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Shelter Us, Harbor Me

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They down their drinks in a few neat gulps, and Nigel smacks his tongue against the roof of his mouth, trying to chase away the bitter bite. He taps a cigarette out of the pack crumpled in his pocket.

“You mind?”

“Yes, yes, go ahead,” Mora says. He refills their glasses, and they drink the next round slowly, savoring the taste of smoked sugar, syrupy and thick.

Nigel leans back and puffs on his cigarette, tipping his head back for the luxuriant stretch of it. The uncomfortable plush cushion beneath him is seeming more inviting by the minute, and he wonders why he ever hated this chair. He asks Mora a few questions about his business in San Jose, and then about Playa Conchal, letting his eyes slide shut as the answers wash over him—just for a second. He’s more tired than he thought, jet lag and too many late nights finally catching up with him.

He should—


He blinks his eyes open with great effort, and finds he’s no longer in the chair. His face is pressed against bare cement, the cold radiating through his clothes, and his limbs feel like they’re cut from stone.

He tries to raise his head. “What’dyou— didyou—”

There’s the click of leather shoes on the ground as Mora stops in front of Nigel. A flash of white linen that Nigel tries to grab but can’t quite manage.

“Sorry, my friend. It's just business, eh? It's nothing personal.”

Nigel reaches for his gun with thick, heavy fingers and finds nothing at all in the place where it should be. He closes his eyes and retches.


There are hands on him, rolling him out of a pile of his own puke. His eyelids feel like lead, and he fights them open. Thick curls. Blue eyes, intent and bright.

The first thing he thinks is, “Adam?”

His voice sounds wrong.

“No, sorry.”

Nigel’s arms are wrenched behind his back so hard he grunts. There’s no pain where there should be, only a spreading, sinking numbness. There’s the high sound of a zip tie being pulled tight, and his wrists are bound together.

“Wiggle your fingers for me,” The man says. “I don’t need them falling off.”

Nigel does no such thing. He wouldn’t do it even if he could.

The man seems to understand that because he sighs and slips a finger beneath the makeshift cuffs, doing a quick circuit to check for circulation. The motion turns his head, and now Nigel can see a livid scar cutting across the side of his cheek. He knows that fucking scar. He knows that fucking face.

His eyes slip shut again before he can tell Will Graham to go fuck himself.


He wakes up in a car trunk with twilight shadows all around him. He’s bound at the ankles and knees, contorted into a cramped, uncomfortable position.

Will leans against the trunk of the car. “I’m turning you on your side and leaving the gag off so you don’t choke on your own vomit, but if you make a sound, I’ll make you wish you hadn’t.”

“Fuck you,” Nigel slurs.

The car truck slams shut above him, and everything is lost to the disorienting dark. He smiles as he slips away again. He’s probably about to die, but at least he finally told Will fucking Graham to fuck off.

* * * 

The drugs wear off sometime in the first hour. When they do, he realizes how fucked he is.

He is going to fucking kill Darko if he makes it out of this with his skin intact.

“Fucking ‘vouched for,’ my ass,” Nigel mutters to the rumbling dark. “The fuck did you fucking find this guy, the back of a Crackerjack box?”

He can move and think again, but his head is pounding, and moving more than a few inches at a time makes his stomach churn. He pulls at the cuffs on his wrists experimentally. There’s absolutely no give whatsoever. His head knocks against something hard when they go over a particularly bad bump in the road, and he snarls.

* * * 

He doesn’t go back to sleep. He lies in the dark, alert and awake, on the off chance there’s fuck all he can do to help his situation. If he sees an opportunity, he’ll take it. He’ll headbutt the fucker if he has to—he just needs one good shot.

He has no way of knowing how long they drive, but it’s long enough that his leg cramps up and he loses feeling in the arm beneath him. It’s long enough that he has a chance to curse Will Graham’s driving and every motherfucking pothole in the country of Costa Rica at great length.

“You hear me, you dumbfuck? You’re a terrible fucking driver.”

But no matter how much he yells and hollers, Will Graham never makes good on his promise to make Nigel regret it, so he never gets his shot.

It’s pitch black outside by the time the trunk finally opens up. He gulps in the fresh air, taking in as much as he can after being shut up in the dark for hours. He has no fucking idea where he is. He can’t see anything but the stars above over the lip of the trunk, and he has no way of pushing his head up to get a better look.

A rag that smells like gasoline is clapped over his nose and mouth, and he thrashes and fights, but the ties that bind him hold fast. He bites, but the rag over his face is so thick he gets nothing but a mouthful of foul-tasting cotton.

Will clamps the cloth in place, holding Nigel’s head immobile in a solid grip until everything gets fuzzy and fades out again. The man looks like the devil silhouetted by the moon.

* * *

He wakes up tied to a chair. His clothes are clean and dry, which is fucking horrifying considering they aren’t the clothes he put on when he woke up this morning. The smell is an improvement; they smell like rosemary and cedar, nothing at all like the scent of stale booze and sick he’d been surrounded by in the trunk for the better part of fuck-knows-how-long.

He’s alone in a small room. A bedroom. There’s a neatly made double bed against one wall, and the walls are warmly lit by a cheerful blue lamp painted with golden stars.

Nigel has had it up to fucking here with waking up in new places.

He’s gagged this time. There’s a wad of dry, sticky cloth shoved in his mouth and something that’s probably duct tape holding it in place. His legs are pulled back and tied to the rear chair legs—tight, without a scrap of give—so he has no leverage at all. His hands are still wrapped behind his back, tied all the way to his elbows, tingling and numb in a way that worries him for the state of his fingers, no matter what that creepy fuck said.

He considers throwing his weight forward to tip himself over. It’ll probably break his nose, but it might at least break the chair too. The thing he’s tied to looks wooden—solidly constructed, but everything’ll fucking break if you hit it hard enough.

Po perkūnais.

It’s a shitty fucking plan, but it’s this or sit around waiting to be turned into lunchmeat, so he rocks himself forward, then back. He really has no leverage, no way to gain momentum. He clenches his muscles and throws himself forward, succeeding in lifting the back legs a half inch off the ground before they thump back to earth.

He does it again, then again, gaining a little more height each time. Maybe if he can throw his weight to the side as he falls, he’ll save himself the broken face.

He hears the thumping of footsteps outside, probably one of those fucks coming to see what all the racket is. He bares his teeth. If the fuckers get close enough, he’ll take a chunk out of one of them. Fuck them, he’s not going down without a fucking fight.

The door swings open, and Nigel’s eyes widen. He lets out a wounded sound through the layers of spit-soaked cotton in his mouth.

The kid looks just as gobsmacked.