Authors: Deb Varva
James knew, eventually, he would need to sit down with his friends and make sense of the fiasco with Carl, but not tonight. He felt too raw to deal with Karen's acerbic wit or listen to Mike sing Severo's praises. Instead, he told Sam to take care of the group and went home early.
The buzz of the gate's intercom at eleven interrupted the news program he was watching. James switched the television screen to the gate's camera to reveal Mike and Andy sitting in Mike's truck. He opened the gate and went to the door meet them.
“Sam told us you were sulking.” Andy greeted him as he came in.
Mike parked and bounded up the steps. “Before you get mad at Sam— he told us Carl was gone and
you were sulking.”
“I am not sulking and you should've just gone home.” Now that they were here, he was glad they came. Andy had a practical mind and he understood life for what it was. In contrast, Mike was a hopeless romantic even if he was a natural dominate. He paid attention to details.
Andy headed for the study and the wet bar to make drinks. “It was damned dull tonight without you. Ben was talking about his newest sub-bunny for most of the evening and Shane had to leave early to bring Stevie his dinner at the hospital. That boy keeps crazy hours these days. Anyway, Sam made him a plate to take.” Shane was a nurse in the same hospital where his boy interned to be a doctor.
James refreshed his own drink while his friends settled in the chairs by the window. “Steve will be able to open his own practice in another two years. The crazy hours will be worth it then.” He joined them. “Karen wasn't there?”
“No, I think she's found a new boy-toy. Sam said she sent regrets with a promise to ‘fill us in’ later.” Mike relaxed back in his chair. “Tell us about Carl, James.”
He sighed and explained Carl's anger when James ended the scene Saturday night. “The next morning he got up and walked out. No explanation, he just left.”
“And, of course, you let him.” Andy interjected dryly. “Because he wasn't confused and you don't hold anything back.”
“Meaning that maybe he doesn't know you the way we do. Maybe he thought it was going to end when the contract ended. Maybe... he thought he was in love alone.”
Mike spoke up to add to Andy's point. “He's new to BDSM, James. He didn't know that half the fun is screwing up and being punished. He probably regretted leaving as soon as he got home. Have you called him?”
James was beginning to see where his friends were leading him and he realized they were right. He had jumped at the chance to avoid the pain of rejection by hurting Carl first. “He called Sunday afternoon. I told him we were done.”
Mike leaned forward. “It's understandable, I guess, James. You thought you were in love alone too.”
“I was a little drunk and feeling sorry for myself when he called. I keep losing subs who want too much too quickly.”
Andy threw up his hands. “You've got to stop comparing Carl to Dennis. Carl is not a pain slut and he really cares for you. We could all see that, James, why can't you?”
Mike nodded. “Call him, James. Tell him how you feel and why you cut him loose. He will understand.”
“I don't think it will help, Mike. I was a bit chilly when he tried to apologize.”
Andy motioned to Mike and they stood to leave. “You won't know if you don't try and he deserves an honest effort from you to make amends.”
James followed his friends to the front door. “I'll think about it.”
Over the course of the next few days, James tried to call Carl.
Mentally composing his apology, he appreciated the bravery Carl showed by calling Sunday. This was damned difficult to do.
Not that it mattered.
Carl never answered his phone. Not the first time. Not the four times after. So much for bravery, Carl did not want to talk to him and James was a fool.
Early Sunday, as James was preparing for the bi-weekly barbeque, his cell phone rang. Looking at the caller ID, his mind seized. Carl was calling him, thank god!
“Um, James? This is Tony.”
James frowned. “Tony, what's going on? Where's Carl?”
“He's here. He needs help, James. Something's wrong with him and I didn't know who to call.”
He didn't waste time with unimportant questions. Only one mattered. “Where are you?”
While Tony gave him directions to Carl's apartment, James hurried to the playroom and the first aid kit he kept there. Tony had not sounded frantic, so he assumed there was no blood involved, but it was better to be safe than sorry. Once Tony hung up, he dashed out to his car and called Shane.
“Hey, James. Did you need me to bring something today?”
Christ! He had completely forgotten. “No Shane. An emergency has come up and I would be grateful if you called everyone and canceled for me.” He pulled out onto the street.
“Sorry to hear that, but sure, I can do that. Anything else you need?” Shane and Steve were always ‘on call’ for their friends. They didn't practice medicine outside of the law, but for the simple problems that arose, they were a nice alternative to the disapproving looks from vanilla caregivers.
“I'm not sure, yet, but Carl's friend called me and I might need your expertise. I'm on my way to Carl's now.”
“Carl? The one who bailed on you?”
“Yes. I'll call you back in half an hour to let you know if I need you or Steve, okay?” He turned onto Route 2 and would be at the apartment building in less that a minute.
“That's fine. Steve will get off shift soon, so it works out perfectly. I'll call the guys now for you.”
“Thanks Shane. Bye.” James parked and ran up to the building's entrance and hit the button for Guttuso. The door buzzed immediately to let him in.
Tony had the apartment door open when he got there. “Hi James. Carl's in his room. I'm sorry to panic you— he's not dying or anything, but... well, see for yourself.”
“You did the right thing, Tony.” James found Carl's room and looked in. The boy was laying facedown in his bed, buried under the covers and asleep. The room reeked faintly of sweat and vomit. “How long has he been like this?”
Tony shrugged. “I'm not sure. His mom said she saw him yesterday, but that he seemed disorientated and he had a fever. She sent him home with chicken soup.”
Something was not making sense. “Did she send you over here?”
“No, I kinda wanted to check up on him because he hasn't been answering his phone. When I found him like this, I called you.”
“Why me? Why didn't you call 911?”
Tony watched James pull the covers from Carl. “That's why.”
Both men stared at the pink stripes on the prone man's back and buttocks. Most of the marks were just welts, but three lines across Carl's lower back looked puffy under the scabs.
Carl whimpered as James examined the wounds. “Who... ?”
“James.” He closed his eyes against tears of his own when Carl started to cry. “Come on, Tony. Let's get him cleaned up.”
James made a quick call to Shane to say he had everything under control. It took an hour, then, to sponge Carl down and change the sheets before he could begin to treat his back. Tony opened the window to air out the room.
“I assume you called me because you recognized the subdrop. How did you know?” James put a hot compress on the sores to draw the infection. Carl never so much as twitched. The bath had exhausted him.
Tony smiled at James. Now that he had help for Carl, his cheerful mood returned. “I researched all kinds of things when Carl told me he was going to be your guinea pig.” He sobered. “I wasn't positive, though, until I remembered he mentioned The Leatherman.”
“You did fine. I'm here now and Carl will be okay. Did I hear you correctly? He went to The Leatherman?”
“Yeah, I think he did. He was so confident you were wrong about his limitations. He likes to think he's invincible. He's worked very hard at it.”
“Why? I've seen for myself that he doesn't back down from a challenge. It's dangerous.”
“I want to say his dad is the reason. That prick said some hateful things when he left. He called Carl a sissy girl and said he was ashamed of him. Sixteen is a bad age to hear that kind of shit from your father.”
James met Tony's eyes. “Twenty isn't any better, trust me.”
“Sorry, man. As if people are suddenly different because they stop hiding. Before that, he claimed Carl was the perfect son, but that parting shot is what stayed with Carl.” Tony smiled fondly at the memory. “I thought Carl was the bravest person I knew for telling his folks the truth. I still do.”
“At least his mother supported him.”
Tony cracked up. “She tells people that she helped his old man pack, but what she did was throw everything he owned out the window.”
James smiled with him. “I adore her.”
“That reminds me, I have to call her and tell her you came.”
James was suddenly worried. “Does she know what happened to him? Does she know what
Tony shrugged again. “I don't know. She hasn't said anything. She did seem relieved when I said I would get you over here, though.”
Tony left the room to make the call and Carl shifted on the bed. “What's subdrop?”
“First, how are you feeling?” James was not surprised Carl was awake. With his hand on the boy's back, he felt the shudders wracking him as he cried while Tony talked.
“Not as bad as I did. Thanks for coming over. I tried to tell Tony not to bother you, though.”
James sat on the bed against the headboard and absently ruffled Carl's hair. “I'm glad he called. I have been trying to reach you to apologize. I'm sorry I wouldn't listen when you tried to explain.”
“I shouldn't have left.”
“I shouldn't have let you.” James sighed. “I was hurt and angry when you walked out. It felt too much like when Dennis dropped me.”
“The reason you started the group.”
“Yes. Anyway, I'm here now and I plan to stay.”
Tony entered the room. “Your mom still thinks it's the flu, but she agreed to let James nurse you back to health.”
Carl rolled carefully to his side and looked up at James. “Really?”
“Do you need me to stay, James? Or can I get back to my life?”
“Go ahead, Tony. You have earned your freedom.” James was grateful the other man knew they needed a private talk.
Carl waited until he heard the door close. “So, what's subdrop?”
“There is a downside to that endorphin high you were chasing. It sometimes happens after an intense scene or when the Dom fails to take proper care of the sub. There are times, of course, when it is unavoidable, but it occurs most often after public scenes when the Dom and sub don't know each other and the environment is noisy— like The Leatherman.”
“You crashed. Your endorphin level fell below normal.” James had to ask. “The Leatherman, Carl?”
“I needed to prove something to myself and I needed a contrasting view of the lifestyle for the articles.” He shifted again to lay flat with a groan.
James resumed petting his hair. “Did you get your proof?”
“Yeah.” Carl quieted under James’ hand, so he let his finger drift through the fine curls until Carl resumed his soft snores.
The noise was jarring. He thought there might be music playing under the sounds of whips slapping skin and men crying out for mercy, but he couldn't be sure. Smell was the next thing he noticed. Sweat and leather overlaid the pungent odor of stale jizz.
He might have thought he'd slipped into Hell if it were not for the relative normalcy of men sitting at tables sharing drinks and conversation. Carl stayed in the shadowed corners and observed the madness
Everywhere he looked, men, the submissive men, were partially or completely nude— their attire was for effect, not concealment. They had on collars, similar to the one he wore, or harnesses that criss-crossed their torsos. Some men were on leashes and he saw at least one poor soul with a tail sticking out of his ass while he walked on all fours behind his master
Slings lined one side of the room and held men in position to be fucked or fisted. He shuddered even as he saw them shoot their loads. The overall effect should have been one of despair, but no one was there against his will. Each man embraced his fetish. Such gleeful abandonment amidst the horror movie atmosphere was eerie
The stage at the rear of the room eventually caught his eye. There, expertly snapping a whip, a handsome Dom was striking a younger man bound hand and foot between two poles. Tall and regal, the Dom placed the leading edge of the whip an inch below the last mark. The next hit was an inch below that— perfectly spaced
Slowly, Carl approached the platform. He could hear the Dom grunt as he swung the whip and the whistle as it traveled through the air. The sub's back was glistening with sweat and the stripes plumped into welts. What fascinated him, however, was the sub's lack of reaction.
Aside from an involuntary flinch, he was motionless. Eyes closed and mouth open, he breathed easily as if he were not aware of the abuse raining down on his back. His muscles were relaxed to the point that his head fell back, exposing his face to the light above him. A smile played on the full lips.
He was flying on endorphins, Carl realized. God! He wanted that! He wanted to take a beating to that edge where agony met ecstasy and go over it.
Intent on the sub, Carl jumped when the Dom dropped the whip and strode to his victim. The big man whispered to him, but Carl could not hear the words or the bound man's answer
The Dom's meaty hand took the other man's cock and pulled on it roughly. For the first time, the sub made sounds of distress. His body writhed between the poles until he ejaculated with a scream. The Dom pumped the slender shaft after the climax ended to insure the sub had nothing left to give
The powerful man turned to face the crowd and Carl, standing front and center, had an eye level view of the impressive erection inside the black leather pants. His eyes traveled upward and met the predatory grin of the man.