Copyright 1997 to <pablo@thetreehouse.net> Please respect this copyright. Don't distribute or archive this story in any way except for personal use without explicit permission. No, it's not in the public domain. Ask first, okay? Thanks.

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Mija's introduction to 'Safety':

What can I say? In this story, Mija is an active participant and the layers created here are lovely (Pab's brilliant, but don't let on I said so . . . he's quite modest). Again there are a great many elements of the relationship between the two of us (I know: 'like duh, Mija') but it also combines elements drawn from my r/l stories, rewriting the abuse into loving discipline. The idea of a work of literature having the ability to transform and heal sounds very New Age, but this story helped heal a painful part of my past. And I love Pablo all the more for writing it.

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[Image of Mr Impossible] Safety
by Pablo

Paul lowers Mija's sleepy head gently to the pillow. Her breathing is deep, slow, clear, healthy again, as if the previous night's tears had washed away all traces of sickness, leaving only a glowing behind as a fast-healing scar. He moves close to her one last time, smells her, feels her warmth, the innocence of her dreams, the love in his heart causing his throat to tighten and ache deliciously. As he slides from the bed, Mija's arm snakes underneath the pillow, pulling it to her in a friendly, surrogate embrace.

Paul pads softly across the room, his heart thumping loud enough so that he hears it through his bones, and retrieves the large parcel from the bottom drawer of the venerable old chest which stands to the left of the window; he slides the drawer back slowly, looking over his shoulder at the curl of Mija's body on the bed. The other parcel, he leaves. The contents of that one must remain unknown for a while longer.

Lifting away coffee mugs, scribbled notes, and the curling remnants of a two-day-old cheese and ham sandwich, he makes room on the desk. Then he moves the mouse, mat and keyboard.

There's something here, hidden beneath. Paul picks up the word-processed, laser-printed pages, a sunrise smile breaking across his face. Mija was doing more than just surfing, it would seem. Riffling through the pages, Paul sees that they are identical. Each contains a grid - four in the vertical direction and two in the horizontal - of note templates. Each template reads:

'REPRIMAND NOTE To the Headmaster: [ ] did not complete the assigned homework in [ ] last night. This has happened [ ] other time/s. Please sign below to indicate your receipt of this notice.'

Giggling silently with barely-suppressed pleasure, Paul sets the pages down to one side, places the parcel in front of him, and sits. It's wrapped in brown paper, and tied with string: an anachronistic wrapping which rather fits the anachronistic contents. He takes a pair of scissors from the desk, snips the string, and pulls it away, then carefully unfolds the brown paper, which crackles a little.

Renewed sight of the contents dries Paul's mouth, shortens his breathing: that's just how it always was, how it always will be. There is something magical here, something which balances on more than one high-wire, which threatens to plunge into darkness, but never does so.

Paul takes a calming breath, and begins to take out the contents of the parcel. He lays them out to his right, the better to see them all at once, and then to arrange them properly. Once everything is unwrapped, Paul folds the brown paper small enough so that it fits into the wastebasket. Then, he slowly, carefully, takes one item at a time, laying each on the last, making a neat pile in front of him. The order is important. Just so.

Once this is complete, Paul picks up the scissors once more, cuts out the first reprimand note template from the first page. He takes a pen, thinks for a moment, then fills in the blanks. He places the completed note on top of the pile. So.

The night's work at an end, Paul tidies away the scissors, the paper, the pen, moves the chair forward to the desk, and pads back to the bed, where he finds warmth and his love, but nothing like sleep. There never was a child who anticipated Christmas so eagerly wide-eyed as Paul waits for the morning, not least for the light of surprise in the child's eyes.

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He feels her stir, turn, move towards him, but Paul has lain awake many times before, watching others sleep, and he knows how to pretend. Mija moves away, and Paul feels her muscles tense and stretch as her body comes to life. The bedsprings relax as she shifts her weight, then stands, her arms reaching to the ceiling as she yawns mightily.

Still drowsy, Mija's first movement takes her to the window, where she throws open the curtains with a vigorous flourish; sunlight bathes the room. Then, her hands take themselves absent-mindedly to her bottom, where they explore inquisitively for a few seconds. There is some rubbing and patting. Seeming to make her mind up, Mija moves to the dresser, turns around, pulls her pyjama pants down to just below her cheeks, then stands on tiptoes to inspect the damage in the mirror as she peers over her shoulder.

Paul watches from below the quilt. He can't see Mija's bottom, but he imagines there's little more than a rosy tinge; the previous night's spanking was mostly with his hand, and it was firm, but not severe.

Seemingly satisfied that she can once again sit, Mija is drawn to the computer. Paul is transfixed, his breathing postponed.

And she sees it, gasps, her eyes darting to Paul at once, but his are hidden away beneath a convenient cover of darkness. Mija smiles, impishly. She does sit, picks up the reprimand note, reads, with an involuntary groan, closely followed by a giggle. Then she examines the small pile of items, of garments; not disturbing it, but simply itemising, counting off each part of the uniform.

Mija is still for a moment. Then Paul sees her move quickly out of the bedroom, and presently he hears the shower spring into action. He waits patiently for the five minutes it takes for Mija to wash and dry herself, maintaining the pretence of sleep, but watching, watching.

She comes back into the bedroom wearing her white robe, takes up the pile of new clothes, carries this to the dresser, and sits, her back to the bed.

Mija begins to dress. From the top of the pile, she takes the bottle-green cotton knee-socks, stretches one leg, then the other, in front of her, and pulls on the socks.

Paul watches as Mija takes up the next item in the pile, holds it up to the light. He senses there's some blushing going on, and smiles mischievously. But Mija's modesty takes him to the point at which his body shakes with fond laughter: though she believes he's still asleep, she steps into the green, regulation school knickers, tugging these up beneath her robe, the strong elastic snapping into place around her waist.

And only then does Mija take off her robe, as she lifts the crisp, white cotton shirt from the pile, unbuttons, then slips the light, long sleeves over her arms. Paul watches from behind as she fastens the cuffs, then works her way up, buttoning the front of the shirt. Mija's chin lifts, as she closes the stiff collar around her neck, fumbles a little with the top button, but gets it at last.

Then, to the gymslip. Paul is entranced. Mija carries the grey pleated tunic across to the window, lifts it up, as if it were a rare and precious thing. She slips it over her head, and down her small body. It fits perfectly, of course, but it needs the green sash, which Mija takes from the pile, and uses to belt the tunic around her waist.

Next on the pile is a pair of flat-heeled, brown oxfords. Mija sits again, eases her feet into the leather, stiff and shiny with newness, then laces up each shoe with a deft double bow.

The tie. The tie. Mija picks up the green and grey striped school tie as if it might bite, with not a clue how to tie the thing. But, undaunted, she regards herself in the mirror, turns up the collar of her shirt, and begins, wrapping the tie around her neck, folding and wrapping and tucking and pulling. But she's getting nowhere, and Paul giggles to himself, though guiltily.

'The gentlemanly thing would be to help me, don't you think?' Mija announces. Paul freezes, even more asleep than he was before. 'Oh, stop that! Did you imagine I'd think you could sleep a single minute knowing what you'd left for me?'

Paul's blush would throw a thermal imaging camera off-scale. He sheepishly slips out of the bed, and steps across to Mija, sitting beside her at the dresser.

'I love it, of course,' she says, kissing him on the cheek, with an indulgent affection. 'And all the more because I know how much you love it.' Paul smiles bashfully. 'Now help me to get this damn thing tied, would you?'

So Paul moves behind Mija, reaches around her shoulders, and fixes her school tie. Then he unknots the tie, and repeats the process, guiding Mija's hands until she can do the same. She giggles with delight as she manages to get it right, finally. The tie-knot sits snugly at her throat, and she tucks the tie into the front of her tunic. Paul turns down the collar of Mija's shirt, working from the front, around to the back, until everything is just so.

And Paul picks up the last item from the dresser. Mija stands, reaches backward, and lets Paul guide her arms into the school blazer, which has broad vertical stripes in green and grey. It settles on her shoulders.

Mija reaches forward to the dresser, takes a black hair-band, passes this to Paul, who gently draws back her hair, gathering it into a ponytail. Mija tucks a few rogue strands behind her ears.

Paul looks at Mija in the mirror. Mija looks at Paul in the mirror. There is a simultaneous giggle.

'Now, don't you think you had better start getting dressed, Mr. Bailey,' Mija teases, as Paul realises for the first time that he's entirely naked, and blushes to an international standard.

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The worst thing, Mija thinks, is listening to the others. She's perched on the first of the wooden chairs outside the headmaster's study - the one nearest to the door - and, although the door is thick and heavy, she cannot avoid hearing - listening to - the reports of strict discipline from within. Beyond a certain point, the sounds of urgent crying become louder than the rhythmic, punishing tattoo. But still the spankings continue, until she finds her fingernails marking her palms with dark, painful crescents.

She tries to distract herself by reading - again - the crumpled note that she holds in her hot hands. It doesn't help; the words say one thing, but mean another. Mija's heart yearns for the journey to redemption for which this note is the ticket, but fears so very much the pain through which she must pass. There are no tears yet, but her eyes begin to prick, primed for the little-girl sobbing which she knows will come, when the chastisement reaches the point of brain-melting climax.

Then, there is only crying, which slows and quietens, until the door bursts startlingly open, and Margaret walks with stiff legs towards her room, her hands rubbing her cheeks through her skirt.

So Mija, feeling small and alone in the starchiness of her smart new school uniform, performs the Herculean task of lifting herself to her feet. She's the oldest, and therefore the last. Always the last.

The door is ajar, and knocking seems pointless, so Mija pushes against it, her neck craning around to see where he is. Where he is. She draws a deep breath at her first sight of him. He's standing by the window, with his back to the door. His right sleeve is rolled up right to the elbow. In his right hand, he is holding a leather slipper.

'Close the door, Mija, and stand by the chair,' he says, his eyes still to the window. He knows it's her, of course.

She closes the door, moves to stand beside the straight-backed chair where he will soon sit, where she will soon be taken across . . . put over . . . taken down . . .

Then the headmaster turns, moves to his desk, sits on the desk, facing Mija. She holds out the reprimand note, trying to keep her outstretched hand from trembling. Mr. Bailey shakes his head; he doesn't need to see the note.

'Which is it this time, Mija?' he asks.

The girl's eyes drop. She's frightened to tell him, would prefer to give him the note, to have him read it.

'Mathematics, sir,' Mija mumbles.

There's a sigh of reluctant resignation from the headmaster.

'Again, young lady?'

'Sir.'

'I really thought we'd dealt with this matter quite thoroughly last time. Ah well. No matter. But believe me, miss, we will solve this problem, the pair of us, if I have to wear out a cupboard-full of paddles, hairbrushes and slippers on your backside in the process.'

Mija fights to hold back the tears. She is not going to cry.

'Is there anything you'd like to say, Mija? Perhaps there's a good reason this time, other than simple laziness and indiscipline. Hmmm?'

And maybe it's the sheer effort of willpower that Mija is putting into blocking the tears, just to deny Mr. Bailey the pleasure of seeing her cry, but something spills over the emotional barriers, and she finds the words tumbling, then spitting, from her mouth, unable to stop them as the momentum gathers.

'I . . . hate it!' she says, with a conviction that no-one could doubt. 'I hate it, and I hate it, and I can't do it, and it's pointless and stupid anyway, and I hate, hate, hate it!'

Mija, shocked by her own vehemence, looks fearfully at the headmaster, but his countenance is unchanged. That is fearful itself, though.

'Mija, but what on earth makes you think that those things, true as they might be, make any difference whatsoever? You are not a free agent here, young lady. You are a schoolgirl, and you will do as you are told! Or, if you do not, you will be punished.'

Mija's eyes move to the slipper, still in Mr. Bailey's right hand.

'But I can't do it, sir,' Mija whines, and for the first time there is anger in the headmaster's voice.

'No! That is by the by. In just a moment, I am going to put you across my lap, take down your pants, and spank you with this -' he holds up the slipper, '- until you cry. You will be spanked, not for what you cannot do, but for what you do not try to do. That is the worst misbehaviour of all, Mija. You will never find yourself over my knee for failure; you will always find yourself over my knee, bare-bottomed, spanked soundly, for not achieving your full potential.'

Mija fails in her attempt to hold back the tears, and they spill from her eyes.

'Do you understand, Mija, why you must be punished?'

'Yes, sir,' Mija says, with a sad sniff.

'And you also understand that I want this to be the very last time I have to give you a spanking. You are a senior now, and we ought to have gone beyond such childishnesses.'

Mija nods. 'I'll try, sir. Honestly I will.'

'Okay then, sweetheart. Take off your blazer, and we'll get the unpleasantness out of the way.'

Mija slips off her school blazer, turns to hang it on the hook beside the door. As she turns back, the headmaster takes his place in the chair. She sees him from behind, his right arm bared, the slipper poised to wallop her bottom. For a moment, she's nearer to the door than to him, and her senses scream for flight. The door is unlocked; she could run, run like the wind, never be caught. Never be spanked again.

But there's no way. There's an even stronger force, which pulls her to the headmaster's side, which relaxes as he draws her across his large lap, as her feet leave the floor, and all resistance melts into nothing, her heart burning with the necessity of the submission to his discipline.

'This is going to hurt, Mija. Hold onto the chair.'

Quickly, quickly, before it starts, Mija grabs the rung between the chair legs, squeezing till her fingers are white. Her eyes shut tightly as she feels him lift her skirt above her waist, feels the weight of the slipper on her back as he lays it there, using both hands to take down the snug knickers, feeling a soreness already where the elastic has bitten around her waist and legs.

She's bare, the effect heightened by the modesty of the smart uniform everywhere else. She feels the knickers around her thighs. The slipper is lifted from her back, and is patted gently against her bum.

It's coming, comingcomingcoming . . .

WHOP! WHOP!

Mija tenses her bottom against the surprise of the sting, but the spanks come thick and fast, and she tries to relax her cheeks, to ride with the pain. Her senses blur, deepen; there are no words, but the insistent, regular thwop of the slipper against her bottom is like a mantra.

Stupidly, Mija suddenly hears the happy twitterings of a bird beyond the window, and her predicament is laid out before her, with a lightning-flash clarity. She's at school, in the study of her headmaster, across his lap, her skirt around her waist, her pants down to her knees. She's misbehaved, so he's slippering the life out of her bare little bottom. That's just how it is, while the birds fly freely and innocently in the blue, wide-open sky outside.

WHOP! WHOP! WHOP! WHOP!

Still it comes. Mija's bottom burns fiercely, and she's reached a place where there's no-one to see her cry, and no shame in doing so. She sobs, the slipper-spanks coming quickly enough that they merge into a single throb, her bottom blazing throughout.

And then it stops, but the echoes of the spanking resound in Mija's head long after. Mr. Bailey drops the slipper, lifts Mija to her feet, and gathers her to him in a fatherly hug, as he reaches down to pull up her knickers, letting her tunic skirt drop back to her knees.

'Let it come, Mija, let it come,' he says, holding the girl's shaking body in his arms. Her hands move back to her bottom, cupping the punished cheeks; she's somehow absorbed in contemplation of the pain, wanting to examine it, to quantify it, to remember it always, just like this.

The headmaster takes a handkerchief from his pocket, wipes away the tear-stains from Mija's face, then holds it beneath her nose while she blows, the raucous sound releasing the tension enough for both of them to smile ruefully.

'Mija, I'm going to ask you to be a brave girl, now,' Mr. Bailey says. 'This disobedience of yours has happened before, and not just once. You've been spanked for it before, but it would seem that something slightly more severe is needed to get the message through.'

'Noooooo! I'm sorry, sir. Reeeeeally I am! This won't happen again, not ever!' Mija pushes away, angry, frightened and mortified.

'But if I remember correctly you said the same thing last time, and also the time before. Why should I believe you now?'

'Sir, I me-e-e-ean it! I promise. I'll be good!' Mija whines, pouting with childishly forced self-pity.

'No, young lady. You need this. I think you know you need it.'

'Do not!' Mija explodes. 'You are mean and cruel and nasty and horrible and I hate you!'

And, driven to a physical demonstration of her anger, she grabs at the knot of her brand-new school tie, pulls it away from the collar, tugs it free, then throws it to the floor, at the headmaster's feet.

But Mija knows at once that she's gone too far, and her resistance crumbles away to silent dread.

They look into each other's eyes.

'Pick it up,' Mr. Bailey says, commands, and there's simply no possibility that he'll be disobeyed.

'I'm sorry, I'm sorry, I'm sorry,' Mija gabbles.

'Pick it up,' Mr. Bailey repeats, no louder than the first time.

Mija steps forward, reaches down for the tie, steps backward, and begins to pull the tie back over her head.

'No. Not yet,' Mr. Bailey says, takes hold of Mija's arm, and leads her from the study, into the unknown.

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Mija has to skip along just to match his speed. Every few steps, she turns to look up at him, but there's no response. His eyes are fixed forward, resolute. She can feel each one of his five fingers as they grip her right arm, pulling her along, through the corridors.

They reach the door to her classroom, which is locked. Mr. Bailey digs into his pocket, withdraws a large bunch of keys, fumbles a moment for the right one, then opens the door, guiding Mija in before him.

'Sit,' Mr. Bailey says. 'Front and centre.'

Mija moves breathlessly to the third of the five wooden desks in the front row. She winces as the chair scrapes against the floor, and then winces once more as her slippered backside settles screamingly onto the hard seat.

She watches, with mounting panic, her stomach churning.

'Sir,' she whispers. 'Sir!'

No response. Mr. Bailey closes the door, turns the key in the lock with a confident movement. Pulls the blind over the glass in the door.

'Sir. I need to go to the bathroom.'

'Not now, Mija. Afterwards.'

He moves to the window, pulls the cord and allows the Venetian blind to swish downwards. The light in the room all but vanishes as he flips the blind closed.

Mija's breathing is shallow, urgent. Could she escape, in the dark? What's he going to do?

Mr. Bailey clicks the switch, and the cluster of overhead lights flickers on. Then, there's nothing left for either of them to do, except what must be done.

The headmaster takes the chair from the desk next to Mija's, carries it to hers, and sits opposite her, their eyes at the same level. He can see the fear in her eyes, and this isn't what he wants.

He reaches out, takes Mija's hands in his.

'Listen to me, sweetheart,' he says, getting on top of the anger, which he knows must not be a part of what is to follow, 'and try not to panic. You are going to be punished, because we both know that's what you need. You want to be a good girl, don't you?'

Mija nods, yes.

'And you want to work hard?'

Mija nods, yes.

'And we all want these things for you, too. But just at the moment, every so often, you need a little reminder, to keep you being good, and working hard. Sometimes that reminder is a small spanking; sometimes it's a big spanking. Once in a while, it needs to be something a little more than a spanking.'

Mija begins to cry, quietly, without a clear idea whether it's happiness, sadness, relief, fear, or a combination of these and a million other emotions. It's just crying, the release of childishness, washing over the parts of Mija that reach toward adulthood, overcoming them for a moment.

'Don't be frightened, Mija,' Mr. Bailey says, squeezing her hand. 'We'll be going through this together. Okay?'

'Yes, sir,' Mija says. 'Thank you, sir.'

'Right then. I want you to go across to the cupboard in the corner, and bring me what you find there. Off you go.'

Mija knows the cupboard, but she's never seen inside it. To her knowledge, it's always remained locked.

This time, it's not locked. It's a shallow, but high, wooden cupboard, with two hinged doors.

Mija takes a deep breath, and opens both doors together. There are some fittings inside, designed to hold about a dozen long, slender objects. One is present, and Mija's knees almost give way at the sight of it. To another Mija, in another world entirely, the cane has connections to darkness, ferocity, betrayal.

But then Mr. Bailey is behind her, holding her shoulders. Except it doesn't feel like Mr. Bailey, and it sure as hell doesn't sound like him, when he asks, so softly that Mija isn't even sure he asks it at all: 'Are you sure?'

And Mija says: 'Yes', so softly she hardly hears it herself, but Paul feels her head nod against his arm. 'Yes. I'm sure. With you, I'm sure.'

Mija takes the cane from the cupboard, turns, and Mr. Bailey is way back at the desk, too far to have travelled the distance in that time. She carries the cane to him, holding it horizontally across both hands. He takes it, looking at her with affection, respect, nothing like anger or annoyance.

He lays the cane down on the adjacent desk, takes up the tie. He's already taken out the knot, so it's ready.

Mija knows, she knows, and she holds out her hands, wrists together. Mr. Bailey wraps the school tie between and around her wrists, not tight, but tight enough to keep them bound.

Then he guides her, his hands around her waist, so that she's facing the front of the desk. Then lifts Mija up, across the desk, chest resting on the sloping lid, legs dangling, feet well above the ground.

Upended, utterly vulnerable, Mija reaches out for the desk chair, and can just grasp the back of the seat with her fingers. It helps to hold her steady.

Her skirt is lifted, gathered in the small of her back. Her knickers are drawn slowly right down to her ankles, then removed completely. She feels acutely the glow from the slippering, knows that the cane has a tender target already. Yet she anticipates the pain with mind-scrambling ambivalence. Her ears burn.

'Six of the best, Mija,' Mr. Bailey says. 'This time. There will be twelve if I have to do this again.'

'Yes, sir,' Mija whispers, to no-one but herself.

And Mija hears the squeaks as the headmaster steps backward, one, two, then forward, one, two, then the screaming as the air is sliced in two by the descending rattan, which strikes her bottom squarely, across the fleshiest curve. She hears herself as if from far away, emit an explosion, part gasp, part sob, part hiccup, part scream; the heat lances into the skin.

Then back, one, two; forward, one two, and: THHHHHWACK! 'Aaa-aaaa-aaa-aaiiiieee.'

THHHHHWACK!

It hurts almost too much to make Mija cry. Her emotions are temporarily paralysed. All she can think of is the number, getting to the sixth without her brain shattering into a million tiny pieces.

THHHHHWACK!

Mija thinks of a word, a name. Holds onto it, letting it pull her through.

Back, one, two; forward, one, two, and: THHHHHWACK! Paul, she thinks. Paul, Paul, Paul.

And the last: THHHHHWACK!

'Paul, Paul, Paul,' Mija says, reaching for safety, for love, for comfort.

And the spell is broken. And he's there, untying, holding, embracing, comforting, loving. And she's safe.

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