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17.08.2013 - London

“Dom!”

Dom looked around frantically. He couldn’t make out where his best friend’s voice had come from, it must have been somewhere close. But where?

“Dom!” He heard it again, this time more pained. He had to find Matt. He had to find him now and bring him home. “Please! Oh god, help me. Help me, Dom!”

“Matt! Where are you?” he finally shouted back and waited for a reply. When none came, he ran around aimlessly, hoping to find any sign of the singer. Just when he was about to lose hope, he saw a light shining to his right. Not wasting any more time, the blonde sprinted in that direction, two figures coming into his view. He could make out a clearly injured Matt lying on the floor and someone towering above him, holding something that looked suspiciously like a knife. So close, so close, so close. Picking up speed, he had nearly reached his friend when he ran into something and flopped back on his arse. When the blonde got back up and inspected the invisible wall closer he realised that it was glass that separated him from the other two men.

“Matt!” He shouted again and punched the divider as hard as he could. It seemed as if neither of the two could hear Dom, as if the glass wall divided them into 2 different worlds, but Dom could hear just fine. And oh god, he wished he didn’t have to, because Matt was crying out his name over and over again, begging him to help him, save him. When the knife cut into the back of his right hand and then sliced up to his wrist, Matt screamed and Dom couldn’t help but scream with him.

The blond walked away from the glass to gain some momentum and throw himself against the wall. After trying it twice, he shouted in frustration. The material wouldn’t budge. “Don’t worry, Matt. I’m coming. Just hang on.”

Another cry from Matt when the dark man plunged the knife into his shoulder spurred Dom on to give it another try. He walked back and ran towards the glass, throwing his whole weight and determination against it. He fully expected to bounce off again, but this time he managed to destroy the glass and jump through. Quickly getting back to his feet, he ran over to Matt who was alone by now, lying on his side and whimpering quietly. The blonde turned him around carefully, whispering “Matt, I’m here now…” before stroking the singer’s cheek.

“Dom…”

He didn’t expect Matt to turn away from him then, and he didn’t expect him to weakly slap away his hand either.

“I’m so sorry,” he whispered before he tried to take Matt in his arms again.

The singer, however, only had a cold stare left for his band mate. “You left me.”

“What?”

“You left me alone,” the brunette spat with all the force he could muster in his condition. “You left me and didn’t care.”

“No, no, no,” Dom assured him quickly. “Matt, I swear, I did everything I could.”

“You have forgotten about me.”

There seemed to be so much blood all of sudden. Everywhere.

“Matt, no. I could never forget you. No.”

Matt seemed to get weaker, but his words still bore into Dom like a knife to the heart. “You’ve forgotten about me. You left me here to die. I just wanted to go home…”

More blood. Dom held Matt’s hand, promising “No, no, no, I love you. I love you so much,” until Matt closed his eyes and whispered “I hate you”.

Dom shot up in his bed, nearly falling out of it. He blinked frantically, but he could only see darkness, which intensified his panic. He felt around the bed, trying to locate Matt’s body, until his memory finally caught up with him. A nightmare.

The blonde let himself fall back into the pillows and stared at the ceiling. A fucking nightmare. He was dreaming about Matt constantly, even before his friend had gotten abducted, but since then it was happening a lot more frequently. At first the dreams were basically the same they had always been; he was somewhere together with Matt, usually in bed or lying in the grass, and then Matt would ask him for something and when Dom turned around again, the brunette was gone.

For the last couple of days, however, the dreams always turned into a massacre. Dom would find Matt bruised and bleeding somewhere, and usually a dark figure would stand over the two of them, laughing loudly and mocking them.

But he had never dreamed about Matt accusing him of forgetting his best friend. Was his subconscious telling him something? It was true that he’d thought less about Matt since his talk with Kelly. He hadn’t had any breakdown since then, either.

Instinctively, he went for his lucky charm, the shark tooth necklace, but he found it missing from his neck. Dom felt around the bed frantically, trying to locate the missing piece of jewellery, but it wasn’t there. For a quick moment, he panicked. He had never taken the necklace off since he owned it. It was a present from Matt, so he cherished it more than anything else, never wanting it out of his sight. Especially because Matt said it was his very special lucky charm. Who’d let go of luck, anyway?

But now he had to find it gone and he wondered when he’d lost it. He couldn’t remember the last time he’d seen it. Had it been yesterday? Last week? He knew he had touched it the first time they they’d been at the police station, but the time between that and now was blank. Fuck.

Dom felt tears springing to his eyes and he cursed himself for it. He wasn’t a child, so losing something like that shouldn’t sting that much. But it was from Matt, and who knew if it had been the last present he’d ever get from the singer?

The thought immediately brought him back to his dream. Matt dying. Matt telling him that Dom had forgotten about him. He shook his head immediately. No.

Just because he was feeling better didn’t mean he was forgetting the singer. He could never do that. The drummer needed to remind himself that he was allowed to feel better. He wouldn’t say he was allowed to be happy, because he could never be happy without Matt. Matt was his everything, after all. It was true what he’d said in his nightmare. A life without the tiny brunette was a life not worth living. He did love Matt. With all his heart. Not just the want he’d always felt, but true, unconditional love.

Thinking about it now, Dom should have realised that a lot sooner. If he hadn’t felt like a weight was crushing him right in this moment, he would have slapped himself. God, he had been so blind.

___

All this thinking was making him restless. He didn’t feel like falling asleep any time soon. In fact, he felt like he was suffocating, the bed feeling too uncomfortable around him now.

Dom slowly got up and went over to the window. He watched the stars for a moment, trying to remember what hope felt like, before he sighed and turned to the door. All this brooding didn’t help his situation, and he needed something to drink badly. His throat felt dry, as if he had screamed his lungs out. He wondered if he had indeed been screaming throughout his nightmare, but he discarded that thought quickly. If he had done that, he was sure that he’d have either Chris or Kelly standing in his room by now. As they weren’t, he guessed his mind and body were just playing tricks on him.

It was dark when Dom had made his way downstairs, but he could still make out the tall figure that was sitting at the kitchen table. When the headlights of some passing car illuminated part of the room, he could also see that it was not any person sitting there, but Chris, apparently deeply in thought as he still hadn’t acknowledged Dom’s presence.

“You awake?” Dom knew it was a stupid question, but it was the only one that came to his mind so he could alert his friend to his presence.

He saw the silhouette twitch in surprise before he heard Chris clear his throat.

“Yeah, couldn’t sleep,” he whispered. “You?”

“Same. Mind if I sit with you for a while?”

“No. No, not at all. You can turn on the lights if you want.”

Turning on the lights would definitely help with navigating through the kitchen, he hadn’t been living here long enough to be able to do it with his eyes closed. But turning on the lights would also mean that he had to look at his friend’s face and vice versa. He was sure Chris would see in his eyes that something was bothering him and ask about it. It wasn’t like Dom didn’t want to talk about it, somehow he really did, at least about parts of it. But at the moment he felt too vulnerable, and he didn’t really want his friend to read him like an open book, not this time, when he was still figuring some things out himself.

“I think we’ll be okay with the lights off,” he finally replied and felt his way to a chair next to Chris’.

He sat down and stared into the dark. Dom didn’t know what to say, he wasn’t particularly in the mood to talk. It seemed, however, like Chris was just the same because the bassist didn’t utter another word and occupied himself with a glass that was standing on top of the table.

His mind drifted to his nightmare again. How Matt’s face had contorted at the sight of him, how he’d sneered his name in the end. It hurt. He knew it wasn’t real, but that didn’t make it feel less painful. He wondered if his singer would sound like that when they finally got him back. There was no doubt in his mind that they would get him back, anything else was unacceptable, but he was scared that Matt would be a broken man.

“What makes you sigh like that, mate?” Chris broke the silence and Dom nearly jumped out of his skin.

He hadn’t even realised that he had kept sighing every once in a while, or that he’d gripped the tablecloth tightly. Of course he’d have to draw attention to himself, even when it was dark and he could hide his face’s reaction. No going back now, though. Chris wouldn’t let it go until he knew, so Dom might as well save himself some time and come clean.  

“Just a bad dream,” he replied honestly.

“I see,” Chris said before he softly added, “Do you want to talk about it?”

“No, not really.”

They remained silent for a while, both lost in their own thoughts. Dom played with the rim of his glass, debating what to say. No matter how long he mulled it over in his head, he couldn’t find an answer to the question that had been bugging him since he’d woken up. Maybe Chris could give an answer, but Dom was afraid to speak his thoughts aloud. Then again, what did he have to lose? They’d both seen each other going through the best and worst times of their lives, and since Matt had been abducted Dom had shown often enough just how vulnerable and weak he could be.

“Do you…” he began carefully and waited for Chris to react. If the bassist didn’t want to talk now, even though he had offered it a couple of minutes ago, they could both pretend no one had said anything. An easy escape.

But Chris gave him a quiet murmuring sound, indicating that he was listening, so Dom took a deep breath.

“Do you think I’m forgetting Matt?”

“How do you mean?” the bassist asked, clearly confused.

Dom sighed. How could he explain this to his friend? This feeling of hollowness in his chest whenever he thought about Matt being somewhere, thinking that his friends had abandoned him? He hadn’t looked for the singer for days, he hadn’t even checked the website. He hadn’t cried or cursed the world. Instead, he went out for shopping and cooked huge dinners for his friends. Maybe the Matt in his dreams was indeed right and he had started to accept a life without him, even though he kept telling himself that a life without Matt wasn’t worth living.

Since he’d woken up he felt so confused. Not that life had been clear for him in a long time, but the different thoughts in his head made it so difficult to understand. It didn’t help that he had had the little revelation about his relationship to Matt, either.

“I mean that I’ve been happy these past days. Without him. I shouldn’t be happy, because he’s fuck knows where and maybe hurt or-“ He sighed. “Shouldn’t I be out there, looking for him? It’s been 13 days, what if he thinks we’ve given up on him?”

“Is that what your dream was about?” Chris asked in return and Dom could have cursed himself. He thought the safety of darkness would help him, but he was clearly wrong. Either he was way too transparent or Chris had a sixth sense for it.

The drummer debated lying for a moment, because how pathetic was that? But what was the point? Either Chris would look right through the lie or Dom would be unhappy with himself for the rest of the day.

“Yes. I… I have been dreaming about Matt for quite some time,” he admitted, and wasn’t that the truth? “The dreams have been really bad since he’s gone, but… I dreamed about him dying, Chris. He died in my arms. And he blamed me.”

So he proceeded to tell his friend exactly what had happened in that dream. It scared him how accurate his memory still seemed to be, he usually forgot most details of his dreams within minutes, but this one seemed to stick to in brain like glue. The drummer was worried that it would stay with him for the rest of his life.

Chris remained quiet throughout the story, sometimes nodding (which Dom could only see when a car illuminated the kitchen again) or making affirmative noises that he was still listening, but letting Dom tell what he remembered and Dom was grateful for it. Once he had started he was glad he had found the guts to tell Chris, because he already felt better knowing that he could share this with someone and that the someone didn’t walk away because it sounded crazy and pathetic at the same time.

“So yeah,” he concluded. “That’s it. Stupid, isn’t it?”

“No, Dom, I don’t think it’s stupid at all.”

The blonde huffed at that. “You don’t have to patronize me. I’m embarrassed enough, I don’t need you to take my hand and pity me. You can be honest.”

“I am honest, Dom,” the bassist insisted. “You’re going through a lot. You already blamed yourself for Matt’s disappearance and you had a terrible breakdown. You think that just because you’ve stopped feeling sorry for yourself and started some form of living again that you don’t care about Matt anymore. I understand that. I really do. But we both know that this is not true.”

“Why am I feeling like I’m letting him down, then?”

“Because he’s not here and it’s been 2 weeks. It feels like we’re still in the same place we were the day we found the police in front of his house.”

Dom nodded at that because that was exactly what it felt like to him. It was devastating to realise that, but also comforting to know that Chris seemed to feel the same.

“You’ve learned to deal with the pain,” the bassist continued. “And I’m so bloody proud of you. But it doesn’t mean that you’ve lost your feelings for Matt. Quite the contrary, I’d say.”

And fuck, wasn’t that to the point? Dom swallowed hard and stared at the dark table in front of him. His heart rate doubled without effort and he fumbled with the tablecloth again. He wouldn’t be able to hold back if Chris kept going down that road.

“Maybe you don’t realise it,” Chris continued. “But I can see that Matt’s constantly on your mind. You’re reading his books and you make sure that there’s always a supply of bananas in the house. It’s always been like that, it’s just a bit more evident now. And Dom, when you cooked for us you set the table for one more person. You’re not forgetting him at all.”

The blonde felt a lump building in his throat. No, he hadn’t realised he’d done any of that, not before and definitely not now, Chris was right. Knowing that, though, made his heart ache even harder than before.

“Chris, I-“ He all but jumped from his chair and walked over to the window. He needed to look somewhere, anywhere but Chris. The darkness wasn’t his ally. He’d felt safe knowing he could hide, but he’d come to realise that Chris didn’t need to see him to know what’d been bothering him. And really, how stupid was Dom to assume he could hide anything from one of his best friends? He really wasn’t giving Chris enough credit if that was how he thought about him. He didn’t need to see the distraught look on Dom’s face to know he was having a small crisis. He didn’t even need to see or feel the weak shaking of his limbs. His wavering voice told enough stories.

“Chris, what if… What if I told you that I think that Matt means more to me than just the sex?”

“Well, he is your best mate, after all?” the bassist replied, confusion lacing his voice.

Dom sighed. “Yes, but I mean… Even more than that? Like, you know…?”

Silence followed his statement. Dom was too afraid to turn back to Chris, even though he still couldn’t see him properly. He didn’t want to face rejection, not with his best friend. But here he was, worried that Chris would tell him to get the fuck out of the house and not come back ever again. Why he felt like that, he didn’t know. Chris had taken it well when Dom had told him about the secret affair he was having with Matt. But what if that was the end of his acceptance? What if Chris was okay with them being intimate, but not with the feelings Dom had developed (strike that, he’d always had those, he just hadn’t realised it sooner) and the complications that came with it?

“Chris? Please, say something.”

He was only met with silence.

“Chris, please, I-“

“Shh,” Chris interrupted him. “Do you hear that?”

At that, Dom listened to his surroundings more intently. It was quiet, as you’d expect in the dead of the night. He was just about to tell Chris that no, he didn’t hear anything when he heard a faint sound. Like someone tiptoeing through the house. Instantly, he froze. The footsteps were too heavy for a child or Kelly, and none of them would be walking around at this hour, anyway. He could totally be wrong about that, of course, but Chris knew his family, so if he thought something was not right, then it probably wasn’t.

“There’s someone inside,” Chris whispered and confirmed Dom’s string of thoughts.

Carefully, the bassist got up from his chair and signalled Dom to stay quiet. They listened once again and could hear whoever it was moving something around.

“Living room.”

The two of them tiptoed through the kitchen and through the hallway in the direction of the living room, until Chris stopped at the foot of the stairs to the upper floor, and Dom nearly walked into him because his mind was working overdrive at the moment.

There was someone in this house. A burglar? A killer? No matter who, it scared Dom shitless. He wasn’t a fighter and he was balls at defending himself or anyone else.

“Dom.”

The drummer looked up at that.

“Go upstairs and check on Kelly and the kids.”

“What about you?”

He didn’t get a reply as Chris was already on the move and was expectimg Dom to do as he was told, so Dom moved, as well. He ran up the stairs, taking two steps at a time, and stuck his head into every door. The first room he checked was Frankie’s, the boy still fast asleep and snoring loudly. With a relieved sigh, Dom closed the door quietly and moved onto the next room. He did that a couple of times with every single Wolstenholme child being oblivious to what was happening. before the only room left to check was the master bedroom. He hesitated in front of the door for a moment because it felt weird to him to check on his best friend’s wife while she was, hopefully, asleep, but it wasn’t like he had much of a choice.

He was just about to open the door when it got louder downstairs. There was some shouting before something shattered, followed by more noise that sounded like someone was fighting.

The door of the master bedroom opened and suddenly Kelly was stadning in front of Dom, clearly confused and nervous.

“What’s going on?” she asked.

Dom grabbed her shoulders. “Stay here, okay? Watch the kids, but don’t come downstairs unless either Chris or I tell you it’s safe.”

Without waiting for a reply, just like Chris had done to him before, he sprinted down the stairs to join his bandmate.

It was silent again, too silent for Dom’s liking. The lights were still turned off, but he could make out the chaotic state the living room was in. So Chris had been right, the burglar had been in that room. But where was Chris now? Just to be careful, Dom sneaked around extra quietly.

When he reached the door, he could make out a bulky figure standing with his back to Dom. The street lights illuminated the room enough so he could also see that Chris was slumped against the wall, his face full of dark liquid. Blood. Fuck.

“Chris!”

Throwing all caution to the wind, Dom ran forward to aid his injured friend. He stopped dead in his tracks, however, when the burglar turned around to face him.

Even with only the dim light from outside he recognised this face. He’d never be able to forget it, even if he tried. It had been haunting his every step for weeks now, Dom seeing it at every corner, creeping up on him. It had taken what was the most important in his life.

And now, the person that belonged to the face had apparently broken into the Wolstenholme residence and knocked out Chris.

The kidnapper’s face turned from satisfied to frowning, fixing Dom with his gaze. The blonde felt frozen to the spot. No matter how much he told his limbs to fucking move they wouldn’t obey his will. The kidnapper on the other hand used that chance to run past Dom and to the open terrace door, effectively fleeing from the scene.

It took the drummer several moments until his legs finally gave way and he fell to the ground. His pulse raced and his hands wouldn’t stop shaking, so he took a deep breath and tried to calm his nerves. To no avail, though. His legs wouldn’t support him anymore, so he crawled over to Chris instead.

He whispered the bassist’s name, afraid that speaking louder would hurt him somehow. The taller man didn’t reply, though, and didn’t even give an indication that he’d heard Dom at all.

“Come on, Chris. Don’t do this to me now,” Dom begged and immediately felt tears springing to his eyes. He touched the bassist’s face and tried to clean off the blood, but only managed to smear it everywhere instead. One of his hands went lower to touch his throat and he leant his forehead against Chris’. Fuck, he was so useless.

“Chris…”

___

???

“Eat. You look like shit,” Matt’s kidnapper drawled without looking at him as he put the usual tray down on the nightstand.

There were scrambled eggs, buttered toast and water. How very nice, Matt thought to himself and could only do so much not to sneer at the taller man. He was huddled into the very corner of his bed with his blanket draped over his shoulders and his knees pulled up to his chest.

You look like shit,” he replied without thinking. Psycho did indeed look like shit, what with his face half covered in bruises and a little scab. That impression was intensified when the man gave him a death glare. Matt wasn’t impressed, though. “What happened? Did you look too close at some priceless instrument Beethoven shagged on? I’ve gotta say, I really like that bruisy look on you. Suits your character.”

“You worthless little git.” The man snarled at Matt’s outrageous comment.

For a split second the singer regretted his insolence, but when the fucker didn’t act on his apparent anger, Matt’s face cracked into a bitter smile. It felt somehow liberating to give vent to some of his desperation, especially now that there seemed to be no backlash coming.

“You’re losing a bit of your passion, aren’t you?” In truth, Matt knew what had changed in the man, and it most certainly wasn’t a lack of passion. No, he appeared to be nervous and tensed. His motions weren’t as steady and secure as before and his usually blank face betrayed his nerves.

“Shut up and eat,” the bulky man retorted and Matt did as he was told. Not because he was told, though, far from that. He had been struck by a sudden idea. If the man was as nervous as he suspected him to be, then this was the chance he had been waiting for ever since his abduction. He could make it. He just had to be careful.

He was absently chewing on a piece of toast when the man didn’t deign to look at him again and instead turned around to leave the room. The door banged shut behind him and Matt, for the first time in a long time, allowed a little flare of hope to worm its way through the despair. It had to work.

___

It just had to!

A few hours later he was all set up and waiting. He knew that Psycho always came in when he was supposed to be asleep in order to pick up his dirty clothes. The thought that the guy did his laundry alone, creeped him out to no end. But that wasn’t really the point right now. The point was that it was dark and his Manson was leaning against his nightstand.

He had made a small show out of it when he’d picked up the guitar earlier and pretended to be playing out of a sudden urge. All the while he’d had no idea if the guy was watching, but he just couldn’t take the risk of getting caught. Not when he had an actual chance to finally make his escape.

So, the Manson was ready to hand, it was dark, and he had intentionally slid one of his shirts halfway under the bed. Psycho would have to kneel down close to the bed and thereby give Matt the perfect position to strike.

Given that he wasn’t the best of actors, Matt paid special attention to the way he lay, angled his head and grabbed the pillow. Pretending to be asleep wasn’t really the hardest part of his plan, but considering his tendency to overthink even the most minor details, it didn’t really surprise him that he had to toss around a bit before he found a convincing position.

Fortunately he didn’t have to wait for too long. By the time his abductor opened the door, his whole body was tingling with nerves and he felt like a complete wreck. The man was carrying an electric torch like he always did when he expected Matt to be asleep. He didn’t know that there had been countless times when the dim light of the device had been enough to wake Matt from his restless sleep.

A low, disapproving grunt escaped the man’s lips as he found some of Matt’s clothes under the bed. He flashed the light at the seemingly sleeping singer for a second, just to make sure. Then he kneeled down and started to gather the shirts and trousers.

Now or never! Matt thought and shot up from his position, made a grab for the guitar, and smashed it over the man’s head forcefully. Everything happened in less than three seconds and Matt was actually a little surprised when the guy crashed to the floor, body going completely limp and not making the slightest sound.

Frozen in shock over his victory, the singer could just stare at the unconscious man’s face. It was illuminated by the torch light and for the first time ever looked quite peaceful. Then he snapped out of his state of shock and sprang to the floor in one fluid motion. He knocked down the remainings of his dinner in the process but didn’t look around as the glass burst on the ground.

There was a small ray of light falling through the gap between door and frame. Matt pulled it open, hurried into the hallway and threw it shut behind him again, effectively locking his tormentor up in his former prison. Without hesitation he started running down the long, white hallway, eyes already fixed on the next door. He had no idea how big this place actually was, but right now he didn’t care. His kidnapper was knocked out and locked up. What did it matter if he had to search a few minutes longer?

Suddenly thoughts of the reunion with his friends started to crowd his mind and for the first time in forever his face broke into an honest smile. He was finally going home!

___

17.08.2013 - London

“Stop being such a fucking pussy!”

“But it hurts!”

Dom watched the exchange in front of him, still shaking slightly. After the kidnapper had left and Dom had begged Chris to wake up, Kelly had flown down the stairs, ignoring Dom’s command to stay upstairs from earlier. She’d turned on the lights and once she had set eyes on the lifeless form of her husband, she’d run over and fallen to her knees in front of him to cry into his shoulder so hard that it made Dom’s heart break. To much of his relief, though, the bassist had moved right in that moment, murmuring Kelly’s name. It was weak, but it was there, and Dom had never felt as happy to hear the deep voice as he’d been then. After that they’d helped Chris up and placed him on one of the chairs of the dining table, and Kelly had rushed off to get the first aid kit while Dom had made sure to have an eye on his friend and call the police. He didn’t get much out of Chris, but what the bassist had told him was that he had found the kidnapper looking through the cupboard, apparently trying to find something. What exactly, they didn’t know. That particular drawer only held photos of them and drawings that the kids had done over the years. Chris had surprised him from behind, but the kidnapper wouldn’t go down without a fight, so they wrestled around the room with both landing some punches here and there until the bulky man had gotten the upper hand and knocked Chris over the head.

Now they were waiting for the police to show up while Kelly was taking care of the deep gash on Chris’ head, dabbing at it with a piece of cotton soaked in antiseptic.

“Can you be a bit more careful?”

“Can you stop being such a girl?” She actually rolled her eyes at him.

The bassist whined in reply, and Dom couldn’t help but chuckle. He was still shaken by the night’s events, but seeing his friend being so childish was amusing and, yes, girly was new and very entertaining. He’d have to file that away and tease him about it at some point, preferably when there was something between them so Chris couldn’t break his neck.

“There, done,” Kelly finally said and looked at her work. The plaster on Chris’ forehead looked a bit ridiculous and Dom would have laughed in his face if it had been under any different circumstances. Kelly kissed Chris’ forehead before she packed up the kit and went to the bathroom to stash it away again. On her way she passed Dom and laid her hand against his cheek. She thumbed it tenderly for a moment, giving him a bit of comfort, before she left the room.

Dom sighed deeply and closed his eyes for a moment. So now they knew, Matt had been kidnapped by this man. It would’ve been too much of a coincidence if the same man whom Matt had told them about had now broken into their house while having nothing to do with his friend’s abduction. It wasn’t like they really needed a confirmation, of course, it had been obvious from the start, especially since Matt had left them a note. But now they knew without a trace of doubt. He didn’t know if that was good or bad, or if it would change anything at all, but it somehow felt like some form of progress.

He opened his eyes again and looked over to Chris who was still sitting at the table, gripping the phone they’d used to call the police tightly in one hand, the other hanging down limply. His head was tipped back and his eyes closed, and Dom noted the new thin sheen of sweat on the unusually pale face of his friend.

“You okay, mate?” Dom asked quietly and walked over to the table.

“Dizzy. Sick,” was the short reply he got. He doubted that was a good sign.

“You should get that checked. The gash might need stitches, too.”

“Later. Police first.”

He heard Kelly walking upstairs. She probably went to check on the kids who were all gathered in one of the rooms. They’d come downstairs at some point, woken up by the commotion, and had immediately started panicking at the sight of their father. Ava had sprung into action and had ushered them all upstairs with the promise of video games. It seemed to have worked as the kids immediately went with her. Only Alfie had stayed behind, asking how he could help. There wasn’t much to do yet, not until the police was there, so they had agreed that he’d help Ava with their siblings. He’d hugged his mum tightly before going to the kitchen to grab a tube of ice cream and heading upstairs.

“Are you sure about that? You took a nasty blow.”

Chris nodded, but he didn’t seem too convinced himself. He really didn’t look well, and even if he had, Dom doubted that a hit to the head was something that should be treated lightly. Especially not when the hit had been caused by something as heavy as an Xbox. Really, it was quite ironic in a way that the one item that had endured so much beating had now gotten its revenge. And so very bizarre. Anyway, he was sure Chris needed medical attention. The sooner, the better.

“Are you okay, though?” Chris asked after a while, and Dom looked down at the carpet.

“Yeah, I just-” he sighed. “Im sorry.”

At that, Chris cocked his head and immediately regretted the movement as his eyes fell shut again.

“I let him get away.”

“We both did.”

Dom moved a chair around so he could sit down in front of Chris. “But you were unconscious. I wasn’t. I should have stopped him. What if that was our only chance? Or what if he panics now and hurts Matt?”

“Dom,” Chris said and he sounded a bit stronger than before, most likely not because he was feeling better but because he wanted to get his point across. “I’m just glad at the moment that you and Kelly and my kids are okay. He knocked me out, so what chances would you have had against him? Don’t take it the wrong way, mate, but you’re about as strong as a cooked spaghetti.”

Dom huffed, but he knew that Chris was right, even if he was exaggerating.

“We’ll catch him. The police might be able to find something in this,” he pointed blindly around the living room, “chaos. And as for Matt, I think he’ll be safe for a little while longer. That’s probably the only good thing about this. That guy wants to show off, not kill him.”

Chris was right, Matt wasn’t being held for ransom or vengeance, but for collecting purpose. Considering how he’d talked about the singer on the boards, this man probably wouldn’t want to lose one of his most precious items. At least Dom hoped that that was the case.

In that moment, the doorbell rang and Kelly opened the door for the policemen. They immediately went to work to secure evidence, while another officer told Dom and Chris that CI Whitman would be with them in a moment.

Kelly joined them again and held Chris’ hand. “You need to see a paramedic.”

“I’m fine,” he protested, but Kelly wouldn’t let it go and Dom felt compelled to side with her.

“You look like shit,” he argued and winced immediately. Not the best thing to say, maybe. “Come on, you can talk to the police later. It’s important that you get that checked.”

Kelly looked at Dom before she fixed her husband again. “Please, darling.”

“Mate, come on.”

At long last, Chris sighed and nodded his agreement. “Alright, fine. But get me a bucket first, I think I’m about to be sick.”

Luckily, an ambulance had arrived together with the police, as Dom had mentioned on the phone that one of them was hurt, so it didn’t take long for Chris to get checked. The wound indeed needed stitching and the nausea and dizziness came from the concussion he’d sustained. He’d definitely have to get to a hospital for further examination. Chris refused at first, but Kelly’s Glare of Anger quietened his protests in an instant.

“I’ll drive with him, is that okay?” she asked Dom and shrugged on her jacket. “Ava and Alfie are taking the kids to Amber. I’ve just called her and she’s okay with it. So you’ll be alone with the police and-”

“Kelly, relax,” he interrupted her and touched her arm. “I’ve got this. You take care of your husband. I’ll do the rest here.”

“Okay. Okay, I’ll call you as soon as I know anything new.”

With that she left the house and climbed into the ambulance to accompany Chris to the hospital.

Dom turned around to watch the police officers do their work and spotted CI Whitman talking to one of them in the hallway, so he walked over to give his statement as quickly as possible.

“Mr Howard,” the CI greeted when he spotted him. “I guess you’ll have some explaining to do.”

___

???

Wow, this really was a big ass house. Matt had been running and opening doors for at least ten minutes now and it seemed like there was no end to it. What he had found out, though, was that he had been held hostage in the basement. Now he had finally reached ground floor level, but still there was no sign of an exit. No big wooden door, no real windows.

“What kind of a fucked up hiding place is this?” he mumbled under his breath, but kept running, not like but because his life depended on it.

When he opened another door, there were more stairs and for a moment he wondered whether there were two below-ground storeys. He ran up the flight of steps and was suddenly blinded by bright light. There was a whole wall of windows and the garden beyond the glass was stunning. Matt couldn’t help but stop in his tracks for a moment.

What caught his attention wasn’t the beautiful view. Far from that, really. It was the fact that it was broad daylight. Shit, his inner rhythm was completely fucked up. Before he resumed his flight, his eyes found a digital watch on the far wall of the room. It was quarter past eleven on the 17th of August. For a second he tried to remember the date of his abduction but couldn’t for the life of him.

What did it even matter, though?

In a swift motion he turned around and quickly made his way down yet another hallway. This time there were pictures on the walls and decorations everywhere. If he hadn’t known better he would have said that this was a woman’s house or at least that of a family.

When, finally, the front door came into view, all his thoughts focussed on that. He didn’t care if Psycho had a family and had secretly kept him in the basement for his perverse enjoyment. All he wanted was to get out.

His breathing came in heavy and strangled puffs when his hand cramped around the door handle and pushed it down. Then he pulled. Nothing happened. His heart seemed to stop beating for an incredibly long and painful moment. He tried again, but the door remained unyielding.

“No, no, no!” Matt cried out and banged his fists against the dark, heavy wood.

Okay, okay, okay. There had to be another way out, he just had to calm down a little. He rubbed his face with both hands and turned around again, scanning his surroundings. There were doors on each side of the corridor. His best chance was to go back to the room with the window wall. Maybe he could get into the garden and continue his escape from there.

The singer leaped forward and in his hurry to make it back to the room, he didn’t pay much attention to the rest of the house anymore. Out, out, out, was all he could think of. His bare feet made smacking sounds on the tile floor as he hurried back into what was probably the main living room of this residence.

Matt almost crashed into the glass front in his haste. There was no window that stood out from the others, none that looked like it could be used as a door. But he was prepared to try each and every single window. No way would he give up now. If all else failed, he would just have to smash it in.

He had a strong sense of déjà vu as he stood in front of the first window, clad only in a shirt and his boxer shorts, and fumbled with the handle. It didn’t work, though, so he went over to the next window. The hope that had swollen in his chest numbed all other feelings and a little setback wouldn’t change that.

So, naturally, he didn’t hear the footsteps behind him. He didn’t see the gun that was raised. He didn’t see the hand that let the pistol grip swing at his head. He only heard the dull whack of the eventual impact and felt the explosion of pain that spread from the back of his head, down in his spine, and through his whole body. He felt his knees buckle and his body sagging. Then everything went black.

___

He felt weird. His vision was nothing but red. Why, though? He didn’t understand. His thoughts went from blank to chaos in less than a second. Had it always been red? Was it blood? But why should it be blood? Hadn’t there been hope? But what exactly had he been hoping for? He couldn’t remember, his head was a mess. A dull pain in his neck made itself known. It travelled up into the back of his head and suddenly exploded, spreading everywhere.

The next thing Matt realised was that his body was swaying back and forth. But why? His stomach protested at the movement and he felt like he was about to be sick. His consciousness was slowly coming back, but still he couldn’t open his eyes. Oh. It was only then that he noticed they were closed in the first place. It explained the redness of his surroundings. His neck was resting against something warm and soft while his head dangled in the air. He had no control over it and his headache intensified with each back and forth.

Then there were voices. Two of them if he wasn’t completely mistaken. At first he found them indiscernible and muffled as if there was a pillow pressed over his ears. Only when his hearing returned did he recognise his kidnapper’s low drawl. The second voice was higher and sounded somehow familiar. For some reason it made him feel safe. Safe from what, though? Kidnapper? Oh. Oh shit.

Suddenly there was a flood memories and images rushing back into his head and he remembered everything. Who had unlocked the psycho from his prison? Hadn’t he already reached the front door? Yes, he definitely had. But then there had been pain followed by blackness. He had been knocked out again. How long ago had that been? All the thinking exhausted him to no end and made his head hurt even more.

“You complete imbecile!” the safe voice said. “Trust you to fail at even the simplest of tasks.”

“I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to-” The man sounded scared. Of what?

“Of course you didn’t mean to. You never do! And still you are nothing but a failure.”

“He caught me off guard, I couldn’t do anything about it.”

“He is half your size, stop making excuses. And it is not only that. You came back from the Wolstenholme house with a black eye and, more importantly, empty-handed. You really are the definition of ‘waste of space’. I relied on you and you let me down time and time again. It is not only that you got caught by his friends, no. Of course you weren’t even able to deal with them.”

“I tried! But that Wolstenholme guy is strong. I did manage to knock him out, though.”

Chris? Matt tried to open his eyes. He finally felt there again. He was being carried in strong arms. Arms which had hurt him more than once, he knew that. But he couldn’t focus on it right now. The second voice, he knew it and he wanted to see the face that went with it desperately. What had happened to Chris? Was he okay? Oh God, what if he wasn’t?

“I said stop making excuses! You almost broke Matthew’s bones when you brought him here. Tell me, how is it possible that one person can do so much damage? I should have done it, all of it, alone. From the very start. You are a useless idiot.”

“Please, I’ll do better next time. I promise, I’ll not disappoint you again.”

“No, indeed you won’t.”

The second voice had a dangerous tinge to it and Matt found himself starting to shake. He’d never heard it this furious and cold before. Far from it, really. He remembered it being warm and shy and…

“Suzanne?”

Slowly he started to open his eyes although the glaring light stung them and they instantly started to cloud over. But there she was. Suzanne. His favourite waitress, walking closely behind him and the kidnapper. Their eyes met and she froze to the spot, as did his carrier.

“Matthew,” she breathed, wide-eyed. Then she stepped closer and ran her fingers through his hair. To inspect his head, as he soon noticed. “How are you feeling?” she asked almost softly and then proceeded to scold him. “You should not have tried to run, that was foolish. If you hadn’t, there would have been no need to stop you. But you didn’t leave me much choice. I had to hurt you. And now look at you, all messed up and bloody.”

The young woman pursed her lips and wiped away a stray drop of blood that was running down from his temple. He could do nothing but stare at her. Slowly his brain started to catch up and made the final connection.

“You?”

He looked up at the mortified expression of the kidnapper whose eyes were trained on Suzanne. He followed his gaze again. She was still looking at him, mouth tightly shut.

“It was you? But I thought-”

“Shhh, Matthew. Stop. You are bleeding. We need to take care of that, clean you up.”

Oh God. What? His head was still hurting like a bitch, but he started to struggle, lashing out at the man who was carrying him. But of course it was in vain. The grip on his limbs was tight and he could already feel bruises starting to form on his skin again. In addition he felt completely worn out and weak. He should have eaten more. He should have tried to rest properly. He could have made it! He could be free now had he only prepared himself better. His body went limp again, but his brain was still running at top speed.

“What the hell is going on here? What are you doing?”

“Shush, Matthew, you have already done enough damage for today. You should rest now. There is still a lot of work ahead and I don’t want you to hurt yourself further. In addition, I have a few things to discuss with Jon.”

She side-eyed the bulky man as they entered his cell again. No, no, no, he’d come so far… Now he was where he had started and would probably never get a chance to escape again. He would die in here, Matt was sure of that. He would die and never see his friends again. He would never get a chance to tell Dom. That thought tore at his heart more than he felt was appropriate. But he missed him. So very badly.

The kidnapper, Jon his name was, laid him down on the mattress non too carefully, and his head bumped into the wall at the head of the bed. For a moment he saw sparkly stars which distracted him from the people who were standing next to him. He felt like passing out again, and oh wouldn’t that have been salvation? Maybe… maybe there was only one permanent way out of here. He didn’t want to die, but… What if it saved his friends? In a way it would save him.

His head kept throbbing furiously and there was not an ounce of strength left in his body. With it, his will to fight had gone, too. He didn’t know what to do anymore. Although he wasn’t exactly the person to give up easily, he was beyond exhausted. And not only in a physical sense. His mind was in pieces, his emotions clouding his thoughts so he couldn’t even think straight anymore.

Was this it? Had he finally reached his breaking point? It sure felt like it to him.

Suddenly and seemingly out of nowhere Suzanne had produced a cold, wet cloth with which she started to dab the blood from his forehead and face. Had she left to get it? He didn’t know, his vision got blurrier by the minute and, quite frankly, he didn’t care too much about anything anymore.

Except for his friends. Always his friends. He was actually amazed by the determination that thought brought back into his mind. But, unfortunately, it didn’t change the fact that his body was completely drained. He felt like he couldn’t move if his life depended on it. Which it very much did right now.

“What do you want? Suzanne, please…” His eyes fluttered close as he forced the words out quietly.

“Matthew, I have told you more than once. And I do not understand your resistance, to be honest. You were doing great and then you had to go and ruin all our progress.” She shook her head at the beat brunette. “You really disappointed me, you know?”

“I honestly don’t-” he started to reply but was cut short when a hand was clamped over his mouth.

“No, shush. I told you not to exert yourself,” she berated him harshly, and only when he made no further move to fight her and instead went utterly limp, she took her hand away again.

Then, she turned back to Jon and positively glared at him. He’d been standing behind her the whole time and, hadn’t he been rather muscular and well controlled, he would’ve been shaking under her dangerous gaze now.

“What are you waiting for? Go and tend to his wounds. You know where the bandages are, right? We do not want him to suffer any more damage than you have already caused.”

When another, rougher pair of hands started to work on his head, Matt’s eyes flew open again. He was staring directly into Jon’s eyes, and the other man looked scared. Not nervous like before, but actually scared. It was just Suzanne, how could he be frightened of this tiny woman? But when he caught a glimpse of the grim determination on her face, he immediately reconsidered his first impression of her.

She was downright scary right now. Her jaw was set, making her features appear harder and straighter than usual. Her eyes were cold and adamant, while her lips were pressed into a thin line. The rest of her body wasn’t as rigid, though. Quite the contrary even, she was walking back and forth in front of the still halfway opened door, seemingly not able to contain her anger.

Jon was kneeling beside him then, fumbling around with a metal box that had been in one of the locked drawers of the bedside table. Matt already knew that it was where they kept the bandages and antiseptics and what not. He bit down on his tongue and let out a pained hiss when a drop of the burning liquid came in contact with the gash on his cheek. Matt could feel Jon’s fingers shaking when he tried to put a plaster over the deepest part of the wound. It was a little weird how he was suddenly overcome by a sense of sympathy for the man. He seemed to be completely under Suzanne’s control. Said sympathy didn’t last long, though, as he remembered everything that man had done to him and his friends.

“It has been you all along, hasn’t it?” he finally whispered, all the pieces finally falling into place. This explained everything. Jon did not have any sort of personality disorder. There had actually been two people the whole time. Suzanne stopped in her tracks.

“Of course, did you really think that idiot of man would have been able to pull this off on his own? He does not even have the slightest appreciation for music. He is nothing but a means to an end.” Suzanne’s words made Jon’s head snap up.

“But I thought-” he started.

“No, Jon. No, you didn’t think. That is why you have been such a good hand. A hand, nothing else.” She gave him a look that spoke of pure contempt.

“Suzanne, I love you, you know that!” Jon’s voice rose with desperation.

The young woman actually smirked at that. “Yes, I do know that. Thank you, it has been very… convenient.”

Matt’s eyes widened in horror as he followed the conversation. This nightmare was getting worse by the minute. Now he understood how she had been able to get so close to his friends. They trusted her. And who could’ve even imagined her to be a criminal psychopath? It was beyond him.

“You’re a bloody freak!” he squeaked, voice higher than he had anticipated. “Has this been your plan all along? Getting close to us and then kidnap me? Staying close to my friends so you could scare me?”

She narrowed her eyes at him. “And here I was thinking that you were not as dull as the rest of them. A brilliant musician, but dull all the same.” Her hand was steady and controlled as she moved it behind her back.

“Suzanne,” Jon gasped, clearly aware of what she was doing.

“I have really had it with you,” she hissed.

Matt tried to understand what was going on, his eyes fixed on her still hidden hand. Then, he swallowed hard and managed to pull himself into a sitting position although his head was spinning violently. It reappeared with a gun. A bloody gun! She had pulled it from her waistband. It had been there the whole time.

“What the hell are you doing?” Matt shrieked and surprised himself with his ability to talk through his shock and horror.

“It is about time you realise what I am capable of. I do not appreciate the way I am treated around here.” Her voice was low and her face spoke not only of determination but also madness. It was clearly visible in her every feature as she raised the gun, not wavering for a second.

Matt saw the muzzle, pitch black and promising an ending he had never even dreamt of. He squeezed his eyes shut and the numb feeling that spread through his limbs made him believe that he was already dying. No, no, no, he took it all back, I don’t want to die, not here, not like this!

His mind went blank when the click of the slide rang in his ears and the bullet slid into the barrel. Every sound was too loud. His body was shaking, but he couldn’t feel it. In a way Matt was even anticipating it with a feeling of guilty relief. When the lethal bang finally came, it was excruciatingly loud, but at the same time soothing.

Then there was nothing.