Dark Skies Looming Over: Chapter Four
Okay, so this is the last chapter before I have to finish editing. That means Chapter 5 might take a little while to get here. I hope not. After this, the updates should be about once a month, maybe a little sooner if I’m able. I’m trying to write up some buffer since this summer is going to be so crazy busy.
Also, please note that this chapter is very violent. I’ve warned about violence from the start, but I want to remind you of that, just in case.
Thank you so much for all of the support and encouragement so far! I’m so grateful to have such awesome readers. Hope you like the latest chapter.
Title: Dark Skies Looming Over
Author: Esoteric Fallacy
Warnings: Prostitution, Violence, Language, Sex, Drugs, etc.
Previous Chapters: ONE TWO THREE
Summary: Adam is a jaded, cynical man who sees the world in shades of gray, until troubled Luke stumbles into his life and inadvertently drags him into a bizarre, twisted place full of things Adam never believed could exist.
Luke jerked his arm out of Dag’s grip as he was guided less than gently through the front entrance of The Warehouse; though he tried to keep at least a foot of distance between them, it wasn’t like he could get far with the wall to wall bodies of people frying and rolling, dancing to a chaotic beat that was more rage than music. Immediately they were sucked into the blurred mass, and Dag grabbed Luke’s bicep twice as hard, possibly because he didn’t want to lose him in the crowd, though that wasn’t why he was squeezing so tightly. The transition from outside to inside was shocking to the system—a biting cold obliterated by thick heat. It may have been a pleasant change if it weren’t for the smell of the place: body odor, sex, various fluids. Things that would have made Luke gag years ago, before he’d grown accustomed to it.
When he jerked away a second time, Dag grabbed him by the hair and dragged him through the crowd in retaliation; Luke hissed in pain and shouted a few choice phrases, but Dag ignored him, shoving people out of the way as they wove through the writhing mass of bodies; the druggies around them twisted frantically, limbs spasming more like a seizure than a dance, and Luke crashed into them as he stumbled behind Dag. He was covered in sweat by the time they finally reached the back of the room, and Luke tripped over his own feet trying to get away from the crowd. Releasing his hair, Dag shoved Luke forward in the direction of a dark hallway where the wooden floor melted into cement. Shadows hid many of the people who lingered there, but Luke could still make out figures in the dark—people frying on dirty mattresses that lined the wall, most of them half-dressed and prone, being fondled or fucked by others more conscious than they. Luke didn’t know any of their names, but he recognized several of them to be around his age. He also recognized the expression on many of their faces, though it had been a long while since he’d worn it on his own.
Dag’s hands at his back forced Luke to look away, to face the hallway and start walking again. He shrugged Dag off and took a few steps forward, as if he actually wanted to reach their destination. More than anything, he just wanted to stop being touched. The further away from the main room they got, the less Luke’s ears felt like they were going to erupt—but they were still ringing, and his skin still twitched, remembering the feeling of so many bodies against him. It was lucky as hell that he’d had a fix before they came here or he’d probably be upchucking his internal organs by now. Straight ahead, a man with stringy, blond hair stood in front of a steel door, appraising he and Dag from afar. As they got closer, Luke could see sores on his face and cracks in his lips—the complexion of someone too low on the totem poll to get the good stuff. The man leered at Luke, grinning wide enough to show two rotting teeth in the front.
“You get lost, little boy?” He laughed, and Luke cringed, looking away from him, but not quickly enough to miss the lewd way his tongue waggled in Luke’s direction. Dag elbowed the man and gestured to the sealed entrance.
“Keep your fucking dick in your pants and open the goddamn door. You know why we’re here.”
His expression both reluctant and obstinate, the man finally stepped back and unlatched the door, letting it creak open wide enough to reveal two more men waiting on the other side. Up until that moment, Luke had distantly entertained the idea of running again. After all, Dag was just one man; if Luke were to catch him off guard, he might get enough of a head start. The goons from earlier were gone, off with Shark, god knew where, though Luke was too caught up in his own fear to dwell on the possibilities; he’d think about it later, if he didn’t have brain damage by then. At the moment it had meant there were less people to stop him should he make a break for it, but he’d waited too long. They weren’t alone anymore, and fleeing now would be suicide.
Immediately, the warmth of the club was ripped away and a sharp cold stabbed at him from every direction. He wasn’t wearing nearly enough clothing, and the wind was more than happy to punish him for that fact. There were several suit-clad people huddled around like they were in the middle of a powwow—only with more weaponry—and another small group, more casually dressed, was crowded around the back. It reminded Luke of a private show, everyone waiting patiently for the main event, though he got the feeling that something had been happening here just a moment earlier. As Luke and Dag stepped forward, the people parted to let them through, out into the night where the scream of music coming from The Warehouse could just barely be heard. They were boxed in by brick walls with the exception of the barrier ahead of them, which was made of wood and barbed fencing. The space had once been an alleyway, but now it was closed off to create a sort of roofless room. The walls were high, lined with crates and boxes stacked in small clusters. Among the piles, a few chairs were sandwiched in, though most of them were currently empty. The asphalt crunched under Luke and Dag’s shoes, and eyes followed them to the front, solemn and intent as if they were witnessing a man heading to his execution.
The last of the bystanders stepped aside, and there, before his adoring public, was Damien—dark hair to his shoulders, steel gray eyes that hardly blinked, lips that seemed permanently curled into a sneer. From his suit to his shoes, he was far better dressed than anyone around him, with rings on his fingers that served no purpose but to flaunt his status, and precious gems that lined the cuffs of his sleeves. He was the only one sitting, perched like he was on a throne, and his presence demanded the attention of everyone in the room. Dag shoved Luke toward him, and Damien watched, silently. He didn’t have to make a sound—it was all there in his expression; even without speaking, Damien mocked him. But in those steady eyes that mockery became something more dangerous, a dark promise that negated pride. Immediately, Luke averted his gaze, hating himself for being unable to hide his fear.
Damien’s people stood back in anticipation of what was to come, still and unnaturally silent. It was either a hush that had fallen over the others present, or it was merely the sound of Luke’s own heartbeat in his ears drowning out any noise beside it. He crossed his arms over his chest as he fought not to buckle under Damien’s gaze, the only gaze that he could feel now. It bore into him, tightening around him with every exhale like a python with its prey. In the silence, Luke was allowed to fill in what was to come with his own vivid imagination; there was no shortage of gruesome possibilities to keep his mind busy. Damien wasn’t speaking, but he had already said a million things, already nearly brought Luke to tears. Luke was certain he was going to vomit when finally the silence was broken by Damien’s soft laughter, a mirthless sound in the back of his throat.
“Ah, it certainly is lovely to see you again,” the man drawled. “What a pleasant surprise.”
Luke’s arms unfolded, and his fingers twitched at his side as he fixed his gaze on Damien’s polished shoes. In his seat, Damien shifted, thrumming his fingers along the edge of the chair arm. His posture was deceptively relaxed, not at all matching the warning in his tone. “I mean, I was just certain that by now you’d be off in paradise, living the high life.”
The sound of shuffling to either side of him reminded Luke of the dozens of lemmings all around, waiting for Damien’s orders. As if Damien weren’t able to handle Luke on his own. It was for show, he surmised, to remind Luke of how much more powerful Damien was, of how stupid it was for Luke to think he could ever run far enough to escape Damien’s reach.
“You make me sad, you know,” Damien continued. “Why would you want to leave when you knew I’d be so lonely without you?” It was a dangerous question with no right answer, but there was an underlying demand for a response nonetheless.
Luke didn’t move. Here was the bait, dangling before him, but he couldn’t see what trap lay beyond it. All he knew was that Damien would be angry whether he took it or not, and Luke, having never quite been in this situation before, wasn’t sure which direction to go. With every uncomfortable moment that passed, Luke’s heart raced faster.
Then Damien stood, sending tension through Luke’s body like he’d never felt before. The urge to run washed over him, but fear and underlying survival skills kept him cemented to the ground. With slow, steady steps, Damien closed the space between them so that they were painfully close. Luke kept his gaze to the ground, refusing to look at him.
"Oh Luke," Damien said softly, reaching up to run fingers through Luke’s hair. Luke flinched at the touch but didn’t pull away. Damien leaned down to breathe against his neck. "Why do you take such joy in angering me? Does it give you a thrill, toying with your own mortality?"
Luke shuddered, eyes closed tight, burning with unshed tears. The hand slid from Luke’s hair to his face, stroking his cheek in a way that would have been loving from anyone else. Damien tsk’ed and shook his head. “You should know by now that I don’t respond well to having my feelings hurt.”
He grabbed Luke’s chin and forced him to look at him. In such close proximity, there was no hiding his fright, and at the moment, that was the last thing on Luke’s mind. But just as quickly, Damien released him, sighing and strolling back to his seat. “I don’t imagine you have some sort of grand explanation for your actions. Kidnapped by Russian spies? Overcome by sudden amnesia?”
He smiled, the kind that was all teeth, and sat again, fingers thrumming along the edge of the chair with more vigor. One fist propped up his chin and he stared at Luke.
“Aw, come now. You usually have such scintillating insights. Why so quiet this time?”
He smiled, expectantly, but there was a flicker of rage building in his eyes, impatience that had Luke even more on edge. Damien’s demeanor was quickly growing darker: there was that telltale raise of his brow, that steady tap of his foot, the subtle grinding of his teeth. All of it implied Damien’s next move. All of it promised pain.
Something inside of Luke finally snapped.
"What the fuck do you want me to say?" he nearly shouted. “What can I possibly do to make you fucking happy?” Time stopped. Luke kept his head down, looking away like it was nothing, but the crack in his voice marred his bravado. Damien wasn’t tapping anymore, and the stiffness in the air told Luke that he’d made a mistake.
“Well, for starters,” Damien cooed. “You could tell me why I shouldn’t remove your windpipe right here and now, before you have a chance to ask me anymore stupid questions.”
Luke swallowed, rolling his shoulders to hide the fact that he was shaking. He’d pissed Damien off plenty of times, but this was the first time he’d committed an offense punishable by death. Damien wasn’t one to waste resources, which meant that he wasn’t as quick to snuff out any deviants among his brood; however, the fine balance in Luke’s case hung heavily above them—the fact that he was so valuable to Damien, one of the man’s favorites—which meant he also made Damien look bad by booking it. But regardless of Damien’s suggestion, Luke had been under his care long enough to know quite well that begging wouldn’t change a damn thing, even though Damien was clearly getting off on watching him cower. Normally Luke wouldn’t hold back from telling Damien what he thought, but he was just bright enough to know that he wouldn’t be getting a backhand to the mouth this time.
“Luke…” It was said like a curse, low in the throat, and Luke looked up at Damien on reflex. Their eyes met, and a spark of fear shot down Luke’s spine. A voice in the back of his mind screamed for him to look away, but he couldn’t move. Suddenly he was very aware of the many eyes on him, the cold terror of being caught in a fatal spotlight. It was a good thing he’d completely lost control over his legs; if Luke ran now, it would be the last thing he ever did.
Damien was smiling at him again, and his fingers continued to tap a steady rhythm on the arm rest. “You’ve been a bad, bad boy, Luke.” The smell of atmosphere, like right before it rained, filled the space around them. “Such a shame.”
Then the air abruptly shifted, growing heavy with electricity, and it was Luke’s only warning before Damien’s eyes completely dilated, drawing Luke into two, black chasms. Like a bolt of lightning, pain Luke had never experienced before tore through his body. The fire rushed through his veins and ripped down his spine, causing his knees to buckle before he could even make a sound. A scream rose in his throat as he hit the ground, but Luke’s chest muscles twisted too tightly to allow the breath to escape. His fingers clawed at his neck, frantic, scraping nails across a force that wasn’t there.
“Such a foolish child,” Damien snickered, eyes locked on Luke. “All these years… I would have thought that youthful stupidity would have been beaten out of you by now.”
Luke collapsed onto his side, twisting on the ground. The burn in his lungs was quickly growing unbearable, and tears that should have been hot ran cold against his overly heated skin. The vice around his rib cage grew tighter, then shattered, and Luke sucked in a breath of air so sharply it was painful. He rolled onto his elbows, coughing violently, until speckles of blood painted the ground beneath him. He inhaled quickly like he may not get another chance and was rewarded with another bout of coughing. The burn hadn’t left him completely, but it was different now. Unlike before, this sensation wasn’t at all unfamiliar; he could feel Damien inside of him, could taste the man’s very being running through him, mingling with his own blood. Another scream rose, but Luke choked it back.
“Why are you resisting me?” Damien asked, softly. “What are you trying to prove? Come on, let me hear that pretty voice.”
It was almost impossible to understand him now, and Luke thought his eardrums might rupture. Each breath brought a pain sharper than the one before, and Luke’s mouth hung open, no more than a whimper escaping. He wasn’t sure if it was stubbornness or just a complete lack of control over his body, but he was otherwise silent—just his ragged desperate breathing. But Damien, of course, had never had much patience. In a grandiose manner, he held out his hand like he was stroking Luke’s hair from a distance, and a build up of energy buzzed around Luke’s head. Then, like a million tiny pins and needles, that energy shot straight through him, and the battle was lost. Luke arched off the ground and screamed like he was being murdered; his entire body felt like it was being ripped to pieces; even his mind wasn’t his own and he fought impotently against Damien’s presence within him, against the feeling of being completely consumed by the man.
“Silly, silly boy…” Damien leaned back again, like he’d grown bored, and suddenly the pain rushed out of Luke like the plug on a tub had been pulled. He completely collapsed and was overtaken by sobs as he lay exhausted on the ground. Again, the quiet of the alley made the sound of his agonized gasps seem thunderous, but Luke was too delirious to even notice it. The moment of rest, however, was fleeting, and out of the corner of his eye, Luke saw Damien motion to two men on the right, a signal he’d seen many times before. In his fear, Luke hadn’t recognized the pair in the crowd, but he wasn’t surprised to see them. Spike and Vin, or so he called them—he’d never actually heard the first man’s name, but he felt the nickname suited him, given his particular… craft. Luke didn’t look at their faces, certain all he’d find there was sadistic glee, but averting his eyes wouldn’t protect him.
The crunch of boots on either side of him sent shudders through Luke’s body. He tried to stand, but Vin shoved him down again with a foot to the lower back. It was Spike’s hand he felt in his hair, and his head was jerked back hard enough to cause the corners of his vision to spark. “Shit,” Luke finally whimpered through gritted teeth, and then the conversation was over. Spike twisted his grip in Luke’s hair, making him arch in pain, and just as quickly Vin’s boot smashed into Luke’s stomach, knocking the wind out of him. Without pause, Spike shoved him toward Vin, and another kick came from the side, this one connecting with Luke’s jaw and sending shock waves through his cheekbone. He grunted in pain, holding his arm up as if he could shield himself from the assault, but yet another boot landed itself in the middle of his back, then another, and another. For a few, terrifying moments, Luke couldn’t breathe, but with the first inhale, white agony washed over him, rendering his body useless as his muscles seemed to melt away.
Vin grabbed Luke by the collar and jerked him up so that he was on his knees. He kept his head down and his arms up, but Luke was unable to block the fist that nearly knocked him onto his back. The only thing stopping him from hitting the ground was Vin’s grip on the front of his shirt, but the second hit was more powerful, and the material beneath Vin’s fingers ripped away. Luke’s hands flew out to catch himself, giving Vin an even better opening, which he took, hitting Luke so hard that Luke could hear the bones in the man’s hand snap.
Up until that moment, the only sounds to be heard were Luke’s pained cries and the heavy breathing of the men assaulting him. Even if he’d thought begging would do him any good, Luke wasn’t able to form the words—his lips bloody, tongue swollen and useless in his mouth. But when he was on the edge of consciousness, he was overcome by the first twinge of fear that these men may in fact kill him. With every strike, the life was draining out of him.
“St…” he began but was cut off by another bout of coughing. His lungs felt full of liquid, and he struggled to inhale. “Stop!” he tried again, like his pleas held any weight at all, but a boot to his chest snuffed out the last of his protests. Spike stood over him, eyes ablaze with a lust for blood. When he came down on Luke again, it was twice as hard, and his heel smashed into Luke’s side, snapping more than just a rib. Deep within, something was breaking. Something that hadn’t been held together too well to begin with.
There was a sound like a gunshot, and for a moment, Luke’s world slowed to a stop. Once more, his heart beat dominated the noise around him, and his mind was startlingly clear like it hadn’t been in ages. He couldn’t remember the last time he’d had such a sense of peace. Unfortunately, the feeling didn’t last. In its place, a sharp, tingling sensation rushed over him, up and down his arms and under his skin. His stomach clenched, and he tasted copper on the back of his tongue, like he used to when he was a child. The taste always reminded him of fear.
Then Luke was back. What had felt like minutes was over in seconds, and above him, Spike was raising his heel a second time. But before he could deliver another blow, Luke whipped around and held his arm out straight, palm open like he was waving good bye to Spike—and he may as well have been, as the gesture sent the man flying all the way across the alley. Spike hit the wall with a thud, eyes wide, mouth open with aborted words still dangling from his lips.
Then all hell broke loose.
People were shouting, but Luke couldn’t understand what they were saying. All that mattered was that Spike was down, and Luke trained his gaze on his second enemy as people scattered, narrowing the space around them. The look on Vin’s face made it clear that he’d been convinced Luke wasn’t stupid enough to fight back, and his surprise as a result meant his reaction was immediately and unnecessarily brutal: a concentrated attack on Luke’s spinal column that felt like it was ripping it in two. Luke had no chance to fight back before the pain ripped through him, and he arched off the ground, screaming in agony. But that tingle was still coursing through him, and from the corner, several crates lifted and flew in Vin’s direction at full speed. Luke heard, rather than saw, at least one of the objects hit their mark, and Vin was easily knocked off his feet. The grip on Luke’s spine vanished, and he was able to roll onto his side. Vin was struggling to stand, but already another set of crates was rising, locked onto the same target.
The commotion around them grew as people hurried to get out of the crossfire. The entire thing happened very quickly, but it was the resulting chaos that was giving Luke a fighting chance. Once Vin was occupied, Luke had no time to think—he’d made his choice and now he had to move. Ignoring the pain or the way his ankle refused to support his weight, Luke scrambled to his feet with the back door in sight. But that sight was almost immediately blocked by the now disheveled Spike. He sneered at Luke, a thin trail of crimson trickling from his nose. “You little piece of shit.” He held out his own hand and sent Luke skidding back until he crashed into brick. Luke tried to block himself, but he was too slow, and the sensation of metal piercing flesh overcame him at both shoulders and the center of his chest.
With all the strength he could muster, Luke redirected the crates at Spike and hurled them in the man’s direction. Unfortunately, the drugs, exhaustion, and physical trauma had weakened him significantly: the aim was off, and every single shot was a miss. But Luke didn’t stop, and this time there were enough crates in the air to hit more than just the two people beating him.
“What the fuck do you think you’re doing?” Damien’s voice cut through the air like a knife, and everything froze. It wasn’t that Luke had forgotten his presence, it was just that Damien had remained so silent the entire time, Luke had somehow convinced himself that he might actually have a chance to get out of this. Clearly he’d been hit in the head too many times. Luke’s eyes fixated on Damien, and Vin used the opportunity to bring Luke to his knees with a flick of his wrist. The remaining crates shattered in mid air, and Luke flinched as he listened to the wooden pieces crash to the ground. Spike grabbed him by the back of the neck and dragged Luke forward. This time, he was met with no resistance. Luke refused to look at Damien as he cowered before the man, breathing heavily as blood dripped from too many places to count.
“Are you asking me to kill you?” Damien demanded. “Is that what you want? You know you don’t have to try so hard. All you have to do is say the word, and I’ll put an end to this once and for all.”
Luke gritted his teeth, and once again tears began to build in his eyes and drip down onto his fingers that were digging into the ground. Spike’s hand suddenly slid through Luke’s hair, almost affectionately, and Luke jerked away, but didn’t otherwise retaliate. The fingers immediately tightened, preventing him from looking down, and Spike picked up where Vin had left off, striking Luke viciously across the face. There was no fighting back this time. When Spike released him, Luke curled into a ball and absorbed blow after blow without resisting. A kick to the jaw, a fist in his ribs. Like some sort of macabre dance, they pounded Luke into the ground until he couldn’t cry out anymore. His vision went teasingly black, but Luke remained fully conscious the entire time. His body had reached a brink of pain that was so severe it had looped around to leave him cold and numb. His entire being threatened to surrender, and still, the attacks didn’t stop.
Then, “Don’t kill him.” The words were spoken softly and casually, like one might comment on a game of golf—but the beating immediately ceased. The men backed away, leaving Luke trembling and panting, belly down on the asphalt.
Slowly, Damien uncrossed his legs and rose, sauntering over with cool and deliberate steps. At Luke’s side, he knelt, and slid his own fingers into Luke’s hair. Shudders danced through Luke’s body, and nerves he thought had died off were sparked anew at their proximity. With a firm, steady grip, Damien jerked Luke’s head back and leaned down close so that Luke could feel his hot breath on his ear.
“Did you really think you could get away from me?”
Luke gritted his teeth, the rage inside of him coming to a boil that was physically painful. He was exactly as Damien wanted him: broken and pathetic, sorry that he had ever been stupid enough to cross him, unlikely to ever make the same mistake again. Damien released him then and Luke collapsed back onto the ground. He wiped his hand on the back of Luke’s shirt and stood. “Get him out of here.”
With that, Damien turned to the Warehouse again and headed back inside without a second glance. Slowly, the crowd followed his lead, filtering out in a small stream until there were only a few people left.
“You’re lucky,” Spike said, leaning down to whisper in his ear. “I would have slit your insolent little throat.”
He turned Luke’s head to the side and ran his tongue over a trickle of blood that had spilled from the corner of Luke’s mouth. Luke pulled away, weaker than he would have liked. “Go to hell,” he rasped more than snarled. Spike stood again and laughed.
“Get up, idiot. We’re leaving.”
And then Luke was on his feet, barely able to stand, held up by Damien’s men on either side of him. When they passed through the Warehouse again, just like when they’d walked in, no one seemed to notice them.
Luke let the door slam shut on its own and stood at the entrance for a long moment, listening to the sound of other life in the house. It was quiet for a Sunday night, but he could hear the hundred-year-old television set down the hall, polluting the air with the shrill sound of Jerry Springer. With his right hand, Luke wiped his mouth and barely glanced at the smear of blood streaked across it; the other hand he couldn’t lift very high, and he wondered if his shoulder had been dislocated. There was no telling how much damage he had inside, but right now he focused only on the pains that the adrenaline rushing through his body didn’t dull.
Kicking off his shoes, Luke headed for the kitchen. One of his housemates was sitting at the table reading a magazine when he came in, and Luke walked by without acknowledging him.
"You want a vicodin?" the other boy called, without looking up from his magazine. He didn’t have to. By now, word would have spread that Luke was back, and there’d be little speculation on what he’d look like after his “welcome home” party.
Luke faced the sink and turned the water up as hot as it would go, which wasn’t too hot at the moment. The heater was the worst, especially in the cold months, and they were lucky to get lukewarm showers. When the water wasn’t a few degrees below freezing, he grabbed a rag from the counter and got it wet, then used it to dab away at his face and hair where he could feel the blood starting to cake. It came off thick, completely staining the old towel, and Luke realized there was no way he was getting clean without a bath.
Silence passed between himself and his housemate, which clearly made the other uncomfortable, as he finally glanced over to get a look at the damage. “Holy shit man,” he said, twirling a piece of dry, overly-dyed hair around his index finger. “He actually hit you in the face? You musta really pissed him off.”
Luke opened the fridge and pulled out a half empty can of diet grape soda. He turned and spit blood in the sink before taking a sip. The taste was bitter, but it washed away the distinct copper flavor, at least a little. The freezer was empty, which meant his vodka was gone.
"That’s gonna bruise if you don’t put ice on it, you know. Dude, if you look all busted up, it’s gonna be forever before you can go back to work. Damien’ll be pissed."
"Fuck off, Hunter," Luke finally said, the words flat with exhaustion and apathy. He tossed the now empty can in the sink and trudged off to the room at the end of the opposite hallway. It was one of three sleeping areas in the house, but with fourteen boys living together, it was far from his own private space. He could only hope everyone was out partying or taking clients. Luke didn’t want to deal with anyone else.
From the kitchen, he could hear Hunter calling something after him, but he ignored it. The room was miraculously empty, and Luke wasted no time crossing it and flopping down on an old mattress in the corner. What he’d do for some vodka right then, but the others had probably drained the place dry in his absence. Gingerly, he touched his mouth again with a trembling hand. The bleeding had stopped mostly, but the pain was still there, aching and throbbing and reminding him of his crime.
Did you really think you could get away from me?
Luke gritted his teeth by reflex and he hissed in pain at the pressure. He had never felt such seething hatred—never had he wanted that man dead more than he did now, and considering the many times he would have laughed to find Damien a corpse, that was really saying something. Had he been weaker, maybe he would have been thankful Damien had let him live at all. But he was sharp enough to know that this wasn’t a mercy. Damien never did anything unless it directly benefited him.
For the next hour, Luke buried his face in his pillow, breathing slow and steady to avoid the ache in his ribs when he inhaled too quickly. He heard some of the other guys wandering around the house a few times, but fortunately none of them came inside; Luke could be alone with his thoughts and his increasing agony. The rush was wearing off, and now he was starting to discover just how messed up he really was. This was going to take forever to heal, and he had to wonder if there would be any permanent damage. The best thing he could do for himself right now was to get up and clean himself off, but he couldn’t will himself to rise from the mattress. He felt like a ragdoll, only instead of stuffing, he was filled with a million, jagged shards of glass.
A sudden knock at the door made him jump, and Luke sighed, dramatically, barely lifting his head from his pillow.
"Go away!" he shouted, but wasn’t at all surprised when he was ignored. Despite his words, he glanced over to see who was coming into the room: Murray, a sleaze who specialized in adjustments and minor mending. His presence inspired another sigh, and Luke buried his face in his pillow again.
"Man, they were right—you do look like shit," Murray said, helpfully.
Luke scoffed. “Hunter seriously called you?”
"No, actually, it was Shark."
Luke quickly sat up, but his body protested violently half way, and he sunk back into the mattress with a hiss of pain. “Ugh, fuck…” Busted body aside, Luke felt the first bit of positivity since he’d shown up. So Shark wasn’t dead in a ditch somewhere, huh? Not that that meant all was well. Trying not to let his feelings transfer to his face, Luke pushed himself up onto his elbows and looked back. “…He okay?”
Murray shrugged. “Depends on what you consider ‘okay’.” And that was the end of the conversation. Murray didn’t give him time for more questions or even painkillers before he shoved him down and jerked his shoulder back into its socket. Luke’s fingers tingled and he cringed, trying to breathe through the pain as Murray immediately adjusted his spine, even pushing his ribcage around just a bit. The man moved intuitively, finding every broken spot and setting it right. It hurt like hell, but Luke knew it sure beat internal bleeding or bones that healed incorrectly. That sort of thing happened all the time for those low enough on the totem pole. Damien didn’t have any use for ugly, damaged toys, so he usually took care of any medical services needed to prevent his boys from marring their outward appearance. However, sometimes he went ahead and let the bones set, just so that they had to be broken again by the butcher of a medical aid he had employed. It wasn’t often the boys had to visit Jack, but Luke knew that Damien was teaching him a lesson. He was lucky it was Murray who was adjusting him instead, though he wouldn’t admit that to the sleaze.
When they were done, Luke was sweating and panting from the pain. He lay still for a long while, trying to think about anything other than how much he was hurting. It would get better, he knew that. But first it would get a lot worse.
“So how ya feel?” Murray finally asked, leaning against the wall near the door. “All better?”
“Yeah, I think I could do some Tae Bo right now.”
“You sure got a way of getting your ass beat left and right. I mean, you got some balls, but you’d think by now you woulda learned.”
Luke rolled his eyes and didn’t answer.
“What are you, some kinda masochist? Does it get you off every time he gives you a black eye?”
“Why are you still here?” Luke asked, still flat on his stomach and staring at the wall.
He could feel the intensity of Murray’s gaze on him—that smirking face, those conniving eyes. There was a soft chuckle, then the sound of Murray walking over to the bed and sitting down.
"I don’t know what it is. I mean, your face all fucked up like that? But… somehow, it gets me harder than ever." He reached out and ran a few fingers through Luke’s hair and down his arm. Luke immediately jerked away, slapping the man’s hand back despite the twinge of pain caused by sudden movement. He was getting fucking sick of people grabbing his hair.
“Get the fuck outta here, asshole.” Luke finally pushed himself all the way up and did his best to ignore the stabs of pain from all sides. He climbed off the mattress and headed for the door.
"I didn’t do that for free, you know,” Murray called after him.
Luke laughed, a short, abrupt sound, and he turned around. “Only business I’m doing right now is free dick removal. Fair trade? If you think so, you can stick it right here.” He pointed to his open mouth, then snapped his teeth shut, before walking out of the room.
"You owe me!" Murray called. Luke flipped him off without looking back and kept moving until he was safely hidden away in the bathroom. The noise of people coming and going was soon peppered with heavier foot steps that wandered down the hall and out the door. Luke sat in the darkness for a while and breathed.
After a moment, he flicked on the overhead light, which flickered for several minutes like a strobe light before showering the room with a milky, yellow glow. Directly in front of him was a tub straight out of a horror movie, half rusted and spotted with mystery stains, mold crawling up the side. Growing up, Luke had never questioned this sort of living, but when he was in Damien’s favor, he was often surrounded by a certain amount of luxury. Luke had come to find that the things he took as a given weren’t really the standard at all. Now he cringed at the thought of using the old beast. He hardly ever washed up at the house, and it reminded him of being new again, one of Damien’s unbroken boys, still in need of training and taming.
Carefully as possible, Luke sat down on the edge of the tub and turned it on. The pipes screamed and moaned for a moment, then torrents of water gushed from the spout, initially a rusty red before filtering into a slightly tinted clear liquid. It would be red again in a minute anyway, so Luke stopped it up and began to undress. He still ached quite a bit, and he knew he should probably take Hunter up on that vicodin, but he just didn’t want to deal with anyone. He wanted to be alone. He was so sick of the endless cycle that was his existence.
The bath was thankfully warmer than the sink water, but Luke didn’t stay in long. He needed his sleep, and it was more important that he get cleaned off than risk passing out here and being harassed later. The shampoo wouldn’t completely remove the red from Luke’s hair, but it would fade eventually. At least his skin was easy to scrub clean, even if all he was doing was revealing dark blotches that would become black and blue welts. It just felt good to have the sticky substance off of him, one less reminder of one of the biggest mistakes of his life.
Luke crawled out, pulling the plug and toweling off as the drain slurped down the bloody water behind him. He patted himself dry, avoiding any spots that were particularly painful before wringing out his hair as best as he could. His mind was still racing, trying to take him back to an hour ago when he’d come the closest to death that he’d ever been. Wasn’t it enough that he’d lived through it? Was it so much to ask that he be able to put it out of his mind for now? All he wanted was a little peace, even if were just for a moment.
Luke was surprised when an image of that guy, Adam, popped into his head. That was certainly the only painless experience he’d had since fleeing, but it was odd to Luke that it kept coming back to him. There was nothing in particular that Luke felt toward the man other than a distant gratitude at his very stupid kindness. But now and then the guy had passed through his mind, making Luke feel funny, like he was forgetting something. That sense of failing to check an item off of a to-do-list. Luke stared at his reflection, trying to decipher it.
But seeing his swollen left eye, the redness all along his cheek, the gashes on his face, his cracked lips, puffy nose… he was quickly back to thinking about Damien.
Like it wasn’t even his own action, Luke punched the wall as hard as he could. His skin split along his knuckles, but with the sudden surge of adrenaline, he couldn’t feel the pain. It would come later, of course, but that didn’t matter. Come morning, he would be in agony; why not bring himself a little more?
His legs were shaking now to match his hands, and Luke struggled to stay steady. He pushed away from the sink and went back to the room, head down to avoid being accosted by any of his housemates. None of this mattered. None of it. Luke was only going through the motions anyway—why the hell should he care? Right now, the only thing he gave a shit about was sleeping. And it was a good thing, too, because a few minutes after hitting the mattress again, he was out.
There were easily millions of people in Wyrmwold Flats, and at the moment, Adam was watching a good couple hundred of them shuffling in every direction along the crowded sidewalks. It was late, but not too late for the bar hoppers and club kids who were huddled around the entrances of packed buildings or wandering from place to place in little intoxicated packs.
Adam tapped his fingers along the steering wheel. It felt weird being behind the wheel again after having his car in the shop for so long. Thank god for employment, though. He was getting a little tired of being forced to walk around in the monsoon.
The morning had started on a stressful note with bad dreams and achy joints. A friend had taken him to pick up his hunk of metal where the mechanics proceeded to rob him of nearly all of his funds, and then Jeremy had called to nag him about his birthday—what was he doing, where were they going? That was the last thing on Adam’s mind right now with work drilling him into the ground and the stress of a potential visit to his hometown still looming over him. And now… Now, he was sitting in his car on the side of the street, cursing himself in the darkness and searching, scrutinizing the faces of everyone who had passed over the last twenty minutes.
For a while he’d just stared forward like he was still driving, like maybe he could convince himself that he wasn’t doing what he was doing. But eventually he gave it up and allowed himself to ever so slowly glance to his left at the diner across the way from Hollywood Sinister. Again, the question had to be asked: why the fuck was he here? He should be home. He should be out of the goddamn traffic. But for whatever stupid reason, he was here.
Was it because he thought he’d see the kid again? What was it about him? Some drugged up boy with a sob story like everyone else? It was sad, sure, but that had never pulled Adam in before. This was bordering on obsession, and he didn’t know why. Maybe he was on his way to becoming a serial killer or something, and he was subconsciously developing his M.O. Pathetic street kids, jailbait hooked on drugs, blond sex workers. This was two steps away from stalking and maybe three away from making his own flesh suit.
On a conscious level, Adam wasn’t even particularly interested in the kid. If anything, he was neutral, other than feeling sympathy toward him for what was no doubt a shitty situation. But at the same time, Adam couldn’t shake the nagging feeling that had him swallowing his pride and pulling up to the curb in the first place. He couldn’t name the emotion; it wasn’t lust, and it certainly wasn’t love. It wasn’t even compassion. It was just… something. Feelings left over from dreams he couldn’t remember.
Across the street, people filtered in and out of the diner, oblivious to his presence. An old couple, some drunk business men, a family of immigrants still dressed in clothing that made them stand out in the city. On the corner, a couple of wasted young men who stumbled and wove as they walked. No teenage prostitutes.
After a moment, Adam cursed at himself and started his vehicle again. There was nothing here. Nothing out of the ordinary. And Adam was a moron. Embarrassment welled up in his gut, and he quickly pulled away from the curb once more.
Thanks for reading!
Author Note: If you’d like to be a part of my mailing list for future updates, please let me know! Also, I love hearing from readers, so if you have the time or the urge to send me a comment or question, please leave one here or by clicking on the link that says “Send me a message!”