The car slows and Alex’s shoulder bumps against the passenger seat as they turn. They don’t pick up speed again. They stop.
Alex yanks his head up with a gasp, looking around.
They’re in a driveway. A simple gravel thing, there’s a spacious front lawn, with a large tree in front of the house, there’s a tire swing hanging from one of the branches.
Bile gathers in the back of Alex’s throat. How many kids have these guys kidnapped?
He flinches as Ryan reaches up, but he’s just pushing a button on something hooked onto the rearview mirror. There’s a rattle and a hum as the garage door starts opening.
If they get him in there he’s never getting out. The car isn’t moving right now, Nick and Ryan would have to get out too before they could catch him. He has to make his move.
Carefully, he looks to Nick, to see if he’s watching.
Alex freezes, his gut swooping as he accidentally meets his eyes. He presses back against the door, a shuddering breath escaping him.
“What do you think?” Ryan asks from up front, a soft smile in his voice. “Do you like it?”
“No,” Alex rasps.
“You’ll learn to,” Nick says.
Alex flinches and shakes his head.
The garage door finishes rising. The car starts to creep forward again. He has to do this. Now or never. This is his only chance.
Do, or die.
Alex turns as quickly as he can and pulls at the lock. His hands are shaking, his muscles tensing, his back is to Nick. He has to move, he has to move, he has to go go go go go. Why won’t the door just fucking open???
Shadows swallow him as the car pulls into the garage. Alex cries out terrified, defeated, but he doesn’t stop. He isn’t going to stop. He can’t stop. This can’t be it. It can’t be over. It can’t–it can’t–
Dimly, he realizes that Ryan is talking, Nick chiming in, the garage door humming and rattling as it closes around him like the jaws of fucking death. Alex doesn’t care. He just needs to get the door open. He just needs to get the door open. Please, please, please, please just open. Please just open.
He sobs and whimpers.
The door opens.
He gasps, falling forward, unprepared. Hands catch his shoulders.
Alex screams, thrashing back, desperately clawing his way back into the car, but his back runs into something solid. He freezes and looks.
Ryan is in the door, waiting for him. Nick is right here. He would just have to grab Alex, just move his arm and Alex is dead, dead, dead. Alex freezes. He trembles from head to toe, his breath coming hard and fast, his heart pounding in his ears.
He can’t do anything.
He can’t hear, he’s looking but he’s not seeing. Everything is too much. Its all too much. He’s going to throw up.
Oh fuck he’s going to throw up.
Spit floods his mouth, bile gathers in the back of this throat. He’s going to throw up in their stupid car. Ryan reaches for him and Alex turns to the floorboards and opens his jaw and loses what remains of his lunch.
He coughs and sobs, spitting the taste of bile and mystery meat out of his mouth. Tears roll down his cheeks and he can do nothing but stare at the mess of his last meal.
“Aw kid,” Nick murmurs, his voice rumbling through Alex’s backpack.
Alex’s breath hitches, he retches again.
A hand settles on his shoulder.
Alex flinches and whimpers.
“Shh, its alright, its alright.”
“Oh honey,” Ryan says, he reaches for Alex again, he can see him out of the corner of his eye. He braces, shutting his eyes. A hand cups his cheek and turns his head. He shudders and sobs again as a thumb wipes away the tears.
“Its okay sweetheart, I know, I know, you don’t feel good, huh?” Ryan’s voice is achingly soft. The sort of thing Alex dreamed of when he was little. He sobs again. “Shh, its okay,” Ryan croons, “we’ll fix it. We’ll fix it Alex, it’ll be okay. Come on, come out of there and we’ll get you a nice warm shower and some clean clothes, and some tea. I think we have peppermint, how about that? It’ll help settle your stomach.”
Ryan sounds so gentle, so kind. He should be fighting, should be screaming and fighting but he’s so scared. His stomach churns again. He turns away from Ryan’s hand and retches again, but all it brings up is bile.
“Oh honey,” Ryan croons again.
“Poor kid,” Nick murmurs. His hand rubs Alex’s shoulder. “Come on, its not far to the house. We’ll take care of you.”
Alex whines as he’s slowly pushed towards Ryan. He hunches his shoulders, tries to cower back, but its inevitable. Ryan’s arms close around him.
Alex yelps and flinches, bracing for a blow, for pain, for–
“Shh, shh, its okay. Dad’s here,” Ryan murmurs, pressing a kiss to Alex’s temple. “Dad’s got you.”
Alex stumbles as his feet are dragged out of the car. His knee sends pain stabbing up his leg and he screams. Its an overreaction for the level of pain, but he’s so scared that for a second he thinks Ryan is fucking killing him.
He struggles, keeping his bad leg off the ground by instinct alone. His feet aren’t numb any more and he can feel the blisters, the scrapes on his arms where the road tore into him.
“Nick,” Ryan grunts, “help me out here. Easy Alex, easy, calm down, its okay. I’m not going to hurt you. We’re just gonna get you inside.”
“No!” Alex wails.
Nick is coming around the other side of the car. Alex sobs and tries to kick him, gasping when his knee complains sharply. Nick walks faster, reaching out as he approaches. “You get the door, I’ll carry him,” he says to Ryan.
“No!” Alex cries again, “No! Don’t! Don’t fucking touch me you fucking assholes! Let me go!” He kicks at Nick, snarling with pain when he actually manages to make contact but it sends white hot agony up his leg.
“He’s hurting himself,” Ryan frets over his shoulder.
“I know, I’m workin’ on it,” Nick says. He grabs Alex by the shoulders and pulls him face first into his chest.
Alex snarls and tries to shove away. Nick is manipulating his arms, pulling his backpack off of his shoulders and forcing Alex’s arms through the straps. It falls to the ground with a heavy, final, thump.
Alex’s breath hitches.
And then he’s off his feet. He gasps, tensing and flailing. His arms latch around the nearest solid object.
Alex stares at him, wide eyed and shocked. He’s cradled in Nick’s arms, his bad leg carefully supported.
“Wh–” Alex croaks.
Nick–Nick fucking smiles down at him. Its a small thing, but its there. “I told you,” he says, “we’re gonna take care of you now.”
Nick doesn’t say anything more, he just follows Ryan through the door. And just like that, Alex is in their house.
Just like that, Alex is fucked.
Do or die, and he didn’t.
He sobs and hides his face in Nick’s chest.
“Put him on the couch,” Ryan says, “I’ll get the first aid kit and put the kettle on.”
Nick grunts. He walks in a steady, even pace that doesn’t jostle Alex, slowing down when he turns, apparently taking the corners carefully so Alex’s feet don’t brush the walls.
He bends down and Alex braces himself to be set on the couch. He has to do…something. He has to try to escape. But god what is the point? His leg is fucked up, he’s in the house.
Nick doesn’t put him down.
He turns and sits, Alex still in his arms.
Hesitantly, Alex raises his head.
Its a normal looking living room. A TV, pictures on the walls, which are painted a soothing shade of green, there’s a soft looking carpet on the floor, an armchair by the couch, a coffee table between them with a book on it.
Alex’s breath shudders. He feels like he’s going to throw up again. A whimper escapes his lips.
“Easy,” Nick murmurs. He reaches up, Alex shies from his hand, but all he does is gently press Alex’s head back down to his chest. “Deep breaths kid, come on. You’re okay. We’re not gonna hurt you. You’re home now.”
No he isn’t.
He doesn’t have a home, and even if he did, it certainly wouldn’t be here.
“Breathe, Alex,” Nick says. “Follow me, okay? Breathe in for four seconds, hold for eight, and let it out for seven, ready?”
Alex shakes his head, trying to pull away but Nick holds him close.
“Come on, its alright. You can do it, I believe in you. You’re so strong Alex, you can do it.”
Alex whimpers and drags in a shaking breath.
“Good,” Nick murmurs, “good job. Come on kid, you can do it. In for four, I’ll count you.”
Alex doesn’t want to listen, doesn’t want to do anything Nick says, but he’s so scared. And Nick is speaking so calmly and gently, his voice is like finding a piece of driftwood in a storm. Alex can’t do anything but cling to it gratefully and follow where it will take him.
The worst part is the breathing actually helps. His heart is finally slowing down, adrenaline fading.
Which means that the aches and pains of his body are making themselves fully apparent. Alex shifts in Nick’s arms and whines when a flash of agony races up his leg.
He reflexively reaches out to cradle his knee, but Nick grabs his wrist. “Easy, don’t touch it, we’ll see what’s wrong with it. You might be in a brace for a bit, that pothole really took you out.” Alex sniffles and pulls his hand back, and thankfully, Nick lets him.
A moment later he tenses as a rushed clatter comes down the hall.
“Ryan,” Nick says, “I thought you were getting the first aid kit not robbing a hospital.”
Ryan scoffs and Alex buries his face in Nick’s chest again as he approaches. He doesn’t want to see. He doesn’t want to know what Ryan has brought, what he’s going to do to Alex. He just wants to sit here in the darkness and the warmth and float.
“I just–I just wanted to be sure. Is he okay? Is he…is he asleep?” Ryan’s voice starts out high and stressed, but then drops to almost reverent quiet.
“No,” Nick says, “but he’s probably exhausted himself.”
Alex shudders and presses his face deeper into the dark, as if he could hide.
“Oh,” Ryan breathes softly, “I’m sorry darling. You can’t go to sleep yet, we have to take care of you. I got you some clothes, you can go take a nice warm shower.”
Nick grunts dubiously. “I’m not sure his leg would last him that long. We may have to just get him in dry clothes and stick him in front of the heater.”
“My poor baby,” Ryan whispers. Alex tenses. He isn’t a baby, but more pressingly, Ryan sounds close. He stiffens as a hand touches his hair. Too soft and small to be Nick’s. “My poor baby boy, I’m so sorry, I’m so sorry Alex. I’ll fix it. I’ll make it all better. Its okay, dad’s here now.”
He sounds like he’s about to start fucking crying.
“Ryan,” Nick says softly, “take it easy. He fell down and scraped his knee. He’ll be okay.”
“Gods,” Ryan rasps, “I finally got him home and he’s hurt Nick. I was right there, I should have–”
“None of us saw how deep that pothole was,” Nick says, soothingly calm. “If you want you can go yell at some receptionist at city hall about it, but Alex’s gonna be okay. We can’t go back and fix it, we can just fix him up now. So let’s get him some dry clothes and take a look at what we’re dealing with, alright?”
“Okay,” Ryan says, sounding shaky, “okay.” He takes a deep breath. “I’ll get him some shorts so we can see his knee better.”
“That’s a good idea,” Nick says.
Alex feels like he should probably be, at the very least, wary of this, but now that the panic is gone, he is far too numb to pull up any emotion but a dull sort of uncertainty.
He wants to sleep, but he is too hurt and too cold to do it. He wants to sleep and wake up to all of this having been one really fucking weird dream, but he doesn’t think he’s going to get that.
“Okay,” Ryan says, his voice still a bit choked and shaky, “okay I’ll go get a pair. Alex? Sweetheart? Do you want red? Or black?”
“Just grab a pair Ryan, he’s probably settling into some nice shock right about now. He’s not gonna care about color.”
“Oh, okay,” Ryan says, and then his steps hastily retreat.
Nick sighs. Alex tenses as he leans forward, and a pill bottle rattles. “C’mon kid, lets get you some painkillers.”
Alex shakes his head. He’s not letting them drug him. No way is this guy just giving him painkillers.
“Its ibuprofen, kid,” Nick says. “I promise.”
Alex shakes his head again.
“Just look at the bottle,” Nick prompts, nudging Alex with his arm.
Alex reluctantly cracks open an eye. Nick is holding the bottle in front of him, and it…looks like the same sort of one Walter had. He bites his lip.
Nick braces the bottle and uses one hand to open it and tilts it, showing Alex the brick-red pills inside.
“See? Same thing as what the picture has,” Nick says, showing him the front of the bottle.
It does look like the same thing.
“Hold out your hand,” Nick commands, and automatically, Alex obeys. Two little round pills are deposited in his palm.
“Do you need a drink?” Nick asks, then grunts, “probably ought to get you one anyway. Bet your mouth tastes like shit, huh?”
He starts to move and Alex’s leg flares with pain. He whimpers and Nick stops.
“Sorry kid,” he says softly and Alex decides that its not like him being drugged would change anything about the situation. Except maybe it would at least let him pass the fuck out.
He swallows the pills dry.
“Well, okay,” Nick snorts softly. “That works. Good job.”
Motion catches Alex’s eye and he flinches, turning to find Ryan rushing back down the hall towards them. There’s a pile of black cloth held tightly in his hands. “Okay,” he says. “I got them.” he stops by the coffee table and gathers up more clothes.
Alex finally registers that Ryan did, indeed bring way more medical supplies than anyone could reasonably need. There are fucking needles there, and packets labeled “suture thread” Alex doesn’t need fucking stitches.
Oh fuck he hopes not.
He squeezes his eyes shut.
Nick stands again, slowly, carefully, and Alex hisses as pain spikes through his leg, but its not as bad as last time. “Hand it here, I’ll take him to the other room.”
Alex’s breath hitches. What other room? What’s there? Is that going to be his cell? Is it down in the basement or something? His heart flutters. He’s never liked small dark spaces, especially without windows. Not after that one foster house.
Nick sets him down on the edge of the bed and Alex blinks open his eyes. They didn’t go down any stairs, and the room looks…like a normal bedroom. For some random kid.
There are pictures and posters on the walls–painted a soothing blue–the bed has a red comforter on it, thick and soft under Alex’s hands. There’s a desk by the door with some sort of fucking shrine on it, guarded by a stuffed cow.
“Here,” Nick says, handing him a pile of clothes. Alex numbly takes them, and Nick turns.
But he doesn’t leave.
“Get changed,” he says, staring fixedly at the closed door.
“Get…” Alex rasps, “get out.”
“No, I’ll turn around but I’m not leaving so you can try to find some escape route. You’re not limping around on that leg until we look at it, you’ll hurt yourself.”
Alex swallows hard.
To be fair, he was planning on that, but he doesn’t really feel like being fair to the guy who fucking kidnapped him. But also, there isn’t much he can do about this.
He takes a shaky breath and pulls his hoodie over his head. For a split second, he considers throwing the wet cloth at Nick, but he’s not a fucking idiot. No adult would let him get away with that kind of shit, let alone a fucking kidnapper. Instead he lets it fall wetly to the floor. His shirt follows after, and he sorts through the pile of clothes for a new one.
Admittedly, it does feel better to have dry clothes on. But his skin still crawls at the touch of the fabric. Its his size.
Perfectly his size.
Alex bites down on a whimper.
Nick is still standing there, apparently content to do so for the rest of time. Alex doesn’t trust that though, tempers tend to be short around him.
He bends down and carefully pulls off his shoes. His feet look pale and wrinkly and small against the carpet. He curls his toes. There’s definitely a fresh crop of blisters on his heels. Great.
Getting his pants off is a fucking challenge, even sitting on the bed, his knee screams with pain every time he moves. When he can finally see it, it looks swollen, and the other knee is black and blue with deep bruises.
His elbows and forearms aren’t much better. The smaller scrapes have scabbed over now, but there are a few deeper ones still bleeding sluggishly.
Alex wrinkles his nose and pulls on the shorts. There’s a pair of thick socks left in the pile, but some of the blisters have already popped and Alex doesn’t want to fuck with his knee any more.
He crosses his arms over his chest and bites his lip.
Nick is still there, still waiting. His hands folded together like he’s some sort of fucking secret service agent guarding the president. Where did this guy come from?
He’s strong, he’s not at all shaky or nervous like Ryan is. He seems perfectly calm, like he’s kidnapped a bunch of teenagers in his time. Ryan also seemed to listen to him.
Ryan might have been driving the car, but Nick is the mastermind. He’s the one Alex has to be careful of. He’ll be the problem if Alex is going to escape.
Alex takes a shaky breath.
He’s going to escape. He will.
But right now he can’t even walk. His only hope is to keep them from killing him until his knee is better. They keep saying they’re not going to hurt him, that they’re going to take care of him.
Ryan, for some god forsaken reason, called himself Alex’s dad. Called Alex his baby.
Alex’s gut swoops.
But he can use that.
He just has to trick them into thinking that he’s not going to escape. Get them to lower their guard.
Which means he has to play along.
“You done?” Nick asks.
He licks his lips nervously. “Yeah.” His voice is quiet and shaky.
Nick turns slowly and sweeps his gaze over Alex, hunched on the bed. “Good. Let’s go get those injuries taken care of.”
He takes a step closer and Alex tenses, leaning back, his palm on the bed, ready to push himself away.
“Easy kid,” Nick murmurs, holding his hands up in surrender. “We’re just gonna go back out to the livingroom. We’ll clean up your scrapes, and that might sting a bit, and put some ice on your knee, but that’s it. We’re not going to hurt you.”
Alex shivers and pulls his good leg up to his chest.
“It’ll be okay,” Nick says, and then his arms are wrapping carefully around Alex again. Alex stiffens and whimpers, bracing. “Come on,” Nick says, gently nudging him back towards the edge of the bed. “I’ll let you walk if you lean on me and don’t put weight on your bad leg.”
Alex hesitantly nods and Nick adjusts his grip so that Alex is clinging to one of his massive arms. Its slow going, but Nick does let him walk out to the livingroom.
Ryan is pacing there. The medical supplies have been laid out….neatly is an understatement. They’ve been methodically organized. Sorted into categories and categories into strict lines.
Ryan freezes mid turn when he sees Alex and Nick coming. A shaky breath escapes him. “Nick should he be–” He takes a step closer, his hands reaching out. “His leg–”
Alex shies back and nearly puts weight on his bad leg, but Nick catches him. “He’s fine, I told him he could walk if he was careful. Move, let us get to the couch and we’ll deal with his other injuries.”
Ryan wrings his hands together, darting out of the way. Alex flinches at the sharp movement.
“Steady,” Nick says, Alex isn’t sure which one of them he’s talking to.
At least Ryan freezes, clenching his hands together again and backing a little further away. “Its okay sweetheart, I’m not–I’d never hurt you. Ever. I swear Alex.” He sounds like he’s going to cry again.
“Ryan, calm down, he’s pretty spooked right now. Give him time to settle in. He’ll be scared of us for a good while.”
“I know,” Ryan says softly, watching Alex with longing eyes. “Its okay Alex, it’ll be okay.”
Alex looks away from him, his gut churning.
Nick guides him over to the couch and presses him down to the cushions. “Let’s get this dealt with then,” he says, sitting on the coffee table. “Arms first.” He holds out a hand.
Alex pulls his arms close to his chest warily.
“Come on kid, those cuts are gonna get infected,” Nick says. He leans forward, folding his hands together and letting them dangle between his knees. He catches Alex’s eye. “I know you’re scared, I know you’re stressed and overwhelmed and you don’t trust us yet. We’ll give you a break as soon as we’re done with this, okay? I’ll be as quick and gentle as I can.”
Alex shivers and looks away, but that just brings his gaze to Ryan, lingering over Nick’s shoulder. He straightens when he realizes Alex is looking at him. “It’ll be okay baby,” he says, taking a deep breath and visibly getting control of himself. “Nick won’t hurt you. I promise. I’m right here, I’ll keep you safe.”
Alex doesn’t know what Ryan thinks he’s gonna do against the goddamn walking tank. At the very least, maybe he can pit them against each other in the future as a distraction.
Nick reaches for his arm again, and Alex doesn’t give it over, but he doesn’t pull away either. Nick’s hand fucking dwarfs his wrist when it wraps around it, pulling his arm away from his body and turning his forearm over to bare the injuries.
“Oh, Alex,” Ryan gasps softly, “that looks like it hurts.”
Alex looks down at the couch.
“Hand me the hydrogen peroxide,” Nick commands.
“Right, right,” Ryan says and his footsteps approach.
A bottle sloshes. “I’m gonna put this on your arm,” Nick says, “its going to sting, but that’s all. Do you want to look at the bottle and make sure its okay?”
Alex flicks a glance to him.
Nick holds out the bottle.
It’s the usual brown, the label says hydrogen peroxide. It smells like it too. Alex swallows and looks away again.
“Alright,” Nick says. “Here we go.”
Alex tenses at the cold brush of the rag, and then hisses through his teeth when the stinging follows as promised. Ryan gasps too, as though he’s the one who has been injured.
“Can I just–” he asks quietly.
“Don’t touch him,” Nick says, “or crowd too close, but you can sit on the couch.”
Not a moment later, the cushions sink as new weight is added. He shrinks away warily.
“Easy,” Nick says calmly, “you’re alright. We’re almost done with this arm.” He passes the rag over one of the longer scrapes and a whimper of pain escapes Alex’s chest.
“Nick,” Ryan says anxiously.
“I know, I know. Its alright. I know it hurts kid, I’m sorry.”
A dry sob leaves Alex’s lips.
“Technically,” Nick says, “you’re not supposed to use this sort of stuff on an injury. It can damage healthy cells.” His voice is steady and calm, informative, its easy to latch onto. “But that road was dirty as fuck, so I’m risking it, after this we’ll only use soap and water to clean it though, okay? You just need to get through this time. You’re doing great. We’ve already got one done.”
Nick lets go of his arm and grabs the other.
“You are,” Ryan chimes in hesitantly. “You’re doing so good Alex. You’re being so brave.”
The springs creak as he shifts his weight.
Alex’s lungs freeze as he senses Ryan leaning closer.
“Ryan,” Nick warns, “I know you want to help, but he’s really overwhelmed right now. Back off a bit.”
Tears burn in Alex’s eyes.
“I’m sorry,” Ryan says softly. “I’m sorry Alex.”
“Its alright,” Nick says, “why don’t you go get some ice for his knee? That’s what we’re dealing with after his arms.”
“Okay,” Ryan agrees, his voice choked.
“Alex, I’m gonna do your other arm now, its just a sting.”
Alex shudders and nods, squeezing his eyes shut.
“You’re doing good kid,” Nick says gently. “You’re doing really good. Just keep breathing, nice and deep, just like that. You remember the count? In for four, hold for eight, out for seven. I’m gonna start now, just breathe.”
He counts Alex’s breaths, and again Alex can’t help but follow the guidance of his voice. He’s trembling again. He’s felt pain much worse than this, but combined with everything else that has happened, its too much. Even the cloth of the rag feels agonizingly abrasive.
Eventually, his arm is released, and Alex is guided to lay back on the couch. His bad knee propped on a pillow and something cold settled on it.
So softly he could almost think he’d imagined it, someone touches his forehead, brushing back his wet hair.
“I love you,” Ryan whispers softly, “I love you so much Alex. I’m gonna do better this time. I swear.”
“Ryan,” Nick says softly. “Come on, we’ve got to get rid of his backpack and clothes.”
“What’ll you do with them?” Ryan whispers.
“Clothes we’ll burn, backpack is going in the river. Its along his route, and its flooded at the moment. The police will assume he fell in. Simple as that.”
“Gods,” Ryan’s voice is shaky, “don’t even say that.”
“He’s right here Ryan. He’s home, he’s okay. Keep an eye on him while I’m gone.”
“Right, right. Thank you, Nick.”
“Don’t worry about it.”
“No,” Ryan says, “no really. I mean it. Without you I would never have–I’d never have found him again. I’d never have gotten him home.”
“That’s what family does,” Nick says.
Maybe Alex should be worried about that. Maybe he should be horrified that the police aren’t even going to be looking for him because they think he’s dead.
But he’s so tired.
He’s so tired and he feels wrung out. Its easier to just fall asleep.
If you enjoy my writing and want to support me, check out my Ko-fi!