Actions

Work Header

I Come to You in Pieces

Chapter Text

Day 1

The Morphogenic engine’s main control room. Their first meeting. Waylon didn’t know it then, but it was the most sane he would ever see Eddie for a long time.

The man up against the thick plastic-glass, begging for his help and for him to stop them from doing their experiments on him, was not the same man he would later meet in the Vocational Block. He was unstable, yes, but not insane. But the engine would change that.

Waylon wasn’t sure why Eddie singled him out in that moment. Maybe it was his attire; amongst security personnel and scientists dressed in suits, he stood out in Converse, jeans and a tan cardigan over a plain white turtleneck. Maybe it was the look in his eyes, the look that said he didn’t want to be there any more than the patients did. Whatever the reason, the occurrence shook him, only fueling his motivation to alert the outside world of the horrid things happening at Mount Massive Asylum.

But Murkoff knew everything.

Before he knew what was happening, he was being exposed to the engine himself. The Rorschach images, the buzzing in his head, the vibrations in his muscles and tendons. Even when he closed his eyes, he could still see the fluid images flashing behind his eyelids.

Something went wrong. He didn’t know at the time – something about a patient named Billy Hope and the Walrider. It was frightening, how quickly everything went to shit – the darkness, which he would have to get used to, the yelling of patients as they rampaged around the asylum, and the metallic scent of blood – something else he would be forced to grow used to.

The vents. They were his safest place. Most of the patients couldn’t fit in the small tunnels. For once, his short, lean frame could be used to his advantage.

The hospital section of the asylum was dark, so dark. A camcorder, stolen from a stand in the room he woke up in, was his only guidance as he approached the furnaces, some still burning, flames licking at the stone walls. With a shudder, he crept toward the door, moving as quietly as he could in bare feet.

When the boor burst open and the bearded man pounced, Waylon struggled to keep the bloody surgical saw away from his neck. This was the same man he’d seen in the kitchen, plucking organs from a dead body like fruit from a tree and slurping them down.

Luckily, this man wasn’t large and bulking like the most of the patients. Waylon was almost, if not as strong as him, and the cannibal soon gave up the intention of decapitating him, instead pushing him into one of the still-burning furnaces with a gruff, “Stay there… and cook.”

The heat was unbearable on his exposed soles. Scrambling to the back of the furnace, he found the bricks were unstable and crumbling. Shoving a fist and forearm against them, they budged slightly. Again. One fell out. Again. Two fell out. Ramming his shoulder into the wall, he let out a cry of surprise as he fell through, clutching the camcorder to his chest to keep it safe.

More dark hallways. More blood. More breathless steps as he avoided the cannibal. He lost track of how many beds he hid under, how many doors were broken down in pursuit of him, and how many times he thought, for sure, he was going to die. But finally, finally, he made it to the Recreational Area. Fog concealed picnic tables and fences until he was nearly on top of them. Evidently, the outdoors were off-limits for the cannibal, as he wasn’t chased into the foggy night. After avoiding the hostile inmates on a basketball court and climbing a ladder to an empty guard post, Waylon locked himself inside one of the small rooms and curled up against a metal desk.

Oh, how he wanted to go home. He wanted to take a long, hot shower and lie in his own bed and dream peacefully. He shut his eyes, but sleep wouldn’t come to him in his heightened state of adrenaline.

What was his original mission? ‘To get out of this place. Alive.’ If he hid up in the tiny post, he would starve to death, or worse; be found. There was no search party, no posse coming to save him. He had to save himself.

Standing on weary legs, he opened the door and continued along the shingled roof until he found another place to climb down. To his surprise, the doors nearby were open. Unsure of his bearings, he entered the building. The sign on the wall said enough.

The single word was both terrifying and exhilarating. Obviously, the higher risk of stumbling across more violent, dangerous patients was frightening, and he turned each corner with dread. But, the radio was in this section of the asylum. If he could just find it, he could have more Swat teams on the way than Murkoff could handle.

Maybe the Gods were looking down on him, or maybe it was just pure luck, but it didn’t take him long to find the room. Disregarding the broken down security door, he lunged for the radio, picking up the receiver with a trembling hand and turning the dial.

“Leadville 911, what’s your emergency?”

The breath that Waylon had taken to respond was knocked out of him by a sudden blow as a hand grabbed the receiver and shoved him aside. He stumbled, tripping over his own feet, and fell back against the wall as he watched Jeremy Blaire slam the receiver against the counter again and again, rendering it useless. He clambered to his hands and knees, crawling toward the door, but a baton stopped him in his tracks as it collided with his jaw, knocking him backwards once more. Blaire leaped on top of him, bracing the baton against Waylon’s throat.

“Waylon Park. You couldn’t just keep your mouth shut. You couldn’t just play along! Well, you’re done talking now.”

As the blond struggled against his attacker, hands flailing, fingers poised to claw at eyes, loud banging and screaming reached his ringing ears. Blaire’s grip loosened as he looked in the direction of the sound.

The suited man released him and stood, backing away as the stars faded from Waylon’s eyes. Blaire pointed the baton at him.

“Do me a favor and die here, Park.”

Blaire disappeared, leaving Waylon to climb to his feet. He quickly fell back into a crouch though, as something broke through the door. Something big. Back against the wall, broken window directly over his head, he listened to the sound of heavy, grunting breathing and leaden footsteps accompanied by the rattling of chains in the other room. The door was gone, window shattered. Was he going to die, here, when he was so close to refuge only seconds ago? Tears gathered in his eyes as helplessness overwhelmed him, but the moment passed as the breathing and chains faded, leaving only the sound of his own pounding heart.

He had to get past that… thing. Where would he go now? The radio had been his only hope; he had no Plan B, but he knew he couldn’t stay here and wait for it to come back.

Low and slow seemed the logical way to go about it; save what energy he had left for a burst of speed, should he need it… though he hoped he wouldn’t. Creeping from the room, he hid under a desk as the rattling of chains approached once more. Peeking through the gap in the wood, he got a better look at the variant.

He wished he hadn’t.

Enormous stature aside, his face was horrifying enough on its own. His nose was completely gone, as it seemed his lips were too. Some sort of clamps were hooked on each side of his mouth, permanently exposing his teeth in a wide, unfriendly snarl. He was covered in blood, but then, everyone seemed to be.

Even more anxious to leave the area, Waylon followed the giant down the hallway, glaring lights making him nervous. He kept his distance, ready to turn on his heel, should the beast change direction and spot him. Luckily, he ducked into a room, giving Waylon the opportunity to sneak past. Darkness enveloping him once more, he thought it safe enough to stand and continue down the corridor.

The telltale roar from behind him made his blood run cold.

In a panicked frenzy, he ran. Vaulting over fallen beds, bouncing off dirty walls like a bumper car, he lost track of how many corners he dashed around, causing him to lose his sense of direction. All he could hear over the blood pounding in his ears were the heavy footsteps of pursuit. He could feel the hot, sticky breath on the nape of his neck as he approached a pile of debris, much too tall for either of them to climb and too massive to move, but… there was a thin crack between a bed frame and bookshelf that he thought he might be able to squeeze through.

Waylon slammed into the metal of the frame, the pain in his shoulder disregarded as he turned sideways. He side-stepped quickly, only turning back to look as he sandwiched himself in the middle of the blockade. A large, scarred hand swiped at him, centimeters from his nose. Frozen in place, he watched as the arm retracted and the giant growled a few words.

“I’m coming. You won’t have to kill yourself.”

Trembling, Waylon watched him leave – though, his shoulders did not slump in defeat. The determination in his mannerisms coupled with his words convinced Waylon that he hadn’t given up; he was merely going to find another way around.

After a brief moment of waiting as to ensure his heart wouldn’t burst in his chest, Waylon freed himself of the barricade and continued on. He hadn’t gone far when a female voice spoke over the broadcast system, startling him.

“Attention Murkoff personnel, an emergency evacuation is in progress. Please proceed immediately through the Administrative Block to exit. Patients and the restrained are advised to remain calmly in their room until help arrives. Thank you for your cooperation.”

‘Until help arrives? What bullshit,’ Waylon reflected, even allowing a bitter smirk to cross his lips as he moved along. Still, it was his only chance. ‘Plan B, here I come.’

Fresh blood painted the wall beside him as he passed. Trying to work out the layout of the building in his head, he had a vague idea of where the Administrative Block was from here. Turning another corner, he paused in the doorway, watching a man dressed in some kind of religious robe finger-paint on the wall in blood. Down t-, it said, obviously unfinished.

“Another poor soul.” His whimsical voice startled Waylon, and he crept closer. Was this man a Father? “Don’t be afraid. You’re doing His work, whether you know it or not.” Perplexed, Waylon approached a hole in the concrete floor, slipping through it. He was definitely a few floors above the Admin. block.

Down the hall, a man shouted obscenities. Waylon chose to go the opposite direction. It was dark. He made his way through rooms slowly, allowing the nightvision of his camcorder and an outstretched hand to guide him.

In the middle of another dark hallway, someone barged through a door behind him. He broke into a run, not even looking back. The heavy footsteps were familiar enough. Dodging beds and wheelchairs, he sprinted down the corridor. Another barricade blocked his way, and he panicked as he skidded to a stop. There was no squeezing through this one; it was packed tight. A raindrop hit his cheek.

He turned, noticing the open window for the first time. Dropping his camcorder to let it hang around his neck, he used both hands to vault out the window and onto the roof.

Outside, it was raining lightly. The fog was gone, allowing him at least some visibility in the dark with the nightvision. Climbing down, he landed on the concrete of the ramp leading to unmarked double doors. He tried one. It wasn’t locked, but something was blocking it from the inside. Edging around the side of the building, he found one of the windows to be open. Inside was what looked like a tool shed. He jumped inside, glancing around. A document lay on the ground. Stooping to pick it up, he was startled by an inmate, curled up in the dark corner. Waylon took the paper. The man didn’t seem dangerous. Waylon lifted the document to his face.

To his surprise, it was a poem; a chant of four lines, repeating over and over:

Above the knees, below the navel
Sliced and sewn on Gluskin’s table
To make a place to push inside
The Groom will make himself a bride.

To Waylon, it seemed like another method of mutilation. He didn’t dwell on it for too long, nor did he have the courage to ask the man in the corner if he’d written the words.

Gluskin. The name sounded familiar. He couldn’t place it. He climbed back through the window and continued on.

Through a door, over a broken fence and through a half-flooded pipe, Waylon found himself in the doorway of another gate. On his left, a lit barbwire fence missing a door, complete darkness beyond it. Straight in front of him, a large archway with doors that looked as if they provided another way back into the building. And to his right, a high electric fence, still sparking and topped off with more wire. Waylon went straight, figuring it was the best way to get to the Administrative Block.

Inside the archway, it was dark. Waylon climbed the stairs, spotting a document, and approached the doors. He tried one, and it was locked. Movement inside froze his hand on the knob. A man – tall, from what Waylon could tell – was walking by. The sound of the door must have alerted him, for he stopped and looked Waylon’s way. The blond froze, able to catch a glimpse of a dark vest over a white shirt and black hair atop his head, the sides shaved – or perhaps the engine had caused it to fall out. After a moment, the man moved on, out of sight, and Waylon let out the breath he’d been holding the entire time. He picked up the paper, eyes skimming over it.

Kill us. Burn the building. Worse than death here. Kill us. Kill us.

Waylon wrinkled his nose. ‘How pleasant.’ With one last glance at the doors, Waylon returned to the four-way divide. The electric fence was impermeable, unless he wanted to get burnt to a crisp. He went right.

Past the fence and darkness was what looked like another shed. He descended the stairs and followed the corridor left to a few fuse boxes. A green light shone above a lever with a lightning bolt. ‘Bingo.’ Waylon pushed it down, satisfied at the now-red light. Assured the electric fence would be passable now, he hurried back the way he’d come.

As expected, the giant structure’s light was off, sparks no longer flying from the metal fence. Two more steps toward it, however, and he was stunned by the sound of the thing powering up again. ‘What the hell?’ He stood there for a moment, then turned on his heel. ‘Somebody’s fucking with me.’

Sure enough, the green light was on again, lever back in the upward position. Brows furrowed in annoyance, he pulled it down again and turned around.

An inmate stood behind him, taking a swing that Waylon narrowly dodged. “I want to share something with you!” he declared angrily. Waylon didn’t wait around to hear it, taking off down the hallway. The sound of feet slapping against concrete told him the man had begun pursuit.

Slamming the door to the shed in his face to slow him down, Waylon beelined to the electric fence. The power looked like it was off, but he didn’t bother grabbing a twig and throwing it at the metal frame. He grabbed the knob firmly.

No shock.

Turning to close the door, he saw the man approaching once more. Breathless, he ran, blood pumping in his ears, and ducked inside an open door.

A few long corridors and sprints across grassy areas later, Waylon climbed what seemed like an endless spiral of stairs within a tall tower. One of the platforms had given away, but the gap was small enough for Waylon to leap across. Once he reached the top, he climbed out a window and walked along the side of the building.

Another broken platform halted his progression, and he hesitated. The gap was larger than the last, but the other side was a few feet lower. He had nowhere else to go. With a running start, he leaped across.

Both hands slammed against the wooden plank as he struggled for a better grip. The wood was slippery, and he heard the cracking and splintering above. Reaching for more leverage, the rotten planks cracked a final time, and he fell.

It was a straight plummet down, thirty feet or so. He landed on his side, the blow knocking the breath out of him. Rolling onto his back, he blinked as flakes of wood fell onto his face and bare arms. Everything was ringing. Sucking in a painful breath, he clambered to his hand and knees, gathering himself for a moment before standing.

“… don’t need any sisters. Maybe some girls that ain’t blood.”

A voice was murmuring – or maybe the fall had him hallucinating. Taking a few steps forward, he felt along his side, carefully pressing against each bone. They were sore, bruised maybe, but not broken, and Waylon was thankful. A broken rib would severely slow him down and make him easy prey.

“We have worser problems.”

“Grow some hair on your pecker Timmy, then we can talk about girls.”

“If we had a visitor. If we did. He could be our goat.”

Waylon lost track of how many voices; three, four? Were they following him? Glancing behind him – through his camcorder – he made sure there was no movement before continuing on.

This place was like a maze; some sort of storage area. Bookshelves, tables, chairs and metal containers – used for what, he didn’t know – littered the way, making forward progression slow as he ducked and squeezed from room to room. Doors were locked or blocked, but there were spaces behind the walls that he could navigate.

“A gift for the Groom.”

The voice sounded close now; perhaps closer than before. Waylon moved into the dreary light of a cracked window, using his nightvision to look further into the room. Two eyes reflected back. He ducked behind a fallen table.

It didn’t take him long to spot the rope above the man’s head and piece it together. Feeling foolish, he cautiously approached the hanging man, nudging his leg. He swung lightly, suspended from the rafters above. He looked like a security guard, and he hadn’t been dead long. A can rattled on the floorboards nearby, and Waylon hurried to squeeze between two empty shelves. As he eased through, a man popped up in the space between two books. Waylon cursed under his breath.

“Quiet!” the man hissed. His face and head were quite deformed – from the engine, Waylon realized, or from mutilation… self or otherwise. “If they c-catch us, they’ll give us to him. The man downstairs. The man… very bad. Very, very bad. Oh God…” He disappeared, and when Waylon emerged from the shelves, he was nowhere in sight.

The man downstairs? Waylon had no idea what he meant, but he could only imagine that whomever was lurking down there was akin to the cannibal or the big guy with the teeth, or… perhaps even worse.

“Rats! Rats in the walls!”

The sudden outburst of yelling and hands slamming into the wall he was moving behind startled him. “Kill the rats! He’s here, inside the walls!” The man ran away, out of sight, and Waylon picked up his pace. ‘They know. I gotta get out of here.’

Clambering over a broken wall from atop a sturdy shelf, he landed on the other side. The door across the room flew open, slamming into the wall. He ran. Hopping over another wall, he tried to distinguish the footsteps he heard. How many were chasing him? One? Two? More? He winced at the pain in his side as he landed on a wooden crate and tried the first door. Locked. Stairs. They were his only option.

“Here comes the bride.”

“Fucking idiot delivered his own self to Gluskin’s hell.”

Gluskin. The name sounded painfully familiar once again. Waylon couldn’t remember. Maybe it was the engine, displacing things in his head. He couldn’t even remember Lisa’s face anymore.

“Here comes your bride, Mr. Gluskin.”

As Waylon descended the stairs into a dark abyss, he recalled the deformed variant’s words.

The man downstairs.

Chapter Text

Day 2

The wood at the top of the stairs, probably rotten, creaked beneath his feet, and he was thankful when he finally reached the concrete floor at the bottom. He thought he was close to the ground floor of the asylum, but he wasn’t sure. It was likely, at least, as he’d fallen such a long way.

The room he was in was large. Waylon couldn’t see much past his own hands, but he could feel the vastness of the room, cold and dark, about to swallow him as he stepped further into it. Hugging the wall, he used the camcorder screen as his eyes. There were dozens of tables, all with sewing machines on them. ‘Some sort of activity area, where the patients used to busy themselves during free hours?’ He followed the wall until he reached the other side of the room. A light behind a large beige tarp cast haunting shadows. Music played softly… a radio? Waylon proceeded warily, unwilling to sneak up on an unstable patient.

The sight on the other side of the tarp made his stomach turn. Blood. A woman, unclothed, face covered, lying on a surgical table. A man in scrubs stood beside her, posed like a doctor, holding her hand in his. Creeping closer, Waylon realized that the woman was… not a woman. Breasts were sloppily sewn onto the chest, stitches clearly visible beneath the mounds of flesh. The swollen belly was haphazardly sewn together, the eye of the head inside peeking out. Bile rose in Waylon’s throat. Between spread legs were no genitals – removed, most likely. Another head was positioned between the parted thighs. The whole scene was a makeshift birth; a gruesome mockery of the miracle of life. Waylon could vaguely remember seeing his own son’s birth. It seemed vulgar now.

                “I want a girl, just like the girl that married dear old Dad,
                She was a pearl, and the only girl that Daddy ever had…”

Waylon turned away from the scene, regarding the radio with a small shudder. He’d seen too many things in this place to ever return to his own self, even if he did escape with his life.

In the next room there were more sewing machines, more boxes and shelves, but no visible exit. Waylon crept along, trying to remain as quiet as possible, lest ‘the man downstairs’ – Gluskin or not – be lurking nearby. He entered another room, just as devoid of anything useful as the last. It was eerily quiet; enough to work Waylon’s nerves.

Following the wall, he came across a door on the third turn. Rushing toward it, he grabbed the knob and jiggled it. Locked. Waylon lifted his eyes–

“Darling!”

Stumbling backward a few steps, he regarded the man on the other side of the door. Smiling widely, one large hand pressed against the thick pane of glass, he had blood on his face and a bowtie at his neck. They shared gazes for another moment before he turned and disappeared. Waylon was submerged in silence once more.

But not for long.

The sound of a door opening in the next room made his heart leap into his throat. Shoving his shoulder against the door in front of him, he found it wouldn’t budge. “C’mon,” he pleaded, trying the other knob.

“Did I frighten you? I’m awfully sorry, I didn’t mean to.”

His tone was friendly, words thick with some sort of lisp and they were innocent enough, but Waylon ducked underneath a table. Maybe this wasn’t the man he’d been warned about. Maybe this man wasn’t the one who had created that sickening scene in the other room.

“We’ve met before, haven’t we? I know I’ve seen your face. Maybe… just before I woke up. Though it seems like a dream now, being here with you.”

Waylon wrinkled his nose, hand shaking as he scanned the room with his camcorder. Was he being wooed? ‘I’ll be damned if that’s gonna coax me out.’

“You don’t have to be alone anymore. Darling, where are you?”

‘Where is the bastard?’ Waylon shut off the nightvision for a moment, trying to conserve the battery, and strained to hear footsteps instead. He sounded close. Waylon switched the camcorder back on.

Right beside him.

Waylon raised a hand to cover his mouth, afraid a noise would squeak past his lips and he would be found. The man was standing so close, Waylon could, if he was completely insane, reach out and touch his pant leg. The man was, for lack of better word, huge. Not as big as the guy with teeth; no, this man carried his weight in muscle. His leg, so close to Waylon, was nearly as thick as Waylon’s own waist. He wore dark jeans with patches sewn into the sides, and black boots many sizes bigger than Waylon could fit into.

Waylon held his breath until the man moved away, daring to exhale slowly as the other circled around a table, humming softly. He wore a white shirt, tucked into his jeans on one side, and a black vest with patches, too. On his hands were fingerless black gloves. His shoulders were broad.

The realization hit him hard as the man retreated to the adjacent room. Could this really be the same man he’d seen in the engine’s main control room? The computer screen flashed before his eyes, a black-haired male choking muffled cries around tubes stuffed down his mouth and nose. The name in the corner: Eddie Gluskin.

Waylon winced as ink-blot-images swam before his eyes. The engine was still affecting him after only being exposed for a few hours. What havoc could it have wreaked on this man? Waylon didn’t want to wait to find out.

Once Gluskin was far enough away, Waylon crept from table to table, using as much cover as he could. A door had to be open in the other room, unless Gluskin had locked them in here together. Waylon didn’t want to think about that.

The vested man made another pass, murmuring something about “the emptiness inside of him.” He walked with purpose, strides long. Waylon made his way back into the room once Gluskin was out of sight.

“Darling!”

He’d seen him in the light of the windows. ‘Shit, shit, shit.’ Springing up from his crouched position, Waylon ran, dodging tables.

“You don’t have to run from me!”

‘Like hell!’ Waylon’s mind hissed as he jumped over a fallen table. Too many twists and turns. He lost his bearings quickly, only aware of the footsteps behind him and desperate pleas. There’s no place like home was written on the wall in blood.

An elevator shaft. No elevator. Waylon didn’t stop. He leaped across, fingers curling around the red-painted rungs.

The ladder broke under his weight.

All he felt upon impact was the pain in his leg. A sob left his throat as he sat up. Blood soaked his pant leg quickly. A large chunk of wood had lodged itself in the flesh of his leg, just above his ankle. He somehow forgot to feel grateful that the elevator had only been a floor beneath them.

“Oh God, oh God are you okay?”

Waylon grit his teeth and yanked the wood from his muscle, another cry of agony tumbling from his lips.

“Tell me you’re okay. I hate the thought of you suffering without me!”

Waylon raised his head, using the elevator cable to help him stand. Gluskin was leaning out from the floor above, face twisted in concern.

“Why would you do something like that to yourself? You’d rather… rather die, than be with me?” Waylon couldn’t bear to answer. Gluskin’s expression turned menacing. “Then die.”

The elevator beneath him jolted to life, slowly beginning to ascend. Eyes widening, Waylon scrambled onto the lower floor before the gap closed.

“What have you…? Ha. Then we continue!”

Waylon limped from the shaft, sure Gluskin would come down in the elevator. He needed a hiding place.

More words written in blood on the wall: A woman’s work is never done. Tears on his cheeks, Waylon staggered into another room, and another. A door. He moved toward it, but he was there. Panic.

“That part of you the world sees, they think it’s perfect. As God intended. Even these idiots and lunatics see it. There’s something special about you, on the surface.”

Waylon tried to limp back the way he’d come, but Gluskin’s shadow overtook him. Dead end.

A locker. Tugging it open, Waylon stuffed himself inside, closing it as quietly as possible.

“Hmm, close. I can… the smell of my love’s arbor. Darling, you can’t hide from me.”

Through the slits in the locker, Waylon saw him. There was rattling against metal. Waylon pushed on the door. Locked.

The locker moved and tipped over, causing Waylon to cry out as he was momentarily disoriented. Metal was against his back. He saw the ceiling lights above him. He was moving along the ground.

“You make yourself a gift for me; a delicacy, to be unwrapped,” he murmured, face appearing above the locker, “and unwrapped again. And savored.” The whites of his eyes were red – completely in one eye, partially in the other – the result of broken blood vessels, he could only assume. Once he got past that, Waylon could see his eyes were a light blue.

More movement. Waylon had no idea where he was now. His leg throbbed, he was exhausted, only conscious thanks to the adrenaline coursing through his veins. He didn’t know if he would have the strength to escape this time.

“I’ve been a little… vulgar, I know. And I want to say I’m sorry. I just… you know how a man gets when he wants to know a woman. But, after the ceremony, when I’ve made an honest woman out of you… I promise I’ll be a different man.”

A bride. The makeshift birthing scene. It was starting to make sense. Gluskin was delusional enough – although one of the more lucid patients he’d come across – to believe that Waylon was a woman, and he intended to marry him. Waylon almost laughed aloud. ‘This is insane.’

Gluskin’s face appeared above him again. “I want a family. A legacy. To be the father I never had.” He sounded so passionate, and Waylon didn’t have the heart to tell him that he couldn’t fulfill those desires. “I’ll never let anything happen to our children. Not like…” He broke off, looking away, displeased. ‘Like your father?’ Waylon finished silently.

Without warning, the locker tipped back upright, and Waylon found his footing. Gluskin’s face obstructed his view of the room they were now in.

“You’ll have to wait here. I know you must be just as eager as I am to consummate our love.” He straightened to stand tall, easily a head taller than the locker itself. He pressed a gloved hand to the slits in the metal, Waylon catching a glimpse of the scarred skin of his exposed fingers. “But try to enjoy the anticipation.”

When he moved away, Waylon wished he hadn’t. His vision was limited, but what he could see left him sick to his stomach.

Chains and limbs hung from the ceiling – arms and legs, bloody and stiff. Beyond those, a surgical table with a connected saw blade, both covered in blood.

“Here, darling,” the oddly soothing voice returned. “This will help you relax.”

Before he could protest, he was hit in the face with some sort of gas, lungs full of the shit before he even knew what happened. He choked and coughed, vision blurring after mere moments. Consciousness fading, he had no option but to give in to the overwhelming fatigue.


Slowly, gradually, he came to, the effects of the gas rendering him incredibly groggy. It was all he could do to keep his eyes open. Blinking the blur from his vision, he tried to focus on the room before him. There was a man tied to a table, only clothed in a shirt. Waylon tried to gather the sense to speak, but darkness overcame his mind once more.

Minutes or hours later, he was conscious enough to decipher the words Gluskin spoke.

“Darling, I need you to try to bleed less. I know the fairer sex often endures the same wounds with more suffering, but you really need to make an effort.”

Whomever he was speaking to was screaming relentlessly – the same man, Waylon recognized, once he’d forced his eyes open again. To his horror, Gluskin shoved a large surgical knife right between the man’s legs. Agony filled his ears. He yearned to cover them to block out the awful sound. Blood spurted from the new wound, the man’s legs flailing. It didn’t take long for his cries to die down, body becoming lifeless. Gluskin hung his head over the now motionless body.

“No… I’m so sorry darling. Love isn’t for everyone.”

Distraught, Waylon fought the approaching darkness, but was forced to succumb to it anyway.

More time passed before he awoke again.

“Hold still now, darling. All these unsightly hairs.”

Gluskin had another victim in his lair. Waylon feared he would be next, and struggled to stay awake, just for a little while.

On a different table lay another patient, completely nude. One leg was propped up on Gluskin’s shoulder as the larger man ran his hands over the man’s leg and chest.

“Oh! Silky smooth, like a little girl again. Now for the more delicate bits.”

The man, whom Waylon had assumed was sedated, for he was so still, began to yell as Gluskin picked up a knife. He pressed the tip into the man’s chest, dragging it down the length of his body, and pausing.

“No, no!! Please, no!”

Gluskin braced the blade with both hands and sliced down.

Waylon faded away again, unable to determine if the lightheadedness was due to the lasting effects of the gas or if it was in reaction to what he’d just witnessed.

When he regained consciousness for the… hell, he couldn’t even remember how many times now… Gluskin held a man by the neck, the naked figure positioned on his hands and knees on the table, facing the spinning saw blade.

“You’ve given up. You’re ugly and you’ve given up on love. You’re not even worth stringing up. Bleed here, and die.”

He shoved the man’s face into the saw, the sound of the blade cutting through flesh, sticky and through bone, jarring. Waylon was gone again.


A cool draft wafted over his body. It was pleasant… until Waylon recovered enough sense to realize that the feeling meant he was in danger. Ropes. Thick ropes surrounded his wrists and ankles. Blinking heavy lids open, his stomach sank when he saw the position he was now in.

Less than two feet separated the blade and his ‘delicate bits’, as Gluskin had put it. Unclothed, he felt utterly helpless and exposed to the man standing at the foot of the table. Was this truly how he was going to die?

Gluskin’s face lit up when he saw his bride-to-be’s awakening. “You have amazing bone structure. Such soft skin. You’re going to be beautiful,” he declared.

Slowly, his rousing mind began to understand. He was to be cut into, to be made into the makeshift woman from behind the tarp; the perfect bride. He wouldn’t survive the procedure. Too panic-stricken to plead for his life, he could only listen as Gluskin spoke in that sweet, caring tone.

“A woman… has to suffer some things. It’s not pleasant, I know. But just try to… endure. For my sake. For the sake of our children.” He circled the table, gazing down upon him. “It won’t take long. A few snips of the flesh here, and here,” he gestured at Waylon’s chest. “Cut away everything…” he glanced down, and Waylon barely kept himself from squirming, “… vulgar. A soft place to welcome my seed. To grow our family.” Gluskin’s hand, large enough to circle the junction of his knee, brushed along the inside of Waylon’s thigh. The blond shuddered.

“The incision will hurt,” Gluskin spoke over the buzz of the saw as it started up. Waylon could keep quiet no longer, terrified of such a gruesome death. Gluskin seemed to take no notice of his whimpers and labored breaths. “And the conception. And birthing is never easy. I’ll make the cut fast. Just close your eyes and think of our children.”

The table was on wheels, Waylon discovered, as Gluskin tugged it closer to the stationary blade. Every muscle in his body straining, Waylon squeezed his eyes shut. He didn’t want to watch.

The sound of the blade slowing made him open his eyes, just in time to see an inmate bash something over Gluskin’s head. The force of the blow caused Gluskin’s hand to break the wooden plank Waylon’s leg was tied to. While the two struggled, Waylon broke his arm free, rolling off the table and crashing to the floor with a wince. The variant hit Gluskin again, then scurried away. “Get back here!” Gluskin growled, giving chase.

Waylon seized the opportunity, climbing to his feet and locating his jumpsuit, discarded on the floor. He stepped into the legs and shrugged the fabric over his shoulders. Snatching his camcorder from a nearby table, he beelined for an open doorway.

The blond hadn’t even reached the other side of the new room before he heard the familiar cry of, “Darling!” He dropped his camcorder, using both hands to propel himself past walls and over fallen tables. At his limping pace, he had no idea how Gluskin didn’t catch up to him.

“Why would you do this to me?” came the pitiful plea from behind him. He hurried through a door and shut it behind him.

He was a wreck. His leg rendered him nearly immobile, and he was running on an empty tank. As the door was broken down, he spotted a broken window and climbed over the edge.

“Wait, don’t! Don’t!”

He jumped.

The courtyard was small, covered in grass that did nothing to cushion his fall. He landed on his already injured leg. His vision swam, and for a moment, he feared he would black out from the pain.

“You all want to leave me? Is that it? You want to leave me?? Fine! Go! You and the rest of these ungrateful sluts!”

Waylon gasped for breath.

“… Wait!”

Chapter Text

Chest heaving, hair and clothing beginning to dampen from the drizzle, Waylon watched the window. Gluskin turned halfway back at his cry, one hand resting on the window sill. He couldn’t see his face, but he could tell he had the man’s attention… for the moment, at least.

“… I don’t want to be alone.”

He didn’t have to try to sound pitiful; the pain and despair he felt did that for him. How desperate had he become, to even consider trusting this madman? Still… it seemed as though it would be easy enough to play along and tell him what he wanted to hear. Gluskin seemed saner than the rest of them, and what other choice did he have? He was almost sure something in his leg was fractured.

“Darling, the sound of your voice… finally.” Gluskin paused, and Waylon could only wait. “You don’t want to leave me?”

“No!” he spat, almost too eagerly. Rushing to cover himself, he followed up the outburst with a quickly-thought-out explanation. “I-I was… scared, when that man attacked you. I’ve been chased by a lot of maniacs here.”

“Oh! You poor thing.” Gluskin’s murmur was almost inaudible from so far away, but Waylon was sure he was heading in the right direction. Gluskin leaned over the sill. “Will you stay there? Let me protect you.”

Waylon nodded, adding a meek, “Yes.” A grin nearly split Gluskin’s face.

“I’ll be right down, darling. Don’t move!”

The moment Gluskin vanished from the window, Waylon felt, once again, entirely too exposed. Would the man even be able to find his way down to him? Pushing himself to his feet, he tested his leg. It hurt, but he could still limp. He made his way to the nearest door, pleased to find it unlocked, and decided to hide until Gluskin showed up… if he did.

He probably shouldn’t have wandered so far, but the first room he entered had a vent hanging overtop a bookshelf, but no visible opening. He continued to the next room and the next, becoming frustrated at the sight of the ducts, but no way to get into them.

As he left another room, the sound of a surgical saw buzzing down the hall froze him in his tracks. The noise was all-too-familiar, and he broke into a cold sweat at the connection his brain made. ‘Didn’t I leave him back in the Laboratory?’

“Feed me! FEED ME!”

Heart in his throat, Waylon turned to the door on his left, throwing it open. ‘If there was ever a time to find an open vent…’ There was one. Waylon limped over to it, camcorder bumping against his chest as he let it go to pull himself up into the duct with both hands.

A hand closed around his ankle, tugging him back down.

With a cry, he hit the ground, looking up at the bearded cannibal once more.

“Mine. You are mine.”

Scrambling away on elbows and heels, Waylon’s back hit the wall behind him. He was trapped.

The cannibal swiped the saw at him, the blade just nicking Waylon’s cheek. He felt the blood trickle down his jaw.

“Look how you bleed for me,” the man murmured, stooping down to Waylon’s level. The blond trembled as a hand reached forward to swipe some blood onto his finger. “Wet. Ready. Red. Wanting.” A tongue flicked out to taste the crimson that coated his finger. He grinned. “Dinner bells!” He reached forward, throwing Waylon to the floor in the middle of the library.

On his stomach, Waylon lifted his head from the concrete. A menacing figure stood in the doorway, hands balled into fists.

“Move aside, darling.”

Gluskin’s steps were heavy on the floor as he moved into the room. Waylon pushed himself up, half-scrambling, half-lurching to the wall beside the door, preparing to use it as an escape, should he need to run again. Gluskin, though larger than the cannibal, had no weapon. Waylon figured this would end badly for him, but maybe he could use it as a distraction for himself.

Waylon greatly underestimated the abilities of a man in love.

“Filthy excuse for a man,” Gluskin murmured, positioning himself between Waylon and the man who wanted him for dinner. “You won’t again touch what belongs to me.”

The cannibal leaped at him, saw in hand. Waylon looked away; he didn’t want to witness any more deaths here. The struggle lasted a mere fifteen seconds before the saw flew, clattering against the hard floor. Waylon chose to look.

Pinned against the wall by a hand around his throat, soles at least a foot above the ground, the cannibal struggled weakly.

“P-Please, no!” he choked out, feet kicking. Gluskin released him, and he fell to the ground limply. The larger man knelt beside him, one knee on the ground, and pulled a knife from somewhere near his waist – his pocket, belt?

“You deserve no mercy.”

The gurgling sound of the cannibal’s throat being slit was something Waylon was sure he would never forget, as was the distance the blood spurted from the severed vein in his neck. Even in the dim light of the room, Waylon could see it staining the front of Gluskin’s vest and shirt. Trembling, the blond’s knees were too weak to stand and run as the man who had just murdered someone right in front of him approached him.

“Oh darling, I told you not to move, didn’t I?”

But his tone wasn’t angry anymore, it was concerned and gently scolding, if anything. Waylon’s breath caught in his throat as the man knelt down to examine him. He reached a hand forth to brush his thumb over the cut on his cheek. “You weren’t trying to run from me again, were you?”

Waylon shook his head quickly, the cut stinging fiercely. It took him a moment to understand why; tears were tracing down his cheeks, and the salt had mixed into the wound. He made to stand.

“Oh, my love, let me.”

Before Waylon could protest, Gluskin had scooped him into his arms effortlessly. Waylon was so exhausted, so relieved to be able to allow his body to go limp and not have to remain in a constant state of fear, that he didn’t even mind much about the fresh, now-drying blood on Gluskin’s vest, now on him.

He closed his eyes for what felt like a few minutes, able to feel the vibration against his head from Gluskin’s chest as he hummed. When he opened them again, they were in a small room with a desk littered with paper, an easel with a sketch of a dress, and the cleanest looking mattress Waylon had seen since he’d been here. Gluskin set him down gingerly on said mattress.

“Rest now, darling. You will need all your strength to bear my children.”

Waylon swallowed thickly as the man left the room and he was delved in silence again. He couldn’t shake the strange feeling in his chest. Fatigued, he lay down on the mattress, sleep quickly overtaking him. Just before it did, though, he thought he recognized the feeling.

And he could have sworn it was the warmth of safety.


Day 3

Thin daylight sifting through the dirty window woke Waylon. He wasn’t sure how long he’d been asleep, but the last time he’d been outside, it had been dark.

He sat up. A candle flickered from atop the desk, his only company in the small room. He gazed down at his body. His pant leg had been rolled up, exposing the gauze wrapped around his ankle. He touched it gingerly. It hurt, but at least it wasn’t exposed to the dirt and gore. Obviously, the job had been done whilst he’d been asleep. The thought of Gluskin touching his unconscious body – for the second time, now – nearly made his skin crawl. ‘At least he didn’t undress me and try to give me a sex change this time,’ he thought bitterly.

Standing up carefully, he made his way over to the door. It was solid; no cracks or splinters in the wood. It wasn’t locked, Waylon discovered after turning the knob – it couldn’t be locked from the outside anyway – but blocked by something heavy and large. So heavy, in fact, that Waylon couldn’t even open the door a crack to see what was on the outside, no matter how hard he pushed. Disheartened, he gave up. ‘Of course he blocked the door. You tried to escape him, what – two, three times? He’s not stupid.’ The window caught Waylon’s eye and he moved over to it. ‘Crazy, insane, deranged, but not stupid.’

The window fared no better than the door. The panes were thick, muntins making it difficult to break the glass; even if he were at full strength, he wouldn’t be able to shatter it. One glance around the ceiling revealed no open vents to escape through. ‘So, what? I’m trapped? Trapped until he comes back.’

Waylon moved over to the desk, gazing at the scattered drawings. They were sketches of dresses, drawn in pencil, various lengths and designs, all wedding dresses. ‘Big surprise there.’ But, despite his disdain, he couldn’t deny that they were very good. ‘They would all look beautiful on a woman on her wedding day. But not me.’

The sound of something scraping along the ground just outside the door made him jump. His first instinct was to duck beneath the desk, but… how would that look to Gluskin? ‘I need to act like I’m not afraid of him,’ he thought reluctantly. And so, he stood there dumbly, finding himself hoping that it was Gluskin and not someone else coming to kill him.

Finally, when the door swung open to reveal the vest-clad man, Waylon almost felt… relieved. Although his presence was nerve-wracking – merely hours ago, he’d tried to not only castrate him, but to turn him into a woman – he was the only being in this place that had even offered some sort of protection toward Waylon.

“Finally awake, darling? You took quite a few tumbles.” Gluskin smiled, though, to Waylon, it looked like more of a grimace. Still, he returned the gesture all the same, remaining where he was. Gluskin moved closer, eyes cast down, and Waylon was thankful for the desk between them. A large, gloved hand reached forward, fingers spreading as they brushed over the papers. “Do you like my drawings? I’ve always had a knack for it. My mother taught me how to sew when I was young.” He raised his head, fixing his gaze on Waylon. The blond could see that the blood in one of his eyes was completely gone.

“You could be the one,” he stated, taking a step around the desk. Waylon stepped back reactively. “Oh no, no don’t be afraid,” he murmured, a slight frown snagging the corners of his lips as he stretched an arm forward. “I know you’re the one. You’re not like the others. So soft, but strong. Strong enough to help me start our family. I just need to fix you, and you’ll be perfect.” His hand smoothed over the skin of his uninjured cheek, tenderly, and Waylon flinched away.

“No,” he mumbled.

Gluskin’s expression of endearment fell, along with his tender touch. His brows rose in such a menacing manner that Waylon’s stomach immediately knotted.

“… No?” he repeated. His hand was at Waylon’s throat before the younger even saw him move. No?!” The junction between his thumb and finger pressed against his airway, making him struggle for breath. Waylon had to talk, and fast.

“I-I saw what happened to the others,” he murmured, brows furrowed as he tried to arrange his words in a way that wouldn’t upset him more. The grip on his throat loosened slightly. “I want t-to wait, to see a real doctor so I can be perfect for you.”

The look on Gluskin’s face was one of neither approval nor anger. “… You want to wait,” he repeated slowly, eyeing Waylon. The blond nodded.

“A real doctor could make everything work right, and I won’t get sick.” Now he was just pulling words out of his ass, but Gluskin seemed to contemplate the plea for a moment, releasing him. Waylon sucked in a breath of much-needed air, still slightly wary of the huge man before him. ‘Anything to get out of this place.’

“You want to leave here?” Waylon nodded again, quickly. Gluskin’s gaze lingered on the drawings as Waylon held his breath. “I could find some real fabric. Make you the perfect dress,” he mumbled, more for his own ears, Waylon thought, but he caught the words. He dared to speak.

“We could have a real wedding… I don’t want our children around all these maniacs,” he said quickly, remembering something Gluskin had said about protecting his children. “They’ll try to hurt them.”

That did it.

“Never,” the man stated curtly, reaching forth to take both of Waylon’s hands in his own. Waylon could only marvel at how ridiculously large they were in comparison. Gluskin leaned down to meet his eyes. “I would never let anyone touch our children.” Waylon struggled to maintain eye contact.

“Can’t we… don’t you want a nice home with a yard and a place where our children c-can grow up and be safe–”

“Of course I want that, darling, of course. But,” he paused, and Waylon made sure to lift his brows in – fake – concern. “You wouldn’t try to leave me if we left this place, would you?”

“N-No, I–”

“You wouldn’t try to call the police, would you dear?” The grip on his hands had tightened considerably, fingers squeezed together painfully. “We could be beautiful together. I could love you, if you’ll only let me.”

Waylon swallowed thickly, forcing his voice to work. “I-I don’t want to stay here. They’ve done so many awful things to us here. I want to leave and go somewhere else. Just you and me. And our kids,” he added hopefully, watching Gluskin’s face. His expression softened, grip loosening on his hands. “I know of a way out–”

“Darling,” Gluskin chuckled abruptly, letting go of one of his hands but holding fast to the other. “Let’s talk about this later, shall we? We’ve got so much to do, come along now.”

Waylon was led from the room, limping lightly on his injured leg. He’d not been in this part of Gluskin’s lair before. He caught a glimpse of an aisle, complete with white fabric leading down the center. ‘Where does this guy find the time?’

“In here, darling.”

Waylon’s hand was released, and he stood in darkness for a few seconds until Gluskin switched on a lamp. It lit the room with a buttery-yellow glow. “Now, I know it’s early, but I really must take your measurements to ensure–”

“Eddie, right?”

The man looked up from his table, frozen in the middle of his search. Waylon felt as if he’d said something wrong. “Your… your name is Eddie, isn’t it?”

“Oh, darling, yes it is, but I must have forgotten my manners, I’m terribly sorry. I haven’t yet asked for my own bride’s name!”

Waylon lowered his eyes, hesitating for a moment before murmuring his name aloud. “It’s Waylon.”

“Waylon,” Eddie repeated, and Waylon could have sworn his heart skipped a beat. “A lovely name, although a bit masculine, but there’s nothing to be done about that, is there?” He offered the blond a smile, which Waylon forced himself to return, careful not to allow his eyes to linger on the scars etched across the right side of his face. ‘Those weren’t there before the engine.’

“Do you have any… food?” Waylon asked, pushing his luck even further. Eddie fixed him with an unreadable look, and, yet again, Waylon felt as if he needed to explain himself. “It’s just… I can’t remember the last time I ate…”

“You are a tiny thing, aren’t you? Heavier than you look, though. But! My wife must be strong and healthy for our children, yes?” Waylon nodded, more and more aware of his growling stomach. “I do recall hearing a rumor of food still in the kitchen. Now that that ugly man is gone, I think raiding it would be easy.”

“There’s food there? Is there a lot?”

“I’m not sure, I don’t leave this area often–”

“Can we go? Now?”

“My, my, you certainly are an impatient one, aren’t you?” Gluskin grinned, and Waylon recoiled. “Lively. I have my work cut out for me, don’t I? But I’ll make an honest woman of you yet.” Gluskin sighed heavily, looking around. “A real home, where we can watch our children play in the yard from the deck and grow old,” he murmured dreamily, glancing to Waylon. The blond nodded, hoping to encourage him. His lips curved upward in a smile. “Alright, let’s do it. I do dislike leaving here, as I’ve made it quite homey, don’t you think?”

“You could make our house homey,” Waylon muttered, almost hoping the man wouldn’t hear him. But he received a hearty laugh in response.

“True, true. What a bold woman you are, darling. Let me gather what I need.”

Waylon watched him round up things in an old bag – one that could be used to carry non-perishable food found in the kitchen too. A knife, the one Waylon had seen him carrying around, went in his pocket, while a large surgical knife went in the bag. They left the Vocational Block, making their way to the kitchen and joining cafeteria without much trouble. The few beings they saw ducked into rooms upon sighting Eddie, and Waylon wondered about his reputation. Had all the inmates known about Gluskin before the asylum had been turned upside down? Just how dangerous was he? He couldn’t decide if the answer would be good or bad for him.

Waylon let Eddie lead the way, sure the man knew the way at least as well as he did, if not better. And Waylon was more than willing to allow Eddie to face the adversaries first. The whole chivalry and misogyny thing didn’t jive well with him, but those roots seemed to be engraved deeply in Gluskin, and if it meant protection, Waylon could tolerate it.

The stench was almost unbearable, but it did little to dampen his appetite. Eddie moved a large soft drink dispenser in front of the door they’d entered through, leaving only one way in – or out – and giving them more peace of mind while they explored. Waylon made straight for the kitchen and dumped the boiling pots of bloody fingers into the hallway, hoping to lessen the disgusting smell.

Waylon opened every cabinet in the smaller room, finding little other than plastic cutlery and herbs. Sugar packets in the top one, the dullest plastic knives – ones that could barely cut a sandwich – in the bottom, pepper and basil in the drawers. Edible, yes, but not anything filling nor the least bit appetizing, at least, not by themselves.

“Daaarling…”

Eddie’s sing-song voice made him jump, and he cursed under his breath. The room was decidedly useless, save for the working stove, so Waylon pushed the door open, following the direction in which Eddie’s voice had come from.

Waylon wasn’t sure how long the cannibal had been dwelling in the cafeteria, but he had to guess there had been some time between the freedom of the patients and the bearded man’s claiming of the area, because the cupboards had certainly been raided. Still, it seemed Eddie had been much more successful than he. A collection of food had been placed on one of the cleaner counters; a few cans of soup, packages of spaghetti, cans of tomato sauce, assorted boxes of cereal, and a single can of black beans. Waylon watched as Eddie placed two small boxes of white rice next to the cereal.

“Well, darling, what’s for dinner?” When Waylon glanced at the man, Eddie merely smiled. “A wife must prepare the meals for her loving husband. Don’t be frightened, dear. I will watch the door.”

With Eddie gone, Waylon found he could think straight. He eyed the refrigerator, sure it wouldn’t hold anything promising, but curiosity got the best of him, and he moved over to open it.

The fluorescent light within surprised him, but not as much as the contents did. Chunks of meat, skin still clinging to the bones, of all different sizes like a damn KFC value meal. Organs; kidneys, stomachs, livers, and a few others Waylon couldn’t identify. Gagging, he shut the door. The cannibal had been smart enough to refrigerate his leftovers.

After searching the cabinets, Waylon found a pot that wasn’t coated with blood or… otherwise. He took the spaghetti and sauce to the other room, then found a clean washcloth and wiped the stove’s burners off with a wrinkled nose, trying to make the area at least somewhat sanitary. To his delight, the sink worked – and the water looked and smelled clean. He leaned down to taste some. The cool liquid felt like heaven on his tongue and parched throat.

He filled the pot and set it on the stove, munching on dry Cheerios while he waited for the water to boil. ‘Thank God he’s not a cannibal too,’ he pondered, pouring the stiff noodles into the pot to cook. He glanced back in the direction Eddie had gone. ‘If he didn’t do the whole mutilation thing, he wouldn’t be too bad of a guy.’

Less than an hour later, Waylon poured the sauce over the spaghetti, spread over two plates – one cracked, but at least they were intact. He’d used some of the basil in the sauce, as well as some garlic he’d found, and it smelled good enough to make his mouth water.

Evidently, Eddie thought so too.

“My, my, does it smell positively delectable in here. But, perhaps that’s not just the food…”

Waylon froze in mid-pour, pot in the air, when arms snaked around his waist. A warm body pressed up against his back, breath near his neck, just behind his ear. He knew, rather than saw, that he was leaning down to do so.

“I’m so sorry, that was rather… vulgar of me. But darling…” He inhaled Waylon’s scent, and the blond suppressed a shiver. “You will make the perfect wife. I am so lucky to have you as mine.”

Waylon shuddered, and Eddie only chuckled, most likely assuming the reaction was out of anticipation or excitement. Thankfully, he moved away after another moment, letting Waylon finish preparing their food.

They sat at a cleared off cafeteria table across from each other. The spaghetti was a little tough, sauce a little bland and watery, but it was food, hot food, at that, and it filled his all-too-empty stomach. As he slurped up a few noodles, Eddie’s soft hum of – disapproval, dissatisfaction? – caught his attention. His gaze was distant. Waylon spoke hesitantly.

“Is something… wrong?”

Eddie met his eyes. “Oh… well, as they say, practice makes perfect, darling, and you’ll surely have a lot of practice when you cook meals for me and our children.” He smiled sweetly. Waylon lowered his head, and Eddie must have caught the look upon his face, one he interpreted as dejection – Waylon would have called it agitation – for he spoke again. “My darling Waylon, please don’t look that way. Melancholy doesn’t suit you.”

Finding no reason to clean up after them, Waylon left the plates on the table. They – or rather, he – decided what was salvageable from the kitchen; the soup, beans and cereal, as well as some cans of soda from the dispenser that Eddie pried open. He figured what they had would last them a few days if they rationed it properly; enough time to escape the asylum.

They backtracked the way they’d come, returning to the Vocational Block, before Waylon’s leg began to pain him and his lids drooped with exhaustion. ‘I must have only slept a few hours before,’ he assumed. His steps must have become unsteady, for Eddie noticed his fatigue.

“Why don’t we rest here, where you can sleep safely. We’ll continue in the morning.”

Waylon was more than glad to oblige, collapsing on the same mattress he’d slept on before once they arrived at the room. This time, instead of blocking him in, Waylon saw the man leaning against the wall beside the door. He glanced around the wooden frame, expression softening.

“Sleep, darling.”

Waylon wasn’t sure if he trusted Eddie yet, nor if he would ever trust him enough, but his body took over, forcing him into unconsciousness as soft humming filled his ears.

Chapter Text

Day 4

When Waylon woke, he cringed away from the hand that roused him. Morning – if you could call it that, for Waylon didn’t know what time it actually was – had come far too early, and he wanted to delve back into the warmth and comfort of sleep, but the hand shaking him was too persistent to allow that. Was he really so late for work that Lisa couldn’t let him sleep for five more minutes?

“I’m trying to patient, darling, but you really must wake if we are to leave this place before nightfall.”

That was enough to rouse him; the sickly-sweet, yet almost condescending tone. Rolling over, he sat up, face to face with a beaming Gluskin. He looked ten times as energized as Waylon, yet his hair was not disheveled, clothes not wrinkled. ‘Does this guy ever sleep?’

“Oh, you’re just as beautiful when you wake.”

Under a different circumstance, the greeting would have been pleasant, but now, Waylon barely kept from rolling his eyes. He pushed himself up to sit, then motioned to stand.

“Oh, let me help.” With Gluskin’s arm – Waylon swore that every part of him was as thick as a fucking tree trunk – he stood, testing his leg. It hurt, and he feared an infection was beginning to settle in. It only fueled his desire to escape, so he could receive proper treatment.

As he and Gluskin left the Vocational Block for the last time, Waylon contemplated what he would do after their escape. Ironically, he really hadn’t put much thought into it; he’d been living minute by minute, not allowing himself to think so far ahead. With Gluskin following him, he couldn’t just run into a police station. Would they even believe him if he did? They would have to. He would show them the footage. But he would have to deal with Gluskin.

For the first time in a while, Waylon remembered the camcorder slung around his neck. He raised it, flipping the side open to expose the screen and start the recording again. Gluskin didn’t comment on the device, and Waylon found himself wondering if the man even knew what it was. ‘How old is he?’ Then again, he thought back to his second escape, when he’d found his camera intact and emptied of its batteries. ‘He could’ve just smashed it.’ Obviously he knew how camcorders worked.

Lost in his thoughts, he failed to notice Gluskin had stopped, and he ran into his back. It felt more like a stone wall. Stumbling back, he dropped his camera as Gluskin slipped the small knife from his back pocket. Waylon peeked around the impenetrable barricade that was Gluskin’s body.

A variant stood in the middle of the hall, blocking their way. In his hand he held a bat, nails sticking out from the wood. Waylon wondered why the hell that kind of weapon was even kept in an asylum. The man’s face was terribly disfigured, much like all the other patients he’d seen, save for the cannibal and Gluskin.

“Let me handle this, darling.”

Waylon was more than happy to. He stood by their bag of supplies that Gluskin had discarded, watching them. The patient took a swing, but Gluskin was too fast. He ducked under the bat, swiping his knife at the man’s legs. Once again, Gluskin’s lethality was brought to Waylon’s immediate attention. The other patients in Mount Massive chased him haphazardly, swinging at him clumsily with no plan, no strategy. The engine had either distorted their capacities, or they hadn’t had any to begin with. Everything Gluskin did was carefully measured, precise. Waylon had been able to sneak past the others, hidden by darkness, but Gluskin had heard him, had known where he was at any given moment, it seemed. Despite his large stature, he was quick, reactionary. He knew what he was doing. He watched Gluskin dodge another swing of the bat, swiping his own weapon at the man’s arm.

Footsteps behind him drew Waylon’s attention away from the fight.

“So silky… let me open you up. I’ll crawl right in and make myself at home…”

Waylon scrambled back as another patient approached him from the darkness of the corridor. He held no weapon, but was intimidating nonetheless, and Waylon wasn’t sure if he was describing rape or mutilation, or maybe both, but he didn’t want to find out. Tripping over his own feet, he fell to the ground, his fingers swiping across the bag. He found the handle of Gluskin’s larger surgical knife behind his back. The man came closer, stooping down slightly to speak in a whispered tone. Waylon didn’t dare look back to see if Gluskin had noticed. From the sounds he heard, he didn’t think so.

“Shhh, don’t say anything, you don’t have to, just let me feel, inside…”

He was close enough.

Waylon’s foot shot out, slamming into the man’s shin. Off-balance, he fell forward onto Waylon with a surprised cry. Waylon turned his head and shut his eyes.

He was close enough to hear the bubbling in his throat. With a shudder, he opened his eyes, slowly turning his head to face the weakly flailing body above him.

Waylon watched the light leave his eyes, watched him take his final breath. With a shaky, stifled sob, he shoved the body up and to the side, letting go of the blade’s handle as the man fell with a limp thud to the floor beside him. The knife was long, and the man’s weight had impaled him further on the knife than Waylon had thought possible; a few inches of the bloody metal were visible as the blade protruded from between his shoulder blades.

“Darling, oh, are you alright?”

Waylon recoiled from the body in disgust, allowing Gluskin to pull him to his feet, though he could not tear his eyes away from the blood leaking from the body, pooling on the floor.

“Come, let’s go. I’m sure our scuffle has attracted unwanted attention.”

Waylon looked away as Gluskin pulled the blade from the body. It dislodged with a nauseating sound, and Waylon swallowed a gag. Had the man deserved to die? Sure, he was undoubtedly insane, but had his advances been innocent, like the handless patient he’d seen in the hospital? He’d been completely unarmed, and Waylon had killed him intentionally. He’d never even been in a fight in high school, never felt enough rage – or fear – towards someone to harm them. He’d grown up in a family where guns belonged to police and violence was never the answer.

And he’d just murdered a man.

‘Better you than him,’ a small voice in the back of his mind whispered. Waylon mentally recoiled, frightened that the engine was beginning to leak into the crevices of his conscience. ‘Self-defense.’

“You did the right thing, darling. He would have touched you.”

Gluskin’s voice sounded thoughtful, wise. Waylon tried to believe he was right, but a part of him – the ever-logical part – insisted guilt upon him. He took a deep breath, trying to focus, as they’d stopped at a split hallway, Gluskin awaiting directions.

“Left,” Waylon muttered, turning and walking ahead of the man. He heard him following, heard the heavy footsteps upon the floorboards. Gluskin could be stealthy if he wanted to. Waylon wondered if he wanted to assure him that he was behind him.

A brightness out the broken windows caught his eye, and he stopped to look. A building – a chapel, from the look of the cross mounted at the highest peak of the roof – was alight with flames, burning into the mid-twilight. Waylon hadn’t known there was a chapel on the grounds. ‘Makes sense. Where’s God when you need him?’

“Shall we stop and have something to eat, darling? You seem shaken.”

Waylon exhaled, nodding wearily. His stomach was still churning from the incident, but he had to get some nutrients in his weakened body. He felt as though once this was all over, he would sleep for a week straight.

The two took refuge in what looked to have been a patients’ room. Two beds sat against opposite walls, a dresser missing drawers at the foot of one bed. Waylon sat on the bed on the left, watching Eddie rummage around in the bag to produce the can of beans and a box of cereal.

“Which would you prefer? Beans, I think. Protein, darling, to keep your strength up.”

Waylon didn’t protest; nothing would come from it, and beans didn’t sound terrible. He watched Gluskin puncture the metal lid of the can with his knife and carve in a circle like a can opener. The pungent scent of beans filled his nose as Gluskin held the can out to him.

“Careful dear, the edges are sharp.”

Waylon bit back a mouthy retort, not taking well to being spoken to so condescendingly, and instead, took one of the spoons that Gluskin had evidently brought with them and stuffed his mouth. It was strange, to eat cold beans straight from the can, but Waylon didn’t complain. He found himself appreciating every bite of food, every minute of consciousness, every breath he took, for he knew each could be his last.

He chanced a glance at the man across from him, watching him eat from the cereal box. Like this, he seemed completely harmless. But Waylon knew better. He wondered what Gluskin had done to land himself in Mount Massive. From what he knew, the place had opened in 2009, and patients had been transferred from other institutes with the promise of Murkoff’s special treatment – the engine. Although Mount Massive wasn’t a real asylum – the patients certainly hadn’t been receiving therapy or other kinds of help – it was, as far as anyone else knew, a place for the criminally insane. The patients wouldn’t have been transferred here if they hadn’t done anything felonious in their previous lives.

“Darling,” the voice broke his thoughts, as did the touch to his hands. He blinked, eyes focusing on gloved hands unfolding his own – when had he put the empty can of beans down? – and holding them tightly. He lifted his gaze to Gluskin, skin pricking as it took all energy he had left not to yank his hands away. “Our children are going to be beautiful.” Waylon’s gaze must have been blank, for Gluskin smiled – almost sheepishly, Waylon thought – and spoke again. “Don’t misunderstand, darling. I hope they have your eyes. You truly are a gem.”

Waylon wondered who in their right mind could find him beautiful? He was a man; his jawline was strong, he bore scruffy facial hair on his chin. Beautiful was a word meant for feminine vulnerability. ‘Ah, but Gluskin’s not in his right mind, is he?’ He swallowed those words, managing a forced smile in response to the man’s compliment.

“I know it’s not… proper, but I just can’t help myself around you, dear.”

Waylon was at a complete loss as to what Gluskin was talking about… that was, until, the man began to lean forward. Waylon was glad Gluskin’s eyes were shut, because his own widened in surprise, fear, reluctance. A hand lifted to his cheek, exposed fingertips caressing it, and he could almost lean into the touch, but what little shred of dignity he had kept him from doing so. He knew this man was his only chance of escaping; he couldn’t withhold from him what he wanted. He had to play along. ‘Acting,’ he tried to convince himself, tried to ease his panic. ‘Just a little bit of acting.’

The touch of lips was much softer than he’d expected. Gentle, tentative, even, as if he was something precious, something breakable. The fluidity with which those lips moved against his surprised Waylon; it surprised him that such a violent and detached man could still possess the self-restraint to kiss someone so delicately. The moment he began to return the kiss, pressing back in the slightest, that dignity kicked in again.

“St-Stoph,” he mumbled, muffled against the other man’s mouth. Gluskin pulled back, and Waylon flinched reactively, sure he was about to be hit, but all he felt was a thumb stroking across his cheek.

“So chaste. Pure, just like I knew you’d be, darling.”

Waylon sucked in a breath, opening his eyes slowly, but Gluskin was merely gazing at him with all the love in the world. It made Waylon uncomfortable in more than one way.

“Come now, we must be close to the exit, yes?”

Waylon nodded, standing and watching Gluskin gather their supplies and sling the bag over a broad shoulder. They left the room, venturing further from the Vocational Block. Waylon found the asylum to be outrageously massive – ‘Mount Colossal, even.’

Continuing down a dark hallway, Waylon instinctively reached forward to hitch his fingers on the fabric of Gluskin’s vest, positioned at the small of his back, right side. He felt stupid, vulnerable, pathetic, but he had grown more and more terrified by the dark during his escapade in Mount Massive, and he didn’t want to lose the other man. He received only a soft hum in response as Gluskin led the way down the corridor.

The sudden burst of gunshots startled Waylon so much that a yelp slipped through his lips. Though the sound came from the room over, Waylon feared that sound even more than the sound of the big guy’s roar of pursuit. Before he could blink, Gluskin had whipped around, pinning him against the wall and clamping a hand over his mouth. For the first time, Waylon saw fear in Gluskin’s eyes as he leaned in close.

“Be quiet, darling, or they’ll find us,” he whispered against the shell of Waylon’s ear. The blond nodded quickly, jumping as another flurry of gunshots went off, coupled with some yelling. Waylon didn’t know much about guns, but he’d seen enough movies to know that the sound was coming from some type of machine gun – maybe more than one. Police or security guards wouldn’t have those kinds of weapons. Murkoff’s Tactical Team would.

Gluskin removed his hand from Waylon’s mouth, putting a finger to his lips to reiterate his point. They continued on slowly, reaching the end of the hallway, and Gluskin peeked around the corner. Evidently there was no danger, for he moved forward, prompting Waylon to follow him into the perpendicular corridor. The shine of a flashlight immediately blinded him, but it was gone in the blink of dilated eyes.

Through a double door, Waylon could see what he assumed were a few members of Murkoff’s team. They were dressed in near-military garb, complete with boots and headgear. The flashlights were connected to their guns. They seemed to be scouring the facility. They should have sparked some sort of relief within Waylon, he should have sprinted for the doors into the safety of their protection. ‘But how would they know not to shoot me?’ He was dressed in patient clothing, stained with blood. They’d probably been told to kill him, prevent him from escaping and telling the world about Mount Massive. They would shoot him on the spot and feel bad about it later, after finding out who he was.

And so he followed Gluskin the opposite direction, away from the men who could have saved him from this awful place. ‘I don’t need them to save me. I will escape on my own. With Gluskin.’ He felt lamentable for thinking such a thing.

A plaque was mounted upon the wall in front of them, one arrow pointing right, one left. As they approached, Waylon could make out what they said.

 <--  Administration Block
                   Male Ward
-->

Waylon wavered for a moment. The Administration Block was the obvious choice; the lobby would lead them straight to the exit. It also seemed too easy. Wouldn’t Murkoff’s Tactical Team have the main exit guarded? They couldn’t allow the patients to escape and cause mayhem in the real world. For the first time since he’d arrived, he was forced to face the idea that their escape might not be as easy as he wanted it to be.

“Well, darling? Which way?”

‘I didn’t come all this way to bleed out of a bullet wound in the main lobby.’

“This way,” he murmured, turning right. “We’ll find a way out through the Male Ward. A window or something.”

Gluskin followed without question. Waylon could feel the man closely shadowing him. In any other situation, he would have been intimidated, but now, he was thankful for the protection. As they traipsed down a dimly lit corridor, Waylon felt the breeze from an open window as they passed a room. He stopped and peeked into the room; it was dark, but seemed relatively safe. He stepped inside.

The window was, indeed, open, the cool glow of morning sunlight visible outside. Circling around a pile of debris, Waylon’s palms landed on the sill as he leaned out the window, breathing in the fresh air.

They seemed to be to the right of the main entrance, on the second floor. There were trucks parked outside – probably Murkoff’s – but he couldn’t see any guards or otherwise from where he was. Glancing down, he noticed a platform structure below the window, built along the outside of the building. ‘Some sort of construction?’

“Beautiful, isn’t it?”

Gluskin’s voice started him; he’d almost forgotten he was there. ‘Dunno how that’s possible.’ He turned back, gazing at the man’s bloodied and scarred face in the sunlight. It was the first good look he’d gotten of Gluskin. His eyes were pale blue turned golden.

“I-I think we can climb down here,” Waylon offered, hesitant to break the other man’s dreamy state. Gluskin’s eyes wandered away from the scenery outside to focus on him.

“I’ll go first, darling. We wouldn’t want you to take another tumble, would we?” His thumb tapped the bottom of Waylon’s chin as he moved past him. Waylon rolled his eyes while Gluskin climbed out the window and out of sight.

Waiting alone in the room was nerve-wracking, to say the least. Waylon fidgeted, uneasy, while Gluskin found his footing on the wooden structure, determining if it was strong enough to hold his weight, much less both of them. Visions of a patient running in and slaughtering him replayed over in over in his head until Gluskin broke through them.

“Darling! Wait there just a bit longer. I don’t think this configuration is sturdy enough to hold both of us. I’m going to climb down.”

‘Of course,’ Waylon thought bitterly, leaning against the sill. Trying to quell the desire to do something with his hands, he lifted the camcorder, opening the screen and recording a scene of the small courtyard below, bathed in the rising sun’s light. “This is my escape. Our escape,” he murmured, only for the camera’s microphone. “I escaped with a murderer, a psychopath. Ironic, huh?”

“Come now, darling! It’s safe!”

Shutting the camcorder, Waylon climbed out the window as fast as his legs would allow, eager to get out of not only the room, but the whole damn asylum.

The wooden plank beneath the window unnerved him. He hadn’t had the best experience with them; rotten wood had been the reason he’d plopped down into Gluskin’s lair. Still, the structure had held Gluskin’s weight; the man had to weigh fifty pounds more than him. He was also much taller, and hadn’t had any trouble reaching the first plank. Waylon found he had to straighten his arms completely, hanging from the sill by his fingertips as he felt for the wood. There was nothing beneath his feet.

“Just let go, darling!” Gluskin called from somewhere beneath him. “Trust me!”

Waylon let go.

He fell a whopping three or four inches before his feet touched the board. He could have laughed. How far gone was his mind to be able to trust Gluskin like that? He shook the thought off and turned around, placing his feet carefully as he edged along the side of the building, following the beam until there was a place to climb down. He made a zig-zag formation until he reached a dead end, standing about ten feet off the ground. He gazed down at the grass uncertainly. ‘Did he jump down?’

“I’ll catch you, darling. Here.”

Waylon maneuvered to sit on the edge of the plank, gazing down at Gluskin as he reached his arms out, an assuring smile plastered on his face. Waylon scoffed at himself for being afraid; he’d jumped off a windowsill much higher than this.

‘Yeah, and almost broke your leg.’

He pushed off the wood.

Waylon landed, cradled in strong arms against a warm chest. It was a much better landing than earlier. He let out a shaky breath as Gluskin allowed him to stand on his own two feet, nuzzling at his ear.

“I’ll always be here to catch you, darling.”

It was a charming notion.

The two made their way over to the gate near the entrance of the asylum. The bars had been bent and broken enough to make a small space to crawl though at the bottom. Waylon went first, on his hands and knees, and gazed around the entrance before standing. No motion caught his eye; everything was still and quiet. A grunt caused him to turn back, smirking at Gluskin’s struggle as he tried to fit through the opening in the gate. A piece of metal had snagged the shoulder of his shirt, ripping the fabric, along with some of his skin. He visibly winced as he tore free, standing, and Waylon eyed the blood that was slowly soaking into the white fabric of his shirt.

“Oh darling, your concern is touching, but I’ll be alright.”

Waylon wanted to smack the smug smirk off of Gluskin’s face, but he didn’t have the strength, nor the health to run from him during the rage that would ensue. Pushing his annoyance aside, he returned his attention to the cul-de-sac in front of him. It still looked clear. “Let’s go,” he murmured, limping out into the sunlight.

It seemed to take forever to cross the road, Waylon’s body tensed, waiting for the sound of gunshots to chase them, but they never did. The smaller gate to the left was open just a crack, and Waylon shoved it out of his way. A red Jeep was parked at the entrance. ‘A car would get us away from this place faster.’ He didn’t know how to hot-wire it.

He didn’t have to.

He limped to the driver door, tugging it open. The keys dangled from the hole. He shut the door and turned them, harder than he needed to. The engine revved to life.

Gluskin got into the passenger side without any protest, and Waylon wondered if it was because he had no idea how to drive anymore. Glancing down at the shift stick, he pushed it into drive and turned the car around. The large gate to the asylum was closed, but that wasn’t going to stop him. He floored the acceleration pedal and bashed through the metal gates.

The road to the asylum was long and winding. Waylon didn’t even notice how fast he was driving until Eddie reached over to touch his hand upon the steering wheel.

“Slow down. Waylon, darling, it’s alright. I know you must be just as eager as I to start our new life together, but we needn’t be in such a hurry.”

With a shuddering breath, Waylon took his foot from the pedal and instead applied the break, slowing the Jeep down. He tried to steady his shaking hands, tried to even out his trembling breath. He was safe now. Mount Massive was far behind them.

But he knew he wasn’t safe from Murkoff.

And he certainly wasn’t safe from Eddie Gluskin.

The sputtering of the Jeep caught him by surprise, and his eyes flew to the gas gauge. The dial rested below the yellow E.

Waylon could only steer the car until the engine died, running out of gas. They came to a stop in the middle of the twisting road.

‘Fuck.’

Chapter Text

Day 8

It was dark when they reached the sign.

Welcome to Leadville.

Waylon’s feet and legs felt as if they’d walked hundreds of miles. The slice on his ankle burned with an intensity he’d never experienced before, the skin around the wound becoming inflamed and itchy during their journey, despite his washing it off in what he’d thought was a clean mountain stream. He knew it was infected without having to hear it from a doctor. He tried to push all fears of losing his leg – or worse, dying after escaping from Mount Massive – out of his mind.

They’d traveled for four days, following the road, but keeping out of sight of the vehicles driving upon it, for Waylon was terrified someone from Murkoff would spot them on their way to Mount Massive. They’d exhausted their food supply, Waylon eating the last of the cereal upon Gluskin’s insistence. The man was very confusing to Waylon; one minute, he would be shouting misogynistic slurs, the next, acting quite chivalrous. He thought it might have something to do with the engine, but, then again, since they’d traveled farther and farther away from the asylum, Waylon had noticed the engine’s effects on him had withered away. He hadn’t seen the blots of ink since leaving the place, and the headaches and buzzing had mostly faded away.

The four days of traveling had given Waylon time to think; time that he hadn’t had while running for his life. With the camcorder still bumping against his chest with every step, he was a walking bomb of proof, one that could destroy everything that Murkoff was. But he knew shots would be fired back, should he initiate the war. Murkoff was a huge company, one that could harm not only him, but those he cared about. ‘Lisa.’With every step he took from Mount Massive, her face became clearer and clearer. His sons. His house.

He was sure Lisa had no idea of the turmoil within Mount Massive, therefore, she wouldn’t be worried sick. But, she wouldn’t be expecting him home, either. And that gave him time. Time to figure out what to do.

He couldn’t just go home. If Murkoff found him there, if he linked himself with his family once more, if they saw him alive when he was supposed to be dead – or worse, imprisoned within Mount Massive – they would be doomed. He was a target, whether he showed the world the video or not. They would come after him, because he knew, because he had escaped, because he would tell. He knew the lengths Murkoff would go to keep their profits secret; he’d experienced them first-hand. He couldn’t go home, not yet. And not only because of the price on his head.

He couldn’t lead a serial killer right into his house. With Gluskin following him like a puppy, starry-eyed with delusions of their soon-to-be marriage and life together, Waylon couldn’t go home. Gluskin had no idea of his marriage, his family, and he meant to keep it that way. However, the thought of harming Gluskin did cross his mind, but that was all it did; cross his mind, then flitter away. Despite all Waylon had seen Gluskin do – and all he tried to do to Waylon – he couldn’t bring himself to cause harm to the man. Maybe it was sentiment, maybe it was pity. He didn’t know all that much about his past, but what he did know… well, a childhood like that could fuck anyone up.

Gluskin had helped him to escape, had protected him from those who wanted to rip him limb from limb, delusions or not. And Waylon felt as though he at least owed it to the man to get him some real treatment; real therapy, at a real institute where he at least had the opportunity to get better.

And so, Waylon had devised a plan during the past ninety-six hours. He would call 911, ask to speak to the authorities; go above the local police. After living in Colorado for the past eleven years of his life, he knew of a mental institute in Denver. He would tell whomever he spoke to – he was hoping for the National Guard or something akin – about Gluskin, explain the situation, and meet them in Denver, at the institute. He was sure the place could pass for a regular hospital; he would tell Gluskin that they were traveling to Denver so he could get himself ‘fixed’ before they were wed. If all went well, Gluskin would buy it eagerly, they would travel to Denver, and he would be detained there, taken away, for Waylon was sure he would want to rip him to shreds once he realized that he’d been betrayed.

Waylon felt like quite the mastermind, having conceived such a thorough plan. They would need new clothes – to avoid being singled out while taking public transportation; their current clothes were covered in blood – and food, both of which required money.

“So, darling, where shall we start our new life?”

Gluskin’s voice startled Waylon, but he’d been anticipating the question sooner or later. Drawing in a deep breath, he turned and forced a fake smile to his lips.

“I know of a place nearby, a hospital, where I can see a doctor,” he began to explain, watching the other man’s face closely for any sign of displeasure. “But we need money for new clothes and food, and a bus to get there faster.” Gluskin merely listened attentively, blue eyes trained on him. Waylon continued. “My s-sister lives in this town,” he gestured toward the lights ahead, “and I can get some money from her.”

The vested man seemed to ponder Waylon’s words for a moment, tapping his chin with one finger. The blond could only wait.

“You won’t ask you sister to take you away from me, will you?” Waylon shook his head, but Gluskin stepped closer, fingers twisting in Waylon’s collar, not quite lifting him above the ground, but nearly. “I’ll kill any whore who would dare attempt to come between my family and I.”

“I-I’ll sneak in… when she isn’t home,” he choked out, hands gripping Gluskin’s wrist – in vain, he knew, for he couldn’t pry the man’s hand away; it was merely an instinctive action.

The elder seemed pleased with Waylon’s words, as he let him go to instead cup his cheek with one hand. “Oh darling, do forgive me. I haven’t been outside in… many years.”

‘Just how many?’ he wanted to ask, but he felt like the inquiry would earn him another fit of rage. Instead, he nodded in fake compassion, as if he understood his ‘husband-to-be’s’ anger and it was completely rational. However, keeping Gluskin in check was even more crucial now; he didn’t want to anger him in public, attract attention and have his plan spoiled prematurely. No, his acting career wasn’t over yet; in fact, he had to put forth even more effort to make the Groom believe that Waylon was his… and only his.

As they continued further into town, Waylon reached back, fingers brushing Gluskin’s wrist and curling around the man’s own partially-gloved fingers. He knew that the warmth that spread throughout his body when Gluskin held his hand tight should have disgusted him, as should the ease with which he was able to complete the gesture. Still, he couldn’t deny that he felt safer with his hand secured in the larger one, their bodies linked in some way.

Waylon silently thanked his past self for choosing a house on the outskirts of a forested area; it made it all the easier now to circle around and stay out of the public’s eye. He lingered within the foliage, watching the windows of the house from afar, but there didn’t seem to be anyone home. It was evening, but not quite bedtime, so he could only assume that Lisa and the boys were at a movie, or maybe they’d gone to stay at Lisa’s mother’s house for the night. Either way, it bought him a little time to sneak in and gather what he needed.

As he prepared himself to enter what was once his home – would it, could it ever be again? – he realized that Gluskin would expect to follow him inside. The thought raised a red flag in his head for a few reasons, one of them being the pictures of their family on the walls. Their marriage, Waylon standing by a hospital bed while Lisa held their first son. He didn’t think he could talk his way out of those scenes. Gluskin wasn’t stupid. ‘Reiteration. I need to make him stay here.’

Waylon turned to face the man, watching Gluskin’s eyes immediately focus on him as if some kind of magnetic strength – a gravitational pull, maybe – tugged his attention to him. He looked so absurd, crouching here in the middle of a wooded area, clothes and skin stained with dry, cracked blood. Waylon’s eyes drifted over the scarring upon his face, wondering if it would ever heal. ‘I need to grab some wet towels, too. We can’t go into public with his face like this.’

He forced a small smile to his face, swallowing any ounce of pride he had left and lifted his hands to cup Gluskin’s jaw on either side of his face. They were so close, Waylon could feel the man’s hot breath skirting across his skin.

“Eddie,” he breathed, “I need you to stay here–”

“Absolutely not, my darling Waylon. You need me.”

Waylon was startled by Gluskin’s bluntness, as if he’d anticipated exactly what he was going to say. He used his surprised to his advantage, turning it into an expression of insult. “You don’t trust me?”

Gluskin hadn’t seemed to expect that. It was his turn to look insulted; guilty, even. “Well, darling, you haven’t been too trustworthy in the past–…” he broke off at Waylon’s expression of offense; he didn’t need to act anymore. “– But, I suppose you have been a good girl of late. Perhaps I’m beginning to make an honest woman of you yet,” he murmured coyly, brushing a thumb over Waylon’s cheek. The blond was sure his face was visibly flushed.

“I won’t take long,” he mumbled, trying to stifle his embarrassment.

“You want me to wait right here, hmm?” Gluskin mused, examining Waylon’s expression. Said blond nodded quickly, able to sense the man’s slowly-changing resolve. “And you’ll come back to me?”

Waylon pursed his lips slightly, meeting Gluskin’s eyes. “I promise.”

It was the first time that he didn’t have to lie to him.

Waylon breathed a sigh of relief as he crept into the backyard, glancing back to ensure Gluskin wasn’t following. He could just see the large man, mostly hidden by bushes and tree trunks. Satisfied, he beelined to the fake rock stashed by the front door, fingers plucking the key and unlocking the front door. He made sure to replace it, returning the rock to where he’d found it. He didn’t want Lisa to suspect anything was different when she returned.

Opening the door was surreal. The entryway to his house – his old house? – brought forth so many memories that Waylon was frozen there, for a moment, before he realized he was lingering too long and shut the door. He hoped the neighbors wouldn’t see him and call the police. He didn’t have time to linger. Still, he found himself fighting the urge to reminisce as he passed through the dark living room and into the hallway, quickly finding his way to his bedroom.

The bed was neatly made, as Lisa always insisted, everything seeming to be in its place. Waylon paused in the door frame, gazing around the room wistfully. He’d been telling himself for the past week that he would escape Mount Massive and find a way to come home, somehow, and everything would be back to normal – or, as normal as it could be. But now, standing in the doorway of the bedroom, he felt like a stranger in his own house. He was a different person, now; the man that had slept in that bed every night with Lisa was no longer him. He had to face the reality that he might never be able to see his wife and children again.

Swallowing the lump in his throat, he forced one foot in front of the other, grabbing a bag from the closet and stuffing some clothing inside. He figured nothing of his would fit Gluskin – the man was probably fifty pounds heavier than him and six inches taller. He would have to use his money to buy Gluskin some new clothes. ‘Money…’ He turned, hurrying to the dresser, and searched out the old sock hidden at the back of the drawer. When he pulled out the rolled-up bills, he sighed in relief, tucking it into a smaller pocket of the bag.

Once Waylon had stuffed a pair of old sneakers into the bag – ones that Lisa wouldn’t notice were missing – he left the bedroom in favor of the bathroom. He snagged a bottle of Ibuprofen from the medicine cabinet – Lisa would undoubtedly notice those were missing, but he was sure she wouldn’t suspect her husband had snuck into her house and taken them. He found some gauze wrap and bandages in their first-aid kit, then hastily stuffed a few washcloths into the bag. Finally, he made his last stop; the kitchen. Their pantry turned out to be barer than he remembered – had Lisa been having trouble paying the bills in his absence? – but there were still cans and boxes of crackers he could take. ‘Not the most nutritious, but it’ll have to do.’

He figured he’d spent all of ten minutes in the house, but it felt like hours. He was anxious; he didn’t want anyone to come home and walk in on him, and he didn’t want to leave Gluskin outside by himself for too long. Hurrying to the front door, he made his escape…

But he paused, hand on the knob, as the computer in the den caught his eye.

He waivered for a short moment before convincing himself that he could spare another minute. Tugging the chair out, he sat down and roused the screen with a touch of the mouse. This had been Lisa’s computer, mostly, save for a few games for their sons; Waylon had his own setup in the office down the hall. Waylon clicked on the Internet button, navigating himself to Lisa’s email, thankful she hadn’t logged out of her account. His eyes scanned the subject line of each email in her inbox. It didn’t take him long before something caught his eye. He double-clicked.

       From : j.blaire@murkoffcorp.us.com
       To : lisapark@hotmail.com
       Subject: Regarding your Husband’s Passing

                Ms. Park,

I would like to, again, offer my condolences during this difficult time, and assure you that we here at Murkoff are doing our best to    ensure an occurrence such as Waylon’s never happens again. It isn’t easy to deal with the death of a loved one, but I do hope our talk yesterday helped to make things more clear. Let me guarantee you that I am overseeing everything myself, and your presence at Mount Massive Asylum is not required, lest you overstep your boundaries.

I hope you consider my offer. I believe I can be of great help to you to your time of need.

We here at Murkoff are only here to help, but we can only help you if you help yourself. I’m sure you want your sons to live long, happy, fulfilling lives in memory of their father, just as we do.

                            Yours.
                            Jeremy Blaire

Waylon could only stare at the computer monitor. ‘Death? So Blaire told her I’m dead.’ It didn’t shock, him, not really, and a soft, whispering voice in the back of his head spoke; ‘It’ll make it easier to stay away. It’s all falling into place.’ Waylon jumped, shaking his head, as if to shake the thought away, and focused his gaze on the list of emails once more. Another snagged his attention, and he clicked on it.

          From: lisapark@hotmail.com
          To: virginiaj@gmail.com
          Subject: Bad News

                    Hi mom, dad.

I know you are on your summer vacation to New York, and I didn’t want to bother you with a phone call.

The company – Murkoff – Waylon’s been working for just emailed me. He was up at Mount Massive Asylum for the Criminally Insane, working with the software and computers, things you know I don’t understand and I never really could. They said he was involved in a construction accident. He… didn’t survive it.

I can’t say much. I’m sure they’re watching right now, they’re probably tracking my emails so they’ll read this. But we’re still waiting to find out more details. I haven’t told the boys yet. I don’t know what to tell them. Would it be alright, when you return, to have them stay at your house for a while, so I can figure all this out? I need some time, and I don’t want them to see me like this.

                                Love, Lisa

Construction accident. Somehow, Waylon didn’t think Lisa was telling her parents what she was really told. ‘Blaire had said something about their talk.’ His skin pricked at the thought of Blaire threatening Lisa. He rubbed his palms over his face. Lisa was more hot-tempered than he; very much so. She could take care of herself better than he could, and she wouldn’t put up with any bullshit. ‘Unless she was backed into a corner.’ He very well knew that she could feel just as trapped as he did now. Murkoff was powerful enough to influence anyone.

He sat there for a long moment, trying to work it all out in his head. Part of him wanted to wait until Lisa came back home, and take her in his arms and hold her tight and show her that he was okay, that she didn’t have to worry, she didn’t have to cry anymore. Even just to leave a note somewhere, telling her that he was alive… but no, he couldn’t. Especially if he exposed Murkoff with the camcorder’s footage. They would come after him full-force, and even just the knowledge of Waylon’s existence could put Lisa and their boys in danger.

He drew in a deep breath, attempting to calm himself before he faced Gluskin again. ‘Is this my new life?’ He felt pathetic, crawling back to the deranged man, almost as if he was choosing him over Lisa. ‘It’s not like that.’ The guilt still lingered as he locked the front door and shut it behind his back, limping quickly around the side of the house and through the backyard.

Waylon found Gluskin waiting there, just as before, with arms stretched wide to welcome him.

The blond pressed himself into Gluskin’s chest as he was embraced, trying to smother the swirl of emotions that threatened to overwhelm him. When a tear traced down his cheek, Gluskin wiped it away with a brush of his thumb.

“I know, darling. I missed you too. But you’re safe now.”

Chapter Text

Day 9

“One room please, for my darling and I.”

Waylon was almost mortified as he stood behind Eddie, watching him interact with the clerk behind the counter. The motel was small – only seven rooms, two vacant – and run-down, but it was just what they needed; somewhere they could wash up and sleep, out of harm’s way.

He barely heard the total. He reached into the bag and handed Eddie the necessary bills, watching anxiously as their key – not a card, an actual key; ‘Shows how run-down this place really is,’ – was handed over. Eddie smiled cordially in the clerk’s direction and reached back to take Waylon’s hand.

“Come now, darling.”

As Waylon was led away, he glanced back at the man, hoping to God he wouldn’t call the police. ‘He didn’t seem too alarmed by Eddie’s clothes – they still had blood on them – but who knows…’

Their room was just as Waylon had imagined it would be; small, with one large bed, a tiny television mounted near the ceiling, and a little bathroom beside a closet. Waylon set the bag on the foot of the bed and swiped a hand back over his greasy hair with a shudder. He’d changed into his borrowed clothes from his house, but he still felt sticky and germ-ridden. He needed a shower, as did Eddie. If they were to travel to Denver, they would need to be at least somewhat presentable to deal with bus drivers, food clerks and whomever else they would encounter along the way.

“I’m going to take a shower,” he mumbled, chancing a glance at the other. Eddie was staring at him – as he always was – and his expression lit up at Waylon’s words.

“Of course, darling. Let me help you get cleaned up.”

Waylon’s stomach dropped; those were just the words he’d hoped he wouldn’t hear, but he knew there was no arguing with the man. With a defeated sigh, he led the way to the small bathroom, grabbing the roll of gauze out of the bag.

He unzipped his jeans before Eddie had caught up to him, lest the man insist he do it instead, and let them pool around his feet. His shirt followed, and he nudged the bundle of clothing against the wall, by the door. Although Waylon still felt uncomfortable being unclothed around him, the initial shock had faded away after their first encounter on the blood-covered examination table. The memory of cold metal pressed against his bare back made him shudder, but warm hands covered his skin, chasing the cold away, and he froze.

Eddie’s hands were delicate on his skin, resting against his scapulae and smoothing up over his freckled shoulders where they began to knead. Waylon’s body slumped, his tired, sore muscles uncaring of whose hands were massaging them. He waivered on the spot for a moment as Eddie’s hands worked the tense muscles, eyes slipping shut until the circling thumbs and pressing palms disappeared. His skin tingled at the loss, and he hesitated to turn around. But Eddie squeezed past him, reaching to turn the knob on the wall, and Waylon took a step back.

“A bath, I think. You need not agitate your wound, darling.”

His leg, right. He glanced down at the crude fabric wrapped around his lower shin, now stained with blood – ‘mine or someone else’s?’ – and grime consisting of, well, Waylon didn’t want to know. He sank to sit on the closed toilet lid, leaning down to gingerly unwrap the wound.

“What the hell did you use to wrap this?”

Waylon lifted his eyes as he spoke, catching the beginning of Eddie’s indignant expression from his kneeling position beside the bathtub. Waylon immediately changed his tone, a small smile lifting the corner of his lips. “It held really well.”

Eddie regarded his ankle for a moment, hand remaining under the running water, before he spoke. “Fabric, cut from a straightjacket, darling.” He turned back to gaze at the water filling the porcelain tub, turning the temperature knob – Waylon didn’t know which way. “It’s surprisingly useful in a desperate situation.”

Waylon winced as he peeled the bloodied cloth from his skin, discovering that at least some of the blood soaking it was his own. The skin around the puncture wound was enflamed and warm to the touch, but the flush seemed to have only spread an inch or so. From what Waylon could remember from college health classes and ER television shows, he had some time before the wound became dangerously infected.

He stood precariously, feeling all the more bare without something covering his most severe wound, and regarded the bathtub. It was nearly full, steam rising from the surface of the water. His gaze darted to Eddie as the man stood, turning to face him. It was all Waylon could do not to shrink away from the looming figure, but the elder merely smiled gently, hand lifting to cup Waylon’s chin with his fingers, thumb resting just below his lower lip.

“You’re going to be so beautiful, my darling. Our family will be perfect.”

He leaned in, then, and Waylon was prepared. What he wasn’t prepared for was the feel of teeth teasing his lip, his face cradled in large hands as if he were the most precious thing in the world. An unexpected swell of emotion washed over him, and he all but melted into the kiss, holding onto Eddie’s forearm for support. One hand left his face to curl around his bare waist, helping to hold him up and secure him against the built body.

When they finally parted, it was Eddie that broke the kiss, a soft chuckle leaving his lips, hot breath skirting across Waylon’s skin as he lingered close. “Have your bath, my dear.”

As he stepped away, Waylon hesitated on the spot, head still swimming. “You’re… not going to leave, are you?” ‘Oh, how the tables have turned.’

“Heavens no, darling. I’m going to give you some privacy. I’ll be right in the other room if you need me.”

‘It’s not like that,’ Waylon tried to convince himself as he was left alone in the small bathroom, impressed – and surprised – by Eddie’s chivalry yet again. ‘I just don’t want him wandering the streets. I want him to stay in here, with me.’ He warily stepped into the hot water, hissing at the contact on the still-open wound. ‘So no one sees him,’ he made sure to add. But it felt forced. He grit his teeth and stepped the rest of the way into the bathtub, sinking to sit and surround his body with warmth. The stinging subsided after a few minutes, and he closed his eyes, allowing himself to slip into a state of bliss.

The sound of Eddie’s humming bled through the wall and filled his ears.


Day 10

‘He’s not going to be there, he’s not going to be there.’

It probably wasn’t healthy for someone to be so paranoid, but Waylon couldn’t help it anymore. From the moment he’d left the motel room, his mind had been riddled with visions of Eddie wandering out into the streets, armed with his knife, murdering helpless people, causing mayhem, and everyone would blame Waylon for helping him to escape.

After a decent night’s sleep on an actual bed and breakfast from the Burger King down the street (at which Eddie marveled; Waylon assumed breakfast sandwiches must not have existed when Eddie was younger), Waylon had been faced with his next hurdle: getting Eddie clothes. Convincing him to allow Waylon to get breakfast alone had been trying enough, but shopping would take even longer, all during which Eddie could escape from the motel room. Waylon was actually anxious to get Eddie clothes so he could accompany him everywhere. He’d rather have the man with him than on his own.

Eddie had given him his measurements, and finding pants that would fit him wasn’t difficult, but it was in the dozens of racks of shirts where Waylon lingered like a lost little kid at a grocery store until an employee approached him. He’d accepted her help graciously, reciting the numbers Eddie had given him, and followed her around as she found the right size in different colors and patterns, not even protesting when she’d alluded to his shopping for a certain someone. After purchasing a pair of black slacks, a white button-up shirt and an argyle sweater-vest patterned with grey, charcoal and burgundy (complete with a matching bow-tie), Waylon paid for it with a sense of accomplishment, sure Eddie would love the outfit. He’d hurried back to their motel, turning the key in the lock with such force that it surprised him when it didn’t break off.

There was Eddie, sitting on the bed, twiddling his fucking thumbs.

‘Murdering innocent people… not even close.’

Waylon smiled sheepishly as he held the bag of clothes out, watching Eddie stand and approach him. “I hope you like them,” he murmured as the man took the bag. Waylon shut the door behind him, following him over to the bed where Eddie pulled the clothes out and laid them across the tacky motel sheets. Waylon stood by anxiously.

Eddie was silent for a long time, and it unnerved Waylon; he wasn’t sure if it was out of approval or otherwise, and he couldn’t see the man’s expression from where he stood. He could only wait until Eddie finally spoke after what seemed like hours.

“Oh darling, I appreciate the effort. These will do for now, until I can make my own. Thank you.”

Waylon felt vaguely as if he’d been slapped in the face when Eddie kissed his forehead and smiled cheekily. Still, he was relieved that he’d been spared a reaction of anger. He turned away when Eddie began to remove his bloodied clothing, moving over to the bag to feel for the small bottle of medication and take three, hoping it would dull the pain in his leg.

“I have to say, these do fit quite well for not having been tailored.”

Waylon turned at Eddie’s voice, eyes sweeping down his figure, then back up again. The pants were perhaps a size too small, hugging his thighs, and Waylon felt his face flush. The shirt seemed to fit decently, as did the sweater-vest. It was strange, to see him in something other than the clothing he’d been in up until now. He forced a smile, mouth dry – ‘what the hell is wrong with you, Waylon?’

He didn't have an answer.


It was evening by the time Eddie had washed up. Waylon had stared when he’d come out of the bathroom. The blood on his face was gone, sores beginning to heal and scar – nothing could be done about that, Waylon figured; the marks would be etched across his face forever. But, still, he was…

‘Handsome.’

Waylon averted his eyes, scrambling to find guilt and disgust within himself as Eddie dressed. But there was none. ‘This is insane! He’s insane! He’s murdered people – who knows how many. I should be anything but comfortable around him!’

“Why don’t we eat out tonight, darling?”

Waylon hesitantly returned his gaze to the man, taking in the slightly lopsided grin and outstretched hand. He seemed anything but dangerous.

And, in the following hour, Eddie did nothing but continue to baffle Waylon.

From holding his hand as they walked down the sidewalk to holding the door open for him, every action seemed nothing but courteous, and Waylon couldn’t help but smile at the man sitting across the booth from him in the nearly-deserted diner. When their waitress arrived, she was almost instantly charmed by Eddie’s gentlemanly qualities, and Waylon didn’t deny the twinge of jealousy that twisted in his chest when she giggled at his suave “darling”. Eddie seemed to notice, reaching across the table to hold Waylon’s fingers in his as the blonde twenty-something retrieved two cups of coffee and menus.

“Your hands are freezing, my dear Waylon.” It wasn’t often Eddie abandoned one of his epithets for his name, and it made him pause and give the man across from him his full attention. Eddie was smiling so sweetly, one could – and would – assume they were a happily married, honeymooning couple. Eddie cupped Waylon’s hands in his larger ones, warming them. This time, his gaze didn’t leave Waylon as the woman returned, looking rather put-out this time as she left the menus and cups on the table after getting no chivalrous nod or charming smile.

Waylon’s mouth watered at the mere thought of a real meal – not something directly from a can or box, and he managed to wriggle his hands out of Eddie’s to open the menu as the other man did the same. It didn’t take Waylon long to decide what he wanted; he’d always been a breakfast person, and the diner served pancakes and French Toast all day. He sipped his coffee while Eddie browsed the menu. Waylon mused over how long it must have been since Eddie ate out at a restaurant. ‘How long has he been in and out of mental institutes?’

“What are you having?”

Waylon pulled himself from his thoughts at Eddie’s question, smiling sheepishly. “French Toast with bacon.”

A mirrored smile quirked the corners of Eddie’s lips upward, and he closed his menu. “Breakfast it is, then.”

The waitress returned to take their orders, Waylon keeping his word and ordering French Toast with bacon, while Eddie chose a ham omelet with hashbrowns. It amused Waylon that Eddie had followed his lead. Maybe it was a delusional thought of his own, but he felt as if he was grasping at a bit of control in the fucked up relationship they had.

“Darling, tell me more about yourself. I feel as if I merely know your name!”

Waylon lowered his eyes to gaze blankly at the table. He didn’t know what to tell Eddie. ‘Is there anything special about me?’ There were elements of his life which he didn’t want to reveal to Eddie, such as his family and his former job at Murkoff, but the desire to invent lies never occurred to him.

Evidently, he was silent for so long that Eddie grew disheartened – concerned, even, his frown told Waylon when he lifted his eyes at the man’s words. “Are you alright?”

“Y-Yeah–”

“Perhaps I’ll go first,” he cut Waylon off, reaching for his cup to take a small sip of coffee. Waylon leaned back in the booth seat, eyes examining Eddie’s face, unsure if he should believe anything that came out of the man’s mouth. “I was born in Minnesota; grew up there with my family. My parents were a bit old fashioned,” he grinned, but Waylon thought it looked forced, “and my mother a lovely woman, always waiting with dinner at home for my father. I’ve been searching for so long for what they had, for a woman as wonderful as my mother. And my life began the moment I found you,” he murmured, reaching out to take Waylon’s hands again.

‘Jesus Christ.’ Waylon was thankful for the waitress’ return, filling their cups up to the brim with coffee once more and leaving, but the break in conversation was enough to chase away most of the awkwardness Waylon felt. If Gluskin was telling the truth, Waylon could see where he got all his chivalry. ‘But where the hell did the murderous intent and misogyny come from?’

Their food didn’t take long, as the diner was completely empty, and Waylon’s mouth watered at the scent of cinnamon and syrup. His first bite nearly overwhelmed his taste buds, bursting with flavor. He hadn’t had anything resembling a home-cooked meal since he’d left home for Mount Massive; he and Lisa had their separate chores, and she’d done the cooking in their house. Without her, he ate a diet similar to his poor days as a college student. He could still recall the scent of ramen filling his small living quarters at Mount Massive.

Now that he could look at the whole situation from the outside, it made more sense. Murkoff had kept all their employees at the asylum, claiming that they were needed nearby, on call, available at any time of day. At the time, Waylon had thought it generous, to provide apartments for all the employees – ‘there had to be at least a hundred, orderlies and scientists and security guards,’ – even if they were nearly as small as a cramped college dorm room without a roommate. But now, he could see why he and all the others were kept there. ‘Murkoff did everything they could to keep their secrets.’ His skin prickled at the realization of just how far they would go to do so, and just how much danger he was in. The urge to make the call hit him hard, distracting him from the marvelous food, but only for a moment.

Eddie’s hum of bliss drew him out of his own head, and he watched the man cut into his omelet with his knife and take another bite, eyes closed in indulgence. It made Waylon wonder just how long it had been since Eddie had tasted anything but bland asylum food.


Day 11

Waylon woke slowly, smitten with the warmth that surrounded him and the soft sunlight that filtered through the curtained window, catching specks of dust as they floated through the air effortlessly. For a long moment, he basked in the bliss, content with the simplicity of the coziness and morning. But, eventually, the drowsiness wore off, groggy eyelids lifting and wheels in his mind beginning to turn again, making him aware of where he was and what had occurred in the past few days.

He shifted in the motel bed, springs creaking quietly beneath his ribcage, and was suddenly conscious of the source of his warmth – the large figure behind him with an arm slung around his waist, body flush to his, molding to every curve. His cheeks flushed as he glanced back over his shoulder, having to crane his neck to look up. Due to Eddie’s height, his head rested on the pillows above Waylon’s, expression as peaceful as Waylon had ever seen it, jaw slack with sleep and eyes closed gently. Waylon tried to ignore the throb of his heart as he attempted to wriggle out of Eddie’s grip without waking him. Evidently, it didn’t take much to stir the elder man.

“Darling,” he mumbled as Waylon moved his limply-heavy arm. The blond glanced back as he scooted away from Eddie’s half clothed body – he tried to keep his eyes away from the broad, bare chest and instead fixed his gaze on Eddie’s face. One eye opened sleepily, then the other, half-lidded. The broken blood vessels had seemingly healed, as the whites of the man’s eyes were clear, leaving ice blue as the only color there, pupils dilated in the soft sunlight that lit the room. A large hand reached for him, fingertips smoothing across the exposed skin of Waylon’s bicep, sleeve displaced in his sleep and curled up around his shoulder. “Where… are you going?”

Waylon’s soft smile was genuine, and he didn’t hold it back. He rolled over to face the man for a moment, gaze fixed on that sleepy expression. ‘How can a sociopath be so disgustingly cute…’

“I’m going to go to the little market down the street and get some things,” he murmured quietly. It wasn’t a lie. Waylon seemed to be lying less and less lately.

“I’ll go with you,” Eddie mumbled, still quite half asleep. Waylon nearly chuckled.

“You don’t have to,” Waylon breathed. Truthfully, he was going to the store to pick up some more painkillers and food to take with them on their journey to Denver. But he’d also seen a payphone at the convenience store, and he planned to call there, alone. It was the perfect time to do so, if he could get away from Eddie for a while. “I won’t be gone long,” he added, betting that Eddie was tired enough to go back to sleep and let him go alone.

He gambled correctly, for Eddie stretched his legs out straight and leaned forward to kiss Waylon’s forehead softly, so softly. It surprised Waylon still how gentle the man could be – was being – with him. ‘Where did the violent, knife-wielding killer go?’ Not that he was disappointed; he definitely preferred this disposition to the other. But he almost wished Eddie would hit him or yell at him cruelly, for it would make it easier to hate him.

“Alright,” he murmured, finally, lips curving into a small smile. “But on one condition.”

Waylon swallowed. “What is it?” he whispered, voice so soft and small.

“Bathe with me, before we pack up and leave this place, hm?”

Waylon’s stomach twisted into a knot, and he was unsure if it was from reluctance or simple nervousness. Distrustful of his voice, he nodded, at which Eddie grinned lazily, kissing the bridge of the blond’s nose, causing butterflies to erupt within Waylon’s stomach. “Good. Be careful, darling.”

The pain in Waylon’s leg had been dulled with the last of the Ibuprofen, but he still limped on his way to the small market down the street. It wasn’t a particularly long walk, but Waylon still felt vulnerable, especially without Eddie. Staying in Leadville made him very nervous; he felt as though Murkoff would look there first, assuming he would have gone home. He wondered if they would be subtle, though, because they couldn’t knock on his front door and search the house for her dead husband without Lisa asking a few questions.

Part of him knew his worry was irrational. How could Murkoff possibly know he’d escaped? Sure, he’d been in their custody before everything had gone to shit, but after that, he knew no one had kept tabs on him. As far as he knew, no one had seen them escape from the asylum. But, Murkoff’s Tactical Team had been prowling the lower floors when they’d passed through, so Waylon figured Blaire and other Murkoff executives had arrived to stop the bleeding – literally – and sort everything out within the asylum. Waylon wondered if they would survive long enough to do so. He’d seen the capacities of the variants, as well as the Walrider, and he didn’t know if guns could stop them. If they did survive, though, and his body wasn’t found, he knew Blaire would search for him.

He pushed the door to the store open, finding comfort in the walls now surrounding him. He gathered things they could snack on during their trek – he knew how desolate Colorado was, and there wouldn’t be many restaurants on the way to Denver. A few bags of chips, candy bars and bottles of water, as well as some basic medicine sold at such a small store; Aspirin. He edged up to the counter, handing over enough money to the teenage girl behind the register, then asked her for change for the payphone. He stuffed his purchases into his bag and, with coins held tight in his hand, he made his way outside to the little payphone booth.

He glanced around nervously before he stepped inside, the thought of Eddie having followed him crossing his mind. He’d already concocted his plan, just in case Eddie asked or caught him in the act; he was calling a doctor in Denver to make an appointment to ‘fix’ him. Eddie would be overjoyed. Drawing in a deep breath, he opened the old phonebook – ‘haven’t used one of these in years,’ – and looked through the emergency section.

The local police weren’t an option; he wanted to go higher than that. A title caught his eye: Colorado Bureau of Investigation, with a phone number next to it. The address was from Lakewood, which Waylon knew to be very near to Denver. It seemed like a good enough place to start.

He dialed the number.


Waylon opened the door to their motel room slowly, quietly, but he found Eddie awake, sitting on the bed, seemingly staring off thoughtlessly. When Waylon stepped inside, though, his daydream was interrupted, blue eyes sweeping over to rest on him, a smile immediately brightening his face. Waylon took a deep breath, straightening his spine, but before he could speak, Eddie stood and approached him.

“Did you find us enough food, darling?” Waylon leaned to open the flap of the bag, revealing its contents, and Eddie sighed. “No offense, my dear, but I will admit that I cannot wait until we settle down in our home and have home-cooked meals every night.” Waylon knew what he meant.

Moving away from him and setting the bag down on the foot of the bed, Waylon stiffened slightly when Eddie pressed up against his back, fingers brushing through his hair and along the side of his neck, making him shudder involuntarily. “Darling, I take it you remember our little agreement.” That word slid off of Eddie’s tongue slower than the rest, and Waylon was sure he was smirking. He swallowed, turning to face the man. He was right.

“I-… Yes,” was all he could murmur. The thought of bathing with him made him uneasy – would Eddie react with disgust at his still-very-male body?

“Oh, I know it’s not proper, darling, but I promise you’ll remain chaste until our wedding night. Then, well…” That grin returned – the manic one that Waylon remembered down in the dark Vocational Block, and cold fear shot up his spine – and Eddie leaned in, voice dropping dangerously low. “I’m not sure I’ll be able to keep myself from ravishing you.”

Waylon was sure he was about to have a heart palpitation, he was sure Eddie could hear the hammering against his ribcage, but if he did, he didn’t comment on it. A large hand slipped into his, gently tugging him toward the bathroom. “Come now, darling,” Eddie practically sang. Waylon followed, apprehensive, though slightly reassured by Eddie’s promise to keep him untainted.

Once in the bathroom, Waylon watched Eddie unbutton his shirt and discard it on the floor. The skin of his chest was mostly free of scars, seemingly unaffected by the engine like his face was. There was a puckered mark curving over his shoulder. Waylon thought it looked too old, too healed to be from his time at Mount Massive. His chest and shoulders were broad – Waylon knew this already, but this time, he had time to gaze at it, placidly, perhaps even admire it–… ‘No, no, don’t–‘

“Come now, darling,” Eddie murmured once again, breaking into his thoughts of protest and reaching for the hem of his shirt. Waylon lifted his arms obediently, allowing the fabric to be pulled over his head and discarded on the floor. Eddie turned his attention to his own pants, then, so Waylon did the same, slowly, waiting until Eddie’s fell to the floor before he allowed his own to. He was careful with his gaze, keeping it high or on the wall as the man leaned to turn on the shower, giving it a minute to heat up.

When Waylon stepped into the spray, it was pleasantly warm. He liked his showers hot; he liked the feel of water nearly searing his skin. It was gratifying, soothing. Evidently Eddie did as well.

He was soon joined by the taller man, Waylon standing closer to the spray from the shower head, though facing away from it; facing Eddie. The sound of water on skin and the porcelain of the shower walls drowned out the silence and the sound of their breathing, and Waylon didn’t feel the quiet between them was awkward at all. His eyes were trained on Eddie’s chest, gazing ahead with hooded lids as water wet his hair and ran down his thin frame. Eddie leaned closer, and Waylon merely closed his eyes as lips pressed to his forehead.

Hands pressed against his shoulders and he took a step backward, back bumping against the wall. The porcelain was cold on his skin, a stark contrast to the water, and he jumped in protest, but Eddie’s lips on his stole his full attention, and he eased back to lean against the wall. The kiss was gentle, passionate, and he tilted his head up, aware that Eddie was stooping down slightly to kiss him, making their height difference all the more obvious. One of Eddie’s hands moved to encircle Waylon’s waist with an arm, tugging his hips away from the wall to make room, and the other pressed against the flat surface, just beside Waylon’s bicep.

Waylon had never been kissed in the rain, but he felt this was as close as he was going to get.

When it finally ended, Eddie lingered, kissing Waylon’s brow, then turning his head and pressing his cheek to the blond’s forehead. He was so close, now, that Waylon’s lips brushed dangerously near the man’s collarbone; just below it. His skin was smooth and unblemished, quite different from Waylon’s own freckled shoulders.

Waylon tried not to question it. He deserved a moment of peace, a moment of contentment, didn’t he? ‘Who cares who it’s with or where.’ They stayed like that for a few moments, Waylon pressing his chin lightly against Eddie’s chest, able to feel his heartbeat beneath. Finally, he spoke up.

“I called a doctor in Denver,” he began, slowly, softly. Eddie didn’t move. “I made an appointment in five days.”

At that, the man pulled back to gaze down at him. Waylon thought he looked innocuous soaking wet, despite his towering figure.

“You’ll be perfect,” he breathed, a small smile forming on his lips. Waylon returned it, slightly guilty at what would truly be happening in five days’ time.


Day 16

It seemed as though the authorities already knew about Mount Massive’s demise.

When Waylon had called the Bureau, he’d started off with the cliche, “I know this is going to sound crazy, but…” He’d rehearsed what he was going to say over and over prior to the call, but everything had come tumbling out in the moment. He’d been utterly shocked when the man on the other end of the line hadn’t hung up on him with a grumble of, “Damn prank calls.”

Evidently, by the time Waylon had called, the National Guard had already been alerted of the chaos happening within the asylum. Waylon hadn’t dared to ask who had blown that whistle. According to the man - Karl Wilmes, the Deputy Director, he’d introduced himself as – the Guard had already infiltrated the facility and begun to round up any survivors, transporting the injured to hospitals within mental institutes. Waylon had rattled off classified information to make the director believe him; the number of his contract, his name, names of Murkoff executives – Blaire included – anything. By some miracle, Wilmes had believed him.

When he’d mentioned the camcorder, interest had peaked. He’d said something about meeting with the CIA as soon as possible – about Waylon being in danger, which he already knew. It had been then when he’d had to mention Eddie.

Wilmes seemed to recognize the man’s name as soon as it had left Waylon’s lips, which had frightened him. It had taken a great deal of convincing to keep him from sending a unit to detain Gluskin on the spot – Waylon had even refused to tell the man exactly where they were, fearful that they would hunt them down; he’d only told them that where he wanted to meet would take them roughly five days to get to. Wilmes had agreed to contact the CBI forces in Denver and have them at the Mental Health Institute at Fort Logan, ready to detain Eddie when they arrived. They would alert all employees at the institute and arrange everything correctly – even cover up the sign outside that said in large letters: Mental Health Institute – so Eddie wouldn’t have a clue as to what was happening. The most reassuring of all was Wilmes’ final words, promising Waylon that after Eddie was apprehended, he would work with the best to help Waylon reveal the camcorder’s footage and keep his identity protected from the public.

There wasn’t a bus route that ran to Leadville, so Eddie and Waylon were forced to hitchhike. It was much too cold at night to walk through the mountains, and Waylon didn’t want to freeze to death in a snowstorm. When a pickup truck had finally stopped for them, Waylon had insisted that he speak to the man, telling Eddie that he could charm him into giving them a ride, because he knew Eddie would frighten the man away. He’d agreed to give them a ride into Frisco, where bus routes were available to Denver. The open back of the truck hadn’t been any warmer than walking – colder, actually, due to the wind – but Waylon had snuggled up against Eddie’s warmth, his large body blocking most of the rushing wind.

They’d spent the night in Frisco at a hotel right next to the bay. It was a small town, about the size of Leadville. After eating continental breakfast, they hadn’t wasted time in finding the bus stop and leaving, Eddie eager to get to Denver as quickly as possible. Waylon couldn’t help but feel a bit of guilt at the man’s excitement.

Two more days and they’d passed through Silverthorne and Georgetown, slowly making their way northeast toward Denver. Colorado really was beautiful, and if anything, Waylon found it within himself to at least enjoy the view from the window of each bus they rode on, wedged between the cool metal of the bus and Eddie’s warm thigh. Sometimes he’d allow his head to rest on the sturdy shoulder, nodding off to the sound of Eddie’s soft humming if no one was sitting near them.

Idaho Springs was their last stop before making it into Denver. Waylon fell asleep beside Eddie that night, trying to comprehend the twinge of sadness in his chest. He knew why he felt it. ‘Tomorrow, everything will change.’ It was strange, how he’d gotten used to this life for the past dozen days or so. It felt almost wrong that tomorrow night, he wouldn’t be sleeping in a bed with Eddie.

When morning came, he tried to act as normal as he could, but Eddie was very perceptive.

“Don’t be nervous, darling. I’m sure the doctor will be very careful with you. I’ll see to it that you’re taken good care of, and I’ll stay by your side until you recover,” he murmured as they stepped off the bus, about a block from the institute. Waylon wished he could feel touched by the words.

He let Eddie hold his hand as they walked down the sidewalk, turning on Oxford Avenue. He couldn’t bring himself to care that he held onto Eddie’s fingers tightly, as if they were his lifeline.

When they arrived at the front of the institute, Waylon was relieved to see a large black tarp over what he assumed to be the sign for the facility.

“Is this it?” Eddie questioned, gazing placidly at the long path cutting through a grassy yard that lead up to glass double doors.

Waylon nodded, swallowing his apprehension. “Y-Yes, they must be repainting the sign,” he heard himself say. Eddie seemed to affirm it without question, humming in response, and the pair approached the entrance. What happened next was fuzzy to Waylon’s mind.

When they entered, nothing seemed out of place. If anything, the place appeared desolate. There was a woman behind the counter who greeted them. Waylon thought he heard her voice shake. ‘A pawn.’

“Hello dear, yes, my Waylon has an appointment today,” Eddie began, practically dragging Waylon along as he stepped forward, shoes thudding on the tile floor.

“Mr. Park, step away!”

Waylon had barely heard the words when armored men sprang, seemingly out of nowhere. His hand was ripped from Eddie’s as the man was tackled, and Waylon stood, frozen on the spot. Eddie didn’t react right away, obviously in shock, but after a moment, he began to thrash in the hold of the soldiers.

“Darling?? Darling! Stop them! What are they–…?”

Waylon’s mouth was dry as Eddie’s eyes pierced him, turning cold, unforgiving. Waylon could only whisper, but the words left his lips, probably unheard by anyone but himself, let alone Eddie.

“I’m sorry.”

“You whore! You planned this, didn’t you?! You let them do this to me! How could you?! After all I’ve done for you??!”

Waylon shuddered, taking a few steps back at Eddie’s violent words. They reminded him all too much of their time spent in the depths of Mount Massive.

One of the soldiers grabbed Waylon’s shoulder, trying to turn him away as a large needle was injected into Eddie’s arm. There were two employees of the institute, standing by with a medical bed on wheels, complete with restraints for wrists and ankles, as well as a thick leather strap to be fastened across the abdomen. Waylon watched Eddie’s flailing decrease as the tranquilizer he’d been injected with began to take effect.

“You ungrateful little shit! You’re just like the others, just like them! You–”

His words were cut off as one of the men yanked his arms behind his body, forcing them into an unnatural position, and he cried out in pain.

“No…!” Waylon cried out in protest, but Eddie was already losing consciousness, unfocused eyes glazed, yet remaining on Waylon. He watched four men heave his motionless form onto the bed before the soldier clasping his shoulder led him away.

Somehow, Waylon still felt Eddie’s eyes boring into his back.

Chapter Text

Day 17

The CIA building was dark; hallways long and dim, windows tinted – or one-way, Waylon didn’t know – and doors shut tight. It reminded Waylon of his time in Mount Massive; trapped, with so many exits but all inaccessible. He tried to quell the anxiety swelling in his chest as he was escorted by four guards – was he really such a threat? – down the long corridor. Their pace was slow as to adhere to Waylon’s; he’d just begun to get used to the crutches.

Everything after Gluskin’s detainment had been a blur. He’d been rushed to a plain white van and ushered inside. He couldn’t remember who was inside – he thought they were SWAT members, but he couldn’t be sure. One man had spoken to him, tried to calm him. He hadn’t been dressed like the others; a plain brown suit had clashed with the soldiers’ black attire. Whatever he’d said had gone in one of Waylon’s ears and out the other. They’d driven for some time, the darkness of the sky surprising Waylon when he’d emerged, the men escorting him into a building Waylon didn’t recognize. He’d known better than to ask questions; his lips had stayed shut as he followed silent directions.

The first place he’d been taken resembled a hospital. The brown-suited man had appeared again, then, while doctors took the wrap from his leg and examined it. Waylon thought he had blacked out then, because he couldn’t remember it being stitched or wrapped as it was now. He’d left the hospital area with a brown paper bag of antibiotics to stop the infection that had already taken hold.

The agonizingly-long journey had Waylon breathing heavily when they finally reached a plain gray door with a thick pane of glass. Inside was a concrete room with a metal table and three chairs; two on one side and one on the other. They let Waylon inside, one murmuring in a gruff voice to “wait here,” then shut the door behind him.

Waylon moved over to the table after examining every corner of the room, bag slung around his chest as he clutched to the handles of his crutches until his knuckles turned white. There was a laptop sitting upon the sleek metal tabletop, closed, green lights on the frame blinking. Waylon regarded it with a hesitant gaze, unsure of why it was there.

The click of the door opening made him spin around so quickly, he nearly fell, crutches holding him up. The first man that entered was unfamiliar to him – tall and thin, with sandy-brown hair and a mustache; a distinguished-looking gentleman, but that didn’t ease Waylon’s nerves any. He tipped his head to Waylon, though he didn’t reciprocate the action, taking a step back from the door. There was only one door to this room; one escape, and it was blocked. Waylon’s throat began to close as he panicked.

The second man, however, Waylon recognized. He couldn’t recall his name – he’d probably been told, but in the haze that was the past 20 hours or so, Waylon’s brain hadn’t retained the information. He was the same man from the van first, then the hospital room. For some reason, the familiarity of his face calmed Waylon slightly, and he regarded them with hesitant wariness, taking notice of the food in the acquainted man’s hands. It was a basket, similar to a meal at a restaurant like Red Robin; a burger and fries in a red and white checkered basket.

“Waylon Park,” the second man spoke first, as if taking notice of Waylon’s uneasiness around the other. He had a decidedly Australian accent. “Please, take a seat.” He gestured toward the chair. Waylon obeyed cautiously, resting his crutches against the table and folding his hands in his lap, fidgeting with his fingers as the two men sat across from him. The table between them made him feel a bit safer. “My name is Julian Peters, and this is Detective Conners,” he gestured to the other man, mustache turning up as he offered a gruff smile. Waylon’s gaze moved between them as he nodded in comprehension; it seemed as though the man would understand if Waylon didn’t recognize him.

“How are you feeling?”

Waylon felt stumped by the question. He felt so many things – pain, in both his leg and his head; anxiety, just in general; anger, at Murkoff for what they’d done; fatigue, from not sleeping properly in not just the past few days, but weeks while he stayed at Mount Massive; anguish, for not being able to see his family, which was the thing he’d looked forward to the most… there were many, many more facets of emotion he felt, but he couldn’t possibly put all that sentiment into words. Finally, he settled on a guarded, generalized answer.

“Tired. Exhausted, actually.” He paused, then asked a question bolder than he’d thought himself capable of at the moment. “Are you going to help me expose Murkoff, or are you going to try to confiscate my camcorder too?”

Julian laughed at that, shaking his head. “Mr. Park, we’re here to help. I know trusting us probably doesn’t sound like the best idea, but we’ve got your interests at heart.” He pushed the basket of food, which Waylon had forgotten about, across the table. “You must be starving, right? And you can take your antibiotic with this.” Waylon eyed the burger and fries, surprised at his mouth’s watering. He glanced up at Julian, who smiled warmly. “A peace offering. We’re going to be talking a lot, so you can just listen, and eat.”

Waylon sifted underneath the flap of his bag until he found the brown, smaller paper bag with his prescription in it. He dumped one of the pills into his palm and swallowed it with a gulp of Sprite that Julian produced, seemingly from nowhere. He took a large bite of the burger, if only to quiet his growling stomach and stop his embarrassment from growing. Ever perceptive, Waylon caught the two men sharing a glance, as if they were pleased he was eating the food they’d brought.

“Mr. Park, what you’ve just been through is… undoubtedly traumatizing. And we’ve got psychiatrists on standby to attend to you during this difficult time,” Detective Conners spoke for the first time while Waylon chewed on a fry, deciding to listen to what they had to say and speak when they were done. “But our job is to make sure everything lines up. To get the story straight. We’re not journalists – you’re going to be bombarded with a lot of those, but you can decline to speak with them until you’re ready. We’re investigators.” He paused, but when Waylon made no move to speak, Detective Conners shuffled a small stack of papers in front of him on the table, reading from the one on top. “Waylon Park, employee 1466 – formally,” he spoke the word with accentuation. “Graduated from University of California, Berkeley, in 2007. In June of 2013 you signed a two-week contract with the Murkoff Corporation to maintain the engine, is that correct?” Waylon supplied a nod, mouth full of burger, which was good enough for them. Detective Conners glanced at Julian, and the other man took over.

“Mr. Park, I know it’s going to be painful to revisit your time at the asylum, but we need a recount of what happened in there, what you saw. For police records and… otherwise.”

Waylon gazed at him for a moment, swallowing the food in his mouth before speaking. “Why don’t you just watch what the camcorder recorded?”

The two men seemed to be surprised by his retort, but Julian recovered first.

“We will. We’ll see it. And so will the world, if you want,” he murmured. Waylon nodded, lowering his gaze to the nearly empty basket. “Maybe a commentary while we watch it would be best.”

They helped Waylon hook the camcorder up to the laptop, supplying the right cord to connect the two. When the footage was pulled up, Waylon was surprised to see himself strapped to a chair. “This was before the riot,” he mumbled, looking away when Andrew leaned in to lick his cheek. He barely suppressed a shudder, though the memory didn’t disturb him as much as it should have. He’d been through much worse.

They watched the video; they watched Waylon creep along the dark corridors, nightvision of the camcorder lighting up the unknown. Waylon sat on edge, barely able to keep still at every turn, all-too-aware of his own ragged breathing picked up by the camcorder’s microphone. When The Cook’s kitchen came into view, blood splattering on the walls and the camcorder’s screen, Waylon turned and heaved his lunch up his throat and back into the basket, body shuddering in protest. The video was paused, one of the man mumbling a soft sympathy – Waylon wasn’t sure which one – and the basket taken away. Once Waylon’s breathing had evened out and his hands had steadied, they resumed watching.

To say enduring the video was difficult was an understatement. By the time the footage had reached its end, Waylon was thankful he’d turned the device off between important events, lest there be hours more of recorded material. Complete silence followed the black screen before them. Waylon was afraid to glance at the two men; afraid to see their expressions of disgust or horror.

Finally, Julian spoke.

“Mr. Park, this is… this could – no, will – be detrimental to the Murkoff Corporation. But I need you to understand some things before you show this to the world.”

Waylon tried to compose himself, tried to listen, despite feeling quite sick and faint. He needed to ask a doctor if he was supposed to take another antibiotic, since he’d most likely thrown the first pill up.

“If you press that button, Mr. Park, there’s no going back. There’s more than enough hard evidence in this video file to make a world of shit for our friends at Murkoff – the remains of the asylum will be icing on the cake. You got out of Mount Massive alive, and not many can say the same. We’ll do everything in our power to cover your tracks, but our enemies are twitchy and malicious corporate paranoiacs with resources you’re too moral – even still – to imagine. You won’t be the only target. Anyone you care about; your wife, your child, they’ll be nothing to Murkoff but ways to hurt you.”

Waylon had to interject at that. “My wife thinks I’m dead,” he murmured. “I’d-… I think it’s best to keep it that way. If they don’t know anything, they’ll be safe, right?”

“Most likely. Mr. Park, I need you to understand the bridge you’re crossing here. You will do irrevocable damage to the company. You might even get close to something like justice. But, once you click that upload button, your life is over. But it’s the right thing to do. Is hurting Murkoff worth that much to you?”

Waylon waivered, trying to add everything up in his head. “I don’t have anything left anyway,” he finally mumbled, looking down at his hands, fingers spread. “I’ll have to start all over.”

“Mr. Park,” Detective Conners folded his hands on the tabletop. “What do you know about the whereabouts of Jeremy Blaire?”

Waylon’s head snapped up at that name, hands turning over to clench the fabric of his flannel pants – clothing given to him in the hospital, after they’d stitched him up and allowed him a shower. He’d never been so appreciative of warm water and soap suds.

“He… told Lisa I was dead. He emailed her, about two weeks ago. He caught me trying to expose Murkoff, and he admitted me to Mount Massive. Forcibly,” he added, clenching his jaw. If good-natured, easy-going Waylon could ever resent anyone, it would be Jeremy Blaire. “I don’t know where he is, though.”

“We do.”

Detective Conners’ words sent a thrill of fear through Waylon. He could only wait for him to continue.

“We found the remains of Blaire in the Administration Block of Mount Massive. He was… ripped to pieces, by Wernicke’s Walrider.”

Waylon was hesitant to speak on the subject. He didn’t know much – all his knowledge had been gained by documents scattered around the asylum. Was it possible that they knew more than he about the subject?

“Listen, we probably don’t know much more than you about this,” Detective Conners said, seemingly reading Waylon’s mind. “Mr. Park, what can you tell us about the Morphogenic Engine?”

Waylon knew he was fishing for evidence. He knew this would go down on police record – and probably federal, too. But he had no obligation to Murkoff; why should he withhold incriminating information?

“The engine was… an experiment. A stratagem.” Waylon hesitated. Detective Conners leaned forward, his presence anything but threatening, but Waylon flinched back. Conners didn’t seem to take notice.

“Mr. Park, we know you worked with it. You saw codes, you helped maintain it. Certainly you know what its function was?”

Waylon lowered his gaze, feeling guilty, fearful, even now. Even now, he felt if he spilled these secrets, Blaire or another Murkoff executive would pop up with a baton, even though he knew he was in no danger here. He was safe here. He drew in a deep breath.

“The engine was self-perpetuating. It… it engineered human cells, alongside psychosomatic direction, to create the perfect host for the nanites.” Waylon could still remember the murmured words he’d overheard during the stints of working on the engine with a keyboard. It was all technology, all knowledge and intelligence the scientists within the depths of Mount Massive had mastered.

“Nanites?” Detective Conners questioned. Waylon could see the shine of a recording device in his breast pocket, but he acted as if he hadn’t seen it. Why should he care?

“Theoretically, they’re tiny nanoscopic machines, capable of immense strength, flight… the scientists weren’t completely sure. It was all an experiment. I guess… it succeeded, with someone,” he finished lamely, trying to calm his racing heart.

Detective Conners nodded, lifting a hand to not-so-subtly press a button on the recorder. “Nine days ago, SWAT team forces entered Mount Massive. What they discovered inside was… well, something you can imagine, Mr. Park, but nothing we can imagine.” He glanced at Julian, who nodded solemnly. “While inside, they encountered what one man described as a ‘black swarm’ that could not be penetrated by bullets. They reported that it ‘glided’ over their heads and exited the building. Mr. Park, do you think what they saw could be the Walrider?”

Waylon nodded, lifting his eyes tentatively. “Yes,” was all he said. Detective Conners seemed to have nothing else to say, so Julian reached for the computer, hitting a few keys and clicking a few things.

“Mr. Park, are you sure you want to leak this video?”

Waylon could still smell the hard, metallic scent of the asylum, stuck in his nose forever.

He nodded.

Julian turned the laptop back around. The video file was already selected. All that was left to do was hit enter to upload it.

Waylon pressed the button with his middle finger. ‘A final fuck you to Murkoff.’

“Mr. Park,” Detective Conners spoke as Waylon watched the blue bar fill, hours of footage slowly uploading to the website. “The government has agreed to help you out in the best way they can. You’ll be given a new identity; a fresh start in whatever location you desire.”

Waylon was quiet for a long time, watching the screen until the words ᴠɪᴅᴇᴏ ᴜᴘʟᴏᴀᴅᴇᴅ appeared beside the full blue bar. Finally, he lifted his eyes to the two men still seated at the table.

“What will happen to the surviving patients?”

The question seemed to surprise them, and Waylon thought he knew why; they’d seen all that Waylon had endured in the asylum. They hadn’t been there, hadn’t experienced the fear, the adrenaline, but they’d gotten a taste of it from the video. They knew the patients of Mount Massive had terrorized Waylon. Why would he care about the outcome of their well-being?

“A nearby mental institute is being emptied of its patients as we speak to make room for the survivors of Mount Massive. All the patients were dangerous, even without the engine’s influence; I’m sure you could have guessed as much,” Detective Conners admitted. Waylon nodded. “Some of the best psychiatrists are being reassigned there. All the patients will be taken there and given the best treatment… even Eddie Gluskin.”

The name sounded unreal, hazy – “though it seems like a dream now, being here with you” – and Waylon thought, for a moment, that everything might have been some fucked up nightmare.

But no, the video he’d just uploaded proved otherwise.


Day 243

“So, Mr., ah…”

“Park. Y-You can call me Waylon,” he murmured, although it wasn’t his name anymore.

“Waylon,” the man repeated, raising his eyes from the clipboard against his knee, legs crossed. His clothes were crisp and pressed, something foreign to Waylon now. “We’re going to treat this like any other psychiatric evaluation, alright? You need not explain to me what the root of your mental state is, but please do tell me why you think you need to be in a mental hospital.”

Waylon drew in a deep breath, leg twitching incessantly, heel bouncing up and down to the tune of three times a second. His fingers gripped at the sleeve of his cardigan; claw-like in the curve of his thin fingers. There were so many things he could say, so many reasons why he had come here, why he had forced himself to endure the cab driver’s small-talk and the dozens of people he’d encountered on sidewalks.

“The anxiety is… really why I came here,” he admitted, still reluctant to meet the man’s eyes. Eric Kirkpatrick, read his nametag; he was the head psychiatrist of the institute, and very well aware of whom Waylon was, though they’d never met before. “I’ve tried Xanax, I’ve tried Klonopin, nothing I’ve been prescribed has helped much.” He swallowed, sure the man could feel the vibe of pure nervousness radiating from his being. He fell silent, unsure of what else there was to say.

“Generally, Waylon, people check themselves into institutes when they feel they can no longer function in everyday life, whether the reason be they are a danger to society, themselves, or the like. Do you feel as though you are a danger to anyone, Waylon?”

The blond bit the inside of his cheek and shook his head. “No, I just… but I can’t function in everyday life. I can’t keep a job because I’m afraid to leave my house, I can’t keep in contact with friends, I can’t even go fucking grocery shopping.” He pulled a thread from the cuff of his cardigan, sympathizing with the unraveling of the fabric. ‘I’m in pieces.’

“I see.” The man jotted something down on the paper upon his clipboard, then returned his gaze – friendly, but in Waylon’s mind, it was scrutinizing – to Waylon. “Have you had any therapy whatsoever since… the incident?”

Waylon was somewhat thankful for the way he referred to the horror so lightly. He shook his head, breath snagging in his throat. “A… A few sessions with a local shrink when I first got released.”

“You didn’t think it would be beneficial?”

The man’s patronizing attitude was starting to aggravate Waylon, despite his anxiety. “I do now.”

“I see,” he murmured again. “Well, Waylon, I think it would be a… a good idea to admit you and observe you over the next week or so. Get a feel for what you’re dealing with, hm?” Maybe Waylon was just overly-sensitive in his paranoid state, but he was sure the man was belittling him now; downplaying the hell he’d been going through for the past eight months. “Let me ask, did you bring anything with you to use during your stay here?”

“A small bag of clothes and toiletries, yeah.”

“Alright, we’ll have administration look those over and make sure everything follows our guidelines.” He smiled – a grimace, to Waylon. “There is one thing I must ask of you, Waylon. Are you comfortable, staying in the same institution as the surviving patients of Mount Massive?”

Waylon was more than fed up with this man’s prying questions; just scheduling this appointment over the phone had left him drained of mental and emotional energy. Now, he felt as though he could tremble apart, and he just wanted to be shown to his room and lie down. “I won’t have to speak with any of them, will I?” He didn’t bother to try to keep the irritation out of his voice.

“You don’t have to interact with them, no.” Waylon nodded, once, and the man spun in his chair to pull a paper out of a file cabinet drawer – a five-page form, Waylon discovered, once it was handed to him over the desk, along with a pen. “Why don’t you go ahead and fill this out, then, while I have your things checked, and we’ll get you moved in.”

Waylon still felt the man’s hot breath against his cheek, face too close to his as he leaned forward to hand him the papers, and he shuddered.

It wasn’t until he was shown to his room – no roommate, as he’d requested – and he was lying down on the firm bed when the man’s words sunk in.

Beyond the walls surrounding him, beyond the door that was cracked open were the patients that had run amok within Mount Massive during the riot. The handless one who had tried so hard to tell him a secret, the ones who had murdered a doctor upon a medical table during the first few minutes of the outbreak, the patient whom had chased him through the storage rooms that he had fallen down into.

Beyond the marble flooring of the long corridor that reminded him too much of the wooden Mount Massive hallways was Eddie Gluskin.

He’d inadvertently checked himself into the very institute where the men of his nightmares resided.

Chapter Text

Day 250

Waylon’s first week at the institute consisted of many evaluations of his health – both physical and mental. He understood their need to assess his being, but by the fifth day, he was thoroughly fed up with the probing questions, constant vital checks – blood pressure, body temperature and the like – and, especially, the strict diet regimens. When he’d told his attending nurse his weight prior to the riot – the term all staff used when referring to Mount Massive’s chaos – she hadn’t seemed too surprised, claiming that weight loss was a common symptom of anxiety and depression. Waylon, on the other hand, hadn’t fully comprehended the number she’d read from the scale, insisting on stepping up again and leaning to look at the digital display himself: 127, it said for a second time, squared red numbers seeming gloomy at his gaze of disbelief. Sure, he’d known he’d lost a few pounds… well, maybe more than a few, but thirty?? It seemed outrageous. He had been slight to begin with; never athletic, but relatively skinny. His primary therapist – a man named Aiden Pierce – had put him on a diet aimed to help him gain weight, and they weren’t stingy with the portions. Waylon often found it difficult to eat every spoonful of macaroni and cheese, every bite of garlic bread, but he knew it was part of his recovery, and he wanted to get better, he really did.

He’d already grown used to the institute’s strict schedule. He was woken every morning at 7:30. Breakfast was at 8:00, served along with his medication – something for depression, something for anxiety. He was a special case, as he’d requested no interactions with the other patients, and all food was brought to his room. 9:00 to 1:00 was mostly free time, during which Waylon spent in his room, reading the books he’d been smart enough to pack. On Thursday, he’d convinced one of the orderlies to bring a set of paint and an easel to his room, merely out of boredom. The hospital was evidently big on crafts; they benefited many of the patients, as well as provided some insight to their mental state… or so his therapist said.

Waylon had two therapy sessions in the afternoon; one with Aiden and one with the nurses. That being said, the former focused more on his mental and emotional state, and the latter on his physical. Toward the end of the week, Waylon found himself looking forward to the sessions, if only to escape the confines of his room. He’d been given quarters with his own conjoined bathroom, complete with a shower, though a guard had to be notified when he entered, and stood outside the door until he exited. He knew it was a precautionary measure, but asking permission to take a shit sometimes pissed him off. It wasn’t as if he was going to try to drown himself in the toilet water.

Willingly committing himself to a mental institute had been something he’d thought he’d never do, especially after the riot. “Will you willingly submit to forced confinement?” The voice still perturbed him, prickling the hair at the back of his neck. But Jeremy Blaire wasn’t the only person who still haunted his dreams.


“Please… please,” he whispered, syllables barely brushing past his lips before a thumb smoothed over them, making his body tremble upon the cold metal table. There were so many things he could be begging for; freedom, solitude, indulgence in the sick desires writhing within him… and even he wasn’t sure what he wanted, what he needed so desperately that he would plead pitifully for it.

The dark figure moved around him, thumb leaving his lips, evoking a whimper at the loss of contact. As the figure circled, fabric of a shirt brushed against the knuckles of his hand, held tight to a metal bar by ropes curled around his wrist, same as the other hand. He was unsure if his ankles were bound as well, but it wasn’t relevant to him; whether or not he could kick, whether he could run. The longing to stay in the clutches of darkness was much stronger.

Fingertips, rough with callouses yet somehow still soft, trailed up his exposed thigh – he was unclothed; the sudden realization made his head spin, and the moan that left his lips in the repeated word was unbidden as he squeezed his eyes shut.

“Please…!”

It was desperate, it was venereal, it was hoarse, as if he’d been crying out for hours in pleasure that he couldn’t recall, in agony that he couldn’t remember. The fingers continued to trail up his thigh to linger on his hipbone, circling there, pressing into the dip. Waylon opened his eyes, lifting his head to look down the length of his body and lay eyes on the figure whose mercy he was at.

Pale blue eyes shone in the dim light, a fiendish grin kick-starting his heart to beat faster than a hummingbird’s wings. But it wasn’t fear that pumped through his veins, but adrenaline; exhilaration, anticipation. Chest heaving with shallow breath, he quivered underneath the man’s touch, watching, waiting for his fate to be decided.

The man’s pose was all too familiar; the raised knee poised on the end of the table, gaze regarding him as prey. But there was no saw positioned between his legs, and the man’s hands were on him instead.

“Darling,” the single word made him shudder deliciously. “Such soft skin.” He spoke against his leg, lips brushing along his thigh, and Waylon felt as though he would drown in each surge of desire that washed over him. “You make yourself a gift for me. A delicacy.”

Hands spread his legs and teeth sank into his inner thigh.

He cried out.

“Mr. Park. Mr. Park? Waylon!”

He awoke with a start, fingers curling into the sheets as he pushed himself up on his elbows, lower body flat on the bed. A woman stood in the doorway, a concerned expression on her face. When he met her gaze, she forced a smile. “Your appointment with Mr. Pierce is in fifteen minutes.”

She left, the door clicking shut behind her, and Waylon let his elbows slide, sinking to lie on his back once more with a sigh. His skin burned beneath his sweatpants, thigh still throbbing… and it wasn’t the only thing throbbing. Waylon shut his eyes and resignedly slipped a hand beneath the waistband.

Fifteen minutes later, Waylon was washing his hands in the bathroom when an orderly opened his door, prepared to escort him to his therapy session. He chanced a glance at himself in the mirror, relieved that he could still recognize himself. His reflection was a thinner, more exhausted, defeated man than he remembered, but he was still himself.

It wasn’t the first time he’d dreamt about Eddie Gluskin. In the first few months following the riot, the dreams had been nightmares, mostly, and not all of them about Eddie. Gradually, they’d shifted to something more carnal, something more akin to fantasies in the midst of REM sleep. He’d tried to ignore them at first, passing them off as his brain’s way of dealing with the post-traumatic stress of the incident. Over time, the nervousness had worsened, as had his paranoia, but he was free from all anxiety in his dreams. In his dreams, the very man that should have frightened him the most was the object of his affection, of his longing.

Lacking the time to change clothes, he opted to go to his meeting in the sweatpants and over-sized sweatshirt he’d worn to sleep. The orderly escorted him out the door and down the hallway. He’d been assured by his therapist time and time again that the institute was very dedicated to every patient’s needs, and was diligent in their precautions, but he was still on edge for every step he took outside the confines of his room. He’d never once seen another patient during his trek, aside from a glance through the thick glass of a door separating the hallway and the free-time room, but he still expected the big guy with teeth or the cannibal – Chris Walker and Frank Manera, respectively, he’d been told their names were – to be around every corner. He knew those thoughts were irrational; he’d seen Manera die, and been told that Walker’s ‘remains’, as his therapist had put it, had been found in the asylum. But the fear he felt was still very real, and for that reason, he stuck close to his escort – a large man, somewhat close to Eddie’s size – during every journey to his therapy sessions.

He knew the way by heart now, having walked it six times. It was his paranoia that caused him to memorize layouts of buildings; to know the floor plan and, most importantly, all the exits. His ankle had never fully healed; he walked with the slightest limp, but he was still nimble enough to evade the common attacker.

Waylon followed the guard’s lead around a corner, glancing over his shoulder warily. When he turned back around to face forward, the sight down the hall a dozen meters or so made him freeze.

Two orderlies were escorting a patient from the mess hall. He seemed to be distressed – Waylon couldn’t decipher what he was mumbling. A few steps ahead, his guard had taken notice of the group and was glancing back to Waylon at the same time as the patient.

Waylon recognized his face immediately, even though he’d only seen him two or three times, even though it had been dark in the storage room, even though he’d turned and ran from him before he really got a good look at him. And even though there seemed to be no animosity in his expression, even though there was at least twenty feet in between them, the moment the man took a step toward him, Waylon bolted.

Around the corner. Through double doors. Around two more corners, bare feet slipping on linoleum flooring. He slammed into the emergency exit door, pushing on it, but it didn’t budge. Heart hammering in his chest, he let out a groan of frustration as he banged his fist on the locked door. Always locked doors, always no escape. He turned around and slumped into the corner, trying to make himself as small as possible, as if he could melt into the wall. He heard yelling down the hallway, footsteps approaching.

The first figure that appeared around the corner was his escort. He must have seen the wild look in Waylon’s eye, because he approached cautiously, holding his hands up as if to seem less threatening.

“Mr. Park, try to calm down. You’re in no danger. Waylon?” he tried, Waylon felt him trying, heard the pleading tone in his voice, but the adrenaline pumping through his veins made his breathing erratic, his hands shaky, and his fear heightened. The moment the man was too close, Waylon skirted along the wall past him, aiming to run back the way he’d come. But the man caught his wrist.

Waylon struggled. He thrashed and writhed and kicked against the bear-hug the man put him in; a position aimed to restrain him without harm, Waylon would have realized, had he been collected enough. The man seemed unfazed by his attempts to escape the grip, merely grunting in pain when Waylon shoved his bare heel down into the top of his boot.

“I need a sedative! A sedative in here!”

Waylon couldn’t flee from the nurse that approached. Despite her smile and sweet words, he resisted until the prick of the needle into his bicep made everything slow down. His muscles became limp, pulse slowed, ribs still aching from the pounding of his heart.

“Bring a wheelchair in,” he heard his escort murmur. Everything was hazy for a short while. He was sitting, but moving. By the time he was conscious enough to form a coherent thought, he was in his therapist’s office. Aiden was crouched in front of him, looking at him in concern.

“Waylon? Are you alright?”

He wasn’t sure. Flexing his muscles, he found them sore and slow to respond. “I think so.”

With a reassuring smile, Aiden stood to move over to the chair opposite of the couch Waylon was sitting on – he must have been maneuvered onto the cushion by one of the orderlies.

“Here,” Aiden murmured, pushing a small plastic glass of water toward Waylon on the table. Waylon reached out with a trembling hand to grasp it and take a small sip, stomach still somewhat queasy from the ordeal.

“You gave us quite the scare, Waylon. We had to give you a sedative to calm you down.” Aiden regarded him with an unreadable expression. “Did you have panic attacks like this before you came here?”

Waylon swallowed another sip of water and set it down on the table slowly, still trying to organize his thoughts in his sluggish brain. “… Yeah. Not usually as bad. It was because–…” He broke off, looking down at his lap.

“Because you saw Dennis,” his therapist said softly, his tone understanding. Waylon nodded quickly, recalling the man’s name from a document he’d picked up in the storage room. “Did you have an encounter with him during the riot?” Waylon nodded again, not caring to elaborate on the experience. “Tell me, Waylon, what did you feel when you saw him in that hallway?”

The question caught Waylon off-guard, and he took a moment to think. “It’s… hard to describe without reliving it,” he mumbled, hesitant to meet Aiden’s eyes. “Fear. Panic. Just like–…” He didn’t finish his sentence, but he didn’t have to.

“Waylon, Dennis is receiving treatment here for his Dissociative Identity Disorder. He is making large leaps in his progress, as are nearly all the patients here from the riot. He is no longer violent and I was told three orderlies were present to prevent him from any inappropriate behavior, yet… you still feared the situation enough to run.” He paused, and Waylon felt hot guilt wash over him at Aiden’s tone, but the man spoke again, easing some of the blame. “Of course, it’s a perfectly normal reaction, Waylon. You did nothing wrong; it was our mistake, to have him in that hallway during your escort, and I apologize.” Waylon met his eyes tentatively, and Aiden held the gaze. “Waylon, I know it might sound cruel to say so, but I am glad to have seen you in such a state, if only for the purpose of your treatment. Tell me if this sounds preposterous, but I believe that the source of your anxiety and panic is distrust. You seem to be living in the past, treating every situation as if you are still in Mount Massive Asylum. Your sense of reality seems to be somewhat distorted. And that’s what we need to repair.”

Waylon lowered his gaze again, toying with his own fingers in his lap. There was a question nagging in the back of his mind, but he wasn’t sure if he wanted to ask it, for he feared it would open up a whole new realm of questions he wasn’t ready for yet.

“What is on your mind, Waylon?”

Of course Aiden prompted him. ‘It’s his job.’ Drawing in a deep lungful of air, he spoke quietly.

“You said everyone here was making progress?”

Aiden nodded. “I did.”

Waylon’s mouth was dry. “Even…” Using his first name seemed too informal. “… Gluskin?”

Aiden’s reaction wasn’t expected. He smiled, chuckled, even, and leaned forward in his chair to set his clipboard aside on the table. “I had wondered just how long it would be before you asked about him.” Hot embarrassment washed over Waylon; had he played right into their hands? Was he that predictable? “It’s only natural, of course, your curiosity.” He fixed Waylon with a controlled, soft smile. “Eddie Gluskin was… quite detached, when he arrived here, as you know.” Waylon nodded hesitantly. “It seems his sociopathy was left untreated for many years, although, it is possible to attribute the lack of proper treatment to the lack of understanding of the disorder during his times in… real institutes.”

So he had been in other institutes before Mount Massive. Waylon’s chest itched with a bombardment of questions, but he held his tongue as Aiden continued to talk.

“Waylon, most of my patients are too far gone to speak logically to. It’s almost dehumanizing, the way I have to reason with them, like talking to a child.” ‘Where is he going with this?’ “But I know how smart you are. I know that between your attacks, you are every bit as logical and reasonable as one can be. And for that reason, I’m going to show you this.” He stood, retreating to his desk, and opened a file cabinet, sorting through papers before emitting a soft exclamation and pulling something out. He returned to sit across from Waylon and pulled one sheet of paper from the stack in his hands, sliding it onto the table in front of Waylon. The blond leaned forward on the couch cushion to gaze down at it.

At first, he wasn’t sure what he was reading. There were two columns, one on either side of the paper; words on one side and corresponding numbers on the other. Most of the numbers were three’s, a few two’s. He lifted his eyes to Aiden questioningly, which the man responded to.

“This is the Hare Psychopathy Checklist. Of course, we use many other tests and observations to diagnose someone, but this is what we start with, and how to proceed with treatment depends on these factors. Each of these traits are those exhibited by a sociopath. A zero means the patient does not display the trait at all. A three is the polar opposite. Take a look.”

Waylon gazed down once more, feeling more equipped to decipher what was in front of him now. Glibness/Superficial Charm: 3. Cunning/Manipulative: 3. Lack of remorse or guilt: 2. Failure to accept responsibility for own actions: 3. Lack of realistic, long-term goals: 2. Impulsivity: 3. Criminal versatility: 3.

‘Holy shit.’ It certainly sounded like the Eddie he knew. It was terrifying, yet somehow gratifying to imagine the mad man running around Mount Massive and being able to use these terms to describe him. Aiden spoke as he continued to survey the checklist.

“As you can see, Eddie Gluskin scored at least a two on every single trait, as well as troubling traits not mentioned here, such as violence and a disturbing amount of misogyny.” Waylon lifted his eyes to see Aiden adjusting his glasses. “Eddie has been undergoing treatment here for eight months now. And I have personally witnessed the change he has undergone.”

“Are you his therapist?” The question burst from Waylon’s mouth before he could stop it, but he didn’t regret asking it. Aiden merely shook his head with a slight smirk.

“In his earlier months, especially, Eddie had a team of therapists attending to him. I was one of them. Due to his progress, he has been assigned to one of our best now.”

Waylon swallowed the disbelief that was beginning to rise in his throat. “Is he still violent?”

“We have not had a violent outburst from Eddie in nearly four months now. During his first two months here, he was heavily sedated or physically restrained for most of his time until we found the right concoction of medication to get his violence under control. Once that was taken care of, the emotional and mental healing could begin.” Aiden paused, seemingly debating on his next words, and Waylon found himself wondering what it was that he was withholding from him. “If we were to fill out this checklist now, I doubt Eddie would score a three on any of these traits. Not even a two, except perhaps Facet 3a.” Waylon’s eyes darted down to find out which trait he was referring to: Need for stimulation/prone to boredom. Aiden smiled. “He is quite fond of sewing and knitting.”

Waylon hated the stir of affection in his stomach.

“In summation, Waylon, I don’t believe Eddie is the same man you once knew him as. He has made leaps and bounds in his progress, and though he has the occasional small paroxysm, he is quiet, reserved, now. Although,” Aiden dropped his professional manner, waving a hand in the air in an unspecified direction, “I do wonder how much of his progress is due to being away from Mount Massive.”

Waylon had to wonder the same thing. ‘Just how much worse did the engine make him?’ He knew Eddie’s behavior hadn’t been entirely his fault – in fact, most of it probably hadn’t been his fault. ‘How much more reasonable had he been once we left Mount Massive?’ Waylon couldn’t remember him acting violent at all in Leadville, in any of the hotels. ‘Not until he realized it had all been a trap for him.’ He pushed the memory of Eddie thrashing and screaming in the arms of the SWAT team members away.

“You seem quite interested in this, Waylon. I won’t withhold any truth from you, save for the confidential information my job requires me to withhold. I want you to trust me, alright?” Waylon nodded, meeting his eyes as steadily as he could. “Perhaps we can talk about this more sometime, when you feel like it.” Waylon nodded again. “I’ll see you tomorrow then.” He smiled, and Waylon managed to return it as he stood, joining his escort near the door to head in the direction of the hospital section of the institute.

Chapter Text

Day 256

“Why was Gluskin at Mount Massive?”

Waylon fidgeted with the hem of his shirt – he’d dressed properly for this session; his outfit consisted of pale blue jeans and a gray, button-up cardigan over a plain white t-shirt. His Converse hadn’t made it past the inspection – shoelaces weren’t allowed – so he wore a pair of slip-on shoes. He’d showered recently as well, sandy blond hair still damp against the back of his neck. Altogether, he thought he looked better than he had since he’d entered the institute.

But his outward appearance was but a counterfeit representation of how he truly felt.

It had taken him almost a whole week to muster the courage to ask his therapist about Eddie again. It was partially due to his aversion to the knowledge he knew he would gain; he was frightened of what Eddie could have done in the past. A mass murderer, a rapist? Waylon had no idea, and part of him didn’t want to know. Ignorance was bliss. But he knew he couldn’t avoid it forever. It was something he would have to accept if he was going to forgive Eddie – something Aiden had said was crucial to his healing. If he couldn’t move on from his time at Mount Massive, he couldn’t move on with his life. Aiden’s words still rang in his ears.

“Waylon, you don’t have to befriend him. You don’t even have to like him. But you have to forgive him, and the definition of forgiveness is up to you.”

Waylon understood what he meant; ‘forgive’ was just a place-holder. What it really meant was that Waylon had to move on from Eddie in whatever way he could. Whether he hated him or forgave him, it didn’t matter, as long as he didn’t dwell on the happenings of his and Eddie’s ‘relationship’ in Mount Massive.

Aiden regarded him with a thoughtful expression, obviously contemplating his answer. Waylon could merely wait, twiddling his thumbs – so to speak – under his scrutiny. Finally, he spoke.

“I understand your curiosity, Waylon. To want to know more about someone who caused you so much pain and despair is quite a normal reaction.” He paused, and Waylon lifted his eyes as the man sifted through some files in a cabinet drawer. ‘This seems familiar.’ “Waylon, I think it will do your psyche good to satisfy at least some of your curiosity. It will help you to humanize Eddie Gluskin in a way that probably seems impossible now.”

Waylon mulled over the words while Aiden was occupied. It was true – in his mind, Eddie was one-dimensional. He was a murderer; a delusional, detached man. There was no excuse for anything he had done in the asylum – to Waylon or the others. But in his dreams, Eddie was different. He was aware; he was intentional in every movement, every touch. He knew what was too much for Waylon, and he pushed that limit enough to wake Waylon with his own racing heart. But Waylon was rational too; he’d always been, and he knew his dreams weren’t real. They were a Stockholm-induced, falsified version of what Waylon wanted Eddie to be; what he would never be. ‘He isn’t better. He’s just playing along with his therapists’ treatment.’

“Here we are.” Aiden’s words broke Waylon apart from his thoughts, and he blinked awareness back into his face as papers were shuffled on the desk before him. “Waylon, I think it would be best to discuss this in a timeline-like fashion, from start to finish. Sound good?” Waylon nodded, unsure of exactly what he was agreeing to. “Edward James Gluskin was born on March 2nd, 1967 in Redwood Falls, Minnesota, to parents Alice and Russell,” he began, glancing up at Waylon. “Alice Gluskin owned the local tailor shop, Russell Gluskin was a construction worker who occasionally worked on the railroad. Eddie was – well, is – an only child, but–”

“Sorry,” Waylon interrupted, brows furrowed, “but isn’t this stuff all classified? I mean, I want to know, but what about the whole ‘therapist-patient honor code’ thing?”

Aiden merely shook his head, the slight smile upon his lips fading as he spoke. “Waylon, I am obligated to refrain from repeating anything that Eddie tells me in confidence in this facility, but, unfortunately, everything I am telling you now can be found in any public library – online and otherwise.”

Waylon wasn’t sure how to react to that. Images of book titles flashed before his eyes; The Encyclopedia of Murderers, ‘The Biography of The Groom and such.

“In 1975, Alice Gluskin was seven months pregnant with their second child when she fell down the flight of stairs in their home.” Waylon felt his jaw drop a few inches, but he made no effort to close his mouth. “She broke her neck during the fall. Her midwife discovered her there the next morning, having miscarried and passed overnight. Only Eddie was home,” Aiden paused, shuffling through the papers to read off of another. “Police questioned both Eddie and his father, and though the autopsy was consistent with their coupled statements of her fall, she had bruises upon her neck and face that did not match.” He lifted his eyes to Waylon.

“… She didn’t fall on her own,” he murmured, somewhat of a question and a statement. Aiden nodded grimly.

“Police suspected some sort of abuse had occurred. Eddie was questioned thoroughly by police, but he never once claimed his father had ever touched him or his mother inappropriately. He refuses to talk about the incident even now,” Aiden murmured solemnly, shaking his head. “As it was, there was no crime, merely an accident, and Eddie was released back into his father’s care.” Waylon swallowed, recalling the song Eddie had sung down in the Vocational Block, mentioning his mother. ‘Does her death have anything to do with his misogyny?’

“Do you want me to continue?” Aiden broke into his thoughts, gazing at him solemnly. “It doesn’t get any happier from here.”

Waylon gathered himself and nodded, despite the warmth of sympathy that was beginning to envelop his abdomen. He didn’t want to feel sympathetic for him.

“Eddie was only eight years old at the time, nearly nine, and the authorities released him to his father on the condition that he provide adequate care for him. Because Russell worked almost full-time, they moved in with Eddie’s uncle, Richard. Eddie changed schools. He was reported by his teachers as being very reclusive, though bright,” Aiden murmured, obviously reading right off of the paper in his hands. Waylon could picture a young Eddie Gluskin, dressed in flared slacks and a sweater vest, more interested in reading and keeping to himself while the other children played.

“Didn’t you say that’s an early sign of sociopathy? Being antisocial?” he murmured, recalling a previous conversation they’d had in this very office. Aiden nodded.

“Indeed it is.” He continued on, eyes returning to the paper he held in his hands. “In 1980, Richard came home to find his brother passed out on the couch, drunk. He reportedly thought nothing of it, that is… until the next morning, when he found he hadn’t moved. He called the police when he found Russell wasn’t breathing. He was pronounced dead upon arrival.” Aiden lifted his eyes to meet Waylon’s. Waylon held the gaze. “Richard was questioned briefly, but there really was no suspicion there. Eddie, however, had been home the entire night. When he was brought in, police noted that there were many bruises upon his body, including a blackened eye. After much questioning, he admitted to being abused by his father… not only physically, but verbally and sexually as well.”

‘There it is.’ Waylon could recall reading something about Eddie’s history of abuse on a document somewhere in Mount Massive. He couldn’t help but wonder if the monster he’d seen in the asylum had been a stifled rage toward men, provoked by the engine.

“Upon further investigation, police found evidence in the form of several hundred photographs, hidden in Eddie’s father’s bedroom. They were of Eddie, and were consistent with his claim that the abuse had been long-term… some photographs dated back as far as 1972. Eddie was–”

“–five years old,” Waylon finished, rubbing his hands over his face. He didn’t see Aiden’s nod.

“The photographs were all suggestive in nature, depicting both sexual and physical abuse… I’m sure you can imagine.” Waylon could, but he wished he couldn’t. “When questioned, Eddie denied that his uncle knew anything about his father’s treatment of him, despite many of the photographs being recent. So, Eddie, now an orphan, was released back into his uncle’s care at age thirteen.”

“They never suspected him?”

“What do you mean?” Aiden questioned. Waylon fixed him with a look of despondency.

“Eddie. Didn’t the abuse give him a motive?”

A slight smile, though grim, formed on Aiden’s lips as he shook his head. “That is something I cannot answer, Waylon. Yes, one would think so, but the autopsy was said to have revealed he died of alcohol poisoning.”

‘Did he kill his first victim at thirteen?’

“Eddie remained at home until he graduated high school. Afterwards, he left for college – rather in a hurry, might I add – and lived on campus of Southwest Minnesota State University in Marshall. Not all that much is known about his life between 1985 and 1987. He worked at the SMSU daycare center and attended college full-time. His transcripts reveal that he did extremely well in all his classes. They also reveal that he left abruptly in the middle of his sophomore year, dropping out of his classes after attending three weeks of the fall term.”

Aiden paused to take a breath, as if needing a break from the heavy himself. Waylon’s mind spun with all the information, emotions fluctuating from fear to empathy, and everything in between. “In 1998, Eddie Gluskin was convicted of two second-degree murders. He was 31 years old. His known victims were 23-year-old Zoey Sanders in 1994 and 32-year-old Jason O’Conner in 1997.”

Waylon’s brows rose, and Aiden seemingly read his mind. “Yes, one woman and one man,” he reiterated, maneuvering the papers into a neat stack once more. The manila file had ᴇᴅᴅɪᴇ ɢʟᴜsᴋɪɴ printed on its top in bold letters. “Of course, some believe he could be responsible for more deaths than that, but there was never enough evidence to create a substantial case.”

Waylon swallowed thickly, trying to organize his thoughts and feelings. ‘I knew he was responsible for some crimes… why else would he have been at Mount Massive?’ He wasn’t sure if he was relieved – because, at least Gluskin wasn’t a mass serial killer – or disturbed by what he had learned.

“Wh-Why did he kill the guy?” he managed to ask.

Aiden leaned back in his chair to put the file back in the cabinet drawer. “Well, if I remember it correctly, it was somewhat justifiable. But erroneous, of course.” He turned back to face Waylon. “Don’t quote me on it, because I can’t say I’ve seen the report since Gluskin’s arrival here. But he was seeing a woman with a young child – a little girl, around six or seven years old. In her statement, nothing had been out of the ordinary until the incident–”

“What incident?”

Aiden said nothing of Waylon’s impatience, continuing on coolly. “Well, the woman had an ex-husband – the girl’s father, Jason O’Conner – who would come to visit every so often. The circumstances are hazy to me now, but somehow, Eddie stumbled in on the father sexually abusing the daughter.” Waylon’s eyes widened. Aiden shook his head, waving a hand. “O’Conner was found with twenty-six – twenty-seven? – some outrageous number of stab wounds. The woman was the one who found the body in the back room when she came home. Eddie was reading the daughter a book, fingers still stained red with blood. I recall the woman’s statement – she said that he told her he’d done it for her and the little girl. So she played along and asked Eddie to go home and they would get their things and come stay with him for a while.” Aiden smiled sadly. “The police found him in his apartment, naturally, and arrested him.”

Waylon shook his head, at a loss for words. ‘Of course someone with Eddie’s past would have that reaction… how could anyone blame him for wanting to stop the same abuse that he endured?’

“After his arrest, police were able to track the 1994 murder to him as well. Eddie’s lawyer plead insanity to both crimes, and he was sent to Iowa Medical and Classification Center in Coralville, Iowa. Mental hospitals have their reasons for transferring patients; lack of space, lack of proper treatment, new therapy strategies, and such,” he explained. “In 2001, Eddie was transferred to Clarinda Mental Health Institute in Clarinda, Iowa, and again in 2006, to Colorado Mental Health Institute in Pueblo, Colorado. His last stop was Mount Massive Asylum in 2009, when he was 42. He endured four years there before the riot, and… well, you know the rest.”

Waylon gazed blankly at the edge of the desk before him, recalling the darkened hallways and blood-splattered walls of The Vocational Block – The Groom’s Lair; a more appropriate title – and how preposterously delusional Gluskin had been, blathering on about Waylon “having his babies” and “amazing bone structure.” How oblivious he was to the fact that his ‘gender reassignment’ surgery had only resulted in death time and time again. ‘It must have been the engine,’ he realized. ‘If he functioned in everyday life, went to school, met women… there’s no way he could have been like he was down there.’ Waylon tried to steady his shaking hands by gripping the fabric of his shirt in his fingers. ‘Did the engine intensify his sociopathy?’

“Waylon?”

The word barely registered to him, vague and muffled as if he were underwater and Aiden’s voice could barely penetrate the liquid’s surface.

‘Did the engine intensify my anxiety?’

“Waylon!”

And when Aiden’s worried voice broke through to him, it was like surfacing from a deep depth. Colors became steadier, edges became sharper, and sounds became clearer again. Waylon sucked in a deep breath, lungs starving for it, as though he’d been holding the same air in his chest for far too long. He lifted his head, focusing on the hand that had stretched over the desk to grip his shoulder and shake it, Aiden standing and bent over the wood at a preposterous angle to reach him. Waylon met his eyes.

“Are you alright, Waylon?” Aiden asked cautiously, withdrawing his hand. He didn’t sink to sit in his chair again until Waylon bobbed his head up and down.

“Y-Yeah,” he murmured, nodding again just to convince himself.

“We can stop if you like, and continue another time.”

“No, no, I’m… I was just thinking.” He swallowed, mouth dry, and forced a smile in Aiden’s direction. He didn’t seem convinced – ‘he wouldn’t be very good at his job if he was convinced, would he?’ – but he took a sip from a white mug that reminded Waylon all-too-much of the conventional white mugs filled with coffee that had been left about the asylum. It was those little things that stuck in his brain that surprised him – that he remembered all the past employees’ coffee mugs instead of the organs painted on walls and ceilings. ‘Better for nightmares, I guess.’ Somehow, giant coffee cups were less frightening than the splattered remains of once-functioning livers.

“Waylon, we’re nearly out of time for today and I realize they’re expecting you over in the hospital wing,” Aiden murmured, “but I just want to ask you a few questions about everything you’ve just learned.” Waylon nodded, still having difficulty focusing his attention. ‘Is this what ADHD feels like?’

“Are you surprised? Did you… expect more from his past, or less?”

Waylon ran a hand through his hair; it was growing a bit shaggy. Lisa used to cut his hair for him, but she wasn’t exactly around anymore, and he doubted anyone would let him near a pair of scissors here. “I… I mean, I expected the abuse. I knew about it, I just didn’t know to what extent it–…” he trailed off, shaking his head. “I figured he killed some people. I knew it was a high probability, but I didn’t really want to believe it.”

“Why?” Aiden’s question caught him off guard, and when he merely stared at him, Aiden prompted him with a more specific question. “Why didn’t you want to believe it?”

“I… don’t know.”

“Maybe because… you saw something in him? You saw past the engine’s effect on him?” ‘How much do they know about the engine?’ Waylon wasn’t too keen on Aiden’s probing questions – he usually wasn’t like that.

“I guess… yeah,” he spoke slowly, carefully. “I didn’t want to believe that he’d done anything. I hoped it was just… Mount Massive,” he finished lamely, preferring to avoid the topic of the engine altogether.

Aiden was jotting something down on a piece of paper in front of him. Waylon wasn’t curious enough to lean over and try to make the handwriting out. “Does what you learned here today make you more frightened of Eddie Gluskin?”

Waylon mused over the question for a moment. The obvious answer was ‘yes’; learning someone was a convicted murderer – of his own volition, not under the engine’s effects – should have made him terrified of them. He should never want to go near him, never want to see him again.

Aiden could see his internal gears turning, so he spoke, both to break the silence and to move the conversation along, Waylon knew. “Were Eddie in the same state as he was when he committed his crimes, I wouldn’t blame you for answering yes. But his condition has greatly improved, and that is apparent not only in his physical actions, but in his therapy sessions as well–”

“Yeah, he’s pretty convincing.” Waylon couldn’t help but to interrupt, couldn’t keep the bitterness out of his voice. He knew that charm first-hand.

Waylon watched Aiden’s expression change from aloof questioning to recognition, before he alleged, with not a trace of accusation in his tone, “You don’t think he’s changed a bit, do you, Waylon?”

To his surprise, Waylon didn’t feel the need to defend himself. He shrugged one shoulder noncommittally, eyes wandering away from Aiden’s as he spoke not a word. The man’s chuckle drew his gaze back to him.

“I understand, Waylon – or, rather, I don’t understand precisely, because I’m not you, but I can grasp the logic behind that train of thought.” Waylon relaxed slightly, reminded of why he enjoyed his sessions with Aiden, despite only having seen him for just under two weeks. He didn’t pretend to understand every feeling. He wasn’t fake, he wasn’t Waylon’s superior. He was somewhere safe, a place where he could openly talk about his feelings without being judged.

‘Guess the best therapists really were sent here.’

“Waylon, do you remember when we spoke about the need to repair your immersion in the past? How you’re, perhaps, stuck in a constant state of fear, of apprehension; a mimic of your time during the riot, and that is what is causing your anxiety?” Waylon nodded heavily. “Well, I believe I know the first step we need to take to help you heal.” At that, Waylon listened a bit more attentively. It was Aiden’s turn to seem slightly uneasy, and that made Waylon even more curious. Finally, he continued.

“Waylon, I didn’t want to suggest this too early; I feared you wouldn’t be ready, and you would regress instead. So, we will only follow through with this when you believe you are ready.” He paused, glancing at the door, and held one finger up. Waylon turned to see one of the nurses. She offered him a slight smile. The clock told him he was ten minutes late for his physical check-up, for lack of a better term.

“To destroy your fallacy, Waylon, we must force your brain to believe that you are no longer in Mount Massive. I believe seeing Eddie Gluskin – the new and improved – might help you realize that the monsters you once ran and hid from no longer exist. It might seem scary, and it might seem like the worst idea, to expose yourself to him again. But you have to trust us, Waylon; you have to trust me, when I say that Eddie is no longer the atrocity he once was. I wouldn’t suggest this if I thought it would put you in any danger.” He tilted his head slightly to the side. “Do you understand, Waylon?”

Waylon was still recovering when Aiden asked his question, his heart pounding from the very suggestion of being near Eddie – and Waylon didn’t know if it was from fear or excitement. He swallowed and supplied a nod.

Aiden smiled slightly. “We can talk more about this later. But Waylon, I want you to feel comfortable with it. I want you to tell me when you’re ready.”

Waylon’s hands were still shaking when he rose to follow the guard and nurse out of the room and to the hospital wing.


Day 264

“Thanks,” Waylon mumbled, taking the food from the guard at the door. A carton of orange juice, a pile of eggs and hashbrowns, sectioned off like a 90’s elementary school cafeteria tray. In one of the smaller segments were his pills; three capsules of different sizes, all white. Aiden was upfront with him with his doses; he knew that one of the pills was Buspirone, one was Clonazepam, and one was a general pain killer to counteract any headaches he would get from the other two. He took them all with his breakfast, sitting on the edge of his mattress, socked feet brushing along the cool linoleum floor.

Two words were stuck in his mind, spoken out of his own mouth two days ago. He’d been sitting in Aiden’s office, listening to his therapist’s words about his reactions to his medications, when he’d blurted the two words, like word vomit; he’d been unable to hold them in. He’d surprised both himself and Aiden with the outburst, proved by the silence that followed after two simple words:

“I’m ready.”

But in that context, they’d been anything but simple.

Aiden had given him a day to think, a night to muse over the decision, and they’d talked again just yesterday, discussing what Waylon was and wasn’t comfortable with. Aiden had agreed that it wasn’t realistic to expect Waylon to meet with Eddie and have a civil conversation with him, at least, not yet.

So, today, Waylon would meet with Aiden in his office. But, instead of his session, he and Waylon would travel to the recreational hall.

Waylon’s apprehension didn’t fade after taking his medication. The morning hours dragged on. He couldn’t sleep, couldn’t focus on any of the books he flipped open. He opted for a shower, standing too long under the spray. The searing water felt good on his skin and he relieved some of his body’s tension with his hand, but it ran cold too soon, and Waylon emerged from the shower, sated, to the sound of his guard knocking on the door, asking if he was alright.

He dried himself off and dressed – quickly, as he’d wasted too much time in the shower and was almost late for his appointment – then followed his guard through the hallways to Aiden’s office, stomach fluttering with butterflies. Aiden’s soft smile eased his trepidation slightly.

“Still ready, Waylon?”

The blond swallowed thickly and nodded.

“Still ready.”

With a deep breath, he joined Aiden and two other guards as they walked down the hall towards the biggest obstacle he would face in the institute.