The crack split the evening like a knife.
A knife would have been a mercy compared to what lie before them.
Kevin’s screams bounced off the walls of the rink and slid across the ice like the thin river of blood from his body.
Red brake lights flooded the black sedan, painting Nathaniel’s knuckles garishly enough to cover the crusted blood.
Not again, not again, not again.
This scene, this feeling was all too familiar. Mary Hatford’s voice rang through Nathaniel’s head.
Run, run, run.
His breathing hitched and his hands shook so violently that he had to fight to stay in one lane. Nathaniel’s eyes stung hot with tears and a strangled sound tore from his throat, mixing with the moans in the backseat.
Don’t look back Nathaniel. Run. Never stop.
Like a flame held close to paper, his edges of control were curling, collapsing, disintegrating.
Another voice came, blocking out his mother.
If you ever run...
A bubble of fear rose high in his throat, choking him.
Don’t even think about it Nathaniel. Do you want to know what we did to the other boy who ran?
Hysteria poked and prodded, tried to get the fear to burst free. He shook his head as if to dislodge the voices inside; swallowed dryly to stow away the fear; blinked hard to clear the dripping sting of blood, sweat, and tears from his eyes.
By Raven standards, everything was going well. Fans were screaming, names were chanted, stuffed animals and roses thrown onto the ice. Nathaniel stood at the side of the rink wearing his red and black team coat with the rest of the Ravens. To his right was an unremarkable girl, with an unremarkable past, and likely, an utterly remarkable future. On his left was his partner, Jean Moreau - a french skater who was a year older than Nathaniel and missed the podium by five points.
Close enough, but enough was not a word in the Raven repertoire.
Jean was number 3 for a reason and fourth place would not solidify a ‘Raven Royal Flush’ of medals in the Senior Men’s division of the US Figure Skating Collegiate Championships. Instead, the Trojan captain, Jeremy Knox, stood on the lowest step. There was a stupidly bright smile, stuck on his stupidly bright face, and it made Nathaniel feel stupidly fucking sick.
The ceremony began. Jean’s eyes were glued to the spectacle. Nathaniel’s were glued to Jean.
He had come to know the french skater just as well as he knew himself. He knew what Jean’s eyes looked like when he cried, the colors his wounds turned when they began to heal. Nathaniel could hear what he was thinking by just looking at his face and right then, he was not fooled by the cool facade Jean pulled down. No, Nathaniel could feel the fear roll off him as Riko Moriyama, Kevin Day, and the Trojan Bastard, took to the podium. It was like static between them, something tangible that tried to dig underneath Nathaniel’s skin too.
His eyes fell on the flush in Jean’s cheeks as he subtly shifted his weight from one foot to the other. There was a number 3 etched permanently in black ink on the smooth, rosey flesh. Nathaniel’s own mark began to burn, the clean lines of the number 4 stinging as if he had just gotten it yesterday. Subconsciously, he rose his hand to Jean’s cheek and covered the number with his thumb. It was warm to the touch. Jean slapped his hand away.
The tattoos that marred their left cheeks were prophecies and Tetsuji Moriyama was the prophet. Riko would always be first and Kevin second. That was a pact they made ever since they were children - when positions were only a game and sharpie the mark maker. Nathaniel was supposed to be third. It’s been seven years and he could still feel the cold locker room bench beneath him.
Riko stood before him, Kevin a pace behind. Riko’s fingers had dug harshly into the soft, boyish flesh of Nathaniel’s cheeks - the acrid smell of the marker poised just below his left eye. Riko dug the finepoint into his skin, carved out a number ‘3’.
Permanent , the marker read.
Nathaniel was a one of them now, or that is what Riko told him. They were a team and there was a feeling in his chest that resembled something along the lines of belonging.
Nathaniel remembered the look on his mother’s face when she saw it - could remember the searing pain of her hand against his cheek. In the mirror that night, at some motel two states away, he saw the faded remnants of ink surrounded by a raised, red welt. His mother had scrubbed his face raw and still Riko’s mark stayed - if not by ink, than by blood.
It took three days and three more states for it to fade completely. His mother tapped where it used to be, and it was the softest thing he had ever felt - kindest thing she had ever done.
Castle Evermore hosted one, private, in-house competition a month. The Master said it was to keep the skaters on top of their game, to determine who would be competing on the national stage. Everyone was to participate and there were absolutely no excuses.
Nathaniel was fifteen when he first competed against his peers. Back then, he had only been in the Nest for a year, but that was enough time for Riko and the Master to beat the misuse out of his bones and form him into a formidable skater.
Jean was a year older than him, and his experience prior to the Nest was average. The progress he made under duress and fear was astounding. Now, Jean Moreau was the third best in the country.
A month before Nathaniel’s first in-house competition, Jean won against a boy he shouldn’t have. Jean’s jumps were adequate, but nothing like his. The boy’s were gigantic and at sixteen, he was pulling quads* like it was absolutely nothing. He was a force of nature, commanded everyone’s attention by speed and power alone. The issue was in his presentation*. It wasn’t there and it cost him.
The boy didn’t seem to care in the slightest. Jean came first in the Junior division, the boy in second. That’s when Jean earned his place among the ranks.
Riko made Nathaniel watch it happen, made him hold Jean’s arms so he would not move. Tried to use it against him, make him feel bad that he lost his rightful place. He watched as a man inked that 3 into Jean’s smooth cheek. He spent the remainder of that night dry heaving in the bathroom. The boy watched from the door.
That boy had been the only person that could face Riko without withering. He was fierce and had a mouth just as vicious as Riko’s knives.
Sometimes, when Nathaniel was under those blades, he would think of him , and how he was supposed to be number 4. He would think about how he got away. Nathaniel had saved him from this fate, from this mental and physical torture. He repeated that wild thought every time Riko began to taunt.
Other times, Nathaniel tried to be him. Impassive, cold, unaffected as Riko pushed and pulled, poked and prodded until an answer or blood came out. Nathaniel would close his eyes and block out Riko completely. From behind his lids, he could see him, see those beautiful honied eyes in the dark. They were smooth, calm, and steady. Nathaniel tried to draw strength from them. But, all it took was a well placed tip of a blade for those eyes to turn cold with shock, hurt, and betrayal. The truth would come crashing in as the image Nathaniel saw changed and he’d watch himself close the Nest door between them.
Nathaniel locked him out - he locked himself in.
Riko said the boy was dead.
Nathaniel didn’t believe it - couldn’t. Number 4 was too fast, too smart, too slick to get caught.
Riko told him that he was now number 4. Congratulations in the form of photographic proof of his crimes and the boy’s demise.
That night, Kevin held his arms and Jean sat on his legs. Nathaniel was strapped to the bed while someone stabbed the number into his face. Riko watched with that sick smile twisting his lips. Nathaniel was too numb to cry, too tired to fight, too empty for the dread to fill his cup.
Three years later and Nathaniel was a Double Gold*. In the four years he spent in the Nest, Nathaniel had passed five levels in Moves in the Field* and six in Freestyle*. Nathaniel was eighteen now and next year, he would be enrolled as a freshman at Edgar Allan University. He had little to no choice in the matter - just the like everything else in his life.
In last years Olympics, Riko had won gold and Kevin, silver. They were slated for it, their positions marked on their faces for all to see - everyone knew it was coming.
Tonight was different. The results were still the same, but when Kevin’s program ended and his scores were read, Nathaniel remembered the unfamiliar feeling of pride wash over him. Not for Kevin himself - Kevin and Nathaniel’s relationship was precarious at best and Nathaniel hated him almost as much as he hated Riko. But tonight, Kevin had nearly bested The King , and for the first time in his life, Nathaniel Wesninski may have been given reason to like, even respect, Kevin Day.
It was unprecedented.
It was amazing.
It was terrifying.
All of the Raven’s programs were choreographed specifically to keep Riko at the top. Not only the top of the institution, but the top of the fucking world. Anyone that crawled too close to stealing his crown, were roughly knocked down. Tonight, Riko popped* one of his five quads. It didn’t sound like such a big deal - no one else was pulling that many. But one mistake, one misstep, could be detrimental to anyone’s position. Riko wasn’t supposed to have any competition, but points were a fickle thing. Kevin skated the best program of his life. With his three quads and a perfectly clean freeskate*, he was only off Riko’s score by 3/8’s of a point.
That pride smeared a foreign smile on Nathaniel’s lips and tightened something in his chest that rivaled the nausea in his stomach. It was light and airy and it buried itself somewhere deep between his bruised ribs. It resembled something like hope; hope that maybe, just maybe, Kevin could get them out of this. That Kevin could beat Riko for real, that Kevin can choose their side.
It was a childish thought - because it was just that, a thought. An impossible, hopeless, thought.
Riko wouldn’t let them survive tonight. Not without reinstating his place. He rarely rose a hand to Kevin, which meant that Jean - who was due for his own punishment for coming in fourth - and Nathaniel - who hadn’t even skated - would take the brunt of Riko’s anger. Kevin would watch on, doing fuck all. But that was the way of things. That was their order.
Nonetheless, Nathaniel needed reason to doubt. He needed reason for his smile to stay - to not be dragged down by the anchor of fear rumbling in his belly and the bile rising in his throat. He leaned in towards Jean and kept his voice low, “He still won.”
Perhaps Nathaniel needed reassurance.
Jean glared down at his mouth with only a quick flick of his eyes. “If Riko see’s you-” He quipped, speaking in quick, quiet french.
Riko was too busy smiling viciously at the cameras to even focus on his teammates lined behind the boards.
“He’s going to kill us anyway,” Nathaniel replied in English and earned a hard elbow to the side. But it was true. The two of them, at least, were dead men walking. For some reason, the thought didn’t bother him as much as it should have. At least death would take him away from here.
Nathaniel bit into his lower lip. His smile began to fade as he worried the flesh between his teeth. Death didn’t scare him, but torture did. And as his eyes landed on Kevin, he could see what others could not. Any outsider looking in would take Kevin as the picture perfect American boy. Bright smile, twinkling eyes, confidence seemingly pouring off of him. However underneath all of that, his shoulders were bunched with stiff anticipation and that twinkle in his eye was fear.
Nathaniel dragged his gaze away from Kevin’s face, over the number 2 tattooed on his cheek, and down to Riko’s fingers at his shoulder. They were digging in to bruise.
The ceremony was over. Nathaniel and Jean retreated back into the locker room for Jean to finish putting away his skates. The silence between them was deafening and reality began to set in with a vengeance. Anxiety was a familiar friend, thrumming deep in Nathaniel’s bones and his smile was gone without a trace.
Riko would wait - that at least he knew. There would be no attack, not while boisterous fans filtered through the stands and down to the lobby. There were still autographs to be signed, pictures to be taken, interviews to be had. Nathaniel, Jean, and maybe even Kevin, were safe for the time being. For now, there were preparations to be made.
Sometimes, Jean and Nathaniel would go to bed knowing the next day would be bad. Riko’s temper could be spontaneous, but he liked to leave them with threats in the form of ‘ sweet dreams ’. In the mornings, Jean and Nathaniel would gather gauze and supplies before they even had breakfast.
Most days, Riko would only beat one of them so the other could tend to the injuries. Knives, belts, heavy objects, skates, guards*, lighters, anything Riko could get his hands on became a weapon. There were other times his temper reached so high, that none of them were safe - save for Kevin.
It was 7PM when they left. The days were getting longer and the nights shorter. A cloak of darkness was not in their cards, so they were exposed out in the near open for the cameras to see.
The parking lot was almost clear from the competition two hours earlier. Twilight hung over their heads with the threat of discovery as Nathaniel half dragged Kevin to his Raven owned car and deposited him in the backseat.
There were perks to being number 2. Kevin had nearly as many rights as Riko in the sense that he could leave the Nest for an outing if he so pleased - for classes, for fun (if you call more training fun), even to meet up with outsiders. Sometimes, he would be gone for an entire day. Riko wouldn’t say a word, but in Kevin’s absence, he took mind to making Jean and Nathaniel his special companions instead.
That was one of the roots of Nathaniel’s resentments. It was far lesser a crime than Kevin’s other indiscretions, but Nathaniel hadn’t seen the light of day or night, for three years. The last time was only a glimpse and that boy had been bathed in it.
He went to the other side and as gently as he could, pulled Kevin’s legs up to rest on his coat that he had hastily bunched on the seat. Kevin grit his teeth and to his credit, did not scream again.
Once Kevin was sloppily situated, Nathaniel slammed the door and reached his hand under the wheel well of the drivers front tire. It was only a guess, but after sliding his bloody fingers along the dirty surface, he found what he was looking for.
With every new car they stole, his mother made him check it. Whether for bugs or a GPS tracker, she showed him the secret places devices may hide and how to remove them. In the beginning, the practice seemed stupid. Over time, they had found three trackers, on three different cars, in three different cities. Rather than remove them and take the vehicles, they quickly fled by bus or train to get as far away as possible. It meant that they had been found and spent extra time checking over their shoulders. Sometimes, they only narrowly avoided the dangers that followed.
He wrapped his fingers around the device and dug his nails into the grime. With a sharp tug, he dislodged the tracker and let it drop behind the tire. Without even looking at it, Nathaniel opened the driver’s door, threw the small bag hanging from his shoulder on to the passengers seat, and got behind the wheel.
His mother had taught him how to drive, but Tetsuji had made Jean and Nathaniel get their licences at 17. It was more for identification than anything else. Nathaniel questioned why they would be granted that freedom, but at the time, he was grateful.
That was how deep the Moriyama’s had sunk their claws in Nathaniel’s mind. Grateful for what? His ability to legally drive in order to save the life of one of the men complicit in his abuse?
Nathaniel peeled out of the parking lot and automatically headed towards the route he had memorized three years ago. Reaching into the small duffle with an unsteady hand, he emptied nearly all of its contents before finding the bottle of emergency vodka. He flinched at a memory and tossed it to the back without a second glance.
“Drink.” his voice broke with the order.
Your father’s work would have been a mercy, compared to what we did.
That voice trampled on his control.
Clenching his teeth hard, Nathaniel could hear his jaw creak as he quickly glanced over his shoulder. Kevin was splayed across the back seat like a bed. Forced to curl on his side, his injured leg was still propped up by Nathaniel’s team coat while the other bent up awkwardly in the space. He was in a moaning, alcohol induced stupor, eyes barely open. There was blood on the leather, seeping through the hastily wrapped gauze around his right leg and into the coat. A hospital was out of the fucking question and Nathaniel slammed his hand against the wheel in frustration, fear, anguish, and helplessness.
Nathaniel didn’t have time to properly wrap the wound, not enough time to assess the break. Back in the Nest, he had quickly secured a tourniquet around Kevin’s thigh and grabbed the emergency kit Nathaniel and Jean had put together over the years. He tried not to think about how that may be the only reason why Kevin hadn’t gone into hypovolemic shock - he tried not to think about Jean...
A black car pulled up on the left side of his periphery.
They’ve been driving for nearly three hours and there was still an hour left before they reached Palmetto, South Carolina.
No where was safe and they were in a Raven marked vehicle. The only hope they had was being mistaken for another Moriyama guard looking for the two runaways. But, they weren’t the needle in a metaphorical haystack. They were sticking out like a sore fucking thumb in the expensive black sedan, complete with regulated tinted windows and platinum rims. At this point, it felt like they’d be more discreet in the fucking Batmobile.
Nathaniel was panicking. He tried to suck in as much hot air as possible as he unclenched his fingers from the wheel and rose the heat. Sweat was already dripping down his face, loosening the gel in his hair, and streaking the drying blood across his skin, but he had to keep Kevin warm.
Lights soared on either side of them.
The black car beside him sped ahead. It wasn’t the Moriyama’s, but that didn’t mean they weren’t close behind. He took another glance towards Kevin in the back and as he did, his eyes swept over the middle console.
“Fuck-” Realization hit Nathaniel as hard as Riko’s fists.
How had he become so sloppy? He had cleared the car, but forgotten the second most important thing - the entire reason why he’d survived on burners for three years. His mother would have been cursing him from the back just like she had that night, four years ago. Even with her voice weak from blood loss, Mary Hatford had chided him for his stupidity. The amount of times her bones had rolled over in her grave at this point, likely reduced them to dust in the sand.
He grabbed his phone from the cup holder with a battered hand that shook so violently, he nearly dropped it. With that same hand, he used his pinky and ring finger to hold onto the wheel as he rolled down the window. Humid, South Carolinian air came rushing in so violently that the wind stuttered against the frame of the car. The force of it blew the sweat and blood across his face. Nathaniel’s mouth was dry and his throat felt like sandpaper. The humidity in the night air clung to the desert patches so thickly that he choked.
Nathaniel tossed his phone out the window.
His finger pulled up on the trigger to close it as fast as he could. His head throbbed with pain and his brain felt like it was stuck on one side of his skull.
“Kevin,” He said, voice raw, unrecognizable.
A quiet moan responded.
“Kevin. I need you to listen to me. Are you listening?” Nathaniel spared one glance over his shoulder. Kevin’s own hands were bloody, his brow drawn in numbed pain and head lolled to the side.
He moaned again.
At least he heard him, at least he was responding.
Riko wouldn’t trust them with phones unless he could keep tabs on them. With every new model that came in, he refreshed theirs as if he needed to. Was it to keep up with the software? How could Nathaniel be so stupid?
“I need you to reach into your pocket and give me your phone. Did you hear me?” He checked on him again, but Kevin’s eyes were closed and he could hear his labored breathing from over the heat.
Shit, shit, shit.
He couldn’t pull over. It was too dangerous to be stuck on the side of the highway, a place so open and vulnerable.
Nathaniel’s eyes desperately scanned the road and landed on the exit for I-77 S, heading towards Columbia. The city name rung familiarly in his head and he flinched at the memory. In a split decision, Nathaniel violently turned the wheel and had them careening down the exit. Was it a good idea? He didn’t know. The only thing he did know, was that Columbia was populated and it would be the safest chance he’d have to check on Kevin and get rid of his phone. All he needed was five minutes. Then, he could leave Kevin in Palmetto and properly disappear.
Nathaniel hadn’t been in a city in a long time and he forgot how congested they could be. Columbia was nothing like bigger cities he’s been to, but the abundance of one-way streets had his facade of anonymity on edge. There were only so many places you can go when the streets dictated your ability to roam (and therefore, flee). Luckily, the exit and adjacent street took him into the heart of the downtown area, which was highly populated with drunks and bar hopping college kids. It was only 10:08 and the Friday night was young.
His blood pumped loudly in his ears and created white noise along with the sound of the heat and Kevin’s heavy breathing. He scanned the streets with unpracticed eyes for a lot busy enough with witnesses and big enough for cover.
Like a shining beacon in the distance, there was a sign lifted into the air with a typeface that screamed ‘diner’. Diners were a hub of activity and it was a safer bet than the third CVS they passed.
“Kevin.” He tried again, this time much louder. A sound that resembled a whimper responded and made Nathaniel’s stomach drop.
There was no choice. They were running out of time.
Coming up on the sign, it was just as he suspected - a bustling diner, rife with energy. Cars spread throughout the entire lot, people milled in and out with take out containers and smiles on their faces. Splayed across the top of the retro building in curling pink letters was the word, Sweeties .
Hastily, Nathaniel pulled into the lot. His eyes bounced back and forth between the rearview and the dash - checking for anyone following them while simultaneously watching out for pedestrians. He headed towards the back of the lot. There were only a few cars scattered there, but enough activity was around to make Nathaniel feel confident that someone would at least hear their screams.
The parking job was messy and Nathaniel was halfway out of the door by the time he slid the gear into park. A streetlight bathed the few empty spots in a pool of yellow. That light just barely hit Nathaniel, bringing out the subtle tints of red in his auburn hair and turned the blood on his skin black.
Fried food, artificial vanilla, and cigarette smoke filled the air, along with chatter and laughs from the diner and it’s patrons. Nathaniel ignored the sick lurch in his stomach as he threw open the back door and looked down at the mess of dark, shining blood on the seat.
“Fucking - Damnit - Shit,” He cursed and looked up towards Kevin’s pale face. Placing his hand on the blood soaked gauze on his leg, he pressed his fingers down. Kevin shot up so violently that his leg lurched and he kicked Nathaniel in the jaw. The force wasn't hard, but it was enough to shove Nathaniel back a few steps and for Kevin to scream. Panic surged through Nathaniel’s blood once more and he clamped his hand down on Kevin’s leg again.
“Do you want to die?!” He shot through his clenched teeth, then let go. Kevin fell back against the door and moaned in pain.
Nathaniel glanced out the window behind Kevin’s head to see that only two people glanced their way, then went back to their discussion on the hood of their car.
Nathaniel ignored them and climbed into the backseat, this time careful of the injury - less for Kevin’s sake and more for their cover. “I need your phone. Right now.” His foot hit the empty bottle of vodka on the floor.
Kevin looked dazed and confused from the alcohol and pain. His bloody hands fumbled in his own pockets, but Nathaniel slapped them away and pulled out the sleek device himself. Leaning back, he stepped out of the car, turned and threw it on the ground. The screen shattered on impact, but that wasn’t good enough. Nathaniel slammed his heel into it over and over until it was a mess of glass, metal, and hardware.
“W-What the fuck Wesninski-” Kevin managed to slur out with indignation. His hands reached out as if to stop him, but then dropped like they were too heavy to hold up.
Nathaniel flinched at the name and shot his father’s eyes up to Kevin’s face. He pointed his finger and said in a voice that dripped venom, “Stay put and shut up. Otherwise I’m fucking leaving you and you can find your own way to your father.” He had never spoken to Kevin like that and regret was an immediate itch on his tongue.
Cursing himself, Nathaniel looked to Kevin’s twitching hands and ground his teeth together, taking in the signs and calculating what the hell he should do next. Fear nudged at the edges of his sudden anger and it was enough for him to take a deep breath and get to work.
Getting back into the cramped backseat, he reached into the front and grabbed the roll of gauze that had fallen out of the bag when Nathaniel upended it. Leaning back, he unraveled a bit and unceremoniously began to tightly wrap the oozing gash with more gauze. As he lifted Kevin’s leg to get underneath, his ripped pant leg stuck to the seat and tore away with a sound like velcro.
Nathaniel’s stomach lurched and he had to swallow down a mouthful of bile. Right now was not the time for a panic attack... He couldn’t afford it - they couldn’t afford it. But, all smells of the diner were abandoned in these confines and the metallic tang of blood that hung heavy in the air, was only amplified by the heat and stink of sweat.
It was all just like before. The sound of the car could have been the crashing waves and the taste of sweat on his lips, the mist of that California beach...
Nathaniel was breathing so loudly that he couldn’t hear the low bass of music behind them.
Headlights flooded the car.
Kevin let out a cry of pain as Nathaniel dropped his leg back onto the seat.
No, no, no -
Fight or flight was kicking in and Nathaniel’s response was delayed. His eyes looked up to Kevin’s blanched face as the headlights turned away from them. Rolling tires ground into the pavement. The sound was far too close and the gentle purr of the engine cut.
Standing up quickly, Nathaniel swung himself out from behind the back door and towards the drivers. His hand was pressed against the door to close it while the other was hooked into the driver's side to pull himself in. He could get them out of this, he could -
The car was sleek and black. It parked into the spot one space over from Nathaniel and Kevin. The yellow light dipped the car in color and turned the blond head that emerged from the passengers side fluorescent.
Nathaniel’s heart stopped, his body ceased to work. Lactic acid played games with the adrenaline in his muscles and his body refused to move. He was frozen again, he was compromising them, he was seeing the impossible.
It couldn’t be.
“You see Nathaniel, this is what happens when you do bad things.” Riko stood over him, hands placed behind his back and cold eyes clear with malice.
The bed beneath him was no longer a bed. Nathaniel was falling, sinking into a sunken place of nightmares and fear, dread and regret. Something ugly was crawling up his throat, tearing to break free. Perhaps it was a sob, or a scream... Perhaps it was both.
Death never really affected Nathaniel. So many people had been killed around him, that it was just a fact of his morbid life - a fact built into the foundation of his bones as the son of the Butcher. But, heat prickled at the corners of his eyes and he dug his short nails into the soft flesh of his palms. It was an unfamiliar feeling, to want to cry, and the urge was painful as it squeezed at his sinuses and rid him of the ability to breathe.
This is my fault.
Before him, Riko had placed a single photograph on the bed. It was of the boy. His hair, that had once been so golden and fair, was rusted with blood and riddled with gore. Those dark eyes that Nathaniel had taken rare refuge in, were blank and unseeing. That was the only recognizable thing about his face. The rest was a mess from the result of bludgeoning.
The photo didn’t show the rest of his body, but he knew it likely matched.
“You would never do such a thing, would you...? After all, you have a place here, a home. You’re one of us now, and as reward for not running, tonight, you become Number 4.”
Two car doors slammed shut. They sounded like gunshots and made Nathaniel jolt into awareness. His eyes were stuck on the blond but in his periphery, he could see a tall man round the back of the back of the car with another blond... man -
“Oh my god-” The tall one pitched, coming up short and grabbing the closest blond by the arm.
“Doe...?” Kevin drawled from behind him. Nathaniel’s head shook side to side in disbelief and the tightening sign of tears came back to burn at his eyes.
Nathaniel’s vision began to tunnel, black crowding the edges of the face he had last seen in that photograph. The man began to laugh. It’s sound was so familiar, but also so wrong . It was empty, it was cold, it was -
“Look at what the fucking cat dragged in. Two birdies fall out of their nest, have they? Oh, this is wonderful.”
Nathaniel’s hands were shaking and he could feel the sweat and blood on his brow creep down his cheek and drip off his chin. Somehow, the name he had kept safely locked away came to his lips, “Andrew...?”