Newly reinstated Agent Cabe Gallo walked into the hospital determined to have the conversation that he’d been putting off for the past three weeks. The day after Walter drove his car off a cliff, Cabe had tried to talk to him about what he’d done, but the younger man’s pain medications had made that next to impossible. Cabe decided to wait a week so the kid had some time to recover. But then when he tried to bring it up a second time, Walter had given him such pathetic kicked puppy eyes, that Cabe had given in and changed the subject.
Today, Walter was being released, and Cabe knew they needed to talk before Walter went home. Once Walter got out of the hospital, he’d find every reason possible to avoid Cabe if he thought this discussion was forthcoming, but while he was still in the hospital, there was nowhere for him to run.
Cabe found Toby, Paige, and Ralph in the room with Walter. Cabe smiled at them all and said, “I thought I’d be the first visitor this morning.”
Paige said, “Ralph wanted to stop by before school to show Walter the schematics he drew for some kind of rocket car thing.” Walter opened his mouth to correct her, but Paige kept talking while looking at her watch and ushering Ralph towards the door. “And we really need to get going, or he’s going to be late. Come on Ralph, you’ll see Walter later tonight when we pick him up to take him home.”
“Bye, Walter,” Ralph said.
“See you later,” Walter said. He held up the papers Ralph had given him and added, “Thanks for these.”
Ralph nodded and left with his mom, while Walter put the papers on the table beside his bed.
Walter gave Cabe a smile, but instead of smiling back, Cabe raised one eyebrow. Walter’s eyebrows drew together for a second in confusion before suddenly looking away.
Toby noticed that the older man was scrutinizing Walter, while the younger man was now avoiding making eye contact with anyone. Realizing that his friend was about to get chewed out, Toby stood and said, “You know what, I’m going to gather up the whole team, and make sure everything’s ready for you to come home.”
“What?” With some desperation Walter said, “That’s really not necessary. I thought you were gonna stay here and keep me company this morning.”
“I think Cabe’s got that covered.” Toby gave the older man a glance, and Cabe nodded affirmatively.
Walter shook his head and said, “I’m sure Cabe has other things he needs to do today.”
“We’re gonna talk, kid.”
Both Toby and Walter opened their eyes wide at that. Toby started for the door, but Walter grabbed his wrist to stop him. He whispered, “Don’t leave.”
Toby whispered back. “I told you not to take that car.” He pulled his arm away, and made a hasty retreat.
After a few seconds of awkward silence, Walter said, “I could really use a glass of orange juice. Do you think you could…”
“No more stalling,” Cabe cut the younger man off. He walked over to Walter’s bed, and sat on the edge, right next to Walter’s leg. He stared intently at the man he thought of as a son and said, “Tell me what happened that night. No lies. No half truths. The whole story.”
Looking away, Walter said, “An animal ran out in front of the car. I panicked, swerved, and lost control of the vehicle.”
“Walter.” Cabe chided. “You know that’s not what I’m asking.”
Unnerved by the older man’s concerned expression, Walter looked down at his lap and fiddled with his hospital wristband. He mumbled, “It’s embarrassing.”
Cabe waited silently.
After a very long pause, Walter sighed, and said very quietly, “I was angry. I felt betrayed by your confession, and then I felt betrayed again by Paige when she said she was leaving. I tried to tell myself that my emotions were unproductive and irrational, and that I should be able to set them aside and focus on other things, but I couldn’t seem to do it. The harder I tried to get rid of the outrage and misery, the more frustrated I became.” Walter trailed off, not wanting to admit to the next part.
Reluctantly, the younger man said, “I decided focusing on a task would be the final push I needed to get my emotions under control, and the quickest and easiest task I could think of was driving. I knew that driving fast on a winding road would demand all of my focus, especially if I calculated the maximum speed for each turn to keep all four wheels on the road.” Walter forced himself to look at the man he thought of as a father for a few seconds. “But even when I drove at the maximum speed, I couldn’t get rid of my feelings, and then I forgot to factor in the variable of an animal in the road.”
Cabe sighed when he saw the kicked puppy eyes again. “We’ve talked about this, son. What are you supposed to do when your emotions get out of control like that?”
Ashamed, Walter focused on the blanket covering his legs, and parroted back the words that Cabe and Toby had told him several times. “Jog, lift weights, or perform repetitive mundane tasks that are physically difficult.”
“You’ve done that before, why didn’t you do it this time?”
“I couldn’t think rationally. Finding out about your past deception along with Paige abandoning the team in the same day was too much for me.” He whispered softly, “The last time I felt that helpless was the day I found out Megan had MS.”
“I understand that you couldn’t think rationally at that point,” Cabe said. “That’s why there’s a plan in place for when you feel out of control. You don’t have to think rationally at that point, you just have to follow the plan.”
Walter scowled. Cabe made it sound like following that plan was an easy option that Walter could have taken if he’d wanted to, but Walter didn’t see it that way. The gut wrenching emotional turmoil had been overwhelming. Irritation with the older man’s calm and rational tone while he said things that Walter found upsetting caused the younger man to say things he might not have otherwise said. “Maybe it’s a good thing I didn’t follow the plan, because you’d be out of a job, and Paige would be in Maine with Ralph.”
Cabe’s eyes opened wide with shock, and he found himself unable to speak for a couple of seconds. He felt a strong urge to yank the boy over his lap and spank some sense into him. It was an urge he’d had several times in the past when Walter put his life in danger, but it wasn’t something he’d ever actually done, mostly because the younger man was often physically hurt due to his reckless behavior when Cabe felt the urge. But there had been too many close calls over the past few months, and Cabe knew something needed to be done, or Walter could be dead within the year.
Cabe pointed a finger at Walter and said, “That was the last straw.”
Confused, Walter opened his mouth to ask what the older man meant but stayed silent as he watched Cabe get up and walk towards the door. For one panicked moment, Walter thought Cabe was walking out for good, and he said with quiet desperation, “Don’t leave.”
Instead of leaving, Cabe shut the door to the hospital room, and walked back towards Walter.
“I’m not going anywhere,” Cabe said as he pulled the curtain around the bed for privacy. “But you’re probably gonna wish I had.” He picked up the remote for the bed, and pushed the button to lay the bed flat.
“What are you doing?” Walter asked, putting his hands back on the bed to keep himself sitting upright.
Cabe leaned down slightly so he could look Walter in the eyes. “I’m going to spank you.”
The younger man slowly shook his head no. His stomach lurched and rolled at the thought.
Cabe straightened up, grabbed the pillows from the top of the bed, and set them right next to Walter’s rear end. “Roll over and lay down with your hips on the pillows.”
Walter had said the word firmly, but Cabe saw nervous worry in the younger man’s expression, not disagreement. Cabe put his hands on his hips and said, “Yes. You need some incentive to curb your reckless behavior before you get yourself killed. If you know that I’ll spank you when you put your life at risk for no reason, you’ll think twice before doing it again.”
“If pain is supposed to be the deterrent, I’m pretty sure I’ve had more than enough. I had to cauterize my own spleen.”
“This isn’t about physical pain, son; I know you can take your share of that. It’s about emotion. The pain in your backside is going to pale in comparison to the emotional upheaval this is going to cause. That’s the deterrent. You do reckless things to avoid emotions, but from now on that risky behavior will only get you more
emotional turmoil, not less.”
Walter considered those words carefully. His father had spanked him a couple of times when he was a young child. He clearly remembered feeling angry about it, and he had to admit that he did
try to avoid it. He was taken out of his thoughts when he heard the television turn on in his room. He darted a confused glance to Cabe.
“Background noise for anyone walking by,” Cabe said as he turned it up a couple of notches. He set the remote down, pointed to the pillows, and said, “Roll over.”
Walter swallowed hard, looked down at the pillows and then back up at the older man. He shook his head no.
Cabe grabbed the younger man’s chin with his fingers and said, “Walter, I love you like a son. You know I do, and I know that you see me as a father figure. You’re still injured, so I’m not going to force you over those pillows, but if you refuse to do it yourself, I’m going to be even more disappointed in your behavior than I already am.” Cabe let go and said, “I wouldn’t do this to you if I didn’t think it would help keep you safe in the future.” He gestured to the pillows again, and said firmly, “Roll over. Right now.”
All of Walter’s logic and reasoning took a back seat to his emotions with those words of love and disappointment from his mentor. Feeling close to tears, Walter shoved the blankets off his legs, carefully turned himself face down, and positioned his hips on top of the pillows.
“Good decision,” Cabe said. He could see a small strip of white underwear just above the gray sweat pants Walter was wearing. He knew the more vulnerable Walter felt in this moment, the more effective a deterrent it would be, so he gently pushed Walter’s tee-shirt halfway up his back, and put his hand on the exposed skin of the younger man’s lower back. He said, “The sweats are coming down, but I’ll leave the underwear on to help dull the noise this is going to make since we’re in a public place. But if I have to do this again I’ll make sure we’re alone, because you’ll be across my lap, and your underwear are gonna be down around your knees along with your pants.”
Walter hid his face in the crook of his elbow when that horrible mental image popped into his head. He let out a tiny whine as he felt Cabe use both hands to pull the sweats down to mid-thigh. Cabe’s hand settled in the middle of his lower back again, and the older man said, “You almost killed yourself, Walter.”
The first slap landed low on the right side of his ass catching part of his thigh, and the second swat fell almost immediately after that low on the left side. Walter grunted in surprise and protest, and his shoulders tensed, but he stayed in place. Cabe had said that this was supposed to be about emotions, but those slaps had hurt
“Seeing you dangling on the side of that cliff nearly gave me a heart attack.”
Another two swats landed slightly higher up, but still partially overlapping the already sensitive skin, causing even more pain. “Ow,” Walter said quietly, still surprised.
“Everyone on your team was terrified that they wouldn’t be able to save you in time.”
The younger man tensed in anticipation of the next two swats, and whined as the smacks landed.
“How would you feel if the roles had been reversed, and one of your team members was hanging off that cliff?”
Walter tensed again, expecting the swats, but when they didn’t fall he was forced to think about the question. He pictured each of the team members in that car instead of him and his stomach twisted. “I’d feel horrible.”
Cabe’s hand slapped his behind twice more, and Walter gasped in pain.
“Do you want Ralph or Sylvester to emulate this risky behavior that you’ve displayed?”
“No!” Walter said quickly. That thought had never entered his head, and just the possibility of it had him terrified. “Absolutely not.”
“They look up to you, and they do emulate your behavior, so you need to set a better example.”
Another pair of spanks had Walter squirming with shame, and now he understood what Cabe meant about this experience being emotional. “You’re right. And I will.”
“Should you have gotten behind the wheel while your judgement was impaired by your anger?”
Frowning, Walter said, “I wouldn’t use the term ‘impaired judgement’ to describe...”
“Wrong answer kid.” Cabe started swatting, and didn’t stop at two smacks.
Every part of his butt had been smacked at least once already, and this new barrage of slaps didn’t follow any discernable pattern. Walter found both of these physical things emotionally upsetting, especially when combined with Cabe’s verbal disapproval.
After a few seconds of enduring the punishment, Walter made a half hearted attempt to roll away from the source of pain, but Cabe’s hand on his back pushed down harder to keep him in place. “Cabe… Cabe, stop.”
“I’m not going to stop until you give me the correct answer, son.”
Frustrated, Walter responded snidely, “You mean correct as defined by you.”
Cabe shook his head, and slapped Walter’s wriggling behind a bit harder. “Do you really want to go there, Walter, because the underwear can come down. Personally I don’t care if the nurses come in and see me doing this to you.”
Walter pounded one fist on the mattress and said, “No! No I shouldn’t have been driving.”
Cabe stopped swatting and said, “That’s right, you shouldn’t have been driving.” Now that he’d gotten the right answer, he brought his hand down two more times.
“Are you going to do it again?”
Walter took a couple of deep breaths to try and get past the unpleasant burning sensation on his rear end. “No, I’m not.” He winced and groaned as the next two swats landed.
“Okay kid, time for the big ones.”
Not liking the sound of that, Walter turned his head to look up at Cabe.
Cabe kept eye contact and said with sympathy, “If Paige moves to Maine with Ralph, is that your fault?”
He opened his mouth to say yes, but then his eyes darted to Cabe’s hand and decided that was a point he could argue later. “No.”
“That’s right, it’s not.” Cabe swatted him twice.
“If Page moves to Maine with Ralph, does that mean you’ll never get see them again?”
“That’s right.” Cabe’s hand landed twice more.
“So is it a ‘good thing’ that Paige is staying because you nearly got yourself killed, or were there better ways of getting her to stay?”
Feeling more ashamed of himself than he knew what to do with, Walter hid his face back in the crook of his elbow and muttered quietly, “You’re right. I handled the situation badly.”
Cabe laid down two more spanks.
“Alright Walter, last one. I’m not going to ask you to answer me, because I know what you’ll say. Instead I’m just going to tell you what I see as the truth.”
“It’s not your fault those people were killed when you were sixteen.” Walter shook his head, but Cabe simply continued. “It’s not my fault those people were killed either. We both had a hand in making it possible, but neither one of us would have let those people die if we’d had any say in the matter, which we didn’t. I know you don’t want to believe this, but I was
protecting you when I decided not to tell you that they’d made a weapon with your idea. If I had to do it over again, I’d do the same thing, because I love you enough to protect you from yourself if it’s necessary. I wouldn’t let you destroy your life because of emotions then, and I won’t let you destroy your life because of emotions now.”
Walter’s emotions ran rampant. He felt overwhelming guilt for all those people, hatred for the government for using him, rage at Cabe for betraying his trust and lying for so many years, and a tiny sliver of appreciation and acceptance for Cabe’s point of view. While he was trying to sort out his emotional turmoil, the spanking started again. He yelped with the first smack, and when the spanking didn’t stop after two whacks, Walter whimpered and squirmed. He needed this to be over. He didn’t know if it was the physical pain, or the relentless mess of emotions swirling in his head, that made him put a hand back to cover his ass, and at this point he didn’t care.
“No more,” he said plaintively.
“I know, son,” Cabe said with sympathy as he grasped Walter’s wrist and pulled his hand down to the pillows and away from his ass. “I’m almost done.”
Cabe’s gentle voice was Walter’s breaking point. Three slaps later, he was quietly crying into the crook of his arm.
The older man had been watching Walter carefully, and as soon as he saw the tears, he knew they were almost done. He gave the distraught young man six more swats, and then paused.
“Have I made my position on your reckless behavior clear?” Cabe asked.
“Yes!” Walter said through his tears.
Cabe gave Walter two last swats, and then let go of his wrist. Cabe moved his hand up to squeeze Walter’s shoulder, and said, “Okay, I’m done, kid. You can pull your pants up.”
Walter immediately reached down to pull his sweatpants back up. While Walter was doing that, Cabe picked up the remote, and turned the television off.
Even though tears were still running down his face, Walter also pulled the pillows out from under his hips, buried his face in them, and rolled onto his side. He wanted zero physical reminders of what had just happened while he tried to cram his emotions back under control.
Walter felt the bed dip as Cabe sat down next to him again, and then Cabe’s hand was rubbing circles on his back. It didn’t take very long for his tears to subside now that the ordeal was over.
Cabe patted the younger man’s back, grabbed the box of tissues from the table by the bed, and said, “Here.”
Walter had to pick his head up from the pillows to see what the older man was talking about. He grabbed a few tissues, propped himself up on an elbow, blew his nose, and muttered, “Emotions suck.”
Cabe chuckled and nodded. “Yeah, sometimes they do.”
Walter kept his eyes on the bed and said, “That spanking sucked, too.”
“Yes it did, but I think in the long run, you’ll feel better for having had it.”
Walter snapped his eyes to Cabe, and glared. “I doubt it.”
Cabe patted the younger man’s thigh and said, “We’ll see. Ready for that orange juice now?”
Defeated by the older man’s unapologetic attitude, Walter said, “Yeah, I guess.”
Walter lay back down on his side with his head on the pillows and watched while the older man opened the curtain and the door to hunt down the requested juice. He didn’t know how he’d feel about the spanking later, but he did know he’d think twice about putting his life at risk in the future.
Feeling tired, he closed his eyes, and tried to focus on being grateful that it was over for now.
When Cabe got back with the juice, he found the younger man sleeping peacefully.
(Feedback makes me happy.)