Fandom: Harsh Realm/Mysterious Skin
Summary: Neil figures an angle.
Note: Latest in a series that includes And We'd Never Know, Manners May Prevail, Complications, and Devotion.
"You should just fucking blow him, already," Mike says. It's a few days after the fire, a few days after the thing that Neil still hasn't decided about, where to classify it, a slip-up, a mistake, something else. They're out of the woods and into a town, even though Mike doesn't like towns--too many places to get sniped from, he says--but they need supplies and with no settlement nearby, scavenging is the next best option.
Never mind that most of this has been scavenged already.
They're standing in the ruined remains of what once might have been a pharmacy, Tom gone two buildings down to check out what had looked from the street like a supermarket, and Neil freezes as he's straightening up with an opened box of band-aids in his hand. He looks up, eye narrowed, and Mike is leaning against the mostly cleared shelf with one hand on his hip and a fucking smirk on his face and Neil just about decks him. The urge is almost uncontrollable and just for a second or two, Neil can't think of any good reason to control it aside from the high probability that Mike will deck him right back.
And it might be worth it anyway.
Neil loves Mike. He's decided that he must, because nothing else really explains why they do what they do, why Neil is still with him after all these months on the run, why Neil wears the collar, why, when Mike slides naked into his sleeping bag and pins his wrists to the ground and moves in him just like that it renders all the cold and the hunger and the bullshit unimportant. Neil loves Mike, he guesses so, but that doesn't mean that Mike isn't still an asshole and it doesn't mean that sometimes there isn't still a little bit of hate.
Not bad hate. But it's there.
"If I wanted to blow him, why the fuck wouldn't I by now?" He tilts his chin defiantly up, half expecting it to be grabbed and held, but Mike just looks at him with clear amusement, unfazed.
"Could be you're waiting for my permission."
Neil snorts a scornful laugh and tosses the band-aids away--mostly empty, and not any real good for them anyway. Wounds that a band-aid can help don't need one in the first place. The box clatters against the wall and drops onto the floor, shining dully in the light that trickles in through the broken windows.
"Since when do I need your fuckin' permission?"
Mike doesn't answer. He reaches out and hooks a finger into the ring at the front of Neil's collar, tugs lightly, and Neil swallows hard. Wishes that Mike hadn't seen that, the swallowing, whatever had been in his eyes. It's hard to forget certain things. It's hard to forget days spent naked and crawling on all fours. It's hard to forget eating on the floor like an animal. It's hard to forget getting to a point where all of those things seemed okay. Where they seemed normal.
Could be, that's where the hate comes from.
"You don't," Mike says, and releases him, fingertip brushing his chin on the way. "That's my point."
Neil huffs another laugh, but as he's turning away, he feels like his head is transparent and Mike can see the wheels turning, see which ones are moving and what they're calling up. Because this never felt like it was completely under his control, and it doesn't now. It feels like it's slipping away.
Because Tom is beautiful, and he shouldn't be, and it shouldn't matter in the first place.
"You were watchin' us that day," he mutters, and he doesn't need to look around to see Mike nodding. He can feel it. He clenches his fist. "Look, you wanna play some kinda fuckin' game, that's fine, you do that, but you do it with me." He turns again, whirling back around, fists still clenched and suddenly and hugely angry. This isn't fair. "You leave him outta this, Mike. You leave him the fuck alone."
Mike cocks his head. "How's that fun?" Neil feels his face tightening into a grimace, almost a snarl, and Mike rolls his eyes and puts up his hands in mock surrender. "Okay, okay. Fuck, didn't know you'd take it like that. Look, he's annoying as hell, you know he drives me outta my fucking mind--but I don't mean him any harm. Honest."
Neil regards him carefully. Closely. It strikes him, looking at Mike there with motes of dust dancing all around him in the thin light, that he doesn't really know him all that well. Not even now. "Coulda fooled me," he murmurs.
"You do still want him, though, don't you?"
It hits Neil like a small lighting strike. Not even like that; it's subtler and quieter and smoother. It's like a light going on, and all those shadows and shapes snapping into great clarity. He doesn't smile, but he wants to, because what he doesn't know about Mike he can feel. He doesn't know the terrain but he can feel his way over it. He doesn't know the house but he can feel his way around the corners.
Mike's a sadist. But that's not all he is. And the sadism has always been kind of a cover for something else.
Just for a moment there's nothing at all. No flicker of reaction. No movement at all. Then Mike huffs a laugh and turns away, crunching over trash and glass and heading for the hole in the wall that serves as a door. But before his face is lost to view, Neil sees it, sees it very well, and that's all the answer he needs. He's grinning as he follows. He's grinning wide and dark.
Mike's got his little games. But he doesn't get to be the only one playing them.