A kite floats
At the place in the sky
Where it floated yesterday.
--- Buson Yosa
Heero pressed his fingers against his forehead, the heel of his hands against his eyelids, and let the water pour down over him. It wasn't scalding, but hot enough to make him shudder from the intensity. He wanted something physical. Something to point to; something he could attack, encircle, justify, blame: something tangible against which to measure the ache in his chest. Sighing, he turned away from the showerhead, noting distantly that without a shower curtain the bathroom was getting soaked from the spray. Taking up the soap, he began scrubbing his body with efficient, thorough movements. He didn't need to claw at himself to remove filth. There was no point.
The pollution went deeper than that.
The morning had started out reasonably well. The loft was large, but the low ceilings and rafters made it feel strangely enclosing. The casement window at the end of the loft was open. Heero figured that Trowa had opened it wide for a breeze before coming to bed. The screen was ripped, and he stared at it lazily for several long minutes, noting one more thing on the mental list of tasks for the cabin.
Trowa's body was warm beside him, but not so close to trap the late summer heat between them. Only their legs were entwined, and Heero contemplated rolling over and waking his lover up with attention he'd been longing to give. He rolled his head to the side, noting Jade's sleeping blankets several feet away. Any intentions he'd had of sneaking a few moments with Trowa dissipated when he registered that Jade was awake. The young man's breathing wasn't deep enough, and Heero sighed, knowing that Jade wouldn't get up without permission.
"If you need to go to the bathroom, Jade, go ahead and go," he whispered, hoping he was quiet enough to not wake Trowa. A muttering from behind him quickly told him there was little chance of that. Heero rolled over to look at Trowa as Jade got up from his bed and headed downstairs. Trowa's eyes were open, but sleepy, and Heero smiled, kissing him chastely on the lips. "Didn't mean to wake you."
"I've been awake," Trowa replied. "Thinking, mostly."
"You decided something last night. You going to let me in on that?"
Heero frowned, and rolled over on his back to stare at the ceiling. "He's not Maxwell. And he won't be Maxwell anytime soon."
"I hate it." Heero swallowed hard, reassured when Trowa reached for his hand and gave it a quick squeeze. "It's like being in the war again, I think."
"How's that?" Trowa raised himself up on his elbow, resting his head on his hand.
"One day, one mission, and don't think of the future," Heero replied. "Because there might not be one."
Breakfast was on the table by the time Trowa and Heero roused themselves from bed. To Heero's disappointment, Trowa had fallen back to sleep for another half-hour before awaking to immediately check on Jade. Pushing his frustration away, Heero dug through his bag for clean clothes, pulling out an extra set for Duo. Trowa was already dressed and heading down the stairs, and Heero was startled to hear his lover's raised voice a second later.
Puzzled, he came down the steps, the spare clothes in his hand. He entered the kitchen to find Jade on his knees, his forehead pressed against the wooden floor - and completely naked. Trowa was staring down with bewildered irritation, his hands hanging loose at his sides.
"Jade," Heero said immediately, holding out the clothes. "Put these on."
Jade didn't move, but his shoulders were tense.
"Jade, please, I'd prefer that you remain dressed," Trowa said, his voice under a bit more control. "Take the clothes from Heero and put them on." Slowly the longhaired man sat up, his eyes downcast as he raised his hands. Heero handed him the jeans and shirt, and Jade dressed without moving from the floor. The shackles on his feet chimed with every movement, and Trowa frowned. "We've got to find a way to take those off. I think they're soldered on."
Heero stepped past them to investigate the food on the table. Scrambled eggs, bacon, and toast, and he could smell coffee, but wasn't sure where it was coming from. Jade stood up, fidgeting with the shirt for a second before scurrying to pour coffee from one of the pots on the stove. Heero watched, and scratched his head thoughtfully, listening to the bells ring with Jade's every move.
"Are you sure? It's not like if we call his name he's going to shout where he is." Trowa raised an eyebrow, and Heero shrugged. "It's true."
"You put bells on cats to warn the mice," Trowa retorted, filling a plate with eggs and bacon. "You don't put bells on people. Can you break the anklets?"
"Not without the risk of also breaking his ankles," Heero admitted truthfully. "I'll look at them later."
Trowa nodded, setting the plate down in front of one the chairs. Turning to Jade, he pointed, and there was a silent battle of wills for several seconds before Jade hesitantly slid into the chair. Trowa watched, satisfied, and seated himself as well.
Breakfast was silent, except for short discussion about the first goals of the day. When all three were done, Trowa gave Jade the tasks of cleaning the kitchen, followed by the bathroom. Heero and Trowa then began removing furniture from the house, carting it out across the yard to the barn behind the cabin. It took several minutes to get the barn's padlock undone, but finally the wide doors swung open to reveal a large empty space with a dirt floor. Soon the bed, the bedroom dresser, one bedside table, three kitchen chairs and one high-back chair were piled in the barn.
"I'll head down the hill," Trowa announced. "Make a list of what you want shipped from your place, and I'll give it to Quatre. I'm also going to ask Liddie about finding a chimney sweep, so we can have those fireplaces checked out and cleaned."
"Good. What about that cat of yours?"
"I was wondering if there's a way to bring her here." Trowa sighed. "Maybe take a day and go back. Get some more clothes, and the cat. I haven't decided yet." Trowa leaned backwards, wincing as his back cracked. "I'll tell Liddie about the furniture, too."
"See if Quatre will ship our stuff. I can't think of anything I want that won't fit in a box," Heero said. He omitted the fact that what he really wanted had been found in a box. His chest ached, and he tried to concentrate on the day's tasks. "See if Liddie knows where to find the local hardware store. We'll need a full toolbox. We also need screen netting, and replacement panes for the windows, unless we replace the windows altogether. There's a leak in the toilet, too, from what I could tell last night."
"Let's fix, rather than replace," Trowa replied. "While I'm gone, there's something I'd appreciate if you'd do," he said quietly.
"Our first battle is yours," Trowa told him.
So it was that Heero found himself, an hour later, contemplating how to go about the task Trowa had set before him. Jade had finished scrubbing the tub, and Heero had been amused, and mildly unsurprised, to see that the majority of the grime appeared to have ended up on Jade.
How like Duo, he thought. He recalled the way his friend would rip apart an engine, completely unaware of the grease coating his fingers, or the engine oil swiped across the bridge of his nose. Duo would laugh if Heero pointed it out, and make some smart comment about becoming one with his work.
Heero sighed and bent his attention to carefully removing the broken glass from the windowpane. When he was finished, he took the plastic bag of glass shards to the kitchen, setting it with the rest of the trash. He didn't expect Trowa back for at least another two hours, and possibly longer. Heero poked his head in the bathroom again, noting that Jade had moved on to cleaning the toilet. Sighing, Heero headed into the bedroom and began sweeping out the corners. Pushing the dirt before him, he swept it through the living room and out the front door, sweeping it all off the porch. He took a minute to lean against the broom, staring out across the small field in front of the cabin. There were no sounds of civilization, only the broad sweeping and creaking of trees swaying in the wind, and a lone jay announcing its territory.
We need a hammock, Heero decided. Smiling to himself, he put the broom in the closet and went to check on Jade again. Now the young man was cleaning the sink, his head bent over as he scrubbed furiously at the water stains ringing the ceramic bowl. Heero leaned against the doorjamb and watched, taking deep breaths through his nose as he centered himself.
"Jade," he said, in a quiet tone. "When you're done, take a shower."
Jade paused, and then nodded once. When Heero backed away from the door, the young man started scrubbing again. Several minutes later, the shower started up, and Heero busied himself folding and sorting the few clothes Trowa had packed for him, cataloguing what he'd need from his apartment. When the water stopped, he headed downstairs, his shoulders squared.
"Jade," he called. The bathroom door was open, and Jade was naked except for the cord around his neck and the silver anklets. He was trying to comb out the tangles in his hair with his fingers. Heero hoped Trowa remembered his parting words about a brush and hair-bands for Jade, as well as towels, a shower curtain, and a bathmat. The room was soaked with splattered water from Jade's shower. Heero stepped forward. "Jade," he repeated, as he sat down on the toilet lid. "Come here."
A slight line appeared between Jade's brows, but he dutifully dropped his hands, approaching Heero. The dark-haired man caught Jade before he started to kneel.
"No, stand right here," Heero said, positioning Jade in front of him. He glanced up, disappointed to see Jade's eyes were almost closed. He couldn't see even a sliver of blue. Heero caught Jade's half-hard cock with his fingertips. Cautiously he turned the ring, his ears and eyes intent on any sign or sound of distress from Jade, but the only reaction seemed to be a soft shudder. Ignoring that, Heero studied the ring, looking for a latch.
"How does this... " Heero's words were cut off as Jade jerked backwards out of his grasp, pasting his back to the wall. The longhaired man's head was down, his wet hair dripping in his face and water still drying on his body as he shook. His hands were flat against the wall, not covering himself but clearly unhappy.
"Jade, I have to take that off," Heero told him. "Come back here."
Jade shifted his weight as if to move forward a step, paused, and pulled back again.
Heero frowned. "Trowa told you to listen to me when he's not around. He wants that gone, and so do I. It's not right. Now come back here," he ordered, a bit more sternly.
Jade's body quivered, and he pressed himself against the wall. His head turned, and Heero could see the silent man's eyes moving under his eyelids, looking for an escape. Heero grunted and stood up, grabbing Jade by the wrist. "No! You're not going anywhere until that comes off." He was startled when Jade twisted out of his grasp and bolted for the door with the sound of bells in his wake. Heero swore under his breath, dashing after the naked man. Jade had landed on his pillow by the back door, and was curled up in a fetal position, his hands over his head.
"Damn it," Heero repeated, striding over and lifting Jade up bodily. The naked man keened and wriggled in his grip, but Heero had a firmer hold, and nearly wrenched Jade's left arm as he tried to hold the longhaired man against him. Spitting out a mouthful of wet hair, Heero managed to get Jade against him, back-to-front, and locked one arm around the still-struggling young man. "Hold still," he ordered. Jade immediately stilled in his hands, but continued to quiver and keen softly.
Heero slowly released Jade's right wrist, and reached around the young man to twist the ring again. He barely had time to block when Jade tried to elbow him. The dark-haired man scowled and grabbed at the wrist, holding his head back as the naked man flailed against him. Jade's struggles twisted them both around until Jade's feet were against the sofa. With a sudden burst of energy the young man pushed backwards, nearly sending Heero sprawling on his back. Heero's response was instinctive.
The young man cried out at the word, immediately curling up and going limp in Heero's arms. Pushing himself upright, Heero turned them both around until Jade was facing the bathroom door, and there was nothing within reach for Jade to get leverage. Once again Heero slowly released Jade's right arm, nearly sick at the sight of bruises already forming on the pale flesh. Reaching around, he took hold of the ring, and swore again as Jade immediately began moaning, his legs kicking helplessly at the wooden floor, unable to get a purchase. The bells chimed with every move, becoming a cacophony in Heero's ears. He locked his left arm tighter, peering over Jade's shoulder as he tried to figure out the latching system.
"Just a second more, Jade, hold on," he whispered, as his fingers found a small bump in the side of the ring. Pressing it, he was relieved to hear a snap and the ring came off in his hand. He dropped it, and it rolled across the wooden floor with a clatter. Jade responded with a low moan, and Heero flinched, still holding the young man close. With his right hand, he reached up to push the mass of hair out of Jade's face, sighing as he saw tears leaking out from under the other man's eyelids.
"Damn it, damn it," was all he could think to say, clutching the young man close to him, heedless of the wet hair soaking his shirt. "Why do you keep fighting? Why won't you just... " Heero sighed and buried his face in Jade's hair. "Come back to me... you're my best friend." Heero twined his free arm around Jade's chest, his face against Jade's cheek as the young man sat limply in his arms. Jade didn't respond and didn't move. The dark-haired man sighed and released Jade, who immediately grabbed the ring and scrambled the four feet to his pillow, curling up again in the tightest ball he could manage.
Heero remained where he was, and leaned over until the palms of his hands were flat against the floor. He felt short of breath, but not from exertion. Struggling to his knees, he crawled over to the pillow, reaching out with one tentative hand.
"Jade, I'm... I'm so sorry," he whispered. "I didn't mean to hurt you."
The naked man curled even tighter, and Heero pulled back his hand and sat on his heels. Finally he stood up, going to the bathroom and retrieving Jade's clothes. Setting them down on the floor next to the pillow, Heero stared sadly for a long moment at the unmoving young man.
"Put on the clothes," he ordered, his voice cracking as he added, "Jade."
He could see the red marks on the arms that once muscled machinery and tools without breaking a sweat. Heero swayed on his feet as a wave of nausea passed through him. He raised his own hands, staring at them. I did that, he thought, and wondered how soon Trowa would return.
Heero went to take a shower.
He had finished washing the soap out of his hair when the banging started. Heero scowled and shut off the water, grabbing his shirt and using it as a towel. "Trowa?"
"Yeah. What the hell is going on?"
Heero pulled on his jeans, hopping slightly to get into them faster. He yanked the door open, his damp shirt over his shoulder as he buttoned his jeans. "What do you mean?"
"Look!" Trowa stepped out of the way, and pointed. "What the *fuck* did you do?"
Past him, Heero could see Jade, on the pillow, sitting in that now-familiar spread-kneed position, hands behind his back, and still completely naked. His head was down, but he was holding a long black object between his teeth. It looked about an inch in diameter, and about a foot and a half long. It made Heero think of a policeman's night stick, and he frowned, then noticed the cock ring was laying on the floor in front of Jade. There were tear streaks down Jade's cheeks.
"I took the ring off," Heero replied calmly.
Trowa ran a hand through his hair, took a deep breath, and turned to the silent young man. "Jade, take that... thing out of your mouth, get those clothes, and go upstairs. Now." A muscle flickered in Trowa's jaw when Jade didn't move. "Now, Jade!" There was a rustle and Jade dropped the stick, scrambling for his clothes and practically crawling quickly from the room and up the stairs. Trowa watched him go, and shouted again. "Stay up there until I come get you!" Heero raised an eyebrow, and Trowa shook his head. "The chimney sweep---"
There was a knock at the door, and an older man pushed the door open with a nervous smile. "Mr. Barton?"
"Yes, Jim, please come in," Trowa told him, his demeanor swiftly changing to professional politeness, but his smile was tight. "This is Mr. Yuy. He and I are restoring the cabin."
Heero nodded and pulled on his shirt. He watched as the older man dropped a bundle of plastic sticks and several brushes by the fireplace and began laying a protective sheet around the hearth. If Jim had heard them shouting, he gave no sign of it and within seconds seemed to forget they were watching.
"Heero," Trowa said, with a pointed look towards the upstairs. "Help me unload the Jeep."
Outside, by the Jeep, Trowa didn't open the trunk right away, but leaned against it with his arms crossed. Heero recognized the look, and avoided Trowa's eyes as he explained what had happened when he tried to remove the cock ring. When he finished, Trowa was quiet for a moment.
"I'm sorry," he finally said. "I guess I should have said something to Jade before I left."
"Yes, you should have." Heero crossed his arms and stared at the trunk of the Jeep, but Trowa didn't take the hint. "You're his Master, Trowa, whether you like it or not. I gather a cock ring has something to do with sex, and if he's supposed to be your sex toy, then removing it would be the last thing he'd want."
Trowa flinched. "But he's wanting something. That's a plus, right?"
"No, he's wanting what he thinks you want."
Trowa was silent for a moment, staring off into the woods. "I... I called a sex shop, in Sanq." The auburn-haired man looked amused, and a little embarrassed. "I got the number from information... figured they'd be able to explain how those things work."
Heero raised an eyebrow, noting Trowa's slight flush.
"The guy said a cock ring compresses the flesh, cutting down the blood flow. This means the penis remains half-hard, because only a limited amount of blood can get past the compression," Trowa told him in a low, even voice. "When the penis becomes fully erect, the compression closes off the channel, and the man is unable to ejaculate."
"That doesn't sound pleasant." Heero glared at nothing in particular.
"He said if it's fitted wrong, it can be extremely painful," Trowa commented neutrally. "But if fitted properly, you get used to it, and it's worth it, to prolong your erection."
Heero considered this carefully. "If someone else is controlling the sex act, then a cock ring would be a way to prevent ejaculation without permission?"
"So... Jade didn't want it removed because if he's yours, you should be the one controlling everything." Heero gritted his teeth. "Everything," he repeated dully.
"The guy told me that cock rings are to please the recipient, not the person wearing them," Trowa added. "And I think Jade does everything with an eye towards what would please his Master."
"Including candles on the table, and breakfast ready at the right time." Heero shook his head and stared pointedly at the Jeep. "Let's get this stuff inside. Jade's still upstairs, remember."
"Shit, yeah," Trowa replied. He opened the trunk and grabbed the first two bags, his voice returning to its normal volume. "I got everything on the list, and a bunch more. Toilet tissue, for instance."
Heero chuckled and grabbed several of the other bags, following Trowa into the house as the taller man rattled off his report. Liddie had already arranged for a grandson to bring them replacement furniture from a storage area. One of her cousins had died the year before, and the woman's belongings had been stored when none of the children wanted the items. Timothy and his girlfriend would be by in the late afternoon with the first load. From Liddie's, Trowa had gone to the hardware store, a block down from the shopping center. He'd spent a half-hour in the parking lot on the phone with Quatre, who reported that Wufei was back from his trip to L4. The two of them would pack up Heero and Trowa's stuff, and ship the items the two men requested. Quatre was keeping the cat for the time being, and might have one of the Maguanacs deliver it, if he couldn't get away. Trowa had tried to politely dissuade Quatre from visiting personally.
New trashcans were placed in the kitchen and bathroom, and a bathmat was dropped on the wet bathroom floor. Heero put the new towels in the bathroom, and hung the shower curtain, twitching the plastic until it surrounded the claw-footed tub neatly. Meanwhile, Trowa was on the front porch, unwrapping the new tools and dropping them into a red metal toolbox. Jim had finished with the main fireplace, judged it sturdy enough to last another hundred years, and explained that it would require some superficial repair. The kitchen fireplace wasn't as filthy, and Jim figured he'd be done in a half-hour. Heero continued unloading the Jeep while Trowa went upstairs to supervise Jade.
When Trowa didn't reappear within a few minutes, Heero set down the bag of plumbing supplies and headed to the loft. There he found Jade huddled in Trowa's lap, and the taller man appeared upset. Jade still wasn't dressed.
"What happened?" Heero knelt down in front of Trowa, whose arms were wrapped around Jade's slim back. Jade's knees were pressed against Trowa's chest, and he was shaking.
"He keeps trying to get me to put it back on him," Trowa whispered. His green eyes were sorrowful. "I guess this really is the first battle."
Heero sighed, staring at the tangles in Jade's hair. He absently recalled that Trowa had purchased a brush, and decided that would be a task once the three of them were alone in the cabin again. Heero kept his voice low, trying a different tack. "Jade... Jade," he called gently. "Turn around. I want you to listen to me."
Jade didn't move until Trowa removed his arms, and even then Jade only twisted a little so the side of his face was towards Heero. His eyes were downcast, and Heero could see the ring clutched tightly in Jade's left hand.
"Everything you do is to please your Master, right?" Heero waited until Jade nodded, just once, a tentative movement. "And when you make him happy, you're happy?"
Jade nodded again, a little quicker this time.
"And you've been told that your Master is happy when you can't... have an orgasm?"
There was a longer pause this time, before Jade nodded.
Heero sat back on his heels, but kept his voice low. "But what's most important is that you please your Master."
Jade nodded, his knuckles going white as he tightened his grip on the ring.
"It pleases your Master most, if you aren't wearing that ring." A thin line formed between Jade's brows. Heero ignored Trowa's warning look. Keeping his voice gentle, he pressed on. "Your Master is unhappy if you wear that. Your Master is also unhappy if you are naked."
A single tear leaked out from under Jade's eyelashes, and he pulled his knees tighter to his chest.
The dark-haired man watched, bracing himself, and drove the point home. "Do you want your Master to be unhappy?"
Jade closed his eyes tightly and shook his head, the barest movement.
"Good," Heero soothed. "Then drop the ring, and put on your clothes. Do that, and your Master will be happy. That's how you can please him." He pulled his eyes away from the naked man, startled to meet Trowa's blazing expression. Neither said anything as Jade crawled over to his bed and retrieved the clothing, dressing so slowly the anklets barely chimed. When he was done, Trowa sighed.
"Take a nap, Jade." Trowa waited until Jade was curled up in a ball, and turned to Heero. The fury in his green eyes had been replaced by sadness. "Manipulation," he hissed. "Every time we reinforce this whole please-the-Master crap, are we any better than the people that did this to him?"
"It worked," Heero replied hotly, but keeping his voice down. "Isn't that the point?"
"We're treating the symptoms," Trowa observed.
"What the hell are we *supposed* to treat?"
Trowa was silent for a long minute, before he averted his eyes with a frustrated look. "I don't know." He glanced at Jade's curled body, and sighed, his shoulders slumping. "We have an ax now. I'm going to chop wood." His look clearly said he'd consider Heero potential firewood if he was interrupted.
Heero didn't say anything, listening to Trowa's tread as he left the loft and headed down the stairs. The dark-haired man dropped his head, still feeling the chill of his lover's angry passing. "The blind leading the blind," he muttered, his eyes falling on Jade's sleeping body. Heero stared at the open casement window for several long minutes before heading down to finish unloading the Jeep.
Timothy arrived just as Jim was packing up his truck. Trowa had reappeared after a half-hour, sweating and blistered but calmer. The young man had just come up the steps as Heero stepped to the open door.
"Hey, Gran' said you wanted this junk. I'm Timothy," the young man added with a wide grin, presenting his hand. Heero stared at it for a second, and nodded. Timothy frowned, and then pulled back his hand with a shrug. His brown hair was chopped short, and his bangs flopped in his face in a shorter version of Trowa's style. The young man turned on the porch and waved to the girl waiting by the truck. "Jen, did you get those ropes untied?" Turning back to Heero, he rolled his eyes. "She insisted we tie it all down. We've got a bed frame, a table, and four chairs. And a mattress, but I don't know if it's any good."
Heero nodded and followed the young man out to the car. Trowa had finished paying Jim, and gone to help the girl get the knots undone. The silence was filled with Timothy's chatter for the next twenty minutes as the four people got the bed frame into the small bedroom, and set it up after some discussion. Jen brought in the slats while Heero knocked the last support beam into place. The box spring and mattress went next, and it wasn't long before the truck was unloaded completely. Trowa gave Timothy a quick tour of the downstairs, and pointed out several more items that would probably need to be replaced. The young man promised to come back the following day, and soon he and his girlfriend were gone with a blast of some atrocious music and a squeal of truck tires on gravel.
"I think I need another shower," Heero said quietly.
"I have first dibs," Trowa replied. He frowned lightly, and stared off into the kitchen with narrowed eyes. "I looked at generators, and I think we should get one tomorrow. We can set it up in the barn, so the noise won't be as loud, and run a cord from there to the kitchen. The phone line should be acting by tomorrow morning. Then we can recharge your laptop and find a dialup to the nearest net server."
Heero nodded. The chances were probably slim that the local library would have information on rehabilitating Jade. The 'net was their best bet, and the sooner they could log in, the sooner they'd have a better idea of what to do. "I'll start dinner, since we missed lunch. Afterwards, do you want to try getting Jade's hair untangled?"
"Sounds good. And Heero... " Trowa paused, and then leaned forward to place gentle lips against Heero's own. "I know it's hard, not having any time for just the two of us. I don't---"
"It's okay," Heero replied, cutting off Trowa's words with a longer kiss. His body ached for Trowa's touch after a week's separation, but he pushed the longing away. He smiled ruefully as he pulled away. "It's hard to believe yesterday morning I woke up thinking the only thing we'd do when you got back was order out and stay in bed."
Trowa grinned. "I think we should have Jade sleep in the loft, and we'll take the bedroom. At least then we'll have some privacy."
Heero flashed him a shy smile, and went to make dinner.
End Part 5
On to Chapter six
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