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Take My Syndrome, Give Me Yours

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Kris had never felt pain like this. It seemed to pulse through him like a living, breathing thing. He tried to drift away from it, toward sleep or unconsciousness, but the respite was always short-lived. In the end, he’d always come awake to it once more.

He was awake when Adam came back into the cell, though he barely noticed the clanging of the metal door or the sound of a tray being set down on the floor. Food was the last thing on his mind, just the very thought of it made his stomach churn, so he ignored it, ignoring Adam as well. Except that he couldn’t ignore the dip in the mattress behind him, the feel of Adam’s hand atop his hip, his voice low and soothing next to his ear.

“I have something for you,” Adam said.

And then Kris felt something being slipped into his good hand, something small and hard. Curiosity got the better of him and he peered down at it.

It was a pill.

“It’s for the pain,” Adam said. “Place it under your tongue and let it dissolve. It will also help you sleep.”

“But why would you-”

“Talk after you take it, Allen. Trust me.”

Trust me

The words sparked something inside of Kris, an anger that he had thought buried under his misery. He turned, albeit clumsily and despite the shooting pain. “You really expect me to trust anything you say or do? You cut apart my fucking hand.”

“No,” Adam said calmly. “But take it anyway. Unless you prefer to be in pain.”

Kris looked down at the pill, trying to think past the fogginess in his brain. Take it or don’t take it. Take it or don’t take it.

In the end he decided that it didn’t matter. He simply didn’t care anymore. If Adam wanted to poison him, then, fuck it, he was ok with that.

He placed the pill under his tongue and waited, closing his eyes in anticipation. After a few moments, he could feel the pain easing, growing duller and duller with each passing second. With a long sigh of relief, Kris uncurled his body, letting muscles relax and loosen after too long clenched tight.

He felt no pain now, his body and mind feeling heavy and fuzzy. It was not, by any means, an unpleasant sensation.

“If it helps to know,” Adam said, “I didn’t want to do that to you.”

Kris settled back against the cot, looking up at Adam. They were very close, close enough for their legs to touch, for Kris to feel the heat from Adam’s body. His anger was giving way to exhaustion and confusion. His voice was soft when he asked, “Then why did you?”

Adam just stared down at him, eyebrows drawing together. “He gave me an order,” he said simply. As if that explained everything.

“So what, does he own you?” Kris asked. “Do you have to do everything he tells you?”

“You don’t understand.”

“So explain it to me. Who is he to you? Why do you follow him so blindly?”

“Kris . . .”

“Tell me. You owe me that much.”

But Adam only shook his head. He looked sad, and Kris thought it strange to see that particular emotion on his face.

“I should go.”

“Fine. Yeah. Go.”

Adam didn’t move. Instead, he grasped Kris’ good hand in both of his, turning it over. Kris was about to pull away, more instinct than anything, when he felt another pill drop into his palm.

“Take it when the pain starts to come back,” Adam said, releasing Kris’ hand and leaning back. “Do it with your back to the camera. Do you understand? You can’t face the camera.”

Kris looked at him, studying his impassive face for a clue as to the meaning of the words. Then he raised himself on an elbow, shifting so that he could peer around Adam’s broad frame.

He lay back down, refocusing his gaze on Adam, piecing it together despite the fogginess in his brain. Adam was blocking them from the camera’s eye; had been this entire time.

“He doesn’t know that you’re doing this, does he?” Kris asked. “You’re doing this on your own.”

“No, he doesn’t.”

“Then why?”

Adam didn’t answer for a while, long enough for Kris to wonder, in his increasingly drugged state, if he’d only asked the question in his head.

But then Adam sighed and said, “I don’t know.”

“What does that even mean?”

Adam shook his head. “I should go.”

“Don’t.”

But Adam was already standing up. “I have to go. Just remember what I said.”

“Please stay.”

Kris couldn’t believe the words were coming out of his mouth. Only minutes before he’d felt betrayed; angry and bitter. And now he was begging the man who’d hurt him not to go. He choked on a laugh, wondering if he was merely a fool where Adam was concerned or if he’d always been one.

“I can’t,” Adam said. His features softened, until he looked almost gentle. Compassionate. “I will come back. Try to sleep until I do.”

And then, just like that, he was gone.