Heal me, he wants to say. Take away the pain inside, the memories, the hurt blazing through my veins, the shadows, the ghosts that appear everytime I close my eyes, please, would you please.
But he never says anything at all. He loses the words when he needs them the most and has to settle with touch and feel and a hot breath on his neck, almost burning. You can say so much with touch but there are things you can't say with your hands, your mouth on his. And so it goes and you moan and groan and whimper, but you never say a word.
Does Michael know? Does he sense? When those dark, dark eyes look oddly serene and serious, does he look inside him and see that he's not whole, that he's in pieces? When his hands touch his back, kneading, is Michael trying to mend him? When he wakes him up at eight on a rare day off and brings him outside to a small bakery he's just discovered, is he trying to put him back together?
"Look at the sunset," Michael would say, and his eyes would be unreadable, but his mouth would smile, softly. He would look up, at the horizon, and the sky would be bleeding, glowing, red fading to pink and light yellow. Beautiful, pure. The few times he cried, Michael didn't say anything. He put his arm around his shoulder, pulled him close and spoke of sunshine sparkling on snow, of a moon so full and bright you looked in the sidemirror and thought it was a car, and of a small, blond child with big blue eyes and a red balloon he'd seen when they were in Oklahoma.
It would soothe the pain inside him for a while and he could smile and laugh as the rain suddenly started pouring down and the lightning crashed across the sky. Michael loved storms. Wild and free and dangerous, just his cup of tea. When Michael bounced on his feet, stretching his arms up towards the sky, seemingly trying to catch the lightning in his hands, or maybe the grey skies, what could he do but smile? When Michael pulled him up, pushing him into a wild run and dance across the roof, what could he do but laugh?
Michael sees all the things he can't. He sees the beauty in everything. "It's not ugly or boring," he says, looking at Liz pacing around, arms around herself. "Even the center had a sharp sort of beauty."
Liz stops briefly, arching an eyebrow in his direction, looking away, pacing again. Maria looks up from her carefully collected collection of newspaper articles and says: "I don't know what you're on, Michael, or how you get your dope, but could I have some of it? They seem to be a totally life altering deal." Maria isn't happy if she can't bitch at Michael. The time he was out for a month and in the hospital ward, was harder on her than on Michael. She had to be nice to him.
Later Max studies, in a way, the center. The hallways, the training cantina, the communications room, the Director's office. And he thinks he can sort of understand what Michael meant. Like a knife, the center has a certain leathal attraction about it. It could kill you, but then again, be the reason you're alive.
He's stood in his bathroom sometimes, holding a hunting knife in his hand, baring the other wrist, staring at his reflection in the mirror. Only once did the knife make contact with his skin before Michael stormed into the room, white faced and breathing heavily. He was folded up in Michael's arms and rocked gently while Michael said things like "It's going to be okay", "The Director says. With therapy. Medication" and "Don't. Please don't. Don't even. Don't even think about it. What would I do without you? Huh? You ever think of that?"
So now he has small red pills at breakfast and dinner every day even if Michael is such a force of nature he would survive anything.
I love you, he wants to say. I would be nothing without you, he also wants to say. It's all because of you. But even if he could get the words past his lips from where they were trapped behind his teeth, you didn't say things like that at the center.
You said "want to fuck?" and "you can leave your paint here if you like". Sometimes maybe "hold me".
Michael can die tomorrow if the plan he's come up with isn't good enough or something goes wrong. He's checked and double checked and driven Kyle to near murder and Isabel have looked knowing because Isabel always looks knowing, but fate is one mean bitch - relative of the Director's probably - and unexpected things happen.
A target will bring his kids when he isn't supposed to and tears will appear in Liz' eyes as she and Michael methodically take care of witnesses and everyone will be silent for a while. And Michael will stay up at all hours and paint.
Then Tess comes and they are a real Squad for the first time. Three Pointers, six Wings. It changes things in strange, undefinable ways. More so than Isabel and Kyle have. He sees Isabel and he sees kin. He sees Tess, and somewhere underneath it all, she is kin as well. But different.
First he thinks. A crush. A sudden infatuation brought on by something, he doesn't know what. Her freshness, the way she symbolizes The Outside, the way she laughs at his jokes, rare as they may be. It feels good, warm.
Until one day he enters their room - pods, Tess called them - and Michael isn't there and all his things are gone. He spins around, quickly run to the Squad room.
"Where is Michael?" His eyes are wild and he doesn't look calm, not at all.
Valenti straightens from where he's been looking over Kyle's shoulder at the monitor and he says that Michael is in his room.
"No, he's not, I'm just coming from it now, and he's not there and all his. Where is he?"
"In his room," Valenti repeats and his eyes are compassionate and he knows, he knows, and oh god, he knows.
He runs, headlessly, unthinking, can barely remember where Michael's room is, but finds it eventually. The door slides open at his touch on the security plate and he walks in on Michael sitting crosslegged on the floor surrounded by boxes, his head in his hands.
"Michael," he says and Michael's head whips up and his hand quickly slides over his face. "Michael..."
"It's okay," Michael says, smiling at him, only it isn't a smile, not really, and he can see that now. He knows that while he might be in pieces inside and see ghosts in the night, he's not alone. Michael is walking wounded too. When he dances to the storm, it's because for a small moment, he can pretend to be free. When he paints and paints and forgets to eat, it's because there is something inside him that can only be expressed through colours and shapes. When he curls up around him and holds his arm protectivly around Max' chest, it's because. It's because it makes the darkness go away for him too.
He smiles back and sinks down behind Michael and folds his arms around him. "Yes," he agrees. "It's okay now."