Monday, February 8, 2010

Starkers


Title: Starkers
Authors: Rolf and Ranger
Warnings: Nudity. Shocking stuff.

The bank statement looked back at Marc with malicious honesty in black and white. Overdraft. $300.
 



There was no getting away from it. The DVD collectors set had been a little more than Marc had been able to resist- all seasons of Angel together- but he'd miscalculated somewhere. What he really needed was a tame accountant, except if Matthew found out that he couldn't keep track of basic finance, Marc knew he was going to be teased within an inch of his life. Marc folded the statement and sat down, resisting the urge to swear. $300 overdrawn. WITH bank charges. AND he was late to meet Thomas; there was no time to think about this now. Marc grabbed his jacket, checked in front of a mirror briefly and headed out the door.
 

It took Marc a few minutes to find a parking spot.  As much as he knew the university, it didn't make it any easier getting cars to leave spots open in the few areas that you were allowed to park without a permit.  He finally found a meter, pulled in and parked.  Fishing around in his cup holder, he pulled out two quarters, too afraid to chance only paying for one hour and needing an hour and fifteen minutes.  He left his jacket in the truck and walked the short distance to the dive on corner where Thomas would be waiting. He shouldered past several groups standing around and talking, and found Thomas in a booth near the back.
 

"Hey.  How are you?" Marc asked, sliding easily onto the bench.
 

Thomas held up a beer and smiled.  "Doing better now!  How're things in the vid business?"
 

"Bloody awful," Marc said morosely. "What are you drinking?"


"Schols. And don’t tell me it’s too early. You look like you'd prefer a beer to coffee yourself. What's up?"
 

"Oh, an overdraft I wasn't expecting. I'm going to have to put in some serious overtime this month or my goose is really going to be cooked."


"Rent?" Thomas said sympathetically.


"Among other things," Marc said evasively, wincing as he thought of Rolf. Rent, food… things like that tended to seem more important to Rolf than DVDs; the need for DVDs was something he really couldn't get a handle on.


"Will you be able to get the extra shifts? I thought you were well staffed at the moment?"


"I can try. Give me a sec, I need a drink." Marc fought his way across to the bar. He came back a moment later with a beer, unwillingly reflecting that he probably couldn't afford the meal and film he and Thomas had planned on. Thomas watched him sit down, sympathetic.


"Don't look so worried, there's always ways you can make a few dollars. I've actually got an opening right now worth $50 a session if you're interested, right here at the University. I was going to advertise it, but I'll offer it to you first."
 

Marc chugged a fair amount of the beer down before responding. 
"What kind of position is it?"


"My class is getting ready to start charcoal drawings.  We start with a still life - you know the apple, basket and mug type setups?" Thomas said, taking a sip of his own drink.  When Marc nodded yes, he continued.  "That's the first week.  The second and third weeks we spend on the human form. Particularly the male nude."  He waited to see what that information would do to Marc.


"You mean you want to pay me?  To stand nude?  In front of your CLASS?" Marc asked in disbelief.
 

Thomas grinned.  "Yes, that's exactly what I mean."  He was enjoying how uncomfortable Marc was with the idea.


"Me?" Marc asked again, draining his mug of beer and setting it down.


"I hate to advertise, you'd be doing me a huge favour if you'd just say yes. As soon as I put the ad up, I've got students lined up for blocks.  It's a very easy $50, just one hour a day, three days a week for two weeks.  That's $300, in case your math isn't good," Thomas said, still smiling like the Cheshire Cat.
 

Marc swallowed, the figure alone giving him serious pause for thought.


"And what do I do?" he said darkly. "Exactly?"


"You stand," Thomas said sweetly. "Or sit. We'll drape you decoratively over something. And then you keep still for an hour. Oh, don't look like that - there're some extremely cute students; you can stare at them while they stare at you."


"Shut UP!"


"Honestly," Thomas said laughing. "You'd be ideal. Two weeks, six sessions, that's all. It's a bit nerve-wracking the first time you actually strip off but once you've done it once you really won't mind at all."


"Yeah, right." Marc drank beer, trying not to leap on the idea despite the fact he was already blushing.


Thomas grinned. "Give it some thought? Let me know tomorrow, but I'd rather it was you. Give me someone I know I can rely on. And you'd save me all the hassle of interviewing."
 

"Are you ready for dinner?" Marc asked, seriously interested in getting the conversation into less embarrassing waters.


Thomas laughed again, deciding to let Marc off the hook.  "Yes, I'm ready for dinner. Let's grab a burger over on Lime, I haven't had a good dose of grease in a while," he said, standing up and shouldering his way back out of one of the more popular bars just off campus.
 

Marc followed, his mind going over and over the possibilities.  Six hours of work and his overdraft would be history, versus several much more difficult hours fit in at work for the same payout.  He wouldn't know anyone in the class, and he'd probably never see these people again.  But then he blushed, thinking just how much these people would see OF him.
 

He had to step quickly to keep up with Thomas, long and lanky and about as professor-looking as they came.  "I could handle a grease bomb myself," Marc replied, having visited that particular burger joint many times over the years. 
"Did you decide which movie you wanted to see?"
 

"Yes, there's some really AWFUL horror flick I saw and thought you'd love," Thomas said cheerfully. "We can sit at the back and you can take the mickey out of it to your heart's content."


They were halfway through a particularly awful part with a chainsaw when Thomas heard Marc groan in the darkness of the cinema and looked over at him.


"What?"


"I’ve decided. I'll do it," Marc said shortly.

*
 
"So now what?" Marc said brusquely, coming out from behind the screen. Barefoot, tightly wrapped in a robe, he looked combative, more like he was prepared to have a fight with someone rather than lounge decoratively.


"You sit here," Thomas said calmly, wiping paint off his hands. It was only the two of them in the studio since there was still five minutes to go before the class. A small dais was placed in the middle of the room with a red couch placed on it. Marc followed him grimly across to it.


"Half sit, half lie," Thomas instructed. "Turn towards me. That's it. Now lie back with one arm over your head. Great. That's the pose. I'll take some snaps of you when you're settled so we know session to session how you were."


"Pictures?" Marc asked, sitting up.


"Chill, chicken.  Was that a pose you can hold for an hour?"


Marc grimaced.  "Yes, that wasn't so bad," he said, standing up.


Thomas grinned again as Marc paced the floor, too anxious to settle down. He coughed hard, covering up what would have been a huge belly laugh as the blood drained from Marc's face when the first two students walked in chattering between themselves.


Marc turned and scowled at Thomas before stepping quickly away from the dais and behind the screen again.  Thomas had promised there were only twenty students, ten less than the maximum amount the classroom would hold, but the closer the time got for him to settle down in front of them, the more anxious he became.
 

The previously quiet classroom became a bustle of activity as Thomas greeted his students as they entered and the students set up.  Plastic boxes of charcoal were snapped open and easels adjusted for the individual students. Marc sat down, back straight against the wall and looked up, wondering for the umpteenth time why he'd gotten into this position in the first place.


"Ok Marc, when you're ready," Thomas said calmly, indicating the couch. Marc took a deep breath, well aware of his shoulders knotting under the robe and his face starting to burn as he stepped up on to the dais. Aware of a sea of faces, he unknotted the belt and hesitated.


"Shall I take that?" Thomas said tactfully. Marc somehow eased it over his shoulders and the robe disappeared into Thomas's hands, leaving Marc with a strong urge to clap his hands protectively in front of himself. Blushing furiously, he came to the couch and took a seat, trying not to look directly at any of the students seating themselves around him.


"Just as we planned, Marc," Thomas said simply. "When you're ready?"


Marc slid down on the couch, certain that he must have blended in with the red colour, and seriously wishing that he would!  The class had become eerily quiet and he thought he could feel every set of the twenty-one pairs of eyes burning into his exposed flesh. Thomas, well aware of how uncomfortable Marc was, couldn't resist egging him on a little. 
"Arm up, like we tried earlier," he said, walking around the front of the dais.  “Okay, ladies and gentlemen, attention please. When you draw the human form, you need to pay attention to all the nuances."
 

Thomas stepped up and around behind the couch.  He ran his finger down Marc's arm. 
"You're not painting just the surface of Marc's skin.  You're painting Marc.  That means you pay attention to the variation of light upon the subject, as well as what makes up this arm from the inside out."
 

Marc, trying extremely hard to wish himself into another dimension, worked hard at not flinching at Thomas' touch.  He'd have shot his friend a look to kill, except he was certain that look would appear on the easels of the students.  He continued gritting his teeth, trying to look comfortable when he felt as wired as a manic on a caffeine binge.


Thomas continued, walking around the back of the couch.  "If you notice here," he said, running his finger down Marc's side and feeling the tension, "the light is very bright.  The muscles can't be seen through the skin, but if they weren't there the skin would sag.  Concentrate on what you can see, the hair, the pinkness of his nipples, the fullness of his lips, as well as what you can't, the muscles that underlay all you see.  The human form is complex, and you need to draw on all those skills to bring a picture to life.  Give me just a minute," he continued, getting the camera out, "to get a photo of this pose so we can get the same quality of light and dark in the next two weeks."


Thomas snapped a couple of pictures, then with his back still to the class grinned. 
"You look like you've been cast in concrete.  Breathe."
 

Marc managed a glare without moving his features, one promising his friend there'd be hell to pay.  Thomas winked and turned back to his students.
 

"The beauty of a live model IS the beauty. The life, the breath, the living human form. It's an incredibly technical and beautiful thing, the way it moves, the way it occupies space; work on capturing that vitality. If anyone has any questions let me know."


He moved away to start walking between the easels, talking to students as he reached them, talking, pointing and tracing in the air, occasionally taking the charcoal to draw or correct a quick line. Once he walked across to Marc and spent several minutes talking to a couple of students, tracing his finger just above Marc's skin to describe line and form. Marc didn't think it was possible to feel any more embarrassed without
actually disintegrating. He was sweating, aware he was tense, aware of the eyes on him. The bell at the end of it had never been such a welcome sound.


"File your sketches!" Thomas called as his students got up. "We'll carry on next time from where we left off. Marc, thank you, great job."


Marc rolled to his feet, snatching for a robe. "Can I go?"
 

"Yes." Thomas gave him a sympathetic smile. "Get dressed, I'll get you a coffee. You really were great."


"The coffee will have to wait," Marc said, diving behind the screen and quickly putting his clothes back on.


"Oh, come on," an amused Thomas said as he straightened up his room.  "Tell me it wasn't THAT bad."


"No, it wasn't THAT bad," Marc replied, looking out from behind the screen to make sure EVERYONE had left the room.  "It was worse.  Did you REALLY need to point out 'the pinkness of my nipples’?"
 

"Just wait until they finish the outline and start working on the details," Thomas warned, laughing.


"Maybe you can find yourself another model!" Marc said, emerging from the screen, just dragging his shirt over his head.


"Don't you even DARE," Thomas said, a note of seriousness creeping in.  "My class ends in another six weeks; we don't have time for a subject change."
 

Marc didn't even spare Thomas a moment to glare at him.  He practically ran out of the room and down the hall, Thomas' laughter ringing in his ears.  He kept his head down on the long walk back to his truck, praying that no one questioned him or pointed him out as the nude model.  He got home fifteen minutes later, too wired to sit, his mind going over and over and over again about what he'd just done.  He flipped in a DVD wanting distraction, but couldn't concentrate on it for any length of time.  He was startled when the phone rang, and immediately winced as a sharp pain ran up his arm and started his head to throbbing.  It took him a moment to get up and grab the phone.


"Hello?"
 

"Scoopy Poo!" a very bouncy Matthew yelled into the phone.  Marc pulled the phone away a little, massaging his neck with his free hand.  He hadn't realized exactly how much tension had built up over the hour on the couch.
"Chris and Joe are coming over early for dinner.  Want to come and swim with us?" Matthew demanded.


Marc's hand went from his neck to his forehead.  He'd forgotten he'd been invited over for hamburgers on the grill, and all the fresh vegetables you could eat from Rolf's garden.  Rubbing his forehead, he decided quickly that an evening with Matthew, though much enjoyed, would be too much for him to handle with the way he was feeling.
 

"Oh, hon....my head is killing me.  Would you take a rain check?" Marc asked.


"You're not feeling good?" Matthew replied quickly, concerned.  "You could come and lounge - a free dinner has to help."


"As good as that idea sounds, fruitloop, I think I'll pass.  I'm going to take a couple aspirin and lay down.  Let Rolf know, please?"


"Are you sure?" Matthew asked, hating that his friend hurt badly enough to not want to visit.


"Yes, thank you.  I'll see you over the weekend if not before," Marc replied, hanging up.  Between the pounding in his head and the acid in his stomach, dinner didn't even sound palatable.  He headed into his bathroom, downed a couple of pills and dropped full length on his bed and tried to will the pain away.

 
"He's not feeling good." Matthew reported, hanging up.
 

"In what way?" Rolf paused, halfway through washing vegetables. Matthew shrugged, opening the fridge.


"Headache. It sounded bad; he just wanted to lie down."


"I'll ring him later this evening." Rolf put the last of the salad into the bowl. "He had an afternoon off today didn't he?"
 

"I don't know, he didn't tell me his shifts this week-" Matthew bounced into the hallway, distracted as the doorbell rang. Joe gave him a hug as he passed, heading into the kitchen.


"Hi! Beautiful evening!"


"Hello, come on in," Rolf called. Chris paused with Matthew as he shut the door, eyes dancing, with a smirk Matthew knew well.


"You'll never GUESS what happened today?"


"What?" Matthew lowered his voice to match Chris's. Chris grinned.


"We had an art class."


"Not this live modelling class you were telling me about?" Matthew grinned. "Was he cute? Was he a troll?"
 

"He was Marc," Chris said, deadpan, watching Matthew's face.


The reaction Chris was waiting for was priceless.  Matthew's mouth dropped and a look of disbelief crept slowly over his face.  It seemed like forever to Matthew before the shock passed and he shut his mouth.


"You're KIDDING!" Matthew said, grabbing Chris' hand to head into the kitchen with the other two.


Chris didn't budge.  "I'm NOT."


Matthew turned again towards Chris, realizing he was, in fact, serious.


"No!" he said, still unable to believe it.
 

Chris just stood there grinning, nodding his head up and down.


"Marc?  Modelling?  NAKED??!?" Matthew screeched.


"SHHHHHHHHHHH!!" Chris said, as Joe headed back into the living room to see what all the commotion was about.


"Who's naked?" Joe asked.


Matthew recovered first. 
"I was telling Chris to GET naked so we could swim!" Matthew said, zooming past Joe with Chris in tow.  They flew through the kitchen, barely hearing Rolf as he told them not to enter the pool area until he was out there.  Once Matthew's feet hit the grass and they were out of the direct sight and hearing line to Rolf or Joe, he spoke again.


"Are you SERIOUS? Marc?"


"I'm serious." Chris dropped on the grass, grinning at Matthew. "I saw a LOT of him, I'm absolutely sure."


"NAKED?"


"Are you going to yell that any louder?"


"What was all that about?" Rolf said to Joe in the kitchen. Joe helped himself to a carrot stick, leaning against the counter.


"Chris started a live art section in his art class. Male model."


"Was he cute?"


"Apparently so." Joe munched carrot reflectively. "They never had art classes like that when WE were at school, or I'd have been in the front row. Although do you remember that photography class you took when-"


"No," Rolf said very firmly. "And neither do you."

 
Joseph nearly choked on the carrot, trying to contain his laughter.  He saluted Rolf when he was pointed towards three zucchini in need of slicing.


"I remember...."


"But Marc!" Matthew said, still unable to wrap his head around the idea.


"All of him.  And for five more classes."


"Marc."


Chris reached over and with both hands, gently slapped Matthew's face, serious. 
"You're in shock.  Do you need mouth to mouth?"


"Ew, GROSS!" Matthew said, pushing a laughing Chris away.  "I just can't believe he'd do that."


"He did.  I'm just not sure he'll show up on Wednesday!"


"Why?" Matthew asked, ever curious.


"Because you could tell how uncomfortable he was," Chris replied with a grin, remembering the look on Marc's face.  "I swear it looked like he had constipation.  I almost asked our professor if we needed to give him a bathroom break."


Matthew snorted, which got both of them laughing a lot harder.  When Matthew was able to speak again, he said "I'm JEALOUS of you!"


"Have you SEEN Marc naked??! Chris asked, as if it would have been one of the most disgusting things he'd ever seen.


Matthew punched Chris in the arm.  "NO, dumbass!  That's NOT what I meant. Just being able to TEASE him.  Did he say anything to you?"


"Nope," Chris said simply.


"No?" Matthew asked in disbelief again.  "He didn't warn you not to tell anyone?  To draw certain areas larger than life?"


Chris laughed again.  "Nope."


"He didn't even LOOK at you?"


"He was so embarrassed I don't think he even SAW me," Chris said happily. "And certain areas......... well he looked a tad stressed, let's put it that way?"


Matthew lay down in the grass. "Oh I have GOT to see this. Can you take pics?"


"Why don't you just come to the class?" Chris said wickedly. "I thought I'd invite Mike too. And Todd's registered this semester, he's doing the literature evening class for some STRANGE reason about liking books- you can all fit in an extra art class? Marc'll be there through the next two weeks.  IF he shows up again."
 

"Ohmygod," Matthew said, sitting up.  "Wouldn't that be a BLAST?  He'd DIE. He'd absolutely, positively die, and there wouldn't be a damned thing he could do about it! You're sure he didn't see you?"


"I'm positive!" Chris said.  "I'm CERTAIN he'd have had something smartass to say if he'd seen me."


The door opening halted further conversation. 
"Guys?" Rolf said, walking over to the edge of the deck, wondering where they had gone.


"Yes?" Matthew said sweetly, looking up at him.


"What're you two up to?" Rolf asked, leaning over the railing.


"Just talking.  Can we SWIM yet?"


"I need to get the towels.  Did you two want a drink?"


"Coke, please!"


"Make that two!" Chris added, getting up to follow Matthew.


"Wait for me," Rolf said, heading back inside.


"Your professor wouldn't mind?" Matthew asked as they walked down the lawn towards the pool.


"Thomas?  I don't think so, he's a pretty cool guy," Chris responded.  "I could tell him you want to audit the class; I think he'd allow you entry one time."

"
I really wouldn't mind the art....I could just do without THAT subject," Matthew said, grinning.


"Did you know he has a mole right here?" Chris asked, pointing just inside his left hip.


"Ohmygod, that's TMI , TMI !!!!" Matthew said, dancing ahead a few steps, holding his hands over his ears.  Chris laughed, jogging to catch up, smacking Matthew across the bottom as he passed.


"I'm still in shock that you're jealous of me!"

*
Wednesday morning came a LOT too soon for Marc. The electric bill landing on the door step at breakfast time was probably much of the reason why he managed to get in the car and drive to the college in time to reach the studio ahead of the students. Thomas gave him a smile of some relief, organising the easels around the couch.


"Thank goodness, I was starting to wonder if you'd changed your mind! Get your kit off, quick, there's only a couple of minutes. I've got the pictures, we can get you positioned."


Marc sighed, but began to strip. More and more unwillingly, the more clothes he took off.


"Marc!" Thomas said, looking at his watch. Marc sighed, pulled off his boxers and sheepishly came out from behind the screen.


"Great," Thomas said with enthusiasm. "Come and stretch out, I'll get the picture- hey guys!" He added cheerfully as the first students came in. "Get set up, we're just getting ready here. Marc?"


Marc came to the couch, taking a firm grip on his nerves. This was art. It wasn't THAT bad. He'd done it once- and Thomas was right, the second time WASN'T so bad. Gradually focusing on a feeling of professionalism, he took a seat on the couch and laid back, stretching the arm above his head. And reflexively crunched in horror as he saw a grinning face behind an easel.


"Okay, Marc.  You need your right leg stretched out on the couch a little more, this way," Thomas said, pulling Marc's leg straighter on the couch.  "Can’t your hip a little more.  Left side slide down the couch and pull your right hip up - yes, that's it."
Thomas put the pictures back onto his desk.  All right, for those of you ready, pick up where you left off."
 

Marc's eyes flew from Chris' wickedly grinning face to scan the rest of the students.  He was turning redder by the second as his eyes connected directly with several students, and he noticed that the class was made up of about fifteen girls and five guys.  When he looked back at Chris, hoping the little brat's easel would burst into flames, he got a wink.  It took all his effort not to fly off the couch and choke him.


He spent the next thirty minutes wondering what he could do to Chris to keep him silent.  Should he ignore Chris, act like it was nothing?  Did he confront him and ask that this remain a secret, for professional reasons? It was a whole different kind of feeling, knowing that someone who knew him was studying his naked form.  He jumped slightly when the quiet of the classroom was broken by Thomas, making an announcement.


"On Friday, I'll be here to start the class but I've got a faculty meeting that starts fifteen minutes in.  If you've got questions, be sure to bring them up quickly, otherwise you'll be working on your own.  Don't consider cutting class, this project makes up a quarter of your grade and we'll only have three hours left next week.  You're making good progress, but you'll need every hour here. And I think that’s it for today?" Thomas added as the bell rung.

 
The rustling started immediately as everyone started putting their supplies away.  Marc took the robe Thomas handed him and put it on hastily as the door opened for the departing students.  He was in the middle of debating tackling Chris in his robe or getting dressed first, when he looked up and saw Chris' fair head as he exited the room.


"Chris!" Marc called after him, deciding on the robe. Chris turned back, standing out of the way of several departing students, and gave Marc an angelic smile.


"Hi there. I can't stop; I've got an English class. Love the robe. Bye!"


"Just a -" Marc began but Chris was gone. And there was no way in the robe that Marc was following him. Slightly panicked, Marc pulled his clothes on.


Thomas leaned on the screen, offering him a cheque. "$150 for the first week since I'll be in and out on Friday- great work Marc, thank you."


Marc opened his mouth. Then shut it again, inwardly swearing, and took the cheque.
"I'll see you on Friday."

 
He spent the entire afternoon at the shop, racking his brains as to what to say to Chris.


Chris had a class, but skipped the first few minutes in order to send out an email to the gang.  Friday was going to be THE day.


That evening at home, Chris was just shutting his books for the night when the phone rang. Thinking it might be in response to his email he jumped on the phone before Joseph quite registered that it was ringing.


"Hello?"


"Hi.  How was class today?"


"Just fine.  How was work?" Chris replied, clearly amused at Marc.


"That's what it was."


"What WHAT was?" Chris prodded, walking into the kitchen with the phone.


"What my... the pose, okay?" Marc said shortly and clearly still embarrassed.


"Oh, that was work?" Chris said sweetly.


"YES - I'm doing Thomas a favour, he's a friend of mine-"


"That's great, Marc, it was really interesting."


Marc silently groaned, knowing the tone. " LOOK . I'm doing this for Thomas and it's work, that's ALL ."


"Of course," Chris agreed.

 
He was going to force it. Marc gritted his teeth.


"And not everyone might understand that. So I'd appreciate it if you didn't use this as gossip."
"I never have agreed with gossip," Chris said virtuously.


"Good," Marc said, running a hand over his forehead. He was sweating again. "I just don't want EVERYONE knowing about this if you know what I mean?"


"Certainly.  It's just an art class, and you're just the model.  If you want, you can have my picture when we're finished," Chris replied graciously.


"Thanks," Marc said, feeling somewhat relieved.  "I guess....I guess I'll see you Friday."


"See you Friday,"
Chris replied hanging up.  His side hurt from stifling his laughter and he took a moment or two to straighten up before he headed back into the living room with the phone.  He slid onto Joseph's lap and wound his arms around his neck. 
"I'm all finished with homework.  Want to watch a movie?"


"Sure," Joe replied, putting aside the book he could no longer see.

 

"What's so funny?" Rolf asked, hearing Matthew laughing in the office. He turned the kitchen light off and wandered in through the door, just in time to see Matthew power down.


"Oh just a mail from Chris."


"Anything good?"


"Oh he's having fun with this art class. Nude men." Matthew stifled another laugh. Rolf snapped the light off and wrapped an arm around his waist as they walked upstairs.


"It IS an art class."


"It's funny."


"What's funny? It's just a model, the same equipment as the rest of us or so I'd hope  - oh, Matthew, get up!"


Matthew, in hysterics, sat down on the top step and hugged his knees. Rolf leaned on the banister and looked at him with tolerant exasperation.


"What is SO funny?" Rolf asked, once Matthew was in a position to hear and respond.


Matthew sobered up a little, knowing what was in store for Friday.  He didn't want to jeopardize it by confessing now. 
"He's picking this guy apart, piece by piece," Matthew said, passing Rolf on the way to their room. "He's got a mole on his nose, or there's sweat running down his forehead, or my favorite....he looks constipated!" Matthew said, laughing.  "I asked him how, and he said his prof was talking about all the muscles underlying the skin, that his loins just looked bunched up and twisted."

 
"Trust Chris to think that way," Rolf said as he shrugged his shirt off, getting ready for bed, "and for you to think that was funny.  That man is taking a big chance by exposing himself in that manner."


Matthew had already stripped and was in the process of brushing his teeth, a very BAD idea when laughter bubbled up against your will.  He lost nearly all his toothpaste into the sink and was struggling for breath when Rolf's hand landed squarely across his bottom.  He jumped up, one hand grabbing behind him and the other trying to catch the remaining toothpaste running down his chin.  He leaned over the sink, tears of laughter streaming in equal amounts as was the toothpaste.  He gave up trying to brush and cleaned himself up, Rolf having long ago giving up understanding and getting into bed.
 

 

By Friday, Marc was feeling quite at home as he settled back on the couch and Thomas arranged him to match the picture. Students were setting up around him, and Chris was one of them, but his eyes were on the paper he was clipping up, there was no hint of a smirk on his face. Relaxing, Marc stretched out and prepared to focus his mind on other things for an hour while the students worked. Actually, once the embarrassment passed, this was an easy way to earn the money. The rent would be paid, the overdraft sorted, Rolf need never know about the DVDs, it was all going to be fine.


"Ok." Thomas said, picking a pile of files up off his desk. "I need to move out. Are there any questions before I go? Everyone happy to carry on? Make the most of your time people, all prelim sketches need to be finished by now and you need to be working on your final copy. I'll be back at the end of the session to answer questions and see how you're doing."
 

The atmosphere in the room changed a little once Thomas had left.  The normally quiet students began to talk amongst themselves, relaxing a little but continuing to work hard.  Marc relaxed as well, feeling more comfortable than he'd had all week. Chris had his charcoal in his hand but hadn't put another mark on his paper. He was almost ready to get up when the door opened and Matt, Mike and Todd came in.


Everyone turned to look, including Marc who was ready to run for cover, not expecting any visitors.
Matthew managed one beaming smile before he broke up and ducked behind an easel. Mike followed him and Marc heard several distinct giggles. Todd gave him a wide-eyed stare of surprise, then a faint shake of the head as though he couldn't believe what he was seeing, accompanied by a smirk that made Marc long to swat him. Scarlet faced, he twitched on the sofa, well aware he couldn't move or say anything- and that to draw attention would make things worse.


To his horror, Matthew, Todd, and Mike took seats behind easels and Matthew leaned around his, giving him a long and thorough look from head to toe, then held his pencil out at arm's length, closing one eye to look at Marc in more detail.


Marc shut his eyes, silently swearing as the pencil tilted slowly at a suggestive angle.
Matthew was dead. SERIOUSLY dead. And Chris was deader. Just as soon as this wretched hour was up.


The classroom settled down, unsure of what the extra three students were doing but enjoying the reactions by their model. For those that knew Marc, they could see the steam pouring from his ears, but nobody missed the rest of the reactions Marc was having. His muscles tensed again, his face nearly matched the couch and sweat was forming across his forehead.  If his eyes weren't open and drilling holes in his various friends, they were closed as he imagined strangling them one at a time.


Heads studiously bent, with only occasional glances and stifled giggles, the four in the front drew, pausing at intervals to give Marc another earnest stare.


Once everyone was settled, Chris got up and went carefully to Thomas's desk, checking the photographs placed there to record Marc's position. Then went back to his own bag and took out a camera, moving around Marc thoughtfully from several angles. Marc GLARED at him without moving, daring him to even THINK about snapping a picture. Chris crouched down beside the dais and carefully took a few Polaroids, then straightened, shaking them in his hands to dry them as he walked back to his easel. The other students, assuming he was recording to help with homework, or fine detail on his picture, didn't react. Marc, ready to cook eggs on his face, looked at Matthew and Chris with a promise he was ready to fulfill the second this class ended.


The hour dragged on forever in Marc's eyes. He was furious to the point of detonation when the bell finally sounded and he more or less erupted off the couch. The four brats in the front row, as one man, grabbed their papers and bolted, the laughter finally escaping, and Marc, hampered by his own nudity and a room full of students, had no means of catching them or even shouting after them. Nearly spitting with rage he stalked behind the screen and began to dress. Thomas shut the door, giving him a somewhat wary look.


"What's the matter? Did something happen?"


"Some FRIENDS sitting in," Marc said through his teeth.


"Oh, the students auditing?" Thomas said mildly. "It's ok; it's good to attract people into the class. They're artists, Marc, they're looking at you in a totally different way."


"Yeah, totally different," Marc said, pulling his shirt on with a vengeance.


Thomas looked up when Marc emerged from behind the screen.  He stopped when he saw his face. 
"What happened?"


Marc took a deep breath.  It was bad enough that it happened, there wasn't a point in getting Thomas upset or letting him know how much he was bothered.


"It's okay.  Sorry, it's been a long week.  You know, it's not the easiest thing to lie there while everyone is staring at you; I just didn't expect to look up and see new faces.  You COULD have warned me..."


"I'm sorry," Thomas said sympathetically. "Most people are getting used to it by now; I didn't think it would be bothering you still. Come have a coffee?"


"No, I'm going to head off," Marc said grimly, shoving his shirt into his trousers.


"See you Monday," Thomas offered. Marc walked out of the studio without commenting.


Unfortunately he had to work that afternoon, and there was naturally NO sign of any brats between the studio and his car, although Marc had a quick look in their usual haunts. Still livid he went to the shop and worked; and still livid six hours later, he got back in the car, thought for a moment, and then headed over to Matthew and Rolf's home. Chris might have been the one to start this ball rolling, but Matthew, he was sure, was leading the other three now by the nose. If he could choke Matthew off then the problem would solve itself.


Matthew, who had spent the evening on the sofa, keeping quiet and keeping a sharp eye on the street outside, saw the car and rolled over on the sofa towards Rolf, covering his eyes.


"My head's really thumping."


"Is it?" Rolf put a hand on his forehead, instantly sympathetic. "What's brought that on?"


"I guess I'm tired. I felt headachy all afternoon. Maybe I'll have a bath and-"


The knock at the door sounded aggressive. Matthew peered from under his hand with drawn eyes.
"I wonder who THAT could be?"


"I'll see," Rolf said, getting up and opening the door.


"Hey, Rolf."


"Hello," Rolf said warmly, opening the door to let Marc enter.  "To what do we owe the pleasure of your company?"


Marc managed a small smile at Rolf before spotting Matthew on the couch.


"I just thought I'd stop by since I didn't get a chance to ask you if I needed to bring anything for tomorrow," Marc said, glaring at Matthew a second before turning back to Rolf.


"I think we'll be fine," Rolf replied, shutting the door and walking with Marc into the living room.


Matthew curled up on his corner of the couch, still keeping his hand over his forehead.  Rolf glanced over as Marc sat down.


"Matthew, why don't you head on up if you're feeling that bad?"


Matt glanced at Marc and quickly made up his mind.  He could almost feel the heat of the glare and feel the hands around his neck.


"I think I will, if you'll excuse me?" Matthew said, with a quick glance at Marc.


Marc gritted his teeth.  "I hope you feel better," he said somehow, wanting to kill Matthew but not with Rolf sitting right there.  He watched as Matthew headed slowly up the stairs, and didn't miss the tongue stuck out at him.


"Bad headache," Rolf said to Marc. Who nodded.


"Yeah I bet. I won't stay, just wanted to see what to bring."


"Yourself would be fine." Rolf walked out on to the porch with him, giving him a sideways look. "Long week? You seem tired."


"Just a -" Marc shook his head, raking savagely over a choice of words. "LONG week. Hope Matthew's feeling better."


Because I'm going to KILL him tomorrow evening, he added under his breath. AND Chris.


"Going home to rest then?" Rolf asked pointedly.


"Yes.  Thanks," Marc replied, stepping quickly over and into his car to forestall any more comments. 
He backed out of the driveway, slammed it into gear, tires squealing a little in protest.  Once out of sight he slammed his hand on the steering wheel.  "DAMNIT!!!" he screamed in frustration, wondering how in the world he was going to settle down
 enough to sleep.

 

*

Saturday dawned bright and clear though it was humid and very warm.  The day was ripe for storms later and Rolf wished fervently that he had a direct line to Mother Nature.  If the pool and the outdoors were off limits, that meant a little more work on everyone's part to keep the peace.  They could retire to the basement for some ping-pong in that case, but the pool was the much preferred option.


Matthew rounded the corner and plopped a stack of paper plates down on the kitchen table.  "There.  That should do it," he said, plucking a curious cat from the kitchen chair, dropping a kiss on her forehead before setting her back down on the floor.


"Why does the cat get all the kisses around here?" Rolf demanded.
Matthew grinned at him.

 "Grow whiskers and a tail and I'll think about it."


"Go pick some tomatoes." Rolf put the last of the salad in the fridge. "Did you think Marc looked tired yesterday?"


"I don't know." Matthew paused, wide eyed.
"Did you think he seemed worn down? Stressed?"


"He just looked........"
Rolf thought about it, absently licking salad dressing off his fingers. "Brassed off."


"Poor Marc," Matthew said straight-faced, and escaped to the tomatoes.


Some time later in the pool area, waiting for their company, Matthew was swimming lengths and Rolf was sitting on the poolside, reading, when the gate opened and Marc entered, ready for swimming. He still looked tired and drawn. 
"Hi, Hon," Rolf called back in response to Marc's greeting.  He was in the process of asking Marc how he was feeling when Chris flew through the gate.


Chris dashed over to Rolf to hug him quickly. "Thanks for asking us over. It's SOOOO hot out here, and homework is SOOOO boring!" 
Rolf didn't even get a reply in before Chris had kicked off his shoes and jumped into the water, nearly drowning Matthew.


"I take it homework was slow going this morning?" Rolf asked, grinning at 
Joseph.


"Yeeeesssssssssss.  Please don't send me home with him for more.  Please?" Joe asked, taking a cup from the table and pouring out some of the lemonade from the pitcher.  He settled down in the chair next to Rolf.


"It's on the list," Rolf pointed out. "Thou shalt suffer through the homework and the mowing."
"We HAVE a gardener. YOU need a gardener," Joe pointed out.
Rolf snorted.

 "Ok. We get a gardener. And someone to wash up. And vacuum. And cook. And dust. And clean the bathrooms. And mop the floors. Oh and I hate ironing too. Maybe the answer is a houseboy."
Joe looked at him over the edge of his glass.
Marc headed past them to the edge of the pool, and immediately Chris and Matthew struck straight over to the side where Rolf and Joe were sitting, bestowing on Marc a sweet smile.
 

Rolf watched Marc for a minute, relaxing a little as he got into the pool. He went back to Joe's conversation without worrying.


Marc didn't quite know what to do with himself.  He wasn't sure he could be civil to the two biggest brats, but he also didn't feel like swimming on his own and arousing suspicion. He forced himself to swim casually over to the two of them. 
"Hi."


"Hi. Been up to anything arousi- I mean interesting lately?" Chris asked, grinning.
Marc's color rose quickly, and he slapped the water hard towards that grin, getting more than the two brats wet.
"HEY!" Joseph yelled indignantly. "If you're going to be splashing, move to the other side of the pool, please."
Matthew gave Marc a sweet smile and pulled himself out on the side, stretching out full length less than three feet from Rolf.
"What's the matter, Marc? Life not keeping you sufficiently stimulated? Job not giving you enough exposure?"
Marc gave him a look that spoke volumes and involved bared teeth. With Rolf so close and well within earshot there was nothing whatsoever he could say. Swearing quietly under his breath he struck out towards the other side of the pool in long strokes.
The morning sucked as far as Marc was concerned and it was all the worse for the fact that the brats were clearly thoroughly enjoying his discomfort. And every time he approached any one of them they immediately migrated towards the tops, settling well within their earshot.
By lunchtime, Marc was hot, fed up and about ready to slap the smile from Matthew's face.

When lunch was served, Marc took his plate and settled inside at the kitchen table. Rolf came in a few minutes later.
"Marc? What're you doing in here alone?"
"Just a slight headache. I thought sitting in the air conditioning would help while I ate," Marc replied.
Rolf went over and felt his forehead. He'd been watching Marc off and on and thought something wasn't quite right. "You are a little warm. You should take some aspirin if you've got a headache, you know where it is."
"I did," Marc lied, taking a drink.
"Good. I'll check on you in a bit," Rolf said, taking his drink back out onto the deck.
"What's up?" Joe asked as he rejoined them with a discreet nod at the kitchen. Rolf took a seat beside him, looking back over the pool where Matthew and Chris were swimming.
"I don't know, but he's staying the night tonight."
"Does he know that yet?"
"He will," Rolf said with finality.
*
It was approaching dusk when the group began to break up, and Rolf was aware of Marc staying well back, quiet and unusually grim faced as everyone said goodbye. Once the last couple, Joe and Chris, said their goodbyes and left, Rolf shut the front door and looked at Marc, who had been assembling his own keys.
"Go up and have a shower. Did you take any more painkillers?"
"No." Marc jingled his keys. "I'm fine; I'm just going to-"
"Go take a shower. Matthew and I will clear up." Rolf gently swiped the keys out of his hand.
Marc went to take the keys back but the look he got changed his mind. He turned and headed upstairs, going straight to the shower and hoping that more than just chlorine could be washed down the drain. Toweling off, he began to think through where Matthew might have hidden the photos and if he had enough time to go look before he was expected back downstairs. He wrapped the towel around his waist and walked down to what was typically his bedroom whenever he stayed over. He found some shorts and a t-shirt and was in the process of pulling them on when he heard footsteps on the stairs.
Matthew had been helping Rolf in the kitchen, wondering what the plans were with Marc. When he heard the shower cut off, then the footsteps down the hall into the bedroom, he gulped, remembering that, that was where the pictures had been stashed. Rolf didn't usually go through the dresser in the extra bedroom, a perfect place to hide the pictures.
"What's the matter?" Rolf demanded when he dropped the tea towel and shot upstairs.
"Cat!" Matthew yelled back. As a reason in their household that worked for most things. At the top of the stairs he was just in time to see Marc shoulder into a t-shirt. And give him a filthy look.
"Ah. It's the Joker."
No sign of the photos. Matthew leaned against the doorpost, relieved.
"Rolf wants you to come downstairs, we're making drinks," he lied. Marc gave him another, measuring look.
"Maybe in a minute."
"We're making them now."
"So they'll wait a minute, go on down."
Matthew looked at him. Marc looked back. Neither was sure who moved first, but there was a sudden rush and then a mad struggle in front of the dresser, during which the drawer got opened, and two cats fled downstairs in a panic. Roused by the sounds of a struggle and two bolt-eyed cats, Rolf tried calling, and then ran upstairs. The struggle was still ongoing in front of the open drawer, silent but furious.
"WHAT is going on here?" Rolf demanded, startling both boys. Matthew let go first and stepped back, rubbing a spot on his arm. He was flushed and wouldn't look at his partner.
Marc slowly slid the drawer shut for lack of anything better to do.
"Matthew?" Rolf prompted.
"We were just wrestling," Matthew said in a small voice.
"There's a bathroom down the hall, with plenty of soap," Rolf said sternly.
"We were," Marc jumped in, eager not to spill the beans. He couldn't hold eye contact when Rolf brought his ice blue gaze to bear on him.
"And there's plenty more for you as well," Rolf said. "There's been something underlying this entire day and we're going to get to the bottom of it right now."
"It's nothing," Matthew said hastily, "Really, we were just messing around."
"Around the drawer," Rolf said shortly. And saw the look between the two of them. With a sneaking suspicion he held out a hand to Matthew.
"Give it to me."
"What- I don't know-" Matthew began, floundering, and jumped at the bark.
" NOW ."
It worked. Matthew stooped very slowly, and opened the drawer. He stopped there, not actually able to go through with sinking Marc. Rolf stepped past him and took out the photographs.
Matthew grimaced at Marc, who had flushed scarlet from head to toe. Rolf quickly flipped through the photographs, his jaw tightening noticeably as he did so. He turned to Marc.
"Explain yourself."
Now that the photos were out in the open, there was nothing to do but put a good spin on it and hope it flew well.
"Thomas, my friend and art professor at the college, needed a model for his students. It saved him a HUGE headache in trying to hire someone, and as it was extra money for me, I did it.”
"Okay, that explains the pose in the photos," Rolf said unpromisingly. "But it doesn't explain the pictures, or what YOU have to do with this," Rolf continued, changing his gaze to his partner.
Marc took a deep breath, trying to steady himself. Matthew deserved whatever he got.
When Matthew realized that Marc wasn't going to point an accusing finger at him and give him a means to argue back, he swallowed on a dry throat.
"Matthew!"
Matthew spoke quickly. "Chris was in the class and realized it was Marc. He called us and we went in to audit the class -"
"You MEAN to say you went in to torture Marc," Rolf corrected before Matthew could continue digging himself a hole he wouldn't be able to get out of. Everything connected together perfectly now.
Matthew flushed darkly but didn't answer. Rolf gave him a short nod.
"You, downstairs. Kitchen and stay there."
Matthew gladly fled. Marc swallowed, not at all happy being left alone when Rolf had that expression on his face.
"What made you think doing those pictures would be a good idea?" Rolf said shortly when Matthew was out of earshot. Marc swallowed.
"Hey- it's just art- just a class, helping out a friend."
"For money," Rolf said unpromisingly.
Feeling sunk and not liking it, Marc tried to change the direction the conversation was taking. "Thomas asked. Like I said, it was to help him out."
"For money," Rolf said again, bluntly.
"He was going to pay someone else. Why not me?" Marc asked indignantly.
"For DVDs?" Rolf said, not in the least distracted.
Marc flushed and stammered. "Yes."
"You did this for DVDs," Rolf repeated, folding his arms. "Stripped off and laid out in front of a room full of people, using your body for money, in order to buy yet more DVDs."
"Why not?" Marc demanded.
"WHICH DVDs?"
Not knowing the purpose behind asking that question but having little choice to not answer, he said "Angel, season one."
"Uh huh. Which cost what?"
"A hundred."
"And that was all? "
"Yes, sir."
Rolf looked at him for a long moment, arms still folded.
Marc swallowed hard. Rolf was going to be seriously unhappy with the overdraft at his bank, but if he didn't confess now and Rolf found out, he might as well move to another state.
"The money I earned covered an overdraft at the bank. It's ALL taken care of now and won't happen again."
There was a long silence. Then Rolf looked once more down at the pictures.
"THIS was because you had an overdraft you couldn't cover."
" AND I was helping Thomas," Marc added hopefully.
"You did this to cover an overdraft," Rolf repeated.
Marc couldn't stand the long silences and felt a need to explain his reasoning.
"Yes sir.  $300. The art job paid $50 an hour. It would have taken me MANY more hours and hard work to get those hours at work. Thomas asked for my help, and I thought that was a far better use of my time. Six hours for $300 instead of thirty -"
"Would you have considered this if you didn't have the overdraft?"
Marc stopped when he was interrupted and couldn't come up with an answer.
Rolf waited, not about to bail him out and getting less amused by the minute.
"Maybe?" Marc finally answered into the heavy silence.
"Maybe? You would have done this if you didn't need the money?"
"I don't know," Marc said quickly. "It was odd at first, but then it wasn't so bad."
"I don't like this," Rolf said bluntly. "I don't know if that's my business to tell you that or not, but I'll say it all the same, I don't like it. And any partner of yours wouldn't be likely to like it either. Shifting the boundaries on your usual beliefs and standards for money is not a good thing, Marc."
Marc took a minute to let that sink in. The decision to do it HAD come more out of desperation for money than a desire to model. He didn't rightly know what his choice would have been if money hadn't been an issue. And he most certainly didn't like what Rolf was implying.
"You are not someone to do this out of artistic ambition, or exhibitionism. You're young, and I have a problem with you feeling it's ok to strip off in front of a roomful of people.”
"I don't think it'll happen again," Marc said truthfully, not having enjoyed the experience at all.
"That won't do," Rolf said grimly. "You can't tell me you thought what you were doing was appropriate. For a start, you've worked very hard on keeping this a secret. That more than anything tells me that YOU felt you were doing something shameful."
That stung. "It wasn't....shameful. I just didn't want everyone knowing, for the exact reason that JUST happened!"
"Yes. That people you knew and respected the opinions of wouldn't approve."
"No!" Marc said hotly, arguing back more against the way Rolf was making him feel than anything else. "That Matthew and everyone else would tease me about it!"
"Marc, if that had been all you were worried about you'd have told me and I would have choked off Matthew."
"I just figured out it would be BEST if no one knew until it was over."
"Matthew and company demonstrate, too, the other aspect of this," Rolf went on, not impressed. "HOW you're being looked at. This is a student art class, not even a serious class. Students there purely in order to watch and make fun and to have a good look at you. Is that something you think is appropriate?"
"They're artists!" Marc replied hotly, at a loss for other words and REALLY not wanting to think of everyone taking the class JUST to get a look at someone nude.
"Matthew, Chris and Mike are artists?" Rolf said pointedly.
"No, but the others could have been!"
"I don't know who you're trying to kid, Marc. Yourself or me." Rolf surveyed him, somewhere between worried and seriously unhappy. "And to be frank the reasons and wherefores don't matter. I have a responsibility for you, and there are things I expect of you, standards that may not tie in with what's hip, cool or politically correct. And I don't care about that, I care about you."
Marc shut his mouth. He hadn't been proud before about what he'd done, and he wasn't proud now. And even if he didn't agree with everything Rolf said, he did know that underneath EVERYTHING, the bottom line was that he was definitely cared about, much more than just anyone had a right to be. And thinking that he'd disappointed his friend didn't make him feel very good.
"I DON 'T think it's ok for a young man to bare all in front of a roomful of strangers. I don't think it's ok to allow people to look at and treat YOU as a piece of meat. I don't think it's ok for you to FEEL that way, to be embarrassed or to feel cheapened by doing it. I REALLY don't think it's ok for you to break your usual standards and comfort zones for money. And I do NOT think it's ok for a young man I'm responsible for to be that disrespectful towards his own modesty or privacy in public."
Marc was looking at the floor, head starting to hurt. He was feeling smaller by the minute.
"Now I don't care whether or not you agree with me," Rolf went on, not moving. "I don't need you to. I'm not worried about whether or not you felt this was ok, because I am telling you it's not. That's part of my responsibility towards you, to think about things that can hurt you that you might not put value on, and at the end of the day your job isn't to debate with me what's ok and what's not.  I'll tell you, and you do, it's that simple. You trust me to make those decisions, Marc, you do not get to pick and choose which you feel like following.”

There wasn't much Marc could say in argument against that.  He appreciated knowing that Rolf was there no matter what he needed, though when he was in trouble he worked hard at getting out of it.  He tried a different tack, since this one wasn't going anywhere. 
"You never said that modelling was off limits.  Now I -"
"You clearly had doubts and you should therefore have checked with me," Rolf interrupted. "That you didn't, tells me you had a good idea of what I'd say."
Marc opened his mouth wide and stepped right in. "But you didn't say -"
"If you insist, Marc, I can make it so that you check EVERYTHING and I'll tell you everything."
Marc swallowed hard on that, and stood blinking like a deer in headlights.
"DO you insist?" Rolf said sternly.
"No, sir," Marc countered quickly, knowing exactly how awful Rolf could be when he put his mind to it.
"Then we have to deal with the fact that you should have checked with me and didn't, you did something with a pretty good idea it was unacceptable and kept it quiet- what's another word for that, Marc Ryan?"
"I didn't lie!" Marc said quickly, knowing where that question was leading. "I didn't do that on purpose!"
"You modelled accidentally and totally forgot to mention it."
"Nooooo, it wasn't LIKE that," Marc tried again, his voice becoming plaintive.
"You spent this week playing tag with Matthew and the others with their photographs and spent all today MESSING AROUND TRYING TO KEEP THIS AWAY FROM ME." Rolf's voice lifted and sharpened. " ALL IN COMPLETE INNOCENCE?"
Marc flushed again, jumping when Rolf's voice peaked. "No, sir," he finally managed, wondering if Matthew was getting his ears full downstairs.
"WHAT's the word for that, Marc Ryan?"
"Lying," Marc said quietly, eyes on the floor.
"Yes," Rolf agreed. "Not to mention the ethics of getting into this sort of stupid game with Matthew. I'll have a word with him, but YOU have no excuse encouraging him in this kind of underhandedness, you could have put a stop to it in a second IF you had any kind of moral standpoint to start with."
Marc swallowed on a dry throat, knowing where this was heading. When the silence lengthened, he said, "Yes, sir."
Rolf looked at him for a long moment. "Then we need to talk about what we do about this. I'm very unhappy that you did it at all. Have you now finished?"
Marc looked up in panic, remembering only then that he had a whole second week still to go. "N...no. I owe him a second week."
"Which will pay off the overdraft?"
"Yes, sir."
"Which you ran up buying DVDs without checking whether you could afford them," Rolf said dryly, making a shrewd guess.
"Yes, sir," Marc said, unable to control the flush he felt creeping across his face.
Rolf gave him another long look. Then said quietly, "I don't want you to do any more of this. I don't like it, I don't approve of it; it isn't acceptable."
Marc looked up, finally able to meet Rolf's eyes.
"I understand, but I can't." He rushed on when Rolf's face started to darken. "Thomas' session is for two weeks, the students are in the middle of their portraits. If I leave now, Thomas' class is screwed, along with him. I owe him another week. I'm sorry," Marc finished, meaning it.
Rolf didn't answer for a moment. Then said quietly, "I understand you don't want to let down your friend or the students. But that does not make this any more acceptable."
"No, sir."
"I'll give you a choice," Rolf went on in the same quiet tone. "We can deal with this now. And believe me when we're done you will not be keen to show off your butt in public. Or we can wait until your role in this class is done and we'll deal with it that evening."
Marc's eyes filled of their own accord. Not that there had been any doubt, but having Rolf put into words that he was in for a sound spanking made him feel positively ill. He knew too, that even with Sunday to heal, there'd still likely be obvious evidence of his punishment on Monday, and there was no possible way he was stripping off in front of the class to show off his marks. And as MUCH as he dreaded the next week of modelling after this short discussion, it was going to be even worse knowing that Friday afternoon his ass was toast.
"Which will it be?" Rolf said, well aware of the struggle Marc was having. It was not a pleasant choice he was offering, but Marc had chosen to make this commitment, and the natural consequences of them were as much his choice. He approved of Marc's caring for his commitment, but it was never something he should have agreed to, and he did not at all enjoy the thought of Marc presenting himself three more times before his audience with all that entailed.
The tears slid out of full eyes.
"Isn't there anything else we can do?" Marc tried, hating the entire idea.
"No," Rolf said, not unkindly. "I respect your commitment. But that doesn't change that you should not have agreed to this in the first place. So my gesture towards your commitment is to allow you to finish and to wait your punishment until it's convenient for you. If you wish."
Marc sobbed, then waited a minute to hold in the rest. In a voice full of tears he said. "Later."
"Ok," Rolf said quietly, holding out an arm to him.
Marc went into Rolf's arm and again, a few sobs erupted before he was able to stifle them again.
Rolf rubbed his back, letting him settle a little before he patted the shoulder under his hand.
"You need to get yourself ready for bed please. I'll be up to check on you in a while."
Marc didn't argue, just headed back over to the dresser to change his shorts and shirt out for his more comfortable ones that he usually slept in. He pulled back the covers and slid into the cool sheets which felt good against his still hot body. He worked hard on not crying but couldn't quit feeling sorry for himself.
Rolf waited until he was in bed, then headed downstairs to deal with his full time brat. Who was sitting on his hands in the kitchen, looking somewhere between extremely guilty and hopefully innocent.
"So when did you take up voyeurism?" Rolf said, closing the door behind him.
"I'm not a voyeur! I was auditing the art class in case I wanted to take one."
Rolf leaned on the table, said nothing at all and merely LOOKED at his partner.
"OKAY," Matthew finally said when the silence went on too long. "It was just an opportunity to tease Marc and I took it. I'm sorry."
"Teasing and having a good time at his expense. Not to mention helping him cover up something you knew I'd be unhappy about."
"When Chris told me it was Marc, I couldn't believe it and wanted to see for myself. I'm sorry I didn't tell you."
"So you all went to the class and made Marc thoroughly uncomfortable, took pictures of him, humiliated him in front of the other students and teased him all day about those pictures," Rolf said bluntly.
Matthew's eyes dropped when faced with those accusations.
"I don't think the other students knew anything," Matthew said, realizing for the first time just how humiliated Marc might have been.
"How do you think Marc felt? How do you think he's looked today?"
"Not good," Matthew said, slumping back into the chair.
"Not good?" Rolf said sharply.
Matthew looked up quickly. "He was pretty upset, wasn't he?"
"I think so," Rolf agreed. "When a friend makes a bad decision you know is going to get him into difficulties, do you really think it’s a good idea to make it worse?"
"No, sir," Matthew agreed. The day of fun now felt pretty mean.
"Then what exactly is your excuse for teasing him with those pictures all day?"
"It's not often we get the chance to tease him like that. It's usually the other way around," Matthew said quietly.
"I don't think that makes it at all acceptable, from start to finish," Rolf said shortly. "I'm taking it all the other three were in on this?"
"Yes, sir," Matthew replied, cringing inside at the thought of the others in trouble as well.
"Then I'll start the ring around. YOU, young man, can bring me ANY more sketches or pictures you happen to own and go and wait for me downstairs."
Matthew swallowed on a dry throat, standing up. "You have them all."
"You're ABSOLUTELY sure of that?" Rolf said shortly, looking at him.
"Yes, sir. The picture I was drawing wasn't worth saving and I threw it out. Just the photos in the drawer upstairs."
Matthew didn't feel the need to mention what the others might have; they were going to be kind of mad at him anyway. He stood there, stomach twisting.
Rolf jerked his head at the door. "Then go down and wait for me please. Take your pants off and pick a corner."
Matthew followed his stomach down the stairs, turning into the larger area of the game room. He fumbled with the button on his shorts, hearing Rolf's voice float down the steps as he made his first of three calls. He stepped slowly out of his shorts and put them carefully on the ping-pong table, then just as slowly stepped over to the corner. Rolf hadn't been THAT particular, and his underwear gave him a mini-dose of comfort. He leaned against one wall, resting his forehead on the other and waited for his execution.
Upstairs, Rolf took a seat at the kitchen table and made three phone calls, explaining himself in brief and bald terms to three equally startled other men in other parts of the town. If Rolf was any judge there were going to be several shocked examinations of pictures of Marc in the altogether in several homes this evening.
When Joe, the last of the group, put the phone down and went to discuss natural art with his partner, Rolf put the phone back, rubbed his eyes and briefly considered going out and watering the garden, and leaving both young men in the house to fend for themselves. Tomatoes were far less complex. Then he washed up and put away the cups in the sink, took one more look at the photographs of Marc in his pocket, tore them up beyond recognition and dropped them in the trash. And collected the paddle from its drawer before he headed downstairs, shutting the door behind him.
Matthew's stomach jumped and tightened and he straightened up in the corner, hearing his partner's footsteps on the stairs. He could almost feel the shadow of Rolf preceding him, and hear the sinister background music from any one of a dozen horror films.
"Come here," Rolf said, taking a seat on the couch and laying the paddle down next to him.
Matthew couldn't tell by the tone how in trouble he really was. He turned and padded with his head down over to Rolf, stopping just short of him when he spotted the paddle on the couch next to his partner. His voice went several notches higher and the tears that had been threatening fell of their own accord.
"Nooooooooooooooooo. It wasn't THAT baaaaaaaaad."
"It wasn't?" Rolf inquired, nodding at the underwear. "You can lose them too."
Matthew's hands immediately went to his shorts, but they didn't go down.
"Please, Rolf, I know it was stupid. It won't happen again, I'm sorry!"
Rolf simply waited, elbows on his knees, hands loosely clasped, in no apparent hurry.
Hands twisting the elastic band, Matthew finally pushed them off his hips, the familiar feeling of powerlessness overtaking him. His green eyes were fairly large, hoping with every fibre of his being that Rolf would change his mind. He left the shorts on the floor and took the final step closer to his partner.
"How comfortable do you feel right now?" Rolf asked conversationally, not moving.
"I don't," Matthew said quickly, not sure where that question was leading.
"No, I should think you don't." Rolf looked at him, still not moving. "And if you can feel like that even with me, how do you think Marc felt stripped off in front of you and a roomful of strangers?"
Matthew looked down quickly, that point hitting home immediately. All the fun they'd had with Marc was instantly gone and he was left only feeling badly for his part in making Marc feel even worse than he did at this particular moment.
Rolf said nothing further, just took Matthew's hand and drew him down over his lap, settling him before he picked up the paddle. Marc, upstairs and even through the closed doors, heard the twelve unhurried and very sound swats that fell.
While Marc was upstairs with stomach twisted, emotions swinging between feeling slightly happy that Matthew was getting what he deserved for his part, slightly unhappy that Matthew was getting paddled, and far LESS happy that his role in the incident was far worse than what Matthew did, Matthew was sobbing copiously into the couch cushions.
He was devastated from both the paddle swats and the way he felt after Rolf pointed out to him just how badly one could feel even in partial dress. Marc had had the balls to do the Full Monty and his friends had done nothing but made fun of him. It took a couple of minutes to realize that the paddle was no longer falling. Rolf laid the paddle down and helped him to his feet, keeping hold of his hand and waiting a moment until he settled down a little.
With large intakes of breath between each word, Matthew sobbed out
"Marc must hate me now," before breaking into a fresh torrent of tears.
Rolf sat back and pulled Matthew down into his lap, shifting to accommodate him as Matthew turned around and buried himself in his arms.
"I doubt that very much," he said calmly, rubbing his back. "And Marc wasn't innocent in this either and he knows it, or he would have sorted you out the first time you opened your mouth about this modelling business."
Matthew stayed glued to Rolf's side, slowly settling down emotionally, as the fire slowly settled down in his behind.
"Is he in big trouble?" Matthew asked quietly, from the depths of Rolf's neck.
"That," Rolf said, kissing the top of his head, "has nothing whatever to do with you. You owe him an apology which you can go and give him right now, and then you can get yourself to bed please."
Matthew stayed where he was until Rolf pushed him to his feet. Sniffling, he bent down to retrieve his underwear and pulled those on slowly, choosing to carry his shorts rather than put them on as well. He stopped in the downstairs bathroom to clean up the worst of his face, though it was going to be painfully obvious to Marc that he'd been thoroughly spanked. He walked slowly up the stairs, his backside made more uncomfortable by the stretching and pulling of the underwear. Matthew stopped just outside of Marc's door, trying to settle his breathing. He tossed his shorts over to their doorway when he realized he was still holding them before opening the door. Marc was visible, the fading daylight showing his outline beneath the sheets, turned away from the door and pulled into a ball.
"Marc?" Matthew asked tentatively, hand still on the doorknob.
"What?" Marc said shortly, in no mood to be hospitable.
He swallowed nervously before speaking quickly. "I'm sorry for making fun of you."
"Thanks." Marc turned his head enough to see Matthew's clearly reddened and tearstained face, giving him a rather hard and unfriendly look.
Matthew backed out quickly, eyes filling again. There was more he'd like to say but he couldn't bring himself to at the moment. He quickly shut the door and went into his own room, kicking his shorts in and shutting the door quickly before another sob escaped. He fought them back, heading into the bathroom to start brushing his teeth.
Marc lay for a moment staring at the ceiling. Then swore softly, got up and knocked on Matthew's door.  Hanging the towel back up, Matthew headed back into the room and opened the door.
"Hi," Marc said quietly.
"Hey."
Marc leaned against the doorframe, taking in green, red-rimmed and unhappy eyes under long lashes.
"You got me into a MESS of trouble, you know that?"
Matthew was feeling too fragile to argue that Marc had actually been the one to start it.
"Sorry," he said, looking anywhere but at Marc.
"You didn't HAVE to take those pictures either," Marc went on. "If I could have gotten my hands on you after that session-"
"I know."
Marc stood there, not sure what else to say, getting the same message from Matthew that he'd sent to him a few minutes earlier. Just when Marc was getting ready to turn around and head back to his room, Matthew broke the uncomfortable silence.
"Marc........... I AM sorry. Really. It just seemed like....."
"A good idea in the midst of a bunch of bad ones?"
"It just seemed funny, that was all."
"Yeah, I guess it would have from your perspective. Not really funny anymore, is it?" Marc said sadly.
"NO kidding." Matthew subconsciously put a hand behind him to rub. "Did Rolf cope ok with you au naturelle?"
Marc snorted expressively. "No. I'm sure I'll be a LOT -"
"I think two young men need to get themselves into bed," Rolf said sternly as he walked down the hall, interrupting Marc. The look that passed between the two young men spoke volumes more than words ever could. Marc kept his head down and scurried back over to his room, shutting the door without another word. Matthew turned and headed for the dresser to get his pajamas on.
Rolf stood waiting until he was dressed and under the covers before he headed past him towards the shower.
Matthew wondered briefly about what Marc's punishment was going to be and when, having seen no evidence when they'd spoken. His thoughts also drifted to each of his friends and how their nights had gone as well. He was miserable and tired enough from the antics of the day that he was asleep before Rolf came to bed.
*
"Is he dressed?" Chris asked, peering through the glass door of the art room with his hands in his pockets. Michael, taller, peered over his head and shrugged.
"Probably collecting his pay. Poor bugger, I hope it's been financially worth it."
"Hey guys. Is he out yet?" Matthew asked, joining the other three standing outside.
"No sign." Todd drifted around the corridor, kicking at lint as the last of the students cleared from the art room. "How much trouble is he in? Did he tell you?"
"Not in so many words," Matthew replied. "I just know Rolf was VERY unhappy with me, and if that's any indication, Marc needs to move to England ."
"But Marc said he had orders to go home with you tonight?"
"Yeah." Trying to get the spotlight off of him and Marc, he asked Chris. "So was Joe upset with you?"
"Really." Chris gave him a somewhat abashed grimace. "Apparently if I'd have had a quiet word with Joe like I should have done the first time I SAW Marc in the class, no one needed to get into trouble at all."
"Oh good, that makes it ALL your fault," Michael said, punching Chris gently in the arm.
"Yeah RIGHT. Like Marc would love it if I went home like a good boy and said ‘Joe... Marc is starkers in my art class.’"
"Too bad you didn't know that before Eric busted your ass," Todd said with a sly grin at Mike.
"He's a cop; you think there're any excuses that get past him?" Mike demanded. The door opened and all four fell back out of the way as Marc emerged, straightening his collar.
Marc was slightly surprised to see everyone there. He hadn't seen Michael and Todd since the weekend and knew he was due apologies from them as well, since Chris had done so on Monday and it WAS the accepted practice of all of them to apologize when necessary.
"Hi," he said, a little self-consciously.
"We're sorry," Mike said, pulling himself up off the wall. "All of us, en masse, that is, HE is sorry and I am and so probably is he and he definitely is- so can we take you out for a drink?"
"Yes, me too," Todd chimed in, making sure he honoured his promise to actually SAY the words. "I could use a drink too."
"No, I'm-"
"Going for your execution later, you could USE a drink," Matthew said firmly, taking Marc's hand and pulling him down the hall.
"Rolf said straight home," Marc pointed out, going where he was led. "And it's four now-"
"And he won't be home until 5:15 or later, depending on traffic," Matthew countered. "Just over here on the corner."
"Yeah, a few minutes aren't going to kill you," Chris said as they walked across the grass in front of the art centre, straight towards the bar in which this whole mess started, Marc the only one aware of that fact.
They occupied a table by the window and Matthew brought across five bottles of beer, handing them around the circle.
"A toast," he said, when all five were distributed. "To Marc. Who got the cash he wanted, even if he'd have been better just coming to us for a loan in the first place, and to whom we offer sincere apologies."
"Marc," everyone echoed, clinking their bottles.
"And it was a hell of a cute little butt while it lived," Michael added, knocking back beer.
Matthew's first attempt at swallowing the beer went awry with that comment, though he managed to contain the spray to just the table and not his friends. Everyone laughed, even Marc who fought the flush that was attempting to spread across his face from the same comment.
"Damnit, Mike, watch the timing," Matthew said good-naturedly as he mopped up his chin with his napkin.
Marc leaned over and clinked his bottle with Mike's.
"I'm all for it, I agree with that sentiment entirely."
*
It was ten to five when Marc and Matthew pulled up in their separate cars on the drive and Matthew glanced at his watch.
"You've got plenty of time. Where do you have to be?"
The question caught Marc off guard. He'd had a decent time with everyone and again felt a normal part of the group rather than the one getting picked on, but the beer that had tasted good going down was now leaving him ill as his stomach churned for other reasons.
Matthew wanted to laugh at the deer in the headlights look that Marc had adopted, but knew exactly where his mind was and exactly how unpleasant that place could be.
"Come on," he said, tugging Marc by the hand again. "We'd at least better get inside in case he decides to come home early.
Marc followed Matthew inside and watched him peel off his jacket and hang it up, getting rid of his book bag before he said again, as delicately as possible,
"Where are you supposed to be when he gets home?"
"In....my room," Marc said slowly and quietly.
Matthew winced in sympathy. "You'd better go then. I had clear instructions to change and be mowing."
"I think I'd actually prefer that today," Marc said miserably, turning and heading slowly up the stairs.
Matthew headed into the kitchen, took a bottle of water with him and went into the garage to pull out the mower. Much as he sympathised with Marc, he had no wish to be added to Rolf's hit list this afternoon, nor to be in any way involved with the coming Armageddon.
Marc walked into his room and shut the door and settled on the bed. Just as quickly he stood up and paced around the room, stopping to look out the window to see if he could see Matthew. He hadn't heard the mower start yet. He continued pacing, feeling about as good as if he were standing in the corner.
Matthew dragged the mower out, set it up and spent a minute knocking back water, before he stood the bottle on the porch and started the motor up. The first long stripe across the lawn was cut when he heard Rolf turn onto the drive and paused, waiting.
Rolf pulled into the garage, then stepped back out and up to the front yard where Matthew was working. He waited until Matthew got close and turned the mower off.
"Did you just now get started?"
"Yes........ it took a while to get it out and I was thirsty." Matthew turned up his face for a kiss, hoping it would be enough of a distraction.
Rolf pulled Matthew close and kissed him firmly. "I'll come down and help in a while, and until then I'd like you to continue working. If you need any more water from the house, go get it now."
"I'll get another bottle." Matthew kept hold of him, walking with him to the house. "Did you have a good day?"
"It wasn't bad. We did have a homeless person enter and try to talk the secretary into letting him take a shower. I ended up having to stay in the waiting room until the police came to pick him up as he had something shiny in his hands."
"You stayed with him?" Matthew demanded, voice rising.
"I couldn't leave him and the secretary alone. Roger was there too, and he never did anything dangerous," Rolf said as he held the door open for Matthew to enter.
"You didn't know WHAT he might do! What was it he had? Did you know the police who came out?"
"It ended up being a spoon, and no, I didn't know the officers who arrived. It took them only ten minutes from the time we called and the guy was pretty genial.
"You were LUCKY," Matthew said severely, taking a bottle of water out of the fridge.
"Yes, I suppose I am," Rolf said, stealing another kiss. He was looking forward to seeing Marc about as much as Marc was looking forward to seeing him.
Matthew, well aware he wasn't happy and not liking it either, paused where he was and wrapped both arms around him, half inclined to try coaxing him back into the garden.
"You shouldn't mess with that kind of thing; you'd have a fit if I did. Do you want some tea?"
Rolf would have loved to accept the invitation, but it was only prolonging the ugliness, and not just for him. "No, Sport. You need to mow, and I need to see to Marc."
"You doooooon't....." Matthew pulled gently towards the garden
Rolf pulled Matthew back to him and dropped a kiss on his forehead. "Mower. Go on."
Matthew pouted, but unwillingly let go, took his water and went back to the grass.
Loosening his tie, Rolf headed upstairs to get into something more comfortable.
Outside, Matthew started the mower up with a quick look towards the window nearest to Marc's room. At the front of the house, he wasn't likely to hear or see anything which he had no doubt was the main idea. Moving slowly, he continued the mown stripes in the grass.
Rolf pulled his tie off and changed his suit for a pair of cutoff jeans and a t-shirt, something he could work in the yard with. He'd enjoy having a few minutes to dig in the dirt after the emotional scene that was going to be played out shortly. He didn't appreciate the week-long wait at all, but it was a choice that had to be made. He took a few moments in the bathroom, washing his face and brushing his hair, mainly using the time to settle himself and decide best how to handle this. After drying the last of the water from his face, he headed back out and over to the closet. Stepping in, he thumbed through his belts until he found the one he wanted. It was a light tan colour and well worn, one and a half inches wide. He threaded it slowly through the loops and tightened it before heading over to Marc's room. He knocked softly and entered to find a very apprehensive Marc sitting on the bed, hands twisted in the coverlet. He shut the door firmly and switched on his patented icy blue glare to confront Marc.
*
"Your nude portraits are on the back table, be sure to pick yours up before leaving," Tom said as the bell rang at the end of class.
Chris packed the last of his kit into his bag and picked up the picture on the back table. Marc's face, somewhat between a look of dreaminess and concern, looked up from a Grecian curve of his body. And the grade on the back made him smile.
He pulled out his cell phone when he got out to his car, and quick dialed Marc's office. The secretary confirmed he had an open afternoon, so Chris headed right over. He rolled the picture up, careful to not bend the paper and headed up to Marc's office.
Marc was sitting at his desk- although Chris well understood the angle he was sitting at and the restlessness with which he sat. He looked up from his desk and smiled, pushing the file away.
"Hi there, this is a nice surprise- after some films?"
"No, actually I'm not. I had something for you," Chris said, holding out the roll of paper.
"What is it?" Marc took the roll with some suspicion.
"It's the portrait. I figured you can do what you want with it. I'd show it to Joe, I got an A, but I figure that's your decision."
"You got an A?" That alone gave Marc pause for thought as he stopped, halfway through unrolling the sheet. An A for Chris was no minor achievement, Marc actually doubted if he'd ever gained an A grade before in his life.
"He said I could see the person, not just an outline. I didn't think it was anything spectacular, but then I'm not an art major," Chris said, wondering if Marc would ever unroll it and look at it.
Marc looked at him for a moment more, very touched, then bracing himself, unrolled the picture. It took some courage to look- and when he did he blinked. The young man in the picture was comfortably sprawled on the couch, one arm behind his head, the other arm resting on his bent knee. The curve of his hip was clearly visible- but nothing else. From the angle Chris had drawn it was impossible to be sure even that the boy was naked. The face was somewhere between dreamy and concerned, the eyes open and looking up. It was- Marc couldn't deny- a beautiful picture.
Chris couldn't contain his grin any longer, with the look of complete surprise on Marc's face.
"Not as bad as you thought?"
"Not the picture, no," Marc said deadpan.
Chris laughed. Marc smiled and got up, putting a hand behind Chris's head, and pulled him close enough to kiss his cheek.
"This is beautiful. I'd love a copy of it. And if you feel like circulating it through the local modelling agencies....."
"I'll talk to Joe first, and save ALL of us the trouble," Chris finished, laughing.
"Looking at the results- was it worth it?" he added as Marc walked him towards the front of the store. "Matthew said you needed the cash for some of your DVDs."
"No, it was so very much NOT worth it. An experience for sure, but NOT one I intend to try again. Matthew was right, I may have just been better off asking for a loan."
"I don't think Rolf would have been much happier about that," Chris said dryly. "Did he find out about the DVDs?"
Marc looked at him like he had three heads. "Do you even NEED to ask? They're in hock, I MAY see them by Christmas."
"At least he didn't break them," Chris pointed out. "Joe's broken a couple of illegal ones of mine before now. Are you sure you want a copy of this picture? If you want to keep it- if you want to lose it- that's probably your right."
Marc thought it was pretty good too that Rolf hadn't made him send the DVDs back, or throw them out, though he was sure that was a very distinct possibility if he even came close to something like that again. He smiled saying, "It's your artwork. Show it off to Joe, he's going to be very proud of you."
"I may have finally found something I'm good at," Chris said wryly. Marc opened the door for him and Chris leaned on the doorway, giving him a wink.
"Seems like it just took the right motivation. Upwards and onwards!"
He escaped out of reach before Marc could grab him.
"Brat!" Marc yelled, smiling and holding open the door for a couple of customers, before waving to Chris and heading back inside.
~ The End ~
Copyright Rolf and Ranger 2010

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