I heard the sounds of footsteps behind me, and from the rhythm and the scent I knew Aaden had come into the house. Usually that's good news, but right now I was in such a foul mood that even his company was an unwelcome intrusion. He walked in to the workroom and, just as I knew he would, he placed his hand upon my shoulder and said "Hello."
"Hi," I said, not very cheerfully.
"Are you okay?" he asked. "I heard about the screaming match this afternoon. I'm glad you weren't involved."
"I'm still involved, Aaden. It's my political butt on the line here, you know. They want economic concessions, and I'm wondering where the Hell the expect to get them when we don't have an economy."
"We have an economy," he said. "In fact, we've got two of them. You and I just happen to be in the upper of the two."
"For reasons I could never understand," I growled, then glanced up at him. "I'm not really in the mood for company right now, lover. If one more thing happens today, I'm going to start taking my anger out on something inappropriate, and I'd rather not do that."
He nodded. "I'll leave you alone, then." He walked out of the workroom, and I heard him leave our quarters entirely, wandering out into the hallway of the Castle. I turned back around and satisfied myself with reading the reports left on my desk. A few minutes later, though, I heard him return, and it sounded as if he were walking back towards me.
Truth to tell, I wanted some company right now. I just knew that I wasn't in the right mood to be good company, and I didn't want him to have to put up with one of my foul moods. Still, if he was going to volunteer to hang around me, that was his decision, not mine.
I felt something solid tap me on the shoulder while a wooden, hollow sound repeated in my ears. I turned to look, and found Aaden holding a shaft of bamboo, about 75cm long and maybe 4cm in diameter. "What's this for?" I asked?
"You said you wanted to hit something," he said. "Hit me."
The anger I felt subsided momentarily to make room for something else. "Aaden, that's not even funny."
"I didn't say it was supposed to be. I am not an inappropriate target. Go ahead, take the staff."
I took it in my left hand, then shifted it over to my right. "It's pretty light. We've got some teflon canes heavier than this."
He nodded. "That's why I brought it. Go ahead, Ken. Take it out, on me. I trust you, you won't hurt me."
I looked into his deep brown eyes, which have entranced me every day of my life since I met him. I could not believe what he was telling me to do, asking me to do. "Aaden."
"Come on," he hissed, and I felt us both shifting into play mode slowly. I had a headache and I was still pissed as Hell, but that didn't stop me from knowing when the game had begun.
"I can't..." He lunged at me.
A clumsy swing, obviously pulled, but a swing nonetheless. I struck back with the staff and without finesse, hitting him on the thigh with a less than solid strike. He recoiled, and I grabbed him by the wrist, wheeling around him with one hand and pinning his arm behind his back. "Don't move, Aaden. Dave, get me the manacles." I thought for a moment and a pair of gravitic manacles came whizzing out of the bedroom. I put one around his left wrist and let it go, ordering it up into the air. I did the same with his right. "Okay, you asked for it." I walked around him easily. "First, those are coming off." I reached onto my desk for a pair of scissors and began cutting the baggy, loose-fitting cotton pants off of his body. He whimpered softly as I got close to his manhood, but I didn't want him damaged. Just hurting.
The top, held shut with a wide belt about the waist, came off just as easily. I recognized the outfit as some form of stylized gi. Naked, his tail dropping to the floor, he looked much better. "Fuck with me, huh?" I said, swinging the heavy club down and hitting his ass.
"Yeah, I like fucking with you," he snarled back.
"Shut up," I said, hitting his thighs. "You and your 'I know what's best.'" The bamboo came down across his ass again, landing with a solid 'thwock.' It was an interesting sound, not quite a solid impact, kind of hollow in a way.
I began to work his ass over, slowly hitting each cheek. I could feel the anger he had sought to arouse growing within me, slowly welling up from somewhere deep below my heart and filling me. "You pompous fucking bastard," I breathed at one point. "I can't stand the way you condescend to me."
"Fuck you," he replied, snarling. "Why should I put up your constant posturing anyw... Ugh!" he replied as the staff hit him across the chest.
"Because," I said, "You're the one who's fucking tied up. Now take it, you pain in the ass." I struck him five times swiftly on the backs of his thighs, and soon he was dancing. "Stand still, damnit. I can't torture you properly if you don't stand still!"
"Maybe I don't wanna!"
CRACK. I struck him soundly across his upper chest, hard, and the bamboo staff split at the ends. "I'm sick of your shit," I growled. I began to work him over viciously, almost carelessly. Never once did I hit him anywhere in the 'danger zone' of his belly, where the soft organs of the kidney, liver, and intestines reside, but his chest, back, butt and thighs were free game and he began whimpering and cursing and finally he was screaming in pain as the anger and the hatred I felt... for Terra and for him, welled through me and expressed itself in the swiftly swinging bamboo. Pieces of it began flying across the room; blood appeared in a white region of his fur.
I beat him until he began trembling, until he was crying and begging me to stop. Finally, the crack in the bamboo worked it's way into my hand and the staff lost all integrity, falling apart into a thousand splinters and most of it dropping to the floor.
He was still standing under his own power; his head lolled to one side and he was breathing hard. The bloodstain on his chest spread slowly now. I opened my hand and the small piece of bamboo that remained fell to the carpeted floor with a thunk. "Aaden."
He picked his head up slowly and looked at me, a small smile on his face. I reached up and stroked his cheek. Tears welled in my eyes to look at his, to see the pain I had inflicted there. "My Gods," I said, "I'm sorry."
"Let me go, first," he breathed. I nodded, and the manacles snapped open. He dropped to his knees fast, and I reacted, grabbing him about the waist and guiding him down to make sure he didn't hurt himself on the way down. "Aaden?"
"I'm okay." His voice sounded raspy; he did not sound okay.
"Oh, Gods, Aaden," I said again, "I'm sorry. I didn't mean to do that to you."
His arms wrapped around my torso slowly, weakly. "Yes you did," he whispered softly. "I love you."
I held him close and sobbed against his chest, and he held me and cried just the same. We were quiet together for a few moments, and then he said "Thank you."
"'Thank you?'" I sobbed. "How can you thank me for that? That was... that was horrible."
"It was necessary," he said, his hand slowly stroking my hair. I pushed him away and slowly laid him on the ground, looking at the fur where I had broken fell. The bleeding seemed to have stopped. A quick scan between my extended perceptions and Dave's indicated that, other than a little stress fatigue, Aaden was going to be all right.
He grabbed my hand and held it. "See?" he said. "I know your limits, Ken. I knew you couldn't hurt me in any permanent way."
"Aaden, I wanted to kill you! I was hating you!"
"No," he said, shaking his head. "No more than I wanted to die. You do hate some things about me, just like there are some things about you that I find insufferable. You have a longer list for me than for other people, Ken, because you know me better. I have the same kind of lists for you, too. But it's because I love you that I stay with you. I can't ever hate you, Ken."
"But... why... this?"
"Because I wanted you back. When you're angry and you stew like that, it's no fun living with you." He reached and ran his hand over my face. "I know you don't want to harm me, Ken."
I looked down at him. "I know," I said. "I love you, Aaden." The tears came back, just a little, as I lay my head on his chest. "I do feel better."
His chest rumbled as he laughed. "I bet you do."
"It's good to get it out," I said. "I'm just glad I didn't go overboard and do more damage."
"Why do you think I picked the bamboo? As long as you didn't go for my face or my kidneys, I knew that weapon couldn't do any damage." He stroked my hair. "Now, will you stop worrying about it?"
I nodded. "Promise me that if you ever need to, you'll do the same thing to me?"
"I promise." He laughed. "In some ways, though, the fact that I was snarling and fighting back made me feel better too. I'm glad I didn't have to keep it inside."
"Come on," I said, rising up. "I'll get you some ginger ale."
"I'd appreciate that." I helped him to his feet and we wandered into the kitchen. Behind us, a small robot descended from the ceiling and picked up the shattered splinters of bamboo.