On the hand-polished, leather-padded St. Andrew's cross a young woman wielded an expert flogger across the back of a gorgeous young man with a vague resemblence to a movie star in his youthful heyday. On the floor to their right a man in his mid-50s slowly enveloped a very fat but still pretty redheaded woman in broad swaths of plastic wrap. A flogging went on in the corner, and two young women clearly put out a bid for attention performing nipple-twisting games on the couch along the wall. The DJ played a horrible mashup of Rammstein and Flock of Seagulls across the club's speakers.
Nathan struggled with boredom. He had come by himself to Under The Stairs after his date had fallen through, wondering if he'd see anyone he knew at the club, but so far it had been casual acquaintances who'd come with dates of their own and had no need for a third set of hands.
The door opened at the top of the stairs open, but Nathan couldn't quite manage the energy needed to turn his head. Footsteps clunked down the stairs, and Nathan recognized the fall of heavy boots. He knew they would be Doc Martens. He didn't have to look. The footsteps came two at a time. Someone alone. Like him.
That made him turn his head. Stop. Gape. A Bastet?
The man on the stairs looked hours from legal age, yet he carried himself as if he'd been walking the Earth since the time of the Pharaohs. He had long, dense, superfine hair and tall, furred cat ears. Nathan's eyes wandered down his strong, broad body, a build rare in Bastet, and settled on a leather bracer that covered half of his forearm, left side. The newcomer wore a black velvet tank-top and black denim pants. The shoes were Doc Martens. Nathan smiled at that.
When he looked back up at the man's face he smiled back. Without waiting for any further invitation he strode over to Nathan, every step sinuous with feline bounce. "Hi."
Nathan stilled an instinctual desire to step back. The other man barely came up to his chest. "Hi," he said.
"What was the smile for?" the Bastet asked.
"I correctly guessed what kind of boots you were wearing." He gestured. "From the sound you made coming down the steps."
"Oh." The Bastet held out his hand. "I'm Zeb."
Nathan had never touched a Bastet before. He hesitated only briefly before shaking Zeb's hand once, firmly. It felt like any other hand. "Nathan. I've never seen you here before."
"I only moved to Seattle three weeks ago. I found this place mentioned on a forum on the Internet." Nathan raised an eyebrow. Lady Bliss took care not to publicize Under the Stairs too much. Seattle was frequently schizophrenic about its obligation to police its citizen's morals, and might one day embrace an openly kinky and demonstrative space on safer sex play, and the next day go all-out to close the place down for maximum publicity. The city had four major newspapers, two dailies and two weeklies. As the weeklies pushed Seattle's live-and-let-live, gay-friendly, kink-friendly politically correct individualism, the dailies responded by talking up suburb-ready, livable safe streets, "what will we teach our children" safer-sex politically correct collectivism.
No one knew what role anyone else played along the continuum represented by the four papers (nevermind the wild edginess of the anarchosocialist rags that littered the free boxes with names like Eat the State and Gay City), even in a place like Under the Stairs. Nathan suspected that most Seattlites didn't know where they themselves fell on that spectrum at any given moment until they opened their mouths and voiced an opinion. Once voiced, they tended to hew to it with suprising stubborness, even if tomorrow they might feel different. As a result, Seattlites tended to be reserved, even chilly, when facing a stranger. Zeb obviously didn't know that. "Where are you from?"
"St. Louis," Zeb said. "Nice place, but the Bastet community there is small and getting smaller."
"And Seattle is bigger?"
"Much," Zeb said. He glanced around. "Nice place."
"Yeah, Lady Bliss keeps it this way for a reason." Nathan pointed up. "You'd never know this was going on under the bookstore. So, what are you into?"
"That depends," Zeb said, grinning. "Do you play with guys?"
"Depends on the guy," Nathan said. "I think I could play with you, if I knew what you were into."
Zeb relaxed a little. "What are you into?"
Nathan gestured to the couch where he'd been sitting. He pulled out his bag. "Right now, I've brought mostly flogging equipment." He was negotiating with a goddamned Bastet. Was he? It sounded like he was. He wasn't so sure he wanted to flog a Bastet. Getting involved with one was supposed to be dangerous. Or weird. Or something. He pulled out all four of his floggers. "These two are made of doehide, and are pretty soft. This one is cowhide. And this one," he said, pulling out his favorite, a long, black thing with tails three millimeters thick and a centimeter wide, "This is buffalo."
"Do they hurt?" Zeb said quickly. Was Nathan reading this right? Zeb had just walked into an S&M club alone, for the first time, without a guide. And the bracer– Zeb was old for a Bastet. And rich. The bracer covered up the shunt where Zeb took machine-mediated dialysis. Nathan had read about that. Since Bastet were immune to almost any infections they could do medically risky things like simplified at-home dialysis to support their failing kidneys, the most common cause of death among Bastet. That meant Zeb was in his mid-forties at least. He didn't look it. He could have been seventeen.
"Depends on what you mean by 'hurt', doesn't it?" Nathan said. He wasn't sure he wanted to do this. "They're pretty thuddy, rather than stingy. Lots of people like one or the other, right? Which do you like?" Zeb hesitated. Nathan said, "Look, if you've never done this before, let me know."
"It's not that I don't know... It's been a long time."
Nathan thought that he might regret taking Zeb out onto the rack, but he couldn't resist the idea of being seen, in public, flogging a Bastet. If it all went well he'd have partners asking him for weeks, at least until the gossip died down. It had been a long time since he'd been with a guy, mostly his own paranoia about AIDS. Bastet were supposed to be perfect lovers because their relative immunity to the world around them meant you didn't have use condoms. His eyes flicked down to the bracer. "If we do this... is there anything I should know about that?" He pointed.
"Just don't hit it," Zeb said.
"Then– Okay, why don't you take your shirt off and let's get started." He pointed to the A-frame. "The rack is empty. Meet me there."
"I'll do that."
Nathan walked over to the A-frame. He started to unpack on the simple grid side, a rectangle of wood seven feet high and about 22 degrees off the vertical, a grid of two-by-fours with enough room in the gaps for hands and feet but probably not a head. He had just finished unpacking his bag completely when a pair of bare feet presented themselves. He glanced up, his eyes trailing over skin so clear it glistened, to the dangling, soft but still pretty cock and the thatch of dense, fine hair above it. He hesitated, working his jaw to relieve the spit that had suddenly appeared on his tongue, then looked up at Zeb's face. "You want to do it like this?"
Zeb nodded. "Might as well go all the way, huh?" He seemed completely comfortable with his nakedness.
"If that's what you want," Nathan said. He stood up. "I think you should just hold this. No bondage. If you need a safeword– anything will do. Just let me know what you need, okay? Even a wave of the hand, if it's too loud in here for me to hear you." He thudded the frame with his closed fist, but the worry had come back. What was going on here?
Playing with strangers was always fraught with danger. Neither person really knew the other's experience level. Nathan thought Zeb's was pretty low. Neither knew what emotional timebombs the other carried inside, deep down below.
The room had noticed. Zeb was, as far as Nathan knew, the first Bastet to make an appearance at Under the Stairs, ever. Kink didn't seem to be in the blood of the Bastet the way it was in many human beings, despite their almost legendary promiscuity. They had a past which included slavery, much as Black people did, and that made playing some games, like flogging, much more problematic. At least, it was problematic for Nathan. He was determined to power through it. Especially now that he had an audience.
Zeb held the rack stiffly, arms straight, pushed away. His feet rested on the leather pad at the floor. "Relax," Nathan told him. "You'll enjoy this more. We never negotiated touching, though."
"Do you just want a straightforward flogging? Or would you like something more intimate?" He touched a spot on Zeb's shoulder, pushing in hard enough to dimple the skin. "Would it be all right to kiss you here?"
Zeb bit his lip, hard, but then eased and smiled. "Oh, yes. Intimate would be great."
Nathan did kiss Zeb then, on the shoulder. The skin was soft and smooth, perfectly ordinary. Zeb whispered a sigh. Nathan back away and said, "Okay, here we go. I'm just gonna start lightly, just brushing, okay?"
Nathan enjoyed flogging people. He enjoyed the attention of the lookie-loos who surrounded them both now. He was sure they'd have been much happier with at least one girl in the scene– Under the Stairs was so heterosexual, you had to go to the Eagle or the Zee for most man-on-man stuff, and the Eagle had gotten lame and the Zee had always been scary– but the opportunity to watch a Bastet get beaten must have drawn many eyes. Most of them were club regulars, people Nathan knew by sight if not by name. He knew one or two as disappointing "energy vampires," the kind of people who somehow stole energy from a scene just by the way they stood, the way they watched. They were usually easy to spot: they didn't know how to dress at all.
He pressed the cool leather of his two light floggers to Zeb's back, just held it there, then slid it back and forth. Zeb shivered. "That tickles."
"You're sensitive back here."
"Yeah, always have been."
"I have to tie up your hair." Nathan had elastics for just that purpose, since he could never be sure if a willing young woman would have the same with her. He put Zeb's hair up in a bun. "Here we go," he said, stood back, took aim. Nathan let the tails fall, a light flogging pattern of leather raindrops, before taking his first muscle-backed swing. It was still very gentle, little more than a light slap, and Zeb's whole body stiffened with the impact. Nathan delivered almost a dozen more just like that. He approached Zeb, holding the tails to Zeb's back to cover the impact sites, to impart a sense of leather to Zeb's sensoria, and said, "You're probably asking yourself– or you're soon going to ask yourself– 'What am I doing here?'"
Zeb blushed. "Does everyone?"
"Everyone," Nathan whispered, and kissed Zeb's back agan. "The ones who stop now, and the ones who go all the way."
"All the way to what?"
The wording had been wrong. He didn't want to imply an endpoint. It was different for everyone. "All the way to when they really want to stop."
"I think I know why I'm here."
"No, but... do it."
"Okay." Nathan stepped back. He played the floggers gently across Zeb's back, working his way up until they were striking solidly. Zeb jerked with the first solid hit, then the second and the third, before he eased into it. His body had started to recognize the demands being placed on it. Nathan was grateful that at least Bastet had that much in common with humans. He increased his strength, then eased, then increased again, then eased. At most, it was less than forty strokes.
He pressed his clothed chest to Zeb's back, kissed the whip-warmed skin. It was warm back there, more than Nathan would have thought for the brief beginning. They'd been at this less than five minutes. He dropped more kisses across the back of Zeb's neck. "How do you feel?"
"Good. Funny, but good."
"I can't describe it," Zeb said, and pressed his hips back against Nathan's crotch. That described it well enough. Nathan had seen this reaction in women before. "It's like being itchy, and horny, and hot."
"How about we try a little more?"
"I'd love that."
Nathan used the doehides for a few more minutes, until Zeb's back glowed red and showed the initial signs of abuse. Some of it looked abrasive, but not much. Doehide rarely abraded as much as other kinds of leather. He put the doehides down and took out the cow leather. It was a more ordinary flogger, with shorter tails. "This is a little more stingy," he warned. He started light, as he had with the doehides, and then worked his way up. Zeb was silent, but he seemed relaxed as Nathan delivered more and more, and Zeb took it.
Nathan put the flogger down and pressed himself, hard, against Zeb's back, pushing the other man to the rack. "How are you doing, Zeb?"
"Good," the Bastet sobbed. "Good."
"Good? You don't sound so sure."
"No, I'm good. Please? Nathan? The big one."
"Are you sure?"
"Yes!" Zeb hissed. "Yes."
Nathan stood back. Play that serious with a stranger? With a Bastet? Was he crazy? Zeb took a heavy breath and said, "Okay, Zeb. Just a little."
He picked up the buffalo hide flogger, a lovely thing when he'd first bought it. He still loved it, loved using it and having it used on him. "This is gonna thud, not sting."
"Good," Zeb said. He held himself out from the rack, offering his already bruised back to Nathan's mercies. Nathan brought the flogger down softly, then ramped up, alternating strikes across Zeb's well-muscled shoulderblades, taking care with his aim, going slow, being sure. Zeb's body was shaking, sweat running off his back and dripping down to the floor. Nathan brought the flogged down again, and again, and Zeb's shaking grew until suddenly he collapsed on the floor. Nathan snatched the flogger back in mid-swing, missing Zeb's head by only an inch.
He fell to the floor next to Zeb, who was lying crumpled against the rack, his legs folded underneath him. He was crying loudly. "Zeb?"
Zeb grabbed Nathan. He crawled into Nathan's lap, wrapped his arms around him, and held on. "I'm sorry," he whispered. "I'm sorry."
"Sshhh," Nathan said. "Ssssh." He reached behind himself for the bottled water he'd brought. He pulled open the plug with his teeth and help it up to Zeb's lips. Zeb drank from it, deep. "Slow down," he said. "You'll make yourself sick."
Zeb let go and lay against Nathan for a while. The crowd, sensing this was a moment too intimate for up-close and personal observation, mostly dissipated. Nathan held Zeb as much as he could, but his back ached from the extra weight and the unexpected pressures Zeb's body put on him.
Zeb raised his head and said, "Thank you." He pushed himself up and sat away from Nathan.
"How do you feel?" Nathan said, stretching out his legs.
Zeb shrugged. "I'll be okay."
"You don't sound okay," Nathan said. Zeb sounded miserable, in fact, less happy than when he'd come in the door. "Is this... " He gestured toward the heavy flogger lying on the floor. "Is this what you wanted when you walked in?"
"Sort-of," Zeb said. He took a deep breath, looked up. Nathan followed his gaze. Another couple was eyeing them politely, but it was clear they were waiting for the rack to clear.
"Let's give them room."
Zeb nodded. They cleaned up the scattered toys and made their way back to the quieter half of the club. Zeb found his clothes and pulled his pants on, but left his shirt off. He pulled the elastics out of his hair and let it fall about his shoulders, looking too much like a shampoo commercial as he did so. Nathan stifled a giggle.
Zeb said, "My mother..."
Nathan looked up. "What?"
"My mother was very old-school. She lived one of those Bastet adoptions that you read about in history books with some rich dirty ol' guy. I grew up in that household until I was thirteen, then got the hell out. The old man snagged me a Rudolph scholarship, do you know what those are?" Nathan shook his head. "Oh, it's a special schooling arrangement for Bastet. Anyway, I went to a boarding school, which was good for me. But one of the things I knew she did for him was–" He gestured towards Nathan's duffel.
"He beat her?"
"No, she beat him. He liked it. But she hated it. She didn't understand why he wanted it, and it wasn't like petting. She wanted to be touched, held, loved. You know, the whole cat thing. She wanted to purr. Whippings weren't anything like that. She never tried it herself, I don't think. Old man probably couldn't bear the idea of actually hitting her." He smiled. "My mother was very beautiful.
"Anyway," Zeb continued, "I always wondered what he got out of it. I figured I was old enough to find out. But it wasn't... I guess I'm not human enough. When it was happening, I could let myself go and feel it, and it was actually fun, in a weird kind of way. But when it was over, and I sat down, I felt this blackness, this... I wanted to throw up, but my body didn't want to. Does that make sense?"
"Yeah, kinda," Nathan said. One thing all of Nathan's mentors and all of the books had taught him about S&M was that he always had to be ready to turn from lover to counsellor in one step, to be ready to put someone back together after they'd fallen apart. He had never had the problem himself, until now. He tried to handle his own feelings... he'd beaten a Bastet, and now details of an abusive relationship in Zeb's past had come up. He swallowed his own distress, tried to answer Zeb's unspoken question. "Maybe the blackness was because you expected something different, and you didn't find it. It came from your expectations?"
"Maybe," Zeb said, leaning his arms against the table, chin cradled in a bent palm. "You were very good, I think. Were you?"
Nathan shrugged and reined in any pride or arrogance at Zeb's praise. It wasn't the right time. "I didn't do anything wrong, physically. I didn't hit your spine or your kidneys or anything like that. I think I read you well enough to know that I wasn't going up too fast."
Zeb nodded. "I'd like to try it again, maybe. With you, if you're free."
Nathan stared at him. "I'm still dealing with the fact that I whipped a Bastet. Are you serious?"
"If you can stand me now."
Nathan gave a barking laugh. "Yeah, I think I can stand you."
"You can still be intimate with me, if you want." He put his hands down, leaned forward toward Nathan. Nathan responded and kissed him back. He rarely kissed guys. It didn't come automatically to him, but he liked it when he did it. And Zeb was so damned beautiful, in a powerful, masculine way, that he could easily find the desire.
"There's a sex space in the back," Nathan said.
Nathan led only as far as the door. After that, Zeb seemed to know where to go, leading him to a bed, pulling the thin curtain that did nothing to keep out earnest observers– although any observers in the back rooms must, by club rules, have a partner of their own and preferably having sex– and knocking Nathan down to the bed to hold him, kissing Nathan's face and neck.
Nathan gasped at Zeb's ease. He hadn't anticipated that the other man would be quite so competent, but Zeb knew exactly where to kiss, and how, to make Nathan's skin sizzle with desire. It was hard for him to think, and when Zeb's mouth came back to his lips their kisses obliterated Nathan's capacity for reason altogether.
He wasn't even sure how he ended up naked, but he knew when Zeb's mouth surrounded his cock that he was in for the ride of his life. Zeb's mouth caressed his cock, his tongue warm and wet along the underside, his too-sharp teeth scraping the delicate skin, forcing Nathan to choose between instinctual self-defense and desirous self-surrender. Surrender won and he relaxed back into a delerium of gasps, there's just never enough oxygen, a dizzying rise and finally a solid, sudden crest of ecstacy as he came. Zeb clamped down hard on Nathan's cock and swallowed every drop.
Nathan lay on the hard mattress, collecting his breath, trying to collect his mind as he contemplated what Zeb had just done to him. "Wow."
"I'm glad you liked it." Nathan had just a moment to glimpse Zeb's smiling expression, the tall, fuzzy ears outlined in the glow of an LED strand behind him, before Zeb blocked out the light and kissed him again.
Nathan didn't taste any of his own come on Zeb as they kissed, and Nathan wanted more. He let the kisses go on for minutes, but finally he said, "Lie down. On your front."
Zeb cocked his head quizzically, but finally moved off. Nathan admired the long, lean lines of Zeb's back. Zeb's tail and ass didn't get a rise out of him, at least not directly, but his shoulders were beautiful, and he had gorgeous biceps. Nathan leaned down and kissed Zeb's back. Zeb's body tensed, then relaxed. "I'll be gentle," Nathan said. "Your back's all roughed up."
"Is that it?" Zeb sighed.
Nathan made his way down Zeb's back. He kissed and licked as much as he could, and as he went Zeb made satisfied noises. Nathan reached the ass, where the tail erupted out of a shock of dense fur, like a second patch of pubic hair but softer, thicker. He kissed around the fur and down into the cleft, nuzzling and licking. Zeb moaned louder.
Nathan wasn't into rimming, so he skipped around Zeb's asshole and reached the other man's balls. Zeb parted his legs, then said, "It would be easier if I turned over."
"Your back will itch."
"My cock itches for more."
"Then do it."
Zeb eased over, languidly, his cock swishing up against his belly. Nathan took it in his hands and looked it over, admiring it.
Nathan had what he thought was a strange relationship with cock. It wasn't like his attraction to pussy at all. It started out more intellectual, more laden with spiritual inertia, but when he got this close it became even more primal. He had to have it. He had to prove to Zeb he could make Zeb's cock as happy as Zeb had made his.
He licked at the head, the hunger within him real and desperate. He fell in love with Zeb, that odd little love that men feel when they're pleasuring another man, and he treated the length of Zeb's cock to every skill he knew. He wrapped one hand around Zeb's balls and stroked the length of Zeb's cock with his tongue, his lips, the back of his throat. He fought against the gagging sensation, a terrible weakness he knew he should overcome but he never had enough practice. He shifted to using his hand as his jaw tired. He should have guessed that Zeb at his age would take a while.
But not too long. "Close, Nathan." Nathan hadn't given Zeb any warning, and wouldn't accepted any from Zeb. He hated the acrid taste of come but Zeb had swallowed and Zeb, a Bastet, was safe to swallow. He kept the same pace, knowing that if he changed it would just delay. He loved Zeb, momentarily gave himself to Zeb, and let Zeb's cock batter his mouth and throat until Zeb yowled hard and came.
There wasn't much of the foul, slimy stuff, and Nathan managed to swallow it without gagging too hard. He wiped his mouth, where some had dribbled out onto his chin. "Wow," Zeb said. "You were good at that."
"You made me come, didn't you?"
Nathan laughed as he lay next to Zeb. "I did, didn't I?"
They lay next to one another. Zeb's hand found Nathan's hard cock. "Hmm."
"Hmm?" Nathan said.
"Want to put that inside me?"
Nathan hesitated, but then nodded. "I would love to." He gestured to the small table next to the bed. In a small plastic basket waited a pile of condoms and small packets of lube. The condoms were cheap Trojans and Crowns, and the lube was as ordinary as ID and Wet, but they'd do. "Should I use a condom?"
"You have to, according to the rules, right?" Zeb grabbed one from the basket, leaving Nathan lying on the bed. "You have to keep the habit, Nathan. And I really don't like the feeling of semen inside me anyway." He stroked Nathan's hard cock, making it even harder. "You're going to fuck me, Nathan. With this." The boyish grin made Nathan want him even more. Zeb bit down on a foil packet and tore it open. The condom flipped out onto Nathan's chest. Zeb retreived it and unrolled it expertly over Nathan's cock. Another foil packet, lube this time, and then he straddled Nathan.
Both men gasped as Zeb impaled himself on that hard cock. Even with the condom, Nathan felt every millimeter of motion as the ring of Zeb's asshole slid along his cock. He settled back against the bed and watched the other man rise and fall, his own semi-hard cock, still drooling semen, bouncing gently.
"You are so good-looking," Nathan said
"You're pretty damned fine yourself." Zeb leaned forward, falling against the bed, kissing Nathan even as he stroked Nathan's willing, hard cock even more firmly.
Zeb gasped. "Damn, thought I had more..." And slowed down.
"Do you want to stop?" Nathan said. He'd been worried, watching Zeb's face get flushed.
"It's, um, close to my... I need to head home soon."
Nathan nodded. "That thing?" He tilted his head toward Zeb's forearm, the one with the leather bracer.
"Yeah. But I don't want to leave you hanging."
Nathan reached up, touched Zeb's face. He said, "I don't need to come a second time. The first was enough. We weren't getting anywhere with that, I think."
Zeb kissed his hand. "How would you feel if I offered to make you breakfast?" He lifted Nathan's cock, which bobbed forward to land on his belly with a thwack.
"You don't have to."
"I want to." Zeb lay down beside Nathan, nuzzled his neck with soft lips even as his hands deftly tore off the condom and tossed it into the basket next to the bed.
"Let's go wash up," Nathan said. Tomorrow was Saturday. He weighed the offer. He'd never tricked overnight before, never gone to actually spend the night in someone else's bed. He decided it was time he did. "And then you'll have to let me follow you home."
Zeb grinned. "Let's do that."