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By Sarah Hapgood

A few hours out to sea a terrible storm seemed to blow up out of nowhere. The sea had been like a millpond when they had left Fire Island, but suddenly the waves began to grow until they were almost mountainous. The sky had become pitch-black. They were truly frightening conditions.

Bardin ordered the ship to keep moving onwards to the east coast of the mainland. The galleon seemed as though it was going to get shattered to matchwood at any moment. He stood on the main deck and watched as another huge wave bore down on them. When he reached the quarterdeck steps, he wasn’t able to secure the door in time before water splashed in, drenching both himself and Kieran, who was standing halfway down the steps.

“Bloody ridiculous”, said Bardin, peeling off his hat and coat “The weather was perfect when we left the island, and now this! I know storms can come at you from nowhere sometimes, but this is madness”.

“Somebody wants to stop us reaching the mainland”, said Kieran.

Bardin looked at him searchingly.

“Hm”, he said “We’ll see. I’m not jumping to any supernatural conclusion just yet. Strange things can happen at sea”.

“Yes”, said Kieran, blithely “Supernatural things”.

Bardin huffed into his cabin, pulling off the rest of his clothes as he went, before kicking the door shut behind him.

“Patsy, come in here and dry off”, said Adam, from the galley.

Kieran went into the galley, pulled off his shirt and trousers, and roughly dried himself with the towel Adam had passed to him.

“He can get huffy all he likes”, said Kieran “I don’t believe this storm is natural”.

“Yes well, Bardin’s very good at doing huffy”, said Adam “But I do think he’s right in that perhaps we should hold fire on what the cause is yet. If we go around saying it’s unnatural we might cause alarm”.

“To whom?” said Kieran “The Cave4 aren’t with us anymore”.

“Oh no”, said Adam, as if in sudden realisation “What a nice thought that is!”

The boat gave a massive lurch to its starboard side. Kieran fell smack onto the floor. Adam grabbed the edge of the table. The ship groaned like an old animal in pain and slowly righted itself.

“I hope we don’t get too many like that”, said Adam, struggling up to help Kieran to his feet.

“Same here”, said Kieran, adjusting his pants “Thought me teeth were going to flying out of me head!”

“Should be fun when we come to serve dinner”, said Adam “We could end up like one of the clowns’ sketches”.

“Fortunately it won’t take us too long to reach the mainland”, said Kieran “We just have to keep going straight ahead, and hope we get there in one piece”.

Kieran was struggling back to his cabin, holding his clothes in one hand and the towel in the other, when Julian abruptly pulled him into his room. He tugged down Kieran’s pants, put him over his knee and smacked his bare buttocks.

“Julian”, Kieran gasped, clutching the edge of the window-seat to stop himself tumbling to the floor “Why are you spanking me?”

“Just stop it with the supernatural forces talk”, said Julian.

“Jayz, nothing stays quiet around here for long does it”, said Kieran, forgetting that he had conversed with Bardin at the foot of the quarterdeck steps, technically a public place when all’s said and done.

Julian didn’t reply. He carried on spanking Kieran’s buttocks until his cheeks were rosy, and then chucked him out of the room. Kieran continued along to his own cabin, where he adjusted his shorts properly, and then poured himself a large whisky.

“‘Ere, what’s going on?” said Joby, coming into the room.

“I’m having a drink”, said Kieran “I think I’m entitled to one, after that depraved old sod set about me, during a storm at sea as well!”

“No, I mean why was he thrashing you?” said Joby.

“He seemed to think I was being a wee bit reckless with what I was saying to Bardin earlier”, said Kieran “Everybody’s getting too damn sensitive if you ask me”.

“Oh behave yourself”, said Joby “I’d be amazed if you didn’t enjoy it”.

“He took me completely by surprise!” said Kieran “There was no build-up, no anticipation. He’s clearly been gagging to get his hands on my skinny arse though”.

“Behave yourself, you little twerp”, said Joby “Or I’ll leather you as well”.

The ship lurched violently again. They both fell against the bunk. Kieran quickly drained his whisky, in case there was another lurch and he spilt it.

“C’mon, I’ll pour you one”, he said “I think I need another one as well. Julian doesn’t mess about, I’m as wobbly as hell”.

“It won’t do you any harm”, said Joby.

“Joby!” said Kieran, grabbing the whisky bottle “You’re supposed to rush gallantly to my defence!”

“No, I wish I’d seen it!” said Joby “Only you could get spanked during a storm at sea!”

“Ach I dunno”, said Kieran “Perhaps we could arrange for Bardin to cop it as well”.

“Nah, he’s too busy being Captain at the moment”, said Joby “He hasn’t time for frivolity. I’ll be glad when we make landfall at this rate”.

“If I turn out to be right”, said Kieran “And there are supernatural forces behind this storm, then do I get to chastise Julian for revenge?”

“What’ll be the bleedin’ fun in that?!” said Joby.

“True”, said Kieran.

“Anyway, we need to get some weight on you somehow”, said Joby, running his hand over Kieran’s skinny torso “If you’re gonna get thrown about during storms, you’re gonna need SOME ballast. I’m gonna make some sponge pudding when the weather calms down a bit, and make sure you eat some”.

“I don’t seriously think ANYTHING’S going to stop Kieran coming out with the bollocks that he does sometimes”, said Julian, having now made his way to the dining-room, where Ransey and Hillyard had sought sanctuary from the storm.

“It might not be bollocks”, said Hillyard, throwing his waterproofs over the back of a chair “This storm could very likely be of supernatural origin you know”.

“Agreed”, said Julian, lighting a cigar “But I had to have SOME excuse for dragging him into the room. I don’t get many opportunities to spank Kieran these days. I have to take them when they appear”.

“If it keeps him out of the way then I suppose we should be glad”, said Ransey, unexpectedly.

“You wouldn’t care to write that down sometime”, said Julian “I can read it back to you then when you next complain about my debauchery!”

As they normally did when approaching anywhere unfamiliar these days, they anchored for the night a safe distance from the shore. The storm mercifully abated during the night, but come the morning Hillyard said to Bardin that it would be best if they got to shore as soon as possible to check the boat for any damage.

“We’ll do that”, said Bardin “There is no sign of any civilisation on the maps of the area that we’re heading for, though I don’t suppose that means much these days. We can stop there and give everything the once-over”.

Anchor was weighed after breakfast, and they set a cautious pace towards the mainland.

“Kieran, come in here a moment”, said Julian, gesturing for Kieran to come into his cabin again.

“Julian, I’m not sure I can take another round so soon”, said Kieran, who was walking stiffly.

“Don’t be an eejit, as you would say”, said Julian “I was going to offer you a glass of sherry”.

He pointed at the padded stool for Kieran to sit down on.

“I was going to say ‘guilty conscience’? but that wouldn’t be you now would it”, said Kieran, sitting down “Where’s Hoowie?”

“Bardin’s got him cleaning again”, said Julian, pouring out the drinks “And no I don’t feel guilty. It does you no harm to have a thoroughly sound thwacking once in a while. Joby still handles you like bone china too much”.

“No he doesn’t”, Kieran snorted.

“Come off it”, said Julian “He’s still completely in thrall to you whatever happens”.

“Well unlike you he’s not a naturally sadistic old swine that’s true”, said Kieran.

“You enjoy it, as we have ascertained many times over the years”, said Julian “And you gave me a lot of pleasure yesterday. Helped to take my mind off everything”.

“It was certainly exciting and no mistake”, said Kieran “And Joby says he wishes he’d been around to watch”.

The morning sunshine pouring through the window illuminated Kieran’s face. Julian grabbed his jaw in one hand and scrutinised him.

“You’re looking particularly beautiful today”, he said “As though you should be on a stained glass window”.

“Are you taking the piss out of me?” said Kieran.

“Not at all”, said Julian “And admit you were hoping I was going to wallop you again when I called you just now”.

“Partly”, said Kieran “But you’re not good for me, Julian. I enjoy being humiliated by you too much”.

“We’re old friends, you should know by now you have nothing to fear from me”, said Julian “If we had a completely brutal relationship we would not be sitting here quaffing sherry like this”.

“Have you ever been involved in one of those?” said Kieran “A full-on sado-masochistic relationship. Back in the old life I mean”.

“No, though I did have offers”, said Julian “That kind of hardcore S&M gay scene always revolted me a bit. And bored me too it must be said. Perhaps I’m too fastidious at heart. Perhaps I don’t want some poor mucked-up bastard begging me to brutalise him all the time”.

“Not exactly Hoowie”, said Kieran.

“Hoowie can be a manipulative little devil”, said Julian “He tries his best to wheedle round me all the time. Sometimes I enjoy indulging him. Other times I smack his behind and made him stand in the corner. He’s adorable. But in spite of what people may think he is not my mute slave. Anymore than you are Adam are”.

“I do get scared of that side of me sometimes”, Kieran confided “You say Joby handles me like bone china, which he doesn’t, but it’s important he pulls back sometimes. Left entirely to me, I might take it too far”.

“Stick with the spanking”, said Julian “Don’t go down the route of being knocked about”.

“Fortunately I can’t ever see Joby punching me for fun”, said Kieran “Though he has done it in anger sometimes, so’s Adam”.

“Quite understandably too!” said Julian.

Suddenly a shout came from overhead: “landfall!”

“Right, let’s go and see what’s on offer”, said Julian, pulling his feet down off the table and standing up.

“I hope, with all my prayers”, said Kieran “That it’s not as bad as what we saw in the City on the New Continent, but I can’t take that for granted”.

Julian squeezed Kieran’s arm in passing.

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