came home one evening to a somber, silent Matt sitting
at the dining table, toying with a half-full tumbler
of the good Scotch that had been a gift.
Hooch knew something was wrong at the sight of the
whisky. Matt hardly ever drank anymore, something
about the negative effect of alcohol and its calories
on the perfectly balanced body. "What's up?"
He dropped his pack beside the door and walked over
to the couch.
looked up, tight lipped, definitely more than worried.
He pushed something that had been lying in front of
him towards Hooch. A photograph, and a slip of paper
with typed lines.
sat down and reached for the photograph. He stared
at it, frozen. Not saying anything for a long time,
just looking at the picture, until he eventually read
the few lines. His face remained expressionless when
he turned back to Matt, but the storm raging in his
dark eyes showed the fury bottled up inside of him.
knows." Matt swallowed, and finished the rest
of the drink. "I found it pushed under the door
when I came up after the 1800 hours class."
Hooch pointed at the photo print, "was on fucking
Sunday. We were downstairs."
twisted the glass. "Mandy was in in the morning."
He kept his eyes on the empty glass. "We were
doing the new website this week so she was behind
on the schedules for next month."
Shit." Hooch looked at the photo again, then
the note. "That makes no sense. Does she have
shook his head. "Not that I know of." He
gazed off into middle distance. "She hasn't said
anything. And she would." He paused. "I'd
have thought she would," he corrected, hating
can't imagine I could have got her character so fucking
wrong!" Hooch clenched his hand in a fist. "What
the fuck do we do now? 'Wait to be contacted' isn't
my goddamned style."
not hers, either," Matt didn't touch the bit
of paper, "at least I thought not." He closed
his eyes. "Of all people, she's got to know us
and this place inside out, and has for years. Why
now?" He opened them again. "And she's off
for the next three days."
why now. Makes no fucking sense." Hooch had a
hard time holding himself back, the anger raging inside.
"We need to talk to her." He slammed his
fist on the table, the unspent angry energy too much
to contain. "Fuck! I'm going to fucking kill
the bastard who's responsible for this, and I don't
give the flying fuck who that is."
looked pale. "I frankly don't know what would
be worse, that it's Mandy, who I've trusted with practically
everything but this, or that there's someone else
out there." He paused, looking at the phone lying
on the table. "Should I call her cell now and
say it's an emergency and to come in tomorrow morning,
or surprise her when she's back in a few days?"
her now. Don't give her time, if it was her. If this
photo gets into my CO's hands
nodded and made the call, sounding far calmer and
measured than he felt. A twinge as Mandy promised
to be in first thing in the morning, before the first
class, as bright and bubbly as ever.
kept pacing the room, listening to the one-sided conversation.
When Matt switched off, he looked across at him. "And
now? What do we do now? Nothing?"
while you're in that state." Matt was deadly
calm, as though the anger, the hurt and the fear had
already burned through him.
isn't anything I was trained for. This is personal."
if we're wrong? It doesn't make any sense for it to
be her, and you know if we're wrong we'll be outing
ourselves to her anyway."
Hooch stopped his pacing. "It's almost worse
if we're wrong and it isn't her."
nodded. "As I said, I don't know what would be
worse." He slumped. "So, since it was all
shit anyway, I'm drinking again." He toasted
Hooch with the empty glass.
Hooch took a deep breath, fighting hard to get himself
back under control and into mission mode, even though
this was everything but a mission. "It's Friday.
I suggest we get shitfaced."
idea," Matt agreed.
knew it wasn't an excellent idea, in fact it was most
probably the stupidest one they could come up with,
but it was also the only one that seemed fitting right
now. He went to the fridge and got the six pack of
beer, a second glass, and a three quarter bottle of
Russian vodka. He brought his haul to the couch area,
parked it on the table next to the whisky bottle and
Matt's glass, then poured himself a large glass of
vodka and Matt one of whisky. "Whatever happens,
Matt Donahue, I take dishonorable discharge over anything
else. Got it?"
nodded, "got it," and slammed down his drink.
slept well that night, and despite nagging hangovers,
they were up and downstairs in the office well before
Mandy pulled up in the parking lot and unlocked the
front door of the gym. Her habitual perkiness only
slightly punctuated by a yawn.
caught the looks on both men's faces. "What's
wrong?" she asked, concern all over her features.
was about to step right into her personal space to
loom over her, when Matt held him back.
maybe you should just wait outside the office,"
he said firmly, and turned back to a very confused
Hooch reluctantly let his stare slide off Mandy. Watching
their backs as they went into Matt's office, the door
looked at Matt, the smile fading off her face. "What's
happened?" her voice low and, for once, no exclamation
mark at the end of the sentence.
sit down." Matt indicated a chair at the small
round table in his office, and sat down as well. All
too aware at any time of the presence of Hooch outside.
"Mandy, this is a delicate question." He
rubbed the heel of his hand over his eyes. Damnit,
he had a hangover and his head was pounding, but he
had to get through with this. "Do you have money
frowned at him. "No, well, no more than usual."
nodded slowly. Okay, that wasn't going all too well,
the subtle approach had never worked for him anyway.
"So you aren't looking for ways to make more
money?" Damn, but that was a stupid thing to
say. He blamed his headache, or just the fact he had
no clue how to go about a situation like this. "Thing
is, I received a photo. And
" this was it.
He heard Hooch pace outside, and this was the moment
of no return, "
and a blackmail letter."
gasp, and her jaw dropped. "You
Bozic? And you think that I
" her bottom
lip trembled, and she stared at him with wide, shocked
sorry, Mandy, I really am, but
" Matt flustered
the moment the trembling bottom lip was joined by
large eyes filled to the brim with tears. When she
began to cry, he realized he'd just accused her of
a major breach of trust. He didn't know what to do
with the crying girl, but Hooch rescued him when he
stuck his head into the room.
was unfazed by the tears. "Mandy, did you say
'you and Captain Bozic?'"
sniffled, "what else would they blackmail you
with when you're both here? It's not as though you're
cheating your taxes or underpaying anyone or hiring
anyone illegally or building code violations or anything."
stepped inside the room, looking first at Mandy, then
at Matt. "You know we are
Mandy finished helpfully, sniffing again, "aren't
Matt stammered, while Hooch reached for the box of
tissues on Matt's desk, wordlessly handing it to Mandy,
while Matt tried again. "Well, yeah, but how?"
took a handful of tissues. "It was pretty obvious
right from the beginning," she blew her nose,
"sending me off to get you both lunch that first
day and just paying for the two of you automatically
without either of you saying anything because you
needed to talk about something personal; when you
kept mentioning whether Hooch wouldn't like this or
that when we were doing the apartment, how you nearly
always go on holidays together, spend most weekends
together, go to Matt's family for Thanksgiving together;
all your bills go out from the same account and there's
never any quibbling; how both your bedrooms are always
locked when I send the cleaner in but most times there
are only footsteps going in and out of one of them
when either one of you is getting changed; neither
of you've ever had a woman stay overnight and you're
nearly always here every morning; you never have buddies
over to watch the game or anything; you never check
out any of the women who come here, even though the
few who come here are all pretty hot; you don't do
your laundry or your grocery shopping separately,
and you're always so careful not to touch each other
in public." It was a long, disjointed list, which
ended with Matt holding his pounding head in his hands
and Hooch sitting down with a groan.
From both of the men, almost simultaneously. Followed
by "we're so busted," from Matt.
looked at them while wiping her nose. "I mean,
there was also that neither of you made a pass at
me, but that's quite easily explained by good manners."
age," Hooch commented drily. He'd pulled himself
together quicker than Matt, and for the first time
ever in Mandy's presence, he rested his hand on Matt's
shoulder. "I'm sorry we suspected you."
Matt nodded and sighed as Hooch continued, "but
who the hell took a photo of us in the gym?"
She was taken aback, "but I've made sure that
nobody's ever on the same routine long enough to see
did?" Matt gasped out, looking at Hooch who appeared
suitably impressed with her foresight. "The photo
wait." Matt searched in his pocket,
producing the photo and the blackmail note. "Here.
It must have been taken on Sunday."
bit her lip and looked out the window into the gym.
Almost the same angle. "It's from my office,"
she said softly, "I see how you thought it was
me, but it was just me in there. I told Mike to wait
for me outside." Her shoulders slumped.
Hooch immediately latched onto the name and the person
like he'd focus on a target at the shooting range.
"Who is Mike?"
boyfriend," Mandy replied, "we were heading
out afterwards for lunch so I told him to pick me
up from here."
you ever, at any time, leave your boyfriend on his
own? Think, Mandy." Hooch urged, while Matt reached
for the photo and gently took it back out of her hands.
Hooch and Matt, kissing. Just a simple kiss. One that
could destroy Hooch's career and annihilate all his
shook her head slowly. "I don't think he came
in here this far. I remember when I saw his car pull
in I was just about finishing up, so I went to the
bathroom and when I came out he was waiting for me
just inside the door. It was windy out." She
added, "so he stepped in out of the wind."
must be it," Matt concluded. "You take a
while in the bathroom, Mandy, no offence, and that
would have given your boyfriend enough time."
looked at her, "how long have you known him?
Are you aware of any money troubles that he might
looked miserable, shredding the tissue in her hands.
"Sorry," she said in a small voice, "just
a few weeks. No money problems as far as I know, but
She paused, as though realizing something, and shrank
even further. "He had a new digital camera on
Sunday," her eyes were firmly on the table, "and
I remember it was odd, because he wouldn't let me
have a go on it, when usually he can't wait to show
off his new stuff."
did you meet the guy?" Hooch was like a dog with
sniffed, her face blotchy from tears, "it was
at a party in the student union. I don't know who
brought him with them, he isn't one of the students."
She blew her nose noisily. "I thought he was
Hooch snorted, but anything else he was about to let
rip remained unsaid, when Matt placed a hand on his
arm to calm him.
you remember what you might have told him about your
job, or anything that might have given the guy the
idea to snoop around and take pics?" Matt asked.
don't know." Mandy admitted, misery incarnate.
"I was so happy, because he came straight to
me at that party, and he was flirting with me all
looked pointedly at Hooch, before he asked carefully,
"do all of your friends know where you work?"
she nodded, before blowing her nose once more. "It's
a cool job, so I told them all about you and the gym,
the guys who come here, how much fun it is."
you also talk about me?" Hooch tried to keep
his voice from being razor sharp, but when Mandy cringed
not really, just that there's a cool Delta guy who's
my boss's roommate." She blushed furiously when
she looked down at her hands, sounded wretched and
guilty. "I think I was a bit drunk and I might
have boasted about how cool you two are."
groaned, but was quickly silenced by Matt, who had
a lot more sympathy with Mandy's faux-pas than Hooch
could ever muster. She wasn't exactly enemy and counter-intelligence
trained by the military.
it be," Matt carefully asked, "that some
of your friends who are friends with this guy, talked
to him about what you told them?"
was still looking at her hands. "I don't know
just thinking that all of this might have been planned
by that guy."
mean he was never interested in me and just used me
to get to you for blackmailing?" She was more
upset than ever, tears falling once more.
sorry, Mandy." Matt said softly while handing
her another tissue.
you imagine Mike doing something like that? Blackmailing
us?" Hooch chipped in.
don't know," she looked like she had to force
herself to look at them, eyes puffy and swimming with
tears that kept spilling over. "I hope not,"
she said miserably.
Matt tried to comfort her, "you've not been having
a whole lot of luck with boyfriends since you came
here. I'm sorry, Mandy, but I couldn't help notice.
never really have," she agreed. She took a breath,
considering, deciding, weighing up, but in the end
it was clear to her. "Do you want his address?"
she asked, somewhat unnecessarily.
Hooch said a little too quickly.
reached for a pen and paper in its usual place on
Matt's desk and wrote it down, handed it over. Dabbing
at her eyes before blowing her nose, she visibly pulled
herself together and sat up straighter. "Oh,
Hooch?" she asked, "it all of this is true
and he really plan the blackmail
Hooch raised his eyebrows.
you leave enough of him for me to dump?"
carefully smoothed his expression back to blank. "I
don't know what you mean, Mandy."
Matt nor Mandy commented on that blatant lie, both
of them wise enough to realize the less they knew
sent her off with reassurances and apologies, Matt
being particularly concerned that Mandy would take
it badly that for a while he hadn't trusted her, but
she seemed alright albeit heartbroken at yet another,
this time epic, failure of a boyfriend.
she was gone, the two men went back upstairs before
the gym opened.
know what I want to do, don't you?" Hooch said
the moment the apartment door closed behind them.
"Question is, is it wise to do what I want to
do right now, or better to wait for the next contact?"
right now," Matt fiddled with the coffee machine,
"not when we're both feeling rather
someone else might have said 'homicidal', but they
were people for whom it would be rather easy to put
it into practice. "Soon. I don't like waiting
any more than you, and given what we suspect, I don't
want to give him any more time to do anything stupid."
nodded. He ruthlessly shoved down the restless energy
that wanted him to act right now. "Exactly my
thinking. Wait till he contacts us again, and I'll
be there like that." He snapped his fingers.
nodded, put a large mug of coffee in front of Hooch,
sparing a glance at the scrap of paper. A name, an
address. "That stupid, stupid child." He
shook his head. "So much damage from such a stupid
won't be able to do any further damage." The
dangerous glint in Hooch's dark eyes hinted at what
exactly he was planning.
" Matt thought for a minute
for the right word. Not 'regret,' as Hooch didn't
tend to do that. "Nothing that's going to make
this an even bigger mess." He finished.
let out a short, sharp, entirely humorless laugh.
"I'll just frighten him enough to never again
think of blackmailing anyone, least of all us. No
major damage, I promise."
idea of 'major' was rather different to most peoples',
but Matt had a hard time feeling sorry for the imbecilic,
Hooch stepped close, the energy still strumming through
his body, running right beneath the surface of his
skin. "And now, since it's Saturday, we should
go back to bed. I know a fail-safe cure for hangovers."
snorted, but smiled despite the headache and the worry.
He collected both their coffee cups and dumped them
in the sink before heading back into the bedroom.
very sure that the blinds were pulled down.
weekend remained tense, and early on Monday morning,
in amongst the mail, was a plain typed envelope and
another note, naming a nearby park as a location to
meet, where the blackmailer would hand over the memory
disk for a price.
hard to believe this guy's really that stupid."
Hooch read the note before handing it back to Matt.
"It'll still be light by the time he wants to
meet, I need to stall him."
not sure whether stupidity in this case is a good
or bad thing." Matt folded the note and put it
back in the envelope. "It's not as though we
don't know where he lives. He could always be delayed
point." Hooch was on his way to the door where
is pack was waiting for the day ahead. "I will
make sure I get off base on time. I have a change
of clothes with me, no need to make myself easily
watched as Hooch shouldered his pack and headed down,
footsteps somehow louder than usual.
would all be over soon, he thought, and catching sight
of the note and the envelope, he scrunched them up
and threw them against the wall in a rare expression
of temper. Cursing their own carelessness, the viciousness
of a greedy boy, and the stupid rules that hung over
his and Hooch's life.
was going to be a long day, and he felt a twinge of
relief that Mandy would not be in. Facing either the
guilt of having accused her, or her over-enthusiastic
cheerfulness if she had decided to let it all pass,
was unthinkable today.
late afternoon, an hour before the appointed time
in the public park, Hooch stood in front of a door
to a small apartment in a run-down apartment building.
Dressed inconspicuously in black jeans and white t-shirt,
he stepped out of sight of the peephole, as he rang
The voice that came through the thin door was young,
male, and punctuated with a yawn.
got a parcel for ya." Hooch exaggerated the drawl
of his accent.
door opened immediately to reveal a tall, dark-haired
man in his early twenties, unshaven and wearing a
stained T-shirt and threadbare jeans. "Whatcha
got?" he asked, not really looking at Hooch.
very special delivery." In one fluid motion Hooch
stepped inside, bodily pushing Mike backwards, while
kicking the door shut behind him. Before the guy could
gather his wits about him, Hooch had him with his
back against the wall, the full length of Hooch's
body pressed against him, effectively pinning him
voice was deadly calm and quiet. "The special
delivery is that of a ransom note. The ransom for
your life, buddy."
mouth moved, but it was a few seconds before any sound
came out. "Who the fuck are you, man?"
recognize me from the photo?" Hooch pressed his
forearm against Mike's windpipe to emphasize his question.
eyes widened, taking in the cool, calm man, such a
contrast from the pressure on his throat.
Hooch smiled an entirely fake smile that never reached
his dark eyes. "Do you?"
was movement against his arm that indicated Mike was
trying to swallow or nod, and in the end he did some
strange hybrid of both. "Fag," he coughed,
not realizing the trouble he was in.
did you just say?" Hooch's fake smile widened
until all teeth were on display.
bravado than bravery, Mike looked back. "Fag,"
he repeated, with all the stupidity of some small
rodent facing down a panther.
not sure I heard right." Hooch said very quietly.
Without warning, he spun Mike round, with a hand twisted
into the guy's hair, he slammed his forehead into
the wall, then followed with his body, pressing all
along Mike's back. "Could you repeat that again?"
Hooch stood still, as if nothing had ever happened.
disgusting! Get off me!" Mike struggled to no
avail, starting to yell obscenities at Hooch. "You
fucking fag! Don't touch me!"
didn't relent, kept his full body weight on Mike,
pinning him against the wall, mashing his face into
the grotty wallpaper for good measure. He didn't move
nor did he say anything, letting the little piece
of shit rant through an entire arsenal of homophobic
yet?" Hooch eventually commented, when Mike was
forced to draw in a breath.
you fucking bastard!" Mike tried to spit, but
Hooch slammed his head twice more against the wall.
wailed, spittle flying. "You fucking fag are
getting what you fucking deserve!"
that would be?" Still appearing calm, deadly
and dangerous, Hooch could have killed the guy and
would have only felt a modicum of satisfaction. Every
fiber in his body strumming with anger and adrenaline.
discharge!" Mike yelled.
lost it. With a roar he grabbed Mike by a shoulder
and hip, and flung him half across the room, where
he crashed into a rickety low table
screamed in pain and flailed, struggled to sit up
slowly, badly bruised and disoriented. "What
the fuck do you want?"
I want? I want to wipe scum like you off the face
of the earth." Hooch snarled. "Wrong question,
try again." He took a couple of steps towards
the guy on the floor.
eyes narrowed, finally getting it, or at least some
part of it. Still too full of himself and his nasty
little scheme to give up. "If you want the photos,
It'll cost ya, like I said. Bet there's a few guys
on base who'd find that photo very interesting."
that's where you got it wrong." Hooch had himself
back under control, once more the ice cold man who
kept his fury locked down. He took another step, now
close enough that his boot touched Mike's leg. "It's
not going to cost me anything at all, because I don't
play the games of little shits like you" With
another all-too quick movement, he bent down, twisted
his fist into Mike's grimy t-shirt, and pulled the
guy up, as if he weighed nothing.
man," Mike gasped, "you can't do this. I'll
call the cops." Realizing too late, that doing
anything at all was going to be difficult with a very
tough, coolly calm man holding the front of his shirt.
again." Hooch gave Mike a shake as if he were
a puppet, despite them being the same height. "Not
only can I do it, I actually will do it." Mike
never saw the knee cap that connected sharply with
his groin, before Hooch dropped him.
squealed as he fell back, landing heavily on the stained
carpet. "You'll never find it," he covered
his groin, face distorted into a grimace, "and
you'll never know how many copies I've made."
Hooch delivered a swift kick, and Mike howled in pain
when the boot connected with his fingers that had
been shielding his cock. Another kick and Mike's legs
were spread apart. Hooch stepped between them, and
placed his booted foot onto the groin, pressing down
hard. "I'll make sure you'll never show it to
anyone. You understand?" Increasingly adding
weight onto his foot.
can't make me." Mike tried to move and to throw
Hooch off balance, but instead Hooch delivered a well-placed
kick between Mike's leg. Short, sharp, and utterly
time, Mike screamed and nearly passed out. "You
fucking maniac!" he spat, curling into a ball
from the pain. "You fucking fag, who do you think
the man who is going to stop you from ever blackmailing
anyone again." Adrenaline was surging inside
of Hooch, burning with a fury he didn't allow to show.
"So. Where's the disk? You have three seconds,
before I kick your face in. One
hey, hey, hey," Mike held up his hands, "blackmail?
You're the one who's breakin' the law, man, I thought
I'd be a-decent like and give you right of first refusal-like."
I see. As decent as someone who picks out a girl,
flirts with her, and pretends to be into her, because
he'd figured she worked at a place that might have
to fags he could blackmail to get him some bobs. Am
Mike didn't answer, just stared at him bug-eyed, Hooch
took a step forward, which made Mike frantically edge
you dickhead, your stupidity stinks so badly, I could
follow the trail of the foul smell right to this place."
Before he had finished the last word, Hooch straddled
Mike as he went down on the floor. Knees clamping
Mike's sides, both his hands fixing Mike's above his
head and to the floor. "Are you telling me it
wasn't you? Are you telling me you didn't plan it
right from the start?"
the first time-far too late, Mike realized just what
real danger he was in, and his eyes bulged out as
strained but was completely unable to move. Hooch
could feel the moment the guy realized it was over.
Mike's whole body sagged in defeat..
are you telling me that it was you?" This was
almost too easy. Hooch needed a fight, wanted a reason
to wreak more damage, and to feel the pain of fists,
boots and bodies clashing.
all Mike gave him was a slight nod.
Hooch leaned down, face to face, "cat got your
Mike stuttered, desperately cringing away. "Yes,
I've got it. I swear nobody else has it, nobody knows
but what assurances do I have that you'll destroy
everything after you've handed me the disk?"
Hooch shifted his upper body so that his elbows ground
into Mike's biceps. "I want to be sure that you
will leave Matt, me," more weight bearing down,
"and Mandy alone."
was death in those eyes, Mike realized at last. He'd
run into some nasty types before, drug dealers and
the like, but nothing came close to this. "Look
man, you can check anything you like, it'll all be
gone, I promise, and I never saw a thing and I'll
never come near you again and I'll tell the broad
it's me and not her, and it'll be as though this never
happened. See?" he scrambled desperately, while
panting against the pain.
deep down inside of Hooch, beyond deadly and above
human, wanted to hear a scream tear out of this little
piece of shit. "I want a guarantee or I'll come
Mike pleaded, "anything you like." The first
a shout, the second a whisper.
will send an email to Mandy, telling her you are a
stinking rotten bastard and that you will never bother
her life again, and apologize. Then you will hand
me the disk and any copy you might have made."
Hooch still wanted a fight, but he needed a worthy
opponent. Only the thin tethers of society rules held
Hooch back from destruction. "Most importantly,
I give you two days to move out of the area and far
away. If you are still here after that, I will finish
what I've started today."
was wetness beneath Hooch, and he realized that Mike
had wet himself in terror. A defeated, pathetic cur
under the gaze of the contemptuous alpha wolf.
lifted his hips, his face showing his disgust. "Up."
He moved off the body on the floor, made one small
hand movement. "Email. Disk."
scuttled away towards the computer in the corner,
as though trying to make himself as small as possible.
Hooch stood close, arms crossed in front of his chest
once more. He checked the email over, then nodded
once. "Send." Another economic gesture.
fumbled, handing the small flat square over, and then,
in a show of initiative, demonstrated on the nearby
camera that the offending photograph was deleted from
the camera's memory.
done." Pocketing the disk, Hooch turned to walk
to the door, unconcerned by showing his back. "Remember,"
he opened the door, "two days. I'll check."
slumped back into his chair, trembling, staring at
the door. After a moment, he got up, went to the bedroom,
and started frantically throwing his belongings into
a bag. He loaded everything that would fit into his
car that very night and headed out on the highway,
going west. He could cancel his lease and everything
else away from Fayetteville. Very, very far away.
returned home straight away, while everything inside
of him screamed out for a different course of action:
to find a way of letting off steam. He needed to find
a way to dissolve the tension from a fight that hadn't
been a fight and an opponent that hadn't been worth
it, but he forced himself to ignore the demand.
gym was closed by the time he got back-it wasn't worth
opening late early in the week-and Matt was upstairs
in the apartment. The door opened before Hooch reached
the top of the stairs.
Hooch forced himself to remain calm, not allowing
the darkness to show. "Here's the disk."
Holding his hand out with the disk in the palm of
took it, turning it over in his hand. Such a small
and nasty thing. He looked up at Hooch. "Mike?"
up with Mandy by email, and is moving out of Fayetteville."
Hooch closed the door behind him. "Probably right
now, considering his state. He pissed himself while
I talked to him."
nodded. "Good." He looked at Hooch, seeing
the tension. "Food?" He looked down at Hooch's
groin, momentarily puzzled by the slight dampness
visible even on the dark denim, and then remembered
Hooch's last words. "Or bed?"
Thank fuck for Matt and his perceptiveness. "Definitely
bed." Hooch pulled the t-shirt off, before opening
the buttons of his denims. "I need
Damn. He couldn't say what he really needed. Pain.
Anger. Aggression. Fight. "You." No lie.
He needed Matt, always would.
smiled, just a fraction of his normal one, but a genuine
one, free from tension. "Come on, then."
He was already halfway into the bedroom, shedding
his clothes as he went.
Hooch was like a barely contained force of nature,
and only Matt, as strong as Hooch, was able to match
him in give and take, and sheer, unrestrained need.
It was a side of Hooch that Matt rarely encountered:
powerful, demanding and rough, a side of him that
Matt knew Hooch consciously kept from him. In the
end they were both sore and strained, bruised and
battered, but relieved, and they slept soundly that
night, knowing they had dodged a bullet.
it seemed that things went back to how they had been,
and on the surface it was as though the blackmail
attempt had never happened, and that life would continue
in their peculiar version of normal.
that one afternoon in the last week of August, a young
man appeared at the front desk when Mandy was on duty.
He introduced himself at Lt. Jeff Sullivan, from the
82nd Airborne. He was tall and good looking, just
a little shy, and from his accent a Yankee lost and
bewildered in the South. He had a shoulder injury,
he explained, that had healed but still didn't feel
quite right, and Captain Bozic from the base had suggested
that he come to the gym and make an appointment with
ex-USMC PTI Mr. Donahue for an alternative PT program
to the one he was getting up at Fort Bragg.
result, perhaps, was predictable. The officer stayed
far longer than anticipated, leaving not only with
an appointment with Matt the following week, but also
with Mandy's phone number and a lunch date that weekend.
looked suspiciously at Hooch when he came home that
evening. "Matchmaker," he accused him.
stared at him with a blank, mock-innocent look. "I
couldn't leave things to chance, could I? I'd rather
not have a repeat of Mike."
snorted. "I bet that's why it's taken so long.
How many did you vet before you decided on him?"
Hooch retorted. "Number eighty struck lucky."
know, I can well believe that, and if my guess is
right, he worships the ground you walk on, so even
if he were to guess-and he's not likely to because
he's got the imagination of a brick-he'd never say
a word. I guess he's the sort who just needs someone
to take him in hand and organize his life outside
the military as much as it's organized in, and then
he'll make Colonel."
damn right, except for one thing: no one worships
any ground I walk on. Crazy idea." Hooch cracked
answered it with one of his own. "One good turn,
I suppose. You know it's been ten years since Dan
told me to go to the safe house back in Saudi while
he was off to Thailand on R&R?"
years? Fucking hell." Hooch proceeded to push
Matt up the stairs, with the intention to get him
into the bedroom. "Celebrations are in order."
re-creating the first date, though," Matt joked,
letting Hooch propel him forwards. "I was so
fucking freaked you wouldn't believe, and that bed
was fucking uncomfortable too."
did a damn fine job at hiding your freak-out."
They were upstairs, the door shut. Hooch swiveled
Matt round to face him. "Why exactly were you
freaked out anyway?" He grinned, a normal, almost
wide smile was rare enough that Matt couldn't help
returning it. "Twenty-one years old, in the middle
of the desert, when it was worse than DADT, fucking
a crazy Brit merc on the sly, being sent to meet goodness
knows who by crazy Brit merc and having a fucking
Delta show up. What do you think?" He shook his
head. "How the hell did Dan convince you to go
laughed. "Simple. He told me he had something
waiting for me in the safe house that was of interest
to an opportunist. He said I'd like it unless I had
something against Jarheads."
couldn't help it, he had to laugh out loud at that.
"Fuck," he said when he could breathe, "what
a fucked-up comedy we are, and you know what, I wouldn't
have it any other way." He shucked off his clothes
and threw himself on the bed, on his back, the way
Hooch preferred, the expression on his face not so
much 'come hither' but 'fuck me'.
demand that Hooch was all too willing to fulfill..
sex was slower than usual, but no less satisfying.
Matt happily fell asleep afterwards, but Hooch lay
awake, something itching inside of him, even though
his body was replete. A something which raised its
ugly head and flexed its razor-sharp claws whenever
the silence caught up with him.
September November 2001, Fayetteville
mellow season of the end of summer and the beginning
of fall in the South was shattered by the crashing
of planes in New York, Pennsylvania and Virginia,
and the ensuring chaos afterwards. In the days and
weeks that followed, Fort Bragg was thrumming with
nervous energy, as there was a flurry of movement
to and from Bragg and Pope Air Force Base, which had
all personnel on edge.
spent more and more time on base, only rarely returning
home, and when he did, he was tight lipped and grey
with exhaustion. Even more silent, and even more obnoxious
and difficult than usual. Matt could do nothing but
watch, helpless as time went by, as Hooch withdrew
further and further into himself.
got even worse when the first planes carrying the
coffins with his boys started coming back.
tried to wage a war against an enemy that had no clear
battle lines nor visible targets. It wasn't the long
hours, the lack of rest, the fact that he had to stay
behind, not even the sheer futility of it all, but
the utter idiocy from those in charge, which poisoned
Hooch's very self.
one was listening to the guys on the ground, and as
a result men were killed. His men. The young men he'd
trained and who were being sent into impossible situations.
It was like fine-tuning high spec weapons, only to
waste them in suicide missions.
itch inside of Hooch, which had never vanished since
the blackmail attempt, had become an ever consuming
presence that ate him up from the inside out. He knew
he had no choice but to capitulate to the darkness
eventually. The restless energy that gnawed at his
guts, and the ever increasing tension that threatened
to impede his ability to function, had to be silenced
had to let off steam, the only way out he knew, before
he imploded and destroyed what remained of his sanity.
insisted that he took a few days off in November,
marked it clearly into his diary, told him well in
advance, warned him that everyone he worked with had
been told and he was barred from the base. The first
evening of his enforced leave, when Matt was downstairs
in his office, Hooch made a mental calculation of
the time difference, and called New Zealand.
phone rang at least a dozen times before it was picked
Dan's slightly breathless voice was at the other end.
here," he paused. "How are you?" going
through the pleasantries.
fine." The sound of a cigarette being lit. "You
want him, aye?"
Always direct, that was what he liked about Dan.
mate, he's bloody drugged out of his mind. Slipped
a disk, now flat on his back floating on cloud nine."
Another inhale, "I'm doing butler duties."
How long's he out for?"
said at least a couple of weeks, but reckons he mustn't
do anything physical for a hell of a lot longer. It's
the same disk, he really has to take it easy now."
A dry chuckle, "as if. You want him to call back
when he's off his cloud?"
The veneer of civility, while the darkness clawed
up his insides. Weeks at least; possibly months. No
way he could wait that long. "Send him my regards,
okay? I gotta go now." Hooch ended the call before
Dan could reply. This was it. No other way out.
sound of steps coming up the stairs, then Matt opened
the door, yawning. He stopped in mid-movement when
he looked at Hooch. Something in the expression on
Hooch's face. "Anything I can do?"
Not a lie. Nothing Matt could do. "Sorry. I just
Hooch shook his head. "I'm going out for a bit.
Don't wait up." He was on his way to the door
quicker than Matt could grab his arm.
what the fuck's up?" Matt skidded towards the
door, blocking Hooch's path with his body.
need to go." This was not the Hooch Matt knew,
but an extreme version of the man. "I just need
to go!" Hooch gave Matt a push, far harder than
necessary, to get him out of the way.
until you tell me what's got into you!" Matt
was caught off-balance, and his attempt to grab Hooch
met with thin air as Hooch wrenched open the door
and ran down the stairs. Thankfully, there was no-one
in the gym as Hooch passed the reception area and
went out into the icy chill of the parking lot towards
drove for while, until he was out of Fayetteville,
stopping at a nondescript building in a run-down area.
It had been years since he'd been here, and he hoped
it was still what it used to be.
got out, looking around and listening for anything
suspicious, but there was nothing but crumbling buildings
and a few cars discreetly parked in the shadows.
place looked like it had three years ago, only shabbier.
The clientele seemed the same, too, or at least similar.
Hooch made his way through the people, a black clad
hard-faced man with haunted eyes and a tense jaw,
on the prowl for something he couldn't hope to find,
yet so desperately needed.
man, just as hard-faced, leant against the bar, half-hidden
in the gloom, watching the bodies writhe. He caught
Hooch's eye-deliberate, calculating-then tilted his
lifted his chin a fraction, keeping his eyes on the
other man's. He didn't back down nor look away, and
gave a miniature nod after a moment. He was a masochist,
but he was hardcore. He wasn't submissive. He made
his way through the bodies that separated them, shouldering
through the people as if they were nothing but meat.
other man peeled himself away from the wall and out
of the shadow. Hooch's height, but bulkier. Muscle,
not fat. Cold, dark grey eyes. "You're new."
Hooch appraised the other man with a swift glance,
feeling the forced-down heat unfurling at the sight
of the cold eyes that promised no mercy. "I'm
not the usual client."
the man agreed. "You want more."
don't play." Hooch's chin went up a fraction
again, the heat now clawing at his insides, as if
the darkness was an entity with its own life, feeding
on the blood it was sniffing. "I don't do safe
flared. A small, cruel smile. "Neither do I."
A pause. "Not here. I know another place."
One word, all that was needed to negotiate a pact
that had no rules, no safety. The beast was raging
man tilted his head towards the back door. "Near."
drive," came the answer. "I'll lead."
nodded, following the man. Every single one of his
soldier instincts screamed at him not to do this;
not to go down that path of utter insanity into an
unknown situation without backup, but his instincts
were silenced by the beast. Now that he'd handed over
the reins, the creature was full-out flaring, impossible
watched the other man get into a sleek black car,
then followed several miles down the road to a row
of abandoned warehouses.
didn't hesitate as he killed the engine and followed
the stranger. He only had a rough idea of where he
was, and he was going to give himself over completely.
No backup plan, no safety net. The thrill of danger,
and the anticipation of promised pain flooded his
system with adrenaline. At last he'd be able to satisfy
the darkness he'd been holding at bay for far too
other man's footsteps were quiet on the gravel as
they approached the door of the nearest warehouse.
He fished out some keys from a pocket and unlocked
the door, opening it and motioning Hooch inside.
peeled out of his jacket as he stepped through the
door. As was his habit, nothing but cash in his wallet,
his cell phone and the car keys, no ID, no bank cards,
nothing. Flinging the jacket to the floor, he walked
into the middle of the wide open space and stopped.
The cold air made him shiver in his thin t-shirt,
but it didn't matter, it'd be worse after stripping
off anyway. Neither man said a word, not even when
Hooch stood naked and the other man pointed to a spot
above Hooch's head. When he lifted his gaze he saw
chains hanging from a rusty steel girder, ending in
manacles, high up in the ceiling. Looking back down,
Hooch spotted the iron rings that had been set into
the rough concrete that was wet and ice cold beneath
his bare feet. The sound of chains rattling over a
makeshift pulley and lever filled the empty space
all of a sudden, a sound so loud, and his need so
urgent, Hooch never heard the three other men entering
the room through a door in his back.
the time Matt arrived downstairs, Hooch had taken
off like a maniac into the night, leaving Matt with
no idea where he was heading. No way could he contact
anyone for help, no way could he risk alerting Hooch's
work. Cursing profusely, he went upstairs for his
car keys, pushing aside the momentary hope that Hooch
just needed some time in the truck alone, because
that was fucking unlikely. He started his search along
Hooch's favorite open spaces around the city, which
would be deserted now in the cold. He tried, without
much hope, at Hooch's usual drinking haunts, those
few which were still open at the late hour. With increasing
desperation, he went to the hospitals asking if there
had been a man matching Hooch's description brought
in. Frantic with worry, and exhausted from lack of
sleep, Matt returned home, defeated, in the pre-dawn
gloom. He snuck in the back door of the gym to avoid
the early-birds coming for their workouts. Stumbling
into the kitchen, he made himself a large mug of coffee
and stared at it in his hands.
sense of a throbbing, all-consuming ache in his entire
body was the first thing Hooch noticed when he came
to on the ice cold concrete floor of the warehouse.
The next one that registered, was a cacophony of sharp,
intense pain in several places on his body. No, not
just on. In his body as well. His mind, usually awake
within a moment, was sluggish to catch on, as he forced
himself back to consciousness. He was freezing, shivering,
naked, the sensations blended together into a dissonance
of damage. Eventually, he managed to open his eyes,
both of them almost swollen shut, his broken nose
blocked with dried blood, but he could see enough
in the pale grey dawn to take stock of himself. Covered
in dried cum and blood. Bruised, in a lot of places
so badly, the skin that hadn't been torn or whipped
raw had turned almost black. He tried to move, but
a frightening sound, that of an animal growling in
agony, stopped him short. I took him long moments
to realize he'd been the one who'd made the sound,
and that he was alone. The four men had left.
men who'd known no limits, no mercy, and no safe words.
Just like he'd wanted-with one, not four. They had
used him, beaten him, cut and whipped him. They had
fucked his ass and throat, had never taken no for
an answer, not even after he'd been taken beyond the
threshold he needed to quieten the beast, and he had
finally begged for his life. Hooch looked around,
spotting some clothes in a heap and his cell phone
nearby. Nothing else. The jacket was gone, and so
were his boots. No keys, no wallet. There'd be no
truck either. It took him an agonizingly long time
to reach for the cell. He couldn't think beyond the
very real need to survive, and in order to do so he
had to get out of that place. He knew only one number
to call, the one he had on speed dial.
shrill, annoying tone of the cell phone jarred Matt
from his contemplation of his cold coffee. He only
barely glanced at the name before answering it. "Where
Hooch's voice was low and slurred, raspy from screams
he couldn't remember. It took all of his strength,
whatever little was left of it, to recall the last
street name he'd seen. "Abandoned
The cough that wrecked his broken body sent him into
a spasm of pain. One side of his upper body was in
agony, and only lying on his side eased the pain and
made breathing easier. He dimly remembered steel-toed
boots kicking his ribs. "Need
Fuck, fuck, fuck! Matt feared the worst at the broken
voice as well as the tone and the words. "I'm
coming," he said, unable to keep the trembling
from his own voice. Hooch had only been wearing a
light jacket when he'd gone out, so he grabbed his
own long woolen overcoat. Heading down to the gym,
he thanked his lucky stars that it was still early,
that Mandy wasn't in, and that it was the reliable,
but not-the-brightest-bulb early shift receptionist
Danni on duty, as he got out one of the big first
aid kits from his office and went to his car. He drove
on auto pilot, through early morning traffic, passing
the named street sign, getting more and more frantic
until he spotted the warehouse fitting Hooch's description.
He all but ran from the car, heedless of any remaining
danger, but the sight that awaited him made him freeze
for a moment, before he rushed to Hooch's side.
had tried to dress himself, but all he'd managed was
to drape the t-shirt across his groin. His body was
in a worse mess it had ever been in, short of the
torture during capture, and nothing could have prepared
Matt for the sight.
mouth moved, but no sound came out. His face set in
grim lines as he slid the coat underneath Hooch and
started to look at the worst of his injuries. No way
they could go to a hospital, or even call an ambulance,
not without some very awkward questions. There was
little that Matt could do in the warehouse, except
to bandage the worst of the cuts and scrapes, before
wrapping Hooch firmly in the coat and all but carrying
him out to the car.
was quiet all that time, except for some groans he
couldn't suppress, and that told Matt more than he
ever wanted to know. When Hooch failed to remain stoic,
then things were worse than they seemed-and they seemed
fucking horrendous. During the car ride, Hooch kept
his swollen eyes closed and his lips slightly parted,
unable to breathe through his broken nose. He was
half curled up on his side to ease the pressure on
his ribs, drifting in and out of consciousness. His
mind stuck on one memory, one thought and emotion:
fear. He'd been scared. He'd experienced panic in
different ways than ever before. Not even during captivity
had he felt that sharp, blinding sense of fear and
helplessness, the knowledge that he would die and
there was nothing he could do about it. He knew with
absolute clarity that the reason for that fear was
sitting right beside him. He'd been frightened that
he would die without Matt knowing where he was, what
had happened, and, most of all, why he'd gotten himself
into that situation.
knew what he'd done, but the enormity of that knowledge
overwhelmed him into silence.
through sheer luck, Matt managed to manhandle Hooch
through the back entrance and up the stairs. He answered
Mandy's shocked look with, "idiot crashed the
truck and won't stay in hospital." Which she
seemed to accept, and if she didn't, Matt was past
caring because he knew that Mandy would not say a
word in any case. As he closed the door, he heard
Mandy remind Danni that nobody was to disturb Matt
that day, and all phone calls were to be diverted
away from the apartment to the answering machine in
but carrying Hooch into the spare room, and onto the
bed, Matt took his time washing away the dried blood
and the cum, mouth set in increasingly grimmer lines
as he had the time to take in the damage. Taking care
of the injuries properly, unsure whether to lay Hooch
on his back or his front, because both were so badly
damaged that it had to be agony either way. He settled
him onto his side, as Hooch leaned towards it. At
least it would help with the breathing, and the ribs
seemed cracked, not fractured. Matt thanked small
mercies that it didn't look like he had concussion,
drifted off while Matt tended to him. Finally, what
seemed to be hours later, Matt picked up the basin
of dirty, bloody water, and looked down at Hooch.
fucking idiot." He said without heat. Weary rather
than angry, he went to dump the water before coming
back to sit in vigil by Hooch's side.
woke him every hour to check Hooch wasn't slipping
into full unconsciousness, and fed him as many painkillers
as he felt were safe. It took all of that day, until
the hours of darkness, before Hooch stirred on his
own. Attempting to force his swollen eyes open, he
own eyes were red with strain and lack of sleep as
he came closer with water, offering the straw to Hooch.
"Nothing's broken, I think, except the nose,"
he told Hooch. "Should probably get someone in
to have a look at that."
took a few labored sips. Even the water burned in
his abused throat. He didn't say anything, despite
the thoughts battering at his mind. Thoughts for which
he couldn't find the words to say out loud, and emotions
he didn't know how to deal with, let alone express.
Everything had been different the night before, and
while the beast was silenced, he'd lost more than
he'd gained. He wasn't just responsible for his own
life anymore. He was responsible for another's life
and wellbeing, and all it entailed, but he had no
clue how to deal with that realization. So all he
did was look at Matt through slitted eyes and nod
told Mandy that you crashed the truck," Matt
said into the gloom, "and I'll tell the doc that
too." The words hung in the dim room, with only
one of the bedside lights on. The rest of what he
wanted to say could wait until Hooch got a little
better. "Shall I tell your work the same?"
this week." Hooch managed to get out.
Every word was a struggle, but he didn't pity himself.
Never had, not even after captivity, but least of
all now. This was his own making. He would not dream
of blaming the beast, because he should be able to
control it, but he had failed.
nodded. "Figures," he said, half to himself.
next week passed in a blur for both of them, as Hooch
slept and healed and Matt ran himself ragged tending
to Hooch. That included lying to the doctor, tense
throughout the whole examination in case the man was
more perceptive than he hoped. He thanked his lucky
stars that everyone swallowed the story of the accident
so easily, and there were no enquiries about the truck,
for once grateful that Hooch's habitual driving habits
meant that everyone took the lie at face value.
was the night before Hooch was due back on base. He
still looked horrendous, but not half-dead, and was
able to walk.
stood at the window, facing away from him. He was
looking out into the parking lot below, full of movement
even at this hour. "I think," his voice
was level and calm, and somehow defeated, "it
would be a good idea if we had a break from each other."
sat on the couch, leaning into the bad side. He had
hardly said anything all week, not knowing how to
find the words, not even where to look for them. 'I'm
sorry' was pathetic, 'forgive me' sounded shallow.
It took a long time before he replied, because every
single thing he meant to say felt wrong. Everything.
In the end he gave up and simply agreed. "If
a little while, so we have some space," Matt
continued, as though he hadn't heard. "And you
can decide whether this is what you want. This living
together. With me. If I'm enough for you. And I can
figure out whether I can keep doing this, the next
time if this happens, when you need to
steam." He turned around to face Hooch, and he
looked paler and more drawn than Hooch had ever seen
him. "I don't think I've ever been more scared
in my life. The way you've been lately, the way you
took off. Running around town looking for you, the
waiting. Not to mention what you did, and what happened,
and what's still going on." He braced his arms
on the windowsill behind him. "Not being able
to get you proper help, not being able to get the
doc to do more than he did, because what possible
fucking reason could I give him that a guy who's just
been in a car accident needs a fucking blood test
for STDs?" He braced his arms to control the
met Matt's gaze straight on. Every single word hit
him square and fair, right where it counted. 'If Matt
was enough for him'. Was he? Could he? Who or what
could ever be enough, and yet the thought of losing
Matt had been ripping a bleeding wound into Hooch
these past days. So deep and painful, he didn't know
if it would ever close, if-no, when-he was going to
leave. He had to leave, for Matt's sake. What guarantees
could he give, and how could Matt ever believe him,
when Hooch couldn't trust himself. And yet
fear he'd experienced, of knowing what he was doing
to Matt if those men had decided to kill the raw meat
that he'd become in that warehouse; the memory of
that fear hadn't left him. Still as clear as it had
been, the moment when he'd known that this time he
wasn't in it only for himself.
Hooch started and trailed off. It was pointless. He
couldn't find the words. Every thought and regret
unspoken, each plea and each emotion unsaid.
for a while," Matt said, misery incarnate. "I'm
sure you've got heaps on at work anyway. We both need
to think, and being cooped up here together isn't
the place to do it."
remained silent, all words inside swallowed up by
that gaping wound. He'd never experienced loss before,
and the heartache that spread through his very core
made the beast and the darkness seem like nothing.
It hadn't been worth it, and he should have been in
nodded, and with that one nod he gave himself over
to the inevitable. Defeated for the first time in
his life, and it was all his own doing. He'd been
his worst enemy all his life, and now he'd lost the
one battle with the highest stakes.
offered to take you back to base tomorrow morning,"
Matt's gaze was somewhere over Hooch's shoulder. "Smashed
truck and all, and the contractors coming in for the
nodded again. That was he could do: agree, and to
try control the damage he'd done to Matt.
slept at all that night, not Matt in their bedroom,
nor Hooch in the guest room. Early the next morning,
Jeff arrived at the gym, dropping Mandy off before
helping carry Hooch's pack and a large gym bag to
his car. He wasn't anywhere near as talkative as Mandy
during the short drive to the base, but he made all
the right noises of sympathy about car smashes and
losing much loved trucks. His was a pleasant enough
voice to fill in the silence on the road, for all
of his dropped 'r's that made Hooch long for another
voice, one with a completely different accent.
helping Hooch out of the car and carrying his bags,
Jeff accompanied him as far as he could go. He let
him know that he was spending most of his free time
at Mandy's apartment or at the gym these days, and
would be more than happy to give him a lift back any
time until Hooch got around to getting a new car;
all Hooch had to do was let him know.
spent that weekend at Mandy's, but there was no sign
of Hooch at the gym.
next weekend, there was no sign of Hooch either, and
neither did Jeff see the man while on base. Hooch
kept busy, did his duties to a fault, kept honing
men in their deadly skills and sending them out. Not
allowing himself to grieve when they didn't return
alive, because there was no space in him left to mourn.
Every part of him had been consumed by that open wound.
was working late one night in his office when he was
interrupted by a knock on the open door. Looking up,
he found Jeff there. "Sir?"
Hooch's eyes narrowed slightly, unsure what to think
of the unexpected visitor. "Lt. Sullivan."
I come in, Sir?" Jeff looked nervous.
nodded and pointed to the chair in front of his desk.
like he was about to step into the lion's cage, Jeff
entered and closed the door behind him, before placing
a small plastic box on the desk in front of Hooch.
from Mandy," Jeff said, sitting down where indicated,
"she said they're your favorite."
eyebrows raised as he recognized the contents of the
transparent box. Red velvet cupcakes. "Thanks."
awkward pause, as though the younger man had no idea
how to begin a conversation. "She says that everyone's
missing you at the gym."
Hooch made it a statement, not a question.
Jeff replied firmly, meeting the gaze directly, hoping
that it didn't look as difficult as it was. Mandy
had said that Captain Bozic was a 'pussycat' but it
felt more like being locked in a very small room with
a very large and very unhappy panther. Jeff bit his
lip, considering. "With respect, Sir, I have
been there more recently than you. Whatever's happened,
they do all miss you down there. You could just call
and let them know you're okay."
Hooch shook his head. "No, I can't do that."
going down again on Wednesday for my session with
Matt," Jeff tried again. "Do you want me
to pass on any messages?"
eyes hardened with suspicion. "Why would I want
to do that?"
gulped. They said the Airborne was full of terrifying
hardcases, but none of them had anything close to
who was facing him across the desk. He attempted what
passed as confusion, "'cos you're roommates and
buddies, and your stuff's still there, and no-one's
heard from you in weeks." Biting his lip and
barely holding back a twitch, before he warily made
another foray. "Do you want me to bring your
still narrowed, Hooch nodded. "Yes to the mail,
but what do you know about my stuff being there?"
only had your pack and a sports bag when you came
to base two weeks ago. You haven't been back, and
you've been living there for three years. You can't
not have stuff there still?"
tension left Hooch's face, but the desolation never
did. "Yes, I do. Don't need it, though. Got my
nodded, then changed the subject. "I never thanked
you for the recommendation down there. Shoulder's
all fine now." A pause, "thanks for setting
me up with Mandy. She's a great girl."
else you'd like to thank me for?" Hooch tilted
look crossed Jeff's face, as though he was swiftly
praying to someone. "Just her. It's
listening to the guys, it's hard to find someone who
understands the job, willing to put up with all sorts
of stuff, that's kinda special. Don't think I'd ever
want to let her go without a fight, I mean, you know,"
he corrected, realizing how the words could be misinterpreted,
"just that having someone who's prepared to stick
it out for the long haul, that's
Hooch fell silent again, until Jeff thought that was
it, but then Hooch added, "don't fuck it up."
silence, then, "I'll try not to, but I guess
I'm luckier than a lot of others already." Jeff
left the sentence half-finished. Adding, as though
all subtlety had been used up, "when we have
fights with each other, we both get it all out into
was like poking a panther through the bars of a cage,
and getting nearer and nearer to the claws every time.
"I guess," there probably was no budging
him, and Jeff dreaded the unsuccessful report back
to Mandy. "I can come back for the box on Wednesday,
if you like, Sir," he stood up. "It is quite
miserable down there, though they're trying to hide
it," speaking in the neutral and the plural.
took in a sharp breath, holding it in his lungs, before
he stood up and audibly expelled it. "I can't
go back. I am not saying that I don't want to, but
I can't. I fucked up." He was giving more away
than he'd ever done before, but it seemed the only
way of shutting Jeff up. "Say thanks to Mandy
for the cupcakes. Also, tell her you make a shit undercover
gave a small smile in reply. "Now you know why
they haven't picked me for your lot. But you'd be
surprised just how many guys on base are really good
at keeping secrets, and not just the classified ones,
but ones that really shouldn't matter and that people
really shouldn't give a damn about, Sir."
turned and went to the door, opening it and walking
out into the corridor before Hooch could react.
Hooch never finished the word, staring speechlessly
at the retreating back. What the fuck had just happened?
There was no way he could have misread Jeff's words,
only one possible interpretation of that which was
unsaid and yet said so clearly. Secrets that shouldn't
matter. Shit. Hooch slumped back onto his chair and
buried his face in his hands. He'd fucked up and thrown
away the one thing that had mattered.
passed, marked only with a delivery of pumpkin pie
and an anxious look and a few pointed questions from
Mandy. Matt threw himself into the gym, taking more
classes, working early and late on proposals for the
new year, and keeping himself busy. Anything to take
his mind away from the empty spaces in the apartment,
on the couch, at the dining table, in his bed. More
strange with most of Hooch's things still there, as
though he'd just gone on a long, classified exercise
without communication. The place was silent, even
though Hooch was so quiet most of the time.
Hooch took little interest in food, except perhaps
a good steak, the effort of proper cooking for one
seemed too much, and one evening he was poking at
the remains of his half-finished dinner, uncaring
of the carbs in the pasta, when the phone rang.
voice on the other end was warm and familiar, and
didn't bother with preliminaries. "Matty, darling,
why weren't you and Hooch really here for Thanksgiving?"
been busy," Matt stalled, "especially Hooch
know, darling, that's what you told me before the
holiday, but I'm your mother, and I know when you
lie. Do you remember the time you shoved Billy Haddington
off that bike because he called you a fag?"
could I forget?" The memory was painful, but
nothing compared to the present. Matt took a deep
breath. "We're having a break."
thought so," Anne's voice softened. "Care
to tell me why?"
he trailed off, "it's been tough since September."
of the attack?" Anne probed gently.
Matt confirmed. "His boys." That much at
least, it would take a complete idiot or a shut-in
hermit not to know that the operations in Afghanistan
would involve Hooch's boys.
made a soft sound of thoughtful agreement. "Which
one of you wanted the break?" Always straight
to the point.
Matt confessed. Knowing that it made him sound like
a heartless bastard, but no way could he tell his
mother the full story.
I know I'm biased, because I'm your mom and I love
you and think you are the finest man to walk the earth,
but I know you wouldn't ask for a break for no other
reason than the man you love being difficult while
that man is going through a hard time." She left
the field wide open for him.
just that." Matt didn't know if he should curse
or thank his mother, who never failed to get to the
bottom of everything, "also other things."
Like driving off into the night like a maniac, going
to goodness knows where to wind up half-dead, riddled
with unknown infections and diseases, and closing
off completely since. He hadn't expected a long, detailed
explanation-this was Hooch, after all. But a "I'm
sorry," and some hint of what madness was going
through him would have been nice.
you tell me a little about those other things?"
She asked gently.
opened his mouth and it almost came out, but shut
it again, breathing deeply. He couldn't. "Just
dear," her voice remained gentle. "If you
can't talk about it, perhaps I can ask some questions?"
She paused a moment, "do you think Hooch still
almost answered with the first thing that came into
his mind, which was 'as much as that crazy bastard
loves anyone', but that would just raise more questions.
The answer was simple, and yet not. "Yes,"
he breathed, knowing that he was telling the truth,
"but sometimes that's not enough."
he did something that hurt you very much?"
let her think what she would. He only barely bit back
a snort when he realized that she was partially right.
After all, going out and getting yourself fucked by
God-knows how many men, beaten up, chained, and tortured,
probably counted as 'cheating.' They'd never agreed
to be monogamous, even though they had been for the
last few years. Too much risk otherwise, they'd more
or less decided in that way that they had, without
see." Her voice was even gentler than before.
"But you still love him?" She continued
straight away, "and don't tell me that sometimes
that's not enough, because if two people love each
other, then they have to do everything they can to
make it work."
He loved that crazy, silent, maddening bastard more
than anything. He was worth the lying, the worry,
the Marines. But whether he was worth the pain of
a repeat, the pain of the not-knowing, when he was
out doing mad-assed crazy shit to himself, he still
didn't know. "It's been a long road," Matt
said at last, "so we're thinking about whether
it's where we both want to be going." Knowing
that he was lying, knowing that he wanted Hooch for
the rest of his life-and that Hooch wanted him for
most of it-except the bits where he had that urge
to go out and get himself hurt so badly that he was
you, dear? Are you both thinking that?" Anne
let out a soft sound, like a tutting. "Have you
two actually talked about this?"
couldn't lie, but she knew Hooch. "No,"
he had to say. "Hooch isn't one for talking."
I figured that, but darling, have you actually tried?
I'm not saying this to defend whatever Hooch did,
but you know better than I do that he is quite a broken
How the fuck could she know about his
talked to him, darling, remember? And I haven't been
a mother to all of my brood for nothing. I can sense
a very lost child a mile wide."
she could see that in Hooch, Matt thought, where everyone
else saw the finely-honed killer. Hooch, who never
spoke more than a word about his family if he could
help it, who never spoke of his past. Who had been
to Texas once or twice in the last three years, only
when he could not avoid it, and scarcely more than
a couple of days. Hooch, completely lost the first
time when he visited Matt's family. "What he
does takes a lot out of him," Matt said at last,
I can imagine. While I don't claim to know anything
about the sort of thing your jobs entailed, I can
imagine that it's not something most people could
do. But darling, don't you think you should at least
try to talk to him? It seems to me that if you don't,
you will regret it for the rest of your life."
will," Matt said vaguely, "we need to sort
stuff out either way." Looking at Hooch's things
around the apartment. Not that there was all that
much of it, but each was a painful reminder: the coffee
mug on the bench, the tattered paperbacks on the shelves,
even the meticulously ordered clothes still in the
wardrobe. All brought a pang. A repeat was unthinkable,
but so was life without Hooch.
Anne managed to convey her disbelief in that one soft
word. "I'll call you again. Send my love to Hooch
when you talk to him."
will," Matt said quietly. "I will."
more to himself than to her, as he finished the call
and put down the phone.
was a lonely Christmas and New Year. Hooch volunteered
for duty over the holidays, watching the base empty
of everyone who had managed to get leave, while those
remaining grumbled about staying on base. He'd spent
holidays on base before, letting the men who had families
and actually wanted the time off take it, but this
year felt far bleaker. No Matt kissing him awake with
his customary enthusiasm on Christmas morning, no
stupid joke presents, no New Year's celebration in
the apartment, nothing.
were Christmas-tree shaped shortbread cookies from
Mandy, delivered by Jeff, who made half-hearted attempts
to make him call the gym again, sensing it was hopeless.
Jeff seemed wary of him after the last disclosure,
as Hooch realized that he and Matt were possibly the
worst-kept secret in Fort Bragg.
got a call from New Zealand at the start of the holidays,
and Hooch managed to be evasive, but when he ended
the call, he realized that the gaping wound of missing
Matt had not closed in the slightest over the past
weeks. As raw and as painful as ever. He now knew
what heartache was.
was just as lonely in the gym during this quiet time.
Even the most committed members decided to take a
few days break for the holidays. With Mandy going
up to Boston to meet Jeff's family, the remaining
skeleton staff were professional and friendly, but
nevertheless distracted by their own holiday thoughts.
The gift for Hooch from his sister arrived at the
gym the usual three days before Christmas, the beautifully
wrapped box whose contents Hooch would stash away
and never use, as always. Accompanied by a card that
he would read once and then quietly put away. Matt
sent the package up to base, no further note attached.
day after New Year, Matt's private phone rang. It
didn't show a number, but the caller became clear
at the unmistakable voice with its Scottish accent
and the customary exhale of smoke.
kid." Dan charged straight into the fray without
a word of greeting. "I probably should be doing
the Happy New Year shit, but I've been driven crazy
by the Russkie's worrying. What the fuck is going
on your way?"
should have expected this at some point, Matt thought.
"Hooch and I are on a break." It sounded
feeble even for him. What was it now, two months?
is that it?" Another deep inhale at the other
end of the phone. "And that's why we are thinking
about mounting a rescue mission?" The inevitable
exhale of smoke. "Come on, mate, you can do better
than that. Tell me what the fuck happened and I might
get a decent night's sleep in the near future."
moment's thought, a sigh, but this was Dan, who Matt
owed more than anything. Dan, who had brought Hooch
into his life. Dan, who had helped him get information
about Hooch in what had, until now, been the worst
moment of his life.
know what they do when they get together, don't you?"
he asked, unnecessarily, because of course Dan would
and I also know that Hooch called a couple of months
ago. That's a bit of a coincidence."
if that didn't make perfect sense. "It is, isn't
it?" Matt stalled, while things slotted into
Dan gave Matt a moment, during which he took another
audible drag of his obligatory cigarette. "Does
that mean you are finally going to tell me what the
bloody hell happened?"
went to get himself worked over somewhere and rang
me the next morning to get him, when he was three-quarters
dead." It sounded awfully cold put like that.
shit." Dan's comment came out like a bullet.
"That's serious crap, but only part of the story,
was the fucking last straw," the heat in Matt's
voice surprised him, as it finally hit. "He's
been fucking unbearable since September, more so since
the fuck-ups began, and we got blackmailed over the
fucking summer and then he went and pulled this shit."
Dan retorted, with feeling. "I'd be pissed off
to hell and back, too, but what does he have to say
had a way of demanding the truth, even half a world
away. "Nothing," Matt said, after a pause.
"We haven't spoken since he left."
color me surprised. Not." A last exhale and the
sound of a cigarette butt being violently stubbed
out in the ashtray. "Look, mate, I get it. Talking
is shit. It's a worse torture than being raked over
glowing coals, but not talking in that situation?
For two bloody months?" Dan raised his voice,
"are you two fucking stupid?"
a redundant question. "I guess we are."
You and Hooch score the jackpot." A faint raspy
sound as Dan seemed to rub his hand over his face.
"What a mess, and there wasn't even any KGB involved."
I think we managed fine on our own." Matt felt
the misery claw at him from the inside.
no expert on relationships," Dan huffed a laugh,
"far from it, but you two really take the biscuit."
He paused, "look, I'm going to talk to Hooch,
aye? I'll tell him he's a fucking idiot, and then
we'll leave you two to your own devices." An
unspoken expectation that those devices were expected
to be more communicative than they had been. "Alright,
Apprehension, and more than a bit of bleak amusement.
Dan had got them together to begin with no wonder
he took such an interest.
think I do that for you two. I'm selfish, remember?
I want a decent bloody night's sleep." Dan chuckled,
Matt smiled despite himself and his misery. Dan had
a way of doing that. He put down the phone, and very
firmly went and placed Hooch's coffee mug into the
cupboard, where it belonged.
on base, Hooch's cell rang.
He answered warily, not recognizing the number.
the fuck do you think you are doing?" Dan's voice
battered through the phone.
your one chance away by not having the courage to
do that talking shit."
Even that was hard. "I don't have the words."
Dan calmed down somewhat. "I get it, I really
do. I can guess what you did out there after you called
a couple of months ago, and in what state you ended
up in, but I've been through the shit, had my heart
ripped out, and the one thing I learned through that?
That if you don't communicate in whatever way you
can, you're so fucked, you could just about throw
your life away, because that equates to the same thing."
He paused, during which Hooch felt his breath hitch.
"You're not enemies, Hooch." Dan's voice
had softened, "you're not on two different sides.
You might think you are fucked up, but hell, you didn't
have someone torture the last shred of self out of
you. So, yeah, you're a masochistic bastard, and you
got issues a mile wide, but you don't have anyone
actually physically holding you back to pick up your
damned phone and call the one person you love. Because
you love Matt, don't you?" He didn't allow Hooch
to get a word in edgewise. "Aye, I know that
you do, even though I bet you've never said it."
Dan was on a roll now. "If you don't have the
words, then tell him that you don't have them. If
you can't tell him what you feel, then show him. If
you have to beg to be allowed to show him, then bloody
well do it! Don't be as stupid as we were, because
you're more clever than that and you haven't got most
of the world against you. Goddammit, Hooch, do you
and fuck, he did. Too caught up in his own pain and
misery, too aware it had been his own making.
let out a deep breath. "Thank fuck. Then take
that chance and go for it. At least, if it doesn't
work out, you tried. Whatever shit you did, I guess
you figured out a few things in the meantime, aye?"
That all the fear, the terror, the pain, the guilt-nothing
was as agonizing as the thought of losing Matt.
your arse in gear, soldier, because I hang up now."
True to his word, the line went dead.
kept staring at the phone in his hand for exactly
ten seconds, before he hit the speed dial for Matt.
If he thought about it for too long, he'd realize
once again how unequipped as he was with emotional
tools, but cowardice wasn't an option any longer.
He had nothing to lose, and everything to win.
listened to the ring tone of Matt's cell.
Matt's voice. Level, unsurprised. Wary? It was hard
I see you?" Hooch sounded nervous even to his
A pause, "do you want to come down? Do you have
a new truck yet? Or should I come up?" Questions,
so many questions.
bought a truck a month ago." All the little things
that had hurt in new ways, such as the simple task
of buying a truck and not telling Matt. Every little
thing had fed the wound. "I could get a stand-in
and come to the gym." Not 'your place', certainly
not 'our place', carefully neutral instead.
there was a soft exhale, "that would be good.
It's still closed for the holidays so we'll have privacy."
Matt. I'll be there as soon as I can." Hooch
cancelled the call and stood in his room for a moment,
looking at the bare wall. He was shit-scared, because
he still didn't have the words, but he'd had a long
time to think, and he was going to try to communicate
those thoughts, even if it killed him.
at the phone in his hand, Matt took a deep breath
before putting it down. Twenty minutes at least to
work out what he was going to say. Twenty minutes
before he'd have what felt like the toughest conversation
of his life. Coming out to his parents was easy compared
to this. He opened the door and went down into the
deserted gym to wait.
once, it actually did take Hooch twenty minutes, not
the fifteen he usually managed with his maniac driving
if there wasn't any traffic. His silhouette visible
in front of the frosted glass door, as he rang the
bell. One outside, one inside, and neither could see
through to the other.
opened the door."You look
" 'like shit'
was what he was about to say, but he bit it back as
he stepped aside to let Hooch enter
I guess." Hooch replied. He stopped once he'd
entered, and turned to watch Matt lock the doors behind
them. Matt. Fucking hell, it hurt to see him, as it
all came rushing towards him, the loneliness, and
the misery of knowing how he'd fucked up.
Matt asked, heading towards the door to the apartment.
Even now, in the deserted post-holiday silence, not
worth the risk to be seen from the parking lot, just
in case. No longer paranoia, but the caution that
bit into everything with Hooch's career.
Hooch followed Matt up the stairs. A subdued version
of the Hooch Matt knew. Once upstairs, Hooch took
a quick glance around, but everything was just like
it had been as he left.
fiddled with the coffee machine, producing two cups,
the way they preferred. Making a point of using Hooch's
usual mug. "So," he began, "Dan phoned
you, I guess."
gaze lingered a while too long on his old mug. "Yeah,
he did." He took the mug and then a first sip,
looking at Matt from under his eyelashes as he glanced
over the rim. "Told me I was a fucking idiot."
He ploughed on before Matt could say anything. "I
" and fuck, if that
wasn't exactly what he had been dreading. He huffed
in frustration and grimaced.
don't know what?" Matt prodded.
I don't know how
shit." Hooch set the mug
down on the kitchen counter and dragged a hand through
his short hair. "For two months I've been trying
to find the words, but I'm no closer to finding them."
misery in Hooch's dark eyes than Matt had ever seen,
even more than after the torture. "I see."
Most, but not all, of the anger had burnt out of him,
replaced by sadness and the Hooch-shaped empty space
inside. "I know," what did he know, really?
He tried again. "What the hell did you think
you were doing?" No need to specify further,
they both knew what he was talking about.
wasn't thinking." Hooch gestured to the couch.
"Could we sit down?"
nodded, put his coffee down too and sat on the couch.
followed, but he was no less tense sitting, as he
had been when standing. "I never tried to explain
my masochism to you. Thought I'd deal with it on my
own. I was wrong, I tried to ignore the need and I
fucked it up." Hooch sat straight, palms on his
black clad thighs. How was he going to explain something
so overwhelming-something he didn't understand himself?
"For the first time
" slight shake
of his head, he tried again. "I was scared. I'd
never been scared before like that. Not for me, but
he looked up and at Matt. "It wasn't just about
me. I was scared to leave you, what it'd do to you.
Scared, because I realized I had responsibility for
someone else's wellbeing, and that wellbeing was more
important than anything else, and I had fucked it
up. I was a selfish bastard and fucked it up."
Hooch looked down at his hands, fingertips lightly
strumming on the denim of his trousers.
blinked. Feeling what it must have cost for Hooch
to say those words, more agonizing, he guessed, than
any physical hurt that he'd ever suffered. The darkness
in him, that he kept away from Matt-and truth be told-part
of Matt had been relieved that he did. As though ignoring
meant that he didn't have to deal with it. "Yes,
yes you did," he said softly. "So what now?"
been missing you." Hooch said quietly, still
looking at his hands. "I never felt like that
before. Didn't get better. It hurt, still does."
exhaled a breath he didn't realize he'd been holding.
Hurt. And not the physical. Like how he'd felt inside.
"I'm not sure I can do that again," he said
at last, "the silence, the brooding, the taking
off, the not-knowing all night, and then finding you."
For all he loved that maddening bastard, there were
lines he wasn't sure he could cross again. "If
he paused, "if you want me, like how we've been
the last few years, we'll need to work out how we
deal with it." And how that stuck in him, in
a way he hadn't realized, that there was something
Matt couldn't, or wouldn't (where had that come from?)
be for Hooch.
nodded. "Matt," he lifted his head to look
at him, "I am not making promises, because that's
not enough. What I will do is give you my word that
I will never do anything like this again. I understand
those words are hard to believe, but I don't have
anything more convincing, except for giving myself
to you for the rest of my days, to show you that I
mean those words." Hooch paused, drew in a breath.
"I will talk to you, try to explain, tell you
what I need when
I'm not asking you to do anything
you don't want to do, but I will tell you." He'd
been thinking about this, plenty of time in the last
two months. "Perhaps there's a club or something,
something safe, where I could go regularly. Perhaps
that would stop the
" he still
didn't have a word for it, so he went back to one
of the old ones, no matter how inadequate, "before
the darkness gets too overwhelming."
nodded thoughtfully. "That's a start, at least."
He paused, "I have missed you, but," always
but, "I think we might want to ease back into
this slowly. Think it over. Weekends perhaps, and
we see how it goes."
Hooch's posture relaxed slightly. "It's not that
I didn't want to talk to you during the past two months."
Everything else unsaid, but even though Matt could
hardly believe himself, he saw pleading in Hooch's
dark eyes. Asking for understanding.
Matt agreed, and stopped. "One more thing, though.
No sex for a while. We need to wait to see if you're
clear, and we've always just had sex great sex rather
than sort out shit." Much as he'd missed it,
missed Hooch's weight in the bed, the warmth of the
body, this was important. It had always been too easy
to just tear at each other like animals, forgetting
everything else when they were sated and exhausted.
I understand." Not just the safety part. "Guess
I used it," Hooch said hesitantly, "sometimes."
He ran a hand through his hair again, matter-of-fact
in the face of the truly uncomfortable. "I went
to a private lab, had tested what they could. All
clear for STDs. Will go back in four weeks to get
tested for HIV."
let out a breath he didn't know he'd been holding.
"Good." Hoping that the chances were good,
that if the guys Hooch had been with hadn't given
him anything else so far, they wouldn't have given
him HIV either.
to know each other again, Matt thought, without the
sex that had been the beginning and the tie that had
kept them together for so long before the friendship,
let alone the love, that was going to be different.
His hand went to cover Hooch's on his knee. The first
time they'd touched for two months.
looked at the hand, hesitated for a moment, before
he covered it with his own. It felt to him like the
most romantic gesture he'd ever done in his whole
life, and he lifted his head to smile at Matt. Tentative,
but there. "I have to be back on base in three
hours tops. Did you," searching for normality,
"did you tape the game by chance?"
mountain of tapes of games that Matt rarely got a
chance to watch before taping over them again, a private
joke. "Yes," he said, standing up and going
to the TV cabinet to rummage through the pile, picking
one more or less at random from the most recent and
slotting it in. "Drink?" he asked, going
to the fridge, looking at Hooch.
still on duty. Got a Coke?" Hooch moved across
to the part of the L-shaped couch that was facing
the large TV screen. He had marginally relaxed, but
only a hard physical session in the gym would get
rid of all of the tension for now.
nodded and got a coke from the fridge. Full-calorie,
the game, unseeing, in silence. But a comfortable
sat close together, almost touching but not quite,
a synonym for their relationship.
following Friday evening, a surprised but delighted
Mandy saw Hooch enter reception, his daypack on his
back, like he used to.
looked like she wanted to give him a hug, but hesitated
out of discretion, and settled for a huge smile. "He's
in his office," she pointed in that direction.
Continuing her discretion, she quickly vanished somewhere
else in the gym.
nodded his thanks and went through to the office,
where he hesitated. The door was ajar, but he decided
Matt looked up from the pile of accounts on his desk,
"how're things?" The little bits of conversation
they'd rarely bothered with in the past.
Hooch stepped inside and let the pack glide off his
shoulder. "Better than last week. I'm here."
you are." A new awkwardness, as Matt shuffled
the papers, then locked them away. "Up?"
want to order pizza? I got a six-pack of beer."
Hooch lifted the backpack and pointed at it.
but pizza?" The uneasiness
at this 'new them' obvious.
flashed a grin. "Come on, Matt, some carbs and
a beer won't kill you."
gave in with a chuckle, and they went upstairs into
the apartment. When they got into the living area
Hooch stopped, unsure where to put his pack. He decided
to leave it at the door, then proceeded to pull out
was your week?" He handed a can to Matt, opened
one himself. This small-talk thing was damned difficult.
good, especially considering the weather." Matt
didn't miss Hooch's hesitation, felt equally awkward.
shrugged. "Long hours, I'm tired." He took
a long draught of his beer then walked over to the
couch to sit down. He really was bone tired, but nothing
would have kept him from driving back to the apartment.
"What pizza do you want?"
just no anchovies." Matt opened his own beer
and sat next to Hooch. It felt oddly surreal.
the 'dating' phase they never went through, retro-and
Hooch went for his cell and dialed the local pizza
place he still had on speed. He ordered a classic
one and a salad, the latter to appease Matt's health
concern. When he was done he turned to Matt.
Hooch stifled a yawn, "what now? Movie? Game?"
Matt asked. He picked up the remote, flicking at random
until something suitable came up.
of them enjoyed watching war or action movies, except
for classics: all the mistakes were too annoying.
And stupid comedies seemed inappropriate.
kept stifling a yawn, but perked up during a couple
of passes in the game, until the delivery guy arrived.
He was ravenous, eating too fast and washing the carb
laden food down with beer, until the pizza was finished.
He slumped back against the couch, eyes on half-mast,
trying not to fall asleep, but the drowsier he got
the more his control waned, and he kept slowly sliding
hand on his shoulder, firm and warm. "Hey, looks
like you're about to drop."
more asleep than awake, leaned into the warmth of
Matt's body, rubbing his face against Matt's shoulder
while sleepily mumbling, until he suddenly froze.
Eyes open, he sat back up straight. "Sorry."
Matt wasn't 'his' any longer, and Hooch felt the painful
sensation of having intruded into territory he no
longer had the right to. "Yeah, I'm tired."
then." Matt stood and cleared away the boxes
and the cans, then stood awkwardly in the middle of
the room. "I've made up the spare room for you."
okay." Hooch acquiesced. He was too exhausted
to argue, and he had expected it anyway. He had to
give this time, this
them. Besides, wasn't the
spare room officially his anyway? "Thanks."
Without further comment, Hooch went to get his pack,
then vanished in the bathroom, only to emerge soon
after to head to the spare room. "Good night."
The door closed behind him.
finished tidying the living area and went into their
bedroom, closing the door behind him softly.
though he'd slept alone for two months, never had
the bed felt so cold and empty.
woke with a start, the room dark and silent around
him. Thoughts fuzzy, still caught in a dream woven
from scary memories, his heart was racing and his
mouth dry. Disoriented, as his mind frantically tried
to supply where he was, and to gauge if he was in
danger or not. Trained reflexes pushed him to high
alert: this wasn't his bunk, nor the shared bed, and
he had no recollection of the place he found himself
in. His hands searched blindly, and he almost knocked
over the lamp when he finally found the light switch.
He could make out the spare room in the light, told
himself he was safe, but his heart continued to race
for a while longer, and the sweat felt sticky on his
was no point staying in bed, so he got up and quietly
made his way to the bathroom to wash his face, and
then to the kitchen for a glass of cold water. The
couch seemed as good a place as any, and in the gloom
of the light coming from the open door to the spare
room, he sat on the couch, head back, glass of water
half-drunk in his hand.
other door opened quietly. Matt, backlit from the
lamp in the bedroom, stood in the dim light, dressed
in long, loose pajama pants another change, when he'd
always slept naked before. "Hey," his voice
hung in the gloom, "the dream?"
looked up, letting his head turn until his cheek rested
against the back of the couch. "Not sure."
He was about to shrug, but aborted the movement. "Disoriented."
He inhaled deeply, before slowly breathing out. "Matt
came closer, and fumbled with the light switch on
the reading lamp on the side table, before sitting
down side-on to Hooch on the L-shaped couch. Elbows
on knees, waiting for Hooch to continue.
can't do this, Matt." Hooch leaned forward to
put the glass onto the table. "I can't pretend
the last ten years didn't happen."
tilted head, as Matt followed the movement of the
glass, then turned back to look at Hooch. "How
so?" Having a good idea of the answer, but pushing
Hooch to put it into words.
Hooch made a vague gesture between them. "Not
touching you. I don't mean the sex, I can accept that
it's off right now, but I can't not touch you. It's
hand, warm and firm on Hooch's bare knee was the response.
"You're freezing." The hand was removed
just as quickly as it had come, as Matt disappeared
into his own room for his robe Hooch had never really
accustomed himself to one and came out to fling it
over Hooch's shoulders. It was several years old,
slightly threadbare, and smelt of Matt.
was like a dog with a bone, wouldn't let go. "How?"
rolled his eyes at Matt's 'mothering', but pulled
the robe closed around him anyway. He hadn't noticed
how cold his skin had become until the soft, worn
cloth covered it with warmth. He was about to say
something about Matt trying to force him to find words
he didn't have, when he inhaled and the familiar scent
of Matt surrounded him. Hooch closed his eyes and
took another deep breath. "This. This is how,"
he said quietly.
took a long look, as though knowing these were already
more words than Hooch was really comfortable with,
then nodded. He held out his hand. "Come to bed,
looked up, surprised, but took the offered hand. The
robe slid off his shoulders as he stood, but neither
man cared, as they walked into the main bedroom.
bed was still warm, and Matt settled in behind Hooch,
pulling the blankets over them both. Matt, the solid
presence at his back. Hooch thought that nothing had
ever felt so right, as Matt held him closer, body-warmth
seeping into him.
huffed softly. "I'm the little spoon now, huh?"
was more a rumble in Matt's chest than an answering
chuckle, but the amusement was clear. "I guess.
Sleep, then. I'll take watch."
was about to say something in reply, but thought the
better of it, and just placed his hand on top of Matt's
that rested on his chest. Enveloped in the familiar
warmth and scent, he didn't even notice when he fell
asleep, it was that quick.
woke to milky winter sunlight streaming into the room
through a gap in the curtains. Matt's arms still encircling
him, Matt's body pressed all along his back, and the
hardness of Matt's morning wood digging into him.
muttered sleepily and snuggled closer, into the warmth,
until he realized that Hooch was awake and deliberately
staying still. "Morning," he yawned, pulling
a hand job count as sex, or as helping out a buddy
in need?" Hooch murmured.
hand on Hooch's hip stilled. Not moving away but neither
moving closer. Clearly thinking, considering Hooch's
question. He finally snorted softly into the nape
of Hooch's neck, and his hand moved forwards, having
made a decision. "I'll let you get away with
it this time," slightly grumbly, but with a smile,
as he shifted to allow Hooch to roll over.
had a small grin on his face as he pushed Matt's PJ
bottoms down. "Honestly, I'm just helping out
a buddy in need," he muttered as his calloused
hand closed around Matt's erection. He knew Matt so
well, every stroke was perfectly set. Two men familiar
with their bodies, no second guessing necessary.
didn't take long before Matt came, bodies close together,
his head buried in the juncture between Hooch's neck
and shoulder, teeth scraping against Hooch's collarbone
as he shuddered.
pulled away as soon as he had his breath back, close
enough to see Hooch's still-dilated eyes in the faint
dawn light. "Return the favor?" he asked,
quirking an eyebrow in an unconscious imitation, his
hand already going to the waistband of Hooch's shorts.
Hooch said softly, voice a little hoarse with desire.
Gaze fixed on Matt's flushed face, he gently circled
Matt's wrist with his hand, sticky with cum, and smiled
his ghost of a smile. "Not yet. I want the test
hesitation, then a nod. They'd been through this before,
and Matt bit back the memory of-what was it now-nearly
four years ago, back in his old apartment. The same
worry from Hooch, but for a far different reason.
"'course," he murmured, not making an attempt
to pull away, instead burying himself further into
the bed. It was near-freezing in the room, because
they'd forgotten to turn on the apartment's rarely-used
lying in the wet spot?"
snorted, "it's all over you, and you know it."
He paused and sighed. "We have to talk, you know."
wiped the cum off himself with a corner of the duvet,
then settled back down. "What about?" Which
of the many things they'd never talked about.
Me. Us. This." Matt exhaled, then elaborated.
"What you need as a masochist. What you expect
of me, and what I've been assuming these last few
years. The things we've been letting slide because
we've been getting settled here, into your new job,
into the gym, into living together."
closed his eyes and let out a soft groan. This was
what he had anticipated, and definitely feared, yet
he knew he had to do this or he would lose Matt for
good this time. He opened his eyes, and his serious
expression was proof enough for Matt that Hooch was
willing to talk. "It's too big, Matt, the whole
masochism thing. I don't know where to start; how
how to find the words. Can you break
nodded slowly, considered asking whether Hooch would
be more comfortable getting up, but then realized
if there was any place that Hooch was going to be
able to talk it was right here, together, in the bed.
Thinking, thinking about what it was, until he came
to the answer. The selfish one, perhaps, but it was
a place to begin. "What is it you don't think
that I can help you with?"
you enjoy inflicting pain? Do you get off humiliating
others?" Hooch asked without hesitation.
start, and a shudder Matt couldn't repress. "No,"
he answered truthfully. He trailed a finger down the
length of Hooch's nose, slightly straighter now than
it had been before. The doc, too used to patching
up the aftermath of bar fights, had evidently had
his own idea of aesthetics.
a necessity for the really dark stuff."
that's not all?" Matt asked eventually.
tried to follow the finger, ending up cross-eyed.
"What do you mean?"
finger disappeared. "It can't be all the pain
and humiliation," Matt clarified, leaving aside
the 'really dark stuff' for later, though not too
late. He felt anxiety he hadn't even suspected was
there, that he didn't know where it came from, or
why. Jealousy? He had never felt that in all the years
that they had been together: knowing he was 'Central
Station' at first, and then Hooch had come home to
him. He'd been convinced that was all he had wanted
exhaled softly and audibly. Suddenly, a few things
became clear in his mind. Truths he should have noticed
for years, but had never looked at. "I knew Dan
was jealous for a while, back when he fucked up his
knee, but I'm a selfish bastard, because I never thought
twice about it. I knew I was only in love with,"
he hesitated, realizing he'd never actually said the
words, "only with you. I never even wondered
what you felt about anything."
clamped down on the fury that rose automatically,
but his anger with Hooch had burnt out, and now they
needed to sift through the ashes. "I figured
figured it was just something you did," he said
at last. "I never thought about it much."
He stopped. Honesty, of course, needed to go both
ways. "I didn't, because it hurt too much. That
there was something you thought I couldn't give you."
Hooch exclaimed softly. "Jesus fucking H Christ,
I never considered your feelings." What the fuck
had he been doing all those years? Even after he'd
claimed he didn't take Matt for granted anymore? "This
is not an excuse, Matt, because there isn't one, but
I'm trying to explain. To me, the time-out somewhere
far away, never counted as having sex with someone
else." Hooch paused, "it was easy to compartmentalize."
anybody else, Matt would have thrown them out of bed.
But with Hooch-with all his secrets and the big chunks
of his life that were classified-it actually made
sense, albeit a painful one. "I guess it was,"
he said noncommittally. Their heads were so close
on the pillows, it was impossible to turn away. "But
it can't all be pain and humiliation for a week?"
cupped Matt's face, letting his thumb stroke gently,
trying to take some of the hurt away he could see
in the handsome face before him. He'd never felt like
a rat bastard before, not even after his last stunt
that had got him almost killed. Now, though, he truly
realized that he'd deeply hurt the one person who
meant more to him than anyone or anything-and all
because he'd never bothered to think beyond the obvious
and the convenient. "It is, Matt. It is all about
"Why?" slipped out before Matt could stop
it. Much to his dismay, it was almost plaintive.
don't know." Hooch said softly. "There is
something in me which gets wound up tighter and tighter
the less I have control over events and the longer
it goes on. Back when I was out on missions, the more
often I had dodged death or seen destruction, the
tenser I got. It was worse when I couldn't prevent
losses." He hesitated as he tried to explain
to Matt what he couldn't fully understand himself.
"It's like something that eats me up from the
inside; like millions of fire ants racing through
my guts and crawling under my skin. I feel like I'm
about to snap, and I worry I can't trust myself anymore,
that I'll be unable to function like a human being
and instead become someone unhinged, who wreaks havoc
because he can; because he can't bear anymore what
he has seen and done." Hooch took a deep breath,
this was taking more out of him than he'd ever imagined.
Never before had he tried to put the darkness into
words. "It's a compulsion I cannot escape from,
because if I try to, I stop being able to function.
I can't relax, can't sleep, can't think, can't eat,
can't breathe, can't interact, until I get taken apart
and until I break. Until I can't take it anymore and
yet I get taken that one bit further." Unlike
those men a couple of months ago who had taken him
too far beyond. "That's when I can finally let
go." Hooch ended quietly, barely above a murmur.
then Matt put out his hand to Hooch's face, mirroring
the earlier caress. "I can't pretend I understand
right now," he said at last, "but thank
you for telling me. I'll try to get it." His
hand went to the back of Hooch's neck. "That
was why you called New Zealand in November,"
he knew the answer already, but needed confirmation
from Hooch. "You were already past breaking point,
and you couldn't wait the time it took to set something
up, the way you usually do."
nodded. "Yeah, that's right. I've been thinking
about how to avoid getting to that point of no return
when I don't care about anything anymore. I won't
do that again, because I do care about you. I need
to find a way of never getting to that point in the
had been thinking about it too, about alternatives.
"What did you use to do before?"
went to bars or clubs, preferably outside of the US.
That tied me over."
was as Matt had suspected, and probably not something
that was as feasible now with Hooch's job, but he'd
been researching one option, ever since an overheard
conversation in the wet room between two of the longest-standing
gym members. "Have you ever thought about a members-only
club?" he asked. "Something with strict
you think that exists? Here? Not exactly gay central,
huh?" Hooch gave a wry grin.
probably not here." Matt conceded, trying, and
failing to imagine such a place. "But Charlotte,
maybe. Raleigh, probably. They're near enough for
a weekend. Asheville definitely, but it's too far."
to me you did some research already." Hooch gently
mock-punched Matt's nose. "But that's not all,
is it?" Echoing Matt's earlier question.
no getting away from Hooch, nor the question at the
back of his mind. Matt hesitated, "I suppose
this is when we talk about other people. Having sex
with other people, I guess. What counts, what doesn't.
We've never actually talked about this; not at the
beginning when it was fun, and not when we moved in
here. To be quite frank, I've been so busy the last
few years with the gym, I don't think I'd have noticed
anyone, even if I'd wanted to."
you want others?" Hooch smiled slightly. "To
me, any of the sex in a 'scene' is just part of the
whole humiliation and pain infliction that I crave
at that time. It's not sex in my mind, which probably
sounds crazy. I don't care who fucks me when I'm out
of my head. The man's just a body, then. I don't want
to have sex, just sex, with anyone else, but if you
do, I don't mind. Sex is just that."
gave a thoughtful look. "No, not recently."
Truth be told, with Hooch around and his work, he'd
been too exhausted to consider exploring further afield,
though there were speculative glances aplenty at the
gym. In a bizarre way, what Hooch was saying sort
of made sense-once you managed to remember that it
was Hooch the crazy bastard saying it.
stomach suddenly rumbled and he cast a wry grin at
Matt. "Before I beg you to let me out of this
torture-talking-rack to get some breakfast, I want
you to know it's okay if you ever wanted to experiment
with me and my masochistic side. Anything and anytime."
was a chuckle as Matt automatically reached for his
robe before remembering that it was in the living
room. "I think I may just hold you to that."
There was a gleam in his eye as he left the bed and
went hunting for a sweater, only barely remembering
to pull up his PJs before he tripped over.
watched him, relishing the ease of how they interacted.
He braced himself and jumped out of bed, braving the
cold in his slightly damp shorts and nothing else.
"First one in the bathroom gets the hot shower."
laughed, and abandoned the hunt for the sweater in
favor of taking advantage of his position nearer the
door to head to the bathroom.
left to return to base on Monday morning, feeling
like a weight had been lifted from his shoulders.
Yes, there was still a chasm between them, but at
least they had started to fill it in. He didn't know
how long it would take, but he did know that he would
shovel for as long as he needed to.
next weekend passed much the same as the previous
one, except now there was no question where he would
sleep. He was back in their bed, with Matt wrapped
around him-the spooning reversed. Though being so
close to Matt, his determination not to permit so
much as a hand-job until they were sure he was clean,
grew increasingly difficult.
following weeks passed in much the same vein, save
that Hooch's self control was worn to a thread by
the end of the month. He supposed that one benefit
of staying on base during the week was that he had
a chance of regaining mastery over himself, and not
pouncing on Matt like he wanted to.
waited until the appointed time on the first Friday
in February, when he went to the clinic to pick up
his test results. Once in his truck, he held his breath
as he tore the envelope open. His eyes scanned over
the lines, until he got to the test result itself.
He read it once, twice, forgetting to breathe. After
he'd read it a third time he turned the ignition of
his truck, and sped with squealing tires out of the
parking lot and towards the gym.
barely managed to maneuver the truck into the garage
without damaging Matt's car parked in its reserved
slot beside his, before all but hurling himself out
of the vehicle. He stopped, breathing hard, forcing
himself under control, before walking to the back
entrance of the gym. Hooch let himself in, knowing
that it was the shortest and most unobtrusive way
to Matt's office, the most likely place where he'd
be on a Friday evening.
was so focused on his mission, that he walked straight
into Mandy, who'd been carrying a stack of papers,
which scattered all over the floor. "Sorry,"
Hooch snapped, "Matt in the office?"
Mandy blinked as Hooch moved past her, even brusquer
than normal. But at least he was here, and Matt wasn't
sulking anymore, what was a bit of scattered paper
compared to that?
nodded, then barged into Matt's office, knocking at
the same time as he opened the door and stuck his
head inside. "You. Upstairs. Now."
looked up, stared at Hooch, eyes narrowed. Mentally
calculating dates, then standing up and, for once,
not objecting to the curtness of the order. Without
a word, he locked his office door behind him.
was already in the apartment, and the moment Matt
stepped inside, Hooch simultaneously kicked the door
shut and grabbed Matt. He shoved him against the nearest
wall, descending onto him like a ravenous beast. Hands
clawing at Matt's t-shirt and shorts, kissing hungry,
open-mouthed, and close to biting.
shocked to object at first, it took a while for Matt
to get enough leverage on Hooch's chest to shove him
to arm's length, struggling against Hooch's weight
and strength. "I take it you're clear?"
he gasped, pulling away from Hooch's determined attack
on his mouth, neck, collarbones, any area he could
Hooch nodded, going once more in for the kill. He
needed Matt, needed to feel, needed to fuck. He didn't
realize he'd said that out loud.
me too," Matt agreed. He returned the desperation
and the hunger in equal shares, practically throwing
himself at Hooch until they were on the floor, tearing
at their clothes.
was anything but coordinated, and everything like
mindless rutting. Hooch thrust against Matt's thigh,
groin, wherever he could reach, swearing when he couldn't
get his pants open and down quickly enough; cursing
even louder when their bodies and cocks aligned, wildly
thrusting against each other while biting and sucking
seemed like seconds before they were a damp, sticky,
half-undressed mess on the living room floor. A miracle
that they hadn't knocked anything over, as they fought
to get their breath back. "Ergh," Matt wrinkled
his nose as he sat up. He hesitated, as though he
couldn't decide to make some pretence of pulling up
his shorts before getting up or just giving up and
stripping properly. "Shower?"
grinned with the sated expression of a breathless
but very content Cheshire cat. A rare expression on
him. "Yeah, shower. Then food. Then fucking."
snort, but an affectionate one, accompanied by a gleam
in Matt's eye as he decided in favor of stripping.
"Dinner's in the crockpot." He nodded at
the new appliance that his mother had mailed over,
complete with a book of recipes. "No cooking
made sure he stuck his ass in Hooch's face as he got
up and headed to the bathroom.
Hooch grabbed for the tantalizing display, but narrowly
missed him. Stripping out of the remainders of his
clothes, he was hot on Matt's heels. "How long
before you get it up again, kid?" He smirked,
as he stepped into the shower cubicle to join Matt.
took advantage of Hooch's momentary distraction when
the water was turned on to shove him against the tiles,
so that Hooch could feel him, half-hard already and
definitely interested. "Faster than you, old
man," he teased.
Hooch drawled, rubbing against Matt. "That means
I can take advantage of you." He slid down the
length of Matt's wet body, until he was on his knees
on the porcelain floor. Hands on Matt's ass, he pulled
him forward under the steady stream of hot water,
and swallowed the half-hard cock without further preliminaries.
only barely managed to stay upright, hand on the wall
tiles as he watched his cock disappear down Hooch's
throat. So long since they'd done this, and the sight
itself was driving him out of his mind, even before
the sensations. He groaned as Hooch started to move.
would take longer, with the first edge taken off,
but Hooch didn't care, because he craved being on
his knees, sucking Matt's cock. He used every trick,
everything he'd ever known about his partner's body,
not to make him come as quickly as he could, but to
draw it out even longer.
knowing it was coming, Matt only managed to give a
warning before he came, feeling his cum run down Hooch's
throat. Hooch sucked him dry, making sure he got every
drop, letting his tongue run over Matt's slowly softening
cock in long luxurious strokes, until he ended in
delicate laps, barely feathering across the wet skin.
pulled himself up eventually, cherishing the twinge
in his knees from the hard surface. He grinned at
Matt with an even more satisfied, and decidedly wet
cat appearance. "Your ass is mine now."
He gestured with his thumb vaguely in the direction
of the bedroom.
was," Matt returned the grin tiredly, turning
off the water and all but stumbling out of the shower,
slightly wobbly at the knees. He made a half hearted
effort at toweling himself dry before heading to the
bedroom, barely moving the covers aside before flopping
down on his front. "You'll have to do all the
work, though," he threw over his shoulder, "you've
wiped me out." But he gave the little wriggle
that always made Hooch pounce.
Hooch grinned and fulfilled Matt's expectations by
attacking him with lips and fingers. Pushing his legs
between Matt's thighs to open them up, he only stopped
to find the lube in the bedside drawer.
fuck was much slower than Matt had expected, despite
the months of missing. Hooch was mindful of Matt having
just come twice, and his entry and strokes were long
and drawn-out instead of the rough and hard he thought
he'd receive. When Hooch came, a string of soft curses
mixed with Matt's name and breathless groans filled
the room, before Hooch collapsed on top of him, with
his arms wrapped tightly around Matt, nuzzling the
back of his neck.
lay still, relishing the familiar weight on him, and
groaned a little in protest as Hooch recovered and
withdrew. Hooch lifted himself off Matt, but quickly
collapsed back on the bed again. "I'd get you
a wet cloth if I could move." Hooch murmured,
too sated to talk any louder. Reaching out, he let
his hand caress up and down Matt's spine.
made an inarticulate sound at the caress, something
between a rumble and a purr. "Missed this,"
he murmured into the pillow, before the change in
his breathing told Hooch that he'd conked out completely.
chuckled at Matt's coma, he was used to him passing
out after really good sex. He dragged himself out
of bed and to the bathroom, brought the promised wet
cloth with him and cleaned up the sleeping man as
best he could, before falling onto bed for a post-coital
nap. Keeping contact with Matt's skin and Matt's body.
This had been a close call, he was determined it would
never happen again. If he lost this, he knew now,
he'd lose everything that had ever meant anything.
fell asleep, thinking what a lucky bastard he was.
Matt woke up from his cat-nap, Hooch was still asleep.
Matt frowned as he was able to get up out of the bed,
rearrange the covers over Hooch, pull on his clothes
and leave the bedroom for the kitchen to start dishing
up dinner, without Hooch waking up. Testament to how
much strain Hooch had been under that he didn't move
a muscle at the disturbance.
got out the plates and flatware and set the table,
waiting for a sound from the bedroom.
the bedroom door opened and a bleary-eyed Hooch emerged
with his short hair standing up in all directions.
He was dressed in shorts and a t-shirt of Matt's,
which was too wide in the shoulders for him, his body
leaner. "How damned long did I sleep?" he
groused, running a hand through his hair to smooth
it down. "Hasn't happened to me in forever."
glanced at the clock. "Less than an hour."
He dished out the food, pleased that it hadn't all
lost shape. "Needed it, though."
flashed a quick grin. "You saying I'm getting
gave him a look. "You?" he snorted, "you'll
be still running rings around those youngsters in
ten years." He found Hooch's Tabasco sauce, put
it on the table, and sat down.
to know." Hooch turned towards the bathroom with
a, "be right back." He emerged a few moments
later, his face still damp, while his hands smelled
ketchup?" He sounded disappointed when he sat
smiled and shook his head at Hooch's desensitized
taste buds, legacy of years of eating pretty much
anything, and got the rest of the condiments out of
the pantry, regardless of whether they went with the
waited until Hooch had poured a liberal amount of
ketchup over the chicken breast, before saying: "I've
looked up a few clubs."
fork was halfway in his mouth when he froze at Matt's
statement. "What?" The fork went back down
onto the plate.
looked up a few clubs for you," Matt repeated.
"You wouldn't believe how many there actually
are, just in Raleigh. More in Charlotte. And, if we
really want to get out of state, sky's the limit."
He could have been discussing the football scores.
Clubs for me." Hooch repeated, more dumbfounded
than he had any right to be. "You looked up clubs
for me." He drew in a breath and held it for
as long as he could, to keep himself from making any
further comments that would potentially upset Matt.
"Okay." He finally let out that breath.
made a noise of confirmation as he speared a cube
of sweet potato. "You said it yourself: it's
something that you need sometimes, and, as we've agreed,
we need some other outlet, if we're going to go back
to living together. I'm not sure I can go as far as
you need," Matt was honest, "at least not
now. Maybe never. So we need to find something else."
repeated 'we' had no emphasis, as though Matt was
stating a perfectly obvious fact: they were in this
though, had picked up on this immediately. "We?"
He still hadn't continued eating, a frown steepling
between his eyes. "And no, you can't. We've established
that." He was on the defensive, walls building
back up in nanoseconds
look was firm. "We," he used the emphasis,
"because I am going with you to look them over
and decide. We are going to pick one, and when you
antsy, you are going to go there."
am, ain't I?" Hooch's eyes narrowed, shields
firmly in place.
Matt pressed his point. "And when you are done,
you can come back to me." He held the gaze, purposefully
silent for a few moments. "You need it, I may
or may not ever be able to give it to you, that's
why we find something that means I do not ever have
to pick up your carcass from an abandoned warehouse
at the crack of dawn."
had locked himself into a battle of stare-down, but
at the last words, he broke the gaze and lowered his
nodded, tension leaving him, as he went back to his
food. "There are two public clubs with a private
members area, and one solely members-only club in
Raleigh. If we decide on Raleigh, the members-only
one has the least risk of running into someone you
know. If we go further, we can probably be less paranoid
in Charlotte and there are more to choose from."
Hooch hadn't taken his eyes off the plate and was
swishing the now-cold piece of abandoned chicken repeatedly
through the ketchup.
hand descended onto his wrist. "Stop that."
Matt increased the pressure until Hooch looked up.
"I don't particularly like this." He said
at last. "I hate that I can't be for you what
you need. I hate the thought that someone else is
going to be hurting you, humiliating you. But you
need it if you're not going to crack. You know that
this is the best-heck, probably the only-option that
won't screw things up."
hate it." Hooch stated, dark eyes betrayed his
turmoil. "How is this going to be anything but
screwed up, if you hate it."
turn to look away. "How can I not, when I can't
be what you need?" he said at last, repeating
himself. "When it's taking huge risks in more
ways than one? But," he met the dark, burning
eyes again, "we need to work it out."
shook his head ever so slightly. "The more you
want to be part of this the more you hate it, because
you know more. It won't work. Let me do this alone."
took a deep breath, knowing that his words were going
to wound. "No fucking way. You did it alone last
time. I. Am. Not. Letting. You. Do. That. Again."
Each word clearly articulated, Matt's determination
need to," Hooch pulled his hand out of Matt's
grip, "need to be alone."
let him go to his study.
that went well," he said to the thin air, as
he gathered up the plates and started to clean up.
washed the dishes slowly, taking far longer than usual.
Thinking, and keeping one eye on the closed study
door. Never easy living with Hooch, but at least he
only retreated further into the apartment, instead
of taking off like he had in the early days.
as he had more recently, for that matter.
an eye on the clock, Matt thought for a moment, then
turned the oven on, letting it heat, while rummaging
in the freezer for the apple pie he knew was there.
an hour later, the air was heavy with the scent of
cinnamon and cloves when he saw the door to the study
crack open, slowly opening further to reveal Hooch
with his nose crinkled and sniffing the air.
some ice-cream to go with it." Matt said, deliberately
casual, feeling like a zoologist trying to lure some
rare big cat out from its lair. Not too far from the
took a step further into the room. "Did you chuck
out the chicken?"
it's in the fridge." Matt sounded mildly horrified
at the thought of throwing away perfectly good food.
"I've got a couple of bread rolls heating up
in there with the pie." White bread at that,
which was usually forbidden at the table, a measure
of the lengths he would go to lure Hooch out.
step, Hooch looked as if he were a puppet, pulled
closer by the string that was the scent of food. "Do
you have butter?"
It was already on the kitchen bench, beckoning.
Hooch looked at Matt like a kid at Christmas.
nodded. No way was he going to admit to Hooch just
how many lonely dinners he'd had of full-fat macaroni
and cheese on the couch in front of the television,
his mother's recipe made for feeding hordes of active
padded across to his usual chair, still sniffing the
air. He watched Matt heating the food, a pensive look
on his face. "Never thought anyone would look
after me. Never thought I wouldn't hate it."
shit really surprises us," that was as close
as Matt got to philosophy. He opened the oven and
took out the tray with the bread rolls, tipped them
on a plate and put them in front of Hooch, before
going back to the microwave for Hooch's chicken. He
was nowhere near as assured as he sounded, evidenced
as he absently took one of the rolls for himself.
"You need looking after. I like doing it."
didn't seem to notice Matt's carb-fuelled faux pas,
as he thickly buttered a hot roll. "Am I really
Matt's smile was back at the expression on Hooch's
face. "Just human."
was thoughtfully chewing with a fairly blissed out
expression on his face at the dripping salty buttery
goodness. "Not quite. Seems to me most humans
can look after themselves."
snorted, "if they could, we'd all be hermits.
And extinct." He brushed over the contradiction.
"But like it or not, you are one extraordinary
human being. You're not 'most humans'. You need someone
to keep an eye on you, and that's me."
Hooch cut off a generous piece of chicken and chewed
it, before he said anything else. "Is that your
way of saying I'm off the 'normal' scale?"
snort. "Delta are all off the normal scale."
Matt had just a smear of butter on his bread, but
he was chewing it thoughtfully. "What sort of
normal person would go through what you go through?
Much less pass it? Voluntarily, at that?"
let out a huff of dry amusement. "Yeah, guess
you're right. I can feed myself, though. On roots,
hunted wildlife, insects
" He flashed a
wrinkled his nose. "If that's an offer, I think
I'll keep on doing the cooking, thanks." He went
back to the oven to turn it off and take out the pie
so that it could cool slightly.
kept eating in silence for a while, until he had polished
off all of the food. "Been thinking."
raised an eyebrow, urging Hooch to go on. He took
out the tub of ice cream from the fridge, a silent
you want me back?"
who had been getting the ice cream scoop out of the
drawer, straightened up in surprise. He had certainly
not been expecting that. "Yes," he said,
the simple truth, "but you can't keep running
even into the study?" Hooch kept his gaze fixed
meeting Hooch's eyes calmly. "It's only got one
door, you can't fit through the window, and it's not
difficult to lure you out. Retreating into the study
I can deal with."
I give you my word I'd never run any further than
the study, can I come back?"
smile grew as he reached out and grasped Hooch's hand.
grinned back, taking the offered hand in a firm grip.
"Promise me carbs and butter and ketchup in return?"
laughed, "only in moderation, and as part of
a balanced diet." He let go his grip and went
to cut up the pie.
can live with that." Hooch watched Matt scooping
the ice cream onto his pie. "I guess that means
I'll have to get back to 'the talk' again, huh?"
you honestly ever think I was going to let you off?"
Matt put the bowl in front of Hooch. "My mistake
in tackling it without feeding you first."
sighed, but Matt had put an extra large portion into
his bowl, and that somehow eased the dread. "Can't
I just leave it all to you and you tell me what to
do and when and where to go?" Adding after a
moment's hesitation, "with you." He'd accepted
that Matt wasn't going to let go and this was Hooch's
way of admitting that he'd been an ass.
shook his head. "No." The feeling, almost
like a thrill; the rare moments when Hooch was like
this with him, like he'd managed to get a panther
to walk at his heel, something so dangerous and powerful
bending to his will. "This is for you, and we
need to find a place that will give you what you need-or
as much of it as possible, and where I'm satisfied
that you'll be safe."
drew in a deep breath and nodded. He attacked the
pie and ice cream to keep himself from dwelling on
it too much. "The Raleigh place, then. The private
nodded, though he knew that Hooch probably only saw
the movement out of the corner of his eye. "Good,
we'll start there, and move on to the others if it's
we change the topic now?"
had to smile at Hooch's plaintive tone. Some things
never changed. "Mandy's been moping around like
a wet rag for the last week, but Jeff's still coming
here at the weekends. Is there something happening
on base?" Focusing on someone else other than
themselves, and knowing that if Jeff had told Mandy
something, it certainly couldn't be classified.
they'll be off in a couple weeks. Half a year at least."
Hooch shoveled more half-molten ice-cream into his
mouth. "If she's moping now, she'll be unbearable
closed his eyes at the thought of Mandy sulking for
months. "Is this what people do when they're
not worried about getting a dishonorable discharge?"
it slipped out.
moping?" Hooch shrugged, "I guess."
snorted. "We'll have to put up with it, I suppose.
Problem with her being an army brat is that she pretty
much knows exactly what could happen, so lying to
her about it isn't going to make her feel any better."
never understood why anyone would want to be lied
to." Hooch scraped the last of his dessert out
of the bowl. "Better to face the facts."
He put the spoon down and looked expectantly at Matt.
"Is there any more?"
pie dish with the rest of the pie was easily visible
from Hooch's seat, as was the almost finished ice
cream tub, but Matt had to smile at Hooch's attempt
at subtlety in the face of sugar, as he obligingly
pushed both over.
things, he thought, would never change.
flashed a grin as thanks, and tackled the remains
of the dessert with dedication.
week later, after Hooch had settled properly back
into the apartment, Matt entered his study.
looked up from the laptop screen, squinting a little
after staring for too long at the screen.
I made an appointment."
whom?" Hooch frowned, trying to remember what
kind of appointment Matt was talking about.
the club." Matt said calmly, as though he'd just
made an appointment with the dentist.
club." Hooch repeated slowly and entirely unnecessarily.
private one in Raleigh, like we said. I've checked
your diary, you're off on Monday, so if it doesn't
suit we can have a look at the other two as well."
better at organizing than I ever was, getting my team
in and out from behind enemy lines." Hooch cast
a wry grin and rubbed his tired eyes. "You got
more intel on the club?"
Matt made a noise as he waved a few sheets of paper
he was holding his hand. "Application form and
an introduction to the club, just a one-pager for
that. Most of the information comes during the interview
and tour of the club."
form." Hooch commented. "Of course."
He reached for the laptop and shut its lid before
getting up. "Let's get on with it."
first part of the application form was deceptively
short, and, after the usual questions-contact details,
age, gender, allergies-they came to a halt.
stared first at the form then at Matt. "What
does that mean? 'Do you consider yourself to be D,
M, s(u) or s(a)?' What the fuck's all that?"
shook his head in bewilderment. "I'm not entirely
sure. I think 'D' might stand for
" he trailed
off. "No, not something that we should be getting
wrong, I don't think. Leave it blank?"
I put n/a. Makes no fucking sense to me." Hooch
scanned through the rest of the questions. "That
one's easy: 'men only'." He glanced across at
Matt, "you're filling it in, too?"
nodded. "When I called, they said partners too,
if there was one, whether they were going to join
The latter made more sense to Hooch. "Did they
say anything about preferring couples attending to
single attendees?" He put another n/a beside
the questions regarding preference of leather, PVC
shook his head, "only that they were quite firm
that if one of a couple was going to be coming, that
the other had to know what was going on. I suppose
the last thing they want is an outraged spouse trying
to break in and screaming the place down."
huffed a short laugh. "Sounds like fun to me,
would make the place livelier. So far it sounds as
hot as a stockbroker's canteen."
think," Matt replied dryly, ticking the box next
to 'leather' after few moments thought, "that
lively is likely to bring the cops, and all sorts
of interesting questions that don't generally get
asked in stockbrokers' canteens." His pen hesitated
at the rest of the page, as he left a great many blank.
point. Score one for you." Hooch quickly filled
in his stats. Height, weight, hair color, eye color
hesitated. "How hairy or not hairy am I, you
looked up from his contemplation of the same question,
where he'd made a mark near, but not at the 'smooth'
end. "Somewhere in the middle," he said,
after a moment's thought. "We could take some
off, if you feel like it, but putting more on is a
would I want to take any of my body hair off?"
Hooch shrugged. "I shave my balls, that's enough.
Smooth suits you though." He dutifully put his
tick in the middle. "Piercings? Hell, no."
continued down the page, ticking the appropriate boxes,
leaving blank the ones with the incomprehensible acronyms,
before finishing. Hooch was still working his way
methodically down the last page, so Matt picked up
the page where a summary of the facilities and services
was listed, and scanned it briefly, eyebrows climbing
to his hairline.
Hooch glanced across at Matt's expression, as he finished
the last of the many n/as.
handed the piece of paper over. "It's
he choked, mind boggling. He wondered how big the
building had to be to fit all those possibilities
a fucking clue what most of that stuff is. Sounds
more like a fashion mall than an S/M club."
got to be something that you like there." Matt
worried a lip as he pondered just how many members
there might be, if that much was on offer. The thought
that anyone from the base would be in the same position
as Hooch did not make him feel any better.
not about liking things, Matt. I don't care what the
place looks like, what props they have, none of that
bullshit." Hooch shrugged. "Does it say
how many members they have?"
shook his head. "No," he paused, "but
since they do emphasize confidentiality and discretion,
I wouldn't think that they would." He sighed
and put the piece of paper down, looking at Hooch.
Hooch confirmed. "Can't say I'm looking forward
to that interview. Stop me from punching the guy if
he gets too annoying."
do," Matt agreed, getting up and going to the
fridge. "Sounded English," he added, "posh,
like their officers back in the Gulf."
that mean I have to dig out my upbringing?"
have no idea," Matt said honestly, as he sat
back down on the couch and handed Hooch the second
bottle. Rare enough that Hooch made any allusion to
his childhood and the wealth he'd left behind. There
were occasional phone calls, and a present each Christmas
from Hooch's younger sister, but otherwise there seemed
to be no contact with his family except for the odd
summons back to Texas that Hooch obeyed only if it
could not be avoided. The presents were luxurious
and tasteful, but things that were very much not Hooch,
such as cashmere scarves and sweaters, expensive sports
watches, or exquisitely crafted cases and bags for
his electronic gadgets that said, more than anything
else, 'I have absolutely no idea what you like or
what you are like.'
looking for paying members for his club, not dinner
party guests." Matt pointed out.
much is the fee anyway?" Hooch clinked his bottle
Matt hedged, "depending on what you're after."
Hooch took another mouthful of his beer. "That's
vague. What's the scale? The starting point?"
waited until Hooch had swallowed before giving him
fuck!" Hooch blurted out. "For that much
I can expect getting my dick gilded."
that much you can expect that nobody finds out,"
two to the golden boy here." Hooch raised his
bottle to indicate a salute to Matt. "Thank fuck
I got money." He suddenly laughed, a deep, throaty
chuckle. "Damn, if that isn't the best of it
looked at him in confusion.
money." Hooch said, as if that explained everything.
lost me." Matt put the beer bottle down, wondering
what had set Hooch off.
inheritance." Hooch finished his beer. "Did
I not tell you about it?"
never said anything about your family." Matt
pointed out. "I'd always thought they were off-limits."
have nothing to say about them. My sister's alright,
but not sure where she lives now. The rest are a bunch
of dickheads who think money and social status are
all that counts. And looks, for the ladies."
Hooch shrugged. "My family made big bucks in
cattle and oil. Hardly ever saw my mother and father
as a kid, business, society events, all that shit.
Couldn't care less about them. Inherited stuff from
my grandfathers. Couldn't stand either of them, but
then they didn't give a shit about kids unless they
promised to take over the family business. I wasn't
having that." Hooch fell silent, then, "as
far as I remember I've got shares, cash, investments,
bonds, and land."
jaw dropped open as he sat up straight. "So you're
telling me you're loaded?"
so. Don't know how much, haven't checked in years.
I could call my financial adviser."
shook his head. "I finally get why you were so
insistent on trying to put money into this place,"
his hand took in not just the apartment but the whole
gym. He paused, realizing what Hooch hadn't said.
"They don't know what it is you do, and they
don't know you're gay, do they?"
know I'm army, which pissed them off when I enlisted.
They were angry because I didn't take over the family
business and I didn't even study, nor go for commission.
They don't know anything else, told them it's classified.
They've never asked." Hooch tilted his head.
"Sofia, my sister, she knows I'm Special Forces,
but nothing personal. As for my sexuality, any idea
what that perfect Texan society pair would do if their
good family name was tainted that way?" He let
out a humorless laugh. "I'm not going to be responsible
for their early graves."
felt a rush of gratitude for his own family, the acceptance
and love, and how they'd welcomed Hooch unquestioningly,
for his sake. Clearly there had been a reason that
Hooch's family had been off-limits for so long. He
put his hand on Hooch's now-tense arm, a comfort more
than any words could bring.
gazed down at Matt's hand, and when he looked back
up, he had visibly relaxed. "That's why paying
with my family's money for getting off by having the
crap beaten and fucked out of me," he smiled
to placate Matt, "made me laugh. It's probably
enough to pay for a lifetime of club membership, I'll
exhaled as Hooch seemed to come out of the low mood.
Clearly yet another thing that would take careful
handling in the future. He smiled, hand not leaving
Hooch's arm. "Good." He looked at the time.
"I'm starving. Do you want some food, too?"
go out for food." Hooch stood up, "I pay."
laughed in reply. "Why not? I've had a sugar
daddy all these years and never known-might as well
make up for lost time."
club looked like a low-rise office building, several
levels and a basement parking lot that was card-access
only. New, with lots of steel and concrete and tinted
one-way glass. The automatic doors opened to a small
reception area, which would have been claustrophobic
had it not been open the entire height of the building,
and lit by a false skylight that gave off a diffused
glow. The security/reception desk looked like any
other security/reception desk anywhere. The very attractive
female receptionist, who greeted them and asked them
to wait on the low black leather banquettes that surrounded
the walls of the reception area, was wearing a beautifully-cut
suit that was clearly made to fit her like a glove,
and razor-sharp stilettos-she had the legs and body
to carry both off.
narrow black leather choker around her neck looked
like a fashion statement, a contrast against the deceptively
hint of what this place was. Sleek and modern, with
polished chrome, glass and steel, black leather and
white tiles, it looked like some dot-com that had
cleverly sold out at the top of the market and then
invested the windfall into something even more lucrative
and far more substantial. The windows, in the reception
area at least, were covered by plasterboard from the
inside so there was no chance of seeing in, or out.
of the wall panels facing the main door pivoted and
a young man came out. Like the receptionist, wearing
a tailored suit that fit him exactly, but without
a tie-so that the plain black leather collar was prominent
against the crisp whiteness of his impeccably ironed
shirt. "If you will follow me, please?"
he asked, indicating the opening that he had just
the wall was a wide corridor. Like the reception area,
it had been painted and tiled an off-white, with doors
spaced on either side. At one of the doors the man
stopped, knocked, and after a precise three seconds,
opened the door and entered the room, holding it open
for Hooch and Matt to follow.
large office-though it was likely that the actual
administrative work was done elsewhere-was, like the
rest of the interior, sleek and modern. There were
two large desks towards the end of the room, on a
slightly raised dais. One aggressively tidy, as though
it was just for show, and the other had a woman sitting
were a number of low, black leather and chrome sofas
in the middle of the room, and a man sitting on the
one that faced the door.
eyebrows had raised considerably by now. What he thought
of the whole thing was written clearly in his face,
but for Matt's sake and for the promise he'd made,
he kept quiet and forced himself not to turn round
on his heels and leave.
impeccably dressed and equally perfectly groomed gentleman
stood up as they entered. He took a couple of steps
towards them, and with the poshest English accent
either Matt or Hooch had ever heard, he greeted them
while holding out his hand for a shake. "Good
day, gentlemen. I am Mark Robertson, the proprietor
of this establishment."
didn't introduce the woman behind the desk, who kept
her eyes downwards and on her work at all times.
glance showed that Hooch wasn't going to be doing
anything, so Matt stepped forward to take the offered
hand. "Matthew Donahue. This is Hubert Bozic."
to meet you Mr. Donahue." Robertson cast a quick
glance from Matt to Hooch who hadn't moved yet, and
seemed to come to a conclusion. He let go of Matt's
hand and addressed him again. "May I?" Indicating
with an elegant hand movement to Hooch, who stared
at Robertson in disbelief and confusion.
eyebrows echoed Hooch's and his expression was completely
bewildered. "May you what?"
I shake Mr. Bozic's hand." Robertson explained
mildly, with just the slightest bit of surprise, as
if he hadn't quite expected Matt not to understand
his request straight away.
the fuck is he asking you?" Hooch looked at Matt,
his voice low and-only known to Matt who knew him
so well-rather menacing.
was feeling like he was in a play where everyone else
had the script except him. He blinked. "Um, I
think that's up to him?" He hated how his voice
went up at the end of the sentence, betraying just
how confused he was.
Robertson made a delicate sound as he nodded his understanding
of the situation. "Perhaps we should go through
the application form in that case." He held his
hand out to Hooch, who shook it briefly, purely out
of ingrained manners, then let go as quickly as he
could, as if that finely manicured hand was poisonous.
"Gentlemen, would you like to follow me?"
Robertson gestured ahead and to a door, which led
to a smaller room. Far more intimate, with equally
modern, but more comfortable furniture: a U-shaped
sofa arrangement of white leather and chrome with
a low glass and chrome table in the middle.
started to open his mouth, but decided that the morning
was quite weird enough as it was and followed, nudging
Hooch in front of him to make sure he didn't slip
Robertson noticed the nudge he didn't let on as he
closed the door behind them, and waited for his guests
to sit down first. "Beverages will be brought
in three minutes." He smiled graciously. "May
I take a look at the forms?"
had them in a folder and handed them over, feeling
more apprehensive than he'd ever been since seeking
this place out. However weird it was, though, anything
had to be better than a repeat of the disaster back
leaned back on the couch, looking deceptively relaxed,
but Matt could read the tension lines all along his
body and in his carefully neutral expression.
you, Mr. Donahue." Robertson pulled out the forms
and cast a quick glance over them. His face didn't
show anything other than politeness. "Perhaps
we should look at Mr. Bozic's form first?"
very moment, exactly three minutes after they had
entered, the woman who had been behind the desk came
inside after a knock. Eyes kept downwards, she entered
with a tray with a variety of hot and cold beverages,
which she arranged pleasantly on the table, including
a plate of small, exquisitely looking British biscuits.
She walked back out quickly and quietly, with Hooch
staring at her as she walked to the door and out backwards,
in unbelievably high stiletto heels, their ankle straps
fastened to her slim ankles with small padlocks. She
never presented her back to them, and the door closed
as softly behind her as it had opened.
gentlemen, help yourselves." Robertson said,
before studying Hooch's form.
had been staring at the closed door, and blinked several
times before turning back to Robertson.
time it was Hooch who nudged Matt, before he reached
for the delicate china coffee pot, pouring into two
equally delicate china cups. Cream and milk were in
polished silver vessels, and so was the sugar.
gentlemen," Robertson looked up from the form
with a courteous smile, "I see there are quite
a few questions that were answered with 'n/a'. Do
I understand correctly that neither of you has been
a part of the scene yet?"
Matt shook his head, taking the cup from Hooch. "New
for both of us, though it'll be Hubert who'll be coming,
as I said."
groaned. "Do me a favor, Matt. Not Hubert."
He took a sip from the far too dainty cup and focused
on Robertson. "It's Hooch, and no, I've never
been into any 'scene'. Looks like a lot of bullshit
inclined his head with a mild-mannered smile. If he
was shocked at Hooch's language, he didn't let it
show. "Hooch it is, then. Please do call me Mark,
we like to have a friendly relationship with our members."
He looked at the form again. "Am I correct in
assuming that you might not be familiar with the terminology
on the forms?"
expanses of unticked boxes and neat 'n/a's on both
forms were fairly obvious, but Matt nodded in agreement
just rolled his eyes in silence.
that case, let us go through the form together. Hooch,
would you call yourself a dom, or a master, or a sub
or a slave?"
Was all Hooch managed.
don't think we're any of those," Matt said warily.
you don't explain what all of that means you'll never
get an answer." Hooch challenged.
course, my apologies, gentlemen." Robertson never
stopped smiling politely. "A dom is someone,
male or female, who enjoys dominating others, male
or female. This may or may not include physical domination
such as bondage, inflicting of pain, verbal and/or
physical humiliation, sexual domination, or a combination
of any and all of the above." Robertson nodded
slightly, unfazed by the narrowing of Hooch's eyes.
"A master or mistress is someone who enjoys dominating
others, male or female, but in a more intimate and
possessive way. They tend to own a male or female
as their slave, and the relationship tends to be formalized
and often 24/7. Does any of this strike either of
you as fitting?"
reply came without hesitation. "No way."
He glanced sideways at Matt.
Matt was in full agreement, "absolutely not."
then," Robertson still didn't show any surprise,
"perhaps I should explain s and s. A sub enjoys
to be dominated with any or all of what a dom does
provide. They do not seek a 24/7 formal ownership
situation, like a slave usually does. Does any of
this strike you as fitting?"
hesitated. "Definitely not a slave situation,
sometimes?" He turned to look at
Hooch, not quite sure how to articulate. How could
he explain that Hooch could never fit into anyone's
tidy, well-thought-out form, or any neat boxes?
shook his head. "No."
Robertson asked, for the first time showing a little
surprise. "May I ask what you would see yourself
a masochist. Simple as that. Can't do with all the
frills and bullshit." Hooch frowned, his tension
up a notch.
afraid in this club we do have to have certain classifications,
it helps run the establishment smoothly and ensure
the safety and discretion of our members."
won't let you fit me into one of your damned boxes."
Matt placed a hand on Hooch's arm before it got out
of hand. He turned to face Robertson, "I didn't
talk about this on the phone, but we've come here
even though we're not interested in 'the scene' because
we-Hooch-needs a higher level of discretion. He's
a masochist," Matt repeated, was that the first
time he'd said it out loud? "and I can't give
him what he needs, not at the level that he needs.
We can't risk a public club."
looked at Matt then Hooch, taking in the hand on Hooch's
arm, and how the latter seemed to calm down, as if
holding himself back for the younger man's sake. "I
think I understand." Robertson nodded before
reaching to pour himself a cup of tea out of the china
tea pot. "I suggest in this case we forego the
forms and have a chat instead. I will have an individually
customized file drawn up for you." Adding a splash
of milk to his tea, he thoughtfully stirred it with
a finely crafted silver spoon. "We do keep our
members' professions and special requirements regarding
their personal context on file, but not computerized,
merely on good old fashioned cardboard." Robertson
took a sip. "Under lock and key, of course, in
a safe. The reason why, is so that we are aware at
all times and no mistakes can be made, while greatest
security is guaranteed." He took another sip.
"I take it you are military, Hooch?"
nodded when he was addressed directly. "Fort
have a number of military members, but none based
at Fort Bragg at present," Robertson told them.
"I assure you that we are well accustomed to
also gay." Hooch glanced at Matt and added, "obviously."
yes, I see that on the form." Robertson pointed
to a tick on the top file he'd put onto the table.
"Exclusively men." He had found his gracious
smile again. "How are you planning to join the
club? Will both of you be visiting us?"
quickly exchanged glance. "Just Hooch, at this
stage," Matt answered, "this is for him.
Unless he wants me there. I'm
" he hesitated,
"I'm not really into this sort of thing. Pretty
inclined his head, appearing to be deep in thoughts
for a moment. "I understand." If he did
or did not was impossible to figure out. "In
that case, I assume you will prefer to wear your partner's
eyes tore open and his upper body snapped forward.
Matt blinked, hard.
Robertson let out softly. "Did you not read all
of the materials that were sent to you at time of
application? At the club, we have a simple way of
identifying what those who are seeking to be dominated,"
he carefully emphasized the word, to make clear he
acknowledged that it was meant to stand for the wide
range that included Hooch's masochism, "are looking
for. Members who are slaves to other members usually
wear collars, in many instances as an everyday adornment
to signify the complete ownership. Some subs who come
with their partners do not wear them, because their
dominant partner will be here to guide and order,
so there is no room for error. Slaves hardly ever
come here on their own, and if they do, then their
owner will have made arrangements beforehand, such
as loaning them out to other members, so that the
slave is always taken care of. Subs who come on their
own and are seeking the possibility of a more formalized
or closer relationship with a suitable dom, those
won't be wearing a collar, to signify they are not
owned in any way. However, someone such as yourself,
Hooch, you are in a partnership, thus you are owned
and not seeking. Therefore you should be wearing Matt's
collar, so that it is clear without room for misunderstandings,
that you are not seeking any kind of relationship
with a dom. Besides, the collars are our ways of indicating
what someone who seeks to be dominated is looking
for: red for females, blue for males, both colors
on collar-flashes if both genders are sought. Any
other preferences will be made available to fellow
members in an internal file. Such as penetration,
or CBT, or flogging, or electro shocks, and so on."
was staring at Robertson when he had finished. There
was only one word his brain had latched onto. "Owned?"
less stoic than Hooch, was doing a credible imitation
of a goldfish, and couldn't get so much as a syllable
out, and just stared at the two of them mutely.
are, aren't you?" Robertson looked kindly from
one to the other of the men sitting opposite to him.
" he trailed
turned his head and stared at Matt.
gentlemen?" Robertson smiled, taking a sip of
closed his open mouth shut with an audible click.
"I don't think so," he backed away, much
as the mental thought of Hooch wearing a collar, and
nothing else, was strangely arousing. "But that
might be best, yes." He hid behind his teacup,
a slightly comical sight in such a large man.
talk about that later." Hooch's voice lacked
any inflexion. He looked back at Robertson, face neutral
but a new set of determination on his face. "Yes.
I will wear a collar. No, I am not interested in any
kind of relationship with anyone else in any way shape
or form. Nor am I interested in any fetish clothing
or ritual or anything at all. It's ridiculous."
He leaned forward and came closer to Robertson's face
than the man very obviously liked. Right into his
personal space. "To make this clear, I want pain.
I want humiliation. I want extremes. If that means
I get to be the attraction on stage so be it. If that
means I have to wear a collar with blue, or camo,
or polka dots, or any other bullshit, then so be it.
No marks ever outside of what my uniform covers. Everything
else: I don't care. As long as I get what I need so
I can go back home and be the partner to Matt that
he deserves. So, no amateurs and no beginners. I don't
take kindly to anything but the best." He sat
had lost his polite smile, and his speech as well,
it seems. Visibly flustered. This was not how any
sub was supposed to behave. But at the back of his
mind was the thought of just what an attraction someone
like this was going to be for the hardcore doms. He
nodded, trying to keep his equilibrium. Fort Bragg.
It wasn't difficult to guess what Hooch might be.
He nodded. "I'm sure we can accommodate."
He made a few notes about the uniform. "Do you
have any medical issues you haven't put on the forms?"
he asked, "Pre-existing injuries?"
pelvis. Healed but might cause trouble." Hooch
looked at Matt. "Anything else?"
gave Hooch an affectionate, if exasperated, look and
recited the long list of other 'minor' old injuries,
the broken bones, the sprains, the other bits and
pieces of Hooch's body that were evidence of a long
and hard career.
was making notes, having found his balance once more,
not batting an eyelid at the long list of injuries.
Eventually, he put the expensive pen down. "We
require monthly STD screening for those of our members
who prefer to forego condoms, which are, as you can
imagine, most. I trust this meets with your approval?"
Hooch and Matt nodded.
well." Robertson smiled. As odd and unsettling
as this Hooch was, Robertson could increasingly see
the attraction and potential. His club would undoubtedly
profit from this new member. "Is there anything
you absolutely do not do?"
thought for no longer than about a second. "No.
Except for shit."
scratch of the pen as he picked it up and made a final
note. "That's the most common one," he said
conversationally. "Would you like a tour of the
facilities before we come back to finish the administrative
details? I imagine you might want to stretch your
not." Hooch answered, looking at Matt to see
if he agreed.
nodded and stood up, feeling a rush of relief that
the interview seemed over, or at least suspended.
followed Robertson out of interview room and back
into the large office, which led to the reception
area. A door with a keypad led through to a corridor
with several doors leading to the left and the right.
Everything was scrupulously clean and gleaming. "We
have all sorts of themed rooms. Medical examination
rooms, fully stocked from enema kits over speculums
and TENS units to a vast variety of needles and syringes;
we have a medieval torture chamber with associated
dungeon and cages, including suspended ones. The replicas
are all made to the highest specifications. We have
a salon emulating the sensory impressions of the eighteenth
and nineteenth centuries, for those preferring the
old world charm of ritualized slavery," at that
Hooch almost let out a groan of disbelief, but caught
himself and rolled his eyes at Matt instead. "We
have a variety of modern rooms and even one specializing
in blood play, but our main attraction is what I like
to call the theatre." Robertson opened a set
of black double doors that led into a vast room with
seating, tables, a mind boggling array of bondage
equipment and bondage furniture, steel chains and
manacles from walls and ceiling, and in pride of place,
at the very centre of the room, a round, raised stage.
had been trying not to gape at the rooms. One thing
to have them neatly laid out on bullet points on a
one-page factsheet that looked like one from a fancy
hotel, quite another to see it all laid out in front
of him. He stepped into the 'theatre' with a slight
sense of trepidation, and turned to look at Hooch.
Here, he suspected, was where he'd spend most of his
took only one look at the vast room and its stage,
then kept his eyes on Matt. He reached for Matt's
shoulder and gave it a squeeze. "It's okay. I've
seen enough." He looked at Robertson, but didn't
step away from Matt. "I can see that the steep
fee is warranted. I'd like to set up payment one year
in advance. Can this be arranged?"
blinked. He couldn't remember the last time he'd been
quite so taken aback by a new member. He nodded quickly.
"Of course." A pause, "shall we go
back to the office to finalize matters?"
Both Hooch and Matt replied at the same time and Hooch
added, "as quickly as possible. I've had enough
of formalities for now." Whenever he showed a
veneer of manners, he seemed to need a dose of bluntness
to counteract. They followed Robertson back into the
office, where Hooch informed him that he didn't feel
like filling in any more forms and if anyone wanted
to know his preferences they just had to try.
rest of the details were sorted out quickly and efficiently,
and Robertson watched them exit through the main doors
and to the public car park opposite on the security
cameras. He was rarely flummoxed, but they had to
be one of the oddest pairs he'd seen in a while. Bozic
was certainly the most interesting prospect he'd come
across in a long time. Military, he'd bet either high
ranking or a very vital job, or both-extreme masochist-and
completely under the thumb of his partner without
realizing. A partner who didn't know that he owned
Bozic. Obviously substantial financial resources,
too. A puzzle indeed. Robertson tidied the notes and
put them in a new file, before locking them away in
and Matt sat in silence in the truck, until they were
out of Raleigh and well down the highway back to Fayetteville.
set the truck onto cruise control and turned his head
towards Matt. "So."
it do?" Matt asked, somewhat redundantly, given
the amount of money that Hooch had just paid. There
had been much to think about, not least all those
odd assumptions by that really odd owner.
shrugged, eyes back on the road. "Will have to.
At least it's secure." He drew in a deep breath,
holding it for a moment. "I just don't get it,
what?" Not as though Matt didn't suspect. "The
way they have all those rules and frills and fancy
I get that one. It's for boring people who have to
pretend they aren't boring." Hooch scrubbed a
hand over his face. "The ownership thing. The
worries you?" Matt asked. It certainly worried
him, with Robertson's automatic assumption that Hooch
was somehow his possession. "That was weird,"
he agreed. "Do we give off freaky vibes?"
didn't answer for a long time. When he eventually
did, he kept looking ahead at the road. "You
built the gym and the apartment, you chose how it
looks. You organize our everyday life and you make
me eat healthy stuff. You gave me an ultimatum to
go seek a club, you sought the club for me, and I
will be going there. I cannot imagine a life without
you because those two months were unbearable. I left
without argument when you told me to. I asked you
to take me back. You tell me off when I behave like
an antisocial bastard. You talk for me when I'm too
much of that bastard to function in polite society."
Hooch finally glanced at Matt. "Anything else?"
momentary stunned silence. "I think that just
about covers it." Matt replied, then paused to
think. "I look after you," he said, repeating
what he'd said the night he'd taken Hooch back, "because
I like it, and you need someone to look after you."
Letting it settle as the road passed under the tires.
"That doesn't mean all the freaky stuff he was
saying." Matt added, too quickly.
stuff such as?" Hooch's voice didn't give away
any of his thoughts or feelings.
the ownership stuff, the slave stuff he was going
on about," Matt said. "The whole asking
me if he could shake your hand, as though you were
a pet or something."
Hooch huffed a laugh. "Your pet Delta. Not that
off the cuff, is it?"
smiled, the first that day. "I guess." That
thought again, of Hooch wearing a collar and nothing
else, flashed through his mind. "I wonder where
he gets all that stuff," he said, changing the
way, Donahue, none of this." Hooch flashed a
grin at Matt. "No changing of the subject. You
made me go to that club, you sit through this talk.
Don't like your own medicine, huh?"
tried not to squirm. "Okay, fine, it freaked
me out a bit-like that woman who didn't say anything
and never made eye contact and was wearing those heels.
How he was treating her as if she didn't exist. If
that's ownership, that makes me
" he couldn't
think of the word, "well, that just freaks me
out." He was using that word a lot today.
but I guess it's that weird slave stuff they have
going on." Hooch felt more at ease now than he
had all day. Somehow a few things were falling into
place. "I'm not slave material, and you're the
first person to know that. I don't obey well at all,
outside of work, and even there I've always had a
reputation." Hooch indicated as he overtook another
car, then slotted back into his lane. "One thing's
true, though, I don't want anyone but you. When I
was gone, those two months, I wasn't even alive."
was I, much." Matt was looking out the window.
"Wanting you back and yet knowing I couldn't
go through that again if you just took off. Feeling
and empty that I couldn't give you what
you needed. Terrified what you would do without me
we own each other." Hooch surprised himself with
that statement, and it showed on his face.
looked at him in shock, and then in contemplation.
"Shit," he said after a long pause, "I
think you're right." More silence. "Maybe
it changes," he hazarded, "and he jumped
to the conclusion because I was the one who dragged
Hooch shrugged, "fact is I'm going to wear your
collar." The word sounded weird in his mouth.
"Any preferences?" he added, some part of
him enjoyed seeing Matt squirm.
choice. You're going to be the one wearing it,"
Matt retorted. Too quickly, hoping Hooch didn't notice
just how much that disturbingly turned him on. "Where
on earth are we going to get one? Should have got
one back there," he meant Raleigh.
it's going to be yours, so you choose." Hooch
definitely did enjoy Matt's discomfiture.
sign caught Matt's eye, thankfully relieving him of
the need to answer straight away. "Stop here.
I think we'll find what we're looking for right there,
don't you think?" He pointed to a large barnlike
building in a row of superstores. 'PetSmart' read
the gaudy sign.
Hooch asked, but turned off the highway and into the
Delta," Matt repeated Hooch's earlier joking
words, "and where else are we going to find one
without having to sneak in some dodgy back alley somewhere
or risk some interestingly raised eyebrows from the
laughed. "Yeah, good point." He killed the
engine and got out of the truck. "Does my neck
look 'Rottweiler' to you?"
snorted as he got out his side. "Thick enough,
sure. Let's get this over and done with."
were greeted inside by a young sales assistant. "Can
I help you, Sirs?"
Matt stepped in before Hooch's sense of humor could
indulge itself, "looking for a collar for a dog.
A big one." He determinedly did not look at Hooch.
breed?" She smiled at both. Hooch remained silent,
hands in his pockets, and with an unidentifiable smirk
on his face.
cross," Matt said firmly. "Something sturdy,
in black leather." Luckily, he still refused
to look at Hooch, because the growing smirk would
have made him blush or crack.
course," the sales girl motioned for them to
follow her to an aisle with dog collars. Every single
type one could think of was displayed by increasing
thickness and width. "Would you like to choose
for yourselves or do you require help? Oh, and if
you need a lead or a chain, they are behind you."
She smiled at them.
be fine browsing, thanks." Matt hoped he didn't
sound as choked as he felt.
holler if you need any help." She cheerfully
replied. "I'll be at the checkout." She
finally walked off, just in time for Hooch to make
an all too amused sound.
watched her go and serve another customer before he
glared at Hooch. "Not a word."
that an order?" Hooch bared his teeth in a grin.
just glared before selecting a collar off the display
and glancing between it and Hooch's neck. "This
one?" he asked.
see." Hooch took the collar from Matt's hands
and without further ado, slipped it round his neck,
to all intents and purposes about to buckle it closed.
black leather looked disturbingly good against Hooch's
tanned skin and plain white t-shirt, and Matt had
to swallow before answering. "Yeah, it's the
right size." He all but snatched an identical
one off the same display and marched off to the checkout.
looked at Matt's quickly retreating back, then at
the collar he had pulled back off his neck and grinned.
Whatever wasp had stung Matt, he enjoyed the reaction.
He put the collar back on the display and followed.
me to pay?" Hooch asked.
was already fumbling with his wallet. "No, I've
got it." Handing over the cash and answering
the small talk about the non-existent dog. Which was
apparently, according to him, very large, absolutely
ferocious towards those who threatened the family,
but a complete softie with those he knew. He didn't
glance at Hooch as he picked up the bag with the collar,
refused a catalogue, and retreated to the parking
Hooch opened the truck doors for them, the grin was
still firmly in place. "Ferocious, huh? Softie,
huh?" He waited for Matt to climb into the truck
before he followed. "I think I need to decompress
from this crazy day of revelations when we get home."
had his eyes closed and seemed to be forcing himself
back under control. "I'm glad you find this funny,"
he said, half under his breath, and then realized
that he was holding the collar in his hands. The thin
plastic not much of a barrier, his finger tracing
up and down its length.
don't?" Hooch steered them back onto the highway.
He remained silent for a moment, pondering. "No,
you don't. Something has you riled up. What is it?"
still had his eyes closed. "It looked
he swallowed, "really good. Trust me, I was about
three seconds away from ripping your jeans off and
fucking you in the aisle next to the kitty litter."
didn't expect that." Hooch voice had immediately
slipped a notch into huskiness, and the steering wheel
got a little jerk. He glanced at Matt. "I'll
floor it home."
the time they arrived back in Fayetteville, Matt had
regained some of his composure. Enough that he made
it through the gym, managed to exchange greetings
with a few of the regulars, before heading upstairs,
the bag with the collar held in a white-knuckled grip.
followed shortly behind, nodding a greeting at Mandy
and a couple of regulars who'd been persistent enough
in greeting him to kick his manners into being and
to greet them back. When he reached the apartment,
he locked the door behind him. Matt was standing in
the middle of the room, back towards him.
stopped, dropped the keys in the bowl beside the door,
took off his jacket and hung it up without a word.
Unlacing his boots, he toed out of them, then took
one step forward while pulling the t-shirt over his
head and discarding it on the floor. He had opened
the belt buckle and was about to unbutton the black
denims, when Matt finally turned round.
still had the bag with the collar in his hand. "Stop."
A single word, voice shaking slightly, but Hooch stilled
immediately. Fingers on the last button, he didn't
move a muscle. Matt stepped closer, until he was close
enough for Hooch to see that his eyes were almost
completely dilated, just a narrow ring of green around
lips parted, but he didn't say anything. His dark
gaze locked with Matt's as he stood perfectly still.
you sure about this?" Matt's voice was slightly
steadier now, but husky, as he took the collar out
of the bag. Holding it with both hands, he never took
his eyes off Hooch's.
a word, not even a nod, as Matt raised his hands with
the collar and slipped it around Hooch's neck. He
adjusted the buckle so that it fitted smoothly, not
affecting Hooch's breathing but enough that it lay
next to the skin.
swallowed visibly, the leather snug against his throat
as he did. He'd never thought the symbol of the collar
would affect like that, but it did, entirely unexpected.
at his neck, just nipping above the leather, as Matt's
hands covered his at the buttons of his jeans, pushing
them down. Hooch let his head fall back, giving as
much access to Matt's teeth and the above and below
the collar, as he could. His hands moved down, pushed
the denims and briefs over his rapidly hardening cock,
then stayed at his side, passive.
hands moved over Hooch's body, touch firm as they
grabbed Hooch's ass, pulling him closer. Continuing
to bite around the collar, pressing harder as Hooch
writhed under his hands, reveling in the sensation,
the coiled power under his fingertips, the metallic
taste of blood in his mouth
pulled back as though burned, staring at Hooch, at
the bloodied mark on the side of his neck, before
undoing the collar and practically throwing it on
here, I'll get the first aid kit." Matt darted
off to the bathroom for the small kit they kept at
Hooch called after him, but when he tried to follow,
he tripped over the forgotten trousers round his ankles,
and landed on his ass with a curse. "Matt!"
was back, first aid kit in hand. "Shit, shit,
shit," he cussed, kneeling down next to Hooch
and dabbing at the small wound-only barely breaking
the skin, but enough that it was bleeding. "Does
that hurt? Oh crap. I think we'll get away without
putting a dressing on it but oh crapthat'sgoingtoshow."
He was dimly aware that he was starting to babble.
Hooch barked out the name like an order. Taking hold
of Matt's shoulders. "Look at me, Matt, and shut
up for a second. It's okay. It's nothing. You hear
me? It's nothing."
bleeding!" Matt was staring at Hooch's neck.
"I bit you! I didn't even
I didn't even
his voice trailed off and he looked at Hooch in bewilderment.
"I didn't even realize I'd done it."
call that bleeding? Don't be ridiculous, hardly even
a drop." Hooch cupped Matt's face and drew it
closer. "You didn't realize you were doing it
because you found it hot, as much as I did. That's
not a problem."
turned to distress. "That'll show above your
uniform," Matt repeated. "I
his shoulders slumped as he pulled out of Hooch's
grasp. "Well, that settles it. I'm really not
cut out for this sort of thing."
was about to protest and try talk sense into Matt,
but the dejected look made him realize it would be
pointless. "Come on, look at me." Hooch
moved so he knelt in front of Matt, ankles still restricted
by his trousers. "Come on."
obeyed, eyes still full of distress and the bloodied
tissue held uselessly in one hand. "I don't get
it," he said at last. "I really don't get
okay." Hooch said in a far more soothing voice
than a man like him should be capable of. "You
are who you are and if you weren't you wouldn't own
me." Before Matt could say anything Hooch continued,
"yes, you do, so no comments on that one. There's
no one else I want to be with and no one else I love.
Got it?" Hooch covered Matt's fist with the balled-up
tissues with his own hand. "I. Love. You. You
better remember that, I won't say it often. I don't
give a shit if we stick to vanilla or if you lose
control or if you come with me to the club or not.
I don't care, because I care about you and being with
you, and if this crap here," Hooch gestured with
his free hand at his throat, "if that upsets
you, then we forget about it, because it's not worth
it. I'll never get tired of sex with you, we don't
need to go into stuff that freaks you out." Hooch
drew in a deep breath. "I talked too much now
and I really need some food and drink and to blow
you. Not necessarily in that order."
smiled at that, and leaned into Hooch for a kiss.
"Depending on what order you want that,"
he was still smiling, "you either need to get
some clothes on or I should be taking them off."
grinned, "or we could order in and stay both
laughed in reply, feeling much relieved. "Now
that is an excellent idea."
February 2001, Fayetteville
month later, Saturday lunchtime, Matt was waiting
for Hooch to return from Raleigh. He knew when he'd
left the club in the night, receiving a text at 3
AM stating simply "back at hotel," then
got a text when Hooch was up a few hours later and
heading for breakfast, then another when he'd got
into the truck to head back home. He'd been surprised
to receive those texts that recounted Hooch's whereabouts,
they'd never talked about this previously. They had,
in fact, not talked about much at all, only that Hooch
would go to the club for the first time on a Friday
night so he had Saturday and Sunday to recuperate.
Matt hadn't asked any more questions and Hooch hadn't
volunteered any answers.
entered the gym around the expected time, carrying
a bag of takeaway containers.
stuck his head around the door of his office, deliberately
casual, and not at all as though he'd been watching
for Hooch's arrival. "Hey," he said, "how
was it?" Keeping it ambiguous, even though there
was nobody within earshot except Mandy, and Mandy
hadn't been paying much mind to anything except her
work since Jeff had left for Afghanistan.
Hooch said, looking relaxed, even though some of his
movements were stiff. He smiled and held up the bag.
"I got Thai, your favorite. Hungry?"
nodded. "Upstairs?" He turned to Mandy.
"You want any?" he asked, though it was
answer was, as it had been since Jeff left. "No,
thanks, I'm not hungry." No exclamation marks,
no bubbly enthusiasm.
matter." Hooch stepped towards the reception
desk and opened the bag, looking for a particular
container. "I got you some anyway." He pulled
out the right one. "You think Jeff wants to come
back to a wraith? He'll be starved of sex and affection
when he's back, you got to keep in shape." He
set the container down in front of her and gave her
a look that would have made any recruit quake in their
boots. "Eat, Mandy, or I'll get word out to the
'Stan about your moping."
looked up at Hooch, blushed hard and obediently opened
the container. "Thanks," she said, picking
up the fork. "I know we're luckier than most-at
least I can write to him and stuff and they'll let
me know if anything happens to him. Thank you."
Behind her, Matt smiled at Hooch as he started to
move towards the door to the apartment.
welcome." Hooch followed Matt up the stairs to
the apartment, where he dropped the bag on the kitchen
Matt asked, "how did it go?"
than expected." Hooch pulled Matt into an embrace.
"I tell you everything if you want to, if not,
I won't say a thing, or keep it vague."
exhaled and returned the embrace, reminding himself
not to check Hooch for injuries too overtly. "Only
as much-or as little-as you want." He bent his
head into the crook of Hooch's neck. "Anything
you want to get off your chest, or anything that I
not 'can do', there was quite a lot he couldn't, "anything
that I should watch out for."
cradled the back of Matt's head in his hand, guiding
him to look at him. "Last night was all about
me. Selfish bastard and all that. Now it's about you.
I tell you-or don't tell you-what you want to know."
exhaled, not entirely sure. On one hand, he wanted
to know everything that had happened: what Hooch had
done, or more accurately what had been done to him,
but on the other, the thought of hearing about him
hurt was painful in itself. "Just
Matt said, after a pause, "an outline and some
sort of idea and especially if we need to be careful
about anything in the next week or so."
Hooch smiled and slowly let go of Matt. "I can
do that, but let's get the food before it's cold."
He peeled out of his jacket and left it hanging near
the door, then went to help Matt who'd started to
forgot to give you something." Hooch went back
to the jacket and pulled an item out of a pocket.
"Hand out, palm open." He placed the collar
into Matt's hand. It had a blue color flash on it,
and nothing else. The same collar they had bought
a month ago, now with traces of wear, such as the
indentation of the buckle on the top of the leather.
"Yours." Hooch said softly while sitting
held it in his hands, the collar bought at the pet
store, the collar he'd put on Hooch, claiming him
as Matt's. "Mine," he echoed, before winding
it up in his hand. "Where do you keep it?"
he asked, genuinely puzzled. It had completely slipped
his mind where it had got to after he'd thrown it
on the couch the day he'd attacked Hooch's neck like
some deranged vampire.
the bottom drawer of the bedside table." Hooch
flashed a grin. "You never look in it, because
the lube's in the top one." He started on his
plate full of food, swallowed the first mouthful before
speaking again. "I'd like you to keep it. It
is yours, after all, just like I am."
opened his mouth to say something, but couldn't find
the right words. He nodded in agreement. "Yes,
I will." His hands closed around the collar.
Just a strip of leather, a metal buckle, but a wealth
of meaning. Hooch, his, just as much as he was Hooch's.
With or without the symbols.
nodded, eating in silence for a moment. "I'd
like you to know that I made it a rule never to see
anyone at the club. I don't want to know who they
are and what they look like. I don't want anyone to
be anything but anonymous to me, that's why I'm blindfolded
at all times. It's in my file now." He continued
to eat as if they talked about the weather.
blinked and only barely stopped his fork falling from
suddenly numb fingers. "Oh," he said. The
thought of Hooch, bound, blindfolded, helpless-he
didn't know what to feel. "Is that a new thing?"
he asked, slightly warily, going into territory that
he'd never gone before.
Hooch swallowed his last mouthful. "Do you know
shook his head. "No."
wonder who's the blind one, then." Hooch leaned
forward and poked his finger right in the middle of
looked at Hooch in surprise. "I've got no idea
what goes on in your head most of the time and this
is no exception."
would I want to see anyone else? I don't care about
anyone other than you."
brows steepled in confusion, because there was no
doubt this was one of the times that Hooch simply
made no sense. "What's that got to do with it."
can't explain it better."
shook his head. "I suppose I'll get it in time.
It's still all a bit new to me, but if you find it
works for you
Yeah it does." Hooch was visibly closing back
it like?" Matt asked, after a few minutes of
silence. "Not seeing what's being done?"
glanced up from his food. "It means I can't brace
myself for whatever is coming, which makes it better.
Most of all it means I can stay in my head and don't
get distracted by other bodies and faces."
sure whether this made him feel better or worse, Matt
continued with his food. "Do you think the club
is going to be enough?"
it'll do." Hooch finished his meal and leaned
back, arms crossed over his chest. "How do you
exhaled. "I don't know. I know you need something,
and I don't mind other men, it's not that, it's just
I'll get used to it in time." Matt's thoughts
were all over the place. "I wish there was a
better way, but we know there isn't." He finished,
feeling that it was lame.
sat for a while in silence. Realizing eventually there
was nothing he could say to make Matt feel better.
He was fucked up, no way around it, and Matt had chosen
this path for him, Hooch, to allow him to deal with
that fucked up self of his while they stayed together.
Only now, confronted with Matt's painful acceptance,
did Hooch truly understand the magnitude of what Matt
was giving him.
slid off the couch and onto his knees. Moving closer,
until he nudged Matt's legs to settle between them.
He reached for Matt's face, cupped it and gently pulled
him close until their lips met. He tried to put everything
he felt into his kiss: gratitude, love, respect, trust.
Above all, love. More than he ever thought his broken
self could feel.
closed his eyes, just feeling. Thoughts and fears
banished for now, with Hooch here, his. No matter
what else, Hooch would come back to him, and that
was the most important thing. It had to be.
pulled back gently, his own hand on the side of Hooch's
face, touch light. "It'll be okay," he said
softly, not sure whether he was telling Hooch or himself.
nodded. "Yeah." The word not much more than
a soft exhale. "Come to bed with me." Knowing
full well that any bruise, any sore spot, any cut
and scrape would be visible to Matt's eyes, but trying
to hide the evidence of what he had needed, would
only prolong Matt getting used to it.
nodded, pulling away and taking the plates to dump
them in the sink before returning. He took Hooch's
hand, the only obvious sign of his insecurity. "Come
on," pulling him gently, though Hooch needed
no such guidance or encouragement.
slowly peeled out of his clothes; a more pliant and
patient man than the one who had left the day before.
He lay down in top of their bed and let Matt examine
the damage that had been done to his body by men he
didn't care about but needed.
hands moved over each bruise and scrape and welt.
Matt winced even though Hooch did not, and each of
Matt's gentle touches on his sore body reminded Hooch
not of what he'd done the night before, but of why
he was doing it: so he could be the man who was capable
of being in this relationship.
you," Matt murmured into Hooch's ear, "no
matter what." Feeling the weight of Hooch against
him, soothed into the sleep and the rest that his
body craved so that it could heal.