Broken Jade

Part Seven: Mountain Home

Prayer beads dangling
A harvest moon prayer...
Mountain home
--- Issa (Kobayashi Yatarô)

Heero slipped from the bed at dawn, grabbing his jeans and a long-sleeved shirt from the open suitcase before heading into the living room. He was surprised at the slight chill in the air, and shoved his bare feet into his boots before pushing the front door open. Returning as quietly as he could manage, he set a stack of firewood by the fireplace, and soon had a small fire warming up the main room. Stirring it with a poker, he sat back on his haunches and looked around.

Coffee, he decided.

It took a few minutes to figure out the system Jade had set up for making coffee in a simple pot, but eventually he had a reasonably adequate coffee. Pouring himself a mug, and only splattering a little on the countertop, Heero took his mug to the two French doors looking out on the back porch. Flipping the locks, he pushed the doors open to the morning air.


Nearly an hour passed before Heero heard anyone stirring in the house. He'd settled himself on the porch, his back against one of the posts, seated sideways with his legs stretched out along the edge. He'd considered sitting in one of the rocking chairs, but decided against it, not trusting the look of rotting wood. At the sound of footsteps in the kitchen, Heero looked up from the papers in his hands, and set down the pen as Trowa stepped outside. Behind him, Jade was already fussing with the pot of coffee. Heero smirked, looking up as Trowa bent down to give him a kiss.

"Making lists," Trowa observed, crouching down next to Heero. He fingered the edge of one sheet and gave his lover a curious glance.

"This list is everything I want sent from my apartment," Heero explained, setting one sheet aside. "This is a list of things we need to do around here that one person can do, and this is a list of two-person tasks."

Trowa looked over the list, not noticing at first when Jade knelt next to them, his head down, and a cup of coffee in his hand. The longhaired man's steps were silent but for the chime of the anklets. Heero nudged Trowa, who looked up to see the mug being held out in the palm of Jade's left hand, the young man's right hand holding the mug steady.

"Thank you, Jade," Trowa told the silent man, taking the mug from him. Jade's hands dropped, moving to the small of his back. Trowa frowned, and looked at Heero, who shrugged. Trowa sipped his coffee, watching as Jade remained in the same position. After several seconds, Trowa lowered the mug with a sigh. "Jade, you can go back to whatever you were doing."

Jade nodded once, and rose to his feet in a single fluid move, leaving the porch in a swirl of chiming bells. Trowa raised his eyebrows at Heero, who shook his head curtly. Trowa nodded, and the two men bent their heads to the lists.


"After breakfast, the first order of business has to be shoes." Trowa glanced over at Jade, noticing the silent man picking out the green peppers from his omelet and setting them on the side. "Jade? Eat your green peppers."

A thin line formed between Jade's brows and he continued picking the peppers out. Trowa glanced at Heero, who shrugged.

"He's always hated those," Heero replied. "What about shoes?"

"For Jade. He's either gone barefoot or worn your hiking boots, and you 'll need those back at some point." Trowa finished his omelet and got up to set the plate in the sink. He turned around, leaning a hip against the countertop as he watched Jade eat. "I can take him to the shoe store at that shopping center if you go to the hardware store and pick up what we need."

Heero considered this, finishing off his breakfast with measured bites. "I'd rather take him. And then we'll go by that department store and see if there are any jeans that will fit him. Mine are a size too large, I think."

Trowa nodded. "I'll go put my shoes on, and I'll be ready." He glanced at Jade, who had finished off the rest of the omelet, leaving only a pile of lonely green peppers stacked neatly on the side. "Jade, go put on Heero's hiking boots. We're going into town."

Jade's shoulders slumped, and his head sunk down.

"Jade?" Heero asked. "There are things you need, and you have to go with us. We can't buy them without you there."

The silent young man didn't move, then nodded twice, and slipped from his chair. He seemed to be watching as Trowa cleared the table, and hesitated for a second before leaving the room.

"Are you sure this is a good idea?" Heero frowned. I don't know if he's ready, he thought. I don't know what might set him off, either.

"We donated all of Maxwell's clothes," Trowa said softly. "Buying new ones is our only option."

Heero nodded, and got up from the table. "I'll drive," he said.


The ride into town was quiet, and Heero dropped Trowa off at the hardware store, then drove the two blocks to the shopping center. Once inside the shoe store, he picked out several boots in Jade's size. He lined them up in front of the silent man, who was seated on a bench in the middle of the aisle.

Jade crossed his arms and lowered his chin.

"Jade, try these on." Heero knelt at Jade's feet, untying the shoelaces on the boots. He glanced up, and thought he might have glimpsed the dark blue of Jade's eyes, but the silent man shut his eyes tight as though aware he was nearly tricked. Heero sighed and tugged at the boot, pulling it off before starting on the second one. When he went to slip Jade's foot into the first boot, the silent man tried to jerk his foot back. Heero grunted and shoved Jade's foot in the boot before re-thinking his strategy. Setting the boot down, he sat back on his haunches and gave Jade an exasperated look. "Have it your way, then. Pick a pair."

Jade was still for a moment, then got up, wandering up and down the aisle before pulling out a pair of brown hiking boots with red laces. Cradling them to his chest, he fingered a pair of sandals before returning to sit on the bench, the boots on his lap.

"Those are Tevas," a voice said behind them. Heero looked up to see a young girl standing behind Jade, a retail smile stuck permanently on her face. Heero raised an eyebrow, and the girl's grin never wavered. "Those sandals your friend was looking at. They're excellent for hiking during warm weather, and you can go wading in them, too."

Heero considered this, tempted to ask Jade, but reluctant to deal with the song-and-dance required if he was going to have an audience. He glanced up at the girl again, even as he tugged the boots from Jade's grasp and began slipping them onto Jade's feet and lacing them up. "Could you get the pair he was looking at?"

The girl nodded, coming back shortly with a pair of black rubber-soled sandals, with a vaguely tribal pattern on the straps. One strap went over the toes, and a second went around the ankle, and both were adjustable with Velcro. Inspecting the quality, Heero checked the size and dropped the shoes into the box. "We'll take those, too," he said, patting Jade's calf as he stood up. "Okay, Jade, stand up. Those boots fit okay? Walk around."

The girl watched quietly, and gave Heero a puzzled look. "Is your friend... " Her voice dropped to a whisper. "Is there something wrong with him?"

The dark-haired man raised his eyebrow at that, and shook his head curtly. "No. He just doesn't talk."

"Oh," the girl said, her smile suddenly returning. When Jade turned around and returned down the aisle, she stepped in his way. "Do those fit?" Her voice was loud, and Heero could see Jade flinch from the unexpected volume. "They should be a little large in the toe," she continued.

Heero sucked in breath between his teeth, annoyed. "I said he doesn't talk. I didn't say he was deaf," the dark-haired man snapped. "Jade? Those okay?"

Jade nodded, his head down, his hands behind his back.

"Good. Let's go." He picked up the sandals and his own boots, and headed to the counter, Jade trailing behind, followed by the still-smiling retail clerk. "He'll wear those home," Heero informed the clerk, and she nodded, putting his boots and the new sandals in a bag while his credit card was processed. A minute later they were out the door, Jade lagging slightly. Heero stopped, annoyed.

"Don't tell me they don't fit," he told Jade. "I know your shoe size."

Jade shrunk back, and Heero glared at him for a minute, frustrated. He stared at Jade, as though willing the silent man to open his mouth, and then stopped, realizing that Jade's lowered eyes seemed to be focused on the bag in his hands. His mind spinning rapidly, Heero moved the bag in his hands and noticed Jade's eyes moving under his eyelids.

"Do you want to wear the sandals?"

A pleased smile broke across Jade's face.

"You help me find you some clothes, and you can wear the sandals as a reward," Heero told him. Fuck, he thought, I just bargained with him. He sighed, and shook his head. "No, I take that back. You can wear them now."

Opening up the bag and taking out the sandals, he watched as Jade slipped out of the boots and knelt to adjust the Velcro straps around his ankles. After a second, Jade stood, but the pleased smile was gone, momentarily replaced by a slight frown. Heero watched as Jade flexed his toes, sighed, and the little smile came back.

Puzzled, Heero nodded, and led the way into the department store.


Trowa was waiting out in front of the hardware store when they pulled up, and he immediately thumped on the trunk for Heero to unlock it. Heero got out and helped Trowa load the generator into the Jeep, followed by several more tools, and a stack of books.

"I should've known," Heero muttered. "You have radar for books. And I thought a hardware store would be safe."

The taller man smirked, and shut the Jeep's trunk with a quick motion. "You'll thank me later, when you're trying to fix the toilet."

"You're not expecting me to read the directions, are you?"

"Be quiet, or I'll think you're channeling Maxwell." Trowa got into the Jeep, twisting in place to glance at the silent man in the back seat. Heero got in beside him and started up the engine. "I see you bought out everything in his size," Trowa observed.

"Not entirely, but close." Heero frowned as he pulled away from the curb. "We had a few... disagreements over some of the purchases."

Trowa raised an eyebrow.

Heero shrugged. "I'll... I'll tell you later," he said softly, and turned the car's radio on to cover the silence.


The kitchen table was pushed over to the wall, the chairs piled up on top, and the coolers full of ice were underneath. Everything from the fridge had been put in the coolers, and Jade was absorbed in studying the back of the fridge, pulled away from the wall. The line from the propane tank was undone, and every few minutes there was a clanking sound as Jade slowly took the fridge apart.

Heero leaned against the doorframe and watched for several seconds before stepping past Jade to return several tools to the red toolbox. Then he headed out the open kitchen doors, following the path around the house to the barn where Trowa was setting up the generator.

A loud thrumming sound greeted him as he neared the barn. Then the sound died suddenly, and was followed by soft cursing. Heero smiled as he stepped into the barn's cool darkness. "Problems?"

"Not really," Trowa muttered. "Just an inefficient design. How's Jade doing?"

"Slowly but surely dismantling the entire refrigerator. I don't know if he's actually making progress at anything but destruction, however. Toilet's fixed."

Trowa nodded from where he knelt next to the generator. He fiddled with several of the knobs, flicked a switch, and the generator kicked on. It hummed quieter this time, and Trowa smiled to himself as he got up, brushing dirt off the knees of his jeans.

"And the clogged tub drain?"

"Cleaned out." Heero led the way to the front porch instead of the back porch, and settled on the stoop, waiting for Trowa to join him. The taller man did so with raised eyebrows, waiting. "Jade... I think Maxwell's coming back."

"How so?"

The dark-haired man nodded. "When we were shopping... but I'm not sure." He'd not mentioned anything earlier, as they'd split immediately to get started on the day's tasks before Timothy arrived with a second truckload of furniture. Heero sighed and relayed Jade's behavior while buying shoes, and outside the store, then began explaining everything that happened while they shopped. "He turned up his nose at the blue jeans I picked out, and would only try on the black jeans."

"Maxwell always loved black."

"Maxwell hasn't worn black exclusively in six or seven years. Maybe longer." Heero shook his head. "Maxwell got out of that, really, after the One Year War."

"True," Trowa conceded. "That all?"

"He was okay when I grabbed boxers for him, or t-shirts. Then I picked out two long-sleeve shirts, and he took them from the cart and threw them on the floor."

Trowa whistled. "What did they look like?"

"They were red and blue, like shirts he used to have." Heero shrugged at Trowa's raised eyebrows. "He'd been so insistent on black jeans, I figured... "

"Strange," Trowa said. He leaned back on his hands and stretched his legs down the steps, crossing them at the ankles. "Anything else?"

"Like that's not enough?" The dark-haired man leaned forward, his elbows on his knees. "I picked up the shirts, and put them back, and grabbed two black ones. And then it seemed like he was confused, but when I asked him what he wanted, he wouldn't answer."

"No reaction at all?"

"For a moment, he seemed... disappointed, and then he was smiling again. We went through the same thing with the socks, too." Heero sighed, letting his shoulders fall as he rested his chin on his forearms. "I wasn't sure whether to be happy he was showing spirit, or throttle him for being so damn difficult."

"Maxwell was always headstrong." Trowa's voice rumbled with amusement.

"Yeah, I guess." Heero stood up and stretched, hearing the sounds of a truck crunching gravel down the driveway. "Something's not right, but I can't put my finger on it."

Trowa nodded and stood, seeing the truck pull up, Timothy waving at them from behind the wheel. "We'll figure it out, Heero. But I hope it's a good sign."

It's a sign, Heero thought, still perturbed. I just wish I knew if it was really a good one.


Timothy and his girlfriend delivered two more kitchen chairs, two rocking chairs, a high back chair, and a single bed mattress and frame. Jade had continued working on the fridge, and Timothy and his girlfriend had avoided any comment about the silent longhaired man in the kitchen. When the two kids left in a blaze of loud music, Heero and Trowa watched from the front porch as dust settled in the truck's passing.

"You ready to run the cord from the barn to the house?" Heero glanced at Trowa.

The taller man nodded, running a hand through his hair. "I've been wondering if we should bury it, before winter gets here."

"Do that once we know everything works," Heero suggested.

"You want to turn the loft into the office?"

Heero waited, understanding the question for what it was.

Trowa narrowed his eyes, thinking for several seconds before explaining. "I think we should move the bedroom upstairs. There's more room for a single bed to be slipped out from under our bed for Jade, at night. Then we can make the downstairs room into an office."

"You're actually planning on letting him sleep at the foot of the bed, as a regular thing?" Heero frowned.

"You have any suggestions for getting him to stay on the sofa, short of threatening him or tying him down?" Trowa's green eyes were calmly amused, and the expression deepened as Heero scowled a little more. Trowa leaned over to ghost his lips across Heero's before pulling away. "If it gives him comfort to be there, we can just work around it."

Heero didn't say anything, but crossed his arms. Trowa laughed softly and headed into the cabin, while the dark-haired man stayed where he was, studying the front field. Trowa had bought several books on gardening and native plants, as well, and he decided that he'd begin investigating those subjects starting that evening. He was startled from his reverie by the sound of something metallic getting knocked over.

Curious, he headed into the house, to find Jade on his pillow by the fireplace. He was in the position Heero had come to think of as Jade's holding pattern, and he was also completely nude. Jade's head was down, but his shoulders were squared and there was a defiant scowl on his face.

"Trowa?" Heero stepped past the seating area and headed into the kitchen, where Trowa stood staring at something past Heero's line of sight. Hearing his lover, the taller man turned with a baffled look on his face, and pointed. "What the... " Heero's mouth fell open at the sight of the fridge, completely dismantled, with tools lying everywhere. "What happened?"

"No idea," Trowa said. He scratched his head and regarded the scattered parts thoughtfully. "Do you think he couldn't figure it out?"


"This is Jade," Trowa interrupted.

"He's still a brilliant mechanic," Heero replied. "Look at the method he used for dismantling. And see the arrangement?" Heero shook his head, studying the way the parts were laid out. It was too precise for someone who had no idea what they were doing; the parts were collected into piles related to use, not by shape, size, or placement on the fridge like a less experienced person would have arranged them.

"Why would he stop?"

Heero shrugged. "Everything he does is to please you," he said. "Maybe there was something he couldn't do, and now he's afraid he won't please you."

"Please me." Trowa glowered for a second. Forcibly relaxing, he looked around the kitchen a second time. "Fine, I'll see if I can figure it out."

"What about Jade?"

"Get him to put his clothes back on, and I'll finish up here." Trowa sighed and knelt down. Within a few minutes he'd determined where Jade had left off, and began working quietly.

Heero collected Jade's clothes from their pile by the back doors, and headed to the living room, where he dropped them in front of Jade. "Put your clothes back on," he ordered roughly. "Clothes stay on, in this house."

He was startled when Jade's shoulders slumped and the silent man slowly nodded as he drew the sweatshirt over his head. The anklet bells chimed as Jade shifted on his pillow to pull the jeans up, and Jade sighed deeply enough for Heero to hear him as Jade buttoned up the jeans and settled back into position. Heero gritted his teeth, tempted to shake the silent man.

"No, you are not going to just sit there," he announced with as much calm as he could muster. "If you can't fix the fridge, then there are others things on that list. Go on. We've all got to do our parts to get this place ready for winter."

There was a long pause, and slowly Jade stood up. His head remained down, and as he passed Heero, the dark-haired man was startled to see tears caught in Jade's lowered eyelashes. Confused, Heero watched the other man leave for the kitchen. He remained there for several minutes before beginning to move what he could to the loft.


The next two hours passed with little conversation. Trowa soon had the fridge together and running smoothly, and Heero helped him push it back against the wall. Jade cleaned the interior of the fridge completely, and began putting things away while Heero and Trowa moved the bed and the dresser up to the loft. They pushed the bed over to rest under the only window, and set the dresser along one side.

"Shelves," Trowa said, as he stood up, and Heero nodded, understanding what the taller man meant. Additional built-in shelves under the rafters would be deep enough for clothes storage and use the lower areas of the room where the roof met the floor at a steep angle. Trowa kicked the twin-bed mattress under the bed, and grinned ruefully. "No need for sleeping bags, now."

"We'll use them when it gets cold," Heero replied, "especially if we don't insulate." His eyes went upwards, to the bare boards laying over the rafters, and Trowa followed his gaze.

"Another thing for the list," the taller man said, as he left the loft.

Heero remained, his eyes falling on the wooden trunk tucked into the corner of the loft. It was pushed up against the roofline, and he knelt before it, hearing Trowa in the downstairs bedroom picking up one of the bedside tables. Heero ran his fingers lightly over the top, and frowned when he couldn't find a keyhole or thumb slot.

But yesterday, Heero thought, Jade had appeared with some sort of implement for punishment. The trunk was the only likely source of such things, but there was no clear way to open it. Puzzled, he filed the thought away for later discussion with Trowa, but by dinnertime he had forgotten.


Over the next four days, Trowa and Heero focused on the cabin, recognizing without need for conversation the importance of concrete goals. The local internet service would take two days to cycle, leaving them with a working laptop and no connection although the phone line was finally live. Quatre had received Trowa's and Heero's lists of requested items, promising that he and Wufei would tackle the job of packing and shipping the items themselves. The rest would go into storage. Une also called, verifying that the cabin was habitable. She didn't ask about Duo. Trowa, who answered the phone, didn't offer any information.

They'd been at the cabin for a total of three days, Heero thought, grunting as he shoved insulation between the rafters and stapled the straps in place over it. It took six hours for the three of them to finish the entire roof, including a half-hour of terse discussion about creating a platform into the living room with the rented ladder. Jade fixed an early dinner, and Trowa suggested hiking in the woods for an hour before dark. The trip was silent, except for Heero's comment that they should have brought the book on native plants.

The next day was another of grueling labor, putting up drywall over the rafters. The only conversation was requests for nails, or a comment about what task might follow next. None of the three were up to hiking in the late afternoon, and even Jade could only manage simple sandwiches for dinner.

Each day the three battles they'd chosen continued to be fought, and won. Jade sat at the table at each meal, remained dressed, and each night wore his hair in a braid for a minute more than the night before. The night he wore it for four minutes, Jade chose to give Trowa a foot-rub. The next night, none of the three were able to do more than lie on the sofa and watch the fire as Jade sobbed against Trowa's chest once the braid was removed. Heero suggested root beer floats. Jade finished his in record time, and required little encouragement to finish Heero's as well.

The dark-haired man had begun to note little details of Jade rebelling, but none so overt as earlier in the week. The fifth day at the cabin, Jade squirmed away from Heero when he tried to help the silent man stretch screen netting over the old frames. Trowa, in the middle of carefully inserting new glass for the windowpanes, raised his eyebrows at Heero, but the dark-haired man could only give a slight shrug in response. The afternoon of the fourth day, Jade refused to re-grout the tiled walls in the bathroom, leaving the chore half-undone as he returned to his pillow, naked, his knees spread as he knelt back with his head down.

Again Heero could only glower, finishing the task while Trowa ordered Jade to get dressed again. Trowa mentioned in passing that he suspected something was going on, but Heero only nodded. Duo, he told himself, would not have liked the boredom of grouting tiles, either. But Duo, his mind retorted, would not have left the chore half done to retreat to a pillow with a defiant expression. Duo would have complained long and loud, then quieted down, finished the task, and later reminded everyone of his great sacrifice. The memory brought a small smile to Heero's face as he bent to finish the task.

That evening, Heero brought the book on their group hike, and together he and Trowa identified nearly sixteen different late-blooming wildflowers. They hiked farther than they had on the first walk, making their way down the mountainside to a large fast-running creek. Heero had laughed out loud to discover that the sound in the distance that he'd assumed was traffic was actually the creek at the bottom of the mountain. Jade had waded into the creek without pause, stooping at intervals to investigate something on the creek bed, while Trowa hiked downstream, finding a large quiet pool that he suggested would be good for fishing. None of them had ever fished, but it went on the list of things to try.

The sixth day was a Wednesday, and Heero's trip to the hardware store achieved two things: more supplies, and an account in Liddie Une's name. He smirked as Trowa realized the amount they'd already spent in four days.

The morning started with the loft being covered in drop clothes, with Trowa and Jade priming the new drywall while Heero removed the broken and rotted spindles and repaired the ones that could be saved. He'd laid the spindles out on the front porch in order as he sanded and primed each, heading up to the loft to check on progress at lunchtime, only to find a subdued Jade and an aggravated Trowa. Jade had apparently managed to continually splatter paint beyond the edges of the drop cloth, to Trowa's mystification. Jade ended up out on the porch, sanding and priming, while Heero helped Trowa clean up the paint and finish the painting. Heero was somehow unsurprised that the railing and spindles were done haphazardly, but he merely grunted and went back over Jade's work while Jade made dinner and Trowa took a shower.

Something was wrong, but Heero just couldn't put his finger on it.


End Part 7



On to Chapter Eight

Back to chapter Six

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