A/N: Please don't ask what inspired this fic—it was a creative writing exercise gone wrong. I tried to keep the boys in character, but I'm not sure how well that worked out. I hope it's an enjoyable read anyhow. The thing with Moritz and Ernst both being at the bottom of the class comes from the original play.

Characters do not belong to me, &c. &c.


SWITCHED PLACES

They were lying under the trees on the outskirts of the vineyard. Ernst had pulled down a branch, and was picking grapes from it leisurely. The sudden sound of Hänschen's voice startled him out of his calm state, and he let go of the branch, sending it flinging upward. "Moritz sneaked into the teachers' board room today."

"Oh!" Ernst was slightly surprised, both uncertain why Hänschen had brought the subject up and in some disbelief that Moritz could have done something so bold. But Ernst knew that his lover as a rule never spoke at random, and he waited for Hänschen to make some connection between this event and the present. "Did Moritz really do something like that?"

"Indeed he did." There was something in Hänschen's voice which bordered on the dangerous. "He wanted to find out whether or not he would be promoted. He went in to look at the students' files. Would you like to know what he found?"

Ernst still had no idea where this was going. He shook his head. "Is he going to pass?"

"Perhaps." The other boy's voice was smooth as silk, but there was something underneath that made Ernst uneasy. "He said that it was between himself and another student. That whoever did more poorly this coming semester would be the one to not be promoted." There was something sinister. "Do you know who that was?"

Ernst shook his head, still confused.

"Why, Ernst, that student is you!" Hänschen feigned surprise. Ernst didn't have to.

"Wh-what?!"

"You heard me." The other boy moved closer. "And do you know what I think?" His face was only inches away. Ernst could feel his breath.

"What do you think?" he responded timidly.

"I can't allow that to happen." Ernst shook his head. "Then you agree?" Ernst nodded. "What can I do," Hänschen continued, "to make sure this doesn't happen again?"

The boy shook his head again. His mouth felt dry. "I don't know, Hänschen." He lowered his eyes, unable to meet his friend's. Hänschen reached around the boy and grabbed his bottom. It took a few seconds for Ernst to register what he meant.

"You—you mean you're going to…?"

"Spank you? Yes."

Ernst was confused. He liked being spanked. Ever since Hänschen had introduced it into their relationship, between them it had always been a form of foreplay.

"But—but Hänschen—"

"This is not going to be the kind of spanking you enjoy." Ernst gulped. "Now go fetch me a switch." Hänschen handed him a pocketknife, obviously to cut the chosen branch from its tree.

Ernst could hardly respond. His throat tightened, and he looked up into Hänschen's eyes for some sign of jest, or perhaps hoping to garner mercy. He saw none. It only caused the other boy to pointedly increase the intensity of his stare. Recognizing the futility of trying to argue, Ernst took the knife, then slowly stood up and made his way toward the trees scattered at the fringes of the vineyard. He took his time examining each branch, fretting over what was to come. In play, Hänschen had only ever used his hand before, and Ernst wasn't sure how he would respond to the novel feeling of the switch. "Ernst!" came Hänschen's voice, "believe me, you don't want to make me wait."

This was successful in startling Ernst from his thoughts. He quickly found a lightweight-looking branch and cut it from the tree, hoping that the one he had chosen wouldn't hurt too much. He returned and handed both the switch and the pocketknife back to Hänschen, who immediately swung the switch through the air with a grand swishing noise, as if to test it. He seemed to find it satisfactory. He took the pocketknife and began to strip the switch of all noticeable knots and branches that might cause real damage; he didn't want to truly hurt the other boy, but he was concerned and felt that he needed to teach him a lesson. "Do you understand why you are being punished, darling?"

Ernst tilted his head upward as if to nod, then an expression of utter lack of recognition crossed his face and he began to shake his head. "I truly don't know, Hänschen. Is it because I'm doing poorly in school?"

Hänschen pondered this response for a few seconds. "No." He returned to stripping the branch with his knife.

Ernst looked even more confused, and stared at his partner, obviously expecting some kind of elaboration. Hänschen pointedly returned his gaze.

"Ernst, it's because I don't want to lose you." The boy only looked more baffled. Hänschen continued, "I can't allow you not to pass. Going on into my next year would be miserable for me if you were not there by my side." He put down his pocketknife and ran a hand through the other boy's dark hair. "That's why I am about to do what I am about to do. Do you understand?" he asked again, gently.

Ernst nodded. "Yes, Hänschen." His lover rarely expressed such sentiments, and he was willing to go along with the whole thing if that was what Hänschen really wanted and thought was best for him. "If that's what you really feel."

Hänschen nodded, then suddenly became aware of himself. His voice became more firm, as if to compensate for the previous display of emotion. "You can assume whatever position you like," he offered, as if to be nice about the whole thing, or at least to mitigate the unpleasantness for Ernst as much as possible. Ernst nodded, and lowered himself down next to Hänschen before lying across the other boy's lap. Somehow, this made it feel more intimate and slightly less frightening. "No," came Hänschen's voice, unexpectedly.

"Wh-what?" Ernst was confused. He had done everything Hänschen had asked, and was just ready to get it over with. "But I—."

"Lying over my lap is too close for me to strike you properly and safely. You can lie on the ground in front of me if you wish."

Ernst had a pathetic look on his face that almost gave Hänschen a twinge of guilt over what he was about to do, but he reminded himself that it was for the boy's own good. Ernst timidly moved himself off of Hänschen's lap and onto the grass immediately in front of him. His lover nudged him gently with the switch, and he scooted a bit further away, until finally he was about a foot and a half away from him. "Is this all right?"

Hänschen tapped his bottom with the switch, judging his aim. "That will be about right. Now if you would please lower your pants—."

"But Hänschen!" Ernst clearly thought that he was already complying with his partner enough.

"Ernst, please," said Hänschen, trying to muster some calm. "Don't make this harder on me than it already is. I asked you to take your pants down."

Ernst exhaled heavily. Hänschen wasn't sure that it could properly be called a sigh, nor whether it was stemmed from resignation or reluctance. But the boy did lower his pants. "Are you ready?" he asked, more gently than Ernst had expected.

"Yes." His voice was slightly shaky.

Hänschen's look of concern became one of concentration. He gently tapped the switch against Ernst's naked behind. Then he raised it just over his head and brought it down against the other boy's bottom. "Ow." Ernst whimpered. The switch landed again. "Yow!" slightly louder this time. Again. This time, as Ernst heard it swish through the air, he cringed slightly, and hissed at the sting as it struck his bare skin. Hänschen looked satisfied at the three thin red stripes now decorating his lover's bottom. Swish. Another sharp exhale. Ernst's eyes closed and he tried to focus on breathing. In, out. Calmly. It helped. Swish. The switch bit into his skin. The pain in his bottom was beginning to mingle together, with an almost pleasant warmth and tingle to it. Swish. Swish. Swish. Ernst's bottom was stinging, but each subsequent stroke unexpectedly bothered him less and less. Swish. "Oh, Hänschen!"

"Ernst?" Hänschen's voice had a noticeable note of concern. "Are you all right?"

The boy nodded. "Yes, Hänschen."

"You've had ten strokes. Only ten more to go, all right?"

"Yes, Hänschen." Ernst inhaled, preparing himself for the next stroke. He twitched as it swished down and struck, crisscrossing several of the other marks. Swish. Another stinging blow across the previous marks. Ernst gritted his teeth. It was really beginning to hurt now. Swish. Damn it. Swish. Swish. It was getting harder and harder to brace himself. Swish. He began to whimper.

"Only five more, Ernst." The gentleness of his voice contrasted harshly with the burning sting of the next stroke. Ernst exhaled hard. The last few blows couldn't help but cross over the marks made before. He bit his lip, then for fear of drawing blood, clutched the sleeve of his jacket between his teeth and bit down hard against the pain. "One more. This one's going to be the worst; I want you to remember this punishment so I don't have to do it again." Ernst shook his head, his sleeve still in his mouth. He definitely didn't want to have to do it again either. "Brace yourself." He bit down hard. Swish. The burning sting felt to Ernst as if the final blow must have intersected every single previous stroke. He moaned into the fabric of the jacket.

The dark-haired boy flinched when he felt something touching his head, before realizing it was only Hänschen's hand stroking his hair. "It's all right, darling. I'm not going to strike you again." His hand ran down over Ernst's shirt collar and began to rub his back. Ernst still felt jumpy, and his bottom definitely hurt, but he gradually calmed down with Hänschen's touch. "I have to get going soon," Hänschen continued, "Mother expects me for dinner."

Ernst nodded, and started to pull up his pants. He let out a soft squeak. The feeling of his pants rubbing against the already-stinging skin was too much for him.

"You can wait here until you feel prepared to go." Hänschen seemed almost as if he had not thought of this as a possible consequence of such a punishment. "No one will find you here." Ernst nodded. Hänschen leaned down and kissed his lover on the forehead; Ernst responded by tilting his head upward and capturing the other boy's lips. "Take care of yourself," said the blonde boy. "And see you tomorrow at school, hm?"

"Yes, Hänschen." He felt as if he'd said that a million times today, but at the moment he just couldn't think. He watched the other boy walk off and make his way to the road. Then he leaned his head over one shoulder to get a look at his sharply stinging behind. It was flushed pink throughout, with some reddish streaks visible across both cheeks.

Suddenly, he heard a fumbling noise and the crunch of leaves and brush. Then came a voice, as fumbling as the footsteps. "Wh-wha—Ernst?"

Ernst's horrified eyes ran swiftly up from the oversized shoes to the mess of hair, as if to confirm the existence of the voice he recognized too well. "Moritz Stiefel—!"