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Safe From Harm

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The door to Charles's office burst open. Charles surreptitiously moved his new, expensive lamps closer to him and prepared for the onslaught.

Pickles was panting when he came in, whether from kicking the door in or something else, Charles wasn't sure. He strode across the room and slapped a worn leather belt down on the desk. "I need you to beat the crap outta me."

Charles sighed. He'd been waiting for something like this. "I know a very good dominatrix," Charles said, reaching for his PDA. "Why don't I put you in touch with her."

"No," Pickles insisted. "It's gotta be you."

Charles pinched the bridge of his nose. "Lock the door." The lock clicked loudly, but Charles didn't look up. "Hands flat on the desk."

He could see Pickles watching him as he picked up the belt; his eyes didn't move as Charles walked behind him. At least he knew enough not to flinch when Charles cracked the belt, testing it out- or maybe he was just that far gone.

There were a lot of steps he was skipping, negotiations and preparations and that irked him, like an itch he couldn't scratch. That was the only part he'd ever really let himself enjoy, the cold calculation of it, the frank and measured discussions, codifying sex into something logical and controlled.

Maybe that was why they never stayed with him for very long.

Still, this was clearly a situation, and his job was, as always, to solve the problem. "Brace yourself," he said, and he swung the belt down hard across Pickles's ass. He gave him ten more like that, the belt falling rhythmically, up and down his ass and thighs.

"Enough with the fuckin' warm up," Pickles growled. "Fuckin' do it."

Charles had hoped that was the main event; it was, of course, just his luck that he'd ended up with a heavy bottom. He rolled his shoulders, trying to find the right place in his head.

"Don't tell me that's all you got," Pickles said. "Cause I gotta tell you, dude, you hit like my grandma, and she's dead."

Charles narrowed his eyes; he might not have wanted to do this, but now that he'd been called out, there was no way he was backing down. He pulled his arm back and swung, catching him right across his thighs, and Pickles jumped.

Now they were getting somewhere.

He took grim satisfaction in really giving it to him, hitting as hard as he could, scattering the blows out so that he never knew what direction, when to expect it, where it would fall. He didn't let up, not until Pickles was actually crying, his face pressed against his forearms.

Charles carefully put the belt down on the desk, trying not to think about the tears and what they meant. He walked over and took a bottle of water out of the mini-fridge in the corner, uncapping it and setting it beside Pickles before sitting down. Pickles straightened, finally, wincing, and picked up the bottle, drinking it messily, the water slopping down the front of his shirt.

"Thanks, dude," Pickles said hoarsely, chucking the bottle into the wastebasket before turning and leaving.

Charles sat back in his chair, poured himself too much brandy, and tried furiously to will down his erection.

--

Charles should have ended it right there.

It wasn't the last time, not by a long shot. Pickles just kept showing up, needing the same thing, and Charles never turned him down. Charles kept it under control; he gave Pickles exactly as much as he needed, he kept it all perfectly nonsexual, and he didn't do what he desperately wanted, not any of it. He didn't throw Pickles down and fuck him; he didn't keep hitting him after Pickles was finished; he didn't even think about it when he carefully and joylessly worked himself to completion in the shower.

Until the night when Charles stood over him, the tawse still in his hand, letting it sway gently in his grip. Pickles's pale back was covered in livid red stripes; Charles reached down and pressed a thumb into one, making Pickles gasp in pain.

"Please," Pickles rasped out. "Please, please let me- I gotta come, please."

And that was it, that was exactly the moment when things changed, the moment when it went too far, when Charles bent right down into his space and said, "You're not allowed."

--

There was the sound of someone munching on chips at his door. "Yes, Nathan?" Charles said, not looking up.

Nathan took a few steps into the room. "Are you fucking Pickles?"

Charles didn't let the surprise show on his face. "What gives you that impression?"

"He's always coming out of your office with a hard-on."

"Wouldn't it make more sense for him to come into my office that way?"

Nathan shrugged. "He does that too."

Charles sighed. "No, Nathan, I am not fucking Pickles."

"If you start, don't fuckin' break his heart or any stupid shit like that, because I will fucking end you," Nathan said seriously. "Nobody fucks with my band."

"Duly noted."

Nathan grunted in satisfaction and wandered out again, still eating his chips.

"Leave and shut the door behind you," Charles told his assistant, who had been standing silently by and watching the proceedings. He nodded and left quickly, clearly wanting to be as far from the situation as possible.

When he had gone, Charles reached underneath his desk and flipped the switch that turned off the security cameras. He took a few deep breaths, then he put his head in his hands. There was nothing to do but chastise himself; it was nobody's fault but his own. He'd fucked up, let something out of him that needed to stay buried.

He went to his room and took the coldest shower he could, trying to think of anything but the look on Pickles's face when he came.

--

There was a knock on his bedroom door late that night, and Charles prepared himself for the worst. When he opened the door, it was Pickles, which was, of course, the worst.

"I know what Charles needs," Pickles said in a sing-songy voice, waving a bottle of tequila.

Charles considered saying no, pushing past him and going back to his office, alone. Charles had a problem that liquor could solve, but that problem was Pickles, and if they were a package deal, then there was no point.

"Fuck it," Charles said, opening the door wider to let him in.

They ended up sitting in Charles's bed, up against the headboard; Charles wouldn't normally want anyone on it, but it was quickly becoming obvious that Pickles wasn't just anyone.

"Listen, dude," Pickles said, after they'd made a sizable dent in the bottle. "I shouldn't have asked you to, y'know. I know you hate it and all-"

"I don't hate it," Charles said, because that wasn't the problem, not at all.

"It's not a big fuckin' deal," Pickles sighed. "What the hell's so bad about it?"

"It's weak."

"Hey," Pickles said sharply, pointing at him with the bottle. "I may be totally fucked in the head, but I am not weak."

Charles squeezed his eyes shut tight. "I am."

Pickles was silent for a moment. "That's a fucked up thing to think about yourself, dude."

"It's fucked up," Charles spat, "to get off on torturing people."

"So you and like fifty million other people are fucked up," Pickles said dismissively. "Join the club, man."

Charles turned his head away, tired of talking, but Pickles didn't let him get away with it. He caught him by the chin, leaning forward and kissing him for the first time. His mouth tasted of tobacco and liquor, and Charles found himself relaxing into the kiss, like he'd been missing something and found it.

Pickles pulled back, pressing their foreheads together. "Look, dude, I'm fine, you're fine, we're all fine."

Charles moved away from him, picking up the bottle and taking another swig. "Why did you ask me?"

"Cause you can handle shit," he said plainly. "And you kind of seemed like you needed it." He grabbed Charles's arm. "And don't go off and start thinking some stupid shit like that makes you a bad person. You need to stop fuckin' beating yourself up."

Charles didn't respond; he just laid his head on Pickles's shoulder and took another drink.

--

And it didn't get better, not overnight, because it doesn't work like that; stubbornness was one of Charles's most useful traits.

But there came the night when he had Pickles chained to the wall in his bedroom, finally making use of some of the more gothic features of the architecture. He ran his fingers along the welts he'd already made all over Pickles's ass. "Are you finished?"

"Yeah," Pickles said hoarsely.

Charles hit him again. "I'm not," he said, grinning- or baring his teeth, anyway. "You want to stop, you have a word."

Pickles bucked against his shackles at the next blow. "Fuck you."

Charles grabbed him by his dreadlocks, biting down on his throat. "That's not it." He gave his ass a couple more hard swats, the sound reverberating nicely around the stone walls. It wasn't quite enough, though; he walked back and picked up the belt again, his old standby. A dozen good smacks from it and Pickles was breaking down nicely, resting heavily against the wall, unacknowledged tears running down his face.

Charles was so hard he couldn't stand it anymore; he zipped down his pants, but that was as far as he got, still stuck by the old feelings, the ones that would never entirely go away.

"Fuckin' don't think about it so hard," Pickles panted, looking back at him. He arched his back in that graceless way that was so inexplicably hot. "Come on me."

Charles slapped his back, right where he'd hit Pickles hard enough that he'd almost cut the skin, and Pickles groaned in pain. "I don't believe I asked for your opinion," he said, jacking himself roughly; he reached around his his other hand and pinched Pickles's nipple, needing to push it that much further, see just how much he could make it hurt. Pickles squirmed, trying to get away, but Charles held on and twisted.

"Jesus Christ," Pickles yelped. "Alright, alright, fuckin'- uncle, uncle, fuckin' let me go!"

That was all Charles needed to hear, because what he really needed was just that little last jolt of pain to push him over the edge, the little scream Pickles let out when Charles let him go and all the pain rushed in. He thrust hard into his fist and painted Pickles's ass and thighs with his come.

He pulled away quickly when he realized he was resting his head against Pickles's abused back. He wasted no time at all in unshackling Pickles from the wall, sitting him down, and getting him a blanket, the motions routine and distracting enough that he didn't have to process what he'd just done.

Pickles grabbed his arm and made him sit down next to him. "Are you okay?"

Charles resisted the urge to let out a sigh of annoyance. "Pickles, I really think I should be asking you that right now."

"I'm fine, dude, y'know, whatever," Pickles said, though he was slurring his words pretty badly and blinking owlishly. "Are you okay?"

He swallowed, looking for an honest answer; he owed Pickles that. "I will be," he said.

"Good," Pickles said. "Now shut the fuck up and cuddle me, and if you ever tell anybody I said that I'll fuckin' knife you."

Charles smiled. "You couldn't if you tried."

"I know," Pickles said, wrapping an arm around his waist and pulling him close.