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Adam never thought he would find a friend in his next door neighbor. Nigel was rough, and rude, and obscene. He had a smoking habit that he couldn’t seem to kick no matter how many times Adam sat him down to address it. Sometimes it felt like every other word out of his mouth was a curse.

It threw Adam off when he realized that it didn’t bother him very much. Most of what Nigel said, regardless of the content, made Adam smile. He was just happy to be around him.

He always called Adam gorgeous. The first time Adam told him he was beautiful, Nigel told him not to play with fire.

They saw each other every day. As soon as Adam got home from work Nigel would be waiting at the door to be let in. Sharing space together was something Nigel couldn’t get enough of. He was more than respectful of Adam’s routine and had no qualms with being left on the couch as Adam navigated through his afternoon and evening. And even though Nigel assimilated to Adam’s life, Adam allowed for change as well. With Nigel, Adam learned to adapt. Some nights, during dinner, he let Nigel pick a movie to watch instead of his usual documentary. At the end they would both decide together if it was worth it and discuss why or why not.

Nigel would cook new foods for Adam and never get insulted if Adam took one bite and left for the kitchen for something else he preferred. He liked to push Adam’s boundaries, and Adam found joy in it. There was no pressure to abandon his comforts, just an invitation to try something different. It felt good to be with Nigel.

When Adam got home, he didn’t worry that Nigel wasn’t waiting for him. He’d probably send him a text or call to let him know where he was — but the message never came.

Adam went through the motions of a simple dinner, one that he knew like the back of his hand. If Nigel was there, he would say that Adam could do it with his eyes closed. He couldn’t, but the sentiment was appreciated.

He settled in on the couch with a blanket after taking a shower and pulled a new book on cosmic doomsdays off of the side table. Nigel bought it for him a few weeks ago. He was always doing that sort of thing — bringing things home for Adam to read aloud to him as he laid with his head in Adam’s lap.

It was less than ideal to read it alone, but Nigel had snuck into bed in the middle of the night more than once since they’d gotten together. Adam would just have to bring it with him and leave it on his nightstand. The quiet moments of a fresh morning were always good to sink in and read together.

He had a little bit of trouble falling asleep. After thirty minutes of a fruitless attempt he crawled out of bed and dug in the back of his closet for his weighted blanket. He didn’t use that very much anymore either.

Typically he’d turn his phone off completely, but he settled for keeping it on silent, leaving it face down beside him. When Nigel knew that he wouldn’t be able to see Adam at all, he would leave him a voicemail in the middle of the night to let him know.

When he woke the next morning to three missed calls from Darko he knew something was wrong. Any remaining sleepy haze was ripped away from him as his phone started ringing in his hand. The line stayed quiet for a moment when he answered.

“Spaceman, you there?”

He sounded exhausted.

“Yes, Darko. Hello.”

“Okay, fuck okay. Spaceman, I need you to listen to me. Nigel’s in the hospital. Some bad shit went down at the club last night.”

Adam wanted to stay calm but the unknown variables were getting a little too overwhelming. Nigel always called him no matter how tough the night was, and now, Nigel didn’t call and he doesn’t know what’s wrong.

His free hand clenched in the bedsheets, and his breath hitched in his throat. Darko must have heard it over the line because quick words meant to sooth came shortly after.

“I’m coming to get you, Adam. I’m going to bring you to Nigel. He’s been in surgery, but they should be bringing him to a room of his own soon. I’m on my way.”

The call clicked off before Adam could ask any questions. He didn’t think he could’ve spoken them aloud if he even tried.

Adam sat by Nigel’s side all day. He remembers Darko coming back with a hot lunch thermos for him. When Adam opened it he realized Darko must have gone into his apartment and made him mac and cheese. The care made something inside of him feel warm.

There were a few times where Nigel came in and out of a fitful sleep, but never for very long. Whenever it did happen though, Adam’s gaze shot to the thick, padded bandage that sloped around the side of Nigel’s abdomen.

It was nearly the next night all over again when Nigel stayed awake long enough to notice Adam at his side.

“Adam,” Nigel crooned through the haze of his pain medication. “My angel.”

His words slurred together and Adam scrunched his eyes shut at the sound. They shared in the silence of the room, the only thing interrupting was the sound of Nigel’s heart monitor.

When he opened his eyes again Nigel was already looking at him. He had a split lip, and Adam tried to ignore the feelings that bubbled up inside him when he looked at the nasty cut on Nigel’s cheek that ended just shy of his left eye.

“You didn’t come home.”

Nigel may not live with Adam full time, but every time he called Adam he always said he “couldn’t wait to come home”. It was something Adam never questioned him on.

Nigel laid his head back on the pillow, looking up at the ceiling.

“I’m so sorry—”

“No more. Please, Nigel. I can’t do this anymore.” Adam broke down beside him. The threadbare composure he barely had a hold on coming loose. “Darko called me and— and I was so afraid.”

Adam knew that drugs were trafficked through their club. He never pushed Nigel on the subject because he knew how good of a team he and Darko were. There was never a true cause for worry, but it was an underlying sort of thing. The dangers of it were never consciously addressed, but ever present.

Nigel reached out to him, attempting to draw Adam in and ignoring the sounds of protest that came from him.

“Already taken care of,” Nigel soothed. “Darko reached out to our contacts in Bucharest. They’ll have bought us out as of the end of business hours today. They always thought New York was too much of a risk.”

“The club—”

“—is on the straight and narrow.” And Nigel had to laugh, throwing a wink at Adam. “Well, as straight and narrow as a titty bar can be.”