Misery – Chapter 4

It starts small, like it always does. Nothing that catches his attention at first. The small, hesitant smiles. The way he cuts himself off mid-sentence, how desperate he is when they have sex. It gives Tyler a bad sense of deja-vu that rubs him off the wrong way.

They don't talk about what happened. They never usually do, not if Keegan can help it. It took Tyler years to befriend Keegan and even longer to ask him out; it's a difficult thing to do when Keegan so very rarely puts his guard down around people who weren't his ex-boyfriend Josh. The name still makes Tyler want to punch something, remembering all the times when Keegan came around to his place with evidence of abuse – rope burns, ugly bruises, whip marks. Keegan always pins it to the fact that he's a masochist and theoretically can never actually be physically abused since he likes the pain it causes, but Tyler was quick to tell him otherwise.

It took Keegan a while to accept the fact that he was in an abusive relationship with Josh. It took him years of therapy to conclude that what they had wasn't love but a cruel illusion all set up by Josh, a toxic relationship that ruined Keegan's perspective of true affection.

As the days pass by, the changes became more and more glaring. He's jumpier than usual, tenses at regular contact but craves it during sex. He eats less, sleeps less. Goes out more often, and while his excuse is work, he can't explain why he comes back home three hours later than usual.

Tyler doesn't want to be overbearing. Doesn't want to be one of those people who think their boyfriends are property. Worrying when he comes home won't make things better.

Keegan's shift ends at 10pm. Today, like he's been doing the past week, he arrives at 2am.

Keegan visibly startles when Tyler greets him with a "Hey."

He stands by the door, unsure, before he shuffles inside. "Didn't think you'd still be awake."

Where have you been? Tyler almost says, but instead settles with, "I'm watching a movie."

Keegan looks slightly relieved. He goes to the kitchen and opens the kettle. "I'm making myself a cup of coffee. Want me to make you anything?"

"No, I'm okay."

"Tea?"

"No."

"I'll make you tea."

Keegan's anxiousness is palpable from the way he moves. He takes a mug, rinses it, wipes it clean, rinses it again. Makes it a point to avoid glancing at Tyler's direction even though he clearly knows Tyler is watching.

He returns with the two beverages, placing Tyler's on the coffee table. "Thanks," Tyler murmurs. Keegan sits next to him and focuses on the movie playing on TV.

"What's on?" Keegan asks, taking a small sip of coffee. He faintly smells of cheap alcohol and cigarettes, but if he's being honest they both usually do. It isn't something new.

"Erotomania." he replies. "Guy kidnaps a woman who he's convinced is in love with him."

"Is she?"

"Of course not." Tyler says. "He's keeping her prisoner."

They watch in silence for a few moments until Keegan says, "I don't know," he starts, "he treats her well. That's a good thing."

"Doesn't matter." he says, "He's still keeping her locked up whenever they sleep."

"That's not so bad," Keegan's relaxed now, his cup empty. He has his full attention to the movie.

"She just peed herself." Tyler frowns at the screen.

"That's happened to me."

Tyler glances at him cautiously. "It has?"

"Yeah. I was chained to the bed. Blindfolded. It's a sex thing." Keegan clarifies, scratching the back of his neck. "I tried to hold it but after three hours…" he crosses his arms. Avoids Tyler's eyes.

Tyler stares at him, eyes wide. There's only one man who he could be talking about. "He left you chained and blindfolded for three hours." he repeats. "Could you have safe-worded out if you wanted to?"

Keegan shrugs, clears his throat. Then, "He gagged me."

"What the fuck," Tyler says, and Keegan winces. There it is again, that familiar slow burn of rage that always bubbles over when they talk about Josh. "Keegan, you know that wasn't your fault, right?" Keegan snuffles noisily, rubs at his nose. Doesn't answer. "Keegan, it wasn't your fault."

"Whatever." Keegan plays with rim of the empty cup.

"It wasn't."

"Yeah, sure."

"Keegan…"

"It's fine. Whatever. It was in the past." he tucks his feet under his legs. "It's fine."

The woman in the movie tries to escape. Flees into the kitchen when she hears her captor's whistling. Scurries to find a weapon she could use to defend herself.

"I mean," Keegan adds when Tyler's silence continues, "I was the one who suggested it, anyway. I wanted it. It wouldn't have happened if I had picked a better scene—"

"Keegan, listen to me." Keegan doesn't look at him, so Tyler takes away the cup from his hand in hopes that he will, but Keegan still doesn't look up. "Keegan. It doesn't work like that. It wasn't your fault. It was only that asshole's fault, what the fuck, leaving you there for three hours. That's not even a rookie mistake, that's fucking malice." From the television comes the sound of the villain telling the woman that she's made a mistake. The remote control was lost at some point last week. Tyler can't turn the TV off without getting up. "Keegan, do you believe me?"

Keegan nods, then shakes his head. "Look, no. It's easy for you to say. People like me, who gets off on humiliation and pain, people who like this, we have to take fucking responsibility."

"That's bullshit and you know it." Tyler's face twists into an ugly grimace.

"No, fuck off." Keegan finally looks at him. His eyes are big and round and bruised-looking, like he hasn't really slept in a while. "You don't get it. This is the only thing I had. It's not always safe, okay, and consent comes from both you and your partner. I made mistakes. Jo—J-Jo-sssh, he—" It pains Tyler that Keegan still can't mention Josh's name without choking up halfway. Tears are already collecting at the corner of his eyes, but he's not letting them fall. "We've talked about it beforehand. I deserved whatever happened to me because I let him do it. He gave me a choice. I could've backed away at the last second but I didn't."

This isn't about what happened when he was chained anymore. This is him genuinely thinking that Josh didn't do anything wrong to him in its entirety.

"I deserved it." he concludes, finally. He blinks a couple of times to prevent the tears from falling but it trails down his cheek anyway. He wipes at it angrily. Sniffs.

"Fuck." Tyler mutters. He rubs his face. He makes to stand up, then stops. Sighs.

"You're mad," Keegan says, but now his voice lost all its certainly. His eyes warily following Tyler's movements. Like he was afraid Tyler's going to grab him unprompted and throw him down, yell at him for voicing his thoughts, like he used to be all those years ago they first met in in group rehab. "I'm. I'm sorry."

Tyler shakes his head slowly. "There's nothing to apologize for." Keegan is still looking at him like that. Tyler sighs. "Come here," he says, "I want to hug you."

Keegan inches closer, and then leans on him. Tyler puts an arm around him and Keegan slumps against him. Tyler hugs Keegan tighter. "I'm sorry you had to go through that, and I'm sorry you think it was your fault."

Keegan lifts one shoulder in a shrug. "It wasn't so bad."

On screen, the woman somehow manages to drive off, leaving the guy with a bleeding leg. Keegan and Tyler watch wordlessly, breathing in unison.

"It wasn't so bad," Keegan repeats, and Tyler holds Keegan to his chest and holds on.


a/n: thanks so much for reviewing guys! it means a lot to me!