Part Six: All In Your Head
There is a danger, the narrative knows, of this version of itself burning out. Anger is second nature to this hero, and it is possible that eventually he will be driven to act in a way that ends in his demise. Violent or accidental death is almost as common to this narrative as the intended resolution. Even worse, there could be a transformation into something tepid and banal, the hero losing his spark and resigning himself to a life of unwilling servitude because the plot devices binding him that he’s meant to overcome are too abstract. It wouldn’t be the first time the story has plodded along for decades until the main character dies of natural causes or has the dignity to kill him or herself.
What the story needs is a way to jumpstart this hero into action. Occasionally the narrative has allowed a moment of not strictly scripted peripeteia to appear in the mix, and this might be just the place for such a thing. The backstory is already there, the setting is practically perfect, and if there are flaws in the eventual characterization, well, those can be modified on the fly to suit the hero’s expectations. It should be interesting, no matter what the result is.
The story changes a picture, and watches what happens next.
The rider has stopped a little ways from the front door, and the girls have gone out to meet him. Asher hangs back in the shadows of the doorway and waits to see what happens. As it turns out, it’s a good thing he does, although it takes some serious self-control not to laugh out loud at them at first.
Asher has never seen a transformation quite like the one his stepsisters go through once they’re outside receiving the horseman, and he’s seen some fuckin’ doozies. He’s been with men who go from burly alphas to teary-eyed pussies as soon as they come in his mouth, he’s gone at it hot and heavy with guys in dirty bathrooms who delight in a stranger’s gaze but squeal and shrivel as soon as the boy they’re cheating on walks in. He’s seen his own father go from apathetically drunk to furiously drunk in seconds, but these girls…they’re something else.
They’ve gone from bile spewing bitches to ass kissing socialites in the space of a few short yards. Asher half expects their lips to be covered with sugar, their tones are so sweet and suggestive. The rider they’re accosting is wearing a blue and red velvet costume, complete with feathered hat. It looks kind of ridiculous, but is probably the in look for all rich douchebags. He has full lips and black hair, and his nose is so long and straight you could use it as a hole punch. Whoever this guy is he’s no servant, but he’s not the prince either, which is clear from the pretty pout on Envy’s face as she sidles near the horse, trailing a finger along the stirrup as she looks up at the man.
“Will you not dismount, my lord?” she asks coyly. “Rest your horse and share the latest news from court with us?”
“We long to know of the Dauphin’s travels,” Pinky adds, “and you, as his intimate, could surely satisfy our deepest curiosities.”
Envy casts a glare at her sister that clearly screams “Dial it back, ho bag.” The rider doesn’t give her a chance to mitigate the comment’s impact, though. In fact, he lets the clue bus roll right by him as he reaches into a saddlebag. If anything he looks annoyed, hot and tired, which Asher probably would be too if he had to gallop all over the place and talk to bored, horny women desperate for gossip.
“The prince is hosting a ball in one week’s time,” he says briskly as he hands over a thick envelope circled with a ribbon to Envy. “All the eligible youths of this household are invited to attend.”
“How delightful,” Envy smiles. “Please thank his highness on our behalf for this gracious and personal invitation. My sister and I shall certainly attend.”
The rider looks confused for a moment. “Isn’t there another of you here? A boy? A man, I suppose at this point, the son of the landowner…what is his name?”
“We shall convey the invitation,” Envy says coolly, stepping back in a way that clearly indicates that the conversation is over. “Good day, my lord.”
The man inclines his head, just enough to make it look like he’s staring down his long nose at them instead of bowing. “Ladies.” He turns his horse and rides back down the gravel path at top speed. Asher watches him go and wishes desperately that he was behind him on that horse, leaving this place behind. He can’t leave the boundaries of the manor house and its nearest lands on his own two feet; he’s tried several times, late at night when no one is around to watch him bounce off an invisible barrier and scream his frustration into the darkness.
Speaking of screaming…it’s all out war as the girls fight for control of the letter.
“Give it to me!”
There’s groping and twisting and even some scratching, which just gets a roar of rage and similar treatment in turn before Envy regains dominance over the envelope. She tears the ribbon off and opens the invitation, Pinky hovering at her shoulder, and they read it together as they reenter the house. Asher backs into a hallway to prevent them from noticing him, but at this point he doesn’t think anything short of a bomb is gonna rock their boat.
“The paper smells of lilacs,” Pinky gushes as they head up the stairs.
“The edges are lined with gold,” Envy sighs. They disappear around a corner and Asher feels safe enough to reemerge, a little bemused but also interested. A ball, and one that he’s technically invited to. It’s a chance to get away from here, and that means he’s got to take it, however he can. For a second he smiles, remembering Cassie and her desperate desire to go to a ball.
He’s about to head back to the kitchen before the sight of the ribbon just lying there on the ground distracts him. The ribbon is bright blue, almost electric blue, and it looks weird against the dull gravel. Asher goes to it and picks it up. One end flutters in the air like a butterfly; the other one is weighed down by a wax seal. Asher turns it over to look a little closer and—
It’s Ty. It’s a profile, kind of simple, but that nose, that chin, that stupid shaggy hair…it’s definitely Ty. Every emotion Asher’s boxed up so well lately sort of splinters and seeps into his chest, and he has to sit down for a second, hunched against the wall of the manor house and hoping that no one comes out to see him like this. He stares at the circle of wax, so casually tossed aside, and feels his throat start to close up. Damn it…what the fuck?
Does this mean that Ty is here too, trapped in this freaky reality? Did he come looking for Asher and get sucked in? Is it just an imitation Ty, something pulled out of his mind? Is Asher even seeing this right, or is he really out of his mind and conjuring things up to make himself feel better? Cause if he is, he’s doing a suck ass job of it.
Does this make Ty a prince? The prince? Asher raises his face and shuts his eyes, taking a second, just one second, to get himself back under control. When he looks down again, the mouse is nibbling on the edge of the wax.
“No, damn it!” Ty taps the rodent sharply on the head and gets a bite himself for his trouble. “Bad mouse, shit…” He makes to put his bleeding fingertip in his mouth, then remembers it was a mouse that bit into it. Can’t they give you the plague or hantavirus or something? He doesn’t even bother swearing again, just sighs and presses his bloody finger against his tunic and resolves to get his passenger some food so he won’t eat Ty’s face off.
If Ty is the prince, then there’s no two ways about it. Asher absolutely has to be at this ball. Not just because it’s Ty and he needs to see him like he needs to breathe, but also because there’s no way he’s leaving Ty to the nonexistent mercies of his stepsisters. Not happening. Ty is way too nice to women, too much of a fucking gentleman to tell them to back off, and it’s burned him before. It’s not that there are no nice girls out there, it’s just that the ones that tend to be attracted to tall, cute, gangling Ty are complete bitches who expect their every whim to be catered to. Ty doesn’t need that kind of bullshit. Asher’s run interference before, and he’s more than ready to do it again.
Asher knew that when Ty got accepted to college, when he started working at the library, that things between them were going to change. Ty wasn’t going to be hooking anymore; he was done with the streets. He was going to settle into a normal life, get a degree and a girl and develop some good habits, better than the ones than involved coffee and NoDoz and the occasional Ritalin. It was no shock to Asher that Ty was attracted to girls; they talked about it all the time, rating the women who worked their part of the neighborhood and groaning about the lack of pussy in their lives. Not that Asher really cared; he preferred guys, but he had slept with a few women and it had been nice, not anything special but nice.
But Ty…Ty loved women. He wanted them. He got all tongue-tied and stuttery around them, even the prostitutes, girls who would probably have given him a freebie if he’d managed to ask, but he couldn’t. He was cute and shy and easily besotted, and for two years he didn’t date a single girl. Asher, selfish jerk that he was, liked that. Then came college, and college girls.
The first time Asher realized it was going to be an issue was when he went to pick Ty up after his first day of classes. Asher had still had his bike back then, and plenty of college girls, all California tan and long blonde hair, had given him the “come hither” look as he parked in the lot next to the library. He had basically ignored them, which he knew just made it worse, and went to look for Ty.
He saw him standing by a coffee cart in the commons area—it was hard to miss such a freakishly tall kid—and headed his way. Halfway across the commons Asher stopped in his tracks, staring dumbly over at Ty, who it turned out wasn’t alone. He was talking to a girl about a foot shorter than him, a redhead with curls and denim cut-offs that barely covered her curves. She was twirling hair around one finger and laughing, and Asher watched in silence as Ty paid for their frou-frou lattes and they sat down on a bench together. Asher could make out the word “algebra,” followed by a giggle and an “omigod, it’s so hard!” He watched Ty nod like a puppet, eyes devouring every jiggle, every twist of that coil of hair. Asher spun on his heel and went to wait on the bike.
That night Ty asked Asher if it would be all right if he had a study group over at the apartment. All the real reasons Asher hated the idea poured through his mind and strained against his throat, things like, “I don’t want to make the difference between myself and your shiny new friends any more obvious ,” and “If I have to watch you and some chick eye-fuck each other all night, I’ll probably kill myself.” Instead he said, “I don’t think it’s a great idea for you, man. Not unless you want them to know you’re living with a prostitute.”
Ty’s face went kind of soft and wounded. “I’m not ashamed of you,” he said staunchly.
“Sure you’re not,” Asher agreed. “But what if I come in all bruised up or covered with cum? You really want your study group to see that? Cause that doesn’t sound like the best way to fit in.”
Ty was quiet for a long moment. “Okay,” he said finally, and turned back to his books.
And Asher knew this was the beginning, the moment when Ty would start to pull away, when he’d really start to divorce himself from this world and leave it, and Asher, behind. Asher wasn’t going to let that happen, not yet—the kid wasn’t ready to be on his own yet, but if Asher didn’t do something to reassure him then things would get weird. So that night after Ty was asleep, Asher didn’t go out, and he didn’t go to his own bed either. Instead he got naked, prepped himself, pulled back the sheet that covered Ty’s rangy body and crouched over his groin. His penis was flaccid, soft and relaxed and beautiful, and Asher leaned over and breathed against it, just breathed, the faintest stroke of air on the tender skin. Ty shifted and sighed, and Asher grinned and did it again. His breath was warm and the air was cool, and slowly Ty’s cock began to plump up. Once it was half-hard he sucked the end into his mouth, keeping his pressure so, so gentle. Ty needed careful handling; he needed a slow start to really enjoy himself. Asher knew what he liked, and he’d show him that. He would show Ty that no one else would be able to make him feel as good as Asher could.
Ty woke up with a start, but just as quickly settled back with a low moan and cupped the sides of Asher’s head, holding him gently. “Ash…”
Asher pulled back from his cock with a soft “pop.” “I want you to fuck me,” he said, his voice deep and kind of growly. He knew how much Ty liked the sound of his voice when they were together like this, how much he liked the direction. When Ty worked the street he had always kept total control, no matter what the john was willing to pay, but when he was with Asher he could let go.
“Ash, c’mere,” he said, pulling at him until Asher left his cock and straddled his chest instead. He was half-expecting Ty to blow him, but instead those big, long fingers reached around and pressed against his hole. Asher pressed back and they slipped smoothly inside of him.
“Oh, fuck,” Ty breathed. Asher had to smile. He rocked on Ty’s hand, breath hitching a little when a third finger joined the other two, but he could take it. He wanted it, wanted Ty in him, wanted this connection. Wanted Ty to remember that he knew what Asher liked just as well as Asher knew him, and all he wanted was all of Ty to himself, for as long as he could have it. Jealous? Hell yes, he was jealous. That didn’t mean he wasn’t right.
Asher pulled away and grabbed the condom he’d brought in with him, rolled it quickly over Ty’s now very awake and interested dick, drizzled some lube across the top and then reached down, settled against the head and slowly impaled himself. Ty held Asher’s hips and bent his own knees to offer support, and after a second of getting used to the fucking baseball bat that was inside of him, Asher started to move. Their rhythm was intense without being frantic. Both of them were breathing hard but they stayed quiet, and once Asher had Ty’s gaze he held it. He couldn’t tell Ty what he felt, that would be like a betrayal of everything he’d ever done for his friend, but he could show it in his eyes.
This is where you belong. This is where you’ll be happy. Stay. Stay. Stay.
Ty’s grip tightened and he fucked Asher a little faster, pressing in as deep as he could get on every thrust. He was sweating soon, panting, his abs tightening and relaxing and making shapes that Asher just had to taste. So he did, bending himself in two and licking a line up Ty’s torso. Ty got his arms under Asher’s shoulders and held him close and started to fuck him harder, hard enough that Ty knew the sound of the bed would wake up their neighbors, hard enough that he could breathe in Ty’s own breaths. It would be so simple to close that distance between them, to kiss him, but he hadn’t done that since their first time, and he wouldn’t. It would mean too much, and even though he was jealous, he wasn’t cruel. He wouldn’t do that to Ty.
The rub of Ty’s abs against Asher’s trapped cock made him groan, and all it took was a single tight stroke of his own hand to make him erupt, hot and slick all over their chests. Ty followed fast, finally closing his eyes as his orgasm took over. They stayed joined for a long time, dirty and smelly and totally blissed out. When Asher finally rolled away, it was Ty who cleaned them off, and before he could go back to his own bed Ty had grabbed him around the waist, pulled him in close and promptly fallen asleep on his shoulder. They didn’t usually sleep together, not even when they had sex, but Asher went with it.
The next morning Ty woke up first and made them pancakes. He never mentioned a study group again.