January 22, 2014: Well... this chapter was not written from a happy place and it shows. From here on out, we're earning our 'M' rating and there is some very dubious consent going on. If that is not something you want to read, please don't feel obligated on my account.
Muet - Chapter 2
The pale glow of a computer screen was the only light in the narrow room. Combeferre hadn't set out to work in the dark; he hardly ever did. He'd begun working in bright daylight, doing routine maintenance and surveillance, nothing more, and the day had dimmed and hardened around him. The call came in late afternoon that R had lost Enjolras, unable to track him through the crowds gathering at the underground club. It had been too perfectly arranged, their every strength too perfectly planned for, to have been anything but an inside job. And that was the biggest worry of all. For who could possibly have betrayed them like that?
Courfeyrac had been frantic from the moment Enjolras went missing, visions of another day and another city looming large over all of them as the day turned to night and the skies darkened. Call after call after call came in, none providing any more information than they'd had when Enjolras had first gone missing. Combeferre had been forced to watch his friend unravel, growing more and more desperate as the night wore on, until finally R had caught the scent of their lost leader.
It had been a risk. They'd known it was a risk. It was always a risk, sending Enjolras into the field. He was more than just their leader - he was their symbol. As an entire generation of fictional wizards had look to one Harry Potter, so too, did an entire nation, an entire world, look to Enjolras for salvation. Without him, that fragile hope would crumble and everything Les Amis had worked towards these long years would truly be for naught. They couldn't afford to lose him. They couldn't afford to lose anyone. They were each crucial to the cause in their own way and it was only after deliberate weighing of pros and cons that any one of the core group was sent out on assignment. The benefits of the contacts they would make, the information they would win, were to have far outweighed the risks or they'd never have agreed to let Enjolras and R go. Only now… Combeferre didn't even know if they'd made those contacts, if they'd learned what it was Enjolras was so determined to learn from them. He didn't know if all this fear and worry had been worth it. So, he'd remained, locked in his computers, fraught with the need to find the leak that had nearly lost them Enjolras… and plug it.
"So, the prodigal son has been returned safe and sound, I hear."
Combeferre's head shot up, eyes darting from the laptop screen to the figure outlined by the light from the now open door. Lifting a hand to shield his eyes from the brightness, Combeferre frowned at the deceptively soft voice. "Prouvaire, in what world and using what definition could you ever justify calling Enjolras a prodigal son?"
Prouvaire draped himself along the doorjamb, catching his long braid of dark auburn hair between nimble fingers and lifting it to brush the tip back and forth across his lips. As usual, Combeferre could practically see the unspoken words piling up behind his eyes - a flat green which hinted little and revealed nothing of what those words might be. Finally Prouvaire's lips lifted up into a small smile, his shoulders into a shrug, as he said, "A figure of speech, my dear Combeferre. It means nothing."
"All words mean something." Combeferre pushed back his chair and stood, uneasy as always to remain sitting when Prouvaire was standing. The softness in that slim body was deceptive, the beauty of features and face only skin-deep. There was a festering darkness inside Prouvaire and he was wont to lash out with it whenever the mood struck, no matter how inconvenient the timing. And that had been true for as long as Combeferre had known him, which wasn't long at all, not really. Prouvaire was one of their newer recruits and he'd won his way into the inner circle more by luck than by earning it. Combeferre had argued against it, but in the end had been overruled. Prouvaire had a skill they needed and they couldn't turn him away. It was as simple and complicated as that. Combeferre only hoped Enjolras' trust in the man wouldn't prove misplaced.
Just now, Prouvaire was throwing back his head and laughing the laugh of one truly amused… and slightly deranged. It wasn't exactly confidence-inspiring. When that laughter finally diminished to a few scattered giggles, he locked gazes with Combeferre and bit out, "Spoken words mean nothing. They aren't true speech any more than conscripts are true people." He waved a hand in the air, gesturing with the tufted tip of his braid as a look of disgust settled over his features. "None of it is real."
And therein lay the problem. Prouvaire truly believed that conscripts weren't true people - as though being reprogrammed by the government to act as a mere drone for the system made you any less a person, as though it were your fault for being reprogrammed in the first place. Even people with overridden personalities, even people who'd been conditioned to act in a prescribed way, were still people… still worth saving. But psychics… psychics didn't see it that way. That was the problem with all of them. Conscripts weren't people to them, they were dolls. Dress them up, manipulate them, force them to commit acts they would never agree to, do whatever you wanted to them; it didn't matter to a psychic, because to a psychic, no one weak enough to be rewritten was worthy of being fought for. Combeferre kept his shudder at the thought purely internal. The entire mindset was abhorrent to him, but he fought hard to control his natural prejudices around Prouvaire, because Enjolras was right. They needed Prouvaire. And above and beyond even that, giving Prouvaire this chance to prove himself was at the very core of what Les Amis were fighting for. Whether Prouvaire made his skin crawl or not, he'd still won free of government control and volunteered his services to Les Amis in exchange for what little protection they could afford him.
Enjolras had believed that there was something to be salvaged there, in spite of all of Prouvaire's years under the thumb of the government. Everyone deserved a chance to prove their worth, Enjolras said. But, Prouvaire… Combeferre couldn't shake the idea that Prouvaire was different. No psychic escaped the government. That was what all the propaganda said. The few who weren't created by government breeding programs were taken from their homes so early in life that they may as well have been. And the government warped all its psychics, training and subtle brainwashing turning them into megalomaniacs at best and outright sociopaths at worst. Prouvaire was no exception and proud of it. So, how could Enjolras trust him? How could Combeferre?
Combeferre wondered sometimes if it were even possible to learn to rewrite a person's entire personality without becoming a sociopath. He wondered, too, if there was a genetic link between psychic ability and a penchant for sociopathy or if it was purely a connection brought about by nurturing - or lack thereof - but he'd never met a psychic who'd been untouched by the government, so who was to say? According to the government, such people didn't exist.
"Of course, they do, Combeferre. Don't play the simpleton. It doesn't become you."
Combeferre flinched back from the words, couldn't help it or rein in the reaction… knew it wouldn't have mattered even if he'd tried. Prouvaire would have read the lie of it and seemed to delight in catching Combeferre out on his prejudice. In response, Combeferre sighed, pinched the bridge of his nose, and sent up a swift prayer for patience. "Montparnasse doesn't count, Prouvaire. He's crazy as they come and I doubt it has anything to do with psychic ability. And I'll thank you kindly not to go snooping in my thoughts. We have an agreement."
Another braid-accompanied flick of the hand and Prouvaire rolled his eyes. "Well, it can hardly be termed snooping when you've strung it up in neon lights, can it? We're all tired." Prouvaire lifted a hand to his temple and pulled a face. "And with everyone so afraid and then so excited and so frantic and fucking hell, Combeferre, I came here because I thought for sure I'd find Courfeyrac with you, and he at least knows how to shut himself up so he isn't screaming in my head with his every thought. I need some peace and quiet, right now. So, where the fuck is he?"
They were so busy glaring daggers at each other that the rest of their surroundings had faded into the background - a dangerous habit in their line of work, even in a safe space such as this one - and both men jumped when a third voice said, "Right behind you. Now, move and let me by. You're blocking traffic."
Prouvaire startled again as Courfeyrac pushed past him, an irritated scowl on his face, but settled quickly enough, eyes narrowing in concern at Courfeyrac's brusque words. He could be brash, certainly, had passion in spades, but it wasn't like Courfeyrac to be so rude, even to Prouvaire. Before Combeferre could even begin to puzzle out the undercurrents in the room, Courfeyrac whirled back to face Prouvaire, a blaze in his eyes, a snarl on his lips, and a hand braced against his head. "And I didn't invite you, so get the fuck out!"
One slow blink. One slow blink which led to a slow grin which Prouvaire quickly turned on Combeferre. "Well, well, well. That doesn't sound like a healthy level of frustration. Been a while? Trouble in paradise?" Turning that slow grin into a leer and waggling an eyebrow at Courfeyrac, Prouvaire added, "If he's leaving you unsatisfied, I'm always willing to take you back. You know my number, sweet cheeks."
Combeferre's breath caught as hazel eyes clashed with green. In spite of an awkward beginning, Courfeyrac and Prouvaire generally got on all right… but they got on better with R to act as a buffer. Only, R wasn't here and things were far too heated in this room, already. If they didn't back down on their own… no one needed to be cleaning up after that fight, tonight. Combeferre edged quietly back towards his desk, finger already searching for the button underneath that would alert Bahorel that security's presence was needed. Courfeyrac caught the movement, of course, shook his head almost imperceptibly. Of course, he wanted to handle this on his own. Heaven forbid he should ask for help. To Prouvaire, Courfeyrac said, "Call me sweet cheeks, again, and I'll-"
Damn it, the man was fast! Combeferre's heart slammed up into his throat, his finger stuttering against the panic button as he fought not to press it. Prouvaire was practically melded to Courfeyrac's front, one hand twisted in the material of his shirt, the other sliding upwards to cup his neck, lips split wide in a sneering grin, eyes dark with ruthless need and desire - a desire to own, to possess, to remake.
Pulse racing over all the ways this could go wrong, Combeferre didn't even have to think twice. He hit the panic button, and at the same time he screamed as loudly as he could in the confines of his own head, ~Back off, Prouvaire!~
It worked. Less than a minute later, Bahorel and Musichetta were in the room and Prouvaire was half-slumped against the wall and cursing Combeferre in every language he knew - and he'd cracked open enough heads digging for foreign state secrets that he knew more than his fair share. Combeferre was sure his ears would be burning if he understood even half of them. Jerking his head at Prouvaire, Combeferre indicated that Bahorel and Musichetta should get him far, far away before something happened that they'd all regret.
Once they'd gone, the door closed behind them, and the room once more plunged into darkness save for the glow of the computer screen, Combeferre finally approached Courfeyrac. He was nearly doubled over, dragging in air in quiet gasps, eyes wide and horrified, pulse racing so hard and so fast that Combeferre could see the flutter of it at the base of his neck. He reached out a hand to gently trace the path Prouvaire's had almost taken: the chest, the shoulder, the ne-
Courfeyrac jerked away, eyes flaring impossibly wider as he stumbled back, bumped into the bed. He panted out, "Stay back." Closing his eyes tightly, Courfeyrac forced himself to take in a deeper breath, to attempt some measure of calm before speaking again. "I don't… Combeferre, I don't have time for this. Enjolras… it's worse than we thought. He doesn't remember anything since…" He sighed. "As near as R and I could figure, he's lost everything since a few months before Philadelphia." Voice dropping, he added, "He might have been tampered with."
Nodding slowly, Combeferre settled back, hitching himself up to perch on the corner of his desk. "So, that leaves you in charge until we find out."
Courfeyrac spread his hands in a wide shrug. "So, you see why I can't-"
Prouvaire wasn't the only one who could move quickly when he wanted. Though some part of him thrilled to the small, startled squeak Courfeyrac let out as Combeferre pulled him close, an arm around his waist and his other hand tangled in his hair, the rest of him simply felt sick at what he was about to do. There was a fine line with Courfeyrac in moments like these - a very fine line between true consent and "consent" driven by overwhelming need - and Combeferre sometimes wondered on which side of that line he was falling. He never could bring himself to ask… he was too afraid that he wouldn't like the answer. So, for now, he pushed the worry to the back of his mind. Yanking Courfeyrac's head back by the hair, he bent to press a hard kiss into the soft flesh below Courfeyrac's left ear before growling out, "Make time."
Courfeyrac's breathing was made of nothing more than rapid, shallow, panting, now, and Combeferre could hear the panic in it, could feel Courfeyrac's desperation in the hard pounding of his heart. Pressing closer, Combeferre breathed again into that ear, willing Courfeyrac to understand, to give in, to not make this any harder on either of them than it needed to be. "I've been watching you. You've been on edge for days, fighting not to ask me for what you need. It can't continue." Feeling Courfeyrac's chest move against his, the change in the quality of those terrified pants as Courfeyrac attempted to speak, Combeferre pulled harder at the hair in his hand, pulled Courfeyrac's head back even further. "You said it yourself. With Enjolras out of commission for the foreseeable future, you're in charge. We can't afford to have you distracted by this. You need me. You've needed me for days, but you won't ask. Why?" When Courfeyrac remained silent, Combeferre shook him once, thrilled a little again as Courfeyrac went with the motion, almost as limp as a rag doll in his arms. Almost… but not quite. Biting hard at Courfeyrac's ear lobe and wringing a ragged cry from that tightly locked throat, Combeferre said only two words more and they were words that brooked no argument.
Courfeyrac tensed in Combeferre's arms, muscles trembling as he warred with himself over his answer. Combeferre could see it, the opposing needs battling it out behind his eyes… to give in to what he needed now, or to try to hold off further and risk breaking when it would be much worse.
…as if there were any real question of which he would choose.
Combeferre waited another heartbeat… two… three… and finally Courfeyrac pressed minutely closer to him and whimpered out a soft, "Please!" It was all the permission Combeferre needed. It was all the permission he dared wait for. Keeping his arm wound around Courfeyrac's waist, Combeferre let his other hand unclench from sweat-tangled curls and slowly drift down, ghosting over one cheek, then over chapped and bitten lips, to wrap gently around Courfeyrac's neck. As his hand closed over that tight column, shifted to cup it from the side, Courfeyrac drew in one last stuttering breath… and went limp, his eyes glazing over.
Combeferre laid Courfeyrac gently back against the bed, reverently kissing each piece of exposed skin as it was bared to his mouth. Quiet instructions were given and obeyed to assist Combeferre in divesting them both of their clothes, and Courfeyrac was quiescent through all of it, responding to the commanding tone in Combeferre's voice but offering no contribution of his own other than an occasional hitched breath when Combeferre's lips found a particularly sensitive spot, when his fingers twisted just so.
Courfeyrac would let Combeferre do anything to him like this: tie him up, beat him black and blue, hurt him, use him, whatever Combeferre chose. He would raise no objection, offer no safeword, no matter how he might wish to. It put a weight and responsibility on Combeferre's shoulders - to push just far enough but not too far - which, of late, he'd begun to weary of carrying. But no matter how weary he became, he would carry it, and he would do so uncomplaining, because his was the lesser burden here.
And because of that… No games tonight, Combeferre decided. He'd pushed hard enough just to get Courfeyrac this far. A few more softly murmured commands saw Courfeyrac on his elbows and knees before him, head bowed over his clasped hands. Combeferre opened him with fingers, and tongue, then again with fingers and a generous portion of lube. Obedient as he was being on the surface, Courfeyrac was tighter than usual tonight and Combeferre had no desire to hurt him.
When Courfeyrac gave a soft, sobbing cry beneath him, Combeferre finally removed his fingers, replaced them with his cock, pushing in in one smooth, steady thrust until he was buried to the hilt. He stopped there, smoothing a hand down Courfeyrac's side as they gasped for air in unison, as Courfeyrac instinctively tightened against the intrusion, whimpering involuntarily as that worsened the pain. Combeferre held him through it, running his hand down Courfeyrac's side, then back up over his chest and belly, his other hand gripping Courfeyrac's hip to anchor them both. When both actions served to do nothing more than cause Courfeyrac to tense further, Combeferre left off his gentle caresses and sighed, muttering half to himself, "You would pick tonight to fight it, wouldn't you?" Leaning forwards, draping himself heavy and full of intent over Courfeyrac's back, Combeferre allowed a hint of a growl to color his words as he spoke them into Courfeyrac's ear. "I didn't want to hurt you. Not tonight. Not when I needed you as badly as you needed me. Damn it, Courfeyrac. You couldn't give us one - fucking - night?"
With those final words his only warning, Combeferre reached down and grabbed Courfeyrac's arms, yanking them from beneath him to force them up behind his back and using the new leverage to slam him face first into the pillows. The abrupt change in angle and diminished air had Courfeyrac jerking beneath him until Combeferre spoke again, the snap of a command in his voice. "Be still."
The effect was instantaneous. Courfeyrac froze, finally going limp again beneath him. Combeferre reached down to wrap his free hand around Courfeyrac's throat, using that none-too-gentle grip to pull him up onto his knees and against Combeferre's chest. At a hissed order from Combeferre, Courfeyrac reached his arms back, clasped his hands together behind Combeferre, locking him in place, the stretch of it forcing his back into a painful arch. Tightening his grip on Courfeyrac's throat and thus forcing his head back onto Combeferre's shoulder, Combeferre pressed his other hand low against Courfeyrac's belly bringing them together from shoulder to knee,
From this angle, it was difficult to move too much or too quickly without tumbling them both down, but Courfeyrac's cock was already leaking pre-cum. He'd held off too long and the brief struggle had brought him to the edge faster than he might have come otherwise. Combeferre briefly considered letting his hand drift lower, pinching off Courfeyrac's cock as he was already doing to his throat, but decided against it. He really hadn't set out to cause pain tonight, had wanted to get through one damned time in bed with Courfeyrac without having to cause pain. Just because he'd lost that opportunity didn't mean he wanted to cause any more pain than necessary… and he never wanted to cause Courfeyrac pain out of frustration or anger. Courfeyrac would know the difference, even as far gone as he was, and Combeferre would never forgive himself once he started down that road… and Courfeyrac wouldn't forgive him, either.
So, Combeferre contented himself with gently squeezing Courfeyrac's throat, allowing him increased air only to the timing of Combeferre's thrusts, his other hand remaining heavy on Courfeyrac's stomach but not drifting lower. Within a minute, Courfeyrac was gasping harder at the air he was allowed, his arms trembling as he fought to keep them clasped behind Combeferre. Combeferre recognized those signs, grateful that this hadn't lasted long, at least. As he squeezed Courfeyrac's neck one last time, he commanded, "Come for me… Now."
As Courfeyrac gave in, doing exactly as commanded, Combeferre released his neck completely, shifted that hand to wrap around Courfeyrac's chest to hold him up as he gasped his way through his orgasm, hands still tightly clasped behind Combeferre. As Courfeyrac trembled in his arms, exhausted from the force of his release, Combeferre slowly lowered them both to the mattress, careful to turn Courfeyrac's head to the side so he didn't smother himself as he kept his hands clasped. Combeferre settled between Courfeyrac's legs, nudged them forwards just enough to give him leverage, and then began rolling his hips, drilling down into Courfeyrac's finally completely pliant body, sparking often enough against his prostate for him to begin jerking and twitching beneath him from the overstimulation. He wouldn't come again tonight, not after such a struggle, and this was the closest to punishment Combeferre would allow himself to go for Courfeyrac having forced Combeferre to hurt him. Punishment by pleasure.
After just a few more thrusts, Combeferre found his own release. He lay there for just a moment, resting against Courfeyrac's back, still buried inside him, before leaning close to murmur, "Good boy. You've done well. You can let go." As Courfeyrac did just that, hands releasing at last from their death grip on each other, Combeferre rolled to the side, pulled out with a wince for how Courfeyrac jerked at the movement. He turned Courfeyrac into his chest, began softly stroking his hand down one flushed cheek and murmuring the words that always brought Courfeyrac out of these fugues... "You're safe, now. Come back to me. You're safe, now. Come back to me…"
Courfeyrac took longer to return to himself than usual. Combeferre blamed it on how long Courfeyrac had put off seeing to his own needs. He'd pushed himself too far this time, waited too long. Combeferre understood why, but that didn't mean he could let it continue. They'd have to talk. Later. When he'd been forgiven for pushing something Courfeyrac had obviously not wanted pushed. Seeing awareness only slowly begin to return to Courfeyrac's eyes, Combeferre cursed quietly at the haze of confusion and the hint of fear which lingered once that awareness returned to bruised and hollow eyes. At his next round of repetition, Courfeyrac asked simply, "We're… finished?"
Combeferre would have been a fool to not notice the way that tension returned with awareness, the way muscles began coiling like a spring ready for release. At Combeferre's solemn nod, Courfeyrac couldn't get out of his arms fast enough. He always had such a short time to enjoy the moment before reality settled back in, before the shame of what he'd done forced any thought of enjoyment from his mind… before he began to dread the next time Courfeyrac would need him thus. Tonight was no different. And as he listened the quiet sounds of retching began emerging from the toilet, then eventually the sounds of the shower turning on. As the gust of steam billowed into the room indicating the water had been turned on far too hot and then kept that way, Combeferre forced down the need to be violently ill himself. He let himself wonder, once again, which side of the line he was on… and with a sinking feeling realized that he didn't have to wonder, at all.
Curling up on his side, facing away from the toilet, Combeferre pulled his knees to his chest and for a moment, while there was no one there to bear witness… he cried.
A/N: This chapter is completely unbeta'ed and my apologies for that. I had a rough weekend and I needed to feel like I'd done something productive and I'd had this sitting on my hard drive almost ready for posting for days. Any and all mistakes are purely mine.