The Bough That Bends, The Branch That Breaks

The Bough That Bends, The Branch That Breaks

Author’s note: This story includes explicit sex, violence, and knifeplay. Want to read something else? Return to the stories page.

 

 

The day of Sid’s father’s funeral is a day of many firsts. The first visit to a cemetery. The first time they’d seen adults cry outside of a television show. The first time they’d heard someone reading from a Bible. The first time seeing their father, Yousef, in a state of tranquility without a music sheet of wrinkles creasing his forehead. And the first time someone besides their father had held their hand.

 

Malik’s leather glove is a strange texture against Sid’s palm, the supple material still impressed in their memory. He had been a regular visitor to their home but usually only appeared after Sid had gone to bed, whisking their father out for the evening. ‘For an after work drink,’ Yousef would tell them. Their interactions had been sparse and brief– but tolerable. Sid had even grown a slight appreciation for Malik; as a child, they understood how badly their gruff, stoic father needed friends. But now Malik is their guardian and that distant familiarity counted as everything to Sid.

 

Against the wide white sky, Malik seems infinitely tall to Sid. He’s a black and white tree they can hide in the shadow of as mourners–barely a handful and all strangers–come to offer their condolences to them. Orphaned, they murmur as they leave, shaking their heads. Sometimes they speak to Malik, too. Shake his hand or squeeze his shoulder sympathetically before passing down a sorrowful look at Sid besides him. Sid had always thought it was because they felt sorry for Malik. After all, who wanted to adopt an already grown child? But Yousef had no family to pawn Sid off on and Sid’s mother had been missing since they were two. So it fell to foster care or Malik.

 

“Are you ready to go home?” Malik asks, squeezing Sid’s hand slightly. So much about Malik was sharp and stark, from the clean black shine of his shoes to his mist-dampened black and white hair that stuck to his pale skin. But his eyes were soft, drowned moss and Sid was so surprised by the sight they forgot to answer with words. Instead, they brought Malik’s gloved hand to their cheek and nodded.

 

#

 

You can’t hide who you are forever, especially not from family. Sid is thirteen and hating Malik more than ever. He’s put them in a private academy and, after years of being homeschooled, the change has Sid anxious and miserable. They ignore Malik at home and during meals, hoping the scope of their vehemence is communicated accurately through silence. Malik doesn’t pry into Sid’s feelings or ask how class is going, just makes sure they’re fed and on time to bed and school.

 

Whenever he wasn’t maintaining Sid’s schedule, he’s away. Working, Sid assumes, because what else do adults do? Malik is a tall but slight man, a slash of early graying hair framing his forehead. He’s gaunt, too, and always dressed up in suits that look tailormade. Too fancy and stuffy for Sid’s taste. They preferred their dad’s style of dress: leather jackets and jeans and army boots. He worked the docks and needed hardy clothes to deal with the chilly ocean flurries, the biting salt. What kind of work did you do in suits, anyway? Whatever he does, Sid decides it’s none of their business. They’re not friends. Not even family.

 

So it comes as a surprise when Malik arrives home one night covered in blood. Vadim, the big man that follows him around, who Sid assumed was his driver or assistant of some sort, tries to follow him into the flat. Sid stares from the coffee table where their homework is spread, pencil dropping from their hand.

 

Malik shoos Vadim away, locks the door behind him. Sid watches as Malik tugs his tie loose, sheds his coat and begins unbuttoning his cuffs. Sid hesitates then stands, following the bloodied trail of ruined garments. The shower turns on in Malik’s bathroom and Sid tiptoes into their guardian’s room, the room that Sid knew was definitely off limits despite it never being explicitly stated. Just like Malik, it’s pristine. Not a speck of dust on any of the dark wood furniture, not an object out of place. Steam issues from the open bathroom door and, embolden by worry, Sid steps in.

 

Malik stands in the walk-in shower, his nakedness a fogged blur behind the glass. Red smears from his finger stain the shower door, bright as strawberry jam.

 

“Malik? Are…are you alright?”

 

Malik doesn’t answer for a moment, just stands beneath the rainfall showerhead. The water at his feet is transparent red. “I’m fine, Sidika.”

 

“You’re bleeding.”

 

A sigh. “Not mine.”

 

Somehow, this makes the hollow sensation in Sid’s stomach turn to nausea. “Did you…hurt someone?”

 

“Yes.”

 

“That’s…but why?” Sid folds their arms in front of them, the steam pushing into their lungs along with new fear.

 

“They were responsible for your father’s death.”

 

Silence fills the bathroom, thick as the steam itself. They’d always assumed it was some sort of illness. No one, not even Malik, had hinted at anything like this before. 

 

“But…I thought dad was sick.” Sid had never asked. They’d been too young and the vague answers had always seemed enough. They’d assumed it was natural causes. After all, Yousef was gone no matter what put him in the ground. Sid tries to cobble together an image of someone hurting Yousef but the vision refuses to coalesce. He was too big and strong, a wall of a man. Sid’s voice cracks as they ask, “Was he killed?”

 

“Yes,” Malik says, voice stern under the patter of water. “Yousef was staunchly against sharing what we did for work with you. But I disagree.” The water stops and Malik steps from the shower. Sid drops their head down, refusing to leave but shocked at seeing Malik’s nakedness. The light is gauzy and diffuse from all the steam. Malik pulls on a plush white bathrobe and steps in front of Sid. Tilts their chin up with a long, imperious finger. “Your father was my right hand man. He hurt people for me. Kept people from hurting me. That is what our business was. What mine still is. Can you guess why I think you should know this?”

 

Sid shakes their head, their face flushed from the closeness, the unfamiliarity of seeing Malik’s acute form swathed in softness. His wet hair, black and white, curled in at his temples and made him look sad, vulnerable.

 

“Because people still want to hurt me. And now they’ll want to hurt you.”

 

“W-why? I didn’t do anything!”

 

“Because you’re Yousef’s child. And now you’re my child, Sid,” he says, then sighs heavily. “Gods, Yousef was a fool to leave you with me. Everything and everyone I care about is a target. Just like he was.”

 

Tears begin to burn in Sid’s eyes, vision hazing over. “I don’t understand.”

 

Malik’s hands settle featherlight onto Sid’s shoulders and pull them into a hug. Barely a hug, but a closeness. A closeness Sid realizes they’ve been missing. They press their face into the white plush of the bathrobe, fingers balling into the hem. “I’m not a good man, Sid. But I care for you and I want to protect you. Even if it’s from myself. Do you understand that?”

 

Sid sniffled, coughing on a surprise sob. “I guess.”

 

Malik’s fingers slide through Sid’s dark hair, stroking the heat of their scalp as they soak his robe with tears. “Protecting you from the truth is no protection at all.”

 

#

 

The world changes when a new truth enters it. Sid begins to notice things they didn’t before: the expressions on their classmates’ faces and the way they flow around them. The two men Malik leaves at the corner blocks across from the school. What a gun and tactical knife looks like under shirts and jackets, the slight disruption of a seam and silhouette. Sid has never felt more in danger.

 

Malik doesn’t fail to notice when Sid leaves the car for school, glancing right and left, over their shoulder. He enrolls Sid in various martial arts classes suggested to him by Vadim. Judo, krav maga, MMA. Firearm training he handles himself.

 

“Point your toes at the target,” Malik says, pressed behind Sid. Their body is gangly but filling out, their height now threatening to overtake him. “Then angle your feet out just a bit. More.”

 

“This much?” Sid asks then grunts as Malik slides a leg between theirs, kicks their feet out to the right angle. His thigh grazes just beneath Sid’s ass and they have to breathe out slowly through their nose to avoid groaning.

 

“The ‘V’ of your thumb and index finger should be up high. Just here. The tighter you grip it, the less space for recoil. Now, finger on the slide and align the front and rear heights.”

 

“I got it,” Sid mutters. They’ve played a shooter before and this doesn’t feel much different. And the sooner it’s over with, the sooner Malik will stop touching them. Stop the tingling between their legs. Sid inhales and feels the bump of Malik’s tie against his nape. His breath fluttering wisps of their dyed hair. Sid shoots and marginally misses.

 

“Not bad,” Malik says, then lays another box of ammo in front of them. “Now try again.”

 

Sid goes home that night, locks the door to their room and touches themself until they’re shivering from a handful of urgent orgasms. The ghost weight of Malik against their back, the false memory of his thigh pressing up into their cunt from behind through their jeans. They fall asleep smelling the gunpowder on their hands and the rich musk of clove on the back of their t-shirt balled under their nose.

 

When Sid enters high school, it is with a veritable cache of lethal skills. The first time an upperclassman bullies them, it ends with the student’s nose, wrist and two ribs broken. But even with their newfound strength, Sid still leaves for school with an eye over their shoulder. Malik can’t tell if any of the martial arts classes have helped his ward’s paranoia but it becomes clear Sid is too dangerous for a normal school setting. He hires a private tutor for Sid and, once satisfied they know they aren’t allowed to slack off, allows Sid to start driving for him when their tutoring is done for the day. Nowhere dangerous, just to various organizational meetings, banks, the ports he controls.

 

“When I graduate,” Sid asks, “can I come work for you, Mal?”

 

“Absolutely not.”

 

Sid whines and Vadim cackles and then flicks their head when they doesn’t engage the turn signal quick enough. “You’re smart, Sid,” Vadim says. “You have all the options in the world at your feet. Why choose a career that actively tries to kill you?”

 

Sid fumes as they turn into an upscale hotel, black and shining. “Then why do you do this job?”

 

“This is all I know how to do,” Malik answers, indifferent.

 

Sid watches Vadim and Malik leave the Benz and head into the hotel, a flurry of employees floating around them ready for any requests. Sid doesn’t want to be like them, ignorantly floating on the surface of a darker and more lethal world, sensing the peril but having no control over it. They want to be like Vadim, close at Malik’s side, ready to carry out whatever order he commands.

 

#

 

Snow turns the world bright and milky the day of Sid’s graduation. As a treat to Sid, Malik spends the day with them alone, without even his bodyguards shadowing them–though he keeps them in the vicinity. It’s a rare occurrence. Sid knew Vadim was probably watching from afar just in case but it didn’t stop them from feeling special, the center of Malik’s attention. The first thing Malik had done was take Sid to get a bespoke suit–tailored to Malik’s preferences because ‘teenagers have no taste’– followed by a trip to a jeweler for a too-expensive watch. The last part of Sid’s gift was renting out a sushi restaurant just for them and eating inventive and strange omakase from a world-renowned chef.

 

Snow flecks their heads and shoulders as they leave the restaurant. Evening has draped itself over the city and the white sky has turned an oily orange from light pollution, making for an eerie revenant sunset Sid knows this is just a graduation gift, guardian to ward, but they can’t shake the feeling that it’s a date. Malik has never given them the impression they see them as a romantic prospect but Sid doesn’t mind; they can daydream. And in their daydream, as they walk alongside Malik back to their car, they imagine him pausing and turning, thumbing away a flake of snow and kissing them. They’re the same height now. Malik wouldn’t even need to bend down to take their mouth. Sid wonders if he tastes like the rich floral sake they were drinking or the clove cigarettes he smoked in the evening or a blend. They wonder if he’d be gentle or rough.

 

Details they’ll never know. An impossible dream.

 

“Sid. Wait,” Malik says just as Sid goes to grab their hand. A furious warmth rushes to their face; had Malik noticed them going for their hand? But Malik is not looking at them. Through the heavy snowfall, between them and their car, Sid sees what Malik is trained on. Three men hulking down the alley towards them, the streetlights cutting the edges of them in white.

 

“Fuck.”

 

“Run,” Malik hisses, his hand slipping into the back of his waistband. Before he can draw his gun, one of the lugs is launching himself at Malik, sending them both crashing to the ground. The other two men go for Sid and Sid freezes in place, a cornered animal gone rigor mortis. Fuckfuckfuck, is all Sid can think. This is what they’ve been training for since they were a kid and all Sid can do is stare because the reality of their own body and the two bodies coming at Sid tell a different story than the one they’ve learned in martial arts class. Sid can try but they won’t be able to stop them. If they jab a gun into their ribs, Sid won’t even be able to throw a punch. Is this what it all comes down to? Strategy? Luck? Sid feels their stomach tense, the urge to piss a sharp insistence in their gut.

 

Malik’s groan of pain, the wet crunch of a nose collapsing into somebody’s skull jolts them. Sid’s panic has consumed barely a second and the two men are almost on them, converging to hurt them. Or worse, take Sid. Use them as a hostage. No, they can’t do that to Malik. All Malik’s hard work protecting Sid and the first time they have the opportunity to protect themself, they fail?

 

No. Fuck no.

 

The men lunge from Sid’s front and back. Sid jukes sideways, grabs the edge of a nearby dumpster and uses it to leverage their body up into a high kick. It catches one of the men’s jaws, whips it sideways. The other thug tackles Sid, smashing them against the dumpster so hard, their vision goes double. Sid slams their elbow into the man’s neck over and over, hoping for some sort of reprieve. Instead, a massive hand closes around the side of their face and slams it into the dumpster. The metal groans and Sid claws at what they can touch but soon goes limp, dizzy. Finally, a fist connects to their solar plexus. Sid’s lungs bark out all of their air.

 

“She’s got some fight in her,” the downed man says, adjusting his jaw. His bloodied teeth look black in the dim light. Sid’s mouth is gaping, tongue out as they choke for breath.

 

The man who winded Sid hoists them over his shoulder. “Fucking twerp. Boss didn’t say she could fi–”

 

A gunshot lights up the thug’s face next to Sid, a split second flash catching their surprise. The man throttling Malik drops like a sack off of him, arterial spray fountain from his throat. “Oh fuck–” A second gunshot and the man next to Sid drops, clutching his chest and groaning.

 

“Shit. Wait. Wait!” The third shot comes after a beat and Sid can feel the impact of it as the bullet moves through their captor’s eyeball and out the back of his head. Blood and gristle splatter the right side of Sid’s face before they both drop to the concrete. Coughing, Sid scrambles away from the corpse and against the alley wall, lungs refusing to pump.

 

“Sid?” Malik’s voice, raspy and panting. He steps around the dead and kneels in front of Sid. When Malik sees his ward is in shock, he drags them forward into a hug. “Breathe, love. It’s alright.”

 

Love. Heat pinpricks Sid’s eyes. Tears melt the slight frost on their cheeks. “Y-you’re okay,” Sid croaks, “I’m sorry, I’m sorry, fuck.”

 

Malik shushes them as they sob and soon they’re both being ushered into Vadim’s car. Vadim is also worse for wear, his left eye bloated and purple, nose stuffed with tissue. It had been a strategic attack, keeping Malik’s men separated and busy so they could get to him and Sid.

 

“They always underestimate you, boss,” Vadim says, voice stuffy from his broken nose. Malik only grunts and dabs at the mess of cuts on his face, his free arm still looped around Sid’s shoulders protectively. Sid glances up at their guardian, in awe of the man’s resilience. Malik was tall but slender, unusually dainty. He didn’t look like he could take a beating like the one that thug had given him yet he seemed fine, taking all the damage in stride.

 

“You should go to the hospital,” Sid mumbles, searching Malik’s face for signs of head trauma. You didn’t get pummeled like he did and not have a concussion.

 

Malik huffs. “I’ve had worse.”

 

Vadim drops them off at one of Malik’s downtown high rise apartments, a place Sid has never been to before. Malik’s men are already stationed in the lobby and on the apartment’s floor. Before Malik locks the front door, he has a word with Vadim. Sid doesn’t hear all of it but what he can hear is ‘head’ and ‘platter’. A chill spiders up their spine.

 

The door clicks to a close. “Come,” Malik says and Sid follows. The place isn’t decorated like their own apartment but Sid can tell it’s been freshly cleaned. The open architecture is all black and dark walnut walls, black furniture with Jacobean wood accents. When he flicks on a hall light, it remains uncomfortably dim. The bathroom is large, the same style as the one at home except it’s interior is all natural stone, organically stacked. “There’s only one bathroom,” Malik says, exhaustion plain in his voice. “I don’t use the place often but it’ll have to do for now. Undress.”

 

Still too in shock to argue, Sid complies. Malik does the same, peeling off the blood and mud soaked clothing, the tattered white of his shirt smudged brown and black. He’s golden and slender, flecked in scars. His bones jut but are smoothed under a modest layer of lean muscle. There are strange symmetrical marks along his chest, thin horizontal and vertical lines that Sid thinks must be tattoos until the bathroom light catches the raised quality of them; all of them, carefully placed cuts. Sid covers their crotch as Malik steps into the shower and turns it on. When Sid doesn’t follow, he sighs and takes their arm, pulling them in gently. “We’ll get you cleaned up, then I’ll see what needs bandaging, alright?”

 

Malik settles Sid on teak shower stool and sets to gently washing their hair, pulling strands from the open wound at their temple. Once their hair is done, combed back, Malik gently washes their body. When he touches a cloth between their legs, Sid bites their lip and opens their thighs. The contact is brief and sexless but the intimacy is more than Sid had ever dreamed of. This wasn’t real. It had to be in their head. The whiplash of such a perfect day turning to a near death experience and then back to perfection is almost too much for Sid to handle but they refuse to cry again. 

 

Malik washes himself quickly and efficiently, unabashed at being naked with Sid. It bothers Sid how unselfconscious Malik is around them. Like they’ve never thought of Sid an adult, a sexual being, and wouldn’t start now. Sid has always known this but the sensation of being ignored hits them acutely in this context. Their heart squeezes like a shaking fist in their chest.

 

When Malik’s finished, he wraps them both in bathrobes and sets Sid on the counter, dressing their wounds meticulously and then escorting them to bed. A few minutes later, Malik joins them in the same bed, making a half-asleep Sid nearly jump out of the sheets in surprise.

 

“Sorry, Sid. Only one bed.” A pause, rich with thought. “Would you like me to sleep on the sofa?”

 

“No!” Too loud, too quick. Sid hides their face in the comforter then tries again. “It’s fine. Stay.” Sid, feeling unusually brave, inches over to press their body alongside Malik’s, nuzzling into their shoulder. Tomorrow, when they’ve got their head on straight again, Sid can just blame this on shock.

 

Malik hums in answer and folds Sid closer to them, testing how close they can get before being pushed away. There is no limit to proximity, at least, not while Malik is drowsy and in pain. When he’s finally asleep, his pained silence turning to charming little snores, Sid shifts closer and kisses them softly. When he doesn’t react, they kiss him again tilting their head and licking in the closed seam of his mouth. Guiltily, they fall asleep with a hand pressed tightly against their cunt, warm and weightless, the anchor of Malik’s arm around them the only thing they dream of.

 

#

 

The next month following the attack is a period of careful extraction. Malik moves Sid into their own apartment, close to the MMA gym they’ve been practicing at and nearly on top of the university he wants Sid to attend. Then he all but vanishes, leaving Vadim in his place. Sid is furious but finds there’s no stopping the sudden sneaky disentanglement Malik has rapidly initiated. They can’t even argue with him because Malik refuses to be in the same vicinity as Sid, much less hold an in-person conversation.

 

“He realizes he let his guard drop,” Vadim says as he helps Sid move the sofa in the new flat. “They let him get comfortable after…”

 

“After he killed Yousef’s killer?”

 

“Mm.”

 

“I don’t get it. So shit happened.” Sid snaps, as they set the sofa down. “Why does he have to take it out on me?”

 

“He’s not taking it out on you, you fuckin’ brat. He’s doing what he always does. Protecting you.”

 

“Fucking bullshit…he’s just scared. I can take care of myself. That night, it was just a surprise. Next time, I’ll handle it. Mal won’t even have to lift a finger.”

 

“Look, kid,” Vadim says, flopping onto the sofa. “It’s not that you couldn’t defend yourself or Mal. It’s that you were in that situation at all. That’s on him. And your dad, but mostly him. He let you in too close.”

 

Too close. The two words ring like a bell in Sid’s head. Did Malik know how they felt? Had Sid come on too strong? Too affectionate? Shame warms their face, mixes with their anger into a potent slurry that sloshes in their skull.

 

“I wanna talk to him. Where is he?”

 

“Business trip, kid,” Vadim says, nonchalant in a way that means that it’s the only answer I’ll get whether it’s true or not. “A few weeks.”

 

#

 

When Malik walks into the apartment, the fresh cut across Sid’s eyebrow pulses spitefully. They clutch the edge of the kitchen sink, chug down the rest of the beer they’ve been nursing. The urge to grab and pin Malik down wars with the impulse to ignore him. But ignoring him would only be a punishment for themself since he didn’t seem to care that he hadn’t seen Sid in several weeks. Without a greeting, Malik sets his suitcase aside, sits to take off his brown leather brogues. The strip of silver in his hair, usually carefully pressed back, hangs in front of his left eye like a horse’s forelock. The tiniest dishevelment was a sign that he was exhausted. Why? Would he even tell them?

 

“Why aren’t you at your flat?” Malik asks, no hint of emotion in their voice. Barely an ounce of curiosity.

 

“Needed something from my room,” they offer in lieu of the sarcastic greeting they want to give. “Didn’t expect you home tonight.”

 

“Mm.”

 

A noise. No explanation.

 

“I expect you’re leaving again soon.”

 

Setting his shoes to the side–perfectly parallel to each other, the toes an inch away from the edge of the chair–Malik glances up at them. Again that glazed look in his eye, the artificial stillness in the muscles of his face. Like he was afraid a twitch would give away too much.

 

“Yes, tomorrow night.” For a second his eyes flick up and down, taking them in; they’re still in their gymwear, a loose tank and training shorts. He lingers on the yellowing bruise on ribs, the taped down cut on their brow, then looks away. “I need to visit one of our ports in the southern territory.”

 

Sid’s body tenses as they wait for more, for anything. But Malik only reclines in the armchair, thumbs out a text message on his phone. Sid wants his attention, a reaction,  even a scolding, so they grasp for the first thing they think will get a rise out of him: the truth.

 

“Do you regret adopting me?”

 

“What?” Malik glances up and the stiffness in his face has given way to surprise. “Why would you say that?”

 

“Do you hate me? Is that why you wanted me out?”

 

“Sid, I’ve moved you out because you’re now an adult supposedly. This is normal.” Malik is on his feet now, expression taking on a rare strain of hurt. “Why are you asking me this all of a sudden?”

 

“Because you’ve been avoiding me!” They hate how ragged their voice sounds,  already breaking. Sid crosses their arms, squeezing themself tight enough that it distracts from the hard angry stone at the base of their throat. “I haven’t seen you in over a month, you don’t answer any of my texts or calls. Everything goes through Vadim! It’s like you can’t even stand to look at me.”

 

When Malik’s arms slip around Sid, their whole body goes rigid in shock and caution. They can’t recall the last time he hugged them. Not since they were in elementary school surely. They try not to move, afraid he will run at the slightest breath even though they want to squeeze him to her.

 

“That’s not true.”

 

“…which part?” They press their forehead into the curve of his shoulder, voice already pathetically soft just from being in proximity to him. He smells like leather and cedar, his favorite cologne, and it takes all their will not to shove their nose against the band of muscle in his neck and inhale. “You can’t say you haven’t been avoiding me.”

 

It takes a few seconds for Malik to decide what he will say next and in that impossibly small moment, Sid risks their position and wraps their arms around his torso. It’s a mistake and he shifts to step back but Sid pulls him in tighter. They wouldn’t let him get away, not tonight.

 

Malik relents for a moment, his hands resting on either side of their neck, his thumbs brushing the angle of their jaw. “You look so much like him. Yousef.” His eyes go distant, looking through their face, searching every feature and categorizing their proportions as if to compare to the topography of their father. His lover incarnate. It’s an expression they have seen before as a child but this time it’s colored with something else. Or perhaps it’s their own perception that’s colored now. Either way, Malik’s mouth is slightly parted in thought, his eyes not on their eyes but on their lips, their chin. A sting of want lights up in Sid’s chest and, without thinking, they press into his space and kiss him.

 

It’s familiar but now the kiss is a known thing between them, taken in daylight instead of stolen in the night. Their head fills up with honeyed fire, an adrenaline rush that borders on narcotic. Malik’s firm thin mouth under Sid’s doesn’t give but it doesn’t matter. Sid can taste the beginnings of him, sweet clove and gin, and opens their mouth to lick into his–

 

“Sid, STOP!” Malik shoves their back with a force that makes Sid grunt, their back hitting the counter with a thunk. Malik was a dangerous man but physical strength was not where his lethality lay. To feel him use it against them makes Sid nauseous. Malik’s trembling in front of them now, his long bony fingers, a nightmare around a gun or a knife, curled helplessly into fists at his side. “We can’t do this.”

 

“Why?” They ask, refusing to give up, pushing into his space again. This would be it. They would have it all out here until they got what they wanted or he ran them off. They couldn’t exist in this limbo of fake child and father. “You love me.”

 

“Of course I do!” The snap in his voice makes them jump. Fury didn’t make him talk like that. It was all fear. “But I’m your father. We…can’t. I can’t do that to him. I promised to protect you and–”

 

“You’re not my father,” Sid spits, anger coursing through their veins. “You raised me and I love you for it. But you’re not my father.” Malik looks stricken but they push on, snatching his thin wrists in their hands, hauling him forward so they’re nearly nose to nose. “And you don’t have to protect me anymore. I’m not a child, Malik. You fulfilled your promise.”

 

Malik looks down between them, something like shame pulling blood to the surface of his cheeks. Sid waits then knocks their forehead against his gently, urging him to look at her. “Tell me what excuses you’re thinking of.”

 

“It’s not right. You’re his only child, Sid. And I…” he looks into their eyes again, gaze traversing the various points of their face. “It’s wrong.”

 

“You were a fucking contract killer, Malik,” Sid snaps. “And now you oversee a crime syndicate. What the fuck do you care about wrong?” Another long run of silence and then it hits Sid, a sharp uppercut to the jaw of his understanding. “Oh. Fuck. You…you and my dad…”

 

Malik’s eyes widen like Sid’s just unsheathed a tactical knife, pressed it up beneath his sternum.

 

“You were fucking,” Sid whispers. The epiphany lasts for a moment before it curdles into a sour ball of jealousy in their chest. “Shit. You were together.”

 

“We were in love,” he chokes out, head dropping down. “And I told you, you look just like him. Seeing him in you, it’s…”

 

Sid tilts his chin up forcefully, pulling a little grunt out of Malik. “I’m not my father and I’m not your kid. I’m Sid.” He’s trying to pull away now but they’ve got him by the wrists. Sid pushes him against the nearest wall as he struggles to get out of their grip. With a frown, they press their knee between Malik’s legs, the perfectly tailored slacks going taut as his stance widens. “And you want me.”

 

The words demand a confession. A confession Malik doesn’t need to give with words because all Sid needs to know is in the tilt of Malik’s hips pressing against their thigh, the pathetic little sliver of teeth sinking into his lower lip.

 

“You know, Daddy,” Sid says, brushing their nose up against his neck until it’s just behind his ear. “I used to touch myself thinking about you. Did you know that? I’m sure you caught me at least once.”

 

Malik moans and whips his head to the side. He’s still trying to pull from the grip they’ve got on his wrists but not with any real effort. Sid smiles now, feeling the end of the fight approaching, a knockout on the tip of their tongue.

 

“I kissed you once, when you were asleep. Touched you a little…” they trail off into silence, not wanting to ruin this moment with more reality–god, they loved him–and drag their teeth gently down his neck. “Touched myself,” they say, loosing one of his wrists to grab his chin and force his face towards hers. “Right next to you.”

 

The kiss this time is all Malik, his mouth open and wanting, fucking ravenous. Wanting Sid. It cuts through them like a laser beam, precise and clean, a perfection in its clarity. Malik wants them, wants Sid in his mouth, in his hands, all over. They’re no longer his child but his equal, a source of desire instead of suffocating duty.

 

“Sid, Sid,” he murmurs, repeating their name into their shoulder, a plea or a reminder of who they are.

 

Sid shoves Malik’s arms over his head, pinning them against the wall. “What do you want, hm?” They tilt their hips forward, grinding into Malik’s crotch. The outline of his cock makes Sid suck in air hard through their nose, pulse pounding in their head. “You hard for me, daddy?”

 

“Don’t call me that…” He flinches as Sid drags their tongue up the bumpy ridge of his sternum. “I can’t. Sid, I can’t.”

 

Sid hovers over Malik, notes the way his rich golden brown eyes flit away from him in guilt. “Why,” they mutter, hauling him over their shoulder, “am I always the victim of your spotty fucking conscience.”

 

Malik shouts Sid’s name in a braid of obscenities as Sid carries him out of the living room. He tolerates much from Sid but being manhandled like this is far past the line of bad behavior he’d allow. Good thing the lines are being redrawn, Sid thinks as they bite gently at Malik’s hip, making him flinch. Sid’s old bedroom is still intact as they left it, the only place in their home where Malik’s opulent tastes in interior design are obliterated with Sid’s collection of posters, their messy bookshelves, and a TV they never used. It pleases them secretly that he’s left this room alone; it meant he anticipated bringing Sid back. Maybe even missed them.

 

Sid has Malik on their bed in moments, inhaling hard as they kiss him so they don’t have to pull away. They strip him down to skin and Malik scrapes at Sid’s clothes, tearing them off. Each touch leaves a burning afterimage in their wake like the cells of Sid’s skin want to remember each point of contact. Their brain is buzzing already with all the possibilities now afforded to them. As they kiss, Sid can’t help but slide their hand down to cup Malik’s cock, squeezing rhythmically from the lovely dark crown to the scratchy base, recording the heft and contours of it.

 

“Fuck, Mal,” is all Sid can manage to say as they rub their body again Malik’s and suckle a constellation of bruises from his throat to his navel. When Sid settles between Malik’s legs, letting his tongue swoop around the fevered, taut skin of his cock, he jolts and sits forward, tugging Sid up.

 

“Come here and turn around,” he hisses, sweat already popping on his forehead. Sid doesn’t hesitate, just grins and settles their dripping cunt above Malik’s mouth before diving into lavish attention on his cock. Malik’s breathing stutters against Sid’s ass as his cock goes from hard to rigid in their mouth. A long vein swells on its plummy underside and pulses urgently against Sid’s tongue.

 

Malik, just as eager, takes Sid mercilessly with his mouth, holds them in place with insistent suction, and moves his lips around their cunt. Long fingers massage at Sid’s holes, one then the other, before sliding into their cunt. Sid whines around Malik’s cock, saliva pooling around the root of him as Malik holds them in the dark, liquid heat of his mouth.

 

“Oh god, Sid, please,” Malik moans after some time, reaching down between them to pull his cock from Sid’s hungry mouth. Rope of saliva and precome trail from Sid’s mouth. They try not to look too smug as they sit up and straddle Malik again, panting for breath. Malik’s face is a sight to behold, all the hard edges of his face now glossed with Sid’s wetness. They stroke Malik’s bottom lip, smearing the shine into their mouth.

 

“Please? I don’t think you’ve ever begged me for anything before,” Sid husks as Malik sucks on their fingers. “God, I want to fuck you, daddy. You look like you’d be so beautiful on my cock.”

 

“I thought I wasn’t your father,” Malik says drily, biting down lightly on their knuckles.

 

“Well, a daddy isn’t the same thing.” Sid ran their hands over Malik’s chest and pinched his nipples, rolling them back and forth. The scars they’d seen once, long lines across and down his chest, were red from exertion. Bending, Sid began to lick at them, tracing them attentively like they were a cicatrix language, a fleshy primitive braille. “Mal, what are these?”

 

Malik eyes Sid hungrily, dragging his fingers through their bleached sweat-wavy hair. “I like a little pain, here and there.”

 

“A little?”

 

Malik’s legs lock around Sid’s waist. “Sometimes,” he murmurs gently, thumbing Sid’s cheek affectionately. “It’s not something you need to concern yourself with.”

 

“Do…you want me to hurt you?” Sid asks, their confidence faltering. Melting into Sid’s hands, they nibble at Malik’s nipple. “I like knowing this about you. What you like. What you want from me.”

 

Malik threads their fingers into Sid’s hair, tugging the light tresses firmly until Sid is eye to eye with them, nose to nose. “What I want is to feel you for days, my boy. However you want to rip me up, force me open, I want that, too.”

 

“Fuck,” Sid rasps then dives in to kiss Malik, ravenous for his flavor, nursing on his tongue like an infant. With an embarrassing haste, Sid peels themself off Malik and claws through their drawer, throwing lube and condoms on the bed and then yanking up their harness. At the last second, they fish something out from the rest of the junk in the drawer; a small pocket knife they’d gotten from a friend. They place it in clear view on the bed and Malik’s eyes flick between the blade and them, considering.

 

“We don’t have to use it, but…” Sid’s sizable cock bounces in front of them as they get between Malik’s legs again. “Just in case. I’m not afraid to try. If you want it.” They feel slightly out of control with eagerness and fear, afraid they’ll do or say the wrong thing, uncovering that disgust in Malik that’s just waiting to surface.

 

Malik’s mouth ticks up in a smirk. He grabs the dildo and tugs Sid closer, a wry smile on his face. “One thing at a time, hm? This is a nice piece. Fittingly big for my boy.”

 

“Turn over,” Sid commands though he doesn’t wait for obedience and lifts Malik up like nothing, getting him on his belly. “You’re so easy to move, daddy.”

 

“Shut up,” Malik mutters, then shoves two pillows under his hips. “Are you going to fuck me or just talk.”

 

Sid kneads Malik’s slender thighs, coaxing them open wider. His balls are draped over his cock, pushed back between his legs and cushioned on the pillows. A strand of precum drizzles down the cotton onto the sheets and Sid can’t help but tongue the weeping slit and lap up the hard underside. Malik flinches, his ass jolting up slightly. Enjoying the reaction, Sid ducks and buries their face in the softly-furred trench, dragging their tongue up his hole.

 

“Ah, Sid, w-wait,” Malik chokes, body arching for more.

 

Sid doesn’t relent, just grips his ass hard enough to leave marks and takes fat swipes with their tongue over his taint. When Malik bucks again, Sid pins his thighs and slips their tongue inside, then chews around the surrounding skin until it’s hot and flushed and humming.

 

“Oh god, oh fuck–”

 

Malik’s cursing plucks a string of energy and sets Sid on a new level of needy  vibration. They snatch the lube and pump it into their palm, feeding it one fingerful at a time into Malik’s ass. Groaning, he grinds his hole down on their fingers in spasmodic undulations.

 

“Daddy’s getting bored,” Malik rasps, even as he drives his hips back for more. There’s no smile on his face but it’s apparent in his voice and it unleashes a new wave of wetness down Sid’s thighs.

 

“I got you,” Sid growls, pinning Malik down by the neck and bending his arm behind his back. They angle their hips and push the blunt head into his messy hole with a slow, steady pressure. Malik’s eyes widen sharply then go lax as Sid breaches him, squirming his hips back to meet his boy. Inch by inch, Sid’s cock vanishes and with it, their capacity for any higher intelligence. His skin goes slippery with sweat under Sid’s hands and they have to reposition, pulling Malik’s arms above their head and pinning them against the bed.

 

“God, Mal, you’re perfect,” Sid grunts, planting themself deep and then withdrawing shallowly at first, then completely, only to burrow in again. “You take me so good. You’re pulling me inside, won’t let me go. Say you love me, daddy.”

 

“Love you,” Malik pants, squeezing the unyielding thickness inside him. “Whatever use you have for me, anything you want, it’s yours.”

 

Sid’s muscles bunch as they churn their hips and hammer into Malik, their teeth sunk in their lower lip as the urge to fuck the voice out of their precious guardian overwhelms them.

 

“Fuckfuckfuck–”

 

Sid hauls Malik up by the throat until he’s in their lap, their sweaty chest smearing against his back. Their mouth meets in a salty kiss while Sid squeezes Malik in a bracing hug and fucks up into him. Malik’s head lolls back onto their shoulder, gaze hazy with pleasure. “Please, baby boy, harder. More.”

 

Sid folds Malik into different positions, fucking him ruthlessly, feasting on whatever stretch of skin he can reach with his mouth, until he notices Malik’s eyes begin to roll back. He’s already come twice, lost his erection and been fucked into a new one. Sid feels starved still, blind with appetite, but it’s clear Malik is flagging. His cock has painted shining abstract arcs across his belly and chest, darkened the sheets under them.

 

“You close, daddy? I wanna see you come one more time tonight.”

 

“Fuck, can’t. Sid, come please,” he moans, twisting beneath his boy. “I’m…too fucking old for this.”

 

Kissing him gently, Sid pulls out and fingers his daddy’s hole, enjoying the wide open looseness and the light fuzz smeared into curls. Undoing their harness, Sid sidles up and slides their cunt over the underside of Malik’s cock, letting the tip catch on their clit and the inner lips. Malik’s eyes go wide and feverish as Sid works their hips, sliding up and down.

 

“Think you can make me come, daddy?” Sid grabs the switchblade and opens it with a flourish. Malik’s eyes flicker with fear but his tongue slips nervously over his lips in anticipation. Sid has been thinking of the depth of the contusions it took to make those scars and feels confident in mimicking them. Nothing too deep but enough to get a decent welling. Sid slides their soaking cunt back and forth, enjoying the collision of their clit against the shapely crown of his cock. They dip the tip of the switchblade on part of his abdomen, just below his sternum and pause.

 

“You want this, Mal?” Sid keeps Malik trained on them even with a knife at his chest. They grind him into whimpers, bend to suck his lip until it’s bright as a summer fruit.

 

“Anything you want to give me, I want. Give me pain and I’ll make it beautiful for you.”

 

Sid is too stunned by love and desire to curse, to do anything but drag the knife in one slow, even stroke down the centerline of his body. Malik’s eyes glitter, his head snaps back, yet somehow he keeps his body still. Shivering but still. Blood beads up like pomegranate seeds then breaks into rivulets, running down each side of his ribs. Under their cunt, he leaks a new crystal clear puddle, his cock twitching inside their grip.

 

“Give it to me,” Malik says, eyes glazed but still trying to see them, as if through a heavy fog. Sid obliges, making two short vertical cuts on either side of the initial one. He shouts and makes a guttural groan, shaking as he forces himself still until they remove the knife. Sid sticks the knife into the pillow beside Malik’s head hard, making him jump.

 

“You gonna come, daddy?”

 

A nod.

 

“With me then,” Sid whispers and begins riding him, burying him in their scorching wetness. Malik swallows and keens, eyes opening wide and then shutting tight in fear or disbelief. His hands latch on their thighs helplessly as Sid grinds their liquid satin cunt against them with pitiless speed.

 

“Can’t, Sid, can’t anymore, I’m-I’m–!”

 

Sid’s breath comes harshly now, sweet sparks in their chest. Their senses are arrowed straight down to their cunt. Their orgasm lightnings up from low in their pelvis and makes their skin electric, nitrous, an unreal energy shifted into solid state. The rhythmic movement grows the pressure and Sid’s mouth falls open in a choked-off scream. Their cunt clamps around Malik who jerks up as if electrocuted and buries his face in their chest, clear cum spattering his belly. He mutters an indistinct mush of syllables and pleading in the line between Sid’s pecs, twitching beneath them. Sid’s head fills with a warm, tingling air, displacing all thought and seating them firmly in the pleasure of their body. They are a heartbeat and a clit, thrumming like an engine. They are daddy’s boy, their one and only. Malik shudders for a few moments and Sid holds them tight, sniffing the sweat-drenched curls of their hair. When he’s calmed, Malik licks a wide path up their chest, pausing to kiss the top scars with slow reverence, before they kiss and both collapse, side by side.

 

The sheets were darkened with their combined sweat, cum, and spotted with Malik’s blood. Sid, still catching their breath, touched the skin alongside the marks they’d made, glancing between the incisions and Malik. If they stung, he didn’t show it, just sighed and grasped at their wrist, following where they touched. Sid thinks idly about asking for their own mark. It didn’t seem right that they could feel so mind-numbingly good and have no physical evidence of it afterwards. They let the silence sit between, encapsulating them in this pleasure-drowsy moment until the need to speak thorns up in their mouth.

 

“Don’t leave me alone again,” Sid whispers, shifting over so they’re pressed breast bone to breast bone.

 

“No, I shouldn’t have separated us like I did.” His face firms with reason. “But things will have to change. I thought I could teach you how to defend yourself and let you find your way on your own. I didn’t think my enemies would go after my child. There is some… expected decorum among the level of criminals I spar with.”

 

“But I’m not a child,” Sid says with more than a hint of petulance.

 

Malik grabs their chin, pulls them in for a tender kiss before sinking his teeth in Sid’s lower lip. Sid’s eyes smart from the sting but they don’t pull away.

 

“Yes, that’s right,” Malik says. “Now you’re an appropriate target. So there’s only a few options left for you. I can give you a new identity, settle you somewhere far away from here. You’d be able to live however you like. I’d still provide for you, of course, but our contact would be…minimal. If there is any at all.”

 

Sid grimaces. “No. No, what’s the other option?”

 

“You become part of my organization,” Malik says softly, thumbing the tiny wound on their lower lip. “I can’t have you close to me and ignorant of the threats around you. There’s too many. So…” He pauses, looking at the ruined fabric between them. “Perhaps I’m being too greedy but I truly don’t see how you can stay without being a part of…”

 

“I want to stay. With you,” Sid says, snatching up his hands and bringing them to his mouth. They kiss the sharp jut of Malik’s knuckles, the salty warmth of his palms. “Anything I need to do, I’ll do it. Will you let me?”

 

Malik’s mouth tugs itself traitorously up even as he searches Sid’s face for hesitation or fear. Searches himself for more guilt to heap on the scales of his duty, anything to outweigh his compounded love. But what he finds is thin and weightless in comparison to how badly he wants Sid with him, at his side at all times. “When have I ever stopped you,” he begins slowly, voice light and wondering, “from getting what you want?”

 

#

 

The anniversary of Yousef’s death is a day of many firsts. The first visit Sid and Malik have made to his grave together. The first time Malik told Sid the story surrounding Yousef’s killing. The first time they both cried together. The first time Malik had kissed Sid in front of his men. And the first time Malik had held their hand since they were a child.

 

The sky is a backlit palimpsest, its pewter paleness glowing around Malik’s black suit but sparking off the strip of white hair framing his brow. Sid is taller than Malik now and no longer feels the untouchable distance they once felt between them. Nor the hollow spike of grief veined with envy and galling mystery. Sid wraps an arm around Malik’s shoulders and squeezes him tightly. Sorrow deepens the gold of his eyes, makes them flash with moisture for a moment before they settle and sharpen once more.

 

“Are you ready to go home?” Sid asks, pressing a kiss into the top of their guardian’s head.

 

“Yes,” Malik says, bringing his gloved hand to Sid’s cheek, stroking the precious edge of it. “Take us home.”

 

Comments

  1. This was lovely to read. Big ups in particular for your descriptions of the weather and the natural environment—you‘re so good at setting the scene!

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