The two young men made their way into the bar, pushing through the early evening crowd. There were plenty of people just finishing work, snatching a drink and a chat before setting off on the monotonous journey home. Some of them would make a night of it; the bar was a good place to meet both new and old friends. Bright, attractive lights at the entrance – dark, discreet corners inside. At this time of night it was open to all; later on, its clientele would become more exclusive.
The man who led the pair was dark-haired, dusky-skinned. His suit jacket was unbuttoned, his tie hanging loose under his shirt collar, but his appearance was still impeccable. He never glanced at anyone around him, though plenty turned to watch him pass. It wasn’t so much that he was handsome or wore an air of self-confidence as comfortably as his suit: it was just that he had that effect.
The second man was no more than a step behind him, yet never came abreast. He was as tall, though more broadly built. He moved with a lazy grace, as if he might have been an athlete once. His clothes were more casual but still smart; tight pants, a flimsy silk shirt undone to his chest. A leather belt at his waist, the silver buckle glinting in the neon lights of the bar. His hands hung loosely at his side.
There were plenty of eyes that followed him, too.
At the bar, the dark-haired man leaned over and called for a drink. Just one. He appeared to be served far more quickly than some other patrons who’d been waiting. He took the drink and moved away, seeking out a booth at the back of the room. The other man followed as closely as before, without a glance at the bar for himself. Those who were still watching them saw that this man’s hair was rich and long, twisted into a braid down the centre of his back. The end of it licked at the dip above his ass.
The first man sidled into a booth, settling himself on the padded seat. The second man stood beside him, situated at the end of the bench. He didn’t sit. For a while, the dark-haired man sipped at his drink, looking aimlessly around the bar, and there was no conversation between them. Between drinks, the seated man rested his hands on his lap, under cover of the table top. At one point, the standing man put his hand on the table beside his companion’s glass, as if to steady himself. The dark-haired man looked up at him, sharply.
The braided man lifted his hand off the table, quickly, and hugged it back in to his side.
The two men walked slowly but purposefully along the pavement. The dark-haired one had drunk a couple of drinks, enough to enjoy the ambience but not enough to have a detrimental effect on his faculties. A couple of patrons in the bar had passed his table and offered another drink – maybe something more. He had glanced up at them each time and shaken his head. He didn’t seem to need to speak to them, for they left his table promptly enough.
One drinker had presumed to talk to the standing man at his side. It had been late in the evening, and the guy had been the worse for drink. He’d been a little shorter than the man with the braid, and he had to look up into his face to leer.
The standing man didn’t actually say anything in reply. It had been the sitting man who had risen abruptly, leant into the unwelcome guest’s face and spoken just a few, clipped words. The drunk had gone white, his face a sickly shine under the artificial lights. Last seen, he’d been stumbling towards the rest rooms on the way to puking up.
The dark haired man had then paid his bill and left. The other man followed as before. The night outside the bar had grown dark and frosty but they didn’t hurry. Their steps were steady and beat out a calm, rhythmic pattern on the pavement. Their destination was only a couple of blocks away, the street wide and tree-lined and sheltered to some extent from the city lights behind them. They walked to an apartment building near the end of the road and up the entrance steps. The dark-haired man fetched the key from his pocket and let them both in. He rifled through a few fliers on the hallway table; checked his mailbox. There was only one name on the box.
It was the first time that the long-haired man made any move on his own. He stood at the usual close distance, but when his companion tarried in the hallway, browsing through lurid handbills and taxi cards, he made a small sound of impatience. The dark-haired man paused and looked across at him.
The long-haired man grew still again, but his eyes sparkled as if in challenge. They were large, bright, blue eyes, full of an emotion that his body struggled to repress. The dark-haired man continued to stare at him and eventually the blue eyes dropped, the lids suddenly heavy.
The dark-haired man walked past him without a word and led the way up the stairs.
The lighting in the apartment was deliberately subdued. The lounge was large and carpeted with deep, soft pile. The furniture was sparse, but the couch and chairs were comfortable and richly upholstered. There was a plasma screen on the wall but no flicker of light from any programme. A deceptively discreet music system sat in a corner unit. Its brand name promised excellent performance, but it remained turned off. In the opposite corner there was a single, bare wooden chair.
The dark-haired man sat on the couch, his jacket off and his shirt unbuttoned to beneath his ribs. He sank back into the thick cushions, his feet bare, resting at ease on the carpet. Another drink sat on a side table, within reach of his hand, its ice cubes clinking against the side of the glass as they slowly melted.
The braided man was also dressed in a more relaxed manner, though his posture belied it. He stood at the side of the couch, maintaining the short but precise distance between them. He looked occasionally at the drink on the table; more often at the man on the couch. His torso was nude, his shirt removed. His pants and belt were still on, though his feet were also bare. There was a bead of sweat at his throat. Each time his pulse throbbed, it shivered against his skin, reflecting the recessed lights in the room. One of his hands was lightly fisted.
Finally, the dark-haired man spoke. “That was disappointing, Duo. It had been a very pleasant evening until then.”
The long-haired man didn’t reply but the pulse at his throat quickened. The dark-haired man sighed and sat up straight. He lifted his hand, the one that nestled on the couch between him and the standing man, and he closed his fist over something in his palm.
It was a short, thick chain, made of a metal that had been painted with a dull black finish. Its other end was attached to the leather belt around the braided man’s waist. Set against the black of his pants, it was hardly noticeable unless something drew attention to it. It had been there all evening.
The seated man tugged, hard. The sudden movement made Duo jerk, his body momentarily off-balance, and his hip nudged against the arm of the couch. He instinctively put out a hand to steady himself – a gesture he had made several times during the evening. His fingers brushed against the other man’s shoulder and might have closed on it if there hadn’t been another sharp pull on the chain.
“Heero…” he gasped and immediately bit his lip closed.
“Don’t touch me,” said the dark-haired man. “Get down at once. Assume position. I demand it.” His voice was almost soft in inflection, but the words were hard. There was no sympathy in his tone.
Duo dropped immediately to his knees. The chain jerked in Heero’s hand, snapping tightly to its limit. Duo put his hands behind his back, crossing them at the wrist, resting them against the small of his back. He moved his knees further apart, the muscles of his thighs straining against the fabric of his pants. Then he bent forward at the waist, lowering his head until his forehead nearly touched the carpet between his legs.
Heero looked down on the top of the bent head. He was silent for a moment, his only movement the stroking of the chain links in his hand. There was the sound of slight panting from the kneeling man.
Heero reached for his drink and took a sip, still keeping the chain at its tightest. Then he picked up a remote control that was beside him on the couch and turned on the music system. There was a book there, too, with a bookmark half way through. He sighed gently, picked up the book as well and opened it to his place. He settled back and began reading.
It was gone eleven o’clock when Heero finally spoke again. Duo had been on his knees in the same position for over an hour. Heero had been to the kitchen to refresh his drink and fetch a snack and left him kneeling there each time.
Now Heero had taken up the end of the chain again and was standing beside the braided man. He noted the slight shaking of Duo’s body, the muscles protesting at being restrained in such a position with no relief. He watched a single drop of sweat run down the curve of his spine, glinting wetly on the naked flesh of his back.
“You may speak now,” he said, softly.
Duo shuddered gently, though he didn’t raise his head. “I’m sorry,” he said. It was barely more than a whisper, but his voice was still strong and rich. The apology was maybe not as generous as it should have been.
“Why are you sorry?”
“I was impatient. I didn’t follow you as I should have done. I didn’t submit to your time, your pace.”
Heero smiled, though Duo couldn’t see him. “I accept your apology, though that doesn’t change the fact that you were disobedient. You will be punished, of course.”
“Of course,” murmured Duo. Another drop of sweat ran half way down his spine, then rolled over and down his flank.
“You look delicious, kneeling there at my feet.” Heero’s voice was low, like a physical caress, though he made no move towards Duo. “How do you feel?”
Duo’s body shivered and his shoulders tensed up. “May I say?”
“You may,” agreed Heero. His fingers tightened on the chain though his hand didn’t move. “I wish to hear you.”
The kneeling man spoke very quietly. “I feel vulnerable. I feel surrender. I feel…” He paused.
“Don’t hesitate,” said Heero, his voice stronger. “Else I will remove the privilege.”
“I feel grateful,” Duo gasped. “I feel desire. I feel need.”
Heero nodded gently. “That’s as it should be.” He put his hand on Duo’s head and held it there for a moment, stroking the soft hair. Duo sighed. His head tilted to the side, nuzzling tentatively against the other man’s palm.
“Tell me,” said Heero. The words were plain but his tone had changed; there was tenderness there now, and warmth. His body was still upright but he leaned towards the kneeling man, as if to be closer to him. “Tell me,” he repeated.
“I feel love,” whispered Duo.
Heero sighed, too, and smiled. He laid the chain down again on the couch and picked up his glass. As he walked back to the door with it he heard another gasp and the slightest chink of the links, as if Duo moved. Heero paused at the door and clicked off the light. The already dim room plunged into darkness, with only a slice of moonlight through the thick, closed curtains.
“You may sleep now,” he murmured. His tone was firm, but disappointed; maybe for Duo, as he’d said. Or maybe for himself. “I won’t call on you tonight.”
It was the following night and the young men were at the club again. This time it was much later in the night and the ambience had changed. The lights were dimmer, the music less frenetic, the patrons quieter and more intimate. Many people sat in the booths, close together, caressing, murmuring to each other. Some openly kissed and fondled; some gripped their companions with harshness rather than hope. No-one complained.
Heero sat at his usual booth and Duo stood at his side, as before, his back against the wall. Heero seemed more relaxed – Duo seemed more tense. This evening, when people stopped at his table, Heero would exchange some conversation, maybe even a smile. A couple of young men had stopped for a while, slipping into the seat beside him and sharing drinks. None of them acknowledged Duo. Occasionally, Heero reached a hand out and stroked at his companion’s thigh. The braided man shuddered each time and his muscles tensed across his belly. There was still only one glass of alcohol on the table; there was still only one man sitting and relaxing and talking.
Heero had been talking to one particular man for some time when he turned directly to Duo. “Do you see this man?” he asked. “He’s asked about you.” Duo’s eyes widened slightly, but Heero continued, “He knew to ask me, not you. He understands what we have here. You can answer if you like but stay there. I need for him to look at you.”
Duo nodded very slightly. His eyes were still wide and now they darted over to the man at Heero’s side. “What’s his name?”
Heero frowned. “Don’t ask that. You don’t need to know, and I will only tell you if he and I want to.”
“Of course,” Duo said, hurriedly. “I apologise. I only wanted to be amenable.”
The man at Heero’s side looked up at Duo’s face, his eyebrows raised in interest. He was slim and black-haired, of Asian descent. His face was rather solemn, but his eyes danced with a sharp liveliness. He was handsome and appeared very arrogant. Duo caught his eyes and gazed calmly back at him. The Asian man’s breathing quickened slightly.
“He’s beautiful,” he said. His voice was low and rich, and he made the words sound neither patronising nor insulting. He also sounded as if he were used to issuing demands and having them met.
“Yes, of course,” Heero replied, with perfect certainty. Duo’s eyes flickered across to him and they stared at each other.
“But there’s spirit still in him,” the visitor said. “Challenge. Don’t you find conflict there?”
Heero never took his eyes off Duo. He smiled very slightly and saw an answering flicker in Duo’s blue eyes.
The other man was watching the interplay between them. He didn’t seem disconcerted that the attention had left him for the time being – in fact, he smiled as well. “You keep him well,” he said, admiringly.
“It’s much more than that,” Heero said. “He’s much more than that.”
There were far less people in the bar now than earlier and the small group in the booth had been largely undisturbed. Heero and his guest stood up and moved in front of Duo. Heero kept his eyes on Duo at all times. If anyone had strained their eyes, they might have seen the slightest glint of chain at Duo’s waist, the other end in Heero’s palm. But it was never obvious. Heero leaned forward and reached his free hand out to the wall beside Duo’s head. He put his weight on it and paused. Their faces were no more than inches apart; their warm breath mingled. Heero’s hair brushed against Duo’s cheek. Duo’s eyes lowered slightly.
The visitor’s voice was jarring in the silence between them. “Will he kneel here if you demand it?”
Heero looked briefly around the dimly lit club and its final shadowy guests. Then he looked back into Duo’s eyes and raised his eyebrow questioningly.
“Yes,” said Duo. For a moment, there was a struggle in his eyes, then his gaze lowered again. He stepped away from the wall and tensed, as if to drop to his knees.
Heero caught at his arm, keeping him upright. “I know that you will,” he murmured. “But you won’t, not here. You do it only for me.”
Duo looked into the dark blue eyes that could hold him without chains and his whole body relaxed. Instead of moving back against the wall again, he took another step forward so that his hip bumped against Heero’s. His head dipped down, nestling on Heero’s shoulder.
“He isn’t broken yet,” murmured the Asian man.
“No,” said Heero. His hand ran up Duo’s upper arm, creasing the think silk of his shirt, savouring the taut muscles underneath. “Nor will he be. He doesn’t enjoy submitting; he’s too strong. But he enjoys being ordered to.”
“Enjoys?” The other man’s expression was sceptical. “Whose enjoyment is at stake here?”
Heero ignored him, still speaking directly to Duo. “This is what he likes. What he craves.”
The black-haired man smiled again, not offended, still watching them closely as if they were a phenomenon to be observed. “I think that’s the case for you both. Look at you. This is no usual pet that you keep, is it?”
Heero sighed into Duo’s ear. Duo’s head went back, his throat baring, his chest pressing against the textured fabric of Heero’s jacket. His hands lifted from his sides, shaking with tension as if they dared not touch without permission. Heero’s arm slid round the other’s waist, tugging him even closer: he nudged his leg between Duo’s thighs, forcing him to shift his feet and spread them open more widely. Duo whimpered so softly that only the three of them heard him.
The Asian man had also stepped closer, his body shadowing Heero, his eyes following their every move. “He wants you,” he sighed. “Badly.”
Heero’s eyes were heavy lidded and his breathing was shallower. His knee moved slowly back and forth between Duo’s legs as they stood against the wall. “I know.” His voice was very low; breathless. “It’s been a while. He is disobedient too often.”
The Asian man watched them move against each other, like two parts of the same whole; like rushes moving together in the breeze; like damp autumn leaves swept together under the same tree. “You don’t have to wait to have him. There are places here.”
Heero felt Duo tense suddenly underneath his hands and he ceased his caresses. “No,” he said, sharply. “I won’t use him here, in those sordid rooms; in that foetid atmosphere. I don’t choose to. I don’t enjoy it.” He put his hand under Duo’s chin and tugged his head up to face him. Duo gazed at him, his mouth slightly open and moist, the pulse at his throat very fierce. His expression was grateful.
“I want the best for him,” whispered Heero, though he spoke it directly to Duo. “He knows that.”
“I know that,” Duo whispered in return.
Heero’s tongue licked at his ear, making the braided man gasp. “I love him,” hissed Heero. His mouth brushed against Duo’s full lips and they leaned in against each other.
The Asian man sighed. He brushed an imaginary speck from his jacket, knowing that it was purely a distraction to allow him time to draw breath; to steady his thudding heart. “You are magnificent together, however you choose to have him. I’m grateful to you for letting me watch, if only for this moment.”
Heero turned back abruptly to face him. “You cannot have him. I made that clear.”
“You did.” The man nodded, a little wistfully.
“I am the only one he trusts. I am the only one who can keep him.” Heero stepped back again and tugged gently at the chain. Duo straightened up, panting softly, his eyes following the shape of Heero’s mouth and the words that came from it. Heero turned towards the exit and Duo was at his heels, his body swaying as if weak although his limbs were as graceful as ever.
The Asian man moved aside respectfully, but Heero paused as he passed. A surprisingly pleasant smile spread across his face. “You cannot have him,” he repeated. He glanced around at Duo and the braided man smiled back. “But we will share.” He met the startled, excited dark eyes of their new acquaintance and his smile broadened.
“So will you come with us?”