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The clamoring of the crowd was setting Hughie’s nerves on fire. He clutched nervously at his flute of champagne, feeling decidedly out of place amongst the elite Christians. The white collared and hypocritical ones who preached unity and acceptance and generosity while still somehow pocketing millions. For Hughie, who had worked selling stereos for a good two years and a multitude of other part time jobs before that, it was no wonder he knew he didn’t belong.

Regardless, he had a job to do. He had already blown a man up so this should be a cake walk - right ? His frayed nerves didn’t seem to agree with the assessment. He couldn’t even bring himself to sip at the bubbling champagne that was slowly but surely growing warm in his hands.

There was a collective gasp and rise in energy and Hughie’s head snapped up, expecting to see Homelander walking into the tent.

But it wasn’t. An older woman and a young man were hunched over breathing heavily, their legs wobbling unstably. The crowd had parted to give the couple space. There were a smattering of claps and murmured congratulations. After several moments, the woman looked up and smiled brightly at the young man. He took a bit longer but righted himself as well. Both their faces were flushed but glowing with joy.

It took Hughie only a few seconds to realize what had happened.

The first touch. Soulmates.

“We have a bonding tent just outside,” Ezekiel had rushed beside the couple, who were both careful not to touch each other again, though the thick tension between the two made it clear it took effort to keep their hands from one another. “Just follow this attendant.”

A new woman had materialized, dressed in a crisp white uniform not unlike the outfit Ezekiel himself was wearing. She held open the tent flap for them and the three of them disappeared. Excited conversations sprung up immediately upon their departure.

Hughie heard a fair amount of “Praise Jesus” and “God is good” among the lively chatter. There were a few jealous faces but overall the atmosphere had brightened considerably in the tent. The first meeting of soulmates was always a special thing.

Of course, Hughie thought to himself wryly, had the couple been interacial there might’ve been less excitement. He knew these types of folks. There was a reason scam organizations that said they could remove a soulbond were usually popular amongst white Christian conservatives. Or vice versa, organizations that said they could forge a soulbond between a couple. Though those almost always just turned out to be tricks using aphrodisiacs.

Regardless, it wasn’t something Hughie had thought of in a long time. Most people didn’t ever meet their soulmate so witnessing one today was a fairly special occasion. He had made his peace, just as most people did, long ago. He had had Robin afterall and what they had was perfect already, even without a soulbond. His heart ached at the thought of her.

At this, he finally did tip back his flute and down the champagne. It wasn’t crisp and cold anymore like when he had first grabbed it just to give his hands something to do. But it went down all the same. A toast or memento to a future he and Robin might’ve had. To the person he had once been before he had blown up a man and agreed to join Butcher’s cause.

Even if he did find his soulmate, they probably wouldn’t want him. Heartbroken. Used. A killer. He was damaged goods. He hoped, if there truly was a God watching them from above, that he would have pity and make sure Hughie never met his soulmate. Whoever they were deserved better than the life he could give them now.

He was pulled from his self-pity session when the crowd once again broke into excited conversation. He glanced up and saw that this time it truly was Homelander who had graced them with his presence. Hughie felt his heart rate once again shoot up. He ducked his head and made his way over to the refreshments table, exchanging his empty flute for another one. This was cold and freezing in his hands. Grounding.

“Hughie, correct?”

He nearly snapped around in shock, only just catching his reaction in time and turning at a more normal leisurely pace. He looked up at Homelander (he was shockling tall in person) who was grinning at him with a smile that did not reach his blue eyes. Hughie fought back a nervous gulp.

“Homelander-ah. It- It’s a pleasure to meet you, sir,” he managed to stutter out. He clutched the glass tighter.

Homelander only chuckled at this, “Good to meet you too, pal. So, how do you know Starlight?”

Hughie opened his mouth and closed it, shaking his head but forcing himself to smile, hoping to god that it looked believable. “We ah- We only met a few weeks ago-” He noted immediately with surprise that Homelander did not offer him a handshake, didn’t even remove his gloves. It was customary in most cultures to greet new people in such a way. The idea that soulmates could meet and never realize their connection was a tragic one, and the plot of many popular stories, and one that most people tried their best to avoid.

But that was just fine with Hughie. He didn’t think he could shake the supe’s hand without trembling anyway.

If it was possible, Hughie wondered if Homelander’s grin hadn’t somehow grown sharper at his reply.

“Really? Well you must be some guy then,” Homelander remarked. “That is one pricey ticket. Unless- Not soulmates are you?”

Hughie’s eyes widened and he uncontrollably let out an embarrassed laugh. “Oh- Oh no no. Haha. No, nothing like that. We’re just ah- We’re just friends.” He dimly noted that he was beginning to ramble on, a nervous habit from his teenage years, but couldn’t stop. “I’m just really grateful for her and feeling lucky to be here.”

Fortunately for him, Ezekiel called the entire tent to attention, drawing Homelander’s attention away from him. Hughie felt like he had been moved away from a fire and nearly sighed in relief. Homelander was formally introduced to everyone to polite applause and then they were all being led to the baptising tent.

Ezekiel began his speech with the usual religious cult-ish flair with many a “my followers” sprinkled throughout. Then at one point he turned to Homelander and said, “And of course, our alluded hero will be removing his gloves for this ceremony as promised. Maybe if we’re lucky, God has decided that one of you are the equal and antithesis to brave Homelander.”

Hughie blinked in surprise. He hadn’t really known much about this event other than his mission parameters, which was to get Ezekiel alone and blackmail the fuck out of him. Was this the real reason why so many people had paid so much money to be here today? For the chance of  maybe being Homelander’s soulmate?

It felt sleazy. Wrong. But then again, rich people were weird and Homelander was a psychopath anyway. Hughie felt bad for whatever poor bastard was that maniac’s soulmate.

It at least explained why Homelander hadn’t taken his gloves off in greeting earlier.

Hughie did notice that Homelander made a slight eye roll at Ezekiel’s announcement. He didn’t really blame the guy for that. This whole ordeal was just bizarre. Hughie knew that some celebrities did soulmate meeting fundraisers but only “knew” in a theoretical kind of way. He’d never actually seen one in person, much less being a part of one.

Regardless, he just had to get this over with. Get the info he needs and get the hell out. And maybe make it up to Annie in some way. He hadn’t missed the disappointment in her eyes when he had asked her to come here. He had lost Robin but he felt that maybe he could forge something new with Annie. He certainly didn’t want her to feel like he was using her, no matter how much Butcher insisted.

The minutes ticked by with person after person being re-baptised by Homelander. Some walked away with shining eyes. Many walked away with disappointed expressions when no burst of orgasmic pleasure sparked from touching the supe.

And soon, Hughie was walking up the steps. Ezekiel smiled at him, placing a hand on his back to lead him down.

“On this blessed day, you will be reborn a Christian. Washed away of all your sins,” the supe promised. And it was hypocritical coming from him. This whole event was a farce steeped in hypocrisy.

But part of Hughie also wondered briefly, for just a second, if he could ever be washed of his sins. Would Translucent’s blood ever be cleansed from his hands?

The thought came and went and Hughie was suddenly standing before Homelander, the water cool as he stepped deeper into it. Homelander was still smiling at him with that same smile that didn’t reach his eyes. His bare hands were held up, facing palm up, waiting for Hughie.

Nervously, Hughie placed his own hands in Homelander’s.

A burst like lightning shot through him and Hughie could only gasp. His fingers clenched down as pleasure jolted through him at a million volts per second. Dimly, past his own coursing pleasure, he heard a deep grunt followed by a growl. Somewhere beyond that there were gasps.

But Hughie couldn’t focus on any of it. His body was shivering from the hot spikes through him. He had closed his eyes tight but couldn’t remember doing so. Everything had been reduced down to his body, the earth-shattering pleasure burning him from the inside out, and the heat emanating from the hands he was still holding.

There was a rough tug and he was pulled into a searing embrace. Even though the uniform, Hughie could feel burning body heat radiating to him. One of his hands were now empty but another had come up to clutch at his neck, holding him close and tight. He was vaguely aware that the body against his was trembling.

Hughie himself could no longer hold himself up on his legs. They had finally given out. But the hands clutching him did not release him and supported his weight.

And then there was shouting. Hands pulling at him. He heard a deep growl which was followed by another voice, pacifying. And a moment later the hands released him. The torrent of pleasure turned off, leaving Hughie feeling like a marionette cut from it’s strings. His whole body was a quivering mess as someone else held him aloft in the pool.

His senses and reality returned to him slowly but surely. Hughie opened his eyes and saw that Homelander was hastily putting his gloves back on. But with a shock Hughie also realized the supe was staring straight at him with an unnameable intensity.

Homelander. The pleasure. Oh god.

Hughie’s pleasure-addled mind struggled to put the puzzle pieces together. And when they finally clicked into place a deep dread filled from to the brim. Coldness sinking to the pit of his stomach.

Soulmates.

Homelander was his soulmate.

“-a few tents just for this occasion. Another couple was using it but I can easily have them moved somewhere else.” Hughie realized that Ezekiel was talking.

“No need,” Homelander said gruffly, his voice out of breath and gravely. The entire time he spoke to Ezekiel his eyes never left Hughie’s. His face was flushed and his hair disheveled. Hughie had never seen the famous supe so out of it before. “I’m taking my soulmate back to Vought.”

Hughie shivered at the way Homelander said “my soulmate”. Like it was an undeniable truth. Like Hughie belonged to him and had always belonged to him and no god in the world could stop him from having what was his.

“O-of course,” Ezekiel stuttered.

Hughie finally found his voice, “W-wait don’t I get a say in this.” The sound of his voice, so wracked and shaky, caught him off guard. He tried to struggle to his own two legs but found that he couldn’t when they buckled beneath him and he sank.

Homelander was there immediately, pulling him into his arms, steadying him but also not really allowing him any movement of his own. Those hands were iron clasps and Hughie had the horrifying dawning retaliation that he likely couldn’t escape even if he tried.

“Careful, Hughie.” Homelander’s face was suddenly close to his own.

Even though they were no longer touching bareskin to bareskin, Hughie could still feel pleasure rippling across his skin at the proximity. Unconsciously, he leaned in closer and felt Homelander’s warm breath on his face as the supe chuckled at the action.

“I-” Homelander murmured softly so that only the two of them could hear. But even then, Hughie wasn’t entirely sure the next words were for him either. “I thought they said I didn’t have one. That I couldn’t have you. But here you are.”

“Homelander-” Hughie began uncomfortably. He wiggled but found that he could not move in this position at all.

“John,” Homelander whispered to him. “If I’m going to be your soulmate, you should call me by my real name.” Hughie could only stare at the man wide eyed. “Oh. And Hughie?”

Hughie licked his lips nervously and suddenly wished he hadn’t as Homelander’s piercing gaze followed the motion greedily. “Y-yeah?”

“You’re mine.”

~*~