The Lion andthe Gazelle
It suddenly seemed as if theair had gone thicker around him. He pulled it into his lungs, realizing that the fine muscles in his throat and ribs were trembling, putting jagged edges on his breath. He stared down at his own hands fumbling ineffectually at his belt. His fingers were trembling in time to his shuddering breaths, and his face was beginning to burn, conscious of the seconds ticking by as he failed again to draw the loop of thick leather from under the buckle.
The man standing barely more than an arm’s length from him stood still and silently, waiting without a hint of impatience. His flush deepened and he pointedly kept his eyes lowered as he finally found purchase on the worn leather and worked it free of the scuffed metal buckle. The tail of the belt in his hand, he hesitated, the tremors tightening around his chest until each breath dipped only lightly into his lungs.
He shifted his grip to the buckle and pulled slowly, feeling the drag of the leather against his jeans as it snaked past his right hip and through the loop at the small of his back. With a final slithering hiss, it came free of the last two loops. The length of it dangled, twitching in his trembling fingers, as if it were a living thing, a serpent whose teeth would sink into his flesh the moment he let it go. For several seconds, he couldn’t release the serpent. He found himself nearly transfixed by the sight of the belt, deeply brown, scuff and wear showing in lighter patches along its edges. From a wordless, primal depth of his mind he knew he couldn’t release it. As long as it remained in sight, he was safe from its bite.
From the edges of his vision, he saw the man before him extend one hand, palm open and upraised, waiting. Holding the belt in front of him, his heart thundering, choking speech from his throat, he mutely extended the belt toward the waiting hand. For a moment, they both stood in a frozen plateau, fingers nearly touching, yet the outstretched palm did not close around the proffered strap of leather.
Finally, an icy chill skittering along his arms and up the back of his neck leaving goose bumps in its wake, he tore his gaze from the belt and raised wide eyes to the other man’s face. For a moment he felt frozen, fixed, like a gazelle caught in the instant between realizing the threat of the lion and fleeing for its life. He looked into the eyes of the lion, yet his legs wouldn’t carry him away in mad flight. His heart galloped, adrenaline ran alternately hot then cold through his veins, yet he stood frozen, fixed, pinned by the eyes of the lion.
The eyes were brown and warm, the small lines around them deepening slightly in a smile that didn’t quite reach his lips. Looking into those eyes, one could almost believe that no harm could ever come by the hands of a man with eyes so warm and smiling. Almost. And then the reaching hand closed around the belt.
As the strap was taken from his hands, he shuddered, dropping his gaze. From the corner of his eye he saw the hand not holding the belt rise and near his face. For a moment he flinched away, ever so slightly, though his mind knew no blow would come this way, his body was primed for flight. He started as the hand closed smoothly and softly around the back of his head. He kept his eyes cast down as gentle pressure encouraged him forward a step, and then two, closing the short space between them. He closed his eyes completely as the lion’s warm lips closed over his.
Soft and sweet and thick like warm honey, the kiss melted through him. The hand at the back of his head moved slowly down to the nape of his neck as the kiss became a delicate pull at his lower lip. Without thought, his arms had circled the warm body, pressing his own desperately against it. His breath shuddered now in an aching desire to make their two bodies one. His frozen legs were suddenly weak and he leaned his weight into the strong, warm body he pressed against.
Drawing back once, the lion tilted his head and bestowed a second kiss at first lightly and then with hunger upon grateful, trembling lips. Then he withdrew again, this time stepping back and out of the embrace.
Moaning softly in protest as he was gently pushed away, he felt the lion’s grasp slip from the back of his neck and trail lightly over his shoulder, down his chest, then his belly, and hover for a moment at the metal button at the top of his fly. The warm honey became a cascade of sleet in less than a breath. His mouth was suddenly dry and cold, his fingers were again thick and clumsy, but to fumble open his fly took too few seconds and he was too quickly out of means to delay.
He suddenly and unexpectedly found himself at the edge of tears, terror and helplessness coming to a dizzying peak. Startled and embarrassed by his near brush with weakness, a surge of anger coursed through him, riding the back of the adrenaline of fear. His face setting in a faint scowl, he pulled his tee shirt up and over his head then shoved his jeans down to his ankles, taking his shorts down with them in a single brusque sweep. He pulled his bare feet free of the pile of clothes, and with the strength of the last wisps of his anger, he stepped to one side of them and forced his gaze up from the floor.
Standing now naked and defenseless before the beast, the goose bumps rose over all of his body. He was taking short, shallow breaths through his open mouth and his eyes fixed on the heavy belt, now held doubled in the other man’s hand. He could barely tear his gaze away from it to watch as the lion pulled three pillows from the head of the bed and stacked them neatly midway to the foot.
The goose bumps almost stinging now as they strained against his skin, he felt spit rising in his mouth as a subtle nausea rippled through him. He crawled onto the bed, suddenly acutely conscious of the texture of the fabric under his knees and the feel of the stitching in the comforter under his hands as he positioned his hips above the pillows. His head was suddenly filled with the faint, clean smell of detergent that still clung to the material and the soft rustle of cotton covers as he lowered his weight onto the pillows.
With the heightened instincts of the frozen gazelle, he heard the soft whisper of denim moving against skin as the lion slowly approached, he could hear the faintest squeak of leather as weight shifted in heavy boots.
As the lion paused at the edge of the bed, frozen gazelle senses even caught a whiff of aftershave and deodorant, the slight spiciness of clean sweat and the musky promise of sex. He heard the faint jangle of metal as the belt was adjusted to a better grip, and he lowered his face into the bed covers, his breath coming frantically through his nose, his hands curling tightly around the back of his head, his fingers knotting into his own hair, his elbows drawn close around his face. He closed tight his eyes, he gritted his teeth, and he waited. And then it began.
He heard the soft rustle of cloth as the lion shifted his weight, raised his arm high, then a hissing crack that echoed sharply off the walls. The time between the first crack and the pain was less than a sliver of a breath and took all of his breath with it. Like a live wire brushed along his skin, the pain was suddenly everywhere, he jerked from head to foot and sucked a desperate breath into suddenly empty lungs.
His mind rallied around his nerves and narrowed the pain to a single fiery brand across both cheeks of his ass, ending in a blindingly white sting where the heavy, folded end of the strap had levered its momentum around the curve of his hip and snapped brutally against tender, unsuspecting skin.
Lungs heaving like he was running a sprint, he ducked his chin into his chest, forced straining muscles to relax and offered himself for the second stroke. With slow and measured pace, the lion again shifted his weight, raised his arm, and ended the suspense.
As a second jolt of electric pain seared a path to his brain, he felt his legs jerk stiff and straight and his head and chest, for a moment freed from his conscious control, lurched up, breaking through his laced fingers. He heard his own voice, thinned by his breath, escape in a gasp.
It took him longer the second time, almost the length of another breath, to drop back down to the bed. To re-wind his fingers this time over his neck. To inch his knees back up beneath him so slightly raising his hips, and finally to let his belly sink into the pillows, bringing down with it the small of his back, offering himself once more. And he waited.
The third stroke landed low across his ass and he threw his weight forward as if the belt itself had the weight to move him. He groaned deeply into the bed, breathing thickly through the covers. The fourth stroke landed before he recovered his position, and he found his hands suddenly free of his neck, his fingers knotting in the comforter.
The fifth stroke brought him to his elbows, and he let his hips collapse into the pillows. The wrap of the strap drove a cry from his throat. He barely recognized the pitch of his voice. Before he could stop himself his next breath came out in a whimper and he barely swallowed a moan as he felt a hand slip around the inside of his thigh, pulling his legs apart and forward, drawing him again to his knees.
He braced himself for the next lick, but it landed low, nearly on his thighs and he made a sound between a sob and a shout. Every muscle in his body was trembling, he was writhing slowly, working his hips from side to side, desperately trying to shake away even the slightest bit of the pain. Whatever the lion felt, he acted without sympathy, the next stroke fell precisely across the last.
For a moment pain made his vision narrow and pinpricks of light dance before his eyes. Beyond thought or control, he straightened his arms and rocked his hips back toward his feet. He was wheezing a low, inarticulate mantra of anguish. A hand closed firmly around his bicep pulling him forward and down again onto his chest. Through his misery, he found a last scrap of obedience and, whimpering, arched his back and waited for number eight.
It drove him again to his elbows and then number nine rained down behind it so quickly his shout pitched up to a scream and he scrambled forward and sideways, throwing one hand out and back along with a pleading gaze toward his tormentor. His answer was a firm shove back into position and he buried his face, shuddering into the comforter that was now wet and cold with his saliva. One more would make ten, his frantic mind formed a prayer to the nearest deity to let it end at ten.
When eleven fell across ten faster than he could howl, a new helplessness whetted the edge of the pain and he sobbed and tried again to scoot away from the belt. Before the pain of the eleventh stroke had crested, he was, for the second time, dragged by the leg back under the belt and lick twelve crashed down with a pistol-shot crack so loud his brain froze a moment on the sound before the pain seared a permanent path up his spine to his mind.
Beyond screaming, at the twelfth lick, his throat allowed out only a squeak, and for a moment his muscles wouldn’t unlock to bring air to his lungs. Then he was shoved roughly off of the pillows, onto the bed, onto his back. His muscles let go and he screamed.
Then the lion was on top of him, teeth at his throat and he writhed under only enough lion weight to keep him firmly in place. The weight of his own hips, the warp and weft and fine stitching of the comforter, sent jolts and waves of agony through every weal and stripe on his ass. Squirming kept the pain fresh and bright but he couldn’t command his body to stop. He was shuddering now, sobbing, gasping. The teeth grazed the top of his shoulder and his muddied mind scrambled his senses until the brush of denim against his legs and crotch, the buttons of the shirt, the faint brush of hair against his cheek scraped the ends of his nerves and seared as brightly and viciously as the welted skin beneath his hips.
A gentle hand smoothed sweat-damp hair away from his forehead and a gentler kiss brushed his lips, then his cheek, then the lobe of his ear. He shuddered, still trembling, but his frantic writhing slowed. The kisses left a feathery trail down his neck, then a warm, gentle flick of tongue and scrape of teeth made him moan and then sob and the tears that hadn’t come under the belt, suddenly trickled from the corners of his tightly closed eyes. As the lion closed his mouth more firmly on his throat, the gazelle arched his back, pressing their bodies more firmly together, forcing his ass more firmly against the bed, whimpering, sacrificing himself to the mélange of pleasure and pain.
The lion reared back enough to look deeply into his eyes. The small lines deepened with a smile that, this time, did reach his lips. The gazelle managed a wobbly grin and the lion finally purred.