Black Fire

by Julnick


Chapter 1 [Next]

Evan looked at the assortment of bandanas and snorted softly. He picked up a black one and tied it snugly around his right boot, then dumped the rest back into the drawer. He pulled a tight black T-shirt over his head and admired his profile in the full-length mirror. He was small, but he was compact and well-defined. He'd find what he was looking for tonight.

The night air was cool. Clouds were beginning to gather. Perhaps it would rain later. Evan didn't bring a coat.

He walked down the long blocks, through the seedy neighborhoods, meeting the eyes of the unfavorable shadows that lurked by the storefronts and in the alley mouths, sending his hatred and his anger into his stare. They never bothered him. No one asked him for spare change.

The landscape changed from business to factory district. Commerce City. Warehouses. Storage tanks. Giant gritty machines. Processing plants. Dusk was coming on. The spires of civilization's underbelly sent monstrous shadows scurrying from the dying sun. Evan drew his knife from his boot and fingered the hilt as he walked through the hazy darkness. This place made him feel small. He felt small too often in his life. He didn't like the feeling.

He walked on. Streetlights began to wink on, fighting against the heavy, black sea that swelled against them. Small orange and red glows marked the towers of the factories. Occasional floodlights only added confusion to the maze of light and darkness.

Finally, he could hear the rumble of engines and the grating of tires in the gravel. Then he could see headlights. And soon, he could hear voices, some cheerful, some gruff. Some already in role, master, slave. As he approached he saw a couple getting out of a car. A larger man, portly, in black leather and a cap, jerking viciously on a chain. Attached to the chain by the neck, emerging after the man, was a younger man. Naked save for his collar, which he scrabbled at when the chain was yanked again. The older man barked a command and the slave responded submissively, crawling onto his knees in the gravel.

Evan watched from the shadows. The man cuffed the slave hard on the ear, and the slave lost his balance dropping one hand to keep from falling. He was rebuked again, and again he bowed, groveling. Evan spat.

When the two were finally out of sight, Evan stepped forward into the light of the building's spots. The parking area was nearly full. He turned toward the large building, it was a warehouse, it's sides corrugated steel. A simple door on the side led him into the interior. A converted machine shop. He walked slowly around the edge, taking it in with his eyes.

The center had been transformed into a large play area. Benches, horses, stocks, even some suspension equipment was set up. Around the edges were crosses. A number of them. Several already in use. Evan turned down several offers and made his way to the bar, which was serving... juice and soda. He scowled and nursed a Pepsi while he watched the play for another fifteen minutes. A young-looking man came up beside him and ordered a juice. Evan glanced at him. He couldn't see a flag, or an armband.

"Hi," the man said, smiling.

Evan nodded. He took a swallow of Pepsi. "You're not flagged," he said bluntly.

The man's smile broadened. "No, I'm not."

"Why not?"

"I don't need to advertise."

Evan thought about this. "How do people know what you're into then?" he challenged.

"They ask," the man said, just as bluntly.

Evan snorted and set down his drink. "Yeah... Nice chatting..." He strode off toward a scene that seemed to be winding down.

As the top took the bottom off the cross, Evan caught his eye and nodded. The man's eyes raked over Evan's body. Evan waited. The top spoke briefly to the man he'd just finished with, who nodded and disappeared into the crowd. Then he took the flogger he'd been using and tossed it into his bag and waved his hand over the array still left out on the bench beside him. Evan looked them over. He picked up a nine-tailed cat, and let the leather laces slide over his hand. The man raised his eyebrows doubtfully.

"This," Evan said firmly. He was aware that several people had stopped to watch. He pulled off his shirt and stepped to the cross. The man pulled his wrists up into the cuffs and secured him. Then asked him for his safeword.

"I don't use safewords," Evan said, looking the man in the eyes. The man began to silently undo the cuffs. "Okay! Red! My safeword is red!" The man looked at him for a long moment the tightened the cuffs again and stepped away.

Evan seethed. He could feel the anger tightening his gut into a knot. His breath came short and shallow. He tensed, pulling at his bonds, letting his anger pour into his muscles as he fought his bondage. Then the first stroke fell and his mind focused. Everything focused. His anger, his hatred, his fear flowed into the pain. The stinging burn across his back. And it kept coming. And coming. Soon he had no time to think of anything else. The anger was gone, the hate was gone, there was only the pain. The pure, perfect pain. The sweet, desperate struggle of agony. He bit his lip and closed his eyes, felt himself ride the blows like a river. He gripped the chains on his cuffs, steadying his breath. And soon there was no pain. There was only rhythm. The blows, his breath, his heart, his mind. It was timeless. He could stay there forever.

Then it stopped. And the anger surged back in, more bitter for its absence. He ground his teeth, opening his eyes. The man was speaking softly to him, but he couldn't understand the words. Everything seemed to be coming from very far away. He stumbled. The floor was unsteady. Someone yelled "safeword." He fell.

He opened his eyes to look into bright, hazel ones. He blinked. His back ached. And his wrist. He closed his eyes again. He thought he would throw up and told them so. Strong arms pulled him upright and helped him stumble outside. The air smelled like rain. He wretched himself dry into a ditch while voices spoke, unheard, over him. Finally, panting, he sat back on his heels and wiped cold sweat from his face and chest. His wrist was throbbing. As he looked at it, he saw it was beginning to swell, and he held it tightly against his abdomen.

Someone spoke above him. "Belly ache?"

He shook his head. "Wrist."

A dark figure crouched beside him and motioned for him to hold it out. His manner was one of someone who expected to be obeyed. Strangely, Evan didn't feel a surge of resentment toward the treatment; he simply extended the damaged limb for inspection.

Gentle fingers probed the base of his hand and his wrist, stopping as he gasped softly.

"I need better light," the man said, rising. He reached down toward Evan. Evan took the offered hand with his good one and allowed himself to be pulled to his feet. He looked around and saw several other men forming a loose circle around him. He flushed.

"I can take care of it myself," he said.

"Not tonight," the first man said simply. There was nothing in his tone to stir Evan's rage and rebellion so he followed, confused by his own lack of reaction. As they entered the light and sound of the warehouse again, Evan saw that the man was the same one he'd spoken to at the bar. Wearing black, unflagged, tall. Evan felt the beginnings of irritation in his gut. "Watch the floor for me, Mike," the man said, leading Evan into a back room. One of the other men nodded and they left Evan and the man in privacy. The man closed the door. Evan eyed him.

"Who're you?" he demanded, looking up into the hazel eyes, feeling anger stir at the very fact of the difference in their heights. The man gazed down at him coolly.

"David," he said calmly. "Who are you?"

"None of your damn business."

The man sighed and held out his hand again. Frowning, Evan extended his damaged wrist once more. The man studied it carefully. His fingers brushed the sensitive parts with great care. Eventually he gave another sigh and released Evan's hand. "You should have it X-rayed."

Evan pulled the offending limb back against his body and glared at the man. "No way."

"Do you have a car?"

"No."

"Do you have a friend here who can take you?" The man's tone was even and gentle. Evan swallowed.

"I don't need X-rays. I just want to go home. Okay?"

The man stared into Evan's eyes. Evan glanced away. "Have you passed out during a scene before?"

"No... It was just... A head rush... Nothing..."

"Do you remember what you felt before you fell?"

"I was in headspace... I was angry... He stopped too soon."

"You weren't able to check in." The man's gaze was cool and assessing, it made Evan uncomfortable. The whole interrogation was making him uncomfortable. His immediate reaction to discomfort was anger. He glared at the man.

"What the fuck do you care? It was my scene, anyway!"

"I don't like young men fainting at my parties."

Evan considered the man more carefully. "This is your party?" You're David Pacer?"

"I'm David Pacer."

Evan took a deep breath. "I'm sorry I fainted at your party, Mr. Pacer, I'd like to go home now."

David sighed. "It's raining." Evan hadn't noticed the rhythmic drumming of drops on the metal roof. "I'll give you a ride." The rain was indeed pouring down in sheets, making the parking area a giant mud puddle. They made their way quickly to the far corner of the lot to a plain, black Honda accord. Evan raised an eyebrow but didn't complain as he slid into the passenger side, out of the pelting rain.

*****

Chapter 2 [Top] [Next]

He directed the man through the darkened streets, glowing with the gleam of street lamps on wet pavement. He could see the dubious look on the man's face as they passed the dirty storefronts, alive now with the crawling life of after-dark. They turned onto several side streets before Evan directed the man to park in front of a crumbling brownstone apartment building. The man eyed it.

"Thanks," Evan mumbled, stepping out into the rain once more.

"Wait." The man climbed out of the car as well. Evan stared at him. "I'll walk you in."

"You don't have to..."

"I'll walk you in, would you rather stand in the rain and argue about it?"

Evan made a face and led the way up the narrow walk to the front steps. He unlocked the first doors, then the second, letting the man in with him. The hall smelled of sweat and cat piss, as it always did. The old man in 1a opened his door a crack to peer out at them as he always did. Evan threw up his arms and lunged at the door, grimacing, as he always did. The door slammed shut again, as it always did. The man behind Evan made no comment.

Halfway down the hall, Evan took the narrow staircase to the second floor, then to the third. He could hear the whip cracking even before he hit the landing. He scowled. Master was home. He felt David's eyes on his neck and set his jaw.

"You don't have to take me any further..."

"I'll see you inside," David said firmly.

Evan's scowl darkened. He stomped along the hall. A baby was screaming behind 3f, the television babbled behind 3d. At 3b, he stopped, fumbling with his keys. The popping crack of the whip echoed off the wooden floors of the apartment and reverberated through the door. Evan ground his teeth. He found the key and unlocked the door, pushing it inward.

Master let the whip tail drop to the ground as he turned flashing dark eyes on Evan. "Where've you been?" he growled.

"Out," Evan said shortly, stepping into the room. Master's eyes shifted beyond and above Evan's shoulder.

"Who the hell are you?"

"I'm David Pacer." David replied placidly, leaning against the doorjamb.

"He's nobody. He drove me home. It's raining."

Master was silent for a moment, then he jerked his head toward a back room. Evan turned, rebellion in every line of his body, and disappeared into the room. David watched uneasily.

"Thank you for returning him."

Something in the dark man's tone made David's skin crawl. There was an air of possession, ownership, but no empathy or emotion. David hesitated for another moment, but could find no reason to interfere in these strangers' lives. Finally, he nodded, and edged away from the doorway. He heard it close heavily behind him.

Evan crossed to the black, fabric-draped table and picked up his collar. He buckled it, without thought, around his neck. He glanced down at the assortment of toys and tools. He heard Master's heavy bootsteps in the doorway behind him.

"Where have you been?"

Evan fought to raise the flame of anger in his belly, to melt the quickly forming knot of ice. He didn't answer. He heard the whisk of the leather come off the floor and the crack a half-breath before the sharp pain seared his back. He opened his mouth soundlessly, arching his back against the pain.

"Answer." Master's voice was cold and hard.

His mind warred for a moment between rebellion and fear. He took a breath but his decision came too late, another sharp pain lit between his shoulder blades.

"At a party," he said quickly, keeping the hatred out of his voice. Barely. He tensed, ready for another lick, but it didn't come. Footsteps approached. He didn't turn. His wrist was throbbing.

A hard hand grabbed the back of his neck and threw him off his feet to the side. Evan stumbled and turned, losing his balance and falling to hands and knees. He rose quickly off his hands and sat back on his heels, eyes straight ahead.

"Take off your shirt," Master said brusquely, moving about the dungeon behind Evan. Evan complied slowly, tossing it aside. Master approached and kicked it farther out of the way. Fingers traced slowly over the lines Evan could still feel of the earlier flogging. "You want to be marked, slave?"

Evan didn't answer. He rose to his knees and placed his hands on his head. Master snorted behind him.

"Stay."

Evan spent hours that way. In the dark. His knees were beyond pain; they'd gone numb. His butt and thighs ached and trembled. His arms were dead weight; his hands were slowly slipping down toward his neck. The ache in his wrist had spread to engulf his arm to the elbow. A few minutes after leaving the dungeon, Evan heard Master leave through the front door. Now, he could see the faintest lightening of the darkness. Unless his eyes were playing tricks on him. He'd been seeing shapes in the darkness for hours.

He sighed and turned his mind inward. Downward. Into the blackness of hatred and anger in his gut. The smoldering pitch that only waited for a breath to give it life and force. He coaxed that hatred, nurtured it, fed it all of his pain and his misery.

The blow knocked him forward, his arms numb, he couldn't catch himself and fell to the floor. There was a faint glow from behind him casting strange shadows around the room. His concentration broken and blood flowing back into unused limbs, pain surged into Evan's consciousness. He had hit the floor hard. He gulped for air, winded, and tasted blood in his mouth.

"Position." Master barked.

Blinking dazedly, Evan forced himself back to his knees, nearly crying out loud at the pain. He tried to lift his arms, but he couldn't.

"I..."

Master didn't wait for his explanation. Evan felt a rough hand on his left wrist and a metal cuff clicked tightly around it. He groaned as Master pulled his other wrist up to meet it behind his head and cuffed it as well. He bit his lip until his eyes watered.

The heavy flogger fell again, knocking the wind out of him more than hurting. But he had to struggle to keep from falling again, and the muscles in his butt and thighs were trembling and weakening. Several times he had to shift his weight quickly on his knees to keep from overbalancing and new pain seared through his legs. The cuff on his right wrist bit into the swollen flesh, he struggled to keep the weight of his arm from pulling it.

"I'm sorry, Master..." he whispered, hating himself even as he spoke the words, but too desperate not to. It made no difference. Master didn't answer.

When Evan was sure the next blow would land him on his face again, it didn't come. His back was hot and tingly. He chewed his lip, hoping and praying it was over and he'd be allowed to sleep.

It wasn't.

He cried out in spite of himself as the rubber cat took him by surprise. Its unforgiving tails bit into his skin again and again. He tried frantically to focus his mind, to get into subspace, but Master was timing the blows too quickly to allow him to go under. He struggled, trying to manage the onslaught, to ride it, but the rhythm was uneven, and too fast. His face began to tingle, and he realized he was hyperventilating. He tried to choke down deeper gasps.

"Please, Master!" he cried, finally. "I'm sorry! Please!" To his utter amazement, the whipping ceased. He sank to his heels, panting; his back was a mess of aching stinging trails.

"Up!" The butt of a flogger handle thumped him in the middle of the back.

Evan nearly cried, but he forced himself back up. The knotted flogger struck without warning and he yelped. It was more than he could take. Tears began to stream down his face as the stinging whips did their work on his back.

Finally, his legs gave out and he sank to his heels, then let his forehead drop to the floor, cowering.

Master made a sound of disgust and stepped over Evan to unlock the cuffs, then hauled him up by the hair. Evan was trembling, terrified. He'd never failed before. But Master said nothing, only gave a downward jerk of his head.

Evan scrambled forward, still afraid he'd be thrown out. He unbuttoned Master's jeans and freed his cock, swallowing it and nearly choking in his anxiousness to prove he was still worth keeping.

*****

With Master sated and watching television in the bedroom, the anger surged back, despite the screaming pain from every corner of Evan's body. He unbuckled his collar and hurled it across the dungeon, letting it lie where it fell in the corner. He walked into the bedroom barefoot, in his jeans, and glanced at his back in the full-length mirror. It was welted and bruised but not bleeding. He set his jaw and looked at Master, relaxing against the headboard, drinking a beer.

"May I have a beer?" he asked.

Master didn't look at him. "You're underage."

Evan ground his teeth. That had never mattered to Master before. Evan glanced at the bedside clock. It was two in the morning.

"May I go out?"

This time Master did look at him. "Didn't you learn your lesson, boy?"

Evan met Master's gaze unflinching. "Yes, sir. I'm asking permission this time."

Master laughed unpleasantly. "I don't care, do whatever you want. Just don't come home with crabs."

"Yes, Sir," Evan said stiffly and pulled on his shirt.

"And boy," Master called after him.

Evan turned. Master's eyes were hard and sharp as obsidian.

"We aren't through with this."

Evan felt his stomach tighten. "Yes, Master." He let himself out quietly.

*****

Chapter 3 [Top] [Next]

The neon lights glinted off the still-wet pavement, but the rain had stopped. The bouncer didn't question Evan's ID, and he slipped into the throbbing darkness of the club. Dancers performed on balconies and platforms and the dance floor was still packed. Evan felt some of his anger melting away into the pounding beat of the music. He smiled grimly. A thin blond eyed him as he edged past. Not his type.

He worked his way through the throngs to the bar and ordered a beer, then stiffened. A few feet away and having just caught his eye, the blond man from the party, David Pacer was walking toward him. Pacer smiled and leaned close to Evan to be heard over the music.

"You okay?"

"Of course," Evan said irritably, trying to turn away without being blatantly rude.

"Things seemed a little...tense when I left you off."

"Things were fine," Evan said, setting down his beer and staring the man in the eyes, his jaw set and rigid.

The man nodded. "Okay." He smiled again. Another man came up and said something to Pacer that Evan couldn't hear. Pacer motioned for the man to wait. He took out his wallet and withdrew a card, patted his pockets, then asked the bartender for a pen. Evan watched with a raised eyebrow.

He flipped the card over on the bar and wrote a phone number on it. Evan raised his other eyebrow and stared at the man as he held out the card.

"This is my home phone number. On the front are my work and my cell. If you are ever in trouble, or you need someone to talk to, you can call any of those, okay?"

Evan took it, frowning, but he couldn't quite get angry. "Okay..." he said finally. "Thanks."

The man looked like he wanted to say more, but after a moment's hesitation he just nodded and smiled, then disappeared into the crowd. Evan looked at the card. It was a business card, it had David's name on the front. He flipped it over. The handwriting was firm and bold. He felt oddly disconcerted and realized that his body hurt. He waded onto the dance floor.

Finally, he made eye contact with a nice specimen. Submissive, but strong and willful. Knew how the game was played. They ended up at his place. Master didn't approve of bringing toys home.

When the boy was naked, Evan pulled off his shirt and slid out of his jeans, fumbling for the condom in his front pocket.

"No..." the boy said, looking over his shoulder at Evan. "I don't like rubbers..."

Evan gave him a humorless smile, rolling the condom over his shaft, then grabbed the boy by the hair and yanked his head back. He leaned in and bit the boy's neck until he whimpered and twisted under Evan's body.

Then raising his mouth to the boy's ear, he said softly, "Sorry, but you just *aren't* to die for..."

Evan fucked until he felt the rage cool in his gut. Then he came, pulled out, threw the condom in the wastebasket and walked out, still pulling his shirt on as he left. The boy didn't say a word. Evan never knew his name.

*****

It was after five by the time Evan arrived home. He eased his stiff and aching body onto his spot on the floor beside Master's bed and tried to think about nothing. Eventually, it worked and he slipped into a dreamless sleep.

He woke when Master kicked him at seven in the morning.

"Have this place clean before I get home," he growled. "People comin' over."

Evan groaned and tried to clear the fog of sleep from his mind. His body had stiffened even more as he slept and it protested painfully as he moved.

Master left at eight and left Evan alone in the house. Evan worked quickly to clean the small apartment, even scrubbing the kitchen and the hardwood floors spotless. He hesitated, then tidied up the dungeon as well. As he'd hoped, he had several hours left in the afternoon to watch television before Master came home.

He was alerted by the rattle of a key in the lock and leapt off Master's bed, switched off the TV and ran into the front room to stand, presentable, for Master's inspection. Again, he felt the heat of anger gnawing at his gut as Master's eyes swept over him and then the room without emotion.

"Get changed for guests," was all he said, then he disappeared into the kitchen.

Evan glared after him and stamped softly into the bedroom. He changed into slacks and a collarless, black dress shirt. Master came into the room behind him, Evan turned.

"Hold still." Master had Evan's collar in his hands and reached to put it around Evan's neck. Evan blinked. Master had never put his collar on him before. He was very still as the skilled fingers worked the leather into the buckle, then the dark eyes looked him head to toe. "Good." He left Evan alone in the room once more. Evan shook himself.

At seven, the guests began to arrive. They were men Evan had never met before. He didn't like how they looked at him, but he was in his collar and he held his tongue. He couldn't help the dark fire in his eyes however, or the set to his jaw. It earned him a firm tug on his collar once that had him swallowing uncomfortably for several minutes.

Evan knelt at Master's side when not on errands to and from the kitchen. The food looked good, but the hunger in the men's' eyes when they looked at him killed his appetite. There were seven of them. Master making eight.

"You lay an elegant table, Keith, and such excellent decoration," said one of them as the meal was winding down, looking directly at Evan. Evan stared daggers at him. Master smiled not noticing Evan's glare.

"Shall we retire to the dungeon, gentlemen? The evening is young..." Master said. Evan, felt a jolt in his gut.

"Indeed," said another, eyeing Evan. Evan felt the stirrings of panic beginning deep in his belly, he swallowed.

"Master?" he said softly.

Master looked at him.

"May I have a word with you in private, Master?"

"You don't have the privilege of privacy, slave." Master's voice was not unkind. Evan ground his teeth and glanced at the other men who were watching with interest.

"Master, may I ask what you have planned for this evening?"

"You may not."

Evan felt his breath shortening. He slid his gaze to the side. "Master, I don't wish to be shared with other Masters."

"Your wishes are not my concern, slave." Master's tone was hardening, Evan knew he was causing a scene. His jaw tightened, he swallowed.

"No." His belly clenched on the word. He knew what he was saying. What it would mean in the days to come. There was fire in Master's eyes. Master's hand closed around Evan's collar, tightening it painfully.

"You have no rights in this house," Master hissed and nearly pulled Evan off his feet, dragging him, half-stumbling into the dungeon. Tears of anger, humiliation and fear began to sting Evan's eyes. Master shoved him hard into the center of the room and he fell. "Up!" Master barked. Evan scrambled to his feet, feeling the hatred burning in his own eyes as they matched the fire of Master's. He was barely aware of the other men coming into the room behind Master. His chest was heaving. He was aware that his escape from the small, black room was very effectively cut off. He didn't take his eyes from Master's.

Master took a step closer to him. The blow came too fast for Evan to duck, he flinched back enough that it took him across the jaw rather than the cheek. His teeth rattled and his vision blurred for a moment as tears filled his eyes. He blinked them back.

"Undress."

Evan clenched his fists at his sides, staring up into Master's face. Another blow landed full across his face. He didn't duck. He staggered, tasting blood. The men in the doorway were smiling, their faces creased with cruel enjoyment.

"It is always a pleasure to see one broken in, Keith. Don't worry. He's young. I've seen them worse," one of them said. Master smiled darkly.

"He'll obey," he said, the third blow knocking Evan from his feet completely. He stayed on his hands and knees, watching the men in the doorway from the corner of his eye. He worked his jaw painfully and made a decision.

Slowly, he eased himself back onto his heels and began to unbutton his shirt. Master's hand fell softly on his head, his fingers lacing through Evan's hair. "Good boy," he said. Then abruptly his fingers tightened and he pulled Evan's head back viciously. He leaned close and said softly, "We *will* be discussing this later."

Released, Evan took deep breaths through his nose, trying to burn a hole through the floor with his eyes. His shirt was off. He waited for further instructions.

"Up. Undress."

The knot in Evan's stomach tightened as he looked at Master then at the other men in the room. His heart was beating hard. Slowly, he pushed off his shoes, then unbuttoned his slacks and stepped out of them. He could feel the men's hungry eyes grazing his skin. He kept his gaze on the floor.

Master grabbed his hair and nearly dragged him to the cross. Evan stumbled but kept his feet, gritting his teeth and resisting the urge to grab Master's arm. The cross was too tall for him. Master had built a special box for him to stand on and had put eyebolts and ankle cuffs higher on the beams so that his wrists could reach the cuffs on top. He knew what was expected, but anger was surging through him, even against the fear, he resisted.

"Get in position, slave," Master said harshly. Evan did not step up, did not raise his arms. He stared at the black wall through the crossed beams. He wasn't expecting the rough shove and didn't throw his hands out in time to save himself as the box tripped him and he fell forward into the cross. He scrambled to his feet, stunned. He could taste blood and feel wetness dripping from his nose. His tongue found a cut in his lower lip. He spun on Master, fists clenched. But Master's hand came across his face before he saw it, spinning him. The cross and the wall kept him from losing his feet this time, but he saw stars and the floor tilted dizzily. He looked up at Master. The man's face was set in a dark scowl. He looked more angry than Evan had ever seen him. Evan swallowed, nearly gagging on the blood. Slowly, he turned to face the cross once more and stepped onto the box.

Master didn't wait for him, he grabbed Evan's left wrist and slammed it into the first cuff. Evan held still as the leather was tightened beyond the normal notch, which itself held his wrist snugly. As Master did the same to his other arm, his left hand began to feel cold. The cuff tightened painfully on his swollen, right wrist.

"Master?"

His answer was a stinging swat. He ground his teeth and tried to work the cuff. His right hand was growing cold now as well and tingling. He tried to take a deep breath, to cool the rage in his chest. He closed his eyes, detaching his mind from what he was about to do.

"Master, I beg your mercy, I'm not worthy of your concern, but I beg you, they're too tight, I can't feel my hands."

Master didn't answer. Evan heard another voice.

"It's alright, Keith... Loosen them up, he's not going anywhere."

"He'll live," Master growled.

The shadowy panic that had been lurking in the recesses of Evan's mind began to ease its way into his full awareness. His breath began to quicken. His hands were numbing rapidly. He glanced at them. The skin was pale, the flesh under the nails was nearly white.

"Please, Master..."

He was swatted again. His stomach was churning. He bit his lip and fell silent, praying for it to be over quickly. He could hear Master's boots thudding on the wood of the floor, and he followed his movements to the rear of the dungeon then back to the cross. The blindfold went over his eyes. Across the room again. And back...

A crack like a gunshot echoed off the walls of the small room, and Evan grunted as pain seared across his ass. The force of the blow would have sent him stumbling forward if the cross hadn't halted him. He couldn't tell which paddle it was. It was wood, one of the heavy ones. He kept his mind focused on intellectual pursuits as the pain built with every swat.

Evan could hear Master's heavy breathing and his nearly inaudible grunts of effort as he threw himself into every stroke. His hands were completely without feeling, now, Evan noted distantly, he was beginning to lose his sense of the rest of his body as well. He could no longer feel the platform beneath his bare feet. He couldn't feel the rough leather of the cuffs around his ankles. Couldn't feel the unyielding surface of the cross as his body was forced against it with each strike of the paddle. His own cries sounded hollow in his ears. He closed his eyes on the darkness of the blindfold. Maybe he would send his mother a Christmas card this year... What a strange time to think about Christmas cards... It was still August... His mother? What day was this? Monday? The third? Or the fourth... Maybe it was Sunday... But Master didn't work on Sundays...

Evan yelped and jerked in his restraints. A new sensation had invaded his body. Someone touching him.

"Hold still." Master's voice came from across the dungeon. The hand slid down Evan's belly and over his cock. Evan willed it to remain still and he felt no stirrings. The hand moved to his balls, squeezing lightly, then harder. Evan realized he wasn't breathing, but he couldn't draw air into his lungs. He stood, rigid, a terror he'd never felt now coursing like ice water through his veins.

The hand was back at his shaft, fondling, stroking softly. Evan's eyes stung with tears as he felt blood begin to heat and swell, the familiar tightening as his cock began to rise in mocking betrayal. His own body was no longer his.

Evan began to count. Quickly. Senselessly. When he could no longer focus, he began again at one, chanting the numbers hoarsely in his mind. Another hand was touching his hip, then his ass. He felt his body stiffen as he drew a thready breath. The fingers were working their way between his cheeks, he couldn't fight, he couldn't move, he couldn't breathe. There was no sound in the room, he could hear only his thudding heartbeat and the rush of blood in his ears. He let out a soft cry as a finger, cold and slick, pressed against his anus.

"Condom's on the bench..." Master's voice was loud and discordant against the silence. Evan pulled slowly against his restraints, feeling a creeping horror building in his gut.

"You said he was clean." The voice came from somewhere very close, on his left side.

"I want to keep him that way," was the cold reply.

"You know us," said another voice to Evan's right.

There was no answer, but Evan heard a heavy sigh then a tearing of thick paper several feet away.

He was shaking. Mindless panic was threatening to engulf him. He needed to scream. He needed out. Now. He could feel the heat of a body behind him. A thought penetrated the violent fear. A desperate, hopeful, hopeless thought.

"Master?"

"Shut up."

Evan swallowed and carefully pitched his voice to submissive passivity. "Master, I have to go to the bathroom..."

There was a moment of silence. Then, "Hold it, you worthless shit, you've given me enough trouble tonight."

"Please, sir, I can't hold it..." Evan let a slight hint of desperation into his tone.

"Jesus, Keith, get him a bucket or something."

Evan swore silently and bit his lip, he thought frantically. "Sir, I have to take a shit. Please, Master..." This time he let even more of his very real desperation seep into his plea.

Someone swore behind him. He heard Master mutter something, then heavy boots fell on the floor, approaching him. Evan swallowed again. The blindfold was yanked off and Evan squeezed his eyes shut at the painfully blinding brightness. Master was working the cuffs on his ankles loose. Then his wrists. He grabbed Evan by the hair and pulled him backwards. Evan stumbled and fell off the back of the platform, yelping as his weight jerked Master's grip hard. He was blinking and squinting, trying to see in the light.

"Make it fast..." Master's voice was cold and hard. He gave Evan a shove toward the door and Evan struggled through it, not daring to look around the room as he escaped into the welcome dimness of the living room. He could barely walk, his body was stiff and numb. He couldn't move his hands, they felt like they belonged to a corpse when he touched one to his arm.

He heard voices as soon as he was free of the dungeon, and bare feet made no sound, even as he limped across the floor. He made it into the bedroom, and flicked on the bathroom light, awkwardly. Then he closed the door with an audible thump, and backed away into the center of the bedroom. He looked around frantically. At once he felt relief, terror and an aching sadness that tore at his breath.

The bedroom window was open. He wouldn't have to struggle with it. He scooped up his boots, jeans and a T-shirt and threw them out onto the fire escape. He winced as the old structure gave a rusty clang. He turned back to the room. He ran to the side of the bed where he slept on the floor and dragged his knife in its sheath from beneath it. Struggling, he managed to pick it up and carried it to the window as well. He bit his lip, looking around the room a final time.

He ran back to the bathroom door, opened it and flushed the toilet, then clicked off the light and padded back across the room, his eyes stinging with tears. He squeezed out through the window and onto the fire escape, the iron webbing cutting uncomfortably into his bare feet. He kicked all of his belongings off the landing, watching as they fell into the alley below, then he scrambled down the unsteady stairs. He stopped at the bottom only long enough to gather his things into a rough bundle, then he ran.

He didn't stop running for a long time.

*****

When he finally fell and laid still from sheer exhaustion, he was many blocks from home. He'd run through the alleys that connected the neighborhoods like a funhouse maze. He'd run through broken glass at some point and fallen, cutting his knee and hand on the shards, but he didn't feel the pain. All he felt was the awful, hollow, aching sickness that was seeping like tar through every cell in his body.

The rain was falling again. He lay on his back in the deserted darkness, staring at the slice of black sky between the silhouettes of the two tall buildings to his sides. As the rain slicked his face and ran into his ears, he allowed the tears to come. First slowly, mingling with the gentle droplets from above, then harder, sobbing until his chest ached and his voice was hoarse. The rain seemed to answer in its own, pounding down harder, rumbling with thunder, flickers of lightening brightening the sky. Evan didn't know when he fell asleep. Finally, he had no more tears of his own. He turned onto his side and curled into a ball, letting the world weep its own tears onto his naked body, his baptism to the streets of Denver, Colorado.

*****

Chapter 4 [Top] [Next]

The next day was grey and wet. So were his clothes. He struggled into them anyway, trying to pick the pieces of glass out of his knee and hand. He hadn't brought socks. He pulled his boots on his bare feet. It was uncomfortable, but his feet had come through the broken glass unscathed once, he wasn't willing to risk it again.

He sat against one of the buildings for a long time, staring. He had no idea what to do, now. He contemplated, briefly, returning to Master. He'd be beaten and forgiven. He could take beatings. But he couldn't be touched again. He couldn't be... He couldn't finish the thought. He felt a wave of nausea, then dizziness and realized he hadn't eaten since lunch the previous day. He worked his hands into his wet pockets and pulled out the contents. Three one-dollar bills, twelve cents and a white, crumpled business card. He stared at it. Then turned it over. In firm, bold hand, a phone number... Evan finally pushed himself up, his body aching all over. He could feel the bruises of the paddling and the stinging soreness in his back. He walked stiffly to the end of the alley and out onto the street.

He changed one of his dollars at a liquor store and found a pay phone on the next corner and pulled out the card again, biting his lip. Thunder grumbled somewhere in the distance. He got as far as lifting the receiver before a wave of hopelessness deadened his heart and he hung it up again wearily. He wandered farther down the empty streets. The rain was trying to make a return and even the homeless were against the buildings, under eaves and in doorways. The sidewalk was deserted. Evan kept walking.

He came on a McDonalds late-morning and bought a hamburger with another of his dollars, putting the third back in his pocket, worried. He wondered if he could actually starve to death in the middle of civilization. As he sat down to eat, he saw a little girl point to him and her mother quickly scold her and pull her hand down.

He flushed suddenly and touched his throat, he'd never taken off his collar. He unbuckled it quickly and looked at it for a long time, then looped it through his belt and re-buckled it. He stared out of the window for the rest of his meal, which he ate as slowly as possible. The restaurant was warm, and the rain had made good on its threats and was coming down again like grey curtains.

He finally couldn't justify staying there any longer and slipped out into the cold and wet once more.

*****

The rain had stopped by the next evening. Evan wandered down to the club where Master had first found him, secretly hoping to see him, even from afar. He found an awning across the street and leaned against the wall, watching the people go in and out. He shivered, he hadn't been dry for almost forty-eight hours, and he was hungry and broke.

"Waitin' for someone?"

Evan nearly jumped out of his skin. "Jesus!" He looked up at the man who'd managed to get within a foot of him without his noticing. The man grinned.

"Well?"

"No," Evan said, suddenly uncomfortable.

"So what are you doing?"

"Nothing."

The man looked him over critically. "You a runaway or somethin'?"

"No," Evan lied quickly, wishing the man would go away.

He shrugged and leaned his shoulder against the wall, facing Evan. "Okay..." He made no move to leave. Evan glanced at him. "Why don't you go in?" The man nodded toward the club.

Evan swallowed. "I don't have my ID."

"You're legal?"

"Yes," Evan said again, quickly, beginning to feel irritated.

The man smiled and was quiet for a while. Evan didn't like the way he smiled.

"Want to make twenty bucks?"

Evan looked at him. "What?"

"Want to make twenty bucks," he repeated. "You look like you could use it."

"How?" Evan asked, suspicious but too hungry and scared not to consider the options.

The man smiled again. "On your knees."

Evan felt a surge of hot anger but something clenched his teeth on a nasty reply. He felt his hands ball at his sides, but he said nothing. The man continued.

"If you're good, I'll give you twenty bucks."

Evan was silent for a moment, grinding his teeth. "How do I know you won't just *say* I wasn't good and not pay me."

"You'll have to trust me," the man said loftily.

Evan scowled. "Pay me now." A voice in Evan's mind was screaming wordlessly. He smothered it.

"That's not the deal. I can get it anywhere, I'm offering you a break. Take it or leave it."

Evan glanced at the club once more, then at the man. "I'm good."

*****

When he finished, he sat back on his heels and stared straight ahead while the man readjusted his clothes. A car drove past the end of the alley, tires whispering on the wet street.

"You're right, you are good," the man said lightly. He withdrew a twenty and extended it toward Evan. Evan didn't reach for it. After a moment, the man shrugged and let the bill drop, fluttering onto the puddled ground. "Don't spend it all in one place, kid," he said and walked away, out of the alley.

Evan closed his eyes, opened them and took a deep breath through his nose. He looked at the money beside him, flung himself onto his hands and threw up, his body heaving long after his stomach had surrendered all it had. Hot tears dripped down to mingle in the mud and bile. He sat back again, finally, panting and sobbing softly.

He picked up the bill without looking at it again and shoved it into his pocket, then he eased himself to his feet, his knee protesting the abuse. He took one step toward the mouth of the alley and the voice broke free in his mind, screaming with rage and horror. Burning, uncontrollable fury roared through his body. He swirled on the nearest wall howling, kicking and punching it with all his strength until finally the anger lost it's energy, cooled and darkened once more.

He stumbled back and fell on his ass, yelping at the still-painful reminder of Master's disapproval. His right hand was bloody and aching. He staggered to his feet and out of the alley.

He began to walk again.

*****

He ended up back at the McDonalds and cleaned himself up in the bathroom, stemming the flow of blood as best he could. Then he went out to the counter. He pulled the twenty from his pocket and fingered it without looking at it. He stared blankly at the menu for a long time, then looked at the money. Finally, he put it back in his pocket and turned away.

He noticed several people staring at the collar at his belt.

"My dog died," he snarled. They all looked away quickly and he stomped out of the restaurant.

*****

By the next night, he couldn't close his right hand. He was faint and dizzy with hunger. The night was mild but he was shivering and couldn't get warm. He huddled against a building, watching cars on the distant freeway.

The moon was high and small when Evan finally made a decision. He dragged himself to his feet and stumbled half a block to a pay phone. He dropped two quarters into it and fished the business card out of his pocket. Slowly, trembling, his gut tense and nervous, he dialed the number on the back of the card.

His heart thudded against his ribs as it rang once... twice... three times... Evan bit his lip.

"Hello?" The voice was sleepy but warm. Evan suddenly had visions of a home and a bed... "Hello?"

"Hi," Evan said quickly, broken from his reverie. "I... This is..." He suddenly realized the man didn't even know his name. It had been days since he'd given Evan his number, he probably didn't even remember him. "I'm..." He stopped, waves of insecurity battering his handhold. "Sorry..." he whispered and dropped the receiver back on the cradle.

*****

Chapter 5 [Top] [Next]

David blinked in the darkness, staring at the glowing keys of the telephone, which now buzzed with a dial tone. He pushed down the trigger with his thumb and the light extinguished along with the sound. He lay, holding the receiver, for some minutes before he lifted his thumb again and dialed three tones.

*****

Evan was sitting on the concrete in a doorway cataloguing his pain. His knee hurt, it had become hot and swollen, as had his left hand. His right hand was aching, hot and swollen, and his knuckles were scraped, split and bruised. His wrist was swollen and stiff. His back was still sore from that night that now seemed from another lifetime but was probably only a few days ago. His ass was sore. His belly ached with hunger. His head ached. His muscles were sore from retching. The cut on his lower lip was still tender.

He closed his eyes and tucked himself into a ball.

"Hey..." The voice was gentle and warm and oddly familiar. Evan looked up. A tall figure was backlit by a streetlamp. Evan couldn't see his face. The figure sank to a crouch in front of him, shifting the angle of the light. Evan felt his eyes go wide.

"David Pacer?" The man from the party, the man from the club, the man on the card, the man on the phone, David Pacer.

"What are you doing out here?"

Evan swallowed wrong, coughed, and opened his mouth, but he had no answer. "Sitting..."

"Oh..." David glanced at Evan's right hand, then back at his face. "Are you hungry?"

Evan nodded helplessly, feeling tears rise in his eyes. He fought them back. David didn't seem to notice. He pushed himself to his feet then extended a hand to Evan. Evan started to reach for it with his left hand but stopped at the flare of pain. David was looking at that hand now. Evan thought he saw the man's lips press together very slightly, but he said nothing, just reached down further to take Evan by the forearm and ease him to his feet.

Evan followed silently to David's car. The black Honda. He got in the passenger side and felt a wave of deja vu. He was too tired and weak and hungry to answer questions, and David didn't ask any. Evan just sank back into the seat and closed his eyes again.

He opened them at a light touch on his leg. They were in a parking lot. Evan glanced around. A Denny's parking lot.

"Come on. I'll buy you dinner. Or breakfast... Whatever." David gave him a slight smile and climbed out of the car. Evan got out his own side and followed the tall man into the restaurant.

*****

As they sat in the booth, Evan scanned the menu.

"I'll just have toast," he said quietly, glancing up at the man who would be paying for it.

David looked at him intently for a moment then reached across the table and took the menu from Evan's hands. He folded it and set it on the bench beside him.

"Order what you want."

"That's what I want," Evan assured him.

David shook his head.

"Order what you *want* not the cheapest thing on the menu..."

"But I want toast," Evan said somewhat plaintively.

David nodded this time. "You may have toast, but only if you order something else."

Evan squirmed, uncertain. "Juice?"

David blinked and stared at him. Evan tried to look innocent. He wound up with pancakes, eggs and sausage before David was satisfied. Along with his toast, which he held out on as a matter of pride. He tried very hard not to gulp the food down desperately, as he wanted to. He thought he could never eat enough again, but in the end he couldn't finish the last of the pancakes. His belly was full and warm.

When the waitress picked up the plates, David leaned back and gazed at Evan for a moment.

"How old are you," he asked.

"Twenty-three," Evan said automatically.

David looked at him. "I bought you dinner, the least you could do is tell me the truth." He said it gently, but Evan felt a flash of anger.

"You didn't say there was a price. What else are you going to expect now?" He scowled.

David was unfazed. "The price is your age. Your real age. Nothing else."

Evan looked at him. "I get all that just for telling you how old I am? What do I get for fucking you?" David didn't blink. Evan sighed. "Sorry," he muttered.

"It's okay, I haven't given you any reason to trust me, yet."

"You haven't given me any reason not to," Evan mumbled, knowing his anger had been slightly misplaced.

David sighed. "Somehow, I get the feeling that in the world you're from, you get a lot farther on the 'guilty until proven innocent' theory than the other way around."

Evan stared at him for several seconds. "Sixteen."

David took a steady breath. "Thank you."

"How old are you?"

"Twenty-three." Evan shot him a hard look. "I'm for real..." The man was silent for a moment. "May I see your hands?"

"I thought the price was my age."

"It was. This is just a request, you can say no."

Evan watched him for a long moment then slowly extended his hands. David took his left first, touching it lightly as he turned it palm up, exposing the ragged cut to the light. Evan didn't look at it. He knew. It was dirty and red and hot and swollen. He thought he could still feel splinters of glass in it but couldn't see them to pull them out.

"This is infected," David said.

Evan had no answer so he was silent. He felt David release his hand, and the gentle touch moved to his right. He hissed as light pressure sent a bolt of pain up his arm. David worked for another minute, then released that hand as well.

"And I think that's broken. Were you in a fight?"

"No." Evan didn't feel like expanding. David didn't push him. They were both quiet for a moment. The waitress came to refill David's coffee.

"Did you ever get that wrist X-rayed? It's still swollen."

Evan shook his head.

David sighed and was quiet for a moment. "When I dropped you off that night, the man in your apartment, is he your boyfriend?"

Evan hesitated, feeling a stab of aching sadness and regret. His fingers went to his collar at his belt. "He was my Master..." he said softly.

David's voice was infinitely gentle, but the words still pained Evan's heart. "Did you break up?"

"Kind of," Evan said quickly, fighting the tightness in his throat. David waited. "I can't go home..." Evan said finally, as means of explanation. David didn't ask any more questions.

"You need to see a doctor. I don't suppose you have insurance..."

*****

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Chapters 6 - 10


~ Julnick

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