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Hurts Like Hell

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Hellboy disappeared the moment they walked through the doors of the BPRD.

Not literally, but Ben could see immediately that the mask of normality Hellboy had worn on their trip from England dropped the second he was home. He went silent almost mid-sentence, and during the next few minutes of paperwork and introductions to the facility, Hellboy abandoned Ben to the hands of the admins.

The journey to the States had been uneventful, and Ben had been surprised that no one really approached them to ask questions. In fact, apart from their initial debriefing, it felt like people were avoiding them. Hellboy seemed unfazed – like he was used to it – but Ben couldn't help feeling that this was the first wave of repercussion to news of his 'condition'.

After the events in London it was deemed in the best interest of all that M11 send an ambassador to the BPRD – to keep a line of communication open between the agencies. Which was a bureaucratic way of saying that Ben didn't want to leave the small group of friends he had unexpectedly made, and M11 owed him enough to not argue when he told them he would be accompanying Hellboy and the other agents back to America.

Alice had loose ends to tie up in London, but had promised to join them as soon as she was able.

(“I can't just drop everything and fly to the States, you wally. Life doesn't work like that for the rest of us, y'know? I've got friends, commitments… a credit card! I'll sort everything out and then you can send a plane, okay?”)

Ben had gotten a little conversation from Hellboy on the journey – mostly just the usual banter (although more friendly and good-natured than before) and superficial anecdotes.

But the conversations were almost always stunted in some way. Ben was reluctant to talk about his condition, and Hellboy didn't push the subject. A favour that was returned every time the topic of Professor Bruttenholm came up.

More times that Ben could count Hellboy had abruptly stopped in the middle of a story about his past exploits because his father's part in the tale had come up, and the next half an hour would be spent in tense quiet.

They were both going to need to talk to someone eventually, about everything. Probably someone professional, and probably soon. And definitely before either of them were allowed on active duty again. But it wasn't going to happen on that plane journey, and the both of them made it to the other end without any incidents.

Ben was given the tour of the headquarters in a perfunctory manner, and more than once he heard muttering about Hellboy's return, and Professor Bruttenholm's name seemed to be whispered everywhere. He himself got some looks, which his tried to ignore. His condition wouldn't be public knowledge, and the scars on his face were more than enough to draw people's eyes, but paranoia made his skin crawl nonetheless.

He was shown which areas he had access to, which he did not, and who to talk to for any requirements, before being shown to his quarters. They were modest; a desk, a bed, wardrobe, small en suit bathroom, and enough floor space for one man to stretch and exercise.

“You'll be called when we have your schedule, until then you're free to get to know the place and the people here,” the guide told him in a bored tone.

“Thanks,” Ben replied just as blandly and dismissed them with a nod before crossing to his bag to start to unpack his few clothes and belongings.

Over the next few days Ben set about getting comfortable in the compound and surreptitiously scoping out the people there. He explored all the areas he was allowed in, and sneaked looks into some he wasn't when there was a conveniently open doorway. The people were pleasant enough, but he wasn't looking to make more friends, and the few faces he recognised from the London team had about as much interest in making small talk as Ben did.

After 4 days he had seen neither hair nor hide of Hellboy, and it was beginning to make him doubt his decision to come there. The few mutterings he heard about the man implied that such quiet was a relief, and it was the general consensus that he had confined himself to his quarters upon return and had no interest in emerging.

Ben considered the idea of looking for the man himself, but put off the plan for now. He had no desire to intrude if Hellboy just wanted his time, nor any training to deal with whatever emotional state he might be in. He was sure the BPRD must have some sort of way of dealing with whatever Hellboy's needs were at that point anyway.

By virtue of jet lag and the lack of any active mission or schedule at all, Ben often found himself exploring the halls of the BPRD at unsociable hours. It was a surprise then, on night 5, to notice that there was some high activity as a handful of people rushed past him, muttering to each other with some urgency.

His curiosity was piqued, but it wasn't until another couple sped past casting furtive looks back down the way they had come that Ben decided to check it out.

As he rounded the corner he almost collided with a fast-moving scientist, and he threw out a hand to steady her.

“Wouldn't go down that way, if I were you,” she warned him as she freed herself from his hold, stepping around him with a wry smile.

“Big Red's tearing apart the gym from the sounds of it.” Then she was gone, and Ben looked back towards the way she had come from.

He slowed his breathing, and in the quiet he could just make out the echoes of crashing coming from down the hall. Ben knew where the gym was, he had used it himself a couple times, and knew it was busiest during the day. At this time it was likely to have been empty.

And if it wasn't, he assumed any other occupants had made themselves scarce by now.

As he got closer, the sounds got louder. They were intermittent; loud crashes followed by quieter noises or silence, and then crashing again. Closer still and he could hear recognisable yelling.

For a moment he stood outside the door, looking around to see if there was anyone else in the vicinity, but he was sure news was spreading amongst the night staff to avoid this area.

He frowned to himself, deciding whether he wanted to involve himself in whatever Hellboy was getting out, but a crash that shook the door frame and the ensuing roar made up his mind. With a steady hand he pushed through the door and stepped inside.

The large area inside was a mess, to put it mildly, and there had to be tens of thousands of dollars worth of damage done to the equipment by the raging half-demon. As well as the mangled exercise bikes, bent barbells, plates embedded in the brick wall, and upended racks, there was also, interestingly, sand strewn everywhere.

For a moment this incongruence confused Ben as he closed the door behind him and took in the scene. Then his eyes fell on Hellboy, two thirds of the room away and laying blow after frenzied blow onto a large and heavy punching bag, growling and sweating until the bag suddenly lurched and the grating sound of tearing metal screeched through the room.

Two of the four chains holding the bag to the ceiling had broken under the strain, and with a frustrated yell Hellboy grabbed the bag. He tore it the rest of the way from the ceiling before flinging it against the wall where it split and exploded from the impact, spraying more sand across the floor. Of the 10 bags Ben had observed last time he was there, this was the last but one still hanging.

“Hellboy!” Ben finally made his presence known as the bag slid to the floor, his tone sharp, scolding. This was going to take days to clear up, and the BPRD personnel were going to be out of a gym in the meantime.

“Go away, Daimio,” Hellboy snapped back immediately, not even sounding surprised that anyone was there. He hadn't turned to face Ben, but Ben could see as he stepped closer that his hair was a mess and his horns unkept, and his shoulders and back were defensively tensed as his tail thrashed back and forth in agitation.

“What's going on, Hellboy?” Ben asked, brows drawn together in a deep frown as he stepped to within a few meters of the other man, “You've disappeared for days, and now this?” It was unprofessional and thoughtless for Hellboy to do this, and Ben didn't know the BPRD well enough to know they would just roll with the behaviour.

“What's going on?” The words were so low a growl Ben almost missed them, but Hellboy repeated them anyway, “What's going on? I'll tell you what's going on, pal!”

He turned then, sharply meeting Ben's gaze with fiery eyes that were redder than usual, “How about the world nearly just ended?!” his voice rose in volume and he stomped forward, “How about my dad just died, huh? How about I just had to kill my one chance to be actually accepted and normal? My one chance to NOT be alone in this shitheap of a world! How about I'm back here and everyone's back to looking at me like I'm a… a… a demon?! Was it really all worth it, huh, Daimio?”

Ben stepped back as Hellboy approached, then again, and again as the man continued forward, getting more and more irate with each step and gesturing wildly and aggressively.

“Of course it was,” Ben snapped, dancing back over fallen debris that he nearly tripped on. But Hellboy continued to stalk towards him, and Ben wasn't sure if he had just got himself into a fight he hadn't planned for.

“WAS IT?!” Hellboy threw a chunk of machine out of the way to crash against the wall, before he reached out with his flesh hand as though to grab Ben, then stopped short.

Ben had flinched at the noise of the machine hitting the wall, and all of a sudden he was very noticeably trembling, his breathing abruptly laboured. But even still he maintained fierce eye contact with Hellboy, even as his eyes flashed feline golden. Ben could feel the way the adrenaline coursed through his system, how his muscles tensed and his scars itched, but he didn't dare look away from the man in front of him.

“Shit...” Hellboy's voice was immediately softer, eyes guilty as he lowered his hand, “Sorry. I didn't- I didn't mean to-” He appeared to deflate as the anger abruptly left him, and in its place there was only a visible and profound shame and sadness.

Ben closed his eyes and took a moment to breathe deep as he settle his spiked heart rate, but much to his surprise he was able to subdue the wild animal inside him after a few seconds. The threat had gone, and the jaguar was content to rest again.

“It's okay,” Ben told him when he had gathered himself, looking back to Hellboy and finding now that he wouldn't meet his eyes. Without the raging fury, Hellboy looked even more a mess; he was unshaven, shirtless and barefoot, and dirty.

“You look like shit,” Ben told him bluntly, but a small glow warmed his chest when he got a weak, surprised laugh in reply. Even if it did sound half like a sob.

“Yeah, I guess I really let myself go,” Hellboy admitted. He hung his head lower, fists clenching at his sides and looking for all the world like he was trying not to cry. Ben didn't know how to deal with that right now, so did the thing he was good at; staying practical.

“Let's get out of here and make sure you've not broken your hands… uh, hand.” He could see that Hellboy's knuckles were torn and bloody, so that was the first thing they could take care of.

“Then you need a shower.”

Hellboy nodded obediently before leading the way out of the room on shuffling feet. Ben cast one last look around the gym as he followed him out, glad that they had managed to de-escalate the situation before Hellboy had run out of things to break there.

Hellboy's quarters were fairly close to the gym, so unsurprisingly they didn't run across anyone on their way. Something Ben was grateful for; the last thing he needed right now was to be answering questions, or worse, taking responsibility for the man ahead of him.

The large doors opened onto a scene that made Ben's stomach drop, and he was sure his face flickered with some sort of grimace. Not that Hellboy noticed as he walked into the large open-plan room, leaving the door open for Ben to follow if he chose to.

The room was a mess, and after closing the door Ben had to carefully pick his way through to avoid stepping on any of the myriad of clothes, bottles and debris on the floor; something Hellboy was not so meticulous about as he crossed the room. Ben could see there were stone fist sized impacts on the walls, and a few piece of broken furniture, but for the most part Hellboy seemed to have saved his actual destruction for the gym. Instead there was just a thick miasma of grief and sadness in the room that was as noticeable as the smell.

Hellboy made it most of the way across the room towards the bathroom and shower area – Ben guessed that's what it was from the better lighting and sink and mirror – before a clink and crack of glass stopped him. There was silence for many long seconds, before Hellboy let out a heavy, shaking sigh and lifted his foot.

Even Ben, many paces away, could see the large shard of glass still embedded in the arch of the man's foot, and when Hellboy just continued to stare at the wound sadly Ben's brain finally switched to military mode. It was the only way this was going to get done quickly and efficiently, and the sight of fresh blood finally got Ben to start thinking straight.

“Okay, come on,” Ben moved quickly past Hellboy to pull out the stool he saw tucked beside he sink, before coming back to the man's side.

“Lean on me,” he put a firm hand on the small of Hellboy's back to get him moving, barely registering the surprise texture of the ridge of fur that his palm encountered.

There was a pause in which Ben thought Hellboy might put up a struggle, before a heavy hand fell on his shoulder and between them they limped him over to sit on the stool.

“Where's your first aid kit?” Ben asked as he grabbed a drawer that had been vacated from a nearby bedside table to prop Hellboy's foot up onto so he didn't accidentally put weight on it.

Hellboy gestured to a cabinet along the wall from the sink, and Ben fetched the case before bringing it back and opening it up on the floor, setting out the things he would need.

“You're not going to need those,” Hellboy told him as he laid out a suture kit.

“I don't think you know how deep that thing is in there,” Ben countered bluntly.

“I know.”

But he didn't protest further and instead just let Ben work in silence.

He barely even winced as Ben pulled out the glass and immediately covered the bleeding wound with some gauze as he leaned over to put the bloody shard in cup he had righted moments before. There was at least two inches of blood on the sharp tip of the glass, and Ben frowned as he considered that it may have cut something important in the man's foot.

What was the protocol for more serious wounds? He didn't recall what kind of first aid Hellboy had received after London, since he'd been too busy receiving his own. If this was serious he supposed he would have to go find a real doctor to help.

“Okay let's...” He pulled the gauze away to get a look and was struck silent in surprise. Despite the blood soaked gauze the wound itself was barely bleeding any more, and whilst there was still a sizeable hole in the half-demon's foot, there was already signs of healing around the edge.

“Told you,” Hellboy was wearing a wan smile as Ben scowled and stared at the wound. There was a lurch in his stomach at the sudden reminder that Hellboy wasn't anywhere close to human, and all his previous misgivings and prejudices rose their ugly heads.

Hellboy was dangerous, irrational, unpredictable.

He was stronger than 10 trained men, and inexplicably indestructible.

If he ever had a mind to turn against them he would reap untold horrors. He shouldn't be allowed to roam free. He should be locked up. He should be-

“Thanks though.”

Ben shook his head to dispel the many invasive thoughts, disappointed in himself for still having those ideas in his head. After everything, Hellboy has proven he deserved better than that. From Ben, and from the world at large.

“Let's see your hand,” Ben stood to his feet and grabbed some more gauze, using it to clean Hellboy's hand when he obediently held it out to the man.

He was all military precision as he wiped away the dried blood, not surprised when he found the wounds all but closed over, and gently palpated his hand to check for breaks. There was nothing he could feel, except a very human skeletal structure, and even the bruising was barely visible under his red skin.

“Well...” Ben didn't know what to say as he turned the man's hand over in his own, “...nothing broken… in your hand anyway. The gym however…”

He had shot for humour, and Hellboy smiled wryly, but he was clearly uncomfortable with the topic now, and his face was full of regret. Ben immediately rued bringing it up, but knew if he tried to backtrack or apologise it would only make it worse.

“How about that shower?” He suggested as he stepped back and peeled off the gloves he had donned from the medical kit, placing them in the same cup as the shard of glass, before crouching down to pack away the unused supplies into their case.

“Yeah,” Hellboy nodded, getting to his feet and limping around the corner into what Ben assumed was the shower room without another word. Suddenly there was light and Ben realised the dark glass he hadn't really thought much of until then was actually a window into a very open wet room, and for a moment he regarded the space with interest.

Then the noise of water hitting tile started and he caught sight of a naked red flank moving into his vision and he quickly looked away. Ben wasn't a stranger to communal showering, but he wanted to give Hellboy as much privacy as he could and so, despite his curiosity, endeavoured to keep his eyes averted.

Eyes down, Ben packed the kit back into the cupboard and then stood, realising suddenly that he wasn't sure what he was supposed to do now. He and Hellboy weren't exactly close, but it was apparent from how the rest of the BPRD were reacting that Ben was perhaps the only friend Hellboy had right then.

And if Ben was honest, Hellboy was the same for him. He knew no one else at the BPRD apart from a few familiar faces from London, but even they could barely be called more than acquaintances.

So now what? Was he supposed to leave now that Hellboy was safely back in his rooms? Did Hellboy even want him to stay? He certainly hadn't dismissed him, but neither had he really offered an invitation.

And seeing the state Hellboy was in, could Ben really in good conscience leave him alone again?

With a heavy sigh, Ben resigned himself to stay, and did the only useful thing he could think of; he started tidying.

Amongst the debris he found a number of plastic bags and with them set about gathering up all the obvious trash, whilst also picking up any overturned items and putting them back on nearby surfaces.

Even when all the bags were full, the shower was still going, and the glass was now so foggy Ben could only make out a vaguely red shape through the mist. Ben couldn't blame Hellboy for taking so long – from the state of him Ben would guess he hadn't washed since they had returned from London, and he could appreciate the cathartic affects of a good long shower.

With the trash collected the floor already looked so much clearer, and he next began picking up all the various discarded clothes and other soft furnishings on the floor. He certainly had no intention of sorting them, or indeed paying too much attention to what he was picking up, so they all ended up in a pile on the couch. But at least they were in once place and the room was actually starting to look like a room again.

He was nearly done with that job when Hellboy finally emerged from the shower, getting two paces into the room before pausing in surprise.

“Uh...” his amber eyes were wide as he looked around, his shoulders tense, “You didn't need to--”

“It's fine,” Ben said shortly, taking one glance at Hellboy before quickly looking away, mortified to feel heat on his cheeks.

Had he actually been able to look at Hellboy he would have seen that the other was man also blushing, although his was in embarrassment and shame. Ben's was for an entirely different, and annoying, reason.

Hellboy could only have stepped from the shower moments before exiting the room, and had still been fastening the towel around his waist as he had walked out. His skin was still running with droplets water, and his wet hair was sticking down over his shoulders and back.

And he was… steaming? Ben didn't even want to think how hot he must had his shower to still be giving off water vapour in the warm room.

But the sight of him, clean and damp and in nothing but a towel, had stirred a surprise feeling in the pit of Ben's stomach, and he didn't appreciate his body's reaction one bit.

Ben finished off picking up the pieces of clothing from the floor as an excuse to keep his back to Hellboy until his face calmed down. He chalked it up to surprise at seeing the other man so unclothed, and soon enough the heat on his cheeks had receded.

When he turned back around Hellboy was sat on the stool in front of the sink, this time facing the mirror with a razor in his hand. Ben was relieved to see him grooming, knowing it was a good sign if he was deciding to take care of himself again.

“How is your foot?” he asked, bending to pick up something from the floor and then dropping the belt with a holster and gun still attached on the table where it wouldn't get trodden on.

“Can barely feel it,” Hellboy replied gruffly between swipes of the razor, before wiping the remaining foam from his face with a hand towel after checking for symmetry.

“Good. You're lucky you heal so fast,” Ben hadn't meant to scold him, but it had sounded like it nonetheless. With nothing else to tidy, he stepped over to where to Hellboy was sat.

“Yeah yeah,” Hellboy's voice dropped again, not arguing as he put the now clean razor away and instead picked up a pair of what looked like pruning shears. For a moment Hellboy stared at them, his face tense as though remembering something, before he looked back to the mirror and lifted them to his uneven and rapidly growing horns.

There was a tense silence as Hellboy clipped at the growth, and Ben watched with narrow eyed fascination as chunk after chunk of horn fell into the sink.

“Doesn't that hurt?” He finally asked, leaning back on the counter beside the sink and reaching in to pick up one of the pieces, about the size of the top of his thumb. It was jagged and rough, and felt like bone, but was as hard as stone.

Hellboy just shrugged, and Ben frowned, but Hellboy cut him off before his could ask him why he did it if it hurt.

“It just gives me a headache, Daimio, don't worry about it,” he told him, “Don't usually have to do this much.” He added quieter. He let out a heavy sigh as he lowered the clippers, rolling his shoulder with a frown before lifting his hand to start on the other side. “And I usually have a saw.”

Ben's eyes drifted until he found the indicated saw on the counter the other side of Hellboy. It was apparently another victim of the last five days as the blade looked bent, and the cord was missing its plug at the end.

Hellboy cut away at the horn for a minute or so before having to lower his arm again. Clearly it was aching being held up for so long, and he clenched and unclenched his hand with a wince.

“May I?” Ben held out his hand expectantly when he saw the problem he was having, once again using a military mindset to get the job done. It wasn't the first time he had helped another man groom, even if the requirements were a little different.

Hellboy looked at him blankly for a moment, hesitating, but when Ben gave him an insistent look and wiggled his hand he obediently handed the clippers over.

“Uh… just don't go too short,” Hellboy's voice was uncertain, but he turned on the stool to face Ben trustingly, “'Cause that'll hurt like hell.”

Ben nodded then reached out, fumbling for a second with where to put his hands before eventually just doing what he needed to do, which was to place his opposite hand on Hellboy's hair so he could get purchase on the horn. If Hellboy minded, he said nothing.

Hellboy had made the process look only slightly difficult, but Ben realised immediately that it was going to be a tough job to get the clippers though the hard horn. But his pride wouldn't allow him to show weakness, and he instead put all his strength into each cut, knowing full well his forearm muscles would be screaming the next day.

But he got there, cutting until the horn matched the other side, but they were both still jagged and raw edged.

“Now what?” Ben knew there had to be more to it than just the clippers, and as he set them down, Hellboy held up a metal file.

“Please don't tell me you picked this up in the garage,” Ben asked as he took the file, smirking as he got a soft laugh from the other man, freeing up the slightly tense atmosphere.

“They're uh… farrier's tools. Y'know… for horses,” Hellboy explained, looking up at Ben with a small grin.

“Is that right?” Ben put his hand back on the other man's head to get him to lower it again so he could reach, tentatively running the file over a jagged edge of bone and relieved to find it smoothed down the edge with not too much effort.

“Dad always insisted on the best,” his voice was quiet again, clearly no longer smiling, but the words seemed a little easier. There was a pause as Ben continued to file, before Hellboy continued.

“He did this for me… y'know... last time...” Ben could hear the man's fists clenching against his legs, his stone fingers loud in the quiet of the room. Ben didn't know what to say; comforting had never been his strong suit, but he stilled his hands to drop one onto Hellboy's shoulder.

“I am sorry, Hellboy,” he said sincerely, “He was a great man.”

Hellboy snorted, and Ben could sense a twinge of anger in the noise.

“That's what everyone says. 'A Great Man'.” Hellboy shook his head, but didn't look up at Ben, instead staring somewhere past him at the floor. “A great man... but not a good one.”

Ah. Ben realised then that everyone at the BPRD was so wrapped up in loosing the Great Professor Bruttenholm-- a great mind for sure, but not always the most thoughtful or agreeable person-- that no one had stopped to realise that Hellboy hadn't lost a teacher or a mentor.

He'd lost a father.

“Well he can't have been that bad,” Ben told him, “He raised you, didn't he?”

Hellboy shot him a surprised look at that, face genuine with emotion, before he looked away, cheeks darkening at the compliment.

“Don't go getting soft on me now, Daimio,” he said gruffly, but clearly fighting a smile, and Ben snorted a laugh, putting his hand back on the man's damp hair and pushing his head down so he could reach his horns again to resume filing.

“Wouldn't dream of it.”

Ben finished up one horn and moved to the other, both of them staying in comfortable silence as he worked. But without any talking, Ben's mind ran over the events of the night, his mood sobering as he thought back to the state Hellboy had been in.

“It wasn't your 'one chance', you know?” Ben said quietly, Hellboy's words from the gym replaying in his brain. He wasn't planning to play cheerleader, or psychiatrist, for the man, but his words just didn't sit right with Ben.

Immediately Hellboy's good humour faded, and his face fell back to that same aggrieved expression from before. Ben had thought maybe he would get defensive or aggressive again. Somehow this was worse.

“And you're not alone,” he insisted, eyes still on the horn he was filing to avoid having to meet Hellboy's gaze if he were to lift it.

“It sure as hell feels like it,” Hellboy said softly, letting out a shaky sigh, and when Ben finally finished with the file he didn't move or lift his head.

“You've got Alice,” Ben reminded him, as though he might have forgotten, but rather than lighten his spirits, it got only a sad laugh.

“Great, Daimio, I've got one psychic girl. Who's gonna get bored, or promoted, or dead, in a few years just like everyone else.” His voice was heartbreakingly resigned.

“And you've got me.” Ben raised his eyebrows at the man when he looked up at him with surprise, meeting his eyes with sincerity like he was stupid not to count him.

“And I'm not planning to go anywhere,” his voice was pointed, reminding Hellboy that he had a vested interest in sticking around the BPRD for help with his… condition. They had an undeniable bond after London, of course, but until that point it had been predicated on near-death experiences and not being 100% human. They both knew Ben was offering an emotional rope now, if Hellboy wanted it.

Hellboy looked stunned and was clearly lost for words. Then his mouth snapped shut and his jaw clenched as he lowered his head again with a shaky breath.

“Thanks man.”

Whether by accident or some subconscious decision, Ben had yet to move away, so when Hellboy lowered his head further he didn't have far to go until it gently rested on Ben's chest. It was a light contact, easy for either of them to back out of, but Ben found himself lifting his hands to Hellboy's shoulders, embracing him as well as he could from that angle.

Under his palms he could feel the other man trembling, and frowned in concern.

“Hellboy?” He asked, but in lieu of a verbal answer, Hellboy just lifted his arms to wrap around Ben's waist, and just at that moment Ben could feel a dampness through his shirt.

Oh.

There was still space between them since Ben hadn't been pressed right up against Hellboy to deal with his horns, but Ben closed the gap now. He got as close as he was able, even though it required stepping in between Hellboy's legs, and hugged the other man tight, knowing it was the right decision when Hellboy wrapped his arms further around his back and pressed his face into Ben's shirt.

Hellboy wasn't actively sobbing, but Ben guessed it was only because he was fighting hard not to, since the rest of his form was shaking and his breaths came in sharp bursts.

Ben wasn't the 'there there' type, and instead just held the other man silently as he got it out of his system, paying no mind to the damp patches on his shirt.

It took a while, but eventually Hellboy loosened his hold and sat back, keeping his head lowered as he wiped at his face in embarrassment.

“Sorry, man,” he mumbled gruffly, but Ben was having none of it and didn't even move away as he leaned over to wet a face cloth under the cool tap.

“Let's see,” he commanded, putting a hand under Hellboy's chin to lift his face, not letting him hide.

Reluctantly Hellboy let Ben raise his head, showing his tear-marked cheeks and puffy eyes, and the dust that still clung to his face from filing his horns. Gently Ben ran the wet cloth over his cheeks to clear away dust and dried tears, wiping away the powder from his facial hair, and gently pressing the cool fabric under his eyes to ease away the swelling.

Hellboy let out another sigh, this one of relief, and closed his eyes as Ben cleaned his face, relaxing under the other man's ministrations. His brows were still furrowed until the cloth worked its way up to his forehead, cleaning the dust there and relaxing the frown.

Ben didn't even realise he had rested his other hand against Hellboy's cheek until a warm palm covered it, large fingers fitting into place over his. He had a second of hesitation, an infinity of time where he had to make the decision whether to pull away or allow the touch, and whatever might come of it.

He kept his hand in place under Hellboy's and instead moved his other back to mirror it, cupping his face after dropping the cloth in the sink.

Given Hellboy's height, even sitting, Ben only had to stoop a little to kiss him.

Ben didn't know what spurred him to the action, but only that it felt right, and a relief. Not just to comfort Hellboy, but also that he hadn't realised how alone he himself had felt. He had never been one to make friends easily, and now he was far from home in an unfamiliar situation-- with his very future uncertain. But being here, now, with someone who could understand all that…

Hellboy started in surprise at the contact, but didn't pull away. Instead he remained uncertainly still for many seconds like he didn't know how to react, before tentatively pushing into the kiss just slightly.

A little reciprocation was all Ben needed before he pulled back, hands staying on Hellboy's cheeks as he checked his expression for the verdict.

The other man was looking up at him with an open but confused expression, like he was doubting why Ben would do such a thing. There weren't any words that Ben could say, but he met Hellboy's eyes with a sure expression, slowly dropping his hands to his broad shoulders and letting him make the next move.

They could talk, if he wanted, or he could pull away, or push Ben away, or-

Ben let out a breath of surprise as Hellboy suddenly surged up, pressing their mouths together as he lifted Ben effortlessly off the floor, hands on his flanks as he turned them until Ben was standing on the stool he had just vacated. It made Ben a little taller than Hellboy now, but the difference wasn't nearly as much as if he had still been on the floor.

The kiss was more sure now, and Hellboy was more responsive as he ran a hand up Ben's back when the other man combed one hand through his still-damp hair. Ben couldn't help smiling at the confidence-that-wasn't the other man had. It was clear he was sure about his intention, but uncertain of his actions as he let Ben lead the kiss, opening his mouth when Ben used his hands in his hair to tilt his head back further.

His stone hand spread and rested lightly on Ben's hip, but was still a heavy present weight, whilst his other clenched in the back of his shirt, pulling Ben close.

When Hellboy finally pulled back from the kiss, both breathing a little heavy, he met Ben's eyes briefly before looking to his chest.

“You're shirt's wet,” he stated, voice low, and Ben smirked.

“So it is.” Neither of them broke the mood by mentioning it was damp with tears, and instead Ben immediately pulled his hands back to start undoing his shirt. He didn't step back, and instead leaned back at the waist, fulling trusting Hellboy to support his weight as he stripped off the fabric, muscles rolling completely and intentionally gratuitously under the heated gaze of the man before him.

As soon as the shirt dropped to the floor Hellboy let out a growl of appreciation, running his hand up over the center of Ben's torso before sliding to his neck to pull him into another kiss. All emotions of the previous days seemed to have been forgotten for now in favour of this new distraction, and Ben would be lying if he said he didn't fully endorse their current course. A little distraction would be good for both of them.

Seconds later, with Ben's arms around his shoulder's again, Hellboy lifted him off the stool, groaning with appreciation when Ben wrapped his legs around his waist.

Ben hummed a pleased laugh into the kiss when he felt a suspicious third limb winding over his leg, before Hellboy's tail was running teasingly along the waistband of his pants. It was a thrilling sensation, both for the extra sensation and for the possibilities.

Hellboy turned them and Ben suddenly found his bare back pressed against the cold glass of the shower room. He gasped in surprised, pressing his chest more into the warm body in front of him and then groaning when Hellboy didn't let him pull away from the glass. Instead Hellboy only pressed more aggressively into the kiss, pushing into his mouth, and his hand and tail running over his torso.

Goosebumps spread across Ben's skin at the contrasting temperatures, muscles tensing as ripples of pleasure spread from where the hot met cold.

With his legs around Hellboy's waist, and pants beginning to feel far too restrictive, Ben kicked off his shoes, knowing but not caring about how much he had probably scuffed them getting them off without undoing the laces. However, without lowering his legs there was no way to get his pants off and Ben let out a growling frustrated noise since he was thoroughly enjoying the hard pressure of Hellboy's abs against his groin.

“You're not gonna… y'know...” Hellboy pulled back just enough to meet Ben's gaze, both breathing heavy, and when Ben only narrowed his eyes Hellboy made a claw sign with his hand, as though maybe Ben didn't understand what he meant.

“No.” Ben tightened his thighs around Hellboy's flanks and used them as leverage to lean up over him, fingers buried in his hair tight, and he was pleased to see a smirking wince on the half-demon's face.

“It doesn't work like that,” he continued, speaking against Hellboy's mouth, “you're safe.”

He kissed him again, but Hellboy still let out a muffled, “Good!” like he had to have the last word, but he clearly got the hint with how Ben had adjusted his weight and turned them towards the bed.

Ben lowered his legs when they reached the bed, feet finding a soft landing on the blankets, and putting him high enough to tilt Hellboy's head back again to kiss him fiercely.

He let out a pleased hum when Hellboy immediately reached to start undoing the fastenings of his pants, as though he had read his his mind, or at least read the very many frustrated signals Ben had been giving off.

Pants undone and pushed off his hips, Ben pulled back from the kiss hastily and leaned down to kick them off, consequently nearly overbalancing on the soft mattress. He only stopped himself falling because he grabbed Hellboy's arm at the last moment.

Of course, after letting Ben throw his pants to the side and leaving him in only his underwear, Hellboy shoved him the rest of the way onto the bed and laughed at the yelp of surprise Ben let out as he flailed then twisted, landing almost on his back and bouncing a few times before stilling.

He gave Hellboy a stern look that was completely ineffectual.

“Not funny,” he said, voice deadpan, like he wasn't in only his underwear sprawled on the man's bed.

“I dunno, Daimio,” Hellboy argued, kneeling on the bed and then crawling up to Ben when the other man reached to him, “It was pretty funny.”

“You know,” Ben narrowed his eyes as he propped himself up on an elbow, the other hand reaching to comb through Hellboy's hair, “I think you can call me Ben at this point.”

Hellboy ran a hand over Ben's hip and side as he feigned contemplation.

“Hmmm, you sure? That's a bit...” his hand stayed at Ben's ribs, but a sudden slide of his tail up over Ben's inner thigh and groin drew a groan from the man, “...casual.”

“Fuck you,” Ben groaned through a laugh, wrapping both his arms around Hellboy's neck and leaning in to kiss him hard. Hellboy wasn't pulled down by Ben's weight and instead he sat up, pulling Ben into his lap and sitting him over the bulge into the towel that still remained resolutely tied around his waist.

Ben made a pleased noise, delighted at how easily Hellboy moved him around, not that he would ever admit it. He slowly ground his hips down against Hellboy's and grinned at the surprised intake of breath he drew from the other man. One hand slid up again into his long hair, whilst the other clawed streaks across the red skin of his back, and Hellboy groaned into the kiss as Ben continued to grind down against the towel.

The kiss evolved as they got used to each other's rhythm; finding the right angle, the right pressure, each movement of mouths and tongues interspersed with low groans or sharp breaths as they each tried to distract the other with roaming hands and shifts of weight.

Ben initially had the upper hand in distraction, but soon enough Hellboy was running his hand and tail over every sensitive spot on Ben's body. Strong fingers curled into the muscles of his back and leg, drawing a groan between their mouths, then soft sweeps of his palm smoothed up Ben's ribs and over his arm, gentle and soothing.

As they parted for air, Ben moved his hands to Hellboy's shoulders and pushed with intent. In his human form he didn't stand a chance of physically moving the man against his will, but Hellboy obliged and let Ben guide him back onto the bed, sprawling out against the pillows as Ben pressed small, light kisses to his mouth and cheek. They were both breathing deeply, and the rise and fall of Hellboy's chest physically lifted Ben with every intake of breath.

Ben made a slow path down over Hellboy's skin, starting at his neck and biting and nipping at every angle on his way down. He could feel the rumble of a pleased noise in the other man's throat as he passed, tongue darting out against his collar before he resumed pressing soft kisses to the expanse of his chest and stomach. He made eye contact every now and then, enjoying the feigned confident expression the other man was trying to maintain over his wide eyes and flushed cheeks.

Ben reached the towel at Hellboy's navel – which was by now barely staying fastened – and opened the halves without hesitation, continuing his path down over the coarse hair that led to the other man's groin.

Ben would admit at this point he had some curiosity at what he would find under the towel – a vested interest, he would say now – and he wasn't disappointed or bored by what he found.

He pushed up on his elbows to get a good look at the shaft before him, his smirk twisting his scars in a way that only emphasised his pleased and interested expression.

Hellboy certainly wasn't human, and his demon aspects didn't fail to deliver below the belt, but it was recognisable enough, and – as Ben expected – he was more than well endowed.

“This might take some practice,” he commented, looking up at Hellboy and taking great joy in how many shades darker his face was at this point.

“You-” Whatever Hellboy had been about to say, Ben cut off as he wrapped his hand around the cock in front of him, his fingers not quite meeting around the impressive shaft, and his tongue ran up over the pointed tip.

“-fuck” Hellboy's head fell back with a shiver, his stone fist clenching in the bedsheets, and Ben had to wonder how long it had been since Hellboy had been with anyone like this.

Ben closed his mouth over the tip and slowly took as much as he could into his mouth, his hands taking the rest of the length, and started a slow rhythm. He was too unpractised to maintain this for long, and the girth made it difficult to handle, but he intended kept it up as long as he was able, enjoying the gasps and groans the other man let out below him.

Ben tensed with a surprised hum as something firm ran down his spine, running the line down his back before continuing below his underwear. The thick tail slid confidently over Ben's ass, teasing between the cleft and squirming in a way that almost drove him to distraction.

Hellboy's hand clenched in Ben's hair, and he murmured words of encouragement as his head pressed back into the pillows, but before long Ben had to pull his head away, his jaw aching from stretching his mouth so wide. However he continued to stroke with his hands, and moaned soft pleased noises as Hellboy's tail teased at his entrance and slipped further to press firm touches to the sensitive skin between his legs.

“Have you got--?” Ben breathed heavy, voice low and sultry, and whilst it took Hellboy a couple moments to parse the words, he then nodded eagerly, suddenly very much to attention. He threw out a hand to the bedside cabinet, only to realise that the drawers had been vacated from the body of the unit.

“Uh… I did...”

Ben couldn't help but laugh, chuckling against Hellboy's thigh at the utter perplexed look the other man was giving to the empty space beside him.

“The floor?” Ben suggested when Hellboy didn't appear to be able to come up with an answer, and greeted the amber gaze with raised eyebrows.

“Uh… right.” Hellboy looked entirely distracted, even as Ben ceased his ministrations for a moment in order to lean over and check the floor for the item his was looking for. He reached out to rummage in the debris, feeling Hellboy sit up and lean over the other side to check there.

After turning over a few drawers and peering under the bed, Ben concluded there was nothing there.

“Nothing this-- ah!” Ben let out groan as a lube-slick tail suddenly slipped back into his underwear and pressed to his entrance, squirming and pressing insistently, and a hand thread into his hair to pull him up back upright, nose inches from Hellboy's.

“Found it,” Hellboy informed him, watching Ben's expression for his reaction to the tail, and Ben just smirked as he pulled against the grip in his hair, arching his back to press his chest forward.

“Then what are you waiting for?” He asked, manoeuvring his legs to straddle Hellboy's thighs, spreading himself wide as his hands slid over the broad shoulders before him.

He was met with a firm kiss as the blunt end of Hellboy's tail pressed to his entrance, applying enough force to slowly breach into Ben's body as he groaned and curled his fingers against Hellboy's skin. The hand in his hair unclenched and instead more gently cupped his head as the tail pressed in.

It had been a long time for Ben, and the intrusion was large, but not unwelcome. He took deep breaths against the mouth before him, shuddering with the pleasure of being filled.

“Okay?” Hellboy's voice was harsh and anxious, and Ben just smiled as he rolled his face against the other man's, nodding into his cheek.

“Don't stop now,” he commanded, trying to press down onto the intrusion, but finding the tail just moved with him.

But Hellboy obliged, tail slipping deeper into his body, and then starting a slow, writhing rhythm that had Ben huffing with pleasure, forehead pressing into Hellboy's cheek. It was a strange, erotic sensation, unlike the usual preparation, and Ben groaned out his approval.

He was aware of a hand leaving his hair, replaced by a coarse stone hand splayed against his back, and then flesh fingers were pressing around where the tail disappeared into his body.

"Do you want to...?” Hellboy asked softly, checking his boundaries, and Ben opened his eyes to look into his with clear intent.

“All of you.”

Hellboy hummed with approval and kissed him again as his tail slid from Ben's body, the prehensile appendage hooking on his underwear and dragging it down to his thighs with help from the stone fist. Ben barely had time to notice though as the tail was soon replaced with three well-lubricated fingers sliding up into his body without hesitation. Ben groaned with the intrusion, mouth hanging open as Hellboy nipped at his lower lip and pressed gentle kisses to his jaw.

It took Ben only a short while to get used to the intrusion, his breathing steadying to a soft pant as he rolled his hips down, encouraging the digits deeper. A fourth finger was added and he faltered, brows drawing together as his pace slowed, adjusting to the size before easing back.

“Okay?” Hellboy's voice was a low rumble against his ear, breath ghosting across Ben's skin, and Ben let out an affirmative noise.

This certainly hadn't been how Ben had thought this evening would go, or any evening for that matter, but as he pulled back to look into Hellboy's eyes, he knew that there was no place he would rather be. The lines of stress on the other man's face had eased, and there was a warmth in his gaze that had been cold when Ben had first seen him in the gym.

Ben found his world upended for a moment as Hellboy turned them effortlessly, using one hand to strip Ben of his boxers before his back encountered the soft mattress. He looked around and grabbed for the spare pillows beside his head, tucking them under his hips just before Hellboy leaned in for another heated kiss, his stone fist curled in the bedsheets beside Ben's shoulder and his other hand abruptly leaving his body to slide up under his leg.

“Go slow,” Ben murmured against Hellboy's mouth, his voice showing no anxiety, but only a healthy amount of caution. He was a big boy, he could take it, just… not all at once.

“Tell me if you want to stop,” Hellboy replied, voice soft, expression sincere as he waited until Ben gave him an insistent nod to continue.

Ben had to wonder if he had done this with anyone before, and if so, how many. With the anxiety he was trying to hide, Ben guessed it couldn't have been a high number. He wondered if it was a concern over physical compatibility or an emotional connection Hellboy struggled with. Maybe he just wasn't given the opportunity to meet anyone that would show an interest in him like this.

Those thoughts were quickly derailed when Hellboy pressed forward between his legs, the thin head of his cock sliding past Ben's entrance with ease before the girth suddenly caught up and stretched him uncomfortably despite the best efforts of the lubrication.

“Fuck.” Ben tried not to tense but only half succeeded, his finger digging in to Hellboy's shoulders to ground himself against the discomfort. The other man quickly stilled, his breaths coming in soft pants against Ben's collar.

“Okay?” He murmured, hand running up around Ben's leg and flank and back to behind his knee.

“Mmhmm,” Ben nodded, his body quickly adjusting, and his curled fingers relaxed and splayed over Hellboy's skin to encourage him, “Keep going… slow...”

Hellboy obeyed, bit by bit pushing in further and closer until he could get no deeper and Ben groaned at the intensity, muscles tense as he fought to relax around such a large intrusion. His body was very aware of every inch inside him, and his brain was stuck between registering pain or pleasure.

The nips and kisses and warm licks against his neck brought him back from the overstimulation of being filled so completely, and Ben breathed out a pleased sigh at the warmth of Hellboy's mouth, shivering in pleasure at the hand stroking over his leg and side again. He allowed himself many more seconds of adjustment, and used the time to gently cup Hellboy's cheeks, pulling him into another kiss. This once was deeper and different to those that came before; an understanding of what they were doing and what it meant to the both of them. Ben didn't allow himself to be vulnerable around just anyone, and Hellboy fully understood as he pressed into the kiss.

Eventually Ben felt comfortable enough to roll his hips, checking the movement, and huffed a heavy breath at the sensation, pulling Hellboy's head back to look up at him. He eyes clearly conveyed his message.

Move.

The first roll of Hellboy's hips pushed Ben's head back into the pillows with a gasp, the drag of his cock on his insides sparking all number of pleasurable sensations mixed with the pain and discomfort. It burned but it was good, and he didn't want him to stop, and without a command to do so Hellboy didn't.

He started a slow and easy rhythm, in and out of the tight grip of Ben's body until eventually he loosened around him and finally he was able to up the pace.

It was a steady increase of speed, and as it heightened, so did Ben's moans of pleasure. His hands slid from Hellboy's shoulders up over his neck and then into his hair as his body rocked with the tempo of thrusts.

They exchange sloppy kisses as Hellboy rocked into him, building up the pleasure for the both of them in a steady, hard pace, both his hands on Ben's hips to keep him in place. The stone of his right hand was abrasive on Ben's skin, but he barely noticed as he instead pressed up against Hellboy's chest, soaking in the natural warmth the other man gave off.

As the tempo increased Hellboy became less responsive to kisses, but just as Ben was trying to insist a firm muscular tail wrapped around his cock and undulated in a way that drove Ben to distraction.

The pace increased again as Hellboy drove into him harder, and his hands pushed Ben's legs wider so he could sink deeper and deeper, drawing at first soft gasps and then louder moans as he pressed hard into the spot inside Ben that had him writhing in pleasure.

“F... God!” Ben gasped, clutching hard at Hellboy's back and hair as the pleasure began to crest, the tail around his shaft giving a delicious friction and pushing him closer and closer, “I-I-!”

Hellboy rumbled out an encouraging groan that was so guttural it was nearly a growl, and something in Ben responded on an instinctual level, the hair on his body standing on end and sending goosebumps across his skin. His fingers curled into the skin of Hellboy's back, hard enough to leave nail imprints as his muscles tensed and coiled and –

Ben came hard with a sharp cry, his head thrown back onto the pillows as his whole body tensed and convulsed with pleasure, the sensation drawn out almost beyond what he could endure as Hellboy continued to thrust into him at a heady pace.

For many long seconds Ben rode out the pleasure, his cries quietening as he clutched at Hellboy's back. He withstood the fast and hard thrusts even as the pleasure turned to hypersensitivity as he twitched and tensed and keened until finally, thankfully, Hellboy shuddered to a stop with a harsh growl of pleasure. He sank his seed deep into Ben with a couple sharp thrusts before stilling completely, his arms sliding up under Ben's back to clutch him close as he rode out the orgasm, breathing deep against his neck.

Ben shivered in his grasp, hand gently combing through his hair, very aware of the large member still buried deep in his body and stimulating him in all sorts of unwelcome ways. But when Hellboy finally recovered enough to lift his head, Ben kissed him gently, allowing him whatever time he need to recover.

For many minutes they simply basked in the afterglow, Hellboy being sure not to put too much of his weight on Ben as they kissed slowly, breathing in each other and recovering.

Eventually Hellboy moved from Ben's body, and Ben winced the sensation, but it was soon forgotten when Hellboy rolled onto his back and wrapped an arm around Ben to pull him close.

“Stay here tonight?” He asked, voice apprehensive. He could have worded it as an offer, but Ben appreciated the nerve it took to instead phrase it as a request. Hellboy wanted him to stay.

“I'm not going anywhere,” Ben told him with a sleepy laugh, moving to settle himself tucked against Hellboy's side, humming in pleasure as the blankets were pulled up over the both of them. Ben was pretty sure he couldn't have walked right then anyway, not that he had any plans to.

No, he was quite content where he was; head pillowed on Hellboy's shoulder and pressed up against the unnatural heat of his body, hand resting over the steady beat of his heart.

Ben knew they were going to need to have a conversation about this, but that seemed so far away, and as he drifted off into well-deserved sleep he couldn't even bring himself to worry about what tomorrow would bring.

 

 

Wakefulness came slowly to Ben, which was a nice change to either his military alertness, or the sudden cold sweat gasp of a nightmare.

He was warm, and curled up on his side on soft sheets, and there was a heavy blanket pressing a soothing weight on his body. He felt safe and secure, even though he soon registered this was a brand new place to wake up.

As his mind finally began to take in new stimuli, he cracked open his eyes just a little, adjusting to the light of the room as he took stock of the situation.

His back was pressed against a warm body, and his head rested on a well muscled arm that abruptly turned into a large stone forearm some many inches away from his face, and as he shifted just a little, he could feel the loose heavy grip of a tail wrapped around his ankle and calf.

Memories of the night before then came back to Ben, and his mind became very alert to his situation. At first his heart raced for just a moment as he deciphered what he was feeling.

Anxiety? Embarrassment? Shame? Regret?

No. None of that.

Warmth. Pleasure. Relief.

Very slowly, and with no small amount of wincing, Ben shifted to turn his torso so he could look up at the man beside him. Hellboy was already awake, and looked down at Ben with a guarded expression, but as Ben opened his mouth to say something as he moved his hips to turn further. In place of whatever words he had been about to say, he instead let out a tense and surprised gasp and abruptly stilled.

“Well fuck,” he said bluntly, before laughing at his own reaction. He was really, intensely, and very understandably sore from the night before, and his muscles ached from the exertion, and his ass hurt in a way he'd not experienced for a long time.

“Ben?” Hellboy asked, voice unsure but hopeful.

“Mmm,” Ben recovered himself, tilting his head to look up into Hellboy's worried face, before laughing again and pressing a brief kiss to his chest, the only part of the other man he could reach in his twisted position.

“I'll be fine,” he assured him, accepting the help of Hellboy's hand against his back to get him turned over properly until he was on his front, arms on Hellboy's chest, chin resting on his wrists as he looked up at him with a smile, pleased to see the warm expression returned.

“I think we both will.”