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Frederick shut the door behind Detectives Regan and Debreno and slumped down onto the couch, head hanging as he scrubbed both hands through his hair. It never ended. One stupid mistake and he was labeled forever as a pedophile. Christ, she had told him she was nineteen. She looked nineteen with all the make-up and the short skirt and blouse unbuttoned almost to her navel, revealing small, perfectly formed breasts. What guy wouldn't be interested in a 'come on' from a pretty, nubile young woman who was making it perfectly clear exactly what she wanted from him?

He remembered the start of this nightmare as if it was only yesterday...

At first he had mistaken her for a hooker because he had looked in the mirror, and he was no Adonis. Just some poor schmuck sitting in a bar, drowning the misery of his lonely, pathetic life in a few beers before making his way home alone to his one bedroom apartment. He bought her a drink, though, wincing at the expensive cocktail she ordered but paying up nonetheless. Perhaps if he had not already had a few beers, he might have seen the signs of her inexperience in the way she startled at the taste and then giggled as the alcohol went straight to her pretty head. She licked shiny, pink lipsticked lips, flirting with him, her small hand dropping into his lap and pressing against his hardening erection, rubbing at the thickening column.

Embarrassed, Frederick started to pull away. "I don't have much money."

She frowned and looked down at her almost empty glass before reaching across and snaring his beer. He watched her hungrily as she upended the glass, her throat muscles sliding provocatively under smooth skin as she drank the rest of the beer. Setting the empty glass in front of him, she licked her lips again and leaned over, her small fingers trying to wrap around his cock through the material of his suit pants. Her lips tasted of the expensive cocktail and though she wasn't a good kisser, what she lacked in style she made up for in enthusiasm.

He took her home with him. He let her into his small apartment and let her strip off his clothing, allowing him to sit on the edge of the bed and watch as she coyly removed her own thin strips of what passed for clothing to reveal a body that seemed almost too young.

"How...how old are you, again?"

"Old enough."

"Please," he hissed as she stroked the length of his cock, almost short circuiting his brain.

She blushed a little, eyes flicking away, "Nineteen tomorrow, and I wanted to get laid while I'm still eighteen."

It was every man's fantasy, seeing her kneeling naked between his equally naked thighs, her painted lips quivering nervously as she eyed his hard cock, and knowing she was a virgin and had chosen him - him - to be the one to take that virginity. He groaned as she summoned her courage and lapped at his cock, taking it into her mouth, bringing him so close to the edge that he had almost let himself fall over it. He dragged her up and fingered her, feeling her slick juices on his fingers and knowing she was ready for him. He pulled her into his lap, pushing up into her body and hearing her small cry of pain as he took her virginity.

All thought of condoms and safe sex had vanished as he held her hips with almost bruising fingers, thrusting up into her, then flipping her onto her back on the bed so he could thrust harder and deeper, kissing and biting as she clawed at his back, whimpering and begging for more, for less. Afterwards, as he lay in a pleasure sated heap beside her, he felt her trembling and he felt a little upset. Perhaps if he had not been so drunk then he might have been a little gentler with her on her first time.

He kissed her softly, thumb wiping at the streaks of mascara, and apologizing, promising it was always bad the first time but that it would be better next time.

Next time... He snorted in derision. There wasn't a next time. She left and a few hours later, two police officers were manhandling him out of his apartment in handcuffs, calling him a scumbag and a pervert.

It turned out she was only fifteen and it came down to her word against his. It didn't matter that he had a bartender willing to state that she had come on to him. All that mattered was the bruising on her young body, his DNA inside her, and the innocence in her blue eyes. If he had been closer to the age she had claimed to be then perhaps it might have gone a little easier on him but, instead, he was labeled a pedophile and sent to prison. Only the bartender's testimony had cast the slightest shadow of doubt and though that did not mitigate the fact that he had slept with a child purporting to be a woman, it had saved him from a heavier sentence and gained him parole a little earlier.

He spent two years inside learning how much contempt other prisoners had for pedophiles, locked up for most of the day alone because his kind wasn't allowed to mingle freely with the general prison populace for fear of their lives. It didn't stop one guard from conveniently forgetting to lock up while he and a fellow pedophile used the showers one day, and it took almost a week before he could sit down without pain. The other guy got off worse because he was a self-confessed child molester, preferring his little girls only just out of diapers. Now that was sick. Really sick and Frederick hated that he was placed in the same disgusting category.

Frederick took a deep breath and pushed up off the couch, walking to the small kitchenette to grab a cloth so he could clean up the spilled beer. The electronic tagging device dragged and chafed at his ankle, and he teased his sock back between skin and metal. It was a condition of his parole that he was not allowed out of his apartment between six in the evening and eight in the morning, except in emergencies, and then he had to report his intentions and wait for permission unless his life was in danger. He rarely went out at all though except to pick up groceries. He had lost his job and no longer had anyone willing to be a friend. His neighbors hated him and it was not uncommon for him to be spat upon as he came and went, as well as enduring taunts. They wanted him to move but he had no freedom, no money and no place else to go.

Wiping up the last of the mess, he threw the cloth towards the kitchen and sat back down at the table. He carried on cutting out grocery coupons because he needed every small saving. His parole would finish in another three months and then he could see about moving on with his life, aware that he would carry the stain of his stupid mistake on a sex offenders list for at least another eight years and a criminal record forever.

***

After serving his time in one of Miami's less than stellar prisons, Mike had wanted to get as far away from sun and sand as possible and had headed up north. He had been thinking New York but he ran out of money on reaching the outskirts of Washington D.C., and decided the place looked good enough for a fresh start without Julie. He'd done his time, worked off his parole without causing any problems and now he was a free man, apart from the criminal record for starting fires. It made getting a job harder because no one wanted to pay extra insurance premiums in case their business should go up in flames under suspicious circumstances. Eventually, he managed to find work in a garage fixing cars, where the owner was only too pleased to help an ex-con get back on his feet if he was prepared to work for less than minimum wage. Mike figured that once he had put a bit of money together then he could afford to be picky and find something better. In the meantime, the job came with a small apartment consisting of only three rooms; bedroom, bathroom and living space with a kitchenette.

The rent was reasonable even if the company was not so great.

The high pitched beeping from the hallway, along with the raised voices, made him snarl and Mike looked through the peephole as his pedophile neighbor was shoved up against a wall, uncuffed and left to return to his own hovel while the two cops walked away disgruntled. It was the third time that damn alarm had gone off since the guy got paroled though at least this was better than the two o'clock wake up call last week.

At least the sicko kept to his curfew for the most part, Mike thought.

When he stepped out of his apartment an hour later, he pulled back a fraction when he saw the pervert doing the same. The man turned, blue eyes widening in startlement and fear, pressing back towards his door for a moment while he waited for Mike to make the next move. Damn but the guy looked so ordinary. Intrigued, Mike looked at him closer.

"So what was that all about earlier?"

"Nothing. A case of mistaken identity."

Mike's eyes strayed to the guy's ankle where he could see the bulk of the electronic tag peaking out from beneath his pant leg.

"She said she was nineteen," he blurted out, having followed Mike's gaze. "She looked nineteen," he added lamely, eyes huge and so blue, desperate to be believed.

Mike narrowed his eyes in confusion, wondering what the guy was talking about, and then it struck him that his pedophile neighbor might not be the truly perverted animal that the other inhabitants of the tenement had made him out to be, not if the girl he was banging looked and acted like an adult. Hell, he'd seen plenty of girls like that during those few weeks in Miami, and had a few come on to him whenever he flashed any cash or chips. Though that was before he went and got all jealous over that two-timing whore he had once called a girlfriend and ended up on the modern day equivalent of a chain gang, cleaning up the Florida highways. He hadn't been paying much attention to the news this morning, liking the TV more for background noise but, suddenly, the incident in the hallway made a little more sense. The cops must have tried to finger him for the crime but that ankle device meant he was trapped in his apartment until well past the time when that kid disappeared.

"If you say so," Mike stated, not really caring as long as the guy kept to himself.

Mike took the stairs several at a time, quickly outpacing the - maybe not so - sicko. His car was a little way up the road in the only parking spot he could find last evening but he had not moved so far ahead that he missed the small yelp of pain coming from behind. Glancing over his shoulder, he saw one of the Orteza boys, mean sons of bitches, shoving the perv up against the wall and feeling through the guy's pockets. When the kid didn't find what he wanted, he leaned in closer to the perv, breath right in the guy's face and his hand still buried some place down below. The tears in the guy's eyes and his screwed up face told Mike exactly where the homeboy had his hand - wrapped painfully around the guy's balls most likely.

Mike turned and carried on walking, hardening his heart against the soft cry followed by a crash as the guy was probably throw into the garbage cans. Angry words drifted along the street as the sound of a boot striking a body reached Mike.

"We don't want you in our neighborhood, you sick fucker."

Not his problem, he thought as he got into his battered car and drove off.

He didn't see the perv the next day but caught him sneaking out of the building the day after, watching in amusement as the guy glanced furtively around a corner before stepping out of the building. The perv whipped around suddenly at the noise behind him and Mike raised his hands, some what shocked by the livid bruise covering part of the perv's face and blackening one swollen eye.

Mike said nothing. He simply watched as the guy turned away and hobbled up the street as fast as he could manage, his mouth going dry as he focused on the broad shoulders and firm ass, trying to remember the last time he'd fucked another man. Mike shook his head as the perv turned the corner.

Great ass or not, it was still not his problem.

***

Ohgodohgodohgod! From the darkness settling into the corners of the room, Frederick knew he had left it too late. He hadn't meant to take a nap but his face and body still ached after the attack a few days back, making it hard to sleep over the past few nights. He ran the calculation through his head, just in case he had made a mistake and he might make it there and back again in time but a glance at his only working time piece showed that his curfew would start in less than four minutes. Not enough time. The sting of tears behind his eyes was sudden but not totally unexpected and he could partially blame the pain even though he knew it was pure frustration. He sank to his knife-slashed couch, head sinking into his hands as the tears dripped between his fingers.

He had never set out to break any laws or cause any harm to anyone. He didn't deserve this. He didn't deserve to be ostracized and he didn't deserve the unprovoked attacks that were coming all too frequently once the Orteza boys figured that they could do just about anything - bar killing or permanently maiming him - and the cops wouldn't give a damn. They could push him around, kick him, punch him, spit on him. They could break into his apartment and trash his belongings and steal what little he had left, and no one gave a fuck. They had come in earlier today while he was out getting a few groceries, destroying his papers and books, smashing his few remaining dishes and mugs.

He'd been so exhausted after clearing up the worst of the mess and had only meant to lie down for twenty minutes.

They'd smashed all the light bulbs.

It would be pitch black in here soon, with no hope of fixing the problem until morning, and he hated the dark since prison, recalling the taunts whispered in the night that had become reality too many times for others - and even for him once. They'd ripped out the phone cable too, so he couldn't even call his parole officer and ask for help. Of course, he could step outside the apartment and set off the ankle alarm, bring the cops running, but the last time the cops had come, they'd half choked him, slammed his head into the wall and made it clear what they thought of him. He would find no help there.

Ten minutes later, Frederick heard a sound in the hallway and glanced through his peephole, spotting his next door neighbor returning home. By the time he had fumbled with the latches and chains, the man had disappeared inside his apartment but Frederick was desperate. He moved swiftly back into the main room, picked up one of the destroyed books and, returning to the entrance, he threw it, wincing as it struck his neighbor's door with a heavy thud.

The door opened sharply, a furious face appearing, glaring down the stairway as if he suspected one of the kids from the floor below.

"It was me. I threw...I need help and I can't..." He indicated towards his ankle. His neighbor looked at him in disgust and started to slam shut the door. "PLEASE!" The door faltered. "Please," Frederick begged a little quieter. "They smashed all the light bulbs. Just...just one bulb, please."

His heart sank as the door closed, the bulb in the hallway taunting him as it flicked on when dusk settled into night, just too far out of reach and for one moment, Frederick considered sitting here all night by his door, with the security chains on and the meager light slipping through the tiny crack of opened doorway. The door opposite opened again and the handsome, dark-haired guy stepped out, lips twisted in a grimace but - Frederick withheld a sob of relief - he was carrying a light bulb.

He stopped just out of reach.

"They trash your place again?"

Frederick stared at him for a moment, feeling his cheeks heat with embarrassment. Of course the man would know all about that. The man held out the bulb, keeping it just a finger stretch beyond reach and Frederick felt a churning in his gut as he wondered if this was some new cruel twist to making his life a misery. He curled his fingers back, eyes dropping in defeat and was surprised when the man took a swift step forward and pressed the bulb into his hand, narrowed eyes inspecting Frederick with more than casual interest.

"Leave a replacement by my door tomorrow."

Frederick nodded, voice momentarily lost. "Thanks," he croaked out as the man turned away, the small kindness bringing fresh tears stinging in his eyes as Frederick closed the door quietly.

The following day, he left the new light bulb by his neighbor's door as promised.

***

A muffled thud and a smothered cry brought Mike out of a light sleep and he blinked up into the darkness of his bedroom for a moment, wondering what had awoken him. He strained to hear the sounds of his apartment but nothing moved in the room beyond the bedroom. Sighing, he relaxed back against the pillow, letting his eyes drift closed, only to snap them open at another muffled thump. Dressing quickly, he grabbed the thick half of a pool cue that he kept hidden under the bed for just such an emergency, and walked through his apartment only to find it undisturbed. A quick look through the peephole revealed nothing until he noticed that the perv's door was slightly ajar. Hefting the cue, Mike stepped into the hallway and wandered across, tensing when he heard another smothered cry of pain and low, harsh voices.

He pushed the door open quietly and stepped inside, frowning at the papers and books strewn across the floor, of chairs knocked over and soft furnishings hanging ragged from knife cuts. The bedroom door was shut and Mike could hear whimpers of pain coming from behind the closed door. Brandishing the cue in readiness, he turned the handle very slowly and let the door drift open - and froze at the tableau before him.

The Orteza boys had the perv stripped half-naked and face down on the bed, one holding down his head and shoulders, arms trapped beneath bony knees and muffling his cries in the pillow, while the other... Mike tensed in anger. The rock of hips and slap of flesh against flesh told Mike what the other was doing. The one holding the perv spotted him, the grin freezing on his face and slowly fading until both of them had stopped, the rapist looking over his shoulder straight at Mike. He never gave either of them a chance to grab a knife, swinging the cue and feeling the vibration shudder up his arm as it connected with the rapist's skull. He swung again as the other Orteza tried to gain his feet, hampered by the perv sprawled on the bed, except Mike was not so sure which of these three was the perv now. Was it the one who'd been conned by an underage kid into having sex with her, or was it one of the two who were holding down and raping another man?

The cue connected again, blood splattering in an arc as the violence that Mike barely held in check was set free. Somehow, though, he held back as both the Orteza boys clambered unsteadily to their feet, one desperately holding on to pants that had been pulled up hurriedly. They scurried from the apartment, rebounding off walls and sending any remaining frames and other furnishings flying in their wake. He could hear their rapidly receding footsteps on the stairs, and then all was silence except for the harsh sobbing muffled in the bed linen.

Mike sank down onto the bed beside the pain and tear-wracked man, looking at him in confusion.

"Why do you stay here?"

The sobs became hiccups and he strained to hear what the perv was saying.

"Nowhere...else to go."

He watched as the perv tried to drag the cover over his semi-nude body, taking a moment to notice the nice shape of the man's ass and feeling turned on by the semen seeping from that ass before he took pity on him and threw the blanket over him. His lips drew into a moue of distaste as he noticed the chafing from the ankle tag, slight though it was, feeling a familiar flip-flop in his belly as he took in the pitiful looking man who desperately needed someone to take care of him, someone to protect him and love him. The purse of his lips became a sly grin as Mike reached out and touched a strip of flesh not hidden beneath clothing or the blanket. The guy tensed, turning his head so he could look at Mike, blue eyes wide with renewed fear but Mike made no other move, just petted the man until he calmed.

***

They moved to an old miner's shack, east of a small town in the Northern Appalachians, just a month after the electronic tag was removed. Mike had found work as a mechanic, working on mining and forestry equipment as well as on any local or tourist cars, while Frederick found he had an aptitude for turning pieces of wood into semi-beautiful objects, a craft he had learned in prison.

The small shack was only marginally bigger than his old apartment, and though it boasted two bedrooms, they only used the one. The other became Frederick's workshop, filled with interesting pieces of wood he had collected during his walks and the tools needed to whittle the wood into animals or bowls or whatever else took his fancy. The local store had the woodwork on display and sold them to passers by for a large commission but the money trickled in regularly and was enough to buy him and Mike some extra luxuries.

Mike didn't seem to care about the lack of money coming from him, happy enough to be the main earner and to have Frederick remain at their shack for most of his day, alone, away from prying eyes. He liked having Frederick all to himself; hated to share him with anyone.

Apart from two sets of rapists, one back in the prison and the other back in Washington D.C., Frederick had never had sex with any man before Mike. He had never wanted to, and he still caught himself wondering from time to time, how everything could have changed so radically in his life through one stupid mistake. Yet he didn't miss having a woman at all. He did not miss the heaviness of a breast or the curve of a hip. He didn't even miss sinking into the wet and warmth of a woman's body, finding it strangely more comforting to have Mike's strong, lean body pressing his into the mattress, holding him and taking him, thrusting hard and deep as Mike murmured possessive endearments.

Frederick felt safe in Mike's arms, and loved, knowing Mike would not tolerate anyone else touching him, which suited Frederick just fine because he didn't want anyone else touching him either, or looking at him, or judging him. He was happy to simply hide away from the rest of the world with Mike only a phone call and a few miles of track away at most. He was happy with the quiet of the forest and the very occasional sound of a truck passing along the small rarely used track several hundred feet from his doorstep. He was content to wander around in the morning sunlight, gathering his pieces of wood, and working all afternoon creating something good.

Sometimes he'd get a meal ready on the table and other times he'd wait until Mike came home and then they'd potter about together, sharing household chores and a few beers, talking quietly about nothing much at all and watching some television show on an old, beat up set before heading to the bedroom. Sometimes Mike would be a little rough, taking out any frustrations from the day on his ass, but he was always loving and giving afterwards, always so apologetic for hurting him even though it was rarely more than a few bruises from where he gripped him too tightly or bit down a little too hard.

What Frederick had gained was worth a few bruises and the occasional bite mark. What he had gained was a chance to start over away from people who had labels for everyone whether deserved or not and if he had gained a new label for what he did in bed with Mike then so be it. He could live with that because anything was better than being so alone.

With Mike, he knew he would never be alone again.

THE END