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Scene (Edgeplay in Mayhill #3)

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Every man that comes under your hand is your responsibility. And once he has surrendered, once he has given himself to you, then he is forever under your protection. . . . Forever, my young, would-be Master, is a hell of a long time. Remember that when you set about to dominate another man's heart and mind.

—A leather master to his apprentice in the 1950s, as quoted by Thom Magister.


Back in 1948, in a warehouse next to a Pacific Coast wharf, Nick paused to wipe sweat off his forehead. He still had a dozen more crates to move, and no one to help him – the other men had gone off elsewhere to claim their latest prize. He could hear the prize squealing in anguish. He sighed and muttered black words against men who took play more seriously than work.

Nick loved his work. There had been a time, right after the war, when he'd been uncertain whether he could find any job that would grant him the same sense of adventure and comradeship he'd felt in the war. But here in the port city where he'd been dumped once the war ended, he'd found others like himself: adventurous men, not afraid to be rough in their ways and not the sort to whimper during the sometimes painful work they undertook. And they were fast comrades, always ready with a slap on the back when a guy needed cheering up. It was a good life, being a dockyard laborer.

If it weren't for those fucking queers. Nick frowned as he moved over to take care of another crate. Those queers were everywhere on the wharf, like cockroaches: always peering around corners to gape at the tough guys who worked here. Nick felt like stomping on them. He knew that some of the other men here used the fags for a cheap thrill. That's how the others were amusing themselves now, giving the latest queer what he wanted, or so they said.

Nick didn't see the point. You stuck your dick in a queer's hole, and it only encouraged him. Better to flatten the queers, so maybe they'd learn something. He'd done that yesterday to a soft, limp-wristed creature that had been hovering at his doorway for days, watching him work. He'd backhanded the bitch and sent him off whimpering. Queers had no guts. This one wouldn't be back again.

Nick straightened up, breathing heavily. Eleven more crates to go. Why the hell didn't the other men leave their entertainment and help? He turned round to see whether there was any sign of them returning – and there, standing boldly in the doorway, was the queer from yesterday.

It took Nick three strides to reach the creature, and one swing to flatten him to the ground. "Why the fuck did you come back?" he shouted.

Loren's master raised his head from the ground. He could taste blood in his mouth, and his jaw ached, but not as much as the ache in his groin.

"You could use your belt on me," he suggested. "Or you could . . . make me do things for you."

He watched, his heart thumping, as Nick's expression changed.


That was the beginning. Or at least, it was the beginning for Loren's master; Loren knew that it had begun differently for other leathermen. Within a few years of that wharf meeting, Loren's master had been transformed enough by his service to the man at the warehouse that he was ready to join a brotherhood of his own. And after that, not many years had passed before he met Loren and began the training all over again.

What had impressed Loren most, when he first heard this story, was that his master was willing to admit that he had once been like Loren: soft and womanish. Loren understood the lesson his master was giving him. He too could emerge from softness. He could become as much a man as his master was.

Unfortunately, his master left town before Loren could figure out how he was supposed to accomplish this marvellous transformation. After that, Loren was left in a bind.

The cruising grounds were fairly evenly divided in those days between two types of men. There were the heterosexuals, usually married, who didn't consider it adultery to take pleasure on an effeminate man – the more effeminate the better. And then there were the queens, who supplied the complementary element to the masculine heterosexuals.

Loren sensed that he belonged to neither of these groups. His master had been homosexual, proudly so. But his master had regarded sex with another man as an act of masculinity rather than an act of womanly surrender. He wasn't heterosexual, but he wasn't homosexual either, not as Mayhill regarded such matters.

Confused, Loren reached a compromise. At his university, where homosexuals were despised, he did his best to act heterosexual, which meant acting masculine. At the cruising grounds, where the heterosexuals sought queens, he acted as he was expected, soft and yielding. He had already learned the gestures that accompanied this condition; now he taught himself to talk in a dramatic manner that was like a parody of the women he knew.

He wasn't entirely successful in splitting his personality. Bits of him kept drifting over from one side to the other, until he was known in the classroom as "the odd one" and was known on the cruising grounds as an undesirable. That he periodically expressed a desire to tie up and beat his partners made the cruisers yet more wary of him.

Then two things happened that changed everything. First he began to meet more and more homosexuals who didn't fit the image that he knew in Mayhill – Bill, for example, who saw no reason to let his wrists fall limp. The second thing that happened was that, like many other Mayhill residents at some point in their lives, he became aware that a world existed outside of Mayhill. He began paying closer attention to the big-city newspaper and to the television news, and in doing so he realized, with a shock that shot right through him, that he had taken the wrong path. To be gay he need not be effeminate. His master had tried to show him this, and he had failed the lesson.

It was too late. In the anonymity of the big city he might have been able to successfully erase his past, but too many people in Mayhill knew Loren as he had been for the past decade. No matter how hard he tried to change his gestures, no matter how successful he was at changing his speech, people still saw him as he had shaped himself back in the days when he made the wrong choice, and destroyed all chance of mastering others.

Or so he had thought.

He stood on the second-floor landing of the stairwell, smoking a cigarette in the darkness as he faced the front of the building. To the right of him stood the door leading to this apartment; to the left of him stood the door leading to the much larger portion of the second story, which he and Elia earned money from by renting to – of all people – the members of the Mayhill Historical Preservation Society. They were the perfect tenants: they never complained during the day about noise from the bar, and at night they weren't present to hear the sometimes louder noise from the apartment next to them.

Loren leaned upon the circular railing, staring down at the dark pit. The staircase was one of the remaining features of the original building: a spiral staircase surrounding a firepole. Elia, who must have been an apocalyptist in his former life, had dubbed the stairwell the pit of hell. Loren considered flicking his cigarette down and seeing how long he could watch the tiny glow of fire before it was swallowed in darkness. Then he considered the trouble it would be to sweep the floor clean the next morning. He pushed himself away from the railing and walked round it till he had reached the only open portion of the stairwell: the floor-to-ceiling window that overlooked the street and the park.

He could see very little outside; the night had grown cloudy, blanketing the cruisers in comforting blackness. He thought of how easy it would be to simply walk out of the bar, cross the street, and find a cruiser who would fuck him senseless.

He sighed. If he was beginning to use words like fuck in his mind, it was a bad sign. It meant that the part of him that lay ever under the surface – the sadist – was beginning to rise. That part of him wouldn't be satisfied if he played on the bottom tonight. That part of him wanted what lay inside the apartment.

"Shoot," he whispered. It was a final, token gesture to the civilized scholar who spent his odd moments struggling over the fragmented passages in Petronius, trying to fill in the blanks. That part of him, he knew from experience, would begin to disappear the minute he walked through the door.

Could he be trusted to walk through the door?

He pushed himself back again, this time mentally, and stubbed his cigarette out on the railing. Then he resolutely walked up to the door. It was unlocked; Elia would have loaned Ken his key. With deliberate quietness, Loren entered the apartment.

The room within was not quite so dark as the stairwell. He and Elia always kept some dimly lit lights on in the kitchen, and the reading lamp in the corner of the living room was still on from when Loren had sat there earlier in the evening, trying to read Ovid and failing miserably because his mind was on a policeman. The curtains were drawn for the night – vast floor-to-ceiling affairs that were necessary to hide the wall of plate glass.

It took Loren a moment to locate Ken. Loren had looked, in an automatic manner, toward the kitchen first, only because that was where Elia was most likely to be found in his off-shift hours. The kitchen formed one end of the room, with only a counter dividing it from the dining room, where a large wooden table sat. He and Elia had bought the table together; Loren suspected that Elia had been trying to prevent him from going shopping for a table and bringing home a rack.

The table suited Loren's purposes quite well, on the rare occasions when it had seen use. The overly sturdy piece of furniture was just about the only sign that an educated eye might have picked out as to what use this apartment served. There were a few other things – innocent objects that a raiding cop could be forgiven for overlooking. The living room, for example, had an inordinate number of eye-hooks.

Loren had installed them one day when Elia was out on errands. When Elia returned, his lips thinned, but he said nothing until the evening. At that point, he had sat Loren down for a long talk, the upshot being that Loren had promised not to inflict the presence of his play partners on Elia when Elia was home, and Elia had promised not to inflict the presence of his frequently boring straights on Loren when Loren was home.

Elia would not be in any rush to return home tonight, Loren knew. Loren would have the place to himself for several hours more. He turned his eyes toward the living room.

Ken was standing in the duskiest corner; his face was so dark that it was unreadable. His body, fortunately, was quite readable. He was tense. He was glistening with sweat. His chest was rising with quick breaths. Loren felt his cock stir.

Ken took a step out of the corner, then another, until he was full in the light. Then he said, in the same soft voice had used at the end of their previous meeting, "Sir, I'm sorry."

Loren paused. He knew what his cock wanted; it took him a moment to double-check that this decision fit with what his mind would permit. Then he said in his hardest voice, "Apologies should be made from the knees."

Ken dropped like stone into a pit, so quickly that it was clear he had only been awaiting Loren's word. His gaze was fastened to the floorboards before his knees even reached the floor. All very nice, but there was a reason Loren disliked the custom of ems dropping their gazes automatically. He needed to be sure of Ken's expression, if this was to be done safely.

Part of him didn't give a damn about safety. That part of him was already in the next room, picking through what lay in his closet.

"Look at me." Loren kept his voice as it had been before, a blow upon the silence. Ken actually flinched; then he looked up quickly. His gaze wavered almost immediately, then returned to Loren's face, but his chest was heaving faster now. Clearly he would have much preferred not looking straight at Loren. Loren felt the moist warmth of pleasure begin to sink deep inside him.

"Why did you agree to do a scene that would out you to the other policemen in this town?" Loren snapped.

Ken hesitated before saying, "I wanted to give my Sadist pleasure, sir."

Oh, shoot. The standard lie of any em who had let his lust drive him onto foolish paths. And just for a moment, Loren had thought this would be easy.

Loren acted on instinct again, closing the distance between them with a few strides – his apartment was small enough for that. His palm hit Ken's cheek before the em had time to see it coming.

"Don't give me that shit," said Loren, his voice now tight as a drawn bow. "Only masochists in porn novels sacrifice their lives for the pleasures of their Esses. Were you on drugs tonight? Or were you—?"

He stopped, like a man who has halted just short of a cliff. Ken's face had turned to the side for a few seconds, driven there by the blow. Now it turned back, and Loren saw his eyes.

Loren had to step back to be sure of what he saw. Ken's gaze wavered again; with a visible effort Ken met Loren's eyes squarely.

Shit. Shit, fuck, hell, and the names of all the gods dead and alive. Two minutes into this, and already he was screwing up.

Loren didn't mind frightened ems. Frightened masochists added spice to a scene; more importantly, they alerted him to when he had gone too far. An em who screamed in genuine fear or jerked back or begged gave Loren important information that he might or might not choose to follow, depending on how far the em's limits lay. Or so Loren's master had told him; Loren had rarely experienced this except from the other end of matters.

A screaming em Loren was prepared for. He wasn't prepared for an em with eyes dead with fear, who knelt silent and unmoving.

Loren stepped back to where he had been before. This time Ken didn't flinch, but he might as well have; the expression in his eyes turned from fear to terror. Still he did not speak or move. He waited, like a dumb lamb baring its neck for the slaughter.

Something was wrong here. Very, very wrong.

Loren heard himself speak even before he knew what he had decided to say. "I apologize."

The terror in Ken's expression was replaced by bewilderment. That was good; bewilderment in an em was never a bad thing. It kept the em on his toes. "Sir?" Ken said breathlessly.

"For striking you. I shouldn't have done that. You hadn't asked me to be your Ess, so I had no right to discipline you."

Even as he spoke the words, he knew they were true, and he felt an easiness come over him. He wasn't sure, offhand, whether his master would have approved of the apology, but he knew darned well that Elia would have. Elia had no patience with Esses who did a major screw-up and then refused to acknowledge the fact, allowing their ems to blame themselves.

He could see Ken working his thoughts round this unexpected development. Finally Ken said hesitantly, "It's your bar, sir."

"That doesn't mean I have the right to hit my bar customers. Not unless they become violent."

Ken licked his lips. His gaze had strayed away from Loren's, but Loren allowed himself to overlook the fact. He was more interested in hearing how Ken would react to his apology. Finally the em said, in an even softer voice than before, "I deserve to be disciplined, sir. For what I did."

Now it was Loren's turn to hesitate. If this had been Felix, he would have known quite well what was being requested. But Ken didn't look as though he were trying to get a scene out of this. "Let me be clear," said Loren. "You want me to punish you for what you did – not play with you, but punish you? As payment for your behavior?"

Ken hesitated before answering, "I know it's an imposition, sir. I wouldn't ask if there was anyone else to do this, other than—" He bit his lip, catching the final word, and his gaze drifted down to the floor.

Loren was mildly surprised. It usually took new ems weeks before they realized that they were the ones who received the highest reward from punishments – a reward in the form of greater discipline over time. He remembered how he had cursed his master each night after their sessions together, until he realized how his master was shaping him into something stronger than he had been before. And it was then that he realized his master might not be getting as much out of these punishment sessions as Loren himself was.

Loren gave an abrupt nod. "Very well. Strip yourself, and kneel over there." He pointed without looking. "I'll return shortly."

Three doors led from the living room: the door to Elia's bedroom, the door to Loren's bedroom, and the door in between, to their shared bathroom. Loren entered his own bedroom first, making his way across the sparsely furnished room through use of the lamplight pouring in through the alleyway window. He reached the window itself, turned left, and entered the walk-in closet.

Here he paused to pull the chain to the light before contemplating the rainbow of colors that hung before him. Elia, in one of his less patient moods, had accused Loren of wearing out-of-date clothing in order to antagonize the other leathermen. Loren had cheerfully admitted this to be part of his motive. If he was going to be ridiculed for his appearance, he was determined to have as much fun as possible. And the bold cut and colors of the disco era were far more fun, to his mind, than the drab clothing now worn by most men his age.

However, he had been sensible enough to prepare himself for another day that might come.

He found what he was looking for without having to search: a smartly cut black dress-shirt and a pair of black slacks with an extra-sharp crease. The combination made him look vaguely like a prison guard. Loren knew better than to wear a tee-shirt and jeans: they emphasized his skinniness and didn't fit with his scholarly air. He wasn't a wild biker; he was an authority figure, sent to drum discipline into a new student or to exert punishment upon a fractious student, as the case might be. Tonight it would be punishment.

Nonetheless, he glanced involuntarily toward the cap on the shelf above the clothes rung. The cap was a gift from the Mayhill Christian Motorcycle Club, given after Loren let slip that he had been initiated by the member of a fifties motorcycle club. Fortunately, no one had asked him what the initiation had consisted of. He had worn the bikers' cap once – in his bedroom, with only his mirror for company – and then had offered it to Elia, who had politely rejected the gift. Loren's business partner wasn't a wild biker either; he was the boy next door who turned, at unexpected moments, into a potential killer. Elia had always worn what could pass as mufti when he was with his ems, and he had continued this tradition with his straights. Some of them were actually fooled by this, until their first disciplinary session with Elia.

Loren tore his eyes away from the cap. His apprentice, as usual, knew best. Loren was not what his master had been; there was no point in pretending to be. If Ken couldn't be satisfied with a lecturer in black clothes, then there was no hope of anything taking place tonight except brutality. Loren would just have to trust that Ken possessed a good imagination.

He glanced over at the far end of the closet, where shadows gathered. No, on second thought, the belts wouldn't do. There had been far too many belts in Ken's closet to be explained by fashion-consciousness; Ken was no doubt well acquainted by now with their effect on his own flesh. Loren wanted something new, something that Ken hadn't yet done to himself, to put Ken in the proper frame of mind.

He felt a momentary stab of anger at the Mayhill Post Office, which was rumored to routinely inspect packages with suspicious return addresses, or worse, no return address at all. Loren knew that it was now possible to buy single-tails through mail order, but neither he nor anyone else in Mayhill's leather community dared take the chance of ordering contraband materials through the mail. Some of the leathermen in town had bought floggers during visits to the big city, but Loren didn't dare own such equipment either. He'd received too many visits from the police. Everything in his apartment had to serve an obviously innocent purpose if he wasn't to be hauled down to the police headquarters to be questioned about where he had buried the bodies.

That gave him a thought. Turning off the closet light, he returned to the living room. Ken now knelt in the middle of the room, his back to Loren. Loren was tempted to linger and watch the muscles that rippled like waves across the ocean, but he forced himself to continue into the bathroom. There, lying on the shelf in plain view, was what he needed.

Corporal Pollacco had given Loren a long look when he first saw that shelf. Loren had merely smiled sweetly at him. After all, everyone knew how old-fashioned Mayhill was, and Loren, with his interest in classical literature, could be expected to be more old-fashioned than most. Why on earth shouldn't he want to shave with a straight razor?

Loren ignored the razor and brush and shaving mug. Instead, he picked up what lay beside them and ran it through his fingers. The strop was heavy and smooth to his touch.

He made his way next to the kitchen, where he rummaged through drawers filled with odds and ends, the sorts of belongings that a careless householder might accumulate. Corporal Pollacco, who knew Loren to be far from careless, had lingered a long time at those drawers but had been unable to find anything except objects that could be bought at a hardware store. Everything there had, in fact, been bought at a hardware store – at Art's store. The other Ess always found it amusing to discover what Loren would buy next, and he nearly burst into laughter the day that Loren, in the presence of Elia's minister, explained earnestly to Art what length and thickness of chain he needed for the dog he was contemplating buying.

Loren took the chain out of the cupboard now: four pieces, all as thick as a bike chain. He saw Ken's back, which was stiff, stiffen yet further at the sound of clanking. What Loren lacked in dungeon equipment, he could make up for in sound effects. He had been planning this for a very long time.

He spent the next couple of minutes testing the strop upon the kitchen counter and watching Ken's breath increase at the sound of every loud blow. No doubt the length of his cock was increasing too. Well, let the boy have his fun for now; it wouldn't last for long. Loren finished finally, gathered his tools together, and was about to make his way over to where Ken knelt when he caught sight of his winter coat hanging from a hook next to the front door. After a moment's thought he fished out the gloves from the coat pockets. Black leather gloves, very thin, with a good grip. Elia had a talent for knowing the right Christmas presents to give Loren.

The gloves increased his hold on the strop. They also went wonderfully well with the black shirt. He tossed away a temptation to go back into the bedroom to admire himself in the mirror. That would be tempting fate; he'd be more likely to grow discouraged at his appearance. Instead he laid down the strop on a table nearby and walked forward with the chains.

Ken's eyes had been examining the floorboards, but his gaze rose quickly as Loren walked round to his front. No doubt he was remembering his earlier instructions. Loren began to smile; then his smile disappeared abruptly. He had been so busy admiring Ken's lovely shoulder blades before that he had missed something very obvious.

"When I give an order," he said, "I expect to be obeyed."

He kept his voice quiet; Elia's example had taught him the value of soft instructions delivered with the right tone. Ken swallowed, and his hands went to the waistband of his shorts. Slowly, though; at the rate he was inching his boxers down, he would be stripped some time in December.

What delightful surprises this boy offered. Loren could do splendid things with a body-shy em. But not now. He wanted Ken's mind to be on the coming punishment, not on his forced nakedness. Loren waved a hand, dismissing the matter, and Ken's hands dropped. Relief and gratitude were written across his face.

This was all very different from the last beating he had given during a scene, Loren reflected. Six years before, any small mercy he offered had brought smugness to Felix's face.

He circled slowly round to the side, watching how Ken's eyes followed him as he went. When Ken's head began to turn, Loren said, "Eyes front," and immediately the em's eyes snapped toward the curtain he was facing.

The back of Ken was nearly black, like the shadow-side of the moon. Loren paused to shift the reading lamp so that he would have light to work by. The chains rattled in his hand, and Ken stiffened again in an exquisite manner. Loren gave himself a moment to appreciate once more the curve of the muscles along Ken's flesh and the strong bone structure beneath, like an iron support for a skyscraper. Then he set his mind to his work.

One chain round the right thigh, near the knee, tightened into a loop around the hook; the other end of the chain looped round one of the legs of the sofa. The same procedure with the left thigh, this time spreading Ken's legs just far enough to be uncomfortable, and with the end of the chain looped round the base of the reading chair. The next chain required Loren to stand on a chair behind Ken, but fortunately the ceiling was low enough for him to reach. Ken had positioned himself perfectly under the eyehook there, which was attached to a beam behind the plaster. Hooking the chain from it, Loren hoped the eyehook would hold. It had been tested – by his own body, alas, when he had other Esses over to play – but he doubted that he had placed anywhere near the force upon it that Ken would exert.

The chain hung down from the ceiling, and he examined it with a critical eye. No, he wouldn't need the fourth chain; Ken's arms would rise far higher than his own had. That left only one thing to do.

"Hands above your head," he ordered.

Ken immediately placed his hands palm-down over his head. The boy had seen a goodly number of POW movies, Loren guessed. Loren grabbed hold of the unresisting hands and raised them to where the chain lay in wait.

Perfect. Just enough chain to loop round the wrists. There was a bit of slack, but that was as Loren wanted it: he wanted Ken to bend and bow during this exercise. It made Loren's job more dangerous, for he must be precise in his blows. But danger was what this was all about, wasn't it?

He climbed down from the chair, placed it and the chain aside, and let his eyes linger on the view: Ken kneeling with his legs spread wide, his arms pulled above his head. Loren could just make out the outline of Ken's balls against the now-tightened fabric of his boxers. He vowed to make good use of that knowledge of where they lay.

He picked up the razor strop and circled back round to the front. Ken's face remained obediently turned toward the curtain, but the em could not seem to prevent his eyes from following Loren's progress. Loren said nothing as he came to a halt directly in front of Ken; he simply smiled as he stroked the strop. Ken swallowed. Then his eyes shifted downward.

Loren didn't have to look to know what Ken was staring at. "Yes," he said quietly, "I'm enjoying this. You, however, will not. I promise you that."

He had a moment to send up a note of thankfulness to his old master, wherever he might be. Loren could still remember the night when his own resentment overcame him and he furiously accused his master of disciplining him only for his own pleasure.

His master had not hit him, as he had expected. Instead the Ess had said, in the mildest of voices, "An army sergeant spends all day putting his men through hard drills, sending them through hell. At the end of the day they are bruised and battered and are stronger men than they were at the beginning of the day. Should the sergeant be ashamed of himself because he feels pleasure at the work he has done?"

Loren had remained silent. His master took his shoulder in a tight grip and shook him slightly. "Never be ashamed of what you are, boy. That's the worst mistake a sadist can make. If you commit a careless error . . . Yes, that's a matter of shame. But never let yourself feel anything but pride and pleasure at your work if you do it well."

Then he had beaten Loren, to teach him not to be impertinent. But it was the words Loren had remembered, not the blows.

Without those words, Loren knew, he might have ended up like Elia, ashamed of himself for desiring other men's pain. As it was, he did not allow his thoughts to dwell on the swelling that was tenting his slacks. The pleasure would come – had already begun to come – but that was a mere byproduct of what happened here. The heart of this must be a job well done, or Loren wasn't worthy of the training he had received.

There was movement at Ken's groin too. Loren had expected that – had planned that. He waited until Ken's cock was hard against the em's belly. Then Loren began moving again toward Ken's left side, letting the strop handle lie loose in his right palm. The em's eyes moved with him; Loren could almost imagine Ken trying to calculate the amount of time it would take Loren to reach his back. Six steps left, five steps, four—

There were advantages to being ambidextrous. Without warning, Loren switched the strop to his left hand and brought it hard across Ken's rising cock.

Now in very truth the earth is staggered. Such is the storm that comes against me manifestly from Zeus to work its terrors.

Ken's body jerked backwards a short space, but not far, for it was restrained by the chains, now biting into Ken's wrists as his body absorbed the impact of the blow. Ken's mouth was open, his eyes wide; no sound emerged. Loren had a moment to be impressed. He had done this procedure perhaps half a dozen times during his years as the leather club's leader; every year an overconfident leatherman would come along, boasting that he could take any amount of pain without breaking. Loren would simply smile, lay down a small bet, and then proceed, in the presence of witnesses, to prove the man wrong. It was just about the only thing he could do that impressed the other leathermen: his ability to bring a belt hard onto an erect cock without doing it permanent damage. Loren had never explained that he had learned this technique from the receiving end.

Usually, by this point in the proceedings, the other man was screaming. Loren had no time to wonder whether he had been too soft with Ken; he was busy bringing down the strop a second time, onto Ken's nipples.

I groan for the present sorrow, I groan for the sorrow to come . . .

A grunt this time; Ken's body was pulled back like a bow, straining to escape from the strop. It made an irresistible target. Loren brought the strop down straight onto Ken's belly, where his delicate button poked its head out from the smooth flesh.

By the time Ken emitted a sob – and drove Loren's appetite up accordingly – Loren was already behind the em, choosing his next target. Just as he had calculated, the slack chain had permitted Ken's body to bow so far back that his balls now hung out from the rest of the body, protected only by the thin fabric of the boxers. Loren's strop whistled down.

Now as I hang, the plaything of winds, my enemies can laugh at what I suffer.

The sob had not been followed by a second one; instead, Ken was breathing heavily, like an old man. Loren had another moment in which to be impressed. Then he concentrated his mind on the difficult task of bringing the strop down onto Ken's back.

Just as he had expected, Ken's body moved at the last moment, so that the blow would have fallen upon Ken's lower back if Loren had been any less skilled at this than he was. As it was, it landed exactly where Loren had intended it, on the fleshy area surrounding the shoulderblades.

You see me a wretched God in chains, the enemy of Zeus, hated of all the Gods that enter Zeus's palace hall, because of my excessive love for Man.

Back, bottom, thighs, two swipes at Ken's feet to give him a brief taste of bastinado, and then back round again to strike again at Ken's nipples, which were thrust out as Ken's body continued to try to escape the punishment from behind. Loren was sweating, and it seemed that at any moment a hole would be drilled through his slacks. Darn, he was coming too close to the end; he needed to take a break to calm himself and to assess the damage he had done.

Not that such an assessment was likely to do anything to calm him.

Therefore I am tortured on this rock, a bitterness to suffer, and a pain to pitiful eyes. Pitiless is he that thus chastises me . . .

Ken's body, unable to cope with the constant switch between blows to the front and blows to the back, remained where it had been a moment before: thrust forward, spine curved with aching beauty, torso sparkling with sweat under the reading lamp light, chest striped with the marks of the strop's passing. Ken's head was tilted toward the ceiling as his mouth sought to gulp down air; his eyes were closed. His body throbbed with hard heartbeats. His cock—

There shall come a day for me when he shall need me, me that now am tortured in bonds and fetters. So he shall free me from my cruel chains and pay me recompense for what I suffer.

Loren stared, trying to tell himself that what he saw was an illusion. It simply was not possible. Less than two minutes had passed since that organ had taken the full blow of Loren's punishment; there was no way that any mortal man's cock would recover in that amount of time, much less recover itself to full strength.

"A demi-god at the least," Loren muttered, still staring at the bulge in Ken's boxers. He saw Ken's body begin to go limp in the chains, and he heard the rattled gasps of Ken's throat that testified the em was in continued pain – severe pain, if Loren knew anything about his trade, which he was increasingly doubtful that he did. Ken's cock continued to poke up toward the ceiling, as though deliriously happy at the punishment it had received.

Loren finally forced his gaze upward. Ken's eyes were open now; water leaked from them, but the em seemed unaware of the fact. He was staring at Loren with all the horror of a god who has been unmasked to mere mortals.

Loren cocked his head. "As a point of information," he said in a conversational manner, "how much harder would I have to hurt you before you would feel the pain more than the pleasure?"

Ken didn't say anything. Still too breathless, perhaps. But his gaze drifted down, then quickly up again, as though he hadn't meant to let his eyes stray. His boxers now looked as though they would explode from the pressure.

A body-shy em. Something clicked in Loren's mind at that moment. When, in fact, had he seen all of Ken's body? Not when Ken sexually assaulted Loren; Ken had been wearing boxers then. He had worn them in the shower too, and on the living room floor when he rubbed himself against Loren. And before that—

Yes, Ken had been naked once during their first scene together. Most of the time Loren had been blindfolded, but there had been a brief period when Loren had seen him completely naked. In a dark room. In a room that was dark because Ken had turned the lights out.

Loren was seized with an overwhelming desire to discover what it was that he had missed in that dark room. He fell to his knees.

He had pulled Ken's boxers down only one inch before he understood.

I know that he is savage: and his justice a thing he keeps by his own standard: still that will of his shall melt to softness yet when he is broken in the way I know, and though his temper now is oaken hard it shall be softened: hastily he'll come to meet my haste, to join in amity and union with me – one day he shall come.


Zephyra lay on her stomach upon Ken's bed, staring at the clock on the night-stand. Just about now, her feverish imagination told her, the man with the switchblade would be discovering the truth about her brother, and would realize that he had been handed a gift-wrapped package. And then . . .

She stared hard at the hands of the dial, willing them to turn backwards.