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In The Real Dark Night Of The Soul

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some unknown number of hours ago...

Charlie turned to Frank to crack a joke as the gang filed out of the conference room, but his roommate/father figure had once again disappeared, cell phone glued to his head. Just someone to make a face at, really anything to bring some lightness to the situation--Charlie felt beyond anxious, practically suffocating--but instead he watched as Frank stomped down a different hallway. He knew he wouldn't see any further sign of Frank for at least a day--probably longer.

He trailed slightly behind the rest of the gang as they crossed through the foyer toward the convention center exit, and watched Mac stop and grab Dennis’s wrist. Muttering something too quietly for Charlie to hear, Mac pulled Dennis backward, causing the man to fly past Charlie, and for a split second Charlie met Dennis's wild, crystal blue eyes. Then his two friends disappeared behind him.

The breeze Dennis left in his wake as Mac yanked him roughly past Charlie... It smelled faintly of cologne, deodorant that had worn off, and...was that coffee on Dennis’s breath? Charlie flinched as it all washed over him as though he was in physical pain, though the reality was quite different. Something about the proximity between them...the way his heartbeat fell off-rhythm when he inhaled those familiar smells...Screw Dennis, Charlie thought. Screw him and his fake seminar, and his lies, and his smells. I hope a Pocono swallow eats his stupid blue eyes.

Had he turned to look back, Charlie would have seen Mac recoiling as Dennis shook his wrist free of Mac’s grip; he would have seen Dennis spit disdainful words in Mac’s face and storm off; he would've seen a crushed, confused, and indignant Mac trail after him.

Nothing felt better in the fresh air and sunshine. Charlie pushed through the heavy glass doors, and was focused on getting his bearings so he could start walking until he heard Dee clear her throat almost silently a few feet to his right. It only then hit him that it was just the two of them...shit. Charlie shoved his hands in his jeans pockets and rotated his body slowly to face Dee. She shifted where she stood, self-consciously switching her heavy tote bag to her other shoulder, but she didn’t look away. Charlie puzzled at her expression because she looked...embarrassed? And anxious, maybe Charlie was imagining this one but...she looked a little sad, too. His eyes darted toward some unspecified point across the parking lot and he swallowed dryly.

“So uh…”
“I think I’m just gonna…”

They had started in at the same time, Charlie would later remember, proceeding to point vaguely over their shoulders, Charlie stringing something together about taking advantage of nice weather and Dee attempting to invent some errand or chore demanding her attention...because, in that moment, neither of them was particularly interested in riding alone in a car with the other.

But they didn’t particularly want to part ways, either. A tiny voice deep inside warned them that if they say goodbye now, it might be a while before they see each other again.

Charlie clapped his palms together, rubbing them as though eager to be on his way. “So uh..yep!” he chirped and Dee stuttered to a halt. “Good! Alright! I'll uh...see you back at the bar! Yeah…” Charlie turned heel and stalked off as quickly as he could while still hopefully looking casual.

He walked and walked. Stupid Dennis, planning this to be nowhere near the bar. . .Or home, I guess. His body ached as though he’d fallen down a flight of stairs but all the bruising and bleeding was internal. Fuck this. He swallowed hard and breathed past the tightness in his chest. It hadn't exactly been on his agenda to drop such a deeply private bomb on the gang. I mean, hell--he’d never even talked to Dee about what happened that night.

Plus, the awkward thing was...he and Dee had gotten pretty close in the years since That Night. Charlie supposed he just needed a friend a lot more than he needed to have it out with Dee over something he didn’t even want to think about in the first place. That other guys had been starting to run off and live their weird secret double lives more and more those days, so Charlie and Dee gradually developed as deep a friendship as possible for two people with their level of emotional scarring. It mainly consisted of secret smoke breaks and the right to barge into each other’s apartments at will. This happened a couple times a week. They’d wordlessly pop in a movie, or sit and drink until they felt like talking. Sometimes Charlie would just start cooking a meal with whatever Dee had laying around.

Charlie furrowed his brow in concentration as he turned to take a shortcut through an alley, but can’t remember how keys eventually came to be exchanged.

He had a lot of feelings about That Night, and he was definitely being honest earlier that day when he told the gang what had happened and how he saw it. But at the same time (and Charlie sort of hated himself for this), it wouldn’t have been a lie if he had also confessed to how, once in a blue moon, he still remembered that night through rose-tinted lenses. Hell. Writing poetry with Dee was easy. Her smell made him feel drunk. She treated him like he was talented and smart. When he tasted her skin...the nickname “Sweet Dee” suddenly made so much sense.

His memory was really good at drowning out inconvenient truths, and besides, he didn’t have a lot of choices when it came to friendships. For better or worse, he was glad to kill most memories of that night. If he didn’t have Dee, he would’ve been alone most of the time the last couple years.

Fuck this. Charlie felt more and more frustrated. His jaw clenched. He struggled to even out his breathing. He didn’t need anyone fucking shaking things up right now. Goddamn it, Dennis. He didn’t need this shit. He needed to stop thinking about it. He needed his friends to keep their shit under control and be just like normal. It was the only stability they had. GODDAMN IT, Dennis. FUCK.

With that, Charlie turned left and headed toward the bar instead of his apartment. It was time to drown out some truth.

*****************

several hours later, which is to say, now...

Charlie can’t remember how long he's been standing behind the bar back at Paddy’s. Leaning heavily on his elbows with both hands clasped around the bottle of whiskey in front of him, he lets his head hang loose between deep pulls of dark liquor. His eyes, when open, stare vacantly at the grain of the polished wood inches from his face, and he tries and he tries not to think about the day’s events. His efforts to shut off his brain have been pretty successful, but then again, this has always come easily to him because he brings himself to that point on almost a daily basis. Right now, aside from measuring how drunk he is now, he doesn't even have a way of guessing whether any time has passed at all...not that he particularly cares, anyhow.

The sound of the bar door swinging open brings Charlie’s warm, alcohol-driven, dissociative stupor to an end. He registers footsteps growing louder as someone approaches the bar, but he doesn’t see any daylight pour in behind this person—Sun must’ve set. Huh. Wonder how long ‘til it comes up again. All Charlie can see when he finally looks up and tries to focus his vision are the two thin trickles of blood stemming from Dennis’ cheekbone and lip.

Dennis stares straight ahead, eyes lowered to some fixed point on the floor in front of him. Charlie doesn’t say a word; he just silently watches as Dennis leans over the counter to grab beer. Dennis staggers to the stool closest to the office and keeps his eyes lowered, fixed on nothing. He drops himself heavily on the stool, and then he doesn’t move a muscle. Doesn’t acknowledge Charlie in the slightest.

The emotional wave Charlie has been drinking valiantly to pent up is building pressure, threatening to burst through the levy—how much fucking nerve does that sonofabitch have to act all...whatever...right now—and his blood pressure is picking up—hang on, is that a shiner?—and...he acts on instinct, not wanting to think critically about his reaction to this situation right now.

Jesus Christ, it looks like he got hit, and hit hard. God, the bruises are already appearing around his eye... Have Dennis's eyes always been that blue? Wait. Shit. None of this is relevant right now. Nope. No. Alls I can say is, he deserved it. And now... I can move on. I’ll just stop looking at it. Right…..now. Now. .....Now.

Charlie breathes deeply to calm the roiling feeling in his gut. His mind picks up speed until it’s racing as he glowers at Dennis, endless questions tumbling around his brain like clothes in a dryer until they meld into a white hot buzz—why? Why’s he gotta go stirring the pot all the sudden? Why can’t he just let things be?

Charlie knows that Dennis knows that the gang is held together by a delicate accord: their pasts, their failures, their crimes against each other—it was decided that those things are at their most useful when saturated in alcohol, tossed in some black hole at the back of their minds, and quietly monitored. Emphasis on quietly. It’s not that fucking hard. Take Charlie, for example: he keeps that shit with Uncle Jack buried so deep that he couldn’t dredge up the subject even when Dennis directly prompted him to.

Oh, also kind of like how, for years now, no one’s even thought of bringing up how he treats Dee, or how...he treats Frank...or...me… and LET’S NOT FORGET how Mac’s been straight-up in love with for 20 years and we...I...never even called him out on stringing Mac along, keeping him under control, doing it on fucking PURPOSE. What a selfish fuck. What a hypocrite. WE’RE the harassers? Look in the mirror, pal.

Some little piece of Charlie had always believed Dennis was sincere in the way he flirted with Mac. Hell, some little piece of Charlie had gone on wishfully believing that right up until today. For christ’s sake, those two had sewn themselves together at the hip by the time they hit 16, and though it hurt Charlie a lot at the time to feel like he was losing his best friend, he tried to accept it because he could see how obsessed they were with one another. Well, he was obsessed with Mac except for...that one time...in the literal fuckin’ ‘90s...huh. Wonder if he remembers.

Charlie’s rage is a bullet, and he is the gun. The gun is pointed at Dennis. Dennis...is drinking alone at the end of the bar. With fresh scrapes and just a little bit of blood streaked across his temple…

After draining half his beer in one long swig, Dennis sets the bottle down and meets Charlie’s eyes. In that moment, they lost their opportunity to quietly drink themselves half to death in peace.

“...the hell'd you do to your face?” Charlie breaks the silence. He refuses to let Dennis lead this interaction. He feels his body vibrating. The buzzing in his brain is getting louder again.

Something unreadable flashes across Dennis’s face and he lowers his eyes, staring down the neck of his beer bottle. Noticing it had somehow emptied, he reaches for another as he mumbles a response, then pops the cap and takes a shaky sip.

“WHAT was that now? You’re mumbling, dude.”

Not looking up, Dennis tries to clear his throat and says with gravel still in his voice, “Mac and I got in a fight. I don’t know. He was mad. We were arguing. It escalated. We roughed each other up pretty good. I don’t know where he is.” Dennis’ voice is flat, perhaps tilted toward sad.

“Wow.” Charlie gapes at him. “Just...nice job, dickhead, looks like you’re on quite a roll today,” he tightens his grip on the whiskey bottle, “...and if I find out Mac has bleeding out in a ditch somewhere, I will kill you with my bare hands,” he says, aiming for a conversational tone and missing by a mile. He strolls to the other end of the bar, where Dennis is sitting, and plunks the whiskey bottle down in front of himself once again. He’s not much more than the same height as Dennis when the taller man is seated on a bar stool, but Dennis shrinks back as Charlie approaches regardless. He still doesn’t look up from his drink.

“I want you to listen to me dude, and you better listen good. I don’t know the gross-ass details of your and Mac’s relationship,” Charlie’s brow furrows in distaste at the thought, “but I can tell you one thing for sure: you have hurt that dude ten time over compared to whatever he did to you. You love keeping him under your thumb.”

Charlie thinks for a moment. “I mean, that sure as hell doesn’t excuse whatever it was...that he did to you…,” again, Charlie tries not to flinch, “...but don’t think I don’t see how you pretty much tortured him into the person he is. You’ve always known he’s in love with you. You let him waste his life on you. It’s fucked up—we’ve all done some crazy fucked-up shit, but this is on another level. So uh…” Charlie automatically reaches up and scratches the back of his head—he hadn’t thought this far ahead. “So if you’re really gonna go around acting like some kind of innocent victim right now, seriously just...fuck you.”

Dennis tilts his head back, drains the rest of his mostly-full beer, and pauses, staring into space before letting his bottle drop and shatter on the floor below him, before finally meeting Charlie’s gaze. Charlie’s heart stops—just for a moment—then muscle memory has him compulsively grabbing Dennis a new beer and twisting off the cap as he hands it over. He doesn’t realize what he’s doing until he’s suddenly watching his hand slide the bottle over to Dennis. Dennis furrows his brow but looks more surprised than anything, and as he takes the bottle from Charlie’s grasp he brushes his long, delicate fingers across Charlie’s wrist. Charlie shivers and scans Dennis’s face but the man gives nothing away, no sign of whether that was intentional.

He takes a long drink this time and narrows his eyes at Charlie. He wipes his mouth with the back of his hand (why does looking at that cut on his lip feel goddamn obscene...) before speaking. “I know, Charlie. I fucking know all this. I know I’m a monster. I know.” Regaining control of his emotions, Dennis takes a calm sip of his beer. “And I know you’ve always hated me,” That’s not true. “and whatever, fine, hate me for today. Fine!! Goddamn it!” Dennis’s voice crescendos to a dramatic yell before falling to a hush once again, “but trust me. You can’t hate me more than I do.”

“Oh, and also?” Dennis cocks an eyebrow and spits his next words. “Fuck you too. You guys constantly force me to take these measures. I’ve certainly taken enough precautionary ones with you idiots over the years, but you always manage to screw things up. If you weren’t all so goddamn sloppy, if you would get your ridiculous lives together, I wouldn’t need to coddle you.”

Dennis’ lower lip hasn’t stopped bleeding, and he swipes his tongue across it and spits red on the floor, drops mingling with the broken glass.

Charlie is deafened to the sound of Dennis’ voice as he watches this series of events take place; all he can hear now is his own blood pumping through his body. Maybe he’s just feeling raw from the whole day, or maybe it’s the whiskey, or maybe it’s something else…but whatever it is, his dick pulses slightly at the sight.

“You’re uh...bleeding still," Charlie stutters, capacity for speaking English diminishing, "I guess Mac got you good, huh?” Charlie’s stomach flips as he watched Dennis touch the tips of his fingers to his lip and hiss at the stinging wound.

“Whatever. I deserve it, right? You think I deserve it.” Dennis stares impassively into Charlie’s eyes, but his tone of voice suggests a dare.

How did he guess? His cheeks flushed, Charlie clenches his fists and unclenches his fist and watches a drop of blood hit the counter as Dennis continues.

“You’re feeling protective, is that right? I bet you’d just love to get a good hit in too, hmm? One for your little playmate? Your childhood friend? Really, I hope you don't try and come at me like Mac did, because that was a pathetic...”

“Oh, I think I can handle it.” Charlie hasn’t heard himself sound like this since he caught that leprechaun, tied him up in the basement, and spent the afternoon fucking him up.

Yes, there's a dangerous, manic edge to Charlie's voice, but Dennis barely has time to twist his face in confusion before Charlie’s fist is making contact—the same side where his lip was already split. And then, before he can register the pain, Charlie’s lips are crashing into his own.

Chapter Text

Charlie grips either side of Dennis’s face with calloused hands, focused single-mindedly on kissing, sucking, biting his friend’s split-open lower lip.. Dennis instinctively raises his hands to try and wrestle Charlie off, but his shorter friend is significantly stronger and simply wraps one hand around the back of Dennis’s neck while the other drifts down to clasp his shoulder.

He might intend to fight it, but Dennis instead slides his hands down Charlie’s arms toward his wrists, stroking the faintly freckled skin softly with elegant fingers. He allows himself to succumb—just a bit—to Charlie’s kiss.

Charlie opens his eyes in surprise when Dennis’s lips begin to move and he pulls away just an inch or two, so their noses are still touching.

Dennis can smell the whiskey on Charlie’s breath, can see each fleck of green and gold in Charlie’s lust-and-loathing-filled eyes. His stomach drops. His eyes lose their focus on Charlie’s, instead turning inward to ransack his brain in search of any ounce of resistance that might remain.

“Fuck you, Charlie,” he manages unconvincingly, then leans in quickly to suck at Charlie’s lip before sinking his teeth into it, not letting up until he can taste the faint coppery flavor of blood.

Charlie doesn’t know if Dennis is trying to inflict some kind of unwanted pain in retaliation, but either way it doesn’t work. Charlie simply groans, soft and low, and lets his eyes flutter shut.

No. Bad. Don’t get weird about this. Kissing is gross. Kissing is...sticky. You only like this because...you...hate him? Sure. That makes sense. Let’s go with that. He allows Dennis to suck his bottom lip for another moment before once again grabbing a handful of Dennis’ thick wavy hair and pulling him off.

“Really? Fuck me huh?” Charlie’s tone mocking. “Go ahead and try that. See how far you get.” Charlie almost smirks as he says this but the look in his eyes is deadly serious. He lets go of Dennis’s hair with a final tug and snatches the whiskey off the counter. Before taking a long pull he uses his forearm to wipe his swollen lip. His eyes remain locked on Dennis’s as he does this.

Dennis snatches the whiskey from him and takes a few sizeable swigs before Charlie grabs it back, forcing whiskey to spill down Dennis’s chin. The hard liquor stings the open wounds on both their lips but Charlie nevertheless drinks the rest of it down then lobs the bottle to shatter on the floor a few feet behind Dennis.

Dennis doesn’t even flinch at the sound; he’s busy staring wildly at Charlie, too absorbed in whatever they may or may not be about to do. “Fuck, whatever, just...” Dennis tries to steady his breathing but his words still come out as a gasp. “Get over here you son of a bitch.”

Charlie’s been on the wrong side of the counter this whole time, and this needs to be rectified immediately. The following sequence of events elapses inside of about seven seconds:

Dennis grabs the collar of Charlie’s shirt and tugs at it too lightly to have an effect but Charlie has already planted his palms on the counter of the bar to give himself a boost to scramble over. Broken glass crunches beneath Charlie’s feet but is drowned out by Dennis’s surprised gasps and “mmph”s as Charlie steps into the space between Dennis’s legs, wraps one arm tightly around Dennis’ lower back and the other around his shoulders, then swings the man off his barstool and in a blur manages to shove him up against the office door.

Dennis’ overwhelming instinct to maintain dominance kicks in and he reaches up to grab at Charlie’s throat and sink the nails of his other hand the man’s hips.

This resistance feels performative, even to Dennis.

Plus…Even as he wraps long fingers around the base of Charlie’s neck, he’s remembering how intently he watched Charlie’s t-shirt riding up when he hopped the bar…his jeans slipping down his hips, exposing his lower abdomen and the “V” of his hip bones leading the eye down...um, down toward... and thinking how this was not the first time he’d found himself distracted by the sight.

And, even as he wraps his long fingers around the base of Charlie’s neck, his fingertips are exploding with sensation upon feeling Charlie’s pulse...upon digging into the warm, smooth skin above the waistband of Charlie’s jeans.

Charlie slips his hands around Dennis’s wrists and lifts them easily to pin them on either side of Dennis’s head, making him look as though he’d been told to freeze! and come out with his hands up! Dennis’s body instinctively welcomes Charlie’s advances, the back of his head banging against the door to expose his neck and collarbone, his inner conflict not entirely disappearing, but....the sensation of being manhandled and pinned up against the office door in his own goddamn bar is...it’s just…

Then Charlie is leaning in to nibble and suck roughly at Dennis’s neck, collarbone, the tops of his pecs (peeking out from the top of the blue henley shirt he always wore), everywhere he can reach...and Dennis loses his capacity for thought.

Charlie consciously inhales Dennis’s familiar smell for the second time that day and feels a sort of animalistic hunger wash over him. He presses his body in closer and uses one knee to force Dennis’ legs apart. He feels a jolt of electricity when he grinds his hips into Dennis and Dennis immediately matches the pressure. The fact that he has Dennis Reynolds groaning and whimpering beneath him in response to histonguehisteethhisgrindinghips...well, his heart is pounding for more than one reason. What the hell are we...what is even...that’s it. Time to go all in or get out of here. And then a second, quieter thought: It worked last time.

*************************************************

1998

Dennis is home from college for winter break and Charlie can really take it or leave it. It’s been just him and Mac for the last couple of years, living together and doing odd jobs to get by, sometimes hanging out with Dooley when he’s around or, to Charlie’s chagrin, Schmitty.

They’d even gone to check in on Dee when she was put in the hospital after setting her roommate on fire. She was having the worst time, absolutely outraged to be there, but they’re pretty sure it softened her up significantly when she saw them pop their heads in the door of her room. They gave her hell in high school, didn’t actually like her that much now, and would probably give her hell well into the future...but she’s pretty much family. Plus, they know Dennis isn’t gonna fuckin’ do it. I mean, Dennis is family too, but honestly? Fuck Dennis.

They’ve recovered from old high school drama and haven’t had to see any of the other dicks from their school in a long time. Mac had gotten over his crush on Dennis in the first year or two after graduation and did a pretty good job of staying above it when Dennis visited home. Dennis notices. He doesn’t mind...that much.

This is Dennis’s senior year, though, and the guy is aware that he’s about to be spit out of college with a degree and not much else. No real direction at this point. He needs to have Charlie and Mac there to catch him after this...maybe they can go into business together? None of them are good at following orders, so it’s smart for them to be their own bosses.

Unfortunately, Dennis doesn’t know how to be vulnerable with people about his wants and needs. He only knows how to manipulate. Vulnerability might lead to hurt. Or abandonment. Manipulating people, when the victims are well-chosen and it’s done properly, always works.

Charlie and Mac are sitting on the floor of Dennis’s room with him one night, getting drunk off liquor they stole...just like old times. Dennis’s parents are out of town, so they’ve cranked some music and get to speak at full volume, unlike old times.
Mac manages to play it cool as Dennis toys with his head throughout the night, flirting with him, scooting progressively closer to him until they’re brushing each other with every movement. He isn’t sure why Dennis is doing this, but he knows it’s intentional. Dennis doesn’t do things by accident. Mac also knows that Dennis isn’t actually interested in him that way--no, he can tell from the look on Dennis’s face that this is about something else. Probably getting something from him. And that’s...not cool.

Mac grows progressively more upset by what’s happening and, when Charlie heads to the bathroom around 11…? Midnight?, he takes the opportunity to read Dennis the riot act. Dennis gets defensive and plays dumb at first, but as Mac is laying into him he starts to reconsider...he almost feels bad about it. Well, maybe he doesn’t feel that bad for Mac, but he is upset with himself for losing control and causing a mess. Not a good look. When he hears Charlie approaching the door he hisses to Mac that yes, yes, he gets it, he didn’t mean it, he’ll lay off.

He does, for a bit. But within fifteen minutes he has forgotten himself and is back at it in full force.

Charlie notices. He’s noticed all along and felt thoroughly disgusted with it. What the fuck is Dennis’s problem? He had his chance. He missed it. How much worse of a friend could he possibly be? He watches Mac reach another boiling point, much faster this time. Finally, when Dennis lays a hand on Mac’s knee as he’s forcing a loud laugh at something Charlie said, Mac grabs him by the wrist with a shout.

Mac yells; Dennis lashes out in defense even though in his eyes he looks a little petrified; Charlie and the bottle of vodka from downstairs watch them argue; Mac stands up, Dennis stands up, Charlie stands up; Mac shouts once more, throws his hands up, spins and stomps out the door; Charlie and Dennis listen all the way until the front door slams, Charlie looks at Dennis, Dennis looks at Charlie; Dennis sneers out some cruel (again, defensive) remark, Charlie glares, Charlie tackles him to the ground.
Charlie was on the wrestling team and Dennis is pinned almost instantly, a hand locked around his throat and two thighs firmly trapping him in place. Hormones are hormones, and the two of them haven’t developed any kind of ability to tell what the hormones are telling them to feel or do. They hate each other right now, but there’s a lot of history between them and there’s something like love underlying their relationship. These things happen.

Hormones take the wheel when Dennis physically reacts to what Charlie’s doing. He’s still struggling, too proud to just lose a fight, but other regions of his body would have him stay put. He grows hard beneath Charlie’s hips, too acutely aware of the heat emanating from the other boy’s groin atop his own.

Charlie notices, because Charlie notices everything. His face doesn’t move from the contortion of anger, but the light in his eyes goes from icy to pure fire.

“You’re a piece of shit, Dennis. You know that, right? Mac has been fucking HAPPY without you here. You’ve always gotta come around and FUCK EVERYTHING UP, don’t you??” Charlie still looks angry but his voice has gone breathy--he sounds dazed, and he grinds down on Dennis’s hips for emphasis, in a bit of a hesitant and exploratory way.

“Y...yeah.” Dennis is panting harder now, despite exerting himself far less. “I guess I do, huh. What...and what do you think you’re gonna do about it, bitch?” He means to sound challenging, but toward the end it definitely takes on the character of a whine.

Charlie pauses then squeezes his hand tighter around Dennis’s throat, experimentally. His brow furrows slightly in the shape of a question. Dennis nods almost imperceptibly.

A groan doesn’t make it all the way out of Charlie’s throat as he leans closer, his face tilted past Dennis’s so he can speak quietly into his ear. They feel the warmth of each other’s breath.

“Well, I guess I’m going to have to teach you a lesson, right? You’ve been asking for it all night.”

Dennis’s breath catches audibly. He can’t stop his hips from rising off the floor a few inches for the sake of friction. Why is he enjoying this? Charlie’s crazy. Dennis is pretty sure the kid is unhinged enough that he’s capable of just about anything when he feels like it… And that’s coming from someone with Dee as a sister.

“Y...yes.”

Charlie lifts his head to look at him, to really scrutinize his friend’s face. Dennis looks back at him like he’s a raw, transcendent power incarnate.

“Really?” Charlie whispers.

Dennis nods again, slowly.

“I’m always hurting you, right? And I can’t help myself. I can’t stop. Too easy. So maybe--”

“Oh, I will make you hurt all right,” Charlie finishes for him, catching on to the fact that this is...for real. For real for real. As soon as the words are out he flicks his tongue out and teases it against Dennis’s lower lip teasingly before biting it and pulling outward, finally releasing with a flourish.

Dennis’s whimper grows into a loud moan. “Charlie, fuck…” he breathes.

“Yes?”

“Mess--mess me up.”

Charlie’s grin is authentically sinister, more like a sneer, but it’s still there. “Oh, with pleasure. Why don’t you just tell me when you think you’ve learned your lesson.”

There’s a pre-dawn glow in the sky by the time Charlie leaves. He’s exhausted. Dennis obviously is, too, but Charlie makes sure to get him into bed with some ibuprofen and water before he leaving. He’s no monster. He even helps him into his fleece pajama pants. Before he leaves Dennis alone, he sits next to him on the bed for a minute, studying him. Dennis looks calmly back at him, and his eyes flutter closed when Charlie reached to run his fingers gently through Dennis’s hair.

“Dennis.” Charlie whispers. It’s all he could do. Dennis opens his eyes to look at him again, and the sheer blue-ness of them startles any thoughts out of Charlie’s head. Whatever he was going to say. He can’t actually think of anything remotely appropriate for the moment.

“I’ve gotta go. I’ll uh...see ya. Round. Um.” Yeah, no idea what to say. At a loss. “I’ll see you when I see you. K?”

“Yeah.”

Silence again and Charlie’s heart curls in on itself. He actually brushes a peck against Dennis’s temple before standing up, eliciting the smallest noise.

When closes the front door behind him, he hears that the birds have woken up. He pulls his hat a little further down over his ears, but it’s not that cold of a winter. As he walks down the driveway to begin the long trek home, he’s thinking that Dennis looked sort of beautiful laying there, evidence of their activities smattered across his flawless skin. Bruises, scratches, and hickeys contrasted with stripes of cum still evident despite having dried. He wishes...lord, he wishes he’d fucked him. What the fuck.

He thinks about it the whole walk home, and the whole afternoon after he finally wakes from the death-like sleep that sets in the moment he falls into bed, and the whole next day…

But they are just twenty-two years old, and Charlie gets the feeling they’re gonna be stuck with each other for a long time, and he knows they won’t talk about this again. He faintly wishes that they could, somehow, because truth be told: they both felt freed by their time that night. It was the first time they were something close to honest with each other.

The next time they see each other, he meets Dennis’s eyes as they greet each other as casually as always, and he knows their (bizarre and unexplainable) friendship is going to be a little stronger...and he knows they both know why.

Chapter Text

the present

The decision is written in the stars. It has been for 20 years. Charlie’s narrative of what happened that night has not changed since about...a month after it happened. He spent that time actively processing it (and contradictorily using drugs to forget it), and after that his memory became static. It shrunk itself up to fit the arc Charlie had carved out for it.

Therefore, he did not know Dennis’s full experience that night. It had never occurred to him to even wonder, let alone ask to talk about it. Still doesn’t know that he should’ve asked about it--or that he should now. Maybe they’d be in different circumstances now if only they’d even be able to guess at what the other felt.

Nobody ever said “stuffing it down with brown” resolves any problems, only that it gets the problems the hell out of your face.

But Dennis? If asked, if coaxed, if somehow convinced that such a conversation could be safe for him, he could say so much. He remembers, too. That night is written into his DNA.

...Charlie was tackling him, but with a lot of practiced control in his movements; he didn’t let Dennis hit the ground like he ought to. Dennis could feel the moment Charlie’s muscles engaged and softened his impact with the carpet. Why?

Charlie was talking about...oh what did he say, Dennis said some stuff back but he can’t remember it was too much there was too much heat too much friction oh god Charlie and also... whose brain is logging information at full capacity in that circumstance anyway? The way Dennis remembers it...the way he has memorialized this in his mind is that, he was told by Charlie in so many words that he’s a bad boy and should be taught a lesson and holy fuck is that idea hot, but also…

But also Charlie was staring down at him like a lunatic and Dennis knew he couldn’t escape if he wanted to. Scared. Scared--that’s what it was. He was scared of how much “being taught a lesson” could entail and scared that he would not like feeling trapped and scared of being taken advantage of again and scared of people who don’t care, who hurt him then hang him out to dry, but also…

But also, it was CHARLIE staring down at him. His Charlie. The gang’s Charlie, whatever. The point is..Dennis knew what Charlie was thinking before Charlie did, sometimes. You know what I mean? Sure, they didn’t have the intensity that he and Mac’s relationship had, but aside from that he’d never felt closer with anyone than he felt with Charlie.

Eight...ten years into their friendship or so, and here he was with a hand around his throat, feeling safe in the knowledge that Charlie wouldn’t do those things, or make him feel that way, and...when the grip around his throat tightened almost imperceptibly, he picked up on the question immediately and Yes. Yes. Charlie’s green ass eyes were just so cautious, inquiring, a...attentive...it was an easy answer. No matter what else he did, Charlie would take care of him and yes: Dennis wanted to give in to that.

Charlie gave Dennis exactly the experience Dennis wanted, seemingly on pure instinct. It was a serious engagement, truly fueled by years of repressed emotions finally bursting free, but Dennis knew that instead of this night--morning?--being pandora’s box, it was more like...spring cleaning. For their The whole interaction was based upon the reality that they gave enough of a fuck about each other to go through it together.

Catharsis--absolute catharsis. He drifted to sleep feeling...sore, of course, and emotionally drained, but also enlightened. With Charlie there, he was able to (read: was FORCED to) get out of his own head and live in that exact moment, and it… Well, Dennis stepping out of himself for even a moment was, is, and will always be a notable occasion. He could actually things in a different light. He had to work the muscles that allow him to trust, to cooperate, to appreciate people, and it left him with a sense of wellbeing and a kind attitude that lasted for weeks.

And Dennis tried to find that again. Again and again. And again.

He met people. He invited them into this same situation. And then he would panic. And they would part ways.

He never found it again. But he felt that connection with Charlie continuously, the feeling amping up like a solar flare now and then, and the sheer want of it made him weak. He suppressed it by hazing Charlie; belittling him; reversing the power dynamic of that night completely.

He couldn’t find it with anyone else, and he can’t have it with Charlie (they can’t talk about it, they’ll never talk about it, please can’t this whole memory just vanish), and he sits in his Dennis shell for twenty years, retreating further and further into himself.

Which is why Dennis knew that whenever, wherever, if ever he got the chance to say it again, he would say “yes. He imagined that someday, he would once again feel hot breath tickling his ear. And whatever Charlie could possibly say to him next, Dennis’s answer would be “yes” every time.

And Charlie does, now. He pulls away the slightest bit, tilts his chin toward Dennis’s ear and mutters softly into it, voice low and breathy.

“What do you want now, bitch? Are we gonna do this?” ”This.”

*********************

 

See, as feverish as he is with rage and lust, Charlie paid enough attention at today’s cursed seminar to figure he should get permission before pushing on. Waiting for Dennis to answer, Charlie occupies his mouth sucking on and using his teeth to tug lightly at Dennis’s earlobe, and he releases one of Dennis’s wrists and slides his hand down Dennis’s chest, stomach, down to his hips, and glides his palm across the front of Dennis’s jeans. Charlie has a pretty firm guess of what Dennis’s answer is going to be. Just needs confirmation that yes--Dennis wants all of this. Desperately. Obviously.

Dennis wants Charlie to inflict every bit of disdain he has always wished he could inflict on himself. Not eating for three days is no substitute for getting bruised, bitten, pulled, thrown--all these things he craves when his self-loathing reaches its most exuberant heights.

“Yesss, yes Charlie, god...FUCK,” Dennis’s hushed response escalates into a yell. Charlie’s mouth had trailed down his neck and now suddenly Dennis feels teeth sinking into and shallowly puncturing skin. He yanks Charlie away by the hair using his free hand and pushes their foreheads together instead, growling.

“Fight me, fuck me, I don’t fucking care---just...just DO it. As hard as you can. Just gi--,”

Charlie’s eyes widen and flick between Dennis’s eyes and the cut just below his lip, and he cuts off Dennis’s babbling with another kiss. If the bar was already quiet, it now drops away and the men exist in a vacuum but for the sounds of their lipstonguesteeth colliding and caressing; their hearts pounding; the sound of fabric rustling as Charlie slips his hand beneath Dennis’s waistband and digs his fingertips into the top of Dennis’s ass.

Charlie adjusts the angle of his hips and elicits a sharp gasp from Dennis when he finally locks in the perfect position to create more . This kiss is different, tinted by a hint of caution.. Not tender, per se, but rather curious...wanting.

“You...look so good when someone’s taught you a lesson, Dennis Reynolds…” Charlie breathes as he breaks the kiss.

He steps back just enough to take in the sight of the wreck that is Dennis and looks everywhere but Dennis’s eyes, though he moves a hand to the nape of Dennis’s neck and another to his cheek. He absentmindedly strokes that cheek with his thumb.

Dennis’s heart palpitates, and he wishes Charlie would look him in the eye, but why? This isn’t supposed to be intimate. This is not intimate. This is the opposite. But any kind of attention, however it’s presented, is something Dennis absolutely needs to stay afloat. He needs it like air, needs it as a reminder that he exists amongst others, in real time, in a human body, and not just in day dreams. He needs it to feel like anything other than a swirling eddy of black clouds and existential dread.

And...but...ohhh fuck the way Charlie is staring at him like a starved predator...like Dennis is the only other person in the world...like Dennis is the only thing he can think about...

“God yeah, it feels g-, um...” For the love god do not fucking flirt right now. Be direct.

His lungs are not directing enough air to support his voice anyway. He stops and clears his throat but doesn’t get rid of the rasp.

“Would you like to...would you like to help out with that?”

(Finally,) Charlie meets Dennis’ eyes and investigates them carefully, just as he did all those years ago.. His functional illiteracy doesn’t stop him from reading those bluer-than-blue eyes. An inevitable outcome of being stuck with each other for 25 years stuck together is Charlie’s effortless understanding of Dennis’s emotional swings. His idiosyncrasies. His fleeting psychopathies.

What Charlie sees this time is Dennis rapidly cycling between lust, desperation, fear, rage. And this next part doesn’t make sense, but when Dennis’s eyes shine in the light Charlie thinks he sees a glimmer of something like awe.

Charlie double-checks his math: Dennis’s quick shallow breathing, his heart thumping against Charlie’s chest, his tiny whimpers, the way he relaxes into the touch as Charlie slides his hand down Dennis’s back, over the curve of his ass, pulling him closer. Checks out.

The man’s putty. Charlie unconsciously digs his fingers into Dennis’s flesh where they’re resting, pressing himself at every point of contact tightly against Dennis. He has control over this situation, but that only adds to his sense of unreality--time has become an elaborate construct and the possibilities make both his head and his dick throb.

“God, Dennis...fuck, yeah, I really fucking do.” With one more wild look into Dennis’s eyes he dives in and latches his teeth around Dennis’s throat. He takes care not to create another situation like the one that ended with a mall Santa bleeding out on the floor, but he clamps down hard and feels skin give way beneath his teeth. Dennis releases a moan that gives way to a prolonged yell.

Charlie feels delicate hands scratching at him, pushing at his shoulders, pulling his hair...and he also feels the cock still grinding into his leg give a great throb. Charlie slowly, firmly grabs Dennis’s protesting hands and raises them to the door, not pinning him by the wrists this time but holding his hand palm to palm, fingers loosely laced. A soft and startling contrast.

“Ahhhh...Ah! AH! Charlie! Ch-Charlie stop!” Don’t stop. Dennis feels his eyes sting involuntarily with tears even as he wraps his fingers around Charlie’s and squeezes them like he’s hanging on for dear life.

Charlie pulls off, nuzzling the soft flesh, checking for any severe damage, sucking at the the dark red indents where bruises had started to bloom then kissing the area softly. He feels drunk. Not alcohol drunk, though he is that as well. He looks back up at Dennis but the moment he tilts his face that way he finds himself in a desperate kiss--not the reaction he was expecting but he feels his body flush with something like flattery.

They break apart a moment later but Dennis rests his forehead against Charlie’s, shuddering. He feels weak. It might be fucked up but he’s high on being this...wanted.

“...So are you re--”
“Fuck, Charlie...”

They start in at the same time but Dennis stops short and whispers almost inaudibly, “go ahead,” signaling Charlie to speak.

“Ah, so...you really want to let me do whatever I want to you.” A statement and a question. Charlie’s heavy breathing accentuates the depth and rasp of his voice in this state. He keeps his eyes closed and falls silent, waiting for a response. He heard the man’s already-shaky breaths halt for a moment, before the tiniest--

“Mhmm.”
“Yes?”
“Yes.”
“...Why?”

Charlie doesn’t mean to sound so earnest in his question, but he really wants to hear something about this. He opens one eye to check Dennis’s face but sees it twisted in thought.

He can make an educated guess as to what’s going on in Dennis’s mind, because holy shit holy shit we’re...this is...this is happening again. Oh my god, we are doing it again. Every molecule of Charlie’s body is vibrating. Every neuron firing off in different directions, all at once. He’d made a point of forgetting what this felt like…what Dennis felt like...

Dennis can only whisper. “I...I don’t know. I want to feel. I want to hurt. I want to feel how awf--want to get what I deserve.” --to feel how awful I’ve been to you, to give myself to you, to give you...whatever you need... But those are the parts Dennis leaves out.

“Christ, Dennis. Fuck.”
“Mm.”
“A….and what are you going to say to stop me?”
“Hmm?”
“A word...pick a word, tell me, what you’re going to say if you need me to stop…”
“...a safe word?”
“Fuck. God. Yes. Hurry up.”
“Anthrax.” Like the Valentine Dennis had left for him to find in the Valentine box.

“...Okay. And what shouldn’t I do, what do you--what is--tell me if there’s anything I shouldn’t even try. Where’s the line. What’s a hard ‘no.’”

Dennis thinks. “Mark me up as much as you want. Don’t send me to the hospital.” Like all the times I’ve sent you there over the years. So many times. Thank god you seem to have nine lives. “Don’t kick me. No belts...whips...don’t use anything like that to hit me.” He cast his eyes downward at the floor sparkling with shards of glass, big and small. “You can use other things though…” He closes his eyes once more, brow furrowed, and his voice all but disappears. “Make me hurt. Make me...bleed.”

He clears his throat loudly after a pause, attempting to mask his voice faltering and breaking. “And uhm…”

“...What is it? You need to tell me, Dennis. You need to tell me what it is.” Charlie can hear the man stifling the beginnings of a sob, but it’s one of emotion rather than physical pain.

It may have started subconsciously but, while Dennis is talking, Charlie registers that he had slipped his fingers more firmly between Dennis’s, lacing them together, pressed their palms together. He catches his thumbs stroking Dennis’s, swirling lightly around the tip then gently stroking up and down his knuckles. Shit. Dennis is not pinned. He does not have Dennis pinned against this door. They’re--goddamn it, they’re just holding hands at this point.

Charlie notices this, but he doesn’t let go. Just waits. He still has Dennis’s hands in his when Dennis swallows loudly as though to continue.

“Uhm...be as mean as you want, but please don’t--don’t talk about Mac.” Caught off guard by this, Charlie opens both eyes and stares--too close to Dennis’s face--he has only a dizzying double vision view of Dennis’s long eyelashes fluttering, his eyes closed, glimmers of moisture developing in the corners..

Dennis exhales slowly and continues. “I know, I..what you were saying before...I know. You’re right. And I’ll talk to him. Later.”

Dennis sighs shakily, swallows, and opens his eyes. Tears have pooled and nothing but surface tension prevents them from spilling over like a too-full cup of coffee, even though he’s facing downward, face pointing toward Charlie’s. Toward Charlie’s green eyes, oh my god they’re open oh shit, his freckles christ how do freckles still look cute on a fucking forty year old man good lord, his lips all puffy and touched with blood… oh fuck.

He lifts his head, forehead breaking connection with Charlie’s, and looks at the ceiling. He blinks hard and sends those several fat drops down his cheeks. Then he looks down at Charlie, his eyes suddenly overcast with the threat of a storm.

“And besides--” Dennis adopts a more poisonous tone and drops his forehead heavily against the shorter man’s once again, “--this is about you and me, right? Mac’s a big boy. He doesn’t need you white knighting around. If you’re so tough, why don’t you show me how YOU fucking feel.” He digs his manicured nails roughly into Charlie’s hands, still clasped in his own. “You project all your outrage onto Mac so you can pretend you’re doing this for him, but what about you, huh? Y’know, once upon a time, even though you really were such a fucking dirt grub, I thought we were best friends--”

Charlie has been fixating on the length of Dennis’s eyelashes...the fast thump of their hearts beating into each others’ chests...Dennis’s unrelenting erection pressing into his hip...the smell of whiskey on the man’s breath… But when he hears Dennis’s sharp change of tone, hears the name ”dirt grub”...his mind snaps to attention and his blood freezes.

“--but you always hated me. Right, Charlie? Something about me, you were repelled immediately. God knows what it was. Jealousy, maybe. I didn’t care. I’d ask now, but--well, I hope you’re about to show me--”

But Dennis is cut off, literally, his air and his words are cut off in his throat. Faster than Dennis can register, Charlie has peeled off him and taken a big step back, arm straight out and his hand wrapped tight around Dennis’s throat. Dennis fumbles and slips down the door, legs turned to jelly, and Charlie’s hand on his throat catches him. Huh. Too shocked to fully react, Dennis lets out a short, confused, yet aroused, moan.

“I want you on your knees. Now.” Charlie speaks through gritted teeth. Whatever softness he had accrued as their bodies collided and they spoke in lusty whispers...had come and gone. This was Dennis’s goal. Charlie has always had a strange aura that seems to invite vulnerability--and fuck that. Keep Charlie angry.

But Dennis can barely hear him, suddenly feeling so light and sensitive, his head floating and his heart uselessly pumping blood to his dick rather than his brain. He does, however, see that Charlie’s eyes have a look of hurt that wasn’t there before, and he does, however, feel the slap on his face.

“Now, Dennis. Right now. On your fucking knees.”

Dennis glances down, sees the shimmer, and remembers how much broken glass was crunching below them. “The glass…” he rasps.

“Oh, the glass? Are you worried about the glass?! Oh my GOD I don’t care.” Nevertheless, Charlie uses one foot and roughly kicks it aside. “There you go, your highness. Now do what I fucking said.”

Dennis does.

Chapter Text

“Okay then. Now tell me your safeword again.” Charlie stares down straight into Dennis’s widened eyes. The man’s shallow breaths and dilated pupils speak volumes, but Dennis still manages to twist his face into a look of defiance.

 

“I literally just told you, Charlie. Anthrax. I swear to god you have the attention span of a--”

 

Then a sharp slap to the face cuts his words off immediately.

 

The impact forces Dennis’s head to face the other way and he gasps as he slowly turns back, hand to his reddening cheek.

 

It wasn’t a gasp of pain—more akin to the way he gasped when he and Charlie were in the back office huffing paint thinner…

 

and Charlie was dancing, for him, and they had never been more connected like...like they were sharing the same set of eyes or like Charlie was engulfing him or both and, and Charlie was moving closer to him and it was all just...and Charlie was moving closer to him…and Dennis could hardly breathe, only take in little gulps of air...as Charlie was moving closer to him...

 

“Char--”

 

“Shut up.”

 

Dennis does. Charlie's voice betrays no kind of emotion one way or another, and he squats down to sit on his haunches, making them eye-level.

 

And then the gang had busted in on them, and ruined everything. And it's a good thing Dennis doesn't have feelings, or else he might've found it quite disappointing.

 

“I told you to repeat your safeword, Dennis. That's it.” He pauses. Sighs. Reaches out and brushes a few fingers along Dennis's cheek, and Dennis shivers.

 

Charlie's voice is a combination of singsong, cautionary, and patronizing that strikes Dennis as pure venom.

 

“I am so sorry if you got the wrong impression here, Dennis. Maybe it's my fault. Maybe I haven't made this clear yet: I am sure as christ not gonna take your shit today. Not a single, fucking bit of it. So...if you’re gonna insist on being a little brat, I guess we gotta make some rules.”

 

He speaks deliberately, slowly. With narrowed eyes he inhales and exhales slowly through his nose. “You’re gonna do what I say. EXACTLY what I say. And you’re not gonna do anything else. You’re gonna shut the FUCK up for once…” his voice rises from the strain of holding in years of frustration, “and in fact, you’re not gonna speak at all unless I tell you to. Unless I directly ask you something. Or…”

 

Charlie inadvertently pauses when his mind runs off, caught up in the sight before him. God, look at him, biting his lip, face all red, but christ, he’s still has, and--did he put his hands behind his back like that on his own?? oh my god. he does want this.

 

“...or if you need to safeword out of it.”

 

Dennis opens his mouth but apparently reconsiders and simply nods.

 

“Good. You told me what you don’t want and I’ll respect that, and also I guess I’ll warn you first if…” he pauses to consider, somehow without losing a modicum of intensity, “...if I’m gonna do something you’d need to stop before it starts. Do you understand?”

 

Another nod.

 

“But.” Charlie grabs a fistful of Dennis's hair and pull his head down to the side, growling directly into his ear, an electrical storm running between their bodies. “I am not going to go easy on you, Dennis Reynolds. I’m not going to try not to hurt you. Opposite, in fact. You told me to give you what I think you deserve.”

 

Charlie stands. Lightning in his wild eyes. Dennis flinches. Looks at his hands in his lap.

 

Dennis doesn't let Charlie see his facial expression, because he doesn't know what it looks like or whether he has his shit under control.

 

“Hey, no, eyes up here. Matter of fact, third rule: look at me when I’m talking to you. I need to know you hear me and understand. If I ask you a yes or no question I want a “yes Charlie” or a “no Charlie”. And don’t you fucking dare call me sir. I want you to remember exactly who’s doing this to you. Got it?”

 

“Yes, Charlie.” Something close to a whisper is all that comes out of Dennis’s mouth.

 

“One more thing,” and once again Charlie fists Dennis’s hair and tugs his head to the side so he can bend and whisper right in his ear, “if you’re gonna cum, you better wait until I tell you. You don’t even touch yourself until I tell you.”

 

Dennis is shocked into obedience, still straining and twisting to keep his eyes on Charlie’s face, nearly getting a peripheral, but the tickle of Charlie’s hot breath in his ear is enough to cover his whole body in goosebumps, to make him shudder and struggle to keep his fluttering eyes open.

 

“No joke, Dennis. You should see yourself. It’s obvious how much you want this right now. How bad you want to be put in your place…you're not subtle, dude. I've always known part of you is nothing but a desperate slut.”

 

Charlie has been doing his best to appear as though he's in control so he holds Dennis's gaze to hide how his hands are shaking as he fumbles over his zipper. Once free, his cock stiffens and fills his hand himself a couple of lazy strokes. He shoves two of the fingers from his other hand into Dennis’s mouth roughly, sliding in and out along his tongue. Dennis coughs and moans, allowing Charlie to thrust his calloused fingers between his lips into his throat.

 

“Okay. Now, open your mouth. Wide. Tongue out. Look at me. And...yeah, just like that, and keep your hands behind your back just like they were.” Charlie hopes he sounds out together. He slaps the head of his cock against Dennis’s tongue and swollen lips, then experimentally guides it into Dennis’s mouth just to push against the inside of his cheek. Dennis’s cheek bulges out in the shape of the cock the abusing it; Charlie doesn’t think he’s ever seen anything more profane in his life.

 

“Okay. Say ‘ahhh.’”

 

This is the only warning Charlie gives before pulling Dennis’s head back further and pushing in one fluid motion into his mouth. His knees almost buckle at the sensation, the intense heat, the way his friend’s eyes are shining with tears already as he stops just short of Dennis’s throat before pulling out slowly with a low, shaky moan.

 

“God...fuck that feels……” Do NOT give him an ego boost right now. “Tighten your lips, cocksucker.” Changing course, Charlie borrows Dee’s go-to insult and feels pleased as he realizes it’s finally being used in an accurate way.

 

The sensation shoots right to Charlie’s toes and he pushes in again, deeper, then picks up a slow rhythm. He has to restrain himself. He has to make this last. This moment in time, this opportunity to fuckingrevenge all over the place, to use and abuse Dennis and make him feel the way he’d made Charlie feel for decades...fuck.

 

Meanwhile, Dennis’s eyes are fluttering shut and he squeezes them tight with concentration. He’s trying not to choke but also trying to...what the hell?...trying to make it good.

 

Charlie withdraws from Dennis’s mouth, and the sight of a thick cock sliding between Dennis's abused lips (with streaks and faint smudges of deep red blood oh god..) might well be the rawest, most obscene thing he's ever seen. And. He needs more.

 

With two fingers he dragged Dennis’s eyelids open.

 

“I told you...to fucking...look at me.” Charlie’s cock lifted to further attention and bounced on its own accord. “Let me see you.”

 

The humiliation Dennis feels as he lifts his eyes to meet Charlie’s, just to have the man pushing his cock between Dennis’s lips once again and forcing his mouth open, fucking down his throat? It’s...well. It’s unmatched. Dennis feels light as a cloud. Dennis feels.

 

He removes his arms from behind his back and wraps his hands tentatively around the back of Charlie’s thighs, applying just enough pressure to them that it feels like an encouragement, and then he waits. Charlie makes the smallest sound, either of pleasure or just acknowledgment--a clear green light. He caresses his way up until he reaches the curves of Charlie’s ass, then grabs each side with one hand and pulls the man fucking his mouth closer to him. Dennis can feel the brush of of soft hair his nose when Charlie finally thrusts in as deep as he can go.

 

Charlie leans over Dennis to brace himself with one hand against the door leaving the other to hold Dennis’s head in place and he uses all of this leverage to thrust a little harder, more deliberately.

 

He knows that this interaction is supposed to be more business than pleasure, but again. Christ. The sight of Dennis Reynolds on his knees, a cock in his mouth, tears glistening in the corner of his eyes…Charlie is obsessed, staring with his mouth hanging open, which he doesn’t realize it until he moans and it comes out as an “ohhhh…”

 

Charlie has really truly wanted to put this bastard in his place, but right now he’s too transfixed by the feeling of that bastard’s mouth to follow any kind of agenda. All he manages is a stream-of-consciousness series of demeaning insults, muttered breathlessly.

 

“You should fucking see yourself, Dennis, mouth full of cock, it's all you think about, isn't it Dennis, you fucking WANT to be used like this, you’re a fucking SLUT for it, just a slut so desperate you'll give it up for anyone, even ME--yeah, I bet even you believe sometimes that this is all you’re good for, yeah you’re all fucking talk, ahhh mmm--” Charlie is picking up the pace. “shit, I can see every inch of your dick inside your pants Dennis, all hard and aching for me... FUCK!”

 

Charlie tightly grips the base of his cock and shakily withdraws, close to the edge and trying to prevent too much cum from dribbling out prematurely. It only kind of works, and leaves a glaze on Dennis’s lips and chin.

 

Dennis’s mouth hangs open and he pants for air, anxiously looking up at Charlie. His mind is racing, absorbing every last dirty thing Charlie had said to him, relishing the degradation, but he gets stuck on one part.

 

What the fuck does that mean, I “even want it from” you? What are you talking about, “even” you… “even” you? I mean sure, we’ve had our shit over the years, but seriously? ...Does he not remember?

 

How could he not remember?

 

Dennis visibly shivers and goosebumps rise from his skin. His chest is flushed. He is bleeding--every so lightly--in three places. His hair is a sweaty mess. Streaks from drying tears, and related hiccuping breaths round out his appearance as he recovers from having his throat fucked.

 

Charlie reaches down and pinches Dennis’s peaked nipples, visible through his shirt, and twists. As long as it’s on the table, Charlie figures it would be a crying shame to leave Dennis without bruises.

 

Bruises that will remind him of exactly what happened here, of being punished and used. Remind him of ME. After all these years of bossing me around and treating me like shit...he'll have to feel this tomorrow, and the next day, and the next day…it'll make him wish he’d had all this...all along...

 

Dennis makes a valiant effort to follow the rule and keeps his eyes locked on Charlie’s, even as he winces and gasps at the pain. He purses his lips to keep from crying out and they slide against each other, slick with the pre-cum Charlie couldn’t prevent himself from dribbling. He darts his tongue out and swipes it over his upper lip, sees Charlie’s eyes following this movement, and in a flash feels another tongue, and a new pair of lips, and the comfortable scratch of a beard as Charlie dives in to share the taste of his blood-stained lips.

 

Charlie slips his arms beneath Dennis's and wraps him in an embrace. He can't bear to break their kiss so he mutters directly into Dennis's lips.

 

“Come 'ere.”

Chapter Text

Dennis pushes himself up slightly as Charlie lifts, and as soon as Dennis has risen enough for Charlie to reach, he hooks his arms beneath Dennis’s legs one at a time. Dennis catches on and lets himself be picked up, wrapping his arms around Charlie’s neck and locking his legs around his waist.

Charlie doesn’t let go and doesn’t stop moving his lips against Dennis’s as he opens the office door with one hand and carries Dennis--his friend’s body clinging to him for dear life--inside. He stumbles straight to the desk and sets Dennis down on top of it.

 

He doesn’t pull out of Dennis’s embrace, but does divert some of his attention as he busies himself with Dennis's button and zipper, and availing the man of his pants and underwear as quickly as possible. As he tugs them down Dennis's waist, Dennis used his leverage on Charlie's shoulders to lift his hips off the desk so Charlie can get them over the curve of his ass.

As soon as he's managed to peel Dennis's tight, tailored jeans off his legs, Charlie grabs Dennis’s cock and begins stroking it quickly. Dennis can’t hold back a loud, long moan that gets mostly smothered by Charlies mouth. With his other hand, Charlie pinches Dennis’s left nipple through his shirt, and rolls it between his thumb and index finger.

Dennis doesn’t know if he can take it. It’s...good. Too good. It’s paradise. He’s home. And he’s already sad, because he knows he won’t recapture this feeling.

Dennis Reynolds doesn’t do feelings, and he doesn’t get vulnerable with his friends, and he doesn’t let himself get caught wanting anything.

And he thinks he’s going to cum if Charlie doesn’t cut it out soon--

“STOP stop stop…!” Dennis whines into Charlie’s temple, because the man has kissed his way down Dennis’s neck to bite and suck bruises along his collarbone. He grasps for Charlie’s hands to still them but can’t manage to stop him.

“Charlie stop, seriously, I’m gonna cum!”

Charlie releases him immediately, and easily steps back through Dennis’s legs which had still been wrapped around his waist.

As cliched as it sounds...Dennis Reynolds can be best described as “a wreck.”

He’d been seconds away from orgasming and his body froze in that moment. The ache is unreal. His heart can’t keep up with his blood’s rush to redden his face, and cock. And chest. Every desperate gasp of air, every single breath sounds like a pained whine. Even his precisely, obsessively styled hairdo is ruined, becoming a bit softer and wilder.

Good lord, that’s...he’s...cute? He’s bloodied up, sure, but also...somehow...cute, too.

What the hell is wrong with me. I’m so fucked.

For what’s worth, Charlie’s a goddamn mess as well. Dennis couldn’t look away even if he was allowed, wouldn’t look away, not from the heaving chest and flushed, rock-hard cock and swollen, bloody red lips of his best friend. It adds to the bliss, seeing how desperately he’s wanted, being on the receiving end of such raw, unhinged want and rage.

Charlie immediately grabs a handful of Dennis’s hair and drags him forward. His other hand is grasping for the bottom of Dennis’s shirt.

“Good boy,” Charlie says softly into his ear, before nipping at his earlobe and letting him go with a final tug. He then commits both hands to grabbing Dennis’s shirt with both hands and tugging it off him, barely giving Dennis time to actually lift his arms and cooperate. Tossing it aside, he digs his hands into Dennis’s hips and drags them forward to the edge of the desk. Dennis falls back on his hands to stay upright, leaving his flushed chest fully exposed.

Charlie steps closer and throws Dennis’s legs over his shoulders. He smugly continues looking Dennis dead in the eye as he brings his ring, middle, and index finger to his mouth and sucks them deeply, wetting them. He removes them when apparently satisfied with how wet they are, and immediately reaches out and pushes them between Dennis’s lips and deep into his mouth as well. Dennis successfully keeps his eyes from rolling to the back of his head. His dick bounces once against his abdomen on its own accord and a drop of precum appears at the tip.

Once satisfied that his fingers are wet enough, Charlie seizes Dennis’s ass with a bruising grip and within seconds has wet fingers pressed against Dennis’s hole. He pushes two in right off the bat with a satisfied smile and watches Dennis’s face contort. He pushes them steadily until they are all the way in, and Dennis is gasping for air once again. He doesn’t wait for Dennis to adjust before pulling smoothly out then twisting them back in even faster.

Charlie continues fingering him in exactly this fashion, forcefully and impatiently, while simultaneously putting one of Dennis’s legs down so he can lean in to attach his mouth to Dennis’s chest just below the nipple. He sucks a deep bruise there so roughly that Dennis can’t keep from shouting.

He pinches that nipple sharply and continues to suck bruises on the soft skin around it. Just as Charlie unceremoniously pushes a third finger into Dennis in the same moment that he clamps his teeth around Dennis’s areola and begins tormenting that little bud, flicking it with his tongue and sucking it to a stiff peak over and over. He digs his fingers into Dennis’s side and drags them like a claw slowly down to Dennis’s hip. His nails leave pink scratches where he dug through layers of skin and blood begins to the surface. He does it again, and then again, until the marks are visible enough to be seen from across the bar.

Dennis is aware that he hasn’t stopped shouting and moaning in quite a while but doesn’t know how long. Dennis’s asshole is burning from Charlie’s merciless stretching, his fingers now fucking into Dennis at a rapid pace. Charlie’s nails are excruciatingly painful as they scratch deeper into his skin.

This is probably how it felt to Mac when you did the same thing to him.

The pain is relentless, and the heat of Charlie’s still fully-clothed body pressed against Dennis’s bare one is making him flushed and shiny with sweat.

Charlie buries his fingers in Dennis one more time, crooking his fingers at just the right angle to make him whimper, then slowly drags them out, releases his nipple from between his teeth, then gently lowers Dennis’s other leg and positions both of them bent fully with his knees up and heels of his feet on the edge of the desk, leaving his legs open in a wide, profane “V”.

He spits into his hand before giving his ignored, throbbing cock a few long strokes. He gasps slightly and Dennis swears he sees an idea flash across Charlie’s eyes, then he’s angling them so that he can press their erections together and fist them with one hand. Dennis sighs blissfully when Charlie also leans in and wraps an arm around Dennis’s shoulders to kiss him deeply. There’s no finesse to it, and Dennis needs desperately to breathe, but his heart exploded the moment Charlie’s mouth found his and he can’t pull away for a second. He lifts his legs from the table and slings them low around Charlie’s hips.

Charlie has still almost never gone without a shirt in front of Dennis, the circumstances needing to be pretty extreme before he’d go there. But once they are both fully breathless, their cocks slightly slicker from their precum that Charlie spread around, Charlie straightens up and immediately yanks off his t-shirt with one hand then goes for his back pocket with his other hand.

He turns his attention back to Dennis after tossing his shirt aside and locating whatever he’d tucked away in his pocket, and finds Dennis with eyes like flying saucers, darting been his hips. Charlie starts to follow Dennis’s gaze but it quickly dawns on him.

Duh. He’s had no reason to see this before, dummy. No occasion to. A distinct lack of shirtlessness for the last twenty years or so.

 

Dennis is staring at the ridges and dips of Charlie’s hips, both of them. Both are striped with thin scars, some looking a bit newer than others. They look like tally marks a prisoner might chalk on the walls of his cell to count the days, one after another, but some are crooked and cross one another too.

Slash marks. Scars. Pretty much. Dennis forgets to breathe. His eyes have compulsively followed the movement of Charlie's hips since before he can remember. But those flashes of bare skin are always a blur, and then they vanish.

Charlie’s heart skips as it sets in that he’s just let out an old, old secret.

Dennis looks shockingly pained by what he’s seeing, and it doesn’t escape Charlie’s notice. He doesn’t forget to appreciate this rare moment of Dennis being so openly expressive. He covers one hip with the palm of his hand and wraps his other arm around Dennis’s shoulders, pulling him in. The moment Dennis's weight is off his hands, both arms shoot out and wrap around Charlie’s waist. Charlie takes one of Dennis’s hands in his own and presses them together into the scars.

He leans into Dennis’s lips but doesn’t kiss him, instead muttering, “It’s okay. It was a long time ago. I’m done with it. It’s okay.” He nuzzles Dennis for a moment hoping it comes off as reassuring.

 

But then Dennis feels a sharp sting against the side of his shoulder and realizes what had been in Charlie’s back pocket. A piece of glass from the whiskey bottle was held gingerly between Charlie’s fingers and pressed into Dennis’s skin just hard enough to cause that sting.

 

“Well, that was some uh, interesting timing, because I um…” Charlie disentangles them so he can hold up the glass to show Dennis. He leaves their hips thrust up against one another. Dennis obediently looks at the glass, his eyes wide. Then he looks back up at Charlie, weirdly patient and waiting for Charlie to explain.

“I was thinking, uh,” Charlie reaches up and lays both hands on Dennis’s chest for a moment before nimbly flipping the glass back between his fingertips from wherever he’d tucked it. He touches the sharpest, cleanest edge to Dennis’s chest, so lightly Dennis can barely feel it, and glides it down a few inches. He looks at Dennis questioningly before leaning in to stroke that patch of skin with his thumb and press a kiss into it.

 

“Woah. Oh my god.” Dennis can only whisper.

“Yes. Charlie, fuck. Yes. God yes.”

 

Charlie stands back up and grips his cock with one hand, pushing his head right up against Dennis’s hole. He keeps the glass pressed into Dennis’s pec firmly enough to indent but not enough to pierce the skin.

“Yes? Yes you want this?”

“Yes. I'm literally asking for it, right?” Dennis can't withhold his trademark impatience, definitely toeing the line of what night get him in trouble right now.

Charlie smirks slightly and presses just the tip of his head forward, hard enough to stretch open the tight rim of Dennis’s hole.

“You want me to fuck you? While carving you up with a shard of glass? And making you bleed? Hmm.” With a tiny push of his hips he edges another centimeter into Dennis, stretching just the tightest part in a way that’s making Dennis pant with exertion.

“Yes, fuck. Yes, please.”

 

“Tell me how bad.” Now he applies just enough pressure with the sharp corner of the glass to barely puncture Dennis’s skin. And he waits.

 

Dennis is wincing and straining. His body aches from being in this position for so long, and both of these new, acute sensations are making it hard for him to think. He summons all his effort to look Charlie in the eye and speak in mostly full sentences.

“Please...Charlie, please fuck me. M-mark me up. Please. I fucking need it. Please fuck me up. Fuck, god, leave evidence so everyone can see.”

“Good boy,” Charlie mumbles, leaning in so he can lock their mouths together as he pushes slowly into Dennis, past his shaking and gasping. When he’s halfway buried in Dennis’s ass he pulls his lips away and fixes his concentration on his hand, which is gliding gracefully across Dennis's skin, diagonally down the right side of his chest a few inches, angling inward. He pulls the blade away just as he finishes opening Dennis up with the full length of his cock, then immediately places the blade back so he can trace another line, parallel to the first.

 

He looks at his handiwork then looks into the eyes of the man gasping around his dick, not to mention the way he's shivering from the sensation of a sharp edge gliding across his skin.

 

Dennis’s eyebrows are pushed together in desperate concentration, sweat dotting on his forehead and his breath comes fast and sporadically. After a few second keeping Charlie’s gaze, he mouths more than whispers a single word.

”Fuck.”

“Tell m-me how you feel.” Charlie manages to force the words out through gritted teeth.

“Full,” he mutters, then pauses for a minute to think. “And powerless,” he finishes in a whisper. “Very, very powerless.”

Charlie looks down at his own hand as he places the blade on Dennis’s skin once again and begins dragging it steadily, this time angled across the other two lines in an X. Halfway through with it, Charlie looks up from Dennis's cheat to instead stare him in the eyes as he finishes.

“Oh, Dennis,” he practically purrs. “That’s because you are.”

He lifts the blade and gives a sharp thrust for emphasis, barely pulling out before bucking back in. He proceeds this way, fucking Dennis with slow, shallow movements, keeping him full the whole time and grinding continually against that one certain spot.

Ignoring Dennis’s nonstop flood of moans and whimpers, Charlie makes himself comfortable enough that he can keep this up for a while, by throwing both of Dennis's legs over his shoulders again, then leaning his weight into Dennis's extended legs and using one of them to brace his arm so he can hold the shard of glass steadily.

Three or four more long, barely-there pink lines arise across Dennis’s chest. Charlie moves his hands to Dennis’s lower abdomen and he maps out a space to the side below Dennis’s ribcage. He drags the glass gracefully along Dennis’s flawless skin, focusing on that area and frequently lifting, changing direction, making symbols…

Dennis is crying out so loudly that Charlie eventually pauses for a moment and looks at him.

“Do you need or want to stop.” He states this matter-of-factly, all business, needing a confirmation before he’ll resume.

Dennis pants a few times and cringes as air hits the newest open line on his skin.

“N-no. Please, I want you to keep going. Please, please don’t st--”

But Charlie has already resumed his ministrations, finishing the thrust he’d stopped halfway through and adding another red line to the menagerie of potential future scars on Dennis’s waist. As soon as Dennis’s brain catches up with the signals his nerves are sending, he begins hollering once again. Moaning and cursing, whining and whimpering.

Without looking up, Charlie reaches for Dennis's face with his free hand and firmly cups it over his mouth. He didn’t realize that this one simple action would drive Dennis to another level. Suddenly he was gasping desperately against Charlie’s hand, mumbling urgently through closed lips, eventually settling on a repeated, encouraging “mm-hmm...mm-hmm…”.

 

Dennis is completely getting off on being this powerless, and Charlie’s cock throbs as soon he realizes this. He feels Dennis attempting to kiss and lick and bite his hand in response to being smothered like this.

“Shit…”

Charlie removes his hand and presses two fingers against Dennis’s lips--an offering. Dennis immediately parts his lips and takes Charlie’s fingers in with a desperate groan, a filthy sight made even filthier because of how Dennis maintained eye contact the entire time.

“Shit.” Charlie leaves his fingers in Dennis’s mouth for him to suck on and turns back once more to his assault on Dennis’s perfect skin with a crude carving tool, fashioned solely for the purpose of making his friend bleed. Which, to be fair, his friend is begging for.

At that thought, Charlie finds he can't help but squeeze his eyes shut and give several hard, feverish thrusts into Dennis before relaxing into what he’d been doing previously. He makes one...two final cuts before setting the glass down.

He pushes all the way into Dennis, as deep as he can get, and stays there, stilling his hips entirely (to Dennis, this makes the actual throbbing of the thick cock inside him all the more noticeable).

Charlie sets the glass delicately on the other side of the desk and inspects his design. A grin immediately begins to creep across his face, brighter than any other authentic smile that’s crossed his face in years.

Dennis cranes his neck down to see what Charlie did, the pain becoming momentarily stifled by curiosity. He lays eyes on the lines and there it is.

A rough outline of dildo bike, depicted on his flesh in delicate pink lines with dots of blood beading up here and there.

The dildo bike. Mac’s dildo bike.

He gapes at it for another minute before lifting his eyes and finding Charlie grinning at him like a maniac, obviously delighted with himself.

 

Charlie holds his breath hopefully as Dennis takes in his blood doodle then meets his eyes, and beams with relief when Dennis begins to laugh out of surprise, then of actual amusement. They look at each other almost appreciatively as they catch their breath and Charlie wraps his arm around Dennis’s waist and pulls him up, taking on his weight and meeting his lips with a deep kiss. They grasp at each other, lost in the moment, Charlie delicately thrusting in and out once more subconsciously, and it’s like their bodies are ebbing and flowing as one.

But then Charlie’s hand makes it up to Dennis’s hair and grasps a handful firmly, pulling harder and harder and eventually breaking the increasingly aggressive kiss. He yanks Dennis toward him and says quietly,

“Are you happy? I didn’t technically talk about Mac, now, did I?”

Dennis’s breath hitches and stops, ten seconds, twenty seconds of silence, and Charlie hears a sniff. He sits up enough to look at Dennis’s face just as he’s regaining composure. Charlie also begins to draw his hips back, pulling out of Dennis inch by inch, ready to leave Dennis inconsolably desperate until he gets an answer to a question.

“No, you didn’t. You’re right.” Charlie stops. He is certain that Dennis is remembering the day Frank may or may not have saved Mac’s life. And they spent 14 hours in arbitration over a lottery ticket. The day Mac came out.

“We’re cool, please, I just want more. C’mon. Fuck me, for the love of god, please, fuck me fucking senseless. Wreck me.”

That’s all it takes for them to be clung together once again, with Charlie roughly picking up his pace and causing the desk to scoot across the floor a few inches..

Charlie hasn’t touched Dennis’s dick in a while but the moment he begins pounding into him, he can hear it in the noise Dennis makes that he is close.

Why am I so sure of that? How the hell do I know for a fact it’s true? Because holy fuck, it absolutely is...wonder if he can cum without being touched. There’s only one way to know for sure.

He forces Dennis to fall back on his hands once more as she grabs Dennis’s hip with one hand and his throat with the other, holding him still with bruising force. And cutting off just part of his airway. He glances down in time to witness a large bead of pre-cum spilling over the head of Dennis’s cock. He feels spurred on.

 

“You...look...so fucking pathetic right now, Dennis Reynolds. Helpless, and fucking bleeding, and bouncing on my fucking cock like desperate slut... Who the hell would FUCK take this right now but you, who ON EARTH would let me carve them up and fuck their mouth and order them around like this but you, y-...you literally can’t get enough of this, ca-can you Dennis, I couldn’t possibly fuck you hard enough to wipe that desperate bitch look off your face…”

Charlie is completely out of breath, sweating and barely holding it together as he pounds mercilessly into the man. Dennis reaches out and lays a hand on Charlie’s cheek, startling him. Just, the softness of it.

“I’m so close.” He mouths with a look of near-anguish, his consonants and a bit of breathy voice barely audible. “Please, god, I need to cum. Please let me. Charlie, fuck… Damn it, Charlie, make me cum, please make me cum, please…”

 

“Oh. Fuck.” Charlie gasps, forgetting himself for a moment. He almost totally drops character, breathlessly and single-mindedly fucking his friend, trying to hit his prostate with every thrust, and growling into his skin.

“Fuck. Yes. Oh my god…my god, yes. Yes. Fucking cum for me, Dennis Reynold. You better fucking come for me right now, do… FUCK!...do it right now, do it because I fucking told you to Dennis, cum from my dick just pounding you, without even me even fucking touching you, god, just ..do it.

Dennis all but screams as his orgasm hits, and after a second Charlie mercifully grabs his cock and fists him through it, drawing it out, using Dennis’s own cum to keep pumping him as the aftershocks fade away.

 

Charlie stills himself as Dennis falls limp, his shaking arms wrapped around Charlie’s shoulders. No glue, no paint, or coke or weed or alcohol or any-damn-thing has ever made Charlie feel this high. Dennis Reynolds shaking and whimpering, Dennis Reynolds coming in his hand with the most beautiful ruined look on his face that Charlie’s ever seen, Dennis Reynolds who still has Charlie Kelly’s cock in his ass, and he doesn’t seem all that bothered.

 

They pant into each other’s skin until they stabilize, and Dennis’s hand has begun to idly stroke Charlie’s back... and Charlie is planting rough kisses along the cuts on Dennis’s chest. He still has not pulled out, but resists thrusting when Dennis is this freshly oversensitive.

 

Charlie slyly grabs the shard of glass during this soft moment and once he has Dennis gasping under him from their ceaseless groping and kissing, and Dennis’s cock is twitching in interest (it had never gone gone fully soft after he finished), Charlie brings the glass to rest without warning on the nape of Dennis’s neck, pressing lightly into the firm skin near the bumps of his spine.

 

“Ohhh…” Dennis squeezes Charlie wherever his hands can reach, egging him on. Charlie raises his face from Dennis’s chest and kisses him softly as he rests his other hand on the back of Dennis’s neck as well, to steady himself and make sure the pressure is right. He slips his tongue into Dennis’s mouth as he pulls the sharp edge along his skin, swallowing his cries.

 

Charlie can’t hold back anymore. He resumes rocking his hips, savoring long smooth thrusts.

 

“You know this isn’t over just because you blew your load over a little rough play, right?”

 

Dennis looks at him, totally broken in, totally claimed. “Y-yes. I know.”

 

“Ok. Good. Because you’re only here to be fucking used, Dennis. To get roughed up and absorb all that pain yourself. And I’m gonna be the one to do that to you.”

 

“Y-yes, Charlie.”

 

“Good, because you’re going for a little ride.”

 

He easily picks up Dennis once again, but because of the glass he only has one arm to hold up.

 

“Hold onto me. Don’t make me do all the fucking work.”

Chapter Text

Dennis complies, and whimpers as he adjusts his legs and angles his hips. He wraps himself tightly around Charlie, making sure their cocks are aligned before leaning in find Charlie's lips once again. Their cocks slide easily against one another as they both become slick from Dennis's cum. It's depraved.

**

Whatever people might think, Charlie is self-aware. He knows he’s twisted. He knows he had the ability fuck with someone’s head, mislead them, get their trust, make them uncomfortable, make them afraid…even Dennis. For at least 30 out of Charlie's 40-ish years on earth, this has been the only weapon he knows how to wield, the only way he knows he can get what he wants. The one way he can control a person, or even sort of...stun them into submission.

So really, how convenient it is that Dennis seems to be in unholy ecstasy over this. Maybe Dennis is the only person as fucked up as Charlie is. Maybe that’s why Dennis drinks this in. Maybe it’s because of these parallel traumas from childhood and both adhering to personal policies of strict denial.

Yes, it's convenient. That's it. Practically a coincidence.

And besides, who gives a damn whether Dennis is enjoying this? That’s not what this is about. And I mean, it’s not even that big a deal to like...make your second oldest friend cum from penetration alone. Who cares? It’s not worth thinking about, let alone worth remembering in detail like a set of instructions so I can do it next time. No. That is NOT the point. Plus. I wasn’t even trying to...I mean...whatever. It’s not my fault Dennis is so easy.

**

Whatever dismissive thoughts Charlie might be having, Dennis has no idea. How could he possibly tell, when Charlie is carrying Dennis with one arm so he can use his other hand to run his hand through Dennis's hair, pulling him into the kiss, making sure he stays right where he belongs.

It makes Dennis feel like something absolutely precious. He wonders how and when Charlie got so fucking strong. He wonders how the hell he didn’t notice. He wonders what life would have been like for the last fifteen years if he had let himself notice, everything they could’ve…would’ve…

No. Don’t think about it. You're both just going to blow it this time, too. In fact, this is probably the last time this ever happens. The one last time, and we’ll always remember it, and we'll allow the memory to slowly but thoroughly destroy us.

And we'll never, ever fucking talk about it.

**
Charlie feels a few warm wet drops hit his cheek and chin and realizes quickly that Dennis eyes have spilled over with silent tears. He smirks, carrying Dennis over to the pool table and setting him down on the edge.

“Hey...hey now, Dennis, shhh,” Charlie says, cupping the man’s face and softly brushing away his tears. “Hush. It’s okay. Don’t cry. Now could you uh...get it the fuck together?” With that, he leans in to bite sharply at Dennis’s throat then mutters into his skin, “That is, of course, you want me to give you a real reason to cry.”

Charlie figures it’s a safe thing to say considering he’s just carved designs into Dennis’s torso with a shard of glass, just mercilessly degraded Dennis while fucking him through (what Charlie doesn’t know was) the longest and most intense orgasm he’s had in as long as he can remember, just completely…

Instead, Charlie watches Dennis’s eyes widen and brim with fresh tears before Dennis snaps them shut and ducks his head.

Dennis tries to twist away, hoping to at least hide his face before it crumples to accommodate actual sobs. He doesn’t want this to be happening, only wants to get back to what they were doing...he just wants to be good for once, be good for someone, be good for himself, and now he feels…he feels...

Well, he feels a flash of actual feeling, and it’s enough to remind him why he let all his feelings drown with the sinking ship of his youth. It’s not fun, this new feeling. They never are. He wishes it would go away, but it seems pretty dug in.

**

Charlie catches Dennis before he can attempt to burrow into the green felt of the pool table and disappear. As soon as Dennis feels an arm around his waist joined by another around his shoulders pulling him in, he lets the rest of his tears go with a sob. He allows himself to be hugged close and buries his face in the firm freckled chest in front of him.

Whatever’s happening, it’s not what Charlie expected. He wants Dennis to cry and experience pain (hell, he wants to get off on it) but not like this. This is something outside of the game they’re playing--this is the wrong pain. Charlie also wants to be annoyed about his waning erection, but instead lets the mood pause with a sigh. He doesn’t know what this is about, but he needs to fix it if they’re going to keep going. It’s like he has to do everything around here.

“Hey, shh,” Charlie settles his hand on the back of Dennis’s neck. “It’s okay bud, I got you.” Okay, he is the slightest bit irritated, but this time his words are sincere. Dennis chokes on a heaving breath and tightens his arms around Charlie’s waist. “Do you want to safeword out? Do you want to be done?”

Charlie feels a pit in his stomach even as he asks the question, but he forces out the words anyway. He really feels the need to take some responsibility for Dennis here; to offer him an out, in case he’s too shaken to ask for one.

Please don’t say yes. Please don’t leave.

But Dennis shakes his head and rasps out, “no, I want to stay--uh, keep going, I mean--let’s keep going. Please.” Even as he he speaks, his shoulders curl and tense; Charlie can feel the slow, deep sobs that Dennis is holding back as they go quaking through his body instead.

“Okay. Well uh…” Charlie looks at the ceiling and exhales heavily. “Let’s take a break, okay? Shhh,” he keeps talking through Dennis’s attempt to interject. “It’s okay. No, really. C’mon.” Without an ounce of effort he picks up Dennis again--the man’s arms and legs still wrapped around him-- and returns to the office. Kicking the door shut with the ball of his foot, he then stumbles to the couch they wisely put in there a couple of years ago and sits down so that Dennis is straddling him. He settles into the sink-y cushions, stroking Dennis’s back and neck soothingly, as the man has indicated no intent to move.

Aside from continuing with long, reassuring strokes of his hand up and down Dennis’ back, Charlie isn’t sure what else to do. Is he supposed to ask what the crying is about? He doesn’t want to ask, and to be perfectly honest, wouldn’t want to hear the answer.

He should say something though, right? Dennis is quiet, but Charlie still feels the hot wetness of Dennis’ tears on his chest.

Charlie occupies himself for a few minutes instead by running his hands absentmindedly over Dennis’s skin—back, shoulders, biceps, thighs, and everything else he can reach—until he feels the man’s muscles relax.

“How does that feel?” Charlie ventures the question softly, out of the ongoing urge to ask something.

“Good.” Dennis just mumbles his response into Charlie’s skin, his face tucked into the space between Charlie’s neck and shoulder, but Charlie knows it’s sincere.

“Good.”

Charlie brings his hands to rest on the small of Dennis’s back and the scruff of his neck, and tilts his chin down to bury his nose in Dennis’s hair (in lieu of looking him in the eye, which for the moment isn’t possible and now is obviously not the time to push it).

“Say, uh. This is kind of like…kind of a lot. Dennis.” He says Dennis’s name as an afterthought and it’s apparently the right decision.

“Not ‘kind of.’ It’s just a lot.”

Charlie smiles into Dennis’s curls at the reply. A sign of life.

“Ha yeah. I guess you’re right about that.”

“Yeah.”

**

They both feel uncommonly relaxed by the warmth and solidity of the other. Their breathing found compatible rhythms. This is just what Dennis has been dreading—an intimacy so true and undeniable that to enjoy it becomes impossible—Dennis can enjoy nothing under the dark cloud of knowing that it’ll be over soon. Letting himself enjoy it means having to let himself feel upset when it’s gone. This is everything he’s tried to avoid: feelings, and things that threaten to provoke feelings, and intimacy with people for whom he has any kind of feelings.

Yes, for as much as his body stings and aches, blood drying, scratches and bite marks settling into his skin, this has all the makings of a peak moment of tenderness in Dennis’s life.

But it’s torture. The impossibly intoxicating smell of Charlie’s skin, sweat, and whiskey breath; the rise and fall of Charlie’s chest as he breathes and the regular thump of his heartbeat beneath Dennis’s own; the absolute calm that has settled over him—all curses, and if I have any self-preservation instinct remaining I should get the fuck up right now and leave. This memory will only hurt.

Dennis knows he isn’t strong enough to leave. The only thing worse than staying is leaving. He’s powerless against this and—you wanted to feel powerless, remember?—can only surrender to the moment. Knowing and fearing the imminent consequences isn’t enough to pull Dennis away from Charlie and send him home.

**

“Yeah.” Charlie swallows. Waits a beat. His palms suddenly feel slippery with sweat, which doesn’t make ANY sense considering what they’ve been doing for the last how long exactly? Nevertheless, his voice almost fails him and he half-whispers half-squeaks, “here, uh, just, lay with me for a minute.” He’s already lifting his legs one at a time onto the couch and carefully brings Dennis down with him as he stretches out, giving Dennis the preferred position of snuggling between Charlie and back of the couch.

They lay just like that for several minutes, minds racing but bodies still, and both with their arms wrapped tightly around the other as though to offer some reassurance. For those several minutes, their only movement is the occasional careful, cautious tightening of their embrace. One of Dennis’s hands had settled on Charlie’s side, and when Charlie took a particularly deep breath, Dennis took advantage of the rise of his chest to nudge his hand higher, pull Charlie a little closer.

**

If either of them had experienced intimacy in high school, they would’ve thought, this is so high school. But neither of them has ever had much to feel assured of in the first place, and for the moment it’s all they can do—it’s enough of a feat to try and remind the other that they are each real. That they are each present in their bodies. It’s tough to remember. It’s too easy to float away.

**

Their tight grips soon turn to needy caresses, getting wilder and wilder, hands devouring bodies, and they’re just as quickly panting and grinding together once again.

Charlie feels a nip at his collar bone and suddenly a hand around his cock, which had apparently gotten very hard again. If he was still in the process of coming back into his body, that finishes the job. Despite being the one doing the touching, Dennis can’t hold back his own steady stream of needy whimpers and they only grow louder when he feels the encouragement of Charlie greedily thrusting his hips into fist in response.

“What is it, Den? What is it that you want?” The man’s erratic movements reveal his desperation, but for what exactly, Charlie needs to hear. He grabs a fist full of Dennis’s hair and pulls his head up and off his chest so he can look him in the eyes for the first time in…a while.

“What do you want?” Charlie repeats.

“I…uh…I-” Dennis looks a mess, eyebrows drawn together and eyes darting back and forth between Charlie’s, trying to figure out what to say or how to even keep going when he’s blushing so hard and all he wants to do is bury his face once again.

“Say it.”

“I…I want you to tell me what to do, wanna make you feel so good, I…” Dennis gasps for air and his blush deepens, hand still steadily pumping Charlie’s cock. “I just wanna be good for you.”

Charlie groans and throws his head back involuntarily at the words and pulls Dennis’s hair a little harder. “Fuck, yeah, good, then keep going. Just like that.”

His voice is straining as he tries to issue instructions and Charlie suddenly remembers—that's right, he hasn’t come once yet, and this may not last long. He can already feel a little bead of pre-cum appear as his dick fills and the heat starts building inside him. Plus this seems to be doing almost as much for Dennis, who is straddling Charlie's leg, the length of his dick heavy against his skin as he grinds himself into Charlie's thigh. Charlie wants to tell him to stop doing that, to remind Dennis that this isn’t about getting what he wants, but it's honestly so fucking hot to feel him this desperate that he keeps quiet about it.

“Yes, oh god, Dennisss... Use your thumb on the—yeah, just like that. And put your other hand down—yeah, no, ouch fuck, just cup them lightly, just…yeah, that’s better…”

Dennis's breath is just ragged, his moans just as loud as Charlie’s own, and with every little instruction he lets out a whiny “mm-hmm, mm-hmm…”

“Wow, Dennis. Fuck, you’re just…ahhh…desperate to do a good job, aren’t you? You just want to be good for me, huh?” (A wild, choked groan from Dennis in response.) “Yeah you do…fuck, then…then use your m-mouth on my nipples. Oh GOD.”

Charlie has not actually had anyone do anything to his nipples before; he only knows Dennis likes it, and that he wants to tell Dennis to do something, just make him do something on command. But to his pleasant surprise, the sensation has Charlie arching his back and squeezing his eyes shut, every nerve in his body catching fire at once.

“Yes, FUCK! I want you to keep doing that, just like…ahhh, god... Wow, you’re meant for this, aren’t you Dennis? It’s getting you off so much to just get me off…and do whatever I want you to…g-guess you like it when ol’ Charlie’s in charge, huh…”

Mm-hmmm!” A frantic series of thrusts against Charlie’s leg in reply, and now Charlie can feel the trail of wetness evidencing just how much Dennis needs this.

“Goooddd, fuck yeah you do…yes, keep doing that…” Charlie can’t hold back much longer. “Fuck dude, that feels so good…yeah, you were definitely made for this, I knew you always wanted to…AHH fuck…to be my bitch.”

Charlie drags Dennis’s head up to look him in the eye. “Okay, now, I want you make me cum, Dennis. But you better not fucking cum yourself, you do not ha-have permission, got it? Good. Okay. Okay. Fuck. YES! Yes like that, quick, and get your mouth back—”

But before he can finish his instruction, Dennis’s lips and tongue are all over his own, and Charlie cries out into Dennis's hungry kiss as orgasm wracks his body.

Charlie can’t be mad at the disobedience. It’s perfect. It's so perfect, and he absolutely hates that. But all the same…it’s perfect. He pulls Dennis down to lay still against him as his shivers die away, and enjoys the feeling of their sweat mixing.

“Dennis, fuck…that was so good. Fuck, man. Y-you…”

It’s very audible when Dennis stops breathing.

“You were so good, Dennis. So good. Thank you.”

“THANK YOU???” There is no thank you, that’s what he was SUPPOSED to…

“Charlie…” Dennis sighs into his skin.

Charlie doesn’t ask Dennis to finish is sentence. He forces his mind back to that piece of glass from before and tries to remember where he may have dropped it.

Chapter Text

"Charlie…" Dennis mumbles again, once again leaving the rest of his thought unspoken.

Charlie wouldn’t have heard a word of it anyway.

God fucking damn Charlie you damn fucking idiot. An opportunity to fuck Dennis right the fuck up again, like, boundaries set to pretty much zero and twenty fucking years of thinking about it and you're making the choice to HOLD this asshole. Time to push this along.

Ahh. The corner of the desk. There’s that glass.

…Huh. Wish I hadn’t lost that seaglass the waitress gave me a couple years ago. I coulda had a collection going. Favorite…uh…shards of glass.

Focus, Charlie.

“Hey Dennis.”

“Mm?”

“Stop grinding on me right fucking now or I swear to god I will leave.” He says this calmly, still getting ready to set this whole situation straight.

Dennis’s body stiffens and stills, then he wriggles out of the sinking part of the couch and props himself up on an elbow to look at Charlie. He seems to realize this little moment is over and his face is cast with apprehension. Perfect.

“Sit up. Okay. You want more, yes?”

Dennis nods slowly, eyes wide and anxious.

“Sorry, what was that?”

“Yes.”

“What?”

“Yes, Charlie.”

“Good. Get out of the office and just...give me a minute. Sit on the pool table. Don’t touch yourself.”

Not having been asked a question, Dennis gives another slow nod and rises to his feet.

"And close the door."

As soon as the latch clicks, Charlie immediately slumps forward, elbows on his knees, face in his hands. He rubs his face a few times before settling his palms over his eyes, trying to take some deep breaths and assess the situation. He's sobering up, and assumes Dennis is, too.

God, his face just now… What do I even do with that face? Lot going on there I guess. Don’t care. Looks good though.

“Fuck. Jesus. Okay.” Charlie takes a few deep breaths but it’s going to take a little while to collect himself. That…whatever that was…on the couch. He tries not to think about how much he enjoyed it. He’s upset with himself, and a little desperate as he reminds himself not to fall for it. He doesn’t want that…whatever it was…and he sure as hell knows Dennis doesn’t.

And even if they did, it’s not like they’d ever admit it. Charlie’s starting to wonder how long it’ll take for them to even meet each other’s eyes after all this. Considering they don’t hang out much anyway…this is decidedly worth it. He just needs to focus.

**

2006

Dennis is looking for Charlie. In the future, Dennis won’t remember why exactly he was looking for Charlie, because it couldn’t be further from the point. The only place still unsearched involves climbing into the vents at system at Paddy’s. Dennis rolls his eyes over the ridiculousness of this even being a thing, and takes a deep breath to try and get over the degradation he feels in pursuing a ridiculous man to ridiculous lengths.

But Dennis knows where he’s going—vaguely, at least—and finds Charlie sitting on the floor in his bad room, eyes closed, head tilted back and resting against the wall. Dennis has never seen the bad room. There’s nothing there, really, only evidence of destruction: broken glass and other assorted shrapnel, some splinters of wood and the like. There are a few other objects, as well—notebooks strewn about, loose crayons. A half-smoked pack of cigarettes Charlie probably swiped from Dee. Looks like her brand. Maybe she even gave them to him.

And there’s alcohol laying around, obviously. Dennis finds the lack of beer cans surprising—it’s strictly whiskey.

Charlie himself looks tired. Scruffier than normal, elbows and knees dirty, cuts and scrapes here and there. He has used his bad room to let out raw rage for a couple of years now, and Dennis would probably be surprised by what does and does not trigger that rage. Dennis wonders how often Charlie comes up here. It’s entirely too much to process. And right now, his friend is looking at him in alarm, and Dennis should be saying something.

Nobody is supposed to know about the bad room.

They simultaneously decide to play it cool, or die trying. It was all too strange to deal with in real time.

“Charlie.”

A pause.

“Hmm? Dennis, what-”

“Sorry, I…”

Okay. They aren’t going to do a great job of playing it cool.

Dennis feels he needs to say SOMETHING in acknowledgment of this space but doesn’t know where to begin. Charlie goes to the bad room for lots of reasons, of course—such as Dennis himself, unbeknownst to Dennis. Again, there are a LOT of reasons, and collectively they take up more of Charlie’s schedule then his Dennis Problem, but suffice to say for our purposes that Dennis—more specifically, the Dennis Problem—lives in Charlie’s head full time. It’s just…usually asleep, way off in a corner of his mind that he doesn’t often check in on. He can’t fathom why anyone would hunt down and battle that kind of shit, when it seems to do such a good job with waking up and finding Charlie on its own accord.

Dennis just glances around pointedly, then looks back to Charlie.

“Do you wanna talk about it?” The broadest question he could ask, the least judgmental thing he can think of even though his strongest urge is to berate his friend for throwing tantrums like a child. He doesn’t want to berate his friend. It’s just…a compulsion.

“No.” But Charlie’s voice is so soft, it’s as though not even is lungs are willing to back him up on that lie. He’s also just. Mortified.

“Do you plan on, like, staying up here a while? Or are you getting re-”

“Yeah, I…well, I will just say I don’t have plans to be anywhere else.”

“Do you want a beer?”

Charlie blinks at him. “What?”

“A beer, asshole. Would you like one.”

“Oh…um, s-sure?”

Dennis nods and lifts his arm to point nakedly at Charlie’s wounds. “That shit infected?”

“I- …I-, what?! I don’t know, I…Dennis what are you even doing up here?”

Dennis ignores him. “Hmm. Well. Maybe the first aid kit, just in case.”

And he turns tail, and leaves. Charlie’s brain vibrates.

**

He has spent the last seven or eight last years thinking that Dennis had forgotten about everything…about him. He’d occasionally chanced a glance at his friend when Dennis couldn’t catch him searching his face. Charlie had thought about that night nearly constantly, it sometimes it seemed. He couldn’t help but let some vague reference slip every time he and Dennis were alone and it slowly broke his heart every time Dennis pretended not to hear him. Losing that connection with Dennis, however obscure and brief it was…well, he felt himself going through the stages of grief. He had worked through most of it, but a big part of him had stayed behind in the anger phase. This wasn’t like dealing with his childhood shit; this situation was alive and happening to him, his heart being hardened like paint dries, him externalizing his feelings by projecting them elsewhere (and especially onto Mac). Dennis is still horrible to Mac, Charlie thinks. (He was horrible in a lot of ways, actually, but presumably we’ve all gotten the picture by now.)

Charlie had thought he and Dennis would be a bit closer after that night. For a while, he felt like they were. But Dennis became impassive to him soon enough, and whatever Charlie had felt before slowly crusted over into bitterness—which he then channeled into the anger and frustration he was driven to many days. They were a beautiful combination, really. A set of feelings so profoundly painful when simultaneously occurring that they were like a real forces of nature, multiplying the impacts of the others.

Hence, the bad room.

But Charlie didn’t explain any of this to Dennis when he walked in, because Charlie suddenly couldn’t move or breathe or see the room in focus. He couldn’t process what was happening at nearly the speed necessary to keep up. Now Dennis has gone from the room…apparently getting him (them both?) a beer. Charlie had been too stunned to say “no” when Dennis asked, but he’s also not sure he would’ve said “no” regardless.

**

Dennis returns with the items, cracking a beer for Charlie. With regards to the first aid…well, he’s realizing that any such task would involve closely examining his friend’s body, if not touching it, and it’s not that he doesn’t want to—it’s that he has worked so hard to forget that body. He can’t—well, shouldn’t—do it.

He finds himself aroused, which…fuck. He tosses the first aid kid on the floor in Charlie’s direction and slumps onto the floor next to him. Charlie doesn’t say anything, which Dennis takes as tacit consent for him to stay. It has been a long, long time since the night that they don’t talk about, and the façade shows no signs of dropping.

"So this…” Dennis waives his hand, “is all you?”

“Yep.”

“Damn, dude.”

“Yeah.”

“I, uh…I feel you there, buddy. Heh.”

“…Whatever you say, ‘buddy.’”

“Seriously though.” Dennis clears his throat and tries to move past it. Charlie thinks he’s making light of it, so he changes course entirely.

“Say,” he gestures around the room again, as though it would justify the question he was about to ask, “did you ever…like…fight? Did you get into fights, I mean? In high school? Or…now, I guess?” He winces a little, worried it will somehow be obvious that his blood is rushing as he drinks in this atmosphere and lets himself imagine Charlie being so…untethered.

Luckily, Charlie doesn’t flinch at the question. Instead, he looks Dennis dead in the eyes.

“Yes. I’ve been in fights.”

There’s obviously a lot that Charlie is leaving out, almost like a challenge, but that’s all it takes to solicit a near-silent hum from Dennis’s chest.

Oh shit. It was audible.

Charlie cocks an eyebrow. “It’s kind of weird that you don’t know that, dude.” Dennis blushed—he did remember, a bit, but about 70% of his question was an effort to get Charlie talking about it.

So naturally, he recoiled entirely.

“Well, sorry I don’t follow your life like a soap opera, bro.

Charlie looks at him for a few beats before turning his head away. “Whatever, Dennis. You asked.” He takes a long drink from his beer, eyes fixed determinedly at the wall. He was flushed—a combination of alcohol, embarrassment, anger, and—oh, fuck—arousal.

When they’d been settled back into drinking their beers in silence for several minutes, Charlie finally ventures the question.

“How did you know about this place?” Charlie had not used his voice much at all in several hours and it had a rasp to it, not to mention how softly he was speaking, so Dennis had to let his words echo for a second before he could make them out. Dennis must have stayed silent for a few beats too long because Charlie growls at him.

“What, have you been fucking following me or something?” Charlie follows up a sharp, cold laugh at his own words—using humor to sort of dismiss the question even as he asks it. Obscure the fact that he actually wants to know. That he gives a fuck.

“No! No, nothing like that.”

Dennis sighs. Might as well be honest.

“Mac mentioned something about it a while back.”

Charlie’s body stiffens at the mention of Mac. He does not approve of Dennis and Mac’s relationship, whatever the fuck that even looks like. He knows mostly that it makes both of them very miserable and makes Dennis look very ugly and makes Mac look very beaten-down.

He plunks his beer down on the floor next to him and cups his face in both hands, elbows on his knees, releasing a large breath and rubbing his face with his palms.

“Well, then.”

**

Today...2019 whatever

Charlie gasps and sits upright on the office couch, abandoning the position mirroring the one he’d sat in that day.

He hasn’t thought about this in a long, long time. He almost forgot. He can’t believe he almost forgot.

**

2006

They quickly work their way through a few more beers in another similar silence. Charlie still cannot for the life of him figure out a reason for Dennis to be sitting in his bad room right now. And Dennis had decided not to offer an explanation, not for his motives for tracking Charlie down nor for his continuing presence at Charlie’s side, now that he was here.

Among the other limited information he had was that Dennis was currently half-hard in his pants—something Charlie had taken note of before Dennis sat down and subtly monitored as they’d been sitting here. It’s pretty hard to be subtle as he glances again. Dennis’s hard-on had not gone down. It may have even gotten harder.

The man must also be sweating pheromones like it was his job, because that’s all it takes for Charlie’s imagination to wander. But he can feel Dennis monitoring him in return, so he clears his throat for no reason as he readjusts his sitting position, on the verge of saying any old thing just to clear the tension in the atmosphere. Move this along. Get Dennis out of his hair so he can smash these new beer bottles in peace. Fucking bastard. Seriously, what is he playing at?

Before he can do that, Dennis scoots fully into a new position, facing Charlie. Their eyes meet. Charlie’s legs had just slid down to stick straight out in front of him, and Dennis now sits with his legs folded to one side, leaning his weight on one hand—a hand which he’d reached to position on the floor on the other side of Charlie’s legs. Boxing him in, almost. Charlie feels his pulse jump and wills his cock in vain not to respond.

 

Was this it? Were they finally going to talk about it?? Charlie waits for Dennis to open his mouth and say something—for him to finally respond to every faint SOS signal Charlie has sent him over the years. For him to tell him he isn’t crazy, that Dennis has also gone mad with wondering all this time, just as Charlie has.

…Maybe even for him to pour his heart out, if he has one—Charlie honestly doesn’t know the answer to that. He doesn’t want to make assumptions, and he’s not entirely sure that everyone would necessarily need a heart to get down with what they did that night.

And just because his heart was a wreck over it, that doesn’t mean… Like, maybe there’d been nowhere for all that hurt to land in Dennis—which would’ve been the case, if Dennis indeed has no heart.

These were all the things on Charlie’s mind when his attention is pulled in by the brush of a hand over his thigh.

Charlie automatically begins opening his mouth to say something, but realizes he has nothing, so it turns into more of a gasp with no release. His lips are left in a small “o” that draws Dennis’s stare down from Charlie’s eyes immediately.

“Charlie, I…” he lets his hand come to rest atop Charlie’s thigh and looks down at it while he thinks about his next few words. He wets his lips and swallows.

“I’m sorry for saying that. The thing, whatever it was. About not paying attention to your life. I…honestly, I was just trying to be a dick when I said it. Fact is, I do remember, and I think I may have been trying to get you to, like. Tell me about them. Your fights. “

But as soon as he raises his face to look for Charlie’s reaction he finds that another person has occupied the space his was meant to occupy, because Charlie has dived in and attached his lips to Dennis’s, abandoning everything else he thought and felt and knew about himself and Dennis, and the risks and stupidity of this situation. Charlie was not able to follow Dennis’s gibberish at all, but his timid demeanor and look of shame…Fuck, it was hot.

Charlie is slightly uncomfortable because his hands remained at his sides, refusing to support the cause of kissing Dennis by perhaps grabbing hold of the man’s face, head, or other body part within range in order to bring him closer—he’s almost too far away, but then Dennis leans in.

He doesn’t need the hands keeping him there. This isn’t what he’d planned on, nor the reason he’d come looking for Charlie, but the moment he entered the room today he had become overwhelmed with memories. Hell, he has been drowning in all the What-If’s he thought he’d escaped for good.

“Fuck. Sorry. Sorry.” Now Charlie’s arms shoot out, bracing Dennis at a distance as he pulls away roughly.

“That wasn’t-” It was, though. Charlie’s got nothing. No impulse control, and no excuses.

“Ahh fuck. I… didn’t I, I interrupted you, yeah? Sorry—what were you gonna say?”

Charlie really is frustrated. His lizard brain had jumped the gun as he sat there for all of twelve seconds waiting for Dennis to speak. Right now, the brush of a feather could set him off.

Dennis can see how clearly rattled Charlie indeed is. That wasn’t a drunk kiss. And Charlie’s not…embarrassed, like it was a dumb mistake. He simply looks upset, about something real.

Dennis also observes how desperately Charlie is looking at him. Charlie is straining to look composed, but it’s hopeless—he has never in his life managed to reign in his expressive eyes, restless eyebrows.

“Oh. Uh, nothing. You sort of summed it up, actually…”

And Dennis is already leaning back in as he speaks those words that he hopes will get them back to it. “It.” His non-plan.

He and Charlie had barely spoken a word to each other, and this was just sort of happening, and truth be told, Dennis is drunker than he seems. He shoved all his hesitation to the back of his mind the moment he saw this other option.

Alcohol loves the most immediately gratifying option, not the smartest one.

But Charlie is pushing him back, his face now twisted ineffably with pain.

“Goddamn it. Whatever, man. Okay.”

“What?”

But Charlie’s talking over him, still shoving at him with both hands.

“Why don’t you just get the FUCK out of here, Dennis?”

“Mmm, why don’t you make me…” Dennis, unable to comprehend why Charlie is reacting this way suddenly, is still under the impression that this could happen…he thinks he just needs to entice Charlie with a challenge. He surges forward, pushing Charlie’s arms away and smashing his lips into Charlie’s as quickly as possible. When Charlie’s arms relax, Dennis uses his own freed hands to bring Charlie close, one hand on the back of his head, one on his cheek.

Charlie squeezes his eyes shut with a crumpled whimper and reciprocates, grabbing Dennis roughly by the jaw and returning the forceful kiss.

For two—no—three seconds.

“NO dude, goddamn it, don’t-...AGH…fine! If you thought I was kidding, fine! I’ll be the one to get the fuck out.”

Charlie pushes Dennis away and is on his feet in a second, pulling at his t-shirt and stepping foot to foot because they’d fallen asleep at some point. “What is your problem, dude?! Why the fuck are you even up here? Do you even--DENNIS, do you even REALIZE--”

He balls his fists and holds them against his eyes, head tilted back like he’s praying for the patience to finish that sentence, but instead gives a frustrated roar.

“Nope. Fuck this. I’m out of here. Enjoy…the space…” he said, gesturing grandly around him as he marched off, “…someone should, right?…I recommend SMASHING those FUCKING BOTTLES in the CORNER if you’re gonna do it at all because OTHERWISE YOU MIGHT GET GLASS IN YOUR FEET…”

Charlie’s voice is getting fainter as he disappears into the vents. Mulling over Charlie’s words, Dennis realizes he was just issued safety tips for proper use of the bad room. By the very person who had stormed out on him. The person who was making it very clear to Dennis that he wanted nothing to do with him.

“…..and LEAVE ME ALONE.” The end of Charlie’s tirade was largely muffled out but for those last words.

**

Today...2019, whatever

Well fuck. Charlie has long since stamped that out in his mind. He had it filed the experience under “worst things Dennis has ever done,” because was fully under the impression that Dennis had been fucking with him. He’d thought maybe Dennis had just been rejected by Mac, so he came looking for consolation…or maybe was just drunk and horny and wanted to put on a show…but Charlie had never, ever thought to consider the other possibility.

That Dennis had wanted him. That maybe Dennis’s stupid questions had been related to that fact.

Charlie feels a surge of anger and sadness. He’ll address that second part later. (He won’t.)

In the meantime, he knows what he has to do. Well. Some of it. Vague idea. Okay. He’s mostly going to improvise.

He shakes the dust and cobwebs from his brain, rolls his shoulders, and stands tall to take a few deep breaths. Opening his eyes, he grabs his jeans on a whim and tugs them on, then swipes his little piece of glass off the desk before opening the office door.

Chapter Text

Dennis is a sight to behold, sitting there on the ledge of the pool table. His hands tucked beneath his thighs and his feet swinging slightly, he’s staring hard at the floor.

God, doesn't he look beautiful though.

In another universe, Charlie is taking this at a leisurely pace, admiring and toying with the man in front of him for hours. Maybe that Charlie will tie Dennis up so he can step back and appreciate his handiwork in its entirety. And then maybe that Charlie will trace Dennis’s body from place to place with his eyes (and his hands…and his mouth); pausing to admire the moments now encapsulated in a swollen lip, maybe, or a bite mark, or a smattering of bruises. That Charlie will take his time and recount those moments endlessly. He isn’t torn in half by the urge to run, and isn’t already hoping to forget this.

That sounds nice. It sounds like other-universe Charlie is having a swell time.

This Charlie leans against the door frame and wonders what time it is. This Charlie takes a slow breath and notes again how sober he's feeling. How long have they been here? Doing some quick mental math—a kind they don't teach in school, a type of algebra known only to addicts and ravers and burn-outs—he mentally eyeballs how much of that whiskey he drank and tries to remember if he's eaten anything today (which day though, literally which day though), runs quickly through a list of everything they'd done since he last drank...then carry the 1, and…

Right. He still doesn't know when now is, but he trusts the formula confirming that it would make sense for him to be past a lot of the alcohol in his system. Not all of it, but as someone who's not sober for most of his interactions with people (especially Dennis), he's feeling very…in his head.

This is why he does drugs, get it? To keep from getting too “in touch” with himself. His self can't handle shit like this. And honestly? The longer they’re at this, the less Charlie understands about what exactly is happening here. He and Dennis legitimately hate each other. They do. They DO.

Right?

Charlie’s brain vibrates. (That’s what happens when too many things try to sort themselves in his mind at once, too many feelings or ideas.)

Don’t be stupid about this. Just…stop trying to connect the dots. There’s no constellation here.

As Charlie approaches Dennis, he sees Dennis’s eyes flicker down to his hips. He can feel Dennis watching them as he walks. It’s a familiar sensation.

That’s right. Eat it up, you piece of shit.

He always knows when Dennis is watching him.

Dennis parts his legs once Charlie stands before him, letting him in closer without needing to be asked (or told). Charlie manages to keep his gaze steady, but his hands tremble just a bit on their way to settle atop Dennis’s thighs. He simply rests them there.

“Tell me three things you want me to do to you right now. ”

Dennis’s mouth drops open just a touch and he blushes, clearly unprepared to be presented with choices of any kind.

“Kiss me…?” Softly, and tentatively, like he doesn’t quite believe he actually has this power right now.

Charlie had been hoping that Dennis’s first request would be a hard slap across the face or something, but as Charlie leans in to kiss him as requested, he’s happy Dennis went this route. He’d told Dennis to choose three things so he could get a read on where his head is at, so this should also be worrying, but goddamn…it’s as satisfying as they’ve been all night, this kiss.

I mean, how the hell can someone’s LIPS feel so nice? Jesus-fucking-Christ, they’re just…they move with his so instinctively, so earnestly, easily shifting against his to fill the gaps, punctuated occasionally with the nicest flick of a tongue or light nip—it’s a very particular sort of kiss. Meandering. Thorough.

Like the only agenda is to get to know the lay of the land—prospective tenants exploring the neighborhood before making the decision to settle.

Dennis reaches his hands to cup Charlie’s face, but they are intercepted and brought to rest instead on Charlie’s chest beneath Charlie’s own. (If Dennis doesn’t ask, Dennis can’t touch.)

Charlie breaks the kiss, but he creates so little space between them that he’s speaking into Dennis’s lips, almost, and oh my god his eyes are closed... (Dennis thrills at the ways Charlie seems affected by this moment.)

“Okay. Second thing.”
“Bite me. Please bite me.”

Charlie releases one of Dennis’s hands and reaches out with his fingertips to brush Dennis’s throat.

“Here?”
“Yesss…please, please…”

Dennis starts whining the moment Charlie begins to lean in; his nerves are so lit up that even the brush of Charlie’s soft hair against his jaw or a puff of air along his collarbone is enough to send him reeling right now.

The anticipation, however, is nothing compared to the real thing.

Charlie enjoys the sensation of Dennis’s moans pouring over him in waves. It’s all he can hear as he gently glides his tongue across that marked spot, presses in a quick kiss, then opens wide and—

Dennis’s reaction goes STRAIGHT to Charlie’s cock because of course it’s not enough that he gets to sink his teeth into fragile skin (tasting of sweat and a bitter hint of aftershave, then a new tang that tells him he’s made Dennis bleed just a little). No, of course it’s not enough to be battling those overwhelming, rapid sensations—Charlie ALSO has to suffer the way Dennis’s heart is thumping against his own chest, the way Dennis’s grip on his hips tightens in response to the pain, and the way everything is compounding on everything else and making him sweat.

As he sucks at Dennis’s skin, he glides a hand up and over his chest, his fingers finally curling past Dennis’s collarbone over his shoulder but his thumb coming to rest at that soft dip at the base of Dennis’s throat, just above his sternum and below his Adam’s apple. He presses gently into the flesh, not enough to hurt or restrict his breathing, but to simply suggest something more. Charlie makes it feel like a it’s a trigger he’s deciding whether to pull.

Charlie ignores Dennis’s whimpering as he pulls away, wiping his mouth with the back of his hand.

“Okay. Third thing.”

Dennis hesitates and looks to where his hands have taken up residence on Charlie’s hips.

“Tell me it’s okay to ask you a question.”

Charlie’s eyes pop open. He clears his throat.

That’s not…that wasn’t… Fuck. I guess that counts. Whatever, Fucking word chess. God damn it.

“…Okay, um. You’re not guaranteed an answer. But what’s your question?”
“When did you give yourself these?”

Dennis dares to trace his fingers along the slash mark scars on Charlie’s hips, ordinarily hidden.

“Which ones?”

Charlie’s voice sounds like a challenge. Dennis trembles at his core and looks up slowly to meet Charlie’s eyes. They’re electrified. His expression is inscrutable.

“I, oh. Umm.”

But Charlie isn’t actually expecting an answer. He has already compulsively brought his hands to his face, palms covering his eyes, because that’s what he typically does when his brain vibrates as it is now—he needs to either block out or busily occupy at least one of his senses when he’s asked important questions or his thoughts that get too big.

“Different times. Different places…18 years ago, 17 years ago, 12 years ago, 5 years ago, 3 years ago, March. No, February. And um…” he trails off and crosses his arms in front of him and glares at the wall, demanding information from it, “…and, I mean, the bad room…the bathroom, the basement, my apartment. Not in that order.” Charlie’s eyes flick to Dennis’s and away just as quickly. “And your apartment, once.”
“You really know which ones happened when?” (Dennis puts off his second question for later.)
“Yep.”
“…You can seriously keep track of all that?”

A dangerous expression crosses Charlie’s face. He runs wraps the fingers of one hand in Dennis’s curls and pulls, hard.

“Yes. Yes I can, Dennis. Is there a reason why I shouldn’t? You don’t think I have the capacity to hold something so goddamn fucking important in my memory that long?”

**

They’ve been at their newly-leased building night and day, cleaning up the place and making it into at least a half-convincing Irish pub…but more often than working, they’re just drinking and bullshitting. Today, Charlie has been listening to Dennis blathering on about some chick he’s been banging to a completely entranced Mac for god knows how long, and he can no longer stand it. Mac and Dennis fail to notice as Charlie grabs the bottle of whiskey they’ve been working through and slips away. He hasn’t explored the vents yet. Maybe he’ll find some quiet place to drink in peace. The way Dennis and Mac have been dancing around the shit between them recently…it makes Charlie feel ill, makes his body tense with anxiety. A few hours later he’s pacing around what will become the bad room and he’s just run out whiskey. His mood has grown darker, and out of the swirling eddy of his mind, a memory surfaces of an old habit, one from when he and Mac were kids. He looks at the empty bottle in his hand before hurling it at the wall in the opposite corner of the room. Is there anything more satisfying? Another hour later, he’s flipping a shard of the whiskey bottle between his fingers, studying the drop of red shining on its pointed tip. His full attention has shifted elsewhere for once, away from his friends or the bar or shit in the past.

**

They’ve been open for business just over a year, and Charlie could’ve predicted the clientele they draw in—day drinkers, solo drinkers, quiet and stoic drinkers. Dennis and Mac have spent the better part of an hour brainstorming ways to get more women in the door and it’s devolved into a series of fantasies about the women themselves and Charlie quickly finds himself back in the bad room. // He hates who Dennis is pretending to be. He hates that Dennis treats him different when no one else is around. He hates that they never…talked about it. That thing that happened. He hates that it feels like nothing but a dream, now. He hates not knowing if Dennis thinks about it too. He wonders if Dennis also feels tinges of longing when they’re alone. He wonders if Dennis’s brain vibrates like this too if he feels this too if he turns it in on himself too… // Now Charlie sits with his elbows on his knees, and then he couldn’t move or breathe or see the room in focus because Dennis just walked in and Charlie can’t process what’s happening at nearly the speed necessary to keep up and then Dennis left…apparently to get him (them both?) a beer. Charlie was too stunned to say “no” when Dennis asked, but he’s also not sure he would’ve said “no” regardless. He hates that Dennis found him but he hates THAT even more. His inability to say no. When Charlie finally takes back control of himself, they’ve been drinking on the floor for too long and he shoves Dennis away and is on his feet in a second, pulling at his t-shirt and stepping foot to foot because they’d fallen asleep at some point. He’s yelling at Dennis, and then he’s storming out—he’s compulsively pulling at his t-shirt the whole time. Can’t let Dennis see. He hates that he feels ashamed.

**

They’ve had such a good day. Charlie and Dennis went on a wild goose chase, trying to hunt down this asshole who shushed them at a gin bar the other night. They had a hell of a time. They were good detectives. Good at hunting for answers. Good at drinking gin at 11:30 AM at actual gin bars, if push came to shove. Charlie feels at a certain point like finding the man who shushes faded into the background and became nothing but an excuse to keep hanging out. Charlie hates having good days with Dennis. No, he loves them…he really loves them in the moment but knows he won’t think any of this was worth it when he’s spending the next few weeks replaying every single moment in his head over and over, anxiety-wracked, wondering if anything meant anything.

**

They’ve escaped a nightmare, sounds like. The rest of the gang got stranded in the woods, but he and Dennis ran together…and he can’t believe how good of a night they’ve had. He won all that money. He gave a speech as Frank and they met Chase Utley and drank everything in the world and wrestled…Christ. They’re flying home on a private jet. They’re still blasted. Charlie wants to dive and pin him against the floor, yank his tux off, throw their bodies around so hard the plane rocks. He can’t do any of that. And now he can’t wait to get back to his apartment and channel this bubbling emotion into a pain he can actually contain, a shape of pain he can process.

**

“No! Charlie, no, that’s not what I meant, I’m sorry, I-”
“Bullshit. I know you think I’m stupid. You’ve made that perfectly clear for, I don’t know…years now?” He flips the glass between his fingers absentmindedly, keeping his hands busy so the rest of him has enough space to think. “And crazy. You think I’m crazy. You…”

Charlie pauses, suddenly—and appropriately—overcome with bewilderment. He screws up his face, his eyes flicking back and forth; Dennis can tell he’s switching between eyes, trying to glean answers from one if he doesn’t find them behind the other.

You think I’m crazy.” He shakes his head, eyes wide. When he speaks again, his voice is higher. Softer. Charlie hears himself and suppose it does match what he’s feeling, which is to say, both astonished and desperate.

“You’ve treated me like shit for YEARS, Dennis, like I’m NOTHING…and you’re gonna try and make me buy this shit now? That…that’s not what you MEANT? You…you seriously…”

“Char-…”

But Charlie isn’t finished.

“…even though I thought…weren’t we friends?…and you just fuckin’…and there was no way I could…GOD, Dennis, do you even realize…?”

The same partial question Charlie had asked when he shouted at Dennis in the bad room. He hadn’t invited an answer, he knew the answer was no, and he just had to get out, he had to run, he couldn’t take it if he waited for Dennis to speak and Dennis just sputtered and stared he just couldn’t take it he wouldn’t be able to take it.

He’s not shouting now.

“I mean, jesus fucking christ, after everything…you seriously think I wouldn’t remember…? Have you been walking around thinking that I’ve FORGOTTEN? You really think I don’t…goddamnit, you really think…”

Dennis feels like he’s suffocating as he watches Charlie’s face twist. He can’t contain himself.

“NO! God…oh god…fuck. Charlie.”

Dennis’s eyes shine and he turns his head deliberately to look off to the side, then down with the floor. Charlie sees a few fall before Dennis sniffs and looks back up at him.

“I’m sorry,” he whispers.
“Fuck off, Dennis.”
“I mean it. Please. I really am.”
“I’ve seen your sex tapes, dude. I know when you’re pulling some shit. Don’t make this…don’t fucking do this, man.”
“Oh god, please, Charlie, no…I’m not doing anything, please believe me. I’m sorry. I’m really, honestly sorry for…” Say it, Dennis. “…for everything. For all of it.”

Charlie wants to tell him to shut the fuck up, but he can’t. It’s his turn to be paralyzed. His heart is in his throat and he can feel the tears pooling up behind his eyes. He tries to take a deep breath but can’t control the shakiness. All he can do is listen.

Chapter Text

“I hate it, Charlie. I know you have absolutely no reason to believe me, but I really hate it. It…”

How can Dennis explain the way he blacks out for hours at a time? The way he’ll be rolling along, easy like Sunday morning, and some tiny thing out of nowhere hits him like a defibrillator, spiking his already-beating heart with extreme, mistargeted emotion, and then after that…sometimes, after that, he’s got nothing. He loses whole days.

“Sometimes I feel like I have no control over anything I do. Or say. I mean, it will just feel like…I’m watching everything happening from a distance, watching myself, and I can’t get close enough to snap myself out of it. I hate it, and it scares the shit out of me.” Dennis’s voice is strengthening, no longer a whisper. He’s trying as hard as he can to speak with conviction, despite never—ever—having been this open about anything before. “It just gets worse and worse. I swear to christ. And it’s just…it’s no fucking excuse. I’m just scared. Too scared try and change it.”

**

Charlie doesn’t want to believe Dennis, but the shit he’s talking about…it’s the kind of shit where you either get it or you don’t. There’s no way to communicate this shit to someone who doesn’t fucking get it. And if you get it, odds are, you’ve been there…and holy fucking shit is Dennis speaking Charlie’s language.

Charlie’s memory has days-long gaps sometimes, too. It goes like—something happens, and his lizard brain decides to take over for a bit. Never seems like he misses anything important, but he doesn’t mean to be so wild.

**

“But all that…shit…aside,” Dennis swallows, “…I haven’t, um. Fuck. I haven’t forgotten either, Charlie. I’m s-”
“Don’t fucking say you’re sorry again, so help me. Don’t do it.”

Dennis opens his mouth, closes his mouth, and nods. Then he opens his mouth again, and Charlie almost pities the creature in front of him.

“Go ahead. What is it.”

Dennis rubs his hands in slow, soft circles around Charlie’s hips.

“Did…did this ever have anything to do with me?”

Breathing out a faint “god…”, Charlie squeezes his eyes shut. “You really have no idea, do you? Okay…okay. Let’s start with this.” Charlie opens his eyes and stares directly into Dennis’s.

Fuck it. You never thought there would be another night like this. There’s literally nothing to lose. You don’t even have a real friendship to try and save. You chose this moment. Do it, coward.

“After what…happened…have you been thinking about it ever since?”

Dennis nods. He looks afraid.

“How often? I mean, in all this time since then…how often have you thought about it?”

Dennis opens to answer but doesn’t get the chance.

“How often,” Charlie marvels at himself as he leans in to growl in Dennis’s ear, “have you thought about me, hmm? How often have you suddenly remembered that night out of nowhere and been powerless except to wait for the thought to go away? How often…how often have you seen me and had to just…shut everything down? Is that why you’ve been such a fucking bastard, hmm?”

Charlie pulls away enough to meet Dennis’s eyes again. The man is pale.

“How often have you thought about…this…and wished things were different? Wished you could have more? …How often have you dreamed about me, Dennis?”

Charlie waits. It’s practically imperceptible when Dennis whimpers, and not much more audible when he replies.

“God, Charlie. I don’t know, um. A lot. I’m sorry, I can’t—I…just, a lot. You can’t imagine—”
“I can, actually,” Charlie cuts him off sharply. He waits a beat, then resets. “Okay, great. Now: imagine all that, going through all that…having that in your head, feeling so alone, feeling like you must be crazy, and just not knowing…”

Charlie summons as much poison and resentment as he can from a decades-deep reservoir.

“And then imagine, on top of everything, also having to deal with you.”

Charlie is not going to cry.

“Carrying that shit around while just…while you’re also getting treated like shit and you have no idea why. Can you imagine how it all would’ve felt if you’d had all this in the back of your mind and, just to pile on, I suddenly became a huge fucking bastard to you? If I’d fucking turned on you and…and stopped even treating you like a person?”

Charlie is not going to cry.

“So, let’s see—DID it have anything to do with you? What the fuck? I don’t know, Dennis…what do you think?” He’s notgoing to cry. “I kind of can’t believe you have to ask that question right now.”

**

Here’s the thing: Dennis didn’t know. With Dennis’s way of handling things, and he could’ve lived his whole life believing he exists in a vacuum. He knew Charlie could see and hear him, but he couldn’t actually put it together that anything Charlie was seeing or hearing could impact him at all.

Dennis thinks this might be what “empathy” feels like, and he hates it. It hurts. God, it hurts, he doesn’t want to put himself in those shoes, he doesn’t want to feel what Charlie felt. He never made it this far in the therapy Dee tried to make him do after the whole Psycho Pete mix-up. He hadn’t made it past the first day.

***

The psychiatrist is surprised, pleased, and a little apprehensive to see Dennis again. “Did your sis—” he tries to ask, but Dennis cuts him off. “She’s in the waiting room.”

Those are the first 5 words of maybe 30 total that Dennis speaks while he’s there.

“This still isn’t for me, for the record. This is a fact-finding mission.” The doctor takes Dennis’s subsequent staring as an invitation to explain the type of therapy he had tried to recommend at their previous appointment…before Dennis had snatched the prescription sheet out of his hand and gotten to his feet. (“Thanks doc, appreciate your cooperation.”)

Dennis sits and learns about dialectical behavioral therapy and withholds any reaction. He waits until the psychiatrist is finished, then clears his throat. “Okay. Well. Seems like pretty basic stuff. Who…who do you send to do this shit? Why would anybody need that?”

The psychiatrist focuses on responding using only the third person, dipping around anything that might implicate the man glowering dangerously at him.

He runs through what the diagnostic manual has to say about borderline personalities, the criteria, and prevailing professional commentary on the subject. Then he explains the mechanisms of the disorder—where it comes from, why, how. The fact that it’s not genetic, that it’s not inborn. How, when a child becomes traumatized (“could be one or two big events, could be feelings of rejection amongst peers, or being ignored by one’s parents—or maybe the opposite, getting lots of attention but only when it comes to their accomplishments and titles…”), it can permanently shape the way a person behaves…reacts…relates to people…the way that person conceives of themselves…the way it can instill in them an inflexible view of Themselves, the World, and the Way Things Work, and What Things Mean.

And that it’s not that person’s fault—that it traps people in patterns of damaging thoughts and behaviors and can impact every aspect their lives.

That’s why he recommends DBT:

“There is no way to just ‘fix’ it, but with the right support—personal, medical—people can retrain their brains. It’s about examining one’s life and finding the ways we subconsciously self-sabotage, then figuring out ways to get our brains to be kinder to us. That’s right: to us, first and foremost. It’s not about changing who we are as a person—we are more than the patterns we’ve gotten stuck in. It’s about empowering our best self to come forward and no longer getting in our own way. Does that make sense, Mr. Reynolds?”

“Yeah, that’s great stuff, doc. I’ll pass it along.”

Dennis does not like mirrors. He doesn’t like having a reflection…he doesn’t like seeing that other person standing there, looking him dead in the eye, looking at him all knowingly. Dennis hates look in the mirror because he hates being forced to realize that other people can probably see him, too. Dennis leaves and does not return.

***

(“I kind of can’t believe you have to ask right now.”)

“Can’t you?”
“Actually yeah, I guess I can.”
“Well…so, yeah. Good. So, please try to believe me, then…I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to.”

Charlie is fucking exhausted of this.
“Sorry for what?” He rubs his face. “Jesus christ. I can’t fucking deal with this. Get on the fucking pool table. Lay back.”

Dennis’s breath catches. “Really?”
“Um. Yes. Why…?”
“I—” Really gonna lay it out there like this, Dennis? “…I was afraid you were going to leave.”
“Oh. I’m…not.”

Ummm.

Charlie wraps another fist in Dennis’s curls and pulls him in. “This isn’t over until I say it’s over.” He draws a long moan from Dennis when he kisses him and immediately bites his bottom lip, tugging on it before mutter. “So are you gonna get on the fucking pool table, or am I going to make you get on the fucking pool table?”
“I’m gonna…I want to…please, yes.”

He’s panting lightly when Charlie releases him, and he scrambles to obey. He stretches out on his back and waits.

The moment Charlie is hovering over him, his knees bracketing Dennis’s hips, Dennis forgets himself—he’s grabbing, trying to pull Charlie down, trying to get a good hold, trying to undo the button of his jeans. It makes Charlie’s heart pound and he almost wants to give into it but it’s not time, so he restrains Dennis by the wrists.

“No touching.”
“Please Ch-”
“No. No touching.”
“Fuck, I…don’t know if I’ll be able to help it.”

Charlie has an idea and leans further over Dennis, pushing his hands back with his own, sliding them up along the pool table until Charlie’s practically laying on top of him and their hands have reached—

“Here. Hang onto the ledge. I’m not going to fucking bind your wrists, okay? Just try…try and have some self-control. You’re as good as tied up right now, okay? Because…I am telling you to stay like this.”
“I can’t. What if I can’t.”
“You can. Do it for me.

Charlie isn’t sure if it’s the encouragement that gets to Dennis, or the personal appeal, but either way, Dennis nods anxiously. “Okay,” he whispers.

It’s probably the former. Of course Dennis likes being praised and encouraged, and of course he doesn’t actually care about Charlie’s approval specifically.

It’s as though Dennis can hear Charlie’s thoughts. He speaks (without permission) as Charlie cranes his neck downward to nip teasingly at his earlobe.

“You were wrong, before, by the way.”
“Oh yeah? About what?”
“…I wouldn’t let ‘anyone’ do this to me.”

Charlie buries his face in Dennis’s neck to hide the flush he feels coming on.

“……Yeah, right.”
“No, I mean it. I’ve tried. Repeatedly. Couldn’t do it.”
“Oh, yeah? And why’s that?”
“You know why.”
“…………You like being in control.”
“I have to have control.”
“Over everyone. And everything.”
“Yeah.”

In that moment, Charlie glides his tongue up along Dennis’s throat so-so softly, and Dennis contorts in response, his spine twisting and hips bucking. He’s about to stutter out a moan but it breaks up in his chest when he feels the sting of a pointed blade against his skin.

“But not me. Is that it?”
“YES...”
“Uh-huh.”

Charlie pushes himself up with one hand and looks at Dennis. “You mean, you wouldn’t let a stranger do this?” Then he drags the sharp glass edge along the underside of Dennis’s collarbone.

Dennis is panting and can barely keep his eyes open, wanting so badly to throw his head back with pleasure…with pain…wanting to throw it back just to throw it back, really. Give Charlie more room to work.

How fucked up is that? Where’s your fight-or-flight?

“Ex…exactly,” he says, once Charlie has lifted the glass from his skin, both of their gazes flicking between the eyes and lips of the other.

“I’m being honest Charlie…I’d never done this before, back when…” he swallows instead of finishing that thought, “…so. But, I tried. I met up with people sometimes. And then I always just…left.”

“Is that so?”

Dennis can only choke out a “yes” as Charlie sucks a bruise at the end of the fresh red line he drew.

Ohhhh right. The fight-or-flight radar never dings when it’s Charlie.

 

“…then why didn’t you come to me.”

Charlie wishes he hadn’t let that slip, but there it was, whispered directly into the skin of Dennis’s chest. This really is a fuck it sort of moment, isn’t it?

Duh.

“Then why…” he pinches one of Dennis’s nipples sharply and rolls it between his fingers, enjoying the way it draws his back into an arch, “…why didn’t you talk to me instead.”

Charlie is suddenly afraid Dennis will answer, and he already knows the answer—he figured it out WELL over a decade ago—and he really does not need to hear it out loud.

So he shoves three fingers in Dennis’s mouth.

And based on Dennis’s reaction, Charlie decides he’ll eventually need to let somebody shove three fingers in his own mouth. At some point. For science.

He especially likes the way it makes Dennis’s cock throb itself halfway back to hardness. Charlie’s glad Dennis is so easy to distract. He pushes himself up and kneels over Dennis again, watches him unravel over his own powerlessness. He’s choking around Charlie’s fingers for a moment then tries to close his mouth around them but Charlie won’t let him—presses down on his tongue and shoves his fingers too deep for him to manage it.

Charlie withdraws when Dennis’s eyelids start to flutter, and after allowing him to cough a few times, he replaces his hand around Dennis’s throat

“You must feel really free right now, huh?” he asks, thoughtfully, while tightening his hand slightly.

Well that’s unexpected.

“No really, being a manipulative jackass must get exhausting. You’re always doing shit for appearances, aren’t you? Everything planned out five steps in advance, gotta make it look good after all.”

He lays a dull side of the glass between two of Dennis’s ribs and glides it over his skin with a good amount of pressure. A light pink line pillows up behind as he drags it along. The dull side is good for that. Charlie admires it for a moment then looks back to Dennis’s eyes.

“That’s why you crave this, right?”

How the fuck does Charlie just…know?

“You get to let go. You can get hurt, and humiliated, and it’s all out of your control, and it’s all you want out of life sometimes. You wanna not know what’s next. You wanna feel like you might be in actual danger.”

He tucks the glass in his pocket. Squeezes Dennis’s throat a little tighter with one hand. Softly runs the other hand through Dennis’s hair. Watches his own fingers weave in and out of the curls.

“Oh, Dennis. You couldn’t breathe earlier, could you?”

Charlie says this in a near-whisper, but he can’t keep quiet enough to hide his awe.

“You had me down your throat and didn’t try to push me away. Fuck, I mean…you held onto me…you pulled me closer-”

(Dennis lets out a long whine and thrusts his hips uselessly in the air)

“-even though you couldn’t fucking breathe. You still—you wanted me to keep fucking your mouth.” Charlie feels his heart beating high in his chest, and he’s glad he pulled his jeans on because he really doesn’t want to flatter Dennis with how hard he’s made himself thinking about this.

“You wanted to feel a little afraid, huh?” Charlie shakes his head.

“You’re a perv with a death wish, Dennis.”

But Charlie’s voice has a distinct note of respect in it. He releases Dennis’s throat and cups his face instead, stroking his cheekbone absentmindedly with a calloused thumb.

“Charlie…”

“Hmm?” Charlie hums pleasantly.

“Please…”

Charlie doesn’t ask what for. This was his goal. Dennis gasping, Dennis, jabbering, Dennis begging.

“Hmm.”

He distracts Dennis by leaning in and kissing him softly (frustratingly softly), so Dennis’s moans are especially wanton when he suddenly feels so much more skin-on-skin contact, and the caress of soft denim—when he suddenly feels one of Charlie’s legs forcing his apart and a thigh presses upward, when he also can’t help but immediately grind urgently into the pair of hips settling against his.

Charlie deepens the kiss and runs his hand greedily across Dennis’s chest, down his side, over his hips, then cupping his ass and pulling him closer, pressing their bodies tighter together. It’s driving him nuts, feeling Dennis thrusting against his clothed hips. He breaks the kiss to begin devouring Dennis’s neck, alternating to the side that’s less marked up and setting about fixing that.

“Fuck! Fuck, fuck…Charlie…”

“What.” He lifts away just enough to mumble one word coherently before reattaching himself to a soft spot just below Dennis’s jaw.

“As much as I like the title…fuck…no death wish here. That’s—AH!—that’s what I was trying to say…”

“What the fuck are you talking about.” He lays in with a bite—another distraction so Dennis won’t notice his one hand disappearing into his pocket.

“No actual danger…ahhHHH-” Dennis is cut off, bucking and twisting wildly when Charlie lays his fingertips across Dennis’s sternum then digs his nails in and drags them down his chest.

“No actual…what was that?”
“DANGER, god, Charlie, fuck…”

Dennis is gasping for breath and not about to back away. This is important. This is one of the more important things in Dennis’s life, actually. Or it could be. If he wanted. “I was saying, I did…I mean I thought about…I realized…”

Charlie now props himself up to listen to Dennis, which is the real distraction—his green eyes are just….—Dennis pauses and gathers himself.

“It just couldn’t be anyone but you.”
“Stop-”
“You’re dangerous, but I’m not in danger.”

Charlie closes his eyes.

“Is that so?”
“Yes! I…you…I mean, you scare me sometimes, a lot, but also you don’t actually because…I don’t think you’d hurt me.”
“I wouldn’t?”
“I trust you.”

(It’s worth noting that Dennis’s hands haven’t moved an inch from where Charlie put them.)

“…really?”
“Would you ever actually let me suffocate like that? From…what we were doing?”

Charlie rests his forehead against Dennis’s and takes a beat.

“Of course not.”
“I know. That’s why…”

Dennis clears his throat in the middle of his sentence and is grateful Charlie doesn’t seem to notice Dennis was stopping himself from crying.

“That’s why I like it.”

Charlie pulls away and when he meets Dennis’s eyes his brow is furrowed, face serious and sort of…sad. Dennis waits and hopes…god, he seriously hopes Charlie understands. He’s pretty sure he doesn’t have the capacity to explain it differently right now.

“Why did you come looking for me in the vents that day?”

Also unexpected.

“I really…don’t remember.”
“How could you not remember??”
“Honestly? I forgot why I was there the moment I walked in. Moment I saw you. Some work shit. Whatever it was, didn’t get finished. I dropped what I was doing.”
“Why the hell did you stay?”

Dennis squeezes his eyes shut.

“God, I don’t know…you know I’m no good at talking about this shit.”
“I know. That’s why I’m on top of you with a makeshift knife right now.”

Dennis’s lips curl into the tiniest, fondest smile.

“I suppose you’re right.”
“…Yeah.”

**

Charlie is grateful to be so skilled in the art of bullshitting someone because he’s being smooth enough to mess with Dennis while also—

Oh god oh god oh god this is bad, this is gonna be nothing but torture, why the fuck do I do this to myself…why can’t I say “no” to this, fuckfuckfuck get the fuck out of here right now, get out of here now before you have even more to stand around not talking about for the next 20 – 40 years. Fuck what he said earlier, he hasn’t told the truth in years and has no reason to start now. He already got what he wanted. I gave it to him. And I still…still am.

Even if I get him to talk, it won’t mean anything.

…Right?

Christ.

Okay…fuck it.