Niké scrambled back until he was sitting with his back pressed into the wall, panicked eyes staring at the person in front of him. It was as if he didn't know where he was anymore, the place he'd been sitting peacefully in just moments ago was now foreign to him and the man, his voice seemed familiar but he couldn't recognize him.
Feeling a hand over his, he quickly pulled back. Starting to hyperventilate a bit, the man pulled his knees up, leaning his forehead on them as he covered his head with his arms, continuing to mumble on about how sorry he was between breaths.
"You are safe here, I promise you that one."
The words of the familiar voice felt comforting but it didn't change the fact that his heart was still pounding and his whole body was telling him to flee but there was no escape, he knew that. He had to stay and deal with it, there was no escape.
That was the name of the man, right?
He didn't feel certain about anything at that moment. Everything felt off, he didn't know what to do with himself. It was always like this and yet he never learnt how to handle it.
After a little while the man managed to start calming his breathing down but his hands were still trembling and he didn't dare to look up. He knew there was nothing there and he still couldn't bring himself to lift his head.
Fear and panic soon turned to anger though. When his mind finally began realizing he wasn't in his dream anymore and what he had just done, he felt nothing but angry with himself. It was Theo that he was next to and he’d done the exact thing that he had been hoping to avoid.
Why had he allowed himself to sleep? He knew this was going to happen, why had he thought anything would end up being different this time?
Letting out a sigh, Niké ran his fingers through his hair before gripping it, “Fuck…”
Reluctantly he lifted his head, taking a quick glance around the room before looking over at Theo, afraid to meet the other man's gaze but forcing himself to any way.
“Theo, I…” his eyes dropped to look at the floor, another sigh leaving his lips. What was there to say? How could he ever hope to fix this? Even if the leader would say that he didn't care, his view of him would still be changed.
Instead of continuing to try and find the right words, the grey-haired man started patting down his own pockets for a cigarette but he was only met with his empty pack from before. A pack which he crumbled up into a ball in his hand before dropping to the floor. Bouncing his leg a little, the man looked around, still in a flighty mood. He wanted to get away and be alone but he couldn't, instead he was stuck here next to Theo who would probably want to know what was going on.
“I’m sorry…” Niké’s voice wasn't louder than a whisper, he wasn't even sure if the leader would be able to hear it and he knew that it didn't explain or better anything of what had just happened but it was all he could manage to get out.
Edited at January 10, 2023 08:47 PM by Ashes of Night
Now Theo knew exactly how he appeared the first night Alleya noticed his lack of sleep and tried to fix him. He had woken up in a panic state, thinking he was back in his father's house. He didn't remember much from his panic but it must have been alarming for Alleya.
After all, seeing Nike like this was a bit alarming and concerning for the gang leader. He didn't know how to help the other man or what to do. He kind of just sat there, trying to talk to him but yet feeling helpless at the same time.
But his words must have been effective and must have helped a little. Just a little was better than nothing, he supposed.
He waited patiently, his eyes slightly betraying his shock. Never before had he seen what he went through every night on the opposite end. He wondered how Alleya did it, how in the entire world did she continue to see it over and over again. This was his first time and it was terrifying.
Well a word was a good sign. Something to indicate something different from panic. Nike had also calmed down, his behavior much more calming. He had depicted the man as a calm, level-headed guy from when they first met. Seeing how the man was torn to pieces by his own dreams made his heart feel like it had been shattered in a million different pieces.
This was when he noticed he was still staring at the man with the same shocked and slightly terrified expression he bore before. Most of the time he masked his emotions and hid them but he had been too shocked to evven bother.
During Nike's panic attack, a few of the gang members woke up and a few night guards were watching them. However, after seeing the situation was being handled,the gang members went back to sleep and the night guards back to their positions.
Theo did a quick glance around, finally taking his gaze off the other man. After making sure nobody was paying attention to them, he moved against the wall. He made sure to sit shoulder-to-shoulder and thigh-to-thigh with the man to show him that what he had seen didn't change anything between them.
He remembered the first time Alleya saw him and the humilation from it. The first time, he had been left wondering if the woman would still be his friend. He didn't want Nike to be filled with those same questions so he tried to make it obvious.
"It's okay," Theo slid an arm around him,"You have nothing to apologize for."
He wouldn't dare ask him about his dreams. He wouldn't ask him about what he said either. He didn't need to know about anything. Dreams like that were personal.
"You don't have to say anything or do anything either. Just know that I've been in your shoes many times," He whispered this part, not wanting any gang members that were awake to overhear what was being said,"And I'm here for you-anytime you need me."
When he first felt the touch of the leader against him, Niké flinched, leaning away from the pressure slightly. Even if he was calmer now, he still hadn't managed to fully calm his nerves down. But as he realized that it was just Theo that he could feel against himself, he leaned against the man slightly again.
"It's okay. You have nothing to apologize for."
Okay… It was far from okay. Everything about the situation was far from okay. The reasons for his dream, his reaction, this whole situation and his feelings for Theo. Nothing was okay about any of it.
The grey-haired man felt an arm around himself but this time he didn't move away. His body seemed to relax at the man’s touch and after a little, he finally raised his head, glancing around the room a little before sighing and leaning it on Theo’s shoulder.
"You don't have to say anything or do anything either. Just know that I've been in your shoes many times. And I'm here for you-anytime you need me."
Niké’s gaze turned to the floor again while he searched for what to say. He wanted to be near Theo, he really did. The touch of the man was something he found himself wanting more and more of. The sound of his voice and the comfort the presence of the man brought him was nice, he wanted it to last forever but it was wrong and he knew that.
“I’m not a good person Theo…” he mumbled, “Everything that's happened is my own fault…” Niké sighed again, his head was a mess and he couldn't be certain of anything. All he knew was that Theo felt right but the leader also didn't know the truth about anything, if he did then there was no way he’d sit next to him, trying to comfort him like he currently was.
“I’ve done such shitty things…” the man whispered lowly. He was ashamed, too ashamed to ever say the truth, he hated himself for what had happened and the part he’d played in it all.
The young man knew that there was absolutely no chance the leader would ever trust or even want to be near him. That was also the reason he felt as if he should be honest. He already liked Theo, it hadn't been long and he felt as if drawn to the leader, he wanted nothing but to be close to the man which was also why he wanted to come clean about everything, from start to finish.
Edited at January 13, 2023 06:42 PM by Ashes of Night
Nike flinching away made him worry a bit more. On one hand he wanted to know what the dream was about and on the other he didn't. He just wanted to know so he could better help Nike overcome it. Whatever it was, it had to be serious to tear him apart like this.
The gang leader was just starting to get to know him personally but he normally had a good judgement in character. He had picked up on Nike's personality rather quickly. Seeing him jumpy and showing that emotion of fear was a sign that it was pretty bad. Some things were just better off to not talk about. He didn't want the other man saying a word until he was ready.
He was about to pull away when he felt Nike lean into him just a little bit. He took that as progress and just waited for him to calm down. After a little bit, he leaned his head against his shoulder. More progress. The gang leader gave a faint smile and gave him the faintest squeeze, kind of like a side hug.
"I’m not a good person Theo…Everything that's happened is my own fault…”
Theo raised an eyebrow. He had a few thoughts about that statement. He was an excellent judge of character and "not a good person" sure wasn't how he would describe the man beside him. He didn't say anything though, he wanted Nike to elaborate on that.
"I’ve done such shitty things…”
Another statement that really didn't clarify too much to why he was saying these things. Of course he knew they had to be connected to his dream. Why else would he be saying that?
"I guarantee you everyone in this room has done something they regret. However, nobody here is a bad person. Do you want to go somewhere more private and talk about this?" He whispered into the other man's ear.
He was a little worried about him, he wasn't going to lie. He also thought this conversation might be best to talk about behind closed doors, with less ears to overhear. That is, if Nike wanted to talk about the things he had done. Maybe those things were connected to his dreams, it would explain him waking up and screaming that he was sorry.
"I know a really good place, not far from here," He ran his freehand through his soft gray hair, letting some of the strands get stuck in between his fingers,"That is, if you want to."
Niké closed his eyes as he leaned against Theo. He hated that he was falling for the man when he knew there was absolutely no chance that they could ever work and it was only a matter of time before he would either have to leave or let Theo know the truth.
"I know a really good place, not far from here. That is, if you want to."
Feeling Theo’s fingers through his hair helped to calm him down further. It was a nice feeling but internally he was screaming at himself for allowing this and for liking it. He had been stupid to think that he would be able to keep things under control, he was falling more and more for the man for each minute that passed.
Theo had offered him to go somewhere else to talk. He did want that but he also feared that he would go ahead and tell the man everything and in doing so, it would ruin everything. Both whatever was going on between them but also the whole mission and the reason he was here.
“Sure…” Niké whispered back, once he realized that he hadn't answered the leader, just having left the man hanging for a moment.
The grey-haired man opened his eyes and lifted his head off the other man's shoulder before pushing himself off the ground and getting up. Niké looked around the room, noticing a few people who looked over at him when he did, to which he turned his gaze away and looked down. Surely people had both heard and seen the panic attack his dream had brought him.
Being a person who mostly kept to himself and never liked to draw attention to himself, he hated feeling their eyes on them. Hated knowing that not only had Theo seen him but so had other people in the gang and there was no way of knowing what they thought about it.
He hadn't really said yes to talking to the leader, the biggest reason he agreed was because he wanted to get out of sight from the rest, he wanted to escape the judgment going on in their heads. What would he even say?
Tell the man who his dreams were about and what had happened? Or the things he’d done after? Or how he was a cop? How he was here to find clear evidence that would put the leader behind bars? Everything felt like a lie, in fact, everything was a lie and he wasn't sure if he was prepared to say that.
Theo waited for Nike to respond. He wasn't sure if the man would feel comfortable somewhere else or still want to tell him whatever was on his mind before they got to a more private spot. Normally, he would have just invited him into his bedroom but he knew Alleya was in there. That lead to plan b and hoping Nike still wanted to tell him after they got to where they needed to go.
He continued to play with his hair, sighing softly. He was exhausted and wanted nothing more to sleep but couldn't. This would be night 4 of no sleep. He just knew the number one thing he couldn't do was tell Alleya that he couldn't sleep without her. That would give her the wrong idea and worry her more than necessary.
After a few more moments, Nike told him that he did want to go somewhere else. Shortly after he felt the warmth of the other man's body leave his side. After being close to the man almost all night, it felt weird to feel the somewhat chilly room. He made a mental note to turn the heat up for his gang. He was still learning the best temperature for them speaking that they never had heat before.
"Just give me one second," He told Nike, moving to stand up as well. He stood up more slowly and stiffly, his burns were burning. It was almost dawn, he could see the room slowly becoming lighter. Soon early patrols would head out. That meant it was safe to have more Tylenol,"I have to use the bathroom."
He didn't want Nike to know that he had Tylenol specifically for himself and his burns. It had been helping him walk and perform his duties well. It was also an antiflammatory which would help with the more severe ones. Between aloe vera and the Tylenol, he was getting better though. He just knew that he was probably going to have a few more scars to accompany the ones he already had.
He headed toward his room and slipped inside. The sound of his footsteps must have woke up Alleya because she was sitting up and rubbing her eyes.
"Morning," She yawned,"What was that scream I heard earlier? Are you still having nightmares?"
He went into the bathroom, grabbing the Tylenol and swishing just one pill down. He was going to take light amounts today to ease himself off of them. He had to start learning how to manage this pain without help.
"Yes, I had an awful one a few minutes ago. I tried sleeping out there but now I think everyone is mad at me," Theo lied. He figured that Alleya didn't know about Nike's nightmares and he probably didn't want to,"Nike took the blame for me though."
"See? Isn't he such a gentleman?" Alleya had a teasing tone to her voice. He frowned a little in the mirror. What was that supposed to mean?
"Yeah sure," He headed out of the bathroom, pausing,"Why don't you join early morning patrol? I want to make sure the Rebels aren't going to try anything after what happened on the trip."
She gave a nod and he headed out. Early morning patrol would keep Alleya occupied and away from him and Nike. It would allow them to talk in silence without fear that she would go looking for them.
He didn't want Alleya to know about what happened between him and Nike. He didn't really want the gang to know either. He wasn't ready to face whatever his feelings were for the gray-haired man.
"Ready?" He questioned as he rejoined the other man. He briefly studied his face before dropping his gaze down,"We should go before early morning patrol heads out."
Niké watched the leader slowly get up with stiff movements, it was clear that his burns were bothering him a lot. The fact that the leader was even able to stand and function normally without crying out in pain was incredible. He knew he wouldn't be able to do the same, not with his pain tolerance.
"Just give me one second."
The grey-haired man gave a short nod at that and watched how the leader moved towards his room. He couldn't help but feel bad for the man, having to deal with him when all he was doing was lying to him. Theo was a good person, the fact that he was a gang leader didn't change that. The man was no criminal nor was cruel and violent like most would expect from a man in his position.
Glancing around the room a little as he waited, Niké met the glaring gazes of a few other members, he had interrupted their sleep so it was understandable that they were annoyed with him. This had been the exact reason for why he hadn't wanted to go to sleep, that and making a fool of himself. It wasn't just his own sleep that got interrupted by his dream, it was the people around him.
Leaning down, Niké picked up the jacket that he had thrown on the ground next to his sleeping spot. It was the one he had stolen off the drunk guy who had attacked him while he had been making his way back to the gang hideout. It didn't reek of sewage which was the only reason he had kept it, it had been better than freezing halfway to death.
Now it served another purpose though. The grey-haired man started searching through the pockets in hopes of finding a pack of cigarettes. With any luck, the drunk man was a smoker too and there would be a pack with cigarettes in the jacket.
Niké had no such luck though. The pockets were empty apart from a few crunched up dollar bills which he put in his pant pocket before dropping the jacket to the ground again with a frustrated sigh. With how he was currently feeling, he would kill for a cigarette. He knew he should quit smoking but it wasn't that easy, especially not with these nightmares.
"Ready? We should go before the early morning patrol heads out."
Niké looked up at Theo when he heard the man's voice and gave a brief nod, “Sure, let's go…” He still had no idea of what to do, his head was a mess, he didn't know what to do. The right thing would be to tell the truth but what would happen if he did?
Edited at January 15, 2023 01:15 PM by Ashes of Night
Theo wished he could tell Nike just how much he related to his dreams. He wanted to tell Nike the truth about how he couldn't sleep to this day, how he woke up screaming every night when he didn't have Alleya beside him, and about his own nightmares. He just couldn't find the words to tell the other man about that. He wasn't comfortable with that. He wasn't even comfortable with Alleya knowing but one day she had came into his room and witnessed everything. So she knew. It was difficult to talk about whenever he wasn't protecting her from knowing that Nike was going through his own nightmares.
When he returned, he felt gazes of awake gang members turn to him. He knew when somebody was watching him. It felt like a burning sensation. However, when he looked up the burning sensation of somebody watching him faded. They must have looked away. What a coward.
"Sure, let's go…”
Theo gave a faint nod and lead the way to the door. He didn't attempt to take Nike's hand or anything Too many gang members were awake and he didn't want them thinking anything about possible relations between him and the newcomer. He opened the door and headed out, holding it open for Nike.
"Are you doing alright now?" He asked once Nike was out the door and the door closed behind them. Now they were free from the gang. He was a little worried about the other man, speaking what he screamed out and what he said earlier.
He wasn't a bad person, despite him thinking that. Theo couldn't help but think of possible things he could have done to cause the horrifying nightmares and guilt he was feeling. It must have been pretty bad, speaking that Nike still looked a little shaken up.
After a moment of thought, he headed away from the house and toward the "secret spot" for talking. It was actually a little stream clearing that Flynn took him to on their first date. It was a hidden spot that only he knew about so he knew that they would be safe from all patrols just to talk.
He lead Nike to it, the bushes and trees getting thicker as they got closer to the spot. It was only maybe a 5 minute walk from the house. Just far enough that nobody would find them. He walked through the narrow path until the stream came into sight. The stream was frozen, indicating that winter was approaching.
"Nobody can find us here," He told Nike, a small glimmer in his eyes. It felt kind of strange to be here with somebody else besides Flynn but it was a place he wanted to share with Nike as well,"The only people that know about this spot are...well me and now you."
Niké followed after the leader out of the hideout, feeling the eyes of the other members on his back. As the man stepped outside, he could relax slightly more, without other people’s eyes on him. He took a deep breath of the fresh air and, once again, dug through his pockets after cigarettes, even if he knew there were none.
"Are you doing alright now?"
The grey-haired man looked at Theo and forced a soft smile, “Uh yeah… I just… This always happens, don't worry.” It was the truth, every time after one of these dreams he got shaken up like this but it would pass, it always did, for a bit.
“I’ve had this dream for years, still messes me up for a bit after each time…” Niké admitted as he followed the leader away from the house and out into the forest. He had to gather his thoughts before they reached whatever location Theo was bringing him to. If he didn't then there was a high risk he would say the wrong thing.
After a bit of walking, Theo came to a stop and Niké took that as a sign to stop too. Coming to a halt next to the leader and just quietly looking around for a moment. It was a beautiful spot with the view of the frozen stream and everything.
"Nobody can find us here.The only people that know about this spot are...well me and now you."
Niké glanced up at the man next to him before sighing. Where was he even supposed to start in his shitty life? Was it really time to stop repressing the events of that night and admit to what had happened and his own faults in it. And what was he supposed to do about his job? Should he come clean about that too?
“You really don't have to worry about me. I can deal with it…” Instead of doing anything of the previous options, Niké took it as a moment to avoid the question that he knew had to be on Theo’s mind. The longer he could try and repress it, the better. He had already made a fool of himself once now and if he had to tell the leader about his dream, he feared he would break down completely ruining himself fully in Theo’s eyes.
Edited at January 15, 2023 08:14 PM by Ashes of Night
"Uh yeah… I just… This always happens, don't worry."
He knew the nightmares must be a regular thing for Nike. After all, they were a regular occurrence for him. It had made it slightly easier to sleep at night when he told Alleya. She provided an extra comfort for when he had one and encouraged him to keep on trying. She wasn't sure what exactly the nightmares were about, he hadn't told her. It just helped to know he had somebody there for him when he needed it. That's why he was checking in on Nike, he knew how those nightmares felt.
"I’ve had this dream for years, still messes me up for a bit after each time…”
He gave a nod toward that statement. He was starting to realize that he needed to tell Nike the truth. He tried before-telling the man that he had nightmares but he didn't think the other man realized they were more than nightmares. They were the exact thing he was dealing with. PTSD, trauma, whatever you wanted to call it...his past keeps revisiting him every night and he cant escape it.
Theo fell silent after telling the other man nobody knew about this location. He was trying to think of where to start with the conversation. He knew that if Nike wanted to be honest with him that he first had to be honest with Nike. Honesty was the first step to helping Nike feel more comfortable to tell him what was going on with his own nightmares.
"You really don't have to worry about me. I can deal with it…”
The gang leader drew his attention back to the man beside him. He studied his face for a moment and looked away. Then glanced back up.
"I know you can. You're very strong," He muttered and then cleared his throat,"I-um-I actually wanted to talk to you....in private."
He moved over by the stream and sat down with his knees tucked underneath him. The movement was a lot easier to handle with the Tylenol he took. He was able to sit with just a little more ease.
"Come sit by me," He whispered, glancing at his hands sitting on his lap. He started nervously fiddling with his thumbs. He wasn't sure where to start or what to say. Never before had he ever considered telling somebody else about his nightmares.