When Jason opened his eyes the next morning, he just about screamed in pain and agony -- such abuse was unthinkable! Groaning as he threw the covers off his body he slipped his legs over the bed, and froze suddenly. Firstly, where was he? This wasn't one of his friend's houses, or his neighbors house either -- and of course, not his own bedroom, he'd hardly expect that at this point. The bigger problem was what was under the covers. He did not own these boxers -- he'd never wear something so tacky (if, he had to admit, funny)! Oh, and he was clean. He could feel it, from head to toe, he'd been washed of the dirt and grime of the last couple of days. Which taken together, could only mean... he blushed. Strangely, though, he didn't feel violated at all. Only cared for. Kneeling, he took a moment to pray. Rising, he looked around for some more clothes to wear. Seeing none, he walked over the closet and yanked it open -- empty. Swearing, he stared at the door. He couldn't go out like this. And that... that... it was on the other side of the door. Opening it...
Seeing no choice, he opened the door and walked through the looking glass. Naked except for a blindfold, his rescuer from last night danced to that awful god-be-damned noise, limbs moving with grace and poise from position to position. Except within seconds Jason realized it was no dance. It was some form of martial arts, and his rescuer was running through what had to be a training kata of some kind. But like nothing he'd ever seen before. Still, he might be a guest but he had some rights. "Could you please -- please! -- turn that music off?"
Ronan barely even paused before replying "It is nearly finished."
"So's my sanity. Bagpipes aren't good for it." Jason was almost aghast with his behavior -- he was a guest! his mother's voice screamed in his mind -- but strangely Ronan only smiled.
"I'm glad you are better," Ronan's voice seemed amused. "At the very least, you are taking me at my word -- no neat trick when you were asleep when I told you feel at home."
"Was this before, or after, you undressed me?" Jason asked with a raised eyebrow. What the hell am I doing? he thought nervously to himself. This isn't _anything like me!_ was followed quickly by the correction, Well, it's _exactly like me... when I'm with friends. Friends who aren't naked, anyway._ Realizing he'd forgotten his host's nakedness, he blinked. The stereo set chose that moment to swap to another song. "Oh. My. God. Queen? What, are you stuck in the stone age or something?"
"Given my actions last night, you must admit, the song holds a certain degree of irony," Ronan smiled back. Jason couldn't see his face, but he could hear the smile clearly, and responded with his own.
"Yeah, a lot of people bit the dust, and if you don't turn that stereo off I'll be one of them -- from terminal culture shock!"
Ronan laughed, a deep hearty laugh that sounded strange given his nasal voice. "Very well." Walking over, he turned the stereo off.
"Um, would you mind telling me-" Jason began, feeling a little nervous all of a sudden. Ronan still hadn't taken the blindfold off, or made any move to grab clothes of his own.
"Your clothes are being washed. I will return them when they are clean, and dry. For the moment, let us see what will fit you." Taking his blindfold off, Ronan simply walked over to a bookcase filled with storage bins and pulled one out. Opening it, he waved the rather surprised Jason over. How did Ronan know exactly what he was going to ask?
"I hate to point it out man, but..." Jason briefly flicked his eyes over Ronan's body. Looking down, Ronan paused. Jason hid his amusement at Ronan's embarrassment.
Choosing his words carefully, Ronan answered Jason's unspoken point. "You awoke earlier than I expected. I... am accustomed to starting my day like this, and without someone to be shocked by it. I did not desire for you to be shocked." Pointing at the bin, he continued, "These should fit, or come close. Find out what does, leave the rest. For the moment, the room you awoke in is yours to use, place the excess clothing in the desk and closet."
"Thank you-" Jason began.
"There is no need to thank me. I do what I must." Ronan closed his mind to that subject, and continued on another. "Your injuries were severe. While I know you feel better, the effects of such injuries, and their healing, can be quite..." Ronan found himself at a loss for words -- or at least, the right words. "Well, you may find yourself behaving, and thinking, in ways you would not for the next few hours or days. Do not be disturbed by this."
Jason nodded his head, clearly confused. "Alright..."
"Good, now if you'll excuse me, I need a shower. Oh, and clothes." Ronan walked into the master bedroom of the apartment, and closed the door. Closing his eyes, he allowed his mind to dance over the image of the beautiful young man in his living room, and his body to react. This... was not going to be fun. Then again, it wasn't supposed to be fun, only good. Good for him, but more good for the... the kid, he forced himself to think. He wouldn't do anything to harm the kid. Walking into the restroom, he turned the water to cold and stepped into the shower.
Jason stared aimlessly at the wall. He'd gotten the clothing that fit -- most of the container, as it turned out -- put away, and then sat on the bed. He began to understand what his rescuer -- friend? -- had told him. His behavior -- inexcusable! How could he possibly have treated this... this stranger that way! The irony of thinking of Ronan as a near-friend one moment and stranger the next struck Jason, and set him giggling. Calming down, he tried to think his way through the situation a little more clearly. And couldn't. His mind kept getting caught up on his problem. And how Ronan was likely to react when he found out.
Softly, a tear fell down his cheek as he already kissed this new home -- for somehow, he knew that's what was being offered -- goodbye. He'd stay, for now -- he had nowhere else to go! -- but sooner or later he'd lose it too. It was as inevitable as the travel of gossip down the grapevine. Grabbing some clothes, he dressed himself -- getting rid of the "loaded weapon inside" boxers as quickly as he could. Feeling an urgent need, he poked his head into a couple of doors to find the restroom. Feeling much relieved, he walked out and stretched a little, enjoying the unexpected freedom of movement until a few of his muscles twinged warnings that they might be in pretty good shape, considering the severity of lasts night's beating, but he'd taken quite a beating and should take it slow for a while!
Prowling the living room, he waited for Ronan to show his head. He sure had a lot of books! In fact... Jason blinked. Authors like David Eddings and Robert Jordan sat side-by-side with Alan Dean Foster and JRR Tolkein, with selections of Issac Asimov and Anne McCaffrey. It was a well-organized library, and carried just about every one of his favorite books. There wasn't any of Diane Duane, but some author name Tamora Pierce had a large section of her own. Reaching out, he pulled one of her books down carefully, just to look at its back.
"Feel free to read some of those -- just return them in the same condition as you found them, or as close as you can, anyway." Ronan commented lightly. Jason froze.
"I didn't mean to-"
"Don't worry about it," Ronan laughed. "Given the way you reacted when you started looking at the books rather than just seeing them, it's clear you're a bibliophile as well. Enjoy yourself. I'll let you know if the book you've grabbed is one I feel like reading."
"I... thank you. Thank you very much." Jason smiled. Still, for all that Ronan was doing there was a discussion that needed to happen pretty soon...
"There is no need to thank me. Sit, we have much to discuss." Ronan suited actions to words, and sat in a nearby chair. Jason put the book back before following.
"You were attacked. This will have many consequences on you. You will feel many things. Set them aside. It was not your fault. You did nothing to deserve it." Ronan stated flatly.
Jason knew that Ronan wouldn't say that if he knew about his problem. God, how he deserved that -- how he deserved for Ronan to have simply never shown up, and let them--
"Do. Not. Think. That. It. Was. Your. Fault." Ronan snarled, driving his point home with a forceful tone. "You did not deserve it," snapping the 'not's as he continued. "It is not your fault. You did not deserve it. It will not happen again. You will not let it happen again."
"But-" Jason half-said, half-thought.
"I have said what I have to say. It is the truth. Believe it." Ronan's voice partook of the cold, eternal deliberation of a glaciers stately movement across the land, a thing of slow, stubborn, impossible strength that shaped the land around it. Almost against his will, Jason started to believe. "I will repeat it as necessary -- this type of injury is not quickly or easily healed." Jason simply sat there for a moment, letting the words roll across his soul. It couldn't be, Ronan wouldn't say it if he knew, but somehow...
"We will speak more on this later. For now, we will discuss other matters that must weigh heavy on you. Your stay here will be for as long as needed, so long as you follow three rules." Jason froze for a second, then nodded swiftly for Ronan to continue. "Firstly, do not lie. Do not lie to me, do not lie to yourself. I will tolerate the occasional lapse, but only for so long."
"I..." Jason paused, choosing his words carefully. "I do not make a habit of lying."
"Nor did I state that you did so. But do not lie. It is... dangerous." Ronan shook his head. "We will discuss that when you are ready, but for now just trust me: humans lie. You cannot afford that luxury if you live here. Deal with it, or not. I will help, as best I can. The second rule is both more important, and less. Do your best. Whatever you put your hand to, give it your best effort. You may fail, you may succeed. It does not matter. Only that you tried, and did your best. This rule is less important than the first one in that a violation will not be as dangerous, nor anger me as much -- such is to be human, all of us need a break, or get lazy, or have troubles. It is more important in that it modifies the first. Do your best to tell the truth, and all will be well for the first. Do your best with the second, and the occasional lapse is covered by having assayed the attempt." Jason blinked. That sounded rather... philosophical?
"Are you starting in on philosophy now?" Jason jested.
"Not yet. That is to come some other day." Ronan said, making Jason blink some more. "The final rule will probably surprise you the most. While you dwell beneath my roof, you will train in self defense of some sort." Jason frowned.
"OK, you got me. I understand the first two, but..." Jason broke off as Ronan scowled, his voice grinding out.
"Be careful with your words, Jason. They have more power than you know. You understand all three -- or at the least I should hope so, they are simple enough -- you simply do not understand the reason behind the third."
His voice uncertain, Jason muttered a simple "Oh... kay..."
"Past these, there are some things I expect of you, but these are the core. I will expect you to help keep this place clean, to help cook and to clean after the meals. While you search for a job, of such will be your upkeep; afterwords, we shall split the labor, each cleaning up after ourselves. You will keep yourself and your clothes clean -- reasonably so, at any rate. You'll hunt for a job to help pay for groceries and rent -- don't worry if you can't afford everything, we'll work it out. If you don't already have a college degree, you get to start working on one. You'll talk to me if there is a problem, ask me for help if you need it, and don't be embarrassed about living your life -- and the needs that come of that. Now, any questions?" Ronan smiled a wry little smile.
"Plenty. Starting with... why?" Jason asked.
"Why what? Help you?" Ronan snorted. "Because you're a human being who needs help. You have no place to go -- that was clear last night. So, I will provide. As far as why..." Ronan looked into the distance. "Duty. Honor. Virtue." He looked directly into Jason's eyes and whispered simply, "You need help. You have done nothing wrong. You will get help. If no one else will, I will give it." With a smile and a gesture, Ronan closed the book on that subject. "Now, what else?"
"I... need to think on that." Jason admitted.
"Good. Take all the time you need -- you'll find that the events that are about to overtake you will change or answer several of the questions you have yet to ask. Now, let us begin with you learning how to defend yourself."
"Alright. Do I have to strip nekkid to do this part?"
Ronan roared out his laughter. "Hardly! For now, you don't even need to get up out of your seat! We're going to start by going over last night."
"What?" Jason blurted.
"You need to think through the events of last evening. Starting with why you were where you were." Jason didn't notice the hawk-eyed look Ronan gave him as he uttered these words.
"No." Jason whispered. "I... I can't..."
"You must. You can. You will." Ronan stated firmly. "If you do not wish to discuss it with me, fine. For now, you need not do so. But think on it. Do I have your word you will do so?"
"Yeah..." Jason murmured, looking Ronan in the eyes. He had the distinct feeling this was an important thing to Ronan. Why, he didn't know. Again, he didn't miss the operative word of "now".
"A vow is a sacred thing. Do not break it lightly -- but do not be afraid to break one should the time come, and the spirit and letter violate each other. Come." Ronan stood abruptly, and Jason began to wonder if he always talked like something out of a book. "Come on, chow's on me!" Ronan shouted from the kitchen. Smiling, Jason stood up and walked over to the table. Ronan had a frying pan out and on the stove already and was beating some eggs and milk and some other stuff together in a bowel. "You like french toast, I trust? I'll add some bacon to the mix, if you want it, or sausage if you prefer."
"Either will do me just fine," Jason replied, "and before you ask how much, I feel like I could eat a horse."
"Good!" Ronan snapped back. "I like a healthy appetite! I'll make sure to have one when it comes time to cook dinner!"
Jason started to smile. Whoever this guy was... he was really starting to like him. Perhaps a little too much...
Having been fed and watered, and forced to walk through most of last night, Jason took a moment to think about some of the conversation. The word "now" sure seemed to be the operative word in a lot of sentences. He wasn't ready to talk to Ronan about some things, and Ronan accepted that because in turn...
In turn, Ronan had things he wasn't ready to talk about. Oh, he phrased it like Jason was the one who wasn't ready -- but that was one of the most obvious evasions Jason had ever encountered. A little too obvious, really, but the guy really was being nice, so why push it? Of course, all things are subject to change...
"What?!" Jason screeched.
"As part of learning to defend yourself, you are going to listen to some of my music." Ronan wasn't smiling, at all, but Jason could almost see the shit-faced grin on his face anyway -- something in his eyes. "A song or two a day, perhaps, and we'll discuss why the song is important. What you can learn, what you shouldn't miss."
"You have got to be joking!" Jason couldn't believe this. He thought he was going to be taught martial arts, and now he had a music appreciation class?!
Ronan's voice was terrible, but the song he sang quickly had Jason's blood pumping, even though he cut it short after one verse. "No, I'm not joking."
Jason's mouth opened and closed for a moment. "Say that again?"
"No, I'm not joking." Ronan repeated.
"Not that, the other part." Jason refused to smile at Ronan's little joke. Ronan repeated it for him. "Um, I think..."
"I know you don't care for bagpipes, but try setting aside the fact that you 'know' they're horrible, and just listen to this song." Ronan walked over to the stereo slowly, as if savoring every movement. Turning it on, he knelt over the computer next to it to pull up the right song. "This is the March of Cambreadth, by Heather Alexander. And it embodies the first half of your lesson, a fragment of how to approach a fight."
Setting aside his dislike of the song, Jason blinked as the torture piece from this morning came back on. But this time... he had to admit, it was a rather catchy tune. And the lyrics... "Yes," Ronan whispered, "this song has power, if you let it." As the song finished, Jason just sat there, stunned. He'd heard... but he hadn't listened, not really. Looking over at Ronan, he understood.
"I'd read a bit... that song... it's talking about total war... Have you ever read the Sword of Truth series?" Jason's eyes sparkled as Ronan grinned at him.
"The bit about 'cutting', I assume?" Ronan asked. "Yes, that embodies it as well. The author had many things right -- I'm glad you've read him. I think you understand the first point... now hear the next." Ronan turned on a second song, and Jason understood. This song held more than one meaning to it... but he understood the one Ronan wanted.
"Cost," he murmured as the song ended, much to Ronan's delighted surprise. "Sacrifice, and its joy, yes, but you want me to understand the cost. If I choose to fight, I might die."
Ronan simply smiled. "Close enough for today. Now that we've done that, I'll go ahead and teach you a few of the moves. Remember what else I've taught -- if you use these, use them. Avoid it if you can, but do not be afraid when the time comes." Suiting action to words, Ronan spent the rest of the morning teaching Jason the physical aspect of fighting. By the time they were done, Jason was well ready to take a shower -- a nice, cold one by preference, to bring certain body parts back under control before they got noticed. At least the sweat hid the wet spot on his shorts rather effectively! Ronan also departed to take a shower and change his clothes -- though Jason certainly hadn't made him sweat very much! Jason wondered about that, but figured it was some of Ronan's odd... politeness wasn't the right word, but it was all he could come up with. Jason laughed at the idea of calling Ronan "polite". No, not a very good word at all...
As he stepped out of the bathroom, there was a loud knocking at the front door. Tossing his dirty clothes into "his" room and closing the door on it -- "note to self: talk to Ronan about dirty clothes hamper" Jason murmured -- he opened the door to Ronan's room and shouted, "Someone's at the door!"
"Well then," Ronan shouted back dryly, "why don't you go answer it since I'm still... ah, yes, 'nekkid'?"
Laughing, Jason went ahead and did so. What he got... was unexpected.
A rather buxom redhead stormed through the door like she owned the place, and after a moment Jason remembered that for all he knew she did! After nearly running him down, she looked him over before introducing herself. "Hello, I'm Lara Murphy, and you are?" She started normally enough, but barely waited for a reply before continuing on. "Oh, good, glad to meet you Jason, I'm just here to talk to Ronan about some stuff going on downstairs, nothing you need to concern yourself with -- well, not unless you happen to know a good janitorial service that isn't going to do second rate work with our equipment -- and I'm sure you'll know all about it soon enough, because Ronan will fill you in if he wants to let you know, which I'm sure he will since you're in his apartment and don't happen to be related to him -- I mean, you aren't, right? Different last names and all -- which can only mean one of a few things that I can think of, and since I don't think you'd be an old friend since I don't already know you -- oh, and I doubt you'd have that black eye -- so that almost leaves-"
Jason gave up on even trying to get a word in edgewise and just smiled as this bundle of energy bounced around, straightening the pillows on the couch, neatening a few things that weren't perfectly aligned with some imaginary grid she could see, and otherwise proceeded to try and drive him mad. Finally, much to his relief, Ronan got around to making an appearance. "Lara, don't drive him mad this quickly!" he growled lightly as he stepped out the door. Squealing in joy -- no other word could possibly fit the noise she made -- Lara bounced onto Ronan and gave him a very... energetic... hug. Jason thought that energetic was a very good word for her. The site of Ronan's new clothing, very tight fitting, especially in places Jason was now very glad his clothing was loose in, drew his eyes for a few moments before he yanked them back to Lara out of habit.
Can't show that I'm such a pervert, some dark corner of Jason's mind reminded him.
"So, what makes you disturb me on my day off?" Ronan asked wryly. "As if I don't already know!"
"DBM didn't get to us -- again -- yet still expects to be paid, yeah." Lara replied. "Why you haven't already given those idiots the shove off I can't even begin to guess, I mean they've defaulted on the contract enough that we should just take them to court already and-"
"Lara!" Ronan snapped. "Did you remember to document this incident properly?"
"Yes, yes! I still don't know what the point is if you aren't ever going to get around to-" Jason was beginning to get bemused. Even Ronan had to fight to get a word in edgewise -- and given what he'd seen of Ronan, Jason was willing to bet that was an unusual occurrence.
"The point is, once we have enough documentation -- which I do believe we now have -- we can take them to court for breach of contract and not only get all our money back, but get them to pay for someone else to do the work they should have done in the first place. I am now prepared to take them to court, which should make you happy, and... Hey, Jason, you need a job don't you?"
Jason shot a look at Ronan and realized suddenly just how carefully Ronan had been phrasing his sentences. "Which I do believe we now have" and "this new bit of documentation is enough" were two totally separate statements. Jason smiled, and wondered just how long Ronan had been planning this. Something to take up later... at the same time he would aske Ronan about how many people he'd "rescued" so that Jason was "yet another rescue effort in progress". The answer should be... interesting. As should some other things.
Of course, some other comments of Lara's gave him a very good idea of how to repay Ronan for his... "friendship"... At least this time he knew what was coming. And, hell, the second time shouldn't hurt half as much as the first... and if it was a piece with everything else Ronan did, it might not be half bad as... To himself he finally admitted it: being raped. And for a moment, he was lost in memory...
The bed beneath him was comfortable enough, but it wasn't his own. He punched his pillow for a moment as a surge of anger tore through him, before collapsing again into despondent exhaustion. How could he have been so stupid as to tell his family! He'd had to... but it was stupid! At least Mr. Carpenter has given him a bed for the night. "You'll pay me back later, kid," rang in his ears. Yes, he would! He would repay Mr. Carpenter in full, as soon as he figured out how. Slowly he slipped into sleep, and rolled up on his side, legs curling around.
A slight draft woke him up as someone crawled into bed with him. Confused, he softly murmured some nonsense as he tried to shake himself awake, even as rough hands pulled his briefs off in one sudden motion, and forced him on his stomach. Two legs locked in place on either side of his own, and a finger started pushing at his rear-
"Ouch!" he snapped fully awake as something was thrust deep inside of his most private place. "What the hell-"
"Shhhh," Henry Carpenter whispered above him. "It's all right, you're just going to pay me back for this bed now by letting me use it too."
"Ow, stop it!" Jason began to wriggle and try to get out from under his assailant, but to no avail. "Oh god no, no oh god no no no no NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!" he screamed, shaking and sobbing. Shame and horror wracked his body, and he could have screamed, but was too busy sobbing in pain and humiliation. Behind him, Mr. Carpenter shifted and placed his weight fully on Jason. Jason's thoughts scrambled as he sobbed, this couldn't be happening, this wasn't right, God save me oh god it hurts please God make him stop oh it hurts...
Jason just slowly tuned everything out. This wasn't happening, the pain was just a bad dream, this couldn't be happening, he'd never 'come out' to his family, he'd never been that stupid, and he wasn't getting raped -- boys don't get raped, some betrayed corner of his mind whispered, we're not supposed to be raped! -- and he barely even noticed as the pain mounted and built but now he was in agony and knew exactly what was happening as Mr. Carpenter finished deep inside him, filling Jason with his poison
With a wet plop Mr. Carpenter pulled out suddenly, leaving behind an aching, empty pain to go with the torn mind and soul. "Mr. Carpenter..." Jason whispered.
"Henry, boy, Henry. Can't call me Mr. Carpenter after I just fucked ya!" Mr. Carpenter just walked right out to wash up and go to his own bed, simply not caring about Jason's pain. Behind him, Jason writhed in shame and pain, as he tried to get up and crawl to the restroom, but his body betrayed him, shaking in shock instead, forcing him to remain in the bed as wet liquid oozed down the inside of his legs. Finally, blackness began to fill his vision as exhaustion pulled him under, and he pulled that blackness up over his head like a blanket.
"Earth to Jason, earth to Jason, please come in," Ronan begged softly, holding his hands over Jason's.
"What the-" Jason started in surprise.
Ronan looked down for a moment, then looked back into Jason's eyes. "Either your mind just went on a grand safari, or you had a flashback. And judging from this-" he raised a hand to pick up a tear from Jason's cheek "-this tells me that it wasn't a pleasant journey, either way."
"I- I..." Jason stammered.
"There is no shame in needing help, Jason, only in needing it and not asking. If you choose, we will not speak of this now. But... any trauma great enough to cause a flashback must be talked over, if ever it is to be set to rest." Jason had the feeling that Ronan knew more than what he was saying, but was holding back out of courtesy. But for the moment something else intruded as his body suddenly remembered the aches and pains of what had happened as something more immediate than memory.
Throwing Ronan aside he sprinted for the restroom, where he promptly lost every single meal he'd ever eaten. Behind him, Ronan simply sighed, then leaned over and rubbed his back, murmuring things like "I'm sorry..." and "It's not your fault" into Jason's unhearing ears. Jason felt tired, so tired...