Tell Me

I knew there was something wrong with Ronnie, but I didn’t know what. He turned up at parties, I met him in the pub, we had mutual friends, and he was coming on to me like nobody’s business. I won’t say I wasn’t flattered, and I won’t say that I was against the idea, but something sounded wrong in the whole thing. He chased me for several months, and I backed away and backed away, and wondered why.

He was only about twenty at the time, and I was rather older, but I got the impression that I was always the same age and he wasn’t. Sometimes he came over as being barely adolescent, sometimes as much more mature than any of us. Everybody knew he was coming on to me; it was becoming a joke and I could see that presently I would either have to give in or make it plain that he had no chance. I didn’t like either option. I didn’t want to get into a relationship with him until I had a better idea of what made him tick, but equally, I couldn’t deny that there was a spark. A spark? On occasions I suspected that there was a full scale firework display just waiting to happen. It might be wonderful, if we could avoid dropping a lit match into the box and blowing ourselves to glory.

Well, of course, I gave in, in the end. Who wouldn’t? A good looking young man chasing me? I’ll admit to as much vanity as anybody else. And to a little more. And the fireworks were there; oh, boy, were the fireworks there! We proceeded through the preliminary stages in the usual fashion, and after a while I thought it was time to try the next thing. I’m a Top, you see. I’m not totally hung up on it, it’s not the only thing I do, and if you don’t want to play it doesn’t mean we can’t have fun, but I like it. So at some point, Ronnie was teasing me, and I made the traditional remark. “Any more of that and I’ll put you over my knee and warm your bottom for you.” Yes, of course it’s hackneyed. That’s half the point of it. It has to be something that makes it easy to pass off as a joke if the other person doesn’t fancy the idea. For some people it must be a joke, because it couldn’t possibly be serious, some people recognise that it’s a serious offer, but turn it off as a joke because it isn’t for them, and some, like Ronnie, are straight in. He was keen. He couldn’t quite disguise it, although he tried. He gave the equally traditional response, which is anything along the lines of “oh, yes, you and whose army?”, and then he struggled enough for self-respect but not so much that he might actually get away. He’s not as big as me, and he went over my knee and I spanked him thoroughly but not harshly, because I’ve got enough experience to start small and work up. You can always add some more if your Bottom – and your Bottom’s bottom! - hasn’t had enough; you can’t take anything away if you’ve overcooked it.

He loved it. He said he didn’t, but he did. He came back for more. He pushed and pushed, and oddly enough the one holding back was me. I could still feel that something wasn’t right. I had a partner once who thought that Topping was something I needed to do, and who tried to play to please me, but who didn’t really like it, and I thought briefly that it was that again, but it wasn’t. I couldn’t get a grip on this at all. Ronnie would pick a fight, squabble, behave like a serious brat, push and push, until I caught him, threatened him, upended him and punished him. Then he would complain, swear, sometimes cry (I couldn’t get a grip on that either – it wasn’t even when I had been most severe), and want at once to go to bed. So far, so ordinary: most Bottoms do that. Tease for the spanking, pretend they don’t want it, complain about getting it, and enjoy the aftermath. What’s new?

I didn’t know, but something was. The signals were very slightly wrong. Nothing I could quite put a finger on, but slightly wrong. I spanked him by hand, and that was fine, so I threatened the hairbrush. No problem with the hairbrush. Push. I threatened the slipper. No problem with the slipper. Push. I threatened the paddle. No problem with the paddle. Push. I threatened the strap. Instant panic, hastily disguised. Problem.

My first thought was that the strap was simply his limit. He didn’t think he could take it. Fine, O.K., that’s where we stop. I was rather sorry: I’m good with a strap, and I like using it. I think it has greater potential than almost anything else. Flexibility? Well, obviously, physically, but I mean in the extent of its use. I can work a strap so that you’ll wriggle and squeal and think you’ll never be able to sit down again, but in a couple of hours there won’t be a mark on you and you’ll have forgotten about it. Or I can use it so that you will still be aware days later that you were punished. But there it is, we all have our limits and that was his. At least I thought so until he found a magazine advert for canes and wanted one. Naturally he wouldn’t say so directly. (Occasionally when I’m tired, I wish for a Bottom who just says what he wants in words, rather than hints!) But I understood that he thought he could take the cane.

I’ve met that before: many of us now are too young to have encountered the cane at school; I am myself. I think that my generation of both Tops and Bottoms is much more ambivalent about it than the one before. We fancy the idea, but the reality is difficult. Older players seem to be much more definitely either pro or anti, possibly because more of them met it for real. But we don’t know. We find it mesmerising, fascinating and deeply scary. But I was a little taken aback that he was prepared to try the cane if he didn’t fancy the strap. Still, it was his arse after all, so I let him see that there was a cane in the back of the wardrobe, and waited for the sign that he thought he deserved it.

Because he was one of those. It wasn’t just a physical thing with him, not just the sensation of a sore bottom that he wanted. It was all going on in his head. He wanted to be spanked, not just because he felt like it, or because I felt like it, but because he had done something to deserve it. I couldn’t just tip him over my lap and then take him to bed - I had to find some reason why he deserved to be spanked. Fortunately it wasn’t difficult: I have a lively imagination, and so has he, and he could be such a brat when he put his mind to it! And it did really seem to be something he needed. I noticed early on that the only time he was still was after he had been punished. He’s a fidgeter; his foot moves all the time, his fingers drum on chair arms and table tops, he twitches, he doodles on scraps of paper, and he breaks things by fiddling with them. Even after sex, he’s lying in bed and moving. If I’m lucky, he’ll be rubbing my back or stroking my hair, and he’s ready for another go faster than any man I’ve ever met, but if I’m not lucky he just twitches and fiddles. And, without going into too much detail, there are bits of me I want left alone afterwards, and not fiddled with. But if I spanked him, he seemed calmer afterwards, not so frenetic, and the sex was slower, better in my opinion, and he would be able to lie still after it. Only on his face, sometimes, but unmoving.

Anyway, I showed him the cane, and he grumbled and complained that I was a monster and cruel and all the rest of it, and he was never going to agree to be caned, dee dah dee dah, and naturally, I explained in my silkiest and most Toppishly reasonable tones that he would be bending over for the cane as soon and as often as I thought he deserved it, because I was Top and he was not and it was therefore my decision. And I made a mental note that when he pushed far enough to warrant it, which I expected him to do very shortly, I would give him not more than three and not hard, because of this thing about the strap. Like I said before, he could always have a couple extra later, or a spanking as well, if I thought it wasn’t enough, but he had refused to have a safe word, so I thought it behoved me to be careful.

Yes, now, that was another thing. We had had a conversation once about limits and safe words and so on, all kept very theoretical, because most of us don’t really like to have to say ‘I want to do this but not that, I want you to do this but not that’; we want our partners simply to know, presumably by telepathy or osmosis. Ronnie was a bit dismissive about the concept of the safe word. He could, he said, see the point for people who were into bondage and so on, things that were potentially dangerous, but after all, that didn’t apply to us, did it? He meant, I spanked him because he had been a brat, so (this bit took ages, because he wasn’t going to be specific about what he thought or needed, it all had to be referred back to me) it was my decision and I should just punish him as hard as I thought he deserved. It couldn’t possibly be his decision to say when he had paid for what he’d done.

Right, I thought, that’s what this was about. He’d just discovered domestic discipline. That was another thing, you see. It was perfectly obvious to me that Ronnie had never done any of this before. Domestic discipline was fine by me. I could do that. We weren’t living together, but we were spending enough time together that I could make it work for him, and if it worked for him it would work for me. I was in charge, but not to the point of deciding all his life for him. I know some Tops want to do that, but not only could I not do it, I couldn’t live with the sort of person who wanted it done. But if Ronnie needed his bottom smacked when he was a brat, I would be only too pleased to provide it for him.

But – but – but – but! There was something more and I simply couldn’t put my finger on it. He didn’t push to the point of the cane as soon as I expected him to, so I rather assumed that he had lost his nerve and left it alone. There’s rarely any hurry. Either he would work himself back up to it, and I would know, or he would get to the place in his head at which he thought ‘no’ and I knew ‘yes’, and we would try. And if it really was too much for him, I would know. If you like, it’s my job to know. I’m Top, so I can push him perhaps a little further than he thinks he can manage, but I’m good enough to balance letting him feel out of his control and under mine, with not frightening him too much.

Anyway, this was where we were. He was still living at home with his parents and his younger sister. I had wondered about asking him to come and live with me, but I had held back because of whatever this doubt was. Then his parents went on holiday, his sister went to Devon with a friend, and Ronnie came to stay with me for a fortnight. The first night he threw a major wobbly over nothing, with one eye on me to see what I would do. I caught him by the wrists and pulled him against me, and growled in his ear “Are you looking for a sore bottom? Because you’re going the right way about getting one.” He wriggled and squirmed, and denied it, and I was a bully and all the rest of it, so I gave him one hard slap, and assured him that I was of a mind to introduce him to the cane if he didn’t watch his step. And sure enough, he ended the evening bent over the end of the bed, and I gave him three neat stripes, and then a fourth for talking back. And he swore that he hated it and wasn’t going to let me do it again, but I knew better. He didn’t like it, but he liked the way it made him feel. He liked the way I made him feel. When he was feeling out of control, I made him feel grounded. He spent the whole night curled against me – he had always got up to go home before, and I could feel him every so often running his hand over his bottom to explore the welts. He could have gone home, but he didn’t, and he was affectionate and gentle and he didn’t fidget.

That seemed to be enough for him for about ten days, and when he got mouthy again towards the end of the fortnight I could tell that it wasn’t another caning he wanted, so I spanked him smartly and left it at that.

It’s hard work, topping, you know! Don’t run away with the idea that the Top makes all the decisions. I make almost none – I just carry them out.

Anyway, we went on very happily together, or nearly very happily. He became rather twitchy when his parents came home after their holiday and he had to leave me. I did hint this time that he might like to think about leaving home, but he wasn’t having any of it, so I let it go. I didn’t really understand why he wasn’t keen, but I left well alone. Then we went to a party and I took him home with me afterwards. He had been in a rather odd mood all evening, not difficult, just distracted, and when we went home, he asked if he could stay. Later I wondered if this was his sub-conscious deciding that he absolutely could not keep this secret any longer. Well, of course, I was pleased to have him and I said so, and took the opportunity to haul him down onto my lap and kiss him. He was all over me – he all but had me stripped in my living room, and every time I reached for him to unfasten something, he would squirm and escape me, so eventually I pulled free of him, and took him into the bedroom, and started on his shirt, and he fought free of me and turned off the light.

Well, what? But he was back into my arms at once, still fully dressed but tearing at his clothes and writhing against me. Odd, but harmless, and actually, making love in the dead dark has its own compensations. Every touch is redoubled and ones other senses make up for the loss of sight. So when I ran a hand down his back and over his bottom, and touched welts which I knew – knew – that I hadn’t put there, there could be no doubt in my mind about what I was feeling. I was upright and reaching for the bedside lamp before he realised what he had done. Even then, he tried to deny it, flattening himself onto his back and reaching for me. But I had the advantage of him in size and strength, and I flipped him onto his face and gasped. He was wealed from shoulder to thigh, and these were unmistakeably the marks of leather. I had never done anything half so severe to anybody. I was out of bed and pulling on clothes before he had even managed to turn over again.

“Get dressed, and get out. And don’t come back.”

“No, please, Nick. . . it isn’t what you think.”

God, but don’t we all talk in clichés in a crisis. I just stared at him. How could it possibly not be what I thought?

“Of course it is. You’ve been playing away. I won’t have that. You’re with me or with somebody else. I don’t share. Ever. Out.”

“I haven’t! Honestly! I only ever. . .”

I was shouting by now. “For God’s sake, look at you! I didn’t do that, so who the hell did?”

“My dad.”

Well, that silenced me. Do you know, it never even occurred to me to doubt him? Something in the dead despair of his voice made it plain that this was the absolute truth. I stared at him, and he misread me, and got up, and began to look for his clothes. I couldn’t bear the misery in his face. I reached for him, and for the first time he flinched from me. Oh, I had made him flinch plenty of times before, but it was always from what I was doing, never from me. He always came to me trusting, both before and afterwards. “Ronnie. . . here, love, come here. Come on. Tell me.”

He couldn’t. He sat, naked, on my bed, shaking, and when I reached for him again he turned his head away, and when I touched his shoulder, he tried to bolt. He grabbed at his clothes and headed for the door, and when I caught him, he tried to fight me, and quite automatically I did the Top voice again. “Sit down there at once and behave yourself.” And equally automatically, he obeyed me, and then I felt sick.

“Ronnie, come back into bed. It’s cold out here. Come. Now, you’re going to have to tell me about this, you know you are, so. . .”

He didn’t want me to touch him, he was rigid under my hands, and then suddenly he softened against me, clung to me, trembling. “Oh, Nick, oh, Nick, I can’t, it’s just, I don’t. . .”

“All right, now, calm down. Come on, back into bed. Tell me everything.”

“Put out the light. I can’t. . . Put out the light.”

I did. I pulled him to me in the dark, and held him gently, stroking his hair. I didn’t dare touch his back. “Now, love, tell me. What’s this with your dad?”

“He said I was insolent, and he wouldn’t have it. He used his belt. I hate it when he uses his belt.”

“This isn’t a one-off then?”

“Oh, no. About once a month.”

“Since when?”

“Since I was about eight. I’ve been hiding it from you. I wouldn’t come to you if I had marks.”

I felt sick again. “Ronnie, does he. . . do anything else?”

“He uses a riding crop sometimes.”

“No, that isn’t what I meant. I mean, does he. . . um. . .”

“Oh! Oh no. Nothing like that.”

“Leave home. Leave now. You’re twenty years old, so go. You don’t have to put up with this.”

This from me! I had spanked him often, caned him once, told him that he had to obey me, and I was telling him to go. I was quite well aware of the inconsistencies.

“I can’t. If it isn’t me, it’s my mum. Or Cal. I can’t bear it when it’s Cal. She screams.”

“He hits your sister too. Of course he does. Ronnie, are you sure he doesn’t do anything worse?”

This was bad enough, God knew, but there could be worse.

“I don’t think so. But, see, if he’s lining up for Cal, I can distract him, and then it’s me, but if Cal and I both get away, he goes for mum, he tells her that she’s brought us up badly and it’s all her fault, and I really can’t bear that.”

Do you know, I would have found all this easier to bear if he had cried or shouted, but he just told me everything in a horrible flat voice, as if once he had explained it, I would see how reasonable it all was. In a dreadful way, I could. I could see how, if he accepted the first premise, all the rest followed logically and inevitably.

“I keep telling mum to leave him, but she won’t, because she has nowhere else to go, and what would Cal do? And I don’t think he would let her go. And I can’t go until they do, can I?”

No. No, I could see that. Twenty years old, and responsible for a sister of seventeen and a mother in her forties.

“Bring them here. Both of them.”

“Nick, it wouldn’t work. Mum wouldn’t come, Cal won’t come without her, Mum doesn’t go out to work, and I don’t earn enough in the bar to support them. You would end up feeding all of us.”

“So how long is this going to last? Even if Cal gets away, if she goes to university or gets a job, or gets married or whatever, will your mum leave? And if she doesn’t, how can you? Will you still be protecting her when you’re twenty-five? Thirty? Forty?”

“I don’t know!” Now he was raising his voice. “I don’t know what to do! I called the police once when he was beating mum, but she wouldn’t press charges, and after they’d gone, he hit her so hard that I thought he would kill her. And then he hit me. . .”

I hushed him and petted him to a dreadful coiled calmness again. I didn’t have any better ideas. He fell asleep in the end, still tucked on my chest, and I lay awake all night, worrying, and examining my own conscience, which was far from clear. The more I told myself that what Ronnie’s dad did was in no way even close to what I did, the less I believed it. I had no right to punish Ronnie, physically or otherwise, for the way he behaved, and the fact that I enjoyed it had become nauseating to me. His consent, his willing submission, was suddenly frightening. I thought he consented because he was accustomed to consenting. I had been so sure that I was taking him somewhere he hadn’t been before, whereas in fact I was only reinforcing what he already knew, that Might is Right, and that if he weren’t submissive, he would be hurt.

I tried to persuade him again in the morning that something had to be done, but still I was hampered by not knowing what. When it came down to it, if his mother wouldn’t press charges, nothing could be done on her behalf, and if the whole family wouldn’t either leave or throw the man out, the situation would just continue. And continue it did. Now that he knew I knew, Ronnie came to me more often, and it was true that once every three or four weeks he was marked and bruised. But not by me. I wouldn’t touch him, not that way. I would support him, love him, take him to bed, but I would not under any circumstances raise a hand to him. How could I?

I don’t know if the failure of our relationship was inevitable but it began to feel so. Ronnie became more and more of a brat, less and less in control. He lost his job for giving an excessive amount of backchat to his boss, found another job, lost it for poor timekeeping, found another. I ached for him. Then he left me, picking a quarrel over nothing, shouting abuse, and slamming out of the house. I saw nothing of him for six weeks, until he arrived on my doorstep at midnight, bruised and bloody.

“Nick? Oh, Nick, please. . .”

I didn’t speak. I just gathered him in, held him for a minute while he shuddered and fought to control himself, and then drew him to the light.

“What’s happened? And how badly are you hurt?”

“It’s just bruises. It’s nothing serious.”

I stripped him very gently. He had a black eye and a great grazed bruise coming up on his jaw, his lip was split, and had bled liberally, and his ribs were purple and red. I could see that he had been kicked repeatedly, for his hip and left thigh were marked, and there were the usual strap marks as well. Serious enough.

“Ronnie, this is beyond me. You need a doctor. You might have a broken rib.”

“I’ve seen a doctor. The police got me one. They wanted me to stay in hospital, but I discharged myself.”

“The police? No, don’t start there. Start with the hospital. What did they say?”

“It’s all just bruises. Nothing broken. They only wanted me to stay because they said I was suffering from shock. They gave me painkillers but I wanted to go home! And there isn’t anywhere to go!”

He was like a little boy – he was hurt and he wanted to go home, and he had come to me. “There’s here, Ronnie. Come on, come and get into bed, and I’ll make you a hot drink and you can tell me all about it. Where are your mother and Cal?”

“At a refuge. I couldn’t have come here if I didn’t know they were safe. Nick, what are we going to do?” He was sliding into panic and tears, so I sat down and held him and soothed him until he was calmer again.

“You’re going to bed. I told you so. It’s going to be all right, Ronnie. I promise.” Although heaven only knew how I was going to make good on that promise. “Do you want to tell me what happened?”

“He started on me, and mum tried to stop him, and then he hit her, and Cal hit him, and he hit her and knocked her down, and she screamed, and he kicked her in the stomach, and I tried to protect her, and he did this to me” faster and faster and less and less controlled “and he hit mum again and she screamed, and one of the neighbours called the police, and I said, I said. . .”

“Shhh, calmly, it’s all right now, shhh.”

“I said I would press charges. And Cal said she would too. And mum cried and tried to stop us, and he broke away from the constable and hit her again, and they arrested him, and the police took her and Cal to the refuge and me to hospital, but I couldn’t bear to stay there.”

“And you came to me. That’s all right. That was a good call. All your calls have been good tonight. You did all you could for your mum and for Cal, and you’ve done the right thing in pressing charges. You’ve seen a doctor and you’ve come home to me. Now, you can let it all go until the morning. Nothing else bad will happen tonight. I’ll help.”

He believed me. I fed him and put him to bed, and lay with him holding his hand, but he didn’t sleep. He wept. I was filled with a deadly hatred for his father: no one should be able to weep like that. He made absolutely no sound, there was no hitch in the regular breathing, and no change of expression, but big slow tears slipped over his face to my shoulder, and I couldn’t comfort him. In the morning I insisted on taking him back to the hospital, and we waited for hours until he could be checked again, and given more painkillers, but they confirmed that there was nothing broken and no sign of permanent damage.

I went with him to the police (I had started by phoning my employer, and explaining about a friend who needed moral support and, without too much detail, why. I could have given thanks on my knees for a sympathetic boss who gave me time off) and he shook and whispered with distress, but he insisted on pressing charges. Then we went to the refuge, and saw Cal, but not his mother. She was equally determined, and I made her write down my phone number and promise that she wouldn’t do anything without telling Ronnie, and that she would remember that I could take her in, and her mother as well, if they needed it.

They didn’t. They were able to go home, because the woman running the refuge knew what could, and should, be done, and arranged a solicitor who took out an injunction to keep Ronnie’s dad away from them. I don’t know what arrangements were made – it wasn’t my business - but Ronnie went home for a month, and then he came back to me. He came back. And I was pleased to see him, because I loved him, and because I was proud of him, but I didn’t know what to do.

It wasn’t right between us. He bratted at me and I didn’t know how to deal with it, and then we squabbled, and we were both thoroughly miserable. Even the sex wasn’t good, and bad sex is worse than none. We were saved, eventually, by the woman from the refuge. She called to see Ronnie’s mum one day when we were there, and heard us bickering, and cornered me on her way out. She gave me a name and phone number, and said “Denise is a therapist. We use her a lot; she’s very good with victim support. Go and see her. Ronnie’s a victim, although he won’t admit it; you’re a victim too, although I’m not sure that you know it. Go and see her.”

I thought about it for a week, and then I rang Denise. Ronnie wouldn’t hear of seeing her, but I knew when I was out of my depth. It took us several sessions to get to the place where I could explain to her about topping Ronnie, and the whole of this tale is a variation on what I did for her. She asked me in the end to write down everything that had happened and this is a shorter version of what I gave her. She didn’t know much about topping and I had to explain it (and my word, but that’s embarrassing!), but she didn’t seem to judge, and she seemed to understand that if you agree between the two of you what you are doing, it can be something that works. She wanted to see Ronnie, but he still wasn’t willing.

We spent ages talking about why I topped, how I topped, and why I felt so bad now. I really did. It was true what the woman from the refuge had said: I was a victim, in a small way. Ronnie’s father had damaged the way I felt about myself, the way I felt about Ronnie, the way I felt about our relationship. We talked about Ronnie, about the fact that I could no longer bring myself to top him. I didn’t know what he wanted, and he wouldn’t tell me, but I knew he was unhappy.

Denise in the end made me put into words what I felt. “I think that Ronnie wasn’t giving me proper consent, and I was abusing that because I didn’t see it. I don’t see how he could have consented to me and not consented to his father, because we were doing the same thing.”

“Were you? Are you sure?”

“Well, the only difference was that I was taking him to bed afterwards.”

“Is it?”

This is what therapists do, I gather. They ask questions and don’t tell you anything.

“Nick, how do you know what your sub – no, you called him your Bottom, didn’t you, the terms change so – can really stand? How do you know you aren’t doing too much?”

“Well, he’ll tell you, either directly or indirectly if it’s too much. And some of them will have a safe word. And you can read a lot from body language.”

“Did Ronnie ever imply that you were doing too much?”

“Physically? No.”

“So he trusted you?”

“I. . . Yes, I suppose so.”

“So why don’t you trust him?”

“What do you mean?”

“Did you ever try bondage?”

“No. I don’t like it, and he didn’t seem keen.”

“So Ronnie was never physically prevented from walking away.”

“God, no! I wouldn’t do that.”

“And he never did?”


“Was he doing this just because you wanted to?”

“I don’t think so. He liked it. He liked the security, I think, the feeling of giving up control to me.”

“So if he liked it, and you liked it, where’s your problem? “

Yes, well, we all know where the problem is. We went round and round it for several sessions, and suddenly Ronnie announced that he was coming with me to see Denise, and we shared a session in which we didn’t talk about us but only about Ronnie and his relationship with his family, and then we had several sessions individually. In the end, Denise made me talk about approval.

“Does Ronnie want your approval?”

“I suppose we all want approval from the people we love.”

“Does he need to obey you completely to have your approval?”

“No, of course not. He’s an adult. He makes his own decisions.”

“Does he need to accept punishment from you to have your approval?”

“No. I’m not punishing him now, and I think he’s done some amazing things, and although it’s not right between him and me, I can’t help but think that the way he’s been dealing with all this is bloody fantastic.”

“So you are giving him approval and support. He looked for his father’s approval because otherwise he got hurt. He didn’t need to be hurt to have yours. Do you think he knows that?”

“I think he knows it in his head, but I’m not sure his gut believes it.”

“So perhaps what he wants from you now is security in a tangible form. It’s a bit odd, what he wants, but if it makes him feel secure, why should he not ask you for it?”

“But I don’t know if I can give it to him any more.”

“Ah, well, that’s a different problem, isn’t it? Whose approval do you look for?”

“I don’t know. His, I suppose.”

“Well, if he has given you his consent to this lifestyle that was working for you, you have his approval, don’t you?”

“I suppose so. . . but. . .”

“Now you’re manoeuvring  for mine, and I can’t be responsible for providing it. It’s not right for me to give you permission for this. Either it’s right for you both, or it’s not. It can’t be right for just one of you, it has to be for you both. And that’s between you and Ronnie, not between you and Ronnie and Ronnie’s father, or between you and Ronnie and me. Make decisions between yourselves and don’t let outsiders interfere. Do it, or don’t do it, but make a decision that disregards the rest of the world.”

I thought about it for days, and didn’t come to any conclusion. And then we went out to a party and Ronnie behaved abominably. He showed off, he was rude to several people, he drank too much, and he made snide remarks at my expense and I finally stopped being so careful about him and simply reacted. I hauled him into the kitchen by the wrist and gave a serious Toppish glare to the couple who were entwined and leaning on the freezer until they went away. Then I leaned on the door to stop us being interrupted and pulled Ronnie to me, and topped.

“I don’t know what you think you’re doing, but I’ve had enough of it. You’ve been an absolute brat since you got here, and you’re going to stop it now, and behave like a civilised human being.”

“Or what, Nick? What’ll you do?”

Maybe it was the amount I had drunk. I stuck out my hip and swung him round, until he was half bent round my waist, and I put three hard slaps across his rump. “That’s just to tide you over until I get you home. You’re going over my knee tonight.” I could feel him tremble, and then he shot upright and his arms were round my neck and his mouth was vacuum-sealed to mine. I fought him off, and came in again more gently, and whispered, “Shall we go home? Do you want to go home?”

He could barely answer me, but I was left in no doubt that he did. We fled from the party and went home in a taxi and honestly, once we were in through the door, he topped from the bottom to an extent that I had never seen before. He announced firmly that he had been behaving like a brat, and he deserved to be punished, and he was sorry, and then he was off like a greyhound to fetch the hairbrush, while I was still barely past getting my coat off. I hadn’t even managed to sit down before he was back clutching the brush.

Whoa! Slow down! I’m not ready for this yet. And if I don’t take control. . .

I sent him into the corner. Not for long, only for about five minutes, long enough for me to calm myself and brace my nerve for what I was going to do. I felt like a virgin Top again. I don’t think I have ever been so nervous about how to go about it. Then I called him to me.

“Would you like to explain to me just what you thought you were doing tonight?”

“Aw, Nick, I’m sorry. I was just in a bad temper.”

“Well, now I’m in a bad temper, and I’m going to deal with yours. Get your jeans down to your knees.”

I had never done that before with him. Always I had undressed him, not made him do it himself. But he obeyed me, and then glanced at me, with his fingers in the elastic of his pants.

“Yes, those too.”

He obeyed again, and I patted my lap. “Down you come.” He did, settling himself across my knee. Even I couldn’t doubt his consent. Stuff the hairbrush, I was going to spank him by hand. I knew how to make him squirm that way, and it would be enough. It was. He wriggled and squealed and yipped and I rested my left hand on his back very gently, and he didn’t get up. I reddened his backside very thoroughly and evenly, and when I stopped he clung to me, hiccupping and nudging like a cat to get into my embrace.

“Are you going to behave, or do I need to do that some more?”

“I’ll be good, Nick, I promise, I love you.”

“Just remember, I will do it again if you make me.”

He made a throaty noise and lifted his face to be kissed again. I was still doubtful, but he was working on my shirt buttons, and I really couldn’t bear any more emoting. Just feel. Just do. Actually, just do that again, I like that.

I don’t know if it’s going to work. I’m trying not to think about it too much, because it still upsets me to think too deeply about what we’re doing. There are unspoken rules. I will spank Ronnie, but I do not, ever, put him over my knee by force the way I used to do, nor do I undress him. He does that himself and he comes to me on my command. I think he regrets it sometimes: he used to like to be overpowered, but he understands that I can’t do it any more. I need to see that he accepts me as Top, not that he can’t escape me. I threw away the strap. He was never going to be able to accept it, so my preference for it became irrelevant. I still decide what he has done that merits punishment, and what the punishment is going to be, and I’m learning that he really does accept more severe treatment than I am comfortable with, so I go a little further each time. He gave in to me over the safe word. In the end, he accepted that it distressed me that he wouldn’t have one, so we have two, one for ‘slower, wait, give me a minute’ and one for ‘stop’. He has never used either.

So tell me, am I doing the right thing? He’s happy, and so am I, mostly, but am I just giving him methadone instead of heroin? Is it right for us that we are both accepting less than we really wanted, when we once had it all? Only we never really did have it all – but we might have done. We do get the fireworks but perhaps not the big display pieces. We’re settling for Good Enough – and I don’t know, I don’t know if it is good enough. Every day it’s a little better, and compared to how it has been, it’s much better, but I don’t know if it can ever be really good again.

Tell me: am I doing the right thing?

Idris the Dragon

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