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The candles had long since burned low when Alexander woke from his half-doze, face pillowed on his shoulder. Exhaustion had made the chair an appealing place to nod off, but not so in the waking - when he raised his head, his muscles all pulled on the left side of his neck.

He was digging his thumb fruitlessly into the ache when memory finally struck him, and he rose so suddenly he upended the chair and the lap-desk, sending the dispatches he'd been so painstakingly copying into the dirt. Cursing, he scrambled to shuffle them into some semblance of order before tearing out of his tent, running across camp, heedless of who saw him. He staggered into the general's tent, still lit even at this hour, disheveled and not even halfway presentable.

Washington didn't look up when he entered, leaving Alex to stand flustered and wrong-footed, feeling caught out like a young boy. He had been told to report to the general as soon as he was able, and had only meant to finish another two copies before reporting. He swallowed his gasping breaths, trying to calm himself, and lost every sense of composure when the general finally wiped the end of his quill and set it aside.

"Your Excellency, sir, I apologize, I lost track of the time-"

"That much is clear." Washington took in his appearance - his hair unbound and wild around his face, clothes rumpled from being slept in, neckcloth half-tied and askew. "Were you detained by a whirlwind?"

Alex felt himself coloring, his neck going warm, and his gaze flickered away from Washington's for a moment. "I was copying dispatches. I must have nodded off."

"You were asleep." Washington's voice was flat, and Alex couldn't bear to hear it. His tongue tripped over itself to form explanations.

"Not, sir, through any lack of diligence and certainly no lack of respect for you. We have all had bare sleep of late, and with all the correspondence and requisitions, and messengers running at all hours-"

"Alexander." There was a note of warning in Washington's voice, and Alex's teeth clicked shut. The general found it tedious when his mouth ran on with him, and it tended to happen with distressing frequency. "I did not ask for excuses." There was another pause as Alex struggled not to speak again. The recrimination in Washington's dark gaze was enough to make him fidget under it, shuffling the dispatches. "Let me see those."

For a moment, Alex almost refused to hand them over. The complete copies were smudged with dirt and crumpled. The one he'd fallen asleep over had a blot that trailed down the page, and would have to be copied again entire. Reluctantly, he extended the sheaf of papers, and Washington took them with raised eyebrows.

"This is nothing like your regular work, Alexander," he murmured, and Alex wanted nothing more than to sink into the earth and vanish. Washington looked him over again, his eyes tracking down Alex's frame. "We are all hard-pressed, but if you do not see to your own needs I will be less an aide, and you will be of no use to the Army. When did you last sleep?"

Alex knew he'd been caught and couldn't avoid it. He swallowed heavily. "Just now. Yesterday, for no more than an hour or two, just until the watch changed. I can't recall, before that."

There was another pregnant pause. "We've discussed this."

"Yes, Excellency."

"I told you that if you did not take care of yourself, and if it became a problem that affected your work, it would need to be corrected."

"Yes, Excellency."

There came a long sigh from Washington, one that made Alex drop his eyes to the packed dirt that made up the floor of the tent. It was an unmistakable sound of disappointment, and Alex could not face it. He waited, a horrible tension hanging in the air and around his shoulders. If Washington was going to dismiss him, it would be better if he did it now. Alex had blundered enough second chances under the general's command, and he could not fathom he'd get another.

A palm at the small of his back made him jump. Washington pushed, only a little but enough to propel him forward. "If you will insist on behaving like a boy in need of correction, you will earn discipline that will suit. Take your trousers down and put your hands on the desk."

The world seemed to stop in its tracks. Alex couldn't be certain he'd heard correctly, but when he twisted to look over his shoulder there was only calm expectation in Washington's face - Alex turned back around quickly, his fingers going to the ties of his breeches. The burn of humiliation began at the back of his neck and spread up to his face, color that the general was sure to see. Alex didn't turn to look again. Bad enough that he should have pushed Washington to such extreme measures. If he weathered this, perhaps he would not be dismissed - and if that were so, he would take what the general gave him here and gladly.

Alex tugged his breeches down, fixing his eyes on the smooth wood of the desk in front of him. The backs of his ears were hot and he had no doubt his face was red. He planted both palms on the desktop, nudging papers out of the way. He would not muss the general's work, not and earn himself more than what he'd already brought on.

Washington stepped up to his side. He was close enough, and the autumn air cool enough, that Alex could feel body heat against his hip. He bit the inside of his cheek to quell the shiver that wanted to trace its way down his spine, holding himself tense and rigid with anticipation.

The light touch of Washington's fingers slipping into the waistband of his undergarments and tugging them down was unexpected enough to make him jump and suck in a harsh breath. "Sir-"

"Stay still, Alexander." Washington's voice was just as calm and implacable now as it had been when Alex faced him disheveled and half-asleep, as if having Alex bared and bent over his desk had no more effect on him than any of his more expected routines. Alex felt a twinge of something hot and furious in his chest, that Washington would treat something so humiliating as if it were not worth even a passing mention.

"Is this satisfactory, sir?" Alex's tone was hardly respectful, bordering on insolent and the closest he'd come to pushing back against what Washington had commanded.

He had expected Washington to reach for an implement of some kind - a cane, most likely, or a paddle if one could not be found. Instead, the first blow was a crack of skin on skin, the broad impact of Washington's palm directly on his flesh. It drove Alex's breath from him in a startled, questioning sound, too surprised to maintain his indignation.

"You will know when I'm satisfied." Washington's hand fell again, and this time the sting of it penetrated the shock. Alex was certain the force of those strokes had been nothing near the general's full strength, but his palm struck Alex's flesh hard enough for a warm rush of pain in its wake - nothing Alex couldn't bear, but it was not the pain that had him trying to straighten from his position, crane his neck to look over his shoulder.

Washington's free hand came down between his shoulders, the heel of it pressed against his spine. He pushed, even as he gave Alex another blow, shoving back against Alex's efforts. "On your elbows, if you cannot remain still."

The rebuke was sharp, more biting than what Alex had been given over the dispatches. Alex's arms folded almost without his mind's conscious direction - he was bent low at the waist, now, the backs of his legs straining to keep straight and his lower half embarrassingly exposed. His feet were not spread wider apart than his shoulders, hobbled about his knees by his breeches, but it was certainly enough for Washington to see him intimately.

Like this, though, Alex could rest his forehead on his arms against the desk and close his eyes. Washington didn't move the hand from his back, still leaning pressure into it, but once Alex made no move to get up again the weight eased a little. It was not a reprieve. Washington was merely shifting his attention, as the next four blows proved, delivered in swift succession, harder than the ones preceding them had been.

Alex's shoulders were knotted with tension, his fingers digging into his arms. The hand on his back began to move in slow circles, as one might comfort a child. It made Alex's face burn hotter. He squeezed his eyes tightly shut and concentrated on the stinging pain in his buttocks, shoving aside all thought of how briefly he had felt an urge to lean into the touch on his back - or the hand delivering his punishment.

There was no mistaking that this was discipline. Washington did not allow his hand to linger on Alex's bare flesh. His strokes were hard enough that Alex heard the sharp, startling sound of Washington's open palm on every impact. He felt the prickling spread of the pain afterward, as if the sound of it drove his other senses briefly from his mind, but the pain was dull, throbbing, and constant.

Before long, Alex had sweat gathering at the nape of his neck, his mouth open on panting gasps into his arm. Surely it couldn't go on much longer - he was sure that Washington's hand must have covered every surface of his backside by now, and imagined he must bear red hand prints. The thought set his head spinning. His knees started to quiver. The heat beginning to lick at the base of his spine was from more than just the sting of his flesh. It heightened with the next blow of Washington's hand. Would he truly leave marks? The thought washed through him from crown to sole, and this time he did shudder, shifting his weight from one foot to another. He could no longer keep still, moving restlessly against the desk.

The pressure of Washington's palm between his shoulder blades increased again, kept Alex pinned. Though he twisted and squirmed against it, the general was relentless. Alex jerked at yet another blow. Washington's hands were broad and strong - Alex had never thought of them in this context before, but he did not think he would ever see the general's hands hold a quill or a saber again without thinking of this. His whole body was tense, holding back the tremors that wanted to travel down his spine.

Alex pressed his forehead hard into his arms, teeth gritted. He thought it might be easier on him if he moved with the force of the blows, but he dared not. Each strike fell punishingly hard on his already sore skin. A small sound was forced out from between his clenched teeth, and Alex's fingers curled against the wood of the desk, furious with himself that he'd let even that slip.

"That stubborn pride is not one of your virtues," Washington said, implacable - and Alex felt the wind behind the next blow before it fell.

The pain rocked him forward on his toes and left him breathless, and yet - Alex prayed Washington was not looking at him too closely. He did not know if it was that he was bare, or the touch of skin on his skin, or the pain - though it had not been one of his pleasures in bed before - or if it was being under the general's hands, but the sting of the blows had changed. It hurt, yes, it had never ceased to hurt, but now he felt a different throb between his legs, one he recognized only too well. His control over himself was cracking.

"Excellency-" Alex tried to keep his voice level, tried to keep from gasping like a fainting maiden at the sharp smack of Washington's hand on his skin. Perhaps if he was contrite, this could end, and Washington wouldn't notice how his body had betrayed him. "I- I apologize, it is only that there is so much, and all of vital, and you know as well as I that every man must do twice his capacity - the war-"

"You disappoint me, Alexander." Washington's voice was deep and calm, like the unfathomable depths of the ocean, and completely unaffected by Alex's protests. "How many times have we spoken of your disregard for yourself, and your value to the Continental Army - your fellows are more than capable, and yet you shoulder your own work and theirs besides. Do you believe I do not recognize your penmanship over that of John Laurens?"

Alex felt his throat closing on shame well before the next blows landed, all as hard as the one that had made him waver. The sting of it suffused his senses, driving out all of his stubborn control - or perhaps it was hearing Washington call him disappointing that rattled a choking sob out of his throat.

Washington paused then, rubbing the hand between Alex's shoulders again in small, soothing circles. Alex could feel the heat of it through his coat. "There, now. It seems like you're ready to begin."

Alex opened his mouth to ask - surely Washington could not keep this up much longer, surely he had endured enough - when the next blow fell on the tender back of his thigh, harsh and stinging and hot. Washington repeated the strike on the other side, then settled into a rhythm of them - quick, hard blows, nothing like the seconds of anticipation he had left between when he'd first started. Alex jerked against the pinning hand on his back, but there was nowhere to go and nothing for him to do but take it, sucking his lip into his mouth to stifle the wretched sobs now shaking his frame.

Washington did not hush him, or speak to it at all. He simply slid that broad, strong palm up his spine, brushing Alex's loose hair away with his fingers. The loss of that steadying pressure made Alex's stomach flip, and he was leaning into the fleeting contact before he knew what he was doing.

Washington's hand curled around the nape of Alex's neck, thumb tucked up against the hinge of his jaw, holding Alex in place as his shoulders shook with the force of the sounds tearing their way out of his chest. He knew he should be quieter, knew the walls of the tent were thin and there was little privacy afforded, even to the general, but no matter how he tried to clench his teeth against them, the sobs kept coming just as the blows kept coming. It stung worse on his thighs than on his ass, and Alex choked on a dreadful sound when he realized that Washington would certainly know now that he was hard from this, his cock heavy between his legs.

"Head up." Some of the pressure on his neck eased, and Alex pushed himself up on his elbows. It was a struggle even to gain an inch - he felt like every part of him had been wrung out like a piece of washing. There was a tug at his throat - Washington pulling his neckcloth away. "Open."

Alex realized what Washington meant to do and his eyes flew open, staring blankly at the far wall of the tent. The blows had stopped momentarily, and at Alex's hesitance Washington delivered a punishing stroke over the inside of Alex's thigh, high up enough that he felt the wind of it brush his cock. He opened his mouth on an unwilling cry and the neckcloth was unceremoniously pushed between his lips. Alex didn't resist, not as Washington gagged him and not as he pushed Alex back down with that hand on his neck again.

"You will sleep when you have the chance." A fierce strike now, across the previously reddened flesh of his ass, and Alex yelled into the gag and into his crossed arms. "You will take meals regularly and keep your strength." Washington's palm cracked across the other cheek, just as inflamed and painful as the first. Alex's cock jerked. God, he didn't know what was wrong with him, but his skin felt like it was too tight, hot and prickling. "You will inform me when you begin to falter, and I will arrange for a relief." Another, high up on his thigh at the join of it. Alex could no longer tense even when he knew the blow was coming - it felt as if his body was merely a conduit for Washington's will. The thought made him gasp through the gag, his cheeks growing wet all over again. The strike was repeated on the other side, and it felt like the hardest yet, loud and agonizing. Alex hiccuped on another sob, gone slack against the desk but for his trembling knees.

As suddenly as he had begun, Washington stopped. His hand squeezed on the back of Alex's neck, something that might have been a warning, and then the palm that had delivered his punishment stroked lightly over the fevered skin it had left. Alex could no more help the moan that slipped from between his teeth, muffled by the gag but hardly silent, than he could help the gooseflesh that rippled over him.

Washington trailed his fingers over every inch he had abused, and Alex could not keep his knees under him - they buckled, and it was only the sudden pressure of Washington's arm around his waist that held him up. It took a moment for Alex to realize he had moved, stepping up against Alex's bared skin, the fabric of his clothes unbearably coarse. Alex bit down on the sodden cloth in his mouth, his eyes rolling back under fluttering eyelids. There was no space between them, and Alex's breath stilled in his chest when he felt the firm line of the general's cock through his breeches.

That, the undeniable evidence that Washington was not unmoved by this, sent his racing thoughts into sudden, ringing silence. He made a soft sound, of confusion or wanting he could not tell, and the hand still locked around the back of his neck squeezed.

"Alexander," Washington said quietly. His voice was rough, and there was a note of hesitation in it. "I will ask no more of you. I should not-" the general stopped mid-sentence, short of admitting fault, when Alex shook his head. He took a breath. "I will not use you."

Alex made another sound, this one of protest - he could have removed the gag, now that they were done, but he found he did not want to. He pushed back against the pressure of Washington's body on his, rubbing against the hard length in the general's breeches.

It made Washington's hand tighten around his nape again, and Alex pressed into that, too. He wanted it. The punishment had been that - Alex's flesh was sore and aching - and now all he wanted was... was to be good, to show Washington he was capable of it, to give the man whatever he could - his mind, now his body, even his very soul.

"I do not require this of you," Washington said. "You do not owe me your flesh, but-" here he took a long, deep breath. "You- if you would permit me."

An intoxicating thrill buzzed beneath Alex's skin. How exhilarating to have Washington be so careful with him, so conciliatory. Alex nodded into his folded arms, moaning into the gag and pressing back against him again, not knowing how else to convince Washington how much he wanted.

The hand around the back of his neck shifted, circling his throat and coming to rest at the hollow of his collarbones. Washington pulled, and Alex went, supported by the general's strength and all but boneless in his grasp, now pressed back against the hard plane of Washington's chest. He wished they were naked, wished he could feel all of that powerful muscle and warm skin against his own.

"My God," Washington whispered, his breath hot over Alex's ear. It made him shiver. "Look at you." The arm around his waist withdrew, leaving him entirely supported by his shaky arms and the strong hand splayed over his breast. There was a soft rustle of cloth, and then Washington brushed his fingers over the curve of Alex's hip. "Knees together."

Alex shifted his feet, feeling drunk and barely in control of his body. He wanted Washington to put him where he belonged and take from him what he desired, anticipation beating through his veins. Would the general have him here, like this? Alex was not unfamiliar with the way of things among men, but he did not want to stop this closeness for the time it would take to make it pleasurable instead of painful.

Washington's hand left his hip, and then his mind was gone again as the length of Washington's cock nudged between his thighs, slicked by nothing more than the sweat on Alex's skin. It was less of an invasion than penetration but, oh, Alex moaned helplessly at it, squeezing his thighs together more firmly. Washington's cock pressed against Alex's balls at the juncture, a long, heated slide. The pressure of it against his raw, reddened flesh was exquisite, and Alex distantly realized that the noises he was making into the gag were near continuous - little hurt sounds that only made his cock harder.

"Alexander," Washington breathed, his mouth open against Alex's neck. His arm returned around Alex's waist, holding their bodies together firmly as he began to move, slowly, thrusting his cock between the tender skin of Alex's thighs. "I should have realized how you would yield under my hand. I should have known it would prove to be too tempting - you make me furious with you, driving yourself so cruelly. I want to see you well and content, and I would keep you at my feet if I thought you would permit it."

Alex whined at that, tipping his head back against Washington's shoulder, his legs trembling as he sought to keep them together for Washington's pleasure. His backside throbbed, and the pain of it made his cock jerk and leak, untouched - God, he felt like he could come like this, with Washington's cock sliding against his balls and that low voice telling him such things, the words breathed out against his fevered skin.

"You should see yourself so debauched." Washington's lips pressed against the hinge of Alex's jaw, then his teeth, and the hand that cradled him slid up to his throat, not squeezing but holding him firmly in place. Alex's blood roared in his ears, his heart beating so loudly he almost missed Washington saying, "You are so beautiful like this, so good, and all for me, Alexander-" the words hitched on a long, soft groan into Alex's skin, and Alex was lost, nearly sobbing again as he spilled, the force of it rolling through him like a storm of sensation. His limbs trembled, his hips jerked, and his head lolled back against Washington's shoulder. He felt it in the tingle of his lips and the beat of his heart, like the air had been stolen from his lungs.

Distantly, he heard Washington still murmuring soft words of admiration into his ear, his cock sliding over Alex's painfully sensitive skin. It hurt, each thrust felt like it punched the breath from him, but still Alex held his position, shaking, panting, determined to be whatever Washington needed of him.

Washington's hand flexed around his throat, making him gasp for air he could not draw, and finally he stilled, his cock pulsing as he spent himself between Alex's thighs. The grip loosened, and Alex breathed gratefully, shuddering. A dim, depraved want curled in the back of his thoughts, that he might tempt Washington to take him on his back the next time, that strong hand around his throat, using his body and only permitting him breath when he could not bear it any longer.

He would have fallen forward into the mess they had both made of the desktop were it not for Washington cradling him in those strong arms. Alex opened his eyes blearily as he felt himself moving, his steps uncoordinated and still hampered by his breeches. Washington half-carried him to the low cot in the corner of the tent and lowered him gently, tugging his clothes aright and coaxing him into opening his mouth so the sodden neckcloth could be removed and tossed aside. There was a line of concern between his brows and Alex swallowed, trying to muster words.

"Thank you, sir." He hardly recognized his voice, small and soft. Washington's fingers brushed his cheek and he leaned into the caress, his eyes sliding closed again.

Washington made him no answer for a long stretch of silence, his fingers sliding up into Alex's sweat-soaked hair. "I did not mean to go so far," he said, and there was a sense of regret to those words that made Alex pry his eyes open again, reach up to catch the hand carding through his hair and bring it to his lips.

"Your Excellency," he murmured, lips against Washington's skin. It was the same hand that had delivered the beating, reddened from the impact just as Alex's own flesh was, a mark of his own in return for the marks Washington had left on him. "I am at your service, sir, and gladly." He kissed Washington's palm, hot skin against his lips.

Washington's swift intake of breath was all the indication Alex needed that his words had been understood. He leaned in close, pressing his lips tenderly to Alex's forehead. "Sleep, Alexander. I will wake you when I have need of you."

"Yes, sir." Alex let his eyes fall closed again. The cot smelled of Washington - sweat, horses, and woodsmoke. He turned his face again into the broad expanse of Washington's palm and slipped away into contented, boneless rest.