Protest too Much

We didn’t start well, although we ended better. We started with me getting a hiding from Ross worse than anything he’s ever given me before. Not more painful, just – just worse. And I couldn’t even say it wasn’t fair, although he did.

We had become uneasy together, and I wasn’t very sure why. We had been so happy, and most of the time we still were – I still was, at least, and I thought Ross was, but there was something... We didn’t exactly quarrel, but we came unstuck over the stupidest thing: the leisure centre staff party. They had decided this year not to make it a Christmas party because it became too difficult to find a suitable date: too many people going to other parties, too hard to book something, too expensive. So they decided to have a straightforward outing at the beginning of November. One of the big town centre hotels runs a dinner dance every eight weeks, with a band and a cabaret which is apparently very good. Formal. Black tie. And Ross said: did I want to go?

I missed a trick here. I didn’t take him seriously. I’ve said before, I’m much less out than Ross, so I didn’t even think about it. Why the hell not? I have no idea. Most of his colleagues know he’s gay, several of them know me, and as for the rest of the world at the dinner, who was to say whether I was an employee in my own right, or a hanger-on to one of the female staff, or with my male partner? And as I’m beginning to grasp, who was likely to care? Anyway, I didn’t even consider it, and I should have done. Ross and I are permanent and – well, I suppose that because it’s usually me who feels insecure, I didn’t pick up that for once it was him. It was because of Colin and Bev, I think. They’re friends of Ross’s from his college days, and they had been together for ever. I liked them well enough, but they were his friends, rather than either mine or ours, if you know what I mean. And suddenly they weren’t together any more and Colin had gone to Aberdeen with some girl from an insurance company, and Bev was wandering about bad-mouthing him. Ross was upset about it. He had tried to stay friends with them both, but it was one of those nasty splits where they want you to take sides, and Colin had ended up cutting himself off from all his friends, and Bev was so evil-tempered that she had offended just about everybody. Including Ross, and you have to work quite hard to do that. But think about your own friends. Think about the couple who have been married since the dawn of time, or living together since they were just out of school, or whatever, and then think about them splitting up. It makes you question your own relationship.

No, of course I didn’t get all this at the time. You know I’m not good at that sort of introspection, but I’ve worked it out since. Ross was questioning the permanence of relationships including ours, and I wasn’t helping him, and as a result, our timing went all to pot.

This dinner dance, then. He was going, because it was his works do. He had dragged out his tux from the wardrobe, and tried it on, and I had drooled a bit. He looked unbelievably sexy in it. A lot of men look either like wine waiters or like penguins, but Ross looked – actually what Ross looked was dangerous. Like there was a patina of sophistication over pure animal. Like he might be just a bit too much to handle. Where I made my mistake was in forgetting that he’s like that whatever he’s wearing.

He was in the bath, and I suddenly thought: milk. We haven’t enough milk. I meant to get some earlier but I forgot. So I banged on the bathroom door and called to him that I was just going out to get some. If I really pushed it I could just go to the Co-Op before it shut. Otherwise it was Tesco, and the crowds on a Friday night. . . No, definitely the Co-Op, so I shot into the bedroom to put on my leathers and ground to a halt. I didn’t want to take the car (oh, yes, we have a car. An elderly Volvo which I’ve owned for years and which we keep because you can’t manage a lot of luggage on the bike) because the parking locally is foul. No, I wanted to go on the bike, and I made a bad choice; I’m not claiming I didn’t. The Co-Op shuts at seven and it was eight minutes to already, and putting on leathers takes longer than you think. So I didn’t: I just fled down the stairs and grabbed my fleece and my helmet and went out. Ross would never know.

Because Ross has very strong opinions on the subject of safety on the bike, and one of his opinions is that you wear your leathers. It may be thirty-three degrees in July, but you wear your leathers. I didn’t once, and picked up a spanking for it, and he found a website that showed the sorts of injuries you collect if you come off a bike at thirty miles an hour and you’re not sensibly dressed, and I looked nauseously through the pictures, and considered both those and my smarting rear, and promised that I wouldn’t go out on my bike without a full set of protective gear. So I’m not saying I didn’t deserve what I got, O.K.? I didn’t dress appropriately for what I was doing, and I broke a promise, and I intended to deceive Ross by being back before he was out of his bath so that he simply wouldn’t know. That’s three separate spankings and I wouldn’t have argued about any of them. Well, I would, but you know what I mean. I didn’t have good grounds for appeal.

Of course he found out. It took longer than it should have done because the woman in front of me was paying with out of date Green Shield stamps backed up with a Marks & Spencer charge card, or something, and the man at the till was simply too stupid to be out without a keeper, and Ross was out of his bath and dry and half dressed by the time I got back. So when I came up the stairs, he was already aware that my leathers were in the wardrobe, and that he had heard the bike, not the car. It was a short hearing. I had enough sense to plead guilty on all counts and throw myself on the mercy of the court, of which, unfortunately, there was none. Ross simply finished putting in his cufflinks, and then removed his belt. I went wide-eyed. He’d never used anything harsher than the hairbrush, except that one time when he’d bent me over the bike and used his gauntlet.

“Get your trousers down. And your pants. Bend over, put your hands on the bed, keep still. This is going to hurt.”

Actually, what hurt was the command. He’d never done that before. He’d always been touching me, and he’d always wanted to undress me himself. I was still wondering about it when the first lick of the belt landed and I let out a hiss. Damn right it hurt. Didn’t it just. He gave me six, hard, and I panted and squirmed, and he said, sharply, “That’s for not wearing your leathers. And this is for what your promise was worth.” And the second six came on top of the welts from the first, and hurt like blazes, but that wasn’t why I was in tears when he’d finished. Ross is so good for me – he gives me so much confidence that I don’t generally have, he thinks I’m clever and capable and generally worth knowing, so that last sentence really knocked me for six. I had let him down and I knew it.

“Come on, get up. We’re done. Oh, come here, love, don’t cry. It’s all done. Hell, the Fairbairns are here already. I’ve got to go.” The Fairbairns. The bloody Fairbairns. Who were giving him a lift to the dinner, but who weren’t staying late because babysitters in this part of the world are apparently as scarce as rocs’ eggs and slightly more expensive. “Listen, Jerry, never mind about coming to fetch me; I’ll get a taxi home. God knows what time, so don’t stay up. Love you.”

And he was gone, and I was left at the end of the bed with my trousers round my knees and my backside on fire, and a building feeling of resentment. I had said I would go to fetch him. I had said I didn’t mind. But he didn’t even trust me to do that right.

I sulked all evening. I’m good at sulking. I was still sulking when he came home, which was a great deal earlier than I had expected. If you must know, I had meant to be in bed, and pointedly asleep, by the time he arrived. But it was barely eleven when I heard his key, and when he came in I – well, I sort of fell out of my sulk, because he looked so gorgeous. He had undone his tie and it was draped round his neck; his top button was unfastened. I know, I know, it’s the look of the male model in the clothes catalogue, but on the right man, it’s sexy as hell, however clichéd it is. He’s big and strong and fit and he just looked seriously hot, and he stopped in the doorway and looked at me, and then he said, “Oh hell, I just knew I’d got this all wrong.”

“What? And did you have a good time?” Hoping for the answer no, which was nasty of me.

“It was a good meal, and an enjoyable show, and all the way through both of them I was thinking that I ought not to have gone out and left you that way. I’ve never done that before and I shouldn’t have done it this time. I should have told the Fairbairns that I wasn’t ready and that they should go on, I would get a cab; and stayed with you until we were sorted out.”

“Why didn’t you ring me to pick you up?”

“I said I would get a cab, didn’t I?”

“Why? I said I would come for you. I’m capable of that.”

He heard what I wasn’t quite saying. “Of course you are, love. I just didn’t think you would want to sit in the car. I thought you might be too sore.”

“I could have managed.”

“Of course you could. But why should you have to? For the sake of a taxi fare? You can’t tell me that didn’t hurt.”

I turned my head away. It still hurt.

“Can we have our hug now? Or have I fucked things up completely?” His voice trembled, and I turned back in surprise.

“Of course you haven’t! It’s me who fucks things up, not you.”

“Not always. I’m sorry, Jerry. I got that all wrong. What I said was inexcusable. And I shouldn’t have left you without making everything right between us again.”

“You hadn’t time. You were going out.”

“To a bloody party! It wasn’t important and you are. And now you’re pissed off with me, aren’t you?”

“No! Well. . . yes, a bit. I’ll get over it.”

“I’ll make it up to you. I love you so much, and you scare me when you do something stupid with the bike. I don’t want you ever doing that again.”

I shuddered. I didn’t want him ever doing that again. But I managed a small grin. “I won’t. Not if you’re going to use your belt.”

He made an odd face, and I couldn’t read it. “I won’t do it again.”

He held out his arms and I went to him for the hug, with my head on his shoulder. He ran a hand down my back and I jumped when he got to my bum. “Have you put anything on that?”

“Like what?”

“Like that ice-gel stuff.”

“No, of course not!”

He twisted to look at me. “Why so indignant? Why ‘of course’?”

“I couldn’t do that! It wouldn’t be right.” 

He frowned again. “Why not?”

Oh God, this was embarrassing. “Because you did it for something – to pay me for something I did. So I can’t. . . well, what’s the point if I’m going to go off and anaesthetise the sting away? I’ve never done that, Ross, honestly.”

He smiled at me. “I believe you,” he assured me. “You amaze me, but I believe you. Will your over-developed sense of honour allow me to put gel on your arse?”

“Um. . . sounds rather good, actually. Now?”

“Come on. Let’s go and do it.”

He was very gentle. Kissed it all better. Put that gel stuff on it, which did help, quite a lot. Kissed a variety of other places. Put a different sort of gel on them. Spent rather a long time making me feel good all over, except in the one place where it really counted: my head. Like I said, his timing was off: he was trying too hard. I hoped that if we just left it alone, it would get better, but after three days I knew that I had to say something.

“Ross, what’s the matter? What are you so bothered about? You’re stepping round me like you think I’ll break, and I don’t like it. It makes me nervous.”

“It’s not anything. I just feel bad about last weekend and I want to make it up to you.”

“Yes, but what do you feel bad about? I don’t understand.”

He sat on the edge of the bed and sighed. “I screwed up. Using my belt was. . . I shouldn’t have done it.”

“Why not? The marks haven’t lasted, and we both know that when I do something dangerous on the bike I have to pay for it.”

“All right, maybe not that bit. But the other bit was wrong. I don’t usually make you cry.”

“I don’t usually lie to you.”

“Yes, but. . . it wasn’t really a lie, was it? You didn’t think of it that way.”

“Ross, I didn’t think, specifically, ‘I promised Ross not to do this and I’m going to do it anyway’. But yes, I did think, ‘If Ross catches me he’ll kill me so I’ll have to be back before he’s out of the bathroom’. And if I didn’t use the word ‘lie’ it’s only because very few of us actually do.”

He wasn’t convinced. I could see that. I struggled for words. “All right. So what do you think you should have done? What would have been the better result? Are we agreed that the first six were justified?”

He considered it, frowning. “Yes, I think so. I really, really don’t want you going out on the bike without your leathers, and the line about ‘it’s only to the Co-Op’ won’t wash. You know that you aren’t to do it, and you know why you aren’t to do it. Most accidents. . .”

“I know. Most accidents happen within a mile of home. So I ought not to have done it, any more than I ought to drive without my seat-belt. That’s not a problem. What is the problem?”

He looked down. “Really, I suppose it’s that I went on because I was in a hurry.”

My turn to frown. “In a hurry?”

He fidgeted a little. “Yes. Other times, when you’ve – I don’t know, when you’ve done something that hurts me, I’ve put you over my knee. But I was short of time, so I just went on with my belt. And that was wrong.”

“O.K. I admit I thought so too. And I hated you going out without – what would you call it? Resolution? So can we please just agree that you won’t do it again, and put it behind us?”

He made a face.

“Look, Ross, you made a mistake. It’s nothing more than that. It’s not such a huge deal that we need to go on and on about it.”

“No, but. . .” And he got up from where he was sitting on the bed, and went to the dressing table, and lifted the hairbrush, and offered it to me. I shook my head.

“You know it doesn’t work for me. I couldn’t ever do that to anybody, and specially not to you. Just let it go. You made a mistake, you’ve said you’re sorry, I’ve said it doesn’t matter.”

He sighed, and relaxed a bit, and smiled at me, rather twistedly. “If you say so.”

“I say so.”

I hoped that would be the end of it, and to some extent it was – he stopped pussy-footing around me, and we were friends again, which is at least as important as us being lovers. I put the whole occasion behind me, and I thought that Ross had too, but I was wrong.

It took me some time to spot that I was wrong.

In fact, it took me a month. Ross stopped treating me like an invalid or someone who had to be protected, and we went on much as usual, except that he didn’t spank me. For anything. Now if you’ve been listening when I’ve been talking about our relationship, you’ll grasp that I don’t see that as any hardship. I don’t want to be spanked. I certainly don’t want a real spanking, it hurts like hell and it means that Ross is annoyed with me, but that second factor is more important than the first. I’m a scientist, remember, so I have no trouble in my head with the mathematics of the spanking cancelling out the annoyance. I don’t particularly want a play spanking either. If, for whatever reason, I were with a different partner, knowing what I do now, and he didn’t want to spank me, I would give a glad cry of hallelujah and hurl the hairbrush into the bin. But Ross likes to do it, and I like to make Ross happy, and we’ve agreed that I’ll take a small one every now and again. Not too hard, not too often. There are things I like which don’t ring Ross’s bell either, but he does them to please me. The physical bit of punishment doesn’t turn me on at all, but Ross being dominant does. He gets off on making me wriggle and squirm, and I get off on him getting off, if you want to be vulgar about it. And after a month, it occurred to me that I hadn’t had a warm bottom for either reason since the belt incident.

And like I say, I’m a scientist, and I’m not particularly – not particularly good at analysing relationships. But I know how to conduct an experiment, so I did. The next time we went to bed, I sort of presented myself in a way that would normally get me at least a slap, and it wasn’t forthcoming. And I teased Ross in a manner that had always previously landed me over his thigh, and it didn’t. It made me thoughtful. And then I got shirty with him and threw a bit of a scene, and that didn’t get me there either. And then there was a day when I finished a piece of work early and couldn’t be bothered to start a new one, and had a bit of a tidy up instead, and when I actually picked up from the bathroom and the bedside table all the little bits and pieces which needed to be put away, I suddenly realised that the hairbrush was gone. Not beside the bed, not on the dressing table, not accidentally knocked onto the floor. Plain gone.

Here is all the evidence, so, Mr Smartass Scientist, the conclusion is? The conclusion is that Ross is not intending to spank you again.

Once I had spotted what Ross was doing I was amazed that I had missed it before. We don’t argue much anyway – I’m not confrontational, and he’s too laid-back – but suddenly I was having to be a great deal more careful about what I said and did, and keeping our relationship evenly balanced seemed to be a lot more work than it had been before. We had no pressure valve. Look, people arrange this differently, I’ve gathered that. For some people, a physical punishment is how they deal with the big issues. It’s not like that for us; we do it the other way round. The big issues are too important to be resolved by ‘you’ll do it because I said so’ – they have to involve a negotiated settlement. For us, it’s the small things that benefit from a swift application of the hairbrush: the ‘let’s just get this out of the way because we both know who’s in the wrong and we don’t really want to argue about it’ stuff. And knowing that the pressure valve wasn’t there made me apprehensive about the safety of the whole apparatus. I’m sure that we would have worked out something else; after all, most of the populace doesn’t go this route, and other people seem to manage perfectly well, but it had worked for us so far, and what do we say about ‘if it works’?

I wanted Callum. Callum’s the one of our friends who understands how people’s minds work. He can explain what the hell other people were thinking about to make them behave the way they do. But Callum and James had gone to America for a fortnight, and I wasn’t sure that I could wait. I was going to have to deal with this myself, and I hadn’t the faintest idea of how. I wasn’t even very sure quite what the problem was. So in the absence of Callum to tell me what Ross was feeling and how to make him feel good again, I just had to do it the hard way. Hypothesis: Ross thinks he screwed up and isn’t safe to spank me. Evidence: he doesn’t do it. Conclusion: I’ve got to do something about it. What? Not a clue. 

And all this in the run up to Christmas, which is stressful enough to be going on with without adding emotional meltdown. We weren’t having Christmas together: I was going home to my Mum’s, and she and I were going to my Gran’s on Christmas Day. I’m an only child, and my parents are divorced, but my mother is one of seven, and Christmas Day is always a complete circus. There are always at least three of that generation, plus their spouses and children, at Gran’s, and the preparation of the Christmas food is divided up using some arcane ritual so that Gran doesn’t have to do anything except lay the table and complain that we’re doing it all wrong. Ross was going to his sister and brother-in-law, where there was a baby with a first Christmas to negotiate. We were both coming home on the 28th, and we intended to spend New Year’s Eve at Macy and Robin’s party.

Christmas shopping. I have a simply huge Christmas list. I’m expected to produce a gift for all the cousins, of whom there are frankly too many, but thankfully not for all the uncles and aunts. And the gift need only be CD size, but it’s filthy difficult to do for people you see literally only on Christmas Day. Gift vouchers are not acceptable elsewhere in the family, although quite frankly I’d rather have a book token than some of the things I’ve been given over the years, and I think that the Gift Set – you know, one bubble bath, one bar soap, one tin talc and a facecloth – is a cop-out. I don’t give my female cousins that; I don’t give my male cousins gloves or books of football statistics. So I need to start my Christmas shopping about March, and of course I never do. And I wanted something really good for Ross, and I didn’t know what. And in the middle of all of this, one of my fillings fell out.

The dental receptionist was obliging, and of course, since I’m self-employed I could afford the time to sit and wait for a space in the dentist’s schedule. I read the car magazines, and the property magazines, and National Geographic, and then I started on the women’s mags. One of them had an article which interested me extremely: O.K., so it was things a woman might like to get her Significant Other to do, but like I said, I’m a scientist. I can extrapolate. If he can do that to her and she likes it, I can do that to Ross, and if I know anything about Ross’s body, he’ll like it too. So that’s Ross’s main present sorted, and on the way into the shop to buy it I spotted the second part of his present. And at the counter when I was queuing up to pay for it, I spotted the third. Fifteen minutes, and Ross all covered. It just goes that way sometimes. And with a little bit of luck and a following wind, that would solve the other problem too.

Christmas Day was about as frantic as it always is. I have to confess, next year I’m going to try to persuade Ross that we should just stay at home. I don’t care for huge gatherings of people, and Gran’s house isn’t large, and in my opinion there were too many of us there. It was an enormous relief when we left at about nine, and went back to my Mum’s. She took a glass of wine and sat down in front of the TV and I took the phone and went upstairs to call Ross.

“Happy Christmas, love. Is this a good time to call?”

“Perfect. Emer and Bob are putting the baby to bed. She’s been grossly overexcited and I thought this was probably not the night for Uncle Ross to demonstrate his amazing soap bubble technique in her bath. I’m much better at it than Bob.”

“The mind boggles. You’ll have to show me when we get home. Thank you for the books, and the software. Did you know I had scoured every computer shop in a forty mile radius for that? I couldn’t find it on the internet, either. How did you track it down?”

“Told Callum what I wanted and he bought it for me in New York. But how come you’ve opened it? I thought you said that your family tradition was that on Christmas Day you only opened things from people who were actually there, and everything else was kept for Boxing Day?”

“Not quite. People who are there and one’s own immediate family. So Aunt Beth and  Uncle George opened the things left by my cousin Joshua, who’s in Bali with his girlfriend, and I opened the things from you.”

The silence with which that was greeted confirmed to me something that I had suspected, but not been sure of. Ross had been doubting the status I granted him with my family. I steamrollered on. “Listen, Ross, in March there’s going to be another family get-together for Gran’s eightieth. Will you come?”

“Me? Are you. . . are you sure?”

“Certain sure. Gran wants to meet you. I think she wants to know your intentions.”

“Jeremy Hollis! Are you asking me home to meet your parents?”

“Well, you already know my mother, but yes. I think it’s time for you to be exposed to the full horror of my family. If you want to.”

“I want to.” His voice sounded odd. I thought it best to lighten things up.

“So what are you doing?”

“I’m lying down with a glass of wine and a book. And wondering what on earth possessed my partner to give me a boxed set of satin briefs in rainbow colours. Emer laughed so much she knocked over her wine. Bob laughed until he choked. Even the baby laughed.”

“I thought you’d look sexy in them, that’s all. Strong colours are good for you.”

“Well, in that case I shall wear them. Only perhaps not to work. And the shirt is wonderful, Jerry. I’ve never had a real silk shirt before.”

“It’s really for your tux. And for me.”

“For you? What, is it going to be like my black sweatshirt that I can never find because you’re always wearing it?”

“No, it’s because I found an article in a magazine suggesting that anybody with sensitive nipples ought to have a silk shirt.”

There was a brief pause, and his amused voice said, “Am I going to regret asking why?”

“Well, they suggested that if I stroke it, the way it moves would be interesting for you. And then, apparently, if we get it damp, like if I lick it, and then bite or suck you through it. . .” I heard his breathing quicken.

“And then what?”

So I told him, in some detail, what I thought we could do, and then I suggested what he could do as we spoke, and presently I heard the catch in his breath, and the long hitching exhalation which told me that he had been doing it.



“I’m going to have to change my shirt before I can go downstairs again.”

“Ah. I think I need a clean handkerchief. Oh, and Ross? There’s another present for you, but I didn’t give it to you. It’s under our tree. You’ll be home before me, so open it then.”

“I’ll wait until you arrive.”

“Um, no. Open it straight away.” I think you’ll need to come to terms with it before I get there, Ross. But you’re not stupid. You’ll get what I’m telling you. I hope.



“Have you done this before?”

“Done what?”

“Seduced your boyfriend over the phone.”

“Never. There are lots of things I do with you which I’ve never done before.”

“You have no idea how good that makes me feel.”

“That’s just the after-effect of needing a clean shirt.”

“I don’t think so, love. I honestly don’t.”

Christmas safely negotiated, I packed up to go home. Apprehensive wasn’t in it; I just didn’t know what to expect. Ross would be back before me, and we might have to spend a lot of time talking things through, again. I hoped, though, that he would simply understand what I was telling him.

So to get into the house and find that he wasn’t there was a bit disconcerting. He had been there, obviously: his scarf was in the hall, the house was warm, the curtains were drawn, but when I called out, there was no Ross. Oh well, probably gone out for bread and milk or something. The Christmas tree lights were on, and the parcel I had left there for him had gone, so I was committed. I had spent ages working out the precisely what I wanted to say, and in the end it wouldn’t do as two lines on a label. In the end it became a letter. I drafted it, and redrafted it, on the computer, and once I was satisfied, I took pen and paper and wrote it out longhand. This was personal and had to come straight from me to him, not via a printer.

I understand that you are trying to do what you think I want, but how can you know if you don’t discuss it with me? You think you made a mistake – you did. You think it’s serious – I say it’s not. But now you’re compounding the error. You’ve given it up, haven’t you? You’ve decided not to spank me any more. You’ve decided that you aren’t going to use that as a way to keep us from arguing. You didn’t give me the option of having an opinion. You’ve decided that, because I say I don’t want a spanking, you won’t do it. Well, I don’t want to go to the dentist, either, but that doesn’t stop me going, because I understand the value of it. And we agreed, on your birthday, if you recall, that I consented to the occasional spanking because you like doing it. If you’re going to throw my gift back in my face, you might at least tell me so. Ross, you surely cannot doubt that I consented, both to punishment and to play. I haven’t withdrawn my consent. I trust you.

You simply don’t have the right to change something that affects both of us without discussing it with me. Without hearing what I think and taking my views into account. If you don’t want to do it any more, well, I admit it wouldn’t break my heart. But I would be very upset if I believed that you wanted to and wouldn’t because you thought I had stopped trusting you. You might have asked. I understand that perhaps you frightened yourself , but you didn’t frighten me.

I went upstairs to the bathroom and then into the bedroom and I was just beginning to think about unpacking when my mobile chirped at me. A text message from Ross.

Downstairs, now.


I went down, and discovered an oval of lamplight at the end of the sofa, filled with Ross, wearing his tux again, and an ivory silk shirt, and a black bow tie, and with the contents of the last parcel resting beside him. Oooooooh. I didn’t say anything. Well, nothing useful in English. I whimpered a little, I think, and I saw his mouth twitch. I knew it had been a mistake to let him see how much I fancied him dressed like that. He looked. . . well, just a little bit brutal.

He smiled at me, like a predator. “You think I’ve lost my nerve? You and I,” he purred – honestly, there’s no other word for it – “need to have a little conversation about topping from the bottom. And how undesirable it is.”

Ummmm, do we? I think I’ve changed my mind. Now I’m scared.

“Come here.”

My brain said: no, I don’t think so; run away; go somewhere with no extradition treaty and don’t come back; hide under the bed. Unfortunately my legs were carrying me across the room. Apparently that ‘come here’ is hard-wired into something which overrides all cerebral activity. There’s a sub-text of ‘if you know what’s good for you’.

“You have really done it this time, my lad.”

Such a pointless sentence – it means nothing, but it’s another one which acts to disengage the brain.

“I’m sorry.”

“You will be. And quite soon.” And he reached for me, hooked a single finger into my waistband and drew me to him. And as soon as he did – as soon as he touched me – I knew it was Ross, and I wasn’t afraid any more. I went willingly, and when he ran his hands up my thighs, I was quite calm. He searched my face – I think he was nervous too – but whatever he saw reassured him, and he started on button and zip without saying any more. I didn’t need him to pull me down, I just let him guide me to where he wanted me, and settled with the hard muscle of his thighs under me, and a warm hand on my back.

“And as for your choice of Christmas gifts! The shirt is good, Jerry. I like the shirt. I approve of the shirt. But glossy satin briefs? Do you think I look good in black?” And a hand cracked down on my backside. Actually, he does look good in black. But I had more sense than to say so.

“And in white?” Get real, Ross, everybody looks good in white underwear, don’t they? Ow!

“And in dark blue?” Well, I – ow! – liked the blue.

“Or in dark green?” I rather thought the dark green would be particularly attractive. Ow!

“The gold is unusual. I’ve never worn anything that colour before.” Oh, good. Let’s see, then. Ow!

“But the one that interests me is the red. Dark red. Crimson. If I’m going to wear red, Jerry, you’re going to match me. And since there’s only one pair in the pack, we’ll have to find a different way to make you match. That’s what we’re doing now.” You don’t say. Ow!

“That third present is interesting, Jerry. Did you know I had thrown away the hairbrush?”

“Ow! I worked it out.”

“Ah. Hence, you buy me a clothes brush. I see. A large, oval, wooden-backed, long handled clothes brush. That may be a gift you come to regret. We’ll keep it down here, for emergencies, I think. I replaced the hairbrush this afternoon, after I read your note. But this is your clothes brush.”

Ow, ow, ow! Yes, I was regretting it already. But not much. I wriggled. And squirmed, and Ross reversed the brush, and drew the bristles lightly over my heated skin. Then I really wriggled, and he laughed, and did something I couldn’t see, and leaned over me, trapping my wrists, and binding them lightly together.

“That should keep you still, honey. I’m not finished. I think you’ve been lying to me. You tell me you don’t like it here over my knee, not even in play, but I think that if I just find the right inducement, you’ll admit that you’re not telling the truth.”

I pulled my hands in to see what he had wrapped round them. It was his bow tie, the length of black silk twisted round my wrists, but not knotted, just the ends tucked under. All for show. I wriggled some more, and he said, suddenly, seriously, “Enough. No topping from the bottom, O.K.?” And the brush cracked down hard on my backside, four, five, six times, hard enough to make me squeal. But then he overturned me and slid me off his lap onto the floor, and came down on top of me, and the tie slipped free of my wrists, and as I reached for him the liquid silk of the shirt rippled under my hands. So I demonstrated what the magazine writer had suggested, and Ross gave a squeak of his own and invited me to do it again. And again. And again.

A little later, he reached blindly above us to pull a cushion off the sofa and work it under my head, and laid his own head on my shoulder.

“Another first,” I said, dreamily. “I’ve never done it on the floor before. I’ve never had a lover leave me spiked in fallen Christmas tree needles.”

He grinned. “I’ve never had a lover with whom I so consistently failed to get all my clothes off.”

I pulled up far enough to look. Sure enough, the shirt was unbuttoned but not removed, and everything below the waist was still tangled round one ankle. He rolled to sort it out, and stood up, freed of the trousers, pulling up crimson satin briefs, and posing for me.

“Like them?”

“Turn round? Mmm, I do. Gloriously tasteless. Mind you, you don’t get much for your money, do you? Do I match?”

“Roll over and let’s look. No, not now. You’re just a bit pink now. I rather like that, too. I think I’ll keep you that way. Would you like that?”

“No. Not at all. Not even a little bit.”

“Not even if I wear the clothes you like?”


“Liar. Happy New Year, Jerry.”

“Happy New Year, Ross.”

It feels more like a prediction than a pious hope

Idris the Dragon

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© , 2005