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Day's End: Masks

Title: Masks
Series: Day's End
Characters: Ken/Jess; Wes
Wes written by PJ

Wes stomped into the shop, not quite slamming the door.  Ken looked up from his desk and took in the frustration the young supervisor's body language revealed as he stormed across the room toward the office.  Seeing Ken's eyes on him, Wes slowed his paced.  He paused at the door, took a couple of deep breath, then entered the office.

Ken stood up, rounded the desk, and leaned against it waiting for Wes to tell him what the problem was.  He was a patient man and gave the young man time to get his thoughts under control.

His patience was rewarded when Wes finally spoke.  "It's probably not my place to ask this, Ken, but are you and Jess having problems?" he carefully asked.

The big man stood straight.  "Why, Bud, what happened?" Ken demanded.

"OH, nothing.  Well nothing if you liked to be snapped at every time you say or do something," Wes snarled.

"Wes, calm down and tell me what happened."

"Sorry," The younger man apologized.  He flopped down in the chair Ken pointed to, "I don't know what happened, Ken.  Jess was in a foul mood from the time I got there with the cabinets until I left.  Hell, he's probably still at it.  His employees were staying away from him." Wes chuckled, "A couple of the guys even told me good luck when I first got there."

"Did he happen to say what was bothering him?"

"No, but if you ask me I'd have to say he's begging to have his ass pounded and not in a good way," Wes blurted out.  Then turned bright red when he realized what he said.  "OH crap Ken, I...I didn't mean to say that," he stammered.

Ken looked thoughtfully at the embarrassed young man across from him.  "No, it's ok, Bud, I'm glad you told me.  Brixton came to us in the middle of the night, just when I think Jess needed something.  I haven't had much time to give Jess what he needs since then," Ken explained.

Both men were silent until Wes offered, "Why don't you let me take Brixton for the afternoon so you and Jess can have some time?"

"That a great idea, Bud, but are you sure you want a teen hanging around?"  Ken asked.

Wes laughed, "You do remember Kev, don't ya?  Brix can't be any worse than Kev.  And I was a teenage boy once too, ya know."

Ken laughed too, "OK, you got yourself a deal.  Can you pick him up about 3:30?"

"Can you call the kid's school and let them know I'll be picking him up?"

Pulling out his phone, Ken replied, "I'll send him a text.  Pick him up at the corner of Maple and Crescent Dr. Brix doesn't want anyone seeing him get into an old, dirty truck.  Bad for the image, you know?"

"Hey, my truck's not old!" Wes defended his pride and joy.

Chuckling, Ken countered, "But it IS dirty!"

"Yeah, you live up in the hills on a dirt road, your truck's gonna get dirty." And with that exclamation, Wes walked out into the shop.

Ken sent Brixton a text telling him he had some things he needed to do, so Wes would be picking him up.  Taking a deep breath, Ken steeled himself as he sent another text; this one to Jess.

"Clear your afternoon.  Home by 3."  He didn't have to wait long before a response was sent back.

"Why.  I'm on a deadline."

Ken scoffed to himself.  The deadline that Jess was referring to was not for weeks. And Jess himself had commented that they were well ahead of schedule.  Ken wasn't going to debate through text messaging, he preferred face to face interaction.

"Home by 3. No arguments."

Ken waited and when there was no response from Jess, he knew his boy would be at home by the stated time.  Now, he needed to clear his schedule.  He wasn't as far ahead as Jess was, so he'd have to do some creative rearranging to get this time off.

Ken knew he was running a few minutes late when he pulled up to the house. He was frustrated that it was a quarter after three, but then he smiled when he saw Jess's truck in the driveway  He'd hoped to be home before Jess, but it took him a little longer than he'd thought to get things settled at the shop.  He let his truck door shut with a louder than usual slam.  Although Ken was fairly sure that Jess had been pacing impatiently in front of the living room windows, looking for Ken to pull up, he didn't want to sneak up on him.

Walking inside, Jess met him with an irritable scowl.  "You tell me to be home by 3, yet you come strolling in whenever you frickin want to? What's so friggin important that I had to be home by 3!"

"We didn't finish our conversation the other night," Ken replied casually.  He turned and walked into the kitchen to keep Jess from seeing the smile on his face when Jess gaped at him.

Jess stormed into the kitchen, close on Ken's heels.  "What!!  You text me to come home, I leave the job site, so we can finish our conversation?  Are you outta your fuckin' mind?"

With Jess's comment, all trace of humor left Ken. "No, but obviously you are.  When has it ever been appropriate to yell at your dom?  Or yell at the men who are working with you?"

Ken watched as the color creeped into Jess's face.  When Jess started to lower his face, Ken opened his mouth to tell him to keep looking at him, but old lessons had been understood when Jess lifted his face on his own.

"I'd like to go get the paddle," Jess said in a steady voice.

Ken gave a nod of consent.  In the early days of their relationship, Jess had said the same thing.  Ken had come to understand that this was Jess's way of admitting his need and acceptance of his own submission. Discipline would be met out in the kitchen and once all guilt and tension had been turned into something else, then they would go to their bedroom to relieve a different kind of tension.

Jess came back into the kitchen with their paddle held out to Ken.  You know what you need, don't you, my boy, Ken thought.  Out loud, he said, "Why are we here?"

"Cause I need my ass spanked from time to time," Jess said.

Ken looked hard at Jess, but couldn't detect any signs that Jess was being a smart ass.  This was just Jess being as honest as he knew how.  "There is that, but why are we doing this here in the kitchen and not in the bedroom or playroom."

"Because this isn't play.  I fucked up today with Wes," Jess interrupted himself, "I assume you know what happened this morning with Wes."

"I know you were an ass to him." Ken wasn't going to embarrass Jess by telling him that Wes had suggested Jess might need something.

"Yeah, I was.  I knew it as I was yelling at him; I just couldn't seem to stop myself," Jess admitted.

"And that's what the paddle is for-to help stop you before it gets any worse," Ken said.  "Go ahead and strip off your jeans."  Ken waited and watched as Jess took his work-boots off first.  Then off came his pants which he folded and placed on a chair.  "Shorts too," Ken said when Jess stood awkwardly in front of him.

As Jess slipped off his boxers, Ken thought of how differently Jess stood when he was facing discipline as opposed to play time.  When Ken was using his hand or a paddle to bring sexual heat to Jess's ass, his boy stood proud.  But when it was discipline, Jess's shoulders weren't quite so broad, his chest not puffed out.  He stood accepting yet not ashamed of his need.

"Lean on over the table.  Make yourself as comfortable as you can, this isn't going to be a quick one," Ken instructed.

Jess turned with a startled look on his face. "What about Brixton?  When'll he be home?"

"Wes has him for the afternoon. He'll bring him home when I call him," Ken reassured Jess.  He put a calming hand on Jess's back, when his boy laid his chest on their table.  "We were interrupted before we could get to the root of the problem the other night.  I'm not going to make the same mistake tonight."

Ken brought the paddle down without further delay.  He winced a little in sympathy when Jess rose to his toes, hissing out a breath of pain.  When it was play, Ken took pleasure in handling Jess, but this wasn't in play.  He laid down a couple more swats with the paddle.

"Being an ass to your employees is wrong.  Being an ass to one of my employees is unacceptable," Ken said as he swatted the reddening backside a few more times.  "I'll always demand respect for my employees and you should demand it of yourself."

Ken brought the paddle down again and again bringing the total to an even dozen.  He set the paddle down on the table, beside Jess's head.  With a heavy hand, Ken stroked Jess's back.  The hard, uneven breathing that came from the man across the table, was a sign that he'd taken all he could.

Jess turned his head and looked at Ken.  "Ow."

"Yeah.  And I'll do it again if we need to," Ken said.  "Come on, let's head back to the bedroom.  I'm not done with you yet."  Ken gave Jess an exaggerated leer.

An hour later, Ken kept one arm securely around Jess, who was lying face down across his chest, as he reached down from the bed.  Groping around until he found his phone, Ken held it up and looked at the time.

"I'm gonna have to call Wes soon," he said, but made no move to actually call.

"I don't know how to act around him," Jess said softly.

Ken didn't ask who Jess was talking about, he knew it was Brixton.  "You don't act, Jess. Just be you."

"He's not like Kevin at all.  Even though, Kevin is straight, I knew how to act around him.  I knew what he needed.  This kid has it all; he comes from a different world than we do.  He's so different than the kids you work with," Jess said talking about the teens that he and Ken mentored.

"No, he's not.  And Jess, he's just like you-" Ken was interrupted when Jess snorted and pushed himself up to look at him.

"We're totally different!  Shit!  If I'd had the confidence that Brix has, high school would've been totally different!"

"Jess, you're seeing what he wants you to see. He's wearing a mask.  Just like you do.  Except your mask is that of an insufferable bastard.  His mask is that confidence.  He's just as mixed up as any kid," Ken said.

When Jess flopped down beside him, Ken continued. "We all wear masks at sometime or another.  With any luck, we find the place where we can take it off and just be who we are.  Brixton hasn't found that place yet."

Ken lay quietly as he watched Jess process that.  Finally, Jess turned to him and met his eyes. "You think that here is that place?"

With a sad smile, Ken said, "No, Jess, I don't.  Ms. Lindy called me earlier and it looks like Brix will be going home tomorrow or the next day."

"HIs dad's all of a sudden ok with him being queer?" Jess asked in disbelief.

"No.  That's not the point of reunited a family.  As long as the kid's not in imminent danger, they usually put them back in the home as soon as possible."

"That's bullshit!"

Sitting up, Ken agreed.  "Yeah. I think so too, but that's family services policy.  As foster parents we agreed to that."

"But I thought that parents had to go to like, parenting classes or something like that," Jess grumbled as he got up.

Ken watched as Jess yanked a pair of jeans out of the dresser.  He winced as the rough jeans pulled over the still red ass.

"There was no sign of physical abuse.  Brixton is fed and for all appearances well cared for," Ken tried to explain.

"So he just goes back?  And gets even more fucked up?" Jess demanded furiously.

"Jess, I don't like it any more than you do, but our hands are tied.  We'll talk to him, tell him he can call us or come to us anytime he needs to."

"Well, I don't like it!"

Ken got out of bed, walked over to his angry lover, and put his hands on his shoulders. "I don't like it either.  But we'll play our parts, do what we have to and trust that Ms. Lindy knows what she's doing."

When Jess reluctantly nodded his agreement, Ken turned to get dressed.  Just as he was pulling on his jeans, he heard Jess.

"Hey Wes, it's me.  Have you all eaten yet?  Good.  No, no, don't fed him.  Yeah, I think we'll take him out for pizza or something." Jess was talking into his cell phone.

Ken pulled on his shirt and smiled when he heard Jess say, "Oh. And Wes?  Thanks for today. Ok, we'll be there to get him in a few."

When Jess ended the phone call, Ken said, "Beneath that mask you wear, you're a good man, Jess."

Part 5: All You Can

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