Eight Years Later
1:00:00 blinks to 00:59:59 and Nick steps out of the room.
Alex’s hour has begun.
The first thing he does is grab the fucking timer. Nick will probably have one of his own, because he seems a smart fucker like that, but at the very least Alex will get a few extra seconds if he keeps his timer from going off. A few extra seconds could be the difference between…
Life and death? He isn’t sure. He was left to wake up on his own time, he was given breakfast, and now he’s being given a chance to try and escape. They haven’t made any aggressive moves, unless you count Ryan starting to cry every five seconds as threatening. Which Alex firmly does not. Its just weird. And annoying. And weird. Very weird.
Captivity and freedom, maybe. Alex limps down the hall. The front door is locked, so is the back, he’s not even going to try those. He’s got limited time, and Nick is fucking smart. He’ll have covered all the obvious and logical escape routes.
Jokes on him, Alex doesn’t fuck with that logic shit.
He has no doubt that if he breaks a window or otherwise finds a noisy way to get out, the deal will be off. He has to find a subtle escape route. Something a nine foot tall walking tank wouldn’t think of.
So Alex thinks small.
Air vents are out, he knows how small those are in residential houses, he’s stashed food and shit in them, but they’re not big enough to fit him. There’s no dog door–everyone forgets about those, and they make easy ways to sneak in and out if you’re small enough.
Its a one storey house, but there is an attic. Alex stares at the staircase leading up to it. Fuck this is going to hurt and eat up a lot of his time. Goddamn it.
Hopefully there will be something up there he can use though. He takes a deep breath and starts climbing. He’ll need his crutch once he gets up there, but using that thing on the fucking stairs is a nightmare. Easier to hook it over his shoulder and go up on all fours.
It doesn’t matter. He hops up the stairs on his hands and one foot.
The attic door is locked.
Fuck why didn’t he think of that. Alex jiggles the lock, tries to stick his fingernail in the keyhole and turn it–sometimes shitty old locks have shitty old pins, but not this one, of course.
Alex shoves the door with his shoulder, but it opens the wrong way for that to work. Fuck.
He sits on his butt and scoots back down the stairs.
Ryan and Nick are sitting at the table. Ryan looks like he’s crying again, of course. He’s trying to squeeze the life out of Nick’s hand again.
Alex is perfectly aware that them sitting at the table means that they can see into the kitchen. His chances of sneaking a knife are zilch.
He limps past them as quickly as he can and keeps looking.
He’s looking for something–anything–in the livingroom when he hears it. A faint thunk, like a car door closing.
His heart skips a beat.
Someone is out there. Its not Ryan or Nick, he would have heard them.
Oh shit this is his chance.
Someone knocks on the door.
Alex sucks in a huge breath, ready to scream his head off. Fuck, fuck, this is his chance. This is his chance.
A massive hand wraps around his mouth.
He screams, but its muffled, he’s hauled off his feet by impossibly strong arms. Nick.
No, no, no, no, no! Alex thrashes, his crutch falls to the ground with a clatter, he kicks, ignoring the flashes of pain from his bad knee. Nick squeezes him tighter.
“Stop,” he says, his voice low and stern, right next to Alex’s ear.
Alex freezes on instinct. Oh fuck. Nick’s been nothing but calm and steady, but now he sounds tense, dangerous.
“Ryan,” Nick says, “get the door. Make them go away.”
Ryan is standing at the edge of the kitchen, his hands fluttering nervously, his eyes darting from Alex, to Nick, to the door. He nods, swallowing hard and he rushes towards the door.
Nick drags Alex back, towards his room. Alex grunts and thrashes.
“Enough,” Nick snaps, “Alex. Stop.”
Alex freezes again. Fuck he sounds–well, not angry. Tense. Its terrifying when he could very easily kill Alex right here and now. A tiny whimper escapes his throat.
“Shh, its alright, take it easy,” Nick murmurs, back to that calm voice, but there’s a thread of steel under it. “You’re alright, you’re gonna be fine. Just be quiet.”
He shuts the door to Alex’s room, but he doesn’t let go.
Faintly, he can hear Ryan talking, someone replying.
He catches his name.
He gasps and tenses, but Nick tightens his grip. “Don’t,” he warns, “don’t fight me Alex. Just be still. Keep quiet. Everything is alright.”
No, no this is his chance. This is his only chance. Someone is looking for him. Someone is looking for him here. It has to be the police, Walter reported him missing, and they’re looking for him.
Alex sinks his teeth into Nick’s hand, biting as hard as he can. Nick grunts quietly, but he doesn’t take his hand away. Fuck. Fuck. No, no, no, this has to work. Alex has to get a message to them. He stomps on Nick’s foot, still nothing.
The more he fights and loses, the more punishment he’s going to have to face if he doesn’t get rescued right fucking now.
Alex twists and snarls, shouting, muffled as it is by Nick’s hand. This has to work, it has to work. They have to find him!
Tears fall down his cheeks.
“I know,” Nick murmurs, his thumb strokes Alex’s cheek. “I know kid, its alright. You’re alright. Everything is gonna be fine.”
No it fucking isn’t.
Alex kicks feebly, trying to knock something over. Make some sort of noise, alert whoever is out there that there’s something going on inside. Please, please, don’t leave me here.
The front door closes.
Alex sobs, slumping in Nick’s arms.
That was his chance.
That was his only fucking chance.
“Its alright Alex,” Nick murmurs, his grip relaxing, but he doesn’t let Alex go yet. “You’re okay. Here, let’s sit down, here you go.” He steps over to the bed and sits down, Alex tucked close to his side, his hand still over his mouth. “Just breathe kid, its alright. You’re alright. I’m not gonna hurt you.”
Alex sobs and shakes his head. Fucking liar.
The bedroom door opens and Alex flinches.
“Nick–” Ryan croaks.
“Fuck,” Nick mutters.
Ryan enters the room and he looks–he looks bad. He looks like someone just told him–Alex doesn’t even know. He looks shaken to the fucking core.
His eyes land on Alex and he falls to his knees. A desperate, wounded, animal noise escapes him. Like he just got stabbed in the fucking gut. Who the fuck was at the door?
Nick’s arms finally release him.
Alex is too stunned to take advantage of it. He falls back on the bed as Nick rushes to Ryan’s side. In a second he’s on his knees next to him, pulling him close, his head tucked under Nick’s chin.
“Breathe, Ryan, breathe,” Nick murmurs, “tell me what’s wrong. What happened? You gotta give me something old man, come on.”
“It–” Ryan chokes out, “it was the police. They’re–they’re looking for Alex. They’re gonna take him. They’re gonna take my baby away again. I can’t–I can’t Nick I can’t lose him, please–”
“Shh, shh, no. They’re not gonna take him Ryan. They’re not going to take him, he’s right here, see? He’s here, he’s safe. We found him.”
Alex flinches as Ryan’s eyes lock onto him. Like a starving man seeing a feast.
Ryan reaches a trembling hand for him. “Alex, Alex baby, please, please I–sweetheart–my son. My son.”
“Easy Ryan,” Nick murmurs, “he’s pretty spooked too. Its okay, you’re both okay.”
What the fuck.
Ryan is a fucking wreck, Alex feels one step away from having another panic attack or just giving in and going crazy like the rest of these fuckers. That was his chance. That was the police. They were looking for him, and they didn’t find him.
Maybe they’re still close by. Maybe there’s neighbors close enough to hear him. He has to–
He lunges for the door. His bad knee shrieks with agony as his weight lands on it and he falls. He screams, half in pain and half in desperation for someone, anyone to hear him.
“Help me! Someone help me! Somebody plea–”
Nick’s hand claps over his mouth again and he’s hauled up off the floor. “Nobody’s gonna hear you. Stop, just stop, its okay.”
Alex snarls and bites his hand again. He tastes blood and Nick inhales sharply. “Gods damn it,” he mutters.
“Alex, Alex baby, its okay,” Ryan says desperately.
This is all his fucking fault.
Alex kicks at him, he doesn’t fucking care. He just wants to hurt them, to make them let him fucking go.
“Kid calm down,” Nick says warningly, but Alex is beyond warnings. Fuck them, fuck them both, he wants to kill them. He wants to tear them apart. He’s done, he’s fucking done.
“Ryan get my bag,” Nick commands.
“Do it now,” Nick snaps.”He’ll be alright, I just need–no, other bottle, yes. Pour some of it on a rag.”
“Nick he’s–” Ryan chokes out.
“He’ll be fine,” Nick says. “Do it.”
Ryan sobs hoarsely and then Nick’s grip is shifting. His hand is off of Alex’s mouth. He sucks in a huge breath, ready to scream.
A rag is clapped over his nose and mouth. Something sweet fills his lungs. The world lurches to a halt, like a speeding bus with the brakes thrown. Alex hangs limp in Nick’s arms, trying to process. Everything seems so slow now.
He was upset. He was really upset, but now that seems like a lot of work.
He blinks slowly. Every time he breathes in, he smells something really sweet. Like candy flowers. Its nice. Its kind of hard to breathe with the rag over his face though.
Thankfully Nick takes it away. Slowly, cautiously. Like he’s expecting Alex to do something. Should Alex be doing something?
“What did you do to him?” Ryan demands, he sounds really upset. Scared and kind of mad.
“Its just something to calm him down,” Nick says, and he lays Alex down on the bed. Oh that’s nice, its soft. “He’s alright. Look, come see.”
Alex opens his eyes–they’re so heavy–in time to see Ryan come to Nick’s side.
“Alex?” he asks hesitantly, “sweetheart? Are you okay?”
Yeah, he’s fine. He feels good, actually. Calm. He never feels this calm, he’s always worried about something. This is great.
“Alex?” Ryan asks again, oh he sounds worried. Maybe he should have some candy flowers too. A hand touches Alex’s cheek. “Talk to me baby, say something, please sweetheart, please.”
Oh he sounds really sad.
Alex leans into his hand.
“M’kay,” he says softly. Oh, his throat hurts.
Ryan gasps softly and strokes Alex’s cheek. “Yeah?” he asks breathlessly, “you’re okay?”
Ryan’s hand strokes his hair, carefully, hesitantly, it feels nice. Alex hums and leans into the touch. “Oh,” Ryan whispers. “Oh. Hi baby. Hi sweetheart.”
Alex opens his eyes. “Hi?”
Ryan laughs, but he’s crying again. “Hi sweetheart, hello. You’re okay, dad’s here now. Dad’s got you.” He sits on the edge of the bed. “Do you wanna come here?”
Alex hums vaguely, and Ryan apparently takes that as a yes, because he gently–so gently–wraps his arms around him and lays Alex’s head in his lap.
He cups Alex’s cheek, looking down at him with tears in his eyes. “I love you so much,” he says softly. “So much Alex.”
Well that’s really nice of him.
Alex smiles and leans into his hand.
Ryan sobs softly. He seems really upset.
“Ryan,” Nick says, and he sounds gentle, like he’s approaching a wounded animal. “You said the police were at the door.”
Ryan tenses. “They’re looking for Alex. You said they wouldn’t look for him. You said they’d think he fell in the river and–and drowned. They’re looking for him.”
“What exactly did they say?” Nick asks.
Ryan brushes back Alex’s hair. “They were asking if I’d seen him, or any other kids around. Asked if he’d come through.”
“They didn’t ask if you’d seen anyone else though?” Nick asks.
Nick sighs, “they think he’s a runaway. They must not have checked the river yet, or the bag got washed too far downstream. They don’t know, they’re not gonna find him Ryan, its alright. They’re just more incompetent than I thought. Everything’s fine. We’ll get out of here soon, head back home. He’ll be safe there.”
Oh, are they going somewhere?
Ryan takes a shaky breath. “Okay. Okay. I’m sorry. I’m sorry for snapping at you.”
“No, its okay,” Nick murmurs, “you were stressed. If I knew who was at the door I never would have made you talk to them. I’m sorry you had to.”
A shadow falls over Alex and he opens his eyes to see Nick standing over him, cupping Ryan’s cheek in his hand.
“Its alright,” he says, “I promised you we’d get him back, and we have.”
“He’s so scared of us,” Ryan says softly. He tangles his fingers into Alex’s hair. “I just want my baby back. I want him to be happy. I want him home.”
“I know,” Nick says, “its gonna be a process Ryan. Think about it from his point of view. He got snatched off the street by a couple strangers. He doesn’t remember you. We’ll show him that we’re not a threat, he’ll see how much you love him. It’ll all work out if you give it time.”
“Its been thirteen years,” Ryan chokes out. “How much more time do I have to lose?” He presses his forehead to Nick’s chest.
“I don’t know Ryan,” Nick murmurs, “I don’t know.”
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