Twisted and Tied Up
New Year’s Eve
Linus Twist is flying. The biting wind is the cigarette at the corner of his mouth. The frigid ocean is the roar of his blood. His ankles crook around the balusters of the hotel balcony, hands gripping iron tight. He perches on the railing, high above the Southern California Pacific.
Linus thinks, just for a moment, if he would relax his ankles and let his stomach ease, maybe then he could just be.
But be what?
He’s always trying to be something. In one way, he’s achieved quite a bit, chasing that siren. In another, the chase renders any satisfaction elusive.
In just a few weeks Linus will be 30 years old. It’s something he’s not trying to be at all, but there it is anyway.
And yet, the idea of falling off the balcony is far less appealing. So Linus tenses his ankles and his core until his muscles vibrate from the effort. Hoping that the wind doesn’t change directions, he sits straight up. One finger at a time, Linus lets go of his death grip on the handrail. He holds his breath and raises first one trembling arm, then the other.
His stomach tries to switch places with his heart and just like that, Linus Twist is flitting, floating, fleeing. The ocean below is roaring, reaching, responding. And the stars.
Oh God, the fucking stars.
“Christ on a cracker.”
Linus puts his hands back on the railing and relaxes his spine. The dangling cigarette scatters hot ash on his bare shoulder.
It’s just one word, but Linus can hear generations of Eton and Oxford in it. Afternoon tea on the estate lawn. An inverse to Linus’s shuddery Irish and its accompanying disregard for grammatical norms.
Maybe if Linus doesn’t respond, Bennett will go away.
Bennett seats himself on the balcony table with a grating scrape of iron on cement. He fumbles through a pack of cigarettes and sparks the lighter. Click-click, “Fuck.”
More scraping and shuffling. God, was Bennett always so bovine?
The cigarette is plucked from Linus’s mouth.
“F’r fuck’s sake, what you want?” Linus says, gulping air. Salty. Fresh. He fills his lungs with it and promises himself, no more cocaine.
“Bored?” Bennett asks, reseating himself at the table.
Maybe. Maybe he is bored. Could it be that simple?
“Old things losing their shine, perhaps?” Bennett says as he marries the cigarettes, lighting a new one in the embers of the old.
Oh. He’s referring to Linus’s sort of ex-lover who is currently tied to the hotel bed frame with a plug up his arse. Bennett must’ve passed him on the way to the balcony.
Linus shrugs, a laconic quirk of one shoulder. “He needs a stretch.”
“Isn’t his new man fucking him anymore?” Bennett asks, peeking into the hotel room. Linus can’t blame him. Izal is objectively a pretty sight.
“I’m told it’s a matter of size,” Linus says.
“Ah, quality not quantity,” Bennett says, eyes on Linus’s impressive, but quite soft, cock. Linus can’t blame him for that either.
“Perhaps,” Linus says, finally looking at his childhood friend.
Bennett looks the same as he always does. His ash-blond hair cropped tight at the sides and pushed back in a careless sweep. The fat, black diamond in his ear glints. Black t-shirt, dark jeans. Premium fabric showing off moonlit collar bones, wrists, and ankles. Keen face showing not much at all, only his eyes with their bleeding pupils, blinking too slow, as he looks at Linus’s body. As though Linus was his to enjoy.
When Bennett finally looks up, the shave of silver eyes over Linus’s face is close and meticulous. Linus is sure that gaze does not miss a single hair.
He weathers it. Tips his chin up, bares his throat to the blade.
“I do not know why you do this, why you allow that fucking prat to do this.” Crisply enunciated. Bennett’s tone is dry and cold.
Linus looks at the stars. He loosens his grip on the railing. It gets easier after the first time.
Bennett gets up again, a lot quieter this time, and puts a new cigarette between Linus’s lips.
“Cheers,” Linus says, around it.
The two sit and smoke. Linus likes Bennett when he’s quiet. It makes all of his other vacuous tendencies more palatable.
It would’ve been so simple if, two years ago, he’d chosen Bennett’s familiar brand of hostility instead of Izal’s unfamiliar one. Linus and Bennett accepted each other. The type of acceptance forged by experience. Bennett always wanted him, since before he took what was left of Linus’s virginity.
What else did one need besides desire and tolerance?
“Do you ever wonder what sin you are?” Linus asks.
“All of them,” Bennett says without a second thought.
Linus smiles; it’s only half fake. “Greed, then. So predictable.”
“Says Lust to Greed.”
‘Do you ever?’ is a game they play sometimes. A smidgen of whimsy that Linus will allow himself when he’s soused and stewed. A way to connect, to make himself less of an island in a river of confused filth.
It has multiple renditions. ‘Do you ever get so hungry all you can do is put yourself to sleep?’ ‘Do you ever just sit in your car and scream?’ ‘Do you ever wonder if love is real, and if so, how much would you be willing to pay for it?’ This version’s his favorite though: the one where they label their friends, put each in a little box with a tag and a bow.
“West’s gluttony,” Bennett says.
“She can’t ever get enough. Sex, art, whatever. Drowns in it, until she loses herself.”
“Pride,” they say in unison, deadpan.
“Envy,” Bennett finishes Linus’s sentence.
“We’re missing wrath and sloth,” Linus says.
“Time to make some new friends. I can think of one I could afford to lose posthaste,” Bennett says, his eyes flinging acid at the hotel bed and the man tied to it.
“I might be more wrath than lust,” Linus says, watching ash swirl in the wind.
“It’s circumstantial.” Bennett waves Linus away.
“No,” Linus says. Most of the time, he’s drowning in wrath—every form of it. Exasperation, outrage, general discontent. It pollutes everything, slow but sure. Lust is more of a symptom. A distraction. Even now, Linus burns, because Bennett doesn’t see him. Not the way Linus wants to be seen.
Bennett’s response is amputated by a shrill voice coming through the open balcony door. “Linus, what the fuck are you doing out there?”
Speaking of wrath.
“Fuck off, Izal,” Bennett says.
“I’m trying, Bartholomew. For fuck’s sake, I’m trying to fuck off, but-”
Bennett slides the balcony door shut and gives Al the middle finger through the glass.
“Will the ties hold him?” Bennett asks.
“F’r now,” Linus says. One intentional yank on those pretty red ribbons and Al could set himself free. Too bad Al doesn’t want to be free.
“You should consider gagging him.”
“I fucking hate him. I hate you when he’s here,” Bennett says.
Another door slides open and they both look up. That was quick. But the sound of bare feet is from Linus’s other side.
“Bennett?” says a female voice. Linus’s groan is masked by the wind.
“Hullo there, gorgeous.” Bennett smiles, and Linus thinks how much he hates Bennett when he turns it on like that.
“What are you doing out he— Oh, Linus, hi.”
Linus can feel strange, hungry eyes on his back, his arms, his arse.
He turns his head and nods at the girl standing on the adjoining balcony of the second room in Bennett’s hotel suite. She’s in a shirt that doesn’t belong to her, her nipples sharp beneath the cotton, with fake black nails sharper still. He’s grateful for the three feet that separate the balconies, and the hundreds of feet that separate them all from the churning ocean and jagged rocks below.
“What are you boys doing out here?”
“Just enjoying the view, darling,” Bennett says.
Linus rolls his eyes and the girl narrows hers.
“Can I join you?” she asks.
“I’ll be over in a jiffy, love,” Bennett says, still pleasant. Linus thinks he musnt’ve fucked her yet.
“Or...I could come over there.” She tries again, and all Linus hears is the petulance under the thin veneer of seduction.
“Only if you take the shortest route over,” Linus says. It’s the first thing he’s said to her since Bennett and Saif picked her up at the bar. Her intake of breath is a good response, he thinks.
“Jesus, Linus,” Bennett says.
“C’mon then. Get on the table. We’re a mere hop, skip away, love,” Linus says.
The calculation in the girl’s eyes is diluted by fear. But, to her credit, she straightens her shoulders and sticks out her chest. Linus isn’t surprised. A girl doesn’t go to a hotel with four strangers unless she’s got an ounce of courage alongside her pound of issues.
She climbs up on the table and tugs down her borrowed shirt. Her feet look impossibly soft and white against the black grate.
“Look at those gorgeous legs. I know you can do it,” Linus says. He might as well get pom-poms and spandex shorts.
Linus leans forward, one hand wrapped around the handrail, the other extended towards her. Trepidation. Lust. Fear. Cocaine-coated invincibility. She slips her fingers into his.
The girl wrenches her hand free from Linus’s grasp and scrambles off the table, on hands and knees. She backs away from the edge over which she was barely close enough to look.
Linus smiles at the sky and the cigarette falls out of his mouth into the sea below. He lets go of the rail. Look, Ma, no hands.
“Jesus, are you fucking suicidal?” she rages, eyes overflowing, chest heaving. For the first time, Linus finds her pretty.
“Just curious.” Linus never understood why people feared death. Pain was much scarier.
“You okay, darling?” Bennett asks, coming up to stand by Linus’s perch. Linus plucks the cigarette from Bennett’s fingers and puts it between his lips. He sucks, enjoys the expansive burn of his lungs.
“Yeah, fine.” She plops down on a chair, probably because her knees are knocking loud enough to hear over the ocean.
“Why don’t you go inside, sweet, and ask Saif to put that mouth of his to good use?”
“He’s asleep,” she squawks. The veneer’s all gone now, smashed to bits in the face of fear and embarrassment. Linus smiles at a job well done.
“He’s what?” Bennett says.
The girl makes a disgusted noise, crosses her arms, and looks off in the direction of the ocean.
“He’s been on-call, saving lives and what have you,” Linus says, blowing smoke in pretty little circles.
Bennett takes the cigarette back. “Ah, well. Doctors, what can you do? Fancy helping us out with something, then?”
Linus doesn’t like that tone. Not one bit. Bennett’s smile says he knows it. That it’s his turn to play.
“What can I help with?” The girl tilts her head to the side so her hair waterfalls down. That one move is quantitative of the multitudes wrapped around her little finger.
“My boy needs to take the edge off. He’s a...visual sort of person, and you, darling, are quite visually stimulating. Perhaps you’d be kind enough to oblige?” Bennett says.
“Like, what do you mean?” She licks her lips.
“Open your legs,” Linus says.
The girl tips her head and thinks about it for an entire two seconds. And then she props her feet on the balcony, legs wide. Linus gives her what he thinks is an approving nod, but it comes across as perfunctory. She arranges her shirt so her tits are out.
Linus is rapt. Because, of course, she’s not just doing it, but relishing in it. It’s been a while since he watched. It’s the aesthetics of the thing. The colors of it. Sharp, black, acrylic nails on a supple, hairless—
“Fuck.” Linus shudders and looks down.
Bennett’s mouth is red against the olive of Linus’s cock. The bed of his tongue pink as it snakes out to touch the tip.
“Bennett, no,” Linus says, spine going rigid as his bare feet hit the balcony floor.
Bennett gets down on his knees, gets comfortable. “C’mon, la.”
“Fuck off, Bennett, no.”
The feeling that swells through Linus is bloated compared to the delicacy with which Bennett uses his mouth.
“Shh, just a taste.” Bennett’s eyes are on the girl who’s starting to moan a few feet away.
It’s that. That deliberate lack of concern, lack of interest that slices through Linus like he’s ripened fruit. Supple and fleshy, Linus is laid open to reveal a tough, round core. But what Bennett doesn’t understand, doesn’t get about Linus, is that the flesh is rotten, and within this impenetrable, icy core is everything Linus holds dear. Locked tight, the key long lost.
With one hand on the rail, Linus buries the other, wrist deep, in Bennett’s hair. The silver of his rings is bright in all that ash blond silk.
“That’s a good boy.” Bennett lifts his head, lips parted and shiny. Just swollen. Those scalpel eyes speak of victory.
Greed slobbers, and Wrath, clothed in Lust, retaliates.
Linus shoves Bennett’s head down, thrusts his hips up. Bennett chokes.
Good. Linus wants him wrecked.
The girl moans.
The ocean crashes.
Linus thinks of his cactus garden. Of his home and what it looks like now, compared to when he’d bought it. All Linus really wants is to close his eyes and take flight.
He’ll have to settle for a stranger’s cunt and his best friend’s mouth.