Higher Education

Cigarette Break

by Adele


Finals were over. Finally. Jane had taken her last one, in Shakespeare, just that morning. She didn't have any of her marks back yet of course, but she knew she hadn't failed any exams. Next semester classes didn't start until Monday, so it was one of those rare times at college when Jane didn't have any schoolwork she ought to be doing, or even could be doing. She was taking full advantage of the freedom by doing - nothing. After almost two weeks of constant academic pressure and stress, Jane needed to decompress.

Since Wade and Kirk and Jane's roommate Carrie all felt the same way, they were doing nothing together in Wade and Kirk's room. Rooms in Winthrop House were actually suites of varying sizes and layouts depending on the number of people they were intended to house, and when in the house's long history of additions they had been built. Wade and Kirk lived in your basic two-person suite. A door off the entryway led into the common room. Two doors on opposite ends of the back wall led into two closet-like bedrooms. A long, narrow bathroom was squeezed between the two bedrooms with a door into each. Two doorways, a window, an old-fashioned water radiator, an extra-long twin bed, and a dresser pretty much used up the available space in a bedroom, so both Kirk and Wade had their desks in the common room. Between the two bedroom doors against the back wall the boys kept their version of an entertainment center. This consisted of a small television Kirk had brought with him from Chicago, Wade's stereo and speakers, and the cheapest DVD player they could find at Target to go in on together. All the electronics were arranged on carefully constructed board and brick shelves. Next to the shelves was the requisite cube refrigerator.

The only other piece of furniture in the common room was an old hand-me-down couch that had been passed on to Kirk and Wade by the former room occupants, who had gotten it from some other graduating seniors. A faded brownish rug covered the wood floor in front of the couch. Jane had no idea where the rug had come from. She preferred not to speculate on its origins too much, especially when she was sprawled across the rug leaning back against the front of the couch. Carrie was sitting on the couch above Jane with her legs tucked underneath her. On the couch next to Carrie, Wade was so slouched he was practically lying down, but his feet were flat on the floor with his knees bent and his legs apart. Kirk was sitting on the floor between Wade's legs. Kirk was resting his cheek against the inside of Wade's right thigh and looked like he was about to fall asleep.

An ancient Eddie Murphy stand-up show was playing on the television, but none of them was really watching it. Having it on removed any need for conversation. Or for thought for that matter. When the show ended, all the credits rolled by including the logo and the DVD reverted back to the menu before any of them stirred. Kirk yawned and stretched and did a neck roll, then put a hand on each of Wade's knees and levered himself to his feet. Kirk had shuffled most of the way to the door before any of the others acknowledged that he had moved.

"Where ya goin'?" Jane asked without much interest.

"Cigarette," Kirk stated, pulling his duster off the hook and shrugging into it.

"I thought you quit," Jane remarked.

"I did," Kirk smirked, "twice."

Unexpectedly, Carrie burst out, "You're pathetic! Only idiots smoke. You're supposed to be so smart and smoking is the most disgusting, stupidest habit I --"

"Lay off him," Wade ordered sharply.

Jane looked up in time to see the surprise and hurt on Carrie's face and felt her stomach twist. For a brief moment the desire for Wade's approval that Jane had long ago ceased questioning warred with the need she had felt almost as long: to put herself, literally or figuratively, between Carrie and anything that might hurt her, physically or otherwise. In this case the urge to protect won out. Jane jumped to Carrie's defense even as she wondered why Carrie had been so snotty to Kirk.

"Carrie's right," Jane declared turning toward Wade, "We all know cigarettes are horrible for your health and it makes your clothes and hair reek and smokers are always leaving their butts all over the place. It is disgusting. Why do you let Kirk keep smoking, anyway? Why don't you make him stop?"

Wade raised his eyebrows, but he didn't get mad at her. He said simply, "I can't force him to stop. He has to want to quit." Wade continued speaking to Jane, but he looked at Kirk across the room, "I would certainly be happy to provide some incentive of course."

Kirk exclaimed, "All right! Jesus!" He yanked off his coat and flung it back on the hook.

Wade requested clarification, "'All right' you're not going to smoke a cigarette right now because we're harassing you or 'All right' you're going to stop smoking for good?"

Jane thought that "harassing" bit might have been directed at Carrie, but Wade appeared entirely focused on Kirk. Kirk replied, "'All right' I will try to quit. Again."

"Good," Wade nodded, pleased, "With or without my help?" he asked.

"Do I have a choice?"

"You have a choice, but since you've tried twice before and it didn't work, it seems to me you need to do something different."

"OK. With your help then." Kirk didn't sound particularly happy at the thought of assistance.

"Bring me your cigarettes," Wade directed.

Kirk turned around and walked back to his coat. He reached in the duster pocket and pulled out a mostly full pack of Marlboros. He carried the pack to Wade and reluctantly handed it over.

"Are these all you have right now?" Wade asked.

"Yeah." Kirk rarely bought more than one or two packs at a time and he had just finished one earlier that day.

Wade crushed the pack in his fist releasing the strong scent of tobacco into the room.

"Hey!" Kirk cried out, "That cost me eight bucks!"

"Think of all the money you'll save now that you're quitting," said Wade. He tossed the squashed cigarettes into the trashcan next to his desk.

"Nice shot," Jane muttered and received an amused look from Wade and a glare from Kirk.

Wade tapped the front of the couch between his legs. "Come on. Sit back down."

Kirk scowled, but he lowered himself to the floor. Wade rumpled Kirk's hair, gently squeezed the back of Kirk's neck, and rubbed his shoulders. Eventually, Kirk relaxed. Jane was left feeling vaguely uneasy that she had sparked something she had not intended. Carrie leaned forward and began to braid Jane's long, thick, brown hair, a sensation Jane loved. Jane closed her eyes and she relaxed too.

*****

So Kirk stopped smoking and his friends tried to be supportive. He was restless and irritable and got headaches, but they had expected that. However, neither Jane nor Kirk had anticipated the worst side effect they could have imagined: Kirk's pool game went to hell in a handbasket. Except for a horrible few hours the first day when his hands were shaking, Kirk could actually make most of his usual shots, but he couldn't concentrate and plan his game. In Nine Ball, planning is everything.

On Sunday Kirk and Jane were playing pool and pretending the game didn't totally suck. Kirk took a shot and managed to sink the three, but he hit the cue ball way too hard and sent it ricocheting around the table. He not only left himself no shot, but also ended up completely snookered behind the eight.

"Goddammit!" Kirk threw his pool stick across the room where it crashed into a pillar before falling noisily to the concrete floor. Luckily, it was a barroom-style house stick and did not break. Jane's eyes widened and she reflexively clutched her cue to her chest protectively.

"I don't know why you're still playing with me," Kirk griped. Jane had been wondering the same thing herself, but it wouldn't have been very supportive to say so. Instead, she reassured, "This hard part won't last. Your game will come back."

"Yeah? When?" Kirk demanded.

Jane had no idea and all she could offer was a lame, "Soon."

On Monday the new semester started with shopping period when students could attend classes to try them out before officially setting their schedules. Jane spent the whole morning in classes, something that only happened during shopping period. She was hurrying back to Winthrop House to get lunch before checking out one more class at 1:00 when she saw Kirk talking to his friend Billy across the yard. Jane didn't know Billy beyond that he was a friend of Kirk's who lived in Leverett House. She changed course to meet up with them and called out to Kirk.

Kirk turned to see who was calling and Jane was stunned to see he had a cigarette in his hand. As she continued walking toward him she watched him obviously consider dropping the cigarette on the ground, but apparently he couldn't quite bring himself to do it. Then he actually brought the cigarette to his mouth, but he didn't quite have the audacity to take a puff in front of her either. By this time she was close enough to hear Billy say, "See ya," as he started toward Leverett House. Jane shook her head. "Oh, Kirk," she sighed.

"Are you going to tell Wade?" Kirk asked.

"No," Jane responded, slightly puzzled, "But how is he supposed to help you quit if you try to hide it from him when you mess up?"

"You don't understand."

"You're right. I don't," Jane agreed. There didn't seem to be anything else to say on the topic, so Jane asked Kirk if he wanted to go get lunch. He agreed and they headed toward Winthrop House together, but they hadn't gone two steps before Jane asked, "Aren't you going to get rid of that?"

Kirk realized he was still holding the cigarette. He dropped it, embarrassed, and crushed it under his heel and the two of them went to lunch.

*****

After lunch Jane went off to her class and Kirk went back to his room. Wade was sitting at his desk reading. He said "hey" to Kirk when he walked in, but didn't look up from his book. Kirk went straight to his bedroom and sat down on his bed. After a moment he decided he might as well do some reading, so he went out to the common room and found his copy of Locke for Justice. He returned to the bedroom, lay down on the bed, and then immediately realized he needed a highlighter. Back to the common room. He grabbed an orange highlighter from his desk. By this time Wade was no longer reading. When Kirk came back a third time, ostensibly for a pen to take notes, Wade queried, "Are you all right, Kirk?"

"Huh? Yeah, sure, I'm fine." Kirk did not meet Wade's eyes.

Kirk had nearly made it back into his room when Wade asked, "Are you lying to me?" His tone was gentle, almost teasing, but Wade had a serious problem with being lied to, and Kirk knew Wade had chosen that word intentionally. Kirk hesitated, trying to figure out the best response. Finally he started, "I've been thinking . . ." and then paused again.

Wade filled the gap with the standard, "That's never good," which Kirk ignored.

Kirk continued, "I'm not actually going to quit smoking right now. I don't think it's a good time for me to be trying to quit."

"Really?"

"Yeah. OK?"

"OK."

Kirk turned toward his bedroom again and again Wade's voice stopped him, "Kirk, did you smoke today?"

"Yeah. Yeah, I did," Kirk tried to sound as if this admission was no big deal.

Wade stood up and turned his desk chair around to face away from his desk. He sat down again and looked at Kirk expectantly.

"All right, come here."

"What? But I changed my mind about quitting!" Kirk protested.

"Yeah. And I said I would provide you with incentive, which is what I intend to do. Now come here and let's get this over with."

Kirk took one step toward Wade and then stopped. With his eyes glued to his feet Kirk asked, "Are you going to use your belt?"

"No, not for this."

"OK," Kirk said mostly to himself, and then repeated, "OK."

Kirk took a deep breath, gathered his courage, and then walked all the way across the room to stand within easy reach of Wade, but not actually touching him.

"Drop your pants," Wade directed.

Kirk unbuttoned his black chinos and pushed them down over his hips taking his boxers with them. He removed the pants entirely, because he hated having anything restraining his legs, and folded the chinos over once before setting them aside. Wade waited patiently until Kirk was ready. Then Wade grabbed Kirk's left wrist and in one smooth motion pulled Kirk to his side and down over his lap.

Kirk's fingers and toes touched the floor on either side of the chair. Wade pushed Kirk's shirttail out the way and held him securely around the waist. Wade began spanking Kirk without any preliminaries or warm-up. Wade did not lecture or count and Kirk did not cry out, so the only sound in the room was the smack of Wade's palm on the flesh of Kirk's ass, a sound that seemed excessively loud to Kirk. Kirk counted silently in his head. He knew Wade wasn't counting even silently because his spankings always ended on a totally random number: thirty-seven or forty-two or, one horrible time, fifty-nine. So there was no point in counting, but Kirk did anyway. The blows stung from the start, but at first Kirk was mostly just uncomfortable. By number twelve Kirk was feeling real pain and squirming and flinching with each slap, though he couldn't go far with Wade's left arm pinning him firmly. Kirk grabbed the cuff of Wade's jeans and closed his eyes. At twenty-five Kirk's breathing had turned into sobbing gasps and he could feel tears collecting behind his eyelids, but he wasn't crying. Not really. Twenty-six. Twenty-seven. Kirk's ass was on fire. He clutched the denim and tried desperately to focus on counting and not begging. Twenty- eight. Twenty-nine. Oh God, he couldn't take much more of this. Thirty. Thirty-one. Kirk gritted his teeth. Thirty-two. Thirty- three.

Then suddenly it was over. Wade gently stroked the back of Kirk's thigh and said, "OK. You're done." Kirk opened his eyes and the tears spilled over onto the floor, but that still did not count as crying. Kirk took one long, shaky breath and then pushed himself off Wade's legs and stood up. Kirk kept his back to Wade and silently pulled on his clothes. When Kirk was dressed he slowly turned toward his room, but Wade caught his arm before he could walk away.

"You didn't fail, you know," Wade stated, "Quitting is hard, Kirk! You slipped up. Everyone slips up. What would be the point in me saying I would provide incentive if you didn't ever need me to follow through? You don't have anything to be ashamed of, Kirk, you hear me?"

"You're not disappointed in me?" Kirk asked.

"Not at all. But I will be disappointed if you give up and stop trying to quit. Only because I know you're strong enough to do it."

Kirk finally looked into Wade's eyes. "All right," Kirk said, "I'll try again."

"Not again," Wade corrected, "Keep trying this time."

"OK. Keep trying," Kirk agreed.

"Good boy," Wade said with a smile. Kirk felt the tension he had been under melting away to be replaced by that mixture of pleasure and irritation that phrase always elicited in him. Jane would have understood.

"Did you buy cigarettes or did someone give you one?" Wade asked.

"I bummed one off Billy."

"You didn't tell him you were quitting?"

"Obviously not."

Wade shook his head. "You make things harder on yourself than they have to be, Kirk," he observed.

Kirk rolled his eyes, "Oh, you're just mad because you don't get to crush another pack in front of me all dramatic-like."

Wade chuckled, "Oh really? Well, maybe I ought to search you just to make sure you don't have any hidden away to tempt you later."

Wade reached for Kirk's shirt and Kirk bolted for his bedroom, laughing, with Wade in hot pursuit.


~ Adele

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