Back and forth.
Back and forth.
John was pacing so violently across the kitchen floor, he was worried he would pace right through the wood and into the foundation of his flat. This wasn’t going as well as he thought it would be. In fact, it was a right disaster. Bringing Paul home with him was supposed to be fun. Whatever was going on now was most certainly not fun.
John knew Paul would resist, and question him, and generally disobey him. He knew that, so why did he get so terribly upset when Paul did it? It was something he struggled with all his life, his temper. His Aunt Mimi would sometimes fear his tantrums as a child because he would get much more upset than any child should over a minor inconvenience. If John didn’t get his way or had to wait for something, he would go on a rampage and tear up everything in sight while screaming his lungs out. If Uncle George was late getting home, John would cry and howl, terrified he had abandoned the family and would never return. Of course, Uncle George always returned. And as John got older, he learned to quell some of his outbursts, but his tendency toward intensity never faded. He did not “feel” things the way others did. There were two sides: he felt nothing at all, or he felt every single emotion deep in every fibre of his being. He knew how he would react to less than ideal situations, and he knew how he should react, yet often times he found himself flying uncontrollably off the handle. That is, if he wasn’t giving a cold stare and not caring about the situation at all.
It made him feel quite small and powerless. Despite his arrogance and bravado, his dangerous charm, John constantly carried a pervasive fear that he would never be normal. He would never be good enough to live a normal, calm life. He would always be fighting. Or unable to care about anything even when he knew he should. Or somehow, someway, driving away everyone and everything he loved.
The main reason John took Paul was to improve both of their lives, to have fun with his friend. That is, once Paul got over the initial shock and saw how John was really, truly meant to be in his life. John imagined how much he and Paul would enjoy their time together. Instead, he had just punched Paul in the stomach, made him cry, and shoved him back in his room alone.
A far cry from the fun he imagined.
John lit up a cigarette and sat at the kitchen table. He stared at his own plate of uneaten food in front of him, reminding him of how badly he was failing is current mission: make Paul feel happy with him. After finishing his cigarette, John glanced up at the clock. Just 15 minutes had passed. He figured if he wanted to damage control and fix his wounded relationship with Paul, he had to act fast. The longer he left the other man alone, ruminating in fear and anger, the more irreparable the damage would be. John stood up from the table. He was resolved to gain Paul’s friendship back. It would require giving up a little bit of his control over the situation, which made him uneasy, but he knew it was worth it. This time would be different.
Quietly, John made his way down the hall to Paul’s room. He paused before opening the door. His stomach lurched with nervousness, a feeling he was entirely not used to.
Paul was laying on his side, not even crying anymore, just breathing shakily into the pillow while his breath came in small hiccups. He looked up when he saw the door open. His heart gave a surge so powerful, it made him dizzy and nearly unable to react.
“Paul,” John said as kindly as he could.
Paul said nothing, afraid of getting injured again if he made any noise.
“Paul, mate, I’m sorry. I’ve been a right dick to you. I won’t hurt you anymore, promise. M’sorry.” John said. He approached Paul’s trembling figure. He held a hand out and gently sat Paul upright on the bed. Paul was trembling.
John stroked up and down the other man’s shoulders. He could feel the shaking.
“Come on, will ya talk to me. Please?” John pleaded. Paul sat there, eyes wide in fear, mouth hanging slightly open in shock. Not even half an hour ago, John was beating him up in the kitchen, now he was begging for forgiveness.
“Say something, anything at all. I’m sorry, I’m so sorry,” John continued. He buried his head in Paul’s shoulder, his breath coming in quick gasps. As terrified as he was, now was the time to get back in John’s good graces. It pained Paul to be so sweet to the man who was doing this to him. He persisted for his own sake. He didn’t see a better way out.
“John,” Paul began, his voice still quavering from how he was crying earlier, “hey, it’s alright.” He had no idea what to say. Instead, he leaned his head over so that it was gently resting on John’s.
“We’re still mates, aren’t we?” Paul asked.
“Yeah,” John muttered, his voice muffled from still being pressed into Paul’s shoulder.
“Then it’s alright. Even friends get into it sometimes, y’know.” Paul would have given John a hesitant embrace (if his hands weren’t tied) in an effort to calm him down. He instead had to settle for brushing his cheek against the top of John’s head. He noticed how nice John smelled. Like pine and earth, clean but undeniably masculine. It reminded Paul that he must not smell too good himself, having no access to a shower or toothbrush. His cheeks flushed slightly in embarrassment.
“Will you forgive me, Paul? I promise I won’t do it again! I don’t know what gets into me sometimes, but I won’t do it again,” John begged.
“Of course I’ll forgive you,” Paul said. He became acutely aware of how filthy he felt compared to how clean John was. It made his face burn an even hotter shade of red.
“Thank you! Oh thank you,” John said. Paul could have sworn he felt John press a light kiss on the sleeve of his shirt. Then again, it could have been his imagination.
“Can I ask a favor of you, John?” Paul asked as sweetly as his voice would allow.
“Anything,” John said. The older man was still nestled snugly against Paul. For a moment, Paul was lost in thought. John was scary and deranged. Paul was still very much afraid of him. So why did Paul enjoy so much how John was laying against him? He quickly tried to explain it away as an involuntary reaction from being alone for so long. Why did he not instantly flinch away and feel sick at John’s closeness? Worse, why did he not want it to stop?
“Paul?” John said, snapping Paul out of his thought spiral.
“Oh, right,” Paul said, “I was just wondering if-“ he paused to make sure his words were unlikely to send John into a rage. “I was just wondering if I could, y’know, freshen up or something? I feel kinda grotty after spending the night in my clothes.” Paul’s heart began to race. If John said yes but didn’t untie him- he didn’t even want to think about that. The loss of privacy and dignity made his stomach sink.
John sat up from Paul’s shoulder.
“Yeah, I guess I’ve been a rotten host to not show you around to the facilities,” John said. Paul didn’t know how in the world John could call himself a host, as if Paul was an invited guest and not a hostage.
John stood up and went to the door across the room from Paul’s bed. Once he opened it, Paul saw it was a nice little bathroom. John opened the drawers and scanned around the bathroom thoroughly, as is he were looking for something very important. His search completed, John sat down next to Paul.
“I’ve got everything fixed up for you,” John said. Paul didn’t know what that meant. For a moment, John paused. He had a choice to make: he could keep Paul’s hands tied and risk getting into another fight when Paul resisted, or he could trust Paul to behave while untied and risk him running away or besting him in a fight. John removed any possible item in the bathroom Paul could use to hurt himself or anyone else. The risk that Paul would try to injure himself seemed low. Still, John felt uneasy about letting the younger man free.
He quickly came to a decision after remembering what happened earlier that day.
“Alright Paul, listen to me carefully, ok?” John said. Paul nodded.
“I’ll untie you and let you take care of your business, but the second you try anything, the ties come back and I don’t let you out of my sight. Ever. Understood? I don’t want a repeat of what happened earlier.” John said. The look in his eyes conveyed a frightening intensity.
Paul nodded silently again, and held his hands out for John to untie. John made quick work of removing Paul’s restraints. Once the younger man’s hands were free, John grabbed them in his own, lacing their fingers together.
“I mean it, Paul,” John said.
“Ok, I understand,” Paul replied. He gave John’s hands a squeeze then tried to let go, but John refused to release his hands. Paul stifled a gasp when he realized this was the first time he had ever held hands with another bloke. His previous interactions with men were all hurried kisses and grabbing a handful of hair at the nape of his partner’s neck. There was no action not charged with desire. But this was different. It was a similar dissonant feeling to when John laid his head on Paul’s shoulder, a mix of horror and comfort. Paul figured at some point soon he would have to get over the initial excited reaction whenever John touched him.
The two men stayed for a second, hands twined together, breathing in sync, until John stood up and lead Paul off the bed, then into the bathroom. He turned around so Paul was standing in the bathroom and John was just outside the door.
“I’ll be waiting here,” John said as he released Paul’s hands, swiftly pulled the door shut, and locked it from the outside.
Alone, Paul stood still in the bathroom. He took in his surroundings: toilet in the corner with a cabinet above it, tidy little sink and countertop, bathtub on the opposite wall with a showerhead sticking out from the wall, and a large blue rug that took up a good majority of the white tile floor. Upon closer examination, Paul saw there were brand new, unopened toiletries sat on the counter. Everything a person could possibly need to feel at home, toothpaste and toothbrush, bar of soap, deodorant, shaving cream (but, curiously, no razor), and various other bottles were perched there. A shiver ran up Paul’s spine as he realized just how thoroughly John planned out the kidnapping. This wasn’t just an otherwise sane man who suffered a brief loss of contact with reality. No, this was someone with issues that ran deeper than Paul could ever want to know. The thought made his stomach lurch.
The sensation in his abdomen suddenly reminded him of how badly he needed to take a piss. He quickly rushed over to the toilet to relieve himself. Paul knew in the back of his mind that John was outside the door, listening to every move Paul made. The embarrassment made Paul’s face turn a shade redder. However, he did his best to ignore John’s presence lurking behind the door. After washing up, Paul decided to brush his teeth. The day’s worth of grime in his mouth gave his teeth an awful, fuzzy feeling that he detested. The final step in cleaning up was showering. Nervously, Paul stripped himself naked and stood next to the bathtub, and turned the knobs and levers until he figured out how to run the shower and the hot water.
The hot water soothed Paul’s aching muscles. His entire body was stiff from laying in one position for so long. Not to mention his stomach still hurt from where John punched him earlier. He closed his eyes. For a moment, Paul forgot where he was. He was relaxed enough that he felt as if he were at home. At home, he always sang in the shower. Quietly, he began to hum as he showered. The hums turned into soft singing. Paul took in a deep breath and was about to let out a note at a normal volume until he opened his eyes. This wasn’t home.
Paul quickly rinsed off and grabbed a fluffy, pale yellow towel from the rack behind him. He dried himself off, then wrapped the towel around his waist. The mirror had fogged over, so he cleared away some of the steam with his hand before grabbing a comb and running it through his hair. Usually he would do it up with pomade and brush it into a quiff, but he settled for the slicked over look instead. The hairstyle reminded him of his younger days for a reason he couldn’t quite place.
Instinctively, Paul reached for the robe he usually kept hanging on a hook on his bathroom door. Of course it wasn’t there.
The familiar nervous sinking feeling returned. He really didn’t want to put his old clothes back on, but that was the only other option besides the towel. Paul wondered if he should ask John to borrow some clothes. The two men were about the same size, though John had a bit more thickness to his figure than Paul. Carefully, Paul evaluated his options. What would be the least likely to set John off? With as quiet a sigh as he could muster, he wrapped the towel around his waist and approached the door.
“Aye, John?” Paul said.
“Yeah,” John replied. The clarity of his voice showed he was just outside the door. The thought of the lack of privacy made Paul’s stomach lurch once again.
“Would you happen to have any clothes I could borrow? The ones I had on are right filthy.”
That was a lie. He hoped John wouldn’t press him. All he wanted was a change of clothes.
“Yeah, I do, hang on,” John said. From the other side of the door, Paul heard rustling of footsteps and the sound of drawers being opened and shut. His mind couldn’t stop circling on how vulnerable he was in that moment: naked aside from a towel, in an unfamiliar place, with a volatile captor. John could easily find a way to see more of Paul than Paul was willing to show. It was a frighteningly small feeling that made Paul’s hand tremble slightly as he made sure his towel was secure around his waist.
“Paul?” John called from behind the door.
“Mind if I open the door? I got you a shirt and some trousers. May be a bit big on you, but they’ll probably fit.”
Paul released a breath he didn’t know he was holding. John didn’t barge in on him or give him any hassle at all. Maybe John was feeling at least a little apologetic for his outburst earlier, Paul wondered.
“Yeah, you can open it,” Paul replied.
John opened the door a fraction, just enough to reach in and hand Paul the neatly folded stack of clothes. For a brief moment, John’s eye’s met Paul’s before John withdrew his hand and closed the door. Paul stood frozen in place with the clothes in his hand. He didn’t know why, but he brought them up to his nose and inhaled. Of course the clothes smelled like John. Even worse, it was a pleasant and inviting scent. One that reminded Paul of his budding friendship with John, and how it could have been the beginning of something wonderful, but instead, here he was. Held captive, about to wear his captor’s clothes.
It could be worse, Paul reminded himself, at least John is being nice. It could be much, much worse.
Paul dressed himself and emerged from the bathroom. He did feel considerably better than before. Before he opened the door to the bedroom, Paul stared at his hands. At the moment, he could move about and stretch as he pleased. The luxury of movement might vanish once he stepped out of the bathroom. Paul took a moment to stretch his arms and shoulders, moving left and right, splaying his fingers wide as he did so. A rush of anxiety overwhelmed him when he finished stretching and approached the door.
"Alight, John, I'm good to go," he said. He desperately didn't want to be tied up and left alone again. The thought was suffocating.
John opened the door, and Paul was relieved to find the friendly side of him was still out.
"Thanks, I feel a lot better now," Paul said as John took him by the hand and lead him out of the bathroom, shutting the door behind him.
"No problem," John said.
While Paul was in the bathroom, John opened the curtains in the room. When John stood in a ray of sunshine, Paul saw John's features illuminated like he hadn't before: thin yet strong lips, Roman nose that would have looked ridiculous on anyone else except John because it suited him so well, brown eyes shining with flecks of amber and gold, auburn hair reflecting hues of shimmering red in the light. Damn if Paul wasn't struck by John's undeniable beauty again. In another life, Paul thought, maybe they would have had a chance. Probably not at anything romantic, just anything better than what they had now. It was a shame, enough to make Paul's heart beat a little faster as he stared at the other man, because John was painfully gorgeous, but impossible to have.