A Voice From The Stars Chapter 2: Alex

Thump, thump, thump. His backpack slams into his spine with every step. It will definitely leave a bruise–or rather, deepen the one already there–but the solid, steadiness of it is a good beat. Like marching to a drum. 

It would be painful, but its cold enough that Alex has gone numb. The rain falls down around him, drumming on the asphalt of the road and the packed earth under the short grass. Occasionally a car rushes past, the sing of tires, the shwunk shwunk of the windshield wipers, the growl of the engine, the splash of rainwater in the wake of it. 

He’s so cold. 

He’s so tired. 

Alex keeps his head down, keeps walking forward, even though his feet feel like blocks of ice on the ends of his legs. He can feel the unsteadiness of his gate, his bare feet sliding around in the water that’s gotten through the cheap material of his shoes. He’ll probably have blisters when he thaws out. He tries to remember if there are any more bandaids under the sink. 

Probably not. 

Unfortunate. 

Thump, thump, thump, goes his backpack, steady against his spine. Like a heartbeat. 

Alex isn’t even shivering anymore, just walking, his head down, his steps unsteady in the slick mud, the rain pounding down on and around him, the cold creeping through his limbs. 

He doesn’t know how far it is to his foster home now. The last time he looked he was still a mile away, and he hasn’t had the courage to do it again. 

At least his foster house house is just along the main road, no fucking around trying to remember turns and shit. He just has to keep moving forward. If he hurries, he’ll have time before his foster father, Walter, gets home. 

Just one more step. 

One more. 

Only one more. 

And again.

A car goes past. The growl of the engine, the swish of the wipers, the splash of the puddle. 

He keeps walking. 

Another car goes past. 

Growl, swish, splash. 

Thump, thump, thump. 

Growl, swish splash. 

Thump, thump, thump. 

Thump, thump, thump. 

Thump, thump, thump. 

Thump, thump, thump. 

Growl…purr, whirr.

Alex blinks. 

The purr waits, just in front of him. 

Thump…thump…

Alex looks up. There’s a car. Some kind of sedan or something. SUV? 

Alex doesn’t know shit about cars. 

He blinks rain out of his eyes, his hair is plastered to his forehead, cold and wet, just like the rest of him. 

The car’s brake lights are burning in his eyes. 

Alex keeps walking. 

The window of the driver’s side is rolled down. He can see a man in the side mirror. Blond, kind of old, blue eyes. 

“Hey,” the man says. 

Alex blinks and pulls his gaze away from the mirror. His eyes meet the man’s. 

“What are you doing walking in this weather?” the man says, his voice softly concerned. “Couldn’t your–couldn’t someone give you a ride?” 

Alex blinks. Words…right. He has to open his mouth. Talk. It feels like his jaw moves as fast as a glacier. His voice is raspy and quiet. “I’m fine.” 

“What was that?” the man says, leaning out more. “Come here, I can’t hear you.” 

Alex blinks and sighs and shuffles closer to the car. 

“Just look at you,” the man says, his brow furrowed. He raises a hand and touches a lock of Alex’s hair. Alex blinks dumbly. “You’re soaked to the bone.” 

“I’m fine,” Alex croaks again, taking a step back. His feet slip inside his shoes, there is a dull stab of pain.  

“Come on,” the man says, “let me give you a ride home, you’re gonna freeze out here.” 

“Its fine,” Alex says, “Its not much further…” 

He looks down the road. 

It is a good bit further. 

He can’t even see Walter’s house from here. 

Fuck. 

But even as cold as he is, he’s not an idiot. “I’m fine,” he says again, and he keeps walking. 

Thump, thump, thump. 

The engine purrs as the car creeps along, easily keeping pace with him. 

“Seriously,” the guy says, “its freezing out here.” 

“Fuck off,” Alex mutters and keeps walking. 

The guy sighs, and Alex takes a moment to be grateful that he’s finally going to fuck off. 

And then his shitty ass shoe lands in a goddamn pothole on the shitty ass road that goes halfway to goddamn china. 

Alex yelps as he goes down, the icy water digs its claws in all the way up to his knee and he falls forward. His forearms scrape over the road, one knee spikes with pain as its bent too far in the wrong direction, the other one hits the asphalt with bruising force, he can feel the heat of blood seeping up. 

His backpack slams into his spine, forcing the air out of his lungs. 

“Oh fuck,” the guy says. A car door clicks open and there are footsteps coming towards him. “Is he okay?” 

Arms wrap around him. Thick burly arms. What the fuck? 

Alex blinks as he’s hauled upright. Hazily, he tries to get his feet under himself, sure that he’s about to be put down. 

“He’ll be fine,” someone says, and their voice is deep. He can feel the resonance of it through his backpack. What the hell? 

Alex’s shoes scrape over the asphalt as he’s dragged backwards. 

What the hell?

He blinks. His arms and knees are aching, the pain crawling up his spine, slow and lazy and hot as the blood dripping down. There’s a grunt as he’s hauled up, and then there’s hot air blasting over him, there’s leather under him, his feet are getting scrunched in the floorboards of a car. 

Hey wait– 

The door shuts. 

“Go.” 

The engine growls. 

“Wait,” Alex gasps, “wait what?” 

“Its okay sweetheart,” the guy up front says, “we’re just taking you home. That was quite the tumble you took there. Nick did he hit his head?” 

A massive hand–burning hot, almost feverish against his skin–brushes the hair back from his forehead. Alex twitches away, his brain fumbling with all the pieces. They won’t fit together right. He doesn’t–what?

“No, he’s okay,” the other guy–since when was there another guy??–says. “Got his arms and knees scraped up pretty good though. 

“Oh,” the guy up front says, like it’s a terrible tragedy. “Don’t worry, we’ll take care of that as soon as we get you home.” 

“I–its just down the street?” Alex says. What is happening? This is–this doesn’t make sense. 

The guys are silent 

“Oh sweetheart,” the one up front says, “no its not. I think we both know that’s not your home.” 

“Yes it–yes it is?” Alex stutters out. “My social worker said it was my last shot.” 

The car doesn’t slow down. Alex blinks, and Walter’s house is nothing more than a smear of familiar colors in the window beside–oh. 

Oh shit. 

That’s a big fucking dude. 

Alex blinks at him. 

He’s practically squished to fit in the damn car, turned so that he’s sitting with his back to the door, watching Alex. The driver’s seat is in front of him, and the guy up there is a more reasonable size, he’s got his eyes on the road, but they keep darting up to the rearview mirror, looking at Alex. 

Their eyes meet. 

The guy smiles. “Hello sweetheart,” he says, “I’m Ryan.” 

“What’s–” Alex gasps, his heart is picking up speed, racing faster than the car. “What’s happening? What are you doing? Where are you–What are you doing?” 

His mind screams at him for being an idiot. Its perfectly fucking clear what they’re doing. They’re fucking kidnapping him. Oh god. They’re kidnapping him. 

But they can’t be. This isn’t the sort of thing that happens. All the adults are paranoid and shit but everyone knows that Stranger Danger crap is just that: crap. 

But here he is. 

In the back of a stranger’s car, going who knows where, but it doesn’t make sense. 

This doesn’t happen. 

He doesn’t know what to do. 

“I–Please stop,” Alex says, “stop the car. Stop, just stop. I won’t–I won’t tell anyone, okay? I’ll–just stop.” His voice is high and wavering, his breath hitching, and pathetic tears are burning in his eyes. He turns, desperately fumbling with the door even though they’re driving. 

He desperately pulls on the handle, tries to open the window, anything. There has to be a way out. There has to be a way out. 

“Hey, no, stop,” the big guy–Nick–says. Alex yelps and whimpers and fumbles for the door lock. His fingers keep slipping off. 

Nononononono. The leather of the seat creaks and Alex whimpers again, pressing himself against the door, pounding his fist against the window, hoping against hope that another car will go past and see him. Please see him. Someone has to see him. Someone has to help. 

“Alex, stop, its alright–” 

Alex whips around, pressing his back to the door, staring at Nick with wide eyes. “How–” he croaks, “you know my name?” 

Nick snorts. “Of course I do kid, Ryan hasn’t stopped talking about you.”  

Talking about him?

Alex gapes at Ryan. 

“Can you blame me?,” he laughs, a little giddy, like this is–like this is some casual thing. Like he hasn’t been, what? Stalking Alex? 

A sob rips out of Alex’s chest. Oh god. Oh god. 

“Oh, sweetheart,” Ryan murmurs. “Don’t worry, we’re almost home. We’ll get you some nice dry clothes and some tea, get you all warmed up and settled in.” 

“No,” Alex croaks, “don’t. Please don’t. Please just let me go.” 

“It’ll be alright, you’ll see,” Ryan says, all but ignoring Alex’s desperation. “I’ve been waiting so long to bring you home.” 

Alex sobs and curls up in a ball, he doesn’t give a shit if his feet are getting on the goddamn upholstery. He presses his face into the stiff, wet fabric of his jeans. The cloth smells like gasoline and roadkill, but at least this way he doesn’t have to look at Ryan and Nick. 

He feels too hot and too cold all at once. The air is burning against his skin, but his bones are made of ice. He’s shivering, he’s not sure if its the cold or the fear. 

Probably both. 

He sobs. 

“It’ll be alright kid,” Nick says, “You’ll see. We’re gonna take good care of you.” 

Maybe its meant to be comforting, but it isn’t. It really fucking isn’t. 

Alex sobs again and wraps his arms around his knees. 

Thankfully, Nick and Ryan don’t say anything more. There’s just the hum of the heater, the singing of the tires, a soft humming from up front. Something soft and almost, almost soothing. A lullaby. 

Alex shivers again. 


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