I don’t know where the nickname came from.
It might have been from that one girl, that one night with a few too many beers in me, already stumbling as I walked. I was waiting on our drinks, and the girl at the bar leaned over to me and told me she thought my friend was pretty. Got a real laugh outta me, lemme tell you.
I moseyed over to where Tyler was collapsed in a booth at the back of the bar. I slid in beside him and swatted his knee to make room. “The girl at the bar said you were pretty.”
Tyler’s smirk lit the room. “Oh yeah?”
I nodded and chugged back half my beer.
“Whaddyou tell her?”
I wiped my mouth on the back of my sleeve. “That you were taken.”
I didn’t mean to put heat in the words, but it was there, and Tyler felt it. He raised an eyebrow and chuckled. “Izzat’ so?”
“By that girl you’re fuckin’, a’course.” I corrected.
Tyler licked over his lips and threw his head back. He then made his way into a sitting position to down his own beer. He finished off mine as well.
I hadn’t thought about it again. Really.
Even when he came downstairs in the morning. When he jut his throat out for me to tie the tie nice and snug around it. Looking all polished up and clean.
Even those nights the rain seeped into the house, and I wandered down to cut the breaker. Even as I climbed the steps back to him, leaning against the table with his chin in his hand, that stupid fluffy robe on and his hair all fucked up. Even though he looked so soft and sleepy, standing there waiting for me, floor damp under his feet so I wouldn’t be alone in the dark house.
Even as I whispered for him to go to bed. Even as he nodded for me to go first.
Never did I think to tell him he was pretty.
It wasn’t until he was beaten, bloodied, covered in sweat. It wasn’t until he walked up to me, spitting blood and smiling like a freak, that I offered a hand and whispered: “hey pretty boy.”
The hand went to the fresh red on his cheek, and Tyler’s response was to bare his teeth in a grin, and turn his head to lick at my palm.
And then he walked right by me. Heading for a bottle of water and a towel. I didn’t see him again until we closed up and walked home. All was well.
Days came and went. Every morning the same. I tied his tie, I drank his shit coffee, I shut the door hard behind him as we left.
But every night was different. If it was cold, I would wake to him curled in bed behind me. If it was hot, I could find him sprawled naked on the cool bathroom tiles.
But every morning the same. I got used to the feeling of my hands around his throat.
We’d go for dinner. He’d always talk for me. Order my food and my beer. I could be lazy and slump over the table, my head pounding after another excruciating day at the office. I wouldn’t have had to do anything but chew if I asked for it. But I fed myself, and always felt burden free after.
And he’d fight. Every night. He almost always won. And I almost always congratulated him with a pat on the cheek, and a soft hello, tied along with his favourite thing to be called.
He always looked prettiest then. Full of raw power and energy. I could feel it rushing off him. He’d thank me with some kind of touch, too. At first, a paw at my back, and then, a rough press of his mouth to my cheek
And as I ridded myself of my own shirt and shoes, and dove into the ring with some kid who already had a bruise on his shoulder, I relished in my own power.
I’d take him home. Wash him up and put him to bed when he’d had too many. Swat at his hands when he’d try to drag me into another night spent in his arms. That was a different kind of power. One too raw. Too... something... That I didn’t want to mix with.
And he never brought it up. Maybe because of the first and second rule. Maybe because he wanted me to bring it up first. But he knew, if he came to me after his fight, I’d tell him he was pretty, and he’d get to press a bloody kiss to my bare shoulder, or against my throat. And no one would be the wiser.
But one night, I dabbed ointment on his cheek while he sat on the tub in the bathroom. I stood over him, filtering through the first aid kit to find the right size bandage. His arms would be wrapped around my middle. (Of course, only because I told him to do so, as I would pour alcohol on his cuts. “Hold onto me,” I’d say, and the pain would be much more manageable.) He’d usually pat me on the back and dash out of the room to find something else to do. But today he sat, and held onto me, long after the bandage had been placed, and the kit tucked away.
Soon he had put his face into my stomach, holding me close with his palms flat against my lower back, curving me into him. I had rubbed over his shoulders, let him have his moment.
Then he looked up at me, with those beautiful eyes of his, and I could feel more than see his blush on the heat against my tee shirt. I brushed a hand through his hair, curious.
“Will you say it?” He asks me, and at first I really don’t know what he’s talking about. I tip my head.
“C’mon, man.” He sighs, looking off. “Don’t make me ask.”
I clued in, and didn’t want to push him in this strange time of vulnerability. “You want me to say what I say in the ring?”
Tyler looked back to me. He nodded.
I sigh somewhat dreamily, and run my hands over his temples, brushing the hair down to his ears. “You want me to tell you how pretty you look?”
Tyler’s eyes close in relief.
I continue to brush over his hair, thumbing the side of his face. “My pretty boy.” I coo. “You didn’t even know until I told you, did you?”
He doesn’t say anything. Barely even moves.
“You didn’t even know how pretty you are. But you know now, don’t you sweetheart?”
Tyler is purring my touch. Putty in my hands. I never thought I’d ever see this man surrender.
“Don’t you baby?”
I keep piling the pet names on until Tyler nods between my palms, mouth open and lax, eyes fluttering.
“Yeah.” I whisper, drawing my hands down to his neck. “Such a good boy.”
And as soon as I kissed him, I knew it was okay. If it wasn’t, he would have punched me right out. But it was okay. Okay for me to curl my fingers into his hair and pull his head as I slipped down into his lap, his balance wobbling against the tub, which could break clean from the wall any day now.
He smirked against me, his hands pawing at my back. And maybe I was just fuelling his ego-fire, but in my eyes, I had successfully brought the man down to my level, and all it took was a couple of words.