Product Placement

Chapter 10 - Short Deliberation


Butch wasn't sure what to feel right now, sitting alone in his familiar basement room, an old movie playing on the even older television. Butch knew the movie practically by heart, but he wasn't really paying much attention. He wasn't focusing, trying to keep his own thoughts ambiguous because without fail they always returned to the one place he didn't want them too. He'd been doing this, like this, for a while. Sitting down still hurt marginally, but it didn't seize his spine and rattle his nerves like it did in the beginning, and even if it did he tried not to think about it.

But tonight it seemed unavoidable.

There was no one, nothing to really distract him. For an hour or so he fancied himself suffering from depression, but he knew damned well that wasn't even lightly true. He wasn't unhappy, just confused, and sitting alone in his basement brooding wasn't going to ease his confusion any.

So he tried facts. Facts were good. Indisputable truths. Butch usually disliked them, twisting them until they suited his own desires, taking the form of filthy, filthy lies. Now seemed like a really good time to do that, but he'd probably be better off sticking to truth. What had happened, exactly? He'd gotten into a fight, tried to distract the building-like hustler by kissing him (why he thought that would work he honestly had no idea), and then they had sex. But that sex had hurt, and he had been thrown up against the wall and pinned down and he shouldn't have taken it like that but he felt helpless and also kind of really liked it… didn't he?

It wasn't rape if you wanted it, after all, and Butch had so wanted it. It shamed him a little how much he asked for it, how he thought of it and remembered it constantly and the feeling he got when he did recall every sordid detail. With some measure of resentment he admitted he actually wanted it to happen again, if not now. It sickened him desperate he was to see Francis and sort this whole thing out – but he knew better. A large part of himself – self-preservation, he figured- knew he won. He had tricked the hustler out of murder into something with less deathly repercussions. Sooner or later HK would figure it out. At most, Butch figured with a sour taste in his mouth, this was just another conquest. One without bragging rights, but a conquest nonetheless.

The term 'conquest', though true, made Butch feel trampy, so he shifted his weight carefully and tried thinking it in new terms. Consensual leapt out at him. It was, really. That was the case. They both wanted it, Butch gave him permission, never took it away, and Francis acted upon those benefits. Butch thought that still made him sound like a slut.

So maybe he liked it rough? Lots of people did. The Internet said so. That didn't make him a freak – not too big of one, anyway. It made him a relatively normal freak – which was cool with him because he already was one. In addition to his pessimism and angst and dark and obsession with horror he… had a kink for being thrown up against a wall and dominated til his head spun. Butch winced, immediately finding a loophole that he couldn't stitch back together: Did he like it rough or like it when Francis was rough with him? To figure out the answer would need more experimentation and a lot more time and Butch was feeling up to neither at the moment. He was still a bit sore, anyhow.

Butch shook his head and tried to think of something else. Nothing came right away, but eventually he figured it was really no ones fault. Francis was given the go ahead and he did it. That was fine. He was the one who gave the okay for it, so there had to be something about it he liked or wanted about the situation. He really had liked it in a really strange way. It was unusual for him to just give in like that. And it wasn't like it was all bad. It just… confused him. If anything the fact neither one had been able to say anything about it bothered him more.

It figured Butch would find some way to save and kick his own ass at the same time. He scowled at the film and shut his eyes. He was in physical pain, sure, but this whole ordeal was eating him up inside. He frowned and rubbed his hands over his eyes. There was nothing more to think about now. More thought and he was sure his head would explode. He tried not to think, opening his eyes just in time to watch the credits roll past, staining the carpet white with names of people he only half recognized. Before he knew it his mind had wandered back and he wondered where Francis was right then, what he was doing, or if he remembered.

For now, Butch just eased himself into his couchbed and let his gaze settle on his phone though he told himself not to let it lie there. A few moments passed when he looked at it, willing it to buzz or ring or make any motion but it denied him, staying silent. He longed for any sign that he hadn't been forgotten for that night but it seemed the more moments passed the more he was assured that he would be alone with his thoughts.

Butch fell over on his side, curling up and holding his scars tenderly. It wasn't where he hurt but he sure as hell wasn't going to be caught holding his ass or his heart. Belatedly he reached up, grabbing his blanket and tugging it over him, set on getting some shuteye.

A minute later he reached out and grabbed his phone, bringing it under the blanket with him, just in case.


Francis looked at one of the several watched on his arm lounging about the Hustler HQ. It's been busy lately, and finally it seemed it had dropped off. He realized, leaning against the metal door, that he was bone tired. He'd done a lot of shit today, but even so he wasn't quite ready to turn in yet. Thoughts were still turning over in his head, about deals, transactions, his till, net profit. Before he realized it he'd wandered around the back, ducking in and out of white pools of light thrown down to the ground by streetlamps.

He paused though, looking around. There was a tune carried on the breeze, soft and melodic, old as the hills but that was the kind of music he liked, anyway. A few more notes and he knew the song, still more notes and he knew the voice and the body it belonged to. It took a moment for him to spot here but, lo and behold, there she was, eyeing him softly, one leg dangling over the other, perched like a delicate lady on a shipping crate.

He liked her well enough. Morgana was tall, sleek, and looked very much like someone who stepped outside of a black and white movie. No one knew if Morgana was her real name or one she adopted for her business, but she carried herself with elegance from years ago. She sold handguns and surveillance equipment; often joking she was the provider to one agent double-oh-seven. Much to Francis' surprise they shared tastes in music- something he was most often picked on about for being so old fashioned. She had surprised him one night when, at Hustler HQ, he was going over his stock, quietly singing "Luck be a Lady" mostly to himself. She chimed in on the next verse and he faltered, but they sang duet until the song finished, and were gifted with the smattered applause of the leftover hustlers.

It seemed to him she wanted to share more than a musical number.

"Ah, if it isn't the hustler himself." She greeted, her words exhaling and drifting like smoke from her lips.
"Mm. You waiting for a ride?"
"No, no. Simply enjoying the night." Morgana offered him a smile and a place to sit "Join me?"
"For a minute. Thanks."

He sat beside her, his hands resting on his knees. It felt good to be off his feet and to let himself rest for a minute after all he'd gone through this week. He could feel her scoot close and the sent of her perfume and thin cigarette slide over his cheek. Moments later, a satin glove followed its path. Francs coughed gently and lifted his eyes, looking Morgana in the eye. She smiled at him.

"You seem awful down, darling. Might I be of service?"
"I don't think you can help me, Morgana."
"Nonsense – there is little a snub-nose revolver can't solve… unless you're more a… colt or magnum type."
"I'm not any of them, I don't think."
"Oh? You don't seem like the type to fire blanks." She smirked at the laugh she managed to draw from the other hustler. "Sure I can't do anything for you, honey?"
"No, not really."
"Oh, a shame. I hate to see you so down…" she drew the cigarette from her lips and put it out behind her, scooting right up next to him, sliding her hand over his arm "I'd love to be the one to put the smile back on your face."

Francis was never one to miss an opportunity or an obviously dropped hint, let alone one from someone so beautiful and so much like him. He had figured she had a thing for him, and he was right judging by the coy little smile and the way she was affectionately petting him. He gifted her with that smile she so wanted to see, then leaned forward and gave her what she really wanted. She made a small, pretty little noise and drew his arms around his neck, pressing her chest to his, kissing him like it was the most elegant affair in the world.

But this felt wrong, somehow sensations bled together and it wasn't lipstick and ash and sweet breath he was tasting it was blood and soot and anger. The jaw he held wasn't soft and smooth it was defined and square and below it on the left side were three thin scars that drew and out of place thin moan from the mouth he thought he was kissing. He in inhaled, cigarette smoke filling his nose with tinges of perfume and satin and denim and grit. The cigarette was the only thread, that and darkness and desperation, that kept him on track. Very slowly, though, the connotation of it tipped and bowed toward the wrong side. Something was wrong with this, off somehow. He couldn't place it but he knew he shouldn't be doing this, no matter how soft she felt underneath his hand, no matter how nicely she seemed to fit in his lap or how beautifully she sang with him. It just wasn't right, not anymore.

"I'm sorry." He said, removing himself from her. "I can't. I- … Do you need a ride?"
"Not at all." She sighed, slipping back onto the crate and lighting up another cigarette, the embers falling beneath her heels "I'll enjoy the cold moon on my own for a while…"

Francis thought of saying something – but he didn't. He shut his mouth and turned, fleeing into the white-hot lights. He almost felt bad, but the thought was banished from his mind, something else taking over. For whatever reason he broke into a run and practically dove into his car, panting and heaving. He looked around, bewildered, before he grit his teeth and jammed the key into the ignition. He started the car and let it idle, flashing between anger and confusion to calm and thoughtfulness. He was so mixed up, he couldn't understand how or why and what was going on but he knew he had to do something to make this better or he was going to lose his mind.

The hustler shut his eyes and let his head rest against the seat. Then he pushed off of that and let it press to the steering wheel. He punched the radio on and lowered the volume to almost mute, catching his breath. Then, suddenly, he dug through his pockets and frantically emptied them, looking for his phone. He unearthed it and lifted his heavy head and sent a short message to a familiar number.

We need to talk.



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