A/N: Desperate Measures. Mike and Tyler in a bad, bad place. Want to start at the beginning? Click here.
It is true, that if you let it, pain will own you.
It's not a matter of trying to tough it out. That doesn't work. No matter how hard you are, when the pain gets bad enough only one thing goes on in your mind, and that's the inarticulate scream of begging the pain to stop.
The trick is to own the time between the pain. It's those minutes, where ripping fire is replaced by slow throbbing ache when your mind begins to think again, and usually what it's thinking is how to do anything to make sure the pain doesn't start up again.
Those are the moments where the pain can win, and you'll start to say, or do, anything to make it stop.
So you need something more important than making pain stop, an anchor to hold onto. And very few things will do that. Love can. Duty, maybe. Hate. Hate always works.
Between jolts Michael thinks about Gray. He thinks about why he has to survive this, why Gray has to survive this, and what he's going to do when they get back.
If they get back.
It's got to be when.
He thinks about using Gray, getting to Card, and killing both of them, slowly. He thinks about how he's got to do a better job of playing Gray, because it's not working, not yet.
He watches Gray writhe as he gets hit with the Picana Electrica and wonders why he'd say he doesn't remember. It surprises him that Gray isn't immediately trying to make a deal.
Maybe he thinks Vasquez will trust him more if it looks like he has to be coaxed into turning on his friends.
Maybe he's not an evil son of a bitch.
Maybe he just likes pain.
The next jolt reminds him that no one, ever, has liked this.
Electricity produces pain in two distinct ways. The voltage moving through the body not only burns, but it causes muscle contractions. Those muscle contractions are why defibulators can start a stopped heart. Ramp up the voltage and they feel like the worst charlie horse ever, on steroids, times a million. Ramp those volts up even higher and the muscle will contract so hard it will rip free of the bone. The burns, which travel along the path of the voltage, through the body, can range from slight pinkness and swelling to charred, cooked meat.
The Picana Electrica is calibrated to keep the voltage just below the level that will disrupt heart palpatations, and the burns, while certainly painful, don't raise to the cooked meat level, probably about the effect of putting your hand on a hot cast iron skillet for a second. All the way through your body.
After the next hit, he looks at Gray. Nineteen-hundred meters. Even though sharpshooting is one of Michael's specialties, that's not a shot he could have made.
Civilians rarely know the difference between a sniper and a sharp shooter. A sniper sets up a place, waits for the target, takes the shot, and gets away clean. He's often sitting with a very specialized rifle, a selection of equations for how that sort of rifle fires in different conditions, and information as to the wind speed, altitude, and barometric pressure. He is, to make a comparison most civilians are familiar with, a surgeon. A sharpshooter goes into combat, fires on enemies during battle, and provides cover for the other men on the team. He is, to continue this comparison, an EMT.
Which is not to say that they don't, in a pinch, do the other's job. Generally not all that well. Snipers like a lot of time to set up and get antsy if they've got to shoot under fire. Sharpshooters usually have trouble with the waiting and don't have the long distance skills.
But, when you need to take care of a target, and a sharpshooter is what you've got, you use him.
Michael's been on the other side of the sight. He's had his finger on the trigger.
He looks at Gray, wonders how much he was told about Anson, and thinks about what he would have done.
If it wasn't his brother. If it has just been some nameless stranger standing behind a monster. If it was a one in a million shot, and he was not going to get a better chance.
Now, he would have waited. He would have waited for the clear shot, and if there wasn't one he would have moved onto plan B. Like maybe aimed the shot to wound and then go on a hospital visit. He hasn't killed anyone since Strickler, and with the exception of Card, he's hoping not to have to kill anyone else again.
He realizes as he thinks that, he doesn't need to kill Gray. The blood lust has cleared, and he's seeing another man next to him, sure, one who wants to get away from him, but he's still a man. Not a thing, not any longer.
Nate was a thing to Gray. Hell, he might have been a man, even, but a man behind a monster. Sure, now Mike wouldn't take that shot, but ten years ago? Fifteen years ago? When he was still in the field?
He would have taken the shot. In similar circumstances, he had taken the shot.
Michael's always tried to minimize civilian casualties, but that doesn't mean every one of his kills were clean. And the man he was ten years ago, looking at Anson's dossier, would have killed him, and the man behind him, without blinking. One innocent life to save the lives of hundreds of others. It's just pure, cold math, and then he would have done it without a second thought.
Now he feels himself thawing toward Gray. Gray's a gun. Just like he was. Just like he will never be again.
You don't blame the gun. It's not the gun's decision to fire. You go after the shooter.
He wonders, briefly, before the next hit of the Electrica, if he, and the world in general, was better off when he could just do the math and let the bodies fall. If he had pulled the trigger on Larry...
White hot electric fire rips that, and every other thought, out of his mind.