Thursday, February 11, 2010

Tangled Webs

Title: Tangled Webs
Author: Ranger

I can only say it was one of those things that seemed a good idea at the time.
It was shortly after midday when I left the drawings strewn across the dining room table, put the kettle on to make yet another mug of coffee and ran upstairs to get a jumper. With that over my head and my mind on anything but the work I should have been doing, I didn't hear the front door. 
Damien’s voice made me jump in the hall below, loud and sharp. 
“Nick? Nick!” 
Panic is too mild a word. I stood frozen, my stomach trying to boil up through my mouth. 
"NICK!" Damien's voice had risen downstairs. 
There was no point in denying it, I was caught. I was summoning up the courage to call back when he ran up the stairs and burst into our room. His face was white and he grabbed me hard enough to hurt. 
“Are you okay?” 
I looked blankly at him. He let me go and drew a deep, slow breath. 
“I called your office.” He said eventually. “Jackie said you had a major asthma attack at home this morning- you were on your way to casualty. I couldn’t get through to the hospital. I only stopped here to pick up your parents’ phone number and I saw your car.” 
Oh dear God. 
I stared at him, too shaken to say anything but the obvious. “I’m sorry-“ 
“What’s going on?” he sounded too shaken to be angry. Which was worse. I cleared my throat, not that it helped much. 
“I - I - rang the office this morning and said I was ill-“ 
“Jackie said I rang her.” Damien said flatly. “I thought maybe she confused the names.” 
I flushed. Damien gave me a grim look, then shook his head slowly. 
“Oh no. Let me guess. You rang pretending to be me? And told her you were about to be taken to casualty.”
“That project-“ I said helplessly. “It was only half done and the deadline was today…” 
I trailed off, knowing I was sunk. He was going to kill me. Damien stared at me for what felt like several years, then he sat down on the edge of the bed. 
“Nicky, don’t ever scare me like that again.” 
His tone was so unsteady I forgot how scared I was and looked properly at him. It was then I realised he was pale and shaking. My heart turned over. 
“Damien- oh God I’m so sorry, I didn’t think you’d hear it like that-“ 
I didn’t think he’d hear it at all. He left for work before me and came home later- he should have returned home to find all as normal and never known about any of this. It was quite unnecessary for him to know about any of this. I knelt to put my arms around him but he caught my wrists and put them down. 
“No.” he got up, looking over my head. “Right now, I really don’t want to talk to you.” 
That hurt like nothing else he could have done. I grabbed his arm but he pulled away and held himself out of my reach. “No. Leave me alone for a while.” 
“Look,” my own voice was starting to shake with reaction. “I know- this was really stupid, I know I'm in trouble-" 
That was an understatement. At the sight of his face I swallowed and said it. 
“I know you're going to spank me and I deserve it. It was an awful thing to do- and I should have told you about the deadline, I knew I wouldn’t make it unless you nagged me-“ 
“Later.” Damien turned his back on me, arms folded. I took a step after him and stopped, warned by his rigid shoulders. 
“Damien- -“ 
“Do you really think it’s all that simple!” Damien turned to face me and I took a step away from him at the sight of his eyes and the sheer volume of his voice. He never loses his temper. Never. When annoyed, he gets calm and sarcastic, those are the danger signals- I’d never before heard him shout. 
“All it takes is a spanking and abracadabra- no hurt feelings, no one left upset, everything wiped away? You’re like a kid who thinks ‘sorry’ is some sort of magic word!” 
I was shaking by now. “I don’t know what else-“ 
“Get out. Nick get out, now, before I say something I don't mean. Out!” 
I went. I shut the door behind me, went downstairs and folded up on the bottom step, arms tight around my knees. Crying wouldn’t do any good, but I couldn’t help it. All I could do was be as quiet as possible and not upset him any further. I was appalled at what I’d done now I could see it in the cold light of day. It was bad enough that I'd fibbed to him about the work. Yes he would have spanked me for missing the deadlines and it would have hurt, but he would have teased me about it, he would have seen the work was done and kept me out of any real trouble. I went hot and cold at the thought of him hearing that awful lie from Jackie. The whiteness of his face when he came in. He’d been terrified. 
I couldn’t stay here. I picked my keys up off the table and slipped out the front door, closing it as softly as I could. 
I had no idea where to go. After a few miles I was crying too hard to drive anyway. I pulled into a layby in the middle of nowhere and tried to think about what to do.
I couldn’t go home. Not after what I’d done. This was unforgivable and I couldn’t face the discussions and negotiations to disentangle our lives and go our separate ways. My parents thought he was wonderful and would be bound to sympathise with him. And I couldn't go to them anyway, that would be the first place he would look: likewise our friends. Even the car was easily traceable. Once I realised that, I pulled myself together. I'd have to get rid of the car and go somewhere he couldn’t find me. Wait until things cooled far enough between us that his leaving me wouldn’t hurt so much. I turned the engine over and turned the car around, headed for the railway station. 
It was a small, local station, and naturally it was closed. Notices informed me to speak to the conductor on the train to buy a ticket. I sat on one of the red, wrought iron benches and sorted through my pockets to work out how much cash I had. About enough to get me to London. Which was a large enough place to get lost in without too much effort. 
I dug my hands into my pockets and stared at the tracks through blurred eyes.  How stupid could you get? How badly can one man screw up? I was the world expert. I ought to be writing books about it. The minutes ticked by on the overhead clock. The platform was deserted apart from a woman and a small child in a pushchair reading the timetables on the notice board. 
Another ten minutes passed so slowly it felt like years. I realised, when I coughed yet again, that my chest was tightening in the familiar way: like an iron band gradually closing. I fumbled in my jacket pocket. And my trouser pockets. No inhaler. It was in my other jacket, which was over the bannisters at home. Damien had been nagging me for weeks to keep a spare one in the car, but of course I hadn’t got around to actually putting one there. Damn. I was thinking seriously about panicking when I saw him walk onto the platform. 
He glanced once down at the mother and child, then straight back at me.
My heart went through the roof of my mouth. Hazel eyes flashed at me down the length of the platform, pinioning me as a train finally pulled in. When the train left, I was still standing there. He took his hands out of his jacket pockets and threaded through the crowd of commuters towards me. I wavered between bursting into tears and running. I wasn’t fast enough. He caught me in the first hesitant steps away and his strong hands turned my face up. 
“What do you think you're doing?” 
His voice was ludicrously gentle. I ducked my head as far as I could for his hand. Tears, hot and stinging, blurred the platform beneath me. Damien pulled me against his chest and his familiar arms wrapped me up, rocked, making me cry harder. His head was against mine; he was waiting in silence for me to calm down. God knows he’s used to my dramas. I was still choking when he manhandled me towards the gate. 
"Come on, I've got your spacer in the car." 
By then I needed it. 
I sat in his car, struggled with the setting and huffed at it with all the co ordination I could muster, trying to talk around the edge of the mouthpiece. 
“I’m sorry. Really, I’m sorry-“ 
“Stop talking and calm down.” His hand covered the back of my neck and the other covered my hand over the inhaler. “Do it again, that one didn’t get anywhere near you. Slow down and think what you’re doing or we really are going to end up in casualty. Nick.” 
My lungs obey that growl. I think they’d possibly obey if I were dead. It took a while, but eventually Damien’s hand eased on my neck and ruffled my hair. I lifted my head the half inch it took to risk seeing his eyes. He gave me a faint smile. His smile. 
“Do you mind if we go home now?” 
“I can’t.” 
Damien turned the car engine over. "Yes you can." 
 I’d just about stopped wheezing by the time we reached home. He sent me ahead of him into the kitchen where he made coffee, letting me hover, awkward and shivering. 
“Take your coat off and look as though you're stopping.” He said calmly, putting the mugs down on the table. I muttered something about cooking. He caught my hand and pulled me into a chair. “Nick.” 
That was all. It was enough. I started to shake properly. He kept hold of my hand. 
“Where were you going?” 
“I don’t know.” 
“So you were just clearing off into nowhere were you? The first train that came along?” 
It’s about the most manipulative thing I can do to him, and I hated myself for doing it, but I couldn’t help starting to cry. I heard his voice break at once. 
“Oh Nicky don’t. I’m sorry, I shouldn’t have shouted.” 
He’s beyond belief. I'd spent my entire day being creatively horrible to him, and he was apologising to me. 
“YOU’RE sorry?” I choked out. 
“Yes.” He put a hand on my hair, ruffled for a minute, then helplessly began to stroke. “I shouldn’t have lost my temper with you. But you scared the living daylights out of me! Have you any idea what I felt like when Jackie told me?” 
I shook my head, still sobbing. 
“Come here.” He said quietly. 
I pulled uselessly. He got me around the table and into his lap, forcing me to cuddle up to him, and holding on until I gave up the struggle in sheer exhaustion. 
“I didn’t mean you to find out. I never thought you’d ring.” 
“I know.” 
“I needed time to finish the project. The drawings are only half done.” I paused, trying to get my breath between sobs, “I didn’t want to tell you-“ 
“Why?” 
“I'd have got into trouble.” 
Damien put his head against mine and I felt him start to laugh. 
“Nicholas, Nicholas, what am I going to do with you? What do you think you're in now? If you’d told me when you first got the project I’d have made sure you got it done! You wouldn’t have had to start creative lying or risk being caught out or run away without so much as an inhaler on you- you’re a walking, talking disaster area.” 
“I’m sorry.” I said again. “I’m really, really sorry.” 
“Stop crying.” he told me softly. I swallowed and tried. He nudged my hair back out of my eyes and kissed me, looking past me to the floor. 
“You’re quite right.” he said eventually when I was calmer. “You are in serious trouble.” 
“You said that wasn’t going to solve everything." I said in flat despair. "You said I was being stupid-“ 
“You were not, and I didn't say that. I did say that punishing you wouldn't magically solve everything. I was pretty upset at the time. " Damien interrupted. "I'm not infallible, darling. I make mistakes too. And there are no magic solutions. Just solutions that work for us.” 
This was a good sign and a bad sign- I wasn’t sure which. Damien went on rocking me while he talked. 
“You’re quite right I would have spanked you for missing the deadline. You had plenty of time to get the work done. I’m also not at all pleased about you lying to your office to cover up your time management problems. And you didn’t stop to think about what would happen if I or your parents or anyone else who cares about you tried contacting you at work. You also lied to me. You let me think you were going to work this morning. And you went out this afternoon without giving any thought at all to what state you were in and what medication you needed with you. You could well have ended up in real trouble.” 
That was not an encouraging list. I was past crying now, I was just listening with a twisting stomach. Damien gave me a hug and put me on my feet. 
“I make that four separate spankings.” 
 This was not good. 
"On top of which," Damien continued mildly, "I think we need to have a very serious talk about the difference between truth and fiction. I've let you get away with a lot, maybe too much judging by today. Right now, I want you facing the corner on the landing and thinking about that-" 
"Damien-" I pleaded, summoning up the case for the defense. He pointed upstairs. 
"Go on Nicky. Goodness knows you're elastic enough with the truth but this is the first time I've known you tell flat-out lies to keep yourself out of trouble and I don't like it." 
I closed my mouth and flushed. And found my corner. 
With nothing else to look at or think about, I found myself going back over the day in far more detail than I wanted. The paintwork was cold against my forehead and the white plaster directly in front of my eyes offered a blurred screen that ought to replay the pictures of this horrible, terrible day if I only looked hard enough. I shifted my weight to my other foot and ran a finger down the crack between the walls. Damien's voice lifted from downstairs. 
"Nicky, stop picking at the plaster." 
I took my hand away and sighed. Damien was annoyed. The project wasn't done. I was a disgrace to the British Empire and I was bored to tears of white paint and plaster. 
"I didn't mean to lie." 
I didn't say it to anyone in particular. No one answered for a while, then Damien came slowly up the stairs and sat on the top step behind me. 
"I know you didn't. This was classic Nicholas Hayes disaster management. Act now, think later. If at all." 
There was no condemnation in his voice. I nudged at the plaster with a fingernail. 
"I didn't mean not to do the project. It just didn't get done." 
"If you can't manage your time, Nick, I'll manage it for you." Damien said gently. "That's the last warning I'm going to give you. If you want help with anything you only have to ask me, but if you choose not to tell me, and you go on getting into difficulties, the only thing I can do is take away that choice. I'm not going to let you get yourself into real trouble." 
"I know." I said in a small voice. 
Damien turned on the stairs to meet my gaze. He looked sympathetic, but I knew the firmness in his hazel eyes.  "You're straying a little too far a little too often, my boy. You need your options cutting down a bit." 
I stared at the wall. Damien got up and held out a hand to me. I swallowed and put my hand into his. Damien pulled me into his arms and held me tight. 
"I love you, do you know that?" 
"I love you too." I said into his neck. Damien nudged my head up and kissed me. Then gave me another, quieter kiss on the forehead. 
"Come on then. Lets get this over with." 
I trailed with him into our room. Damien led me across to the bed, sat down and drew me close to unbutton and unzip my trousers. My heart started to pound as he pulled them down to my knees, felt under my shirt for the waistband of my briefs and slid them down too. I lay over his lap and felt him settle me so he and I were both comfortable, then the touch of my shirt being lifted back, baring my upturned bottom. Damien's warm palm rested over both cheeks, making me tense anxiously. 
"We'll take these one at a time. This one is for missing the deadline." 
His hand cracked down. He was very serious, there was a strength behind that smack that made me jump and my eyes sting, not so much from the blaze as the knowledge he meant business. He wasted no time. Smacks rained down, sharp and very firm, moving steadily over both my hapless cheeks. It hurt. A lot. I clung to his leg and stared at the floor through a haze of tears until it really got too blurred to see and my chest started to ache with the effort of controlling my tears. The heat and smart built steadily until I was sobbing and wriggling, no longer able to hold still under his hard hand. 
"Damien- Damien pleeeease…. Owww…ow please-" 
It went on and on until I was really squirming, beyond thinking about escape, just convinced I was going to be enduring those steady, blazing smacks forever.  Finally his hand laid flat across my burning bottom and rubbed a little. 
"Allright my boy. Over there and face the wall." 
I buried my face in his lap. He let me cling for a moment, then lifted me firmly to my feet. 
"Corner. You've got twenty minutes to do some thinking about all this, and then we'll talk about lying and how we're going to deal with it." 
I winced on that, still sobbing and trying to cling to him. He gave me a strong hug, then pushed me gently away. 
"Corner, Nicky. Now." 
I stared at the wall in complete misery for twenty, long minutes. It seemed like an eternity. Eventually Damien got up. 
"Nick." 
My heart sank. Damien held out a hand to me. Somehow I stumbled across to him and he once more put me face down over his lap. I tensed as his warm hand rubbed my bottom, but the worst of the smart was long gone now. 
"I'm going to crack down on the lying Nick. I don't like it and I don't want you to do it. I don't want you to get a reputation for being untrustworthy. Once you've got it, it's very hard to shake. And I don't want you to start thinking that lying is okay, or losing track of what's true and what isn't. You have a hard enough time with that as it is. So I'm giving you fair notice. Every lie from here on in is going to be worth a paddling." 
I twisted over his lap, trying to see his face. "Damien that isn't fair!" 
"I want you to stop this, and stop it now. Do you understand me?" 
The only thing I loathed more than that paddle was his cane- and he kept that only for the very, very worst offences. Damien reached past me to the drawer and took out the light, rounded paddle he'd acquired a year or so back. It was a horrible thing. Deceptively small, looking harmless, it stung like nothing else and I clenched my poor bottom at the sight of it, trying to make it a smaller, less vulnerable target. Damien rubbed my back, a ridiculously soothing gesture, but I appreciated it. 
"If your mother had rung the office today and heard what I heard, how would she have felt? How cowardly is it to lie to keep yourself out of trouble when you've earned that trouble fairly? This is going to stop, Nick. If I have to paddle you every night for a month, you are going to get the hang of this." 
The paddle snapped down firmly and I jerked over his legs at the sting. 
"Ow!" 
"Settle down. This isn't going to be quick." 
I shut my eyes and tried not to howl as the paddle began to snap firmly down across my bottom, inch by inch with a horrid, biting sting that made me jump at every stroke and grimace wildly. I stared at the floor, mouthing words that weren't going to make it through my vocal cords. Ow. Ouch. Damn that hurts. Ow ow ow. OW. 
"Ow!" 
Damien paddled my bottom firmly, his hand anticipating my grab and catching my wrist before I put a hand back in self defense. I rolled on his lap, twisting my hips to try and lessen the fire and sting of each impact, my voice rising rapidly in wails and pleas that both of us knew had little linguistic meaning. I was aware several times of him saying something, quiet and calm, probably knowing I was barely able to hear him. It seemed like hours before the only sound left in our room was my gulping and sobbing. Damien let me go when I moved, held my arms and lowered me gently to my knees. His palm pushed my hair back from my forehead, then ran over my cheek, cool and heavy against the tears scalding my face. We sat there for another few millenia, him on the edge of the bed, me on the floor at his feet. 
"That's enough for today." Damien said eventually. "We'll deal with the other two tomorrow." 
At that point I had no idea which was worst: the idea of being spanked again now, or the thought of having to wait twenty four hours with two more spankings hanging over my head. Damien reached for my hand and pulled me up to my feet. 
"Come down and eat something. Come on you've had nothing but inhalers since midday." 
I dressed, very carefully, and trailed him downstairs, still tearful. Damien ransacked the fridge, threw a lettuce across to me and found a packet of chicken. I found other vegetables and made a salad, half an eye on Damien's solid shoulders while he worked. He didn't say anything, but he put a hand up to cover mine when I folded my arms around his neck from behind. 
"How far have you got to go on the project?" 
"Another couple of hours." I admitted. Damien looked over his shoulder at me, then stooped a little to kiss me. 
"Get on with it then. Go on, get it done. One less thing to worry about." 
With him there and looking at me every time I got up for more coffee, I stuck to the job at hand. Of course. I could have done this the first time and I would have been sitting a lot more comfortably, but by the time the ten o clock news finished, the project was in a neat pile on the dining room table. I put the pens and rulers away with more care than usual, aware of Damien sprawled out on the sofa well within sight. He hadn't moved by the time I went to him. It was out of character for him to fall asleep down here, or to sleep this early. I sat on the arm of the sofa and ran my fingers through his hair, a little surprised at his closed eyes. 
"Damien?" 
Nothing. I ruffled his hair. 
"Damien. Go up to bed, you'll be stiff as hell if you sleep down here." 
Nothing again. I shook his shoulder, gently at first, then harder when he didn't respond. 
"Damien?" 
He sleeps like a cat usually- I can talk to him at any hour of the night and get an instantly clear reply he wakes so fast and so completely. When he still didn't move I sat and looked down at him, something nasty beginning to stir inside me. He was so still. He's never still when he sleeps. Why had he wanted to call me at work today? What had he been trying to tell me before I distracted him with my catalogue of disasters? I cupped his cheek and his head rolled limply. 
Really scared now, I slapped his face lightly. He didn't move. 
"Damien? Damien I mean it-" 
Nothing. Nothing at all. My heart started to thud in earnest and I realised my hands were trembling. Brain hemorrhages. Heart failures. You read about this sort of thing striking at young, fit men for no reason, just sudden collapses- I stood over him for a minute, trembling with uncertainty, then grabbed for the phone. I should have checked his heart. I should have thought about how he was breathing. He looked pale but the electric light made it hard to tell. I left the phone again and leaned over him. He was breathing, I could feel it. His heartbeat was harder to find and my hands were so shaky I was fumbling, with no idea where to look for something I could usually find in a second at any hour of the day or night. I was struggling with his shirt when he suddenly erupted under me, his arms flung around me in a stranglehold and he rolled over, pinning me underneath him. 
"For Pete's sake boy, I'd be dead an hour before you did anything about it!" 
My immediate response was to scream. Then grab him with every intent of breaking bones. 
"DAMIEN! You BASTARD!" 
"Takes one to know one." Damien bit at my neck, quite unhindered by my thrashing around underneath him. As usual, as fast as I freed one of his hands, the other tightened again on me like a vise. We slipped off the edge of the sofa and crashed to the floor. I gave up trying to prise him off, yanked a sofa cushion off and thumped him with it over what I could reach of his head. 
"I suppose you think that's funny!" 
"Well yes, actually. Nicky, darling, if you're going to bash somebody, try aiming first." 
"I'll give you bloody aim!" I struggled free, grabbed another cushion and gave him a healthy wallop across the chest with it. "That was a horrible thing to do!" 
"Was it really?" Damien grabbed my hand and yanked me back down on top of him. "And of course you'd never dream of doing anything like that to me, would you?" 
"That isn't fair!" I gave up wrestling and put my hands on his face. "I'm still shaking!" 
"My poor boy." Damien turned his head to kiss my palms, one at a time. "Why don't you come upstairs and tell me all about it?" 
"I'm not talking to you." I warned. Damien grinned. 
"If anyone's got the right to sulk tonight it ought to be me." 
"Rubbish! I'm the one that got spanked!" I cuddled irritably back into his chest. "And you're going to do it again in the morning." 
"Correct." Damien agreed placidly. 
"AND I got stuck with doing that bloody project all day." 
"My heart's bleeding." Damien flopped backwards, an arm over his eyes. "I can feel another fainting fit coming- ouch!" 
He was laughing, still oblivious to my onslaught and he was going to tease the living daylights out of me for weeks about this. I sat up and looked down at him, sprawled, dark and pretty damned gorgeous in a Damien sort of way, the last of his aftershave mixed up with his loosened tie and open collar and the roughness of evening shadow across his jaw. 
The only way to shut him up is never to argue with him. There were several hours yet until morning. I was suddenly sure that if I put my mind to it, I could convince him there were far more educational things he could be doing with me than discussing the ins and outs of my perceptions of reality.  Morning didn't HAVE to come. 
~The End~
 Copyright Ranger 2010

1 comment:

Dark said...

I loved this story . I thought it was cute .. I liked Nick almost running away ..:)
poor Nick look
However , the end with Damien faking passing out doesn't make sense to me ...
form one hand , Damien supposed to be this loving Top ,,how show him the right away and correct him.Not play around with in something like this ,like they were equals .and How can he punish him for something and then grub around and do it ?!
second , I don't think it fair to Nick to get two punishments .I mean he already got spanked for the lie why put him through this scary moments ?!
third , I also think it's very mean . Since Nick really didn't mean to scare Damien . But Damien did it on purpose

Thank you for writing and sharing

Most of the artwork on the blog is by Canadian artist Steve Walker.

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