"The defendant has been found guilty. Mr. Gallagher is sentenced to death on the afternoon of August 2, 2007 at two o'clock."
The words strike him hard in the chest like a javelin hitting its target. He is left breathless. The kind of breathless that is only accompanied by a punch in the gut. The adrenaline that rushes through his body spits out thoughts like bullets. He wants to scream "No" or plea on bent knee to the man who had said those awful words. There has to be a mistake.
Now the man at the front of the room is reading his charges.
Now Michael is hearing the words: "murder of Daniel Reynolds."
Now Michael is gasping.
Now Michael is looking at the brunette across from him on the other side of the aisle.
Now the brunette, whom he knows to be Daniel, is smirking at him.
'There is a mistake,' Michael wants to shout. 'Daniel is right there. He's alive, I didn't kill him!' But he doesn't. He doesn't have the breath to speak.
Now the bailiff is leading him away by his bound hands.
Now Michael is looking, with a beseeching expression and a wild look in his gray eyes, at Daniel who is still seated.
Now the door is closing on Daniel's sneer.
He can hear the roaring of the crowd from inside the building. His heart is pounding in beat with the crowd's stamping feet. The burly guard tugs on the rope that binds his hands, leading him out into the garish sunlight.
The calendar, Michael knows, reads August 2, 2007.
Michael squints against the blinding light, flinching at the crowd's sudden screams for blood. Hundreds of bloodthirsty faces look upon him. He can see his death in a hundred different ways in the reflection of their eyes. His stomach knots and he swallows thickly.
The guard leads him to an oddly shaped piece of wood at the center of the platform. It is rectangular, about a foot high and a few inches wide. The top is scooped out, curving inward like a bowl. Michael's captor pushes him down onto his knees in front of the block of wood. He faces the crowd, shaking as they call for blood. His blood. Someone drops an empty bucket in front of him on the other side of the wooden block.
A thrill of fear shudders through him.
He hears a rasping, grinding sound and turns his head. His breath hitches in his throat.
Daniel is there, not ten feet from him, smoothing a palm sized stone over the curved blade on an axe. Daniel looks up at him and sneers. There is no mercy in his butterscotch eyes. That is when Michael realizes that he is going to die. And no one will help him. Rather, they're begging for his blood, to see it paint the wooden platform crimson. Daniel pockets the stone and stands, hefting the axe onto his shoulder. With smirk in place, twisting his handsome face gruesomely, he approaches the kneeling blond. Michael only has a moment to shoot a desperate look at him before a black sack drops over his head and draws tight around his throat. Immediately, claustrophobia sinks in. He claws vainly at the sack with tied hands. The guard pushes down on his back and forces Michael onto the neck-sized notch in the wood.
He struggles, thrashing and flailing, but the man holding him has a steely grip. He can feel Daniel's approaching footsteps on the wood. The crowd's screams only intensify as Daniel comes to a halt beside him. Michael is wondering how Daniel could possibly be standing there if he was "dead" when he hears the whistle of the axe as it cuts through the air.
The crowd roars…
Michael's eyes snap open and he gasps. He stares up at the ceiling until his racing heart can settle. He looks to his left and sees Daniels, fast asleep, beside him in the bed. His contained breath leaves in a whoosh.
A nightmare is his conclusion because he knows Daniel would never hurt him. But the look he had on his face tells Michael otherwise… But, then again, it had been a nightmare.
A thought suddenly strikes him. Michael scrambles out of bed, without waking Daniel, and crosses the room to the laundry basket. He digs through the pile of clothes and withdraws with a pair of black jeans that smell strongly of alcohol and cigarette smoke. He shoves a hand into the pocket and takes out a book of matches. Scrawled across the back of it is Brendan's name and number.
Michael can still feel the cold, swift descent of the blade and the odd, numb, nerveless feeling…
He's watching the dancers moving sinuously to the music, envying them because Daniel isn't here. He had outright refused to go to the club with him; he is straight-edge after all. There is a sweating glass of alcohol in his hand and he sips from it occasionally. He's too busy watching the crowd of dancers swaying like an ocean to notice Brendan sitting beside him at the table.
Brendan mutters out something about the number of date rapists looking for a fast fuck and then greets Michael. For several minutes they sit in silence, one drinking and one smoking. Then Brendan pushes something small into Michael's hand. A bit surprised, he looks down at the book of matches and sees a name and number scrawled across the back in black ink.
He looks up at Brendan and notices how similar he is to Daniel. Brendan has the same rich dark brown hair and the same thin nose and the same defined lips perfect for kissing. But his eyes are a bland brown color, not at all like the molten gold Daniel has.
Brendan says something about calling him soon. They could do something more interesting than watching loose drunks feel each other up on the dance floor. Brendan grins, takes a final drag of his cigarette before crushing the burning ember in the ashtray, and, with his leather jacket slung over one shoulder, leaves Michael along at the table with his now bitter tasting drink. Michael stares down at the number on the book of matches for a long moment. With a sigh, he shoves it into his back pocket and watches the dancers sway.
He doesn't take another sip of his drink, but Brendan's proposition never leaves his mind.
Now, Michael is standing next to the trashcan in the kitchen. He's ripping the book apart, tearing it to little pieces until the numbers are indiscernible. Once all of the evidence is gone, he slips back into bed with Daniel.
He pulls him close, an arm draped over Daniel's waist. Michael places his head beside Daniel's and takes in his delicious scent that is wafting off his neck. Daniel continues to sleep, his face slack and vulnerable and innocent. Michael ignores the guilt churning in his stomach and nuzzles Daniel's neck.
The dream will stay with him for years to come. Every time Brendan or any other man hands him their number, he'll remember the whistle of a blade slicing the air and the swift, numb sensation of the axe cutting cleanly. He will hand the number back to them and walk away.
A/N: Drop me a review if this was worth your time and/or was enjoyable to read. Thanks.