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American Assassin
Part 4 – Learning Curve Part Two

by Cat2000

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Copyright on this story text belongs at all times to the original author only, whether stated explicitly in the text or not. The original date of posting to the MMSA was: 09 Feb 2018

Learning Curve
Part Two

Mitch looked at the SUV, then at the bed. I don’t think it’s gonna fit the way you thought it was gonna fit... he said hesitantly.

Hurley took a step back. Yeah...I think you’re right. Maybe we can dismantle it. Put it back together at home.

I hope so...They did have delivery available, but I don’t think we really want to do that... Mitch muttered, as he began to dismantle the frame. The mattresses themselves were already strapped to the roof of the SUV.

Annika giggled. We should have rented a U-Haul... she teased.

Hurley moved over to help his son. At least it should be big enough for what we need, he commented.

I think it’s actually big enough that you won’t have to trap any of us...we can just be beside you... Annika whispered, in case anyone was close enough to be listening in and might be offended at the thought of all of them sharing a bed.

I think Annika’s right... Mitch chuckled as he got the last piece dismantled and began sliding the parts into the SUV.

Hurley did the same, even as he commented, in a voice just as low, I’ll still be trapping one of you every night. The big bed means none of you need to be chased out.

Mitch and Annika both blinked at that and gave their father a curious look before Mitch smiled and Annika moved closer to hug her father.

It makes you feel better, Papa? she asked softly.

Hurley wrapped his arms around his daughter. I spent a long time alone. It’s now reached the point I don’t think I could sleep without one of you that close, he admitted quietly. He’d said as much to Alastor, after all; that he needed them.

Annika nodded and cuddled close. Then one of us will always be close and trapped by is simple... she said decisively. She had no doubt her brothers and cousin would agree.

Hurley tightened his embrace around his daughter and kissed her head. Thank you, angel, he murmured.

It isn’t like it will be difficult... She smiled softly. ...I like being held tight by you and I’m pretty sure the others do as well.

Mitch nodded. She’s not wrong... he huffed as he got the last piece of the bed into the SUV. I hope we’ve got all our shopping done, because there’s just enough room for us to fit in the SUV with everything else. If there’s anything else we need to buy, one of us will be hitching a ride home....

I think we’ve got everything, Hurley replied decisively. Your brother and cousin haven’t called or messaged to say they need anything else.

Great! Let’s get while the going is good, then! Mitch quickly ushered Annika to the passenger seat, then crawled into the seat behind her, where everything was packed so tightly, there was just enough room for him.

Annika laughed at her brother’s enthusiasm.

Hurley got into the driver’s side. Everything okay? Neither of you are in danger of being crushed? He waited for acknowledgement before he started driving.

I’m good, Papa, Annika answered cheerfully.

I’ve even got my seatbelt on! Mitch called from the back; a little louder than intended, because he couldn’t really see his father and it caused him to raise his voice slightly.

Good to know, baby boy, Hurley answered. I fully expect you to wear your seatbelt when we’re driving at all times. He began to drive home.

Yessir! came from the back, even as Annika was quickly snapping her seatbelt into place with a guilty smile.

Hurley raised his eyebrows at his daughter, but figured she’d take his comment for the warning it had been intended to be and didn’t scold her further.

Sorry, Papa... Annika said sheepishly. ...I’ll remember next time.

Good girl. Hurley gently squeezed her leg, so she’d know he wasn’t upset with her.

Annika relaxed back into the seat. She couldn’t help dozing off a little bit, the walk from the morning having caught up with her finally. When she next was aware, they had pulled into their drive and Alastor was coming out of the house to help Mitch unload the bed, while Irene was coming to help carry in bags. I fell asleep? She blinked owlishly.

Yeah, angel. It’s not a problem. Hurley stroked some hair out of her face. Do you want me to help you inside so you can take a nap?

I want to help get everything ready... she murmured, a bit upset that her body was betraying her in this way. Alastor, Mitch and her father had all been wounded badly and they’d recovered pretty much completely. She didn’t see why she wouldn’t have. Sighing softly, she relented a little. If I carry in the smaller bags and put stuff away, maybe I can sit and wait till you’ve got the bed together and then take a bath and you can check on my injury... she whispered, giving him a look that indicated she wanted him before she needed the injury bandaged, but didn’t want him to feel obligated.

If you’re not feeling up to it, I don’t want you carrying anything in. I want you to head inside. Sit in the bathroom. Wait for me, Hurley directed, assuming she was telling him she needed him to be in charge and responding in that way.

Yes, Papa... Annika quickly answered, carefully opening the car door and getting out, heading into the house to do just that. She hadn’t actually been telling him she needed him to take complete control; but the moment he did, she felt at ease, so she figured she must have needed it and not even realized. She went into the bathroom and put the toilet seat down so she could sit there and wait.

Mitch watched his twin disappear into the house and gave his father a quick, worried look. She okay?

Hurley nodded. I’m going to carry out another check on that wound that was troubling her. Not wanting to embarrass his daughter, he didn’t go into details as he continued helping to unload, going quickly so Annika wasn’t waiting too long.

Alastor and Mitch had the bed frame out and together in no time and with Irene’s help, they were on their way to getting the box spring into the house.

Go help Anni, Daddy...we’ve got this! Mitch said, with a smile, as they passed.

Alastor handed his father the bag with the new pajamas in it. You’ll want these... He grinned impishly.

If you need any help, all you need to do is ask. Hurley took the bag and quickly headed to the bathroom, knocking on the door to announce his presence before he opened it.

Come in... Annika answered, looking up as her father opened the door and walked inside. Hi, Papa... She smiled crookedly, obviously feeling wrung out. She hadn’t even bothered attempting to undress herself.

Hurley reached out to gently stroke some hair from her face. I think it’s going to be an early night for you, angel. He began to carefully help her to undress.

Okay, Papa. Annika didn’t argue at all. It was all she could do to help him undress her; she kept yawning.

Hurley continued until his daughter was stripped and then ran the bath, checking the water to make sure it wasn’t too hot or too cold.

Annika waited patiently for her father to tell her it was ready and help her in. Every few seconds, she’d yawn, trying to stifle it behind her hand.

Hurley kissed her forehead and helped her into the bath. By the time we’re finished here, the bed should be set up, so you can take a short nap. He began to carefully wash his daughter.

Annika relaxed as her father washed her, nearly to the point of falling asleep. Okay, Papa... She smiled at him with an innocent, trusting smile normally seen on someone much younger. Her trust and belief in Hurley was strong.

Hurley washed his daughter carefully and gently, then helped her out of the bath so he could dry her off.

Annika held still while he dried her, but as soon as she wouldn’t get him wet, she wrapped her arms around him tightly in a hug. I love you, Papa... she whispered.

Hurley immediately wrapped his arms around her in a tight hug. I love you too, angel. So very much. I’m glad you’re in my life. He hugged her a bit more and then began to treat the wound.

Annika held still while he treated the wound, but couldn’t help but whimper slightly as it was still sore (and a bit hot to the touch). As soon as he was done, she continued to hold still so he could dress her.

Hurley took the pajamas out of the bag and carefully clothed his daughter in them, pressing a kiss to her head. I’m going to need you to take some medicine again, angel. He poured some onto a spoon and directed gently, Open your mouth.

Annika took a brief moment to admire her hot pink pajamas with hearts on them before pinching her nose shut with thumb and index finger, taking a deep breath and opening her mouth obediently, her eyes squished shut, as if she wouldn’t be able to taste it if she couldn’t see or smell it.

Hurley carefully fed her the medicine and then quickly filled a cup with water so he could give it to her to rinse.

Annika swallowed quickly, then rinsed her mouth before allowing herself to take a deep breath. Thank you, Papa... she gasped out softly. If she’d seemed very young the first time he took care of her, with the pajamas, it made her seem younger still; and it made her want to be taken care of and snuggled more too.

Hurley immediately wrapped his arms around his daughter, kissing her head. I love you, angel, he whispered, before guiding her from the bathroom.

His phone sounded with an incoming text and he pulled it out to check the screen.

I’m about to come onto your land, the message read. Don’t shoot. I come in peace. Tom.

Annika snuggled close. I love you, Papa... She nuzzled against him. She glanced toward his phone, then up to his face when he had to answer it. Is everything okay, Papa?

Hurley kept his arm wrapped around his daughter as he sent his response. I’ll come outside the house to meet you. Everything’s fine, angel. He kissed Annika’s head. You’re going to meet your uncle. As he spoke, he steered her over towards the others, raising his voice enough so that his other kids would hear his comment.

In the time it had taken Hurley to bathe, medicate, rebandage and dress Annika, the other three children had set up and made the bed and moved the old bed into the garage. Alastor walked over at Hurley’s words. Uncle Tom is here? he asked, with a hint of nervousness. His uncle was the one person, other than his father and Irene, that he had cared about their opinion of him.

Uncle? Mitch just looked curious, much like Annika. He grinned at his twin when he saw her pajamas. He’d already changed into his when they were finished putting the bed together and he knew he didn’t have to go outside again. Now we really are twins, he teased her. Except for color, of course.

Irene’s eyes widened fractionally. If her other uncle was here, now would be the best time to slip away. Her uncle would help her Tio. She shifted away from the group to go grab her pack with the supplies and clothing she’d packed while Alastor and Mitch were changing, left the note she’d written along with money to cover everything she’d taken and slunk out the back door.

Hurley nodded to his oldest. He sent me a message to warn me. While he was speaking, the sound of a motorbike could be heard...and seconds later, came into view outside the window. I’ll go out to meet him.... Hurley hesitated, frowned, and glanced around. Where did Irene go?

Alastor frowned. She was here not more than a minute ago.... He looked around before looking at his father. She’s been acting odd all afternoon.

Hurley nodded. He’d noticed the same thing, but had hoped his niece would come to him if she was upset or worried about something.

On the other side of the glass, Tom removed his helmet, gloves and jacket and then cocked his head to one side as he heard movement. Leaving his motorbike to one side, he circled round to the back of the house.

Alastor raised his eyebrows as his uncle went around the house instead of coming inside. Oh, Reny is soooo busted... he heard Mitch chortle.

Irene hitched her pack up a little higher and carefully began to walk toward the woods near the back of the house. As long as her Tio was in front with Uncle Tom, she’d be able to sneak away with no problem.

Tom very quickly spotted his niece and moved to join her. While he hadn’t trained in the same way as her and his brother, he wasn’t very loud as he moved up alongside her. Where are you going? he asked.

The scream and subsequent cussing from Irene as her uncle snuck up on her couldn’t be classified as anything near quiet. Turning wide eyes on her other uncle, she blushed and bit her lip, not wanting to tell him. Especially as she had a feeling he wasn’t going to let her go anyway. Back in the house, apparently... she finally muttered and sighed.

Tom held his hand out to her. I had a feeling you’d be here, he commented. Well...with Stan. I wasn’t expecting him to let you sneak out of the house. Even if the words might be humorous, the tone wasn’t. His brother didn’t miss least not when he was in his right mind and stone cold sober. Had Hurley fallen off the wagon again?

I might have waited till he was focused on your arrival... Irene admitted reluctantly. He was telling the others who you were so they wouldn’t come out to meet you with guns blazing....

The others? Tom coaxed gently, wrapping an arm around his niece’s shoulders and leading her back to the house.

Tio should probably be the one to be explain... Irene said softly, not fighting her uncle’s grip on her. She looked at the door as they approached, knowing her Tio would be on the other side, likely with a disappointed look for her. She swallowed, then slumped in a defeated way.

Tom wasn’t surprised when the back door was opened to reveal his brother standing there. He grinned at Hurley, eyes quickly sweeping the other man from head to toe. I think you lost someone.

Hurley smiled at Tom in return, knowing what his brother was looking for, and stepped back from the door. Come in.

Irene glanced between both of her uncles before slipping past Hurley.

Much as he would have done with Mitch, as his niece went past him, Hurley gave her a swat; fairly mild, but still enough to be felt.

Irene let out a tiny eep and covered her bottom with her hands, but otherwise didn’t do or say anything. She’d be lucky if she didn’t end up taking a trip over her Tio’s knee later after trying to sneak away.

Alastor moved into sight of his uncle, shifting nervously.

Tom stepped into the house, widening his eyes at the sight of his nephew. Ronnie.... He stepped forward and wrapped his arms around Alastor in a tight hug. If his nephew was here...with Stan...then it was clear he’d been brought back into the fold.

Hey, Uncle Tom... Alastor whispered, hugging the older man back just as tightly. ...We had to change my name... He stepped back and smiled crookedly. ...I’m Alastor now.

Annika stood behind Mitch nervously.

Mitch wasn’t looking terribly confident himself. He didn’t know the older man, but he knew of him. He wasn’t to be trifled with.

Alastor, Tomr repeated with a smile. Name changed or not...I’m glad you’re back with your father. He turned to the twins

My other son and my daughter. Hurley reached out to gently grasp his younger children’s shoulders. Mitch and Annika. This is your uncle Tom.

Mitch swallowed and nodded. Sir...

Hello, Uncle Tom. Annika smiled shyly.

Mitch...Mitch Rapp? Tom slanted his head, looking at his younger nephew. I think I’ve heard a bit about you.

Hurley now, Hurley commented. They’ve all taken my last name. He gently squeezed each of their arms, even as he asked his brother, How much do you know about the situation?

Enough to make sure I didn’t leave a trail someone else might have been able to follow, Tom answered.

Have you heard anything that might help us? Mitch asked curiously.

Tom took a pad out of his pocket. I took notes of everything I found out, if you and your dad want to go through them.

Hurley took the pad. I’m going to need to talk to your cousin, so why don’t you all have a look and see what we can add to what we already know? he asked his children, figuring it would also give Mitch and Annika a chance to get to know their uncle.

Okay, Papa, Annika quickly agreed

Mitch nodded. Okay, daddy... He took the pad and began reading over it, Annika peering over his shoulder.

Alastor shook his head fondly and put a hand on each of their shoulders to take them into the living room. Coming, Uncle Tom? He grinned at his uncle as he steered his siblings past.

Tom smiled and followed his niece and nephews into the living room.

Hurley looked after them and then went to find Irene.

Irene was unpacking her pack, returning everything to its correct spot. She glanced up as her Tio walked into her room before glancing over to her pillow where she’d left her note and the money. She winced and began heading that way to pick it up before Hurley saw it.

Hurley spotted the note and held his hand out. I’d like to see that.

It’s nothing... Irene stuffed the note into her pocket, not having the guts to rip it up in front of him after he’d asked for it. It was just saying goodbye, but since I’m not leaving after all....

I want to see what it says. Hurley’s voice was calm, but it was clear he wasn’t going to budge, and he continued to hold his hand out.

Irene huffed and pouted, but it was more to hide her trepidation at her uncle reading what she wrote than true irritation. She pulled the note out of her pocket and slowly walked to him, handing it to him. It’s pointless now... she reiterated, hoping he wouldn’t read it.

It’s telling me how you’re feeling. That’s not pointless. Hurley began to read the note, his eyes narrowing in worry.

Irene bit her lip and wrapped her arms around herself self-consciously. It’s stupid... she muttered. The important part was I want to keep my enemies from targeting you and my cousins. The rest was just so much filler. Nonsense...

No. Not nonsense, Hurley disagreed. He wrapped his arm around Irene’s shoulders, guiding her over to the bed and sitting down, gently tugging her down to sit next to him. You really feel like you don’t belong? he asked softly.

Irene huddled in on herself and blushed. I’m just your niece...not your kid...and I left you. You don’t really need me.... She tried to keep her voice level and unaffected, but it was impossible. She remembered when she was a teen and her father had just died and her Tio had taken her in. She’d decided she’d remain his niece and not be adopted because she didn’t want people to think she was forgetting her dad. He had reluctantly agreed to her wishes, even though he felt that what other people believed was irrelevant; they knew she and he would never forget. After she’d left, a small part of her wished that she’d let him adopt there would be something tying her to him Now that she was back in his life, she still felt the brokenness of their connection. It hurt to say, but she knew she didn’t really belong with him. Not like his kids.

Hurley wrapped his arms tightly around Irene and kissed her head. That’s not true, sweetheart, he whispered. I do need you. You have a place in my life...and you’ve slotted in here the moment you arrived. I want you. I love you. And I missed you. As much as I missed Alastor when he was gone.

I was never yours like Alastor was...I chose not to be. And then I left...and I finally come back bringing trouble with shouldn’t want me here. I’m not that important.... Irene said, in a tiny voice.

You are important. And just because I didn’t adopt you, it doesn’t mean you’re any less mine, Hurley answered. I wish you’d come back to me sooner, but I’m happy I can look after you and protect you now. He tightened his arms around her. It isn’t just me who wants you here, sweetheart.

My coming back has only brought you more can I be just as much yours when I’m putting everyone who is yours in danger? You know one day you might have to make a choice between us...if I stay and my enemies find me. Irene didn’t say she knew she’d lose in such a choice. She figured it was pretty obvious.

I’m not going to make a choice between you, Hurley replied firmly. You’re all as important to me as each other. I want to look after you. I want to protect you. And even if I didn’t adopt you...I still feel like you’re my daughter. Just like Alastor was my son even when I didn’t make it official. He kissed her head. You know I’d still like that, he whispered.

Daddy would have liked that...if I’d let you adopt me years ago, Irene admitted. I wished I had so many times after I left. She couldn’t stop herself from snuggling closer. So I could feel like I was still part of you even though I wasn’t with you....

Hurley stroked her hair. I never stopped thinking of you as mine, sweetheart. And I want to take that step. I want to make you my daughter too. So you never have to worry about not belonging.

I want to belong to you like the others... Irene sniffled.

I want that too, Hurley whispered. I want you.

I shouldn’t have snuck out, should I? Irene whispered and snuggled closer.

No, you shouldn’t have, Hurley replied. Quite apart from the danger you’re don’t have the right to leave me any more than your siblings do.

Irene winced. I was trying...I wanted... She tried to explain that she wanted to protect them all, but if this conversation with her Tio had shown her one thing, it was that her actions weren’t as altruistic as she’d wanted to believe. Yeah, a small part of the reason was wanting to protect them, but an even larger part was she’d been jealous watching how close all four of them were with each other and Hurley and feeling like she’d never be that close.

Sure, Tio had spanked her when she first arrived, allowing her to accept his forgiveness for what she’d done wrong to him and become his niece again, but Mitch and Alastor were asking for and receiving affection in ways she’d never thought of and Annika? If he wasn’t actually taking care of her like she was a little girl, Irene would eat her badge. And the worse part was? Irene wanted that too. She’d thought she’d said no and given up her chance, though, so she’d kept quiet and let the jealousy grow until....

I was jealous... she finally admitted out loud, to herself as much as to Hurley. I wanted to be treated the same way you treat Alastor and Mitch and Annika... she continued, her voice filled with shame. I just didn’t realize how much my wanting it was affecting my attitude...and since I didn’t think it was possible.... She’d kept quiet.

They have needs, Hurley said quietly. Needs I’m more than happy and able to meet. And the same is true of you and anything you need. You don’t have to feel jealous, because it truly doesn’t matter what need you have. I’ll fill it for you.

Only thing I know for sure I need is I need never to leave you again... Irene admitted softly. Snuggling closer, she whispered, I need feel connected to you tighter than even before, like you’ve got me and...I dunno. I’m so scared that I’ll take myself away again, a few cuddles and hugs isn’t going to help... she said, thinking of Alastor. Even the idea of being spanked just makes me feel guilty, so don’t know if what Mitch needs would help either. Even if letting you take control like that sometimes makes me feel safer.... She frowned unable to meet his eyes. Not sure what Annika does, but she always seems so much younger and reliant on you after; not sure I could ever let go like that, even if I want to....

Hurley didn’t go into details about what Annika needed. None of his children needed to be embarrassed. Instead, holding onto Irene tighter, he commented, Mitch needs an almost sterner type of affection to be drawn closer to me and allow him to rely on me...on his father...the way he needs to. Alastor needs to be held so tightly because, I think, he suffered through so much pain that he needs that gentleness. Kissing the top of his daughter’s head, he asked, If I were to put you over my knee...not to spank, but just to touch and hold without do you think it would feel?

Irene swallowed and thought about the question. It didn’t make her feel nervous or automatically guilty like what she knew Mitch asked for. It didn’t make her feel helpless and totally reliant on her Tio like whatever Annika needed. But it was the something extra she needed that Alastor didn’t seem to need. It makes me feel like you’re really pulling me back to you...that I’m really yours again and you won’t let me leave you any more... she whispered. ...It makes me feel safe....

Kissing his daughter’s head, Hurley gently moved her across his lap, settling her in place so they were both comfortable and beginning to gently stroke and rub over her body, watching her carefully to make sure she wasn’t scared or upset.

Irene found herself relaxing immediately, the strength and firmness in her Tio’s grip reassuring her. His gentleness helped her relax further. It was then that the tears started. She’d almost taken herself away from this man again. Almost put herself into a position of never seeing him again, of never being held by him or cared for by him or of being able to tell and show him how much he really meant to her. The first time had been a mistake, but this time, it would have been unforgivable. I’m sorry, Tio... she finally whispered, her voice tear-filled and repentant. I’m sorry I tried to sneak away...was so very wrong...I’m glad I got caught. I don’t want to leave you...not ever...!

I love you, sweetheart. Hurley brought her tighter and closer against himself, continuing the gentle stroking and rubbing. He moved her clothes out of the way enough to allow himself to stroke and rub over her bare skin. I’m glad you got caught. I don’t want to lose you. I can’t lose you.

Irene reached down with one hand to grasp her Tio’s ankle while reaching back with the other to hold his hand. I’m glad Uncle Tom caught me...I’m really sorry I did it. I didn’t want to leave you. I don’t expect to leave you ever again... She sniffled, even as she relaxed at the gentle rubbing.

Hurley squeezed her hand gently. I don’t plan to let you leave me ever again, he promised. I love you. I’ve got you. And as soon as he knew she felt better, he’d take care of that paperwork too. He continued gently stroking and rubbing, keeping hold of her hand.

Irene finally calmed enough where she wasn’t crying, instead laying over her uncle’s – her father’s – lap and just soaking up the affection. It was the perfect combination of him being in complete control of her and the gentleness that enabled her to not become afraid or end up completely dependent. He’d figured out just what she needed and was providing, like he had from the moment he first took her in when still a minor. I love you, Tio... she whispered. ...When you make me yours...can I still call you Tio? she suddenly asked. You’ll be my daddy then...not my uncle...but you’ve been my Tio forever and everyone else has something just they call you so....

Hurley smiled at that. You can call me whatever you want to, sweetheart, he answered. I love you.

Irene heard the smile in his voice and smiled too. I love you, Tio...thank you for letting me finally come home....

Gently stroking her lower back, Hurley said softly, And I won’t be letting you pull away from me again. He’d pulled her siblings to him...back to him, in Alastor’s case. He was more than up to doing the same thing with her.

If I ever try and run again, I’m counting on it... she admitted softly. She had a feeling if she ever tried again she’d be over his knee for more than a back-rub.

If you ever try and run again, you’ll be back over my knee and getting a spanking, Hurley confirmed, stroking her back.

Okay, Tio... Irene quickly responded. It was what she’d deserve, she figured. She was kinda surprised she hadn’t gotten one this time, but Hurley had always been careful to not punish if he knew the underlying cause of the misbehavior wouldn’t be helped by spanking. He was always careful in how he handled his kids. It was one of the reasons she trusted him when he said she was his and he wouldn’t let her go.

Hurley continued to gently stroke and rub over his daughter’s body, letting his fingers stroke gently through her hair. Your uncle’s made some notes that might have some helpful information. We can take a look later, he commented.

You think we might be able to stop whoever is after me? Get them to back off? I’ll resign if that’s what it takes. After everything that was done to you and Alastor...after what they’re doing now; all my friends they ki...kill... She choked back sudden tears.

Hurley leaned over and wrapped his arms around her in a tight hug. Me...Alastor...Mitch...we’re making a complete break. Gonna do our own thing. Which means I have complete control over what happens...what my kids end up dong. I should b...break too? Irene hated that she sounded so scared and uncertain and in need of her Tio to make that decision. She’d got too far in rank in the CIA to be indecisive and weak. Unfortunately, maintaining said position of authority depended on having other high ranked individuals as friends; and nearly all of hers had died in accidents within the last month.

She was heartbroken. She was scared. She was worn down and worn out from events. She was making bad decision on top of bad decision just to stay ahead of the enemy and stay alive. The first good decision she’d made was to come to her Tio. It made complete sense at this point in time to just let him take control over everything until she was in a better frame of mind not to make bad decisions.

Don’t make any decisions yet, Hurley suggested. Just concentrate on being here...with me...with your brothers and sister. Your uncle Tom. Let me and Mitch get some dirt on this guy and then, when he’s no longer a factor, you can decide what’s best for you.

Irene nodded wearily. Okay, Tio.... Thank you... she whispered. I should have come to you sooner. You always know what to do... she declared, her confidence in him clear.

You’re here now. And that’s the important thing, Hurley replied, stroking her back and squeezing her hand.

I’m here now and you’ve got me.... Irene squeezed his hand back.

And I won’t let you go, he promised.

I love you, Tio... she whispered again and shifted slightly, as if wanting to get up, but since he hadn’t given permission, she was staying put. Even if he wasn’t spanking her, the position put her more into a mindset of obedience and waiting for him to decide instead of doing things on her own.

Watching his daughter as carefully as he watched his other kids, Hurley carefully settled her clothing back into place and then helped her to stand.

Irene immediately threw her arms around Hurley in a tight hug as soon as she was able to do so. That had been the only reason she wanted up. She’d felt the need to hold onto him like he held on to her.

Hurley wrapped his arms around Irene just as tight in return, kissing her head. I love you, he murmured.

Irene snuggled a bit more. I guess we should go meet Uncle Tom, she sighed.

Hurley kissed her head. There’s nothing wrong with cuddling a bit more. He’s with your siblings right now, after all.

Irene smiled at that. If it’s okay... She cuddled close again. Last night...when you had me trapped...I haven’t felt that safe since I was still a kid and still lived with you... she admitted. I think I understand Mitch’s need to have you control everything...even if I don’t particularly want a spanking to go along with it...

It happens every night. One of you takes it in turns to be trapped by me. Hurley stroked her hair. I’ve got a bigger bed now...but as I said to Annika and Mitch, that’s simply so that none of you need to be pushed out. The sleeping of you being trapped by me...are still going to stay the same.

Irene smiled st that. At first, I thought it wouldn’t be comfortable, but now I like it. Want it. I think the others feel the same....

It’s definitely something I need, Hurley said.


Tom followed his nephews and niece into the living room. So, you kids got specific seats? Does it matter where I sit? he asked.

It doesn’t matter... Alastor grinned at his uncle. We all usually end up piled on dad and squishing together. If you want to become part of a puppy pile, sit on the couch.... He winked at Tom.

Smiling, Tom sat down on the couch. Just as well it’s a long one, he commented...though he could imagine his brother pulling one or more of them onto his lap. He’d seen Hurley do that enough times with Alastor in the past.

Oh...length has nothing to do with it. Alastor chuckled, sitting next to his uncle. He wasn’t surprised when Mitch, the braver of his baby siblings, sat on Tom’s other side. He tugged Annika to him so she could sit on his lap. Once they’d got to know their uncle better, he had no doubt they’d be draping themselves over him if their daddy wasn’t available.

How long have you known Papa? Annika asked quietly.

Tom smiled. Since before Alastor...not that long after Irene came to live with him. He wrapped an arm around Alastor’s shoulders, shifting just enough so that Mitch could become used to him being close, but not forcing either of the youngsters into unwanted contact. You’ve probably seen your dad doesn’t mess around when he feels like someone’s part of his family. It didn’t take us long to form a tight bond.

But he decided you were a brother instead of one of his kids... Mitch recognized.

Alastor chortled, even as he shifted to lean more fully into his uncle. Uncle Tom is even more Alpha than dad. I can’t imagine him reacting well to dad going dad on him....

Tom tightened his arm around Alastor. Yeah. And we have pretty similar ways of dealing with things, he commented, assuming that the kids had at least second-hand experience with the type of discipline Hurley dished out. Alastor had had first-hand experience of discipline at his uncle’s hand.

When he says similar, he means exactly the same... Alastor quipped.

Mitch glanced at Tom. So if I disobeyed one of your orders..?

If you’re willing for me to be your uncle as well, then that would be part of the deal, Tom answered. As far as I’m concerned, you’re all my brother’s I already feel like that. He shrugged. But I also know neither of you really know me that well yet.

Anyone daddy trusts is okay by me, Mitch declared. It’s good to meet more family.

I am pleased to meet you as well, Annika agreed.

Tom smiled. Well, I’m more than happy to meet both of you...and to see your dad so happy, he added.

Is he? Happy? Annika asked hesitantly... hopefully.

More than happy, Tom replied. Compared to the last time I saw him? I could almost say he’s a completely different man. But I saw him before. So it’s less that he’s different and more that he’s reverted back to what he was like when he first had Irene and Alastor. Except maybe for not riding you so much, as there aren’t any recruits here? He glanced questioningly at his oldest nephew.

No one here but us three, dad and Reny... Alastor confirmed.

Reny prolly wouldn’t be here if she weren’t in trouble. Don’t think daddy’s gonna let her leave now that he’s got her back, though... Mitch added.

Well, I’m fairly sure he wouldn’t let any of you leave, Tom commented with a smile. He’s always been very focused on keeping his family close.

Does that mean you’ll be visiting more often? Annika asked innocently.

I’m sure you’ll all be seeing a lot more of me from now on, Tom commented.

Good...I think Dad needs you... Alastor said softly. He knew that he and the other kids were doing a lot for his father, but when Hurley didn’t think anyone was looking? Alastor had caught a look on his face that could only be categorized as guilt. It didn’t matter how many times he told his father he didn’t blame him for what had happened...he knew Hurley still blamed himself. If anyone could break through to the older man, his uncle could.

Well, I’m here for him, Tom replied, his voice low and reassuring. And here for you kids, too, he added.

Thanks, Uncle Tom... Annika said, with a tiny smile. She’d already warmed up to the older man, Alastor’s trust and the fact her Papa trusted him making it easy for her to do so as well.

Mitch was a little more reticent...but only because he was uncertain about having a second authority figure in his life who he’d have to listen to. And he had no doubt obedience would be expected by his uncle (or that he’d end up giving it). Yeah...thanks... he said, a little more hesitantly.

Tom smiled. Don’t worry. I’m not expecting either of you to immediately jump to do what I tell you. I have a relationship already with your father, Irene, Alastor...I’m looking forward to building one with the two of you as well.

I have no problem with you giving orders. I’ve never had a problem following orders from my superior officers...Uncles fall into the same category... Annika shrugged, giving an impish grin toward her twin, who she knew tended to buck the system.

Yeah, yeah...we all know who needs to get with the program... Mitch sighed softly. Considering he was still learning to obey his father, he didn’t hold much hope in falling into line and obeying his uncle any time soon. So it really was a good thing Tom didn’t expect immediate compliance.

Alastor snorted softly. It’s okay, baby brother. It’ll click eventually... He smiled crookedly.

Considering what I’ve heard about you, Mitch, just being here goes against the lone wolf facade you had up in the past, Tom commented, before adding, I should warn you that I was given your file to read. He knew Stan would have already seen it, but he didn’t want his new nephew to have any knowledge Tom had sprung on him.

Mitch winced. So you know what Daddy’s facing with me... he muttered, glancing down. He knew his father had seen his file before taking him on. It hadn’t mattered to Hurley and Mitch suspected it wouldn’t matter to Tom. It was still embarrassing having all his worst behavior traits laid out in paper form for those he actually cared about to read. And even if he didn’t know Tom well enough to care about him completely yet, he knew it wouldn’t take long. He cared about his family and apparently, Tom was part of that.

Well, you’re far more than what it says on the paper, Tom commented. You’re not the first kid who struggles at times to obey orders. He didn’t outright say that Hurley had gone through something similar with Alastor. Perhaps not as extreme...and Hurley’s oldest had fallen into line quite quickly...but Mitch wasn’t the first one to suddenly find himself with a father when he’d not had one for a long time.

Mitch winced, but gave his uncle a grateful look. It’s not that I want to disobey Daddy... he muttered. ...Not any more, anyway. Just...used to doing my own thing too much.... He looked down again. He didn’t even realize he was using the more juvenile term of address for his father in front of his uncle.

Alastor noticed, however and gave Tom a look. It was significant, Mitch’s term of reference for their father in front of their uncle. It meant that Mitch had already accepted him as family and trusted him. He didn’t let himself be vulnerable with people he didn’t trust and reacting in a more young manner was very vulnerable. He suspected Tom already realized, but if he didn’t, Alastor thought he should.

Tom gave a slight nod to his oldest nephew, indicating he’d noticed and understood the relevance of Mitch using the more juvenile form of address for Hurley. Trying to break the habits formed by a lifetime, he commented to Mitch. It’s not easy. I know.

MItch smiled crookedly. Daddy has his work cut out for him... He sighed. He also listed toward his uncle without thinking about it. Alastor’s complete acceptance of the other man made it much easier for Mitch to let down his guard. Tom was family; family he had just met, but still family. He couldn’t help but gravitate to him.

Annika smiled. He does with all of us, I imagine... she consoled her twin

Tom stretched his other arm out; not quite touching Mitch, but enough that the contact could be made if his nephew wanted it. I absolutely guarantee he thinks you’re worth it...that you’re all worth it.

I consider myself lucky that he does...after all the trouble I’ve given him...still give him... Mitch huffed softly, leaning against his uncle.

You aren’t the only one... Alastor smiled gently. He’s strong. He can handle you just fine....

Tom gently wrapped his arm around Mitch’s shoulders. Like I told you...he doesn’t waste any time or hold back when he knows someone’s supposed to be his family. And he’s so much happier and that much more settled now. And even if he suspected his brother was still wrestling with guilt...well, he wouldn’t be struggling with that alone. Not any more.

Why do I get the feeling you are very much like that too, Uncle Tom? Annika asked rhetorically.

There’s no reason to hold back, Tom replied. All that does is waste time.

Time that you could end up regretting having wasted... Mitch agreed, in a tiny voice, as he thought of Katrina. He hadn’t wasted any time with her. As soon as he knew, he’d asked her to marry him. It still hadn’t been enough. He missed her so badly sometimes....

Tom noticed the reaction and responded by tightening his arm around Mitch’s shoulders. I know you’ve lost in the past, but at least you know now that you’re not on your own, he said softly.

Mitch couldn’t keep himself from snuggling close. It seemed his heart and desire for family was overcoming his natural reticence yet again...allowing him to draw close to his uncle instead of remaining aloof. He let his head fall onto Tom’s shoulder. You all would have liked her... he said, out of nowhere.

I’m sure we would have, Annika said loyally.

Tom cuddled his nephew close, stroking Mitch’s hair in the same way Hurley would have done. You loved of course your family would have as well, he said softly.

Mitch smiled crookedly. She would have loved all of you too...she wanted a family as much as I did....

Hurley walked back in, arm wrapped around Irene’s shoulders, in time to hear his youngest son’s comment. He didn’t waste any time in walking over to Mitch, wrapping his arms around his son and hugging tightly. You’ve got one now, baby boy, he whispered in Mitch’s ear.

Mitch didn’t delay wrapping his own arms around his father and holding on tight, hiding his face against Hurley’s neck. I know...I love you, daddy... he whispered back, not caring that everyone else could actually hear him.

Irene smiled at the others, then bit her lip and leaned over to hug Tom while Mitch was busing being held by their father. Thank you for stopping me, Uncle Tom...I would have been very miserable if I’d managed to sneak away... she admitted, kissing him on the cheek.

Hurley wrapped his arms tightly around Mitch and kissed his head. I love you, baby boy, he said. You’re here. With me. I won’t let you go....

Tom, seeing that Hurley had Mitch well in hand, wrapped his arms tightly around Irene, pulling her onto his lap. I know, he replied, kissing her head. I’m glad I managed to get here in time to stop you as well.

Irene snuggled close to her uncle. It had been a long time since she’d been able to show him affection as well, her attempts to make it in the CIA without any ’nepotism’ from her family causing her to have pulled away from all forms of support. She regretted that now. I’m glad you’re here... she said softly.

Since his other children were cuddling and being cuddled, Hurley didn’t waste any time helping Mitch off the couch so he could take his baby boy’s place and settle him on his lap, wrapping his arms arond Mitch’s waist and pulling him in close, kissing his head.

Mitch, used to being affectionate in front of his family by this point, didn’t think twice about snuggling closer and hiding his face against his father’s neck, even as he was sat on the older man’s lap. His uncle Tom was part of the family. Having him see Hurley handle Mitch was likely going to be a common event.

Hurley nestled his youngest son close, kissing Mitch’s head and stroking and then gently scruffing his pup’s neck.

Love you, daddy... Mitch murmured, loudly enough everyone could hear.

Annika smiled at Alastor, then glanced at Tom. Will you be staying long, Uncle Tom?

I’ve taken my holiday, so I’ve got a bit of time to spend here with you all, Tom replied.

You’re welcome as long as you want, Hurley commented to his brother, gently stroking over Mitch’s back. His baby boy was situated in such a way that he could and did slide his hand underneath the flap in Mitch’s pajamas, beginning to stroke and rub his baby boy’s bottom.

Alastor kissed the top of Annika’s head, shifting her so that she was easier to cuddle and could relax against him. I’m pretty sure dad left your room exactly as you left it last time you were here... he said to Tom. He’d invite their uncle to just stay in the room with the rest of them, but wasn’t sure the man would be comfortable doing that.

Mitch shifted just a tiny bit more, so that it was easier for his father to handle him. He glanced from under lowered lashes, to see if his uncle had noticed and if he had a problem with it. His siblings had accepted his need easily enough, so he didn’t worry about their reactions, but his uncle was an unknown quantity. If Tom looked uncomfortable, then Mitch would need to be careful to save his ’needs’ for when his uncle wasn’t in the room.

Tom still held Irene cuddled on his lap, even as he answered Alastor. Good, because I’ll definitely make use of it. He noticed what Hurley was doing out of the corner of his eye, but wasn’t fazed by it, instead gently and reassuringly patting Mitch’s shoulder.

Hurley kept one hand on Mitch’s neck, gently scruffing or stroking, even while his other hand gently stroked and rubbed his baby boy’s bottom, beginning to gently pat.

Mitch gave his uncle a crooked grin, even as he slowly relaxed into his father, the affection letting him let go of the tension. Soon, he was completely pliant, laying on his father and nuzzling against him like a baby.

Irene grinned as she saw Tom patting Mitch’s shoulder, cuddling closer. Surprised Tio hasn’t decided you’re staying in the room with the rest of us... He likes to keep his family where he can watch and protect them... she teased her father gently, though the tone was so full of love, affection and gratitude that Hurley included her among those he wanted to watch and protect, it didn’t really seem all that teasing.

Alastor chuckled. He probably wants room to stretch, Reny... He could have been talking about his uncle or his father; it wasn’t clear.

I thought I’d leave that persuasion up to my kids, Hurley answered, continuing to gently stroke and rub Mitch’s bottom and hold his son by the nape of his neck. He folded the flap out of the way, so he could start interspersing slightly harder pats.

Well, if everyone’s doing that.... Tom laughed softly.

Mitch wasn’t phased in the least that his father had just bared his bottom so he could pat. His siblings and Irene had already experienced his father handling him like this. His uncle seemed to be very much like his father, so he wasn’t worried about Tom being offended; and the sooner his uncle saw how his father dealt with him, the sooner Mitch could just be himself completely and not put on a show

Everyone is... Irene answered Tom’s rhetorical question.

Annika piped in, If you stay with us too, then...

All the babies get to be trapped by their daddy, uncle, or older brother... Alastor interjected, with a hint of amusement in his tone. He chuckled when Annika stuck her tongue out at him for the baby comment. He noticed none of the younger members of the family disagreed with the assessment, though.

Hurley continued to hold onto his baby boy, carrying on the patting, but now interspersing some light swats every so often. Unless their older brother is being tonight, for instance, he commented, reminding Alastor he’d given his dad permission to hold onto him like that.

Alastor grinned sheepishly. Yeah...except for then... he agreed very easily, since he had got used to being trapped now and actually liked it.

Baby Sister... Annika snorted at having referred to herself in the third person, actually still a little sore and would rather not be trapped tonight, if that’s all right...? She bit her lip, hoping that her admission didn’t worry her father, but since he knew how bad her wound was, he shouldn’t be terribly surprised.

Hurley smiled at Annika, though he eyed her with concern, even as he continued giving her twin attention. That’s fine, angel. I’ll take another look tomorrow morning, before me and Mitch go out...if it’s still not looking good, I’ll pick up some stronger medication.

Okay, Papa... Annika easily agreed.

Irene bit her lip, looking over at her new sister with a hint of worry. I’m sorry... she said softly. ...I feel like I messed that entire mission up and you wouldn’t have been hurt if I’d realized how rotten everything really was at the center of everything.... She sighed.

Annika frowned. It’s not your fault!

What happened wasn’t anyone’s fault, Hurley said...although he still couldn’t help but assign a portion of blame to himself. He tightened his hold on Mitch, the closeness of even one of his children helping him to feel a fraction better about himself.

Tom noticed the guilt shading his brother’s face and gently nudged shoulders with Hurley.

MItch just snuggled closer. While he may not have had anything to do with the beginnings of what had happened, he certainly hadn’t helped matters with his constant disobedience. It was hard not to continue feeling guilty for his own actions, even if he’d been forgiven.

Annika had her own reasons for feeling guilty, the least of which was she had been playing the part of spying on them for her uncle. They had been on the same side, but espionage didn’t usually differentiate when it came to gathering intelligence.

Feeling his baby boy snuggling closer, Hurley gently scruffed his neck again and firmly patted Mitch’s backside. Part of him wondered if it would be better for his son to be draped across his lap...but there wasn’t really any way he could do that without moving them into another room or getting everyone else to shift.

Alastor had been keeping an eye on Annika and could tell she was very tired. He figured she needed to get to bed soon, so they really needed to exchange information either now, or agree to wait till morning. Uncle Tom...You said you had information that would help us protect Reny... Is it something you can share easily, right now? Or should we go to bed, get a good night’s sleep and then you tell us when we are all awake and able to focus on it?

It can probably wait until morning, Tom agreed. It’ll be better for everyone to get a good night’s sleep, I think.

Overhearing, Hurley tightened his arms a fraction around Mitch and whispered, Do you need a bit more attention, baby boy? He figured getting his son to tell him when he needed something would be make it even clearer that his needs weren’t a problem.

Mitch nuzzled against his father a little bit before hesitantly nodding. Maybe a little... he whispered back.

Alastor carefully stood, holding Annika in his arms. Well, baby sister has already fallen asleep, it seems...I’ll go tuck her into bed and then go get ready myself.

Irene carefully stood. I’m already ready, so I’ll just go get in bed and wait for everyone else to be ready... She grinned.

Soon, the only ones left in the room were Stan, Tom and Mitch. Mitch glanced at his uncle. Dad’s got Al tonight... He paused and bit his lip.

Hurley situated Mitch carefully on his lap. Do you want to let your new uncle trap you, baby boy? When we’re finished with what you need? he asked gently.

If...if he doesn’t mind... He glanced up at Tom. ...If you don’t mind... he repeated quietly, this time to the one who would need to make such a decision.

Tom smiled and gently squeezed Mitch’s shoulder. I don’t mind at all. You don’t even have to ask, he promised.

Mitch smiled back, relaxing over his father’s lep. Thanks, Uncle Tom... he whispered.

Tom smiled and patted his shoulder, then stood up. I’ll go and get ready for bed. I’ll see you two in a couple of minutes. He headed out of the room.

Hurley carefully and gently settled Mitch into place over his knees, making sure his son’s body was fully supported.

Thank you, daddy... Mitch whispered, letting himself go lax as his father took care of him.

I love you, baby boy. Hurley gently stroked his back, rubbing Mitch’s bottom a moment or two before he began to gently smack.

Mitch shivered slightly as the sting immediately kicked in. He’d been needing his father to handle him so much that his bottom hadn’t fully recovered from the last time, so it didn’t take long at all for him to begin squirming, or for tears to slide down. It was exactly what he needed, though, since all the tension in his body drained with the tears and the squirming.

Hurley could tell his son was crying and he moved his other hand up to Mitch’s neck, gently scruffing his boy once more, even as he carefully watched his son’s reactions to make sure he wasn’t pushing Mitch further than his boy needed. I’ve got you, baby boy. I won’t let you go, he promised.

Mitch just went boneless over his father’s knee at the promise. Thank you, daddy... It was obvious he was relieved, that he was content and happy, even with the tears. All tension was gone. I love you... he whispered, no longer even squirming. He felt completely safe.

Stopping the spanking, Hurley replaced the flap and turned his baby boy back over and onto his lap so that he could cuddle Mitch tightly to himself.

Mitch pressed as close as possible, only shifting every so often so he could feel the sting. I love you, daddy... he repeated quietly.

I love you, baby boy. Hurley kissed his head. I love you so much. And I’ll do everything I can to make sure you never feel alone again.

Mitch just tightened his grip and snuggled closer. Finally, after about ten minutes, he pulled back. I guess we should join the others. Before I fall asleep on you out here... He chuckled softly.

Hurley kissed his cheek and then helped his baby boy to stand. Wrapping an arm around Mitch’s waist, he guided him into the bedroom.

Annika was soundly asleep on the left side of the bed.

Irene was asleep not to far from her, leaving just enough room for Hurley and Alastor to fit.

Alastor was sat at the end of the bed, waiting for his father.

Tom had settled on the bed on the other side of Irene, but he was still awake, waiting for his brother and his nephew.

Kissing Mitch’s head, Hurley gently released him and then moved into the bed, settling himself so that Alastor could settle on top of him.

Alastor carefully climbed up and into his father’s grip as soon as Hurley was settled. He put his head on his dad’s shoulder and snuggled close. Love you, Dad... he whispered, falling to sleep shortly after.

Mitch carefully climbed into bed, uncertain if his uncle wanted to trap him in his arms, on top of him, like his daddy normally did, or if he’d rather he snuggle close beside him. He placed himself awkwardly, in such a position that Tom could maneuver him to wherever he wanted.

Hurley wrapped his arms tightly around Alastor, holding his oldest tightly to himself after gently stroking his daughters’ hair.

Tom gently pulled Mitch onto him, settling his nephew comfortably. This okay for you? he asked.

Yessir... Mitch whispered, allowing himself to settle into place, his head on Ton’s chest. G’night, Uncle Tom...I’m glad you’re here....

Good night, Tom said softly, giving his nephew a tight hug. I’m glad I got to come here and meet you.

You trap me almost as good as daddy does... was the last thing Mitch whispered, falling asleep before he could finish with, only thing missing is the rubbing.

It didn’t take long for the adults to fall asleep, Hurley settled with his kids and brother so tclose...and Tom just happy to be with his family.


Irene woke up early. She tried to stay still, not wanting to disturb the rest of her family, but too much had been happening and as much as she trusted her family and felt safer with them close to her, the fact was that someone in the organization she’d devoted her life to was trying to kill her. Had killed her allies and friends. If she didn’t – if her family didn’t – figure out who was behind it all and somehow stop them, Irene would have to live in hiding for the rest of her life. It made it difficult to sleep.

Hurley woke up not long after, but he didn’t move either. Having his family so close to him went a long way towards healing the guilt that still tormented him and he let one hand stroke gently over Alastor’s back, hugging his oldest tightly to himself.

Mitch had woken shortly after his sister, but he didn’t want to move. His uncle was a very comfortable bed; Mitch was warm and feeling serene and moving would ruin that.

Annika woke with a start, jumped out of bed and ran out of the room without a word.

Alastor startled awake at his baby sister’s sudden movement.

Tom woke up when Annika jumped out of the bed, but he didn’t move other than to glance at his brother. If his nephew was comfortable and happy where he was, Tom wouldn’t move Mitch.

Worried, Hurley pressed a kiss to Alastor’s head and gently moved his son onto the bed, stroking his hair and Irene’s, touching Mitch’s head, before he slipped off the bed and went after his other daughter.

Mitch groaned softly. Part of me feels like I should follow daddy and make sure she’s okay. The other part doesn’t want to move... he whispered.

Alastor huffed in amusement. Whatever set her off that quick, she’ll probably prefer just dad come find her. If he needs us, he’ll let us know....

Irene didn’t say anything but pressed closer to Alastor for body warmth.

He’ll call if he needs you...any of us, Tom commented, threading his fingers through Mitch’s hair. He could definitely see why his brother preferred to have his children that close.

Hurley quickly followed the path his daughter had taken. Angel? he called softly, so he wouldn’t suddenly appear and frighten her.

I’m here, Papa... Annika called out from the bathroom. She was sat on the floor next to the toilet. Sorry...felt like I was going to be sick... She gave him a sad look and did look a little green in the face.

Hurley quickly headed into the bathroom, crouching down next to his daughter and placing his hand against her forehead to check if she was feverish. Do you have any other symptoms?

Just still really tired...and my head hurts a little... Annika said quietly.

Hurley stroked the side of her face. It doesn’t sound like it’s the wound causing this...but I’d still like to take a look. Just in case I missed something.

Okay, Papa... Annika obediently held her arms up so that her father could move her however he needed to check out the wound.

Hurley carefully removed his daughter’s pajamas so he could check on the wound and make sure it was still healing correctly. I’ll get you back into bed with some water...a hot water bottle, too.

Okay, Papa... Annika held still as much as she was able, since as soon as she was naked she began shivering uncontrollably.

With a worried frown, Hurley immediately turned up the heating in the bathroom. I’ll get you some extra blankets, too. He checked the wound quickly and carefully, so he could clothe her again.

I’m sorry, Papa...I don’t want you to worry...specially not when you have so much else to worry about... Annika sniffled.

You’re my daughter. I love you. Hurley kissed her forehead. Worrying about you is part of my job.

Annika just snuggled closer, seeking the comfort and warmth her father was offering.

Hurley carefully dressed her in the pajamas again and wrapped his arm around her so he could lead her to bed.

My room, Papa...don’t want everyone else getting sick... Annika whispered.

Okay, angel. Hurley squeezed her waist and helped her into her room and carefully helped her to lay down on the bed, tucking her in.

I’m sorry, Papa... Annika sniffled. She’d have attempted to stay up so she could help with the mission, if it weren’t for the fact her head felt cloudy and she was starting to feel dizzy. It would help no one if she was there and not able to concentrate fully. I won’t be much help today....

Hurley leaned over and kissed her head. Don’t worry, angel. I don’t want you to worry about anything other than resting. I’m going to go and get you some water and a hot water bottle...some extra blankets, too.

Okay, Papa... Annika tried to smile for him, but it was more a weak grimace. She closed her eyes as he left to get the items, falling into a half-awake half-dozing state.

Worried, Hurley quickly slipped out of the room, wondering if he should call off the mission so he could take care of his daughter. He didn’t want to leave her alone....

Mitch had finally dragged himself off his uncle by this point and come looking for his father. Is Anni alright, daddy? he asked worriedly. He noticed that his big brother and other sister had followed him out and was fairly certain his uncle wasn’t far behind them.

She’s not very well, Hurley answered. I’m just getting her some water and extra blankets and a hot water bottle....

I’ll give you a hand, Tom offered, having followed his nephews and niece out of the bedroom in time to overhear.

Alastor nodded. Reny and I can operate coms without Anni, if needed. If Uncle Tom can stay with her; you don’t need to worry...

Of course I will, Tom promised. She’ll be just as safe here with me as she would be with you. You know I love your children as much as you do.

Hurley nodded. I just don’t want her to be alone.... He quickly headed through to the kitchen so he could get his daughter some water and a hot water bottle.

Tom went to get some extra blankets for his niece.

Alastor poked his head into the room, not entering because he could see his sister was already sleeping and figured he wouldn’t be the one to wake her. He stepped back out and looked at his other siblings. Whatever hit her, hit her fast. Hopefully no one else catches it.

Irene wrinkled her nose. So far, I feel fine. But maybe we should boost our vitamin C and water intake....

Mitch nodded. I’ll go start breakfast. I’ll make sure to make something easy to digest for Anni... Anyone else have any requests?

No. Whatever is fine with me... Alastor answered, Irene nodding in agreement with his words.

Mitch headed to the kitchen.

Hurley and Tom returned with the items, Hurley carefully taking everything from his brother and slipping into the bedroom so he could make sure his daughter was as comfortable as possible.

Tom gently clasped Alastor’s shoulder. Can you sit with your sister while I talk to your dad? he asked softly.

Alastor blinked, then nodded. Of course... he said agreeably. Knocking on the door to his sister’s room, he waited for the invitation to enter, then went in.

Annika had just finished taking medicine, if the look on her face was anything to go by. She was wrapped in a blanket and had the hot water bottles strategically placed. She was propped up to make breathing easier and to also help her stomach feel less upset. Alastor smiled at her. Anni... Uncle Tom needs to speak with Dad, so I’m going to sit with you, if that is alright? He glanced from his sister to his father and back.

Okay, BB... Annika said in a drowsy voice.

He moved over to her side, giving his father a serious look. I’ll let you know immediately if she needs you... he promised.

Hurley hesitated, unwilling to leave his daughter...but he trusted his son and believed Alastor when he said he’d let him know. He leaned over to kiss Annika’s forehead. I’ll be back in a few minutes, angel. He then turned to Alastor and hugged him, kissing his head. I love you...both of you, he added.

We love you too, dad. Alastor smiled and hugged the older man tightly before moving to sit in the chair next to Annika’s bed and gently taking her hand in his. How would you like me to read to you, baby sis?

Annika’s eyes brightened at the offer and she nodded silently.

Alastor smiled at their father as he picked up a book lying next to the bedside lamp and opened it to the bookmark, beginning to read.

Hurley lingered for a few moments, watching his children, and then slipped out of the room, meeting his brother.

Let’s go into your room to talk. Tom turned to lead the way inside and Hurley followed him.

Hurley closed the door to the bedroom and then walked over, sitting down on the bed, not too surprised when Tom walked over to sit down next to him. You going to psycho-analyse me? he asked his brother, trying for a trace of amusement, but really just sounding least to his own ears.

I don’t need to psycho-analyse you to see you suffering from guilt. Tom let his arm rest gently against Hurley’s shoulder as he added, Neither do your kids. You’ve got four very well-trained individuals here who are going to see it. No matter how hard you try to hide.

Hurley snorted softly, looking down at his hands. You know what happened.

I know the CIA let you believe Alastor was dead, Tom replied carefully. I know they gave you the pictures of what was done to the members of his team. How they died.

And their bodies were found. His wasn’t. Hurley shook his head, fighting down the weakness that made him want to break down; the weakness he’d only ever allowed in when it was late at night and none of the recruits could hear him breaking. I should have insisted...I should have gone there myself. I was his handler. He trusted me.

You were his handler second...his father first, Tom pointed out. And that’s how you reacted. You trusted them. Of course you did. You never had any reason not to.

Hurley shook his head. He couldn’t let himself be this honest with his children. He couldn’t let them see how much it still tore him apart. That the guilt was strong and intense and if it made him suffer? It was nothing compared to what his son had gone through.

Tom was quiet and still for a moment or two and then reached out, grabbing Hurley’s wrist and pulling him across his lap.

Hurley didn’t fight the position. He knew he could easily fight back...probably stop Tom...but he didn’t. Instead, he closed his eyes and settled in place, shifting only minutely so that his body was supported and not dangling. It had been a long time since he’d last been in this position and he breathed in deep, fighting down the urge to resist.

You can’t keep blaming yourself. As he spoke, Tom tugged Hurley’s pants and underwear down, wrapping an arm around his waist and bringing his hand down in a firm smack that he then repeated. You didn’t leave him out there. You brought him back to you...chose to save him. He wasn’t beyond salvation and you could see that.

Hurley tried to stay still and not fight his brother, but although he normally had complete control over his body, it was hard not to react to the swats that went down to his thighs and started over from the top. He should never have been in that position in the first place! he responded, his voice raw from emotions he was fighting to keep down. How could I not bring him back? Save him? It wasn’t the pain of the spanking that was pushing him towards the edge. Hurley had experienced worse pain, even before Alastor had captured him and begun torturing him. was the emotional component, rather than the physical, that was slowly but surely pushing him to that point.

Tom was spanking that bit harder and faster now, his palm landing with an unerring accuracy that made it impossible for Hurley to pull back and pretend he wasn’t affected. Even so, he thought he’d be able to get through it with his dignity intact. He thought that...right up until his brother began to speak.

I know there’s nothing I can say to you that will force you to forgive yourself, but your son doesn’t blame you. Alastor doesn’t blame you, Tom said. He’s back with you. Your kids think the whole world of you. They trust you. They love you. He began focusing more smacks to Hurley’s sit spots and thighs as he added, Even with that guilt weighing you down, I can see you’re happier than you’ve ever been since Alastor was taken from you.

Hurley began to shift, not able to help himself, surprised to realise there were tears running down his cheeks. His bottom and thighs were stinging, and the repetitive force of the smacks were just pushing him closer to being completely overwhelmed by his emotions. I... don’t want.... he managed to force out.

You don’t want to lose this? You won’t. You’ve given them hope. You’ve given them a family...a father. Mitch told me he wants to be better for you. Annika asked me if you were truly happy. Tom paused, resting his hand on Hurley’s back as he said quietly, You’re as important to them as they are to you. And they love you as much as you love them. You don’t need to torment yourself with guilt over the past any more. It’s time to let that go.

There was no way even the previous day, Hurley would have felt able to respond if he’d been told to let go. But as if Tom was giving him permission, Hurley slumped over his brother’s lap and began to cry. Not hard sobs, but he wasn’t fighting the punishment any more. And the terrible weight that had almost been crushing him...the weight of his guilt...was slowly being lightened.

Tom pulled his clothing back into place and then helped him up off his lap, pulling him into a tight embrace.

Taking a deep breath, Hurley quickly wrapped his arms around Tom just as tight in return and pressed in close to his brother. He took several deep breaths in quick succession, letting the tears slow to a trickle and then stop.

Tom hugged a bit tighter. It wasn’t your fault. Okay, Stan? And you didn’t lose your son. You brought him back to you.

Yeah...I think I’m finally starting to believe that, Hurley whispered, letting himself be held. Just for a moment, he didn’t have to be the strong one.

He wasn’t sure how long he held onto Tom for, but eventually...slowly...Hurley began to pull back. Okay. I’m ready to join them now.

Great. Smiling, Tom stood up. He waited long enough for Hurley to fully compose himself and then the two of them slipped out of the room.


Mitch was very carefully watching the oatmeal as he cooked it. Not because he was afraid it would burn, but because it gave him something else to concentrate on besides the sounds coming from his father’s bedroom. He’d known the house wasn’t terribly soundproofed. When one of them got into trouble enough to need their father’s attention, pretty much all of them knew about it; even if he attempted to keep things as private as possible. It wasn’t so much the sounds of a spanking being administered that had set him on a course for attempting to pretend nothing was happening so much as it was the knowledge that the one being spanked was his father. He had never considered the possibility that his and his brother’s and sisters’ disciplinarian would need to be disciplined himself. He glanced at Irene, who didn’t seem as nonplussed as he felt. Did you know...?

Irene blinked and looked over at him, biting her lip. That Uncle Tom took care of him that way? she whispered. I suspected, but this is the first time I’ve gotten any type of proof.... she said, in a whisper. It really wasn’t any easier for her to hear. But she’d had suspicions about it at least, so it wasn’t a complete shock.

I’m trying to see a positive in this development... Mitch admitted. I’m having a hard time coming up with one.

Hurley was pretty much expecting that his kids would overhear what had happened between him and his brother. He stepped into the kitchen in time to hear his baby boy’s comment and stepped over to gently squeeze Mitch’s shoulder. No one’s perfect, baby boy, he said. There was no point in trying to hide what had just happened and pretending would probably just raise even more questions.

MItch gave his father a chagrined look. He hadn’t meant the older man to overhear him asking questions. I... I know... he finally said quietly. ...I just kinda thought that you were at least close enough to perfect that you didn’t get into trouble like that... He gave his father a sheepish look. Besides...if you’re still getting into trouble, even though you’re taking care of all us kids... what hope do I have that I’ll ever stop getting into trouble? He chuckled nervously and ran a hand through his hair.

Not much... Irene piped up helpfully, giving her brother a teasing smile; though if the look in her eyes was any indication, she felt much the same as he did. If Hurley was still being spanked, despite how responsible he was...what hope did they have?

Hurley wrapped an arm around Mitch and held his other arm out to Irene. It wasn’t about getting into trouble, he commented. Your uncle could see that I was still suffering from guilt. It’s not that different to how you need me at times, baby boy.

Irene quickly moved into her father’s grip and wrapped her arms around his middle.

Mitch wrapped his own arms around Hurley and pressed close. Do you still feel guilty? he asked, with a hint of worry. He understood what Hurley was telling him– sometimes he just needed to have his daddy put him over his knee and spank him till he didn’t feel so guilty or out of control– but it was a bit worrisome that Hurley was feeling guilty still. Since pretty much everything that had happened, Hurley had no control over.

Hurley wrapped his arms tightly around each of his children. It’s much better, he replied. Your uncle’s helped me to see there was nothing I could do for your brother then...but I’m doing what he needs now.

Mitch smiled at that. You’re doing what all of us need, Daddy... he responded.

We’d be lost without you, Tio... Irene added. She glanced at Tom and smiled. Lost without both of you, really.... She included him in the conversation. She knew if her uncle Tom wasn’t able to help her Tio that there was little the rest of them could do. Her father needed his brother like they needed him.

Tom smiled at his niece. Well, luckily, you’ll never have to do without either of us. Raising his eyebrows at his brother, he asked, Do you want me to take over hugging the kids in here so you can check on Annika and Alastor?

Hurley smiled gratefully at his brother, thankful that Tom understood his need to check on and hold all of them.

Mitch grinned. The oatmeal should be done soon and I can bring her a bowl in, if you think she’s ready for it... He stepped back enough that his father could let go and step away. He gave his uncle a smile.

Irene stepped back too and just waited.

Hurley smiled at his baby boy. I’ll let you know if she seems up to it. He moved back to let Tom take his place hugging Mitch and Irene, after kissing them both on the forehead, and then moved to his daughter’s bedroom, knocking lightly on the door before opening it and stepping inside.

Alastor looked up from the book he’d been reading out loud. I’m almost to the end of the chapter, dad and then I’ll get out of your way. He smiled.

You aren’t in the way... Annika protested her older brother’s words, even though she gave her father a look that indicated she’d welcome being held by him if he didn’t mind.

I wanted to hold both of you, Hurley commented, moving over to the bed. How are you feeling, angel? he asked gently.

Still a little queasy, but the medicine you gave me is helping... Annika said softly.

Alastor didn’t argue against being held, though he waited to see how his father planned to do so.

Hurley positioned himself carefully on the bed, wrapping one arm around his daughter and the other around his son. If you think you might be able to keep it down, Mitch has got some oatmeal heating up, he said to Annika.

If you think I should try to eat, I think I might be able to keep a little of it down, at least... Annika hesitantly said.

Do you want me to go get her a cup of it? Alastor asked his dad.

Hurley nodded and leaned over to kiss Alastor’s forehead. I love you, kiddo, he whispered, stroking his son’s cheek.

I love you too, dad... Alastor grinned. ...I’ll be right back, baby sis... I’ll bring you some ginger ale too. That might help your stomach. He quickly headed out of the room to go get the food.

Annika looked up at her father. Papa? You will be able to help Reny? Even though I am not able to be much help? I haven’t caused things to be held off, have I? I don’t want her in danger any more....

Hurley wrapped his arms around his daughter and kissed her head. Your uncle’s going to stay and take care of you, so you’re not alone, he said softly.

Annika relaxed at that. So you can still help Reny... she confirmed.

Yeah. I’ll make sure she’s out of danger...that all of you are safe, Hurley promised.

I know you will, take care of us all so good. Better than we deserve, I think... Annika snuggled close, fighting back a yawn.

Alastor came in, carrying a small cup of oatmeal and another small tumbler of juice. I can set this aside if you need to sleep instead... he said, as he saw her yawn.

No... I should at least try to eat a few bites. Mitch went to all that trouble for me... Annika smiled.

Why don’t I give it to dad, then? He can help you so it goes in you instead of on you... Alastor teased gently, even as he handed the cup and spoon to their father and set the glass of juice carefully on the side table.

Hurley stroked some hair out of his daughter’s face and then dipped the spoon into the oatmeal to begin feeding her, carefully watching to make sure she wasn’t about to be sick.

Annika obediently ate what her father fed her, making sure to leave time between bites so that if she felt ill, she could get a bucket or make it to the bath. She managed to get down ten swallows before she couldn’t eat any more. I can’t, tummy hurts... She winced.

It’s okay, angel. Hurley stroked her cheek and kissed her head. If you feel hungry later, I’m sure your uncle can fix you something light to eat. He picked up the ginger ale to help her take small sips.

Annika took a few sips of the soda, but soon had enough of that as well. I think I’m gonna fall asleep again, Papa... she whispered, as she closed her eyes.

Okay, angel. Hurley stroked his daughter’s hair, trying to soothe her into sleep.

It didn’t take long for her to fall asleep. Alastor cleared his throat quietly and held out two two-way radios to his father. You can leave one by her bed, so you can hear if she needs you...we probably need to brief with Uncle Tom on his information and then make our plans... he whispered, so that he wouldn’t wake his sister up.

Hurley nodded, standing and taking the radio, setting it on the bedside table, in clear view of his daughter if she did wake up. Thanks, kiddo.

I’m worried about her too, dad... I want to get this mission out of the way so that we can all be back together again, and everyone be safe... Alastor said softly.

I know. Hurley wrapped his arms around his son. I want my whole family to be safe. I love you...all of you. He kissed Alastor’s cheek. I spent so long without you.

After today, we won’t have to do without any of us... Alastor promised, hugging his father tightly.

Hurley held on a bit tighter and a fraction longer before kissing his cheek. And when me and Mitch come back, you and I are due for a long cuddle session.

I look forward to it... Alastor smiled.

Kissing his son’s cheek, Hurley guided Alastor out of the room. I also wanted to talk to you about how you’re feeling, he said gently.

I feel fine, dad. I don’t think I caught whatever Annika has... Alastor was quick to reassure his father.

Good...but I’m also talking about inside, Hurley said gently.

I... I still feel guilty if I think about what I did too much. But overall, I’m doing okay. I know that a lot of what I did, I’d never do now, when I’m not so emotionally unstable. And I know you’ve forgiven me... So mostly, I’m doing okay... Alastor sighed. Maybe the guilt should never fully go away, though. I need to remember what happened and what I did so that I never do something so awful again....

Hurley kissed his cheek. Like you said, you’d never do it now. You were hurt deeply and lashing out at the person you saw as responsibile for it all. But mostly, kiddo, I want to figure out if you still need me to continue the weekly spankings.

Alastor put his head on his father’s shoulder and held on tight as he thought about it. I... I don’t think so, daddy... he said quietly. I think I understand enough that I can handle whatever guilt is left without needing more punishment. The cuddling, though? I think I may need that for the rest of my life... He huffed faintly, slightly embarrassed that he was so physically needy. He hadn’t been that way before.

Hurley tightened his arms around his son and kissed his head. That’s just as well, kiddo, as I’m going to need to keep cuddling you, he said frankly. You don’t need to feel embarrassed, son. Our relationship had to stay a secret before...I could only hug you when we were alone.

Now you can hug me whenever you want... Alastor smiled, cuddling closer.

Which will end up being every day, I imagine. Hurley stroked his hair and back. I love you, kiddo. I’m so thankful I was finally able to bring you home.

No more thankful than I am that you were able to bring me home... Alastor sighed softly, pressing as close as he was able and just holding on tight. Finally, he stepped back and gave his father a crooked smile. I guess they’ll be waiting for us... he whispered.

Hurley gently squeezed Alastor’s arm. We’ll go and join them...and later, we’ll cuddle exactly how I cuddled you last night. On my lap and trapped.

Alastor blushed and looked at the ground, but he was grinning, so it was obvious he liked the idea. Okay, daddy.... he whispered back, just in case it wasn’t clear enough he wanted that.

Hurley kissed his son’s cheek. Let’s go and join the others and figure out what’s happening and where we need to hit.

Okay, Dad... Alastor followed his father into the living room where everyone else was waiting.

Hurley walked over to sit down, looking at the rest of the family. I think we already know who the main person is behind all of this, he commented.

Tom nodded. The information I found seems to match up with what you and Mitch found out. But it’s quite clear he’s working with other people. The accidents were carried out by professionals and he doesn’t have the finances needed to pay them.

The question he calling the shots over those other people, or are they calling the shots over him? Alastor commented. Because if they’re calling the shots, we might eliminate him as a problem, only to have someone step in to take his place....

If you trail him for a bit, maybe you can see who he meets and when? Tom suggested. He didn’t suggest interrogation, even though he knew Hurley would take that step if necessary.

That may be our only option... Mitch sighed. If we can get a bug on him, it should give us an idea on if there is anyone he reports to; or if everyone reports to him.

Hurley nodded. We’ll keep this as an intel-gathering session. No violence unless it’s completely necessary.

Mitch nodded brusquely. He was busy memorizing the face of the man they would be following.

Is there anything else we need to go over? Hurley asked Alastor and Irene, as they would be manning the comms.

I don’t think so, Irene stated. As long as we are on the same frequency on the comms, any drastic changes or emergencies will be relayed as needed....

And I’ll stay with Annika, Tom promised. But if you need anything, you know where I’ll be.

Everyone nodded at Tom’s words and then Mitch was heading out to the car, expecting his father wouldn’t be long behind him.

Hurley left, after hugging his kids and brother, moving to the driver’s side of the car and getting in. Okay, Pup. We’re ready.

Checking comms...Swan checking in... Irene began.

Beta checking in... Alastor said next.

Pup checking in... Mitch blushed at the code name he’d been given and gave his father a sheepish smile.

Hurley smiled warmly at his son before saying, Alpha checking in. He began to drive.


Things had gone better than expected for the first few hours. Mitch had somehow managed to place a bug on the sport coat of the man they were investigating, as well as tag his phone, while he was arguing with the maitre de about where he was to sit for his brunch meeting. After that, it had been easy to maintain the distance in order to keep things intel-gathering only without violence. The man had just finished up his second in person meeting of the day, though and was on his sixth phone conversation.

I think I can safely say that he is the one in charge. Everyone he has met with or spoken with today has been someone he is in control of– not the other way around... Alastor said over the comms.

Irene added, It would make sense. Even in the Agency, he’s not known for following orders so much as deciding to go along with whatever person is in charge if he can’t bully them into doing things his way....

So if we convince him to back off, then Swan should be safe? Mitch asked hesitantly.

Yeah, Hurley agreed. Now we just need to find the dirt on him. Pup, if you keep eyes on him, I’ll go and check out his office and house.

Got it, Alpha... Mitch settled back into his hiding spot to watch.

Hurley didn’t waste any time heading to the man’s home, figuring that would be the most likely place. He managed to pick the lock without drawing attention to himself and began a thorough search.

It was while Hurley was at the man’s home that the man received one more phone call. I don’t care how you do it. I want that bitch dead before the end of tomorrow night. Got it? he growled into the phone as his underling tried to explain that they were having difficulty finding her and that the only way to draw her out would be to target an old high-school friend and that friend’s husband and children.

No.... Irene said to herself, choking on the word...but of course, her fear and anguish for the innocent family that had no idea what was about to hit them just because of a past association with Irene was clear to everyone.

Screw the bastard... Mitch muttered...and then he was moving in.

Pup? What are you doing? Stand down! Alastor saw what his brother was doing and tried to intercede before it went too far.

Hurley could hear the commotions over the comms and he quickly spoke into them. Pup, stay back. Hang tight until I can join you. I’m on my way. He was moving as he spoke, grabbing the USB stick he’d used to copy the man’s files.

Mitch ignored all attempts to slow him down. If he didn’t take out the target now, he might call a few more people and that would mean more people coming after Irene, using her past friends as collateral. It was bad enough Irene was a target; innocent people being hurt would only make Irene feel worse. He’s alone and nearly to an alley. I can take him down out of sight... he finally muttered into the comms, before he got too close to talk without the target hearing him. He paced himself just enough that he was able to cover the target’s mouth and divert him into the empty alleyway before the man could yell for help. Seconds later, there wouldn’t be any ability to yell for help. Mitch quickly cleaned up the scene enough that nothing that could link or lead back to him would be found. Any police investigating would just see a mugging gone horribly wrong for the victim.

Straightening his clothes and making sure no one was looking his way as he left the alley, Mitch calmly walked back down the street, the opposite way from the direction he’d first come. Target is eliminated, he said, once no one would over hear.

Finding and erasing all footage that shows you following or pulling him into the alleyway, Pup. Irene’s voice was subdued.

By this point, Hurley had got into his car and was driving, switching over to a private frequency. I’m coming by to pick you up...but you’re in big trouble, little boy, he warned.

Mitch was busy walking down the street, taking several turns so that he wouldn’t be anywhere near the alleyway when the police found the body. He didn’t answer his father (though that might not be the best move, since his father sounded upset with him), not wanting to make an excuse, but still angry enough that he was feeling fully justified in what he’d done. Instead, he asked his siblings, Is all video evidence taken care of, Swan? Beta?

It’s all taken care of. Except for one still-frame that we saved from after you left. We are encrypting it and sending it to all the contacts that he spoke with, along with the message that we know who they are and unless they want to join him, they should back off, Alastor stated.

Alpha is only a mile away from you, Pup. You should find a safe place to stop so he can pick you up... Irene added, noticing that her brother was still walking and showing no signs of slowing down for anyone or anything.

Hurley could hear the comments from his other kids, but he continued to speak to Mitch, allowing his voice to become sterner...more alpha. You’re already due a trip over my knee when we get home, little boy. I suggest you don’t add to that disobedience.

Mitch winced at the words and the tone...but he wasn’t sure what to say to calm his father down and didn’t want to make him angrier, so he didn’t say anything. Instead, he just kept walking as far away from the scene of his crime as possible.

Seriously, Pup? Are you trying to walk back to base? Alastor asked incredulously. He wasn’t able to hear his father, but he couldn’t imagine that the older man was happy with how Mitch was behaving. Shaking his head, he kicked his own comms over into a private channel between him and Hurley and began to give the older man directions on how to head Mitch off at the pass.

Hurley thanked his eldest as he began following the directions...and then continued talking to Mitch. Okay, little boy, I’ll play this game with you. When we get home, I’ll take you into the bedroom and strip you naked...and then you’ll be standing in the corner; one minute for every one you make me chase you now. After that, I’ll be taking you over my knee.

MItch blinked as what his father was saying began to register. Swallowing hard, he turned another corner and began to look for a bus stop or a taxi. He didn’t particularly want to ride back in the car with his father if he was this upset. He might end up with his britches around his ankles and having his butt roasted all the way home. If he could just stay out of sight for long enough for his father to calm down, he could explain. Yeah, he’d probably still be in trouble, but maybe he wouldn’t be in that much trouble.

Hurley continued speaking, irritation at his son’s actions vying with concern and worry that he wouldn’t get to his baby boy. The longer you stay away, the more swats you’re gonna get. I’ll be giving you a hard spanking, little boy. Over my knee, completely vulnerable to your daddy.

Mitch couldn’t help but shiver at those words. The adrenaline from what he’d done had worn off by now and any worry about being caught by authorities was no longer an issue. Any authority, that was, but his daddy. Hearing Hurley’s voice and knowing that he’d pushed the man further than he’d ever intended to, Mitch was beginning to fear that maybe if he didn’t turn around and find his father, his father might decide to cut him loose. Of course, that fear had the opposite effect of what would be productive. He continued to walk quickly in a direction he thought his father wouldn’t be.

Hurley breathed out, pushing the sense of panic down that Mitch was still heading in the wrong direction. Baby boy.... He gentled his tone a fraction, but the underlying sternness was still there. I’m going to spank you. Hard. And you’ll break down. But it won’t change how much I love you. It won’t change anything between us. And afterwards? I’ll hold you. I’ll cuddle you. I won’t let you go.

Mitch slowed to a stand-still and took a deep breath before switching his own comms to be private with his father. ...P... promise? You won’t let me go? He winced at how tiny and scared he sounded, but the thought of being cut loose had sunk in and wouldn’t let him go and he needed to hear that his fear of that was just that: a fear. It wouldn’t actually happen.

I’ll never let you go, Hurley replied, without hesitation. You’re my son. My baby boy. I love you. I need you in my life.

Okay... Mitch whispered, his voice still tiny and a little bit nervous. He switched the comms back to where everyone could hear again. Which direction do I need to walk, Beta? To be picked up by Alpha? he asked. Somehow, he managed not to sound scared; though it was obvious he was nervous.

Hurley waited for Alastor to respond and then started driving in the direction so he could meet his baby boy.

Mitch swallowed hard as he saw his father’s car coming down the street toward him. As soon as it was next to him, he quickly hopped in and shut the door so his father could pull away from the curb. He was silent for a few moments until they’d begun driving, then he took the comm out of his ear so that he could talk without anyone but Hurley hearing. So... I’m in really big trouble... He bit his lip and looked toward his feet.

You are, baby boy. Hurley checked the traffic and then pulled over to a more secluded spot. And I’m going to give you a little something to think about on the way home. We’re moving into the backseat for a few minutes.

Mitch looked up at that, his eyes wide and already filling with tears. He didn’t argue, though. He’d already done enough wrong by disobeying and then running. Okay, daddy... he whispered and undid his seatbelt, then waited for his father to tell him what else to do.

Hurley stroked his son’s cheek and then got out of the car. Opening the door to the backseat, he then moved round to the passenger side, helping Mitch out and then moving them both round to the back. He got in and then draped his son over his knees.

Mitch whimpered, but didn’t struggle. He’d brought this on himself by ignoring his father. He knew he deserved it.

Hurley gently stroked Mitch’s back, trying to reassure his baby boy, and then brought his hand down in a hard swat that he then repeated. He’d already decided to leave his son’s pants in place, as this was a minor spanking to settle his boy until they got home.

Mitch let out a tiny yelp, and then another whimper, but managed not to throw his hand back. He didn’t manage not to squirm, but the front seats made that more difficult, so he was held in place by his father and location.

Hurley continued the smacks down to Mitch’s thighs and then started over from the top. You don’t go radio silent on me, baby boy. You don’t take off and ignore me when I’m calling to you over the comms. Or trying to get in contact with you any other way.

Mitch bit his lip and whimpered more loudly. He couldn’t not respond to those words, though. No, daddy...If you call to me or...or talk...I answer. I don’t run... He whimpered again, letting out a tiny, choked cry.

Exactly, baby boy, Hurley answered, beginning to focus more swats to his son’s sit spots and thighs. If we’re going on missions together, I need to trust that you’ll respond to me. That you’ll answer me when I call to you, unless doing so would put you in danger., Daddy! Mitch choked out, with a tiny sob. The thought that his father couldn’t trust him hurt worse than the swats; and since the swats felt like the worst he’d ever got to date, they hurt a lot.

Hurley finished up with a final few smacks to his son’s sit spots and thighs and then carefully moved Mitch up and into his arms. I love you, baby boy. He kissed Mitch’s head. We’ll head back home now.

I love you too, daddy... Mitch’s voice wobbled, and he held onto his father tightly. Letting out a tiny sigh, he got back out of the car and got back into the passenger seat, wincing as his bottom made contact with the cushion.

Hurley moved back into the driver’s seat, putting his seatbelt on and beginning to drive. He freed one hand from the steering wheel and gently squeezed his son’s leg.

Mitch swallowed hard, his hand moving to hold his father’s hand, almost like a child. Do...did you mean it? Everything you said you’d do if I didn’t listen? he asked, in a nervous whisper.

Hurley gently squeezed his son’s hand in return. I wouldn’t make any promises to you I wasn’t prepared to keep, baby boy, he said.

Mitch’s lower lip wobbled as he tried to keep control over his emotions. I know, daddy... he said, in a very small voice. How long was I being bad? This time, his voice was not only small, it sounded childishly helpless. He closed his eyes tightly as tears slid then his face. He was already feeling vulnerable and under his father’s control; once naked, he wouldn’t have any defense or ability to stay adult at all.

Not bad, Hurley corrected automatically. But you were naughty. You made me chase after you for twenty minutes. He gently squeezed Mitch’s hand, thumb stroking the palm lightly.

Mitch shivered and let out a tiny moan, but he didn’t try and talk his father out of what he’d promised to do. He just continued to hold his father’s hand and focused on the fact he was still wanted.

Hurley stroked his son’s hand as he continued speaking quietly. You can’t take off like that, baby boy. You can’t go radio silent on me. I was worried I wouldn’t get to you...that I’d lose you. No matter how angry you think I am, nothing you could do would ever stop me loving you or wanting you.

I’m sorry, daddy... Mitch whispered softly. ...I don’t know why I ran...avoided you...I wasn’t even thinking of a reason; I just did it.... And that was the truth. When he initially started avoiding his father, he hadn’t been thinking of the possibility of Hurley not wanting him any more. He was just trying to put distance between him and the body; and not have to see his father be disappointed in him because he’d so spectacularly failed in his orders of not letting things become physical. You couldn’t get any more physically involved than to do what he did.

Hurley gently gripped his hand, not willing to let go of his son for even a second. You disobeyed the orders I gave you right at the start about this being an intel-gathering mission. Then, when I told you not to attack the man and to wait for disobeyed again. It was the same problem we faced before, only this time, it’s my baby boy who disobeyed me. Not my recruit.

MItch squeezed his eyes shut tightly, gripping his father’s hand more desperately. I... I did... he admitted, in a choked voice. I was very disobedient... He sniffled. ...Was very...naughty. He swallowed hard. I don’t know why I can’t listen when I’m in the field. I trust you. I know you know better than me.... but when it... when I’m in the moment... I just... I go with my first instinct and that almost always is the exact opposite of what I should be doing.... He reached up and wiped at his eyes with the back of his free arm.

Hurley stroked Mitch’s hand, holding it tightly in place of what he really wanted to do...which was to wrap his arms around his baby boy and hold Mitch close and tight. I know, baby boy. We need to work on your first instinct being to do what I tell you, not what you decide is best. The important thing to remember is that, no matter what happens, you’re still my baby boy. Who I love and need. I need you in my life. I need you, baby boy.

Mitch relaxed at those words. He still felt horrible– guilty and nervous about what he knew he had coming– but knowing how much he meant to his father helped. I’m sorry I made you scared of losing me... he whispered, finally turning to face his father, tear-stained cheeks, red eyes and all. Hurley deserved to see all his emotions and reactions; to know that Mitch wasn’t unaffected, even if he had such a difficult time learning.

Hurley pulled the car over, unable to help but react to his baby boy, wrapping his arms tightly around Mitch and kissing his head. I love you, he whispered. No matter what happens, that isn’t going to change.

Mitch latched onto his father, burrowing close and nuzzling against him. I know...I’m still sorry... he whispered in a sad, repentant voice before sniffling.

I know, baby boy. And I forgive you. Hurley kissed his head, tightening his arms around his son, rocking him like he really was a baby.

Mitch held on tightly, not trying to pull away at all. Eventually, though, he did clear his throat. I... I want things to be right between us, daddy... he said hesitantly. He couldn’t honestly say he wanted a spanking; but he did know that after the stunt he’d pulled today, he needed one if he didn’t want it hanging over his head and pulling him under in guilt. Plus, he knew his siblings were likely worried. If they were anything like him, they wouldn’t stop worrying until they saw Hurley and him with their own eyes.

Hurley kissed his cheek. If you settle back down, I’ll continue to hold your hand, he promised, so they would at least have that contact.

Mitch nodded and gave a trembling smile to his father, but he did as requested, settling back into his seat and buckling up before putting his hand onto the center console where his father could reach it.

Hurley gently gripped his baby boy’s hand once more, as he pulled back into traffic, driving them back home. He didn’t let go of Mitch even a little, gently stroking and squeezing his son’s hand periodically.

If Hurley hadn’t been holding onto Mitch’s hand, he would have been twisting his hands together or picking at his nails in nervousness the whole way home. As it was, he was pretty certain his father could feel his nerves. He swallowed as they pulled into the driveway and Alastor and Irene quickly came out to check on their family.

We’ve taken care of everything, Tio. They won’t be able to find out anything that points to Mitch... and all the players following orders have been informed that there is no one to follow now and that they should let it go, Irene reported, even as her eyes scanned over both men to reassure herself that neither one was hurt.

Alastor nodded. Uncle Tom has been with Anni the whole time, but he says her fever finally broke and she’s resting more peacefully now. Whatever she came down with seems to be on its way out.

Thank you. Hurley got out of the car, not wasting any time in taking hold of Mitch’s hand once more. I need to talk to your brother for a bit and then we can debrief properly. And he could devote cuddling time to Alastor...though he didn’t specifically say that out loud.

Mitch just followed along meekly. It was obvious he was feeling guilty about everything that had gone down; at least as far as his actions in regards to following orders and running, anyway. He wasn’t sorry in the least he’d eliminated the threat against Irene.

Alastor nodded and wrapped an arm around Irene’s shoulders to draw her back into the house. Sure thing, Dad. We’ll be in the kitchen making dinner....

Irene went with her older brother, giving Mitch a sympathetic look. She hadn’t heard their father warning him what would happen if he didn’t listen. If she had, she might not have been so sympathetic, since it would have been more obvious that he had continued to disobey even after being warned.

Hurley didn’t let go of Mitch’s hand, leading him into the house like he really was a small child. He guided his son into the bedroom and then, without wasting any time, proceeded to remove Mitch’s clothes.

Daddy... Mitch started to protest faintly; he could undress himself, after all. He wasn’t planning to fight the older man about what he had coming. But then he thought better of it. If his father felt Mitch needed to be undressed by him, then Mitch would be undressed by him. Even if it made him feel entirely too young.

Hurley ignored his baby boy’s protest, removing all of Mitch’s clothes and then guiding him into one of the corners. Stand here. He gently scruffed his son and then moved back.

Yes, daddy... Mitch whispered and hunched forward. If being undressed by his father made him feel very young, standing in the corner naked while his father stood behind him to make sure he stayed in place made him feel extremely young. Extremely young, vulnerable and completely out of control of his own life. His father controlled everything now. His father decided what would happen and how and Mitch? Had no choice. His choice had been made when he’d ignored his daddy. From here on out, Hurley was in control.

Hurley stood just behind his son; just close enough that Mitch would be able to feel him stood there, but far enough away that they weren’t actually touching.

Mitch tried to hold still. He really did. But feeling so young and vulnerable had him acting young... and twenty minutes was a looooong time. Three minutes of staring at the wall and he began to fidget and shift from one foot to the other.

Stay still, baby boy, Hurley directed, a serious, stern note in his voice. If you hadn’t been naughty and disobeyed me...kept running from wouldn’t be in this position now.

Swallowing hard, Mitch tried his hardest to stay still. He pressed his nose more firmly into the corner in an effort to help with his endeavor, but it was too much. Within another two minutes, he was fidgeting and shifting again. It was as if his body had a mind outside of him, because he wanted to obey his father. He did. He just couldn’t seem to. Even with something as simple as holding still.

Hurley could see that his son was struggling and this time he reached out, gently gripping the back of his son’s neck; scruffing him just like a pup. He didn’t speak. Just held onto his baby boy.

Mitch wasn’t certain why, but his father scruffing him enabled him to still. The fidgeting stopped. The shifting stopped. And he noticeably relaxed. He was still hunched in on himself, feeling guilty, but it was as if his father’s presence and physical touch enabled him to focus on what was expected and actually follow through. Sorry, daddy... he whispered, embarrassed that it had taken Hurley scruffing him for him to be able to hold still.

Hurley just gently squeezed the nape of his son’s neck in response, taking that tiny step closer so that he was brushing against Mitch’s back.

Mitch relaxed further at feeling Hurley close behind him. I’m sorry I can’t behave without your help... he whispered. He felt like a failure and it was a bit humiliating to realize his ability to obey was suspect even for something as simple as holding still. That he was only able to obey when Hurley literally had him in hand.

It’s a step at a time, baby boy, Hurley said softly. You actually want to obey me. Your instincts just need to catch up.

I do, much! I don’t like disappointing you... Mitch sighed.

Hurley squeezed the nape of his son’s neck and gently squeezed Mitch’s shoulder with his other hand. I love you, baby boy. Following my orders is about one very simple thing: making sure I don’t lose you.

I love you too, daddy. I’ll try harder...I don’t want you to lose me... Mitch said softly. He wanted to turn and hug his father, but he hadn’t been told he could turn around yet and he was trying so hard to obey.

Hurley just kept his hands on his baby boy, knowing they had a few more minutes to go and need ing to be consistent...even though he wanted to hug his baby boy.

Even with his father keeping his hands on him, it was difficult for Mitch to remain still the entire time. When the twenty minutes were up, his body was quivering from the effort he had to make not to squirm.

Hurley gently guided Mitch out of the corner, giving his son a tight hug before guiding him over to the bed and taking a seat, gently pulling his baby boy across his lap.

Mitch was ashamed of himself for it, and tried really hard to regain control over himself, but he felt guilty. He felt like a helpless child. And he felt afraid because he knew what was coming and he was positive he couldn’t handle it. All those things contributed to him immediately breaking down over his father’s lap and crying like the baby his father always referred to him as.

Hurley gently stroked Mitch’s lower back. I love you, baby boy. You’ve been in this position before, over my knee. You don’t have to be scared. I’ve got you. I won’t let you go.

I... I know, daddy... Mitch gulped, trying to get his tears back under control. It was just so difficult. He wasn’t afraid of his father letting go of him. He wasn’t afraid of his father harming him. He wasn’t even really afraid of the pain he knew was about to occur (although his father had promised hard). He didn’t know why he was scared and that made it even worse.

As he had in the corner, Hurley moved his other hand up to Mitch’s neck to gently squeeze, even as he lifted his hand, bringing it down in a firm swat that he then repeated. While he had promised a hard spanking, he was still careful to keep control over his strength so the swats weren’t unbearable.

Feeling his father holding his neck helped some. Even though he was still scared (and it was galling that he was scared and didn’t know why; he couldn’t even tell Hurley, so his daddy could help him, because he didn’t understand why he felt that way), feeling his father’s grip on him helped him at least feel as if his father was in control, even though Mitch felt so completely out of control. And then the first swat fell, and he let out a pained yelp and began crying harder. His father hadn’t been exaggerating. If the first swat was anything to go by, this would be the hardest spanking he’d ever received from his daddy. Oh, he knew it wasn’t so hard that he’d be harmed. He doubted he’d even have a bruise by the time it was done. But it was definitely going to be felt for the rest of the day, if not the night as well. His daddy had never felt the need to punish him so harshly before and Mitch hated that he had pushed him to that point this time. If Hurley hadn’t have taken hold of his neck, Mitch wasn’t so certain he wouldn’t have thrown himself off his father’s lap. As it was, he began squirming, almost thrashing around, in an attempt to move his bottom out of the way. I’m sorry, daddy! I’m sorry! he sobbed, throwing his hands back to cover his backside.

I know, baby boy. And it was hard to force himself to continue punishing Mitch; only the knowledge that his son needed the rules and boundaries...needed him to be consistent...allowed him to grab his son’s hands, moving them out of the way. I love you. I need you to stay safe and with me, baby boy. I’ve already forgiven you. But I need you to listen when I tell you not to do something.

Mitch gulped in deep breaths and tried to control his crying, but it was beyond him; just as holding still and not squirming was beyond him. And his father wasn’t holding his neck any longer, he was holding his hands... and while the fact his father was still in control was obvious, and while it was comforting that his father was keeping hold of him, it didn’t have the same effect as when his father held his neck and the fear began to rise again. I want to, daddy...I do! he choked out, the fact that the fear was rising again obvious.

Hurley released Mitch’s hands and moved his hand back to scruff his baby boy. I know you do, baby boy. And I need you to obey me in this: keep your hands at your back. Or wrap them around my leg, if that’s easier. But they need to stay out of the way.

Mitch felt himself calming again as he felt his father’s hand on his neck. I want to, daddy...I don’t know if I can do it without help... he admitted, shame clear in his voice.

Hurley squeezed his son’s neck as he thought. If you can’t keep your hands out of the way, then maybe I should tie or cuff them until the spanking’s over. The other possibility was to call his brother or oldest son in, so that Mitch’s hands could be held, and he’d have comfort from another source as well as his father.

Mitch whimpered at that suggestion, though he very obviously didn’t protest it. He knew he’d need help keeping his hands in place. He also knew his father holding his neck was helping him remain calm; so his father couldn’t be the one to do it. If tying his hands was the only way to make sure he didn’t throw his hands back and cause unintentional injury to himself, he wouldn’t argue. Even if the idea of it was almost enough to counteract the calming effect of his father scruffing him.

Hurley didn’t really want to restrain Mitch either. He continued to stroke and squeeze his baby boy’s neck as he thought. I’m going to call your brother in here, baby boy. He can hold onto you so that you don’t risk harming yourself. And you disobeyed him as well as me.

Mitch took a quivering breath and then took another deeper breath. ...Okay, daddy... he finally said, his voice strained, as he was still trying to control his tears. He didn’t care if Alastor saw him punished. His father was right. He’d disobeyed a direct order from his brother as well. He was lucky if Alastor didn’t take a turn at spanking him when his father was done.

Hurley stroked his son’s neck, using his free hand to remove his radio from his pocket and click it on. Alastor? I need you to come in here, kiddo. Just you.

It was only a matter of a minute and the bedroom door was carefully opened and then a few seconds later closed and Alastor moved to where he was within Mitch’s view. What do you need me to do, Dad? he asked soberly, as he took in his appearance. Mitch’s face was shiny with tears, his eyes red and glassy, his nose red and puffy and he was in desperate need of a tissue. His brother was visibly shaking; though it was difficult to tell if the shaking was due to him trying not to squirm, or if it was because of the fear that he couldn’t quite conceal. His brother’s backside was already a bright angry red. And it was obvious that the spanking wasn’t over. Part of him felt bad for his baby brother. The other part was relieved that Hurley wasn’t going easy on the whelp. Mitch really needed to learn to obey orders. Before he disobeyed the wrong one and ended up dead.

I need you to take your brother’s hands, Hurley replied, his hand still gently stroking over Mitch’s neck, gently squeezing it. His voice was low and calm, with nothing to hint at how this was affecting him.

Alastor nodded quickly. Okay, sir. He quickly kneeled in front of his brother’s head. I need you to give me your hands, baby brother... he said, looking directly into Mitch’s eyes.

Mitch swallowed and let out a tiny moan but moved his hands back down and in front of him, reaching out to his big brother. He let out a tiny, relieved sigh the minute Alastor took him by the wrists, squeezing gently; the fact that his brother now had hold of his hands the way his father had hold of his neck soothing in a way he hadn’t expected. He was trapped– controlled– by both older men. It made it a little easier to handle. He was already so sore, and he knew it wasn’t over yet, but at least he knew he wouldn’t be causing his father any more problems because of his nerves. He let out another tiny sob.

I’ve got you, kiddo.... I’ve got him, Dad... Alastor glanced up at Hurley, sympathy in his eyes. He knew how much his father hated punishing his children.

Hurley nodded, giving his oldest son a grateful look. He reached out to stroke Alastor’s cheek as a way of saying thank you and then, with a deep breath, resumed spanking his youngest son, hand still settled at the nape of Mitch’s neck and squeezing, gently scruffing him.

Mitch never understood why it always hurt so much worse after a pause in between swats, but it did. When his father resumed spanking, it stung so much more. It was only a matter of seconds before Mitch was squirming uncontrollably and sobbing again.

Alastor winced and held onto Mitch’s wrists a bit more firmly, since his baby brother’s instinct was to throw his hands back and protect himself.

It hurt to punish his son, but Hurley forced himself to continue, swatting down to Mitch’s thighs before starting over from the top. You can’t disobey me, baby boy. You can’t run from me. Not when I tell you to come back to me.

No, Daddy...can’t dis’bey or ...or run... Mitch agreed, with a tear-filled gasp. I’m sorry, sorry.... he wailed.

I know, baby boy. I forgive you. I love you. But your safety is incredibly important. I need you to obey me while you’re in the field, because if you disobey at the wrong time, you could cause yourself to be taken from me.

I...I kno..know, daddy. I...I w..want ob..obey! Mitch continued to sob. I d..don w..wanna b..bad....

You aren’t bad, baby boy, Hurley replied, beginning to swat a bit faster; though he didn’t go any harder. You were naughty when you disobeyed my orders and when you continued to run from me even after I told you repeatedly not to.

W....wuz the...the d...dif..difrenz? Mitch choked out, completely confused and heartsick and hurting. ...P...pleaz...da...daddy. Can tage n’more... he whimpered between sobbing. He was still struggling with himself, though; fighting his need to fight and failing miserable at it, his legs kicking and his bottom wiggling like a hooked worm. The only reason his hands and head were still was because they were being held by his big brother and daddy.

Hurley winced, able to tell how his son was affected by the spanking. He paused, though he kept his hand on his baby boy’s neck, gently squeezing, even as he gently rubbed Mitch’s bottom. You think you’re beyond hope. That’s why you call yourself bad. Because you don’t believe in yourself the same way I believe in you.

I...I k...keep f..failing! Mitch cried, his trembling becoming even more noticeable as he fought his need to just give in.

You’re still learning, Hurley corrected. You didn’t learn to shoot overnight. You didn’t learn to fight overnight. Why should this be any different to that? He continued to gently rub his son’s bottom; needing to encourage Mitch to give in so he could end the punishment and move onto comfort.

T..those di..difren... Mitch choked. ...W..was e..easy w..with th..them. Li..lisnin hard! T..too st..stupid... The squirming and shaking had stopped finally; although it had transferred into an unnatural stillness that showed how tense Mitch was and how stiffly he was forcing himself to stay still.

No, baby boy, Hurley disagreed, squeezing his neck and continuing to gently rub and stroke his bottom. You’re not used to having a family...a father who’s desperate to keep you alive and with him. I need you, baby boy. You filled a spot I had no idea was empty until you came along.

MItch closed his eyes tightly at the words. He wasn’t used to having a family. Katrina had been the closest he’d come and then she’d been so brutally taken from him. His father’s words soothed him, even as they caused him to lose what little control he still had over himself, the need to just let go and let his father have him too strong to ignore by this point. I’m so...sorry... he wailed again, before going boneless over Hurley’s lap and sobbing. ...Sorry...wanna be good...wanna listen...yours...canno run...hafta ’bey.... He continued to cry, his body limp as a spent dish-rag.

Now was the hard part. Hurley stroked Mitch’s neck and then signed to his oldest, I promised him an extra twenty swats, one for every minute he made me chase him. As he also disobeyed you, I think they would be effective coming from you.

Alastor’s eyes widened at that, but it only took a few seconds for him to nod in agreement. His father was right. Mitch had disobeyed an order from him as well and that really couldn’t be let go. If he gave him the extra twenty he had coming, it would reinforce that their father meant what he said and would follow through; and it would also remind baby brother that he needed to obey chain of command, no matter who in the family was giving the orders. Slowly, carefully, he loosened his grip on Mitch’s wrists. Okay, baby brother. You need to put your hands on your back again. Daddy will hold them for you... he gently directed, using the more juvenile form of address for their father, because Mitch seemed so much younger at the moment, it fit.

Still crying, though not the heartbreaking sobs that had been coming out of him a few minutes before (he’d tired himself out so much, he couldn’t cry that hard), Mitch whimpered, but obeyed, putting his hands back where Hurley could take hold of them again.

Hurley gently grasped Mitch’s hands, holding and squeezing them the same way he was gently scruffing his son’s neck.

Alastor quickly moved so that he was knelt in front of his father now; next to Mitch’s side and able to swat effectively. Okay, baby brother. You’ve got twenty more coming for disobeying daddy and continuing to run.

Noooo... please, Al... I won do it again... never ever ever... please don... Mitch sobbed out.

Sorry, baby brother, but you were warned. I won’t break a promise to you... not even if the promise was daddy’s... Alastor said sadly, raising his hand up and letting it fall down on his baby brother’s backside with a firm pat. And that’s all it could really be termed as; a firm pat– it certainly wasn’t what would typically be thought of as a swat. Alastor didn’t want to go any harder on his brother, though. Their father had thoroughly punished little brother from the top of his bottom to the middle of his thighs and everywhere in between. His brother’s backside was an angry red and while Alastor knew there wouldn’t be bruising– his father had been very careful, despite punishing Mitch– Alastor knew that the extra swats would be very painful to his baby brother, even if they were very light. Alastor could feel the heat coming off his brother’s bottom each time his palm connected, and he found himself patting lighter and lighter as the count got progressively higher.

Mitch, so sore by this point that he couldn’t tell how hard his brother was smacking – only that he was– was sobbing anew, as if his world was ending. When Alastor finally said, Twenty... in a tense, upset voice (he truly didn’t like punishing his brother any more than Hurley liked it), Mitch was lost in his own misery.

It had been hard to spank his son...harder to ask his other son to spank Mitch. The tears were hard to listen to and as soon as Alastor stopped, Hurley wasted no time in drawing Mitch up into his arms, hugging him tightly, only adjusting his boy enough so that Alastor could also comfort.

Mitch pressed as close to his father as he was able, but that was all he did beyond sobbing helplessly. He was no longer in control of anything. His daddy had complete control over him...over everything to do with him...and he was finally beginning to accept that in more than just words.

Alastor carefully stood and shifted so that he could sit on the other side of his father and just gently rubbed his brother’s hair, his back and his shoulders. It’s over, baby brother... he whispered sadly.

Hurley hugged his baby boy tightly, kissing Mitch’s head and keeping his hand at his son’s neck. He spoke soft, soothing words of love and forgiveness, wincing at the sound of his baby boy’s sobs.

When Mitch had finally sobbed himself dry– and crying was painful because there were no more tears to be had– he took deep, quivering breaths and just grasped onto Hurley desperately. ...Sorry, daddy... he whispered again, his voice raw.

Alastor winced and he carefully stood and went to the tiny fridge in his father’s room and withdrew a water bottle, walking back and handing it to Hurley.

Hurley took the bottle with a nod of thanks and took the lid off, carefully helping his youngest son to drink, gently stroking Mitch’s cheek. I love you, baby boy. I forgive you. It’s over. You’re not being punished any more, he said gently.

Mitch kept his eyes closed and slowly drank. The more Hurley spoke and caressed, the calmer he became, until finally, he was just lying limp in his father’s arms, but not crying or struggling...just drinking from the bottle his father held and looking so much like the baby that both Hurley and Alastor tended to refer to him as that Alastor couldn’t help the fond smile that crossed his face. If it weren’t for the fact baby brother was still naked, he’d have pulled out his phone and snapped a picture.

Hurley stroked and caressed, even as he continued to hold the bottle so that Mitch could drink. He also continued to speak softly and soothingly, reiterating his love and forgiveness...and that he had Mitch; had his son; that his baby boy had a family.

Mitch opened his eyes as his father talked, obviously listening closely. HIs eyes were looking up into Hurley’s face the entire time, as if searching to make certain he was telling the truth. And he continued to drink. He hadn’t thought it’d be possible to feel even more vulnerable, needy, dependent, young, or controlled than he had felt while being spanked. He was discovering, to his confusion, that having his father hold the water bottle for him was actually causing those feelings to surpass the moment when he’d been over his father’s knee. He’d felt like a child before. Now, he truly felt like the baby his father claimed. Not mentally, but emotionally. His face was open, and his feelings could be seen clearly in his eyes. And he continued drinking; not attempting to take over control of the bottle even once. Instead, his hands shifted to hold onto the front of Hurley’s shirt.

Hurley held eye contact with his son, his free hand stroking and rubbing over his baby boy. You have a whole family now...people who love you. Who care about you. People that you need to come back to. I love you, baby boy. Now that I have you, I won’t let you go. I won’t ever let you go.

Mitch finished the bottle, finally opening his mouth and releasing it with a tiny sigh. He snuggled closer to Hurley, letting his head rest on the older man’s chest. I love you too, daddy... he whispered quietly, still feeling exceptionally young. He suspected whatever Hurley wanted to do with him, or to him, he’d go along with at this point because it just felt wrong not to let his father be in complete control.

Alastor smiled again. If you two want to scoot back into the bed and just snuggle, I can go tell everyone that everything is alright....

Hurley stroked Mitch’s hair, pressing a kiss to his head before reaching out to gently squeeze Alastor’s hand. Okay, kiddo. I love you. Thank you. I know this wasn’t easy for you, he signed.

Alastor smiled and nodded. I love you too, Dad. I love both of you... He made sure to look Mitch in the face when he said the last before he clasped his father on the shoulder and quietly left the bedroom to let everyone else know everything was okay and under control.

Mitch waited until his brother was gone before looking up into Hurley’s face. ...You’re in control... he whispered...almost like a promise.

Hurley shuffled back on the bed, leaning back so that Mitch could sprawl across him and take the weight off his sore bottom. You’re right, baby boy. I am in control. I control you. I look after you.

As soon as Hurley was situated, Mitch scrambled into place, half-lying on top of his father, nearly the way they did at night when his daddy trapped them and sighed softly. His head was situated against Hurley’s chest so that he could listen to the older man’s heartbeat. I don’t wanna be in control. Better for you to control... he mumbled.

Hurley kissed his son’s head, gently stroking the warmed skin of Mitch’s backside. I’ve got you, baby boy. You don’t have to worry about anything. I love you.

I know, daddy... Mitch whispered and only whimpered a little when Hurley began to gently stroke his sore bottom. He shifted so his arms were more fully around his father and squeezed tight. ....I can feel how much you love and got me... he teased hesitantly.

Hurley was very careful and gentle when he rubbed his baby boy’s bottom, his other arm holding his boy tightly against him, fingers alternating between playing with his hair and scruffing his neck. He kissed his son’s cheek. No matter what happens, it won’t change, he promised.

I really am sorry I ran and scared you, daddy.... I want to be good for you... I love you... Mitch said softly, the gentle affection leading him to relax to the point where he was finding it difficult to stay awake.

We’ve dealt with that, baby boy, Hurley replied. You’ve been forgiven and punished. I know it was hard, but it’s over with now. And you’re my good boy.

MItch snuggled some more. I... I know... I just. I can’t figure out why I have such a hard time listening. It isn’t cuz I don’t want to...I do! I just never think of it until it’s too late and I’ve already messed up. He sighed sadly.

Hurley kissed his head, running his fingers through his baby boy’s hair even as he continued to gently rub Mitch’s bottom. I know you don’t plan to disobey me, baby boy. I’m your father, but you spent a lot of time without any authority figure in your life. No one able to pull you back and willing to care enough to step in to make you mind them.

You’re the only one I’ve ever had that cared enough to step in and make me mind... Mitch admitted. ...All the fosters... if I did something wrong with them, they’d just send me back. They didn’t want to have to step in....

Hurley kissed his son’s head. If you’re naughty with me, it’ll earn you a trip over my knee. But I won’t ever change my mind. I won’t ever decide you’re too much work or that I don’t want to step in. You’re mine now. My son. And I love you.

And that’s why I want to be good for you... Mitch smiled. His eyes closed, and he just focused on his father’s arms around him...his father’s hands providing comfort.

Because I’m your daddy, Hurley whispered, scruffing his son’s neck. I’m not going to let go of you. I’m not ever going to stop wanting you. No matter what happens.

I’m glad Irene brought me to you to train... Mitch whispered. ...I can’t think of where I’d be now if it weren’t for you....

I’m more than glad of that. Hurley stroked his cheek. I didn’t even realise what I was missing until you arrived in my life...disobedience and sass and all.

Mitch leaned up to give his father a sheepish glance. ...You probably wish there was a lot less disobedience and not so much sass... he commented.

Hurley kissed his forehead. I can live with the sass. The disobedience, we’ll deal with. We’ll work on. But I owe you a lot, baby boy. You gave me another son to take care of...and you brought your brother back to me. When we first met, I didn’t care if I lived or died. Now? Now I do.

Mitch snuggled close. Considering when we first met, all I cared about was vengeance and I didn’t care if I got killed in the process...Well, you’ve done just as much for me.

Hurley tightened his embrace, continuing to gently rub his baby boy’s bottom. You have a family to live for as well, baby boy.

I do... Mitch agreed quickly, snuggling close. ...And if I ever forget and do something that might take me away from remind me... He wiggled his bottom and let out a tiny sigh. If I thought it’d help me remember, I’d.... He paused. ...I’d ask you to remind me every morning after we wake up. Not the affectionate pats I’ve been asking for, but something that remains with me the entire day, so even if you aren’t right next to me, I think of you and what you want me to do....

Continuing the gentle stroking and rubbing, Hurley kissed his son’s head. Is that something you need, baby boy? he asked softly.

After today...I think I do, daddy... Mitch reluctantly admitted. When his father had been telling him what to do...he’d been thinking he should listen. That he wanted to obey. But that knowledge and wanting to obey had been over-ridden by his anger at what was being done to Irene. Maybe if he’d already had a sore bottom when they went on the mission, it would have at least given him pause before he’d taken off on his own. Given someone time to break through the anger and talk him down, instead of him acting first and thinking later.

Hurley stroked the side of his son’s head. We can try it and see if it works...if it makes you feel any better. He was fairly certain he could observe his son’s reactions and stop at the point Mitch needed him to. Along with that...maybe you should have a few minutes to stand in the corner before that.

Soooo.... corner time and a reminder every morning? Until I get a better control over myself and can stop and think before just reacting and disobeying you? Mitch asked hesitantly, needing to make sure he understood correctly. ...That would probably be at least reminds me who is in control....

Yeah, kid. With the understanding that you tell me if it starts to feel wrong and that it’s not working, Hurley said seriously. I don’t want to push you further than you can handle.

Okay, daddy... Mitch readily agreed. He doubted it would ever feel wrong. He trusted his father and fully believed that even if it went on every day for a year, it wouldn’t feel wrong. Now whether it would work or not? That he wasn’t so sure about.

Hurley pressed a kiss to his head. You don’t have to tell the others the details, but if I’m giving you a reminder every morning, they’re likely to hear.

Mitch nodded. They all know I sometimes lay over your knee for settling...I’ve done it in front of ’em before.... he said hesitantly, pausing. ...I can just let them know I need something a little more to help settle me...that should be enough, shouldn’t it?

It’s entirely up to you how much or how little you tell them, Hurley replied. But if you tell them that, it’s less likely to worry them than if they think you’re just getting into trouble with me every morning.

Mitch nodded. Maybe I can tell them tonight? We’ll all be in bed, so everyone will be here to hear it....

That’s good enough for me, baby boy. Kissing Mitch’s head, Hurley gently scruffed the back of his neck, continuing to gently stroke his bottom.

Mitch snuggled close again. ...Feels better, daddy... he admitted bashfully. He wasn’t certain he was meant to have it feel good, but it did. His father was slowly and gently rubbing the sting away.

You’ve been punished, baby boy, Hurley said gently. And that is probably the worst punishment I’ve given you. But it’s finished now. As long as you’re not uncomfortable, it’s okay if you feel better.

I don’t feel uncomfortable. I dunno if I should...if it’s weird or not...but I like you rubbing... Mitch admitted, before hiding his face against Hurley’s chest.

If it doesn’t make you feel uncomfortable, you don’t need to worry about liking it, Hurley said, continuing to gently rub and stroke.

Yeah...Okay... Mitch closed his eyes and relaxed further. We aren’t doing anything else outside the house today, are we? he asked quietly. Cuz I need to get dressed eventually...and was thinking maybe my pajamas would be good....

No, baby boy. We don’t need to leave the house, so it’s perfectly fine for you to wear your pajamas. Hurley stroked his son’s cheek.

Okay. So... I could totally lie here all the rest of the day, cuz I really like when you trap me, daddy... Mitch grinned crookedly. ...But I know you wanna check on Anni and I need to apologize to Reny for scaring her, at the least.... He sighed softly and nuzzled against his father’s chest.

Hurley kissed Mitch’s cheek. And I have cuddles scheduled with your big brother. But tonight, you can take your turn sleeping trapped in my arms.

I’ll like that... Mitch admitted and smiled, before leaning up to kiss his father on the chin. Thanks for taking care of me, daddy... he whispered, before slowly getting up off the bed and looking for his pajamas.

Hurley got up and moved over, finding a pair of his son’s pajamas. He carefully dressed Mitch, giving him a kiss to his forehead. I love you, baby boy.

Mitch smiled again and gave his father a hug, then walked out to join his sister and send Alastor back in to their father.

Alastor walked into the bedroom and closed the door before moving into his father’s arms. I don’t know how you do it, he whispered. That was so hard.

Hurley wrapped his arms tightly around his oldest and kissed his head. I know, he said softly. I’m sorry I asked you to do it...but he needs to follow your orders when it’s important just as much as mine.

No... don’t be sorry, dad. You’re right; he needs to know to obey me, too, in the field. I understand why you had me do it. I just never thought it would be that difficult. Alastor’s smile was rueful.

Hurley tightened his embrace. It’s always difficult to punish any of you, kiddo.

I know. That’s why I try really hard so you don’t have to... Alastor admitted, as he let himself snuggle into his father. Maybe Mitch will realize and that will help him avoid it too.

I’m hoping he’s already starting to realise. Hurley moved them over to the bed, so he could sit and cuddle his oldest more tightly on his lap. But he’s asked me for a bit more help. He stroked Alastor’s hair as he cuddled, needing this contact with his son.

Alastor moved easily, getting comfortable and holding onto his father tightly. Help? As in reminders? Beyond what he was wanting and needing before?

Hurley cuddled Alastor close and tight, kissing the top of his head. He’s asked for stronger reminders. I’m letting you know because the room isn’t soundproofed, so it’s likely it’ll be heard...but it won’t be because he’s in trouble.

Does he need me to tell the others? Alastor asked curiously. Mitch wasn’t typically shy, but in this instance, his brother might need the extra help.

He said he’d tell everyone at bedtime, Hurley replied. But you can always ask him.

Well, considering it is bedtime in less than two hours, I think he can do what he plans. If he needs help then, I’ll help. Alastor snuggled a bit more. Did you want to check on Anni? Uncle Tom said she was doing much better. I don’t know if they’ll want to move back into here tonight or stay in her room, though.

Hurley nodded. I’ll see how she feels...if she thinks she’ll be more comfortable in here or in her room.

Alastor smiled and nodded, but waited for his father to decide if he was ready to see the others or not. He knew sometimes his father just needed to hold him, so he would let Hurley call the shots.

Hurley couldn’t immediately bring himself to let go of his oldest son, stroking Alastor’s hair and kissing the top of his head. Thank you for letting me hold onto you, kiddo, he whispered. I love you.

Alastor just held onto his father. I love you too, dad, he said quietly. I like being held, so that really isn’t a problem, he teased.

Hurley tightened his embrace, continuing the gentle affection. In the next several days, we can start up a training regime again, he commented, knowing his sons at least would be going back into the work. Of course, I won’t be riding you nearly as hard as in the first place, as you’re officially my son and I won’t be keeping our relationship a secret.

I knew you were making me train so much harder than everyone else! Alastor tried to act offended, but failed, as he couldn’t keep the grin off his face.

Hurley laughed at that. Not harder, kiddo. But I couldn’t risk being caught playing favourites. Of course, it had been obvious anyway. If he’d hidden his feelings better, he might have been told about the trade. He kissed his son’s cheek. And you got a lot that the rest of the recruits didn’t.

That’s true... Alastor grinned.

We can sit down tomorrow, all of us, and talk about the training regime...if there’s anything we need to work on or anything any of you need to ask about or suggest. Hurley held his son a fraction tighter before he helped Alastor to stand and stood himself, though he kept his arm wrapped around his shoulders.

That will be good, Alastor agreed, moving to walk with his father out of the room to meet with the others.

Hurley kept his arm wrapped around his son as he moved to Annika’s room, knocking lightly on the door to announce his presence and then opening it and stepping inside.

Annika looked up from where she was snuggled up to her Uncle Tom. Papa! Can I get out of bed now? she immediately asked, an innocent, sweet look on her face to belie the fact she’d been pestering her uncle to let her out for quite a while. He didn’t want her to get up until her fever was completely gone.

Hurley stepped over to his daughter’s bed. I can tell you’re feeling better, but I want to make sure the fever’s entirely gone, he said gently.

That’s what Uncle Tom said! Annika pouted slightly and sighed.

I know it’s frustrating, angel, but I want to make sure you’re completely recovered. As he spoke, Hurley retrieved the thermometer so he could take her temperature.

I know, Papa. Annika relented and settled so he could take her temperature.

Hurley stroked her cheek and then took her temperature. He checked the thermometer. The fever’s cleared up, angel.

Oh, thank goodness! Annika slumped in relief. I thought it wouldn’t be....

Hurley leaned forward to kiss her forehead. Why don’t we go through to have dinner? he suggested. You can stay in your pajamas, as it won’t be long before we go to bed.

Okay, Papa! Annika smiled happily. Are you coming, Uncle Tom?

Tom smiled. I wouldn’t miss it. He stood up.

Putting the thermometer away, Hurley helped his daughter out of bed and guided her to the door.

Irene smiled as she saw all of her family coming out into the living area. I made soup and sandwiches for supper, she said. I figured it would sit easier on Anni’s stomach.

That sounds good. Hurley walked over to give his other daughter a hug. I’ve got the paperwork ready for signing after we’ve eaten, he added.

Tom smiled at that and moved over to help lay the table.

Okay, Tio... Irene smiled. I can’t wait!

Can’t wait for what? Mitch asked curiously, as he began to pour water in glasses.

To sign the paperwork to make it I have another daughter and you have another sister. Hurley smiled at his youngest son.

Mitch grinned. Great! Now you have to stay here with us!

Tom laughed at his nephew’s response. Your dad would insist on that anyway, he commented, giving his brother a fond look and smile.

You know me too well. Hurley smiled at him.

Irene blushed. I was through running away from home the minute I drove into the drive. But I’m happy you want me....

Of course, we want you. Alastor’s voice was gruff. We wanted you before you decided to leave, too.

It seemed like a good idea at the time. Irene sighed, obviously feeling it hadn’t been a good idea now.

Annika smiled. So, you won’t leave ever again?

If she does, Mitch snorted, dad will immediately retrieve her and remind her why she can’t leave. He rubbed his backside, remembering how he was reminded not to run or leave.

The same with all of you, Hurley said. I want each and every one of you. So, Mitch is right. Any of you leave, I’ll come after you and persuade you to stay.

Tom chuckled. Persuade. That’s one word for it.

Well, I for one intend to never leave... Annika grinned.

That’s good to know, angel. The table was laid, and Hurley sat, looking around at his brother and children. I mentioned to Alastor about starting a training regime in the next few days, he commented.

Irene nodded. Annika should be fully well by then. It will be good to keep in shape and ready for anything.

Hurley smiled. It’s not going to be as tough as we’ve trained previously, he added to his sons...primarily to Mitch, as he’d already indicated as much to Alastor.

Well that’s good. Training before was a bitch... Mitch laughed, remembering how his father took him down before.

I needed to make sure you were ready to defend yourself, Hurley commented, smiling a little; though he could admit that maybe part of the reason he’d been hard on his youngest son was because he’d been fighting that feeling of being drawn to Mitch.

Well you did that! Mitch grinned. It worked. I’m still alive because of it.

Then I’m glad that training kept you alive when I wasn’t there to do that, Hurley said. And we’ve got plenty of room outside to resume the training.

Looking forward to it, Papa...even if I’m not planning to stay in field, it will be good to keep in practice. Annika smiled, then sipped more soup.

Hurley smiled. I think it’ll be important all round.

It didn’t take long for the meal to finish and then Hurley stood up to help with cleaning.

Tom took the items from his brother. I’ll take care of that. I know you want to get that paperwork done as soon as possible.

Irene helped clear a few dishes, but she was obviously anxious to make things legal.

Hurley wrapped his arm around Irene’s shoulders. Come on, sweetheart. Let’s get the paperwork sorted so it’s all official. He led her to his office.

Irene quickly followed Hurley into his office. Soon I’ll be yours legally, Tio... she whispered nervously.

In every way it’s possible to be. Hurley kissed her cheek and then retrieved the paperwork, so they could sign it.

Irene didn’t fully relax until both she and her Tio had signed. I’m yours now... she whispered, before throwing her arms around Hurley.

Hurley wrapped his arms tightly around his newest daughter and kissed the top of her head. Nothing will ever take you from me, he promised.

Good! Irene snuggled close. I think everyone else is waiting for us in bed... she added, with a smile.

Hurley wrapped his arm around her shoulders, so he could lead her out of the study and to his bedroom, taking the paperwork so he could lock it in the safe with the others. You and Annika have the choice of being trapped by your big brother or your uncle, he commented.

I think Anni has formed an attachment to Uncle Tom while she’s been sick, so I will let her stay with him and I’ll go with Alastor. Irene smiled as she walked into the bedroom and noticed Annika had evidently had the same idea as her, since she was already curled up on top of Tom and fast asleep.

Alastor was on the other side of the bed, waiting for Irene, and Mitch was sat at the end, waiting for their father.

Hurley smiled at the sight, even as he crawled onto the bed, leaving enough room for Alastor and Irene, and settled in place, simply holding his arm out to Mitch.

Mitch quickly crawled up into his father’s arms, settling into his usual position, and fell asleep quickly, the day’s events catching up to him.

Alastor held his arms open to Irene, snuggling his new sister close as soon as she got into the bed. She fell asleep nearly as fast as her siblings; the relief that her enemy had been stopped and she was home to stay enabled her to sleep easily for the first time in a very long time.

Good night, Dad, Alastor whispered, before falling asleep himself.

Hurley took a few moments to look at his sleeping family and then closed his eyes, feeling safe and comforted enough that he could join them in sleep.

The End

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