Nobody talks, but Alex has plenty to occupy his mind while they drive. He’s not an idiot, he’s not going to fall in line for some dumb empty promise about a puppy. That’s literally page two in the kidnapper’s handbook. Candy, and if that doesn’t work, offer a puppy.
Alex would like it noted that he didn’t get any fucking candy. Cheapskates.
Not that there’s anyone to take note. Everyone thinks he’s dead, and they’re probably not all too broken up about it.
He swallows thickly.
It was one thing to think it when he was lost in the haze of fear, but now, in the silence of the car, the truth weighs down on him. Nobody cares that he’s gone.
He’s surprised they even took notice.
He got a two minute segment on the local news because it was a tiny town with about fifty kids in his class. If it were any bigger, nobody would have thought twice about him. They were all just fine to look away when he came to class with bruises.
They looked for him, but they were happy to write him off as dead just because they found his backpack in the river.
Ryan looked for him. Ryan spent thirteen fucking years looking for him.
Alex sneaks a glance at him across the car. He’s holding that fucking cow. Henry. His thumb strokes rhythmically across the faux fur next to its horn. The toy is worn, like Ryan has spent thirteen years clinging to it. Maybe he has.
He probably has.
As if he can feel Alex staring at him, Ryan looks up. Their eyes meet. Blue on blue.
Alex–Alex has his dad’s eyes.
Its a dumb realization to have, but he has it. He has his dad’s eyes. He never knew that. He never wondered.
Ryan looks away from him, back down to the toy. “I–do you want him?” he asks, hesitant and quiet, like he’s trying not to set Alex off. He offers out the toy.
“No,” Alex says, looking out the window again. “…thanks. No thanks.”
He’s fucking–he’s still fucking pissed at them. They fucking kidnapped him, they drugged him, that’s not fucking normal! People don’t do that! Alex’s had a lot of shit thrown at him in foster houses, but nobody’s ever pulled that.
Usually when they wanted him to shut up for a few hours they just hit him.
Is drugging better than that?
Alex isn’t sure, no matter what Nick says.
Those fucking nightmares he got last night were not better, he’s pretty fucking sure about that. Nothing about them is clear, but he knows they were about Walter, about old fosters, his nightmares are always about old fosters.
But there was also…something else. Ryan, his voice so fucking angry that Alex is pretty sure he was frothing at the mouth. Demanding that Nick kill someone.
Alex sneaks another glance at Ryan. He’s petting Henry again, a heavy frown on his face. He looks worn. Both of them do, Henry and Ryan.
Alex glances at Nick and–blinks.
He looks….tired. A little bit. Its not much. There’s no dramatic bags under his eyes, but his hair isn’t perfect. There are a few loose strands around his face. His blank expression isn’t quite perfectly blank. There’s hints of something around his eyes.
Alex remembers, vaguely, Nick trying to draw him out of the nightmares. Nick apologizing, again. Had he and Ryan both stayed up with Alex?
Well good. It was their fucking fault that he was on a bad trip all night. Nick was the one who gave him that fucking pill. Alex would be even more pissed if he’d just stuck some earplugs in and gotten his beauty sleep.
Nick is hard to figure out. He’s hard to read, he’s too calm, everything he does is…on purpose. Nothing is unintentional, no slip, no accident that reveals his true intentions. He’s been nothing but calm and contained this entire time.
The only hints Alex has about him are the things Ryan has said. He’s a sore loser, he stayed up looking for Alex. Just based on general competence, Alex feels like Nick was the one to find him. To stalk him.
Which is, for one, fucking creepy and Alex’s skin feels like its crawling just at the thought. But also? Very impressive? How the fuck did nobody notice a fucking ten foot tall Brick Shithouse of a dude following him around?
How did Alex not notice?
Ryan takes a deep breath, like he’s getting ready to jump into a pool.
Or a conversation.
Ryan is silent for a long moment. Alex glances at him, eyebrow raised.
“What’s your favorite color?”
Alex blinks. “What?”
“I just..wanted to know,” Ryan says, looking down at Henry. “I wanted to. Get to know you. You said–I just thought it would–Mine is green. My favorite color. Nick’s is pink.”
The car descends back into silence.
“Red,” Alex mutters.
“That’s a good one,” Ryan says softly. “What’s your favorite food?”
Its an olive branch. Its…an effort. Alex said Ryan didn’t know him, and so Ryan is trying to get to know him.
Alex doesn’t know how he feels about it.
But its fucking boring, just looking out the window.
“Carrots are pretty good I guess. There was this one place that roasted them with rosemary that was really fucking good.”
They’ve been on backroads the whole trip, but as the day wears on, the roads get even more…backroad-y. There are so many potholes. Sometimes they aren’t even paved. They go for hours rattling on gravel.
They’re also getting higher and higher. Mountains start as lumps on the horizon, but the more they travel, the closer they get. While they eat the sandwiches from the cooler in the floorboard for dinner, Alex comes to terms with the fact that this is probably where they’ve been going the whole time.
He’s never been to the mountains before.
He gets the feeling he’s going to get used to them.
He’s going to be here for awhile.
The sandwich sits in a hard lump in his stomach.
They stop when the sun sets and for a moment Alex thinks they’re just stopping in the middle of nowhere. Then he looks through the trees and sees a house.
Is this–are they here?
He thought they were stopping in some other town first. Fuck. Fuck, he’s not ready. He’s not–
“We’ll stay the night here,” Nick says, “I’m not driving up the rest of the way in the dark.”
“I thought you said we were stopping in a town,” Alex says, his voice accusatory.
“This is a town,” Nick snorts.
Alex looks around at all the fucking trees and Not-Town all around them.
“Its a very small town,” Nick says. “You and Ryan stay here, I’ll get us a place to sleep.”
Fucking where? Is he going to ask to borrow someone’s fucking tent?
Nick doesn’t clarify anything, he just gets out, locking the car behind him. He walks towards the house, god, maybe he is going to borrow a tent.
Alex unbuckles his seat belt. He’s tired of wearing the damn thing.
Crickets chirp outside the window, somewhere some kind of bird or animal calls. Its dark, like dark dark out there.
Alex doesn’t know what he’s going to do.
He was–his whole plan was that he was going to escape here. He was going to find help here, but looking at this place…
There’s fucking nothing. Nothing but a single house and the fucking woods. Bears, presumably, wolves or some shit. Point is, he’s gonna be fucked if he goes running out onto the mountainside at night.
Nick comes back out of the house, a woman on his heels. Ryan opens his door and goes out to meet them. He hugs the lady. What the fuck?
Nick opens Alex’s door. “Come on,” he says, “we’re staying here for the night.”
What the fuck is going on?
Nick helps him out of the car and the lady gasps. “Oh,” she says, “hello. You must be Alex.”
How the fuck does she know his name?
Fuck, is this some fucking Assassin Friend of Nick’s?
“You can call me Clem,” the woman says, “I’m a friend of your dad’s. Gosh, I never thought I’d meet you.”
Alex doesn’t say anything.
Clem doesn’t seem too bothered. “You guys can take over the guest room for the night, I’ll set up the couch for you Nick. You’ll have to be a bit quiet, sorry, my daughter is sleeping upstairs.”
Who the fuck is this lady?
“We really appreciate it Clem,” Ryan says, “its been a long trip.”
“I’m sure it has,” Clem says. “Come on, you can tell me about it in the morning.”
Clem leads them into the dimly lit house, nudging furniture aside so Alex can get through on his crutch. The guest room is a small thing, sparsely decorated, with a single bed in it.
Oh fuck no.
“I’ll set up a pallet on the floor,” Ryan says, “I don’t want you trying to get off the ground with that knee Alex.”
Alex’s glare falters, he swallows down the tirade he was about to unleash. Well. That’s fine then, he guesses.
Ryan does set up a pile of blankets on the floor, and Alex feels a little vaguely guilty about taking the bed. He’s definitely not gonna fucking share but it does feel a bit dickish to make an old dude sleep on the ground.
Well fuck him, if he wanted the bed to himself maybe he shouldn’t have kidnapped Alex. Feeling vindicated, he pulls the covers back and climbs into the bed.
“Goodnight Alex,” Ryan murmurs softly.
“…night,” Alex mutters.
The lights are out, the crickets are still chirping outside, Ryan’s breathing slowly evens out and then soft snores start up.
Alex sits up.
Its the first time he’s not been drugged to sleep in four days. The first time since he’s been kidnapped. Its eerie, being in a strangers house, with Ryan softly snoring in the dark, the untamed forest just outside the window.
He could climb out that window. They’re on the first floor.
But then he’d be in the fucking woods in the middle of the night on the side of a mountain.
He could try going to Clem, she seemed…nice? Probably?
But she knew that Ryan and Nick were looking for him. How much have they told her? Is she in on this? Nick is some kind of fucking criminal mastermind so its hard to believe that he hasn’t got a plan for that sort of scenario. Besides, she has a fucking kid upstairs, Alex…doesn’t honestly think that Nick would hurt a kid.
But that’s just instinct, not anything he has evidence for. He’s not going to put some innocent brat in danger, even if her mom has terrible taste in friends.
Its over, Alex knows, deep in his bones. Chester was his chance to get away. Even if he could get away, he’s going back to the foster system, or the streets, and like Nick said, neither of those is going to end well.
Its over, Alex knows, but he can’t just accept it.
So he carefully drops his feet over the side of the bed. He tests his weight on his bad knee. It twinges, but its not agonizing.
He’s had worse.
He leaves the crutch by the bed and carefully creeps across the room. He sneaks around Ryan’s pallet and opens the door. The hinges don’t so much as creak.
He slips down the hall, he’s snuck out of his fair share of foster houses. Never got caught, because then he would have been marked as a flight risk.
He hesitates just outside the livingroom.
He can hear Nick breathing in the darkness. Even and deep, but he doesn’t know if he’s asleep, or if he’s just fucking sitting up, waiting.
He has to know Alex is going to make a move tonight.
Alex takes a step out into the open.
Nick doesn’t say anything.
Alex takes a shaky breath and takes another step.
He crosses the room, one step at a time. Nick’s breathing stays steady and even. Maybe he was more tired than he let on.
Alex’s fingers curl around the coolness of the doorknob.
The crickets are louder out here.
Alex steps down off the porch, limping across the walk back to the car. He sits on the hood, his bad leg dangling down, his good one curled up to his chest, his arms wrapped around it.
There’s so many stars. More than Alex has ever seen. He realizes that this must be the whole fucking milky way. The whole damn galaxy spread out overhead.
They talked about it in science class. The teacher had showed them a whole powerpoint of earth compared to other planets, other planets compared to the sun, the sun compared to other stars. All of them were so big.
The teacher had said something about how it made them feel small, but Alex hadn’t really gotten it. He hadn’t really grasped it. It was all just pictures on a screen, then.
He gets it now.
He feels so small.
The door opens.
Nick steps out onto the porch, Ryan trailing in his wake.
Alex curls his fingers into the fabric of his pants. They’re gonna be upset. He’s going to have to take the drugs again.
“Can I sit with you?” Nick asks quietly.
“Can’t stop you,” Alex mutters, staring fixedly at the sky.
“You could,” Nick says, “If you say no I won’t.”
Alex snorts. “That’s not me stopping you. That’s you choosing to listen to me.”
Nick doesn’t argue.
From the corner of his eye, Alex sees him lean against the porch railing. “Beautiful night.”
Ryan sits on the steps, Henry in his hands. “I’d never seen the stars before Nick brought us out here,” he says softly. “Not really. I didn’t know there could be so many.”
“Are you going to drug me?”
A beat of silence.
Alex looks away from the stars, meets Nick’s eyes.
“You know its over,” Nick says gently.
Alex looks away. Tears fall down his cheeks. “Yeah.”
“It’ll be okay,” Nick says.
Alex doesn’t answer. He swallows thickly.
Ryan stands and comes closer. “It will, Alex. I promise.”
“I know,” Alex says softly. Maybe its stupid to believe that. Maybe they’ll get tired of him, like every other foster house has before. There isn’t really anything Alex can do about that.
“Nick knows all the constellations you know,” Ryan says, “and all the stories. Wanna hear them?”
Nick tells them stories about the stars, about the people who lived, small and helpless beneath their gaze. Not all of them made it out, not all of them were okay. But sometimes, sometimes they were.
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One thought on “A Voice From The Stars Chapter 14: Alex (Final Chapter)”
I’ve really enjoyed following this story! I’m sad that it’s over though, I was curious to see what it would be like for Alex adjusting to his new life. But I still really loved reading this! ❤