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Chapter 26 - Don't Hate the Player


Butch wasn't good with thinking.

No, that wasn't right. He was very good with thinking. He could find hidden messages and symbolism in anything even if the creator had no intention of it being there in the first place. He could pick out a persons worst fear after talking to them for ten minutes. Their insecurities took six. He could analyze and respond. He could think up entirely new shit and could tell stories better than any public speaker he knew could. He was good at thinking.

Just terrible at figuring himself out.

Butch shorted, rolling over onto his stomach and hugging his pillow. He knew adolescence and even early adulthood was all about 'finding yourself' and all that good shit, but why the fuck did it have to be so complicated? Why did he have to be so complicated? Why was it that everything he did pretty much destroyed him from the inside out and made him some twisted, obscene mess?

And that was just himself on the inside.

Francis was a whole other story.

Groaning, he buried his head into the fabric and breathed in, trying to suffocate himself and the idea from his head. He wasn't…it wasn't that he was against the idea. It's just that it was still a lot to handle. Way too much. It made him hurt in more places than one. His head and heart pounded a lot more significantly every time he thought about it, and even though he tried to write it off as a strictly biological stress-based response that increased his heart rate and restricted his blood vessels to the point of physical pain, the poet inside him wouldn't shut the hell up. It kept telling him he was lovesick, and the only cure would be to proclaim it to the heavens… or at least to the object of his affections.

Butch rolled on his back, clutching his pillow and staring at the ceiling. He'd gotten better with his whole revelation thing. He knew he loved Francis. He loved him so damn much it hurt sometimes. It crept up on him at the worst times, though. The thought, the whole concept would drill a hole in his head and flood his consciousness. He'd be unable to think about anything else, unable to concentrate, which he figured was the norm when someone was so fucking in love for the first goddamn time. It was annoying as hell, but what was probably even more intimidating was the fact it scared the living shit out of him.

Gripping the pillow a little harder, he buried his nose into it and shivered. Why did it have to be now? Why all of a sudden? Why couldn't this have come later, when it was more convenient? All the horror stories he'd ever read or seen or ever come up with had predictable plot lines, no matter how new age or original. He could see what was coming. He could anticipate it.

But not this time.

This was unknown territory for him. He had no goddamn idea what he was doing. He was flying blind and, theoretically (or from a literary standpoint) love was always blind. Did that make him ahead or behind the curve? Butch figured it put him somewhere in the middle, and with his lack of experience he needed all the extra help he could get. True, he had had that one girl (what was her name?), and he romanced her good enough – but that was all taken from other sources. Chick flicks. Old time romance movies. He made her swoon with shit she'd never heard before, not with something he'd though up himself. He had essentially cheated.

Francis had real experience.

The hustler knew more than he could ever hope to know, and all firsthand. Butch wasn't stupid. He knew Franny's reputation. Before he was… before they kind of sort of hooked up, Hustler had generously offered three modes of payment. Cash, grass or… that third one. Butch wasn't surprised, really. He was the hustler. He knew he garnered the nickname back in grade school, and it didn't mean then what it meant now; it had just stuck. Then again, allowing sexual favors in return for a commodity was hustling in its most adult form. And it wasn't like hooking up with him occasionally meant he dropped the sex as a form of payment.

On the other hand, Fran made it clear over and over that he preferred cash to the other two forms of payment. But he still accepted body or weed… though he would have more readily taken the sex to weed. So his gamut read from cash to ass to grass. He liked cash best, but he loved tail, too. He knew too much to not know it. And he'd knew… people said things… defending and extending his prowess. Those could have all been lies, though. But what if they weren't? What if the rumors were true? What if he really had done all of those things with all of those people while Butch had had maybe one girlfriend?

Fuck, he was dating a total player.

Hustler was confusing as hell, Butch decided, cradling the stuffed rectangle to his chest. He rolled on his side and shut his eyes, trying to ease his mind. He needed to stop thinking. He needed sleep. It was still early, but the sooner he tried, the sooner it might work. Stopping all though wouldn't be too hard. He just had to keep his mind on other things. Softer, less complicated things. Like sheep. Counting sheep would work nicely. He could just count the fuzzy little things as they hopped over a picket fence and then he'd bore himself into a coma.

He reached for his phone 748 sheep later.

"Speak to me."
"Sex. I need sex now."
"Hello Butch. I'm dong fine, thank you for asking."
"I'll be there in ten minutes."
"Well have fun with that. My shift doesn't end for an hour."
"What's the matter? You never called to proposed me before."
"Yes I have."
"Well, yes, but not lately. What's-?"
"Look, I… I just need to blow off steam and I need to do it soon. I need to stop thinking."
"… I'll see you in ten, then."


Butch came with a hoarse cry, spilling over Francis' hand and collapsing lamely into the mess he made. The hustler fell on top of him, knocked off balance, panting into his shoulder. Butch shivered, groaning under him in some wordless plea between wanting him to move off and wanting to feel the weight of him. Eventually Francis moved half off, kissing the various marks on his neck, letting him glide through the afterglow. Francis always recovered quickly… too quickly. Butch felt the pang of thought and couldn't stop the dam before it broke – and suddenly the blissful thoughtless haze of sex was gone.

"Kiss me." Butch blurted. Francis chuckled and complied before Butch could recant his request. Francis kissed him right on the mouth, deeply and just enough to get Butch to lose his breath. Hustler smiled, nipping his lip and drawing a soft moan from him. He lay back down beside him, composed enough to get up and walk right out the door but Butch would have killed him before he let him go like that. Especially with the thought nagging at him…

"No… " Butch mumbled, looking down at Francis' collarbone, then back up at his face "I… Kiss me like uhm..."

Butch attempted to sign the idea in his head with his hands, but failed spectacularly. Something compelled him to lean forward and demonstrate, so he did, and failed terrifically at that too, just barely catching the side of his mouth in a quick kiss. Francis eyed him for a moment, confused. The look made the storyteller blush, and out of nowhere the hustler seemed to get the idea. He smiled a little, shifting in the sheets, sliding his hands up into the shaggy hair. He tipped Butch face back, and Butch felt his eyes slide shut. The gentle pressure he hated so much, what vexed him more than anything, it pressed to his mouth and there it barely stayed.

Butch very nearly gasped. Why- why did it make him so shaky? So out of it? It's like he didn't even realize what he was doing to him. It wasn't fair. It wasn't fair he teased him like this. Made him feel loved with this gentle shit. Butch tried to fight it, tried to put up the front that he fucking hated it, but every time it was useless. It didn't take too much this time. He just gave in, letting himself feel loved and adored for a little while. Like he wasn't worthless or damaged. Like Fran loved him back. For a little while, Butch gave into this… this love, if that's what it was.

An all too soon it was over. Francis broke the kiss and the illusion was broken with it. Somehow, for some reason, there was a hollow feeling in his chest. He wanted more. He wanted it to happen again and again until he fell into a peaceful sleep and had the most wonderful dreams. Butch shook the thought from his head, cursing himself for being so damned pathetic. The hand that threaded through his hair nearly made him whimper and he found himself looking up into the trap of ice-grey eyes.

"Better now?" Francis purred, arching a brow and stroking his cheek.

Butch felt his face heat up and he buried it into the crook of the hustler's neck and shoulder. He heard the soft rumble oh his laugh and burned redder, trying to ignore the flutter in his chest when he felt the warm, heavy arms wrap around the uncovered part of his body. Butch waited, his eyes half closed, trying to keep his thoughts inside his head and hoping it didn't burst. How many people had been in this position? How many people had he held and kissed and talked to like this? The thought of anyone more than him… it made him sick inside.

By the time Fran's breath evened out, Butch had made his decision.
He was going to find out; no matter how many people he had to trace the rumors through.


Butch didn't want to do this.

Standing in the mouth of a filthy alley, Butch reflected on his findings. He'd been halfway around the school and back again. Everyone knew something about the hustler, but no one knew anything suiting his purpose. They knew his payment options, but the ones he'd talked to had only paid in cash or credit. He'd finally managed to get in touch with Fingers (after sifting through the odd looks from alternate elementary school graduates). He'd given him a little bit more to go on, but no details. He mostly smirked d a lot and waved his hand, muttering something to the tune of "I can't tell yah about dat, man." It wasn't until he found himself in the worst part of town that he found someone who might actually have an answer.

Again, he really, really didn't want to do this.

He had spotted her part from her usual gal pals and slip into this alley. It was disgusting, smelled like something from the big city, not from the nice, quiet little suburb. He'd… there was talk about her and Fran. She was one of his best customers, apparently. No one liked to talk about it. No one talked about the rich kids- but they sure as hell liked to whisper.

He watched her now from the mouth of the alley, digging into her tiny purse, pulling out an orangey capsule. He retrieved a tiny pill from it, put the capsule back, and leaned against the wall. She looked directly at him, something that infuriated and scared the hell out of him all at the same time. She smiled.

"Hey there story boy." The less-than-wholesome Ashley cooed, wiggling her fingers at him. "I've been hearing talk about you… looking for answers about the hustlers past." She giggled girlishly and crooked a finger at him drawing him in.
"You've heard right." Butch murmured cautiously, stepping closer
"What're you lookin for, sugar? Some blackmail? Whatsamatter, can't make a payment?"
"That's… one way of looking at it." Butch stepped over a pile of discarded ick, and eyed her, lighting up a smoke "Why? Do you know something?"

She smirked and slipped the tiny pill in her mouth, sighing softly and letting her head roll back for a few moments. Before he could step forward and see if she'd passed out or not, she giggled, tossing her curly hair over her shoulder and sliding over the top of the can to get to him. Her legs spread, her skirt rose, and for the barest moment Butch found himself watching it rise. He shook the thought from his head and focused just past the left side of her face. He had much better eye candy under that grey trench coat. He didn't need to resort to ogling trash on trash.

"You wanna now about the hustler?" She purred. "Oooh, I know about him. I know him really well…"

Butch felt himself frowning. She was putting too much emphasis on 'knowing' and 'really well' for his liking. He entertained the thought of jealousy- but he had nothing to be jealous of. She was just some tramp. Probably didn't even know anything. He puffed on his cig, speaking around it.

"Oh yeah? Like what?"
"Like…. Biblically. You know… in bed. Oooh, I know him in bed…." He gasped and held herself, swaying to and fro on the trashcan. "Oooh… I know that man so well…"

Butch was enraptured by the swaying, drugged out whore that used to be Ashley T. He watched her lips move, listened to her words. She was talking into detail. Dates and times. How many times. Over and over. In so many ways. She praised his size, how good he tasted, how skilled he was. He counted on her fingers the times they did it, the places, what the exchange rates were.

Butch was enraged.

Somewhere in the middle of it, his bran stopped processing the words. What he'd already heard was more than enough. She was still talking, her mouth still moving, that damned smug smile still on her lips. All that shit she'd talked, everything she said. None of it was a lie. Not a bit. He didn't know who he was more furious at… but seeing that damned smile, her fucking smug little face all he could think about was taking his fist and ruining that fucking smile once and for all, even if he'd bloody his own hands.

By the time his brain had processed enough to keep him from killing anyone or just plain screaming, Ashley T was gone. Butch felt drained and leaned against the wall, chewing on the filter of his burned-out cig, trying to gather up his thoughts again. Why was it he couldn't think when he needed to? Why wouldn't brain fucking cooperate? Why did his chest hurt so much?

Pushing aside whatever (what he knew) was bothering him, he pushed off the wall and staggered back home. Maybe, just maybe, with the truth on his mind, it would kill this damned desperate love he felt and he could finally sleep.


Butch strolled into the hustler's garage, browsing idly while he waited. Francis saw him, gave him a small half smile, and went right back to work, paying him no mind. They often met like this, or in some case like this. Butch wondered if they thought too much alike for friends. Surely it would be endearing if they were lovers. Butch shook the though from his head and poked about the stock, waiting for the customer to leave. He half listened into their conversation, only barely paying attention. He was more concerned with the feeling of Francis watching him out the corner of his eye, just watching.

There was no reason it should turn him on as much as it was.

Finally the man left, taking with him whatever he brought. Hustler counted his money once, twice, and carefully locked it away. Butch watched him look about, make sure the door was shut and the store empty. Then, and only then, did he turn his kind smile to Butch, stepping closer to him.

"You know, I was just going to call you when that guy walked in."
"Imagine that."

The hustler murmured something unintelligible, drawing Butch in, sliding his hands up into his hair and kissing him despite the risk of being caught. Butch kissed him back, trying not to seem so desperate. He had been thinking too much, and his default escape from thinking had quickly become mindless rough sex. It wasn't like he hated the idea… it's just he was becoming dependent. Throw in the fact that he was head over fucking heels in love and wanted nothing more than to take Francis' mind off of anyone else he'd ever fucked and replace it with himself- and then he had a problem.

This kiss wasn't helping either.

Parting with a sigh, Butch couldn't help but feel that spark in his chest again, the one he felt listening to Ashley T. He watched the salesman close up shop, felling his stomach roll around inside, trying to keep down whatever was making him feel so damn weird about this all of a sudden. Was he having second thoughts? No, it couldn't be that. It wasn't the sex he was worried over. It was something gnawing at his gut and picking at his brain, demanding an action. If only he knew what action to take, what the hell he was feeling – that would just be a great start.

Again Francis approached him, that calm, sweet smile on his face. He slid his arm around Butch's shoulders and guided him out of the shop and into the house. He was murmuring something, squeezing him closer. But all Butch could think about was what he heard. All the rumors, all the claims, the talk. He couldn't think of anything but how he was… how he had been betrayed. Sure there was no stake in this relationship, this wasn't even a goddamn relationship to begin with but that didn't mean he couldn't be- couldn't feel-

Something in him snapped.

Francis grunted, the fist in his chest knocking him off balance. Any lower and the wind would have been knocked out of him. He backed up, putting some distance between them, raising his arms to block the next blows. What the hell. What the hell? Had he said something? Had he presumed too much? Every time Butch stopped over like this, waited for him to finish, it was more often than not for some sex.

The more Francis thought (and dodged), the more he realized Butch had been acting stranger than normal. He had been eyeing him differently. He had asked for softer things – that kiss just a few nights ago was just the more direct of his requests. Fingers even said Butch had been poking around for information- but what the hell was he suddenly throwing punches for? Catching a fist Butch was dead set on forcing into his cheek, he tried to look at him, tried to gauge what he did wrong to make him act like this.

He bent Butch's fist back just far enough to make him cry out. He let go, throwing his hand back, waiting for another strike. He hoped it would stop. The last thing he wanted was to hurt the guy. Which was stupid. Every damn fight they had Hustler knew he could kill Butch twice over if he chose to do so. Hell, everyone knew that, even Butch. But he still he tried. He tried so hard to act tough, to prove his worth. Why, Francis had no idea - he landed a blow to the storyteller's stomach and watched him double around himself, backing off.

What the hell was Butch trying to prove?

He watched Butch get his footing and cough, retrieving his breath again before he rose in earnest. He lowered his fists, waiting for the next more, which more and more he hoped would stop the fight out of nowhere. Butch didn't look like he was ready to stop or do too much of anything. Francis took advantage of this pause, ramming the other into the wall, pinning his arms and everything else to the flat surface. Again, it wasn't hard enough to hurt him, but enough to make him grunt and take notice.

Butch remained there, limp as a ragdoll. Francis wasn't swayed. He kept him there, waiting for a struggle or some shouting or at the very least some form of an explanation. Instead, Butch slowly lifted his head and glanced up at him, something clouding his dark eyes that Francis recognized from somewhere.

"Care to explain?"
"Jus'… just keep me from thinking, alright? For the rest of the night?" In direct contrast to all his former movements, Butch leaned up and kissed the underside of Francis' jaw "…please?"

Butch wordlessly pleaded, apologizing with tenderness that honestly threw the hustler for a loop. Not two weeks ago all Butch wanted from him was sex, plain and simple. Now, ever since that party…

For half a minute Francis catered to the idea Butch was falling for him. It would have made sense – asking for softer things, poking around for information, fighting and then giving up and giving in like nothing. The party too, when Butch clung to him so desperately, begged for forgiveness. Could it be that Butch felt lovesick?

The only part that didn't factor in was Butch himself. Butch wasn't like this. He wasn't this mushy or lovey. Couldn't be what he thought. He was probably imagining it.

With an internal shrug, he tipped Butch's face up and kissed him right, releasing the storyteller from his pinned position, wrapping his arms around the now more alert body. He paused, waiting for a moment for another moodswing. When nothing came, he kissed him again, pulling away only to lead him to the couch.


Butch watched him sleep.

It was a bit of a creeper move, but he couldn't help himself. He was in love, after all. He snorted at himself, adjusting his position. Francis had fucked him nice and hard, erasing his brain for a while. Problem was now his thoughts were back tenfold, and perched on top of Fran's broad chest, feeling his heartbeat thrum under his hand, he was even worse off than he was before. He sighed and rested his head on his arms, trying to will himself to sleep – or at least to some different thought pattern.

He wondered if Francis noticed how he felt. Did he care? Probably not. But then again- maybe he did. Reaching up to stroke the sleeping hustlers cheek, Butch couldn't help but think how not being in control sucked. He wanted to tell him- but not really. He was afraid of fucking up what they had. Yeah, it would suck feeling like this, but it would be worse if Fran laughed at him and told him he had no chance.

Francis leaned into the touch on his cheek, which made Butch smile in spite of his fucked up thoughts. He loved him. He loved him, he loved him, he loved him. It was getting easier to say inside his own head, but to voice it was still damn near unthinkable. Maybe if he came down with some terminal illness or was put to gunpoint, then he could say it. Maybe even now, with Francis out cold and the house empty and dark. He could do it.

But then Francis shifted and Butch withdrew his hand. Nope. No he wasn't ready to admit it just yet. There would be a time – there was a time for everything. Just… that time wasn't now. It would come eventually, but now…

He cursed himself for being a coward

Slowly, he lowered his head to rest it on the bare chest, listening to the heartbeat under him. It was… nice to feel like this. Safe. Warm. Happy, even. The thought passed through his mind that maybe, just maybe, this wasn't love. It was just a reaction to being safe, cared for. He was probably just taking this friend thing to a much greater level- some of it due to sex, other due to the fact that he never really had a close friend. Lame, pathetic, yes and yes, but it could be the reason he was acting so weird.

Maybe it wasn't love.
It definitely wasn't love.

Butch nodded to himself and shut his eyes. It could not be love. He did watch an awful lot of cheesy movies, and that thought could just be rubbing off on him. The whole 'unrequited love' curriculum they'd been assigned for reading was more than likely screwing with his head, too. Just because he felt especially close with the hustler didn't mean it had to be love. He would be okay with that. He could stop feeling so desperate or jealous (that was what he was feeling before, he knew it had a name!) and just relax and take sex for sex's sake. He could have this friend and be close- but it didn't have to be love. He could be… okay with that.

Sighing softly and ignoring the mysterious hollow feeling in his chest, he resigned himself to giving up on this love thing. He was probably wrong, anyways.



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