His chair rights itself, all four legs returning to the ground with a resounding thump, and Nigel just stares. His eyes feel hot, and he might be crying because what the fuck.
He tries to talk, tries to say Adam, darling, angel, holy shit you aren’t dead, and it all comes out as garbled gibberish.
Adam stares too, and it is—it’s him, in the flesh, looking like he’s still got all the important bits attached. There are five fingers on the hand that flies to his mouth. There are ten toes altogether where he’s standing barefoot in blue jeans.
It’s me, he wants to say. Gorgeous, it’s me. Untie me so we can get the fuck out of here.
Adam whips around and talks to someone just outside the door. “I don’t understand. What is this? Why— I don’t—”
And then Will fucking Graham walks into the room and snakes an arm around his angel’s waist, pulls him close and nips at his ear. And Adam doesn’t fight, doesn’t cry or push him away. He just squirms and sighs and relaxes in his arms.
“It’s a present for you, baby. Happy anniversary.”
Adam looks back at Nigel, sweet little brow furrowed. “Do you want me to kill him?” Nigel makes a short, sharp sound at that, which everyone in the room ignores. “I don’t want to kill him.”
Will laughs. “You don’t have to kill him. You can do whatever you want with him—he’s your present.” He squeezes Adam again. “Remember I told you I didn’t want to take anything away from you?”
“I meant it,” Will says softly. He turns Adam around and kisses him on the mouth, a long, wet kiss that leaves Adam panting and clinging to him. He gets his hands on the kid’s ass and grinds into him before finally letting go. Adam moans, and Nigel feels sick.
Will untangles himself from Adam, extricating his arms from grasping hands to the sound of protests.
“Go say hi to Nigel, baby. It’s not nice to keep guests waiting.”
“I don’t want to,” Adam says quietly, but the room is so silent you could hear a fucking pin drop, so of course Nigel hears it.
It feels like a fucking knife to the heart—all of it does, every bit.
“But I want you to,” Will says. “You want to be a good boy for me, right?”
Adam bites his lip and looks at the ground. “Yes, daddy.”
What the fuck is this?
Nigel watches in horror because he can’t bring himself to look away. Will kisses Adam on the forehead and leaves the room, presumably to go be equally fucking creepy right outside the door in case Nigel escapes.
Adam looks at the closed door for far too fucking long before finally looking back at Nigel. He chews his lip and his eyebrows knit together—familiar expressions on this entirely unfamiliar person that only make his heart clench painfully in his chest.
“You’re crying,” Adam says. It’s not fair that he sounds exactly the fucking same. He touches his fingers to Nigel’s face and gently wipes the tears away. “Did anyone hurt you? I hope you’re not hurt.”
Nigel doesn’t talk because he can’t.
“I’m going to pull the tape off your mouth, okay? Please don’t bite me.”
Nigel makes an angry sound and pulls against the ropes holding him down. He would never. He’d never fucking hurt Adam. It’s possible Adam doesn’t know that because he draws back as if he’s scared of Nigel. Like the real threat isn’t that fucking monster Adam was just letting shove his tongue down his fucking throat.
Adam doesn’t come back until Nigel closes his eyes and makes a conscious fucking effort to control himself. Counting to goddamn ten and everything. His eyes blink open when he feels a soft touch against his face. Adam’s fingers are gentle when they feel for the edges of the duct tape, and despite everything, the small touch feels like a miracle.
“I think this is going to hurt,” Adam says, concentrating as he starts to pull the tape back.
He does it slowly, obviously trying not to hurt Nigel. If Nigel could talk, he’d tell the kid to just rip it off like a bandaid to get it over with—there’s not a lot more the kid could do to hurt him than he hasn’t already fucking done—but he can’t, so it doesn’t matter.
So the kid peels the tape back painstakingly slow, probably taking some stubble and skin with it in the process. From up close, Nigel can see the bruises all over him, bite marks and deep purple welts that snake down his neck and arms, rings of bruises around both wrists. It makes him fucking livid. Revives every fantasy he’s had in the past 12 months of fucking up those evil assholes.
When the tape’s finally gone, Nigel tries to spit out the wad of cloth stuffed in his mouth. There’s a moment of hesitation, and then Adam sticks his fingers in Nigel’s mouth to help fish it out. Nigel coughs and sputters when his mouth is finally clear, when it feels like he can finally breathe again.
It feels like something died in his mouth.
“Water?” he croaks hopefully. His voice sounds like shit.
Adam nods and disappears, going away for long enough that Nigel wonders if he’s even coming back. He tips his head back and wonders what the fuck happened in the past year.
Adam does come back. He comes back with a glass full of ice water and a straw, turning the cup so Nigel can pull the straw between his teeth and suck. He drains the entire glass while Adam waits patiently. By the time he’s done he doesn’t feel any fucking better, but at least he’s less thirsty.
Adam sets the glass down on the nightstand and puts a fucking coaster under it, and Nigel just stares at him.
“You’re letting him touch you now?”
Adam shifts uncomfortably under his gaze. “If he wants.”
“He fucking you too?”
He doesn’t have to ask. He knows the fucking answer from looking at the two of them, but some part of him wants to hear it. The same part that tried to commit suicide by cop when Gabi turned him in, probably.
“Nigel. That’s none of your business.”
He knew it. He shakes his head. He can’t fucking hit anything but he’d really like to—Will Graham’s smug fucking face, for starters, again and again until it shatters.
“What the fuck did they do to you, kid?”
“They made me part of their family,” Adam says, defensive.
He doesn’t even know where to start with that and decides not to even try. He changes the subject.
“Can you untie me, Adam? I can’t feel my arms, and I really need to piss. I’ve been shoved in the trunk of a car for—what time is it?”
“For about four hours.”
“I don’t know,” Adam says. He looks toward the door again. “I don’t know if it’s okay. I can go ask—”
Nigel closes his eyes. He can’t. He can’t listen to his beautiful, bruised fucking angel talk like this.
“Adam,” he says sharply. “You can do whatever the fuck you want. You don’t have to ask permission from fucking anyone and sure as fuck not from them.”
“I do,” Adam says immediately. There’s a weird, fanatical light in his eyes that Nigel doesn’t like one bit. He smiles, and it’s so hollow and so wrong. “I do because I want to be good. They love me when I’m good.”
Nigel breathes through his nose very slowly. He does not fucking yell. He tenses his arms against the ropes and pulls rather than fucking yell.
“Adam,” he says, grits it out through his teeth. “Gorgeous. They’re hitting you. How much can they possibly fucking love you to let you walk around like that?”
“A lot. More than anything. They want me. I’m special. They treat me well and take care of me. We’re a family—you just don’t understand it yet.”
“You don’t hit people you love, remember, Adam? Remember our rule? Whatever happened to that?”
Adam looks stricken.
“It’s different,” he says finally. “You don’t understand. It’s not the same. Do you want more water?”
Nigel considers saying yes, just to keep Adam here longer, but in the end he shakes his head. He lets his angel walk back into the lion’s den alone.
“No, darling. I’m good.”
“Okay,” Adam says. He picks up the empty glass and the coaster and hesitates in the doorway. He looks like he might say something else, but he just turns to leave and shuts the door on the way out.
Nigel keeps quiet. He doesn’t so much as breathe so he can listen to Adam’s steps receding all the way down the stairs. He holds his breath until they fade away into nothingness, and then he tosses his head back and closes his eyes.