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Warnings: Domestic abuse & violence, hints of drug abuse and rape.

It was difficult to be so close to another human being; or in this case, it could be emotionally exhausting for Chuck to best friends with Mike Chilton. Mike wasn't only someone who always had his back, someone who was impulsive and mad, or someone who he could just spend time with while doing mediocre activities. He was someone who knew his secrets, things he'd rather keep buried away; set it on fire and lock the ashes in a safe twenty feet beneath the Earth's surface.

Mike was his salvation, he was the one who helped him get out of a dark place when no one else would. He was incredible, fantastic, brilliant and kind. Initially, Chuck looked up at him in admiration, fascination, and fear. But as days passed, he soon realized that he wasn't just some sort of charity case, Mike didn't bend himself backwards to receive some sort of self gratification. The other boy actually cared; not fake, pretend cared, it was selfless.

He found himself stop regarding Mike as a savoir, but rather a friend. He became someone he trusted, someone he was comfortable around, his companion. Slowly he started regressing back to who he really was. He could engage in his hobbies and passions again, gained his own independence, and was no longer helpless or alone. His self-worth grew, and his anxiety and depression started to shrink a bit each passing week.

Chuck would find himself smiling, laughing, and reverting back to the goofy kid that he was and deserved to be. He could express himself without fear, speak up when he wanted to, even criticize and chide without a violent aftermath. Mike helped him become who he was once again, and that's what was so hard. While there were things Chuck had kept from the other Burners, there was nothing that was concealed from Mike, and sometimes that was more scary than comforting. Nothing could erase a year of abuse, not even the one and only Mike Chilton.

One reason why it was so hard was because he saw how much it hurt Mike; in his expression changing or pausing for a split second, or the way he would stare into space with a grim look on his face. It was the way Mike looked liked a strucken child whenever Chuck flinched away because of a sudden movement, the touch from another, or even a touch from Mike. He saw it when Mike noticed that it wasn't him Chuck was seeing, but someone else. He could see how powerless Mike would feel, because after all this time Chuck couldn't ever go back to how he once was. Not really, not completely

He would tell himself that it was his fault, it was his fault that he was so fucked up. He was so stupid, useless, selfish. He should try harder, stop letting something that happened so long ago still affect him. But then Chuck would remember that he really wasn't the one to blame. Like Mike had told him so many times, it wasn't his fault.

It was never his fault; even when he would have nightmares, where it wasn't his ex that was breaking tableware and landing punches on him, but Mike. Where Chuck would finally mess up enough for Mike to turn on him, to switch the tape back to it's A side and play the same songs over again. These were worse than the dreams where he would relive some of his worst days. It screamed to him that after everything Mike had done for him, even if Chuck trusted him with his life, that part of him deep within his subconscious was still afraid. Not just afraid, but afraid of Mike, because Mike knew. He knew so much, and knowledge was the greatest weapon because it could be used against him to control him, and fear cut so much deeper than swords.

That was the worst, because at the end of the day, no matter what had happened, that was his cruel reality. He could spend a day feeling fine, good even, along side the leader of The Burners. Though when he was alone, lying in bed, the paranoia started to bleed out. The fear and anxiety started to come back, and some nights he would feel like he was on his way to standing back on square one all over again. Chuck hated himself because of it sometimes, but other times he could bring himself to put that hate towards the person who twisted him like this in the first place.

At first, his ex didn't seem like anything out of the ordinary. He was a bit of a loner, but he was kind, or at least he seemed that way. He would buy Chuck flowers, despite his embarrassed protests, and eventually gave him a roof over his head. Chuck came to Motorcity alone, with nothing to his name, and stayed at a shelter for awhile at first. But his ex helped him out of that place which in all honesty, was less than ideal, and for some time they had a nice little life together.

Of course, that charade ended the first time his ex had lost his temper. It wasn't anything major at the time, only a slip up, an insult towards his geeky hobbies. His ex had blamed it on being tired, and Chuck had let it go, just like that. Things moved on, they went to movies, ate dinner, brought groceries together and snuggled on the couch. They were happy, and they were happy together.

Things changed though, his ex wasn't some kind of angel, Chuck had never thought of him as that. He struggled with addiction; something that was common enough in Motorcity. He had started to convince Chuck that he needed him, and he couldn't leave him alone so often. His ex made him believe that Chuck was the only one that could help him, and without him, he'd relapse. So he complied, and he started seeing other people less and less, after all, at the time they didn't seem nearly as important.

The insults came more often by then, and it was all Chuck's fault, or so he was told. It was his fault for not coming home soon enough, or not doing something right, or paying too much attention to a job or hobby. Then came the yelling, and the humiliation, and he felt so ashamed of himself. He was being so selfish and made mistakes no matter what he did, and his self-worth started to diminish. It didn't mean anything if he didn't do a good job, because no one else would go out of their way to help him like his ex did; no one else would care about some nerdy, programmer kid without a penny to his name. His ex had done so much for him, despite everything he went through and was going through, and Chuck had no excuse for disobedience.

Yet no matter how hard he tried to help his ex, things just got worse. It seemed like nothing he did was satisfactory, and Chuck began feeling helpless at this point. When he was first hit, he was surprised. But by the third time he started to believe that he deserved it. Even after being beat after a false accusation of Chuck cheating because he didn't come home on time, regardless of the errand being impossible to complete on such short notice; his ex still said that it was Chucks fault, and he believed him.

Occasionally he would reflect and wonder why things got so wrong, was he really all that bad? Could he really not do anything right? The answer was always yes, and things only got worse. The isolation was bad enough on its own, because he no longer engaged in any of the activities he once enjoyed. Why would he bother? He wasn't any good at them, there was no point in even trying. A lot of the time Chuck was alone, and because he didn't have anyone else, he had no where else to go. So he was stranded there like that, in his fear and inflated self-hatred.

Then things would change, his ex would shower him in apologizes, promise things would be better. Each time Chuck would believe him, mostly because he wanted to believe. They would act like they used to. They would laugh, walk around the city, watch movies in bed, and he would be convinced that it would stay that way. The sex wouldn't be forced in this part of the cycle. They would talk about the future, and how bright it was.

Unsurprisingly, it would only take one punch to crumble it all into dust. It seemed like each time the situation would get better, it would soon become twice as worse as before. The violence would become unbearable, and there were days where Chuck wouldn't be able to get himself out of bed because of how everything just hurt. It was like his ex would turn into a different person, and he would do everything in his power to bring back the person that treated him so kindly, even for a little bit. It began to start to feel hopeless, and on some nights he would fear for his life.

That's when he met Mike Chilton.

It was completely by chance, Chuck was returning home from grocery shopping and his plastic bags ripped. When he started frantically picking everything up from the sidewalk, a stranger lent a helping hand. He flinched, and sort of freaked out a bit, but the other boy was oddly cool with it. He didn't mind the silly mistake and took time out of his day to go and get him a few more bags, and then they went their separate ways.

Chuck doubted he would ever see that boy again, and his life went on as usual for a few more weeks without fluctuation. Yet they ran into each other again, this time at the supermarket itself. Mike was picking up a few things for Jacob, and Chuck was doing a usual pick up for his ex. At the time he had a nasty black eye, but his hair hid that, and they had a surprisingly nice chat. Mike sounded genuinely curious about him, asking him what he was interested in and what he enjoyed doing. He even offered Chuck to join his group against Kane, The Burners, saying that his tech related skills could actually be useful!

He of course, declined, and Mike decided to lay off and talk a bit about himself. It would be a lie if he said he wasn't weary at the time, but a good chunk of him thought that Mike was simply a friendly guy who had a wonderful dream.

The third time they met, Mike gave Chuck a ride home. He would never forget the first time he rode with Mike Chilton. Between the adrenaline rush and the carefree screaming, which at the time were always followed by apologies, it was both terrifying and amazing. He never experienced anything like it, and despite the danger he trusted that Mike wouldn't let him get hurt. Chuck learned how Mike was, indeed, reckless. But he also discovered that he also cared about others, when his hair moved from his face enough to show off his yellowing bruise.

It was nerve wrecking a first, Mike seemed like he wanted nothing more than to go all mother hen on him. But after insisting that it was just the result of some slippery stairs and poor footing, Mike stubbornly backed off. Chuck got beat up pretty bad that night for being late, and he was still blaming himself. If he was going to run off with strangers, even strangers that acted concerned about his injuries, than he had only himself to blame, right?

Everything took off from there, Chuck would run into Mike, they would have a good time, and Chuck would pay for it later by the hands of his ex. They'd started planning to meet each other and they would hang out here and there, and Mike wouldn't touch on any more sensitive subjects, mainly because he started being more careful about hiding his injuries. He wondered if Mike was just like his ex, someone who would change into another, and react violently if Chuck made some sort of mistake. But even if he was a leader of a small rebel group and violence was a typical part of his life, Mike never reacted violently to Chuck, ever. Even when he accidentally scratched Mutt's paint, or when he badly distracted him by screaming; Mike never raised a hand against him or belittled him.

Sure, he wasn't peachy about these things, but he never became aggressive. He seemed to have a good handle on his emotions when it came to this sort of thing. After this, Chuck started to trust Mike more and more, and he soon became increasingly relaxed around him. That is, if they weren't driving around Motorcity like mad men, then Mike was just a crazy person. A crazy person who said that he wouldn't let anything happen to Chuck, and who was risking his life for a reality that he wanted to reach.

This is when he began to admire Mike, he was unlike anyone he had ever met, one of a kind. He was so great, so much better than Chuck, yet he treated him like he was actually worth something. Here Mike was, fighting Kane, of all people. Leading what seemed to be an impossible war against an oppressive leader. He could fight, he could drive. He was confident and sociable, and Chuck was nothing in comparison. But Mike would take time to get to know Chuck, he would slowly open up and they would laugh together like old friends would.

Not much more time passed for Mike to find out. He showed at Chuck's place unannounced and uninvited. He wasn't even supposed to know where Chuck lived, but after asking a few people nearby, he got accurate directions. He was so excited, having found a great piece of technology that he thought Chuck would absolutely adore. Mike didn't even knock on the door, he stood outside hearing yelling, glasses breaking, and quiet sobbing.

It was the most humiliating day of Chuck's life.

How could it not be? His ex resembled a monster, his knuckles white and stained with blood, his eyes wide and crazed. Chuck was pathetically weak, never doing anything to defend himself, barely holding himself up with the help from the kitchen counter. It wasn't a terrible beating really, it was mild compared to others he had received, but the memory of this one made him sicker than any of the others. It was the first time he had seen Mike Chilton angry, and seeing that expression on him made Chuck realize how broken and screwed up his life, and his relationship, really was.

Whenever he thought of this moment, everything was muted and silent. The words passed through him, and he couldn't recall what was said. The actions however, they were etched into his skin, it was a neon sign that flickered at the corners of his eyes.

There was a lot of yelling. Mike hadn't just stood there; because after the initial shock he took action, and let his raw emotions guide him like they often did. They caused so much noise, and as Mike advanced, his ex took paces away from them. Chuck could see the tension in Mike's posture, he saw how tightly his fists were clenched, and the fury in his eyes. Someone he cared about, even if that someone was a person he had only known for a short period of time, was being terribly hurt for God knows how long. He didn't understand how someone could hurt another person like that, and it disgusted him, so Mike raised his fist against Chuck's ex.

But the punch never came. His hand lowered, and with a final nasty glare his ex was sent running. Maybe he knew that violence, at that very moment, wouldn't solve anything. Mike could hit the abuser until his skin was black and blue, he could torture him for days, but nothing would take back what had already happened to Chuck. It wouldn't rewind the damage already done, it wouldn't solve anything.

Instead, Mike chastely offered his hand to help, and took care of Chuck's wounds without prying. He figured that what Chuck really needed was to be shown that Mike wasn't a person that resorted to violence. He had to keep himself in check if he ever wanted the blond boy to ever trust him. Mike needed to be the better person, he needed to be the best that he could be in that moment, all for the boy living in a nightmare.

The entire time Chuck wasn't sure if he was relieved or if he wanted to turn back time to a point where he never met Mike. There was so much goddamn pity in his eyes, like he saw Chuck as a wounded animal, whispering 'You've met with a terrible fate, haven't you?' He was seen for what he really was that day; pathetic and helpless, and he was sure Mike would never treat him the same again. He'd always be some sort of fixer upper, someone who was so messed up inside that he got himself into such a terrible situation in the first place. He was a person that wasn't strong enough to leave, and still not strong enough to live.

This time Chuck did accept his offer, not to become a Burner, but to leave with him.

He feared that Mike would just be another version of his ex, just with a new face. Someone that would come along and help him, show him happiness, and then dominate and control him. Chuck would flinch a lot back then, he was fearful and quiet. He didn't talk to Mike very often, and became closed off, terrified that either his ex would come back and finally end his life or that these new people around him would begin to harm him as well. It was like walking on broken glass then, and no one knew exactly what to do.

Days came and went, slowly everything seemed to improve. They would go back to the beginning at times, but there was never a day where Mike deemed Chuck a lost cause. The two would spend time together, even if it was just for a little bit, every single day. Mike wouldn't force him to do anything, or talk about anything, but eventually it all came pouring out. With tears and all, starting from before the beginning, to the very end. Everything that he desperately wanted to never say was spoken anyways, and not once did Mike judge him.

After that, Chuck started to change, everything started to grow and transform before them.

Chuck started to see the flaws in Mike, and wouldn't fear them. He stopped being a person that Chuck revered, but an actual, authentic friend. Over time he loosened up, he got back into his passions and started talking more. He soon wore the Burners logo over his chest, and was now officially apart of the team. He started going on missions, and he made his way into their little family, working against Kane for a greater good.

He was comfortable around Mike, more so than he was with any other person. They bettered each other; Mike helped Chuck recover and reminded him of what he was capable of, and Chuck helped ground Mike and would force him to think before acting more often. Mike stopped being the person that held him up and helped Chuck get on his own two feet again, to be his own person once more. Chuck would be Mike's voice of reason and a wedge that kept the doors of his mind open. They became better than friends, and perhaps better than best friends, they were so much more closer than that.

As Chuck grew more comfortable with Mike, psychical touch became not only bearable, but enjoyable. He stopped flinching so often and found Mike's touch comfortable, warm, and safe. He was always gentle and careful not to touch him suddenly. Soon Chuck would touch Mike too, and eventually it was normal for him to occasionally cling to Mike after being startled for whatever reason.

The first time they kissed both made him happy and frightened. Sometimes they'd pull away and Chuck wouldn't see Mike, but his ex, and how they used to be. He'd feel guilty, because Mike would bleed himself dry for Chuck, and no matter what he did he couldn't stop those thoughts from surfacing. They started going steady, and while things weren't perfect, Chuck was still happy. Sometimes Chuck would have to stop with the intimate stuff, because it was too much for him, but Mike would always understand. Even months later, Mike never threatened him, insulted him, or hurt him.

Which is why Chuck was standing outside of his door right now.

Usually he could fall asleep on his own, despite everything that ran through his mind. But he lied there at 3 am, with nothing but his thoughts, fears and hopes. He stood there still, listening to the noise of the city, because it was never quiet down here. His long fingers wrapped around the doorknob and froze for a moment. Reason told him that Mike wouldn't mind, but there was still something that held him back. He let the noise embrace him during his hesitation; the sound of cars moving past the garage, of machines and people who lived their lives during the late nights and early mornings.

The door opened, and he stepped inside, this was the point of no return. He filled his lungs with air, felt the oxygen move through his blood; he exhaled. Mike was asleep, lying on his side and facing the wall. Chuck didn't move silently, his footsteps resounded in the room, but the sound of rain hitting metal and glass helped cover his approach.

Slowly, Chuck lowered himself until he was sitting on the bed. He sat there for a moment, wondering if Mike would wake up, but the other boy didn't stir. The taller of the two smiled, a warm feeling spread throughout his chest, his brain soaking in the 'feel good' chemicals. Chuck brought the blankets over himself, now lying next to his equal. Mike was no longer some kind of superhero, and Chuck wasn't his Lois Lane. They weren't only two halves of the same puzzle; they were best friends, they were partners that fought against impeccable odds for a free world, they were two kids who ate pizza and watched bad movies.

"Chuck?" The drowsiness was evident in Mike's voice, and he switched positions so he was facing the freckled boy. "Chuck, are you okay man?" Chuck smiled. Of course, Mike only sounded concerned, not irritated by being woken up.

"I'm fine dude." Mike gave him a look, the one where he was trying to figure out if he was lying or not. Chuck couldn't blame him, he had never done this before. This was the first time he crawled into bed with him, 3am or otherwise. "Seriously, I am." His smile seemed to do the trick, because soon Mike was smiling as well.

For awhile they just lied there, with Mike's hand over his own, rubbing small circles into the skin. Their eyes might be closed or open, but the feeling of the other being there, safe, was what really mattered. After everything that happened, here they were, just happy with being in the presence of the other; even if such terrible things consistently surrounded them. It was hard to believe all of this was real, difficult to accept that he wasn't dreaming, that everything in front of him was solid and concrete.

They couldn't help themselves, soon lying there transformed into their lips meeting, and bodies pressing against each other. The movements of Mike's lips were careful and soft, always asking for permission, paying attention to every last detail. Chuck allowed it, and didn't reel away when his hands gingerly peeled off his shirt, allowing their skin to connect. He imagined that if he could describe being one with another person, that he would use moments like this to paint the picture. Moments where he could feel Mike's heartbeat against his own, hear the blood moving in his veins, experience each breath, and be perfectly in tune with it all.

"Are you sure?" The question was quiet, Mike's eyes searched for any hint of discomfort, taking his actions slowly, it was the only time he would. Chuck nodded, it's been awhile, but he felt like he might be ready to take this step. "I'm sure." The other Burner stared at him for awhile, studying him, just to make sure. Once he was, the corners of his mouth twitched upwards, and his hands came back to life.

They were slick with some decent brand of water based lubricant, and they moved delicately against Chuck's skin. His flesh seemed to burn at the touch, but it wasn't a bad thing, not at all a bad thing. His body grew warm with each touch, the fingers around his entrance that traced the circular shape had him moan quietly. Mike had his hand around his shaft, his hand that moved upwards and back at a rhythmical pace spun the world around him. He felt like he might be drowning in simple pleasure, pleasure and Mike Chilton.

This came to a startling halt, when Mike's cock started to push inside of Chuck, and his body tensed. His eyes opened, wide, and he froze. Mike stopped immediately and pulled out of him, his lips moved, but Chuck couldn't hear the words. He had snapped back to another place, a long time ago, with another person. He knew it was Mike that was above him, but all he could see was his ex. The man who would force him down and take him if Chuck wanted him to or not. Each time where he would close his eyes and wait for it to be over flooded back, and it left him shaking.

"Chuck, Chuck! I'm sorry. Hey, I'm right here." He felt Mike shaking him, and snapped out of the flashback. A wave of shame washed over him, how dare he think of something like that when Mike was trying his best over here? "I'm sorry." Was the first thing he said, and he pretended not see Mike frown, or how he could hear his heart shattering all over again. "I can't, Mikey, I'm sorry. Not now, I just-" He was interrupted by a hand squeezing his left, and the darker skinned boy moved so he was sitting on the side of the bed.

"Listen, it's okay." Mike smiled and tugged his pajama pants back on. "It's not your fault, I don't mind." After a moment of silence Chuck nodded, muttering that he understood, and Mike placed a kiss on his forehead before leaving on a promise to return shortly. He sat there for a moment before getting out of bed himself, and went to go clean himself up quickly.

He felt terrible, even if he knew he shouldn't, even if Mike said that he shouldn't. It was okay, because Mike understood, but it still didn't stop him from feeling the guilt. He still felt dirty, and foolish, and helpless from everything that had happened. He still couldn't stop those thoughts, and he still couldn't rise above and move on. Chuck had a hard time looking at himself in the mirror, and avoided it at all costs while he was in the washroom.

When he returned to Mike's room, the other boy was already lying back in bed, but this time he faced Chuck instead of the wall. He was still smiling, trying to reassure Chuck that it really was okay, that he wasn't angry or frustrated by him or his actions. He didn't hesitate this time when he slid into bed with next to him, and didn't flinch away from Mike when he pulled him closer and draped an arm around his waist.

Chuck didn't fake a smile, his muscles brought that upon him without any effort. Mike ran a hand through his hair and kissed him again, briefly, before returning his limb to it's former position. Chuck realized that it was okay, that he didn't have to be afraid of Mike, because there was nothing to be afraid of, and it was okay to think about himself. Maybe he was damaged goods, maybe he'll be fucked up forever, but Mike never hurt him, and maybe if one day Chuck wanted to leave, he could.

But right now, he'll stay right here, just like this. He'll stay with Mike, he'll stay with The Burners, and stay in Motorcity. He'll live and he'll love, he'll indulge in what he enjoyed and would fight for a crazy ideal, and at night he'll sleep beside the one person who truly understood.

It was far from perfect; but it didn't need to be, and to him, that was fantastic.