After their conversation, Henry seemed relieved, even pleasant—which was entirely out of character for him. At first Renton was unnerved by it, but he figured that it was just proof that he had no suspicion about Renton’s feelings toward Maya. Henry dropped off Renton at home with the new batch and told him to start contacting the regular buyers. Rent hurried inside, eager to see Maya, and eager to get started with the new responsibility Henry had given him.
The first thing he noticed was Tony’s car in the driveway, and then he realized that Jeremy’s car was gone. Rent didn’t think that Jeremy would be stupid enough to leave Maya alone with Tony, but he wouldn’t put it past him, either. Inside, the house was relatively quiet—Renton searched through the living room and the kitchen, and then he heard soft noises from the bedroom. He dropped his backpack and sprinted toward the door. It was already open, and he was paralyzed in its entry with what he saw—Tony’s pimply ass violently thrust twice before his body collapsed onto Maya’s slender frame. Her head was turned toward him, her face covered in blood, and she was staring him in the eyes with… an almost serene look. Renton couldn’t move.
As soon as he heard Tony moan, “That’ll fucking teach you…” he regained control of his body and move toward the bed, grabbed Tony by his hair and threw him onto the ground. Renton knelt onto one knee and, with great skill but without restraint, he effectively beat the piece of shit within an inch of his life. It was beautiful really, the way Tony’s face contorted under the force of Rent’s fist.
When he finally stopped, exhausted and soaked in blood, of which not one speck was his own, he looked up at Maya. She had pulled the sheet over her body and was watching Renton with wide, curious eyes. “Are you real?” she whispered.
“Fucking A right,” he replied automatically, and only after he responded did he consider what an odd question it was.
“Good,” she said.
Renton stood and walked slowly over to her, as if she were a wild animal that he didn’t want to frighten away. “Are you hurt?” he asked, knowing that out of context his question would sound as ridiculous as hers had… she was bloody and raped… but he had seen her in this condition before.
She shook her head, touching her face gingerly. “It probably looks worse than it is.” She looked into his eyes and smiled. It made him feel uneasy—he could almost feel the intensity of the words she was about to speak. “You saved me.”
“What? When I came in, he was already done—”
“That’s not what I mean. I don’t know if I’ll even be able to explain it. He made me say things… and then he… but I pictured like it was you instead, and it made everything all right for a few moments.”
Renton knelt next to the bed and took her hands. “Maya, I need to know—”
“Is Henry here?” she interrupted, and his heart sank. He released her hands and stood.
“He should be back soon,” he replied, trying as hard as he could to sound cold.
Maya gazed at him with her large, somber eyes. “Rent, please don’t misunderstand me,” she whispered, barely audible over Tony’s jagged breaths. “We need to find the time to talk—if you feel the way I do…”
“Yes,” he murmured quickly.
“Then we need to do this the right way.”
As soon as the words left her lips, there was movement at the bedroom door. Both of their heads snapped towards the figure, but it was only Jeremy. He was clutching at the sides of his hair and moaning.
“What the fuck is going on?” he shouted. “Henry’s gonna fucking kill you, Rent! You can’t just do this to his brother!”
Rent had calmly switched personalities so subtly that it caught Maya off guard. His cold eyes were an extreme contrast compared to the warmth he’d been projecting toward her only seconds earlier.
“I came home and Tony was raping her,” Renton said flatly. “Should I have let him continue?”
Jeremy shook his head in disbelief. “This is so fucked up; this is so fucked up.”
Renton rolled his eyes and went over to the bed. Maya looked at him with reservation, but he reached out to and she slid out of the bed, keeping the sheet wrapped around herself. Rent put his arm around her and led her into the bathroom, where she sat on the ledge of the tub as he ran warm water from the faucet. He took a washcloth and delicately wiped the blood from her face. She noticed his gaze soften with each movement of his hand; even the way he wrung out the cloth was gentle. He watched the pinkish blood splash against the yellowed bathtub and disappear down the drain; she watched only him. When he wrung out the cloth for the final time, she couldn’t resist a small gesture, so she leaned forward and brushed her fingertips against his thigh. Even through the thickness of the denim, her touch was electrifying.
She pulled away seconds before Henry entered the room. Maya and Renton both looked up at him—she was the definition of serene and Rent’s eyes had darkened again, for Henry’s sake. Henry looked down at his brother’s unconscious body, then returned Rent’s stare. Maya wasn’t sure, but she swore it was a mixture of fear and contempt in his affect.
Henry clenched his fists at his side. “Tell me what happened,” he said softly. Maya knew he wasn’t talking to her.
Rent spoke slowly, but with conviction. “After you dropped me off, I came inside. I heard noises coming from your bedroom, so I went to see what was going on. I walked in here to find him—” he pointed at Tony, “raping her—” he gestured toward Maya. “So I beat the shit out of him.”
“Raping?” Henry repeated skeptically.
“Yeah—look at your sheets, your pillowcases. Look at your girlfriend’s face,” Rent was trying to keep his voice steady, but he was having a hard time. He wanted to jump in Henry’s face and finally have it out—
Maya sensed his escalation and jumped in. “Tony came over after you left, and I guess Jeremy had left, too. I came in here to shower, and when I came out, Tony was in here. He threw me onto the bed and—” She paused, expecting Henry to cut her off, chastise her for speaking out of turn. But he was staring at Rent, whose jaw was set and whose eyes blazed with every word she spoke. She realized too late that’d she made a mistake in speaking—Rent was reliving it and was barely capable of containing his rage.
“Well, don’t stop there, Maya,” Henry replied, still staring at Rent with revelation. “It sounds like you’re just getting to the good part. He pushed you onto the bed, and?”
She didn’t want to continue; she knew it was torture for Rent to listen to. She stood and took a step toward Henry, reaching her free arm around his neck and pressing her head against his chest. “Maybe this was all my fault,” she said, trying to create a diversion. “Henry, do you think I did something that—”
He grabbed the hair at the nape of her neck and dragged her out of the bathroom. He bent her over the mattress and calmly said, “You were saying—Tony pushed you onto the bed, and…?”
He let go of her and she collapsed. She’d lost the sheet as he’d dragged her, and her nude body writhed with the new pain. Henry was busy opening a drawer on the end table. Just as Rent advanced on him, he snapped open a switchblade. Rent stopped. Henry smiled.
“Why don’t you sit in the chair, Rent, and listen to Maya’s story while I act it out for you? Every time you try to intervene, I’ll slice something off of her.”
Rent backpedaled and sat in the chair next to the bed. “You don’t love her,” he said, the words not sounding nearly as profound as the thousands of times he’d practiced saying them.
Henry laughed. “On the contrary, I love her more than you’ll ever know. In fact, it’s something that you will never know—because you’ll never have her. Christ, I can’t believe how wrong I was about you.”
Rent leaned back in the chair, his muscles taut, feeling tiny droplets of sweat begin to bead around his temples. Henry swiftly climbed on top of her, holding the knife delicately against her throat. Renton’s heart was beating furiously; he was distressed at how clouded his mind was. When he’d run into the bedroom only minutes earlier to find Tony slamming into her, there was just a moment’s hesitation before he’d grabbed the son of a bitch and beaten him within an inch of his life. There was perfect clarity in Rent’s actions; he’d seen what was happening and reacted beautifully, in the cold, detached, passionate way that was his modus operandi. When it was over, he could feel this persona slide away as he regarded Maya. She brought him back from it, but he hadn’t lost his senses. He’d been only slightly apprehensive at first as he approached her—wondering what her response would be—but then it was obvious that she loved him, too, so he could lose himself for a moment while he wiped the traces of blood from her lovely face. But even in his apprehension, he was completely present and didn’t feel unable to act—even if action had meant denying his true feelings for her for yet another expanse of time.
But he watched Henry poised over Maya, and he felt rage, jealously and fear, and he supposed it was mostly the fear that made him feel as though there were invisible chains that bound him to the chair. He couldn’t move, he could barely breathe—and he didn’t want to believe that he was going to sit here and watch as Henry took his rage out on the woman that Rent loved. He supposed it wouldn’t be the first time he’d witnessed Henry beating the shit out of her, but he’d never intervened before because he didn’t want to put himself in harm’s way if she didn’t love him back. And now… it would have been easy for him to think that he couldn’t intervene because Henry was physically threatening Maya; so easy, because all Rent had to do was focus on the blade that pressed into her swan-like throat. But he had a sinking feeling that even if Henry had no weapon, Rent would still be fixed to the spot—unable to move, thoughts misty and intangible.
What had she said to him? That she’d thought of him while Tony was… and that it had helped her through it? Rent only hoped that she could clear her mind and focus on him once again, though deep in his mind he knew it was probably impossible. Tony’s force was a child’s tear compared to Henry’s ocean of manipulation.
Henry slowly slid the blade across her neck, creating a thin red line. He could tell she was holding her breath, but she didn’t dare close her eyes—she stared into his eyes, but the gaze was superficial—he didn’t allow himself to become angry over it, however; there would be plenty of time to pour his rage onto her. This entire show was mostly to punish Rent, or at least it had begun that way, but Henry realized now that he hadn’t completely gotten over the fact that she’d run away from him.
So he figured he’d kill two birds with one stone.
He pulled the blade away from her flesh and she sucked in a giant lungful of air. Blood formed beads at random intervals along the wound, but it was only a scratch and barely bled.
“Tell me what happened,” he said to her. “Describe it to me, and I’ll perform it for your admirer.”
“Please,” she whispered. “I know that it won’t do any good—but please don’t do this. Rent never touched me; I didn’t even know he felt this way until now. He hasn’t done anything to betray you.” She reached out slowly and touched Henry’s face. “But I know that I have. I can tell that you’re still angry at me for everything—after the first day you said we’d just never talk about it again—but I know that you’re still upset. And you have every right to be.” She leaned up slightly and kissed him on the lips, gently, like rose petals against his skin. “I love you. I hope that what I’ve been through today would be enough punishment… but you may not see it like that, and I’ll understand if you don’t. But him…” she shrugged her shoulder and tilted her head toward Rent, “This is really between you and I, isn’t it?”
Henry knew she was just trying to manipulate him, but still—he saw in her now what he’d loved about her since the beginning. Her insight into what he was thinking and feeling, her desire to make peace, even if she had to sacrifice herself, and when she kissed him it convinced him that she still loved him. And he did love her.
But three facts remained—he was hard, she needed to be punished, and Rent needed to be devastated.
“I’m sorry,” he told her, and was surprised to find part of him really was, “you don’t get to decide. What you’ve described is absolutely true, with one exception. There are things beyond what you know—and Rent has betrayed me. He knows how… he knows all the little ways that he’s compromised our matters because he’s been distracted by this middle-school crush. And he’s obviously not the person I thought he was—he’s obviously not the person he so vehemently claimed to be—” Henry’s voice was rising in volume and Maya pulled her hand away from his face as if she’d touched a hot stove. “So, like I asked before, describe to me what happened, so we can recreate it for this fucking fraud.”
She closed her eyes for a moment, and before he could chastise her she opened them again, and they were dark and detached. “He held my hands over my head. He told me to tell him how much I loved him, how much I desired him. So I did. I told him how I had always loved him, how devastated I was that he seemed to never notice me.”
Maya was speaking to Rent and he knew it. She wondered if Henry could tell, but she decided she didn’t care.
“I told him how I listened to him speak with others, but watched his actions when he thought he was alone, and how different he was. I wanted to know the man that he never let anyone see. I wanted that man to touch me, to hold me, to lie on cold sheets and stare into my eyes—”
“Stop,” Henry interrupted. “You said all this to Tony?”
She clenched her jaw and swallowed. “He told me to.”
Something was wrong; something was very wrong. Henry couldn’t quite place what was happening—he looked over at Rent, whose face was completely blank. Henry figured that he had removed himself emotionally from the situation. He decided to try something to bring him back into the present…
He took his knife and pressed the blade into her flesh, just above her right breast. Slowly he dragged it down the middle of her chest. Her mouth opened and she gasped involuntarily, causing the edge to sink another millimeter deeper. Rent was unmoved. Henry wasn’t surprised—after all they’d been through, Renton had expertly trained himself to be detached in the face of pain, whether his or someone else’s. He was used to seeing Henry actively hurt her, dominate her… but how would he feel when he saw Maya respond with affection and her own active desire?
“If you take your eyes off of us, I’ll kill her,” Henry said nonchalantly. He pulled his shirt over his head and deftly slipped out of his jeans. He dipped his head down, caressing her ear with his lips, hiding his face while leaving hers completely exposed to Renton. Softly, so softly that only she could hear, he whispered, “If you don’t show me you love me and mean it, I’ll kill him.”
He pulled away and rolled over onto his back, still holding the knife, waiting for her. She started to glance towards Rent but Henry snapped, “Don’t.” She rolled over swiftly and straddled him, slipping back into their routine. She didn’t want to put Renton through this orchestrated mess, but she didn’t know what other choice she had. This ritual that she had performed a hundred times, that had been taught to her by Henry in the early days of their relationship, one that used to signify her love for him and her desire to please him would now be used to destroy the one chance at happiness she thought she might ever have.
She slithered quickly down Henry’s body and knelt between his legs. She slowly ran her hands up his muscled thighs until she reached his sex; she slid one hand down his length and the other enveloped his balls with its warmth. She brought the tip to her mouth and kissed it gently; her tongue flickered out like a snake’s and danced against the soft patch on its underside, before circling his head, and finally taking it into her mouth. Henry groaned in spite of himself as she expertly created varying sensations with her hands and mouth, moving them together and then separately. He glanced over at Renton and saw that, although his face was stoic, his hands gripped the arms of the chair and his knuckles were snow white.
Henry grabbed her hair, his signal for her to stop. She slid back on top of him, straddling him so that his sex lay flat against his own belly, fitting perfectly along her slit. He pushed his hands up her thighs to her hips, up her taut stomach and over her breasts. She leaned down and kissed him, and he wrapped his arms around her, and actually lost himself in her embrace for a moment.
Dutifully, as she had been trained, she pulled away gently and moved her hand between her legs. His head pressed against her sex and she slid slowly backwards, simultaneously guiding him into her. She wasn’t completely wet, he noted, a first for her, but the resistance made it seem like was taking her virginity. And while he wanted Renton to mistake the entire routine as a natural act of love on her part, he also wanted her to feel a little pain. So he pushed her back quickly, filling her with his entire length, and she cried out softly—her cry barely audible, but Henry knew it was echoing in Rent’s mind.
She inhaled deeply and began to rock back and forth on top of him; he lifted his hips to intensify her movements. He kept his hands on her hips and pulled her into him as she came down. She always felt so good to him, especially now that he could practically taste Rent’s jealousy and devastation. So Henry, who usually never uttered anything more than threats while he fucked Maya, decided to speak.
“Your pussy feels so good,” he moaned. He felt her rhythm go offbeat for a moment—he was sure that his words surprised her. “You’re so fucking tight. Fucking take it.”
His hands against her hips encouraged her to thrust harder, and he felt her grind herself against him with new enthusiasm. She slipped half way up and down his length, then slid completely down and moved her hips in a circle.
“Your pussy belongs to me; my dick fucking owns it,” he told her; he told Rent. “I fucking love you, Maya.”
“I love you,” she responded out of sheer habit, breathless and moaning. As soon as the words left her mouth, she remembered that Renton was sitting only a few feet away from her. Guilt washed over her—she knew she had to make Henry come so this would all end.
Henry felt her close to coming, so pulled her close to him and gave one last thrust. He emptied himself into her as her sex pulsed around his. He wrapped his arms around her, burying his head against her neck and breathing her in. They hadn’t fucked like that in so long, and he realized how much he missed her. Although everything about the act had been created out of her trial and error, trying to figure out what he liked, until he’d finally broke it down for her one day with a vengeance, they hadn’t practiced it for some time. He was pleased that she still remembered her part.
Maya wanted nothing more than to bolt out of his arms and kneel before Renton, to explain to him everything that had just occurred—that there was nothing spontaneous about it, that she’d done it for him, that’d she’d actually faked her orgasm to make Henry come—but Henry maintained his death grip on her. After a few moments, Henry cleared his throat and said, “You can go, Renton. We can talk more about this later. You have a job to do; so don’t even think about leaving.”
Henry didn’t release her until Rent left the room.