Thursday, February 4, 2010

Shake, Rattle, and Roll

Title: Shake, Rattle, and Roll
Authors: Rolf and Ranger

"Did you get them?" Michael demanded in an undertone, sliding into the seat next to Matthew.

The university cafeteria was crowded. Matthew had picked a table under the window and was dissecting chicken and rice with a look of increasing suspicion. At Michael's question he dropped his fork with no little relief to leave alone the chicken and leaned over to his book bag, grabbing out a coloured package and handing it over.

"Yes. And DON'T ask me how. I'm hoping Rolf doesn't read the credit card slips too closely or he'll kill me."

"Have you tried them on?" Michael demanded, grinning. Matthew snorted.

"Uhm, NO? I figured we-" he paused and waved, digging Michael in the ribs. "Watch it. He's there."

Chris waved back from half way through the queue and Michael swiftly pocketed the package, eating in silence and letting Matthew go back to his autopsy on the chicken while they waited. Chris arrived at the table a few minutes later, hooked out a chair with his foot and sat down, peering at Matthew's plate.

"That bad?"

"It's disgusting." Matthew said darkly.

"At least we'll get to eat something decent tonight." Chris unwrapped the chocolate bar on his tray and began to eat fast, washing it down with coffee. "I've only got ten minutes before my next class. Math ran overtime AGAIN- and I promised Joe I'd pick up the tuxes from the dry cleaner on the way home."

"I HATE dressing up." Matthew threw his fork down and picked up his own chocolate bar.

"You always gripe, but you're just the one to wear a monkey suit," Chris said, taking a healthy bite from his candy bar.

Matthew scowled and punched Chris in the arm.

"Get a grip you two," Michael snapped, pulling his tray closer out of the danger zone. "You know the Dean's propensity to drop in when you're in the middle of that."

"OOooo, big words," Chris teased, grinning at Michael.

"I just get hot and uncomfortable," Matthew said as he fumbled with the candy wrapper.

"I know, but it won't be for long. Besides, you mentioned that new underwear you have. Won't that help?" Michael took a forkful of lunch, working hard to keep his face straight.

Chris looked quizzically at Michael before transferring his gaze to Matthew. "What underwear, and what's so special about it?"

Matthew nearly choked on the candy in his mouth, needing a drink before he could speak. "It's got a little battery operated .... thing ... in it to keep you cool." He looked over at Michael who was furiously sucking on his straw to cover himself.

"Are you kidding me? Air conditioned shorts?" A quick nod from Matthew confirmed that it was. "Where did you find them?"

"One of those -"

"Smut sites you check out all the time?" Chris finished.

"No," Matthew said, scowling. "It was just a funny pair of shorts in amongst the regular stuff in L.L. Beans. They always have weird stuff."

"Yeah, they do," Michael managed.

Chris raised his eyebrows, then shook his head. "And you wear these things?"

"Yeah. You know what my office is like, no a/c. They've kept me sane all summer."

"I'll look next time I go in." Chris finished his coffee and got up. "See you later-"

"Hey." Matthew grabbed up the coloured packet and dropped it on his tray. "We got you something."

"What?" Chris put the tray down and picked it up. Michael grinned.

"Call it an anniversary gift, I know this weekend's 'your' weekend."

"What is-" Chris opened the paper. And grinned as a pair of sleek, black shorts dropped out. "You ARE kidding me?"

"The a/c'd shorts." Matthew confirmed. "Hey they're fun, we just thought you might like a pair to try. If you hate them you can always palm them off on Joe."

"Not sure I want him TOO chilled down there." Chris examined the small, sewn in pack on the front of the shorts. "I'll give them a try. Thanks! Be nice to think of being cool in a penguin suit this evening."

"Pleasure." Michael said cheerfully. "See you later."

"See you later." Chris picked up his tray, pocketed the shorts and headed for the door. Michael and Matthew were barely able to contain themselves until Chris was safely out of earshot and eyesight.

"You DID keep the remote?" Michael asked after he could find his voice.

"Right here," Matthew said, patting his book bag with a wicked grin. "That was a priceless lead-in, thank you."

"You're welcome. I've NEVER looked forward to these charity things like I am looking forward to this one tonight."

"I know," Matthew said, grinning. "I can handle the monkey suit for this."

*

"WHAT are you grinning about?" Rolf demanded in exasperation for the third time as they got out of the car. Matthew blew him a kiss across the car roof.

"Just happy."

"It's a police charity cocktail do, you usually hate them."

"I'm in the mood." Matthew slipped his arm through Rolf's and headed with him towards the front door. "Besides, you scrub up well."

"So do you." Rolf twitched Matthew's tie straight and held the door, watching Matthew duck under his arm and enter ahead of him. Todd and Stephen were holding drinks and standing with Eric who was in full uniform by the stairs.

"What are you drinking?" Rolf asked, pulling his wallet out. Matthew raised his eyebrows.

"You really want to know?"

"You can have ONE of whatever it is, and I'll take a Chardonnay, please," Rolf said, waiting a minute before handing over the money. He could almost see the brat wheels turning, but couldn't quite put his finger on what was wrong.

"Hi Officer Davison," Rolf said, shaking hands with Eric before turning to Todd and Stephen as well.

"PLEASE drop the officer talk, it's stuffy enough as it is," Eric said with a rueful smile and a tug at his white jacket.

"Where's Mike?"

"A few people in front of Matthew at the bar," Eric said. "Was it hard to get him ready?"

Rolf held his hands up in surrender. "He was in the mood for this tonight. Don't ask me," he added, grinning, as Eric gave him a quizzical look.

Eric grinned and shook his head. "Mike's on a high too. I took it as being the last day of school. WHO is that?" he added under his breath as a woman entered, built like a battleship, with a large hat which appeared to be supporting several dead birds. Stephen glanced over his shoulder and winced. Todd spluttered into his wine.

"WHAT is that?"

"Shh, she'll hear you."

"She won't hear a thing with all those feathers in her ears."

"That's the chief commissioner with her," Eric said quietly as Mike brought him a drink over, "I know that's not his wife."

"Probably his mother." Todd suggested, grinning.

"Or his mistress," Michael said to Eric, and was swatted soundly. "Ow! You didn't have to do that!"

"I said that was the Chief. Keep your comments to yourself, please."

Heat rose slowly in Michael's face for a minute before Chris and Joe made their appearance and broke the awkward silence.

Michael grabbed Chris and headed over to where Matthew was still waiting in line. While they were walking, Mike whispered into Chris' ear. "Take a look at the bird nest over there, on your right."

Chris took a quick sideways glance and burst into laughter, but quit when Michael tugged on his arm. Matthew turned around to see what the commotion was.

"Hi Chris. Penguin suit all right for you?"

"HOT." Chris said expressively. "And that's without the birds nest hat.

Matthew reached the front of the queue and ordered drinks for himself and Rolf, aware of Mike's casual voice behind him.

"The a/c'd briefs aren't any good?"

"They don't seem to be working yet, but I haven't had them on for very long," Chris said, trying to battle the flush he felt rising.

Mike caught Matthew's eye with a glint of pure joy and Matthew hastily stifled a snort of laughter, walking quickly towards Rolf and handing over the glass of wine. Rolf peered with some concern at the concoction in Matthew's other hand, wincing visibly.

"Do I want to know what that is?"

"No." Matthew said cheerfully, drinking it. "What do we do now?"

"Stand around and die of boredom." Mike said under his breath. "And...."

Matthew caught his meaningful tap of his side pocket and nearly choked on his drink.

"Too much fizz?" Rolf asked Matthew, who was studiously working on his chin with the napkin.

"No, no. Just inhaled rather than swallowed," Matthew said, heading hastily back towards the bar area with Michael following.

"Stop that," Matthew said as soon as they were out of earshot, ditching his wet napkin for a drier one. "We'll never get to use that thing if you point it out so obviously."

"Want to start now?" Mike asked, eyes dancing behind his beer. "It works through pockets. I tried it out a few times at home last night."

Matthew took a few deep breaths before he answered. "I don't know, it's still early.  But he looks a little hot," Matthew said, snorting again.  "Oh my god I'm going to DIE laughing to see his reaction."

"Get a grip." Mike warned. "Anyone looking?"

Matthew scanned the area, biting hard on his lip to quell the rising hysteria.

"No, I think you're safe."

"Then make like we're talking and DON'T look." Mike said under his breath, took another sip of his beer with a wide eyed and entirely disinterested look carefully focused towards the drinks table, and sank his free hand into his pocket.

Across the room, stood between Joe and Rolf, Chris abruptly jerked and spluttered into his drink.

"Are you alright?" Joe asked, handing over the napkin he was holding to his partner.

"Has everyone forgotten how to drink?" Rolf asked when Chris said he was fine.

"Did you do it?" Matthew asked, staring hard at the painting on the wall.

"Yes. He appears to be slightly stunned," Mike reported, risking a quick look in Chris's direction.

Chris's eyes were rather wide and he was definitely a little flushed about the cheeks.

"Well?" Matthew said hopefully. "Do it again?"

"I'll give it another shot, and then you take it." Mike said, turning to look with Matthew at the painting and sinking his hand once more into his pocket.

"........with the lights on third, but we hit traffic on the-" Joe broke off on the other side of the room as Chris lurched a little, bumping into him.

"Have we already had enough to drink?" Joe asked as Chris straightened up quickly. "You're getting a little red, are you -"

"I'm fine. Going to the bathroom, excuse me," Chris said quickly, pushing his drink into Joe's hand. He walked very quickly through the main doors and took a sharp right into the bathroom.

"Is he -" Rolf began, looking quizzically at Joe.

"He's fine as far as I know," Joe answered, stepping over to put Chris's drink down.

"I'm starting to wonder if there's a full moon." Rolf said thoughtfully, looking over to where Michael and Matthew were standing.

"Rolf's looking!" Matthew hissed to Mike who casually swapped his beer to his other hand and kept both well away from his pockets.

"Did you see what Chris did?"

"Jumped like a fish on a hook and ran to the bathroom." Unable to hold it any longer Matthew exploded into giggles. "Oh his face....."

"You take it now." Mike waited until Rolf's eyes were off them and slipped the small black box into Matthew's pocket. "But give it a while."

"How are you not dying?" Matthew asked, wiping a tear from his eye.  He was holding back far more than he let out and he could feel the hysteria rising steadily.  "I need a walk," he hissed before Mike could answer, striding off for the far side of the room to try and calm down.

"Definitely a full moon." Rolf said to Eric, and went to join Matthew who was still spluttering by himself.

"Is the art work really that funny?"

"Hilarious." Matthew said apologetically, choking.

"I'm not sure I get the humour."

Matthew sobered quickly. Rolf's tone, as much as his face, held clear warning that he wasn't too happy.

"I'm not sure what is so funny but it needs to stop. This is a formal occasion and you and Mike are acting like children."



The tone was quiet but meaningful and Matthew sobered rapidly under the look and the pointed undertone.

"Let's go back to the group," Rolf said, pushing Matthew ahead of him.  "Do you know if anything is wrong with Chris?"

"He only just got here, I only said hello." Matthew said with absolute truth and enjoying being virtuously able to tell the absolute truth. "Why? Is something bothering him?"

The tone was deeply suspicious. Rolf looked at him, radar starting to sound alerts, and he took Matthew's drink out of his hand.

"What?" Matthew demanded indignantly. Rolf unkindly put it on a ledge some way above his head, which placed it a long way out of Matthew's reach, along with virtually everyone else in the room.

"You need to calm down."

"I was drinking that," Matthew complained to deaf ears.

"Behave," Rolf cautioned, a ton of meaning in that one word.

Michael had been rounded up by Eric and was standing quietly and radiating disapproval for having to stand still.

"How are you?" Eric asked, smiling at Matthew. "Look at you, tie and everything."

"Under protest." Matthew informed him. Around the corner he saw Chris returning from the bathroom, looking slightly more together.

"All right?" Joe asked as he joined them.

"Fine now thanks." Chris said confidently, taking his drink once more.

Matthew made a spluttering sound behind his hand and stopped as Rolf looked at him. Mike grunted at the discreet elbow in his side that Todd planted, and quietly moved back a few steps from the group.

"Ow?"

"What IS going on here?" Todd demanded under his breath. "You and Matthew are on hot bricks, Rolf keeps muttering to Steve."

"You remember we told you about the - uh- thing?" Mike said, grinning. Todd looked blank for a moment, then snorted.

"Yes. The online catalogue."

"He's wearing them," Mike said, grinning madly for a moment.

"You - How?  And who's controlling it?" Todd asked, unable to keep the surprise out of his voice.

Mike snorted, trying to swallow down another fit of the giggles. Todd was not so much of a giggler but get Matthew properly started and they'd be caught in minutes.

"Matt's got it. Chris has had to run to the bathroom once already."

"How did you get him to wear them?" Todd demanded, trying to keep his voice down.

"Told him they were an anniversary gift and they were air conditioned - fan installed." Mike said blandly. Todd cracked up, snorting loudly enough that Stephen and Eric both looked round.

"Straighten up," Mike hissed under his breath, trying to meet Eric's eye and smile. "They're already looking suspicious."

Todd composed his face and was in the process of moving back into the group when he saw Chris abruptly raise up on his toes and a look of acute alarm cross his face. Just when Todd thought he was going to lose it, Chris jumped again like a shot rabbit, spun on the spot and darted back towards the bathroom. Todd did the only thing he knew to do and lost his grip on his drink, the plastic cup crashing to the ground. He bent over quickly and started picking up the pieces of the cup, shoulders convulsing in laughter.

"WHAT is the matter with you lot tonight?" Eric demanded, stooping to help him. Joe put his own drink down and followed Chris, and Matthew released another explosive snort of laughter that was hastily stifled behind his hand.

"Nothing," Mike said, sipping his own drink. "That's a bit of a mess - want a mop or something?"

"Some paper towels - thanks," Eric said, accepting that from one of people working the bar.

"I'll get you another drink, Todd." Mike said, walking back over to the bar and trying to compose himself before he had to look at Matthew.

Rolf Looked at Matthew, who was still choking, with less and less amusement. Then he took Matthew's hand, took Matthew with him and led him well away from the rest of the group to another acquaintance of his, and drew Matthew to stand beside him while they talked. Bored, Matthew kept half an eye on the mess still being cleaned up by a spluttering Todd.



"Chris?" Joe called, entering the bathroom a split second behind Chris. Chris bolted into a cubicle and slammed the door, too agitated to hear his partner behind him.

"Chris." Joe said again, shutting the bathroom door. "It's me. What's wrong? Are you sick?"

"NO- " Chris grabbed for his belt, ripping it open and stripping off his trousers with all speed before the ghastly thing in the slim, black briefs could begin its awful movements again. A/C? It was about the least cooling experience down there that Chris had ever experienced while fully dressed.

"Chris?"

"I think it's just something I ate. Could I have a little privacy please?"

"Would you like to go home?" Joe offered, sounding concerned.

"No, no. I'll be fine," Chris said, pulling the front of his briefs away from himself and trying to see if there was a way to pull out the gadgetry, whatever it was. He breathed a huge sigh of relief when he heard the door close behind Joe.

Trying to knock the motor either into running or not running again- the wretched thing appeared to be temperature controlled, and to have a mind of its own - he finally gave up and after serious thought about removing them completely, he pulled his pants back into place and waited another moment or two to be sure it didn't start moving again. He wanted to say something to Matthew about the problems he was having with the shorts but knew without a shadow of a doubt that if he did, he'd be the laughing stock of the party. When his shorts remained quiet, he went over to the sink and wet a paper towel, trying to cool his flaming cheeks.

There was no on or off switch that he could see, and when they did work it was a sensation that no reasonable person could possibly be expected to deal with calmly. There was no way that people could actually wear these and still talk coherently, let alone do anything involving standing upright. Hopefully they were cool enough now to stay quiet, otherwise Chris knew he would be reduced to spending the rest of the evening commando and he did not relish that thought at all. He put a cautious hand inside his waist band once more, adjusting the wretched things still more carefully and as far away as possible and then went back into the main room and found his abandoned drink, most of the ice having melted into it. He tossed that in the trash as he walked over to the bar for a fresh one.

"You okay?" Mike asked solicitously, turning to find Chris in line a few people from the bar.

"Yeah, fine. What did they do?" Chris asked, nodding his head at Eric and Todd, who had just got up from the floor with the last of the paper towels.

"Todd dropped a cup." Mike said, indicating his own. Joe came to join them, sliding a discreet arm around Chris's waist.

"Better?"

"Yes." Chris said decidedly. "I just need another drink."

"Stick to water then hon." Joe gave him a gentle hug and let go, running a hand down Chris's back in a way that meant he was concerned. Chris gave him a wry smile that both said thanks and promised to talk to him about this later. Later it might actually be funny.

Rolf, on the far side of the hall, was standing at an angle to keep an eye on Matthew while he talked to his acquaintance. His alarm bells were going off again as Matthew seemed zeroed in on the bar. He was in the process of looking to see what deserved such scrutiny when his eyes were drawn to Matthew's hand, sliding down into his pocket. There was something about the surreptitiousness of the gesture that was suspicious.

"Excuse me? I need something else to drink," he said to the group as a way to end the conversation. There was a chorus of polite goodbyes, and setting his empty glass down on the nearest table, Rolf steered Matthew into a quiet corner and held out a hand.

"Hand it over."

No one could do wide eyed, innocent and bewildered like Matthew, who's hands were still in his pockets. Across the room there was a sudden disturbance at the drinks table. Rolf glanced over and saw with some irritation that Chris had just knocked over several cups and glasses at the drinks table and that Mike was very unkindly laughing even as he helped to stand the cups up again. No few eyes of the other guests were on them. Whatever was in the air tonight it was affecting all four brats, and Rolf intended to pull Matthew out of the circus right now.

"Give." he said to Matthew still more shortly. Matthew's mouth opened to complete the picture of injured innocence, and Rolf LOOKED at him in a way that made him visibly pale.

"Now, Matthew Christopher, or we're going to the bathroom to discuss this in detail."

There was absolutely no doubt in Matthew's mind that Rolf meant it. And that he'd follow that threat with a thorough body search, which would not end well. Matthew slowly slid his hand out of his pocket, holding a small remote control, which he put into Rolf's hand without a word.

"What is this?" Rolf asked, turning it over in his hand to look for identifying marks.

"I think it's someone's keychain," Matthew said hopefully.

"A keychain," Rolf said blankly, pressing the button a couple of times. "I -"

Across the room Chris squeaked and the drinks table lurched. Mike burst out laughing and Matthew, unable to contain it any more, doubled over with very badly stifled laughter. Rolf glared at him, lowering his voice menacingly while he stabbed at the several buttons on the small remote to investigate its purpose.

"STOP that and be quiet. What is this and where did you find it? IS this yours?"

Twitching on the spot, Chris clutched at Mike, squeaking as Joe crossed to them, followed by Eric.

"Matthew!" Rolf said more sharply, still stabbing at buttons as Matthew threatened to sink to his knees, out of breath and sides aching.

Rolf's blood pressure was nearing its peak, not helped by the fact that Matthew, far from paying attention or taking this seriously, was threatening to dissolve into tears of laughter. He looked again at the remote in his hand, then looked over at the rest of the group. Todd was doing a half decent job of remaining calm, though Rolf could see the strain it was taking on him. Michael on the other hand was walking quickly towards the exit while Joe, Eric and Stephen stood in a confused semicircle around Chris who was trying hard to disappear beneath the carpet. Rolf's thumb was still pushing at buttons, trying to make sense of the controls, and he was touching one when he saw Chris jump as though he had been electrocuted.

Light connected quickly and powerfully. Grabbing Matthew's arm, Rolf gave him a single, hard shake.

"QUIET. Is this thing somehow connected to why Chris is so jumpy?"

Matthew was past talking. Gripping him and taking him along, Rolf went over to the group around Chris and handed the remote to Joe.

"I think that might have something to do with Christopher?"

Joe took it, mechanically pushing at one of the controls, and Chris yelped, jerked and then in horror swiped the remote out of his hands. Eric, Stephen, Rolf and Joe watched blankly as Chris touched one of the buttons, stared at the little black remote in his hand, and then without hesitation emptied his drink over Matthew's head.

There was a moment's rather stunned silence.

Then Rolf tightened his hand on Matthew's elbow.

"Bathroom. Now. Move."

Dripping water, still gasping for breath, Matthew moved. The party was over, the only question remained who was going to die and by what means. But there was no shaking the image of Chris's stunned expression or his frenzied twitching on the spot. Rolf shook him sharply by the shoulder as he started to laugh again.

"Matthew Christopher, if I were you I wouldn't dare."

The tone was sobering. Michael, just outside the door, had his hands on his knees and was also laughing, although the laughter died on his lips when he saw Matthew's soaked hair and clothes and the  expression on Rolf's face.

"Michael, go find Eric, RIGHT now."

Mike met Matthew's eyes with alarm and moved instantly, not prepared to argue with Rolf when he sounded like that.

"Yes sir."

Joe took Chris's arm, steering him right after Rolf.

Stephen, the only one left, looked down at Todd with bewilderment.

"Do you know anything about this?"

Todd opened his mouth, not at all sure how to answer that. Stephen shook his head and pointed towards the bathroom.

The town was likely to believe that there was a top and brat convention taking place on the premises. Rolf hustled Matthew to the sink and presented him with paper towels to dry his face. Aware of the ominous grimness of his partner's face, Matthew opened his mouth to begin the case for the defense and at the look he got, swiftly closed it again. A moment later a very unwilling Michael appeared with Eric right behind him, and Eric, casting a rather wary look around at the bathroom they were now monopolizing, put his shoulders against the door to keep it shut.

"WHAT was that all about?" he demanded in a drill sergeant tone once the room was secure.

"I...we...well...." Michael stuttered, before a very heartfelt "Ow!" escaped his lips as Eric, with the eight of them crowded into a narrow bathroom and in no mood for procrastination, turned him sideways and landed several extremely firm swats to his bottom.

"We found some shorts in a catalog," Michael said quickly, red with embarrassment as much as the swatting, which hurt. "Gave them to Chris - they've got a vibrator in...in the front."

"It's got a WHAT?" Stephen demanded, being completely bemused by most of this.

"A vibrator." Michael repeated still less willingly. "It's in a pouch and the remote activates it-"

"And you've been torturing Chris all evening?" Rolf demanded, cutting into this explanation.

Chris, embarrassed beyond all bearing and overwhelmed with the urge to slap Michael or Matthew's head off their shoulders, an impulse he was unlikely to successfully follow through with Rolf, Eric, Stephen AND Joseph all standing guard, made a dive for the nearest cubicle, and despite the speed, left an audible sob in the air behind him. Joe, giving a truly filthy look to Michael, followed him.

"Did you participate in this?" Stephen asked Todd, who had gone three shades paler as he realised exactly how upset all four of the tops were. The remaining three looked extremely grim.

"I...I knew they had it but I didn't buy it or...or press the button," Todd added hopefully.

"Who did buy it?" Rolf said very shortly.

"I did," Matthew said into the almost deathly silence, looking hard at the floor and wishing his fairy godmother would make an appearance soon.

Rolf unfolded his arms, turned Matthew around by the elbow and to Matthew's horror, unfastened both his dress pants and his briefs, tugging them efficiently out of his way before bending Matthew forward and landing a flurry of extremely well placed swats far and wide across his uncovered target. They echoed like gunshots in the tiled bathroom. Matthew was trying extremely hard not to burst into tears by the time he was finished. It was embarrassing enough to be spanked by your partner in a bathroom, but add the fact that you were well dressed and there were six other pairs of ears and eyes in on the action and it was almost more than one could take. Most of the time discipline was kept between partners, or at least to just the people involved in the actual act.  Rolf spanking him in front of everyone said a lot and it brought home to Matthew just how seriously he and everyone else was taking it.

Rolf turned him back around. "You should be ashamed of yourself. BOTH of you," Rolf said sharply, taking in Michael by the door.

"And this was between you and Matthew?" Eric said to Mike, arms folded where he leaned against the door.

Mike nodded a little, almost in tears and extremely apprehensive of what agreeing would lead to. His apprehensions were justified. Eric turned him around and yanked his trousers and shorts down as well, pulling up the tail of his shirt, and Mike found himself braced with his hands against a sink while Eric landed a flurry of swats that fully equaled what Matthew had received. Like Matthew, he was too shocked and too embarrassed to protest or even try to move out of place. He stood up quickly when Eric let him go and swallowed extremely hard to try and get rid of the knot of tears stuck in his throat. It was impossible to stand still and pretend nothing had happened when his backside smarted and his face matched its still obvious coloring. Both he and Matthew stood in ties and tuxes from the waist up and from the waist down - the picture was rather different and horribly childish, and yet neither of them would have risked moving. There was a moment of really horrible silence in the bathroom, during which Todd looked scared stiff and Matthew struggled hard against the urge to burst into tears.

"Outside." Rolf said to Matthew at last, extremely curtly. "Face the wall and wait for me."

Matthew quickly pulled his pants up, not bothering to tuck his shirt in. He stepped quickly from the room and only when he'd made it out in the hall, dared to rub discreetly at the smart in his backside. He was still fighting the urge to cry and after a look around, tried to nonchalantly stand facing the wall.

"You too." Eric said to Michael, moving to let him by. "One word to Matthew and I promise you I'll come out there and turn the benefit X rated."

Michael moved without a word. Todd, standing close to Stephen, looked utterly terrified. Rolf passed him and tapped quietly on the door of the cubicle Joe and Chris had disappeared into.

"Joe. Is there anything we can do?"

"Just get them home before I finish what you started," Joe said without opening the door.

The tone was dry, and not quite kidding. Rolf exchanged a look with Eric, took his car keys from his pocket and tossed them up, catching them neatly.

"Then I think that's my cue. Goodnight all."

~~~~~

It was not pleasant, darting through a car park with a very large and distinctly grim partner exactly a step behind. Matthew fled for the car, confidently expecting another swat on top of the several still tingling extremely hotly behind him. He did however manage to reach the car without incident and Rolf unlocked it, holding the passenger door for him. Matthew scrambled in as fast as possible while aiming to present the smallest possible target. Rolf was not happy. Not Happiness was radiating off him in waves, and it was not anger, it was far more an extremely ominous sense of promise. And Matthew did not need diagrams as to what he was promising to do.

The ride home was quiet - Matthew didn't dare open his mouth as he knew any apologies or attempt at explanation would be shot dead in seconds. There was only one way this evening was going to end and the only question remained exactly how bad and if there was any hope of damage control. He knew why Rolf was so annoyed. They'd really upset Chris, something he hadn't even thought about.

He had had serious doubts about Chris even putting the shorts on, much less getting through a good part of the evening wearing them, though half of that was spent in the bathroom adjusting himself. His ears were already starting to burn in anticipation of the sharp words Rolf would certainly have for him about their antics this evening. What had seemed hilariously funny twenty minutes ago was decidedly less funny now - although the image of Rolf frustratedly stabbing at the remote buttons and Chris jumping like a fish on a hook in response..... in spite of himself Matthew released a choke of laughter at the memory and then shot an extremely guilty look at his partner. Rolf gave him a steady look with one eyebrow raised, and backed off the speed of the car in a way deeply sinister in meaning.

Matthew slid down in his seat, shaking his head and shooting a look of appeal at Rolf.

"Noooooo, I'm sorry. I'll be good."

Rolf spared Matthew a solid look before returning his eyes to the road and his foot to the gas pedal. He pulled into the driveway a few minutes later and moving with almost military precision, stepped from the vehicle. He opened the front door and waited pointedly for Matthew to enter the house ahead of him.

"Get yourself ready for bed. I'll be upstairs in ten minutes and I expect to find you in the corner. Move."

That was better than it might have been. Matthew bolted for the stairs, but did not escape the extremely accurate swat that was placed behind him. It encouraged all speed. Distinctly dry mouthed, he changed, put away every item he was wearing with obsessive care that was not at all usual in the evenings, brushed his teeth and then with nothing left to do, hovered where he was in the bathroom doorway and looked with deep apprehension at the corner. The indecision evaporated in a heartbeat when Rolf's steps were heard on the stairs. Matthew shot into the corner, taking the last second chance to rub at the fading sting still behind him, knowing that he wasn't going to want to touch anything around there in a few short minutes.

Rolf shut the bedroom door behind him to keep the cats out of the equation, since they had very little practical help to offer. The dejected set of Matthew's shoulders and the extremely large, appealing eyes his partner cast in his direction suggested that Matthew was resorting to desperation tactics. Rolf took a seat on the bed, crooking a finger at Matthew and watching the snail like progress towards him in what were not even half steps.

"WHERE did you get that thing?" he asked when Matthew was about as close as he was willing to come.

Matthew took a deep and heavy breath, hovering on the spot. "Mike and I were online one day and found this catalog for weird....clothes."

"And you bought that with Chris in mind?" Rolf inquired, one eyebrow raising.

"NO, no," Matthew said quickly, hoping this would be a bit of damage control. "I just got it because I couldn't believe what they were selling."

"And you thought it sounded like a good idea?" Rolf asked, straight faced which left Matthew no clues at all.

"It was GOING to be funny," Matthew said defensively.

"It might have been if you'd kept it at home." Rolf agreed. "How funny do you think Chris found it in public?"

"Not much," Matthew replied, his head going down before he looked up again with appeal. "We didn't mean to upset him - it was just a joke, I didn't even think he'd actually put them on."

"He might have got more in to the spirit if it hadn't been a thoroughly public place to embarrass him." Rolf pointed out. "And that's leaving aside the silliness and messing about everyone else had to put up with from you and Michael and Todd all evening."

Matthew's head dipped down with no good answer to that.

"So what are you going to do about repairing this situation with Christopher?" Rolf inquired.

"Apologize to him?" Matthew hazarded. Rolf nodded.

"I think you owe him a written apology, which you'll deliver tomorrow to Joseph. Do I need to take your credit cards and keep a closer watch on your purchases?"

"No, sir," Matthew said quickly, shaking his head. "I don't want to buy anything else like that."

"It's not what you buy, it's how you then decide to use it. DON'T give me reason to think I might need to keep closer tabs on that." Rolf warned.

"No, sir," Matthew replied fervently.

Rolf nodded, straightening up and his tone lifting to a brisker one that told Matthew clearly that the talking was over. "Then we need to deal with the performance you put on with Michael this evening, and playing a rather unkind practical joke in public on a friend."

"We really didn't mean for it to get so out of hand." Matthew pleaded.

"What is wrong with the joke you played on Chris?" Rolf asked, answering that rather forlorn plea. "I don't think any of us lack a sense of humour."

Matthew winced, near to tears. "He was in public...and alone in being picked on, I know! It was supposed to be a little funny, a little laugh. I didn't mean to make him so upset."

It was getting harder to talk around the tears threatening. Rolf's voice was quiet but firm.

"He's going to expect to be a laughing stock amongst the rest of us now, isn't he?"

"That isn't what was supposed to happen!"

"Isn't he?"

"Yes," Matthew said, a tear slipping down his cheek.

"Well he isn't." Rolf said bluntly. "If I hear a word - the slightest hint about this to Chris, I'll turn you across my knee and embarrass you just as thoroughly, right in front of him and anyone else present. Is that clear?"

Crystal. Matthew dropped his head, voice very soft. "Yes sir."

Rolf's nod took in the pyjama trousers in one succinct gesture. "Lose them."

Very, very slowly, Matthew pushed them past his hips and stepped out of them, leaving them in a pile on the floor. He stepped closer to Rolf without being asked to, feeling the familiar rush of emotions as he did so.

Rolf took his hand and slowly, not at all happily, Matthew bent across his lap and settled into position, finding most of his top half on the bed and his head resting in the crook of his arm, the part of him now devoid of pajamas being draped uppermost across Rolf's knee. Rolf wrapped an arm around Matthew's waist and wasted no further time talking. His palm rose and landed fast and sharply across Matthew's unmarked behind, leaving a bright pink imprint behind.

Matthew's head snapped up, and any relief he thought he'd feel at not being asked to gather any implements disappeared in an instant. Another swat fell and he bit his lip, ducking his head back down, trying to deal with the increasing smart. Rolf continued, covering every bit of white skin until it was an even shade of bright pink, feeling his partner start to squirm and wriggle as the swats built up. Matthew grimaced hard, unable to help the few brief and convulsive kicks in response to particularly acute ones finding their target, and it was only a moment more before equally instinctively he flung his hand back, palm up, doing what he could to block his extremely vulnerable backside from further harm. Rolf took Matthew's hand and held it at his side, picking up the pace.

"Ow, ow, Oooowwwwwww! I'm sorrrrrryyyyy," Matthew managed pitifully and fairly coherently, before formed words became impossible. He was being held extremely securely and it was quite apparent that Rolf was going to continue for some time to come. There was nothing left at all to do but squirm and twist from side to side which he did as much as he possibly could and which gained absolutely nothing in relief. Rolf continued to hold him steady and to spank at a pace and with an emphaticism that produced a smart lively enough to make Matthew wail even as the tears really started, and they were no longer tears of apprehension or distress that Rolf was upset. Wholehearted, sincere regret had long since taken over.

Rolf continued, making sure the first thing that Matthew would remember in the morning was that there was nothing funny about the previous evening. He finished with several swats in quick succession to the lowest curves of Matthew's now very red bottom, generating a forlorn attempt at squirming off his lap. He laid his now throbbing hand across the small of Matthew's back and let go of his hand. Matthew sobbed, partly in relief, but made no attempt at all to move. For a moment Rolf let him lay limply where he was, hand resting on Matthew's heaving shoulders, then he helped him to his feet.

"Corner." he said quietly and very firmly. "Go on."

Matthew walked over to the corner, certain his pajama top would burst into flames as it came in contact with the fire lit behind him. He gave into the sorrow he was feeling for himself and his sobs redoubled for a few moments, not caring at all how undignified it had to be. He tried to wipe away the tears on his face but they refused to stop falling as his backside throbbed in unison with his heart.

Rolf flexed his smarting palm a few times, got up and went to undress, an eye on the time. He could only hope that by now Joe had succeeded in distracting Chris and reassuring him that he would be able to meet the others again without being teased to within an inch of his life. Chris had been more trusting of Michael and Matthew than either of them deserved, and the audacity of teasing him in that way- Rolf shook his head, resisting the brief urge to smile. It was not funny. It was most certainly not funny.

Matthew took a deep and shaky breath, trying to settle himself down. He could finally hear Rolf moving around the room and he wanted nothing more than to curl up in bed and hope for a better day tomorrow. Rolf sat down on the bed and took off his watch, putting it down on the side cabinet before he looked across to the corner. Only Matthew could look that pathetic stood there.

"Come here brat." he said, holding out a hand. Matthew scuffed across to him and Rolf took his hand, giving him a very meaningful look.

"That apology gets written as soon as you get home tomorrow. Five hundred words, properly spelled, properly written, and I'll check it."

"Five...five hundred?" Matthew asked in some shock. "I am sorry is only three and I have to make it last for five hundred?"

"Yes." Rolf said without hesitation and in a tone that suggested arguing further was not a good idea. "This isn't just a brief 'I'm Sorry, Forget It'. This is an apology and you're going to convince Christopher that you are sorry, that you understand why it wasn't a good thing to do and that you're not going to take advantage of him by teasing."

"Yes, sir."

"Bed." Rolf said briefly, pulling back the covers.

Matthew grabbed a few tissues on the table and blew his nose before he slid into bed, careful to stay on his front.

Rolf turned out the light, settling back and getting comfortable before he put out an arm, found his still sniffling brat and pulled him firmly across the space between them. Matthew came reluctantly - or at least outwardly reluctantly, but his head settled into Rolf's shoulder without protest and he curled into the arms Rolf wrapped around him, wrapping one in return across Rolf's chest.

"What catalogue was this anyway?" Rolf said into the darkness after a minute. Matthew's voice was rough from tears and somewhat deeper than usual.

"I don't know. Some weird gadgets catalogue."

"Maybe we need to borrow that particular gadget back from Joe." Rolf said dryly. "You can try them while you mow, and I'll keep the remote control handy. Think it'd speed you up any?"

The fist he got in his ribs made him yelp, he resisted Matthew's attempt to pull away and sulk, and kissed him soundly, trying not to laugh.

"Well I thought that was funny."

~The End~

Copyright Rolf and Ranger 2010

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