Learning the Ropes

Takes place a couple of weeks after Anchors Aweigh (and I promise I will update the timeline page soon!)


Justine & Brian Group Text
Friday 19:04

Brian: Meeting rescheduled. Bradley, if you’re done with homework, I have time for a game of pool.

Bradley: Meet you there in five

Justine: Whip his ass for me

Brian: Which of us are you talking to?

Justine: Bradley. Obviously…

Justine: And if he does I’ll send him a special pic as a prize 

Bradley: I’ll try my best, my lady

21:32

Bradley: I won, my lady

Justine:  Good job honey 

Justine: Reward coming your way on snapchat

Brian: I would have won if he weren’t so distracting when he bends over the table.

Justine: You’re such a sore loser lmao

Justine: Fine you get a nude too you whiny baby

Brian: Careful, little girl.

 

No matter how many times Bradley read it, his cheeks threatened to blush all over again. Brian got distracted by him bending over. By… well, his ass.

He’d noticed last night how Brian had always seemed to be standing directly behind him when it was his turn to take a shot, but he didn’t connect the dots until that message appeared. He was too flustered to join in the banter between the other two following the remark. Did it mean Brian was getting impatient? Did he want more? He must. Two weeks had passed since the three of them had been together in the flesh, and if anything, their physical contact was growing less frequent. The further into the semester they got, the busier everyone was. It left little time for him to grow comfortable with exploring Brian’s body.

Bradley pictured himself bent over the pool table, but without a cue stick in his hands, and Brian stepping up behind him, reaching around to the front of Bradley’s pants and–

Not a good subject to be thinking about while sitting on a public bench at the city dock. He shoved his phone into his pocket, took a textbook out of his bag, and opened it to the chapter he had to finish before class on Monday. The perfect focal point. He’d kill two birds with one stone while he waited for Brian to arrive for their usual Saturday date.

*

A shadow fell over the page. “Bit of light reading, pet?”

Bradley looked up. Brian was holding a paper cup from the cafe and wearing sunglasses that concealed his eyes. He took them off, folded them, and sat next to Bradley, frowning slightly.

“I didn’t realize you were so interested in classical philosophy.”

“I’m not,” said Bradley, shutting the book to give his boyfriend his full attention. “It’s just an assignment.”

Brian had the cup halfway to his mouth. He paused, and then deliberately lowered it to his lap again. When he spoke, his voice was clipped and hard. “I assume it wasn’t assigned this morning.”

Bradley felt as if a single huge wave had come into the harbor and crashed over the bench, drenching them both in cold water before vanishing into the calm bay. He gaped a moment in utter confusion. “No, last week. Why–?”

“So when I said ‘if you’re done with homework,’ we could play pool,” Brian said, “had you just forgotten it?”

“…No, but–”

“But you decided to lie,” Brian interrupted again, the coolness of his tone contrasting with the dark fire in his eyes.

Bradley’s heart rose into his throat. He opened the textbook again and started flipping the pages desperately. “It’s only a few p–”

“I’m not interested in your excuses,” Brian said over him, almost spitting the last word. A couple people glanced around. Brian clenched his jaw. Standing, he walked several feet away, and Bradley was sure he was going to just leave him there, but he stopped, put his sunglasses on, and stared at the boats docked in the harbor. Or at least, Bradley assumed that was what he was looking at.

Then he turned and came back.

“Go finish your homework,” he said, no longer sounding angry. It was the voice he used to give orders to subordinates. Calm and business-like. “When you’re done, write out your third rule by hand five hundred times. I don’t want to see you until it’s complete.”

What?!

“I can finish the fucking reading in five minutes,” Bradley said. “Look, I’ll do it now, and then we can spend time–”

“And then you can write lines, like I just told you to,” growled Brian, “and if you cuss again, I’ll be adding five hundred repetitions of that rule, too.”

Bradley glared up at his own reflection in Brian’s sunglasses. The list of his five rules was tucked into his wallet. He didn’t need to look at it to remember the third one. Complete honesty is expected with your partners. It sounded reasonable on paper. Now, though…

He got up and strode away with a storm of emotions brewing inside. Indignation—who the hell did Brian think he was, deciding when and where Bradley did his homework?—anger—they only had one day a week to really be together and now he wasn’t even going to be allowed that!—shame—he’d earned his first punishment after he’d been so sure he could make it through the trial without one—disbelief—were they really doing this?—and, under it all, fear. He didn’t want to examine that any closer.

But as he went through the security checkpoint and reentered the Yard, the uneasiness only grew. Brian had been truly mad. Mad enough to banish him from his sight until the punishment was over. What if he decided that wasn’t enough and he didn’t want to deal with a boyfriend that came with a set of rules? Bradley felt sick.

His phone buzzed in his pocket. He fished it out and saw Justine’s smiling face on the screen. Without thinking, he pressed the button to ignore the call. Brian obviously hadn’t told her yet.

“Platypus!”

Oh, God, not now, prayed Bradley.

“Hey!” Mohyeldin jogged up next to him. He’d been running a long time already, judging by the sweat showing through his PT gear. “What’re you doing back here? Thought you were out with Myrick.”

“Fuck off and mind your own business,” Bradley said, walking faster.

Mohyeldin snorted and sped up too, until he was in front of Bradley. Then he turned around and jogged backwards. “Yeah, that’ll work,” he said. “You can totally outrun me. What happened?”

“I said fu–”

Grabbing his upper arm, Mohyeldin dragged him over to a bench next to a cannon and pushed him down on it. Bradley yanked free, but didn’t try to get up. He knew there was no point.

Tops. Who the hell needs them?

“I can call Myrick and ask him, if you want,” Mohyeldin said, completely untroubled by the daggers Bradley was shooting at him with his eyes.

He shrugged. “Go ahead. Do me a favor and ask him to shove it up his ass while you’re at it.”

Mohyeldin laughed. Several feet away, though, a woman in a small civilian tour group obviously overheard. She looked shocked. More shame slammed through Bradley. He was in uniform, a living representation of the Navy. No wonder Brian didn’t want him around.

He wiped blurriness from his eyes, and in an instant, Mohyeldin was sitting next to him with his arm over Bradley’s shoulders. “Hey, hey, kid,” he said softly, “whatever happened, it’s gonna be okay. Just tell me.”

Bradley swallowed around the lump in his throat. “I broke a rule and– and Brian h–hates me.”

Mohyeldin sighed. “You’re such a drama queen.”

Bradley almost got up and stormed away again, but Mohyeldin held him in place with one hand on his shoulder.

“Sorry. Just trying to lighten the mood.” He shook his head and smiled. “Myrick doesn’t hate you, I promise. Broken rules are a part of this lifestyle. He knew that going in.”

“You weren’t there,” Bradley said.

“So tell me what happened.”

Bradley glanced at the tour group. They were yards away now, and none of them were paying attention, but…

Mohyeldin followed his gaze and then said, “Okay, come on. JJ’s gone for the day. We can talk in my room.”

He was supposed to be reading the Philosophy assignment. Would he even be able to concentrate on it, though? Not likely. He nodded, let Mohyeldin pull him upright, and trudged along behind him.

They entered Bancroft through one of the side doors that led directly to their company wing. A few steps into the building, Bradley felt his phone vibrate and then stop abruptly. Pulling it out, he saw he’d missed another call from Justine. He’d never before been glad to walk into one of the random spots without cell service that filled the massive old dormitory.

“Was she involved in this?” Mohyeldin asked. He was looking at the phone screen.

Bradley quickly dropped it back into his pocket, shaking his head. “She doesn’t know, I don’t think.” He hoped.

Mohyeldin just nodded, turned down another passageway, and strode on until they reached the door of his room. He unlocked it and gestured for Bradley to go through first. “Okay, spill,” he said, coming in after him and leaning casually against the closed door. “How’d you break a rule?”

Taking a deep breath, Bradley turned to face him and steeled himself to make a dispassionate confession. “I let Brian believe that I had all my homework done so we could play pool last night, when really I have reading to do for Philosophy still.”

Far from looking surprised or disappointed, like Bradley had expected, Mohyeldin gave him an encouraging nod. His brown eyes were soft. “How did Myrick react when he found out?”

A wobble snuck into Bradley’s voice as he answered, “H–he got really mad and told me to go do it and then write my rule about lying five hundred times before I see him again.”

Mohyeldin went still. His expression lost the relaxed facade. “Before you see him? Are you sure that’s what he meant?”

Bradley nodded. The words were burned into his brain. “He… he said, ‘I don’t want to see you until it’s complete.’”

“Kinda hard to misinterpret,” Mohyeldin allowed. He sounded almost grim. It was unnatural. “And he was angry when he gave you this punishment?”

“No,” said Bradley, fast, as he realized the impression he’d given. “The anger only lasted a few seconds, really. He calmed himself down before, um, punishing me.”

In an undertone, Mohyeldin said, “Well that’s something, at least.”

At least? Bradley thought. What more did he want? Then he noticed Mohyeldin was taking his phone from his pocket. “What are you doing?” he asked.

“Calling Myrick,” said Mohyeldin, taping the screen.

“Don’t!”

Mohyeldin stopped and looked up. “Kid–”

Bradley stuck his chin out. “Brian gave me a fair punishment. I was just being a drama queen before, like you said. I don’t need you interfering or interrupting his Saturday.”

For a moment, Mohyeldin simply narrowed his eyes. Then he pushed himself away from the door. “I’m taking a shower,” he said. “Don’t go anywhere. We’re not done.”

Before Bradley could say anything, he vanished behind the curtain between the main room and the small shower cubby. The water turned on.

Bradley could finish his reading here just as well as in his own room. And he wouldn’t risk running into Nak, who’d want to know why he was back early. Neither fact made him appreciate Mohyeldin’s offhand order more. He stamped over to the wide windowsill, moved the single potted plant out of the way, sat down, and pulled out his textbook.

He’d barely started to make sense of the first paragraph when his phone rang.

It was Justine again, and on a video call this time. She was going to keep trying until he answered. Maybe if he told her about the punishment, she’d let him be. He tapped the accept button.

As her face appeared on the screen, one of her eyebrows rose, delicately. “Bradley? Why were you ignoring my calls?”

His heart skipped a beat. If she was angry with him now too, there’d be no one to talk Brian into giving him a second chance. His words stumbled over themselves on their way out of his mouth. “Brian said– I got in, in trouble and he said he didn’t want me to contact him until the punishment’s over, so–”

“I know,” she cut in, “but he didn’t tell you not to contact me, did he?”

She already knew?

“…No,” he said.

“Good, because he doesn’t speak for me,” she said. “I’m not part of that. Don’t ignore my calls.”

Bradley stiffened. Another mistake. “Yes, ma’am. I apologize.”

Sighing, Justine said, “And don’t call me ‘ma’am.’ Or ‘Mistress’ or ‘my lady.’ Right now, I’m just your girlfriend. Okay?”

He studied her warily, but she really did seem like her usual self now. “Okay.”

Her lips pressed together a moment. “Are you sure you want to do this discipline stuff?” she asked. “It doesn’t seem like it’s making you happier.”

“I’m not supposed to feel happy when I break a rule,” Bradley muttered, looking down at the floor beyond the screen.

“No, I guess not,” she said, sadness lacing her tone. There were a few seconds’ silence. “We can Skype while you write the lines, at least.”

He opened his mouth to say he didn’t know if Brian would approve of that, but someone knocked on Mohyeldin’s door. “Hang on,” he said instead, setting the phone on the windowsill as he slid off it. Whoever it was, he’d just tell them Mohyeldin was in the shower and to come back later.

It was Brian.

“How did you know I was here?!” Bradley blurted.

Brian didn’t seem surprised to see him, but when he looked over Bradley’s head, into the room, his brows drew together over his dark eyes. “Where’s–?”

The curtain to Bradley’s right rattled open, revealing Mohyeldin with just a towel around his waist, dripping water and reaching behind himself with his other hand to turn the shower off. “Hi, butthead,” he greeted Brian. “You were closer than I thought. Both of you can have a seat while I get dressed.”

Bradley should’ve known. He tossed a glare in Mohyeldin’s direction, pivoted on his heel, and went back to the windowsill.

Justine’s tinkling laugh was coming from the phone. “Did I hear that right?” she asked as he picked it up. “Did he just call Brian a butthead?”

“Yeah,” said Bradley. He glanced at Brian, who was sitting on the edge of Mohyeldin’s desk with his arms crossed. “I told him not to bother you, sir.”

“I guessed that,” Brian said. His expression was inscrutable.

“Is Cameron on FaceTime?” Mohyeldin asked, pulling a Marine Corps t-shirt over the tattoo that covered most of his chest as he came out of the shower cubby.

Bradley said, “Yeah,” again.

“Good. Turn it around a second.”

Why did he want to talk to her? Bradley wondered. After looking to Brian and getting a nod, though, he flipped the phone over.

Mohyeldin saluted and said, “Good morning, Ensign.”

“Hello,” said Justine, still cheerful.

“I need to talk to your guys about some stuff,” Mohyeldin told her. “I know you don’t like being involved in this, but I think it’s important that you listen, at least.”

Justine’s voice grew cautious as she said, “Okay.”

Mohyeldin pulled his chair away from his desk, spun it to face himself, and straddled it backwards. “You know what happened earlier?” he asked Justine.

“Yes,” she said. “Brian told me.”

“And did Platt tell you he thinks Myrick hates him now?”

Brian jerked upright, dropping his arms to his sides, and stared at Bradley. “What? Why would you think that?”

He had no idea how to explain. It felt so foolish.

“Ohhh, I don’t know,” Mohyeldin drawled. “Could have something to do with you banishing him from your sight for the rest of the weekend.”

“I told you that was too harsh,” said Justine.

“It wasn’t the rest of the weekend,” Brian said, looking baffled. “Only until he completes his punishment.”

“Yeah, do you have any idea how long writing that rule out five hundred times will take?” Mohyeldin asked. Without waiting for an answer, he added, “Even if it were a shorter assignment, withholding your presence like that is never an acceptable punishment. It makes your Brat feel unloved.” He gestured to Bradley as though presenting him as evidence.

Brian’s shoulders slumped, and it hurt to see him. “I didn’t intend…” He trailed off, shaking his head at Mohyeldin. “I never meant to do that.”

“I know. That’s why I’m not kicking your ass right now,” said Mohyeldin, dead serious. “But tell Platt, not me.”

Brian turned and reached a hand out, touching Bradley’s arm. “Pet, you lied to spend more time with me. I was just trying to fit the consequence to the infraction. Nothing has changed in how I feel about you, and I’m so sorry I made you doubt that.”

Bradley blinked. He hadn’t considered how the punishment mirrored what he’d done. Praying the prickling in his eyes wouldn’t turn into real tears, he whispered, “I thought it was because you were mad at me.”

“I was only angry at first,” said Brian. He squeezed Bradley’s arm tighter. “Truly, it was at myself, for not doing a good job as your Top, more than at you. And I was disappointed that we wouldn’t get to spend today like we planned. So I took it out on you. That was wrong.” Looking from Bradley to the screen of his phone, which he still held facing out, he promised, “I will control my temper better in the future.”

Bradley swallowed and shook his head. “I can deal with your temper. Just don’t say you don’t want to see me.”

“Never again. I give you my word,” said Brian, stepping forward and folding Bradley into his arms.

From the phone, Justine said, “I’m sending you both virtual hugs right now.”

Bradley’s lips curved against Brian’s chest.

When they drew apart, Mohyeldin had his chin resting on his forearms, which were resting on the back of his chair, and he was giving them a sappy smile. “That’s it,” he said. “Zain, relationship counselor extraordinaire, to the rescue once more. If you three ever have a commitment ceremony, your best man better be me, kid.”

“Who else would it be?” Bradley asked, genuinely confused.

Mohyeldin grinned and transferred his attention to Brian. “One question, though. What makes you think you’re not doing a good job as his Top?”

“Well, obviously, he felt the need to lie to me for a reason,” said Brian, still holding Bradley under his arm. “I’ve been busy the past couple of weeks. We haven’t spent as much time together, leading to him concealing the truth so we could play pool.”

“So, he told you that’s why he lied?”

“I… didn’t ask,” Brian admitted. He frowned down at Bradley. “Why did you lie?”

Feeling his face burn, Bradley said, “It was one chapter. I knew it wouldn’t take me that long.”

“Exactly,” said Brian. He moved further away, but kept his hands on Bradley’s shoulders. “It wouldn’t have stopped us from playing after you were done. So why not just tell me?”

Bradley wanted to squirm. His Top’s gaze was heavy on him, and Mohyeldin was watching with his head tilted, and even Justine was waiting when he glanced towards the phone he held near his waist. “I… I guess I didn’t think you were that serious,” he said.

“Maybe you were testing him?” Mohyeldin suggested. “Seeing if he was serious? Not just about the homework, but about the whole discipline thing.”

Of course not! Bradley thought, and he opened his mouth to deny it, but what came out was, “Maybe.”

Justine laughed. “That I understand.”

Taking the phone from Bradley, Brian held it up so they were both in the frame and raised his eyebrows at her. “It’s different for you.”

“Mmm, not really,” she said. “Bradley, you want to know he’s strong enough to handle you, and that he actually cares enough to make you stop, right?”

He pushed his hands into his pockets, jerking his shoulders in a shrug as he remembered all the times he’d seen the make-me attitude she so often gave in response to an order from Brian. He’d thought it was because she could switch from dominant to submissive on the turn of a dime. Surely he shouldn’t possess that rebellious streak?

But Mohyeldin said, “It’s common with Brats to push the boundaries. Not just at the start of the discipline agreement, either. They like to feel that safety net in times of stress. It’s comforting for Tops, too, being able to tighten our hold when everything else is going haywire.”

Bradley flashed him a look of surprise. He made it sound like Tops didn’t mind having their authority challenged!

When he looked to his own Top, Brian was setting his body-frame squarely in his shoes and giving Mohyeldin a small, determined nod. “I see,” he said. “I can handle that.” His eyes met Bradley’s, inescapable. “Have you been testing me in other ways I don’t know about yet?”

Bradley’s stomach flipped as a flush and a chill came over him in waves, but his gaze stayed steady while he thought back on the past two weeks since the rules were issued. He couldn’t remember breaking them at any other point, except… Whispering through lips that felt stiff, he said, “I swore at Mohyeldin today, sir. I wasn’t very nice to him.”

Mohyeldin scoffed and waved a hand. “It’s water off a duck’s back with me. I barely noticed.”

“That might be true,” Brian told him, not looking away from his Brat, “but Bradley has those rules for his own benefit. Right?”

“Yes, sir,” Bradley said, as his guts twisted.

“So more lines?” Justine asked on a sigh. “I was hoping I’d get a chance to actually talk to him today.”

“Washing the mouth out would be traditional, for swearing,” Mohyeldin suggested. “And the ‘meanness’ was really just swearing at me. Have you had a chance to buy the soap I recommended?”

Brian shook his head. “Couldn’t I use a regular bar soap?”

“There’s a much higher risk of negative side-effects, especially if you’ve never done it before,” said Mohyeldin. “Most soap is pretty toxic.”

“Yeah, I’ve heard stories about people throwing up or having allergic reactions to that,” said Justine. “You promised me no lasting harm, Bri.”

Standing there, Bradley wondered if they still remembered he was in the room. He watched Brian’s heavy brows crunch into a frown as his dark eyes grew distant. Scowling impatiently, Bradley said, “I’m not allergic to anything. Just use whatever’s in your shower. I can handle it. I’m not some baby.”

Brian refocused on him in a nanosecond. “Watch your tone.”

The glower fell off Bradley’s face, to be replaced with a blush. His first reprimand with an audience made him want to burst into flames and disappear. “Yes, sir,” he said, while his heart thundered in his chest.

“I won’t be using bar soap,” Brian said. “I think I have several alternative possibilities. Mohyeldin, what would you recommend?” He leaned over to whisper into the other mid’s ear.

Mohyeldin listened, nothing in his face giving away anything. Then, as Brian straightened, he shrugged. “All great, safe options. Why not have Platt choose?”

“From what?” Bradley asked, trying to hide his nerves, so it came out surly. He closed his eyes and quickly schooled his voice. “I mean, what would the options be, sir?”

“I’ll show you in my room,” Brian said. “I’m not sure I have one of them.”

Justine spoke up again. “That’s my cue to say bye. I don’t want to participate in the actual… punishment part. This was enlightening, though. Thanks, Mohyeldin.” She blew Brian and Bradley kisses before ending the call.

“Yes,” Brian said to Mohyeldin. “Thank you. Once again, I owe you.”

Mohyeldin grinned. “I accept payment in the form of cookies.” He got up and shook Brian’s offered hand, then turned to Bradley. “Buck up, kid. I promise you, you’ll feel better when this is done.”

Bradley swallowed and nodded, and when Mohyeldin embraced him, he hugged back, relieved he didn’t seem to think any less of him.

Brian waited until they were done. Then he said, “Alright, little boy. Let’s go.”

Little boy? Bradley thought as he followed him out into the passageway. Justine got called ‘little girl’ in all kinds of ways, both teasing and affectionate. But Brian had never used the male equivalent for him before. Was it some kind of reflection on how he viewed Bradley’s maturity level now?

He walked behind Brian with perfect military form, determined to prove he wasn’t a wet-behind-the-ears plebe any longer. Whatever punishment choices offered, he’d pick the hardest.

*

Brian’s roommate, Turner, spent most weekends with his family, who lived nearby, if he didn’t have military obligations. Bradley assumed he was there. He hovered in the middle of the room, watching Brian bend down to rummage through their small refrigerator—a privilege allowed only to firsties—and come out with two bottles. Before Bradley could see what they were, he turned away and carried them to the shower cubby.

A few moments later, he heard, “Come here.”

Bradley obeyed, but stood just outside the open curtain, cautiously looking in. Brian had taken a third bottle out of the medicine cabinet over the sink and lined them all up on the counter. Grape-flavored cough syrup, a liquid fish oil supplement, and lastly, the hot sauce that Bradley had often seen him sprinkle onto everything from pizza to scrambled eggs.

“These are your options,” Brian said. “For the cough syrup, you’ll hold it in your mouth for one minute before spitting it out. Same with the fish oil, only you can swallow that; it’s good for you. The hot sauce, I’ll just put a couple drops on your tongue. There’ll be no rinsing after any of them. Which will it be?”

Shoving his hands into his pockets, Bradley studied them. Lots of mids used fish oil. He’d heard them complaining about the taste. Cough syrup would definitely be horrible, especially keeping it in his mouth for that long.

The hot sauce, though… he remembered once, when they were eating a Saturday brunch with Justine via Skype, and Brian offered to share it. She’d quickly interjected, “Don’t, honey. You have to be a true masochist to enjoy that stuff.” Bradley had been about to turn it down anyway. He hated spicy foods.

“I’ll take the hot sauce, sir.”

“You’re sure?” Brian asked. “It’s not from Taco Bell, you know.”

He set his jaw and nodded.

Brian scrutinized him a few seconds longer, with that piercing, possessive stare that shot straight into Bradley, but unlike most times, it didn’t spark even a hint of arousal. He was too concerned with enjoying the lack of heat in his mouth while it lasted.

“Alright,” said Brian, finally. He picked up the bottle of hot sauce and the little plastic measuring cup that was upside-down over the top of the cough syrup. Unscrewing the lid of the sauce, he poured some into the cup. It flowed quickly to the halfway mark. Bradley’s eyes went wide. “Too much, sorry,” Brian muttered. He set the bottle down, considered the cup a moment, and then dipped the very tip of his index finger into it. “Over here. Stick out your tongue.”

That faint sense of disbelief came back, along with a healthy dose of self-preservation, gluing Bradley in place. Only when Brian reached for him did he manage to break free of it and step into the small space.

“Stick out your tongue,” Brian repeated.

He swallowed and did, tipping his head back a little. From the corner of his eye, he could see his reflection in the mirror over the sink. It added to the out-of-body feeling.

Brian stretched out his sauce-coated index finger. He hesitated for just a moment when it was centimeters away from Bradley’s taste buds. Then he touched it gently to the center of his tongue.

Sweet and citrusy flavors bloomed first, but the flame of the pepper overpowered them almost immediately. Heat built and filled Bradley’s mouth. It seemed to spread under his skin, too. His eyes began to water. He swallowed in an attempt to get rid of the sauce, but that just extended the burn into his throat. His nose started to run. Turning, he leaned heavily on the counter and panted with his mouth hanging open. Huge gulps of cool air helped a little.

Next to him, Brian was rinsing his finger and the cup under the tap, though his eyes never left Bradley. “Are you alright, pet?” he asked. “Trouble breathing?”

“No, sir,” said Bradley. “It’s just… hot.”

“It’ll pass in a minute or two,” he said. Then he put his hand on Bradley’s far shoulder and tucked him close to his side. “The words you used towards Mohyeldin were hot, too, weren’t they?”

Bradley wiped his eyes and nodded. They’d been born in flaming anger.

“I want you to think about how cussing causes burns to your self-respect, and how it could scald a relationship if you aren’t careful.”

The quiet remark transformed Bradley’s experience. It wasn’t just something to be endured, but a true lesson. If he ever swore again, he’d instantly remember this pain, and what it meant. “Yes, sir,” he said, blinking away more tears. “I’m sorry, sir.”

“It’s done,” Brian said, pressing him tighter to himself. “This part, at least. You did very well. Now it’s time to write the lines, okay?”

Bradley sniffled. “Yes, sir.”

Gently, Brian turned him and guided him out into the main room. As he did, he said, “You’ll do them here, while I work on grad school applications. But Turner gets fussy about anyone touching his things, especially his chair, so you can use my rack instead.”

A flush that had nothing to do with hot sauce washed over Bradley. “Your rack, sir?” he asked, his eyes darting to the bunk over Brian’s desk. Him, lying in Brian’s bed. Where Brian slept every night. And if the weekend they’d spent with Justine was anything to go by, Brian’s pajamas were just his boxer-briefs.

“Is that a problem?” asked Brian, sounding puzzled.

“No! It’s, um, fine,” Bradley said.

“Good. Remember to do your reading first.”

“Yes, sir.”

While Brian sat down at his desk, Bradley quickly slipped his shoes, socks, and bag off, and then spent an inordinate amount of time arranging them just so on the floor. He told himself he didn’t want to mar the tidiness of the room, not that he was preparing to be in Brian’s bed. Eventually, even a drill sergeant could’ve found nothing wrong with them, and he could feel Brian watching him in curiosity. With a final, deep breath, Bradley climbed up into the rack, philosophy textbook in hand.

The bed was almost identical to his own, of course. White sheets and pillowcase, navy blue blanket, all tucked neatly under the twin mattress. But as he turned to settle on his stomach, he saw the single touch of personalization Brian had given to his spartan half of the room: A photo of Bradley, Justine, and him together, taped to the inside of the cubby over his pillow. Justine had taken it. She held up her new anchor bracelet, and he and Brian each held their anchor keychains, and all three of them were smiling.

A black spiral notebook landed on the bedspread in front of him. “You can use that for the lines,” Brian said, and then followed his gaze to where he’d been staring. “Oh. I figured if anyone asked, I could say we’re all friends. Turner hasn’t noticed it, though.”

Bradley didn’t know how to explain that his fascination had nothing to do with worrying someone would find them out. He just moved the notebook to the side so he could lay down.

The linens even smelled the same as his, from the detergent used by the Yard laundry service. Or did they? After glancing sideways to be sure Brian wasn’t watching him anymore, Bradley buried his nose in the pillow. Yes, it also had a hint of Brian’s woodsy scent. He couldn’t name it, but it went with Brian as easily as the crisp, sweet smell of apples went with Justine.

Bradley smiled and propped himself up on his elbows to read. Somehow, even with the lingering burn of the hot sauce on his tongue, this really didn’t seem like a punishment anymore.

*

He revised that opinion after the fourth page of lines. The words ‘Complete honesty is expected with your partners.’ marched along each of them in regimented rows. Keeping the letters all the same size was a struggle as the muscles in his hand tired. He was tempted to write one word at a time down the left side of the page, then go back and do the next word, just to break up the monotony. But that would be dishonest, and complete honesty is expected–

Yes, I get it, Bradley thought, putting down the pen to rub the base of his thumb for a few seconds. I do. I’ll never lie to them again, scout’s honor. Would Brian let him off writing the rest if he said that? Did he dare try?

“How many have you done?”

He jumped. Brian had been silent, apart from the clacking of his keyboard, until that point. Bradley looked down at him and then back at the notebook, realizing his mistake. “I… I’m not sure. I didn’t number them, sir,” he admitted.

Brian simply held up his hand. “Give it here.”

Bradley did, and watched Brian wordlessly count the first page, then flip quickly through the rest.

“One forty-three,” he said.

“That’s it?!” Bradley asked. He’d been certain he had to be almost done. He massaged the cramp in his hand with dismay.

Brian’s eyes narrowed, but at the notebook, not him. After a moment, he offered it up again. “Go to two hundred and you’ll be finished.”

Bradley blinked. He didn’t take the notebook. “But you said five hundred.”

“And now I’m saying two,” Brian said, standing. He was tall enough to be looking down at Bradley that way, and he used it to his full advantage. “I reserve the right to modify a punishment depending on the circumstances. Two hundred only. Understand?”

Swallowing protests that he could do the original assignment, Bradley answered, “Yes, sir.”

Brian put the notebook in front of him and waited until Bradley picked up the pen again. Then he patted his shoulder. “You’re doing a great job, pet. When you’re finished, we’ll call Justine.”

“Thank you, sir,” Bradley said. He wrote 143 next to his last line, before starting on the rest with more readiness.

It seemed to take less time with them numbered. When he announced he was done, Brian said, “Let me see,” and he passed the notebook over once more. “Excellent,” said Brian, flipping through the last couple of pages. “Very neat and legible. Not that I would expect any less from you.” He closed the notebook and dropped it on his desk. “How are you feeling?”

“Glad it’s done,” said Bradley. “We’re, um, back to normal now, right?”

Brian smiled with just his eyes, the way that warmed Bradley all through because he knew only one other person ever got to see it. “Yes, back to normal. Justine will be glad. Speaking of,”—he pulled open his desk drawer and took out his iPad—“move over. I’m coming up.”

Up? Bradley thought, nonplussed. With me?

Then he had to scramble sideways to make room, because yes, Brian was climbing into the rack and laying next to him, a warm, solid length of muscle all down Bradley’s right side. He draped his arm over Bradley’s upper back while Bradley tried to get control over his racing heart.

Why was this affecting him so much? It wasn’t the first time they’d been in bed together, and they even had all their clothes on now. But it was Brian’s bed, not a hotel. And it was tiny, too. Bradley had to squish himself up to the bulkhead on his other side so he didn’t push Brian off the edge. If he wanted, Brian could just pin him against it and–

Brian tapped the iPad screen, and a few moments later, Justine appeared. She smiled. “Aw, don’t you two look cozy. Is the punishment done?”

“Yes, it’s all over,” said Brian.

“Have you kissed and made up, then?” she asked.

Bradley flushed, but Brian shook his head and said, “It’s not like that. We weren’t arguing, so there’s nothing to make up.”

Justine’s gaze flicked to Bradley and sparkled with amusement. “I think you still oughta fool around a bit,” she said.

“You’re just trying to direct your own personal cam show,” said Brian.

“Yes, and?” she asked. “I had to wait for hours to see you both properly. Plus, Bradley needs aftercare. You told me that doesn’t go away with this.”

“Making out is aftercare now?” Brian asked, raising an eyebrow.

As she was opening her mouth to answer, Bradley leaned over and pecked Brian’s cheek.

They both stared at him. He couldn’t blame them. Rarely did he ever initiate kissing. He’d just wanted to show he was okay with that form of aftercare. More than okay.

Brian must’ve gotten the message, because he slid his hand from Bradley’s shoulder up to his neck and the back of his head, and turned him so he could bring their mouths together. Bradley’s lips tingled.

“I am a lucky, lucky girl,” Justine said as the kiss stretched on. “Now slip in some tongue.”

Breaking away from him, Brian shot the iPad a look. “This is not for your benefit, princess,” he growled. “Be quiet and watch.”

Bradley shivered at that tone and let his mouth be claimed over and over again until he was dizzy and yearning to be pressed even closer to Brian.

That was the moment Brian stopped, though. “Enough,” he said, inching back and putting just his fingertips on Bradley’s lower lip. Fire crackled in his eyes. “Or I’ll ask for more than you’re ready to give.”

Rather than relief, or fear at the obvious meaning behind that, Bradley was surprised to feel disappointment. But he nodded, and Brian let his hand drop.

“Whew, that was hot,” said Justine. “You okay now, honey?”

It took Bradley a second to realize she meant him. “Yeah,” he said, puzzled. “I was okay before, too.”

She studied him, then said, “Alright. Still hard for me to understand, but I can see that you’re both fine and not upset with each other like when I called earlier. I’m glad.”

As she changed the subject to recapping her morning, Bradley had to wonder if the kissing had been aftercare for her more than himself.

*

They talked until Brian and Bradley had to go eat dinner. After, Brian suggested a judo lesson, and they walked to Bradley’s room together so he could change clothes.

Mohyeldin was standing outside the door in the passageway like some kind of sentry. He came to life when he saw them, smiling broadly. “Oh, hey! Fancy running into you two here!”

“Yes, what a coincidence,” said Brian, deadpan. He glanced at Bradley, but addressed the other Top. “I assume you wanted to check on him, so I’ll leave–”

“Not just him,” Mohyeldin interrupted. “The first incident can be rough on everyone.”

Brian made a wordless noise, clearly caught off guard. “I’m, yes, good,” he said.

Nodding, Mohyeldin asked, “And Cameron?”

This time, Bradley saw Brian’s face soften before he said, “She’s alright, too. Thank you.”

“Good,” said Mohyeldin. “Now you can go.”

Brian narrowed his eyes. “Are you giving me orders, Mohyeldin?”

“Not at all!” Mohyeldin said, as if he wouldn’t dream of such a thing. “I was giving you permission!”

Brian just stared at him a moment, and then turned and walked away.

“What if he writes you up for insubordination?” Bradley asked.

“He won’t,” said Mohyeldin.

“He could if you annoy him enough,” said Bradley, though he thought that was unlikely too. Brian and Mohyeldin both had too much respect for each other, despite appearances.

Mohyeldin tucked his thumbs into his pockets and grinned. “I’m here to discuss your actual punishment, not my theoretical one.” When Bradley looked around to be sure no one had heard that, he jerked his chin at the door and said, “Nak isn’t in. Wanna unlock it and we can talk?”

Bradley did. The moment they were alone, he said, “I’m fine, too. I actually feel better now. I didn’t expect that.”

“What did you expect to feel?” Mohyeldin asked, frowning.

With a small shrug, Bradley admitted, “Shame.”

“Oh, kid. I swear I wanna hug you as often as I wanna swat you,” said Mohyeldin. “The purpose of discipline is to get rid of shame and help you grow.”

“Well, I guess it works, then,” Bradley said, and his heart skipped as he realized it was true. Did that mean the trial would end now? Would Brian want to make things permanent?

“What’s wrong?”

He looked up at Mohyeldin. “Nothing. Just… I have to change. Brian will be waiting.”

Mohyeldin opened his mouth and shut it again. He sighed, smiling. “There’s that desire to swat coming back. If you don’t want to talk to me about it, talk to Seb. Brat to Brat. It’ll help. And you know he refuses to tell me anything you say.”

“I will,” said Bradley. He’d wanted to ask Seb a few questions anyway.

“Promise?”

He rolled his eyes and held up his hand in the Scout Sign.

*

Judo with Brian was always exhilarating. Mentally and physically. He had to guess Brian’s next move, think the way he thought. And if Bradley used that knowledge to let himself get pinned to the mat beneath Brian’s weight and heat a few extra times… well, no one else would know.

He returned to his room an hour before taps, alone. Nak was there, up on his rack, playing with his phone. He said “Hey,” and Bradley nodded back. Then he was going to crawl into bed himself, until he remembered his conversation with Mohyeldin.

Talking to Seb about it would mean truly contemplating that momentary fear from earlier, which, he knew, would bring it back. A promise was a promise, though. He sat at his desk and opened his email.

There was already a message from Seb waiting. With a glance over his shoulder to see if Nak was looking—he wouldn’t be able to read it from that distance, but Bradley wasn’t taking chances—he clicked on it.

Bradley,

Zain told me what happened today. I hope you don’t mind. He just wanted me to be prepared in case you need to talk. If you do mind, I’m sorry. Try to remember there’s nothing to feel ashamed of. I’ve been through it before.

Well, actually, I haven’t written lines myself. Five hundred seems like a lot. And I’ve never had hot sauce, cough syrup, or fish oil as a punishment either. Zain and Quint both know better than to suggest fish oil. I think I’d prefer soap to the other two. Which one did you pick? (You don’t have to answer that.)

Anyway, I’m here.

Your friend,

Seb

Organizing his thoughts into some coherent form took ages. He deleted and rewrote sentence after sentence. The moment he finally hit send, he wished he could undo it. With his gut churning from all the reawakened nerves, he read the sent email over.

Seb,

Don’t worry. Mohyeldin made me promise to talk to you, so I’m glad he also arranged it so I don’t have to explain things.

I picked the hot sauce, and it wasn’t five hundred lines. Brian made me stop at two hundred, even though I could’ve done the rest of them no problem. I think he was going easy on me. I don’t need that, but it’s his decision, I guess.

Mohyeldin said I was testing Brian. Breaking the rules on purpose to see what would happen. He made it sound like it’s normal, but I can’t imagine you doing that. It seems so… bratty. And he said Tops don’t mind, which makes no sense.

None of this makes sense, really. It’s weird. I felt calm after, but when I think about why I felt calm, it freaks me out. My boyfriend punishes me, and my response is to relax? That’s nuts. Unless I’m really a Brat. I mean, there’s no doubt now, right? Is it even worth waiting until the end of the semester? What if Brian doesn’t want to? What if he thinks I’m stalling? Am I?

I’m such a coward.

-Bradley

Cringing at his pathetic words, he put computer to sleep. Then got up, pulled night clothes out of his closet, and turned to ask, “Mind if I shower first?”

“Go ahead,” said Nak, barely looking away from whatever game he was playing on his phone.

Bradley took twice as long as usual getting ready for bed. Whenever he thought of Seb’s reply waiting for him, he slowed down more. Eventually, though, his body was squeaky-clean, his teeth polished, and his half of the room tidy enough to pass an inspection. He climbed into his rack and checked his email on his phone.

Bradley,

You can’t imagine me testing Zain? I told you about throwing the paint can, didn’t I? That’s not the only time, either. I’m not proud of it, but remember that it’s not something you choose to do. When you’re stressed, you grab for all the control you can get. And yeah, I mind a lot more than Zain does. I realize that’s not saying much, with him.

Myrick agreed to the trial period. You know him better than me, obviously, but I don’t think he’d back out of that, or pressure you to, either. It just doesn’t seem like him.

You’re not a coward. It’s scary, but you’re doing it anyway, which is brave. Even though you feel like everything is changing and you can’t prepare.

The thing is, everything is changing and you can’t prepare. It’s one of those things where you have to find your way as you go. I think I had it better with Zain. We were together years before the discipline. You’re learning all of it at once. But even with us, I worried about how it would affect our relationship. Over time I’ve found it just enhances everything else, like adding salt to a dish when you’re cooking. I can taste all the flavors better. That probably sounds dumb.

Communication is really key, especially when you’re first starting. You have to let Myrick know how you feel and find out why he’s doing the things he does. If him reducing the number of lines bothers you, tell him and ask what his reasons were. I know this is all a lot easier to say than to do. You’ll feel better, though, I promise.

Your friend,

Seb

Bradley closed his eyes and sighed. Why did the solution always involve talking? But Seb was doing his best to support him, so he wrote back, Thanks. I have to think all this through more. Maybe I’ll pray about it. -Bradley

He sent that before remembering something else.

By the way, what kind of cookies are Mohyeldin’s favorite? Brian asked me and I didn’t know.

Seb answered barely a minute later.

Bradley,

I hope praying gives you your answer.

He likes all cookies. His favorite are the ones shaped like Mickey Mouse.

Seb

Of course they were.

Rolling onto his stomach, Bradley plugged the phone into its charger in the cubby, and then tried to sleep.

Long after taps, when Nak climbed down and turned the overhead light off, he was still trying, his mind going in circles with imagined conversations. He punched his pillow a few times, as if it was to blame.

“Alright?” Nak asked through the darkness.

“Yeah,” said Bradley. “Sorry. Trying to get comfortable.”

Nak was silent. Bradley squeezed his eyes shut tight and summoned the sense-memory of laying like this earlier in the day with Brian all solid against him, holding him there as they kissed. That helped. Kissing Brian always helped, didn’t it? No talking needed, just his lips and Brian’s lips, and his tongue and Brian’s tongue…

The memory blurred into soft, indistinct sensations, and when it focused again, they were on the judo mats, Brian on top, their hips rocking together, and Bradley turned his head and saw Justine watching in the bleachers with a grin like the cat who got into the cream, and then Brian flipped him over onto his stomach and Bradley gasped as he was bent across a pool table and a swat landed smartly on his behind, and then Brian’s voice said, stick out your tongue, only it wasn’t to give him a dose of hot sauce, because the scene morphed once more and Bradley knelt in front of him with his mouth wide open, watching hungrily as Brian unzipped his fly, is this what you want, pet? Yes, Sir, please–

A door banged shut down the passageway, and he jerked awake.

He cursed the interruption.

That was new. The dreams over the summer had been a lot less explicit, yet he’d always been glad to wake from them before he could come in his pants. They’d scared the living daylights out of him, and mortified him besides. Now here he was, breathing heavily and yearning to sink back into one.

Nothing was stopping him from doing that, he suddenly realized. Nak’s soft snores filled the air. Bradley had all the privacy he needed.

His hand slid down to cup his dick, stroking lightly over his underwear as his eyelids fell closed again. Where was he?

Right. On his knees in front of Brian, waiting for permission to give him pleasure.

Sir, please, may I?

Go on, pet.

He wished he could imagine it better. How would Brian feel in his mouth? How much would he stretch Bradley’s jaw open? How deep would he go? What did he taste like? Would Bradley even do it right?

Too many questions. He rolled over and let his mind wander back further, to the pool table. Yes, he knew how that felt underneath him, and he could easily imagine Brian pressed against him from behind, the hard ridge of his cock cradled in the valley of Bradley’s buttocks. He was tall enough to lean down and whisper filthy things in Bradley’s ear, right there in the company wardroom, and he’d have Justine on a video call, too, so she could watch and tell Bradley to be good for his Mistress.

You want to please Sir and I, don’t you?

Yes, my lady.

It’s time for you to let me in, pet.

Bradley arched his back, imagining Brian’s rough hands yanking his fly open and shoving his pants and underwear down in one move, and then they’d be skin against skin, and Brian could just put the head of his cock between Bradley’s cheeks and push–

He sunk his teeth into his pillow as his orgasm swept over him all the way from his toes.

When his hips stopped their involuntary shudders, he turned onto his side, still panting, before any of his come could seep through to the sheets. A thought crossed his mind.

Taste it.

Bradley swallowed as his heart beat even faster. He’d never done that before. It was too… gay. But it’d answer one of his questions about what things might be like with Brian, wouldn’t it? If he wanted to serve his dom, he couldn’t be squeamish.

Carefully, he pulled his hand out of his underwear without wiping the wetness off it first like he usually would have. The smell hit his nose as he brought it closer to his face, and he almost changed his mind.

Do it for Sir, he thought, and swiped his tongue over his knuckles.

Salty. Not as bad as he expected. Okay.

He climbed off his rack one-handed and went to wash up.

*

Reading over the emails with Seb again the next morning as he got ready for chapel service, Bradley wondered why he’d been so worried. It was all a huge overreaction in the light of day.

So he responded well to one punishment. He wasn’t scared of what that meant. There were ages still before a decision had to be made, and Seb was right; Brian wouldn’t rush him. No need to revisit what had happened endlessly. It was over. Time to move on.

Yeah, he’d just force himself to move on, he decided as he headed for the chapel.

The chaplain must’ve picked a particularly difficult sermon. Bradley found it hard to follow, his mind wandering away from the scripture again and again. After, when he called Justine from the gazebo to discuss it, they were barely two minutes into the conversation when she asked, “Are you alright, honey? You seem distracted.”

“What?” he said. “Oh. I’m okay.” Complete honesty is expected with your partners. He let out a tiny sigh and added, “I, um… have stuff on my mind.”

“Oh,” she said. “Yesterday?”

He blinked. “How…?”

“Because I’ve been thinking a lot about it myself,” she said, with a little laugh. “Seeing it in action—or as close as I got—kinda set me at ease on the whole thing. You were so happy afterward. I don’t think I’ve ever seen you smile that much.”

Bradley blinked again. He didn’t realize he’d been smiling more than usual. When he recalled those hours talking with her, though, he did remember a faint ache in his cheeks. “Yeah, that’s, um, what I keep thinking about. How well it worked.” Sitting on the railing, he swung his leg forward and back beneath him. “Has Brian said anything to you about, you know, making it permanent?”

Her voice changed, grew more serious. “Now? No, you’re on a trial period until the end of the semester. We all agreed, didn’t we?”

“Yeah,” he said, trying to hide his relief.

She was silent for a few seconds, and then she asked, “Are you two discussing that without me?”

“What? No!”

“Then why would Brian talk to me about it?” she asked, confused.

“I–I don’t know. Nevermind,” he said. “I just thought because I reacted so well, he might want to speed things up or something. Make it official.”

“Bradley,” she said. “He’s not going to change the rules without any warning. C’mon. You know him better.”

His cheeks flushed at the gentle reproach in her tone. “I know,” he mumbled.

“Yesterday might’ve made me more comfortable, but it almost sounds like it had the opposite effect on you,” she said, musingly. “You should talk to Brian.”

Sighing, he said, “That’s what Seb told me, too.”

“Well, he gives good advice.”

“If it keeps bothering me, I will,” Bradley said.

*

The chance never seemed to present itself, though. Brian had a company leadership meeting on Monday, a plebe training period to supervise on Tuesday, and watch duty on Wednesday. For his part, Bradley was kept busy with homework and his National Eagle Scouts Association monthly meeting.

Most nights, he found himself texting with Justine alone before lights-out. He didn’t mind much, especially when she offered to send him off to sleep with what she called ‘naughty bedtime stories’. They added jetfuel to his dreams. Especially the one where she described going down on Brian in words that filled his head with images so intense, Nak did a double-take from across the room and asked him if he was feeling feverish.

Then on Thursday, she texted as he was leaving King Hall after dinner.

Hey I just remembered

Have you talked to Brian about what was bothering you yet?

A jolt of guilt twisted his stomach. Haven’t had a chance, he wrote back, and then closed the app, shoved the phone into his pocket, and walked faster.

Around the corner in the next passageway, she texted again, twice in succession. He took the phone out and read the notifications.

You’re meeting him right now before study period to make Mohyeldin’s mickey oreos, right?

There’s your chance.

He scowled. Why was she pushing this? Unlocking the phone, he swiftly tapped out his response. It’s not bothering me that much. Then he strode on, ignoring three more vibrations from his pocket.

Brian answered his knock so fast it was like he’d been standing on the other side of his door waiting for it. But he didn’t move aside to let Bradley through. Instead, he looked down at him a moment, his expression unreadable, and asked, “What’s not bothering you that much?”

His stomach dropped to the floor. When he just gaped, Brian held up his phone so he could see his own words… and how they were quite clearly sent to the group text between the three of them.

“Bradley?” Brian asked, in a perfectly normal voice.

With a quick shake of his head, Bradley said, “It’s nothing. That wasn’t meant for you.”

Brian dropped the phone to his side and grew taller, somehow. “Was it meant for Justine?”

He almost said no. Things would be easier if he said no. But that would be a lie. Complete honesty is expected with your partners. He bit the bullet. “Yes.”

“In reference to?” Brian asked, so soft his lips barely moved.

Bradley couldn’t make eye contact, yet he refused to hang his head like some kid in trouble. He snapped to attention, wiping his face blank, and stared straight ahead at some invisible point ten feet beyond Brian. Eyes on the boat.

A few seconds passed in silence before Brian broke all protocol by reaching out, taking him by the back of the neck, pulling him into the room, and shutting the door behind them. His fingers were rigid against Bradley’s flesh. Leaning down until less than an inch separated their noses, he asked, “Do we need to go over the rule about honesty again, little boy? Not even a week has elapsed.”

That hurt a lot more than the grip on his neck. Bradley was surprised by just how much. He met Brian’s flashing eyes as his own prickled. “I haven’t lied to you, sir,” he said, and the wound bled into his voice.

Fingernails jabbed lightly at the nape of his neck, and then Brian let go, took a step back, and let out his breath. “Maybe not,” he said, “but at the very least, you’re withholding. That’s against rule two, remember?”

Withholding. Not telling the people who care about you when something is bothering you. That was the definition Mohyeldin had given. Bradley’s stomach twisted as what it meant in practical terms sank in for the first time.

“It’s nothing,” he said. “I said it’s not bothering me.”

“You said that much,” Brian replied. “If it wasn’t bothering you at all, you wouldn’t be opposed to telling me. You’ve obviously already told Justine.”

Bradley felt the mulishness coming over him like a wet fog. Of their own volition, his shoulders hunched up as his jaw hardened with his scowl. “So ask her if you want to know,” he said.

“It doesn’t work that way,” growled Brian. “She will not be turned into our conduit for communication, and I will not force her to participate in any part of this. ‘No withholding’ is one of the rules you agreed to follow, not her.”

“I agreed without knowing what it meant!” Bradley said. He very nearly stamped at the end of it, but caught himself in time.

Raising his eyebrows, Brian said “Don’t give me that, little boy. We discussed what it meant.”

“Obviously not well enough,” said Bradley, crossing his arms over his chest, “because running to you with every single minor concern of mine isn’t what I agreed to. There’s no point to it.”

Brian tipped his head back and examined his ceiling light for ten very long seconds. To Bradley, it felt like he was hanging from the rock-climbing wall, only instead of sturdy rope to hold him up, he had a single strand of thread. When Brian spoke again, he bumped to the ground.

“Alright. You have until this time tomorrow to write me a thousand-word essay on the topic of withholding. What does it mean, how does it damage relationships, and why might it be especially important to avoid in a discipline arrangement. When you’re done with that, you can write another five hundred words explaining this ‘minor concern’ of yours.”

“An essay?!”

Brian’s gaze was steely. “Did I stutter?”

“I don’t have time to write another essay!” Bradley said, in a horrid screech he didn’t recognize. “I’ve already got mountains of studying for next week’s PoliSci test to do tonight!”

“Then you should get started now,” Brian replied, implacable. “Mohyeldin’s cookies can wait.” He turned and picked up the same black notebook Bradley had done the lines in, as if he expected him to lay all cozy in his boyfriend’s rack again and write about his feelings.

Bradley took a step backward, reaching for the door handle behind him. “I’ll concentrate better in my own room, sir,” he snarled, and left before Brian could stop him.

He’d put three passageways and one flight of stairs between them when he realized Brian wasn’t going to follow.

*

Nak and Diaz both glanced around from Nak’s computer as he came into the room, and both of them gave him identical what the hell looks when he slammed the door.

“Hey, we’re trying to watch a movie here,” Diaz said.

“Keep watching,” Bradley told him. “I’m not staying.” He scooped his bag off the back of his chair and unzipped it to stuff some textbooks inside.

Nak was less annoyed and more cautious. “Did something happen?” he asked. “With… your plans?”

Bradley flushed. He was glad he had his back to them. Apparently Nak had picked up where he was supposed to be somehow. “No,” he said. “My plans are to study with Mohyeldin in the library. I’m going there now.”

That was true. He’d meant to walk there with Brian so they could deliver the cookies together, but Mohyeldin wouldn’t know. He’d only suspect a problem if Bradley didn’t show up.

Actually… perhaps Mohyeldin knowing about this wasn’t a bad thing. He could tell Brian off again for overloading him with stupid essays. Bradley imagined Brian’s face, the consternated look he got when Mohyeldin stood up to his pigheadedness, and nearly smiled.

“I probably won’t be back until taps,” he said, swinging the bag over his shoulder.

He crossed the Yard to the library in long strides. Darkness had fallen hours ago and the air was finally cooling. Autumn leaves crunched under his shoes. If he’d been in a better mood, the scenery might’ve looked pretty. But he just cut through it as fast as possible.

Only when he reached the library and found an empty study carrel in a back corner away from all the other mids did it occur to him that Mohyeldin wouldn’t be there for another half-hour at least. He was probably on Skype with Seb right now.

Well, he’d just study for PoliSci while he waited.

*

“Platypus! You started without me! I’m hurt.” Mohyeldin draped himself over the back partition of the carrel and gave him a wounded look. “I thought we were study buddies.”

Bradley hadn’t absorbed much of it, so could it really be considered starting? But when he opened his mouth to say that, Mohyeldin interrupted. “Did that textbook piss you off or something?” he asked, his eyes narrowed.

“No,” said Bradley. “Brian.”

Mohyeldin snorted. “Oh, of course.” He grabbed a chair from the next carrel over and set it down beside Bradley’s, then sat on it with the air of settling in for a long story. “Okay. Tell me. And we’re in the library, so keep it quiet.”

Like Bradley needed to be reminded. He wasn’t chancing anyone overhearing this. Glancing over his shoulder first, he confirmed the nearest mid had headphones on and was bobbing to whatever music they were playing.

Then he leaned closer to Mohyeldin, resting his elbows on his open textbook, and whispered, “I mentioned to Justine on Sunday this minor concern I had. For some reason, she decided tonight that I ought to tell Brian about it, so I texted her back that it wasn’t bothering me that much, but I accidentally sent the text to Brian and her both. When I wouldn’t tell him what I was talking about, he accused me of ‘withholding’.” He did air-quotes and rolled his eyes.

Mohyeldin looked amused, although that was Mohyeldin’s default expression. “Really?” he asked. “Withholding? Imagine.”

“Yeah, right?” Bradley said. “And get this.” He scooted forward in his chair. “He wants me to write an essay about withholding tonight, like I don’t already have enough to do. A thousand words. He’s such a–” He bit his tongue before the cuss could slip out. There was a better name, anyway. “A butthead sometimes!”

“He is,” Mohyeldin agreed, with a grin and a nod. “It’s too bad, though. I was looking forward to us quizzing each other. I even made flashcards.”

Bradley blinked. “What?”

“Well, if you only have tonight to do the essay, it takes precedence over the test next week, right?” Mohyeldin asked. “We can study for that tomorrow or this weekend or something. Don’t worry. We’ll get it done.”

Frowning, Bradley said, “I’m not writing the fu-fricking essay. I already told him I don’t have time, and it’s pointless, anyway, because I wasn’t withholding anything important. He’s too stubborn to listen to me, but if you tell him–”

Mohyeldin let out a bark of laughter so loud that three midshipmen shushed him. He waved an apology to them and then tipped his chair onto its back legs and interlocked his fingers on the top of his head. “You have a very mistaken impression here, kid,” he whispered. “I’m not going to tell Myrick anything. You don’t want to write the essay, okay, go ahead. He’ll probably spank you for it, which is what I would’ve done to start with if you were my Brat, so it all works out in the end as far as I’m concerned. Your butt will likely disagree.”

Bradley’s mouth hung open. He could feel his blush from his toes to his scalp at the word spank being uttered in public, but he was more upset about the betrayal. “I… I thought you’d be on my side,” he said, blinking rapidly.

“Oh, kid.” Mohyeldin lost the humor and dropped his chair onto four legs so he could reach for Bradley’s arm. “I am on your side. Always. That doesn’t mean I’m gonna bail you out of every punishment you don’t like. My intervention on Saturday was a special case.”

“But this is a special case too–”

“Nope.”

Scowling, Bradley jerked his arm away. Mohyeldin tilted his head to the left, with a small half-smile that made Bradley uneasy. Then he got up and bent to whisper into Bradley’s ear.

“This isn’t a special case; it’s you getting off easy. Trust me, you’re very lucky your punishments aren’t my decision. Don’t get me wrong, though. The essay was a good choice by Myrick. You’ll see that when you’re done with this little temper tantrum.”

With that last punch to the gut, he squeezed Bradley’s shoulder and was gone before he could catch his breath again.

In the silence that followed, Bradley stared at his textbook, not a single word written on the page penetrating his thoughts. A temper tantrum? No! It was– was… juvenile. He would never throw a tantrum!

And then there was the not-so-veiled implication that Mohyeldin thought he ought to be spanked. Mohyeldin!! The guy who had just one rule for his own Brat and laughed if you swore at him! Mohyeldin thought Brian was being lenient!

He’s rarely wrong, though, whispered something beneath all the shock.

…No. He had to be wrong. About that and about the sp– other thing. In fact, there was an easy way to prove he’d been bluffing, wasn’t there? Bradley pulled out his phone and wrote a jumbled-up, rambling email to Seb, explaining what had happened and ending with, He wouldn’t have been harsher with you, right? I think he was just trying to scare me for some reason.

After he sent it, he left the phone on the desk and attempted to study once more. It felt like Seb’s reply took forever, although that was probably because his eyes flicked to the screen at least twice a minute. When it finally came, he almost didn’t want to read it.

Bradley,

I don’t know why other Brats always assume Zain’s not strict just because he makes jokes out of everything. You can have a sense of humor and a firm hand at the same time, and believe me, he does. (This isn’t only directed at you, by the way. It’s an ongoing pattern at this point that’s a little exasperating.)

Yes, he was trying to “scare” you (more like snap you out of the mood you were in), but that doesn’t mean he was lying. I would’ve been over his knee the second I refused to say what was bothering me. Not only as a deterrent from withholding, but to help me talk about it, too. For me, a spanking helps the words flow. Don’t ask why.

He’s never harsh, though.

Seb

Bradley’s mouth went dry. If it hadn’t been a bluff, then did that mean…?

He hit reply and tapped out just one sentence.

Do you think I’m throwing a temper tantrum about the essay?

It took even longer for Seb to respond this time, yet his answer was similarly brief.

Please don’t be mad at me, but yes.

A hand grabbed hold of his guts and twisted them. That was how it felt. He couldn’t deny the truth any longer, and the truth was, they were both right. How immature he must seem to them.

His phone buzzed again, with another email from Seb.

I’m not judging you for it. I’ve thrown them, too. It’s because you’re scared of what Myrick’s asking you to do, and you don’t know if you can, so you get angry with yourself and with him and you refuse. The way out of it is to admit you’re scared. Just to yourself, not anyone else. Then you’ll stop covering it with pride and lashing out. Does this help?

Seb

It did. It also hurt, but the pain was from confronting his own behavior, not Seb’s words. He wiped his cheeks and wrote back, Yes, and I’m not mad. Thanks. Then he bowed his head and thanked God, too, for giving him wise friends to help guide him. When he opened his eyes again, he knew what he had to do. He put the textbook away and took out a pen and notebook.

*

The next night, during the time they usually played pool, he made his way through Bancroft to Brian’s company area.

His room’s door was open. Peeking in, Bradley saw no sign of Turner. Brian sat alone at his desk, just the glow of his computer and the light from the passageway to illuminate his profile. He was frowning at something on the screen.

Bradley ducked from his sight again and took out his phone. His hands were so sweaty, he had to enter his passcode when it refused to read his fingerprint. Biting his lip, he opened the essay in Google Docs and added Brian as an editor. A moment later, he heard Brian’s computer ding with an incoming email. He leaned sideways and watched him open the invitation.

Rather than click the link to open the document, though, Brian looked over. Bradley froze.

“Come in and shut the door,” Brian said, quietly measured, as he turned on his desk lamp.

Bradley obeyed, but didn’t move any farther into the room than necessary. His palms, buried deep in his sweatpants’ pockets, were damp. He wished he was still in his working blues uniform like Brian. Why hadn’t he remembered how hoodies always made him look younger?

“Well?” Brian asked.

“I… I finished the essay, sir,” Bradley said, and he forced himself to keep his chin up.

Turning in his chair, Brian pointed at the floor in front of him. “Here.”

Bradley took a breath and three long steps forward so he stood on the spot, barely a foot from his Top. His buttocks flexed.

“Do you have anything you’d like to say to me about last night?” asked Brian.

“If, um, you could just read what I wrote, sir,” said Bradley. He hated that his voice was shaking. He’d wanted to show his maturity, not fear.

Brian’s deep-set eyes swept over him from head to foot in a single, proprietorial glance that made Bradley stand up straighter. At last, he swiveled the chair back to face the computer and opened the essay.

Bradley couldn’t make out all the words from where he stood, motionless, but he could almost recite them in his head. He’d written it out longhand before typing it up and realizing it was only half the minimum length. It took a lot of hard thinking about withholding to find enough material for the rest. He’d even done online research. Though some of it was difficult to write, he truly felt he understood the ‘no withholding’ rule and the reasons behind it now. He could only hope the essay reflected that.

When Brian finished, he said, “It’s very good, but where’s the rest? The five hundred words on what’s been bothering you?”

Bradley gulped. He’d been expecting that question, yet it didn’t make it easier to answer. “I didn’t complete that part, sir.”

Brian rose to his feet and fixed him with eyes simmering with anger. “You are trying my patience, little boy. Was I unclear in what I wanted?”

“No, sir.”

“Then why haven’t you done it?”

His heart was going to pound out of his ribcage. He could hear blood rushing in his ears and feel it making his face red. Taking his courage in both hands, he said, “It doesn’t matter. I disobeyed you again. I– I deserve a spanking, sir.”

There was dead silence. Brian’s expression didn’t change at all, though whether that was because he was still mad or just too surprised to move a muscle, Bradley couldn’t tell.

“It took me over an hour to start the essay when I left,” he confessed, against his own will. “First I whined to Mohyeldin about it instead, and he said I got off easy and if I were his–”

Darting a hand out, Brian took him in the same back-of-the-neck hold he’d used the night before. “You’re not his,” he growled. “You’re mine. I decide your punishment. Whether you get spanked or not is up to me. Did he tell you to ask for one?”

“No!” Bradley said. “He told me to write the essay. But I treated you horribly last night, and then I wasted time throwing a… a tantrum and couldn’t finish by the deadline you gave me as a result, so you ought to spank me.”

There. Now Brian knew what a “little boy” he really was. He braced himself to be told, sorry, I don’t think you’re grown up enough to be in a relationship with Justine and I.

Yet Brian sighed and let go of him, and when spoke, he said, “I’m more interested in learning the secret you’re keeping from me than I am in punishing you, pet.”

Bradley flushed even darker red at the endearment. He hadn’t done anything to earn it, or Brian’s softening tone, either, so what had changed the mood?

Pity. It was the only explanation.

Screw that.

Scowling as his shoulders rose and fell with his rapid breaths, he said, “Yes, sir. If you think I can’t handle being spanked, you’re probably right, anyway.”

Brian blinked. “I never said you couldn’t handle it.”

“You don’t have to,” Bradley spat. “When you did it before, you barely patted me, remember? Like I couldn’t take a real one. You wouldn’t even let me finish the stupid lines. I understand. I’ve always been a coward. Just a cowardly little boy.”

“Bradley Christopher!”

Bradley jumped in shock. No one had called him that since his father died. During the years when his mother lived in a fog of alcohol and depression, she’d barely noticed if he misbehaved, much less reprimanded him, and Uncle Hal would scream epithets, never his name. His mind shot back to nine years old for one heart-stopping moment.

Then Brian said, “You are not a coward, and I don’t call you ‘little boy’ to demean you. If you keep demeaning yourself this way– No, actually. Come with me.”

“W-where?” he stammered.

“Somewhere more private,” Brian said, going around him to open the door. “You’re getting your wish.”

*

He had to scramble to keep up. Brian’s legs were inches longer than his, and he strode through the passageways with seemingly no concern for whether Bradley was behind him or not. When he stopped, it was outside the room he and the other firsties of his company used as an office for their leadership roles.

“Stay here,” he ordered as Bradley came up next to him. He went into the room, came out again half a minute later, and walked on with only a jerk of his head to indicate Bradley should follow.

Had he been hoping the office would be empty at this time of day? Were they going to be roaming the Yard looking for a quiet spot for half the night? No, Mohyeldin said weeks ago that he’d share his list of places that were good for privacy, and Bradley couldn’t imagine he’d put a company office on it.

They turned into a stairwell normally off-limits to third-class midshipmen. He hurried to keep even closer to Brian as they descended the decks so no one would question his presence. The farther down they went, though, the more deserted it got. The noise of mids enjoying their limited free time was replaced with a growing hum of machinery from utility and laundry rooms as they entered the basement levels. At the very bottom, Brian exited the stairwell and went right. He stopped only a few doors down the passageway.

“Company storage room,” he said, taking a key from his pocket to insert into the lock. “Privacy and plenty of chairs.”

That shook Bradley from the kind of daze he’d been in since Brian used his middle name. Chairs for him to sit in and turn you over his knee, he thought. Why the hell had he asked for this?!

But Brian was holding the door open and pointing him inside. It was way too late to back out now without looking like an even bigger coward. He walked into the dark room, full of strange, shadowy forms, and snapped to attention.

Behind him, the door shut again and the lock clicked into place before Brian flicked the light on. All the shadows resolved into furniture stacked on top of each other, along with some bedsheets and buckets of paint for making brigade spirit banners. Bradley took it in from the corner of his gaze as he stared straight ahead.

“Stop that,” said Brian, coming around to his front. “This is not the Navy, it’s us. Look at me, not through me.”

It was hard. Bradley felt the uncertainty sneak back into his expression, but it was impossible to keep away when he had to meet Brian’s intensely brown eyes. His shoulders slouched.

“Better,” Brian said. With one hand, he grabbed a chair that was upside-down on a nearby table, flipped it over, and put it in the middle of the clear part of the room. Sitting, he crooked his finger at Bradley and patted his thigh twice. Slowly.

Bradley balled his hands into fists and shoved them into his pockets. He prayed that was enough to hide how that simple gesture had somehow—while the rest of him was still filled with dread—woken up his dick.

Brian raised an expectant eyebrow at him, which did not help matters one bit. Before he could realize the effect he was having, Bradley inched forward until he stood within arm’s reach, his face flushing and his breath coming short.

“Take your pants and underwear down and bend over my knee,” said Brian.

“B–bare?”

“You wanted a real one, didn’t you?”

Yes, but you could do it with my underwear on! Bradley thought. How the hell was he going to expose himself in this condition and not die of embarrassment? He cast desperately for an excuse. “I…”

And then Brian glanced below Bradley’s waist. He didn’t even blink, so at first, Bradley dared to hope the erection wasn’t as obvious as it felt, until Brian asked, “You understand this is a punishment, not for fun?”

He wanted to sink into the floor. “Yes, sir. I’m sorry. It just happened, and–”

“Bradley, it’s fine,” Brian cut in. “It’s an involuntary physical reaction. I know you can’t help it. I was only making sure our purpose is clear.”

His words reminded Bradley of the accident he had last year when he tied his own hands together to explore his submission. Mohyeldin had said the same thing about his hard-on being involuntary after he came to his rescue. If the two of them agreed, it must be right. That only lessened his embarrassment marginally, though.

“Do you want me to help undress you?” Brian asked.

“No, sir!” Nothing could be more childish than standing there and letting Brian strip him below the waist.

“Stalling isn’t going to help.”

Be brave, Bradley commanded himself. He took his shaking hands from his pockets and forced them to push his sweatpants down to his knees. His dick pressed even more conspicuously against his briefs. Shuffling to Brian’s right side, he swallowed and, in one movement, tugged the underwear below his buttcheeks and dove across Brian’s lap.

It was different from the first time, in their scene with Justine. He’d had a bed to partly support him then. Now his feet and head both dangled, and there was no audience to worry about.

One thing stayed the same, though: unlike him, Brian wasn’t hard. He wrapped his arm around Bradley as if to steady him, and the fingers of his other hand hooked into the waistband of Bradley’s briefs. “These need to come down further so I can get your sit-spots. Lift up.”

Bradley had never heard the term sit-spots before, and he wasn’t sure he cared for it. But, obediently, he raised his hips an inch and allowed Brian to expose him even more. The fabric that had covered his boner—just barely—was stripped away, and he felt his dick brush his belly as it came free. It was almost enough to distract him from imagining the view Brian had of his rear end. At least Brian’s legs were spread so he wasn’t actually touching the erection. Bradley squeezed his eyes shut and braced himself for the first swat.

It didn’t come. Brian simply rested his palm on Bradley’s upper thigh for several long seconds, before asking, in his most composed manner, “Do you know why I’m doing this?”

“…Because I asked you to?” Bradley replied, cursing himself silently for it.

“No. You don’t get to pick your punishments for yourself anymore than Mohyeldin gets to,” said Brian. “I’m doing it to prove that I know you can handle it, but more importantly, I’m doing it because you broke rule four. What does that one say, little boy?”

Oh, couldn’t he just start already? He knew all the rules! Bradley’s toes shifted against the floor tiles while his stomach danced. “No meanness, sir.”

“The full rule,” Brian clarified, as patient as if he had all night to wait.

Lowering his head more, eyes still closed, Bradley forced out, “No meanness towards anyone… including myself.”

Crack!

He gasped, his eyes and mouth both flying open. How could so much fire be ignited with just a hand?! And since when did Brian spank that hard? Even with Justine, who enjoyed it, he’d barely pinkened her flesh. Bradley could feel the handprint burning like he’d sat on a hot stove.

“Is calling yourself a coward nice?” Brian asked, in the exact same tone.

“N–no, sir.” He tensed, expecting Brian to punctuate his answer with a second spank.

Instead, Brian’s other palm stroked Bradley’s side. “You’re also still breaking rule two, by the way. I’m not going to let that go until you tell me what was bothering you. Would you like to tell now, and I won’t add it onto this spanking?”

That offer was extremely tempting. “I would, sir, but.” Bradley bit his lip a moment, and then blurted, “Seb said sometimes it helps him talk.”

The stroking paused. “A spanking helps? You think that’s true for you, as well?”

“I don’t know yet,” muttered Bradley. “Figured it was worth a try.”

“So you didn’t complete the assignment on purpose,” Brian said slowly, with a dangerous edge growing in his voice, “and asked me to spank you so you could find out?”

“No, sir!” Bradley said. “I ran out of time, I swear, but then I thought… maybe if you sp– did this, it’d be easier to tell you face-to-face.”

Another crack rang through the air, and a twin to the first handprint bloomed as he yelped.

“Manipulation is a form of dishonesty, little boy,” said Brian. He was back to his normal tone, but that didn’t stop the chills from spreading up Bradley’s spine. “You’re going to write an essay on that rule, too, so I can be sure we’re on the same page about what it means. Perhaps you should do essays on all of them.”

Bradley nearly groaned. “Yes, sir.”

“Are you still hard?”

The bluntness of the question stole his breath just like a swat for a moment. He blinked a few times and flushed all the way to his toes. “No, sir.”

“Good. Then we can start.”

What do you mean, ‘start’?! Bradley thought. He managed to keep the question from slipping out his mouth as he felt Brian’s hold tighten.

A second later, he learned what he’d meant. Brian began spanking for real—not a warm-up, or a playful tease, or even those isolated, powerful swats. He set every inch of Bradley’s bottom alight in the first four seconds and then recovered his ground over and over, stoking the flames higher.

If Bradley had given it much thought beforehand, he would probably have assumed Brian would be methodical in his spanking and follow some sort of pattern, but he was completely random, making it impossible to predict or prepare for the next lick of his hand. Bradley jerked this way and that in response. All he could think was, Oh, God, it hurts, and be brave, don’t reach back, be brave. He grabbed desperately for the chair leg, and got Brian’s as well, so he clung to it like his calf was a lifebuoy in a stormy sea. He was vaguely aware of his feet kicking and toes drumming the floor.

He had no idea how long it lasted. At some point, he felt Brian lean down and… kiss each of his buttocks in turn, as if he were apologizing to them. It took him tugging on Bradley’s shoulder, though, before Bradley realized it was over.

“Up, pet, c’mon.”

He half-stood and was half-lifted, but when he swayed, lightheaded, Brian pulled him back into his lap rightside up, just like he had after the first time Bradley went over his knee. Bradley winced at the coarse fabric against his bottom.

“Hang on,” said Brian, shifting so Bradley sat sideways and his rear end mostly wasn’t touching anything. Then he cupped his hand under Bradley’s chin and made him look up. “No tears,” he murmured.

“I’m sorry,” said Bradley, shaking and breathing hard but undeniably dry-eyed.

“Don’t be.” Brian wrapped him in his arms and squeezed tight. “I didn’t want to make you cry.” He sounded as rough as Bradley felt inside.

They stayed like that, not talking, for another indeterminate time.

Bradley broke the silence. “I’m sorry I made you do that, too.”

Brian reached under him and delivered a swat. He yelped.

“My choice, little boy. Understand?”

“Yes, sir,” he said, fast. Inhaling, he gathered his nerve. “Why do you call me that?”

Brian blinked. “I… suppose because it’s what I was called when I misbehaved. Almost up until I got sent to military school, anyway.”

That made Bradley hesitate. There was some story behind Brian going to a military high school, but he hadn’t shared it yet. Justine said even she didn’t know anything but the most basic facts. He would’ve been well over the age anyone would consider ‘little’ at that point, though.

“So it’s not because you think I’m immature?” he asked.

“No,” said Brian. “I think not many people would have the maturity to know they want a relationship like this. Is that what was bothering you?”

Carefully, Bradley said, “It’s not the thing I was talking to Justine about… or the things I was talking to Seb about… but it was bothering me a little.”

Brian raised his eyebrows. “Justine or Seb? How many ‘things’ are there, and who else have you talked to?”

Suppressing a squirm, Bradley answered,“Only them, and only two other things. I think. There might be more when I try to explain it.”

“Start explaining, then.”

Bradley fiddled with the collar of Brian’s uniform as he tried to get his thoughts in order. Talking about it didn’t seem like the herculean task it had yesterday, but it wasn’t easy, either. “I was wondering if you’d want to end the trial early. Make it officially permanent.”

Confusion never sat well on Brian’s sure, confident features. “Why?” he asked. “We agreed to a trial period for a reason. That hasn’t changed.”

Turning his face away, Bradley looked at the stacks of furniture surrounding them and whispered, “Maybe it should.”

“What?” Brian put his hand under Bradley’s chin again and nudged it back towards him. “What did you say?”

“I said… maybe it should?” Bradley flicked his gaze up for a half-second and saw Brian was still puzzled. He swallowed before adding, “If it’s working, why wait? I’m a– a Brat, clearly.” His face felt as hot as his bottom.

Brian’s chest moved in a deep sigh. “Look at me, pet.”

Bradley obeyed, but unfocused his eyes.

“When I tell you to look at me, that’s what I mean, Bradley Christopher. Stop trying to get away with anything less.”

All his attention went to Brian in an instant, his buttocks clenching in anticipation of another swat that never came. Instead, Brian just studied him before speaking again.

“We’re not basing our decision on a single incident—or two or three, either,” he said. “For one thing, Justine is part of it, and she wouldn’t agree to rushing. More importantly, though, I want you to feel happy about it, not resigned.”

Bradley huffed softly. “If that’s what you’re waiting for, this trial will never end. How could I feel happy admitting I need my boyfriend to punish me like some kid?”

“Discipline,” said Brian, shaking his head. “It’s about discipline, not just punishment, and there’s nothing wrong with wanting outer discipline in your life as an adult. That’s why I joined the Navy.”

Surprise stole Bradley’s voice for a moment. Brian had never seemed to him like someone who needed any extra discipline than what he possessed already. Hearing otherwise didn’t make him feel better about himself, though. “This is different,” he argued. “The Navy would never use such a childish punishment.”

“Okay,” said Brian, slowly, as though he was really considering Bradley’s viewpoint. “What if I made you do push-ups instead?”

Nausea washed over him. He could feel the sole of a boot planted between his shoulder blades, forcing him down to the floor as he struggled to lift his body, and hear Belcher’s cruel laughter from above. He shuddered. “No! Please, no!”

Brian looked startled, and then stricken. He pulled Bradley closer, saying, “Oh, Christ, I forgot. I’m sorry. I’m sorry. It’s alright, I’m never going to treat you like he did, I promise. I’m sorry.” His hand stroked over Bradley’s back, chasing away the phantom boot.

Closing his eyes, Bradley rubbed his cheek against Brian’s shirt and breathed his familiar scent as he reminded himself he was safe. Belcher was in prison. Brian would never hurt him that way. The spanking… okay, it had been embarrassing when he got hard beforehand, and it was painful even now, but he didn’t feel scared or degraded. He was determined not to inspire Brian into doing it again just because he didn’t want to disappoint his boyfriend. There was none of the shame and dread of Plebe Summer. He was safe.

“I know,” he said, hugging Brian back. “I know you wouldn’t. I’m alright.”

Brian exhaled near his ear. “You’re sure?”

“Yes.”

Still, they held each other for a full minute longer before Bradley drew back a little.

“We could come up with another form of punishment,” said Brian. “Something not physical at all.”

“No, spankings are okay,” Bradley said, hardly believing the words were coming out of his mouth. He looked down and admitted, “It’s helping me talk about everything.”

“Interesting,” said Brian, and Bradley shifted in his lap and wondered if saying that had been such a good idea. “Speaking of which,” Brian went on, “we’ve only covered two things that were bothering you. You said there were at least three.”

Oh, right. It took a moment for him to remember the third. “When… you reduced the number of lines. You were going easy on me. Seb said I should ask why.”

Brian blinked twice. “Because we had Justine waiting to talk to us, and I didn’t realize when I assigned five hundred how much time that would take. I wasn’t going easy on you, I was trying to avoid her getting a bad impression of discipline partnerships. In any case, two hundred was plenty.”

That made sense, and yet the nasty little glob of doubt in the back of Bradley’s head tried to cling on. “It wasn’t because you thought I wouldn’t be able to finish?” he asked.

“No,” said Brian, firmly. Almost to himself, he added, “‘Always explain punishments.’ I’m putting that on my list of rules as soon as we get back upstairs.” Then he frowned at Bradley and asked, “All three of these things tie back to a fear of me seeing you as immature, don’t they?”

Bradley opened his mouth and closed it again as all his worries from the past week coalesced into exactly that. How had he not noticed it before? “I– I guess.” Complete honesty. “Yeah. Yes, they do, sir.”

“Why?” Brian asked. “I mean, have I done or said something–?”

“No, not you,” Bradley cut in. It wasn’t right for Brian to blame himself.

“Who?”

The gentle question hit like another swat. At long last, he felt moisture gather in the corners of his hot eyes, and a lump rising in his throat. He tried to get up, but Brian held him fast, and the tears spilled over while he could do nothing to prevent it. Brian’s fingers beat his own to be the ones to wipe them from his cheeks.

“Who, pet?”

“My uncle,” Bradley choked, turning his face away. “When I was growing up, his favorite insults for me were ‘baby,’ ‘sissy,’ and ‘candy-ass.’” Which was a cuss, he realized a second too late. His gaze flew back to Brian. “Sorry!”

Brian just shook his head, his eyes stormy. “Don’t. You’re not the one who should be apologizing. He used words like that when you were a child? What else would he say?”

“He…” Bradley gulped and rubbed his nose on the back of his wrist. “He always said I couldn’t possibly be biologically related to him or my dad, because I was too much of a wimp.”

Brian’s arms tightened around him, and Bradley’s eyelids fell closed, more tears squeezing out. That one always hurt the worst.

“He’s wrong,” Brian said, fiercely.

“I know,” said Bradley. “I look like my dad, just smaller and blond. And my mom wouldn’t do that.”

“I meant he’s wrong about the rest of it, too,” said Brian. “You are not a baby or a wimp. You just took a hard spanking without complaining once, and you’re in your second year at Annapolis. Has he ever accomplished anything similar?”

Bradley pictured Uncle Hal butt-up over someone’s knee, and bit his lip to stifle his giggle as he opened his eyes. “I don’t know about spanking, but he’s never been in the military.”

“Well, then.” Brian kissed his wet cheek. “That proves it.” He rocked Bradley back and forth in silence for a few seconds, and then said, “Tell the truth. Do you want me to stop calling you ‘little boy’? If it reminds you of him, or makes you afraid I see you like he does, I’ll stop.”

He didn’t know what the truth was. Slowly, he said, “Uncle Hal never called me that.” If it was something Brian felt comfortable saying, it couldn’t have a negative connotation, right? “What did your parents mean by using it?”

“Not my parents,” said Brian, with a little twist at the corner of his mouth. “They couldn’t be bothered to scold me. My grandfather was the one who called me ‘little boy’ and tried to keep me from being too much of a hellion.” He paused, like he was thinking back. “When he’d say it, I could feel his love for me. It made me want to do better. Does that answer your question?”

Bradley nodded. “I… I don’t mind, then.” If it meant even half of that when Brian used it, he’d take it gladly. “But I can’t imagine you misbehaving.”

To his amazement, Brian looked abashed. He rubbed the back of his neck and said, “I’ll tell you stories sometime. Not now. It’s getting late. We need to put the key back before anyone notices it’s missing.”

He lifted him off his lap, and the sweatpants finally fell to Bradley’s ankles. Still sitting, Brian bent down, grabbed the waistband, and slid them up Bradley’s legs, carefully guiding them over his sore bottom without brushing against it more than necessary. It was exactly the sort of thing that would’ve made Bradley feel juvenile before. Now, he just basked in the atmosphere of comfort.

*

“Justine will want to know what happened,” Brian said halfway up the staircase.

From a step behind him, Bradley admitted, “I haven’t talked to her since yesterday.” At first, because he’d blamed her for the whole thing, and then because he didn’t want to tell her about the tantrum. He’d ignored the two texts she sent asking if he was okay.

“I know,” replied Brian. “That’s all the more reason.”

Apprehension filled him. How much did she know already? He couldn’t bring himself to ask.

It went more smoothly than he expected, though. When she answered the Skype call they made from Brian’s room, she looked worried rather than annoyed. “What’s going on?” she asked. “I expected to hear from you half an hour ago.”

“We had to deal with something,” said Brian. “Do you want to tell her, Bradley?”

He would’ve put his hands in his pockets if he’d been standing. His nervous shifting reignited the soreness he’d felt when he sat down. It wasn’t unbearable, but definitely stayed at the forefront of his mind. “I, um, had my first punishment… physical punishment.”

“Your first spanking, you mean?” she asked, her forehead creasing.

Bradley flushed and gave the tiniest nod he could.

“He did excellent,” said Brian, with a note of pride that warmed Bradley even more. “And it helped us talk about the root of what was bothering him.”

From there, Brian took the lead in explaining everything, while Bradley watched Justine go from concerned, to engrossed, to thoughtful, to finally, when she heard about Uncle Hal, outraged.

“Your mother would just let him say these things to you?”

“She doesn’t know,” Bradley explained, fast. “He only treats me that way when she’s not around.”

“You should tell her, then,” said Justine.

He shook his head. “I can’t. After my dad died, he helped support us. He owns the house she lives in and pays for everything. If I cause a rift between them, Mom won’t have anywhere to go.”

“Honey,” she said, “your mom’s a grown woman. She has to stand on her own at some point. And you don’t think she’d want to know?”

“She’s too fragile,” he tried to explain, feeling his eyes prickling once more. “She thinks he’s a good man. I can’t ruin… she’ll start drinking again.”

“But–”

“That’s enough,” said Brian, and Justine’s eyes flashed, yet she fell silent. “We can figure this out later. Right now, the important thing is Bradley knowing that neither of us thinks he’s immature or weak.”

“Of course not!” she said. “You’re a lot more grown up than some other mids I could name. You fought off Belcher and Gould when they tried to kidnap you, too.”

“Seb took out Gould,” said Bradley.

“Who broke Belcher’s arm, though?” she asked, smiling. Without waiting for him to answer, she added, “Also, showing submission takes tons of maturity and strength. I would know. You prove yourself every time you willingly cede your control to us.”

“That’s true,” Brian said.

Bradley lowered his eyes. He hadn’t had a chance to submit to them—not in that way—since Justine’s last visit. He wished he could do it more, but without her here, it would mean he and Brian dancing the dance alone. At most, she’d watch from a distance. Like his dreams over the past week.

Justine cut into the silence. “You believe us, don’t you?”

“Yes, my lady,” he said. Then complete honesty made him add, “Or… I believe you see me that way.”

“It’s a start,” said Brian, putting his hand on Bradley’s knee. “We have our entire future together to change your self-image.”

“Yeah,” she said.

Our entire future. Bradley liked the sound of that.

After a moment, Justine asked, “So, you guys still haven’t made Mickey Oreos for Mohyeldin, have you?”

Brian sighed. “No, and it’s too late to start them tonight. Do they have to be Mickey?”

“It’s his favorite,” said Bradley.

“Anyway, I found you the simplest tutorial possible while you were still trying to figure out where you could bake cookies,” Justine said. “It won’t take that long. I bet you’ll finish before my spa appointment is over tomorrow.”

*

That was why, instead of going to the city dock, Bradley was on his rack the next afternoon. He held a cup of mini Oreos between his crossed legs, twisting apart one after another and passing the halves without cream down to Brian, who sat at the desk below painstakingly sticking them into full-sized Double Stuff Oreos to make Mickey ears.

“You have to admit, they’re cute,” Brian said, holding up the latest one.

“Uhm-hm,” said Bradley. It was all he could say at that moment. His mouth was full of mini Oreo halves.

Brian frowned. “Have you been eating them?”

Swallowing, Bradley ran his tongue over his teeth and tipped the little cup so Brian could see the cookies inside. “Just the halves with cream still on.”

Brian’s eyes narrowed for several long seconds. Then he stood and put his palms on the mattress to either side of Bradley. He was a good few inches shorter, but when he leaned closer and whispered, “Who said you could do that, pet?”, Bradley’s stomach swooped.

“Uhhh…” he said, as a lot of the blood left his brain for warmer climates to the south.

“I paid for them, you know,” said Brian. He ran his fingers slowly up Bradley’s arm to the nape of his neck and into his hair. “How do you propose to pay me back?”

Sparks tingled all over Bradley’s scalp from the points where they touched, like Brian was as electric as the roguish glimmer in his eyes suggested. With a sideways glance at the door, Bradley confirmed it was locked. He didn’t hesitate after that. Bending, he brought their mouths together.

Almost from the start, Brian tightened his hold, controlling the angle of the kiss. Not that Bradley minded. He moaned in the back of his throat as the taste of Brian melded with the chocolate lingering on his tongue. Brian’s hands tugged through the strands of his hair, commanding him without a word.

Closer, he thought foggily, like he’d stepped into one of his dreams. More.

Then Brian shifted one hand to Bradley’s shoulder and pushed him away an inch. “Hold on, pet,” he said, before Bradley could voice a protest. He sounded amused. “You’re going to fall off. I’ll come up.” He let go so he could grab the bedrail as he climbed into the rack. “There,” he said, settling beside Bradley with his legs hanging over the edge. “Now we can–”

Bradley dove into kissing him again and swallowed the noise of surprise Brian made against his lips.

Intoxicating. That was what it felt like. He’d never been so comfortable doing this, so completely able to let go and show his want. Something about the experience of being spanked, and rocked in Brian’s lap afterward, had instilled a deep, deep sense of security. Brian had seen him at his most vulnerable and proved he could be trusted. Now, Bradley revelled in having those strong hands on him again, inciting pleasure rather than pain, but with the same aura of authority calling on him to yield and surrender. It was addictive. He never wanted it to end.

When Brian’s fingers slid down his chest and played across the swell of Bradley’s cock through his gym shorts, he gasped, thinking, Yes, and moved his hips, and Brian… jerked away.

“Sorry. I wasn’t– I shouldn’t have done that.”

Bradley blinked his eyes open and tried to focus.

They both were panting, but Brian sat stiffly, looking across the room. “I didn’t have consent to touch you there,” he said to the opposite wall above Nak’s rack. “I apologize.”

“I wasn’t bothered,” whispered Bradley, his heart beating faster. “Actually, um, I wanted more.”

Brian grimaced and shook his head. “In the heat of the moment, of course you did. That doesn’t mean I should take advantage without you thinking about it beforehand and–”

“But I have been!”

“What?” Brian asked, finally looking at him, his gaze sharp.

Bradley could hear his pulse in his ears. His mouth was dry and his gut was full of butterflies. Despite all that, he knew this was his moment. “For the last week—and before, but this week especially—I’ve been dreaming and fantasizing about being with you, Sir,” he said. “Jus sent me a description of how she, um, serves you orally. I’ve read it so often I have it memorized.” Eye contact failed him as he confessed, barely audibly, “I even tasted my own come in case you wanted me to swallow.”

There was quiet, apart from their breathing, for a few seconds. Finally, Brian spoke with a strained tone. “You’re making it very hard to say no, pet.”

“Then don’t,” said Bradley, putting his hand on the mattress and leaning closer. “I’m telling you I want this. I’m an adult. If you really see me that way–”

“I do.”

“Then what’s the problem?”

Brian sighed. “It’s nothing to do with your maturity level. I just want you to be sure and not have regrets.”

Setting his chin, Bradley met his gaze dead-on. “I’m sure, Sir.”

It felt like Brian was looking into his soul. He didn’t dare blink. At long last, he got a nod and could let out his breath.

“Okay,” said Brian, soft. “Take off your clothes. When you’re serving me, the only thing you should be wearing is what I choose to put on you, and right now I want you nude.”

Bradley shivered. “Yes, Sir.” As he stripped off his shirt, wriggled out of his shorts and underwear, and dropped them all onto the floor, Brian moved to the head of the bed. He folded Bradley’s pillow in half and put it behind him, then leaned against it and the bulkhead dividing the cubby, so he was almost sitting upright.

“Come here and show me what you’ve been thinking about,” he said, crooking his finger.

The position didn’t match any of Bradley’s fantasies. He’d imagined himself kneeling at Brian’s feet with all the elegance and poise of a well-trained sub. But he looked down at the outline of Brian’s cock pressing hard against his track pants, and decided he could make do with this.

Mouth watering, he crawled up the bed as Brian moved his knees apart to make room. Then he settled on his heels between Brian’s thighs and waited with his head bowed.

“Well?”

Bradley glanced uncertainly up through his lashes. Brian wasn’t moving to take his dick out, and he had one eyebrow raised. Bradley licked his lips. “Sir?”

“I said show me.”

Okay.

He could do that. Maybe. He had to, if he was going to prove this wasn’t a mistake.

In a flash of inspiration, he thought, Start with his mouth.

Yeah, that’d work. Kissing was easy. He’d kiss Brian forever if he were able.

Slowly, he angled closer, his gaze flicking from Brian’s eyes to his lips, until he could feel his every exhale, expecting at any moment for Brian to grab his head again, but he kept his hands by his sides, and Bradley did, too, so the only places they touched were their mouths and Brian’s thighs brushing his abdomen. Bradley came up off his heels to deepen the kiss. The woodsy scent of Brian filled his nostrils.

Fingers dug into his hips, first holding him steady and then slipping down and around to his butt, squeezing each cheek in one hand. Bradley pushed back with a moan. None of the tenderness from yesterday remained. He almost wished–

A swat landed on his right cheek. His eyes flew open on a gasp. More of surprise than pain, although it did sting a little.

Brian was watching him intensely. “You like that, pet?” he asked.

Bradley hesitated. What was the right answer, the one that would make his dom pleased with him? Or was it his Top asking?

Smiling, Brian leaned forward and pecked his lips. “You’re allowed to like it when it’s not a punishment,” he said. “And when it is, I’ll take care of making sure the proper message is conveyed, so you don’t need to worry about that. I just want to know if it’ll add to your enjoyment right now. Complete honesty, remember.”

That made it simple. He flushed, but was able to answer, “Yes, Sir, I like it.”

“Okay. Keep kissing me.”

Bradley obeyed, wrapping his arms around Brian’s neck this time and holding on for dear life because every few seconds, Brian would swat him again, alternating sides so the heat built steadily and Bradley was unable to stop his whimpers. This must be how Justine always experienced a spanking. He couldn’t wait to tell her about it. She’d enjoy it the way he enjoyed the naughty bedtime stories.

That reminded him of the purpose of this: he needed to serve Brian. Tearing himself away, he slid down onto his stomach between Brian’s legs and reached for his waistband before he could lose his nerve.

Brian lifted his hips up to help. Bradley meant to just pull his pants down, but the underwear came too, and Brian’s cock stood up proudly inches from his face.

It was bigger than he remembered. Or perhaps it just seemed that way because he was anticipating putting it in his mouth. What was it Justine had said? Sir likes it best when you go deep right off the bat. He could almost feel his throat closing up at the thought.

Don’t be a baby. Just do it.

He swallowed, licked his lips, and then opened his jaw as wide as he could and dove forward. He had a brief impression of his mouth being very full, along with a salty taste, and then he gagged and, on reflex, pulled off to cough.

Shit, he thought, fighting to get himself under control. Not sexy!

When he started on his second attempt, though, Brian took hold of his head and stopped him an inch shy of even touching. “Slow down, pet,” he ordered.

Bradley looked up at him through eyes that were watery from choking. “But I want to be good for you, Sir.”

“Then do what I tell you,” Brian growled. “Don’t rush.”

“I can do it, I swear!” said Bradley. “Justine–”

“Has years more experience, and no, that’s not saying you’re immature,” said Brian. “It’s simply a fact. Like any skill, this takes practice. I’ll train you to take all of me eventually. If you keep trying to rush, I’ll make you sit at my feet and watch while I get off alone. Understand?”

Bradley’s eyes widened. That would be awful. He nodded as much as he could with Brian still gripping his head. “Yes, Sir.”

“Good,” Brian said. He ran his thumb along Bradley’s jawline. “Someday when you’re ready, I’ll just hold you this way and use your mouth however I want. I promise.”

A shudder went straight through Bradley. “Thank you, Sir.”

Smiling, Brian said, “Justine’s going to hate that she missed this.”

“You could send her a video on SnapChat?”

He blinked. “Do you want me to?”

With barely a second thought, Bradley nodded. It wasn’t right for her not to see. “My phone’s in the cubby behind you,” he said.

Brian shifted, but then settled against the pillow again without getting it. “In a little while,” he said. “I want to savor it first.”

Savor, Bradley thought. He could help him do that. As much as he wanted the frantic pace he’d imagined, he could put Sir’s desires first and take his time. It wouldn’t be a weakness, either. It was because his dom wanted it that way. A tingle went from the heat in his bottom to his dick, trapped beneath him, as he lowered his head once more.

Later, he watched the video from one eye with his flushed face half-buried in Brian’s chest, equal parts self-conscious, proud, and fascinated. It was ten seconds of him alternately licking and sucking on the head of Brian’s cock while Brian petted his hair and murmured instructions, and the angle made it possible to distinguish one of the red handprints on Bradley’s rear end.

“Think she’ll like it?” Brian asked.

The video looped, and Bradley stared at his own face. He almost didn’t recognize himself with that expression of ecstasy. “Yeah,” he said. “It’s good.”

*

Eventually, they climbed down, took showers, and finished making the Mickey Oreos. There were plenty of halves with cream left over. Brian declared them all his, and then held them one by one on the tip of his finger for Bradley to eat.

Bradley took them gently between his teeth, at first, and with much blushing, but grew more bold with each one, so by the time Brian got to the last few, he was nipping his fingertip playfully after he scooped the cookie up with his tongue.

His lips had just closed around Brian’s finger for the last time when the door unlocked and Nak walked in. Startled, Bradley bit down for real. Brian winced and yanked his hand free.

“I see nothing,” said Nak, dropping his bag on the floor with hardly a blink. “Good afternoon, sir.” He shut the door and went into the sink area.

“Afternoon, Nak,” Brian replied. Picking up the tupperware container full of finished cookies, he nodded to Bradley. “Come on, we should take these to Mohyeldin.”

Bradley followed him into the passageway and hoped his blush and fading hard-on weren’t too obvious.

Mohyeldin answered their knock within a few seconds. His usual cheerful grin widened when he saw the tupperware. “What’s this?”

“Payment for your advice,” said Brian.

He laughed. “You know I was joking, right?”

Brian raised his eyebrows. “If you don’t want cookies–”

“No, come in, come in!” Mohyeldin said, stepping back to let them through. His eyes swept over Bradley once as he passed. Bradley hardly noticed, because at the same moment, he caught sight of Mohyeldin’s computer screen. He’d been talking to Seb on Skype.

“If we’re interrupting,” Brian started, but Mohyeldin waved it off.

“You have cookies. You’re allowed. Babe, look, they brought cookies!” He took the container from Brian and opened it to show Seb, but when he saw inside, his own mouth dropped open in a gasp. “Mickey cookies! Oh my god, they’re so cute!” Picking one up, he held it to the webcam. “Are you seeing this?!”

Seb giggled. “Yes. Put it down. I can’t see any of you.”

“Guys, this is above and beyond,” Mohyeldin told them, looking into the tupperware like it held gold. “How long did this take you?”

“Not long. We had fun doing it,” said Brian, with a perfectly straight face.

Bradley ducked his head. “And Seb told me that Mickey-shaped cookies are your favorite, so.”

Mohyeldin tossed a smile at Seb, then pulled Bradley into a one-armed hug, still holding the cookies in his other hand. “They’re awesome. Thank you.”

“Don’t mention it,” Brian said. “They’re our way of saying thanks to you for last Saturday, remember?”

“And….” Bradley tucked his hands into his pockets as Mohyeldin let go of him. “For, um, Thursday night, too. I owe both of you for that. I’ll have to mail something to Seb.”

“No, it’s fine,” said Seb. “I didn’t do anything, really.”

“Don’t be so quick to dismiss the offer, babe!” Mohyeldin pointed to the cookies. “Make us more of these for our trip to Disney World in January and we’ll call it even.”

Bradley spoke to Seb. “You helped me a lot in, well, getting my head on straight. You too, Mohyeldin.” His cheeks heated. “Even if I didn’t show my appreciation at the time.”

“Avoided your first spanking then, huh?” Mohyeldin asked.

“ZAIN!” said Seb.

“Oh, you didn’t, did you?” asked Mohyeldin, smiling at Bradley like he hadn’t heard, or noticed Brian’s disapproving look either. “Yeah, I thought maybe not. How’d it go?”

Seb made a strangled sound. “You don’t have to answer that, Bradley!”

“I only want to be sure they’re okay,” Mohyeldin protested. “Was it today? Something definitely happened between you two today. I noticed that when I opened the door.”

If Bradley blushed any harder, he was going to spontaneously combust. Thankfully, Brian stepped forward so his shoulder was blocking him. He crossed his arms and looked down at the other mid. “Mohyeldin? Shut up. We appreciate your help, but we’ll let you know if we need any more. He’s my Brat, and he’s fine.”

Zain tilted his head to see around him to Bradley. He smiled. “Yeah, he looks alright. Good job.” He held out his hand. Brian took it, and then grunted with surprise when he got pulled into a hug.


Make some Oreo Mickeys!

12 thoughts on “Learning the Ropes”

  1. This was so cute! I’ve been waiting on the continuation of the triad’s journey and I’m so happy for this update! After reading Seb and Zain’s beginnings, I can’t wait to read the triad’s. Poor Platypus can’t stay out of trouble. Love it!

    1. Thank you, Kris! I’m having a great time figuring out how they’ll work. It’s always exciting at the start of a new relationship. And yes, Platypus will get into plenty of trouble, haha.

  2. Amazing story! And exactly what I needed tonight after a difficult week. I just love this trio so much. It amazes me how much I resonate with Bradley even though we’re very different. I understand his insecurities on a deep level. Zain and Sen are always a great addition to the story. Thanks so much for this story.

    1. Thanks KK81! I’m sorry you’re having a bad week but glad the timing worked out for you. I’m always thrilled when people identify with my characters and care about them like I do, so your comment made me smile. 🙂

  3. Loved it! A really wonderful story can’t wait for more Brian, Justine and Platypus(!) All your characts are so well written and multidimensional, it’s a joy to read. So thank you!
    P.s I’m so stuck waiting for the stories Brian mentioned. Haha Brian as a youngster full of attitude! :’D Golden!
    /SF

  4. This was another great story. Your writing is just so relaxing and easy to follow and your character development is fabulous. I am a math teacher not an English teacher so excuse my inability to be as fluent as you are. But I hope there are many many more stories of these three to come. I agree with the people above I love when you interact Seb and Zain into the story. And as for your sex scenes keep them coming because you really are quite good about them contrary to what you believe .

    Melissa

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