Nick had a love/hate relationship with staying at the apartment. On the one hand, it was a break from the constant yelling about money – a constant subject in his parents’ many, many arguments. The worst feeling was Nick lying in his bed at night with his sister BJ’s across from his as he pretended to be asleep. Anything to avoid answering her questions about what he thought might happen. He’d keep his eyes shut tight, did everything he could to ignore the screams about how his dreams were causing the money problems as they echoed from downstairs. When he was able to sleep here, he could pretend he didn’t live in a broken home where parents who were supposed to reassure him chose instead to fire a gun out the window or throw things against the walls as scare tactics.
The downside was how the fellas always made him feel like he was some little kid! Nick was the oldest in his family! He could take care of himself. All he wanted was for them to see that, to show that they saw it. Well, sort of. Deep down, though he would never admit it – he liked that (for once) someone was looking out for him. He wasn’t forced to be the strong one in the group. He didn’t have to be a fourteen-year-old-going-on-forty. As annoying as the “little kid” treatment got…they would let him be a kid more than anyone else in his life.
Which was pretty sad if he let himself think about it – and he didn’t want to.
“Hey AJ, you awake?”
A grumble came from the sleeping bag next to his. “No Nick, I’m sleep-talking and if I don’t stop then sleep-punching comes next.”
He sighed, sometimes he forgot how annoyed sleepy AJ could get. “Sorry.”
Something in his tone must have gotten to AJ, because moments later he was sitting up and looking at him expectantly, “What’s wrong?” He waited before continuing when Nick didn’t reply. “You may as well tell me so I can go back to sleep.”
He smiled only slightly making it easy to miss. “Nothing. Just…do you think my parents would ever let me live here if I told them it’d make things easier for the band?”
AJ laughed softly with a shake of his head. “I don’t think they’d go for it.” He paused. “Hey…is everything okay at home?”
Despite his best attempts to hide it in the beginning, the group quickly caught on to the dysfunction that surrounded the Carter household. It was why the others had gotten so protective of their youngest member. Nick had once overheard Kevin and Brian talking about it once when they thought he was well out of earshot and busy playing on his Gameboy. ‘Someone has to look out for the kid Bri, cause his parents sure as hell won’t.’
It’d hurt to hear but he never mentioned it.
“More fighting.” Was all Nick said aloud.
“Maybe I can get my mom to have you over.” He shrugged. “Shit, I get bored too.”
Nick couldn’t help but grin. He knew why his friend was offering it but that didn’t matter. What mattered was the escape from his own life and the fact AJ cared enough to put it out there to begin with. His bandmates saw him for Nick and…it meant everything to him. “I’ll ask my mom when they pick me up next week.”
“Good, now I’m getting some damn sleep!”
Memories faded away in his dreams as pain, dull and repetitive called him back to the conscious world. His eyes blinked open slowly, only to see an expectant face hovering above him. He jerked instinctively but his bonds held him in place and only served to increase the aching in his chest. Nick’s vision suddenly blurred, his mind hazy. Weakly he croaked out the deepest of hopes.
Her hand met his face instantly with a furious force. “You will NEVER speak of that man stealing hideous bitch in front of me ever again!” She shook with rage, her eyes wide and her face flushed. “I find it upsetting.”
Nick’s cheek burned with what would likely be another bruise to add to the collection. His eyes were cold as they met his captor’s. “FUCK. OFF.”
Raven moved to strike him again but stopped herself midway and lowered her hand. “I know you’re angry with me.” She cooed and tucked her dark blonde hair behind her ear. “But it’s for the best. You’ve moved on from her. Now…” She smiled and walked towards the dresser where she’d left the pain medication. “You have me.”
It took everything he had not to say what he wanted. Angry replies were bubbling under the surface that he kept swallowing back. He couldn’t escape and as hard as it was, keeping control of himself might be the only way. Nothing would happen if this psychotic fan never allowed him to heal. It hit him that he needed to think with his head, rather than his heart and be smart about this. That would be how he’d escape this hell. Fan service seemed to be the answer – nothing real would help. So instead he nodded, trying not to show how much that hurt. Silly as it was, he didn’t want to give her the satisfaction of knowing how much pain he was in.
Her expression brightened. “I knew you would! All I want is to connect with you. Be everything for you. Know everything you know. Hear everything…”
A brow quirked. “Hear…everything?”
“Oh yes.” She answered breathlessly. Raven look positively crazed in that moment. “Everything you’ve ever written. Like the unreleased songs, demos, all of it. The fans? We know you have them. I was hoping beyond anything you would share them…with me.”
The fuck? This chick is psycho and stupid now. Okay Nick, focus. Don’t make her mad! The thoughts popped up in his head completely unbidden. He spoke carefully and slowly, anything to keep himself to sound even keeled and keep his true thoughts hidden away. “How can I? My phone, it shattered in the cash. I left it behind because it was useless.”
Raven giggled and waved a hand to brush aside his words. She moved back towards the dresser, pulling out a drawer as if in search for something. From Nick’s position on the bed he couldn’t tell exactly what she was looking for however. So, he simply watched her. “Of course, but…oh Nick I know you must have them backed up somewhere. I never believed you were dumb like so many people who claimed to be your fans did. I knew better. You have a cloud storage account of some sort, right? Of course, you do. As your girlfriend, we should share everything. I know that. So, I thought, and hoped, you would give me access to it. I have a good internet connection out here, despite being so far out. We could listen to the music together and really…connect.”
“Right…I get that.” New girlfriend? Fuck, forget it. Play into it! “But…”
She stopped what she was doing and stared at him, dropping something from her hand back into the dresser drawer. “But…what…Nickolas?”
“I don’t remember the password.” Here he was actually telling the truth. Normally he didn’t forget them but for the life of him, he couldn’t remember. He knew how much was at stake to know that password so she could see him in a more favorable light but he didn’t and there was nothing he could do. He’d give anything to this woman so she could trust him more. But he couldn’t in that moment give her what she wanted.
“You. Don’t. Remember. The. Password.”
Nick shook his head, wincing slightly with a hiss. “No, and I’m sorry. I had it saved in my phone.” Here’s where the lies returned. “I’m shitty with remembering passwords…”
He trailed off when he saw her leave the room, the door was wide open and seemed to mock him. His eyes looked downwards and he couldn’t see the wound from earlier. Sometime while he’d slept Raven must have come in and bandaged him up. Beneath the wrappings though the carving of MINE was there, whether he could see it or not. Annoyingly enough, it looked well done so despite how crazy she was, it seemed she did know what she was doing medically speaking. A thought that, with too much dwelling, frightened him deeply. Because she knew exactly how far she could push him, while making sure to keep him alive no matter what.
But I do want to live.
Once again, he found himself thinking of Lauren. What if he died here, never to see her again? He never got to say goodbye. He never got to do all the things he hoped would come in their life together. Would she know how much he loved her? Did she know how much she changed his life? How she gave him the strength to safe himself from the dark road he’d been walking down before he’d met her? There was no way to know. If he died here he would never know. But he hoped with every bit himself that she knew, that he’d told her and gave her the faith to know all those things and more.
I hope I’ll get to see her again before I die.
The door creaked open. His gaze shot to the doorway where Raven stood with a small smile. Chills ran down his spine and his stomach seemed to plummet. Whatever was coming next, he knew it was nothing good. “I see you want to play games. Fine, if that’s what you want. I like games. They used to get me in trouble when I played them at the hospital. But in this case, I think we can play. Because we can both keep secrets. No one will ever know.” She inched closer. “If you can play keep away…”
He was helpless and he knew it. His heart thudded pleadingly against his chest in his will to live.
“I GET TO PLAY SMASH THE RODENT!” She shrieked as she pulled a large hammer from behind her back. Raven slammed it down on his left hand before he could do anything, before he could blink, or do anything but feel the pure and utter torture that followed. Screams tore from his throat amidst the floodgates of tears that streamed down his face. His body trembled against the restraints as he fought to cope with the agony Raven wrought.
“And now you’re Shattered…” She sing-songed, dropping medication on the bedside table, keeping just out of reach. “If you ever remember that lovely password, I might remember to give you something for your pain.”
The words barely registered to Nick.
The door slammed behind her.