It felt like the world had slipped sideways under Ayase's feet, and left him stranded alone in a place he couldn't understand. Everything looked the same (but he'd never seen a bed so big, or so many fine things in one place before), everything smelled the same (but there was always the smell of Kanou on him now, the smell of his cologne and his skin and his... no, no), the same sun shone down on him every day (but it slanted through the big windows so very differently here, so bright and sharp and stark), but somehow the rules of this place were beyond Ayase's ability to comprehend.
Which word, slipping out of his mouth so casually, would be the one to spark that terrifying rage? Which word would reveal the smiling, gentle Kanou? If there was rhyme or reason to the shifts in Kanou's personality, Ayase couldn't grasp it. Couldn't predict it. Couldn't say the right things, had never been able to say the right things, but the stakes were so very high now.
Since the night Ayase had found himself drugged, bound, and dragged naked before a faceless, heartless audience, everything had been out of balance. Spun down and up and down again, ravished and bathed in tenderness, endangered and protected, Ayase felt he was always in the middle of a storm, blown one way and then the other with no chance to catch his breath.
That first night Ayase had been in the depths of despair, bruised in body and soul, but he'd known where he stood. Thought he'd known. Then came Kanou's gentle touch and seemingly genuine concern, food cooked for him by someone else's hands, bandaids for his cuts, and medicine for his fever--so many little things that he'd done without since losing his parents, and everything became blurred and confused. If he could only just find the right words, would the gentle Kanou stay?
Ayase knew, and tried to forget that he knew, that there was only one Kanou, that the cruelty and the kindness were both there, under the same skin, at every moment. But he buried that knowledge so very deep because he had to believe that there was hope, that life inside the cage could be better, someday, because most of all he knew, and could never forget that he knew, that there was no escape.
His wrists and ankles were raw and bruised, now, and he tried so hard not to squirm because every movement seemed to jar them against the cold sharp edge of the cuffs, but his body was long past the point of obeying him. The thing inside him buzzed, so quietly but so insistently, and sometimes he could hold still for a little while if he focused on the sound instead of what he was feeling. Mostly, though, his own breath was too loud for him to even hear the tuneless drone of the thing.
It couldn't have been as long as it felt like, since Kanou left him like this. Couldn't. Surely it was only hours, and not days. He was dizzy with need and his lips hurt where he'd bitten them, trying to keep silent; his wrists and ankles ached like he didn't have any skin left to cushion the bones, but if it had really been days he would be hungrier, or thirstier, or... the thought slipped away and Ayase sobbed quietly, wordlessly. No train of thought got very far before his attention was drawn back to the devious little thing and the ache between his legs.
He was hard as a rock and he wanted to vomit with the shame of it all, but more than that he wanted that last little touch that would push him over the edge and end this. The chains jangled, seeming louder to his ears than they had hours ago, as he reflexively tried to reach for his cock, or close his legs, or something. Anything. A stray breeze would do it, at this point.
But that was, after all, the point of this exercise. Or was he remembering it wrong? Everything was a little fuzzy around the edges at this stage, but Ayase was fairly sure that Kanou really had said, "Then you can stay this way until you admit you like it," and he hadn't just dreamed that part.
Ayase turned his head to the side, and the pillow was cool and damp against his cheek. Had he cried so much? He didn't remember it. Or had he drooled, like a starving dog? Quietly, his voice hoarse and rough and almost unrecognisable, Ayase murmured, "Kanou, please... I'm sorry, please..."
The door opened.
Iida and Tokigawa had hidden their cruelty behind facades of friendship, and sometimes Ayase wondered if that was what the gentle Kanou was, too. But Kanou was too pragmatic for that, with so little patience for artifice of any kind. He said what he thought, always, because he was strong enough that he didn't need to hide behind empty words. The kind Kanou was real, not a mask.
Was a beast who was honest about being a beast really better than a smiling wolf in sheep's clothes? Ayase wasn't sure if Kanou really was better, or if it just seemed that way because he'd known almost from the very start that there was a deep vein of darkness in Kanou. Iida and Tokigawa's betrayals had seemed sudden, inexplicable, and all the more painful for it.
Would Ayase have been better off with Iida, or with Tokigawa? If he'd been able to get past the shock of betrayal faster, if he'd been stronger and more conscious of his situation, could he have chosen another path?
Or, surrounded by monsters, had Ayase simply delayed making any choice until he knew which was the strongest of them all, the one who had the most to offer him?
But it was too late to wonder at his motivations. He'd chosen his monster and there was no going back now. If there ever had been.
Ayase picked the bills up off the bed, one by one, and by god he counted them. They were damp and stained with his sweat and Kanou's, and with other things, and he didn't care anymore. Kanou threw them at him afterwards only when he wanted to make a point, when he wanted to drive home the fact that Ayase was his and would always be his, because against the mountain of his debt even this much money was nothing. So he counted the money and he handed it back to Kanou and met his eyes, because if Kanou was going to make a point then so was he. Kanou was willing to pay hundreds of thousands of yen for the privilege of fucking him, and he held the proof in his hands.
Kanou looked back at him, silent, and took the money. If he noticed that Ayase's hands were shaking ever so slightly, he didn't comment on it. Maybe he didn't even notice anymore when Ayase trembled with fear, or maybe he dismissed these little moments of faux defiance entirely because he knew they ultimately meant nothing. Maybe he was ashamed or amused. Maybe he thought something completely different, and Ayase would never know because he understood so very little about this man who had claimed him and chained him and trained his body to respond in ways he never could have imagined.
Whatever Kanou had been thinking, it ceased to matter when he captured Ayase's wrist, pulling him close again. "Since you still have so much energy, maybe I won't let you rest for the night after all."
It came faster every time--that instant when Ayase's refusals melted away under Kanou's hands and lips, turning to moans and sighs and humiliating little mewling noises. He spread his legs and arched his back and cried out in pleasure, begging for Kanou's cock in his ass, and his pride curled into a little wounded ball and hid away in the depths of his heart until it was over.
Most damning, most humiliating of all, was the one secret that Ayase kept for himself: in those moments, when Kanou drove his body to the brink of orgasm again and again before finally letting him tip over, Ayase would do it for free.
When Kanou started letting him out in public more, even after what happened with school, Ayase didn't know what to think. He was glad, of course. Happy to have more freedom, and more contact with other people. Happy to feel human for even a few hours a day.
But it worried him that he never really seriously considered trying to escape. As they got closer Ayase thought Someya might help him do just that, if only he asked. Yes, she was Kanou's friend and her father was Kanou's business associate, but still, somehow Ayase got the impression that she would be willing to take a stand and help, if Ayase would just say, "I want out."
He never said the words. Never really entertained the idea for more than a heartbeat. Most days he told himself it was because he was scared of what would happen. Scared of what it would mean for Someya and her business. Scared of the worst violence in Kanou being turned on him. Scared of the police and the press getting involved and his shame becoming public knowledge. Scared of the debt and how he would ever pay it off on his own. There were a lot of very real things to be afraid of, in such a scenario.
In the dark hours of the night, though, while Kanou slept beside him in the monstrous bed they'd shared for so long, Ayase wondered if it really was only fear.
Did he even want to be saved anymore? What did it say about him if he didn't?
The leather of the car seat was cool under Ayase's bare ass and legs, only slowly starting to warm to the temperature of his skin, but he was just barely aware of that discomfort. The more pressing matter was the presence of Kuba in the driver's seat; he wasn't sure which twin it was today, he couldn't tell just from glimpses of the back of his head, but even the younger twin would be more of an audience than Ayase could stand.
That shame--the shame of people other than Kanou seeing him, hearing him, when he turned into a wanton whore under Kanou's touch--never lessened. Ayase wondered if it ever would. Would he ever stop blushing and cringing at the mere thought of being seen by others?
Without any real conscious volition on his part, Ayase tried to curl into a ball again, tried to hide his body. Every time he did, Kanou grabbed his legs and spread them again, pushing him down into the leather seat a little harder each time. Ayase's protests only spurred Kanou on, and he wondered if it wasn't the elder Kuba twin driving, after all; maybe this was a show for his benefit, to remind Kuba just whom Ayase belonged to.
Kanou did something with his fingers and Ayase's toes curled. He felt a different texture under his skin, then, something soft and silky and warm and he realised that his foot was planted against the back of the driver's head, his toes curled in Kuba's hair. The car veered suddenly, and he jerked his leg back.
He was going to die like this. Naked from the waist down, in the back of a car, with another man's fingers inside him. And he was trying to think hard about that embarrassment, about the audience of police and paramedics who would see him that way, but even that wasn't enough distraction anymore. He couldn't silence his moans, he couldn't stop the way he was rolling his hips with every twitch of Kanou's fingers, couldn't keep from pleading for more, just a little more, oh he was almost there...
The fingers were withdrawn and he cried out, then covered his mouth in shame at the neediness in his voice. Kanou pulled Ayase into his lap and murmured into his ear, "Don't worry, I'm going to give you something even better." And then Kanou's cock was inside him and he was rocking to meet Kanou's thrusts and it was awkward and humiliating because the back seat of a car--even a luxury car--just wasn't made to let someone as big as Kanou do much moving around but he was too far gone to stop, too far gone to have any pride left.
Ayase's back was to the driver, now, but he could almost feel Kuba's eyes on him in the rear view mirror. And he forgot that this was humiliating, that he didn't want this; he let himself lose these things somewhere in the haze, because his body was too well trained and he was so very close.
His cage had grown, with time. First, he'd been allowed only the bed. Then the apartment. The office. School. Someya's club. The list of places Ayase could go grew and grew, but the bars were always there, in the corner of his eye. It would keep growing with him, this cage, because the invisible bars that imprisoned him also meant safety. The bars closed him into a world in which he knew that the baddest monster was there in his bed, where he could see it, and they closed out the world where friends could be monsters just under the skin and everyone he met looked at him with hungry eyes.
And even if it was this very monster that had opened the floodgates of hell and made him admit just how cruel the world could be, Ayase knew that the darkness had always been there, waiting for him. If not this monster, then it would have been another, sooner or later. He could fight it, or he could fall headlong into it and be cradled in its arms, protected from everything else that might want a taste of him.
So he fell, and let himself believe it his own choice, let himself believe it was love. He smiled and played at being the same person he'd always been, because that was what his monster wanted. His innocence made Kanou look at him with desire, and with gentleness. His innocence was his only value and so he wrapped himself in a shell of it so thick that he would believe it was still real.
But he knew, and made himself forget that he knew, that now he hid a monster just under his skin, too.