Chapter 07

Yoko’s knees dug into his wrists. The pain began to fade and he grimaced. “Solo,” he said, enjoying the way the word rolled off his tongue. For the first time in his life, using it seemed appropriate.

“Hm?” Yoko asked, a purr in his voice.

Pleasure thrilled through him at the sound. Ignoring his own need for release became easier with the knowledge he had satiated his solo. “My wrists are numb,” he said, lowering his eyes in submission.

Yoko lifted his knees off Hiei’s wrists, causing the koorime to cry out in pain as circulation returned, and settled into a crouch above his partner. “Turn over,” he said.

Careful not to unbalance Yoko, Hiei obeyed. He cried out in pleasure as Yoko brought their cocks together, trembling at the look on his solo’s face.

“How long can I tease you before you can’t control yourself?” Yoko asked. He slid their cocks together languidly before making eye contact with Hiei. “How long before you need a ring?”

Hiei closed his eyes, attempting to get a grip on his body’s reactions so he wouldn’t orgasm without permission. “I don’t know, Solo,” he said.

“We will find out on a day disobedience won’t affect the bond link.”

“Yes, Solo,” Hiei said, whimpering at the pleasure that thrilled through him at the words. He took a deep breath, focused on not orgasming.

“You’re the first demon I’ve met in a long time who can outrun me,” Yoko said, changing the subject. He stopped moving, sensing that Hiei couldn’t take much more.

Hiei drew in a ragged breath. “I didn’t run fast enough.”

Yoko frowned. “You didn’t really want to get away from me. Still, your speed is quite impressive.”

Indignant, Hiei snapped, “I was trying to get away.” The implication he cheated bothered him.

Yoko narrowed his eyes.

Since his solo had stated no rules, Hiei said, “I never put less than my full effort into anything I do.”

“But you wanted to be caught,” Yoko said.

“Yes, but I’ve desired that for a long time. And no one else ever came close because I gave it my full effort, just as I did with you.” Unable to prevent the bitterness from bleeding into his words, he said, “I’d started to think no one could catch me.”

“Hn. So you’re saying there’s no way you could have run faster?”

Hiei glared for all he was worth. He hated losing. No matter what it cost him, he played at the top of his game.

“Not even, perhaps, overconfidence? Not even that?”

Hiei favored Yoko with a sour look and folded his hands behind his head, refusing to answer.

“You may disagree with me and argue with me over certain things, but you will always answer me.” The temperature in the room plummeted.

Hiei’s spine seized with fear. “Y-yes, Solo,” he said, choking out the words, his eyes wide. “I ran at my top speed,” he said. He averted his eyes.

“Your speed is impressive,” Yoko said.

Hiei shivered as warmth came back into the room, half from fear and half from raw desire. No one had inspired fear in him before. “Thank you,” he said, taking the compliment.

“You can have the answer now, if you still want it,” Yoko said.

He started to understand why Yoko was considered a bit unbalanced. The fox demon shifted conversational gears too fast for anyone to follow. It took him a moment, but he figured out which question his solo meant. “You mean your age?”

“Mhm.”

“I still do,” Hiei said.

Yoko smiled. “Okay. I’ll tell you. But this is the first secret I’m sharing with you and my secrets are not meant to be shared.” His gaze locked on Hiei, golden eyes burning with solemn intensity.

“I understand, Solo.”

“I am eight hundred and forty three,” Yoko said. If Hiei proved unable to keep this small secret, he’d become acquainted with the meaning of dire consequences.

“Eight hundred and forty three?” Hiei said, eyes bulging at the number.

Yoko smiled. “Indeed. Now get up. It’s time I showed you to our room.”

The next morning found Hiei kneeling in front of his Solo, amazed that he’d been allowed to sleep curled up next to the kitsune on the first night they’d spent together. His hands were folded on his legs, his back straight. As soon as Yoko had woken up, he’d shaken Hiei awake and made him kneel, giving no explanation. An hour had passed since then.

Hiei was struggling to stay still and silent. The desire to know what purpose the kneeling served burned in him and being in the same position for over an hour was starting to make his legs ache. The worst was the not-knowing. All he could think was that it was a test of some sort, that his Solo was looking for something.

Yoko had only been standing in front of him for the last five minutes. After he’d told Hiei to kneel, he’d left. Now Yoko was starting at him.

Sweat broke out on Hiei’s forehead. What was his Solo studying so intently? Had he moved? He didn’t think he had; he was pretty good at being stationary-his life had depended on it on more than one occasion. But it was possible he’d moved a centimeter or two.

“Relax,” Yoko said. “This isn’t a test.”

Hiei let out a deep breath and let his hands relax where they’d been clenched on his knees.

Yoko quirked an eyebrow at him in amusement, then continued. “This is the first expectation I have of you. Rather, let’s call them rules. Every morning you will kneel here for an hour to allow yourself to get into the proper mindset. I told you before that I am an exacting Solo. This is the only time I will give you to prepare for that.”

Hiei swallowed hard. Yoko had branded him. This demon had ensured his loyalty for life. And he hadn’t expected it to be easy. Still,to kneel for an hour every day before doing anything else was a new level for him. None of his previous temp Solos had been exacting, even when claiming it. Hiei was beginning to get the feeling that wasn’t the case with Yoko.

“After this hour, we will eat breakfast together downstairs.” He gave Hiei a stern look. “You are not allowed to walk without express permission, nor are you allowed to use any furniture besides the bed we share at night. Do you understand?”

“Yes, Solo,” Hiei answered. His arms and legs trembled. Yoko was going to treat him like a real partner. He was going to be demanding and harsh. Some of Hiei’s temps had been afraid of being harsh because they were afraid that harming an abomination like him would bring a curse upon them. Yoko had said he didn’t hold with superstition. Others had said the same, but his Solo was the first one to be genuinely disinterested in the superstition surrounding his very existence.

“After we eat,” Yoko said, “I will take you to the training grounds. Ninety percent of your time will be spent there.”

“Training grounds?” Hiei asked and had to force himself not to jump as Yoko’s open palm came down hard against his cheek. It stung and he clenched his fists in an effort to keep himself from reaching up to rub at the imprint.

“Do not forget the honorific when you address me,” Yoko said, tone chill. “We have both proven ourselves to the other. Such disrespect will not be tolerated.”

Hiei flushed. He hadn’t meant to be disrespectful and the knowledge he’d earned his Solo’s displeasure so soon was heartrending. Without being prompted, he prostrated himself in front of the kitsune. “I’m sorry, Solo,” he said.

Yoko nudged Hiei’s hand with his toe. “Kneel up.”

Hiei obeyed immediately. He didn’t want to disappoint the kitsune further.

“The training grounds,” Yoko said, “are fighting grounds. You are a master swordsman so at least half your time there will be spent honing those skills.” He squatted, looking Hiei straight in the eyes. “I’m a dangerous man. I have dangerous enemies. The same can be said of you. I’ll not have my partner’s fighting skills be anything less than incredible.”

Hiei shivered. Knowing the was going to be able to practice his swordsmanship was a huge relief. “And the other half of the time, Solo?” he asked.

“Other fighting techniques. Extensive hand-to-hand, whips, poisons, knives, and anything else my trainers decide to teach you. You will listen to all of them and in regards to what they tell you to do in relation to training those skills, you are to assume they speak with my voice. Let me emphasize that only applies in relation to training weapons and fighting skills. Am I understood?”

“Yes, Solo.”

“You will lunch while on the grounds-this will be your job. After you are released from training, you will join me for dinner. And after dinner.” He gave Hiei a look of pure lust. “I will play to my content before we retire for the night.”

Hiei flushed at the promise in those words, then changed the subject. “Would you mind summing up the rules you’ve mentioned, Solo, so I won’t forget them?”

Yoko smirked. “Four rules? No. You tell me what they were.”

Hiei’s eyes widened and he frantically searched through his memory for everything that Yoko had said. “Kneel for an hour every morning. No walking or using furniture without permission. And don’t forget the honorific. May I ask a question, Solo?”

“Mhm.”

“Do I have permission to stand while on the training grounds, Solo?”

“Yes. And I’m glad your memory is sharp. I’d have hated to discipline you for that. Now there’s one more rule from last night. Tell me.”

Hiei’s face heated. “I’m not allowed to come for two weeks, Solo,” he said.

“Very good.” Yoko walked away, pausing at the doorway. “You have five minutes to make it downstairs.” And then he was gone.

Hiei stared after him for a long moment, in shock, before he realized he was wasting time. There was no way to make it to the downstairs dining room in five minutes without using his speed. Doing so was going to seriously abrade his hands and knees since he was allowed only to crawl. He whimpered low in his throat, both dreading and anticipating the coming pain.

He took a deep breath and blurred into motion, unable to ignore the sharp pain in his hands and knees as he moved. A large part of him wanted to stop and rest but he dreaded finding out what kind of punishment Yoko would administer for failure.

He made it to the ground level, his face stained with tears. His hands and knees were both bleeding from the pressure of the speed he was forced to use. He nearly made the mistake of stopping to catch his breath, but ruthlessly shoved the desire aside. If he stopped, he’d never get started again.

Doing his best to ignore the pain that burned through him, he crawled at top speed to the dining room he’d been shown the day before, no longer bothering to silence the whimpers of pain that rose up through him. He was impressed by how his Solo had forced him to cause his own pain, even while trying to deal with that pain. It was mental agony because he could stop crawling so quickly at any time-he didn’t have to use such speed. But the idea of disappointing Yoko by failing to meet a time limit was devastating to him, so he was bound to causing himself pain to keep from causing himself shame.

Hiei made it into the dining room with twenty seconds left. Even his speed was barely adequate for the distance Yoko had forced him to cover. His knees and palms were cracked and bleeding and he cried openly at the pain. He didn’t complain. He spotted Yoko a few feet away and crawled to him, settling into a kneel once there.

Yoko smiled down at him and Hiei felt his heart skip. The kitsune’s approval, even after one day, was something he craved. “That,” Yoko said smugly, “was a test.”

Hiei’s eyes widened. He hadn’t even considered that as a potential test. After the hour of kneeling, it hadn’t even crossed his mind. “A test, Solo?” he asked, his voice coming out strong in lieu of the tear tracks on his cheeks.

“Mhm. I needed to see just how seriously you were going to take me. You doubted me when I first told you I was an exacting Solo. I see you don’t anymore.”

Hiei shivered at the look in Yoko’s eyes. The kitsune saw right through him. He ducked his head, properly submissive, and said, “Trust isn’t easy for me, Solo. There have been many who have said the words and failed to back up their words through their actions.”

“Yes,” Yoko said. “There are a lot of demons like that. You’ll learn, with time, that I never speak falsely to those I care for.”

Hiei swallowed back the emotion that rose in him at those words. No one had ever promised to be honest with him before. It brought fresh tears to his eyes. And it terrified him. Because Yoko was giving him everything he’d ever dreamed of. But he still couldn’t shake the feeling that there was a catch, a reason that it would fall apart like every other time he’d thought he’d finally found the right man. And he cursed his own weakness, because without even trying, he’d already begun to fall in love with the demon in front of him.

Yoko let Hiei’s emotions settle before he spoke again. “I’m not going to require you to be here in five minutes every day. While the amusement factor is high, I’m not interested in permanently damaging you. Ten minutes should be sufficient.”

Hiei winced, but nodded acceptance. Half the pace he’d used today wouldn’t tear his knees and palms up, but it would still be a rather unpleasant pace.

Yoko motioned to the table. “Once you are here, as long as you have met the time limit I have set, you are allowed to stand and sit at the table so that we may enjoy breakfast together.”

Hiei glanced unsurely up at the kitsune. “How will I know if I’ve met the time limit, Solo?”

Yoko smirked. “You won’t. You can keep track of it in your head, as best you can, but I will neither confirm nor deny your success at any point.”

Hiei swallowed. “What happens if I think I’ve succeeded but didn’t and assume that permission for those things are granted, Solo?”

Yoko gave him a long, hard look. “Then you are disobeying the rules.”

Hiei froze at that tone. To make a mistake, even by a fraction of a second, wouldn’t be forgiven. He’d known that, but it was really brought home to him now. “What punishment would I incur from doing so, Solo?” he asked, surprised when the words didn’t come out as a whisper.

Yoko frowned. “You’ll find out when you break one.”

Hiei shivered. Not knowing would wreck havoc on his nerves. But then-his Solo knew that.

“That being said,” Yoko continued, “I will tell you today that you met the time limit. Because the task was a very difficult one,” he said, gaze flicking down to Hiei’s bleeding knees, “you deserve to know that you succeeded.”

Hiei flushed. “Thank you, Solo,” he said, grateful that Yoko had acknowledged that.

“Well then,” Yoko said, gesturing to the table. “Let’s eat.”

Chapter 6     Chapter Index     Chapter 8

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