By the time they hit the coast, three weeks of blimps and kicking up roadside dust, rental cars and buses, New York feels like a long sigh of relief. The Port Authority is sticky under Daniel’s feet, reeks of liquor and piss and the stale, pungent smell of carbon monoxide. On the subway, Michael rests his heavy hands on Daniel’s shoulders and squeezes, pressed close to his back as the train car sways and rumbles. He’s surprisingly steady, breathing against the nape of Daniel’s neck. Everything about it feels wrong. That Michael is so quiet, so solid, that Dan is the one vibrating against the pulse of the city instead.
But Mike’s been that way since the first blimp, pulled back into himself, the tone of his voice always even, always somber, every word that slips out of his mouth just as vulnerable as a thank you. There was truth in what he’d said, the kind you can’t take back or pretend was never confessed - he’d have been dead inside two weeks. Whether it would have been a literal death though, Daniel isn’t sure. But there’s something that’s changed inside Michael, and the person Daniel met years ago in the Chief’s office isn’t the person he is now. His lips puckered small and chapped, pressing just behind Dan’s ear between every whisper of his name.
The train breaks free from the earth and the city unfolds in front of them as he presses his hand to the tiny window on the door, crossing the East River and barreling their way into Queens. He’d thought about Jersey, about Delaware, about a small house in the middle of nowhere. Tried to imagine them there forever, but found he couldn’t, an overwhelming fear clawing it’s way from his gut to the center of his chest. The best place to hide Michael was in plain sight. In the middle of a crowd. The city doesn’t make it less scary, but there’s a strange sort of comfort between the high-rises, in dirty alleyways and cracked sidewalks. Beneath a canopy of fire escapes.
The best Dan could afford was a room, and thank fuck for the internet and people who’d rather see cash than references. They’ve got nothing but what’s on their backs, but there’s a mattress waiting for them in that room, and the bundle of plastic cards and paperwork in his pocket, left outside their motel room in Sweetwater, giving them new lives. It won’t last forever, Dan’s sure of that, and what hunts them will find them both eventually. But they’ll have a little while. It’s unclear if that’s a good or bad thing.
But Daniel chases Michael up the subway steps he’s standing at the top of, sunglasses bouncing the light off towards something unseen, and he looks very much like the demi-god he is. It’s terrifying, and alluring, and a shiver runs from the base of Daniel's skull straight to his toes.
It’s dangerous, and big, and in the wrong hands, but even with all the power Michael has, there’s a sense that it’s deeper than what either of them know. It’s going to swallow him whole, though there’s a chance it might have already. On the street, Michael throws an arm around Dan’s shoulders and the only thing he really knows, as bizarre as it seems, is that Michael isn’t going to let him die. No matter who catches up with them.
It puts him more at ease than it has any right to.
In the blimp, inside of him, his mouth hot and wet against the teethmarks on Daniel’s shoulder, his voice was distant thunder, and Michael said, ‘Do you know what I’d do for you?’ Daniel hadn’t answered, couldn’t find the words or the sense to run.
Maybe he’d leashed Michael but he’d been tethered in turn, rarely pulling him back but being swept along instead. It’s sharp in his veins, makes his limbs feel loose and uncoordinated, Michael - what they are now - so heady Daniel would rather jump blinded into the ocean than break away for the safety of the shore.
He’s already dead anyway.
As they walk to their new apartment, to the room the size of a closet, Michael makes lists in that same monotone voice. Two small dogs and three bottles of Windex, drugs, a whole fucking lot of them, lube, a DVD boxset of The Wire, and Daniel’s not listening anymore, tunes him out the same way overworked parents never listen to their kids. He can still write, he thinks. Articles or books or instruction manuals. When he was in college, he’d worked at a book store. He could do that again. Maybe even a comic shop.
Michael had asked if Daniel knew what he’d do for him, but Daniel can’t help wondering if Michael knows what he’d do. What he’s doing for him. The things he’d given up. Maybe he does, his voice drowned out on the busy street. Maybe it’s the one thing Michael can feel, bearing down across his shoulders. He kisses behind Daniel’s ear again, mouth open slightly like a whisper, a secret. And it is.
Michael can’t die, not really, and they both know it. But Daniel could kill him. It’s a necessary gift, a balance of power. Michael could grow back his head but Daniel could rip out his heart. A piece of him Dan hadn’t even been sure existed until it was beating bloody in his closed fist.
The Chief had made him fight for this, he thinks as he watches the street addresses climb. Sent him down into the pit of his own head to face himself, and he’d won. Now he understood.
Later, Michael smells like cleaning chemicals and the buttery crust of fresh baked pie, and he pushes Dan into the mattress on the floor, something impossibly light shining in the dark of his eyes. It’s threat that’s more than half of a promise, and Michael sinks his teeth back into the old mark on Daniel’s shoulder to make it fresh again, his hand sliding up to his open mouth, and when he calls his own name, Dan finally understands that as well. He says it back around Michael’s fingers.