all the skeletons you hide
pairing: mal oretsev/reader
summary: “You don’t have to tell me anything you don’t want to,” he says, reaching out to take your hand in his. Vaguely, you feel his thumb running along your skin, leaving half-formed shapes in his wake. “You know I’m always here for you.”
“No matter what?”
“No matter what.”
notes: based on a request: Oh my goodness i didn't know you write for mal could you do "i didn't know where else to go" with him please? 👉🏼👈🏼 Thank you so much!
but like before, i took a lot of liberties in this! part fluff, part character study. still learning how to write mal so im sorry if i couldnt get his character right!
In the distance, the rain starts to fall—a quiet pitter-patter that breaks the silence around you, almost like background music. There’s a persistent chill in the air, biting at your skin, and you wrap your coat tighter around your body as though it would be enough to drive the cold away.
It isn’t, but it’s enough to keep you going for a while. And so you press on, squinting in the darkness in search of a familiar place. A street you recognize from somewhere; a house at the corner of your memories, already long forgotten until now; faces you only remember in passing, as fleeting as the seasons—there for a moment, and then gone again.
Everywhere around you, you look, turning your head this way and that, searching for a sharp blur, a silhouette, anything to find something—anything to find him.
Even now, you aren’t sure how long you’ve been doing this, walking around in circles, uncertain if you’re even going the right way. If you’re even close at all to where he is, to where he should be. At this point, you’re already exhausted, your limbs heavy and aching. But you know that you can’t afford to give up, not when you could still feel them chasing after you, following your trail the way a predator would wait for their prey.
And so you keep going, moving mechanically like a marionette in the dark, barely registering the numbness that begins to set into your bones as you walk.
Time ticks forward. The seconds turn into minutes and the minutes turn into hours. The hours bleed away into the darkness, and still, you keep going. You feel the droplets of rain cascading down your hair, your skin, and you shiver, your teeth chattering as you brave the cold.
From the corners of your eyes, you see a flash of lightning: a sudden crackle in the sky, bright enough to light your path for even the briefest of moments. Somewhere in the distance, there is a light burning in the dark, flickering in an array of colors that makes you stop and turn: red, orange, yellow—the colors of a sunset, of a burning sky.
Within moments, you find yourself standing in front of a wooden arm, your arm poised as though you’re ready to disturb someone else’s peace. You pause for a second, lowering your hand back down to your side as you bite your lip in worry, wondering if you’re even doing the right thing.
A series of scenarios begin to run in your head, each one worse than the last. What if the person behind the door turns out to be an enemy? Or even worse, what if this all a trap, and the only thing that awaits you on the other side is certain death—something you could never run away from?
You shift your weight from one foot to another, still uncertain what you should do next. Somewhere in the background, you hear a series of voices: loud and gruff, your name spilling out of their lips in an angry demand.
And just like that, you know what you should do.
It takes a certain amount of faith to dive into the uncertain, and it takes a certain amount of trust to leap into the unknown. But you’ve never had a choice, do you?
And so you raise your hands and knock, quick and desperate, praying that whatever’s on the other side is a good thing. The seconds continue to pass, one after another. You hear the sound of footsteps coming from the other side of the door, and you count the seconds in your head, feeling your heart racing against your chest as the sound gets closer and closer.
You hear the door creak as it opens, a tiny crack in front of you, cautious and unsure. Light spills out of the door and through the streets, illuminating whatever’s in front of you: the gray of the asphalt, the mud caking your shoes, and the brightness of your coat, blood-red in the darkness—the color of a fresh wound. A stark contrast in the gloom of the night, easily recognizable to your captors.
Slowly, you lift your head and look up, your breath hitching in your throat at the sight of it: a face peering at you through the crack, familiar and unmistakable. Your gazes meet, and you see the flash of surprise in his face, quick and sudden. Your name spills out of his lips in a whisper, raw and uncertain. A question that only you know the answer to.
“Mal,” you say, breathing the words out in relief, in joy, remembering the first time you’ve tasted his name on your tongue, soft and sweet like honey. “It’s me.”
He blinks at you a few times, looking you up and down like he still isn’t convinced you’re the real thing. You stare at him quietly, taking him in the way you’d done all those years ago, memorizing every inch and every detail like you’re afraid to forget: the color of his eyes, the brightness of his smile. The weight of his gaze as he stares back at you, still unconvinced but desperately trying to believe—that you’re here, that you’ve come back just as you’ve promised him you would all those months ago.
Your name spills out of his lips like a gentle sigh, and he reaches out for you with one hand like he wants to touch you. But you pull away from him all too quickly, your eyes widening in alarm at the sound of voices—nearer now, but still so far away, desperately searching for you in the dark, in the night, shouting your name, relentless in their pursuit.
“What’s wrong?” he asks, pulling his hand back as he glances all around him, curious. He turns back to you a moment later, his eyebrows creasing into obvious worry. “What brings you here?”
“I…” you begin, quickly trailing off as you glance behind you, cautiously pulling your hood over your head as though it would be enough to hide you from everyone else, from them. When you turn back to face him, you find him still staring at you, worry written all over his face that the sight of it makes you feel guilty. Your first meeting in a long time, and the first thing you’ve done is to make him worry about you.
But there’s no way to avoid the truth now, not when it hangs in the silence between the two of you, far too heavy to ignore. “I’ve been searching for you for days,” you say, chewing your lip between your teeth and wishing that there’s a better way to confess, a better to tell the truth. “I’m sorry. I didn’t know where else to go.”
He nods, readily accepting your answer. Wordlessly, he opens the door wider, gesturing for you to come in, and you take one last look behind you before you finally step inside, following him around the house. You stop and take a moment to observe your surroundings: studying the cracks in the walls, the flickering of a lamp in the distance, burning like a sunset. The way everything around you seems softer somehow, as though from a fever dream; shadows slinking in the corners, in the pale walls, shifting and changing with each flicker of the light, turning from one thing into the next.
And yet, somehow, with him around, you feel oddly safe.
He takes a set on the couch and pats the space next to him, the corners of his lips twitching into a tiny smile. You hesitate for a moment, uncertain, but the smile on his lips, soft and gentle, is enough to kill whatever reluctance you still have left in your system.
You take the space beside him, and for a moment, there is nothing between you but silence, caging you in until it feels overwhelming. You feel it pressing against you, tense and heavy that it’s hard to ignore. The weight of his questions hangs in the air between you, sharp as a knife.
“What happened?” he asks after a moment, his voice soft and quiet, as though he’s afraid of breaking the silence. You close your eyes and suck in a deep breath, swallowing the lump forming in your throat. You know what he’s going to ask, of course, but even now, you still aren’t sure how to answer. What do you tell him? And where do you even begin?
You open your mouth and try to speak, but the words wouldn’t come. The answer sticks to your tongue, the words lodged in your throat like a bullet you couldn’t seem to get out. You open your eyes and then turn to look at him, finding him already staring at you, his expression unreadable and his gaze intense.
You stop, opening your mouth and then closing it, swallowing the words down like a secret you couldn’t tell. There are so many things you wish you could tell him, so many things you want to confess, and yet something stops you, pulling you back before you could even think of doing it.
Fear and uncertainty rolled into one. What would he do if he knew all the things you’ve done to survive? To live and see the sun for another day? If you bare all your sins in front of him, would he still consider you his friend?
You could almost imagine how he’d look at you: the fear in his eyes, the disgust. The hatred he wouldn’t bother to hide, and the distance between you growing larger and larger, just enough that you’d never catch sight of him again.
The thought of it is enough to scare you into silence. You don’t think you could bear to have him look at you that way, and so you don’t say anything at all, keeping your mouth shut as you let the silence between you linger, heavier now than before.
“You don’t have to tell me anything you don’t want to,” he says after a beat, and the sound of his voice is enough to snap you out of his reverie. You blink a few times and then look at him, a little startled when he slowly reaches out to take your hand. He holds it in his, folding his hand over yours like he doesn’t want to let you go. “I understand.”
A beat of silence passes, and for a moment, all you could do is stare at him, uncertain what to say—if you should even say something at all. Still, he presses on, his lips still curled up into a smile as he speaks. Vaguely, you feel his thumb running along your skin, leaving half-formed shapes in his wake, gentle little circles that make you shiver, hungry for more. “You know that I’m here for you. Always.”
“No matter what?” you tease, feeling the corners of your lips twitching into a tiny smile.
He grins at you then, and you know that for now, everything is alright in the world. “No matter what.”
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