Sometimes he wishes he were simple. Straightforward. Plain like black or white. Angry or calm. Just like Tommy who’s either dangerous or sweet, no middle ground. But he isn’t. Complication is twisting through the convolutions of his brain, slithering in the tangle of his guts like a motherfucking snake. And his mind never stops ticking, like a time bomb wired into his heart beat. Tick. Tick. Boom.
Every thought is chafing at his insides. Regret. Ambition. Fear. Loss.
He used to love. Used to have this golden high pumping through his veins, scorching her name into his flesh. And now that she’s gone, she’s left a hole his body cannot forget. At first her absence was like cold turkey, same chill, same burn, and when finally the hurt and the cramps subsided, there was only emptiness. His heart turned into stone and now it’s withering, crumbling before his eyes. He sees himself fading and blurring and nothing is real anymore.
Nothing but Tommy’s fingers digging into his shoulders, shaking him awake.
"Ghost", he says. "Are you in there?"
Has Tommy always been this white? It feels like staring at marble. Irony they don’t call him Ghost.
Reluctantly he lets himself be pulled to his feet, into the rush of music and lights and people. It’s like a storm around him, too many sensations, and he sways, but Tommy’s got him, holds him steady with strong hands. He looks actually concerned, eyes mirror-bright, and James remembers the boys they once were, a smart black kid and his belligerent white buddy. They’ve come far and they’ll go even further, or so he was led to believe. It doesn’t seem to matter anymore.
"Are you okay, man?" Tommy says, the usual pitbull-determination in his jaw like he’s just waiting for someone to punch. As if that made any difference.
"Fine", he brings himself to say. One of the worst lies he’s ever told and Tommy knows it. His frown isn’t exactly subtle. But then he laughs one of his manic pixie laughs and says, "Brought someone for a little fun. That’s Candy." He points somewhere behind him.
That’s when he’s noticing the girl hovering in the background. Also not very subtle she’s as unlike Angie as someone could possibly be. Bleach-blonde curvaceous porn-star-type. The motherfucker must be fucking kidding, because hell, this can’t be a serious proposition. He opens his mouth, sees Tommy’s expression, and closes it again. No use to argue with him anyway. When Tommy’s got his teeth into something it’s rather improbable he’s gonna let go before he’s torn himself a good chunk out of it. He’s stubborn that way. Where Ghost is a brilliant plotter, Tommy is the tireless drive behind their operation. Every once in a while it’s a good idea to just let himself be carried along. Also, he’s got nothing to lose, hasn’t he? So Ghost only shrugs and decides to go with the flow.
Tommy leads the way and the crowd parts around them like the fucking Red Sea. They know who they are, know they’re with Kanan’s crew, and when the girl grabs Ghost’s hand, there is something like admiration in her eyes, and it feels good. He actually feels something that is, and for a change it’s neither pain nor despair, and he lets himself be dragged away by them only too willingly.
Tommy’s managed to clear them a room, however he’s done that, and as soon as the door snaps shut behind them, the girl is all over Ghost and Tommy just grins like he’s won the fucking lottery. His smug smile is the last thing James sees before he lowers his head and kisses her. Candy or whatever her name is.
She tastes like bubblegum and champagne, a pinkish, artificial taste with the vague excitement of sparkles on the tongue. Before he can decide whether he likes it, she’s slipped her hands under his shirt, eager palms on the ragged plane of his stomach, tracing every strand of muscle, up to the collarbone. The warmth spreads from her touch, bourbon-goodness running down his spine, and he can feel her smile under his lips, like she enjoys herself or him or both. A moment of ease and quiet. Tommy, well, he knows his business. He has a way with drugs, regardless of flavour.
This seems about just what he needed, Ghost thinks only a second before Candy curls her fingers and drags her nails downwards, viciously, like claws over smooth skin. Pain sparks in their wake and the pleasant warmth turns into heat, a fresh, keen sensation, more like hunger than anything. Ghost sucks in a sharp breath while the sensation carries on, an ongoing trail shivering down his body. Somehow it’s losing its edge after a while, blurring out into pleasure.
Next thing he registers is Candy already tugging impatiently at his belt. Should have known Tommy wouldn’t bring a girl who didn’t mean business.
The air is raw in his lungs when he looks over her head at his friend. Tommy’s sitting on the edge of the bed, leaning back and pulling casually on his cigarette as if enjoying a good show, and the urge is itching in Ghost’s knuckles to wipe the smugness off his face and replace it with something else entirely. A kind of expression he sees as clearly before his inner eye as a goddamn Marian apparition and then realisation dawns on him, that this is forbidden fruit and he should not even think about going there.
Thankfully Candy has finally managed to unbuckle his belt and she shoves the pants down over his hips and the boxers with ‘em and when she kneels his mind threatens to go blank. Only, Tommy bites his lip, and just like that, slow-motion spin of a world-slide, everything’s skidding like they’re about to fall down the rabbit hole. Ghost forgets to breathe for the moment it takes Candy’s mouth to close around him. For that eternity-stretch of time the damp air from her lungs twirls over his heated flesh like mist and Tommy stares at him…
And he stares back, and then Candy sucks and swallows and his heart flutters shut like his eye-lids and he’s alone in the darkness with the soft, heavy groan that builds inside him as is the coil of arousal in the pit of his stomach. A warm, red, cosy wave streaming downwards, pulling him under.
His hands find her hair and he holds on, not entirely gently, but she moans as if she likes it and then Angie is there with him in the dark. Only the faintest glimpse before he wrenches his eyes open, but she lingers on in his mind and he sees how Tommy can see it, too, the haunt shining through him like light through a lamp shade.
The anger flares in his expression. Just a flash of the blind hate he’s been harbouring for Ghost’s ex ever since she’s left him, committed this act of treason that’s unforgivable in Tommy’s eyes - but long enough for Jamie to notice. It takes him only the fraction of a second to put the pieces together, like all of a sudden everything clicks into place. This is not simply a distraction for his heartache; this is also an attempt to repair the damage done between them, the havoc Angie wrecked on their friendship. Not like a conscious plan perhaps, more like the vague gut-feeling-lead Tommy usually follows. A girl tore them apart and a girl will bring them back together.
Ghost thinks of a rainy afternoon when they were 13 or 14, and of the battered video tape Tommy had procured. He never revealed where he got it from but his eyes shone with excitement and his grin was pure challenge and Ghost could not elude the temptation. He still remembers the faint tremble of his fingers as he slid the tape into the VCR. How it seemed impossible to find a comfortable position on the couch. How hot the embarrassed thrill of watching porn together burnt on his skin. He even remembers the lukewarm coke grating on his teeth and the too-loud breathing in a too-silent room.
Now time seems to have turned in on itself, looping like the back-spin of a record.
Ghost looks down at Candy, who’s stopped sucking him once his grip in her hair tightened, like she can read his mind. She’s really cute if you look past the overly blonde hair and the overly slutty dress. Pretty. Lush pink lips already slightly swollen. Every bit living up to her name. He smiles at her with all the gentleness he can muster.
“Get on the bed, Candy”, he tells her.
She gets to her feet with more grace than her staggeringly high heels should legally allow, and Ghost’s gaze follows her, the sway of her hips, the curves of her calves, her thighs, her arse, like hypnotised. Also because he cannot look at Tommy, not now, when he’s half naked and hard and not certain where this will lead. But then Candy bends over to kiss Tommy and her short skirt rides up, exposing her bare pussy. No underwear. Not even a flimsy thong. Something Tommy must have known, judging from the way his hands glide over her legs and between them, confident, determined, spreading her for Ghost’s eyes.
It’s like the air has congealed and Ghost is breathing water, thick and viscous, gulping it down in greedy sips, while he watches two of Tommy’s fingers slip into Candy’s cunt, delving deep and re-emerging slick with her fluids. He wants to lick them clean and follow their lead, too, and the tug of arousal is nearly painful in his belly.
Something is crumbling inside him, qualms, reserve, reason perhaps. The need is arrow-straight in the mess of his mind. Perhaps for once everything will be simple. He can read the promise from Tommy’s stare, the black-hole-eagerness of his pupils sucking him into its thrall. Resistance is futile and the decision already made.
It’s this certainty, this inherent logic of events that jerks Ghost from his daze. He pulls his t-shirt over his head, kicks off his sneakers, then steps out of the pants and boxers that pool around his feet. Revealing a body that bears witness to his ambitions: he’s tried to shape it into stone, just like his heart; purge the pain, erase her memory from his flesh. There is no softness left in him, the boy has become a man and love but a fleeting notion, buried beneath scars and bruises. He’s learned how heavy a gun weighs once you fired it at another man and how bones sound when they break. He’s a soldier now, baptised in blood. His muscles strain against the skin as he moves towards the bed, the reassuring ripple of discipline and control, whereas in his mind, the chaos is tumbling, falling into line.
Tommy’s mouth curls into one of his infamous smiles, when Ghost reaches down and between Candy’s legs and his fingers join Tommy’s, pushing into her. It’s strangely intimate and he barely pays any attention to what he’s actually doing, as if this is some sort of task to share with his childhood-friend, until Candy topples against Tommy and a sound comes from her mouth that’s so lewd and sexy, it runs through him like sparks and needles.
“On the bed”, he says again, his voice coarse, and suddenly he feels like he’s actually in control. Tommy scrambles back, pulling Candy with him, so she’s over him on all fours and he drags her down into a kiss, and this time Ghost can see how their lips melt, at first the lazy brush of mouth upon mouth, then the softening slide against each other, slotting together like jigsaw pieces. Ghost drinks in the star-glistening flash of tongue and the low rumble in Tommy’s chest and Candy’s breathy moan as if slaking a thirst he didn’t even know he had.
There’s a rainbow of condoms on the mattress, scattered like overgrown confetti, all sorts of colours and flavours and sizes, and Ghost grasps one, his favourite brand, and wonders briefly how much of this encounter has been planned well in advance. But then Candy looks back at him over her shoulder and wiggles her arse and bats her lashes and he forgets all about it.
“Will you fuck me already, James?” she whispers in her best porn star-tone. “C’mon, my pussy’s all wet for you.”
And Ghost feels like laughing, the giddiness bubbling in his guts, but his cock doesn’t seem to find it particularly funny. The sentence just works its spell and soon, so very soon, Ghost complies with her request. He sinks into her, slowly, hands on her hips and gaze on Tommy’s face.
What he sees is his own pleasure, reflected in sympathy. Looking-glass eyes gone wide, night-sky splay of black, and there is a strangeness to his expression, anxious and expectant, like he’s given him a present and wonders now if he likes it. Why don’t you see for yourself, Ghost wants to say, but somehow the words are stuck in his throat, so he just grins and thrusts deep into Candy, makes her moan their unanimous approval into Tommy’s skin.
Yes. So good. Harder. Fuck me. James.
Candy knows her lines, and she means them, too. Groans and whimpers and pants them against Tommy’s collarbone, who holds her, strokes her hair with calming fingers, then reaches down, between them and rubs these fingers over her clit – mesmerising calm turned into madness - while Ghost follows her instructions and pushes into her, harder and deeper and more.
The closeness of Tommy’s fingers to his cock is like a fever, like that embarrassed burn of years back and intoxicating at the same time, and Ghost wants it to last, wants to savour the moment of intimacy, see their bond heal and strengthen. He ruffles up all his courage to speak his mind, say his thoughts aloud. “You should join the action”, he growls and Candy backs him up as good as she can with another “God yes” and “Tommy” and Tommy’s smile is like fucking sunshine lighting up his face.
He wriggles out from under them, still fully clothed, and props himself against the head of the bed, before he grabs his shirt at the neck and pulls it over his head in one smooth, practical motion. Careless as if unobserved. As if they weren’t both watching hawk-eyed and eager.
Ghost has seen Tommy change a thousand times, has watched the body of his friend turn from a boyish scrawniness to adult brawn. They’ve been going to the gym together for years and he knows every outline of muscle under the fair skin, has witnessed nearly every hour spent on defining it. Tommy comes enviably close to this whitey ideal of ancient Greek you can still marvel at in museums. But now his smooth skin isn’t pale as stone statues but flushed pink, a feverish tinge betraying his arousal.
The blood shining to the paper-thin surface reminds Ghost of how fragile a human really is, just a bullet away from being dead meat. But we are alive, he thinks, as he picks up his pace again and Candy lowers her head, goes down on Tommy as soon as he’s managed to open his pants and all Ghost can do is try to keep breathing. Keep up the keen snap of his hips and don’t get distracted by the way Tommy’s face twists into a grimace of pleasure, once Candy closes her lips around him, eyes closed, teeth digging into his lower lip, just like he imagined he’d look.
Ghost runs his hands over Candy’s back, along her spine, while Tommy’s fingers thread into her hair. It’s more of a caress than actually guiding her head, and he groans. That low rumble that makes the heartbeat pound in Ghost’s ears.
“So, how does it feel? James fucking you?”, Tommy asks. Candy just moans and whimpers against him, since she can’t exactly answer, and Ghost’s stomach lurches at the sound. “Ahhh yes”, Tommy says. “I thought you’d like it.” His eyes are open again and some of their manic gleam has returned. “What do you think - wouldn’t it even be better, if I fucked you, too?” This time he holds her head just for the moment it takes to slip out of her mouth and give her the opportunity to respond.
The lurch in Ghost’s belly cramps into a knot of excitement, when she says the words, that mantra of syllables. “Yes, god, yes”, she breathes. “Fuck me, Tommy, fuck me in the ass.” At this point Ghost seriously doubts he’ll last any longer, he already feels the slight dizziness of approaching orgasm, the chill of shivers on his lower spine, but Tommy, driven by pixie-madness, has entangled and rearranged them in no time. Like he’s been doing nothing else than re-enacting porn scenes for the last couple of years.
Ghost lies back against the cool silky sheets, trying to catch his breath. The surrealism of the situation begins to unfold in him like the roll of a high, way beyond simple arousal and blinding lust. Candy strips off the remainder of her clothes before she crawls over him like a cat and his hands find her breasts, supple and heavy, tease her nipples and she smiles, not unlike Tommy, gleeful, triumphant. And then she kisses him, licks into his mouth and all Ghost can think of is her tongue running over the length of Tommy’s cock and he wonders if he imagines the traces of his musk in her taste. Probably he should be grossed out by the idea alone, but in this fantasy is no room for repulsion.
His fingers clutch her hair while he kisses her, less gentle than before, and his other hand guides his dick back into her pussy and she moans into his mouth.
The mattress dips a little when Tommy joins them on the bed, and Candy squirms under his touch, Ghost can feel it and Tommy croons something he can’t quite make out but the sound reassures him, too. Everything’s alright. They’ve must have planned this, seducing him. Ghost almost laughs at the thought but then Candy trembles around him, eliciting a breathless gasp from him and a deep moan from Tommy as he is slipping into her. The tightness is nearly too much. Being compressed into a form of bliss, pleasure dense and fluid at the same time, singing in his bones.
At last they’re both in her, settled in pliant flesh, separated only by a thin layer of tissue, three humans connected in the most intimate way, and a wave of warmth is rising in Ghost’s chest. A sudden surge of emotion for this strange, unknown woman who feels so good and so right.
Candy is breathing hard, her forehead braced against the bulk of his arm and shoulder.
“You okay?”, Ghost whispers into her hair. His fingers rub soothingly over her shoulder blades, just inches from where Tommy places sweet little kisses on her spine.
“Yeah. Fine”, Candy murmurs into his skin. “Just give me a moment.”
The room is crammed with their breathing, the lust stretching on into every fibre of Ghost’s being, fierce and mellow, and then Candy moves. Like a ripple on water at first, shallow, light, then faster, more confident. She takes them with her into a wave of bodies, ancient rhythm perverted into porn tape-adventure. But that’s exactly what makes it so good, Ghost thinks. Acting out wet dreams and teenage-fantasies.
Candy shivers with each slide of her body against him, tender nerve-endings sparking pleasure, her moans now more like short gasps. No more show, this is genuine, just like Tommy’s muffled groans that escape him with every shove and push, wrench themselves from him as if breathing itself has become difficult. Everyone for themselves now, it seems, the race for release has begun. A downward spiral into darkness, where sanity hangs by a thread, where you poise at the very edge of madness. But whatever he feared, this time there’s no Angie waiting for him, only the bright molten blackness of need, the tense coil of limbs around him is the life line Ghost holds onto as he’s dragged out into the void.
There’s nothing here, in this dreamland of desire. Nothing but the constant, avid suck of orgasm, inevitable and inescapable as death itself. Ghost allows himself to float into this vortex; not far now. He savours the sensual ache that’s pooling in his belly, the numbing, chilly tremors dancing on his thighs. Simplicity at last, he thinks as he stares into Tommy’s vacant eyes, who’s leaning over them, rearing, seeing and not seeing, but it’s Candy who comes first. Loud, sinister shakes and twitching muscles, erupting tension around him, her nails like claws in his skin; a couple of thrusts and Tommy follows suit, his body rigid as rock, frozen in that one moment when human is pure animal. It takes but a second and forever and then the swell of the aftershocks rocks through them and Ghost rides it one last time before he too topples over, tension breaking, shattering into sharp, meaningless splinters.