He’d fucked up. He’d fucked up bad this time.
Dom looked as hung-over as he’d ever been, standing murderously in the doorway to Nash’s apartment. “You’re gonna pay for what you’ve done, asshole.” No, worse, actually.
Of course, it was his fault. It had never been otherwise. And Nash was quite habituated to the shameful guilt and self-deprecation that accompanied failure, having had many a plan backfire in the past… but never so thoroughly as this one.
Dom was on him in an instant, pelting him with blows to the face and stomach, targeting his weakest points in a concentrated effort to render him immobilized. Nash grunted as he succumbed to the final jab, which sucked the air out of him, and dropped to the carpet like an anvil.
This wasn’t at all what he’d expected, what he’d planned. When he’d snuck into Dom’s liquor cabinet the night before, after Dom had passed out from exhaustion—twice a day was his limit—Nash had surmised that removing his store would be removing his addiction, his dependency, and his violent behavior—bringing back the man he’d fallen for so many years ago.
Nash had, perhaps, borrowed a bit of Dom’s bountiful delusion, when, just seconds ago, he’d opened the door to curt knocks in expectation of a man renewed, clean-shaven and smiling to his ears. Maybe even apologizing for what an asshole he’d been, Nash mused with a shit-eating grin. But here Dom was, as unforgiving as ever.
“Where the fuck is my booze, you piece of shit?” Dom growled as he lowered himself to the floor, flipping Nash over from his stomach to reveal his face, marred by a few scars: one above his right eye (skiing accident he’d say), a splotch under his chin yet to fully heal (“I tripped”), and two parallel lines near his left ear (stray cats were known to be feisty). He immediately raised his hands, as if by reflex, in defense, but Dom pushed them away without pause.
“Spit it out.” Dom grabbed Nash by the face, squeezing his cheeks roughly with his callused hands and causing his lips to pout like those of a fish. Nash’s eyes widened and dilated as he reeled back for another punch.
“…I-I got rid of it.”
Dom gave him a steely glare, frozen with his arm back and fist clenched tightly. “What did you fucking do with it? Pawn it off somewhere for pennies on the dollar?”
Nash remained silent, stalling his usual tense fidgeting but finding his whole body trembling in its stead. Dom’s fingers pressed harder into the thin skin of his face, nails digging in sharply.
“I should have known not to trust a dirty rat in my home,” Dom said, lowering his arm back to his side and chuckling in an air of faint amusement. In that moment he looked almost benign, a broken man at the mercy of his substance abuse. His ten o’ clock shadow shaded his jaw line darkly, unkempt hair dangling limp before his brows. “My judgment was impaired, okay? I thought you’d changed for the better. But once a rat, always a rat, isn’t that true?”
“You weren’t complaining when you were fucking me…” Nash said, as defiantly as he could with limited facial movement and a winded diaphragm.
Dom slammed him back suddenly against the molding of the wall. Nash lost his vision for a second, worried that the whiplash that tossed his head with even more ferocity into the sharp edge would have detached his retinas. But, blinking desperately, he sifted through the blurred distortions until he saw Dom, a couple inches from his face, purple bags under his eyes and glinting teeth bared in a dangerous smile.
“I know your lack of empathy makes it difficult for you to understand,” Dom whispered as he bent over Nash’s fallen form, “but I have a condition.” He ran his fingers over Nash’s tousled brown locks, down to personally rub at each scar, tenderly… lovingly, as if to pay homage to his own handiwork, like it made him proud in some perverse way to see Nash bear his badges of honor.
“I’m hurting, dammit,” Dom’s voice began to quiver and crack as he continued, with such pathetic honesty, that Nash couldn’t help but feel the teensiest bit sorry for him. “This withdrawal… it’s enough to eat a man up from the inside out. How could you do this to me, you fucking heartless bastard? Taking medicine from a sick man?”
Sick is right, Nash wanted to say. But even his ever-present snark was mollified by Dom’s heartfelt plea for help. “Oh, Dom…” he said, raising a hand to touch him.
But just as they made contact, Dom snatched his hand out of the air and pinned it to the floor. He tightened his grip and transferred his weight to the tangle of bone and flesh, as if kneading a particularly obstinate ball of dough. Dom ignored the way the tendons twisted out of place, the fingers stretching at their respective joints. Nash yelped at the sharp pain, silenced by Dom’s lips on his own, his dry tongue coated with his intruder’s warm saliva.
He wept into the silencing kiss, Dom engulfing and swallowing his muted cries. Nash’s right hand—the one he’d used to sketch out all his blueprints, the one Dom had held the first time they walked out into the public as a couple, the one that shook as he poured all the expensive aged bottles of whiskey, bourbon, and scotch down the drain—was gradually crushed, so slowly in fact that it almost would have passed for gently, if it weren’t for the screaming of his nerves and the brittle cracking of bone into splintery fragments. His instinct for self-preservation had him clawing at Dom, whose weight was pressing his body in place, but it was no use. Such misguided attempts at evading his due would only exacerbate his punishment, Nash realized through icy blue flashes of regretful pain as hot tears welled up in his eyes.
“Have I persuaded you then? To return to me what is mine?” Dom asked matter-of-factly, as if he were in a business meeting and had just laid the terms on the table. He broke away from Nash’s lips, the tail end of a whimper leaking out melodiously in the aftermath, and shifted his weight as to allow the injured hand to break free. Nash quickly lifted the catastrophe to his face to inspect the damage, unable to feel from the wrist down what, if anything, remained. A misshapen mass met his fogged gaze, dislocated fingers and bones jutting out at unnatural angles. Just the sight of the source of his anguish drove it all home, causing Nash’s eyes to roll back into his head as he lost consciousness. His head thudded to the ground again, this time blissfully unaware, cold sweat soaking his skin.
“Fuck no, you’re not getting away that easily,” Dom uttered gruffly as he rolled Nash out of the corner, making no concessions for his joke of a hand. He straddled the motionless body, pushing the air out of Nash’s lungs with a breathy grunt. Heavy-handed slaps, which left souvenirs in the form of raised pink handprints, battered his victim’s tear-streaked face. “Wake up, you conniving little shit, and tell me what you did with my stuff.”
Nash came to with double… hell, triple vision, his eyes completely unfocused and content with staying that way, given the option of revisiting the ghastly sight before him. He felt his face tingle with little more than a feathery tickle, like the violence was happening to someone else. When he noticed the lack of appropriate reactions, Dom only lashed out harder in his frustration, thrashing Nash’s face from one side to the other with his fists, now balled up to better utilize his knuckles. Impact cuts turned into long, bleeding gashes, yet Nash did not seem to be aware of his sordid state, just the temporary brightness that assaulted his vision with each blow to the head.
His thoughts came in small spurts, like bubbles from a wand. Nash wasn’t sure exactly where he was or why he was, but he knew that Dom was with him. And he hoped with all his heart that Dom was safe and healthy. That Dom had beaten his addiction. That Dom was back to being the very same man he had fallen in love with. Instead of divulging the requested information or begging for his life, Nash instead grinned through bloodstained teeth.
In a disgusted fit of rage, Dom made a guttural cry before moving his attention to Nash’s exposed neck, his Adam’s apple floating up and down as it swallowed the mixture of blood and spittle churned up in his raw cheeks. He closed his fingers around Nash’s throat like a vise, arching his thumbs and drilling them in where the major veins throbbed with each beat of his heart, indelicately enough to break the skin.
“Now one last time, dammit. Tell me where you put the shit or Dom is going to be in a lot of pain. Do you really want to be the cause of that?”
Nash could hear him, faintly, vaguely. The bubbles of his consciousness becoming smaller and smaller as they floated away to an eventual pop. Something about Dom. Something about pain. These were familiar to him, all right. The only two things he truly knew. But it was his duty to hold the two, to play the go-between. To support Dom, no matter what, as a friend, as a lover, as a soul-mate. To bear the pain, to take it all, and never to let it show through, lest Dom himself taste that sharp, metallic flavor on his tongue.
It was all his fault. Why else would Dom have decided to drown himself in scorching spirits in the first place if he weren’t simply trying to wash away that rancid taste in his mouth? Nash had failed in his role as the keeper of pain, failed to insulate his Dom, and here he was, reaping what he’d sown.
So fucking be it.
Goodnight, Dom. Nash rested back and closed his eyes, though it made no difference. He wanted to tell Dom how sorry he was. How he’d fucked everything up. And how happy he was to go, here with Dom at one side and pain on the other. Here he had everything, and here he was ready.
The familiar noose of Dom’s hands drew tighter, increasing the pressure on his most vulnerable of areas. They met with no resistance as Nash went with perfect willingness. His only regret was not having gone sooner, the dozens of times Dom had wrapped around his throat before, comforting like a neck-pillow on a long plane ride. He didn’t know where he was going, but he was sure as fuck okay with that uncertainty.
Nash wondered what beautiful colors he was turning by now as the pounding beat of his least reliable organ bottlenecked under the clutch of Dom’s hands, knuckles whitened against a crust of dark dried blood. Definitely magenta, a lovely fuschia, possibly, maybe even violet at this point. He couldn’t wait to be blue, the embodiment of all the sadness that Dom felt. In death, he hoped he would soak up all of Dom’s sorrows like a sponge, encapsulating all of it in whatever valise he brought with himself to the Great Beyond. And then Dom would be free, free of all the mistakes he’d made, free to start anew.
A peaceful sort of hush fell over them as they both seemed to stop breathing for an eternal second. The last thing Nash remembered was a drop of Dom’s sweat falling from his brow to land squarely in the middle of his forehead.
…Or was it a tear?