Product Placement

Chapter 32 - Unsaid


After the initial ease with which Butch accepted, things seemed to grow worse before they got better.

"Are you ever going to tell me anything?"
"Probably not."

Butch made the attempt to look hurt, but in reality he just looked vaguely disappointed. He'd asked the question twenty times before and had gotten the same answer. He couldn't blame Francis for being inconsistent any more than Francis could blame him for being increasingly cold.

It would happen the same way every time. There would be the starting warmth, the nicety, the heavy petting they were used to. Like nothing had happened. But gradually there would be a shift, and the silence would grow awkward and long. Neither one would try to break it now, not after all the terrible attempts that ended in bubbling resentment and slammed doors. In some ways, however, the way it ended now was worse. Butch would ask that question – always in the same way, tone, and at the same point in the thickened quiet. Francis would answer at his own pace, immediately if he was doing nothing, after a moment if he had his hands full. And it was always the same answer. And Butch would always try to look upset, but he'd give up and sigh and sometimes mumble a 'see you later', but he'd always get up and leave.

Francis couldn't blame him.

But after weeks of this he did stop him.

Feigning obliviousness at Butch's want to flee the premises, the hustler grabbed his arm and forced him to sit. They were in his sitting room this time – the one on the second floor overlooking the backyard. They hadn't really been doing anything, just keeping each other company. Francis felt the quiet shift from comfortable to tense, and though he had prepared something clever and heartfelt by way of explanation, his usual phrase snuck out first. To say it killed him to see Butch's face fall each and every time was an understatement. It angered him a bit too, even if he knew it was his fault. But he didn't know what else to do.

Butch didn't try to wrench out of his grip. It seemed like he was too tired to put up a fight, that he just wanted to give it up and go home. Francis sort of wanted that too – except in his version he wanted Butch to sit down and stay with him for the night. Despite the smoothing over of most hostilities Butch hadn't spent many nights with him. In some ways this was worse. Before he had an excuse as to why he couldn't be near the other male. Now he had none, save his own hesitance and inability to tell. He was too worried. What could he say? What would Butch think? Francis was certain he'd want to end it, to keep them both safe from another slip - but the hustler couldn't do without it anymore than Butch could do without his cigarettes.

"I'm sorry."
"I know." Butch answered, too quickly "I've already forgiven you."
"Doesn't seem like it."
"Can't exactly be thrilled with you, Franny. Considering what went down."
"Will you ever?"
"Ever what?"
"Actually forgive me."
"I told you." Butch finally sat down again. "I already did."

Francis bit back the accusatory remark. He hadn't forgiven him. If he had, he'd be in bed with him, clinging to him, begging him for more. Trying to make up for lost time. That's all he really wanted – for things to go back to the way they were, if not with a few changes. He would be nicer about it now. More accommodating, less violent, maybe even a little more open. For a moment, he wondered if maybe, just maybe, he could tell Butch what happened. Come clean. If he'd learned anything from shit he went through, it was that he was sort of a huge asshole. Butch didn't deserve that. At the very, very least, Francis figured Butch deserved the truth, even if it was going to be terrifying to give it. However, in the creepy way he usually did, Butch cleared his throat before he could say anything, and told him the very thing he was more or less afraid of saying by himself.

"I kinda just wish you'd be honest with me." Butch admitted out loud, not looking at him, more at the vase in the far corner.
"I'm not the only one with secrets."
"I know, I know. But-" He laid his hand over his stomach, glancing at the hustler when he didn't remove his hand from his wrist. "I've told you mine."
"And I've told you mine. Just not this one." After a moment of silence he added, "That's all?"
"That's the only secret you have?"

Butch watched the larger hand shift smoothly from gripping his wrist loosely to laying it over his hand. The storyteller didn't like the turn this was taking. He didn't like to play the guilt card, but he really was fucking curious and he though he deserved even the vaguest plot summary of what the fuck had happened. All in all, he really didn't like how anything was turning out. Francis was being too nice all of a sudden, too calm, too willing to forget. It was scaring him. It was too close to what he wanted. He didn't want to have to go through a fucking trial to get closer – or to get closer at all. He just wanted things back to normal so he could convince himself he didn't need it.

"No." Butch admitted, telling the truth despite himself "It's not."
"I figured."

Without much warning Francis closed his hand over Butch's and shifted closer. Butch fidgeted, but stayed put. All things considered, he did kind of like the random affection. He just knew it wasn't really meant for him so much as a sort of reflex. But it was nice to pretend sometimes, even if he knew he was setting himself up for a greater fall. So he let it be for a minute. He'd get up and take his leave once Fran let go of him, or once the silence turned repressive again. But it seemed to take a lot longer than usual. Francis even laid his head on Butch's shoulder and sort of shoved him over so they were more sideways than sitting up. Oddly enough, Butch was comfortable like that, and he didn't really want to move. It was warm and quiet and he could make believe for just a little while longer…

"I'll make a deal with you." Francis muttered suddenly, making Butch perk up. "I'll tell you everything."
"Yep. I'll pour my heart and soul out to you. Tell you everything. Every little thing. Answer every question without hesitation for as long as you can think them up. No bull, no lies. But you have to do the same for me. No secrets."
"No secrets." He repeated.
"Not a one."

For a long moment, Butch was quiet, scarcely breathing. His throat closed up completely the more he felt the other's breath on his cheek, his neck. His mind started and stopped like an old car engine, rattling inside his skull. This was the most terrifying thing he'd ever been faced with. The chance for truth, to know every little goddamn thing about Francis without the guilt. The chance to come clean and be honest without pressure. All he had to do was agree and make Francis go first then ask to his hearts content. That way if something went wrong, if his confessions went awry, then at the very least he had something to hang over Fran's head to keep him quiet. More than that, he finally had a reason to tell, to admit he loved the hustler more than anything in the natural world, to tell him he adored every inch of him, loved every part unconditionally. He trembled. This was it. This was what he wanted.

And he knew he couldn't do it.

"I just wanna forget this whole thing happened." Butch mumbled lamely, unable to completely lie but totally able to disguise it "It's… just gonna take a little while."
"Understood." Francis sounded relieved, and Butch sort of realized he was too. "Will you stay?"
"Here. Tonight."
"I don't- I mean…"
"You don't have to."
"I know that I just-"
"Sorry. I just… I've kinda missed you." He didn't move, not letting Butch look at him "I'm not exactly the friend or clingy type. But it's been weird without you. I miss it. You."
"Me clingy?"
"… yeah."

Butch didn't elaborate. He didn't correct him either. Didn't bother telling Francis he missed it too. That he missed him. That he wanted nothing more than to pretend again. Curiously enough he felt better and so much worse than he had in a long time – like he was going to cry but for two different reasons, happy and sad. He resisted, of course, unwilling to start bawling for no reason.

But Francis wrapped his arms around him, pressing him onto the couch. Butch drew his legs up under him, under the both of them. He felt the ghost of a smile on the side of his neck and the shift of weight. He was crushed under the hustler – but he didn't mind it. He had missed it, missed him, missed everything. Mostly the chance to believe that maybe, one day, this could be less of a way for Francis to placate his bad mood and more of a common occurrence, something they did because they both wanted.

But for now he'd forgive and forget, if only to hang on just a little longer.



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