Title: Fifty Shades of Green
The next day it's business as usual.
Lenox Hill is as busy as ever, the day trudging on far longer than I would have liked.
News of last night's rescue was circulating round the office. My colleague Mary Hope was breathing down my neck for most of the afternoon; she kept asking me if I was okay, did I need a drink, a break, anything? After a while the attention became stifling and I left work at just after six pm. The sun was hanging low in the sky, and just about to dip beneath the horizon.
My heart beat faster as I made my way to the offending subway, but it was crowded with rush hour commuters and therefore seemed less scary during lighter times. I breathed a sigh of relief as I caught my train and ended up at home in less than half an hour.
I had a quick bite to eat and sat watching some TV. The news was once again spouting information about local deaths and accidents. Somewhere in the world, a flood had taken hundreds of thousands of lives.
I switched off the box of doom and sat back watching the window intently.
It was still light outside. Early evening shadows were filling up alleyways, and the sun had dipped well below the horizon. There was a powerful glow where the star had fallen, mixing with the clouds to create a stunning mixture of the colours red and orange. From my vantage point on the sofa, I could see the clouds thickening slightly and a slight rainfall began to tap at the glass gently. Watching the sunset fade into darkness had a strangely lulling effect and before long I had fallen asleep, listening to the steady beat of the raindrops on the window.
I awoke to the sound of my window scraping open from the outside. I keep it on the latch, and someone could easily open it with the right implement. Heart pounding with sudden fear, my eyes widen as I look toward the intruder. It is very dark in the apartment, but I see an ominous figure looming by the window before it melts into the shadows of my place.
"Leo?" I hope it's not some random burglar. If it is, I've just let them into the fact that I am here - which could work either for or against me. If they decide that entering my apartment is too much effort with me inside it, they might move on to some other home. However, my voice was small and filled with doubt - sounding like some scared little girl who is alone and vulnerable. Ripe for the picking. Oh my.
I stand up, crossing over to the window quietly. It has been opened fully and rain is seeping into my apartment. Cursing a little, I close the window with a hefty tug. "Please, Leo. Is that you?"
"The way you react to danger disturbs me." A whisper at my shoulder and I know he is directly behind me. "Never go towards the source of the threat, Gia. Try and escape." I feel his arms wind round me, pulling me against his plastron.
"Leo." I breathe.
He releases me suddenly and strides over to the light switch. Light fills the room as I hear the small click. I close my eyes, momentarily startled by being temporarily blinded.
"A lot of how you react to unexpected situations disturbs me." Leo muses. I squint at him as my eyes accustom themselves to the light.
"I'm sorry." I can feel myself blushing again, damn it all.
"I don't think it's safe to leave someone so unprepared." Leo stands before me; arms crossed. He looks furious.
"I didn't mean ..." I begin in a trembling voice, but Leo waves at me to quiten.
"I'm not angry at you, Gia. I'm angry at the situation. I can remedy it, however." Leo uncrosses his arms and gestures for me to sit on the sofa. I suddenly realise I'm standing here, trembling before him.
I sit on the sofa, my heart thumping wildly. His visit is so unexpected. I didn't expect him to return tonight.
Leo sits before me in an echo of the positions we were seated in last night. He is looking at me with his deep, questioning blue eyes. I follow the contour of his body, relaxing as I take in the familiar tortoise shape of my new friend. My new, protective friend.
"I have a proposition for you." Leo leans forward. The mischief sparkles in his eyes as he looks at me; amused. I am a taken aback. Proposition? What the hell?
"Okay. What proposition?" I ask carefully.
Leo grins at me, his mouth unusually wide. "I want to teach you to defend yourself."
"What?" I am truly shocked. I am officially one of the most uncoordinated people of all time. Me learn what he does so gracefully? I'd never managed it. I'd fall in heap every time and look completely inept. "I'm quite clumsy." I add.
He frowns, completely thrown. "Do you realise how rare it is that I'm doing this? Ninjutsu is a way of life for me. I have offered it to you freely, without any catch. Don't you want to learn how to protect yourself?"
"Ninjutsu?" I breathe the word. "That's what you do? Ninjutsu?"
"Have you heard of ninjutsu?" Leo asks, leaning forwards more. He is really interested in my response. His eyes are sparkling.
"Oh." He is genuinely disappointed. He leans back and considers me thoughtfully. "You are refusing my offer?"
"I'm ... I don't know. I thought you said you had a protective family. What would they think of this?" I stammer. He is breathtakingly beautiful, and each moment I look at him I see something new about him. I have just clocked a scar for the first time, on his left shoulder. It's quite deep and looks like he was run-through with a weapon of some kind. I don't want that kind of world. I'm not a fighter.
"My family have given their consent." Leo shakes his head, bemused. He looks thoroughly disappointed. "You're turning me down, aren't you?"
I don't know what to say to him. I am not the right person to be learning this stuff. I'd look like an idiot beside him.
"Fine." Leo get's to his feet. "I understand."
"Wait. I'm sorry, I just ... can I think about this?" My head is spinning with all this information. I need to have time to ponder all he's said.
"It was a one-time deal." His voice is hard, determined. "This isn't a game. What I offered you ... its immeasurably valuable. I know now that you wouldn't ever realise its worth." Leo moves to the window quickly, swinging his leg over the frame.
"Wait! I only want time to think this through." I run to him, catching his shoulder with my hand.
Everything suddenly goes into slow motion as he grabs my hand and expertly flips me onto the carpet. He straddles me from above, his eyes dark and furious. I wriggle beneath him, but I can't shift him. He's a weight that will not budge. "If I were someone with ill intent you would be helpless to stop me. Do you understand that?"
I nod. His voice is strange when he's mad. He's hissing words at me with such venom.
"Time to think. You truly have no idea what I'm offering you." Leo's eyes dawn with sudden realisation. He moves away from me, allowing me to stand up shakily.
"I didn't mean to offend you." I try and make amends, but he is shaking his head. He looks crestfallen.
"Look up ninjutsu on your computer. Google it." Leo lifts up my writing pad and writes swiftly into it. "I'll come back in a week's time, after you've had time to research the art. Look into it. See if it's something you want for your life." He hands the pad over to me. I take it and look at the word written in bold handwriting. NINJUTSU. He's even capitalised the word for me, and I blush wildly. I must be the most idiotic person in the world to him. It's true that I have no idea what ninjutsu is - I have never seen a martial arts movie in my life. It's all alien to me.
"I'll be back for a definite answer to my proposition - either a yes or no. You'll need to dress as a student and be respectful of my experience. You will be punished if you disobey me, your Master. It will be life-changing, understand?" Leo looks at me with his passionate eyes.
"You'll be my Master?" I feel the word out and it seems distasteful. What is he? Some control-freak sadomasochist?
He suddenly walks toward me, his face melting as he looks deeply into my eyes. "Look, I know I've thrown a lot at you tonight. It's okay to be wary and to ask for time. When I say this is a life-changing decision, I mean that completely. I'll take care of you." He brushes his left hand against my cheek as his voice softens even further. "I like you. I truly do. I don't want to see you in a situation where you could be comprimised again. I want to help you."
"What does being your student entail?" I ask quietly. I am breathing in his heady scent and I feel intoxicated by his presence. I'm overwhelmed by just how beautiful he is, how exotic. My belly is burning with anticipation.
"I'll tell you more if you decide to take up my offer. If you decide to do this - you must book some time off work. At least a month to start with. I'll be taking you out of the city." Leo moves back to the window and clambers out, shooting me a last look. "Decide carefully."
Then he's gone.
I'm in complete and utter shock.
After a moment, I head over to my computer with trembling legs. I fire it up and wait for my home screen to appear.
I type in 'NINJUTSU' on Google and a list of websites spring up. I click on Wikipedia first, I just want to have an understanding of what Ninjutsu is. I felt like such a fool not knowing.
'Ninjutsu - sometimes used interchangeably with the term ninpo is the martial art, strategy, and tactics of unconventional warfare and guerrilla warfare as well as the art of espionage purportedly practiced by the shinobi (commonly known outside of Japan as ninja).'
My breathing quickens. My heart ramps up a notch. Guerrilla warfare? Espionage? Holy crap! Leo like the a Japanese James Bond?
'While there are several styles of modern ninjutsu, the historical lineage of these styles is disputed. Some schools and masters claim to be the only legitimate heir of the art, but ninjutsu is not centralized like modernized martial arts such as judo or karate. Togakure-ryu claims to be the oldest recorded form of ninjutsu, and claims to date past the 1500s.'
Togakure-ryu. Sounds strange to me. I note that down on my pad. I want to know if Leo does that. He seems very old fashioned, what with the whole Master and Student thing.
'According to Bujinkan members, Ninja Juhakkei ("the eighteen disciplines") were first stated in the scrolls of Togakure-ryu. They became definitive for all ninjutsu schools.'
Eighteen disciplines? Oh. My. God. I thought it was just kicking and punching. This is so advanced. I'm not sure I'll be capable of learning one of them, let alone eighteen.
'The 18 disciplines are
Seishinteki kyoyo – spiritual refinement
Taijutsu – unarmed combat
Kenjutsu – sword techniques
Bojutsu – stick and staff techniques
Sojutsu – spear techniques
Naginatajutsu – naginata techniques
Kusarigamajutsu – kusarigama techniques
Shurikenjutsu – throwing weapons techniques
Kayakujutsu – pyrotechnics
Hensojutsu – disguise and impersonation
Shinobi-iri – stealth and entering methods
Bajutsu – horsemanship
Sui-ren – water training
Boryaku – tactics
Choho – espionage
Intonjutsu – escaping and concealment
Tenmon – meteorology
Chi-mon – geography'
Oh my. What the hell have I got myself involved in.
I shut down my computer and sit panting slightly. I am completely stressed out. I can't learn all this. And what about work? What am I going to say to them about leaving for a month, or possibly longer? They wouldn't let me go.
My head is spinning.
Shuddering with dread I sit back down on my sofa.
I don't sleep all night. All I can think about is being beaten and bruised learning something that someone like me, a clumsy idiot, could never possibly learn in a lifetime.
I'm afraid of what to tell Leo, because honestly? I haven't got a clue what I'm going to say to him.
The week passes in a blur of frightened thoughts. I am in a complete panic by the time Leo comes to see me. I can barely concentrate on work and I feel like I have been wandering around in a cloud for days.
As soon as he set's foot in my livingroom he can sense something is wrong with me.
"Breathe, Gia." He instructs gently. "What's wrong?"
I sit down and try and get my breathing under control. "I've read about ninjutsu. It sounds ... scary."
Leo cocks his head to one side, amused. "Why?"
"I don't know if I'm capable." There, I've said it. I'm an idiot with two left feet and a habit of breaking things.
"Of course you're capable. What the hell have you been reading?" Leo's eyes harden. "Where did you go for information?"
"Wikipedia." I cast my head down, ashamed. "I can't get my head round it all."
"I know." Leo's smiling and trying not to laugh. "If you become my student, you won't have to worry about all these troubling thoughts."
"Why?" He has piqued my interest. "I still think."
"I'll give you orders and you will obey them all without question. I will determine what is best for you and you will follow my instructions. Do you really think I haven't assessed you? I've been watching you very, very carefully. I am fully aware of your limitations." Leo strokes his green chin, thoughtfully.
"What about my job. I can't get all that time off." I really don't want to be fired. I have a home to run, bills to pay.
"That is completely unimportant." Leo says in his bossy voice. "If you accept my offer, I will take care of all your needs."
"All my needs?" My voice trails off. My brain has taken a very unexpected turn and my eyes follow the outline of Leo's plastron until I am looking at the very bottom of it. Needs. How can he fulfill all my needs? He's a tortoise.
"All of them." His shoulders are shaking with silent laughter. His eyes are sparkling with humour. "Every one."
"What if I don't like what you're asking me to do. What if I don't want to do something ..." my voice trails off and I find myself staring at the root problem. I'm afraid he'll take advantage of me, use me as his special toy and then discard me when he's finished.
"I won't do anything you don't want me to." Leo explains gently. "Remember that this all has a purpose. I want you to be disciplined and able to defend yourself. That is all."
"What about sexual needs." Oh my. Where the hell did that come from. I'm blushing right down to my toes this time. Why did I just say that?"
"Sexual needs." Leo repeats. His eyes darken with something other than amusement. "I will give you what you need. Every area will be covered if you choose to accept my offer."
"I take it you are a Master of that too." My eyes drop to the carpet and I take in the threads with avid concentration.
"I won't disappoint you. I can assure you. Is that how you would like your rewards? Through sex?" Leo's voice has dropped in tone.
"I don't ... I don't know. Rewards? What do you mean." I'm thoroughly confused. I thought that this was just about training me up. Where did sex come from?
"If you do something that pleases me, I would like to satisfy you with a reward." Leo says, his eyes dark. I recognise the expression on his face. Desire.
"If I become your submissive." I'm trying to sort out my feelings on the matter. I have never done anything like this in my life and I'm feeling vulnerable and unsure.
"Submissive?" Leo cocks his head with an amused smile. "I guess that would be correct. You'll be my everything, so I wonder who the Dominant will truly be?"
Oh my! I'm boring holes into the carpet. "When does all this begin?"
"It starts with an answer - yes or no. If you agree, you agree to my rules and restrictions and never question my orders. Understand?" Leo's smile fades and he looks seriously at me. "Well?"
He wants a decision right now! I have no idea what I'm getting myself into. I only have vague internet searches and I'm afraid I'll get hurt. He could break my neck with one hand, but I sense he wants to help me. He just has a ... unique way of going about it.
"Yes." The word escapes my mouth like a bird fleeing a cage. I can feel myself soaring high as his smile returns and he beams at me in a pleased manner. The effect is intoxicating, and I feel the pull of being near to him, wondering how he would feel if I ran my hands all over him ....
"Then we'll be off." Leo stands and offers me a hand.
"What?" I gawp at him awkwardly. "Right now?"
"Trust me and obey me." Leo's voice his harsh and his eyes have narrowed. "I won't lead you astray."
My hand slides into his big green one and I stand up. "Do I need to pack anything?"
"No. Don't worry about anything; including work or clothing. I have all of this covered." Leo guides me to the window with an eagerness that surprises me. "From this moment - you have nothing except your training to worry about. Put all other off-putting thoughts out of your head."
I try to do as he asks. Clambering out onto the fire escape with him, I notice a parked van beside the alleyway. A man is standing, propped up against the passenger door, nonochtently swinging a baseball bat.
"Yo, Leo. You gonna hurry up?" The man hollers. He get's into the driver's side and I follow Leo down the rungs with care.
"Who's that?" I gasp. I look down at Leo who is descending first, to grab me in case I should fall.
"A friend. His name is Casey." Leo grips me as soon as he is on solid ground and spins me round to face him. His face is close to my own and I can see his curious eyes sizing me up. "You will not talk to any man unless I give my permission. Understand?"
I nod breathlessly. Leo is such a control freak. I've never known anyone so bossy and single-minded.
He leads me over to the van and I clamber in the back. Leo closes the door and walks round to the passenger side and climbs in beside the muscular and impatient Casey.
"The farmhouse?" Casey asks as he winks at Leo in a way that implies I'm going to have a wild night.
Leo rolls his eyes and taps the dashboard. "Let's get going. I want to be at the farmhouse before dawn."
Casey starts the engine and we take off at an alarming rate. He has obviously never heard of speed limits, and I am bouncing around in the back of the van.
Leo flashes me a look during the journey. "Don't bruise yourself. Hold on tightly."
It wasn't that easy. There wasn't much to hold onto. During a particularly vicious turn, I tumble into the wall and let out a pained gasp.
"Stop!" Leo's voice is commanding and strong. Casey at once slows down and parks by the side of the road. "Wait."
Leo opens the passenger door and get's into the van beside me. "Are you okay?"
"Arm." It took quite a knock. I'm wincing with pain.
Leo holds my limb and smiles gently. "It's your funny bone. That's why it hurts so much. You need to work on your pain tolerance."
My mouth falls open in alarm. "What?"
"Pain tolerance. Invaluable to the ninja. I will teach you how to withstand anything." Leo promises, his voice deep and harsh. "Casey? Keep moving. I'll stay in here with my student."
"Why do I need to learn how to take pain?" I ask in a small voice.
Leo flashes me an annoyed look. "I told you not to question me."
"I ... I'm just scared." I feel totally out of my depth. I close my eyes and feel the pressure of tears building. As I let out a little sob I feel Leo embrace me - his arms pulling me gently into his lap.
"I'm sorry. I didn't mean to frighten you." Leo's voice is tender and gentle. "If you were captured and tortured, you would need to know how to control the feeling of pain. If you do not know this, they will be able to hurt and control you."
I listen, sniffing a little and trying to stop the quiet sobs. "They?" I look up into his eyes and his face is just above me. He is a rock of strength for me to weep upon, and I reach up and touch his bandana.
"People in this world who would hurt you." Leo explains. "There are more than you would think."
I relax into his arms and allow him to hold me for the rest of the journey. In his strong arms, I am no longer bouncing around all over the place. He has us securely in place, fixed to the spot.
I even drift off into a dozing half-sleep as Leo remains impassive above me - a mountain of stregth and endurance.
My saviour ....