Authorís note: This story was written in late 1999. Obviously someone got their calendrical calculations slightly wrong, a thing for which, equally obviously, they deserve a sound spanking. In the meantime, keep watching the skies . . .
"It's not the end of the world," said Ron, equably.
My Dearly Beloved's face suggested, however, that somebody's end was nigh, even if not that of the world. I had a strong suspicion who that somebody was, and which - um - end was likely to suffer.
With the superb hindsight I've always possessed I realised that doing an impression of Indian temple dance with a glass of red wine in your hand, in front of the kitchen doorway from which your host's boyfriend is just emerging is not, perhaps, the smartest of moves. Especially when said host is your boyfriend's business partner, and his carpets are cream-coloured.
Jeff, Ron's boyfriend, was scrubbing frantically at the mess with a damp cloth. "Pour white wine on it," suggested one of the other guests.
"I think salt helps. Or is it soda water ?" I said. Well. If looks could kill, I would have been leaving in a body bag.
A hand clamped my arm and drew me away from my abortive attempts to help.
"Get your coat," hissed the Dearly Beloved through gritted teeth, "before you ruin any more of the soft furnishings."
"But it's only 11 o'clock," I protested, quite reasonably. "We haven't seen the millennium in yet."
"You," said the DB, "are going to be seeing the new year in with the spanking of the century. If not the next thousand years." He was so annoyed that he hardly bothered to lower his voice. Drunk as I was, I blushed furiously. What if anybody heard ?
"Surely you aren't going, Steven ?" said Ron. "Really, the carpets were due for cleaning anyway. That's the worst of light colours - I'm putting my foot down and insisting on something darker next time." I always knew Ron was too smart to have chosen cream coloured carpets - that was definitely Jeff's idea of style. Really, I'd done him a favour when you looked at it that way. I had just opened my mouth to voice this insight when the DB's grip tightened to something actively painful and an awful glare suggested that it might be better to keep quiet.
"I'm afraid that Joe isn't used to this much drink on an empty stomach," he said. "I really think I'd better take him home. Sorry to be a party-pooper."
"Well, if you must," said Ron, with what sounded like genuine regret. He came with us to the hallway, followed by a still icily silent Jeff. As we were getting our coats I saw Ron lean over and whisper something in Jeff's ear. A look of enormous surprise replaced the latter's sulky expression.
"No !" he exclaimed.
"Yes," replied Ron. "Now say goodbye to our guests."
That's more like it, I thought. I'm glad I'm not the only one who gets nagged by his boyfriend about the social graces.
"Goodbye, Joe," said Ron as we stood in the hallway.
"Yes, goodbye," said Jeff, with treacly insincerity. "Enjoy the fireworks this evening and have a brand spanking new year." Ron nudged him, and he smiled, horribly self-satisfied.
I went crimson and fled out into the night. The bastard ! Ron must have overheard, and he'd told Jeff, and it would be all round the party the moment we'd gone. I'd never be able to go out in public again. I'd have to change my identity or wear a disguise. Worse, I might have to go and live somewhere in the Third World, like Yorkshire. Or Scotland. Somewhere where trainers were the height of fashion and you couldn't get fresh basil or Badoit water in the shops. My life was ended, thanks to my blabbermouth lover and his big-eared nosy parker of a business partner.
The former of these appeared at my side.
"How could you ?" I hissed. "Did you hear that ? Now everybody will know. I'll never be able to speak to any of them again. And it's all your fault !"
He glanced at me coolly, said nothing. We went to the car in chilly silence, and drove home the same way. When we got there I suddenly realised what I had coming. He couldn't have meant it, could he ? Not on the eve of the new millennium.
"Err, look. It's been a bit of disaster so far this evening," I said. "Let's just have a little private party of our own. There's still champagne and smoked salmon in the fridge, and some of the cheese from Christmas, and some chocolates. Let's indulge ourselves."
His mouth quirked. Such a lovely mouth, long and sensual.
"Go on in," he said, "and put some coffee on." Good sign. He didn't sound cross.
"Right-ho," I said, feeling a lot more cheerful. A pleasant evening à deux would be much nicer than any silly old party. I sprang out of the car with renewed energy, stumbled on the step (funny how the cold night air can make you lose co-ordination, isn't it ?) and got the door open. The coffee machine in the kitchen was all ready to go, so I just switched it on then kicked off my shoes and threw myself down on the sofa for a little rest.
The DB came in, saw me lying there, shook his head and disappeared upstairs to change out of his party gear. Really, he's an angel if you know how to handle him. I don't think he was enjoying the party that much anyway. I mean, when you get to be as old as thirty-eight, you can't handle the excitement anyway like someone younger can. And now he'd be able to have a drink, 'cos he wouldn't be driving any more. I decided to go and open the champagne.
I was just taking the bottle out of the fridge when he came in. He'd changed into his favourite old denims and a sloppy sweatshirt that didn't disguise in the least his broad shoulders and trim waist, and he looked, though I do say so, extraordinarily hunky.
"Champagne," I said.
"Later," he replied, taking me by the hand. I giggled. Mmm. A little fun wouldn't go amiss first. And he did look damned sexy. He led me into the lounge. There was a fire crackling on the hearth (only gas, but it does look very convincing), and the lighting was romantically subdued. It glistened on the swags and wreaths that decorated the room and highlighted the ornaments on the tree.
It also gleamed warmly on the collection of little presents he had laid out on the coffee table: two belts (one light, one heavy), two paddles (one leather, one wood), the grubby size 12 plimsoll that he found abandoned by a builder on a garage forecourt one day, a riding crop, and worst of all, a long thin wicked-looking branch that he must have broken off the willow in the front garden on his way in.
"Oh no, I thought . . ."
"You thought you were going to wiggle your way out of it. Well, I promised you the spanking of the millennium, and you should know by now that I always keep my promises. You are going to repent of your misdeeds young man."
"Oh, come on, all I did was spill some wine."
"You embarrassed me the whole evening. You drank too much, made a complete spectacle of yourself in front of several people I have to do business with, you told that disgusting joke about the Italian, the Frenchman, and the Australian when I specifically asked you beforehand not to . . ."
"But it's funny."
"It's gross, and Craig, you may remember, is Australian and was not amused. Neither am I. Now it's payback time."
"Owwuhhhh . . ." I knew I sounded like a twelve year old, but I didn't much care at that stage.
"Come here." The quiet voice. The one you don't disobey if you know what's good for you.
I came there, expecting to be pulled straight down across his knees. Instead he undid the cute little glitzy waistcoat and the Agnes B shirt I was wearing, leaving me stripped to the waist. He ran a finger over my pecs and my nipples perked up. Maybe . . . but no. Now he was - no, he couldn't be - yes, he was unbuttoning my trousers. But he always starts over trousers, though it never ends there. This couldn't be happening. No, not . . .
"Not on the bare. Not straight off. Please !"
Silently, he pulled my shorts down to my knees. In the big mirror over the mantelpiece I could see myself, bare to the calves, my little white buns clenched. They wouldn't be white for long, I knew.
"Bend over the back of the sofa," he said.
"Please . . ." I said again, softly, hopeless, but he was unyielding. I didn't dare do anything but hobble over with my trousers and shorts around my ankles and do as instructed. The back of our sofa is softly padded, rounded, and at just the right height to jack-knife me over. I lay there, my bum presented, helpless. I trembled a little as the air caressed my naked cheeks and wondered what it would be first. If he had meant to use his hand then he would probably have put me over his lap, so that meant an implement of some kind.
"I am going to give you twelve hard strokes with the switch to begin with, as a punishment for the wine incident," he said. "Then I am going to punish you for disobeying me and telling that filthy joke. And then you are going to get it for your general attitude this evening. Your punishment will not stop until I am convinced that you are truly sorry for your behaviour. Do you understand ?"
"Yes. Oh please Steven, I am sorry . . ."
"Not sorry enough." That horrid willow switch whistled down unexpectedly.
"AAAHHH !" I half stood at the fiery agony that blossomed across my backside, but a firm hand pushed me roughly back down. "If you do that again, I shall start the count again from one each time," he said.
Whish ! Whish ! Two more searing lines of fire. Oh, how it stung - a much sharper, knife-like pain than a belt or a paddle. Whish ! Whish ! Whish ! I cried out as each stroke fell, and with that last I couldn't help myself, I rose up from the sofa back in a vain attempt to escape the punishing fire. His right hand slapped me hard, half a dozen times around the top of my thighs, while the left grasped me by the scruff of my neck and forced me back down into the cushions.
"We begin again," he said grimly. "One !" Whish ! OH ! I began to cry and yell freely, but he took no notice. Whish ! Whish ! Whish ! Whish ! Whish ! Whish ! Whish ! My tears soaked the sofa cushions. My backside felt like it had had boiling oil dribbled over it. Whish ! Whish ! Whish ! Whish !
"I'm sorry, I'm sorry," I babbled.
"Not sorry enough," he said again. "Get those things off." I extricated my feet from the tangle of trousers and underwear, and removed my socks. When I'm bare for a spanking I'm expected to be totally bare.
"Now come round here."
I came round to the other side of the sofa, noting as I did the criss cross of scarlet welts across my reflection's bum. The real thing throbbed in sympathy, which was probably the only sympathy I was going to get tonight.
"I want you to know that I'm really, really pissed off with you," he said. "All right, everyone sometimes has a little more than is good for them and the wine business was an accident, although it only happened because you were showing off. But I specifically asked you not to tell that joke tonight and you disobeyed me. I'm upset, and I'm disappointed in you, I thought better of you than that." I could tell from his voice that he meant it - I really had upset him.
That hurt. That hurt worse than any spanking. I do love him, you see, and to see him hurt by me - well it just makes me go all cold and shrunken inside. I felt like a complete bastard, to tell the truth. I deserved this thrashing.
And now he grabbed my hand, yanking me off-balance against him and simultaneously sitting down. Jump-cut: before my slightly fuddled senses had adjusted I was across his lap. He wrapped a strong leg over my calves to hold me still. That meant that this was going to be bad. Very bad.
It was bad. He used the wooden paddle, which is reserved for the times that I've really pissed him off. I can't say that I exactly like any kind of paddle but somehow the yielding sting of the leather one is more bearable than the solid, bum-blistering swats of the wooden one. I lost count after fifteen because I was yelling too hard, but there were certainly at least as many swats again. I wasn't joking when I said it was bum-blistering - the last time he had used it on me I had broken skin in several places, and this was at least as hard. I struggled despite myself, but he was much stronger than me, and anyway I wasn't in a good position to get any leverage against him.
"That was for disobeying me," he said.
"I'm so-orry," I hiccupped. I meant it, too.
"Hmm." He ran a gentle hand over the flaming, welted skin of my behind. I drew in a shuddering breath. I was conscious of his body's heat, of the strength and solidity of his body wrapped around me, of my own helplessness.
Powerless, at his mercy, completely safe. In the eye of the hurricane.
"Have you learned your lesson ?" he wondered.
"Oh yes, really."
He smiled. I couldn't see it of course, but I could hear it in his voice when he said:
"I believe you have, for now. But your memory is so short." His hand came down, once, very hard on my right cheek.
"Should I spank you some more ?"
I hesitated. Then I kissed his leg, which was the only part of him in convenient reach.
"I love you," I said. "I trust you. Do what you need to."
"A spanking then. For general bad attitude. Sometimes you can be such a brat."
"I know. I'm sorry I hurt you, Steve."
"You hurt me when you're less than I know you can be. I want everyone to be able to see the smart, funny, generous person I love. Not some snotty little queen with no manners."
I was crying now, like a child, open easy tears.
"P-punish me," I sobbed. "As much as it takes."
Thwack ! His hand came down. Despite my last words, I couldn't help crying out. How can one man's hand be so heavy ? And again, and again, punishing every inch of my arse, making sure that nowhere escaped, from the top to the bottom.
And then it was over.
"I'll be a better person," I said. "I really mean it."
His face seemed to shine in the fireglow, full of love and happiness.
"I know you do," he said. "Hold tight to that resolution. That was what I wanted, now above all times."
The clock in the hallway began to chime.
Midnight. The end of the century. The close of the millennium.
"Come and look," he said, taking me by the hand.
We walked out to the big patio doors. The house is on a hill, overlooking the city - the view by night is always spectacular, and tonight even more so. Fireworks blossomed though all the night sky, blue, red, green, white, yellow. The roar filled the air like thunder. The stars seemed to tremble.
"Look," he said again, behind me. I leaned back into his strength, his familiar warmth.
Then I gasped. There was a sound like trumpets that tore at the heart, and every night star blossomed and swelled in its turn; became a figure, a winged figure holding a sword that blazed almost too brightly to look upon. They grasped the edges of the dark night sky and rolled it up, like a cloak.
I turned convulsively in Steven's grasp and looked into his face, which was shining ever brighter by the moment. He smiled down at me, a look of the tenderest love and care imaginable, and unfolded his wings, two, and two, and two to wrap around me and hold me safe. He leaned forward and kissed me passionately (there is always a last time for everything).
Ron was wrong it seems.
It was the end of the world after all.