Alexey and Mikhail ~ Chapter 6: Burglary

The dancers of the Mariinsky Ballet listened in rapt attention at the end of the morning rehearsal as Victor Nikolaevich Pavel, their ballet director, made a surprise announcement.

“Ladies and gentlemen, I’m delighted to tell you that we’ve been invited, at rather short notice, to perform in Paris, at the Opéra. It will be just a two week tour so we'll not be staging a full length ballet. We’ll perform three short Balanchine pieces which are currently in our repertoire. However, this will be a good opportunity to give some of you the chance to learn new roles. The tour will depart in two months time and so those of you I’ve selected to dance will be involved in some intensive additional rehearsals with my assistant. I’ve posted a list of the names of those who will be going to Paris on the notice board. Thank you everyone.”

A huddle soon formed in front of the notice board. Alexey Baranov, standing near the back, was tall enough to be able to read his name near the top of the alphabetical list. But he hardly registered the fact that he had been selected for his first foreign tour. His eyes scanned rapidly down the sheet searching for the name of his partner, Mikhail Galayev. He checked through the complete list a couple of times before he was quite sure that Mikhail’s name was not there.

It was hardly a surprise, he thought to himself. Mikhail was one of the newest members of the corps de ballet. All the dancers had to serve their apprenticeship in St Petersburg before they got the opportunity to tour with the company. Alexey had been with the Mariinsky Ballet two years longer than Mikhail and his turn to go abroad had only just come. Mikhail was a very promising young dancer. He wouldn't have too long to wait before being given the opportunity to visit the foreign cities he'd always dreamed of seeing.

But Alexey knew that his brat did not think so rationally. He would be desperately upset not to have been given the chance to go to Paris. And he would probably be feeling very jealous that Alexey was going when he would have to stay at home. Alexey went back to the dressing room to look for Mikhail and commiserate with him. He was expecting to find him still getting changed, as the two of them always walked home together after rehearsals. However, there was no sign of Mikhail in the dressing room and the other dancers could not recall when he left. Having made a rapid tour of the backstage area, the practice studios and even the main auditorium, Alexey finally came to the conclusion that Mikhail had already left the theatre without telling him.

Alexey thought rather grimly that his partner had probably run off on impulse and was likely to be aimlessly walking the streets in distress. He thought he had managed to convince Mikhail that it was unacceptable to run away when things got too much for him. Clearly this was an issue that they would have to revisit — and firmly. Alexey went back to the dressing room, got changed and then headed home to wait for Mikhail’s return.

As he walked up the stone staircase to the third floor apartment which he and Mikhail shared in an elegant old building in St Isaac’s Square, Alexey knew he had misjudged Mikhail. He was already home. The music coming from their apartment was so loud, Alexey had heard it from the street below and now he was on the stairs he reckoned that the walls, floors and ceilings of the neighbouring apartments must be shaking. He ran up the final flight of stairs and opened the door to their flat, walking into a wall of sound.

“Mikhail, turn it down,” he shouted to no effect. He walked into the living room and turned off the sound system.

“I was fucking listening to that.”

The rude response was accompanied by an angry glare and aggressively folded arms. Mikhail’s body language signalled his fury; clearly he was setting out to deliberately challenge and provoke his partner. Alexey appreciated the cause of his temper but was not going to get drawn into any confrontation. The question of the swearing could be addressed later.

“You can stand quietly in the corner until you’ve calmed down, thought about the reasons for this temper tantrum and are ready to talk to me calmly and politely.” This was said quietly but in the firm tone which usually steadied Mikhail when he was worked up.

Receiving no reply, he grasped Mikhail’s upper arms from behind and began steering him towards a corner in the entrance hall, well away from the distracting view from the windows. Mikhail took a couple of steps in the required direction and then dug in his heels and refused to move. Immediately Alexey stopped guiding him forward. It was no part of their agreement that Mikhail be forced to accept Alexey’s discipline.

Mikhail realised with shock that he had overstepped an invisible boundary. He had refused to cooperate with his top and Alexey was not going to coerce him. Perversely, the knowledge that Alexey was passing the initiative back to him made Mikhail even more furious. He hadn’t seriously intended to resist Alexey’s authority but he was too angry to say so. The two men stood still, Mikhail fuming and Alexey calmly waiting, still with his hands encircling Alexey’s biceps, until Mikhail walked forward with a snort of exasperation and allowed himself to be placed with his nose inches from the wall and his hands at his sides.

Without any further exchange of words, Alexey went back to the living room, leaving the door to the entrance hall open, and began to read a book. Fifteen minutes later he walked back to the hall and quietly enquired, “Would you like to come and sit down and talk to me now?”

“And have you shout at me for running off home and playing my music? No thanks.”

“When have I ever shouted at you?”

Mikhail chose to ignore the question and countered with one of his own, “Or would you prefer it if we sat down and talked about what you’ll be doing in Paris while I’m left behind here?”

Alexey refused to respond to the challenge. Instead he addressed Mikhail calmly but in a tone which conveyed an unmistakable warning. “As you clearly don’t want to engage in any meaningful or polite discussion, you can stay where you are until you’re ready to be civil and respectful. Please let me know, Mikhail, as soon as you want to come out of the corner and feel able to talk to me politely.”

With that, Alexey returned to the living room and recommenced reading his book in the comfort of an armchair. Mikhail was left seething. He was a fit young man and well used to taking his body to its limits; he had no intention of backing down. But as his restriction stretched to an hour he became increasingly conscious of his aching knees and the desperate boredom which set in when he could no longer fuel his temper by constantly telling himself how unfairly he'd been treated.

As he began to think more rationally, he was forced to concede that Alexey had done nothing to him and he had behaved badly from the moment he stomped out of the theatre. He remained angry that he hadn’t been selected for the tour but he knew that it was up to him now to make the first move. He couldn’t stand in the corner for ever and Alexey would happily sit reading for hours.

In a rare moment of self awareness, Mikhail realised that he was angry with Alexey for being chosen to go to Paris and yet he wanted Alexey to comfort him in his disappointment. He wanted Alexey to put things right for him and, as he absorbed the full significance of that desire, it also occurred to him that Alexey would probably be making things rather painful for him before their relationship was restored to normal. He faced up to that prospect, took a deep breath and said, “Alesha, can I come out of the corner now?”

Alexey got up and came to stand behind his partner.

“Are you ready to be polite and cooperative?”

Mikhail took a moment to consider his reply. “I’ll try, Alesha, really I will, but I’m still so angry.”

Alexey wrapped his arms around Mikhail’s waist from behind and leant his head forward to rest his chin on the shoulder that stood lower than his own.

“You’re allowed to be angry, Misha. Just don’t take it out on me. I do know how bad you’re feeling. Let me help you feel better.”

Mikhail twisted round in Alexey’s arms and buried his blonde head briefly in his partner’s broad chest whispering, “Sorry, I’m sorry.”

They walked together into the kitchen and Mikhail sat down at the table while Alexey made them both a cup of tea. Then he came straight to the point.

“I do appreciate that you were very upset not to be chosen for the tour, Mikhail. And I know it makes it even harder for you to accept, knowing that my name is on the list. But I’m disappointed that you took your anger out on our neighbours. I thought you’d promised Irina not to play your music so loud ever again.”

Mikhail hated to hear that Alexey was disappointed in him. He felt some of his anger drain away as he considered how thoughtless he had been about their kind downstairs neighbour. He had been in trouble for playing his music at maximum volume and disturbing her once before. Why didn’t he learn from past mistakes? He hung his head to avoid meeting Alexey’s eyes.

Alexey waited to see if Mikhail was going to respond. When no word was forthcoming, he continued on a different tack.

“When I saw my name was on the list to go to Paris and yours wasn’t there, I went at once to find you, Misha. I wanted to talk to you about it and cheer you up. I looked all over the theatre for you. I was really worried when I couldn’t find you.”

“I’m so sorry, Alesha. I didn’t think. I just wanted to get away from everyone. I know I’m a disappointment to you.”

“Misha, you are never a disappointment to me. I love you. You’re the best thing that has ever happened to me. But I’m sometimes disappointed at the things you choose to do, especially when you fail to be respectful of our relationship. You know what I mean, Misha. When you shout and swear at me and blame me for things which are not my fault.”

This last was said with such gentle reproach that Mikhail’s remaining anger was washed away and he sank his head in his hands. His tears leaked between his fingers and splashed onto the table. Alexey said nothing but waited for Mikhail to get himself under control. Finally, Mikhail managed to ask, “What are you going to do?”

“Well, I think you deserve a spanking for leaving me at the theatre and then swearing at me and refusing to cooperate when I got home, to say nothing of the disturbance you caused to our neighbours.”

Now that Mikhail had calmed down enough to make an objective assessment of his own conduct, he knew he could expect no less. He nodded his acceptance of Alexey’s decision and stood up apprehensively to await instructions. Alexey stood too and just said, “Come here.” He placed one foot on a kitchen chair and bent Mikhail forward over his strong thigh, folding an arm round Mikhail’s waist and using the other hand to mete out a hard spanking across the seat of his thin trousers.

While it wasn’t as painful as Alexey’s usual spankings, which were routinely administered across Mikhail’s bare buttocks, Mikhail was shocked at the speed and unexpectedness of being turned over Alexey’s knee in the kitchen. He felt his face flush with shame and he began to gasp with discomfort, the cotton fabric of his chinos not providing the protection that might have been expected, once the sting began to build up.

When Alexey finally lifted him back onto his feet he hopped from foot to foot, rubbing his backside in an attempt to lessen the smart, saying accusingly, “Ow, Alesha, that hurt!”

“It was meant to hurt. And don’t you complain! You got off lightly. I made an allowance for the fact that you added to your own punishment by standing in the corner for over an hour.”

Mikhail had the grace to look rather chastened. But now that his misbehaviour had been dealt with, he soon recovered his customary good humour. By the time they went to bed he had come to terms with the thought of being left behind when Alexey went on tour and was feeling happy enough to tease his top.

“I’m worried about letting you go on your own to Paris.”


“It’s the city of lovers. You know what they say about Paris in springtime. I’m afraid you’ll meet some gorgeous stranger and not come back to me.”

“I couldn’t meet anyone more gorgeous than you,” said Alexey sincerely. “But you’d better give me a reminder of what I’ll be missing”, he continued, laughing and running his hand possessively down Mikhail’s body, “just to make sure I come home to you.”

Mikhail’s attempt at a pert response was smothered by Alexey’s bruising kiss, and Alexey’s rising tide of excitement was communicated to his lover as their tongues met. When they finally moved apart Mikhail slid a hand lightly across Alexey’s stomach to grasp and stroke his burgeoning erection, bringing him to state of readiness. Mikhail then turned over onto his knees, lowering his head to the mattress, arching his back and wiggling his raised bottom provocatively at Alexey.

“Come on, come and take me,” he teased as Alexey leaned over to locate the lube in the drawer beside the bed. Mikhail’s firm round cheeks momentarily distracted Alexey from his mission and he stopped to admire the pink tinge still remaining from the spanking. He cupped his fingers and slowly slid his hands round the perfect curves of Mikhail’s taut backside.

“You look good enough to eat,” he said lovingly.

“Maybe later, Mikhail countered, “right now I want to feel you inside me.”

Alexey didn’t need a third invitation and he slipped first one gelled finger inside his lover and then another before he pressed the blunt tip of his cock against the well lubricated orifice. As he felt Mikhail’s tightness relax to accommodate him, he reached round to take his lover’s erect penis in one hand and pleasured him in time with his own thrusts. They came one after the other causing Mikhail’s legs to collapse under their combined weight and they fell back onto the mattress laughing.

Over the course of the next two months, while Alexey was attending the additional rehearsals for the dancers who would be performing at the Opéra, Mikhail had time to fully accept the fact that he would not be going on the tour. The two of them talked the situation over and Mikhail finally appreciated that his time would come. He even began to be excited on Alexey’s behalf and, much to Alexey’s joy, helped enthusiastically with his preparation and packing and came to see him off when the day of departure arrived.

Returning to the apartment from the airport, Mikhail felt uncomfortably alone until he reminded himself how much he loved their shared home with its high ceilings, spacious accommodation and fabulous views across the Neva River to the golden spire of the cathedral in the Peter and Paul Fortress. He determined to enjoy the time to himself which would pass very quickly, he was sure. Classes and rehearsals continued as usual for the remainder of the company and Victor Pavel worked them hard, having sent the assistant ballet director to Paris with the touring company. Mikhail, in particular, was singled out for some individual classes which he felt was a sign of Victor’s faith in his talent. Although a lot of the time was devoted to correcting errors in his technique, Victor did begin working with him on a solo, without promising him the understudy’s role.

After a couple of days on the new timetable, the extra work was beginning to tell on Mikhail who, truth be told, was not keeping up the regular habits which Alexey imposed in their household. He was sitting up late, watching television or surfing the net, and was finding it harder and harder to get up on time in the morning. Inevitably the day arrived when he woke up so late that he risked missing the first class, something that had never happened since he'd been living with Alexey. He leapt out of bed, hastily washed, shaved and grabbed a quick cup of coffee before he had to rush out of the apartment and run all the way to the theatre. By the time he got there the dressing room was empty and he had to face the embarrassment of joining the class late and apologising to Victor Pavel who accepted his explanation about oversleeping without comment, but with a very sharp and appraising look.

When he got home in the early afternoon he was feeling faint with hunger and in no mood to speak to their kindly neighbour, Irina Bykova, who seemed to be lying in wait for him. There was no avoiding the encounter, however, as she had some serious news to impart. During his absence that morning his apartment had been burgled. She didn’t think too much had been taken as she'd spotted two men she didn’t recognise carrying a television set out of the building and had gone at once to investigate. The door to his apartment had been standing open and she had immediately called the police who could find no evidence of a break in.

Irina would have happily gone on describing the excitement of the morning but Mikhail excused himself as soon as he could do so politely and ran up the last flight of stairs to their third floor apartment, rapidly rummaging through his pockets for the front door key. It was not needed, however, as the door was unlocked and Mikhail knew, with the horror of sudden recall, that he had rushed out in haste that morning without locking up.

Sure enough there was a glaring gap in the space once occupied by their television set. A rapid search through the apartment seemed to confirm Irina’s impression that nothing else had been taken and there was no sign of any damage. Mikhail sat down and realised he was shaking. It felt like such a violation to have had burglars enter their apartment. And, with an equal mix of shame and anger, Mikhail acknowledged to himself that his failure to lock the front door had made this opportunistic crime possible. What would Alexey say about such carelessness? How could he have let thieves take the television which Alexey had saved so hard to purchase? Left to himself in the flat for a few days and this was what he had allowed to happen! Mikhail was unable to control his shivering and tears ran unchecked down his cheeks.

When the doorbell rang some time later he pulled himself together and went to open the door. Irina took in his state at a glance and walked him through to the kitchen where she made him a strong, sweet cup of tea. She had come upstairs to give him the paperwork left by the police and went through their instructions for making contact and confirming the details of the theft.

“They wanted me to warn you, though, that they are unlikely to catch the thieves. This sort of thing happens all the time in the city.”

“It would have been a lot worse if you hadn’t been looking out for us. Thank you so much. I know… I… well… I haven’t always been the most considerate neighbour and so I’m doubly grateful for your help and kindness today. Alexey will feel the same when he hears about this.”

“You’re welcome, my dear. If we can’t look out for one another in this building, no-one else is going to do it for us!”

When she finally left, Mikhail sat down to think. He desperately wanted to talk to Alexey. It never crossed his mind to try and hide the burglary from his lover. He wanted to confess what he'd done. He knew how disappointed Alexey would be, especially as he'd given Mikhail a last minute reminder always to check that he'd locked up. Nonetheless, he knew that Alexey was the only one who could make him feel better.

Before Alexey went on tour they had discussed keeping in contact but, with the additional cost of using the mobile phone abroad, they decided to send one another a daily text and only speak in case of emergency. Mikhail knew that the burglary did not strictly count as an emergency but he wanted to talk to Alexey about it straightaway. Not knowing what his schedule would be in Paris, he decided to text and then wait for Alexey to contact him. After careful thought and numerous deletions he sent his text message.

So sorry. Flat burgled. TV taken. No other damage. My fault — left door unlocked. Please ring.

He then sat and waited, hardly conscious of the passage of time, until the phone rang early in the evening and Alexey’s calm, reassuring tones addressed the essentials as speedily as possible. Having established that Mikhail had been out at the time and in no danger from the thieves, he focused on calming his distressed brat.

“It’s only a television. This isn’t the end of the world. We can buy a new one.”

“But you saved up for it, and it’s all my fault, and we can’t afford to buy another one just now!” Mikhail was close to tears.

“Then we’ll read improving literature and engage in political discussion in the evenings.”

Even this attempt at humour did not pacify Mikhail. Alexey knew that a firm tone should reach him when kindness and a light touch were clearly not having the desired effect.

“Mikhail Ivanovich, you and I will be having a serious discussion when I get home about maintaining security in the flat. In the meantime, you are to complete the formalities with the police and then put this out of your mind. Is that clear?”

“Yes, sir,” replied Mikhail miserably.

“Have you had dinner?”

Mikhail realised that he had had nothing to eat all day so he replied a little warily, “Not yet.”

“I want you to cook a proper meal and then have an early night. You’ve had quite a shock and you need to get some rest. Sleep well. I love you and I’ll be home soon.”

Mikhail did as he was told but he did not sleep well. He tossed and turned, imagining what might have happened if Irina had not spotted the burglars when she did. He could not stop blaming himself for forgetting to lock the door, and in the early hours of the morning he was pacing the apartment, filled with self reproach at having let Alexey down and trepidation about his forthcoming punishment. He knew he would be due a spanking and the thought of waiting another week for it was making him feel physically sick. He finally fell into an exhausted slumber just before dawn and could hardly get himself out of bed in time to eat breakfast and get to the first dance class of the morning. Victor looked at his haggard face and noticed the lack of zest in his dancing but said nothing.

For the next couple of days he was so consumed with guilt and apprehension that he was unable to sleep or eat properly. The resultant lack of energy was making it increasingly difficult for him to cope with the extra demands in the practice studio. With half the company on tour, those that remained were doing a great deal of work in class and at rehearsals. On his way home one evening, feeling exhausted and depressed, Mikhail took a short detour to sit by his favourite statue of Peter the Great in the gardens close to the Neva River. When things looked bad he had, in the past, sometimes found a solution while sitting here. He fancifully imagined that the Czar pointed out the way forward for him.

This time the stories grandpa had told him about the Siege of Leningrad came unbidden to his mind. During those dreadful three years over a million people had perished in the city during the Great Patriotic War against Germany. No wonder the elderly inhabitants clung to the soviet name for their city which had held out so bravely! Grandpa had told him that during the siege anyone seen sitting on a bench was presumed to be dead from cold or starvation. Mikhail wondered how many had died on the bench he was sitting on. It put his current worries into perspective. It occurred to him that maybe he could learn something from the bravery of the people of Leningrad. It wasn’t enough just to sit back and wait to be saved. You have to take action to help yourself when things get tough.

He got up with resolution and headed back to the apartment. He wasn’t quite sure when he made up his mind but he knew he was going to contact Alexey again and tell him what a state he had got himself into. He was going to be totally honest with Alexey and trust that his partner would know how to help him. He waited until early evening when he judged that the dancers would have some free time and then he dialled the number, praying that Alexey would answer his call.

Alexey was relaxing in his hotel room with an hour or so to spare before leaving for the evening performance. As soon as he heard the determination in his brat’s voice, with an underlying hint of despair, he sat up at once and gave his full attention to the phone call. He was amazed to hear Mikhail spell out his state of mind so clearly. They had evidently come a long way together if Mikhail was not only able to identify the causes of his distress but was also able to share those causes with Alexey and trust his partner to made things better for him.

“I’m so sorry that you are in such a state Misha, my love. But I’m really pleased and proud that you had the courage to ring and tell me. Do you hear? I’m proud of you and I’m going to think of a way to help. You know that if I’d been at home, you would have had a sound spanking straightaway for neglecting to lock the door and you wouldn’t be feeling so guilty and distressed now. But you don’t deserve to be eating your heart out with guilt and making yourself ill waiting for your punishment. I think I may have a solution, Misha. Leave this with me. Please don’t worry and I’ll ring you back later this evening.

In fact, Mikhail did not have to wait very long before his phone rang again and Alexey got straight down to business, speaking in the firm tones which Mikhail knew brooked no argument.

“Mikhail. I’m disappointed that you compromised the security of our home by your carelessness. I warned you to take care to lock the door and your thoughtlessness led to the loss of our television and could have led to major loss and damage in our apartment. You’ve earned yourself a paddling, my boy, and you’re going to get it tonight.”

Alexey heard Mikhail’s gasp of shock but he continued without giving Mikhail a chance to interrupt.

“I’ve asked Victor if he would be willing to come round to the apartment and administer the punishment on my behalf. He has agreed provided, of course, that you give your consent. It means the punishment will be over, you will know you are forgiven and we can look forward to being together soon without this hanging over you.”

Only at this point did Alexey pause to give Mikhail time to respond.

“Oh, no Alesha. I couldn’t bear it.”

“Come on, Misha. Victor will not be any harder on you than you deserve. We both know he will have no problem handling this. I trust him and you have every reason to trust him. When I spoke to him just now he mentioned his concerns about you. He knows that you haven’t been sleeping or eating well and he said you’ve been struggling in his classes. He’s worried about you and so am I. This is the solution and you know it, Misha.”

“I couldn’t ring him up and ask him to do it, Alesha. I just couldn’t.”

“You don’t have to. He’s waiting now for my call back. Yes or No. What is it to be, Misha?

Mikhail remembered the one time that Victor had physically disciplined him. It had been a severe punishment but not undeserved, and Victor had shown him understanding and support throughout.

After a long pause, during which Mikhail struggled to come to terms with what had been asked of him, he managed to give the assent Alexey was hoping for. He then just had to wait in agitated apprehension for a little over forty minutes until he heard the doorbell ring and he let Victor into the apartment. To his relief Victor took charge immediately and ushered him into the kitchen. Clearly Victor knew his way round Alexey’s apartment. He sat Mikhail down at the kitchen table and his first request was brief and to the point.

“Mr Baranov tells me that you are due a spanking. Would you like to tell me the reason why?”

In fact, it was simple and straightforward to explain his carelessness about locking up and the subsequent burglary. However, Victor went on to probe the reason for Mikhail’s oversight. It was as bad as being quizzed by Alexey; Victor seemed to share Alexey’s uncanny ability to ask the most awkward questions!

“Why do you think you failed to lock up as you had been instructed?”

“I was in a bit of a hurry.”

“Am I right in thinking this burglary took place the morning you were late for class, Mr Galayev?”

That was the killer question. Mikhail decided to get everything out into the open now. He didn’t want to have anything else on his conscience when Alexey got back.

“Yes, Victor Nikolaevich. I got up late, rushed out of the house without breakfast and ran all the way to Theatre Square. I only remembered when I got back that I hadn’t locked the door.”

“It’s a long time since you’ve been late to class,” Victor observed. “Could it have anything to do with the fact that you’re on your own in this apartment at the moment?” he asked perceptively.

There seemed no point in dodging the issue.

“I’ve been sitting up late watching TV or surfing the net. I haven’t bothered cooking just for myself. I know I’ve let things slip and it’s all caught up with me.” He paused and his voiced cracked, “Alexey is going to be so disappointed when he finds out.”

“I think we can deal with everything here tonight.” Victor rejoined briskly. “Let’s sum up the situation, shall we? You abandoned Mr Baranov’s structured lifestyle once left to yourself and, as I’ve seen in my class, this has had a detrimental affect on your dancing. Your lateness in the morning caused you to leave the apartment without locking up and you were then a victim of burglary. You are therefore, in part, responsible for the loss of the television set which had been purchased by Mr Baranov. Is this an accurate statement of the situation?”

Mikhail indicated that it was.

“Are you willing to accept punishment from me?”

Again Mikhail nodded.

“Fetch me the paddle.”

Mikhail opened the kitchen drawer and removed the implement which he knew Victor had used before.

“Drop your jeans.”

Mikhail undid his belt and unzipped his fly before pushing his jeans down to his knees and looking with nervous enquiry towards Victor.

“Bend over the kitchen table and hold on to the edge.”

Mikhail complied immediately, adjusting his position until he could reach both sides of the table to get a firm grip. He was profoundly thankful that Victor had not asked him to lower his underwear although he feared that he would not gain much protection from his thin cotton boxers.

That fear was fully realised when the first smack fell across his buttocks with a resounding crack, taking his breath away. If anything, Victor had a more powerful arm than Alexey’s and as the spanking continued it took all Mikhail’s willpower not to cry out. Victor paddled at a steady pace, moving slowly around Mikhail’s backside to ensure even coverage until Mikhail could focus on nothing other than the intense sting. His eyes filled with tears but he was determined not to cry in front of Victor. Nor was he going to ask for his punishment to stop when he knew he was seriously at fault and had spent the last few days consumed with guilt. Nonetheless, he could not stop himself groaning with the pain as Victor began to revisit areas of his bottom and thighs which were already very sore and he readjusted his sweaty grip on the edges of the table to prevent himself from moving.

Eventually he registered the fact that the spanking had ended. He relaxed his vice-like grasp on the table and lay still, trying to come to terms with the blazing, burning pain in his backside and the top of his thighs. Victor quietly returned the paddle to the drawer and then, as he heard Mikhail’s breathing become more regular, he put his hands under the young man’s chest to help him gently to his feet.

“You probably want some time to yourself,” he said sympathetically as Mikhail moved rather stiffly to pull up and fasten his jeans. “I’m happy to make myself a drink and read the paper, but I’m not leaving just yet. I promised Alexey I wouldn’t. When you’re feeling up to it, come and join me in the sitting room.”

Mikhail accepted the offer of time to himself with relief. Without comment he walked into the master bedroom and flinging himself on his face, gave way to the tears he had suppressed during his punishment.

They were tears of remorse and tears of loneliness. He wished with all his heart that Alexey was with him to offer the comfort and reassurance he always gave wholeheartedly to his chastened brat after a punishment. More than anything, Mikhail wanted to tell his partner how very sorry he was for failing to live up to the standards he knew were expected of him and to hear that he was forgiven.

When he finally calmed down he went into the bathroom to wash his face but was unable to disguise the red rings round his eyes which he knew Victor would notice. He steeled himself and walked into the living room, expecting to be embarrassed. Victor stood up at once, put an arm round Mikhail’s shoulders and drew him down to sit beside him on the sofa.

“Feeling better?” he asked in a calm and friendly tone which immediately put Mikhail at ease.

“I’m feeling sore,” said Mikhail wryly, curling one leg under him and shifting his weight onto his hip, “but I’m feeling less guilty if that’s what you mean, sir.”

“I’m glad. I think this was an occasion when you really needed a spanking and now I hope you can put the whole sorry affair out of your mind and concentrate on your dancing.”

“I’ll try and do better in class, Victor Nikolaevich.”

“I’ve been impressed with what you were achieving with that solo piece we were working on. I’d like us to get back to that if you can recover your energy and stamina. You know, I have great hopes for you, Mikhail.”

Mikhail glowed with pleasure at the unexpected praise.

“I’ve always seen a natural talent in you which could take you far as a dancer. I don’t want you to throw that talent away for lack of focus and discipline. I had my doubts about your commitment when you first joined the company but since that day I caned you, you’ve never looked back.

Mikhail flushed and lowered his eyes in embarrassment at mention of the occasion when Victor had caned him in the dance studio.

“I did wonder at the time whether I did the right thing to treat you as I did that day. You clearly came back to the theatre expecting a caning and I just felt it was what you needed right then. You seem to require some structure in your life and you respond well to discipline, even if you don’t like it at the time. Am I right? “

It did not come easily to Mikhail to discuss these matters with anyone, not even with Alexey, but Victor was aware of the nature of their relationship and Mikhail felt he was entitled to an honest answer.

“I hate getting a spanking but I know that living with Alexey I am happier than I’ve ever been in my life before. I know where I stand with him and… and… I know what will happen if I mess up.”

“I’m so pleased that my rising stars are together! With Alexey as your top you’ve clearly been so much more settled and happy and it shows in your dancing,” responded Victor warmly.

With the direction the conversation had taken, Mikhail felt confident to raise an issue that had been on his mind ever since Alexey had first broken the news to him.

“You disciplined Alexey too when he first came to St Petersburg?”

“Did he tell you that?”

“Yes. He said the cane and the paddle were originally bought for you to use on him.”

“That’s true.”

Mikhail plucked up courage to ask the question that he had never put to Alexey.

“Were you his top?”

Victor laughed, “Hardly! Alexey never displayed any characteristics of a brat.”

Mikhail smiled too as he considered the unimaginable prospect of his confident, assured and authoritative partner ever doing anything which would remotely qualify as brat-like.

“Remember, he was as young as you were when he first came to St Petersburg,” Victor continued. “He was living in this lovely apartment in the middle of the city and the nightlife became a bit of a temptation for him. For a short while he needed, and accepted, the structure that I could bring to his life. I’m glad he’s able to share that structure with you now. You two are perfect for one another.”

“I just wish he were here now. I want to tell him how sorry I am and how much I am looking forward to him coming home.”

“Well, why don’t you? He should be back from the theatre soon and he’ll be expecting a call.”

By the time Mikhail finally telephoned he had begun to relax, and his heart soared as he heard Alexey’s beloved voice.

“How are you feeling, Misha darling?

“Sore…Victor sure knows how to use that paddle! But I’m feeling much happier. And I just want to say how sorry I am, Alesha, and I promise I’ll take better care of the apartment and of myself for the rest of the time you’re away.”

“Thank you for that Misha. I believe you and I hope you know you’re forgiven. I’m so looking forward to seeing you next week. I’ve got so much to tell you. And I’ve bought you a present in Paris.”

“I hope you haven’t spent too much, Alesha.” Now that he had regained his peace of mind, the laughter was audible in his voice, “We need to save up.”

“What for?” asked Alexey suspiciously.

“A high definition, flat screen television,” was Mikhail’s prompt response.

“So now your thoughts have moved from burglary to technical upgrade!” Alexey smiled as he struggled to inject a warning note into his voice.

“That’s right,” replied Mikhail unabashed. “I’ve been looking at models and prices on the internet.”

Alexey sighed as he waited for his irrepressible brat to launch into an enthusiastic recital of technical specifications.