It’s only because of the rain that Martin ends up in the shop at all.
He should know better than to trust London weather in March, but it’s dry when he leaves the flat, and he isn’t going far—just to the Sainsbury’s ten minutes away for some bits and pieces. The clouds gathering overhead look a bit ominous, but Martin decides to take a chance on not going back for an umbrella. It looks as if it will hold off long enough.
It doesn’t, and he’s only halfway when it starts raining: fat, stinging drops that promise an imminent downpour. Martin glances around, considering his options. He could keep going and risk getting soaked, or he could duck into the Oxfam shop just across the road and hope that the shower passes quickly.
There’s a gust of cold wind, and the rain intensifies, hammering the pavement; that makes up Martin’s mind for him. He looks for a gap in the traffic, then darts across the road and into the shop. The bell over the door jingles cheerily as he enters, and the woman behind the counter looks up from the book she’s reading and gives him a smile.
“Starting to look nasty out there,” she comments, then returns to her book. The two other customers in the shop ignore him.
The space is small and cluttered, in the normal way of charity shops. The center is taken up by railings of clothes, with displays of ornaments and jewelry and accessories along the walls. Martin starts by looking through the clothes; he’s done plenty of his shopping in Oxfam over the years, and working his way along the tightly packed rails is familiar and oddly comforting. He finds a pretty nice Zelda shirt that looks like his size—he might buy it on his way out.
The rain is still coming down when he’s done browsing the clothes, so he wanders around the rest of the displays. In a glass case of jewelry, he sees a thin silver bracelet that he thinks would look lovely on Jon. Martin wouldn’t buy it without consulting him, of course; Jon is extremely picky about jewelry, for both sensory and aesthetic reasons. There’s also a vintage-style record player in surf green that Martin immediately covets. He knows he doesn’t own enough vinyl to justify the price tag, so he reluctantly walks away from it and over to the bookshelves in the corner.
The book selection is fairly standard: a handful of Harry Potters, techno thrillers and romances, some assorted sci fi and a few obscure reference books. Martin skims without much hope, until one spine catches his eye, pale yellow and titled in a vibrant, curling pink script:
Mrs. Meek’s Guide For Good Housekeepers
He isn’t sure what draws him to tug the book out of its place on the shelf, other than the fact that it looks properly old. It has a pleasing weight in his hand, and the cover has a soft, well-worn feel to it that tells him it’s as old as it looks. The front cover repeats the title, offset against an illustration of a smiling woman wearing a canary yellow dress and a white apron patterned with strawberries. Out of habit, Martin cracks it carefully open to look at the inside cover.
There’s no name plate; not a Leitner, then. He smiles. Of course not—it’s a cookbook, how harmful could it be?
Martin flicks through the pages. It’s not so much a cookbook as it is a full domestic handbook. It’s written in an old-fashioned, conversational style, presented by the titular Mrs. Meek, under headings such as “Greeting Your Husband After His Demanding Day” and “Putting Your Best Foot Forward In Company.” There’s even a section on “Satisfying Your Marital Obligations” that's couched in so much euphemism it’s almost unintelligible. The whole thing is a bit quaint, when viewed from the distance of half a century and more.
There actually is a whole chapter on cookery, and between the gelatin salad and molded mousse, there are a few recipes that look halfway interesting. Martin considers, glancing at the price sticker on the back cover. It’s only three pounds, and if he’s honest, he could see himself making one or two of the kitschier dishes for a party, just for fun. And he’d like to show the book to Jon, who will definitely find it amusing.
Martin turns it over and looks at the front cover again. The woman is still smiling brightly, one hand on her cocked hip and the other raised invitingly. Something blooms in his chest at the sight of her immaculate outfit, her contented expression. Envy? Longing? It’s silly, but she looks so perfectly gratified in her role: she is a Good Housekeeper, and she knows it. Martin’s never been even half that sure of himself.
He shakes his head at the flight of fancy. It’s just a book. Mrs. Meek—if that’s who the woman on the cover is supposed to be—isn’t even real. He’s being ridiculous.
Martin takes the book and grabs the Zelda t-shirt on his way up to the counter. Outside, the rain has stopped as suddenly as it started.
“Looks like it was only a quick shower,” Martin comments, nodding at the window. The woman gives him a confused look as she rings up his purchases.
“Bit long for that, don’t you think?” she says. Martin’s not going to quibble over what length of time technically counts as a shower versus a proper rainfall, so he just thanks her and takes the bag she hands him.
He makes it the rest of the way to Sainsbury’s with no further interruptions, does his shopping, and heads home. When he sets the bags down on the kitchen counter, the clock on the oven reads twenty past three. Martin frowns. He was sure it was only two o’clock when he went out. How on earth was he gone for that long? Did he spend longer than he realized in the charity shop?
“Must be losing my mind,” he mutters, and starts unpacking the groceries. Vegetables, chicken, a jar of the hot curry paste Jon loves for cooking, cream of mushroom soup—
Martin frowns and turns the tin over in his hand. He’s fairly sure he didn’t buy cream of mushroom soup. He certainly didn’t intend to, yet it was in his bag, packed neatly between a head of broccoli and a block of cheddar. Could he have picked it up without realizing it? Maybe that’s why he was gone for longer than he thought—did he space out for half an hour in Sainsbury’s? When he tries to think back to the details of his shopping trip, a strange vertigo washes over him; he feels dizzy, his stomach clenching nauseously. He leans against the counter, breathing hard.
“All right, Martin, calm down,” he tells himself, trying to imagine it in Jon’s voice. There’s no point getting himself worked up over a tin of soup. Everyone goes wool gathering once in a while, it doesn’t mean anything. He takes his phone out and sends Jon a text:
<<Bought soup while I was daydreaming and then freaked out about it. So how’s your day going?>>
Jon’s at work today—when he’s engrossed with a case, he doesn’t respect the sanctity of weekends in the slightest—so he won’t see it for a while. Still, just putting the feeling into words makes Martin feel better. He finishes putting the shopping away, including the offending soup. He sets the kettle to boil while he tries on the new shirt in the bathroom; it fits perfectly, and Martin decides to leave it on. Then he makes a cup of tea and sits down with Mrs. Meek, flipping idly through the pages.
“Your husband works hard and tirelessly to provide for his family,” the book says. “His home should be a respite from the stresses of the workplace, his wife’s presence a soothing balm. Whatever troubles you might encounter throughout your day, do not make them his; dress your best and apply a fresh coat of lipstick, so you can greet him at the door with a cheery smile.”
Martin gives a snort that’s halfway between amusement and distaste. It’s ridiculous, but it also makes him sad to think that people really thought that way about their spouses. His phone vibrates, and he sees that Jon has replied to his text:
<<Getting lots done, I’ve been in the library most of the day. Are you okay? I can call if you want to talk?>>
Martin considers for a moment, biting his lip. It would be nice to talk to Jon. He’s still feeling oddly unsettled, and Jon always has a way of grounding him. But when he thinks about what actually happened, it feels such a silly thing to be upset about. And Jon’s busy, Martin doesn’t want to bother him. They can talk about it when he gets home.
<<I’m fine, it was really nothing.>>
<<If you’re sure. I’ll be home around five. Love you.>>
Martin sets his phone down again, feeling better for the brief connection. It’s almost four o’clock, so he should decide on what to cook for dinner, unless they want to get takeaway for the third night running. Noodle stir fry is always a good, easy choice. Or he could bang some chicken breasts and veggies in the oven and make a sort of Sunday roast? He flips to the recipe section of the Guide For Good Housekeepers, just to see, and the page opens on “Chicken Casserole Suprême.”
The dish looks straightforward and takes about an hour to prepare. Martin skims the ingredient list: chicken, rice, broccoli, onion, some basic seasonings, and cream of mushroom soup.
“Well,” he mutters. “That’s convenient.” That sense of unease is crawling up his spine again, but Martin dismisses it; he’s being silly, it’s a coincidence. He’s only making something of it because it’s been sort of a weird afternoon. In fact, this explains why he picked up the soup: he noticed the dish subconsciously while he was browsing the book and the idea stuck in his head. Everything’s fine.
“Better get to it, then,” Martin tells himself. It would be nice to have dinner ready when Jon gets home, so they at least have Sunday evening to enjoy together.
He turns on the radio and flips stations until he finds music. It’s something old fashioned, a brassy tune that makes his toes want to tap, and Martin does a little shimmy as he heads into the kitchen. He starts pulling out ingredients and utensils, and spends way too long looking for the casserole dish; eventually he finds it hidden behind the colander, which was definitely Jon’s doing after the last time he made shepherd’s pie. He sets the oven to heat up, and opens the drawer where the oven gloves live.
When he takes the gloves out, he sees a square of folded up fabric underneath, white with a pattern of strawberries. Martin frowns, and pulls it out. It falls open and reveals itself as an apron—full length, with a loop for your neck and long tie strings.
“Where did you come from?” he wonders. Martin doesn’t recall ever buying an apron, and he’s never seen Jon wear one. It’s not a bad idea, though, to prevent his new t-shirt getting splattered. Jon will probably find it amusingly domestic, and Martin always enjoys making him smile. He drops the loop over his head and ties the strings securely around his waist. The apron has a slightly stiff, starched quality to it, but it feels pleasant, settled across his front and snug around his hips. It feels...proper.
“Right,” Martin says, and gets to work. The next while is a comfortable blur of chopping and boiling and stirring. Lively music plays as he cooks, and Martin finds himself humming along to tunes he’d swear he’s never heard, but that seem disarmingly familiar. He dances through the motions while pans sizzle and pots bubble, and by the time he slides the casserole dish into the oven and shuts its door, sweat is beading his brow.
Martin stands up and looks at the clock with satisfaction: twenty to five, and Mrs. Meek tells him the dish takes half an hour to bake. It should be just about ready when Jon gets home from the office, giving Martin time to freshen up. He takes a quick shower, then towels off and pats himself down with talcum powder; Mrs. Meek recommends it above perfume for a subtle, pleasant scent without being overly provocative. He doesn’t fuss with his hair, just runs damp fingers through the curls so they’re playfully tousled, the way Jon likes them.
In the bedroom, the dress is spread out waiting for him, its canary yellow folds almost glowing against the pale blue of the duvet. Martin can scarcely take his eyes off it.
Beside it lies a set of underwear in candy pink: silk panties and a lacy bralette. Martin puts them on, the fabric soft against his skin. His cock makes an unsightly bulge in the front of the panties, and he adjusts it with a resigned sigh; he has to work with what he’s been given.
The dress fits perfectly, cap sleeves and sweetheart neckline leading down to a fitted waist, the pleats of the skirt falling around his knees with a gentle swish. A feeling of rightness settles in Martin’s chest along with it.
The shoes are the same pink as his underwear. They’re only kitten heels, but Martin still feels his calf muscles tighten and his back arch into the correct posture. He scrutinizes himself in the mirror, turning side to side and smoothing imagined wrinkles out of the folds of his dress. It’s almost perfect, there’s just still something missing.
Of course! Martin heads back to the bathroom, and finds a brass lipstick tube by the sink. He parts his lips in a smile to paint pink across his cupid’s bow and the plump curve of his lower lip. Martin purses his lips with a faint smack to ensure the color is even. A quick pinch of his cheeks to bring up their color, and he nods in satisfaction. He looks sweet and proper, but just playful enough to tempt the eye of a red-blooded man, as Mrs. Meek says.
The smell of the casserole cooking is starting to permeate the kitchen when Martin emerges. He checks to make sure it’s coming together, and then pops the strawberry patterned apron back over his head, tying it firmly around his waist. Jon should know he’s been slaving in a hot kitchen, after all. Another tune comes on the radio as Martin goes and sits in the living room, legs crossed demurely at the ankle, reading through the Guide For Good Housekeepers as he waits.
Jon hurries home from the Tube station, sweating beneath his coat and with his satchel clutched against his hip to stop it bouncing. It’s rather too late to claim “around five”—almost half past—and Martin will probably be annoyed at him for wasting their precious evening together. He was already, understandably, a bit put out that Jon went to work at all today, and Jon doesn’t want to disappoint him further.
He’s also concerned, after Martin’s earlier text messages. Martin always underplays his own feelings, but Jon could read the anxiety behind his lighthearted tone. Spacing out at the shops almost certainly doesn’t mean anything, other than maybe Martin needs to get an early night, but he could probably use some affection and reassurance, and that Jon can gladly provide.
The smell of cooking greets him as he opens the front door—some kind of stew or casserole, he thinks. Jon sets his satchel down in their little hallway and hangs his coat on the hook by the door; as he’s kicking his shoes off, the door to the kitchen opens.
“Welcome home, dear, how was your day?” Martin greets him happily. Martin, who is dressed in clothes Jon has never seen before: a yellow dress in a flared, vintage style, a strawberry-print apron, and dusky pink heels. His lips are painted with matching color. He’s smiling sweetly at Jon, his hands clasped in front of him at the waist, holding what looks like a pair of tartan slippers.
“H-hi, Martin,” says Jon, taken aback. It’s not that he objects to what Martin’s wearing, he’s just a bit surprised. Martin tends towards jeans and hoodies, for the most part, and Jon’s never seen him in a dress or high heels. Jon didn’t even know he owned any clothes like this, in fact. He’s not sure if he should draw attention to the look, or if Martin would prefer he ignore it.
“I like your dress?” he ventures; it looks very pretty, the bright color complementing Martin’s auburn hair and rosy-fair complexion. Martin beams.
“Thank you, Jon, you’re so thoughtful! Here, I’ve warmed your slippers up for you.” Martin holds them up for inspection and walks over to Jon, his heels clicking on the floor. Before Jon can protest that he doesn’t own a pair of slippers, Martin is crouching down and sliding first one, then the other, onto his socked feet. The slippers are soft, wool-lined, and very warm, just as Martin promised.
“Oh! Ah, thank you,” Jon says. Martin must have picked these up for him today, maybe on one of his charity shop runs. That’s probably where he got his own outfit as well, now that Jon thinks about it. Martin gets to his feet, still smiling, and leans in to peck Jon on the cheek. There’s a faint, flowery scent about him.
“You’re welcome, dear,” he says. “Dinner’s almost ready, if you’d like to come through?” He turns on his heel, the skirt of his dress rustling, and heads for the kitchen with a crisp click-click-click of heels.
Jon follows, feeling a bit dazed. He’s not quite sure what this is all about: Martin dressed like a vintage catalogue model, going to his knees to place slippers on Jon’s feet. He’d almost think this was a kink scene, some sort of domestic roleplay, except he trusts that Martin wouldn’t initiate something like that without discussing it with him first. It’s all a bit bewildering, honestly.
Still, he reasons, there’s no cause to make a fuss. Martin seems happy, not upset or worried as his earlier texts had suggested, so maybe this was his way of taking his mind off things. Jon will ask him about it, make sure he’s okay, but they can at least enjoy dinner together first, after Martin went to all the trouble. And it does smell very good.
Their small dining table is set with cutlery and carefully folded serviettes—Jon didn’t even know they owned serviettes—with tall candles flickering in the middle. They generally eat meals from the coffee table, side by side on the sofa, so this is an unusual occurrence. Jon has a moment of panic where he wonders if he’s forgotten their anniversary or some other event, but no, he has reminders set well in advance for all the important dates.
“What’s the occasion?” he asks. Martin smiles, his lips stretching wide, and offers him a glass of pale yellow wine.
“No occasion,” he says. “I just like to take care of my h—of you. You work hard, and you deserve a nice meal when you get home.”
“Oh, well, thank you—this is very nice.”
“Sit down,” Martin directs him with a wave. “I’ll be serving shortly.”
Jon sits down at the table while Martin goes to the oven. His heels click sharply on the tile. He picks up a tea towel patterned with twining flowers and opens the oven door, bending to look inside. The yellow dress flirts around the tops of his calves, the plump, taut lines of them leading down to those pink staccato heels. Jon suddenly feels very warm; he takes a swig of his wine, which is cold and crisp with a hint of sweetness.
Martin bustles around in the kitchen for several minutes, while Jon continues sipping his wine. The sweet taste gets stronger with each mouthful, and he finds himself chasing the flavor with his tongue, trying to identify it. He’s still thinking about it when Martin leans past him to set down a plate of food, his shoulder brushing against Jon’s, that flowery scent wafting up from the neckline of his dress.
Dinner is a savory casserole. It tastes good, Jon thinks, though if you asked him to describe the dish’s texture or ingredients he’s not sure he could. It’s good, though, he’s sure. Homemade is always best.
Martin sits across the table, eating his own meal and smiling brightly at Jon. He asks about Jon’s day in a light, cheerful tone; Jon is sure he answers the questions, though he’s less certain of what he actually says. The candles cast a soft glow across Martin’s skin. It doesn’t actually suit him, Jon thinks idly; the light is too yellow, and makes him look faintly ill.
“How do you like the casserole?” Martin asks at one point, his tone hopeful. Jon smiles. He knows Martin’s angling for a compliment, and he can humor that.
“It’s delicious,” he says. Martin smiles shyly, blushing a little at his approval.
“I got the recipe from Mrs. Meek,” he says, and Jon nods. Mrs. Meek never steers them wrong.
Who on earth is Mrs. Meek? comes an intrusive thought, its tone sharp and anxious. Jon dismisses it. Of course he knows Mrs. Meek, Martin practically swears by her.
“Homemade is always best,” he says, echoing his own earlier thought. Martin smiles widely, and nods in agreement.
“That’s what Mrs. Meek says.”
Dinner finishes at some point, and Jon finds himself on the sofa, working through some case notes while Martin clears the table. It’s hard to concentrate; the light in the room is low and yellow, and reading makes him feel sick. It’s warm, too. Jon thinks maybe he should open a window, but the thought skitters away before he can do anything about it. Across the room Martin is washing dishes, humming along with the old fashioned music on the radio. Jon frowns, a strange feeling nagging at him. Should he...be the one washing up? Martin cooked dinner, after all.
He shakes his head. No, that’s silly. Jon’s out at work all day, why would he be doing housework on top of that?
But Martin works too, at the Institute, comes another thought in that same intrusive voice from earlier. Jon doesn’t like the voice, it’s shrill and scared, and the things it says make no sense in a way that hurts his head. He scowls.
“How about a cup of tea, darling?” Martin calls from the kitchen. Yes, a cup of tea will set things right.
“Yes, lovely,” Jon replies, and Martin starts filling the kettle, still humming. Jon tries to look at his case notes again, but the text swims in front of his eyes, unreadable, and he sets them down on the table. He looks up at the click-click of Martin’s heels across the floor, cup of tea in hand.
“Here you go,” says Martin with a smile. As he reaches to set the cup down he stumbles, catches himself, but the tea sloshes wildly over the rim, splashing across the coffee table and the case notes, milky brown soaking rapidly into the white paper.
“Oh, I’m sorry!” Martin cries, but the damage is done. Jon surveys the mess, then looks up at Martin, who’s clasped his hands by his mouth as if that would do any good. Typical, Jon thinks. Martin means well, but he’s clumsy, always making a mess. Jon isn’t angry, because you can’t expect too much from a housewife, can you? But he also can’t let this go unpunished; it’s the only way Martin will learn.
“Clean this up,” he orders, and is gratified when Martin jumps to obey. Fortunately the case notes were copies, so there’s no real harm done, just mess and disorder disrupting what should be a relaxing evening. Jon has enough stress at work, he doesn’t need it in his home life as well. Martin throws the ruined papers in the bin at Jon’s instruction, and rushes back and forth with kitchen roll, mopping up the liquid. He stands in front of Jon when it’s clean, looking contrite, which Jon has no doubt he is.
“I’m so sorry, Jon,” he says again. “I’ll make you another cup of tea—”
“There’s no need,” Jon says. “But you know there have to be consequences, don’t you? You spoiled my whole evening’s work, which means I’ll have even more to do tomorrow.”
Martin flinches minutely. “Jon, I—”
“No excuses,” Jon tells him firmly. “Lift up your skirt, and lie down over my knee.”
“Please, Jon, it was an accident!” Martin is blushing with embarrassment, almost squirming, and Jon almost considers letting him off with a lesson learned. Almost.
“I know it was an accident, but you need to learn to be more careful. This is for your own good.”
Martin nods, still flushed with embarrassment, and rucks his skirt up around his waist. He’s wearing pink panties that match his shoes, Jon notices; Martin really can be a little tease when he wants to. He spreads his legs wide enough to support Martin’s frame, then pats one thigh firmly.
Martin lies down across his lap, a warm, pleasing weight. That floral scent fills Jon’s nostrils again, and he recognizes it as talcum powder. He runs a hand up the back of Martin’s thigh to the round globes of his arse, palming it through those silky pink panties. Martin gives a startled little intake of breath, and Jon squeezes firmly, enjoying the feel of soft, ripe flesh. This is his husbandly duty, but it doesn’t have to be an unpleasant one. He tugs the panties roughly down at the back, just far enough to expose Martin’s cheeks. His skin is creamy and freckled beneath it, almost begging for a few good smacks.
The first blow impacts with a satisfying crack, and Jon’s hand stings warmly. Martin flinches, gasps, and Jon places a hand comfortingly on his back, rubbing circles.
“Shh,” he soothes. “Remember, this is for your good. To help you learn.”
The second blow lands in the same spot, and to his credit Martin stays still. Another, and the skin is already going pink. Jon wonders if he can get it to match the shade of those panties, and he smiles to himself as he smacks that lush cheek once again, harder this time. The flesh quivers delightfully, and Martin whimpers faintly, but doesn’t move.
Jon’s palm is starting to hurt, and the last thing he needs is to injure his hand before work tomorrow. He considers for a moment, then leans forward, reaching for his feet. Apparently thinking the punishment is done, Martin begins to wriggle out of his lap, but Jon hooks an arm around his waist.
“Ah-ah,” he says. “We’re not finished yet, sweetheart.” He takes off his slipper, and presses the cool leather of its sole against Martin’s heated skin. Martin makes a soft, surprised sound at that, and then cries out in earnest when the leather strikes his right cheek. The sound is intoxicating, and Jon scatters blows eagerly across Martin’s arse and thighs, enjoying how the skin shades from pink into red, how Martin cries out sweetly, the fabric of his dress rustling as he writhes in Jon’s lap.
Jon feels a wet spot forming in the fabric of his trousers, and realizes that Martin’s cock is hard against his thigh. Honestly, Jon thinks reproachfully, This was supposed to be a punishment. He sets the slipper down, sliding his free hand beneath Martin’s body to confirm. He feels the rigid shape of Martin’s erection tenting out his panties, a messy wet spot in the silk where he’s leaking pre-come. Martin moans shamelessly as Jon fondles him, rutting into his hand. Jon ignores the heat that coils in his belly at Martin’s reaction.
“You really are hopeless, aren’t you?” he observes. “I try to teach you a lesson for your own benefit, and you’re enjoying it like—like some sort of slut off the street!”
“I’m sorry,” Martin whines, his hips still moving. “I didn’t mean to, I can’t help it.”
“You can’t, can you?’ says Jon, stroking his cock. Martin moans in agreement, thrusting against his hand, and Jon feels an indulgent sort of fondness towards him. He sighs.
“I suppose it’s not your fault. You can’t help being a silly little slut.” He runs his free hand over the hot, tender skin of Martin’s arse, and then gets an idea. He pops a finger into his mouth, slicking it with saliva, and presses it against the tight pucker of Martin’s hole. Jon pushes inside without ceremony, and Martin whines at the intrusion, thrusting frantically into his hand.
“It’s just lucky you have a decent husband to take care of you,” Jon tells him, and Martin comes with a helpless cry, his arse clenching around Jon’s finger while he shakes and squirms, semen soaking through the fabric of his panties.
Jon strokes his hair affectionately as he quiets, and then helps Martin to sit up on the sofa. He’s flushed and disheveled, tears leaking from his eyes. His panties are smeared wet, and he starts tugging his skirt down to cover himself, a ridiculous effort at modesty. Jon smiles.
“Go and clean yourself up,” he says. “And then, how about that tea?”