Fixing Things

Title: Fixing Things

Disclaimer: We own nothing from American Assassin and are making nothing from this story.

Summary: Follows Learning kids learn to let themselves be taken care of during moments of injury or illness, while Alastor makes amends with his uncle.

Warning(s): Spanking; encouraged immature behavior; some descriptions of wounds

Authors: BlackFox12 and Hope1iz

Hurley woke fairly early, but didn't immediately try to get up, as Mitch was cuddled in his arms and his baby boy was still asleep. He did glance to the side to check who else was awake, though.

Alastor was awake and gave his father a tiny grin over Irene's head.

For her part, Irene just snuggled closer to her big brother, even as she smiled sleepily at their father.

Annika had already got out of bed, joining her uncle Tom to make breakfast for everyone else.

Hurley smiled warmly at his remaining children, reaching out to gently stroke Alastor's and Irene's hair; though he was careful not to move too much and disturb Mitch before his baby boy was ready to wake up.

"Love you, Tio..." Irene mouthed silently, before carefully crawling off her brother and heading toward the bath to take a shower and get ready for the day.

Alastor stayed in place for a little longer before grinning at his dad and carefully leaning over to kiss the older man on the cheek before doing the same.

Mitch stayed sleeping through the entire exchange and soon, the only two left in the room were him and his father.

Hurley smiled at his children as they left and, when alone with Mitch, he gently stroked his baby boy's cheek; not trying to wake him, but just touching and holding onto him.

Mitch nuzzled into Hurley's hand, still asleep, but beginning to stir awake. "...Daddy?..." he whispered, in a drowsy voice.

"I'm here, baby boy," Hurley murmured, still gently stroking his cheek.

Mitch stretched lazily- if gently, so he wouldn't disturb his father too much- and nuzzled against the older man's chest. "Everyone else already up?" He glanced around the bed blearily.

"They are." Hurley gently scruffed his neck; stroked down over his back; gently patted his bottom. "How are you feeling?"

"I'm feeling good, daddy..." Mitch smiled crookedly. "...Slept without any bad dreams or anything..." He left unsaid that it was entirely because Hurley had hold of him.

Hurley kissed his head. "Good. I love you, baby boy." He continued to gently stroke and rub, sliding his hand under the flap in his son's pajamas for better access to Mitch's bottom and thighs.

Mitch snuggled, relaxing completely in his father's arms, arching his back just enough to make it easier for Hurley to rub and squeeze. He sighed softly; the time spent alone with Hurley where the older man took charge and was affectionate was one of his favorite times of day. "Love you too..." he whispered, contented.

Hurley tightened his arms around Mitch, stroking, rubbing and squeezing. "Do you still think you need those daily reminders, baby boy?" he whispered, touching his cheek.

Mitch bit his lip, then looked up into Hurley's face so the older man could see he meant what he said. "I think I do, daddy... I...I don't want to do to you what I did...that was so wrong of me, but I need help. I need to learn and I don't think...I don't think just one time of getting into trouble will help me learn. I need to be reminded often enough that I never forget to think about it..." he admitted softly, his voice apologetic.

Hurley nodded and gave a light, affectionate swat to Mitch's backside. "A few minutes of corner time first, then, baby boy." Kissing Mitch's forehead, he helped his son to stand and then guided him towards one of the corners.

"Yes, daddy..." Mitch whispered, keeping his sigh to himself. He hadn't asked for corner time; but he had asked for his father to take charge and teach him, make certain he learned not to run from his family- from his father- and put himself in unnecessary danger that could take him away from Hurley permanently. His father believed corner time was a necessary part of teaching him, so if his father said he was to stand in the corner, he would. The position immediately made him feel years younger, though. Years younger and less in control and more vulnerable. Maybe that was the point. Or maybe the point was he was supposed to think about what he'd done wrong. Since now that he was staring at the intersection of two walls, all he had to occupy him was thinking...

Hurley moved so that he was close enough to Mitch that his torso could brush against his son's back; touching just that small amount so his son would feel him. He didn't plan to leave Mitch standing there for long; and as soon as three minutes were up, he gently drew Mitch out of the corner.

Mitch shivered slightly as he was drawn out of the corner, turning so he could look back into his father's eyes. He'd obviously been thinking about what he'd done wrong- what he'd done to be put into the corner- because his eyes were sorrowful, and regret filled. Repentant. It was also just as obvious he wasn't feeling his normal, argumentative, 'I can handle things on my own, I don't need you telling me what to do' self. Because he was very clearly looking for direction from his father, even if he hadn't voiced that need out loud yet.

Hurley kissed Mitch's forehead. "I love you, baby boy," he whispered, stroking his cheek, before guiding him back over to the bed. He removed the pajamas entirely and then sat, guiding Mitch over his knees.

Mitch whimpered as he found himself completely naked and over his father's knee. While the pajamas gave Hurley easy access and put him in a more submissive frame of mind, it was nothing like being completely vulnerable to his father made him. He took a deep breath and forced the nervousness down. His father wasn't going to hurt him; harm him. And yes, he was completely vulnerable to the older man, but he deserved to be. He needed to be. He pushed down his first inclination to struggle free and argue and forced himself to reach down and take hold of his father's ankle instead; the tight grip he had betraying how nervous he was, despite his attempt to remain calm. He'd been spanked before. He didn't know why this was making him so nervous.

Hurley moved one hand to Mitch's neck, gently scruffing his boy, while his other rubbed down over Mitch's back. When his hand reached his boy's bottom, he lifted it and brought it down firmly; not as hard as a punishment smack, but not soft either.

Mitch let out a tiny, stifled yelp at the first smack, but it was only loud enough that Hurley would have heard it and he took a deep breath directly after to keep himself from whining. It wasn't painful exactly, not yet, but it was definitely felt. Oddly, his nerves began to ease up with the first swat; almost as if his body had been nervous in anticipation, but once the smacking began, it felt as if it could let go of the tension.

Still at the same force, Hurley delivered a circuit of the swats down to Mitch's thighs and then paused, beginning to rub his baby boy's bottom where he'd smacked.

Mitch whimpered softly, but still didn't try and move away; he'd held still for the smacks and now he held still for the comfort. He didn't know if the spanking was over yet. Sometimes his father continued until he'd broken before offering comfort. Sometimes he'd comfort in between rounds of spanking. Since this was a reminder and not punishment, it was possible his father was finished with the smacking. He didn't know. He wasn't sure exactly what told his father was the method to go with at what particular time; how much and how hard to smack, when to comfort, when to continue punishing. He just knew it was something only his father could sense about him. The rubbing calmed him somewhat and made it easier for him to listen. "...Daddy..." he whispered. "...So sorry I was naughty..."

"I need you to stay safe and with me, baby boy," Hurley said seriously. "If I lost you, it would break me. As bad as when I lost your brother. You saw what I was like when we first met. I fought that urge to bond with you because I knew I wouldn't be able to handle losing another son. Not when it was so clear to me that you didn't care if you lived or died."

"I know, daddy..." Mitch whimpered. "I don't want to take myself away from you. I don't want to lose you or be lost..." he said, in a tiny voice. "I want to be good and...and not...not do things that..." He swallowed hard and sniffled, surprised to find tears sliding down his face.

"I know, baby boy." Hurley rubbed a bit more and then began a second circuit of swats. "We're going to work on it. On you treating your life like it matters...on knowing that you're important and that you matter and that you have a family."

MItch shivered and squeezed his father's leg more tightly. "You'll help me learn...I'll do better, daddy...I will..." He made the promise as much to himself as to Hurley.

"I will, baby boy," Hurley promised. "I love you. And I have you." He rubbed a bit more and then started a third circuit of swats, going a fraction harder and faster.

Mitch tried to hold still; but this was the third circuit and even though his father had been rubbing out the sting in between circuits, this time was harder, and faster, and the sting reignited immediately. He wasn't able to hold still. By the third smack, he was wriggling around like a fish on a hook, his grip on his father's leg tight, and pained whimpers and whines, rising in volume, carried to his father's ears. "...Daddy..." he wailed softly, beginning to cry more vocally and more loudly. If his siblings and uncle hadn't heard what was occurring before, they'd be able to hear now.

"I've got you, baby boy." Hurley paused to begin rubbing once more, his other hand gently scrufing his son's neck. "I love you. And I will do everything to keep you with me."

MItch calmed considerably at the scruffing of his neck, that dominance allowing him to feel safe, despite the punishment he was receiving. The rubbing didn't get rid of all the sting, but it helped calm him as well. "You've got me..." He swallowed hard and felt himself relaxing despite himself, the squirming slowing and the crying quieting.

"Always, baby boy," Hurley promised, rubbing a bit more before he began swatting again, this time pausing to rub after every second or third smack. "I love you."

Mitch couldn't adjust to the new pattern. Having his father spank his entire bottom and upper thighs and then rub had been difficult enough; the rubbing after each circuit calming him down but making the subsequent circuits sting that much more once they began again (because he was becoming very sensitive). Having his father swat several times, then rub, then swat again? The rubbing wasn't easing the sting out at all; it was just making the skin more sensitive, so the next smacks were felt that much more keenly- and his bottom was already feeling like it was one never ending flame. He couldn't respond to his father's words, because all that would come out of his mouth were pained gurgles as he attempted to keep his tears from becoming so loud that they carried through the entire house. Not that he was succeeding. He was letting out choked wails every third or fourth swat despite his efforts. He couldn't stop squirming, either; even when his father was rubbing, it only slowed the squirms slightly. If Hurley hadn't had such a tight grip on him, he would have been on the floor numerous times over.

Hurley kept his hold tight on his son, making sure Mitch was in no danger of falling, even as he continued the pattern, swatting and then rubbing. "You're my baby boy, Mitch. I won't let you go. I won't ever let you get taken from me. No matter what happens. You have a family. You have me. And you always will."

Mitch let out another tiny cry. He may not have been able to answer with words, but he was listening to his father's words and they were sinking in. He was Hurley's baby boy. He was being handled by his father and had no say or control over what his father did, and it made him feel vulnerable and young, childish. And he found he just wanted to be with his daddy and be held close and tight and not ever leave him. He had almost taken himself from his family. Because he was refusing to listen to his father. That wasn't good. It wasn't good at all. But Hurley was going to help him learn, so he wouldn't do that ever again. He wouldn't let him be taken away, even by his own actions. Mitch believed that. As the realization that he was safe with his father and Hurley wasn't ever going to let him go finally sunk in, his struggles weakened until finally, he just lay limp over his father's knee, sobbing sorrowfully. He wanted to apologize again, but he couldn't form the words. All he could do was lie still and accept his father's discipline.

Hurley didn't waste any time, bringing the spanking to a stop and gathering Mitch into his arms on his lap, hugging his son tightly to himself, repeating words of love over and over.

Mitch wasn't in any type of headspace to calm down quickly. He pressed against his father as snugly as possible, hiding his face against the older man's chest and just continued to cry. He didn't care that he was naked and needed to dress for the day. He didn't care that he was sitting on his very sore bottom. All he cared about was that his father was holding him, and that Hurley not let go. He sat like that for several minutes, just crying, before he managed to calm enough to at least voice four words. "...I love you, daddy..." he said, in the tiniest voice possible, contrite and needy all at once.

Hurley tightened his hold on his son, kissing Mitch's head. "I love you, baby boy. So very much." He stroked Mitch's head and back, scruffing his neck again.

Mitch shivered at having his neck scruffed, slumping further against his father, the possessive, domineering action letting him just let go and let his father take care of him. His crying finally stopped, until he was just taking in shivering, hitched breaths and his fingers tangled up into Hurley's shirt, helplessly holding onto the older man. He felt drained and wasn't sure he'd be able to move, let alone get dressed.

"I've got you, baby boy," Hurley whispered, tightening his embrace. "I won't let you go. You'll never be alone again."

"Always be with you..." Mitch whispered, finally calmed enough that he wasn't crying or breathing funny. He was just lying in his father's arms, snuggling as close as he was able.

"Always," Hurley promised. "I won't ever let you go." He stroked and rubbed Mitch's hair and back.

Mitch sniffled a little more. "I'm all tired again, daddy..." he said quietly, pouting slightly. He'd worn himself out struggling against himself. He couldn't even rightly say why he'd struggled so much. Hurley hadn't punished him as hard this time as he had the day before; the sting was almost all gone now, and he was sure if he looked at his backside, he wouldn't see even an inch of pink left. Considering he'd asked to be reminded, he didn't understand why he'd have struggled, especially not enough to tire himself.

"I think you're tired emotionally," Hurley replied gently. "After breakfast, maybe we can all settle in the living room; if you need to sleep, you can curl up on my lap. Or drape yourself over any of us," he added, knowing Mitch sometimes liked that.

"Okay, daddy...that sounds good..." Mitch snuggled a bit more, before standing and wiping at his eyes. He noticeably didn't move to get dressed, though. He was feeling too needy and reliant on his father to make any moves without being directed to.

Hurley stood up and picked up the pajamas, beginning to dress his son into them, touching and stroking his cheeks or shoulders.

By the time Hurley had redressed him, Mitch was feeling at least in control of himself enough to move into the dining area to eat and to not be a complete baby. Even so, he leaned on Hurley for a few moments, snuggling again before he straightened up and gave his father a tiny smile. "You think they have breakfast made by now?"

"I'm sure they do." Hurley kissed his cheek. "They'll probably be worried...I mentioned to Alastor what you asked for, but your sisters don't know. It's up to you how much you tell them."

Mitch wrinkled his nose. "I... after I probably scared them all and they won't know why you were punishing me... I think they probably need to know most, if not all of it..." He sighed. "Not sure how to tell them, though." He moved toward the door but waited for his father to lead him out.

Hurley wrapped his arm around Mitch's waist. "They already know that you sometimes need me to take you over my knee. This is just more of that same need," he said gently.

Mitch nodded. "Yeah. It is..." He gave his father a crooked smile and snuggled close again. He didn't say anything else as Hurley led him out of the room and into the main area of the house and into the dining area. He could see the questioning glances that Annika and Irene kept sending his direction, though they didn't say anything and were careful to not stare. The food was already set on the table and all he needed to do was sit down in one of the only two seats left empty. He gingerly sat before glancing around.

"You don't have to tell us if you don't want to..." Annika interjected suddenly, then blushed and looked at her plate. She didn't want Mitch to feel pressured into saying anything he didn't want though.

"I know..." Mitch smiled. "...But it's going to happen again and will continue to until... well, until I've reached the needed frame of mind that will get me to think before I do things that might get me killed or taken from dad... from the rest of you... so you should know what's going on."

Irene suddenly got a knowing look in her eye and nodded. "...Tio is teaching you... reminding you every day so that you don't do what you did the other day..." she said quietly.

"Yeah. That's what he's doing..." Mitch agreed, since her way of putting it was the truth and he couldn't think of a better way to say it.

"It's just another aspect of what you need." Hurley smiled at Mitch and then around at the rest of his family as he took his own seat. "It goes without saying, but any time any of you need...I don't have any problems and I will never have any problems doing that for you."

Tom gave his brother a quick grin. "I'm sure that's appreciated by everyone here."

"We know you'll do whatever it takes to help us and keep us safe, dad..." Alastor nodded. "So, after we eat, what are the plans for the day?" he asked, to change the subject, since he could tell Mitch was feeling self-conscious.

"I thought we could look at where we want to set up the training grounds...what kind of equipment we might want to order in," Hurley said. "I know we haven't all trained in the same way in the past, so I want to figure out a training regime that works for all of us."

Irene sat up at that. "I know where we can order from..." she said eagerly. "...They have a variety of things too..."

"I like that idea..." Annika added.

"I assume most of the training will be done outside," Tom said. "It might be worth building a training hut, too...the grounds are plenty big enough and it means somewhere to train that's under shelter if you didn't plan on extreme weather conditions."

Alastor nodded. "That's a good idea...since we know it will snow in the winter here; and even if training in snow would be good for us, we wouldn't want to have to do it just because we didn't have any other options..." He laughed.

Hurley nodded. "We just need to make sure there's plenty of space...which shouldn't be a problem, as the grounds are big enough that we could probably replicate the outdoors training area under shelter, at least as far as it's possible."

"Do we need a huge training facility?" Mitch asked curiously. He wondered if maybe his father and uncle knew of a few other agents that they felt should be drawn out of the agency and maybe work with them...or if there was another reason for wanting a larger facility.

"We might not need a big one at first," Hurley replied. "But it's possible there will be others who might come here to be a part of our organisation."

"I have files on some people you can all look over," Tom commented.

Alastor nodded, noticing that everyone had finished eating by this point. He glanced around, then stood and began to clear the table. "Well, if that's what we are doing this morning, maybe Irene can set up the computer so that it projects onto the TV; that way, everyone can see without us having to cram around a tiny little screen and we can sit in comfort..." he teased gently. He knew, between Irene and Tom, they could get the audio-visual hooked up with little to no difficulty; and it would make it possible for Mitch to contribute without having to stand or sit on an uncomfortable dining room chair.

"Of course!" Irene grinned and stood up immediately to go get her computer. "Uncle Tom can help me!"

Tom smiled and stood, walking over to join Irene. "I'll collect those files once we're all set up," he commented.

Hurley moved to help Alastor clear the table and wash the breakfast items up.

Mitch stood as well but noting that everyone was taking care of things and there wasn't much, if anything, left for him to do, said "...If you all don't mind, I'm going to go take a quick shower and brush my teeth. Change into my other set of pajamas..." His grin was sheepish. Unless he was going outside, he saw no reason to put on street clothes.

Annika grinned. She'd showered earlier; but she was also wearing a pair of the pajamas their father had got for her. They were really very comfortable. Perfect for lazing around the house in. Not so good for training, she suspected, but then, they weren't going to train right this second. Just plan on where to train. "I'll make sure the living room is cleaned up so we won't lose track of our stuff..." she muttered. She doubted it'd be necessary, but she didn't want to be completely useless either.

"That sounds good to me." Hurley addressed both his youngest, giving each of them a hug and a kiss. He did the same to Alastor; and then to Irene, as soon as he could get to her.

It didn't take long and soon Irene and Tom had the computer set up where everyone could see it on the television.

Annika and Irene were curled up next to each other on the overstuffed armchair.

Alastor sat on one end of the couch, leaving the middle for their father to sit in. If Mitch ended up spreading out like he normally did, he'd likely end up with his baby brother's feet on his lap again. Of course, that depended on if Tom minded Mitch putting his head on his lap.

Mitch came out, wearing another pair of navy blue pajamas, and glanced around the room.

Hurley sat down in the middle of the couch, Tom on his other side, and smiled at his youngest son. "Where would you like to sit, baby boy?"

Mitch snorted at seeing how everyone had spread out and that the only place left to sit was on someone's lap or on the floor. He knew they had done it deliberately. "I think everyone knows where, daddy..." He smiled back and walked over to sit on his father's lap.

Alastor grinned. "Well, were we wrong?" he asked rhetorically. He glanced at his sisters. "I mean...maybe we should get one more chair. We seem to have two extra people and Rene and Ani may not like having to cram together..." he teased. He laughed outright when Ani stuck her tongue out at him.

Hurley smiled, wrapping his arms around Mitch's waist and drawing his baby boy back tight against his stomach. "I'm sure none of us mind cuddling..."

"That's true." Alastor nodded thoughtfully. "Maybe we just need to get rid of the armchair and buy a bigger couch..."

Irene laughed.

Mitch just smiled and snuggled back against his father, content to be held.

"Are we ready to start planning?" Annika asked curiously.

"I think so." Hurley held onto Mitch, his full attention on making the plans for the training facility and making sure every member of his family had their say.

Alastor wasn't surprised at how quickly ideas were formed with everyone contributing. He also wasn't surprised when, about thirty minutes into the planning session, his baby brother's feet made their way across his lap. He glanced over. Mitch had his head on Tom's lap and he was lying on his stomach. It wasn't clear if he was seeking more attention from their father, or if he was just sore from that morning and trying to get pressure off his bottom. He didn't say anything, though. No need to draw attention to what was going on.

"I know it isn't really training so much, but... do you think we could have a stable and horses?" Annika asked wistfully, looking at the screen.

Hurley gently stroked Mitch's back, also letting his hand slide under the flap so that he could gently and soothingly rub his baby boy's bottom, even as he answered Annika's question. "We certainly have enough room for a stable and horses."

Tom automatically began stroking Mitch's hair. "I'm open to that idea," he commented.

Mitch felt himself relaxing completely as his father and uncle stroked him like he was a pesky kitten. "I like the idea of horses..." he admitted quietly, feeling no shame whatsoever that his entire family could see him being a clingy child, or the fact his father was rubbing his backside. It felt good and, as far as he was concerned, he didn't care who watched, as long as his father kept rubbing.

Annika bit her lip in an attempt not to smile too widely at the sight; not wanting to embarrass her brother, but thinking it was cute- the way he was so attached to their father. Not that she wasn't. Or Alastor. Or Irene. But no one could hold a candle to Mitch when it came to clingy, needy behavior for affection.

Hurley nodded. "Horses, then." Continuing to gently stroke and rub his baby boy's bottom, not showing any hesitation or embarrassment, he continued, "We can take it in turns to do the chores involved with the horses."

"I don't think that would be a problem." Alastor snorted. "Given the doe-eyed looks on Rene and Ani's face, they'll likely be doing whatever chores are needed even if we were meant to take turns..." He laughed when Irene stuck her tongue out at him this time. He squeezed his baby brother's calf gently when he felt Mitch shift slightly in an effort to make his bottom easier for Hurley to reach.

Hurley responded to the shifting by continuing to gently rub and stroke. "Anyone else have anything they'd like to have included?"

"Well...if we're including items that aren't necessarily training related...I wouldn't mind having a track that I could practice racing my motorcycle on..." Mitch teased his father gently.

Hurley raised his eyebrows at that, but said, "If it's something you really want to do, we could certainly look into it."

Mitch looked over his shoulder at Hurley, an impish look on his face. Then the look became more thoughtful. "You know...maybe not a track, necessarily, but an area where we could practice learning how to safely drive various vehicles or where we can practice evading techniques...might not be a bad idea..."

"That sounds like a good idea," Tom commented, threading his fingers through his nephew's hair. "We can make sure the stable's soundproofed, so the horses aren't disturbed by the noise."

"That is a good idea, baby brother..." Alastor grinned and squeezed Mitch's leg.

"It would be good to keep those abilities from stagnating," Irene agreed.

Hurley gently rubbed Mitch's lower back and bottom, even as he said, "So we'll order in some vehicles as well...anyone else have any thoughts?" He looked at each of them in turn.

"I think we've covered everything..." Annika said hesitantly.

Alastor nodded at her. "If we think of anything else before we begin construction, we can talk about it then. We've already decided on where things will be going. And there is still a lot of land we aren't touching. We'll still have seclusion."

"So... movie?" Irene asked curiously.

Hurley nodded, glancing towards his brother. "Show me the files later," he suggested. "I'll check who I think might be a good fit."

Tom nodded. "Very well."

Several hours later and they had finished lunch about fifteen minutes prior, cleaning up and then heading to their rooms or various other parts of the house to do their own research. Mitch felt the urge to explore the land outside. Partly because, even though he knew a lot of the area that was closest to the house, there were large swaths of the property he hadn't seen yet. And partly because he just needed to get some fresh air and be active. While he truly liked lying over his father's lap and having the older man cuddle and give him affection (and yes... reignite the sting on his bottom by swatting gently every so often), Mitch wasn't really cut out to be the lazy, lounging type. He needed physical activity. To that end, he'd changed into a sturdy pair of jeans, a long-sleeved t-shirt and his hiking boots; grabbed a walkie talkie in case of emergency; grabbed a pack with some water and a few snacks and, with a quick word to Annika to let her know what he was doing and ask her to tell everyone else, he was off.

Annika, a bit irritated that he'd left her the job of messenger without even asking her if she'd like to go, wasn't terribly quick in going to deliver the message, especially since she was in the middle of looking something up when he'd asked her, so it took her twenty minutes before she left her computer to go in search of Stan and Tom. "Mitch went on a hike...he left about twenty minutes ago..." She leaned into the room and delivered the message quickly, planning to head back to her computer.

Hurley frowned, glancing over towards his youngest daughter from where he'd been ordering equipment for the training well as vetting the agents his brother thought might be a good fit. For the most part, he trusted Tom's judgement; but there were a couple he was a little bit unsure of. "Did he say how long he'd be?" he asked Annika.

Annika paused and wrinkled her nose. "No, sir... He just said he was going and to please let you know..."

Hurley nodded. "Thank you for passing the message on." He wasn't all that concerned; twenty minutes wasn't long enough to cover the whole grounds and he couldn't imagine Mitch would have left without some way of being contacted.

"No problem..." Annika smiled and wandered off to find something else to do.

Hurley sent a quick text to his baby boy, checking in to make sure Mitch was doing okay and if he'd noticed anything.

Mitch had his phone in his pack, but he'd turned it off shortly after leaving the house, as they were in a remote enough area that his signal wasn't all that good. He had been relying on Annika to tell his father to use the walkie-talkie if he needed to get hold of him. He'd actually made really good time walking, even if he was taking in the surroundings. By the time he slowed to check and make sure the transmitter on the communication device was on, he'd been walking thirty minutes and had already walked a good 2 miles. He was on a path on a side of a hill; it wasn't terribly high up, but it was steep enough that if he lost his footing, he'd go sliding down over brush, thistles, wood chips, branches, and gravel. It wouldn't be terribly pleasant. Of course, that was when something startled a deer in the woods; and, of course, the deer darted out onto the path directly in front of him and knocked him down the side of the hill. He managed to turn himself just in time to avoid going head first or landing in a way that would break a bone but sliding down on his back was still painful. When he finally came to a stop at the bottom, 15 feet from where he'd started, he knew he'd scraped himself up from head to toe and had splinters on top of it all. Groaning slightly, he forced himself to stand and look around for his pack, that he'd dropped at the top of the hill. "Great..." he muttered, pain making him irritable.

Hurley wasn't really all that worried when Mitch didn't immediately answer his text, but when he went to check the supplies, he noticed one of the walkie talkies was missing. Figuring he'd check in with his youngest son, he picked another one up. "Mitch? Are you there, baby boy?"

Mitch was about 4 feet away from the top of the incline and the path where his pack was laying when he heard the walkie-talkie. Groaning to himself, he forced himself to climb a bit faster, trying to avoid sliding back down the hill on his stomach. It was bad enough he'd messed his backside up. In what felt like forever, even though it was probably only a couple of minutes, he finally was on the path again and could pull the radio out of his pack. He quickly answered his father, not wanting him to worry. "Hey, daddy...I'm here. You need me to come back?" he asked, doing his best to keep the irritation, tiredness (climbing the hill and avoiding sliding was a lot of effort) and pain out of his voice. He thought he did pretty good.

"I wanted to check in with you." Hurley was well-trained and picked up on the slight hint of strain that carried through his son's voice. "Did something happen?" He didn't even try to hide his concern.

"Nothing big..." Mitch tried to play it off as unimportant. "...Deer got spooked by something in the woods, possibly even me, and ran out and knocked me down the hill. It was a small hill, though. I'm just winded from climbing back up it to get to my pack and answer the radio..." He deliberately didn't mention the scratches, or anything else that was causing problems. It wasn't like his father could do anything from two miles away.

"Do you want me to drive out and come get you?" Hurley was still concerned, knowing that even a small hill could do some damage if the person falling landed wrong, or hit something sharp.

"It's the footpath, can't make it up here. But I'm okay. I'm turning around to head back. It took thirty minutes to get here. I'm more tired, so give me forty-five to get home." Mitch did his best to sound confident and not hurting.

"I'll come and meet you. Which direction did you go in?" Hurley asked, unable to help worrying.

Mitch almost protested- told Hurley he didn't need to do that- but then he realized the older man needed to. Needed to see with his own eyes that Mitch was okay. "I took the trail northwest of the back porch..." he admitted, with a sigh. He began walking back home. The closer he got before his father met up with him, the better, he figured.

"I'm heading there now." Hurley didn't waste any time letting the other members of the family know where he was going, heading outside and in the direction Mitch had indicated.

Mitch moved as quickly as he could, but he hadn't even reached the halfway point when he saw his father on the trail ahead of him. He didn't know if he should be discouraged at how slow he was apparently moving or impressed at his father's speed. "Here, daddy!" he yelled out, to let Hurley know he'd been seen.

Hurley quickly moved in the direction his son was, beginning to check over Mitch as soon as he was close enough to do so. He could see a lot of scratches on his baby boy's exposed skin, as well as the ripped clothing.

Mitch winced and blushed at how beat up he'd gotten because of a close encounter with a deer. "Does it look as bad as it feels?" he asked hesitantly.

Hurley stroked his cheek, careful to avoid any scratches. "You look like you've been in a fight." He carefully wrapped his arm around Mitch's shoulders, so he could help support his son back to the house.

"I fought the mountain and the mountain won..." Mitch joked.

Hurley kept his arm tight around Mitch's shoulders, watching him carefully to make sure he hadn't missed any broken bones.

With his father's help, Mitch was able to move a little easier and soon, they were back home, and Hurley was leading him to the bathroom. "Shower?" he asked hesitantly, not sure if his father would want to have him clean up first or remove debris first.

Hurley nodded. "As soon as you're done, I'll check and treat each of your wounds."

Mitch didn't take long to shower, cleaning off surface blood and dirt as much as possible. Hesitantly patting himself dry, he finally walked out into Hurley's bedroom. "What should I do, Daddy?"

Now that his son was completely naked, Hurley could easily see the scratches and bruises Mitch had received. He'd already retrieved the first aid kit and gently guided Mitch to the bed. "The majority of the splinters look like they're on your back, bottom and legs. I'm going to put you over my lap to make it easier to remove them."

"Okay, daddy." Now that he was back home in his father's care, it was easy to let the other man see what he'd managed to do to himself. It was even easier to obey and let himself be led to the bed and over his father's lap.

Hurley settled Mitch carefully in place and took a pair of tweezers out of the first aid kit, beginning to carefully and gently remove the splinters.

MItch held as still as he was able, but it was difficult. What his father was doing now? It was different than spanking him when he was naughty or settling him when he felt restless and in need of attention. His father was taking care of him. It... he wasn't sure how it made him feel, to be honest. It didn't make him feel young and needy like he sometimes got when he was over his father's lap... although he supposed he was needier now than he usually was when over his father's knee, considering he wasn't going to be able to get the splinters out on his own. He didn't feel guilty or like he'd done something wrong; what had occurred was an accident and he hadn't attempted to hide anything from his father. It was a completely different type of feeling to have his father take care of him when he hadn't done something wrong to be in a position where Hurley needed to take care of him. It was completely different being over Hurley's lap because he'd got hurt accidently than to be over it because he needed his father to pull him into line and remind him that he wasn't alone.

He wrinkled his nose thoughtfully. "This... feels... different..." he finally acknowledged, with a hint of bafflement. He wasn't unsettled at the differences, exactly. He wasn't upset, but it was obvious he wasn't certain how he should be feeling or reacting. If it was a normal situation, he'd either be squirming and crying by now because his bottom would have been spanked soundly, or he'd be squirming and trying to position himself so that Hurley could rub and spank him thoroughly.

"It's a different situation," Hurley acknowledged, placing his hand gently on Mitch's back, mindful of his injuries. "You don't need me in the same way as other times...but you still need my help. And I'll do everything within my power to help you, baby boy. To look after you. I love you."

"I love you too, daddy..." Mitch smiled over his shoulder at Hurley and settled a little more so that it would be easier for his father to treat him. "I... I guess it just feels odd because I don't feel guilty..." He paused to think about it and to give his father a chance to interject, in case he actually did have something he should be feeling guilty about. "I don't feel the need to push for your attention, either; although that could be because I've got your attention so focused on me right now, pushing for it would be redundant..." He snorted faintly. "Even though it hurts and I'm sore... it still... it feels good being over your knee. I like when you have me..." he admitted, with a tiny sigh.

"I like having hold of you too, baby boy," Hurley said honestly. "I don't ever want you to feel uncomfortable or embarrassed... it's not a problem to help you like this. It's preferable, actually, to you trying to treat yourself and risking missing wounds."

Mitch relaxed further. "I... I've done that before. Treated myself. It's not easy to do a lot of times, so... I'm glad I can come to you now..." he admitted softly. He was pretty certain he wouldn't have been able to get the splinters out, even if he had been able to wash and bandage everything else.

"You don't have to now, baby boy," Hurley promised. "Like I've said're not alone anymore. You won't ever be alone again."

Mitch smiled at the words. "I know... I think this is the first time you've had to take care of me where I wasn't in trouble or in danger, though... it's... I don't know. I guess it just makes it seem more real now... since you're taking care of me in what could be considered a normal -dad- type way..." He wrinkled his nose, not sure if he was making sense.

"I'd hope I won't have to repeat this. It doesn't feel good to see you in pain, baby boy," Hurley said seriously. "But I would still do it... still take care of you in every way I can. Because you are mine."

"It... I won't say it doesn't hurt..." Mitch shifted slightly; but not too much, because he didn't want any splinters his father was working on removing to break before they were fully out. "...But it seems to hurt less because you're helping me. Like being over your lap and knowing you're the one helping me, helps it hurt less. I know that's probably all mental, but still..."

"It's how you feel," Hurley commented. "And if it helps you feel even a little better, that's worth doing it."

Mitch grinned over his shoulder at his father. "Probably doesn't hurt that you can actually see what you're doing. If I was trying to take care of myself, I'd have to become a contortionist. And would likely make myself more sore in an attempt to fix myself up, just because I couldn't reach as well..." He sounded sheepish. "...So... thanks daddy. For taking care of me..."

"You're welcome, baby boy." Hurley continued to gently treat his son, careful not to cause pain where it wasn't necessary. "I know you weren't gone for long, but did you have any thoughts while you were out there?" he asked, to take Mitch's mind off what he was doing.

"I was thinking... maybe we should put the training area further away from the house; just so we have a definitive break from home and relaxing verses work and training... especially if we start bringing in non-family to work with us. We could have a few barracks in the training facility for training purposes..." Mitch said quietly. "That area I was walking in? Can actually be used for training in evasion and tracking. The area I was on wasn't really that difficult; as long as deer don't run at you and knock you on your butt, at any rate, but parts of it further up looked challenging..." Mitch did his best to focus on talking to his father and planning; because even though his father was being gentle, it still hurt. He felt raw in places and thought maybe he was; he'd gone sliding over a few areas with nothing but gravel, after all. He probably shredded skin.

Hurley nodded. "I've always been a fan of trial by fire," he commented. "This place is big enough that someone could be dropped in the middle of nowhere... just enough supplies to make it back to base."

"Yeah... I can see that..." Mitch chuckled. "I think if it hadn't been imperative that you get me ready to go after Alastor- and the fact you weren't entirely sure I'd even try to come back to base- you may have dropped me off just to let me cool my heels for giving you such a hard time..." he teased.

"I was tempted." Hurley stroked a bit of skin that had escaped unscathed. "But that wasn't the action I would have taken right off the bat if I hadn't been resisting how I felt."

"I would have deserved it..." Mitch laughed. "...Course... I deserved to have my butt whipped too and you didn't do that either... If you hadn't been fighting yourself, how would you have handled me? I certainly wasn't ready to listen at that time..." Mitch asked curiously. He visibly relaxed at the gentle stroking. There wasn't much unscathed on his back side, but he needed the comfort. He was glad Hurley wasn't afraid to touch him.

"That's exactly how I would have handled you, baby boy," Hurley said, treating the wounds while his other hand continued the gentle touching and stroking. "I would have done exactly what I did do when I pulled you to me. Turned you over my knee. Spanked you."

Mitch sighed slightly. He wasn't upset to find out his father would have been consistent in his behavior. In fact, he was relieved. "I wasn't ready to listen then... you woulda had to spank me more'n once..." he admitted quietly, then whimpered as a particularly sore spot was tended.

"It wouldn't have mattered how many times it had to happen. I can regret not acting earlier... it wasn't anything to do with you." Hurley spoke reassuringly, even as he gently scruffed his son. "Not acting earlier was on me."

Mitch relaxed noticeably as he was scruffed. "Guess it don't really matter... you got me now... and I don't want to fight you..." he admitted quietly.

"I do have you," Hurley replied. "And I'm not going to let you go." Keeping his other hand gently scruffing Mitch's neck, he continued working on drawing out the splinters; treating the injuries covering his baby boy. "I don't want you to think you did anything wrong that caused me to hesitate for so long." He clarified further what he'd meant by what he'd said.

"I... I know I'm not the reason you held back..." Mitch admitted. "At the same time, I can't say I did nothing wrong. I was fighting myself as much as you; didn't want to admit I felt a connection to you. I behaved horribly and that was all on me. I'm glad you've got me now and won't let me get away with behavior like that now."

"And I won't let go of you," Hurley promised. "I won't change my mind or decide that things are too difficult and give up. I'm with you for the long haul, baby boy."

"I love you, daddy..." Mitch whispered. He was beginning to get restless, wanting to just be held by his father, but not certain if all the splinters and cuts had been tended.

Hurley had been as careful as possible, treating the injuries, and he then gently scruffed his son's neck. "I just want to check your front, baby boy. I don't think there are many more injuries, but I don't want to risk missing anything."

"Okay, daddy..." Mitch agreed easily, slowly and carefully turning over, with his father's help, so Hurley could examine him.

There weren't as many injuries on Mitch's front, but there were still a few and Hurley began to gently and carefully treat them.

Mitch wasn't sure why but having his father care for his front- lying vulnerable over his lap while able to look at him- made his emotions take a nosedive. "Daddy..." he whimpered, suddenly feeling very childish and needy and uncertain how to deal with it.

Hurley stroked Mitch's cheek. "I love you, baby boy," he murmured, his touch and voice gentle and reassuring.

Mitch closed his eyes, pressing his cheek into Hurley's hand. "When we're done here... can I just stay with you?" Mitch asked hesitantly.

"Of course, baby boy," Hurley answered, without hesitation. "If you'd like, we can cuddle like we do when I trap you at night."

"I want to, Daddy..." Mitch quickly agreed, relieved his father understood.

Hurley continued to stroke his son's cheek, as he finished treating the last of Mitch's injuries. He then moved and shifted until he was laying on the bed, Mitch clasped tightly in his arms.

Mitch snuggled against his father, pressing his ear to the older man's chest in a needy bid for comfort. Now that adrenaline had worn off and his wounds were treated and being left alone, it became very obvious how badly he'd abraded himself and a throbbing ache was taking over his body. He didn't care that he was still naked; he just wanted comforting. He did shiver slightly from being chilled, though.

Hurley carefully situated Mitch and then drew the blanket up and over his son's body, making sure he was warm.

"I love you, daddy..." Mitch whispered, snuggling wearily.

"I love you, baby boy," Hurley whispered reassuringly. "I have you. You're safe here with me. I love you so much."

He hadn't meant to fall asleep but being safe with his father meant he didn't have to fight the effects being injured had on him. He was tired, so he closed his eyes; and after that, it was little time at all before he was resting peacefully in his father's arms.

Hurley held his son close and tight, stroking his hair and back. He could tell Mitch was asleep and didn't try to wake him up.

Alastor had watched his brother limp into the house and into the bedroom, their father behind him, and took it upon himself to warn the rest of the family that they should give the two men space until Hurley indicated it was safe to come around. Mitch didn't have a problem with letting the rest of the family see how Hurley handled him, but he always seemed to have a problem with the family seeing him wounded or in pain.

The girls had quickly decided to play a game of cards. Alastor went to the garage to clean out the car.

Tom, figuring that his nieces were entertaining each other, walked out to the garage to join his oldest nephew in the garage. "Need a hand, sport?" he asked.

Alastor gave his uncle a hesitant smile. He hadn't been 'alone' with his uncle since the man had arrived. Without the buffer of his father, brother or sisters, he couldn't help but feel the awkwardness that was creeping in. "If you'd like," he said hesitantly, beginning to realize he hadn't even apologized to his uncle for what he'd done, let alone begin to make things right.

"What's wrong?" Tom didn't hesitate or beat around the bush. He could tell something was bothering Alastor and wanted to get it out in the open.

"I'm sorry!" Alastor blurted. "I... I never talked to you about what I did or how it hurt you and I'm just... I'm sorry."

Tom stepped over to his nephew and wrapped his arms around Alastor in a tight hug. "I only need you to tell me if you need to, sport," he said gently. "It hurt because I lost you. Because I lost an extremely important part of my family."

"That hurt me too..." Alastor admitted. "I didn't let myself think about it because I was too focused on all the bad... but I missed you and dad and Irene so much. And I'm sorry. Please forgive me..." he whispered, his tone clear that he was having a hard time still... unable to forgive himself.

Tom kissed his head. "Of course, I forgive you. I love you." Hugging his nephew tighter, he said gently, "I know your father's stepped in with you... do you need help from me too?"

Alastor thought about it, holding onto his uncle tightly. "If I said yes, you wouldn't think me pathetic?" he asked softly.

"Not at all," Tom promised.

Alastor continued to hold onto his uncle tightly, not able to face him as he asked, "Please help me make it right between us?"

Tom tightened his embrace and kissed his nephew's head. "In here? Or are you okay with me taking you back into the house?" he asked gently.

"I'll go wherever you think is best, Uncle Tom," Alastor said quietly. If he was going to make things right with his uncle the right way, he knew he had to surrender to his uncle's decisions; if only to prove to himself that he was able to surrender to his family when needed. He never wanted to be in a position where he was fighting his family again.

Tom, still holding onto his nephew, began to gently lead Alastor back into the house, heading to his nephew's bedroom.

Swallowing, Alastor followed his uncle without argument. He needed to make things right with Tom. At the same time, he hoped his sisters and father and brother didn't hear; not because he was overly embarrassed at them knowing Tom was 'handling' him, but because he didn't want them to worry about why he'd be being handled by his uncle. And he knew they would worry; until he was able to explain, at any rate. He didn't say anything about those thoughts, though, quickly following Tom into his room and closing the door behind him.

Wrapping his arm around Alastor's shoulders, Tom gently guided his nephew to the bed. "I love you, Alastor," he said, seriously and honestly, before taking a seat and gently pulling his nephew across his lap.

"I love you too, Uncle Tom," Alastor said quietly. He'd been in a bad place and was slowly coming out of it; but if there was one thing he was certain of now, it was his family's love. As soon as he was in place, he reached down and grasped his uncle's ankle.

Tom gently rubbed Alastor's back a moment or two before he bared his nephew. Taking a firm grip on Alastor's waist, he lifted his hand and brought it down in a firm swat that he then repeated.

Alastor winced as the first swat fell, but managed not to do much more than let out a tiny grunt. He didn't bother trying to hide it, but it wasn't loud. He did squirm slightly, though. "I hate what I did to daddy and Reny..." he admitted softly, his voice guilt filled.

"You didn't turn just for the sake of it, sport." Tom continued the firm swats down to Alastor's thighs before he started over from the top. "You turned because of what you went through...because you broke. That wasn't your fault. That you were able to come back to your family after everything is a testament to how strong you are."

"I was only able to come back because Mitch somehow knew...I don't even know how...somehow knew and rescued me so that daddy could bring me back... I don't know if I would have been able to otherwise. I don't think I'm as strong as everyone seems to think..." he admitted, his voice wavering.

"Maybe he said exactly the right thing to you at the right time. But if there was nothing left of my wouldn't have mattered what he did. You wouldn't have come back." Tom began a third circuit, going a fraction harder and faster.

" really believe that?" Alastor asked in a tiny, tear-filled voice. By this point the only reason he wasn't wriggling off of his uncle's lap was because Tom had an iron grip on him and deep down he didn't want to be anywhere else- even if it hurt.

"I really believe that," Tom replied. "You let your father bring you back to let yourself get pulled back. Because, no matter how far you fell, you were never beyond hope."

Alastor went lax over Tom's lap, even as he tightened his grip around his uncle's leg. He just held on as he began to cry softly, the knowledge that his uncle believed in him as much as his father did helping ease a fear he had that he wasn't really all that good and if he was left to his own devices, he might fall again. Both of them couldn't be wrong, could they? "I love you, Uncle Tom..." He cried quietly.

"I love you too, sport. So very much." Tom stopped the spanking and gently gathered his nephew into his arms, hugging him tightly. "You made a mistake, but you're a good person," he murmured.

Alastor snuggled as close as possible. "I will be...with my family's help..."

Tom kissed his head. "I love you. And I've already forgiven you," he murmured.

Alastor relaxed and just snuggled close. "Thank you..." he whispered. He stayed like that for about ten minutes before finally pulling back. "Do you want to help me finish cleaning the cars?" he asked, with a crooked grin.

"Sounds good to me." Tom kissed his forehead.

Giving his uncle one last tight hug and a kiss on the cheek, Alastor got up, fixed his clothing and then walked back to the garage with Tom. They were soon working together and chatting quietly about various different things.

Annika had been feeling fine when she woke up earlier. She'd had fun playing games with Irene and getting to know her sister better. But halfway through a game of Monopoly, she'd started getting a bit stuffy and had started coughing quietly, sniffling every so often. Irene had been giving her curious and slightly worried looks. "It's just a cold..." she muttered, to keep her sister from becoming more worried.

"Are you sure? You were pretty sick before and it hasn't been that long since you got better. Maybe you should lie down and make sure you don't relapse..." Irene suggested hesitantly. At Annika's frustrated grimace, bordering on a glare, she held her hands up in a 'surrender' motion. "It was just a suggestion. It's your turn..." she placated.

Sighing, Annika looked at the board. "I think this game is over. You own everything but two properties. There's no way I can turn things around in my favor. You win..." she teased gently. "I think I want to get some fresh air, though. Wanna come on a walk?"

"Not me..." Irene wrinkled her nose. "It's raining outside. I'd rather curl up in a chair and read a book. You want to do that?" she asked hopefully, wanting to dissuade her sister from going out in the sudden rain that had decided to drop the temperature by twenty degrees and make everything wet. Despite Annika's protests otherwise, Irene wasn't sure the illness wasn't coming back.

"Nah. I need to get outside a bit." Annika shook her head with a smile and went to put on her shoes and jacket before heading for the front door.

"Let Uncle Tom know where you are going!" Irene called out, just loudly enough for their uncle to hear, since she was fairly certain Annika wouldn't find it necessary. She would have suggested telling their father, but he was still in the bedroom with Mitch and she figured if they were both taking a nap, then they needed the rest.

Tom, just returning from the garage with Alastor, raised his eyebrows as he heard what Irene said and walked over to his niece. "You're going outside?" He looked Annika over carefully, noticing that she didn't look too good.

Annika shot Irene a frustrated look before turning to face her uncle. "Yeah...I wanted to take a walk. Get some fresh air..." she said as cheerfully as she could, in the hopes he'd focus on that and not the fact that she had to clear her throat before speaking and was sniffling in between words in an effort to not have to wipe her nose with the Kleenex she held wadded up in her hand.

"That's not a good idea, considering you're clearly not fully recovered from the virus that hit," Tom said firmly.

"I'm not sick anymore!" Annika protested, her eyes wide and a pout forming quickly. "I just want to get outside for a little bit. I won't even be outside that long..." She continued to head to the door. Tom hadn't actually said she wasn't allowed, after all. Just that it wasn't a good idea.

Tom moved to block her way. "I don't care how long you plan on going out for. You'll run the risk of a relapse if you go out in the cold and rain."

"Uncle Tom!" Annika huffed and actually stomped her foot. "C'mon...I'll...I'll just stand on the porch, then. I won't get wet that way!" she tried to bargain, even as she attempted to walk around him; completely ignoring the fact the temperature had dropped as well and the rain was blowing sideways, so even if she stayed on the porch, she'd still get damp.

Irene's eyes widened, and she shot Alastor a startled look, quickly following him out of the room and back to the garage when he motioned her to come with him. He obviously didn't want to witness 'baby sister' having a meltdown either.

Annika didn't notice her siblings had left the room and it was just her and their uncle.

Tom reached out and gently grasped his niece's wrist. "Even just standing on the porch, you'll get wet and potentially make yourself even more sick," he said seriously. "I'm not going to continue arguing with you about this. If you continue to insist on going outside, I'll take you over my knee."

"What!?" Annika tried to yank her wrist free. "For not agreeing with you!? That's unfair! And I'm wearing a jacket, so I wouldn't get that wet anyway! You can't stop me!"

"For disobeying me when it comes to your health." Tom tightened his hold, though was careful not to hurt her, and led her towards the sofa.

Annika's eyes widened. "I haven't disobeyed you yet, Uncle Tom! I'll stay inside..." she quickly back-pedaled, suddenly conciliatory and agreeable instead of obstinately argumentative when she realized he'd follow through on his promise to spank her if she continued to argue with him.

"You're prepared to let yourself get worse because you're being stubborn and want your own way," Tom said. "I'm not going to stand by and just let you risk making yourself worse."

"B... but I'm not now! I'll stay inside and be good! I will!" Annika babbled; not quite promising, but coming close, in her attempt to dissuade Tom from punishing her for her attitude. She bit her lip and eyed the sofa with trepidation. She knew full well if Tom hadn't stepped in and forbidden her leaving the house in this weather, she'd be out there right now. If he hadn't stepped in and decided her arguing deserved a response, she would have disobeyed what was clearly an order. She knew it. But she was hoping the fact that she hadn't actually done either of those things would earn her a bit of favor and he wouldn't follow through on his promise to her.

"If I hadn't stepped in and stopped you, you would have gone outside, even with it being raining and you still not completely okay." Tom didn't raise his voice or get angry, even as he took a seat on the sofa and tugged his niece across his lap.

"I..." Annika stopped herself just short of saying she wouldn't have. She knew full well that would be a lie and she refused to lie to her family. Even if it might save her a sore bottom. "...I didn't, though..." she said instead, whining faintly.

"Not because you realised you shouldn't on your own. Not until I had to step in and physically stop you." Tom secured her with an arm wrapped around her waist and then proceeded to bare her.

Annika immediately slumped and began to cry; not sobbing... she really didn't want her father coming out to find out what was wrong and having to explain to him how she'd been acting... but crying enough that it was noticeable. She didn't want a spanking and the fact she'd earned herself one by arguing was very upsetting to her; she hadn't quite accepted the fact she'd been wrong, or that she shouldn't have been arguing in the first place. She was upset because she'd got consequences for her behavior- not the behavior itself- so the tears had a small tone of self-pitying, irritated frustration in them.

Tom rubbed her back gently for a moment or two, to reassure, and then lifted his hand, bringing it down in a firm swat that he then repeated.

Annika whimpered, then whined as the spanking began, but didn't struggle to get away. Firstly, because she knew she wasn't getting out of her uncle's tight grip and secondly, because she was starting to feel drained; and struggling would betray that fact to her uncle. She didn't want to admit she'd been wrong and if it became obvious how tired she was, then she'd have to admit it. "...Ooooow..." She continued to cry as her uncle began to swat.

Tom continued the swats down to Annika's thighs and then started over from the top again; not too hard but making sure the swats were felt. Partway through the second circuit, he began to speak. "I know you wanted to go outside, but you were sick only yesterday. Your health is too important to mess around with."

"Fresh air is good for me!" Annika whined, reaching down and gripping her uncle's leg tightly. She wasn't struggling or fighting against him, but she was obviously not giving in either. Although her tears were sounding a bit less belligerent as she became more aware of the fact her body was not at one-hundred percent health and was slowly admitting to herself that her uncle had been right to tell her 'no'.

"Not when you've been sick and still aren't fully recovered," Tom replied sternly, completing the second circuit and beginning a third...going a fraction harder and faster.

Annika's whimper this time was more pained and less frustrated child. She couldn't really refute what he was saying, either, since being over his knee had caused her sinuses to drain into her head instead of down her throat; instead of coughing, she was now stuffed up to the point she had to breathe through her mouth. And she was just that slight bit more tired, even if she wasn't actively fighting her uncle. "...I... " She swallowed, took a needed breath, coughed and then started to cry harder as she realized how wrong she'd been. And now she'd have to admit it, but she didn't know how to just say it without it looking like she was just trying to get the spanking to stop. "...I'm sorry..." she finally choked out, between gulping breaths and hacking coughs. This time, her lying limply wasn't a bid to stop the punishment; it was because she'd given up arguing and was submitting.

Tom had been paying careful attention to his niece's reactions and as soon as she stopped fighting the punishment, he brought it to a stop. Replacing her clothing, he then wasted no time in moving her into his arms, hugging her tightly.

Annika didn't care that she was a blubbering, snotty mess... all she cared about was her uncle understanding how sorry she was for arguing and that now she knew she'd been wrong. "I'm sorry..." she continued to babble, over and over, in between coughing, clutching the front of his shirt in her fists, as if afraid he'd make her let go and leave her alone in her misery. She felt awful and it wasn't just emotionally. In a more self-aware, cognizant moment, she may have realized how big a part her health was playing in her attitude, but right now, she didn't care about that. All she cared about was Tom not being 'mad' at her.

"I've got you. I love you. I forgive you." Tom tightened his arms around his niece, kissing her head and hugging her tightly, repeating the words over and over.

Hearing her uncle's words and feeling his arms around her helped Annika calm fairly quickly and soon, she was just clinging to him tightly, sniffling and coughing every few moments as she continued to breathe through her mouth. Sadly, she admitted, "You were right... I shouldn't have argued with you..." She coughed again "...I deserved a spanking for being so naughty and I know it..." She whispered the last, her tone embarrassed and ashamed.

"You did, but you aren't naughty now," Tom murmured reassuringly, kissing the top of her head. "You're completely forgiven."

Annika sniffled again, snuggling closer. "...I'm tired, Uncle Tom...Can I go to bed now?" she asked softly. She knew that he'd never tell her no over something like that if he knew she wasn't feeling well... it was her way of letting him know she was sick again and that she was through arguing; that he was in charge and she'd obey him.

"I'll tuck you in... stay with you until you fall asleep," Tom said gently, stroking her hair.

"Thank you, Uncle Tom..." she whispered. Part of her wanted to ask him to come help her get ready for bed too- she was reluctant to let go of him to go into her room and change- but wasn't sure she deserved to be coddled like that after giving him such a difficult time.

"I love you." Tom kissed the top of her head. "You need help getting changed?" he asked gently.

Annika looked up, her eyes wide and hopeful. "If you don't mind?" she whispered.

"Not at all." Tom helped her to stand up and then stood himself, wrapping his arm around her waist so he could still keep her close to him.

Annika continued to snuggle close, even as she walked with her uncle back to her bedroom. Once inside, she located a nightshirt.

Tom began to help his niece to get undressed, touching her cheek or stroking her hair every so often.

"Thank you... for taking care of me..." Annika whispered, almost shyly, pressing her face into her uncle's hand or nuzzling into him whenever the option presented itself. Her uncle had cared for her throughout her illness, so she wasn't bashful about him undressing her; more about the fact she was behaving so childishly needy.

"You're welcome." Tom kissed her forehead once she was undressed. "I love you," he murmured, gently guiding her towards her bed.

Annika smiled. "I love you too, Uncle Tom..." she said drowsily, giving him an innocent smile that was a far cry from the petulant pout she'd given when he'd forbidden her leaving the house. She carefully crawled into bed before looking up at him and biting her lip. "Do I need to take medicine?"

"I'm afraid so." Tom retrieved it, gently stroking her hair. "I don't want to risk you getting worse," he murmured.

"Okay..." Annika answered agreeably. She'd lost any desire she had to defy her uncle in anything; now all she wanted was to obey him and be a 'good girl' for him.

Tom poured out the medicine and carefully fed it to her, gently stroking her hair and cheek as he did so.

Annika obediently swallowed the medicine before giving her uncle a sweet smile. "Thank you..." she whispered, before settling back into the bed. "I love you..."

Tom settled on the edge of the bed, continuing the gentle affection. "I love you too," he said, softly and sincerely.

Annika snuggled against her uncle, her eyes closing. It didn't take long for her to fall asleep.

Tom stayed close to his niece, still stroking her hair, reluctant to leave in case she needed him.

It was a couple of hours later and Alastor and Irene had made dinner.

"Should we wake them up to eat? Or let them sleep?" Irene asked her older brother uncertainly.

Alastor wrinkled his nose. "I'd be surprised if dad and Uncle Tom don't wake them up soon, if only to ensure they are able to sleep tonight..." he responded.

Hurley hadn't fallen asleep, but he had continued to hold onto his baby boy. Hearing his two oldest children moving around in the kitchen, he gently stroked Mitch's cheek to wake him up.

Mitch began to stir at the gentle touch and soon he was waking up. "Daddy?" he asked softly, his voice sleep-filled. "Is it time to get up?" He stretched slightly, realizing that he hadn't got dressed after his father tended his wounds. "Huh..." he muttered quietly. "...Good thing neither of us cares about my modesty..." He snorted in faint amusement.

"I think your brother and sister are making dinner." Hurley kissed his head. "It's better to get up now, otherwise you'll struggle to sleep tonight."

"Okay, daddy..." Mitch easily agreed, carefully untangling himself from his father's arms and getting off of Hurley and off of the bed. He gathered his pajamas, the most comfortable thing he owned and the least likely item to rub at the sores covering his posterior. He winced as some of the cuts and abrasions pulled with his movement and sighed. "Will you help me get dressed, daddy?" he asked in a small voice, feeling very much like a child.

"Of course, baby boy." Hurley moved over to help his son, stroking Mitch's cheek and kissing his head as he dressed him.

Mitch gave his father a tiny smile and, as soon as he was dressed, he moved into Hurley's arms and held onto him tightly. "Thank you, daddy... I don't know what I'd do without you..." he said softly.

"You won't have to find out," Hurley promised, hugging him tightly. "I've got you and I won't ever let go of you, baby boy." He gently scruffed his son's neck.

The scruffing of his neck caused Mitch to slump down, leaning into his father and shuffling his feet like a child. "I love you, daddy..." he repeated, putting himself more firmly into Hurley's control, so the older man could lead him out to the dining area.

Hurley gently led his baby boy out of the room and to the dining area. "I love you too," he murmured softly.

Tom had also heard his older niece and nephew moving around and he gently stroked Annika's forehead, checking to see if she was warm...but also if she would stir at his touch.

Annika luckily wasn't warm; the medicine having helped fight off what could have become a fever if she hadn't got rest first. Blinking her eyes blearily, she looked toward her uncle and gave him a bright smile. "You stayed with me..." she whispered, obviously happy about that fact.

Tom smiled at her and kissed her forehead. "I wouldn't leave you alone," he murmured. "Do you feel up to dinner?" he asked.

"I think I could eat a little..." Annika said cautiously. She hadn't been having an upset, queasy feeling, but then again, she hadn't expected to have the congestion return either. Carefully, she got up and leaned on her uncle for a moment before snuggling. "Walk me out?" she asked impishly.

Tom smiled. "Of course." He helped her to stand up and wrapped an arm around her shoulders to guide her out.

Irene smiled as she saw her siblings and father and uncle come into the room. She'd just put the last platter on the table and Alastor had just placed the last piece of cutlery. "You're all just in time. Everything is ready..." she said happily.

Hurley smiled warmly at the rest of his children, helping Mitch to sit down carefully and then walking over to give each of them a hug. With Alastor and Annika, he murmured a soft, "Are you okay?" to both of them, since he'd heard what had happened.

Alastor nodded, kissing his father on the cheek. "I'm good, dad. Just...mending the last of the bridge between me and Uncle Tom..." he whispered.

Annika blushed, but nodded and gave her father a quick hug when he asked her. "Uncle Tom took care of me...gave me hopefully I won't get sick again..." She admitted just enough that Hurley would be able to figure things out without going into great detail.

Hurley smiled and gave them both a tight, reassuring squeeze before he moved to sit down with his family at the table.

Dinner had been lighthearted and a good time to bond and learn more about each other. Irene had been happy that both her younger siblings seemed cheerful enough and feeling well enough to participate in after dinner activities. But soon, both Annika and Mitch were yawning. It was obvious to all that the illness and the injuries were draining the younger members of the family of their strength. She wasn't surprised when Hurley said it was time for bed. She'd quickly got into her pajamas and returned to the bedroom to find Alastor waiting for her. Mitch and Annika were already fast asleep on her father and her uncle, respectively. She grinned at the older men and then climbed up into Alastor's arms. It didn't take her long to fall asleep either.

The next morning dawned bright and sunny. Alastor and Irene were the first up and out of bed, both of them going to get ready for the day and then heading into the kitchen to make breakfast.

Annika was next to waken. She felt much better after another dose of medicine and a good night's sleep. She waited for her Uncle Tom to give her permission to get up and get ready, though. She figured if he told her she needed to stay inside for one more day, she'd obey him. She'd ask him to do something with her, but she'd obey him. Giving Tom a tiny smile and a kiss on the cheek, she waited for his instructions.

Tom gently stroked his niece's hair. "How are you feeling?" he asked softly, watching her carefully to see how she looked.

"Much better, Uncle Tom..." she whispered, so as not to wake up Mitch. "May I go get ready? I will wait for you in the living room before I do anything else..."

Tom nodded and kissed her head. "I'll see you there in a few minutes," he promised.

Smiling and nuzzling against him for a few seconds longer, Annika carefully got up and went to get ready for the day.

Mitch was starting to stir by this point. "Mornin', Uncle Tom... mornin', daddy..." he whispered to both men, before nuzzling into Hurley's chest like a kitten.

"Good morning, kid." Tom gently ruffled his hair before getting up.

"Morning, baby boy." Hurley kissed Mitch's head.

Mitch grinned at Tom, then snuggled closer to his father. He was perfectly content to stay where he was until it was time for his 'reminder' of how to rely on and obey his father.

Hurley waited until a few minutes after Tom had left the room and then kissed Mitch's head. "Are you ready for your reminder, baby boy?" he murmured.

Mitch swallowed hard and winced before sighing softly and snuggling close. "I'm ready mentally; I'm not sure I'll be able to cooperate physically," he admitted, in a shamed tone.

"Are you worried you might try to fight me?" Hurley asked gently.

"Yessir..." Mitch admitted. "I don't want to; I won't want to. I feel like it's important and I need you to remind me... I'm just really sore and..." He bit his lip and hid his face against Hurley's chest.

Hurley stroked his hair. "Do you trust me, baby boy?"

"Completely, daddy..." Mitch quickly replied, his tone earnest. "...It's me I don't trust..." he admitted sheepishly.

Hurley stroked his lower back as he said, "Then trust that I'll be able to control you...hold you...even if you try to fight me."

Mitch snuggled closer, nuzzling against his father like a toddler. "Okay, daddy..." he finally whispered, his full trust in Hurley clear in his voice.

Hurley kissed the top of his head and then helped his son to stand, leading Mitch over to one of the corners. This time, he kept in physical contact with Mitch, his hand on his boy's neck.

Mitch bit his lip but didn't fight or argue. The corner always made him feel very young and powerless; but then, he supposed that was part of the point. To encourage him to rely on his father and trust what Hurley was doing. He had to admit having his father scruffing him gently helped immensely, though. "...Easier to handle when you've got hold of me..." he whispered.

Hurley gently stroked the back of his neck. "I won't ever let you go, baby boy."

"Thank you, daddy..." Mitch leaned back slightly, into his father's grip, though he kept facing the corner, since he hadn't been told he could leave it yet. "...I don't want to ever leave you...even when I was being stupid and running from you, I didn't really want to leave you..."

"I would come after you. Like I did then. I would always come after you," Hurley promised. "I love you, baby boy."

"I love you too, daddy..." Mitch's whisper was tiny and it sounded as if he were close to tears. The last day had been difficult from a physical standpoint; which had made him emotionally more vulnerable. The fact he knew his father spoke the truth, because Hurley had come after him, just reinforced the feeling of trust. Still, while he sounded close to tears, he was also visibly relaxing. Letting his father control everything was becoming easier.

Hurley kissed his son's head and gently drew Mitch out of the corner, giving him a tight hug before leading him over to the bed. Mindful of Mitch's injuries, he carefully moved his son across his lap, making sure he was fully supported.

Mitch couldn't help but let out a tiny whimper as he was positioned, but his father was so careful that his injuries weren't jarred. He couldn't help but tense slightly in anticipation of the first smack.

Hurley lifted the flap, but didn't immediately begin to swat, instead starting to gently stroke and rub his baby boy's backside. "I've got you, baby boy. I won't let you go."

Mitch whimpered again, but it didn't take long for the gentle rubbing to soothe his nerves and he found himself going limp over Hurley's lap. "...You've got me..." he repeated softly. "...You've got me so I'm safe..."

"Always, baby boy," Hurley promised. "You're safe with me. I won't let you go."

"...And you won't let me take myself away from you..." Mitch's tone wasn't quite a question; more seeking confirmation. "...I'm so afraid I'll take myself away from you and you won't be able to get me back..." he blurted, before closing his eyes. He hadn't meant to say that.

"I won't let you, baby boy." Hurley began to gently pat his son's bottom, careful not to aggravate the injuries. "I won't let even you take yourself away from me."

Mitch slumped at those words, relief that his father would promise him that allowing him to relax and just accept what was happening. The gentle patting stung more than it normally would have, due to his injuries, but his father was being careful enough that, while it quickly became painful, it wasn't unbearable. He whimpered and whined softly but didn't try and pull away or fight. He trusted Hurley and wanted to show that he did.

Hurley continued to gently pat, not increasing the force any. His other hand alternated between gently scruffing Mitch's neck and stroking bits of skin on his back that hadn't been injured.

Even though his father was patting gently- not even really swatting- the fact it was over extremely sensitive and, in some cases, abraded skin made it feel like full swats and despite his intentions, Mitch couldn't stop himself from beginning to squirm.

Hurley paused as Mitch began to squirm and resumed gently rubbing his baby boy's backside. "You're mine, baby boy. I won't ever let you go. I won't ever let you get taken from me. You're my son."

"...'m your baby boy..." Mitch whimpered and managed to stop squirming as his father resumed rubbing. "...Wanna be good for you..."

"You are," Hurley promised. "Even if you're naughty occasionally, you very quickly become my good boy again." He rubbed and stroked a bit more, then resumed the gentle pats.

Mitch whimpered softly as the patting began, but he didn't squirm this time. Even if it stung...hurt...he knew it wasn't anything he didn't deserve after attempting to run away from his father. And if it helped him remember? Helped him not to run ever again? It was needed. This time, the whimpers were accompanied by tears sliding down his cheeks and his reflexively gripping the pillow his father had given him to add support. "...Daddy...I'm sorry I was naughty and ran. I never want to leave you..." he said, in a very tiny, tear-filled voice.

"I never want you to leave me. Or risk losing you." Continuing the gentle patting and interspersing it with stroking and rubbing, Hurley continued, "When you went radio silent on me...I thought I might lose you. That I wouldn't be able to find you and bring you back home. That hurt as much as anything."

Mitch let out a tiny sob at the admission. "...I didn't mean to hurt you, daddy..." he whispered contritely, his tone broken. He would have begun squirming again by this point, the gentle patting feeling more like hard swats, but the gentle rubbing soothed enough in between that he was able to control himself...even if he wasn't able to just go limp over his father's knee.

"I know, baby boy." Hurley interspersed the patting with rubbing, his other hand still gently scruffing Mitch's neck. "But I still worried I wouldn't get to you. That you wouldn't let me bring you home...and I couldn't lose you. Not like that. Not in any way."

Mitch thought about what his father had said and what his father was doing; and he realized that even if he had deserved it, his father wasn't angry at him. Worried, yes. Frightened of losing him, yes. Possibly frustrated and trying to find a way to break through Mitch's stubbornness... but not angry. And while the gentle patting hurt badly by this point, feeling like a full-fledged spanking, he knew, after thirty or so minutes, it would be negligible and all that would remain would be the memory. His father loved him. Loved him so much, he called him on the radio to make certain he was alright. Loved him so much, he met him half-way up the trail, so he could walk back with him and make sure he didn't need help. Loved him so much, he was tempering the 'reminder' that they'd both agreed he needed so that it wasn't too much for his injuries to handle. Loved him so much that even the thought of Mitch disappearing from his life and not being able to be found and brought home still upset him; it was clear in the tone of his voice. Realizing the depths of his father's love caused Mitch to give in completely- not that he was fighting overly much- and he just slumped over Hurley's lap and cried. "I'm sorry, daddy...I'm so sorry..." he kept repeating.

Hurley stopped the patting and wasted no time in bringing his son up into his arms, wrapping them as tightly as he could around his baby boy. "I love you so much," he whispered, kissing the top of his son's head. "I'm never going to let you go...let you get taken from me."

"I'm sorry, daddy..." Mitch continued to cry, even as he held onto his father as tightly as possible. "...I love you. I don't wanna leave you... I don't wanna be let go..." he choked out in between tears and nuzzled against his father's chest.

Hurley kissed the top of his head and scruffed his neck. "I love you, baby boy. I'm going to keep on holding onto you. No matter what. No matter how many times you need to be reminded, it won't stop. It won't change anything."

"Promise?" Mitch winced at how childishly hopeful he sounded. He wasn't bothered even a little at the idea that his father might need to remind him indefinitely. He was only concerned with his father keeping him close and not letting go.

"I promise." Hurley tightened his embrace. "I won't ever stop, baby boy. It doesn't matter what happens. We're not with the CIA anymore. The only one responsible for you is me."

"And the only one I have to obey is you..." Mitch sniffled and cuddled close, before looking up with a wide-eyed, innocent smile (though his eyes had an impish look in them). "... And I guess Uncle Tom... and Alastor..."

Hurley nodded, stroking the side of his face. "It's the chain of command, baby boy. If your uncle or brother need to give you orders, too, it's important you listen to them."

Mitch sighed but nodded. "Yessir...I'll do my best. Especially since I know that's what you want me to do..." he said quietly.

Hurley kissed his head. "Thank you, baby boy. I love you. Are you ready for me to check over your injuries now?" he asked gently.

"Yes, daddy..." Mitch smiled, pressing against his father for a few seconds longer, before carefully standing up. "What do you want me to do?" he asked quietly.

Hurley stood up and began to carefully remove his baby boy's pajamas, stroking his cheek or neck or forehead periodically.

Mitch held perfectly still, only moving when he was needed to lift his foot up or hold his arm out. Every time his father stroked his cheek, he'd press his face into Hurley's hand, as if seeking more affection. He couldn't get enough of his father cuddling him.

Hurley continued to stroke and touch and, when his son was naked, he carefully helped Mitch across his lap, so he could check over and treat the injuries.

"I... I never thought I'd trust anyone to be like this... so vulnerable... after Kat..." Mitch admitted quietly, relaxing over Hurley's lap.

Hurley gently stroked his baby boy's neck, gently squeezing it, as he continued to treat the injuries. "I'm your daddy. It's okay to be vulnerable in front of me. I'll always look after you. Keep you safe."

"I believe you..." Mitch said quietly. "I... I think I'm better off because of you..."

"I'm better off because I have you in my life," Hurley said seriously. "Because I stopped fighting how I felt about you. Because I was able to bring you home as well."

Taking a slow breath, Mitch reached down and squeezed his father's leg. "I love you, daddy..." he whispered.

"I love you, baby boy. So very much. I want to keep you in my life." Hurley finished checking over the injuries on Mitch's back and then carefully helped him turn over, so he could check his front.

Mitch held still, realizing Hurley checking him so carefully was as much for his father's benefit as his. Once his father was assured he'd been taken care of, he immediately snuggled close. "I love you, daddy," he whispered, content to stay there until Hurley was ready to dress him and go out to meet the rest of the family.

Hurley held his son close and tight for a few more moments and then kissed his head before he carefully dressed him in the pajamas once more. "Let's go and join the rest of our family, baby boy."

"Okay, daddy..." Mitch snuggled a tiny bit longer before following his father out of the room.

Hurley stayed close to his baby boy as he joined the rest of his children and his brother, sitting down to eat breakfast all together.

The End