vervaceous: (sideways)
[personal profile] vervaceous
Title: El Dorado
Fandom: Harsh Realm (TR 'verse, sort of)
Rating: NC-17
Wordcount: 3,067
Summary: Mike and Tom travel to Las Vegas in search of treasure, of a kind. What they find isn't what either of them wanted.

Vegas, glittering in the desert night, like a fever dream, a mirage, the fantasy of a treasure-sick explorer. El Dorado. A golden city, luring men to their deaths. Glowing and shining where nothing at all should be in a vast sea of darkness, a gem settled into the palm of a dead world. Vegas. Tom almost laughed as they drove into it, past the "Welcome to fabulous LAS VEGAS Nevada" sign at the edge of what was now the city, all the suburbs ruined and dark. The sign was flickering but illuminated, and as they moved down the street he could see that everything was flickering. The dream was holding on by its teeth, just like everything else.

A few miles back he might have asked why they were here but that was before the lights. Tom closed his eyes and they hammered on his eyelids. Red and gold and purple. Mike slowed down; a thin slit of vision and blurred shapes moving against the glow. People. Lots of people. He couldn't believe there was still anywhere like this in the world.

"Not everywhere died," he whispered, and Mike looked at him and laughed. It was a laugh that could have meant a number of things, and Tom wasn't sure how to decipher it, but then they were stopping in front of a building and the light was almost blinding.

"Makeup on a corpse," Mike said, and gave Tom's shoulder a shove. "Get out. We're here."

Hotel. Not a dingy collection of rooms with piss stains in the corners and army cots for beds, if any at all. Not a bombed-out building with dying people coughing and slumped against the walls in the hallways. A hotel. A lobby, shabby but retaining some of its old extravagance. There were slot machines but no one was using them, and some of them seemed to have been ripped out for scrap. Vegas had run on money. Now there was no money to run on, money now nothing more than pieces of paper and little metal discs, so it ran on the strength of its very existence, improbable and closing in on impossible and deriving its power from that. Here I am. Here I still am. You can't kill me.

Looking around was dizzying but Tom did it anyway, wide-eyed and feeling so far out of his depth. Mike was talking to a man in a tattered suit, who seemed to know him, and as Tom trailed his fingertips over a pink marble fountain, now dry and cracked, he felt a tug on his sleeve.

"We got a room." Mike jerked his head down a wide hallway lit with crystal chandeliers. "19th floor. Cushy."

"19th." It had been a long time since Tom had been that high up. He started to follow Mike, his hands feeling odd and out of place at his sides; you were supposed to have luggage in hotels, and they had their guns and the clothes on their backs, and the car, now parked somewhere and out of sight and mind, because Mike didn't seem to be worried.

"I said, you stick with me." Mike grinned over his shoulder. "I know people."

"You always know people," Tom said, and when Mike's fingertips brushed his forearm he didn't bother trying to pull away.

He knew why they were there. It was unspoken but it was there as clear as the lights outside. Not everywhere died. One thing he had learned from years of death was that when life presented itself, in any guise, you grabbed and held on and you didn't let go.

The elevator creaked and shuddered, and Tom looked around the mirrored interior and would have been nervous except that Mike didn't give him a chance to be, shoving him back against one of those mirrored walls and kissing him so hard he was gasping, one groping hand between his thighs. Mike never gave him much warning. Mike never gave him much time to catch his breath. He knew why they were there. When the door dinged open Mike pulled away with another fast, hard grin, and it was like nothing at all had happened. Tom stood, panting, until he could make his legs work again, and then he followed Mike into the hallway.

The carpeting was thick and as elegant as the rest of the place, though here and there were a few suspicious looking stains. Tom couldn't hear his own footfalls. It was strange, like he wasn't even there at all. He watched the door numbers slide past, gold and curving and weirdly sexual, and he wondered how many of the rooms were occupied. Couldn't be that many. There weren't so many people left in the world.

He knew why they were there. That didn't mean it made a whole lot of sense.

He didn't know their number but Mike did, and he stopped outside a door with 1963 making its sensuous golden way across the pale painted wood, slipping a keycard into the silvery reader above the handle. The card reader looked oddly out of place, like something from the wrong time, the wrong part of the world. The door clicked and whirred and opened for them, and past it everything was still pale, soft and cream-colored, unbelievably clean. Incredible luxury. Tom stepped inside and drew in a breath and didn't immediately let it out again.

Oh, sure, here and there he could see evidence of the world moving on. The sheets on the bed were washed and crisp but they still looked slightly threadbare, edged here and there with faint discoloration. The wood on the dresser, the chair, the bed and the table, all just a little bit scratched, just a little bit imperfect. It was the imperfections that saved it from feeling completely like an illusion. Even though it still was. Tom crossed the room to the window, pulled back the thick curtains and looked out at the dream city. El Dorado. El Dorado killed men. What would it do to them?

He could feel Mike behind him, fingers at the small of his back, warm through the thin fabric of his shirt. "You like it?"

"You brought me a hundred miles for this," Tom whispered. The world was falling apart. This felt a little bit like running away. He smiled wryly. "I didn't know you cared so much."

"We've been roughing it for years. What's wrong with a little luxury now and then?"

"And how are you paying for it?" Tom turned and met Mike's eyes, square, blue-green on blue, and Mike's gaze flickered away.

"I'm not."

"They're just giving it to you?"

"They owe me favors." Mike's mouth was twisting, as though he was tasting something sour. "I called them in. You're welcome, by the way."

"Don't." Tom's hands were moving, slipping under his shirt and tugging it slowly up. He was skinny, he knew that, too skinny and too dirty for this room, scruffy and bruised and in dire need of a shave. But at least he wasn't the only one out of place, just as much as the card reader on the door.

"We're here. Just..." He pulled the shirt off over his head and stood there naked to the waist in the soft glow of the electric light, not firelight, not red and flickering. It was bad light for covering up the scars that wound up his skin like little snakes, knife scars, bullet scars, scars from barbed wire and scars from the claws of animals. He felt exposed and ugly, but Mike was stepping forward, eyes moving slowly over him. Tom cleared his throat and looked down. The curtains were pulled back. He wondered if anyone could see them.

"Never seen you like this," Mike breathed, reached out and trailed his fingertips up Tom's belly, the bumps of his ribs, his breastbone, collarbones, the line of his throat. He dropped his head back and pulled in a shuddering sigh.

"Yes, you have."

"This isn't in the dark."

"There was that time in the labor camp outside St. Louis." Tom swallowed. "The delousing, remember."

"That was so different." Mike's fingers turned into gentle hooks that pressed into his skin, tugging him closer by his neck. He went. He couldn't not. It would be like not falling once you've already jumped. Mike kissed him again, and it wasn't like the elevator. It wasn't really like any other kiss they'd ever had. It was slow and patient where usually it was like being eaten alive. Somehow this was harder to deal with. Tom whimpered and the sound vanished down Mike's throat. So many whimpers and moans and cries gone that way, now pressing against the inside of Mike's skin. Maybe someday they would rip their way out.

"You taste like smoke," Mike whispered, gasping against the corner of his mouth. The campfire outside of town, watching the sun going down. A skinny hare, skinned and spitted. Grease on his fingers, still under his fingernails. Mike tweaked his nipples gently just to hear that whimper again, slid down Tom's body and onto his knees, hooking his fingers under Tom's waistband and tugging, nuzzling at the hardening flesh between his legs.

It didn't fit. None of it fit. Tom bit back a moan and stared up at the creamy ceiling. It still felt too much like falling. Mike got his pants down as easily as he ever had and Tom inhaled when the cooler air hit his skin.

"Don't," he whispered, suddenly aware of how dirty he was, aware and weirdly ashamed, but Mike was leaning in before he was even done getting the words out, dragging his lips up the underside of Tom's cock and Tom could practically feel his smile as his hips rolled forward. Smug asshole, just like always, and the dirtier something was, the more eager he seemed to do it. Like he was trying to prove something.

"Let me get a shower," he gasped, fingers combing and fumbling through Mike's hair, and Mike was pressing a kiss to the weeping head of his cock, standing, grinning, taking Tom by the wrists and pulling him into the bathroom. The bathroom had running water, hot running water, and Mike pushed him under it and stood there watching him arching and shivering and gasping with pleasure, stripping off his own clothes. He fucked Tom there under the shower, and it was hard and too fast and Tom braced his hands against the slick tile and tried not to fall, except it was too late because he had fallen anyway. When he came into Mike's fist it felt like an afterthought, oh by the way.

He knew why they were there. He let himself be pulled against Mike's broad chest, loose and tired under the warm spray. He knew why they were there and it was all right, because he would take what he could get.

Mike wrapped them both in towels, threadbare like everything else but clean, and when he pulled Tom onto the bed and let the towels fall aside, it was cool and soft, the very act of moving his limbs against it a pleasure. Tom sent a quiet moan up towards the high ceiling, turned his head and stared out the window at the lights of the city, as Mike kissed a trail down the damp skin of his throat.

"You didn't have to do this," he whispered, and he felt Mike smile again.

"I don't have to do anything." There was a soft knock at the door, their door, and Mike pushed himself up, groping for one of the towels. "I'll be back. Don't you move."

Tom was going to do what he said, because it was Mike, because they were here, because it was in the rules that he had tacitly accepted without speaking of them at all, but then there were two footfalls so soft on the carpet like the padding of a cat, and there was something so familiar about them, about how they sounded in tandem, that he sat up and stared and then stared harder when he saw who it was. This was too much, too fast, and he was too naked. There was too much of him showing, on his face, in his eyes. He looked up at Mike and he could feel the stricken expression on his face. Mike only looked puzzled.

"I got him for you," he said, pushing the young man--not a young man, not in appearance, really only a boy--forward. Dark, shaggy hair. Slitted eyes, equally dark, amused and always gauging. A perpetual smirk of a mouth.

Too much, too fast.

"I can't," Tom whispered. He hadn't wanted to remember this and now he didn't have a choice at all. He had forgotten that the Realm could be just as cruel.

"You can," Mike said, frowning. There was the barest hint of danger in that frown. The boy--Neil, Neil, oh God, Neil--was looking him up and down, the corner of his mouth lifted into a sardonic line.

"Does he not like me or somethin'?"

"He likes you just fine." Mike laid a hand on his shoulder, fingering idly at the straps of his black tank top. "C'mon, Tom. Don't be rude to our guest."

He said he couldn't. He was sure he couldn't. But when the boy reached down and pulled his shirt up and over the top of his head, letting it fall to the floor with perfectly calculated carelessness, Tom knew that he could. He felt himself smiling, felt his hand reaching out, and the boy swaggered over to him, standing by the side of the bed and looking down, and his face was exactly the same and so, so different.

You want me. You want me because everyone wants me. It's okay. Go ahead and want.

It was as though his hands were being operated by someone else, some other version of him, endless distances away. Some version of him that wasn't so beaten down with hurt, that didn't have wounds to tear open. He reached up and touched the skinny frame, the slim, wiry muscles of arms and chest. The boy made a noise, a pleasure-noise, but it was passionless and flat and all acting, and it made Tom's gut clench.

There wasn't a whole lot of space between fury and grief.

"Neil," he whispered, so quiet that he was sure that Mike couldn't hear them from where he was watching. "Your name is Neil."

Neil pulled back sharply, staring down; the mask was gone, momentarily dropped, and Tom felt a grim surge of triumph. "How the fuck'd you--?" He didn't get to finish. Tom was kissing him, hard, harder than he thought he had maybe ever kissed anyone, pulling him down and close and trying not to sob at the way their bodies slid together. Mike was behind Neil, now, just where he'd been so many times before, except he hadn't, not here, pulling at Neil's pants with his own towel slipping down his waist.

It was so easy, all three of them naked. It was so easy once they were. Close your eyes and it's almost like nothing's changed. It was like a dream, Tom thought as Neil ducked his head to curl his lips around Mike's cock, turning his head to shift his attention to Tom's. Like a dream where everything is almost perfect except it isn't, there's that one little thing that's wrong, and that one little thing that you can't even put your finger on is what turns the whole dream into a nightmare.

But it was something. And he would take what he could get.

The skin was just the same, the body under it maybe a little less well-fed, but the skin, the skin... Tom ran his hands across it, kissed his way over shoulderblades and spine and belly and the softness of thighs. Neil's cock tasted the same, and the noises were so close to the same, and this time there wasn't any acting in it. Mike's hand threaded into his hair, held his head down, Mike breathing "Fuck, yeah, suck him..." All the same. They had him between them in the end, shoved down on his hands and knees with Mike's dick in his mouth and Tom's dick balls-deep in his ass, all three of them moving and panting and making rough, strained sounds, sounds that bounced off the creamy walls and seemed to fit as poorly as they did.

But it was still the same.

Mike tensed suddenly, face twisting, grabbing for the back of Neil's head and thrusting in deep. Tom saw Neil's throat working, swallowing, and that was enough to push him over and after. He couldn't come inside Neil. He couldn't. He pulled out, too sudden and too rough, jerking himself frantically, coming in short, quick spurts against the curve of Neil's ass. It was over too quick, and he stared at his own come, his dick in his hand, and he felt completely hollow. Empty. Like the hotel, the carcass of something better and more beautiful. Something a lot more alive.

He wasn't even sure if Neil had come or not.

Neil was moving away. Mike was getting up and groping for his pants, tossing something in Neil's direction. "For your trouble. Yeah, that's extra." Tom caught a flash of a grin and hated it. "Keep it. Believe me, you're fucking worth it."

Neil looked at him, looked back at Tom. There was no sign of that smirk anymore. His eyes were still dark, now unreadable, but when he wiped himself off with one of the discarded towels and started to pull on his clothes he seemed a little too eager to be dressed and gone. Tom watched him, knees against his chest.

I can't.

"The hell's gotten into you?" Mike asked after the door had closed behind Neil's retreating back. Tom stared through and past him and shook his head slowly.

"Did you even know his name?"

"His name? Fuck, no." Mike looked incredulous. "Why the fuck would I?"

"Right." Tom turned over onto his side, knees still drawn up against his body, and when Mike tried to touch him he shied away.

He knew why they were there. That didn't ever make it any better.

Date: 2009-07-21 03:28 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
.....OUCH. That and beautiful on so many levels that I'm having trouble processing it. And - Ah, Neil! The twist at the end broke my heart.

But I LOVE your jaundiced Vegas. It's just very clear and kind of sad and just very fitting.


Date: 2009-07-21 07:41 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]

I HATE YOU. I don't even know what to say, ARGH!

... <3


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