Michael didn't seemed surprised when Terry asked him to come upstairs with him to the electronics store, but then it took a screaming cannibal corpse to get any kind of real reaction out of the man. The soft nighttime sounds of the others faded away completely before they entered the store, but Terry took him all the way back to the couch he'd slept on the night before.
"You gotta let CJ out," Terry blurted out as soon as they were seated.
Michael blinked the instant he said CJ's name, but there was no other visible reaction. He sat back, then glanced down at Terry's belt. "You're the one with the keys."
"That's not-- If I let him out, that'll just piss everyone off."
"...Or he might shoot someone," Michael added to Terry's words. He stared deep into Terry's face, the strange coolness in his gaze making the phrase heavy with sarcasm.
"He wouldn't... he's not like that..." Terry squirmed under Michael's gaze as he tried, and failed, to explain his boss's behavior. It wasn't going the way Terry wanted. He'd spent a good hour trying to get his thoughts together, but everything he was saying sounded ridiculous. CJ always knew what to say, what needed to be done. He just wanted CJ back. "Everyone's safe inside now. We can let him out. He didn't mean it."
"Terry, he pointed a gun at your face."
"He didn't know what he was doing."
"And he does now?"
Terry looked away from that impassionate, honest gaze, to stare at his hand on the dark couch. He scratched at the fake leather, not wanting to answer. It was hard to think right with Michael staring at him. More than ever, it made him want CJ back. At least with CJ, he knew where he stood, that the man actually cared for the people he was protecting.
"Look, CJ comes off as a total jerk at first, but once you get to know him, he's a really good guy," Terry finally answered, still unable to look at him.
"I'm sure he is," Michael said calmly, "but we still can't let him out. Not yet."
"Why not?" he asked, his voice raising slightly with his anger. "Why don't you just put me in there too, now? I was pointing a gun as much as they were."
Michael's hand came down on top of Terry's, keeping him from picking a hole clean through the pleather. He didn't let go until Terry looked up into his face. "CJ's... He's unsteady right now. Like a lot of us. Maybe in a few days, when he calms down..."
"I want him out, now!" He didn't mean to say it so loud, so angrily. He nearly bit his tongue holding back the rest of it, the flood of something near to panic as he felt truly alone for the first time since the whole nightmare began. He tried to hold it inside, and not let this stranger see that he was breaking with fear.
Michael's face softened, and Terry could feel the change in him by the heat in his eyes. It was as if Michael was seeing straight through to that panic, to that unnamed thing that Terry didn't want to look at yet. Terry turned away, staring at the entrance, afraid that everyone had heard what Michael had found in his face.
Not even the ever-present groans of the creatures outside made it through the echoing silence of the isolated room. Terry could feel the warmth of the other man as he leaned close to speak with a near-whisper. "It's more than just... job loyalty, isn't it? There's something between you and--"
Terry abruptly stood to leave, but before he'd fully straightened, Michael grabbed his arm and pulled him back to the couch, moving with reflexes Terry had only seen a glimpse of before. His arm hurt from the rough handling, and he felt a tendril of fear as Michael crowded close, seeming so much bigger and taller as he held Terry down.
"Hey hey hey, it's okay, it's okay. I don't care about that. It doesn't matter. Not anymore." Michael's voice was that soft, almost hypnotic tone, the one he'd heard him using on CJ. The one that made everything he said into the truth. When he didn't get up again, Michael's grip lightened. His hand trailed up Terry's arm to reach across his shoulders like a wing enfolding him.
Terry mutely shook his head in denial with the last of his resistance.
"It's okay," Michael whispered. His hand squeezed Terry's shoulder, his thumb just feathering across his neck. His voice was so low, so close, it was like a rumble in his chest, a growl of words that spoke the only truth he needed to hear, the reality that broke through his panic. "Really. He's okay. He's probably the safest of us all right now. There's no way those things can get to him in there. You don't have to worry about him. He's safe. That's all that matters now."
Terry held very still, his eyes closed like a child hiding from the horrible monster under the bed. He could already feel the words seeping in, conjuring mental images of those monsters banging at the cage, unable to break through, while the rest of them were slaughtered. He wanted CJ, but he wanted CJ safe...
The hand and the warmth disappeared. The couch creaked as Michael stood up. Terry turned to look at him just as the man reached the door of the room. He turned around, his sad eyes looking back. "You should be worried about yourself."
Once he was alone, Terry slid down the couch, curling up on the warm, firm cushion. Maybe... maybe in the morning he'd try again. For now CJ was safe, and that's what mattered most. Now he just had to worry about keeping himself safe. CJ was okay. He was safe.
Michael said so.