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dying is for losers

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           After all this time, after everything he’d seen, one of the things that still puzzled Dan most about Michael was just how long it had taken him to figure out that he wasn’t normal. A lot of Michael’s actions made much more sense once you realized that for most of his life, he’d thought everyone could eat rat poison or have their head explode and be fine after a few days of unpleasantness. Dan still didn’t know how the man had managed to avoid figuring this out until being straight-up told that he was a demigod, but the longer he lived with Michael, the closer he thought he was to putting the puzzle together.

        Michael had learned how to eat by watching him – or at the very least, how to eat food that wasn’t candy or jet ski polish. He didn’t always breathe when he slept, which was absolutely fucking terrifying. He’d been baffled when Dan broke his arm their first icy, slippery winter on the East Coast, and had spent every single day of the next six weeks complaining how slow and boring Dan was at healing. It did weird, painful things to Dan’s heart every time he realized again that until him, Michael simply hadn’t gotten close enough to anyone to figure out how humans worked.

        Case in point, apparently, because right now Daniel’s unusually peaceful sleep was being interrupted by someone shaking him by the shoulder and saying his name urgently.

        “Dan! Dan, come on, wake up, you gotta—“

        “What?” Dan mumbled, trying to open his eyes. “What’s going on?” The world was blurry without his glasses but he could make out Michael sitting up in bed, knees pulled up to his chest, eyes wide and nearly reflective in the dim light. He looked genuinely freaked out, and Dan was instantly more awake.

        “Dan,” Michael repeated, almost in a whisper. “You’re gonna die.

        “What? Right now? What’s happening?”

        “No! Not now! Wait, are you dying right now? Are you getting heartstop? Dan??”

        Dan took a deep breath. “Okay,” he sighed, trying to pull Michael back under the covers with him. “Let’s start over. What’s going on?”

        Michael reluctantly scooted back down under the covers, face inches from Dan’s, and laced his cold fingers with Dan’s warm, slightly sweaty ones. “I couldn’t sleep,” he said quietly, “so I was just… I dunno, thinking. And I realized. You’re gonna die. Not now, I guess, but someday.”

        “Did you just wake me up at – oh god, 3 AM, really – to remind me of my own mortality? My brain does that enough on its own, Mike, I don’t need you helping.”

        “No, Dan, listen.” And Michael’s voice certainly didn’t sound joking, not like it usually did when he was reminding Dan of his many personal failings. “It’s not going to be like the movies or whatever. You’re gonna just… be gone. Forever. Not coming back. In the ground, with bugs and squirrels and things eating you—“

        “Michael,” Dan said sharply, because he recognized the start of a panic spiral when he saw one. “Shh. It’s okay. I’m—I’m not going anywhere right now, okay?” He wasn’t good at this, he wasn’t good at making people feel better, but he could count on one hand the number of times he’d seen Michael legitimately panicked and he’d hated every single one of them and he wasn’t going to let this be another. “Let’s talk about this in the morning, yeah?”

        “Yeah,” Michael whispered eventually, more than a hint of wetness in his voice. Dan pulled him close, petted his big dumb indestructible boyfriend’s hair, and wondered what the hell it would be like to have your first realization of the inevitability of death at age twenty-six.

        Not fun, he imagined. Especially not fun if you yourself were one of the very few people left out of the equation.

        Michael muttered something into the fabric of Dan’s T-shirt just as Dan was starting to drift off again. In most other situations he would have tuned it out as background noise, but Michael thinking about things was relatively new, and worrying.

        “What was that?” he mumbled. Michael lifted his head from Dan’s chest and stared at him intently, his eyes dark and fierce and very human.

        “I won’t let you,” he said. “Die, that is. I’m just not gonna let it happen. So don’t worry.”

        “Aw, Mike,” Dan sighed. “That’s sweet, but you can’t just decide—“

        And then he stopped, and actually thought about it. Because yes, actually, Michael probably could just decide. Things always worked out for him, even if they had to defy the rules of the universe to do it. He wasn’t just unbreakable and oblivious, even if it seemed that way ninety-nine percent of the time. He was really, legitimately magic.

        That thought somehow scared Daniel more than anything else Michael had ever done to him.

        “Okay,” he said, trying not to shiver. “Sounds good.”

        He wasn’t afraid of Michael anymore. He really wasn’t, no matter how much he tried to convince himself that he should be. He might be afraid of how strange the world had become, of how his entire life plan had been ripped away from him and he hadn’t yet found a replacement, of how horribly inadequate his small anxious killable self was at protecting his best friend, but he wasn’t afraid of Michael.

        “Okay,” he said again, and was mildly surprised to discover that he meant it.

        Whatever Michael was, whatever Michael was making him into, didn’t matter very much right now. He was half-asleep and there was an unimaginably powerful man trying to use him as a body pillow, and mortality or the possibility of its absence could wait until the morning.