Any Way You Slice It

January 21, 2024

Carson is sitting cross-legged on the floor of the bedroom-slash-living-area of his small apartment, back against the side of his bed, Princess Buttercup lounging on his lap and across his shoulders. When he sat down, it was to watch the latest episode of an ink reality show, but it’s long since ended and he’s at best paying token attention to the rerun that’s now on. Instead, most of his focus is on his snake, his face relaxed into a fond smile as he traces her yellow-and-caramel pattern with his eyes. He knows he will have to get up and dress up eventually, but for now he’s content.

A knock on the door between the converted garage he lives in and the main house breaks him out of his reverie. “Hey, Cars!”

Only Corbin calls him that.

“I’m here. What’s up?”

He hears the door crack open, his brother’s voice less muffled when he speaks again. “I’m off to drop Sarah at the botanical garden. I’ll drop in when I get back, sound good?”

Doesn’t take a lot of effort to read between the lines there. Corbin wants to take advantage of his fiancée being out of the house to get some private time with his brother. It’s a plan Carson can get on board with. “Just come on in!”

With only minor trouble he gathers up the coils of python on his lap and rises. The snake stirs, tongue flicking as she slithers across his shoulders, slowly, exploring. In the compact space it’s a work of moment to place her back into her terrarium. “Love you, Princess.” Of course he knows his affection is largely one-sided, that snakes aren’t capable of complex emotion. He still says it.

He pulls his shirt over his head, inverting it, as he walks the few steps to the bathroom, dropping it in the hamper just outside the door on the way. Stripping out of the rest of his clothes is the work of moments, socks, arm warmers and underwear joining the t-shirt in the hamper. He hesitates briefly before lifting his pants to his face and drawing a breath through his nose, then empties the pockets and lets them follow.

Having just handled his snake, he washes his hands thoroughly before starting to peel bandages off his skin. Bit by bit he uncovers cuts at various stages of healing, many of them stitched with monofilament sutures. Tidy and neat on his body and thighs, less so for the few on his arms.

He really should talk to Corbin about that.

Having his bathroom just on the other side of the wall from the hot water tank comes with one significant advantage: it’s barely any time at all before he can step into a hot shower. For a few moments after stepping into the shower he simply leans his head back and lets the water hit his face and soak his hair before cascading down his body. He turns around to let it pelt his back while lathering up his hair, then rinses the shampoo out and turns the water down to a trickle.

Carefully avoiding stitches and cuts too fresh to agitate makes his quick shower a much more laborious process than it has any right to be, but it’s a price he’s long since accepted paying for his brother’s affection. He’s nearly done, all but completely covered in soap, when he hears Corbin’s voice from the doorway.

“I don’t have all day, Cars!”

“Hold your fucking horses; I just need to rinse off.”

It’s a matter of minutes, if that, before he steps off the bathroom’s tile floor and onto the imitation wood in his main living space, naked save for the dog’s choke chain collar around his neck and a towel around his midsection, black mohawk damp and limp against his scalp. Corbin is leaned against the wall, the corners of his mouth turning up in an almost hungry smile as he sees Carson, the younger brother’s well-marked skin towel-dry and bare.

“How nice of you to join me,” Corbin greets him, and Carson can’t quite tell how much of his brother’s attitude of annoyed impatience is genuine, and how much is teasing affect.

“I’d been handling Princess.” He steps up close, presses his lips against Corbin’s, and tries to ignore his own disappointment at the mechanical response. It means Corbin’s not in the mood to play pretend. “You wouldn’t want me to get an infection, would you?”

“Sarah’s quicker in the shower than you are.” Corbin walks into him, inching him backwards towards his bed.

“Sarah isn’t covered in stitches, asshole.”

“Your own fault for letting me.”

Something sharp touches his stomach, and Carson involuntarily flinches away. “Hey! Warn a guy!”

“Oh, I’m sorry.” Corbin doesn’t sound sorry at all; he grins, kisses Carson’s cheek, and leans in to whisper: “I’m going to cut you.”

There’s something to the way he says it, something to the way he looks at the prospect of it, that sends a shiver all through Carson. “Fine, fine. Let me— ow! Let me get the kit out, yeah?”

Corbin allows him to pull away.

There’s blood beading on Carson’s skin on the left side of his waist. A tiny nick, like the scratch from a rose thorn, nothing he’s going to need to do anything significant about. With practiced ease he throws a plastic sheet over the bed, followed by a dark drop cloth. The two of them have ruined exactly one set of bedding, ever, and he’d like to keep that record. He pulls what at first glance most resembles a toolbox over to the side of the bed, takes out a plastic-and-paper-sealed metal item about the size of a pencil, and sits down on its edge. Offers the silvery scalpel handle-first to his brother.

Corbin doesn’t take it.

“Come on, Corbin.”

“Don’t be like that.” Corbin advances on him, wearing that intoxicating expression on his face that makes Carson’s knees go weak. “The knife’s better. You know that.”

“The fucking knife’s also not been autoclaved.” He’s still holding the scalpel out, though he knows Corbin isn’t going to accept it. He hardly ever does.

“Do you want me to fuck you or not?” Corbin’s left hand finds the chain around his brother’s neck, pulls on it just enough to lie snug against the younger man’s throat.

Carson feels his hand tremble, a tingle spreading along his jawline and shooting down to his groin. Fucking Corbin. “Already cut me. Deal’s you owe me one.”

Corbin crouches in front of him, holds up his favorite knife. Carson has no idea what’s so special about it; it looks like a pretty ordinary chef’s knife to him. But it clearly has some sort of significance to his brother. “You’re getting squat if you don’t let me set the mood. That little pinprick won’t cut it.”

“You’re such a cunt.” With a sigh, Carson relents, as they both already knew he would. He always does. The scalpel in his hand is dropped back into what has effectively become half first aid kit, half hook-up-with-Corbin supplies. He barely looks as he pulls out a bottle, a sealed packet of gauze, and a flip-top tube and throws the two former to his brother. “At least disinfect the fucking thing.”

Corbin rolls his eyes as though Carson is the one being unreasonable, but he does comply, dutifully soaking the gauze in disinfectant and wiping the blade in his hand down with it. He always does.

Carson discards his towel beside him on the bed and retrieves a glove from the toolbox. There’s only going to be one thing at the forefront of Corbin’s mind once he gets going, and that thing is not going to be stopping to make sure his baby brother is adequately lubed up. It’s not worth trying to reeducate his painfully straight brother on the matter when he can just do it himself.

Then he leans back and fixes his eyes on Corbin’s face. He knows what comes next is going to hurt. It always does. On days like today, days when Corbin isn’t in the mood to pretend Carson’s feelings for him are even slightly reciprocal, it usually really hurts. But it’s what Corbin wants.

And if Corbin gets what he wants, Carson gets what he craves more than anything.

It’s what keeps both of them coming back.

Corbin, nude from the waist down, straddles his brother’s hips and runs the fingers of his left hand across Carson’s chest. Tracing old scars, some nearly completely faded and others more prominent. Searching for the perfect spot to start his work. Under him, Carson lies still, only conscious effort keeping his breaths slow and steady, anticipation buzzing under his skin.

Never looking at the knife, never looking at Corbin’s hands at all. Only his face, watching for the intoxicating fascination he knows will grow there with every cut.

“Motherfucker!” Or the stupid bastard can let his fucking sleeves snag on and nearly pull out his stitches. “Watch the stitches, Bee!”

“God, Cars, you’re such a baby!” Corbin is definitely irritated, though whether it’s because of the interruption or because Carson used that particular nickname isn’t immediately clear. Though he does, at least, roll his sleeves up.

Carson opens his mouth to respond in kind, and instead finds it stuffed with his own towel. Usually that means Corbin thinks he’s complaining too much. That it’s time for Carson to shut up and take it.

So he shuts up, and he steels himself for taking it.

Every time the knife bites into his skin, his breath hitches, and he has to force it out, then back in. Every time the knife bites into his skin, the sparkle in Corbin’s eyes grows a little brighter, like there’s something more wondrous than blood seeping out through the cuts it leaves behind. Some of the cuts he can already tell, by feel, are going to need sutures. It hurts just as badly as it always does — he’s biting down on the towel in his mouth and his knuckles are going white clutching the cloth underneath him.

The look on Corbin’s face is what makes it bearable.

By the time his brother moves, Carson is sweating; he can feel it run down the side of his neck like a cold, wet tickle. For a moment, Corbin’s eyes flicker to his face, and he forces his lips into a slightly dazed smile. He doesn’t want to admit, even to himself, that he’s relieved. That he’s relieved because he knows that Corbin moving means it’s all downhill from here.

Because not even Corbin can effectively fuck and wield a knife at the same time.

He feels more than hears the knife drop onto the bed next to him, moments before hands seize his hips, pull him closer to the edge. Whatever needy sound is trying to escape from his throat is muffled beyond incoherence by the cloth filling his mouth, but it doesn’t matter. Corbin is fucking shit at pushing in slowly, but that hardly matters, either. Carson can tell he’s at least trying, because he’s been there when Corbin doesn’t remember to.

The pain fades faster than that from the cuts covering his chest, anyway.

And then Corbin is fucking him, and in that moment it’s worth all the pain. It’s selfish, it’s raw, and it’s hard, and some part of Carson wants it to never end. His legs wrap around his brother’s waist, and he shoves back against his brother with all the strength his trembling body can muster. It’s not a day for the closest thing their encounters ever get to lovemaking, and that’s fine.

As long as Corbin will at least give him this much, it’ll be fine.

When his brother’s nails dig into him, hips churning against his, it’s not like coming, himself, but he can enjoy it for what it is. He doesn’t know how many times he’s etched Corbin’s face into memory in moments like these, and it doesn’t matter. He still does it.

And then Corbin all but pitches forward, catching himself on one hand on either side of Carson’s shoulders, a stupid grin on his face. Carson reaches up, his hand not quite steady, and pulls the towel out of his mouth. It leaves traces of fluff on his tongue. That out of the way, he reaches higher, manages to grab the sorry excuse for a ponytail his brother wears his hair in, and pulls him down, pressing their lips together.

Corbin tries to pull back, but Carson just tightens his grip on the older man’s hair and presses his tongue a little more insistently against his lips. When his brother gives in, he almost seems distracted, like he’s not quite present in the moment. Carson tries to draw it out, to savor it, but eventually he has to let go.

They pull apart in silence. Gradually, Carson shifts to sit upright. Only once he’s gotten that far does he look down at himself to take stock of the damage his brother’s knife has done. For his brother being a self-serving piece of shit, it’s not as bad as he’d feared.

“All good, Cars?” Corbin is already doing up his belt, as though all they’d done was sneak away for a quickie. “Need anything?”

“Unless you’re hiding a few syringes of lidocaine, get the fuck out.” If there’s one thing he hates more than having to piece himself back together without pain relief, it is Corbin watching him while he does it. “And get your fucking shirt in the wash before Sarah sees it.”

“We have to get going in—“


He’s not going to rush through patching himself up. If they end up late, he’s blaming it on Corbin.

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