Juxian Tang's Fiction
Main Page
Slash/Yaoi Fiction
Original Fiction
[+] Livejournal
[+] E-mail Juxian
Slash and Yaoi Fiction
Title: Bargain
Author: Juxian Tang
Fandom: Harsh Realm
Rating: R
Pairing: Hobbes/other; Hobbes/Pinocchio UST
Status: complete
Series/sequel: no
Archive: yes
Feedback: juxiantang@hotmail.com
URL: http://juxian.slashcity.net
Disclaimer: Harsh Realm and its characters belong to Chris Carter, 1013 Productions and Fox Entertainment. No copyright infringement is intended.
Warning: not quite consensual
Summary: Hobbes makes a sacrifice; Pinocchio does not appreciate it.
Lots of thanks to Quinn for struggling through this story with me and for her advice that made it so much better!


He knew he was getting ill, too, when he found himself snuggling against Pinocchio in the sleep. The solidity of Mike's body was so inviting - and the warmth of it seemed to be irresistible, promising to stop the tormenting shivers that racked him. Hobbes raised his head and reluctantly unwound his arm from around Pinocchio's chest, feeling vaguely ashamed for using his friend's unconsciousness this way. He would feel more ashamed but it was gone quickly when moving brought a mist of blackness over his eyes.

He didn't flop back on the ground but the effort of staying up made him sweat. How could it be - how could he become so weak... It didn't have to happen so fast. But his body seemed to have the ideas of its own about it. He willed himself into lucidity, rose on his arm and touched Pinocchio's face. He'd known what he'd feel and yet it still came as a shock - so hot - burning. Mike's eyelids didn't even flutter - and it scared Hobbes most of all. He listened to Pinocchio's fast, shallow breath, trying to figure out if it changed since yesterday. It might've become fainter - he couldn't say; recollections came hard to him, so hard that it both frightened and annoyed him.

He had to be in control... he shoved his fist in the ground, seeking pain to bring himself in order. The sleeping bag softened the blow but it still smarted enough. Made him aware enough to drag himself up into a sitting position and being able to pull the plastic can of water closer not spilling half of it on the way.

A wet cloth wasn't enough for Pinocchio any more - but he still put it on Mike's forehead - and splashed some water on his own face and neck. It felt so disgustingly cold that he shivered again - and felt resentment with it.

His mood was flipping - he realized it and knew it was another indicator of him being feverish, the same good as any other. He remembered how Sophie used to tease him about getting "baby-ish" when sick... And she always was there then - to mix him some nasty-blended medicine or to force a woolen scarf on him...

Uh oh. This was not going to bring him anywhere - memories. Could give him a few minutes or hours of floating in the past - not such a bad thing, of course. But Sophie was not there to take care of him and of Mike. He was the one who had to do it.

He had been doing it all right for three days. Pinocchio must've picked up the flu in the city - had already been edgy and irritable in the truck, when they fled. A disastrous affair it had been, from the beginning to the end. They got a tip that Santiago was going to visit C. - and a lead to someone who could help them. Florence didn't follow them - the car was in repair and she had to pick them up in six days on the road outside the city, at the derelict barn there.

But it turned out that they spent only a day in C. before the round-up was set. They closely missed it - so closely that got a peek at Waters' crimson beret - that made Pinocchio cock up his gun and Hobbes barely managed to stop him from shooting. They were lucky enough to get out - and there would be no problem in hanging around in the woods, waiting for Flo - if not for Pinocchio's illness.

First night, settling down in his sleeping bag - they set a tent behind the trees, away from the barn - Pinocchio tossed, turned, grunted and complained that it was damn cold. And in the morning, when Hobbes, worried that he didn't wake up, shook him, he just looked with milky eyes and his lips were cracked and withered with inner heat.

"I'll be all right tomorrow," he promised Hobbes - and lied. There probably were some periods when he was better - they managed to keep the temperature down by wiping his body with cold water. But it stopped working yesterday.

Yesterday in the evening it was the last time when Pinocchio said something - and this time he was coherent, muttering deliriously as before. He said: "I let you down," and his unseeing, pin-pupil eyes closed as he went quiet. Except for this terrible, wheezing breath, that is - breath that told Hobbes he was still alive.

It couldn't be that bad... It was, of course - but Hobbes wouldn't believe it, if he was given any chance not to. It was just flu, not a plague or anything, right? Both of them must've had dozen flus in their life. People didn't die of flu...

Well, at least they didn't - in the other realm.

Could he do something else, more than he'd done? With Santiago's people roaming around, with no house in tens of miles anywhere near and no car passing except the military ones - what could he? But he still thought he had to try something. Only, maybe, now it was too late.

Yesterday, sitting with Mike, he said more for himself than for Pinocchio:

"Just forty-eight hours left. Florence will come and heal you." And added, feeling the dull, exhausting pain in his joints that meant that the flu found him, too. "She'll heal both of us."

But forty-eight hours could be too long for Mike.

* * *

Hobbes came to his senses and realized he had Pinocchio's hand on his lap. He remembered that he was going to check Mike's pulse, decided for some reason that it was a good idea, like he didn't know without it how the things went. But his consciousness faltered somewhere on the way - and he just stayed like this, with his fingers wrapped around Pinocchio's wrist.

He couldn't let himself slip away like this... If anything, he needed to keep his mind clear. Some part of him realized that it actually didn't matter - lucid or not, he couldn't help Pinocchio any more.

Maybe, it was just the fear to fall asleep and wake up near to a corpse.

Hobbes bit his lip so hard that drew blood and had to swallow it. It tasted weird - bitter and too metallic - but he didn't feel nearly enough pain to distract him. Why couldn't Florence come earlier? Didn't she feel they needed her so much? He knew it was unfair to think it - how could she feel it, really? It was just his illness talking, his instability seeking for someone to blame.

But it would be good, so good if she were there...

It was not that he really imagined that Florence did come; later he thought it was probably the sounds that reached him - and his clouded mind transformed them into what he wanted to hear. But he realized what he was doing when he already laced his boots and started scrambling out of the tent. Something in his hand hindered him - and he saw his own gun there. Which was good - meant he was not gone too far to forget it.

Already outside, Hobbes suddenly wanted to return and check on Pinocchio once more. Like it could make any difference. Or, maybe, it was just the wish to touch his face, the still, closed soft eyelashes on his unmoving eyes. He shook it away forcefully - it didn't make sense. Just like the little gesture he made didn't make sense, too - curled fingers against the wet material of the tent:

"I'll be back soon, just wait for me."

Fever must've been making him maudlin; should memorize that for a future.

He didn't quite remember walking through the woods; some rational part of his mind reminded him to be careful, not to walk into the militaries if they were there. And someone was there, for sure - he knew it. Not Florence, tough - unless she learned to speak while away and developed a set of low male voices. This thought seemed suddenly very amusing to him, much more than it deserved - and he had to cover his mouth with his hand to muffle a chuckle.

Another mood swing; how neat.

He still must've moved quietly enough - because when he appeared from behind the trees, they still didn't notice him.

There were six of them; civil - the usual bedraggled men inhabiting Santiago's part of Harsh Realm. Unshaven and dirty looking - but their clothes were solid and warm. They were armed - and they had a truck. They probably spent the night in the barn - there were traces of fire in front of them - and now they were packing their things. Quite enough of possessions they had...

"Hey!" Hobbes stopped in about fifty steps from them - and they still didn't see him before he hailed. Fools like that didn't deserve to live, Pinocchio would say. But when Hobbes did call for them, all their guns bristled up at him immediately.

"Whoa... don't shoot... I am a good guy," he smiled raising his hands in a peaceful gesture. His gun was still in his hand but he held it by the handle only with two fingers. "We saw you camping there - and you looked okay. So, we decided we could have some deal with you."

He had no idea what he was talking about. He felt like a huge clot of wool stuffed into his head instead of his brain - and it must've had the same much thinking ability. But he felt he had to talk - something, anything... and, maybe, there could be some sense in it.

"*We*?" The man's eyes were like slits of steel, unblinking - and Hobbes nodded carefully, trying not to let a wave of blackness that came with every sharp move of the head cover him. He smiled again - the smile that he hoped looked cocky - but in fact, he just couldn't keep the corners of his mouth from slipping up.

Must've been fever high... the cheapest way to get up your mood, huh?

"Yeah, we. Me and my friends. It is our territory, you know."

"Which one?" Another question like a snap - and the eyes never left Hobbes while he showed around with his chin indefinitely.

"And where are your friends?" It was another one asking. Good... this was an easy question.

"You can't see them but they can see you. Do you think I would come here without a back up?"

If they thought so, he was as good as dead. And when no one of them shot, Hobbes allowed himself to let out his breath carefully.

"We just want to talk," he added. "No need to look at me like Russia at the United States."

They exchanged weird glances, like they didn't quite understand what he was talking about - and he kicked himself mentally for confusing them. The guns didn't go down.

"What do you want?"

Oh, a lot of things, he could say. Your truck. Santiago dead. Going home. Seeing my baby. But for now something less had to do.

"One of my friends is ill," he said. "Do you have antibiotics? We can trade something for them."

He forced himself into seeing their faces instead of the fluctuating blackness - and barely could believe it when something flicked in the grey eyes of one of them. The one who questioned him.

"Why do you think you have something we'll want?"

"So, you do have the medicines?" And he had to get them... whatever it'd cost. Even if he needed to put everyone of the guys dead.

"What do you have to trade?" The man's voice became more insistent and the muzzle of his gun shifted. Yeah, what, indeed.

"The gun," Hobbes said.

They laughed. Somehow it eased the atmosphere, making them lower the guns - but it was not the answer that satisfied Hobbes.

"We have guns," the man said.

"It's a good one," Hobbes still tried to control his voice enough to sound convincing, not hysterical. He had clothes and the tent, too, but there was no way he could give them, Pinocchio and he needed them to survive. Besides, if he let them into the woods, they would see there were no 'friends' watching him...

"I just need a few ampoules." He tried to sound convincing but the noise in his ears hindered him to hear if he succeeded. "The gun is worth more."

"And why can't we take the gun and whatever else we want... from your corpse?" the same man asked rudely.

"You can try." No pause, no faltering. "But my friend is a sniper."

"The friend that is ill?"

"No, the other one."

"Neither of your friends is a woman?" another guy asked thoughtfully. So unexpectedly that Hobbes' attention snapped towards him automatically. This one had a flabby belly hanging over the belt of his jeans. The expression of his bearded face was almost dreamy.

"Hey, do you have anything else in your mind, Marv?" someone pushed him teasingly.

"Nope," Hobbes said. "No women."

"It sucks," the man with the narrow grey eyes said. "It looks like you have nothing we are interested in."

No... No, there must've been a variant. Hobbes' mind was groping for an idea - but all there was felt like moss, falling apart at the touch.

"On the other hand," the man continued and Hobbes felt hope sprang again, as flimsy as it was, "maybe, we can figure out something. Marvin is right, it's been too long without a fuck..."

"We don't have any women..." he started in annoyance - not if they had any, they would... and then it caught up on him, making him gasp.

"I see we understand each other, boy-soldier."

"What?" Even if Hobbes understood, Marvin apparently didn't.

"He might look like he was dragged through the forest for last few days - and he stinks like a pig. But a hole is a hole, what do you think? A mouth is a mouth, too."

"Oh no, you can't be serious, Kyle," Marvin drawled - and yet there was already hesitation in his eyes.

"I didn't offer that for trade," Hobbes said firmly.

He was not that shocked, he had to admit it. It was not the first time when he was offered to do something like that - for money or 'for the best blow-job in Ohio', as someone told him. Still, there was never a moment when he regarded accepting it.

He was not going to do it now either.

"It's your choice," Kyle shrugged indifferently.

"You can have the gun and my jacket," he said.

"It goes without saying," Kyle nodded. "Your gun, your jacket - and getting off all of us. Mouth or ass, you can choose."

He heard the words through the thick veil of headache - heavy as if there were a few pounds of lead stuffed into his brain - lead forged in the sharp forms, like spikes and needles. His thoughts caught on these spikes and could go no further. He focused his gaze with an excruciating effort.

"The gun and... that," he said. "No jacket. And you give me the medicines first."

He saw Kyle exchange the glances with others - but he knew it was more for form's sake, the man was the one making decisions. Then Kyle bent down to the beg and rummaged in it.

I can shoot him now, Hobbes thought, while he is not looking. Maybe, it'd confuse others enough to give him a chance. If only he was not so dizzy and weak that keeping his raised hands from trembling was a heroic effort.

Hey, do you really think that the virginity of your mouth is worth the lives of six men? Another voice, so much like Pinocchio's, sounded in his head. What a prize do you think yourself that you are ready to kill them, just to save yourself from... ah, from "a fate worse than death"?

Right. What had happened to him here that he could regard taking someone else's life so easily?

And it was not that they asked him something impossible to endure.

The thin foil package in Kyle's hand decided it for him. He reached his hand - and the man threw it to him.

Six ampoules. And a disposal syringe, one, but it had to do. It had to be enough till tomorrow evening, if nothing else. Hobbes brought the ampoules closer to his eyes, trying to read the small letters printed on them - the letters that escaped from him like little black insects.

It'd better be that, he thought. It had to be that, couldn't be otherwise...

He nodded, shoving the package in his pocket. And slid down to his knees, putting the gun on the ground next to him.

He felt exhilarated; that was hardly appropriate in the situation - but he did feel like that. Another bubble of half-crazy laughter rose in him, pushing him to tell them not to expect much, not like he'd ever done it before. But he thought better - it was not a good idea to let them know they didn't get much out of their part of the bargain.

Besides, it hardly was so difficult. No more difficult than driving a car, for sure... at least he'd met really stupid girls doing it quite successfully...

"That's my boy," Kyle said and Hobbes didn't know if it was to him or to Marvin who pulled his zipper down.

It turned out even easier than he expected. The man started panting almost at the moment Hobbes put the mouth around his cock. As for Hobbes' own sensations, he prepared himself to shut them down, not to concentrate on sight, smell, size or implication. It was easy; making his mind find some other way to deal had been difficult - impossible - but letting himself slide away from reality... It was exactly what he found practically irresistible.

He just maintained enough control to keep away his teeth - suspected not unfoundedly that Marvin wouldn't be happy to feel them - and otherwise he was getting into the routine of up and down movements, Marvin's cock butting against the back of his throat steadily.

He almost could believe he was somewhere else at these moments. Sophie... no, not with her, it would be a sin to think that. And, in any case, her gentle-eyed face slipped away from him - exchanging with Pinocchio's face - the glimpses of his naked body, his hard palms and hard stare... and this haughty, dead-cold expression of his that irritated Hobbes so much at first and then seemed to addict him hopelessly.

Marvin's hands grabbed his ears, pulling him forward, making him gag at the cock going past his contracting throat - and then wetness and warmth filled his mouth, bitter and brackish.

It tasted so much like blood, he thought with a kind of amazement.

Then Marvin let him go - still panting, saying between the gasps:

"He is good, I can tell you. Has the hottest mouth I've ever fucked. It's... it's like liquid heat."

You are a poet, Marv, Hobbes thought spitting the man's cum on the ground. Well, yeah, it might've felt special... another memo for benefits of a fever: you can give a pretty enviable head.

He didn't have time to consider this topic thoroughly before another cock was pressed to his lips.

"You are right, you know." He heard the second man's voice above his head, sounding slightly puzzled in confirmation of Marv's words. The thought that he was definitely appreciated almost made Hobbes giggle in the man's pubis.

By the third man his jaw started aching - the sensation that didn't add much to various pains and aches his body seemed to consist of. But his light-hearted mood vanished and he was working on the man with grim determination, hoping that it would be over soon. There were some things he knew - how one could speed it up - but he really didn't want to touch any of them even with a finger - if it was not absolutely necessary.

He spent half of the time blowing the fourth man in a kind of daze, vaguely realizing that it was not a good idea, that if he let himself slip away, he could come back when it was already too late; but he still couldn't make himself care enough. The soreness of his knees against the twigs and small stones on the ground was a distant but annoying presence in his mind, making him shift uncomfortably even when he didn't think about it.

Then the fifth man grabbed his hair and shoved his cock right into his throat, making him flail frantically, nearly breaking into panic. The gun was within his reach, Hobbes almost groped for it - as the man continued to shove his cock in, the yank on his hair so violent that it made Hobbes' eyes watery.

"Get it," the man's voice was a hoarse whisper above his head, "get it, little girl."

He didn't touch the gun, took his hand away from it. They watched him, didn't they - even if all he saw was the coarse spirals of the man's pubic hair. They wouldn't let him do anything. So, he tried to breathe through his nose - and it worked. And at the pain tearing his throat on every slamming motion he reached for his pocket and squeezed the ampoules in his hand slightly.

He had a reason... he could go through that.

There was snot leaking from his nose when the man finished - and Hobbes wiped it away angrily, spitting the man's sperm on the ground demonstratively. There was something pink in it and it didn't surprised him - his throat felt tender and injured.

"That's what I call a good blow-job," the man said contentedly.

"Tell your wife about it," Hobbes snapped back - and must've got the aim as the others laughed.

There was just Kyle left now; had given way to his men first. Standing with his arms folded, watching them almost with fatherly approval. All mind-games... reminding them wordlessly that he was the one who'd arranged for them something they obviously enjoyed so much.

"Listen to me, boy-whore." The hand in his hair made Hobbes raise his face and look into Kyle's cold eyes. "You'll swallow."

Well, that was it. Something that'd make him special. Hobbes looked around absently, thinking suddenly how welcoming the hard cold ground looked - nothing would be better that to sprawl on it, close his eyes and drift away.

"You got it?"

Hobbes made a pause long enough to make Kyle's victory appear impressive - and nodded carefully.


Just a few minutes more... just a few minutes more... He didn't know how many times he repeated it mantra-like until Kyle achieved his peak at last. The man stepped away, zipping his pants - and Hobbes reached for his gun slowly and smoothly. He was aware they made a move to their weapons - and just pushed his gun towards Kyle on the ground. Then made a sign over his head... something that could be interpreted like 'everything okay' or 'watch for me' - if there was indeed someone backing him up.

They understood the gesture as he wanted them to. Hobbes got up, chasing away the stiffness of his body - and walked to the forest. Trying not to think about the guns aimed at his back, trying not to wonder if he was convincing enough. He still thought about it, of course.

He continued to walk the same way, not stopping, not looking back, even when the trees cut him off of the road and the men at the barn. And only when he heard the soft rustle of the creek and realized how silent everything else was, he stopped and spat out Kyle's semen.

Pinocchio was alive when he got to the tent - and Hobbes made him the first injection. Now it looked like they had a chance to last till Florence would appear. She'd find them in the woods, Hobbes knew it. And then he'd ask her to check if he might have some nasty thing he'd picked up from the guys.

* * *

"You don't want that?"

Hobbes followed Pinocchio's gaze right to the hamburger on his own plate.

"You are not still hungry, are you?" He was sure his voice sounded properly appalled.

"I take it for 'no' - and yes, I have a healthy appetite." The last phrase Pinocchio said already sticking his teeth into Hobbes' hamburger.

"You know sometimes I am not sure you joked when saying you wanted to eat Dexter," Hobbes sighed making a sip of his coffee. It was lousy coffee but he was getting used to lousy taste in Harsh Realm. It just seemed that the things in C. had a particularly nasty blend. They had to get out of there - were hanging around for almost three weeks since Florence had picked up them in the forest. Yet there were some loose ends yet.

Loose ends; just that. No way to get closer to Santiago.

"I'm still thinking about eating him," Pinocchio continued rambling. "Why do you think I let you take him around?"

"You let me..." Hobbes just started - and saw something shift in Mike's eyes. He didn't have time to figure out what it was - before a hand lay on his shoulder, spinning him around - and at the next moment another hand - a fist - slammed into his mouth.

"You son of bitch!" He heard this shout of Pinocchio already looking up from the floor, blood running quickly from his split lips - and Florence was on her feet, too, her eyes like black gun-slits looking around. While Pinocchio was holding by the collar a frantically thrashing guy who seemed vaguely familiar...

It was the boots Hobbes recognized first, however - the heavy blunt-toed ones, the laces knotted and greasy - and he knew for sure he'd seen them fairly recently... roughly from the same position.

"What's with you, asshole?" Pinocchio shoved Marvin against the table, knocking the plates off. "Do you always pick up on strangers in this place?"

Oh yeah, strangers... Weird, during these weeks Hobbes almost managed to believe that nothing ever happened, that it was simply a game of his hazed mind. And he would surely learn to believe it solidly - with time; would never think it was real.

But everything that could go wrong in Harsh Realm apparently went wrong.

"Me picking up on strangers?" The broad smile on Marvin's face was something Hobbes didn't like at all - the same as the hatred in the bloodshot eyes that he couldn't explain. "I thought it was what this whore was doing - picking a new client!"

Wham! Pinocchio's fist smashed into Marvin's jaw, making his head dangle. For a moment the man's eyes misted out - and then the same demented, desperate expression reappeared in them.

"Oh sorry... Are you his permanent one? Like to fuck the pretty mouth of his?"

This time it was Florence who shoved her heel into Marvin's shin, making the man squeal in pain.

"One more word and..." There was a growl in Pinocchio's voice, the one that had to make Marvin reconsider whatever he was going to say - if he was not so drunk... or so reckless. Or whatever.

"What? Don't you like what I say?"

Getting up on his feet, Hobbes listened to the clownish tone of the man's voice. He didn't need to look - but Marvin's eyes fixed on him hatefully as he continued, to Pinocchio:

"Or are you the friend that was ill? And why did he lie to us - you had a woman? Wanted to blow us himself, huh?"

There were people looking at them and Pinocchio, with a harassed expression, pulled Marvin to the exit.

"Someone really wants to be smeared over the wall today..."

Hobbes caught Florence' short glance, saw her lips form something like 'It's okay' - and shook his head slightly. Nothing was going to be okay... and when it ever did? But he was not sure if it made him feel frightened or unhappy. Rather, he felt nothing at all.

"Now listen here." In the street Marvin was slammed into the wall and Pinocchio kept holding him, pressing him hard enough to hurt - it was his intention - to hurt, that is. "You are mistaken. None of us has ever seen you. And if you don't want the crap to be beaten out of you - it is better for you to take a leave now and never cross our way again."

"Has never seen me?" Marvin's bleeding mouth curved nastily. "Ask him, then, if he's never seen me." He pointed at Hobbes.

There was an expression of infinite patience on Pinocchio's face as he turned to Hobbes.

"Have you ever seen him, huh?"

What was it, truth or dare, Hobbes thought with a sparkle of annoyance.


"You fuckin' liar!" It set Marvin off - almost let him break away from Pinocchio's grip; there was spit flying out of his mouth... and, Hobbes realized with a kind of shock, there were tears in his eyes. "He sucked off all of us! Turned to be sick himself, with flu. Infected all of us. Tony nearly died because of him, had a weak heart..."

He'd never known which one of them was Tony, nor he wanted to know.

Hobbes saw Pinocchio raise his fist again - and his hand hovered in the air hesitantly, until going down. To deliver a punch in the man's gut. But it didn't already really matter.

"They kicked me out, said it was all my idea, said it was my fault we got ill! You can't afford getting ill here, you know..."

Another blow - and Marvin slid against the wall - and they stood over him, three of them, looking down at his bulky shuddering form. And suddenly Hobbes thought that there was a weird symmetry in that - in now and in the recent past, when Marvin and his friends were looking down at him three weeks ago. And the realization of it made him feel empty and tired.

"Sorry," he said and turned away. "At least you had antibiotics."

* * *

The tension in the car was almost tangible. For all the time he'd spent near to Florence, Hobbes got used to the fact that she managed to make any silence comfortable - natural. But this time even that didn't work. Dexter felt it, too, bustling at first, looking up in Hobbes' face - and then settling down the muzzle on his lap, glancing up unhappily from time to time.

By the time they were out of the city Hobbes felt stiff and brittle with anger. And only the tiniest part of it, as he realized, was directed at this fool Marvin - or at the accident that had brought them together again. And at the same time he knew, even though he didn't want to admit it, that this anger was just an anchor for him. Just something to think about, instead of looking at the flitting lights going over Pinocchio's face, eyes concentrated on the road firmly.

It was insane... Why should he feel guilty? He'd done nothing wrong... done nothing worth mentioning, that was the right way to put it. How dared Pinocchio make him feel uncomfortable? How could he?

He'd got more than he bargained for, the thought kept sounding in Hobbes' head, annoying and inescapable, like a popular tune.

Then, three weeks ago, Hobbes was ready to forget everything right away. He'd done just something he had to do. No psychological trauma over it, thank you very much. He was not going to bring it with him to Sophie when he returned...

Only Sophie had nothing to do with it. Pinocchio did.

Hobbes got out of the car as soon as they stopped at their camp - and in the headlights caught Florence' eyes, the mixture of emotions in them too complex for him to discern clearly: sadness and support and... plea? He shook it off, walking away from the tent. It didn't it surprise him when he heard Pinocchio's steps behind. Only it didn't mean that he had to like it either.

He stopped and turned back before Pinocchio had time to call for him - and suddenly realized that it was too dark there, without the city lights, that he couldn't see Mike's face. Not that he wanted to.

"I wondered how you got the meds."

No question if it was true or not. Well, everything was pretty clear - and Hobbes himself practically admitted it.

"Could just ask me, then. If you were so interested."

"Yeah." The silence after this word was too thin, too slight - ready to fly away any moment - and yet Pinocchio seemed to wait for something or, maybe, tried to push himself to do something. And the words came out with a difficulty, like his throat was contracting on them. "You didn't have to do it."

"Didn't I?" Hobbes started, trying to sound ironic and not pulling it off. "Really?"

"You didn't." It was Pinocchio's best uncompromising voice - the voice he sometimes talked and Hobbes just hated it. It meant no explanations, no comments - just repeating the same thing until Hobbes - or someone else - gave up. He suddenly recalled Pinocchio's stare at these moments - frowning, obstinate - and yet with a trace of strange vulnerability down there - that made Hobbes feel like he was dealing with a stubborn child.

"Say something else but that!" he snapped; couldn't help it. "Why?"

"I don't want to owe you." It was said so reluctantly - in any other state Hobbes wouldn't believe these words for a moment. But he was not at his best now - too shaky, too... unhappy. For God's sake, why was Mike doing it to him? Hobbes knew he'd made a right choice, done a right thing, would do it again if necessary. It was just a little thing - and they were friends; friends help each other. Whatever it costs.

And now Pinocchio made him feel glad they were not able to see each other. Like they were not friends... like there was something different...

"You think I'm daft, right?" Hobbes started in a revengeful need to get back, he didn't really know which way. "That I didn't find a better way to do it. You'd come up with something better, you'd be smarter."

Like in the labor camp, his mind reminded him insidiously. When Hobbes made an idiotic decision - and Pinocchio was the one who had to realize it.

He heard a chuckle - that sounded surprisingly non-amused.

"I didn't regard it in the aspect of your smartness, Hobbes." Pinocchio's voice was almost soft - but it was too little to placate Hobbes.

"Then how did you regard it?" He knew he went into a defensive mood - and couldn't do anything about it. It was what he'd been thinking all the way in the car - that he didn't have to feel defensive. Like there was something to defend between them... "In the aspect of my morality? You are not the one to judge it."

"Who said anything about judging?"

Suddenly he desperately wished he could see Mike's face. It might've broken as little as there was left - yet he still wished it.

"Then what?"

"I just... don't like this idea."

"I see what you mean. It is not the most pleasant experience - when someone near to you is called a whore and everything. If it bothers you - we can go our own way either."

Going, he thought... It was him who would be going, with Dexter - Pinocchio would be driving a car. The non-sequent of this thought nearly elicited a hysterical laughter from Hobbes.

"Oh come on, Hobbes, you know what I mean." There was irritation in Pinocchio's voice - and something else - sounding almost like anguish. "Things like that - they are not for you. You are... a clean boy, you know."

A boy-soldier. A boy-whore. What else could they call him?

"It's ridiculous, Mike." He felt tired and not belligerent any more. What did his cleanness have to do with it - why should it be Pinocchio's concern? What did he care? Pinocchio - who made a point of not caring, made it his credo, his philosophy...

Pinocchio who'd got in that damn fight with the tracker for him - the fight he couldn't win. Hobbes wished he could have a peek into the man's mind, to see what was going there. Why was Mike ready to die for him - and why did he sometimes behave like he was ready to chase Hobbes away with a stick, like a stray dog?

"They might've killed you," Pinocchio said and Hobbes understood he didn't have anything to answer. He could say - 'And you might've died' - but it was obvious, it didn't need to be said aloud. At least not after the quiet anxiety that sounded in Pinocchio's voice.

"But they didn't," Hobbes said.

"Don't do it again." And the tiny pause Hobbes made caused Pinocchio to repeat it, very urgently. "Don't you dare to do it again."

"Okay," he said. "Never again."

"Good." Something was changing in Mike's voice, with every word, as it re-acquired its casualness - Hobbes thought he should've felt relieved. Everything could be as before between them. Eventually, if they both tried, it could be.

Or, maybe, not. He felt something warm touch him - and it made him shiver. But the touch was in the wrong place - at his shins - Dexter's hot solid body pressing to his legs. Hobbes picked up the dog and felt his face being licked - and heard Pinocchio go away, back to the tent. He knew he would follow in a few seconds; but these moments, in the darkness, holding Dexter against his chest, with the little tail beating against his hand - he thought about something both he and Mike didn't say. Maybe, some other time they would say it.


[+] Back