It’s lovely to have Tim and Hansie round, of course it is, but there’s a moment after all the goodbyes and kisses, and jokes, and slamming of car doors, when Piet puts his arms round me from behind and I just listen to the sound of an empty house and feel – wonderful. That the house and everything in it – everything – is there for me and me alone.
“Do you think,” I said, relaxing back against the warmth of Piet’s chest (it’s so nice to have a boyfriend big enough to do that; I never did before) “do you think I did the right thing?”
“Now, koekie,” rumbled Piet. “You know the answer to that question. We have just spent all of last night and part of this morning answering it.” He spun me around, looked at me searchingly. “You cannot really need it answered again.”
“No, I – not really, I suppose. But I did wonder if I – if Tim. . . well, if he might not feel a bit of resentment at me taking over his rôle, punishing Hansie like that. I mean that’s how they got together, that’s the basis of their agreement.”
“And the basis of ours is that I shall train you to play great rugby and you shall do as I say in order to achieve it. Does that mean that that is all we have?”
“No, of course not.”
“No, and no more is it the situation with Tim and Hansie that they are merely the checks on each other’s bad behaviour. That is how these things start, koekie, but it is not, in the end, what keeps them going. Besides, Mr Creed. . .” he trailed off.
“What? What?” He looked both amused and reluctant.
“Surely it cannot have escaped your notice that Tim was quite passionate last night. Even for Tim.”
I grinned. “He’s a little demon when he gets going, isn’t he? But what’s that got to do with it?”
“Come, hart, you are not so innocent as that. Master Tim was very – impressed – by your display of mastery.”
“You mean – oh. Oh.”
“Quite. Not only did young Mr Creed find – I think what I heard him mutter was ‘Cross Phil is hot!’, but he hinted – more than hinted – that he should like to be dealt with similarly. And more.”
“More? What do you mean, more?”
“I rather think that the private theatre in Tim’s head is now showing a film in which you are at one end of a cane and he is at the other.”
“I couldn’t,” I said instantly. “Piet, I just couldn’t. Not cane him.” But even as I shuddered at the idea, from some part of me I never knew existed the picture of Tim’s cute little arse bent over in tight shorts popped up, with me swishing a cane through the air behind him, and would you believe it, I felt myself start to get a bit aroused.
Piet knew, of course. Given the way we were pressed together at the time, that’s not entirely surprising. But all he said was: “If you do not wish it, koekie, of course there is no question of it. But you know, the cane need not be solely for punishment. . .”
It was in its own way both amusing and interesting, watching Phil try to come to terms with it. He was so vehement that he would not, could not do such a thing; his body betrayed him. Me, I did nothing and said very little, at least to begin with: I had made it clear to Tim that the decision would be Phil’s. I would not have pressure put on him to act against his own peace of mind. Nonetheless, he was more interested than he perhaps knew even himself – and of course, this would be the easier orientation between them. Not so difficult, if one is not a Top, but one’s partner is a Bottom, to say: well, perhaps this does not so much appeal to me, but it does me no harm to give you what you want. Much more trying for a Top whose partner is not a Bottom to say: I would really like to beat you; trust me, you’ll love it. . . (I should know, after all!) For Phil, there is always enormous pleasure in giving somebody else what they want. Still, I was not sure that he would agree to it, not at all sure.
But I have taught him to think rather than simply to react; I was proud of him, for obviously, he did think. The subject came up (yes, sometimes that way too!) between us several times over the next fortnight. It occasionally caught me out, when à propos of nothing, Phil would make a remark or ask a question that let me know that he had been considering it again.
“Why me? I mean, Hansie does that for him, and you would if he wanted, and I wouldn’t mind that, not once in a while. So why me?”
I shrugged. “I told you, koekie. He thought you were exciting when you were being harsh. No, not harsh, that is the wrong term. He has seen your harshness, for you were – shall we say cruel? – when we played at kidnapping him. Not harsh, but maybe severe? Strict? Some of it will probably have been the unexpected: you are generally so equable in temper that you surprised us all, even me. But hart, I told you: if you wish not, then you shall not, and nor shall you feel guilty about it. You need not even speak with Tim; I will tell him that the answer is no, and I will not allow him to importune you on the subject.”
“He wouldn’t anyway,” he said thoughtfully. “I mean, before, you know. . .” (and I nodded, for neither Phil nor Tim has ever managed to find an acceptable title for the period when they were at the same time lovers and combatants), “he hinted a couple of times that he’d like to play that way and I didn’t want to, so I ignored it, and then he asked outright once, and I said no.” He glanced sideways at me with a rueful grin. “Well, actually, I think I said that I didn’t do that sort of pervy stuff and I couldn’t understand anybody who did.”
“No,” I agreed solemnly, “there is no comprehending it.”
He stuck out his tongue at me. “Anyway, to be fair, having been turned down, he didn’t push it. If I say no, I think I can trust him not to nag.”
And then, a day or so later, “He’s always got to keep up, of course.”
“Tim. If I’m severe with Hansie, he’s got to get a share of it.”
“Indeed, I thought so too. This is perhaps a variation on his habitual desire to show that he is as strong in his way, as tough, as the rugby players.”
“Trouble is, with Tim, doing too little would be worse than doing too much. Because he measures himself against everybody, you know? If I didn’t do it properly, he’d never forgive me, he’d think I was patronising him.”
And again: “It would have to be rôle play. I couldn’t just be cross because I was out of temper, there would have to be a reason, even if was a silly one. I mean. . . I’d need to have cause.”
And yet again: “Piet? D’you think. . . do you think he would expect to reciprocate?” It was muttered rather fast, and an alarm sounded in my head. This was important.
“I think, koekie, that he will leave it entirely to you. He knows that your preferences are not the same as his.” He still looked anxious so I drew him to me. “Hart, it is neither a competition nor an exchange. You do not wish for a Top with a cane so there is no more to be said.”
But he was shaking his head. “It’s not that. It’s. . .” and he stopped again, plainly distressed. I held him close and he spoke, as is his habit when he is disturbed, to my shirt button. “I do love them, you know. Both of them.” This was old news so I slipped my fingers into the fine hair at his nape and waited. “And I have played – we have played – with a cane.” He risked a glance into my face. “That’s it, really.”
“That you have done it and did not like it?” I enquired, for I was very certain that he had liked it.
“No! That we did it. I did it with you. I don’t want to do it with him. It’s not even that I don’t trust him; of course I do. But that’s what we do, you and me. I do love them, Piet, I do and I love what we do, the four of us. Only” (and this again was delivered to my collar “I want there to be something which is just for me, just for us, you and me. I don’t want” (and now he was reduced to a whisper, as if he told me something shameful) “to have to share everything.” I could feel him gather his courage to look me in the face. “Do you mind?”
“Do I mind, koekie? Do I mind? You know that I am a jealous man. How likely is it that I will mind that there is a part of Phil’s life which belongs only to me? That there is something which he shares only with me, which he has only ever shared with me?” I could feel him relax against me; I nudged him to make him look at me. “Punishment is different, it has its own rules and if you offend Tim or Hansie then I do not doubt that you will pay for it however seems good to you all. When it comes to play, though, Tim may submit to your cane if you and he so wish, but you” and I fear I growled a little “you are mine and you play so only with me. We do not share. No doubt they too have things they do not share with us.”
He was quiet for a moment, calm now and reassured, and then he asked, a little tentatively, “So shall I fetch the cane?” And he glanced down and then into my face and added with provocative insolence, “sir?”
I cannot resist him when he speaks to me so.
I do not actually try very hard.
Eventually: “If I did. . . what he wanted, it would have to be. . . I couldn’t just have a try, see how I felt about it, come to it gradually. It would have to be full on. . . Piet, I don’t think I can. I mean, I’d be scared of doing too much, because I’m a hell of a lot stronger than him.”
“I think, koekie, that you worry unnecessarily. You have seen the way he has been marked sometimes. He and Hansie play much harder than we do, and although punishment is not the same as play, you know how hard he has been punished in the past. By Hansie, by me. . . If his tales are to be believed, by James Hamilton. You know his safe word, and I would have no fear of you not respecting it. And Hansie and I would be there, remember.”
He looked unconvinced. I pulled him to me. “Koekie, if you wish not to do it, do not do it. Nobody will think less of you for it.”
He wrinkled his nose. “I. . . sort of do want to. Partly because. . . partly because he wants it and why shouldn’t he have it if he wants it? And yes, O.K., partly because it’s a turn on. I’m just scared of. . .”
“Of hurting him,” I said dryly.
He punched me lightly in the ribs. “Yes! Of hurting him by not knowing what I’m doing.”
“It is indeed a risk,” I said slowly. “Tim is always so set on making no sound, on not crying out, that he will give you no clues about how far you are pushing him. In some ways it is a pity that you do not begin with Hansie, who is much more vocal. Well, then, koekie, if you wish to have a trial, you may practise on me.”
He stared at me as if he actually did not understand all the words I was using. “What?” he said weakly.
“You may try ahead of time. I cannot promise to respond as Tim would do, but you may learn how you need to aim, and the degree of power, of force involved. . ..”
I was hard put not to laugh: Phil’s expression was changing from shock to out-and-out horror and panic. “Is that. . . are you saying. . . do you want. . . are you asking me. . .”
I cut him off before he could swallow his own tongue. “Koekie, no, on my own account I do not wish to play so. Surely you must know this?” He still looked shaken and I thought it best to cut off any possibility of misunderstanding. “And not for Tim’s sake either. Do not think that I am offering to protect him. You tell me that Tim asked you to play when he barely knew you, so he was willing to take the chance then that you might behave other than as he desired. Now, that risk is much reduced. You are inexperienced but you are not a fool and I know that you will be careful. I do not feel that you pose any danger at all to Tim. But you are not easy in your mind about this and if I can make you more comfortable, I will.”
“But you don’t like it. You don’t want to do that,” he objected, still weakly.
“And so? It will not kill me and it might allay your fears.”
“But you’re a Top, not a Bottom,” – this as if explaining something very simple to a complete idiot.
“I am your lover, your partner,” I contradicted him. “I have bottomed for you in other ways, have I not? Not often, perhaps, but to our mutual satisfaction. I can do this for you.”
“Not for Tim’s sake.” He understood that; I was relieved.
“For your sake, koekie. Because of you. Because as well as things which you offer to no man but me, there are things I will offer to no man but you, ever. So do you wish for this?”
“No, I do not,” he said flatly and forcefully. “And quite frankly, I’d appreciate it if you never mentioned it again. The very idea makes my skin creep. It’s completely. . . it’s absolutely. . . I think I want to go and lie down in a darkened room now. Tim can just take his bloody chances and if he doesn’t like the way I do things he can tell me to stop. But I don’t even want to think about caning you, not for any reason.”
I could not help but laugh at him, he was so vehement, so appalled at my suggestion. “Then if you are decided that you will give Tim what he wants – are you decided? – we shall take the cane upstairs and lay out some pillows and I shall explain to you. It will be fine, Phil. Remember, I learned at school when I was a prefect and I learned by seeing it done and by having it done to me. You already have as much knowledge as I did. Come then, and we shall see what gaps there are that we need to fill in.”
“Creed, you’re for it.”
“I beg your – Phil? Is that you?”
“That’s Mr Cartwright to you, as in the Face of Hamiltons.”
“I don’t. . .”
“As in the Face which for the second month running you’ve mislabelled as Spider Backhurst.”
“Oh fuck.” I knew instantly what he was talking about. In my current rotation I was responsible for the content of the Hamiltons website – not the technical stuff, Simon and his team handled that, but deciding what went on there, sorting out the copy, that sort of thing. And we’d had a little problem with a page of photographs, in which the names and faces had got out of order. We joke about Phil being vain but it isn’t entirely a joke - he hadn’t been too pleased at having the name of a rival – a slightly less talented, and considerably less good looking rival – under his photograph, and his name attached to Spider’s big ugly mug. But I’d sorted that, I had, only. . .
“Exactly. You are in big trouble.”
“Phil, I’m so sorry, we reloaded the website again yesterday to put some new material on, and when we did we must have overwritten the page where I’d corrected the mistake with our old in-house copy.”
“Which you hadn’t corrected.”
“No, I – well, I corrected the live page of course when you noticed the mistake before” – and hadn’t he ragged me about it “and I – er – well, I think I forgot to update the in-house copy as well.”
“I’m not interested in your excuses, Creed. When you come over tonight, I’m going to cane you.”
“I – what?” It came out as more of a squeak than a question.
“I’m not pleased with you, you’ve screwed up, and I’m going to cane you,” he said with calm menace. “What part of that don’t you understand?”
“I – I – I. . .” I seemed to have lost the capacity for coherent speech. “I’m sorry.”
“Not as sorry as you’re going to be. The usual time. Don’t be late.” There was a click and the line went dead.
“Do you think I did that all right?” I asked Piet, anxiously.
“Oh, I think you played it very well,” he said. “Interesting. I do not think I have ever heard Mr Creed reduced to incoherence with mere words before. Actions, yes, but not words. Tonight promises to be an experience I would not miss for the world.”
“Jeez Hansie, you made me jump.”
“So I see,” he said dryly, examining the scatter of papers where I had dropped my notes. “I came for the Racing Demon paperwork.” He squinted across the desk. “What are you doing? That doesn’t look like the advertising copy or the production timetable.”
“It’s not,” I answered bitterly. “I’ve screwed up the bloody website again. Those promotional photos, the ones from last year’s final? Where we had Spider Backhurst labelled as Phil?”
“Ja, I do not understand how you did that. I mean, Spider is on the other team, he is not even wearing Gryphon colours. How could anybody possibly think he was Phil?”
“Simon’s crew,” I shrugged.
“But Simon knows Phil, he is fond of Phil.”
“Martin doesn’t. Martin knows about software, not sport. Anyway, I fixed it, remember? And then we made changes and it’s unfixed again. And Phil – God knows how or why – Phil’s noticed.”
If I hadn’t been so rattled, both because of what Phil had said and because – well, because he had caught me out (yes, it’s true, at least as true as that Phil’s vain: I get really pissed off when I’m caught making a mistake. I hate it) – as I say, if I hadn’t been so unnerved, I might have thought more about how Phil spotted the mistake and about why Hansie looked so smug.
“Phil’s noticed and he’s – well, he’s not best pleased with me. At least, he’s. . .” I glanced past Hansie to make sure the door was shut. “Hansie, he says he’s going to cane me.”
“Is that so?” asked Hansie blandly. “Sooner you than me.”
“Is that all you’ve got to say? Hansie, he sounded. . . I think he meant it. He wouldn’t, would he? Phil?”
“My experience is that if he thought you deserved it, then ja, he would.” Thanks, Hansie. What’s the Afrikaans for Schadenfreude?
“No, I mean a spanking, that’s one thing, but the cane?”
“I thought you were telling Piet that you wanted it?”
“Well, yes, but. . .”
“And now you have cold feet?”
“Well, no, but. . .”
“Not that I would blame you. I’m telling you, he is bleddy strong. And he was bleddy cross with me. . .” He let that bit trail away and I went into total meltdown, an unwieldy combination of ‘no, it was just a mistake, I don’t deserve the cane, I don’t want to be caned’ and ‘oh God, Phil’s so hot when he’s ticked about something’. Sure, I knew it wasn’t serious. I’d made a mistake, I was annoyed; Phil had spotted it, he was annoyed. But it wasn’t a total fuck-up, not something warranting serious punishment like Hansie slagging off the ref. Even so, my stomach was tightening with a combination of nerves and pure erotic thrill.
“So where are the production schedules, then?”
I dragged my mind (which was tending to put up pictures of Cross Phil With A Cane, pictures incompatible with me doing anything useful, like standing up) back to my work. “Um. . . top drawer.”
“And what are you doing when you should be preparing for this morning’s inter-departmental meeting, hey?”
“Checking every single bloody page of that damn website,” I said bitterly. “I’m not going to be caught that way again.”
“No, what you are going to be is late, because the meeting starts in ten minutes and you do not have the spreadsheet here. Is it finished?”
I stared at him for a moment, wits scattered. “Shit! Yes, but somebody was printing a bloody novel from the look of it, and our printer locks up if you queue documents on it! I was going to wait until they’d finished and then send it, and I forgot, and hell, that printer’s so slow it’ll never do that many copies in ten minutes! Oh God, Jim’s going to bloody kill me!” And quite likely that would be six after work for not being properly prepared, and then Phil would either give me a caning on top of a caning (not good) or refuse on the grounds that I was striped already (worse). “Fuck!” I wailed miserably, turning round too fast and knocking over a pile of folders. “FUCK!”
“Ach, calm down. Send the spreadsheet to my printer now, and I will call Mike and tell him to pick it up before he comes down. There is enough time for that. Just. Maybe Jim will not notice.” He smirked. “Although I think if he does not, I should spank you later for not giving your attention to your work.”
“I – yes, sorry, yes?”
“For heaven’s sake, laddie, what’s got into you this morning? I don’t know where you are but it’s obviously not here.”
No, it’s at Phil’s house with Cross Phil holding a very springy cane. Maybe as well not to say that out loud. I hastily re-ran the last few sentences.
“Sorry, yes, the effect of allowing on-line ordering. It’s been very popular with the smaller customers, which is not what we expected. The larger ones, who we thought would be keen, don’t want to adapt their own formal order processes to tie in their paperwork to ours. . .”
And that went a bit better until Mike observed that a couple of customers had complained that the order screen froze when they tried to force use of their own purchase references. “Who’s dealing with errors?”
“Phil Cartwright,” I thought, and then felt myself turn puce with embarrassment at the realisation that this time, I had said it aloud. At the far end of the table, Hansie’s shoulders were shaking. “I mean. . . sorry. . . yes. Sorry, Mike. You reminded me that Phil Cartwright spotted an error too. Um, report problems to Martin, please, with a copy to me. We’ll sort them.” I risked a glance at Hansie, who mouthed ‘good save!’ and I hastily took a sip of water and tried to calm my thumping heart. Beside Hansie, Jim was giving me the evil eye and I determinedly forced all thoughts of Phil out of my head and asked a more or less intelligent question about the factory maintenance schedule. But I can’t say that I did my best ever day’s work.
“Koekie? You have put sugar in my coffee!”
He shrugged. “To sweeten your temper.” It was blandly said but deliberately provocative and I responded appropriately, catching him by his collar and twisting him under my arm.
“I can think of a much better way to improve my temper, Mr Cartwright: I will be Top in my own house and I will not stand for an impertinent Bottom.” I pushed his head lower and applied my palm smartly to his tail. He braced his hands on his knees and was still, and I continued until I felt him flinch. It would not last – his trousers would have absorbed the worst of the smart and in ten minutes he would be no more than warm behind. I backed up to the bed and held out my arms, but he did not bounce after me, grinning, the way he normally would when we play. Instead he crawled into my arms and rested his head on my chest, as he does when I have punished him. I said nothing, just held him close to my heart. Presently he sighed.
“You do understand, don’t you?”
“Perfectly,” I assured him, and he closed his eyes and nudged closer. I ran my thumb lightly down his cheekbone, over and over, until he relaxed. “Koekie, you are not committed, even now. You may change your mind. If you do not wish to do this, we will find a way to pass it off: I will not have you made unhappy for Tim’s sake.”
He opened his eyes, and nodded thoughtfully, and then his glance slipped to the full cup beside the bed and he gave a twisted smile. “I’ll make you some proper coffee.”
“No need,” I said, as blandly as he had spoken himself. “I have drunk yours.”
Hansie spoke to me several times as we were getting ready to go out, but the answers he got were largely random. I changed my clothes three times too – I put on shorts before deciding that it wasn’t really warm enough (and that they were way too provocative), and then jeans (too thick, too tight, provocative in a different way), and then a pair of dark grey trousers which I don’t actually like much, before Hansie chased me out. “You look fine. It is only Piet and Phil, it is not a party.” He thrust my sweatshirt into my hands and then stepped back to look at me. “Actually, you look a little like the young man in the DVD.”
“Which DVD?” I asked irritably, following him to the car.
“I forget what it is called. ‘Boys Gone Bad’ or some such title. You know, the one with the ‘schoolboy’ who is clearly 20 years old at least.”
“Oh thanks,” I said bitterly. I knew which DVD he meant – we had watched it together and then lost most of a weekend afterwards. I did not need Hansie reminding me about it now.
Specially not when I laid eyes on Phil. I don’t know what he’d been doing at work, but he hadn’t changed his clothes; he was wearing dark flannels and the club blazer and tie and he looked exactly like a porn video Head Boy. I’m not sure how I managed not to whimper and dribble. I jumped when he kissed me on the cheek, but his first words were anodyne in the extreme. “I hope you don’t mind, but I ordered a takeaway. Didn’t feel like cooking tonight.”
“Tim has been expecting something hot,” hinted Hansie, slyly, and Phil smirked.
“Guilty conscience, Creed? Not a good idea to upset the Face of Hamiltons. Maybe I’ll make you wash the dishes as punishment.” He was opening wine as he spoke, and I just gaped at him as realisation broke over me. “You’ve been winding me up! God, Phil, you really. . . You bastard!”
He shook his head, grinning. “I’ll have you know my parents had been married 15 years before I came along. Did I have you going then?”
I sat down with a bump in the nearest chair and reached for my wine. “Yes you bloody did! I spent half the morning checking every line on every page of the website, God only knows what I agreed to at the management meeting. . . I’m telling you, if Jim works out that it was your fault, you won’t be the Face of Hamiltons any more, you’ll be the Arse of Hamiltons, and a well striped arse at that. Stop laughing!”
I couldn’t believe that I had walked so easily into his trap. I mean, for all that I had told Piet that I’d like to meet Cross Phil, I hadn’t really believed that it would happen. Phil, off the rugby field, is such a gentle soul that two seconds thought would have told me that he could never use a cane. Just, when he had rung up, all menace and testosterone, he had sounded so convincing. . . I gave way to relief and squashed down ruthlessly the little edge of disappointment, while Hansie gave a very much exaggerated (in my opinion, although he swore it wasn’t) impression of me talking pure drivel at the departmental meeting. It wasn’t really disappointment. Phil wouldn’t like playing that way and I wouldn’t want him to do anything – to have to do anything – he didn’t enjoy. I took another swig of wine and just accepted it: the joke was on me. I wasn’t – I was not! – disappointed.
Somehow we drank less wine than usual with our dinner, and for once we drank our coffee at the table rather than taking it to the sitting room. I was helping Piet to clear the table when Phil excused himself – to the loo, I thought, although he hadn’t come back by the time the rest of us crossed the hall.
He was standing against the drawn curtains in front of the French windows. He’d put his blazer on again, he was as stone faced as Piet, and he had a cane balanced between his hands.
“Come on then, Creed, let’s get this done,” he said darkly, and my knees went weak, even as all pretence of coherent thought went for a cup of tea and a lie down. Again.
“I – I – what?”
“Don’t start. I told you I was going to cane you and I told you why. Or did you fail to grasp the concept even once I’d explained it?”
“I – I just” thought you didn’t mean it, thought you’d been teasing me, thought you couldn’t do it, didn’t think at all.
He glanced at Hansie. “Turn that chair round, will you? Thanks. Right, Creed, trousers and pants down and get yourself over the back of the chair. Come on, you really don’t want to keep me waiting.”
No, I didn’t think I did. It wasn’t easy, though. Piet and Phil’s chairs are bigger than ours, taller in the back, and I had to stretch to get into position.
“Come on, Creed,” he said disapprovingly. “You can do better than that. Get your backside right up.”
I squirmed a bit further forward (hampered not a little by my growing excitement) and waited. The slap was startlingly loud and unexpected. “I won’t tell you again, Creed. Get yourself sorted; if I have to put you into position. . .” he tailed off ominously and I worked myself an inch or so further forward, which put my weight right down among the cushions and left me with my toes only just braced on the carpet, my trousers slipping from mid-thigh to my knees and then to my calves.
“Better. Now, do we need to go over what got you into this position?”
My mouth was so dry that I didn’t manage a reply; the slap made me jump again and squirm a little.
“You’re forgetting your manners, Creed. I asked you a question. Do you know why I’m going to cane you?”
“Yes, Cartwright,” I managed.
“For carelessness, Cartwright.”
“Carelessness,” he agreed. “And do tell me, Creed, do you think that six of the best will teach you not to be so careless in future?”
“Yes, Cartwright,” I agreed submissively. If six was as far as he could go, I’d take six and be grateful. It wasn’t serious. I’d had Piet pissed off with me, and lived; I’d had a dozen from Jim on many and many an occasion. I’d had 18 from Hansie in anger and two dozen in play, but six from Cartwright the Head Boy would be very sweet. He rested the cane across my arse. Piet taps for range; so does Jim. Hansie tends to tap and talk to keep my attention. Phil just maintained a steady pressure until I was so aware of the cane, an inch or two lower than centre, that I nearly screamed from pure nerves when the touch was withdrawn.
And I was a lot closer than I had expected to yelling when he landed the first one. It was exactly where the pressure had been, and it was incredibly hard. And then there was the pressure again, a little lower, and he made me agonisingly aware that the first one hadn’t been a fluke. My own fault, I acknowledged silently into the cushions: Piet had pointed out that Phil was very strong and had a sportsman’s straight eye, and I had absorbed the erotic possibilities of that without also absorbing the likely costs. I’d been caught patronising Phil again – if differently – and my God, was I learning my mistake. That – aaahhh! – was three and while I didn’t doubt my ability to take six without squealing, it wouldn’t be as easy as I had – four! – been expecting.
And Phil knows about putting the last one in the sulcal crease. Of course he does: Piet must have done it to him often enough. He can give it out too, and believe me, waiting for it when the cane has rested just – there – and you know he means to do it rather than just suspecting that he might, is a nerve-stretcher. I didn’t yell (I never do) but it was close, and I wasn’t as sorry as I might have been as I started to wriggle upright.
“Did I say you could move?”
I froze. I can’t think when I last made such an elementary mistake.
“Sorry. I’m sorry, Cartwright.”
“What’s the penalty for getting up without permission?”
Jesus, he’d really got into this, hadn’t he? I felt his fingertips lightly tracing a welt.
“Answer me, Creed. What’s the penalty?”
“Extra.” It didn’t come out as steadily as I would have liked. The fingertips moved again.
“So do you think you deserve another one for moving, Creed? Or shall I let you off?”
Oh God, don’t go gentle on me now, Phil, not when you’re doing so fantastically well. Don’t spoil it. “Whatever you. . . whatever you think.”
He laid the cane almost tenderly up the diagonal. Merciful heaven, I’d taught him that. I’d done it, the time he was punished for the fight at the concert. He didn’t pull the stroke either: it was at least as hard as the earlier ones. I had more sense than to move again and Phil patted me approvingly. “That’s better. Now, we understand each other, do we? I’m not having you putting somebody else’s name on my picture, understand?”
“I’ve corrected it,” I managed to say. “I’m sorry.”
“Good, because I was very offended. But we’re not finished.”
Um, no? But my backside was flaming and I could feel every single point where that diagonal had crossed the original six. I would be quite happy to stop now, thanks.
“Who else did you insult, Creed?”
What? And just in passing, it would have been much easier to think without him tracing the tip of the cane over my arse.
“I didn’t like being labelled as Spider Backhurst, Creed. I didn’t like it at all. Do you think that Backhurst would have been pleased to be labelled as me?”
Probably not, but who cares? “No, Cartwright.”
“No. So since he’s not here to deal with you himself, I think I’d better do it. Another six for insulting Backhurst, Creed.”
Fuck. That was actually a tiny bit terrifying. And exciting. Definitely, excitingly, terrifying. Pressure again, only now it was on a spot already tender.
“One,” said Cartwright – Phil – conversationally, and the cane came down.
I know he doesn’t like to be made to count, and it’s one of the things I said to him when we were making up after the Big Fight; if I had known how much he loathed it, I would never have made him do it. (Well, I probably would, I was pissed off, but I do feel bad about it now.) Obviously, though, he feels differently when he’s counting and somebody else is on the sharp end. He counted me six steady stripes; not from the feel of them quite as neatly overlaid as Piet can do it, but I think we may put that down to a lack of practice, not to any failure in technique. I’ve had more experienced Tops not half as effective with a cane. By the last two I wasn’t at all sure that I’d be able to avoid yelling and I was certainly squirming more than was dignified. I was damn careful to keep my head down on six, though: I was absolutely convinced that I did not want another diagonal.
He gave me a moment, presumably to see if I would move, and then stepped up close behind me. “All right, Creed, that’ll do. Just bear in mind that if I have to do this again, it will be” – punctuated by two powerful smacks – “much harder.”
God, there was something about the way Phil said ‘harder’ which made me go all wobbly.
“You can pull your trousers up, then.”
I did that – carefully – and hesitated with one hand hovering. Phil had got so far into this that I wouldn’t have put it past him to have given me some more for rubbing without permission. When I looked round, he was just setting the cane down on the coffee table, his eyes on me.
“Come here,” he said seriously, and when I went, he hooked an arm round my waist and rubbed my backside himself. “All right?”
His tone was deeply uncertain, in sharp contrast to the way he had dealt with me, and he was frowning; I wound my arms round his neck and yanked his head down to fasten my mouth on his. That seemed to help: his arms came hard round me and I occupied myself for a moment with seeing how far down his throat I could get my tongue. He broke away. “Honestly? All right?”
“Bloody fantastic,” I assured him, trying to get in to snog him some more.
“It’s just. . . you looked. . . Tim, those are savage marks.”
He was really worried; I fought down the desire to see if I could bring him to the floor and have my wicked way Right This Instant, and instead unfastened my trousers again, sliding them down and twisting to look.
“Oh wow.” The marks were even and sharp, the last couple still white-lined, the earlier ones shading from scarlet to purple. I eased my trousers up again. “Brilliant. I knew you would be good.” He still looked uneasy; I put one hand in his chest and pushed him to an armchair, and straddled his knees, letting myself down cautiously onto his lap. My rump burned and smarted, and his hands came, I think automatically, to cup my cheeks; I hissed and he snatched them away.
“Koekie, I think Tim is pleased.”
I grabbed his hands and pulled them back to my arse.
“Of course I’m pleased, you nit. Can’t you tell?”
“But. . .” said Phil, plainly unconvinced.
“My hart, those are not excessive marks for Tim. Indeed, you have seen him so more than once.”
“Never that I’ve been responsible for,” said Phil blackly.
“No,” I agreed, kissing him frantically until we both had to come up for air. “Love them. I love them. Love you.”
His expression cleared a little. “Really?” he asked plaintively.
“Ja, I am jealous,” confirmed Hansie lightly. “Tomorrow, every time he sits down he will think of you.”
Well, he liked that. Whatever he thought of it all, he liked that. I was sitting on his lap; I could tell. Call it vanity again, but I think he was entitled to it. He looked rather doubtfully at Hansie. “Do you mind?”
Hansie shrugged. “Why should I mind? Tomorrow you will not be there and if he feels the smart when he sits down,” and he leered at me, “I will get the good of it.”
I stuck my tongue out at him, but Phil wasn’t satisfied. “What about tonight, though?”
“Tonight,” said Hansie, leaning back into Piet’s arms, “tonight there are. . . compensations. You’re right, Tim: Cross Phil is hot, when he’s dealing with somebody else. I can live with watching that, and – ah!”
For Piet had drawn a fingernail over Hansie’s chest. Me, I love the feel of somebody’s nails on a freshly spanked bottom; Hansie has tremendously sensitive nipples, and nails, quite hard, over his shirt, will leave him speechless. His head rolled, and Piet’s mouth went to his neck. Hansie gasped. “I don’t feel that I am missing out,” he said unsteadily.
Phil’s eyes came back to me. “Cross Phil is hot,” I confirmed. He’s a quick learner; his hands were still cupping my bottom and he squeezed hard.
“All right then, Creed, you’ve messed about enough,” he growled. “What are you going to do to make up for it?”
“Oh God,” I mourned. “If I’d had a Games Prefect like you, I’d have stuck with cricket as well as rugby.”
He frowned, distracted and plainly not quite following. “Games Prefect?”
Piet snorted. “Koekie, I think that you, as Captain of Sport and Head of the Senior Cadet, have just found your Marais, but yours is of full age and he will do more for you than mine ever dreamed of.”
My turn not to understand, but this time Phil did, and his eyes rounded. “Was that. . . did you think I was being a school prefect or something?”
“Weren’t you?” His hands were still squeezing, more lightly now; it was extremely difficult to concentrate.
“No! I didn’t go to that sort of school! I wasn’t even a prefect! Come to that, you didn’t go to that sort of school.”
I shrugged. “Seen the videos, read the porn. Come on, it’s not real, it’s a fantasy. Um, if Cartwright isn’t the Games Prefect, who is he?”
His turn to shrug. “Captain of a rather old fashioned rugby team, that’s all. Hansie’s type of team, rather than mine.”
Piet and Hansie both fell about laughing. “It just goes to show,” confirmed Piet, “that you never know what is going on in someone else’s head. And I fear, koekie, that your rôle is as much fantasy as Tim’s. I never behaved so with my team, did I, Hansie?”
“Unfortunately not,” agreed Hansie, mournfully.
Phil considered. “Well, I can do that. I offered it to Piet after all. No, not Head of Games, but the one told off to report to him. . . There’s an idea. If you don’t behave yourself, Creed, I’ll send you to report yourself to Mr de Vries, and then you’ll be sorry.”
“Aw, can’t you deal with me yourself, Cartwright?” I whined. “Mr de Vries said that if I came up in front of him just once more this term. . .”
“You know my methods, Cartwright,” put in Piet, amused. “Apply them. Creed thinks far too well of himself; bring him down a little in his own estimation.”
There was obviously something behind this which I didn’t know, because Phil smirked.
“I’m telling you, Creed, if you insist on behaving like one of the juniors, I’ll treat you like one. Next time you’re here, we’ll try putting you over my knee for the slipper.”
Yes, well, he knew what I thought about that. I was pressed against him: he could hardly have missed it. I know I always say it’s Hansie who loves the takkie but. . . I think I might have moaned, because they were all laughing at me again.
“Ever slippered anybody, Phil?”
“You know I haven’t.”
“Want to try?” I asked with some desperation.
“Not right now,” he said, decidedly, hooking a hand under each of my thighs and sliding forward in the chair. “I’ve got other plans for tonight.” And he just stood up, easy as you like, with me clinging round his neck. I wrapped my legs round his waist and his hands came delightfully back to my still-throbbing arse.
“Do they involve us getting naked?” I started hopefully on his tie, dropping it over his shoulder as he headed for the door. The other two rose to follow us; Hansie bent over to pick up the tie and squawked loudly as Piet goosed him.
“God, Tim, you’re incorrigible!”
“Yup,” I said happily.
“You are all incorrigible,” rumbled Piet from behind us. “I will deal with it tomorrow. You have all been behaving disgracefully and as Alpha Top I must take steps to improve your conduct.”
“What have I done?” grinned Hansie.
“You told tales on your partner, as I recall. You – what is the English phrase? – grassed him up to us for making a mistake on the website.”
“He what?” I squawked. “You’re so dead, van den Broek. If Piet doesn’t sort you out, I will.”
“I haven’t done anything,” said Phil virtuously, negotiating the bend in the stairs.
“No? You were responsible for Tim getting no work done today, and you nearly landed him in trouble with James Hamilton.”
“Oh well, if you put it like that. . .”
“I do. And Tim himself has been punished for the mistake on the website but not for his failure to concentrate today. So I think tomorrow you must all be spanked.”
We all whined, unconvincingly.
“Tim first, I think, and then he may sit on the kitchen stool” which is hard, and slightly too tall for me so I wouldn’t be able to get my weight off my bum, thanks Piet, “and Hansie shall go over his knee.”
Now I’m interested.
“And Tim shall put his hands on his head” what? “while I spank Hansie, who must try not to wriggle.”
“And then the same for Phil. And if they wriggle,” no ‘if’ about it, Piet, Phil always wriggles, “then when I am done, Tim may spank them too.”
Now I’m very interested.
“Who is Alpha in this house?”
Phil dropped me on the bed and leaned back to Piet. “You are,” he said, muffled against Piet’s mouth. Something there, too. I think maybe Phil can play at being a serious Top but he wants to be reassured that he doesn’t have to do it all the time.
“Do not forget it. Now, if you are going to use the unconvincing dialogue of the porn industry, I believe you have another rod for Tim?”
“Oh yes,” he grinned at me, while I worked at his shirt buttons. “And we’ll see how many strokes of this one he can stand.”
O.K., so this time he did manage to make me yell.
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