Thankfully Ryan comes back faster this time. Unfortunately, he doesn’t come empty handed. He has a stack of board games.
“Ryan,” Nick says.
“I just…thought we could do something together,” Ryan says, “just to–to relax a bit.”
Nick sighs, “alright, but we’re not playing monopoly. Or uno, don’t think I don’t see those in the stack. You know the rules.”
Ryan laughs, and its a little fake sounding, but he’s clearly trying. “You’re such a sore loser.”
Nick grunts like he’s above such accusations, but he still moves the games to the Exile Pile in front of the empty chair.
The only things left in the stack are Battleship and Sorry.
Battleship is a two player game.
Alex is going to have to play Sorry with the insane people who kidnapped him. How is this is fucking life?
He almost feels dizzy. Is he the delusional one? Has he gone fucking insane?
“Alex?” Ryan asks softly.
Alex flinches and looks at him.
“Do you want to pick your color?”
Oh right. His color. For Sorry.
He looks at the little tokens. Oh god what if he picks one of their favorite colors? The silence is going on too long. He has to pick. “Red,” he says so quietly that maybe they won’t hear it. Or they can pretend they didn’t and get the color they want.
“Red is a good one,” Ryan says softly, he gently nudges the red token towards Alex. Ryan takes the green one for himself, and Nick takes the blue.
There’s one hurdle passed. Just a thousand more to go.
Alex takes a deep breath. As much as he hates it, he follows the count Nick did. Inhale four seconds, hold for seven, exhale for eight.
They roll the dice to decide who goes first. To Alex’s horror, Nick gets last. A sore loser, Ryan called him. And he didn’t deny it.
What does that mean? Is Alex going to get beaten over a game of fucking Sorry? Killed? Oh god.
Its the most stressful fucking board game Alex has ever played. Every time Ryan announces with glee that Nick has to move his pawns back, Alex feels like his heart is just going to give up and stop from the sheer stress alone.
Nick gets quieter and quieter through the game. Not that he was loud to begin with. Alex can practically smell the frustration boiling under his skin.
Ryan is the only one having fun. He’s practically fucking giddy with it. Like this is the best goddamn game of Sorry he’s ever fucking played. He practically coos every time Alex throws the dice, no matter what number he gets.
He keeps grabbing the dice too, and it takes Alex a couple turns to realize that its because he wants to hand them to him personally. As the end of the game gets closer and closer, Alex only feels dread.
Nick is lagging behind, far enough back that he’s not likely to win. Alex tries his best to rig the dice, barely tossing it, hoping that Ryan will pull ahead. Unfortunately, Ryan seems to be doing the same goddamn thing.
“Ooh, Alex,” he coos, “you’re gonna pass me!”
At the very least, the low rolls are giving Nick time to catch up.
And then Alex’s shitty fucking luck kicks in and the dice doesn’t land on a one, it lands on a fucking six.
Alex’s heart stops. Blood rushes in his ears. He can only watch, like its happening in slow motion, as Ryan moves his token six spaces ahead. To the end.
Dimly, he can hear Ryan cooing, probably congratulating him or something. Alex doesn’t care. Ryan isn’t the fucking problem.
He turns his eyes to Nick, who’s token is still lagging about ten spaces from the end.
Ha. Dead last.
Like Alex is about to be.
Alex bursts into tears. Its stupid, its so fucking stupid. The last thing he should be doing right now is attracting attention, showing weakness. He can’t help it.
A choked sob bursts out of his chest and like a dam being broken, the tears run down his cheeks.
“Oh, oh Alex,” Ryan says, his voice anxious, concerned. “Hey, sweetheart, its okay, its okay. What’s wrong baby? Is your knee hurting again?” His hand hesitantly rests on Alex’s back.
Alex sobs and curls in on himself as much as he can.
Ryan rubs a light circle over his back. “Alex, Alex just tell me what’s wrong sweetheart. I’ll fix it. I promise I’ll fix it. Its okay, you’re okay.”
He sounds like he’s panicking. Well join the fucking club, asshole.
“Ryan,” Nick says, and Alex can’t choke back the yelp, can’t hide the flinch. He raises his arms over his head, it won’t help, there’s no way he could block a blow from Nick. “Shit,” Nick mutters.
“Ryan give him space,” Nick orders. “I know you’re worried, but he’s alright. Everything is fine.”
He says it so simply, so confidently, that Alex almost believes him. Ryan’s hand disappears from his back. Alex whines, irrationally. It wasn’t as if Ryan would be able to stop Nick either. He does everything the fucker says.
Alex’s chair moves. He yelps and clings tightly to it as its turned.
“Alex,” Nick says, and oh god, he sounds closer. He sounds closer. “Look at me kid.”
Alex gasps and shudders, but he forces himself to obey. Nick is kneeling on the floor in front of his chair. “Breathe,” he murmurs, “you’re okay. We’re not going to hurt you. I’m not going to hurt you. Certainly not over a children’s board game.”
Alex shakes his head. He doesn’t believe him. He can’t believe him.
“Breathe,” Nick says again, “in for four, remember?”
“Nick–” Ryan says softly, “Nick wouldn’t hurt you Alex. He loves you just as much as I do. I promise. I know he’s intimidating, but he’s the one who found you. He stayed up so many nights looking for you, trying to bring you home. He’d never hurt you sweetheart.”
Alex doesn’t believe them. Not for a fucking second.
But there isn’t much he can do about it. He can’t run, he can’t fight, he can’t do anything but sit in the stupid dining chair and panic. He follows Nick’s guidance, slowing his breathing until he doesn’t feel like he’s going to pass out anymore.
His cheeks feel stiff with drying tear tracks, his head hurts, and so does every other part of him. This is only dinner. They just had dinner. He doesn’t know how long he’s going to be here. Its only been hours and he feels like he’s going to shatter from the stress.
He can’t do this.
“Why don’t we do something a little less intense,” Nick says.
Alex’s breath hitches, oh god what are they going to do?
Watch a movie, it turns out. They let him limp back to the couch with the crutch, and make him put his bad knee on a pile of pillows. Thankfully, him laying down means that there isn’t really room on the couch for anyone else, because Ryan looks like he wants to try and sit with him.
Nick directs him to his rocking chair, though, and like always, Ryan listens. Alex, for some god forsaken reason, is given the duty of picking what disney movie they watch.
Anything but Tangled.
Which confuses him for a second, and then he remembers that the baby gets kidnapped. Yeah that probably wouldn’t fly with Mr. Weepy over there.
They end up watching several movies, and gradually the light outside fades. The clock by the TV ticks past six, seven, eight, nine.
“I think its time for bed,” Ryan says at ten.
Great, Alex’s kidnappers are giving him a goddamn bedtime. Still, maybe they’ll leave him alone for a fucking minute if he’s going to bed, so Alex doesn’t argue.
They direct him to the bathroom to brush his teeth, and Alex is horrified to learn that they know his fucking toothpaste brand. Even Alex doesn’t know his toothpaste brand! He just recognizes the colors on the tube.
He bites down on another panic attack. This is fine. This is fine. They know what toothpaste he uses. Cool. Great. Good. Who cares? Its just toothpaste.
They bring him back to the room that he changed clothes in. The stuffed bear is sitting on the bed, Alex D. Case embroidered lovingly on the heart it carries.
Fuck that kid, wherever the hell he is. Bastard can come deal with his own insane father, leave Alex out of it.
“Goodnight sweetheart,” Ryan says softly. He’s wringing his hands again. Alex’s starting to think he does that when he wants to reach out. “I’ll see you in the morning. Sweet dreams.”
He doesn’t…leave. He just stands there. Wringing his hands and staring at Alex like he can’t bear to not be seeing him.
“Good night,” Alex croaks, hoping that will give him the hint.
Ryan bites his lip, looking wet eyed (again) and ducks out of the room.
Nick doesn’t follow him.
Alex shifts uneasily on his feet–or, foot and crutch.
“Pain meds,” Nick says, holding out a hand, “so you can sleep.”
The pill in his palm isn’t the small, brick-red ibuprofen he gave Alex earlier. He didn’t let Alex see the bottle this one came from.
“It doesn’t hurt,” Alex says. A blatant lie, but he doesn’t care.
“Alex,” Nick says, very quietly and patiently. A thrill of fear shoots down Alex’s spine. “There are two ways we can do this.”
Alex shudders and curls his free arm around his stomach. “Please–” he croaks. He feels like he’s going to start crying again. Fuck, he’s crying almost as much as fucking Ryan.
“Easy,” Nick says, he sits down on the corner of the bed. “Its alright Alex. It’ll just make it easier to sleep.”
Alex limps back a step, hyper aware of how helpless he is. Nick could grab him and shove the pill down his throat without breaking a sweat.
“It’ll be alright,” Nick says, “You’ll just sleep. That’s all. I promise.”
Alex shakes his head.
“You’re going to take this, one way or another,” Nick says. Simply and calmly. “I don’t want to force you, Alex. That’s not what I want our relationship to be like.”
Alex chokes down a hysterical giggle. What does Nick want their relationship to be like then? Does he want them to sit around the campfire and sing kumbaya? Maybe he should have fucking thought of that before he kidnapped Alex.
“If you take this tonight, then I’ll let you have an hour of time alone tomorrow.”
Alex’s eyes meet his.
“Neither of us will hover over you. You can try to find all the escape routes your heart desires.”
Alex flinches. He looks at the pill. The fact that Nick is willing to give him that chance means that he’s absolutely certain that Alex won’t be able to escape.
Alex is used to being underestimated. He’ll fucking take that challenge, and he’ll happily flip Nick the bird while he’s getting arrested.
But that means he has to take the pill. He has to trust that it will just put him to sleep. He has to trust that they won’t do anything to him in his sleep. Like take him down to some inescapable basement cell.
Not…that they really need to drug him to do that. Nick could definitely just pick Alex up and take him wherever he wants. As evidenced by the fact that Alex is fucking here in the first place.
Ryan he trusts not to kill him in his sleep–though he’s not discounting the possibility that the fucker will do some creepy thing like come and watch him sleep–but Nick is an unknown. Alex doesn’t know what he wants with him.
Ryan said that Nick was the one who looked for him. Who found him. Why? Why is he invested in Ryan’s weirdo fucking stolen-child conspiracy? He’s clearly the one in charge.
Alex studies Nick carefully. Despite the prolonged silence, he’s still just sitting there, waiting for Alex to make a decision. Apparently content to wait as long as it takes.
The pill waits in his palm.
“Why are you doing this?” Alex blurts out. Fuck it. Ryan answered him, he may as well fucking try.
Nick shrugs, barely moving his shoulder an inch. “I owe Ryan a debt.”
What the fuck did Saddy McSadman do to get someone like Nick in his debt? Did a puddle of his tears trip up some ninja fight?
“Are you going to take this?” Nick asks, holding out the pill.
Its clear he means are you going to take this the easy way?
Because one way or another, Alex is taking it.
At least this way he gets a chance.
He takes a deep breath and limps closer, the crutch clicking as his weight presses it to the carpet. Nick holds utterly still, the pill waiting in his hand. Alex hesitates just out of arm’s reach.
“An hour,” he says.
Nick nods solemnly. “An hour.”
“Okay,” Alex whispers shakily. He leans forward and carefully takes the pill from Nick’s palm, making sure that their skin doesn’t accidentally brush. Its one of those gel capsule pills, clear, faintly yellowish-brown. There’s nothing stamped on it, no letters, numbers, nothing.
“Do you want some water?” Nick asks. There’s a bottle on the bedside. Sealed.
Alex looks down at the pill.
Nick opens it for him, which is nice, since Alex only has one hand. He hands Alex the bottle.
“If you try to hide the pill the deal is off,” he says. “No under the tongue or in your cheek stuff, okay?”
Alex tries to keep the disappointment off his face. There goes that plan. He must fail, because Nick snorts softly.
Alex takes a swig of the water and slips the pill between his lips.
He can’t bring himself to swallow. He can’t do it. He holds the water and pill in his mouth, trying desperately to get his body to cooperate. He needs that hour. Its his only chance. He takes a deep breath and tilts his head back.
The pill finally goes down. He takes another swig of water to wash down the phantom sensation of it stuck in his throat. Nick holds out his hand for the bottle and Alex gives it to him. He puts it on the bedside table and stands.
“Open your mouth, lift your tongue.”
Alex obeys, closing his mouth when Nick grunts, apparently satisfied.
And then the fucker reaches for his face.
Alex stumbles back, yelping when he unbalances and his bad leg catches his weight. Fuck. Fuck that hurts.
A massive hand wraps around his wrist, pulling him upright, bracing his weight. His crutch falls to the floor. Alex gasps, staring up at Nick. Fuck, fuck, fuck, fuck.
“Easy,” he intones. “You’re alright. I should have warned you, I’m sorry.”
“Lets get you to bed, you need to be careful with that knee, kid.”
“What?” Alex manages to say.
“Come on, lean on me, just a couple steps,” Nick says, and Alex has no choice but to limp along with him to the side of the bed. Nick pulls some neat maneuver that has Alex turning and sitting on the mattress.
“I’m going to make sure you aren’t hiding the pill,” Nick says, and then he’s reaching for Alex’s fucking face again. Alex stiffens and leans away, but Nick is too fast. Gently, he pokes along Alex’s cheeks, feeling the tops of his gums.
Checking to see if Alex’s hidden the pill there.
“Good,” Nick says, “you get your hour tomorrow. Now lay down, and go to sleep. I’ll see you in the morning.”
A sudden fear grips Alex. “The hour doesn’t count if I’m asleep,” he says. Like he has any goddamn bargaining power here. Fuck. He should have thought of this before he took the fucking pill.
“Of course not,” Nick says. “I won’t cheat you Alex. You’ll know when the hour starts, I’ll leave you a timer.”
How fucking nice of him.
Nick presses his shoulder, and Alex has no choice but to lay down. The blankets are pulled over him. “Good night.”
Alex shudders and pulls the blankets tighter around himself.
Nick, at least, doesn’t make him say it back. The lights go out, and the door closes.
The door locks.
Alex fully intends to get up and get a head start on his hour of searching, but the drugs pull him down.
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