The world around him is cold outside of the searing heat and clawing, growing , sting beneath his skin. It takes his breath away, even the shock of Yevgraf’s fangs was nothing compared to the blinding horror twisting his nerves, burning behind his eyes, crushing his ribs and lungs within. For a very long moment there is only agony he cannot see through. Then there’s Yevgraf. Everything is pain and fog and Yevgraf, all around and engulfing him, suffocating him so that whether it is darkness or light that too overwhelming, he cares not enough to discern, only welcome the unconsciousness washing over him. A fleeting though of Yuliy floats along as he fades. Mikhail hopes he can dream his younger brother to safety.
Slowly parts of the world return to him, recollection seeping in with coherence. His instincts blare appropriate but unhelpful levels of fear upon waking in the arms of the monster who both saved and doomed him.
“That’s Master now, pet ,” Yevgraf says. His fingers smoothing back Mikhail’s hair smother Mikhail’s realization that he’d spoken aloud. He can’t seem to move, only tense up. While the physical pain is less and less forefront as moments (or maybe days, he can’t really tell) go on, Yevgraf remains very present, as though he is within some layer of Mikhail. It’s strongest when he’s physically present, dropping sporadic commentary about his pet wolf , his very own sirius . Nothing Mikhail could do would prompt Yevgraf to outright kill him no matter how close whatever Yevgraf’s torment of choice teetered on the edge. They formed an odd game that Mikhail was never eager to play, something like cat and mouse where Yevgraf held all of the power and set the rules as he saw fit.
For the first few days, Yevgraf gave Mikhail the small mercy (or maybe it was just torment) of hiding in what he would later understand was his room. Someone had left him a pile of clothing he couldn’t help but scowl at, apparently Yevgraf was content with letting the boy wallow in angst and fear, confusion and growing hunger until something called him to wander. But to stink of the blood and dirt and desperate humanity that still clung to Mikhail was apparently an affront to Master . Dressed in similarly plain if less heavy garments he followed his feet despite not knowing where they may be taking him or how they knew the route they chose but he did know that his own consciousness was not much part of those decisions. He stopped at a door with a curious lack of security and pushed it open to find a wide room with a view his brain claimed was the sky.
“Misha,” Yevgraf called from his seat, he curled one finger to beckon. “Come here.”
Mikhail stood stock still.
“ Mikhail ,” Yevgraf’s voice warned. Mikhail may have refused but his body did not. He legs and feet took step after traitorous step and if not for being in it, Mikhail wouldn’t have thought it his own body. He couldn’t identify what to fight or how to disobey, his mind scrabbling for purchase until he stopped but inches before the seated Royal. He flinched but then immediately stilled against his own will as Yevgraf’s hand reach out to him. It ghosted over his hair, his new scars and settled on the back of his neck. He fought the urge to shiver.
Yevgraf drew him closer, “the clothing suits you. It came from Dogville you know.”
Mikhail didn’t speak but he couldn’t pull away either.
“ Sit ,” Yevgraf commanded, steering the boy to do so beside him. He lifted a glass Mikhail hadn’t noticed from a table beside the lounge seat. “Drink and I will share with you some news.”
Mikhail made no move to comply, he had no doubts that Yevgraf was offering him human blood. Yevgraf scowled or smirked or both with equal menace, “you’re a bad pet.” Mikhail didn’t know what his “Master” had been expecting, making a one-sided agreement into a blood-pact, but he in turn had not expected Yevgraf’s vengeance. In fluid motion too quick for Mikhail to follow or brace against, Yevgraf had taken a long gulp from the glass and forced his lips against the boys. He yanked back a fistful of Mikhail’s hair, prompting him to gag, to gasp, to open up to his master and choke on the drink. He burned with shame as he swallowed. He hadn’t meant to do that. “I can make you act if I must,” Yevgraf said, still radiating both annoyance and smugness. “You are mine now. You may keep those village clothes, the dead of Dogville do not need them and there was no lack when we scoured for a useable Sirius. Would you believe we didn’t find the child you sacrificed yourself for? Who knows what happened to him.” The hand in Mikhail’s hair had loosened but gripped again through snowy locks and pulled him against the Royal. “It doesn’t matter though, we oughtn’t need him so long as we have you.”
That was when Mikhail realized that he must survive, if Yuliy had survived too, he could keep protecting his precious baby brother by doing so. Realization that Yuliy did not meet this fate kept him going, that he’d given Yuliy a chance to escape.
Between the sessions of Yevgraf trying to get him to drink of humans Mikhail would test his freedoms, his own power and Yevgraf would teach him where the lines were by punishing him for crossing them. Eventually he could make educated guesses as to what he could get away with and as time marched on he had learned how to earn his privileges. Succumbing to human blood, playing the part of a stoic pet wolf.
He grew used to loneliness, to emptiness, to surviving instead of feeling alive. He grew out of the humanity he wished to cling to and into the monster that must exist on the surface. (Or so he told himself.)
He grew to be quite lovely, Master told him. Even retaining a shirt ripped in a scuffle and scavenging remains from a slaughter when he had the option, rather than hunting a human still very much alive and warm.
“You are a mess,” Yevgraf said. Yet he sounded amused. “The way you dress,” his eyes raked over Mikhail’s lithely toned body, “to how you choose to feed yourself. Really, only slaves and scraps...” Mikhail hoped that this was just to tease him, that Yevgraf cared no more than he did, it seemed enough to please Yevgraf when Mikhail accepted his monstrous nature.
“It’s been a while since you’ve last fed, hasn’t it?”
Mikhail doesn’t like the question, but Yevgraf stands and turns around instead of making him answer. He has been alone with Yevgraf before, like now, in the room that overlooks the sky. No slaves or bodyguard immediately present, no Tamara or Larissa to giggle and croon over something he wasn’t paying attention to. Only Yevgraf who has removed his gloves and brooch and loosens his collar and lets it fall lower than Mikhail can recall seeing. Mikhail remains stony as ever as his master reseats himself and beckons him closer.
“Come here, Misha.”
Mikhail moves to stand facing him so that they almost touch. Yevgraf gives him a smirk and the ghost of a satisfied chuckle then reaches out to both of his arms so that he can hold Mikhail by the junction of each. “You’re not such a bad pet,” Yevgraf tells him. “ Sometimes ...” He half pulls Mikhail into him, Mikhail moving with it on numb obedience until he’s straddling his masters lap.
“ Misha ,” Yevgraf’s tone is softer than Mikhail had any expectation of. Yevgraf’s hands are on his face and he steels himself against the touch. One hand traces the scars on his face and past his hairline, it takes a hold gentle enough to surprise Mikhail again. The other hand traces his lips then falls to Mikhail’s side. Yevgraf’s hand leads Mikhail closer and he speaks slightly above a whisper, “you must be hungry by now.”
Mikhail withholds a snarl.
“Don’t be coy,” Yevgraf purrs. “I’m granting you a rare gift, if all my pet wants to consume is rubbish, it falls to me to give him something pure.”
I don’t want you , is leaking from Mikhail’s very essence. His clenched jaw, his muscles gone stiff, his breath gone shallow and slow. That doesn’t seem to matter though, Yevgraf can force this. When he wants to break Mikhail he can either force it in the moment or wait patiently for Mikhail to self-destruct. He seems to have lost his patience. Mikhail watches himself as if he is not a component of who or what -ever sits astride Yevgraf and leans into him, lets the hand in his hair guide him low on Yevgraf’s neck and sink his fangs in. That can’t be his body he’s feeling Yevgraf’s other arm drape over or his master sigh against.
“ Misha ...oh, Mikhail...”
He opens his eyes against a hand on his cheek, a soft touch thumbing away tears from his eyes.
It’s Yuliy. Yuliy’s face coming into focus as reality swims back to him. Well, present reality, and it is so much better. He curls tighter into his younger brothers arms and accepts however Yuliy deigns to chase away the pitfall inside of him. Yevgraf and his kind stole so much, but the will of the arc accepted Yuliy’s will.
“It’s okay,” Yuliy soothes, “it’s me, Brother, it’s us.”
Mikhail could recite back to Yuliy this mantra he would use to fight the trauma hanging over them both as if the past refused to rest.
You’ve spent your life being strong, surviving, protecting me. Let go, let me share this weight. You’re not alone anymore
. Yuliy closes the ritual with a kiss to Mikhail’s forehead. “That’s over, Mikhail, big brother, but I’m here.”