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Despite the panic and anger Calogero felt as his friends decided on their plan, having Sonny all but pull him out of the car by his ear was not the out he wanted. He could feel his face heating up as Sonny gripped his arm, feeling more like a scolded child than someone only months away from his eighteenth birthday.
“You punks stay away from my boy—you pull this shit, you leave him out of it, or next time you’re all dead.” Sonny growled at his friends, just as angry as he had been back in the bar. “You’ve been warned, now get the fuck outta here!”
At the thought of before, Calogero’s face changed, frustration replacing embarrassment as he jerked his arm out of the mobster’s grasp.
“What the hell is wrong with you?” Sonny asked, glancing down to the weapon in his hand. Calogero has forgotten about Slick’s gun, his eyes widening as he tried to hide it behind his back. With one motion of Sonny’s hand, he handed it over, cringing slightly at the disgusted look on his mentor’s face as he turned it over in his hands. “Come with me, C.”
“No, not so you can—“
“I wasn’t asking your permission!” Sonny growled, grabbing him by the arm before he pulled him down the sidewalk.
Calogero had expected to be taken back to the bar, where he’d get the beatdown of a lifetime for a crime he didn’t commit, but it didn’t take long before he realized that they were going two streets too far for their destination to be The Chez Bippy. Instead, they walked towards the apartment buildings a couple blocks from his house, Sonny’s face a mixture of frustration and something C had never seen before. “Where’re we goin’?”
“My place,” he replied calmly. “You an’ I need to have a talk.”
Calogero had never thought of where Sonny lived, let alone that he might live in one of the apartments on Belmont Avenue. Hell, the only places the Capo was ever seen were his street corner and The Chez Bippy, to the point that C had once believed he lived in the bar. As he was pushed into a rather clean apartment, it took a moment for him to realize he was actually in the mafioso’s home. It was almost too normal to belong to him, what must have been family photos on the side table next to the couch and an old newspaper on top of the television. His curiosity was cut short as Sonny put his jacket on the kitchen table, taking the time to calmly roll up his sleeves.
“Those guys are gonna get you killed,” he started, shaking his head as he unloaded the pistol.
“They’re my friends— they told me not to worry.”
“If friends like that tell you not to worry, that’s the time to start worrying, kid.” Sonny said incredulously, tossing the empty gun aside.
“Why do you care? You were ready to kill me before!” Calogero snapped, scowling in frustration at the lecture. “You ever think maybe the bomb was already in the car when I picked it up? That I coulda gotten killed? I started the car before you, Sonny. You ever think of that?”
“It’s always a friend that does the deed.”
“Don’t you trust anybody?”
“No, I can’t.” Sonny replied, and the silence that overtook the room was almost more than he could bear.
“That’s a sad way to live, Sonny.”
“For me, it’s the only way.”
There were thousands of things Calogero wanted to say, but all of them were silenced by that same look in Sonny’s eye from before— the one he couldn’t decide the meaning of. It reminded him of the way his father looked after they had fought, frustration and worry all mixed in one glance. He cut that train of thought off before it could make him feel even more guilty, looking at the floor. “It’s not for me.”
“That’s right,” Sonny replied. “This life ain’t for you. People die, remember?”
“Yeah, I remember…” Calogero replied sarcastically, looking up just in time for Sonny to round on him, gripping his chin in one hand to make him meet the Capo’s eyes.
“You’re better than this, C.” He said sternly, every word causing his stomach to twist. “Do something with your life, you hear me?”
Calogero couldn’t meet his eyes for long, staring at anything but Sonny to keep from having to acknowledge his words. After a moment, Sonny let go of his chin, and he moved to the door, only for his mentor to grab him by the scruff of the neck.
“We ain’t done, kid.” He said, turning him around. “We need to talk about you going around with a gun and almost throwing your life away for someone who wouldn’t do anything for you.”
“I told you, they said not to—“
“— and I told you that you should be worried when they say that. Do you realized how things would have ended up if you pulled the trigger? I’m not just talking about you getting hurt, but an all-out war between the kids from Webster and you kids from Belmont— and not just you kids, but with everything that’s happened the past year, a war between every white and black person in this city.” Sonny said, still holding him tightly by his arm. “If one of my crew did something like this, they’d find themselves beaten into the pavement… I can’t do that to you, though.”
“Sonny, I’m sorry—“
“I know you are,” Sonny interrupted,  sitting on the couch. “That doesn’t mean you’re gonna get off easy, though. Come here, an’ take off your jacket. I’m doing what I should have done the moment those friends of yours started making trouble an’ you followed along.”
Calogero nervously stepped forwards, glancing between the door and his mentor as he took off the jacket, putting it on the arm of the couch. “What are you—“
“I’m about to take you over my knee and bust your sorry ass for not only putting yourself in danger, but everyone else.” He replied nonchalantly, taking him by the arm and leading him closer.
If it hadn’t been for the fact Sonny was holding onto Calogero, he might have actually run for the door… and, if he was being honest to himself, he did try despite knowing that he wasn’t letting go for anything.
“Sonny, you can’t!” He said quickly, his stomach sinking to his feet as he tried to pull away. “I’m not a little kid anymore— even my old man hasn’t done that in a while!”
“Then maybe it’s time someone did!” Sonny said, face stern as he gripped the teenager’s arm in a vice. “Now, you can either take your punishment here , or I can take you to the bar where everyone else can watch. Which will it be?”
There was something about the man’s voice that told Calogero that it wasn’t an empty threat, but an actual promise that he’d easily go through with. He shifted from foot to foot, his face heating up as he realized that, no matter what he said or did, he’d be getting spanked by Sonny, and he wasn’t going to go easy on him. Muttering under his breath as his head dropped in defeat— although it was closer to a whine than a groan— he allowed himself to be pulled over his lap, reddened face buried into the cushion as he decided he wouldn’t let the mafioso see him cry.
“I don’t care what those three are telling you to do, C, you use your damn head and recognize that they’re gonna find trouble if they go looking for it.” Sonny could feel the boy tense with every move he made as he rolled up his sleeves, cuff links clattering on the coffee table as he tossed them aside. “You’re smarter than that.”
Calogero was about to answer when the first swat broke his concentration, a strangled yelp breaking the stony silence as his mentor began to build up a steady rhythm. He hadn’t expected it to be so hard to start off, but every swat was quickly replaced by another, never in the same spot more than once. The pledge he had made to himself earlier was broken by the fifteenth swat— he couldn’t help but count, anything to distract him from the sting— his entire body jolting every time Sonny’s hand connected with his rear end. Tears formed in his eyes as he reached the thirtieth, unable to keep himself from gasping and squirming every time the man’s hand came down.
“Since you were a kid, I’ve told you to use your talents— not waste them hanging around a bunch of crazies and assholes.” Sonny lectured, his voice surprisingly even despite the power between every swat. Every three or so words were punctuated with a stinging hit that left him breathless, only getting harder as time went on. “Go to college, do the right thing; was that all wasted on you?”
“Sonny, I’m sorry,” Calogero gasped, tears in his eyes from both the spanking and the disappointment in his voice. He tried to twist away, but a firm hand in the middle of his back kept him in place. “ Please , I’ll listen from now on!”
“I know, kid,” he said gently, running his fingers through the teenager’s dark hair. “I want you to stand up— we ain’t finished just yet.” He waited until he had gotten his feet to continue, once again holding Calogero in place, although he looked less flighty than he had before. “I want your pants off all the way, and you’re gonna go back over my knee, understand?”
“Sonny, I won’t ever hang around those guys again, I promise!”
“I know you won’t, or I’ll bring you right back here and we’ll do it all over again until you get it right.” Sonny replied, his expression stony as he crossed his arms over his chest. “I told you what I want, C— if I have to do it for you, then you’ll be in more trouble than you’re already in.”
Calogero whined under his breath as he finally unbuckled his belt, eyes on the ground as he pulled his pants down and stepped out of them, setting them beside his jacket. He felt too exposed in just his boxers, rubbing the sore skin with one hand as he shakily went back over his knee. He was almost more nervous than he had been at the beginning, gripping the edge of the cushion as Sonny placed a comforting hand on the back of his neck, letting him catch his breath.
“I ain’t doing this because I’m angry at you, or because I’m trying to hurt you, C.” He said, quietly taking in the teenager’s body language. He waited until Calogero was more relaxed before he began again, keeping the hand on his neck for support as he increased the pace and intensity. The response was almost instant, the teenager squirming and whimpering before the first dozen swats landed on his thinly-clothed rear. “I want you to learn a lesson from tonight, and not just about your friends. I don’t keep telling you to continue with school because I think you’re not good enough for my crew, but because you’re better than my crew.”
“What about, ‘the working man’s a—‘“ Calogero began, but cut himself off as five sharp hits to the tops of his thighs caused him to swear loudly, one hand braced on Sonny’s knee.
“You are not in the position to turn my words against me.” He chided, reaching over to put his hand back in front of him. “That would only work if your talent was going to be wasted in an assembly line or a bus for the rest of your life. I’m not saying for you to take the first job that offers you more than most; I’m telling you to go to college and make something of yourself that you can keep on the books.”
Calogero kept his mouth shut after the warning, his thighs still stinging long after the attention was moved back to the rest of his rear. He no longer knew which hurt worse, Sonny’s lecture or the spanking, but he was starting to find it hard to stay still and quiet, every strike causing him to whimper and kick as he tried to find some relief from the relentless swats. He wiped away his tears with the back of his hand, kicking wildly as the focus moved back to the tops of his thighs.
“No, please, Sonny, I can’t!” He said through his tears, trying to push his way off of his mentor’s lap. In one move, Sonny used his leg to pin his legs down, firmly moving his hand to the center of his back in order to keep him still. Without caring how he looked to the mafioso, he tried to block the swats with his hand, still trying to kick despite the restrictions.
“We aren’t even close to done, C. You know what they say: a punishment doesn’t start until you want it to end.” Sonny replied sternly, taking his hand and pinning it to the small of his back. He struggled against him despite the odds far from being in his favor, wailing loudly as Sonny continued to punish him. After what felt like hours, he gave him a moment, rubbing his back as he waited for the boy to calm down. “I’m gonna need you to stand up and take your underwear down before you bend over the arm of the couch for this one, and then we’ll be done.”
“Can’t I just keep my boxers on?” He pleaded, hiding his face in his arms.
“Sure, but you’d be getting double what you’d get without ‘em.” Sonny replied calmly, giving him a moment to think over his decision as he got the unloaded gun off of the table, placing it in front of him on the couch. “It’ll literally be double or nothing.”
Calogero got up without much of a fight, ignoring the joke for the time being, whimpering as he fervently rubbed at the bruised skin. He gave his mentor a nervous look as he tugged at his waistband, regretting everything he had done since leaving Sonny’s bar. He finally got the courage to relinquish his modesty . As he bent over the couch, he heard the sound of Sonny’s belt buckle, his eyes widening as he turned around. His father had always used that as a worst-case scenario, only actually going through with the threat once or twice.  “Not the belt, please Sonny! I can’t—“
“You can, and you will, C.” He replied firmly, pushing him back down over the arm of the couch with one hand as he looped the belt around his other. “I told you I’se gonna teach you a lesson you wouldn’t forget, an’ this is how I’m going to make sure it gets through your head. Now, you’re going to get ten, and while I’m tanning your hide—“
“—Sonny, I won’t do it again, you don’t have to—“
“—and I ain’t holding back on any of them! Quit trying to talk me out of it, or you’ll get fifteen instead.” Sonny interrupted, giving him a sharp swat on his bare backside for his trouble. “As I was saying, while I’m tanning your hide, I want you to look at that gun and think of all the ways you or someone else could have gotten hurt if you’d gone through with that joyride your friends planned. While you’re thinking of that, why don’t you also think of all the ways you could have ruined any chance at being someone by following their lead. Am I clear?”
“Yes sir…” Calogero replied after a moment of silence, staring mournfully at the pistol in front of him.
He didn’t know what he had been expecting, but the bite of the belt against his bare skin was something that he’d forgotten about. As the first strike came down, he gasped, the pain of the earlier spanking nothing like the belt. He barely had time before the second hit came, the crack of leather on skin almost drowned out his common sense as he tried to straighten up, only for Sonny to push him back down.
“Eight more to go, kid.” He said, rubbing his back for a moment before he laid another one down on the bare skin, crossing over the tops of his thighs. He really wasn’t holding back with this one, every swing of the belt as hard as he could without actually hurting the boy. Calogero was already out of breath as it was by the fourth strike, both hands gripping the arm of the couch as he fought the urge to get out of position, the fifth one enough to send him over the edge, tears spilling down his cheeks.
“No more, Sonny, I can’t take any more!” He begged, breathing ragged as he blocked his bottom with both hands.
His only response was to take both of his arms and pin them behind his back, the boy’s feet barely touching the ground in his attempt to move out of the way as the sixth swat cracked down across the center.
“I’ll give you the last four hard and fast, C.” He said, giving him a moment to try and catch his breath as he prepared for the rest. He could feel him tense up in anticipation, his face buried in the cushion.
Just as he promised, they came one after another, Calogero howling in pain as he took the last of his licks. Sonny let go of his arms, gently kneading away the tension in his neck and shoulders as he cried. He reached down and helped him pull his boxers up, gently rubbing his back as he found the strength to push himself off of the couch and into the man’s arms.
“There we go, kid, all done— just like I promised.” Sonny whispered, gently leading him back to the couch, Calogero wincing in pain as he sat down. He most likely had more than a couple bruises, and he wouldn’t be sitting down comfortably for days, but it didn’t seem so bad from his place in his mentor’s arms. Sobs turned to hiccups, then hiccups to even breaths, his face buried into Sonny’s chest as he stroked his back and whispered soothing things into his hair. Finally, Sonny pulled him close, hugging him tightly.
“You don’t know what was going through my head when I saw you cruising around with those dumbasses.” He finally said, and Calogero finally placed what that look in his eye was. “I was wrong to go after you earlier, I know that now, but you can’t go ruining your life in the heat of the moment.”
Sonny had been worried, and scared, and frustrated all at once as he dragged him out of the car, and noticed that the gun was loaded, and when he was lecturing him about his potential in life. It was the exact expression on his dad’s face, the one he hated to see because of how much it made him feel like a selfish bastard.
“I really am sorry.” He replied hoarsely, wiping his eyes. “I just… when you turned on me… I couldn’t… I wanted a reason to hurt someone.”
“I know the feeling too well, C.” Sonny said, smoothing his hair. “You are like a son to me, and if I lost you to anything, even yourself— I want what’s best for you, even if it doesn’t look like it.” A beat of silence passed as Calogero calmed down, thankful for the moment of peace after the chaotic last couple of hours. “Now, why don’t you get dressed and try it again with that girl? The nights still young.”
Calogero paused for a moment, almost forgetting what had happened with Jane. His eyes widened as he shot up from the couch, grabbing his pants as fast as he could— although he needed a moment to gingerly ease them over his bruised skin— and turning to Sonny one last time. “Sonny, I meant what I said tonight, too. You really are like a father to me.”
“Good, now listen and never make me do that to you again, you hear? I’ll be at the bar.”
Calogero smiled despite the soreness he was still rubbing away, nodding his head. If he’d known it was their last conversation, he might have tried to say something else, but he hurried out the door and into the night, hoping to fix things with Jane before it was too late. With one last glance at the apartment building, he took off down the street, barely noticing how Sonny watched him leave from the window.
“Go find your great one, C…”