nicked it.”
“Wes,” the big man said in a tone that wasn’t loud but was starting to break through Wes’s anger, “let me see your hand.”
Still not ready to relinquish his injured thumb, the smaller man sucked in a mouthful of air, trying to calm down.  He knew he was treading on thin ice.   Finally he met Ken’s eyes.  He saw anger but he also saw concern.  Releasing the breath, Wes tried to convince the other man he was ok again, “Look, Ken, it’s really fine.  I’ll get a Band-Aid and get back to work.”
Ken snapped his fingers and held out his hand.  He didn’t say anything, just waited for Wes to follow his order.
Slowly Wes pulled his thumb out of the blue towel and placed it in his boss’s massive hand.   It seemed so small resting on Ken’s hand.  Wes had never paid attention to the size of those hands before.  Looking at the large calloused hands his mind went back to that afternoon he accidentally witnessed Ken belting Jess’s ass with Jess’s own belt.  Now he had to wonder if Ken's hands wouldn't hurt every bit as bad as that belt must have.  He knew he would never find out because Ken would never spank him.  But he still thought Jess must have one tough ass to have those hands walloping him.
His thumb had stopped bleeding by the time Wes let Ken see it.  “Let’s get this cleaned and bandaged and then we can talk about what has you so upset,” he instructed the obviously distressed man before him. 
“I’m not upset.” Wes flushed bright red, but let Ken guide him to the shop sink.  While Wes washed the thumb in question with medicated soap, Ken retrieved the first aid kit. 
“You won’t need stitches,” Ken said while examining the cut.  “You’re lucky you didn’t cut your damn thumb off, bud.” he grunted as he bandaged the cut.  “I better never see you operate any power tool when you’re upset or angry again.  Understand?”
Wes started to challenge the statement that he was angry, but thought better of it when he saw Ken’s tightly pursed white lips.
When he didn’t get an answer, Ken repeated the question, “I asked if you understood, Wesley?”
“Yes sir, I understand,” Wes spit out.
"Good, now, let's go into my office.  I think you need some time to calm down before you head home.
“Look, Ken, I’m sorry,” Wes apologized, his anger losing steam fast.  “It won’t happen again.  I don’t need to go home.  We have things that need to be finished today.”
“I consider you a friend and as your friend as well as your employer, I’m not going to take a chance that you might hurt yourself again,” Ken said and steered the smaller man into his office, keeping his hand on Wes’s shoulder.  “We can talk if you want to or I can call Link for you.  But you are going to have to calm down before you touch any of the power tools.”
Once in the office, Ken nodded toward the brown leather chair across from his desk.  That old chair was so large Wes always felt like a 10 year old when he sat in it and today was no different.  “I’m really sorry, Ken.  I guess I just let my feelings get the better of me this morning,” he admitted.  “I know better than to let other people rile me like that.” 
Ken pulled a couple of bottles water from his office fridge and tossed one to the younger man.   “First, I want you to tell me why you came here as upset as you were?” Ken asked.
“I needed to work off some of my steam and thought you would be gone already,” Wes answered.  “I thought I could calm down by the time you got back.”
“Where’s Link?” Ken asked.  “Why didn’t you go to him?” 
“He’s out on a call,” Wes said, hoping that would be enough explanation for his boss.
“And you couldn’t call him?”
“NO!” Wes shot back a little too loud.
“Wes,” Ken cautioned, “this is a conversation, not a yelling match.”
Wes could feel the heat crawl up his neck and spread across his face. 
“He’s your partner.  He needs to know when you’re this upset,” Ken reminded Wes.  “Maybe, I should ask if you’re angry with Link.  Is that what this is about?”
“I’m not mad at Link.  I could never be mad at him,” Wes said defensively.  “But I can’t tell him either.”
“It’s not hard to see something is bothering you, bud,” Ken said patiently.  “If you want to tell me what happened I’ll see if I can help.”
“I don’t want you to tell Link.” 
“I won’t if you don’t want me too, Wes.”  Then Ken added, “Unless you are in danger.”
Wes laughed, “No, I’m not in danger.”  Then he became serious, “I stopped at Tiny’s Diner this morning for breakfast.”  Feeling the need to justify why he didn’t eat at home Wes shrugged his shoulders and added, “Link was gone and I didn’t feel like eating alone at home.”
Ken slowly sipped his water and waited for Wes to continue.
“Anyway, there were a couple of guys, fishermen, in the next booth.  They were pissed and complaining about someone when I first sat down but I couldn’t really hear everything they were saying,” Wes remembered.  “After I ordered my food, they got louder.  They were pissed about some big dumb ranger.  A big dumb fag ranger with a beard and a ponytail, my big dumb ranger,” he possessively spat out. 
Giving Wes plenty of time to tell his story, Ken leaned back in his chair and waited for the agitated young man to continue.   
“They were mad at him,” Wes finally continued, “because he ticketed them early this morning for fishing without licenses.  He took their poles and their strings of fish too.”
“That’s how it happens, Wes,” Ken explained.  “They broke the law but blamed it all on Link because he caught them.  They would have blamed him whether he was gay or straight.  It wouldn’t have mattered.”     
“Maybe, but they didn’t have a right to say he should be fired because he’s gay.  They got real loud and started joking that he played for the other team and he shouldn’t be allowed to be a ranger.”  Wes stopped and stared out the window.  Finally he spoke in a quiet voice, “That’s just not fair.”
“What did you do, bud?”  Ken asked softly.
“The longer they talked the madder I got and at one point I started to get up to confront them but Judy, you know the waitress that always takes our order?  She put her hand on my shoulder and shook her head at me,” Wes said hanging his head.  “So I just sat there and let them cut Link down.” 
“Sounds like Judy saved you a whole pack of trouble, bud,” Ken softly said.
You don’t understand, Ken,” Wes snapped, “I didn’t do anything.  I just sat there.  I didn’t even defend him.  Hell, Jess would have decked those guys.”
“Wes, you are not Jess.  What he might do has no bearing on what you should do.  Everyone has choices to make when things like that happen.  You can take it for what it is; pure ignorance, or you can engage them and probably end up in deep trouble or hurt," Ken calmly said to the young man.  “No one can tell you which is right for you, only you can do that.  Each situation is different but I can tell you, I'm proud of your choice today.”
“That’s only because they weren’t cutting down your partner,” Wes spit back under his breath or so he thought.
“Wes,” Ken’s tone deepened.  When the younger man looked up, Ken continued, “Do you think Link would have been upset over what those guys were saying?  Do you think he would have challenged them?”
Wes was quiet for a couple of minutes then answered Ken, “No, he wouldn’t have let them bother him.”
“No, he wouldn’t,” Ken agreed.  “Now, how do you think he would have felt if you had gotten into a fight with them?  Or worse, got arrested for fighting or got hurt?”
“He wouldn’t have liked it.”
“Not only that, bud, he loves you and if you’d been hurt it would have hurt him too,” Ken told the young man.
‘Yeah,” Wes softly agreed, “I know.”
“Jess is a big man and can handle himself,” Ken began.
Wes glared at Ken.  “I can handle myself too!” he challenged the older man.
Ken calmly replied, “I know you can, Wes.  I’m just letting you know I would not be happy if Jess were to confront someone over words, ignorant words.”
Both men were quiet; Wes thinking and Ken giving him the time he needed.  Finally the younger man looked over at his friend and boss.  “Thanks, Ken,” Wes replied.  “It sure didn’t feel good listening to them cut Link down and threaten his job.  I wanted to jump in the middle of them.  But I did know the right thing to do with a little help from Judy.”  He grinned to himself and then told Ken, "Tiny kicked those fishermen out of the diner.  He told them not to come back.  After they left he came over and sat at my table.  He said he was sorry I had to hear that crap.  Then he told me they don't encourage that kind of talk there.”
Ken tossed his empty water bottle at the recycle bin in the corner of the room.  He stood and walked around his desk to stand in front of Wes.  Holding out his hand to him, Ken pulled Wes to his feet and into a hug.  “How about you clean up your work area and head out.  Maybe, you and that man of yours can catch a late breakfast,” Ken firmly suggested.  “I’d wager you didn’t eat much the first time.”
Wes laughed.  “No, I sorta lost my appetite,” he admitted.  Then more seriously he added, “Thanks, Ken, and thanks for not firing me. Y…you aren’t going to fire me, are you?  I’m really sorry.”
“I wouldn’t fire you, bud, but if I ever find you using power tools in the state you were in today, I’ll suspend your ass for a week and call Link.  Am I clear on that?”
Wes raised his head and looked Ken square in the eyes.  “Yes sir, crystal clear.”
“Good, now get busy and then go find your man and talk to him,” Ken told his younger friend.  “And Wes,” he added, “if Link thinks you’ve calmed down after you talk to him, you can work this afternoon.”
Wes grinned. “I’ll see you later then,” he assured his boss.  “Thanks Ken.”
Link grabbed his cell phone at the first chirp of Wes’s ring tone.  “Hey, babe…no, I’m back at the office…just a couple of illegal fisherman…Sure, I can meet you...A late breakfast sounds good…where…oh, OK…give me about 15 minutes…love you too, babe.”  He was a little surprised when Wes wanted to meet up because he should have been at the shop.  Link gladly accepted the invitation thinking his partner had something on his mind and needed to talk.  
Link pulled into the space next to Wes’s new truck. Wes had loved his old truck.  It had served its owner well.  After all it was the truck that brought Wes safely to California and into Link’s life.  But Wes beamed with pride every time he drove his new truck.  Wes had insisted they pick it out together.  Link smiled at the memory of his young man, he was like a little kid getting a new bike.   The ranger locked his truck and walked into the restaurant.  He wondered why Wes wanted to meet here instead of Tiny’s.  The big man found his lover in a booth toward the back.  “Hey, babe,” Link said and leaned down for a discreet kiss.  Then he slid into the booth across from Wes, noticing the bandaged thumb.  Taking the hand in his, Link cocked his eyebrow at his lover, waiting for an explanation.   
“Oh,” Wes said, trying hard to keep his voice calm.  “I nicked it this morning.  It’s nothing.”
The eyebrow stayed up and Link didn’t say a word.
“Re...really, it’s just a nick,”  Wes stammered, reaching up to rub his shoulder.  “Ken just got carried away with the bandage,” he laughed at the size of the bandage.
“What happened, babe?”  Link voiced the question this time. 
“I was using the band saw and the blade bound up and my hand slipped.  It really is just a nick.  Look, I’ll show you,” Wes pulled his hand back and started to remove the bandage.
“No, that’s ok,” Link relented.  “I’ll look at it tonight.  I’m up for the breakfast I didn’t get to eat this morning, how about you?”
“Sounds good,” Wes answered.  “I didn’t eat much this morning either.”
“Let’s order and you can tell me all about your morning while we wait for our food.”
“Not much to tell, T-man,” Wes commented trying to dismiss the interrogation.
Link gently tapped the bandaged hand.  “Babe, I’ve seen you work.  The only way you would have jammed that blade is if you weren’t paying attention,” he pointed out to his partner, “and that’s not like you.  So, I’m thinking your mind was somewhere else.”
Wes waited while the waiter placed the food they had ordered on the table and returned to the front of the restaurant.  “Yeah, I guess I need to talk to you about that,” he admitted.
“I’m all ears, babe,” Link said around the first bite of his Denver omelet.
“I stopped at Tiny’s for breakfast this morning,” Wes started, “and I ran into your illegal fishermen.”
“Oh?” Link questioned, raising his eyebrow.  “What happened, Babe?”
“They were mad at a big dumb ranger,” Wes answered.  “Seems this ranger took their poles and fish and ticketed them for fishing without licenses.”
Link laughed, "I bet they had nothing but nice things to say about me."
Wes's jaw dropped.  "What?  Nice?  Link!”  He lowered his voice to a whisper, “They called you a fag!"
Link watched Wes for a few seconds then the older man agreed, “I am a fag,” he laughed.  Then seeing the serious look on his lover’s face he continued, “Wes, I try not to give that word any more power than its simple definition.  It’s just a word that means I am a homosexual.  I’m attracted to other men.  One man in particular.  I'm not about to let them hurt me with a word, and you shouldn't either.”
“I know and I don’t care what they call me, T-man, but they were attacking you,” Wes told the man across from him.
“Babe, those two have been calling me names since we were in elementary school,” Link said, “but they don’t do it to my face anymore.”
“Why not?” Wes asked. “What happened?”
“I was small so I tried to stay away from them.”  Link answered.  “Then later in high school I had a harder time staying out of their way.”  He stopped, shaking his head.  “Then one day after school Ronny caught up to me and started in with the names.  I lost it and punched him in the face for calling me a queer.”
Wes was engrossed in the story his lover was telling him.  “What happened?” he asked again.
“It shocked Ronny that I was attacking him.  Hell, it shocked me.”  Link laughed.  “Then all of a sudden I was jerked off him.  He took off with blood on his face.”
“Who pulled you off him?”
“Ken,” Link groaned.  “We were close to a project he was doing and he heard Ronny harassing me.  He came out to see what was going on just in time to see me throw the punch.  Needless, to say he wasn’t happy and hauled me home.  My dad impressed upon my backside that I should just ignore them.”
“Well, I couldn’t ignore him this morning, it pissed me off,” Wes stated.  “I didn’t think…” he stopped and suddenly became overly interested in his breakfast and pushed the French toast around on his plate drawing squiggly lines through the cinnamon pecan syrup.
“Babe, what didn’t you think?” Link asked quietly.
“I just thought moving out here, I wouldn’t have to deal with that crap anymore,” he said.  “I thought I’d put it behind me.”  He rubbed his scar.
“Maybe you need to talk about whatever happened, sweetheart.  It seems it’s come back to haunt you,” Link observed.
“Yeah, maybe,” Wes sighed.  “I guess there are jerks like your fisherman everywhere.  We had a few back home that used to give Tim a bad time,” he started to explain.  “His free spirit got him in trouble more than once.”
“Yeah, that sounds like Tim alright,” Link agreed.
“Those guys got carried away with their harassment one night.”  Wes paused, seeming to gather his thoughts then said, “They were leaving for boot camp the next morning so I guess they thought they needed to torment him one last time.”
Link waited for his partner to continue in his own time.
“They jumped him.  And he got hurt,” Wes stopped again. 
“What happened, babe?”  Link asked.
Wes chuckled, but it was a sinister sound, “They hadn’t counted on Tim being with a couple of friends.  Let’s just say, at least one of them got on the bus the next morning with damages.”
The older man nodded his understanding.  “How bad was Timmy hurt?” he asked.  “Were you hurt?”
“I was ok but Tim gut a few cuts and bruised a few ribs,” Wes answered.  “Tim wouldn’t let me tell anyone how it happened.  He figured they were out of our hair so why bother.  We made up some story that his parents bought.”  Wes’s French toast circled the plate again.  “Anyway, I guess that’s why I reacted the way I did this morning.”
Link asked, “Sweetheart, what else happened at the diner?”
“Nothing,” Wes mumbled, looking down at his plate.
Nudging Wes’s boot under the table, Link simply said, “Wes.”
“Nothing happened,” Wes said again, “but only because Judy was there.  She kept her hand on my shoulder when I started to get up.”
“I’m glad she was there then, babe,” Link stated. 
“Tiny kicked those guys out of the diner and even told me he was sorry about the things they said,” Wes told his partner.
“Tiny’s a good man, babe, we’ve known each other a long time,” Link commented, mopping up the last bit of eggs with his toast.  “So, that’s what you were stewing over when you cut yourself?” he asked.
“Yeah, I guess.  Ken said I was throwing a tantrum.  Maybe I was, I don’t know,” Wes said.  “After he bandaged my thumb we had a long talk.”
“I don’t imagine he was too happy with you using the tools while you were upset, was he?” 
“No, and trust me I won’t do that again,” Wes promised.  “That man is scary when he’s mad.”
“Are you two ok?” Link asked.
Link’s man was grinning at him.  “We’re good,” Wes chuckled.  “We talked and then he told me to go find you and talk to you.”
“I’m glad you listened to him, babe,” Link said. 
“Yeah, me too, T-man, me too,” Wes admitted.
Link slid out of the booth and stood up then he pulled Wes up too.  “I need to get back to work, babe.”
“Yeah,” Wes said and turned toward the front of the restaurant.  “Thanks for talking to me, T-man.”
“Sweetheart, you don’t need to thank me, this is what partners do, support each other,” Link answered and followed his man to their trucks.  Once outside, he opened the driver’s door and waited for Wes to get in.  “So you’re going back to the shop?” he asked after he shut the door.
“Yeah,” the younger man answered, “but, um, Ken said I couldn’t go back unless you said I was calmed down.”  He blushed, “I’m ok now, Link, and I’ve got a few things to catch up on.”
Link leaned down for a quick kiss.  “You go on back to work, babe, and I’ll see you at home tonight,” he said.  “And Wesley, try to be careful.”
“Sure thing, T-man,” Wes chuckled, as he climbed into his truck. 
“Love you, babe.”
“Love you more,” Wes replied.
Link walked to his animal control truck, got in and backed out of the parking space.  As he pulled onto the road he heard the unmistakable sound of vehicles colliding behind him.  Glancing in the rear view mirror he saw Wes jump out of his truck and stalk toward the decrepit truck that Link had stopped early that morning to issue citations to the occupants.   Wondering what was going on, he pulled to the side of the road and stopped.  He turned his head to look back toward the restaurant he’d just left.  Wes was standing toe to toe with Ronny, one of the fishermen.  “Damn,” the big ranger growled.   Pulling back into traffic, Link waited at the light so he could turn back to the restaurant.
Wes was in the other man’s face when Link pulled his truck back into the space he had just left.  Stepping out of the truck he could hear Wes grind out through gritted teeth, “I haven’t even had that truck a month.”
“Calm down, kid, it ain’t that bad,” Ronny slurred as he passed his boney fingers over the damage his rusty bumper created to the rear of Wes’s brand new truck.
“Like hell it isn’t,” Wes snapped, pushing the fisherman’s hand away and poking him in the chest.  “I don’t even have the plates yet.”
“So, maybe you shouldn’t bring your toy truck out to play if you don’t want it to get hurt, kid,” Ronny snarled back at Wes.  He stepped closer and took an unsteady swipe at the younger man.  Wes met the advance, blocked the punch and pushed him back.
Link had seen and heard enough.  He approached the two men just as his usually calm lover pushed the unsteady Ronny. 
Link reached out to pull his partner away.  Without looking around, Wes stepped back into the man who was grabbing him.  Pushing him back, Wes jerked his arm away, “Leave me alone,” he demanded.  “It’s none of your business.”
“Yeah, ranger,” Ronny slurred, “stay out of this.”
 Link stepped in front of his brat.  “Wesley, enough,” he softly growled so only his lover would hear him.
Wes froze and focused on the big man suddenly looming in front of him.  “Shit,” he groaned.
“Yeah,” Link said, “shit.”
“L..Link,” Wes stammered.  “I didn’t kno…”
“Hush, babe,” Link held his hand up to his brat.  Keeping his back to Ron, he sternly added for Wes’s ears only, “We’ll talk about it at home.”
Link watched as the meaning of his statements hit home and the color drained from his brat’s face.  Wes didn’t say anything; all he did was chew on his suddenly dry bottom lip.
The big man stepped aside.  “Show me your truck, babe.”
Wes nodded, and led the way to the truck. The two men examined the damage.  Link leaned is close, “I know it looks bad, babe, but it can be fixed.  Get the info you need from Ron and you can get the paperwork started.”
Ron had moved closer to the pair.  The tipsy fisherman sneered, “is that boy your bitch, ranger?  You gunna butt in and handle this for him?”
Out of the corner of his eye Link saw Wes step away from the truck toward Ronny.  “Wes,” Link said softly but with meaning.  Link turned back to the other man, “Ron, Wes is my partner but I won’t be handling anything for him.  He’s perfectly capable dealing with this situation.”
Wes looked at his partner with pride in his eyes, and then turned to the other man.  “Ron, do you have insurance?” Wes asked.
“Yeah,” Ronny spit out, “I got insurance.”
“Good, give me your information, please.”
“Why?”  Ronny snarled, “It wasn’t my fault.”
“How the hell do you figure that?”  Wes demanded.  “I didn’t even have my truck started yet?”
Link cleared his throat. 
Wes met his partner’s eyes.  Taking strength from those eyes Wes turned back to Ronny.  “Get the papers, Ron.”
Ronny got the insurance papers.  Wes copied the information into the note book Link handed him.  After returning the papers to Link’s former schoolmate he waited until Ronny started his rusty old truck and slowly backed out of the space.  As the truck moved toward the street Link waved his arm at the patrol car waiting at the curb.  It was plain the man had been drinking so Link had radioed the police department when he first pulled back in to the parking lot.  The officer hit his siren the second the truck entered the street.
Link wrapped his arm protectively over the smaller man’s shoulder.  “You ok, babe?” he asked his lover.
“Yeah, I’m ok,” Wes answered.  “My truck isn’t.”
“Sweetheart, I know how much you love your truck, but she isn’t damaged beyond repair,” Link tried to explain.  “We can get her fixed good as new.”
“It won’t be the same, Link.  It’ll never be the same,” Wes said defeated.
Link pulled his lover to him, his hand rubbing Wes’s neck.  “Honey, I know you don’t think so but it will be ok,” he said.  “But first you need to file the report with our insurance company and get the process started.”
“Yeah,” Wes agreed, “I’ll do it from the shop.”
“No, you aren’t going back to work, babe.  You can do it from home.”
Wes just looked at his partner. 
Link was ready when Wes started to argue.  “Hush now.  You’re going home, babe,” his voice was not leaving any room for doubt.  “We have a few things to talk about and I don’t want you to have to wait until tonight.”
Link watched as Wes’s face showed he understood Link’s meaning.  All Wes could say was, “Ok.”
“I’ll call Ken and let him know you aren’t coming back today,” Link softly said.  “You go straight home and file the report.  I’ll be there in about an hour.”
“I’m sorry,” Wes whispered.
“It’ll be ok, sweetheart,” Link said as he kissed the honey colored curls on his lover’s head.  “Just remember, I love you.”
“I love you more, T-man,” Wes said as his goofy grin started to turn up at the corners of his mouth.
Wes closed his cell phone and tossed it on the table.  He gathered his notes into a pile to go over later that night.  It had taken a good 45 minutes to file the report with their insurance company.  At least Ron was insured with a reputable company.  Wes’s agent assured him everything would be taken care of and that they wouldn’t close the file until he was satisfied.  Wes wondered how long Ronny would have this insurance once they learned he had been drinking when he hit his truck.
He sat there staring at the patterns in the wood as he held his head in his hands.  ‘How could he have lost his temper so many times?’ he thought as his fingers tightened in his hair.  ‘Why did he let that guy get under his skin?  Link was right, it was just a truck.  It could be fixed.  No truck was worth getting hurt over or causing Link any grief.’
Wes rubbed his hand across his forehead brushing back his curls.  Too fidgety to stay seated he moved out of the kitchen.  Hesitating at the mirror he’d made for Link, he traced his finger across the etching of the raccoon.  “Guess you weren’t watching out for me today?” he whispered.
Wes heard a step behind him and turned to see Link filling the opening from the kitchen.  “The little guy can only do so much, babe.  The rest is up to you,” he told his partner.
“Yeah,” Wes softy agreed.  He couldn’t look at his lover’s face.  His eyes were focused on his hands.  Wes loved those large rough hands.  They were strong but also gentle and comforting.  He loved feeling those hands on his body.  He craved the roughness when Link rubbed his back and the softness when Link caressed his manhood.  Link’s thumbs were hooked in his front pockets while his fingers rested against those hard upper thighs.  Wes knew in a matter of minutes he would hate those hands.  He reached up and rubbed his scar.
“Babe, look at me please,” Link said in a tone that was a bit more than a request. 
Wes forced his eyes off of Link’s hands and looked up in to his lover’s dark eyes.  “I’m sorry,” he whispered.  “I don’t know what happened, Link.  When he hit my truck I just lost it.  I couldn’t stop.”
Link moved forward and Wes stepped into his arms.  “We’ll work this out, sweetheart,” he said to the top of Wes’s head.  He nestled his beard in the soft curls, breathing in his brat’s scent.  “You could have been seriously hurt today.  You let him control your reactions several times.  He was drinking and with him that is always an unpredictable outcome,” Link sighed.  “It would kill me if anything happened to you, honey.”
“I know and I’m sorry I worried you, Link, but I wasn’t hurt.  I’m ok and no one was hurt,” Wes tried to reason with the bigger man.  “Well, except for my truck.”
Link broke the hug and pushed Wes back holding him at arm’s length.  “You cut your hand because you were so upset with Ron that you didn’t pay attention using the band saw.”  Link paused to let that bit of information sink in, then continued, “Tell me, Wesley, if it had been someone else that hit your truck would you have reacted the way you did?”
Wes searched the questioning face in front of him.   He knew Link would wait for him to find the answer.  Finally, Wes looked down, “No, I probably would have been more patient,” he conceded.  “I was already mad at what he did at Tiny’s.  When he hit my truck it was the last straw.”
“Yes, I’m sure you would have been less confrontational, honey, if it’d been anyone else but Ronny,” Link said.  Wes felt a finger under his chin, raising it so he had to look at his lover.  “Do we need to talk about why I’m going to spank you?”
“No,” Wes answered, “I put myself in danger and broke our main rule.  I’m sorry, Link.”
Link held out his hand for his brat to take.  “Let’s get this done and over,” he said leading the way into the living room.  He sat on the sofa and pulled Wes in front of him. 
Wes instinctively covered the front of his jeans when Link reached for his buttons.  “Let me do it, Link,” he pleaded, even knowing his partner wouldn’t let him.
Link didn’t say anything, just brushed the hands aside.  He unbuttoned the jeans and worked them down his partner’s toned legs.  He gently directed Wes to his right side and helped him over his lap.  
Wes tried to push himself back up, but stopped when Link softly said, “Easy, babe, this is nothing more than what we agreed on when we first talked about this type of a relationship.” 
“Yeah, I know, but it’s harder when it’s actually going to happen,” Wes said into the pillow he had snagged and tucked under his chest.
“We don’t have to do this if you aren’t ok with it babe,” Link reassured him.  “We can think of something else.”
Wes didn’t say anything.  Link waited for him finish his internal struggle and was about to let him up when he heard a muffled voice from the pillow, “No, I need you to do this.”
Link rubbed small circles on his brat’s bare cheeks then raised his hand and dropped the first smack.  He heard a groan from the pillow but nothing more.  “This is for putting yourself in danger this morning, Wesley,” he told his lover. 
“I know,” Wes mumbled.  “I’m sorry.”
The hand raised and fell again and again over every inch of Wes’s ass. When it was a rosy red Link stopped and began the slow process of calming this man that he loved with all his heart. 
As much as he hated having to reinforce this one rule, which luckily wasn’t very often, Link loved the time after the spanking.  Somehow, after the pain eased and the tears slowed, Wes was able to share some of his fears and concerns, his hopes and dreams.   The big man sat back on the sofa, booted feet on the massive coffee table.  Wes’s head lay in his lap and he was softly sniffing.   He was still bare under the soft quilt Link had taken off the back of the sofa and placed over the man he loved.  Link ran his fingers gently through Wes’s curls, absent mindedly rerunning the events of the day in his mind.  He shuddered to think what could have happened if he hadn’t looked back when he left the restaurant.  Wes stirred in his lap at the shudder.  “Shhhh, babe, it’s ok,” he reassured his brat and kept kneading the hair in his fingers.
Wes startled at the sound of tires on the gravel driveway.  “Link, who is it?  Who’s here?” he demanded jumping up from the sofa.  “Ow, fuck!” he hissed when the soft material of the quilt slid across his tormented ass. 
Link left Wes’s side to look out the picture window overlooking the front porch.  “It’s your mom and dad,” he told his nervous lover.  “Go up and take a cool shower, babe,” he instructed, “then get dressed and come back down here.”
“No, Link, just tell them I’m not here,” Wes pleaded with Link.
“Sweetheart, they drove all the way up here to see us.  You will come back down to talk to them.  Go on now, unless you want to explain the events of the day.” The tone Link used didn’t leave any room for argument.
Wes turned and took the stairs two at a time.
The big ranger straightened the quilt and placed it over the back of the sofa.  He opened the large front door to Wes’s parents.  “Mom, Dad, come on in,” he said.  “It’s always good to see you two.”
Link stepped back to let their visitors in the cabin.  Once inside they exchanged handshakes and hugs.  “I got coffee brewing in the kitchen.” 
He started toward the kitchen but Wes’s mom stopped him. “I’ll get it.  You two get comfortable,” she instructed.
Link leaned down to kiss Liz’s cheek, “Yes mam,” he chuckled.
“Is that boy of mine home yet?”  Liz asked heading in to the kitchen.
“Yes,” Link answered, “he’s up showering.  He should be down soon.”
“Good,” Conrad voiced, “we have some news to share.”
Liz returned from the kitchen carrying a carved cherry tray loaded with cups and the coffee pot.  “Did you make this tray Link?  It’s beautiful.”
“No, not me, mom,” Link chuckled, “that’s your son’s handwork.  He does amazing work, doesn’t he?”
Conrad laughed, “I don’t know where Wes picked up that talent.  It certainly wasn’t from me.”
“I think it was from Grandpa, Dad,” Wes remarked as he came down the stairs.  “I loved spending time with him in his shop.  He taught me most everything I know.”
Liz hugged her son. “Oh, it’s so good to see you baby.” 
“Gee, Mom,” Wes blushed, “Do you have to call me that?”
“It’s a mother’s right to call a grown up child her baby,” she laughed and smacked her younger son’s butt. 
She didn’t notice the wince but Link did.  He held out his hand to Wes.  “Mom and Dad have something they want to tell us.”
Wes gave Link a pleading look, but moved to the big man.  Link sat on the sofa and Wes gingerly sat beside him.  “What’s up?” he asked his parents.
Liz and Conrad looked at each other, seeming to gather their nerve, then Liz started the conversation, “We’ve filed papers with the county to be foster parents.”
“Yeah,” Wes said, “I know, we talked about it before.”  He looked at the smile on his mom’s face.  “Did they find someone for you?”
“Well, we found him, but the county has agreed to placing him with us,” Conrad answered.  “We wanted to talk to you about it first though.”
“What’s to talk about?” Wes questioned.  “I think it’s great.  I always wanted a little brother.” 
Wes was fidgeting against Link and his mom called him on it, “Son, what’s got you squirming?  Are you hurt?”
He blushed and looked and Link.  “No, mom, he’s ok.  He was working in the sun today and got a bit of sunburn,” Link told her.
“Let me see,” Liz said as she stood up.
Conrad pulled her back down on the love seat.  “I think Link can handle it, Liz.”
Link spoke up trying to change the subject, “So when do we get to meet your new son, Mom?”
“You already know him,” she told them.  “Remember Kevin, Ken and Jess’s charge.  He is going to live with us.”
Wes leaned forward. “Oh,” Wes said cautiously.  “Are you sure it’ll be ok?  I mean, he’s one of the At Risk kids Ken works with.”
“I’m sure they’ve given it a lot of thought, babe,” Link said.  “Your parents don’t strike me as people who would jump into this without exploring all the possibilities.”
“Yes, we have,” Wes’s dad assured both men.  “We’ve been in several meetings with Social Services and we met with Ken and Jess.  Getting Ken’s blessing was easy but Jess took a little longer.”
Wes didn’t say anything.  Link could see him processing the information.
“Ken and Jess are still going to be mentors.” Liz said.  “We just feel that he has a much better chance in life with a stable home life, not in a group home full of boys.”
“I think Kevin is one lucky kid,” Wes told his parents as he blinked a tear back.  “He probably doesn’t know it but you guys will be the best thing that ever happened to him.”
Liz stood and hugged her son.  “I’m glad you think so, baby.”

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