SoulMates Part Five: Learning and Loving: Monique

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Chapter 10: Just Another Day at the Office.

Over the weekend, the pain in my backside and muscles gradually became soreness which became discomfort. By Monday, I was just about fully recovered, except for my usual bruising. I was not really tender, but I was definitely colorful.

Monique had gone out of town Saturday on a previous, weekend engagement. She had left word not to expect her return until sometime after lunch. My desk looked like a disaster area, and I leapt at the opportunity to clear up the work that I'd left undone on Friday. Anxiety and anticipation had affected my efficiency more than I had realized.

Roselie was her usual bright, effective self, and between the two of us, by noon the only work that wasn't finished was work that required Monique's signature. Still feeling pretty good about Friday, especially about the time after dinner, I wanted to celebrate and took Roselie to lunch. If Monique was going to insist on involving Roselie in our relationship, I wanted to be on friendly and comfortable terms with her.

We went to a small restaurant on one of the side streets near the George Washington University. Small and dark, the house specialty was spicy Indian fare. Since the place was not overpopulated by the 90's version of the Yuppie, we could relax, chat and enjoy the food.

Roselie was as enthusiastic about food as she was about everything else. As the waiter left with our orders, I frowned at her with mock dismay. "You might have let me choose my own appetizer, at least."

Roselie's blue eyes went wide in alarm. "Oh, I am sorry. I didn't stop to think. You do like the food, don't you? It is just that if I ate everything I want, I would turn into a blimp. This way, I can have tastes of everything." Then she gave me a dark, narrow eyed look that reminded me of Monique as Mistress. "You are going to share, aren't you Nathan?"

Laughing, I raised my hands in surrender. "Yes, Roselie, I do like what you ordered and I will share. In fact, it will be nice to compare. The appetizer you ordered for me is the same one Monique served me on Friday. I really liked her version."

"You had dinner with Mis...Monique on Friday?" The slip was there, but, after the incident in Monique's office, she knew I was aware of their relationship so she pressed on. "What was it, a late dinner after work?"

"Nope, she just invited me to dinner. It was lovely. She has a wonderful house and the grounds are beautiful."

Roselie became pensive. "She gave you a .. tour of the whole house?" I wondered at the strange emphasis she put on 'whole house', but told her that I had only seen the main floor. "Oh, well, I am glad that your discovery of Monique's and my .... relationship has not hurt your own with her. She really is a neat lady."

Conversation devolved to small talk about Roselie's family, and her plans to go to night school and finish her degree. She tasted everything on my plate and hers, and we ended up trading main courses when we each found the other's more palatable. The only down point was when I shifted in my hard wood seat to get my wallet to pay the bill. I rocked onto the one spot that was just the least bit tender. I grimaced and shifted back very quickly.

Roselie caught it. "Nathan, are you all right? What's the matter?"

I tried to smile. "Nothing, Roselie, just a muscle twinge. I will be fine once I walk a bit." Roselie seemed to accept that, but looked at me for the longest time. I was really happy to sign the credit slip and get out of there, out from under her knowing eye.

Monique was back when we arrived at the office. We said our hellos and Roselie took the letters in for signature. I went and sat down to clear away the afternoon's correspondence.

The door to Monique's office opened and she stood in the doorway. "Nathan, could you come in for a few minutes, please?" I smiled, picked up my paper brain and followed her into her office.

We sat and discussed the morning's work, how the weekend had gone and her flight home. I was getting ready to leave when she stopped me. "One more thing, Nathan. Roselie has been my submissive for over a year now, and she was quite experienced when she came to me. She has put together a few bits of data, and asked me just now if you were scening with me." I was dumbfounded and I am sure it showed. "Yes, I can see you are surprised. I am, too, although only by the fact that she picked up on it so quickly. The final clue was that you could not sit normally at lunch, so she assumes you were corrected corporally by me, and quite severely, too. In fact, she as much as scolded me for being so harsh with a novice. She will pay for that one, but I am concerned that I may have overdone. Please strip, Nathan. I need to see what the condition of your bottom is."

I started to sputter. "Monique, that really is not necessary. I am fine, really, I just hit a little sore spot..." She silenced me with her hand raised in the air.

She lowered her hand to the door lock controls. "We can do this one way, or we can do it the other, Nathan. I," and she put strong emphasis on the pronoun, "merely wish to ensure you are not injured. Mistress Monique, on the other hand, may have additional items on her agenda once she inspects that cute little butt of yours."

Resigned, I stood, dropped my pants and turned to face away from her. Her gasp of dismay brought me spinning back. Her face was a mask of shock and dismay. "My God, Nathan. What did I do to you? How can you sit on that?" She was out of her chair, kneeling behind me in a flash. "Dear God, why did you let me do this? Why didn't you stop me? Did I not make it clear that you are supposed to protect yourself in these scenes? This stuff can get intense. I am human. I can make mistakes. And I obviously have if you are this badly marked."

That I found strangely amusing. "Monique. You told me it was a go-no go test. If I left, or stopped you, you told me that you would not, could not consider me as a potential mate."

Her face fell. "I did, didn't I. God, Nathan, I never thought I could do that kind of damage with a hairbrush, but then, I have never spanked anyone that particular hand brush."

I pulled up my trousers. "Monique, remember please. I told that I bruise easily and colorfully. You cannot judge my state of health by the color of my skin. If you are going to continue this way, you will mark me, probably every time you use something more than your hand. Maybe even then. I am fine. I went running this morning and am not in any pain."

"But how am I going to tell if you are getting hurt?"

"Listen to me, I guess. Hey, I am not the expert here, but I will say one thing. I will not fail a go-no go test as long as there is a chance for us to be together. I have promised to use the safeword, but if you have a go-no go session, and you tell me that using it kills any chance of an "us" in our future, well, don't expect me to use it."

Rising to her feet, Monique moved shakily back to her seat and sat heavily. She looked strangely small behind her executive desk. "I see. I had not considered that aspect. We will have to proceed slowly then, more slowly than I might otherwise, so that we can both approach your limits with care. I certainly can't trust the Technicolor tushie of yours." She sat quietly. I could almost hear her arguing with herself. "Very well. I will not impose go-no go conditions on any further corporal play, Nathan. I had not realized how unfair that was to you. But you will have to ensure that you are all the more challenging for me. I need that. You have promised me that."

"Yes, Monique, I have promised and I will keep that promise to the best of my ability." Then, I grinned as I headed for the door. "By the way, you owe me a date."

Caught off guard by the sudden subject shift, Monique nearly giggled. "A what? I owe you a date?"

"Yes, Ma'am. I took what you wanted, now you have to take what I want. Fair is fair. I know it will be tough, but I expect you to stand up under the stress." I ducked the pencil that followed me to the door.

Chapter 11: The Dance Begins

Life began to take a pattern after that. Wednesdays became training day. From my arrival at work, until my release from whatever game or scene Mistress Monique had planned for my training and edification, I was at her command.

For her part, Monique played fairly. She always locked the doors as she had promised, and she always gave me a chance to repair my appearance before she unlocked them. Nothing she did during the day was obvious or dilatory to my work performance. Sometimes, my attention would slip from my work, thanks to some little "reminder" she had given to me. A pink satin bow tied tightly around my penis and testicles. Fine nylon thread tied around my nipples, so that any movement pulled at them. Her sweet, musk-scented panties carefully folded into my jacket pocket handkerchief. A touch of her signature perfume dabbed behind my ears and on the septum of my nose. Each little ploy focused my attention on something other than my work, making me intensely aware of her and of her affect on me.

Monique did not involve Roselie in these day long scenes, but I am sure that she quickly twigged to Monique's games. Certainly by the third or fourth Wednesday, she knew what was going on. And she thoroughly enjoyed adding to my discomfort and insecurity by teasing me. Scarcely veiled innuendoes, a delicate sniff at the air behind me as I walked by her desk, or a compliment on that "marvelous new .... aftershave or cologne" greeted me any time I'd emerge from Monique's office following a workday mini-scene. I began to wonder if this constant teasing was Monique's chosen method to involve Roselie, subtly in her games. Whatever the reason for them, I began to dread Roselie's little inputs and asides nearly as much as I dreaded waiting for the door locks to snap shut behind me in Monique's office.

One game that became a regular aspect of the Wednesday training ritual was the "Panty of the Week" contest. Every week, I was ordered to shop for a new panty to wear for Mistress Monique's delectation. I was ordered to always buy two, one for me and one for her. I would present hers, suitably gift-wrapped, of course, after the morning business had been cleared away. The doors would lock, so that I could safely model my own pair for Mistress's inspection.

While moving around the office in a parody of a fashion model's strut, I was required to describe, in embarrassing detail, what had drawn me to that particular pair of panties, how they felt to wear, and how badly I wanted to see them on Mistress Monique.

If she liked the look of them herself, and if my descriptions were acceptable to her (I soon learned the more erotically and enthusiastically I described my reactions to the panties, my sensations wearing them and my fantasies of her in them, the better), then she would open the package, and hand the panties to me. Then, I was permitted to kneel in front of her, and to slide the panties up her long, stockinged legs.

If she did not like the offering, or if she deemed my descriptions inadequate, then the package and the pair I was wearing went into the trash. Immediately. And we would both spend the remainder of the day bare beneath our outerwear. Of course, that was not the end of it. I was given (what I learned to be) mild hand spankings, on an hourly schedule, throughout the remainder of the workday. Mistress did not want her slave catching a chill from being underdressed.

The sessions on Wednesday evenings were imaginative and varied. Monique loves to tease, and hugely enjoys making me blush like a teenager. She loves seeing me flush with embarrassment, loves hearing me stammer as she eggs me on.

Once, at dusk, she sent me outside, in the nude, and told me to get her mail for her. Her mailbox was at the highway entrance to her driveway. I was a six foot tall, panting and sweating blush when I made it back to the relative safety of her house.

I learned that Monique absolutely loves being pampered. She saw to it that I learned skin and hair care, as well as the art of giving long, sensuous foot massages and pedicures. I attended her in her bath and prepared her favorite special foods and drinks. All told, I became quite the proficient lady's maid, and to be honest, loved it. Caring for her in these delightfully intimate ways, making her feel special were and are very masculinity affirming acts for me. In my opinion, a real man is one who makes one very special woman feel cherished and loved. One thing to be said in favor of a D/s relationship with the woman you intend to marry, is that the woman gets the chance to ensure you know what she likes and how she likes it.

Not all of the sessions and games went as she planned. Some fell completely flat. One time, her teasing backfired when she tried to needle me about one of my responses to her infernal questionnaire. "Don't you think you are little old to play with yourself, Mr. Evans. I mean, you are a fairly good looking man, and you earn a decent wage. Can't you find yourself a nice woman to relieve your urges? I mean, really," Her eyebrow rose in simulated amazement. "You masturbate that many times, on average, a week?" She clucked her tongue and shook her head. "Really, what a waste. What do you have to say for yourself, sir?"

In hindsight, I know that I was supposed to fumble around and mumble in embarrassment at this "flaw" in my character and maturity. The climax of the play would have involved me "demonstrating my technique" to the accompaniment of her teasing comments, critique and directions. It did not work that way.

I regarded her for a long time, saying nothing. I even considered safewording the whole thing, but thought better of it. She would not have understood if I did not try to explain. She might even have decided that I was too embarrassed by the topic, as opposed to how I really felt about it. I had promised her honesty. "Mistress, masturbation is safe, it is clean and it is relaxing. I don't have to go to some hole in the wall pickup bar or to a prostitute, and put my life and health in danger to do it or to reap its benefits. It is lonely, true. It is also emotionally unsatisfying. But I don't have to put myself at risk to do it." I considered stopping with that on the table, but decided she would get the whole shot. I looked up from my kneeling position to see that she was no longer smiling.

"Mistress, have you ever known anyone who has contracted HIV, or died from AIDS?" She shook her head slowly her eyes never leaving mine. "I have. A wonderful man, a giving man. He was a teacher. He had so much to give the world, and now, he is gone." Tears formed in my eyes. "I know he died of AIDS related infections. I don't know how he contracted the virus. He might have been unlucky on a transfusion for all I know, but that is what is out there, for the unwary. A long, slow lingering death that wastes human potential. Masturbation does not embarrass me, Mistress, and I freely admit to doing it, quite often in fact. The waste of a single human life saddens and sickens me." I became silent then, not much interested in what happened next. Neither of us mentioned that I had looked up at her without permission.

That scene ended soon afterwards. We tried to regain a semblance of playfulness, but neither of us were much in the mood for any more that night. Looking back, however, that was the evening when I saw how wonderful life could be with Monique, when she showed me her compassion as well as her strength. Monique would not let me leave that night. Instead, she kept me with her the whole night and simply held me into the early hours of the morning. Throughout that evening, she quietly shared my loss and sorrow, as I remembered my friend.

Chapter 12: A Step Too Far

Over those first few months, we learned together, what we could and could not do within the constraints of our personal and professional lives. For my part, I did my level best to keep my word, to answer her challenges and to provide her scope to test her skills. I did use the safeword during those early weeks, twice in fact. In each case, her enthusiasm for paddle games took me beyond what I could cope with, beyond where I felt safe. In each case, as she had promised, Monique stopped the session immediately, and brought me back.

The first time she took me to my codeword was the Friday before the Memorial Day Weekend. She spent the whole three day weekend with me, coddling me and praising me. The attention she gave me almost made it worthwhile, and Tuesday, I was able to go to work and function without too much loss of efficiency.

The second time, however, was during one of the Wednesday night training periods. In hindsight, it went too far. I should have safeworded sooner, she should have backed off sooner. Neither of us did and it was uncomfortable in more than just physical ways when we parted that night. Neither of us took much positive from that evening to bed that night. Endorphins kicking in from the session or adrenalin from the anger that I felt got me home that night, but nothing was going to get me into a car seat the next day. I took the bus to the Metro Station and then the subway to work, standing the entire trip.

Roselie saw immediately that I was hurting. She could not miss it. My hip and buttock muscles had stiffened up badly on the train and bus. The walk to the office from the station had been hell. Pure feminine fury radiated from Roselie as she watched me shuffle toward my office. She opened her mouth to say something fierce, and I spoke first. "Don't do it." I ordered as I opened my door. "Let it be. Remember what happened last time you intervened." Roselie had gotten a thorough paddling the day she upbraided Monique for my go-no go first spanking. I did not want a repetition over this, particularly with Monique's mood over last night uncertain. "I will be okay. I just need to loosen up a bit."

Roselie's eyes were black. "It was that damn sorority paddle of hers, wasn't it? She knows better. And you, I bet you did not even safeword her, did you? And how, may I be so bold to ask, do you expect to work today?"

My smile was rueful. "Not soon enough, anyway. Let it be, Roselie. What is done is done and I will know better next time." I chose to try and ignore her last question because I did not know the answer. My one hope was for a nice quiet day.

"Next time? Next time?? What about her?? Why shouldn't she know exactly how far beyond she went so she will know better next time."

"Enough, Roselie. I said I will be all right." I headed into my office, trying to end the exchange.

A sniff of haughty disgust followed me. "She knows better, and you can be damn sure that I am going to be a lot quicker with the safeword until she gets this out of her system and gets her sense of control back."

I closed the door, finally putting an end to it and closing out the world. I wished I could lock the doors to my office, but only Monique's office had locks, and those locks only worked from her side of the door.

My second gross error of the day (the first being the decision to go to work and spare Monique's feelings) was trying to sit down. I could not take the pressure of my weight on my behind. Standing back up was even less pleasant. Pain stiffened muscles screamed as I pulled myself back to my feet and forced my legs straight. I had to work standing. Hell, I had to stay standing. And, I would have to avoid spending time with Monique. I would also do what I should have done when I awoke and call in sick the next day.

Avoiding Monique was not to be. The Chief Operations Officer of the company called Monique. He had been away during the most recent briefing to the Board of Directors, but, since everyone had been so impressed with me and my brief, the COO wanted to hear it for himself. From me. Today. Monique came, unannounced, into my office to tell me the good news of such a feather in my professional hat, and to tell me to get ready.

Monique's smile of pleasure for me died the instant she really looked at me saw me try to move. "What is the matter with you?"

Roselie had come into my office to see what the commotion was about and looked at Monique in utter disbelief. "My god, Monique. You did it to him, and you are asking what is the matter with him? The man safewords a session with that infernal paddle of yours and you are surprised that he can't move or sit? You have only been training him, for what, a couple of months? He does not know what he can and cannot take yet. He took way too much last night, obviously." Sarcasm and disgust dripped from her words like winter icicles.

"Enough, Roselie!" I practically snarled. I was trying to defuse this confrontation between two friends, but Roselie was past listening and Monique looked to be in shock.

"He would not let me tell you. He thought he could hide it from you. You have him so damn concerned about being able to take your worst that he is delaying his safeword. You are not taking proper care of him, Monique. It is your responsibility to protect him while he is in your keeping."

"I said that is enough, Roselie. This is between me and Monique and..."

"No." Monique spoke for the first time since she had entered. "No, Nathan, she is right. And as my submissive, she has every right to be concerned. This.... this is a misuse and abuse of the gift of your submission." She shook her head. "I will have to find a way to atone for this. However, how are you going to possibly brief James Farquare?"

My mind was spinning. If I ever decided to advance in the company, Farquare's sponsorship would be a real feather in my cap. "Well, if Roselie flips the slides, I could stand at the screen and not move around. Hide behind the podium."

Monique shook her head grimly. "Disregarding the fact that standing in one place and not moving during a presentation is not your style, James hates stand up briefs. He wants a lap brief, so he can sit across the table from you and look at you face to face . He swears he gets more from reading the briefer than from reading the slides."

"Well, maybe if I am seated before he gets in the room?"

Roselie's snort of derision sounded again. "Try sitting in your nice well cushioned chair, Nathan." Her voice oozed saccharin sweetness.

I sat, stifling with great will, the inhalation at the hurt that shot up my buttocks and thighs. It was no good. Even with my full concentration, I could sit still for no more than a minute at the most. I tried to stand and fell back into the chair. My bellow was stilled by Roselie's hand. "And how would you rise to shake his hand, even if you could sit, Nathan? He can't do it, Monique."

"No, he can't. Roselie, see if you can get it rescheduled. If you can't, I will have to give it and make apologies to James. For now, we will say that Nathan had already gone home sick and I had not known when I told James we were a go. Make it my fault, since it really is. Then I want you, Roselie, to get one of the company courtesy vans and drive this man home." Monique whirled and strode from the room.

The presentation could not be rescheduled. Monique was briefing while I was resting on my tummy at home. Roselie had put an ice bag on my tush to take down the swelling and given me some aspirin before heading back to the office to try and help Monique salvage the day. Reflectively, I tried to consider the positives and the negatives of this fiasco.

The obvious downside, besides being hurt and immobile, was that my failure (or perceived refusal) to brief Farquare could end any chance I had for any job promotion or selection he might influence. Which was most fast track jobs at the main corporate offices. Farquare had a reputation as a shrewd evaluator of talent among the other chiefs. In fact, rumor had it that his opinion was often solicited, if not required, prior to filling any important managerial vacancy at the corporate offices.

But, I had not taken the job with Monique looking to advance into the corporate hierarchy. I had taken the job to work with people and to be with Monique, my flower lady. My position with Monique was secure, at least for now. What would happen if I ever decided that I could no longer play her submissive games was a question for another day.

The bottom line was that what I wanted out of this job was not threatened by what happened with Farquare today. In fact, if this experience resulted in Monique taking more care, and going a little slower, then that was a huge positive in my eyes. I really did not want to feel like this again anytime soon.

Monique arrived shortly after six. I expected her, so I had left the front door unlocked. I did not expect her to have company. If I could have moved quickly enough, I would have run and hid. All I did do, however, was stare in amazement at this intrusion, laying on my stomach on my living room couch, my bare ass prominently displayed.

The woman Monique brought with her was an older lady, late forties, early fifties. Her hair was black shot with gray, her eyes were gray and seemed kind. She was not slender, nor was she overweight. She femininely solid, somehow, both physically and otherwise. "Nathan, this is my friend, Jennifer Danvers. She is a domme, but more to the point, she is a doctor. I would like you to let her examine you." For the first time, I noticed the black bag the woman carried.

"You're kidding." Not the most original of responses, I admit, but nothing in my life prepared me for the things Monique brought into my life. My response, as is often the case when I am surprised, was negative. "No, thank you. I would like to be alone, please."

Monique shook her head. "I am afraid I can't do that, Nathan. You are hurt, and I did it. I have to know how badly and if you require medical care. Jennifer is here, because I trust her and because, if you do not need to go to hospital, she will see to you without putting either of us in a professionally and personally damaging situation."

I shook my head. "No, I am not going to submit to this, Monique. I will be fine. Dr. Danvers, thank you for your time, but please, just leave."

"Nathan, you do not get a choice. Either you permit Jennifer to examine you, to see to your injuries, or I will call the police and turn myself in for assault, and they will haul you off to the hospital."

That shook me. "You're bluffing." I said, not as certainly as I would have liked.

"Try me." Green fire blazed in her hazel eyes which I met with even determination of my own.

A soft chuckle broke the tension of our facedown. "Children, children, enough foolishness. Monique, go make some tea. I could use some and I suspect your young man has not had adequate fluids today. Mr. Evans, you will be a good boy and let me check you over." Her voice was softly modulated, but carried the ring of command. Monique gave me one last glare and headed for my kitchen. "She is worried about you, Mr. Evans. She was frantic when she got through to me at my office. Let me make sure that there is no lasting damage, and give you something to relieve your discomfort."

Sure, gentle fingers touched, prodded and probed over and around my abused buttocks. Periodically a sniff, or a "hmmm" would break the silence as she methodically worked through her examination. Monique came back in with a tray of tea and some sandwiches. I was suddenly starved. "Monique, how many strokes did he take?"

"I am not sure. Obviously, too many. I'd guess maybe two dozen or so."

I snorted. "Oh, so, Mr. Evans, how many did you take, if you do not agree with your Lady's answer? Did you keep track?"

"Doctor, I stopped counting at twenty five, because counting was taking concentration I needed for other things. I may have taken half again as many before I realized she was not going to let up and that I could not take much more."

She nodded as she put honey into her tea. "Monique, he will be all right. I will give him something to control the pain and to relax the damaged muscle tissue." She turned to me and this time, there was steel in those gentle eyes. "You, sir, will take my medications as I direct. No more of this stoicism. You are injured and you will hamper your recovery if you allow the pain to keep you from doing gentle movements."

Monique nodded in agreement. "Oh, he will take them, all right. If he gives me a hard time, I will bring in Roselie and we will gang up on him."

"Monique, you have to do one of two things. Lose that paddle in favor of something with less leverage and swing weight, or rigidly control the number and force of the swats." Dr. Danvers gave a snort of disgust. "Really, Monique, this is unbelievable. You know better than this. You told me what his goals are, and that he is only a novice. Twelve hard strokes of that paddle of yours is a test for many experienced, pain-loving submissives. I would not be surprised if he decides you are not worth the effort."

Monique nodded slowly and bowed her head. Dr. Danvers had still not raised her voice, but she had nonetheless injected a full measure of censure and disfavor into her words.

Both women stared at each other for long moments before some silent signal was given for them to relax again. They sat down and small talk ensued. All in all, it was a rather odd feeling, laying bare-ass naked in your living room, having afternoon tea with two ladies. The idyll ended suddenly when I felt something cold and wet on my bottom, followed by a sharp sting. Startled, I craned my head to see the doctor holding an now empty hypodermic, grinning down at me. "I could have give you this orally, but being a bit of a sadist, I prefer needles." Her grin was disturbing. I had no doubt of her words. "Besides, the medication will get where it is needed more quickly this way, a nice side benefit. Monique, make sure he takes two of these every six hours for the next two days. He should be up and about by Sunday. Call me at home if he is not." She finished her tea and then packed her bag. "Monique, you should expect to hear from Sondra over this. Nathan, I hope the next time we meet is more pleasant for us both. Perhaps you will have need of my other specialties." Monique nodded and hugged the doctor, thanking her again for coming to see me. Then she left, but Monique remained.

"We came in separate cars." she answered my unvoiced question. "I am not leaving here until we are sure you are able to move around and take care of yourself."

"Who's Sondra?" I asked, trying to change the subject.

"Mistress Sondra is the woman who trained me in Europe. I told you she still keeps track of me. That was Jennifer's way of letting me know that she would communicate this debacle of mine to Mistress."

I was confused, now. I did not know what to make of this revelation. "So?"

She shrugged. "So, I will be disciplined for my failure to take proper care of you in my keeping. You are so damned strong, you are such a determined personality, that I forget you do not know what this is about yet, and that you are not in this for your own pleasure." Her voice became contemplative as she considered that. "I have lost control with you, Nathan. I never lose control while playing. It is very strange." She became quiet again, then shook her head as if to clear it. "Anyway, Sondra visits me two, three times a year. People like Jennifer keep track of me for her. Part of every visit is an atonement. Not fun, but necessary. It reminds me what it is like to be on the other side of the paddle. If this is any indication, I need to be reminded."

I tried not to feel a flash of pleasure and satisfaction at the thought of Monique paying in kind for this. I am human, and it was there. It did not last, however. Whether I was or was not a submissive, I had participated by my own choice, and did not codeword early enough. I told her so, and offered to intercede with her Mistress Sondra.

She smiled and shook her head. "No, Nathan. Jennifer was right, you see. One reason for training is so that you learn what you can take, so that you learn what the after effects of a scene like last night are for you, as an individual. That way, you will know when to say "when". What is absolutely unforgivable, is that I could not answer the question about the number of strokes. I don't know what you do to me, Nathan, but whatever it is, you are the only one who ever has. I lose control with you in ways I did not think that I could."

"I am not sure I like the distinction of that particular honor, Monique, but maybe, it means that I can get to you in ways others have not. Maybe, it means that we can find something special with one another."

She kissed me, and then sat back. "I hope so, Nathan. I think we will, too. We already are. Hang in there, with me, Nathan. I think you are still ahead of me in this, but I really am trying to catch up." I reached over and took her hand. I kissed it, and then simply held it. She did not pull away, and we passed the rest of the evening in companionable silence.

"What did Jennifer mean by her other specialties? Is she a doctor I am likely to see?"

Monique laughed, the first full bodied laugh I had heard this day. "No, silly, she is an OB-GYN.. What she meant is her... D/S specialties." Her grin became wide with suppressed mirth. "Nathan, in D/S, people use a variety of symbols. Collars to indicate ownership, colors to indicate your sexual preferences, markings or jewelry that may do nothing more than enhance a person's sexuality or may have deeper, more private meetings. Some of these symbols, if done improperly, can be hazardous or even dangerous. Because she is a real doctor, and because she appreciates the power of these symbols, Jennifer provides a medically safe service to members of the D/S community. In fact, she has a national reputation because of it."

"Well, for heavens sake, what does she do?"

Monique looked away for a moment, then turned back to look me in the eyes. "She brands people, Nathan, and she does specialty piercing. She provides a sterile, safe facility for piercing of the nipples, male and female genitalia and other body parts. One of her "examining rooms" at her clinic is actually a mini dungeon."

Dumbfounded, I gaped at her. "Brands? as in.. Branding Irons and burning flesh???" She nodded solemnly. "And people do that to one another? To people they care about?"

"Nathan, people, female people, have babies for people they care about. That is painful, but beyond the joy of the baby, it is a symbol of love and commitment. Yes, these things are painful, but the love you see in these ceremonies is wonderful to behold. Please don't prejudge what you do not yet understand. No one is ever branded or marked in Jennifer's care, without her absolutely assuring herself that it is fully consensual. I have seen her refuse to proceed for no other reason than that she was uncertain of the couple's commitment."

I tried to assimilate this. I couldn't. It was just too alien, too far outside my experience. Then, another thought crossed my mind, and thought became word. "You don't think that I am going to do that, do you?"

She did not answer for the longest time. Finally, she took a deep breath and turned huge clear eyes on me. "Nathan, one of my fondest fantasies, my more adult version of a girlish dream, is that my mate and I will share a mark that proclaims our mutual commitment for the rest of our lives. Yes, I hope that we will one day walk into her dungeon together, and walkout with brands or permanent metal jewelry declaring our love. However, as I said, Jennifer only does it when she is convinced all involved are fully committed. We will only proceed after much discussion, and only if we both want that type of symbol."

I did not have an answer to that. She made is sound like a wedding ring, only better because it could not be lost or thrown away. All I thought about was time I had attended a branding at a friend's ranch, how it smelled and how the cattle squealed. It was not a comforting line of thought.

The medication eased the pain, and permitted me to rest. It also knocked me cold. The weekend went quickly, amid amiable scolding about taking my medication, bickering over what show to watch on television and laughter. We grew closer that weekend. It may have been the real start of the "us" I hoped to achieve. When I was not asleep, Monique pulled out my old board games, and we dueled for world domination with Risk, and sharpened our verbal swords with Scrabble.

By Sunday evening, I was able to sit and move about again. Monique decided she wanted to go home to take care of the absolutely necessary things before going to work the next day. I did not want her to leave, and taking a great risk, told her so. "I don't want to leave either, Nate, but if I stay, I will end up in your bed tonight. I don't know if I am ready to face that. It was only five days ago that I irresponsibly injured you doing something that should only be for the mutual growth of us both. I need a little distance from that, love. I need to be sure in my heart that I am with you because that is where I want to be, and not because I am trying to make restitution."

"I don't think that is why we'd be there, Monique-sweet."

She shook her head. "I don't think so, either, Nate, but until I am sure of that, I am not going to dishonor what you feel, and what I am beginning to feel by not being completely sure." With that, she kissed me again, and left.

After that, Wednesday sessions no longer included much in the way of corporal play or discipline. Some spanking, maybe a cropping, or even a paddling with Monique's new, "kinder, gentler" paddle, but nothing severe or that stayed with me very long.

The other side of that compromise, however, was that we agreed to make provision for Monique to express her penchant of corporal discipline. For that reason, we reserved one weekend every month (and especially any three day weekends) for "special training". I would arrive Friday night, and I would not leave until released. That might be an hour later, or it might be Monday morning, before work. Although the original purpose of the special training weekend was to allow Monique to impose some fairly severe corporal discipline, that much flexibility could not go unexploited. As with the Wednesday disaster, after a strenuous workout with the paddle or crop, I typically needed Saturday and Sunday for the soreness to reach a tolerable level. I had to be able to sit at my desk the next working day. Thus, the heavy stuff happened early in the weekend to permit me time to recover. From Monique's perspective, that meant two lost days when I could have been at her beck and call.

She did use the first couple of special weekends for corporal, but then, she started getting imaginative.

Part Six: Learning and Loving: Nathan
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