A/N: I sincerely apologize for taking so long to post this. In all honesty, I've had it half-written since January; I just couldn't summon up the muse to finish it. I've also started graduate school, which leaves me precious little time to write for pleasure these days, and what I have been writing, I'll admit, was for another fandom. But I swear I'm back now, and I hope this chapter will be worth the wait for my readers, no matter how long you've been following this story! Spring Awakening is the one fandom I know I'll never leave; hopefully the next update will be within the next 2-3 months, depending on how much of a workload I have from university.

SWITCHED PLACES Pt. 7

The next day class was dismissed several minutes early. All of the boys were noticeably excited at the thought of leaving the oppressive atmosphere of the classroom, gathering their things amid enthused chatter and escaping the building as quickly as possible. Ernst, however, waited patiently as Hänschen packed his belongings into his bag more slowly than usual; it was as if he were waiting for something. His eyes followed Moritz out the door, or rather up until he reached the doorway and halted at the sound of Herr Sonnenstich's voice. "Herr Stiefel! May I have a word with you?" Moritz's shoulders stiffened and he held back. Hänschen finally swung his bag over his shoulder and left, with Ernst trailing behind. As they walked past him, Moritz turned to face the teacher. The startled boy froze again when he looked into Hänschen's face and saw a leer that for some reason turned him cold. He was in such a stupor that he did not register Herr Sonnenstich's voice. "Rilow, Röbel, please dismiss yourselves."

Hänschen nodded politely and escorted Ernst out of the classroom. They walked together down the hallway and took the usual turn toward the exit, but unusually, Hänschen stopped in his tracks after they had turned the corner. Ernst looked puzzled, but as soon as he opened his mouth to speak, Hänschen had placed a finger across Ernst's lips to silence him. "Shhhh. Wait for a minute." While contemplating what this might mean, Ernst heard a loud voice from within the classroom.

"Herr Stiefel!" Back in the classroom, their instructor was beginning to get impatient. Finally recognizing his own name, Moritz shook himself out of his trance and stepped forward with trepidation.

"Sir?"

Sonnenstich looked down upon the boy, not significantly taller than him but no less imposing a figure. "Follow me. The faculty would like to have a word with you."

Moritz's head gave a nod, but he couldn't keep the rest of his body from shaking as well.


"Ernst, follow me. There's something I want to show you." Hänschen's voice was calm on the surface, but there was a hint of maliciousness beneath which slightly frightened Ernst, like a powerful liquor that was smooth on the tongue but burnt going down one's throat. Still, he followed behind the other boy until the blond stopped moving and gestured silently for him to peer around the corner.

They looked out just in time to watch Moritz creep fearfully into the boardroom, after which one of the faculty members already inside the room walked up and shut the door behind him. Hänschen turned the corner with Ernst trailing behind, moving them both closer to what was about to take place. He rested himself against the wall outside the door and listened.

"Herr Stiefel! We have been informed that you entered the boardroom without permission. Further, you have been accused of looking through students' private files. Is this true?"

The two boys outside the room could hear Moritz make no sound. A swift, sharp crack that was unmistakably the sound of a cane striking the wood of the table reported loudly from inside the room, accenting the repetition of the demand. "Herr Stiefel! An answer." A muttered whimper followed by an imposing voice that did not belong to the previous speaker. Then they heard something along the lines of the adults having no other choice or being left with no other choice. "Herr Stiefel, remove your blazer and bend over the back of the chair."

Just outside the door, Hänschen smirked at what he knew was about to happen. He could vividly imagine Moritz fumbling with shaking hands at the buttons of his school uniform. Ernst, too, knew what was about to happen, but desperately wished that he didn't.


Moritz was bent over a chair in the boardroom. He had placed his jacket on the table in front of him, as instructed, and now he was gripping the seat of the chair over which his body was stretched. Several instructors, if not more, surrounded the long table which spanned the room's center. Suddenly, Moritz felt the cane tap against his bottom and jerked forward, then realizing he hadn't even been struck yet. At this point, he was quivering from nerves, and justly so. After what seemed like an eternity, but at the same time far too soon, he finally heard the harsh swish of the cane through the air behind him. It struck his buttocks with a loud crack, and for the first few seconds after, he felt absolutely nothing.

Then pain came flooding in. It was unlike any pain he'd ever experienced before, a deep burn that seemed to knock all the air from his lungs. Moritz yelped at the intensity of it and straightened back up, releasing his hold on the chair for the moment. Bu the instructor wielding the cane barked, "Get back down! Bend over and grip the seat of the chair." Moritz agonizingly complied, his body still shaking. Another crack of the cane echoed through the room, which seemed to have the optimal acoustics to make this ordeal seem as loud and as violent as possible. With this stroke, Moritz only whimpered, but again his body straightened up, as if of its own accord. The pain was simply impossible to fathom, more than the boy could ever have guessed it would be, and it spread like lines of fire across his buttocks.

"I said, bend over! If you can't stay down yourself we will hold your arms to the chair." Moritz was trembling and gasping for breath. He bent back down again, with the distinct feeling that he was about to die. The pain as his pants stretched tighter against his buttocks was incredible; even putting pressure on the welts felt nigh unbearable. He braced himself halfheartedly for the next blow and hopelessly insisted to himself that he would not cry.


The cane struck again with a tumultuous crack that sounded quite loud, even to the two observers who were still lingering just outside the room. Ernst cringed at the sound of it; Hänschen did not. Another harsh voice rings out inside the room, clearly enough for both of them to hear. "All right, if you can't stay down, we'll hold you down." The two boys could make out a shuffling of feet, then the indistinct sound of rustling fabric which could only mean that Moritz had finally been grasped by the wrists and was being held tightly against the chair. Moritz's voice could be heard then, whimpering some words in protest— "No, sir, please—!" but the caning went on with indifference to his protests.

At what must have been the sixth or seventh stroke—Ernst, in his horror, had lost count—Moritz screamed. Cringing outside the door, Ernst was overwhelmed with guilt, and with the emotions he often felt at the suffering of any of God's creatures. After that anguished cry, he simply couldn't stand to hear anymore. "Hänschen, I—I can't do this anymore!" His voice was higher-pitched than usual, as if his throat had tightened and Ernst himself were about to cry. "I really must leave. I can't listen to this anymore…" The younger boy's voice trailed off weakly.

At first, Hänschen was confused as to why his lover would not want to observe the rest of the punishment of the boy who had so egregiously wronged him; it was certainly something he personally wouldn't give up on. But then he smiled to himself; it was Ernst, after all, his dear Ernst, who could not bring himself to wish such harm on anyone. "Very well. But I wish to hear the rest. I suppose I'll see you tomorrow?"

With those words, Ernst was tempted to hang back. What if Hänschen tried to talk to Moritz afterward? What if he found out the truth? Would he believe Ernst over Moritz, if their stories conflicted, as they would inevitably do? But he had already made his decision, it would be too suspicious to decide to stay behind now; besides, he truly was unable to bear listening to any more of the brutal punishment. "Y-yes. Tomorrow. See you!" And with that, Ernst scurried off, determined to get home as fast as possible and blank the horrifying sounds he'd just heard from his mind.


By the end of the ordeal, one could only hear Moritz sobbing. Hänschen could tell from the change in quality of the noises coming from the room that he wasn't even fighting anymore. It had been only twelve strokes in total, but as Hänschen knew, even that was likely to have drawn blood. Once it was evident that the punishment was over, Hänschen moved himself out of range of the door, so that he would not be visible from inside the room should anyone happen to look his way.

Soon after, Moritz slouched out of the boardroom with a reddened, tear-stained face. It was evident from the quality of the redness in his cheeks and the stain on his sleeve that he had already tried to wipe the tears away repeatedly, and he was gripping at his buttocks in agony, as if his life depended on it; as if he could somehow tear the pain away. Then, Moritz noticed Hänschen. "Oh my god… Oh my god. Y-you were listening?"

The blond's voice was smooth, but it still betrayed a dark amusement. "To every stroke." The smirk on Hänschen's face would have sickened anyone who saw it. "It was unbelievably satisfying. Ernst was listening too."

Moritz's eyes widened at that, and he gave a soft gasp. "Did he tell you? Are you even aware of what happened? Did he tell you we—?"

"He told me everything. I know you had sex. That's why I'm happy to see you being punished." Hänschen didn't loose his cool outward equanimity even now, even though the anger he clearly felt at Moritz was seething under the surface of his words like a silent, nearly imperceptible poison.

For a moment, rage flashed across the brunet's features, and it seemed as if Moritz were about to strike him. However, it was as if something was physically holding him back; after a few seconds, he paused, his fist hanging in mid-air with a palpable tension. His raised arm began to quiver, and suddenly the expression on Moritz's face broke, and he dropped the arm to his side and spun. Having turned his back on Hänschen, Moritz ran off in tears, his sporadic, staggering footfalls echoing erratically through the hallway, leaving the blond to stare, startled but satisfied, in his wake.