In my defense, I hadn’t slept much the night before. I get days every once in a while when I just can’t fall asleep, and I’m always in a bad mood the next day if I miss more than two hours. Usually when I’m like that, Quint will just tell me to go take a nap. This time he decided it would be better if we went to a movie.
So you see, really, it’s all his fault. If he’d just been a proper Top and ordered his cranky Brat to bed, none of it would have happened. I’m not saying I wouldn’t have put up a fight about the nap. I’ll fight about the sky being blue, when I get into that mood, but it probably wouldn’t have turned out as bad as it did.
But maybe I should start from the beginning. Zeggy’s always telling me I start stories in the middle and confuse the hell out of her.
I was slightly grumpy, like I said, and I wasn’t looking forward to cleaning all day, which is Quint’s idea of a good way to spend a Sunday. I tried telling him once what the Bible says about working on the sabbath, but he just reminded me that I’m agnostic and told me to get the vacuum.
So anyway, we were eating breakfast and Quint said, “I don’t have much planned for this morning. You just need to straighten up in the living room, do some laundry, and clean the floors. I’ll take care of the kitchen stuff, the bedroom, and the shower and toilet.”
That was good news, at least. The kitchen and bathroom are my least favorite chores. I gave him a sort of half-nod, half-shrug by way of reply, and he seemed satisfied with it. Half an hour later, I had just put the whites in the dryer and was loading the washer with colors, and Quint walked past me as he finished the bathroom and moved to the kitchen. “Don’t load it that full,” he said.
“It’s not that full,” I replied. He paused behind me.
“Yes, it is. You can’t fill it past the top row of holes,” he explained, pointing to the row inside the drum. “You’ll have to do two loads of the colors.”
I huffed out a breath. I had been hoping to get the laundry done in as little time as possible. It wasn’t like filling it up a few inches more would make that much of a difference, not to mention the water and electricity that would be wasted over a few items that could easily fit in one load. But Dr. By-The-Book stood behind me to watch and make sure I filled it to the prescribed level, and then continued to watch as I added detergent and turned it on. “Would you stop being overbearing?” I snapped finally, slamming the lid of the machine closed and turning to look at him.
He raised an eyebrow at me. “I’m being overbearing?” he asked mildly.
“Yes! You don’t have to stand there and watch me to make sure I’m doing it right!”
“Well, with the mood you’re in I wasn’t sure you would,” he replied, as though that were perfectly reasonable. “I’m sorry you saw it that way; I was just trying to prevent you from digging yourself into a hole we’d have to deal with later.”
I hate it when he does that. I bet if I apologized like that, he’d say it didn’t count. I glared after him as he went into the kitchen.
I did the dusting and vacuumed the bedroom while that load was running, and then stuck in the next before I started to tackle the rugs and hardwood in the living room. By the time the darks were washing, all I had to do was sweep and mop the kitchen and bathroom and then fold laundry. I transferred the last load to the dryer, pleased that I’d managed to finish folding and could have a break while it ran.
I was just about to plop down in the big armchair when Quint, who was cleaning out the refrigerator like he insists on doing biweekly, said, “Angel, if you’re done with that, the trash needs to be taken out.”
“But you didn’t say I had to take the trash out!” I objected, not happy with having my break taken away.
“I’m saying it now,” he replied, standing to look at me across the kitchen peninsula. “You’re almost done, and I still have the bedroom to do.”
“It’s not my fault you’re slower than me,” I pointed out.
“Fine!” I snapped. I had a right to; it really wasn’t fair.
“Thank you,” Quint said evenly as I pulled the trash can out of the pantry. He was using the ‘I don’t notice your bad mood’ technique. It wasn’t going to work.
If there’s one thing I despise more than cleaning the kitchen and bathroom, it’s taking out the trash. It’s always smelly, because Quint insists on cooking with real ingredients and then throws the scraps away to rot all week before we take it out. And once, before we switched brands, the bag split when I was halfway to the garbage chute. Quint did help me clean it up, but I’ve never quite forgiven him. Luckily, I heaved the stinking mess down the chute without incident this time, and then put a new bag in the can.
“Can I have a break now, your royal preppiness?” I asked him when I was done.
He stopped scrubbing the stove and turned slowly to Look at me. “If you don’t watch your tone, you’ll be having a break in the corner,” he warned me.
“Sorry,” I said, trying my very best not to make it sound grudging.
He gave me a long look, and I began to wonder if I should try again, but then he said, “Apology accepted. Yes, you can have a break.”
“Thanks,” I muttered, and returned to the armchair for the twenty minutes it took for the dryer to be done. By that time, Quint was done with the bedroom, so he helped me fold the last of the clothes and get them put away, and I began to feel guilty for making such a fuss over the trash.
“I really am sorry,” I offered as he slid his sock drawer closed. He turned around and smiled at me.
“I know,” he said, catching my hand to tug me closer. He linked his hands at the small of my back and said, “Why don’t we go out for a matinee after lunch, hmm?”
I’ll have to admit, I was a bit surprised, but I’m not one to look a gift horse in the mouth. “Sure!”
To my disgruntlement, he insisted that we go to one of those huge theaters with a thousand simultaneous showings. Places like that have no soul, but they also have a better selection and more comfortable seats. When we got there, I surveyed the tacky flashing neon facade with distaste. “Did we have to come here?” I asked. “I can feel it burning my retinas.”
“Then stop looking at the lights,” Quint suggested. He was more interested in the Now Showing posters. “They have the new Disney-Pixar. We always love them,” he said.
“At a matinee? It’ll be full of screaming kids,” I pointed out.
“Then what about that one with Jeffrey Donovan you’ve been wanting to see?”
I had been wanting to see it, but in the mood I was in, I wasn’t about to admit that. “Whatever,” I muttered, shrugging.
“Theodore, you need to improve your attitude unless you’d like to go home right now.”
“No! That one is fine,” I said quickly.
He nodded, satisfied, and we moved to the ticket window. A minute later, we were standing in line at the concession stand. “What do you want?” Quint asked.
“Mountain Dew and Milk Duds – what? You asked what I wanted!” I added in response to the look he gave me.
“You’re already cranky. There’s no way I’m giving you sugar and caffeine.”
“Well, why did you ask me?” I huffed, crossing my arms.
“Because I thought you’d be reasonable,” he said. “And I’m not going to warn you again about that attitude, young man.”
“Just order what you want, then,” I said sulkily, but I reluctantly uncrossed my arms to dissuade him from the idea of going home. We reached the front of the line and he ordered a medium popcorn and two bottled waters. Ugh.
“Can we at least put some flavoring on the popcorn?” I asked when the counter girl handed our order over. “They have those seasoned salts over there.”
“Yes,” he said, and he handed me the popcorn. “Go pick out whichever one you want,” he instructed while he sorted out bills from his wallet.
I sprinkled the popped kernels liberally with Parmesan and garlic seasoning, and then added a dash of the ranch variety. “Ready, angel?” Quint asked, coming up beside me.
“Yeah,” I replied, and we walked over to the ticket-taker. Quint handed over our tickets and then pocketed the stubs the guy handed back to him, and we moved past him into the wide corridor with theaters leading off it on either side.
“Do you need to use the bathroom before we go in?” Quint asked, pointing to the men’s restroom.
“Okay, it’s theater three… here we are,” he said as we turned into the darkened room. The previews were already starting. We settled into the seats, and I stuck the popcorn container in the holder of the armrest between us before Quint handed me my bottled water. I opened it and took a swig, then picked up some of the popcorn and stuck it in my mouth.
If you’ve never seasoned popcorn, allow me to tell you that Parmesan, garlic, and ranch don’t mix. I spat it back into my hand.
“Theo!” Quint said sharply.
“Tastes bad!” I explained, gulping down some more water to get the taste out of my mouth. He sighed and handed me a napkin.
“What did you season it with?”
“Parmesan, garlic, and a bit of ranch,” I said, using the napkin to pick up the disgusting kernels and wipe the spit off my palm. Then, since I didn’t have anywhere else to put it, I stuck the napkin-wrapped popcorn in my pocket.
“You mixed garlic with ranch?” Quint asked, sounding more amused than annoyed.
“Only a dash of ranch. I didn’t know it would taste like that!”
He picked up a few kernels and ate them, while I watched, gagging.
“Tastes alright to me,” he said after he’d swallowed.
“Can I go get another cup from the concession stand?”
“No. If you only put a little ranch on it, I’ll eat all the top ones and the bottom ones will only have the Parmesan and garlic.”
I wasn’t convinced. “No they won’t. It’ll have sifted down by now.”
“No, it won’t. And even if it has, it’ll be such a small amount, you’ll live.”
I huffed. “I don’t see why I can’t just get another.”
“Shhh!” said someone behind us.
Quint leaned over to whisper in my ear. “Because I said so.” He’s the only person I’ve met that can make a whisper sound firm.
“Cop-out answer,” I whispered back. He hushed me.
“Watch the movie.”
It wasn’t the movie. It was still just the previews. I swear they stack up more of them every year. Soon the damn things will run longer than the movie. I shifted and took another drink of water. I hate drinking water. It’s tasteless, and the bottled stuff wasn’t even very cold.
Suddenly, I had an idea.
I know, famous last words, right? But it seemed like a good idea at the time. I could just tell Quint I needed to go to the bathroom, and instead I could go to the concession stand and order a small Mountain Dew. I could even go to the restroom to drink it, so I wouldn’t be lying, exactly. I leaned over and whispered to him, “I need to go to the bathroom. Could you let me out?”
“You said you didn’t have to go five minutes ago,” he said.
“That was before I drank the water,” I said, pointing at the bottle that was now half-empty for evidence.
“Alright,” he said, moving his legs to one side. “Hurry up, though.”
Oh, I was planning to. I squeezed past him and walked quickly up the aisle, pushing open the swinging door and stepping back into the corridor. Soon I was standing in line for the concession stand again.
“Small Mountain Dew and a box of Milk Duds, please,” I said when I got to the counter. Hey, in for a penny, in for a pound, right?
The girl filled up the cup with ice and soda and then handed it to me with the candy. I payed her and turned, flush with my success, to head back to the restroom near the theater.
“Sir! Excuse me, sir!”
I felt a hand on my arm and realized the theater employee was talking to me. I mean, it’s not very often that I get called ‘sir.’
“Yeah?” I asked, confused.
“You need to give your ticket to the ticket-taker, sir,” he said, pointing behind me and eyeing me like I was some sort of movie-crasher.
“Oh, no,” I said. “I mean, I already did that. I just came back to get food.”
“You still need to show him your ticket stub, sir. We get a lot of people trying to see two movies for the price of one.”
“Oh… um… my partner has it. He’s still in the theater,” I said, praying that he wouldn’t say what I thought he was going to.
“That’s fine, sir. I’ll just need to accompany you back to the theater to see it.”
So much for praying. There’s a good reason I’m agnostic.
“Is that really necessary?” I blurted without thinking. He gave me an even more suspicious look, and I back-peddled quickly. “I mean, no, that’s alright. We’re in theater three.”
I started walking back towards the theater slowly, trying to think how I was going to get out of this. I would have loved to just thrown the soda in the nearest trash bin, but I didn’t want to make the usher even more suspicious. I figured I could at least hide the candy, and stuck the box in my pocket.
It just figures, I thought. It was just my luck to get ratted out by a part-time pimply-faced teenager in a polo shirt.
I pushed through the theater door and started down the aisle with the damned usher keeping to my heels like an eager puppy. I approached Quint quietly and knelt beside him. “Um… Quint?” I whispered. He noticed the usher standing behind me and gave me a confused look, clearly inviting me to explain. The teenager butted in before I got a chance, though.
“Your partner forgot to take his ticket stub with him to the concession stand, sir. I’ll just need to see it,” he said quietly.
I ask you, was there any reason at all for him to mention the damn concession stand?! I could have passed it off as needing to use the bathroom in the lobby due to long lines at the other one, or something. If I didn’t have the soda, that is, but I’m sure I could have thought up a plausible excuse. Now there was no hope.
Quint raised an eyebrow at me, and didn’t break eye contact even as he pulled out our ticket stubs and handed them over. The rat looked at them with his flashlight, and then, finally satisfied that he’d completely ruined my day, gave them back. Quint continued looking at me as the kid left, but I couldn’t hold his gaze anymore and began to study his shoulders. Have I ever mentioned how broad they are? He has a rower’s body.
Eventually, it occurred to me that he wasn’t saying anything. “Could you let me back in, please?” I asked hesitantly. He didn’t answer, just reached down and took the cup from where I was trying to hide it by his feet. He took a sip of the soda and raised both eyebrows for a change before he handed it back to me. Then he stood up, taking my arm to bring me to my feet, too, and gave me a gentle push toward the door before following, pausing only to pick up the popcorn and bottled water.
When we were standing outside in the corridor again, he dropped them into the trash can, relieved me of my soda, and threw it out as well. Then he turned to me and silently held out a hand. I slowly and reluctantly gave him the Milk Duds I had stuck in my pocket, watching as they were deposited in the trash, too.
“That’s wasteful, you know,” I said.
“Do not push it, Theodore.”
Well, no. When he used that tone, I didn’t quite dare.
He took my arm again and used it to steer me down the corridor in front of him. I felt my ears burn as we passed the rat usher and he eyed us curiously. Quint didn’t seem to notice, though, and he didn’t let go of my arm until we were on the subway.
He didn’t say a word all the way back to the apartment. I wasn’t talking, either, but I hate it when he does that. I mean, I’d hate it if he started lecturing me on the street, too, but I still don’t like the silent treatment. So by the time we stepped through our own front door, my bad mood was back on full boil.
“Take your shoes off and go to the corner,” he said as he turned the deadbolt and put the chain on.
Oh, he wants my shoes off, does he? Fine!
I heeled them off with perhaps a bit more force than necessary. Enough, in fact, to propel them across the kitchen and into the cupboard door below the peninsula. I noticed with some satisfaction that they left a smudge where they hit, and I started to stomp off to the corner. Quint caught me by the arm before I’d taken three stomps and swatted my butt, hard.
“That is not where your shoes go, Theodore William. Pick them up and put them where they belong, now.”
I spun around and glared at him, raising myself to my full five feet, ten inches. “No.”
Quint gave me a look that was pure astonishment. “Excuse me? What did you just say to me, young man?”
Somewhere in the back of my head, a warning bell was going off. Hell, a whole firehouse worth of warning sirens were going off, but I ignored them. “I said ‘no.’ It’s a simple English word, but if you need me to translate it, how about ‘nein’, ‘oxi’, ‘não’, ‘nyet.’ I’m not sure what it is in Klingon, but I could look it up for you.”
Yes, dear reader, I really did say that. I wouldn’t have believed it either, if I didn’t have the aftertaste of soap as proof.
As soon as I’d said it, I wished I could take it back. Quint’s mouth had dropped open as I went into my little tirade. Now it shut with a click, and he stepped around me, dragging me with him as he headed for the bathroom. “No, wait, Quint, I’m sorry!” I cried. I grabbed onto the end of the peninsula with my free hand to prevent him from bringing me any closer to that awful soap. When he felt the resistance he turned very slowly and looked at me.
“Theodore. William. Calhoun. Let go of that counter right now.”
“I’m sorry! I didn’t mean it!”
“I heard you apologize the first time, and I will be six feet under when I let you get away with sassing me like that. You are getting your mouth washed out, young man. Whether I have to spank you first is up to you,” he said, sounding alarmingly firm.
I gulped back tears and panic in equal measure and let go of the counter. He towed me into the bathroom and deposited me on the closed toilet seat, then opened the drawer and took out the bottle special non-toxic soap we keep on hand for just these occasions. Although I have to admit, I couldn’t remember a time when I’d managed to deserve it quite so thoroughly. I watched apprehensively as he ran water over my toothbrush and then flipped open the bottle and drizzled some of its contents onto the bristles.
I whimpered before complying, and he stuck the brush into my mouth, holding my chin with one hand as he scrubbed all my teeth and my tongue until every crevice was filled with frothy bitterness. Then he removed the brush and said, “Close,” tapping under my jaw. I shut my mouth, grimacing and trying not to gag on the taste, while he checked his watch and then rinsed off my toothbrush and put it and the soap bottle away.
About two minutes later, he said, “All right, you can rinse,” and moved out of my way. I only managed to swish around three cupfuls of water when he told me to stop. I knew from experience that more rinsing wouldn’t really help – that soap is persistent as hell – but it gave the illusion of helping.
“I can still taste it!” I protested.
“That’s the point,” he replied, unperturbed. “Now you can do as I asked and go pick up your shoes. There’s a magic eraser below the kitchen sink you can use to clean that mark off the cupboard door.”
I went back into the kitchen and put my shoes in their proper place (the shoe rack in the pantry, in case you were wondering) and then wiped the smudge off. Quint was watching from behind me, and as soon as it was gone he took the magic eraser from my hand and ordered me to the corner again. I went without argument this time and studied the wall for perhaps five minutes, passing the time by trying not to let my tongue touch any of the soap that was still in my mouth.
Eventually, Quint told me to turn around. When I did, I saw, to my trepidation, that he was sitting in the middle of the sofa. That’s never good. When he just wants to talk, he sits to one side, not the middle.
“Come here, Theo,” he said.
“Are you going to… um….” I trailed off, not able to finish the question. He raised an eyebrow at me.
“What do you think?”
“But… you already punished me!” I said, pointing to the bathroom.
“That was for that amazing bit of mouthing-off. We haven’t even begun to discuss what happened at the theater.”
I realized with dismay that he was right. I’d thrown a hissy fit before we even got that far.
“I’m not going to ask you to come here again, Theodore.” I gulped and made my way over to him, my butt already tensing in anticipation. When I got close enough he guided me to sit on the coffee table in front of him. “Would you care to explain,” he began, “just why you decided to lie to me and disobey me?”
Um, no? Of course, with the taste of soap still in my mouth, I didn’t say that, but sometimes I wonder why he phrases questions in ways that just beg for smart-aleck answers.
“I didn’t lie, exactly,” I said, studying my socks rather than meet his eye. He tilted my chin up with his finger.
“Look at me, Theo,” he said quietly, and then waited until I complied before continuing. “If that wasn’t a lie, what was it? You told me you were going to the bathroom, and you went to the concession stand instead.”
“I was going to go to the bathroom to drink the soda!” I said, and then realized, too late, that this argument would not help my case.
“I see. So you were going to the bathroom to hide the fact that you bought a Mountain Dew. How is that not lying, exactly?” he asked, his voice gentle even as he mimicked my earlier words.
“It’s…. it’s hard to explain,” I stalled.
“Try,” he suggested mildly.
I took an unsteady breath. “I was going to go to the bathroom, just like I said I was, so I wasn’t lying,” I said, grasping at straws.
There went the eyebrow again. “Theodore, what is our definition of ‘lying’?”
Shit. There was no way he’d take ‘I don’t know’ as an answer; I’ve had it drilled into my head – and butt – over the years. “Untruthfulness, dishonesty, deliberate misleading, hiding things, lying by omission,” I recited dismally.
“Correct,” he said, nodding and reminding me somewhat of my third-grade teacher. If I hadn’t been in so much trouble, I might have found it almost funny. “I’ll agree that you weren’t being untruthful, but were you being deliberately misleading and lying by omission?”
I tried to think up a less positive way to phrase my answer. It was no use; there wasn’t one that he’d accept. “Yes,” I admitted, very quietly.
“Why?” he asked, coming back to the original question. I hate it when he does that.
“….Because I didn’t want you to know I had the soda and candy.”
“Because you wouldn’t like it…”
“I wouldn’t like it because you disobeyed me?” he pressed, tilting his head slightly as though he were curious.
“I don’t know?” I tried. Yes, I know, I should know better.
“You don’t?” Quint asked, raising both eyebrows again. “Did you hear me tell you that you weren’t getting sugar and caffeine when you said you wanted a Mountain Dew and Milk Duds?”
“You said you weren’t giving me sugar and caffeine. I bought it myself,” I said.
“Theodore,” he said, narrowing his eyes meaningfully. The meaning being, ‘cut the bullshit, now.’ Except Quint would never say ‘bullshit.’
“Okay, yes,” I said, just wanting to get it over with.
“Yes, what?” he asked. Now, that could be a trick question. He could be looking for either ‘yes, sir’ or ‘yes, I disobeyed you.’ I decided to hedge my bets.
“Yes, I knew you wouldn’t like it because I disobeyed you, sir.”
“Is it okay for you to disobey me?”
There’s only one right answer to that: “No, sir.”
“Then why did you do it?”
“I don’t knoooow,” I said, looking down again. “I wasn’t thinking; I just did it. And before you say it, yes, I know I should have thought.”
“Look at me,” he instructed. I forced myself to meet his blue eyes again. “Is it okay for you to kick your shoes off?”
“No, sir,” I said, feeling my ears burning. That one was a new level of childishness, even for me.
“Is there anything else you think we need to talk about before I spank you?” he asked, and suddenly getting it over with didn’t seem like such an attractive prospect.
“I’m sorry and I won’t do it again?” I offered.
“Thank you for apologizing, and I’m glad to hear that you won’t do it again, but that’s not going to get you out of your punishment,” he said lightly. “Anything else?”
I searched my mind but came up blank.
“…. No, sir.” My voice was getting quieter every time I said it.
“Then stand up,” he commanded
I did, and he unbuttoned and unzipped my fly before he brought me over to his right side and pushed my jeans and boxers down around my knees, then guided me over his lap. We’d already gone over everything in pretty great detail, so he didn’t lecture, but just got on with it. Fast and hard.
I started to kick and wiggle and make wild promises after the first fifteen or so, and he tightened his hold around my waist and continued. The promises had turned into heavy crying and my butt was stinging like a thousand wasps by the time he gave me the four sharp swats to the tops of my thighs that mean he’s done. Then I just lay there gulping and trying to get my breath back while he rubbed the hand he’d just been using to spank me with in circles all over my back. It’s one of the most soothing sensations, but it usually doesn’t help much when I’m also feeling one of the least soothing sensations a few inches farther down. Still, I appreciate the thought.
After a few minutes of that, he pulled me up, being careful not to put my weight on my sore rear end, and drew me into a tight hug. I sniffled into his shirt while he murmured calming, senseless phrases in my ear. It was a long time before I stopped crying completely, and even then I was feeling needy, so he only managed to gently tug me back a few inches to see my face.
“I think tonight’s a night for an early bedtime,” he said softly. For once, I didn’t argue.
“Why didn’t you tell me to take a nap earlier instead of taking me to the movies?”
He smiled ruefully. “With the mood you were in, I knew getting you to settle down enough to fall asleep would be a major struggle. I figured if I took you to a long movie, you’d conk out a few minutes in. Guess I learned my lesson, huh?”
I opened my mouth in mock indignation. “Why, you sneaky little-”
He cut me off with a kiss, and then pulled back, making a face.
“What?” I asked.
I laughed. “Serves you right.”