Toning Things Down

image from Abby Sage

A continuation of Getting (it) with the Program

Claire gave up working from her cubicle mid-afternoon and moved herself to the conference room to prepare for her appointment with Mike. She had booked the room herself this time, requested the meeting herself, though that didn’t do much to calm her nerves. Even though she saw Mike fairly regularly for these meetings now, she still struggled to keep her stomach in check as the time drew nearer.

Mike had always made a point to book the room early to give her a place to escape beforehand, but she had never before taken advantage of it. Today was different- she would have stayed here all afternoon if she could have.  It wasn’t a terribly busy day at the office, and the cubicle walls were higher and more private than in some of the newer buildings, but she still felt terribly exposed. Not that she thought her colleagues could necessarily see her nerves, but they could most certainly guess what she had done to land herself in some sort of trouble, she thought miserably as she started down at her ink-stained . . .everything.

The copy machine had flashed the warning “call for service” in a blinking red that should have clearly indicated that this was not a problem with which amateurs should mess. However, given the pressure of an impending deadline and the habit of the next-nearest copier of chewing the edges of documents, Claire had opened the front panel to attempt the repair herself without a second thought. She had unjammed the thing so many times the tangled mess of gears and coloured knobs and ceased to intimidate her. She felt she had a decent understanding of how it worked; it was only a machine, after all. Sure enough, she had managed to sort out the problem, but only after managing to spill toner down the front of her blouse.  With a feeling more of relief than success, she stapled her report, dropped it off in the box next to her boss’s office, and dodged her colleagues on the way to the ladies room to clean herself up.

Unfortunately her domestic skills weren’t as highly developed as her technical skills. Two rolls of paper towels and an entire soap dispenser later, she had turned the stain on her shirt into a runny mess that covered most of her clothing. To make matters worse, it showed no sign of coming off her hands either.  Looking herself up and down in the mirror, she began to feel truly foolish- a feeling that increased exponentially when she left a streak of ink on her cheek as she brushed her hair behind her ear. ‘If the stuff comes off on my face, why won’t it just come off on the towels?’ she wondered before deciding that there are some wonders of the universe that a degree in chemistry can’t unravel.

At least she didn’t have any meetings that afternoon. She’d be able to hide at her desk, but what if someone stopped by to talk?  She had just begun to earn the respect of her coworkers, and this stunt would not help her case. And Mike, what would he say? The thought of Mike turned her stomach into a tighter knot.  She craved his respect more than anyone else’s, and had thought she was starting to earn it despite the fact that he mostly saw her to discuss things that had gone awry as she adjusted to her new job.  Still, she had hoped he could see that she was trying, and would respect her as a competent colleague if not something more. Looking at her reflection, she couldn’t understand how anyone could see her as more than just a foolish student playing at having a grown-up job. For goodness sake, even the interns looked more professional than she did today!

Deciding to face Mike sooner rather than later, she sent him a brief meeting request for five that afternoon before gathering her things and scampering off to the conference room to minimize the risk of having to explain her appearance to anyone else.

The hours dragged past until finally, at nearly a quarter past five, Mike entered the room, tapping away at his phone. “Sorry I’m late. My last meeting went over, you know how Archie rambles on, and of course I’m swamped with emails. You must be as well did you hear about the new pr-” Mike broke off with a not-quite-concealed snort of a laugh as he finally looked up and took in Claire’s condition.

“I had a bit of trouble with the copier,” Claire mumbled as she stared down at her hands.

“Puzzled that much out myself, oddly enough,” Mike replied brightly. “The devil of a machine outside room 203, I imagine? I’ve heard legends of your prowess at keeping the that thing running. I’m surprised it’s taken you this long to wind up covered in ink. You must have some serious skills if you’ve escaped the wrath of the toner for this long, particularly considering your propensity at ending up covered in coffee.”

“That was once!” Claire retorted, blushing a deep red at the memory of the time Mike had appeared behind her just as she had refilled her coffee mug.  In her shock she had managed to drench the both of them and a good portion of the carpet as well.

“I know, I know.” Mike said smiling. “It happens to the best of us. That’s why we keep the great big orange bottle of soap in the copy room cabinet- the junk they provide here is worse than useless at removing toner, as I see you’ve discovered.”

Claire clearly remembered seeing the bottle, or more of a jug; it wasn’t exactly small nor a subtle colour. She had been amused at it’s presence in a seemingly odd location on her very first day.  It made perfect sense now, and she mentally cursed herself for not piecing that bit of logic together sooner.

“Anyway,” Mike continued a bit more sternly, “why are we here? It’s not like you to set these things up on your own. What’s wrong?”

“I thought that much would be obvious,” Claire mumbled again, twiddling her thumbs in a futile attempt to wipe some of the ink off. How was it still capable of spreading several hours later?

“You called a meeting for this?” Mike asked incredulously. “Why?”

“I thought you’d be disappointed.” Claire choked out, dangerously close to crying even though Mike hadn’t begun to lay into her yet. “I feel like such an idiot, I deserve. . . I deserve to be paddled.”

Mike chuckled as he sat down next to her and took her hand, condemning himself to share her inky fate. “It’s fine, really. I’m just impressed you were able to get the thing working again. I tried to use it myself this morning and gave up. When I saw it had been fixed I just assumed it was the quickest service call ever.”

“Thanks,” Claire choked out, still not meeting his eye.

Mike sighed. “Tell you what, if you really think you need punishment, I might be convinced to spank you, but you’re not getting the paddle for this. And that has nothing to do with the fact that I completely forgot the thing at my desk when I realized I was late.” Claire finally looked up at him and he a winked. “We’re all human, mistakes happen.”

“I guess, I just. . .sometimes wish I weren’t,” she finished feebly.

“We all do,” Mike comforted. “you’ve been doing a remarkable job of convincing everyone you’re the super-employee who can tackle everything, but you’re bound to misstep at some point, and I’m not even counting today’s misadventure as a misstep. At some point you will fail to deliver what is expected. We all do, but that doesn’t make it right and it doesn’t make it much better. It will happen to you, I’ll be here when it does.”

Claire smiled at how he could be both threatening and supportive at the same time. “Can we get on with the sp-spanking part?” she asked hesitantly.

“Eager aren’t we?”  Mike asked with a raised eyebrow.

“No, well, yes,” Claire stammered, “I just want to get it out of the way.”

“If you’re so determined then I’m happy to oblige,” Mike replied.

Claire sighed with relief and resignation as she raised her skirt, lowered her panties, and started to bend over the table to assume her usual position. Mike grabbed her arm before she had settled herself, stood her back up, and turned her to face him.

“If we’re not using the paddle, you may as well just get over my knee,” he said as he tried to guide her into the new position.  Claire hesitated, resisting the gentle pressure on her back.

“My blouse- you’ll get ink everywhere!” Claire protested, gesturing to the large splotch that covered most of her front.

“My pants are black, it won’t show,” Mike countered, increasing the pressure to persuade her to comply.

“But what if I brush against your shirt?” Claire asked desperately.

“Fine, then you can take your blouse off.”

Claire gaped at him. Unable to think of another suitable argument, she felt she had no choice but to comply, turning away as she did so. When she turned back, she all but fell over his knees in her haste to hide her flushed face.

It was. . .different, the logical part of her brain decided as the rest of her mind fretted about what was to come.  The table was cold, and hard, suitable for maintaining a professional distance and complemented the paddle. She felt more exposed bent over Mike’s knee even before he lifted her skirt, but the warmth of his thighs was comforting, especially after depriving herself of human contact for much of the day.

Mike rested his hand on her exposed bottom briefly before beginning the spanking. The swats hurt, though not nearly as much as the paddle. She wondered if he were taking it easy on her, though these doubts were quickly chased away as the intensity continued to build.

The comfort of the new position didn’t offset the pain once the spanking picked up, she thought as she wriggled. The swats weren’t nearly as hard as those from the paddle, but came at a much faster pace and left her no time to recover. Still, it was a different type of pain- intense, but more warming than stinging.

She had almost begun to relax over his lap when he shifted his focus to the lower part of her bottom, making her wriggle more. His left hand held her from falling off, but teased her by giving her enough leeway to try to evade the swats.  Mike’s aim was more than good enough to compensate, and if anything her squirming only broadened the area that she could feel heating up.

After a concentrated assault on the tops of her thighs, she began to kick. The same logical part of her mind warned her that she must be putting on quite a show, but it didn’t wield enough influence to overcome her need to acrobatically express her discomfort.

Just as she was beginning to wonder if she might actually prefer the paddle, Mike drew the spanking to a close and helped her back up to her feet. Claire scampered about and rubbed her bottom for a few moments before realising that she was still partially undressed. She accepted the blouse Mike handed back to her with his eyes averted.

“Feeling better?” he asked, as she readjusted her clothing.

“Yes,” Claire admitted, even as part of her wondered why she had ever thought to ask for this, no- insist on this, when Mike had offered to let her off unpunished.

“Good,” Mike replied with a small, careful hug from which he somehow escaped un-inked. “Now how about we head out for a drink? I know I could certainly use one, and you look like you could too.” He checked his watch before continuing, “looks like there’s plenty of time if you wanted to head home and change, I need to send a few emails before I leave anyway. Want to meet at Joe’s in, say, an hour or so?” he asked as though nothing unusual had happened between them.

“Sure!” Claire all but gushed as she hurried to reassemble herself.  “See you there!” she she said with a wave as she hurried off to find clothes more appropriate for the occasion.

Claire floated all the way home. Mike had asked her out!  He must see her as more than just the foolish new employee, despite the usual content of their conversations.

She changed in record time and got to the bar with nearly half an hour to spare. It was crowded for a Thursday. She, groaned as she realized the only available seats were the hard wooden stools by the bar She eased herself into the corner stool, scanning the room as she waited for her drink in hopes of pouncing on a table if one were to open up. Someone had to be leaving soon, and preferably someone in the large padded booths that lined the walls, she hoped as she squirmed in her seat.

“Rough week?” someone asked. Claire turned to her right to be met with a friendly smirk from the girl in the next stool.

“Yeah,” Claire responded with a smile, “how did you know?”

“I recognized you from the office. And judging by your inability to sit still, I’m guessing you signed up for the mentoring program?” Clare blinked at her as her mouth tried to form a reply. The mentoring program was supposed to be confidential.

“Katherine,” the girl offered her hand, “I work on the second floor. Don’t worry, your secret’s safe with me,” she added with a wink. “Besides, I’ve been there myself recently; I know exactly how you feel.”

Claire let out a sigh of relief before responding.  What started as a halting and awkward conversation gradually grew more natural, with the help of half her beer and Katherine’s easy smile.  She reminded her a lot of Mike with the way she put her at ease, allowing her to talk about her mentoring while mixing in more relaxed topics whenever Claire started to feel uncomfortable.  As they talked, Claire realized how much she had needed to discuss this with someone, someone other than Mike, of course.  Time flew by, and before she knew it Mike was standing behind her.

He flashed her a quick grin before leaning over to Katherine and giving her a hug and a quick kiss. “I see you’ve met my girlfriend.”

To be continued

4 thoughts on “Toning Things Down

    1. Sorry to hear that.

      In this case (and, I’d reckon, in may others), things are not always as awful as they may at first seem.

      More next week.

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