“I just wanted one simple thing,” Walter snarls, “just one! Alex! One thing! And do you know what you did?”
“I’m sorry,” Alex whimpers, stumbling back until he hits the wall. “I tried! I’m sorry Walter!”
“Sorry?” Walter laughs incredulously, “you’re sorry? Do you think that’s what I want to hear, Alex? More stupid fucking excuses?”
Alex’s breath hitches around a sob and he whimpers high in his throat. “I didn’t–”
“Shut up!” Walter roars, looming over him, his hand raised.
Alex shrieks and scrambles back, blankets tangle around his legs, his knee hurts, he falls to the ground and desperately crawls back. Walter pursues him, his hands raised, his blue eyes flashing.
“Please, please, I’m sorry, I’m sorry,” Alex gasps, he raises his hands, shielding his head, “I’ll do better, I swear I’ll do better.”
“You always say that,” Walter snarls.”You know how I feel about liars, Alex.”
Alex whimpers and curls up on the floor. “I’m not lying, I’m not lying, I swear. I swear Walter, I’m sorry, I swear I’ll do better, please don’t hurt me.”
“Sorry isn’t good enough,” Walter hisses.
Hands touch him and Alex whimpers, but they don’t hit, they don’t squeeze, what is Walter–?
“Easy, easy,” that’s–that’s Nick? Isn’t it? When did he get here? Alex blinks open his eyes but they’re so heavy, he’s so tired. He can’t wake up, he can’t wake up, is he sleeping?
“–told you that you weren’t allowed to go!” someone else bellows, some other foster parent. Alex doesn’t know–
“Just listen to me–”
“You have to listen, Alex,” his social worker says, aggravated and irritated, she doesn’t like Alex–
“You’re in so much trouble when I find you!”
He’s drowning, he’s being thrown around like a ship at sea. He can’t breathe. He can’t wake up. He doesn’t know if he’s sleeping. He’s so tired. He’s so tired. He just wants to sleep.
“Please, please just let me sleep,” he sobs. “I’ll do better. Walter please–!”
Alex’s eyes are so heavy. Something is wrong, something is wrong, but he’s so tired.
“I don’t want to hurt you Alex,” Walter says, “but you have to listen to me. You have to do what I say. I’m keeping you here out of the goodness of my heart–”
He sounds angry. He sounds so angry. Alex whines and tries to move, but he can’t. His limbs won’t respond. He can feel his arms tucked tight to his chest, his feet are cold but they won’t move.
“Alex, Alex, sweetheart, listen to me, you’re okay–”
“–up! Just shut up! You fucking whiny brat!”
He’s in the closet, its so small and dark–
He’s in a motel room, he doesn’t know where he is, the blankets are tangled around him, rough and heavy and there are people looming over him–
He’s being yanked forward by his arm, a grip tight enough to bruise, it will bruise, he can already see the darkness swallowing up his arms. Fingers curling around his arms like snakes, fangs dripping like poison, hissing–
“Shh, shh, come on Alex, you’re okay, just listen to my voice. Just listen to me. You’re okay. I’m right here, I’ve got you kid.”
He forces his eyes open, they’re so heavy. He’s so tired. There’s a heart beating under his ear, there are hands holding his wrists. He whines and his voice is raspy and his throat is sore, like he was screaming. Was he screaming?
He’s so tired.
“Alex, Alex stay awake for me kid.”
Alex whines again, even though it hurts. He can’t stay awake. His eyes slip shut.
No, no, he’s–he’s having a nightmare. He has to wake up.
But he’s so tired.
“Nothing we can do–”
“–okay sweetheart, you’re gonna be okay–”
No, wake up, wake up.
“I’m sorry kid, I’m really sorry–”
Walter is looming over him–
No, no that’s the dream. He needs to wake up. He’s so tired but he has to wake up.
Someone is petting his hair, its nice. Its really nice. Alex presses into it desperately. Maybe they can help him wake up.
“–onna be alright, you’re oka–”
He’s so tired.
His eyes are so heavy.
“I’ve got you sweetheart.” He opens his eyes and Ryan is looking down at him. “Dad’s here. Dad’s right here. You’re safe, you’re okay.”
Ryan looks up at something over Alex’s head. “I want them dead.”
He sounds mad.
“It’ll make things difficult,” Nick says, his voice under Alex’s ear.
“I don’t care,” Ryan hisses. “They hurt him. They hurt my son.”
“Right now they just think he’s missing, Ryan, if bodies start dropping they’ll know.”
“They won’t find him. You said so yourself. Once we get him home he’s safe. Nobody is taking him from me. You swore.” Ryan sounds so angry. Alex wants to curl up into a ball and hide, but his limbs are so heavy.
“I know,” Nick says patiently. “I’m just making sure.”
“They raised a hand to my son,” Ryan snarls, “they don’t get to have hands.”
“Alright,” Nick says. “As soon as I have time, they’re dead.”
Alex opens his eyes and makes a questioning whine. Who’s dying?
“Oh, shh, sweetheart,” Ryan coos, a kiss is pressed to Alex’s forehead. “You’re alright, I’m right here baby.”
Alex sighs and his eyes slip shut again.
His dreams are formless, wordless anxieties, unclear, but off-putting all the same. He tosses and turns, dragging himself back to the waking world only to be pulled mercilessly under again. Ryan and Nick are hovering over him, he knows dimly, but he can’t wake up.
He’s so tired.
It must be the drugs, that’s the only thing that could keep him under after a nightmare like that.
The knowledge doesn’t do much for him. He’s dragged back to sleep.
“Alex? Alex? Are you waking up sweetheart?”
Alex groans. Fuck. His head hurts. His throat hurts.
“Easy sweetheart, easy,” Ryan murmurs.
Alex buries his face into the surprisingly soft pillowcase.
He’s laying with his head on Ryan’s chest. He can hear his heart beating under his ear. He should probably care more about that than he does. As it is, at least the fabric is soft.
“Alex?” Ryan asks softly.
“Are you awake sweetheart?”
“Oh thank the god,” Ryan whispers fervently. He squeezes his arms around Alex, pulling him closer. “Are you okay? Let me see you.”
He sits up and starts fussing.
Alex shoves his hands away, leaning back as far as he can. “Hey! Fuck off!”
“I’m sorry,” Ryan says, soft and sad, god fucking damn it. “I’m so sorry Alex. We didn’t know the drugs would do that.”
Alex blinks at him. “…okay.”
He lays down on the rough hotel blanket and closes his eyes again.
The door opens. Alex stays where he is, his shoulders tense, his eyes shut. He knows who just came in but he doesn’t want to acknowledge him.
“Ryan?” Nick asks softly.
“He’s awake, or he was a second ago,” Ryan says. “I think he’s through the worst of it.”
Footsteps pad softly across the room. Alex stubbornly refuses to so much as twitch.
A large hand gently rests on his shoulder. “Alex?”
Nope. Fuck him. Fuck them both.
Alex knows they know he’s awake, he’s far too tense to be asleep, and he can feel Ryan’s eyes boring fucking holes into him. Fuck them, though.
Nick sighs. “Okay,” he says softly. “You don’t have to talk to me. Or Ryan. We need to head out though.”
That’s nice. They’re free to leave wherever the fuck they want. Alex doesn’t so much as twitch.
“Alex,” Nick says.
“Sweetheart,” Ryan decides that clearly, this situation needs his masterful touch. “We really do need to go. You can sleep more in the car if you’re tired.”
Alex opens his eyes and aims a baleful glare at Ryan.
He flinches back like Alex lunged for him. “I’m sorry sweetheart, I really am.”
That’s nice. Alex isn’t in a fucking forgiving mood at the moment, though. He shuts his eyes again.
“Alex, either you walk out to the car or I carry you,” Nick says.
Alex opens his eyes again. “I’ll fucking kill you.”
Nick’s face remains blank where it hovers over him. Alex glares up at him. Fuck this, he’s tired of their complete and utter bullshit. He’s still fucking tired. He doesn’t think that he could walk out to the car, but he’s not telling them that.
“Please don’t make me carry you, Alex,” Nick says gently.
Helpless tears burn in the corners of Alex’s eyes. Fuck him, fuck him, fuck him. He sits up and shoves Nick’s hand off his shoulder.
Fuck he’s dizzy.
“Thank you,” Nick says softly.
“Fuck off,” Alex snaps.
Nick takes a step back, instead of slapping Alex silly, like most foster parents would have.
“Here’s your crutch,” he says, still in that stupid fucking calm, gentle voice.
Alex takes it from him as roughly as he can and jams the stupid fucking thing under his arm. He doesn’t fucking care how dizzy he is. He’s getting kidnapped, it doesn’t fucking matter. They’re taking him to some super secret place to live in their basement, joy!
He hauls himself to his feet.
Nick catches his shoulders, saving him from fucking face planting into the shitty motel carpet. “Easy kid, easy. Are you dizzy?”
“Let me go,” Alex rasps, all of the anger is gone, evaporated like morning mist. Fear takes its place. “Let go–”
“Shh, shh, easy, its alright,” Nick murmurs. He gently leans Alex back upright and lets him go, hands hovering over his shoulders. Its a good thing, because he has to catch him again.
“Okay,” Nick says, “I think we’re gonna carry you out to the car.”
“No,” Alex shoves at Nick’s hands. “Don’t touch me, you said you wouldn’t–”
“I know, I know,” Nick says. Instead of just scooping him up, like Alex expects, Nick helps him sit on the bed. “Alright, breathe kid, just breathe. You’re alright.” He backs away and sits on the other bed, his elbows on his knees, his hands folded together.
“Fuck you,” Alex hisses at him again anyway.
“Alright,” Nick says.
Alex wants to hit him so fucking badly.
“Deep breath,” Nick prompts. “In for four…”
“I fucking know,” Alex snaps. He follows the pattern though. Damn it.
“You had a bad reaction to the drugs,” Nick says.
“I’m very sorry about that, Alex, I won’t give you those again. We need to get moving though, so you need to get out to the car.”
Alex hunches in on himself, glaring down at the blankets. He could try screaming for help, but going by his throat, he’s already been screaming his fucking head off. Nick and Ryan have either explained it away as nightmares, or nobody bothered to check.
Fighting won’t do him any good. As much as he really fucking wants to do it. He looks up at Nick. “I hate you.”
Ryan gasps softly, but neither of them look at him.
“You’re allowed to,” Nick says softly, “you’re allowed to be angry and scared, and you’re allowed to hate me. We still need to go out to the car.”
Alex looks at his hands again. “Fine.”
“Ryan, go open the door for me please,” Nick says softly. Ryan sniffles and walks quickly out of the room.
Alex grinds his teeth. He knows what happens next.
“I’m gonna have to pick you up,” Nick says gently.
“Don’t,” Alex hisses, tensing. “You said–”
“I know. I know kid. But there’s no other way. I’m not going to hurt you, just carry you out to the car.”
Alex ruthlessly strangles down a whimper. He waits, muscles tense, glaring down at his hands.
“Alex?” Nick prompts.
“What?” Alex snaps.
“Can I help you out to the car?”
Alex glares harder. “It doesn’t matter what I say.”
“It does to me,” Nick says. “I know you don’t like it, if there were any other way I’d be more than happy to do that, but there isn’t.”
Alex stays stubbornly silent.
Nick waits for a few seconds, then sighs. “We’ll try walking one more time. You have to lean on me though, okay?”
Alex mulls it over for a second, but its not like his other option is any better. “Fine.”
Nick holds out a hand in front of him. “Whenever you’re ready.”
If that’s the case then they’re gonna be here a long fucking time, but Alex is pretty sure if he takes too long Nick is going to cancel the deal.
He takes a deep breath and puts his hand in Nick’s. He’s gently pulled to his feet, his crutch shoved under one armpit, the other hand held firmly in Nick’s grasp.
He’s still really fucking dizzy, but Alex grits his teeth and forces himself to stay upright. He is not getting carried out of this fucking hotel room. Its not fucking happening. With gritted teeth, he fixes his eyes on the door and heads towards it. He ignores Nick hovering over him, occasionally nudging him back upright. He’s slowly–so fucking slowly–making it towards the door.
Finally, he steps out into a shitty parking lot. There’s not much around, whatever fucking town this is, its a tiny, depressing place. There’s a dusty looking diner that honestly might be fucking condemned or something because it doesn’t look like there’s anyone in it. The other buildings along the street are definitely closed down.
Talk about a fucking ghost town.
If this is the place Nick was worried about Alex actually getting help from, he dreads to think how small the next stop is going to be. Fuck.
“Watch your head,” Nick murmurs, and Alex realizes he’s being guided down into the fucking car. He stiffens his spine. “Alex,” Nick says, a light warning in his tone.
Alex grinds his teeth and lets himself be pushed into the seat. The door shuts behind him.
He turns his glare to the other side of the car, where Nick will be–
Ryan is there.
In the back, with Alex.
“Hi,” he says softly. His eyes are red and puffy.
For fuck’s sake.
Alex glares at the back of the passenger’s seat, staunchly ignoring Nick getting in and starting the car. They pull away from the stupid fucking motel in tense silence.
Alex is pretty fucking determined to stay angry forever, but eventually glaring starts to give him a headache, so he leans against the door and stares dully out the window. Nobody offers to read, this time, they ride in silence. For hours.
“…Alex?” Ryan asks softly.
“Are you hungry?”
Alex turns and Ryan is holding out a cereal bar like he’s trying to feed a deadly predator. His eyes are still wet.
Well good. Alex fucking hopes he feels bad. Maybe he should have thought about this shit before he fucking kidnapped Alex.
Ryan sighs and drops the cereal bar to the seat between them. He wrings his hands again. “I am sorry,” he says, “not just for last night. I know this is…difficult, for you. I know you’re scared, and–and we’re strangers, and you don’t know me, but I–I’m sorry that it had to be this way.”
Alex stays silent. Maybe Ryan imagined that the little speech would bridge some gap between them, but it doesn’t. Alex doesn’t care if he’s sorry.
Sorry isn’t good enough.
Sorry isn’t ever good enough.
“Is there…is there anything I can say?” Ryan asks.
“Tell Nick to pull over and let me out.”
“Don’t ask me that, Alex. Please don’t ask me that,” Ryan’s voice cracks.
Alex bites back a scream of frustration and rage. “Then there’s nothing you can say.”
“I love you,” Ryan says hesitantly.
Alex squeezes his eyes shut. “No you don’t. You don’t know me, the last time you saw me I was just a fucking baby.”
“You’re my son.”
“Haven’t you heard? Family is more than blood these days.”
“But blood still matters, if you let it,” Ryan presses. “I want to know you, I want–I want to make you happy, I want to keep you safe.”
“You’re kidnapping me,” Alex snarls. “I’m never going to be happy.”
Ryan sighs softly.
“I used to dream of it you know,” Alex says, fuck it. He’s pissed. He’s tired of Ryan’s weepy bullshit. He wants to twist the knife. “In all those shitty foster families. Did all that wishing on a star bullshit that my real family would come and rescue me. If I’d known it was you I’d have saved my fucking breath.”
Ryan makes a wounded noise.
The car slows down and then stops. Alex tenses, his hand gripping the door. They’re on some anonymous stretch of backroad, why are they stopped.
“Do you really want to go back?” Nick turns around in his seat, staring Alex in the eye.
“Nick–” Ryan croaks.
“Yes,” Alex hisses, speaking over him.
“And what do you think is going to happen?” Nick asks. “You get to the police, they call social services, and then what? What’s your happy ending, Alex? You said that house was your last chance. You’ll go to a group home, you’ll be marked as a flight risk, they’ll lock you down tight.”
“I got kidnapped, I didn’t fucking run away,” Alex snaps, furious because Nick is right. There’s no happy fucking family waiting for him. He’ll go back to Walter, or he’ll go to the fucking group home.
“They won’t believe that,” Nick says. “Ryan and I aren’t on any cameras, you won’t have any marks on you, aside from the knee, which could have happened anywhere. You know how well they listen to foster kids, you really think they’ll believe that your estranged father kidnapped you? He’s listed as dead in that fake file they made for you. Are they gonna believe all this? You didn’t at first.”
Alex swallows thickly.
He’s seen the sort of shit that flight risk kids have to deal with. Locks, trackers, check-ins, less slack from adults when there’s already so little to go around. It’ll be hell on earth. It’ll be suffocating.
“I’m just saying the facts, Alex,” Nick says, his eyes unflinchingly meeting Alex’s glare.
Alex looks away.
“So, maybe you don’t go back to the system. Maybe you try your luck on the streets. Its not pretty, kid. I grew up that way, I’ve seen kids your age starve to death, or worse.”
Alex swallows heavily. He’s seen the kids that come in off the street too. They never look good.
“Nick,” Ryan says, half sharp, half pleading.
“Or you can stay with us.”
Alex opens his mouth, but Nick plows on.
“We won’t hurt you, we won’t chain you to the radiator or whatever it is you’re afraid we’re going to. It’ll be like going to another foster’s. A good one. The ones where they actually care. You been to any of those, Alex?”
He has. Once. Sam’s.
It was–it was everything. Everything he’d ever dreamed of, he’d wanted to stay forever. But the system doesn’t care what foster kids want. Sam had tried to keep him, but Alex had been shuffled along to the next house.
Tears slip down his cheeks.
“Yeah,” Nick says softly, “its hard, leaving those, but you wouldn’t ever have to leave us. Nobody would take you away again. It’ll be winter soon, we’ll all gather around the fire, like a family. You’ve always wanted a family, I know you have Alex. I was the same way.”
Nick’s voice is hypnotizing. Alex can practically see it. Taste the hot cocoa on his tongue, the heat of the fire on his face.
“You’ll have your own room,” Nick murmurs, “Filled with the things you like. We’ll get you a dog, all for your own, every kid needs a dog, right? You can pick it out yourself. We’ll help you train it, Chris’s has some service dog training. Helps him through panic attacks and such. We can train yours to do that too. You’d never be alone again.”
Alex… hates being alone.
But its better than being kidnapped.
“Fuck you, Nick. You’re not another fucking foster family, you kidnapped me.”
“Because the social workers care so much if you want to leave,” Nick says archly. “Face it kid, its not that different, we just didn’t have to do the paperwork.”
“You drugged me!”
“Better than hitting you.”
Alex’s mouth snaps shut.
“We won’t do that anymore,” Nick says, “alright?”
“Fine,” Alex mutters.
It feels like he agreed to a lot more than just not getting drugged anymore. He doesn’t–
It was a lie, all that stuff Nick said. About what it would be like living with them. They won’t get him a dog.
But they got him all of that other stuff. That’s a lot more than most fosters do. Usually Alex is lucky to get blankets on his bed. Sometimes he’s lucky to even get a bed.
They got Chris a dog, apparently.
Alex…Alex has always wanted a dog.
The car starts moving again.
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