Adjustments

by CoogieAnn

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Fandom: Velvet Goldmine

Pairing: Curt/Arthur

Rating: NC-17

Archive: Persuaders

Disclaimer: Sadly, Curt and Arthur (and other recognizable characters) do not belong to me. They belong to Todd Haynes - lucky man.

Summary: Arthur deals with some adjustments in life and love.

Feedback: Yes, please, to Coog@bellatlantic.net

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Arthur wore his scowl like a mask as he made his way to the bar. Ordering a beer, he cast a resentful look over his shoulder to where Curt stood, laughing with a couple of their friends. Scratch that, they were Curt's friends, not *their* friends. He held no illusion that they would spare him a second thought if Curt weren't with him, and he was equally sure that some of them would prefer that Arthur wasn't around period, leaving Curt available for their advances. Terrance, a guitarist who jammed with Curt occasionally, was being especially brazen tonight with small touches that lingered a little too long and even going so far as to put his arm around Curt's waist then casually dropping his hand to caress Curt's ass. To his credit, Curt immediately wiggled free of the too-intimate touch, but he was laughing as he did so. Arthur wasn't laughing, though. He would much rather have punched the guy out. Instead, he'd stalked away with the excuse that he needed another drink. He was aware of Curt's questioning eyes following his retreating back, but he didn't turn to acknowledge him.

Fuck, what a week. Work had been a royal bitch. He had ended up putting in nearly thirty hours of overtime to meet the deadline of an expose on the recent sexual harassment scandal plaguing the Mayor's office. But Lou had pulled the article with some flimsy excuse just before it hit the presses and replaced it with Harkin's human- interest piece on the history of Macy's department store. Arthur had been livid. This was the fifth time in as many months that Lou had pulled a story after Arthur had worked his ass off to produce it.

And to make matters worse, he hadn't seen much of Curt at all during the past week -- except to come home late and crawl, exhausted, into bed beside his sleeping lover. Curt would automatically curl up against him, making sleepy overtures for lovemaking, but Arthur would tense up and wait for Curt to give up and settle back into sleep. He was too stressed to make love and too wound up to sleep. He ended up just staring at the ceiling until his exhaustion eventually caught up to him and he'd fall into a restless sleep a few hours before he needed to get back up. Although Curt never voiced his displeasure at the long hours that Arthur was putting in, he would give him a troubled look and shake his head as Arthur left each morning as the sun rose.

After the blowout with Lou today, Arthur had wanted nothing to do with the party this evening. He was tense and angry. His neck and shoulders were stiff with the stress and a lingering headache throbbed dully at the base of his skull. Curt had told him he didn't have to come tonight, but that had irritated Arthur all the more. His lover hadn't offered to stay home with him, only that Arthur could stay home if he wanted.

So here he was, standing at the bar, a bottle of beer clenched in a too-tight fist, watching his lover laughing with a man who wanted nothing more than to get into Curt's tight leather pants. Arthur rolled his eyes in disgust as Terrance stroked Curt's arm for what was surely the twentieth time during their conversation. As he took a long swig of his beer, he caught Curt seeking him out at the bar. Arthur let his disgust show on his face as their eyes met, and Curt's smile faded. Curt turned and said something to the group, clasped Terrance on the shoulder, then left them to make his own way to the bar.

"What's the matter?" Curt asked when he reached the bar. He craned his neck to look over Arthur's shoulder, trying to get the bartender's attention.

"What do you think's the matter?" Arthur asked acidly.

Curt's mouth tightened as he peered at Arthur, then he turned to follow Arthur's glare. "Terrence is drunk. He's harmless and you know it."

Arthur's only answer was to glower at Curt a moment before turning his glare back to the offending man.

Retrieving his own beer from the bartender, Curt shook his head in annoyance. "Arthur, I know you don't want to be here. I told you you didn't have to come tonight. Why don't you just go home? You're overworked and overtired. Go home and get some sleep."

Arthur snorted angrily. "Oh, and I bet Terrance would love that. Take the opportunity to corner you in the men's room and give you a blowjob while he's patting your ass. Better yet, maybe you can take him up to the roof."

Curt slammed his beer down on the bar, drawing the attention of several people around them. "What the fuck is your problem?" he hissed. "You think I want you to leave so I can fuck him? Is that it?"

Curt was as angry as Arthur had ever seen him. A little stunned that he had been the cause of it, Arthur remained silent. Unfortunately, that seemed to enrage Curt all the more.

"Fine," Curt ground out after staring Arthur down. "Let's get the fuck out of here. I sure don't want to be here anymore myself."

Arthur swallowed the last of his beer then followed his angry lover out of the bar. Curt had already hailed a cab when Arthur reached the door. In fact, he was already in the back seat and giving the driver the address of their apartment. Arthur barely had time to climb in before the driver took off, and he realized with astonishment that Curt would have left without him had he lingered any longer.

The ride was a long, quiet one with Curt staring out his window, his agitation with Arthur a palpable thing between them. For his own part, Arthur tried unsuccessfully to calm his irrational anger. He was jumpy, his head was pounding now, and he was still irritated beyond reason.

As they neared home, he did manage to calm down enough to admit to himself that he had been extremely unfair in his accusation. His trust in Curt was implicit. He didn't trust Terrance as far as he could throw the man, but Curt would never allow the persistent man's flirtations to go anywhere.

"Curt, I'm -" Arthur started to apologize, still too wound up to look at his lover.

"Don't," Curt said shortly, cutting him off. He exhaled sharply through his nose as he looked over at Arthur. "This has been building all week, and you've been a complete shit tonight."

Arthur gritted his teeth and bit back an angry retort as the cab pulled up to the curb in front of their apartment. Arthur was opening the door before the car even stopped, intent on leaving Curt to pay the fare.

But he was stopped in his tracks as Curt told him, "I want you to go upstairs and wait for me in our bedroom. Standing in the corner."

Arthur whirled around to glare at him in outrage even as the cabbie chuckled.

"We'll see if a long session over my lap can do anything to adjust your attitude," Curt continued, his eyes challenging as he met Arthur's glare.

Arthur's face burned in outrage and embarrassment as the driver laughed. "Go to hell," he spat out, then got out of the car, slamming the door before Curt could follow.

He slammed every door that he could on his way up to their third- floor apartment, taking small satisfaction in physically venting his ire. He yanked off his jacket and flung it across the room, not caring that it almost tipped over a lamp on its flight to the couch.

He stormed back to their bedroom and shoved the door closed hard enough to knock a picture on the wall off kilter.

How dare Curt intentionally humiliate him in front of that cab driver! As if he were in the mood for spanking games now. He couldn't believe that Curt, as angry as he was, would even have suggested it. They were headed for a full-blown row -- one that was far more likely to end up with one of them walking out for a few hours than the two of them fucking like rabbits as they usually did after playing that scene.

Arthur threw himself onto the bed and dug the heels of his hands into his eyes. Fortunately, fights between them were few and far between, but when they did occur they were passionate clashes with plenty of yelling and not a little object throwing. One of them, usually Curt, would end up leaving the apartment for a few hours, letting them both cool their heels. When he returned, they had both usually calmed down enough to talk rationally, to work things out and then...well, the make-up sex was always quite intense.

Arthur could hear Curt entering the apartment, and he wished that the other man would just leave now and give them the time that they needed to get over their anger. But apparently his lover wasn't inclined to do that. Sounds from the kitchen filtered in, and Arthur could hear Curt opening the refrigerator and the clank of a bottle that meant he was probably getting another beer. Curt didn't come into the bedroom, though, for which Arthur was grateful.

Arthur rolled his head and looked over at the one empty corner in the bedroom. His anger flared again as he thought about Curt's threat. Sure, he was going to stand in a corner like some recalcitrant child and wait for his lover to come in and spank him for his lousy behavior.

He snorted.

Actually, it wasn't that he'd never thought about it. In truth, he often fantasized about what it would be like to be punished for real, rather than for the made-up offenses that he sometimes created to coax Curt into playing. The thought of Curt meting out real discipline was such a turn-on, but it was a fantasy that he had never been able to admit to his lover. And, he sure as hell wasn't in the mood for it now.

He continued to lie on the bed, staring at the ceiling for a few minutes, before his logic caught up to him. Fuck. He turned back to stare at the corner. He sighed heavily at the irony of the situation. Here he was, as close as he had ever gotten to his deepest fantasy, and he was too incensed to let it happen. With that realization came the one that he would never be able to step outside of role-playing to bring his hidden desires of real discipline to fruition if he couldn't submit at his angriest. It would never be real punishment if he only gave in when he wanted to.

He sat up, pursing his lips as he contemplated the corner. Could he give in to this? Was Curt somehow aware of his yearning for discipline? They were both so mad at each other now. Would submitting to real punishment assuage the situation or make it worse? If he didn't submit, they would probably just finish their fight and go on as usual. If he did give in and allow Curt to carry out his threat, it could irrevocably change their relationship. But would that be for the worse or for the better?

Arthur stood slowly and, as if drawn by some unseen force, stepped into the corner. He flushed with humiliation and was amazed at how this simple act could provoke such feelings of shame even when no one else could see him. He could still hear Curt out in the living room and was glad of it, because if his lover had chosen this moment to come into the room, Arthur would have immediately given up even thinking about submitting and bolted.

He studied the subtle blue-gray pattern of swirls in the wallpaper as he tried to sort out his emotions. He tried to imagine how this punishment might be different from their role-playing. He shook his head with a rueful laugh. Well to start, he wasn't going to be acting like a young boy trying to hide a report card full of failing grades from his daddy. And Curt sure as hell better not use the condescending "Daddy's so disappointed" routine.

Arthur dropped his forehead against the cool wall. He battled with himself, wondering why he didn't just give this up and go to sleep. Still, he didn't move from the corner and he realized that the longer he stood there, the less likely he was to move. Shit. He was really going to go through with this, wasn't he?

He wasn't sure how long he actually stood there, but his nerves were becoming much more frazzled. Just when he had finally *almost* convinced himself to quit this ridiculous notion, the door opened.

Arthur straightened when he heard Curt come in, but he didn't turn around. He didn't want to see what reactions might be playing on his lover's face. It was another moment or two before he felt Curt at his back. The other man didn't say anything, but Arthur could tell that he was still fuming by the heavy exhalations through his nose. Arthur remained still.

Finally, Curt broke the silence. "You're going to accept your punishment, then?" he asked coldly.

Arthur suppressed a shiver at the tone but couldn't restrain his irritation. "Just get on with it already," he said tersely.

A sharp smack to his ass startled a gasp out of Arthur and he turned to glare at Curt. The hard eyes staring back at him were furious and Arthur swallowed the retort that was on his lips.

"As someone who is about to get his ass scorched, you might find it prudent to curb your tongue," Curt warned in a dangerously soft voice. When Arthur didn't say anything further, Curt asked again, "Now, are you going to accept your punishment?"

Arthur's jaw worked a moment as he seriously considered whether he could - whether he *should* - go through with this. Curt did have a right to be mad at him, but he couldn't help but wonder if this was the remedy. Curt's intense gaze never wavered as Arthur considered and finally, Arthur lowered his eyes and nodded minutely.

"I can't hear you, Arthur. Are you going to accept your punishment?"

Arthur had to fight his resentfulness at Curt's relentless tone. "Yes," he finally managed to grind out.

"Yes, what?"

Fuck. Arthur closed his eyes briefly in exasperation. Curt sure was milking this. "Yes," he repeated more firmly. "I will accept my punishment." He waited to see if his answer satisfied his lover or if Curt was expecting a "Sir."

"There will be no safeword," Curt warned.

This pronouncement surprised Arthur. While they had a standing safeword, Arthur never thought about it in conjunction with their spanking sessions. To him, it was for when they were delving into Curt's fantasies that leaned more toward bondage than discipline and employed a wide-array of props that Arthur was sometimes leery of. That Curt would bring it up now was a testament to the fact that, if they did this, Arthur truly had to submit to Curt's will.

Curt seemed to be waiting to see if Arthur would change his mind with this new information, so Arthur nodded shortly. Then, remembering Curt's reaction to his last nod, he said, "Yes...Sir." His cheeks flushed hotly as he added the "Sir" and he wasn't quite sure why he did it, except that it seemed right somehow.

Curt studied him a moment longer and Arthur wished he could hear what the other man was thinking. Finally, Curt told him, "Take off your clothes."

Arthur's heart skipped a beat as he slowly untucked his shirt from his pants and pulled it over his head. When they had played before, he'd received spankings in all states of undress - completely dressed, pants down, or completely nude. Never before, though, had he felt quite so ashamed about undressing as he did now.

He kicked off his shoes and removed his socks before moving to unbuckle his belt.

"Give me your belt," Curt ordered softly.

Arthur's fingers faltered a moment at the command. He looked anxiously at Curt, but only saw grim determination there. Fuck. The belt and no safeword. What was he letting himself in for?

He knew he could stop now. Tell Curt to fuck off. Walk out of the room. And they would argue heatedly and one of them would leave and they would get over it like they always did.

But it would always be between them, he knew. And, even if Curt never said another word about it, it would always niggle at his brain as the time that he'd let the realization of his deepest, darkest desire slip through his fingers because he couldn't submit. It would always be there and probably even affect the way they played their sexual games from then on.

He let out a shaky sigh, drew the black leather belt through its loops and handed it to Curt. Curt's shoulders relaxed fractionally as he took it, as if he, too, were contemplating how things would change if they didn't carry through with this all the way.

Arthur finished undressing, frowning at his half-erect cock. He was far more nervous than excited about this. In fact, he didn't feel any of the sexual excitement that the thoughts of being spanked usually provoked. Apparently, his cock didn't agree. Or, perhaps it was just his nerves. He was just relieved that Curt said nothing about it.

At last, he stood naked before his lover. Curt searched his face for a long moment and Arthur couldn't repress a nervous shudder under the intense and angry gaze.

Finally, Curt moved to sit on the bed, setting the belt beside him. "Come here," he commanded.

Arthur did so slowly, moving to Curt's side. Curt grabbed his arm lightly and guided Arthur's long frame over his lap. Arthur braced his hands against the floor as Curt adjusted their positions to his satisfaction. Staring at the floor, Arthur wondered at the intense humiliation he felt. He'd been here before, albeit, far more willingly, but the playful embarrassment he'd felt on those occasions was nothing compared to the shame that filled him now.

A resounding smack low on his ass came without warning, and Arthur hissed in response. Curt was holding nothing back as the palm of his hand connected harshly a second time.

"Why are you getting this spanking?" Curt asked as he laid more punishing blows on Arthur's bare ass.

A sharp indrawn breath, and Arthur snapped crossly, "Apparently because I was a complete shit tonight."

If possible, Curt responded by striking him even harder. "It's going to be a very long spanking indeed if you don't get over this attitude," he admonished, following up with several more hard swats. "Tell me why you are getting this spanking, and don't throw my words back at me."

Arthur gritted his teeth as more harsh blows rained down. Curt hadn't even picked up the belt yet and already his ass was beginning to feel like it was on fire. "Because of what I said about you and Terrance," he gasped out.

Curt spanked him furiously. "Jealousy has no place in our relationship, Arthur. It's the same as distrust. Think what you want of Terrance, but if you don't trust me not to fuck around, then we have no business being together."

Tears stung his eyes annoyingly, and Arthur shut his eyelids tightly to keep the tears from escaping. "I know, Curt. I didn't mean it." He bit his lip as his voice wavered. "I'm sorry. I really am."

Curt didn't let up. "Why else?" he demanded, punctuating the question with more spanks.

"Fuck. Ow!" Arthur scrambled for another reason. "For...for working late every night," he ventured.

"Not precisely," Curt said. "I don't mind if you have to work late. What I do mind is when you stress yourself out over a job that you increasingly despise and for an asshole you call boss that jerks your chain at every turn. You've been sulky and irritable and in a rotten mood for over a month. You better do something about it or it's going to drive us apart."

Arthur tried desperately to hold back the sob that threatened. Why hadn't he seen how his dissatisfaction at work was affecting his personal life? To hear Curt imply, not once but twice, that his recent behavior could tear them apart was devastating, and as Arthur thought about what it might cost him, he lost his battle against tears and sobbed his distress. "Curt! Please...I'm so...sorry...please...stop!"

Curt's spanks slowed, then stopped completely, and Arthur tried to back off of his lap. But Curt held him still with an arm across his back. "No, Arthur," he said gruffly. "We're not done yet." Curt picked up the belt.

Arthur shook his head in protest and tried more frantically to get up. Curt held him firmly. When Arthur gave up trying, Curt's hand at his back moved in small soothing circles. "Don't fight it, baby," Curt said in the kindest voice he'd used all evening. "You need this."

Oh God, he did need this. Another sob broke free at the realization.

When the folded leather belt came down upon his already throbbing ass, Arthur nearly jumped off Curt's lap with a yelp. Curt held him down tightly as the strap slashed across his swollen cheeks again, curling slightly around his hip. A third searing crack grazed the inside of his thigh, and Arthur threw an arm back in a futile attempt to protect his backside, and kicked his legs to try to disperse the burning pain.

Curt grabbed his hand and pinned it to the small of his back. "Stay still, or I'll tie you to the bed," Curt threatened.

"No! Please...don't." Arthur wasn't even sure if he was begging Curt to stop or just to not tie him down. He didn't know how much more he had to take, but he knew he didn't want the isolation of being bound to the bed.

Curt remained silent as he continued to lay stripes on Arthur's inflamed ass. For his part, Arthur couldn't stay still, but apparently his struggles weren't too bad because Curt was able to hold him in place. Arthur didn't know how many strokes he had received, but he was sure that there wasn't an inch of flesh on his ass or upper thighs that was untouched. There would surely be bruises tomorrow and possibly for days afterward.

At some point, all the fight went out of Arthur and he lay still on Curt's lap, sobbing brokenly as the belt continued to lash his backside. Crying out his pain and frustration, Arthur barely noticed when the belt ceased its punishing onslaught.

He slowly became aware of Curt rubbing his neck tenderly while whispering soothing words against his sweaty hair. Realizing that it was finally over, Arthur sank back off of Curt's lap and whimpered as his ass touched his heels. Curt pulled him up into a fierce hug, and Arthur wept against his shoulder.

"I'm so sorry, Curt," he cried, his voice muffled against his lover's neck.

"Sh," Curt soothed. "I know, baby. I love you. You know that, don't you?"

Arthur nodded and felt another sob bubble up. God, he couldn't stop crying. Curt didn't seem to mind, though. He rocked Arthur gently, pressing light kisses to his temple and whispering words of love and forgiveness against his hair.

When Arthur's sobs abated, Curt took his face in his hands and kissed his eyes, erasing the last tears. Without letting go of Arthur, Curt turned and folded the comforter back. Exhausted, Arthur let himself be guided to lie face-down on the bed. He whimpered slightly as Curt left his side, but his lover was back almost immediately. Something cool touched his ass, then Curt was lightly rubbing some sort of cream into his abused flesh. The soothing balm helped to ease away the worst of the pain.

Curt's gentle ministrations lulled him, and he barely noticed when Curt left his side again to strip. But then, his lover lay down beside him and pulled him into a gentle embrace, and Arthur finally succumbed to his exhaustion.

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Sunlight peeked through the tiny gap in the blinds and struck him right in the eyes. Arthur squinted against it and turned his face to bury it in the pillow. He snaked a hand out to Curt and allowed himself a small pout when he didn't find him. The soft strains of an acoustic guitar drifted into him then. Frowning, he wondered if Curt had been unable to sleep; he hardly ever was up before Arthur. He lifted his head to check the time...only to find that it was almost noon. Arthur blinked a few times to make sure he was seeing it correctly. He had slept for more than twelve hours.

He turned onto his back and winced at the tenderness in his ass. Groaning, he rolled out of bed and padded to the bathroom. After taking a piss, he moved to the sink, pausing to study himself in the mirror. He turned and twisted about, cataloging the various marks and welts on his ass. It actually didn't look as bad as he had expected. Last night, it had sure felt like there should be more visual damage. Most of the marks would fade by the end of the day, but a few of them were already darkening into bruises that would last for several days. He felt a small sense of gratification at that, realizing that he wanted the marks to last a little while as a reminder.

He brushed his teeth and, foregoing a shave as he usually did on weekends, he donned a loose pair of boxers and a t-shirt. He marveled at how completely relaxed and at peace he felt. There was none of the coiling tension or jumpy nerves that he had almost grown used to as the norm lately. There was just one small fluttering of anxiety as he left the bedroom. How was Curt this morning and had last night adversely affected their relationship?

He followed the acoustic melody to the room that Curt had revamped into a studio. He silently watched his lover from the doorway. Curt sat on a stool half turned away from the door, his hair loose and falling over his face. Although Arthur couldn't see his eyes, he knew they would be closed -- as they usually were when Curt played his newer, mellower songs.

Arthur must have made some small noise because Curt stopped and turned abruptly. Curt stared at him with concern, trying to gauge his reaction, and Arthur realized that Curt, too, had been worried about the repercussions of last night.

"Good morning," Arthur said with a tentative smile.

Curt set the guitar aside and was across the room in two long strides, pulling Arthur into his arms. Arthur melted into the crushing embrace, turning his head to try and capture some of the kisses that Curt was pressing onto his neck and face. Their lips met fiercely for a moment before settling into a tender kiss.

Curt pulled back and looked at him intently. "You okay?"

"Yeah." Arthur nodded. "Yeah, I'm okay."

Curt cupped his face and kissed his chin, eyes and forehead.

"I'm sorry I've been such a jerk lately," Arthur said softly under those precious kisses.

"And I'm so-"

"No." Arthur cut Curt off before the apology could leave his lips. "Please. I don't want you to be sorry, love. You were right. I needed it." He flushed slightly at the admission, wondering what Curt thought about his need for discipline.

Curt nodded seriously in understanding before a mischievous smile twitched at his lips. "I'll be here whenever you need it," he told Arthur, then added with a wider smile, "Just try not to need it again too soon, okay?"

Arthur chuckled, grateful for his lover's acceptance. "Oh, I think I can manage that," Arthur agreed as he rubbed his backside with a grimace that was not entirely faked.

"Good," Curt said with one last kiss. "Come on, I'll make you breakfast - or make that lunch."

Arthur allowed himself to be led toward the kitchen. "Do I have to sit at the table?" he asked with an exaggerated pout.

"Poor baby," Curt commiserated indulgently. "If you want, you can lie down on the sofa and I'll feed you."

Arthur considered Curt's suggestion. Actually, that didn't sound too bad.

They lazed the day away, making love slowly and tenderly after lunch, watching classic movies curled up together on the couch, ordering out for dinner. There was nowhere they needed to be and Arthur was more than content to just spend a chaos-free day with his lover.

They were watching the Knicks after dinner - or rather, Curt was watching the game, Arthur was watching Curt - when Arthur came to a decision.

"I'm going to call Elaine Sherwood on Monday," he announced.

Curt's attention left the game. "Your friend at the Times?"

"Yeah. She's been bugging me for a while to send her my resume. I think it's time."

Curt flicked the TV off. "Arthur, I don't want to pressure you into this."

"You're not. But you are right. I do need to do something about my job. I'm so tired of Lou pulling my stories after I've worked so hard on them. It's just that, you know, he gave me a chance when no one else would. I wouldn't be a journalist today if he hadn't done that for me."

Curt squeezed his hand in sympathy. "But it's hard to stay loyal to someone whose loyalty to you is questionable."

"Yeah." Arthur was silent for a few moments, dreading the time when he would have to tell Lou that he was leaving, but looking forward to the possibilities of new opportunities. If he got in at the Times, he would have to work extra hard to prove himself. "Wherever I go, I may still have to put in some long hours occasionally," he cautioned, watching Curt's reaction.

Curt shook his head. "I told you, I don't mind that you have to work late sometimes. I just hate to see you put in all that time then not get to enjoy the fruits of your labor. You should be able to like what you do, but it's so obvious how unhappy you've been lately."

Arthur drew their clasped hands to his lips and kissed Curt's palm lightly. "Yeah, it's definitely time," he reasserted.

There was still one more thing tickling his mind. "Curt?"

"Hm?"

"Terrance."

"What about him?" Curt asked guardedly, his voice dropping to a growl.

"I still want to kick his ass for flirting with you so outrageously."

Curt chuckled ruefully. "My possessive love," he crooned as he leaned over to kiss Arthur. "Just make sure I'm around to watch you fight for my honor."

"Oh, definitely," Arthur agreed before he deepened the kiss. Definitely.

The End

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