Product Placement

Chapter 6 - Switch Hitter

Butch found this whole manner of behavior unsettling. He had pondered it over cigarettes, over homework, in class and even through his favorite movies. Nothing quite added up, but Butch was determined to make it so. He was decent at figuring out problems, and the fact that something like this stumped him bothered Butch more than anything.

It had happened only twice more after the first time at Muddy Bottom Pond.

The first time had been an impulse on both their parts. They were sprawled out In Butch's basement, watching a movie – Butch couldn't remember what exactly. But the scene had changed from a fight scene to something much more sexually charged. The leading man and leading lady were suddenly kissing -the hot and heavy stuff- making the two boys feel somewhat awkward. They stared at the screen, stealing glances at each other. Before they knew it they were held up in each other's arms, kissing, shyly mimicking the actions on the screen. They parted once he cut flashed from steamy makeout to another explosion, startling them apart. Neither one of them said a thing about it.

The second time really didn't count, officially speaking. There was no toughing of mouth-to-mouth or even mouth-to-skin. They were arguing over something. Something they were both passionate about, seeing as how neither backed down. They got so close, so up in each others face, screaming and breathing and snarling in the same breath. They stopped shouting all at once, panting. For some reason Francis just barely touched Butch's cheek with his fingertips. Just as suddenly they were at the opposite sides of the alley, mumbling at the walls and parting ways.

While the first time was… disturbing as it was thrilling, Butch found that second time so much more… unsettling. It twisted his gut something terrible, made him squirm in his skin. He was convinced he would have dealt with this situation better if Francis had slammed him into the wall and kissed him instead of touching his face and looking at him like that. It was shit like that that would get you caught, start rumors and get your shit canned for the rest of High School. Butch, though about as laid back as they came without the help of illegal narcotics, did not want things to get out of hand or be responsible for some kind of fuckup.

So got himself a girlfriend.

It wasn't hard; barely took any effort on his part. He just sauntered up to one of them at Kelso's and chatted her up. Like in the movies. Sure as shit every line worked beautifully. She seemed charmed, flattered, and glad to be in his company. Some part of him was disgusted at how easily she fell for his inflated bullshit. But the larger part shrugged it off and went with it. Now he didn't have to worry about rumors or Francis getting mad at him. Easy.

But not quite.

He ran into trouble about a week after he had gotten cozy with his new arm candy. She was a sweet girl, really she was. He gushed to her about whatever and she just sat there and nodded. Then Butch would do the same when it was his turn to listen. One day she cut off his rant to learn more about movies. Butch balked a little – he didn't want to reveal his sources, but she was really kinda pretty and she really wanted to go, so he couldn't refuse. They made a date to go to the Marionette Theater one night that week. A few hours before his date he stood around with Francis, just being lazy.

"Come over tonight." Francis said. "I gotta run some stuff by you, show you new merch."
"I can't man." Butch said, shrugging a little. "Got plans."
"Plans?" Hustler repeated. "With who?"
"My girlfriend."

Butch paused mid inhale (he had tried not to smoke around her – she didn't like the smell), and looked at him. What did he mean 'ah' all nonchalant like? He hadn't told him about her yet. How did he know? And why was he so okay with it? When it came to business he was so uppity. When it came to Butch at all he usually got all uppity. Last time he said he had plans Fran drilled him about where his mom was taking him. But apparently a girlfriend was nothing. Where the fuck did he get off?

"It's no big deal." Francis said, noting the look on Butch's face "You go do what you gotta do. The stuff'll be there tomorrow or whenever you're free."
"You knew I had a-"
"Girlfriend? Yeah." He grinned at Butch "I'm pretty well informed. It ain't just you who knows everything."

Butch blinked a bit but took another drag. Well… that was kinda unexpected. But what the hell, Franny was good too, he guessed. Butch shrugged mostly to himself and stubbed his cigarette out beneath his boot. He wanted to thank Francis but he wasn't sure why or what for, exactly. It seemed right, but Butch couldn't make the words form.

"You're not pissed?"
"No. Why would I be?"
"Business is business – and you got all bitchy last time."
"Don't worry about it. Go on and have a nice time. Just spare me the details the next day, alright?"
"Sounds fair."
"When's your date?" Fran asked suddenly "Outta curiosity."
"Like an hour after school. The movie's late. She wants to spend most of today together."
"Mm. Gotcha."
"I'm sorry-"
"Don't be. Don't be." Francis said, waving his hand. "It's cool."

Butch offered him a bit of a smile and nodded, slipping away from the hustler as he went back to his stock. He thought about saying goodbye, about thanking him, and even about sticking around a bit longer. But he didn't. Instead he waved a little and slipped away, not really waiting for Francis to take notice of him. Butch was sure he did, though and didn't think too much about it.

After all, thinking too much about it would only make things worse.


Francis hit the wall.


He supposed he could think of it in two ways, metaphorically and physically. But he was never all that great at English so he was content with slamming his fist over and over into the same spot whenever he fucking felt like it. It wasn't a constant stream punctuated by grumble. More like very few minutes he'd feel so damned angry he'd have to hit something really, really hard. So he did. The wall suffered terribly and he was going to have to pay for it later but at the moment he'd rather hit.

He knew Butch had a girlfriend. He had found out by accident. He was doing some business by one of the alleys near Kelso's store and he spotted them. He thought, for a second, that he was happy for him. But that wasn't what he felt, not really. He was upset, angry, enraged, all at once. He had growled and fled, running back to his empty house to stalk around in private, muttering to himself and scowling at mirrors, trying to contain he rage. Had he stayed outside, he was sure he could have hurt somebody.

Hustler didn't like to be cheated. He hated it. He hated it more than he hated lying. He downright despised it. It made his blood boil and his temper flare. He hated being angry, he didn't like being violent. So seeing Butch with his arm around that girl, smiling at her with the same smile he'd been given (he hated used merch), kissing her…

Francis hit the wall again.

The hustler didn't care about people all that much. He only cared about his merchandise, his profits. If Butch wasn't his property, then why did he fucking care so much? It was ruining him. He shouldn't have had to bite back his emotions the way he did. He wanted to scream at Butch, to grab him by the wrist and haul him kicking and screaming to his garage and make him sit there with him. He wanted to hit. To kick and slam him into the wall until he stopped moving but kept breathing, and then take care of his injuries and make sure he knew better than to ever cross him again. He wanted Butch to be here now. With him. Not with her. Never with her.

The hustler sat on the nearest flat surface, cradling his face in his hands. Why was he so screwed up? Why couldn't he be happy for his one and only not-only-business related friend? Why the fuck was he so insecure? Butch would be back. He came around even when Francis didn't want him – he'd be back. Soon. Very soon.

Francis caught himself looking at the door, waiting.

The hustler slipped off the crate and listened to his sigh echo off the walls. It was slow tonight. No one would mind if he went off to bed a bit early. Certainly not Butch. He was too busy with that girl to notice he totally ditched his friend.

HK did not like being ditched.

Instead of hitting the wall again he simply glared at the dent he had made, bored with the effort. He wasn't angry anymore, not after so many hours. Just… disappointed - in whom, he wasn't sure. Francis shed his coat and hung it on a perfectly good coat rack near the door. He pulled out his keys and out fluttered a few scraps of paper, all of which would have gone unnoticed by the upset hustler if one of them hadn't gotten stuck to his pant leg. Only half caring he scooped them up after he locked the door, inspecting them all. All of them I.O.U.'s. All from Butch.

The sight made him grin.

It seemed to him that Butchy-boy wracked up quite the tab with his nicotine habit. Francis grinned. It was the first of the month tomorrow – the standard day to collect outstanding tabs. Butch would understand. He would have to – this was his debt to repay, no matter how many dates he had lined up.



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