“Martin, it would be a great shame if you were to start Christmas with a spanking, but if I hear very much more, that’s what’s going to happen. I told you to go to bed; go to bed now.”
The younger man pulled himself resentfully out of the sofa.
“But why won’t you come too?”
Thomas sighed. They had been round this three times at least; he was tired of it. “One of us has to stay up to let Ginny in. She’s my sister, so it needs to be me; she won’t be here until nearly midnight; you know quite well that if you stay up that late you’ll be good for nothing tomorrow. If I go to bed, I might not hear her ring, and anyway, it makes it look as if she’s not welcome.”
Martin scowled. Plainly from his point of view, Ginny wasn’t welcome. He said nothing, but his silence was eloquent. Thomas sighed again. “Look, I know you and she got off on the wrong foot, but you can do better. Yes, she’s a bit over-protective of me. She all but raised me, after Mum died; she worries about me. I know she was suspicious of you, but frankly putting the rubber snake in her bed and letting the air out of her tyres did nothing to reassure her.”
“You didn’t have to spank me when she was in the house and could hear it!”
This was obviously a long-running grievance and Thomas was sharp in his response.
“You can consider yourself lucky that I did it myself, my lad. On the rare occasions when I tried on something like that – and I had the excuse of being ten years younger than you when I did it – Ginny took a hairbrush to my backside. I wasn’t at all convinced that she wouldn’t do the same to you and it would have served you right if she had. She won’t mention it if you don’t, although it would be nice if you were to acknowledge to her that you started off badly together and express some wish of doing better this time.”
“You know, you really do sound sometimes as if you’ve got your head so far up your arse. . ..”
This was too much. Thomas answered it with four smart slaps, hard enough to make Martin jump and yelp.
“Last warning, Martin. Bed. Now. Not another word about my sister coming, and just be quite definite in your own mind: if you don’t behave properly tomorrow, and speak politely to her, and remember that she’s a guest in our house, then Christmas Day or not, strangers in the house or not, you will be spanked and spending some time in the corner. Have you got that?”
Martin, from the length of the protruding lip, had, but although he let the subject drop, another one popped up as he climbed unwillingly into bed.
“If Uncle George sends me a cheque instead of a book token or whatever, I could go to the sales after Christmas and see if those graphics tablets are any cheaper. . .”
Thomas closed his eyes and rubbed his forehead wearily. “No. No, Martin. I don’t know how many times I have to say ‘no’ before you believe that I mean it. You’ve got more computer equipment than enough as it is. You do not need a graphics tablet. I made it quite clear that I wasn’t going to buy you one; I hope you haven’t disobeyed me and asked any of your family for one, because if I find that you have I’ll be very angry.” He hesitated, and an injured voice from the bed assured him that Martin hadn’t so much as mentioned graphics tablets to his relatives. “Good. They’re too expensive and you don’t need one. I don’t want to hear any more about it.”
“Thomas, they’re not expensive, honestly! I know the fancy brands are pricey, but there was one on Amazon not even £50, and. . .”
“I said No. You don’t need it.”
“You don’t need silk ties,” sulked his partner. “But I never see you buying polyester ones. You get things you want just because you want them, but I don’t.”
“And that is because I’m Top and I know what’s best for you. When you behave a little more responsibly, you’ll be able to buy things without my say-so. For the moment, until you’ve cleared your overdraft and your simply horrendous credit card debt, you don’t shop for anything over £20 without me. And this subject is now closed.”
Martin opened his mouth again, but a pointed glance by Thomas towards the hairbrush on the dressing table persuaded him to close it again, and to settle down on the pillows with a put-upon sigh. Thomas leaned over to kiss him. “Go to sleep. I’ll be there when you wake up. No getting out of bed.”
“Well. . .”
Thomas laughed. “All right, I will ignore one episode of stealthy footsteps but only one.”
“And you won’t look when you come to bed?”
He went back to the sitting room, one ear cocked towards the bedroom. Sure enough, he could just hear the patter of Martin’s feet from bed to wardrobe and back. Then there was a merciful silence. He stretched out on the sofa and reached for his book, although some twenty minutes later he finally admitted that it was failing to hold his interest, and let it drop onto his chest. It couldn’t hurt to close his eyes: the sofa wasn't sufficiently comfortable for him to fall deeply asleep, and if he only dozed he would wake when Ginny phoned. This late on Christmas Eve she wouldn’t ring the doorbell for fear of rousing the neighbours, she would use her mobile to alert him to her arrival. He slept.
He dreamed, one of those vivid, nonsensical dreams in which one knows one is dreaming, induced by unusual circumstances and events. He dreamed that he woke up with a start at some unexpected noise, not the phone, nor the doorbell, but a scrape and rattle from the far side of the room, from near – no, from behind the artificial coals of the electric fire. From inside the chimney which hadn’t been used as a chimney for 20 years.
And in his dream, knowing he was dreaming, he thought, “sounds a bit big for a bird caught in the chimney but I don’t see what else it can be,” and turned off the fire, dragging the unit forward and clear of the hearth – in which he could see a pair of black motorcycle boots, kicking strenuously. The young man who fell out of the fireplace was slender, small in stature, and covered in an unattractive combination of guano and soot. He also seemed remarkably surprised to find the room occupied, thought Thomas, cynically.
He stepped back, raised one eyebrow sardonically, putting on his most toppish look, and waited. The young man stared back, rather in the fashion of a rabbit in the headlights. Thomas gave way.
“Well?” he drawled, in the tone in which he habitually reduced Martin to frustrated tears. “Would you like to see if you can come up with an excuse for being inside my chimney at” – he glanced at his watch – “a quarter to midnight on Christmas Eve? An excuse which I might at the very least pretend to believe?”
The young man gulped. “Christmas Eve?” he offered tentatively. “Presents. Special delivery. Reindeer. Rooftops.” His voice strengthened to a tone of some indignation. “You’ve no business still being awake. And I’m entitled to one glass of sherry or milk, your choice, and one mince pie. Strictly speaking there ought to be a carrot for the reindeer as well, but they don’t eat the damn things so I’m prepared to let that pass.”
Thomas was shaking his head gently. “You can do better than that. Come on, even if I still believed that stuff – which I haven’t done for 25 years at least – we’re talking about a fat man in a red and white suit and a fluffy beard, not a scruffy boy in a fleece and jeans.”
The aforementioned scruffy boy coloured hotly. “I’ve got my paperwork,” he said resentfully, and unzipped the fleece. “Uniform, see? But it’s too bloody cold to go about outside with just a polo shirt, just so that some jobsworth can see the elf logo. And don’t be bloody daft, it is not possible for one man to get round the whole world on Christmas Eve, despite what Norad and Roger Highfield say.”
The breast of his polo shirt – which was scarlet with a white collar – certainly bore a small logo of a laughing Father Christmas facing a green-clad and pointy-booted elf. Thomas sneered at it.
“Come on, it doesn’t have to be possible. It just has to be done. Santa does all the deliveries, he doesn’t subcontract.” He felt a twinge of amusement at the turn his dream was taking; he would never have imagined when awake holding a conversation on working practices with a cat burglar claiming to be Santa’s delivery boy.
“It’s not subcontracting, it’s a franchise. That’s why there are so many names and different sets of arrangements, you know, between Kings’ Day, and Boxing Day and so forth? And between Santa and Zwarte Pieter and the Yule Goat and whatever too. You buy a licence for your particular area and social grouping and. . . Well, anyway, since you don’t believe, I can just scratch you off the list. There are other names for this address, though; when are you going to bed? I’ll have to come back later.” The boy was rezipping his fleece, turning back to the fireplace.
“Oh no you don’t, sunny Jim. I’m not actually convinced by this, you know. I’m sober and sensible and I know damn well that you were looking for whatever you could pick up from a house likely to be empty on Christmas Eve. Nasty little sneak thief, that’s what you are, and you can damn well stay there while I ring the police!”
The look of shock was delicious; Thomas enjoyed it for a moment. Well, this was, after all, his dream; it might as well be the sort of dream in which the dreamer can direct the action, and in that case, he might as well do. . . what he had always thought ought to be done to the sort of spineless just-post-adolescent, who had been let loose on the world with no sense of moral integrity or social responsibility. The sort of not-actually-bad boy who needs a mentor to bring him into line with proper thinking. The sort of thoughtless brat, who would be much improved by a short, sharp lesson in respect for other people’s property.
“You can’t. . . you mustn’t!” gasped the boy.
“What, you don’t fancy explaining yourself to the police?” He carefully ignored the fact that the police would almost certainly let him go with nothing more than a caution, always assuming that a call to the local station was answered at all. Anyway, in his own dream he could have it the way he wanted.
“I’ll get into so much trouble. . .” The full lip was quivering. Oh yes, Thomas knew this type. All bluster and bravado until you really got hold of them and made them face up to the consequences of their actions. Martin was just the same.
“Well, sunshine, you can face up to trouble with them, or trouble with me.”
The big eyes lifted to meet his, suspiciously. The very tip of a pink tongue touched the centre of the lower lip.
“And do what?” suspiciously.
“Nothing immoral,” said Thomas dryly. “Nothing carnal. You come here and I’ll give you the spanking you’re asking for, and then you can go. Straight home, mind,” (he ignored a small voice hinting at him that these young troublemakers commonly had no homes to go to) “and no messing about trying to get into people’s houses.”
“You’re a bloody pervert, that’s what you are!”
“And you can mind your language too, unless you want to go over my knee with a bar of soap between your teeth. Choose. Police or a spanking.”
“I can’t have the police involved,” came in a mutter. He’d probably got a record already, thought Thomas.
“Then you get yourself over here, and take those jeans down, and your pants too, and I’ll teach you some manners. Jump!”
That last was barked and the boy did jump with surprise, before stumbling towards Thomas, his eyes already filling with tears. He really was, thought Thomas, just like Martin – presumably his subconscious, filling in the details of his dream, was doing it from life and his knowledge of his partner. The uncooperative fingers struggling with button and zip might just as well have been Martin’s, but the worn denim was eventually freed from the slender thighs, and the dark cotton underpants were pushed unwillingly towards the knees. Thomas put out a hand and guided the slight body across his lap. The bottom revealed to his frankly zealous gaze was gloriously curved, and pale, and decidedly trembling. Oh, Thomas was going to enjoy this! A little street urchin with no manners and no sense? Somebody like Thomas bringing him up sharp was just what he needed.
The first smack produced a huff of surprise and a tiny fidget, and Thomas paused to admire the single pink handprint developing on the white skin. He carefully decorated the other buttock with the same, and approved the balance. Then he really set to work. He was an expert spanker, he prided himself; he knew just how much to give Martin to reduce him to penitent tears and to bring him round to a proper way of thinking. He had never yet failed during a spanking to persuade his partner that Martin was wrong and Thomas was right, no matter how decided Martin was in advance that he was not going to admit to a change of heart.
He didn’t hurry. A brisk spanking had its place, specially when time was too short for much explanation and debate, but a steady deliberate bottom-warming, during which the recipient is brought to fear that the Top is actually never going to stop, that he will spank on and on, with the heat and burn growing in the defenceless arse, absolutely for ever, with no hope of deliverance – that, thought Thomas, that was what broke down the silly selfish notions of a disobedient Brat. That was what brought a Brat to understand that he was expected to do as he was told without dispute or hesitation. The point at which a Brat stops fighting, either physically, or emotionally, and simply lies limply across his Top’s lap, weeping with remorse and despair, no longer able to muster any arguments against his Top’s will – that was what Thomas knew how to reach.
And reach it he did. The young man lay passively for a few minutes, until the glow from his rounded rump had passed through pink and cerise and was heading for crimson. Then he began to struggle and cry out, and Thomas threw a leg across the backs of his knees, and steadied him with a flurry of snapping smacks to the backs of his thighs, hard enough to make him buck and yelp. Two more rounds of blistering wallops to the quivering buttocks and he heard the gasp and gulp which goes with total capitulation. Surrender.
He pushed the lad off his lap, relieved to see that in this dream he didn’t have to go through the hour’s worth of weeping and snivelling which was Martin’s response to a spanking. Martin, if not cuddled to calmness, could work himself into hysterics after a punishment. Thomas always found that tiresome. The boy had been punished; he was supposed to feel bad. He should be quiet and subdued and above all, obedient – chastened. He shouldn’t demand attention from his Top when after all, if he had paid attention to Thomas in the first place, he wouldn’t be in this position! This boy at least, being imaginary, wasn’t Thomas’s problem. If he felt bad, it was no more than he deserved.
“Get into that corner. Nose in. No, don’t touch your trousers. You can stay there until I tell you to move.”
It was quite amusing: the little snivelling wretch was still weeping and each enormous sob made the scarlet bottom quiver and twitch. And nicely ironic, too: Thomas was aware of plenty of cartoons and so on, of an irate Santa Claus delivering a bare-bottom blistering to some kicking and wailing Brat, but he couldn’t think that he had ever seen one the other way round, with a bratty Santa (or Santa-Pretender) warmed up by a righteous Top. Thomas watched in silence for about ten minutes, until the boy was reduced to slow hiccups (those made his bottom jump too) and then to calm.
“Dress yourself and get out of here. I don’t want to see you again, d’you hear me?”
Somehow, he didn’t see the boy leave; his dream became confused, with – could that be sleighbells? Surely not – no, of course, it was his mobile phone, and Ginny at the door with a plethora of flight bags and carriers and parcels from this relative and that one, and Thomas was yawning and showing her to the spare room, and falling into his own bed, although not before he recovered from a locked cupboard two hiking socks full of tiny packages of interesting shapes, which he placed, one outside Ginny’s door and the other on Martin’s side of the bed.
He hadn’t, he thought, been asleep nearly long enough when Martin bounced him awake. “Thomas! Thomas! It’s Christmas! Wake up, Thomas!”
“Whazzit? What time is it?”
“Quarter past seven. Come on, Thomas, it’s quite late enough, wake up!”
He heaved himself upright, blinking owlishly. Martin grinned engagingly at him. “Happy Christmas, Thomas! Come on, let’s open our stockings!”
“Martin, in the name of heaven, stop shouting. You’ll wake Ginny.”
“Too late,” called a voice from the landing. “Any chance of a cup of coffee?” and the bathroom door banged. Thomas shook his head. “Not kind, Martin. Ginny worked a full 12 hour shift yesterday and then drove 120 miles to get here. You might at least have let her have her sleep out.” He relented at Martin’s fallen look, and swung his legs out of bed. “I’ll make some coffee and then yes, you can open your stocking.”
“Just the stocking?” asked Ginny from the doorway. “Don’t tell me you’re holding everything else back until. . .”
“After lunch at the least,” he confirmed. “That’s why we have stocking presents, Ginny. Martin can’t be trusted to leave parcels alone until this afternoon if he doesn’t have something to occupy him first thing.”
“God, Tommy, you’ve been getting more and more pompous the last few years. Relax, take a deep breath and just for Christmas day, get your head out of your arse. Merry Christmas, Martin, and can I bring my stocking in here? I want to see what you’ve got.”
By the time Thomas came back with the coffee, his sister was leaning against the footboard of the bed with her feet tucked under the covers, giggling with Martin over some tale of the hospital Christmas party, all previous arguments apparently forgotten. He passed out mugs, and slid back under the duvet himself.
“All right, Martin, you can go first.”
His partner leaned over to lift the small parcels onto the bed, an untidy heap of cream and green wrapping paper; Ginny had parcels in the same colours beside her, and Thomas’s own pile was blue and silver and bearing the unmistakeable signs of Martin’s heavy sellotape habit. To his surprise, though, Martin also lifted a red and gold parcel, bulky and apparently heavy, and unfamiliar to Thomas.
“Is that something you brought, Ginny? I’d rather all the serious presents were kept until after lunch. . .” but she was shaking her head.
“Nothing to do with me. All mine are in my bags still, I’ll put them under your tree later.” She spread her little pile of packages across the bed; in her case too, there was one red and gold one. “Is it not from you?”
He shook his head, bewildered. “Martin, what’s this?”
His knowledge of his Brat told him, however unwillingly he believed it, that Martin’s claim of ignorance was genuine. A glance downwards showed him a red and gold corner protruding from under the bed; when he leaned over, he could see that there was a large package with a label tucked partly inside the fold of the paper, but his name showed on the corner.
“Where did they come from?”
Martin stared, wide eyed; Ginny was too old to find that sort of trick amusing, although he would need to speak to her later, out of Martin’s hearing, about not challenging his authority over his partner. That remark about getting his head. . . anyway, early on Christmas morning wasn’t the time for that sort of discussion. Just because she was 10 years older than him, she seemed to think she could say anything.
“Leave them until the end, then, and maybe we’ll think of something. Martin, I said to leave it!”
Ginny gave him a rather odd look, and he thought for a moment she meant to speak, but she looked down again, and lifted one of the smaller parcels he had wrapped for her. It was nearly half an hour before they had only the red parcels left. Ginny twisted the label off hers.
“What does it say?”
“To Virginia from Santa Claus. Volunteering for the Christmas Eve shift in Accident and Emergency definitely counts as being nice.” She turned the parcel over, looking for the join in the paper. “Oh look, the pattern is gold bishop’s mitres on a red background; that’s clever. It’s. . . oooh, look, it’s the laser keyboard projector! I saw those on that TV programme!”
“Oh, they are sooooooo cool,” enthused Martin. “But who on earth can it be from?” He reached for his own parcel; Thomas watched suspiciously.
“To Martin from Santa Claus. Being enthusiastic about life is not naughty; staying up past half ten is not naughty; eating chocolate is not naughty; having a loving heart is nice, no question.” He was less patient than Ginny, and the gold mitres and red swirls were shredded clear of the box within.
“A graphics tablet! Oh, this is much better than the ones I looked at! Look, it’s got. . .” and he reeled off a list of apparently random letters and numbers.
Thomas frowned. “Martin. . . where did this come from? Did you buy it yourself?”
The scowl was dark. “Where would I find the money for one this good? Anyway, you’ve got my cashpoint card, and my credit card, and you know how much money you give me every week. Even if I only ever spent on my lunches and bus fares, it would take me half a year to save up for one of these. And what about Ginny’s keyboard? How would I buy that? I told you – I don’t know where it came from!”
“Martin, moderate your tone, please. I don’t appreciate being spoken to like that.”
Ginny cut in hastily, obviously intending to avert a quarrel. “What’s in your parcel, Tommy? Maybe there’ll be a clue in yours.”
His parcel was heavy; he had to get out of bed in the end to lift it. The label bore his name, all right: “To Thomas from Santa Claus. Get your head out of your arse.” The contents rattled when he tore the paper, and the parcel collapsed on itself, leaving a dusty (and alas, as it subsequently proved, indelible) black trail across Thomas’s prized white 1000-thread Egyptian cotton duvet, a trail of. . .
“Coal?” asked Ginny, dumbfounded. It was Martin, though, who found the long and limber switch twisted inside the folds of paper, and attached to one end of it another label, written in green ink and a large and assured hand.
Interfering with my Workforce is Naughty.
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