Smoke curled in the air like lost serpents, escaping the illumination of the street lamp and fading into the darkness of the night. Michael let his hand drop between his legs, watching the faint glow of the blunt burn out. He forced his breathing to even, waiting for the THC to kick in and calm the rage thrumming in his veins. Eyes closed, he leaned back against the ratty old bench, letting the first wave of relaxation wash over him. He unclenched his left hand, idly observing the marks his nails had bit into his palm. Breathe in, out. In, out. No need to overdo it tonight. Just enough to calm down.
The events of the day flashed behind Michael’s eyelids. The taunting of that fucking scumbag information dealer, his words like poison. The image of a teenage Michael’s shitty mugshot, complete with long, stringy hair and a puffy split lip was seared into his mind. That mugshot with that unfamiliar body and that long-dead name was shoved in his face like fucking punishment, as if the bastard was saying “Look. This is you. This is all anyone will ever remember you as.”
Then the dealer spat on Michael, still calling him that old name, and what the fuck else was Michael supposed to do but make him suffer as much as he could before getting rid of him? At the end of it, Michael’s knuckles were bruised and bloody, but the sting was nothing compared to the satisfaction of hearing the asshole cry out over and over again. Swollen face, black eyes, knocked out teeth, all while Ryan stood behind him, understanding Michael’s wrath simply by watching. He made no moves to stop him, because though his methods were different, he’d do the same. Michael wasn’t like Ryan. He didn’t have any fancy torture methods of pulling teeth or nails or cutting in just the right places. No, he didn’t know shit about that. What he did know was how to beat the shit out of someone without knocking them unconscious, waiting until their final breath for them to beg for mercy and end it.
Bandages were wrapped around Michael’s abused hands at the Jack’s insistence, and there they stayed, the white linen discolored with dirt and dried blood. Jack’s worry was a comfort. Michael knew she must have experienced similar things, but… It didn’t change how awful it felt to be treated worse than garbage. Because after a shitty fucking childhood and a life of crime, why not rub salt in the wound and invalidate the new life Michael had built for himself? Because fuck him, right?
The brief relief of the drag was practically gone, reduced to an ache in his head adding onto all the anguish already there. Tears stung at Michael’s eyes, and he wanted to scream, shout, do something other than sit like a fucking emo loser by himself in the dark. He raised his fist, intending to bring it down on the splintered wood of the bench to feel anything besides the pain in his chest and head, but another hand caught it on the way down. Michael spun around, body taut and other hand ready to hit whoever dared to touch him right now, crew or random passerby or whoever.
But it was Geoff.
Michael let his raised fist drop limply onto his lap and turned back around in silence, feeling the cool streaks of tears finally escape and slip down his cheeks. He wiped them away furiously. Geoff hadn’t let go of the arm he caught yet, and Michael felt rough, calloused fingers lace with his as the older man settled on the bench next to him.
“Don’t look a’ me,” Michael mumbled, hating how weak his voice sounded and how weak he felt.
“You can’t go hurting yourself, buddy,” Geoff said gently, and Michael just about broke right there and felt the tears coming harder. “It’s okay. I’m here, breathe.”
“It’s really not, though,” Michael said under his breath. Geoff held tight onto his hand and leaned forward in question. “It’s not okay. I’m out here at fucking 3 AM thinking about some dickwad who I beat to death over some pictures and words.” He laughed bitterly. “You know what he said? Y’know what he said, Geoff? He said, get this- ‘so that’s why you’re called a Fake, huh? Fake name, fake body, fake face, fake identity.’” Without realizing it, Michael’s voice had been increasing in volume at every “fake” he uttered, and his throat felt raw.
WIthout warning, Geoff pulled Michael into an enveloping hug, cocooning the lad in his warmth. Michael choked out a sob.
“Fuck that,” Geoff murmured. “Fuck him and his shitty fucking hate. The only Fake you are is a member of this crew. This fuckin’- this family . If some asshole fuckin’ transphobe info dealer wants to talk shit to my boy, then yeah. Let him suffer. Killing him that quickly was an act of mercy from your part.”
Michael’s blunt lay extinguished and crushed on the concrete beneath their feet, and he absently wondered how that would ever have been a comfort compared to Geoff. Coughing, Michael pushed himself off of Geoff’s chest slightly, just enough to look him in the face. He must’ve looked like a mess: eyes undoubtedly bloodshot and red-rimmed, pale cheeks turned blotchy like they did whenever he cried.
“You mean it? You don’t have to… You don’t have to make me feel better, Geoff,” Michael said.
“I mean it,” Geoff said firmly. “Hell, I fucking hired you. You’re the strongest guy I know, man.”
A small smile tugged at Michael’s lips. “I’m out here in the middle of the night smoking weed and crying. Is that being strong?”
Geoff rolled his eyes and squeezed Michael’s hand, careful to avoid the damaged knuckles. “Oh, shut up. I said strong, not fuckin’ emotionless.” His voice dipped an octave deeper, and Michael felt a shiver down his spine when those blue eyes locked on his, absolutely serious. “Michael. The proof of your strength is you being here, with us. With me. After everything you’ve been through… Hell, I’d like to see others try to have the same sheer amount of willpower that you have.”
Michael buried his face in Geoff’s chest and nodded into his shirt.
“I’ve got you, baby,” Geoff whispered, and Michael felt his heart clench in helpless love. They stayed like that for minutes, Geoff holding Michael and rocking slightly until the sobs subsided.
“Aw man, you’ve got snot on me, gross,” Geoff complained jokingly, though his fingers carded through Michael’s hair and his other hand rubbed circles in the small of the lad’s back.
It started to become hard to breathe with his nose shoved in fabric, so Michael looked up at Geoff through his lashes. “How’d you know I was out here?”
Geoff smiled at him under droopy eyelids and rolled his eyes as if it were obvious. “You were missing in bed, so I woke up.”
“That’s it?” Michael asked incredulously. “Man. I thought I was sneaky.”
“Well, uh… Usually I only get good sleep when you’re there with me,” Geoff admitted. “I dunno. It’s uh, it’s just how it is. Maybe I activated some super couple powers and sensed your presence leave.”
Michael snorted. “Yeah, I’m sure. But… Thanks for coming. Really.”
“Anything for my favorite boy,” Geoff responded sweetly, and gave him a peck on the lips.
“Your favoooriiiite…?” Michael asked teasingly. “Who knew being boyfriends with the boss had this many perks?”
“Oh, whatever. You were my favorite before that anyway.”
“Thought you didn’t have favorites?” Michael snarked.
“I don’t,” Geoff deadpanned.
“But you literally just said-”
“Nope. No favorites here,” Geoff said again, and Michael burst into a fit of giggles that felt so damn relieving after the anger and hurt that had been pooling in his chest. That was the nice thing about Geoff, really. He didn’t try to dispel Michael’s anger as if there was no reason for it, nor did he try to ignore it in favor of making him feel better. No, he acknowledged it, expressed himself feeling similarly, and ultimately supported him through all of it. It was a feeling of unconditional support, unconditional love. And Michael would be damned if he’d trade that for anything else in the world.