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and i think to myself (what a wonderful world)

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Not everybody gets to see a man like Droog on his knees. It takes a lot to get him there, and even more to keep him there. There's a certain trick to it, and you've got your own ways of doing things with Droog that no one else was gonna be able to lay claim to. You tighten the ropes holding his arms tight to his chest and low behind his back, slide a finger down his ribs. Feel him shudder, breath catching in his windpipe briefly. Comfy, you ask him casually, and he nods slow and careful.

It's been a rough day. A worse night. The job didn't go well, and he always blames himself for it. Personally, you'd put the blame where it was fucking due - on Slick's fucking chaotic shoulders but he won't never say a word against the boss. That ain't why you're both here right now anyway, so you're gonna try and put it outta your mind. You know what he needs and what he needs right now is to be tied down and kept quiet. He ain't a loud man by nature, but there's a difference between that and what you're proposing to do to him. What you know he'll let you do to him. What he wants you to do to him.

It's a private thing between the two of youse, see.

You grip him by the chin, your hand almost covering his face on both sides and turn his eyes up to face you. Even tied down as tight as you got him, he's still got a hum all over his body like an exposed wire sparking blue. A deadly thing that you've captured. He looks good. With your hand on him, he bares his fangs at you and they gleam in the overhead light of your bedroom's weak lamp. You don't like things too bright. It's just not romantic, and you know what you're about when it comes to romance.

You know I got what you need, Diamonds.

He just breathes out with a sound like the softest of death rattles escaping from a warm corpse, and you can feel something in him give a little with the exhalation from his oxygen-sacks. Just by the tiny things you notice, that wouldn't mean anything to anyone else. Something in his spine loosening up, a feel in the way he holds his facial plates. Just a general fucking vibe of surrender. Submission. He's going to let you take care of him, and by gum, that's sure what you're gonna fucking do. You slide your hand around from his chin to the back, feeling the shape of his skull cupped against your fingertips as you look down at him. You're used to looking down at folks; you're god damn fucking big and have been for a long while. It's different looking down at Droog, and always has been.

He ain't a man made for being looked down on and that's why he needs you to do it. The morning's barely started, songbirds still sleepy at the time you'd all come back to the hide out and even still at this moment, so you take your time. He's breathing in and out slow and harsh, dragging air over his fangs, subconsciously bared at you. Always on guard, you mutter, and get both your mitts on his face. One on either side, broad thumbs rubbing slow and careful circles over the cut of his cheekbones. Hey. Keep your eyes on me.

Go fuck yourself, Boxcars, he says without heat but he does what he's told. Meeting your gaze as you try to gauge his mood.

I should get you a gag, is the murmur that passes your lips at his fucking sass. It's an idle musing, but one that ain't entirely without merit. Not this time though; he's gonna work for it this time, he'll like it better that way. You give the knots at his ankles and wrists a little tug with your finger, making sure they ain't gonna shift none no matter how hard he wiggles and squirms, and nod in satisfaction. Right. You just stay there and be quiet, huh.

It's about time for the repeat of the game, so you leave Diamonds in the middle of the floor of your living area, on his knees with his hands behind his back and wrapped in rope like a gift. You ignore him, until he finishes twitching around in his bonds like he's gonna break his way out of them and quiets down. Get yourself a drink. Turn the radio on.

...Roughing's first pitch, that's a smash, that's the first hit of the ball game! Out into right field! Holding at first is Terry Moore, oh wait, there he goes...

You stare at the wall, glass in hand and tasting scotch across your tongue like a rough embrace. Pity you hadn't had a chance to go and get some tickets; it sounds like a game that would have been worth it. Pity the boss'd never give you the time off neither. What a fucking joke of a life. What are you doing to yourself.

One of these days, you're gonna see a game and not just listen to the repeat on the radio. Y'ain't even listening to the live commentary. All you're doing is getting older, and sorer and more tired following him around. Still...there are a few benefits to the life you've got now.

After being ignored for a bit while you walk around him, get yourself another drink and take off your shirt and tie, Droog is somewhere close to being settled. He's breathing slow and his head is drooping. Maybe he's actually getting into the zone. You put your glass down and stretch, rolling your head around on you shoulders and feeling the crack of the bones in your neck. Damn. Getting old.

You don't follow the sotto voce comment on your age up with another one, and reach down to haul Droog up onto his feet. He's limp in your grip while you handle him by the ropes before letting him fall onto the bed. Slowly, you take the ropes off, unwrapping him from the bite and grip of the cotton ropes you'd been using. When you want to go real hard, you use proper sisal but this hadn't called for it this time. You hear softskins have to go even softer than cotton, or they get too harshed up by the fibres of the ropes. Maybe one time or another, you'd like to see it for yourself in person. Even thinking that, you know it ain't never gonna happen and you turn your drifting attention back to the problem in front of you.

Even considering the toughness of carapace, Diamonds still got red showing under the obsidian of his shell. Wrists, elbows, shoulders. Places where the rope had held him down tight, when you knew you couldn't trust yourself to do it. When you hold things too tight - they break. When it's something precious, you don't want to risk it. You sit down heavily on the bed next to him and take his limp hand in between the two of yours. He breathes in, and out. You rub your thumbs up his carpal tunnel and watch the fine joints of his fingers as you massage his hand and wrist.

Did good t'night.

Fuck off, he exhales hoarsely and you chuckle a little bit. You follow up from his hand with a firm, massaging pressure to his elbow as he lies on your bed like he's had the breath knocked out of him. You don't know a fuckin' thing about anything, Hearts.

Shut up, and listen to me. I said you did good. I don't like you enough to lie about it.

Hnn.

He doesn't say anything for a little bit and once you feel like you've gotten the long muscles of his forearm to relax, you put his arm down gently and pick up the other one to start to work on it. Your thumbs and fingers rub punishingly into his flexible carapace and every so often, the other man lets out a low hiss when you press your fingerprints deep into a particularly tender spot. So you make a comment, because if he's going to be such a pussy about it, you're obligated to do so.

You insist on fighting hand t'hand, you're gonna get what you get, you know. Got lucky t'night, I don't even have to dig out the needle 'n thread.

Eat me.

Nah, you ain't tasty enough by far, Droog. I like 'em nice and round, like a peach...if I'm gonna be eatin' someone. You don't have enough fat for my taste, you say as though you've been thinking about it on the private and grind your knuckles into his skin into his skin in circling motions. His fingers twitch reflexively as you hit a nervecluster and you grin, showing all your teeth. They're just as big as the rest of you, proportionate, you know. And very, very pointy. All the better to eat someone with. You've done it before, and you'll do it again.

He makes a sound of guttural disgust at your funning, and you exhale a silent laugh while you keep working on forcing his body to relax for him. He works it too hard, like he's punishing it for something and you stick around to patch it up after. The two of you are breathing quietly, slowly getting into sync. Doing this is relaxing for you too, yanno. Ain't like you're getting nothing out of it.

There's something about the way the room feels when the two of you get like this. Quiet. Intimate. Kinda fuckin' special and all. Droog ain't a man who lets his guard down for anyone and neither are you. Never quite met that special someone in any other area of your lives, or something like that. There was that one dame once that had had a real sense of potential maybe about her, but...anyway, broads ain't got places in the lives of fellas like you. Wouldn't be fair, would it. Expecting them to put up with the gunfights and the shoot outs, the way you're always dodging cops and that damn investigator. Brawling with the Felt and trying to keep Slick from doing whatever the fuck it was that he was doing with Snow, that'd seen him lose a whole fucking eye so far. Some fucked up kind of wooing, letting a dame stick her cigarette holder right into your sightglobe. It's not what you'd call your scene, that's for fucking sure. You like...other sorts of things.

Softer things.

Licking your lips as you watch Droog go boneless on your bed underneath your hands, you lift his wrist to your mouth and place your lips on the slowly beating pulsepoint. You can pretend to yourself like you can feel it, a slow and ritualistic movement of his pusher pumping his blood around the length of his body. Between his thin shards of shell and your harder stuff, there ain't a chance you're gonna feel shit. But you like to pretend that you can, that you're gonna.

You sap, Droog accuses in a lazy sort of voice, drawled and laid back. You like the way he looks when you get your hands on him. Sprawled, limp, a sleepy predator made up of muscle and long bones.

Y'gonna get sassy on me, I'm getting the ropes back out and you can spend all night in 'em, you answer him back and he snorts, head tipping back to expose the length of his throat. What a fucking gift, that he'd just offer it up to you like that. Leaning down over him, your bulk casting his leanness into shadow, you take his offer and set your mouth around it. Digging in your fangs just a little bit. If you wanted, you could have his whole head... The idea plays out for you in your mind's eye, and you exhale softly before letting go.

Sappy bastard, he murmurs again, and rolls his head back against the pillow. You put your hand on his ribcage, feeling the texture of his carapace under the immensity of your palm and flex your fingers a little. Feel him breathe, soft and at peace, in trust that you won't stiffen your fingers and reach right between his ribs to grab his pusher out.

I got something better in mind f'r you than just some ropes, you murmur back and his eyebrow arches delicately, questioning and a whole statement all of its own. He's good at saying things without pronouncing a single word with his mouth. Smug prettyboy asshole. Guess he's your smug prettyboy asshole though, much as you hate to admit it.

You don't do anything for a little bit, just letting him relax again like you're gonna forget about the way he's needling at you. Guess he needs something firmer to get him to settle this time. If that's what he needs, than that's what he's gonna get. You stretch and get settled so you can pin him down once you start with what's in your mind and he rolls something of a suspicious eye up at you. Guess he ain't as relaxed as you thought. That just means you need to do what you have in mind even more.

What're you doing up there, Hearts.

Don'worry about it, Droog, you slur as though you're too tired to get up to any shenanigans and settle heavier onto the mattress. You're a big man with a lot of patience tucked away in your hulk of a carcass. Gotta be, to put up with this bunch of galoots. People think Diamonds is patient; is he hell. You're the only one who can bear to wait more than five minutes on the timepiece for any fucking thing. You're willing to allow the idea of delayed gratification onto your life philosophy. Once his breathing slows and settles again, you move onto what you were really planning on doing. The fingers that had been idly tracing over Droog's skin turn and crook with a sudden purpose, and you lever one leg over him to pin him at the waist.

Then you go to fucking town.

Droog's eyes widen dramatically in (pretended) shock as you dig your fingers into his sides, into every soft and sensitive spot you know he's got on his torso and you fucking tickle the shit out of him. He gasps and wheezes, convulsing in your arms like a gutted fish, trying to flap about and wiggle his way out of your grip and to freedom. You know exactly what sort of tricky bastard he is, so you head every attempt off and use your weight to keep him just where you want him. By this point, he had to have known what you were gonna do by now so you're pretty sure it's just his way of asking for it. God fuckin' forbid he ever actually say what he needs, out loud, to your face. Cagey schmuck.

One 'a these days, you're gonna get to him to admit what he wants. In a proper conversation about what the fuck this is and all. You'd both just kinda fell into it, and you have to admit it does wonders for your mood, doing this kind of thing.

Having the ineffable, unflappable Diamonds Droog wheezing with laughter under your relentless fingers is a god damn fucking gift. He's strong enough to let you lean on him and take the weight too. You're a seriously big fucking guy, it's not like everyone's up to this kind of roughhousing buffoonery. It's like beings kids - you guess - you don't think you were ever really a kid. But he gets to laugh and go weak like he needs to and you just get to fucking enjoy the sight of it. Quid pro fucking quo, as they say. The whole thing's reciprocal.

Once he's out of breath and has mostly given up struggling except for an occasional reflexive kick, you lift yourself a little, looking down at him. The two of you are just lying on the bed, wrapped up on each other and both of ya in your slacks and undershirts. Bare feet and all, and Droog's cheeks are flushed red, wet stains on his cheeks from helpless teary laughter as you'd tickled him to the point where things just started giving up on their control. Like how he knows you'll push him, if he keeps up his sass. It's not a punishment, nah. It's just. He never knows how to ask for any fucking thing at all, not outside of something as simple as a light for his gasper. This fool. This dandified motherfucker. Your pusher melts in your chest and you roll over onto your back to stare at the ceiling, so he can't see the look in your eyes.

He shifts onto his side, facing down on the mattress and throws an arm over the barrell of your chest. You breathe.

Asshole.

You stay silent at this whispered comment he breathes out like it's meant to be a dagger in your pride, but you can't keep your lips from quirking into a small, very small, grin as you look up at the ceiling. You find a way to poke him in the side, and he jumps like a startled cat but soon settles back in again against your bulk. Warm and close. Just like the cat you'd likened him to before.

Should I give it another go? Doesn't sound like you're relaxed enough for my liking yet, Droog, you comment like it doesn't matter to you at all. He shudders all over, you can feel it, but he shakes his head. You feel that too. You breathe out.

I'm good. He's silent for a moment, then he presses a kiss against your cheek. Your eyes fly open wider and you can feel yourself blushing. We're good.

Yeah. You swallow hard. Yeah, I guess we are.