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Drowning In Myself

Chapter Text

Troy climbed behind the wheel of his truck with a tired sigh. It was three in the morning, and he was driving out to the middle of town to meet up with a new client. Calvin had told him this guy was notorious or needing a fix at this time of night, but he wasn't expecting to get a call the first night his fellow dealer was out of town. 

He'd woken to the sound of his phone buzzing its way across his nightstand, a shaky voice saying they got his number from Calvin and they needed a fix; now. Normally, Troy only dealt with people who could meet during a more reasonable hour, but he figured he owed Calvin for getting him his current job. So, he took the address down, threw on the clothes he'd been wearing the day before, and headed out to the abandoned shitshow of a neighborhood to meet his new client. 

As the trucks headlights hit the side of the fence that surrounded the old Church, Troy spotted him. A figure sitting curled up with his back pressed to the tall wooden boards and a dark grey hood pulled over his head. He didn't look up as Troy pulled up to the curb a few feet away. 

"You Nick?" Troy asked as he climbed out of the idling silver pickup. 

The figure on the sidewalk raised his head then, pulling his hood down to reveal shaggy brown hair and a dark almond complexion with dark eyes that shown almost copper in the glow of Troy's headlights. "You Troy?" He countered, blinking up at the man standing a few feet away. 

"Depends if you're Nick or not." Troy said with one eyebrow raised. The guy looked like Calvin had described, but it was better to be safe than sorry. 

"Yeah, I'm Nick." He finally said, pushing himself to stand and stuffing his hands into the pockets of his hoodie. "You wanna do this in your truck or the church?" He asked, looking around the empty street a bit anxiously. 

Troy looked at his truck, then the dilapidated church. After a moment's thought he turned and reached in to kill the engine. He pocked his keys and waved a hand towards the church. "Lead the way." 

With a quick nod Nick turned and led him around to the hidden opening in the fence. "It's empty tonight. I think everyone's too scared to come back." He said, like he expected Troy to know what he was talking about. "So you don't gotta worry about anyone trying to bother you for samples or anything." 

"I don't do samples." Troy said with a snort. "Sides, I only brought what you asked for." 

"Yeah, right, or course. Sorry." Nick said, scratching at the back of his neck as he led Troy into the abandoned building. It was mostly dark, the only illumination coming from half a dozen candles and a single battery powered camp lantern up in the balcony area. 

Troy followed Nick up the stairs to the balcony, pausing a moment when he saw the remains of police line tape on the floor in a few places. He ignored it, choosing to focus on getting his money so he could go home and go back to bed. 

Nick spun around when he reached a small mattress on the floor. He plopped down on the edge with a huff and reached into his pocket to pull out a wad of crumpled bills which he started to count out as Troy stood a few steps away watching him. "I really appreciate you coming out here this late. I tried Calvin, but he didn't answer." 

"He's on vacation." Troy supplied, tone a little amused as he watched the younger man count under his breath. 

Nick nodded, still counting out crumpled ones. "Right, right. I knew that. Anyway, I would have called earlier, but I had to find the cash. Cops took everything I had stashed here after what happened..." He said, trailing off and focusing on the task at hand. 

"What happened?" Troy asked, curiosity getting the better of him as he turned to look around the illuminated area of the balcony. There were some clothes scattered on the floor, mens and womens, a backpack, police line tape, some trash, and not much else. 

"You don’t know?" Nick asked, pausing in his counting to blink up at Troy in surprise. 

Troy shook his head, meeting Nicks wide eyed stair with a quizzical one of his own. "Just moved here from down past San Diego. Don't really talk to anyone except Calvin and the handful of clients he set me up with." He explained slowly. 

"Oh... Uh... My girlfriend OD'd here... About three months ago... I called the cops when I found her and they threw me back into rehab. Just got out yesterday, actually..." Nick explained, pointedly not looking at Troy now and counting out the last of his money. "Shit." He mumbled under his breath. 

Troy blinked down at the younger man, trying to gauge the weight of his words. "Your girlfriend dies of an overdose, and you come back to the place it happened to get high as soon as your clean?" For going through something so traumatic, the kid had balls. 

Nick let out a mirthless chuckle, his voice a little manic when he spoke next. "I tried going back to my mom's house first, but all she did was guilt trip me about getting my girlfriend killed and rave about how my little sister got into Berkeley. I'll take getting high in the place I lost Glo over that any day." He said as he pulled a few more crumpled bills from his pocket. 

"Fair enough." Troy said, clicking his tongue as he reached into his pocket and pulled out the little baggie of drugs. "You're ten short." He pointed out as Nick rummaged through his pickets for the missing cash. "Just have it next time, alright?" He said lightly, holding the bag out in front of Nick's face and giving it a little shake to get his attention. 

"You sure?" Nick asked, grabbing all the cash from where he'd been dropping it on the mattress and holding it up in exchange for the drug. 

"Yeah I'm sure. Calvin said you're a loyal customer, and I trust him not to steer me wrong. Just have it next time." He reiterated with a shrug, taking the handful of crumpled cash and stuffing it into the pocket of his jacket while Nick took the little baggie of powder. 

"Hey," Nick started, making Troy stop mid turn to leave. "I know it's late, and you don't know me, but could you stay a few minutes? I don't like to be alone when I nod."  

Checking his watch, Troy heaved a sigh and reluctantly nodded his agreement. "Yeah, sure. I'm probably not gonna get back to sleep tonight anyway." He admitted as he came to sit on the floor with his back to the edge of the balcony. 

Nick smiled at Troy, a big genuine smile that lit up his eyes beautifully, as he kicked off his sneakers and moved to pull off his hoodie. He had on a black short sleeved t-shirt underneath that hung a bit loose on his lithe frame, the collar a bit stretched and showing his collarbone and a bit of his left shoulder when he moved to grab a candle and his little tin full of supplies from the other side of the mattress. 

Troy watched closely as Nick prepped his drugs. He had never actually watched anyone do heroin. He'd only just started selling it a few weeks ago. Until he had moved to L.A. he was only dealing low level stuff. Weed and pills. But when he met Calvin on a trip of up to L.A. to visit his brother, the offer to move up and sell harder drugs for a higher cut of the profit was too good to pass up. 

Nick caught Troy's eye as he went to hold the spoon over the flame of the candle. "You good over there?" 

Troy blinked up at Nick. "Yeah, just never watched anyone do this." He admitted with a smile. "Don't stop on my account." He added, waving a hand in a gesture for the other man to continue. 

"How long have you been dealing?" Nick asked, continuing on with his prep. 

"Since I was 18. Brother got me a job at a hardware store. Wasn't for me. Fell into dealing after I quite that and it's been paying the bills going on four years now." Troy said, still closely watching Nick's every move. 

"You've been dealing four years and you've never watched anyone do this? That's kind of impressive." Nick said as he prepped his needle. 

"I only just started dealing heroin. Calvin offered me a job when we met last month, and here I am." Troy said with a sweeping gesture. "Sitting in an abandoned Church at almost four in the morning watching my newest client get high." He said with a smile. 

Nick snorted a laugh at that. "Thanks again, I really appreciate it. Usually there'd be at least a few other junkies crashing here. I heard a rumor while I was out tonight that no one's been back since Glo died. They're all too scared of her ghost or some bullshit like that." He said as he drew the drugs up into the needle. 

"And you're not?" Troy asked, tilting his head to watch the other man get ready to inject himself. 

"I see her in my dreams every night anyway, why would I be afraid of seeing her when I'm awake?" Nick responded simply before bringing the needle to his skin. 

Troy watched Nick's expression as he shot up. Face pinched in concentration before a slightly dopey smile hit him. After he finished with the needle he set it and the other supplies aside in their tin and curled up on his side on the mattress. He faced Troy, blinking tiredly now as the drugs took hold.  

"Sweet dreams, Nick." Troy said as he watched the other man fade out. He waited a few minutes, just watching the younger man breathe before finally heading home. The whole drive back he couldn't help but wonder what Nick was dreaming about. 


Chapter Text

When Troy's phone went off just before midnight a week later, he wasn't honestly surprised. A little annoyed that his sleep was interrupted, but not surprised. 

"Ello?" He slurred tiredly into the receiver.  

"Hey, Troy? It's Nick. Did I wake you?" 

"Yup." Troy said with a put-upon sigh. "Now what can I do for my favorite junkie insomniac at this late hour?" He asked as he forced himself to sit, free hand coming up to run through his hair. 

Nick let a chuckle slip at the mock endearment. "I'm out. Any chance you could make a delivery?" He asked, voice a little sheepish. "I have that 10 I lost last time. I double counted before I called." 

"Yeah? Alright. Same place as last time?" Troy asked, fighting back a yawn as he reached over to turn on the lamp beside his bed.  

"Yeah. Listen, can you call when you get here? Some people have been driving around the neighborhood looking for me and I'm trying not to go out if I can help it." 

Troy heaved another sigh at that, this one out of irritation. "Look, I'm not gonna drive out there if there's a chance someone's gonna jump me looking for you." 

"What? No! No! No! It's nothing like that! It's my mom and her fiancée. When I didn't come back after a couple days they found out where Glo died and came looking for me. I traded half of what I got from you last time to another junkie that used to crash here so he'd tell them I haven't been around, but I don't think they believed him." Nick explained quickly. 

Pinching the bridge of his nose in frustration, Troy took a deep breath before speaking again. "Alright, fine. What do they look like and what kind of car's do they drive so I know what to be on the lookout for?" 

Nick rattled off the info Troy needed, said they probably aren't out looking for him this late since they both have work in the morning, but he figured better safe than sorry. 

It was close to 1am when Troy pulled up down the street from the church. He figured it was better to park away from the Church in case Nick's parents or a cop drove by. As he hopped out of the truck he pulled out his phone and hit dial on the last number that called him. 

"Troy?" Nick asked from the other end of the line. 

"Yeah, hey, I just parked down the street. Be there in a minute." He said as he quickly made his way down the sidewalk. The street was deserted, and he was more than capable of taking care of himself in a confrontation, but that didn't mean he wanted to be out here any longer than he had to be. 

"Alright, I'll meet you at the side door." Nick said before hanging up. 

Troy pulled his phone away from his ear and blinked at the little 'call ended' screen a moment before shaking his head and stuffing the device in his pocket. He made his way to the broken section of fence, taking a cursory look around before climbing through and walking around to the door he and Nick had gone into the last time he was here.  

To his surprise when he tried the handle, the knob turned but the door didn't budge. So, after giving it another rattle he knocked on the door lightly. "Hey, it's Troy. Open up." He said in a voice just loud enough to be heard through the old wooden door. 

A moment later there was a couple metallic clicks and then the door was swinging open to reveal the shadowed figure of Nick. "Hey, come in." He said, stepping aside to let Troy step in before he closed the door behind him and latched a set of bolts that looked like they were fairly new. 

"You really don't want to be found, huh?" Troy asked as he stepped aside to let Nick take the lead. 

Nick shook his head as he led Troy down the short hallway that led to the nave of the church. "Well, not by my family at least." He said with a shake of his head. 

When they got up to the balcony Troy was able to get a better look at Nick. He was wearing the same grey hoodie, a pair of black sweatpants with a few holes in the legs, and a pair of mismatched blue and red socks. He looked like he hadn't slept or eaten in a while. "You eat today?" He found himself asking as Nick sat on the edge of his mattress as he had before. 

"Huh? Oh... Uh... No... I was going to... but my buddy Ben said he'd seen my mom asking around for me, like, right before we ran into each other and I couldn't risk it." He said dismissively as he pulled a wad of bills from under the edge of the mattress and started to count. "Ben said he'd try to come by with some food, but I think he forgot. Dude's got water on the brain. He has to write shit on his hand or he'll forget half of it." 

With a sigh Troy turned to walk back down the stairs. "I'll be back in ten." 

"What? Why? Where are you going?" Nick asked, jumping up quickly to follow after him. 

"There's a McDonalds three blocks over. I'm going to get you something to eat so you don't die on me. I really don't need Calvin showing up at my door in the middle of the night lookin' to cap me for killing his childhood best friend." Troy explained as he made his way around the hallway. 

Nick laughed at that, the sound a bit manic again as he continued to follow Troy. "You're joking, right?" He asked as he watched Troy unlatch the two bolts and open the door. 

"Do I look like I'm joking, Nicky?" He asked as he turned so Nick could see his face in the orange flow of the street lights that lined the block around the church. His expression was sincere. "I'm going to get you some food. If it makes you feel better I'll get myself some too, but you're eating something before I leave you with your fix. Deal?" He said, holding his hand out to Nick. 

Nick hesitated, eyeing Troy like he was trying to figure out if he was for real or not. Finally, he took Troy's hand and gave it one good shake before stuffing his hand back into the pocket of his hoodie. "Deal." 

Troy gave Nick a broad smile then. "Alright, I'll be back in ten." He reiterated before stepping out into the humid August air. He heard Nick close the door behind him as he walked away. When he stepped out onto the sidewalk he took a look around to make sure the street was still empty before heading for his truck. 

True to his word he was back ten minutes later with a bag full of dollar menu items and two large cokes. He managed not to drop anything as he navigated the broken panel of the fence and made his way around the door. He clenched the bag of food between his teeth to free a hand and gave a quick knock before taking the bag back. "Nick, you there?" He asked, again keeping his voice just loud enough to be heard through the door. 

A moment later the latches were released and Nick was holding the door open for him again. This time Troy didn't wait for him, walking on ahead with their meal and drinks in hand. "I wasn't sure what you'd want or how hungry you were, so I got bunch of dollar junk." He explained as he went. 

A moment later Nick was following after him, staying only a pace or so behind the taller man as they walked. "You really didn’t have to do this. I woulda been fine until Ben remembered to come by." 

Troy snored at that. "Trust me, if he's got a drinking problem, it could be days before he remembers you." He said, tone bitter as they started to ascend the stairs. How many times had his parents said they would do something only to forget? How many times did his mother lock him in the basement only to forget he was down there? He knew all too well how easy it was for someone to say something then do another when drink was involved. 

"Ben's not like that. Yeah, he drank, but he stopped a year ago. He probably got held up somewhere." Nick justified as he walked past Troy to sit on the floor before his mattress. He grabbed the battery powered lantern and twisted a knob to make it bright enough that Troy could actually see quite well in the otherwise dark church. 

Troy came to sit across from him in roughly the same spot he'd sat when he watched Nick shoot up during their first meeting. He set the bag between them and the tray of drinks beside that before he started to pull food out of the bag and set it on the floor between them  

"He's really a good kid. His parents would beat him and he started drinking to deal. He drank too much and it gave him some syndrome. It fucked his memory and balance up. But he doesn't drink anymore. If he did it could kill him." Nick explained as he picked up the closest coke and started to chew on the end of the straw. The piece of plastic distorting his speech a bit. 

Troy blinked up at Nick from his task. "Okay." Is all he said before grabbing a cheeseburger and starting to unwrap it. 

Nick grabbed one of his own and played with the wrapper a bit, not looking at Troy as he spoke again. "I really do appreciate this, so you know. I'll pay you back." He said before taking a bite and full on moaning at the taste of the first food he'd had in three days. 

With a chuckle Troy grabbed his soda and lifted it to take a sip. "Don't worry about it. I was hungry anyway." He said with a shrug. It wasn't a lie. He'd had an early dinner with his brother that night and he was pretty damn hungry now. 

"You this accommodating with all your customers?" Nick asked with a small smile before taking another bite of his burger. 

"Better to have happy customers that'll keep doing business with you than not." Troy said around a mouth full of fries. 

"That is a good point. Careful though, some people will take advantage of that." Nick said, smile growing wider as he eyed Troy. 

"They try and they'll get dropped real quick. I'm not the type to be messed with." Troy said simply before finishing his burger and crumpling the wrapper into a ball. 

Nick nodded his understanding "Yeah, I believe that. You've got this, like, vibe about you. You're good at pulling the innocent look, but I could totally see you going psycho on someone in an instant if they messed with you." 

Troy outright laughed at that, shaking his head as he reached for another burger. "You have no idea how on the nose you are there." 

Nick just smiled at Troy again. "You know those vending machines in strip malls that cost 50 cents and give you a random sticker or temporary tattoo wedged between two pieces of cardboard? When I was a kid I got a sticker from one with a yellow rabbit on it that said 'Cute but psycho, thing's even out.'. First time I saw you that phrase popped into my head." 

"So, you think I'm cute, huh?" Troy asked innocently, giving a wicked little smile of his own at the way Nick's eyes grew wide a moment. 

Nick shrugged, ducking his head as he crumpled up the wrapper from his burger. "Depends, you gonna go psycho on me if I say yes?" He said carefully, glancing up at Troy from under his shaggy bangs. 

Troy shook his head, still smiling as he reached out and grabbed another burger to hand to Nick. "I don't date customers, but if you wanna tell me I'm cute I won't complain." He said, tone still light and a bit playful. 

Nick grinned at that and took the offered food. They finished their meal, talking about nothing of import before Troy realized he'd left Nick's drugs in the locked glove box of his truck. He made his way outside, not thinking to look around before stepping out onto the street. That's when something hit him in the side of the head and everything went black. 

Chapter Text

Troy came to laying on the warm concrete of the sidewalk outside the church. He must have only been out a few seconds at most, because the person responsible for the sudden blow to his head was only just crouching down and reaching a hand to rummage through the pockets of his jeans. Without hesitation he grabbed hold of his assailant's wrist, making them jerk back a step in surprise. 

Before Troy could make another move, a knife was pointed at him, held mere inches from his face. "I just want your wallet. Don’t try anything stupid!" The guy said quickly. He was a little older than Troy, with dark tan skin and short black hair that stuck about wildly. He looked a bit strung out and shaky as he pulled his wrist free from Troy's hold and took a careful step back. 

Troy held both hands up in surrender, licking his lips as he assessed the situation. "Alright, just dial it back a bit." He said as he pushed himself up onto his elbows. "Wallets in my back pocket, ya gotta let me get up so I can get to it." He explained, tone soft like he was talking to a scared child and not a junkie with a decent sized serrate hunting knife. 

The guy nodded his head rapidly at that. "Yeah, alright, don't try anything funny." He agreed, stepping back a little more as he watched Troy slowly move to a crouch and reach behind himself with his right hand. As he moved, Troy noticed the guy was holding the knife in his left. "You a southpaw?" He asked, hoping he was right about the guy. 

"A what?" The junkie asked, face scrunching in confusion. He shifted his weight back and forth between his feet like he was ready to bolt, or maybe just stab Troy for being slow. 

"A leftie." Troy clarified as he made it seem like he was struggling to pull his wallet free from his pocket. 

"What? No! Why?" The guy asked, face scrunching further in confusion, his eyes momentarily dropping form their focus on Troy to look down at his left hand. 

Troy let a chuckle slip as the guy made the mistake of looking away from him. "Yeah, it's lucky for me I'm a righty too, or this would be really stupid." He said before he lunged forwards. When the guy went to swing the knife at the flash of movement Troy did the one thing he knew would give him the advantage; he slammed the palm of his left hand down on the blade, sending it clean through the space between the bones and out the other side.  

The guy actually screamed in horror when he realized what Troy had done, then crumpled to the ground a moment later, clutching his face where Troy lurched up and headbutted him in the nose.  

"Fuck with me again and you'll get more than a broken nose. Now get outta here before you really get me angry." He spat, grinning at the mix of fear and horror on the guys face as Troy pulled the knife from his hand without so much as a flinch and tossed it behind him to land with a clatter on the sidewalk a few feet away. 

The junkie took off running at that, still clutching his broken nose as it bled all over him. 

Troy watched him disappear around a corner before spinning around at the sound of the broken panel of the fence moving. As he turned he saw Nick stumbling out onto the sidewalk. 

Nick caught himself before he could faceplant on the concrete, a wooden baseball bat in hand as he looked around the street frantically. "What happened! Are you okay?" He asked, finally settling his panicked gaze on Troy. 

"Junkie tried to mug me." Troy said with a smile, bringing his right hand up to feel the side of his temple where he'd been struck with the butt of the guys knife. His hand came away wet with warm blood from a small gash. "Well, shit." He said, looking at the bloody smear that shined almost black in the glow of the street lights.  

"What?!?! Are you okay?" Nick asked, coming to take hold of Troy's hands and look at the blood on them. He nearly fell backward onto his ass when he saw the blood dripping from Troy's left palm. "Holy, shit!" 

Troy blinked down at his hands, only just really starting to feel the pain in his left one. "Shit. I should probably go to the hospital." He said, almost absently as he wiggled his fingers. The action sent a spike of pain through his hand and up into his arm; he ignored it and flexed his hand a few times to test the movement. 

"You can't drive with your hand like that." Nick said, tossing his bat over the fence before he ripped a strip of fabric from his own t-shit and wrapped it around Troy's hand tightly to staunch the bleeding. "Give me your keys, I'll drive you." 

Wincing at the tightness with which Nick tied the fabric, Troy blinked at the younger man owlishly. When Nick held his hand out and gave Troy an insistent look, he reached into his pocket with his uninjured hand and grabbed his keys, handing them over without protest then followed Nick over to his truck. 

Troy stared at Nick the whole drive to the hospital. Honestly surprised the guy was doing this. He had to know that they would be keeping an eye out for him at the hospitals given that his mom probably reported him missing. But here he was, driving Troy to the emergency room. 

"You can wait in the truck while I'm in the ER if you want. Or you can go back to the church and I'll take a cab over when I'm all patched up." Troy offered as he looked from Nick to the stop light they were currently waiting at. 

"What? No way! I'm not gonna bail on you." Nick balked. "You got hurt because of me. I'm not leaving until I know you're good." He said resolutely. 

Troy just stared at him a moment before speaking. "I did this to myself." He said holding his bandaged and bloodied hand up, wiggling his fingers for emphasis. "Better to take a knife in the hand and disarm him than risk it going somewhere vital." 

Nick turned his head a moment, staring at Troy like he couldn't believe what he'd just heard. "You really are psycho." He said before grinning. "Probably shouldn't tell the ER docs that though. Last thing we need is you getting committed for self-destructive behavior." He joked as he turned his attention back to the road. 

Troy barked a laugh at that. "Trust me, I've been to the hospital for worse and gotten out without them so much as batting an eyelash. I'll be just fine." He assured. 

As it turned out, the ER attendants in L.A. aren’t as easy to sway as the ones in San Diego.  Ten minutes after an hour in the waiting room and getting his hand x-rayed, two uniformed officers came to ask about how Troy got hurt. He changed tactics, telling them that the junkie had tried to mug the both of them and he'd taken Nick's wallet and shoes before demanding the same of Troy. When Troy wasn't fast enough that's when things got bloody. 

He described the guy that actually tried to mug him, and said he was two streets away from the church since the stoplight cams had him in the area anyway if they bothered to check. 

This, of course, led to them talking to Nick after they finished writing up the report on the mugging, because of course his mother had reported him Missing. 

"He's been with me." Troy said without hesitation or looking over at the officers. His focus solely on watching the nurse stitch up the back of his hand now that they had confirmed there was no major damage to the tendons or bones. 

"Is that so?" One of the officers asked skeptically, looking at Nick for an answer. 

"Yeah. I'm his NA sponsor. He's been crashing with me because his mother's house is a toxic environment for him and he was at risk of using there. He didn't tell her where he went because she would have thrown a fit, and that's the last thing Nick needs in his recovery process." Troy said easily, now looking the officer's dead on with a small but charismatic smile. 

"And the two of you were out in that neighborhood at this hour because?" The first officer asked, waiting for an explanation with his hands poised over his notepad. 

"I was having a bad night and Troy was out with another one of his sponsee's with an emergency. I kind of lost it and went looking for a fix. I snapped out of it around the time I got out there and called him to come get me before I could find a dealer." Nick said with a nod, crossing his arms over his chest as he looked from the officer to Troy and back. "If you don't believe me contact St. Maries, I just got out last week. I'll even call for you and give them permission to show you my file if you want." He added, stuffing his hands in his pockets. 

With a sigh the Officer flipped his little notebook closed and looked back and forth between the two. "That won't be necessary. We'll be in contact if we get any leads on the kid that did this. And Mr. Clark, please call your mother and tell her you're fine so she'll stop harassing us down at the precinct. She thinks you're dead in a ditch somewhere. I've personally answered three calls from her checking if we've had any leads and it's getting a bit tiresome." 

Nick nodded quickly, relief evident on his face. "Alright, Officer, I will." He promised. 

With that the two officers left and Nick came to flop heavily in the chair besides the bed Troy was seated cross-legged on. Troy had an icepack held to his right temple as he watched the nurse finished stitching up the back of his carefully. 

Once the nurse was gone to get more supplies Nick looked up at Troy from where he was still sprawled in his chair. "That was quick thinking." He said with a smile. 

Troy smiled back. "If they had asked I actually have cards that have my name and number and say I'm an NA sponsor." He said with a chuckle. "Came up with the idea when I was listening to my brother go on about a case he was working a while back. Guy did something similar only saying he was a 'spiritual advisor'. So, I made cards and I go by a couple of the shelters and meetings regularly to talk with some of the junkies. It's good for business and makes for a good cover." 

"Case? Your brother a cop?" Nick asked, head tilting to the side a bit like a curious puppy. 

Shaking his head, Troy looked from Nick to his hand. "Nah. Lawyer. He'd have a field day if he knew what I actually did for a living. He thinks the 'volunteer' work I do is my day job and that I'm living off the money we got from selling our fathers property after they passed." He explained with a chuckle. 

Neither men noticed the sound of rapid footsteps approaching until the curtain around their little section of the ER was pulled back in a flash to reveal Madison Clark in all her glory. She looked at Troy first, making a face of annoyance, then she spotted Nick at his side and instantly sagged in relief. "Nick!" She exclaimed before rushing forward and pulling her son up into an awkward hug. 

Chapter Text

Nick went wide eyed at the sight of his mother, his horrified gaze slipping to Troy and body going ridged as she pulled him to standing and wrapped him in her arms. "Mom? How did you know I was here?" He asked, wrapping his arms around her and returning the hug hesitantly, even though it looked like the last thing he wanted to do right then. 

"The admin nurse is friends with Travis' ex-wife. She called when she saw you come in." Madison explained as she let her son go and looked him up and down. "You look horrible." 

Nick barked a manic laugh at her bluntness. "It's three in the morning and my friend and I just got mugged, what do you expect?" 

"Friend, huh?" Madison said, turning her attention to Troy now. "And you would be?" 

"Troy Otto, ma'am. Nice to meet you." He said, setting his ice pack down and holding his slightly chilled hand out for Madison to shake. 

She took his hand and gave a firm shake, her own hand surprisingly not warm as it gripped Troy's just a little too tight to be considered friendly. "No offense, but you don't look like the kind of friend my son usually keeps." She said, taking another long look at his bloodied, but still nice, baby blue button up shirt, black jeans and shiny black boots. 

"Well, that's probably because I'm not really his friend." Troy said with a brilliant smile. "I'm his NA sponsor." He didn't like her. Something about her screamed manipulator and abuser. She honestly reminded him a bit of his mother. It made his skin crawl and his senses all go on high alert just being near her. Fight or flight kicking in along with the desire to protect Nick from her. 

Madison laughed at Troy's explanation. When neither boy so much as batted an eyelash or offered a different explanation she took a step back, regarding them suspiciously. "You're serious?" 

"Yes, ma'am." Troy said, shifting around a bit so he could pull his wallet from his back pocket and produce one of the mock business cards he had been telling Nick about. He handed it over, still smiling as she took it and read the front and back carefully. 

"This still doesn't explain where you've been, Nick. I want answers. Start talking." She said, looking up from the card to lock eyes with her son. 

"I was in a shelter." He supplied with a small shrug, gaze dropping to the floor. It wasn't a lie. The church had been a shelter back in the days it was up and running. 

"Don't lie to me, Nick. I called all of the shelters. None of them had anyone matching your description." She argued, her arms now crossing over her chest as she took on a look of irritation. 

"Not to butt in, but once a person is over 18 a shelter doesn't have to disclose if they're staying there unless they receive explicit permission from the individual in question, or a court order is provided by the person inquiring." Troy pointed out as he returned his wallet to his pocket. 

"Oh, really? And how would you know that?" She asked hotly, her anger obviously building towards it's boiling point. 

"My brother's a lawyer." Troy supplied with a small dismissive shrug. "In any case, Nicky here hasn't been at the shelter the whole time. He's been staying with me for a couple nights now." Troy lied easily, giving another smile when Madison's expression momentarily slipped from anger to confusion. 

"How exactly did the two of you meet? Don't remember Nick talking about you and I definitely didn't see your name on his visitors list at rehab." She asked, curiosity winning out over her desire to argue at the moment. 

"I go to the shelters in the area once a week to check on a few of the other people I sponsor. I saw Nick and recognized the signs." He said, looking to Nick now and still smiling. "He called me up one night when he was jonesing for a fix and I've been taking care of him since." The lies continued to come easy, because part of it was true. Nick had called him and he did come take care of him. 

"Well, then I owe you my thanks." Madison said, nodding her understanding but still obviously unhappy. "But it's time to come home, Nick." She added, turning to face her son again. "Come on, it's late and I've got work in a few hours." 

When she tried to grab his arm, Nick took a quick step back, his eyes going wide again, this time with fear rather than shock. "No way. I'm not going with you. Just go home, I'll be fine." He said as he took another step when his mother stepped closer. Nick was a step away from having his back to the wall and he looked like a frightened animal rather than a nearly six-foot-tall 19-year-old man. 

"Nick, don't do this. It's late, I'm tired, and I'm not leaving here without you. Say goodbye to your friend and let's go." She said with an irritated sigh, the fight momentarily draining out of her and showing just how tired she was.  

"No offense, ma'am, but Nicky here's an adult. He has every right to choose where he stays and he's made it clear he has no interest in going with you." Troy pointed out, not looking at the two now as the nurse had returned and was now bandaging his hand for him. 

Madison laughed at that, a sharp sound that made Troy look over at her again. "Nick is in no state to make sound choices, and I'm his mother, I know what's best for him." She countered, tone low. She sounded dangerous. Like a snake rattling out a warning that it was about to strike if you got any closer. 

"He wouldn't have been released from rehab if he wasn't found capable of making sound choices. If you really knew what was best for him you wouldn't force him to stay where he's obviously being triggered." Troy said matter-o-factly before thanking the nurse and taking his discharge papers. "The fact of the matter is that he doesn't want to go with you, and if you try to force him to go against his will I'll gladly call my brother and have him bring you up on charges of abuse and kidnapping." He said with another one of his dazzling smiles. 

Madison scoffed at that, squaring her shoulders as she turned away from a still cowering Nick to fully faced Troy now. "You can't do that." 

"Nick's made it clear, in front of multiple witnesses I might add, that he doesn't want to go with you. I can, and I will. You really wanna try me?" Troy reiterated, still smiling as he stood and carefully pulled the keys to the truck from his pocket. 

"He has no place to go! All of the shelters are closed for the night. It makes the most sense for him to come home with me." Madison continued to argue, voice raising enough that the people nearby were all staring. 

"I already told you he's staying with me." Troy said firmly before sighing as he held the key's out for Nick to take. "Mind driving again? I've got a headache." He asked, tilting his head a little and catching Nick's eyes. 

Nick nodded, visibly relaxing as he stepped forward, took the keys, and followed Troy away from Madison and towards the exit doors. "I'll call you later mom." He said before they quickly left an angry and flabbergasted Madison standing in the middle of the busy emergency room. 

Once they were outside and a good distance from the entrance of the building Nick grabbed Troy's shoulder and spun the older man to face him. "Thank you for that, seriously." 

"Don't mention it. She rubs me the wrong way. No way in hell I was letting her take you anywhere." He said with as he turned to continue on to where they had parked the truck. 

"Seriously though! No one's ever stood up to my mom like that." Nick said, his tone a bit manic as he followed after Troy. "She was so angry! I'm amazed she didn't take a swing at you!" 

Troy paused mid step at Nicks statement. After a beat he turned to look at Nick just beside the truck. "She ever done that?" 

Nick walked around Troy to the driver side door of the awaiting silver pickup. "Done what?" Nick asked, unlocking the vehicle and looking to Troy. 

"Taken a swing at you?" Troy asked, not moving from his spot by the front bumper of the passenger side of vehicle. He didn't miss the slight flinch from Nick at his question, or the way the younger man swallowed hard before turning to look at him. 

Nick blinked owlishly at Troy, staring a moment before the both of them moved to climb into the truck. He obviously wasn't comfortable answering, but his reaction had been answer enough for Troy. 

"Forget it. You don't have to tell me." Troy said, waving his uninjured hand dismissively before getting himself buckled it. "It's late. You can crash at my place, it's closer than the church." 

"Are you sure, man? I don't want to be a bother. I can just bring you home and walk back to the church." Nick said as he slid the key into the ignition and revved the truck to life. 

"I'm sure. It's late and you did me a solid. Also, I got a feeling your mother is gonna call me up tomorrow looking to talk to you." Troy said as he sunk back into his seat tiredly. "Crash at my place for a bit to establish your cover and if it makes you feel better you can clean the apartment or something in exchange for food and shelter. Sound like a good deal?"  

Nick appeared to consider the offer a moment before nodding and smiling at Troy, one of his genuine smiles that light up his eyes. It made Troy feel an odd little swooping feeling in his stomach. "Deal. So where are we headed." 

Troy found himself smiling back as he gave Nick directions to his apartment a few blocks away. Once they were there he got Nick set up on the couch with a blanket and pillow before taking one of the pain pills the ER doctor had supplied him with and crawling into bed to get a few hours of blissful pain medication enhanced sleep. 


Chapter Text

All too soon Troy was rudely awakened by his phone buzzing out a tempo on his nightstand. When he cracked his eyes open the glaring red letters on the alarm clock by his head read 7:40AM. With a groan, he reached for his cell and answered the unrecognized number, already knowing who was on the other end of the line before he hit the little green icon. "Hello." He said tiredly, trying to suppress a yawn. 

"Hello, Troy? This is Madison Clark. I'd like to speak to my son." Came the far too awake and irritated voice. 

"Mrs. Clark, you do realize what time it is, right." Troy grumbled, already forcing himself up and out of bed to trudge his way out to the living room. 

"Yes. I waited until a reasonable hour to call. Now, can I please speak to my son." It was a demand, not a request; her tone making it obvious she didn't think Nick was actually there. 

"Yes, ma'am. Hold on just a second." Troy said with a yawn as he pushed open his bedroom door and made his way over to a sprawled out and snoring Nick on the living room couch. "Nicky." He said in a mock whisper before nudging the unconscious man's shoulder with his foot. 

Nick startled awake with a snort that made Troy chuckle, his head snapping back and forth as he looked around the unfamiliar room that was only dimly lit by the morning light seeping in around the edges of the blinds. "Huh? What?" He asked, looking up at Troy in confusion. 

"Your mother is on the phone." Troy said, holding out the device in question for Nick to take. He gave it a little shake for emphasis when Nick stared at it dumbly a moment. 

Nick blanched as Troy's words sunk in, color draining from his face as he reluctantly took the phone and held it to his ear. "Hey, mom." He said, giving Troy an apologetic look when he saw how tired and disheveled the older man looked in his white tank top and navy sweatpants. His hair was a mess, sticking up in all directions and he looked like he wanted to go back to bed. 

Troy left Nick to his call and made his way into the kitchen. So far, the Vicodin he'd taken for his head and hand were still working nicely, and all he felt was a dull ache from both as he puttered around in search of something to make for breakfast.  

While he would more than love to go back to bed for another several hours, he knew it would just fuck his schedule over later and he tried not to break his schedule (late night calls from insomniac addicts needing a fix across town aside) for anything. It was too important to his sanity. 

"You can't be serious! I'm not coming home... Mom... Mom, you're not hearing me.... I'm good where I am... Mom.... No. I'm staying with Troy.... Of course, I've been to the church! .... I wanted to say goodbye to Glo! Her family had her cremated and wouldn't tell me where they scattered her ashes! .... God, mom! WOULD YOU LET ME EXPLAIN MYSELF, PLEASE!!... You know what? Fine. I'm done, don't call me again." Came Nick's voice from the other room. 

Troy tried not to listen in, failing horribly as Nick's voice rose with his frustrations. He felt bad for the guy, an oddly strong sympathetic twinge in his chest as he listened to Nick try to stand up for himself.  

While he listened, he set about prepping the things to make omelets. It was slow going with one hand needing to be mostly immobile so as he wouldn't pop a stitch, but he was almost done chopping an onion when Nick wandered in, face reddened with anger, or maybe hurt, as he came to sit at Troy's kitchen table with ah heavy sigh. 

"I am -SO- sorry about that. I thought for sure she would at least wait until after she got out of work to try and get me to come home." Nick said, leaning forward so his elbows rested on the table. He ran his hands through his messy hair, fingers catching where it was starting to twist into dreads from the length and lack of care it had been receiving. 

"It's fine. I'm usually awake by now anyway." Troy said dismissively as he finished chopping the onion he'd been working on and started on a green pepper. "You hungry? I'm making omelets." 

"Are you always this chill?" Nick asked after a beat, eyeing Troy like he was crazy for being so nonchalant about this whole situation. 

"Nope." Troy said, popping the P sound as he drawled the word. "I used to have a real short fuse. Anger issues and all. My brother got me into counseling after he took me away from our folks. I still get bouts of anger, but I'm much better at dealing than I used to be.  Now, if this sort of thing happened to teenage Troy that'd be a whole other story." Troy explained easily as he continued on to chopping up some ham next. 

"Your brother took you away?" Nick said, pausing a moment in thought before asking. "So, you didn't have the best home life either I take it?" 

"Yeah. Both my parents were abusive drunks, and Big Otto was what one would call delusional. He was convinced the end of the world was coming. Made a ton of money on instructional videos for doomsday preppers. He even set up a commune on the family Ranch and took me out of school to train me to head up his own personal Militia when I was old enough. Fortunately for me, big brother Jake got to leave for college at 18. When he got out of there he realized just how fucked up our life back home was. He emptied his share of the family savings to make sure he could support the both of us, then he sued for custody of me and won." When Troy turned to face Nick, he found the other man watching him closely, arms crossed on the table before him and a look of contemplation on his face. 

After a beat Nick spoke, voice surprisingly soft. "How old were you?" There was no judgement, no shock or sign that he thought Troy might be pulling his leg. 

"Thirteen." Troy said simply before turning to get the pan heating on the stove. "This is gonna take a bit to cook. If you want, you're welcome to go take a shower. It's down the hall on the left. Once I get this going I can grab some clean clothes for you." 

Nick continued to watch Troy a moment before nodding and moving to stand. "Yeah, a shower actually sounds pretty good right now. Thanks." 

Troy simply nodded in response before focusing on the task of getting their breakfast started cooking Telling Nick about his past made him feel different, lighter somehow. He wasn't even sure why he told him. Maybe to show that they have a little common ground on the overbearing/abusive parent department? In any case he felt better having let Nick in on a little of his past. 


Nick closed the bathroom door behind him with a soft click then turned around to lean back against the cool wood. He sagged and slid to the floor a moment later, his hands coming up to run through his hair as he let out a shaky breath. The conversation with his mother kept playing in his head on an un-ending torturous loop.  

'Hey, mom.' 

'Enough is enough, Nick. We're coming to get you after we get out of work today.' Madison said from the other end of the line. No hello, no good morning, just straight up curt bluntness . 

'You can't be serious! I'm not coming home.' Nick scoffed, forcing himself up to sitting. 

'What's Troy's address. Travis and I will be there by four.' Madison said, choosing to ignore Nick's refusal. 

'Mom,' Nick started, but was quickly cut off. 

'Don't 'mom' me. My decision is final, Nick.'  

'No, I'm staying with Troy.' Nick urged, his grip on the phone growing tight enough that he felt the plastic case cutting into the meat of his fingers. 

"You can't be serious.' Madison scoffed. 'I know you were at the church last night, Nick. I know you were there before that too.' 

'Of course, I've been to the church!' Nick started, being cut off again by his  mother. 

'And I know you went there to use. Don't try to lie to me about that.' 

' I wanted to say goodbye to Glo! Her family had her cremated and wouldn't tell me where they scattered her ashes!' Nick snapped. It was true, that was why he had gone in the first place. Gloria's parents had turned him away and refused to tell him where he could go to say goodbye properly since he'd been stuck in rehab during her funeral. The old church was their place, and it was the place he lost her, so he went there in the end. There was nowhere else for him to go. 

'Oh, please. Don't make up excuses. I went there after I left the ER, Nick. I saw the blood on the sidewalk from your friend getting stabbed.' Madison countered, voice growing tense and sharp with her anger and disgust. 'How many more people are going to get hurt because of your selfishness?' 

'God, mom! WOULD YOU LET ME EXPLAIN MYSELF, PLEASE!!' Nick argued, growing desperate to make her listen for once in his life. She never listened. He didn't want to fight. He hadn't even wanted to get high that first night he was there. But the weight of his mother's words  were  always a trigger for him. Like they were right now. 

'No, you listen to me, Nick. You're coming home or that's the end of it. We're done helping you.' Madison said, leaving no room to argue. It was her way or the highway. 

'You know what? Fine. I'm done, don't call me again.' Nick said, feeling oddly numb to his mother's threat and his own words. He hung up before she could even make a sound. 

Nick let out another shaky breath before pushing himself up to stand. He looked around the bathroom before finding the stack of towels in the linen closet. He pulled out a soft blue one and set it aside before getting the shower going as hot as possible.  

Stepping under the scalding spray was exactly what he needed. Well, not exactly. He needed a fix. He needed to not think. To feel anything other than miserable and hollowed out. And while the hot water burning his skin provided a much-needed distraction, he needed more. 

Talking to Troy, hearing that little bit about his life growing up had helped. Made him feel calm in a way that he couldn't explain. He'd felt like that before with Troy, that first night at the church and again last night while they sat and ate and talked. But now he was alone with his memories and he just wanted to crumble. Like he was going to collapse into the empty space in his chest. The one that Gloria had helped fill before. Without her he wasn't sure what to do now.  

They had been talking, before she died, about getting clean together; for each other. Glo wanted to be a mom. She wanted to have a life with Nick and he wanted that too, more than anything. He never felt like that kind of life was meant for him, but she had made it all seem possible. 

At some point Nick had lost track of time, a gentle knock on the door snapping him out of his daze. "Yeah?" He called out, a little surprised to hear his voice croak a bit. He was crying. 

The door creaked open and a stack of clothes were set on the bathroom counter beside the towel Nick had picked out. "Found some clothes that should fit you. Chow should be done in five." Troy said before the door closed with a solid click. 

Nick shook his head and ducked under the still hot spray a moment before actually taking the time to wash his hair and body. He'd been so lost in his own head that all he'd done was stand around and waste water.  

When he finally climbed out he toweled dry quickly and looked over the clothes that Troy had left for him. A clean pair of blue plaid boxers, a black t-shirt that was only a little too big, and a pair of blue jeans and white socks. 

Nick cracked a weak smile at the articles of clothes. He'd been expecting a pair of sweats at best, so this was honestly a nice surprise. A hot shower and clean clothes were the best feeling in the world after a week of squatting in an abandoned building in the middle of August. 

Once he was dressed he made his way to the kitchen and joined Troy for breakfast. Neither of them talked much. Troy could sense the shift in mood in Nick, and Nick could tell that while Troy was curious, he was choosing to respect Nick's privacy and not push. It was refreshing. It made Nick feel like he was in a safe space for once in his life. 


Chapter Text

After about an hour of near silence Troy managed to get Nick to open up and fill him in on the conversation with his mother. He didn't like the way the younger man had zoned out after his shower earlier in the morning. At first he thought maybe it was withdrawal setting in, since he'd never given Nick his fix the night before. But then he remembered the tone of the conversation he overheard and he figured that was the main factor in the sudden personality shift. 

"We should probably swing by the church soon and pick up your things, in case she goes snooping around again." Troy suggested from his position sat in the armchair to the right of the couch. Nick was currently seated in the middle of the large plush piece of furniture, part of the blanket he'd slept under that morning pulled over his lap as he read something Troy couldn't see the cover of. 

Nick blinked up from the book he'd grabbed from Troy's overstuffed shelf, The Maze Runner, and gave Troy an appraising look. "Yeah," He agreed after a moment's hesitation. "that's probably a good idea. You're really sure you're cool with me crashing here?"  

Troy cracked a smile at Nicks hesitance. "I'm sure, Nick, I wouldn't make the offer if I wasn't serious. Besides, I'm pretty sure I could take you if you tried anything funny." He said as he held up his injured hand and wiggled his fingers as a little reminder that he's a crazy SOB. The action made Nick bark a laugh, his whole face lighting up in a sort of child-like delight. 

"Aren't you supposed to keep your hand still while it's healing?" Nick chided, a genuine smile now stuck on his face for the first time that morning. 

"I'm not gonna pop a stitch by doing this." Troy said with a roll of his eyes as he wiggled his fingers yet again. He felt the stitches tug a little, but not enough to make him worry they might pop. "Besides, you're gonna drive us." He said matter-o-factly as he moved to stand. 

"Oh, am I now?" Nick asked, smile morphing into a wry smirk as he got up to follow Troy to the short hallway that led to the front door. 

"Yup." Troy said as he knelt down by the door to deal with his boot laces. "I'm not supposed to make a fist or grip anything tightly for at least a week. Mean's I shouldn't try to hold the steering wheel either. So, looks to me like you get the honor of driving my ass around for the time being." Troy explained, looking up a Nick with a broad smile. 

Nick shook his head like he was annoyed, but that little smirk never left his lips. "Yeah, alright. That sounds fair. You want me to get the door for you too? Maybe tackle any adoring fans that get too close?" Nick teased, holding back a chuckle at Troy's wide-eyed expression. 

"Somebody call the presses, there's a sense of humor hidden in there!" Troy teased right back with a chuckle before moving to stand and slapping Nick on the shoulder with his uninjured hand. "Really though, do you mind driving me around for a few days?" He asked in all seriousness. 

Nick nodded and looked down at his feet. "Yeah, no, I don't mind. I just don't have my license with me. It's with my stuff back at the church." He explained with a small shrug. 

"Good thing we're going straight there then. You can borrow a pair of sneakers for now, unless you like going around without shoes?" Troy continued to tease as he leaned over and grabbed a pair of old runners he was fairly sure would fit Nick's feet. They appeared to be about the same size as far as he could tell. 

"Thanks." Nick said simply as he took the offered shoes and quickly slipped them on. "You ready?" He asked as he reached out and opened the front door. 

Troy just grinned and held the keys to the truck out for Nick to take. "After you." 

The drive to the church took longer than normal, granted normally it was the middle of the night when Troy would make the drive over, so traffic was practically nonexistent at the late hour. Now, though, the twenty-minute drive was taking them a good forty minutes. 

The street the church was located on was surprisingly lively in the daytime. A handful of people sat on a stoop a few buildings away, one yelling "NICE TRUCK!" as they drove past. Troy snorted a laugh at the random compliment and looked away to watch as Nick pulled around to park on the opposite side of the building from where they usually met.  

Nick came to a stop abruptly as they rounded the corner, tires squealing in protest a moment at the harsh slam of brakes. At first Troy thought maybe Nick was trying to avoid hitting something, but when he looked around all he saw was a teenage girl sitting on the sidewalk next to another hole in the fence.  

She wore a pair of blue short-shorts, a stylish grey blouse with short sleeves, and her hair was tied back in a styled pony tail. She had on a pair of headphones and looked mostly unphased by the truck screeching to a halt ten feet away. 

"You know her?" Troy asked, looking from the girl, who was now standing and looking at the truck as she removed her headphones, to Nick, who was wide eyed with shock as he threw the truck into park and quickly moved to unbuckle his seatbelt. 

"That's my sister." He said quickly, already opening the door and climbing out of the truck. 

Troy followed Nick's lead, hanging back as he watched the girl in question take a few steps away from the fence and hesitate only a moment before lunging forward and pulling Nick into a tight hug that threw him off balance a moment. 

"Licia, what are you doing here?" Nick asked, pulling his little sister close and kissing her forehead as he caught his balance and returned the hug. 

"I listened in on your phone call with mom this morning, then the epic blowout she had with Travis when he took your side on staying with this Troy guy. I wanted to see if you were alright." She explained as she pulled away and looked him up and down, checking that he really was alright for herself.  

Nick blinked in surprise at Alicia's concern. "I'm fine. Really. See." He said, holding his hands up for emphasis and doing a little twirl on the spot that was reminiscent of a kid showing that he hadn't been hurt after falling from a height. "How'd you know I'd come back here?" 

"I heard mom telling Travis that you were barefoot when she saw you at the hospital last night. I figured you'd be back for your things eventually." She explained, looking over to Troy now, who was standing beside the truck still, looking a bit lost as he didn't want to interrupt. 

Troy gave a small wave with his good hand, offering a reassuring smile at Alicia's look of mild confusion by his casual demeanor given the situation. 

Nick glanced over at Troy before catching his sisters gaze again and speaking. "Yeah." He said with a shake of his head. "I heard Troy and the guy that tried to mug him yelling last night, ran out without my stuff and didn't think to grab any of it before we went to the hospital. Seriously though, what are you doing here, Alicia? Last time I saw you you said you were done with me. You weren't even there when I got home from rehab." Nick asked, tone giving away a little of the hurt he felt over the way their last meeting had gone down. 

Alicia's face softened at Nick's words, her expression going from a somewhat neutral stare to genuine regret. "I am done. I'm done being your nurse, Nick, I'm not done being your sister." She explained before pulling Nick into another hug. "I wasn't home when you got out of rehab because I thought you and mom could use some time alone together. I didn't know she was going to go off on you about what happened with Gloria. If I'd known she would pull something like that I would have stayed." 

Nick visibly relaxed into his sisters hold and let his head drop so his face was pressed into her hair. "It wasn't just the stuff about Glo, Licia, she started in about how you graduated with honors and got accepted to Berkeley, and I couldn't even finish a year at community college." He began to ramble, words a little muffled where his mouth was squished against his sister's head. "She says of all of these things in front of the doctors and therapist about how she'll be there to support me and then she always turns around and does the opposite once I'm out. Making me feel like I'm not good enough even when I try my best. I just... I couldn't take it this time around... Not after...." Nick trailed off, letting his little sister hug him tighter as his words sunk in. 

"Why didn't you say something? Call her out on her bullshit?" Alicia asked, breaking the hug again and taking a step back to get a better look at her brother as he spoke. 

"I've tried before, she wouldn't listen. She thinks she's doing the right thing, even if it's not what's right for me." Nick said with a small shrug, like it didn't really matter, even though that was far from the truth. 

"Why didn't you say something to the doctors at rehab then? They could have found you another place to stay. Got you in touch with people that could help." Alicia pointed out, her arms crossing over her chest as she studied her brothers expression. 

Nick snorted a humorless laugh at that. "Half the people in those halfway houses are just as bad as mom, some worse if the stories I heard are anything to go by. Besides, I did okay on my own. I slipped up, but I've got a place to stay for a while at least while I figure things out." Nick said, tilting his head towards Troy, who was still standing silently beside his truck and pointedly not looking at the siblings while they talked. 

"Yeah." Alicia said, eyeing Troy suspiciously. "I heard mom and Travis talking about him. He's your NA sponsor?" She asked. 

At hearing himself being talked about, Troy perked up and took that as his signal to join the two. "I am." He said, stepping forward and holding his hand out for Alicia to shake, she took his hand without hesitation and even returned Troy's smile with a small one of her own. "Name's Troy, nice to meet you." 

"Alicia. Nice to meet you too. Thanks for looking out for my big brother." She said before turning away and pulling her cellphone from her pocket. It was buzzing with a flurry of incoming texts that she frowned at. "I gotta go. Mom thinks I'm at Matt's house helping him pack for college. Now that I know you're okay I should probably actually go help him." She explained as she turned to face Nick again. 

Nick nodded his understanding before pulling Alicia into one last tight hug. "You leave for college next week, right?" He asked. 

Alicia nodded against Nick's shoulder. "Yeah, on Friday. We should do something together before I go." She said before pulling away and giving Nick another smile. "And Nick, for what it's worth. I really hope you can stay clean this time. I don't want to lose you." She added, leaning up on her tip toes and planting a kiss on his cheek before turning with a wave and walking down the street to where she had parked the car she was borrowing from Matt. "Nice to meet you, Troy." She called over her shoulder before climbing behind the wheel. 

Nick watched her go, his face giving away none of his inner turmoil he felt from their encounter. When he turned toward the church his face was set in stone. A mask of indifference covering an internal storm of thoughts and mixed feelings. He wanted to get clean, he hadn't used in going on two days... Maybe he could try getting clean again? Maybe Troy would help? Or maybe he'd kick him to the curb for no longer being a customer? 

Troy followed close behind, trying to figure out the vibe he was getting from Nick. The guy was obviously emotional from the encounter with his sister, but he hadn't said a single word as he packed his scattered belongings and retrieved his discarded baseball bat from the overgrown grass beside the church on his way back around to the truck. 

Once they were back in the truck Troy turned in his seat and put a hand on Nicks arm as he reached to start the engine. "You good to drive?" He asked, tilting his head a little as he studied the other man's reaction to the slight touch. 

Nick flinched at the unexpected contact, blinking down at the bandaged hand that was gently touching his outstretched arm. "Yeah, I'm good." He said after looking up and meeting Troy's concerned ocean blue gaze. "Just wasn't expecting that. She kind of blindsided me." He admitted with a shake of his head before turning the key and starting the truck. 

"I figured, from your reaction. I take it things with her weren't great either." Troy wagered, turning back in his seat and getting himself situated for the drive home. 

Nick heaved a heavy sigh before speaking. "They were when we were kids. We were best friend. I'm only a year and a half older than her and there weren't a lot of kids in our neighborhood that were our age. But then things changed at home. Dad stopped being there, always working or locked up in his room, and mom started to get angrier and angrier. Calvin started dealing, I started using, then dad died when I was in rehab for the first time and by then it was too late. At least, I think it was. I don't really know, not after what just happened..." 

Troy frowned at the look of distress and utter confusion that Nick wore now. "Hey, there's time to figure things out. You don't need to get yourself so worked up about it." He assured, not really sure what else to say in this situation. Things with him and Jake had been rocky after he had taken Troy away, but neither had ever given the other reason to doubt that they cared like Alicia had apparently given Nick. 

Huffing a laugh, Nick shook his head a little. "You sound like one of the shrinks back at rehab." He commented before sparing a glance over at Troy. "Did you need to go anywhere else or are we just going back to your place?" He asked, his whole demeanor changing. He sat up straighter, expression more serious than before. Like a switch had been flipped and he had shoved aside all those swirling emotions to be dealt with at another time. 

Blinking in surprise, Troy straightened up in his seat as well. "Nope. Home's good." He said simply before relaxing back again at the nod he received from Nick in acknowledgement. He wasn't sure how to feel about the multiple changes in personality he'd seen in Nick that day, but then again, he didn't really know the guy, so for all he knew this could be totally normal for him. Or it could be the heroin withdrawal kicking in after all. 

Troy's worries, at least temporarily, went out the window a few minutes later when he clicked the radio on and Nick started to sing along to The Catalyst. The other man actually did a little dance in his seat as he drove, making Troy chuckle and join in on singing once he picked up the chorus. Maybe things were looking up? 


Chapter Text

"I think I want to get clean." Nick blurted as he stepped over the threshold into Troy's apartment. He'd thought about it the whole drive across town from the church, and he'd already made it this far without using. Maybe he could make it this time? Get clean and be okay? He was clean the three months in rehab, maybe getting clean after only a week of using won't be so bad? The idea of getting clean and going on without Gloria hurt, but then again so did his whole body right now, so maybe that hurt would go away with the physical ache of going without the drug he so desperately wanted. 

Troy paused mid step, hand still on the door where he'd been pushing it closed behind the both of them. "Okay..." He said slowly, blinking over at the other man in confusion. "So, does that mean you don't wanna stay here after all, or...?" He asked carefully, watching the way Nick's shoulders tensed at his words. 

"I mean, I'll go if you want me to... I just... I think I should get clean and stay that way... And I totally get it if you don't want me here while I go through that. I can go back to rehab or find somewhere else to crash..." Nick said. He'd turned to face Troy now, his head tipped down a little as he looked up at Troy hopefully with wide eyes. "It's your call, man. I'll go right now if you want." 

With a shake of his head Troy pushed the front door closed the rest of the way then put a hand on Nick's shoulder, making him stand up straight and look Troy in the eye so they were on the level (or as level as can be with Troy being a good 2 1/2 inches taller). "I told you, you're welcome to stay. So, stay. There's just one rule." He added, knowing this whole offer was probably stupid as fuck on multiple levels, but going with it anyway. 

"Name it." Nick found himself saying without hesitation. If Troy was really willing to let him stay and detox here, where he felt even just a little bit safe for the first time in a long time, then he'd do just about anything for the man. It felt worth the risk. 

"You do not, under any circumstances, go in my office." Troy said, eyes going steely as he spoke. A bit of command coming to his voice like he was an officer giving an order to a subordinate. "You can go in anywhere else in the apartment, including my bedroom if need be, but you stay out of my office. You wanna get clean? Fine, I'll help you get through detoxing. But don't even think of setting foot in in my office if that's the case. As it is I keep it locked and I know exact amounts and weights for every bottle, baggie and vial in the place. Understood?" 

Nick nodded along rapidly, before giving Troy a somewhat queasy smile. "Understood. I won't go in your office. I swear." 

Troy's brow furrowed in confusion at the look on Nicks face, he was about to ask if he was alright when the younger man suddenly looked flushed and collapsed against the wall to his right before sliding to the floor in a heap.  

The second Nick crumpled to the floor Troy was on him, rolling him onto his side and tilting his head to check his pulse. "Nick! Hey, Nick, can you hear me?" He asked loudly as he found the younger man's rapid pulse with one hand and used the other to pry his fluttering eyelids open to check their reaction. He had a fever, his whole body shivering slightly and sweating like mad. Troy had noticed the sweat on the ride home but attributed it to the August heat and Nick's decision to drive with the windows down and AC off. 

"Yeah." Nick rasped as he turned his head away from Troy's fussing hands and blinked a few times. "M'good." He added, speech a little slurred. "Do me a favor?" He asked, voice already clearer than it was a beat before, as he pushing himself up to sitting with shaky arms. "There's a card for my rehab doc's office in the front pocket of my backpack. Call and ask them to call in a prescription for my detox meds? If they ask just tell them I had a backslide but I'm in a good place and don't need to come in." 

Troy watched, a bit stunned, as Nick turned and sat with his back against the wall, his breathing a bit labored. "Yeah... Yeah, okay. What else can I do?" He asked, grabbing Nick's bag from where it had fell beside him and opening the little zipper compartment in the front to fish out the card in question. 

"Just, uh... Get me those meds?" Nick said after a moment. "They have my health insurance info and mom's credit card on file, and their pharmacy delivers. Just gotta give them the address." Nick explained, head lolling back against the wall as he closed his eyes and took several slow breaths, either to calm his racing heart or to get a handle on the nausea he'd suddenly felt was anyone's guess. 

With a nod Troy pulled out his cellphone and quickly dialed the number on the card. After a short wait and a game of phone tag with a few different lines in the office, he was connected to someone that could put in the order for the med Nick needed and got it set up that they would be there in a few hours. 

Once he was off the phone Troy looked over to Nick again. He was still sweating, eyes screwed shut as he breathed in through his nose then slowly exhaled through his mouth. "They said two hours. What now?" 

"Um... Water. I need water... And maybe a bucket." Nick said without opening his eyes. He looked worse than when he'd collapsed a few minutes ago, and he was feeling about as good as he looked. The ache throughout his whole body was getting worse, muscles in his arms and legs camping up now. 

Troy nodded to himself before looking around. "Come on, let's get you into the living room." He said, moving to crouch beside Nick. "You think you can walk, or do you need me to carry you?" He asked, eyeing the only slightly smaller man that looked like he might break apart if a stiff breeze hit him right now. 

Nick snorted a weak laugh. "I can walk." He said, finally opening his eyes and tilting his head to meet Troy's gaze. "Just help me up, I can manage the rest." Nick swore as he held out a hand for Troy to take. 

Troy stood and pulled Nick up with him, mindful of the way Nick wobbled and leaned heavily against the wall before pushing away again. "You sure you got this?" 

With a small nod Nick took a hesitant step forward, then another, and another until he was walking normally again and made his way to the living room sofa, where he promptly turned, kicked off his shoes, and plopped down with a small groan of pain at the way his muscles protested the movement. While Troy made his way to the kitchen Nick pulled the blanket that still laid there from him sleeping that morning over himself and curled up as he waited for Troy to return. 

Troy paused in the doorway of the living room as he took in the sight before him. Nick had curled up with his head on the arm rest of the couch, his borrowed shoes kicked off onto the floor and the heavy afghan blanket that Troy had lent him pulled up to his chin as he shivered. "How long have you been having withdrawal symptoms?" Troy asked as he came forward and held out a refillable 30oz sports bottle full of blissfully cold water. 

Nick took it, uncoiling from his spot under the blanket and taking a large gulp of water before answering. "Started to feel like crap last night at the church. I felt better after I ate though, so I figured I'd be fine for another day at least... I wasn't using that much, just enough to nod off and sleep when things got bad..." Nick explained, gaze falling to the floor in an attempt not to show how stupid he felt for ignoring the signs and trying to not bother Troy about getting his drugs after everything that had happened last night. 

Troy watched him a moment before moving to sit in his arm chair. "What are you gonna do now? When it gets bad, I mean. What did you do before your mom made you come running to me in the middle of the night to get a fix?" Troy mused, not meaning to come off any way but curious. 

"I took care of the plants..." Nick mumbled against the nozzle of the sports bottle before taking another drink. 

"Plants?" Troy asked, not sure he heard the other man correctly. 

"Mmhm." Nick hummed as he sunk down in the couch again and pulled the blanket back up around himself snugly. "They had a garden at rehab. Me and the other junkies would go back and forth between sleeping too much and having insomnia while we detoxed. They'd let us work in the garden at night when the insomnia hit to give us something quiet to do while the other patients were asleep. After I was clean and was just there to make sure I wouldn't run off and hurt myself they let me work in the garden whenever I wanted as long as I was good the rest of the time." 

"Okay... Well, if your mom hadn't gone off on you, what would you have done at home when it got bad?" Troy asked, not sure what Nick could do here that would help. He didn't have any plants. He liked the idea of them, but he never actually got to spend that much time learning how to tend to them growing up. 'You're gonna run the militia, Troy, you don't need to know how to do the farm work for that! Leave the farming to the workers!' Troy shuddered at the memory of his father yelling those words more than once, usually while drunk. 

"I have some seeds..." Nick began, leaning forward to grab his backpack from where it rested against the edge of the couch. 

Troy got up from his chair, waving Nick back to his position as he picked up the backpack and joined him on the couch with it. 

"They're in the right-side pocket." Nick said, squirming around to be sitting upright beside Troy instead of leaned over towards the arm of the couch. 

The side pocket of the backpack had a ziplock baggie full of potting soil, a small ceramic plant pot that looked hand panted, with what looked like a field of wildflowers on it, and a bag of seeds labeled 'Mimosa Pudica'. 

Troy turned the packet of seeds over in his hand, squinting at the fine print. "Shy plant?" He asked, looking from the packet to Nick, an eyebrow raised in question and a small smile upturning the corner of his mouth. 

A faint smile formed on Nick's lips despite his obvious physical discomfort at the moment. "Yeah. It's called that because the leaves curl in on themselves if they get touched or shaken. It's a natural defense mechanism. My counselor thought I'd like them." He explained with a sudden yawn.  

"Huh. That's kinda cool. You wanna plant them now?" Troy asked, leaning forward to pull the coffee table closer to the couch so Nick wouldn't have to move much. "Can put 'em in the window to start growing." He offered, giving Nick a questioning look as he set the supplies from Nick's bag on the table in front of the both of them. 

Nick looked thoughtful for a moment before scooching to the edge of the couch and letting his feet land on the floor. He took the bag of soil and the plant pot first. 

Troy watched closely as Nick gently emptied the soil into the pot, patting it down just a little before making a hole in the center with his finger. Once that was done he opened the packet of seeds and shook a few out into his hand. They were small, so small that Troy wondered how big the plant itself would be once it started to grow. Nick carefully picked up three seeds and dropped them into the hole he'd made in the soil before putting the rest in the packet and folding it closed. 

"I can grow the rest in something bigger later. If you put too many seeds in one spot the roots might end up tangling to the point of killing each other." Nick explained as he set the packet aside and reached for the water bottle Troy had given him. He popped the nozzle with one hand while covering over the hole in the dirt with the other. Once that was done he let a few drops of water drip form the bottle. Enough to make the soil damp but not to drown the seeds. 

"Now what?" Troy asked, picking up the little plant pot carefully and looking it over. 

"Now," Nick began, already moving to curl up under his blanket again, now with his back to the arm rest so he faced Troy. "We put it in the window and give it a little water every other day until it sprouts." He said with a small shrug.  

Troy nodded, already moving to put the small plant pot in the window closes to Nick's side of the couch. "What do you want to do until your meds get delivered?" He asked, not really sure what to do. He couldn't offer Nick anything to help with his pain, at least as far as he knows he can't. He wasn't really sure how detoxing worked in all honesty. 

"Honest answer? Be knocked unconscious; but since I don't see that happening I'd settle for watching some crap TV." Nick said with a wicked little smile before yawning again. 

"You tired, Nicky? If you want you can crash and I'll go do some work in my office." Troy offered as he turned to go open the entertainment center and pull out the remote to his tv. 

Nick shook his head, another yawn keeping his mouth busy for a moment. "It's a detox thing. My brain trying to get more oxygen. Besides everything hurts too much for me to sleep." Nick explained, rolling over so his head was again cushioned on the arm of the chair as he watched Troy turn on the tv and push a few buttons on the remote to bring up netflix before joining Nick on the couch again. 

"How bad is it? Scale of one to ten?" Troy asked, eyeing Nick appraisingly, trying to catch if the other man was gonna lie to him. 

Nick heaved a sigh at the question. "I dunno.. A five maybe... It's not as bad as it could be. And it's going to get worse, even with my meds..." 

Troy raised a brow at that. "if the meds don't really help then why take them?" He asked, holding out the remote for Nick to pick what they would watch. 

"They do help. Without the meds detoxing is pure agony, people die from it. With them it's tolerable at least. Like, you're going through hell, but you know you're going to make it through at least." Nick explained as he took the remote and started navigating through their options. He settled on the first episode of Supernatural and hit play before holding the remote out for Troy to put on the coffee table. 

Troy just nodded his understanding and said nothing else as he settled back on the couch and put his feet up on the coffee table, attention split between watching the show and glancing over at Nick every time he moved. 

They were silent up until there was a knock on the door about an hour and a half later, the pharmacy delivery person arriving early with Nicks medication. 

Ten minutes after the first dose Nick fell asleep. Troy turned off the tv, resituated Nick on the couch so his head was on his pillow and not the arm anymore, and he made sure the water bottle he'd provided was full before grabbing an empty trash bin and setting it nearby incase Nick got sick. Once he was sure the younger man was settled he closed the blinds and quietly made his way to his office to do some book keeping he'd been neglecting. He had a feeling if things got as bad as he suspected, he wouldn't have time to do it for a while. 

Almost as if to emphasize the point of the thought, as soon as Troy finished writing his notes and double checking his inventory about an hour later he heard the telltale signs of retching down the hall. It was going to be a long week. 

Chapter Text

Neither man got any sleep that night, Nick had insisted he'd be fine on his own between retching and gasping, but Troy simply shook his head, sat down beside Nick on the cool tile of the bathroom floor, and was there with a warm hand on his back to sooth him when he was sick and a bottle of water to rinse his mouth when he was done. 

Nick finally stopped feeling the urge to vomit around 6AM, right on time for his next dose of meds, which thankfully made him pass out again.  

Troy breathed a sigh of relief after about half an hour of Nick sleeping without any sign of it being short lived. He'd taken a seat on the floor beside the couch, watching the younger man's face as his eyelids fluttered from whatever he dreamed.  

Nick looked a mess. Hair tangled and sticking to his face from sweat. His brow furrowing now and then like he might wake any moment, he didn't though. After a few more minutes of watching, Troy decided he'd be alright on his own for a few hours and reached out to gently brush Nick hair from his face. 

Nick let out a little contented sigh at the brush of Troy's fingertips on his warm forehead and turned into the touch subconsciously. It made something in Troy's stomach flutter pleasantly and he cracked a tired smile. "Sweet dreams, Nicky." Her murmured before pushing himself to stand and heading for his bedroom. 

It wasn't long before Troy's regular alarm was set to go off, but he decided given the current situation he could stand to throw off his routine for once. He changed the alarm to 11AM, giving a silent prayer to any god that might exist (because while he was raised to be a Christian, he never really believed a word of it) that Nick and he would both get to sleep until then; and climbed into bed. He was asleep before the numbers on the clock could even tick over to the next minute. 

When his alarm went off at 11 Troy groaned and slapped at it blindly, nearly knocking his phone and lamp off the nightstand before his hand found its target and he shut off the infernal beeping that dragged him out of a nice dreamless slumber. 

After a moment of lying there letting his eyes adjust to the light that filtered in from around the edges of the curtains Troy pushed himself up to sitting then climbed out of bed. 

To his surprised when he padded his way into the living room Nick was already awake. Curled up in the corner of the plush couch with his knees drawn up to his chest and the book he'd been reading the day before in hand. He looked miserable, sweaty and pale despite his almond skin tone. But he gave Troy a genuine smile as he entered the room nonetheless. 

"Hey, you been up long?" Troy asked, pausing in the middle of the room, body turned slightly towards the doorway to the kitchen. He wanted to talk to Nick, but needed coffee, now. And possibly pancakes. 

"Maybe an hour." Nick said, bringing a hand up to run through his now slightly less tangled hair. "I made coffee, but you were out like a light and I didn't want to wake you..." He explained, giving another small smile at the look of surprise on Troy's face. 

"You could have woken me up. I wouldn't have minded." Troy said with a shake of his head before turning and heading into the kitchen. "You hungry?" He called behind him. 

"Starving." Nick called back. "I had some toast, but I didn't have the energy to make anything else." 

"You like pancakes?" Troy asked loudly as he made a b-line for the coffee pot to pour himself a cup. 

"That, is a stupid question." Nick said from the kitchen entryway. He was leaning against the frame when Troy turned to look at him. The bit of wall looked like it was the only thing holding him up. 

"So, that's a yes then? You sure your stomach can handle something that heavy?" Troy asked before taking a sip of coffee and turning to start gathering what he needed. 

"At this point, yeah. I only ever get sick like that on the first day or so. And the toast from earlier stayed down, so I should be in the clear now." Nick explained as he pushed away from his place in the doorway and moved to take a seat at the kitchen table and watch Troy putter back and forth getting a pan set on the stove.  

Troy gave Nick a skeptical look before getting started mixing up a bowl of batter. "How many times have you gone through this?" Troy asked, curiosity getting the better of him. 

"Willingly? Three times. Not willingly? Also three times. So, this makes lucky number seven I guess." Nick said as he folded his arms on the table and slumped forward so his cheek was resting on his folded arms as he watched Troy. 

"That's gotta suck. Going through hell like that over and over." Troy said with a shake of his head. He couldn't imagine it. Or, rather he chose not to. Because, honestly, he probably could. As many times as he suffered through a beating from his father and then had to still do chores and act like nothing was wrong even with a broken collar bone and bruised ribs. The memories made his skin crawl and his bones ache in places that had long since healed. 

"it does... I think it'll be worth it this time though..." Nick murmured the last part, mostly to himself. He felt horrible, but the memory of his conversation with Alicia the day before was helping keep him grounded through the sweating and nausea and bone deep all over agony he was feeling. That and another memory. The one of Troy smiling as he said "I don't date customers, but if you wanna tell me I'm cute I won't complain.". If he isn't Troy's customer anymore, maybe that means there’s a chance to be something else once he’s clean? 

Troy heard every word, smiling a little and humming his understanding as he started to ladle batter into the waiting heated pan. "Well, I hope it works out. You deserve to be happy." 

Nick didn't say anything, just continued to watch Troy as he fell silent and went about making enough food for the both of them. Nick downing five pancakes to Troy's three along with two cups of coffee and enough maple syrup to put someone into a diabetic coma. 

"You usually eat like you're starving to death, or is this a detox thing?" Troy asked as he took Nick's empty plate and started loading the dishwasher. 

"Detox thing." Nick said with a yawn. "That and the yawning, sweating, generally feelings of lethargy, anxiety, paranoia and all over misery. Oh, and eventually I'll want to scratch my skin off and probably end up curled up in the corner delirious and hallucinating." Nick explained in all seriousness, giving Troy a tired smile as he looked back with wide, slightly horrified, eyes. 

"Seriously? And you've been through this half a dozen times before?" Troy asked, finding it hard to believe anyone could suffer through all those things multiple times, some of them willingly. Just seeing Nick like this now, and hearing how much worse it's going to get made him honest to god ache for the other man. A reaction he wasn't sure how to feel about.  

"It could be worse, I could be going cold turkey. That shit kills people." Nick said with another yawn, like it was no big deal that he was literally torturing himself for the 7th time. Honestly it was a big deal. He always wanted to stay clean. Always meant it when he said it was what he wanted. But getting there and staying there were two different stories. He knew if he wanted he could tap out. Ask Troy for a fix instead of suffering. But he wanted to be able to see his sister again, wanted to try for a real life. Whatever that meant. 

"So I've heard." Troy said with a shake of his head before coming back to sit at the table again. "You sure you can handle doing this here?" He wanted to help, but this was starting to sound like he might be in over his head.  

Nick nodded a few times, yawning into the crook of his arm before pushing up to stand and go back into the living room. "I'll be fine. Honest. It’s just a few more days then I’m through to the other side and I can get out of your hair.” 

Troy huffed a sigh as he followed Nick out into the living room. “What if I don’t want you out of my hair?” He mused, grinning at the dubious look he received in return for his comment. 

“Well, I mean, if you like collecting college flunk-outs with addictive personalities then who am I to stop you.” Nick said, a touch self-deprecatingly with a wry smile as he moved to curl up on his corner of the couch again. 

Snorting a laugh Troy took the space opposite Nick on the couch and turned so he was facing the younger man, one leg coming up to rest on the couch and his posture wide open and relaxed in a way Nick hadn’t really seen before. “I like having you around.” He said in all honesty. 

The smile Nick’s face morphed to something fond as he got himself situated under his blanket again. “Yeah? Careful, I might never leave if that’s the case.”  

Troy let a chuckle slip at Nick’s words. “I dunno, that might not be so bad. I mean, you did have coffee waiting when I woke up. Even my brother wouldn’t have done that. He would make enough for himself then tell me ‘You snooze, you lose, little brother’. And, I mean, I could easily move the stuff from my office into my bedroom and convert the space into a bedroom for you.” He mused, tone light as he watched Nick’s eyes go wide. 

“Dude, don’t even joke.” Nick said with a wide yawn. “This place is great, but there’s no way I could afford to pay half the rent on whatever crap job I got with my lack of education.” Nick added defeatedly as he slid down a bit in his seat. 

“Lucky for you I own the apartment. I just pay utilities and taxes.” Troy said with a sly grin. “But I’ll make a deal with you. If you decide you want to stay you just have to keep the place clean until you get a job, and then you’d just have to help with the bills. Sound good?” 

Nick blinked owlishly at Troy. “Yeeaah. Make that offer again when I’m not half out of it from detoxing? I’m, like, seventy percent sure you really just said all that, but I’m also hearing music that I’m pretty sure isn’t actually playing from anywhere in the apartment and I think I need to take another nap...” 

Troy tried not to laugh at the look of confusion on Nick’s face as he looked around for the source of the auditory hallucination. “Yeah, alright. You get some rest. Want me to get you anything first?” He offered, moving to stand and go close the blinds so the midday sun wouldn’t keep the younger man awake. 

“M’good, thanks though.” Nick said as he slid further down on the couch and turned under the blanket so his face was to the back rest of the furniture. 

“Alright, I’ll be in my office if you need me. Gotta make some calls. Just yell or come knock on the door if you need anything.” Troy said as he dropped the blinds and drew the curtains, being careful not to knock over Nick’s small planter that he’d placed there the day before. 

“Kay.” Nick mumbled from his position smushed into the plush couch with the blanket now pulled up over his shoulders and tucked under his chin. 

Troy left Nick to his nap at that and went down to his office. He unlocked the door and made sure to lock it behind him before getting settled at his desk with a sigh. His hand was going to make doing any deals over the next few days difficult. As a rule, he didn’t deal anywhere near where he lived. And with Nick out of commission he was going to have to either send his customers to his fellow dealers, or get someone to play gopher for him since there was no way in hell he was telling any customers where he lived. 

Neither option sounded good in all honesty. Losing money in either case wasn’t appealing, not that he was wanting for cash. He was fairly well-off. What with his dad dying and leaving him and Jake everything he had. That and the money they made from selling the ranch had insured they would both be comfortable for a long time. So really the money he made from dealing was just a nice way to keep himself from having to dip into the ‘dead dad fund’. 

Pulling a notebook from the top right drawer of his desk, Troy thought briefly of how difficult it’d be to get his desk, safe, and bookshelves moved into his bedroom and convert the slightly smaller room into a bedroom for Nick. A tiny part of him hoped that things might take a turn so that that wouldn’t be necessary, a mental image of Nick, half asleep and laying shirtless in Troy’s bed flashed through his mind before he shook the thought away. No, they were becoming friends. Any thoughts for more could wait for now. Though he did have to admit that the mental image had been a nice one, and it had been a while... 

“Lock your shit down, Troy.” he told himself as he flipped to the page of the notebook that had the numbers of the customers he usually visited on this day. He had didn’t keep numbers in his phone as a rule and he wiped his call history every night just in case he ever got searched.  

Finding the right number, he forced all thoughts of Nick and the possibility that they could be something more than friends from his mind before dialing. He has a job to do and that takes priority to any thoughts of how good it’d feel to get closer to the junkie currently detoxing on his couch. 

Chapter Text

It was day five of Nick detoxing and things were... Manageable... Yeah, manageable was a good word for it. Nick was past the point of wanting to scratch his face off. Troy had to get creative with that stage of Nick’s detox. There were oven mitts involved. And duct tape. Troy may have snuck a picture of Nick rubbing his face with the infernal mitts more than once.  

The mitts had been removed before breakfast that morning. Nick was a bit out of it, just cognizant enough to shower, dress and eat before curling up on the couch to crash until lunch and his next dose of meds. Troy had taken to keeping the bottle in his pocket so Nick didn’t try anything stupid in his less clear-headed moments. So, if he had to duck out for any reason when Nick might need his med’s he’d leave one pill in a cup by the bathroom sink. 

It was almost 4PM now and Troy was in his office. Nick was crashed out on the couch again with the tv on some crap channel as white noise, so now was the time to get some baggies thrown together before making a quick run to visit some customers. They’d texted that morning offering to swing by since they’d heard about Troy’s fight with the mugger from other customers, but as a rule Troy didn’t give any customers his address. So he told them to meet him across town at their usual place. 

His hand was mostly good to go. He just wouldn’t hold the steering wheel tightly. That should be fine. With a sigh and a shake of his head Troy pocketed the various drugs he needed for the days deals before locking up the office and, after a cursory check on a still sleeping Nick, heading out to make some money. 


Nick woke up with his head pounding and his body shaking with a rising fever. Everything hurt. Everything hurt so bad he could hardly breathe. Hardly think. Nick’s eyes opened to find the room far too bright from the evening sun filtering in through the windows of the living room. With a pained whimper he forced himself up to sitting. 

The clock on the wall read 7:16pm when he finally managed to get his eyes to focus long enough to read it. Over an hour past when he should have taken his meds. Why hadn’t Troy woken him up? 

Looking around, Nick spotted a note on the coffee table with his name in bold letters oat the top. 


Gone to make some deliveries 
Be back in time to make dinner and get you your meds 

Feeling his head spin as he quickly looked up to the clock again, Nick lost his balance and fell from the edge of the couch to the floor. He landed in a heap, feeling like he might cry from the spike of all over pain the small drop caused to pulse throughout his body. 

“TROY! Are you there?” He called out, hoping the other man was just in the kitchen cooking their dinner and hadn’t realized the time. There was no response, and Nick forced himself to standing on shaky legs. He made his way to the kitchen, every step slow and careful as his joints stiffly protested the movement, where he found no sign the other man had been back yet. 

Nick staggered to where his backpack sat in the corner by the edge of the entertainment center, pulling out his cheap little burner phone to call the other man, only to find the battery dead and his charger was nowhere in sight he threw the device back in the bag and turned to search for his meds instead. 

As he went he leaned heavily against the wall, thankful for the fact that Troy didn’t have any framed pictures hung or any decorations that would have impeded his movements. 

He checked the bathroom first; finding the cup his pills were usually left in empty and upon checking the medicine cabinet only finding old cold pills and some tylenol. Neither of which would do shit for him, so he made his way down to Troy’s room next. When there was no sign of his pills in there he knew there was one last place they could be if Troy had left them behind. 

The door to the office was locked when Nick tried it. Tears of frustration and pain prickled at the corners of his eyes as he quickly stumbled back out to the living room and grabbed his backpack. He had to get those pills. He felt like he was dying without them. Everything hurt, his body was soaked in sweat, and his vision was swimming now. He barely made it back to the door before he collapsed to the floor. 

Nick laid there a moment, body screaming in pain, wondering how the hell he was going to get through this before finally mustering up enough energy and forcing himself up to sitting before dragging his backpack back to him. After a moment of fighting with the small zippered front pouch he found what he was looking for. He pulled the paperclip out with trembling fingers and hurried to uncurl the metal. 

The doorknob before his face looking like it was moving in dizzying circles and trying to get the end of the paperclip in the keyhole was nearly impossible, but he managed after a few ties. As he was trying to figure out how the hell he would know when the tumblers were in place over the sound of his pounding heart when he heard a crash to his left. Like pottery breaking. 

Nick turned to see Troy, standing in front of a smashed little plant pot, his face red with anger. 

“WHAT THE HELL DO YOU THINK YOU’RE DOING!” He demanded, stepping over the smashed African-violet plant he’d picked up on his way back from across town. He yanked Nick up to standing, bringing the two of them face to face as he spoke in a harsh tone. “One rule! I said there was one damn rule! What? Couldn’t wait for me to get back to tap out? Were you going to take everything I’ve got and run? Huh? Was this all this some joke to you! ANSWER ME!” 

Before Nick knew what he was doing he had yanked himself free of Troy’s grip and was running. He was out the front door before Troy could even turn around. 

Seething, Troy spun around, stormed over to the gaping front door, and slammed it shut hard enough to make the crappy coatrack on the wall rattle before turning and heading for his office. The paperclip was still dangling from the knob when he got back to the door, he threw it somewhere behind him before inserting his key and turning the lock. 

Unbelievable. This shit was why he didn’t help people. This was why he didn’t let customers in his home. This was why he didn’t make fucking friends or try to date anyone. He should have fucking known better. 

As soon as the door to the office swung open the anger bled out of Troy in an instant. On the desk, beside his empty coffee cup, was the bottle of Nick’s detox meds. He could have sworn he’d left them in the bathroom beside the sink. He distinctly remembered having taken them in there with him... He had... “Shit!” 

A beat later he was turning and running out the front door. Nick couldn’t have gotten far, right? The elevator was in use when he reached it, going for the basement level garage. He took off down the stairs, hoping the elevators occupant was Nick and that he’d be able to catch the younger man before he could get to the street. 

Troy managed to make it down the three flights of stairs in record time without tripping and falling. He as fast, but the elevator was faster. 

The garage was silent as Troy threw the door open and ran in. “NICK!” He called out as he paused in the center of the large echoing space. There were no sounds of movement. No running feet on pavement. Then there was a dig from the elevator, tone indicating the doors were being held open by an obstruction. 

Turning, Troy saw the doors of the elevator were wide open, and Nick was laying on the ground, his upper body spilling out of lift onto the cool concrete of the garage floor. He has collapsed in the elevator when its doors had closed behind him, and when the doors opened at the bottom he’d fallen backwards onto the floor. 

Troy rushed to him, pulling Nick up so his head was on Troy’s legs as he looked Nick over. “Hey, Nick. Nicky! Come on, speak to me.” he said, gently shaking the other man’s shoulder with one hand and tapping a cheek lightly with the other. 

A whimper escaped Nick’s throat before dazed brown eyes slowly fluttered open and blinked up at Troy before the younger man suddenly jerked up and away. Nick scrambled back into the elevator and when Troy reached out to try and stop him he spun and tried to fight off the hands that were trying to help. 

“NO! I’m sorry! Please, don’t! I’m sorry!” Nick cried as he scooted back into the corner and held his arms up to protect his face. “I’m sorry, mom! I’m sorry!” Nick said in a rush as he shrunk down as small as he could.  

“What? Nick, no, it’s Troy. Your mom isn’t here.” Troy said calmly, shuffling forward on his knees so he was in the elevator now too. He slowly reached up and hit the button for his floor as he spoke again. “Your mom isn’t here, Nicky. It’s just me. I’m gonna take you someplace safe, alright? You don’t gotta be afraid of me. I’m your friend, remember?” 

Slowly Nick let his arms lower from protecting his face. Once they were down Troy could see that Nick’s eyes were a bit glazed over with tears forming in them, and he was drenched in sweat. His teeth chattered a bit and he was clearly shaking from the pain and fear. “I’m sorry, I’m so sorry. I won’t do drugs anymore, I swear.” he murmured as tears ran down his cheeks. 

Troy’s heart clenched painfully in his chest at Nick’s words. “Why are you sorry? You didn’t do anything wrong. You’ve got nothin’ to feel sorry about.”  

Nick shook his head, tears welling up faster now, adamant that Troy was wrong as he spoke.” Dad’s dead because of me, Glo too... I... I’m sorry...” He said, voice hiccupping a little as he started to sob now. “It’s all my fault... Everyone dies because of me... ‘Cause I’m too weak to fight this...” 

Carefully, Troy inched forward and placed a hand on Nick’s arm, when the younger man showed no signs of fear at the touch, Troy pulled him from the corner into his arms, tucking the only slightly smaller man against his chest so that his head was below Troy’s chin. 

He rubbed at Nick’s back, making gentle shushing noises and rocking him a little until the elevator halted and the doors opened with a soft ding. “Come on, Nicky. You’re gonna be alright. Can you make it to the apartment?” 

When the only thing he got in response was an incoherent one, Troy hoisted the other man up into a bridal carry and made his way down the hall. Thankfully, the door was still wide open and he kicked it closed behind them before bringing Nick into his own room to set him down on the side of the bed he himself usually slept on. 

Nick grabbed ahold of Troy’s shirt as he went to pull away, a look on his face like he might lose it and start crying harder if left alone.  

“Hey, it’s alright. I’m gonna go get your meds, I’ll be right back.” He assured, gently prying Nick’s fingers from the wrinkled fabric before quickly going to retrieve a water bottle, a washcloth, and the promised pills. 

When he came back Nick was curled into a ball, Troy’s pillow held in his arms with his face buried in it. Troy sat down on the mattress beside the younger man and gave a smile when Nick lifted his head to blink up at Troy with slightly less dazed and tearful eyes. “Hey, you think you can take your pill and drink some water for me?” 

Nick nodded, forcing himself upright just long enough to take the pill and down a third of the water before collapsing back with a groan. 

When Troy made a move to leave and let Nick rest, but the younger man’s hand shot up and grabbed his arm before he was off the bed.  

“Don’t go... Please?.” Nick asked, eyes still looking a little unfocused and a bit off as they searched Troy’s face. 

“Alright, scoot over.” Troy found himself saying without thought, before turning, kicking his boots off, and finding himself being pulled back onto the bed and wrapped around by a delirious and feverish Nick. Once They were both settled, with Nick’s head on Troy’s chest, Troy reached over and picked the washcloth up off the night stand and wet it with some water from the bottle. He brought it over and gently wiped at the sweat on Nick’s overheated forehead. 

A shiver from the cold of the cloth ran through Nick’s body, almost unnoticed with the way he’d already been shaking. He let out a little sigh as Troy pressed the cloth to rest against his forehead a moment before curling around the other man more tightly. “Troy... M’sorry... Wasn’t trying to steal from you...” 

“I know, Nicky. I know.” Troy assured, feeling both anxious and relaxed with the with the ease of the situation. Having Nick clinging to him like this should have made him uncomfortable, should have made him want to bolt like a scared rabbit. But it felt good. Comforting, even though he was the one that was trying to offer comfort in this moment.  

“Don’t make me leave...” Nick continued. “I don’t wanna lose you too...” 

“You’re not gonna. I’m sorry I snapped back there. This was all my fault. Now get some rest, we’ll talk about it after your meds have kicked in and you’re feeling better.” Troy said, taking the washcloth away and setting it on the nightstand before turning off the lamp and plunging them both into a peaceful darkness. 

Troy made sure the alarm on his clock was set for 2 hours later, so they could get some dinner and talk shit out. Because no way in hell was he ready for Nick to leave. Seeing him out cold on the floor of the parking garage was one of the most terrifying moments of his life. And that was saying something given his upbringing. 

No, there was no way he was letting Nick go without a fight. Not unless he really wanted to leave. And judging by the way the younger man snuggled up close with his arms around him and was making little contented sounds at the way Troy was stroking his hair and rubbing his back as his shaking subsided, he doubted that’d be the case anytime soon. 

Troy dozed off to the sound of Nick’s steady breathing and the feel of his overly warm body weighing his left side down. It was the best he’d slept in a long time. 


Chapter Text

6 Months Later  

Nick hummed to himself as he made his way through the greenhouse, empty watering can in hand and ready to be filled so he could take care of the plants before sweeping up and heading home for the night. The earbuds in his ears blasting a good beat that he bopped and danced to a bit along the way. 

The storefront had closed fifteen minutes ago, so it was just Nick and one coworkers left in the building taking care of the end of night checklist. Nick, being the newest person on staff, got the task of watering all of the plants and making sure the greenhouse floor was clean and ready for the shop opening up in the morning. They weren’t tasks that took long, or were even hard to do really, but most of the staff didn’t care for them as they were kind of boring. Nick was more than happy to take the duties on. 

“Are you listening to AFI again?” Troy asked teasingly with a grin, startling Nick where he was stood at the tap in the back of the long room filling his watering can. 

Nick pulled his earbuds free and gave his boyfriend an unimpressed glare. “Don’t music shame me. How’d you get in here?” He asked in all seriousness before giving in and grinning back. 

“Cole let me in. I tried texting, but I’m guessing your phone’s dead.” Troy explained as he stepped forward and took hold of Nick by the looped strings that was tied around his waist to hold his apron in place. “Want a hand closing? Sooner you’re done the sooner we can go to dinner.”  

Nick huffed a laugh as he was pulled forward so he and Troy stood toe to toe and chest to chest. “I told you we don’t have to do anything.” Nick muttered, face heating a little in a faint blush. 

Troy scoffed at that and let his arms wrap around Nick’s waist now, pulling him even closer. “You’re six months clean and sober. Like hell we aren’t gonna celebrate. You told me yourself this was the longest you’d been clean since you started using as a teenager. I wanna celebrate that.” He explained before planting a soft kiss on Nick lips. 

Humming happily, Nick broke the kiss and pulled away. “Fine. But you had better not do a half assed job watering the plants. There’s another watering can over beside the row of geraniums.” Nick warned, waving his hand in the general direction of the flowers that the can was sitting by. 

“Yes, sir!” Troy said with a salute that made Nick laugh before wandering off to find said watering can. 

Nick just shook his head, a fond smile tugging at his lips as he shut off the tap right as his watering can was about to overflow. 

It didn’t take long for the two of them to take care of watering all the plants and sweeping the floor clean. They left half an hour earlier than Nick normally would have thanks to Troy’s help.  

Dinner turned out to be a little surprise party at Nick’s favorite Mexican restaurant, with his friends from work, Troy’s brother Jake, and Alicia in attendance. 

Sitting at dinner, surrounded by the people in his life that meant the world to him, made Nick feel like things really were going to be okay. Like he’d found a home. Found himself. He wasn’t drowning anymore. He still missed Gloria. And his missed the heroin, sometimes. But in that moment none of that mattered. He had everything he wanted right there.