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Deliverance

Deliverance is available in paperback and as ebook from Camouflage Press.

Deliverance © Marquesate and TA Brown 2011. All rights reserved.

 
 
2006
 
 

January 2006, Scotland

They were standing in the queue at Glasgow airport security, where Hooch had to mentally brace himself for being touched by the security staff. He glanced at Matt who seemed deep in thought. "Penny for your thoughts?"

"We should probably wait until we get to the lounge," Matt replied absently, "not something for a crowd."

Hooch's brows rose, but before he could ask anything, it was his turn to walk through the metal detector, get checked out, take his boots off, turn his pockets inside out and stand with his arms spread while being patted down. Gritting his teeth throughout. When he was finally released, got his clothes back on and had sorted his hand luggage, he waited for Matt to join him. They didn't speak until they reached the first class lounge where Hooch let out a breath of relief. That part was over, the one that followed was mainly the boredom of sitting in a plane. "So," Hooch settled in a comfortable chair, "what were you thinking about?"

"You, mainly." Matt replied."

"You thought about me." A statement. "What else than the obvious?" Hooch ordered a coffee and water when a young man arrived to ask for their wishes, and waited until they were alone again.

"About how I can be…" Matt paused as a well-dressed woman walked past their chairs, ignoring her batted eyelashes, "more of what you need."

"You are everything I want." Hooch tilted his head, considering. "After all this time, you now want to be more of what I need?"

Matt didn't say anything until their drinks arrived and the waiter disappeared. "Let's just say I've been thinking about it for a little while."

Hooch took a sip of his steaming hot espresso. "What are your thoughts?" He held up a hand, "wait, let me guess. You are enjoying power and control more than you thought back when I first went to the club."

Matt gave a hint of a grin. "I've had some time to get used to it," he admitted, "and over the years, I've picked up little bits here and there. The phone calls are part of it."

"Does this mean you'll come with me to the club? Trust me, there's a lot of curiosity regarding the partner of the guy who refuses to see anyone."

Matt nodded thoughtfully. "Yes," he paused. "If you think I'm going to live up to the advance publicity."

"You don't have to do anything. Just be there, and you'll be regarded with awe." Hooch leaned back his seat as he finished the espresso. "I might have let slip how very much you own me without the need for any bondage or pain." The smirk that graced his face was positively evil.

Being in public, Matt knew he had to keep himself under control, and not make the retort he wanted to. "Sneaky Delta," he muttered, taking a sip of his mineral water, though that was nowhere near as satisfying. "When are you going next?"

"Three weeks. I'm off to supervise a training exercise for the next ten days."

"Hmm." Matt made an indeterminate sound. "Do I need to get anything before then?"

"That depends. You can wear what you want, but I think you'd look fucking amazing in skin tight leather." Hooch managed a ridiculous leer over the rim of his glass.

Matt snorted before he finished his mineral water, trying to hide how much that idea had interested him. "We'll see," he said noncommittally.

"You know that cock cage…" Hooch suddenly said.

"What about it?" Matt tried not to think about it, because thinking of Hooch's meticulously organized and edited collection of 'toys' in the bottom drawer of the bedside table was seriously inconvenient in the first class lounge, full of imminently respectable and staid looking people.

"I think it should be you who controls me wearing it." Hooch pasted on a smile of utter blandness, as if he was discussing the stock market.

Matt only barely restrained himself from gaping. As it was, he blinked hard and swallowed. "Can we talk about this at home?" he said in a low voice, with a nervous glance around.

"Sure, as long as you agree that it makes sense."

Matt thought for a while before he nodded. It seemed he wasn't the only person who'd had been having thoughts for a while.

"Thank you." Hooch said quietly and unexpectedly seriously. Before either of them could get another word in, their flight was announced.

They gathered their jackets and hand luggage, and walked to the boarding gate past the long queue. Turning left into the plane, they settled into the comfortable seats.

Matt declined the champagne, as usual, and took a glass of the offered mineral water. "Home," he said with a sigh of contentment.

"After a long and boring flight." Hooch sighed, closing his eyes. "Wake me when we land."

Matt snorted at Hooch's habitual phrase when they travelled, knowing that Hooch would no more than cat-nap, alert to every single movement and sound in the plane. He smiled at the cabin attendant as he returned his empty glass, put on his headphones and tried to find something on the entertainment system that didn't bore him to tears, ready for the long flight home.

 


January-February 2006, Fayetteville

The training exercise had been harder than previous ones, because Hooch hadn't had sufficient time to get rid of the jetlag beforehand. He wouldn't be Delta, though, if he hadn't just ignored the fatigue. Still, ten days later he was glad to be given a couple of extra days off, but before he could head home and to his well earned rest, he had to run a long-planned errand, organized by the inimitable Mandy, now Mrs. Sullivan. He texted Matt to let him know that something had come up and he'd be later than expected. It was long dark by the time he pulled into the secure parking and texted Matt to meet him at the truck.

Matt walked out quickly, curious. While being sparse with details was hardly unusual for Hooch, asking him to come out to meet him was sufficiently out of the ordinary for Matt to know that something was going on. "What's up?" he asked, as soon as he was in earshot.

Hooch stepped out from behind the truck, a leash wound around his wrist, and at the other end a gorgeous example of a greyhound. Sleek and elegant, well-trained and curiously looking at Matt while standing close to Hooch. "Happy early birthday, Matt."

Matt's jaw dropped. "You got me a dog?" he said, feeling dumbfounded, but coming closer and holding out his hand for the creature to sniff.

"Mandy's idea, she's been dropping hints like an Iraq shelling." Hooch watched the dog sniffing and wagging his tail in a friendly manner. "He's from the greyhound sanctuary. Ex-racing dog, and lazy as all fuck." He grinned. "His name's Rex."

"Hi, Rex." Matt reached for the dog's ears and gave them a thorough scratch, while the dog's whip-like tail swung even more wildly.

"Thank you," he said to Hooch. "Haven't had a dog for twenty years, not since high school."

"Here," Hooch handed Matt the leash, "plus you'll get some practice in."

Matt took the leash, looking at Hooch in confusion for a second before the penny dropped.

He looked at the leash, Rex, and then back at Hooch. "I suppose now it'll be less embarrassing going shopping at the pet store." Hooch got his toys online these days, but as always, the memory of buying Hooch's collar was burned in Matt's mind.

"Speaking of which," Hooch reached into the truck to pull out a load of dog owner paraphernalia, "I have an extra two days off. What do you think about a 'trial run'?"

Matt blinked. "What, now?"

"Why not?" Hooch locked the truck and headed to the stairs, arms full with kit and bags. "I've just been training a platoon of guys, pushing them beyond the limits of their endurance, while being jet lagged. It was tough, intense, and I could do with some letting go." He turned round to look at Matt, alone on the garage stairs except for the dog. "You don't have to do anything. Just let me wear the collar and decompress."

Matt was standing still at the bottom, Rex wagging his tail furiously while pressed against him. He looked up at Hooch and visibly forced himself to release the tension. "Have to start somewhere," he nodded, and followed Hooch up the stairs, with Rex gingerly padded beside him, carefully placing his paws on each step.

"I'll make it easy for you. No pressure." Hooch promised before they entered the gym's reception area. All hell broke loose the moment they stepped inside, with a delightedly squealing Mandy, who made a fuss of Rex and produced a custom-made coat for him with the gym's logo and name on, and several customers, who petted the dog who lapped up the attention like a sponge. Hooch, meanwhile, took the baggage upstairs, except for a spare water bowl that was to live in the reception area, and found spaces for the dog paraphernalia. Eventually, he went into the bedroom to undress, letting out a big sigh as the tension began to drain with every piece of clothing he took off, until he was naked and went for a shower to get himself cleaned inside as well as out.

Finally tearing Rex away from his new fan club, much to the disappointment of both dog and humans, Matt made his way up to the apartment. He unclipped Rex's leash, letting the dog explore his new home, noting where Hooch had placed the various bits and pieces. The running shower let Matt know where Hooch was. After a longing look at the couch, which Matt correctly interpreted and then returned with a suitably stern look, Rex curled up on the dog bed placed under one of the windows.

The water stopped just as Matt came out of the bedroom, having retrieved Hooch's collar from its usual place.

A couple of minutes later Hooch emerged with damp hair, freshly shaved face and balls, and trimmed groin and ass. He looked tired but fairly relaxed, less tense than Matt had expected. He glanced at the curled-up dog, the now empty food bowl, and smiled at Matt when he discovered the collar in his hands. "Thanks," he said while stepping closer.

Matt returned the smile as he slipped his hands around Hooch's neck, fastening the collar, leaning towards his ear. "I promise this time it won't end the way it did the first time," voice low and husky. The slightest brush of his lips above and below the collar, then the lightest sting of his teeth as he nipped, just a memory, before he pulled away.

"Well, it's been a few years." Hooch teased, then slid onto his knees and simply leant into Matt. Face pressed against Matt's stomach, breathing in deeply the familiar scent.

Matt's hands went to Hooch's head, lightly ghosting over the damp hair. "Do you want to stay out here or move to the bedroom?" he asked, before remembering that he was the one who was supposed to be deciding. "We should move to the bedroom," he corrected. More comfortable, given how tired Hooch was. Besides, having Rex's curious eyes on him felt distinctly odd-which was strange as he'd never felt any discomfort with having humans watch him.

Hooch looked up and nodded, before standing up. Matt took his hand and led him to the bedroom, where Hooch stood, waiting until told what to do.

"Undress me," Matt said simply.

And Hooch did. No hesitation, immediately following the order. Expertly taking Matt's clothes off with great care, from the trainers over vest top and shorts, to the briefs. He stayed on his knees when he was done.

Matt's hand went to Hooch's jaw, lifting it upwards. Contemplating whether to make Hooch take him into his mouth, knowing that Hooch would do whatever he asked. Turning his hand around, caressing Hooch's jaw with just the back of his fingers. "Up," he ordered, deciding against it, at least for now, "into bed."

Hooch's body gave him away, with his movements less fluid than usual, it talked of fatigue and exhaustion, but his face didn't show the relief he had to be feeling as he sunk onto the firm mattress. The look he gave Matt but simply calm.

Matt climbed in after him, pulling the covers over them both. He smoothed his hands down Hooch's body, ignoring his own arousal, which had been slow to catch on at first, but was now insistent. "Sleep," he soothed, "we'll continue this tomorrow." He watched as Hooch drifted off, obedient and relaxed. Matt waited until Hooch's breathing changed, and then got up and padded to the bathroom to take care of matters before slipping back into the bed.

He stared at the ceiling for what felt like long hours, thoughts racing through his head.

* * *

The scent of coffee wafting under his nose drew Hooch into consciousness. He opened his eyes to a room flooded with sunlight, and Matt standing in the middle of it. Dressed, holding a tray which he proceeded to put down on the bedside table, and which was loaded with not only coffee, but also what was usually banished from the apartment: fruit-filled pastries, cinnamon rolls, and even waffles. With butter and maple syrup, no less.

"Morning," Matt said softly, sitting on the bed next to Hooch. "How do you feel?" Fingertips on the side of his face, lightly heading downwards, just touching the edge of the collar.

Hooch blinked himself awake, it took him two seconds from sleep-drowsy to wakefulness. Revived and with his energy returned. "Good." He'd needed the sleep after the ten hard days and nights, and the sense of being owned and taken care of the collar provided him, had helped him relax completely. "I'm not dreaming the unhealthy, sugar-laden, butter-dripping goods?"

"Special occasion," Matt smiled. He pulled back, fingers lingering before he picked up one of the coffee mugs and gently placed it into Hooch's waiting hands.

"What's the special occasion?" Hooch scooted up to sit, taking the first sip with a look of pleasure on his face.

"I'll tell you after breakfast, I have an idea." Matt's fingertips returned to the collar, moving slowly downwards, lingering momentarily on Hooch's left nipple, before leaving the skin. Selecting one of the cinnamon rolls and putting it on a plate, he handed it to Hooch, exchanging it for the cup.

Hooch tilted his head, but he knew better than to ask. He bit into the pastry when offered, allowing a small sound of pleasure at the burst of flavors. During the last ten days, as grueling for the Delta Force trainer as for the recruits, he'd lost weight despite eating as much as he could, but he was burning it quicker than he could keep it on. He made his way through the first pastry in record time, then went onto the waffles dripping with syrup.

Matt watched him with satisfaction, his own coffee cup in hand, and indulging in a raspberry Danish. Waiting until Hooch had demolished the pile of sugary, sticky treats-he didn't dignify them with any other name-before sitting next to Hooch on the bed, on top of the covers, hand on Hooch's chest, fingers lightly resting on the left nipple again. "I think," he said, with just the smallest hint of a caress, "that a ring here would look amazingly hot," he paused, "and leave no doubt whatsoever that you were mine." Hoping he hadn't overdone it.

Hooch's eyes widened a fraction. He swallowed down the last bite, dark eyes on Matt's face. "What about the right?"

"Hmmm," a low sound in Matt's throat, "we'll see how one goes first. Wouldn't want to rush things."

"Okay." Hooch agreed without hesitation. "When?"

"This afternoon." Matt tilted his head to one side, "so you're healed up a bit before we go to the club."

Hooch drew in an audible breath. The duvet hid his almost instant arousal, but Matt knew him well, he could tell from other signs such as dilation of his pupils. "That's unexpected."

The mysterious smile, so unlike Matt. "I wouldn't like you to be bored with me." Matt leaned forward to breathe into Hooch's ear, hands undoing the buckle, removing the collar. "You're all sticky, and not in a good way. Shower."

Hooch nodded, surprised, but that quickly changed to calm acceptance that was so unlike the turmoil and storm that was Hooch. When he got up, there was no hiding any longer of his full erection.

Matt quickly coiled the collar and laid it aside before tugging Hooch towards the bathroom, turning on the shower and making sure the water was a comfortable temperature before urging Hooch inside. Quickly getting out of his clothes, Matt joined him, glad the cubicle was large enough for the two of them with room to spare.

Matt's closeness and the warm water certainly didn't diminish Hooch's erection, but he ignored it, because Matt was ignoring it. Hooch's mind, right now, he was doing nothing he wasn't told to do-he didn't even want anything he wasn't given. Decompressing in the secure knowledge of not having to give any orders, not having to make any decisions, and not having to be the tough Delta Force instructor that he was. It was a new experience for Hooch, to be washed by Matt and to be taken care of, for there was no other word for how Matt treated him, and it did something to him that he couldn't name yet.

Matt shut the water off, guided Hooch out of the shower and dried him thoroughly. "I have a class to take," Matt said, matter-of-factly as he helped Hooch into loose, comfortable clothes, which did nothing to hide his hard-on. "Why don't you chill and keep Rex company?" He looked down at Hooch's erection. "I'll take care of that later this afternoon."

Hooch sucked in a breath, then nodded. Matt Donahue did seem to have it in him, after all. Or maybe he'd just grown up while growing accustomed to Hooch and his special brand of crazy. "Yeah, will do. I just get my netbook."

"Okay," Matt gave him a lingering kiss, and left the bathroom.

The sound of paws in the corridor, as Rex looked first at Matt's retreating back, then stuck his head around the bathroom door to see Hooch standing perfectly still, before apparently deciding that he had clearly been adopted by two lunatics, and returning to the living room in a huff.

When Matt returned around lunchtime, Hooch was on the couch, fast asleep, the netbook slipped off his lap and open on the floor. Rex laid out in all his long-legged glory along Hooch, wedged between couch and body, Hooch's arm on the snoozing dog. Hooch was wearing the collar again, and his face looked younger and softer than Matt had seen it in a long time.

Matt picked up the netbook from the floor, closing it quietly and putting it in the middle of the dining table, to prevent any accidents. He sat down on the only unoccupied spot on the couch, putting a hand on Hooch's arm to wake him up.

Unlike himself, Hooch didn't wake immediately, but swatted at the hand on his arm, mumbling something about Rex and stop and to go to sleep the fuck already.

"Hey, don't blame the dog, it's me," Matt chuckled. "Do you want some lunch?" The chuckling grew as both Hooch and Rex sat up at the last word, turning dark eyes on him.

Hooch shook his head to clear the cobwebs off. "Fuck, did I conk out again?" He eyed the dog beside him, who looked first at him, then at Matt with expectation and a little dribble. "He's more desperate." Hooch pointed at Rex.

The dog looked at Matt, who shook his head. "Come on then, both of you." He got up off the couch and went into the kitchen, filling the bowl with dry food for Rex, and back to healthy food for Hooch and himself.

Hooch sat at the table, watching Matt. He'd never tried to help with any cooking, as it was safer for both of them if he never did. "I checked out after care for piercings."

Matt turned to look at him. "Is it going to interfere with work?" he asked, always aware that Hooch's work involved some fairly dangerous shit at times. Make that most of the time.

"Not if I'm careful. Salt baths every day, barbell first not a ring, and I can always tape it up if necessary." Hooch flashed a grin. "Even Delta are not naked most of the time."

Matt couldn't hold back a snort at that, thinking of all the impressive shiny equipment, fancy uniform and toys that Delta had (and seemed to break, lose, or otherwise render useless all the time). "It should be alright in a couple of weeks, then. Or I can just tell everyone else to keep their paws off you."

"The healing takes several weeks, sometimes months." Hooch tilted his head, focused on Matt. "Can I make a request?"

Matt made a noise of agreement and looked at Hooch, turning off the heat from the stir-frying vegetables.

"Because of my job, would you consider having them put both in at the same time? Would cut the healing stage down to once."

Matt's eyebrows went up. "Sure." He blinked. "Wow. If I thought you'd be like this about them…"

"Matt, you told me you want me to be pierced. There is nothing I wouldn't do if you ordered me to, because I know you'd never demand anything unreasonable." The hyper focus on Matt increased. "If you tell me to get my cock pierced, I will. If you tell me to get my ass tattooed, or my chest, or my arms, or anything else that isn't visible when in uniform, I will. If you tell me to wax my body hair, I will. Do you understand?" The intensity was almost palpable. "That's what ownership means, and I've always been aware of that."

There was an audible click of teeth, even though Matt had managed to stop his jaw from dropping. Seeming to collect himself, he stepped closer, but then stopped. This wasn't about physical touch, or even physical symbols, even though Hooch was wearing the collar. "Yes," he swallowed, once more reminded-though he'd always been aware-of the power, the trust, that Hooch had placed in his hands. The growing heat when Hooch had mentioned all the other possibilities, strangely appealing. Things to file away and consider for another day. "Yes," he repeated.

He turned back to the food, as though he could somehow distract himself with the more mundane tasks, but even they were about how Hooch was under his control when they were under the same roof: Matt deciding what they ate, when they ate it. Matt dished out the lunch, putting Hooch's plate in front of him with the bottle of chili sauce, but eating his own plain. Quiet, deep in thought, both about the plans for the afternoon and what he had seemingly agreed to do and be-for many more years to come.

After lunch, Matt was the one who led the way down to the garage and drove to the tattoo parlor - he'd made the appointment at a place recommended by several of the regulars at the gym, known for its meticulous standards and adherence to hygiene, and the complete unflappability of its staff in the face of any and every request.

Their request, however, was very much on the tame side for the business. After the usual warnings and advice about proper care, the deed was done with remarkable efficiency and speed.

Hooch, the crazy masochistic bastard that he was, enjoyed the pain of the piercings far too much. He stoically watched the needle being pushed through the nub of flesh without the any flinch, with his hard-on uncomfortably trapped in the tight black denims, but neither did the staff bat an eyelid, nor did Matt acknowledge his predicament. The fresh wounds were lightly bandaged, and they were sent on their way with information on aftercare.

Matt snuck a glance over at Hooch in the passenger seat, bulge still obvious though his face remained impassive, looking straight ahead, eyes half-closed. "Nearly home," Matt said, though he wasn't sure whether this was to Hooch or himself.

"This feels…" strange, painful, sore, different, over-sensitive, "good."

"Good," Matt echoed, exhaling. A risk, though one that had paid off. "I can't wait until I can put the rings in," he said. The plain, polished steel rings he'd bought to put in, once the wounds had healed. How they would gleam against the tanned skin. Watching Hooch's reaction, which was a tiny, hardly visible tremor, as they pulled into the secure parking under the gym and got out of the car. Matt was thankful that Hooch's obedience extended to not objecting to Matt driving, for once. This seemed the only time Hooch could let go and not need to control every aspect of his life including the driving 'in case his combat driver training skills were needed'.

Hooch hurried past the reception area with a cursory greeting to Mandy, eager to hide the very visible erection, which had no place in a respectable gym. He didn't even stop for Rex's obligatory petting.

Matt had to force himself to slow down, to behave normally, greet Mandy and a couple of the regulars who were hanging around, and soothe the upset Rex, before heading upstairs.

The short time it had taken Matt, it had been long enough for Hooch to get out of his clothes. He stood in the middle of the room, naked, the collar snugly back around his throat, the white of the taped bandages over his nipples bright against his tanned skin.

Checking that both doors were firmly locked, Matt walked up to Hooch slowly, shedding his clothes as he went, knowing that Hooch's eyes were on him every step of the way. Standing right in front of Hooch, his hand brushed against the taped bandages, gently at first, and then just enough pressure to sting, before stroking Hooch's weeping cock. "I told you this morning I'd take care of this," Matt told him, strokes firm. "I keep my promises." He took his hands off Hooch and took a step back. "Turn around. Bend over the couch."

Hooch suppressed a shudder, his cock so hard for so long, he was that desperate, he had to force himself not to make a sound as he turned as ordered and bent down low, spreading his legs far apart. Dipping even lower until his arms were outstretched, hands gripping the top of the couch, head lower than his ass. Spread as wide open as it was possible. He felt his breath come in short gasps, straining for control.

Matt counted slowly in his head to ten, drawing out the tension, before stepping closer, hands on Hooch's ass to spread him further apart. Nudging forward, he went slowly because he was without any lube except for his pre-cum; going slowly, so that Hooch could feel the gradual burn and stretch as he pressed forward; going slowly, so that Hooch could feel every inch of him as he entered and claimed. Possessing. Owning. His.

The groan that forced itself out of Hooch's chest told Matt how very much Hooch was his indeed, right now, with fraying control. Hooch's long, strong legs trembled, his knuckles turned white in an ever more desperate grip on the couch, and his muscular back shuddered with tremors.

Hands on Hooch's hips holding him still as Matt moved, once he had buried himself deep inside. Long strokes, knowing that Hooch was so aroused from the piercing and the long anticipation that it would not take much for him to come apart. Besides, Matt's own control was rapidly disappearing as his thrusts grew more erratic, Hooch bucking under him with increasing desperation.

Losing every last fragile remain of his control, Hooch cried out, forced himself backwards and onto Matt's cock, meeting his powerful thrusts to increase the onslaught of sensations. It was too much, far too much to take, and he came with an intensity that made his knees buckle.

Matt collapsed into him, Hooch's spasms drawing out his own orgasm as he emptied himself into Hooch. Only barely remembering not put his full weight on the body beneath him, for fear of abrading the newly pierced nipples further, but pulling him up and to the side, they fell onto the other half of the couch together, Hooch cradled in Matt's arms.

"You…" Hooch murmured, still shuddering through the last remaining tremors, "are quite something, Matt Donahue."

"As are you, Hubert Bozic," Matt held him close, nuzzling Hooch's neck, just above the collar. "As are you."

After a few more moments resting, waiting until their heartbeats returned to normal, Matt reluctantly eased away from Hooch and padded to the bathroom to quickly clean up, before returning with a wet cloth do the same for the boneless Hooch. Satisfied with his work, he went to the kitchen to prepare the salt solution for the new piercings, feeling Hooch's eyes on him as he moved around the living area.

"What, you're not falling asleep?" Hooch's amused and sated voice came from the couch.

"Hmmm, no, not yet." Matt was back as he removed the dressings and started to wash the wounds in the salt solution. "That's later. When you fuck my brains out."

Hooch hissed at the salt solution on the wounds, then ignored it. "I'm ten years older than you, you have to give me some time." He looked down onto his nipples, and damned if he didn't love the metal against his skin.

Matt smirked as he continued to tend to the tender flesh. "We have all the time in the world, old man, all the time in the world."

"Who are you calling an old man? You do realize I could kill you with one hand and very little effort, kid?"

"Who're you calling a kid?" Matt grinned as he finished with the salt water and moved back to properly admire the metal shining against Hooch's tanned skin. "Who'd look after you then, huh?" He stood up and reached down to pull up the boneless Hooch. "Now, you still haven't caught up on your sleep from the training exercise. Back to bed with you and I might even join you for a bit of a snooze."

Hooch grinned sleepily and followed Matt into the bedroom. He couldn't help the yawn. "Got to make sure I don't bleed onto the bedding."

"It's stopped, mainly," Matt said, pulling back the covers, "but what's a go through the washing machine? They need to breathe a bit, and I like the look of that metal on you. So much so, I'm going to take a lot of photos, trust me on that."

Hooch grinned then yawned again and slipped under the covers. "Anything else you want me to get pierced, just say so." He let the words stay in the room, turned onto his side, relishing the ache in his ass as he closed his eyes. He was beat. Again.

Matt got in next to him, holding him close and enjoying the feeling of Hooch in his arms. Relaxed, rested, at ease. Touching the collar with his lips thoughtfully, he thought of the next fortnight until the club, pondering a few more ideas before he, too drifted off to sleep.

* * *

Hooch was back at work after his long weekend off. Pierced nipples carefully taped to avoid irritation of the still fresh wounds, and with renewed energy after the first weekend of what felt like a new chapter for Matt and himself. He wasn't expected back home before his usual time in the evening, but at mid-afternoon there was a small commotion outside the front door, which made Mandy look up and listen.

It was clearly Hooch's voice that she heard outside over the sound of an idling vehicle.

"No, I am fine."

She couldn't understand the reply, probably muffled by coming from inside the car.

"I said," Hooch's voice again, carefully pronouncing his words in the sharp way he had when he was getting annoyed, "that I am fine. Get back to base and make sure my truck's here by tomorrow."

The other voice again, and then Hooch's, louder this time and clearly pissed off. "Get your ass back to base, Corporal. I said I am fine, now fuck off!"

His outburst was followed by the sound of the engine revving and the vehicle taking off, probably faster than it should.

A few seconds later the frosted glass door opened and Hooch stepped through. He held his pack in his left hand by its straps, while the right was secured in an elevated sling with a plastic cast around the wrist and most of the hand. His right eye was swollen, butterfly strips holding a gash above it together, and most of the right side of his face was bruised.

Hooch, battered and so pissed off, he was positively steaming with anger.

Mandy's jaw dropped. "What happened?" she asked in shock.

"Don't. Just don't." Hooch fumed, dropping the pack beside the reception desk. "The fucking idiot should be thankful I could only hit him with my left and merely broke his nose."

Still staring, Mandy swallowed. "Do you want me to get Matt?"

"Not if he's busy taking a class." Hooch walked over to the vending machine and fumbled for coins in his uniform's back pocket, but utterly failing. Too unused to using his left hand, which only pissed him off even more.

Sufficiently accustomed to military men to know that any attempt to assist would just make things worse, Mandy shook the shoulder of the equally gaping Danni at the reception desk, motioning her to go off and get Matt who was due to finish a class in five minutes, and to intercept him before he headed off to the showers. She stayed and kept an eye on Hooch.

Rex crept out from behind her legs and stared at Hooch warily, figuring that it was a bad idea to get too near to large, angry men wearing combat boots.

"Goddammit!" Hooch hit the vending machine with his left fist, before whirling round to vent his anger somewhere else, but his gaze fell on Rex who whined at his outburst and slunk back, cowering. "Sorry." Some of Hooch's anger deflated at the frightened look of the dog. "Wasn't aimed at you." He held out his good hand but didn't crouch down as he usually would.

Rex looked up at him, still wondering who this large, angry man was who had taken the place of the comfy, mellow human of the weekend. He hunched down and slinked closer, before cautiously touching a nervous, trembling nose to Hooch's outstretched hand.

"Hey, sorry, Rex." Hooch petted the dog's head, controlling his anger in the face of Rex's fear, who gradually gained confidence. Hooch was still petting Rex, albeit awkwardly, when Matt came through from the gym, towel round his neck and sweaty.

"Shit," Matt's voice was barely audible. He'd been warned by Danni, but the reality was somewhat more than he expected. "What happened, man?" All-buddy like in public.

"What happened? Some fucking idiot thought he was Rambo and didn't need combat driver training and would show off his 'skills' to me. That's what happened." Hooch growled, but gave another pat on Rex's head nevertheless.

"Hey, let's get you upstairs for a change of clothes." Matt reached for Hooch's pack. "Come on."

Hooch followed Matt onto the stairs. "Do we have coke? Full fat? I couldn't get the motherfucking machine to work." Despite all the good work Rex had done in controlling his anger, it was flaring up again.

"Just the emergency stash," Matt told him. A couple of glass bottles they kept at the back of the fridge. The stuff with sugar, not corn syrup, that was a pain to track down but that Hooch preferred and craved when his body was depleted.

"Thank fuck." Hooch went to the couch and slowly sat down, preferring the left side. "What a fucking mess," he groaned with his head back and eyes closed. "I'm signed off for the next seven days."

Matt was rummaging at the back of the fridge for the coke, before retrieving a single precious bottle and bringing it to the couch to put it into Hooch's grateful hand. If Hooch noticed that the cap had already been removed, he didn't say anything.

He emptied the bottle almost in one go, before opening his eyes again. "They had to pull me off that idiot."

"Delta?" Matt frowned. If so, standards were slipping. But they wouldn't waste Hooch on anyone else.

"Candidate. Thought he didn't need training, was already hard as nails." Hooch gingerly touched his swollen eye and tried to frown, but quickly gave up on that. "He fucked up his chances, might be kicked out altogether. Crashed the vehicle and me in it. Doesn't look good on his record." He pointed to his elevated hand. "No fracture, just sprained, or I would have stuffed his balls down his throat."

Matt snorted, perfectly aware that Hooch probably had come very close to doing just that before he was pulled off the idiot. "Anything else apart from the obvious?" meaning the injuries.

"See for yourself." Hooch indicated his uniform and then wiggled his left hand with a look of frustration on his face. "I'm shit with my left."

"Come on then, to bed, so you can lie down properly." Pulling Hooch up and urging him the short distance. Stripping Hooch was awkward with the sling. When he lay down, naked, Matt inspected the damage, which consisted mainly of bruising down the right side. More discoloration than damage. He noticed the tape over his pierced nipples had been removed and at his questioning look Hooch rolled his eyes. "I had to get checked over. Medics had a field day."

Matt's eyebrows went up. "What did they say?"

"That I should know better."

A smile tugged at the edges of Matt's mouth as he traced a fingertip over the left nipple. "So what's new?" playing with the tender nubs and then going to the right, to make things even. "Do you want me to change the dressing on the cuts yet?"

Hooch drew in a sharp breath, watching the progress of Matt's finger with his intense focus. "No, I'm fine. They told me the butterfly strips should stay on, the rest is surface damage." He looked up, "I've had worse."

Matt snorted, knowing full well, then the expression on his face turned thoughtful. "Any plans for the next seven days, then?" he asked, deliberately casual.

"Other than equally getting bored to death and being pissed off that I can't train Lucifer, while looking like a painter's palette gone wrong? No."

Fingertips dancing over skin, stopping at the second half of Hooch's sentence. "Funny you should say that." Matt's fingers flattened, pressing into an unbruised section of Hooch's abdomen, sliding around and resting on his hip. "I've been thinking about what you said on the weekend, about doing anything I asked if it wasn't visible when you were in uniform."

"Hm?" Hooch made a distracted sound, then focused at Matt's last words. "Yes." Not a question.

"I find that I do like these," he bent down and brushed a kiss on each nipple, "very much." He straightened. "But I was thinking that when we go to the club, I should make it a little more obvious that you are mine. My mark, right here." The hand that had been on his hip, gently but firmly moving under Hooch on his uninjured side, until fingertips pressed into Hooch's back, just at his waist.

Hooch's eyes widened. "What were you thinking of?" Full acceptance, without knowing what Matt had in mind.

Matt leaned closer, almost nose to nose. "Ink. Permanent. My mark tattooed on you, where everyone there can see."

Hooch's lips parted, stunned for a moment, his heart racing as adrenaline spiked within seconds. "Yeah. I'd…" he swallowed, "like that."

Matt's smile grew. "Good." He drew back. "Should probably wait a few days until the worst of this goes down first, though." Indicating the mess that was Hooch.

"My back's fine," Hooch protested, "and I'm only bruised, nothing major."

"That means I can book you in." Matt replied. "But first," he stood up and rummaged in the wardrobe for the comfy, loose clothes that Hooch normally hated to wear, "you're going to get some clothes on and settle on the couch and watch that stack of DVDs that you bought in Edinburgh. With the dog, because I have to get back downstairs."

"Bully." Hooch groused, but didn't complain when Matt helped him into the clothes. Even putting socks on one-handed was awkward, and navigating anything but drawstring waistbands seemed nearly impossible. They opted for a shirt, easier to pull on with his arm in a sling. "I'd feel a lot better if I could use the idiot as a punching ball."

"I'd imagine by the time the guys on base are through with him, he'd prefer it if you had," Matt said dryly, imagining what a guy who'd probably be thrown out because of his own idiocy would be going through. Not feeling a shred of sympathy, not when the idiot had been responsible for Hooch's injuries.

Hooch followed Matt back out into the living room, where he settled down on the couch, the remote in his hand, and a space left free for Rex. Having evidently forgiven him, Rex rested his chin on Hooch's uninjured thigh, staring at the television, barely acknowledging Matt's departure with a lazy twitch of an ear.

When Matt returned later that evening, he found Hooch asleep on the couch on his good side. TV on mute but running, a blanket over himself and Rex, who had curled up in his customary spot at Hooch's stomach. A few remnants of dog food in the bowl showed Matt that Hooch had fed Rex, and a bottle of pain killers right beside Hooch's cell phone gave Matt a good indication that someone, probably the doctor herself, had called Hooch to bully him into taking the pain killers as instructed, since the man hated taking them because they made him drowsy. Hooch didn't even stir when Matt stepped closer. Only Rex looked lazily up and twitched his ears.

"Hey, Rex," Matt gently smoothed a hand over the dog's ears. "He been OK?" Rex laid his head back on Hooch's stomach as though saying 'yes, calm at last, and he has rotten taste in movies.'

Matt smiled and turned to Hooch, reaching out to touch his shoulder, but deciding against it, before heading to the kitchen, knowing that the sound and smell of food being prepared would wake Hooch anyway.

Matt was well into cooking dinner before Hooch stirred, woken by the combination of smells from the kitchen area, his rumbling stomach, and Rex getting off the couch-where he'd become a regular thanks to Hooch's bad influence. He was bleary-eyed, unlike his usual instant waking, and several hours after the accident he was stiff and sore, and not in the good way.

"You want to use the table, or stay on the couch?" Matt asked, guessing that Hooch was in considerably more pain than he would ever show.

"Table." Hooch groaned and stretched carefully. Sleep had been forced onto him from the painkillers, but it had made every muscle and bruised part of him seize up and protest the movement. Eventually he got up and to the table. "I hate those goddamned pills."

Watching Hooch carefully, Matt set the food on the table, a casserole that was easy for Hooch to eat with one hand. "How often are you meant to be taking them?"

"Every four hours." Hooch yawned, awkwardly covering his mouth with his left. "Not going to. They knock me out."

"That's the point." Matt was adamant. "You need a chance to heal up." He paused, not knowing how close to tread. "You're not supposed to be that knocked up before you go to the club."

"Yeah, damn. That's one reason I was so pissed off." Hooch glared down at his hand still elevated. "I haven't been for months."

"I know." Not since September, one of the longest stretches yet. "So you'll need time, and rest." A small smile as Matt speared a cube of chicken. "Plenty of time to think what you might want to do, and to wonder about what I've got planned before then."

Hooch's brows rose, but then he remembered Matt's mention of a tattoo from earlier. "I'm not knocked up everywhere." Looking at Matt over his fork, dark lashes shadowing even darker eyes.

"Knocked up enough," Matt was firm. "Besides, you get some of your best ideas when you're bored." That mysterious smile again, so unlike Matt, "and the bruising needs to go down a bit before some of the other things I have in mind."

"I also get seriously annoying and a right pain in the ass when I'm bored." Hooch countered, then gave up trying to eat with the fork, reaching for the spoon instead.

Matt's eyes flashed as though he was enjoying some private joke. "Oh, there'll be pain, though I don't know if you'll enjoy it or not." Ignoring Hooch's accurate prediction that after a week of boredom, he would be well-nigh unbearable. "Do you need to tell the club that I'm coming or anything? Do I have to fill out a new form?" Remembering the plethora of forms when Hooch had joined.

"I'll tell them. Wouldn't be surprised if they let you come for free."

A quizzical look. "Why?"

"I think I'm…" Hooch let the spoon move slowly on the half empty plate, looking for the right words. "I think I'm quite popular." He shrugged.

"But you…" but you're always blindfolded and never speak to anyone there, Matt was about to say, but stopped, when he realized just what Hooch was trying to say. "Do they know about me?" he asked, genuinely curious.

"All they know is that I'm yours." Hooch put the spoon down to wrap his hand around the back of his neck, rolling his head. "They know you own me and they know what I'm like, so I guess they figure you're superman or something."

Matt only barely restrained a snort. "I see, plenty of advance publicity I'll have to live up to, then." Echoing what he'd said in the airport lounge when they'd started talking of this. It seemed half a lifetime ago, and he was surprised to remember it had only been a couple of weeks. A very enlightening couple of weeks.

Hooch grinned. "You won't have to do anything, just be there. Kiss me, if you want, because I never allow anyone there to kiss me. I don't care about them, they are just tools to deliver what I need to function." Hooch pushed the unfinished plate away. "But you, you're different."

Matt realized he'd just been playing with his food, and put down his fork. "How?" though he suspected the answer, Hooch, honest to goodness talking, was a rare enough thing that he didn't want to discourage it.

"They are the tools so I can be with you." Hooch trailed off as he tried to find words once again. The eternal struggle. "I want to be your partner, and the only way I can be that without going off the rails is by them being the tools to keep me in check." He frowned lopsidedly. "You're different because you're never a tool, you're the goal."

Fuck. Just when he thought he had a grasp of Hooch, he went and pulled this sort of shit. But it made a strange, bizarre sense, it really did, in its fucked-up way. "Do you," Matt swallowed, "do you think you're there?"

"Do you?" Hooch countered.

So easy to say 'yes', the answer he wanted to be true. "I don't know," barely audible. "Sometimes. Most of the time." Taking control of himself, Matt took a deep breath, placed a hand on Hooch's uninjured wrist.

Hooch looked at Matt's hand on his, and there was no denying, a fleeting expression of hurt had crossed his face. "It's been how long?" He asked quietly. "You think I ever get there?"

"I do." Two words. Unknown when, or how, but somehow, sometime, they would.

* * *

A few days later, when Hooch's injuries had healed somewhat, and he was so antsy and twitchy from the forced inactivity that even Rex refused to sit on the couch with him, he and Matt returned to the studio where he'd had the piercings done.

Matt had clearly been having discussions with the artist about the actual design, because there was no more than an introduction, a shake of the hand, and then a talk on the particular technique to be used and aftercare before the obligatory forms and disclaimers were signed and explained, before Hooch was motioned to a chair. He was asked to take his top off and his denims, to straddle the chair and lean forward, and he did so almost gratefully.

Matt was looking at him steadily, as though wanting to ask him whether he was sure, but also holding back from asking, because that was not what Hooch wanted.

The sound of the artist putting on rubber gloves in Hooch's back, then a hand on him, motioning him to bend a little further, and steadying him in readiness.

The first time the tattooist's needle pierced his flesh was like a scratch to his skin. A short, intense sensation, immediately followed by the next and the next once more. Relentless, as long as the tattooist worked on the design. Hooch tensed his muscles, but there was little on his lower back except for smooth skin over sinews and bones.

He began to sweat and lowered his head, his breathing shallow as he sank into the buzz the endless 'scratch' of the needle gave him. Through all the time it took, far longer than he'd expected, Hooch was hard while lost in the physical sensation, coupled with the knowledge that now, for the first time in his life, he was truly marked.

* * *

The drive home was silent. Hooch sat in the passenger seat with his eyes closed, the expression on his face thoughtful. Matt pulled into the secure parking at the gym and got out, going around to the other side, ready in case Hooch needed a hand out, but not offering it unless it was needed. As he'd expected, Hooch didn't ask for any help, getting out of the truck with slightly stiff movements.

"Crap, can we take the elevator?" Matt asked, watching Hooch's stiff movements but knowing that Hooch wouldn't ever admit weakness. "Forgot I promised Mandy I'd bring up a box of brochures. Just wait a minute." He disappeared into the storeroom and emerged with the bulky package and pressed the button.

If Hooch was grateful he didn't let it on. He waited until they stepped inside the lift before he spoke. "You're a shit liar, you know that, Donahue?"

A snort as Matt leaned against the lift walls. "I wouldn't have to if you didn't always have to be the big scary Delta in public."

"Only in public?" Hooch grinned.

The doors opened and Matt went to put the brochures under the reception desk, saying hello to Mandy, and greeting Rex from his new place sprawled on a rug in the reception area, heading to the door up to the apartment. Rex lazily stayed where he was, enjoying the winter sunshine, and the compliments and company of the clients.

Hooch followed up the stairs, slower than usual, but clearly upholding the 'big bad Delta' image. "How long has it been?" Hooch went straight to the kitchen area, starting to make coffee in their fancy machine.

Matt glanced at the clock, as though he didn't already know. "Nearly four,." he told him, standing on the other side of the kitchen bench. "How does it feel?"

"Sore." Hooch craned his neck to look at Matt. "Translated to: good." He was a lot calmer than before, and the antsiness born out of boredom had disappeared for now.

A steady look, before Matt was satisfied that Hooch wasn't being stoic and invincible. He accepted the coffee with a nod, and took a sip. "Do you want to have a look?" he asked.

"Contrary to what you might think," Hooch added a lot of cold milk to his double espresso, "I'm damned well dying of curiosity.".

"I'll go get the mirror from the bathroom if you go to the bedroom?" Matt asked, already heading in that direction.

Hooch nodded, went off to the bedroom where he sat down to take his boots off. Bending over was tricky with the gauze taped over his lower back, which felt as if all of his back had been covered up. He'd pulled off his shirt and denims and was working on his briefs, when Matt returned.

"I'll do it," Matt put the mirror down on the bed. "Close your eyes."

Hooch's brows rose a fraction at the command, but he did as Matt told him to. He stood up when he was naked, eyes closed. Matt positioned him in front of the mirror, before carefully removing the gauze, holding his breath as he did so. He exhaled audibly when Hooch's back was bared, before picking up the mirror and taking a step back. "Open," he said softly, holding the mirror so that Hooch could see the artistry.

Hooch opened his eyes, stared at the vast expanse of ink all across his lower back. "Holy shit!"

Matt nearly dropped the mirror. "You don't like it?" He blinked.

"Wrong question. You wanted me to have this, there's no way I wouldn't like it." Hooch turned from left to right, best he could, to look at the tribal design from all angles. Black ink against his tanned skin, spanning all across his lower back and dipping down in the middle, pointing downwards to his ass crack. "It's a lot bigger than I thought. Shit, Matt, it's amazing." He squinted his eyes and stilled. "Wait…is that…" trying to see clearer, "is that an 'M' and a 'D' in the design?."

Still too early, too sore for Matt to put a hand there, to trace over his initials on Hooch's back, the curves and the lines cunningly hidden in the design. He stepped closer, touching Hooch not on the tattoo, but his unbruised shoulder, leaning close. "Mine," he said simply, "and anyone who gets close enough to see you will know."

Hooch held Matt's gaze in the mirror. "Yours." His next breath was shaky, and he could feel his cock getting half hard. "Your piercings, your tattoo, your mark." Getting more aroused by the second. "This is the goddamned motherfucking hottest thing in my life."

Watching Hooch's arousal through the mirror, the eyes so dark they looked all pupil, his hardening cock was one of the most erotic things that Matt had seen. His hand slid around to Hooch's chest, lingering on the pierced nipples before slowly trailing down his stomach, fingers brushing on the light dusting of hair.

Matt's fingers slipped off as he stepped back, around, dropping to his knees in front of Hooch. "Keep your eyes on the mirror." He ordered, before swallowing Hooch whole.

Hooch's knees buckled at the sudden onslaught, but he braced himself, set his feet apart and kept his eyes firmly on the mirror. The back of Matt's head, the way his neck moved, his shoulders, the broad back, and how the sensations of Matt's tight lips, pressing tongue, light scrape of teeth, and constricting throat, contrasted with only being able to see his back, and nothing more.

As always, the little convulsion and shudder just before Hooch came, and Matt sucked down harder, increasing the pressure, feeling the warm rush of liquid, swallowing every drop and lapping Hooch clean before sitting back on his heels.

"Fuck me." Hooch murmured. His voice thick and rough with lingering arousal.

A look of disbelief as Matt took in the fresh tattoo, the bruises faded to mottled yellow, the strapped wrist, the other injuries. "Ah, no. Not right now. Not when you're injured front and back."

"My face." Hooch urged, lowering himself to sit on the edge of the bed and spreading his knees apart for Matt to stand between them.

Lust warred with doubt on Matt's face, wary that this was another one of Hooch's moods that would be too far in his condition. He stepped closer, between Hooch's legs, then brushed his cock against Hooch's lips.

The bruising on Hooch's face had gone down, and the cut was healing well. There was nothing that could and would hold him back right now, and when he parted his lips to let Matt's cock slide between them, he immediately opened his mouth wide, grabbed hold of Matt's hips, forcing him closer and Matt's cock deep down his throat. The sound Hooch made was choked-off and needy.

Matt bit back a sob as Hooch sucked him greedily, pulling him in, the grip on his hips almost painful as he fought to keep his hands away from Hooch's head. Touching Hooch lightly on the shoulder, letting him know he was about to come, before it felt like he was coming apart. Anchored only by the strong hands on his hips and his cock down Hooch's throat. He was kept close and down, Hooch's throat convulsively flexing around Matt's cock as he came. Hooch fought his gagging reflex, wanted and needed to, punishing himself with his eyes watering, but wanting Matt's cock to cut off his air, more than he wanted anything else.

Gasping, panting, Matt felt himself slowly come back into his body, and withdrawing from Hooch. "That," he said when he had his breath back, "was amazing."

Hooch wiped his lips with the back of his hand. "Yeah." His rough voice the only indication of what he had just done. "Just as your mark on my body."

A smile, as Matt flopped on the bed next to Hooch, eyes on the tattoo, before meeting Hooch's eyes again. "Mine," he repeated, wanting to trace the lines but knowing that he shouldn't. He sighed. "I guess I should cover these up again, at least until tonight."

Hooch huffed. "Right now I come with a maintenance manual. Bathe and disinfect the nipples, moisturize and disinfect the tattoo. What next?"

He hadn't expected the gleam in Matt's eyes, a contrast to the sated expression. "Nothing until next week," he told Hooch, "that should be the last thing, and it's not permanent. And there's less aftercare." With that, he got up off the bed and padded off to the bathroom for the first aid kit.

Hooch stared after him, thinking how wrong he had been. Matt did have it in him, after all.

* * *

Hooch had to continue moving carefully for the next few days, as his injuries from the training accident continued to heal, but he was much less restless. He submitted mock-grouchily to Matt's tending of the tattoo, but the feel of those callused fingers on his skin was better as it had always been, as they now traced the swirls and lines that marked him as Matt's.

* * *

When Hooch went back to work, confined to his desk and administration, he was grateful that his slightly stiff movements were accepted by everyone as remnants of the accident. The medics, however, who had to check him over, shook their heads and told him off at the discovery of the tattoo-they expected it of soldiers in their twenties, not instructors in their forties who should know better.

* * *

The week before the President's Day long weekend, Hooch had been working late, putting in place plans for an Exercises in spring. He often didn't make it home until Matt had gone to bed in readiness for his early morning class, and Wednesday night was no exception. Hooch returned to a largely dark gym and apartment, but Matt was sitting up in bed as Hooch entered the bedroom after his shower. When he got into the bed, Matt wrapped his warm body around Hooch's chilled one, skin to skin, not a hair between them, because Matt had none left below his neck, not even the groomed patch of pubic hair he usually kept.

"If I'm going to be showing myself off this weekend, I might as well make sure I'm presentable," he said in response to Hooch's silent query. Hooch's hands remained where they were on Matt's newly-denuded skin, as Matt continued. "I've made an appointment for you tomorrow evening on your way back from base. I've told Pam you lost a bet," he added, meaning the beauty therapist who usually took charge of Matt's vanity. "With one of the instructors from Camp Lejeune," the flash of his teeth visible in the darkness, knowing it would rile Hooch.

"You fucking bastard," Hooch growled, but he didn't quite hide the grin. The feel of Matt's perfectly smooth skin under his hands silenced any objection he might have had. "Is that an order?" Nuzzling Matt's neck.

Matt smiled and titled his head back to allow Hooch more access. "Yes, it is. After two piercings and a tattoo, it should be a breeze."

Hooch grumbled, "I'll do it, but it's close to telling me to get my root canals done."

"Who knows, you might turn out to like it. You seem to like it on me," Matt chuckled.

"I had my legs waxed once, when I did lose an actual bet. There's good pain and there's bad pain. Waxing doesn't fit into the first category. I don't understand how you keep having it done." To prove the opposite of his point, he caressed the smooth skin of Matt's back, down to his ass and back up again.

Matt wriggled under the firm movements. "I like being smooth and you've certainly never objected." He gasped as Hooch's fingers slid between his ass cheeks, checking that he was, indeed, completely bare. "Are you trying to tell me something?" he asked, pushing back on the fingers.

"One way of warming up, huh?" Hooch leaned in closer, nipping at the sensitive skin below Matt's jaw.

"Hmmm, you're a better source of heat than anything I know," Matt shifted slightly so that he was lying on his back, legs parted, "but that doesn't mean you can get away with not warming up the lube first."

Hooch laughed, leaned over to the bedside drawer, and proceeded to do just that.

* * *

Pam, Matt's beautician, was as efficient as she was amused at Hooch's 'lost bet', and even more so at the string of profanities that accompanied each and every one of her expertly swift movements; ripping off body hair that had never received to such torture before.

The crescendo of his swearing, when she got to his pubes, made her laugh out loud and she had to stop in her administrations of the hot wax. "I suppose this will teach you to tangle with the Marines," she teased. "Come on, the faster we get this done, the less it'll sting."

Hooch wiped the sweat from his forehead. "You're lying. It'll sting just the damned same."

"Stings more when you draw it outs" she countered. "I've been doing this for a lot longer than you. Now hold still."

Hooch's eyes followed her movements to the little pot of hot goo and back with an expression of absolute misery on his face.

"This will probably be the bit that hurts most," she warned him, picking up a cloth strip from the pile on the trolley.

"Yeah, no shit." Hooch spread his legs so she could get access to every little nook and cranny. "Are you going to say the same about my ass crack?"

"Probably," she said cheerfully. Ripping away before Hooch could do more than give a strangled yelp in answer, and continuing with quick, sure movements. Making sure every bit of skin was bare, pausing only to get a set of tweezers for a few stubborn hairs.

"Holy motherfucking shit!" Hooch shouted. "Why don't you flay me while you're at it?"

"Tut tut," Pam admonished him, enjoying the process entirely too much. For men who put their bodies through unimaginable pain, it seemed that her military and sports clients were such babies about this simple procedure. "All done at the front now. Besides, this can't possibly hurt anywhere near as much as those," she indicated the pierced nipples, "or the tattoo on your back did."

"No way." Hooch grumped, but obeyed and turned onto his front, spreading his legs as far as the surface allowed. "This is different, it's agony of a very special kind. Hell, it even tops a cigarette burn."

Pam knew better than to tease about the cigarette burns, noting the pattern of small round scars on his skin, and even though she knew that he couldn't see her, she hid her smile behind her hand as she stirred the goo again. Matt had said that his roommate would be a bit cranky about losing the bet to the Marines instructor, but this passed even her expectations. "My mother says," she told him, holding him still while spreading the wax, "that you shouldn't wager anything it won't hurt you to lose." Getting a cloth, pressing it down, pulling it away, mentally steeling herself for the expected shouting.

"Fuck!" Hooch yelled and bucked up. "That's fucking worse than the front!" He craned his neck backwards to look at her. "Did your mother mean literal pain?"

"Probably," she chuckled, "but this is the last bit. So, the less you complain, the quicker this will be over."

"Go on, I can see you can hardly wait. You're enjoying this too much, you should have been a member of the KGB." Hooch braced himself one last time.

She didn't answer, because he was completely right. Admiring the perfect curves of his ass she spread the warm mixture, pressed, ripped. "Just a few more seconds," she told him as he started to relax. "I'll do a tidy up with the tweezers."

And people thought she was joking when she said that sometimes she really did love her work.

"Seconds," Hooch got out between clenched teeth, "you liar." But he stayed still and tried to think when was the last time anyone had inspected his ass crack with quite so much concentration.

Pam suppressed her laughter as she completed the task quickly and neatly, with just the last few stubborn short hairs pulled out. "Do you want a mirror?" she asked, dropping the tweezers in the container of disinfectant.

"No, I'll wait." Hooch didn't want to tell her for what. "I've had enough of it for now." He moved to sit, legs dangling down and only his toes touching the floor. Completely un-self-conscious, forgetting that officially, he was supposed to probably feel self-conscious around a woman. Looking down at himself, he was about to touch the slightly reddened but perfectly smooth skin of his groin, when she swatted his hand away.

"Nuh-huh. No touching and no sex for twenty-four hours. No hot baths either. You don't want to get bumps and spots, do you?" Hooch looked vaguely horrified at the prospect and she smiled. "It's only the first time the waxing is quite so uncomfortable. The hair is coarse and deep-rooted." She turned to look into her bag and pulled out a dark blue bottle. "Here, it's special skin care, use this all over your body, it'll help prevent skin irritation. Don't use body lotion for a day, but have a gentle body scrub in two days."

Hooch stared at the bottle, then her. "Do I look like someone who owns body scrub and uses lotion?"

"You look like someone who eats nails on toast for breakfast and burps fire," she replied cheerfully, "but appearances are deceiving, I'm told." She paused, then picked up a printed piece of card that had been on the shelf. "Here are the instructions. Don't forget. But I'm sure Matt will tell you if you do. He's a complete pro at this. Hardly screams at all, these days."

Hooch raised his brows. "He doesn't, does he?" took the card and the bottle, before pulling on a pair of boxers, because he wasn't supposed to wear tight underwear. "And I get to pay for this 'pleasure'."

A grin. "Well, that's what happens if you mess with the Marines." Pam picked up the dirty towels and left the room so that Hooch could get dressed.

Hooch shook his fist at her. "Army above all." He grinned as she left and put on his clothes. His skin felt strange, hyper-sensitive, and he'd never been so naked before in his life. Naked and defenseless, and that he liked. Exposed to the very last bit.

* * *

The daypack in the living room and the faint sound of typing was evidence that Hooch was already back by the time Matt had finished his last class and climbed up to the apartment. He walked to Hooch's study to find him hunched over his netbook, Rex sprawled on the floor next to him, looking bored.

"So," Hooch said without looking up from the screen, "you hardly ever scream anymore?"

"Ah, she told you," Matt groused, but with a grin. "Didn't want you to think that all this," a hand down his body, "came without effort."

"I know that a lot of effort goes into your body." Hooch looked up with an exaggerated leer. He half-spun round on his desk chair, sprawling and looking up at Matt. "No sex, she said."

"Why do you think I booked it for today and not tomorrow?" Matt grinned back. "How was it?"

"Awful. A motherfucking nightmare. Tweezers in my ass crack? Your beautician should star in a horror flick."

Matt couldn't hold back his laughter. "She does do a thorough job, doesn't she?" He tilted his head to the side. "Come on then, let's have a look."

"But no touching." Hooch mimicked Pam, holding up his finger. "No sex for twenty-four hours, no touching, you don't want any bumps, do you? No body lotion, body scrub in two days, and use this to prevent skin irritation." He pointed at a blue bottle on the desk, then stood up. "What the fuck was she talking about?"

"You'll need that unless you want ingrowns," Matt told him. "Just put it on after your shower. The only thing that makes it any better is keeping it up and just getting used to it."

Hooch looked with increasing focus at Matt. He didn't say anything for longer than was comfortable. "Take a look," at last, "then answer me a question." He pulled the shirt over his head and opened his belt buckle, to make quick work of trousers, boxers and socks.

Hooch, bare and smooth, skin reddened. Not that he'd had much hair to begin with, but the effect was quite…different. Matt was dimly aware he was staring, and dragged his eyes up to Hooch's face. "What's the question?"

"Do you want me to keep it up?" Straight to the point.

Matt blinked. "Not if you don't want to. Seriously, so long as I don't get hair in my teeth, I don't mind."

Hooch shook his head slowly. "No, you didn't answer my question. I rephrase: do you prefer me like this? Do you want me like this?"

Realizing what Hooch was asking, what he needed, Matt bit his lip. "Yes," he said truthfully. The perfectly honed lines of Hooch's body, shown off without the light covering of hair; the groin bared, completely vulnerable, completely exposed. Dimly remembering one of the many websites he'd been scouring in the last few weeks, discussing why most subs and slaves were shaved, to emphasize that they had no control over what happened to their bodies, that they had nowhere to hide.

Hooch considered his answer carefully. "Then I will." He took a step closer to Matt, nude body almost touching the clothed one, and lowered his voice. "I don't want to be given choices when it comes to my body."

"Alright." Matt hesitation, "I'm still getting used to this," he confessed.

"So am I." Hooch said quietly.

A few breaths of silence.

"Coming for a shower? I'll put that stuff on you afterwards."

"Yeah, I still have the stench of hot wax in my nose." Hooch made his way to the bathroom to get the shower started.

Rex watched them go, and then crawled under Hooch's desk for a nap. They wouldn't be paying him any attention for a while.

* * *

On Saturday morning, Matt left Hooch still sleeping in their bed to go downstairs to take the early morning class. After bidding farewell to the smaller numbers than usual, because of the long weekend, he went to his office to retrieve the box that he'd kept there since it had arrived the previous week. He'd only tried on the items once, to make sure they fitted, but now was the real deal. He carried it back up to the apartment.

Hooch had woken up in the meantime, showered, shaved, caffeinated and breakfasted, and was doing some work on a large map spread out on the dining table. "Morning."

"Morning," Matt answered, putting the box down. "What'cha doing?"

"Planning the next exercise trail run." Hooch pointed to Matt's box with his pencil. "What's that?"

"Ah, well, it's what I'm wearing tonight," Matt answered. "Do you want to see or should that be a surprise?" He stopped. "There are change rooms at the club, aren't there?"

"Of course. I don't drive there naked with just a collar. It costs shit loads of money, they got everything you could want." Hooch looked at Matt. "It is up to you if you want me to see it or not."

He should have known. "Just let me know if it's ludicrously inappropriate." Matt opened the lid and lifted out an armful of soft black leather. "What do you think?"

"It's black leather." Hooch deadpanned.

"You suggested it." Matt smoothed out the leather trousers, and something with straps. "I'm not sure about the harness," he said, "but it looked good on the model."

"You are aware that no model is as good looking as you are, right?"

Matt snorted at Hooch's teasing, but started to pull his T shirt over his head anyway. Stripping off the rest of his clothes, he had to sit to wriggle into the tight leather. Knowing his exact measurements from the tux he'd had made for the wedding had helped him get the closest size, which meant that when he stood up, it clung to him like a second skin.

"What do you think?" he asked, looking at Hooch.

"Holy fuck." Hooch breathed out with obvious approval. "Yeah, those fit. And the harness?"

Matt picked up the tangle of straps and, after working out the arrangements, slipped it over his head. "Help me with the buckles?" he asked, stepping closer to Hooch.

Hooch's fingers were remarkably gentle as he stroked over Matt's perfectly smooth and perfectly tanned skin, contrasting with the black of the leather and the metal buckles. Once he'd tightened the harness in all places, he guided Matt with his hands on Matt's shoulders to turn round and face him. Taking a step back, Hooch looked at him for a long time. "You, Matt Donahue, are motherfucking hot. You look fucking amazing."

"I have a reputation to uphold, you said," Matt reminded Hooch. "I thought I'd make an effort." He looked down at himself, the inevitable result of Hooch's touch and proximity and the tactile warmth of the leather having the inevitable effect. "What time do you think we should get there? I've blocked out all of today in case there's any prep you want…" he cut himself off, and then corrected "…any prep that needs to be done."

Hooch acknowledged the correction with an upwards tilt of the corners of his lips. "I usually just shave again and clean myself out, that's it. Twenty-hundred hours is a good time, leaves plenty of space for scenes." His hand almost touched Matt's hard-on, but stopped short a millimeter before the leather. "May I?"

Matt nodded, mouth suddenly dry. He swallowed, then confirmed. "Touch me."

Hooch did, palming Matt's erection as he stepped closer. "Tonight," his voice had dropped, "you can order me to do anything to anyone, and can allow anyone to do anything to me."

Matt's nostrils flared as he tried to stop his knees from buckling. "Yes," he breathed, "and tonight you're leaving the collar at home."

Hooch sucked in a breath. Everything would be different this time. Better.

* * *

They took advantage of a lazy Saturday morning to just chill after Hooch had sucked Matt off, but didn't get to come in return. Matt spent a lot of time thinking about the night, especially when he started packing his overnight bag for the hotel, which he did with care. A change from his usual method of efficiently throwing a few items into a bag in a few seconds, habits learned in the Marines never leaving him completely.

Hooch didn't show any signs of preoccupation with the night's plans, except for retreating to the bathroom for a while, to get cleaned thoroughly. Going commando under a less tight fitting pair of denims than usual, he chose to wear a loose black flannel shirt.

"Ready?" Matt had their bags by the door, keys in hand. Trying not to betray his nervousness. No matter what happened, everything would be different after tonight, though better or worse he had no idea.

Hooch seemed calmer than he usually was when he went to the club. "Yeah, ready. I usually check into the hotel first. You got a twin room?"

Matt nodded. "Yep," as usual when they were in the States-and especially within this state. "Mandy came and got Rex while you were in the shower, so we're good to go."

Hooch picked up the truck keys. "Let's go." He seemed relaxed where he usually appeared tense before a visit to the club. All the way on the drive to Raleigh he projected a calm that eventually rubbed off on Matt.

They checked into the hotel, a large, soulless one where they were no more than numbers on a vast database, and went upstairs. "So, what now?" Matt asked, after making sure that the heavy door was securely locked.

"We go to the club." Hooch smiled. "If you're ready."

Matt swallowed and met Hooch's eyes directly, a calm he didn't quite feel, but tried to pretend. "I am." Yes. He'd made the decision to step down this path with Hooch, and now, after putting the markings on Hooch, now was when he would finally find out whether he could go all the way down this road.

Hooch touched Matt's face. "If you want to leave, or if things get too much too quickly, just call me Hooch. I don't use safe words for myself, but this is not about safety." He let his fingertips run down Matt's face. "No one knows my name. The people there only know me as 'H', so if you call me by my name, it'll get through to me, in whatever situation."

Leaning into the caress, Matt made a movement that was close enough to a nod. "Let's go, then." He said, voice level.

Hooch let Matt through the door first, then slipped the key card into his back pocket as he followed him to the elevator. The ride to the club was short and silent. They were greeted by staff in reception, in the same perfectly efficient and discreet manner as always, handing a brand new members' card to Matt, explaining how it functioned simultaneously as key card and as purchasing card at the bar and restaurant. A young man, dressed in a tailored suit that showed off every line and angle of his body, and with a narrow black leather collar around his neck, led them through to the changing area, which was as scrupulously clean and as well-furnished as the rest of the place. Instead of lockers there were personalized wardrobe spaces, accessible via the members' card, and comfortable changing rooms to provide privacy for those who wished it. Hooch pointed to one of the doors with a questioning look on his face.

Matt, who had been silent all the way through, comparing the memories of his only visit to the club four years ago and the new areas he was seeing now, looked in the direction that Hooch was pointing. "Is there anything I need to keep in mind before I get changed?" he asked, feeling strangely calm even though he could feel his heartbeat up to his ears.

Hooch opened the changing room door with his card. "I suggest you observe in the beginning. You get a lot of clues from how the other people react to our arrival."

Matt gave him a quizzical look as they entered, but remembered Hooch's prediction that he'd be 'a celebrity.' He put his bag on one of the benches as Hooch closed the door and started to undress.

When he was naked, Hooch turned to look at the full-length mirror with a sense of fascination, before focusing on Matt. "Need help with the buckles?"

Matt had been admiring Hooch in the mirror too, the metal and the ink on the smooth body. He had managed the trousers on his own, but still held the straps of the harness in his hands. "Yes,"

Hooch slipped the harness onto Matt, calloused fingers caressing the smooth skin as he went along. His touches seemed almost reverent, as he closed the buckles and adjusted the leather until it sat perfectly. Their eyes met in the mirror, and the contrast between the nude body with its metal and ink, and the body in black skin tight leather and combat boots was stunning. "I have never been that naked." Hooch murmured.

Matt turned, hands touching first the barbells in Hooch's nipples and then trailing behind to the tattoo, over the bare flesh. His marks, all fresh and still healing. His marks, on Hooch. Their eyes met, in person and not in the mirror. "No, you're not naked. You wear my marks. You'll never be rid of them. Or me."

The effect of Matt's words on Hooch were evident, his cock half-hard. "Does that mean I've reached the goal yet?"

Remembering back to the talk in the kitchen. "When I said that I didn't know, that was the truth." Matt began, "but I think the reason why I didn't know whether you had got there was because you've always been there. From the start. From the day you didn't walk out of that mud hut in Saudi, and the day you turned up at my door after we'd both left the Gulf. We're in this together, no matter what happens."

Hooch smiled, his emotions showing on his face, usually bottled up and locked away. "Thank you." Just that. "Ready?"

Matt took a deep breath and nodded. "Ready."

Hooch unlocked the door then handed the card to Matt to keep it. "It's a first for me as well," he said, as he waited for Matt to step out first. "I've never seen the place nor anyone in it."

Matt slipped the card into a pocket cleverly hidden in the low waistband of the trousers, before raising an eyebrow at Hooch, and remembering that Hooch had said he was blindfolded at the club. "Let's go, then. I wonder if they've redecorated since we got the tour the first time round."

The door closed behind them with a soft sound, and so did the next one, as they exited the main changing area. As they stepped out into the hallway towards the theatre, Hooch slotted himself a step behind and to the side of Matt. It surprised him how easy it was, and how he didn't have to watch his steps nor think about his speed, perfectly in sync with Matt. He should have known, after all these years, but this was new territory. Some people they encountered openly stared at them, as if trying to figure out who they were, while others kept their eyes down, yet others again appraising Hooch's entirely nude body, and Matt's perfectly sculpted one.

When they reached the main room, it took only a few seconds, before a male voice called out in disbelief "H?"

Remembering what Hooch had said earlier, Matt turned around to face Hooch who kept his gaze straight ahead, but focused on Matt the moment he looked at him. Only Hooch, with his attuned senses and knowing Matt so well, could see how he steadied himself. "Onto the stage and kneel."

Hooch obeyed immediately, moved the few steps to the raised platform in the middle of the crowd, and sank down to his knees. Hands behind his back, staring straight ahead and into the distance once more. Kneeling in full view of everyone.

Matt raised his voice to cut through the sound of the people around them. "Is that who you call H?"

"Yes." The male voice that had called out earlier was heard again, as the man stepped closer. In his late thirties, the disbelief on his face, but not his voice. "You wouldn't be…" he trailed off, "of course you are, you're his Master."

"Owner." Matt corrected and a murmur rose across the crowd. Like waves of amazement and respect rippling through subs and doms, males and females alike.

Another man stepped out of the crowd. Tall, broad, bearded, thick dark hair over even thicker muscles. "Allow me to touch?" he asked Matt.

If Hooch recognized either of the voices, he showed no reaction.

Matt held the other man's eye for a fraction longer than was comfortable, then nodded, inclining his head towards Hooch.

The man went across and took Hooch's chin in his hand, tilting the head up to inspect the face. Only Matt could read Hooch so well, he saw the minuscule jump in his muscles, as if controlling the urge to attack the man. "Dark brown," the man commented. He checked the smoothness of Hooch's skin, tweaked the freshly pierced nipples, which made Hooch's nostrils flare. One large hand took hold of Hooch's half-hard cock, the other gripped his smooth balls, giving both a brutal squeeze. Hooch's cock reacted instantly. The man looked up with an approving look, but before he could say anything, Matt called out: "Turn round."

Hooch immediately obeyed the command, moving on his knees without the use of his hands, presenting his tattooed lower back to the crowd.

After a long inspection, the dom straightened up and looked at Matt. "He bears your mark," he stated, his voice full of awe.

"Of course." It felt so strange, at once detached and possessive, wanting to tear the man's arms off for touching Hooch, and yet feeling removed from it all. Matt couldn't deny the surge of power at the respect and awe in the eyes of the others.

The first man joined Hooch. "Will you be using H tonight?" he addressed Matt. The eagerness that this might not be what Matt had planned, was written across his elegant face and audible in his New England accent. "Or do you want him to be used for your viewing pleasure?"

Sensing Hooch's reassurance rather than seeing it, Matt considered for a moment. Much as the thought of others touching Hooch made him stew, this time-at least at first-he wanted observe, as Hooch had suggested, to get a sense of what it was that Hooch needed. One thing to imagine it from the half-sentences and the aftermath, quite another to see it. "I shall watch," keeping his voice cool, "you may use him."

"How many?" A third voice asked from the crowd. A black guy stepped through, with shaved head and fit body, the unmistakable look of a someone who was still or had been in the military. "There are several of us who are H's regulars."

Matt gave an appreciative look at the guy's muscles, pretending to consider, as if he didn't know the answer Hooch craved. "You may," the same level tone, "I'll let you know when he's had enough."

Not quite answering the question, but allowing him to stop at any time.

"We all had scenes with H," the tall and elegant guy said, identifying himself as 'Eagle', "and each of us realized we had a hard time breaking him on our own."

'Breaking him'. Matt knew this was what Hooch craved and needed, but it still felt like a gut punch.

"We've been having extended scenes here on stage with several of us together for the last two years." The black guy added, who called himself 'MC', the moniker telling Matt all he needed to know about the man's military background.

"I see," Matt nodded, trying to pretend a calm he didn't feel. "And now?"

Looking at the men, each of them so different. Wondering, at the back of his mind, what it was that each of them did to try and break Hooch.

"You most of all know how unbreakable H is." The hairy biker-type guy drawled, the name 'Skull' tattooed on his neck.

"Yeah," a forth man stepped forward. Short but broad built, identifying himself as 'Tank'. "You're his owner."

"Do you want us to give you a scenario?" Eagle asked.

Not looking at Hooch, but continuing to keep his eyes on the men, Matt inclined his head slightly. "Yes." Feeling the eyes of the men on him, on Hooch, who was still kneeling with his back to most of the room.

Tank spoke up first. "Ropes. I'm a shibari master." He didn't elaborate any further, clearly expecting Matt to know what he was talking about. "H is a tough bastard, can withstand the worst positions for the longest of periods." He was in awe of Hooch's stamina, that was obvious. "I want to try a new technique, hang him from a beam."

"I like to deliver pain." MC said lazily with a slow, almost predatory smile. "H takes a lot of whipping, beating and flogging before he screams. You must be a damned genius to manage on your own." He nodded towards Matt.

Eagle raised an amused eyebrow at MC. "Wandplay. I got H to be able to take the second to largest one the last time he was here. You've been training him, haven't you?" He flicked his wrist, "and electricity. H got a special scream for that."

Skull only raised his right arm and made a fist, smirking. "Guess."

Matt wasn't sure how he managed to keep a straight face through the introductions, and the assumption that he knew what they were talking about, and that he did them to Hooch. Each sounding worse than the other. He wanted to run out of there, dragging Hooch with him, but this was what he had promised to do. He knew that Hooch needed this, needed what these men gave him, and he would never understand it if he did not see it through. He hoped that his audible voice didn't sound as shaky as his internal one, as he nodded at Tank. "You can start."

All of the four men stepped onto the stage, and turned Hooch round to face the rapidly gathering crowd of spectators. Hooch kept staring straight ahead at nothing. This was 'H', and the scene was going to be extreme. Everyone who'd ever been to the club knew of Hooch, and most had seen him on stage. The fact that 'H' was there for the first time with his owner; not wearing the collar, not blindfolded, but bearing new and permanent marks of ownership on his body, was enough to bring a buzz into the whole theatre and raise anticipation. Staff seemed aware, too, looking more ready to serve than ever. This night was going to be something special, and no one wanted to miss it.

Eagle talked to a member of staff who vanished behind the scenes, MC conferred with one of the bartenders, and Tank motioned to staff to bring his kit. While waiting for the natural ropes to arrive, all cut to the same lengths, he laced his fingers into Hooch's short hair and pulled his head far back. He held out his hand and Skull handed him a broad metal posture collar with rolled edges, but no padding, and secure locks. Tank placed it around Hooch's neck and snapped it shut, forcing him to keep his head up and back, so high Hooch struggled to swallow. He couldn't look down, couldn't see what was happening to him, and while not blindfolded, he was effectively blind. The effect of the discomfort was immediately obvious on his cock, now fully hard.

Matt looked on, trying to keep his face impassive; trying to ignore the buzz behind him in the crowd. Watching Hooch, the way his cock hardened as he was manhandled into the collar, unable to make eye contact with him now. Matt fought to remain still at the sound of machinery above them, as a heavy metal beam, perhaps eight feet long, was lowered on long steel chains.

The murmuring in the room grew as a male staff member, wearing a collar, latex hot pants and nothing else, returned with his arms full of ropes. He placed them down at Tank's feet before walking away backwards, never turning his back on the stage. Tank picked up the first length of rope just as Skull and MC took hold of Hooch's wrists. They were obviously used to working as a team. Matt kept his eyes on them steadily, careful to observe Hooch's reactions, oblivious to anything else.

Skull and MC pulled on Hooch's arms, stretching them out as far as they could, while Tank positioned the beam behind Hoch's shoulder blades and outstretched arms. Eagle stepped behind the other two men and held the beam in place, to stop it from swinging on its chains. Tank took the first length of sisal rope, wrapping and knotting it around Hooch's biceps. Tightly binding his arms upper arms to the beam, meticulously and alternately, trying the immaculately placed rope artful knots. Rope binding deeply into flesh and smooth skin, but never cutting Hooch's circulation off. A true shibari master, slowly and confidently creating a piece of art, as he bound Hooch's wrists to the beam as well, then proceeding to fix the hands and each finger, leaving him crucified to the physical extremes.

Eagle fixed a tight cockring and ball spreader onto Hooch's hard cock, ensuring he would stay erect without being able to come. Hooch, spread out, muscles and tendons tensed and clearly displayed, the faint gleam of metal in his nipples only serving to emphasize the power and the strength of his body, bound and trapped by the ropes. Cock weeping and reddened against the leather straps and metal.

Matt's mouth was dry long before Tank completed his complicated dance with rope and knots, which now crossed and bound Hooch's chest and abs. Sisal pressing tightly into strained muscles, to emphasize the strength of the helpless body.

Satisfied with his work, Tank nodded to someone at the back of the room, and the bar started to rise, pulling Hooch off his knees and onto his feet, until he was stretched out, displayed for all the room to see, and yet the beam rose higher.

MC and Skull remained at Hooch's side, and when Tank finally gave the order to stop the lift, Hooch hung free, unable to touch the ground with his feet, the full weight of his body supported by his outstretched arms and strained shoulders.

Matt couldn't see his face, upturned to the ceiling as it was, but he saw Hooch's breath come shallow and fast, the barbells in his nipples catching the light as his chest moved rapidly.

Each of the two men took hold of one of Hooch's legs, and at Tank's nod they spread them impossibly far apart, holding them in place while Tank bound Hooch's ankles, as securely and as artfully as his arms and upper body. Fixing the ankles to metal rings in the stage floor, he kept the body suspended and open, and under an incredible strain. Tank went on to bind Hooch's legs, displaying bunching muscles and cutting into delicate flesh at his groin.

When Tank was done, he had created a work of art made from rope and body: intricate twists and elegant knots. A masterpiece of pain and discomfort as Hooch's body hung suspended and stretched to the extremes, but kept accessible at the most sensitive areas. His smooth skin was covered in a thin sheen of sweat, making Hooch's tanned body gleam in the light of the theatre. Caged and framed in rope. Muscles, tendons and extended veins straining against the bonds.

Matt thought it was just as well he'd kept his words to a minimum so far; there was no way he'd be able to say anything when it felt like there was an enormous lump in his throat. Watching Hooch, undoubtedly in agony, but knowing this was what he needed, craved, and that he had promised to watch tonight.

Tank looked at Matt, before he stepped back to join Skull and Eagle, letting MC take centre stage. The muscular man had ordered one of the ever present staff to bring an array of tools of corporal punishment, such as a heavy yet flexible black leather paddle, adorned with blunt metal studs that delivered the maximum damage without breaking skin. Several floggers and whips, and even switches. MC turned to Matt as he picked up a sturdy flogger with an abundance of long, thin round leather cords, and a whip with several strands of thin braided lead-tipped leather.

"H's owner," he addressed Matt, "which one to start with?"

It was then that Matt realized he hadn't given his name, nor a pseudonym. No matter, though, because that wasn't important here, all he was was H's owner. Matt hoped that the gulp he took as he tried to force the lump down his throat wasn't visible. One thing to watch Hooch strain against the cruel ropes, muscles painfully constricted and his own weight pulling him down-quite another to see the collection of tools, all for the purpose of inflicting more pain. He repressed the shudder that ran down his spine at the thought of any of them striking Hooch, and looked MC straight in the eye. "The whip, first," he said, hoping that it would be the slightly less painful. "Careful of the piercings and the tattoo. They're still fresh."

MC nodded in agreement and put the flogger down, before testing the whip. The sound stark in the room, despite the murmur of the crowd. Hooch strained against the ropes, hearing the sound but unable to see what MC was doing. He visibly braced himself for the inevitable first strike, but nothing happened as MC waited, not giving a clue, rendering him unable to anticipate what was coming next. The moment the tension in Hooch's bound body eased a fraction, MC raised the whip, and hit the helpless body with a powerful strike. Hooch jerked in the bonds that hardly allowed him any movement, a groan escaping, suppressing a much more tortured sound.

The next lashings came down with no rhythm to brace for, and no less strength. MC hit the middle of Hooch's chest, avoiding the fresh piercings, then concentrated on his abs, until deep red welts appeared wherever the skin was exposed. Suddenly moving around, an almighty strike hit Hooch's back and he almost screamed, the groan reverberating in the room that had become quiet.

Hooch's body jerked and shuddered, sweat running down the rapidly discoloring skin, but he didn't scream. Not yet. Not enough yet. Holding onto his inhuman control.

Matt had to force himself to remain still through the whipping, stoic. This was what Hooch needed, craved, what he had sought here, a facsimile of the real thing. The wounds were real and painful, the whip was, but in the end this was the safest place for such things. Each of the men on the stage, no matter what they did to Hooch, knew the boundaries. At the end of the night, Hooch would be bruised and covered in welts and scratches and grazes, but he was always in good enough shape to get home. Matt clung to that. He had to. Even as he fought to stop himself from rushing up on the stage and unbinding Hooch and dragging him away. Back home, safe, away from chains and whips and bizarre toys.

MC stopped abruptly, turned to Skull who had appeared behind Hooch, and nodded at him. Skull grabbed Hooch's hip with one large hand, digging into the welts until Hooch hissed in pain, the other positioning a thick butt plug, its lubed-up black silicone glistening in the light on the stage. He pushed slowly but relentlessly, forcing Hooch's ass cheeks apart, driving the oversized plug through the ring of muscle and deep inside. Hooch involuntarily tried to jerk away, but the ropes held his strained body so securely, nothing stopped the merciless intrusion that left him gasping and whimpering. Visibly fighting for breath while forcing down groans, when the plug finally had been pushed fully into his body, securely held in place by the widened ring-muscle, stretching around the silicone ring.

Matt inwardly winced when the plug was forced in, sternly telling his mind not to be so cowardly when it scuttled away from the realization of what Skull was doing to Hooch. Hooch, who had not made a sound beyond a few groans, drenched in sweat and struggling against his bonds. Hooch, who needed this so that he would not fall prey to a darkness that Matt still did not understand, and had long realized that he never would. It was part of Hooch, regardless, and something he needed to come to terms with. Still not knowing what was harder, to watch things being done to him Matt's presence, or to see him go once a month, and come back bruised and worn, but strangely calm and leveled.

Hooch was trembling, instinctive shudders running through his body, as he was left alone for a while. Displayed for the audience, and unable to expect what would happening next.

The moment of peace didn't last long. A knowing glance went between Eagle and MC, who had taken the metal studded paddle from the tray and positioned himself where Skull had stood earlier. The first almighty strike of the paddle hit Hooch's ass and he almost screamed-barely suppressing the desperate sound with ever increasing groans. The paddle struck again and again, driving the plug deeper inside with every assault. No rhythm, no pattern to anticipate the beatings, and a speed that made it impossible for him to ever brace or gather himself.

Hooch's ass turned raw and deep red, with angry welts and visible imprints of the metal studs, his skin broken in places. His cock, though, harder than Matt had ever seen it. Nearly deep purple and leaking continuously.

Eagle was readying his toys at the side of the stage. A tray with gleaming metal and a small piece of machinery with cables trailing from its front Spreading lube on a thick metal wand, Eagle stood patiently until MC, as sweat drenched as Hooch's wrecked body, stopped the paddling. Eagle stepped close, took Hooch's metal-ringed cock into his hand, positioned the wand at the slit, and as slowly and relentlessly as Skull had fucked Hooch's ass, he forced the rod inside by letting its weight pull it down the urethra and guiding it deep into Hooch's cock.

Hooch, seemed close to breaking. The noises he made were mindless and animalistic, his whole body straining and fighting, trying to get away from this most extreme of intrusions.

Matt stared at the metal rod as it entered Hooch's cock, hoping that his disbelief was not noticeable, as all eyes were on Hooch and the stage. Hooch, trapped and unable to move, writhing in the bonds as Eagle slowly twisted and moved the wand.

A movement out of the corner of his eye brought Matt's attention back to Tank, who had been standing aside, observing the others with Hooch, watching the effect of his art in action.

When the wand was finally deeply embedded in Hooch's cock, Eagle reached for a couple of cables from the machine, and secured them onto the metal rod, right below the insulated tip that protruded out of Hooch's cock. He clipped a different set of cables onto the barbells in Hooch's nipples, then nodded at Tank who stepped away. Eagle set two dials to different strengths on the machine, held onto the insulation to keep the metal rod inside Hooch's cock, then flicked two switches.

That very instant Hooch's body tensed then thrashed in convulsions but held in place by the ropes, an inhuman scream ripped from the very depths of his self. The scream cut through the mounting buzz of the audience, his wailing climbing higher, louder, and ever more insane, the further Eagle increased the intensity of the electric current that tortured Hooch inside and out.

MC reappeared, pushing a hip-height padded examination table in front of Hooch, and with a rattling of chains, Hooch's upper body was lowered onto the table, until his ass was raised and his upper body crushed down by the weight of the steel beam across his shoulder blades and outstretched arms. He never got the chance for his knees to buckle, because Skull stood right behind him, grabbing hold of his hips once more, and with a latex-gloved hand he swiftly twisted and pulled the over-sized plug out of his ass.

Hooch howled, one scream bleeding into the other, until Eagle turned the dials down. With the decreased electricity at a steady pulse, Hooch's screams turned to raw sobs. His face was soaked with sweat and wet with tears. Nearly black eyes focused on nothing. Far away in himself with only his body there. A body that jerked violently when Skull pushed all five fingers of his large hand into Hooch's ass, loosened from the plug, the muscles without resistance after the vicious paddling.

When Hooch opened his mouth to cry out, Tank stood in front of him, forcing his cock with one thrust down Hooch's throat, all the way to the root. Fucking the helplessly upturned face with as much ferocity as Skull was fisting the ass.

Matt realized that his breaths were coming fast and shallow, and he took a step forward without thinking. Catching a glimpse of Hooch's face around Tank's cock, pressed hard against the man's abs with every thrust, eyes black and wild. Matt's gaze was fixed on Hooch, taken at both ends by Tank and Skull, while Eagle detached the cables from the nipple piercings and the wand to slowly glide out of Hooch's cock, which was an almost dark purple, straining against its rings and straps.

MC had laid down his punishing tools, looking on the final act. He snapped his fingers and a young man without collar, dressed in skin tight leather chaps that left his ass and cock free, scurried up the stage and immediately sunk to his knees in front of the big man, freeing his cock and sucking him with greed.

Hooch bucked against Skull's fist, deeply embedded within his body, and Tank's cock that was thrusting erratically into him. Trying to squirm away from both of them, but unable to move, until Tank came with a shudder and abruptly withdrew, cum splattering Hooch's face.

Eagle was about to swap places with Tank, when Matt found himself walking up on the stage, focusing on Hooch's face: his expression was mindless and detached, in agony and yet removed. Not knowing what compelled him, Matt stopped in front of Hooch, taking Eagle's place.

"That's enough." Matt ordered, as he fumbled with his zip

With his hand steadying Hooch's jaw in a gentle grip, Matt slid his painfully hard cock in between Hooch's lips. Hooch was too exhausted to do much more than let Matt move in, unresisting as he made his way down Hooch's throat, constricting, contracting as Matt moved down.

Skull withdrew his fist slowly, standing to the side, allowing a slave to crawl towards him and free his cock to suck him off.

Matt's hand other hand touched Hooch's face, brushing away sweat and tears. He continued to hold in place and simultaneously caress him as he neared completion, feeling his breaths and his thrusts become erratic, the closer he got to release. Never taking his eyes off Hooch's face: lips stretched around his cock and dark, wild eyes blown wide and diluted, until he came down Hooch's throat. Matt quickly withdrew so that Hooch wouldn't choke, his cum dripping out of Hooch's slack mouth.

"Cut him loose." Matt's voice was surprisingly firm and clear above the hum of the crowd. Several staff members hurried to cut ropes and free Hooch, while Matt quickly zipped himself back up.

He didn't wait for Hooch to be cut lose, but got down on one knee, and motioned for staff to pull the table away. The moment the support was gone, the full weight of Hooch's body rested against Matt's chest. All the while staff continued to work on the tough ropes and the chains.

Matt steadied Hooch's helpless body and fumbled for the cock ring, undoing it and letting Hooch's cock free. A few firm strokes were all it took for Hooch to finally orgasm with a raw, broken cry, and he collapsed. Matt unclasped the metal posture collar and flung it to the side, as the last ropes were cut off and the heavy steel beam moved aside.

Matt lifted Hooch's head and looked straight into his eyes, which weren't able to focus, but he saw peace and repletion in them. Covering Hooch's mouth with his own, not heeding the remains of cum nor the sweat and tears, and the kiss was deep but tender, a kiss that was rarely seen at the club. No hunger or lust or possession, because Matt did not need any of that. No need to claim Hooch, because Hooch was his.

The staff helped them both up and off the stage, carrying Hooch between them, and guided them through the crowd. They were lead down another corridor, with doors on either side, and the nearest one opened to a decent-sized room bathed in a golden light and with a bed, couch, comfortable chairs, and adjacent bath. A selection of drinks, candy, ice, salves, sterile wipes, wet cloths, painkillers and gauze was arranged on a low table beside the bed. The two staff helped Hooch lie down on the crisp white sheets of the softly padded bed, where he immediately curled up on his side.

As the door closed behind the staff, Matt went and sat on the bed, next to Hooch who had not moved a muscle since he had been laid there. Stretching to lie beside him, facing Hooch whose eyes were closed, he brushed the wet hair away from his face an affectionate gesture rather than one that had any use whatsoever, before he reached for a wet cloth to clean Hooch's face. The body could wait, Matt decided, pulling a warm blanket over them both, heedless that he still had his combat boots on.

Hoch kept his eyes closed, breathing slowly, while Matt kept gently stroking his sweat-damp hair, not sure where else to touch. Every part of Hooch's body had been tortured, and every touch would bring more pain: the last thing in the world Matt was willing to do.

They lay like that for half an hour, during which Matt reached for a bottle of lucozade with a straw close by, helping Hooch take slow sips until he had emptied it.

Finally, Hooch opened his eyes. Matt had never seen them like that: dark and soft, nothing but calm and utter peace in them. Hooch's voice was raspy and broken as he whispered: "thank you."

Matt leaned over and pressed another kiss to Hooch's lips. No words, because they didn't need words. Putting the empty bottle on the bedside table, he eased out of the bed and went to the bathroom to start filling the tub, before pressing the call-button that would summon a staff member. The woman was there as Matt opened the door, and asked for their bags to be brought to the room.

Turning back to the bed, Matt stripped under Hooch's half-lidded gaze, before pouring a glass of water and offering a couple of painkillers. "Take these." An order, despite his gentle voice, and Hooch obeyed without hesitation. All of his movements were sluggish and revealed the pain he had to be in, but he lifted his head and swallowed the pills with a few mouthfuls of water. Matt smiled and reached for Hooch. "Bath, then nap." An instruction this time. "I'll let you know when it's time to head back to the hotel."

Hooch let himself be helped up, heavily relying on Matt's support, and accepting it for once. More sated and more safe than he'd ever been before.

* * *

The next morning, after a light breakfast because neither of them really feeling like eating, despite the hotel's sumptuous spread, Matt drove back to Fayetteville with Hooch half-asleep in the passenger seat. The road was nearly deserted on a long weekend's Sunday morning, giving Matt plenty of time to think.

The gym was quiet when they returned just after lunch, with only a few die-hards working out. Mandy was not due to come back until the Tuesday morning, bringing Rex back with her. Still quiet, they hadn't spoken more than a dozen words to each other since the club, they went upstairs to the apartment, where Matt decided to get a load of washing going.

Hooch had sat himself down on the sofa, but soon slid down to lie on his side, putting weight onto his badly bruised and abused ass was too much, and the car ride had already tested his stoicism to the limits. Each and every of his movements was stiff and slow, but he had a deep calm about him he'd never displayed before. His eyes tracked Matt as he went to and fro with the laundry basket, lying still and silent, he kept watching.

With the washing machine started, Matt went and got a bottle of water out of the fridge and two glasses, and walked to the sofa. Instead of sitting on it and jostling Hooch, he sat on the floor, and poured two glasses, handing one over. "Was that…" Matt began, "how you thought it would be?" Not sure what he had expected before going to the club, even less sure what Hooch had been expecting.

"Better." Hooch took a sip of water, studying Matt's face with quiet focus. "You?"

"Knowing is still different to actually knowing, if you get what I mean." Matt paused and put his full glass of water down on the coffee table with a little clunk. "Do you…" he knew the answer, but wanted the comfort of the confirmation. "Do you want me to go with you again?"

"Yes." Hooch's reply was firm and came without hesitation. "I want you to go with me every time, but the decision is not mine." He smiled slightly. "What do you want?"

As he thought. As he had known. "I want…" Matt stopped. "I want to think about it a bit. I wouldn't be able to see you do that every month," 'that' such an inadequate word, "but I don't know whether that means I don't go every time, or that we don't do that every time." He leant down, still on the floor, but head and one shoulder on the sofa, close to Hooch. "I'd like to go again," he said truthfully, "but let me think about the details for a bit."

"Of course." Hooch's smile deepened. "Maybe I won't crave that so much if you come with me all the time." Crave, not need. He was beginning to understand the difference.

Matt closed his eyes. The words unvoiced, but understood all the same: I hope so too.

* * *

The rest of the long weekend was quiet, with Matt doing all the little domestic odd-jobs that were part of life: the bits and pieces that needed to be done around the apartment, the detested preparation of tax returns, and the equally dreaded cleaning out of the fridge and freezer.

Hooch spent the two days mostly sleeping, letting his body recover as much as possible before returning to work. The expertise of Tank, Skull, Eagle and MC had ensured that except for some lingering stiffness and a few marks and fading bruises, which could be explained by some roughhousing or an overenthusiastic football game, Hooch would almost be back to his usual self come Tuesday.

Matt, meanwhile, had used the time that Hooch was asleep productively, doing some research from the privacy of the apartment, where there was no chance a stray staff member or gym customer catching a glimpse of what he was doing. It seemed easier now than it had been when he had been browsing before his trip to the club, having a better idea of what he was looking for, and being able to better process what he found. Some he still found incomprehensible, but he realized that it had nothing to do with whether he would ever understand that arcane world of rules and rituals and sheer weirdness, but everything to do with Hooch.

The evening before going back to work, Hooch was standing at the ironing board, meticulously pressing his uniform. A task he'd never let anyone else do for him. He'd just finished the last tunic, and was walking past Matt who was surfing the net on the dining table.

When came back from the guest room he used for hanging his kit, he stopped at Matt's chair and quietly put his special credit card on the table beside Matt's laptop. The one that was linked to his investment accounts.

Matt looked at Hooch, at the credit card, at what he was browsing on screen and back at Hooch again. "Are you serious?" he asked, redundantly, because Hooch was never anything but serious.

"Sure I am. Nothing gives me greater satisfaction than spending my goddamned inheritance on kinky shit." He flashed a sharp grin. "Go on. You're on the card anyway."

Matt blinked at the deliberately casual tone. "I'm what?" he asked. As far as he knew, Hooch hadn't ever mentioned him to any part of his old life, their relationship, nor the little detail that Hooch happened to exclusively fuck men these days.

"You're my partner, aren't you?" Hooch shrugged, still a little stiff.

That he was. But nevertheless this was a surprise. There had always been two Hooches, as though there was a wall between what had happened before he enlisted and after. His past was a different world, and it rarely encroached on the present. Now and then he would fly back to Texas for a few days, summoned for something or other he rarely spoke about, and then there were Christmas cards, and a call on his birthday from his sister but that was all.

"Yes, yes I am." Matt looked at the screen. "Do you want me to tell you what I'm doing with it or do you want to be surprised?"

"Surprise me." Hooch squeezed Matt's shoulder before he went to put the ironing board away. "Whatever you choose, I will do it, wear it, have it done, accept it, and want it." He walked past again, carrying the folded-up board. "Never forget," he stopped at Matt's chair, "you own me."

Matt swallowed, his mouth suddenly dry, looking up at Hooch. "I know."

"Yes." Hooch stated. The one word holding everything. He smiled as he walked into the spare room.

In bed that night no sex, because Hooch was still not up to it and neither, if he was being completely honest, was he, Matt shifted so that he was on his side, waiting until Hooch turned as well, to be eye to eye. "I will go with you to the club," Matt said, "every time. But I decide when you go on the stage," that seemed a good enough euphemism, "and it won't be every time we go. Sometimes we'll just…play."

"Play?" Hooch's brows rose in a mix of surprise and intrigue.

"Play." Matt said. His fingers lightly went to caress Hooch's throat, where a collar would lie. "No whipping, no flogging, no electricity, only a little pain. But while we're there, you'll do as I say. Sometimes I might choose to restrain you with leather, or rope, or chains. Sometimes all you'll wear is my collar and a leash, like some enormous big cat, purring at my feet."

Hooch swallowed so hard, Matt's finger moved with the Adam's apple. "That sounds like a great plan." His voice had become instantly huskier. "What about others?"

"Not much point going to the club if it's just you and me, is there? We could just get a drawer full of toys and surf the internet for ideas and have some fun right here, no need to drive all the way to Raleigh, book a hotel overnight, and get Mandy to take the dog. We can still play with others, but I decide who gets to have you, and how."

"That's the hottest thing I've ever heard in my life. You," Hooch poked his finger into Matt's chest, "are quite a lot more than 'something', Matt Donahue."

His raised eyebrows were barely visible in the darkness of the room, as Matt moved even closer. "I know."

"And I'm a damned lucky bastard." Hooch's hand went southwards towards Matt's cock. "So lucky, in fact, that I have to suck you off now."

Matt wasn't going to argue with that, and he wriggled into a more comfortable position as he felt Hooch shift under the duvet.

From the moment Matt felt Hooch's lips close around his cock and Hooch's hands on his ass, until after he had come and Hooch pulled him into a tight embrace for Matt to drift off, there was only Hooch. As always.

* * *

They went to Hooch's club together every month or so, as Hooch had done on his for the past four years. It never seemed necessary for Matt to acquire a name at the club. He was always simply "H's owner," which amused him when he found out that it was the reverse of the usual order of things, but it suited them. As Matt had decided, Hooch did not always go up on stage when they went. More often than not he and Matt stayed in the main area of the theatre, still the focus of attention. Matt made an effort to take part in a little of the more social side of the club, making the odd posting on the secure forum on the club's members-only website, and going through the club's impressive directory of purveyors of specialist toys and artisans who made items to order and to measure.

At home, Hooch's 'kinky shit' credit card, as they called it, got a strenuous workout as Matt went shopping on the internet, and the collection of well-edited toys soon overflowed from the bottom drawer of the bedside table, and into a securely locked metal chest at the foot of the bed. When Matt soon after started to amass a collection of made-to-measure black leather to wear at the club, a heavy wardrobe with built-in rails, drawers and shelves appeared, so that everything could be neatly organized, including the newly acquired spreader bars.

 


December 2006, Fayetteville

In early December, after they'd been and gone to Matt's family for Thanksgiving a tradition they'd manage to uphold almost every year Hooch was cooking steak at Sunday lunchtime.

"Matt?" he called out from the kitchenette, cutting above the sizzling of meat and through the smoke of hot oil.

"Yeah?" Matt replied from the spare bedroom, where he'd been changing the sheets.

"Do you have anything planned for the holidays?"

Hooch noticing such trivialities was remarkable enough that Matt padded out of the room. "No, not especially. Why?"

"Anne asked me again if we were coming for Christmas." As she had every year. Matt's mom was nothing short of persistent. Hooch switched off the hob and laid the steaks onto plates to rest.

"We've just been there." Matt frowned. Much as he would have liked to have Hooch experience a Donahue family Christmas, he knew that crowds, sociability, small children and Hooch didn't mix. Particularly not twice in two months.

"Yeah," Hooch pulled the tray with fries out of the oven and shook them onto the plates, "but I think we should go. It means a lot to your mom."

Matt stared at him. Blinked hard. Hooch never failed to surprise him. Just when he was starting to feel he was really getting a handle on the kink, Hooch had to go the other way. "You want to go to Michigan, ten feet deep in snow, to get trapped in a house with my family, complete with screaming toddlers and sulky teenagers, sleep in the room next to my parents, and get stuffed full of turkey for the second time in two months?"

"Yeah, well," Hooch shrugged, then carried the plates to the dining table. "I figure if it means so much to Anne I suck up and get myself through it somehow." He fetched the ketchup, pepper grinder and salt, then sat down.

Matt stumbled to his chair, feeling numb. "Why now?" he asked.

"Because," Hooch vigorously shook the ketchup bottle, "you gave me a new way to cope."

Strangely enough, that made sense, as much as anything about Hooch ever made sense. There had been a new stillness, almost a contentment about Hooch, as Matt had ventured more and more into their own particular form of ownership. As if for Hooch, allowing someone else to take control, enabled him to settle, calm down and let go. Matt nodded, and picked up his knife and fork. "I'll book the plane tickets. Do you want to tell her we're coming, or shall I?"

"I leave that to you." Hooch smiled briefly, before tucking into his steak and chips. "I plan to go to the club the weekend before the holidays. You good with that?"

The weekend before Christmas was what passed as the themed 'holiday party' at the club, which would be full of members. From what Matt had been reading on the club's private online forum, the night would be even wilder than usual. Hooch had never gone that particular weekend before, and it was going to be a new experience. "Sure," Matt replied, "but not on the stage. We're not explaining any injuries to my nieces and nephews. Or even worse, my parents."

Hooch didn't try to hide his amused grin. "I didn't expect to, but I saw you buying that high leather collar and leash set." He took another bite, chewing carefully. "I didn't snoop, by the way, you left the page up." He paused, "also, I have a Christmas present for you that requires work beforehand to be in time for the club."

Matt put down his flatware and looked at Hooch, wondering what he was up to now. Rex, by now sensing that for some unknown reason, his humans were distracted from their steak, came and sat down next to Matt: perfectly straight, nose trembling, quietly hopeful eyes staring at Hooch.

"You've been talking about wanting to put more piercings on me. I booked an appointment tomorrow for a cock piercing." Hooch tilted his head ever so slightly.

Matt swallowed as he imagined it, then nodded. Approval granted.

"The appointment is in the evening. I was told I should go for a Prince Albert. You agree?" Hooch cut off a piece of steak, sneaking it under the table for Rex. As if he ever failed to do that.

"Yes." Matt picked up his knife and fork again, ignoring the delighted sounds of a greyhound chewing his favorite treat. Despite the fact that Rex was meant to be his birthday present, the dog was well and truly Hooch's. "Yes," he repeated. "I agree and I will come with you."

"Good." Hooch smiled once more, going back to his favorite meal. He and Rex, they had too much in common.

* * *

A couple of weeks later, Matt stepped out of the changing room at the club, dressed in his usual black leather. No concession to the season, despite the subtle decorations in gold and silver and crystal at the club, and the seasonal refreshments and snacks. He wrapped the new leash around his hand; long enough for Hooch to crouch at Matt's feet when Matt was standing, but not much more. Hooch moved his neck, trying to get the high collar to settle. Though it was covered in soft doeskin, and carefully fitted so as not to restrict breathing, it was still high enough that it was uncomfortable for long periods of time.

Matt had added new adornments to Hooch's body in the form of weights hanging from the nipple rings, made from the same darkly gleaming metal as the new piercing in his cock and the cock ring and ball spreader.

Hooch had never had weights attached to his nipple rings before, because Matt had insisted on a thorough healing, and the new sensation added to keeping his ring-bound cock hard, which ensured that his erection remained proudly displayed by Matt, his owner. He had to concentrate on walking properly on the leash, to keep in step while not able to look down, but then the whole thought behind this new broad collar was so that his face was there for all to see, and especially his eyes. Matt had commented that Hooch's looks had always attracted him and that hiding his features and dark eyes from the club was criminal.

They headed towards the theatre, sure of their steps. They had tried a few of the smaller themed rooms but they kept coming back to the theatre, to the crowd, even when Hooch did not go on stage. Matt enjoyed showing him off too much; enjoyed the admiration that Hooch attracted. The doors opened in front of them, attended, as always, by the silent, collared staff.

Inside, the theatre had more of the gold and silver decorations, augmented by heavy, dark purple drapes. There were bodies on the stage, at once more artistic and less real than the usual participants, and Matt remembered there were meant to be organized shows tonight from invited professionals.

Hooch kept his eyes straight ahead, learning quickly how to keep pace on the leash. He didn't seem to notice the admiring glances towards the two of them, both from men and from women. Matt was stopped soon by other regulars who greeted him and pulled him into a conversation, surprised and glad he was there, what with H never having attended the Christmas ball before. No one addressed Hooch, because here, at the club, he was nothing but Matt's possession.

A gentle tug on the leash caught Hooch's attention. "Sit," said Matt softly, into owner-mode. Matt lowered himself into a low sofa, indicating the soft carpet at his feet.

Hooch obeyed immediately and went down to kneel at Matt's feet, shoulder touching a leather-clad leg. Kneeling like a large, dangerous cat, tamed by its owner.

Matt reached out a leather gloved hand, stroking the side of Hooch's head with light fingers, a gentle tug on the leash drawing Hooch even closer. Matt looked up as a pair of legs appeared in front of him.

"Merry Christmas." Matt recognized MC's voice. He hadn't been at the club for a few months, and Matt knew better than to ask. Hooch was far from the only club member who needed discretion above all else. "Is H for use tonight?"

"Not on the stage," Matt told him. He lifted a glass from a tray. "We'll see what we do down here later in the evening." His voice was firm, no promises, and yet all promise, his hand still stroking Hooch's face and hair. MC nodded and departed.

The club was buzzing, with a lighter, more festive mood than was usual, and Matt put it down to more of the less hard-core members attending for the holidays party. The staff wore red collars, a departure from the usual black, as they circulated with food and drink. There wasn't a great deal of play going on yet, mainly people arriving and greeting others. Robertson mingled amongst them all, like he very rarely did. Immaculately dressed, his slave demurely at his side, eyes down.

He caught Matt's eye, nodding acknowledgement, and spared a glance at Hooch, before returning to his conversation, but not before Matt caught a strange, satisfied look on the owner's face: the triumph of being correct. Odd.

"What a surprise to see you here," another voice, just off to Matt's side. It was Tank, a naked but hooded slave on all fours on a very short leash, with whom he had been attending the club in the last three months. The slave was always bound by ropes, every time in different but equally artistic and decidedly painful ways. The elegantly-limbed and smoothly waxed man had a well kept body of indeterminate age, manicured nails, a gym-fit body, and never attended without a full black leather hood that was fixed to the tight locked collar he wore, and which covered his entire face including his eyes. With only holes at the nostrils and a thin breathing tube that indicated the gag he was wearing unless his mouth was in use, no one had ever seen the slave's face, ensuring utmost discretion. Tank gave the leash a tug and the man knelt down with remarkable grace.

"Good you're here, I have a gift for you." Tank made a gesture towards one of the staff, who hurried off.

Matt barely flicked a glance towards the hooded slave, and kept his eyes on Tank. "I'm intrigued." Leaning back slightly to get a better angle, but not taking away the hand that had been absently caressing Hooch.

Tank watched the caress and his mouth quirked up in a half-smile, but he said nothing. The staff member re-appeared with some lengths of Tank's shibari ropes, before disappearing once more, never turning his back to either of the men, while not paying any attention to the kneeling bodies.

"May I?" Tank indicated Hooch. "H needs to stand, back to me."

Matt inclined his head, not even a full nod, as he tugged on the leash. "Up," he commanded. Hooch rose smoothly to his feet, presenting his back to Tank, cock jutting out at the level of Matt's face, but he knew better than to hope for relief.

Tank took Hooch's wrists and began to loop, then pull and knot the wrists tightly together in Hooch's back. He continued up his lower arms, forcing the elbows together, so that Hooch's shoulders were forced back, his sculpted chest with its nipple adornments thrust out, and his shoulder blades stayed uncomfortably close together. When Tank finished, he had tied Hooch's arms together in his back, as if in a sleeve, all the way up to his biceps, making it impossible for him to move or to give himself any relief from the strain.

Hooch hadn't made a sound throughout the binding, but his cock was now weeping and his chest expanded with his shallow breaths. The knotting was intricate, creating patterns on skin and muscles.

"Does it meet with your approval?" Tank slowly turned Hooch round, three-hundred-and-sixty degrees.

Art in rope and flesh, Hooch's muscles straining and his body's honed, hard edges shown off to devastating effect, Matt could do nothing but nod. Tank's skills and keen eye had never failed to impress Matt in the months that he had been a regular at the club. "Very much so," Matt said after a pause. "So much so that I think H should thank you for it. Down." The last word to Hooch, accompanied by a tug on the leash.

Hooch lowered to his knees, then turned to face Tank, shuffling closer to nuzzle his leather clad groin indicating how he knew he was supposed to thank the man.

Tank unzipped and took out his cock, guiding it to Hooch's lips. He stood with his legs braced, keeping his hand on his own slave's head, who appeared to be extremely concentrated, as if listening to every sound, lost in his hooded darkness.

Matt flicked a glance at the slave. He'd considered, and then discarded the notion of hoods and such restrictions on Hooch-he wanted Hooch to see, to hear, to sense all that was going on, and, if he wanted to be honest, he wanted to show Hooch off. Hooch; Hooch was his, not some anonymous, shadowy figure.

Hooch applied every skill he'd ever acquired, having only the use of his lips, tongue and throat, he quickly got Tank hard. He proceeded to force himself mercilessly down and open, taking him deep down his throat, as he fucked himself on the cock.

Matt noticed Tank's reactions, saw how the man was getting closer to the edge. Hooch's skills never failing, Tank suddenly laced his fingers hard into Hooch's hair and abruptly pulled him off. Cock dark and hard, glistening in the dim light from saliva and precum.

"Stop." He snapped his fingers and his own slave immediately reacted, faster than Hooch could move out of the way. Scrabbling to try and blindly find his master's cock, with his arms bound, painfully bent and up his back, Tank helped guide his hooded slave, before unclipping the mouth shield and pulling out the gag. The greed with which the slave sucked down on Tank's hard cock surpassed anything Matt had ever seen, and within a few seconds, hands clamped down on the leather-clad head to hold it still while thrusting deeply into his slave, Tank came with a groan. The slave greedily swallowed, his tongue swirling and lapping with obscenely wet noises, as Tank pulled back a little to allow him to clean up the cock he so very obviously craved.

When Tank pulled the slave off, the man spoke, his voice hardly ever heard at any of their outings at the club. A voice that was deep and smooth, a beautiful baritone. "Thank you, Master." No more, before Tank pushed the gag back in and clipped it securely to the hood, petting the slave's head.

Hooch had returned to Matt's feet, kneeling once more, and Matt lifted a glass of water with a straw off a tray that appeared at his elbow, holding it in place for Hooch, who took sips as long as Matt encouraged him to. Matt surveyed the room, before returning to Tank, who inclined his head.

"Merry Christmas." With that Tank turned, tugging sharply on the leash and his slave crawled on all fours, closely at his feet.

Hooch rubbed his face against Matt's knee, when the water was taken away, then looked at him for a moment, dark eyes full of his peculiar mix of lust and calm. The room was filling up, and there was more than one long look that came their way, but Matt stayed where he was. A gentle hand on Hooch's shoulder, feeling the tension in the muscles bound in their awkward position. Strained, yes, but Hooch could stand to be restrained for a lot longer.

"Tank told me you are here." Matt heard the New England accented voice before Eagle stepped into his vision. "I had hoped so, I got you a present." He was without his personal slave, who was 'being performed on' centre stage.

"Present?" Matt asked, surprised to receive a second gift.

"A thank you for all the times I played with H." Eagle produced a slim, leather bound box, then looked down at Hooch's cock, and his smile grew. "Perfect. Thought you'd go for a PA sooner or later. Metal and ink suit him." He opened the box and showed the contents to Matt. A shiny metal wand, medium thickness compared to the heavy ones Eagle had been using on Hooch in the last months, with a short 90-degrees rod screwed on, and screw-on rings on top and side bar. Exquisitely made and certainly expensive. "May I?"

Accustomed enough to Eagle and his preferred game to know what was coming, Matt nodded his permission as Eagle took the wand out of the box.

"He has to stand up."

Matt gave another tug of the leash, which was all it took to order Hooch to stand up. Unable to look down at himself, due the high collar, Hooch's breath quickened with anticipation, making his exposed chest visibly expand.

Eagle snapped on latex gloves, positioned himself so that Matt could watch the proceedings, before he bent towards Hooch's cock and carefully removed the piercing. He unscrewed the side rod, then produced a small, sealed tube of petroleum jelly. He not only lubed the wand itself, but squirted a generous amount straight into Hooch's slit, and the cool lubricant suddenly inside his cock made Hooch gasp and his body tense. He had a good idea of what was going to come, but his thighs showed a visible tremor, as he braced himself.

"The wand is hollow," Eagle explained while allowing the weight of the metal rod to slide into the opening and down the urethra. "It can be worn for several days and nights. H can piss through it, and come, if you allow him to." Eagle held Hooch's cock in place without forcing the object inside. Always careful, he was known in the club for his skills that avoided damage. Hooch shuddered, his breath speeding up, the deeper the wand slid down. Eagle gave it a few gentle twists to encourage it further, and all the times before that he had played with Hooch's cock, using his largest wands, made it easier for Hooch to accept this one. Eventually it was all the way inside, and Eagle carefully pushed the side bar through the piercing hole and screwed it in tightly. By the time he was done the wand sat securely inside Hooch's cock, with metal rings protruding out of the tip of his cock and the piercing hole.

"I think it suits him." Eagle said to Matt as he stepped back and pulled his gloves off. A female member of staff appeared at his side, took the discarded gloves and handed him a wipe, with which he cleaned the superfluous lube from Hooch's cock. "Beautiful." He stated with satisfaction.

Matt couldn't help but agree with him. "It is indeed," was all Matt said to Eagle. Hooch was now visibly shuddering with the intrusion, sweat breaking out across his shoulders, but there was nothing he could do, bound as he was.

Matt waited a second more, a smile curling at the corner of his mouth as he stood up. "Very nice indeed," he commented, standing in front of Hooch. "Bend over," he ordered, taking a step back so Hooch had sufficient room. "I think we'll have a special treat." He took Hooch firmly by his shoulders to keep his face level with his own cock. "Make it slow," he told Eagle, as the other man realized what Matt intended. "Draw it out. I want him to enjoy it properly, but unable to come."

Eagle gave a grin, not sparing a glance at his own slave being used up on the stage, as he concentrated on Hooch's ass instead. He pushed Hooch's legs apart as far as possible without losing balance completely. Taking his rapidly hardening cock out, he gave himself a couple of strokes to fully harden, then rolled a condom onto his cock and lubed himself up. Discomfort for slaves was one thing, discomfort for himself unacceptable.

Hooch shuddered as he bent low and opened up, feeling the wand deep inside his cock, stimulating with every movement, and the weights in his nipples hanging free, adding to the sensations. He groaned and opened his mouth when Matt pushed his gloved thumb between his lips, sucking and licking at the digit.

Matt unbuttoned his fly with one hand and freed himself, then nudged at Hooch's lips, to feed him his cook. Sparing a glance at Eagle, meeting the other man's eye, they both pushed into Hooch at the same time at both ends.

Hooch's body alternated between trembling and tension, desperate sounds vibrating against Matt's cock, as he tried to push back to gain more sensations from the cock that was filling his ass, or to push forwards to create greater suction and to take Matt deeper, but he could do neither, held between the two men as if in a vice.

An audience began to gather around the tableaux, but Hooch didn't care about anyone but the two men, the two cocks, that were filling him front and back, speared between them and whimpering with increasing desperation, as they sped up their strokes, and increased the strengths of their thrusts. His sweat-glistening body could never get enough, and the combination of cock ring and Prince's Wand made it impossible to come.

Eagle was losing his rhythm, but he caught Matt's eye, a matter of good manners, guest to host, and waited until Matt's barely perceptible nod. Only then did he speed up his thrusts until they became erratic, and when he came, it caused Hooch to whine with need, but his cry was muffled by Matt's cock. Eagle waited barely a second, before withdrawing from Hooch, keeping hold of the condom. A silent staff member appeared at his side to take the used condom and hand a damp cloth to him to clean himself up. Eagle gave him a "Merry Christmas", before he went back to the stage to take care of his own slave, which Matt barely took notice of.

With Eagle gone Matt held tightly onto Hooch and thrust harder, rougher, deeper, as if boring down his throat before feeling like he had exploded down Hooch's throat. Barely managing to keep their balance, they only narrowly avoided collapsing on the floor. Both sprawling down once Matt had withdrawn, and Matt moved to Hooch's side for a deep kiss, like they usually ended such things. Tasting, licking himself from Hooch's lips, while Hooch whimpered against his own. Matt eventually broke the kiss and looked down at Hooch's cock-weeping, red and desperate-and touched the protruding rings from the wand, giving it a few gentle tugs.

Hooch hoarsely cried out against the side of Matt's neck, trying to thrust into his hand, but Matt hushed him softly. "Not yet." He let go and petted Hooch's sweaty face, before kissing him deeply once more, ignoring the desperation.

Matt tucked himself away and sat back down. The leash had been wound around his wrist all that time, and he tugged at it, as he opened his knees for Hooch to move between. "Kneel." He quietly commanded it, and Hooch, despite the pain he was in and the raging lust and need, did immediately as he was told. Kneeling between Matt's legs, facing the crowd that was slowly dispersing. His cock a deep purple, straining against the metal rings that bound it and the wand that was inside it, but he forced himself to sit still as ordered.

Matt requested a double whisky and soda from one of the staff, then dug his thumbs and knuckles into Hooch's overly stretched and twisted shoulders, massaging the strain, making Hooch moan softly.

Fingers firm against Hooch's burning muscles, Matt stopped when the drink arrived. With a hand on Hooch's chin, he gently pushed Hooch's head back, and tipped the glass against his lips. Hooch obeyed the unspoken order and took a sip, but the glass remained and kept nudging against his lips, until Hooch had finished all of the whisky. Matt held up the glass and ordered another, before going back to firmly massaging Hooch's shoulders.

After the second whisky, which Matt made Hooch drink in one go once more, he felt Hooch lean heavier against him, like a large, dangerous cat that had been tamed to be petted. The alcohol was clearly doing its work.

Matt brushed his gloved hand against Hooch's skin, long strokes down head and neck, bound arms and back, over the ropes. Light, affectionate, and Hooch came closer, as always more tactile under the influence. Moving his hand under Hooch's chin once more, he pulled his head back even further than before, and brought his mouth close for a deep kiss, thoroughly tasting Hooch and whisky and his own cum. One hand holding Hooch's chin still, so that Hooch was unable to move away from the assault, the other gently smoothing his head and neck, before moving across to the front, to stroke his chest and play with his pierced nipples.

Hooch's breathing increased, quietly moaning into Matt's mouth. At first trying to strain and gain more, but he had no leverage whatsoever, and he soon fell into utter passivity, as he let his mouth be plundered. It only served to increase his discomfort and need, but he didn't care. Not now, that in his mind and his world there were only Matt and himself, and Matt was giving him more than he had ever known he needed: the absolute control that allowed him to give up his own.

When Matt broke the kiss and took his hand off Hooch's hard and reddened nipples, Hooch whispered hoarsely, "please…"

Matt paused. Hooch, begging, when he never did under the lash or the most brutal beating. He would scream, thrash, and moan but never beg. "Hmmmm…" a rumble, as he nuzzled Hooch's neck. "Please what? Please let you go?" He touched the ropes so beautifully binding Hooch's arms, but Hooch shook his head. "Please let you come?" a light touch on Hooch's straining cock, the touch of leather on the sensitized flesh bringing a shudder, and yet Hooch shook his head. "Or is that a please for more?" His hand went back to the nipples, twisting one of the gleaming rings.

Hooch let out a hissing breath and nodded. He arched further back, ignoring the impossible strain on his shoulders, arms and back, until he was bent across Matt's thighs, presenting his taut chest while looking at Matt, dark eyes blown wide.

Matt trailed a single finger down from Hooch's jaw, gliding over the collar until he reached the left nipple, circling it, pinching it, rolling it, meeting Hooch's eyes, who gasped and moaned. Usually silent, this time he didn't hold back, not when the pleasure outweighed the pain, and his brain was intoxicated. Matt put his lips on the left nipple, while his hand moved to his right, nibbling, moving the heavy ring around with his teeth, lathing the hard buds with laps and kisses, nips and tugs of the ring, alternating between the nipples with mouth and fingers.

Hooch moaned loudly, bending even further backwards to breaking point, and his whole body shuddered as suddenly, unexpectedly, every muscle in his body tensed and he let out a deep, hoarse cry, shaking violently as orgasm hit him. Despite the restraining cock ring, he ejaculated into the hollow of the wand deep inside his cock, his cum held back by the screwed-on top. The orgasm was so sudden and intense, Hooch slumped against Matt's legs and slid down, out cold.

Matt was beside Hooch in barely a fraction of a second, removing the collar first to ensure that Hooch could breath comfortably, then turning him on his side to carefully remove the wand and cockring while two staff members appeared as soon as they realized he had lost consciousness, and swiftly cut the ropes from Hooch, freeing his arms.

Matt didn't notice the small crowd that had gathered curiously, polite enough to disperse once they realized what had happened. Another staff member brought a tall glass of cold water and a cool damp cloth, but by then Hooch had jerked awake, blinking stupidly around himself. "Matt?" His voice was softer and more disoriented than Matt had ever heard it.

Matt had taken his gloves off and was gently stroking Hooch's face, skin to skin. "You came without permission," he said softly. "Normally, I wouldn't like that but it was hot." Lips on Hooch's again, coaxing and then devouring.

When Matt broke the kiss, Hooch had recovered enough to have his wits about, albeit still mellow from the whisky.

Matt chuckled, used the cloth to wipe the sweat off Hooch's face, then cleaned his cock that still had cum dripping out after the wand removal. At last he tipped the water to Hooch's lips, encouraging him to take small sips. Hooch's arms were useless right after being freed, and so he sat on his hip, leaning into Matt's solid presence as he drank.

After a while Matt took the glass away, waved a member of staff closer and gave her some directions before she left quickly.

"Let's get this back in." Matt took Hooch's cock piercing jewelry when it was offered to him and bent down to carefully thread it through the piercing hole. Hooch winced slightly, his urethra sore from the PA wand, but Matt knew Hooch would cherish the discomfort.

Satisfied that Hooch had recovered somewhat, Matt stood and moved back to the chaise where he had been sitting, stretching out. Hooch followed more slowly, settling to once more kneel between Matt's legs. Matt kept the weights in Hooch's nipple rings, but deliberately left the collar and leash off.

The show on the stage had moved to acrobatic contortions, though they were the still the sanitized, artistic moves that were miles away from what Hooch craved. Hooch watched too, for once the observer and not the observed, relaxed and half-dozing, accepting food from Matt's hand in the form of the tiny canapés that were circulating around the room, miniature treats that were barely more than half a nibble, works of art in and of themselves. Contrasting tastes and textures, chosen by Matt, from the saltiness of smoked salmon and caviar, the spiciness of tostaditas topped with chili and pork, to the sweetness of the macaroons.

No games, no playing, nothing else for the rest of the evening, until it was time to go to the hotel. Sitting and watching the others, while Matt exchanged pleasantries with the doms, masters and mistresses, while caressing Hooch's face, kneading his shoulder muscles, or carding his fingers through the dark hair, now peppered with grey at the temples.

Power, control and ownership had nothing to do with collars or chains, floggings or fucking, ink or metal, but everything to do with Hooch and Matt.

 

Christmas 2006, Flint, Michigan

The 23rd of December was hell for any traveler, by road, rails or air, but Matt had booked first class tickets, and their checking in was less painful than for most. They were settled in their seats as the plane took off, when Hooch craned his neck to look at Matt. "I don't have presents for your family."

Matt met his eyes as he accepted a glass from the hovering stewardess, ignoring the batted eyelashes. "All taken care of," he told Hooch, "and already delivered. You can buy more than just kinky shit off the internet, you know."

Hooch grinned with relief. "Thanks, buddy." The latter added for the benefit of the far too nosy stewardess. "What did you get?"

Matt scratched the side of his nose. "iPods for everyone over the age of 12, whatever the site suggested for everyone under. DVDs and stuffed toys, mainly."

"And your mom and dad? I should have got something special for Anne." Hooch frowned.

Matt looked around, but the cabin crew were busy preparing for handing out meals, and the other passengers occupied with their own concerns. "Taken care of. From both of us. Mom thinks it's special enough that we're coming at all."

"Okay, but what did you get for her?" Hooch insisted.

"A new camera, and I got dad a laptop." Matt studied Hooch with curiosity. "Why the sudden interest?"

Hooch shrugged, but his nonchalance wasn't entirely genuine. "Because we're there for the first time for Christmas?"

The look Matt returned was skeptical. "Nothing at all to do with how she sees right through you?"

Hooch sighed deeply. "You bastard," but the corners of his lips quirked, "I like her, okay? And I'm a fucking idiot for not getting her something personal, but damned if I even knew where to look and what to get."

Such thoughts, let alone words, were remarkable enough from Hooch that Matt thought for a few seconds before replying. "Just having you-us-there is going to be weird enough for her this year, I think," trying to calm Hooch down. "Next year," he paused, letting Hooch get used to the possibility, "bring her something from home, a book or something on the history of the place. She likes that sort of thing."

"Really?" Hooch managed to raise only one brow. "Sounds damned boring to me." He fell silent once more, but he moved his arm beside Matt's on the arm rest between their seats, and ever so slightly pressed their arms together. He closed his eyes, indicating to Matt that as usual, he'd be the silent travelling companion.

Matt gave an amused snort, but put his headphones on, ready for the boring flight north into the snow.

* * *

They were met by Anne at arrival, as it had proved all but impossible to rent a car, and she greeted them both with a hug. "I'm so glad you could make it. Everyone's arrived and looking forward to seeing you, and thanking you for all your presents. You really shouldn't have."

Hooch hugged her tightly, the only other grown-up person in the world he did that for. "You have to thank Matt, if it had been up to me you wouldn't have anything because I forgot."

She just laughed, reaching up to pat his shoulder. Hoisting the luggage into her car they were soon on the road.

Anne updated them on the past month as they made their familiar way back to the house. Hooch listened intently to the normality of their lives, while Matt stared out at the snow-covered landscape, his childhood hidden under thick blankets of white. Arriving at the house, greeting Matt's father and brother who were clearing the driveway, before going upstairs to put their bags down. In Matt's childhood room again, with the double bed that had been bought so many years ago for the first visit at Thanksgiving. Almost the only bed, apart from their own, that they could share.

With Hooch and Matt's help the driveway was cleared quickly, and when they returned into the house, warming drinks were waiting for them.

They promised to help clear the driveway, and Hooch went upstairs to gear up. He had planned ahead and had packed his military winter gear, the urban version. He didn't have clue, when he came back down, what he looked like: all in black, and so very much the dangerous motherfucker he really was.

Anne struggled not to let on how taken aback she was, but Matt understood. The moment he saw Hooch geared up, he knew the impression he gave to everyone: the veneer of civility was off and he showed how deadly he really was. A glance at Hooch confirmed what he already knew, that Hooch was oblivious to the effect he had on most people. Not even when Hooch's eldest nephew, a grumpy teenager, came into the kitchen for a drink, took one look Hooch, and slowly backed out again.

"Is something the matter?" Hooch asked, taking a sip of the hot cider as the teenager fled the room, watching Matt's silent parents and brother. "I look like a complete idiot in winter gear inside the house," he grinned, "is that it?"

Whether it was the smile, or that Hooch had come up with an acceptable alternative explanation, there was a visible lightening of the mood in the room. Anne laughed. "I've just never seen you in it before, even though it's sometimes a bit chilly at Thanksgiving. Black suits you." In a sort of dangerous, I-shall-kill-you-if-you-do-not-do-as-I-say way, she didn't add.

"Didn't think camo was appropriate for Christmas." Hooch pointed his gloved hand at the window. "Anything else that needs doing outside while I'm geared up?"

"No, all done," John huffed. Matt's dad was a man of few words but undoubted warmth. "Just got to watch the driveway the next few days."

"Okay." Hooch put the empty mug down. "I get changed, then. Let me know when it needs doing, I got the gear."

Matt laughed at his dad's surprised expression. "Delta." He shrugged with a grin.

"Ah, yes," John said at Hooch's retreating back, listening to the footsteps on the stairs. "Just goes to show they are a breed apart."

Matt almost choked. "Hooch is a breed apart alright." He didn't add anything despite his mother's quizzical look.

The rest of the day went quickly, until it was time for early dinner, where everyone-as was traditional-ate too much, before putting on their winter overcoats and piling out to the cars to drive to Midnight Mass. Matt had somehow managed to persuade Hooch to mix up his military winter gear with civilian clothes, so as not to look like he was there to put a bullet in someone. His greatest achievement in that persuasion was that Hooch still had no idea how menacing he could be to a civilian, even when he didn't try at all.

Hooch had become increasingly silent, but refused to tell Matt what was the matter. Instead pretending to be fine, with an expression meant to resemble a smile pasted on his face. With the cars filled with talking relatives, fidgeting children, and the various bits and pieces that were being taken to church, there wasn't any opportunity for Matt to ask what was wrong. They soon arrived in the parking lot, everyone decanting from the cars, and Matt's family was being swallowed up by the crowd.

Matt knew that Hooch would need a moment to prepare himself for the onslaught of the mass of unfamiliar people, and they waited for a few minutes on the far side of the car. "You look like you're about to implode. What's wrong?"

Hooch clamped down on his control so tightly, his teeth ground as he shook his head. "I'm fine. Just not big on churches, especially not the Catholic ones with all their sin bullshit. I heard enough of that for a lifetime."

Matt blinked at the tone and the words. Hooch was an iceberg in more than just the obvious, but also in what was usually so deep below the surface: the gaping holes in his past, that not even the increased contact with his sister over the last few months had come close to filling in. Something was seriously wrong. "Do you want to go back?" Matt asked, "say one of us is coming down with a chill?"

"I'm not disappointing your mom." Hooch's jaw set into a determined line. "No bastard of a motherfucking priest from a lifetime ago is going to make me do that. I only regret I didn't kill the fucker myself." Hooch forced himself to take a deep breath and went into pokerfaced mission-mode. "Let's go."

Taken aback when Hooch moved off suddenly, Matt almost scrambled to catch up, hoping with all his might that he hadn't just jumped to horrific conclusions from two simple sentences. He walked a reassuring half step behind Hooch as they joined the milling, friendly crowd in the parking lot, so wrapped up and muffled in their winter coats and hats and scarves it was difficult to tell who anyone was.

Matt stayed close to Hooch at all times, always an eye on him, making sure he knew where he was, but he didn't need to rescue him. Hooch was doing a remarkably good job at pretending to be a normal socialized human being. When they moved into the church, aglow with hundreds of candles and beautifully adorned with an abundance of traditional Christmas decorations, Matt shepherded Hooch into a pew, so that he sat between Anne and himself. His mom looked at him with a carefully guarded question in his eyes, as she glanced at the tense man beside her, and Matt mouthed 'help him' at her, behind Hooch's back. Anne nodded slightly, smiled, patted Hooch's hand and sat back, waiting for the choir to start and mass to begin.

Matt sat close, legs touching, trying to be reassuring but feeling the tension in Hooch as he went through the motions. Obviously familiar to Hooch, even if, as he said, it was from a lifetime ago.

Hooch never knelt, stood instead when the majority of the congregation knelt at the appropriate times, and never opened his mouth to join in any 'amen' let alone the Lord's prayer, nor did he sing any of the hymns. He remained tense throughout the rituals, staring straight ahead. To Matt it seemed as if he had retreated into his military mission headspace. Hooch's tension increased during the sermon, his whole body strumming with what Matt was convinced was his urge to fight or flight. Not giving a damn that they might be observed, he placed his hand onto the rock hard muscle of Hooch's thigh, trying to ground him with his presence. He noticed from the corner of his eyes that his mom gently patted Hooch's hand again, then simply left hers on his, so that Hooch found himself sandwiched between two solid, warm presences, and Matt loved his mom for that more than ever.

At last the mass was over, and Hooch seemed to almost slump with relief. He took a moment before getting up, still safely between Matt and Anne, with Matt's dad a step behind, who had clearly sensed that something wasn't quite right. Walking down the aisle slowly, Matt tried to shield Hooch as much as he could as faces from the past came to greet him and to look curiously at Hooch.

Now that the organized part of the mass was over, Hooch managed to get back into his social-dealing mode, and while he left all the talking to Matt and his family, he did shake hands and didn't look as if he was going to bite them off any second. Eventually, the crowds gathered outside at the snow covered and twinkling Christmas tree, to enjoy mince pies and mulled wine in the cold night.

Hooch slipped away at the first opportunity and was standing at the side, in the darkness. His hands in his pockets, he was gazing up into the clear black sky.

"Hey," Matt's voice behind him was soft. "Drink? You look like you need it." Mulled wine in a Styrofoam cup. Practicality for a night when nobody wanted to be left with washing-up that could be avoided. The wine had been barely drinkable even before it had been boiled with sugar and spices in bulk and then ladled out into foam cups in a parking lot, but it was still warm, and alcoholic. Hooch looked rather in need of both.

"Thanks." Hooch took the cup and sipped on it. Steam curling around his face. "Now I know why you are quite the something that you are."

"Oh?" Matt took a step closer, but not touching Hooch. Too exposed out here, even though they were some distance away from the main crowd.

"Yeah, you have a great family. How a family should be." Hooch drained the last of the wine in his cup, not giving a sign how it tasted to him. "Thank you for…" he hesitated, "for letting me be part of it."

"You're welcome," Matt said, "in both senses."

They stayed there, in the quiet and the dark, until they could hear the sounds of the crowd starting to disperse, and returned to the cars and the rest of Matt's family. Anne and John gave Hooch a concerned look, but when it appeared that there was nothing to worry about, they returned to the task of rounding up sleepy children for the car ride back to the house.

They ended up one vehicle short, because the latest newborn had been taken home earlier, and both Hooch and Matt squeezed into the back seat with a couple of kids, between a child seat and a booster pad, refusing to let any of the older folks cram themselves in there. The younger one, a toddler of two, was so tired, she immediately drooped, snuggled up to the man beside her, and took hold of his large hand, which happened to be Hooch's. His look of quiet panic was priceless, but Matt just shrugged with a 'can't do anything about it, buddy' gesture and John and Anne in the front appeared to be oblivious. Hooch had no other option than to sit still, keep his hand where it was, and let the kid sleep. Only Matt noticed how Hooch gradually relaxed, his breathing evening out in sync with the kid's. Who would have known.

Matt barely hid a smile on the way back to the house, and as he unbuckled his little niece and carried her to bed, more thoughts burned through his mind. He had no time to ask Hooch that night, because by the time he got to their room, Hooch was already in bed and fast asleep. Crawling in beside Hooch, spooning behind him, Matt tried to get some sleep, knowing that it would not be long before the morning, anticipating to be woken by the sounds of shrieking children at dawn.

* * *

A few short hours later, Hooch jolted awake at a blood curdling scream that had him jump out of the bed, ready to attack and defend, before the next high-pitched squeals and screams stopped him in his one-man mission. "What the fuck?" He stood in his boxers in the dark, chilly room, blearily scrubbing his face.

"I guess they liked the iPods," Matt muttered sleepily, reaching for a pillow and crawling under it, to muffle the sounds. "Come back to bed, it's cold, and they won't be done for a while yet."

"Whatever nice things I said about your family last night, scratch that. Today they are out to give me a heart attack." Hooch grumped but slid back under the duvet. Glad he wore shorts when at Matt's parents. The thought of racing downstairs stark naked and in full warrior-mode, made him shudder first, then chuckle against Matt's skin.

Matt shifted backwards, craving the contact even as he grumbled at the chill. "Kids, Christmas, damage to ear drums. It's traditional. I suppose at least we can be thankful that that's one worry we'll never have."

"I would never have produced a kid anyway." Hooch imitated an octopus as he wrapped himself around Matt to soak up his heat. "I got myself a vasectomy when I joined up."

Matt started, and tried to turn around but was prevented by Hooch's firm grip. "You couldn't have been more than a kid yourself. Wasn't that a bit drastic?"

"Was it?" Hooch would have shrugged, had he been in a different position. "I wasn't going to fuck up anyone's life, so I made sure."

Several minutes passed while Matt thought of, and discarded, a dozen different things to say, and settled for leaning back further into the embrace. "I see." Not that he particularly wanted to, but between what little he did know of Hooch's family, Hooch's amusement in spending his inheritance on his club membership and their collection of increasingly kinky sex toys, and an 18-year-old's vehemence that he would not have children of his own, the picture was emerging, and it was not a pleasant one. "We'll have at least until 8 before any of the adults go downstairs to calm them down," Matt changed the subject, "unless you want to be subjected to endless showing off of presents, I advise we don't go down before 8.30. Anything you want to do before then?" The tone suggestive, as was the pointed shove into Hooch's groin.

"You sure the little monsters of your family won't come storming up here demanding to show off their presents instead?" Hooch chuckled, pushing his groin back against Matt's ass.

"Door's locked, and they know that everyone will be down soon anyway." He paused, grinned. "I'm quite sure we're not the only ones thinking what we're thinking this morning."

Hooch scrunched up his face. "Don't make me imagine sex amongst your family members." He shuddered for good measure, "but I have heard that orgasms are the best way to start Christmas."

"That it is," Matt laughed, "Merry Christmas." With that he wriggled onto his back, waiting for Hooch, who pulled off his boxers and joined Matt back on the bed, but upside down and on his side. In one swift motion he rolled Matt onto his side to face him, and sucked down on Matt's cock while his own nudged against Matt's lips.

Matt never saw Hooch's grin, but he could hear the contented purr.

* * *

When they got downstairs, the living room was awash with wrapping paper, sticky tape, and excited children. There were lots of hugs and thankyous from the children (and the adults) for the presents. Hooch found himself sitting on the floor with two of the five-year-olds, watching one of their new DVDs with infinite patience and quite a lot of entertainment, while Matt was shocked to see his far-too-cool-for-this teenage nephew regress to childhood or became a polite adult and actually was enthusiastic about his new iPod.

Hooch looked up from watching the Pixar cartoon, as Anne pushed a second mug of hot, steaming coffee into his face. He smiled his thanks, and went back to watching, while sipping his coffee. "Uncle Hooch?" One of the kids piped up.

It took Hooch a moment to catch on. 'Uncle Hooch' was a new one. It sounded strange to his ears, because his nephews had never called him that. "Yeah?" He balanced the half empty mug on his knee.

"We want to go and have a snowball fight later. You coming?" The kid looked so hopeful, Hooch couldn't do anything but agree. "Yeah, will do."

"Uncle Matt, too?"

Hooch glanced across at Matt who was chatting to one of his sisters. "I'm sure I can persuade him."

The boy whooped and announced to the whole room that Uncle Hooch and Uncle Matt would take all of the kids out to a snowball fight later. Hooch's expression of sudden panic was back once more, because 'all of the kids' had not been in his plan, but it was too late to protest.

After making sure that everyone was wrapped up warmly, Hooch in the all-black tactical gear that made the kids stare open-mouthed, Matt lead the way out to the large park in the next street that had been the site of many a snowball fight. As soon as they arrived, Hooch sorted the kids into two teams, more or less evenly matched in age and size. He put Matt in charge of one, himself of the other, and declared that this was going to be a proper, snowball war-game, before he spirited his team out of hearing distance for a 'strategy meeting'.

Matt stared after him, then shook his head with a grin, and went to do the same for his own team. While he had keen memories of his time as a USMC, he knew that if Hooch pulled out all the way, he wasn't going to have a chance, and thus he had to try and out-guess his Delta partner.

He had the advantage of some familiarity of the park, if vague, and at least there hadn't been the funds to change the park much in the years since he left. He guided his team to a part of the grounds near the play equipment that gave them easy maneuverability and plenty of snow to stockpile ammunition. Keeping an eye on Hooch, visible in black, he set his team to snowball making, and waited.

Hooch ushered his troop into the lightly forested area, where they first made stacks of snowballs, which Hooch distributed in small piles along the area, strategically planning attack, defense and if must be retreat. He sent out a few of his team, three older kids armed with snowballs, to draw the other team closer by taunting them while pelting them with snowballs. Retreating into the trees, he waited until his scouts were engaged in a fight, before guiding his remaining troops in an arch along the side of the park, flanking the opposing team. The smallest kid held tightly onto his hand as they walked quietly, using the trees as visual shelter as best as they could. When his faction was close enough to belly-crawl through the snow, he placed the kid on his back, where she held on tightly, securing a stack of snowballs as ready ammunition for the moment of sneak-attack.

Matt's team, realizing they were being drawn out into the open, had retreated to the play equipment, where they had the advantage of height, raining snowballs down on Hooch's scouts. Matt kept a keen eye on the park, knowing that Hooch had held half his team in reserve, and he cursed himself that he had lost sight of them.

The older kids of Hooch's team were holding out well. He'd briefed them that it would be hard, they were the decoys, after all, and he'd fired them up, just like he had done when he'd led his team into dangerous missions. The kids had lapped it up, bursting with pride to have been chosen and raring to go. Now they held their own, even though pelted with snow they still kept fighting back.

Suddenly a battle cry from the bushes surrounding the play area, immediately joined by a cacophony of kids' voices that yelled as they attacked Matt's team, that screamed in surprise, having been taken in a pincer movement. Hooch himself came running, the girl holding onto the hood of his tight fitting parka, and Hooch secured the kid with one hand, with the other aiming at Matt, snow balls flying in a crazy mayhem.

It was chaos of running and screaming kids, melting snowballs, white powder and lumps everywhere, slush and absolute fun. It was clear that Hooch's team had 'won', though that was largely moot when everyone was drenched, chilled, laughing and exhausted, more than ready to head back to the house for lunch. Emily clung to Hooch like a limpet, refusing to let go until they were safely back and she was handed over to her mother, protesting all the way that she wanted to stay with "Unca Hooch".

Hooch was still grinning like a loon by the time he'd stomped off the snow on his boots and had shaken off his clothes and hair. When Matt turned to tell him good humouredly he was a bastard for getting snow down his neck and chest, he stopped in his tracks and said nothing, just ruffling the snow out of Hooch's damp hair with a sudden big lump in his throat.

Everyone went to their rooms to get changed, kids and grown-ups alike, before lunch was ready. Hooch stood in the room in his briefs, toweling his hair, when Matt came inside from the bathroom.

Matt closed the door firmly, took the towel and gently helped with the job, the awkward bits where his extra inch of height helped. "I think my mother and sisters are about to nominate you for sainthood for keeping the kids out of the house." He put the towel down. "Thank you," he turned to take Hooch in his arms. Even though he hated himself for deflating the mood, he asked because he had to: "what did that priest do to you?"

Hooch tensed and stepped out of the embrace. His face was closed off. "I'm not talking about this."

Matt's eyes fixed on him in worry, glad that he was between Hooch and the door. "Ok, fine, not now, but at least let me know if…well, I had no idea until last night when we got there and I would have come up with something else if…well…" who would have thought that there was one thing more awkward to talk about with Hooch apart from his need for 'time out'.

"Let it go, Matt." Hooch's facial expression softened, as he kept his gaze on Matt. "Let it go, okay?" His voice gentled, reaching out to gather Matt back into the embrace. His lips moved against Matt's neck as he murmured, "the past is the past. Let it stay there."

Matt nodded into Hooch's shoulder, knowing when to leave something. He'd left it well alone for fifteen years already, hadn't he? "Should get dressed. They'll be calling us down soon."

"I'm starving." Hooch smiled as he let go of Matt once more. If the smile was a little forced, it wasn't the worst of his attempts at it, not by a long shot. "Taking the kids out was probably a ploy by your mom to get me to eat even more than usual."

"You should know that by now." Matt stepped back and headed for the door, leaving Hooch a few precious minutes of privacy before he had to come down and face the horde again.

When Hooch appeared downstairs, he was dressed in a tailored button down shirt that Matt had never seen on him, and which must have cost shitloads, judging by the fabric and the way it fit perfectly. Clearly Hooch's concession to the holidays. He was carrying a large manila envelope, which he placed onto the bedecked mantelpiece. Everyone else was already at the table, inviting him to sit at his customary place, right beside Matt.

For whatever reason, they skipped saying grace, and if Matt suspected that something was up, he didn't let on, but sent his mother a grateful look all the same. If at all possible, the table was even more loaded with food than it had been at Thanksgiving, so much so that the sturdy solid hardwood table was groaning under the weight. As predicted, Hooch was the recipient of all over gratitude from his in-laws for keeping the children occupied so that the adults could get on with the task of getting the meal under way without having overly excited children and their new toys getting in the way.

The children kept chattering away about the 'awesome battle' they had had, and if Hooch received an occasional not-wholly-approving look from one of the parents, it was quickly tampered by the relief and the knowledge that this man, no matter what Matt's family might sometimes think about the quiet Texan officer, was probably the most reliable and safest choice to have around their kids. Besides, there was Matt, and everyone around the table knew without the shadow of a doubt that Hooch Bozic was devoted to Matt.

Hooch was more relaxed now, comfortable with Matt's family through the repeated exposure over the years. The loud, happy, loving family with its perceptive matriarch who had taken him in without a question or a murmur. It was when he moved to reach for another serving of the mashed potatoes, that Matt realized that the fabric of Hooch's shirt, though not exactly thin, was of such fine weave that the shape of his nipple rings was just barely visible when he moved. Matt swallowed his bite of ham with difficulty, wondering if anyone else could see, or whether it was because he knew what Hooch was wearing underneath.

No one else gave any clues if they'd noticed or not, but they might simply be polite. Hooch, turned his head as he reached for the salt, and gave Matt one quick, sharp grin. For once, clearly not oblivious.

Matt shot him a look and looked down at his plate, listening to his brother talk about his upcoming ice-fishing trip to Alaska, nodding at all the appropriate places, because that was all Paul really wanted when he spoke about his beloved fish.

Stuffed to the gills, as usual at his parents' house Matt was amazed that nobody in the family was fat, given the amount of food that everyone down to the smallest child seemed to enjoy. Dessert, however, was where his sisters had always concentrated their efforts, and it seemed that after the table had been cleared from the main meal, it was just as full of pies, cakes, home-made ice-cream and other sweets.

Hooch sat in his chair as if he was never going to be able to get up again, after Anne had ladled a third helping onto his plate, which he'd been too polite to refuse,. He groaned, trying to resist any of the desserts, but in the end he agreed to ice cream, hoping it would somehow fit. The strong coffee afterwards, followed by whisky or brandy for the adults, was much appreciated.

It wasn't before they'd all retired to the collection of sofas, chairs, and cushions on the floor, with all of the kids engrossed once more in their toys and gadgets, that Hooch retrieved the thick manila envelope, and handed it to Matt with a simple, "Merry Christmas."

Matt looked at him quizzically, because Hooch never really took the usual suggested timelines for presents, and bought things when he felt it appropriate, such as Rex coming several months before Matt's actual birthday being fairly par for the course. He opened it, eyes wide, and dropped the entire pile of papers in shock once he read the heading on the first one.

Matt picked up the stack papers, all neatly ordered, and the little plastic card that had fallen out, before the rest of the family noticed what was happening. He flipped through the documents: will, powers of attorney, insurance documentation, pension documentation, bank accounts, investment accounts. Neatly set out in typeface, all the formalities that they could do to make their partnership official, everything short of what their state and Hooch's job would permit. Matt looked across at his partner, stunned.

"Some of those you have to sign in front of witnesses who aren't related to you," Hooch said. Sounding casual to anyone but Matt, who knew him better than Hooch probably knew himself.

Matt nodded, still in disbelief. "I...." he swallowed. "Thank you." He'd think of possible witnesses later, but for now still amazed at the thought behind Hooch's actions. "I guess I should go and see your attorney too," he said, knowing Hooch would understand that he'd reciprocate formally.

"It was all I could do." A hint of insecurity in Hooch's voice, very much unlike him.

"It's more than…" Matt stopped again what was it with him being unable to think things through, "it is all that we can do." Quite literally. Nothing else that could possibly be done, considering who they were and where they lived. "Thank you." He looked down and carefully placed the precious documents back in the envelope before anyone else in the room noticed the quiet in their part of the room.

For the first time ever in front of Matt's family, Hooch reached for Matt's hand and squeezed it tightly. It was clear to Matt what Hooch would have rather done but didn't dare to.

Matt squeezed back, then let go as Emily toddled up, large stuffed bear held close, completely smitten with Uncle Hooch, who smiled ruefully at Matt before picking up the little girl to sit on his lap.
 
 
2011
 
 

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All characters are fictional. Any similarities with living or deceased people are coincidental. Deliverance is intellectual property of Marquesate and TA Brown. Copyright © 2011. All rights reserved.

 

 
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