Neal loathed every second of listening to Henry getting spanked. The urge to go in and stop David had been almost impossible to ignore. The spanking had lasted for less than a minute, but by the time it was over, Neal knew he could never let someone else spank his kid again. If Henry did something deserving, Neal would be the one doing the spanking. He hadn't expected to feel so strongly about it, but the need to protect and comfort his child was overpowering.
Rumple had been caught off guard when Neal pulled him into a hug, but once he'd realized what was happening, he didn't mind. It was maybe even a little nice. His father certainly had never been particularly affectionate, so it simply wasn't something he was used to. When he heard the first smack, he closed his eyes. He hadn't quite believed that they were planning on giving him the punishment of a four-year-old, but apparently it was true. He scowled when he heard the unholy fuss Henry was making over a few smacks. The boy was clearly coddled too often.
Neal let Rumple go when they heard the door open. David walked through, carrying Henry, who had his face buried in David's chest. Neal glared daggers at the man. David understood the look, and didn't let it phase him. It was the same look Emma had given him when he'd told her about Henry's first spanking.
"We'll wait here," David said, while rubbing a hand up and down Henry's back. He hoped that would prompt Neal to take care of Rumple instead of starting an argument with him about what had just happened. Neal clenched his jaw, tore his eyes away from the other man, and ushered Rumple into the room, shutting the door behind them with a soft click.
Once they were alone in the back room, Rumple fidgeted nervously, waiting for some kind of instruction. Neal looked down at his father, who seemed very small in this moment. He patted Rumple's shoulder in comfort, before walking over to pull the chair out from behind the desk. He sat down and waved for Rumple to come to him. Cringing when he realized the man meant to put him across his lap, Rumple took a tentative step forward and said, "I know I deserve to be punished, Sir, but…"
"It's Neal, not Sir."
"Sorry. Neal, don't you think going across your lap for a spanking is a bit childish? I'll be a man next year."
Neal smiled at that. It was difficult to think of a fourteen-year-old as an adult after all the time he'd spent in this world, and there was some humor in Rumple's statement, since the boy might be turned back into an actual adult in a couple of days. Neal put his elbows on his knees and said, "What do you suggest instead?"
Amazed that the man was asking his opinion, Rumple paused to think about it. It would hurt his pride a lot less if he weren't over a lap. "I'll bend over the desk."
Neal thought about it for a second, but quickly discarded the idea. Even if Rumple didn't know it, they were family, and in Neal's eyes the figure before him was very much a child still. He gestured to the boy again. "Come here."
Unsure if his suggestion had been taken into consideration or not, Rumple squared his shoulders and walked up to Neal. Once Rumple was close enough, Neal pulled the boy even closer, picked him up, and sat him down on his lap.
"S… Neal?" Rumple said, uncomfortable to be sitting on anyone's lap at his age.
Neal wrapped one arm around the boy's back resting his hand on Rumple's hip. "Look, I know you don't know me very well, but I'm not going to put you over a desk. You know why?"
Rumple shook his head.
"Because that's not how my father would have treated me. In fact, my father never even spanked me."
Rumple's eyes grew big. "Never?"
"Never," Neal said seriously. "But my mother did. She spanked me plenty of times in front of my father, too. He never disagreed with her about it, until the day she told me to bend over the kitchen table, and asked him for his belt. My father suddenly stood up and flat out told her no, surprising both of us. My parents went outside to talk for a few minutes, and when they came back in, my mom put me over her lap, and spanked me with her hand, like she always had before. I have no idea what my father said to her, but I do know that she never spanked me any other way."
"Not even when you were thirteen?"
"My mother was gone by the time I was thirteen, and my father used other methods of punishment." A few instances stood out in his mind, and because one was similar to what Rumple had just done, he decided to tell him. "One time some friends dared me to go into the woods by our village and bring back a forest flower as proof. I did it, even though my father had told me never to go into the woods, and I was supposed to be weeding the garden that day. When I came out of the woods holding the flower, my friends were all gone, and Papa was standing there waiting for me. He didn't hit me, he didn't yell, he knelt down, hugged me close, kissed the top of my head, and told me how relieved he was that I was safe. As we walked home together he told me that I'd lost some of his trust, and that I'd have to stay within his sight at all times for the next several days until he trusted me again."
Immediately seeing the connection, Rumple looked down at his lap and said, "I am sorry I left with Henry. I knew it was wrong."
"Apology accepted. But it was a dangerous thing to do, and since you're my… Since I'm the one who found you in this land, it's my job to keep you safe until we can get you home. I don't know if I'll be able to keep you in my sight at all times for the next couple of days until I can trust you again, so we're going to go with my mother's method of correction." With those words, he stood the boy up, maneuvered him to his right side, and looked him in the eye. "And if it's a little embarrassing for you to have a child's punishment, then maybe that will help the lesson stick."
Flushing with shame, Rumple nodded once in understanding.
Neal quickly pulled Rumple across his lap, and started swatting his backside at a fast pace, wanting to get it over with as quickly as possible.
Rumple grunted once at the first swat, and then held his breath for the next few. He put one hand on the floor, and grabbed one of the chair legs with the other, and held tight. The fast pace of the smacks made it very difficult to lie still, but he tried. His legs twitched a little, and muffled sounds of distress came from his throat. At least the quick swats helped him not to think about how humiliating it was to be across someone's lap having his bottom smacked. The last time that had happened to him, he'd been six.
Neal was surprised at Rumple's stoicism. When Neal was young, he'd never tried to be still or quiet during a spanking, and it made him wonder if he was leaving enough of an impression. He'd originally planned to give him the same number of swats that Henry had gotten, but he'd already given him ten, and the kid hadn't let out a single yelp. Neal aimed the swats a little lower, hitting the right sit spot four times in a row, and then put matching swats on the left
Rumple hissed, and whimpered a few times, finding it more difficult to keep quiet. A couple of tears spilled down his face, and he hoped it would be over soon.
Once Neal had given him a total of twenty swats, he stopped, believing it would be more than enough to make young Rumple think twice before disobeying again. He patted Rumple's back and said, "All done, you can get up."
Rumple surreptitiously wiped his cheeks with a sleeve, embarrassed that the childish punishment had caused him tears, and then pushed himself off Neal's lap.
Before the young version of his father could step away, Neal pulled him into a hug, and maneuvered him so that Rumple was sitting in his lap again. After a few moments of silent comfort, Neal said softly, "You took that surprisingly well. I hope it made an impression on you, because I'd hate to have to do it again, but I'd hate it even more if someone like Hook or Cora got a hold of you and hurt you."
Being in Neal's arms, comforted Rumple more than he thought it should. When Neal said he'd hate it if someone hurt him, Rumple felt a kind of familial bond that he hadn't felt in years. He hugged Neal back and said, "I promise not to disobey you again. When I agreed to be your apprentice, I promised to follow your instructions, but I didn't do that today. I've done a poor job of upholding my end of our deal, but from this point on, I swear I will do my best to do as you tell me."
"I appreciate that, but don't be too hard on yourself. You made one mistake, and you've already paid for it, so you're forgiven. We can start with a clean slate."
"Thank you, Neal. You're a kind and generous master."
Neal cringed. "That's worse than 'sir'. You may be my apprentice, but I'm not any kind of master craftsman, so please don't call me that." That wasn't exactly true. Neal was exceptionally good at his trade, and could probably be called a master at it, but thievery wasn't something he was proud of, or willing to teach anyone else.
He set the boy on his feet, moved the chair back to where it had been, and put a hand on Rumple's shoulder to lead him to the door.
# # #
As soon as the door to the back room had shut, David had carried Henry to the front of the store. He patted the kid's back once, and said, "Henry?"
"You need to apologize to both Neal and Emma."
"Okay," he said in a small voice.
"Good boy." David squeezed him close for a second, and then said, "How about we clean up some of this glass before we go?"
Henry lifted his face from his grandpa's chest, and looked at the glass on the shop floor. "I saw a broom and dustpan behind the counter earlier."
David set the boy down, and said, "Go get them while I look for a garbage can."
They worked together to clean up the mess, and as Henry was pouring a dustpan full of glass into the garbage, they overheard the faint sounds of smacking. Henry's eyebrows went up in surprise before scrunching together in a tiny glare. "You shouldn't have told Neal to do that. It was all my idea. Rumple didn't even want to go."
David shook his head. "He shouldn't have gone with you. He's the one Hook, and Cora, are after. If Neal can keep him safe later by being a little hard on him now, then yes he should do it."
Henry pouted and shook his head. He felt guilty for getting Rumple in trouble, and knew he'd be apologizing to him as well. Then he realized there was one more person on the list. He looked up at David and said, "I should apologize to Regina too."
David raised an eyebrow. "Why?"
"She uh… told me to stay in the living room, and to call Emma to let her know where I was. I told her I would, but… well I was lying."
David and Regina didn't agree on much, but in this instance, he had to admit that was what he would have told Henry to do as well. He handed Henry his cell phone and said, "Sounds like you have a call to make."
With a sigh, Henry took the phone and called Regina. By listening to Henry's side of the conversation, David gathered that Regina had already spoken with Emma, and knew Henry was safe. Henry gave a sincere apology, and then listened for a few minutes, while Regina was apparently lecturing him.
While Henry was on the phone, David finished cleaning up the glass, and noticed Neal and Rumple coming out from the back room. Once Neal was closer, David said, "I doubt anyone would dare steal something from Mr. Gold, but we should come back here later tonight and put some boards up on the door to keep the animals out."
"That's a good idea," Neal said. He hadn't given any thought to the store, but now that he was thinking about it, he agreed whole heatedly. Many thefts were crimes of opportunity. People who would never dream of breaking into a store might not have the same moral guidelines about taking something from a store that had no door on it.
Henry finished his call, and David nodded towards the sheriff's office. "Let's go. We'll discuss our next move with Emma and Snow."
As they were walking down the sidewalk with David in the lead, Henry fell in step beside Rumple and said quietly, "I'm really sorry I got you in trouble too. I had no idea Grandpa or Neal would even consider spanking you. I hope we can still be friends."
"Of course we can. Our friendship was never in question," Rumple said. He thought that Henry was a little bit spoiled, but he didn't think the other boy was in any way malicious. "I know you were only trying to help me."
"Thanks," Henry said with a grin.
Behind them, Neal overheard their exchange, and smiled. He walked up beside Henry, and put an arm around his shoulders. "Our first day together was kind of a disaster."
Henry leaned against Neal's side as they walked. "Yeah. Sorry I didn't stay where you told me to."
"I know you are. I'm sorry Hook wrecked the day for us." Neal reached over and put his other arm around Rumple's shoulders and said, "For all of us. How about we try it again tomorrow night if Emma lets us?"
"Yes! That would be great. Mom will let us, I'm sure she will."
Neal shook his head. "I wouldn't be so sure if I were you. You didn't see her face when we found out you guys were missing. You'll be lucky if she let's you go to school without a bodyguard."
Henry sighed, and started thinking about ways to convince his mother to let him spend time with his dad.