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A Waste of Good Suffering

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“These home-made artifacts reveal many cultural assumptions about homosexuality, most of them, not surprisingly culled from the history of the horror film…. The common trait of all these artifacts is that they depict both a fascination with homosexuality and, at the same time, a violent reaction against it.”

Harry M. Benshoff, Monsters In The Closet: Homosexuality and The Horror Film (283-4)

 

The two suitcases Billy’s mother took when she left town had not been enough to hold everything, so most of her clothes still hung in the closet in the master bedroom. Billy would sneak in sometimes when his father wasn’t home and paw through what was left of her wardrobe. Big flower-print dresses with the shoulders padded. Knit sweaters. Velvet jacket with pearl buttons. Sensible, square-toed heels. It all smelled like her still. Sometimes Billy wanted to climb into the closet with her clothes, hide there like he would when he was little and playing hide and seek with friends.

He tried to go full Norman Bates with it one afternoon, but his mother’s shoes had pinched, and when he pulled on that black velvet jacket, he’d stood in the middle of the master bedroom, straining to find his mother in the clothes she’d abandoned and failing. The sound of his father’s car rolling up outside made him abandon the task. (Mr. Loomis caught the scent of his wife’s perfume in the bedroom, and again on his son, and curled his lip).

 

Billy had seen Rope. He’d seen Fright Night. He knew the score. He’d never liked vampire flicks anyway, with all those manicured sissies getting staked through the heart like people hadn’t figured out what that meant by now. A guy gets stabbed in a horror movie, he might as well just have a dick up his ass. And two guys who kill together? Leopold and Loeb were old news.

The irony wasn’t lost on Billy.

He knew Stu was queer. He seemed to have cast himself as the fawning, vaguely masochistic assistant that every evil genius had. During school, or when they were all hanging out on weekends, he’d catch Stu giving him the once-over, or else just staring with a fawning adoration that was way too obvious to be allowed. Billy tried to freeze him out, let him know that it wasn’t welcome, but the ice queen routine—as Stu dubbed it—fizzled out after a few days.

On Friday night, they got drunk on beer in Billy’s bedroom, Hellraiser playing from the small TV on his desk. Billy, stretched facedown on his bed, could feel Stu looking at him from his spot on the floor. He didn’t have the inhibitions to tell him to fuck off.

Stu closed the distance between them.

He was a more tentative kisser than Billy would have thought, if he’d thought about it at all, which he hadn’t. Maybe it was because he was kissing a boy and was aware of the very real possibility that Billy might shove him away and punch him in the teeth.

Billy kissed him back. The beer had softened his edges and brought out those parts of him that he didn’t know how to qualify. Besides, the movie was making him ache for something to rut on. Stu climbed onto the bed and sat across from him, kissed him again, and Billy was struck suddenly by the normalcy of the scene. Two teenagers kissing on a bed. They might have been Ringwald and Whatshisname in one of those John Hughes movies. Banal and boring.

Mouths. Hands. Stu was first to initiate that too: his hands at Billy’s jaw, dragging down his neck—Billy’s stomach fluttered—and over his chest. Snaking beneath his shirt.

“You’re so amazing,” Stu mumbled against his lips, quieter than usual.

Billy kissed him and pushed him back against the foot of the bed. Stu slid his hands from his chest to the small of his back, then further down to grab his ass, kneading into his flesh. With a groan that he immediately regretted, Billy bit Stu’s lip, pulled at it. His head swam: from the alcohol, the violence on the TV, the kissing, the ache of his dick where it was pressed against Stu’s thigh. All sound had been sucked out of the room; his senses had been reduced to Stu’s hands and his tongue in his mouth.

There was a sharp rap on his bedroom door.

“Shit.”

Billy rolled off of Stu and was halfway across the room before his father opened the door. He hesitated as he took in the scene: his son standing rigid in front of the TV, his back to him; and Stu sprawled at the foot of the bed, looking shell-shocked.

“I’m going to bed,” his father said at last. “Turn that down.”

Billy scrambled to find the remote.

The door snapped shut behind him. Billy lowered the volume and turned back to Stu, who was now seated on the edge of the bed, watching him. Billy strode over, meaning to sit beside him, but Stu caught him by the waist and pressed his face into his hip.

Billy extricated himself from his embrace.

“You should go.”

Stu blinked.

"… what?”

“You shouldn’t stay over.” He gave him a what-can-you-do smile. “My dad’s gonna think it’s weird.”

Slowly, as though Billy had told a joke that he hadn’t understood, Stu’s lips curved up to match his grin.

“Guess so.” He cocked his head to the side. “Can we do this first though?”

He waved his hand between Billy and himself, and his eyes dropped with exaggerated pointedness to the bulge in Billy’s jeans.

“No,” said Billy.

Something resentful flickered in Stu’s face, but Billy didn’t have time to wonder at it.

Stu grabbed his waist again and pushed him onto the bed against the pillows. He crawled over him and pinned him there by his wrists.

“I may be dumb,” Stu said, “but you don’t get to treat me like I’m dumb.”

Billy turned his head to the side and squeezed his eyes shut, opened them wide. He wasn’t sober enough for one of Stu’s diva acts.

“Sure,” he said.

Something flickered in Stu’s face, but Billy couldn’t make out the emotion.

 

The next afternoon, he went to Sidney’s after school. Her mother insisted that they keep the bedroom door open, which Billy thought was pretty hypocritical, all things considered, but he kept his thoughts to himself. Sidney opened her closet door too, which afforded them a certain amount of privacy. Comparing notes on their upcoming stats exam turned into making out, of course, with Sidney shoved into the fluffy pillows on her bed and Billy above her, sucking her tongue into his mouth every time she came up for air.

She pushed him off and angled her face away to avoid his mouth.

“Am I allowed to breathe for a second?”

“Nope.”

He moved his mouth to the side of her neck, but she pushed her hand under his mouth and moved his face off her.

“How about you take a really cold shower, and then we study, and then we do this?”

He rolled into the meager space beside her and ran his hand down his lips, chest heaving. She sat up, smoothed her hair back; he watched her. He didn’t know how to qualify his feelings for her: if he hated her, if he was head over heels in love; if he wanted to fuck her or if he was repulsed by her. Obsession was a difficult beast.

He swung his legs over the side of the bed and kissed her shoulder fleetingly.

“I need a break. You want anything from the kitchen?”

 

Downstairs in the kitchen, he found a bag of microwavable popcorn in the pantry. Butter in the fridge. Salt on the counter. As the bag whirred away in the microwave, he found a knife and began to cut squares of butter to melt.

“Oh!”

He nearly sliced his thumb off at the exclamation. Maureen Prescott stood in the doorway, staring at him. She seemed just as surprised as he was; she blinked at him briefly before coming into the kitchen with a murmured greeting.

He looked away.

“Just making a snack,” he mumbled, eyes focused on the butter, the knife in his hand.

“Did Sid ask to help?”

Look at her being a good mom, making sure her daughter was playing host properly. He nodded, sniffed, and cut another slice of butter. The stick was beginning to sweat in its dish. In the microwave, the first kernels of corn popped.

Maureen moved past him, took a glass out of a nearby cabinet, and filled it with water from the tap. She seemed to be avoiding his eye as much as he was hers. Her hand shook as she brought the glass to her lips.

Pop. Pop. Pop pop pop.

Another slice of butter. He had far more than he needed.

“You hold that knife like a professional.” Maureen’s voice was a little unsteady.

He didn’t look at her.

“My mom taught me.”

Deadly silence, broken only by the popcorn in the microwave.

“Have you talked to her lately?” she asked after the silence had dragged on a beat too long.

Billy walked past her and dropped the knife in the sink with a clatter that seemed deafening.

“No.”

The timer went off. Maureen flinched. He retrieved the steaming bag of popcorn and emptied it into a bowl that she was quick to find for him. He scraped in the butter, added the salt, and turned to go, but she caught his arm. He jerked back as though she’d burned him.

“Whatever grudge you’ve got,” she said quietly, “you keep my daughter out of it, okay?”

For a moment he just looked at her. Something ugly was pulsing in his blood; it made his mouth taste salty as if he were about to vomit. With difficulty, he curbed the feeling, swallowed the bile.

“Keep her out of what, Mrs. Prescott?”

He smiled.

 

“You okay?” Sidney asked when he made it back up to her room. “You’re white as a sheet.”

Clammy too; he was sweating through his T-shirt. He waved off her questions, briefly left the room again to splash some water on his face in the bathroom, and put the mask back in place.

He came back to Sidney’s room and sat down next to her.

“Feel better?” she asked. He nodded. “You look better.”

He picked up his textbook and frowned down at the scatter plot they were supposed to be analyzing. He wasn’t in the mood to work. Sidney didn’t seem to be either; she kept shifting position, tying and retying her ponytail. Finally she stirred.

“Um—you know how I said my parents were going out of town on their anniversary?”

Billy frowned.

“Yeah, did that fall through or something?”

“No, they’re still going, it’s, um.” She was doing that thing where she studied her nails, her open notebooks, anything but looking at him.

“What.”

“I told Tatum I’d go stay with her for the weekend?”

Billy blinked.

“—I thought we were going to—”

“I know,” she said quickly. “It’s just that—I don’t want to be rattling around in this house all alone all weekend—”

“You wouldn’t be alone. I’d be there.”

“You know what I mean.”

“Do I?”

She chewed her lip. “You can still come over Friday,” she said. “I’m not going until Saturday morning, so…” She grabbed his hands. “You can bring some of your movies. I’ll get snacks. We’ll make a party.”

“That’s generous of you.”

He traced his fingertip around her knuckles.

“I’m not trying to hurt you,” she said, “it’s just—”

“What movies do you want me to bring?”

He’d interrupted her, but he asked the question nicely, punctuated with a smile.

“If it has to be scary, can you make it an oldie?”

Psycho and the original Cat People?” he suggested.

“What’s Cat People about?”

“This chick thinks she’s, like, half-panther.” She gave him a doubtful look. “You’ll like it,” he said. “It’s not scary, it was made in the Forties. And if you do get the frights,” he added, crawling closer, “I’ll be right there.”

She rolled her eyes, swatted his shoulder.

“Yeah, I bet you will.”

She reached across him for the popcorn bowl.

“Hey, open up.”

He let her push the popcorn onto his tongue and let her lean against him while they finally finished their homework, but when she kissed him, he pleaded fatigue and went home.

 

In the bottom drawer of the desk in Billy’s room was a squished-up Yellow Pages. In it, he’d circled every hotel, motel, and apartment complex he could find. In the first two weeks after his mother left, he’d spent every evening calling, desperate and probably sounding far younger than he actually was to the managers on the other end.

“Is there a Deborah Loomis staying there? Or maybe a Deborah Barringer?”

No dice. She hadn’t left him so much as a number he could call, or an address where he might be able to visit her. He’d tried his grandparents, but they hadn’t seen her either. She seemed to have dropped off the face of the earth. Sometimes he remembered in The Silence of the Lambs when Clarice would sleep against her washing machine because it imitated the sensation of being in utero. When he’d read it, he’d thought that that was kinda melodramatic, but now he was starting to get it.

He called another five motels—a fruitless task—and went to bed. Curling himself into the fetal position, he pretended that when he woke up in the morning, he would find his mother making breakfast as usual. She’d suggest that they rent some movies for that night and she wouldn’t even complain if all he wanted to watch was the really gross shit.

 

On the first cold snap of the fall, he went to Stu’s place. His parents were out of town, and they had the house to themselves. Which meant that they were going through his father’s dining room collection of hunting knives.

They were gorgeous: black handles, delicately curved steel blades. Billy ran a finger over the sharp edge of one, nicking himself on purpose to see how well it did its job. It went through his skin like butter. Absently, he sucked the blood from the cut and held the blade up to the light, watching the pale, watery shadows it cast on the walls.

“Awesome, right?” Stu was saying. “This one, this one’s a skinner knife, it’s not gonna be much good for, like, actual slicing and dicing, but—oh, and this one—” he was tripping over his words—“this one’s got a gut hook, you know, for really opening ‘em up…”

Billy tuned him out. A year ago, his dad had given him a penknife for his birthday. In the spirit of experimentation, he’d stuck it into the side of his mattress. It had gone in fine but moving it around had nearly snapped the blade clean off. Like most things his dad had given him, it was basically crap with a bow on it.

He didn’t think he could break this thing if he tried.

The cut on his index finger was still weeping blood. He cursed and looked for a tissue box somewhere, but Stu was quicker. He took Billy’s hand, brought his fingertip to his mouth, and sucked the blood away.

Billy gulped. His breath was a little unsteadier than it had been a second ago.

“Stop.”

“What, are you not into it?”

Stu pried the knife out of Billy’s hand and laid the point against his jugular.

Billy froze.

One hand crept back to the display cabinet to grab a knife of his own in case Stu made a false move. But his friend didn’t seem interested in slicing and dicing. He trailed the knifepoint over Billy’s throat, dipped into the hollow. Billy gulped; the point caught on his skin but didn’t break it. Stu licked his lips, eyes roving over him. Their breathing was shallow, and Billy was suddenly aware that his every muscle had gone rigid with the effort of not inadvertently pushing himself further against the knifepoint—but he wasn’t avoiding it either. He was allowing the contact, the danger. His dick throbbed. When he glanced downward, he found Stu similarly hard.

Stu traced the knife up his throat again, following the line of his jaw where the skin was thinner, more sensitive. Up beneath his earlobe. Billy shivered in spite of himself and let his breath out slowly. His nerves blazed, blood roaring in his ears, and through it all was Stu, grinning at him like an idiot.

“You look wrecked right now,” he said.

Billy’s fists itched to punch him. He didn’t move.

Abruptly, Stu lowered the knife. Billy exhaled hard, shoulders dropping in relief.

Stu shoved him back into the display cabinet.

He landed with a rattle of glass and an involuntary grunt as Stu’s hand came down on his chest, pinning him there. Billy stared back at him, chest heaving, as Stu laid the flat of the knife against his mouth. The fuck are you doing, he wanted to say, but the risk of slicing his lips open kept him silent. For a moment, he wondered if keeping him silent had been Stu’s plan from the beginning, but then he dismissed the idea. Stu didn’t script himself; this was all improv.

Achingly slow, Stu slid the knife over his mouth until the point caught on his lower lip.

“Stu—” he began, risking it, but Stu shook his head and increased the pressure of his hand on his chest.

“Open up.”

He understood, then, and if the heat that pooled in his core nearly made his knees buckle, it wasn’t anybody’s business but his own.

He gulped, parted his lips, and closed his eyes.

The knife was cold against his tongue and had the same bitter taste as the bleeding cut on his finger. It pulled his lower lip slightly inward as it slid in, and Billy hastily opened his mouth wider to accommodate the blade and avoid cutting himself. Twice, the blade clicked against his teeth, and he jerked back involuntarily, but there was nowhere to go. He squeezed his eyes shut even tighter; tears leaked from between the lids. In spite of everything, his mouth watered.

Stu kept pushing the knife farther. Billy needed to swallow, badly, but if he did, he’d cut his tongue and the roof of his mouth to ribbons. For a moment, he imagined it: the knife lacerating everything, him spluttering mouthfuls of blood all over Stu. Sick fuck would probably get off on it.

Billy probably would too.

Tentatively, daring himself to see how far he could go, he ran his tongue along the flat of the knife, pausing whenever he felt an edge. Licking it. He didn’t open his eyes, but he could somehow feel Stu grinning.

“‘He’s inside me, he wants to take me again!’”

His voice dripped with glee. Billy groaned a fuck you around the knife, but it sounded more like ukh—oo.

He was leaking into his boxers.

Stu took his time in bringing the knife backward. He lingered, tickling the roof of his mouth with little feather-light brushes. Infuriated, Billy whined and slammed his fist back into the cabinet.

The knifepoint slid to a standstill on the tip of his tongue. Billy opened his eyes. Stu tilted his head to the side, considering him. Saliva ran down Billy’s chin and the length of the knife. It looked almost obscene, like something out of a porno. Stu muttered a curse.

Carefully, Billy slid his tongue out from beneath the blade and then, on impulse, pressed a brief kiss to the flat.

Stu twisted the knife. With a yell, Billy jerked back and clapped his hand to his mouth. He’d cut him: not deep, but enough that his fingers came away bloody.

“The fuck was that?” he snapped.

“Just got a little carried away,” Stu snapped back. He stepped closer, pinning Billy against the cabinet again. “Lemme see?”

His fingers hovered over Billy’s lips, but Billy shoved him away and stormed from the dining room.

 

He locked himself in the upstairs bathroom, started the shower, and leaned against the wall. His lip was bleeding in earnest, the iron of it bitter on his tongue.

He was still hard. Pressing one hand over his mouth to catch the blood, he ran his other palm over the front of his jeans, rolled his hips into it.

A sudden pounding on the bathroom door made him dart away from the wall.

“Billy, open up!”

“Fuck off!” he called and started on the buttons of his shirt.

The doorknob rattled.

“I know that was kinda fucked up, but—Billy, come on—”

Yeah, it had been fucked up, and Billy had liked it besides, but that wasn’t why he was hiding. He’d known for years that he got off on shit like this. He just couldn’t let other people have that part of him.

No. It was just that he couldn’t let Stu have that part of him.

He kicked off his jeans and his underwear. Stu was still calling to him through the door, but he paid no attention. He found the cut in his lip with his tongue, pressed against it until the blood seeped free again. His dick ached.

The shower was boiling hot when he stepped into it, but he ignored the scalding pain of it on his shoulders and wrapped his hand around himself. There was no more shouting from outside; Stu seemed to have given up. Billy had bricked him out, built the wall up.

Walls were essential. Billy built them around everything: the acidic, violent thoughts that slunk inside his head; the part of him that had curled up in the corner the minute his mother left and never stopped howling for her; the Whatever It Was he felt for Sidney; this other thing with Stu. Not quite hatred, and certainly not love. But definitely not indifference. He built the walls up brick by brick. One day, he thought, they’d be so tall that he could no longer see over the tops of them, and then maybe the things they concealed would stop hurting.

He closed his eyes, teased the cut in his lip with his tongue, and let the pain wash away.

 

Hank Loomis played fast and loose with the concept of a proper meal. Most nights, Billy fended for himself: something canned that could be cooked in five minutes over the stovetop, or else chips, a PB&J. Sometimes he’d shoplift something from a convenience store, but that was more for the adrenaline rush than necessity. Or else he’d have dinner at a friend’s house, the Macher’s, increasingly. He didn’t eat with the Prescotts often. An evening spent across from Maureen inevitably made him lose his appetite.

So he knew something was up the second his father came from work one evening and announced he was ordering takeout, and why didn’t they eat at the goddamn table for once?

The food was laid out, and his father wasted no time in coming to the point.

“We need to talk for a second. Just man to man.”

Billy paused briefly in looping lo mein around his chopsticks, said nothing.

“You’ve…” His father was chewing on his words more than usual. “You’ve been seeing a lot of Stu Macher lately, huh.”

He froze.

“… sure.”

“Now, listen, it’s your business, and believe me, I really don’t want to know about it,” he said, “but if you’re doing what I think you’re doing, I just want you to know that you’re going to break your mom’s heart.”

Billy frowned down at his chopsticks. “Seems like you did that pretty good already.”

“Don’t get smart.”

His father’s voice cracked like a whip; Billy didn’t flinch.

His father stared at the table. He seemed to be trying to find the words for something and coming up empty. Finally, he sighed and looked back at Billy.

“Are you a faggot?”

Billy blinked.

“No,” he said.

He got the tone perfectly. Indignation—how dare you even suggest it—coupled with bewilderment—what gave you that idea?

His father stared at him as though he would find the truth scrawled across Billy’s forehead. At last he snorted and took a bite of his food. He shook his head as he chewed.

"Should have figured,” he said. “Guess you’re not really the type, are you.” As if to ascertain this point, he added, “Any girls at school?” Billy hadn’t told him about Sidney.

He shrugged. “Nobody I’d consider.”

His father grunted. “Figures. The Loomis men are very particular. It’s a family trait.”

“Are we.”

His parents had kept him up for weeks with their arguing. He’d heard them all the way from upstairs, unable to block out the sound no matter how loud he turned up the TV. His father telling his mother to calm down, and her not having any of it.

Not just that you cheated, but you cheated with that tramp Maureen Prescott, like she hasn’t swallowed every other dick in the county!

Billy stared at his father until he was forced to meet his eye.

“How particular are we, Dad?” he asked.

 

It was black in the Prescott’s den, the only light emanating from the television screen, which flickered silver and white like a mirror. Norman Bates was talking to Marion over sandwiches. Laying across the sofa, Sidney curled up next to him, Billy was beginning to itch in apprehension.

Ever since she had first broached the subject of her parents leaving a month before, it had been tacitly understood that his staying over would culminate in sex. He and Stu had been planning for it. Banking on it, even. Fuck her now, and they could take care of her at the same time as Mom. You had to play by the rules, and everyone knew the one about sex and survival.

He couldn’t decide if he wanted to fuck Sidney or not. He wasn’t attracted to her, but he was hyper-aware of her all the same—the coconut scent of her conditioner, the hand that rested on his chest and idly toyed with the fabric of his T-shirt. He also knew that regardless of how he felt about her, they were both virgins—did that apply to guys?—and he wanted to cash that particular card with her. Seemed fitting somehow.

“I think we’re all caught in our private traps,” Anthony Perkins was saying from the screen. “Clamped in them.”

“Think he’s right?” Sidney asked. She had that tone she always used when she was thinking hard and didn’t want him to know.

“What,” said Billy, “that we’re all trapped?” She hummed, and he rolled over to face her. “I don’t know. How trapped do you feel?”

She shrugged, hooked her finger around the collar of his T-shirt. “How trapped do you feel?”

He cleared his throat.

“Not at all.”

He kissed her, and her hands came up to rest at his jaw, the back of his head. One of her legs looped over his, and he moved his mouth to her neck.

Kissing her was nothing like kissing Stu—she was softer in his arms, more patient in kissing him, yet a little more playful. And yet there was a strange similarity in the way they both seemed to be waiting for Billy to tell them no.

He pulled her into his lap and sat up. She pulled at the hem of his T-shirt and he lifted his arms so she could tug it off.

“Are we doing this?” he asked.

“Looks like it.”

Behind her, Norman and Marion were saying good night. He tore his eyes from the TV screen and bunched her shirt in his fingers to pull it down and kiss her collarbone. They rocked back and forth, Sidney clutching at his back and rolling his hips against his. He was trying to unbutton her shirt, but his hands were shaking, his fingers not working right.

“Lie back?”

He obeyed without thinking, propped himself up with his elbow on the sofa’s arm. She undid the button of her jeans first, then went for his belt, his fly. He was half-hard and, after a moment’s hesitance, she put her palm against his dick through his boxers. He rolled his hips up against her hand, and she went bright red and bent down to kiss him.

He rolled them over and breathed an inward sigh of relief. She didn’t feel quite so impossible to control with her underneath him.

Another kiss, open-mouthed, tongues in each other’s mouths. Remembering what he’d seen of a porno once, he slid his hand into her jeans, over her panties. Sidney took his wrist, pushed it slightly upward of where he’d been, and moved it in circles until he got the idea and started doing it himself. She made a little noise in her throat; he kissed her.

“How far are we going?” he asked.

“How far d’you wanna go?”

There was shriek from the television, the orchestra blending in perfectly with Janet Leigh’s screams. The living room flashed with each cut, illuminating Sidney’s face, her bare shoulders, the gleam of her eyes and her teeth.

He bent down to kiss her, but she put her palm against his mouth, holding him off. He twisted his head to avoid her hand.

“What’s wrong?”

“Right now? Seriously?”

She jerked her head at the screen, where Janet Leigh was still being stabbed. He always forgot how long the sequence ran.

“Right,” he said. “Yeah.”

He was keenly aware of the relief settling in his chest as he lay back down beside her and leaned his head on her shoulder.

They watched the rest of the scene in silence. She took his hand and sighed.

“How can you watch this stuff over and over again?” she asked.

He shrugged. “It’s the adrenaline rush. People love to be scared.”

“I don’t think it’s scary,” she said. “I just think it’s sad.”

He scoffed. “Sad?”

She turned to face him. “You don’t think it's sad? His mom hounds him every moment of her life to the point that all he wants is her approval, and he literally takes on her identity just to keep her with him. And he can’t even imagine a version of her that’s proud of him because he’s yelling at himself for doing the wrong thing still.” She shook her head. “I mean—it doesn’t make what he does right. Not at all. But still.”

They watched the movie in silence for a few more minutes. Then she stirred.

“Sorry, did you still want to—?”

He waved her off.

“That’s okay.”

“‘Cause we can if you want to—”

“That’s okay.”

“Okay.”

They’d both spoken a little too quickly, Billy thought, but she didn’t call him on it, so he decided he wouldn’t call her on it either.

 

Stu was waiting in his bedroom for him when Billy came home. He stood up from where he’d been sitting on the floor by the bed.

“Well? Didja do it?”

Billy brushed past to sit at his desk and untie his shoes. “No.”

“No?!”

He waved a hand in frustration. “The movie put her off. I shoulda brought fuckin Pretty Woman or something, I guess.”

Stu strode to stand in front of him at the desk. 

“You sure you didn’t chicken out?”

Billy kicked his shoes off and looked up at him.

“Go home,” he said.

“‘Cause if you did chicken out—” Stu was shifting his weight from foot to foot— “we’d have to do something about that.”

“Like what.”

He tilted Billy’s chin up and kissed him, just once and very briefly, on the lips.

Billy closed his eyes, looked away. He coughed.

“Go home.”

 

Later, miserable and unable to sleep, he tried six more hotels in the phonebook. None of them had heard of Deborah Loomis. He found himself pleading with the last concierge, near tears.

“… are you sure? She’s about five-six, she’s got brown hair…”

“I’m sorry, sir,” the concierge said. “I’m afraid I can’t help you.”

The line clicked, and Billy gritted his teeth so he wouldn’t hurl his phone at the wall.

You’ll break your mom’s heart, his father had said, and as much as Billy wrestled with the idea, insisted that it wasn’t true, he knew different. His mother had been onto him before anyone else. He'd been fifteen when she'd first suggested he find a girlfriend, and he—naively convinced that love could be unconditional—had told her that he wasn't interested.

“Every boy your age wants a girlfriend,” she told him.

“Not me.”

She grabbed his chin, lifted his face so he had no choice but to look her in the eye.

“You want one,” she told him sternly. “Because if you didn’t want one, then I’d have to stop loving you. And you don’t want me to stop loving you, do you, Billy?”

He shook his head.

Perhaps that was why he was going off the rails now. He’d seen the movies; he knew the rules. Mommy leaves, and what choice does the poor little gay boy have but to snap?

 

“You should get a girlfriend,” Billy told Stu one day as they were studying in the school library after school. “Try Casey in Trig. She likes tall guys.”

“Why?”

“I don’t know, why d’you like Jamie Lee Curtis?”

“I mean why do I need a girlfriend, asshole.”

Billy shrugged. “Easy alibi.”

“For what?” asked Stu. “For the murder-thing or the other thing?”

And that was Stu for you. He was a dipshit, right until he wasn’t.

Billy scratched out a sentence in his English paper.

“There is no other thing.”

“Billy.” Stu’s voice was flat, unusually serious. Billy looked up from his essay. “You of all people should know that you can’t pick your genre.”

Billy held his gaze for a moment, then returned to his essay.

Across the table, Stu shifted back and forth in his chair like a child. He didn’t like to be ignored.

“You know I was thinking,” he said when Billy showed no signs of looking at him again.

“Mm-hm.”

“About the thing.”

“Mm-hm.”

“The murder thing.”

Billy kicked him under the table, and Stu grunted in pain.

“Come on, man,” he said, rubbing at his shin. “You wanna hear it or not?”

Billy dropped his pen and looked at him expectantly.

Stu was bubbling with excitement. “You know how you were saying that the hard part would be figuring out who to pin it on?”

He looked around to make sure they weren’t being watched and leaned in. Billy was suddenly aware of the proximity of their mouths. He turned his head to the side so Stu could whisper in his ear. His breath was hot on his ear, his cheek.

“Sidney’s dad. You know how he’s always out of town? We could…”

Billy listened, not saying anything and not entirely sure what he was feeling. Excitement, yes. Surprise too. And something else. For a moment, he thought he might even like to kiss him.

 


 

They ran the six blocks to Billy’s empty house after they did it, not stopping for breath or to even attempt acknowledging the act that now hung between them. Billy had privately entertained the fear that after all the years of build-up, it was going to be over in a flash, a dreamy, swimminess of the screen, or else static that obscured all the crucial parts which the movies couldn’t show.

But killing was even better than the campy guignol of the movies, with their sprays of Campbell tomato soup and strawberry preserves, that thick meaty splat of the knife landing in flesh. Out there in the Prescott’s yard, everything was dialed to 200. The blood had been hot and slippery on his hands, on his face—he’d taken his mask off the second she saw him. He’d wanted to make sure Maureen Prescott knew who killed her.

Upstairs in the master bathroom, they left their bloodied costumes in a pile in the corner. Billy leaned against the door and stared at himself in the mirror over the sink. There was blood in his hair, blood smeared across his face. He probably smelled like a butcher shop; Stu certainly did.

There was a loud hiss as Stu switched on the shower. It seemed deafening somehow, even though the bathroom was far from silent: they were both hyperventilating, and Stu was babbling about everything from what they’d done that night to what they’d need to do tomorrow.

“… Billy, you gotta—here—”

Billy lifted his arms, let Stu tug his shirt off. It landed noiselessly on top of the costumes in the corner. Stu’s shirt followed and jeans followed. He beckoned.

“Come on—we gotta—gotta wash all this off—”

He gestured vaguely at all the blood, which was drying to tackiness on their skin. Billy shook his head, not quite hearing him or not quite caring. Mentally, he was still back in the Prescott’s back yard with a knife in his hand and a rage that thrown everything into the sharpest relief. The dim moonlight glinting off of the blade, reflecting in Maureen’s huge, terrified eyes.

Stu was fumbling with the zipper of his jeans. Briefly, Billy thought about voicing a protest, but he didn’t have the energy for it. His jeans hit the floor, and he let Stu pull him into the shower.

He was still talking, making a supercut of all the highlights of the evening as he poured a liberal measure of shampoo into Billy’s hair to wash out the blood. Soap dripped into Billy’s eyes, but he barely noticed, staring at a point somewhere over Stu’s right shoulder. He tried to tune him out. The verbal replays were making him hard again.

Stu pushed him under the spray to rinse his hair out. All the blood turned the water a lurid orange as it sluiced down the drain.

He turned to face Stu, stepped closer until he was directly in front of him. Stu watched him a little warily.

Billy wrapped a hand around the back of his neck and tugged him forward, brought his mouth crashing onto his.

It was a violent, ugly kiss, with a lot of teeth and grasping hands. Stu’s fist settled in Billy’s hair, pulled it hard. Billy whined and stepped onto Stu’s feet. They were gasping for breath between kisses like they were drowning—then one of them would press even closer and pull the other under again.

Billy laid his head on Stu’s shoulder. Exhaustion, he told himself. Stu’s hands stilled in his hair. Slowly, one slid down his spine, over his ass. He nuzzled into his neck, nibbled his earlobe, the tender skin on the side of his throat. Billy made no attempt to stop him. Stu was stroking the hair at the nape of his neck in a way that he hadn’t realized could be pleasurable.

His hand stopped at the inside of his thigh, a few inches from Billy’s dick.

“Are we doing this?” he asked. “Or are you gonna pussy out?”

In answer, Billy sank his teeth into Stu’s shoulder and pushed his hand firmly between his legs, ignoring Stu’s brief look of surprise. Then his fist closed around his dick, and Billy groaned into his shoulder.

Stu walked him backward through the spray until Billy hit the wall with a grunt. Another kiss, just as cruel as the others. Stu pulled away.

“Turn around,” he said. When Billy didn’t immediately obey, he manhandled him there, shoving him back against his chest. He ran his hand over his stomach, slipped it beneath the band of his wet boxers to take his dick in hand. Billy braced his hands against the wall and closed his eyes.

“You’re always such a fucking dick,” Stu was saying into his neck. “No, Stu, you don’t get to touch me. Why’re you such a dumbass, Stu? You need a girlfriend, Stu. Well, I’m touching you now.”

And he put his other hand around Billy’s throat.

Billy made a high-pitched, panicked sound and threw all of his weight backward to try and dislodge him, but Stu slammed him back into the wall once, twice, three times. Billy coughed against the pressure on his throat. His vision was beginning to fuzz.

“Fuckin hate you, man,” Stu mumbled. “Fuckin hate you.”

He teased the slit in the head of Billy’s cock with his thumb. Billy made a weak sound and rolled his hips forward into his fist. In response, Stu increased the pressure of the hand on his neck.

Billy’s knees buckled hard, and Stu caught him halfway down—leaving his cock to throw his arm around his chest. Onto the floor of the shower, Billy between Stu’s legs, his head thrown back on his shoulder.

Briefly, Stu let go of his throat. Billy took two ragged, glorious breaths, and then his hand was coming down again. Black stars popped in his watering eyes. His nails clicked against the walls of the bath, scrabbling for purchase, but there was nothing to anchor him. Stu wasn’t letting up in anything: his grip on his throat, the cruelly assured hand around his dick, and at last Billy stopped fighting and let him have this, let him have him.

Perhaps in response, Stu clutched his throat harder for a moment or two. Billy’s heart thumped unpleasantly in his chest, but he didn’t try to stop him. His only movements were the inadvertent movements of his hips into Stu’s hand.

His orgasm was a leap into space, a tightening and letting go echoed in the pressure of Stu’s hand, which came down harder than ever when he came and then vanished.

Billy tumbled out of his lap, gasping and spluttering for air. Come dripped off his stomach, and his throat and lungs felt ragged, as though they’d been hollowed out. He wanted to get out of the shower, but he was shaking too badly to move. After a moment or two, he became aware of the frantic sound of skin on skin beneath the hiss of the shower. Stu, finishing himself off. They both knew that Billy wasn’t in much of a state to do it and that, even if he were, he couldn’t be bothered.

Billy laid down on his side underneath the shower spray and focused on the bland whiteness of the tub, the faint beige stain near his left hand. He was still coughing intermittently.

Stu came with a grunt. After a moment, the water shut off. Billy shivered in the sudden cold. His eyes stung; he was beginning to cry, but he couldn’t seem to find the switch he usually had handy to suppress the emotion.

“… Billy?”

Stu’s voice was tentative to the point of comedy. When he didn’t respond, he caressed the back of his neck with his fingertips, but Billy jerked away. After a few moments, he felt Stu stand and step neatly over him to leave the shower. Alone and shivering, his dick still hanging out of his soaking boxers, he felt a new kind of shame overtaking him.

“Billy, do you want me to grab you some clothes? Billy?”

Billy covered his head with his arms.

“Whatever,” he mumbled. “Just get out.”

“What?”

Billy sat up.

“I said get out!”

Stu flinched. For a moment they stared at each other: Stu stunned; Billy shaking with too many emotions to name.

He picked up their clothes and left.

… he was going to have to die, Billy realized as he slumped back into the tub again, curling into the fetal position. Not this second, certainly not until they’d gotten through their plan, but at some point, Stu would need to be taken care of. They’d end up killing each other otherwise. They weren’t built to last, after all—just thrown together by circumstance and an affinity for sharpness.

Perhaps, during the sequel, there’d be a dramatic twist and one killer would get offed. Or maybe only one person would walk out of the Macher’s house a year from now. Billy could see it: crying on the television, I tried to stop the bleeding but there was just so much blood, and he’d cut him too deep… Of the two, Stu was the narcissist, getting off on attention, but Billy could try it on for a day, for a year. Wasn’t that the best way to honor him, really?

They were going to have to talk about this in the morning. Too many things had happened for there not to be consequences. Something would have to shift in their relationship: neither of them would be able to look at the rising bruises on Billy’s throat and think that things could stay the same.

And there would be consequences in the morning, regardless: there would be news cycles, reporters, innumerable cameras trained on that quiet little house in the suburbs just a few streets away; and Billy would have to play the role of the concerned boyfriend, a silent but reassuring figure in the back of each shot, holding Sidney’s hand as she tearfully explained what she thought she’d seen. If they ever got caught, they’d all return to that early footage, wouldn’t they?

My god, they’d say. He was right there the whole time, and no one ever noticed. Never realized.

He played his part to perfection.

Billy grinned.