vervaceous: (kiss)
[personal profile] vervaceous
Title: Stand Up Straight at the Foot of Your Love
Fandom: Harsh Realm/Mysterious Skin (TR 'verse, post-Island)
Rating: R
Wordcount: 1667
Notes: For [livejournal.com profile] thetinydemon for some reason.

Lay my head on the hood of your car
I take it too far

I still owe money to the money to the money I owe
I never thought about love when I thought about home


--The National



Tell me what dying feels like.

Neil doesn’t ask it. It’s there between them, unspoken, always. He’s more curious about it than he had expected to be. There are a lot of other questions he could ask and these days they cover the whole spectrum of how and why, but those are questions he doesn’t ask for an entirely different reason. He doesn’t want to trouble it with questions, because everything is fragile and transient--perhaps the singular lesson that the Island taught him, in the end.

But Mike isn’t afraid of anything now. Mike is the same, and at the same time this is a Mike he’s never seen before. And so he wonders about the process that birthed this one. The place he’s been--more than once, now. What he knows.

Tell me what dying feels like.

In a tent, in a whole city of them--the very essence of transience, because tomorrow they’ll be packed up and dispersed again--Mike shoves Tom back and down onto the spread bedroll and fucks him with the kind of rough, joyful abandon that now seems to characterize everything he does, fingers pushing between Tom’s lips and grinning teeth against his shoulder. Tom moans, a wonderfully broken sound, and Neil leans back, closes a hand around his own dick and just watches them in a kind of stricken awe, shadows moving in the hard light of an electric lantern. Something snaps in the air, almost an audible thing, and Mike’s gaze is meeting his own, slick fingers in Tom’s hair now and dragging his head up.

“Look at him.” Mike’s lips are against the flushed pink shell of Tom’s ear, his voice gentle, and Neil is pleasantly unsure of who he’s even talking to. They stare at each other, Mike’s face half-pressed against Tom’s shoulder, and Tom gasps and opens his eyes and electricity spikes through Neil’s nerves as he strokes himself harder.

They make a circuit, all three of them.

He couldn’t question this. Not now.


* * *



The attack comes fast, and it’s over before he has time to be terrified.

It’s a quick strike, precise and precisely handled, surgical. Their group is a tiny fraction of the force that had previously congregated in the tents, seven men and women plus the three of them, sparsely armed but armed enough. In the end there are three trucks on fire and four Republican Guard have been reduced to red stains in the dirt, and the other five are kneeling by the muddy side of the road with their hands clasped behind their heads. One of the women is cursing as a graze on her forearm is bandaged. If Florence were here, Neil thinks, it would be easily handled.

But Florence has her own work to do now.

“What do you want us to do with the supply crates, sir?” Neil looks up from where he’s crouching, waiting for feeling to creep back in around the adrenaline in his middle. It’s one of the others, young--younger than him, younger than he can even remember feeling--and the salute he doesn’t offer is there in his voice.

Tom turns, palming sweat off his brow. The fires are burning very hot. Tom looks tired--Neil wants to go to him suddenly, just to touch him, smudge away the dirt and blood that smears one cheek, just to make that connection and make everything between them more solid and real. But that’ll come later. Now Tom is thinking through his weariness, considering the man and the men and the crates and the fires that roar up toward the hard stars.

Mike is standing silhouetted against the fires, hand on his gun. Neil can’t see his face. He can feel his eyes.

“Sir... should we take them?”

“No,” Tom says quietly. He’s looking at the fires now--at the fires and at Mike. “Throw them on the fires. Burn them.”

“Sir--” The young man is clearly taken aback. He stutters, nervous. “That’s... food, medicine... we could use--”

“But we won’t.” And tired is not the same thing as weak. “We’ll show them. We’ll beat them without it. We don’t need anything they have.”

The young man nods, though in the ruddy light of the fires Neil can see that he’s unhappy, and turns away, moving back toward the others to issue instructions. Neil straightens up and finds, with some relief, that his legs are still working.

Tom offers him a faint, sad smile, reaches out and places a surprisingly cool palm against the side of his face. “You okay?”

“‘M fine.” Neil steps closer, feeling an entirely different kind of heat, thinking about the darkness and the fire and the screaming birds in the trees, thinking entirely too much about the past. The past is a thing that bites. It’s not tame. It’s best to not get too close. “Are you?”

“I’m tired,” Tom says, moving against him, arms circling around him, strong and completely careless of the others around them. Neil wonders if they’re looking. He wonders if he gives a fuck. He turns his head, face against Tom’s neck, and he smells smoke and sweat and sharp copper blood. The gun feels very heavy at his hip.

Three weeks ago he woke up with his face pressed just like this, Mike lying against his side, and Neil thought he was dreaming. Sometimes he’s still sure that he is.

“No shit,” Neil breathes, and it turns into a laugh and then something like a sob, and Tom holds him, holds him in and down, fire against his brow as the others toss the crates into the flames.

Neil opens his eyes and over the firm ridge of Tom’s shoulder, he looks at Mike. Mike looks back. A flare in the flames, sparks, a hundred fireflies exploding up to join the stars, and he can see Mike’s eyes at last.

They are totally and completely without fear.

It’s the sanest form of insanity that Neil has ever seen. No fear, and love enough to burn down the whole world. The kind of insanity that goes laughing into battle and weeps over a dead enemy. The kind of insanity that dares to believe that there is no such thing as an ending. This is what got them here. This is why they’ll win.

Neil closes his eyes and sinks down into warm darkness.

Tell me what dying feels like. Maybe it feels like starting to live.


* * *



“What does it feel like?”

“Mm?” Mike stirs, doesn’t open his eyes, and Neil’s immediately grateful for that--he’s not sure he could look Mike in the eyes and hear the answer to that question, if one is even forthcoming. But then there’s nothing else for a few moments, and perhaps Mike has just fallen asleep again, one bare leg between his in the warmth of their zipped-together sleeping bags, naked skin on naked skin. Tom is a few yards away sitting guard, Dexter curled between his feet; Florence is somewhere in the darkness, lithe and silent as a cat and just as watchful. There’s a glow in the sky--Santiago City. They’re so close. The dragon’s cave is less than a mile away. They’re close enough to feel the heat of its breath. But there’s still that lack of fear, and it’s infectious.

But Neil still wonders.

“What does what feel like?”

Eyes still closed. But no sleep-slur in the words. Neil swallows hard.

“Dyin’. What does it... what’s it like?”

What do you remember? He had been so afraid to ask that question. Almost too afraid to ask it at all. But ten minutes after he had opened his eyes that morning, after he had sat up and tried to draw a breath and failed and choked back tears that cramped in his eyes and face and back all through his body in a wrenching spasm of old grief and new incredulousness, he had found himself asking it anyway.

And Mike had smiled, fingers tangled with Tom’s in the wind-scattered ashes of the previous night’s campfire.

Everything.

Now--that smile again. It sends a chill down Neil’s spine and he can’t fight back the shiver. Mike’s hands tighten on him, like he’s trying to squeeze it out of his skin. Every time Mike fucks him now, it feels like Mike is nailing his body to the ground. Keeping him rooted. Somewhere there are two little blond girls who may or may not know their mother and their fathers, and somewhere there’s a goddess who, Neil wants so badly to believe, will never stop loving them all. But Mike touches Tom touches Neil makes a circuit and the current flows.

And it could burn down the world.

Mike opens his eyes. Blue, sane insanity. Should Neil be afraid of what’s behind those eyes?

Should he be afraid that he isn’t?

“You’ll find out.” And it’s all right.

“I can’t--” Neil whispers, and then it’s choked off and he twists in Mike’s arms almost as if he’s trying to burrow into Mike’s hot skin. He’s not a soldier. He never thought he could be a father. Part of him has never believed that he could really be a husband.

But he’s made it this far.

There’s no light but the glow from the dragon’s mouth as Mike turns him over and slips into him, slick fingers and then slick cock, and while Neil sobs and clutches at the edge of the sleeping bag, he looks up and meets Tom’s eyes and there--there--oh.

No fear at all. The same.

All death is change, all change is death, both are the only constants and neither is an end. It’s the kind of thing Eostre would have said like the old truth it is--the oldest truth. Maybe the only truth. Mike moves inside him until the line between weeping and laughter melts away. They’re all three going to burn down the world and fuck in the ashes and from that, something new will grow.

Tell me what dying feels like.

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