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By Sarah Hapgood

Bengo made a cup of tea for Bardin, and carried it over to the ship. When he walked into their cabin he found his partner lying face-down on the sofa.

“Oh, was it a bit too vigorous, Bardy?” said Bengo, kneeling down beside him.

“I’m fine”, said Bardin “I just don’t feel like sitting down at the moment that’s all”.

“I’ll spoon the tea for you”, said Bengo, lifting up Bardin’s hair with one hand, and spooning the tea with the other.

“Bengo, you’ve put sugar in it!” Bardin protested.

“Yes I know”, said Bengo “We thought you needed to keep your strength up”.

“What, ready for the next thrashing?” said Bardin.

Bengo giggled.

“So, what was all the intruder scare about?” he asked.

“Nothing, as far as I could see”, said Bardin “I guess we were bound to spot somebody sooner or later. It’s a bit annoying, but only to be expected. If we keep ourselves to ourselves, hopefully they’ll get bored and leave us alone. We are supposed to be some kind of reclusive religious order when all’s said and done”.

“I’m glad you feel that way”, said Bengo.

“We’ll have an outing over there sometime”, said Bardin “But I don’t think I could sit in the skiff comfortably at the moment! It’s hard after a sound spanking like that to get all fired up and dynamic about something”.

Bengo kissed him and stroked his hair.

“I love you”, he said “You’re wonderful”.

The following afternoon Adam went out to collect windfall apples from what was, presumably, the remnants of an old orchard behind the kitchen. He found Bardin wandering around in a desultory fashion nearby.

“Fancy a little walk, old love?” said Adam, putting down the heavy basket to join him.

“Yes”, said Bardin, as they linked arms.

“Is it wrong to resent the fact that there might be other people around?” he said, after a short while.

“I don’t think so”, said Adam “We’ve been meaning to live this way for quite some time, but something always happens to disrupt us, that’s the trouble”.

“Like it could now”, said Bardin.

“We’ll deal with that as and when it happens”, said Adam.

“Kieran says we can take the time to pray and send good thoughts to the world”, said Bardin.

“Well that sounds better than charging out there to cause mayhem”, said Adam.

They paused and kissed. Bardin had been kissed by Adam many times over the years, but now there was an added intensity to it. He had felt passion for Adam before, and always affection, but this stark hunger was something else entirely. When they came up for air, Adam kissed him all over his face.

“Adam, can you tell that something’s changed?” said Bardin, breathlessly “It’s not me imagining it is it? You’re so intense”.

“I’ve always loved you, Bardin”, said Adam.

“Yes, but we all love each other”, said Bardin.

“And I’ve always been crazy about you”, Adam continued “Even when you’re driving me mad, which is often, I’ve always adored you. You’re so absolutely splendid”.

“I feel something else though”, said Bardin, now pushed up against a tree “Something’s been added after you whacked me in the kitchen. And I don’t know why. It’s not as if you haven’t disciplined me plenty of times before”.

“You were utterly magnificent”, said Adam “Perhaps the final door has been kicked down”.

“But why now?”

“Perhaps the time was right. We’ve come to a pause for a while. You’ve been able to let go a bit, it allows a chance for these feelings to come in”.

“Bengo says I’m always mellow after a spanking”, said Bardin “But this feels more permanent than that. Though I guess it’ll wear off after a while”.

“Not necessarily”, Adam smiled “There’s going to be plenty more times when I put you over my knee I promise. My little spanking clown”.

He slid his hand round Bardin’s waist and gently squeezed his buttocks. Bardin arched towards him.

“I love you”, said Adam “And I’ll be keeping a close eye on you from now on”.

They heard some of the others laughing and shouting in the near distance, as they kicked a ball around the yard.

“I think I’ve just got time to kiss you again”, said Adam “But just for the hell of it I’m pulling your trousers down. I need a quick flash of your shorts”.

He yanked Bardin’s trousers down to his ankles. Bardin felt the cool air on his legs. He experienced a precarious frisson at the thought that someone could see him like this. Not so much the others (who saw him regularly in his shorts anyway), but from any strangers that may be lurking around. Under the starched cotton, Bardin could feel his sore bottom tingling.

“What is it about spanking?” he laughed, his face now soggy afresh from Adam’s kisses.

“Oh all sorts of things”, said Adam, as though giving an impromptu lecture “The obvious physical intimacy of having you over my lap, feeling your erection pressing into my legs, but the emotional intimacy as well. You’ve surrendered to me. You’ve trusted me”.

“That’s all you seem to keep doing for me at the moment”, said Bardin, now sitting (somewhat primly) on a cushion in the armchair in his cabin “Making me cups of tea”.

“But I like making you cups of tea, Bardy”, said Bengo, who was fiddling about with the samovar “I like looking after you”.

“I’m not ill, Bengo”.

“No, but you are in a fragile condition”, said Bengo, handing him a glass of hot tea.

“Not for very much longer”, said Bardin, in what he hoped was a forbidding voice “The soreness will ease soon”.

“It’ll get topped up”, said Bengo, breezily, pulling up another chair close to him “Me and Joby were talking whilst you and Adam were in the old orchard. We agreed it’s more like we’ve got our own private little club now, with just us four as members”.

“I bet it won’t stay like that”, said Bardin “Julian will want in, and so will Kieran”.

“Joby doesn’t think Kieran will”, said Bengo “He’s more interested in getting walloped himself, than watching someone else copping it, and we think Adam will be determined to keep Julian out”.

“Yes I think he will”, said Bardin “And the sole purpose of this club is to watch me getting chastised I suppose? Won’t you get bored with that after a while?”

“Oh now you’re teasing me”, said Bengo “Of course we won’t get bored. And if for some reason there are times when the club can’t meet, than I’ll sort you out myself!”

As the month progressed, to the disgust of everyone, the hot, sultry weather returned. Everyone had been getting geared up for Autumn, and now they had to go into reverse and slip back into tropical mode. It was weirdly depressing.

“I was hoping we could start baking again soon”, Adam complained “And this has put the mockers on that”.

The baking wasn’t the only thing that had got thwarted. The Private Four Club (as it had been christened) found their plans for a cosy afternoon of sorting out Bardin had to be put on hold. The Private Four Club took themselves very seriously, they approached it with a devoted earnestness and dedication. Ransey publicly complained that it was a shame this earnestness and serious intent wasn’t being applied to something more constructive, but privately he was quite relieved by anything that would calm Bardin down, and “stop him yapping all over the place”.

“Our Boy will start to think we’ve forgotten about him if this keep up though”, said Adam, as he, Joby and Bengo sat in the doorway of the old kitchen, looking out gloomily at the sun-soaked courtyard.

“No he won’t”, said Bengo “He’s had even more starch put in a pair of his shorts”.

“God help us if we run out”, said Joby “Of starch I mean”.

“We won’t”, said Bengo “There’s tonnes of it. And Toppy’s ironed in razor-sharp creases”.

“Oh good heavens”, said Adam “I feel positively tormented”.

“We’re gonna have to crack on with it soon”, said Joby “Whatever this blasted weather does. Or he’ll be in a fit state to get the skiff out!”

“I suppose if his shorts are extra-starched”, said Adam “Then they might be more impervious to the heat”.

“Adam”, said Bengo “There’s so much starch in this pair they could stand up by themselves!”

“OK”, said Adam “Well the next delectable question is which implement of discipline do we use? Now smacking him with the hairbrush was very sexy, as befit’s a naughty clown, but I shall use the paddle next time. Mainly because I want to see what the acoustics of that are like in here”.

“Should be good”, said Joby “And it’ll give him a good hiding!”

“It should certainly teach him a lesson, it’s true”, said Adam.

“He’s got a really, really tight pair too”, said Bengo “Very sheer”.

“I know the ones you mean”, said Joby.

“Absolutely wonderful”, said Adam “But they will have to wait for the cooler weather. I shall just use my hand on those. A no-thrills over-the-knee sound spanking”.

“Hellfire!” said Joby, awed by the very thought of it.

“And to think Bardy said we’d soon bet bored!” Bengo laughed.

“We’ll show him bored”, said Joby “The little wotsit!”

“How long do we need to give him to recover from the last session?” said Adam.

“We don’t”, said Bengo “The more he gets the better. He’s slept really ell the last couple of nights. A lot better than he usually does”.

“Then you know what you’re gonna have to do more of at the end of the day”, said Joby “Like I often do with Kieran”.

“Smack his bottom”, Bengo laughed.

“Very hard”, said Joby.

“Hey you guys!” Farnol cried out, approaching the kitchen from across the yard “That person in black’s appeared again. On the other side of the lake”.

“Are they actually doing anything, Farnol?” said Adam.

“No, just the same”, said Farnol “Standing there, gawping over”.

“Then I suggest, until they actually do something”, said Adam “We leave them to it”.

“Suits me”, said Joby.

He was oblivious to what was going on up on the main deck of the galleon right at that moment though. Bardin was having a good perusal through the binoculars to the far side of the lake. The mysterious person in black, who had been watching them, had ducked behind a tree, and Bardin could just make out a very tall, very thin, dark shape. He focussed the lenses and trained them on where the person’s face should be. He nearly dropped them in shock.

“What is it?” said Rumble.

“I couldn’t get a clear view of its face”, said Bardin “It seemed to have very dark pools for eyes, or where the eyes should be”.

“Can I have a look, Bardin?” said Umbert.

“Sure”, said Bardin, handing him the binoculars.

Umbert’s reaction when he looked through them was almost as dramatic as Bardin’s.

“Do you know what it is?” said Bardin.

“Never seen one before myself”, said Umbert “I’ve seen pictures of them. We had them on the New Continent. I think it’s a Wood Demon. No one knows what they are. Some kind of different race to us. When one’s been spotted it’s said to do what this one’s doing - it flattens itself up behind a tree”.

“Are they harmless?” said Bardin.

“Put it this way”, said Umbert “We were always warned that they should never be approached, at any cost”.

Bardin seemed almost depressed throughout dinner. Bengo watched him with concern. At one point Bardin took advantage of the general convivial hub-bub around the table to whisper to him: “it’s over”, he said “Our idyll”.

“Bardy, I think you’re over-reacting”, said Bengo, very softly “That creature doesn’t seem to want to disturb us. It’s just keeping an eye on us. Probably to make sure WE don’t bother it!”

“I hope you’re right”, said Bardin.

He reached across and squeezed Bengo’s hand.

“Let’s have an early night”, he said.

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