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I don't know about you, but when I've got a bottom-man kneeling at my feet, sucking at my balls with his warm and eager mouth, the last thing I want is another pair of eyes watching me. I mean, I love my family, but I have my limits.

I'm getting ahead of myself, though. It was bar night for our club, I was the one tending the register, and I was currently arguing with the roughest, toughest top in the place.

"You gave me one hundred and ten dollars," said Cindy.

"I gave you one hundred and twenty," I replied heatedly. "Cindy, I counted the cash three times."

"One of the twenties was a ten. This is my job, remember? I collect money for drinks all day. Just fork over the extra ten and we'll be even."

"Christ, Cindy, I can't take the money out of the tips. You know where that money's going."

She rolled her eyes. She was standing on my side of the counter, dressed in her usual femme costume: heeled boots, denim skirt, halter top, and a slight little vest that looked as though it was made to clothe a sweet young child. Appearances can be deceptive.

"Dig the money out of your own pocket, Mr. Big-Shot Top," she said. "You're only arguing because you hate to lose a fight."

Actually, there are circumstances under which I love to lose a fight, but they weren't likely to happen with her. I was resignedly drawing bills out of my pocket when I heard a cough from the other side of the register. I looked over and saw my destiny for the night.

Or so my dazzled eyes told me. He was bare to the belt – I imagine any halter would have dug painfully into his chest, given the way his muscles stood out. Reflector glasses hid his eyes but not his teeth, which were perfect. I could have used them as a mirror. He had on the meanest-looking set of chaps I'd ever run across: they climbed up his thighs, clung to his frayed denim, hugged at his substantial basket – hell, they nearly climbed over his belt.

Where his keys hung from the left. Damn.

I had a momentary vision of me switching my own keys to the right side, but that vision was shattered as my customer said, "Finished playing kissy-kissy with your little girlfriend? I want a beer."

I felt heat cover my body in an instant. Cindy didn't so much as bat an eyelid. Used to that sort of remark, no doubt. She plucked the ten from my hand, said, "I'll collect the rest at closing time," and disappeared, leaving me with a half-empty register, a half-full beer keg, and a desire to punch my customer.

I dealt with the beer first, silently drawing a draft and handing it to the customer. He raised his glasses for a second to stare at the beer, took a sip, made a face, and said, "Must have been turned sour from having her around. Things have gone downhill since they started letting the little ladies into this place."

I imagined what the "little lady" could do to him if she had the opportunity. My thoughts must have been written on my face, because the customer glared at me. "What the fuck are you smirking at, piss-boy?"

I didn't even bother to jingle my keys. "Do you like being fisted?" I asked.

"Hell, no!" His brow furrowed deeper, as though I'd handed him a dire insult.

"Not even in a gang-bang?" I asked.

"What sort of shit are you—?"

He broke off abruptly, having finally taken in the presence of the men who had begun to gather around him. All of them were frowning at him pointedly. All of them wore the same club pin at the top of their vests that I did.

The customer gave a snort that might have meant anything, and turned away. As he did so, I leaned over the register to see whether he was wearing a hanky. No hanky. No back pocket. No anything in the back. Damn again.

"You want that one," commented Martin, coming over to relieve me from the register.

"The hell I do. He's fucking rude."

"Of course he is. That's why you've got a hard-on."

The problem with club brothers is that they know you too well. I gave a nod of thanks to the others, who had begun to drift back toward the wall of shelves that held long lines of mugs and were carefully labelled with the names of all the clubs that tended this bar on their special nights. Our shelf-space was small, but the mugs there were invariably put to use on our bar nights. We were missing a few of our members tonight who had gone out of town for a run, but otherwise, the brothers of the Lawnville Leather/Levi Club always back each other, no matter how dire the circumstances.

As I was to learn shortly.

In the meantime, my eye was drifting across the crowd, seeking out a man with a bare butt who was really too rude for me to want. I was distracted by sight of a chubby man sitting on a short stool in the corner, staring at an empty bootblack stand above him.

"I could use a shine," I said.

Martin raised his eyebrows. He knew quite well I'd had my boots blacked on the previous weekend, when he and I had attended the local Fetish Feast. Then he glanced over at the corner and nodded. "A slow night for Chet," he agreed. "Everyone must be worn out from last weekend's festivities. You go first; then I'll take my turn."

By this time it was one a.m., and even the end of the room next to the club bar was packed. The Eagle being the casual sort of place it is, a lot of the guys were wearing just jeans and a tee-shirt – not even white or black tee-shirts in some cases. But there were leather vests and jackets and chaps and— I turned my gaze away hastily. I did not want to look in that direction. Instead, I concentrated my thoughts on the thumping industrial music as I approached the throne of the bootblack stand.

Chet didn't see me coming till I had already mounted the stand. He started to rise, but I waved him back down. I waited till both of us were seated, and Chet was leaning forward, waiting expectantly. Not for money, I could be sure.

There are payments, and then there are payments. I knew which type Chet preferred. I held his gaze until his smile faded and he began to look a little anxious. Then I said, in a voice that just carried over the music and chatter, "I had a bad shine last weekend. I want a good shine. Do I make myself understood, boy?"

He took a deep breath. His smile was back. "Yes, sir," he said, and then his hands were a blur as he pulled out the polish-stained rag from his belt and began to wipe my left boot.

We were being watched, I noticed. I pretended I didn't notice, instead sending down a continuous stream of critiques and – to make the mixture a little more interesting – harsh criticisms of Chet's impeccable performance. We were both getting hot by the end, and it wasn't just because the barroom was now violating fire-capacity regulations. When it reached the point where Chet was licking my boot – purely to prepare it for the final polish, of course – I motioned him up, took hold of his neck, and pulled him, unresisting, into a deep kiss. His groin pressed against my left calf, and I could feel a hard lump through my boot. Only good training, I guessed, was keeping Chet from humping himself against me.

I pulled back from the kiss, wondering whether I should do more for the sake of my audience, then was annoyed at myself for letting that be my motive. I resolutely turned my gaze away from the spectator—

"Jesus Christ!"

I was off the bootblack stand in an instant, my shout absorbed by the pounding music. Good thing I was wearing engineer boots; if my boots had come with laces, I would have broken my neck, because the blacking was only half done. As it was, I moved so hastily that Chet fell backwards and would have crashed to the ground if he hadn't been caught by the man standing behind him.

I no longer had any thoughts for the bare-assed top. My only thoughts were reserved for a frail old woman with a peacock-feathered hat, a polka-dotted robin's-egg-blue dress with matching purse, and an umbrella with a duck's head as its handle.

"Aunt Abigail!" I cried, hurrying forward to intercept her from the doorman, who had come up the stairs to try to retrieve her. God only knew how she'd gotten past him. Knowing Aunt Abigail, she'd probably just sailed past the doorman, figuring that his ID-checking work had nothing to do with her.

The doorman, seeing that I had the matter in hand, raised his eyebrows at me and retreated. I couldn't tell if his look was of sympathy or of supreme amusement.

My aunt smiled up at me. "Dear boy," she said, "how nice you look in that black vest. It reminds me of the suit you wore to your fifth birthday party – the party where you accidentally spilled your punch all over the girl you were sweet on, and she slapped you."

Somebody sniggered behind me. I resisted the impulse to check whether it was the bare-assed top. Instead I said patiently, "You must be misremembering, Aunt Abigail. I was never sweet on any girl."

"Certainly you were," Aunt Abigail protested. "You were kissing girls and boys alike, right up to the moment you met that handsome boy – what was his name? He's the one you always played Cowboys and Indians with. Your mother told me he complained that you weren't very skilled at tying him up."

The laughter was general this time. I made a note to have a talk with my mom about what sort of childhood anecdotes she passed on about me.

"Wasn't I?" I took my aunt's elbow so that I could steer her through the curious crowd surrounding us. "You'll have to tell me all about it. There's a little café down the street—"

Aunt Abigail was as easy to steer as an oak tree. "But I've only just gotten here!" she cried, planting her feet firmly on the floor. "You haven't even introduced me to your friends!"

Martin was standing nearby, paying Chet for my shine and grinning as he listened to me and my aunt. Everyone surrounding us was grinning, including Cindy, who was in the midst of adjusting an Etienne poster that was threatening to fall down from the bare brick wall.

I sighed and began the introductions to my club brothers. I hadn't gone far before Aunt Abigail gave a little squeal. "What an adorable pin you're all wearing!"

Martin's grin turned to a glare, aimed at me. I just sort of scratched my nose with a rueful expression.

It hadn't been my fault, really. I mean, Martin should have known better than to ask me to mail the order forms for our club pin on April 1st. He'd come up with a handsome design, without a doubt: a shaggy-maned lion roaring at the words "Lawnville LLC."

So I'd sent off the order forms, and a while later the pins all came back, showing the words "Lawnville LLC," accompanied by a picture of an old-fashioned manual lawnmower.

I'd never thought the company would actually create my design. I'd figured they'd call Martin up and ask him what the hell the joke was. But they didn't, and Martin was so furious that he refused to authorize the money needed to replace the pins.

So we all wore lawnmower pins. We had no trouble standing out at leather events.

Martin was showing my aunt the back of one of his pins now. "Oh, that pointy bit sticks straight out!" she exclaimed. "It must be very painful to wear that way."

"Yes, ma'am, which is why it's protected with this guard," Martin replied, showing her how the separate metal clasp fit around the point of the pin.

"Some of us don't mind pain," said another of the club members, who was quickly shushed. He hadn't been serious, in any case. Even the most diehard masochists among us complained whenever they got stuck by a pin. I'd known a guy who'd hugged a friend and had nearly gotten impaled in the heart from one of his own pins.

I was impatient to move my aunt out of the Eagle before she noticed that many of the men around us were wearing a tad bit less than is normally seen in Lawnville, even at the swimming pool. I took her by the elbow again. "And this is—"

I stopped. I'd been about to introduce Aunt Abigail to Chet, him being the type of leatherboy who runs to open doors for little old ladies. Instead I found my way blocked by the rude, bare-assed top. His shades were off now, and his eyes were as bright as his teeth as he said with a smile, "Kevin."

Then, just as I was trying to figure out how to move Aunt Abigail away, he added, "Sir."

My gaze flicked down for a second. Sure enough, his keys had gravitated over to the right side of his belt.

"When the fuck did that happen?" I demanded.

His smile broadened. "During the blacking. You're one hell of a dirty talker."

I didn't say anything. A moment more, and his smile faded. His gaze dipped. "Sir," he added.

After a bit, I remembered Aunt Abigail. She was listening, enthralled. I wondered what she thought "dirty talker" meant. Someone who discusses how to create mud pies, I supposed.

"Um, Aunt Abigail . . ." I was caught in a net now. How the hell could I get rid of her without abandoning the switch in front of me?

"I'm thirsty," she declared. "Do they have nice drinks in this place?" She looked over at the beer tap at the club bar.

Kevin rescued me. "Certainly, ma'am, all the fruit juices under the sun. If you'd care to step this way . . ." He gestured toward the island bar at the far end of the room, at the same moment glancing my way in an implicit request for permission.

I nodded. I needed time to think. Aunt Abigail needed a drink. Rarely had my plans and my family's plans coincided so neatly.

So we made our way to the bar counter, Kevin breaking our path. By now, word had spread of the intruder; just about every guy we met stared or smiled or glared. I glared back. That did the trick in most cases, though I was infinitely glad that Master Trent wasn't here tonight. He'd have given me an earful about letting vanilla folk wander around a leather bar.

Aunt Abigail, as serenely sure of her welcome as a visiting monarch, simply smiled at everyone she met. Under the cover of the thundering music, I said to Cindy, who was trailing along beside us, "What the hell do I do?"

She raised her eyebrows. "Aren't you the fellow who gave the talk here at last Sunday's rope-bondage demo about how a good top is always prepared?"

I told her how I was prepared, and where I planned to stick it, and she just laughed. Our surroundings were growing darker now; we were approaching the end of the room that was lit only by red lights. It occurred to me, too late, that this was exactly not the right place to bring a maiden aunt.

All traffic had stopped in the cruising zone, though; everyone was gawking at the intruder. As we reached the counter, where the bartender stared open-mouthed at the newcomer, Cindy said, "Brandy and water for the lady, please."


She waved away my protest. My aunt said, "How did you know that's my favorite drink?"

"Long experience with customers," Cindy replied. "And I'm just willing to bet that you need to use the restroom right now."

My gaze shot over to the far end of the room, which held the doors to the balcony, the men's room, and the ladies' room. It was dark under the door to the ladies' room. It was always dark under that door. Except on Leatherdyke Night, the ladies' room was used as an overflow for the goings-on in the men's room.

"It's true, I could use some freshening up," Aunt Abigail said. She had taken her compact from her purse and was peering at herself in the mirror. Kevin, who was in the midst of paying for her drink, glanced over his shoulder, then returned to counting out change. My aunt appeared not to notice that he was wearing nothing on his ass. Or that he was leaning over, showing off that ass in a fuck-me manner. Damn.

"Of course you do," Cindy said. "I was there just a few minutes ago myself, to pick up some supplies. If you wouldn't mind holding these for me . . ."

I looked down at what she'd handed me. For a moment, I thought it was an oversized packet of mustard. Then I read the label.

"And this . . ." She pulled something out of her back pocket. It was a long, pink glove. Of latex.

I stared at it, unbelieving. "Don't tell me they sell those in the ladies' room."

"A good top is always prepared," she replied in a cheerful voice, and then she turned and drew Aunt Abigail toward the restroom door.

The rest of the crowd, seeing that the entertainment was over for the moment, returned to what they'd been doing, circling around the island bar slowly. Or standing against the walls, watching the other men circle slowly. Every now and then, someone would stop by another man, and conversation would follow, too faint to be heard under the music. More often than not, those men would depart from the Eagle soon afterwards.

The bartender was at the other end of the island bar now, serving another customer. I took that fact in, along with the dim lighting. Usually I saved this sort of thing for the bar's balcony, our city's laws being what they were. But having received the seal of approval from Cindy . . .

Kevin turned around, drink in hand. "Ma'am, I hope you don't mind that there's not much water in— Where is she?"

"Hands on the counter," I barked. "Now!"

He practically dropped the glass, but he moved quickly, turning to set the glass down before he leaned forward and placed his palms on the counter. I glanced at the bartender. His back was still to us.

Kevin's ass was furry. I could feel the bulge of his balls pressing against the leather. The crack of his ass was hidden by the regulation one-inch strap that our city laws require. Well, that would have to go.

Now, honestly, I don't carry a switchblade on me. It's just a nice little pocketknife, handy for screwing in bolts or clipping nails or cutting the bonds of a bottom. Now I used it to cut that damn strap. Kevin said breathlessly as he tried to look over his shoulder, "Is your aunt still here?"

"Shut your mouth, boy. Keep your eyes down." Cutting leather is never easy, and it wasn't like I had the best tool to work with.

"Sir, I have to know – is she still here?"

I kid you not: his voice had risen in panic. I glanced at him. There was sweat on his back now, and I didn't think it was from the feel of cold metal against his ass.

"Why?" I asked.

Silence. I pulled the knife back. I don't threaten; not with weapons, anyway.

"Why?" My voice was firmer now.

Another silence, and then, in an angry burst: "I can't get hard when women are around!"

I kept from laughing. I don't laugh at nervous boys, not once they've placed themselves under my care. Instead, I soothed his back with my hand. "She's in the restroom," I said. "So is Cindy."

Actually, this wasn't quite true; I could see Cindy at the other end of the bar, keeping the bartender occupied in conversation. Every now and then she'd glance over at us and grin. But Kevin had his head hanging down, and with any luck he wouldn't notice her.

"Not another word from you, boy." I ran my hand around to his cock to check. Sure enough, my reassurance was doing its work. I gave him a little squeeze, which made him gasp, and then I returned my attention to the strap. I knew that Aunt Abigail tended to linger in restrooms, but this wasn't exactly the sort of operation I wanted to time right down to the second.

I worked with furious concentration, only barely aware that a traffic jam had occurred again, cruisers pausing to watch what I was up to. Cindy had her work cut out for her, distracting the bartender's attention, but she managed it. The strap gave way, and I let myself finger my way down the crack, where rough skin gave way to smooth. Kevin was breathing hard now.

I glanced at the ladies' room. There was a light under the door, and I thought I could hear the faint sound of water running. I might only have a minute or two left. Quickly I slipped on the glove – it was one-size-fits-all, thank God – and then used my teeth to tear open the packet of lube.

Kevin groaned as I pushed in three fingers at once. There was no way I was going slow for my boy this time. "Legs farther apart," I told him. "Chest on the counter."

"Yes, sir."

He might or might not have been fisted before, but he'd been fucked; he knew how to open himself up to another man. No resistance; he was as compliant a boy as I'd ever had. As I began to ease my whole hand in, I found my attention wandering. There was a guy standing near us, a cruiser I hadn't met before. Armband on the right. Nice muscles. He saw me watching, and he gave me a come-hither look that wasn't exactly appropriate in a bottom-man. My cock jumped.

The slam of a door carried me back to the present. I quickly pulled out my hand from Kevin's ass and turned, trying to figure out where the hell to toss the not-so-pink-now glove.

I found Cindy standing beside me, holding a rectangular white metal container. Its lid was open. I stared at the writing on the container. "Where'd you get that?"

"Ladies' room," she responded with a grin. "All of the stalls have one."

Turning in time to hear this exchange, Kevin recoiled with a horrified expression from the sanitary pad container, like it was a nut-crusher. I sighed and tossed the glove into the container. Cindy closed the lid just as Aunt Abigail came up beside us.

"Such a sweet, cozy restroom!" she declared. "And all those pictures of those nice-looking young men on the wall!"

I glanced over at Cindy. She mouthed the words, "Drag kings."

"You have good taste, Aunt Abigail," I said. "Those gentlemen won contests for their looks."

"I'm not at all surprised," she said, treating my compliment in an offhand manner, the same as a rich man might if he was told that he did a good job keeping up the appearance of his house. "It's hard to find nice-looking boys like that. Young men today, they just don't know how to dress themselves. Not you, of course," she added hastily. "Your jeans are always nicely kept – not all ragged, as though you were a construction worker."

Amid the low murmurings of the crowd, it was impossible to ignore the snort of laughter next to me. I turned my eyes. Kevin wasn't smiling. His face was dark with anger.

I returned his gaze, steady as can be, tracing back his change of expression to the moment when Cindy had appeared with disposal unit in hand. Probably he thought I'd lied to him, and Cindy had been watching us all along. He wasn't much wrong, at that.

Well, he was still here. That said something. Now I just had to figure out what to do with that something.

"They don't know how to dress themselves," my aunt was repeating. "Not like dear Trevor. Dear, dear Trevor." She sniffed.

I sighed and pulled out the grey hanky from my left back pocket to hand to her. For as long as I could remember, Aunt Abigail had been going on about this young man who'd died years ago. I was secretly of the opinion that her long-lost love had never existed.

"Always nicely dressed," she said, patting the wrinkles next to her eyes with the hanky. "Always polite, always ready to give me a ride anywhere I needed to go. Such a fine young man. Not like young men today." Then, in one of those abrupt changes of moods that still caught me off-guard after all these years: "You're different than the rest! You have the prettiest pins on your vest. What do they all mean?"

I hesitated, uncertain how to respond. I heard Kevin give another angry snort of laughter. Cindy, acting out of character, rescued me.

"Why, they're community pins," she replied. "Everyone in our community wears them. See, this one shows one of the contests he's attended—" She pointed to my Mid-Atlantic Leather pin. "And this one shows an educational event he's been to—" She pointed to my pin for the Delta Brotherhood run. I made a note to myself to list the expenses of next year's run on my tax form as educational deductions.

"And this one," she added, "is a friendship pin."

This time Kevin's response was a snigger. I didn't bother to glare at him. I'd probably have done the same if I'd run across a leatherman wearing a pink pin bearing the words "Femmes on Bikes." I wasn't about to let that stand in the way of me wearing a friendship pin from Cindy.

At least the pin was upside down. That should tell him something.

"How cute." Aunt Abigail came up close to peer at my vest. "We used to have those, back when I was growing up. We'd put them on our sneakers. Did you ever put them on your sneakers, dear?"

This time the laughter could be heard to the far ends of the bar. The damned bartender had turned down the music so that everyone could enjoy the show.

"No, Aunt Abigail, nor on my boots," I responded patiently as she stepped back.

"We had all sorts of special ceremonies connected with giving a friendship pin," my aunt prattled on, undaunted. "Do you have special ceremonies?"

"Probably not in this case, ma'am." Surprisingly, my rescuer was Kevin this time. "I imagine his friend just pinned it on his vest." And then, as I was letting out my breath, he added, "But we do have a special ceremony for other occasions. If you'll allow me to demonstrate . . ."

And there he was. On his knees. With pin in hand.

A nice, pointy pin. Aimed straight at my cock.

My cock did its best to shrivel up against my balls. Kevin waited, his gaze raised toward mine in a challenging manner. Damned if that didn't make my cock grow. There was no way now that he was going to miss his target with that sharp object in his hand.

A hush had fallen on the crowd. Everyone waited. I could see my club brothers waiting too. If it hadn't been for that, I'd have turned this into a joke and pulled Kevin to his feet.

But not with them watching. My standing with them was in balance.

I cleared my throat. "Aunt Abigail," I said, "this ceremony really ought not to take place except in the presence of community members—"

"Oh, I think your aunt is a member of our community now," interjected Cindy, grinning as she draped an arm over the shoulders of my aunt, who was now delicately sipping on her brandy and water.

I could have killed her. I could have killed my aunt.

I didn't want to kill the boy kneeling at my feet, with his look of challenge on his face. I wanted to fuck him hard.

I gave a slight nod to him. Carefully turning the pin so that it was upside down, he reached forward and placed the pin against the part of my jeans where my head was clearly outlined. I held my breath as my fingernails dug into my palms. I hoped to God he wouldn't give me lockjaw. That had happened to the last guy I knew who'd had a Prince Albert done on him with spare equipment.

Then Kevin's other hand slid into my jeans. Slid slowly, his fingers stroking my shaft as they pressed my naked cock back. My fingernails dug harder into my palms; I could hear the raggedness of my breath.

With his fingers now serving as a wall between my cock and the point, he pinned me. I felt his fingers move as he placed the guard over the point to protect my cock from any damage. Then, without warning, he leaned down and began sucking my balls.

I closed my eyes. I could feel the warmth of his mouth through the jeans, his tongue pressing up to stroke me, his fingers working their way along my shaft. The cool metal guard of the friendship pin pressed against the big vein in my cock. The moisture from his mouth was beginning to soak through my jeans.

"Oh, how splendid!" exclaimed my aunt. "It's just like Trevor told me!"

My cock retreated like an army on the run. I opened my eyes to see that Kevin had settled back on his heels. He didn't look angry; he looked bemused. "Ma'am?"

"They do that in Oceania somewhere, Trevor said – Papua New Guinea, I think he said. There are boys and young men, and the boys are initiated into the tribe by kneeling down and doing something or other to the young men – I can't quite remember, it was so long ago . . ."

I made a note to myself to question her a little more closely about this long-lost love of hers. I was trying to ignore the fact that Kevin was busy turning the pin right-side up, and I hoped my aunt would ignore this too, or we'd have questions about the meaning of that particular maneuver.

Cindy, moving in smoothly to block the bartender, who was beginning to look as though he had ideas of making a fuss, said, "Yes, it's a very special ceremony, and see how the pin has just been turned to face right-side up? That's a way of showing everyone your nephew meets that he has gone through this ceremony. He'll wear the pin there for the next twenty-four hours before he transfers it to his vest."

The hell I would. I could just imagine what my boss would say if I walked into work wearing a pin on my crotch that said, "Capital City Bondage Club."

Finally – finally – my true rescue came, in the form of Martin, moving up to my aunt. "Ma'am, though your nephew is too modest to say so, he's undergone something of an ordeal – in splendid form, as always. But I think he could use a rest now. I'd be honored if you'd be willing to let me escort you home."

My aunt lit up as though Martin was a reincarnation of her long-lost love. "Why, that would be just wonderful! You could tell me all about my dear boy!" She gestured toward me. I gave a warning glare at Martin. He gave a reassuring smile back and offered my aunt his arm. Setting her glass aside, she left as she had come, chatting brightly as the crowd parted for her.

Cindy had disappeared, probably trying to avoid having me commit my first murder. Kevin was still there, though, kneeling at my feet. He'd taken his hand out of my jeans when the bartender appeared, but he was still resting his hard, warm palm against my clothed cock. He looked up at me enquiringly.

"You," I said, "are a troublemaker."

He took a deep breath. Then he replied, "Yes, sir."

His gaze didn't waver. The come-hither guy stood nearby, trying to catch my eye.

I ignored him, laughing as I pulled Kevin to his feet. "Then we'll get along just fine, boy." I glanced at his boots. "You could use a shine."


If this was a porn story, that's how things would end: with Kevin sitting on the bootblack stand, finally putting his rudeness to good use, much to the delight of the berated bootblack and myself. Then I'd pull Kevin off the stand, push him out the door, and take him home to "punish" him for his rudeness.

Since this isn't a porn story, it turned out he had to work early in the morning. So after the blacking, we exchanged phone numbers, and he called it a night. I only waited long enough to make sure my brothers didn't need me at the club bar. It was past two a.m. by now, though, and the crowd was beginning to thin. Our club had already begun to close up shop.

Downstairs, to my surprise, I discovered Aunt Abigail standing by the doorway, talking to Cindy, who was sitting on a high stool and using a flashlight to check the ID of a late-arriving customer.

"Your friend went to fetch his car," Aunt Abigail explained, pointing to the drizzle of rain that had begun outside. "I told him that I have an umbrella, but he insisted on saving me the walk. Such a sweet boy."

I smiled as I wondered how Martin liked being referred to as a "boy." Cindy, handing the ID back to the customer, said, "Your aunt has been telling me about her work with the 14th Street clinic."

My head whipped around as though I'd just been dealt a slap. "You work at the clinic?"

"Oh, yes, I've volunteered there for the past six years," Aunt Abigail said serenely as the customer departed. "Your nice friend here tells me that the money we collected tonight will go to the clinic's fund for the homeless. I'm so glad to hear that. The clinic does such good work, you know."

Cindy amused herself by flashing the light straight into my eyes. "Your aunt has been bringing me up to date on the latest medical research."

"Pshaw." Aunt Abigail actually said this word, waving her umbrella dismissively in the air. I just managed to jerk back in time to avoid being poked in the balls. "I only know the basics. By the way, dear." She lowered her voice and beckoned me forward. I bent toward her. "I didn't want to say anything with all your friends listening, but I do hope you didn't use Crisco with that glove."

"Crisco?" I said faintly.

"Oh, yes. It eats rubber, you know. Water-based lubricants are so much safer. And you should never share your lubricant with anyone else. All those poor fisters in the eighties, sharing their Crisco and dying like flies . . ." She sighed. The feather in her hat quivered.

I looked over at Cindy. She was trying to bite away a grin. She only succeeded in looking even more like the Cheshire Cat. "Did Cindy tell you this, Aunt Abigail?" I asked, trying to keep my voice calm as I glared in Cindy's direction.

Aunt Abigail stared at me with her eyes wide in astonishment. "Why, dear, everyone knows that. Haven't you read And the Band Played On? I'll lend you my copy."

A noise escaped Cindy. By the time Aunt Abigail looked her way, Cindy had smoothed out her expression. She said sweetly, "Your aunt was telling me about her years in San Francisco. Didn't you say, Miss Parker, that you lived next door to a member of a motorcycle club?"

Aunt Abigail sighed again, this time with apparent contentment. "Dear, dear Trevor. Such a loss he was to this world. Do you know, any time I needed to buy anything, he would drive me to where I wanted to go? In his sidecar," she amended. "And he always made me wear a helmet. Such a fine young man. You know, when I first read that book I'll lend you, I told your mother, 'I don't believe a word this writer is saying about those leathermen. It just doesn't match what I remember of Trevor.' Imagine my delight when she told me you worked one night a month at a leather bar! I hurried right over to see for myself what the truth was about these leathermen. And I was right, wasn't I? Everyone here is as nice as can be!

"But underdressed," she added. "I do hope that you always wear a jacket or vest when you go to a run, dear. I wouldn't want you to catch a cold."

She stared up at me, concern written across her face. I found that my mouth was open. Had been open for several minutes. I was still trying to figure out the procedure for closing it when Martin appeared at the door, dripping slightly. Aunt Abigail turned to him, smiling.

"As nice as can be!" she repeated. "I don't suppose you have a sidecar, do you, young man?"

"Ma'am?" Martin stared with bewilderment at my aunt, then at me. I said nothing, but simply tucked the money I owed him into his pocket. The trip back to Lawnville, I could imagine, would be an entertaining one for my aunt, if not necessarily for Martin.

They left, my aunt loudly quizzing Martin about whether he used condoms. I watched them go. Ordinarily, I'd catch a ride home with Martin. Tonight, the subway seemed safer.

"Kevin was right," I told Cindy. "They should never let little ladies into this place. Those ladies run rings around the rest of us."

Grinning, Cindy got up from her stool to let the regular doorman return to his work. "How'd it go upstairs? Did you pin your catch for the night?"

I eyed her for a long time; her smile didn't waver. Finally I said, "You disappoint me. You're not as much a sadist as I'd thought."

She laughed. "I know you too well, that's all. If I'd let things end with the fisting, you'd never have hit it off with him. You get bored with people if they're not a challenge."

I looked back at the doorway. Through the sound of rain pattering down onto the night-slick road, I thought I could just hear Aunt Abigail berating Martin for not owning the proper equipment by which to unchain a bottom quickly in an emergency. "That could explain why I get along so well with my family," I murmured.

Then I hurried into the rain to catch up with Martin and relieve him from the burden he was enduring. Already my mind was flying ahead to next month's bar night, and I was making plans.

Perhaps I could persuade my mom to visit the Eagle?