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Butcher can’t believe this.

“Who the fuck is that?” he hauls MM aside to ask, earning an unimpressed glare and a begrudging glance in the direction he’s indicating. They’re still at the hotel, but Butcher has a TV appearance tonight and they’re apparently short on the security detail.

“That’s Hughie. New hire.”

“That skinny cunt? Are you having a laugh? He won’t last a fucking week, come on.”

He expects MM to tell him to be nice, to give the kid a chance. Everybody’s got to start somewhere. What he actually gets is, “Yeah, he doesn’t look like much. But you remember that country singer girl, Starlight, had that obsessive stalker, called himself Translucent?”

“Fuck, yeah, what happened to him? Thought that cunt would’a killed her, or- worse. Didn’t he just get bored and fuck off?”

“He never got the chance.”

Well- give the kid some credit. He nearly makes Butcher shit himself by materialising in the doorway without any fucking warning. Like if Constantine was an American, nerdy-looking lad with a juice pouch.

He’s still a skinny little twig. But Starlight’s detail is no picnic. And-

“You what? What happened to him?”

Hughie shrugs. "Just went missing. Nobody's seen him in months."

"Are you implying-"

"Just stating facts. We're taking a different car tonight. Leaving in thirty minutes."

And he walks away. Apparently with no qualms whatsoever about leaving Butcher gaping at him, open-mouthed and incredulous.

“You’ve hired a serial killer,” he says, after taking a moment to recover.

Frenchie shrugs. “Well, that is only one victim, so far.”

-

It’s not the usual car. The minibar’s stocked, and Butcher pretends not to notice the way MM sits between him and it. Like he’s going to just go on a bender because he’s sulking about who they hired.

Frenchie drives. Hughie’s in the front seat, cross-referencing the satellite navigation with whatever’s on his phone and some actual fucking maps.

MM catches Butcher staring. “He’s got a perfect record for every client. His only stipulation is, and I quote, from his contract, ‘Do exactly as I say, no matter how stupid it sounds, and you’ll get to live’.”

“When the fuck did I sign that? That’s a crock of shit, with a load of red flags stuck in it.”

“Last week, at that engagement party.”

Oh, yeah. Butcher vaguely remembers that. He signs a lot of things. “And if he kills me, then what?”

"Ehh. You're insured."

-

Someone rushes at Butcher while he’s out signing autographs. He’s got no idea how they got past the perimeter but Hughie’s at his shoulder, checking something on his phone. He just sighs, lifts his other arm and tasers the guy, holding the trigger until he’s twitching and dribbling on the floor and the very apologetic studio team are hauling him away.

“Five minutes,” he warns Butcher, and the noise of the crowd pleading for his attention from the other side of the barrier redoubles, although the woman who tries to grab his sleeve recoils at nothing more than Hughie’s pointed glare.

-

Butcher’s an actor. A pretty good one. He fucking has to be, to even get through the door when casting directors see his previous work.

Some of them have definitely seen his previous work. Those ones really struggle to make eye contact.

He’s not the first porn star to turn serious actor, but he’s certainly the one who’s done it best. It even works to his advantage, sometimes. A lot of gorgeous people like the idea of being with someone who knows what he’s doing.

 As if spending half an hour pounding away at someone while they both groaned gratuitously was ever fun for anyone.

“You ever see any of my older stuff?” he asks Hughie, one day. He can’t get a read on him.

Hughie just shrugs. “I’m not really into younger guys.”

Always one fucking step ahead. Butcher watches him walk away, and wishes he wasn’t impressed.

-

MM knows the signs. "You can’t fuck him, Butcher, we need him. Who else ever remembers the wi-fi password?"

"Oui. And what if he cuts your dick off?"

"Thanks, Frenchie. You're a real mate."

"I am looking out for you. That is one of your best assets."

"So, unless you wanna end up like some lumberjack Ken doll, I suggest you put it away," MM says.

Hughie, the eavesdropping little shit, chooses that moment to saunter past, shirtless, his lean, trim torso glistening with sweat, every muscle in his arms and shoulders taut and defined after a workout.

Butcher just whimpers and MM claps him on the back. "Stay strong. They still haven’t found Translucent's body."

"He might not be dead."

MM and Frenchie just laugh. Cunts.

-

Butcher’s sat at the table, trying to learn his fucking lines and failing.

"Okay, haha, real funny. Who took my pants!" Hughie calls out from his room.

Kimiko has them. She’s rummaging through his pockets. For some reason, she’s the only one who has no fear of Hughie, despite the fact that he is both a demonstrable threat to safety and security, and potentially a serial killer.

"This is bullying," is all Hughie says, though, casually leaning in the doorway in just his underwear. "If I did that to you, I'd get fired in a minute."

Kimiko just shrugs, her expression saying, "Sucks to be you," as clearly as any spoken words.

Butcher puts his head in his hands to keep from staring, but the image is burned into his retinas and fuck, it’s a good one.

Kimiko finds Hughie’s wallet, within which there is a credit card out of which she pops a plastic blade. There are a couple of pens he always has in his shirt pocket, which are actually fused together and fold out to reveal a butterfly knife.

Butcher watches with a fascinated, morbid curiosity.

Hughie’s belt is still threaded through the loops, and the buckle is a knife. One of his keys hides a blade that flips out.

The dummy phone in the back pocket is actually a taser.

Butcher’s terrified. And- a little turned on.

Kimiko’s impressed. She replaces the contents of Hughie’s pants and hands them over, holding his gaze with impressive resolve, considering he’s only in some very tight, black boxer-briefs. It’s like watching two wolves stare each other down.

Hughie only breaks eye contact with Kimiko to raise a smug brow in Butcher’s direction before stalking back to his room. With his hips swaying. If he knows full well what he’s doing, no harm in watching, right?

Even if-

Butcher frowns at Kimiko. Maybe what he thought was an intense competition for the alpha position was actually just the two of them eyeing each other up.

-

"Do you think he’s fucking Kimiko?” Butcher asks Frenchie.

"Non."

"Why not?"

"Because I am."

"You- what the fuck, that's a fucking double standard and you know it."

"That is because I, unlike you, can separate business from pleasure. You did not even notice. So don’t tell me I can't."

"Uhh, I used to be a porn star, Frenchie-"

“And you married your most frequent co-star. How did that work out for you?"

“Fuck off.” But Butcher’s heart’s not even in it. It’s hitting below the belt, even bringing that up, and Frenchie fucking knows it.

He’s done a lot of porn but nobody’s ever fucked him over like Becca.

And, yeah. The gruff scowl and brutish behaviour, the whole British Bulldog thing- that’s all an act. It’s not like he feels nothing. He feels deeply and irrevocably, practically to the point of obsession, and Hughie ignites something in him that he’d thought he’d never experience again.

He doesn’t want to think about it, let alone talk about it, though, and he stomps off to the kitchen, grumbling. He opens the fridge and he’s always told everyone it’s alright that they keep beer in there, he’s not tempted, but at that moment-

He snatches up a soda and retreats.

-

Hughie sees everything. He doesn’t even need to be there in person. He has technology on his side, and if the secret cameras he personally installs aren’t enough, it’s usually only the work of a few minutes to get into an insecure network and use somebody else’s.

So he knows. More than psychopaths like Translucent. More than the people themselves, sometimes.

Every moment of weakness, each display of emotion and threat to safety is filed away. It’s more than his job, to protect. It’s his life.

That’s why he watches Butcher so closely.

He has to keep him safe.

-

Life is a series of moments of weakness, Butcher thinks, as he passes through his terrible day on well-practiced autopilot. They’re thrown at you, one after the other, and the test is how you deal with them. You can surround yourself with people, and things, and shield your mind with all the psychological help in the world-

But sometimes you just really want the world to fucking pipe down.

He has no idea where everyone is when he slams the fridge open and reaches for a beer. He’s alone when he rummages through the drawer for a bottle opener. He’s already wondering where he can find something stronger as he pops the top, lifts the bottle to his lips and takes a long, grateful swig.

He chokes and coughs at the first taste.

Now, American beer has always been shit, but this-

“Oh, fuck off.”

He pours it out to prove it to his addled mind. It’s water.

Who the fuck put water into a sealed-

Oh. Of fucking course. “Hughie.”

“Yes?”

Now, Butcher’s not drunk. He can’t possibly be. There’s not a fucking drop of alcohol in the house, apparently. But Hughie looks phenomenal in a suit, hands stuffed in his pockets like he can’t imagine ever caring about putting on a truly professional facade. He’s so much better than anyone Butcher’s ever seen through a haze. He makes the rest of the world fade away, so it doesn’t feel like it’s screaming at him anymore.

Maybe Butcher just trades all his old addictions for new ones.

“You did this?” he raises the bottle to ask, and is surprised when his voice comes out steady, unslurred.

“I’m here to keep you safe.”

Butcher snorts. And he meets the eyes of someone who’s never flinched away, or tried to change him, who watches him back, sometimes.

Who walks away in the instant before Butcher can get up the nerve to try and kiss him.

The glass bottle makes a satisfyingly loud sound when Butcher throws it into the recycling bin, but it reminds him of being in the pub. Surrounded by cunts he doesn’t even like but feeling forced to make their company bearable for reasons he still doesn’t fully understand. He shudders.

“Thank you!” he shouts, and Hughie doesn’t acknowledge, but has to hear.

-

Hughie knows Butcher feels something for him.

And he knows that he wants Butcher five ways to Sunday, but he sees him slink off from parties with pretty women in cocktail dresses, or guys in fine suits.

Maybe he’s just looking for a bed warmer.

And he is Hughie’s boss, even though it’s MM who actually deals with all the paperwork.

He screens every single person at these events, so there’s no foreseeable threat. And then he waits outside hotel rooms, or bathroom cubicles, or cars. Guarding, with one hand on his phone and the other squeezing the shit out of a stress toy.

He tunes out the noise as best he can, a task that’s easy when Butcher’s partner for the night is set on triggering flashbacks to his low budget porn days with their vocal enthusiasm. It’s harder when it’s just grunts and groans of exertion, honest enjoyment, a testament to Butcher’s genuine skill.

Then, Hughie wills down the tent in his pants and surveys live feeds of halls and parking lots with gritted teeth.

He’s professional, not a fucking saint.

He can bring up the video feed from Butcher’s laptop or tablet if he wants, but knows he won’t see anything that makes him feel any better.

Occasionally he does it when he's sleeping, just to check. Just making sure the silence isn’t anything to be concerned about. Not to see Butcher when he’s relaxed and vulnerable, his whole life in Hughie’s hands.

-

He thinks Butcher knows he’s listening, and that he’s watching when maybe, morally, he shouldn’t be. Legally, he’s entitled. Some people really will sign anything.

The press tour takes its toll on Butcher. He’s exhausted. Too worn down to reliably maintain his usual boundaries, or filters.

The night when some skinny, brunet twink staggers out of his hotel room and asks, “Who’s Hughie?” as he signs the standard non-disclosure agreement, Butcher’s already passed out.

Hughie had been listening in, vigilant for any sign of foul play, had heard the sweet, breathless whisper of his name at that climactic moment and had to close his eyes and take a deep breath to contain his reaction. To resist the urge to burst in there and haul this stranger away from Butcher and take their place in his bed.

So in the face of the question, he can reliably inform this faceless nobody, “I have no idea. And with that signature, you don’t either. Now fuck off.”

Hughie can store any of his recordings, but he knows better than to save data that could be used against him, or anybody else.

He does it anyway.

-

The worst part is the security sweep. After strangers have left Butcher’s room, Hughie lets himself in, and he checks for items or substances or anything they might have left behind. It’s not difficult, technically, because whatever they might try to do, Hughie’s seen it before. He throws out business cards with cell phone numbers scrawled on them, returns “forgotten” underwear in the most embarrassing ways possible, steps on and flushes recording devices.

But Butcher is not one to care about his energy usage. He likes to be warm, and even when he’s sticky with drying sweat and come, he’s splayed out on top of the sheets, unashamedly naked.

Not that he has anything to be ashamed of. He’s utterly, inescapably gorgeous. Hughie could stare at him for hours, just committing every single line of that physique to memory.

This time, the one where he knows, when he heard Butcher say his name is worse than any of the ones that came before.

Usually Hughie barges in, in the morning, makes Butcher coffee and barrels him into the shower to wash off the evidence of his escapades.

Tonight he can’t stand it for another moment.

He wets a washcloth, the water not hot or cold enough to risk startling Butcher into wakefulness. There’s come smeared across his stomach but Hughie gently, lovingly, wipes him down, cleans away every trace of another’s presence. Overwrites it with his own. His hands are steady but his lips tingle with the craving for more.

Butcher doesn’t so much as stir.

If he doesn’t know, can he possibly mind?

Hughie watches the steady rise and fall of his chest, evidence that he’s alive, safe. Nobody’s getting in here except him.

Until tomorrow. But he’ll deal with that then.

-

It’s a few nights later that someone pushes both of them too far.

Now, Hughie knows Butcher’s habits. He knows, can practically feel it in his bones when Butcher comes. He can go three times with the right motivation, but his guy- is not. He’s hot enough, but nothing special.

What he is, is fucking pushy, though, and Hughie’s listening, steadily tipping over from concerned into furious as he hears Butcher’s overstimulated whimpers turn to whines and then growled objections, clear and undeniable.

Hughie doesn’t need to kick the door open, but he does. First impressions are everything, and he is certainly not impressed by the man gaping at him, mouth opening and closing wordlessly like he’s some kind of fucking fish.

He sees Butcher scramble for something with which to cover himself, but there’s nothing within reach. He settles for moving a little further from-

“Kevin, is it?” Hughie asks, entirely rhetorically. He knows. He also knows exactly how to bring down the indignant, man-child attempting to square up to him and shame Butcher.

“Couldn’t handle me yourself, Billy? Had to call security?”

"You wanna talk about security, well. I’d like to talk about insecure wi-fi. And what it can reveal about a person. Now, I’m not interested in your financial institutions, but your search history- have you always had such a wide-ranging interest in the mating habits of dolphins?”

All the colour leaves Kevin’s face. As if Hughie needed any confirmation of the accuracy of his data.

“Not sure your colleagues at your maritime law firm would be impressed if they found out, now, would they?” Hughie smiles. Holds up the standard non-disclosure agreement. It’s already filled out with personal information he hasn’t technically been given. Like this man’s home address. “Sign here and get out."

He does.

Butcher’s naked, exposed and gorgeous but lacking the confidence to see it in that moment. He tries to laugh it off. "Was that fucking true? I wondered why he kept making those fucking- squeaky clicking sounds. Fuck me, what's the world coming to."

It’s nearly impossible for Hughie to keep his gaze fixed on the wall above Butcher’s head. If he cracks, Butcher will tell him without ceremony to get out. Instead, Hughie turns and begins to fuss over the placement of insignificant objects, ostensibly but unnecessarily tidying. “He did seem to have an unhealthy attraction to aquatic mammals.”

And then he stops, turns back, meets Butcher’s eyes without flinching because- “I can screen your- partners for criminal records, search habits, employment histories. I can't keep out the ones who are going to be pushy when you're not in the mood. I'm sorry that happened to you."

It's Butcher who shakes his head and looks away, no matter whether the apology was deserved. Hughie should have been better. He should have known the second that creep touched Butcher’s shoulder.

“It’s alright. Rather- have you here than him, anyway.”

He should have been here.

Well. He’s here now. And he’s going to remove every trace of a stranger’s touch from what’s his. He’s never retrieved the washcloth from the bathroom with wide, vulnerable eyes on him all the while, but Butcher trusts him. Understanding dawns, visibly, when Hughie returns to kneel beside him.

He’s wondered, then, why he doesn’t wake up sticky anymore. Why there’s always coffee in the pot, timed perfectly for his wake-up call, no evidence of any visitors strewn around.

Hughie’s hands still threaten to tremble with all the repressed rage he holds for a man long-gone, but it helps him move slowly, to telegraph his intentions. When he reaches out to wipe gently at Butcher’s neck, to remove whatever’s smeared across his skin there, Butcher leans in. Hughie smooths the cloth outwards, over one defined shoulder and then across the other, waits before continuing down but Butcher’s eyes just slide shut. So trusting.

It feels like cleaning away the touch of everyone who’s come before. In his exertion, Butcher is coated with a sheen of sweat, and Hughie erases it with gentle, wet warmth, nothing like the covetous touches of strangers. With only the slightest pressure, he eases Butcher down onto his back, a more customary position for this act, and lavishes attention on his chest. He’s entranced, intent on his task, Butcher so relaxed and unresisting that he might as well be asleep except for his eyes, lidded rather than closed.

He’s watching, curious, but nothing that Hughie does coaxes a reaction from him. Not a voluntary one, anyway. When Hughie smooths the cloth over his stomach and then caresses his thighs, his cock swells, gamely, but Hughie is watching the parting of his lips, the darkening pink of his cheeks, the flutter of his lashes. Butcher’s breathing comes faster, his heart races. Hughie can see the pulse pounding in the vulnerable, exposed curve of his throat.

Those dark eyes roll back as Hughie wraps his cloth-covered hand around the base of Butcher’s cock, grips firmly and strokes the length of it, just once.

It's the desperate arch of Butcher's spine, the clenching of his fists in the sheets and the silent, blissful gasp, his mouth falling open, that snaps Hughie out of it, and he feels panic hit him all at once. He's crossed too many lines.

"I- all clean," he manages to report, vaguely, before he all-but runs out of the room.

He thinks he hears his name being called, but it’s barely audible.

-

Hughie’s so-called record is perfect.

Nobody ever asks why he sought out a job in security in the first place.

They never ask about the one person he couldn’t save.

Robin.

He can’t get so close to a person that he can’t protect them. Not again.

-

Butcher worms his way in, though.

“No company tonight?” Hughie has to ask, the third time in a row Butcher emerges from a party full of very attractive people without some pretty thing on his arm.

Instead, he slides into the back seat of the car, next to Hughie, and smiles at him. “They’re not what I need.”

He splays out in his seat, legs spread just wide enough to be touching Hughie’s slightly.

He presses a little too close whenever they pass.

He brushes Hughie’s fingers at every opportunity.

And he leaves the fucking door ajar when he’s alone in his room, a wordless invitation.

-

At hotels, they generally get suites. When they’re filming in the middle of fucking nowhere, though, they’re put up in a kind of isolated cabin. There’s an entryway in which Hughie sits, somewhere between Butcher’s territory and the real world, potentially full of strangers with unsavoury intentions. Frenchie is patrolling; he can see him on his screens, unpredictable and vigilant. He’s good.

Butcher is practically naked, practicing his lines, strolling around like Hughie isn’t even there. It’s not like he can entirely tear his attention away from his task but having that in his peripheral sends a thrum of pleasure through his veins. He’s allowed to see this, to share in it, and that is an honour he does not underestimate.

It’s been a long few days, though, and Kimiko comes to relieve him.

He needs some sleep, but there are no other rooms, and Frenchie and MM are sharing the car, she delightedly reports. He’s going to have to share with Butcher. It’s safer that way, anyway.

Hughie can’t think of a single legitimate reason to tell her no. He’s completed all of his checks multiple times, and while he could continue all night, it’s best not to give in to his obsessive compulsions when they’ll render him less able to respond to a genuine threat.

He strips to his underwear, nothing to be ashamed of, and then he eyes the bed and Butcher dozing in it with more trepidation than he’s ever experienced with any of the dangerous people he’s faced up to.

“You’d better not be thinking you’re sleeping on some freezing bloody floor.” Butcher grumbles, without even looking at him. “I’ll even put some shorts on if you like.”

“It’s your bed,” Hughie says, tremulous at the thought of Butcher naked and so, so close, even as he approaches to touch the edge of the mattress with cautious fingers. “I don’t want to intrude.”

"Well I don’t want you to fucking keep me awake, so. Move your arse."

Hughie slips under the covers, and does his best to avoid any physical contact.

-

It dawns on him, as- well, the new day dawns, that he has never seen Butcher share a bed overnight.

If he had, maybe he would have realised the intense cuddling instinct was not limited to pillows by anything other than opportunity. Butcher’s wrapped around Hughie, pressed up against him, heavy and undeniable, and although it’s not uncomfortable -fuck, Hughie can’t remember waking up feeling better- it’s definitely intimate.

It’s been so long. And Butcher is so, so hard and hot where he’s pressed against Hughie’s thigh.

Hughie is a bad, bad person. He tries to tell himself it’s selfless, just helping Butcher get what he wants. The poor guy’s been depriving himself, at least partly because of Hughie. He’s used to a certain level of attention.

And Hughie can give him that attention.

His resistance has been crumbling for a while, with all of the teasing. It shatters with the sounds of a soft moan, an unconscious roll of hips that brings the full length of Butcher’s cock into contact with Hughie’s skin.

He can’t extricate himself without shattering the moment, without losing this. He doesn’t want to startle Butcher awake, leave him humiliated and rejected by Hughie’s inevitable panic. He knows Butcher wants him, that this isn’t taking advantage so much as- skipping a few steps.

And it’s so much easier to say the words when he doesn’t have to anticipate the likely response. When he’s got his fingers threaded through Butcher’s hair and he’s so soft and warm and pliant it’s impossible not to tell him how gorgeous he is, how good he knows they’d be together, how he’d love to be able to wake up like this always, if only he weren’t being so ridiculous and denying them.

With an arm wrapped around Butcher’s back, a hand splayed over his hip, spurring him on through the unconscious grinding motions, Hughie has no clue what he was thinking, believing he could live without this. It’s the most erotic thing he’s ever seen, shameless and honest, trusting and willing.

He can tell the moment Butcher emerges from his dreams, because he wraps himself even tighter, weighs Hughie down even more, presses more firmly against his thigh and rasps, “Hughie-“ against the skin of his throat, burying his face there. He’s trembling, not quite holding back. Cautious and careful but desperate, strung taut and ready to snap.

“Yeah, I’m here.” Hughie gives Butcher’s hip a squeeze, clenches his fist to tug at his hair, just a little. “Come on, beautiful. Come for me, you can do it.”

Butcher does, quaking and with a broken, blissful whine, spilling over their skin as he mouths at Hughie’s throat in not-quite kisses.

Hughie just watches in fascination, kneading the skin of Butcher's side and back as he rides it out.

When Butcher has subsided to ragged breathing, his weight heavy and languorous, his hand strays down Hughie’s stomach, trailing through the spots and spatters of his come.

“Not yet,” Hughie whispers. This is- a lot. And if Butcher touches him there’s no way he won’t panic. He sighs with relief when a warm hand splays over his sternum instead, and eyelashes flutter against his neck, but there are no questions.

It’s been a long time since Hughie’s been accepted as he is, neuroses and all.

"I'd do anything for you," it feels safe for Hughie to confess, in a whisper, with those last few moments before he knows he has to get up, to extricate himself from whatever this is while Butcher drifts off, back into well-deserved rest.

"Th’n stay," Butcher slurs, half or maybe entirely asleep, Hughie can't be sure.

And they have still got a couple hours before they need to get up. So he stays. Falls back asleep with Butcher's breath at his neck. Swears he can feel the ghost of a kiss against his skin.

Hughie knows he's totally fucked.

-

Kimiko wakes him up with a slam of the door and a shit-eating grin on her face, so he quickly lurches up and into the shower before Butcher can comment on the dried come smeared across his skin. He doesn’t even have time to touch himself and take a little of the edge of his anxiety off, hasn't made coffee, leaves the bathroom with a towel around his waist and nearly walks into Butcher.

Butcher, who hands him a steaming mug with a soft look in his eyes and a smile.

"Thanks." Hughie says, trying to figure out if they need to talk about this, what's happening, how tempted they both are to enter into something that can’t possibly be a good idea.

"Thank you." Butcher says back, presses close to kiss his cheek softly before heading into the bathroom himself.

Yep. Totally fucked.

-

So now he has to deal with Butcher practically courting him. Buying him gifts, touching him at every opportunity without it being inappropriate, listening avidly even when Hughie goes off on a tangent about something that doesn’t even matter.

-

Butcher is very confused to find Frenchie and MM don’t have any huge objections to this.

"I think he's good for you." MM shrugs. "Scary enough not to put up with your bullshit. Good enough to keep you under control. And- you're softer, with him. It's a good look on you."

"Sickeningly cute," Frenchie agrees.

"I am not fucking cute," he grumbles.

He’s just browsing online for a nice pair of brass knuckles because Hughie complained it was a lot harder to punch someone in the face when they were an Instagram paparazzo holding a phone, rather than a proper camera. It’s work-related.

-

Obviously Hughie monitors his internet history, because he catches him, leans in one day to tell him ceramic weapons are a better choice because they don’t show up for metal detectors.

A little pissed off that he ruined the surprise, Butcher spends the next night searching for increasingly elaborate porn and potentially scars himself for life, so he hopes Hughie gets a kick out of it.

-

When the press tour is over, Hughie finds Butcher’s home is woefully vulnerable. He’s supposed to be relaxing, they all are, but Hughie can’t sit still until he knows their perimeter is defended.

He’s not even necessarily going to be needed. It’s not covered in his contract, but-

"I get so bored, and lonely by myself. Might need someone to stay. Look after me." Butcher comes to stand immediately behind him, a warm hand sliding beneath the hem of his shirt to wrap around Hughie's hip, emphasis in all the right places as he murmurs in Hughie's ear, makes him shiver.

"I have to do this." Hughie indicates the camera he's installing. But he doesn't move, his body still so close and so real, Butcher's breath ghosting over his neck.

"Not all night. Right? You can keep me safe. And keep me company. What if I scream? And you're not there to hear it."

He’s making it very clear he’s not talking about getting murdered.

Hughie swallows wetly, and he knows Butcher hears. He noses against Hughie’s pounding pulse point, has to know his heart is racing.

No one’s around. They're alone; the others left to get lunch. There's a guest house out back, but Hughie doesn't think he can exile himself out there like he planned.

Not with this temptation, with Butcher pressed against him, fingers delicately tracing the line of his waistband.

Hughie’s hands are shaking.

He's losing his grasp on his self-control. He has to protect what's his before he risks taking what he wants, no matter how badly he craves it. He can't lose Butcher, after they’ve come so far. He'll never forgive himself.

-

"Let me- let me do this. I have to do this." Hughie’s tone is nothing like assertive, but Butcher knows better than to doubt his certainty. He’s happy to even be allowed this, to touch and caress and begin to show just how intently he’ll worship, given the chance.

So- "The cameras?" he seeks to confirm. 

"The cameras. The backup power supply. The motion sensors."

"And then?"

"And then whatever you want." Hughie turns then, the loss of his warmth a wrench, his eyes are wide and terrified.

Butcher cradles his stupid gorgeous face with both hands. His Hughie is struggling and he can’t stand it, not when tears threaten to spill down his cheeks and he’s shaking like Butcher's never seen. It means he matters, he knows. "I want you. Any way I can have you. You need to spend a night watching cameras? Confirming layouts. Changing settings. That's fine, but come and do it in bed with me, fucks sake. Let me hold you."

And Hughie does it like he can't believe his compulsions are being tolerated, let alone indulged, but he nods.

They don't do anything that night but cuddle. Butcher curls around Hughie while he's sat up going through the cameras on his handheld monitor, checking the infrared, his laptop open on the nightstand, no single square inch of the property beyond his surveillance.

-

Hughie was worried that it might have been some kind of ploy to tear him away from his work at the first opportunity, but the worst Butcher does is grumble and cling when he gets up to use the bathroom.

And when Hughie finally feels like he might be done, at some ridiculous hour of the morning, he settles down beneath the sheets and he's aware, this time, of Butcher wrapping slowly around him, warm and comforting.

"Thank you," he whispers, and this time he knows it's a kiss pressed against the back of his neck.

Maybe this can work after all. He hadn’t allowed himself to think about how much he'd miss having another person so close in every sense.

But this is- nice. Good. Positive.

Terrifying.

-

He wakes up to find himself tangled with Butcher but not feeling restricted, relishes in the opportunity to stare as much as he's always wanted, to just watch him breathe.

And he aches to wake him up with a kiss, but he won’t let that be their first. Even when they've already done so much more.

Instead, he strokes his fingers through Butcher's hair, urges him into waking, feels his breath catch at the moment of honest surprise and joy that Butcher cannot possibly keep from his eyes.

"You stayed," Butcher says, too, like he can’t quite believe it, like he thinks so little of himself or of Hughie-

"I want to kiss you."

Butcher's voice cracks on the word, "Please."

It’s gentler than Hughie expects. Butcher is still not entirely awake, happy to linger in the space before the day kicks in and they both have to deal with responsibilities, and Hughie is selfish, so he keeps him there. He kisses him, feels the electric sparks that mark the first time of something good and allows them to drown out the cacophonous thoughts, just for a while.

Butcher’s breath is warm, his lips soft, his body firm and responsive. Technically Hughie has been aware of all these things for a long time, but now he confirms them, thrilled but not surprised that Butcher melts into the sheets beneath him, like he’s been waiting for this for a long time. Like he trusts Hughie to take care of him.

Even after all Hughie’s done to take advantage of him. Even though he’s been contractually obliged to allow Hughie into his space, and Hughie never sought real permission to touch him when he was soft and sleepy and vulnerable.

He’s different now than with anyone Hughie’s ever seen. More himself, with heavy breathing rather than grunts and groans, relaxed rather than putting up that token display of an attempt at dominance when Hughie knows all he wants is to be treasured and taken apart.

A desire Hughie is all-too happy to fulfil. He’s stared at this man often enough, for long enough to know exactly where he aches to touch. With kisses pressed to the soft skin of his throat, bared submissively, pulse pounding beneath the surface, Hughie allows his eyes to close so he can better savour the sensations, the quiet sounds, the combined scent of them, all he’s dreamed of for so long.

When he opens them again, Butcher is staring at him, helpless. Rendered that way just by a few touches, brief moments beneath him. Hughie strokes a hand down his chest and lower just to watch him shiver, trails fingers through the hair beneath his navel. Butcher sleeps naked and he’s hardening lazily at the attention, prepared for there to be no sexual intent in this.

He doesn’t need to be. Hughie’s waited long enough.

-

They’re good together. Hughie observes well enough to know what Butcher wants, and he’s more than willing to give it, and Butcher’s been teasing him for so long it must have been torture for him too, the waiting.

There’s a slightly awkward moment when they're swiftly moving towards having sex for the first time. Both working to please the other, never risking hurting them, there’s some fumbling before they work out that Butcher wants to be pushed face down onto the sheets and fucked as much as Hughie wants to do it.

He had thought he wouldn’t be able to look away from those beautiful, dark eyes, but the view, the whines and whimpers of having Butcher underneath him are incomparable. They need to work out their tension, and going hard, fast, deep, is what makes Butcher melt into the sheets, give himself over to the sensation.

The way he says Hughie’s name in blissful, desperate little pleas drives him crazy, urges him on, pushes him to his limits. He’s never been able to unleash himself like this before, but Butcher takes everything he has to give and pushes back for more, fists clenched in the sheets, the long, glorious arch of his back arched, stripes from the scratch of Hughie’s nails etched into him.

He’s beautiful, wonderful, perfect and Hughie tells him so as they both lay recovering, as his soothing, gentle touches calm them both. He wants to explore every inch of that smooth tanned, skin, can no longer imagine how he ever let anybody else lay their hands on it, now that he knows he can have this all to himself.

By the time he’s lavished kisses and grazes of his teeth on sensitive inner thighs, though, he’s distracted.

It takes longer, this time, a slow, aching wait, precious for every moment it lasts before Butcher whimpers and shudders and spills down his throat.

There are no more scratches, no more bites then, just long, lazy kisses as Butcher laps the taste of himself from Hughie’s tongue, as the weak clutch of his hand and then the giving heat of his body coax Hughie into coming inside him.

He’s sore and keening by the time they finish, Hughie dripping down his thighs, one hell of a sight.

Hughie runs them both a bath, arranges him with Butcher leaning back against his chest, squirming against he satisfying ache in his thighs and his ass, the gentle, unrelenting attention Hughie pays to his pert nipples as he kisses his throat and wrings a final, shuddering wave of a climax from him, renders him lax and breathless.

“Rest. I’ll keep you safe,” Hughie’s told him before, many times, but never with Butcher curled against him, being held by him, beneath sheets their combined efforts have thoroughly ruined.

He reaches for his phone and scans the perimeter, unable to shake old habits, before he allows himself to doze too, nose buried in Butcher’s soft, damp hair.

-

Hughie wishes Kimiko wouldn’t use his camera monitoring station. She always leaves popcorn crumbs in the keyboard.