I ran all the way from the bus stop, anxious not to be late for class but also eager to see James again. It was Wednesday – the day we take the same class together. I reached the room just as the door was closing. I quietly slipped in, with a murmured apology to the tall and strict instructor. Mr Rogers was extremely particular about punctuality and did not take kindly to students who barged in after the door was closed. He gave me a severe look but luckily did not make any stinging remarks about tardiness.
I scanned the faces around the room and caught James’ eye; he immediately winked at me and smiled. I smiled back, glad that he had been on the look out for me. Dumping my cross-body bag alongside the pile at the back of the room, I quickly stripped off my jeans; I usually put my leotards on underneath to save time and the bother of changing. I then took out my most prized possession – a pair of jazz dance shoes made especially for executing turns and pirouettes. I had worked extra hours cleaning more homes than I cared to remember just to buy those but it was worth every penny of it.
The noise died down as everyone got into position and we began our warm-up. I let my muscles stretch, feeling my body adjusting with every pull and bend. Then Mr Rogers got us into our lines and soon I lost myself in the music and lesson. Mr Rogers’ voice was crisp and sharp and he spoke rapidly, gesturing with his hands, emphasizing on composition and the elements of dance. He was teaching us how to do a toe rise and I concentrated hard.
“Very good Oliver!” Mr Rogers’ voice suddenly rang out and I blushed with pleasure and embarrassment. It gratified me to get noticed so often but it also made me shy about the attention. I kept my eyes down so I wouldn’t see the others’ expressions. I wanted neither admiration nor jealousy. I just wanted to dance.
The toe rise required us to rise from a kneeling position while supporting our bodies on the tops of our toes. It looked effortless but you had to have perfect balance and be super fit to execute the step. Across the room I stole a glance at James and saw him struggling clumsily. He wavered dangerously and almost lost his position. Luckily he was not the only one who was floundering. Mr Rogers was sweeping the room with his eagle eyes and I hoped James wouldn’t get singled out for the wrong reason. I (and very likely Mr Rogers) had already concluded that James would never be a dancer but he never stopped trying. I wondered why he kept coming to the class since he was not making much progress.
At the end of two hours class broke and Mr Rogers sailed out without a word to anyone. The snob! He never stayed back or socialized with his students. I wiped my face with my towel, and collected my bag from the floor. The room was clearing fast as people left and I inched my way over to James.
“Hi,” I said, still a little breathless.
“Hi,” James replied. I caught him checking me out and I secretly enjoyed the interest. “You were great today. I was watching you.”
“Thanks.” I beamed. His praise seemed genuine. “It was a good lesson.”
“Not for me!” James laughed, totally not self-conscious.
“You weren’t too bad,” I lied.
He shrugged as if it didn’t matter to him. “So … are we on today?” James asked in a lowered voice, a slight flush on his cheeks.
I gave him my patented look of invitation. “Are you kidding? I can’t wait!”
A half hour later, we were naked in James’ apartment and I moaned with pleasure as I felt his lubed finger glide into me. I was lying on my back, my legs stretched far apart and James was lying by my side, slowly finger fucking me. God, he had such long fingers and it felt so damn good as one slender digit penetrated deeply into me.
“More … please!” I groaned.
James obligingly added another finger, filling me up, stretching me. My hands were alternating between stroking myself and touching James. It didn’t take long for me to come. I arched my back and spurted my semen onto my belly. With a deep sigh I closed my eyes, sated. This was what I had come for. What I had been yearning for. I craved the sexual release.
“Your turn now,” I said after a moment.
I pushed James down and he went willingly. He lay back on the rug and I began to run my hands down his body. He was already hard and his eyes were tightly closed. I could see his body start to relax, welcoming my touches, responding to my fondling and caresses. I licked his nipples because I knew he liked that, and then I moved down lower, finally taking his cock into my mouth.
He groaned softly, as I worked on him. I have to say I was rather good at this and he had a nice cock.
“Oh yes, God!” James cried out, grabbing at my hair and jerking up into my face.
I felt the tightening of his muscles and knew he was about to shoot. Last week I had pulled out at the last moment but I decided we knew one another well enough to let him come inside my mouth this time.
“Oh Jesus! Oh fuck! Oliver!”
I sucked every last drop out of him till he finally pushed me away. “That was fucking unbelievable!” he gasped.
We lay there side by side as he got his breath back. I turned to look at him and slowly we came together for a quick kiss. It was light and gentle, a soft peck on the lips and then we broke apart. We never really kissed. It wasn’t part of our foreplay; in fact we didn’t really have much of a foreplay. We usually just peeled the clothes off one another and got down to it. Sexual release was what we both wanted and that was what we gave to one another. We weren’t in love or anything. He wasn’t really my type although I suspected he thought I was hot. I had caught him eyeing me several times.
Then came the awkward part. The gracious exit.
“Um … that was hot sex,” I said politely.
“Yeah, fucking good.”
I realized James cursed a lot. Nothing I wasn’t used to but I never thought of him as the type. He had an open, honest face and nice manners; he was the kind of boy you did not hesitate to take back to meet the folks. Boys like that didn’t curse and swear a whole lot. There were several things that didn’t add up.
“Hey, you mind if I smoke?” I asked.
“Sure, go ahead.” James sat up and looked around for his shirt. He pulled it on but left the buttons open, exposing his clean white chest. He watched me intently as I lit a cigarette and inhaled deeply. A cigarette right after sex was just heavenly.
“Do you want one?” I asked since he was staring at me.
“No thanks. I don’t smoke.”
That I could believe. He wasn’t the smoking type either. We began to get dressed. By the time I grounded out my cigarette we were both fully clothed.
“Um, so I will see you next week? Same time same place?” I said with a poor attempt at flippancy accompanied with a jerky laugh.
“Hey …” he started to say and stopped.
“What?” I raised my eyebrows.
“Say, do you want to go grab a bite? Are you hungry?”
I looked around, hoping to find an appropriate answer amongst his furniture. It was a nice apartment, not very big but tastefully done. I could see a lot of effort had been put into making the place comfortable and fashionable at the same time.
“I’m afraid I have nothing in my fridge,” James said apologetically. “So I can’t fix you something. I was planning to go out for a sandwich or maybe a plate of chow mien. You like Chinese? You want to come too?”
Technically I didn’t have any plans for that evening. Stewart and Marcus were going for some meeting and I was supposed to fix my own dinner. But I wasn’t sure if I wanted to go out with James. It sounded like a date and we weren’t dating. We had sex once a week but that wasn’t dating.
“It’s ok,” James said with a forced smile. “I was just being polite. I mean … I thought … well, since you’ve started to come over I have never offered you anything. I was just trying to be …”
I held up my hand. “Stop! Please James, I’m sorry if I gave you the wrong idea. I was just trying to remember if I had made other plans.”
“That’s ok. You don’t owe me an explanation.”
“No,” I insisted. “I am not making excuses.”
I could see he was still uptight. “James, is it ok if I go have dinner with you tonight?”
“Are you sure?” he looked skeptical.
“Yes,” I said firmly. I almost laughed at the way his face lit up. “Did you say chow mien? I love Chinese!”
“We preach trust and honesty and we emphasize the importance of giving up control but nowhere in our Code do we provide guidance on methodology,” I said with a gloomy shake of my head.
“But that has always been our approach, Stewart,” Curtis said. “We don’t tell our members how to behave or what they should do. We give them the principles and the framework and they need to work that out themselves.”
“Yes,” agreed George. “That was how you and Philip approached us and we were sold on the idea. We wouldn’t have joined if The Fraternity had wanted to supervise all our actions and monitor our every move.”
I looked around at the faces in the room – Philip, Ben, Curtis and George – and said darkly, “We thought it was the right approach. Now we have to question if that was enough.”
“I can’t believe how we missed it,” Philip said, visibly frustrated. “How the hell did it get so bad without anyone of us seeing it?”
Curtis put a hand on Philip’s shoulder. “We know you both are taking this very hard and are even questioning your own roles as heads of this group. But we’ve been through this already in the last few weeks and everyone we’ve contacted agreed this was something we couldn’t have foreseen! So let’s not go there again, ok?” Curtis’ voice was gentle.
Philip and I exchanged a look. It was true we had discussed this at length with various groups. Everyone had agreed our Code had been sound and that its violation was confined to only one couple and that it was beyond our control but that didn’t make us feel any better.
I thought back to when Evan first called me (while I was up at Willcott). He had not given me a lot of details at that time. He had said he needed help and immediate advice as the bank was threatening to send him legal notice and that his business was in trouble. He had also said his partner Jeremy was not around. I later learnt that Jeremy had not been around for months, that Jeremy had packed up and left, leaving Evan to take care of their joint business. They bred dogs for a living and Evan was the partner in charge of the care and grooming while Jeremy took care of the business end. With Jeremy gone, Evan had been overwhelmed. He had totally messed up the accounts, failed to keep up with the repayments and found himself backed into a corner by his bank. He had naturally panicked. With no other options left, he had finally called me – and I thank God for that.
Several emergency meetings had convened once we understood the situation Evan was in. We needed to notify all our members as this was a serious incident so we met either face to face or set up phone or video conferences with them. There was no way we could get everyone together and actually we preferred to do this in smaller groups. It made it more personal and we could gauge people’s reactions better. We wanted to be sure there was no potential for another such incidence and this was our opportunity to get re-connected. But it was time consuming and we were all exhausted by the time we had combed through every one in our membership list.
We had congregated at Curtis and George’s house for this meeting. I watched as Curtis stood up and took a turn round his large and comfortable study, speaking as if he was delivering a lecture. “Evan had every opportunity to call for help, Top or Brat, and he did not. Jeremy knew he had the support of the group any time he needed but he didn’t contact any one of us. They both failed to do their parts. They segregated themselves from the group. They skipped meetings. I haven’t seen them at Willcott in ages. They both understand the Code but they CHOSE to ignore it. They are not kids but mature adults, and they have to take responsibility for what happened.”
George picked up a copy of the Code and tapped it with his finger. “It is stated in here that the Brat must tell if something is wrong.” He flipped the book open and traced a sentence with his finger as he read it aloud. “A Brat will tell his Top when he is troubled and/or in trouble and in the absence of his own Top, a Brat will tell any Top with whom he is comfortable.” There you go! It’s right here!”
“Which is why Evan needs to be put on corrective action, honey,” Curtis explained patiently, looking at his partner. “Gentlemen, I believe that is the agenda for tonight’s meeting?”
“That is correct,” I said. “Philip?”
Philip opened a file. “We have to discuss what action or actions need to be taken with regards to Evan. He had admitted his failure to notify us when things started to go wrong but he still insists Jeremy did not abuse him. Hmm.”
“He is either in denial or he really does not see it as abuse,” George said.
“Did Jeremy abuse him?” Curtis asked. “That is the question. And if he did, what was the extent of the abuse? So Ben, what have you found out?”
We all looked at Ben expectantly; he had been silent most of the time. He had been working closely with Evan since the crisis happened and we wanted to see if he had any information that might help us.
Ben took out several sheets of paper, covered in his neat handwriting. “OK, I had several meetings with Evan and we talked a lot but mostly about the business and his finances. He was quite open and wasn’t trying to hide anything. I managed to get an extension from the bank, and I think he is mostly relieved about this, that the bank is not going to sue him after all. I have also taken over his account and it will be managed by my accounting firm – at a discounted rate and with his agreement of course!” Ben added hurriedly.
“Of course honey,” Philip said with a smile.
“Thank you Ben,” I said. “We know you will do what is best for Evan, just like how you handle the Fraternity accounts. Anything else you found out? Particularly about his relationship with Jeremy?”
Ben hesitated. “He is not so open about that. He says they had been drifting apart for a while now and that was probably the reason why Jeremy decided they didn’t belong together.” Ben shrugged, evidently feeling uncomfortable discussing this.
“It’s ok babe,” Philip said, going over and sitting on the arm of Ben’s chair. He put a hand on Ben’s shoulder and looked over at me. “What else you got Stewart?”
“I didn’t manage to spend a whole lot of time with Evan. He is one busy person. A lot of his time was at his kennels – and let me tell you that is a full time job. In fact, I had to meet him there since that was the only way he could swing the time. Anyway, after the few meetings I had with him, I am convinced he is in dire need of a Top.” I stressed the word ‘dire’.
Everyone in the room looked grim.
I also had some notes which I had jotted down in my notepad and I looked at them before proceeding. “Why Evan had been trying to keep the news of Jeremy’s departure a secret I have no idea,” I continued. “That is something we will have to find out eventually. It’s important we understand why so that we can include that as part of our Brat mentoring. He is clearly trying very hard to put up a brave front, be strong and sound confident but I can see he is hanging on by a thread.”
Philip frowned. “Yes, understanding their reasons would be the first thing to do. It should be in Top mentoring as well Stewart. Unfortunately I can’t get hold of Jeremy. He doesn’t answer calls, there’s no response from emails, no forwarding address. He just disappeared!”
“He ran away!” George said dryly. His disgust was clear. “He does not want to be found.”
I could see Curtis eyeing his partner with concern, just as Philip had remained next to Ben, keeping physical contact with him. I was glad Marcus was not part of this meeting. He was not a council member and therefore he could not sit in. It would have made him fret to listen and discuss details of how a Top could abandon his Brat in this callous manner. Unfortunately Ben and George were very much a part of the council and could not be excused and in this particular instance we needed them to provide Brat-insights.
I made sure my voice was matter-of-face as I said soothingly, “I think Evan is ready now to accept help and that is what we are going to provide. He admits that he was wrong to have kept everything to himself. He is also ready to accept any recommendation we deem appropriate.”
“What?” Ben asked, a little pale. “Is he in trouble for this? Is he going to get punished for this? It hardly seems fair! He is not the one that ran away!”
“I agree he did not run away!” George spoke up at once, a martial light in his eyes. “But he did break our rules, Ben. Don’t forget our rules are to keep us safe. If everyone started disobeying the rules, what good is the Code?”
“But he shouldn’t be punished for it. He has already been through so much! What he needs now is our support and understanding, not our censure!”
“He’s got our support. But don’t you think he deserves some sort of punishment too? Or even needs it?” George asked. “His Top left him, damnit! and he didn’t say anything. He hid that from us. That is the same as lying!”
“That’s his Top’s fault, not his!” Ben argued, his voice shaking.
“Calm down,” Philip said, giving Ben’s shoulder a squeeze. “No one is saying Evan is going to be punished. We are discussing what is the best way to help him.”
Curtis gave his Brat a look which clearly said ‘enough’. They had been together long enough to be able to communicate quite effectively without words. George sighed and sank back into his plush cushions. He rolled his eyes as if to say ‘yeah, whatever’ and Curtis immediately cleared his throat.
“George, do you have something more to say?” Curtis asked politely.
George thought for a moment and then said quite sincerely, “No, I don’t. Thank you.”
“Let’s continue then,” I said briskly to avoid further conflict. “Evan told me that prior to Jeremy’s ‘departure’ there had been a lot of tension between them. That had in turn led to a lot of misunderstanding, arguments and fights. I sensed – without Evan actually saying it - there was also some form of power struggle going on with the two of them,” I took a deep breath before continuing, “Which I suspect resulted in Jeremy disciplining Evan more harshly than normal.”
“What do you mean?” Curtis asked as his brows pulled together.
Ben was staring at me apprehensively. Almost afraid of what I would say next. I understood that look. Fear of a system which he had believed fool-proof breaking down. I hastened to finish my report.
“I need to make it clear that at no time did Evan say Jeremy abused his rights as a Top. But he did say that Jeremy used the paddle more often in the last few months. Also that he had been caned and that was something new for them. He didn’t go into details of his discipline and I felt he wasn’t ready to be pushed to share.”
“Did he say why he was paddled and caned? Was it deserved?” Ben whispered.
I looked at Ben quietly. “Evan insisted he had been rude and disrespectful to Jeremy so it sounds as if there was some cause for the discipline, but reading in between the lines I think Evan felt it was not totally justified. At least not all the time. He should have been disciplined, yes, but not that severely. There was also no mention of comfort after the discipline. There was just anger and hurt. And based on that, I have to report that I believe abuse had taken place.”
The room was quiet when I finished. George was plucking some invisible lint from the cushion and Ben was nibbling at his lower lip.
“So what’s next?” Curtis asked curtly.
“Philip,” I said. “Do you want to share with the rest what our recommendation is?”
“Sure.” Philip got up slowly and went to stand next to Curtis. “We want to pull Evan back into the system. Have him placed into the care of a Top as soon as possible, even if its temporary. He needs to re-learn all our Top and Brat expectations and get back to some normalcy of a DP relationship. He has the basic Brat training and we feel that is sufficient for now. He may however be required to go through a refresher at some point in the future, perhaps together with some new Brat member. More importantly right now, he needs to learn to trust his Top again.”
“And which Top do you have in mind?” Curtis asked, looking between Philip and me. “Stewart, you’ve traditionally been in charge of the Brats. You do a fine job in mentoring them. Will you take Evan?”
I let go of a long breath. “We discussed this as well and there are two reasons why Philip and I think this may not be a good idea. First, I’ve got Oliver with me and it would be too complicated and disruptive with Evan and Oliver and Marcus in the same house. Instead of stabilizing Evan, I think it would de-stabilize him. We would prefer Evan to have the Top’s full attention.”
Curtis nodded solemnly. “True. Plus Oliver is not part of our community.”
Philip chipped in. “Secondly, what we want is for Evan to learn to trust. With Stewart he has already established the rapport and he already feels comfortable with Stewart. It would be too easy a step. We prefer to have someone he is less familiar with so that the building blocks can start from ground zero.”
Curtis nodded his head again. “I see where you are coming from, and I have to agree.”
I turned to George. “Well George, we would like to hear your opinion on this as well.”
George pursed his lips. “Yes, he needs to put in some work to straighten himself out. I’m sure he won’t be happy regardless of what he says now. But he’s gotta do it. No short cuts. This young man has a long way to go and he needs the help of a strong Top. I support your recommendations.”
“Good!” I said. “Ben, what about you? Do you support it too?”
“I think Evan will be relieved The Fraternity is behind him now. He was so lost. I know I would be if something like that happened to me.” He glanced at Philip with a grimace. “It better not!”
Philip grinned and shook his head at the same time. It suddenly occurred to me how spooked our Brats would be over this. If it could happen to one, it could happen to any of them.
Curtis laughed. “Don’t worry Ben, Philip wouldn’t dare! Not with us here! Well then, if not Stewart, anyone else you have in mind?”
I smiled at him. “We were hoping you could do it.”
“Me? Hmm.” Curtis’s eyes narrowed and then wandered to George and they exchanged a look.
George spoke up. “I think that’s a good idea Curtis. Why not?”
Curtis kept his eyes on his partner. “I want you to think about it for a moment before you answer. It could mean a lot of my time and attention would be taken up with Evan.”
George smiled. “I might enjoy some freedom at last!” In a more serious tone, he added, “You have always been a great mentor to me! I think you should do it!”
“Only if you are very sure.” Curtis said, his face softening. “So what’s the arrangement?”
“Well,” I said, “we first need to talk to Evan to see what he can accommodate. We have to be sensible and sensitive to his work schedule. Plus he’s got all sorts of commitments and appointments. But minimally we would like him to spend the weekends with you, starting this Friday evening right up to Sunday night. No break in between. That would give you guys enough of an uninterrupted stretch to establish the groundwork, the limits and controls. It should get easier after that.”
Philip patted Curtis’ arm. “We also recommend that Evan be required to check in with you periodically. The details of when and how we leave you to decide. That should provide him the anchor during those times he cannot be here. He’s been without a Top for months and is reeling. He will need that while he adjusts.”
“Does that work for you Curtis?” I asked. “Is that too much to ask?”
“No, of course not,” Curtis said without hesitation. “… ‘sacrifice of time, pleasures and comforts’…. That’s our pledge and I stand by it. This is necessary and I am prepared. It’s been a while since I’ve mentored a young Brat but I haven’t quite lost my touch yet.”
“Not at all!” I assured him, and I meant it. Curtis was a savvy Top who was up to all the tricks. Evan might rebel and struggle against the restraints at first but I was sure Curtis would be more than able to handle him. It was an ideal arrangement, especially since Curtis and George were semi-retired and had the luxury of time.
“We’ll get ready for our young guest this weekend then,” George said calmly. He got up from his seat and went over to Curtis. Leaning close, he whispered in Curtis’ ear and gave his partner a hug. Curtis grinned and tried to swat him but he jumped away rather nimbly for his age. “Now now Curtis, you are supposed to practice on young Evan, not me!”
“Brat!” Curtis said affectionately.
I could see everyone was feeling much more light-hearted now that the immediate issues had been resolved. We would still need to organize meetings and workshops for our members to reinforce our Code but that could come later.
“I think that’s it for tonight guys,” I said, adjourning the meeting. “Thanks everyone for your time and attendance and especially your inputs.”
“Poor Marcus,” Ben said sympathetically.
Philip swung an arm around Ben and began to walk him out of the study. “Yeah, we should go to him. Having to man the BBQ all by himself; he must be bored to death by now.”
“Let’s just hope he hasn’t burnt all our steaks,” I said dryly. “Ben wait! Can you pass me your notes – I want to put them into Evan’s file as well.”
Ben came back and handed me his notes and I slid them into the folder which was suddenly building up rather fast. I held it out to Curtis. “There you go – homework! You better hang on to that for now in case you need to find some quick answers.”
Curtis grinned and looked down at the orange folder and the name on the front, printed in bold black letters: Evan James Clark.
I had a much nicer time with James than I thought I would. He could be quite funny and made me laugh a lot.
“So you dance for a living?” he asked as we sipped Chinese tea.
“Kinda,” I said evasively. How do I tell him I was being sponsored by a man who was neither a close friend or related to me in any way, and not have him jump to the wrong conclusion? “I am kinda in between jobs right now.”
“Oh yeah? So you just focus on dancing? Cool! No wonder you’re so good at it!”
I blushed. “Thanks. But there’re plenty of good dancers in the school. Much better than me.”
“I wouldn’t know, I just take that one class. I’d say you’re one of the best I’ve seen.”
I loved the way the conversation was going but I was not so vain that I believed him. “Why did you sign up?” I blurted out without really thinking.
James’ eyes twinkled. “I bloody suck, don’t I?”
“No!” I protested. “Sorry, that’s not what I meant!” What was wrong with me? I keep saying the wrong things.
“That’s ok. You don’t have to be sorry, Oliver,” James said with a little lop-sided smile. “I like it that you are frank with me. Honesty is good! I know my own limitations very well.”
“So why did you decide to do this if you don’t like it?”
“I didn’t say I don’t like it, I’m just not very good at it. Actually I like it a lot. It relaxes me. Let’s me forget who I am.”
“Me too! I feel exactly the same. Isn’t it awesome? I get lost in it once the music starts and my body starts to move. I love it!” I gushed. “I feel so much freedom when I dance.”
“That’s good,” he said quietly.
“Did I say something wrong?” I asked because James looked suddenly somber.
“No, not at all. I was just thinking how wonderful it is to love something with such passion.”
“I first danced when I was fifteen. I was terribly awkward, had no idea how to do it properly, but I was desperate to get a job ….”
I found myself telling James about my earlier life, carefully leaving out certain unsavory parts. James was such a good listener.
“Hey, look at the time!” James glanced at his watch when I paused for breath.
I was embarrassed. “Sorry! I’ve been going on and on, haven’t I? You should have stopped me.”
James shook his head. “Oh no, I enjoyed your story very much. You’ve lived such an exciting life. You’re very brave. I wish I could do some of the things you did.”
I secretly smiled. No, I thought to myself, you definitely don’t want to do some of the things I did. Aloud I said, “We better get going. They look like they wanna close up.”
We walked leisurely back towards James’ apartment together, not saying much, just enjoying the night. I found my gaze wandering to James’ profile and I thought he looked rather attractive. I guess he could be my type after all. Pity he was so young though; I preferred them older and totally masterful but while James wasn’t like that at all, I did like what I saw. He was tall and sweet and intelligent and kind. A bit like Robert, only younger.
Strange how my opinion had changed after just one dinner with him.
Half way to the apartment James’ cell phone rang.
“Sorry, excuse me?” he murmured as he looked at the flashing name. “Hello?”
I let him walk a bit ahead so he could have some privacy but I could still hear scraps of his conversation.
“Aha, yeah … um, I understand. Okaaaay. All right. Can I call you tomorrow for the details? Yeah, I’m kinda busy right now? Sorry about that …. Thank you. Bye.”
He looked back at me and smiled but I could see the light was gone from his eyes.
“Everything ok?” I asked casually.
He shrugged. “Yes, fine.”
But I could tell he didn’t really mean it. There was a shadow over his face. Before I could analyze it further, my cell phone rang, startling us and we both giggled a little. It was Stewart, asking where I was and why I wasn’t home yet. I couldn’t say too much in front of James; I didn’t want to sound like a little boy being grilled for breaking curfew.
“I’m on my way back now,” I said softly into my phone, trying to swallow my words.
“Trouble?” James asked when I hung up. “Boyfriend looking for you?”
I flushed. “No.”
“Ah, no worries. I won’t pry.” He laughed a little. “Well, I enjoyed our dinner - and this afternoon as well. We meet next week?”
“Yeah,” I said enthusiastically. “Definitely next week. Oh, and James…”
“Um, do you think … would you like to have dinner again next week after …?” I felt suddenly shy. “I mean, if you don’t have other plans. “
His smile was so wide it split his face. “Yeah, that’ll be cool. I look forward to it. Bye Oliver.”
I picked Evan up at five on Friday evening. “Ready to go?” I asked him.
“Yeah,” he said, with a definite lack of enthusiasm. He threw his bag into the back seat and slid in next to me. “But I still don’t understand why I need to go to Curtis and George. Why can’t I come to you instead?”
“I told you already Evan,” I said soothingly. “Marcus has a friend staying with us and I can’t take you right now. It will be fine. You know George and Curtis.”
“Not as well as I know you!” he pointed out.
“Well, this will be a good opportunity for you to get to know them better then,” I said reasonably.
I heard Evan huff. “But why?” he muttered under his breath. I chose to ignore that.
“Did you make arrangements for the kennels for the whole weekend?” I asked. Curtis and George live on a large estate which is about thirty minutes away on the freeway. “You are not going to be able to rush back if someone forgot a feeding time.”
“Yes, one of my boys will take care of the dogs. I’m on standby though. If he calls in an emergency I will have to go. It’s business so I don’t have a choice, right?”
He was clearly challenging me.
“If anyone calls, you will alert Curtis at once and he will decide what needs to be done. You are not going anywhere unless Curtis gives you permission. Are we clear on that? You are on probation, young man, let me remind you. That means you start over; back to basics. Top Expectations rule number 1 – do you remember what that is?”
He pouted a little but nodded his head.
“What is it?” I prompted. “Tell me.”
“I must trust my Top to know me and to decide what’s best for me and my welfare.”
“Very good!” I said with warm approval. That was a good start. “OK. Now give me a Brat Expectation, any one will do. Whichever comes to mind.”
He paused so long I was afraid he would tell me he couldn’t remember a single one.
Evan’s voice was a whisper when he eventually spoke. “My Top must love and protect me at all times and always keep me safe.”
I looked over at Evan, my heart going out to him. He was looking out the window, biting his lower lip.
“He failed me.”
I reached out and took Evan’s hand, squeezing it for a moment. “Yes. He did. And we can’t change that. But we can do something about it, something to help you deal with this. What you need now is to learn to trust again, and that is the whole purpose of this exercise. Do you understand, Evan?”
“Yeah,” he sounded tired.
I didn’t want to belabor the point. “Good! You are in good hands and you should look forward to a nice relaxing weekend.”
Evan closed his eyes for the rest of the drive, almost certainly to deter me from asking him any more questions. I let him nap. When we arrived I honked twice and George was holding the door open. “Hey guys,” he said waving.
Curtis met us in the foyer of their large home. “Hello Evan,” he greeted the young man kindly. “Hey Stewart, good to see you again and thanks for bringing Evan round.”
“Come on, I’ll show you to your room,” George said, putting a hand on Evan’s back and pushing him towards the stairs. “Let’s get your bag upstairs and unpacked before we eat.”
Evan’s eyes shot to mine, suddenly apprehensive.
“Its OK Evan,” Curtis said before I could respond. “Stewart will be staying for dinner too. You go on up with George and get settled in. George, you will show Evan where everything is, won’t you?”
“Sure,” George said.
“Thanks honey. Come Stewart, let’s go have a drink in the living room.”
I was not surprised but glad that Curtis had been so perceptive and sensitive. He certainly had not lost his touch. He was easy and assertive and at the same time reassuring. Just the right combination to put Evan at ease and I could see him already responding to Curtis’ firm voice.
I followed Curtis to the living room where he poured me a glass of wine.
“Did he come willingly or did you have to chain him to the car?” Curtis asked with a wicked grin.
I laughed. “He’s a sweetie, Curtis. I don’t know how Jeremy could have treated him so ill.”
Curtis did a little twist of his mouth, effectively dismissing the absent Jeremy. “To be fair, we only heard one side of the story.”
“No matter what Evan could have done or behaved and no matter what transpired between them, he had no business disappearing like that. It was simply unthinkable!”
Curtis grunted. “You are right; I won’t dispute that. Listen, I will be laying down some house rules during dinner. I thought that might be less intimidating than doing it after in the study. A bit stuffy that way. He might think we’ve sent him to some military boot camp.”
I chuckled. “Dinner is a good time. Plenty of excuses to look at your food or drink if you need to stall, it will give Evan some room to retreat. I think it’s a good idea to get into it right away and set the rules upfront. The faster he settles back into a Top/Brat dynamics, the sooner he will adjust. But go gently.”
“I intend to.”
“Anything else you need to know?” I asked after taking another sip of the excellent wine.
“No, I’ve gone through his file and I think everything’s pretty much there. Anyway, I prefer to get to know him personally rather than through a bunch of words. I’ll ask if I don’t know.”
George had prepared a lovely meal for us and I complimented him on the dinner.
“George is a fantastic cook,” I informed Evan.
Evan smiled. “This is very good,” he said politely, taking a mouthful and chewing slowly.
“Do you cook, Evan?” Curtis asked conversationally.
“Yes. I like to cook too.”
“Perhaps you can help make some of the meals while you’re here?” George suggested. “I always like to try new things.”
Evan nodded slowly. “Sure. I can do that.”
Curtis nodded at the two Brats. “That is a nice suggestion George. Evan, we want you to feel at home with us. Don’t be a guest, ok?”
Evan blushed and looked down. “I don’t want to be in your way. I’m sorry for intruding like this.”
“Not at all,” Curtis said quickly while George shook his head. “We invited you here, both George and I.”
“Oh yes! absolutely,” George enthused. “We were so afraid you wouldn’t come. By the way, I make a killer lasagna. You like Italian? What’s your favorite?”
Curtis looked approvingly at George. Evan lost some of his discomfort and dinner conversation flowed more easily with minimal awkward silences. Curtis waited till the main meal was almost over and just before dessert was served before he looked directly at Evan and said in a tone which immediately caught Evan’s attention. Evidently Evan’s Brat radar was still alert.
“I would like to tell you what our house rules are, Evan,” Curtis said to his guest.
Evan put down his fork and knife carefully and looked expectantly at Curtis. I thought to myself what an accomplished Brat Evan was. How did it go so wrong for him?
“First of all, I want to reiterate that both George and I are glad you agreed to come to us. Thank you.”
Evan blushed and glanced at me and then down at his plate.
Curtis continued. “I am sure the house rules I have won’t be very much different from what most other households in our lifestyle have so you needn’t to be overly anxious. You can ask questions any time if you don’t understand … or disagree even … and we will work it out. Does that sound all right to you?”
Evan nodded. So far, nothing frightening. In fact Curtis was skillfully giving Evan the comfort of some semblance of control in the whole experience, which was something he sorely needed. He could ask if he did not agree. There would be no force. No intimidation or bullying. That was a good way for any power exchange relationship to start – gradually, with the Brat willingly giving up control in a controlled way. But before he could even do that, he first needed to know that he had the control and the option to give it away.
“All the usual courtesies will be observed of course, like telling me if you will be late coming in, or if an emergency arises while you are here and you need to leave the house.”
“I thought I had to stay in the whole weekend?” Evan looked hopeful. “You mean I can go out on my own during the weekend?”
“No,” corrected Curtis quietly. “I meant if you were going to be late coming here on Friday. I expect you here no later than six thirty every Friday and then you don’t leave till Sunday evening.”
“Manners - I insist on it. There will be no cursing or shouting. We will discuss any matters civilly. No lying and you should already know the definition of lying so I won’t have to elaborate. Be respectful.”
Evan kept his eyes respectfully on Curtis and nodded with each rule.
“I will also want to spend at least an hour with you every day that you are here. During this hour I will ask you questions and I expect to get an honest response. I do not want to play twenty questions before I get a straight answer, Evan. This time is for us to share our thoughts and feelings openly. Is that clear?”
Evan swallowed and bit his lip. “Yes,” he whispered.
“Good,” Curtis said cheerfully. “That’s all I have for now. New rules may be introduced as we go along, depending on the situation. But I don’t want you to worry about anything Evan, so don’t look so glum and do stop chewing your lip, young man.”
Evan flushed and released his lower lip.
“Any questions for me Evan? Anything you would like clarified so far?” Curtis waited.
Evan looked undecided for a moment but then shook his head and let his eyes drop. “No, I have no questions.”
Curtis looked at me questioningly.
“Evan,” I said, “Is there something else you want to ask Curtis, but would prefer to do that in private?”
Evan’s eyelashes fluttered and he looked up at me. “Yeah, can I? Can I do that in private?”
“Of course you can,” Curtis replied easily. He turned to George. “George, what’s for dessert? Will you bring it in dear?”
I stood up as well. “Let me help you, George. We might as well get the coffee too.”
George led the way into the kitchen. “You are too smooth Stewart,” he said with a snort. “So what do you think is on Evan’s mind?”
“Well, my guess is he probably wants to know what will happen if he broke any of those rules. Curtis was clear about everything except consequences.”
“Yeah, I thought that too.” George puffed out his cheeks. “Can’t say I envy the poor boy. I feel sorry for him after what he’s been through. This is a damn bloody uncomfortable situation for him, for anyone!”
“George,” I murmured softly, “Does Curtis have a different set of rules for you?”
He was totally unrepentant. “No!” he grinned mischievously. “I don’t cuss around him, unless I am really mad, but he’s not here and you won’t tell.”
I shook my head at him. “Ah, don’t be too sure …” but he knew he got me.
We prepared the coffee and placed the cups on a tray and George went to the fridge and took out a nice platter of cut fruits and some jelly in individual cups.
“We have to eat healthy,” he explained brightly. “Cholesterol is up, metabolic rate is down. Life’s a yo-yo once you hit your fifties! Do you think they’re done yet?”
“I think so. Curtis won’t want to spook him with too many gory details, I’m sure.” I grinned at George who promptly made a face.
Curtis was discussing dog breeding with Evan when we entered the dining room. How clever of him! Evan looked up at me, a little pale but otherwise steady. He gave me the smallest of nods to indicate he was all right. After dinner, George and Evan tackled the washing up while Curtis walked me to my car. I had a thirty minute drive home and I didn’t want to dally.
“So - did he want to know how he will be disciplined if he broke any of your rules?” I asked Curtis.
“Yes he did. And I told him I would not do anything if I was unsure he could take it. In fact I gave him my word. It appears our friend Jeremy had on a few occasions paddled him more than once for some transgression.”
I frowned. “What do you mean? He got several paddlings for the one thing that he did?”
“Yes, after an interval and over a short period of time. Like he would get paddled first, then he was put in a corner, and twenty minutes later he would get a second paddling.”
I felt my breath rush out from my lungs. “He didn’t tell me that before!”
Curtis patted my back. “Let me work with him Stewart. That’s what these weekends are for, isn’t it? I think we got off to a good start today.”
“Yeah, you are right, on both counts.”
“He’s very amenable and pleasing and I believe he’s not broken. Not yet anyway. Good thing we got to him in time.”
Sex with James was getting better. We took our time today. And we kissed. I mean we kissed for real. He even put his tongue in my mouth and I did in his too. I could feel his excitement when we did that. We were both naked on his bed. That was the first time I had gone into his bedroom. In the past we had always done it in the living room.
He had brought me off with his fingers inside me like before but I wished he would do more. I really wanted to feel his cock inside me.
“Do you mind if I smoke in here?” I asked, already reaching for my pack.
He shrugged. “OK. But there’s no ash tray and … here, use this instead.” He passed me the empty mug we had used for coffee earlier.
I leaned back against the bedhead and took a long puff. The smoke filled my lungs, making me light headed. James stared at me.
“Feel good?” he asked.
“Oh yeah, real good.”
I took another puff and slowly let the smoke out, looking at James with hooded eyes. “Know what else will feel real good?”
“Your cock inside me.”
James’ eyes flew open. His jaw slackened.
“Have you ever?” I studied his face closely.
He slowly shook his head. “Nooo … have you?”
“Yeah, a few times, but mostly the other way round. I prefer to bottom.”
“Actually me too,” James admitted, biting his lower lip as if deep in thought. Then he sat up and looked at me with a shy smile. “I don’t mind experimenting though … if you want.”
I grinned and inhaled my last puff. Then I ground it out in the mug. “I want! Do you have condoms?”
He went into the bathroom and I could hear him rummaging about. Finally came a muffled shout of “Yes!” and then James appeared at the doorway, waving a packet triumphantly in his hand.
He crawled back into bed and we started to kiss and it didn’t take long for both of us to be hard again. In fact I had probably been half erect the minute James said he wanted to experiment. I leaned back on the mattress, puling James on top of me. I let my legs fall apart and shifted so that James was in between them. He was a bit awkward in that position but I reassured him that felt right.
James tore open the condom packet and I handed him the lube. I waited while he got ready and I welcomed the feel of his hard cock in between my butt cheeks. When I felt the pressure at the entry point, I lifted my butt and closed my eyes.
“Slowly James, that’s right just push it in, a bit at a time.”
“It seems impossible …” he panted a little.
“Oh yeah …” I let out a long groan which must have encouraged him to push harder.
“Are you all right?” he asked, stopping.
“Yes!” I hissed. “Go on!”
I moaned as I felt my muscle ring relax and then he was sliding smoothly all the way inside of me, so much better than what his fingers could have done. He didn’t need much guidance after that. I gasped and groaned as he began to pump into me, going faster and harder as his own climax mounted. He cried out loudly when he came inside me. I held him with one hand, while I jerked myself off with the other. Then he slipped out and we both fell back on the bed, breathing hard.
“You’re a great lover, Oliver,” he whispered. “You amaze me with what you know.”
I didn’t think I should tell him how I gained my experience so I said instead, “We could try other things … perhaps we switch next time?”
“OK!” he said enthusiastically. “I would like that!”
I heard my stomach growl. “I’m starving! So are we still on for dinner tonight? Chinese again?”
“No.” James grinned. “Tonight I will cook dinner for us instead. I am making grilled lamb chops with mint jelly. I hope you like lamb.”
“Yeah, I eat anything.” I couldn’t afford to be choosy so luckily I wasn’t picky about food. “Need help?”
We ended up in the kitchen making dinner, which we brought out to the living room and ate in front of the TV. James put on his robe with nothing on underneath and I pulled on one of James’ larger t-shirts with just my briefs. I thought we looked like one of those old established couples, preparing dinner together in our own home after a session of hot sex, and then relaxing in front of the TV. It was such a novel feeling; I’d never done that before. That’s what Stewart and Marcus did a lot though. Well, the relaxing in front to the TV part. I wouldn’t know about their hot sex, although I suspected they had that quite often as well.
“Do you like it?” James inquired after I had cut a piece of lamb and taken a bite.
“Yum! Its fantastic!” I ate with relish. It was really good. “Didn’t know you could cook so well.”
“It’s not hard. You just have to find the right marinade for the meat and refrigerate overnight. No big deal. I go for the easy to make but tastes great recipes.” He ate with gusto and then said with his mouth full. “Y’know … I haven’t eaten like this in ages. I lost more than ten pounds in the last few months.”
“You’re skinny,” I said, and reached out to touch his ribs. “Why did you lose so much weight? Were you on a diet?”
He shrugged carelessly. “Nah, just lost my appetite. Nothing tasted good.”
I suspected he was not telling me everything. “Well this is good, very good. You should cook more often.”
“I used to cook quite a bit but not lately.”
“Well, you can cook any time for me baby!” I grinned at him and James smiled. We ate and watched TV, occasionally glancing at one another. It felt nice, comfortable.
Secretly I wondered about James. He wasn’t a blabber but he was giving out hints. It would appear something had happened lately in James’ life. My best guess was a bad break-up and I had a good remedy for that.
“You need to get out more. I know we only meet on Wednesday s after class. How about getting together this weekend? We can go catch a movie? Or dancing? Try out the moves we learnt?”
James heaved a sigh. “I … can’t.”
“OK, no problem.”
“No, no, Oliver, it’s not because I don’t want to. I do. I would like to catch up with you this weekend and go for a movie perhaps, but I’m sorta … um, committed elsewhere.”
I looked at him coolly. Perhaps the break-up was not yet clean, and he had unsettled issues. “It’s ok.”
“You’re mad now.”
“No, I’m not.” But I was a little miffed. I hated feeling like a spare tyre. Was I good only for Wednesday?
“I’m sorry.” James looked so cute contrite that I melted a bit.
“Hey, I said I’m not mad, so there’s nothing to be sorry about. We can make it another weekend I suppose?”
He looked even guiltier. “I … um … I can’t! I mean I am committed elsewhere every weekend.”
What kind of a commitment was that? “Huh?” I said out loud. “Every weekend?”
He grimaced and shrank back a little. “I – its hard to explain.”
“You don’t have to explain,” I said, but my voice came out much more crossly than I intended. Why so mysterious and what the hell was he doing every weekend that was so hard to explain? We finished the rest of our meal in silence. I offered to help him wash up but he declined.
“No, I’ll do it later. It’s not much.”
“OK,” I said, looking around for my clothes. I began to get dressed. “I’ll see you next Wednesday then.”
James blocked my path. “You still sound mad. Please don’t leave angry! It has been so nice today, what we did. Cooking and having dinner together. Honestly, if I could I would like to spend more time with you.”
“James, you don’t owe me an explanation. We’re not together or anything. We just have sex once a week. You can do whatever you like whenever you like.”
“Don’t say that!”
“What?” I snapped even though I knew exactly what he meant.
“That we just have sex.” His voice was very small.
“But we do,” I pointed out coldly. “And that’s fine. That’s what we agreed.”
“We do more than just have sex!”
“Well … yeah, lately,” I conceded. “I guess I should thank you for dinner.”
“You are angry, I can hear it in your voice!” he said, reaching out for me. He pulled me to him and I found he was actually quite strong, even though he was so lean. “I don’t want you to go away mad at me. Please give me a bit of time to sort things out? Please?”
I looked at him, horrified. A tear was rolling down one cheek.
“Hey … take it easy man …” I said, instinctively putting my arms around James’ body. He leaned against me heavily and I heard him sob once. Something was going on for sure.
“I’m sorry,” James sniffed as he pulled away. He ran a hand over his eyes, looking embarrassed. “Don’t know what got over me. So stupid. I’m sorry Oliver.”
I looked at him with concern. “What’s wrong?”
He shook his head slowly. “I just ended a long-term relationship and I … am still dealing with it.”
I looked down at my feet, feeling suddenly lousy. But that didn’t leave me with anything and neither did it explain the weekends.
“Looks like you are still not over it, James.”
“No! You don’t understand … I am SO over it. Really, it’s just not what you think.”
I wanted to roll my eyes. Then TELL ME, I was screaming inside. Instead I said out loud, “You meet him over the weekends don’t you? To try to make it work? Is that what this is all about?”
James’ eyes flew to my face. “What? No! He’s gone! I’m not stringing you along – God, no. I really enjoy our time together.”
I waited. He didn’t elaborate further so I shrugged. Not my business to pry. “Well, I should get going. It’s getting late.”
“Don’t you believe me Oliver?”
I hesitated. “I – honestly don’t know.”
He nodded. “Well, at least you are frank.” He gave a shaky laugh. “Look, I am in some kind of fix right now that has nothing to do with us. I am fixing things in my life right now and when that is done …”
“What happens then?” I asked.
“When that is done, I would like to have a chance to get to know you better.”
I smiled. “OK.”
“See you in a week, James.”
He walked me to the door. Just before I left, he leaned over and kissed me, like a boyfriend would.
Curtis’ voice was exasperated. “He’s not here and I can’t get him on his cell.”
“Evan?” I asked even though I was sure. I looked at my watch; it was almost seven. “Let me try to reach him; maybe he got caught in traffic.”
“He was supposed to call if he was going to be late.”
“I know. Maybe something happened? An emergency at the kennels?” I knew I was grasping at straws.
“Hmm. Do you think something happened?”
“I don’t know, I hope not. I mean I hope it wasn’t anything bad. Listen, just stay put; I will call you back in a minute.”
Curtis grunted and hung up. I called Evan’s cell first, then his apartment, then his office. His cell was off, the apartment was engaged and there was no response from the office. I called back Curtis.
“I can’t get him either so I am going to drive over to his place.”
“OK,” Curtis said sounding concerned. “I’ll continue to try to reach him although I have a feeling he is not answering on purpose. If I get through I’ll let you know.”
I sighed. “Thanks Curtis. I’ll keep you posted too.”
I had been on my way home when Curtis called. With another sigh, I turned the car around and headed in the opposite direction. Since it was Friday night, Philip and I had made plans to take Ben, Marcus and Oliver out for dinner and I was hoping I would still be able to make it. We hadn’t had a night out in a long while and we were supposed to have a nice dinner and then go somewhere swanky for a drink. I put my hands free on and called Philip and gave him a run down on the latest.
“Damn!” Philip rarely cursed so he must have been really cross. “Did we misjudge again? Another mistake?”
“Let’s not jump to any conclusions yet, Philip,” I said. “There could be a logical explanation.” I didn’t sound very convincing.
“Fine. Do you want me to cancel dinner plans?” asked Philip.
“No, no, I am still trying to make it back in time.”
“All right. Ben and I will go over to wait at your place to save time. Reservation’s at eight, I think I can hold the table till eight thirty.” Philip said.
“I’ll call you once I know the situation,” I promised. “Don’t say anything to the boys yet.”
“OK, I’ll handle things at this end. You go find Evan and if he’s unhurt, please wring his neck for me!”
I grinned; I could always count on Philip to make things better.
I arrived at Evan’s apartment fifteen minutes later. I immediately saw his car in the parking lot and felt slightly relieved. Ignoring the elevator, I took the steps two at a time. He was five floors up but I needed the exercise to work off my adrenalin surge. I paused for breath before I knocked on his door.
There was no response.
“Evan?” I knocked again.
Silence. I took a deep breath before I rapped my knuckles on the door, louder this time. “Open up Evan.”
I heard a soft scuffle, and I sagged with relief. I ordered sharply, “NOW!”
A moment later I heard the chain slide but the door remained closed. I turned the knob and pushed it open and let myself in.
The lights were not on and he was standing in the shadows. I closed the door softly and peered at him. “Are you ok?”
He was looking down at the floor, his mouth pressed shut in a stubborn line. He didn’t speak and refused to look at me. I went over and held out a hand. Immediately he shied away, as if afraid of my touch.
“Hey, it’s ok,” I said softly. “Can I switch on the lights Evan?”
He sort of shrugged and then turned and went to sit on the edge of the sofa, eyes still down. I flicked on a light switch and looked around. The phone was off the hook so I flipped it back into the cradle. Everything else looked fine, no mess, no disorder of any kind. Next to the door was a pair of sneakers and a bag, all packed and ready. Obviously he had been planning on going to Curtis’ place. What had happened to change that course of action I had no idea, but I was going to find out.
A quick glance told me that Evan was brooding but privately so I quickly took out my cell and dialed Curtis.
“I found him, he’s fine,” I said. “Yeah, I’ll call you back later.”
After I hung up I went over and sat down on the coffee table, facing Evan. I didn’t say anything - just sat there looking at him. After a while he shifted, turning his face away deliberately. I could see him withdrawing inside himself.
“Hey,” I said, “look at me Evan.”
He shook his head.
I reached over and tapped his knee. He flinched.
“Evan, I said firmly, “look at me. Please.”
I saw him swallow. He still refused to look at me but he murmured, “I’m not going.”
“Can you tell me why?”
“I am not a child! I am perfectly able to take care of myself. I have been doing it alone for the last few months and I don’t need any one …” he broke off and swiped at his eyes.
“I have to disagree, honey. I think you do need someone, and this is non-negotiable.”
“Fuck no! I tried it last weekend and it doesn’t work for me. I don’t want to do it again this weekend. Or ever.”
I reached out and smacked the side of his thigh. “Watch it young man!”
He flushed but looked unrepentant. That wasn’t Evan at all; he did not talk or behave like that and it was an obvious manifestation of both his resistance and desire to be taken in hand at the same time. He hadn’t had a Top to keep him in line for months and I suspected he needed to test the waters all over again.
“It’s not helping me, this weekend thing,” he said in a milder tone.
“That’s not our agreement Evan,” I said sternly. “We talked about what you need and you promised to do it our way. Every weekend till we say it’s over.”
“Well, I changed my mind!” he growled, getting annoyed.
I stood firm. “No Evan, it does not work this way. I’m sorry but you don’t get to change your mind like this. I know you’re probably angry and confused about a lot of things. Maybe last weekend spooked you, reminded you of rules and how our Code works and having to learn the ropes again. It will get better, I promise. I’m sorry we didn’t get to you sooner but we are here now and we are going to make this right.”
“No,” he shouted. “I wish you would just leave me alone!”
“That’s not going to happen. And you know it. You are not alone! Philip and I made you a promise, didn’t we? Remember what we said? That we would see you through this. Curtis and George are eager to help as well. Now you’ve got to do your part.”
“I don’t remember and I don’t care!” Evan got up suddenly, trying to move away from me. “I am not listening any more; I am going to unpack!” He could be so very obstinate.
“Oh no, you are not!” I said, grabbing his wrist and pulling him back. “Stay here, we are not done talking.”
“We’re done!” He spat and tugged at my hand, trying to loosen my grasp.
“Evan,” I said warningly. “Stop!”
He looked down at me, his mouth mulish but I could see the beginning of tears in his eyes. His other hand came up and began to pry my fingers loose in a desperate and awkward manner. Not wanting the situation to get out of hand, I made a quick decision. I stood up and changed seats, sitting down on the sofa instead, still holding Evan’s hands in mine.
“Let’s do this the hard way then,” I said and yanked Evan over my lap. Immediately he stilled.
I stopped all movement and let Evan settle. I heard a soft groan and then his head dropped onto the sofa even as his hands grabbed a cushion and pulled it close.
“Your behavior is totally unacceptable and you are going to get spanked,” I said clearly.
A little sob escaped. I waited a few seconds and when there was nothing more I reached down under him so I could undo his jeans. I was going to spank him with my bare hands and I needed his jeans off. He didn’t protest, but he quickly buried his face into the cushion at my words. When I began to tug the jeans down his slim hips, he shifted automatically. I pulled the elastic of his boxers down to mid-thighs, exposing just his butt. I heard his breath catch.
Holding Evan firmly around his waist, I began to spank him. The first swat left a clear handprint on his very white right cheek. The second on his left. I alternated my spanks between both cheeks, watching his skin slowly turn pink. Underneath my hands, he was squirming and gasping but I did not sense any real distress. Which was important. I had never spanked him before and had no idea how he would react.
Evan began to cry quietly, jerking with each swat. His jeans got kicked off halfway through. When I aimed lower at the underside of his butt, he jumped and squeaked. So that was his weak spot. I delivered the last six spanks right there, which left him clenching and unclenching his buttocks and panting loudly.
“Are you going to behave yourself now, Evan?”
“Yes! S-sorry!” he cried softly. “I didn’t mean to …”
“I know sweetheart.”
He cried even harder.
“Shh. It’s all right, it’s over now,” I said, leaning down to plant a kiss on his head. I pulled his boxers up and let him slide slowly to the floor.
He started to move away at once but I caught him and held him close. “No, stay right here. Don’t move.”
I pulled him off his knees and got him to sit down next to me on the sofa, holding him close. He was too tall to sit on my lap comfortably and we didn’t know one another’s body well enough to tangle easily. But I leaned back and made him curl up on his side and lean against me, his upper body almost over my lap. I held him as he cried into my stomach.
I stroked his hair and I felt him shiver. His arms snaked around my waist and held me tightly. How long had he not had this kind of release and how long had he been without this kind of physical comfort I wondered? He was so strong to have held out for such a long time but it was time for him to let go.
I felt him falling asleep on my lap and I gently shook him. “Evan, don’t fall asleep. We still need to finish this.”
“What?” He struggled to sit up, looking confused and a little frightened. “But you spanked me already.”
“Yes I did.”
“So aren’t we done?” he sounded a little panicked.
“I am not saying you are going to be spanked again. God, that wasn’t what I meant!” I wiped a tear off his cheek.
“So we’re done?”
“No, we are not done. At least you’re not done with Curtis. You were supposed to be there …. like …” I glanced at the clock on the shelf, “two hours ago?”
It was eight o’clock! Shit, that meant I would miss dinner. I needed to call Philip.
“Do I still have to go to Curtis tonight?” Evan asked, sounding quite pathetic.
I looked at him. He was in no shape to drive or be left alone.
“Go wash your face Evan, while I make a couple of quick calls, ok?”
Evan nodded and obediently disappeared into his bedroom, all docile and meek. I called Philip.
“Sorry!” I said. “I found him and had to settle him. He got spooked I think. Throwing a nice quiet tantrum all by himself.”
“I guessed,” Philip said with a sigh. “Is he ok now?”
“Yes, but I had to spank him.”
“Ouch! How’d he take it?”
“Very well. I think that was what he needed but he didn’t know how to ask. It settled him. Sweet as a lamb now.” I grinned.
“That’s good. But I’ve got two and a half Brats on my hands right now … and they are getting noisier by the minute so what’s the plan? If we leave right away we can still make our reservation.”
“I’m afraid I can’t. Evan’s in no shape to be on his own right now. He’s calm but still too shaken up.”
Philip said at once, “OK. Not a problem. We can cancel dinner. I will handle our boys.”
“I have a better idea,” I said. “I would like the four of you to go ahead without me. I am thinking I will need to bring Evan back to the house tonight and its best if there’s no one around. I can’t let him stay here alone, and I don’t want him to drive to Curtis’ either. And I most definitely prefer to sleep in my own bed tonight so I don’t plan on staying here.”
“Are you sure about dinner? I could stay back and help …”
I cut in. “No, let’s not crowd him. That’s why I want the house clear when we come back. So if you can get Marcus and Oliver out, I would appreciate that.”
“You got it. We’ll keep the dinner reservation but we will skip the after drinks.”
“OK, sounds good. Evan and I still need to talk about a whole bunch of things so take your time. Thanks Philip.”
When Evan came back out, his face was washed and his hair slightly damp on the front. He looked at me directly this time and his eyes were large and trusting. I pulled him in for a quick hug and planted a comforting kiss on his forehead.
“Feel better, honey?”
“Yeah,” he said with a shy smile. “I’m ok now. I think I just panicked, I’m sorry. Um … Stewart, can I not go to Curtis’ tonight?”
“I have no intention of making you drive there tonight all on your own.”
Evan sighed with relief. “Thank God for that! I really don’t feel up to it. So … are you leaving now Stewart?”
“No Evan. I’m not leaving you alone tonight, OK? Here’s what we’re going to do. I am taking you home with me and I’ll fix us a little dinner and then we are going to talk about this.”
He hung back. “You said your house is full …”
“Don’t worry; everyone’s gone out for dinner so we’ll be quite alone. Come on now, let’s go. You must be hungry and I’m starving!”
Evan followed me blindly. I picked up his bag and told him to put on his sneakers. Then we headed out to my car. We would have to work out the logistics tomorrow. When we arrived home the house was empty but the downstairs lights were left on. Evan looked around cautiously and was obviously afraid of meeting anyone. I took him upstairs and showed him into the last spare room I had – Oliver was occupying the other spare.
“Just leave your bag there Evan, and don’t bother to unpack now. I’m going to change out of these - won’t be a minute – and then we’ll go down to the kitchen and find some food. OK?”
Together we found bread from the pantry and I retrieved some sliced meat and a packet of cheese from the fridge. Evan sliced tomatoes and cucumbers and we made thick sandwiches which we ate at the kitchen table, washed down with cold lemonade. Evan finished his without any difficulty.
“Did you eat any lunch?” I asked.
He shook his head with a guilty smile. “Not really. I had a ton of things to settle at the kennels and didn’t have time.”
“Hmm.” I needed to tell Curtis about his eating habits as well. “So what time did you leave the kennels?”
“Um, about four.” He looked wary.
“Four? You went straight home?”
“OK. Had you packed the night before or did you pack then?”
“No, I went home and packed just now.” Evan looked a bit surprised about my questions but he didn’t say anything, just stared unhappily at his empty plate.
“What happened to make you change your mind?”
I looked in the fruit bowl and tossed him an apple. “OK, I’m going to let you think about the answer for a while. Go eat that in the living room and I’ll be with you shortly. You better be ready to talk when I come out.”
I heard the crispy crunch of the apple as Evan shuffled away. When he was out of hearing, I called Curtis from the kitchen phone to let him know Evan was with me and that I would only send him over the next morning. I then made two cups of tea and brought them out to Evan. The apple was gone by the time I joined him on the sofa.
“Tea,” I said, holding a mug out to Evan.
“Can I have a coke instead?”
“Nope, you don’t need more sugar. The tea will calm you.”
“I am calm.” He huffed quietly but he took the mug.
“Ready to talk?” I asked, settling down on the other end of the sofa.
“Do I have a choice?” he threw that back at me.
I chuckled. “You’re absolutely right, you don’t. I’m waiting.”
He gave me a half defiant stare and mumbled, “I just didn’t want to go.”
“Why? Right up to four o’clock this afternoon, you were still going. What happened in the last few hours to make you change your mind?”
“I was tired. I got tired just thinking of the drive out.”
“Are you not feeling well?”
“What time did you go to bed last night?”
“Ten thirty. Curtis’ curfew.”
“Sensible! I don’t understand why you should get tired at four o’clock on a Friday afternoon then. You should be gearing up for the weekend!”
Evan glared fiercely at the carpet. “Yeah right! Gearing for what weekend? I work hard all week. I deserve to have some fun and time to myself.”
“What - Curtis made you scrub the floor at his house last weekend? George asked you to clean the pool?”
Evan scowled at me. “No! I just wanted a relaxing weekend! Is that wrong?”
“I didn’t say that is wrong. So why can’t you relax at Curtis’? They’ve got gorgeous grounds. A pool. Lots of room.”
“He wants to talk all the time.”
“One hour a day Evan. That’s not all the time.”
“One hour where he gets all intense. That feels like all the time to me!” Evan argued. “And it’s damn bloody boring out there.”
I let the cussing go for the moment. I had more pressing matters on my hands. “Nope, that’s not good enough. Something does not add up. You agreed to do this and you knew what to expect. I know you are not one to give up so easily. You wouldn’t change your mind on a whim like this. So what’s the real reason? What happened to change your mind?”
I was pushing Evan pretty hard and he was starting to look harried.
“I had plans this weekend!” he blurted out, almost angrily.
“What kind of plans?”
“I wanted to go out, all right? Am I not allowed to have a life? Do I have to ask permission for a fucking date?”
I pinned him with a look. “Excuse me – what did you say? Care to rephrase that?”
He challenged me for a moment and then dropped his eyes. “I had a date.”
I managed to hide my surprise and the grin as well. A date? Well, that was promising. But first I had to take care of something. I kept my voice stern. “One more cuss and you’re getting another spanking, do you hear me?”
I wasn’t all that particular about language really. It was such a low evil compared to lying and manipulating that I let it go if I could. But with Evan I was taking no chances. As far as I knew, he had always been a well-mannered young man and rarely used foul language. Acting out like this was a sure sign – a call for attention. That was his way of saying he needed to be set straight.
I wanted to get back to the date. “You said you’ve got a date this weekend?” I said with a straight face.
His eyes were fixed on mine. “Yes. Is that a problem?”
I was a bit surprised at his question. “Of course that is not a problem. Why would you think that?”
“I don’t know. Nothing seems right these days. Nothing I do is right. I don’t know if this is allowed … I mean since I am under probation and I have to be supervised. Maybe you guys think I suck at relationships and I’m not allowed to start one …”
“Evan, Evan …“ I stopped him. “Stop. Listen to yourself.”
He flushed. “I’m sorry. I’m just edgy.”
“About this date thing? Are you nervous about it?”
He shrugged. “I guess. I didn’t mean for it to develop into anything serious, and it may not come to anything …”
“I’m very glad actually.”
“What? That I have a date or that it may not work out?”
I rolled my eyes. “Evan, what’s wrong with you?” I scolded him.
He covered his face with his hands, hiding behind his palms. His voice came out muffled. “I don’t know. I have so many stupid thoughts. It’s worse than a first date.”
I reached out and squeezed his neck comfortingly. “Take it slow. It’s only natural, all these insecurities. You’ve gone through a rough time. Go easy on yourself and cut yourself some slack.”
Evan lowered his hands. “I kinda got mad today.”
Aha! We were finally getting somewhere. I waited.
“I mean we wanted to go to the movies but I can’t because of my weekend punishment,” he said bitterly. “And that made me angry. I felt it was so unfair.”
That was Evan’s first real communication with me. I had got through to him somehow.
I said, “First of all, this is not a punishment; you know the purpose of this program. You need to get back into the structure of our lifestyle, Evan. You had no problem with it when we discussed it earlier, right? In fact you agreed it would be good for you. Did it become a problem only after you met this person? Because you couldn’t make plans with him for the weekend?”
“Yeah … kinda. Think about it, it’s not just this weekend but every weekend, until I don’t know when! Even you don’t know when, do you?”
That was tough. Not being able to be together especially when you were young and eager and everything was fresh and starting out. I hadn’t forgotten what it was like. Plus Evan worked long hours so I guessed he didn’t have a lot of spare time during the week. Well, there was no easy solution so instead of harping on it, I asked instead, “So this date … is it anyone we know?”
“How long have you known him?”
Hmm. He wasn’t going to make this easy.
“Where did you meet?”
“Stewart!” Evan complained. “You’re not my dad! You are not supposed to interrogate me about stuff like this!”
“No kidding! I was under the impression I could ask you anything!” I grinned at him. “Hey, don’t glower at me, I was only teasing. I am really happy you are going out and dating. It’s a good sign.”
“Can we not talk about this any more? I am really tired.”
Dinner was rather flat without Stewart. We admired the fine restaurant and chewed over the elegant menu (the descriptions alone made my mouth water) but there was a damper on the evening, especially when we learnt that it would be cut short. We would have dinner and then go home. Damn!
Marcus in particular was in a cranky mood throughout dinner and I didn’t blame him. I too hated plans spoiled at the last minute – but I had learnt to keep my disappointments to myself and not let it show. What good would it have done in me? I had seldom been consulted on plans anyway. Jump Oliver, and I usually asked ‘how high?’
Philip kept up a cheerful front, making light dinner conversation, telling jokes and getting everyone involved in the evening. Marcus’ sullenness earned him a few funny looks from Philip. Ben was sweet and he support Philip’s efforts admirably but it was apparent Marcus was sulking. I recognized all the signs. At one point, Philip told Marcus he wanted a word with him in private and they left the table. I had stayed around these people long enough to know that Marcus had made Philip mad and he was probably going to get told off – only Philip didn’t want to do it in front of Ben and me.
When Marcus reluctantly got up and went off with Philip towards the washroom I slid closer to Ben. “Hey. Can I ask you something?”
“Is Philip allowed to discipline Marcus?”
Ben hesitated before answering. “Well, yeah, he is.”
“Won’t Stewart mind?”
“No, he would do the same if it was me.” Ben flushed as he said that. “We have this understanding between us. It’s a bit hard to explain.”
I shrugged. They were all so secretive. And they were forever going for meetings. Did they belong to some secret cult, I wondered.
Ben looked so troubled that I said, “It’s ok if you can’t tell me.” He looked even guiltier after that.
Luckily Philip came back to the table then, followed by Marcus. Marcus was still pouting but he made an effort to appear more interested and courteous. We finished our excellent dinner with little conversation – and then Philip ordered coffee for everyone. By then he too seemed pre-occupied.
“I prefer a tequila actually, which is what we would be having right about now if Stewart hadn’t bailed out,” Marcus mumbled crossly.
“You’re having coffee like the rest of us.” Philip frowned at Marcus.
“Not if Stewart was here!” Marcus shot back.
“You know he would have come if he had a choice.”
“Some choice! You know what I am mad about Philip? I am always lowest in priority,” Marcus retorted. “Everyone’s more important than me.”
“That’s not true Marcus,” Ben said immediately. I had worked it out that Ben was the peace-keeper; he always tried to smooth things over and find something good about every situation. I liked Ben although he could be blissfully unaware of things sometimes.
“Of course it’s not, and Marcus knows it,” Philip said with a tight smile. “He is just grouchy tonight.”
“And why shouldn’t I be? Someone calls and he takes off. A Brat is in trouble and he has to go take care of it. Never mind he already had plans. It’s supposed to be our night out and where is he?”
“Marcus, do you really want to go down this road?” Philip asked, and we all kind of sat straighter in our chairs at the tone. I saw Marcus squirm. There was something in the way Philip spoke that gave me a little chill. They could all do it. Philip, Stewart, Aimes. Even Robert occasionally.
No one answered. And then I heard myself asking. “Where is Stewart?”
I was quite horrified that I had spoken but I guess I wanted to break the tense atmosphere, plus I also really wanted to know what kept Stewart away and no one had told me. I didn’t think I should be in trouble for asking.
“One of our friends needed a hand and Stewart went to help out,” Philip replied shortly with a quick, piercing look at Marcus. “I am sure Stewart regrets not being able to join us but I would like to think he is able to put the welfare of a friend ahead an evening of fun and enjoyment.”
Marcus caught the look and heaved a sigh. His shoulders sagged. “I am sorry. Don’t mean to spoil anyone’s evening … I am just disappointed because it happens so often …”
Philip reached over and rubbed Marcus’ back. “It’s ok Marcus. I understand and you didn’t spoil anyone’s evening. I hope you guys had a good dinner?”
We all murmured our assent and Philip signaled the waiter over. “Stewart’s probably home by now, and I think we should get going too. We’ll plan another night out soon, to make up.”
Once the bill was paid, we headed home. The lights were on in the living room and Stewart’s car was parked in front of the garage.
“Stewart’s back. Are you guys coming in?” Marcus asked.
Philip killed the engine. “Yes, we are. Come Ben.”
Stewart was sitting on the sofa in the living room. The TV was on but the volume was turned down so low it hardly made any noise. Stewart turned his head slightly when he heard us coming in and waved a hand at us but did not get up. We all began to troop into the room when I noticed another head leaning on Stewart’s shoulders.
Quickly I stole a look at Marcus but he didn’t seem to react. I was thinking Marcus and the others couldn’t have missed it - the fair head leaning on Stewart definitely belonged to another man. Was Marcus ok with that? I was no prude but I didn’t think Marcus would take too kindly to Stewart snuggling with someone else after skipping out on dinner. That must be the ‘friend’ who needed help, but did that mean he could go to sleep on Stewart’s shoulder?
I lingered behind the rest as they moved into the living room. Stewart held out a hand to Marcus and pulled him down for a kiss.
“Had a good time honey?” Stewart whispered.
“Yeah, no, not really,” Marcus grimaced with hardly a glance at the fair head.
Philip passed Marcus as he straightened up and delivered a playful smack on Marcus’ behind. “And whose fault is that?”
“Philip, thanks for taking them! Hey Ben,” Stewart grinned and greeted in a low voice.
The head on Stewart’s shoulder began to stir with all the movement and talking. It straightened up and I saw a hand come up to rub his eyes, as if he had just woken. From behind, I saw the fair head turn and something in the way it moved caught my eye.
“Hi Evan,” Philip said, stopping in front of him and looking down, his face concerned.
“Hey Evan, you ok?” Ben asked gently. “You look tired.”
“Yeah, I am.”
I froze, my shoulders tightening. That voice. I knew that voice. My mind went blank for a split second, and then it hit me.
“James?” I mouthed. No one heard me.
“Hi Marcus,” James said, offering me a clear sight of his profile. “Sorry I took Stewart away and spoilt your dinner party.”
“It’s ok Evan, no worries.”
There was no mistaking it. It was James all right; only thing was everyone kept calling him Evan.
And then Stewart noticed me standing there all by myself, stock-still. Probably looking quite stupid with my mouth hanging open. “What are you doing over there? Come on in and meet Evan.”
James twisted his body around and I saw his eyes searching me out; he most likely hadn’t realized there was someone else in the house. When he saw me, he stopped and the mild inquiry in his eyes turned to shock. They flew wide open. His jaw dropped. “Oliver?”
I stepped closer, staring back at him. “James?”
Suddenly the room was silent as four pairs of eyes watched us.
James scrambled up and stammered. “W-what are you doing here?” He looked over at Stewart. “How the hell did you know where to find him?”
I had no idea what James was talking about. Was Stewart supposed to go look for me?
Stewart lifted an eyebrow. “I didn’t find him. He lives here. This is Oliver, our house-guest. But I suppose you already know who he is?”
Stewart was looking partly bewildered and partly amused.
“What’s going on?” Philip inquired. “You two know one another?”
“Yeah …” James said hoarsely. And then he blushed.
I felt myself going red too. Jesus! I felt absolutely embarrassed as if they all knew how we got together! Ben and Marcus were both looking at us, moving their eyes from James to me and then back, like watching a tennis game.
“So how’d you two meet?” Ben asked, ever curious.
“Oh, we met at class,” I said as nonchalantly as I could. “James is in my Wednesday Modern Jazz dance class. That’s how we … met.”
“Jaaames?” Marcus hooted with a wicked grin, purposely stretching out his name. “How charming!”
“Well, I know him as James!” I retorted.
“Evan is my first name, Oliver,” James explained quietly. “My full name is Evan James Clark. I … ah … registered as James for the dance class because I didn’t want anyone to know … um …“
“Know what?” Marcus looked at James when he paused. “Why didn’t you want …”
Stewart clicked his tongue. “That’s enough Marcus. We don’t need an interrogator. Leave Evan be. He’s does not need to explain to you.”
“It’s ok,” James aka Evan said softly. “I can explain. I … I was looking for something to do, something different you know? And dancing is one thing I never thought I would do. I can’t dance for my life – ask Oliver.” He gave a lop-sided grin. “He’s good, you should see him. But me … I mess up all the time. I go just because … well, it takes my mind off things and I get so tired out I don’t have the energy to think too much. I just didn’t want anyone to know I was taking dancing class because I suck at it so much.”
Marcus bit his lip. “Sorry – didn’t mean to pry.”
“That’s fine Marcus. No great mystery unfortunately. Just me being pathetic.”
I wanted to shout out that he was NOT pathetic. James was anything but pathetic. I was surprised at how strongly I felt when I heard him say that. I actually hurt. I wanted to reach out to James but Stewart got to him first. He nodded at James and said easily, “You would think I was pathetic too if you saw me dance!! Not everyone can move like Oliver. Look at the time. It’s late and you need to be up early tomorrow morning. Why don’t you go and get ready for bed?”
“Is he staying here tonight?” I blurted out before I could stop myself.
“Yes he is,” Stewart replied. “He’s taking the spare room next to you. Just for tonight.”
“Oh.” I felt my heartbeat quicken. I had so much I needed to ask James. Or Evan. He glanced over at me, looking slightly sheepish. “Well, ah good night everyone …”
“Night.” Marcus and Ben chorused.
“Sleep well.” That was from Philip.
James looked at me with a shy smile. “Good night Oliver, I will see you tomorrow …?”
I nodded back at him, wondering how to excuse myself without being too obvious. “Well, I’ve got an early class tomorrow morning so I will go up as well.” That at least was true.
Ignoring Marcus’ smirk, I ran unashamedly up after James.
“Hey!” I hissed, catching up with him on the top landing.
We looked at one another and grinned.
“This is my room. Wanna come in?” I invited.
He made a face. “Is it ok?”
I pulled his arm and shoved him in, firmly shutting the door. “I need to talk to you!”
“Yeah … me too.” He ran a hand down the back of his head, brushing his hair back from his forehead. “But you go first.”
We sat down on my bed, facing one another. I licked my lips, wondering where to start and finally coming up with, “it’s such a shocker to see you here. I never expected it.”
“Are you kidding me? I thought I was dreaming when I saw you. Thought I was still asleep.”
I giggled. “You were sleeping on Stewart!”
“Was I? I must have dropped off watching TV. I hope I didn’t drool on him!”
I giggled some more. That was funny. “How do you know them?”
“These guys? Well, my ex-partner Jeremy … he ah knew Stewart and Philip and Ben and the rest of the gang. He introduced me to them. Not Marcus at first, not till Marcus got together with Stewart.”
“Have you guys been friends long? I see you and Stewart – well, you seem pretty close to him.”
“Yeah. He’s a … good friend. Philip too. All of them are in fact. Ben helped me a lot with my finances when things fell apart.”
“Its so strange to hear everyone calling you Evan.”
“That is my name!” James gave a lop-sided grin. “I’m sorry about the James bit though – well, that is my name too so its not a lie. Just not so widely used. I wouldn’t lie to you.”
“But I am used to James,” I complained. “Which do you prefer?”
“Honestly? Well, I prefer Evan.”
“So I should call you Evan from now on?”
James shrugged. “You can. Very few people know my middle name, which is why I used it for the class. It would be too embarrassing if anyone found out I was taking dancing lessons.”
“I don’t know why you would say something like that. What’s wrong with dancing classes? But that’s not important and let’s not debate that. I want to know instead what’s happening with you and these guys? Something’s going on; I just can’t put my finger on it.”
“What do you mean?”
“For instance this weekend thing … where is it you are supposed to go? You’re not supposed to come here, are you?”
“No, of course not!”
“It’s so mysterious. So where are you going? And why do you HAVE to go? Are you in some kind of trouble James? I mean Evan. Jeez, that does sound weird!”
Evan hesitated. “I am not in trouble with the law, if that’s what you are asking.”
“But …?” I prompted.
“But I guess I am kind of in trouble with … Stewart and Philip.”
“Why? What did you do?”
“I kept some stuff from them. You see, when Jeremy left, I should have told them. I didn’t.”
“Why did you need to tell them? And even if you didn’t, so what? This is a private matter – between you and Jeremy.”
“Well, it doesn’t quite work that way with us, does it?”
“Who’s us?” This was getting more and more strange.
“You don’t know?”
“I thought staying here …”
I shook my head at Evan. “I don’t know what you are talking about Ja … I mean Evan.”
“Well, aren’t you a member?”
“What? Tell me!”
“I’m not supposed to.”
“Well, you’ve told me already, so now please finish it. What’s this fraternity thing you mentioned? Is it a club?”
“Um. Yeah. Kinda.”
“Where’s the club?”
“Where’s the club?” I repeated. He was usually not so dense.
“Its not anywhere. I don’t think there’s actually a club-house or anything like that.”
“So what’s this club about?” I looked expectantly at Evan.
“Um.” Evan glanced at the door before continuing. “Well, we are not supposed to talk to non-members about our activities but I assure you it’s nothing sinister. We’re not hiding some deep dark secret.”
“But I’m still in the dark here Evan. What do you guys do in this club?”
“We don’t do anything. That’s just it. But we meet quite regularly – it’s like a gathering of friends. Sometimes we organize dinners or picnics and stuff, and during summer a lot of them go to Willcott. Not me. I haven’t been in ages.”
“I know Willcott! I was just there!”
“Yep. But wait, I still don’t get it. Is this club just about meeting and dinners and camps? Just socializing? Is it some gay social get-together thingy?”
“All the members are gay, like us, if that’s what you are asking.” Evan grinned. “But I can see where you are going with this and no – we are not some sleazy sex club ok? We don’t get together for the sole purpose of orgies or to swap sex partners! Jeez. Does Stewart or Philip look like the type?”
I giggled. “No!”
“Stewart and Philip are the founders, so they head this group. That’s why I thought you knew about this, since you are staying here and all. They have very strict principles. They’ve got a whole book on the club’s expectations. It’s called The Fraternity Code.”
“Can I see it? You got a copy here?”
“As a matter of fact, I do. I need it for my weekends. But I can’t show it to you so don’t ask me please.”
“OK, I won’t. But I can ask you where you are going for the weekends, can’t I?”
“Yeah, that’s ok. I’m going to Curtis and George. They live about thirty minutes away, it’s tucked away in the country-side. They’re quite old, and prefer living out of the city. It’s very quiet and peaceful – quite boring actually.”
“Why do you go there?”
Evan looked down at his hands. “They decided I had to go. So I can re-learn all the rules in the Code book. I broke some serious rules so now Curtis acts like a mentor, since Jeremy … “
I couldn’t pretend to understand but since Evan looked so sad, I decided not to push him further. Instead I asked, “Evan, can you not go?”
“Not go to Curtis? Hell, I got into enough trouble already this afternoon, with Stewart. And I bet when I see Curtis tomorrow there will be another real … well, let’s just say he won’t be pleased. I’m not looking forward to it and I really wish I didn’t have to go but I must.”
“Evan,” I said, my voice trembling slightly. “You are not saying this Curtis is going to punish you – like physically punish you?”
“Don’t make it sound so bad. It’s not torture, though sometimes it feels like it. No, I didn’t mean that.”
“But what will Curtis do? Will he spank you?”
Evan’s eyes lifted. “You know about that?”
“Like you said, I live here and I can’t not be aware of certain things. I know Marcus gets it sometimes, from Stewart mostly. I’m just amazed that it can happen between you and someone else who is not your partner. I just asked Ben at dinner and he said Philip is allowed to discipline Marcus and Stewart him. It sounds positively archaic and frightening!”
“Well, its not,” Evan said surprisingly. “Not frightening. It’s very safe actually.” He smiled at me, and I could see he meant it. “
“Safe? How s – “
I broke off as the door opened. We both turned and stared.
“What are you doing in here Evan?” Stewart demanded rather sternly.
Evan scrambled to his feet. “I am going! I was just saying good night to Oliver …”
Stewart stood by the doorway and waited. When Evan slithered past him, he landed a mild swat on his behind.
“Go get ready for bed right now, and no more detours!”
“OK, OK, I am going!”
I watched in fascination. Stewart sounded stern but I could tell he wasn’t really mad. He had a twinkle in his eye and his lips twitched.
Evan protested and complained loudly but I could tell he wasn’t really cross or objecting to being swatted or being sent to bed like a child.
Out of all the different relationships I had had in the past, this was the strangest – and the one that intrigued me the most.
Having my suspicion confirmed that Evan’s special ‘friend’ was Oliver was still insufficient reason for him to skip his weekend with Curtis. I stood firm.
Evan sank back into his chair and pouted. “But Oliver is here!”
“And he will still be here when you come back. It’s just two days Evan. Don’t make such a fuss.”
“But its every weekend! I have an idea Stewart … you can be my mentor instead of Curtis. Then I can come here instead. Please …?”
“Evan!” I looked at him warningly.
“All right, I’ll go!” he mumbled grudgingly. “Why do you guys BOTHER to make us tell you things when you never listen to us anyway? We have to tell you everything – but what’s the point? Defeats the purpose if you ask me!”
Evan sounded so exasperated I laughed at him. “Quit the complaining. You’re starting to sound like an old broken record. Now go get your bag if you’ve finished your breakfast.”
“Why don’t I wait till Oliver comes back first?” Evan asked hopefully.
“No!” I sighed. Evan could behave like a mule sometimes. “Oliver’s class ends at 10.30am and Curtis expects you by 10.00am, so you know that’s not going to work. Enough stalling Evan, you really need to get going and I don’t want you to rush. No speeding, do you hear me?
It took another fifteen minutes before I could bundle Evan out of the house, by which time I felt depleted. There was nothing like a stubborn Brat to wear you down. After I had closed the front door, I took a deep breath.
My eyes wandered to the clock and I made a quick and impulsive decision. I needed to go prepare a report for my consulting work but instead turned my feet towards the stairs and made my way up. I found Marcus still buried under the covers, still warm and sleepy and very inviting. I had let him sleep in while I dealt with Evan. Now I quickly stripped and then slid in next to his warm body.
Marcus’ eyes were closed but his lips curled drowsily and he immediately snuggled against me, fitting his body tightly against mine. Our legs intertwined as our lips met and within moments we were breathing hard and rubbing up against one another. Great decision, I thought. This was so much better than writing a stuffy report on mechanical tolerances. I felt the swift adrenalin rush through my body. We were both in a hurry, savoring the rapid intense build up. Our final release was fast and urgent but no less electrifying. Breathless, I held Marcus till he slumped against my chest.
“Is that to make up for last night?” Marcus stretched and yawned.
“No, that was to tell you how much I love you and desire your body,” I said, delivering a sharp slap on Marcus’ smooth buttock. “This is for last night.”
He yelped in protest. “What did I do? You were the one who skipped out on us.”
“Yes I did and you know why I had to, which does not excuse your bad behavior last night. It was unacceptable and Philip should have spanked you.”
“What? He’s a tell-tale!”
I smacked the rounded backside again, a little harder. “He didn’t need to. I saw your face when you walked in and I asked him. He didn’t tell on you.”
“Same difference!” Marcus scoffed, rubbing the reddening spot on his bottom.
“Not the same at all, nor does it matter actually how I know. What matters is your behavior. So should I spank you now?”
Marcus sidled away and slipped out of bed. “No, of course not,” he said scornfully, but I could tell he was a bit embarrassed as well.
I looked at him and he suddenly stilled, unsure how serious I was.
“I was really looking forward to spending the evening with you, Stewart. I was disappointed you couldn’t … you don’t know what its like sometimes …”
“I know.” I crooked my finger at him and he reluctantly came towards me. “But Evan needed me.”
“If it’s not Evan it’s someone else. What about me?”
This wasn’t the first time we had had this conversation, nor did I think it would be the last. The balance between Marcus’ personality and the nature of my role within the Fraternity would put us to the test time and time again. It was just going to be one of those things we would have to go through in our lives as we marched together. I didn’t mind doing it, knowing the lesson would have to be repeated periodically. He needed the reassurance. And I loved him.
“Marcus, you’ve got me always. Always. But sometimes I need to take care of the other Brats as well. We all do, and last night just happened to be my turn. Philip does his share with the Tops, and so do the others when duty calls. Isn’t this what the Fraternity is for? To help one another and to be there for someone when they need it? Of all people I expect you, my partner, to understand and not make a fuss about this.”
Marcus’ cheeks flamed. “I’m sorry? Forgive me?” He peeped up at me from his lowered head, looking incredibly like an angelic child with his dimpled smile and clear blue eyes. I recalled the first time I had seen him, how I had drunk in that very smile. I hadn’t been able to resist it then, and I couldn’t either now.
“Come here you!” I ordered gruffly, and then caught his wrist and pulled him closer, capturing his legs in between my knees.
Half earnestly and half laughing, he tried to twist away. “I already said I am sorry. I am!”
“Convince me!” I teased, enjoying the sight of his naked body twisting in my grasp.
Marcus halted in his efforts to escape and hissed. “Shh. Oliver!”
I had heard the front door close as well. “Damn! Saved by the bell!” I said, cheerily delivering a last slap at his hip before releasing him.
“Ow! Beast!” Marcus glared at me, jumped clear and grabbed his sleeping clothes off the bed. He turned back to give me a saucy look and blew me a raspberry before he disappeared into the bathroom. As the sound of the shower started I got up and got dressed for the second time that morning.
"Honey, I’m heading downstairs,” I said outside the bathroom door.
I went down the stairs slowly, my mind busy. I had another duty to perform; a much needed talk with Oliver was due. I found him in the kitchen, pouring out a glass of juice.
“Is James – I mean is Evan gone?”
“Yes, he left about an hour ago.”
“Oh,” he said, sounding a bit disappointed.
I went and poured myself some coffee and then said, “Got a minute Oliver?”
“Let’s go into the study,” I suggested. “Bring your juice.”
Oliver looked warily at me but he obediently followed my footsteps. I closed the door after us and sat down behind my desk and gestured to the chair in front of me.
“Take a seat Oliver.”
He looked even more worried. “Have I done something?” he asked.
I shook my head and smiled. “Am I that scary?”
Oliver shrugged without responding. He slid into the chair, placing his half glass of juice carefully on a coaster in front of him so that it didn’t leave a stain my oak desk. He was always very careful about things like that – not leaving a mess behind him, being extra careful with things which didn’t belong to him. That was part of what made him such an easy guest.
“You want to talk about Evan, don’t you?”
He was also a very perceptive young man. I guess that was how he had survived for so many years on the streets alone. By being cautious, alert and observant. And respectful. His survival skills were well honed and sharp.
“Yes, I did want to talk to you about Evan.”
“OK.” He picked up his glass and took a small sip.
“How long have you known Evan?” I started.
“A few weeks. Maybe about 2 months or so.”
“I see. From dance class, right? And you’ve been … dating?”
Oliver’s long eyelashes fluttered. “I don’t know if you can call it that.”
I picked my way carefully around this subject. Technically I had no jurisdiction over Oliver. He was simply a guest in our home and so long as he didn’t bring anyone back to our house he had the right to see anyone he liked.
“Oliver, you don’t have to answer any of my questions about Evan, or in fact any part of your private life if you don’t want to. You know that don’t you?
“Yes, I know. But you can ask Stewart and I will answer - if I can.”
I smiled inwardly. He had laid down the rules of our engagement openly and frankly, which was incredibly mature for his age, I thought. He would be respectful but he had also drawn the line clearly in the sand. Beyond the line I could not go. Or go but be prepared to expect nothing from him.
“Thank you,” I said. “May I know how much Evan has told you about himself, and about his past?”
Oliver took a moment to think. “He doesn’t talk much about his past. I know he had a partner called Jeremy. Things didn’t work out between them and they split up. That’s about it.”
“Good – so you know about Jeremy. Evan got the raw end of the deal over that relationship, and that is what I wanted to talk to you about. He is very vulnerable right now and we are all concerned about him.”
Oliver’s eyes were bright as he said. “He said something about you guys helping him out.”
“Yes,” I concurred. I wondered how much Evan had spilled about The Fraternity and I wanted to tread carefully. “We’re his friends and naturally we don’t want to see him hurt again. You see, Evan didn’t tell any of us when they split up until his business was in real trouble and he had no choice but to turn to us for help. But you already know that, so its not news.”
“He is fiercely independent.” Oliver remarked.
“Yes, that he is. He needed help but he still wouldn’t have told us if he had had a choice, I think. Stubborn, that’s what he is sometimes. We want to make sure that does not happen again. We are not trying to stifle him. He is a grown man, perfectly capable to take care of himself, but the break up with Jeremy was … extremely harsh.”
Oliver nodded. “So you are being extra careful with him – I get that. Look, I meet Evan once a week. That can hardly be called having a serious relationship. You don’t have to worry.”
Of course Oliver didn’t know that Evan had wanted to jump bail on his weekend curfew at Curtis’ because of him. How much of that was really because of Oliver or how much was due to Evan’s natural resistance to be reeled in only Evan would know, but Oliver definitely had some part to play in the whole masquerade.
Aloud I said, “Well, I don’t know about that. Perhaps he does feel more for you than he lets on. Evan is a very private person and after what he’s been through, he probably wants to be cautious. I saw the way he looked at you last night. In fact, I saw how the two of you looked at one another.”
I watched Oliver closely. He flushed and let his eyes drop.
“Were you guys supposed to hook up this weekend?” I asked.
“Yeah, I suggested it but he … said he could not go because of some weekend commitment.”
“And you were disappointed?”
“Of course I was!” He looked surprised by his own outburst and tried to back paddle. “I mean, it wasn’t anything special. I just thought of catching a movie or something. It’s no big deal really.”
“Evan was disappointed too – he told me.” I smiled as I watched Oliver’s face light up.
“Really? What did he say?”
“He considered it a date.”
“Oh. Wow. I wasn’t sure. I mean …. He was so adamant about going off this weekend, and every other weekend. That sounded odd. I thought he might be making excuses …”
“What else did Evan say?” I probed.
Instead of answering Oliver turned the tables on me.
“Stewart, can you please tell me what The Fraternity is about?”
I held my features, making an effort not to grimace. “Did Evan mention that?”
A shadow passed over Oliver’s face. “I shouldn’t have brought it up, should I? I don’t want to get him in trouble!”
He sounded panicked.
“It’s ok Oliver. Evan’s not going to be in any kind of trouble, all right? But tell me, what did he say?”
“Nothing! He didn’t say anything!”
“Oliver, please stop that. Let’s not go round in circles ok? Now, did Evan mention The Fraternity?”
Oliver grudgingly nodded his head. “Yes, but he said he couldn’t tell me anything.”
“All right, fair enough. But you now want to know what it is?”
“Yes.” Oliver looked expectantly at me. “I know you guys belong to some kind of club or sect or something. I am guessing a lot of things but I don’t really know what this is or how it all fits in. I do know you guys – all of you, including Philip and Ben and Evan too – go out of your way to help and support one another. Like you going off last night because Evan needed you. Maybe like Robert paying for my dance classes? That sounds – incredible. But I don’t understand how it works. What is in it for you? For Robert? So if you don’t mind, can you please tell me?”
Apparently Oliver had more than half the facts worked out but without the basic understanding of our foundation, he wouldn’t know how to fit the pieces.
I had been watching Oliver for a while now and I was convinced Oliver was a good kid and he had a good head on his shoulders. But he was also young and alone and I felt the need to look over him, keep him safe. For some reason, he called out these instincts in me naturally. I knew what his life had been before and how tough he can be but that didn’t stop me feeling protective. Whatever he was, he was still vulnerable; and no matter how hard he tried to hide it I had seen him hurt. I had seem him withdraw into himself. I had seen him fight just to stay afloat.
I had a lot of respect for the kid.
I felt it was time he should have someone he could trust, someone to look out for him.
I hadn’t seen Evan since he came back from Curtis’ and we hadn’t talked much on the phone either since Evan was so busy with his dogs. Our only reprieve was Wednesdays, when Evan took the afternoon off for a clandestine dancing class and we had the entire evening afterwards - all to ourselves.
“So how did the weekend go?” I asked Evan as I blew smoke rings into the air. We’d just had dinner – order in pizza with a cold beer each.
Evan grunted. “Brutal!”
“Oh. Did he – spank you?”
Evan threw me a look. Half-embarrassed. Half-laughing. “That’s direct.”
“Sorry. But I thought that’s what happens when a Brat breaks rules. Stewart said that. And you did break a rule didn’t you? You failed to turn up so you should have been spanked - according to the Code.”
“Ha! Look who’s talking? Are you quoting the Code to me now? Fucking unbelievable!”
I giggled. “Shut up. Stewart had to explain how it worked, that’s how I know. To be honest, I am still a bit fuzzy but never mind that. I want to know what happened at Curtis’. Tell me!”
“I can’t imagine why that would be of interest to you, but yes he did spank me.” There was a jut to Evan’s chin which indicated a certain measure of reluctant acceptance.
“I don’t see any marks on you! How bad was it?”
“Um. Not too bad. Hand only. He’s a mentor Top, they usually won’t punish as hard as your own Top. If you had one, that is.”
“Really?” There was so much to learn, I didn’t even know where to begin.
“What else did Stewart tell you?” Evan asked.
I tried to recollect my conversation with Stewart and organize my thoughts. “Well, he said there are Brats – they like to have someone look over them, keep them straight. And then there are Tops – they do that for the Brats because they like to. They are like policemen, enforcing law and order. But kind and loving. So they each like different things but together they meet one another’s needs. That’s my interpretation.”
Evan grinned. “Policemen?”
“Yeah, kind of. He said each has its own sets of rules and expectations. It’s in the Code.”
“Oh so you’ve seen it?”
I nodded. “Yep, I did. Stewart showed me. He is so obviously a Top, isn’t he? He told me how he and Philip started The Fraternity. What it stood for. The Fraternity Upholds and Honours the sanctity of Top/Brat relationships. That sounds so cool; I love it!”
“Yeah, I like that bit too,” Evan admitted.
To be honest, I still didn’t fully understand how Top/Brat relationships worked or grasped what differentiated them. I had been independent all my life, looking after myself. Did that make me a Top? Then again, I craved what Marcus had with Stewart, how he lets Stewart bully him into eating properly, going to bed early when he had a headache and things like that. I wanted someone to look after me like that. Even more I liked that Marcus could get into trouble with Stewart if he didn’t do the things he was supposed to do. That was what had consumed my thoughts the last few days. I actually did like the feeling of being accountable to someone and it sent thrills up my spine at the thought of being so taken in hand. Did that make me a Brat?
Stewart had asked me a whole bunch of questions – about how I felt in certain situations, what I wanted from a relationship, what got my gut churning. I think he was trying to gauge where along the scale I fell. I felt I had some traits of both but acknowledge that I wouldn’t totally fit the description of a Top at all. I wanted my independence but I didn’t relish the idea of having to be in charge of someone all the time. That sounded extremely tiring and taxing. But then I didn’t think I liked the idea of being punished or spanked either and that appeared to be the lot of the Brat.
“What?” Evan asked, raising an eyebrow.
Stewart had said I could talk to any of the other Brats if I wanted. That would be Marcus or Ben. Or even Evan. They all seemed to know their roles.
Not like me.
“Do you like being spanked?”
“Are you nuts? Of course not!” He looked at me and frowned. “Look, even if someone likes to be spanked, that’s not what makes them Brats.”
“I know that,” I said quickly.
That was true. I had met people who liked pain, liked to be spanked or whipped or flogged. They didn’t fit the description of Brats as defined by the Code. They had different needs. Not Brat needs.
“In the same vein, not liking to be spanked does not mean you are not a Brat,” Evan continued, looking at me. “It just means you are normal, and maybe a normal Brat!”
Again I could see the logic of that. Allowing yourself to be punished and spanked was not the whole sum of what defined a Brat. It was committing to an entire lifestyle of giving and receiving that characterized your role.
“Stewart talked to death about trust and being willing and able to give up control to your Top. Was that difficult for you?”
“Oh yes, for me - and for every Brat I’ve ever met.” Evan held up one finger, as if that finger could stop time so that we could both pause and fully focus on what he was going to say. “And yet, if you ask me its something I want to do. Given the right Top, I want to give all of myself to him and have him totally in charge of me. It drives me wild, just the thought of it. I tell you its so liberating.”
I felt slightly breathless. I tried to picture what Evan had said and found myself responding to the notion. That would be how I would feel too. I too would love to have someone to protect me from all the ills of life. Someone masterful and strong and fearless.
“What about the discipline part?” I blurted out.
“What about it?”
“How bad is it?”
Evan’s answer was prompt and sure. “None of us Brats wants to get punished, that’s for sure, but sometimes we ask for it; do you know what I mean? Sometimes we need it.”
My throat tightened.
I had taken a lick or two in my time. It was a horrid feeling, when you were defenseless and had absolutely no control over your situation and wellbeing. That kind of submission was inhuman and I prayed I would never have to go through that again. It had been extremely frightening and cruel.
But this was totally different and yet so similar.
You still didn’t get to control a whole lot of things and someone else was also in charge of you and your wellbeing but it wasn’t scary. Certainly not cruel, from what Stewart had said.
“Your Top will protect you, and keep you safe. That is his job. His responsibility.”
We apparently got spanked because someone cared for us. Hmm … really?
I was hungry for more details. “Tell me more. What else happened at Curtis’?”
“Curtis can be SO strict sometimes.”
“What did he do?”
“He? He didn’t do anything! I had to do everything he told me to. All those rules!” Evan groaned.
“Like breakfast starts at 8 sharp and I must be at the table by that time. Like he wants me to talk to him for a full hour every day I spend with them – and I mean talk. Like I must be in bed by 10.30pm every night, not just the weekends when I am there but even when I am here by myself. Like I must call him every night the minute I get into bed. That sort of thing.”
“Sheesh!” I shook my head at Evan. “How the hell did I ever think it would be nice to be a member of your club?” I joked even though secretly I enjoyed the thought of being so mastered.
“Is it finalized then?” Evan asked sounding excited. “Have you put in your application?”
“I did. Passed it to Stewart on Sunday. Would have done it on Saturday itself after we talked, but he wanted me to think it over first. I gotta admit some parts of it is quite scary.”
“Yeah, I know what you mean.” Evan looked at me. “But it can be pretty rewarding as well, membership has its privileges!” he quipped with a loud laugh.
I fully agreed. I had no problem if someone powerful commanded my obedience, if he was wholly responsible for me. Fair exchange. I had always believed in that. Only this time, the scales tipped more evenly.
“But I am not a member yet – Stewart says I will need to wait for the council to meet and approve my application.”
“With Stewart as your sponsor? You’ll get in for sure. He’s about the most powerful person in the group.”
“That’s nice to know.”
Evan moved to sit next to me on the sofa. “Oliver, are you sure about this? Joining The Fraternity I mean? It can be hard work.”
“Quite sure,” I found myself saying without hesitation. How did I explain it to him, when he has never known what it was like to be homeless and alone and belonging to no one. I wanted to belong.
“It could be different when you find yourself a Top.”
I looked at Evan, startled. Suddenly it was becoming too real. “A Top? For me?”
“Of course, isn’t this what we’ve been talking about the whole evening?” Evan paused, looking thoughtful. “Are you sure you’ve thought this through?”
“YES!” I growled. “I just didn’t think about …. well, having a Top of my own. Is that required? I mean, must I have one before I become a member?”
“No, there are single Brats and single Tops.”
“So I don’t really need one now, as in right NOW, do I?” I said.
“Maybe not right now, but don’t you think you’ll need one eventually?”
“I don’t know. What about you? Do you need a Top as well?”
We stared at one another.
“I don’t know either,” Evan finally said. “Things didn’t work out so well for me when I had one. Why the hell would I want another now? I am fine just the way I am.”
He was still bitter. I could tell from his tone.
And then I asked something which I thought I shouldn’t but I couldn’t help myself.
“Do you miss it?”
“Having a Top? Yeah,” he said slowly, looking into the distance as if trying to find something. “I do actually. Sometimes it’s like there’s something missing in my life and I feel a bit lost.”
I looked at my hands, not sure how to respond.
“But that’s ok,” Evan said in a much lighter tone. “Things are working out ok now. I feel good about a lot of things again, even going to Curtis’. Much as I hate to admit it, that is working out well and I even feel good with the rules and stuff. Twisted I know, but that’s the truth.”
Suddenly Evan was right in front of me and his face was inches away.
“Something else is working out well for me,” he whispered.
I could feel his breath on my face, and then his lips were on mine. We kissed slowly.
“I really like you,” Evan mumbled as we broke away and he laid his head in the crook of my neck. I felt consumed with his scent and his presence.
“Me too,” I said quietly and wrapped my arms around him and we stayed like that, both of us not moving. For a moment it felt as if that was all we needed. Alone and apart we were vulnerable. This way, stuck together, we seemed stronger. More whole. More complete.
I didn’t want to move or do anything to jerk us apart but I had another question to ask, one that was burning in the back of my mind.
“Evan? Can two Brats be together then?”
It was going to be a marathon of a meeting and I didn’t want Marcus to kick his heels alone while waiting for us so I sent him and Oliver out to a movie and dinner afterwards. Since it was Friday night I had called up Curtis and got a waiver for Evan so that he too could join them for the outing.
“I’ll keep Evan for tonight,” I told Curtis when we arrived at his place. “I’ll send him over to you tomorrow morning so he doesn’t drive out so late.”
“Good idea, Stewart,” Curtis said. “He deserves a break. He’s doing really well. He’s been responsive and obedient to all my rules. He’s a great Brat and any Top would be lucky to have him.”
Philip and Ben appeared from the kitchen, bearing platters of food. George had decided to cook for us so that we could take our time to discuss things over a leisurely dinner.
“Dinner’s ready!” Philip called out. “Come get it.”
We settled around the dining table. George loved cooking and entertaining but in the interest of time, he had opted for a simple baked meat pie instead of his usual spread of grills and roasts. We ate every last crumb that delicious pie and then washed it down with freshly squeezed lime juice as Ben handed out the agenda plus last meeting’s minutes.
“We’ve got quite a long list tonight,” Ben announced.
“I can see that,” Curtis said, drawing out his reading glasses and balancing them on his nose. “What’s item 1? Oh, report on Evan’s progress. That’ll be me.”
Curtis proceeded to deliver his report while the rest of us settled more comfortably into our seats, trying to get the food to settle.
Curtis more or less repeated what he had told me earlier, only with a bit more details. “Overall, I am pleased with the results. His spirit is unbroken; he is a fighter – for what he wants. At the same time, he welcomes the limits. He is balancing both very well. I only had to spank him once – when he didn’t turn up and didn’t call. He accepted the punishment well and he’s been an angel since then. While I don’t grudge him the time, I am beginning to think he is coping well enough to be cut some slack. He won’t need many more weekends here,” Curtis stated. “Maybe another couple and we can loosen the reins a little.”
Everyone around the table voted and it was decided Evan would continue for another two weekends, and then be given a break. Curtis would continue to monitor him and reel him in if he felt it was required.
“OK, moving on to the next item,” Ben said. “Winter workshops? Quite a few members have posted on our bulletin board requesting refresher programs. Interesting to note these requests are mostly from the Brats …” he looked around at us with raised eyebrows. “They want to discuss abuse and Brat expectations. I think Evan’s situation is still bothering some of them and they want reassurance.”
“Understandable,” Philip said. “I will pick that up, Ben. I am already in touch with some of our Tops and they also echoed that we should have some sort of periodic patrolling of all members. I know, I know, this is not what we originally crafted. Perhaps we didn’t think far enough when we first started this? Perhaps times have changed since then. But I think it is worthwhile to consider. Stewart?”
I hated the idea of intruding into the privacy of our members’ lives. We are all mature adults and we should have the sense to seek help or report abuse as and when required. That was how we had set up The Fraternity. Indeed that was the whole purpose of The Fraternity - to provide support and structure and at the same time to give members the freedom to interpret that structure according to their individual needs. The lines of communication were always available and clearly published and there was no reason anyone could fail to know this.
But I could not ignore the fact that our system had broken down and Philip was right. We had to change with the times.
“The Fraternity is not a band of soldiers nor is our role to police our members. I don’t want to do that as it erodes the very fundamentals of our code. However I do see the need to keep better track of our ever growing membership and we perhaps could do a better job of involving everyone in our activities. I admit we have been sliding in that area. However, I would also like to point out that so far only one member has renegaded on us, or one set of partners to be more accurate. It’s not as if we’ve seen repeated patterns of this.”
“True Stewart,” George interjected. “But one incidence is enough to show how we’ve failed.”
“I wouldn’t call it a failing,” Philip objected.
“Would you call it a failing if another incidence like this occurred?” George challenged. “Do we wait for that to happen before we do something about it?”
Curtis interrupted. “That’s not what Stewart or Philip are saying, George.”
George folded his arms and waited, eyeing me expectantly. “We are not trying to run people’s lives but by God if there is no engagement whatsoever then they might as well not belong to The Fraternity.”
I shook my head at him. “I am disagreeing with that George. All I am saying is I want to stay true to our values and to protect our Code but at the same time I am willing to make the necessary adjustments to cater to our changing needs as well. I am not blind to what has happened or what the younger members want. If we all agree the system is too loose, then I am all for tightening it. But not to the extent of invading people’s privacy. That is unacceptable to me and not what The Fraternity is for. Do you understand what I am saying?”
“George?” Curtis prompted when George didn’t answer straight away.
“Yeah, yeah, I hear you. I was just wondering how to achieve both when they are at two ends of the pole.”
“I am sure if we put our heads together, we can come up with something suitable,” I said. “Let’s look for a compromise.”
George pouted, and for a fifty-year old, he looked incredibly like a young Brat. “OK, any ideas anyone?”
“How about this?” I began tentatively, the proposal still half-formed, “if we make it a rule that every member must attend at least one refresher program per year and participate in at least one social event per year, that would give us the opportunity to catch up with every single member.”
“That’s twice a year at a minimum. Is it enough?” Ben asked.
“It is better than now, where we don’t enforce any social involvement and all training and workshops are totally voluntary,” Curtis said. “But Ben has a point. It is still very easy if someone wanted to avoid being in the radar.”
“We organize social gatherings at least once a month,” Philip said meditatively. “That’s twelve times in a year, not counting Willcott. There are a few couples I haven’t seen in a while but I think almost everyone has attended at least once per quarter. Would that be about right?”
“About,” I said, trying to recall. We made it a point that either Philip or I would be at every social although most of the time we tried to be there together. The problem was we never took roll calls. It would appear relying on memory now was just not going to be good enough.
“Hmm. It seems once a quarter is not too much of a hardship then?” Philip asked. “Is that fair?”
“What about those who have skipped?” George asked. “Do we know who they are?”
Philip and I looked at one another.
I shook my head. “I have a pretty good idea but I cannot be sure. Philip and I will have to go over the entire membership list and see if we can pick up anything. In the meantime, we will start to mark attendance for every event. That would be a good start.”
“I can take care of that but I may need to rope in some others to help out. I will also post this in the bulletin board.” Ben made a note. “Shall we say that social gatherings is compulsory at least once per quarter?”
“Yes,” we more or less chorused.
“And training? Seminars? Workshops?” Ben asked, pen poised.
Curtis shrugged. “Since we hold that mostly at Willcott, shall we say once a year? That would make five appearances per year in total. I am comfortable with that, if you all are as well.”
Everyone again nodded.
“What if someone had a legitimate excuse?” Philip asked.
Ben looks up. “Or skips one social, attending only three instead of four? Or attends all four but don’t do a seminar the entire year?”
“Yeah,” George said. “We all have consequences if we break the rules. This should be no different.”
“Can someone skip one quarter and then make up next quarter?” Ben asked. “They still end up doing the mandatory four socials per year, just in different quarters.”
“How about if someone does four socials straight and then disappear for the rest of the year?” George countered.
“Guys, guys, let’s not run away with this ok?” Philip warned. “Why don’t we give our members the benefit of the doubt that they will not set out to manipulate our system and instead trust them to do what is right?”
Curtis and I hid our smiles while George and Ben rolled their eyes but nodded their agreement. Our Brats tended to be stricter than us when it came to formulating rules that didn’t affect them.
“Anyway, that’s what this council is for,” Curtis said. “We can review attendance rates once a quarter. We’ll know if anyone seems to be falling off the system.”
“Great,” Ben said, quickly noting that. “So we’ve got Winter Workshops covered – that will be you Philip, And we’ve covered bulletin board - that’s item 3. Let’s move on to item 4. We’ve received one new application. Oliver Lazarro – whom we all know.” Ben winked cheekily at me. “Sponsor is Stewart. Seconder yours truly.”
“Yes, I saw the notification. Any inputs or objections so far?” Curtis inquired.
“I sent out the notification to all members a week ago and so far nothing negative has come back. A few indicated they know Oliver briefly but not enough to object or support.”
I took a sip of water and cleared my throat. As his sponsor, I was expected to speak up for him at this meeting. All new applications went through this process where the sponsor and seconder were invited so they could pitch for their nominee. Any other inputs from members would also be laid on the table for the council to study.
I began. “Oliver is a dutiful and well-behaved young man. He doesn’t say much but he is very observant. Living with me and Marcus, he has obviously picked up on certain aspects of our lifestyle. For instance, he knows I spank Marcus. His reaction to that is calm acceptance, even though he does not really understand how it works. He’s had some experience of power exchanges in the past but more towards the slave/master dynamics. Unfortunately his exposure to such dynamics has been more harmful than educational.”
“How so?” Curtis asked.
“Well, he started fending for himself at age sixteen. He’s lived on the streets or under someone’s protection at one time or another. He had been used, sexually as well as menially, to serve his ‘masters’ needs. He thinks nothing of trading sex for food or a job. He did that to stay alive, not because he had no morals. He just had never had the opportunity to find out who he really is. It was all about survival.” My voice deepened with sympathy as I recalled my conversation with Oliver. “When I questioned him, he displayed all the inclination and needs of a Brat but he has suppressed his natural self for years in view of his background and living arrangements. He has buried all that under a tough-guy exterior. I don’t think he dares to admit even to himself what he truly wants, for fear of not being able to get it. He is fundamentally decent, he deserves a break and I think we can help him. He has a lot of potential. With a good Top and proper guidance, he would have a chance of a good life ahead.”
“I fully support the application,” Philip said. “I’ve known Oliver for a few months now and I think he belongs to The Fraternity too. He has not grappled with it yet, but he is definitely a Brat to me.”
“A quiet one but a Brat all the same.” I looked at Ben. “Ben, anything to add?”
“No,” Ben said with a smile. “You said it all. Just perfect.”
“We trust your judgment, Stewart,” Curtis said. “I have no objections.”
I nodded my thanks. “George?” I turned to him. We needed everyone to agree and support the application before it could go through.
“No objections from me either,” George said, with a good deal of sympathy in his voice. “Poor kid.”
“Wonderful!” Ben put a tick next to his notes with a flourish. “And I think we’re done!”
I waved the letter under Evan’s nose. “I got accepted!” I squealed excitedly.
“What?” Then Evan gasped. “The membership? Its confirmed?”
“Yes, why do you sound so surprised?” I nudged him in the ribs. “I thought you said it’s a given with Stewart as my sponsor.”
Evan chuckled. “Yeah, but there’s always a risk too, no matter how low. Stewart’s not God, despite what you think.”
“Well, he’s pretty much that to me given what he’s done,” I said bouncing on my heels. “He took me in and now he’s given me this – wonderful gift. I belong!” I grinned stupidly at Evan and latched myself onto him.
Evan laughed as I twirled him around in a silly dance. “And I have some good news too,” he said a little breathlessly.
“What?” I demanded.
“I’ve got one more weekend left at Curtis and then I am done. Freedom!”
“Really?” The day was getting better and better.
“Yes, unless I misbehave enough to piss him off or Curtis thinks I’m screwing up or something, which is not going to happen, so this means the weekend after next we can have our real first weekend date! Cool?”
Evan smiled at me, his eyes shining. I leaned into him and kissed him hard. “What shall we do?” I asked, getting excited just thinking about it.
I suddenly realized I had never had any real dates before in my life. Sure, I had been with plenty of men who had taken me to all kinds of slumps or incredibly fancy places and we’d done all kinds of grand stuff or unspeakable things. But I had never actually gone out on a real date with someone before.
I was so excited.
“What would you like to do,” Evan asked as we collapsed onto the sofa. He reached out and held my hand. “I want to make it special.”
I didn’t have a whole lot of money so I couldn’t afford anything too fancy. “Well, how about a movie?”
I knew that was nothing great but wasn’t that how most dates started off?
“Movie it is – and you get to pick which.” Evan pulled me into his arms. “And how about I take you to a nice dinner after that?”
I looked at Evan. “I can’t afford to …”
“My treat ok? Please don’t make a case out of it. You are always so worried about money.”
Evan didn’t understand - I had to be. I didn’t have that much to throw around and I needed careful planning.
Evan must have read my thoughts. “Oliver, I know your situation and its ok. I am not rich or anything either but I can afford to buy us both a decent dinner once in a while, so please let me.”
I swallowed the lump stuck in my throat – it spelled pride. It scratched as it went down but I managed a weak smile. “Italian?”
“You got it babe! I’ll take care of the reservation. And I’ll come pick you up at Stewart’s place, just like a real date. How about that?”
I felt better already. “OK.” Evan made things so easy.
Evan reached over and picked up the letter. “So when’s the introductory meeting? Do you want me to be there to give you support? The first time can be a bit scary, but then you already know so many people.”
“I’d still want you to be there, Evan,” I said earnestly. “Please please say you will.”
“Of course,” Evan said, putting an arm around me and giving me a comforting squeeze. “So who’s gonna be your mentor Top?”
I giggled. “Can’t you guess? Stewart of course.”
“Yeah, that is logical.”
“I guess that means the house rules Marcus has will also now apply to me,” I said, making a face although I was secretly pleased about that. Having rules meant you mattered. Having consequences if you break those rules meant someone cared about you.
“Do they have a lot?”
“Um, I don’t know all, but I am aware of some. Maybe mine might be different? After all, I am not Stewart’s partner and there’s bound to be differences. What do you think?”
“Yeah,” Evan admitted. “There should be some rules that will apply only to Marcus and some only to you. But I don’t make rules, I just follow them.” He shrugged his shoulders and grinned wickedly at me. “And you better start to get used to it or else …”
He jerked me suddenly, pulling me over his lap.
“Hey!” I yelled.
Evan laughed as he planted a couple of smacks on my behind.
I scrambled up and straddled his hips, letting my knees sink into the soft sofa on both sides of Evan and settling my butt on Evan’s groin. “Do you think Stewart’s going to spank me?”
Evan looked at me in surprise. “Huh? If you do something stupid, or break his rules, then yeah, of course he will. Isn’t this what you signed up for?”
I leaned down so our foreheads touched. “It is. It’s just … a bit frightening.”
Evan linked his hands behind my back, holding me firmly. “Sure it is. Don’t worry. Stewart is a fair Top and he knows his stuff well.”
“I know that. I am very fond of him. But I can’t help wishing it would be my very own Top that would do the disciplining. Know what I mean?”
“Yeah,” Evan whispered. “I do. I mean Curtis is great and all and even Stewart, I don’t mind either of them disciplining me. But it feels different than when Jeremy did it. I felt so much closer to him. I meant the early days that is. Not near the end. He was a bastard then. But I do know what you mean.”
“I wish … you were my Top.”
Evan pulled his head back. “Well, I am not a Top.”
“I know.” I sighed.
That was the best turnout we’d had in a long while. Both Philip and I acknowledged that we’d actually let the group slip a little. Caught up in our own lives, getting Willcott fixed over summer and busy with work, we’d not focused too much lately on the monthly socials. It was good to see such a swell in numbers.
Ben and Marcus came over; Ben was particularly pleased. “We have an almost 70% attendance rate, which is not too shabby,” he said.
“Good job babe,” Philip said, neatly giving him a peck on the cheek.
“Is Oliver ok?” I asked, looking at Marcus.
“Yeah, he’s fine. A bit shy but he is mingling well. Actually, he’s glowing.” Marcus gestured with his chin.
We all looked over at where Oliver was talking to Scott and Gene. He looked small next to the two giants but he didn’t look intimidated. In fact he was conversing easily with them while Evan hung around him, almost proprietarily.
“This thing with Evan,” Philip murmured next to me. “How serious is it?”
“Hmm.” I watched them for a moment. “Looks to be going somewhere.”
“Two Brats ...” Philip left the sentence unfinished.
“One recently scarred. One new with practically no experience.” Philip almost shuddered.
“Hmm.” A deep sigh.
“What are we going to do about them Stewart?”
“Well, Curtis has got Evan and I Oliver. For now. We’ll have to wait and see how that works out.”
How it worked out came as a surprise to all of us.
Two weeks later, Evan was invited over to the house for dinner. He came in with a box of cookies and a mischievous light in his green-blue eyes.
“Hello Evan,” I greeted him even as my spine tingled. Something was in the air. Oliver had been fidgeting all evening and was now grinning from ear to ear the minute he saw Evan.
Oliver took the cookies and immediately sampled one. “Yum! I shouldn’t and this will be my last but they are too good to resist!”
“Homemade,” Evan announced. “And you can afford to eat more than one Oliver.” His eyes swept down Oliver’s trim form appreciatively.
Marcus, Philip and Ben were already in the backyard. We were barbequing, probably the last one for the year. It was getting too cold in the evenings to eat out. Philip left Ben and Marcus to man the grill and came over when he caught my eye.
What’s up, his eyes asked without speaking aloud.
“Hi Evan!” Philip casually held the back of Evan’s neck and pulled him close for a quick peck on the forehead. “Haven’t seen you in a while. You doing ok?”
“Yeah!” Evan replied energetically. “Just great! Hey guys.” He waved at Marcus and Ben and we all moved closer to the barbeque stove.
“Hey Evan, finally. Good, everyone’s here,” Marcus grinned. “Time for a drink.”
Ben looked up with a smile. “Are we drinking tonight? Yay!”
“Yes of course! What’s a barbeque without beer?” Marcus bent and opened the cooler box next to his feet. He began to hand out the chilled cans.
We all pulled the tabs off and took a swig from our cans. It was nicely chilled and Marcus was right, what was a barbeque without beer. I watched Marcus guzzle his down.
“Marcus,” I warned under my breath; he turned and gave me an impish smile.
“I’m not driving tonight,” he protested.
“The limit still stands, regardless. Two.” I held up 2 fingers. “Finish them early and you’ll have to survive on water or juice for the rest of the night.”
Marcus batted his eyelids at me, and then he sidled over so he could murmur into my ear. “But if I did get drunk you get to do what you want with my body.”
“Right,” I said, promptly swatting him and shoving him gently away. “You think that’s gonna happen, sweetheart?”
He pouted and nudged me with his hips. “Spoil sport! You don’t know what you’ll be missing!”
“I’ll live.” I laughed at his face and slipped an arm around his waist, pulling him close. “Behave,” I whispered into his ear.
The steaks didn’t take long and soon we were seated around the wooden garden table, digging in. Philip and Ben had brought salad and corn which had been thrown onto the grill. They were done just right – slightly charred around the edges and were incredibly sweet and juicy.
Since everyone was a member of The Fraternity, we could talk pretty openly. We discussed about the latest notices on our bulletin board, the next social, and the upcoming workshops which would be held at Willcott. That would be a first. We had never held workshops at Willcott during winter, only summer. I was pretty excited at the thought.
“I’m assuming you both will be planning to go?” I looked at Evan and Oliver, stating more than asking. Oliver had never been to any and he was required and expected to attend. Evan would need to as well; it was part of the corrective actions in his program.
They both nodded their heads warily, as they exchanged a look.
“You’ll be done with dance school by then, won’t you?” Ben asked. He was good at that sort of thing, keeping track of dates and schedules. “Are you signing up for another season? Will you be able to get away for Willcott?”
“Yes, I’ll be done and no, I am not signing up for another season.” Oliver paused and cleared his throat.
We all looked expectantly at him.
Suddenly his face broke into a wide smile. “But guess what? I’ve been offered a dance contract! A real dance role with one of the academies. They are putting up a new show and I’ve been given one of the spots.”
We all cheered.
“Oliver, well done! I’m so proud of you!”
Everyone was quick to congratulate him. That was indeed great news. Oliver deserved it – he had been working so hard – at both his classes as well as cleaning houses - and I had yet to hear a single word of complaint from him.
“Thanks guys,” Oliver said, a shy flush on his face. “It is not much right now but it IS a permanent position for a whole season and I am in some pretty cool routines so that is good. I told Robert earlier today – told him to keep it quiet until I break the news to you all. I owe him so much. All of you too, especially Stewart and Marcus for putting me up and for putting up with me. It was supposed to be for just one night, right Marcus?”
Marcus grinned. “Right, but I’m glad it worked out so well. Hey dude, cheers!”
As good an excuse as any for another can of beer. I watched in silence as Marcus passed another can to Oliver and then downed his own third. I would be having a private conversation later that night with both my Brats; for now I kept my mouth shut as I didn’t want to spoil any of Oliver’s pleasure. I hadn’t seen him this happy before.
“I’m not quite sure yet what the schedule will be,” Oliver said, “but we start next week for rehearsals when school officially ends, and the show begins late September.” His voice was positively shaking with excitement.
“Well,” Philip said, “I haven’t tied up the workshop dates yet so there’s no need to fret over it. We’ll work something out. Even budding new stars get days off, I imagine?”
Oliver giggled and then he and Evan exchanged another look.
“We have one more announcement,” Evan said haltingly. Oliver looked happy and self-conscious at the same time.
From across the table Philip and I looked at one another. Here it comes, I thought.
“Oliver has agreed to move in with me.”
There was a moment of silence. Ben’s eyes grew round and his mouth hung slightly open. Marcus gulped the rest of his beer down.
“Is – there a problem?” Evan asked and reached out to take Oliver’s hand. The gesture was clear. It would be them against the world if it came down to that.
“No,” I said calmly. “We were just surprised.”
Philip filled in the awkward silence. “In The Fraternity, moving in together is … something of a big deal. It’s a pledge between two of our members and we naturally want it to be a long-term commitment.”
“This isn’t some frivolous decision we just made,” Evan insisted. “We talked for a long time before we finally decided it was something we both want!”
“You mean we should have asked for permission first?” Oliver asked. He glanced at Evan, his eyes questioning.
“No, I don’t remember that being in the rules!” Evan said stormily.
“It’s not,” I responded coolly. “Calm down Evan. We are not saying you cannot do this. No one is going to stop you if this is what you really want. We just want to be sure you two have thought it through.”
Ben leaned over and put a hand on Evan’s shoulder. “Like Stewart said we were all just a bit surprised … hey man, but I am glad things are working out for you both. I am happy for you!”
“Thanks,” Evan said, settling down at Ben’s tone.
Marcus threw a friendly punch at Oliver’s arm. “So this is it? You moving on ... wow, I remember when I first agreed to move in with Stewart. I almost developed an ulcer. I think somewhere in my gut I was scared shitless.”
Everyone laughed and the strained atmosphere was diffused with our two Brats filling in the gaps Philip and I had inadvertently opened. I felt my stomach tighten and for the second time that night, I refrained from voicing my thoughts. Evan and Oliver had obviously made up their minds and any hint of opposition at this point would only strengthen their resolve to do exactly what they wanted.
I pulled my attention back to the conversation and heard Philip saying, “… there’s no reason why two single men who obviously like one another very much should not live together. As long as you two have discussed it and agreed its right for you, no one is going to stop you. Tops are not ogres and we have no intention to run your private lives.”
“Or ruin your private lives,” Marcus added, a little giddily.
“So when is this going to be?” I inquired.
Oliver looked at me. “If it’s all right with you Stewart, I thought I might pack up next weekend?”
I smiled at him, realizing I was really going to miss him. “Sure Oliver. That’s fine.”
“Need help with the moving?” Marcus asked.
From the corner of my eye I saw Marcus reaching for another beer. I casually touched his hand.
No more and I am watching.
Marcus colored immediately and cast a quick glance around, a slight flush on his cheeks.
“No!” Oliver rolled his eyes. “I could fit everything I own into one suitcase. And not a big one at that.”
Unused to our way of life, he had failed to notice the unspoken message. Well, he would learn soon enough.
Marcus and I did the washing up while Stewart cleared up and then locked up.
Stewart came into the kitchen just as we finished drying. “Done you guys?”
“Yeah,” I replied, glancing at Marcus. He had been mostly silent during the wash up, his mind preoccupied. He had told me he had a headache.
“I’m heading up to bed; I’ve got a headache,” Marcus announced.
Tired as well, I was about to follow Marcus when Stewart’s voice halted us.
“Just a minute.”
We both turned and looked at him. Beside me I heard Marcus groan.
“Take a seat, both of you.” Stewart indicated the kitchen table. He remained standing.
Wondering what was up and why Stewart was looking so grim, I pulled a chair out and quietly slid in. Marcus did the same, only with a bit more noise.
“It’s late, Stewart,” he grumbled.
Ignoring that remark, Stewart asked pointedly, “What did I tell you both about the limits tonight on drinking?”
I felt my jaw drop and my heart plummet to the bottom of my stomach. Suddenly I remembered what Stewart had said before the rest of the gang arrived and how I had listened with only half an ear. Two beers. That was what Stewart had said. And I remembered thinking that just meant don’t get wasted, because no one was that specific. Not at a dinner party at home, with friends who were bordering on family. No one made such a rule, gave you a ridiculous number like two beers and stuck by it.
“Two beers?” I whispered when I realized Marcus wasn’t going to respond.
“That’s right.” Stewart was looking straight at me.
Drinking was a personal choice and I had never gone beyond what I knew was my limit. MY LIMIT, no one else’s. I couldn’t afford to let myself go because there was usually no one to watch my back so I was always careful. I knew what I could handle and two beers was barely it. I hadn’t thought twice about accepting that third beer from Marcus. Damn!
“Marcus?” Stewart snapped.
“Two.” He sounded sullen and I suddenly wondered how he dared. Stewart was beginning to be a big worry for me. He was not the Stewart I knew.
“Sit up straight!” Stewart’s voice was like a cold splash of water and Marcus and I immediately shifted, straightening our backs reflexively.
“So how many did you have Marcus?”
Marcus hesitated and then sighed with resignation. “Four?”
I held back my gasp. Four? How on earth did he manage to pull off four without my noticing it?
“Hmm?” That noise came from Stewart’s throat. It was not a good sound. “And you Oliver?”
I hated having to answer but I had no choice. There – it hit me right there and then. I actually had no choice in the matter. I had agreed to abide by the rules of the Code and to obey my mentor Top and here I was, bound by my own consent.
Stewart let that sink in for a moment, and I could feel the heat slowly rising up my face. Drinking three beers had seemed like no big deal – it was only three frigging beers for crying out loud. But sitting here facing Stewart and having to answer him sounded like gross disobedience. Disobedience! That was a word which appeared repeatedly in the Code and one which I had dwelled over gravely before I took my oath. That word terrified as much as electrified me. There was something deep in my gut that clung to that word and I felt myself responding to the need I had buried. To have someone command my obedience and punish my disobedience. That was the power I wanted to give to someone. My deliverance. It had always been there; I just didn’t know what to do with it or how to deal with it. But in that one moment, it all made sense. I suddenly understood what it was that distinguished me as a Brat rather than a Top.
I felt my spirit squirming even though I was sitting up pretty straight and still.
“Tell me - why do you both seem to think its all right to disobey a direct order?”
My breath caught in my throat. Oh God! The butterflies in my stomach were seriously trying to get out.
Marcus’s head whipped up. “But there’s no reason to limit it to two, Stewart! It’s not as if we were driving anywhere.”
Stewart’s eyes flashed and I felt a cold rumble in my stomach, as if I had just been on a roller coaster.
“Do you make the rules around here Marcus?”
I stole a glance at Marcus and he was looking pale and flushed at the same time. He shook his head slowly, and I could hear his quickened breathing. “No. I’m not the one …. I’m sorry Stewart, you do, you make the rules but that’s not what I mean …. I mean it was only …” He trailed off helplessly. I didn’t blame him in the least for his inarticulateness. Who can think and speak rationally when Stewart was looking like that at you?
Apparently Stewart was not giving an inch. “Two beers I said. I repeated that during dinner. Two beers. There does not have to be a reason. If I said two, I meant two and that’s the end of the story. You don’t get to change the limits. You don’t decide when you obey. You just do it! Two. Did I not make that clear to you?”
There was nothing either of us could say to that.
My heart lurched.
“Were you clear on the limits?”
“Yes, I was.” Even though I wasn’t really listening clearly enough … um, yeah it was clear and next time I swear I will pay better attention.
“So what happened?”
My eyes dropped to the table, wondering if I really needed to answer that. It would have been impossible for me to say ‘I ignored your order’ even though that would have been the truth. I did know the limits; I just didn’t pay too much attention to them. Or took them seriously enough.
Stewart’s voice gentled. “Oliver, look at me please. We’ve discussed this and you know how this works.”
He waited until I gave a little nod.
“Breaking a rule in our community means you get punished, even if you didn’t set out to do it intentionally.”
“Yes.” My voice was small.
“All right then. Please go get ready for bed and wait for me in your room.”
Even though I had been expecting that, I felt all the blood leave my head and plunge right down to my toes. I stood up slowly, hoping my feet would carry my weight. I had been beaten before, in many ways by different people. This won’t be the first time, but I had never felt so nervous like this. Or so expectant.
I glanced at Marcus again – he was brooding and looked distinctly unhappy. My eyes flew around the kitchen desperately and finally settled on Stewart. The grim expression was gone from his face. He nodded at me, almost kindly and I grabbed whatever comfort I could find in that. It was going to be all right, I told myself. And then I made my way upstairs.
Oliver was standing by the bed when I came in. His face was freshly washed and his hair was still damp on his forehead. He was clad in a pair of sleeping shorts and a loose t-shirt. He looked a little pale.
I gave him a steady look and went and sat down at the end of his bed.
“Come over here, Oliver.”
His steps were jerky, as if unsure of where he should go or stand. I reached out for his hand and pulled him to my right side, keeping my hand firmly on his to keep him close and still.
“I’ve got you honey, let it go,” I said and I saw him release a deep breath. “Good boy.”
He immediately gulped another mouthful of air, struggling to regulate his breathing. I looked at him, not unsympathetically. As a first timer and with a mentor Top, the suspense must be awful, probably worse than the actual spanking itself. I needed to end this quick.
“Continue breathing Oliver,” I said calmly. “Here’s what’s going to happen. I will put you over my knee and I am going to pull your shorts down and spank you bare, with my hands. Understand?”
He swallowed and nodded his head at the same time. His cheeks immediately reddened.
Without giving him any more time to fret, I tugged him down. A soft hiss left his lips but he lay unprotesting over my thighs, shifting as unobtrusively as possible to get comfortable. I laid a hand on the small of his back, heavy enough to still him and to maintain contact with him. I had learnt it could be deeply comfortingly to feel pressure there while trying to balance.
“OK now?” I asked.
“Yes.” His voice was almost a whisper.
I rubbed his back gently, moving my hand down along his spine and then back up. I did that a few times, and then I slipped two fingers into his shorts and gently tugged them down to his thighs. I saw him bury his face into the mattress.
He squirmed when I placed my hand on his butt but he didn’t make any sound. I waited for him to stop moving and then raised my hand and brought it down in a heavy swat on one rounded cheek. He hardly moved. His body went rigid, preparing for the next impact. I repeated my action and spanked again, and then again, keeping a steady rhythm. The white firm flesh began to turn pink, and Oliver began hissing softly but he still held himself stiffly, his guard fully up.
“Let it go, Oliver,” I said firmly, as I delivered another swat.
He didn’t respond except to curl his fingers into a fist, digging them into the mattress.
“Do you accept this as your punishment?”
“All right, then let - it - go.”
I punctuated each of the last few words with a spank. My spanks were slow and deliberate, with enough force to drive the breath out of him with every swat, and yet he was still unyielding. Still guarded.
“It takes courage to accept this punishment - you need to submit to it. It is not a sign of weakness. The punishment will be meaningless unless you give up your control and accept this from me.”
He nodded his head. At the same time he tried to reach back to grab my hand.
“No!” I ordered, catching his hand and trapping it in mine. “Hands are not allowed.”
“Please … how do I make this stop?” His voice was breaking.
“Do you trust me?”
“Yes! I do … please no more Stewart!”
“Then submit and let it go!” I repeated firmly.
“Ow …” He was beginning to scramble. A tiny whimper escaped this time and his shoulders sagged.
I carefully covered the entire butt area, making both sides an even red. I was spanking much faster now, taking him to the home stretch. Within a few seconds he was openly sobbing. His body had gone limp over my knees and one fist was grabbing at the bedcovers. “Ow, owwww … I’m sorry!”
He yelped loudly as I landed three more very solid smacks right on the centre of his backside, and then I let my hand rest on the heated flesh. “What are you sorry for?”
“Breaking a rule. Disobeying you about the limits, I didn’t mean to!”
“OK. I know, I know, shhh,” I crooned approvingly.
That was what I needed to hear. I liked that new Brats repeat the lesson immediately after a spanking so that there was no mistaking it. I wanted it crystal clear. They were punished for a bad decision, or for bad behavior. Not because they were bad Brats.
I rubbed soothingly over his butt. “You did well honey.”
He gulped air some more and then started to get up and I let him. It had been hard for Oliver, who was fiercely independent, and having given up the control I understood he would need to re-assert himself quickly. Take back some of what he had given up. It would take time and many rounds of this to make him fully comfortable relinquishing so much of himself. Hopefully it would eventually be with his own Top that he would find this peace. For now I was his mentor Top and he was my responsibility.
He fished around for his shorts and pulled them up, his hands going back to grab his punished flesh as soon as he was decently covered. “That hurt!” he complained, face twisting. He looked like he wanted to cry some more.
“Come here,” I said and pulled him over. My arms wrapped around him. “You did well. You’re ok now. I’ve got you and you are going to be ok.”
Stewart waited till I had settled down in my bed before he left. He pulled the covers up and leaned down to kiss my forehead. That felt so wonderful. It was incredible how twenty minutes ago I was writhing with pain on his lap and now I was soaring as high as a kite. No drug had been this powerful.
“Good night,” he said softly. “I’m going to leave the door slightly ajar, you call me if you need anything ok?”
I nodded. He had never told me that before and it felt special. Like I had a much stronger claim on him now that he had spanked me, and it was ok for me to need him. I snuggled down into the softness of my bed, lying carefully on my side so that I didn’t have to rub my sore backside against anything.
I heard the door to Stewart and Marcus’ room open and close and I shut my eyes. My backside was uncomfortably tender but I felt so complete. It wasn’t just the spanking itself that had left me open and tingling; the being held afterwards had been another amazing feeling. Stewart had hugged me before, they all had. But being held after being punished was something else. It took the shame away and replaced it with a deep sense of comfort.
I wanted to call Evan and tell him what had happened. I wanted to share this bubble of emotion in my belly and ask him if he had ever felt this way before. But Stewart had said to get into bed and to go to sleep and right now I did not want to do anything that might even remotely be construed as disobedience. What an effective lesson.
I felt a small smile curl my lips as I drifted towards sleep. I was sure he would tell me I was a pretty good Brat to learn so well and so quickly.
My smile was fading as drowsiness claimed me when my eyes flew wide open and I froze. Down the hall I heard a sharp yelp. I sat up, and immediately realized what it was. Marcus! I shifted uncomfortably, trying to take the weight off my backside, as I strained to hear. There it was again, a much louder yell this time followed by the sound of something smacking bare flesh. I suddenly shivered.
Timidly, I slid back into bed, burying myself in as deep as I could. I pulled the covers up to my ears but who was I kidding. I deliberately left them exposed so I could hear. The yelps were more defined now, less restrained. And the whap of something striking flesh was easier to make out now that I knew when it was coming. There was a rhythm I could follow. A whap, followed by a series of yelps and moans and mumblings. And then another whap.
I grimaced a few times and without realizing it I reached back to rub at my own sore butt. It still felt warm but it was certainly not unbearable. And then I waited a long long time and there was no more sound.
When I next opened my eyes, Marcus was standing there looking down at me.
“What?” I sat up in a hurry, my mind going into extreme possibilities.
Had Stewart hurt him? Was he coming to ask me to run away with him? Or had he murdered Stewart and we now had to bury his body?
“Good morning sleepy head.”
He sounded chirpy for someone who had just been ….
“What time is it?” I asked, rubbing my eyes.
My head whipped around to look at the clock on the side table. “Jeez. You’re up early for a Saturday.”
“Yeah – well I wanted to apologize.”
I peeked up at Marcus. “For what?”
He shifted his feet a little awkwardly and his eyes shied away. “I got you in trouble didn’t I?”
“Oh,” I said, realizing I was sitting on my butt without any difficulty now. “Kinda.”
“I should have known better? Been a better mentor Brat? Exercised more self-control? Set a better example? Used my brain more? Need I go on?” His grin was disarming.
“Not really, I get the gist. What happened to you last night?” I asked, running my eyes down his body.
“Oh,” Marcus sighed. “Stewart thought what I did called for … more stern chastisement.” He rolled his eyes with flamboyance but I could tell he was slightly embarrassed. “You probably just got a hand spank right?”
“I thought so. Yeah, first spanking is usually just that. Not that it is not quite bad enough, it can be I know.”
I fervently agreed.
“But when you lead a new fellow Brat astray … especially one whom your own Top is mentoring, well then you get the belt!”
“Sadly yes! Very much that. I’m sure you heard some.”
I cleared my throat uncomfortably. “My door was ajar,” I said apologetically.
“That’s fine. Now that you are officially a member, you will be hearing a lot more, I can assure you that. We are not shy about punishments. And you will be heard as well, if you know what I mean.”
“Oh,” I said, sandwiched between shocked and horrified. “Oh.” I said again.
“You’ll get used to it. Grow some skin.”
“I don’t know about that.”
“You will,” Marcus said confidently. “Anyway, I am here to say sorry. I am truly sorry for landing you in trouble.” He sounded sincere and contrite.
I threw the covers off and began to get out of bed. “Hey, no one forced the beers down my throat!”
“Wanna go for a run?”
That sounded like a good offer. “Sure. Just us?”
“Yeah, Stewart’s still asleep – tired out from Top duties. Brats are tiring.” Marcus grinned mischievously. “See you downstairs in five?”
Marcus was warming up by the side of the road when I joined him and I quickly did some bends and stretches. The road was deserted as we began a slow jog down the pavement towards the park. No one was about; this neighborhood weren’t early risers apparently.
I felt my muscles relax and loosen as the warmth speared through me. I looked over at Marcus and felt a deeper tenderness shoot through me. I had a friend. A real friend. After so long. He looked carefree, relaxed and happy – exactly the way I was feeling. Even after last night.
I shook my head in wonderment.
T H E E N D
.... to be continued