Many nights he lay awake and witnessed the rise-and-fall of Desmond's chest, wondered at what nightmares seethed in his skull. It was rare that he be so still in slumber; bathed in moonlight filtered through sheer curtains, a sheen of sweat dotted his brow and his eyes sought in the world beneath his eyelids. His mouth pursed, his fingers curled, and Sergei laid a hand against his neck.

His pulse was calm but rising, and Sergei imagined the pump of his heart, the flow of blood like a stream quickened by storm. Desmond's veins were prominent, his skin pale from so many days spent without sunlight. Only a few more to bear, but he had other things to look forward to; tomorrow, he regained the privilege of television, and the day after, the parental controls would come off the laptop.

Desmond was more clever than a child. He figured out the password the very day Sergei applied it, but he knew better than to disobey. It was the nature of their union; Sergei set rules, and Desmond followed them, often beyond the extent that Sergei meant. He was fearful, met Sergei's whims like a dog kicked too often: loyal but prone to cowering beneath the table.

A groan and Desmond rolled onto his side, dragging Sergei's calluses against softest skin. He shaved as he was instructed, he slept when he was supposed to, and he fetched what groceries he was told when he was allowed to wander from their home. Once, he confessed to Sergei that he resented him the first seven months of captivity, but now, he wouldn't know what to do with himself.

"Life's so complicated, when you're making your own decisions. I'd rather be here."

It could have been lip service. Desmond once worked as a counselor, and he knew what to say to soothe, but Sergei was inclined to believe his needy grip. Inclined to believe the way he turned onto his side when he slept, whimpered nonsense and pawed the sheets-

He was more comfortable without his humanity.

Abruptly, Desmond's eyes fluttered open, and Sergei caught the silent horror painted on his visage: eyes wide, grasping at nothing, slick and sticking beneath the comforter, and he stuttered dumb sounds. "Sergei," he managed and pressed against him.

Warm cheek on his chest, and Sergei knew he was happy.