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To forgive divine

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Shea parked the car and Lloyd hopped out carrying the picnic basket. It was a beautiful day and Shea had to admit this had been a good idea. Lloyd sped on ahead insisting he could find the perfect picnic spot while Vanessa and Shea brought up the rear walking along hand in hand as they usually did these days. Vanessa turned towards Shea and smiled and he felt overwhelmed with love for her. Before he thought about it he blurted out "Let's make a baby" At her look of surprise he explained "I love you. You have always wanted kids and before I never felt ready or settled but now, ever since we got married, I've been happier than ever. It will be perfect, you are beautiful, you will make gorgeous babies" Vanessa laughed and Shea could hear the delight in her voice. She kissed him and then said "Yes, let's."

Shea had initially enjoyed their relaxed attempts to get Vanessa pregnant but now it had been over six months and still nothing. Unfortunately Shea had been enthusiastically open with all their friends about the fact that they were trying and everyone had been initially asking for updates and then later inundating them with suggestions and advice. Some had been initially even fun or at least interesting but now they felt as though they had tried everything and nothing had helped. Lloyd had been the one person who Shea had relied on not to behave that way and now today out of blue he came with that "I heard about a possible suggestion which might help" which Shea had heard times without count. Shea would not have it and in this case he did not have to be polite or diplomatic he could just shut it down completely. Shea cut off Lloyd's "I just think that maybe this...". "I don't want to hear it OK" He was just tired of everyone's opinions. He knew Lloyd was as enthusiastic about the idea as they were and as invested in the outcome, but he was not able to handle anything else. To his surprise Lloyd did not immediately quiet. "I consulted with one of my friends from med school who's a fertility expert and ..." Shea could control his toy at least "Lloyd I'm serious shut up!" Lloyd stopped trying to say anything at the warning in that blunt a statement given in that sharp a tone. After what had happened with Max Shea pretty much never told Lloyd to shut up, so Lloyd knew persistence would not end well. Shea almost relented when he saw how dejected Lloyd was but he just could not bring himself to listen to another "you should try" statement. "Lloyd" Shea steeled himself against Lloyd's hopeful look. "Don't you dare go to Vanessa with this you hear me." Lloyd slumped further "Yes sir I understand."

Shea parked his car in front of the house and took a deep breath. Lloyd had been that much more wary around him since Shea had shut down the conversation on Vanessa's pregnancy even though a few weeks had gone by. Lloyd hadn't seem to hold a grudge and clearly he had not talked to Vanessa because those conversations always made her alternatively sad and cranky but she had been nothing but happy and relaxed lately. Shea felt it was because they had finally stopped trying and were now just enjoying themselves. However Shea had not intended to make Lloyd this uncomfortable so he finally decided maybe it was time to talk about it, much as he hated having relationship discussions and especially so with Lloyd. Shea got out of his car and walked in the door, determined that this time they would have a real conversation together as a family, even if he had to listen to Lloyd's advice, and was almost knocked over as Vanessa flung herself into his arms "I'm pregnant. We're finally going to have a baby."

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Even after 5 months Shea was still walking on air over the fact that Vanessa was pregnant. He was going to be the father of what he was sure would be the most beautiful baby girl ever. Vanessa had asked him to go and buy the crib since she was feeling too tired, but she really, really wanted it now. Shea knew that this was a bit early for such purchases but he had learned early on not to argue with a pregnant woman. At this point his attitude was, what Vanessa wants Vanessa gets. Shea had left her with Lloyd and gone shopping.

The shopping trip had gone well and Shea was feeling proud of himself. He had actually come back early, having found the perfect crib at the first store he tried. Shea wanted the best of everything for his little girl. He was determined to get one of those high end real hardwood sets that cost almost a thousand dollars even though he knew he was spending the money for something that would only be used for a short time. However most of those were a very dark wood and Vanessa had been adamant that she did not want one of those but wanted a lighter, brighter colored wood. Shea had a hurried discussion with Lloyd who had recommended looking for one made from pecan or walnut wood. With the help of a motivated salesperson Shea had found a beautiful pecan colored crib he just knew Vanessa would love. Fortunately they had purchased a pickup truck for all the baby shopping so he had been able to buy it to take home immediately. He parked just down the driveway rather than in the garage since the truck with the crib would not fit. Shea would come back and unload once he had checked on Vanessa. He opened the front door quietly in case Vanessa was sleeping. She needed a lot more sleep these days. As he walked in he heard Lloyd and Vanessa talking in the living room. Vanessa's voice was clear "Wouldn't Shea be surprised if he knew this baby is really thanks to you." Shea froze. Vanessa couldn't be serious, but then he heard Lloyd's response "Well you certainly can't tell him. I don't think he would react well at all." Shea spun and walked out immediately. He did not want to hear any more, couldn't trust himself to hear anymore.

Shea got back in the truck and started driving aimlessly. After a while he pulled over, driving usually helped him process things but not this time. He couldn't believe that Vanessa had betrayed him, deceived him. Suddenly he paused and laughed bitterly. He had done it to himself! He had given both of them permission to sleep with each other without him there a couple of weeks before he and Vanessa started trying for a baby. Lloyd and Vanessa had not slept together in his presence since they had decided to have a child. However it really wasn't surprising that Vanessa had simply decided that she wanted a baby regardless of the father. He could not fault her, but he had so wanted that first baby to be his and he was sure Lloyd would know that. He felt his anger flare. He was not going to confront them. He did not want to take away from Vanessa's happiness but he would make damn sure Lloyd paid for this deception. He turned towards home thinking hard. There had to be a way to get his revenge without upsetting Vanessa and without going too far in punishing Lloyd. What he wanted to do was take a belt to Lloyd until his arm was tired, but that would disturb Vanessa and might get him into trouble with Fredrick again. Besides all that he found, to his surprise, that while if it had been anyone else he would simply have wanted them dead, with Lloyd his feelings were much more complex. He wanted him hurt but still could not stomach the idea of injuring Lloyd in any way. What he wanted most of all was for Lloyd to feel the sting of betrayal, disappointment and crushed hopes he currently felt. Suddenly that gave him an idea.

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Lloyd wiped down the counter again. Maybe this time the house would be clean enough, organized enough. He ignored the part of himself that said nothing ever would be satisfactory to Shea. He was a smart person, he had to be able to handle something as simple as housekeeping. If it was just the house he would have chalked it up to Shea being paranoid about cleanliness with the baby coming. Unfortunately it seemed like it was everything. Initially it had just been what Lloyd admitted were reasonable requests. Make sure all the dishes were done before bedtime and that nothing was left out on the counters. Lloyd had thought that was reasonable especially with a baby coming and complied with that pretty easily. Then it was the sheets needing to be changed twice a week instead of their usual once a week. After that it was the sheets needing to be changed daily. The counters and floors needing to be scrubbed daily. The carpets needing to be vacuumed every other day. It felt as if as soon as Lloyd complied with one request there was another one each piled on top of the other. Then it expanded to the way Lloyd dressed, how he interacted with Shea's friends, the quality of the food he prepared, his choice of menus, how he spoke to Shea, how much attention he gave to Vanessa rather than Shea, in short everything. Even with that level of lack of control of his life if it were just that Lloyd could have handled it, but it was not just the demand for more and more work. The things he did were also never good enough and Shea made sure he told Lloyd that things were sub par. The towels were not fluffy enough, he was too forward with Shea's friends, his meals were unappetizing, nothing he did was good or even acceptable. Furthermore all his interactions with Shea had changed. They had previously become more relaxed with each other now that there was no one around who needed to be impressed. Not anymore, though at least it was only when Vanessa was not around. Shea always wanted him kneeling and quiet. It was almost as bad as when Max had been encouraging Shea except that they had not come to the point where he needed at ask Shea permission for everything. Lloyd had to wonder if that would be next. After the first month of attempting to meet the constantly moving target Shea had calmly suggested that perhaps it was time to add a little negative incentive for non compliance. Lloyd couldn't think of any way to disagree.

Both Lloyd and his owner were in absolute agreement that they needed to keep Vanessa out of it. Neither of them wanted to cause her any stress. Shea was careful to make sure that whenever he punished Lloyd, and at this point it was a daily occurrence, Vanessa was not able to see it. They had settled on punishments either when she went out for her daily walk with her friends or late at night when she had fallen asleep. Lloyd had been careful not to show his pain in any way. It helped that Shea never went overboard. The most he got these days was 10 strokes but it was just so constant now that he always was just that little bit stiff and sore. He hated it not least because it made him feel like a complete failure. He had never needed this much punishment to behave appropriately since after his first week training with Fredrick. To make things worse Shea had been talking about increasing the amount of punishment if Lloyd's behavior did not 'become more satisfactory'. Shea promised no matter what he would not go above 20 strokes a day but Lloyd found himself terrified of the thought of facing an endless series of daily punishments of that magnitude. To top it all off Lloyd was not looking forward to next week when Vanessa's mother was coming to stay with them until a few weeks after the baby was due. She did not get along wonderfully with Shea, though that was better since the marriage, and improving rapidly with the pregnancy, but right now Lloyd was not interested in anything that made Shea even a tiny bit more unhappy. He could not help feeling he would be the one to pay the price for that. He went to scrub the floor again, maybe if it was shinier.

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Vanessa was glad that her mother was there, especially since the idea of grand-kids seemed to have removed her antagonistic attitude towards Shea. Even her attitude towards Lloyd had improved a bit since the wedding and so far she seemed not to have too much of a problem. She had confined herself to only a few snide comments in the first week. Vanessa had asked her to please not give Lloyd a hard time and she had actually complied so all was right with the world. All in all it had been good to have her mother around since now that she was so far along everything made her feel tired.

Vanessa's mother brought in a lunch tray looking troubled. "Mom, what's up?" Her mother sighed "It's Lloyd" Vanessa felt a surge of irritation "God not this again. Mom he's part of the family now and surely you have seen how wonderfully helpful he has been. Think of him as live in help if you have to. You have to admit that he's been doing a great job cleaning and cooking and now he's learned some recipes from you he will be even better." Vanessa's Mom shook her head "That's not what I'm thinking at all. Something is going on with him. Before this he took even the meanest things I said in stride with a smile. Now even the smallest complaint has him looking crushed." Mom paused then "Though now that I think about it, that's only the case when Shea's around. Maybe he finds it more embarrassing to be criticized in front of his ... caretaker." Vanessa was amused "Maybe he's started to like you. He always finds it hard to be criticized by someone he likes" to her astonishment her mother snapped at her."Take me seriously dammit. I'm not the boy's best friend but ... Something disturbs me." Vanessa paused "Well Mom since you are concerned I'll see what his friend Ezra has to say. He usually knows everything going on with Lloyd, though he might not be as helpful this time since I don't think we've seen him in a good three months or so."

Ezra sounded concerned "I did not want to disturb you but every time I suggested meeting up Lloyd has pushed it off. He has been saying you wanted privacy and quiet." Vanessa felt suddenly alarmed "I never said anything like that Ezra. Look something must be wrong. Could you come visit us this weekend?" Ezra was as charming as ever "Certainly my dear. I would be delighted." Then his voice grew serious. "However let us leave it a surprise for Shea and Lloyd both shall we" Vanessa did not like the implication behind that request. However she had to admit that if something was wrong with Lloyd then she also was anticipating that it would involve Shea in some capacity.

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Shea hurried to get home. Vanessa was supposed to have an appointment and her Mom would be out on her way to the church bingo night. Vanessa had not mentioned the appointment this morning but he knew she would not object to Lloyd being by himself for an hour or two. Even with everything Shea was not going to leave Lloyd unguarded. He had been paranoid since Lloyd had been taken and he supposed that it was good that he still worried about him even though these days his emotions around Lloyd consisted mainly of carefully suppressed anger. However to his astonishment there was an unfamiliar car in the driveway. He could not believe it. Lloyd having someone over without permission? He felt his rage ignite completely. Could Lloyd actually be betraying him with someone else? He knew he hadn't touched him affectionately in a while, never mind anything more intimate, but he never expected this. He heard lowered voices in the living room and practically sprinted there. "You bastard! I knew you betrayed me already but I would have sworn you would never go so far as to get involved with someone else!" Then he skidded to a halt. The living room did not contain some unknown person but instead Dom and Ezra sitting with a clearly shocked Lloyd. "Well" Ezra drawled "How very illuminating. I do believe we have found the source of what has been going on with Lloyd. Are you really back to thinking Lloyd would cheat on you? More importantly do tell how has Lloyd betrayed you exactly?" Shea was too surprised and still too angry to guard his tongue "He's having a baby with MY wife." Lloyd looked at him in shock "That's impossible!" Shea just looked at him "Give it up Lloyd. I heard you. Vanessa said you were responsible for the baby" Lloyd looked at him and then to Shea's astonishment laughed. Shea took a step towards him incensed and immediately Dom was there blocking him. Ezra looked between them "I think we better get Vanessa back here."

It was a long few minutes but Vanessa had been just around the corner in an attempt to allow Ezra the opportunity to privately figure out what was up with Lloyd. As soon as she walked in Lloyd said "Shea thinks the baby is mine" to Shea's horror Vanessa laughed too. He looked at her disappointed "I do not see what is so funny. I know I said you two could have sex. Maybe it still could be mine but .." Vanessa interrupted him "There is no 'could be' about it." At his look of confusion she blushed and continued "You can't get pregnant from a tongue Shea. Lloyd just relaxed me before we tried again and it worked" Shea felt as though the floor had dropped out beneath him. "The baby is mine." He felt as though the world had been turned upside down. Everything that had been going on between him and Lloyd, everything he had done flashed through his head and he felt sick. He turned to Lloyd "Baby I'm so sorry." Ezra's voice crackled with anger "Just what exactly are you apologizing for Mr Daniels?"

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Shea felt as though a hundred ton weight had been lifted off him and somehow simultaneously as if his world had ended. He could not bring himself to tell anyone what he had been doing and was trying hard not to really think about how long it had been going on but from the conversation going on in the corner Ezra was finding out from Lloyd and it was an understatement of epic proportions to say he was not happy. Thought Shea was not sure whether Ezra was angrier about what had been done to Lloyd or that Lloyd had "Been such a hypocrite as not to have confided in his friends" Lloyd had just finished explaining about the daily punishments, and from Vanessa's look Shea knew he would be paying for that one for a very long time, when suddenly Ezra got up and walked away from Lloyd cursing. Shea was surprised. Ezra's vocabulary was such that he did not have to resort to obscenities. Lloyd watched him visibly surprised and Dom looked up and commented drily "Problem?" Ezra looked at him and Shea was discomfited by the dismay in his expression. "I actually forgot. I wanted to know how serious it was and I completely forgot that we're going up to see John next week."

Lloyd turned pale "How the hell could you possibly forget something that important! Did you always hold a grudge against Shea for hurting you and now you get a chance to pay him back!" Ezra stepped back as if struck. Shea was horrified "Lloyd!" Lloyd looked at him and Shea could see the tears "Do you have any idea how Fredrick will react to this? He won't see it as a minor issue. He'll demand to see me and then it will all fall apart! John cares as much about emotional pain as physical and I've been shaky lately. I read all kinds of things into the punishments because I didn't know where they were coming from. It is not your fault that I did that but he won't see it that way." Shea was not about to let that stand "Yeah Lloyd he won't see it that way because what I did was emotional abuse and not even for the first time."

Lloyd looked like he wanted to argue but Ezra clapped his hands. "Indeed it was abuse. However the important fact here is that it is not deserving of the kind of punishment Frederick will be likely to impose." Ezra looked at Lloyd "The real problem is your current mental state. If we can delay Frederick's discovery until it improves he will not be so likely to react in an overly malicious fashion." Ezra turned to Dom "Perhaps I can provide enough of a distraction that he will not ask about Lloyd? It will be tricky since I am not capable of lying to him and refusing to answer is a huge red flag. However it is possible if we are careful and have you lay out a story of disrespect? disobedience? That requires his input " Dom was firm "If he figures out you are trying to deceive him you know he will not react well. You being hurt for any of this is not acceptable." Ezra looked miserable "There are things I can say, do that..." Dom's "No!" was adamant and clearly final. Dom took a breath, "Lloyd and Shea are our friends and I agree we cannot volunteer the information given the likely consequences. If I was to confess to losing my temper and being a bit overzealous that would likely distract him from anything else." Ezra looked haunted at the thought "We'd be walking a fine line..."

Shea could not believe it "No we are goddam well not sacrificing Dom or even worse you because I was an idiot." Ezra glared at him. Shea glared back, "You know I'll blow this up myself if I have to." Vanessa broke in "Perhaps I should just talk to Frederick?" Ezra looked at her and then paused "That is not a completely impossible idea. He has always liked you and right now his level of indulgence towards you is extremely high. Since you are in a relationship with Lloyd who is like a son to him in an odd way he sees the baby as something of a grandchild or grand nephew. Notifying him of the situation before he finds out on his own will help somewhat. However we will need to propose some kind of consequences. Anything he comes up with on his own is unlikely to be acceptable to us." Vanessa looked at Shea "I'm certainly angry with Shea right now but Frederick will very literally want to kill him for this and none of us want that. However ultimately he wants what is best for Lloyd so he will likely be satisfied to ensure that this never happens again and I do think I know what will accomplish that. I will propose it to Frederick." Shea was very uneasy about the fact that she would not disclose her plan but he trusted Vanessa to have everyone's best interests at heart.

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Frederick looked up when his phone rang, he was not expecting a call. To his surprise it was Vanessa. "How nice to hear from you. How's it going?" Vanessa's response was surprising "Not well unfortunately" Frederick was alarmed "Nothing is wrong with the baby I hope" Vanessa's response was simultaneously alarming and reassuring at once. "No the problem is with Lloyd." Before Frederick could ask more she requested "Can you just listen so I can get through all of this?" Upon his acquiescence she launched into the story. Frederick contained his rage until she was done.

"So you thought you would tell me so that what? You could plead for your husband's life?" Vanessa's voice was calm, "Yes that is the plan. However I do share your anger .." Frederick interrupted her "My toys are as close as I will get to having a child and Lloyd even more than most. You think I will allow anyone to hurt him without payback." To his surprise Vanessa was not intimidated. "Are you interested in revenge or do you actually want to help Lloyd." "Both." Fredrick snapped out, but after a minute he paused. "I will have to choose one won't I. Lloyd will never forgive me if I do anything permanent to Shea even if I don't go so far as killing him." Vanessa was blunt "No he won't. You should know Ezra was also worried enough about Shea to consider having Dom distract you. Most likely by getting himself in trouble by hurting Ezra in some way I would imagine."

Fredrick felt his heart sink "So you are telling me that if I cripple or disfigure Shea I risk my relationship with both of my favorite sons." "Yes. The relationships would suffer, likely permanently." Fredrick was adamant "Yet a simple whipping will not be enough to dissuade Mr Daniels. We have tried that before." Vanessa's voice was calm "Would you like to know what would work?" Frederick kept his voice calm to match hers with some effort "Enlighten me" Her response was surprising "This is counter-intuitive but, you need do nothing to Shea but ensure that he cannot ignore how badly he has fallen down in his responsibilities. He is a proud man who likes to think of himself as just and responsible as major parts of his identity. Force Lloyd to discuss in Shea's presence exactly how he has been feeling and and how he now sees his relationship with Shea. I promise that will hurt more than anything physical you do to Shea and doing anything would be a distraction from what you are trying to do." Frederick had to pause at that. "That is actually fiendishly clever. Shea will have to face knowing that he again hurt someone who is powerless against him and for whom he is supposed to be responsible. To make it worse Shea was wrong about everything so he hurt his toy for nothing. His honor is destroyed. Providing some insight into just how much damage he has done and the shear amount of work it will take will give him every incentive to fix the issue and ensure he will not want to face such a task again." Vanessa's voice was calm "Exactly" Fredrick found himself liking the idea. It was in a real sense an eye for an eye type of punishment. Shea hurt Lloyd emotionally, he was hurt the same way himself. He had one final objection. "What about the physical punishments he inflicted with no justification?" Vanessa laughed "If you want to inflict the same on Shea stroke for stroke you may but since there was never anything more than transient pain I suspect you will simply be doing Shea a favor since then he can imagine at least he has somewhat paid for what he did." Frederick had to pause at that comment. "I will think about it. You do realize he may not thank you for that insight?" Vanessa simply laughed "I did say I was angry with him didn't I."

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Shea was ... not terrified exactly but certainly nervous. The obvious fear was that Frederick would renege on the agreement with Vanessa and have one or more of his crew go after Shea with baseball bats. The other worry which he had shared with Lloyd, only to have it completely shrugged off, was that Frederick would do to him what he had done to Dom given the similar situations. Shea had a feeling that Lloyd was ignoring it more because he did not care than because he was certain it would not happen. Shea suspected that Frederick did not really know the evolution of his feelings for Lloyd and had mentally categorized him as being mildly fond of Lloyd rather than recognizing the truth of how devastating it would be to him to watch Lloyd be punished for his idiocy. He could not do anything about the baseball bat problem so he was focusing on maintaining his control and not giving anything away that would cause Frederick to decide hurting Lloyd would be an appropriate punishment. Dom had wished him luck. He was also livid with Shea but had stated that "Watching someone you care about hurt because of you is not something I would wish on anyone not even after what you have done" That had not inspired confidence in Shea.

Shea and Lloyd walked into Frederick's office together and Shea's heart sank. Frederick had one of his trainers there, and Shea was well aware that normally they would only be present in such a situation to administer punishments to toys. The trainer signaled Lloyd to come over to him and Shea couldn't help it, he stepped in front of Lloyd and blurted out a sharp "No!" Frederick's smile was sinister and Shea realized he had fallen for a trap. Fredrick's voice was ice cold "So Lloyd apparently you forgot your obligation to report abusive and unfair treatment to me. Should I punish you for that do you think?" Lloyd's voice was quiet "Sir I apologize." Shea felt his heart race with fear "You promised Vanessa ..." Frederick looked at him with cold eyes "I was careful in my promises to your wife. I promised not to hurt you outside our agreement. I did not promise not to hurt Lloyd." Shea gave up on his dignity "Please, I couldn't bear it if he was hurt because I was an hot tempered idiot, not again." Frederick looked at him clearly calmer "So you do feel more for Lloyd than simple responsibility." Frederick's eyes focused on Lloyd "Lloyd I want your solemn promise that you will come to me immediately if Shea ever again abuses you in any way. Using MY definition of abuse and NOT your own." Lloyd looked shaken "I can't ..." Frederick did not raise his voice but it crackled with authority "Your word!" Shea looked at Frederick "If he promises will you give him a pass on any punishment this time?" Fredrick nodded. Shea turned to Lloyd. "Please, Lloyd you have cause to be angry with me but please, don't do this to me." Lloyd looked shaken but he said "I promise" and Shea felt suddenly happy. Frederick looked at him curiously and his eyes softened further. "Mr Daniels. I suddenly feel sorry for you. I don't think you realize what you are in for." Frederick nodded to the trainer who quietly left the room. To Shea's surprise Lloyd's eyes narrowed once they were alone "That was uncalled for Sir." Frederick laughed "It was useful information. I will not respond by punishing your owner. I am aware you find it traumatizing and I'm not interested in hurting you after all."

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Frederick had demanded they come with him and the two men followed quietly down the hall. Abruptly Shea noticed Lloyd became suddenly tense when they turned down one of the corridors and when they arrived at a nondescript door at the end of that hall he stopped completely and started shaking his head as Frederick walked in "No, please not this way." Frederick looked back at him "What did you think I was going to do, given the parameters of Vanessa's request." Shea was puzzled he walked inside but saw only a comfortable room with a couple of couches. "Lloyd what's the matter." Lloyd's voice was shaky "He wants to hypnotize me." Shea had never experienced hypnosis but what little he knew of it did not explain Lloyd's response. "Why is that a problem?" Frederick answered "It removes inhibitions, destroying Lloyd's normal careful shields and filters. You get the unvarnished truth. I for one do not see the problem" Lloyd looked at him exasperated. "If you were to ask if I was attracted to you normally I would say that our relationship is complex and it colors how I look at you so that I do not think of you in that manner. Under hypnosis all I would say is No, not at all. Those are both true that does not mean they have equivalent impact." Shea could see Frederick suppress a flinch at such bluntness but all he said was "Nevertheless this is how we are going to do it." Shea just wanted to get it over with "It's fine Lloyd and we have no choices anyway."

Frederick settled Lloyd on one of the couches and then started the process. It seemed very odd to Shea and when it was over all that had happened is that Lloyd was lying with his eyes closed breathing quietly and evenly but Frederick seemed satisfied. He waved Shea closer and then began talking.
"Ok Lloyd I want you to go back a few months before all this started. Just give me short answers please." At that Shea exchanged an honestly amused glance with Fredrick. Lloyd could really talk a lot left to his own devices. Frederick continued
"Tell me how Shea makes you feel?"
"Happy, safe. I know he won't let anything bad happen to me if he can stop it."
"How do you think Shea feels about you?"
"Protective, maybe even too much now. I think he likes me, even wants me."
"How do you feel about yourself?"
"I think I am finally turning into a good person. I'm useful to Shea and Vanessa. I never thought I could like myself again but I am starting to"
"Ok now I want you to jump forward to today. You see Shea. How do you feel."
"Afraid, Sad. I will mess everything up again and Shea will have to punish me. "
"How do you think Shea feels about you."
"I'm bad, useless. Sometimes I think he probably wishes he could get rid of me."
"How do you feel about yourself."
"Worthless, I never do anything right. Hopeless, I will never be able to be a satisfactory toy for Shea."
"Can you expand a bit. You know he was punishing you because he was mistaken."
"He thought I was disloyal. That means I must be a bad toy. He says he was just upset, that all the punishments were to make him feel better, not because he really needed to correct me but he never seemed angry, so maybe its true that I really can't do anything right. Maybe before when he wasn't angry he just overlooked that I got things wrong and when he was angry he stopped making excuses for me."
"How do you feel about Shea and Vanessa?"
"Love them. They are wonderful."
Frederick sighed "Rest for a bit Lloyd"

Fredrick turned to Shea. "OK I'm going to bring him out of it. He'll remember what he said so he can explain the nuances" Shea was shaken "How can I possibly fix this? He's blaming himself for my failure, my abuse. He'll never believe me if he feels this way." Suddenly he had a flash of insight. "You said the hypnosis removes inhibitions, forces truth. Could you do it to me. Let him see for sure what I really feel" Fredrick looked dubious "The hypnosis will strip away all your self deceptions as well." Shea was adamant "I know how I feel about him and at this point he will clearly never believe me unless he knows I'm forced to tell the truth." Frederick still looked hesitant "Be very sure. I know you care for him but if you have reservations. At this point even that knowledge will be damaging." Shea was insistent "I am sure." Frederick looked at him for a while and then abruptly agreed.

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Lloyd came out of his trance and looked around. Frederick looked serious "I have hypnotized Shea" he held up a hand to forestall objections "At his request. He wants to convince you how he really feels" Lloyd was not sure that was a good idea. He could recall his own statements if Shea confirmed them ... "I'm not sure." Frederick looked certain "He was. Shall we begin?" Lloyd nodded, maybe it was not as bad as he feared. Frederick dove right into the questions.
"How do you feel about Vanessa?"
"I love her. I'm so lucky. A woman like her could have anyone but she picked me and now having a baby together is wonderful. I want her to have everything. She is the best thing in my life." Fredrick stopped and glanced over at Lloyd. To his surprise Lloyd looked perfectly comfortable. He smiled at Fredrick's glance "She is wonderful, kind and generous, you like her too after all." Frederick had to he agree with that but he hoped he was not making a mistake. He mentally crossed his fingers and then continued.
"What about Lloyd. How do you feel about him?"
"So many things. Guilt. I have hurt him so much now and in the past. I should have known he would never betray me. Desire. He can make me feel so good. Contentment. He takes good care of us me and Vanessa both. He makes our lives so comfortable. It's not the same as Vanessa but ... I want to protect him, I want him to be happy. It's a kind of love I know that but it scares me"
"Why does it scare you?"
"Sometimes I'm afraid of it because I have so much power over him. If I need him, want him, it feels like it might be harder to do what is in his interests. If he loves me I am afraid that will be just once more way he is under my control and loving him makes it more likely he will love me"
"Can you tell me why you punished him for all those months"
"I was so angry and jealous that Vanessa was having his baby first. I wanted mine to be first. I wanted him to feel what it was like to have everything be unfair."
Suddenly Lloyd interjected "Were you really lying? Was everything the housework, how I behaved with you, with your friends actually fine." Shea's response was emphatic "I was making it up to make you feel bad. You were just great. You have always been ever since you became my toy." Frederick brought the session to a close. "Very good Shea. Relax now."

Shea surfaced from the hypnosis to see Lloyd staring at him "You love me." Shea smiled "Yes. It's scary but yes." Shea had never felt such relief. It had worked and now at least there was a foundation for building on again. Shea felt like he had been put though the wringer. Without thinking he articulated his feelings "I should have just taken the goddamn baseball bats." Frederick actually looked sympathetic "When you were punishing Lloyd. If you had really known, understood what you were doing to him?" Shea gave it some thought but his honest answer was "Even at my most furious if I had realized ... I would have stopped. Christ I should have just taken my belt to him that first night with a 60 count or something ridiculous and had Vanessa scream at me. It would have relieved my feelings and it would have been over but no. I had to be so damn clever." He turned to Lloyd "Please, Lloyd please if I do something ever again that makes you feel so unworthy tell me. No matter how angry I am, tell me. OK" Lloyd nodded. Shea knew they had a long road ahead to fix the damage he had done but he felt now that they would be able to get there.

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Shea felt like he was stuck waiting for the other shoe to drop. He knew that Frederick had not quite forgiven him so much as agreed not to pursue further action. He was aware that Frederick was likely to hold a grudge so he knew he better be on his best behavior for quite some time. At least their friends had administered their version of justice and moved on. Ezra had told him quite bluntly that he had reported him to the police chief in lieu of filing abuse charges so he could expect to be watched for quite some time, and he might want to make sure he never exceeded the speed limit by even a mile. Shea almost had to admire the creativity of that revenge. Dom had taken him aside, admitted freely that he didn't have a leg to stand on and then knocked him out anyway. Shea had a feeling that Dom was jealous and felt that he had gotten off lightly. Since Shea knew that Dom still had nightmares about Ezra being punished in front of him he had to agree. After they came back from Fredrick's he had woken up screaming from a dream in which Fredrick had punished Lloyd in front of him. Taking a belt to him until Lloyd was screaming in pain and begging Shea to make it stop. Shea could not imagine how he would feel if that had actually happened. Unlike his friends Vanessa had said nothing about it once they got back from visiting Frederick. It was driving Shea crazy. He knew she loved Lloyd and was fully as protective as he was, there was no way she was going to do nothing about what had happened. Finally he decided to try and question her mother for information.

Vanessa's mother just looked at him like he was dirt. Shea had thought he was making some headway with her but it had all gone out the window when she found out what he was doing to Lloyd. The only good thing about this whole nightmare was that she had completely lost all animosity towards Lloyd. Lloyd was reveling in the maternal attention so much that Shea could have almost thought it worth it. Unfortunately given how much the events had damaged Lloyd's self esteem as well as their relationship it was still a net negative. When Shea asked what Vanessa was thinking his mother in law's tone was scornful "She's going to have your mother come and stay. Now if you'll excuse me." Shea felt his breath catch. He had not even thought of that. He supposed the only reason was sheer denial. In retrospect it was obvious.

Shea's mom smiled at him. "So nice of Vanessa to have me come and visit. Even though it's just for a short time. I would have been perfectly fine to wait until after a few months after the baby comes. I'll do my best to make sure I don't create any more work for her." Shea just nodded. He knew his world was about to come crashing down. He had thought about waiting to see what Vanessa said or begging her again not to tell but it was pretty clear there were no good outcomes here. He decided to bite the bullet "Mom there is something I have to tell you."

Shea felt numb. His mother had cried and finally when he was done telling all of it, including how what he had done had affected Lloyd she had asked him to leave her alone for a while. Lloyd had come looking for him and ultimately of all ironies had ended up holding him and comforting him while he cried his eyes out as he hadn't since he was a small child. Finally he had calmed and Lloyd had tucked him into bed. He had not wanted to be alone but he didn't feel he had the right to ask Lloyd to stay and he knew Vanessa was not coming near him for a good long while yet. Lloyd had stayed anyway without being asked and ultimately fell asleep in his arms.

Shea looked up as the door opened and his mother slipped in. He started to get up but she shook her head. "I'm leaving in the morning." Shea felt like his heart had stopped. Apparently his mother now hated him, enough that she did not want to be around him any more. Something of his feelings must have shown on his face because she shook her head. "No Shea I'm not disowning you or anything like that. I won't pretend that I'm not unbelievably disappointed. I thought I did a better job raising you than this." Shea could not let that stand "No you did Mom I just stop thinking when I'm angry. I swear I'll do better." She looked at him sadly "You've said so before. You've promised me as much, but still you deliberately hurt that boy. Not even just your stupid ego driven spankings but an actual, real attempt to cause him pain and you succeeded really, really well." Shea did not know how to convince her "I swear I did not realize how much I was hurting him. I was careful this time not to overboard physically. I just was so angry but I never ever meant to make him doubt himself like that." His Mom looked unconvinced "Vanessa you love so I can trust you would never hurt her that way but he has no such protection. Maybe you should let him go." Shea was horrified "No! I can't he's mine. I do love him, not the same way as Vanessa but I do." His mother looked serious. "Would you swear it on Vanessa's life?" Shea did not hesitate "I swear it." His mother finally seemed willing to be convinced "In that case I don't envy you the task of repairing the damage you've have done." Shea sighed "Neither do I". They talked for a little while but Shea could not convince her to stay, not even for Lloyd. Finally she took his hands and said "Shea, I'm too angry. You know firsthand now how much damage can be done from that. I need to go away and calm down. I love you, you're my son and I promise I will be back a few months after the baby comes but you need to give me time." Shea finally accepted that this would not be something fixed with a simple apology. Then his mother smiled looking devious. "If you want to make it up to me, and especially to Lloyd I can think of something you can do that will show you really are sincere."

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"You can hold her" Lloyd did not think he had ever been so gentle as he was taking the baby from Vanessa's arms. He had to fight down the impulse to look to Shea for permission. A part of him wanted to but he knew at this point it would distress Shea. The baby was so tiny, she started to fuss just a little but Lloyd bounced her gently. He had not taken all those classes and read all those books for nothing and after a few seconds she settled down. Vanessa beamed at him "Oh you are going to be a very good nanny." Shea stepped forward and looked down at the baby in his arms "So we finally did decide what to call her .. Leslie" Lloyd's eyes met his in stunned shock "That's .. it means." Shea grinned "It means she's named for you."