When Nathan found him, Duke was almost feral. It wasn't supposed to end like this.
He and Audrey had started this, trying to use him to get to the worst of the Troubled, to stop them in their tracks and help their entire families. Somewhere along the way, it had gotten out of hand, though. The goodness that they'd been trying to use from his own brand of Trouble had started being outweighed by what Dwight was having to cover up. It wasn't just killing for the good of anyone anymore, and he needed to be stopped.
Duke had told them when this all started that each time he took someone's Trouble, he felt this rush, like what he would expect a heroin high to feel like, but they'd ignored him. If they had only listened to him, they wouldn't all be out on a massive manhunt for someone that they all called friend, begrudgingly or not.
Dwight had brought it up. "He's getting out of your control." He'd warned them with the same objective observation that he had about everything.
Vince and Dave had brought it up again, giving off that condescending tone that they had about everything. "We know you meant well," Vince had hemmed and hawed, only to be cut off by Dave. "This can't have been what you were planning for him."
And finally, Audrey had brought it up. "He isn't Duke anymore, Nathan. He's just... not." It was this realization, this knowledge that they'd gone too far, let him stray too far without helping him, that made them call everyone together. They did it behind Jordan's back, knowing what she would do if she found out. They'd tried to downplay it, but everyone knew who and what it was that they were dealing with. Duke was out of his mind, a different man than his usual happy-go-lucky self who wouldn't hurt anyone without it weighing on him. They'd split into four groups: Nathan, Audrey, Vince and Dave, and Dwight, and gone to find him. They had all agreed that they wouldn't use deadly force, but would do everything shy of that to bring him in. He needed help, not to be killed off like a rabid animal.
Nathan found Duke in the woods, hiding in an underground cave, and he'd been yelling at Nathan to get back, to stay away. Walking back just a small ways, Nathan texted the rest of their small circle, letting them know that he had found Duke but might need some back-up.
"Duke. I'm coming in." Nathan had said in warning, treading quietly, slowly, trying not to spook his friend. He was jumpy, looked like more of a flight risk than any danger to him.
"No! I don't want to hurt you, but I will," Duke yelled back. Nathan thought he heard a sob. "Oh, god, I will." It broke Nathan's heart, but he forced himself closer to where his friend was hiding.
"You won't. You know why?" Nathan said, that same calmness in his voice, like he was talking to a wounded animal.
There was a break in the conversation and Nathan knew he had shook his head, before he heard a broken, "No."
"Because we're friends. I don't admit it very often, but we've been linked, and linked a lot longer than Audrey's been here. So, I'm coming in, and we're going to talk, and then I'm gonna get you some help, okay?" Nathan didn't expect an answer and so wasn't surprised when he didn't get one. He moved into the dark of the cave, only bits of sunlight seeping in through breaks in the grass at the mouth of the cave. As he moved further in, he cursed himself for not leaving some sign of where he was. If he managed to get Duke calmed down, the commotion that would be caused when the rest of the group got there would surely break that calmness. He finally met the other man's crazed eyes, and he held out his hands.
Duke took Nathan's hands in his, accepting the contact as his friend sat down next to him. "This is a great hiding spot," Nathan said to him. Duke grunted, accepting the hands, but moving his head so that he didn't have to look at Nathan. He felt shaky, heart beating way too fast, unsure of his footing, and he knew that he was in a lot of trouble. There was no way he was getting out of this unscathed. Hell, he was lucky if he got out of this alive, and even then, it would only be because of Audrey and possibly Nathan pleading for his safety. Maybe he didn't deserve his own safety. Tremors shook his body, and he felt one of the hands let go of his hand to rub gently up and down his arm. He heard Nathan's voice, but it sounded like it was far away and he couldn't make out what they were. Suddenly, a cell phone lit up their small cave, and Duke jumped, forcing himself to look at Nathan. Their eyes met for a brief moment, and Duke could see what he thought might have been worry at some point. There were more words, but he moved his head, not wanting to hear what was being said.
Nathan let the cell phone go dark, while still trying to get Duke to respond to him. "What happened to your arm, man? Those look like they're self inflicted. Have you been hurting yourself? Come on, man. Talk to me. I've got all the time in the world and I am here for you." His voice wasn't as calm as he'd hoped to keep it, but Duke didn't seem to be responding to him anymore. Shock, maybe? He was shivering, which was why Nathan had been trying to warm up his arm in the first place. The other man had gone into his own world, far away from where Nathan could reach him, and so he made another move with his cell phone, hoping that this wouldn't set Duke off to do anything rash.
"Come quick. We're underground. Duke's injured and not responsive." A quick text, mass sent and so not detailed. Just enough to make sure that they knew to tread carefully. The screen went dark again, and this time, Duke looked around him. It was as if he were waking up, as he looked at his surroundings. His eyes met Nathan's again, and Nathan lit up, hoping that the man would say something. He didn't. He simply scampered, moving further into the cave, as Nathan hoped that this thing wasn't that deep. Who would have thought that Duke was a metaphorical man? I mean, how desperate was he, that at his lowest emotional point, he climbed down here, to the lowest point that he could find?
"Duke! Nathan!" Audrey's voice pierced the air. Duke stopped moving, stayed where he was as if frozen in place. Nathan hoped that he would stop moving or come back towards him.
"We're in here, Audrey," Nathan called out, if for no other reason than to get her to be quiet. Duke looked way too close to shock for him to be comfortable, and while he was dazed from Audrey's voice, Nathan grabbed his hands again, pulling him back closer. Duke was malleable, moving almost as if by choice to come sit back next to Nathan again. Nathan removed his jacket, laying it over his friend's shoulders, and the two of them just sat there for several minutes. Once he was sure Duke was calm, he put one arm around his shoulder, hoping that maybe the close physical contact would help. It did. In a way.
Duke leaned against Nathan, finally taking knowledge that the other man wasn't going to kill him. So long as it was just them in this little cave, he didn't have to fear for his life. He was so tired. He hadn't slept in days, the want becoming an ache, and he'd climbed in here to escape himself. They just sat there for a little while, Duke hearing Dwight's voice at some point, although he couldn't make out the words. Vince and Dave arrived a little while later, their own bickering voices breaking through the silence. Nathan was talking quietly, reassuringly, to Duke, and he tried to pretend that he wasn't going to jail today or worse. His head lilted as the darkness started descending, sleep finally overtaking him in this little cocoon. He would feel if they moved him, would feel if he were in danger. Right now, it was just him and Nathan, though, and so he relaxed.
Nathan sighed deeply, looking up as the sky darkened. Their friends were still out there, still trying to get information which he was trying to give them in soothing tones. It wasn't for them, but because Duke had finally stopped shaking. He was finally relaxing and there was hope that he wasn't in shock anymore. So, he used the soothing tone. No, Duke wasn't a danger to him, possibly to no one right now. No, he didn't think Duke could hear anything they were saying; his awareness was waning in and out. He was injured, like he'd said in the text. It looked self-inflicted, as there were cuts lining his entire arm horizontally. No, they weren't vertical. It didn't look like a suicide attempt. Yeah, they should probably call an ambulance because something was seriously wrong, beyond the fact that they'd let him get addicted to killing people. It probably wasn't a good idea to call them, though, because Duke was finally at rest, and he didn't want to break it. Yeah, they could use a blanket. No, Audrey couldn't fit down here. And finally, he knew that it was getting dark, but he didn't think the newly arrived paramedics should come near unless they could somehow figure out a way to get a sedative down here for Duke.
Nathan finally just leaned his head forward, pressing his forehead against Duke's own, and whispered nothings to him. Something fell on the ground near his feet. "I don't know how to give him that," He called up to whoever was out there.
"The paramedics said it's just to jab into his arm. Anywhere will do." Audrey's voice came back. He made a move for the syringe, using Duke's lethargy to clear off a space on his arm and gave him the shot. It took only a few moments for his breathing to completely even out, as he lost consciousness.
"He's out," Nathan called out, moving to help drag his friend out of the hole that he'd crawled down into. When he poked his head out, dragging Duke behind him, he saw a couple of paramedics, their core group of friends... and Jordan. Instead of angry, though, she looked sympathetic. Someone had filled her in, how Duke had driven himself crazy trying to be helpful to them.
The paramedics worked quickly, getting Duke's body onto the stretcher and taking his vitals. So far, everything looked good, which pointed to a psychiatric reason for why this was happening. He could have told them that. They checked the wounds on his arm for infection and then looked at the other arm, and it was then that Nathan noticed that he had done this to both of his arms. Duke was whisked away, brought to the ambulance where they took him away, and it was just the group of friends standing around watching it leave. "What happened down there?" Audrey asked.
Nathan shook his head. "He was completely... feral. He started out fairly lucid, calling out to me to stay away. Then, he just kind of lost it. He wasn't connecting with me until I pulled him back towards me. Then, he just fell asleep on my shoulder. He's not okay. This shouldn't have happened."
"Is he a threat to us?" Jordan asked, getting glares from everyone in the group except for Dwight. That cleared up who called her.
"No. He's not. I think the guilt of all of this is what sent him over the edge. He might be addicted to this, but he's trying to fight it. He'll be okay once he's had some time to heal. Don't hurt him!" Nathan said pointedly to her. Then, he shook his head. "He's going to have to be put on a psychiatric hold until we can get him sorted out. It's bad, guys."