The oil snapped and crackled in the pan. The angry bubbles made the humid heat of the Cove even more unbearable, but Toby found solace in the creativity it took to concoct the cuisines deserving enough to be served at the island’s hottest club.
Between the sizzling pops from the pan, Toby could hear the waves crashing against the shore. The sounds created a sensation that was far more relaxing than watching simmering oils all day, but the act of mastering food always captivated him to the fullest.
With the ocean view behind him and the hot stove in front of him, Toby knew he was only missing one thing... A smile quickly stretched across his face as he felt Adam step behind him and his hand trace the line of sweat down his arm.
“Ambrosius will kill you if he catches you back here,” Toby teased as he lowered the heat on the burner.
“I’m on break.” Adam took his place beside Toby and leaned against the counter. “I dreamt of this, you know? Sneaking off back to fool around with my boyfriend. It’s just the two of us back here. We could do anything without anyone knowing—”
“Adam, I’m working!” Toby tried not to encourage him by laughing, but he failed when he grinned every time Adam went for his waist. “And you should be, too!” he firmly reminded and pushed him away.
“I’m just making up for lost time.” Adam winked then melted him with a smile.
Toby closed his eyes and slowly inhaled some of the salty air around him. It was too hard to resist Adam when he stared back at him like that.
“I think I hear Ambrosius calling you,” Toby muttered and went back to stirring the pan.
Adam’s hand found Toby’s arm again and was tracing the same line that he had before. “I told you: I’m on break.”
“Good. Then you can lend me a hand.” Toby smiled as he watched his boyfriend roll his eyes.
Adam groaned as he found himself pushed in front of the stove.
“Just watch the pan while I get more oil,” Toby instructed.
It couldn’t have taken more than two seconds to grab the oil, but Toby wanted to savor the image of Adam before a stove. The sight of his two greatest passions gave him a sense of security in this sleepy island town.
Toby’s eyes fixed on the parts of Adam’s body that his uniform did not hide. His golden muscles gleamed beneath the sunlight and the sweat of a hard day’s work. Toby gradually settled behind Adam and the other man slanted his head back to reach his kiss.
“Didn’t you just tell me to knock this off?” Adam smirked.
Toby cleared his throat abashedly. “That sounds like something I would say…” He took a step back to give Adam his space, but he still kept a hand on his neck. His fingertips played at the ends of Adam’s hair and he smiled at the way the other man tried to shake him off. However, his expression dimmed as he noticed several healed wounds on Adam’s neck.
“I never noticed these scars before,” Toby murmured as his fingers slowly counted them. The small puncture wounds were shiny and white. They appeared in pairs and he couldn’t fathom what could have caused so many marks in such a small area.
Adam squirmed beneath Toby’s touch until he finally knocked his hand away. “Yeah… they’re more obvious now that I’m working on my tan. Don’t worry about it, man.”
“Don’t tell me not to worry about it,” Toby responded and unsuccessfully tried to examine the wounds again. “Where did they come from?”
“Darker days,” Adam snapped. “I’m done reliving that shit. I just want to put that all behind me, if that’s alright with you.”
Adam heatedly pushed himself away from the stove to let Toby take over. Unfortunately, that wasn’t going to end the conversation.
“Does Ambrosius know about this?” Toby inquired through tightly tensed lips.
Adam paused momentarily; obviously not happy with the hidden accusation. “Maybe.”
Toby huffed. “Maybe? Yes or no, Adam! Which is it?”
“Why not ask the man yourself?” Ambrosius dared darkly as he suddenly appeared into the kitchen. His hand was on Adam’s chest and he pushed the boy several paces away from his chef.
Toby angrily gripped the pan in his hand. He couldn’t bear the thought that Adam had a secret that Ambrosius was in on.
“Tell him what you said about scars,” Adam asked Ambrosius and Toby’s insides started to twist in aggravation.
“The wound is the place where the Light enters you,” Ambrosius recited slowly and Toby gritted his teeth.
“An old poet said that,” Bro explained. “That is a point you should find admirable, Toby, since you of all people know there is darkness to be found on this island.”
Toby hissed as his hand caught a splatter of oil. He found it so much harder to breathe normally with Ambrosius in the room.
“It’s all about what hurts and what heals,” Adam added. “We all have scars, whether it’s broken bones or broken hearts. I can’t be ashamed of what I did in the past, but I can be proud of what I overcame. It’s a testament of my inner strength and I couldn’t have done it without you, Toby.”
By the time Toby looked up, Ambrosius had struck a match and was holding it between his fingertips.
"All the darkness of this world cannot put out the light of one small candle,” the warlock continued to recite.
Toby finally removed the pan from the burner. He may have played a key role in Adam’s recovery, but he always wondered about Ambrosius’s contribution to his addiction. It appeared that he would get no answers and it was no less aggravating that there were huge chunks of Adam’s memory that he still couldn’t recall.
Ambrosius finally blew out the flame. “You have customers waiting,” he shortly reminded Adam.
“Break’s over,” Adam announced apologetically to Toby and quickly got back to work. He busied himself by offering a light to a patron’s cigarette.
Toby watched Adam and was all too aware of Ambrosius’s eyes upon him.
“What?!” he snapped irritably.
Ambrosius sharply inhaled. “Adam’s scars pulse with buried memories. I don’t suggest you unearth them.”
“I didn’t ask you.” Toby tried to distract himself by fiddling with the stove’s knobs.
“The scars are already there. However they came to be are of no concern to you. He looks to you for comfort. That is where your concerns should lie.”
Toby blinked against the sunlight. He couldn’t make sense of any words spoken by his enemy. When his vision finally cleared, his eyes settled against Adam at the bar. He walked away from Ambrosius and headed towards where he needed to be.
“Here you go,” Toby said as he handed the platter to a customer. “Enjoy your meal.”
Adam raised an eyebrow at his boyfriend. A chef rarely emerged from the kitchen. Toby spotted the matchbook Adam used to light the customer’s cigarette and he quickly took it in his hands.
“What’s the Lair?” he muttered sternly as he read the text. “Do you know this place?”
“Toby, just drop it.” Adam insisted before he attempted to walk away.
“No!” Toby said firmly and tugged Adam back to him. “This obviously means something to you and I want to know what it is!”
Adam clenched his jaw and slowly debated something in his head. “No… you don’t,” he clarified. “Leave it, Toby. I mean it.”
Toby tensed his shoulders as he watched his boyfriend’s retreating back. “Adam—!” he called after him and was stunned by the reply.
Toby took a step back and tightened his hands into fists at his sides. If Adam wasn’t going to give him the answers he needed, then he knew exactly where to look first...
Toby spent the rest of the day in the kitchen. He stood at the exact right angle where he could still watch Adam through the door. Questions continued to boil in his mind. Toby’s mood had not improved by the time his shift ended, but he was slightly relieved that Adam nevertheless dropped by to give him a goodbye kiss.
“I’ll be heading off now,” Adam said. “Don’t take too long cleaning up, you hear?”
“I won’t,” Toby promised, but his lips were still tense. “We’ll talk at home.”
Adam snorted at the quiet command and shook his head. “I don’t think so, man.”
Toby frowned as his boyfriend walked away. He wasn’t about to let this discussion end so easily. He caught Brit right as she was about to take over Adam’s shift at the bar.
“I need a favor,” Toby announced as he gripped Brit’s shoulder. “Keep an eye out while I search Ambrosius’s office.”
Brit paused. “What?”
“Just two seconds. Please? All you have to do is stand by the door. If I get caught, you can run. I’ll take all the blame.”
Brit groaned and rolled her eyes. Against all her better judgment, she followed Toby back to the office.
Brit crossed her arms and resigned herself to standing guard outside of Bro’s office. Toby was at the computer, desperately searching for anything related to the Lair.
“What the fuck—?” Toby grumbled search after search. “It’s like this place doesn’t even exist!”
“And what do you think that means, huh?” Brit countered from nearby. “Perhaps that’s a sign to leave well enough alone? Any mystery of the Cove is better off left unsolved, that’s what I say. Maybe you should just drop it.”
“Like hell I will,” Toby vowed beneath his breath as he continued to type. “Fuck!”
“What precisely do you wish to find?” Ambrosius inquired as he emerged behind Toby. He showed up out of nowhere as if he had been lurking in the shadows the entire time.
Toby cringed and spun around. Then his head quickly snapped at the door to see that Brit was still standing guard. There was no way for Bro to have entered without her noticing.
“Well?” Ambrosius scolded once he lost patience.
Toby winced and hesitated for a response. Bro’s eyes casually wondered over the computer screen.
“Are you searching for sex clubs during work hours on my computer?!” The warlock questioned heatedly as he took several frightening paces forward.
“My fingers slipped!” Toby proclaimed as he raised his hands up in surrender. He found himself flinching at the expression Bro shot him.
Ambrosius’s dark features contorted into irritation. “I had better hear a sufficient excuse.”
“Uhh…” Toby looked around the room only to discover that Brit had fled. He realized that wasn’t such a bad plan after all. “I have to go…”
Unfortunately, Ambrosius’s hand was on his chest and preventing him from taking another step further. “I am waiting,” the warlock coldly reminded.
“This is the only place with a computer,” Toby admitted softly as if it were an excuse.
Ambrosius groaned. “I feel so honored.”
“Look, all I needed was an address! That’s it! That’s all I need! It should have only taken a few seconds, but this stupid club is obviously trying to be elusive as part of some pathetic publicity campaign!”
Ambrosius slowly blinked as he examined the boy in his grip. He noticed that Toby had something in his hand. “Give it to me.”
Toby blinked a moment himself, but ultimately put the item in the warlock’s hand.
Ambrosius studied the matchbook fondly. “I have the address,” he suddenly offered.
Toby stumbled back a couple of steps. “Wait… what? Why would you help me? That doesn’t even make any sense.”
Ambrosius pondered it for a moment. It didn’t take long for his lips to curl into a devilish smile. He leisurely slung an arm around Toby’s shoulder and pulled the boy closer.
“I am willing to help you, Toby,” the warlock confessed darkly, “because this can only end badly for you.”
The exterior of the Lair was not what Toby had expected. Its simplicity was understated. Its malice was nonexistence. By all appearances, the building was overwhelmingly normal. However, Toby knew all too well that the greatest of evil dwelled within the simplest of walls.
Toby took a step closer. The barriers of the club vibrated with the physical force of the music. The tremble of the concrete below his feet reminded him of what Ambrosius had said, “this can only end badly for you.”
Toby snorted. It was so like Ambrosius to toy with his mind. After all, Toby had placed all his trust in Adam and he knew his boyfriend was incapable of diving that deep into depravity. At his lowest point, Adam was weak. He possessed an addictive personality, but beyond that he couldn’t hurt a fly. Delving a little into his past couldn’t possibly be that dangerous.
Toby swallowed tightly before he knocked his fist at the door. He tried to count the seconds in between, but his mind just could not focus. Before he knew it, a small slit opened. Dark eyes peered back at him and their scrutiny was unwavering.
“Who sent you?” the eyes eventually demanded to know.
“Umm…” Toby scratched his neck. “Uh, Adam, I guess.”
There was a pause in which the eyes did nothing but stare back at him. Without warning, the slit slammed shut.
All Toby had to do was blink and he was immediately inside the Lair. He had no idea if he was pulled in or fell in, but he was suddenly surrounded by red vinyl and flashing lights. Toby’s heart pounded as he examined the scantily clad men around him and suddenly wondered just how big a patron his boyfriend was of this place.
From the corner of his eye, Toby swore he saw a man scream as someone else buried his face within his neck, but by time he turned around, a voice distracted him.
“You’re new,” the blond man admired as he slowly trailed a finger along Toby’s neck. “And… different?”
The strange man then sniffed Toby as if he couldn’t be sure.
Toby shrunk away from his touch. He quickly protected his shirt from being torn off as the blond insisted for more.
“No shirts,” the blond explained dully. “Club policy.”
Toby suddenly remembered that this was an establishment that he had entered. There was a code to follow and business to be made. However, he did not like the way the blond’s hand slip beneath his shirt.
“Are you for real?” Toby snapped. He narrowed his eyes when the blond didn’t respond. Not verbally anyways. His hands were suddenly on Toby again and eagerly tugging off his shirt.
“You can reclaim this after tonight’s events,” the blond promised with a smirk as he tucked Toby’s shirt into his back pocket. “How well do you know this Adam fellow anyway?”
Toby felt the muscles around his neck tighten. “How do you know Adam?” he countered.
The blond snorted a laugh before he took a step away from Toby. He studied the boy briefly before he came to a decision. He pulled out a card seemingly out of nowhere and offered it to Toby.
“For the backroom,” the man explained. “Once you hear your number, waste no time to come on back. You won’t regret it – that’s also club policy.”
Toby accepted the card with some hesitation. “What’s it for?”
“Oh, whatever you want.” The blond slanted him a smile. “As many times as you want.”
Toby groaned and shook his head. Nevertheless, he studied the number on his card. He was beginning to regret his decision already, but he wouldn’t back down from gaining the answers he needed.
“A friend of Adam’s is a friend of ours,” the blond insisted with a mischievous smirk. “You go on to the bar until your number’s called. The drinks are on me, so don’t hold back.”
Toby narrowed his eyes, but he didn’t feel comfortable confronting the blond just yet. He headed off to the bar and refused the glass the server offered him. He simply sat intently as he clutched the card in his hands. He hadn’t thought of his next step. Actually, he had no idea how long he even sat there. It took him several moments to realize that they had been announcing his number over the music for quite some time.
Toby sat up stiffly when he recognized his number. He cleared his throat and clasped his card as he debated whether or not to go into the backroom. Reigning himself, Toby eventually pushed himself away from the bar and headed to the back.
The walk was dark and silent. The music of the club did not pulsate through the narrow hallways. Instead, Toby heard the moaning and groaning from the other rooms. Just as people were at the climax of their screams, the sound would sudden stop.
“Right in here.”
Toby was abruptly shoved into a room. He could have only assumed it was the blond who was capable of such urgent geniality. He took a moment to rub the sting at his shoulder and that’s when he noticed the mirror in front of him.
Toby took his next couple of steps with caution. He wondered if his reflection was anything like Adam had seen. What Toby saw looking back at him was someone who was lonely; someone who was desperate. He had deep shadows below his brow. It hurt almost to keep his eyes open. He would have snapped them shut had he not seen a twinkle of light behind him.
Instead of turning around, Toby examined the reflection before him. The wall behind him was painted red and decorated with rows and rows of implements. Leather, wood, lexan… it all stretched across the wall. Some metal studs sparkled like rhinestones underneath the weak light. Each tool was on a hook, ready for immediate use and Toby knew that hundreds, if not thousands, of men had been through these doors. The dim, flickering light bulb above his head offered little to see, but Toby could feel the scuffs and scratches on the counter beneath his hands.
There was a long, agonizing creak as the door suddenly closed and Toby found himself frozen in place. He gripped the counter before him and held onto his breath. He had not anticipated another presence in the room just yet. He certainly had not expected someone to have been hiding behind the door the entire time.
When Toby saw it was Adam, he immediately let his breath go. “Goddamn it, Adam—”
“Don’t turn around.”
Stunned, Toby held his breath for the second time. Obeying Adam’s forceful request, he did not turn around. Instead, he just met his boyfriend’s gaze in the mirror. They both looked different then they had before. The Lair obviously had a way of taking hold of people.
Toby continued to stare back at Adam through the mirror. When his boyfriend dropped his eyes, that’s when he knew something was undoubtedly wrong.
The look that Adam flashed back made Toby cringe away. He held his tongue and watched intently as Adam’s reflection continued his slow movements.
Adam’s hand was on his buckle and Toby felt his heart pound.
A second later, Toby heard the distinct sound of Adam’s belt being pulled through its loops.
“Adam…!” Toby’s voice was a little higher that time.
“Don’t talk,” Adam ordered as he stopped Toby from turning around again.
As Toby swallowed, he felt the muscles along his throat tighten. Adam’s eyes now endlessly met his reflection’s and an eerie feeling crept up his spine. The sensation of awaiting instructions was undeniably powerful. It sent shivers coursing through his body.
Adam stretched the leather belt in his hands. It had a snap to it that made Toby wince. He didn’t resist when Adam pulled his arms back and tightly fastened them together behind him.
Adam pushed Toby’s head forward so that he was completely bent over the counter. Toby had no choice but to look directly at his own reflection. His eyes were more desperate than they were before and shame had warmed his cheeks with color. This position and this view intensified the humiliation he felt.
“Is this was you wanted?” Adam asked.
Toby tried to look at him, but Adam’s hand was still on his neck. He tried his best to swallow the knot in his throat. “Adam, you know it’s not.”
Adam stepped away and Toby was finally able to ease back enough to watch his movements through the mirror. Adam’s finger trailed across the line of instruments on the wall. The first to catch his eye was a braided, leather flogger and Toby couldn’t deny that he was relieved when Adam finally walked away from that item.
Toby closed his eyes and let out a sigh, but within moments he saw Adam admiring a looped, leather strap. The prospect of its whipping, stinging action was enough to make him whimper.
“No, Adam!” he suddenly blurted out. His hands jerked against his restraints as he instinctively tried to cover his own mouth. Too ashamed to meet Adam’s reproaching response, Toby snapped his eyes shut. He only opened them again when he heard Adam resume his steps.
Toby cautiously watched his boyfriend walk pass the strap. Adam barely acknowledged the following paddles. Towards the end of the line were canes and twisted loops and Toby could not be sure exactly what they were, but he suspected their use was all the same.
Adam finally stopped before a flat and wide wooden stick. He took it in his hand to study the strength and weight of it. To Toby, it looked like a thicker, heavier ruler without numbers. Six vertical holes were drilled at the top and Toby recoiled as his imagination took a painful plunge.
Toby squeezed his eyes together as Adam approached him with that stick. He bit back a small cry as he felt it lightly caresses the dip in his back, then down the curve of his now vulnerable backside. Each soft stroke made him squirm.
“Open your eyes,” Adam instructed.
“Please, Adam,” Toby pleaded against the counter. His lips could feel the scratches that he noticed before.
“Open them,” Adam said firmer this time. “I want you to see this.”
Toby whimpered into the counter as he slowly returned Adam’s gaze in the mirror. The stick in Adam’s hand was gripped firmly in determination and Toby wished he had never seen that matchbook…
“Is this what you wanted?” Adam asked again.
When Toby didn’t answer fast enough, Adam whipped the stick against the counter. Toby jerked back at the sudden movement. The crack landed menacingly close and Toby could only imagine the impact it would have had on skin.
“No! Fuck, Adam! NO!” Toby panted in frenzy. “This is not what I wanted!”
He began to struggle earnestly against his binds, but Adam placed a hand on his wrists.
“It’s whatever they want, as much as they want,” Adam spoke softly and Toby looked up as he recognized that statement. “You don’t have a choice here, Toby. Once you walk through these doors, that’s all the permission they need.”
Toby managed to settle his jerky breaths. He tried not to wonder just who would have been lurking behind that door if Adam never showed up.
“And once those doors close,” Adam added, “there’s a good chance you’re never coming back.”
Toby tested his restraints again. He started to understand why Adam tried to keep this side of him hidden. He remembered that not too long ago Adam had almost lost himself in the darkness of the island.
“Adam,” Toby sighed resignedly, “take me home.”
Toby watched as his boyfriend quietly thought over the request. Adam still tapped the stick against the counter and each movement, no matter how slow, made him flinch. The small, yet harsh taps hinted at the weight behind Adam’s swing and Toby wasn’t eager to find out more.
That was an order Toby was relieved to obey. He slowly stood away from the mirror and let Adam loosen the belt around his wrists.
Unfortunately, Toby didn’t feel any less ashamed when he finally looked at Adam. He felt painfully chastised having been caught in the act of snooping behind his boyfriend’s back.
Toby allowed his arms to be pulled around Adam’s neck. He crumbled against his boyfriend’s chest; the urgency for comfort now taking priority. For a brief moment, he hardly recognized Adam, but now his boyfriend was no longer the threatening force that cornered him in the Lair. Toby pressed his face into the crook of Adam’s shoulder and lulled himself in the scent of his sun-warmed skin.
“You asshole,” Toby breathed against Adam. The fact that this was just a ploy to teach him a lesson left him feeling unbelievably relieved. Toby’s fingers dug into the other man’s hair and he could feel the scars that had caused all this trouble to begin with.
Adam nearly grinned. “Got you to listen, didn’t it?”
“Asshole,” Toby murmured again until Adam pulled him back for a kiss. Adam could still feel the other man’s chest heave with each breath he took. That’s when he took Toby’s face into his hands.
“Dude, I’m telling you: nothing supernatural is gonna rip up apart,” Adam promised as he searched Toby’s eyes. “You just have to stop looking for danger. I mean it, Toby. You already have a warlock riding your ass at work. You don’t need anything else to worry about. This will be your last trip to the Lair if you know what’s good for you.”
Despite the small jab about warlocks, Toby saw a flicker of anger in Adam’s eyes before the light bulb burned out. Adam groaned and took Toby’s hand.
“Great, we better get outta here,” he stated before Toby pulled him back in.
“I…” Toby stammered nervously and his hands rubbed his bare arms. “I, uh, I don’t have my, umm… my shirt.”
Toby trembled underneath Adam’s gaze. “It’s, uh, club policy,” he explained awkwardly.
Adam frowned. “Yeah, I know.” He shrugged off his shirt and tossed it to Toby.
With a sheepish smile, Toby pulled the other man’s shirt over his head. However, being fully clothed again didn’t make him feel any less vulnerable in the darken club.
“Don’t make any eye contact on the way out,” Adam suggested as he slipped his arm around Toby’s waist.
Adam kept Toby tight against him as he escorted themselves out of the Lair. He made a couple of small nods and short goodbyes before they were in the moonlight again. Toby couldn’t help but note how easy it was for Adam to walk out of the club with his bare chest. The number of people he knew by name made him uneasy.
Adam slowly slid his arm away from Toby’s waist and took his hand. Toby smiled back at him, noticing that the gentle energy away from the Lair had an overall effort on their dispositions. The tourists had deserted the beach and all they could hear were the quiet roars of the ocean waves.
The soft, velvety sand had cooled underneath the moonlight. A few wispy clouds painted the sky in a watercolor of blues, purples, and pinks. Toby realized how remarkable it was to be underneath the full glory of the night. Only on the Cove could the real dangers lurk indoors...
“What was that even?” Toby asked quietly once enough silence had passed.
Adam looked back at him fondly. “Hmm?”
“That stick. It kinda looked like a ruler.”
“Ooh.” Adam laughed at the way Toby blushed. “Just a slimmer paddle, I guess. I really don’t know, man.”
Toby gave Adam’s hand a squeeze as he thought it over. “Shouldn’t you?”
“Toby,” Adam sighed, knowing that this conversation could easily turn into another argument. “They have a lot of backrooms. I didn’t even know they had that one.”
“Then how did I end up in there?”
Adam considered Toby and just had to laugh. “I guess Colin thought you needed to be punished!”
Toby rolled his eyes and pushed Adam back a step. “Nice,” he teased back. “I just thought since I knew you that they would stick me in one of your old rooms.”
“None of them are my room,” Adam clarified in a way that made Toby’s eyes drop. “I’m not like that anymore. That compulsion is no longer there. Getting mixed up in that shit was the worst thing I could have possibly done. I reorganized my entire life to fit to their schedule. Getting high at night wasn’t the problem because I knew the Lair would always be there. It’s when the sun came up that I had to worry... I had to do a lot of shit to ensure I had enough saint to make it through the day.”
“They gave you that much saint, huh?”
“Yep…” Adam said regretfully as he kicked his sandal into the sand. “Whatever I wanted, as many times as I wanted.”
Toby looked apologetically up at Adam, but continued with his next question nonetheless. “You want to tell me who Colin is?”
Adam sighed and kept on walking. “Not much to tell, Toby. Blond, smirky… he’s in charge of doling out the numbers.”
“And he helped set this up?”
Adam nodded. He failed to notice that the other man was working himself up.
“How did you know that I would even show up at the Lair?”
Adam gave him a sidelong glance. “Bro told me.”
Toby scowled and halted their trek. “Ambrosius?” he spat.
Adam placed his hands on his hips and stared authoritatively down at Toby. He caught the undeniable menace in his voice and planned to stop it in its track. “That’s enough, Toby.”
Toby was so flustered that he could hardly get his next words out. “A-are you shitting me, Adam? Can’t you see that Ambrosius has a vendetta against me? I mean, who the hell did you think even gave me that address?!”
“I’m glad he called me.”
“You’re glad?” Toby gawked at the resoluteness in Adam’s statement. “He started this whole fucking mess!”
“That’s where you wrong,” Adam corrected sternly. “He just saved your ass. This whole mess started because you wouldn’t leave it alone.”
Toby felt anger sweep through him. “Can’t you see he set this entire thing up!” he shouted in earnest. “The matchbook? The address? The call! He even told me it would end badly for me!”
“Oh, Toby,” Adam sighed and considered his next words very carefully. “Kevin left you for Bro. That was his choice to make. I am sorry that happened, but there comes a point when you’re just gonna have to accept it and stop blaming everything that’s wrong in the world on black magic.”
“This isn’t even about Kevin—”
“It’s about listening,” Adam stated very determinedly. “I told you to stop prying, to stop messing around in my past. That’s a part of my life that I want to forget. Did you ever stop to think about what it would do to me? To go back there?”
Toby braced himself as he watched Adam’s hand disappear into his back pocket. When it emerged again, he was holding a tiny, metal box.
“This is what they do,” Adam revealed as he tossed the tin at Toby. “They slip you whatever drugs they can in the hope that you’ll return for more. Sometimes you won’t even realize they did it. You just wake up one day and you’re hooked and you just keep going back to that place night after night. You won’t even know why, you just know that it makes the pain go away. Can you imagine what they would do to you if they thought it would get to me?”
Toby was momentarily stricken with guilt. He let the tin of saint fall to the ground. However, as he contemplated Adam’s speech, he felt his initial anger returning in waves.
“Is this another one of your scare tactics?” Toby accused as he kicked the metal box into the shadows. “Like your act back at the Lair? Goddamn it, Adam. I hate when you do this, I really do. It makes me feel like we’re back in high school and you’re a bully all over again.”
“No,” Toby said definitively. “I’m not gonna let you bully me just so you can get your way. I’m done listening to you. I’ll meet you back at Grace’s.”
“Hold it right there,” Adam warned and jerked Toby back a step. “Neither of us is going to be walking home from the Lair at night alone.”
Toby’s mouth tightened into a willful line as he pulled against Adam’s grip. “Let me go!”
“So help me god, Toby,” Adam snarled in his ear, “I will drag you back home like this the entire way if I have to!”
Adam’s words were astonishingly harsh, but Toby was determined to make it difficult for him. He twisted in the other man’s grasp. Grunting and groaning, he dug his feet in the ground. It was beyond maddening how Adam always managed to tighten his grip. Toby ended up cursing breathlessly as his boyfriend proceeded to hold him with little effort.
With frustration draining him, Toby finally conceded and allowed Adam to shepherd him back home. He was more compliant then he had been all night, but his triceps still flexed angrily beneath Adam’s stern grip. As they approached the house, Toby hoped that he would be trusted enough to walk the last couple of paces without an escort. Unfortunately, he was mortified at the realization that Adam intended to see his promise through.
Adam practically threw Toby inside house. “I don’t want to see you step foot out of your room for the rest of the night.”
“Fine by me,” Toby managed to say in a disinterested tone as he stormed off towards the bedroom.
“And tomorrow at work you’re gonna apologize to Bro for breaking into his office,” Adam added and readied himself for a reaction.
Pulse racing swiftly, Toby’s only response was to slam the bedroom door shut. He wasn’t particularly interested in anyone seeing his redden face anyway.
Adam kicked out a chair and sat at the island in the middle of the kitchen. He hunched over the countertop and tried to ignore that Brit had just seen the entire exchange.
“You know,” she said as she played with the mug in her hands, “it’s partly my fault for breaking into Bro’s office. I should have stopped him.”
“Toby knew what he was doing.”
“I’d just feel bad if he were fired over it.”
Adam sighed and rubbed his eyes. “Bro would never fire Toby, that’s what I don’t get. Bro gave us all jobs when he didn’t have to! This feud Toby keeps going on about seems completely one-sided.”
Brit pretended to stir her tea as she cautiously looked over Adam. “You think he’s jealous over Kevin?”
“I know he’s jealous over Kevin!” Adam grunted. “It’s just that… I’ve seen Kevin and Bro together. They’re happy. I mean, they’re really happy. There’s no faking that. I know Toby was devastated by the breakup, but he’s gotta stop blaming it on some sort of dark history of the Cove. He keeps acting like something paranormal is waiting to steal me away.”
Brit held back a smile. “Yeah, sometimes that Toby puts too much faith in magic.”
“I mean, how long did Toby and Kevin even date anyway?” Adam grumbled as he felt himself getting agitated. “Three months? Was it even that long? I’ve known Toby my entire life! He should have more trust in me than this.”
Brit raised her brow and kept on stirring. “I hear you were quite the self-centered jock in high school.”
Adam rolled his eyes at Brit’s grin, but didn’t take any offense. “But I was always there for Toby. He should know I’m not going anywhere. Blood-thirsty cultists couldn’t stop me from loving him.”
Brit set her tea down and leaned against the counter. “I’m sure Toby would be glad to hear that.”
Adam shrugged. “It’s not enough to just say it.”
Brit frowned at the tired scowl on Adam’s face. Her roommate was obviously in a gloomy mood and would likely be that way all night.
“Well,” Brit sighed as she placed her mug in the sink. “I better get to bed. Elena doesn’t like it when I wake her up in the middle of the night. Would you like me to make the couch up for you?”
Adam groaned and restrained a smile with some effort. “Nah, I don’t think Toby is that mad at me.”
Brit nodded. She was well aware that living in such tight quarters on the Cove made everyone quarrel over the slightest things, but they ultimately banded together when it truly mattered. If Toby and Adam could survive the night, Brit knew her boys would be alright.
Toby had spent the rest of the night trying to constrain his seething curiosity. Lying next to Adam did nothing to alleviate the situation since all his drug-induced blackouts left him frustratingly cryptic. Adam only remembered bits and pieces of the Lair and that was not enough information to satisfy Toby.
Consequently, Toby decided to return to the Lair, but this time he would not limit himself to the club’s hours. He waited until the sun came up and Adam had left for work.
A small slit opened when Toby knocked, but no eyes greeted him like they had before.
“We’re closed,” came the echoed voice and the slit quickly closed.
Toby knocked again. “I’m not going anywhere!”
His fist pounded harder this time until he heard a muffled exchange behind the closed doors. He listened intently, but never caught a word. Nevertheless, the doors to the Lair parted.
Toby walked into the darken entrance. The club was seemingly empty. Once he was fully inside, the doors closed with a crash.
Toby jumped and when he turned around again Colin was directly in his face.
“It’s okay, boys,” the blond called over his shoulder. “I mean, where would our hospitality be if we cannot open our doors to Toby Moraitis?”
Toby saw the flash of hostility in the other man’s eyes. “You know me?”
Colin raised his chin proudly and flaunted his very white teeth. “Oh, I know every member of the club by name.”
“I’m not a member.”
“But your buddy Adam is.”
Toby felt his mouth go dry. “He isn’t...” he stated like a question.
“He’s an honorary member,” Colin corrected abruptly. His lip started to pull back into his customary, wicked grin. “You did say he invited you, right? Because there are severe consequences for lying at the Lair.”
“I’m exactly where I need to be,” Toby maintained.
Colin managed to smile even through his disapproval. “What can I do for you, Toby? You may have noticed that I am always eager to please.” He ran a hand down Toby’s neck, but the other man shoved him away.
“I just want my shirt,” Toby answered evenly.
The blond feigned remorse. “Oooh, that’s gonna be a problem, Mr. Moraitis. You see, all misplaced items are thrown into the lost & found and whatever isn’t claimed at the end of the night becomes property of the Lair. However…” Colin trailed off as he looked over Toby with an appraising eye. “I am willing to negotiate a trade if you are.”
Toby could feel his insides twist at the offer and he couldn’t help but groan his disgust.
Relishing in his unease, Colin continued, “But if the shirt was worth more than a pretty penny, I might be willing to work it off. Just tell me what you need. I’m open for ideas.”
Toby continued to groan, but managed to strengthen his resolve. “What about information?”
“I’m not a knowledgeable kind of a guy,” the man said dryly.
“It’s a simple question I think you can handle,” Toby promised. “Just what is your relationship with Adam? Are you two friends or something?”
“Oh, we’re best friends when he’s on his back,” Colin assured through a penetrating gaze. “I can be your best friend, too, if you let me.”
“The springs all dried up,” Toby informed abruptly. “Where is all your saint coming from?”
“Whoa,” Colin put his hands up in the air and backed away. “I’m sorry, but we are not that type of establishment. We take out legalities very seriously around here.”
Toby looked around the darken cesspool. “Cut the bullshit. I know what’s going on.”
Colin’s eyes steadily grew more intent. “I don’t think you do.”
“Adam told me.”
Taken aback, Toby allowed a momentary cloud of doubt to shroud his face and Colin decided to jump at the opportunity to help him entertain the idea.
“Don’t worry, buddy, it happens to the best of us.” Colin very casually placed a hand on Toby’s shoulder and began to lead him through the club. “Just can’t trust a thing that bitch says.”
“Yes, you can when it comes to Adam,” Toby finally insisted without realizing he was being steered. “He may not have been the most dependable guy in past, but he always tries. He wouldn’t say anything to me that he didn’t believe was true.”
“That’s the funny thing about perception. You just never know what a person is gonna talk themselves into believing. It may legitimately have no basis in reality.”
“If you know Adam half as well as you claim you do,” Toby challenged, “you would know he doesn’t lie.”
“Hey,” Colin said defensively as he ushered Toby towards the bar. “If I were in your shoes, I’d be in denial, too. Now have a seat at the bar. Enjoy a complimentary drink and I’ll go get that shirt of yours.”
Toby briefly pondered over the sudden shift of character. He may not have received the answers he was looking for, but at least he would retrieve his shirt. More importantly, he received the reminder he needed that Adam’s trust in him was unwavering, as well the accompanied guilt that would ensure that he’d place more faith in his boyfriend from now on, (just as he should have from the beginning). He and Adam had a future, but the Lair was no part of it.
“It’s noon,” Toby indicated curtly as the bartender slid a glass of bourbon towards him. “Just… just give me a glass of water, okay?”
The bartender returned with a glass of ice water and a slice of lemon and handed it to Toby.
“I thought you guys only opened at night?” Toby asked bitterly as he took a sip.
“We like to keep the days open for private reservations,” the bartender clarified.
Toby laughed into his glass. “Good. For a second I thought you guys actually lived here.”
“I’d have to be dead to want to live in this crypt,” the bartender joked as he watched Toby take small sips from his glass.
“It’s not so bad here,” Toby offered politely as he looked around the now abandoned club. During the quiet of the day, it looked very different from its sex-obsessed night life.
Toby admitted that he entered this establishment feeling overcome by resentment and confusion, but as he sat with the bartender, he felt all those anxieties slip away. The overpowering sense of forbidding that he had gripped him for days had finally began to loosen its hold.
Toby’s eyes fluttered opened. He was overcome by a sudden sense of dizziness. Once his vision started to clear, he realized that he was in his own bed. He jerked back at the immediate change of scenery. This was not the last place he remembered being…
Toby swallowed hard as he realized that he had no recollection of how he came to be here. When he looked around the room, he saw Adam standing in the doorway with his arms folded unhappily across his chest. The displeasure in his eyes made the situation that much more distressing.
“How did I get here?” Toby dared to ask as he searched the room for any clues. He looked for a napkin, a book of matches, that little card with numbers — anything that would prove that he had been to the Lair. It was as if he had woken up from a bad dream and he wasn’t sure which parts of his memories were real.
“Some goon dropped you off,” Adam answered flatly. “You’re lucky, Toby. Damn lucky.”
Toby blinked against Adam’s cold stare. “I d-don’t understand…”
“This was just a warning, you know. A warning to you and a favor for me. What the hell were you thinking going back there?”
Toby groaned and tried to cradle his head. He was not yet ready to admit that this was actually happening. As he lowered his chin, he suddenly noticed his bare chest. He gripped the blankets tightly and hesitated to look underneath.
“I’m naked…” Toby observed breathlessly. “Oh. My. God. I’m naked…!”
Adam sighed sourly. “That was me.”
“You took my clothes?”
“I was checking for marks, Toby.”
Toby’s hands immediately flung to his neck. His fingertips frantically searched for any fresh wounds that mirrored Adam’s scars. “Shit! You’re kidding me?!”
“You’re good, Toby,” Adam promised, but his firm tone was far from reassuring. “You’re good, but you really had me worried there.”
Toby struggled for words. His fists gripped and un-gripped the blankets at his sides. “Is this what they did to you?” he managed to ask even though his concern made his voice tremble. “They hurt you? Just what the fuck did they do to you?!”
“Toby…” Adam scolded very softly. “They can’t hurt me anymore. It’s you I’m worried about.”
“Adam,” the other man scoffed. “I’ve been in worse situations—”
“I don’t want you to be in worse situations!” Adam finally shouted. The desperation in his eyes made the other man shrink back. “Do you know how fucked up it is to have your boyfriend’s lifeless body dragged back home by some stranger in the middle of the day?!”
Toby soon felt his own anger rising. “Actually, I do,” he clarified. “It was just six months ago when you stumbled back to the Dante bruised and practically OD’ing. I felt my own life crashing down at the thought of losing you. I dedicated my entire life to keeping you safe and keeping you grounded, yet every time you slipped from view you managed to fuck up. I felt like shit knowing you could die if I even blinked!”
Adam hesitated at Toby’s words. His testimony was obviously meant to shame, but Adam wasn’t about to give his boyfriend the satisfaction. He stood boldly before Toby and said, “You’re right. You’re absolutely right. Now that we’ve swapped places, how does it feel to be the fuck up?”
Momentarily confused, Toby shook his head. “What…?”
“You fucked up,” Adam reiterated. “Now I’m the responsible one, always watching your back. I’m now the one who feels like shit because I have to worry about you lying, sneaking around, and getting yourself killed. I know you to be more responsible than this! For fuck sake, Toby, it was your maturity that drew me to you in the first place!” Adam took a breath in an effort to calm himself. “So, I ask you again: how does it feel to be the fuck up?”
Toby tried to dismiss him with a grunt. “Cut it out, Adam,” he ordered. “You’re not making your point.”
“You fucked up!” Adam emphasized. “What would you have done if it were me?”
That was all the reaction that Adam needed. After pinning Toby with a firm glare, he quietly left the room to leave his boyfriend alone to contemplate his choices from the past couple of days.
Toby remained sitting stiffly in his bed. The question was enough to stun him into silence. His face was frozen with that shameful expression.
He knew exactly what he would have done if it were Adam. Had his boyfriend lied or put himself in danger, he would have received a very long lecture about actions and the consequences of them. The discussion would only conclude after an even longer and more thorough spanking. Toby would have made sure Adam was a very sorry boy before he ever thought about returning to the Lair.
Knowing that Adam believed he earned such a punishment made Toby’s cheeks burn.
Toby groaned and threw himself back against the pillows. He covered his warm face with his hands.
“I did fuck up,” Toby was finally able to admit to himself. He never remembered disappointing Adam before. He never even thought it was possible. Adam was always so easy going. It was shaming to discover there was a limit to his patience.
Deciding to do some damage control, Toby quickly found a pair of black underwear and slipped them on. Then he followed Adam into the kitchen. He was surprised to see him already reaching for the wooden spoon.
“I cook with that spoon,” Toby tried to say coolly.
It was quite startling to see his boyfriend holding one of his cooking implements. He never suspected that such a simple sight could make his pulse jump so quickly. The sight of his two greatest passions now turned into an eerie vision of forbidding. The moonlight glowing from the kitchen windows wasn’t enough to shadow the humility crawling up his face.
The wooden spoon swiftly became a blur as Adam seized Toby’s upper arm in one hand and whacked the spoon against his backside with the other.
“Ow!” Toby yelped and shot up on his toes. He quickly forced himself to recover. He placed his hands on the counter where Adam led him. He had every intention to grate his way through it if Adam thought he deserved such a sentence. His dignity would be a small sacrifice if it would set his boyfriend’s mind at ease.
However, the spoon licked his other cheek and Toby instantly tried to dance his way from Adam’s grasp.
“That’s enough!” Toby ordered when the sharp sting reconnected with his backside again. Adam was swatting him with a steady pace that soon lit up his bottom. He stirred in his boyfriend’s grip, but Adam never released his upper arm.
“Adam, st-OP!” Toby tried again. The hard smacks were quickly overcoming him.
Adam sighed as he looked over Toby. His boyfriend was far from repentant, but he nevertheless had enough with the wooden spoon.
Adam let the wooden implement drop to the floor. He quickly kicked out a stool and jerked Toby towards him. He soon had his boyfriend pinned over one knee.
Toby blinked at the sudden motion, but in a desperate attempt to maintain control he threw a hand back.
A small, breathless gasp emerged from Toby when he felt Adam grip his wrist and pin it to his back. He had always been the levelheaded one in the relationship. This was the first time he ever had to relinquish complete control and, with a sob, he realized that he was unprepared to face that fact.
Adam’s hand was not as harsh as the wooden spoon, but its speed soon ignited his bottom with the same fury. Swat after swat with his hand alone was enough to leave Toby gasping and desperate to hold back tears.
Adam proceeded to spank Toby even as he jerked and struggled across his knee. Right now, he knew that Toby was mostly conflicted about surrendering control. Fortunately, Adam knew to trust his own judgment. He would push through Toby’s resistance until the other man was truly remorseful.
Soon, the battle vanished from Toby’s body. As Adam continued to hold him bent across one knee, Toby knew had no choice but to accept the rest of his spanking. It was too late to talk his way out of this one. He cringed at each stinging swat, knowing that he deserved every one of them.
The cheeks beneath Toby’s briefs visibly turned pink. Since Adam’s hand was a considerably softer implement compared to the wooden spoon, he decided that Toby no longer needed that extra layer of protection. His fingers slipped beneath the brim of his underwear and Toby held his breath.
A grunt of pain emerged from Toby’s throat the next time Adam spanked him. Toby tried to keep his mouth clamped shut, but the same sound would always follow. He bit his lip to hold onto those embarrassing pleas, but the harder Adam spanked, the harder it was for Toby to hang onto his composure. He sobbed each and every time his cheeks were burnt by the hard swats. He was no longer able to contain his cries within his clenched teeth.
“Adam, you were rrr-IGHT!” Toby relented beneath his boyfriend’s unyielding sting. He twisted on top of the other’s knee to look Adam in the eye. “I… I-I’m ss-ORRY! Please, Adam! I’m sorry!”
Adam heard the anguishing tremor in Toby’s voice. As the next couple of spanks fell, he finally saw Toby’s eyes glistening with remorse. As much as it pained him to punish his boyfriend, they needed to reach an understanding. He genuinely hoped that Toby would remember this lesson the next time it came to trusting his judgment. Adam was no longer the spoiled, trust fund brat who relied on a hit of saint to pass the time. He had grown enough to protect his boyfriend when he really needed it.
Adam’s scorching hand finally stopped spanking Toby. He gently rested it on the other man’s back. He softly kneaded the tense muscles of the body draped across his knee in an effort to calm those frantic tears. It took a few minutes for the deep sobs to gradually subside.
“You’re okay,” Adam soothed as he gripped Toby’s arm and helped him stand from his lap.
Toby hissed as he was finally set on his feet. Before he was able to rub at the sting, Adam pulled his arms around his neck. He heard Toby whimper a halfhearted protest.
“Just put your arms around me,” Adam instructed with surprising softness. He held his boyfriend in a gentle embrace.
“It’s not f-fair,” Toby pouted into his boyfriend’s ear. “I al-always let you r-rub.” Despite the slight sulkiness, he gripped Adam tighter. Toby quickly turned his gentle embrace into a fierce hug. He needed this contact to distract from the anguishing heat of his backside.
“I know,” Adam acknowledged with a kiss. “But I’m a bully, remember?”
Toby held back a tearful laugh. “You asshole,” he murmured into Adam’s ear and managed to push his face deeper into his shoulder. “Asshole.”
“You’ll be alright,” Adam promised as he felt the other man quiver in his arms. “I got you.”
Toby’s entire body seemed to tighten around Adam’s touch. He had spent the past couple of days with an immovable lump of anxiety. Now that he was freed of such a weight, he could finally let himself be overcome by Adam’s care.
After a few minutes of drenching himself in Adam’s comfort, Toby finally stepped away. The sting in his backside was still remarkably persistent.
“Can I rub now?” Toby asked pitifully.
Adam grinned and gently caressed the other man’s cheek. “Yeah… Yeah, you can, as long as you get your ass in bed. I think you can do with some rest.”
Toby offered Adam a shy smile. He was admittedly tired and knew that his body was about to deal with the aftermath of saint.
With a quick blush, Toby pulled up his underwear and headed back to his room. He was stunned to see Adam follow him.
“Sss-shouldn’t you be at w-work, or sss-something?” Toby was still shaky from his spanking. He watched curiously as Adam scooted beside him in bed.
“You always sat beside me whenever I came down from saint,” Adam reminded gently.
“But I like sitting beside you,” Toby said with a flicker of buoyancy.
Adam smiled back. “And I like sitting beside you.”
Toby felt his face flush, but still indulged in Adam’s soft laugh. It was nice to know that no dark history of the island could cast a shadow over their need for one another.
Adam nestled against the pillows as he pulled Toby to his chest. He savored that familiar weight on top of him. However, within seconds of embracing his boyfriend, he could feel Toby’s body tremble again. He groaned playfully and smiled at his boyfriend’s adorably soft cries.
“Oh, Tobyyyy,” Adam admired teasingly. “You’re so pathetic!” He held on tighter to the shaking body in his arms. He wanted nothing more than to comfort his boyfriend.
“Cut me some slack,” Toby persisted with a sniffle. “I just had my first s-spanking and I’m still upset about your scars.” While he wasn’t complaining, he still glanced up at Adam and wondered about the mysteries of the Lair.
“All scars fade with time,” Adam assured quietly with a kiss to his boyfriend’s head. “It took you six months to notice these. As long as you don’t go breaking my heart, all other wounds will heal. That I can promise you.”
Adam casually ran a hand through Toby’s hair. “I abused saint long before I ever set foot in that place. The Lair only further enabled my addiction and that’s all I know. I think the next person who steps foot in the Lair shouldn’t be able to sit for week.”
Toby winced for a moment, but soon realized that Adam was included in that threat. The Lair had depths that were waiting to be explored, but such an exploration wouldn’t include either him or Adam. Toby wouldn’t hesitate to put Adam over his knee to keep him from returning to the Lair and Toby now knew that Adam would do that same.
Finding comfort in that knowledge, Toby flashed Adam a warm smile. “We take care of each other,” he said fondly and he rested his head back down against Adam.
Toby heard Adam moan in agreement as he nestled further into his chest. It was nice to finally be safe in his boyfriend’s arms. The only downside was a very sore backside. The sting that warmed his bottom reminded him that he should place more faith in his boyfriend’s ability to lead. Adam had been right from the beginning. Toby might have recognized that side of Adam had he not yielded to his own stubbornness.
So, Toby closed his eyes and waited to drift off into sleep within the security of his boyfriend’s hold. He was grateful that he could place his trust in Adam’s leadership, especially in those rare occasions when he himself was unable to lead them. After all the secrets and lies, it was reassuring to reach a stage of their relationship where they could equally rely on each other.