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Daniel was just ten feet from avoiding all of this, crawling on his hands and knees towards the elevator, when Sarge grabbed him around the collar and yanked him to his feet. It wasn’t his fault that Michael had overdosed on under-the-sink chemicals or regular illegal drugs and spent all day passed-out at his desk. It wasn’t his fault, but Sarge insisted that it was very much his problem.

Once he managed to get Michael home - which involved a lot more slapping him in the face than he’d anticipated - Daniel tried to leave. Three times he left Michael’s house and gone back in, unable to force himself into his truck. Previous experience pretty much guaranteed that Michael would be fine if Daniel just left him where he was, face-down and unconscious on his couch, but the jet-ski polish hospital visit was still relatively fresh in his memory and he felt uneasy. It wouldn’t hurt anything if he stayed for a little while. Just to hit Michael every once in awhile to ensure he was still alive.

Which is how Daniel found himself sitting on the floor of the living room, his back against the couch where Michael slept, reading out of a beaten-up spiral notebook.

It wasn't like he'd been snooping around, although Daniel seriously considered it. Michael was still so much of a mystery and he'd probably never get another chance to riffle through all of his shit for answers. He'd managed to resist for the most part, but the notebook was just sitting on the coffee table, a pen tucked between the pages. It wasn't like he knew what he'd find inside of it.

Poetry. Poetry is what Daniel found in Michael's notebook, and although he wasn't an expert by any stretch of the word - his own teenage attempts being dismal at best - it was good. Really good.

Perhaps unsurprisingly good. Because no matter what else Michael was, first and foremost, at least to Daniel, he was a terrific writer. Even when he wrote half-asleep, or stoned, or with his dick on more than one occasion, the circumstances never seemed to affect the outcome. It was infuriating. It drove Daniel - who wrote, and rewrote, and scrapped projects entirely to start again - up a goddamn wall.

But as annoying as that was, at least it made sense. Michael was funny and disarmingly smart - when he wanted to be - so his smart and funny articles were probably the least improbable thing about him.

His poetry was smart, too. And clever in a way that Daniel would have expected, if he could ever imagine Michael writing poetry. But it was also devastatingly beautiful. Vulnerable and uncommonly tender. If he hadn’t recognized the handwriting, Daniel would have signed an affidavit swearing it wasn’t Michael’s. How could it be.

It would have felt less like an invasion of privacy if Daniel had actually rummaged through his drawers and medicine cabinet. And he wanted to stop reading, honestly, but he just couldn’t.

But the notebook of poetry wasn’t solving any mysteries about Michael. It was just raising more questions. It was only adding more dimensions to someone who was already so much, all the time, from one minute to the next. And this side wasn’t something that Daniel felt sure he could ever accept the way he had the rest of it.

Not without admitting to himself that it filled in the gaps in places he’d previously pointed to as proof he couldn’t really feel about Michael the way he did. Or, at the very least, suggested there were parts of Michael that could be who Daniel needed him to be, sometimes. Because whoever these poems were about, Michael loved them the way Daniel assumed he wasn’t capable of.

He would have been burning with jealousy if he wasn’t so moved by it all. And maybe, whenever he was done babysitting, he would have gone home and felt torn-up over the devotion and affection Michael felt for someone who wasn’t him, if he hadn’t kept reading

But he did keep reading. Until the rhythm of Michael’s words and what he was saying started to sound familiar. Little bits here and there that weren’t just pretty wordplay but actual memories that Daniel himself had. Not just stories, but stories about Daniel, and Michael watching him work, or laugh, or sleep, and his hands lit only by the light coming in through Daniel’s bedroom window, wanting to touch him.

Daniel put the pen back between the pages where he found it, closed the notebook, and placed it back on the coffee table. Behind him, Michael groaned, flipping onto his back and elbowing Daniel’s head in the process.

It was a joke, some awful long-con kind of thing. It was groundwork for something terrible Michael planned to do in the future to embarrass him. Daniel got up on his knees and turned around, unlacing Michael’s sneakers and pulling them off. It couldn’t be real. Even if it were true that Daniel was the only person Michael had. The only person he spent his time with anymore, his wives gone and Crazy Raul sidelined.

Who the fuck else could it be? his brain screamed, as he wrestled with Michael’s dead-weight arms to get his hoodie off of him. No one else was in his orbit the way Daniel was. Not one other person Michael showed even a remote interest in. And the poems had gotten so specific, at times.

And didn’t Daniel kind of already know, anyway? If not by your past behavior, he’d said, waving away Michael’s very visible erection. Wrote it all off as Michael just being Michael, dick out and ready to fuck anything that moved, even when he specifically pointed out that his mindset was Daniel being there. A part of it, he’d said, but Michael didn’t give a shit about Kelly Wheeler. Of all the times Daniel saw him right before sex, or after, or a few unfortunate times, during, Michael never showed half of the enthusiasm he had with him.

It was an overwhelming amount, really. So jazzed about it the sex hadn’t even been good. And although afterwards Michael showed no concern or regret over the fact their threesome had been a disaster, Daniel just knew that wasn’t normal for him. Michael could bring the patrons of an entire bar home with him. People he slept with, without fail, wanted to do it again, and again, and as many times as Michael’s flighty interest allowed.

The idea that being with Daniel had been enough to throw him off his game entirely was a boost to his ego, and one he hadn’t previously allowed himself to think about enough to experience.

“How do I ask you if this is all real?” Daniel wondered aloud.

He touched Michael’s forehead with his fingertips, because he was still sleeping and it felt safe, and moved them up into his hair. How long had he wanted to kiss Michael? It felt like a long time; before the threesome, certainly. Maybe when he’d gone missing and Daniel couldn’t get his shit together at all - when he missed him so badly there was no amount of whiskey that could make him forget it. And he had tried.

“Even before that,” he said, and brushed his thumb over Michael’s sharp cheekbone. His skin was warm and soft. “Under that desk. You looked so handsome, and I was so thankful to have met you before I died.”

Michael hummed in his sleep and rubbed his cheek against Daniel’s palm. Daniel pulled away immediately, sitting back and putting more space between them, embarrassed by his affection for him. Affection which was just as improbable as Michael’s poetry.

“I don’t understand,” he said to himself and reached to twist his fingers in the sleeve of Michael’s t-shirt. “It doesn’t make sense to feel this way about him. It makes even less sense that he could feel that way about me.”

Daniel closed his eyes for a long moment, trying to pull himself together, and when he opened them Michael was looking at him, his eyes clear and bright in the dim of the living room.

“Are you in my house?”

“Yes,” he nodded, his face heated.

“Did I drug you again?” Michael frowned.

“No,” Daniel said softly. He tried not to think about how the sight of him in his living room made Michael think he’d kidnapped him again. That it was so rare, and unlikely, it was the obvious explanation. “Just yourself. I brought you home.”

Michael made a low sound of understanding before his attention moved from Daniel’s face to the hold he still had on his sleeve, and before he could let go, Michael covered his hand with his own.

“Good, I’m not allowed to do that anymore or else he’s gonna leave me,” he said, and squeezed Daniel’s hand. “Thanks.”

Daniel wanted to promise him that he would never, ever leave him - but he wasn’t sure of its truth. If given the chance, he suspected he would run away from Michael, and whatever this was, as fast as he could. He knew it would be the smart thing to do.

But Michael took his hand and intertwined their fingers, his thumb rubbing gently over the thin skin at the inside of his wrist. Before Daniel could think of anything to say he was sleeping again.

He kept holding Michael’s hand while he slept until his arm started to hurt, then reluctantly let go of him and got to his feet. There was no throw blanket in the living room, and he couldn’t bring himself to venture into Michael’s bedroom, so he covered Michael with the hoodie he’d taken off earlier. It was starting to get chilly.

The notebook was still there and he could have gone back to it, having only read about half of what was there, but Daniel wasn’t sure he could carry the weight of knowing any more than he already did. There was no happy ending with Michael, even if he wanted it. No matter how beautifully he could write the words of it. No matter how warm and right Daniel felt about him.

Eventually he made his way onto the couch, and Michael huffed in his sleep when Daniel lifted his legs to lay them across his lap. Just a little while longer, he told himself, another hour maybe, and then he’d go home. Michael was fine.

And he’d always be fine, with or without him.