Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Sealark - November

Sea lark


It was a damp, misty autumn as it went on. The leaves were falling fast now, the trees were half bare and flocks of birds were gathering every day or so in the ploughed fields and marshes, grouping in their hundreds before a flock moved on, heading to wherever they went for their winter. 

They took the Sealark out most days, often staying out overnight, and being on the water visibly lifted Jonah in ways Dare could feel as much as see. He couldn’t resist handling the boat in the small, customary ways he was used to in the same way he was used to breathing; the way her ropes were stored, the way he moored her, even if he thought she was a wheelbarrow she was still a boat, and more important were the hours Dare saw him watch the banks, the bird life, the occasional otter in the water, the open rippling quiet spaces of the broads themselves. Water was Jonah’s natural home, and while this wasn’t the sea….. it had a quiet, peaceful magic of its own and it drew him. The river was quiet, only the same few local boats were out on the water and quickly Dare and Jonah began to recognise Mick and Jamie’s chugging little cruiser the Swanning About moored in front of the Swan in the village or out travelling the quiet waterways in amongst the reeds and broads at the weekends along with a number of other locals who began to nod and smile as they recognised the Sealark. Poppet appeared to blossom on the boat too. Keen to be wherever they went she spent hours sitting alongside Jonah gazing out at the passing scenery, or curled up asleep with some bit of her on him or Dare, and she hunted happily through whatever land they came to for her daily walks with Dare. She rapidly gained weight, her coat became glossy and smooth, and according to the Wroxham vet whom Dare got to check her over, she was about two years old and in remarkably good health considering her experiences. Dare collected several toys for her while they were there – there was little point in buying a basket since her main sleeping mat was Jonah – and of the selection, while a times interested in carrying around a squeaky soft toy which she shook and danced with, flapping at the dangling with her front feet like a rather awkwardly gambolling small carthorse, she fell desperately in love with the tennis ball, which was deposited in the lap of whichever of them was nearest again and again and again. Since the local village shop sold tennis balls, the house and garden began to acquire a number of them.   

Jamie called around to the cottage two or three times a week and what had for a while been chats and doing odds and ends of chores around the house to get Jonah moving and balancing became getting him walking without the crutches. It looked very casual, more like messing about together than working on anything, but Dare saw Jamie keep a sharp eye on Jonah’s confidence, never letting him push to the point of failure, always finishing before he was tired, and he was good at making Jonah laugh, the real and actual Jonah laugh that Dare had always been so used to. They bickered amicably most of the time they were together. With the healed bones getting stronger, with the simple exercises Jamie set him getting him more limber and with his pain levels subsiding further every day, he was sleeping better, livelier, looking better. His face was starting to look less gaunt, he was sleeping deeper at night, Dunkley was steadily reducing the pain meds down and he was slowly eating better as a result, even his hair was starting to thicken again and regain its usual colour and grow to the extent that rather than subject him to the ordeal of travelling, a hard chair, noise and sitting upright for a while in a barber’s, Dare trimmed it for him for the first time in either of their lives, with a towel wrapped around him at the kitchen table, which Jonah had found highly entertaining.   

“So what’s your sex life like?” Jamie demanded perfectly bluntly on one visit.

Jonah gave him a look somewhere between shock and amusement. “Mind your own business!”

“I am thank you, I don’t want you hurting yourself getting too enthusiastic too soon or turning into a monk because you’re afraid to try. This is something we should plan for. Or are you letting him get away with murder in that direction too?” Jamie added to Dare. Jonah laughed.

“He doesn’t let me get away with anything, believe me. Stop encouraging him.”

“Between the pain he was in and the medication he’s not been in the mood.” Dare said to Jamie. Jonah rolled his eyes, disappearing into the kitchen.

“Jamie, we are not discussing my sex life!”

“We are, because it’s important.” Jamie crouched to pet Poppet who was climbing up his knee to get his attention. She liked Jamie, she had begun to let them know as soon as she heard his car coming up the field track and to start wagging at the kitchen door in anticipation. “You need to get on with it.”


“You do, you both need it so start practicing.” Jamie said firmly. “Work on it before you get right out of the habit. You’re going to need to experiment with positions to find the comfortable ones but you’re three months post injury and the pins are secure, you’re not too fragile, have a little fun for goodness sakes.”  

“Argh! I don’t know why he lets you in here!” Jonah went into the bathroom and shut the door.

“But you love me anyway!” Jamie called after him.

With Jonah out of earshot Dare lowered his voice, speaking rapidly for Jamie’s ears only.

“The hospital warned us with pelvic injuries, especially in men – about a quarter end up with some kind of sexual dysfunction. I’m not sure he remembers that part, at that point they were explaining he couldn’t race again and everything else went out the window to him-”

“Three quarters don’t.” Jamie said candidly. “Jonah had direct impact fractures not crush injuries, I spoke to the physio at Bristol and saw the scans. And he was supported in water directly after the injury, cold water that stopped things swelling, and he was as fit as all get out at the time, his lower body strength was well above average. The physio said during the surgery they were staggered how little things had moved around, he didn’t have that much displacement at all.”

“What about the heart thing?”

“Well I shouldn’t swing from the light fittings if I were you?” Jamie advised, and laughed when Dare looked at him. “No, the behave yourself eyes don’t work on me, I’m not Jonah. Try it out. If he gets breathless, change the pace. I can see he’s healing and strengthening up beautifully, I think the chances are high that the pelvis and all the plumbing is going to be fine. And even if not you two will still have a sex life, it’ll just evolve a bit like everything else. Stop letting it be such a big deal and get on with it.”

He stretched on his toes to kiss Dare’s cheek and went to bang on the bathroom door.

“Jonah! Walking! Let’s go!”

The experimentation process took some days. It was only being long term partners who had put in a lot of dedicated practice over the last few years that got them through their first couple of attempts, and most of those ended up with laughing since they went fairly spectacularly wrong. As Jonah pointed out, the romance when a, it was prescribed and scheduled by Jamie and based more on ‘let’s go practice having sex’ than any kind of spontaneous moment, and b, when for the first time since they were teenagers neither of them were exactly clear on what to do and how to do it anyway, was pretty much zero and it was difficult to take seriously. However the laughing and it becoming something silly that ended a few times in teasing and messing around and on one occasion a brief pillow fight was what saved them.

Over the next few days based on those experiments Dare initiated several different times choosing different places that let Jonah have a range of positions, although he was careful to the point of Jonah once bursting out laughing again and demanding that he got his mind on the job. And once Jonah felt he did have his mind sufficiently on the job using his hands and his mouth, it was to great success as far as Jonah was concerned. The reassurance was obvious that the plumbing, as Jamie put it, was certainly in working order. Jonah got his own back by surprising Dare in the bath where Jonah managed by sitting on the edge of the bath, to scrub him thoroughly, paying particular attention to areas that made thinking about anything impossible to do. After that… things gradually began to get a whole lot more normal and familiar and like they had been before the accident, and Jamie was right. That helped a great deal. 

They were making breakfast one morning, Jonah moving somewhat stiffly but independently between fridge and table, when there was a brisk rap at the opened stable door and Jonah’s face lit up at the sight of Dare’s brother leaning there, grinning at them with a wildly excited Poppet circling at his feet, tennis ball in mouth.

“Any breakfast going? I’m starving?”

“Ian!” Jonah got there first and Ian gave him a close and rather careful hug.

“You look so much better! Dare swore you would if he got you somewhere Jonah-like – could you have found anywhere further off the beaten track?”

“It’s right on the river, it was perfect.” Dare put the plate of pastries on the table and returned his elder brother’s hug warmly. “What time did you leave London?”

“About five this morning, it wasn’t too bad a run.” Ian wandered to the kitchen doorway and looked across at the living room. “This is a kind of brick built tent isn’t it? I’m amazed it’s got running water. You two don’t change. I’m booked in at The Swan in the village tonight, Katie’s taken the girls to her parents for the weekend so it seemed like a great time to come inflict myself on you. Is that a boat at the landing stage?”

“It’s a tub.” Jonah corrected, capturing Poppet to calm her down. From the shy thing she had been in her first few days she was actively excited to investigate this new person. “And you could have slept on the sofa here.”

“Yeah I’ve camped with you two before, it’s too near the knuckle for me.” Ian said mildly. Dare, hearing rather more tact in that than Jonah did about wanting to give them space and not overwhelm them at a fragile time, chipped in before Jonah debated it further.

“Jone, get another plate down?”

“Look at you without crutches.” Ian approved, taking a seat at the table. “Dare said you were nearly off the pain meds altogether now. And this is Miss Poppet I suppose? Hello sweetheart. Where did the boat come from?”

“We hired her.” Dare put coffee on the table along with the pastries and pulled out Jonah’s chair for him. “She’s done the job beautifully for exploring the local area, a lot of it is only accessible by water.”

“It’s a beautiful place from what I’ve seen of it.” Ian accepted a pastry and poured himself coffee. “You seem to be doing very well here.”

“Feed yourself and not the dog.” Dare said firmly to Jonah, who grinned.

“She likes pastry. We’ll take you out in the tub after breakfast and show you around, it’s even prettier from the river.”

“You’ve got things to do and I need to walk Poppet.” Dare reminded him. “I’ll take Ian with me to do that and we’ll sail when we get back.”

“That can wait.”

“No, it can’t.” Dare didn’t trouble to change his tone in front of Ian; he had known them well enough and long enough to not be surprised by it. Jonah shot him a rather hurt glare and Dare shook his head at him. “No. You know the schedule.”

“You and Jamie are obsessed with the schedule.” Jonah said exasperatedly. “It’s over the top now, it doesn’t need to be this rigid and it’s not necessary-”


Ian didn’t interfere, noting that while Jonah scowled he did indeed stop on the word, and after breakfast he went into the living room with bad grace but without argument. Dare followed him for a moment, then came back into the kitchen, took down his coat and whistled to Poppet who shot off at high speed ahead of them with Girl on a Mission written all over her, and Ian walked with him out into the grey mist of the November morning.

“He looks worlds better.” Ian said quietly when they were out of earshot of the cottage. “I can’t believe the difference, he’s acting like himself again, there’s some of his bounce coming back. And you look a hell of a lot better too.”

“We spent about the first month doing not much but eat and sleep.” Dare said wryly. “But there’s an excellent GP in the village and the landlord at The Swan is living with a very talented Physiotherapist, and they’re both keen sailors and knew Jonah’s name. He’s got above and beyond support from both of them. I think Jamie – the physio – drops in on his way home from work, he’s in several times a week and he’s great with Jonah, Jone likes him.”

“And you’re sailing again.” Ian gave Dare a rather sideways look as they walked across the wet field with the mist rising up from it towards the woods with Poppet darting to and fro across the grass, quartering for scents. “I wasn’t sure he’d be able to go back on the water too easily.”

“I wasn’t either.” Dare said bleakly. “I was expecting nightmares, flashbacks, but he was going stir crazy in the cottage and at the time he couldn’t even cope with more than ten or fifteen minutes sitting in the car, not long enough to go anywhere interesting – so Jamie suggested it and I rented the boat just for him to be able to be comfortable and rest while he got to a change of scenery. I wasn’t sure he’d handle it but he first day we took the boat out, the first hour we were on the water, he just relaxed, he didn’t want to stop. We’ve taken the boat out for days at a time, she’s been the best medicine for him yet. She’s comfortable, I can handle her as well as he can without it taking much work so I’m watching him and not sails and tillers, and Jone can lay in bed in the saloon if he needs a rest and still be out on the water. The rests are important. That’s what he’s doing right now under protest, we’re starting to have to treat it as a chore he has to get done.”

“It’s only half past nine in the morning?” Ian pointed out, a little concerned. Dare nodded, whistling Poppet away from a particularly muddy patch she was considering rolling in. Few people understood this other than Jamie and Dunkley.

“He’s had a bath, dressed, tidied up downstairs with me and made breakfast. Takes up a lot of energy and that takes balancing. That’s what he means by ‘schedule’.”

“But you’ve always had him on a schedule, it was the only way you’d get him off the yacht to eat meals or do anything else.”  Ian said dryly.

He didn’t get it; Dare couldn’t blame him. It was something he and Jonah were still figuring out, mostly through trial and error, and it was likely to be the work of months if not years according to Jamie. And Dare could see that Jonah himself equated most of the problem with the broken bones. Perhaps because it was easier. For a week or two now Dare had been starting to guess from what Jonah said that even though Jonah had been talking since they left hospital about the heart injury being permanent, at some level deep down he still believed that everything would heal; that as the pain left and he was mobile again everything else would improve with it and normal would be regained. It was a very difficult thing to know how to respond to, what would help him most.   

“Oh, the girls Skyped mum and dad the other night.” Ian said casually. “They sent their love and asked how Jonah was.”

‘Sending love’ was probably a characteristically kind Ian fabrication. Their parents, settled in Miami with their sister and her family, had been gone from the UK for over a decade and while they were, in their way, slightly proud of having an Olympian connected to the family, they had never been particularly comfortable with Dare’s steady refusal to settle to a proper, structured, comprehensible career and a nice wife and children. They didn’t exactly reproach him for not doing it, but their slightly bewildered avoidance of acknowledgement said it all. Their grandchildren kept them at least nominally anchored to Ian, but Dare was not someone who fitted nicely into the gentle jigsaw puzzle of their existence. Ian, who had always appreciated his younger brother’s unvarying, calm persistence in ignoring the direction of the tide and doing whatever he intended with what some might call bloody mindedness and others strength of character, had been delighted when Jonah burst his way into Dare’s life and presented not only a strength of will that was a foil for Dare’s, but much the same individuality. Jonah had a gift for lighting up Dare.

When they got back to the cottage Jonah was in the kitchen, wiping down the kitchen table, coat on and ready to go. Ian saw the look that passed between him and Dare, and thought his brother did not look amused although he said nothing in Ian’s earshot.

They took the Sealark out. Ian had been aboard various yachts of Jonah’s at various times; they had taken his daughters out with them before now shrieking with excitement at the speed as the catamaran sped over the waves. This staid, gently chugging, slow old lady Sealark was very different. As she moved away from the staithe the sheer quiet of the relatively narrow river running between the wet fields was overwhelming. Used to London, Ian sat on the side by the saloon and watched the water run by as Jonah coiled and stowed ropes and came to join him, Poppet trotting after him, sure footed on the boat which she appeared to regard as home as much as the cottage.

“Where does this run to?” Ian asked him. Jonah took a seat, putting an arm around Poppet who licked his face.

“Through the villages – although plenty of distance between them, it’s about three miles down to Ludham. Most of the villages are on the water, it makes shopping easy. We haven’t sailed down to shop in Wroxham yet, that’s the largest town – Dare, we could do that this morning, go all the way down?”

“We’re not going around Wroxham without the wheelchair.” Dare said definitely. The same expression flashed back to Jonah’s face, Ian saw it somewhere between exasperation and embarrassment.

“I’ll manage.”

“I don’t want you to just ‘manage’.”

Even by Dare’s normal standards that sounded like a brick wall.

“Driving you mad?” Ian asked Jonah softly, trying to make him smile. Jonah grimaced.

“Mother hen.”

“I think you gave him a hell of a scare. I was scared enough while you were in Bristol hospital.”

“I know.” Jonah’s mouth twisted as he glanced at the back of Dare’s head. “It’s been hideous for him and he’s been amazing. He always is. But the mother henning I could do without, I’m a lot better now than I was when we first got here and he needs to let go a little. Not much, but a little.”

They took the Sealark up river to Barton Broad, out to where the river opened out into the wide, blue and silver lake, and Jonah took the wheel from Dare who got his camera from the cabin and sat on the side for a moment, taking several shots of the birds stood on the posts and fishing on the water. Ian saw him frame one of Jonah, something he thought Dare did automatically more or less whenever he picked up his camera. They were passing the small island in the middle when they heard a higher, shriller engine and Jonah glanced back. The small day boats, the little open welled powered boats with their small windscreens and benching inside were very common everywhere on the water through holiday season, all the villages on the water hired them out by the hour. But at this time of year they were rare, and this one ripped past them well above the speed limit, sending a heavy wash behind them that made the Sealark rock. Dare raised the camera and took a picture as it shot away, the three men inside oblivious to Jonah’s glare.

“Yahoos. They’ll damage the banks with the wash doing that.”

“Wonder where they got the boat from at this time of year?” Dare mused aloud. “Maybe the Wroxham boat yards do hire on warmer days at the weekend. I suppose that would make sense, but I thought all the yards closed for hire at the end of October.”

“They’re a long way out from Wroxham.” Jonah pointed out. “Three to four hours on those little boats and it’s still early, not even eleven am yet.”

The little boat was disappearing fast into the distance. A few minutes later a small, white craft with a wooden shell cabin and a blue light on top emerged with a man in a police uniform and a lifejacket standing at the wheel. He waved to Jonah, who slowed the Sealark and waited for him to catch up. The man was tall, young – maybe early thirties – with dark hair and a Norfolk Police badge on his jacket, and he drew his boat in alongside.

“Have you seen a day boat go by?”

“About five minutes ago, heading that way and the speed was off the charts.” Jonah told him. “Crossed the Broad and turned towards Neatishead staithe. Where did it come from?”

“Stolen from a boatyard in Stalham this morning.” The man was starting up his engine again. “Thank you. Good morning.”

He disappeared fast across the Broad towards Neatishead. Jonah turned Sealark after him at a discreet distance, drew her over into the bank and Dare walked along Sealark’s side to drop the mudweight. They were in rather a good position to watch.

“You’re not exactly going to nick a little fibreglass shell like that to go joyriding in?” Ian said, leaning on Sealark’s side to watch the police boat disappear out of sight towards Neatishead. “Particularly not in mid November.”

“Frankly if joyriding was the intent there would be a lot more interesting boats to steal everywhere you looked.” Dare agreed, coming down into the cabin to put the kettle on. “The marinas have hundreds in winter storage. But the crime rate around here is very low – really ridiculously low, it’s famous for it. Jonah, I want you to come sit down and put your legs up for a while.”

“I’m fine.”

“Do it anyway please.”

Jonah scowled but came back into the saloon to take a seat on the sofa. Dare gave him a look over the coffee pot.


“There’ll be no room for Ian to sit.”

“There’s plenty of room.” Ian pointed out from the far bench. “I’m fine over here. Make yourself comfortable.”

Jonah put his legs up on the seat but casually, bracing one elbow on his knee. Dare brought mugs across, handing one to Ian and the other to Jonah before he pulled the canopy closed and turned the heating up. He retrieved several pillows from the cabin where Jonah had stuffed them and pulled Jonah forward to stuff one behind him to lean on, putting the other under his knees although Jonah was flushed and glaring.

“Will you stop fussing.”

Dare gave him a rather steady look that made Jonah flush still further, but he said nothing else.

They ate soup and toast in the cabin, still waiting for the police boat to return. It didn’t re emerge. While Ian washed up, Dare raised the mud weight and sailed the Sealark gently around the lake to the short dyke that led to Neatishead staithe. The police boat was moored there and the man in uniform was tying the empty day boat to it ready to tow it back.

“Abandoned?” Dare called across to him as he stepped down to the staithe to pull the Sealark in and moor her. The man looked irritated.

“Yes. No sign of them. At a guess they were picked up on the road the other side of the woods here. The boat’s unharmed.”

He stepped back into his boat, started the engine and Dare gave him a nod as he sailed back towards Barton Broad, on his way to return the boat to Stalham yard.

“Weird.” Jonah said from the couch. “Weird boat to nick, and why go from Stalham to this staithe in the middle of nowhere?”

“Maybe they live locally and got stranded in Stalham? Car broke down, or they were drunk and didn’t want to risk driving on the roads?” Ian suggested. “Or their car was being chased by the police so they disappeared onto the river and hot-wired a boat. That must be rather a useful get out strategy around here.”

It seemed as likely as anything else. Dare looked at his watch and came back into the saloon.

“Jone, you need a rest. I’ll make up the bed in the cabin-”

“I’m resting here.” Jonah said irritably.

“Then I’ll make up the bed in here and Ian and I’ll take Poppet for a walk.”

“I’ll walk with you, I’m fine.”

Dare glanced at his brother, giving Ian a quick smile. “Think you could take Poppet out? She’s probably desperate by now.”

“No problem.” Ian said easily, reading the situation and picking up Poppet’s lead from the table. Poppet took some persuading to go with him off the boat and Dare picked her up to carry her onto the staithe where she politely accompanied Ian, but with many hesitant glances back.

Dare slid the saloon door shut when they were out of sight, sitting down beside Jonah.

“Right. You can’t push like this. I know you want to keep up appearances, I know you’re embarrassed but this is Ian. He’s family and he knows what you’ve been through.”

“I’m a lot better.” Jonah gave him a frank glare, leaning on the table. “If you won’t let me try anything but your and Jamie’s precious schedule how do we know what I can handle? I’m managing without the crutches, there’s barely any pain now unless I move suddenly, I’m sleeping fine, I feel better.”

“I know you do.” Dare said gently. “Mostly because we’re careful. I know it’s frustrating.”
“I’ve followed this schedule every single day. One day with a little extra will not kill me, I promise. I have to have some fun sometimes.”

“Come here.” Dare demanded. He held out his arms and Jonah rather sullenly slid over to him, but put his head down on Dare’s shoulder. Dare held him, feeling the familiar comfort of Jonah’s long, lean body against his.

“Listen.” Dare said quietly in his ear after a moment. “You are right. The plan has always been to expand the schedule gradually and increase what you can handle, and that is going to happen. We are going to do that. But we’re not starting today when you’re already handling more than you usually do – yes you are. More sitting upright, more talking, you cut your rest time short this morning. And we’re not going to do it by throwing the routine out of the window. We are doing well here, Jone. I don't want to see your confidence broken because the first time you push you go too far and end up exhausted. I know you want to go faster. We will experiment. But we’re not starting today.”

“Ian won't be here long. How often do we get to see him? I want to spend time with him, not be cooped up on the boat by myself.”

“Ok, then you can rest here with us and we’ll take him down to South Walsham broad, he loves the water. Sit over there, I'll make up the bed.”

Jonah co operated silently but grimly with Dare making up the centre bed and putting down a quilt to pad it and let Dare pull off his trainers.

“I can’t lay down with him here, I feel like a fool.”

“You don’t look like one and he understands. And that’s how we’re going to do it. People are going to have to start taking us as they find us.” Dare said definitely.

Ian fielded Jonah’s suggestion of going into the village to eat that evening with a swift, tactful plea that he was tired after his long day and would prefer a take away with them in the cottage. For which Dare was grateful. Jonah came out of the bathroom while he was lighting the fire in the living room; it was starting to cool sharply outside and was promising a frosty night. He looked… distant. In a way that Dare could read all too easily from rapidly accumulating experience as very tired.

“Jonah sit down.”

“I’m fine, I’m not going to break.”


Jonah growled, but did it. The short, sharp tone was a giveaway too. He’d been getting increasingly irritable for the last hour, and it was worse since he’d stood up to walk back from the staithe to the cottage, and he’d walked very slowly. Ian came into the living room with mugs of tea and handed one to Jonah as he sat down in the recliner. Dare saw him try to lift the mug to his mouth, then stabilise it with his other hand and put the mug down with the tea untouched. Too heavy. Moving too difficult. He was sitting leaning into the chair, too tired to hold his body upright. Dare brushed off his hands and got up.

“Ian, mind switching places with Jone so he can lay down?”

“I do not need to lay down.” Jonah said sharply. “I’ve been laying down all afternoon.”

“Actually,” Ian said apologetically, “I was about to say I’m bushed. Too early start this morning, a lot of fresh air and I’m getting too old for these long days. Would you two mind if I skipped dinner, headed back to the pub and had an early night? I’ll come over about nine tomorrow morning.”

Ian was as observant as he was a good liar, and Jonah often didn’t notice those kind of social lies, tending to take people very much at face value. He looked up in clear disappointment, he loved Ian, but accepted Ian stooping to give him a quick, gentle hug.

“Thanks for a lovely day, I enjoyed it. The waterways around here are beautiful. See you tomorrow.”

“Thanks.” Dare mouthed at him as Ian gave him a swift hug in passing. Ian let himself out and a moment later Dare heard his car start up out in the drive space in the corner of the meadow. He moved Jonah’s mug out of the way and crouched in front of him, running a hand gently through his hair to smooth it back.

“You’re feeling pretty bad, aren’t you?”

The look Jonah gave him was somewhere between humiliation and utter frustration and Dare touched his cheek, unable to see that face without holding him.

“It’s ok. It’s ok, we have to try this stuff out and sometimes we’re going to get it wrong. Let’s get you to bed.”

“I don’t want to go to frigging bed at five pm in the bloody afternoon! This is ridiculous, leave me alone!”

“No.” Dare said frankly. “Because however annoyed with me you are, I know you don’t want me to. Not really.”

And that was true. They both knew it, and Jonah glared at him but didn’t debate it.

“We’ve been fine for days while we were careful,” Dare began quietly, “We can-”  

“I don’t want to be frigging careful!” Jonah flung his arm off and shoved himself to his feet. “I am done with being careful!”

“No, you’re angry and you’re upset because you’re seeing for yourself the bones are fixing a lot faster than the heart is,” Dare said firmly and as gently as he could. “And that this isn’t something temporary, it’s probably how things are going to be. It’s a bugger Jone. It’s a swine of a thing to have to admit to and you have every right to be angry, but we can’t ignore it.”

“I’ll ignore whatever the hell I like!” Jonah stalked towards the stairs, rather faster than he usually walked, and Dare got up to circle the sofa, his voice becoming a lot sterner.

“Jonah, stop. Stop right there.”

True to his word Jonah ignored him and Dare quickened his stride as Jonah made it ahead of him to the first few steps and had a valiant try at storming up them. His legs gave way on the third, Poppet, who had been chewing a tennis ball on the hearth and not taking very much notice of them let out a high, panicked yelp and Dare lunged fast enough to get a hand to grab his sweater, controlling his fall if not breaking it. He still fell against the wall, landing on his hip on the stairs, thankfully with not much force since Dare was dragging most of his weight upwards. A second later Dare scooped him up, carried him across to the couch and out of breath and shaking with shock Jonah let him feel his way rapidly and very cautiously around his pelvis and thighs, terrified he was going to feel something shift or crunch. When neither of them found anything to panic about Dare breathed out and instead caught his head, turning it to look for scrapes, fending off a whining, pawing Poppet.

“Did you knock your head? At all. Jonah.”

“No sir.” Jonah said very quickly. And meekly since when Dare spoke like that you had to have brains of mush to push him. Dare let him go and rested his arms on his knees, for a moment regaining his breath. Then he fixed a look on Jonah that made him quail.

“I am far too angry to talk, so you are going to lay down here and not move. An inch. Am I making myself clear?”

“Yes sir.”

Dare pulled a blanket down from the back of the couch, covered him and helped him lay back, and then he stalked to the door, grabbed his jacket and Jonah heard the kitchen door close as he went outside, whistling to Poppet who followed him.

The last time he had successfully made Dare this annoyed…. Was four months ago when prepping for the Transat and didn’t get around to putting anything to drink onboard for a 9 hour training run. Dare saw the dizzy spell he had in the boatyard afterwards and asked awkward questions, which was a habit of his since he knew Jonah far too well. Dehydration was lethal when handling a yacht, particularly single handed; you couldn’t afford to be disoriented, dizzy or nauseous, you needed sharp concentration around the clock. It had been a stupid, careless mistake because he’d been too focused on the new design tests, the speed, the trim, the things that tended to sneak up on him and take over his mind if Dare let it. It had been a stupid, amateur mistake.

About as stupid as trying to run up the stairs when he was too tired to see straight or walk straight, hadn’t yet walked up or down a flight of stairs alone since the accident and couldn’t risk a fall. The thought of a fall, of damaging those breaks again… it made him sweat. Going through more surgery, more crutches… The kitchen door clicked; Dare’s self control was amazing, it never took him long to cool off and Jonah knew sometimes he pushed it hard.

“Dare I’m sorry, that was so stupid.” Jonah said from the heart. “I don’t believe I did that. I don’t usually make stupid decisions and I know how stupid that was -”

“You don’t make stupid decisions. You’re used to a lot of independence and total control of your body when you want it, how you want it.” Dare came into the living room and sat down on the windowsill, resting his elbows on his knees to steeple his hands and look at him and his eyes were very serious. “You’re used to being active and always having the next challenge to look forward to. You’re not used to feeling always tired and unwell and restricted. You are entitled to be angry. What you are not entitled to do is act it out by ignoring me and taking very serious risks with yourself.”

There are appropriate and inappropriate ways to be angry. That was a lecture he’d heard a few times. And already shocked with himself and very apologetic, it was difficult not to be floored further by being so comprehensively understood. Dare never had trouble knowing why he did something or empathising with the impulse to why and saying so, and it never failed to disarm or to make Jonah feel very seen and very loved, even if Dare was at the same time uncomfortably and directly specific about the parts he disapproved of.

“So what are we going to do about it Jone?”

“I won’t try stairs again when I can’t see straight.” Jonah said with a rather shaky attempt at lightening the mood.

“That would be a good start.” Dare agreed. “But that wasn’t what I meant.”

It took a minute before Jonah understood with some shock and felt his face flush hotly, his voice shifting to plaintive. “Dare…I won’t try that again, I promise.”

“I’m going to make sure of it.” Dare promised him. “However hard this is you do not get to take risks with yourself like that, you could have done serious damage.”

“….lines again?” Jonah hazarded, somewhat hopefully since his mouth was very dry.

“I think we’re way past lines, don’t you?” Dare said soberly. Eyes very large, Jonah managed something approximating a nod. He could hardly argue. He watched Dare get up off the windowsill, walk into the kitchen and re emerge with that wretched spoon in his hand, and he came to the couch, holding out a hand. Jonah swallowed hard and managed to take it, letting Dare help him up. Dare took his place on the couch, drawing Jonah to him.

“Carefully, and lay on the couch as well as me, I don’t want your legs hanging down.”

It was also about four months since this last happened…. it was how the drink-free training run had ended, a distant memory. But here in this moment it was getting horribly, alarmingly and immediately real. Jonah found himself pulling against Dare’s hand in spite of himself, his voice starting to crack and rather to his shock and embarrassment, tears starting to run.


“I know it’s been a while, but you’re ok.” Dare drew him firmly forward and helped him settle himself on Dare’s lap with his legs and chest supported either side by the couch. He could feel the tension in Jonah’s body and Jonah was breathing fast, trying his best to twist around to see what he was doing as he slipped Jonah’s sweatpants and underwear down without moving him. Dare put a firm hand on his back as much for comfort as to keep him in place without moving enough to hurt himself and reached for the spoon.

“What are we not doing again Jonah?”

He heard Jonah swallow on a sob and his answer wasn’t steady. “Lose my temper and take risks… ignore you... I’m sorry…”

“I know.” Dare said calmingly.

He picked up the spoon, holding Jonah in place, aware that to Jonah the spoon implied severity. In fact it carried a whole lot less weight than his hand would and he had no intention of jarring Jonah. He applied the spoon lightly but rapidly with a loose grip and a very flexible wrist to surface sting with very little thud, and with extreme care. Jonah was loudly and tearfully vocal from the first, it had been a long time since the last time Dare had spanked him and the sting was shocking as much he was embarrassed and ashamed. Dare did a very thorough job, covering every inch of ground several times until it was all one even hot pink, wanting to draw this line clearly enough that he wouldn’t have to repeat it any time soon.

When he laid the spoon down, Jonah was sobbing, limp and what he would term himself as a complete mess, which had as much to do with tiredness as emotion. Dare rubbed his back gently, giving him a moment to cry himself out before he put a hand out to cup Jonah’s face and turn it so he could see Jonah’s eyes. They were no longer fiery. Awash, but calmer. Vulnerable and open and letting Dare see him, and there were times in these moments when it felt like being able to see directly into Jonah’s soul, as if Jonah opened the door that wide to him.

“Listen to me.” Dare told him. “We are ok. We have got this. We are going to figure it out together and we will be fine.”


Ian arrived around nine the following morning to find a strange car beside Dare’s. He let himself into the kitchen, tapping at the door, surprised there was no sign of Poppet.


“Hi.” Dare came far enough down the stairs to see him. “Come on up, we’re up here.”

The loft bedroom was large and cool, and Jonah, laying in bed, looked awful. White and limp, but he smiled when he saw Ian. Poppet was lying on the bed against his leg, chin on his knee, and an extremely beautiful young man was sitting on the edge of the bed and holding Jonah’s hand. He also gave Ian a cheerful smile.

“Good morning. I’m Jamie, Jonah’s physio. Or at least I am on the days when hasn’t pushed himself to a standstill. We were just holding a planning summit.”

“Hi Jonah.” Ian leaned against the stairs wall, deeply sympathetic. “Did we over do it yesterday?”

“It was only a bit more than normal.” Jonah said resignedly. It was a different tone to last night’s bitterness; there was a resigned and faintly cheerful acceptance in it that made Ian pause. That was the tone in which Jonah used to accept the weather had turned or that a boat wasn’t ready to go out, it was familiar. Ian had heard it often before and it had always been a part of Jonah’s somewhat mercurial brief storms of annoyance followed by a new plan, and his brother had always been remarkably good at managing and weathering those brief downpours of exasperation knowing the sunshine was never far away. 

“More sitting upright, more talking and people around, not getting actual rest which isn’t chatting or cleaning the kitchen.” Jamie said severely without the faintest diplomacy, not that Jonah appeared to be offended, he was still holding onto the man’s hand which was not something Ian had ever seen him do with anyone but Dare. “That adds up to a lot, not a bit.”

“You could nag professionally.” Jonah informed him. Dare sat down again on the other side of the bed where Jonah could lean against him and ran a hand down Poppet’s side, rubbing her belly which she obligingly turned up higher for him.

“If you’re feeling lousy Jone, I’ll go-” Ian began Jonah gave him a wry smile.

“No, please stay. This is how things are at the moment, I’m going to have to get the hang of you taking us how you find us. 

But I’d love some tea if you wouldn’t mind? Bring it up and come join the summit, we could use all the help we can get.”

Nooooooooooooooo! I scream inside my head.  It’s been too long, I’m not ready!  It doesn’t matter, you pull me across your lap and spank me.  The shocking sting, the embarrassment is at its worst but you help me through it.  It’s another piece of normality returning.  And you’re right, I need to help here.  I’m accountable to us, it’s not a free ride.  Why does it take a spanking to clear my head so I can remember that?  I still don’t know, it’s just one of those weird things that always happens, and why this relationship always works for both of us.


Copyright Rolf and Ranger 2015

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