Roman was good at hiding his emotions, when he wanted to be. At school, he hid them. When he bedded someone, he hid them. When his mother was trying to run Shelley’s life or his, or putting down many of the people in Hemlock Grove that Roman didn’t really think deserved her scorn, he still hid them.
When he’d watched Peter turn, he’d only managed to hide some of his feelings. His awe, he knew that had shown. At some point he’d felt tears in his eyes, but he hadn’t let them fall. He clung to that as an example of how much control he really had. He’d barely managed, but Peter’s mother had watched him so carefully, and he’d just met her. He wasn’t ready to share the full range of his emotions with her.
They’d said little after Peter ran off into the woods. Lynda had looked at him with a smile that said she knew what he’d really felt. “You staying?”
“If it’s all right,” he’d managed, though his voice had cracked.
“I think Peter would like that.” And she walked into the trailer, pushed a glass of something strong into his hand, and started wiping things down in the kitchen.
This time, Roman wouldn’t have to keep himself together, because Lynda wouldn’t be here. No one would trade shifts with her, and she’d been refused the time off, even an hour. It wasn’t like she could explain that she wanted the time off to be with her son as he turned into a wolf. Roman laughed to himself at how that conversation might go. She’d definitely need a new job after that.
“Peter, it’s a dime-a-dozen job. I can just let them fire me,” she said, looking back and forth between Peter and Roman. “I’ll find another that pays the same in no time. We’ll be all right.”
Roman wondered why she thought she had to be there. Hadn’t this happened every month for a long time now? He thought of Lynda as an overprotective mother who lets her kid get a driver’s license, but insists on riding along everywhere until he’s 20 to be sure he’s safe.
“Mom, it’s fine. I wouldn’t even mind doing it alone--but Roman’ll be here.”
Roman leaned back on the couch. “I promise I’ll stay with him the whole time he’s turning. And I’ll remember every detail if you want a report later.” He smiled at her in a way he knew people found charming.
Peter nodded and gestured at Roman. “There you go. Roman will make sure you don’t miss anything.”
Lynda shook her head. “See, you boys joke, and it’s nothing to take so lightly.” But she was smiling a little, so Roman knew he’d get to be alone with Peter when it happened.
To his surprise, after Lynda hugged and kissed Peter before leaving for work, she pulled Roman into a tight hug he had to bend like a reed to fully appreciate. “You call me if anything seems different, okay? In fact, call me afterwards just to check in?”
“Be good boys,” she said, waving as she got in her car. Not be good, boys, the way his mother or almost anyone else might have said it. Be good boys.
“I like your mom,” Roman said. “She cares a lot about you.”
“Yeah. So does yours.” Peter followed Roman back into the trailer.
“Your mom calls you her handsome little honeybun and hugs you like you’re a kindergartener. My mom hugs me like . . . like she hugs everybody else.” Like she hugs every other man. “And tells me I’m an emperor. It’s a little different.”
Peter laughed. “I guess so.”
When Peter started to remove his rings, Roman stood next to him, hand out to take them. Peter looked at him with a half-smile for a minute before putting them in his hand. Roman reverently placed them in the little dish he’d watched Peter use before. When Peter’s shirt came off, Roman took his off, and earned another questioning look from Peter. Then Roman stood behind the chair and put his hands on Peter’s shoulders, kneading gently. He combed Peter’s hair back from his face, rubbed his neck, felt himself harden at Peter’s moan.
“Roman . . . what--”
“Just let me help.” He kneaded Peter’s shoulders until the skin beneath his hands grew slick with sweat.
Peter finished stripping and stepped outside. Roman followed, running a hand up and down the length of Peter’s back, one he hoped would be soothing. “It’s time?”
Roman didn’t try to hide his emotions as he watched the wolf tear its way out of Peter’s skin again, bit by bit. He covered his mouth when he felt laughter bubble up, and wiped at his damp cheeks with the back of his hand. He held that same hand out to the wolf as he slowly approached, then knelt and pressed his face against the fur at the wolf’s neck.
When he could speak without his voice shaking, he called Lynda and said everything was fine.
Roman slept on the couch and woke before Peter came back. The sky was brightening, but the sun hadn’t come up over the horizon yet when he moved to the front steps carrying a bottle of water for Peter, a blanket around his shoulders. He’d smoked a few cigarettes by the time he heard rustling nearby.
Roman stood as Peter approached, then handed him the water. He looked Peter’s naked body up and down, looking for signs of the wolf that hid inside him. That there was no sign, that Peter had this magical creature inside him and no one could tell, made the whole thing even more thrilling. Sure, a freshman had started a rumor that Peter was a werewolf, but she had to have gone on more than Peter’s appearance, or just gotten lucky. There was nothing that gave Peter away, at least not to a casual observer. Roman hadn’t really believed the rumor before he’d known Peter, though he’d let on like he had. He hadn’t truly believed until he’d watched Peter turn.
That was why he'd wanted to watch, at first. He hadn’t been able to wrap his mind around the idea of a werewolf.
Now, he had other reasons.
He moved aside so Peter could get into the trailer, then followed him down the hall to Peter’s bedroom. Peter tossed himself on the bed, then leaned up on his elbow to drink more water. Roman lit a cigarette and handed it to Peter, who took a drag and nodded before handing it back.
Peter had always done that--taken a drink after Roman, taken a cigarette that had just been in his mouth. They fell into that habit as if it were natural. Right away, Roman was lighting two and handing him one, even when they were nearly strangers. He wouldn’t have done it for almost anyone else, and didn’t think Peter would accept it from anyone. But it was already as if they’d done it hundreds of times.
Roman stood shirtless, barefoot, in just jeans, his blanket a puddle on the floor around him. Peter took another gulp of water, dropped back onto his pillow, and rolled onto his side, facing away from Roman.
“Gonna just stand there?”
Roman took off his jeans and fished a couple of things out of his pocket to put on the nightstand. Then he pressed himself against Peter, an arm going around his waist. their bodies flush. It felt right. Natural. As if we’ve done it a hundred times, he thought. He rubbed his nose against the back of Peter’s neck.
“You smell like the woods. Cleaner than I’d expected.”
Peter laughed. “You thought I’d come back smelling like I’d rolled around in something?”
Roman felt too hot for a few minutes until he got used to being pressed against Peter this way. Then his body seemed to settle into it, and he felt sleepy in a way he hadn’t last night when he’d flopped onto the couch with a blanket. Or when he’d tried to go back to sleep after Lynda had called and said she was going to visit her niece and wouldn’t be back until much later in the day.
“Um, okay,” was all that Roman had managed. Who went to visit a relative in the middle of the night?
“I assume you’re going to stay until he gets home. Maybe much later,” Lynda had said.
“Yeah, I intended to.” Oh. He liked Peter’s mom more and more all the time. “I mean, yes. Yes, ma’am. I’ll be here when he gets back, and through the day.”
She’d told him to make sure Peter drank something after turning back, because sometimes he fell asleep before he did, and then he felt sick on waking. He‘d promised her, and then thanked her, and imagined her smile on the other end of the line. Roman had been sure she hadn’t liked him being with friends with Peter at first. He was glad something had changed, even though he didn’t know what that was.
“Mom?” Peter mumbled.
“Your cousin’s. She’ll be home later.” Roman took a chance and pressed his lips to the side of Peter’s neck. Peter shivered against him. “You’re so tired, aren’t you?”
He rubbed Peter’s stomach in slow circles, but whispered, “Then sleep.”
They were in the same position when they woke a few hours later, Roman’s cheek against the back of Peter’s neck. Peter unscrewed the cap of the water bottle and took several deep swallows. He passed it to Roman, who finished it, then moved back into his warm, comfortable position. He pressed his lips against Peter’s neck again, then brushed them over the lobe of his ear. His hand rubbed lower on Peter’s stomach, brushing the base of his sex. He was as hard as Roman.
“So she’s coming home later, huh? I love my mom,” Peter whispered, a smile clear in his voice as Roman gripped him firmly and stroked.
“I didn’t think she liked me. Especially not enough to stay away, just so we could have privacy.”
“She didn’t. Now, she does.”
“That’s something, then.” He took Peter’s earlobe between his teeth and bit down lightly. Roman moaned when Peter’s back arched and he thrust into Roman’s hand. “Do you have anything?”
Peter pulled a tube from beneath his pillow and handed it back.
“You’re still so tired, aren’t you?”
Peter nodded, his hand rubbing Roman’s forearm as Roman stroked him.
“I like you like this. Tired and pliant. Like I could do anything, and you’d just let me.”
Roman pushed his slicked fingers between Peter’s cheeks, teasing him there before pressing in. He bit down on Peter’s shoulder, not even hard enough to bruise yet, but the act made his stomach tremble.
“I probably would.” Peter arched his back, pressing against Roman’s fingers and taking them deeper. He squeezed around them, tightly enough to make Roman gasp.
Roman wondered if Lynda truly knew what they’d be doing, or if she’d just wanted to give them privacy as friends. Roman wondered if what they were doing now was some sort of betrayal. He hoped not, because he desperately wanted Lynda’s friendship, too.
Roman moved back and mouthed his way down Peter’s spine, leaving a wet trail down to his ass. He nipped at Peter’s buttock and drove his fingers in with purpose. Peter laughed at the bite, then rolled onto his back as Roman pushed against his shoulder.
Roman grabbed the condom and his pocketknife off the nightstand and knelt between Peter’s legs. Before he could put the condom on, he looked Peter up and down, and ran the flat of his hand from Peter’s cheek down to his groin, hmmming softly and taking in every detail. He stroked slick fingertips over the tattoo on Peter’s side.
“You’re staring,” Peter said, drawing Roman’s gaze to his face. “Like you’ve never seen a naked person before, and I know you have.”
“No one like you.” Roman took his time, kept looking, memorizing, never forgetting that under that skin a wolf waited to chew its way out.
Peter caught his hand as it moved over his chest, hardening his nipple and raising gooseflesh on his arm. He brought the hand to his mouth and kissed the palm, licking it in little swirls. He smiled at Roman’s reaction.
“God damn,” Roman gasped, and pulled his hand away so he could roll the condom on. Then he guided himself, hooking one arm beneath Peter’s knee. As he pressed into him, Roman never looked away from his face. “Can I, Peter? Do anything I want?” With a quick thrust, he slid the last couple of inches into Peter, their bodies coming together with a light slap. “I could make you, you know. Look into your eyes and make you do anything, make you let me do anything.”
Peter’s body stiffened at that, true or not. “You wouldn’t.” His back arched and he pushed against Roman, urging him to move.
Wouldn’t I? Roman thought. How would you know? “No. Because I don’t have to. You’ll let me.” Roman withdrew and pushed back in, slower than he’d expected to be able to go. They fell into a rhythm with this as they did with everything else, their bodies meeting and pulling apart in sync. Peter’s hands explored Roman’s chest, his neck. They clutched at his lower back and his ass, pulling him in harder and deeper.
Roman urged Peter to wrap his legs around him so he could pick up his pocketknife. He opened it, and still thrusting into the sleepy, warm body beneath him, Roman pressed a sloppy kiss to Peter’s chin. “Tell me yes, Peter. Please.” He held the knife up and pressed the thumb of that hand against the blade, slicing it open. He rubbed a line of fresh blood from the hollow between Peter’s collarbones down the center of his chest. Then he licked it up, starting at the bottom and working his way to Peter’s neck.
Peter moaned with every lick, nearly throwing his body up to meet Roman’s.
“Tell me yes,” Roman whispered against the little hollow at the base of Peter’s throat, now damp but free of blood.
“Yes, Roman. Yes. Do it.” Peter slid a hand into Roman’s hair and pulled his face up. They kissed, rough and biting, both of them moaning and gasping for air.
Roman leaned up, stilled, and slid the blade against the skin on the side of Peter’s throat. The cut was shallow, and he was careful not to inflict a serious wound. The blood trickled, so he cut slightly deeper, Peter’s hiss making him harder and more eager to move.
He tossed the knife away, hooked one hand under Peter’s shoulder, and latched his mouth onto the bleeding cut. He sucked, his body arching and slamming against Peter’s again and again. He got a hand between them and stroked Peter, who clung to him like he’d fall if he let go. Roman sucked and licked at the wound, kept it bleeding and bruised the skin around it. When Peter shouted his name and Roman felt the pulse in his hand, he slammed forward and cried out, the pleasure filling him up more than the hookers or the high school girls or the drugs ever had.
Even once he’d stopped stroking Peter, and had stopped thrusting into him, he panted against Peter’s neck and lapped at the cut, licking away the tiny drops of blood that welled there. When the blood stopped, he rolled away and tossed the condom in the trash. Roman pressed on his thumb to start the blood flow again, and painted circles and crosses on Peter’s chest. He licked each one away, finishing with a hard suck on a nipple before starting again.
“Have you ever seen The Manchurian Candidate?” Roman left a thumbprint of blood on Peter’s jaw and licked it away.
“Old or new?”
“New, I guess?” He laughed. “Why would it matter?” He rested his cheek against Peter’s shoulder and looked at his face. Peter’s eyes were closed, but he turned his head to face Roman.
“Because they’re different, aren’t they? I’ve seen the new one. Liev Schrieber, right?”
“They’re not different, not that much. Even the book is the same, mostly.” Roman waited.
Peter opened his eyes. “Okay.”
“You know in the movie, his mother--Shaw’s mother--how it was pretty clear she wanted to, you know, fuck him?”
“She did?” Peter’s tone was surprised, but Roman didn’t know if he was surprised that the mother wanted to fuck her son in the story, or that Roman was bringing it up.
“Well, yeah. That’s what I thought. It’s hinted at it in the book, just like the movies.” Roman leaned up on his elbow. “In the movie, she washes him in the bathtub, and then kisses him. Not a Mom kiss. You couldn’t really miss it.” Not if you were paying attention to the mother, and the way she looked at her son. The way she stared.
“Okay, I remember that. Yeah.”
“The mother . . . she kind of reminded me of my mom. Except she wanted to make her son the President. And my mom . . . well, you know, I’m already a fucking emperor.” Roman laughed, but then swallowed so hard he nearly had to cough, and wished he hadn’t finished the water. He’d have to go get another if they weren’t getting up soon.
Peter nodded. “What else about her reminded you of your mom, Roman?”
“Just the ambition. The air of superiority.”
“Nothing. I don’t even know what made me think of it.” I don’t know why I can’t get it out of my mind.
“And I’d buy that, except your eyes are saying something different to me. They always do.”
Roman clenched his jaw and sighed. He closed his eyes and whispered, “Then stop listening.” He rubbed his lips against Peter’s shoulder, until Peter rolled them both, putting himself behind Roman this time and suggesting more sleep.
Roman woke to the trailer door slamming and Lynda talking loudly to herself about how tired she was and how she guessed she’d take a nap before dinner. He chuckled at how obvious she was being in the hopes of not surprising them in the middle of anything. Peter rose first, pulling on sweats and a T-shirt and tossing Roman’s jeans to him. He’d left his T-shirt in the living room, and hoped that didn’t make for an awkward moment.
Peter tossed him a T-shirt with a smile. “It’s too short for you, but it’ll do for now.”
He followed Peter down the hall and smiled at Lynda. “Morning. Afternoon. Whatever it is.” He found his shoes, and sat to put them on while Lynda hugged and kissed Peter.
“You two sleep well?”
They both nodded and answered without actual words, just grunts. Peter smiled at Roman, which sparked his own. Lynda gripped Roman’s chin and lifted his face. Her smile was so different than his own mother’s. So much warmer, and without the weight of expectation behind it.
“Roman Godfrey, is that a blush?” She gestured at Peter to look. “Forgive me, Roman, but I wasn’t expecting that from someone who’s known to be, well, pretty shameless.” She ruffled his hair. “It’s sweet.” And then she went into the kitchen to get something to drink, leaving Roman gaping at Peter, his face even hotter than before.
When he found his voice, he asked Peter, “Gonna sleep some more?”
“Probably. But if you want to do something later tonight, come back and get me.”
“Okay.” Roman stood and ruffled Peter’s hair like Lynda had done his, making Peter laugh. Before he left, he went into the kitchen and hugged Lynda. “Thank you. Really.” He kissed her temple, then went out to his car where he sat for a long time before deciding not to go home at all. He didn’t feel like answering questions his mother would ask and hate the answers to.
He sat with the engine off and had a text conversation with Shelley about movies and mothers and sons and why he thought she should always wear dangling earrings and eat whatever the fuck she wanted, until Lynda appeared in front of the car, her hands in her back pockets. “Have dinner with us, Roman. If you’re a picky eater, there’s salad in the fridge.”
She nodded toward the trailer and held out her hand to take his before he was even out of the car. Roman thought about a wolf tearing its way out of her son’s skin, the emperor moth struggling its way out of the cocoon, and his own mother’s dark eyes tracking him when she didn’t think he noticed.
“I’m sure I’ll love whatever you’ve made.” And he meant it as sincerely as anything he’d ever said.