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Count Your Teeth

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—Day 1—

Sebastian woke up with a hangover.

At least, he assumed it was a hangover. Pounding headache, throat parched to hell, and a general feeling of queasiness that curdled his stomach—yeah, this seemed to fit the typical symptoms he'd heard about. He could only guess, of course, having never had anything beyond a few sips of wine from his mother's glass at the dinner table. And that didn't count.

He gave a small noise of discomfort. He'd just tried to move, the keyword being tried, but even the tiniest shift sent daggers of electricity stabbing through his head. He slumped back into place, realizing with painfully slow awareness that he was lying in a bed. Whose bed? His bed?

"Welcome back to the land of the living, buddy."

Ches? Through the swamp fog in his brain, he registered the voice as belonging to his one and only friend. But why was he so far away? He turned his head toward the sound.

"Other way, dude," Ches said. "Wow, it's got you really fucked up, huh?"

Sebastian groaned miserably as he turned his head all the way back in the other direction. He cracked one eye open and could just make out a green smudge that may or may not have been Ches seated some distance away. He was straddling a chair, and there was a strange spot of orange glowing where his face was supposed to be. It was a cigarette.

Okay, well that ruled out the possibility of this being his bedroom. Must be Ches'. Then again, the room was so dark beyond its meager pool of light, he couldn't be sure. The bed and chair might have been the only two objects in all of existence, as far as Sebastian was concerned.

"Wha—" he tried to say, but a dry patch in his throat sent him into a coughing fit.

In the next instant, Ches was by his side, a glass of cool water held to his lips. "Here. Drink up." Sebastian tried to lift his arms from beneath the sheets to hold it for himself, but Ches just shushed the notion away with a gentle but firm "It's okay. I got you."

Sebastian didn't have the energy to argue, grateful to surrender to Ches' help and let himself be lifted to a semi-seated position while Ches held the glass for him. It was strange being treated like an invalid. Normally, Sebastian didn't like relying on anyone, much less being touched. But with Ches' strong arm around him, and his steady heart thrumming beneath his ear, he was lulled into a sense of safety. It helped to ground him and ease the implacable dread churning in the back of his mind. Even the stench from the lit cigarette in Ches' fingers didn't bother him in exchange for the refreshing water.

Once he'd had his fill, Ches laid him back down, tucking here and smoothing there until the sheets were snug up to his chin. Now he really did look the part of an invalid. The sheets helped, but his body temperature was still cycling wildly between hot and cold, and he couldn't stop shivering. "I feel like I've been hit by a bus," he said in what had to be the understatement of the century, blinking against the light from the naked bulb above him.

"After what happened to you, no shit," Ches said, sitting down again. The mattress's springs groaned beneath his weight with a metallic creak.

Metallic. Metal.

"The concert!" Sebastian launched himself upright as the memory struck him. Memory and nausea. Another head-splitting stab of pain lanced through him, and he hissed as bolts of fire-white went off behind his eyes. His stomach curled in on itself like a fist, saliva flooding his mouth. Bile frothed at the back of his throat before mercifully retreating, but he was still left shaken and dizzy as he collapsed back onto the sheets. Ches was there the whole time, rubbing his arms and making quiet, consoling sounds.

Whatever he said was lost on Sebastian, as disjointed memories flashed through his head like a strobe light. No, wait. There had been an actual strobe light, one that hung in the center of the music venue, kaleidoscoping through pink, blue, and purple stars. They'd splashed over him while he performed at Who are Those Freaks on Stage?'s first proper concert. Somewhere in the corner of his mind, he could still feel the thrill he'd gotten from shredding his guitar solos—a swirling and delirious high—but the memory was hard to get a firm grasp on now, too jumbled up with so many other fractured images. And he couldn't be sure if he was even remembering them in the right order:

There was a nice girl applying his makeup in the dressing room before he went on stage. Heavy metal blasted in a crowded den where drinks were being poured. Back on stage again, sweating and alive with the band. Back in the den. More drinks. The crowd going wild when they'd finished their set. A packed couch, knees tangled up with others'. The air, thick with perfume and loud music. Someone was talking to him, but they had to yell just to be heard, his ears ringing. Hearty slaps on the back, and laughter, and hands touching him. Too many hands—

And then nothing.

A barren desert stretched between the last, fleeting image and now. No matter how hard he tried to scrounge around for evidence of more, the memories crumbled apart like sand-rocks.

Sebastian groaned with the effort, pressing the side of his face into the pillow. "What the hell happened?"

"The after-party is what happened." There was a pause as Ches took another drag on his cigarette, tapping the ashes off on the edge of his sneaker sole. "Don't you remember what a good time you had?" Something that almost sounded like anger sizzled at the edges of his words, gone before Sebastian could even tell whether it'd ever been there.

He shook his head, letting his eyelids slip shut as though that might bring the memories back into being. "No, I—I don't remember anything." It sounded pathetic, but it was the truth.

"Of course you don't, Glam, you were fucking roofied."

At this, Sebastian opened his eyes again and squinted at Ches. "What-ied?"

Ches blinked. "Wow. C'mon, man, like this isn't hard enough for me already." He gave a high laugh, scrubbing a hand across his chin and looking at Sebastian like he had two heads growing out of his neck. "I mean someone slipped something into your drink." When Sebastian still didn't react beyond raising an eyebrow in a silent request to elaborate, Ches tucked one leg up under him and turned to face him fully. "Okay. Lemme start from the top. First of all, the concert was a fuckin' hit, so that's one good thing that came out of this. Bob 'n' Lordy, they thought that was enough reason to celebrate. Hell, Lordy looked so stoked, you'd think we'd already signed with a major record label."

Sebastian managed a weak laugh, their ongoing joke regarding their bass guitarist's lofty dreams a common touchpoint between them over the past few months.

"Anyway, the moment they said the word 'after-party' everyone came rushing over to the bar. Place was packed. We had to have at least 30 fans there, all for us, dude! It was—it was pretty rad." Ches rubbed a hand down the back of his neck, looking off with a wistful wonder that soon took on a regretful shade.

That same regret weighed heavy on Sebastian's heart. Their first concert, the one he'd bribed off Lydia for and stayed up all these summer nights for, and he couldn't even remember it! What a waste.

"You said you weren't gonna stick around for it, but some of those girls must've made an impression on you, cuz you ended up staying. You kept with your fruit juice, though."

Juice? Now this, Sebastian did remember, the lingering taste of orange juice blossoming on his tongue at the word. Someone at the bar had handed him his second refill, silver rings clinking against the glass's sides. "There was a...guy," he started slowly as a face bubbled to the surface: strong jawline, a red carpet smile, and piercing eyes. The guy had been attractive, even by Sebastian's standards, who had never thought it possible to see guys as anything other than "cool." But Sebastian had found this particular guy...captivating.

"Yeah, well that guy—" Ches all but spat out the word, snapping Sebastian out of his reverie. "—slipped you a Rohypnol when you weren't looking. You were drugged, man."

The word hit him like a brick wall.

"It took me a while to notice something was up. At first, you were just acting a little loopy. Laughing and getting more touchy-feely than usual. Not yourself, you know? I thought you were just riding the high from the show. But I knew I had to get you out of there when you started letting him hang all over you. And the places his hands were going—"

"Okay! I get it already!" Sebastian screwed his eyes shut and shook his head, the remnants of the drug in his system, now spiked with shame, making him break out in a cold sweat. At first he'd listened with keen interest, hoping to reclaim at least some of what he'd lost. As it was, Ches might as well have been reciting a scene from a play, that was how unreal it felt to him. But as every lurid detail grew worse than the last, he finally couldn't handle hearing any more.

This couldn't be true. He was a Schwagenwagens, heir to a master violinist and arguably the city's wealthiest family. People like him didn't get drugged. This was the kind of melodrama reserved for tabloids, where trailer trash or—vice versa—celebrity party animals had their names raked through the mud for being so irresponsible! Disgraced, ridiculed, publicly shamed. No, it couldn't have happened to him!

"Didn't think it could happen to you, huh?" Ches' gentle hand came down on his head, brushing the hair from his eyes.

It was like Ches could read his mind. Sebastian hesitated only a moment before nodding shakily. He never liked admitting failure, but he figured he could make a concession as long as he didn't have to admit the failure out loud. Giving it a voice would just make it that much more humiliating. But Sebastian knew if there was anyone he could let his walls down around, it was Ches.

Ches' expression was just as placid as ever. Genuine concern could be read in the pinched corners of his eyes, but nothing more than that, no harsh rebuke or disappointment prowling in the wings. Just a solemn understanding.

Whereas everyone else in Sebastian's life treated him like a mistake waiting to happen, claws drawn and ready to pounce at the slightest sign of vulnerability, Ches had only shown him infinite patience. It was like Ches didn't have a mean bone in his body. He'd been the ever-benevolent guide from the moment he'd first introduced Sebastian to glam metal: teaching him the guitar; sneaking him into music clubs; showing him the landmarks of the city; or just letting him chill in his room, feeding his soul on freedom and music. It was only in the last few months that Sebastian had felt truly alive, shaking off the shackles of his home and reveling in this second life that Ches had opened his eyes to, where everything was fresh and new.

And sometimes, evidently, dangerous.

The after-party had been a lesson on that, and one that he'd had the privilege of learning and surviving thanks to Ches. If not for him... Well, Sebastian didn't want to think about what would have happened if Ches hadn't been there. But as they said: a smooth sea never made a skilled sailor. Every worthwhile adventure came with its fair share of risk, Sebastian reasoned, and his heart shivered its gratitude to know that he wouldn't be going it alone.

When all was said and done, he had to admit that Ches was the best thing that had happened to him.

Sebastian allowed himself to relax into the touch, appreciating the warmth of Ches' palm on his forehead. It helped to ease the worst of his nausea, made him almost feel human again. He smiled. "You're...you're a really good friend, you know that, Ches?"

"Yeah, I know." Ches smiled back, his eyes soft with affection. "I mean, someone has to take care of you."

Sebastian blushed beneath that look, the secret he had been harboring in his chest for the past few weeks fluttering cautiously in reply. Was he just imagining it? He was tempted to blame the drug for making his mind slippery and impressionable. After all, he knew better than to hold out hope for the impossible. Someone as worldly and cool as Ches couldn't possibly find anything worthwhile in a mediocrity like him.

...Could he?

A part of Sebastian would have loved to stop and pore over this little development, one more addition to his short list of what-ifs that he'd been hoarding. But now wasn't the time for thinking about what-ifs. Right now, there were more pressing matters to consider.

"My father…" He swallowed back a surge of bitter bile. "My father's gonna kill me when I get home," he said, already trying to get up. His arms shook, and every joint in his upper body protested like it'd taken a blow from a sledgehammer. Before he could get very far, Ches was reaching for him.

Steady hands guided Sebastian back down to the bed. "Not so fast there, buddy. You're not going anywhere." Ches patted a hand on his thigh good-naturedly.

Sebastian forced a chuckle, trying to ignore the goosebumps that radiated out across his skin from that point of contact. "Trust me, I wish I didn't have to." He couldn't stop looking at Ches' hand. The knuckles were bruised, red, and scratched—had he been in a fight?—and a line of silver gleamed at his thumb. It was a ring. "But I seriously need to go." He tried to put more urgency into his voice, although in reality, he was too drained to care. His brain was still running at half-speed, sluggish and dazed. Logically, he knew he should be more concerned, but concern took energy, and energy was just about the last thing he had. Besides, the feel of Ches' hand stroking his thigh was too intoxicating to pay attention to much else. "I can't just stay here," he added, more an afterthought than anything, until he blinked at his surroundings and got the sinking feeling that he didn't actually know where "here" was.

He'd already ruled out the possibility of it being his own room, but now he was certain it wasn't Ches' either. It was the smell that gave it away. Like wet concrete and something distinctly metallic. Rust, maybe. And the way his voice echoed into the open air rather than being deadened by furniture, he knew he wasn't in the rear of the cramped trailer home. Then where the hell was he?

Before he could ask, Ches was leaning in close—very close—those hazel eyes taking up the entirety of Sebastian's vision.

"Ch-Ches?" His heart made a grab for his vocal cords. This is it!

"My poor little zombie." Ches held Sebastian's chin in one hand, his thumb brushing the lower lip as he eyed it hungrily. "You still don't get it. I always knew you were naive, but I never guessed you were this—" He lifted a hand and flicked Sebastian in the forehead with his middle finger. "—fucking stupid."

Sebastian gave an indignant gasp of surprise. "Hey!" But Ches was already walking away from the bed, slinking off into the shadows while Sebastian lay there, his mind spinning. "What the fuck was that for?"

"I really can't leave you alone anymore, y'know?" Ches said more to himself than Sebastian, sounding disappointed. "The second I turn around, you go and nearly get yourself killed."

Sebastian tried to follow Ches with his eyes but lost sight of him when he was swallowed up by the darkness. From beyond the edge of light, he could hear the screech of rusty hinges and the sound of Ches wrestling with something heavy. "C'mon, Ches. Nothing happened," he called out. "So I messed up." Try as he might, he couldn't hold himself up high enough to see anything, so he fell back onto the pillow with an exasperated huff. "You don't have to be an asshole about it."

"You really have no idea what that creep could've done to you, do you? It's a good thing I was there. Otherwise, you could've ended up like him." After a final grunt of effort, Ches emerged from the shadows. Only this time, he wasn't alone. An unidentifiable mass loomed behind him like a levitating ghoul. "Now your dear Romeo won't be bothering you again. Or anyone else, for that matter," he said, pulling the figure out into the light.

What Sebastian saw made his blood run cold.

It was a body. A grown man in tight-fitting jeans and the tattered remains of a shirt hung next to Ches. His arms were suspended over his head, and chains bound his wrists to a mean-looking hook that ran on a metal track embedded in the ceiling. How Sebastian had missed it before was a mystery, but as his eyes regained their focus and adapted to the dim, he realized it resembled the kind used in meat lockers. Only, instead of a pig that hung there, it was none other than the man from the after-party.

His face, or what was left of it, was more a lumpy mass of bloodied dough than the attractive man he'd remembered—colored in a medley of pinks and blues and purples, like a fleshy rendition of the strobe light. Blood oozed from his lips, staining the front of his shirt, and one eye had been punched in so badly, it was swollen completely shut beneath a shiny welt. His fingers were bent at odd angles, but Sebastian could still make out the silver shine of his rings.

"Not so pretty now, are you?" Ches smacked the man's cheek, the ring stolen from the collection glinting sharply in the light.

"Ches," Sebastian breathed, his tongue suddenly dry as sandpaper. "What are you doing?"

"Keeping you safe," Ches replied nonchalantly, pulling out a butterfly knife from his pocket and flipping it open—as if he needed any more explanation. He twirled it expertly in his fingers, before trailing its tip down Romeo's torso.

The blade's touch seemed to rouse Romeo awake, because he gave a little groan.

"I'm telling you, Glam," Ches continued, still looking at Sebastian with a straight face, "this world is full of really fucked-up people. You never know who you can trust. Like this guy? He's a fucking thief. He tried to steal you from me, and that—" He shook his head. "That just isn't cool." Then, like a maestro with his baton, Ches swung the knife up and out before bringing it down—straight into Romeo's stomach.

It punched in with a sickening squelch, and Romeo snapped to life. A pained cry tore itself from his throat, and his feet, hobbled at the ankles, skidded across the floor while his body contorted uselessly in place. If he was saying anything, it was impossible to make out around the spittle and shards of broken teeth spraying past his split lips.

"What did I say before? No one can hear you down here." Ches tsked, tugging out his knife again. Blood spurted from the wound, spraying him across the face.

Romeo's next shrill shriek was joined by Sebastian's own as he skittered back, adrenaline sobering him in an instant. The sudden movement made the world tilt savagely, and vertigo struck him anew as he pressed himself against the headboard, shivering and too shocked to tear his eyes away.

A torrent of blood was gushing down from the fresh hole in Romeo's middle, thick and dark and plentiful. It dribbled onto the floor, sounding like someone taking a heavy piss.

Panic buzzed in Sebastian's ears and filled his head with its clamor, making his throbbing headache unbearable. His stomach roiled again, but this time he didn't have the luxury of letting it pass uneventfully, and he'd barely made it to the side of the bed before he vomited. Stomach acid mixed with whatever he'd eaten at the after-party came up in an orange slosh that splashed onto the concrete floor, stinging and rancid. His vision blurred as tears flooded his eyes. From the edge of his sight, he could make out Ches' feet turn from Romeo and come to squat in front of him.

"Poor thing. Still not feeling well, hm?" The hand that had just stabbed a man carded lovingly through Sebastian's hair, all reassuring care and sweetness, before he lifted his limp form and deposited him back onto the mattress. "Don't worry. I'll be back to deal with you soon. Just gotta finish this up first," he said, leaving Sebastian with a kiss on the crown of his head before idling back to Romeo who was still coughing on his own blood and moaning miserably.

Sebastian could only lie there curled on his side, while Ches appraised his victim: a conductor readying for his next piece of music. When the screams started up again, Sebastian cringed and raised his hands to clasp them over his ears.

That was when he noticed the chains.

No.

"Yup. This bastard's probably gotten away with it dozens of times. Slips the mark a roofie, gets his rocks off, and dumps the body. Wham, bam, thank you, ma'am. I tell ya, some people just have no sense of follow-through." Ches had the gall to hum along to some unheard tune as he set to work, and the melody of tearing flesh filled the air.

Sebastian didn't pay him any more attention, too busy gawking at the chains anchored to his wrists by thick leather cuffs. Lifting them in front of his face, he turned his hands to look at the cuffs from every angle, doubting his eyes. They were cracked and worn at the edges, heavy usage written in the scratches that littered their surface. Chainwork had been welded through the leather all the way around, and a small keyhole was sunken into the side of each manacle.

His brain tried—and failed—to make sense of the situation. Doing so was like trying to build a house on nothing more than splinters, wobbly and falling into disarray. In the span of a few minutes, Sebastian's definition of reality had been replaced with what he could only describe as a fever dream, one from which he desperately wanted to awaken.

After what felt like an eternity staring blankly at his own bound hands, Sebastian registered the fact that Romeo had gone quiet, but he didn't look to see what had actually become of him. He didn't want to know. Nor did he turn to watch what Ches was doing when he stepped behind the bed's headboard. There started a mechanical grinding sound near the floor, followed by the rhythmic squeal of gears turning, and the twin lines of chain tethered to Sebastian's manacles were drawn taut by increments.

Sebastian could only watch in bewilderment as they snaked behind him, rattling noisily through a metal slot in the center of the headboard. Unable to resist, he was pulled down onto his back again, arms raised over his head until they were snug up against the frame, a horizontal parody of Romeo's own pose. A heavy clunk, and he was locked in place.

Finished with his work, Ches came around and stood at the foot of the bed, arms akimbo and looking very pleased with himself. "There. Much better." Shrugging off his jacket, he draped it carelessly over the chair. Next went his shirt which he used to wipe off the blood from his face before discarding it. It was only once he'd toed off his sneakers and begun to climb onto the mattress that Sebastian realized what was happening.

"Ches." The name squeaked out as panic wrung his throat. He looked up, eyes still stinging with tears. Whatever remained of his mascara had dried in dirty streaks down his cheeks, and he flexed his hands into fists, pulling futilely at his binds. They only gave a few inches, before the weight of the chains behind the headboard pulled his arms back up again the moment he let go. Even at his best, he couldn't have pulled them far, and now it was all but impossible. "Ches, p-please. Don't hurt me."

"Oh, I'm not gonna hurt you," Ches practically purred as he crawled up the bed. "Well, I mean, not any more than I have to." He settled himself over Sebastian's hips before sweeping his head low to inhale deeply at Sebastian's collar as though smelling something sweet there. "But we're gonna have a lot of work to do, so it depends on how quickly you catch on."

The butterfly knife made another appearance, its blade catching the light and gleaming like a fang.

"Now don't move, or else I might cut you," Ches chided as he slipped the knife beneath Sebastian's shirt and began the delicate process of slicing upwards from hem to collar. Cool air kissed exposed skin, the torn strips of cloth falling to either side of Sebastian as though he'd been flayed.

The tip of the blade grazed down the center of his chest, not enough to break skin, but Sebastian still twitched at the touch, his breath coming fast. He tried to keep his eyes on the blade, not sure when the caress would turn deadly, but he couldn't keep from flicking his gaze up to Ches.

He didn't recognize his best friend. Sure, by all measures of outward appearance, he was the same Ches: He still had his usual half-lidded eyes and lazy grin. But there was something else behind that facade that Sebastian hadn't noticed before. Something unhinged. What he'd always read as a laid-back and relaxed demeanor suddenly took on a much more sinister tone.

Ches had only ever been calm like the sea is calm above a churning eddy. Like a snake in its coil is calm before striking prey. Like a stormcloud is calm while holding lightning.

Had it always been there, hidden beneath the surface? Or had Sebastian just ignored it all this time? For that matter, what the hell did he even know about this boy from the rough part of town? It seemed ludicrous that up until a few minutes ago, he'd actually considered Ches his best friend.

Now, after what he'd just seen this monster do, the thought crossed Sebastian's mind that he might not make it out of this alive.

Said monster was currently mouthing at Sebastian's chest, his tongue following the same path the knife had just taken, lapping and nipping as his lips passed. It felt like slugs. "Just look at you." He sighed deeply, a sensual eagerness coloring his words. "Baby-soft skin, not an ounce of muscle on you. You've never lifted a finger in your whole life, have you?"

Sebastian whimpered when Ches' hands reached the top of his pants. "Don't! Stop!" He tried to buck Ches off of him but, still wrung-out and weak, only managed a wanton roll of his hips.

Ches gave him a funny look, then threw back his head and laughed. "Someone's eager to get started. No need to rush things. I'm getting there," he tutted, before setting about to make short work of Sebastian's pants.

By the time he was done stripping him down to his briefs, Sebastian was weeping silently, his face hidden against the inside of one arm as he trembled with fear and exhaustion. "W-why are you doing this?"

"I already told you, remember? Someone has to take care of you." Ches' voice was so sincere, that Sebastian looked at him, half-expecting mercy. Ches met him with a smile and cupped his cheek. "And no one can do that better than me."

Sebastian sniffled around another sob, nuzzling into that palm with each feeble shake of his head. "Please. Let me go." He didn't want to be here anymore. He wanted to be back home, cozy in his bed after a warm shower and a peaceful evening of classical music from the record player. He wanted to go back to before, when things were simple and predictable, when his biggest concern was mastering the vibrato for Bach's Gavotte en Rondeau. Not stuck in this living nightmare where a dead man was hanging just a few feet away, and his best friend held a knife to his belly. "I want to go home."

"Now, I know you don't really mean that." Ches kissed the tears from the corners of his eyes. "Be honest. You hate that place. Besides, you won't survive another second out there. You're not ready yet." He sat back on his haunches to survey his progress. Seeming satisfied, he hooked a finger beneath the fabric of Sebastian's underwear and tugged it far enough to slip the knife between it and Sebastian's balls. "The world is a cruel place, Glam. You need to learn just how bad it can get."

The tear of fabric and threat of those final words shocked Sebastian back to a certain level of cognizance, and a spate of defiance flared up within him. With a garbled shout, he summoned the last scraps of his strength, reared back one leg, and kicked at Ches. His coordination was still shot to hell, and he missed him by a mile, his foot landing harmlessly on the opposite side of the mattress. All he'd succeeded in doing was half-turn himself onto his side, which was a small but treasured victory. At least now he could hide his shame from view.

As he lay there, panting, Ches grabbed him by the ankles and effortlessly flipped him fully onto his stomach. His shoulders screamed as they were stretched by the awkward position, and his head hung between them, buried face-down in the soft pillow. In an unexpected gesture of consideration, Ches grabbed the pillow out from under him before he could completely smother himself.

"I swear to god, Glam, if I didn't know any better I'd think you were getting yourself ready for me." Ches huffed, hoisting Sebastian's hips up to shove the pillow beneath them.

The way he was able to manhandle Sebastian with such ease spoke volumes of his strength: cords of iron muscle casually hidden beneath his grungy jacket and relaxed slouch. It just cut like another blade across Sebastian's very pride. He was the taller of the two, yet it was becoming increasingly clear that in a match of brute strength, he would be the loser.

Ches knelt between Sebastian's spread legs, running his hands up and down the backs of his bare thighs. "You been waiting for this moment too? You imagine spreading your legs for me?"

Sweat broke out across Sebastian's skin as he panted with the effort of holding himself together. His brain spun like soup in a blender, and dark spots flitted across his vision. Mucus clogged his airways and he coughed around the buildup of tears before wheezing, "I'd never—" He nearly bit his tongue when Ches' hands came up to knead appreciatively at the globes of his ass.

Ches hummed low in his throat, his thumbs creeping towards Sebastian's center to spread apart his cheeks, exposing his most private parts to his gaze. "No, I suppose you wouldn't," he conceded. "You don't even know what sex is." He took one hand away. There was the record-scratch of a zipper, the pop of a lid, and something liquid squelched as it was squeezed from a bottle. "But, lucky for you, you're about to find out."

At the touch of something hot and firm against his asshole, Sebastian went stock-still, terror gripping him. His mind raced with images of male anatomy, embarrassingly limited to what he'd seen in textbooks and documentaries. The occasional dirty magazine. His own. His father's. But not like this. He'd only ever imagined, but he'd never thought—could never have pictured it like this.

"Ches, please!" he cried out, throwing a desperate look over his shoulder. His arms rallied in protest at the strain, but he kept begging, fear pitching his voice higher. "You don't have to do this. I swear I won't tell anyone if you just let me go. You'll never have to see me again! Just please don't—"

But there was no stopping this.

Ches edged forward, sliding his cock across Sebastian's hole, which twitched in panicked spasms. "Let you go? Now why would I do that? You need to experience this. And, fuck, I'd be lying if I said I haven't been hoping to be the one to teach you, Glam."

"Please!" Sebastian sobbed openly, wriggling his hips in an attempt to get away. But there was nowhere to go, and he only succeeded in pushing himself back against Ches' waiting cock then forward again, backward and forward, in a clumsy pantomime of fucking.

"If you insist." Ches chuckled in amusement, choosing to misinterpret Sebastian's cry. Cock in hand, he guided it to his target. The tip strained against the virgin entrance, slipping off-course once before Ches cursed under his breath and redoubled his efforts.

With Ches cramming himself against him, Sebastian was pressed further into the mattress, between a figurative rock and a literal hard place. Still he struggled, more out of blind desperation than any coordinated resistance. But even his best efforts didn't go unpunished. With one last, miscalculated jerk of his hips, Ches' lubricated head finally slipped past the ring of muscle with a slick pop.

"Well, hot-diggity-doooog." Ches gave a long, contented sigh, curling over Sebastian's back. "You really couldn't wait for this, could you, babe?" Placing his hands on Sebastian's waist, he rolled his hips, pushing his cock in a few more inches. "I know it always hurts the first time, but I'll show you just how good it can get."

The words fell on deaf ears, all of Sebastian's focus taken up with trying to process the searing pain that blazed from his ass. It was like fire, like being stabbed, like being torn in two. He'd never known pain like this could exist, made all the worse by the trial he'd just gone through.

But it was nothing compared to when Ches began to move.

While he lay in shock, Ches managed to thrust in and out with relative ease, each punch inward forging a path deeper and deeper still, until Sebastian could feel Ches' thighs pressed flush with his own. His organs cramped from being twisted and packed, the delicate flesh of his asshole strained beneath the assault, and Ches' bush of wiry pubic hair scratched at his bottom.

Where Sebastian's senses had been drugged to the point of numbness before, now they were sinfully aware, pushed to new levels of hyper-sensitivity, ensnaring themselves like unwitting flies in a web of self-torture. Distantly, Sebastian recognized that he was barely breathing. His mouth fell open around small, cracked gasps, while tears spilled liberally onto the sheets. His fingers curled into claws, and a tremor started up through his arms, down his back, to the point where he was being impaled. His muscles clamped down in a fit of self-preservation, well-meaning but misguided, inadvertently locking Ches in place.

"Fuck, Glam," Ches hissed. "I expected tight, but what are you trying to do, squeeze my dick off?" He grunted, "C'mon. Relax a little," punctuating the command with a curt slap to Sebastian's ass.

The blow startled Sebastian from his stupor, and his gasps spiraled into outright sobs as Ches resumed his brutal pace. He was jostled with each thrust, the heavy chains clanging like a death knoll against the headboard as he was pummeled from behind. With his legs stretched wide, there was no way to get any traction, and he was left to hang from his shoulders, helpless beneath the onslaught.

He tried to think about anything else besides the fact that he was being raped, tearing in places he couldn't see but still feel, Ches' sweat dripping onto his back, and rough palms around his hips. But the cocktail of stimuli, sharp and caustic and unfamiliar, were too alien to ignore. And unfortunately for him, Ches was too much of a talker to let Sebastian lose himself in the shelter of his thoughts.

"God, you're every bit as good as I'd dreamed you'd be. Should've taken you weeks ago." He groaned. "Maybe I oughta thank Romeo—after all, he practically had you gift-wrapped for me. But what he forgot was that there's a little thing called honor among thieves." He nuzzled his cheek against Sebastian's back. "And no one takes what's already mine."

Anger welled up in Sebastian, choked by his tears but still raw. "You're fucking crazy," he gritted through clenched teeth. "How can you say—" A particularly rough thrust wrenched a cry from him.

Shushing him with soft cooing noises, Ches slowed his pace to smooth a hand around Sebastian's ribs and down to his groin where he played idly with his flaccid penis. "I know this is probably a lot to get through that little brain of yours, but I mean it when I say I need to keep you safe. The world's gonna chew you up and spit you out. But me?" He gave a few futile tugs of Sebastian's cock before giving up. "I'm gonna savor you."

Sebastian's next cry of despair was aimed at Ches, at the universe in general. There was nothing he could do to stop this, but a small corner of Sebastian's mind still found some relief in the fact that this would end at some point. It had to end. That time just couldn't come soon enough. He clenched his eyes shut to block out everything.

His refuge was short-lived, however, as Ches grabbed him by the hair and wrenched his head back, never pausing in his conquest to deal whatever pain or claim whatever pleasure he so desired from Sebastian's body.

"Ah-ah-ah. No checking out of this one. This is important, and you need to pay attention, Glam," he lilted, pistoning his hips at a relentless speed that left no room for distraction. "You never did know how to listen. But maybe you'll learn. You've come a long way since that morning in the alleyway, sniffing around the dumpster, looking for garbage. Utterly pathetic. I almost considered putting you out of your misery right then and there."

Through the veil of pain, Sebastian found himself trying to focus on what Ches was saying. The dumpster? He'd almost forgotten about that. It seemed like forever ago, especially now, when each minute stretched into a hellish eternity. But at Ches' reminder, the memory came to life in his mind: It'd been the morning of the conservatory exam. He'd spotted a broken lightbulb on the sidewalk that would make the perfect addition to his model city, and he'd wandered into the alleyway after it. There, he'd met Ches.

There, it had all started.

He'd never have imagined that single action would someday lead him here to this moment. How differently would things have turned out if he'd simply walked on?

Ches was huffing behind him as he picked up the pace, his movements growing more frantic as though egged on by his own voice: form traded in for ferocity. "Rich fucking prick, thought you were above it all. But it was so obvious you needed me." His hips stuttered as his arousal neared its peak. "You still need me...!" He drove himself in to the hilt, crushing himself against Sebastian's battered ass, chasing his own pleasure in a violent and demanding finish. He made a strange coughing sound in his throat, fingers clenching painfully into Sebastian's flesh.

There was a final snap of his hips, the swell of his organ tearing Sebastian anew—

And then blessed stillness.

A foreign heat spread through Sebastian's lower abdomen, and his stomach writhed in response, convulsing with the intention of hurling again. But there was nothing left inside. He was hollowed out, emptied by the depraved act. Whatever innocence he'd had left, even after years of his own father's abuses, was no more. He'd been violated, defiled so thoroughly...by his best friend. Someone he thought he could trust, someone that had given him hope for a new life when he'd been at his lowest.

Now Sebastian was beginning to understand the new lows that one could fall to.

He hiccuped through his sobs as his asshole spasmed around Ches' cock, frazzled nerves riding out the aftershocks of his trauma. He could feel Ches humming his appreciation into his back, planting stray kisses here and there. Ches shifted his weight, squeezing the breath from Sebastian as he stretched luxuriously on top of him. But he was done. At least he was done. It was over.

"N-now—" Sebastian licked his lips, struggling to keep his voice steady. He looked wearily up at the chains on his wrists through tear-stained eyes. "Now will you l-l-l-let me g-go?"

Ches paused for a moment behind him before he broke out with a fretful, "Oh, no. No, no, no, no, my little zombie." He lifted himself onto his elbows. "I still have so much more to teach you."

Then this nightmare was far from over.

"Why...?"

"Because I love you, Glam."

Love? Betrayal raked its claws over Sebastian's heart as everything he'd ever held dear turned to rot. Fresh tears sprang to his eyes. If this was love, then love was madness, sick and deranged and full of hurt. The way the word twisted into something perverse as it dripped from Ches' mouth made Sebastian fear he was losing his own mind. "N-no, you can't mean—" He sobbed harder, unable even to finish as another wail surged through him.

"I do mean it, Glam. I love you more than anyone ever will," he whispered, his cock pulsing in agreement deep inside Sebastian. "I know you don't see the big picture yet or even understand all that I'm doing for you right now." He reached up over Sebastian's head, where his hands hung by their binds. "But someday you'll realize that this was all necessary."

He entwined their fingers. Somewhere in the room, there was the tic-tic-tic of blood dripping on the floor.

"Someday, Glam, you'll thank me for this."

Chapter Text

—Day 2—

Sebastian didn't know how long he lay unmoving on the bed once Ches was done with him.

He ached all over like a fresh wound after the rape, wrecked and naked, broken in ways he hadn't known were possible. So he lay curled on his side, the chains loosened enough to allow his arms to recover after they'd been strung up to the top of the headboard.

The remaining dregs of the roofie left him queasy and gritty around the edges. And he was desperately tired. His eyes burned like a thousand papercuts after what had to be nearing 24 hours without adequate sleep—not counting drug-induced unconsciousness. All those summer nights of running around, leading a dual life, had finally caught up with him. But while his body cried for rest, wariness shimmered along his nerves.

He would not sleep as long as Ches was in the room.

On the surface, he gave the appearance of dozing peacefully, but in reality he was a ball of anxious adrenaline, trying not to move, not to breathe, and not to watch as Ches disposed of Romeo's body.

It was a foul and messy affair, most of which Sebastian had the good sense to shut his eyes to. The sounds alone painted a gruesome picture—the thud of dead weight hitting the floor, the rip of fabric and squelch of a blade ripping through organs and flesh. It was enough to tie Sebastian's empty stomach in knots as his imagination filled in the missing gaps. Ches, meanwhile, was unfazed, whistling cheerfully while he worked, a tune that Sebastian recognized as coming from their concert setlist.

It set his teeth on edge.

At some point, Ches announced he was finished and had some things to attend to, that he would be back later. He stopped by the bed briefly to check on Sebastian, running a loving hand down his cheek, before leaving him with a chaste kiss and a casual reminder to clean up his mess before he got back. Sebastian didn't respond.

Then there was the ringing clang of footsteps up stairs, and Ches was gone.

Sebastian waited a full ten minutes, straining his ears. But nothing happened. Thirty minutes passed, and still nothing. After nearly three-quarters of an hour and no indication that his tormentor was coming back, Sebastian slowly uncurled from where he lay.

He first looked to where Ches had last sat, half-expecting him to be there, watching slyly from his chair. But the seat was empty. Romeo was also gone. The only evidence of him that remained was the dark red stain beneath where the body had once hung.

Cautiously, he looked around. The single lightbulb glowed above him, but he now perceived there was more light. The room itself was brighter, lit by pre-morning dawn. But that'd only be possible if there was—

A window!

The cry for help was already high in his throat as he scrambled out of the bed. Bad decision. His legs buckled and went out from under him. He dropped to the floor with a sharp clack of his knees. His entire lower half refused to cooperate, every movement accentuating the damage that Sebastian had suspected but severely underestimated.

He swallowed a curse, before carefully climbing to his feet again, and hobbled towards the room's single window. It was narrow and set high along the top of one of the walls, the sole connection between him and the outside world. The chains slithered across the floor behind him before stopping him short. Still a good distance shy of the window, he shouted at the top of his lungs for help, for somebody, anybody!

But no one came.

He wondered if his voice even carried very far, deadened by the thick walls of concrete enclosing him on every side. From his limited vantage point, there was little he could make out through the spatter of raindrops on the windowpane: the unfeeling face of a retaining wall and a sliver of gunmetal gray sky.

Eventually he gave up, retreating back to the relative comfort of the bed to lick his wounded pride. He knew it'd been a long shot, but it was still disheartening to be reminded that Ches' earlier threat held water:

No one can hear you down here.

Now he understood what Ches had meant. He was underground, but where underground was impossible to tell. His first guess was that he was under Ches' trailer home. But that seemed unlikely, considering the trailer park was crowded enough that someone would have heard him just now. Maybe the industrial district. Although that didn't narrow down the possibilities much. He'd visited only a handful of locations, but there were still countless more factory complexes and warehouses to take into account, many of which stood abandoned. All Sebastian knew was that it was quiet outside, no rumble of cars or hum of human activity. Desolate.

Just like this room.

He looked around, able to get his bearings for the first time since coming here. The room was slightly longer than it was wide, about three times the size of his bedroom, with brushed concrete floors and walls. The corners were shrouded in darkness, too distant even for the light to reach. At a glance, the room appeared mostly barren, but from his position in roughly the center of it, he could make out a smattering of mismatched furniture.

The bed was fashioned out of simple hollow pipes that reminded Sebastian of the utilitarian hospital beds of a bygone era. He tried tugging it in the direction of the window, but it was bolted to the floor. A cursory inspection from top to bottom revealed nothing of interest, save for the piping along the headboard where the white paint had been chipped off to expose the rusted metal beneath.

How many chains had it taken to rub that spot bare, he had to wonder.

Aside from the bed, there was a clawfoot bathtub tucked away in one corner, a nondescript metal table, and what he could only surmise was the room's equivalent to the lavatory: It was nothing more than a hole in the ground where a toilet had once been, a roll of toilet paper placed beside it. Adjacent to the toilet was an industrial-sized sink, the old metal bin stained with rust, and a jug of pink soap and a crusty sponge perched on its lip. A pockmarked mirror hung above it, Sebastian's small figure reflected in its grimy surface, while a rubber hose hung coiled by the sink's side.

In another corner, he could make out what looked like floodlights crowded together, their heads bowed and quiet, linked by thick yellow cables to a dozing generator.

The more sinister items revealed themselves as dawn opened up into morning. Industrial tools gleamed like fangs on one far wall: bolt cutters, hammers, and saws hung alongside crowbars, more chains, and an array of other equipment that Sebastian couldn't begin to name but looked dangerous all the same.

Opposite them was the room's single exit, the one through which Ches had disappeared. Sebastian couldn't see the door itself from where he was, of course, only the wide metal staircase that led up to it, flanked by a bank of light switches. One was flipped to the ON position, thus the working lightbulb, but as to what the rest of the switches powered, Sebastian could only guess.

Not that he would ever be able to reach them to find out.

The chains linked to his wrists limited his range of movement to no more than a dozen feet in any direction from where they were anchored behind the head of the bed. He took a moment to poke and prod at the little trapdoor that hid the chains' mechanical workings beneath the floor, but he could find no way to get inside. The way was blocked by a specially designed lock, and unfortunately for Sebastian, he didn't have the key. He wrung his hands over his manacles as he glared at the locked device, thinking bittersweetly of security levels and hidden compartments. They weren't so fun now that he was on the wrong side of them.

There was a strategy to the chains' placement, Sebastian realized, allowing him easy access to the room's lavatory while keeping him well out of reach from the window or stairs, let alone any of the more threatening items in the room's collection. He eyed the bolt cutters longingly, as he made his way with grim resignation to the toilet once the demands of his body refused to be ignored any longer.

It took some finagling and a whole lot of willpower before he found a position that worked, perched shakily over the ominous little hole. Willing his muscles to relax at all was a challenge, and his head reeled when a sickly combination of shit and blood-stained cum finally dribbled out of him. Even a simple bowel movement was almost too much for his abused rear, revealing more hidden tears in need of mending. By the time the ordeal was over, he was sweating.

Too shaky to stand, he crawled to the sink. Sebastian had never put much stock into his obligatory evening showers back home, but now he was nothing but thankful for the flowing water, even when it sputtered out from a rusty spigot rather than the elegant fixtures he was used to. The water was ice cold for his whore's bath, and scrubbing his skin pink with the lathered sponge was a new form of torture in itself. But he was grateful to slough off the patina of grime as well as the last vestiges of Ches' parting gift from inside of him.

The visual made him nauseous, and he tore his eyes away from the red-tinged bubbles that spiraled down the drain. He caught his reflection in the sink's mirror and froze. Haunted eyes above gaunt cheeks looked back at him, and his hair hung limp and unkempt. It was no wonder Ches kept calling him a zombie, the ravages of an "unforgettable" summer wreaking havoc on his youthful features. Last night alone had been the final devastating blow, leaving Sebastian feeling more dead than alive.

The siren's call of the bed beckoned him, and despite it having been the site of his defiling, he dragged his feet solemnly back to its bloodied sheets like a condemned man to the gallows. Sidestepping the puddle of vomit on the floor, he flopped face-down on the mattress.

Sleep found him within seconds.

Vague images visited him, dreams trying to make sense of the previous day's events in the theater of his subconscious: He was performing on stage. The scene from the concert was all there, but the sound was eerily absent and everything moved in slow motion. Ches was beside him, eyes shining and drops of sweat flinging from the tips of his hair as he belted into the mic in silent ecstasy. Strings of electricity danced between his lips and the microphone, mesmerizing Sebastian even while the audience dissolved into a panicked mob. Something told Sebastian that he should do the same, run away, but he couldn't bring himself to abandon the song, and his fingers continued their caress of the guitar strings. Ches was looking at him the same way he had that first time Sebastian had performed for him—enraptured and in awe.

When next he opened his eyes, day had come and gone, taking the last bit of natural light with it. Just him and the bulb again. He blinked up at it, noting the irony of how such a small and insignificant thing could have such life-changing consequences.

His stomach growled. The gnawing hunger he'd been ignoring was what had woken him up, an unwelcome and pesky visitor that had him yearning for Rowd's Friday night pesto pasta. He regretted every meal he'd ever turned down. When was the last time he'd eaten? For that matter, when would he eat again? What if Ches never came back? What if he'd left him here to starve? On second thought, Ches had said he'd be back later, so that was promising—

Wait, no. He shook his head, banishing the thought. That was terrifying. He'd rather starve than see that monster again. Ches was the reason he was in this mess in the first place.

He needed to get out of here.

Ches had had his sick fun for long enough. He may have had Sebastian beaten, but that didn't mean he'd won. Not yet. Sebastian hoisted himself up, tender flesh grousing at the disturbance, but still in somewhat better shape thanks to his nap. Revulsion wasn't the only emotion stirred to life at the reminder of what Ches had done to him. Rage danced hot and fitful across his nerves, lending him its strength. He curled his hands into fists.

Ches wouldn't get away with this. Who the hell did he think he was? He was just some grungy, smelly little nobody who lived on the wrong side of the tracks with all the other unworthy rabble. He was nothing—nothing but trailer trash! Sebastian sneered at the word. And that trailer trash thought he could do this to someone like him without any consequences? Ches had no idea who he was dealing with.

Sebastian was a Schwagenwagens. His family had resources, power, authority! He had come from a long line of proud bluebloods that dated back centuries. The Schwagenwagens dined with royalty, had half a dozen art institutions named after them, and were one of the most respected families in the city. That amount of sway didn't come without its share of perks. Sebastian rarely indulged in the privilege that came with being a Schwagenwagens, but now he held his pedigree up like a shield, one that would protect him from all the wrongs of the world.

While he doubted his father's approval of him personally, he never once doubted his father's commitment to guarding the family's honor. Gustav Schwagenwagens wouldn't stand idly by while his only son was disgraced like this, allowing some lowlife to bring shame to the family name. Why, he was probably doing everything in his power to get his heir back this very minute!

Sebastian's breath was quickening, caught up in the titillating thrill of his fantasy. He didn't deserve this kind of treatment, he reminded himself. He didn't deserve any of this! He'd been a good boy his whole life, took his studies seriously, dedicated himself to the violin—he'd done everything he was supposed to do and should be rewarded for it, not punished. He was too good for this!

Once Sebastian got out of here—and he would get out of here—Ches would pay for what he did.

He would pay dearly.

The fire of defiance warmed the numbest parts of him, pushing aside his fatigue and hunger and fortifying his resolve. He wasn't giving in yet! Free from the shackles of the drug, he'd show Ches that he wouldn't take any more of this. Sebastian could feel the fight kindling within him. Yeah! He would get his freedom! The first thing he would do was—

A loud, metallic screech followed by a booming clang jarred him from his thoughts.

His eyes flew to the staircase, his heartbeat picking up speed in time with the countdown of Ches' descent. He swallowed, willing his limbs to stop shaking. This wouldn't be a repeat of last time, he vowed. But his fists still trembled where he clutched the sheets to his chest, as Ches' face finally came into view.

"Hey, Glam! How's it goin'?" Ches grinned from ear to ear, holding up a paper bag in front of him. "Check it out! Burritos! You've got to be hungry. So I thought we could eat together." He looked past Sebastian to the sink and then back to Sebastian's face, nodding approvingly. "Looks like you made yourself at home. That's good. But—" He pointed to his own cheek. "You missed a spot." That fucking playful smile again.

"Che—" A catch in Sebastian's voice cut off the name. He started again, steeling himself. "Ches, you have to let me go."

Ches didn't say anything in reply, just looked down at the puddle of vomit by the bed. His smile fell. "Dude, I thought I told you to clean that up."

"Did you hear what I said?!" Sebastian curled his lips in a snarl, trying to draw strength from his words even when his voice threatened to break on him. "Stop acting like everything's normal! You can't just keep me here like this! It's wrong! It's—it's fucked up!" He took a breath, sitting up to his full height as if to impress upon his audience that he was not to be looked down on. "If you let me go right now, I can see about talking my father into going easy on you. He's a very powerful man, and he could have you put away for life, probably worse. A-a lot worse. But this is your one chance to make things right. There's still time to stop this, Ches." Goddamn it, he was supposed to be threatening him, not pleading with him. "But if you keep pushing your luck until it's too late, then you'll wish you'd never crossed a Schwagenwagens!"

Throughout his outburst, Ches remained unfazed, staring at the mess on the floor.

Sebastian's fists shook at his sides. This wasn't the reaction he was expecting. "Well? What do you have to say for yourself?!" It wasn't often that he raised his voice, and adrenaline buzzed through his blood. Made him feel bigger than he was. But Ches' complete lack of response took some of the wind out of his sails, somehow more distressing than if he'd shouted back at him.

When Ches finally looked up at him, all the mirth was gone from his eyes, replaced with icy irritation. "You're going to clean that up."

"What?"

No sooner had the word left Sebastian's mouth than Ches was on him, fisting the hair at the back of his head and yanking him off the bed. Before he could even cry out in surprise, he was forced down onto his knees, and his face was shoved straight into his own vomit. He spluttered and gagged as Ches chastised him patiently from above.

"C'mon, Glam, remember what I said about learning how to listen? When I tell you to do something, I expect you to do it." He tsked, grinding Sebastian's cheek into the concrete floor. "In case you haven't noticed, your precious butler isn't here anymore. You gotta learn how to clean up after yourself. You're a big boy now, so start acting like one." He pressed down cruelly for emphasis. "Can you do that?"

Sebastian's head was still spinning, trying to catch up with what had just happened. One second he'd been on the bed, pumping himself up with righteous indignation. The next, he was having day-old vomit shoved up his nose. How the hell did it all go so wrong so fast? He spat out a chunk of puke that had stuck to his bottom lip, floundering for a response. What was the question again? The part of his brain that only valued self-preservation kicked in. Just give him what he wants! it screamed at him. He nodded on automatic, smacking the floor in the universal sign for surrender.

"Okay," he gritted out. Ches just grated him harder against the floor. A pathetic whimper slipped past his lips before he said again, more loudly—more pleadingly, "Okay, I'm sorry! I'll do it!"

Immediately, Ches let up, and Sebastian lifted his head away with a gasp. He wavered on his hands and knees, partially digested and rotten food dripping down his chin, as he watched Ches saunter away. His eyes went unfocused, shocked at having given in so easily. Then again, he shouldn't have been that surprised. This was the very same survival tactic he'd used so often in the face of his father's discipline. Rolling over and taking it had always been the safest route, rather than angering him and risking more strikes of the ruler.

Sebastian tried to suppress a shiver at the thought that Ches had put him right back in his place, without even breaking a sweat.

Ches plunked himself down on the bed, getting comfortable while he opened the takeout bag still in his hand. He wiggled his fingers in anticipation before diving in and plucking out a corn chip. Just before taking a bite, he looked at Sebastian as though remembering he was there. He arched one brow in expectation and made a get on with it gesture with his hand.

Sebastian looked away quickly. So apparently, he was going to watch. He didn't want to think about Ches' eyes on him, the feel of his gaze reminding Sebastian keenly of his nakedness. Despite everything that had happened, the impulse to cover himself was strong, and he tried to appear as small as possible where he was curled over the vomit.

"Better hurry up, before I eat your dinner," Ches teased, stealing another chip.

From the open bag, the smell of spicy grease and toasted tortillas danced tantalizingly across Sebastian's taste buds, kicking his hunger into high gear. His stomach decided to give an obnoxiously loud skirl at that very moment which only made Ches laugh and Sebastian blush. Hunger was hard as hell to ignore. And also one hell of a motivator.

He'd told himself he wasn't going to cooperate in this game anymore, but he was ashamed to find he was already looking forward to a reward. And knowing Ches, he probably wouldn't have any qualms wolfing down the very meal Sebastian worked for, just to add insult to injury.

Sebastian looked around. How was he supposed to clean this mess up anyway? Nothing stood out in the way of a garbage bin—that's where you threw stuff like this out, right? Memories of childhood illnesses spent clutching at the trash can or, later in life, the toilet came to mind. Neither was a viable option. The only disposal nearby seemed to be—ah, there. A rusty floor drain buttoned the center of the room, just a few feet from the bed. Sebastian tried not to dwell on what its presence implied; all that mattered was that it would do the trick. Now for how to get the stuff over there.

Eventually, with some trial and plenty of error, he settled for half-scooping, half-dragging the mess across the floor with his forearms. The vomit was cold and slimy to the touch, and Sebastian had to turn his head away as he worked to keep from getting sick again. It was only a few feet, but the going was slow and very dirty work, the floor's rough surface catching food particles and leaving long scratches on his arms.

When he heard an amused chuckle from behind him, humiliation burned fiercely on his cheeks. Forced to stay on his knees as he minced his way across the floor put him on full display for Ches' amusement. This had probably been part of his plan all along, yet another way to degrade him. He vowed not to look back at Ches and give him the satisfaction of seeing the hurt in his eyes.

At least Ches kept his distance, happy to watch from the bed and polish off the rest of the chips while Sebastian toiled.

By the time he was finished, he was panting and sore. His arms and knees were cut up from the short but treacherous journey, and he suspected he may have ended up getting more of the mess on himself than in the drain. But at least it was done.

He wrinkled his nose, finding the whole task beneath him. He'd never spared a thought to things like housework or cleaning before, perfectly content to leave that kind of lowly work to the butler. Self-reproach swatted his conscience at the realization that he'd never appreciated the amount of work it must have taken to keep Schwagenwagens Manor in such immaculate condition. For the first time ever, he sent a silent thanks to Rowd for his efforts that had gone unrecognized for so long.

He was mulling over this peculiar line of thought when Ches appeared right next to him. Sebastian hadn't heard him approach, and he found himself automatically cowering in his presence.

"I—I'm finished," he said quickly, averting his gaze.

Ches surveyed his work, eyes moving pointedly across the floor, tracing the glistening sheen that marked Sebastian's path. He pouted his lips in a way that Sebastian had once found endearing but that now sent his guts twisting in panic. "Well, that's one way to do it," he finally admitted with a shrug.

The moment he'd stepped away, Sebastian breathed a sigh of relief. He was about to head to his meal, when Ches called to him from the sink.

"I said that was one way of doing it." He'd uncoiled a length of the rubber hose from its hook and was pointing it straight at Sebastian. "And now I'll show you the smart way." He twisted the valve open.

Water shot out in a pressurized blast, hitting Sebastian in the face. He yelped and stumbled backward onto his bottom, holding out his arms in front of him to fend off the spray. But it did him little good. He was doused in an instant, the cold water beating his stomach, drenching his hair, and numbing his fingers. He tried to shout at Ches to stop, but just wound up sputtering around a mouthful of water.

As quickly as it'd started, it stopped, Ches aiming the stream of water at the floor. In a few seconds, he'd efficiently washed away the residue left by Sebastian's clumsy trek across the floor, while Sebastian lay shivering in a puddle. He was soaked to the bone and covered in goosebumps.

Ches flicked the hose at Sebastian again, giving him one last rinse-off before clicking his tongue. "C'mon. Up you go. Dinnertime." He returned the hose and made his way to the bed.

It was like Ches wanted to treat him like a pet. It was startling how swiftly Sebastian was being shaped for the role. He'd already been stripped of his clothes, chained, and hosed down like an animal. What was next? He'd have to eat off the floor? Fury crackled down Sebastian's limbs as he glared at the back of Ches' jacket through a curtain of dripping hair, fire in his eyes.

Ignoring his howling stomach, he got shakily to his feet, the chains dragging when he lifted his hands. Without conscious thought, he began to wind the extra length of chain around the backs of his knuckles, the bite of cold metal honing his focus.

Ches remained oblivious, busy digging through the bag and casually asking his choice between the carne asada or the chimichanga.

Sebastian's arms shook as he approached, stepping lightly even as his heart pounded at the prospect of what he was about to do. He wasn't a violent boy by nature—he'd never even gotten into a schoolyard fight before—but this aspect of his humanity had been taken from him, too. And even a trapped animal could be dangerous when cornered.

Two feet away.

Now that they were both standing, Ches suddenly didn't look so threatening. After all, Sebastian had the height advantage. He could do this, he thought, as he looked down at him. His fingers trembled from the cold, but a rebellious blaze galvanized him from inside.

One foot away.

He stepped up behind Ches.

"I got us each one so—hrkk!"

Before he could think twice about it, Sebastian wrapped the chains around Ches' neck and pulled back. Hard. Ches dropped the bag as his hands flew up to scrabble at the chain, but Sebastian just bore down even harder, throwing his entire weight behind it. Raw instinct fueled him, the cocktail of adrenaline and fear ripening into hysterical strength as he fought to keep his hold. Ches was dangerous enough when in control, but now he lashed out like a madman, bucking and thrashing wildly. With a heave, Sebastian hauled them both off-balance, toppling onto his back with Ches on top of him.

They wrestled on the floor, Ches trying to break free while Sebastian struggled to maintain the upper hand. The rough concrete clawed at his back, while Ches clawed gashes into his knuckles, backs of his hands, wherever he could reach. But Sebastian held fast. Ches was making horrible, gagging sounds but managed to deal him a sharp elbow to the ribs. Sebastian returned the favor by redoubling his grip. By sheer luck alone, he succeeded in catching both loops of chain in one hand, hooking a leg over Ches' to keep him pinned down.

His free hand skirted down the front of Ches' jacket.

The keys! Where are the keys?! Sebastian's mind raced. They had to be here somewhere! There! Something small and angular lay nestled in Ches' right breast pocket. He dove in and pulled out a ring of keys. There were three of them, each a different make and size.

Not wasting a second, he rolled Ches off him and clambered to his feet.

Behind him, Ches hacked pitifully, curled over on his hands and knees as he wheezed out a cracked "Glam." He almost sounded sad.

Sebastian ran for the stairs, already flipping quickly through the rings before settling on the smallest of them. Simple in design and with a round pin, it matched the keyhole of his manacles. He stuck it into the one on his right wrist, praying for a miracle. It clicked into place, and with a twist, the lock popped open. Yes! One down and one to go. Elation soared through him, and he could already taste freedom: the rain on his face, clean sheets, a warm meal, and his father's stoic welcome home. His mother, his sister—they were all waiting for him. They had to be.

He shook off the cuff and took another step towards the stairs—when the chain on his left wrist suddenly snapped taut. Looking back, he saw Ches had grabbed his restraints and was pulling them towards himself.

"What. The fuck. Do you think you're doing?" Ches growled, his voice unnaturally gruff. He slowly rose to his feet, reeling the chain in hand over hand. Reeling Sebastian in.

Sebastian quickened his efforts, trying to insert the key into the second manacle, but it slipped from his hands. He dove to the floor to retrieve it, even as his chained wrist was pulled straight back behind him, leaving him to fumble for the key with one hand. He caught it between two fingers, dropped it, made another grab for it. Ches was getting closer, the aura of menace crackling around him like an electrical charge. He was right over him, lifting Sebastian's left wrist by the chain—almost there!—pulling him up.

Sebastian had just enough time to look up before he was met with a fist to the face.

Pain exploded across his cheek, and he went down like a stone. Tangy copper flooded his mouth. The world spun as his brain was rattled in its skull, but he could just register Ches looping the chains around his own fists, using them to drag a stumbling and incapacitated Sebastian to the bed where he was promptly bent over the edge of the mattress.

Having sense enough to know what was coming next, he immediately shimmied back on his stomach, refusing to submit so easily. When he tried to get his feet under him, however, Ches kicked them out savagely and brought down his full weight to pin him in place from behind, his knees digging into the backs of Sebastian's thighs.

"If you fucked up my tenor, I'm gonna fuck up your face," he rasped into Sebastian's ear, before drawing back his fist and plowing it into the side of Sebastian's head.

The blow was worse the second time around, and a fractured cry escaped him. Despair surged through his chest, slick and sour. This wasn't fair! This wasn't how it was supposed to happen! After everything he'd told himself, he'd wound up in exactly the same place as last night! Hot tears of shame burned as they rolled down his cheeks. "Fuck you," he hissed.

"What was that?"

"Fffffuck you! FUCK YOU!" Sebastian shouted. His pride had been rubbed raw, whittled down to a sharp and stabbing barb that he clung to—a primitive spear in the face of an AK-47. Still, he screamed long and hard at whatever god was listening and the devil at his back, a litany of threats and curses and primal, unintelligible shrieks until his own ears rang and blood spat past his lips. He screamed out his defiance, the last bastion in this battle that was so cruelly stacked against him, because while Ches may have had rule over his body, at least Sebastian still had his voice.

But even that was stolen from him, as the chains were suddenly drawn tight across his own throat.

His screams were viciously cut short, his larynx crushed beneath the unforgiving stranglehold, and he couldn't breathe—he couldn't breathe! His eyes bulged as he clawed desperately at the chains, arching off the bed in a blind attempt to lessen the pressure on his neck.

"Doesn't feel so nice, does it?" Ches illustrated his point by yanking the chains back even further. "Just remember that anything you dish out to me, I can pay back to you ten times worse." He pulled further still until Sebastian, suffocating and flailing, was certain he'd be decapitated. "But don't worry. I'm not going to go as hard on you as you did me." True to his word, Ches relaxed his grip, and Sebastian gulped down life-giving air, his head going woozy with the sudden rush of oxygen to his brain. "See, I don't want to kill you. I want to make you understand."

Sebastian panted, his fingers curled around the chains in a token gesture of resistance as he tried to catch his breath. He felt Ches adjust himself behind him, balling the chains in one hand while the other was free to roam his body.

"And right now, you need to understand that of all the things I could do to you, this—" He cupped Sebastian's ass cheek, twirling the pad of his thumb around his asshole. "—is the least of your worries."

The touch sent Sebastian's nervous system firing on all cylinders, the still-raw memory of the rape overriding any logic. He jerked forward, away from Ches' hand—straight into the chain's deadly embrace.

Ches hummed low in his throat, a tiger's purr. "Guess I should give you some credit. I knew you wouldn't just bend over and take this without putting up a bit of a fight." He drew back on the chains again until Sebastian's torso was lifted clear off the bed so that he could nuzzle at a spot behind his ear. "That's one of the things I love about you. My brave little Glam." He pecked a kiss into his hair, indifferent to Sebastian's ragged gasps. "But when are you gonna realize you're fighting the wrong person?"

Choking on the chains, Sebastian was left with too little, sucking in nothing but a reed-thin stream of air. His lungs burned and his head was beginning to pound. He bucked and kicked for leverage, for some semblance of control. But naturally, Ches didn't give him that luxury. He was the loser in this exchange, just as he'd been from the beginning, entirely at Ches' mercy.

Drool spilled over Sebastian's bottom lip as he struggled to keep his eyes open, every overworked beat of his heart sending under-oxygenated blood throughout his body. Right when he thought he'd pass out completely, Ches would loosen his grip, and Sebastian would surface again. Back and forth, back and forth, the morbid seesawing kept him teetering on the brink of unconsciousness. The pattern was deliberate, as much a part of Ches' performance as quaver rests are in any good symphony. And as the conductor in Sebastian's torment, Ches was impeccable in his delivery.

Sebastian's entire body pulsed like one giant heart as the pressure built, his skin growing insidiously sensitive. Once chilled, every inch of him now inexplicably burned wherever Ches' rough hand touched, leaving strips of fire lancing across his skin.

His hand wandered further south of Sebastian's ass, his palm cupping his balls, while his fingers slid along—

"Ah. Knew you'd be a quick learner." Ches hummed with approval as he squeezed Sebastian's erection.

Whether Sebastian's gasp that followed was out of shock or arousal—or shock at his arousal—he couldn't tell.

What the fuck was he doing? He wasn't supposed to be getting off to this! He was dying!

But his body wouldn't be dissuaded, the whirlwind of oxygen-deprived delirium turning traitorous. With Ches' fingers working him in undulating strokes, whatever lingering tatters of logic Sebastian had were torn asunder as his reptilian brain told him to latch onto that good feeling. Never let go. He tingled all over, blood gathering in all the wrong places while his head was sapped dry, leaving him confused and disoriented. So eager to feel anything other than the pain and seek out pleasure.

To mistake the pain for pleasure.

Lightheaded surrender washed over him in waves, each stroke pulling him further out to dangerous waters, where the sea went deep and his feet could no longer touch solid ground.

"See how much nicer it can be if you just go with the flow, Glam?" Ches' words oozed like honey in his ear at the same time that he eased up on his neck. "Don't fight it."

Another round of oxygen rushed through Sebastian's brain, another shot of stimulation that sent him spiraling higher and higher still. He almost moaned when the chains closed over him again. No longer the enemy, they had become his guide, his refuge, his oasis of dizzying, ill-begotten pleasure.

Sebastian didn't know who or what he was anymore. He only knew that to be touched like this was to be spared a moment's torture, his one salvation from this living hell: Ches, both devil and deliverer in one. His eyes rolled back in his head, and his body writhed sumptuously, grinding against Ches' hard-on where it slid along the bevel of his ass.

Ches' hand stroking his cock was the one thing keeping him grounded in the here and now, even as the rest of him began to ascend. His vision was failing him, black webs creeping in at the edges. There was pressure and warmth coming in from every angle: his neck, the mattress, Ches' hands—all of it coming together, siphoning his awareness up to new, unparalleled heights.

Everything going distant.

Before he could black out for good, the chains slackened one last time and he gaped around a wordless cry. He arched off the bed as if shocked back to life, and Ches was there to hold him, ushering him through it with hushed words of praise.

That familiar anticipation of a crowning orgasm swept up and down his body. A piercing flute sang in his ears, and every nerve was caught up in this raging swill of arousal. Sebastian jammed his hips into the mattress, into Ches' hand, searching for that nameless something that lay so boldly on the opposite end of pain.

And then, in a blinding flash of white, there was no more pain.

There was no more...anything.

Sebastian didn't remember passing out, but when he reentered the waking world, the first thing he noticed was that he could breathe.

The chains were off of him.

He looked at them through unfocused eyes, coiled up like sleeping serpents on the sheets in front of him. They looked so harmless now, even though they were the instrument of his captivity and tool of his torment. A raspy whistle scraped through his head, and it took him a second to realize it was the sound of his own breath. His throat clicked when he swallowed.

The second thing he noticed was Ches fucking him.

The rhythmic slapping of flesh on flesh beat like a lewd drum in the otherwise still air, accompanied by Ches' grunts behind him, as each thrust of his hips rocked Sebastian's limp body into the mattress.

This realization alone began to awaken the nerves at his backside. Damaged tissue, still battered and bruised from the day before, made its presence known—not the shredding agony of before but closer to a whinging throb. Sebastian joined in with a pitiable whimper of his own.

"Sorry. I'm sorry," Ches panted above him. He curled over to lay a sloppy kiss on his shoulder. "I just couldn't help myself. You looked so fucking delicious." When Sebastian could offer nothing but a broken keen in reply, he shushed him gently, smoothing the hair from his face with perverse kindness. "Don't worry. I'll—" He grunted again. "I'll be done soon."

Deja vu coated Sebastian's tongue in its bitter syrup. It had happened again. And he could do nothing about it. He'd been reduced to a mere animal, something to be mounted and used in the name of Ches' depravity.

His ass was terribly sore, but it was more of a minor nuisance rather than the primary source of his anguish. Vaguely, he thought that was impossible, considering the circumstances. Then again, everything felt vague. He still hadn't recovered from his high, dead brain cells spiraling out of his head and into his bloodstream like used toilet water. It was too much to face the world right now, and he almost considered slipping away into sleep again.

Then Ches adjusted the angle of his thrusts, and he rubbed against something inside Sebastian that had him seeing stars. Something that felt good. He hid what threatened to come out as a moan by burying his face in the sheets. Apparently, he hadn't hidden it well enough.

There was a pause. "Do that again for me," Ches said eagerly, picking up his pace. Another kiss on his shoulder. "Please, babe?"

Sebastian's chest hitched as a quiet sob shook his shoulders. He rolled his head side to side in denial, denial at Ches' request, denial at his own fucked-up reaction.

"I'm sorry," Ches said again, even as teeth grazed him where his lips had been. "Too soon. Too soon, I know." He leaned back, readjusted his hold on Sebastian's hips, and fucked him with jarring, purposeful thrusts. Before long, Ches found his release, driving himself into Sebastian with an indulgent groan. Again the stretch, again the heat, again the damning defeat of being simultaneously filled yet emptied.

Sebastian breathed out a huff of relief around his ravaged vocal cords.

He was worn out by the ordeal, depleted and wretched, and when Ches pulled out of him, he barely flinched, although his nerves sang a final thankful hymn.

Ches took a moment to catch his breath, one hand rubbing Sebastian's rump like the prized piece of meat he was. "Thanks, babe," he whispered, bending low to suckle at his ear lobe.

It should have disgusted him, but it just left Sebastian feeling confused and—well, he wouldn't deign to give what else he was feeling a name. But the way Ches' breath caressed his cheek sent coils of electricity down to his groin that still ached. Neglected and incomplete.

"I think we've both earned a good rest after that. What do you say, buddy?"

Sebastian allowed himself to be pulled up into the bed. He went without resistance, bleary-eyed and barely able to keep his head up. But Ches was patient, nothing like the vicious attacker he'd been earlier, as he guided Sebastian beneath the covers.

He groaned as he collapsed onto his belly, wishing to disappear into nothing. For a time, he was left undisturbed as he sensed Ches step away to—fuck it. It didn't matter what the hell he was doing. What difference did it make?

There would only be suffering, maybe the occasional break, and then more suffering.

At the dip of the mattress beside him, he startled. His brow pleated in alarm, but he couldn't find it in himself to open his eyes. Warm hands crept up his skin, enjoying their tour of his unresponsive body, as he could do little more than mewl weakly in protest. Fingers hefted his swollen cock then prodded carefully at his throat for a moment before leaving him in peace.

He was rolled onto his side, held firmly in place with an arm across his chest and a warm wall at his back. Something was whispered into his ear, but he couldn't make sense of it, the pull of slumber already rising up to claim him, blotting out all conscious thought and taking him away. He welcomed it with tears in his eyes.

There, in sleep, he at last found his freedom, escaping into quiet, escaping into emptiness.

Escaping into oblivion.

Chapter Text

—Day 3—

Morning permeated Sebastian's consciousness, slowly peeling away the veil of sleep until he was supplanted back into the land of the waking. Cocooned in warmth and serenity, he snuggled his face into the pillow and inhaled deeply.

His breath skidded on a dry patch in his throat, and he coughed. It was a small, insignificant thing, but it jarred him further out from sleep. He furrowed his brow as something shifted behind him, and an unpleasant pocket of cool air opened at the small of his back. Don't go away, he groused. But he couldn't speak it aloud.

His throat ached horribly, the pain revealing itself by degrees. It was scraped raw and throbbing as though he'd been singing for hours. But he didn't sing. He was a violinist. Or guitarist. Yeah, a guitarist in the band. The one who did the singing was—

Ches!

His eyes flew open as he erupted into wakefulness, reality crashing down on him like a storm front. He was still in the room, its dull gray walls burnished by the late-morning sun. Dust motes floated lazily through golden sunbeams that filtered through the small window. At first glance, the scene would have been romantic, if not for what—or rather who—was currently nestled against his back.

Sebastian lay frozen in place, not daring to breathe, as he traced the shorter legs entwined with his own, the one arm flung casually over his chest. Slow and even breaths brushed Sebastian's shoulder blades. Still asleep, then. He swallowed—or, tried to swallow. Big mistake.

Another dry cough rattled out of him, louder this time.

Ches shifted in his sleep, murmuring something unintelligible. But when he next moved, it was to disentangle himself and roll away. In another minute, his breathing had evened out again.

Sebastian counted twenty steady ins and outs before he finally released the breath he'd been holding. He let it out in a quiet whoosh, then began the painstaking process of sitting up. This was a challenge in and of itself, as any movement caused his neck to seize up. He touched his fingers to the skin there, expecting them to come away with blood. They were dry.

Thank god for small mercies.

His eyes slipped down past his fingers to his right wrist, and to the flimsy remains of the days-old bandage still wrapped there. The shackle had never been replaced after he'd managed to break free of it yesterday. He lay his left hand over his wrist as he considered his options. If he moved quietly enough, he could slip out of the bed without being heard. He'd rely on stealth this time, knowing better than to try and take Ches head-on again. His confidence wobbled at the too-fresh memory still etched into his skin in link-shaped bruises. Don't think about that!

The keys couldn't be too far. He just had to find them. It was light enough to see by, and with Ches still snoring softly behind him, he'd have plenty of time to...

Oh, who was he kidding?

His back wilted as hope deserted him utterly. Drawing his knees up to his chest, he rested his head on their peaks. It was hopeless. After the beating he'd received for yesterday's attempted escape, even entertaining thoughts of doing it all over again felt like treason—or more like suicide. There was no getting out of this, and any resistance would be met with brutal punishment. The low-level throbbing at the side of his head was a clear enough reminder of that.

With a sigh of defeat, he leaned against the rickety headboard. He lifted his hand, looked dispassionately at its leather manacle, then dropped it to the bed again.

"Good boy," Ches spoke up beside him.

Sebastian startled, heart jumping to his throat as he looked down. Ches was watching him through half-lidded eyes. He'd rolled onto his side, propped up on one elbow, the thin sheet slipping down to expose his bare chest. Sebastian scrambled to say something—an apology fast on his lips—but when all he could manage was a cracked whine, Ches waved it off, winding the chain around his fingers.

"Shh, shh. I get it, Glam. No need to say anything." He guided Sebastian down with ease until he was lying flat on the mattress between Ches' muscular arms. Ches' eyes were steeped in a hazy affection as he looked Sebastian over with approval. "That was a very good thing you did, not trying to run away again." He nuzzled against Sebastian's temple, his breath husking over his ear. "I think you deserve a reward for that."

Before Sebastian could wonder what he meant, Ches pulled something out from beneath the pillow. It was the other manacle, dangling on the end of its chain from Ches' hand. He swung it side to side as he canted his head with a lazy grin.

"Put it on."

The contrast of sweetness and gut-wrenching inhumanity gave Sebastian whiplash. Ches couldn't honestly expect him to cooperate in his own captivity, could he? But that look of unflappable conviction told Sebastian that was precisely what he expected.

Quashing the voice of dissent that bayed from inside him, Sebastian took the manacle and solemnly slipped it over his wrist. The lock clicking into place was as loud as a gunshot in the still morning air.

"Very good." Ches preened, sliding further down the bed and dragging the sheet with him until Sebastian was fully bared. He sat back on his heels and ran a hand through his bedhead, evidently very pleased with what he saw.

Clasping his arms across his chest on automatic, Sebastian tried not to stare, but it was difficult not to. He'd never really seen another boy naked, let alone Ches, and he couldn't keep his eyes from wandering south to where Ches' sex hung thick between his spread thighs. It looked different than Sebastian's own. He blushed.

"Now it's time you got a real reward."

Sebastian went stiff as a board, ready for the inevitable attack, when Ches first reached for him. But he simply picked up Sebastian's hands and placed them at his sides, giving him a cryptic wink. Hesitantly, Sebastian complied, not yet sure what to make of this new game. There was no telling what twisted "reward" Ches had in mind, but experience had taught him to prepare for the worst.

What came next, however, was not something he could have prepared for.

Ches began slowly, his fingers smoothing down Sebastian's chest and spreading outward along his limbs. Featherlight, almost ticklish, he traced chaste paths across Sebastian's skin over and over again first with his hands, and then his lips. Apprehension kept Sebastian's nerves razor-sharp, poised for the moment when the touch would turn lethal—a painful grab, a bite. But it never came.

Minutes passed. Fifteen. Thirty. Sebastian lost count. But after the better part of an hour and with nothing but gentle caresses that grew firmer, bringing warmth to his skin, Sebastian finally allowed himself to consider that maybe, just maybe, Ches wasn't going to hurt him.

He loosened by increments, eyes fluttering shut as his tightly coiled muscles at last unwound. A firm stroke along the outsides of his thighs and up to his lower back, fingertips pressing into the columns of muscle that framed his spine, dislodged a little moan that had been hiding there. He couldn't even conjure up the energy to feel humiliated by it, as from one breath to the next, Sebastian gave himself over completely to the experience.

Free from thoughts of danger, his mind was able to focus on what the touch was doing to him, and more importantly who was doing it.

He snuck a glimpse at Ches still curled over him, hands never ceasing in their massage, noting the strength that rippled beneath his tawny skin. Long-hidden fantasies flickered to life at the sight. Once upon a time, he'd imagined the ways in which he and Ches could have grown closer, their friendship blooming into—well, whatever it was that friendships became. Sebastian had only had a vague understanding of what that entailed, but now he realized how childish his fantasies really were: callow and woefully unprepared for the real world.

Things had been so much simpler before. His mind drifted to the day they'd first hung out at the park together, when Ches had taught him the basics of guitar. The memory was cast in a rosy hue, softened by his innocence and a budding affection for his new friend. He remembered Ches' laugh and the playful roll of his eyes when he joked. The way his hands had moved across the strings of his acoustic guitar.

Those same hands were now on him, kneading muscle with long, lavish strokes and drawing blood to the surface until his skin tingled all over. Sebastian rolled his head to the side to allow Ches easier access when he planted a trail of kisses up his neck to suckle at a spot beneath his ear. His mouth fell open around a breathy gasp.

Even his wet dreams had never taken him this far, and he stumbled his way through this unfamiliar yet tantalizing landscape of physical stimulation. Sebastian generally tried to avoid letting anyone touch him, if he could help it. Touch had only ever served two roles in his life: something to be denied him outright or as a form of punishment. Loving kisses and reassuring embraces were the stuff of movies; a raised hand only promised pain.

But when it came to Ches...what he offered lay at both extremes, and everything in between.

Even amidst the hurricane of last night's torture, his body had clung to the one safe haven that offered a reprieve. He sought out that same reprieve now. His breath began to quicken, and his hands flexed at his sides, itching with the need to touch himself. His erection bounced on his stomach with every beat of his heart, swollen and heavy with need, and left painfully unaddressed.

As though summoned by the strength of his want alone, Ches' palm grazed the side of Sebastian's cock as it brushed over his belly. His hips twitched automatically in that direction, seeking out more. A chuckle rumbled in Ches' chest, before his hand made another close—but not quite close enough—pass, stirring Sebastian's pubic hair and making his cock jump with anticipation. He tucked his tailbone, trying to rub himself against Ches' hand, but was thwarted when Ches danced away again.

"You're gonna have to tell me what you want," he said, even as he slunk down, kissing a serpentine path lower and lower until his breath skirted over Sebastian's cock.

He blushed bright red, shutting his eyes and burying his face in the pillow as though to hide from his shameful lust. He couldn't do that! He wouldn't let himself stoop so low!

Patient as a predator on the hunt, Ches walked his fingers just above the head of his cock, drawing small circles around his belly button. It was maddening. "Say it, Glam, or else it won't happen."

The same voice that had told him to give in yesterday was back, but this time it tempted him out with promises of pleasure, and with an aspirated wheeze, he finally whispered, "Your hand..." Dear God, he was really going to say it. "On...me."

"Thought you'd never ask." Ches' hand immediately made itself at home along his length.

His mouth fell open around a fervent "o", the air gusting out of him as he let go of the breath he didn't realize he'd been holding. The arousal which had been pacing nervously in the wings of his mind dashed out onto stage to thunderous applause, having waited for this moment. His heart was hammering against his ribs, loud enough to silence any voice that begged him to reconsider, to think about what he was doing.

But why think—Ches' thumb smeared through the dewdrop of precum at his tip—when he could just feel?

Sebastian panted with the effort of parsing through it all: there were Ches' fingers squeezing his girth, the sharp edge of a ring rubbing the underside of his glans, a thigh nudging between his knees.

"Spread your legs," Ches huffed, and Sebastian obliged him, bending one leg and tipping his knee open.

He was drunk on sexual desire as he bared himself before Ches, so brazenly, so vulnerably. He whimpered when Ches' fingers found his entrance, circling gently until Sebastian succumbed to the expectation and relaxed. On his next shaky exhale, Ches slipped two fingers inside. There was no stab of discomfort, but just an inexplicably pleasant stretch, like scratching an itch from a wound that was well on its way to healing. Flesh repairing, becoming more resilient.

Ches curled his fingers inside him, nowhere close to reaching the same spot as the night prior, but enough that when he removed his fingers again, they were coated in his leftover spunk. Using it to jerk Sebastian off added a whole new level of sensation, fueled in large part by the abject debauchery of it all. The slick squelch of Ches' hand on his cock was backdropped by his shuddered gasps, loud and raw and impossible to hide.

His sinuses stung with the cloying, suffocating musk, his pleasure transcending touch and sight to now encompass sound, smell, taste. Every sense was awash in his own arousal. It was everywhere, inescapable.

Ches stroked him closer towards completion, seamlessly alternating between quick and slow as though reading what Sebastian needed in nothing more than the subtle pitch of his moans. It formed the perfect song; and when he pressed his fingers once again inside of Sebastian, pumping in and out at the same pace as his other hand, the addition was not an intrusion but a tasteful accompaniment to his aria.

You have to stop this, what still limped along as his pride warned him. This is dangerous. It's wrong. But everything else told him to...

Go with the flow, Glam.

This was just the permission he'd needed, to let go of decorum and propriety, let go of everything he knew, and give himself over to sweet release.

Already his climax was gathering at the base of his cock, even more delightful than last time. Because while last time was intense, it'd been muddled by pain and his own misfired pleasure. But this was—what was this anyway? The answer came without hesitation in the form of a tremor up his thighs and a tightening in his balls.

A wave of utter contentment unfurled from his center, an intoxicating, bone-deep relief that made his center glow. It was the kind of relief that comes with the knowledge that one's efforts are at last rewarded, of being precisely where one is meant to be. And Sebastian didn't wish to be anywhere else but here, undone and at the mercy of another.

At the mercy of Ches.

It was the same as when they'd been on stage, perfectly in harmony, both crafting the performance for no other reason than it was exactly what they both wanted.

At first a sporadic and disjointed bluster, the notes of his arousal began to fall into line, melding into a mellifluous tune. The tempo quickened, growing richer with every corkscrew stroke on his cock, every drive of Ches' fingers into him. In a moment of lucidity, Sebastian reached down for Ches' hand with the intention of stopping him.

But Ches only chuckled, swooping low to growl in his ear:

"Give me your all."

Who was Sebastian to deny him?

The performance had reached its peak, everything rushing together in an explosive swell that could not be contained. Rhythm was lost to the burgeoning chaos, sweeping Sebastian up and up on a cresting wave. He hung suspended at the zenith for one dazzling moment, looking down from heaven.

Then the climax hit him.

His entire body pulsed as one beat, one cymbal crash, one beautiful cacophony of sensation. Alive.

He collapsed back onto the bed, back into himself, feeling as though he'd fallen from a great height while his soul was still stretched out somewhere high above him.

A flurry of notes trailed after, tumbling in random fits and jumps. Gradually weakening, calming, quieting: a decrescendo of distant thunder after the lightning strike. His head spun from the thrill of it. But he only had to breathe. Just breathe.

"Just breathe. There you go." Ches was guiding him down from his high, fingers still wrapped around him and milking his cock for every last pearl of cum until Sebastian had given all of himself, just as he'd been asked. Before the stimulation could tip from pleasant to uncomfortable, Ches peeled away smoothly and got off the bed, while Sebastian was left there to bask in his afterglow.

At least what was supposed to be his afterglow.

He tingled from the inside out, everything blissfully numb as the melody slowly wound down from its fever pitch. But hot on the heels of his climax, self-reproach blared its strident chirr, all sharp reprimands and rebukes.

He was disgusting, getting off to this! He had no right to feel this way, not for a murderous psychopath—Ches—who had kidnapped—rescued—him, killed a man—saved him from a predator—choked him almost to death—and to mind-blowing pleasure—raped and tortured him—but he als

He put his hands over his eyes and shook his head. Stop it! This is fucked up. Fucked up! he shouted at himself, biting his tongue against the words that would dare expose his betrayal.

It had only been a few days, yet he already felt like he was losing his grip on reality. None of this was making sense. From one minute to the next, he went from cowering in fear of Ches to cumming in his hands. It had to be shock, he reasoned with himself. What else could explain how, in spite of everything, he'd asked Ches to jerk him off?

What on earth was he becoming?

Two factions fought for dominance inside of him. One howled for justice and some goddamned dignity! The other, however, dared to dote over that little bird of affection that fluttered its clipped wings dolefully against the bars of Sebastian's heart. In the end, shame was the sole victor in this bitter battle.

Before he could wallow much longer, Ches reappeared by his side, the mattress springs creaking as he took his seat. He held a glass of water. "Here, sit up." He pulled Sebastian up to a kneeling position, then pushed the glass into his hands. He'd since slipped back into his briefs and T-shirt, and Sebastian averted his eyes, feeling even more inadequate now that Ches was partially dressed while he himself was still buck naked.

Sitting upright made the spunk on his stomach and chest begin to ooze down in fat globules. He wrinkled his nose at the bold-faced evidence of his sordid perversion.

"Here, lemme get that for you." Ches reached out and began to dab at the mess with a handful of tissues.

Sebastian squirmed, Ches' ministrations just bringing more attention to what they'd done. He felt so dirty. Then he remembered what had happened the last time he'd made a mess, and he scrambled for the tissues in Ches' hand. "Wait. I'll...clean," he managed to croak out.

Ches' brows lifted into a curious arch. A smile split his face as he gently pushed Sebastian's hand away. "That's awfully thoughtful of you, Glam. But s'all right. Don't worry about it this time. I've got it." He gave him a peck on the forehead before finishing up and tossing the soiled tissues.

Meanwhile, Sebastian stared into the glass in his hands, losing himself in the sheen that glinted off the water's surface and cut a shard of light across his face. So much had changed since the last time he'd been offered this same glass. Hesitantly, he lifted it to his lips, tried to drink, nearly choked when his ravaged throat clamped down in protest, and then eventually settled for taking minuscule sips that he let slip down his esophagus. The water only sharpened his hunger, like feeding a starving animal rocks, and he let out a frustrated huff. Even the simplest things were no longer so simple.

The touch of Ches' fingers at his neck startled him, and he clutched the glass to his chest, a pitifully fragile shield.

Ches tutted, brushing off his concern as he felt around gingerly, turning Sebastian's chin this way and that as he surveyed the damage to his neck. He sucked his teeth, making a whistling sound through the gap. "That's gonna leave a mark," he admitted, sounding remorseful. "Sorry about that." Ches' eyes met his for a brief moment.

From this angle, Sebastian could see the angry red brand Ches wore around his neck. If their short scuffle had done that, he couldn’t imagine what his own neck looked like.

"But maybe next time you’ll know not to pull something stupid like that again, hm?" Ruffling Sebastian's hair affectionately, Ches added, "Anyway, you'll wanna go easy on it for a while," before reaching down and scooping something from the floor by the side of the bed. It was the takeout bag. He opened it and took a tentative sniff of its contents. Pursing his lips, he shrugged at Sebastian, fished out a banged-up burrito, and unwrapped it. "How much you wanna bet it tastes like ass?" His joke fell painfully flat, considering that even the smell of half-spoiled meat had Sebastian's mouth watering. He offered him the first bite. "Want some?"

An audible grumble from Sebastian's stomach was his only reply, before he shook his head. Water had been hard enough; getting anything solid down was out of the question.

"Oh, right." Ches twirled a finger at his own neck. "The throat...thing." With a shrug, he took a hearty bite of the burrito and nodded his approval. "Don't worry, man. You're not missing anything," he mumbled around a mouthful of food.

Sebastian's stomach writhed like a wounded animal in its death throes, as he watched on enviably. This was yet another form of torture: to be offered a veritable feast, but to be unable to partake. He sighed openly with want.

His predicament did not go unnoticed, and Ches put his fingers to his lips while chewing for a moment before holding them to Sebastian's mouth. "You gotta eat something. C'mon, give it a try."

It was a small ball of mashed-up tortilla bread. Sebastian wanted to gag. Just the prospect of eating someone else's half-chewed food sent his gut into riotous fits. He wasn't that desperate, was he? But his lips—his lips had other plans, and after a brief moment's pause, they parted obediently around the small morsel. Slimy and warm, the bread quickly dissolved on his tongue before slipping down his throat with minimal effort. The urge to hurl was strong, but the imperative to survive was stronger. Even one bite immediately took the sharpest edges off his hunger, and despite himself, he leaned forward eagerly for more.

This continued for a time, Ches enjoying his meal with all the poise of an untroubled master while Sebastian sat meekly in place, accepting his scraps like a grateful stray. Ches chose his offerings with care, mindful of what Sebastian could handle and patiently waiting until he had finished one tiny mouthful before granting him another. It was almost touching—in a deranged sort of way. Sips of water helped the bite-sized pieces go down, and by the time Sebastian had polished off the glass, he had to admit he felt considerably better.

Once Ches had finished eating, he crumpled up the paper bag with the refuse as well as the remains of what was supposed to have been Sebastian's dinner still inside. Sebastian's heart sank as it was taken away.

He was then told to clean himself up, an instruction which he found strange but didn't have the guts—or voice—to question. There was no point in defying Ches now, and besides, it was in his best interest to keep Ches happy with him. Things were going...okay this morning so far, and he wanted to keep it that way for as long as he could.

As he made use of the facilities, he watched from the corner of his eye as Ches retrieved something from a panel set into the wall by the stairs. It being the same color as the concrete, Sebastian hadn't noticed it before, but it was about the size and shape of a circuit breaker, only instead of electrical switches, it held several well-stocked shelves. A medicine cabinet?

Ches came back carrying a simple first-aid kit in his hands. "Now let's get that looked at." Plunking himself down on the bed, he motioned for Sebastian to sit beside him. It was with unsettling ease that he found himself quick to obey Ches' directions. Then again, the alternative would only invite punishment. So he sat quietly as Ches tended to his neck, first applying an antiseptic that burned hot and then cold, followed by a petroleum jelly that he rubbed gently around the area.

Ever the chatterbox, Ches prattled on about all manner of topics as he worked. Inconsequential nothings about his plans to replace his guitar strings, how his class schedule at the conservatory was shaping up, ideas for new song titles. Sebastian half-listened throughout, lulled into a comfortable state of monotony by the normality of the one-sided conversation.

The kiss of cool salve was bliss to his ravaged skin. And while even the slightest stress hurt his throat, Ches' touch was unwaveringly tender. Attentive and careful, it was hard to believe this was the same boy who had almost killed him last night. Sebastian kept his gaze fixed on his hands where they were balled into fists on his knees. The scratches on the backs of his knuckles were stinging reminders of the short but savage brawl they'd had. There was a part of him that wanted so desperately to believe it had never happened, that the violence Ches had shown was just an anomaly, and that the laid-back and considerate Ches of now was still the same one he had befriended all those months ago.

Next came the bandage, Ches unspooling the white gauze and looping it around his neck several times in more or less a straight line. It was by no means the work of a professional, but he moved with such ease and control, Sebastian had to wonder if Ches had done this before. He thought of the hasty job he would often do on his own right wrist, and his thumb crept beneath the leather manacle to scratch idly at the bandage there.

There was obviously a lot that he didn't know about Ches. Sure, they'd hung out nearly every night this past summer, but there were also long swaths of time where Sebastian had no idea how his friend spent his days. He was embarrassed to admit that he didn't even know his real name.

It hadn't taken him long to realize that despite their being the same age, the gap in their worldly experience was immense. While he had been raised in relative safety and stability, Ches' situation at home gave Sebastian reason to suspect that life had not been so easy for him. He now wondered if he would ever know the violence that had shaped him to be this ruthless—and this gentle.

Sebastian was deep in the brambles of his thoughts, when Ches piped up with a cheerful, "And now for the final touch."

Something came down over the bandage, heavy and with an acrid, smoky smell. His hands flew up to feel it: thick, rough-hewn edges inlaid with a metal chain, rigid clasps at opposite sides, and made of the same leather as the cuffs at his wrists. Ches did something at the back of it, there was a click, and the collar was locked into place. The triad of his imprisonment was complete.

"Awesooooome." Ches admired the new look with no small amount of pride, running a finger between the collar and Sebastian's bandages. While not tight enough to put any undue pressure on his throat, its weight still served as a constant reminder of its presence. "I really think it suits you."

A confused sob rose in Sebastian's chest.

"Aw, Glam, don't look so sad." Ches hooked his finger into a small metal loop at the front of the collar and reeled him in for a hug. "It'll be okay. You just gotta get used to it. Besides, it'll keep you from messing with your neck while it heals up." He rubbed at Sebastian's arm and made soft shushing sounds.

Sebastian let himself be held as he cried in pathetic, rickety gasps. He'd been stupid to think he'd turned a corner with Ches, as though his freedom were any closer just because he'd seen a glimpse of kindness in his captor. It was clear that the worst was far from behind him.

When Ches had decided he'd been at it long enough, he patted him on the back with a stern, "All right. Enough of that. I don't like seeing you so upset. We're having a nice morning, aren't we? Let's not ruin it." Forcing Sebastian to face him with a grasp on his chin, he regarded him thoughtfully. "Unless there's something else on your mind?"

After a few steadying breaths, Sebastian quieted, considering Ches' offer. The hand on his arm continued its rhythmic caress, slowly coaxing him out. Maybe—maybe he really meant it. Now that he thought about it, for all of Ches' unpredictable violence, he could at least be counted on to be honest. Overlooking the particulars of exactly what he said, no matter how depraved or twisted, Ches hadn't told him a single thing that he didn't follow through with. And right now, he was inviting Sebastian to share his thoughts. Conflicted emotions quirked his features.

"C'mon, I know that face. You're thinking about something. Might as well get it off your chest."

"I..." Sebastian started, before snapping his mouth shut. He knew he'd have to tread carefully. Threatening and cursing Ches had gotten him nowhere last time. But maybe he could get through to him another way. Ches prided himself in playing the part of the benevolent savior, so maybe he could appeal to that side of him. The old adage about vinegar versus honey singsonged through his head, although its playful message had since taken on a much more dire tone.

"I...I don't—" His vocal cords slipped, and he coughed before starting again. "I don't...understand."

"What don't you understand, Glam?"

"You." At Ches' inquisitive brow, Sebastian rushed to elaborate. "You're—" Cruel, demented, insane! "—mean. Then. Nice." He wet his lips, feeling inept and dumbed down as he was forced to mince his utterances to the bare minimum. A tidal wave of words beat at the back of his teeth, but he held them at bay, apportioning out only a trickle at a time. Head bowed, he fidgeted in his seat, making himself look small and pathetic in front of Ches to further push the message: You are the one in control here. I am nothing. Have mercy on me.

"Do you like it when I'm nice?"

Sebastian hadn't expected this question, and he paused. To admit the truth would only further condemn him to a longer sentence under Ches' twisted sense of love. But could he lie? No, what good would that do?

"Yes," he breathed.

"I can be nice—" Ches' hand fell from his arm to his thigh. "—as long as you keep behaving. I told you I won't hurt you if I don't have to." He offered a weak smile in apology. "We can both enjoy this. I want us to." The hand on his thigh rode up to fondle his penis. "And you've been behaving beautifully since your lesson last night, Glam."

Sebastian clenched his eyes shut and turned his face to the side, bracing his arms in front of his chest. Not quite pushing Ches away, but not allowing him any closer either. He weighed the risk of what he was about to say next, before forging ahead regardless. "Let me. Go?"

He felt Ches' hand pause.

"Please?" He whispered, scouring his mind for some bargaining chip, something to sweeten the deal in terms Ches might understand. "M-money. My family has money. Can pay you. Whatever. You want." Stringing more than a few words together was only possible by pitching his voice to barely above a whisper. "Whatever you want," he said again, keeping his head bowed so that he wouldn't have to look at Ches as he outright begged. "I want. To go."

At first, Ches didn't say anything, each tense moment eating away at his resolve. Eventually, he peeked a glance and found Ches watching him with an unreadable expression. He prayed he hadn't made a mistake.

When Ches finally did speak up, his tone was light and conversational. "And just where do you want to go, Glam?"

Hope came alive in his chest. "H-home. My family," he answered quickly.

"Your family." Ches echoed him, his voice deadpan. He reached out and took Sebastian's right wrist in his hand, looking unimpressed by the shabby bandage work there. "I know you didn't do this to yourself," he said as he began to unravel the bandage, loop by unhurried loop, until its tail brushed the floor. He then rotated Sebastian's hand over to reveal the ladder of scars climbing out from beneath the leather cuff. "You wanna tell me who did?"

Sebastian could feel his ears growing hot, the attention on his exposed scars even more humiliating than his nudity. "M-my father." The admission curdled on his tongue. "With a ruler." As though that made it any better.

"And your mom knew." It wasn't a question, so Sebastian didn't answer. Ches sighed, scrubbing a hand over his face. "Why the hell would you want to go back to those monsters? After what they've done to you."

"But—"

"But what?" Tension crackled in the air.

"He was only—" The words tangled on his tongue. Was he really about to excuse what his father did? So many nights he had cursed his father's abuses, but now he felt compelled to defend him in light of Ches' warped accusation. "It was just. When I messed up." He could still hear the flat vibrato of his last musical piece. "So I could. Get better." He licked his lips. "Be better."

Ches' eyes flared with recognition. He grabbed Sebastian by both wrists, appearing to tower over him as he growled, "And how is that any different from what I'm doing?"

Sebastian stared in shock. "No." The denial slipped out from him before he could reconsider. There wasn't anything to consider. Of course it wasn't the same, a voice shouted from inside of him, appalled that Ches would dare compare what he did to a few measly slaps on the wrist. It was like comparing arson to a birthday candle. "You hurt me. Just to..." He could think of no plausible explanation. "Just to hurt me."

"Wrong, Glam. I do it because I'm trying to make you ready. I love you, remember?" Ches' hands shook where they gripped him with manic strength. Fury danced in his eyes. "Your family never did. I mean, look at what they reduced you to." He sneered and shoved him onto his back. "A fucking spoiled little rich kid. Weak, afraid, ignorant."

Sebastian's head banged against the headboard, but he kept his eyes locked on Ches as he began to stalk over him at a measured, steady pace.

"You think your family was trying to make you better? They wanted to hold you back, tear you down." A bittersweet smile broke across his face. "They must've seen what you're capable of becoming, and it scared them." He lifted Sebastian's hand to his lips and kissed his scratched knuckles with reverent tenderness. "I see it too, Glam. And it's incredible. But I need to help you get there, man. By the time we're done, there won't be anything you can't handle."

Sebastian wrenched his hand free and tucked it against his chest. "No!" His mind raced to come up with a more substantial reason, something that would make Ches understand that he couldn't keep doing this. But how do you reason with insanity? "This—this is wrong."

"What they did was wrong." Ches' eyes grew dark. "I had to get you out of there. If a few slaps of the ruler could do this to you, what do you think would've happened when it got worse? And it was going to get worse. It always does."

The way Ches' voice cracked on his last words made Sebastian do a double-take. Something slipped through the chink in his facade—something vulnerable. He took a deep breath, but when he next spoke, his voice still trembled with emotion as though he were reciting a painful lesson he wished didn't bear repeating.

"I told you before, Glam. The world's a cruel place. And you need to be stronger if you wanna survive it, like I have." He shook his head glumly where it hung between his shoulders. "You have no idea what it can do to you. When the people who are supposed to love you hurt you." He pulled his lips back in a wry smile, jabbing a finger into his temple over and over again, making a tud-tud-tud sound. "Really fucks you up. It—it leaves scars, man."

Sebastian recoiled as far as he could, watching Ches the way one watches a wild animal trapped in the same room as them.

"You think you had it bad?" He grabbed Sebastian's head, rolling it around and around. "At least you never had a dad who wanted to get rid of you before you were even born." He knocked him back with the heel of his hand as he seethed, "Never had to deal with a mom who called you a piece of shit before you knew your own name." Wrenching one ear, he pulled until Sebastian yelped. "Laughed at you when you cried."

"Ches, please—"

"Smacked you around just for fun!" An open palm slapped him forcefully across the face in a quick one-two, cutting off his miserable cries of pain. "Dragged you around by the hair!" He grabbed a fistful of his hair and twisted, threatening to pull it out by the roots. "Threw you across the room when she was out of booze! Kicked you in the ribs when you couldn't get back up again!" His voice rose as the intensity of the attacks grew.

"S-stop!" Sebastian raised his arms in a feeble attempt to defend himself. But it was useless. He was beaten, knocked about beneath the unrelenting barrage of scratches and punches, strikes and kicks, as Ches demonstrated each and every one of the abuses he'd suffered.

But I haven't done anything! I haven't done anything! He wanted to shout at the unfairness of it all, but he couldn't as a sharp cuff to the head dazed him.

Ches was still raging when his hearing returned, a shrieking gale behind the whirlwind of violence. "You've never had a dumb, fat cunt put her cigarettes out on you! Stab you with a fork!" He dug his fingernails in cruelly at a spot near Sebastian's left hip. Grabbing him by the collar, he hauled him up, reared back his fist, and roared, "Knock your fucking teeth in!"

Sebastian screwed his eyes shut in anticipation of the blow.

A pregnant moment passed. Then another.

Cautiously, he cracked open an eye. Ches' fist hovered an inch from his mouth. But it was the look on his face that made the world go still and Sebastian's fears fall quiet.

Eyes glassy, brow twisted up in anguish, and bottom lip quivering, Ches looked so—so broken. Sebastian could only gape at the sudden transformation. Distantly, he wondered if he had merely stumbled into the eye of the storm, that there might be more abuse to follow the temporary calm. But the part of him that still dared to feel something other than hatred for his abuser, his captor—his best friend—urged him to reach up and cover Ches' hand. It shook where it held his collar.

"Ches—"

He never got another word in. Because at that moment, Ches yanked him close and crushed their lips together.

Sebastian stared cross-eyed at the kiss. The simple gesture was somehow even more disturbing than the assault had been, a violation of his person that was different than the thrashings, different even than the rapes, because of its unsettling intimacy. It was his first kiss, and while he recognized that it was childish to put any stock into it, he still felt the pang of its loss. It, like every other aspect of his innocence, had been stolen from him.

Whatever Ches wanted, he could—and would—take.

So when Ches cupped the back of his head to change the angle and deepen the kiss, Sebastian had no choice but to accept it, helpless and pliant and open beneath this unyielding force that was Ches. Ches drew in Sebastian's bottom lip to nibble on it, his breath puffing against his cheeks, and when he demanded entrance, Sebastian caved to the pressure of his tongue with a flustered whimper.

He scrunched his brows at the bizarre feeling of having another's tongue in his mouth—a wet, slick, squirming, living thing. For a moment, he thought Ches was going to shove it down his throat and smother him right then and there, but to his relief, he retreated far enough to grant him room to breathe. Still, he couldn't hold back the small, pitiable noises of being overwhelmed, and he gasped when he heard Ches echo the same.

He hadn't meant to sound turned on—he wasn't actually enjoying this, was he?—but as Ches continued to ravage his mouth, diving in and drawing back, penetrating him with the same vicious passion he'd done with his cock, heat began to grow, unbidden, in the pit of his stomach. His toes curled. He arched off the bed, trying to buck Ches off, but his hips only came in contact with the rock-hard erection in Ches' briefs.

Ches broke the kiss with a shuddered moan. His head drooped as he panted against Sebastian's racing pulse. Neither boy moved, Sebastian unsure of what to do next; Ches, an even greater mystery than before. Finally, heaving a deep sigh, Ches curled over and laid his cheek on the keystone of Sebastian's ribs, wrapping his arms around him in a hug. His hair tickled where it brushed his skin.

"Please believe me. I'm only doing this because I love you, Glam. I love you."

Sebastian just focused on trying to catch his breath, looking up dazedly at the metal T-bars that crisscrossed the ceiling. Crisscross, crisscross...

"I love you. I love you so, so much."

Tears welled in the corners of his eyes.

Ches' head lolled, and his hug grew uncomfortably tight. "But sometimes..." Another bitter sigh. "Sometimes I fucking hate you."

 

He didn't say another word after that, just got dressed and readied to go.

But before he left, he clasped a chain to Sebastian's collar.

 

—Day 4—

Ches didn't come back that day.

 

—Day 5—

Or the day after that.

Sebastian's throat had healed enough that he could finally drink. He drank from the sink's tap until he'd had his fill, until his belly bulged, until he vomited it all back up again.

Then he obediently cleaned up the mess.

 

—Day 6—

"Hey, Glam! Wanna make a movie?"

Chapter Text

Metropolis City 2nd Precinct - Missing Persons Division
Attending Officer: Lieutenant Boris Levin
Case No. MPD-006189

THE FOLLOWING IS A CERTIFIED TRANSCRIPT OF EVENTS CAPTURED ON VIDEOTAPE (EVIDENCE TAG #FTG0425) ANONYMOUSLY RECEIVED AT THE METROPOLIS CITY POLICE HQ ON WEDNESDAY, 25 AUGUST, 198X, TIME UNKNOWN.

Date of Transcript: 28 August, 198X
Law Enforcement Transcriptionist: Karina Briefton

///

[Starting Timecode: 11:14:20]

 

>>INT. ROOM, metal foldout chair placed center frame, flanked by two 120-volt floodlights.

>>VICTIM seated in chair. Male. Caucasian. 16 y.o./170cm/56kg (estimated). Naked. Black collar around neck. Brown canvas bag over head. Blood visible on right side of bag. Victim's ankles are tied to legs of chair, arms bound behind back. Victim shows obvious signs of malnourishment and suffers multiple contusions/lacerations on body.

Suspect (off-screen): Just about got it.

>>Camera comes in and out of focus. Zooms in on victim. Victim shows obvious signs of physical distress, struggling against restraints.

Suspect (off-screen): Testing, testing. Is this thing on? (laughs) Okay. Looks like we're ready to go. Time for your big debut.

>>SUSPECT enters left of frame from behind camera. Male. Race unknown. 16 y.o./165cm/56kg (estimated). Brown hair. Green jacket, blue jeans, sneakers. No identifying characteristics as seen from rear.
[B.L. 30/08/198X: Forensic report came back negative. Suspect remains unidentified.]

>>Suspect approaches victim.

Suspect: Look at you, all bundled up like a babushka.

>>Removes canvas bag. Victim cowers under floodlights. Contusions on face, blood dripping from fresh wound on right ear.
[B.L. 30/08/198X: Victim's family has positively confirmed the identity of missing person Sebastian Schwagenwagens.]

Suspect: Ta-da! Now, why don't you start by introducing yourself to the camera, hm?

Victim: My... My name is S-Sebastian -- please, Chaz(?), I-I don't want to do this.

[B.L. 30/08/198X: It was the best the transcriptionist could come up with during playback. Might be short for "Charles." Will run a check on criminal records of any CHARLES in the county. 02/09/198X: No new leads. 15/09/198X: No new leads.]

Chaz: (wags finger) Come on, you can do it. We practiced, remember?

Victim: (Unintelligible)

>>Clicking sound followed by faint buzzing sound. Victim appears more distressed.

Chaz: Unless you want another reminder?

Victim: (shakes head)

>>Suspect exits frame behind camera.

Chaz (off-screen): Then let's try it again.

Glam: My name is Glam.

Chaz (off-screen): Much better. (clapping) Now, Glam, you want to tell us what you've been up to?

Glam: I-I'm being kept here against my will. I was kidnapped on August 14th, after playing at a concert at --

[Timecodes 11:16:15 - 11:19:04 missing]

>>Footage begins again with suspect walking off frame, shaking out right hand. Victim now suffers a split bottom lip.

Chaz (off-screen): What did I say about blabbing? That's not what anyone needs to hear, Glam. Now stick to the script.

Glam: I needed help. And Chaz helped me. He's helping me to... to... to get better.

Chaz (off-screen): Let's hear you recite your lessons. I want to make sure you've been paying attention.

Glam: (fidgets) I should clean up after myself (buzzing increases, victim gasps) b-because I'm a big boy.

Chaz (off-screen): And?

Glam: And that it'll be better n-not to fight you -- not to fight this.

Chaz (off-screen): Interesting choice of words. What is this? (emphasis added)

Glam: (with difficulty) M-my educational process.

>>Clicking sound, buzzing decreases.

Chaz (off-screen): Very good. Give us another one.

Glam: A-anything I do to you, y-you'll do worse to me.

Chaz (off-screen): Another one.

Glam: (lowers head) My family... They -- they're not good for me.

Chaz (off-screen): (clears throat)

Glam: (cringes) They don't love me, and I'm no longer (unintelligible)

Chaz (off-screen): Come on, Glam. Speak up.

>>Two audible clicks. Buzzing sound increases. Victim appears in greater physical distress.
[B.L. 30/08/198X: The hell is that? Sound dept. is still running it through the database.]

Chaz (off-screen): (annoyed) Fine. Moving on. What other lesson have you learned?

Glam: (shakes head, confused) I... I don't know what else... to say!

Chaz (off-screen): Jesus Christ, Glam, you're smarter than this. Think hard. (laughs)

>>Three clicks, buzzing stops. Camera shakes then zooms in on victim's downturned face. Piercing seen on right ear.
[B.L. 30/08/198X: The family's confirmed their son didn't have that before. Looks amateur done.]

Glam: That Chaz... loves... me. He's the only one... who will ever love me.

Chaz (off-screen): And just how do I love you?

Glam: You m-make me better. Make me stronger.

Chaz (off-screen): Little vague, Glam. I want to hear something more specific. What do I do to you? (emphasis added)

Glam: You h-hurt me.

Chaz (off-screen): Hey --

Glam: Punch me.

Chaz (off-screen): That's not what --

Glam: Beat me. Choke me. Starve me. Rape me.

Chaz (off-screen): Knock it off --

(Overlapping speakers 11:22:10 - 11:22:18)

>>Suspect approaches victim and kicks chair over backward. Heated off-mic exchange between subjects. Suspect strikes victim three times then resets chair. Soft off-mic exchange between subjects. Suspect pets victim's hair, then walks behind camera again.
[B.L. 03/08/198X: This sick son of a bitch never shows his face. He's either really lucky or he knows exactly what he's doing.]

Chaz (off-screen): (out of breath) Let's try that again. What do I do to you?

>>Victim doesn't respond. Clicking sound, buzzing resumes. Victim startles, sits up straighter.

Glam: You... (voice cracks) You're changing me.

Chaz (off-screen): Changing you? How?

Glam: I think things and f-feel things I never did before.

Chaz (off-screen): Aw, Glam, I'm blushing. Never took you for a romantic.

Glam: (glares at camera) I-I don't like it! I don't want to change.

Chaz (off-screen): But you're becoming who you're supposed to be, Glam. What's so bad about that?

Glam: It's messed up.

Chaz (off-screen): That's just a matter of perspective.

Glam: It's scary.

Chaz (off-screen): Yeah, the world is scary. But I'll show you how not to be scared anymore.

Glam: (turns head to the right) It h-hurts.

Chaz (off-screen): (sighs) It always hurts when you're born. Why do you think babies cry? I'm giving you a new life, helping you be the person you were meant to be.

Glam: (louder) I already had a life! I was Sebastian Schwagenwagens. (blinks, startled) I mean, I am. (emphasis added)

Chaz (off-screen): Not much of a life, if you ask me. They kept you like a pet in a fucking cage before. I'm setting you free.

Glam: (struggles against binds, snarls) I don't feel very free!

Chaz (off-screen): Baby steps, Glam. Baby steps. Like they say, you have to learn how to crawl before you can walk. Walk before you can run. Run before --

Glam: I hate this!

Chaz (off-screen): (long pause) You don't mean that, Glam. You just don't understand yet. I wish I could make this easier for you. I really do. It doesn't always have to be so hard. Don't I make you feel good?

Glam: (no response)

Chaz (off-screen): Answer me, Glam.

Glam: You... make me feel good. Sometimes.

Chaz (off-screen): When I do what?

Glam: (blushes, looks down) T-touch me, gently. Kiss me.

Chaz (off-screen): Do you like it when I touch you?

Glam: (nods)

Chaz (off-screen): I can't hear you.

Glam: (whispers) I like it.

Chaz (off-screen): When I kiss you?

Glam: Yes.

>>Three clicks, buzzing increases. Camera zooms in on victim's face. Victim exhibits flushed skin, labored breathing.
[B.L. 30/08/198X: Possibly electrocution? 04/09/198X: Closer analysis points to remote-controlled device inside rectum. Jesus Christ.]

Chaz (off-screen): Tell me how it feels when I touch and kiss you.

Glam: (licks lips) I get hot all over l-l-like I have a fever. Dizzy. Crazy. (shakes head) That's it, I feel like I'm g-going crazy.

Chaz (off-screen): (hums) I can relate. Love makes people crazy. Do you feel that way when I fuck you, Glam?

Glam: (nods shakily)

Chaz (off-screen): Do you like it when I fuck you?

Glam: (sharp gasp) (shakes head)

>>Camera pans down to victim's groin, comes in and out of focus. Victim is fidgeting, trying to keep thighs together.

Chaz (off-screen): (clicks tongue) Don't lie to me, Glam. There's no point in hiding what you’re feeling. Now let's see it. Come on.

>>Multiple clicks. Buzzing rises and falls in cyclical pattern. Victim, with hesitation, spreads legs. Victim is visibly aroused.

Chaz (off-screen): There you go.

>>Sound of cloth rustling off-screen. Sound of zipper sliding.

Chaz (off-screen): (labored breathing) God, you're beautiful. Look how you're squirming for me. Do you wish I'd fuck you now?

Glam: No, that's not -- (gasps, looks away)

Chaz (off-screen): I know it's been a while. You miss my cock, is that it? You miss the way it feels when I'm inside you. I know that little hunk of plastic isn't enough for you.

>>Multiple clicks; buzzing increases and maintains at maximum volume.

Chaz (off-screen): You want the real thing, don't you. (laughs) Just imagine the look on your parents' faces when they see you like this.

Glam: (looks confused) My parents? W-what do you --

Chaz (off-screen): What'll they think when they learn their little pet's turned out to be such a perv?

Glam: I-I thought you said you were recording this for -- (panicked) Who else is going to see this?

Chaz (off-screen): (laughs) Don't know. I haven't decided yet. But don't you think your family would want to see you again? You keep saying they do.

Glam: (voice breaks) N-no! You can't! You can't! Please! For the love of God! (struggles)

Chaz (off-screen): (labored breathing) You're so fucking hot when you beg, you know that?

Glam: Father! (cries) I'm sorry! I'm so sorry! I n-never should've lied to you!

Chaz (off-screen): Don't you fucking apologize to him, Glam. You don't need him anymore. It's just you and me now. (sighs) I love you, Glam.

Glam: No...

Chaz (off-screen): Do you love me, Glam?

Glam: (cries)

>>Suspect steps in front of camera, stands before victim.

Chaz: Do you love me?

Glam: (cries)

>>Suspect kneels in front of victim.

[Ending Timecode: 11:27:52]

 

Case: SUSPENDED
Status: CONFIDENTIAL
Notes: NO PROGRESS HAS BEEN MADE IN THE RECOVERY OF THE MISSING PERSON. VICTIM'S PARENTS HAVE EXPRESSLY ORDERED THAT ALL EVIDENCE PERTAINING TO THE CASE NOT BE DISCLOSED TO THE PUBLIC, AND ALL COPIES OF THIS VIDEO RECORDING BE DESTROYED. THIS TRANSCRIPT IS THE ONLY EXISTING RECORD.

///

 

Sebastian's mouth hung open in a long, breathless gasp. He strained forward in the chair as far as he could go, forgetting the pain in his shoulders, in his wrists where they were bound tightly behind his back, the fresh cut on his lip and dull throbbing of his ear. Even the insidious vibrator that still buzzed away in his ass. All of it fell away at the overwhelming sensation of Ches' mouth on him.

Ches' tongue on him.

He struggled against his binds, twisting and wriggling in an attempt to get away. But there was nowhere to escape. Not with Ches' head buried in his lap, hands cupping his ass as he suckled his cock like a thirsty drunk at his bottle.

His expression was one of total concentration, brows creased and drawn downward, as though he were fighting with the cock in his mouth rather than sucking it. He was this way with everything he did to Sebastian, unsatisfied with simply taking what he wanted, and instead having to wrench it from him cruelly to leave no doubt as to who was in charge.

But you've already won, Sebastian wanted to say. All he could manage was a cracked whine.

Ches slid him in up to the hilt, brushing his pubes with his lips and ensconcing the head of his cock within the slick, tight walls of his throat—and when he hummed, Sebastian's cries devolved into a shameful moan. It was a vulgar sound, like that of a dying animal. Fitting, as that was just how Sebastian felt.

He wanted to curl up in a hole and die, to be spit on by any onlooker who came to witness the despicable thing he'd become.

Tears streamed down his cheeks, and his shoulders shook as he sobbed through the blowjob, his body burning with arousal and self-loathing in equal measure. He panted with lust while cursing his own depravity in the same breath. Ches was right to call him a pervert.

At Ches' back, the camcorder's red light continued to glow, recording the sinful act for perpetuity, his pitiful form captured in miniature within its unfeeling lens.

Locked away in this dingy basement for the past week had been a nightmare, but at least it had been his nightmare and his alone. Now the thought that it would be shared with the outside world—his family—sent acidic guilt pumping through his gut. After they'd seen him reduced to this, he'd never be able to face them again. They'd probably never want to face him again either.

At that moment, Ches' tongue rippled along the underside of his cock, twirled around the glans, and probed his slit. Wicked pleasure entwined itself around his guilt.

He'd have rather Ches bitten down on him, than blow him—at least that would have felt more deserving. As it was, however, his hips bucked on automatic, having no choice but to drive himself deeper into his own personal heaven-clad hell found within Ches' mouth.

His next lowing moan was cut off by a pained squawk as Ches suddenly reached up and grabbed his right ear.

Ches drew off the end of his dick with a lewd pop, as he used his grip on Sebastian's ear to haul himself up, ignoring his plaintive whines. "Naughty, naughty, Glam. You can't keep seducing me like that. It's distracting me from my work." He thumbed the earring—a silver stud—as he looked at it in wonder. "Got a little caught up in the moment there." His eyes moved from the piercing to Sebastian's fearful stare. "But I told you we weren't finished with this, remember? C'mon."

As Ches untied his legs with a few deft tugs, the implication of what he'd said gradually sunk in, and Sebastian balked as he was hoisted from the chair by the arm. "W-wait! You can't seriously—"

"Trust me. If one piercing already looks this good, you'll look amazing with two." Ches half-pulled, half-dragged Sebastian in the direction of the room's only table. "Or maybe six," he mused.

Six?!

The strength went out of Sebastian's legs at the suggestion, but Ches carried him easily the rest of the way before lifting him up onto the table. His bottom slipped on the smooth, metal surface, and he blushed at the reminder that lube liberally coated his ass. The piercing kit was still there, its lid open to reveal the collection of heinous little instruments inside, as sharp and threatening as they had been that morning. Sebastian's ear throbbed at the memory.

Ches shoved him onto his back. With his arms bound behind him, wrist to opposite elbow, his chest was thrust forward unnaturally, and his head hit the table with a sharp clack. He saw stars. His collar was then clipped to something at the end of the table, while his ankles were once again strapped down in such a way that forced his legs apart over the table's edge. That didn't stop Sebastian from trying to close them, however, but it proved futile, and he collapsed in place, breathing hard.

It didn't take much to wind him. He'd lost track of how many days it'd been since he'd last eaten anything substantial. Two, three—no, far more. Nearly a week. He had to wonder why Ches even bothered with so many security measures anymore. Sebastian barely had the energy to hold himself up, let alone resist or, God save him, run away.

Stepping up between Sebastian's legs, Ches leaned one hand on the table and looked him over like an artist before a blank canvas. "Don't worry. I'm a reasonable guy. We'll just do one more." He winked at him. "For now."

With his other hand, he dug into Sebastian's ass to retrieve the vibrator. It slid out with a sickly squelch and a suction of air, and Sebastian yelped as his hole was left stretched and clenching fitfully around the now emptied cavity. Ches dropped the vibrator on the floor where it continued to buzz and wriggle like an angry hornet.

"This is all just part of your transformation. There's only so much I can tell you about the person you're becoming, Glam. But until you actually see it for yourself? Well, like they say..." He turned aside with a shrug, rifling through the kit and snapping on a pair of latex gloves. "Seeing is believing."

The moment the needle came into view, Sebastian jerked, squirming side to side. "N-no. Please, Ches." A fresh sob broke over his voice. "N-not again."

Ches rolled his eyes. "It's always no this and no that with you." Holding the needle in one hand, he groped Sebastian's left chest with the other as he spoke. "I'm gettin' really tired of hearing that word. Hasn't anyone ever told you life gets a lot more exciting when you learn to say yes?" The rough latex dragged uncomfortably at his skin during the bizarre massage, and when his fingers closed around the nipple—and pinched hard—Sebastian yowled.

"You've been going along with your little makeover for a while now. Remember when you came over that first time? It's amazing what a little mussed-up hair and some denim can do. You already looked like a completely different person." He fondled and tweaked the nipple between two fingers until it pebbled, the memory evidently playing itself in real-time behind his wistful gaze. "But that was just the start, wasn't it?"

"Ches..." He was having trouble breathing around the strain in his chest. The clatter of the kit being knocked over drew his attention, and when he looked up, Ches had climbed onto the table with him, knees on either side of his stomach.

"I made you who you are, Glam," he crowed. "I gave you your music, your new look. Your fucking name. That was all me. And I'll keep making you into who you're meant to be." His erection tented the front of his pants, and for a moment Sebastian almost hoped that Ches might abandon this cruel exercise in favor of raping him again. But he only took his hand off of his nipple long enough to unclasp a pair of forceps and close them over the pert flesh. With a click, the forceps were locked in place. "Both inside and out."

Sebastian cringed, tears pricking his eyes. "Please. Don't do it." But Ches was already lining up the needle to the side of his nipple, its point probing the sensitive nub. He pleaded silently with a desperate shake of his head. It was all happening so fast. Ches' tongue peeked out from his tooth gap, and he narrowed his eyes. They were past the point of no return. "Don't—" he choked.

"Just make sure to breathe, babe." Then Ches drove in the needle, in one swift, unforgiving stab.

Fire flared where he was pierced, and he arched off the table with a shout. Amidst the conflagration of pain, a jolt of sensation—almost pleasant—raced down from his nipple to bury itself in his groin, and his cock gave a halfhearted leap.

The worst of it was over as quickly as it had begun. Once the initial burn faded, he was left with lines of fire that tendriled out from his chest and simmered along his skin. Distantly, he registered Ches still working on the piercing, an elbow on his ribs pinning him in place as he fed the shaft through the hollow needle before slipping it out, then screwed on the end piece. Lastly, he released the forceps.

The fresh rush of blood to the mutilated flesh brought with it a fresh rush of stimulation, and Sebastian gasped again, looking through tear-stained eyes down at the monstrosity that was now his nipple. It was puffed up, red and angry, and now sporting a silver barbell through its center. A thin trickle of blood leaked from one side, gliding down the curve of his outer ribs. The sight alone nearly made him pass out, and he dropped his head back, face crumpling in defeat.

"Holy shit, you look like a fucking rock star." Another shot of exquisite pain flashed through his system when Ches' tongue lapped at the fresh piercing, drawing it into his mouth where it clacked against the back of his teeth. Sebastian wailed pitiably, before Ches straightened and wiped at his blood-smeared lips. "Gonna have to disinfect that," he mumbled to himself.

The cool of an antibacterial wipe burned as it soaked into the open wound, a final fuck-you to punctuate Sebastian's torture.

His work done, Ches hopped down from the table, humming happily.

Sebastian breathed a small sigh of relief, the ordeal finally over. Salty tear tracks flaked down his temples, and his mouth was incredibly dry. He tried to wet his lips with his tongue, but it was rough as sandpaper, and the cut on his lip stung when touched. He really wanted a drink of water, but he didn't dare voice it for fear of giving Ches more reason to hurt him. At the moment, he was busy picking up the scattered belongings of the piercing kit from the floor.

When Ches came back to the side of the table again, Sebastian could sense him standing over him, watching, but he refused to open his eyes to look. As impractical as it was, he entertained the thought that simply feigning sleep might keep Ches' attention off of him. At least for a minute more. He whimpered when a gust of cool breath blew over his piercing, and he heard Ches chuckle. A hand on his head made him startle.

Ches shushed him, carding a gentle hand through his hair. "There, there. You just lie there for a minute. You did good, babe. You've earned a bit of a rest." He stepped away.

At last, a break. After the harrowing morning, Sebastian felt like a candle burned at both ends. There'd first been the shock of Ches' return, the painful piercing of his right ear, being beaten and humiliated in front of the camera, a brief but dizzying blowjob, then immediately followed by a second more painful piercing. Still disoriented from the whirlwind of the day's events, and hurting all over, he didn't know whether he had it in him to face whatever else Ches might possibly have in store for him next.

For now, though, he was left in relative peace. He exhaled shakily, letting all the tension seep out of his tightly wound muscles one by one—thighs, torso, shoulders, neck, jaw. He was learning very quickly to treasure these moments when they presented themselves, a rare and welcome reprieve from the nearly endless chain of torture he'd endured since his arrival.

A torture that came in many forms.

Physical torture was the most obvious. He could easily catalog the list of traumas in the aches and pains that riddled his body. He flexed his fingers to get some of the feeling back into them. Lying on top of them like this had made them go numb, and their tips stung with phantom flames. He hissed as the barbell in his nipple shifted.

Psychological torture came next. Strung-out and pushed to his limits, he was a frazzled ball of nerves, locked in a cycle of paranoia and helplessness that cut into him as badly as any blade. Control, privacy, his very sense of self: these were all denied him. The lies Ches told him that he kept insisting were true—they pecked away at Sebastian's sanity, made him doubt everything he'd known. And the way Ches played him with an insidious blend of pleasure and pain until the two were nearly indistinguishable, making him want—stop it! He dodged that particular line of thought and tried to move on.

There was a change taking place within him, one that he didn't want to acknowledge.

Where logic had once flown linearly, it now folded back on itself, forming circuitous loops and labyrinths that he was close to losing himself in. Here, up was down. Right was wrong. And it was no longer accurate to say that to be freed from Ches was to be freed from suffering. The past few days of solitude were no less a form of torture than being hit. The wounds it left were just harder to see.

Initially, he was relieved to be away from Ches and his fists. He'd passed the first day recovering from the one-two of being beaten ruthlessly and then kissed. The passion of both had been equally staggering, but he found himself replaying the moment with a kind of perverse fascination, like watching a car wreck in the hopes of seeing someone crawl out of it alive—or in a body bag.

Once he'd exhausted the distraction the memory served, he'd tried to banish himself to the unfeeling world of sleep. At least there he could escape his whirling thoughts and constant pangs of hunger. Fears of Ches' unexpected return kept him from drifting any deeper than slumber's shallow waters, but he still tried to relish the time alone, brief as it might be.

By the second day, however, Sebastian—against his better judgment—had actually begun...to miss him. It was sickening to even put into words, a blasphemy he could barely admit to himself. But the more he thought about it, the more it made sense. He had never truly been alone his entire life. As cold and unfeeling as Schwagenwagens Manor had been, the constant supervision and scrutiny had been a source of companionship. In a way.

Having gone through so much of his life operating out of fear of punishment or hope for reward, when left to his own devices, he didn’t know what to do with himself.

So when Ches finally came bounding down the stairs, whistling a gay tune and waving the stolen video equipment with a grin, there was one undeniable moment when Sebastian had been happy to see him.

"God, I love seeing you like this, Glam." Ches had reappeared at the foot of the table, standing between Sebastian's spread thighs, a single finger tracing a path up his stomach, across his chest, and circling his left nipple. He looked at the piercing as though the bruises and blood were a work of fine art. "You look like you're just ready for the ravaging."

There was a sultry undertone to his words, and Sebastian shivered with anticipation when he felt a hand knead at his thigh. At least this he could understand. This he knew how to handle. His erection, which had all but disappeared since the interrupted blowjob, gave a hopeful twitch, thinking that Ches was going to pick up where he had left off. He was ashamed to admit that he was actually looking forward to it.

Pleasure following pain. Pain following pleasure. It was the one pattern of Ches' that he'd finally begun to figure out, the one behavior that he could rely on with any degree of certainty. Even that small sliver of understanding gave him some advantage in their otherwise wildly imbalanced dynamic.

Mewling a grateful sigh and nodding in agreement—only because he knew that Ches liked it when he was agreeable, and nothing more—he willed his thighs to relax and let them roll open obscenely. A small voice from inside forgave him this trespass with the reassurance that his cooperation would at least be met with a reward.

"There's a good boy."

The approval in Ches’ voice was almost as gratifying as a tongue on his cock, and Sebastian nodded again, closing his eyes. Maybe it was easier to say yes, after all...

A sharp slap on his right thigh shocked him out of his reverie.

His eyes flew open and he looked down. Ches was studying something long and straight in his hands. It took him a moment to place the object, but when he did, he recoiled and his balls shrank.

It was a ruler.

Larger and meaner-looking than the one his father had wielded, light gleamed along its metal edge as Ches turned it this way and that. "Y'know, when you said your dad hit you with a ruler, I thought it sounded pretty archaic." He slapped it down on Sebastian's other thigh. Not hard enough to hurt, but he still twitched. "But you gotta admit. It's got a nice ring to it." Three light taps bounced along his thigh, before ending with a swift fourth one just above his knee. "Clean," he added with a nod.

Sebastian was already shaking his head, eyes round with panic. He twisted away as far as he could on the table, which, tethered as he was by his collar, wasn't very far. "W-what are you doing with that—" A bruising slap landed on the crest of his hip, and he yelped.

"At least this has gotten your attention." Two more slaps landed, alternating between his right and left thigh. "See, sometimes I don't think you've really been listening. You're just going through the motions. Paying lip service."

Whack, whack. Sebastian hissed as another pair struck his shins.

"But something tells me you don't really mean any of it. Y'know?" Ches pouted as he gripped the ruler in both hands. They shook.

"I-I do! I swear I do—" He nearly bit his tongue as a series of savage blows crisscrossed his thighs.

"No." Thwhack. "Stop lying to me, Glam." Thwack. "You know you can't bullshit me. And you." Thwack. "Haven't." Thwack. "Been being." Thwack. "Honest!"

Sebastian howled as the ruler left stinging brands on his inner thighs, the delicate flesh blooming red. His whole body bowed clear off the table. Strapped down at either end, he couldn't escape, couldn't do anything but suffer beneath the onslaught as it rained down on him like fire and brimstone.

"Don't think I forgot about you whining for dear old daddy before." Scorn warped Ches' mouth. "It's like you haven't heard a single word I've said." He swung his arm back and aimed higher, striking Sebastian across his ribs. The thin flesh there split beneath the ruler's edge, and Sebastian screamed so loud he thought he'd tear his throat in two. "Or have I just been talking to myself this whole time?"

"N-n-no. Ches, I—I'm sorry! I'll be good! I promise I'll be good!"

"Save it, Glam." Ches reached up to pinch his throbbing nipple at the same time he delivered three more blows in quick succession on his right thigh. The sinister combination had him vacillating between trying to curl in to protect himself and arch away. The end result was a useless, contorted dance.

Ches' tone was even as he continued, almost bored, despite the vicious torment he was inflicting. "I thought a few days alone might give you time to think things over." He turned to the side as though considering something, even as his next slap landed just to the right of Sebastian's shriveled cock. "But then I realized something."

There was a pause in the torture, and Sebastian's stifled weeping filled the air. He trembled where he lay, pain sweeping up and down his body.

"Deep down, I think you actually like it when I hurt you."

Through the fog of nauseating pain, Sebastian's brain latched onto the damning statement, as insane as the boy who spoke it. "W-what? How can you—" A swift smack to his stomach silenced him.

"No, no. Hear me out. What else could explain why you keep giving me excuses to hurt you?" He barked a laugh. "If you really didn't want me to, you'd be giving me a lot less hassle about this. Hell, you'd be embracing it by now." He stopped to tap the edge of the ruler against his lower lip as he contemplated this, piecing together his next words thoughtfully. "It all makes sense now. You liked it when your father hit you."

"No."

Ches spread his hands wide, a deranged smile on his face. "I bet you gave him a reason to beat you on purpose!"

"No," Sebastian's voice cracked pathetically.

"Yes, you did!" Ches snarled. "You probably handed him the ruler and practically asked him to hit you with it!"

No! the voice in his head bayed with denial. Of course not! What sort of freak would he have to be to—

But he paused, staring at Ches in shock.

A memory materialized like a phantom in his mind's eye: It was the very day he'd snuck out for the concert, his final day of freedom. He'd stood before his father in the parlor room, the flimsy wooden ruler on the floor between them where his father had dropped it. Sebastian had picked up the ruler and—and held it out to him, waiting for him to take it.

What Ches had said was true. But how could he have known?

"Admit it!"

"I—" His mind was racing, trying to reason away what he'd done. He was convinced at the time that he'd only done it out of a sense of power. He'd felt on top of the world, impervious to any of his father's abuses—invincible, untouchable. Handing his father back the ruler had been a challenge, not an invitation.

Right?

Now he wondered. Had he hoped his father would hit him again, just so that he could feel the sting of the ruler? He shook his head at the notion, even as Ches continued.

"You asked for it! Just like you're asking for it now!"

A string of increasingly ruthless strikes cut across Sebastian's stomach, his thighs, shins, ribs—and when the flat of the ruler landed on his balls, Sebastian shrieked.

Waves of excruciating pain pummeled his body, a klaxon of Stopitstopitstopit! blaring on repeat inside him. His head rolled side to side on the table, sweat dripping into his eyes and making them sting. Drool spilled from the corner of his mouth as he huffed fitfully, unable to get enough air. There were words somewhere amidst his mad babbling, crude and mangled things.

Ches spoke over him, his arm never ceasing as he dealt out his discipline. "You know this is for your own good, you say you're willing to cooperate, but I'm getting pretty sick and tired of having to fight you every goddamn step of the way!"

The whipping seemed to go on for hours, every blow swift and sharp and varied enough that his body never had a chance to adjust. His thighs burned like they were on fire, welts overlaid on top of welts, and he was certain he was bleeding from more than one place. His lips still formed words, but they were broken and hollow. His brain was spinning, overwhelmed by the paralyzing truth that there was nothing he could do to stop whatever Ches did to him.

Begging him to stop wouldn't dissuade him. Fighting him was pointless. There was no reasoning with him, nothing with which to convince him. He had neither influence nor sway. Not an ounce of power. No options.

Listen, said a small voice inside of him.

But no, no, no, there was nothing to listen to. It was all just noise.

Listen to what he's saying.

It was madness. Insanity. His ears rang with his own screams.

What he wants from you.

He was going to die on this table.

Be honest. You know the rules.

How to make him stop?

Give him what he wants.

He had nothing to give.

Pleasure follows pain.

Just end this.

Pain follows...

End it all.

"Fuck me!"

A lull in the chaos.

"Come again?" Ches laughed, wiggling a pinkie in his ear. "I gotta be hearing things."

"F-fuck me, p-p-p-please, Ches!" he shouted to the ceiling. "I-I want you to take me r-right now!" The words stuttered out of him as he choked on his tears. "I want to—to feel you inside me. W-want your cock inside—w-want—" He was shaking so badly, he didn't know whether he was making any sense, but he tried anyway, selling his performance with a shoddy thrust of his hips. When Ches reached for him, he squeezed his eyes shut and begged even harder, desperate to stave off the pain just one second longer. "I can b-be good. M-make you feel good. I—"

The chain was unclipped from the back of his collar, and he flinched as he was pulled up—into a hug.

"Music to my ears," Ches purred. Dropping the ruler onto the table with a clatter, he turned Sebastian's face toward him and kissed him, the outline of his smile pressed against his lips.

Sebastian sobbed quietly into the kiss, as grateful as a sinner taken in at the cathedral steps. Absolved of his sins, absolved of his punishment. The ropes that bound his arms were undone, and his hands fell slack at his sides. His fingertips tingled, scalded by the return of sensation.

Once he'd been guided down from the table, his legs nearly folded beneath him. He clung to Ches who wrapped his steadying arms around him and urged him on softly. Together, they made their way to the bed, Sebastian pushing off Ches to stumble the final steps on his own and collapse at its side. He was winded by the short trek from the table, but he still had the wherewithal to position himself over the edge of the mattress, knees on the floor, legs spread. Serving himself up to Ches.

The touch of cool linen was a balm to his overheated cheek, and he sank into its embrace with a thankful sigh. Behind him, he could hear Ches undress, and his heartbeat began to tick up—not out of fear or terror, but just a giddy anticipation of what he knew would deliver something other than pain for once. All he had to do was lie down and take it. He could do that.

His eyes fluttered closed. He could do that.

"No, no. Glam. Not like that. You don't have to do it like that." A soft hand was on his shoulder, and he allowed himself to be turned over, the question already scrawling its way across his brow. But Ches was smiling warmly as he eased Sebastian down onto his back, legs still hanging over the edge of the mattress. Then he leaned over him, careful not to touch his injured thighs. "Here." He held Sebastian's chin. "Like this."

At Sebastian's confused warble, Ches swept his tongue inside. It was nothing like the first time, violence supplanted by a tender want. Sebastian's brow creased with confusion, a small part of him wanting to turn away. But an even bigger part hissed at him not to fight it, to stay, to adapt—to learn how to reciprocate. He had asked for this, after all. Hesitantly, he pressed his tongue against Ches', not knowing what to do besides mimic its writhing, lapping motions. Ches hummed his approval and grabbed the back of his head to press them closer together. Soon they were both panting around the kiss, Ches' tongue waltzing circles around Sebastian's while he stumbled to keep up, if only to match the passion of his partner.

So caught up in the kiss, he didn't notice when Ches hefted one leg and braced it against his shoulder. Even the pleasure-pain that flared up when he leaned his weight against his whipped thigh was forgivable because his mouth was full of Ches' skilled tongue, smothering the flame of dissent in his mind—sending it lower, where it smoldered.

Sebastian winced when Ches' cock breached him, breaking off the kiss to stifle a gasp. He'd been prepped all morning, stretched open by the vibrator, but the feel of the iron-hard rod of flesh wasn't exactly something he'd gotten used to. Hot and alive as it filled him—there was no comparison. He wrenched his face away, breath hitching in his chest, as he went stiff all over. Fabric bunched in the curl of his fists.

"Here." Ches lifted Sebastian's hands and wreathed them around the back of his neck. "Like this," he husked, curling over to claim his lips again. He plunged in his tongue at the same time he plunged in his cock. Rolling his hips with slow, deliberate thrusts, he invaded him inch by agonizing inch until they were flush against each other.

Sebastian whimpered into his mouth, feeding him every moan that was punched from him. This up-close, he could see the curve of each eyelash as Ches kissed him. He glanced down with wonder to where they were connected then back up to Ches' face. It was the first time he'd ever seen Ches like this when they fucked, and he marveled at the blissed-out expression that steeped his features, gentled by sex's charm.

He let Ches curl his arms beneath him, gripping Sebastian for leverage as he rutted into him. Sweat slid between their chests while Ches thrust again and again, seeking out his pleasure within the tight sanctuary of his inner walls, as though he were a treasure trove to plunder.

A shift of his hips, and Ches' cock now brushed against a spot inside him that made Sebastian moan openly. His head fell back on the mattress.

"You want me, don't you, Glam?" A string of kisses trailed down the corner of his mouth to the underside of his jaw. Nipped his Adam's apple. "Tell me you want me."

The answer slipped free from him without a second thought: "I want you."

The fire that had started in his thighs and now razed through his body must have cooked his brain, he thought. So eager to give Ches what he wanted in exchange for a release from the pain, he'd nearly forgotten that he wasn't supposed to be enjoying this.

"I want you," he said again, the admission yet another incriminating nail in the coffin of his former self. He didn't know which was worse: that he had said it aloud, or—

Because you actually mean it, Glam.

Ches' cock swelled thicker with appreciation inside of him. "God, Glam..." he groaned.

Arousal tingled in Sebastian's stomach at the realization that he had been the one to elicit this reaction. Ches was responding to him, sweating for him, moving for him. His head went fizzy, drunk on this small, infinitesimally small scrap of power over someone. And not just anyone, but Ches. The fact that he could inspire Ches' pleasure gave him a rush of heady titillation that he'd never felt before.

It was, in a word, intoxicating.

Now you're getting it.

The voice inside him, the one that had guided him from the shadows, spoke with the sophisticated air of a young aristocrat. He could practically see the slicked-back hair and straight, tailored suit of the boy known as Sebastian, as he praised him. Praised him for his debauchery.

Licking his lips, he tried again. "I want you so bad. Fuck me. Fuck me harder!" Ches obliged him, huffing like a bull as he slammed into him with abandon. His hands, which had idled behind Ches' neck, now found purchase. He clung to him, scratching red ribbons down his back as he moaned and writhed and begged Ches to fuck him, that's it, fuck him good, fuck him so, so good. He put as much passion into his cries as he could muster, verbally stroking his captor to completion.

But he was getting caught up in the performance, unable to decipher where the charade ended and real pleasure began. His erection—when had that happened?—throbbed where it was sandwiched between them, and when Ches growled and bit down on his ravaged nipple, a bolt of excitement buried itself in the base of his cock. He arched against Ches, both master and slave to the pleasure they crafted. Together.

See how much better it is when you're honest, Glam?

"Cum in me! I want to feel you cum inside me!"

Ches' rhythm faltered as his orgasm neared, and Sebastian wasn't far behind, his moans following after Ches' the way thunder trails a flash of lightning. The two intrinsically linked. Just a few seconds between them, two seconds, one second. Growing closer and closer in proximity with the approaching storm.

It came with a crash and a brutal thrust of hips, a burst of heat and sweet friction. Ches' fingers grasped painfully where they clutched him, crushing their bodies together, his pleasure unleashed like a violent tempest—and Sebastian welcomed the savagery of it. Met it, pulse for pulse. Ches grunted low in his throat, face screwed up with the effort of navigating his climax as though it might overtake him otherwise. He stilled, his release marked by a throbbing deep inside him. With it, the tension lifted from his face, the epitome of peace, and his mouth fell open around his name.

It filtered into his ears, suffused his senses, taking root within the fertile earth of his soul. Where something new could grow.

It'll be so much easier, Glam, now that you're honest about who you are. What you are.

"Glam...my Glam..." Ches murmured as he held him, the name hanging in the air like the fading peals of departing thunder.

Glam just clung to him tighter.

Chapter Text

—Day 8—

Poor little Glam.

Glam sat slouched against the side of the bed, his arms curled loosely in his lap. The shackles at his wrists bore down like lead weights, and his head bowed beneath the yoke around his neck. Repeatedly softened by water, and never having the chance to dry properly, his skin was chaffed and calloused by the rough leather. He gazed blearily down at the bowl of his pelvis, noting the way his hip bones stood out in sharp relief.

Aren't you hungry?

Who said that? Ches? But no, that couldn't be. Ches was all the way on the other side of the room, fussing with the electric kettle by the generator. He tried to lift his head to watch but only made it as far as the mattress before dropping it down at a funny angle. The horizon tilted with him. Stray droplets of water from his last bath slid off the tips of his bangs and into his eyes, reducing the world to a watercolor shitsmear. They rolled down his cheeks like tears.

Fatigue filled the hollows left by his hunger, smothering his sense of reality and dulling his mind. The clinking of dishware reminded Glam of home—silver cutlery and fine china, the chime of mother's champagne flute. But then Ches swore loudly, and Glam was right back here again.

If you don't eat something, you'll die.

But he wanted to die.

Aw, it's not all bad, the boy known as Sebastian said as he swung his legs in their pleated suit pants playfully over the mattress's edge. Father would never have allowed such behavior, but Father wasn't here anymore. It was just the two of them, and they'd have to learn to get along if they hoped to survive this. After all, he's not doing anything you don't already want.

Since the day with the ruler, Ches had raped Glam two more times. Wait, no. Could he even call it "rape" anymore? He hadn't said "no" to it. Hadn't resisted it.

You'd liked it, Sebastian reminded him.

His chest ached around the empty pit where his heart had been.

Each time with Ches scraped out something from even deeper inside him, penetrating him to the core and dragging him down to new lows. He felt husked, cleaned out of any evidence of his former self. Who remained was still being born.

He closed his eyes and let his head roll on Ches' thigh. When had he gotten here? There was a hand petting his hair and gentle words being spoken from above:

"Poor little Glam." Ches turned his face upward, tutting as he tucked a strand of hair behind his ear. "Aren't you hungry?"

Glam cracked open his eyes.

A tepid smile threaded its way across Ches' face when their eyes met. "I brought you something warm to eat. You'll like it." He held up a chipped bowl with a spoon in it.

The smell of cinnamon and brown sugar swirled into Glam's nose, and his stomach thrashed angrily. Angry for having been denied sustenance for so long, angry for him having ever turned his nose up at Rowd's home cooking. He breathed in deeply.

Never had a simple bowl of oatmeal smelled so appetizing.

Glam looked away.

"What's the matter, babe? Never had the instant kind before?" Ches stirred the oatmeal, and a fresh burst of artificial sweetness wafted from its surface. Nibbling a small spoonful, he tilted his head and smacked his lips. "Guess it could use a little more salt." He leaned over and glided a finger up Glam's side, counting each individual rib. "Please try and eat this time." He then took a moment to rotate the barbell piercings, first on his left nipple and then the right. It was something he did routinely, assisting the healing process. Glam didn't even have the energy to flinch. "If you don't eat something, you'll die."

Another reserve of tears glistened at the corners of Glam's eyes. Why did Ches have to sound so concerned about him now? It wasn't fair. After all he'd done, taking and taking from him until there was nothing left, why couldn't he just let him die? At least then he could finally be free from his suffering, free from the humiliation that awaited him outside these walls. There was nothing left for him out there anymore. The damning videotape had seen to that. Death was the only way out, and while the process hurt for now, he knew it would eventually stop. Everything would finally stop.

Ches looped the collar's chain around his fingers and drew Glam up until he could whisper sweetly in his ear, his breath smelling of cinnamon:

"If you don't eat something right now, babe...I'm going to shove this spoon so far up your ass, you'll be chewing metal for a week. I've put in too much goddamn work to have you keel over on me now, you ungrateful, arrogant, sniveling, little faggot. You're not impressing anyone, so drop the martyr act, or I'll cut off that useless fucking tongue of yours and start using it to wipe my ass." He drew back to assess him, that placid smile fixed in place. "Do I make myself clear?"

Glam's heart had all but stopped beating and his bowels threatened to loosen on him, as he gaped in wide-eyed terror at Ches. That smile was warm and gentle, but it had fangs. Knowing Ches, he'd meant every word of it. Suddenly the idea of dying didn't seem as painless as he'd once thought, not when Ches could make his last days even more of a living hell. Fear sobered him up as swiftly as if he'd been doused in cold water, and he blinked back into himself.

He'd have to endure this; he had no other choice.

He looked at the bowl in Ches' hand and the unassuming lump of oatmeal that smelled as satisfying as a four-course meal. Do it, Sebastian whispered in his ear. Do it and maybe you'll get something nice in reward. As though getting to live wasn’t reward enough. It seldom was these days. At last, the will to survive trumped his death wish, and as the final pillar of his pride shuddered and collapsed in a cloud of dust, he shakily lifted his hands and reached for the bowl.

But at the last second, Ches lifted it away again.

"Not so fast." He stopped Glam with the spoon against his forehead. "Let's give your tongue a little warm-up first." His lips lifted in a mischievous grin. "Blow me," he said, tapping him lightly. "Suck my dick, and then you get to eat."

Glam blinked, not understanding.

"Consider it your appetizer." Ches laughed at his own joke, wrestling down the front of his pants and fishing out his cock. It already stood at half-mast, its tip bobbing in the air like a wolf's snout eagerly sniffing out prey. Balancing the bowl in one hand, he gripped his dick with the other, gave it a little shake, and smacked it playfully against Glam's face. "C'mon, then. It ain't gonna suck itself." A sticky string of precum clung to his cheek.

Glam's brain was still processing what Ches had said. Revulsion curdled in his stomach at what he was being asked to do. Ches' penis? In his mouth? He'd never even imagined—no, he wouldn't do it. He couldn't. He balled his hands into fists on his knees, ready to beg for his food rather than resort to that.

The sight of it was frightening enough. So unlike his own, with its uncircumcised hood, veiny and thick shaft, and the bush of dark pubic hair at its base. And the smell—Ches' dick smelled pungent and distinctly not clean, musky with sweat in a way that stung his sinuses. A fresh wave of saliva flooded his mouth, not out of the promise of food but out of disgust. His stomach, however, couldn't tell the difference, and it rumbled in shameful expectation.

See? You want it, Sebastian urged him on. Stop acting like you don't.

He shook his head at the silent betrayal, but when he looked up, Ches was waiting patiently, holding the bowl of oatmeal up like a prize.

His brow pleated in a flash of consternation as he eyed the penis staring him in the face. The foreskin had peeled back some to reveal a shiny, ruddy bulb, a drop of precum glistening at its slit. Cautiously, he raised his hands and closed them around Ches' cock.

Ches coughed out a chuckle, as though impressed that Glam had actually taken him up on the dare. As though his little slave had any choice. He settled back comfortably on one hand, watching Glam with open curiosity as to what he would do next.

What would he do next? Glam was just as unsure. This wasn't exactly something he had any experience with. So while looking to Ches in case, by some miracle, he might change his mind at the last minute, Glam peeked out his tongue and gave Ches' cock a tentative lick. Salty. It was salty and a little...ripe. He tried and failed to hide his grimace.

That earned him a sharp slap up the backside of the head. "Hey, you don't exactly taste like strawberries yourself." Ches spooned some oatmeal into his mouth and gave an exaggerated moan of contentment. "Mm-mmm. Better get on with it, Glam. Unless you'd rather spend the evening eating cock instead."

Humiliation burned at the tips of his ears. Pushing aside his disgust, he opened his mouth wide and rested Ches' cock on top of his tongue. It had filled out some, and Glam tried to think of anything else other than semen as it oozed, bitter and slimy, onto his tongue.

To his surprise, his mouth began to water more. Ignoring the implication, he found it was a blessing in disguise, helping to dilute the piquant flavor of cock until he could only taste his own saliva. Common sense told him to keep his teeth clear of the dick in his mouth, and he experimented with curling his lips over them until he'd found a comfortable position where only his lips made contact with the shaft—just as he recalled Ches doing for him.

The memory sent a scandalous flash of excitement darting down the center of his stomach to his groin, and he squirmed where he knelt.

How much was secondhand knowledge and how much was instinct—although what kind of instinct could possibly prepare someone for sucking cock?—Glam didn't know. But it was easy enough to slide the cock in and out of his mouth, and he did this a few times, thankful that this was all there was to it. Maybe this wasn't so hard after all.

A bored yawn from overhead told him otherwise.

Glam scoured his brain for some inspiration, inevitably falling back on what Ches had done to him last time. It had felt incredible, a tugging, enveloped sensation, like Ches was trying to drink him down. Locking his lips more firmly around the girth, Glam sucked in his cheeks.

"Fuck..." Ches' breathy grunt drew his eyes upward.

He must've been doing something right, because Ches looked different. His face was relaxed, at peace and free of the harshness that usually underlined his features, brows peaked in a woeful point as though he were puzzling over some difficult musical composition. As they said, music soothes the savage beast. The thought that Glam had reduced him to this sent a peculiar blush of pride swelling through his breast.

Emboldened by the effect he was having, he redoubled his efforts. Clumsy but well-intentioned, he drove Ches' cock into his mouth faster, deeper, trying to cram in as much as he could. But the moment the head bumped against the back of his throat, he could feel his gag reflex kicking in, and his nose stung with tears. So he backed off with a frustrated huff to suckle at the tip. His tongue slipped along the underside then wormed between the foreskin and glans. Anything he could think of to get Ches off sooner.

His hands weren't idle either. They moved in time with his mouth so that he could wrap the full length of Ches' cock in warmth and friction.

The tiny flicker of resistance, the one that still yearned for power in this hopeless situation, hissed at him to claw, wring, bite down—that would show him! But no, he knew by now that power wasn't just found in coercion. Violence could only take him so far. Force was short-lived. But to make his adversary putty in his hands... He thought to the first time he'd asked Ches for sex and was reminded of the thrill of power he'd experienced from it.

That's right, Glam. There are much easier ways to survive this.

He could practically feel another pair of hands, dainty and well-manicured, gliding over his own, his two selves working in unison—to pleasure Ches. The act came with its own enticing brand of agency, and there was the undeniable allure of seeing how he could incite Ches' reactions all on his own, with no more than a twirl of his tongue or squeeze of his fingers.

Just look at what you can do to him.

Ches was utterly undone, head rolling loose and eyes unfocused, as much a slave to the blow job as Glam, even on his knees, was master in delivering it. Each technique garnered him a different response, and Glam wanted to witness the full breadth of Ches' pleasure. He liked being the one in control for once.

At first, he'd been concerned about keeping the blow job neat and quiet, but as he grew bolder, egged on by the sounds of approval that dripped into his ears like honey and an encouraging hand on his head—petting him like the good boy he was—he allowed the excess drool to spill from his bottom lip. A slight scratch of teeth in his haste. Sloppy, messy, wholly lost to the experience, his stifled moans of passion elicited the same in Ches.

For being such a motormouth and dirty-talker, Ches was uncharacteristically at a loss for words, letting the lewd slurping and squelching from Glam's mouth speak enough for the both of them. He gyrated his hips as he bit his bottom lip, breath coming faster, more harried. A blush tinging the crests of his cheeks, nostrils flaring. The cords in his neck standing out suddenly.

Glam was so taken by all the signs, trying to figure out what they meant, that he almost gagged when he felt Ches' cock swell uncomfortably thick in his mouth. He gave a muffled shout of surprise, afraid that his jaw would lock up around it and—

"Move! I'm gonna cum!" Ches gritted out before shoving Glam off of him.

He tumbled back on the floor but turned to look at Ches, wanting desperately to see the fruits of his labor at last manifest. Ches was jerking himself off feverishly, one hand still holding the bowl, his face contorted around the mounting climax. Glam panted at the sight, the second heart in his cock pounding. Pounding in satisfaction of a job well done, and now in anticipation of its reward.

It was right there, right in front of him, Ches cumming with a long, indulgent groan that was of Glam's own making. Breathtaking.

But Glam's rapture soon turned to horror, as Ches emptied his load straight into the bowl of oatmeal.

Strips of white cum painted its surface while Ches curled over the bowl, stroking every last drop of his seed into Glam's meal. He sat for a few uninterrupted seconds, catching his breath, then wiped his brow and shot him an approving grin. "Shit, Glam. You're pretty fucking good." He picked up the spoon and calmly began to stir his cum into the oatmeal. It stretched into thin, white lines before spiraling away. "I knew your tongue could be good for something. You're a natural cocksucker. Fuck." He gave another pleased shake of his head.

Flinging away the spoon with a clatter, he yanked Glam close by his collar and shoved the bowl under his nose.

"There. Seasoned just the way you like it, your highness.”

Glam's vision swam as he looked from the ruined bowl of food up to Ches' face. A hand came up to pet him gently before grabbing a fistful of hair at the back of his head. Glam barely had time to let out a crestfallen sob, before his face was shoved down into the bowl.

"Now eat."

For a moment, he didn't move. Then gradually, the snuffled, half-choked sounds of Glam's messy feeding filled the air.

Ches chuckled cruelly above him. "Nasty."


—Day 10—

As Glam's stomach became reacquainted with real food, Ches brought him a bag of oranges. His eyes watered, the smell of citrus was so clean.


—Day 11—

Ches rushed in, all excitement and bright eyes, eager to show off his latest song on the acoustic guitar. He spent the evening playing songs, old and new, for Glam, before strapping him down and piercing his left ear.

Twice.


—Day 15—

After standing in front of the mirror for hours on end, Glam smashed his forehead into it, sending it shattering into the sink. A particularly large shard made an effective blade, and he'd just put it to his wrist before Ches managed to intervene.

"Don't scare me like that." Ches sniffled through tears as he held him.


—Day 16—

The ruler came out again for his selfishness. This time, Glam was hung from the meat hook as he was whipped.


—Day 17—

It rained all day.


—Day 19—

Ches caught Glam picking at his manacles, so he stuck metal pins beneath his fingernails until Glam screamed himself hoarse. He then had him recite his lessons, and for every word he stumbled on, the pins were driven in even deeper.

By the end of the session, Glam had no voice left, and his fingernails were dark with bruises.

He couldn't pick up anything for days and had to be hand-fed.


—Day 26—

Glam was down to his last orange, and Ches showed no signs of returning.


—Day 27—

Dreams. Horrible, horrible dreams.


—Day 29—

Glam watched a butterfly beat itself uselessly against the window, trying to get in.


—Day 30—

The lightbulb popped.


—Day 33—

It had taken nearly an hour to fill the bathtub and countless trips back and forth, painstakingly filling the small kettle with water from the sink, bringing it to a boil, then pouring it into the tub. Ches had idled on the bed in the meantime, his guitar resting on his chest as he plucked away at some new tune.

The dishes from lunch were still soaking in the sink. He'd have to get to them later. A bottle of dish soap now sat alongside the hand soap. Orange-scented, because that was what Glam said when Ches had asked for his preference. Beside them was Glam's set of toiletries: toothbrush, toothpaste, and comb all neatly laid out in a row. The mirror had been taped back together in a haphazard fashion, making a Picasso portrait of the world: a dozen fractured Glams looking back at him.

Once the bath was drawn, Ches placed the guitar aside and ordered Glam to step in.

Glam now sat, knees tucked up, in the middle of the tub with Ches naked at his back, working up a lather with the rag and a fresh bar of soap he'd brought just for the occasion. Its scent reminded Glam of home, but he didn't bring that up. Ches didn't like it when he talked about his old home, especially now that he was settling into his new one so nicely.

He looked over at the bedsheet and pillowcase strung up in the corner of the room. The bloodstains hadn't completely washed out, but they'd lightened considerably. The makings of a kitchen were coming together well: hot plate, kettle, a handful of mismatched dishware. Dry goods, mainly of the ready-made variety, filled what constituted Glam's pantry—an empty plastic storage bin that had been turned on its side—and ratty towels and rags were stacked on top.

The rag in Ches' hand ran over a fresh gash on the back of his ribs, and he hissed.

"Sorry about that, babe," Ches mumbled, but he continued without changing course. Glam didn't say anything the next time he passed over the same spot.

He'd learned by now that it was pointless to complain. He had learned many such useful things in the past month. For instance, he'd learned how to prepare simple meals by himself—spaghetti and PB&J sandwiches being the popular go-tos. He wasn't particularly good at it, but he found that he had an affinity for cooking, one that he hoped to explore more in the future.

He'd also memorized the number of steps Ches took to descend the stairs. Fifteen. Fifteen clanging steps that announced the arrival of his tormentor. The initial fear he'd felt at the noise had dimmed to a tense apprehension. He never knew what Ches would do to him once he was here, and the uncertainty kept him on his toes.

Some days were manageable, enjoyable even, like today: a shared meal, a round in bed, followed by a bath.

Some days—some days were awful.

He curled his fingers to look at his nails. Even after so long, the bruising hadn't faded, and he was beginning to suspect that it never would. But at least they'd stopped hurting. He tried to imagine playing the violin again with darkened fingernails. Or, more likely, the guitar.

"What ever happened to the band?"

Ches' hand paused. Glam hadn't brought up anything about the outside world for weeks, and the question seemed to catch him by surprise. "We still perform," he finally answered. "Have another gig coming up this Friday, actually. And in case you're wondering, Lordy and Bob—"

Glam's ears perked up at the names of his former bandmates.

"—they don't ask about you." Cruel glee coiled around his words. "They forgot about you in under a week once they found a replacement. It wasn't all that hard. Lordy always did say guitarists are way easy to find." Little islands of soap suds dashed apart against Glam's thighs as Ches shrugged. "The new guy's fine. I mean, he doesn't have what you do. But it's good enough. I guess."

As he resumed his scrubbing, running the rag up Glam's nape to his hairline, Glam rested his head on his knees. His eyes slid shut.

They'd already forgotten about him. How long would it be before his family did? The teachers at the conservatory? Anyone he'd ever known? With enough time, it would be like he never existed at all, nothing but a Sebastian-shaped hole preserved in family portraits that would fade with time. We once had a son, they'd say. He disappeared one day, they'd say. His room would be emptied, the scant personal belongings that had once marked his identity retired to storage. Maybe even thrown out.

Would his father keep his trophies?

He'd been so proud of them before, his musical legacy forever molded in gold-plated metal and fancy embossed placards. Now they seemed flimsy. Insubstantial. Not much of a legacy, he had to admit. Then again, playing classical music had never been an honest expression of himself. It had simply been a role he performed, all for the sake of his father's approval.

Heavy metal, however, had been where his soul came alive. It spoke to him with its lyrics, moved him with its rhythm, enlivened him with its spirit. Playing the guitar had been one of the few things that felt right in his young life, and an acute yearning warmed his heart as he thought back to his time on stage. It had been brief, but it had been thrilling, exhilarating. Unforgettable. He sighed wistfully.

Ches suddenly pulled him back against his chest, tilting his head up so that he was forced to look into his eyes. He quirked a brow. "What was that for?" There was no anger in his voice, just a keen intensity.

Glam blushed, trying to avert his eyes, but Ches' grip on his chin was firm. "I just—I miss it. The band, I mean. I miss playing."

Ches replied with a noncommittal hum. The reverberation traveled through Glam's ribs so that he vibrated with the sound. Fingers tunneled through his blond locks to massage his scalp just the way Glam liked, as Ches mused. "Yeah, you were pretty incredible on the guitar. Still haven't heard anyone play as well as you did." His other hand wandered down Glam's front, past his belly to play idly with his dick. "You've got a real gift, Glam." He kissed the words against his temple. "I wouldn't want you to lose that."

Glam closed and opened his legs as he squirmed beneath the attention, suppressing a moan. Waves formed in the bathwater, and the sound of their sloshing echoed in the air around them. He slouched boneless against Ches' chest as he was touched, hands curling over the lip of the tub for leverage.

"Honestly, I miss playing with you too. Sure, we've had a lot of fun these days—" He squeezed Glam's cock for emphasis as it plumped up in his hand. "—but your music? Now that's something I'd want to hear again." He made a loose circle with forefinger and thumb and began to stroke him beneath the water as he continued. "It's like nothing else. The first time you touched those strings, I knew you had something special. I might rock the vocals, but, man—you're the one that can really make that guitar sing."

Glam gave a high, melodic gasp.

"Do you want to do it again?"

"Yes," he panted, not sure what exactly he was agreeing to—the offer to play guitar or the hand job. "Please." It was getting hard to think straight, his brain addled by heat and lust. And when he felt something hard prodding him from behind, his hips instinctively rubbed back against it in silent appeal.

"Yeah, I bet you'd like that." How Ches could sound so calm even when his erection slipped beneath Glam's balls, thick and intimidating in all the right ways, was beyond him. "I'll see about getting your guitar tomorrow. I've got somewhere to be tonight." His hand slipped away, patting Glam's thigh in a signal for him to sit up, before he stepped gingerly out of the tub and went to retrieve a towel.

Glam's heart sank as he watched him go, the promise of pleasure going with him. He drifted forward to the edge of the tub and folded his arms over its edge, watching Ches close the towel around his waist. Rolling his hips, he absentmindedly glided the underside of his dick along the smooth porcelain. It'd only been a few hours, but he wanted desperately to cum again. However, Ches had made his instruction clear: he wasn't to touch himself without Ches' permission. If he left now, it'd mean another night left having to suffer unattended.

He tried to chalk up the pang in his chest to the more practical consequences of Ches' leaving—loneliness, fear, sexual frustration. But there was also a whisper of something else there that he wasn't confident enough to put into words. Something that resembled...

Longing.

"Where do you go when you’re not here?" The question slipped out before he could stop it.

Ches was stepping into his pant legs when he paused. "You're just full of questions today, aren't you." Shimmying his jeans up and over his bare hips, he answered over his shoulder, "The conservatory. Can't let my free tuition go to waste, right?"

That made sense. Glam had been gradually sketching out the pattern of Ches' comings and goings. He had only a loose grasp of the day's date, having never kept track of the passing days in any precise way. But Ches' absences tended to align with the school schedule he remembered. Weekdays were when he would typically be gone for the longest stretches of time; weekends usually meant they spent full days together. Band practice and whatever else Ches got up to outside these four walls, however, interrupted the pattern, so Glam could only hazard a guess.

He reached up to scratch at the latest piercing that decorated his upper earlobe. "And today is—"

"Tuesday. So?"

"So you don't have any lessons until tomorrow afternoon."

Ches mm-hmed his agreement.

"So why do you have to go tonight?" He kept his eyes on the floor as he asked, watching a small droplet of water soak into the concrete. He didn't realize Ches was standing by the tub until he felt a hand close over his.

"You really are full of questions." Ches' grip turned harsh, digging his nails into the back of Glam's hand as he leaned over the tub's edge, right in Glam's face. A smile hooked a corner of his mouth but never reached his eyes. "Why so curious?"

Glam tried to tug his hand free, cowering beneath that look. He could never be certain what it meant. "I-I'm not. I mean, I'm just—" He was cut off by a hiss of pain as Ches entwined their fingers and bent Glam's hand backward.

"You're just what? Horny? Afraid I'll leave you with a stiffy all night?" His gaze flicked down meaningfully to Glam's secret hidden under the soap suds. "If you wanted some help, Glam, all you had to do was ask." He climbed into the bathtub, not caring that his pants got soaked as he knelt between Glam's thighs.

Glam was shoved up against the opposite side, head falling back to bare his collared neck to Ches' demand. The transformation was so sudden, Glam's head spun at the duality of Ches' advances: one second, achingly distant; the next, overwhelmingly here. "N-no." Yes. "I j-just wanted to know. Where you go." I'll miss you. "What you do."

"Don't think about that," Ches hissed, reaching into the water to grab Glam's cock. It gave an eager leap in his hand. "You don't ever have to think about that. I'm here right now, with you. And that's all that matters, okay?" Was that desperation Glam heard in his voice? Breathing the words against his lips as though he were trying to convince himself as much as Glam. "I'm right here," he said again. "Don't think about anything but me, and I'll promise not to think about anything but you."

Whatever else Glam wanted to ask went unheard, swallowed down in an open-mouthed kiss. Water splashed over the tub's sides as the two closed the distance.


—Day 36—

Ches was only a little late on his promise, but he eventually brought down Glam's guitar. It was terribly out of tune.


—Day 41—

Glam had gotten very good at playing with his chains on.


—Day 43—

A guitar string broke, and Ches whipped Glam with it until he bled.


—Day 46—

He brought him a replacement.


—Day 50—

Glam felt the first chill of fall while standing beneath the window. The glass was thin, and a draft seeped down the wall where his hands were braced against it. The extra length of chain rattled with every thrust of Ches' hips as he railed him from behind.

"Would you look at that moon, Glam?" Ches huffed. His hands blazed where they gripped his hips. "Fucking beautiful."

Glam nodded weakly, trying hard to stay upright beneath the assault. His toes were ice. "Y-yeah," he said in agreement, even as his head hung loosely between his shoulders. He looked at the chain wound around his ankle. "Yeah. Beautiful."


—Day 61—

A cold snap settled in, the first of the season.


—Day 63—

Ches brought down a blanket for the bed.

It was a little too short to reach Glam's feet, and on the nights Ches wasn't there to warm him, he slept curled up in a ball.


—Day 90—

"What did you say this was for?" Glam eyed the small candy in his hand. It was pink and triangular with rounded edges. It didn't look like any candy he'd seen before.

"Three-month anniversary, babe!" Ches beamed, popping his own candy into his mouth. "Thought we could celebrate with a little something special." He pulled a face as he chewed on the tart treat, before swallowing it down quickly. "C'mon! We gotta take them at the same time!"

Sitting cross-legged in front of Ches on the bed, Glam was still looking dubiously at his candy, before Ches reached over and shoved it into his mouth. He clamped a hand over Glam's lips until he'd chewed and swallowed obediently.

Nodding, Ches sat back with a satisfied, "And now we wait."

"Wait for what?"

"You'll see."

Not the most reassuring reply, but the way Ches casually scooped up his guitar told Glam he had little reason to worry. So he settled in place, content to listen to Ches strum out a new riff they'd been working on. It needed a little work on that last A chord, and at his gentle direction, Ches altered the fingering until he'd come across something they were both happy with.

Glam would never get to hear their collaborations play out on the stage, but he contented himself with watching their songwriting come together through Ches' skilled hands. He had gotten very good at giving guidance. The days they passed like this, going over feedback from the band and making further adjustments, were some of Glam's favorite. Ches likened him to Who Are Those Freaks on Stage?'s own personal phantom—you know, like the one from the musical?—the secret genius behind the band's hit songs.

Glam reminded him that he hadn't seen the musical, and so Ches spent the rest of the evening reciting it to him in astounding detail—he'd already gotten his hands on a bootleg copy—and even managed to recreate some of the more memorable songs on the guitar. The lyrics he didn't know, he flubbed, and any gaps in the plot were filled with his own brand of off-color humor.

By the opening of act two, Glam's head had dropped to the mattress and refused to lift again. "Wait, wait, wait. He shows up at the mask—masquer—party. And no one recognizes him?" He shook his head with a giggle, feeling his brain slosh against the walls of his skull. "No way. I don't buy it."

"He does! And it's true!" Ches insisted from somewhere on the floor. He'd since slid off the side of the bed, and only his feet were visible from over the edge. His toes wiggled in the air through the holes in his socks. Ches stuck his hand straight up, a finger raised elegantly in the air to make his point. It made a wide, slow circle that Glam watched with fascination, the afterimages blurring into one continuous loop. "See, he's got this wicked skull mask on. Red cape. The works."

"The Red Death?"

"Whatever, nerd. Anyway, he crashes that party so hard, and everyone's all, 'Oh, noooo,' and he's all, 'Play my opera, bitch.' So everyone's running around, trying to figure out what to do and—whammo." A medley of chords filled the air. "Wishing you were somehow here agaaaaaain!" He broke out into song—like really broke—his falsetto voice failing to hit the high notes, before tumbling up and down the scales in a jumbling mess.

He sounded a lot like a crowing rooster.

Glam burst out laughing, curling onto his side and clutching the pillow to his chest. Somewhere Ches was scolding him for mocking an artíst. That just made Glam laugh even harder, tears streaming down his face.

God, Ches was hilarious. He’d almost forgotten what a hoot he was. Guess it was easy to forget when—nah-uh-uh, best not to go there. Go where, he wondered. There was nowhere he needed to go, not when he had everything he needed right here. He felt light, carefree, buoyed hiiiiiigh above any nasty little thoughts that threatened to spoil his good mood. What was there to even worry about, especially when everything was so perfectly, wonderfully fine?

He was still lying on his side, smile pressed into the linens as he gazed ahead. Everything sparkled at the edges. Twinkling like the world had been painted in a technicolor starscape.

Ches' feet slipped down, and after a little maneuvering, he got up. His head peeked up from over the edge of the bed. He looked at Glam, smiling.

"What? What is it?" Glam smiled back—he couldn't seem to stop smiling—and his teeth chattered when a peculiar chill zipped through him, making his hair stand on end.

"You're laughing."

"Mmyeah, so?"

"I don't think I've ever heard you laugh before." Ches propped his head up on one hand, looking at Glam like he was loony. Like he was in love with him.

A weak chuckle snuck out of Glam, and he nuzzled the sheets again. It felt nice. Really, really nice. He kept running his hand back and forth across the sheets which had taken on the quality of fine silk rather than tatty polyester. His whole body tingled like a plucked cord, every sense perfectly attuned to the vibrations of the world. Ches was reaching across the bed for him.

Everything emitted light and music, and Glam was caught up in the symphony as it sang through him, stunning and brilliant—magnificent. Ches had once talked of magic, and now Glam felt it in every touch, every caress of their tongues. He cried tears of joy as he kissed Ches, awash in a sense of utter completeness, and when they joined, they became a song, one that began with a gasp and ended with their souls on each other's lips.

Suddenly, the linens had become bare skin, and he was running his hand up and down Ches' back, as he lay on top of him.

"You should laugh more often." Ches was pressing kisses into this chest. "It's beautiful."

His heart stumbled in its frantic gait. He readjusted his hold around Ches' shoulders, watching the fireworks display of color go off in the periphery of his vision, a thousand winding fractals against a darkened sky.

"You're beautiful."


—Day 110—

The headboard quaked beneath Glam, threatening to rattle apart at the joints. He gripped it in both hands to keep from toppling right over the edge of it. The chain that tethered his collar to the little trapdoor had only a few inches of slack, and with his head forced down lower than his chest, blood pounded in his ears. Made it hard to think.

Served him right. He shouldn't have done that. He knew he wasn't supposed to do it, yet he'd done it anyway. But he couldn't help it. He hadn't gotten off in days.

Ches had been furious this morning when he'd caught Glam jerking off into one of his spare T-shirts, had stormed right in and snatched it out of his hands before backhanding him across the face while he sobbed. Then he'd wound the chain tighter than ever before. All things considered, Glam's punishment was pretty light. It could've been a lot worse. At least he hadn't brought out the ruler again. Or the pins. Or the meat hook.

He moaned a rhythmic "ah, ah, ah" as he was fucked from behind, Ches' cock driving into him with brutal efficiency. The headboard dug into his chest and Ches' belt buckle smacked him in the balls with each thrust. He wouldn't grant Glam a reach-around this time—and Glam didn't expect one—so his cock was left to weep its desire onto the same pillow he'd be sleeping on later. Ches was unusually quiet today, doing without his usual taunts and belittling jeers. He must've really been angry.

Still, the stern brevity of today's session gave Glam reason to think that maybe something was off.

After he'd finished, hips stuttering as he emptied his seed into him, Ches finally allowed Glam to breathe, loosening the chain enough to pull him down from over the headboard until he was lying flat on the mattress. There, he was left to catch his breath and murmur his gratitude as Ches tucked himself away and readjusted his clothing. He scrubbed a hand through his disheveled hair.

Glam was still recovering when Ches hauled him upright. His head rolled against Ches' shoulder as he mumbled another apology.

"Shut up," Ches snapped, taking out a strip of cloth from his pocket and ordering Glam to kneel.

Glam did so without question.

"Glam," he started, unfolding the cloth and rubbing it with his fingers. He wet his lips, his voice surprisingly small. "Glam, I need you to do something for me."

Anything, Glam thought.

Meeting his eyes for a moment, he looked away again. Glam had never seen him so nervous. He gestured for Glam to lower his head then lifted the cloth to lay it across his eyes.

"Ches, what's this ab—" Glam started to ask, confused, as the blindfold fell into place and the world went black.

"We're going to have a visitor tonight."

His heart lurched high in his throat. "V-visitor?" A million questions raced through his mind, but he held his tongue.

"That's right. So I'm going to need you to be on your best behavior." Ches' fingers paused briefly at the back of Glam's head before tying off the knot snugly. "Keep this on and don't say or do anything until you're told to. Got it?"

Glam nodded even as his heart pounded a mile a minute.

"Good."

There was a tender kiss pressed to his lips, and then he felt Ches rest his forehead against his. It wobbled side to side. His fingers twitched with the urge to reach up and hold him.

Ches sighed. For a while, he didn't say anything else, just sat there with his hands on Glam's shoulders. They were shaking. Finally, he pulled away and stood from the bed. "I—I'm sorry, Glam. I didn't have any other choice."

"Ches?" Glam turned in the direction of his departing voice.

But he was already gone, the metal door clanging shut behind him.

And Glam was left in darkness.

Chapter Text

Glam knelt there on the bed for what felt like hours.

Blind.

We're going to have a visitor tonight.

Alone.

We're going to—

In the darkness.

—ve a visitor tonight.

The nothingness.

—tonight—

Silent.

—goingtohavea—

With just him and his thoughts.

—a visitor tonight.

Visitor. His mind swirled with the word, spinning around and around like a leaf caught in a windstorm. What did Ches mean? Someone was actually coming here? But who? Could it be someone he knew? Or, vice versa, someone who knew him? The questions scrawled themselves in spastic lines across the blackboard of his mind, cluttering up every inch of available space. But he was no closer to finding any answers.

His hands twitched on his lap with the effort to remain still, and a jittery energy trilled beneath his skin, until he realized that his feet had gone numb. Carefully, he slid his bottom off his heels and onto the mattress but was conscious not to move any more than a few inches from where Ches had left him. To disobey him again was out of the question. Wiggling his toes, he waited for feeling to return to them.

A visitor. Ches' parting message continued its mystifying dance in his head.

The last time another person had been down here, he'd been strung up and gutted like a pig. Glam swore he could still hear the tic-tic-tic of Romeo's blood on the floor, and he shook his head to dislodge the horrifying memory. Yet the sound carried on regardless.

It took him a while to realize that it was coming from the sink's leaky faucet. Even from across the room, the drip of water boomed into the basin, loud as a drum. With his sight gone, his other senses seemed keen to pick up the slack:

Beneath the musk of sex that permeated the air, he could make out the fragrance of soap from his last bath. Unseen vermin skittered behind the walls on scratchy claws, and electricity hummed through the old wiring that powered the little lightbulb overhead. Winter's brumal gales whistled through a crack in the window frame, making his skin prickle with goosebumps.

He shivered.

We're going to have a visitor.

Was Ches planning to kill again? Given his unpredictable nature, it wasn't outside the realm of possibility. Maybe he'd found someone else that he deemed a threat. Maybe he just had a crazed bloodlust that needed quenching. Or maybe... Maybe Glam would be the one made into an example this time.

Terror of a new kind spiked his blood at the thought. He was now all but quaking.

He'd already surmised that he wasn't the only person to have been kept down here. The evidence was plainly written in the wear of the room—chipped paint and old bloodstains left by who knew how many other occupants. He obviously hadn't been the first, so who was he to think he would be the last? The thought that he would be replaced initially chilled him to the bone, but it was usurped by a stinging jealousy that flogged his heart. He was surprised to find himself on the verge of tears.

But no, no, no, Ches wouldn't do that. He wouldn't just betray him like that. Would he? He'd said he loved him, in fact, made a point of telling him nearly every time they were together! Sure, he'd seemed distracted lately, more withdrawn than usual before it'd at last culminated with his announcement of the visitor. Regret curdled in Glam's stomach for having ever disobeyed him this morning.

He fidgeted in place. A dollop of cum began to ooze from his rear, and his back went ramrod straight. He clenched his sphincter shut in a vain effort to keep from making a mess, suppressing a whimper as he felt Ches' seed drip out onto the linens. A little white shit. He balled the sheets in his fists, cheeks burning equal parts shame and arousal: he still hadn't gotten off, and his cock throbbed painfully. Its reminder tinged his thoughts with an amorous hue, as he tried to wrestle them into order.

Ches said he loved Glam, but as for how Glam felt about Ches, he—it was— The rest of that line refused to come together, and he was left without words. They hid themselves away somewhere in the wings of his mind, biding their time for their long-awaited debut. Until then, all Glam knew was that he wanted Ches in his time of need with the longing of a loyal devotee.

His prayers were answered as the first hints of Ches' return met his ears.

He held his breath, listening to the distant footsteps as they pounded far above him through the many feet of concrete. Blind to the world, he raised his face skyward and traced Ches' trek across the ceiling. There was the all-too-familiar clang of a deadbolt being lifted, the screech of rusty hinges. Then a voice—

No. Two voices.

—filtered down the stairwell, accompanied by a pair of footfalls, one light and one heavy.

Glam's heart began to pound. He sat rigidly back on his heels, bracing himself for whatever was about to come. His tongue went dry as, Ches—and whoever he was with—reached the bottom step.

"Ta-da!" That was Ches, cheerful and bright and so unlike how he'd been just hours earlier. "Home sweet home."

Somebody hummed in reply, and Glam detected the feigned interest of an otherwise unimpressed observer. "Very...nice." Deep, masculine, cultured, and with a hint of an accent Glam couldn't place. There was a short pause, then: "That him?"

"Yup. That's him, all right."

Sweat sprang up in a wave across Glam's skin, and he suddenly found it hard to breathe. Ches had told him not to move or make a sound, and until he was told otherwise, he would follow those directions. He pressed his lips together, resisting the urge to turn his head toward the footsteps approaching the bed.

He realized he could make out the subtle yet clear difference between the two by sound alone: Ches' sneakers scuffed against the floor when he walked, and his jaunty gait was shorter in length, loose at the edges and a bit bungling with nerves. The visitor, on the other hand, strode with confidence on leather soles, and, judging by the distance between each step, he had some considerable height to him.

The mattress dipped to his right with someone's weight, and Glam's heart was in his throat before he felt Ches' hand on his. He scrambled for it, grateful for the reassuring warmth it offered. A riot of questions tangled on his tongue, but only one word slipped through: "Who—"

Ches hissed for him to be quiet. Burying his hand in the hair at Glam's nape, he pulled him close and whispered, "Stay cool, babe. He's my john tonight. Just follow my lead."

John?

Whoever this "John" person was, he was evidently taking a leisurely tour of the room, picking up items before placing them back with a clatter or a clink. What he could possibly be looking for was a mystery, but Glam still felt a flare of resentment at having his belongings rifled through.

"Quite the little love shack you've got here. I'll admit, this isn't what I was expecting from Lucky's piece of heaven I'd heard so much about." There was the scuff of a heel as he turned in place. "They say you haven't brought anyone down here in months. Talk around town was that you'd given up your premium service. So to what do I owe the honor?"

"You had a special request. The price was right. And my buddy here was only too happy to help out." Ches' voice was silky, bordering on unctuous. "It's just business." He put an arm around Glam in a chummy way he hadn't done since—well, before.

Their fingers entwined, and Glam suddenly felt Ches' lips pressed against his. He balked, before submitting to the force of Ches' tongue and opening his mouth to the kiss. Ches tasted of alcohol, something minty and sharp, laced with tobacco. The hand at his nape buried deeper, angling Glam's head to his liking.

John whistled low, sounding impressed.

Ches ended the kiss, caressing Glam's cheek with the backs of his knuckles. “Now if you don't mind, maybe we can get this show started."

John stepped up to the bed. "You're right. Time to meet the main attraction."

Even with the blindfold on, Glam could sense John’s eyes on him. For every second he didn't say anything, the tighter the knot in Glam's stomach grew. Whoever this guy was, he seemed oddly at ease despite the bizarre situation. People would normally act more...alarmed at the sight of a boy chained to a bed, wouldn't they?

"Does he talk?"

"Only if you want him to."

John snorted a laugh and there was the rasp of a hand rubbing across a stubbled chin. "Oh, you're good." He paused. "So why the blindfold?"

Ches' shrug made the mattress bounce. "Thought it'd make things a little more exciting. Add some mystery, you know?"

"And the chains?" Whatever look Ches gave him in reply must've said enough, because John followed up with a knowing hum. Suddenly a pair of fingers closed over Glam's right nipple piercing and tugged. It didn't really hurt, per se, but the unexpectedness of it made Glam gasp. "You didn't say he'd be so...pierced." He let go and Glam hunkered over, his hands fisted on his knees.

"You didn't ask." There was a sharp edge to Ches' words. "Is that a problem?"

John hummed. "I'm not sure yet. I'll need to get a better look at him."

"But you can already see—"

"I'm paying good money for this, Lucky." John cut him off swiftly. "I like to know what I'm getting. It's just business."

There was a tense pause and then, "Fine." The mattress dipped as Ches leaned back on his hands, his voice still holding a dare. "Be my guest."

Glam swallowed, not entirely sure what was happening. Ches and John were obviously in the midst of some kind of transaction, but the exact whats and whys were still lost on him. Either way, it was clear that he played a central role in it. And why did he keep calling Ches "lucky"?

Before he could ponder over this any longer, he was suddenly yanked up by his collar until he was standing on his knees. His hands flew up, fingers closing over John's hairy knuckles as he lifted him effortlessly with one hand. The steadiness of his grasp spoke volumes of his impressive strength, and Glam shivered where he was drawn out on full display, for once thankful for the blindfold that kept him from having to see John's expression. He still didn't know what the strange man was hoping to see, but his gut told him he didn't want to know.

"You're sure no one else has had him?"

A proud snicker. "I'm sure."

Glam's strained breath hitched in his throat when John's other hand—large as a bear's paw and just as rough—cupped the side of his ribs. A thumb snuck across to rub at his nipple, too precise to be accidental.

"He's all skin and bones. And so soft." He murmured to himself, “God, I love them young." John's hand slipped down over his narrow hips, and Glam felt his cock give an ill-timed twitch. Humiliation heated his cheeks. John sniggered, no doubt at his erection. "He's already raring to go, isn't he? What did you say his name was?"

"I didn't."

The acidic bite of Ches' reply stayed John's hand midway through its tour of Glam's body. He let go of the collar, and Glam collapsed back down onto the bed where he panted.

"Relax, Lucky. I'm not here to steal your little boyfriend." That large hand ruffled Glam's hair, nearly knocking him over. "I told you that's not what I'm into."

"Whatever." Ches gave a frustrated sigh. "It's 'Glam.'"

"'Glam,' hm?" John chuckled. "I swear, you boys and your nicknames. Then again—" A puff of breath ghosted over Glam's lips, carrying with it the same minty alcohol he'd tasted on Ches, as John held his chin, grazing his bottom lip with his thumb. "—it's a fitting name for such a pretty thing like him."

The touch was batted away. "Hands off the goods!"

"All right, all right," John replied, surrendering sweetly. "No need to get your panties in a twist."

"So? We got a deal or what?"

"Just one more thing." Glam's blindfold shifted as fingers pinched its edge. "I want to see his eyes."

"Wait, don't—"

The world flooded with light as the blindfold was lifted off his face. Glam blinked quickly against the brightness before his eyes adjusted to...

Ice blue.

Ice-blue eyes seared into his own. They were framed by dark lashes and set in a handsome, swarthy face: straight, sloping nose, chiseled jaw, cheekbones sharp enough to cut. The man could have easily been in his late 40s—John smirked, and crow's feet crimped the corners of his eyes. Scratch that. 50s. Gray peppered his temples and the chest hair peeking out from the open V of his button-up. A simple crucifix dangled on a gold chain around his thick neck.

John was clearly on in years but had a striking vigor to him. He was big. Broad-chested with cords of muscle that bunched beneath his shirt sleeves, he was a man who looked like he took pride in his physique, a certain amount of polish in his otherwise roguish good looks. His hair was slicked back with scented pomade, any loose hair placed just so. Even his jawline was shadowed with designer stubble.

Straight, white teeth with a hint of gold flashed as he spoke. "Very nice."

Beside him, Ches' expression was a disconcerting mix of fear and anger, as though unable to settle on a single emotion while he glared at John. Glam tried to meet his eye, but he couldn't as his face was pinched in John's fingers.

"Where did you find such an angel?" Another gust of alcohol-laced breath unfurled across Glam's face as he sighed out the last word. Suddenly, something like suspicion colored his gaze, and he arched a brow as he turned Glam's face side to side. He peered closer, and from the corner of his eye, Glam could see Ches hold his breath. Then the moment passed, and John let go, turning to Ches with a nod. "He'll do just fine."

Ches visibly relaxed, his relieved sigh whooshing out of him. "Like I told ya." Resting his head on Glam's shoulder, he slipped back into his role of the cheeky rascal, a hand petting Glam's thigh. "And remember, double the product means double the price tag."

"Of course. Just as we agreed." John had already turned on the heel of his bespoke Italian leather shoes and was walking away in the direction of the room's only chair. He lifted it from where it had been set by the stairs and plunked it down a few feet from the bed. Satisfied with his new vantage point, he glided into the seat, crossing one long leg in its perfectly creased slacks over the opposite knee. "You've already got the first half upfront. My money's good for the rest." He took out a fat wallet from his pocket and waved it in the air. "That is, once you deliver what you promised."

"Oh, I'll deliver all right." Ches made it sound like a challenge. He stood and shrugged off his jacket, dropping it dramatically at the foot of the bed. Turning to face Glam, he whispered, "Undress me."

"Ches, what's going on?" He matched his conspiratorial tone.

Ches just curled his fingers under the hem of his shirt and peeled it up and off. "I said undress me. He likes it when there's a lot of foreplay." He crawled onto the bed, toeing his shoes off behind him. They thudded to the floor one after the other. "Come on, babe," he said loud enough for John to hear, lifting Glam's hands to his belt. "Let's have some fun." He wriggled his hips and wrapped his arms around Glam's neck.

Glam kept flicking his gaze between Ches and John. "B-but he's right there, watching."

"And that's exactly what he paid for," Ches hissed back to him, disguising his message by kissing Glam just beneath his ear.

"Paid for—" A tantalizing suckle made him gasp, but he fought past it. "Paid for what?"

"Us."

Glam's blood turned to ice in his veins.

"But it's just to watch us get off," Ches continued quickly. "You can do that, right?" He mouthed at the corner of Glam's lips. "Just pretend he's not even here, and it'll be over before you know it."

Glam didn't have the opportunity to argue the point any further, because Ches dove in for a deep kiss, his tongue silencing him as effectively as a muzzle. He could only whimper under the assault, feeling suddenly inept, unsure of where to touch or what to do. They had done this countless times before, but he felt as if they were doing something illicit this time, their intimacy put on full display for someone else's entertainment. It felt wrong.

He caught a glimpse of their visitor from over Ches' shoulder and could see John's approval in the blush tinging his cheeks and the massive bulge at the front of his slacks. When he met Glam's eye, he winked, running his finger along its length.

Ches' hand closing over his cock tore his attention away from the sight and put it right back where it belonged. His erection had threatened to take its leave, but Ches' touch never failed to ignite his lust, and after having been suspended on the cusp for hours, it didn't take long for him to be reduced to a prurient puddle in his hands.

He was gradually eased down onto his back. Ches followed. It was getting harder to concentrate on anything outside of where the two of them touched. He tried to hold onto his resolve, to keep his wits about him, but Ches just felt so good where he held him: his hands branding his passion into his skin; his kisses, like magma. And with the last wisps of his hesitation going up in smoke, Glam's fingers at last wrangled open Ches' belt buckle before fumbling with the top button.

He couldn't get the zipper down fast enough, and when he finally took Ches in hand, Ches' groan almost sent him over the edge right there and then. Soon, there was nothing between them, and Glam was so caught up in the moment, he didn't notice John approach until he was standing right over them.

"Just look at you." His voice rumbled deep in his burly chest.

Glam startled with a yelp, and he hid beneath Ches. Even Ches seemed perturbed to see John so close, and he shot him a warning look, which John either didn't notice or just didn't care to acknowledge.

His eyes roved up and down their bodies. "Now, now. Don't stop on my account. Just thought I'd help myself to a better view. You don't mind, right, Lucky?"

Ches' sneer was privy to Glam alone, before melting into a simper—a perfect blend of cherub and minx as he tossed over his shoulder to John: "Go right ahead."

He began to unbutton his opal cufflinks. "It's not every day I get to see such fine-looking boys like yourselves going at it." A thick, gold watch flashed on his wrist when he peeled back his sleeves, silver rings gleaming on his fingers. Scars riddled his knuckles, mementos of a disreputable past. He cocked his head. "And don't forget I’m paying for the privilege. I don't want to miss a moment of it. Understood?"

Ches seemed to weigh his options, before silently acquiescing. He nodded to Glam and rolled onto his side. "It's okay, babe," he said against Glam's lips, guiding his hand down to take hold of him again. "He wants a show, so let's give him one."

Glam was coaxed onto his side so that the two lay opposite each other, arms crisscrossed between them. He circled his fingers loosely around Ches' cock, heart beating fitfully against the inside of his ribs, as he wondered just who this man was that held such sway over Ches.

As far as Glam was concerned, Ches bowed to no one—a maniac who'd sooner murder a man than let him near his prey. But when faced with this apex predator, he'd seamlessly changed tactics, still as manipulative and dangerous as before, only now he relied on charisma instead of cruelty to get his way. There was more flair to Ches' movements: his looks were sultrier; his touches, more theatrical. Ches was playing up every gesture, making a spectacle of their union.

Ches licked his own palm—much to John's satisfaction—before working Glam with firm and grounding strokes. He knew every one of his partner's weaknesses and used them to his advantage now, rubbing his thumb beneath the head of Glam's cock in a way that had his toes curling.

"What a pair you make. Like a regular angel and devil." John's hungry leer moved from one to the other, and Glam averted his eyes.

He could only imagine how they looked right now: Glam, rail thin and fragile, with his sorrowful blue eyes and halo of blonde hair; Ches, glaring daggers at his side, fiendishly rough and dark and strong in all the ways that Glam wasn't.

"If you like this, then just you wait." Ches leaned in and scooped Glam close by the back of his head. He crushed their mouths together with a fierceness that stole Glam's breath away, marking his territory with every lash of his tongue. Glam succumbed to his firestorm of stimulation, panting and pliant beneath Ches' touch. Ready to cast himself into the hellfire.

John seemed to get the message and he took a step back, chuckling to himself as he hefted his erection. But his eyes never left them, and Glam could practically feel them tracing their own paths over his bare body like a pair of unwelcome hands.

Ches was frenzied, tackling Glam down onto his back again so that he could devour his neck. Glam tried to match his intensity, desperate to escape John's piercing scrutiny—more frightening than any judgment or accusation because his was a look that spoke of craving. He shuddered to think what would happen if John got his hands on him but knew that as long as Ches was between them, he'd be spared.

"Don't be shy, boys. Let me hear how much you enjoy it."

And so it went on.

They moaned, stroked, suckled, and even bit at John's instruction, every action specially catered to their audience's preference. John made no effort to hide his vicarious enjoyment, as much a member of the performance as Ches and Glam were themselves. It dragged on and on, every moment of this carnal exhibition moving them toward their final goal of release—release from this intruder in their sanctuary.

Glam was just fitting two fingers inside himself, when Ches locked his lips over his nipple, rolling the piercing around with his tongue. He buried his free hand in that nest of hair, biting back a keen. His entire lower body smoldered and when he felt Ches nudging at his entrance, he wrapped his fingers around his cock and guided him in. Heat enveloping heat.

Ches' contented sigh was echoed by John, and Glam blushed twice as hard, clenching his eyes shut. He cast an arm across his face, wanting to block out John, as Ches pushed in, merciful and sublime, until he'd reached the deepest part of him, an encore of what they had done just earlier that morning. Glam wanted so desperately to return to that time, when it had been just the two of them. As though reading his mind, Ches began to move in earnest, and before long, his thighs were quaking where they framed Ches' pistoning hips. A well-aimed thrust jostled a moan from him.

It deteriorated into a warbled yelp as he felt John close one fist around his ankle. He blinked his eyes open to see him sitting on the edge of the bed—as casual and serene as if this were his own home. Another one of his shirt buttons was undone.

"Beautiful," he murmured to himself, his hand stroking up and down Glam's calf.

This did not go unnoticed by Ches who bristled like a cat and snapped, "H-hey! That's close enough!" His rhythm stumbled when John's meaty paw rose from Glam's leg up to his ass, squeezing appreciatively. Now Ches looked scared.

"Oh, not nearly close enough," John purred. He stood behind him, his hands making themselves at home on Ches' hips, guiding them back into a steady tempo, his eyes on Glam.

Ches tried to shrug him off as he fucked Glam harder. "I thought you were just going to watch."

"I was." John started, sliding his gaze to Ches. "But, damn, if I don't feel a little left out now."

"This wasn't part of the deal."

"Well then, what if I were to sweeten it?" He leaned down to whisper something into Ches' ear.

Ches shook his head. "No. I don’t care how much," he bit out. "Anyway, I told you he's off limits." He resumed his pace, making a show of wrapping Glam's legs around his own waist as he rutted into him with rough, purposeful thrusts.

But John wouldn't be dissuaded. He walked his fingers up Ches' spine, pursing his lips as he considered something. Whatever he whispered next made Ches’ eyes go wide.

"F-five?"

John nodded solemnly.

The internal debate raged across Ches' face. He worried his bottom lip, looking quickly at Glam and then to the side. "Five," he finally conceded in a huff, a soldier who had simultaneously dodged a bullet yet lost the war. "But just me."

"Knew you'd see things my way, Lucky." John's voice was honey, as he slipped away behind Ches, out of Glam's view. "Don't worry. I'll be gentle."

"Ches?" Glam reached his hands up to smooth them over Ches' chest, collar, up his neck, trying to look him in the face. "Ches, w-what is it? What did he tell you?"

Ches' only answer was another passionate kiss as he continued his unrelenting pace. He poured all of himself into it—his lust and fury, his love and tenderness—as though these were their last moments on Earth.

Somewhere behind him came the telltale record-scratch of a zipper being lowered, as John settled into place.

Ches suddenly broke off the kiss, arching his back and spreading his legs wide where they were still hooked beneath Glam's thighs. He let his cock slip out until just the tip remained, and Glam whined at the threat of its leaving. He kissed fretfully at Ches' jaw.

But Ches had gone stock-still, brows knit in concentration, as a large hand wrapped around the back of his neck.

"All right, Lucky, let's see if you can take as well as you give." John's fingers gripped tighter for leverage. Then there was the squelch of lube, the creak of mattress springs, and at John's strained grunt, Ches was shoved forward with a wordless gasp. A deep-red blush spread like wildfire up his neck. With a hand pressed down on his back, crushing him against Glam's chest, John came into full view, looming over him like the great Mountain King himself.

His shirt hung open, baring his expanse of grizzled chest hair. A goat's skull done in black ink sat center at his breastbone, its large horns coiled around his pecs, and muscles flexed and rippled across his sculpted abdomen. Just below his jugular, the gold crucifix gleamed.

"Now this is more like it." A snap of his hips sent Ches tumbling deeper into Glam, and the two boys moaned in unison. John's hands came down around Ches to caress Glam's chest. "Fuck, you feel amazing." Those eyes, eclipsed by arousal, were now dark as the sea. When he began to move, Ches was jostled between them like a ragdoll, Ches' thrusts becoming John's, and John's becoming Ches', the two indistinguishable in their mission to fuck Glam into the mattress.

"Ches, Ches." Glam's hands flitted about Ches' face, confused and scared and so traitorously turned on. His brain went hazy with lust as he watched—heard and felt—his captor being violated above him, used in the same way that he had been so many times before. Ches had always been in the position of power, but the role-reversal had Glam's cock hard as steel. It pulsed against his stomach, and he groaned his appreciation with each balls-deep drive of Ches into him, feeling the force of John behind every one of them.

The sheer depravity of the scene stoked his arousal to a fiery blaze. He shut his eyes, this time choosing to leave the seeing world and reenter the realm of sound and touch alone. Here, he could experience pleasure unadulterated. Here, he could be wherever he wanted, with whomever he wanted; all that mattered was whom he chose to share it with. Amidst the chorus of moans—John's, Ches', his own—he honed in on Ches' music, tuning himself to it like a tonic note. Closer and closer still. His muscles tensed, twitched a millimeter to the side, held, and—

There.

His climax crashed into him like a tidal bore, long and all-encompassing, flooding his senses. He was buoyed on it, lifted heavenward, crushing his chest to Ches' as though their hearts were meant to be one. His ass clenched spastically around Ches' cock in time with his release as it tumbled into him, over him, away from him. Retreated.

He let out the breath he'd been holding and melted back onto the bed.

No sooner had he spiraled down from his high, than Ches was summarily dragged off of him. Glam groused pitifully at his departure, already missing his warmth, both inside and out. Dazed, he could only watch dimly as John hoisted Ches upright against his chest. The two still connected.

With an arm hooked beneath each leg, gravity bore Ches down lower onto John's cock that stood as thick as Glam's forearm. He caterwauled with the change in position, bucking and trying futilely to squirm free, but a few more jarring thrusts from John made him sag boneless onto his throne. Moans dribbled freely from his slack lips.

Desire thrummed in Glam's blood as he looked up in wonder. For so long, Ches had been an imposing figure, infallible and unshakable. But now, when at the mercy of a fully grown man—especially one as powerful as John—Glam saw him for the vulnerable boy he was. He was humbled by the realization that he had sacrificed himself for Glam’s salvation.

"Come on, angel," John huffed, readjusting his hold so that he could spread Ches' thighs wider. "Why don't you give your boyfriend a little attention? He looks like he's aching for it."

Glam crawled toward Ches, entranced by the sight of him. Hand over hand, he climbed up John's thighs until he'd reached the level of Ches' leaking cock. It bobbed in front of his eyes: a Eucharist of flesh and blood, and Glam opened his mouth, ready to receive his communion.

"Glam, wait—ah!" Ches' cry devolved into a gasp as Glam closed his lips over him whole. He tensed, toes splayed as Glam sucked him with fervor. His hips thrust on automatic into Glam's eager mouth then back onto John's cock, back and forth, caught in this gyroscope of unceasing pleasure. Words were beyond him. He could only speak in tongues, as he writhed and blubbered in delirium: a body that had been pushed past its limits.

Eventually, he seemed to accept there was no escaping this, and he surrendered, lifting his arms to hang them weakly around John's neck like a second crucifix. And Glam, his ever-loyal disciple, knelt before him—this boy, this devil, this god—and laid his hands on him in worship.

He'd prayed at this altar so many times that the ritual came easily to him, and he recited his creeds with every swirl of his tongue, every hymnal hum. He kept his eyes on Ches throughout, reading the scripture of his pleasure as it wrote itself across his body that undulated as if possessed.

The dual stimulation proved too much, and before long, Glam recognized the signs of Ches' imminent ascension. When it overtook him with a final lilting groan, Glam was there to drink down every drop of his sweet ambrosia.

Sucked dry, Ches was dumped from his perch, falling in an ungainly heap onto the mattress. Even Glam's gentle soothing couldn't seem to reach him, as he lay panting and vacant-eyed.

In the next moment, however, he was quickly whisked away from right under his nose. Glam looked up to see John yanking his limp form clear off the bed—discarding him like a used condom. Ches fell to the floor with a pained grunt. And in the span of a heartbeat, Glam's pleasant afterglow fizzled in a bluster of adrenaline as he came face to face with John. He'd barely tumbled back, trying to put some distance between them, when a hand snagged him by the wrist.

"Now it's time to have our own fun, little angel." John tugged Glam close. From the floor came Ches' flimsy protests, a hand reaching up to stop him, but he was promptly put down with a swift kick to the ribs, and he groaned miserably as John took his place on the bed, towering over Glam.

"Ches—" His cry for help was smothered as his face was crushed against John's belly. It felt like hitting a brick wall. Ches had been strong in his own right, but John was a titan. Every inch of his build was carved from flesh-clad iron, and his hand dwarfed Glam's head as he shoved his face down against his cock. It still glistened with lube, far from satisfied.

Glam tried to twist free, shutting his eyes and lips tightly and giving a closed-mouth scream.

"What, you can suck your boyfriend's pecker but not mine?" John hooked a thumb into Glam's cheek and tried to pry his mouth open as he growled impatiently, "You have any idea how much I've put down for tonight?" With a frustrated huff, he pushed Glam onto his back, pinning his thin wrists above his head in one hand. "I expect to get my money's worth." A savage twist wrenched a cry from Glam as his arms were bent at an unnatural angle.

Glam tried to kick, but only managed to get his ankle caught in John's other hand. He was then yanked toward him until his bottom was flush against John's engorged club, and his breath caught in his throat.

He froze, watching it all unravel before his eyes. Somehow, he felt as if he knew this would happen, the inevitable betrayal that had been in the works from the very start, and a subdued resignation came over him, quieting his mind so that he could see everything with crystal clarity.

Things seemed to move at half-speed: John's lips curling in a self-satisfied grin, his hand wrapping around Glam's waist, the lightbulb flickering overhead. Glam couldn't help but stare at it, trying to read the SOS in its silent Morse code. It quivered and warped as tears flooded his eyes, and when its light was eclipsed by John's shoulder, he turned his face away, readying for darkness to fall.

Ches.

But it was too late. There was a scalding pressure at his bottom, flesh threatening to give way, and then—

"Get the fuck away from him!"

Glam snapped his eyes open.

John was still poised above him, but his grin had twisted into a scowl, as he turned to face down whatever sorry soul had dared to interrupt his conquest.

That sorry soul was Ches.

Teeth bared and eyes blazing, Ches looked like a demon set loose from Hell, claws ready as he threw himself bodily at John with a roar, determined to knock him off his mount.

His efforts were in vain.

A single vicious backhand sent Ches flying. He crumpled to the floor, curling onto his side as he cursed and cupped his bleeding nose.

Glam scooted back on his elbows to safety, watching in horror as John stepped off the bed and crouched low over Ches. His shirt billowed around him like Lucifer's wings, and his cock hung lewdly from his open slacks.

"Now, is that any way to treat a paying customer?" He tsked, lifting Ches easily to eye level by a fistful of hair. The very temperature of the room seemed to plunge, turning as frigid as John's glower. He slapped him lightly, one cheek and then the other, brushing away Ches' feeble attempts to defend himself. "And I was really looking forward to this too. Everyone told me you can make any guy's 'lucky' night." His tone went dark. "But I gotta say, you're not living up to the hype. You weren't even worth the gas money it took to get here."

"F-fuck...you—!" A kiss from his fist shut him up.

The smack of knuckles meeting flesh and Ches' cracked groans filled the air, as John continued over the sound of his own brutality. "The only luck you've had is that no one's snuffed out a two-bit tramp like you yet. I could kill you right here, right now, and no one would give a damn. What's one more cocksucker dead in the gutter?" He drew back his fist and rammed it straight into Ches' face. Again. And again.

Glam flinched with every blow as though feeling them for himself. He recoiled as far as he could go, but he'd already run out of mattress—and he tumbled over the edge of it onto the floor. Right onto Ches' jacket. His fingers felt something solid within the fabric.

"And once I'm finished with you," John was saying, "I'll take my time with your boyfriend. Show him how a real man does it." His prey had long since given up, hanging slack in his grasp.

Defeated.

In a flurry, Glam dug through the jacket's pockets, coming across the ring of keys and tossing them aside in favor of what lay deeper within its folds. His fingers closed around a metal handle, and he pulled it out. The butterfly knife. The last time he'd seen it, it had been held to his heart. Now the dread he'd once felt at the sight of it had been replaced by an unexpected serenity.

Slowly, he folded back the handles to reveal the blade and caught his haunted reflection in its shiny surface: wild-eyed and pale, hair all askew, he looked as crazed as he felt. Sweat dripped down his forehead, and he wiped it away, slicking his hair back in one movement. Grasping the knife in both hands, he turned in the direction of John and Ches.

"Enough." His voice was eerily calm.

Immediately, the sounds of Ches' beating paused as John looked up, his expression morphing from annoyance to surprise to wariness as his eyes settled on the knife. Slowly, he raised his hands. "All right, angel. What do you think you're doing with that?” He dipped his head, looking up at Glam with a disarming smile as though daring him to make a move.

Glam met John's gaze, unflinching.

But then a flash of something new crossed John's face. He squinted at Glam, taking in features that had previously been obscured by loose hair and distorted by despair—and his eyes went wide with recognition. "Holy shit..." he whispered to himself, a lopsided grin quirking his lips. "You're—you're that Schwagenwagens kid!" John snapped his fingers. "Sebastian Schwagenwagens!"

Glam froze. He hadn't heard that name in a long time.

Still pinned beneath John, Ches reached for him weakly. "Ghlmm..." he slurred around a mouthful of blood. A molar lay on the floor.

"Glam my ass." John cuffed Ches hard. "So this is who you've been keeping down here. Can't believe I was about to..." He shook his head in disbelief, muttering to Ches. "Sneaky little fuck. Almost got me in big trouble there."

"How... You know me?" Glam swallowed, readjusting his grip on the knife which suddenly felt unwieldy in his hands.

"Who doesn't? 'Wealthy Family's Heir Goes Missing.' News story played nearly every night for weeks. The bars have been crawling with PIs looking for you since summer! Can't go anywhere without having your photo waved in my face. I'll admit, it took me a while to see the resemblance, but there's no doubt about it. You're Gustav's boy."

Gustav...? His father!

Old circuits that hadn't been used in months flickered to life, matching names to faces and faces to memories: his room, his home, his family. He almost forgot that he'd once imagined returning to his old life. It was a secret hope that he'd long since abandoned, but now, the reminder that the world outside this basement might still have a place for him reawakened that hope. It stepped from the shadows, hobbling along on unsteady legs that had never had a chance to heal properly. The knife lowered to his side. He hadn't been forgotten after all! His parents were still looking for him! He took a tentative step.

The rattle of his chains stopped him. He looked down at himself. Bruises painted his skin in watercolor bursts, alongside a collection of scars he'd amassed over the past few months. He clutched at his bony shoulders, feeling suddenly exposed. His nipple piercings pressed against his crossed arms, and long, unkempt hair fell over his face as he bowed his head.

Sebastian had changed so much, Glam barely recognized him.

"Way I remember it," John was musing to himself, "they're offering a fat reward for any leads. Even more to anyone who brings you home." He pinched Ches' cheek playfully before smacking him hard, eliciting a pained groan. "Would you look at that? Guess you really did make my lucky night, Lucky!" He then flipped Ches over onto his belly so that he could hold his chin, the two—three, counting the goat skull—now facing Glam as he crowed, "Never said a word about offering anything for the kidnapper, though." To Glam, he snapped: "Well? What are you standing there for?"

Glam looked up, confused.

"You're not honestly going to let this freak just get away with what he did to you, are you?"

"Did...to me?"

John rolled his eyes. "Jesus Christ, kid, did he fuck your brains out too hard?" He gestured at the room, voice pitched high with incredulity. "Look around! He's got you chained to a fucking bed! Locked up like an animal in a basement! I can't even imagine what other fucked-up shit he's put you through."

Glam looked around, for the first time in a long time seeing the evidence of his captivity behind his new "home." He'd grown so used to the place, he'd forgotten that the display of torture tools on the walls and bloodied sheets were supposed to be a source of terror, not comfort.

"But now's your chance to set things right," John said, flashing Glam a serpent's grin. "Don't you want to get your revenge on this piece of shit?" He held Ches' head up next to his and shook it for emphasis. Blood oozed from a nasty gash across his forehead, courtesy of one of John's rings. "Here, I'll even make it easy for you. I'll vouch to the police that it was in self-defense. And no one will be the wiser. Besides, who are they gonna believe: the poor victim or some trailer trash with a criminal record? Hell, the kid's already taken enough from you, hasn't he? It was just a matter of time before he took your life too."

Ches gave a broken sob just then, but John shut him up by slamming his face once against the floor. "This world is full of really fucked-up people. You never know who you can trust. And this guy?" He practically spat. "He's a fucking thief."

Glam blinked. His mind flew back in time to the night he'd been brought here, when he'd first heard those same words spoken to him. It'd been a warning, a lesson he'd never forgotten.

He looked down at Ches. From deep inside him, something began to pound like a tribal drum. It was true, Ches had taken so much from him. He'd lost his innocence, his identity, his sense of self, his very humanity—everything that had ever held him back.

Now, with nothing left to lose, he was truly free.

The plane of his mind tilted subtly, sending his sanity sliding off into oblivion. Regripping the knife, he stepped forward again.

John crooned his approval. "That's it. Knew you'd do the right thing."

Glam knelt in front of Ches, the knife gleaming in his hands, one fist closed over the other in prayer.

"It'll all be over soon."

Ches was shaking his head, his lips forming words as he looked up at Glam through tear-stained eyes. But Glam couldn't make out whatever he said over the pounding in his ears. Louder and louder. He looked at Ches, looked at John, back to Ches, down to the knife in his hands.

A vacuum of silence fell over him as he took in a long, centering breath.

"Do it already!" John roared.

With a shout, Glam dove, plunging the knife in with all his strength until his knuckles made contact with flesh. His eyes never left Ches', watching himself in their watery depths, a kaleidoscope of emotion passing over his face: revulsion, rage, regret, and finally relief. Glam dropped his hands, staggered to his feet, and stepped back. The room began to spin.

Right beside Ches, John went still, his smile frozen on his face. It quivered, twitched into a snarl. He gave a cough, and blood spurted from around the knife sticking out of his neck. "What...the...fuck?" More rivulets of blood trickled out when he spoke, his voice gargling through the new hole in his trachea. He dropped Ches, who went down like a stone. It looked like he was trying to get to his feet, but he only got as far as one knee. His hands reached up, fumbling for the handle, as he locked eyes with Glam. "You...little..." He pulled out the knife.

A torrent of blood gushed free, spewing like a fountain from his severed artery. It spattered across Glam's stunned face as John stumbled. He wavered for a moment on his hands and knees, then fell face down, like Goliath before David, into a puddle of his own blood. He didn't move again.

How much time passed after that moment, Glam couldn't tell. Seconds felt like minutes and minutes felt like hours, as he watched John's honey-gold tan fade to a sickly ash right before his eyes. A red crown spread out beneath his head, darkening from rich ruby to dull garnet.

The echo of Glam's heartbeat in his head stretched like an ocean around him, distancing himself from everything. Nothing felt real anymore as he stared, unseeing, at the body—John—the body—he was going to kill him—the body—kill me!—the body—I had to do it—the body—Ches was about to be—the bo

A hand came to rest on his shoulder. He turned his neck stiffly to the side, joints rusty with disuse, and saw Ches.

He was a mess: split lip, busted nose, one eye swollen nearly shut, swaying in place as though it took all of his strength just to remain standing. The sheet had been pulled from the bed and now draped over him. He spread his shaky arms.

They had no need for words. Glam stepped silently into the folds of his white wings, Ches' head tucked comfortably beneath his chin.

He swore he'd never find a more perfect fit.

His arms encircled Ches, and he held him close as emotion surged in his chest. In that moment, he wished for nothing else outside of this—just the two of them adrift in a world that made no sense to them. A world that would never make sense of them in turn.

After a time, he asked, "What do we do now?"

Ches' shoulders lifted then sagged beneath a sigh. At first, it seemed he wasn't going to answer, but when he did, his voice was small and trembling: "You smile."

Glam's throat pulsed, words catching in a knot.

"You smile," Ches said again. "Because if you don't smile, you’ll cry."

Tears burned at the seams of his eyelids. But he merely turned his face skyward, ignoring the pool of blood creeping its way across the floor, and the body that was once a man now growing colder by the minute. Seeing past the ceiling and the layers of concrete far above, further and further, right up to the night sky that hung blissfully silent over frost-glittered fields.

Glam peeled his lips back—a sneer, a snarl, a show of teeth that stretched so wide his cheeks hurt. He opened his eyes.

The flimsy lightbulb cast its rays on him, bright as the sun.

And Glam smiled.

Chapter Text

—Day 131—

A strong gust of wind blew, kicking up snow devils that danced and twirled alongside Ches as he plodded his way across the barren parking lot. He tucked his chin deeper into his scarf and hunched his shoulders, shielding his ears.

It was fucking freezing out here.

The toes of his sneakers were soaked, snow drenching his socks and crawling up his jeans. One hand was punched deep into the pocket of his oversized parka—something "borrowed" from a good client that had gone bad way back when. In his other hand, he held a bottle.

Its neck dangled loosely between two numbed fingers. He lifted it to his lips and downed another mouthful. At least, that was the intention. The vodka sloshed from the bottle too quickly, and most of it ended up on his scarf instead.

"Son of a bitch," he grumbled, wiping at the mess with his sleeve. The movement threw him off balance, and he teetered sideways into a rusty barbed wire fence that chimed back at him with an irritated Watch it! "Oh, excusez-moi, monsieur." Sweeping his arm low, he gave an exaggerated bow before stumbling off with an inebriated giggle. His little joke went unappreciated, however, quickly spirited away by the wind whipping through the labyrinth of tall brick buildings. There wasn't another soul in the entire factory complex to hear it. And that was fine by him.

As far as Ches was concerned, if Hell was other people, this place was paradise.

After the shouting match he'd had with his mom today, it was just the escape he needed.

In his pocket, he thumbed the small gift, rubbing its flat surface until the silver warmed.

Hell wasn't all other people, of course. There was still Glam who he knew would be waiting for him, down in their private little hideaway. Far from the rest of the world that could burn for all he cared. At least he had Glam.

His alcohol-laden heart stumbled over the knot of fondness and chagrin that had recently taken up residence in his chest when he thought of Glam, and he hung his head sullenly as he skirted a patch of black ice. The late-afternoon sun stretched his legs into shadowy spikes that jabbed up and down as he walked in a path that was as straight as his meandering thoughts.

Three weeks was a long time to be gone, and guilt needled at him for how he'd kept Glam waiting. Down there. All alone. But, nah, he'd be fine. Glam was tough, he reminded himself. A hell of a lot tougher than he was at the beginning. A faint smile curled Ches' lips. Glam was just fine, and he'd—he'd welcome Ches back with open arms.

Wouldn't he?

The smile trembled, fell into a frown, as doubt—or maybe it was the booze—cleaved through his guts. Ches couldn't be so sure anymore if Glam still loved him, especially after the way things had gone down last time. He'd messed up.

Bad.

Tripping over his own feet, he rubbed absentmindedly at the last butterfly bandage that was flaking off the bridge of his nose. He peeled it off and flicked it away, making a face to suppress the urge to sneeze. Not a trace remained of the savage beating it'd received, bruises and busted skin healed with time. Too bad he couldn't say the same for his forehead. Hidden beneath the grungy bandana, he now sported an ugly scar that wriggled up his brow and into his hairline, courtesy of a certain bastard's ring.

That same ring now decorated his middle finger. It was a little big for him, and he spun it loosely around and around with his thumb as he thought back to his mother.

Why did she have to be so goddamn stupid? She never listened. That was her problem! Why didn't she ever listen to him? Especially when he was making perfectly good sense. The haul he'd brought in that night with the john had been more than enough to cover her treatment. Six whole months paid in advance to the area's most prestigious accredited rehab center! The place even had its own Japanese garden and daily meditation classes—all that bougie shit! Boasting a 93% success rate, it was the very best that money could buy. It was supposed to fix her! Save her!

She'd lasted all of one week. A personal record.

His frustrated sigh crystallized then melted on the inside of his scarf. He'd begged, yelled, even tried guilt-tripping her into sticking with it, and although she promised she'd give it an honest try, it didn't make any difference. No surprise there.

They'd argued and fought about it every day since then, two stubborn idiots wanting to make things better but neither knowing how. It'd gotten so bad, a neighbor had threatened to call the cops on them. So he'd left. It was the same old shit again. His mother would never change. She'd wind up dead in that fucking trailer, right next to a syringe and an expensive bottle of cognac. He'd bet good money on it.

Another generous swig, and the mental image he'd painted began to fizzle away into ethanol fumes. That was better. He'd rather focus on the booze burning down his throat, than the unpleasant thoughts bumbling around in his mind.

He didn't like being in his head too much. It was dark in there.

He'd reached the building's rear entrance and fumbled with the stack of broken pallets concealing the door. They clattered to the ground, sending unseen critters scurrying for cover. Once through the door and free from the howling wind, he breathed a grateful sigh. It echoed down the large and empty hallways like a wandering ghost in a tomb. Paradise.

He started forward.

Past back offices where dust lay an inch thick on conference tables and office chairs. Past the main production floor with its relics of abandoned machinery. Past the piles of dusty billiard balls, half-formed casts discarded for one defect or another. Past the remnants of the manufacturer's name now pockmarked like missing teeth in an old man's grin. SCH...GEN...AGENS, the logo read in large lopsided letters.

Ches ignored all these, keeping one hand on the wall as he walked the well-worn path. He could have made his way there with his eyes closed. So to hell with it, he did, letting fatigue pull his eyelids shut as he stumbled onward, shoes scuffing an off-beat rhythm, until he'd made it to the basement door. Hair spilled over his face as he sagged against it, lifting a hand to swipe blindly at the handle, once, twice. Got it.

The drink rolled around like a lead ball in his gut, churning his stomach acid and sending it up in a rancid belch. He wrinkled his nose. Shit, he was smashed. Shit-faced. Shittily shit-faced. But too late to turn back now. A twist of the key, and the door gave way beneath his weight, swinging open with that familiar squeal.

He paused at the top of the stairs where he was enveloped in a cloud of warmth. It pushed back the worst of winter's bite, and he could feel himself melt into its waiting embrace, stiff joints and hunched shoulders unwinding, going slack. There was a gentle glow coming from deeper inside, carrying with it pleasant smells of cooking spices and, best of all, music.

Glam was playing a soft guitar rendition of Last Christmas, the notes swirling like snowflakes into his ears.

He took a step forward. I'm home—

He misjudged the distance and bungled the first step, going down the flight of stairs with a shout and a tangle of limbs before landing at the bottom in a crooked heap.

The music stopped.

"Ow..." he said where he lay upside down, one leg caught on the second-to-last step. From his inverted position, the puff-cloud bed floated in the sky, while in one corner glowed the little space heater he'd gotten last month, its orange coils burning like the midday sun.

"Ches!" Glam's frantic voice nibbled at his ears, the one solid thing in a world that was going fuzzy at the edges. There were two of him—no, three—all looking down at him with genuine pity. It was a beautiful sight.

It made him want to cry.

Instead, he blinked until the trio of Glams funneled back down to one. "Hey, babe," he croaked. Jesus Christ, he sounded terrible, pathetic. Not cool at all.

A good six feet separated them, Glam standing at the very limit of his range. Both hands were wrapped around the chain at his collar, as though trying to wring even one more inch from it. But it wouldn't allow him any closer.

Close but no cigar, Ches thought sluggishly. Damn, I could use a smoke right now.

With a groan, he twisted in place, trying to get his feet under him. Glam's chains jangled noisily while he fretted back and forth, helpless. God, he felt like a piece of shit for making Glam worry like that.

After a few futile attempts to get up, Ches resigned to sitting slouched like a broken doll against the wall. He rubbed at the back of his head as he blinked up at Glam.

"Y-you're back." He looked a little skinnier than before, a little more frazzled. And there was that huge smile plastered on his face from last time, the bags around his eyes dark as kohl. Had he been getting enough sleep? Judging by his reaction, Ches would've thought he'd been gone for weeks.

Oh, right. That's because he had.

"I didn't know if—I mean, I wondered when you'd—" Glam stopped himself short and shook his head, the chain chattering like an excited bird. "I'm glad you're back."

Such a freakin' sweet idiot.

"I'm glad too. But 'course I'm back." His lips twisted in a pout, and he gingerly climbed to his feet. “I'll always come back." He wavered in place. "No matter what." That's when he noticed the bottle in his hand. It'd managed to survive the fall, but he'd emptied its contents all over his pants. Now they were sticky and gross. Not a good look. He let the bottle drop to the floor, and it shattered on impact.

"Are you okay?" Glam fluttered around Ches as he staggered forward, as though afraid he'd fall apart if he touched him.

Ches shrugged him off with a biting, "I'm fine," hating himself for lying to Glam. Hating how he had to act like he was in control, even when he didn't know what the fuck he was doing anymore. He put a shaking hand to his head, everything going foggy. He had to get a grip. For Glam's sake. He was supposed to keep Glam safe, make him ready! But he'd fucked up so much last time, how could he ever make things right again?

The room tilted suddenly, and his feet tangled beneath him. But Glam kept him from falling, those skinny arms wrapping around his middle. He was stronger than he looked, Ches had to admit. His bruises had faded, too, leaving only a pale canvas where stray scars decorated his skin. Ches wanted to kiss every last one of them. He would. Just...as soon as he got some rest. With only a little grousing, he let himself be half-carried, half-guided to the bed where he flopped down onto it with a bounce.

Flat on his back, he closed his eyes, and the world spun even faster, wild as an unhinged carousel. Consciousness was disintegrating at the corners, and his stomach was doing some unspeakable things. Distantly, he recognized Glam tugging off his jacket and his shoes. Socks. Pants. "Kinkyyyy," he slurred around a tongue that had grown as heavy as his eyelids.

Glam only shushed him good-naturedly, tucking him into bed with all the care of an attentive mother, and Ches' heart grew hot, hotter than all the alcohol buzzing away in his veins.

He had killed for this boy. And this boy had killed for him. How many people could say the same? He shook his head at his own question, which just made his brain swirl. This had to mean they were bound for life, right? Accomplices in murder—in a crime of passion, no less. Star-crossed lovers, till death do us part, and all that sentimental bullshit.

Goosebumps had sprung up along his arms, and his teeth chattered. He bullied his eyes open to watch Glam as he smoothed down the sheets and tucked them beneath his chin. The sight of him alone helped to soothe the worst of his frayed nerves, even as nystagmus made his vision jitter like a TV set caught between channels.

When the world stilled long enough for Glam to meet Ches' eyes, he only offered a tender smile, one that gutted Ches, because he felt—no, he knew that he wasn't worthy of such tenderness.

After how badly he'd messed up, how could Glam stand to look at him? Touch him? Come anywhere near him? His throat clamped down with regret as it burbled up from inside of him with the fury of a growing tempest. "Glam..." His voice cracked around his name.

Glam tilted his head, curious, patiently waiting for him to continue.

But then the moment shattered.

Nausea seized him, and saliva gushed into his mouth. It was his only warning before vomit surged up his esophagus. He had just enough time to throw himself over the edge of the bed before spewing the contents of his stomach—fifteen bucks worth of vodka gone, just like that. His head pounded, face puffy and red with strain.

He heaved, heaved some more, until there was nothing left to heave—and then he was sobbing, an awful, ugly sound that ricocheted off the ceiling, made the lightbulb ring. Tears squeezed themselves free from him, and his fingers shook where they held the edge of the mattress in a death grip.

Somewhere outside of this hell, he felt Glam's hand smoothing down his back, a blessed cool to his overheated skin. Not just overheated. Hot. Why did he feel so damned hot, burning, scalding? He was melting, going up in flames. An inferno raged inside of him, trying to whisk him away while he clawed for leverage, for control. But it was all spiraling out of his grasp as he lost himself in fever's pit.

Everything was coming apart at the seams, and he was bursting, spilling over. More than just sick began to pour out of him, wretched words hidden somewhere amidst his weeping.

He bawled long and hard about his mother and her sickness. About how he'd never be able to fix her. Fix anything. Least of all a broken fuck-up like himself. He'd ruined everything that night. A stupid lapse in judgment that had nearly cost them their lives. God, he'd been so scared. He hadn't meant to put Glam in danger like that, not when the only thing he'd wanted was to keep him safe. But he couldn't even do that right. And he was sorry, so fucking sorry. Forgive me, I didn't mean for it to happen. I didn't. Please don't leave m—

All at once, it was over.

The chaotic maelstrom abated, seen off by a high-pitched whining in his ears. This too gradually faded, replaced by Glam's gentle humming. It was the only sound Ches ever wanted to hear, and he moaned weakly, grateful for this lodestar to guide him home from where he drifted, lost and afraid, on an open sea. His head rolled back and forth as if on the waves, cheeks wet with tears. He could feel Glam's hand brush the hair from his face.

The tune Glam hummed was familiar somehow, like something—something he'd sung himself months ago, a lifetime ago. In a crowded bar. With the band.

One unforgettable summer night.

***

—Day 0—

I howl the last note into the mic, a wicked E5, and the crowd goes wild. They throw up their hands in devil's horns, paying homage to me with hoots and hollers.

I can only stand there and pant a quiet, "Wow," arm raised, returning the sign of my people. I am their freakin' god.

I turn my head to look at Glam beside me on the stage. He's breathing just as hard, staring out at the crowd as if not believing that they're all here for us. He meets my eyes and flashes me a smile, and I've never been more in love in my life.

Excitement burns in the pit of my stomach, high on the rush of the concert as I watch Glam glitter under the spotlights, beautiful and incredible and right by my side where he belongs. His last guitar riff left them all in awe, but it was just a glimpse of what he's got in store. They have no idea. My thighs twitch with the urge to stride across the stage and kiss him right here and now.

Let everyone see that he’s mine.

But I never get the chance, because the crowd's rushing the stage, pulling us down and carrying us off to celebrate. Lordy's already talking about an after-party, and we're corralled into a lounge. There's a bar there too. Tables and booths, dim lights, and heavy metal booming from the speakers. People are smacking me on the back, telling me I was awesome. Girls grope my ass as I walk by, and I'm laughing and grinning, and Glam is—Glam is pulled out of my hand before I can stop it. Whisked away to the couch in the center of the room by three giggling groupies.

It's cool, I tell myself. Everything's cool. I'll catch up with him later.

There's always later, because I know he's in love with me—How can't he be? I'm irresistible!—and someday, soon, he'll come over again. To my room. Into my bed. Spend the night and give himself, all of himself, to me. And then he'll be mine—spirit, mind, and body. He just doesn't know it yet.

There's so much he doesn't know, it's honestly ridiculous. He's been living for so long, high and mighty in his castle, where the air’s too damn thin, he's oxygen-deprived. It's made him dumb. Weak too, like a flower without enough sunlight. He doesn't stand a chance out here in the real world. That is, if he ever manages to leave that prison he calls home. His father's kept him on such a short leash, it's wringing the life out of him.

I'd like to put a leash on him too. Only, I'd do it right.

Before long, I've got a free drink in one hand and a girl with nice hair and cheap cherry lip gloss in the other. She keeps giggling and touching the leather choker around her neck. She's pretty enough, and we’re having what people would consider to be "a good time," chatting by the bar, and yeah I'm too young to drink, but tell that to the bartender who's just serving and serving, and the booze is flowing and flowing. Cherry tells me how amazing I was on stage. I counter by saying she's amazing too.

This is totally my scene.

I fucking hate it.

Where I really wanna be is next to Glam on that dingy, old couch where the girls are practically climbing all over him. I keep sneaking looks from over my bottle, checking up on him, making sure everything's okay.

He's sitting stiff as a mannequin while the trio push their breasts in his face and try to slip their hands down his shirt. Poor guy looks terrified, like he thinks the girls want to eat him rather than fuck him. It's actually pretty cute.

Doesn't he realize it’s one of his biggest charms? The way he's always so uptight makes people wanna loosen his strings, see him undone. Myself included. It doesn't hurt that he's easy on the eyes too: tall, lean, pretty blue eyes that practically glow beneath the soft overhead lights. And his hair—he's got the kind of hair you wanna see stuck with sweat to his cheek or splayed out on the pillow as you fuck him.

That's just what Glam needs, and I'd gladly be the one to teach him. There's a lot I have to teach him.

See, Glam needs my help. He's been practically begging for it since the moment we met, back when he was a pathetic and shivering little thing, scared of his own shadow. It was the look in his eyes that gave it away. The one that said, Ches, I am lost without you. Would you believe it? Ches the Shepherd. Ches the Savior. Got a nice ring to it. He needs my help, and I'm the best one for the job. Already I'm changing him, little by little, and he's doing wonderfully. Every day, he's becoming more the person he's meant to be. Bolder, brighter.

The only thing bright about Cherry is her lip gloss. The too-sweet stink of it smeared all over me is giving me a headache, and she just keeps giggling. I could read aloud the user's manual for a VCR, and I bet she'd giggle. It's making it hard to focus.

Now, an Idea's been growing in my head for a while, thinking of the ways I can make Glam even stronger, strong enough to survive. Strong enough to thrive. He's been soft and feeble long enough. If we don't do something soon, he'll end up in some serious trouble. The world's a dangerous place, and he has to know how bad it can get.

I wrap an arm around Cherry's waist, copping a feel on occasion to make her think I'm paying attention. Her lips are right next to my ear and she's panting on about how hot I am and where you wanna go after this and how 'bout my place? She's not being at all subtle about what she wants to do back at her place—if the pussy juices wetting my fingers are any indication, where she's slipped my hand between her thighs.

I imagine what it'd be like to hammer nails into her skull.

Instead, I stick two fingers inside. This shuts her up.

Thank god, because she's not what I want to be paying attention to right now. I lift the bottle to my lips without actually drinking, my eyes fixed on Glam.

Realizing Glam won't give them what they want, the groupies give up and drift away, no doubt to find easier, more willing partners. And Glam is left all by his lonesome. I'm just thinking of dumping Cherry and going over there myself...

When he shows up.

It's like he was waiting for the opportunity, because the second the girls leave, he sidles up beside Glam on the couch. He strikes up a conversation that slowly coaxes Glam from his shell. He entices. He ensnares.

He is a fucking predator.

I watch as he marks his territory that is the couch and Glam. Subtle looks and body language scream the message loud and clear: Stay away. He's mine. Black tee and tight-fitting jeans, he blends in perfectly with this crowd, but I've never seen him before. Was he even at the concert? His face is both eye-catching and forgettable. The slippery kind.

He's done this before, that much is obvious. I can practically see him going through the script. He knows exactly what to say, when to touch and when not to, how to carry himself in such a way that makes Glam lower his defenses. Long leg crossed oh-so-cool over one knee, getting real close, real flirty.

A regular fucking Romeo.

Glam doesn't stand a chance. He's nursing his little glass of orange juice, fidgeting and stealing shy glances up at Romeo who sweet-talks him and fetches him a refill from the bar himself—now, ain't he a real gentleman—before pushing it into his hands. He thinks he's so fucking smooth about it. No one else notices, but I do because I've been watching them like a hawk.

My nostrils flare, livid. Cherry steps into my line of sight, and I give her a devilish twist of my fingers. Her knees buckle. She clings to my shoulder and squeals like I'm doing her some kind of huge favor. I go back to watching.

Romeo knows how to charm. He oozes with it. And, unfortunately, it's working just like it's supposed to. Glam accepts the glass graciously—he was always too damn trusting—and takes a polite little sip, but Romeo laughs and tips the glass up with one finger—Bottom's up!—so that Glam has no choice but to polish off the whole thing in one go.

Even from across the room, I can tell the moment the drug hits him. Glam relaxes, goes loose-limbed and goofy. He melts back against the couch where Romeo's arm is slung behind him. Now isn't that convenient? His knees tip side to side, side to side, like skinny, jean-clad windshield wipers as his shoulders bounce in a careless little shrug to whatever Romeo's said. He's smiling at him too, that big, kooky grin of his I love so much, and that's the part that kills me.

Romeo smiles back, and when his hand lands on Glam's thigh, stays, glides upwards, I see red.

A drive my fingers in up to the knuckle beneath Cherry's skirt, a generous thumb on her clit, and she's close, but Romeo is closer, leaning forward and catching a lock of Glam's hair between finger and thumb, and a thousand scenarios are playing through my head of how I will take this man apart piece by piece. Stop him! Stop him! I'm screaming in my head, but I'm glued to the spot, knowing exactly how this will play out and yet wanting to see it unfold anyway.

Romeo has his arm around Glam's shoulder now, and Glam isn't. Doing. Anything. He glides in close and whispers something in Glam's ear that has him blushing. It's also a cute look on him. His head is unsteady as a bobblehead, and he tilts it to the side. Then he nods. He fucking nods.

When Romeo takes Glam's hand and they both stand up, I know it's now or never.

I rip my fingers out roughly, and Cherry squawks right in my ear. She glares, hisses What the fuck's wrong with you? But I'm already gone, wiping my fingers on her long hair—Asshole!—before walking away. She yells something else after me that makes some onlookers chuckle. But I don't give a fuck. I'm too busy making my way through the throng of people all writhing to the music, blitzed out and oblivious, as I hone in on Glam. The rest of the room fades away into one obnoxious blur, the noise growing too loud. If I lose sight of him now—

A huge biker dude drops a hand on my shoulder. Guy's built like a freakin' brick wall as he stands right in front of me, blathering on about the concert and killer lyrics, man, I'll be waiting for your next concert and blah-blah-blah-blah-blah, and I don't care. I don't fucking care!

"Thanks, man," I say smoothly with my usual grin, shooting him finger guns for good measure—Pew-pew! You're dead!—as I slide right past him.

But it's too late. Glam is gone.

The world goes stock-still. Nothing registers. I don't feel anything, don't hear anything as my head catches like a scratched record: I've lost him. I've lost him. I've lost him. It's actually happened. I knew it would someday, just not so soon. There's still so much I had to teach him! He was too stupid for his own good, a lamb among wolves, and now someone's stolen him, and he'll get to have him instead of me, but Glam's mine, mine, MINE!

That's when I see the door. It's tucked away in the back, slightly ajar. My hand is on the knob, and the first real sound in a long time reaches my ears: a single broken whimper from Glam.

I am a raging storm incarnate.

Quiet as death, I push the door open and slip inside. The lights are out. Vague shapes fill the shelves along the walls, towers of beer crates crowd the floor, and the air stinks of stale booze. A storage room. Classy.

At first I don't see Glam, because Romeo's back is in the way. He's got four legs instead of two, and I can make out that he's got my Glam bent over one of the crate towers, all grunts and slobbering kisses. "Mm, your momma made a pretty baby..."

Like I said, classy.

He's not wasting any time, but that's good because this makes him sloppy. The click of the door as I shut it tight behind me cuts the scene short, and Romeo repels himself off of Glam with a curse. He's wrangling on his belt as he spins around. He really wasn't wasting any time. I flip the light switch, and he cowers like a cockroach beneath the dingy overhead bulb, before his eyes adjust and he has to lower his glare by about a foot until it finally lands on me.

One look, and he visibly relaxes. "What the hell, dude? Freaking gave me a heart attack." He actually has the gall to grin.

Amazing how quick people are to underestimate me because I'm short. It's like they've never met a rabid opossum before.

"Sorry." I raise both hands—See? I'm harmless—and tilt my head. "But I couldn't help but notice you taking my friend someplace. He's not exactly the sharpest tool in the shed, so I didn't feel right leaving him alone. And, well, it looks like he's having a little trouble. Wouldn't you say?" I nod at Glam who's out of commission, draped over a crate and trying to hold on for dear life. He's slipping. He's going to fall.

Romeo puts on his most beguiling face, trying to appear innocent even though there's already sweat beading his hairline. "He's fine. Look, so we were having a little fun." He shrugs like it's all one big misunderstanding, but I just make my way to Glam. "The kid's into it."

I cup Glam's head in my hands and look him over as he mumbles incoherently: slowed breathing, impaired mobility, slurred speech. Yup, he's got all the symptoms. I shoot a look back at Romeo. "The kid," I bite out, "is out of it." I illustrate my point by holding Glam up by the shoulders while the rest of him sags like a sack of wet noodles, head hanging down to his chest. Abruptly, I drop him, and Glam collapses onto his knees. Hard. "Jesus Christ." I give a low whistle, hands on my hips. "How much did you give him?"

"Give him? I-I don't know what you're talking about." Like crossing his arms and playing dumb is gonna convince me otherwise. The look in his eyes says it all: He knows he's busted. He runs his hands through his hair then tosses out a cool, "Whatever," before heading for the door. Making his quick escape.

Not quick enough. I stop him with a hand on his wrist. The Idea yawns awake in the back of my mind, becomes a Plan. It tells me to Wait, play it cool, you can kill two birds with one stone here. I cock an ear to heed its sweet and fervent whisperings, while Romeo yammers on with some more bullshit excuses.

"Dude, relaaaax." I save this drawl for the most nervous types, my thorns turning to tendrils that coil around my latest victim. Doubt dims his panic, and when he turns to me, curious and receptive, I have just the opening I need. "I get where you're going with this. You're just having a little fun." I waggle my brows, looking between him and Glam in that way that all men understand. "And I want in."

"Want in?"

Do I have to spell it out for him? He's not the only one who knows how to charm, and I lay it on thick. A well-placed touch here, a sultry look there, and that's all it takes. I fan my hands in a soft arch that Romeo follows with his eyes. "I'm saying I'm down to play."

Realization dawns across his face. His bewildered expression melts into a shit-eating grin, like he's hit the jackpot, and suddenly he's very interested in what I have to offer. He has no idea there's no getting out of this. "Oh, yeah?" He presses his body close to mine, and I can feel how eager he is through his designer jeans. "So, uh, where are we doing this?"

It's official. We're going to be partners in crime tonight. Thick as thieves.

I cup his erection, grin, look up at the naked bulb dangling above this shitty storage room. And the Plan becomes an Action.

"I've got just the place."

Within minutes, we're in his car, driving toward the industrial district. I give the directions from the backseat: left, right, another right, straight. Just keep going. Meanwhile, Glam is out, head on my lap, and I turn his face to the side so that he doesn't choke on his tongue while he sleeps. Poor, stupid Glam. Now look at what you've done, I tsk at him silently, already anticipating how difficult things are going to be. I wish this could be easy, but then again, nothing worth doing ever is. This is how tough love works. But I swear Glam will flourish under my care. He'll be my crowning achievement.

His only reply is an airy snore. I let him sleep. For now.

Romeo helps me lift Glam out of the car once we've reached the edge of the factory complex. The sky is clouded over, rain threatening to fall any second now. A bolt of lighting from the sky lights up our surroundings, and I can see Romeo looking around in confusion. I don't blame him. Every building looks the same around here. I'd get lost too if I didn't come so often.

"What now?"

"We walk."

Glam weighs nothing between us, and I have to admit I'm thankful for Romeo's muscles. This part would be a hell of a lot harder without him. We duck inside as the first fat droplets of rain start. Ever the gentleman, he helps me carry Glam all the way down to the room.

Soon to be his room.

"Holy shit." I can hear wonder, and a little dread, in Romeo's voice once we're inside. "What the hell kind of place is this?"

It's a place for hiding. For tucking away dirty little secrets. There's more skeletons in here than the catacombs. It'd started off innocently enough, at the beginning, a dusty playground for a kid from a broken home when he wanted to get away from it all. There've been some upgrades since then, items scavenged or gifted from one generous john or another. What I haven't begged for or borrowed, I've stolen.

I'm a goddamn thief, and there's only room enough in this den for one.

I don't say any of this to Romeo, of course, just tell him to help me get Glam to the bed. He's only too eager, buzzing from excitement and whatever booze he downed back at the bar. This makes him even sloppier, and he doesn't think twice about turning his back to me as he busies himself with the goodies tucked under the pillows. The chains slither out with a hiss. You'd think they were a birthday present, the way he oohs and aahs over them. To me, they're just another tool for getting a job done. Reminders.

It's no surprise I was an angry kid. I still am, in a lotta ways. Absent father, alcoholic mother. It's textbook.

It all started that one summer when Mom had said something awful to me, so I ran away. Like, really ran away. Not just to the edge of the trailer park like usual, but all the way here. Imagine it, my first night away from home. I felt so cool. So grown up.

I did lose my innocence down here, in more ways than one.

The place was perfect for reflecting on things, philosophizing in young and kiddish terms. A time for putting all the pieces together. It wasn't something I'd had the chance to do much at home, not when I was too busy keeping out of Mom's way, dodging beer bottles and the occasional fist.

But when I got to thinking, I realized that I couldn't blame Mom for what the drink did to her. It was who had driven her to drink that was the real problem. She cried over him often enough, I didn't need to guess who was the culprit. And I started to think that if I got rid of him, then maybe Mom would stop crying. If I killed him, wiped his sorry face from this sorry planet, then maybe Mom would stop hurting herself, put down the bottle for good. I could finally have back what I'd lost—or maybe never had in the first place. We could pick up whatever pieces remained and be a family again.

I finger the necklace at my throat, my one memento from Dad. The start of my little collection.

He had been the first, and he had lasted the longest. I'd taken my time snipping him apart while he cursed and wailed. I was a lot younger then, inexperienced and messier. I've learned a lot since, and each time gets easier. This time, however, is about setting an example.

Romeo's locking the manacles onto Glam. It's like he doesn't even notice the bandage around his right wrist. It's exactly this callousness that assures me I'm doing the right thing. My eyes had picked up on those scars the minute I'd met Glam. They still move me with the bone-deep understanding that only one abused kid can have for another. I want to hold that wrist gently in my hand and kiss all his scars better. But Romeo is here and—well, now's not the time.

I take down the bolt cutters from their place on the wall and walk up behind him.

If it's not his father that'll do him in, it'll be Romeo, and if not Romeo, then someone else. And on and on and on. There's no shortage of monsters out there capable of destroying a fragile soul like Glam.

I grip the bolt cutters in both hands and prop them on my right shoulder—Hey, batta, batta!—taking aim at Romeo's head.

Glam’s too pure for this world, and there are too many people who want to corrupt him, use and discard him. But I'm not gonna let that happen. I'm gonna savor him.

Romeo turns and sees me, eyes suddenly going wide with fear.

By the time I'm done with his educational process, there's nothing Glam won't be able to handle.

I swing.

After all, you only grow through what you go through.

***

—Day 132—

Kneeling beside the bed, Glam propped his chin on one hand, gazing down at Ches who lay dozing.

A bad dream pinched his features, and Glam ran a finger gently across Ches' brow, over his new bandana, until it had smoothed again. His breath evened out, deepened, and Glam gave a sigh of relief.

To look at Ches now, it was hard to imagine he'd been that wild, thrashing thing from the prior night. All blind ferocity and scathing curses, he'd been inconsolable, fighting Glam every step of the way as he dipped in and out of lucidity—until, at last, a deep sleep claimed him.

It had been a rough 24 hours, and Glam's eyes burned at the edges from tending to Ches and his fever without rest.

When he'd first vomited, Glam patiently rubbed his back as he curled over the side of the bed, mumbling something about back rooms and bolt cutters. He'd tried to ask him what he meant, but Ches only cried harder. While he was in the midst of cleaning up the mess, Ches vomited again. By then he was feverish and sweating heavily. Staying hydrated was key, so Glam urged him to keep down as much water as he could manage. It filled Ches' small bladder, and he'd tumbled out of bed at some point, determined to make it to the toilet on his own, but he'd only ended up falling and wetting himself like a child. More tears.

Glam next drew him a hot bath. Ches had shivered through it until Glam stepped in and held him to his chest. They'd stayed like that until he had sweated out most of the fever and the water grew tepid. Then he'd bundled him up and brought him to the bed again where they both tried to make up for lost sleep.

Closing his eyes, Glam nuzzled his grin into the sheets, his next breath coming from somewhere far deeper in his chest than normal. That place where pure joy resides right behind the heart.

Ches was back. He was finally back!

After three long weeks that had felt like three lifetimes, Ches was home. Now things could go back to the way they were supposed to be, just the two of them with everything they could possibly need, right here—together.

It'd been...hard to be apart from Ches for so long.

Funny, he'd once dreaded Ches' presence; now, he grieved in his absence. He turned his head to peek up at Ches, and a fresh surge of gratitude raced through him to see him here, right in front of him. He dared to reach out and run the back of his knuckles down Ches' cheek where salty tear tracks had dried. Glam couldn't help but smile.

Now that he thought about it, he hadn't really stopped smiling since the last time Ches was here.

He tried not to dwell too much on that night. It had been difficult in its own right. Saws and bags and the hose had kept them busy through to morning, a pair of weary soldiers purging the battlefield until every last trace of John was gone.

But through it all, he'd smiled. He'd smiled when Ches had later fished out the paper bills from John's wallet in what even he recognized was a handsome sum. He'd smiled as he painstakingly washed them free of the blood. He'd smiled when Ches told him he had to leave for a while—Not long, promise. Just have some stuff to do. You've got enough food, right?—to which he nodded as though understanding completely, even though he didn't understand at all why Ches had to leave, not when he needed him most. He didn't want to face this alone.

Although he hadn't truly been alone. He had his smile. It greeted him first thing in the morning and saw him off to sleep, a permanent fixture on his face that became his only companion as he awaited Ches' return.

He'd managed well enough at first, passing the days by busying himself with his usual hobbies—cooking, guitar, anything having to do with personal development. But when the days turned to weeks, a tiny crevice of doubt began to grow in his chest. It'd ached day and night, and Glam began to wonder if one could actually die from heartbreak.

And then, at last, Ches had come home, and Glam really did have every reason to smile, smile so much that his cheeks were sore and his eyes pricked with moisture.

Just then, a groan rolled in Ches' throat. There was the flutter of lashes, and slowly he cracked open his eyes. His brow twisted, and when he turned his head to Glam, he looked dejected, as though he'd lost some kind of game.

"Hi." Glam beamed back at him, his voice buoyant but hushed. "How are you feeling?"

Ches only stared. He opened his mouth as if to say something, but a cough rattled out instead. Glam was ready for this and held a glass of water to his lips so that Ches could drink his fill. A flash of deja vu flickered across his vision. Where had he seen this scene before—

"You...stayed?"

Glam's hands stilled as he looked into Ches' face, trying to find the joke hidden somewhere behind those sad eyes. "Of course. I was right here the whole time. You couldn't get anywhere by yourself, and I—" He stalled, realizing Ches might be embarrassed by what he'd had to do for him while he was helpless. A spate of endearment warmed Glam's heart as he finished modestly, "Well, you needed my help, so I helped you."

Ches wasn't looking at him but instead at the collar at his neck and the cuffs at his wrists. When he finally met Glam's eyes, he said quietly, "It's a little early, but I got you something. It's in my jacket." He raised a hand as though to gesture for it, but then, realizing he didn't actually know where his jacket was, he floundered.

"Hang on, I got it!" Glam sprang up to retrieve it from the chair where he'd folded it neatly over the back. Sitting across from him on the bed, at Ches' gracious nod, he dug through the pockets. He started with the left inside one, removing the ring of keys and dropping them without a second thought on the sheets before moving to the other pockets. His hand eventually closed over something small and hard. He opened his palm and looked at it.

The pendant was flat, shiny black with silver edges and a matching chain. A stylized T and S met at the top and bottom to form an angular teardrop: the logo of his favorite glam metal band.

"Oh, wow, Ches," he breathed. "It's—it's great. Thank you."

"Here. Let me." Ches sat up. At his offer, Glam turned around and lifted his hair so that Ches could clasp the necklace behind his neck.

"Thanks," he said again, fingering the pendant that hung at his breastbone like an icy kiss. He turned back to Ches and lowered his eyes, not knowing what else to say. What could he possibly give him in return—

Suddenly, Ches grabbed his wrist and yanked him forward. Glam came willingly, breath quickening at even this small touch. After weeks bereft of attention, he was hungry for contact, a connection, anything.

Ches was shaking with what he could only imagine was ill-restrained desire. Held a scant few inches from him now, fire burned in his gaze, hot as a forge, and Glam let his eyes flutter shut in anticipation, only too eager to be molded into whatever shape Ches asked of him.

A few empty moments passed, unanswered, and Glam opened his eyes again.

Ches was looking at him hard. Not him exactly, but the manacle in his grip. Was there something wrong with it? Baseless guilt made Glam's stomach swoop. He hadn't picked at his cuffs in forever, taking care to keep them clean and tidy like he was supposed to. So what could be the matter?

"Why are you still here?"

Glam blinked at Ches' question. It'd come out small and pinched tight with a jagged wariness for reasons Glam couldn't fathom. Maybe Ches had hit his head too hard during that fall. He began hesitantly, his answer as soft as his expression. "W-what do you mean? I already said, I had to take care of you."

"No!" Ches yelled with an energy that belied his earlier exhaustion. "I mean, why didn't you leave?!" His hand shook where he gripped him, and Glam winced, shrinking beneath that accusative glare.

"Ches, I don't understa—"

He snatched up the keys in his other fist and shook them. "You could've left! Gotten away from here while I was out cold! You had every chance to, but—but you didn't!" Fury and confusion wrestled over his face, lips curled back in a woeful snarl.

"Gotten...away?"

"Yes! Away from me! So why?! Why didn't you go?!"

Words failed him. Glam turned his face away from Ches, unable to meet his demanding stare as he tried to piece together a suitable answer. But what could he say? The thought hadn't crossed his mind to do anything but stay here by Ches' side, seeing him through the worst of the illness, caring for Ches in the same way he had cared for him. He hadn't considered the whys of what he'd done, only that it had been the right thing to do.

"I was—I wanted to help you."

"Why?!" Ches barked back, the word fraying apart at the edges.

"Because I was worried about you."

"Why?" Strength seeped out of him, and his hands fell to his lap in defeat.

"Because I—" Glam licked his lips, feeling the gravity of the moment settle over him like the first rays of morning light. Warm and full of promise. It woke within him words that had long-since lain dormant, swathed in a yet-unnamed affection and still stumbling from sleep. "I...care about you."

That wasn't its name.

"Why?" His voice was now a whisper.

Glam crawled forward slowly, carefully. From over the horizon, the words ventured out just as slowly, just as carefully, finding the courage to face the dawn. "Because I want to be with you."

"Why?"

He cupped his face in his hands, wiping away the first of his tears with his thumb. "Because I need you." Cold earth grew warmer. He placed a kiss on Ches' left cheek.

"Why?"

Right cheek. "Because—" Brow.

Why? Why? Why?

They both already knew the answer. It had been here for weeks. No, since even before that.

Okay, zombie, let's go rock.

No, further back.

Watch this, it's gonna be magic.

Even further.

Does your hair always do that when you play music?

Further.

Not Bach but a big bang!

Since the very beginning.

Hey, my name is...

There it was. A thing that had always been.

"Because," Glam started again. His voice was thin, prone to break as he spoke that sacred name against Ches' lips, radiant as the sun:

"I love you."

Glam was the one who had spoken the words aloud, but it was Ches who fell apart before them. His sobs were swallowed down by Glam's kiss as he grabbed desperately for him, hands shaking where he held Glam close, so close that nothing could possibly come between them. His touch was not a thing of sexual desire, but something far deeper and more integral, an aching vulnerability that yearned for acceptance.

"I love you," Glam said again, and he knew he'd never need to speak another truth for the rest of his life. Not when everything he ever wanted to say was captured so eloquently, so exquisitely, within these three simple words. "I love you. I love you." The certainty of it resonated through him, clean as a bell. "I love you." Growing stronger with every vow.

Together, they lowered to the bed, something new taking shape within them and between them.

They didn't fuck that night. Or screw. Or even have sex.

They made love.

Slow and reverent, confident and humble, they explored each other's bodies as though discovering them for the first time. Hands touched with care, tracing old paths with revived appreciation and marking new ones with fervid interest. For once, neither led nor followed, dominated nor submitted, both giving to the other as much as they took—equals in every meaning of the word.

Ches first unfastened Glam's restraints, letting them fall heavy to the bed so that he could kiss the bands of chaffed skin and old scars. It was strange not to feel their familiar weight that had been an extension of his body for so many months. Now, without them, Glam felt as light as his heart.

His fingers dove into butterscotch locks, soft and sweet, as he laid kiss after kiss on Ches' lips, one for each day he'd loved him, and Ches returned them with a thousand more of his own, for all the days to come. They unraveled beneath each other's touch, coming apart only to come together again to form this new harmony.

When Ches moved to put the manacles on himself, Glam could only watch, mesmerized, witnessing the foundation of their bond shift. Then a dark bloom of emotion unfurled in his eyes as Ches bowed his head to him. Glam removed his bandana, christened the scar at his brow with a kiss, then knighted his Ches with the collar. The lock clicked into place like a heartbeat. Winding the chains around his hand, he drew Ches close. Up to claim his lips. Then down. Lower. Lower. A gentle command: Kiss me there.

Cherish me.

Ches carried it out like a privilege.

There was no cruel master here. No downcast slave. Every gesture of their affection was done of their own free will, an honor to be fulfilled, not under threat or temptation, but out of a pure ambition to worship his lover as he was meant to be worshipped.

Desire swept through Glam like sudden hunger, and he spilled Ches beneath him like a feast upon a plate, eager to savor every inch of him. His hands trembled with awe and need as he turned Ches onto his stomach, not knowing what came next but knowing only that it would be brilliant. Carnal instinct was his guide as he curled over Ches' back, eased him open, coaxed, aligned—readied to deliver the deepest expression of his love.

And when at last he slipped inside, Glam marveled at how naturally they fit together.

A key to a lock.

The two entwined in a caduceus union as they rolled across the bed. The floor, the tub, the table—sites once reserved for torture were now repurposed into a stage on which to celebrate their love. Over and under, side by side, the two coming together in every configuration they knew and some they didn't but soon discovered were just as rewarding. Giddy laughter helixed with their steamy gasps.

When they tired, they rested in each other's arms, cuddled close, contenting themselves with lazy kisses and a constant touch while lust lingered like banked embers, waiting to blaze to life once more. When it did, they crashed together in their haste to join. Again and again. On and on into the night.

Hours passed.

It was still dark. Too late for night, too early for morning. That secret in-between where consciousness tiptoed the line betwixt dream and waking.

Glam looked out blearily across the room where he lay sprawled belly-down on the bed. The light was off. Moonlight cascaded into the room through the small window, glossing the world in its silver luster. His hand glided over the mattress on automatic in search of his lover, but the space beside him was empty. The residual heat from Ches' body had already faded.

"Ches?" Worry began its steady trek up his subconscious, pushing him further from dreamland.

"I'm right here, Glam."

Tobacco smoke wafted into Glam's nose. He lifted his head, fisting the sleep from his eyes.

Ches sat in the chair a few feet from the bed. He was dressed, and a cigarette burned in his hand. He lifted it to his lips and took a puff.

"Ches, come back to bed," Glam sighed, already snuggling back beneath the blanket as a chill snaked its way across his skin. It was cold out there. He didn't want to leave. Already, sleep was coming up to reclaim him, and when Ches spoke again, voice low and soothing, he couldn't be quite sure whether it was real or only part of another dream.

"You're finally ready."

Concern wrinkled Glam's brow. He wanted to ask more, about what he meant and how he knew that—and why, of all things, he sounded so sad. But Ches was already continuing, and Glam was lulled by his mellow cadence as he began to tell him a story.

The story of his life:

"Your educational process is over, Glam. There's nothing more I can teach you. I've always known you'll do incredible things. I can see it all now. You'll make it on your own in the world, with no one and nothing to stop you. Confident. Strong. Wounds will heal and memories will fade, with time, but you'll never forget what I've taught you. The lessons that molded you, strengthened you, brought you to the edge and back. Further. They'll live on in your mind and in your music.

"You'll still play the violin, that part will never leave you. But the guitar—ah, the guitar is how you'll leave your legacy. You'll write songs. Join a band. Join another, bigger band. Be one of the best musicians the world has ever seen. They'll be lining up to hear you. Record deals and world tours. Sold-out concerts. Platinum records and more than a few gold. You'll hit diamond before you're 25. When the scene loses its appeal and you want to settle down, you'll open your own studio. Start mixing for other bands who come and go. They'll never have what you had, but you’ll get them close. Your talent will shape a generation. You'll teach too, on the side. Guitar, bass, violin, keyboard. Students will come from far and wide to learn from you. They'll gift you their awards as tokens of their appreciation, and the collection will fill an entire wall of your home office so that the whole room shines.

"You'll fall in love. She'll be a fire-haired Valkyrie. Intimidating and brash, tough enough to put you in the hospital but with a heart of gold. And when she laughs, your heart will melt each and every time. She'll also drink and smoke and steal, all the stuff you'd never dream of doing. But that will be exactly why you love her. Because you'll never be able to look at her without being reminded of me.

"You'll live in a two-story house. Dark and gothic, with a big garage and backyard. The garage will be for the motorcycles, but you'll find any opportunity you can to go in there, even if you won't remember why it makes you feel so relaxed to be among the chains, hooks, hoses, and bolt cutters. You'll cook and your wife will be handy around the house, and together you'll make a happy home for the family. You'll have a boy. No, two. They'll be smart and talented—in their own ways—and you'll love them with all your heart, but you'll worry every day if you're being the best father you can for them.

"I can tell you now that you will be. Things won't always be easy, but you'll make it work. You have all the tools you need now to survive. Not just survive. So much more than that. You'll go far, Glam. You'll go so far...that you'll stop being afraid of never coming back."

Ches got up from the chair. He snuffed out his cigarette, stepped up to the bed, and stood over Glam for a long, long time.

Then he was gone.