Patrick woke at dawn in a hot sweat.
Breathing hard, he threw the quilt covers off of him, half-expecting to see the sheets soaked with blood. Instead, they were damp with perspiration and… something else. He squinted at the blackout blind, seeing the light beginning to creep around the edges from his floor-to-ceiling window. A dull pain wracked his arm - he had been sleeping with his weight on it and now it was tingling in protest.
There was no way he was going to try and nestle down in those sheets again. The clock by his bed beeped, making him jump as it proclaimed the time: 5:00am. An hour before he had to get up for work.
With a heavy sigh, he dragged himself out of bed and, naked, padded to the shower. Flashes of the dream assaulted him as the warm water pounded against his back. The still, silent forest. The strange clothes adorning him. The grassy earth under his head as he was pinned to the ground and-
“What the fuck is wrong with me?” he murmured to himself.
A dream. It was only a dream. Dreams didn't have to mean a damn thing. It was just the result of having spent too much time cooped up in DEMFAC with lunatics and man-eaters.
The best thing he could do was put on his uniform and forget it ever happened.
Patrick blinked, finding himself back on his hoverpad in the late afternoon. Summer had left to consolidate her notes from the day, and Jüren guards were changing shifts. It was quiet in Block A, apart from the bated breath of the man before him.
"I'm sorry," Patrick muttered, rubbing the bridge of his nose. "You were saying something and I…"
"You straight up went catatonic for a second," Thomas finished for him. "You'd think you were the one being fried for thirty fucking minutes a day."
He laughed breathily. “I just have a lot on my mind, is all. What were you saying?”
“Nothing interesting, apparently.”
He sighed and stretched, rising out of his chair and sauntering across the tiny space with his fingers interlinked above his head. He had a ponderous gait that never failed to remind Patrick of a big cat, a caged leopard.
“Hey, when was the last time they let you out for some fresh air?” Patrick wondered after a time.
Thomas pursed his lips. “I don’t know. Last month maybe?”
“Last month?” Patrick shook his head. “This place, man…”
The giant only smiled, smoothing down his shirt when he lowered his thick arms. “You fancy escorting me out to the yard?”
“They used to do that, you know,” he continued. “At my old place anyway.”
“Yeah, well, blame Health and Safety for me not doing that,” Patrick scoffed. “I should tell one of the big guys to come and get you…”
“I’m happy right here.” His eyes locked with Patrick’s. “I’d rather talk to you.”
As he laid one of those massive hands over the crackling barrier, Patrick felt the ghost of Thomas's touch along his arms. The vividness of it made his mouth turn dry.
It was as though Thomas could read him like a book. "What's the matter with you?"
"I'm worried about you," the words came tumbling out. It was another moment before Patrick realized he truly meant them.
Thomas was smirking, but Patrick challenged him with a grim stare. "Summer almost has what she needs from you. I'm not sure if they'll bring someone else in after she's done with you or--" He cut off and let the silence say the rest.
The giant dropped his head, nodding in understanding. “I don’t know why you give a shit, Red. It’s all the same to you whether I live or die.”
“No it’s not,” Patrick shot back. His knuckles were white on the hovercraft railing. “Look, I care what happens to you. Despite what they all say… I feel like I know you. I know you want to change. I don’t want you to die because…”
He trailed off as Thomas’s eyes returned to him, intense in their regard. He swallowed and scowled down at his hands. “Never mind,” he murmured.
“No.” He shook his head, a humourless laugh leaving him. “I mean- god, this is unprofessional…”
“Am I going to have to report you?” Thomas was grinning again. Trying to set him at ease. Somehow he knew exactly what Patrick was feeling, he was sure of it.
“I-” An idea struck. Glancing around furtively, Patrick saw no one in the corridor. There was no one around to see them.
No one to see him turn off the recording equipment in Thomas’s cell.
“This is crazy,” Patrick muttered. He hit the control on the screen before him. Thomas flinched and peered upwards as the cameras in each corner of the cell beeped and went out.
He could kill you. He could fucking kill you.
Nonetheless, Patrick lowered security on the electro barrier so the hoverpad could push right on through before he could carefully mull over his insane impulse. Thomas staggered back in surprise to avoid a collision between them, crashing down onto his cot with a grunt.
"Holy fuck, Patrick. A little warning would be-"
"Lay down," Patrick interrupted. He cleared his throat, willing his voice not to shake. Thomas just stared. "Lay down, Thomas, please. I have to restrain you."
The giant obeyed after another moment of confusion, allowing the cuffs to click into place in their usual positions.
"What is this?" Thomas asked. There was no suspicion in that rumbling voice, only curiosity, the kind that could have belonged to a child.
He trusts me more than anyone.
"I'm tired of raising my fucking voice. And… I-I just know we're not going to have much longer when this is finished, to talk like normal people." Patrick leveled the hoverpad to the side of the cot, next to the thin band that circled over Thomas's neck.
"Normal," Thomas said, smiling sadly. "I'm strapped to a table, Red. About as much normal in that as dancing with a cadaver."
“I’m sorry,” he mumbled. “I wish I didn’t have to, but…”
The giant shifted his weight as much as he was able, turning his head towards the ceiling. Patrick stared with unabashed appreciation of the strong line of his jaw, his curved lips and the lashes that were so inexplicably attractive. With one hand gripping the rail, Patrick lowered himself off the hoverpad and onto the taut fabric of the cot.
“Don’t move too suddenly,” he breathed. “I’m right here.”
A vein pulsed in Thomas’s neck, just above the electrode embedded in his skin, and his eyes flickered to the left. His nostrils flared briefly, and Patrick knew he could smell him better than he could when there was a barricade between them.
“Why did you turn off the cameras?” he asked softly.
Patrick paused in the shadow of his shoulder. “I’m not supposed to get this close. If anyone saw, there’d be trouble.”
More like a death sentence, a little voice chirped in the back of his head.
Short gusts of air breezed over his head. Thomas looked as breathless as he felt, trying in vain to get a good look at him.
"You can touch me, if you want."
The mere permission had his heart racing. Already, he was close enough to feel that wonderful Jüren body heat rolling off Thomas's skin in waves. Defensive, he shook his head at once. "I'm n-not here to manhandle you. What do you take me for, really?"
"It's alright," Thomas crooned. "I know you're not like the others. Go on, please."
Though Patrick dithered, the temptation was ultimately too strong to resist. Taking a deep breath, he squeezed his eyes shut and closed the distance between them completely. He spread his palm flat against Thomas’s neck.
He gasped. The sheer power of the giant's body heat banished the chill the heavily air-conditioned block instilled on his fingers. More than this, Patrick could feel the hot blood seething beneath the skin. He swore the pulse quickened at his touch.
“Whoa…” he murmured. Without instruction his hands wandered freely, raising the minute hairs in their follicles and tracing freckles as big as his own eyes.
Patrick almost jumped out of his skin when Thomas chuckled. “You don't get up close and personal with us big guys often, do you?”
“The officers here occasionally give me lifts.” He managed to recall, amid his concentration, Nadine’s enormous presence as she saved him a long walk across the facility every once in a while. “But that's hands only.”
Thomas hummed, a rich vibration that made Patrick's fingers dance on his skin. "Come to think of it, I can't remember the last time a human came this close to me. Without taze sticks and those little triggers you boys are so fond of."
"It's okay, though?" Patrick was suddenly meek and double guessing, as if he might be making the titan uncomfortable. But the hint of a smile on those full lips said anything but.
"It's amazing," Thomas countered. A rumble ran through the bed. Hands clinking against their bonds. "Don't you trust me enough to touch you, too, Patrick?"
Patrick let the silence ring in his ears. He thought if he ignored the plea, Thomas might drop the subject. He should have expected that Thomas would surprise him once more.
"We both know you're dying for it. Aren't you? You want my hand around you, making you feel small." The lips pulled into a smirk. "I bet you're getting hard just thinking about it, aren't you? And now, nobody has to know."
Patrick shook his head like a petulant child. Thomas's musk clouded his thoughts like a fog. He eyed the chained hand so much further down the cot. Even his hands were beautiful.
"I know you're more capable of change than they know," Patrick said breezily, letting his hand drift upwards towards the stubbly underside of the giant's jaw, like he was petting a tiger. "I trust you enough to be here. Isn't that enough?"
Thomas seemed distracted himself, eyes closing lazily when Patrick smoothed his palm along that hard jawline. “What danger could you possibly be in here?” he asked. “I can barely even turn my head.”
He had a point. But still… Patrick glanced over at the tablet on the hovercraft. “I know how I can tell for sure whether you'll try something.”
Thomas scoffed gently. “Feel free to whip out the lie detector if you want,” he said. “But I think you already know I won't hurt you.”
Thomas flexed his hands and offered a reassuring smile. “We have to stop with the pretences, Red. I'll just come out with it. I like you. Maybe more than I should. Doesn't that make all the difference?”
Patrick considered him. He knew better than most - maybe more than anyone - the danger that pretty face could hide. Lord only knew how many times he'd watched him lie to Summer's face. But there was something decidedly pleading beyond that kind smile that made Patrick falter. It was sad; a loneliness that resonated with Patrick too.
And suddenly, it became amply simple. Neither of them should be alone any longer.
After one more glance around for stray human guards making their rounds, he stepped back onto the hoverpad. His heart was oddly calm as he pressed a white, shaking finger to a section labeled MANUAL RESTRAINTS, when it should have been pounding. One cuff around Thomas's hand gave a hiss and retracted back into the cot.
Faster than he could comprehend, the giant had taken advantage. Thomas lashed the hand towards him. Darkness and pressure and rushing air came as he was whisked away effortlessly.
He had truly believed that man, that murderer wouldn't hurt him. Stupid, stupid, stupid-
He couldn't see a thing, but as the air turned warmer and humid, he had an idea where he was headed.
"Thomas, d-don't--" he choked off. The enormous hand wasn't squeezing him. There was ground beneath his feet again, rising and falling. Warm.
“Didn’t I tell you, Red?”
Patrick, shivering, staggered to his knees as the enormous voice rattled through him - from the ground straight into his skin. Thomas’s hand was relaxed behind him; he was in no danger of being snatched up again. A brief glance down made him realise that his knees were resting in thick, grey fabric. As he watched, it moved again.
“You’re safe with me,” Thomas finished softly.
Patrick whipped his head around to face the voice. All he could see of the giant’s head was the marble underside of his jaw. The silver cuff around his neck glinted in the light. Still shaking from head to toe, the human dragged himself upright and half-walked, half-stumbled over the hillock that was Thomas’s chest.
A nervous laugh erupted unbidden from him as he spread his arms for balance. “You scared the shit out of me,” he breathed.
When he staggered, Thomas's hand was there to break his fall.
"Sorry. I'm tired of talking," he rumbled by way of explanation. "Too damn much of it around here."
Patrick swallowed hard and nodded. His chest was still tight, as though his body was still wound up and ready for a near death experience. He looked to his right, where his hand was braced so casually along the back of Thomas's hand.
How had he come to this point? Sitting on the fucking chest of the world's most horrific serial killer to date?
Something powerful stirred in him as he let his hand slide along the index finger. Right down to the tip, over the fingernail and back down to the knuckles - each as large as his head. He let his eyes flutter shut, feeling the power in that hand while Thomas lay there, letting him.
Patrick breathed. His head was in the lion’s mouth right now, but his fear was strangely taking a backseat. Still his hands trembled as they traced the much larger one supporting him.
“Just relax, Patrick,” Thomas purred. There was no hiding anything from him. “You know I’m not gonna do anything to you.”
Just looking into those great eyes now sapped the tension from Patrick’s shoulders. It was almost incomprehensible now that he used to see such cruelty and malice in them. It had all been a front. In reality, they were soft and gentle.
“This is fucking insane.” Patrick let his hands continue to wander, but his eyes remained on Thomas’s upturned face. “Summer would have an aneurysm if she saw us together like this.”
The giant chuckled his agreement, letting his head fall back with a light thump on the cot. There was a red line where the cuff had been pressing on his neck. “Are you going to tell her?” he asked.
Patrick squirmed. “If they knew you were safe to be around… to touch… that could change things for you. That could change the way they see you.”
Sighing, Thomas ran his thumb down Patrick’s side. “I think it’s too little too late,” he admitted delicately.
"But you've changed. God, why is everyone else so fucking blind?"
He shuddered and sighed, tapering off as Thomas traced fingers along his front and back. Feeling him. Memorizing him. It was all too easy to forget himself and lean into that gentle touch, like a flower starved for a taste of sunlight.
"It's alright, Red. I've known the end was coming for a long time now. I'm ready."
“No.” Patrick shook his head, dropping a frustrated fist against Thomas’s chest. “No, no, it’s unfair. They can’t kill you now. It wouldn’t be right.”
The giant took a shuddering breath, the first crack in his composure. “It’s what everyone wants,” he said flatly.
“It’s not what I want.”
Thomas’s hand suddenly became a much greater weight. The fingers cast Patrick in shadow as they closed in around him, picking him up gently. This time, he voiced no complaint as he was lifted into the air.
When his head cleared, he was staring the giant straight in the face from above. Doleful gratitude shone in Thomas’s eyes as they regarded him. “That’s, you know, great and everything,” he mumbled, arching a brow. “But what the hell can you do about it?”
Patrick wriggled so he could lean down and give the giant a hard look. "I could help you."
Thomas was expressionless. "How?"
"I… I dunno. If they won't see reason at your final evaluation, maybe I could do something. I could get you out."
"No," Thomas said at once, fingers tightening. "They'll shoot you on sight."
"If I do nothing, you'll die, and it won't be nearly quick as a gunshot," Patrick fired back, nearly losing his balance right over that pretty face.
“How exactly do you think you’re gonna just bust me out of-” he cut himself off, eyes darting to the corners of the room. “No one can hear us now, right?” he murmured.
Patrick shook his head. “No cameras, no sound. It’s just me and you.”
“You can’t get me out of range of this facility without anyone noticing, Red,” he continued. “Hell, you couldn’t even get me out of this cell on your own. It’s illegal for a human officer to escort a Juren prisoner alone. We’ll be nabbed before we even leave the block.”
“I’ll come for you after hours,” Patrick persisted. “Hardly anyone is around for the midnight shift.”
Thomas looked unsettled by the idea. Patrick liked that- surprising him.
"If we moved fast we could have a chance then," the giant conceded. "But you… you could never step foot in here again. You can't give up everything like that."
"I'm getting sick of this place, anyway," Patrick joked weakly. But the truth was, it wasn't a joke and he knew neither of them were ignorant of that. He dug his little fingers into Thomas's perfect ones, his brown eyes imploring like a child's. "Thomas, if the others could see you for who you were, they'd do this for you too."
Thomas snorted. “No they wouldn't. They would be wanted for the rest of their life. No one would give up their normal life like that for me.”
Heart pounding, Patrick swallowed his nerves and looked the giant dead in the eye. “I would.”
His breath hitched as the hand moved, and suddenly he was much, much closer to Thomas. He could feel the aromatic heat of his breath as it ruffled his hair. It did something to calm his racing heart.
“You're worth the risk,” Patrick asserted. “I don't care if it means we have to run away together. I just can't go on with my life knowing I could have saved you and didn't try.”
He had never seen that look on Thomas's face before. Short of words, breathless. Patrick wondered if he was the only person in the entire world that got to see it.
"I knew you were something incredible," Thomas croaked.
Patrick cracked a smile. "What will you do when you get out?"
"You mean if."
"When," Patrick insisted. His eyes shone bright as Thomas smiled softly at this and pursed his lips.
"I'll find my way onto that ferry. We'll get out of the country, head to France or Sweden. Somewhere quiet, somewhere new. For both of us."
He wants me with him, Patrick thought with a thrill. Still, a pang of dread niggled in his stomach. “It won’t be that simple. Anything could go wrong.”
“Of course it won’t. But we’ll make it.”
Patrick grunted a laugh. “You have enough optimism for the two of us. Doesn’t make me any more confident this will work.”
The giant merely raised an eyebrow. "But you'll come with me," he said, and it was no longer a question.
How could he refuse him? The idea of losing this magnetic feeling was almost worse than the concept of being caught and killed.
"Anywhere," Patrick answered.
Patrick felt himself turn to jelly as Thomas brushed his thumb against his cheek, grazing against his fire-red hair. The killer in him was far away; banished from this perfect moment. Then, Patrick froze, ears prickling with the sound of distant movement. It was impossible to tell whether it was stirring from the next-door prisoners or something more.
How long have I been in here? He suddenly wondered. It had felt like only a minute but his watch told otherwise.
"Shit. Put me down, quick, I've got to get back to my rounds."
The urgency in Patrick’s voice had Thomas’s fingers spring open, dropping their catch with a strained grunt onto his hard chest.
“It’s fine,” Patrick waved him off as he scrambled to the giant’s vast shoulder and slid down, throwing himself back onto the hovercraft. Without thinking, he slammed his hands against the tablet, freeing Thomas of his restraints before even opening a hatch in the forcefield.
As the giant rose from the cot, the hovercraft slipped through the humming barrier, which sealed behind it. Rubbing the mark on his throat, Thomas took a slow step towards it, then another.
“You won’t forget what you said, will you?” The Jüren’s voice almost sounded… vulnerable. “You will help me.”
The hovercraft paused in the air. “I promise. You’re going to survive this. Even if I have to make sure of it myself,” Patrick vowed.
Thomas’s smile returned, tentative. Even as Patrick set the cameras rolling again, their tell-tale beep echoing in the chamber, the giant kept his gaze fixed on him.
“I’ll see you around, Red.”
His hand rose to Patrick’s level, pressing gently against the shimmering surface between them. There was only a short pause before Patrick, too, reached out, and their palms connected on either side of the prison wall. His hand looked tiny compared to the Jüren’s, not even big enough to cover a single fingertip of Thomas’s - and yet in that moment, they seemed a perfect match to each other.