Notes: Italics denote a flashback.
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Chapter Three: Twisted
"That's my name. Don't wear it out."
Rob stifled a wry chuckle. Stephan reached for the Rolling Stone again. "You picked me up," Rob said.
"What?" Stephan's hand stopped. He stared at Rob. "What?" Mild annoyance, now.
"That night, when we met. You picked me up. In the snow. You..."
"I saved you," Stephan said, still with absolute indifference.
"Yeah." Rob said reluctantly. "And now I've just..."
"Now you think we're even."
Stephan stood, stretched, never taking his eyes off Rob. Rob stared back. He set his left foot forward, braced himself for whatever might come next. Stephan smiled, a little half smile. He dropped back onto the couch, threw an arm over the side. "I guess that depends on what you think we're even for, Rob."
Rob blinked. Stopped himself from a full double-take, but Stephan caught it anyway. "Don't look so shocked, Rob."
"The snow's letting up. Why don't you show yourself out?" The words pushed through clenched teeth.
Stephan glanced at the window. If anything, the blizzard was worse, and it was dark now as well. He shrugged at Rob. "I think I'll take a raincheck on that."
Rob perched on the couch's arm, away from Stephan. He glared. Stephan ignored him. He flipped idly through the magazine.
"You'll have to sleep on the couch," Rob blurted.
Stephan didn't look up. "Who said anything about sleeping, Rob?"
"You jackass prick."
Stephan chuckled. "Worried, Robby?"
"Not about you, cocksucker."
The magazine closed. Stephan smiled patiently at him. "Oh, now, I think we both know that's not true." He reached for Rob, brushed his fingers across his knee, but Rob lunged at him, grabbed his fingers, crushing them. He knocked Stephan on his side and flattened him with his body. He pushed a hand over Stephan's throat. Stephan didn't move. He waited.
"Why are you here?" Rob demanded.
"You brought me, Rob. Maybe you should ask yourself why I'm here."
Rob shook his head. "No one comes out here. Why the fuck did you?"
Stephan snickered. "Are you saying I followed you here?"
Rob pressed on Stephan's throat. Still no movement from the other man. "Why else would you be here?"
"Don't flatter yourself, Robby." He laughed, but it was a hollow, dead sound. And his eyes-Rob dropped his hands on seeing them-the darkness had returned, like the first time he'd looked into them, only the blackness was deeper now, another decade lost in that abyss. Stephan didn't lose his chance. In a second, Rob was beneath him, and his fist was rushing down, bashing against the younger man's jaw. Rob's head bounced off the floor. Stephan grabbed him, pulled him up into his joyless embrace.
"Don't do that again, Robby," he whispered, words leaking venom.
"Get the fuck off me!"
"Not until you tell me your name."
"You could just ask, like a normal person!"
Stephan laughed. "Oh, now, where's the fun in that?" Rob struggled. Stephan laughed harder. He pressed himself down on his young victim. He held one wrist in his hand. The other was pinned beneath the boy's stomach. Rob gasped. He cursed himself for being so easy. Walking into a house he didn't know, in front of a man he didn't trust. He was just asking to be grabbed and thrown to the ground, wasn't he? Stupid little shit. You'd think he'd start figuring it out after awhile. Nope, not him. He was just getting dumber as the day went on, wasn't he? Stupid little shit. He kicked and struck air.
"Did you fuck me while I was unconscious?" he demanded.
Instantly the harsh grip disappeared as Stephan bolted off him. "I told you I wasn't a fucking rapist." His eyes flashed angrily.
"You can tell me anything you want," Rob snapped.
Stephan sat against the wall, five feet from him. "So what's your name?"
"I should make you guess it!"
Stephan stared at him unwavering. "You could."
Rob shivered under the cold gaze. "It's Rob."
Stephan stood, walked to him, stuck his hand out. "Nice to meet you, Rob."
Rob couldn't help it-he flinched. Stephan snapped his hand back to himself. "Smart boy."
Rob blinked. 'Not as smart as I should be,' he thought. 'Not smart enough to not be here with you.' "What the fuck do you want?" he snarled.
"I don't want fucking anything," Stephan snapped back. "Do you understand that?"
Rob squinted at him. He seemed unnaturally tall, looking at him from the floor. "I understand fucking." It had gotten him from Florida to here, wherever here was, one car to another, old women, young women, and the last one, a four day hussy who'd kicked him out on the interstate so he'd had to walk to the next rest stop dragging his guitar behind him. He knew the drill. 'Where to?' 'Wherever.' 'Got cash?' 'Nope.' Then they'd eye him, up and down, deem him unworthy of being a threat, and say, 'Well, maybe you could do some chores for me.' Always the quiet emphasis on chores. 'Yes, ma'am.' They loved that, even the young ones. 'Such a good boy.' 'Yes ma'am.' Then he'd slide into the front seat. Some of them wouldn't touch him until they'd stopped for the night. Then he'd be pulled into a lap and the unwhispered comment came loud and clear: 'Time to pay up, boy.' He hated these women for what they did to him, making him feel like maybe this time he wouldn't be touched. Maybe this time they really did want him to rake leaves around their house or whitewash the fence. He far preferred the others who would take his hand and put it between their legs as soon as he was in the car. He knew where he stood with these women and didn't have to waste his time on stupid things like wishful thinking. He could even fool himself into thinking that he was using them. So he'd never done it with a man before. So what? So it had never occurred to him that a guy could want him in that way. So what?
"Can't be much different with a guy."
"What?" Stephan asked.
Rob squinted at him. "What?" He rubbed his cheek.
"What can't be much different with a guy?"
Rob squirmed out of Stephan's arms. "None of your damn business."
"You said that before, after I made you tell me your name."
"None of your damn business? Good. I should have."
Stephan smiled. "No, that it can't be much different with a guy."
Rob glared. "You remember everything I've said?"
Stephan grinned. "Maybe."
"Funny how you can remember all that but you can't remember meeting me." He threw the magazine at him.
Stephan groaned. "Oh, not that again!"
"What else is there, Stephan? Tell me that!"
"What would you have me say, Rob? 'Yes, I know him--I know all about him.' He spat the words, challenging Rob with them. Rob leapt to his feet. His foot twitched. Ready to pounce. 'Just say it Stephan, c'mon, I dare you.' He willed Stephan to make him lose control. Already so close to the edge, he just needed a little something more. A word, a look, anything to make breaking his hand on Stephan's face seem worthwhile. Stephan blinked at him. Then he looked away. Backing down? Rob relaxed a little. Stephan swung back to him.
"You dropped your guard, Rob."
Rob reddened. "Wouldn't want to do that around you, would we Stephan?" he snapped.
"I was just teasing, Rob," Stephan said flatly.
Rob glared at him. "Don't fool yourself into thinking you can make things better, Stephan."
"What 'things' are you referring to, Robby?" he asked sweetly.
Rob glared. "Take your damn hat off," he whispered hollowly. "You've been here two hours."
"Forty-five minutes," Stephan corrected. He didn't touch his hat.
"Is that all?" Rob asked. He spoke almost to himself. Stephan didn't say anything. "Time certainly doesn't fly when you're here, Stephan."
Stephan grinned. "Funny, I was thinking the same about you."
"Take the damn hat off."
Stephan stood swiftly. In two powerful steps he was touching Rob, breathing onto him. Rob stepped into him, challenging him. "No," Stephan said.
Rob snatched it from his head. In one motion he threw it into the fireplace. The fire cracked and swallowed it. Stephan stared at him in disbelief bordering on admiration. Rob simply glared. "That was my favorite, hat, Robby."
"I could give a fuck, Stephan."
Stephan's eyebrows went up at this. "And you might, Rob. You might," he said coolly.
"Step back, Stephan," Rob said, just as calmly. Stephan smiled a little. He should, he was winning. Like always. Rob glared, tried to keep himself from shaking. Remind himself that he wasn't seventeen anymore. Too hard, having Stephan in front of him now, after all this time of trying to forget, and now here he is, breathing down his neck, he couldn't do this. Not now. Not when he'd tried so hard to never think of him again. The same hand that tore the hat off swung now, curled into a fist this time, and knocked the grin off Stephan's face. For half a second Stephan looked stunned, then he fell. His body landed a centimeter from the stone ledge of the fireplace. His legs twisted over each other. He laid there, eyes closed. Rob stood over him, fist still clenched.
"Who's winning, now, asshole?" He stretched his fingers. They cracked. He grimaced and pulled his bruised hand to his chest. His eyes cast over to the guitar. It had gone untouched this week. Now he wouldn't be able to play for at least another week. Rob almost laughed at the irony. He was the one standing after all, but he was a fool to think anything more. Stephan had known what he was doing, what he would do. He'd always known. Rob knelt next to him, still cradling his hand. "Who's winning, Stephan?" he asked quietly. "It's you. Always you." His voice was tinged in sadness. And he hated himself, more than he ever had before.
End of Chapter Three
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