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“I told you to keep an eye on him!”

“He was already in the tent, what the fuck was I supposed to do?”

Butcher slams the bedroom door open, makes Hughie start with the uncontained force of his anger, so rarely vented in Hughie’s direction. Hughie catches a glimpse of Mothers Milk out in the hall, gesturing a helpless and baffled apology, but Butcher kicks the door shut and storms over to him. There’s still trust in the back of Hughie’s mind, so he doesn’t move, doesn’t flinch away when Butcher aggressively pats him down, as though he’s checking for injuries that would have to have been sustained hours ago.

He’s a little shell-shocked himself; the day was a clusterfuck, spent surrounded by superhumans at various stages in the cycle of wanting to kill him, and Hughie just wants to close his eyes, pretend it never happened for a while.

“Did he touch you? Did he hurt you?” Butcher actually takes him by the arms and shakes him when it takes Hughie a moment to respond, another moment to realise there’s emotion rising in him, threatening to burst out of his chest. Whatever it is, it comes out as helpless anger.

“What the fuck happened to- comparatively speaking a piece of cake? Me being able to handle it?” He can’t shake Butcher’s hold off, and it’s putting him in the headspace of earlier, of being underwater, unable to breathe, no way to escape, one-fifty over ninety. It swirls inside him, makes it difficult to see; something’s roaring in his ears.

“Did he touch you?” Butcher’s repeated snarl breaks through it all. He’s livid, vibrating with tension. Hughie should be more scared than he is. Mostly he’s confused.

“No, he- what? Ezekiel?”

“No, not fucking Ezekiel, what’s he gonna do, bore you to death? Homelander.”

Hughie remembers. Butcher left before Homelander arrived, hadn’t figured him to be part of the plan. He didn’t know, not until after- “No, he- well-“

“Well what?” The grip on Hughie’s arms tightens past the point of discomfort, firmly into pain, and they’ve toyed with that edge but this is not that.

“Let go of me!”

Butcher drops him like he’s suddenly burst into flames, stares at him in horror, reaches for him again but aborts. “Hughie-“

“No! You fucking back off!”

Butcher does. He takes two full steps back, hands up in surrender, can’t stop staring at Hughie’s chest, because it’s level with where he’d been holding too tight or it’s heaving with barely suppressed emotion. It takes Hughie a long few moments to calm himself enough to speak, and Butcher looks more pained with each one but he stays.

“I went to talk to Ezekiel,” Hughie says, slowly, gently. His arms hurt. He swallows. “Homelander was there. He knew my name. Knew I was Annie’s friend.”

Butcher’s eyes slide closed at that, but Hughie knows why, gets a similar reaction every time he mentions her as anything other than a fucking target. “I got baptised.”

Hughie’s not sure why he steps in, closes the gap between them, knows only that if he stops talking he’ll scream. He reaches out, takes hold of Butcher’s wrist, guides it up to his shoulder and curls Butcher’s fingers around the back of his neck. It should be comforting. It makes his stomach churn. Somehow he gets Butcher to wrap his hand around his wrists, too, against Hughie’s chest. He wonders if he can feel how Hughie’s heart is racing.

“Apparently Homelander’s- what’s the word? They made him a minister?”

“Ordained.”

“Ordained, that’s it. He held me just like this, only- tighter. Waist deep in water. Fully dressed. I never noticed all the eagles on his costume before. And he tipped me back, under the water, and he held me there. In front of a dozen people, he kept me there for long enough I wondered if he was ever gunna let me up. He could have killed me, and nobody-“ Hughie’s voice cracks, Butcher’s hold tightening fractionally, just for an instant. He’s not looking at Hughie’s chest any more, is staring into his eyes, searching for something.

When Hughie blinks, his eyes sting, and he screws them shut only to realise he‘s crying. Again. Fuck. “Nobody would have stopped him.” He huffs, frustrated with himself. “And then he picked me up, patted me on the back, and let me go.”

“Hughie, I’m so-“

“And then I realised my phone was waterlogged and useless so I had to tell Ezekiel it was me he fucked in that club.”

Butcher’s heartbroken expression falters, then smooths out, his eyes widening. “You what?”

“Yep. Told him there was a video of us- suckin’ and fuckin’.”

Butcher smiles. He’s still got a hand on Hughie’s neck, but when he thumbs at Hughie’s cheek, wiping away the tear tracks, a little of the darkness clears from Hughie’s mind. Some of that must show on his face, because Butcher does the same with the other hand, cradling Hughie’s face, and his voice, his expression, his body, everything about him is warm when he says, “He should be so fucking lucky.”

There’s a lot unsaid, but Hughie thinks he hears it anyway. The corner of his mouth twitches upwards and he goes gladly when he’s guided into a hug.

“I’m sorry I hurt you,” Butcher murmurs against his hair, too, the press of his lips maybe unintentional. “I shouldn’t even have touched you without asking.”

“It’s okay,” Hughie says, although he’s thinking again. Doing it once is making a mistake. Twice is making a decision.

It’s not going to happen again.

-

There’s a deeply terrible, fucked-up part of Hughie that almost thinks it might be worth it, when he realises how Butcher plans to apologise. He doesn’t just say the words, offers Hughie space but seems relieved when he doesn’t want it, takes him to bed and fucking takes him apart.

He’s careful, reverent, and Hughie almost feels guilty, like it wasn’t that bad, what Butcher did, he doesn’t need to expose himself so completely, so absolutely.

So literally. Jesus fucking Christ, the man’s thighs are a dream, tangled up with Hughie’s when he presses him against the sheets, solid and strong.

He says as much, and Butcher’s smile is softer but still just as wicked and ever. Familiar, but new. Deeper, somehow.

Hughie’s never forgotten what Frenchie said, the dire warnings he gave, but if Butcher’s manipulating him, then he’s a master at it.

Admittedly, the drug addiction analogy is still pretty on point.

The sight of Hughie’s forming bruises make Butcher crumple visibly, and he kisses those marks, unspeakably gentle, until Hughie’s sure he’ll have beard burn as well. He kind of likes it, sees just another sign of the claim Butcher has over him, and in that he finds nothing from which he wants to shy away.

He’s getting lost. They both are.

And then he realises.

He doesn’t like it. It feels like he’s getting a glimpse behind the curtain, to the man Butcher was before- whatever happened that made him Butcher rather than Billy. Or- fucking William. Just thinking it makes Hughie shudder, and not in the good way.

Hughie misses his version of the man. He’s not interested in this one.

He’s bored.

“Stop,” he pants, and okay, consent is sexy, but Butcher does that panicked dropping-him-like-he’s-burning thing and rears back, and Hughie can’t stand it anymore. “Okay, who the fuck are you? I don’t want- you don’t owe me anything. Yeah, you fucked up, and you apologised, and I accepted your apology. So will you stop- treating me like a fucking victim? I murdered someone and your response was to laugh in my face and fuck me over a sink, so what the fuck makes you think I can’t deal with this? If I wanted sympathy, and to be treated like I was fucking damaged, I’d go to a fucking support group or talk to my dad. I don’t need that from you. I don’t want it.”

It’s maybe the first time he’s managed to get that many words out in a row without Butcher interrupting him or calling him a cunt, so he’s pretty proud. And he feels better, like there’s a weight off his shoulders, even if waiting for Butcher’s reaction fills him with anxiety. He lifts his chin, he sets his jaw and he meets those searching eyes, and when a sardonic brow arches in his direction he nearly cries with relief.

“Alright, let’s get one thing straight,” Butcher says, with almost his usual level of casual authority. “Don’t compare me to your dad.”

Hughie grimaces. “Yeah, I thought that was weird, soon as I said it.”

“But I’ve done some pretty unforgivable things. I don’t wanna do them to you.”

“You have literally threatened to kill me. Multiple times.”

“Still alive though, ain’tcha?”

Hughie throws his hands up, as much as anyone still on his back in bed can do. “Fucking exactly.”

And Butcher sighs, but it looks like he’s relenting. “This relationship is not healthy.”

“Fuck healthy. You get me through the day by being you. Stop trying to be somebody else. I can handle you. And you stopped. You always stop, as soon as I tell you. So, you can handle you, too. Now- fucking handle me, and do it properly. I want to be struggling to walk by the time we’re done.”

“You’re sure-“

“Or maybe I’ll get Starlight to strap one on and do it for me.”

That does it, gets the possessive gleam in Butcher’s eyes, his body pressing Hughie against the bed, that hand wrapped around Hughie’s throat, the snarl, “You shut your fucking mouth.”

“Make me.”

There’s an instant in which Hughie thinks that, fuck, he probably shouldn’t have said that, a fragment of a second where he sees indecision cloud Butcher’s eyes and his expression.

Then Butcher kisses him. He digs his thumb and his fingers into the hinge of Hughie’s jaw, holds him open, and consumes him. The sound that escapes Hughie is animal and inhuman, a voiceless expression of yes, and finally, and he clutches, gets a grip on Butcher’s shoulders in an attempt to drag him closer because this is dark, deep and intense and he never wants it to stop.

They’d been pressed together for a while before but it hadn’t felt anything like this, had been slow and sensuous but ultimately not enough. Butcher is heavy, and he’s strong, and his weight should be too close and overwhelming but Hughie has never felt safer. It feels like everything he needs, all at once.

Butcher coaxes out a response from him with soft, wet strokes of his tongue, and Hughie does his best, vaguely, light-headed from forgetting to breathe. He feels like a fucking teenager, knows what he’s doing but has never felt so utterly taken like this, even with all he and Butcher have already done. It’s been hard and fast and brutal, and somehow this is all of those things too, Hughie’s jaw already aching, blunt fingernails scratching over Butcher’s skin. It occurs to him that he’s never left a mark on him in return, before, and he presses them in hard to hear Butcher growl, to feel it against his chest and in his mouth.

Then he presses them in harder. He wants to draw blood, wants to taste it, or so he thinks until Butcher shifts, presses their bodies together for the moment it takes him to get his arms under Hughie’s, to take hold of his wrists and pin them to the mattress by his head. Hughie fights, or he tries, or he doesn’t try, just squirms to feel the bones grind together under the skin that must be bruising as Butcher grips harder. It feels like sweet relief, and then Butcher gathers both wrists in one hand so he can twist harshly at one of Hughie’s nipples, makes him arch, gasping with the sheer electric pleasure of it.

“Gorgeous,” Butcher mutters, not for the first time, still just as unbelievably, and then he straddles Hughie’s thighs to keep him inescapably pinned down while also paying absolutely no attention to his cock and runs a covetous hand down his chest, eyes dark and intent.

Hughie whines when he can’t get any closer, craves more, arms straining, can’t quite form the words to express what and how much he wants but he lifts his chin and Butcher only considers him for a long, torturous moment before leaning down to kiss him, sucking hard on his bottom lip. More bruises. Hughie shivers and pants. His arousal, conflicted and vacillating as their evening has been, is reaching a vital, desperate peak, and he hurts with more than the grip around his wrists and the brutal torture of his nipples, Butcher pinching and pulling and pressing in with his fingernails, aches with the need to come.

“Think you could come like this?” Butcher asks him, but all he can do is sob, wordlessly begging him not to make the attempt while also imagining what a violent, agonising climax that would bring. His vision is blurred, but he sees Butcher’s smirk and knows he’s made a fatal error somewhere.

No. He knows where. But this possessive, insistent reaction is unspeakably, unendingly fucking hot. Being held down like this, vulnerable and kept waiting while Butcher seeks his own pleasure, touches him, enjoys his reactions. Hughie loves it. It leaves no space in his mind for anything else.

Butcher kisses him again, works his mouth open, licks his way inside and then abruptly stops. He replaces his tongue with his fingers, close enough to watch them sliding in and out, past Hughie’s lips, to watch the clumsy lathing of his tongue, his attempts to suck. He touches at the edge of Hughie’s gag reflex but goes no further, just makes him catch his breath and contain his instincts enough to keep from choking, watches his eyes go wide and kisses the tears from his cheeks as they fall.

Fuck, he’s been holding back all this time. Hughie almost laughs at the thought, his huffing sound of amusement slipping into a groan as those fingers slide a little deeper. He pants, his breath coming faster, and Butcher just stays there, lets Hughie drool helplessly around his fingers, unable to swallow around the intrusion.

And then he pulls his fingers out, and reaches down, and Hughie experiences a moment of pure relief before he realises he is not the one being touched. Butcher is glorious, the muscles in his arm shifting as he strokes his own cock with one hand and holds Hughie down with the other. His chest is still a masterpiece, not that it could possibly have changed, but Hughie had almost convinced himself he’d imagined just how good Butcher looks. He’s leaning over, and his knuckles are so close to brushing against the sensitive underside of Hughie’s cock that he can feel the air shifting.

He knows without looking that he’s aching and hard, just from the touches he’s been allowed, from Butcher using his mouth, from his calloused fingers sliding past Hughie’s lips.

Butcher does look, and he licks his lips, and Hughie lets out a pleading moan even though he doesn’t even know what he’s asking for. He wants Butcher to touch him, or keep touching himself, to keep his fist moving, the action and his panting and the heaving of his chest hopelessly erotic. He’s a little flushed, and his grip tightens on Hughie’s wrists, his pace speeds up, his mouth falls open and Hughie realises an instant before it happens that Butcher’s coming.

He lets out a little awed sound himself, feels his hips twitch but won’t acknowledge his own needs in that moment, watches pleasure suffuse gorgeous features, leaving behind the softness he knows exists. Come spatters his chest and stomach in droplets and thick stripes and if he whimpers at the feel of it it’s only because he wants it on his tongue, wants to taste it, like that first time, on his knees in the back of Butcher’s car with no fucking idea what either of them were doing,

Hughie hadn’t known whether he was even going to survive the night. He hadn’t known whether he even wanted to.

He would have missed out on all this.

His throat is dry, so he forms the single word of his plea, but no sound comes out. Sated, coming down from his high, eyes lidded, Butcher looks at him. He leans down for a kiss, touches his come-smeared fingers to Hughie’s lips so he licks them and moans softly at the taste. When he does it again, Hughie captures his fingers, sucks wetly, laps with his tongue, earns an approving murmur that makes him arch his back hopefully.

And then Butcher sits up.

The sensation of blood flow returning to Hughie’s hands makes him hiss, clench his fists and stretch his fingers. He doesn’t move, knows that if he touches himself without permission that Butcher’s going to make him suffer. As if he isn’t suffering enough already.

He swallows. “Please?”

Butcher sighs. He looks down at Hughie, and he trails his fingers, feather-light, down Hughie’s chest. Thoughtful. Considering.

The silence stretches on. Hughie can’t stand it. “I’ll do anything.”

“You would, wouldn’t you?”

Those fingers stop, just a fraction short of where Hughie wants them, but he squeezes his eyes shut and gasps instead of fruitlessly pushing his hips up, instead of reaching out to touch. He settles for a jerky nod, although he feels like the question was probably rhetorical, nearly whines when Butcher traces the line of his sternum back up again, and then begins to tease gently at one of his nipples.

It’s good, but Hughie hurts, and he wanted more than he felt like he could stand but this is new, he’s not sure he can take it, his heart is racing, back up to that fucking one-fifty and he doesn’t even know what he could possibly do to stop it.

“Hughie!”

Hughie’s eyes fly open and he gasps in a breath, and he realises how much he’s shaking. Butcher’s hand is flat on his chest big and warm and soothing, and his eyes are searching.

“Breathe. Fucks sake. You want me to have to get MM in here because you fucking fainted?”

“No,” Hughie’s not quite sure why he laughs, but he feels a little more level with it and the few more breaths he drags in. He instinctively goes to wipe his eyes and then realises he probably shouldn’t have moved, nearly flinches when Butcher guides his arms down to his sides, massages some feeling back into them, sets Hughie’s hands on his glorious thighs and covers them with his own.

“I’m gunna make you wait. I’ll drag you right to the fucking edge and keep you there, and then I’ll bring you back and I’ll do it all over again. But I am not walking out that door until you come sobbing my name, you understand?”

“You won’t leave?” Hughie wishes he didn’t have to ask, feels vulnerable and a little fragile, tilts his head up for the kiss Butcher bestows on him, softer than any of the ones that have come before.

“I’m not going anywhere.”

It sounds more like a threat than a promise. Hughie’s kind of getting used to it.

He relaxes back into the bed, hadn’t realised he’d tensed, and nods.

“Now, you come for me whenever you want, Hughie.”

It’s a whole fresh agony when Butcher begins again, Hughie newly aware that he has control of when it ends, his sensitivity ramping up with every single touch, the aching needful pain eclipsing all else until Butcher hushes his desperate whimpers and bites down hard at the corner of his jaw.

The pain becomes more, gradually, a building force driven higher by teeth nipping at his throat, worrying the thin skin over his collarbone, sinking into his pectorals while hot breath ghosts over his sensitive, aching nipples. There’s a never a chance to get used to it, the sharp spikes softened by kisses and laps of a warm, wet tongue.

And then Butcher starts to talk.

“You’d look so fucking good with these pierced,” he says, as he sucks one of Hughie’s nipples into his mouth, teases it to hardness and flicks it with his tongue. “You said you’d do anything. Would you let me? Pull them tight and push a needle and some pretty silver bars right through here? You’d be so sensitive after. Can already feel the fucking metal against my teeth.”

Hughie’s logical mind knows that’s an unspeakably terrible idea, one that needs to be carried out by a qualified technician on a reasonable and willing subject.

At that moment, though, it sounds fucking perfect. He’s pretty sure he’d agree to anything suggested in that voice, with that warm breath ghosting over his skin, but all he can do is make a vague, incoherent sound of something resembling a response. In lieu of making good on that plan, Butcher bites, worries Hughie’s increasingly sensitive nipples with his teeth, sucks until they’re red and sore and every touch makes him whimper and squirm and cling tighter to Butcher’s thighs.

“Can I touch you? Please?” he slurs, when it’s almost too much.

“Touch me, Hughie.”

Butcher’s hair is deceptively soft, thick, feels like silk sliding through Hughie’s fingers. The skin of his neck and back is hot, tacky with sweat. He kisses Hughie’s fingers when they stray too close to his mouth, nips when it’s clearly no longer an accident that they’re tracing the line of his lips.

“Hurts,” Hughie manages to pant, when even the slightest brush against his nipples feels like burning, and Butcher bares teeth.

“Yeah, it does.”

But he relents with a final wet kiss to each, if reluctantly. He might actually be pouting at having to leave them. Hughie is too sure he’s losing his mind to tell. He squirms, and Butcher takes hold of his arms, turns them over so his palms face upwards. Those bruises he left -what feels like so long ago- on the sensitive, pale insides are blooming, but Butcher looks at them with hunger rather than guilt now, and he lowers his mouth to them, sucks and bites to add more. Hughie’s going to be covered in reminders of him when he’s done, doesn’t doubt that’s part of his plan.

Butcher trails his lips down Hughie’s arm, kisses his wrists, takes each of Hughie’s fingers into his mouth one at a time and sucks on them, hot and wet, caressing with this tongue. Hughie whines, thinking about how badly he wants that mouth on his cock, how badly he wants anything, any touch that will ease him over the edge he feels like he’s been approaching for so long. With his free hand, he strokes the line of Butcher’s jaw, through his beard, earns himself a hungry, knowing look.

“I know what you want,” Butcher says, between one hand and the other, runs his tongue over the pad of one of Hughie’s fingers as slowly as possible, making him twitch. “Want me to suck your cock? I could. I’m good at it. You could push right down my throat and I’d take you, every last inch until my chin hit those lovely, heavy bollocks.” He punctuates his words with a tug, curling his hand around Hughie’s sac and pulling, rolling them in his palm, making him groan at the temporary relief of the ache he knows will return, worse than ever, and the attention so close to where he needs. He lets out a little hitching sob and sees Butcher smile. His hazy attempt at a glare receives only another amused twist of lips. “I’d swallow around you. Fuck, I can just taste you. Hear the sweet little noises you’d make as you came down my throat.

“Or,” Butcher muses, and he’s far too fucking casual, pressing back with his fingers to tease at the tight pucker of Hughie’s hole. “Would you rather have my mouth here? Made you cry last time, didn’t it?”

“Unrelated-“ Hughie manages, somehow, to gasp out. Having Butcher’s tongue in his ass had been devastating, a fucking revelation, very possibly the dirtiest and sexiest moment of his life, but he would have cried no matter what, that night. For some reason it’s an important distinction.

“Sounds like a challenge.” Butcher lifts Hughie’s knee with his free hand, so his leg’s bent, presses his cheek against the side of it, his beard dense and wiry and slightly damp. Hughie shivers, and Butcher rubs at his hole, a careful pressure that makes Hughie crave more, reminds him how empty he is, how agonisingly, frustratingly hard. “I’d love to see you like that, desperate and sobbing. You’re close now, aren’t you? Maybe I’d have to leave you a couple of nights. Maybe I’d have to put a ring around that lovely cock of yours, tie your wrists to the headboard and just eat you out until you came from the feeling of my tongue deep in your arse.”

Fuck. Hughie’s newly determined not to say anything, but his cock lurches tellingly and Butcher’s eyes are keen.

“I’d spend hours licking you open. Get you soft and wet and begging, and then I’d fuck you. Slowly, so every single thrust of my cock into your puffy red hole makes your nerve endings scream. I could come like that. Not sure if you could. And then I’d put you on all fours, watch your legs shake, get my fingers in you to feel how stretched out and ruined you are, watch my come leak down your thighs.”

Hughie’s cock is dripping, flushed practically purple with the need to come. He doesn’t think he’s ever been so hard and wet. His thighs shake. He can’t breathe without letting out broken, shuddering little moans. He can’t find the energy to fight it any more, just lets Butcher have him, however he wants. He said Hughie would get to come. There’s nothing he can do but wait.

Butcher murmurs his approval and Hughie feels warm inside. His fingers twitch with the urge to touch and Butcher gathers up his wrists again, wraps them in one hand. He swipes his other hand through the mess on Hughie’s stomach, gathers up the wetness there, his pre-come and Butcher’s come, and leans in to growl, “Remember what you say.”

Then he wraps hot, slick fingers around Hughie’s cock, right at the head.

Hughie’s strangled cry is partly cut off by Butcher’s open mouth on his and almost too late, amidst what feels like every single muscle in his body tensing, his vision whiting out, he manages somehow to gasp, “Butcher-“

“Yes,” Butcher husks, presses their foreheads together to watch him fall apart and works him through it, strokes while he’s wracked with countless violent shudders until he’s overstimulated and squirming. Then he goes just a little longer. Hughie arches and moans through a final, long aftershock and falls limp back against the sweat-soaked sheets, panting, can only hum a soft sound of pleasure when Butcher pets his hair, strokes his face, kisses him deceptively gently.

“Thank you,” Hughie manages to breathe, full minutes later, exhausted and already drifting off, trusting in Butcher’s protection.

He doesn’t hear exactly which words Butcher presses against his temple in response, but they warm him from the inside.