Someone approaches the door.
Alex is curled up on the bed, pressed as close to the headboard as he can get. The drugs have thoroughly worn off.
And now they’ve come for him. To punish him for what he did when the police came. When he missed his only fucking chance.
“Hello Alex,” Nick says through the wood, “I’d like to talk, if that’s okay with you.”
Which is? Not what Alex expects him to say?
He sounds calm and steady, not angry, but maybe he’s just really good at masking it.
“May I open the door?” Nick asks.
What fucking game is this? Alex stares at the door, terrified and confused. What is he supposed to do?
“Okay,” Nick says, “I’ll come check on you in a little bit.”
And then he..? Walks away?
Alex stares at the door, waiting for Nick to come bursting in, declaring that was Alex’s last chance and now he has fucked up irreparably and he has to die.
His footsteps retreat further down the hall. Faintly, Alex can hear Ryan say something, Nick answers. A moment later, something starts playing on the TV.
Alex listens to the TV for several long minutes. Nothing else happens out there.
Slowly, his heartbeat calms. The adrenaline fades.
Its just Alex, sitting alone.
He looks around the room. His crutch has appeared by the side of the bed, leaning innocently against the wall.
What are they doing? Why are they doing this? What is this?
Is this…his hour? There’s no timer, but he still had thirty minutes when the knock came from the door. Can he even leave this room?
Shakily, Alex drags himself over to the edge of the bed and gets the crutch. He winces with every click and creak of his path to the door, but the TV keeps playing. There are no footsteps rushing towards his door.
He touches the handle, its cool under his hand. He slowly turns the handle, expecting at any moment to feel the resistance of the lock.
It never happens.
Alex takes a deep breath and opens the door.
The TV is louder. He can hear Ryan crying again, Nick murmuring to him.
No, no, no no no, its too much. He shuts the door again, as quietly as he can. His heart is racing, his chest heaving. He can’t go out there. Not with them right there.
He’ll just–He’ll just see if he can find anything in here.
There isn’t much. Alex scans over the room and his eyes catch on something in the shadows. A window. Oh fuck, a window.
Alex limps over to it and pulls aside the curtains. There’s something pushed in front of it from the outside, or maybe its just plain boarded over. Alex bites his lip and flicks a glance to the door.
The TV is still playing.
He takes a deep breath and reaches for the window locks. They flip open slowly. His heart surges.
Okay, keep calm. Don’t fuck up now and alert them.
Alex braces his crutch and pulls on the bottom of the window. It eases up an inch, another. Something squeaks.
Fuck, fuck, fuck, fuck.
He freezes, hardly daring to breathe.
The TV keeps playing. There are no footsteps.
Alex lets out a slow, shaky breath. He pulls the window up another inch. It squeaks a tiny bit, but its quiet. Alex takes a deep breath and keeps working at it.
Inch by agonizing inch, he opens the window.
He bites down a giddy laugh. Okay, there’s one part done. He just needs to get whatever is in front of the window off and then he’s free. He touches the material. Wood, good, thick wood, not fucking plywood or some shit.
That’s not fucking ideal.
Alex shoves at it. It doesn’t budge an inch.
Maybe there’s something else in the room he can use.
There’s a shelf of books, Alex ignores all of the familiar titles with a swoop in his stomach. The shrine on the desk has been reassembled. The toy bear seems to be missing, but the pictures are there. Phi’s wedding photo, the family picture with the other kid…Chris, the picture of the other Alex’s birth.
Its only been thirteen years since that picture–presumably–but Ryan looks like he’s aged forty since then. The man in the picture is clean shaven, his face unlined, his hair tied neatly back. He looks like Someone. One of those big shot types that carry around brief cases and yell at coffee shop employees.
The Ryan Alex knows doesn’t look like he’d even be brave enough to order coffee in the first place. He’s got a sad, scruffy beard, wrinkles on his face.
Alex turns away from that picture. There’s another one that Ryan didn’t show him at the table. Chris and the baby, Chris is beaming, a gap-toothed grin. Someone is helping him hold the other Alex in his lap. The bear toy is beside them, newer and unworn. Like Ryan.
Alex could, Alex should try breaking the glass from the photo frames. Maybe he would get a shard big enough to use as a weapon. He picks up the picture of the whole family, smiling happily together.
He swallows and puts it back down.
Even if he could get a good shard, they’d know he had it immediately. Even if he could sneak it by them, its not like he could actually do anything with it. Nick is probably made out of fucking steel and if Alex hurts Ryan he imagines Nick will be fucking pissed.
Alex turns away from the pictures.
There isn’t much else in the room. Just the bed and the desk and the bookshelf and the window. There’s no way out. Except the door.
Yeah, Alex’s not doing that.
He doesn’t risk closing the window again, he just pulls the curtains over it. Its not like any air or light is getting in from there anyway, they won’t be able to tell the difference.
He sits on the bed again.
The TV is still playing.
Alex picks at the scabs on his arms, pokes the blisters on his feet, prods his knee. Yeah, all that shit still fucking hurts.
He could go out there. Try to sneak by them.
….yeah that’s not gonna fucking happen.
Alex limps over to the bookshelf and grabs something at random. All of it is shit he likes anyway.
He takes a deep breath.
Its hard to focus on reading with the fear for his life hanging over his head, but at least its something he’s read before, so he can keep up with the story.
Footsteps approach the door.
The book slips out of Alex’s hands, falling with a quiet thump to the mattress. His heart races.
“Alex?” Nick says through the door. “Do you feel up to talking yet?”
No, he really fucking doesn’t, but that probably doesn’t matter much. Nick already gave him a stay of execution.
“Its up to you kid,” Nick says, “I’ll go watch another movie with Ryan.”
His footsteps start to retreat.
“Wait,” Alex croaks before he can think better of it. He can’t take waiting more. He can’t sit here in the quiet, waiting for them to do whatever they’re going to do to him.
“May I open the door?” Nick asks.
Why the fuck is he asking that? Its his fucking door. He’s got the goddamn key to the thing.
“I’m not coming in unless you tell me I can kid. If you want to have this conversation through the door, we can, but I’d like to have it face to face.”
Alex’s almost tempted to take him up on that. Just to see if he’d really go through with it. He doubts it, and he imagines that trying his luck would just piss Nick off more.
He takes a shaky breath. In for four, hold for seven, out for eight.
“You can come in.”
“Thank you,” Nick says, not sarcastically, like Alex would have expected. It sounds genuine.
The handle turns, Alex tenses. The door opens.
“Hello,” Nick says quietly.
Alex curls his good leg up to his chest, the bad one stays laid out on the bed, but he can’t really help that. They’d left him an extra pillow to prop it up on, but that’s on the floor now.
“May I sit?” Nick asks, motioning to the chair with a slow motion.
Alex nods. What the fuck else is he going to do?
Nick sits down. “Thank you,” he says again, still genuine. He takes a deep breath, and Alex finds himself mimicking it. Nick folds down, elbows on knees. “I owe you an apology.”
…Beg fucking pardon?
“I frightened you, and touched you without your permission, and drugged you,” Nick says, like Alex wasn’t fucking there. “And for that I apologize.”
Oh, okay, Alex has finally snapped, that’s what this is. That makes sense.
“You don’t have to forgive me,” Nick says, “I understand that you’re angry and frightened, and you deserve to be. In the future, circumstances willing, I will do my best to never do that again.”
Alex’s delusions are kind of boring, compared to Ryan’s. Ryan has a whole fucking government conspiracy or some shit, Alex’s brain has apparently decided that an apology is good enough. Lame.
“If you’d like, you can still have your hour, we’ll reset the timer.”
“What?” Alex croaks. “That wasn’t–” he motions jerkily to the door, where the TV is still playing.
“No, Alex,” Nick says gently. “You weren’t ready to talk then, so we didn’t. You deserve some time to calm down and process what happened. If you don’t feel up to coming out of your room, that’s okay. You can take as much time as you need. If you’re still not ready at lunch, Ryan will bring you something.”
“What–are you doing?” Alex asks, he scoots closer to the headboard. “What is this? You can’t trick me.”
But Nick can, because Alex doesn’t see what the fucking trick is. What’s the point of this?
“Its not a trick, Alex,” Nick says, steady and calm. He’s always so fucking calm. “This is just open, honest communication. That’s the sort of relationship I’d like to have with you. I don’t want to threaten you or frighten you. I want you to be able to trust me.”
“You fucking kidnapped me,” Alex says, part of him wants to scream it, but it comes out as a hoarse whisper.
“Yes,” Nick agrees. “I’m sorry we had to do things that way, but Ryan and I aren’t exactly registered foster parents.” He offers a hint of a wry smile.
What the fuck is going on? What is this?
“Would you like to ask me some questions, Alex?” Nick asks, “I’ll answer them. Or would you like me to leave?”
Alex opens his mouth, but stops himself from telling Nick to leave. He wants this to stop. Stop being weird, stop being confusing.
But he needs answers.
He takes a deep breath. “Why me?”
“You’re Ryan’s son,” Nick says simply. “You were taken from him when you were two months old, and he’s been trying to get you back ever since.” He takes a deep breath. “He was a lawyer, and he didn’t take a bribe from a politician, and that politician ruined his life in revenge. He killed Toni, and had you and your brother taken from Ryan’s custody.”
Well that sounds fucking insane.
“What if–what if you’re wrong. What if I’m the wrong kid?” Alex dares to ask, his voice trembling.
“But what if you were?”
Alex grits his teeth and looks away.
“We did a paternity test,” Nick says.
“We got your DNA from some chewing gum, Ryan’s was easy enough to get too, obviously. Do you want to see the results?” Without waiting for an answer, Nick shifts and pulls a folded piece of paper out of his pocket. “Here.” he tosses it gently and it lands on the corner of the bed.
Alex stares at it like its a fucking snake. It looks worn, the creases of the folds well established, like its been folded and unfolded a hundred times.
They know his fucking toothpaste brand, it would be nothing for them to get some DNA, he’s sure.
He reaches out with a slow, shaking hand. He picks up the paper. Unfolds it.
There are two columns. One labeled child, the other alleged father.
There’s a lot of numbers listed in them, a bunch of them are circled, and there are checkmarks on the far side of the rows. There’s two lines of text at the bottom.
Probability of Paternity: 99.9998%
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