[Ads and Beccs] look at each other a certain way, you know? Right before she drags his ass into the bedroom for his spanking.” Oh fuck me. “Shit, I really should not have—”
“I already knew about that, Will. You did not blow anyone’s confidentiality.”
Will looked over. “What do you mean, you already knew?”
“Adam called me once. For, I think, professional advice.”
Fucking kitchen clock. The fucking kitchen clock was ticking. It was obnoxious.
He could take out the batteries, but that sounded like a lot of work. He could unmute the TV, but that would just be avoiding the thing he’d been avoiding for three days.
Or he could call Hugh Reynolds.
That fucking clock. Adam picked up his phone and dialed.
“Everything’s fine,” he said quickly. He’d only called Hugh for Will-bein’-an-idiot problems before.
“Good to hear it.”
But of course, this was Will’s favorite dom shrink, and he wasn’t about to give anything away. Silence on the line. Silence and that goddamn clock ticking in the background.
Adam sighed. “Fuck. Okay. All right. Listen.” He stretched out, laying his head back against the couch, closing his eyes, stretching his legs. Tick, tick, tick. “Shit. All right, just, after you’re done laughing at me, you’ll help me, right? Because it’s practically like a professional obligation. You couldn’t not-help me, Hugh, right? Don’t you have to take some kind of oath or something to be a shrink?”
“In order: I doubt I’ll laugh at you, I’ll help you regardless, and there’s no oath. What’s up?”
“What’s up, ha, that’s just a phrase that’s good for everything, you know? There’s pretty much no situation where ‘what’s up’ doesn’t work. Uh. Fuck.” He’d rehearsed, but not that he was actually talking to the great and powerful Hugh Reynolds, the words deserted him. “You know I’ve been seeing this girl, right? Actually, I was seeing her before, but then she dumped me, and now I’m seeing her again.”
“Rebecca. I didn’t know you were officially seeing her, but it sounded from all reports like that’s where it was headed.”
All reports. Poor Willie, with his fucked up head, and Moll going all break-up-and-leave-the-country on him.
“He’s fine, by the way. I mean, I’m sure he’s not saying anything all that reassuring, but he’s eating again, and taking periodic showers, so that’s good.”
Hugh didn’t say anything for a long moment. “‘Fine’ is likely not how I would have described him when he left here, so I’m glad there’s been improvement.”
“Yeah. Yeah, improvement, right. And I think he’ll probably just move in here, so that’d be good. Except I guess that would also be weird. Hell, I don’t know.”
“Neither do I. We’ve been on the phone five minutes and I can only guess what you’re calling about.”
“You want me to ask a few questions, Adam?”
The thing about it was that being twins didn’t mean Adam wanted to fuck whoever Will wanted to fuck, that wasn’t how it worked. He didn’t get it, really, about Hugh (and Truman), and he’d loved Moll, but he wouldn’t have wanted to be with her, either.
But there was another side to it, a much less understandable side, where part of him completely got it about Hugh. Not the sex, but the attraction. And not exactly the attraction, but the side of it he’d seen in Will from the first. The need, maybe.
“Fuck. Dammit.” He moved the phone away from his ear so he could scrub all over his eyes and hair and face with one fist. Get it together, Ads. “Yeah, okay, Hugh, let’s play twenty questions.”
“Oh, I won’t need anything like twenty. Does it have to do with S&M?”
“I guess that’s probably obvious, huh?”
“Does she want you to top or bottom?”
Adam’s eyes opened on the ceiling, wide, like what the fuck. “Really? Are those my choices? I mean, that’s what you call it?”
“I could have said ‘dominate or submit,’ but I thought top and bottom were less graphic terms.”
“You trying not to scare me, Hugh?”
“I’m trying to get you to spit it out, whatever it is, because I’ve got dinner reservations. Top or bottom? Or switch, though generally when your partner is invested enough to say something, it’s because their desire is strong to dominate you or submit to you.”
Right, skip over all that crazy-ass shit. “Oh, you and Truman going out? That’s so cute. So, when’s the wedding? Am I invited? I could go as Will’s date, you know, just so it wouldn’t look weird, him showing up alone.”
“Top or bottom, Adam?”
“Hell. No, Beccs—Beccs would never submit to a dude. Not that I could see her submitting to a chick, either, but subission to a dude is like totally against all her feminist principles.”
“You might be surprised. Some of the best scenes I’ve ever witnessed were powerful because the players understood all the socio-cultural conditioning going into them and were brave enough to do them anyway.”
“Yeah, well, I bet all that’s true, but I’m saying Beccs would never submit to a dude.”
“So she wants you to submit.”
“Yeah, you know, you can laugh at me now. I mocked Will pretty much relentlessly when he first started seeing you. I deserve it.”
“You’re confusing your motivations. You mocked Will because to do anything else would have been a sign that you didn’t know what to do, that he’d gone so far beyond the pale your normal responses didn’t apply. Your mockery was a form of acceptance, and Will knew that. You’re implying I’d mock you out of cruelty or for my own enjoyment. Which, of course, I won’t.”
Huh. Shrink, right. “No mockery, check.” He paused, then, because it felt a little weird to be having this conversation with Hugh instead of Will, he added, “I don’t really know how to talk to him about this shit. He already likes it, so it’s not—it’s not like he’d get how this feels.”
“How can I help? What do you want to know, Adam?”
“I have literally no idea.” Which wasn’t exactly true, but felt true all the same.
“Rebecca wants to try something new, something you’ve never done before—I assume—and you’re hesitating. Correct?”
“Fuck, you know, I’m not the prude in our family. Jer’s more repressed than we are, even though we spent more time in Catholic school, but I was the fucking wild one. I was the one who’d do anything.”
“So, what’s stopping you?”
“I don’t know.”
“You must know, or you wouldn’t be calling me. Clearly my role right now is to convince you to try whatever it is Rebecca’s interested in doing. You certainly didn’t call me tonight to talk you out of it.”
“So the shrink thing—can you turn that off, or is it just always running in the background?”
“Adam. Why did you call me instead of Will?”
“Because I—he—I thought you might know how to pretend you like something, even if you don’t.” He realized he was starting to nibble on the edge of a fingernail and forced himself to stop. The nail-biting was a desperately secret vice even Will thought he’d stopped a long time ago (though he probably slipped up around Will more than anyone else and Will was just too nice to say so).
“Pretend? What makes you think either one of us needs to pretend?”
This was the part he had no idea how to bring up, the part that he probably wasn’t supposed to know about. “Sometimes he tells me shit maybe he shouldn’t tell me. And it’s not like I’m trustworthy, really, except when I am.”
“What are we talking about right now, Adam?”
“You bein’ an escort. I figrued, you know, you probably had to have some kind of trick to get through shit when it wasn’t really what you wanted to be doing.”
“Money,” Hugh said, voice fucking dry as dust. “Is Rebecca planning to pay you for your time?”
But that wasn’t a real question, so Adam didn’t answer it. “She wants to spank me. It freaks me out. I don’t get why she wants to do that, or where it came from, or how to get out of it. So I thought maybe there was something I could do to just let her do it, and then, you know, try to kind of pretend it wasn’t so bad. Because she’ll know if I hate it and I don’t want—that feels like it’ll screw everything up.”
“Has Rebecca been topping long? I know Lucy has always teased her about it, but I rather had the impression that she’d never actually done anything.”
“She said since the girlfriend after she dumped me. I guess maybe breaking up with me made her want to control people?”
“So, in your mind, you were the catalyst for her moment of self-actualization?”
“Hey. That makes me sound like a douche.”
“For you, this request is entirely about you. For Rebecca, it may be very much about herself, Adam. And only marginally about you. Considering she wasn’t interested before—or at least, not enough to mention it—Rebecca might be your best resource.”
“I can’t talk to her like this. I mean, this is just fucking looming like I can’t even think because it’s constantly in my head.”
“Adam, what are you afraid of? That’s a real question, not a dig.”
“I thought you were supposed to figure that out. You’re the shrink, aren’t you?”
“Well, I could give you my read on it, but I’m undoubtedly reading a great deal of Will into you right now, so it might be less than wholly helpful.”
“How am I anything like Will? I mean, shit, I actually told her she had the wrong brother, since Will’s the one who—likes this shit.”
“Will likes what he gets out of it. Will’s enjoyment of submission is not, I don’t think, as straightforward as you believe it to be. It’s not black or white, Adam.”
Tick, tick, tick. “But I’m not interested. I don’t think, oh, sounds hot, being spanked like a little kid.”
“Are you worried you’ll feel powerless? That she’ll take advantage of you?”
“Hell no, I mean, Beccs is way too peace-and-justice to take advantage of anyone. It’s more—if I don’t like it, she’ll drop it. I know that. This thing is—I was so fucking stupid last time, Hugh. I was so dumb. And she was right to dump my stupid, sorry ass. This time feels like—I don’t want to be stupid again.”
“Couple of things, Adam. It’s not stupid to not get off on the same things. It’s not a sign that you aren’t compatible in some general sense, and if Rebecca has played with other people, I’m sure she already knows this.”
“Yeah, but this—” Fucking stupid words.
Hugh shifted on his end of the phone. “You sound so much like Will right now. I don’t usually think the two of you are especially similar, but right now I’m very much hearing it.”
“I thought you weren’t going to laugh at me.”
“Consider it acceptance.”
“Ha ha, Hugh Reynolds. Oh, shit. Listen, this isn’t Beccs saying, ‘Hey, want to try something?’ This is way more intense than that, right? I mean, I know when she’s fucking around, and this is like what she’s saying is ‘Kind of I want to spank you,’ but what it sounds like is ‘I have cancer.’ Does that make sense at all? It doesn’t, right? I’m making it up, or something, even though that’s how it feels.”
“I’m disinclined to dismiss your emotional read on the situation outright, Adam. I certainly would never dismiss Will’s.”
“Well, Will’s the one with a heart, so—”
“Please don’t insult either one of us by holding up the pretense that you’re a joke.”
Adam shut the fuck up.
“Hm. Allow me to float a theory. Perhaps your resistance is based on something you sense she isn’t sharing with you. If, as you say, her request held a great deal of gravity, that isn’t necessarily the best presentation of kink. Do you think you’d feel differently if she’d brought it up like a game?”
“She said it like she was already aplogizing.”
“Ah. Adam, Rebecca’s the one you need to talk to, as you already know. But if you’re asking about my personal experience with other people’s kinks, it has been mostly positive. And if my partner is very, very invested in something—as it sounds like Rebecca is—that certainly puts a different spin on it.”
“You try new things with my brother, Hugh?”
“Can you imagine anyone knowing Will well and not learning in the process? Will’s openness and generosity astound me.”
Adam swallowed and went back to staring at the ceiling. “So why’s it so hard? It’s not like she’ll break up with me if I don’t like this thing. And I don’t think I will, Hugh. I mean, it’s all well and good saying try something new, but no part of me wants to—do this.”
That was the truth, the hardest truth. It didn’t sound sexy. It sounded fuckin’ embarrassing, and painful, and not at all good.
“All right, Adam. Back to questions. If it was a different position, would you try it?”
“Of course. I mean, we’ve played with that kama sutra shit. But that’s different.”
“I agree. How is it different?”
“Jesus, you pull this shit in bed? ‘I agree. Now tell me what I just agreed with.’”
“How is a new position diffferent than a new kink?”
“Because her hitting me isn’t hot, and sex is.”
“You think I hit Will, Adam?”
“You know what I mean.”
“I know you understand dominance better than you’re letting on.”
“But Will likes that shit. I don’t. I don’t want anything to do with it.”
Hugh made a sound, like he was clucking his tongue, like a little old lady. “Adam, be serious, please.”
“You really aren’t.”
Beat, and boy, yeah, this was a good time to be on the phone with old Hugh. In person, he’d be fucking intolerable right now, with the whole intensity thing.
“You didn’t call me to talk you out of a spanking. You called me to talk you into it. You didn’t call Will, presumably because he’d be just slightly ashamed, and he likely wouldn’t tell you to just do it already. So, Adam, just do it already.”
“Not ‘doc.’ Let me guess how long you’ve been thinking about this. It’s Friday now, and you and Rebecca don’t live together. Did she bring it up last weekend?”
“Good. Perfect timing. You bring it up this time, and don’t tell me you were going to pretend it never happened, Adam, because you of all people should understand that silence is harder to bear than rejection.”
“Why would I understand that?”
“Because when Will goes silent, you worry about him. Enough to set up a meeting with Mistress Lucy, enough to call me out of the blue.”
Adam spit out the fingernail he’d been idly gnawing and cleared his throat. “Man, you’re exhausting, Hugh, no offense.”
“I am, yes. I have no idea how anyone puts up with me. Ask her to tell you what it does for her, how it makes her feel, how she thinks about it in her head. Adam, tell her you’re willing, but right now you don’t quite get it, and you want to. I think that’s all perfectly accurate, isn’t it?”
“But does it hurt? Because it’s—I don’t get that part. I don’t get why she wants to hurt me.”
“Spanking is incredibly intimate. Spanking with a bare hand on skin is one of the most emotionally dense activitities you can do with someone, if you both want it to be that, and I suspect you do.”
“Surely you must on some level as well. Does she want to hurt you? I doubt it. If she did, she’d find some way of doing it that didn’t make her so vulnerable. But I think you’re picking up on something serious here that goes a lot deeper than ‘this might be fun.’”
“Yeah. More like ‘this might be the difference between we make it and we don’t.’”
“Ah, thus the impression I get from you that this is do or die. Resist the urge to think in absolutes, Adam. Will does not love everything we do universally. For that matter, neither do I.”
“All due respect, Hugh, but you and my brother aren’t really heading in the direction I hope she and I are heading, you know what I mean?”
“In that case, let me assure you that the same goes for Truman and myself. Does that fit better?”
“Sorry. Dick move, calling to ask your advice, then shitting on it.”
“I’m not taking it personally. She’s very brave, you know.”
“That makes it worse. It means, like, so fucking much to her that she was sort of gentle about it, like she expected me to be all ‘oh hell to the no,’ and I couldn’t just pretend I was excited about it, make that go away for her.” He tucked his fingers under his leg to keep from chewing on them. “You did that for Will. You took the thing that scared him the most, and you made it into something good.”
“He simply hasn’t mentioned the times I lost my nerve on him, Adam. No one can play that role all the time or all they would be is the role. You aren’t a role to Rebecca. She is not a role to you. But I called Lucy out for conning me into meeting you and Will, because she’d said ‘submissive twins’ and you were not, and do you know what she said to me, Adam?”
“She said, ‘Give the girlfriend time and she’ll have that boy over her knee, mark my words.’ Verbatim.”
“You saying the dominatrix is psychic?”
“I’m saying this conversation is less of a surprise to me than to you.”
He glanced up at the clock in the kitchen. “You late for dinner?”
“Not quite yet.”
“I, uh, don’t get off on humiliation.”
“Neither do I. I do get off on fascilitating the deepest desire of my lover, creating the space where he can ask for what he needs without fear.”
“You think I can do that for Beccs?”
“I think you do already, or she wouldn’t have brought it up.”
Adam swallowed. “So I guess this shit actually isn’t any less complicated if it’s a dude, right? Not that I’m, uh, you know, looking to fall in love with a dude, just that you kind of wonder if it’d be a little easier.”
“Doubtful. Two people with all their insecurities and damage and jangling nerves crash into each other, and out of that comes profound connection, and love, and joy.”
“Sometimes you get very, very lucky, Adam. As I have been.”
“Yeah, well, me too. If Willie wasn’t a kinky freak, I don’t know who the fuck I’d be talking to right now. Jer, I guess, though—god. Never mind.”
“Feel free to call me anytime.”
“Yeah, all right. Thanks, Hugh.”
“Of course, Adam.” But he didn’t say “bye” right away. “How worried should I be about Will right now?”
“He’s all right. Shaken up a little, but he’ll be okay. You might have him up again, soon, though, just for—because it helps.”
“Good. I will. Goodnight, Adam.”
“See ya, Hugh.”
Tick, tick, tick. Adam shoved his butt off the couch and went into the kitchen. Damn cheap piece of junk clock. They’d had it since the room on Durant, moved it all the way to Santa Barbara. It probably had some kind of deep significance. Will was into that kind of thing.
Now that he was here, he should just pull the batteries. Let Will keep it, if he wanted it.
The room on Durant, where they’d eaten mostly Ramen and there were socks on the ceiling fan. Where he’d watch Will slowly shut down, turn into some kind of emo kid, and he hadn’t had a fucking clue why until he figured it out about the BDSM. (He’d said it was a random accident, but it totally hadn’t been; he’d gone into Will’s search history looking for clues and holy shit, had he found them.)
Tick, tick, tick.
“Fine. I get it. The passage of time and all that shit. Whatever, clock. I’m still gonna give you away to Will, but you can live to tick another day.”
So, standing in the kitchen, talking to a clock. That was normal, right?
He could do this. Even if he didn’t like spanking, he could make it so that didn’t mean he wouldn’t like anything. He Beccs really well, and he’d been thinking that knowing each other well was a liability, but maybe it was a superpower. Because yeah, he couldn’t fake it about this spanking thing, but he couldn’t fake it about anything else either.
He wanted to be the guy who could make Beccs—who was so fucking strong, so hardcore—feel good, and safe, and like he, Adam, was the asshole she wanted to be with pretty much always. Not like he was gonna say all that, but that was underneath everything else.
Adam saluted the damn ticking clock and went in search of nail clippers. No way was he gonna get spanked with raggedy-ass nails. That was just fucking tacky.