THEY CAN SMELL YOUR INTENTIONS
Adam Raki is a quiet Omega male from the United Main, specifically the Mainland region of Ohio, where his father settled into a small house along Lake Erie. He had a fairly unremarkable life up until his father's passing two years ago, and while he had been content to remain in isolation within the small area that comprised Two Cent where the constantly roaming residents along the Lake Erie coast were long used to his eccentricities, it wasn't until he met his now ex-girlfriend, Coastliner and wealthy debutante Beth that he realized the world was far bigger than the limited stimulus that Two Cent provided. With help from his father's long time friend Harlan, Adam applied and got his dream job at the esteemed Roscosmos State Corporation in Russia where he worked as a planetologist for their space colonization program. Space had always been his first love and his obsession had landed him a coveted post within Roscosmos, one that he had been sure was going to occupy his life for quite some time.
"Lots of big changes are happening now for you, Adam," Harlan had warned. "You remember what I told you. Keep alert, don't go thinking people are being nice for no reason, and some thoughts you need to keep to yourself."
He should have taken the advice.
Alas, the usual problems arose even in the enlightened environment of Roscosmos, and an innocent romantic observation directed at an interdepartmental chemist resulted in an abrupt termination. The leading team members understood he was in heat at the time and was thus focused on less cerebral things, but they were correct to admonish him. The facts were he knew he should have stayed at his small apartment in Moscow and called in sick for a few days instead of going into work. He had a pressing need to be in the lab, however. He was conducting experiments on the arid conditions of Mars and needed samples of the planet's actual soil to repudiate claims that it could be manipulated through the careful engineering of minerals into a twin chemical composition identical to Earth's, thus making agricultural efforts attainable. The study was flawed in several places, Adam noted, and he quickly proved the hypothesis was impossible, engineering minerals into different compositions was similar to alchemists using magic to create gold. The sediments of Mars would never have the proper alkaline conducive to plant life and it was important that he ensure the team proposing it knew of these findings immediately so they did not waste further time on useless, imperfect research.
He hadn't expected his biology to get in the way of his efforts to sway their opinions, which were, naturally, wrong. Regardless of how strong the suppressants were they didn't cure his rather flippant attitude towards the other team member's personal space and social mores. He still couldn't understand the big deal, he'd told Dr. Curie his findings and all he'd done afterwards was remark to the chemist that she'd be an excellent Alpha to sleep with, and if her Beta husband, the leading biologist of the team, was willing to join in Adam would not be averse to the concept. He hadn't done either of those things, of course, he'd simply observed this would be an interesting thing to do because he did find both of them attractive at that time, thanks to going into heat, and he was curious as to how it would turn out. As an Omega, he knew he had plenty of options to offer sexually, and when he thought back on it, perhaps he had been a tad too detailed in his descriptions of his sexual dexterity.
But it was a simple observation and all for naught. That same day at lunch he'd witnessed her biologist husband eating an egg salad sandwich with pickles and all thoughts of him sexually vanished and thus the entire complex erotic scenario was dropped immediately from his mind. Unfortunately, the chemist continued to be outraged at his suggestions, and somehow finding errors in their Mars sediment research had mixed in with his remarks that were mere sexual curiosity and the whole thing became a highly strange mismatched jigsaw puzzle of fury that he couldn't untangle or understand. His termination was handed to him a few days later.
He missed his work terribly for there was nothing he loved more than being able to concentrate on the complexities of space, its massive chaos oddly comforting to him. The fact that he had actually touched sediments *from Mars* still left him giddy.
"Adam? Are you listening to me?"
Adam shook his head slightly and was momentarily surprised to find himself sitting in an uncomfortable chair at a messy desk, with the Romanian police officer who he now knew as Nigel sitting across from him. He was still smoking, which Adam didn't think was healthy, but he refrained from harping on the matter since Nigel had already gruffly told him that he liked smoking *because* it was bad for him and one had to live a little to die a lot. It was an odd thing to say, but Adam wasn't going to question him too much about it, Nigel had proved to be surprisingly patient with him, and he was grateful for the man's blunt speech that rarely held the dreaded metaphor within it.
"I have plans to go back to Russia, to try and get back into their space program, this time in a different department. They may be able to hire me in as an astrophysicist instead of a planetologist, I wouldn't even mind theoretical astrophysics if it meant being a part of the team again, but that group is very insular and they kept making Schroendinger jokes when I was in the cafeteria. They kept saying things like, 'If Adam makes a sound is he really here?' They were jerks." Adam watched Nigel scribble some notes in a long, scrawling script on the paper before him. "After all, they were able to observe me, which completely ruins the experiment. Observation is what taints the outcome and creates either my presence or absence. Do you have any orange soda?"
Nigel ignored the question and took a drag of his cigarette, the tip burning brightly for a brief moment, like a tiny burst comet. "Adam, do you understand what happened this evening? Do you know why you were sent to my room?"
Adam suddenly felt uncomfortable, and his voice was small when he answered Nigel. "Paul was trying to sell me. I don't know what that means. How can you buy a person? It's not like I'm a piece of furniture. You don't have to feed a couch."
Nigel sighed and he propped his head against the heel of his palm, his cigarette still burning between his fingers. He gave Adam a crooked smile and Adam interpreted this as Nigel being pleased with him. He must have given the right answer, it was hard for him to understand what people really wanted because he couldn't decipher what their expressions were saying. Nigel's face was very open and he had no problem explaining how he felt, and Adam found he could feel at ease in his presence. Nigel was an easy person, Adam thought, and he smiled back, glad that he found someone he could interact with in such clarity.
"He was selling you for sex, Adam. I was in that room because I gave him money to have sex with you. Does it makes sense now?" Nigel took a drag of his cigarette and turned his head away to avoid drenching Adam in smoke.
Adam frowned at this, unable to comprehend what Nigel was saying. "Why would he do that? I had no intention whatsoever of having a sexual encounter and I wasn't hired as a prostitute. I am their IT specialist."
"You're an Omega, Adam, and sadly that carries with it some risks thanks to little dickfucks like Paul and your employer. I'm still trying to figure out how you didn't know there was an entire Omega trafficking ring running right outside your door and yet you heard nothing. So what's the story there? You getting some kind of kickback or something, they paying you off to keep quiet? Not the kind of fucking friends I'd want to have, believe me. Paul sold you to me as a little side margin for the business, knowing damn well you aren't part of their usual package. He figured I was horny enough to rape you. He said he's got some buyer in the United Main waiting on you as well, did you know that?"
Adam's mouth went dry at this information, a feeling of tense fear winding hot knots through his system. His began to wring his hands, his knees quaking at the thought of what could have happened. He'd been so stupid. He hadn't recognized the dangers and he *should* have been more alert, they were a United Main company, he *should* have been on his guard right from the start.
"These are some kind of bastard sick fuck friends, Adam, and you don't strike me as the kind to be hanging out with these pieces of shit. It doesn't make sense to me that you didn't at least question some of what was going on. Astrophysicist, hunh? A little spaceman who has a very big brain and he can't tell that he's sitting beside monsters. You're not stupid Adam, don't pretend that I am."
"You aren't stupid." Adam felt sick to his stomach at what Nigel was telling him, all the warnings that Harlan and his father has spewed at him over the years washing over him in drowning waves. 'Never trust an Alpha', 'Be careful of your environment', 'Never go anywhere alone', 'Always take your suppressants'. He'd left the United Main because of these problems, and had been lured outside of it to the Eastern Unions because of their open policies. As an Omega he was permitted to have a life and a career and there were laws in place to make sure he was safe, that people weren't allowed to do what the Verger Corp's employee Paul nearly did. He felt shaky as he looked up briefly at Nigel and then hung his head down again, frightened at what could have happened if it had been someone else, and not an anti-trafficking inspector he'd met instead.
"I like it here, in Romania. Bucharest is an interesting city, the architecture is remarkably detailed," Adam said, his voice small and shaky. "I shouldn't have got involved with an employer from the United Main, I know what they are like and I thought I could protect myself here because you have very strict laws against harming Omegas. In the United Main, if I lived on the Coastline where the universities are I wouldn't be permitted to go to work or study space, I'd be locked away and forced to bond with an Alpha and I didn't want that to happen. The Mainland, where I grew up, they don't have those restrictions, but the people there are very poor and there's no opportunity to learn more, I had to do all of that myself, and I really needed to be a part of the Russian space program, it's all I've ever wanted."
Tears welled up and Adam felt his throat constrict as the gravity of all that he had lost suddenly hit him. Romania was nice, but it wasn't Roscosmos and its promise of colonizing Mars and he could no longer touch the sediment of an alien planet, the universe opening up within his mind at every grain of sand that he could still feel between his sensitive fingertips. "When the Eastern Unions began their program in the 1950's, and Sputnik IV made its first lunar landing in 1962, the United Main tried to follow suit with their own satellite program, but they have remained behind thanks to a lack of co-operation over various corporate sponsorships and interdepartmental infighting. There are also vast restrictions on who can conduct the theoretical components of the research, limitations such as the matter of gender assignments in space travel since United Main sponsors insist only Alphas become astronauts and no one really wants to be sending their most important citizens out into space. Roscosmos, under the Eastern Unions Equality Ruling established in 1937, has no such restrictions and if I wanted to become an astronaut, I could. It's very difficult, and with the tragedy of Sputnik IX where four astronauts died while orbiting the moon due to a miscalculation in gravitational trajectory, there are a lot of specific physical and mental tests that are now being implemented that reduce the risk of human error during these flights into space and..."
Adam stopped as he felt something warm and rough against his cheek, and he was startled to discover it was Nigel's thumb, wiping away a tear that had escaped. He really did have such pleasant, warm hands and Adam instantly tried to nuzzle his face into Nigel's palm, only for the inspector to abruptly take his hand away. "I--I'm sorry," Adam said, convinced he'd said something wrong again, and he could feel the slow burn of shame wind its way through his being, his face hot and his neck on fire. "Sometimes I talk too much. It's a bad habit. I'm feeling nervous and it gets worse when I'm not comfortable. Sorry."
Nigel shrugged and stubbed out his cigarette in his ashtray. "So you like to talk about what you are passionate about. You're a little spaceman. What's so bad about that?"
"It's not bad, it's..." Adam hesitated, unsure of what was appropriate to reveal and what wasn't, his anxiety ramping up within him. He hugged himself again, for though Nigel was oddly comfortable to talk to, the subject matter was always difficult to broach and he never knew how people were going to react. "I can go on about it for hours and people don't like that. I...I have a condition, it makes it very hard for me to relate to people and it's why I misunderstood what was happening at the club. I have Asperger's, it's on the autism spectrum, and it doesn't mean I am lacking mentally or that I'm deficient in any way, it just means I relate to the world very differently than most people."
"You seem to be relating to me just fine," Nigel said.
Adam nodded, but his words didn't match his agreement. "I have trouble understanding body language and visual cues, it's like being face blind. I have a lot of trouble interpreting innuendo and metaphor, I think of things in a very literal way so abstract speech confuses me. It does make me very honest, sometimes too honest." He swallowed, feeling the fearful stone in his throat not wanting to go down. "There are benefits to it, I can focus on tasks I'm interested in with great detail and while some unenlightened experts claim that people with Asperger's lack imagination that is highly untrue. Einstein had Aspergers, so did Mozart, and they are both highly creative thinkers."
Nigel was frowning and Adam stopped talking, worried that the inspector had instantly determined he was deficient and thus easy to dismiss. The fact Adam was also an Omega had never helped matters and being heard was always a challenge, so much of who he was wrapped so tightly around his condition that he found the only way to cope with it was to withdraw into the things that gave him comfort. Space. Routine. Functionality. How could he express properly just how stressful ordering a cup of coffee could be, especially when confronted with a monumental amount of choices and he was unable to pick just one. When he wasn't in his comfort zones the world felt like a crushing, oppressive weight, all of his senses overly attuned and on high alert. It was all too much sensory information and he would automatically shut down, retreating inside of himself to find that insulating, safe place.
After meeting Beth, he knew he had to force himself out of that protective shell and do things that made him extremely uncomfortable and at times terrified. He couldn't grow to his full potential without pushing his own boundaries. She had helped him in so many ways and though their relationship had fizzled out and she had disappeared from his life so abruptly, she had left a sense of adventure behind that he couldn't shake. He still had his many quirks, those routine measures would never leave him, but he was far more open to trying new things. Leaving the United Main had been the healthiest thing for him, even if he did end up at present in a Romanian police precinct, answering questions about a white slavery brothel he didn't know he'd been staying at.
"You function better than most cops I know, I can't see how it's a problem. If you want to talk about space for hours, who the fuck cares. It makes you happy and you aren't hurting anyone. So you're going to become an astronaut because this condition makes you focus better? Well fuck me, if not being able to tell someone is being an asshole is a disability sign me up. I'd have a much happier life."
"I don't think that's a good idea at all, considering why I'm sitting here," Adam reminded him.
Nigel pursed his lips as he considered this, and added a few sentences to his notes. "No, I guess it isn't. Here's the thing, Mr. Spaceman, you can't go back to the club, you're going to have to find another place to stay. The place is shut down indefinitely while we investigate it. Your laptop has been temporarily seized because of the work you've been doing for the Verger Corporation and we want to see if we can find any transactions that could be masking Omega trafficking." Nigel tossed his pen onto his desk and clasped his hands together, putting Adam firmly into his sights, the scrutiny making him uncomfortable. "Do you have anyone we can call? A friend or a relative?"
A feeling of real panic suddenly overtook Adam, and he rocked slightly in his seat, unsure of what was to happen the minute he walked out of the precinct. The chesters in the room eyed him with question, and Nigel, noting their curiosity, shifted his chair away from the back of his desk to move it and himself in front of Adam, blocking the rest of the dingy view of the precinct. Adam only then realized that soft whines were escaping his throat, and they didn't stop until Nigel placed his strong, warm hands onto Adam's knees, stopping them from quaking. "I guess you're in a fucking mess right now."
"I have a relative, a cousin. His name is Will Graham and he lives in the United Main, in a place called Wolf Trap, in the Virginia region. I haven't seen him since I was five years old, but I send him a Christmas card and a gift set of Old Spice every year. Dad said it's important to maintain some sense of family, even if it's only symbolic." He tentatively stroked the back of Nigel's knuckles, liking the feel of his skin beneath his fingertips. "Will is an Alpha. He works for the FBI, he's a criminal profiler. He never sends a Christmas card back."
Adam became bolder as he traced his fingertips in languid circles around Nigel's knuckles, thinking that they reminded him of the craggy dunes of Mars, dry and red with cracks on the surface, though the warmth of his skin was definitely a contrast, since the surface of Mars was well below eighty degrees Fahrenheit. He wondered what had made Nigel's knuckles look like this, and Adam quickly calculated that the possibility he'd had to use his fists on suspects was statistically very high. He wondered if this redness was indicative of new or old injury. The Roman god of war was named Mars. It was a pleasing congruity to Adam that such observations came together when studying Nigel and he focused on remaining safe in the man's presence, even if there were pressing disasters looming close by.
"Criminal profiler for the FBI. They don't do anything half assed in your family, do they, little spaceman? Does he have your condition, too? Ambergers?"
"Aspergers. No, he doesn't. He's been diagnosed with an empathy disorder, but I have my doubts of the validity of the science that determined that. Will is just a jerk."
Much as he found Nigel's knuckles fascinating, Adam couldn't stop thinking that the warmth of his hands would be very pleasant wrapped around him, and it would be so nice to just lean into him and feel the pulse of his heart against his ear. He didn't even mind the lingering scent of cigarettes and alcohol that permeated the air around Nigel like a poisonous halo, it was his distinctive scent and since Nigel was now congruous with safety in Adam's mind, the vices had morphed into that sensation as well. He forced himself to hold back and not lean in like he desperately wanted to because he knew it wasn't quite the right thing to do in public, he was an Omega, and despite how kind and patient Nigel was being with him Adam couldn't stop thinking of his father's warning words that Alphas were all after one thing, though he'd never been explicit about what that was. Adam guessed it was sex, though as an adult he couldn't see what was wrong with that. He enjoyed it when he and Beth had indulged in the physical act and he was sure he would enjoy it just as much with Nigel.
"Where are you orbiting now, little spaceman?" Nigel asked, ducking his head to force Adam to look at him, and Adam blushed at his attention. Nigel straightened up, his fingers drumming along Adam's knees. "So, you are telling me you are a United Main Omega in a foreign country and that you can't read people's expressions and have no idea when you are in danger. Sounds like you've got some serious problems that need solving. The first one being, where are you going to stay. I can give you a list of some hotels in the area, and they have computers you can use so you can find another job, which I doubt will be any trouble for someone as fucking smart as you."
"I can't go to a hotel," Adam said, shaking his head.
"I won't send you to some rat infested hell hole if that's what you think."
"No. I didn't get paid by the Verger Corporation yet, I've only been working on their system for a week. I don't have any money." Adam frowned at this and did a quick calculation in his head. "Well, I have a little bit. Twenty-seven leu and a dollar and fifty cents in United Main currency."
The precinct had morphed in Adam's mind into a place of absolute security, especially with Nigel's presence within it, and he longed to just stay here, maybe borrow a closet to sleep in until his funds could be replenished. He'd spent everything he had to leave Russia and start work with Verger and had been relying on the contracted payout to get him through the next few months while he put in roots into his plan to get back into Roscosmos. He was now destitute, if not outright desperate. Winter was on the periphery and Romania was already fiercely cold at night.
"You're going to be just fine, then, you can afford a cup of coffee," Nigel said, smiling. Then, when Adam didn't get it and frowned at him, he added, "I was being sarcastic."
"I don't really understand sarcasm," Adam reminded him. But he gave Nigel a small shrug and a smile. "However, I imagine sleeping on a bench could be considered an option, given my circumstances. The coffee can keep me warm while I sleep on the park bench, so that's good."
Nigel was confused for a long moment before his face lit up in understanding. "You just joked with me? Ah, very funny. Funny little spaceman." He grinned, chuckling lightly as he tapped at Adam's nose with his forefinger only to bring his hand back and cough into his fist as his subordinate, Inspector Darko, approached him, a stack of Excel printouts in his hand. "What's all this?" Nigel thumbed through the stack, his attention gripped at intervals by interactions highlighted in yellow marker.
"We were going through the accounts and we found some regular payments that have suspicious amounts sent through to an unknown receiver. Could be an illegal tax shelter, but the amounts are too small to make it worthwhile." Darko pointed at the numbers and Nigel rolled his eyes at them, his mouth creeping into a sickly grin.
"Twice a month, only slight variations in prices, and what the fuck do you know, the exact amounts going for what a trafficked Omega goes for these days." He turned in his seat and handed the stack of papers to Adam, who took them without looking at them. "He labelled these transactions CMB, what does that mean?"
But Adam was still further behind in the conversation, and he didn't want to miss an opportunity to tell Nigel what he was thinking, so he blurted out, smiling widely, "You are very handsome when you laugh."
Darko snorted loudly at this observation and Adam's happiness fell as he watched Nigel's face contort into a sneer, his neck turning a deep purple hue. "You need to think about what he's saying, boss. Handsome when you laugh, ha! That's the power of positive thinking in action."
"I'm going to ram my fist down your throat and out your asshole, you fucking moron."
But Darko continued to laugh, and he wasn't at all handsome when *he* did, and Adam shifted in his seat, wondering how it was that everything that ever came out of his mouth was wrong. Darko clapped him heavily on the back of his shoulder blades, making him wince. "Don't worry about it, this old bastard doesn't know how to take a compliment!"
"Old?? I'm the same age as you, fuck you, Darko."
Adam wasn't sure if the conversation was a friendly one, but since Darko didn't seem upset by Nigel's angry outburst he figured everything between them was okay. The sheets of paper Nigel had handed him were rife with notes and circles, and he concentrated on the transactions that Darko had mentioned, remembering them all very clearly because he had also detected a certain anomaly within the payments. "I had asked about these transactions, and I called Verger's accountant in Virginia last week to clarify what they were for. I had originally thought they were a payment error but it seems the letters stand for Campaign McBain, who is a Coastline candidate who was running for governor of the entirety of the Coastline states." Adam quickly shuffled through the papers and was surprised that they ended quite abruptly. He double checked the dates and gave the papers a quizzical expression that Nigel instantly alighted on.
"Something wrong, my little spaceman?"
The nickname seemed to be sticking and Adam found he didn't mind as long as it was only Nigel who used it. "Yes. These are only accounting reports for the last three years."
Nigel stared at Adam blankly. "So what's the problem? We have potential evidence right here that he was sending suspicious 'contributions' to this McBain guy, whose to say he isn't the buyer?"
"But he can easily say that it is campaign money, Verger is one of the main McBain backers, what can't be explained are the exact patterns of supposed contributions his company has been making for over twenty years." Adam sat primly in his seat, not meeting the gaze of the two inspectors who were staring at him with a sense of shocked wonder. "When I noticed the pattern of payments I wanted to be thorough before I brought it to the attention of the Verger accounting department, so I itemized all of the suspicious amounts for the past twenty years. I did add annotations to the purchases in my Excel drafts which are still in my laptop. His accounting department was not willing to explain these other purchases which are in near exact amounts to the ones used in the McBain contributions and since they don't seem to be a part of any sort of tax shelter, I have to wonder at what these large purchases represent."
"Twenty fucking years." Nigel shook his head and gave Darko a frowning glare. "What the fuck are you standing there looking stupid for, get his laptop, we're going over this like we're picking fucking lice. You'll help us out, won't you little spaceman?"
Adam gave Nigel a shy shrug in acceptance of this. "Okay. It might take a while though."
Nigel was clearly happy about this new development, though Adam wasn't exactly sure as to why. Even though the evidence was there that Verger was spending these regular amounts of money on *something* if it was for illegal activities it would be very difficult to trace back to exactly what he was purchasing. It seemed to Adam that they were grasping for any evidence they could and in scientific circles that was the last gasp of a disproved theory. They needed more information.
Adam had a few ideas as to how to get it.
Adam sipped at his orange soda and watched the lines of numbers as they slid across his screen, pausing every now and then on a highlight to insert it into an algorithmic program he'd designed on the fly that afternoon to analyze these specific 'contributions'. Nigel was still sitting across from him at the table, but they were no longer in the crowded, noisy bustle of the main floor of the precinct, where drunks shouted Romanian curses at the officers and there was an overall feeling of chaos that permeated the ancient, crumbling space. Dark wood and chipped plaster permeated every room of the old building and Adam had to wonder how these old structures managed to remain, as though they had become rocks against the landscape. They were now in a damp, stone floored basement office of the building, the dim lights suiting Adam's photosensitive vision just fine, and the quiet was near tomblike in its muffled silence. Nigel had Darko go out and get them a couple of orders of iskender kebap from Dristor Kebap along with a bag of gogoasas, sugared donuts with plum filling from the gogoserii down the street. Adam had accepted both without question, though the plate of kebap meat and vegetables was a tad larger than he usually ate and a bit on the peppery side. Still, it was a long way from his usual macaroni and cheese which he had lived on for decades and he was proud of his own efforts to force himself to try new things. The meat was tasty enough, even though there was too much of it, and the vegetables were plain enough not to overwhelm his palate. He was still picking through his meal while he worked and Nigel had already wolfed his down, inhaling it with barely time to chew. The inspector was already digging into the bag of donuts before he realized that Adam hadn't yet finished his dinner, and he held back on taking too many, making sure the quiet man in his midst had dessert as well.
"It's very quiet down here," Adam observed and Nigel nodded at this.
"It's because we're in the graveyard," Nigel said.
Adam paused over his meal. "I beg your pardon?" He glanced behind him, expecting coffins, but all he could see was row upon row of carefully labelled boxes.
"See all these boxes?" Nigel gestured to the layers of numbered legal boxes on dozens of rows of metal shelving behind them. "These are cold case files. Not so many as in other places, someone always sees something in Bucharest and people in general can't keep secrets. These ones, though, it's unlikely we will ever find out what happened to them. More than half are disappeared or murdered Omegas, I think the oldest case is fifty years." He tore into his donut, taking smaller bites that he washed down with cold, black coffee. "People say this whole Omega trafficking to the United Main thing is new but it's been going on for a long time and no one really noticed. Weird how something that big can slip beneath a country's radar, but there it is. You don't like the food?"
Adam glanced up from his plate, momentarily confused. "I really like it. I'm just not a fast eater."
"You're picky," Nigel observed.
"Well, yes, but I'm trying very hard not to be. I'm forcing myself to try new things, it helps me open my horizons." Adam speared a few pieces of meat and shoved them into his mouth, chewing them thoughtfully and not taking a drink of his soda until he had swallowed first. "It's sad that those boxes are full of unsolved murders, but I still like it down here. Do you think I could sleep here for a few days while I look for a new job, or at least until I get some money in the bank? I promise I won't touch anything I'm not allowed to, and I won't take up much space."
Nigel shook a cigarette out of its case and gave the near darkness of the cold case file room a low growl. "You are not sleeping with the forgotten dead, Adam. Don't worry about where you are going to go, I'll figure out something. Here, forget the fucking meat, you don't like it, I can tell, stop forcing yourself to eat what you don't like." Relieved, Adam let Nigel take away his too large portion, though he wasn't so full he couldn't take a still warm donut from the paper bag Nigel was now shaking at him. Smiling, Adam dug into it and took out the warm pastry, its softness belying the sweet goodness it was destined to deliver. One bite and he groaned in pleasure, licking his fingers of sugar after every torn piece. The plum filling was soft and thick and he licked at it, scooping out the centre with his tongue until none of it remained.
He hadn't realized Nigel was carefully watching him, an unreadable expression on his handsome face. Adam tore at the rest of his donut and ate it furtively as he returned his attention to the laptop screen.
"It must be very hard not being able to solve those cases," Adam said, glancing behind him again at the rows of boxes. "I'm guessing it's like having an experiment that never ends and never gives you a result no matter how long you study it. Deep space is considered such a mystery, it's so vast and alien it is impossible at present to navigate, though through the Hubble, our nickname for the Sputnkik 27, we've been able to get excellent images. The Carina Nebula would be very difficult to send anything living through, it is a boiling collection of severe ultraviolet radiation and stellar winds and keeping a vast distance from it would be important. Deep space may be forever out of our reach, especially since the images the Hubble sent back are not in real time as light takes significant time to reach us and also the Hubble's camera, thus the images are in fact millions of years old."
"Being a cop sucks," Nigel said, as though Adam had asked him what it was like. He hadn't, but since Nigel had been patient enough when Adam rambled on about space, he would return the favour and allow Nigel to talk uninterrupted as well. Nigel propped his feet up onto the table and leaned back in his chair, streams of smoke circling above him from his cigarette. "I thought I was going to be some kind of big shot when I first go into this, like I was going to clean up Bucharest of corruption and crime all by myself. Fucking stupid kid, that's all I was. You know what, there's not much difference between a cop and a gangster, really. They both use the same tactics of intimidation and stealth. Both like to get their hands dirty if it gets them what they want. It's a never ending circle jerk between the two worlds, I'm telling you the truth. They both live miserable lives, stressed out and always looking behind their backs. They're both arrogant pricks who think they are the righteous ones."
Adam frowned as he noted down several transactions that were made in the month of May in the early nineties, and he had to wonder if this was the beginning of Mason Verger's dabbling in Omega trafficking. He glanced over the lid of the laptop at Nigel's tired face, watching as the inspector's eyes kept drooping as he fought against sleep. "The two aren't the same at all," Adam said, and Nigel blinked, shifting in his chair and sitting up slightly as he focused back on Adam. "Gangsters don't care about what happens to people. It's obvious as I'm going through this list that they don't believe in seeing others as more than collateral, to them the people they sell are just transactions, not living and breathing organisms with thoughts and feelings. You don't think that way. You have been very kind to me and you didn't have to be. You're a good person."
Nigel chuckled at this, but he didn't seem very happy and Adam was able to pick up on the notes of sadness within his voice. "It's very sweet of you to think so, darling. You see me as a good person. I can assure you I am not."
"You drink and smoke too much," Adam said, agreeing, noting the endearment that slipped into Nigel's speech and consciously choosing to ignore it. "But there are levels of good and bad and if I were to create an analytical graph that outlined your positive and negative points, I'm sure that they would very much lean in favour of you being a good person as opposed to a bad one. I could make one for you. Having solid proof of your good qualities could help in making you feel better about yourself."
Nigel scoffed at this. "What makes you think that's what I want to do? Pardon me, darling, but you know fuck all about me. Being nice to you is part of my job, we need the information you are giving us. This isn't altruism, I am manipulating you to get what I want, do you understand?"
"No," Adam said as he watched Nigel with all the careful precision he gave to his Mars soil samples, as though he were that same, fascinating alien terrain. "You made me stop eating food you could tell I didn't really like and insisted I eat a donut. You're a good person."
Nigel gathered up the empty plastic plates and bags and tossed them in the bin next to his chair. His cigarette was waiting for him in the ashtray but he ignored it for the time being, content instead to clasp his hands behind his head and put Adam in his tired sights. "I thought you said you can't read people at all, that you are face blind and can't tell how people feel. You're acting very perceptive for a person with that kind of problem."
"I'm simply inwardly comparing and contrasting your actions," Adam replied. "I have enough information of you now to make better connections between specific mannerisms and frames of speech that betray your emotions. I may not be able to read your facial expressions with any accuracy but I am now able thanks to the juxtapositions of your speech patterns and phrasing to understand certain emotional cues. For instance, you are rocking your foot back and forth as it is propped up at the edge of the table, and this is suggesting to me that you are feeling both comfortable and curious."
"No shit," Nigel replied, and he wiggled his foot in playful response.
Adam typed in several more annotations into his current findings in the accounts and didn't look up from his work as he continued talking. "You also have a habit of rubbing the underside of your thumb against the second last finger, otherwise known as the 'ring' finger in Eastern Unions bonding ceremonies. In the United Main, bonded Omegas on the Coastline must cover their necks. In the Eastern Unions, all sexes show proof of bonding through the use of simple, plain rings of either silver or gold, though the traditional rings are made of carved black obsidian. You are not wearing a ring, but your thumb keeps seeking it out and when I talked to you about being a good or a bad person, you kept rubbing your thumb along the underside of that finger, as though touching that ring that isn't there. You were bonded and you are now divorced and you feel it is your fault." Adam typed in a few more lines and then sat back, confident that he was finished, at least for now. "I have been able to pinpoint the exact timing of when these possible Omega trafficking transactions had begun. Verger and his associates would have been sloppy in the beginning due to inexperience and questioning what he spent this amount of money on should give you some results. Was it your fault?"
Nigel stared, dumbfounded, at Adam, and he watched with grave curiosity at how long it took for Nigel to close his gaping mouth at Adam's assessments. "That's great, I'm guessing Darko will want to see these right away, and we'll get the white collar team on it, put the pressure on the Verger accountants. Yes, it was my fault, for all the reasons you've already listed--I drink too much and I give a shit. It's hard to have room for someone else when you have to keep giving all of your energy to fucking bastards who hurt strangers."
Adam watched the droop of Nigel's eyes, and the sigh that escaped him, narrowly hiding his yawn. Nigel was a person with a lot of things weighing heavy in his head, sad things like the unsolved deaths in boxes that were piled high behind them and the worry for purchased people who were no doubt being badly hurt and hoping someone like Nigel was going to come along and rescue them. Like he'd rescued Adam himself. Adam couldn't stop himself, not with the way he understood that Nigel was so tired and sad and wasn't taking care of himself and was a good person who had just fallen into this realm of need that Adam himself knew well. Though he didn't mind his own company there was a vast difference between being alone and being lonely. And it was with this in mind that he leaned back against Nigel as the inspector bent over him to look at the computer screen and Adam stroked Nigel's cheek in a soft motion, fingers feather light, determined to show Nigel affection.
Nigel caught Adam's gaze as he did this, and Adam kept the eye contact as long as he could before shakily breaking it. He hoped Nigel understood what a huge, symbolic gesture of trust that was. His mental graph of checks and balances put Nigel overwhelmingly on the side of good. Adam always checked his evidence very carefully, he was never wrong.
"You are very tired and you need to get some sleep. You can't focus properly without adequate rest, it is a human necessity." Adam watched as Nigel straightened up, somewhat reluctantly, and groaned in agreement. Adam closed his laptop after sending the files to Darko's email as per Nigel's instruction and the room was now in a soft blanket of cool darkness that he was ready to pass out in. "Where will I stay?"
"I'll take you home with me," Nigel said, and if there was reluctance in his voice, Adam didn't hear it. He was overjoyed as he grabbed his windbreaker jacket and eagerly followed Nigel out of the room full of the history of sad, dead people, his laptop tucked under his arm. He'd been right, and the thought overjoyed him though it shouldn't have surprised him. His anxiety was, for now, neatly tucked away. Nigel was someone safe.