Adam’s voice was a supposititious echo in his head as he swung his fist again, giving the whimpering scum of flesh and sinews a third fracture in his left cheekbone.
A smacking crack accompanied the taut muscle bands under his skin. The man who lay beneath him screamed in agony. Blood gurgled in delicate streams from nose and mouth. One eye was swollen and shut, the other stared at the demon sitting on him with panic. Adam was a bit off the scene, as this would be a summoning ritual and one would have built a magic circle around it, you’d never leave once you were in. Not in one piece. While he noted in passing that Adam cried and that his words were a plea - and a voice within him said that he’d be better stop this - he could not. He was not finished with this pig. Not until he had torn every single tooth from this dirty mouth. For the first time in weeks, he felt the familiar rush of adrenaline swimming through his veins, which had accompanied him earlier in Bucharest during the exercise of violence. The spark of power that mixed in his emotional cocktail was bittersweet and smoky sharp. He did not enjoy it, not this time, for that Adam’s sobs sounded yet too loud in his ears.
It was just him performing a natural reaction. What could he say? Old habits died hard.
Nigel’s fists went into another series of merciless blows. Left, right, left, right. In one swoop, he broke the guy’s nose and rivulets of blood grew into streams. He wanted to blacken the second eye, when two arms suddenly wrapped around his torso from behind and short fingernails cut into the fabric of his shirt. The crying growled now at the base of the back of his head. His neck wetted with wet streaks of shed tears. “Please stop this.” Adam’s voice seemed more powerless than before. Exhausted as he would have screamed for too long. Had he? Nigel could not remember. It was all a red blur, an outflow of trifles. But the sudden weight on his back, the hands that clutched at him, forced him for a rare moment to pause in his actions. He blinked, and felt the cool night air burn in his lungs. He looked at his hands. His knuckles were cracked in some places and throbbed unpleasantly.
However, the pain was dull in contrast to the feeling about the apathetic tremor that ran frantically from the younger man’s body. Even before he realized it himself fully, he could feel a part of his brain call to brutality again, but he did nothing, remained stock still. Emotionless he listened to the whimpering breaths, the groaning of the man that spat at him from bleeding lips. At the same moment he heard Adam’s own, staccato-like sobs. Sounds, filled with bursting pain and vulnerability - and caused only because of him. He was to blame. He felt something hot and sticky trickle down his temple.
His shirt was damp with sweat and blood.
He felt suddenly very, very cold.
He left the man in the back yard as he was. Bruised, broken, visibly destroyed.
For Adam’s sake he called anonymously for an ambulance, hoping to somehow make amends for what he had done. But it did not work. Adam did not even look at him as he held the phone in his hand. He also ignored Nigel’s whispered sweet nothings as he walked with him to the car he had parked at the end of the road. He stared into the distance. As if he would not be here, but in another place, maybe even another world. Nigel definitely knew something was wrong when he noticed that Adam stared at the ground and not with unquenchable enthusiasm at the starry sky above them as he usually did. It earned him just another chunk of nausea, which solidified in his stomach. He had a dry throat and his nervous fingers required for a cigarette, but he remembered how much Adam hated it when he smoked. So he let it be and tried to start a conversation instead as they drove home. Not a single subject he broached, fertilized into dialogue. Adam did not speak. It almost killed him. He realized that he had gone too far. He wasn’t concerned about the asshole, he had just beaten good and proper (for he had deserved it), but he hated the fact that Adam had watched him while doing this. He should have arranged the whole thing to a later hour, when Adam was lying in their bed, blissfully asleep and protected, so he could leave him alone. He should have remembered the jerk’s name and face, find out his address and lie in wait for him. Just as he had often done in the past, in Bucharest. It would have spared him the sight of his hysterical and distraught angel.
Why had he not done this? Why had not he acted professionally?
… Because he had become careless. America and Adam’s lovely company had kept him under wraps like a bulldog on a leash, collected his aggression and hid it under an opaque grid. But when he left Adam out of sight for mere seconds to get their drinks and had turned around, he was greeted with a very unpleasant sight of a fucking drunk who dared to place his dirty grabbers on Adam’s ass, definitely horny and rubbing against him in a vulgar manner, he had finally exploded. Like a human vulcano. He did not regret to have beaten the man to a pulp. He regretted, however, that Adam now probably saw a monster in him, a beast who had dropped its mask, exposing himself purely. Lusting for agony and blood. Maybe Adam even thought that he had lied to him about everything by hiding some darker parts of his true nature in all that time. Of course, this was bullshit. Nigel could lie about many things to get himself out of trouble, but he had always been honest with his feelings. Especially his feelings towards Adam. Nigel just hoped that he could explain. Adam needed to understand. Thinking about what would happen if he didn’t forgive him only splashed bile on his tongue. When they parked in front of the house and went to their apartment, Adam went ahead more quickly to bring distance between himself and Nigel. In the elevator, he pressed so tightly against the wall, that it seemed almost as if he wanted to merge with the cabin. Nigel did not comment on it. He took it as his punishment. The idea that this reaction could just be one of many others, he pushed off immediately.
The elevator opened with metallic whirring and Adam was the first who fled into the hallway. He was also the first scooping up the key to their home from his pocket and quickly squeezed through the open door. Nigel hurried after him.
“Adam -” he began, but the deafening crack of a closing door broke the sentence he wanted to form into empty shreds. His voice failed him, his mouth dropped open. “Fuck!” he cursed instead. His fist kissed the door frame and pumped aching heat through his bones anew.
And he felt more miserable than ever.
An hour later, after he had showered, thrown the clothes in the laundry basket and scrubbed the blood from his skin, he knocked at the bedroom door, boxed in in a fresh shirt and trousers. “Darling, open the door. I need to talk to you about the shit that happened today.” he said and forced himself to sing a quiet timbre here. He would much rather have scream out because he felt like he should scream. Roar until his lungs rolled out of his throat. Adam did not answer him. Silence spread like a curtain of lead over Nigel’s head. He kept one hand on the latch while he sighed, pressing his forehead against the painted wood.
“Adam, please. I know you’re upset, but say something at least. You can call me everything you want, it’s okay.”
Still no answer. The silence no longer resembled a curtain, but rather a grave. Slowly but surely Nigel felt queasy. A hint of concern printed his perception.
“… Adam? Adam, are you alright?”
For the third time. No answer.
Nigel did not hesitate, went back a fewsteps to break through the door. The splintering of the bursting wood was like a wake up call to his nerves, stretching them to the utmost and being vigilant. Every ounce of his troubled mind revolved around whether Adam was fine. Whether he breathed. Whether he lived. Whether he still loved him. The room was dark. Nigel did not turn the lights on. The moon cast a few strips of white shimmer on the ground and into black edged corners. His eyes narrowed to slits and he recognized as a silhouette stood out from the other outlines in a sitting position. The silhouette moved slightly back and forth. Nigel felt a lump in his throat. “Adam?” His voice was a whisper. He did not dare to speak louder. He wanted to avoid at all costs, Adam continues to deter. His movements were slow and tough as he walked deeper into the room, closer to Adam, closer to the strange aura of defense and fear exuding from him. He was only a few feet away when he went into a crouch to speak on a same level. And although impatience was one of his worst qualities, he waited without complaint until Adam himself decided to talk. And indeed, after a few minutes, glueing like dried honey between them, Adam opened his mouth and spoke.
“You did not stop when I asked you to.” His voice was thick and trembled slightly. Nigel could only spot the vague outline of his face in the darkness, but he knew instinctively that he had been crying. “You’ve kept going. And going. And going.”
The repetitions of going were like little, fine knife wounds. Nigel swallowed.
“Darling, but I have stopped. It was just a small fight. Nothing great, love. Sometimes one has to show those pissers their limits.”
“You just kept going.” replied Adam only. Nigel heard the rustle of fabric as he pulled his knees to his chest. “Until it was too late.”
“Will you beat me too?” interrupted Adam him and Nigel suddenly felt ice splinters scrape over his shoulder blades. “When you’re mad at me? Are you splattered with my blood then?”
“No!” He could not believe that Adam said such things. “Fuck, Adam, of course NOT! I’d never hurt you. And I would never let something happen to you.” It was his perfect seriousness. Adam did not make a sound. And God, Nigel would have given his right arm to be able to look at his face now. At the same time he was afraid. The room was filled with nothing but their breath.
“You say that now.” Adam replied then. “Who can tell me that you’re not lying?” Nigel could not bear it.
“Adam, come here. Come to me.”
He reached a hand out for him, but the younger man flinched away.
“Please don’t touch me.” he hissed, though his tone remained soft like silk. “I’m scared of you. I’m scared you’ll beat me to death when you’re angry.”
This confession met Nigel with the force of an atomic bomb. And it felt like someone just had crushed his heart into frantic pieces.
“Do you really think that of me? That I could do this to you?”
He did not prevent that his voice sounded bitter. It did not matter anyway. It had never been easy for Adam to filter out emotional changes just because of a tiny shift in a voice’s pitch or a different facial expression. It would never be. The answer came short, prompt and unverfehlbar.
For Nigel, everything was said. And more he would neither require nor receive tonight. He stood up. His spine protested, but he gave a fuck on this. There was worse pain than which was caused by bruised ribs and broken fingers. He felt like he was rotting from the inside.
“I’ll sleep in the living room, then. Or would you like me to stay in a hotel?” he asked. Any warmth in his voice had evaporated. His words were cold.
“Go into a hotel.” Adam’s decision lacked any hesitation. “Put your keys on the kitchen table before you go.”
And Nigel, who would formerly never turn away with such rude finality, saved every syllable of opposition and did what Adam had requested. He went.
The worst part of all this was that he did not know if he’d ever be allowed to come back.
In the next few days he did not have direct contact with Adam. Neither physically nor verbally.
Although he never let him out of sight, followed him when he went to work and waited until he came home, taking the same route, but he made sure that Adam did not see him and knew nothing of the fact that he watched his every move carefully. For Adam, he was swallowed by the earth and the way it disfigured his face into a monotone version of sadness, hurt Nigel to the same extent as it pleased him secretly. It proved that Adam missed him. As much as Nigel missed HIM. He could afford to settle down in a hotel for a while, but Adam was, in contrary to clothing, comfort, diverse entertainment and food, not possible to be replaced with a huge amount of money or some ugly bitch. He missed it to bury his nose in his ebony curls and to feel his warm body beside and below him. When he closed his eyes, allowing himself to drift away, he heard Adam’s voice in his head as he raved about different constellations or how the orange juice they drank had been made, or which path the moon graduated over them when they sat on the roof and looked at the sky. And sometimes, when Nigel could not sleep, he recalled the first time when Adam had said that he loved him. Loved him, loved him, loved him. He hoped he still did.
Staying away from Adam though seeing him every day was torture, but it had to be. Adam needed to calm down and understand, how much he missed Nigel and what kind of life he would lead if the elder man should not return to him. At least, Nigel thought so. He bit the truth back like a mad dog ripped apart the hand of a stranger. Then one day, as Adam went from work to home again in late evening, a stranger moved out of the dark and pushed him against a wall, tightly wrapping his hands around his throat. A street rubber, not even worth to be mentioned with a name. He wanted money, but it seemed Adam had not enough of it to please him. He screamed, but the street was empty, and suddenly all neighbors seemed to suffer from deaf ears as they always do.
Seconds later, Nigel was with him, throwing the robber to the ground and kicking him into the side until he coughed blood.
However, unlike the man from the bar, this one was not drunk, so he also conceded a blow to Nigel’s gut and a head butt. He cared very little. The anger about this asshole wanting to hurt Adam cremated each feeling of pain in him for a short period of time, as well as his intention to stay undercover until a favorable opportunity of reconciliation revealed itself. Blind with rage he fell back into his old patterns and even though he knew he would regret it later, he could not restrain himself. His protective instinct was too pronounced for this boy. And he thought it was one of the only things that he did right. Mostly. This time Adam did not cry and begged him to stop. He just waited and watched him like he had done days before. Nigel would have loved to beat this guy to death, but he restrained himself in only giving him the attrition of his life. Eventually he even let him stumble away and stood there panting while he watched him flee. Knowing that Adam still glued to the wall, heavily breathing as well, but for other reasons. He gave him time to sooth his swelling panic on his own.
Pulsations measured the passage of time. They said nothing.
He did not really recognize the blood running from his nose until Adam went to him after a while and mumbled something about it. Nigel did not protest when he took his right shirt sleeve, and wiped his upper lip, cleaning him carefully. They looked at each other and Nigel fell into these ocean blue eyes and drowned. Still, a spark of fear swirled in them, and maybe a pinch of distrust too. Both, however, were swept away by boundless relief. And affection. It loosened a knot in his chest, which had swollen since their separation and had made it difficult for him to breathe since. “What? Didn’t I tell you? I said I won’t let anything happen to you. Even if you… well, hate me.” Nigel could not resist. A joke that was not a joke, but a bad idea. He tried a smile. It was a poor, bloody attempt, but well, it was something. Adam just shook his head and kissed him on the mouth. Nigel automatically pulled him into a tight embrace then, wedged his fingers around the familiar body and held it so tightly against himself that it almost hurt. He ran through Adam’s curly hair and kissed him on the crown, on the forehead, cheeks, lips, ears, everything he could reach at this moment. He did not want to stop. He would have liked to never let him go again. And he knew, he wouldn’t. The I'm sorry floated clear and honest between them in the air, but remained unspoken on both sides.
“Never again.” Nigel said aloud. “You’ll never expel me from your life again. I’m more than a fucking beater, Adam. I’ll be better for you. I promise.” And Adam nodded, his face hidden in Nigel’s neck, taking a deep, shaking breath. He said no word. The followed mingling of their breaths as their lips touched was answer enough.
Somehow he knew Nigel wouldn’t keep his promise though he’d try for sure. He knew it would cause hurt and that he wouldn’t see him dipped in another man’s blood for the last time. He knew, but he didn’t mind. He couldn’t. It was far too late.
He loved him. And love was a stupid, little thing. A treacherous weapon.