Whoops just me crashing right on in with an update that is stupidly late even though I really have no schedule damn I'm bad at this.

Here have some angst and bad feelings.

One day I'll change but probably not soon.


They were in the room overlooking the garden, the one Francis had taken Butch to after their first night together. Butch had grown to like this room. It was one of the only ones that he could find on his own, which made him proud to some extent. It was actually a very pretty room, well kept, lived in. That was what Butch liked best about it. Sure, it kind of looked like a show room, but every time he came in he found some evidence of life- rumpled pillow, blanket on the floor, a nearly empty glass. It was so much different than the rest of the house. Even Francis' room looked barren in comparison.

They were on each other. Butch on top, settled in Francis' lap, arms thrown around his neck and forehead pressed to the short, spiked hair. His was breathing heavy, washing over skin. His fingers grasped at Francis's shirt, his coat stripped off and somewhere crumpled behind his back. His arms were still in the sleeves. Butch felt the cuffs bump into his stomach when Francis pushed his shirt up, thumb on the downward scoop of his hips. Butch squeezed his thighs around the hustler's, his legs straight and pressed together underneath the subtle twitches of his hips. Francis' hand was around him, slow, languid strokes pulling him forward, his knuckles brushing against the lowest edge of the scars on his stomach. Small cries fell from Butch's mouth, and in turn Francis hummed little assurances, the thumb on his ribs pressing into his skin, following the solid line.

This was what Butch craved. A quiet intimacy, somewhere between the rough fucking of the beginning and the softer, kinder things that were newer to him, more frightening than broken blood vessels and limps. He felt both tearing at him, ripping him in two with each stroke, each broken cry digging further into his skin. He felt Francis's lips on his neck and gasped, eyes squeezed shut. Butch could feel his mouth, the concentrated, thin line that opened and drew in a little skin, pinching it between his teeth. Francis pulled away from it, brushed his mouth over it, and moved on over the taught skin to the next spot.

This was wrong. It just felt wrong.

Butch swallowed and stilled in Francis' grip. He could feel the hustler's mouth, still moving, a firm line opening and closing as it passed the lines and bumps along his throat. He knew this feeling well, he'd loved it so many times before, but there was something wrong now, no matter how tantalizing the soft, hot puff of breath was over the reddened skin. Butch had lost the warm feeling in his gut. Now he just felt cold and bored and it wasn't supposed to be like this. He was hard, he could finish, but he didn't want to.

"Fran I'm- Could you let up? Stop for a sec." Francis muttered something into his neck and Butch pushed off of him, hands on both the hustler's shoulders. "I'm not- I'm just not feeling it, okay?"

There was something about the way Francis let go, both hands off his person and settled on the couch that made Butch feel better. The look on his face, made him feel worse again. Butch pushed his hands through his hair and looked off at the wall behind them, then at the wall off to the side. Anywhere but down at the other man. He felt a flush pulse out of his skin and sighed, frustrated for more reasons than he could grasp. Francis still said nothing, even when Butch slid backwards off his lap, though he did make an effort to reach for him when he was knocked a bit off balance by the coffee table coming into contact with the middle of his calf. Butch turned from him and straightened up his appearance, stuffing his softening cock into his pants, giving up on the thought of getting off completely.

When Butch finally sat down, Francis cleared his throat. "Is it something I did?" He asked quietly. "I just thought-"
"No. It's just not working right now."
"Seriously though, I don't want to make you uncomfortable or anything. You know I'd never-"
"I know."

Butch heard him shut his mouth and exhale out of his nose. He still sat next to Francis, he just wasn't looking at him. There was some distant hope that the walls would talk to him instead, but the man beside him was shifting, rubbing his face and turning toward him to make some forced conversation.

"Don't Fran." Butch said, beating him to it with a wave of his hand. "It's okay."
"Is it?"
"I'm okay."

It wasn't.

Butch wasn't sure what was up, but he was willing to make an educated guess. They didn't do much talking since Butch found him playing the piano. Their conversations were made up of quiet assurances - looks that lasted until the other noticed, touching shoulders or arms or backs. On the inside they were a little more forward, a little more costly with their affections. Butch especially so. The quieter Francis was, the more Butch's body spoke on his behalf. It betrayed him too easily, and Butch worried. Francis simply took at every turn, meekly returning with small gestures (free cigarettes, a lasting kiss - that sort of thing) with the air of someone who didn't know how to accept enormities.

Butch looked at him then and saw the same hollow troubles there, washed over with worry and an awkward smile. Francis patted his knee as well, his palm lingering and warming denim. He drew his arm back into his lap and searched the room, scrambling for something else, some piece of conversation or object to press time forward because it had come to a grinding halt because he stopped what they were doing.

"Sorry." Francis said, beating the silence away for a minute, uncharacteristically tumbling over his words, however few there were. "I'm not sure uhm- I'm just not sure what to do now. You're sure you're not upset?"
"No? No to what, exactly?"
"Can't you just drop it when I fucking say stop?"
"I was-"
"Fucking lay off already Christ! I wasn't mad at you but I'm getting there now. Why do I have to be mad at you to say fuck off?"
"Because you've never done it before!" Francis cried out, frustrated. "Even when you're really pissed at me we've had sex. We've had sex while fighting so fucking excuse me but this is kind of weird and I'm concerned, okay? This isn't the usual deal and I thought maybe I'd either really fucked up or something happened."

Butch grit his teeth and bounced his leg. Francis sighed and rubbed his face and cursed behind his hand, watching Butch carefully beside him. Butch hated him for it. He hated all of this. A part of him wanted to climb up into the hustler's lap and let him go back to what he was doing because he knew the motions and that wouldn't piss him off as much as his fumbling attempts to do anything else. Butch knew they founded this relationship, however shaky, on sex. He knew I would be a factor more or less forever. But Butch loved the stupid son of a bitch and he knew they could just be together and not say anything or talk for hours, but only if sex was thrown in somewhere. And Butch used to be fine with that, except now it wasn't even working and it hurt to think they needed that big of a crutch to spend time together in the first place.

"Well you're right." Butch grumbled, rubbing his face. "It's you."
"Me- Okay. What did I do?" Butch glared at him and Francis put his hands up. "Honestly! I have no clue what's going on."
"Bullshit." Riled up again, Butch turned to confront the hustler, staring him in the face. "Ever since your mother left-"
"Exactly!" Butch threw up his hands and surprised the hustler out of his sigh "This is exactly my point. Ever since your mom stayed for a while and then left you've been acting like a pod person. You're totally out of it and it feels just – it feels so weird, okay? You barely banter with me, you're barely into it even when I antagonize you or try to rile you up. You fuck me like you're bored with the whole thing. It's like you're on autopilot and I'm getting really fucking sick of it and kind of scared okay?"

With all of that out, butch slumped back into the seat. He frowned and rubbed at his neck and bit the inside of his cheek. Francis looked angry. Not enough to take a swing or start shouting, but enough to make him go quiet. Butch was used to this look. He'd seen it make other people wither and cough up payment. After all the fights and nights alone together, this seemed like a stupid reason to be afraid of him. It was kind of a big issue, yes, but Butch was going to hold his ground on this one. He knew he was right. He knew he had some power to fix this. So Butch stared right back, angry and frustrated and since he already had an upper hand and was doing stupid dangerous things, he pushed it more.

"You're not okay Francis and I don't know how to fix you. Fucking tell me!"

Francis opened his mouth and looked like he was about to scramble for an excuse. Butch awaited it, baiting him, daring him to fight back. A moment passed and then other man slumped, and Butch frowned deeper at him, shoulders sagging and crossing his arms. They sat in silence again, much thicker than before, oppressive and angry and breaking their shoulders. Because he didn't know what else to do now that it was out there, because anger hadn't worked and there was no more willingness to fight, because the quiet rung in his ears, Butch moved back into his lap easily, straddling it, his hunched self wrapped up in Francis's arms. Butch clasped his hands around Fran's neck and let his head rest on one of the shoulders.

"I just hate seeing you like this." Butch murmured, his head against Francis', dangerously close to being just a little too affectionate because nothing else was working and this made him feel better too, selfish as it seemed. "You're my friend. You know my secrets. I can handle a few of yours."
"You're here." Francis told him quietly, his forehead in Butch's shoulder too. "That's something."
"Lotta good that does."
"It does help. Really."
"I can't even distract you like I used to. Must be losing my touch."
"Don't be so hard on yourself. You've got a couple of years left."

Butch laughed a small, humorless laugh when Francis pinched his side. Francis had avoided his quiet admission, and Butch was a little bit thankful for it. He just wished this would be enough. He'd hoped that being more assertive with his affections, however dangerous, would provoke something. But it wasn't. Francis just kept running on so little. It broke his heart to think like this, but it just wasn't enough, ad he didn't know what was.

"I should go." Butch inhaled and shut his eyes. "Get home for dinner."
"You're still mad."
"No, Fran-" Butch pulled back a little to actually look at him, hoping he'd catch a glimmer of something, even confrontation. "I'm not… I'm a little mad. Okay. I'll admit that. I just want to help you."
"I just told you being here makes it better."
"I don't believe you, Fran. You're still out of it, even with me." Butch kissed his nose and slipped backwards off his lap.
"I don't want you to go." Francis told him, his hand limp as Butch slipped away.
"I'm sorry." He blurted, creating and then breaking eye contact. Butch had never seen him look quite so childish, looking at his shoes and grasping the hem of his shirt. "I know I'm off. I just can't… make it work right. She's usually not home this long I usually don't catch her on the way out. I'm usually buried in work by this time. You are helping, in that case."
"I still don't believe you."

Butch told him this softly, his hands making their way up to cup his face. There was something in there. Something small had tumbled out. Butch felt like the worst hypocrite in the world, trying to coax information out of Francis, his deep dark secrets when he couldn't force his own out into the open. It wouldn't help, he told himself, saying he loved Francis. It would just make things confusing and wrong. Butch couldn't take the minor reaction, but having a violent one against him for saying something so stupidly forward would kill him quicker. Messier. He couldn't take either. Butch just wanted something normal for a change. Something simple. He wanted to be able to push forward and kiss the other man and climb back into his lap and pretend everything was okay. But his eyes were too hard, too hollow for that to happen. He was healing, slowly, maybe, somewhere in there there was a hope, if he could cough up whatever was bothering him. But it wasn't there yet. Not enough to gloss it over.

"I can't make you, I guess." Francis let go of the hem and offered a small smile. Butch didn't let go of him.
"Lets make a deal."
"I'm really not in the mood-"
"Too bad. You're going to agree to this one." Butch let go of him and stood, standing upright and looking down at the other man, bothered by the way his arms crossed over his stomach. "If I stay, you talk. No sex, no making out. You tell me what's on your mind and why you're acting like this. And I'll stay the night and try to actually make you feel better."
"And if I don't, you leave."
"That's the deal."

Looking at Francis now, Butch saw something familiar in how exhausted and utterly spent he appeared. He studied the other boy and he hugged himself tighter.

He leaned forward and kissed Francis' brow. He hadn't meant to. He knew he shouldn't have, because Francis leaned up and kissed him proper, harsh and demanding, lacking hands but desperate. Something like this wasn't easy to shrug off. He still felt pity, sympathy, but also something like relief because there – right here – was something.

Butch sat beside him, holding his own stomach, feeling ill but swallowing it down. Francis was flushed and wide-eyed, licking his lips to apologize. Butch waved it off before he could say anything. The silence between them was lighter than before, if only because they were breathing a little heavy.

"Am I staying here tonight?" Butch asked quietly.

Parallels! Parallels forever!

The Christine I referenced in the last chapter was a throwback to the character Butch crossdressed as in chapter 4. Also one of the protagonists in The Phantom of the Opera. But you all knew that.

Thanks for reading.