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Breathe or Die

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Her voice worms inside his mind, writhes and shreds until his skull is soft; swollen fruit just this side of rotten.

He thinks, sometimes, about pressing a finger into it, seeing if it will explode. He bets it will. Still, he never asks her for silence,  even when the pain takes him so far inside he can only see in shades of red. 

He likes it. He wants to see where she's taking him. Because she imparts knowledge of things he'd have otherwise never known. 

Like at the bank. One of them knows, she'd said, leaning close and tight, breathing in his ear. Her breasts at his back. He liked it and he hated it. She knew that, too. The feel of them scrambled his brain signals into nameless skittering squamous cells, furiously dividing and conquering what was left of him. Until he was becoming more her creation than the person he'd always been. 

Santanico had been right. One of them had known. Little Gordita, she'd known.

Richie thought she'd known more. She'd seen his drawings. They lay together in the motel bed, his head on her stomach. He thought she'd known him. Understood, finally.

But here's the thing. She did know, too much, and when they know too much they use him hate him, see her in him and oh, then he sees their blood, beating under their skin, rolling through veins and pumping through their rich red hearts, their poison fruit hearts. Until he bursts them. Takes away their sight.

Or she bursts them. He doesn't know anymore. She's always so hungry.

He doesn't think he used to be this way, before.

He remembers when Seth and he were young and living at home, remembers their dad's glittering angry eyes, face infused with blood as he shouted. The veins in his dad's neck bulged, spittle spraying the air. He remembers feeling one heartbeat away from dying. And after a while it became meaningless.

Richie took his dad's murderous focus off Seth (and why did he hate Seth? Seth just wanted to be loved, he deserved to be loved, but his dad, the old bastard, hated him anyway). He did a good job diverting the old man. Though sometimes he went too far. He remembers fingers pressing tightly into his throat, and wondering what he might see on the other side of dying. Or if he'd see anything at all.

Probably not.

Another time, Richie got in between his dad and Seth, and his dad hit Richie instead. Over the head with a skillet, like in a cartoon of their own making. And just like in a cartoon, Richie fell down a dark hole and pulled it in after him. There the resemblance ended, because he didn't get back up for a while.

He woke up eventually. Seth was on the floor on his haunches, clasping Richie's hand tightly to his chest. His little brother's eyes were closed and his chin tipped over their joined fingers as if he were praying, except Seth never prayed.

Richie blinked and looked around. His dad was in the armchair, tipping a straight shot of cheap vodka from the bottle. He wiped his mouth and looked at Richie sadly. "Why do you make me do this, son?" 

He remembered Seth looking up at their dad, bright hatred in his eyes. On account of Richie.

Seth didn't hate anyone unless they hurt his brother. He got frustrated easily, true, and he'd kill if he had to, but he was a friendly guy. He was garrulous. He took almost nothing personally.

The night after Richie was beaned with the skillet, Seth crawled into his brother's bed and touched him, hand over his chest and then down, cupping his dick.

Richie's head felt huge and sore. He pushed Seth away, half-hearted, horrified, heart pounding. Excited.

Seth knew it. Richie saw that. Seth listened to him breathe, and felt Richie stiffen in his hand before being pushed away. He knew Richie wanted; Richie knew Seth wanted.

Seth wanted.

It was always hard to say no when Seth wanted. And though Richie wondered how much of Seth wanting him was really Seth taking care of his brother, trying to take away what their dad had done - and even though Richie didn't want to want Seth back, he did, oh god he did. His body shook for hours after he shoved Seth away.

He didn't say no the next time. It was fumbling and over too soon, and it turned him inside out. It was the most exciting, damning, shaming, exalted moment of his life, spurting jizz all over his little brother's face. Seth looked up at him and licked his lips, smiling.

Now Richie wonders what Seth will do if he realizes how Santanico tramples and squeezes at Richie's skull. If he knows how worn thin and rotten it's become.

He stares at his brother, down on his knees. There was fear in Seth's eyes, just before he dropped to the floor in front of Richie. Which means maybe Richie doesn't have long to wait.

Richie arches his back out from the wall. His ass flexes. He grips Seth's shoulders and stares into his brother's brown eyes. It keeps her away. He counts Seth's eyelashes, rubs thumbs over the high cheekbones. Seth's face is flushed and sweaty, his pupils wide. Sweat sparkles in his hair.

Seth yanks Richie's hips closer, desperate, and takes him down all the way. Spit shines on his cheeks. Seth is trying to keep him safe, Richie knows.

Richie groans, tries not to let his knees buckle, and Seth's hand reaches for his, finds it and grips it. As if he can save Richie. As if anyone can.

Seth will try. He'll come after Santanico as soon as he figures how to do it - and that feeling, those seconds of anticipation Richie had grown up familiar with, fitting over him like a smooth, suffocating skin with no pores, will come trilling through his brain.  Waiting for him to breathe or die.

The possibility of either is bright in Richie's soft swollen skull; bright as the hatred in Seth's eyes had been, years ago.

Richie bends over at the waist, clawing Seth's back with his free hand.

Seth makes a protesting sound, but his mouth doesn't stop sucking.

Richie is close, so close.

One of them killed the old man. It had to be done, and in the end, it doesn't matter which. As far as the Gecko brothers are concerned, it will always be a shared deed.

Richie comes, groaning, and his brother's mouth grows softer, caressing. Richie keeps his eyes open, following the red scratch he'd made up his brother's broad back, over the tattoo on his arm.

He breaths in the warm scent of Seth's skin. For the moment, she stays away.