Leave it to Ken to blow the whole fucking world wide open on the national news.
(Leave it to Ken to blow the whole fucking world wide open on his family’s TV channel, on his dad’s network, and Stewy doesn’t know if that gets him hard or nauseous. Maybe a little of both.)
“Can you pick me up,” says Ken’s voice, down the other end of the phone, and it’s just like Ken, this stupid shit that he needs to be rescued from, the manipulative assholery of it, knowing that he’s the only call in the world that Stewy will always pick up no matter what, knowing that when he says jump Stewy will definitely ask how high but he’ll still fucking do it anyway.
“Drop me your location,” Stewy says, and when he hangs up in the middle of Ken talking the pettiness of it doesn’t even feel good.
He tells his PA to cancel everything in his diary for at least a week and picks out the keys to the fastest car he owns. He doesn’t even think about saying no. That’s true— something, Stewy guesses. Wanting to twist the knife and still doing it but not hard enough to really hurt.
Stewy picks him up from some shithole in the middle of nowhere, and he’s waiting in a roadside diner like the lot lizard nobody wanted to fuck.
“You stupid fucking cunt,” he says, the second he sees Ken, and with real feeling. People turn to stare. He probably shouldn’t be using four letter words in front of an all-white audience in some tiny town in red state Midwest, but what’s he gonna do, start caring about what people in flyover states think?
“Shut the fuck up,” Ken hisses, because of course he isn’t grateful, would never even occur to him that there’s even something here to be grateful over.
“Why didn’t you have the balls for this earlier,” Stewy says, and it’s not a question.
Ken heaves a sigh that sounds physically painful, and his hands are shaking on his still-full coffee cup.
“Fuck, dude. I don’t think I have the balls for it now.”
“Can’t believe you made me drive to fucking Ohio,” says Stewy, and Ken puts his head in his hands and laughs.
“Of course that’s what you’re mad about, fuck.”
“I’m here with your golden ticket, Ken. One time offer. Get in my car and I’ll drive you anywhere you want to go, as long as it’s to somewhere I can order wine at a bar without being called a fag—”
“Yeah, let’s go,” says Ken, cutting him off, because that word has always made him really fucking squirrely, and Stewy might have known that this whole time. Might have known exactly what he was doing and exactly how to get his Roy’s idiot ass in a car and away from all these prying eyes.
“Road trip, then. Like college except without shitty drugs and lying to my dad that I don’t like dick.”
Stewy said that just a little too loud, smiles his wolf’s grin at the disgusted waitress behind the bar, puts his hand in the small of Ken’s back and doesn’t blink, not even once.
Ken has to be this— this anointed heir, the chosen one, the guy with the redemption arc played out as visibly as possible. He doesn’t have to be moral but he has to perform morality, perfectly in line with the values of his shuddering behemoth that sells the conservative American public — so, the American public — viagra and stairmasters and an unending diet of fear. Stewy can’t, literally, at all, think of anything worse.
Stewy holds the open the dirty door of this shitty, shitty diner where all — Ken’s — dreams go to die, says, “After you, slick.”
“Anywhere you wanna go,” Stewy says, and Ken looks out the window like he’s never seen the sky before.
“There’s nowhere left I wanna go,” he says, and his head thunks against the window hard enough to hurt.
He’s got that dead-eyed logged-off thing going on again, face sunken and waxy as a corpse. Stewy would still fuck him. Stewy would fuck him if it guaranteed him a bullet in the brain right after. Stewy would fuck him on the hood, right now, in front of the dumbshit American public and their dumbshit American god and their dumbshit American moral majority and wouldn’t even care about how much he’d have to bribe the sheriff to save them from a night in the cells. Stewy wanting to fuck Kendall Roy is maybe the only constant his life has ever had, for all the good it’s ever done him.
“Then I’ll drive until we find it or we expire from how fucking boring cornfields are, how about that?” says Stewy, and starts the engine. When it roars to life, Ken only twitches a little.
They stop for gas after a couple hundred miles. Kendall’s in that weird dream space still, where maybe he didn’t just shoot himself and his dad in the face on rolling TV. Where maybe if he turns on his iPhone it won’t immediately overheat and drop dead from the thousands and thousands of notifications. Where if he just lives here forever he doesn’t have to deal with doing the right thing, something he has no experience with whatsoever.
“Go in there and pay and get me some yogos,” says Stewy, tossing his wallet at Kendall like an asshole, and Kendall only fumbles the catch a little.
“They stopped making those like twenty years ago, moron,” says Kendall, and Stewy’s face twists, considering, and then he shrugs.
“All good things come to an end, baby. All bad ones, too.”
Except you, thinks Kendall, except you. No matter how many times I wish it would.
Stewy looks dangerous in the low light, planes of his face sharp and stark. He’s got road dust all over his thousand dollar shirt and he’s wearing sunglasses only paid killers wear and chewing cheap gum and the thing about Stewy is he always looks like he fits in anywhere, even this shitty gas station in the middle of a state Kendall would never go to voluntarily, normally. He looks really fucking good. Kendall’s problem is that he always looks really fucking good.
“I’ll get you something cool, I know what you like,” says Kendall, stupidly, and ignores Stewy’s smirk.
The fluorescent light makes him feel like he’s floating, and when he looks at his hands they’re acid-unreal when he clenches them in front of him. He can’t remember the last time he paid for his own gas. He can’t remember the last time he actually walked in a store and paid for anything of his own volition, and it might have been college or school or even his last bender. He can’t remember. So much of the minutiae of life is, for Kendall, something that happens to other people. So much of life, period, is something that happens to other people.
He shoves a random collection of bills at the clerk and walks back out with some generic shit that he knows Stewy will eat, because Stewy’s secret is that he’ll eat anything and act like it’s the best thing he’s ever had.
Kendall tosses the candy at him and then the wallet.
“I gave him everything in there, I’m not your fucking errand boy.”
Stewy peers at him over the top of his asshole shades, and suddenly Kendall is eighteen again and the coolest kid in his intro to macroeconomics class sits next to him without even asking if the seat was free, just like how he sat next to him at fifteen and sixteen and seventeen back in NYC. He’s thirty-eight and divorced and Stewy’s tongue is in his mouth and out of nowhere it doesn’t seem to be something he can’t live through. He’s twenty-seven and he just got dumped again and Stewy is fucking him in the bathroom at 1 Oak and he can’t believe they’re getting away with this for at least the third time, how does this never get back to his dad. He’s thirty-five and eighteen and twenty-two and, oh god, forty, and it’ll go away one day, this itch under his skin, how he can’t stop thinking about the clutch of Stewy’s body when he deigns to let Ken fuck him and how good it feels when they make out during, if Stewy’s feeling especially magnanimous. It’ll go away soon. Any day now.
“Get in the car, you patricidal fuck,” says Stewy, so Kendall shoves it all down, does.
The first time they fucked, it hadn’t been momentous. That’s Kendall’s story and he’s sticking to it. He can’t think of anything he’s done in his life that mattered less.
It hadn’t been insignificant, but it wasn’t, like, the be all and end all. It was better than just good but it hadn’t been life-changing. Yeah, it was his first time with a dude, and yeah, it had culminated in Stewy fucking him balls-deep on his dorm room floor until Kendall screamed, but so what. Thank god Logan Roy being his dad got him a single.
They’d fucked maybe every week for the whole four years, and the full two years of their MBAs, after. They’d met girls and and dated girls and been broken up with by girls and fucked girl after girl after girl, though never together, and Stewy said it didn’t matter so it didn’t matter. Stewy said it enough that even Kendall started to believe it might be true.
Kendall never screwed another guy, though he knew Stewy was screwing around with guys like his life depended on it, and usually behind the back of whatever hot detached suicide-blonde he was currently ignoring over brunch on Sundays. About three in five times, the guy he was screwing around with was Kendall.
Stewy said that didn’t matter, too. It wasn’t like Kendall was ever dating anyone he could take back home to his dad, anyone who felt like marriage material. He got really fucking good at deepthroating, at getting Stewy off when his fucked-up pussied-out whiskey-coke dick couldn’t do the honours, at doing shit he was pretty sure most other straight guys had only ever seen in porn. He was always straight. It was always the last time. The right girl(s) was always just around the corner.
Taking Stewy’s dick and giving as good as he got, it festered inside him, rotting and rotting away, but he never felt bad about the cheating. The girls didn’t matter and Stewy, in his own way, did.
A good ten years after Harvard Business School, Kendall met Rava, and that mattered, right up—
—right up, until. Yeah. Until it didn’t.
“I wanted to get out. From under all this. Take the money and run.”
Kendall tells Stewy even though he knows he’ll never get it, not like Naomi does. He’ll never understand the crush of it, the heart-stopping head-fucking fear of failing a tyrant. Kendall’s been ignoring the shape of it for a long time, putting pieces of it together in the back of his mind in total darkness like a blindfolded man. It doesn’t matter that one day that his dad will die. It doesn’t matter about the money or the hostile takeover or the stolen files or any of it. There’s no running. Kendall’s Logan Roy lives inside his head.
Stewy laughs. Stewy laughs for a long time.
“There is no out, Ken, what the fuck are you talking about? You were born this and you’ll die this. You are what you are, and what you are is a fucking Roy.”
Kendall hates him, for a moment. Lightning-strike furious. What the fuck does he know about any of it, about his dad’s swinging dinner plate-sized hands, about getting 24% name recognition in reliable international polling, about puking every time you think about a car swerving off the road in the rain. About finding out that you can do something unthinkably, unimaginably terrible, and it doesn’t matter to anyone you know but you. There’s a scar on his arm that no one else who hasn’t already been told how it got there can ever know about, and he’s sick of it, and it’s not fair. He hates Stewy for a moment because Stewy’s right.
“I wanted to do the right thing, Stewy, for once in my fucking life.”
Stewy laughs again, more briefly, and the predator flash of his eyes in the neon of the motel sign is a torture all its own.
‘There is no right and wrong, Ken. How the fuck do you not know that yet? Not for people like you. Like us. There’s shit you get caught doing and there’s shit you don’t.”
“You don’t know what you’re talking about. You really, really fucking don’t,” says Ken, and fuck, there it is. The road less travelled, that only he has ever driven on. The path he’s down where Stewy can’t follow. That place beyond Stewy Hosseini where he never thought he could go.
“You’re not telling me something, and when I find out what that is, and I will find out what it is, Kendall, don’t you think I won’t, so I am warning you that when I do find out I am going to be righteously fucking pissed,” says Stewy, and if Kendall thought those were a predator’s eyes before—
“Yeah, you will,” says Kendall, because he knows exactly how perceptive Stewy is. Exactly how weak he is. Exactly, precisely what both of them are.
“I can’t believe I drove all the way out here and I haven’t even had my ass eaten once,” remarks Stewy, deadly casual, much too-loud in a filthy little convenience store in another version of bumfuck, nowhere. He’s not usually this obvious, or so explicit about any of the— other stuff. The gay shit. The shit that’s strictly not for public consumption.
Kendall’s seen eyes on them everywhere they go, and he doesn’t even know what it is anymore. If they’ve recognised him from non-stop news on one of the non-Waystar stations, if they’re straight-up racists who don’t want Stewy in their establishments, if they’re getting read as two-bit queers who’ve made a mistake coming this far south in shoes and ties and cufflinks this fancy, if it’s that they’re just so obviously not of-here, in a town where everyone is probably everyone else’s second cousin that they stick out like a sore thumb no matter what. He doesn’t know and he doesn’t much appreciate Stewy adding to the dilemma.
“You’re going to get our teeth kicked in, you showboating fuck,” he mutters, and Stewy glances at him, confused.
“Then go and hang out with your other friends who’d drive around the asshole of the nation with you, dude, because apparently you can choose to be picky.”
“Fuck you,” says Kendall, even though he’s not mad anymore. He learnt a long time ago that there’s not much point in getting mad at someone for getting you exactly right.
“You’re the worst fucking person I know,” says Stewy, a hundred times over, in boardrooms and bedrooms and now, finally, in a speeding car on the interstate, and it’s not true, it’s never going to be true, not with Logan’s presence heavy in every room Ken has ever walked into in his entire fucking miserable stupid overshadowed life, but the declaration there is something else— a devotion, a wish.
Stewy likes worse. Stewy wants worse, will do anything he can to help Ken remake, rebuild. He wants Ken to be the worst person he knows, wants him cruel and murderous, wants him to be the wolf at every door. A self-crowned kingkiller. The motherfucker with ice water in his veins. The cunt secondborn firstborn prince. A man worthy of what Stewy feels, hot and clammy and aching in his chest.
“Fuck, I know, I know,” says Ken, the guilt threaded through his voice, and that isn’t it, that isn’t it at all. He’s spinning out and reeling in, trying to be the echo of an echo, a Logan-Roy-that-never-was, even after his twin betrayals. He begs for something already within his grasp. He asks when he should take, and Stewy would give him anything, if he would only ask the right fucking question.
Heavy is the head that wears the crown. Stewy braces himself, keeps his cards lethally close to his chest, thinks, more weight.
Ken’s phone won’t stop fucking ringing. He doesn’t even know why Ken turned it back on. It’s been ringing for hours and hours when Ken picks up and snaps, “What, Rome? What?”
Roman Roy’s voice is screeching, hysterical. He’s sobbing, yelling, most of the words totally scrambled. Ken, apparently, can translate enough of it to act like it’s an actual conversation, to say, “Rome, it’s not about you. I want you to know that. I can’t talk to you right now but we’ll come out the other side of this, I promise. I’m going to hang up now. Stay out of dad’s way until he’s less mad.”
Stewy stares at him, watches Ken watching his own iPhone like it’s going to malfunction and a screaming, tear-streaked Roman is about to leap out of it.
“Went better than last time,” says Ken, and Stewy feels his jaw drop open.
“What the fuck do you mean, last time?”
Ken shrugs, almost embarrassed.
“That’s the third conversation we’ve had. I mean, not exactly a conversation. But he says something and then I say something. Get it all out in the open. I guess that’s kinda what a conversation is.”
“Roman? Roman is the only one still speaking to you?”
Ken shrugs again, says, “Wouldn’t really call it speaking. More threats and voicemails that are just him crying then hanging up. Only actually on the phone at the same time three times. He wants to talk to me more than he wants to listen to dad’s lawyers, which is kinda surprising, because Geri is about the only person he’s listened to this year.”
“That slippery little fuck? Didn’t think he had it in him.”
Ken looks at him, looks away. At the rug, at the ceiling, at the peeling paint on the walls.
“He loves me more than dad. He’s the only one of us— them who ever has.”
“Then he’s a slippery little fuck with good taste,” says Stewy, and grins when Ken blushes. Making Ken flush all the way down his Irish-pale neck never gets old.
“Toss me my cigarettes,” says Stewy, and when Ken does he lights one, lets smoke curl out of his mouth and into Ken’s eyes.
“Let’s blow this popsicle joint,” he says, and it feels, like always, better than it should when it makes Ken do his almost-smile.
The thing about not being a Roy is that he doesn’t lie to himself. He’s a smash-and-grab man, the guy you call to strip a company bare and slice the gristle from the meat on its bones. He is what he is. He’s a bastard and a cunt, traitor and destroyer, even a criminal, once or twice, unapologetically the villain of the story and not too interested in getting better PR. He’s everything Logan Roy ever said he is or was, and that’s fine, because he knows.
Stewy is the guy you call because you want to get fucked and also fucked up the night before your wedding to a very nice, very sensible girl who wouldn’t give you the time of day if she knew a tenth of what was in your rotten-black soul. Rava’s fine, she’s cool, she’s hot and she’s funny and he’s mostly not jealous of her at all.
“I should really do you, don’t want to leave. Y’know. Marks.”
Ken had been jumpy, guilty, and Stewy liked a lot about Ken but the guilt had always been old since day one.
“We can do whatever you fucking want, dude, provided you get here before I die of old age.”
Ken had kissed him, had kissed him first, which almost never happened, and Stewy had this vindictive little fire burning in his belly, telling him that if they got caught it would ruin the wedding, and wouldn’t that be a shame. Wouldn’t that be the fucking worst.
Stewy was the best man, of course, and Logan had just hated that, even though Roman had begged him to do it in his place, babbling on and on about how he’d be shit at it, how Stewy would know exactly what Ken wanted. Which: true.
What Ken had wanted was to do coke off Stewy’s ass and then to fuck Stewy on his hands and knees, head shoved in the pillow so he couldn’t make too much noise. What Ken had wanted was to come inside Stewy without a condom and groan and admit in this fucked-out little voice that anal with him was even better than anal with Rava.
“What the fuck are you marrying her for, then?” Stewy had asked, and Ken had looked at him for a long time and didn’t answer.
The next morning, Stewy had helped Ken tie his tie, jerk off in the shower, throw up until he was human-looking, and do another bump off the inside of Stewy’s wrist. Rava got the fairy tale wedding and the billionaire heir and the Roy name, but Stewy knew that he had got something better: he got the real thing.
“I did a really bad thing, dude,” says Ken, and Stewy shrugs, shoves more burrito in his mouth.
“Yeah, I remember. Hi, I’m Stewy, the asshole who drove 1000 miles in a car that cost me two hundred Gs that’ll never be the same all the way out to bumfuck nowhere to take you far away from the bad thing you did.”
Another motel. Another shitty bed, shitty rug, checking into a life that isn’t really theirs, where every hotel isn’t a five star and you have to buy your own gas and coffee and no one at all knows who or where the fuck you are.
“Not that. Something— worse. Imagine the worst thing a person can do.”
So Stewy imagines it. He makes a list. He ticks them off, one by one, he tries to figure out if there’s anything in the universe that would make him walk away from the person sitting next to him right now, pink-eyed from crying and shaking like he usually does after Stewy’s got his whole hand inside him and held him down by the throat. He can think of one or two, maybe, but he doesn’t buy it, not from Ken. It leaves a lot. It leaves basically everything he can think of that could possibly come out of this dramatic bastard’s mouth.
“Try me, motherfucker.”
“I killed someone,” says Kendall, and the world fractures in two and knits itself back together. It knits itself back together real fucking quick.
“Is that it?” says Stewy, because that’s definitely on the list, the list of shit Stewy can live with and then some, and Ken makes a noise like a boiling teakettle.
“Is that it? I tell you I committed fucking manslaughter because I was too fucked-up to drive properly and you say is that it? Christ, we deserve each other. You’re crazy, Stewy.”
“That’s what crawled up your ass and died? You’re tearing yourself apart over some dumbshit lapsed Catholic bullshit about how you need to atone for your sins? Fuck’s sake, man. If this is you trying to scare me off it’s not going to fucking work.”
Ken stares at him, so shocked that he’s stopped crying. Stewy is starting to get the feeling he knows exactly why Ken cut and ran, exactly what it was that Logan Roy did to get his claws back in his heir apparent. It’s not enough for forgiveness, because Stewy doesn't do that, ever, but he gets it. He sees where this is going. He’s smart enough to know what a man like Logan Roy could do with this sort of blackmail material, and that’s without even factoring in that Ken was probably still high out of his mind when he went and bent the knee and begged his daddy to make it all go away. No wonder Ken has been unravelling at the seams ever since the— it was the wedding. Fuck, it was the wedding.
“You try and go to jail for that and I’ll smother you with that pillow, Ken. This is so fucking you, you know that? You don’t make immoral choices. You make stupid ones. I never drive when I’m fucked-up, because I don’t want to deal with the consequences of driving when I’m fucked up. You think this makes you more of a monster than your dad? You think I give a shit? You’re mine and Logan isn’t.”
He looks at Ken, and Ken looks back. Ken hasn’t asked him for coke this whole time, he realises, which might be a record, even after all his rehabs combined. Stewy hadn’t wanted to find out where you get half-decent coke in the middle of fucking nowhere, and he hadn’t wanted to deal with Ken coked-out, gums bleeding, skirting the edge of ODing on accident. Maybe even, from the state of him, ODing on purpose. So he just— hadn’t pushed or suggested having some fun, and Ken had let him. Or he thought that’s what Ken was doing. He looks at Ken, and Ken looks back, and he thinks that’s maybe not what was happening at all.
“Nothing you’re about to say to me will ever change anything, dude,” says Stewy, and it’s true, and that’s the worst fucking part.
Ken takes this terrifying-sounding, shaky, fucked up breath, and Ken tells him everything.
Stewy could watch Kendall Roy obliterate himself, could smash himself off the rocks of Ken in turn, could let them both crack and crumble into smithereens. It would be so easy. It would, probably, be the easiest thing in the world. He hasn’t yet, but he hasn’t made a billion dollars or blown Ken on a Roy family jet or been acquitted of insider trading in Wall Street’s trial-of-the-century. He’s got a long list of shit left to do, is what he’s saying. He’s got plenty of time to fuck himself up and take Ken with him. He could. Ken’s given him the best ammunition he’s ever gonna get. He can’t pretend that he doesn’t want to, a little, that it doesn’t make him half-hard and dizzy with it, the idea of holding this over Ken’s head, of having this much power over another person in the palm of his hand and it’s up to him when to squeeze his fist closed, whether to ever do it at all.
He could. He wants to, sorta. He’d think about it if he got pissed enough, if Ken broke his heart in two for his fucking dad again.
The fact that he’d rather die than do it isn’t the point. It’s not, and if he says it enough times he might, at absolute bare minimum, convince himself.
“You don’t love me,” Roman had said, a while back, blood pouring out his mouth from where their dad got him good, spitting it over and over again in the toilet bowl, and there’s unshed tears in his eyes and pink-streaked drool on his shirt, and Kendall knows there’s no one else in the world Roman would let see him like this, no one—
— though he sees him come out of Gerri’s room six hours later, and—
“I wouldn’t be here if I didn’t,” Kendall had said, and when Logan had done it his hand had clenched into a fist, and he could have, he could have, but Roman would have been the one who paid for it, in the end, and it turns out that there is a price too high, even for a Roy.
“You should’ve just let him kick the shit out of me, you know it gets it out of his fucking system for like a year,” Roman had said, coughing and spitting and his hand twisted in his hair, and the problem was, Kendall had thought, that although that’s not something a son should have to know about his father, he also wasn’t wrong.
“I’m broken,” says Kendall, watching Stewy’s hands on the wheel, so much steadier than his will ever be, and Stewy shrugs, says, “Who isn’t, dude? The fuck’s your point?”
He picks up for Shiv exactly once, when Stewy’s showering and Kendall wants to join him and doesn’t know how to ask. He’s still sitting on the bed, words choking and dying in his throat, when his phone rings and rings and rings, and his sister’s face flashes up on the screen. He swipes right and he doesn’t know why.
“I can’t believe you picked up. You asshole, Ken, I thought you’d killed yourself, but should’ve known you wouldn’t do dad a favour like that. Hey, so does your dick feel big now, we’re going to shred you, fucker, you’ll be living under the Brooklyn Bridge—”
Her voice is tearful and spitting mad and very low, like she’s not alone and trying not to be overheard. He doesn’t, he realises, have to listen to this. He never has to listen to this ever again.
“You couldn’t do it, Shiv. It had to be me. That’s why it’s always been me,” he says, and hangs up.
“I’m so fucking hungry, bro, get your ass in there so we can go eat some corn-fed local shit,” says Stewy, when he comes out the bathroom a couple seconds later, a towel that’s hiding precisely nothing around his middle.
Kendall looks away from Stewy’s sinewy shoulders, his tapering waist. He takes the SIM out of his phone and snaps it in half, then puts his phone on the floor and stamps on it with his heel until it’s sparkling glass and plastic fragments. Stewy’s mouth is hanging open.
“Gimme ten,” he says.
“Want to tell me why you went all Bruce Banner on your phone, bro?” says Stewy, in a very steady, don’t-spook-the-crazy voice, and Kendall shrugs.
“I wanted it to stop ringing,” he says, and Stewy snorts.
“Right, cool. Your foot’s still bleeding, I’m guessing. You’re lucky you’re hot and smart and super rich, dude, because you are loco.”
“Crazy’s best in bed,” says Kendall, blithely, and feels distantly proud of himself when Stewy spits out his food and gives him a filthy look.
Stewy takes another bite, swallows, says, contemplative, “Actually, yeah. You always give the best head when you’re in one of your moods.”
Kendall doesn’t feel quite so proud anymore. He doesn’t finish his breakfast. When Stewy asks, east or west, he just shrugs for about the millionth time today.
Kendall knows where he’s going. All roads converge. All roads lead to Rome.
The problem and the not-problem is, there’s still so much to be mad at Stewy about. So much bloody water under their bridge that it’ll never run clear. Kendall feels like he could write the list for the rest of his life and he’d never get it all down. As soon as he gets over one thing another one comes along to take its place.
“I never lied to you, Ken. I betrayed you, yeah, I hid shit from you, but I have never ever lied to you. Lying to you would never benefit me. I don’t do things that don’t benefit me.”
Another shitty motel room, another fight Kendall picked because he doesn’t know what else to do. Stewy knows the worst thing he’s ever done, and he just won’t fucking go away. He knows every sin Kendall’s ever committed and nothing pushes him away, ever. It’s been four days. It feels like four years. It feels like four minutes.
“Yeah, don’t I know it,” says Kendall, and Stewy rolls his eyes. Stewy is a champion eye-roller, and he’s pacing up and down, laughing, unaffected, and Kendall is sitting on yet another not-clean bed in yet another not-clean motel room, and his life is in tatters, pieces, ruins. His life always feels like it’s in ruins, with the divorce and the ODing and the failed hostile takeover, and in among the ruins there’s always this guy who used to let Kendall fuck him when they were nineteen years old and somehow twenty years later everything else in Kendall’s life is gone and this fucking bastard is still here.
“I am so fucking upfront, Ken. If you had ever asked me a direct question instead of begging your Daddy for attention you would have seen it coming. It’s not like you to miss what’s in front of your nose like that.”
“You’re a mendacious cunt,” snarls Kendall, and Stewy laughs, and Kendall hates that it thrills him that he can tell Stewy’s impressed.
“Ooh, wow, big word, Roy. Yeah, I am. So what? You know what I am, though, you fucking craven self-deceiving bastard? I’m your mendacious cunt.”
Stewy has never pulled a punch. Stewy always goes for the kill, precision-deadly, drone strike-impersonal and twice as effective. He doesn’t care about reputation or repudiation, is happy to be known as a leech and a carpetbagger and the guy who takes out the trash after he’s fucked it. He’s all those things, and Kendall has never fooled himself otherwise, not deep down, it’s just not all he is.
Stewy is never sorry and he’s never cared what anybody thinks, but he’s on his knees, now, on the stained motel rug, eyes burning, hand vice-tight around the back of Kendall’s neck.
“You want atonement, Kendall? Is that what you want, asshole, is this you finally telling me what you want? You want me to help clean up your mess? You want me to help make the biggest mess you’ve ever seen? I’ll get you your fucking atonement, your highness. Say the fucking word. Say it.”
Kendall opens his mouth, closes it, and Stewy makes a low, furious noise.
“Coward,” says Stewy, and shuts the bathroom door with a careful, audibly incensed click.
Nothing with Kendall counts, Stewy knows, or, at least, it doesn’t count to Ken.
Stewy knows every single fucking thing about Kendall Roy. He is an expert. The talking head you (literally) call when you want to know what he’s done and why he’s done it. He has done a PhD in fishing the oldest-in-spirit Roy out of the stupidest things he’s ever failed at doing, watched him fail up and up and up. He knows how much coke he can do before he’s edging into OD territory, he knows how his eyelids flicker when he sees his dad’s name flash up on his iPhone screen. He knows every bone he’s ever broken and every fuck he’s ever had. He knows what the back of his knees tastes like. He knows that Ken hasn’t believed in God since he was five, and hasn’t missed it since he was six and God was replaced with his father, and hasn’t that turned out well. He knows him better than anyone, is what he’s saying.
He knows him better than Logan.
“He said that you have to be a killer. That I wasn’t one,” says Ken, fingers clutching white in an itchy motel bedsheet, and Stewy laughs, and doesn’t stop until his throat hurts, until Kendall is looking at him funny.
“Jesus, shows what he knows.”
“It’s not funny, man,” says Kendall, but it is, it is, except Ken has always seen himself through the cracked-glass prism of his father’s eyes, has never seen himself clearly enough to know any truths about himself but the most mundane. It’s funny because it never is, and because it makes the desiccated husk in Stewy’s chest do things he’s long given up on regretting.
“Listen to me, motherfucker. What do you want? Do you want your dad’s head on a plate? I’m not being fucking metaphorical. Do you want him to die in jail? A plane crash? You want some guy to walk right up to him on the sidewalk and shoot him in the face? Say the word. It’s done. It’s yours. I’ll get you anything you want.”
“I don’t— what the fuck, Stewy,” says Ken, but his heart isn’t in it, and that’s fine.
“Are we on the fucking run, bro? It’s been a week, I’m just saying. We could be.”
“It’ll take the FBI months to go through all the paperwork they’ve seized,” says Ken, and Stewy guesses, well, if anyone would know. He’s squinting at the sign of a another beat-up kinda burnt-out gas station, trying to figure out if they sell anything other than chips and the National Enquirer.
“So if I buy lube using a card and not cash the local rent-a-cops aren’t gonna sweep in and shoot me in the ass with a semi-automatic weapon?” says Stewy, and Ken stares at him, unimpressed.
“That’s all you’re getting shot in your ass,” says Ken, wildly out of character, and Stewy can’t help how loud he laughs.
“I don’t do begging, Ken, but I’d really like to get fucked tonight and you’re never doing me with just spit again. Unlike you I learn from my mistakes.”
“Gimme five,” says Ken, and true to his word when he comes back he’s got lube and no condoms at all. Stewy really likes where this is going.
“Oh, no, give me five,” says Stewy, and he’s never driven so fast in his life, checked in to a motel so fast in his life, got Ken up against a wall so fast since he divorced Rava and Stewy had to let Ken fuck him in every position he could think of to get him to put the spoon and lighter down. (Fuck.)
Stewy rips Ken’s clothes off like they’re getting the electric chair in the morning, palms Ken’s dick through his boxer-briefs and whispers, “If you come before I get to sit on this I’ll kill you. Just so you know.”
“Then stop fucking touching it, dude,” Ken whines, which okay, point. Then he kisses Stewy again and it doesn’t seem important anymore.
Stewy had a really good idea of how this was going to go: Ken isn’t going to get his dick anywhere near him until he’s eaten him out for at least twenty minutes, and then he’s going to put his ass on the bed and take what he’s given, let Stewy ride him until he’s done, and then maybe, maybe Stewy will do him a favour and get him off. Ken’s a prop, a tool. He’s going to be hot, useful furniture, and he’s going to shut the fuck up for once in his spoiled stupid life. That’s how they’ve done it like two thousand times in a variety of positions and combos, and this time isn’t going to be any different.
That’s not how it goes at all. How it goes is Stewy flat on his back, Ken’s cock in him to his throat, Ken’s tongue in his mouth, and the moment hangs forever and it feels momentous. It feels huge. It feels like the fucking world is ending.
Ken is touching him everywhere, and then his fingers are wrapped around Stewy’s neck, around his hip, and Stewy can’t move for Ken’s cock, could choke on it, and Ken kisses him again and again, says, “Christ, can you—”
“Oh, yeah,” says Stewy, swallowing and feeling Ken’s fingers move with it, and they’ve done this so many times and so many ways and it’s never been this, whatever this is, this life-ruining transcendental pinnacle of fucking. Stewy’s mad, almost. Is this how could it have been the whole time, is this what lies behind Ken’s off-blank eyes and half-hearted heterosexuality and coy bored patronising tone, is this what—
Stewy comes so hard he can’t feel his feet and kisses Ken through his orgasm, though it’s barely kissing, it’s barely anything at all but panting into Ken’s mouth and grabbing his ass and running his fingers through Ken’s too-short dark hair.
How it goes is Ken pulls out, and his eyes are shitting-himself-wide, and he looks at Stewy, panic written across his face clear as day, and says, “What the fuck was that?”
Stewy scrubs at his face, at the mess on this stomach, and says, “Dude, I know.”
Logan never liked Stewy, and it’s never been particularly subtle. He didn’t like Stewy when he was nineteen and he came to summer with them in the Hamptons, and Logan overheard him speaking Farsi to his dad on the phone. He didn’t like Stewy at twenty, or twenty one, and especially not at twenty two, when he graduated top of their class and Ken didn’t. He’s liked him less every year since, and it didn’t matter, right up until Stewy tried to help the only person he’s never lied to in his entire life burn his father’s empire to the ground and piss on the ashes, and then— with what came after. Then it mattered.
“You’re never gonna be what he is, you conniving little cunt,” Logan had said, when Stewy was twenty-seven and had barrelled close enough to the uncomfortable realisation that Ken was the best he was ever gonna get, that he was it, that he just did not care anymore. He simply did not give a shit, not about Logan, not about Waystar Royco, not about who Ken was and what he was supposed to do. The thing about being, you know, whatever, call it what it is, sort-of seriously in love with the son of Cronus is that he devoured all his children, one after the other, so you know he’ll eat you, too. It stops being so scary, after a while.
“But Logan, I love being a conniving little cunt. Thanks for the chat. Let’s do it again when hell freezes over.”
Logan had smiled like a skull, eyes hard flat stones, and Stewy hoped like he’d never hoped for anything in his life that when it was his turn to slip down the ravenous gullet of Logan Roy, he choked on the very bones of him.
“He’s mine, son, and don’t you ever forget it,” Logan had said, and Stewy had known it was true, but, unlike Logan, knew that to him it would never matter.
The kindest thing Stewy could ever do for Kendall Roy is to tell him that this is never going to go away, this thing between them, beaten and burnished in the fires of hostile takeover, coke-fuelled screwing, and knowing exactly what insult you’re about to have tossed at you before the other guy’s even opened his mouth. That sometimes, things just are. A relationship is what it is, and it’s all you have.
Ken just keeps waiting for it to go away, which Stewy gets, he does, because he was the same, once. Kept waiting for the girl that would make his dick hard like Ken does, his mind hard like Ken does, that would make him want to talk and fuck and plot all night, but after twenty years of it you have to admit to yourself that there isn’t going to be tail out there that could possibly be better than the platonic form of a shark in a suit that is Kendall at his very best and worst.
It’s the cruelest, too, so he doesn’t, though sometimes he thinks Ken would like cruelty better. It’s some weird shit, finding that the only person you want to be kind to takes kindness like the knife that’s killing him.
So, cruelty, it looks like this: kicking Ken awake, both naked and bruised and blood-hot under scratchy motel sheets, and saying, “Come on, man. Let me take you back. You know I have to, we can’t do this forever.”
“I can’t go back. I don’t exist anymore,” says Ken, and yeah. He doesn’t. Kendall Roy would never have done this, ever, no matter how many times Stewy had asked. (And Stewy had fucking asked.) He would have eaten shit until it fermented inside him, until it exploded and killed him.
“So what?” says Stewy, and means it. He fucking means it.
“You should’ve left me in that diner,” says Ken, and puts his hands over his eyes, and that compulsive throat-swallow means Stewy isn’t getting head this morning but he is going to have to watch Kendall cry for what feels like the millionth time in his life.
“I brought you this,” says Stewy, because he’s not doing this anymore, this maudlin piss-boy poor-me routine, and shows him their Harvard class rings, big gaudy look-at-me shit that’s way too big to wear in normal life, and drops one on Ken’s bare chest.
Ken brings it up to his face, eyes narrowed, says, “This is yours, dude. You gave me the wrong one.”
“No, I didn’t,” says Stewy, and slips Ken’s ring on his right pinkie. It fits him like it was made for him, and when he meets Ken’s eyes they’re wide. He has a shocky, numb feeling curling up his spine. This is his play. This is all he’s ever gonna get. It’s do or fucking die.
“Yeah,” says Ken, simply, and holds out his hand. When Stewy pushes the ring on his finger, it might be the best moment of his life. Maybe. If, you know. Pushed to pick one.
“The king is dead. Long live the king,” says Stewy, and kisses his own class ring on Kendall Roy’s finger, and he’s wearing the only ring he’s ever going to get from the only Roy that matters, a secret made by design for only two, and and it’s— it’s fucking enough, okay? It’s more than fucking enough.
“You need to get more gas,” says Ken, like it’s got nothing to do with him, like this is a problem other people exist to solve, and there he is, the imperious selfish unthinking inconsiderate asshole, the one who thinks the world revolves around his wants and needs, and Stewy has missed him, he has missed him so fucking much.
When Stewy grins at him he steals his shades, his cigarettes, lights one with a lighter he stole from Stewy’s pocket twenty years earlier, and blows smoke in Stewy’s face, says, glorious and terrible, “Come on then, bitch. Fucking step on it. Haven’t you heard? I’m a CEO. I haven’t got all fucking day.”