“Daddy’s home!” Nathan shifted the weight of the groceries in his arms and closed the front door with the nudge of a foot. “I have wine. And Brie. Plus some other stuff that will no doubt find its way to the back of the fridge.”
One of the bags was slipping. Nathan stepped over a scarf on the polished marble floor and hurried for the kitchen counter. The click of his leather shoes resounded within the minimalist expanse of the apartment.
“They asked me to a pull a double shift. I told them the only thing I’d be pulling tonight was your—“ Nathan lunged and dumped the groceries on the counter as the wayward bag tried to make its escape.
He spotted a blue pill on the counter. Next to it, a glass of water, perfectly centred on a napkin.
Nathan grinned. “Straight to it, huh?”
He popped the Viagra, washed it down with the water. “We’ve got about thirty minutes before this baby kicks in. You want red or white?”
Nathan liked the silent treatment. It usually meant that Eric had something special in store for him.
He strolled into the bedroom, half-expecting to discover his boyfriend spread across the duvet.
The bed was unoccupied, edges tucked in tight.
“So, what’s my reward for finding you?” asked Nathan, projecting his voice through the apartment.
The only noise came from his own excited breathing and a rhythmic drip in the adjoining bathroom.
“Consider me intrigued.”
The humidity stuck to Nathan as he stepped into the bathroom. A crumpled pile of clothes sat on the vanity unit. On the wet floor, a footstool rested on its side next to a strewn towel.
Nathan reached into the shower and tightened both handles. The dripping stopped, the sound of it still playing in his mind for several moments before fading away.
Nathan shook his head. “Okay, I give up. Where are you?”
He went back out into the living area.
“I’m done, Eric. It’s been a long day so let’s just eat and drink and screw like rabbits, okay?”
A warmth crept up Nathan’s neck and settled along his jaw.
He spotted the scarf near the front door.
Eric was clumsy, sometimes frustratingly so, but he rarely left anything out of place.
Nathan scooped up the scarf and slung it over the coat rack. Something else was on the floor where the scarf had been.
A small dark spot.
Nathan ran a shoe over the spot and smeared crimson across the floor. The blood glistened on the sheer white surface of the marble.
Eric suffered from occasional nosebleeds — a condition that Nathan attributed with too much cocaine during their med school years — but he was always quick to clean it up.
Something twinged in Nathan. A mild convulsion followed by a pang of nausea. The apartment suddenly felt cold, isolated.
“Eric, come the fuck out, please.”
Nathan waited for a response that never came. His jaw tightened. A prickly heat spread across his face. Colored lights began to flirt in his peripherals.
Something was wrong. Not just the situation with Eric; something was wrong with him.
Nathan made for the kitchen counter, aware that the bronze cat sculpture on the sideboard was following his movements with its unfaltering gaze.
He retrieved his mobile from a shopping bag and dialed Eric’s phone. As it rang, he picked up the empty glass and sniffed the rim.
The call went to voicemail.
“Eric? Where the hell are you? This is not—”
Nathan’s legs trembled as a wave of euphoria rolled over him. He gripped the kitchen counter with his free hand, ended the phone call, and immediately redialed.
Something crashed in the bedroom. Nathan jumped at the sound, heart thumping in his chest.
He hurried for the bedroom as a pulsating drone filled his ears. Swarms of angry insects had burrowed their way into his brain and were trying to find their way out.
Buzz… Buzz… Buzz…
Nathan staggered into the bedroom. The buzzing had left his head and was now coming from the bathroom. Through the doorway, he could see Eric’s phone rattling along the wet tiles. It stopped as his voicemail kicked in.
Nathan entered the bathroom and picked up the phone. The screen was cracked from where it must have fallen off the vanity unit.
Another rush swept through him.
Nathan waited for it to subside, then put the phones down to search through the pile of clothes.
He lifted a white shirt; several splotches of fresh blood stained the front. He then rummaged through a pair of chinos, pulling the contents from the pockets.
Eric’s wallet, keys… and a small amber dropper bottle.
A crude smiley face was scrawled on the label of the bottle, along with the words: Go easy on this. Primo fuck juice!
Nathan leaned into the vanity unit. He bit the inside of his cheek as he caught sight of himself in the mirror.
Flushed skin. Beads of sweat. Dilated pupils that had almost completely engulfed the surrounding irises.
Nathan giggled despite himself. He spat out a breath as another wave of warmth and love and anxiety rolled over him.
Then he spotted something else in the mirror.
The reflection of the bathroom door.
And the faintest outline of a tall figure lurking behind it.
Not tall. Elevated.
Realization struck him like a freight train.
The footstool resting on its side…
Nathan grabbed the door and swung it shut. The weight on the door caused the hinges to squeal.
There was Eric. Naked against the back of the door. Blue and limp and suspended by the belt around his neck.
The clumsy son of a bitch…
Nathan stumbled back against the vanity unit.
Another wave crashed over him. This one pulled him under until he could barely hear the sounds of his own screams.