Ryan stared at the clock that hung above the door. He had less than ten minutes to live if the Giver chose to damn him. The Giver hadn’t moved from the time it had sat down, staring at Ryan with narrowed eyes. Ryan didn’t mind. The staring didn’t bother him. Honestly, the thought of dying didn’t bother him either. It was the thought of not being in the same world as Brendon. As long as he got to say goodbye, he didn’t care what happened.
The Giver stood and smiled at him. Ryan looked at them expectantly. They shrugged. “I’m going to get the antidote. If I make it back in time, we’ll talk about why you should be permitted to live.” They left. Ryan stared at the door in disbelief. But the Giver slammed it shut before he could protest. Ryan felt tears welling up in his eyes.
“I’m so sorry, Brendon. I’m so, so sorry. I wish I could’ve told you goodbye.” He laughed. “Well, you never really were one for goodbyes. Then again, neither was I. We probably wouldn’t have even said anything. I would’ve been okay with that. It would’ve been a comfort to have you on the line with me.” He let out a sound; half laugh, half sob. “You would’ve been the last thing I heard. God, Brendon. I’m so sorry. Forgive me.”
Ryan looked at the clock again. Two minutes. Not long now. He felt his stomach squeeze painfully. He knew the poison was starting to take effect. He took a deep breath and closed his eyes. “Please, just take care of Brendon. Don’t let anything happen to him.” He wasn’t sure who he was talking to, but he was hoping that somebody would’ve heard him.
He looked at the clock again. The second hand ticked closer and closer to twelve. He watched it with wide eyes as it approached the damning number. And as it touched it. And kept on going past it. Ryan kept waiting for his heart to suddenly stop, but it didn’t. It kept on, steady as ever. He kept staring at the clock, one hand over his heart. Two more minutes passed. Then ten. Eventually, nearly an hour had passed and Ryan was still staring at the clock, eyes wider than ever. He just knew that any second, he was going to die.
The door opened. It was the same Giver from earlier. They smiled. “Congratulations, Harlot. You’ve passed this test.” Ryan stared at them in confusion. “What do you mean? I thought I was going to die, my liege?” he asked. The Giver laughed. “You were never in any danger, Harlot. The liquid I gave you, while bitter and rather disgusting, was completely harmless. It was meant only to make you feel sick. You were never in any danger. It was a loyalty test. And you didn’t even hesitate before taking the drug. That’s incredible. You passed with flying colors. Congratulations. Now, I’ll escort you back to your room, where you will be given dinner. After that, I’d recommend you rest. You’ll be taking your final test tomorrow.”
“Really, my leige?” Ryan asked, climbing to his feet.
The Giver smiled. “Yes,” they answered.
Ryan smiled back for a moment . “Will it hurt badly, my liege?”
The Giver stared at him a moment. “You are strong, Harlot. I don’t think it will hurt you badly. Just keep telling yourself that it’s not real. That’s all you really can do, honey.” They opened his door for him. “Now, go get some sleep. You need to sleep off the effects of the drug I gave you so you can take what they give you tomorrow.”
Ryan entered the room obediently. “Goodnight, my liege,” he said, giving them a warm smile. They smiled back. “Goodnight, Ryan,” they whispered, looking nervously down the hall to make sure no one had heard. Then they shut the door and disappeared.
The alcohol was like an old friend. He’d sworn off of it a long time ago, but that never stopped him from coming back to it. It didn’t matter how many times he tried to get clean, whenever things started to take a take a turn for the worse, the bottle was back to his lips. Try as he might, he couldn’t stop. It always came back to the alcohol.
And now Ryan was missing and there was nothing he could do. Brendon had finally accepted defeat in trying to decipher Ryan’s text message. Ryan obviously didn’t want help and if that be the case, then Brendon wouldn’t keep pining over him. The trouble was, Brendon’s heart refused to let go. Hell, his soul refused to let go. So he did the only thing he knew how to do when it came to this: drink.
It had been eight days since Ryan had gone missing. Brendon couldn’t really remember the last three, he’d been so drunk. Tonight was the worst. He’d driven to some bar, gotten hammered and couldn’t remember where he was. That was a problem, because now he couldn’t remember how to get home. Normally, he would’ve called Spencer to come pick him up, but he was too drunk to remember that his phone was in his pocket.
By some miracle, he had the address to the cabin written on his hand. He hailed a cab on the street and showed them the address. When they arrived, he threw some money at the driver, fell out of the cab and crawled up the steps. He didn’t even make it fully in the door when he started throwing up. After empting himself of all the sustenance he’d had that day, he blacked out.
Spencer found Brendon a few hours later, lying in a puddle of puke. His torso had made it into the house, while his lower half was still out on the front steps. Spencer sighed, knowing that it would only get worse. At least he’d made it home tonight. That might not happen in the future.
Spencer bent down and gently picked Brendon up. He carried him to the bathroom, sitting him against the wall as he took a wet cloth and wiped Brendon’s face off. He pulled off his shirt and pants, picked him up again, and carried him to Ryan’s bedroom. He put him on the bed, making sure he put Ryan’s pillow under his head. In his sleep, Brendon smiled and snuggled into the pillow. Had Spencer not been so upset, he would’ve smiled. He carefully tucked Brendon in, pushed the hair back from his forehead and kissed his temple. “Please,” he whispered. “Please, don’t do this. He’s not worth it. I can’t lose you, Bren.” And with that, he shut the door and left.
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