closer than skin / forever we've been
into each other again and again / never apart
joined at the heart / into each other we're falling
"Closer Than Skin", Roch Voisine
Murder was a hollow concept imbued with human sensibilities and the need to preserve the thing they held most precious to themselves. Themselves. It was a concept seldom backed up with consistency, and murder was used as a tool of the state, a tool of fate, on a very regular basis. It was all right if one country killed their people, but not if another did the same for the same sorts of arbitrary reasons.
He didn't expect to spend very long in jail. It was more of a putting to rest than a facing of changes, the closure of a good book that he was sad to leave at last. Macabre, he supposed, but he had a boat to get on in two weeks under another name, a port of disembarkation, a new journey to embrace. New boxes and shelves to sort in his memory palace, carefully balanced as they were, old and new and contrasts and the smell of fear, the taste of anger in his mouth.
Looks of love were treasured, and too tied up in all the rest to ignore. He made a shrine of the place when he reached it, admired the view from the window -- the hideous city marring the gorgeous landscape beyond, the hollow desert that sucked things out into it to make them one with the rocks and the creosote. It felt fitting to place him there, to linger for a few last minutes, to mark himself with the fluid that had filled those veins and rushed through those lungs. No one in the lobby said a thing, or in the parking garage. If they called 911 in his wake, he did not care, because he would be there before they were to him.
He walked in the front door, and headed for the girl at the front desk, smiling at her.
"I'd like to turn myself in for a murder."
It was amusing, how they always had the same fish-mouthed gape when these things happened. He wondered if he had ever made that face, and he knew in the same breath that he had never even once. The deliberate fact of blood on his hands, blood on his face, should have gained him at the very least a more interesting countenance than that one.
Thankfully, someone seemed more prepared. He was an older man, heavyset with broad shoulders and a steadily receding hairline, his hand on his pistol seeming calm and experienced. "Okay. Consider yourself turned in. Who'd you kill, your wife, girlfriend?"
"Boyfriend." He appreciated the hand on the pistol, appreciated that someone seemed to be taking it more seriously than a lopsided fish faced expression. Will licked his bottom lip, tasting copper and iron, and warmth in Greg's essence.
That was a much better expression -- reluctant recognition, and a growing horror that made him feel just a little sick somewhere near the unknowable core of himself, all that was left of what he Was before he Became the self that he was now. "You're Will Graham." The safety came off, and there was fury mingling in from somewhere. "You sick son of a bitch. What did you do to him?"
He somewhat liked the reaction to the horror, the stretched tight expression, the way it made him feel and remember. He remembered bright eyes watching him over breakfast, lashes low while he kissed Greg, tasting slightly burnt grounds on his lips. "I took my time with him. I thought I should bring him home."
He heard the movement of the police behind him before they knew what they were doing, heard the cuffs pulled from their holsters, and he could have turned, disabled them all, left, but he wanted to know. Needed to know, so he went limp when they pulled his arms behind his back and slid on the cuffs. No need to give them reason to take extraordinary measures.
Not yet, anyway. Will was sure that time would come, but by then it would be much too late.
The man with the gun had to be Brass. Had to be, and he was pale with fury and grief and unknowable things that leant spice to the air when he stepped close. "If you hurt that goddamned kid...."
Oh. How delicious.
He firmed his stance, standing tall with the handcuffs behind his back. One of the policemen holding his arm was shaking just a little, confused and strained and not quite following what was going on but knowing it was bad. "I left his body in a room with a view. I didn't mean for it to happen."
Brass's voice was soft and silky and perfectly steady. "Where." It wasn't as much fun to tell them, but then again... the enjoyment of Greg being found might make up for it.
It was a shame he wasn't going to be there when it happened. He looked at Brass, holding his eyes until the man looked uncomfortable as well as angry. "Bellagio. I checked in under my name."
The man stepped closer, and there was no fear in the smell of him. It had been a long time since someone had smelled like that to him; it lent credence to the quiet secrets Greg had whispered some nights in the dark, the stories of all the bad things that had happened, that had driven him to the place where Will found him. "If so much as a single piece is missing, I'll make sure you regret it."
"He's all there." Will was smiling when he said it, leaning in close enough that Brass would feel the threat of his closeness. "I carry my memories. I don't need to symbolically ingest to remember my loved ones."
No; that was only the sick bastard who'd taken him in, who'd loved him and abandoned him for a woman who had become, in many ways, his dead sister. It didn't change the scent of him. So delightful. "He'd better be." Then he turned and walked away, shoulders and back straight. It was all Will could do not to laugh.
The policemen stood there, awkward and stiff and stinking of fear and confusion while Brass left.
"Well? You should probably take me for processing. Shouldn't someone document this?"
So much time had passed since he'd gotten the chance for this much fun. It was a shame that things had ended the way they had, but... well. Inevitable, he supposed, and Will tried not to smile as they took him to a holding cell for processing.
He was locked away just as he was, and that was a dangerous mistake. Too much time by himself in cuffs for it to be sensible. Will was ready for them by the time the door opened again, smiling when he saw a strawberry-blonde CSI and a deputy with his sidearm already drawn. "Hello."
There was no denying how lovely she was; he'd always been partial to blondes. "Be grateful there's a man with me to keep me from beating you to death with my kit." She looked almost as if she might try it, too, given the opportunity. Something in his belly unfurled a little further, the same enjoyable thing that had tipped him over the edge when Greg had... but it was better not to think about that.
It was better for them all for that memory to stay tucked in a neat box until he wanted to admire it. He stood up, and watched the man draw the bead with his gun, watched it target towards center mass. "He was at peace with me."
Her hands shook as she pulled on gloves, and not from fear. These people were so interesting! It was no wonder Greg had lasted so long. "Greg Sanders would never have been at peace with someone like you."
"Have you looked at yourselves? What fires have you all passed through to come to such hard pass?" He pressed the tip of his tongue to the bottom of his front teeth, just feeling, watching her, ratcheting it back. "Have you thought of what you're all capable of, not knowing fear?"
"That's why there's a man with a gun in here." She didn't look at him, just picked up the tools of her trade and began to take samples from his skin. "To protect you from me if the captain calls and says he's found Greg's body and you're not lying."
"Why would I come here and lie? I thought I should bring him home to the people who drove him to me in the first place." Stick the knife in and give it a little twist, so he said it while smiling, while watching her fingers hold his hand and scrape out his nails.
That clearly hit home, because she paled underneath his gaze, mouth compressing tightly. "If you killed him...." Her voice was low and steady, extraordinarily well-contained. "I will make sure that you die. Every last one of us will devote every skill we have to that."
"He's dead, Willows. I spent four years fucking him in every imaginable way, and I just. Something happened, it happened, and I am sorry. I miss him." He wasn't sure if he could feel that emotion in anything other than an abstract way, but it was present in his chest.
His presence hadn't brought on any kind of fear or horror, but that statement did. Her hands stopped for just a moment and her breath shook; she never looked up at him. Not once. "He was worth more than that."
"I know. He was worth a lot to me." He was just probably the wrong person to have Greg, but if it hadn't been Greg it would have been someone else. Someone less worth the time and effort spent. "They were very good years."
It was no surprise when she hissed the words. "You sick son of a bitch." Her hands were shaking, and the stick dug deep beneath one of his nails.
"Yes." His eyes flicked up, watching her face. "That was why I found him in the first place." He'd wanted.. something to keep him sane and whole, maybe. Greg had been the most beautiful choice, and it had worked for such a long time.
Her voice was barely heard when she spoke again, continuing her work. "I hope you're awake and aware every moment when they put you to death."
He licked his bottom lip. "There'd be a trial first." Or someone would try to kill him before then, or. Or a thousand other things that he wasn't going to say. "I turned myself in for a reason."
The deep enjoyment of watching that realization creep over her face made him warm in that soft, secret place that was coming to life. "Shut up. You open your mouth again, I let Officer Akers here shoot you and swear to God you were trying to escape."
He made a quiet tsking noise. "Greg always told me how honest you all were."
"And you killed him." Her voice gave just a little. Just enough. "And you, what? Ate parts then smeared yourself in his blood?"
"I didn't eat any of him." He'd laid with his body and laid in his body and missed him and then packed him up carefully and brought him to Vegas. It was something removed of the moment, but they were moments he was never going to be able to separate out. It wasn't the mingling of defiled moments with cherished ones, that had haunted him forever. It was both.
It was beautiful. Taunting her was so nice, but it would be better when they found Greg. Deciding that he could be patient, he leaned back in his chair and let her continue to gather evidence.
He could wait.
Walking through the Bellagio was pretty much like any other casino; tourists, ringing crap all in happy keys, people in formal dresses at ten in the morning. Getting Graham's room information took a little longer than maybe it should have, but Jim Brass was pretty damn sure he didn't want to go in there.
He knew Greg was dead up there, it was just a matter of how dead and what had gone wrong. It'd been over four years since Greg had quit, and left, and now... Now this, now Graham had come back with a wild hollow look in his eyes and old blood on his face and hands.
Not anything fresh, so Jim knew he'd be finding something that he never wanted to see, not in his worst nightmares. Sometimes, there was nothing to do but go home to a good stiff drink.
Tonight would be the kind of night where he'd want the whole damned bottle.
Graham hadn't been local -- if he had, the blood would've been fresher. He'd transported Greg. Driving, that would've taken a couple of days. Less if he was flying low, but the guy hadn't seemed in a rush.
The manager was all smiles and apologies while he swiped the master key through the suite's door for them, and pushed it open. The smell was weirdly negligible, and for a wild moment, Jim had something like hope.
It didn't take long for that to be wiped out entirely. Sitting neatly in front of the window was a giant white cooler, some kind of high-grade shit that made every muscle tighten as he stepped inside. "Hey, John. Just... keep everybody back for a minute." He was sure that it wasn't booby-trapped, and he was also pretty sure what he'd see. Jim didn't want for it to be true but what he wanted and reality were a little different.
They'd been that way for a damn long time.
"Sure." There were new CSIs, people who wanted to investigate, who still mostly gave a fuck, and he wondered some days how long that would last when things like this happened. He edged into the room, visually clearing it, and then carefully reached into his pocket for a handkerchief to pop the latches on the cooler.
The seal made a familiar loosening sound, and after that it was all a slap in the face. That stench should never in any way be related to somebody a guy knew. Not ever, and he had to force himself to push the lid a little higher and look inside.
The body had been carefully placed, he was sure of that, but a body was a body in the end. Greg's face was unmarred, still very Greg. His hair was still highlighted out to shit and beyond, still recognizable. The rest of his body wasn't, opened up from the neck to god knew where. Dave would have to work it out.
Jesus, he was glad that he wasn't working in the fucking morgue today.
Slowly he let the lid come to rest and drew a very shallow breath, standing up and swallowing. He'd been at this most of his adult life. He'd seen Nicky, shattered and exploded all over a fucking desert nursery.
It still made him want to puke.
"Okay. You guys can come in now."
He stepped back because his work was done. The room was secure, the nutjob had turned his crazy ass in to the police, and a good friend, a good guy was dead. They never should have let him leave Vegas. They should have done something to protect him, to keep him safe. They'd lost him as surely as they'd failed Nicky.
He started to dial Catherine once he stepped out of the room.
The phone rung over to voicemail, and what the fuck. How the hell was he supposed to tell her that in a goddamned voicemail? He hung up, missing the violent slam of a phone landing in the cradle. Then he leaned back against the wall and rubbed his face with his hand.
He was just a kid. Maybe not so much these days, but still. He'd always be just a kid now, and the urge to give a cracked laugh hurt. Him and Nicky. Maybe they were all cursed. Maybe it was better that he was gone now.
They'd stripped him and cleaned him, which told Will the interrogation was next. He was eager for it, for the contact of a deputy to cuff him through the bars, all tight orders and anger now, no lossy confusion of the unaware. They knew who he was and what he was, knew his history, and their fury and grief were fresh in the air. He could taste who knew him, was aware of the ones who didn't, and every new wave of emotion loosened the tight grip he'd held on that thing inside of him for so long.
He missed Greg. He was sorry it had happened, he had never wanted it to happen. He'd been happy with Greg, but he wasn't.... He wasn't able to fix him, wasn't able to wind back time. With Greg gone, there was no reason to hold on to that feeling any longer. No reason to hold back what he really was when there was no need to suppress it out of want and love.
It wasn't surprising when the door opened and Brass came in. He rather liked Jim Brass. He was heart-whole and seemed honestly distraught about Greg's unfortunate demise.
"So." Will tilted his head, rested his cuffed together hands on the table top. "I thought I should bring him back here." It had seemed like the right thing to do. All things considered, it was the best that he could do for him.
Brass settled down, leaning forward just a little. "And you thought bringing him back in a goddamned cooler was a good idea?"
"Because you'll want to hold a memorial service. Atlanta wouldn't have done it right. They wouldn't have cared." Vegas would care, did care, he could tell from the anger that was rising hot in Brass's throat, in his hands and in his eyes.
"You killed him. You slit him open, and..." All patience seemed to have worn thin. His hand slammed palm-down on the interrogation room table. "You wore his goddamned fucking skin like he wasn't worth a fuck to you or anybody else, so what in the hell made him worth a cross-country trip!?"
He squinted at Brass, running his tongue over his teeth again, keeping his focus very firmly. "He was worth a lot to me. He mattered a lot to me. And then he, he, when he was dead everything changed. There wouldn't be any more late mornings in and reading and traveling. I'd always wanted to be so deep inside of him." He inhaled, watching Brass's anger shift. "Why waste the opportunity?"
"Yeah, you… you make it sound like an accident, which is real funny. You know, Dave, our coroner, he says it was asphyxiation. Bruising on his throat." Brass was distant now, looking at him. "That's not a goddamned accident."
"Erotic asphyxiation." Will tilted his head back, watching Jim. It wasn't a plea of innocence, no. He'd killed Greg, lost something precious to himself, taken it away from himself, and embraced the warm feeling that was stretching deep in his chest. They had known it was dangerous, the sex they preferred together. Risky, edged with danger and possibility, and Greg would come so hard underneath him. Come apart with the force of orgasm, gasping for breath and begging with his eyes.
It had always been a possibility.
"Yeah, I'll just bet. Kind of funny, 'cause see? I never once knew Sanders was the kind of kid who got into anything all that risky."
"He wanted a life where the only risk was the kind he invited into his bed. Not the kind that shot at him when he wasn't looking, or killed Nicky." He'd always loved Nicky, and Will understood that, wished he'd met the man who'd mattered so much to Greg that he'd thrown it all away to get away from it.
Brass paled, and it was both anger and shock. "You're still the one who killed him."
"Yes. With my hands." And he'd lost a lot of opportunities, a lot of good days. But Greg had died unaware, or maybe too aware, and that was all Will could ask for. Either one. "And I wanted to bring him home. I think he died here first."
It was no surprise when Brass leaned forward. When he spoke, it was almost gently. "I'll see you die for this."
"I expect nothing less." He leaned back in the chair, smiling back at Brass. "But Greg and I. We had a good time while it lasted. He was happy." The cuff slipped off, and he was up before the man heard so much as a rattle, slamming the desk over and forward so that it pushed the detective backwards. His head slammed into the mirrored glass hard enough that it would have cracked if it had been normal glass.
He hoped he hadn't killed him. Greg had liked Brass, and Will liked him, too. He was out for the count, and that was the important part. Will moved fast, opened the door and stepped out, checked the hallway, and then ran not for the front door but the back door. It was closer, it was unguarded, there was no crowd to fuss at him. He could hear deputies scrabbling after him, and he pulled down everything loose as he passed it, moving more quickly with every step.
Killing them wasn't necessary, and it would slow him down, but he would if it came down to it. He wanted -- needed -- to leave Vegas, make his way elsewhere, make a clean easy break and take flight.
Will was faster than them, faster than them all. Smarter, and quicker, and that had always been his problem, his flaw. He stayed ahead of them, stayed moving, relaxed when he reached the airport. A change of clothes, a change of ID cards, a new paper trail, it was all tidy. Unsatisfying, but tidy.
Just a hollow concept, a mimicry of human life.
Greg was gone.
There would never be anything more than an imitation of living again.