Broken Jade

Part Eight: The Knife Edge

Peeling a pear
Sweet drops dripping
Along the knife edge
--- Shiki Masaoka

One of the side tables from the living room was set up in the new study, with two of the kitchen chairs. The safety-orange cord from the generator snaked across the overgrown yard, up the side of the cabin, and through the window, and plugged into the small box transforming the power to household current. Heero sat back, satisfied as the laptop flickered into life and the phone line began dialing. Before he could verify the connection, the chimes of Jade's anklets announced the young man's presence in the doorway. Heero got up, leaving the laptop to connect on its own.

The dinner smelled wonderful as Heero entered the kitchen behind Jade, and Trowa looked up from where he was setting the table. Heero's mouth watered, and he smiled as he slid into one of the chairs. The bottle of red wine was just slightly cooler than room temperature, with beads of condensation forming on the glass. The stir-fried pork looked juicy, while the vegetables looked crisp and bright.

"I could get used to this." Heero smirked when Trowa gave him an arch look. "Maybe Jade will give us lessons."

"Jade, sit," Trowa said, pointing to a chair. There was a pause, and Heero looked up to see Trowa frowning. "Jade, I said, sit down. In the chair."

Jade made his way around the table, but walked right past the chair, instead sinking to his knees next to Trowa's chair.

"That's not the chair," Trowa muttered. "Come on, Jade. You've been sitting in the chair for several days now." The tall man made a startled sound, and Heero looked up from serving out the meal.

"What is it?"

"Let go of me," Trowa said quietly, leaning over and doing something Heero couldn't see. "Jade, sit in the chair. Damn it, let go of me... let go, Jade," Trowa growled.

The next thing Heero knew, Trowa had an armful of wriggling Jade, and was trying to force the longhaired man into the chair. Jade shrieked and twisted in Trowa's arms, kicking at the chair. It fell over with a crash, and Heero finally found his voice as he came to his feet.

"Both of you!" He shouted, furious. "Stop!" Heero was gratified when Jade froze, shivering in Trowa's arms. "Tro," he snapped, "if he wants the floor, let him this time."

"No," Trowa replied in a voice like cold steel. "If I'm his Master, then he'll do as I say."

Heero froze.

Trowa closed his eyes, taking a deep breath before letting it out slowly and opening his eyes to stare steadily at Heero. "This is the way it works. I'm the one who imprinted him, whether we like or not. And if we let him break the rules, he will continue to do so."

"That's the whole point," Heero retorted. "Maxwell always broke every rule."

"This--" Trowa spun Jade to face Heero "--is not Maxwell!"

There was a long silence. Heero could feel his heart pounding in his chest, and he wasn't sure whether he wanted to scream or let his legs crumple underneath him. He's right, Heero thought, then immediately contradicted himself. He can't be right. Duo was showing, through Jade, these past few days. I know I saw him, for a second or two.

"No," Heero whispered, hating himself for sounding so broken. "It's him."

"No, it's not," Trowa said, his shoulders losing their tension as he slowly released Jade, who remained standing, his head down. Trowa ran a hand down Jade's arm before pulling away with a sigh. "There is no way Maxwell would ever have left something half-done because he couldn't figure it out. He would have been up all night and the next day, trying to figure it out."

The dark-haired man frowned, looking away.

"Heero, you used to tell me Maxwell would take things personally if he couldn't fix them," Trowa said, his voice taking on a pleading tone. "And you told me last night what you thought of Jade leaving the bathroom without completing that task."

Slowly the dark-haired man nodded, his gaze traveling from Trowa to Jade's downcast face, and back again. "You're right," he said in a subdued tone. "Maxwell would have joked and chattered until I was ready to throttle him, but he wouldn't have gotten paint all over the place. He helped me paint my apartment after Relena and I separated." Heero frowned, remembering. "He was even more meticulous than I. And while you were in the shower... I had to redo the work he did sanding and priming the spindles."

Trowa raised an eyebrow, and Heero nodded sadly.

"I'm sorry," Trowa replied. His expression turned firm. "But I think I know what's happening... and I don't think it's Maxwell we're seeing. We will get him back. But in the meantime, we have to have Jade's trust. And the only trust he knows right now is in his Master, which means he has the same expectations as the big cats." Trowa's green eyes were intent. "You were trained. You know exactly what I mean. There is no room for questioning. The rules create stability, and that engenders trust."

"We want him to question," Heero insisted.

"This is different. He's not questioning, he's pushing." Trowa gave Heero an unhappy look. "Jade has misbehaved on purpose. I think... I think we're... I'm... not upholding every expectation he has for how a Master should treat him."

Heero didn't reply at first, tracing Trowa's comments to their logical conclusion. We've neglected him, Heero realized silently. When he misbehaves we've only sent him to do something else. We've not gotten angry. We've not given him any attention, good or bad. Heero realized Trowa was still waiting, and narrowed his eyes at the taller man.

"I will not let you beat him," Heero said, in a low tone that brooked no argument.

"I've got a better idea," Trowa replied. Letting go of Jade, he turned the longhaired man to face him, and speaking sternly. "Jade, you have two choices. Sit in that chair, or suffer the consequences."

Jade shivered, and didn't move.

Trowa nodded, his jaw set. "It's your call," he said. Jade quivered, anticipating, and Trowa scowled at the movement as he loaded up a plate with food. He turned to Jade, holding the plate. "You are eating dinner," he said calmly, but with an edge of anger, "in the barn."

Heero's eyes went wide, at the same instant Jade dropped to the floor, his forehead pressed to the wood as he whined softly. Trowa looked down, his face impassive except for a single muscle flickering in his jaw.

"Get up, Jade," Trowa ordered. "It's too late. If you won't sit the chair, then you won't have dinner with us. Take your plate, and go sit in the barn. Now."

Jade whimpered again, then slowly uncurled himself, standing with his shoulders slumped. He accepted the plate from Trowa, and turned in a swirl of soft bells to leave the kitchen through the back door. Heero could hear the bells fading in the distance, and looked to his right, out the window over the kitchen sink, to see Jade's lonely silhouette as the longhaired man entered the barn. Dumbfounded, Heero turned to stare at Trowa, who had seated himself calmly and begun to eat.

Heero's voice was a whisper as he sat. "He's just trying to get attention from us."

"But giving him negative attention isn't the answer, although punishment... " Trowa's forehead creased as he contemplated it. "I think... he wants to know how much we care," Trowa replied, but he sounded uncertain. "I don't know. The cats will test you, to see if you're really stronger than them. But the analogy only goes so far."

"I hate it," Heero snarled, but his anger wasn't directed at Trowa, and the other man knew it. Heero leaned back in his chair, toying with his meal, and thought about it. He took several bites, but the food was flat in his mouth, the delicate spices overwhelmed by the sour taste of his memories. "But it's the way it works," he said flatly, fighting back the bile rising in his throat. "Physical punishment has so many levels. It reassured m--reassures the victim that the... Master is present with you, personally overseeing the punishment. It's attention, negative reinforcement, but it also keeps the world safe, somehow... " He shrugged, unable to continued.

"And afterwards?" Trowa's voice was neutral.

"There's praise for taking the punishment well. It absolved... absolves the person, relieves them of the burden of guilt over their mistake."

Trowa frowned at his plate. "I don't know how we can duplicate that, and I don't want to reinforce that need."

"We need to start out with giving him more attention when he does something right." Heero swallowed a bite of vegetables. "But the important part of physical correction is that it's inflicted by someone else, who controls it. I'm not sure banning Jade from the table suffices."

"I don't know, either," Trowa admitted as he filled their wine glasses. "I do know Maxwell was a social creature. He never would have eaten alone, if he had the option of being with others. I don't know what else we can do."

The dark-haired man leaned forward, resting his forehead against his fist as he played with the stir-fried pork, no longer hungry. "He's been doing well," he muttered. "He's bound to backslide. You said yourself that too much change, too soon, would be hard on him."

Trowa set down the bottle of wine. In an instant the firm lines were gone from his face, replaced by worry and exhaustion. "He's been doing well at the first three battles we picked. Everything else... " Trowa sighed and shook his head. "The rest can wait."

I know that, Heero grumbled internally, but I don't have to like it.

His lover nodded, understanding Heero's silent response, and the rest of the dinner passed in silence.


After dinner, Heero cleared the table while Trowa went to get Jade. Through the kitchen window, Heero could see Trowa's tall form in the encroaching dusk, bringing a huddled shape from the barn. The plate was in Trowa's hands, and Jade was clinging closely, nearly causing the taller man to stumble.

Heero sighed and stared down at the soapy water, scrubbing the pan absently.

I don't like it, he thought, trying to ignore the realization that wouldn't go away. Duo was... is... my friend, not Trowa's. I know Trowa is now his Master, but I feel... He frowned, concentrating, trying to determine the exact emotion. It wasn't jealousy, really. It wasn't protectiveness, either. Heero sighed and dipped the pan in the clean water, rinsing it off before setting it upside-down on the waiting towel next to the sink.

Any protectiveness I felt for Duo was gone years ago, he thought wryly. That idiot could handle himself just fine. Although now... Heero picked up one of the plates and dipped it in the soapy water, glancing out the window to see Trowa bent over a little, hugging Jade's shaking form. The dark-haired man dropped his eyes instantly, feeling as though he were intruding, then reluctantly raised his eyes to see the two shapes heading around the house to the front door.

I feel protective towards Jade, Heero decided, and possessive, maybe. He considered that, and negated the second idea. He bent his head to washing the last two plates, rinsing them thoroughly before wiping them off and putting them away. Soft footsteps behind him alerted him to Trowa's presence, and a second later two hands were slipped around his waist as Trowa hugged him from behind. Heero could hear water running in the bathroom.

"I sent Jade to take a long hot bath," Trowa whispered. He paused, and pressed his lips against the back of Heero's neck. "I'm sorry."

Heero shook his head and focused on draining the sink. Placing his hands on either side of the sink, he leaned over, his head down.

"I am," Trowa insisted gently, turning Heero around to face him. Placing his hands on Heero's cheeks, he cradled the Japanese man's face in his hands. "Believe me. I don't mean to intrude on... the friendship you had. Or make you feel left out."

"You're not," Heero said, and then sighed, closing his eyes.

Trowa understood, and kissed him softly on the lips. He pulled away, as Heero's hands came up to clench at Trowa's hips, pulling him closer.

"He's my friend... " The dark-haired man bit back the rest of his words.

"I know. But imprinting him means he's my responsibility, now... with you," Trowa added. "And if we don't agree, then Jade will balk. He won't know which of us to trust or believe."

Heero nodded. "Like Quatre and his daughters... "

Trowa smiled wryly and leaned back, letting his hands run from Heero's cheeks down to his shoulders, wrapping his arms around Heero to clasp at the small of Heero's back. "Yeah," Trowa said quietly. "Mom said I could," he mimicked.

"I'd almost be glad to hear that, if he'd just say something." Heero looked up to see Trowa's brow wrinkle in thought.

"Do you think maybe his vocal chords were damaged somehow?"

"Doubt it," the dark-haired man said. "He'd be completely silent, but I've heard him make all sorts of noises when crying." Heero closed his eyes. "He cries. I can't get over... "

"Enough," Trowa said. "Did you get the connection on the laptop? I'm not sure how much farther I can go without knowing--"

"--The desired results of the process, or the methods?"

"Results." Trowa released Heero. "Let's start with what Jade's expecting now, and work backwards."

Heero nodded, and let Trowa lead him to the study.


Trowa leaned back from the table and let his head hang back over the chair. His auburn hair fell backwards, revealing his exhausted expression. "There are thousands of pages just on training... slaves, submissives, masochists, puppy-slaves, everything... " he muttered, before sitting back up.

Heero nodded and continued brushing Jade's damp hair slowly. The longhaired man was kneeling on his pillow between Heero's knees, his head down. Every now and then he'd make a small sound of pleasure, though his eyes were still red-rimmed and his face was puffy from crying. Heero glanced up as Trowa began typing again.

"Here's one on voice training," Trowa said. He scrolled down the page, and shut it in disgust. "Nothing useful. It's all about being silent while on the Internet." He snorted and opened several more pages. "This one is about all the things a slave should do to care for a Master." He was quiet for a moment, his green eyes flickering back and forth across the page as he scanned the information. Frowning slightly, he twisted in the chair to face Jade.

The dark-haired man paused in brushing, and looked at Trowa, curious.

"Jade? Do you know how to iron shirts?"

Jade nodded several times.

Trowa looked surprised, and raised his eyebrows at Heero. "Polish shoes? Fold and put away clothes? Undress a person?"

Jade nodded to each question, and began quivering eagerly. His fingers clenched and unclenched on his knees.

The tall man smiled faintly. "No, Jade, we're fine remaining dressed. Do you... Were you taught how to take care of someone in the bathtub? In the shower?"

Jade's obvious disappointment disappeared immediately as he nodded enthusiastically, his head down.

Heero set down the brush and dragged the papers towards him. Jade shifted between his legs, and Heero set one hand on Jade's shoulder, quieting him. Flipping through the papers with one hand, Heero nodded and handed the sheet to Trowa. "Cook, clean, vacuum, dust, wash, do windows... "

"House slave," Trowa murmured. Seeing Heero's raised eyebrow, he gave a slight shrug. "Apparently there are different types. A slave only for sex wouldn't know any of this. At least that's what these web sites are saying."

"But the cock ring, and the nudity--"

Trowa nodded. "All purpose." He turned back to the laptop and clicked on another window. "Most of this is common sense. When a slave's behavior conflicts with the Master's desires, it causes disharmony for the slave," he read out loud. Trowa was silent for a moment, considering it. "So the slave will make choices to reduce the conflict."

But in this case, Heero thought, the conflict is because we're not playing along. He looked up to see Trowa's eyes on him, and the auburn-haired man nodded. Sitting forward again, Trowa scrolled through several more pages. Finally he glanced over at Jade's sleepy form, and raised an eyebrow at Heero.

Heero nodded his agreement, and Trowa leaned forward to put his finger under Jade's chin, lifting his face to the desk light. "Jade," Trowa whispered. "Eight minutes, tonight." The dark-haired man leaned over to see Jade biting his lip, and his hands began clenching on his knees. Trowa gave Heero a pointed look. "I'll time it, tonight."

"I'll tell you when to start." Heero untwisted the hair-tie from the brush's handle, and separated the hair into three sections. Braiding it quickly and a little messily, he snapped the hair-tie around the end of the braid. "Start," he said.

For the next eight minutes, Heero leaned over in his chair, soothing Jade as the young man's whimpers became sobs. Trowa continued to read, calling out the time as the minutes passed.


Jade's sobs had slowly calmed to quiet sniffling before Trowa spoke again.

"I've searched through the biggest sites, and I don't think we're going to find what we need," he whispered. Heero looked up from where he knelt on the pillow, hugging Jade, and tucked the longhaired man's head under his chin as he regarded Trowa expectantly. The taller man rubbed his forehead. "Nothing says much more than what we already know from the paperwork that came with him, really. Most of these essays assume the situation is consensual in the first place."

Heero snorted.

"Not like we're getting any two-way discussion about limits, or the rules or expectations," Trowa continued. "But then I found this one line... It says," and Trowa squinted at the screen, rubbing his eyes again before reading out loud, "a slave will often choose physical pain over the emotional agony resulting from the Master's disapproval or withdrawal."

"I was right," Heero said, and hugged Jade a little closer. Trowa raised an eyebrow, and Heero buried his nose in Jade's hair as he tried to think of a way to express his intuition. "We're not giving him what he wants, and he's willing to settle for pain, if he can't get the pleasure."

"You mean sex," Trowa translated.

"I'm not sure. I think it's more than that. It's being reassured, being praised... Have we done that for him, in the past few days?"

The room was silent, and Jade hiccupped. Trowa smiled, but it was a wan expression of agreement.

Heero nodded sadly. No, he thought, we haven't. He shook himself, focusing his gaze on the laptop. "Anything else?"

"One other page that at least might give some insight," Trowa reported. He twisted in his chair to bring up the page. "I saved the pages, if you want to look later. It's a list of things a submissive wants--"

"What's the difference?"

"Between a submissive and a slave?"

Heero nodded.

"A submissive... " Trowa frowned, clicking on several links before scanning the page quickly. "I think it's like a slave, but for limited time," he explained, but his voice was uncertain. "It's not really clear. There's domination-submission, which is more psychological and emotional, and sado-masochism--"

"--Which involves pain as a fundamental aspect," Heero guessed.

"The pages on domination-submission are quite insistent on the difference," Trowa said, and his voice was tinged with amusement. "Some of the stuff about submissives doesn't apply to Jade. But this list of a submissive's wants--"

"--Extrapolates to our case?"

Trowa shot Heero a pleased smile.

"Let's hear them, then," Heero told him, then cursed under his breath. "Did it again. Jade," he said, pushing the longhaired man away enough to look down at the tear-stained face. "You kept the braid in for eight minutes, and I know I told you then, but I'm telling you again... you did really well. I'm... we're... proud of you. I'm sure it's hard," he whispered, soothing Jade's hair down. "But you're strong. You make us very proud. Now... what kind of a reward do you want?"

Jade was silent for several heartbeats, then his hand snaked out, reaching for Heero's groin. The dark-haired man caught Jade by the wrist, and gently shook his head.

"No, Jade," he said, gently but firmly. Heero frowned, watching Jade bring his knees up under his chin, curling up. The Japanese man looked up to see Trowa's green eyes wide in astonishment, or sudden comprehension. "What?"

"I have an idea," Trowa murmured, coming down to his knees to embrace Jade and Heero at the same time. Over Jade's head, he kissed Heero chastely on the lips, and gave him a tentative smile. "Trust me?"

Heero's brows came down, but he nodded. "You know I do."

"Okay. Jade, I want you to go to the bathroom, and get ready for bed. Then go to the kitchen and heat up a small bowl of the massage oil. When that's done, take the oil and a towel and go upstairs." Trowa's voice was calm, but he smiled faintly as Jade keened softly and began to quiver. Trowa petted Jade's hair as he continued his instructions. "Pull your bed out, and get undressed. Lay the towel down on the bed, and lie down on it on your stomach. Wait for us there."

"Tro... " Heero didn't finish the word at Trowa's warning glance.

Trowa patted Jade on the shoulder. "Go on," he said, and backed away. Jade practically sprang up from between them, and the two men could hear the chattering bells as he dashed into the bathroom. The water ran for several seconds, followed by the toilet flushing. Trowa gave Heero a pleased look. Heero raised an eyebrow.

"The slave's greatest pleasure is his Master's pleasure," Trowa said. "Haven't you noticed how each time we offer a reward, he tries to make a move on us? He doesn't want something to make him happy, he wants a way to make us happy. And he's pushing for punishment because he thinks he's failed to please us."

"We've been pleased," Heero protested.

"But we've not shown it in the way he expects." Trowa scratched his head. "I mean, this is just my theory, but it feels right. Heero," he said, his face softening. "When you come, and I see your face as you come, it's the most incredible sensation. Given the choice between my own orgasm or yours, sometimes I'm not sure I could choose. The pleasure I get from seeing you--"

Heero mumbled something and ducked his head, as Trowa laughed softly and leaned over to kiss him.

"I think we're doing some things right. The long walks were good, since he gets uninterrupted time with us. And the rewards after dealing with his braid, too... I think those are good. But the rest of the time, we're not showing him we're pleased. We're just telling him."

"So what are you suggesting we do? And given his behavior the past few days, he's expecting punishment. You're giving him pleasure?" Heero shook his head, unable to see where Trowa was heading. It wasn't a comfortable feeling, given their usual ease at understanding each other's intentions.

"Yes and no. You're giving him pleasure," Trowa said. With that cryptic remark, he smiled and got to his feet, leaving the room.


Heero stepped out of the study and was nearly run over by Jade, who had a towel over his shoulder and a bowl in one hand. The sound of bells followed the silent man's quick footsteps up to the loft. Trowa was leaning against the back of the sofa in the living room, and chuckling quietly.

"You should see your face," he said cheerfully.

"You're enjoying this too much," Heero replied glumly. "I sure hope you don't mean you expect me to--"

Trowa shook his head, reaching out to grab the belt loops on Heero's jeans, and tug him close. "I'd tell you, but I'm almost enjoying seeing you grumpy."

Heero grunted, unwilling to reply.

"Besides," Trowa coaxed, nipping at Heero's lower lip. "The grumpier you get, the more fun it'll be to make it up to you."

"I see," Heero said, unable to stop his lips from curling up.

Trowa cocked his head, listening to the rustling coming from the loft. "I think that's our cue."

The mischievous smile still playing across his face, the taller man jerked his head towards the loft and led the way upstairs. Jade was lying on his stomach, a towel under him. He was completely naked, and his eyes were closed but there was a hopeful smile on his lips. It faltered as the two men walked to stand next to his bed, but returned when Trowa knelt down at the head of the mattess. Heero followed Trowa's silent direction and knelt by Jade's hips.

"Jade," Trowa said softly. "Sit up."

The longhaired man came upright in a graceful coiling and unfolding, lifting himself up and pulling his legs under him before sitting upright, his knees spread, his head down. Trowa's smile grew a little tight as his eyes flickered down to Jade's crotch, but as Heero watched, Trowa's expression became neutral.

"You've misbehaved, because you wanted attention, and you were trying anything you could to get more attention," Trowa said softly. Jade began to shiver, and his head ducked down further. "It's not your fault. It's mine. I didn't see this sooner and do something about it. But you still left things incomplete. Could you have finished what you were asked to do?"

Jade nodded, slowly, once, a tiny movement.

"I thought so. And for that, you should be reprimanded."

Trowa narrowed his eyes at Heero's sudden glare, and made a little motion with his head. Puzzled, and wary, Heero tried to force his hackles back down as he watched Trowa begin stroking Jade's cheek.

"But only so much as you're liable. The rest of the blame is on me, and therefore I will accept punishment myself. It's my turn to take a time-out."

Heero blinked, completely lost. He opened his mouth, and was startled to see Trowa flash him a smile. Blinking again, he closed his mouth with a snap, watching Jade begin to shiver.

"Hush, Jade," Trowa said, in a soothing tone. "What's going to happen will hurt, and when the hurt is gone, the guilt will be, too. And then you'll only feel the pleasure of knowing how happy you make... both of us," he whispered. "You'll know how much it matters to us... that you're here." Trowa backed up, withdrawing his hand from Jade's cheek. "Lie down on your stomach. Relax."

Trowa sat back on his heels and raised an eyebrow at Heero.

Heero glared and crossed his arms. "And?"

"You wanted to show him. Now's your chance," Trowa said, solemnly. His next lines had the barest hint of teasing, but it was directed entirely at Heero. "Give him one of your patented full-body massages."

There was a long silence.

The dark-haired man lowered his brows at the other man. Trowa's eyebrow quirked, and he dropped his gaze pointedly to the bowl of oil. Frowning, Heero sighed and pulled off his shirt. Dipping his hands in the oil, he knelt along Jade's sides and rubbed his hands quickly together to heat the oil. Placing his hands on Jade's back, he began working on the sore muscles with efficient and powerful movements.

Within seconds, Jade was keening, and his hands were clenching and unclenching.

"Not that hard," Trowa said, his expression amused.

"I'm going as light as I do on you," Heero protested as Jade moaned when he hit a particularly tight knot, kneading it with quick and precise fingers. Making a face at Trowa's amusement, he tried to lighten up as he worked on the knots, and shook his head. "I want to get these knots out, I've got to go hard. Maxwell's like you – nothing but muscle and bone."

Trowa smirked and stood up. "I'll be in the barn," he said quietly. Smiling down at Jade's wriggling form, he leaned over to whisper in Heero's ear. "Take your time. His mind is shut away, so we start at the outside layers, what we can get to."

Heero raised an eyebrow skeptically. "Unconventional," he muttered.

"The only convention we need is to follow our hearts," Trowa replied, and left.


It took nearly a half-hour just on Jade's back alone, and sweat was dripping down Heero's forehead. He paused, wiped his forehead with the back of his hand, and moved up to work on Jade's left arm. The moans had died away only once he'd lightened up into soothing the beaten muscles, but began again as Heero worked down the limb, thoroughly prodding every muscle strand, down to the fingertips. He smirked when Jade yelped as each finger joint was cracked. Keeping one hand on Jade's body at all times, Heero climbed carefully over the longhaired man and began working on the other arm.

By Heero's estimation, it was going on two hours before he was down to Jade's toes. Again the young man started, yelping slightly as his toe joints were pulled, caressed, and efficiently cracked. Heero moved back up Jade's body, straddling Jade without settling down on him. Pushing at Jade's spinal column, he worked his way up the spine, prodding and massaging as he aligned each individual column, popping them into place with a loud crack. Jade shrieked in surprise at first, his head jerking off the pillow.

"Shh, almost done," Heero soothed, waiting until Jade settled down before ruthlessly beginning work on the next unaligned vertebra. When that was complete, he shifted to kneel next to Jade, contemplating the next step. Normally he'd have Trowa flip over at this point, he thought. And it didn't always lead to sex, but a man's reaction was going to be normal when receiving such undivided attention.

Pleasure, Heero thought. Once the muscles were properly unknotted, there would be a lasting pleasure. But at the same time, if Jade had been created and sold for the purposes of someone else's pleasure, being rejected sexually had to be having an effect on his lost friend's self-image. Heero sat back, one hand still on the small of Jade's back, and tried to understand how he'd see the situation if he were Jade.

A slave exists to worship and love his Master, Heero recalled Trowa reading from one of the sites. So if the Master rejects the slave, and doesn't allow worship in the way the slave was taught... The dark-haired man wiped his forehead again with the back of his hand. His skin twitched at the beads of sweat running down between his shoulder blades. The late August air had turned humid and stifling, and he wondered if a thunderstorm were coming.

And Trowa's still in the barn, Heero thought, vaguely amused. At the same time, somehow he intuitively understood that Trowa had been trying to find a way to excuse himself. The other man had managed to achieve several ends in one simple move, and Heero had to smile at his lover's subtlety.

I could use that now, he thought. Sighing, he leaned over, soothing Jade's hair back. "I'm going to get Trowa," he whispered. "Stay here, and I'll be back in a few minutes." Heero smiled just a little as Jade nodded, his expression lax. The young man didn't move as Heero pulled the sheet over Jade's relaxed body. Taking one last look as he grabbed his shirt and pulled it over his head, Heero sighed and headed down to find his lover.


Heero stepped inside the barn, seeing a glimmer of light at one end. Trowa was perched on one of the kitchen chairs reading a home repair book. He shut it and stood carefully, picking up the hurricane lamp as he came to the door. He didn't say anything, but lifted the lamp to see Heero's expression. Trowa paused, and waited.

"I had a lot of time to think," Heero told him.

"Over two hours," Trowa replied, amiably.

The dark-haired man nodded as he turned back towards the house. "You told me one web site talked about how a Master should accept the slave completely and totally. Unconditional love."

Trowa nodded, waiting.

"I think... when we tell Jade not to touch us," Heero whispered, a little uncomfortably, "we're rejecting him. We're saying his wish to demonstrate his love... or should I say, his worship... we're saying it's not good enough. That we don't want it."

"That's the problem," Trowa agreed. "We don't." He paused, turning, and the hurricane lamp's movement made the shadows swing and dance around them. "Unless... "

Heero shook his head. "No. I don't want anyone but you touching me, but... I thought a lot about the fact that you had the guts to give me time alone with him. I know I'm jealous, sometimes, of the way he looks at you, like he doesn't see me." He ducked his head, and considered his words carefully. "And I... sometimes, when you're focused on him, I feel like pushing him out of the way."


They paused on the porch, and Heero dropped his voice to a whisper. "I think he wants attention, not just verbal, but physical... he feels left out. If he was trained to expect sexual interaction, and he's not getting it, he's also bound to think it's because he's not good enough."

"The emotional pain of rejection or withdrawal," Trowa murmured. "And you're suggesting... "

Heero's shoulders slumped, as he struggled for the control to say the words without causing hurt. "I think we should give him the attention, as a reward. Not that often, but just... enough so he doesn't start fearing we don't want him. And right now, he only understands pain and pleasure."

"The physical."

"Exactly." Heero was silent for a long time, but Trowa didn't say anything. Finally, Heero sighed, his gaze shifting away to the starry night just past the line of the porch's overhang. "I want... you to be there with me, when I finish the rest of his massage. I don't want you to think--"

His words were interrupted with a kiss. It turned passionate, but ended quickly as Trowa drew back, his eyes glinting in the light from the hurricane lamp. "I wouldn't. Ever. But it means a lot to me that you'd ask... "

Nodding, Heero led the way up to the loft.


End Part 8



On to Chapter nine

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