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My thanks to Ahavia for the beta!

Break The Skin

by sistersleep

Miguel stayed there, pressed against Ryan, just breathing. If only they could stay here, this safe warm place where nothing mattered. Similar to the place sought with drugs -- escape. Where the prison was gone and he was free. But this relief was better, because this was shared. Not alone, for once in his life. There was nothing but the feel of skin and blood pumping right underneath the surface in time with his. Muscles and bones supporting him. Another body sharing space with his. Floating down together. Not alone.

Right before sharp reality cut its way in, stabbing into his consciousness in painful inches.


Not a fag.


Fuck up.




Ryan's body tensed against his. The sudden slicing of reality catching up with Ryan too, cueing Miguel to pull away, keeping his eyes off of Ryan's face.

Sticky itch on his stomach called his attention. He looked down at their skin. Come. His...Ryan's...theirs.


Ryan wasn't talking, wasn't looking up. Miguel quickly picked his shirt up off the floor and without thinking went to clean up Ryan. Clean away the evidence. The first swipe across pale stomach caused Ryan to flinch away. The instinctive gesture hit Miguel like a blow, forcing him to look up.

Ryan's face was shuttered off. The usually piercing eyes completely cold and dark. But Alvarez could feel the energy pouring off of him, could feel the jangle of Ryan's nerves and his overworked brain screaming 'Fuck! Fuck! Fuck! What have I done?'.

Both left vulnerable and reeling. Scraped raw -- head, heart, and desperation. He hadn't felt it at the time, there had been nothing then but the contact, giving in to what they wanted. But now they were apart, adrenaline having run its course, and reality was pushing in. Exposed to the air, to rational thought, they could feel it everywhere -- the consequences like a million tiny pin pricks along everything they'd uncovered.

Knowledge of responsibility settled on Miguel. He had brought Ryan to this. Whatever Ryan had done, whatever he'd wanted, Miguel had forced the issue. It hadn't seemed wrong at the time, but now, in the aftermath, it started taking over his brain.

Ryan quickly pulled on his shirt as Miguel stood, stuck, trying to think of something to say. Miguel abandoned his own shirt as a lost cause, tucking it into his back pocket. It hung like a flag, a testament to what had happened.

"Now, we're done." Ryan's voice was as dead as his eyes as he backed out of the tiny storage room. The door shut with quick finality, leaving Miguel alone.


Ryan quickly returned to Emcity. He had to think, figure out what had just happened. Needed to be alone, to get clean. Snatching up his towel, he headed towards the empty shower room at a fast pace.

Miguel's words echoed in his head: 'You don't owe me'. Ryan remembered the sick little twist they'd brought to his gut -- disappointment -- forcing him to admit he'd wanted it anyway, that it had nothing to do with a debt. It was about desire, only about them.

Ryan blindly shed his clothes, turned on the water, his mind still focused on the past. Mounting evidence suggested that the crazy spic had just been fucking with him when they'd made the deal. But that didn't explain the 180 he'd pulled afterward. Ryan knew the fucking guy was unpredictable, but how the fuck did he get from taunting to testifying to the two of them...

The memories slammed back into Ryan -- the feel of skin against his, a hand wrapped around his cock, moaned breaths filling the half inch of space between him and another warm, wanting body.

Ryan ducked his head under the showerhead, feeling the clean water wash over him. He was so fucking tired. He wanted to stop thinking, for a second, to just feel. His upper arms ached where Alvarez had grabbed him, his back sore from slamming into concrete. Ryan closed his eyes as he roughly soaped up, trying to get clean.

But everything he touched reminded him, called up the trace memory of everywhere Miguel's hands had been. He could still feel Miguel. Ghostly touches lingering on his skin.

It had felt so good to just let go. Everything he'd missed, the smell of someone else, the relief...from thinking, from loneliness. Getting off on another's touch.

He'd thought if he gave in once, experienced it, let himself feel it just one time, that the longing would go away. He'd thought that would get Miguel out from under his skin...but it had just tattooed him there.

And it still wasn't enough. Ryan wanted more. Who knew what the hell Miguel wanted, what was going on in that fucked up brain that seemed to change constantly. Nothing but complications and contradictions. Except for one thing --. Miguel had wanted Ryan. Wanted him to come willingly. Alvarez had seen what Ryan wanted and given it to him. But not without a price. The truth. It either happened because they both wanted it or it didn't happen at all. Ryan had not been allowed to hide behind excuses...the excuse of a debt, of blackmail, of force.

Miguel had stripped him bare, made him face the truth. It fucking hurt. Like his father's boot to his stomach. Like a weakness exposed. Like fear realized. Even worse...it had felt worth it. Everything had been drowned out when he'd given in. The voice in his head yelling that he was a fag, that he was weak, screaming about the consequences; the strain; the endless grey walls closing in -- in that moment where he wasn't alone, and someone else's warm skin stroked over his cock, none of it had mattered.

Ryan stayed still as the water pounded down on him, remembering. He'd felt Miguel's reluctance to pull away, felt it echoed deep in his own bones. The small touch afterwards as Miguel had gone to clean Ryan up without thought. The lost look on Miguel's face when Ryan had left him, like he was going off the deep end again.

Why did everything have to be so fucking complicated?

Ryan finally pulled himself away from the water, the memories. He quickly toweled off, his mind working again. Remembering again, but not Miguel this time.

His head was occupied now with thoughts of seeing Cyril before. The only other times nothing else mattered --being with Cyril. The way Cyril's face lit up when he saw Ryan. Cyril loved him unconditionally. He didn't see the change, didn't know that his brother wanted a man. If Ryan was happy, Cyril wouldn't have cared if he was a fag. Hell, Cyril wouldn't have cared if Ryan wanted to fuck puppets...as long as it wasn't Nooter and Pecky. A wry smile tugged at Ryan's mouth with the thought.

Before and after the accident -- the accident that was Ryan's fucking fault -- Cyril was there for him. And always would be. Cyril would forgive him anything. Whatever fucking happened with Alvarez -- he would have Cyril back.

His fear, doubt, and pain lessened with just the thought. Fuck it. He could figure it out, it didn't matter. It's not like he didn't have time to deal with...whatever. He had nothing but time, and he could handle anything now.

After he was dressed and composed, at least visibly, he headed over to where Liam sat at a table, observing the comings and goings.

Ryan's eyes automatically scanned for the Latino...and didn't seeing him anywhere. "Alvarez come back yet?" Ryan carefully kept his voice calmly even.

"Nah, man. He's been gone a long time."

Ryan chose not to answer the question in Liam's voice. Liam knew Ryan had worked out some kind of deal to get Alvarez to testify, but Ryan had let him believe that is was strictly about money. Now he probably thought Ryan whacked the guy in the gym or something.

This was not good. Alvarez did not have a history of dealing well with stress, and he didn't exactly seem calm and composed when Ryan had left him. The guy had hung himself from the fucking rafters before. Ryan dismissed his sudden worry; he was just concerned about being found out. That was it. He'd paid off the guards for some 'unsupervised gym time', not a whole fucking day. He needed Miguel to help Cyril's case. Ryan didn't care about anything but the possible consequences to himself. Telling himself that was what sent him slinking back out to find Miguel, nothing else.


Miguel couldn't bring himself to go back to Emcity yet, so he'd headed to the gym. It was close to the storage room. Fuck, it was where he was supposed to have been the whole time, anyway.

The gym was hauntingly empty and quiet. Miguel needed to focus on something, feeling his mind spinning out of control again.

Had to avoid the guilt and accusatory voices filling his head, beating him back down.

Miguel started hitting the bag, no wraps on his hands, no holding back. Over and over nothing -- but contact. He pounded away with blind focus. Until he was drained.

It wasn't until he stopped that he really felt the pain. Miguel looked down at torn, bloody knuckles. He drifted for a moment, watching the flow of blood, flexing his hands, making it pump out more. Little rivulets running into creases. He felt the rolling sting, watching in fascination.

He finally drifted back out of the stinging play of dark red on light brown, reaching for something to wipe it off. Miguel pulled the shirt out of his back pocket without thought. It didn't penetrate until he looked at the stained cloth.

The reminder slammed back into him, forcing him off his feet to sit heavily on a weight bench. The slowly drying, stained material was slightly stiff in his hands. He just stared. Caught.

Bodily fluids. His. Ryan's. Theirs.



He had taken this from Ryan. Pulled it out of him. Miguel watched as his blood soaked into the cloth, mixing. He'd tangled them up together. His fault. Couldn't stop pushing it, couldn't walk away.

He'd followed his blood instead of his brain. Yeah, trouble came to him, always slinking around his door, but this time he'd had a chance to get away.

But he'd ignored the way out, just having to reach out and touch. Now everything was flowing, involuntarily. Semen. Blood. Together.

Miguel was shaken from his reverie by the slow penetration of a familiar voice.

"What are you still doing here? Do you fucking want the guards to be forced to come look for you?"

He looked up as Ryan stopped dead in his tracks a few feet away.

"Jesus...what the fuck happened to your hands?"

Unable to focus on Ryan's words, mind still feeling slightly disconnected, Miguel just held out the stained shirt to Ryan. "This is yours...I took it."

"You really are fucking crazy." Ryan barely breathed out the words, sounding quietly shocked.

"Yeah." It came out as a rough whisper. Miguel cleared his throat and turned to look at Ryan. The Irishman was looking at him like Miguel was a suicide on a ledge. Miguel wondered if Ryan was contemplating giving him a helpful push.

"I was just fucking with you, you know. That day you came to me for help." Miguel voiced the plain statement as he came back to steady ground, speech stronger, serious, no longer a whisper. It was important that everything was clear to Ryan, the whole truth, even though the fucker was smart enough he'd probably already figured it out. It was important for Miguel to say it, to confess. "I thought it would be fun to watch you squirm. I didn't want anything from you. I wasn't going to testify."

Ryan's eyes narrowed dangerously, focusing on him. Shit. Miguel bet this was what Ryan's victims usually never got to see as he plotted their downfalls from a distance. "Why?" The clipped question was devoid of emotion, sending a chill up Alvarez's spine.

Miguel didn't know how to answer that question. He didn't know anymore; it seemed so distant and clouded, like it had happened to a different person. He hadn't seen the truth about Ryan then. Hadn't seen Ryan at all. "Because I could...because you're a dick." Miguel ended with a humorless chuckle.

"No -- " Ryan dismissed that answer with a shake of his head, like that was information Ryan could figure out on his own. "Why did you testify?"

Now that Miguel thought about it, he figured Ryan did know all about why people hurt each other, and understood perfectly why they toyed with each other and caused pain. But what Ryan wouldn't understand was why they would help, why'd they'd do something good if there was nothing in it for them.

This was just as hard to put into words. "I was wrong to fuck with you like that." And that was not enough. Ryan deserved a piece of him. "You know about my baby, right?"

A slow nod from Ryan signaled him to continue.

"I know what it's like. I loved him so fucking much, and I couldn't protect him. He was my responsibility. I would've done anything to save him." Miguel finally looked steadily up at Ryan, needing him to get this, to understand. "I didn't know you felt that way about anyone, that you could put anyone above yourself. You couldn't save Cyril. Nobody should feel like that -- lose the only thing they love -- not even you. I couldn't save my boy. But I could help Cyril." The words came out of him in an low emotional rush as he twisted the shirt over and over in his hands.

Ryan was looking at him in that way he had, like people are just books and files that he can open up and read. Skimming all the information he needs right off the surface. Like head or heart Ryan could just *know* what was inside, what made everyone tick. Miguel had seen some cold, calculating motherfuckers in his life, but Ryan's stare was in a class of its own. Having it directed at him was unnerving.

He wasn't scared though.

He was thinking of another look he'd seen on Ryan's face, the one that was burned on his brain. That lost, helpless look that he knew so well from his own experience. The depth of pain and desperation when you couldn't protect the person you loved most, when you watched your world slip away from you. That look was the reason why Miguel had testified, why they were connected now, why he found himself here explaining, wanting forgiveness.

Miguel stared right back into Ryan's eyes, open and letting Ryan have whatever information he was searching for. It was his to take.

"I didn't mean for this to happen." Miguel murmured. Suddenly, he couldn't stand that gaze anymore. Miguel's gaze returned to staring down at his hands, at the evidence of the two of them. "I'm sorry." Lost in the silence, the twisting regret of his mind. Slipping away again, into the dark.

"You didn't force me to do anything." Ryan broke the silence with stark suddenness, pulling Miguel back to the here and now.

Ryan's voice surprised him, heavy and low, right next to him. He brought his head up, to see Ryan crouched in front of him. The words had pegged the roiling guilt that had taken over Miguel's mind. That intense searching gaze had ferreted out the truth with ease. Maybe the fucker was psychic.

Ryan's face was no longer closed off. He was right there with Miguel, giving Miguel what *he* needed this time. "I wanted it."

Green eyes flashed with some hidden emotion clawing its way out. It was the only thing he saw as Ryan impulsively leaned in -- to kiss him.

Lips pressing against his, chaste but deep. Nothing like the desperate rushing kisses of before. A kiss that tasted like tears, like forgiveness. Eyes open and locked on each other's the whole time. It only lasted a moment before Ryan was gone, standing up and walking away.

He turned back briefly to look at the stained fabric twisted in Miguel's hands. "Get your ass back to Emcity before we're both screwed...and throw that disgusting fucking thing away and get a new one." Ryan said it without malice, conveying something else despite the harsh words. Like speaking in code, with those eyes and that body.

This wasn't over at all. As Alvarez watched the Irishman's retreating back, he wondered if even Ryan himself realized what he was saying.

Guess they would find out.

** End

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