: : :
Dean ran naked down the rain-slicked alleyway, putting as much distance as he could between himself and the rundown hotel, the ball gag still in his mouth. The only sound was the slap of his bare feet on the wet asphalt.
His heart beat was a slamming tattoo of fear, and he felt light headed, like his chest might burst open any moment. His nostrils flared as he tried to drag air in through the only available openings. He felt close to hyperventilating and tried to calm himself. He heaved himself up behind the shelter of a large dumpster and dared an apprehensive glance back to see if he was being followed yet.
No time, no time.
He fumbled with bound hands, clumsy with adrenaline, to remove the gag. He cursed silently at the awkwardness of trying to open the buckles at the back. Finally undone, he yanked the hated device out of his drooling mouth and dragged in lung fulls of air. Glancing around quickly, he shoved the gag into the dumpster, making sure it was buried from view. He didn’t want to leave the hunters more of a trail than he could help.
Wheezing and shuddering now that he could bring in more air, he fell to his knees in the dirty alley and came to the shocking realization that he had actually escaped.
The opportunity had come so fast and so unexpectedly. He had never planned, never expected success, never thought past that point. It had seemed too improbable. In an uninterrupted existence of hurt, pain, and humiliation, he couldn’t have stretched his imagination to believe something good could actually happen to him. The Winchester luck just wasn’t that good. And when they find him…
The despair welled up in him so fast, choking his throat. A tiny escaped whimper was the only evidence of his shock. Still kneeling, he huddled down lower, smaller alongside the dumpster, curling in on himself, shuddering in fear at what he had done.
They will find him. The punishment… bad boy. The pain...
Some small, unbeaten down part of his brain kicked in and told him that he couldn’t think like that. It was wrong what they did to him. The beatings, the cruel and twisted things they had made him do, how they had made him feel. He shuddered and tried to control the sick, slick feeling in his gut.
He’d rebelled in the past, tried to escape before. Not on this grand a level, but he’d stood up for things, fought back… But the consequences of rebellion had left him reeling, so badly hurt he couldn’t actually walk after, and he’d been kept chained and fucked anyway. Nothing but a convenient selection of holes for use, over and over again. And there was always the terrifying addition of drugs when they wanted to encourage him to be a good boy.
Dean knew that at some point they’d broken him. He had tried to tell himself to hold on and take it, survive until he could escape, but as the hopelessness of his situation had set in he had known he was just lying to himself. One day he had just stopped trying.
He despised himself for it, for what he was now, what he’d let them turn him into. He had given in. And since when did Dean fucking Winchester give in to anything, damn it? But there was still the sad fact that he had. It had still never been enough to stop the pain.
It was only a matter of time until they killed him.
He choked back a sob. When had he become such a girl? He’d used to have some spirit…hadn’t he?
Just freakin’ shut up, he told himself. That’s not helping.
Calm, Dean, calm. Think it out.
As his breathing started to even out, he tried to assess the situation. It had been so long since he had been outside, let alone free to operate on his own without a leash and guard. As the chill of the late September evening begun to penetrate, he realized that clothes must be a priority.
Fuck, he’d gotten sloppy, stupid…submissive. His mind blanked in confusion. He should have taken the few clothes they’d let him wear when they changed locations. They had been there in the closet, inside the blue duffel, Salvation Army wear - cheap cotton T and some hand-me-down jeans and flip flops. No shoes, he hadn’t worn real shoes for over … how long, a year? Two? Three? How long had it been? Some clothes would have been better than nothing.
But what if they had come back? How stupid would that have been to be recaptured before he had even escaped, while trying to protect his vanity no less? What vanity? He snorted to himself, almost gagging.
The next priority after clothes was the clip connecting his wrists together. He had to do something about that too. He bit his lip; his mind was a spinning hamster cage of indecision.
He risked another look back down the alleyway. It wouldn’t be long until they returned and the hunt for him began. He only had a small window and had to make it count. Had to.
Coast clear, Dean scanned around and decided to start with what was close at hand. He reopened the dumpster bin lid and looked inside. The smell was awful, rot and corruption and rancid grease. He pushed through some of the restaurant debris but couldn’t find anything resembling clothing.
He had been hoping for a discarded restaurant apron or shirt of some kind, any kind of cloth, but no luck. But he couldn’t be put off, not with the stakes so high and every second counting. So he breathed in and tried not to think too hard about it as he begun to empty one of the plastic garbage bags. It was difficult with his hands bound together and exhaustion setting in now that the adrenaline spike was running down. It wasn’t ideal or pretty, but as he wrapped the cold, putrid plastic around his waist, he knew it was the best he could do in the situation.
: : :
They had been at him for hours like wolves circling their prey, nipping and biting and hurting him. When they had started to whip him he couldn’t remember, just his begging, ‘pleasepleasepleaseplease, sir’, ‘nooo’, ‘sorry, sir’, ‘sorry, I’ll be good’ until they had gagged him.
The begging hadn’t helped; it never did. They had kept beating him with the flogger, alternating strokes on one side and then the other. At first it had been to humiliate and then, once the riding crop had come out, to simply bring unvarnished pain.
Blood had run down his bare buttocks and thighs, and he hadn’t been able to control his body’s trembling anymore. He had felt like he would shake apart at any moment. His steady stream of whimpers and begging moans had been the only thing to escape the ball gag until, finally, blessed darkness had crept in. He had lost consciousness at well past 100 strokes.
When he came to they were gone.
The call must have come in while he was out. He was alone, naked on his belly on the soiled and bloody hotel sheets. His wrists were pinned above him, the leather cuffs clipped together behind the wooden slats of the old headboard. They must have been in a hurry because normally both his arms and legs would have been chained or, worse yet, he would have been shoved in his cage.
He looked up, dazed, at the old motel headboard, one of the pair of double beds in the anonymous, cheaply decorated room, a twin to any number of rooms they’d stayed in before. Then it came to him, the slow realization that this wasn’t a metal frame bed; it was made of wood and he had been left unchained.
He stopped breathing and listened intently before he moved again, before he even risked thought again. He couldn’t sense anyone in the room. He was alone, and he didn’t think it was a trap. After all these years, they had finally slipped up.
He tried to raise himself up off his belly and almost passed out at the pain from his back and legs. His blacking out hadn’t stopped them, it seemed; they had continued with the whip up from his backside, leaving his back a living wall of flame. Breathing in, he tried again to rise. He finally managed to get up on his knees, head bowed, leaning against the headboard, panting over the gag as he waited for the pain to subside a bit.
The wood of the headboard was real. It was old, fluid smeared, and yellowed with age, and it was still strong, but it was wood. He wondered if he would be strong enough to break it.
He heard voices outside and froze. He could clearly make out male laughter from beyond the large drape-covered picture window. They were coming closer. They were back!
Terror froze him in place until the voices continued on past his door. It had been someone else. His furious heart rate slowed, and he was left with the taste of fear lingering ugly in his mouth.
At first he tried to bash the slat of the headboard with his bound hands but couldn’t get any leverage. He twisted around painfully, then managed to get one foot around up under him to kick on the headboard. He tried once and his foot slipped. The piercing pain from his back at the overextension had him seeing white. He tried again, some success, he actually connected that time. A third time and there was a satisfying splintering sound.
Sudden pounding on the wall left him frozen him in fear, someone from the next room yelling to keep it down in there. Indecision gripped him for a minute as he paused his actions, but he’d gone too far now. There was no way to cover his escape attempt; he had to see this through. Maybe one more good kick would break the slat.
: : :
He crept down the alleyway. He could hear music in the distance, maybe from some bar, and went toward it. As he neared the source of the noise, he started to see people moving around on the streets. He pushed himself deeper into the shadows, cursing as his white skin caught the moonlight. He crouched there for a seemingly endless time, cold seeping into his bones, not really sure what he was doing.
It had been so long since he had made any kind of decision. He couldn’t quite gather the strength to do more than breathe. Pure desperation goaded him forward.
He saw a drunk stagger off down another side street. With no conscious plan or thinking, he followed the man, just letting long rusted gut instinct guide him.
The drunk lurched along haphazardly, singing tunelessly to himself, a bottle of something clutched in his hand. As Dean crept along behind him, he saw the man pause, stagger against the wall, and slide haltingly to the ground as he mumbled something.
Dean crawled nearer to him. The drunk wore a heavy army coat, several layers of sweaters, and an old army issue duffel slung over his shoulder. Pretty much Hunter haute couture with a chaser of alcohol, Dean mused grimly.
The drunk seemed to finally finish his slide down the brick, snorting sleepily. He came to a complete stop, slumped motionless and silent at the bottom of the wall. Out cold.
Dean reached tentatively for the duffel; he needed to get it off the man’s shoulder. His back and legs screamed from overextension as Dean stretched out and slipped the bag over the drunk’s shoulder and away from him.
Suddenly the drunk lurched forward, boney, gnarled fingers grabbing at Dean’s bound wrists, beginning to dig into the tender skin.
“What the hell?!” the drunk bellowed, suddenly alert. He lurched forward alarmingly close to Dean’s face.
Shock and fear propelled Dean backward. He landed on his ass on the wet alleyway. The sudden movement broke the drunk’s hold, and Dean scrambled further back in shock. His back was ablaze in agony at the rushed movements.
“Fucking steal from me ya little bastard. Fucking bastard,” the drunk snarled.
Fighting the nearly overpowering instinct to cower in the face of the drunk’s rage, Dean somehow retained the presence of mind to stay on mission. He grabbed hold of the suddenly free duffel and ran with his prize clasped to his bare chest. Maybe every hunter instincts hadn’t quite been beaten out of him just yet.
His plastic bag modesty panel was left fluttering to the ground behind him on the alley floor. His bare, stripped cheeks shone in the moonlight as he raced away with the drunk raging incoherently behind him.
He retreated back to his original location, the drunk’s cries faded into the night. He hadn’t even bothered to pursue Dean.
Exhausted and breathless for the second time that evening, Dean slammed himself up against the shelter of a brick wall. His back screamed in protest against the cold and grit on his raw, aching skin, but his mind hungered for the comforting security of the solid wall behind him, and a tiny, unacknowledged part of him even savored the pain. He didn’t know what that said about him.
After a few short breaths though, the cold started to seep through him, and he was forced to give up the wall’s tactile embrace. As he ran his fingers through his too long hair worryingly, he frowned slightly at its still unfamiliar length and scuttled further back into the shadowed indent of a nearby service doorway. He took another quick look around; his eyes scanned for movement. When he detected none, he hauled his stolen booty forward to see what the drunk’s duffel might hold.
He almost cried when he saw the clothing inside. Maybe the Winchester luck was turning? There was an old pair of army fatigues smelling of sweat, dirt, and worse; a light weight army jacket; a flannel shirt; and a grubby white T shirt.
Dean grabbed the pants out of the bag and held them up to his waist, and visually measured. Breathless, Dean gingerly raised the pants over his scoured flesh. The cuts and abrasions on his ass all sounded off as the material scraped over them. The drunk was bigger than him, and Dean was silently thankful for the loose fit. In spite of the pain, the cloth covering his skin for the first time in ages felt like success.
Even the little bit of extra warmth helped, but with his hands bound, he couldn’t put on the shirt or jacket. There was also still the problem of no shoes or underwear, but Dean acknowledged that that would be a bit much to expect.
Dean hardly remembered underwear anyway. There had never been a time since he awoke with them that his ass had not needed to be available and open for a toy, a cock, a plug, or a hand.
He slung the duffel across his chest. The rub of the strap against his tender skin brought a whimper to his lips. It was awkward and would look strange if anyone looked closely, but it was the best he could do with the leather wrist straps still linking his wrists together. He draped the army surplus jacket over his arms to cover the fact that they were bound. He couldn’t do more until he somehow got help.
The black leather collar strapped round his neck, mercifully without a leash, couldn’t be helped either. At least the restraints on each ankle couldn’t be seen now beneath the too big pants.
Standing, he realized that he must looks like some kind of goth just escaped from a strip club with his bare chest, black collar on his neck, and cuffs on his wrists. He guessed that was better than a runaway sex slave.
Just freakin’ awesome.
Out of nowhere he remembered that he used to be funny. This would be a good time for a smart ass remark, but somehow anything funny just seemed to dry up on his tongue.
: : :
He remembered the last time he was in a bar. Not a goth bar, just the regular, run down, hard on your luck roadhouse he and his brother had favored. Or more accurately, he and his brother could afford.
They had been taking a break that night from their latest job, and Dean had been on a great run of luck. It had been payday at the local mine, and the beer was flowing. It hadn’t been hard to amble over to the pool table at just the right time, when the good will was well lubricated and the egos were unchecked, and find himself in a game.
“Two cold ones please, darlin’,” he asked the waitress when they first walked in and took seats at the bar. The waitress was back in no time with two chilled bottles, condensation already gathering on their sides. “Cheers, Sammy, to a job well done.”
Sam clinked his bottle together with Dean’s, a sour look on his face.
Sam had been sulking a lot the last two or three days. Dean wasn’t sure what was going on exactly; he had been sick and couldn’t go on their last hunt, but it seemed ever since Dad and Sam got back, Dean could do nothing right in either of their eyes. Their Dad had taken off earlier that evening to meet up with some old hunting buddies, which left Sam and Dean free to find their own entertainment. Sam hadn’t wanted to go anywhere, but Dean begged and cajoled till he got his gigantor brother to unbend enough to get into the car with him. The silence of the car ride was a pleasant relief after so much snipping, and Dean hoped the evening spent together would help mend whatever fences he’d inadvertently broken.
Sam in particular seemed to be taking issue with everything since the hunt for the witch had wrapped up. How Dean ran things, why he always drove the Impala, why he went in first on a job, and that Dean and Dad didn’t trust him, how little money they had, and then the inevitable one, why had Sam even come back from Stanford to begin with if things were going to be like this. That he wasn’t Dean’s bitch, he could be in charge of things too.
The constant friction and animosity was all wearing on Dean a little, still recovering from his illness. It hadn’t helped the stress level either that all the clues so far on their new job hinted strongly that the thing they were hunting was a shapeshifter.
Dean had no problems taking those bastards out after one had framed him with the FBI and left his and Sam’s lives in shambles. There was also something so straightforward about a hunt, no arguments, no backbiting, just something bad to hunt down and kill. Leave it to Sammy to even make that complicated. And dad was no better, taking issue with how Dean cleaned his guns for cripes sake; he’d been cleaning his own weapons since he’d first learned to shoot. Everyone just seemed to have gotten up on the wrong side of the bed.
Dean gazed around the bar to see what prospects there were. He looked over, and Sam was already steadfastly ignoring him, half heartedly pecking away at the keyboard he insisted he’d bring along. But Dean knew that while part of Sam’s big, giant brain was working on his research, the other was carefully tracking his brother’s movements. Dean shook his head. That boy had no sense of fun, he thought as he strolled over to join a game of pool just starting.
Now, four games later and five hundred dollars to the good, Dean thought it was a great time to both relieve his bladder and make a graceful exit before things got ugly.
He winked at the waitress as he dropped off his empty beer bottle and headed toward the bathrooms. He had only had three beers to the miners’ seven or eight and was still completely in control of his faculties. Though a bit mellower for it, Dean was far from compromised; it never paid to let down your guard too much during a game.
As he rounded the corner to the back hall of the bar on the way to the ‘little miner’s room’, the last thing he remembered was the feel of refreshingly cool night air coming in from the propped open side-door. He could recall thinking what a nice change it was from the stuffy, smoke filled haze in the rest of the bar. Then something hit him over the back of the head, and that’s the last he remembered.
: : :
He shook his head to clear the unproductive slide into memory. He’d been escaping into memory for years now, but he had to stay focused. He’d gotten a chance here, and he couldn’t blow it by zoning out.
It was fully dark now, and Goth look or no, with the addition of the pants and jacket he should be able to pass for something approaching normal.
As long as they don’t look too close then they might not notice the blood on his back, the bruises on his neck and ribs, and the haunted look in his scared green eyes.
He started to move, limping slightly as he went toward the sounds of music, hopefully a bar. Something had gouged his bare foot on the mad dash away from the drunk, but he hardly felt the pain. It was just one more thing to feel.
A bar, he thought… His mind began to grind into motion; the long suppressed hunter in him crawled up to the surface, along with the start of a plan. There might be trucks there, 18 wheelers, and if he could somehow get out of town, maybe he could have a fighting chance of a real escape.
As he approached the bar’s parking lot, he felt a growing sense of agitation, and he realized that he has no idea how to talk to people anymore. He had done nothing but plead and beg and answer ‘yes, sir’ or ‘yes, master’ for years now. Even before things escalated these last few months, he had always been kept separate, kept quiet, alone, blindfolded or hooded, gagged with his head down. His voice had not been required, except to scream for them.
Dean stood frozen in thought just on the outskirts of what did indeed seem to be a bar. He didn’t know what day it was, but the bar seemed pretty busy to him. But that could just be him. More than three people seemed like a crowd to him these days. He smirked at the irony.
Maybe it was Friday or Saturday; that would explain the business. Normal people go out on those days, have fun. Normal people keep track of the days of the week.
For him, the days of the week had lost their meaning in favor of other designations. There were hunting days where he stayed bound to the bed or shower, tied in a closet or locked in his cage. Or moving days where he was forced to kneel behind the driver’s seat on the floor, covered by an old blanket, bound, gagged, and silent. Sometimes, when they pulled over, he was used in the back seat to suck and stroke as required, working furtively from his awkward place kneeling on the floorboards. And then there were the play days. Dean began to tremble at just the thought of those.
Shaking his head to banish the memory, he forced himself to move ahead towards the light and humanity. His head hung lower and lower until he had a hard time forcing himself to look up to see where he should go. He started to tremble. Growing anxiety filled him with each step as the brutal conditioning of the last few years asserted itself.
He had been thinking of talking to someone without permission. His master didn’t normally allow him to speak, and now he was going to ask for help from some complete stranger. Fear choked him, and all he wanted to do was sink to his knees and huddle there, begging forgiveness until they came.
“Kinda cold for that getup, eh, bud?”
The voice of the leather clad man startled Dean. He froze. The biker with his girlfriend had appeared suddenly out of the shadows. Dean didn’t know what to say. He looked at them quickly, then slammed his eyes down at the ground again, frozen, a deer in the headlights, his mind caught in fear and indecision. Unaware of Dean’s inner struggle, the man and his girlfriend keep strolling onward through the darkness towards the noise and lights.
Breathing hard like he’d run a marathon, Dean finally looked up. Shit, shit, shit. How could this work when he couldn’t even work up the nerve to speak? His breath hitched in his chest, and he ached at the realization of how far he had fallen. He took a breath, gave himself yet another mental shake, and forced himself on toward the parking lot. His goal was in sight.
To his good luck, the bar, and it was a bar, was not only that. It was also a roadside diner and truck stop. There were trucks there, dozens of them, in the dim glow of the overhead parking lot lights. He just needed to get himself on one, but his tongue was still frozen, and he couldn’t make himself do more than look up in furtive glances. How was he going to approach someone for help like this?
Come on, man, you never used to be such a wuss.
Suddenly a hand clamped down on his shoulder blade, hard and punishing. Dean ground his teeth, held back a sob of pain from his screaming back and the larger absolute terror in his mind as he was swung around. His breath stopped; he almost gagged in fear.
They’d found him already.
Could anyone get the drop on him these days? Had he lost all his skills?
The bodies surrounded him as he was roughly turned, and he saw several pairs of jean-clad legs from his downcast eyes. He struggled to lift his head, to be a normal man, to fight back. He couldn’t let them take him back so easily.
But the words still rang in his ears - ‘master’, ‘good boy’, ‘kneel’, ‘eyes down, slave’. As they rushed through his mind, all he wanted to do was drop to his knees and hide.
Distantly, he realized that the legs before him were wearing sneakers, not hunters’ hiking boots. The rips were artfully done by designers, not earned by the wear and tear of a working hunter.
He could only numbly register that it was not them. It was someone else.
“What the fuck, buddy? What kind of fucking freak are you?”
Dean’s muscles locked and, unsurprisingly, he couldn’t find the words to answer, couldn’t look up at them, could barely breath.
The surge of relief left him light headed, but still trembling. It didn’t matter that it was just a group of young men in their twenties, not much younger than himself. Any other similarity stopped there. They were free, and Dean was still standing, not in position as he should be. The group was drunk and glared menacingly at him from under their John Deer caps, making Dean’s skin crawl. Dean’s desire to drop to his knees and grovel intensified.
“Hey! Hey, what kinda fucking weirdo are you, man? Didn’t you hear me? Can’t you talk, you fucking moron?”
The one that spoke shoved him hard on the shoulder. He grimaced in pain as he stumbled back into another person who pushed him violently in the other direction. His back screamed in agony at the rough shove. But the pain braced him slightly, reminding him of his mission, not his training, and he locked his knees. He tried to shove away his self doubt.
In the scuffle, Dean lost his grasp on the army jacket and his bound hands were revealed. Shamed, Dean risked a fleeting look around at the group, his voice still locked away.
Stop being such a freak, he told himself, say something, genius.
“Hey, you fucker, we ain’t into that kinky stuff in our town.”
Another in the group shoved him again; he stumbled to the ground, ending up on his knees.
Well, here’s something I’m familiar with, he thought.
“You can’t bring your sick shit here,” one said as they dragged him back up to his feet.
The moment he was up, one of them took a full on swing at him. It smashed him in the face, flinging his head back to plow against the car parked behind him. More blows landed, his head like a bobble doll, spinning around beneath one angry blow after another. Quickly, more of them got in on the action, swinging him around from one to the other like a horrible parody of a square dance, each taking their chance at a swing at him.
As the next series of blows landed on his chest and face, Dean lost his balance and crumpled again to the ground.
Visiting you a lot tonight, he thought, as his blurry gaze took in the puddle covered blacktop.
Then they started to kick.
Just like home.
As he began to pass out, he thought maybe he was still funny…
: : :
Ted Berry was tired.
He was tired of driving, tired of his nagging ex-wife with her alimony demands, but mostly he just wanted to dump his load and crawl into the back of his truck for some shuteye.
He was well past his legal number of hours driving, but how the hell could you get from Denver to California in three days without pulling too long a shift? He sighed as he stepped down from his truck and pulled on his work gloves. He was too old for this shit.
Ted checked his tires and double checked his rigging and chains before he went toward the truck stop. Safety first, he thought to himself as he headed across the busy parking lot.
That’s when he saw the circle of young men and the nearly naked boy sliding to the ground under a field of fists and boots. He heard the dull thuds of fists connecting with flesh along with the sicker soft scuff of sneakers on skin.
“Hey there, stop that.” No response came from the men turned jackals. “Stop, you little fuckers; I’ve got a gun!” He bellowed out his bluff across the parking lot.
He did have a gun in the side of his seat; it was his insurance policy that he kept safely out of view of roadside inspections. But it was there, not here. He would need to run back to the truck to get it, and it all might be over by then with the young fellow dead at the rate they were going to town on him. He hoped they didn’t decide to call his bluff.
Normally, Ted wouldn’t want to get involved in another man’s trouble. More than half the time they deserved the ass whooping they got, but there was something in the defeated droop of the boy’s shoulders as they swung him around. His downcast eyes and total lack of any attempt to defend himself struck a very wrong note in Ted.
The leader of the gang of drunks looked up blearily at him. “What the fuck you want, old man?”
“It’s what you fellers want that should matter. Do you want me to shoot your idjits’ asses?” In the dark, the wrench Ted had carried to tighten up the chains on the rigging could look like a gun. “Get the fuck out of here before I call the cops. Whatcha’ doing swarming that fella anyway? Get lost before you make me angry.”
The group turned and looked down at the boy on the ground who had been trying to crawl back up onto his knees, and whether out of boredom or fear, the pack seemed to come to a collective decision.
One of them spit heavily at the beaten boy, striking his face. “Don’t want to see you in our town after today, faggot, This is your first and only warning.”
They moved off toward the bar, slapping each other on the back and chuckling together at the lesson they clearly thought they’d taught the man.
Ted put his wrench back in the back loop of his jeans and stuffed his gloves in his side pocket as he rushed over to the fallen boy. As he came closer he was off-handedly struck by the beauty of the boy…man, he corrected himself. This was a full grown man, some 27-28 years old.
He hunched down beside the young man. “You okay, son? Those assholes do any permanent damage?”
He caught a dazed, scared look in the boy’s eyes as they darted quickly up toward him. Then the boy shuddered and looked down again. Ted didn’t know what to make of his silent bowed head.
“You hurt, son? Should I call the police?”
At mention of the police, the boy’s head flung back up, and he looked fearfully into Ted’s eyes. There was a panicked, wild look in that hollow, green gaze.
The boy shook his head emphatically – No.
“Well, what the fuck, boy? I got to do something about you. I can’t just leave you here.”
It was then that Ted noticed something was wrong with the boy’s hands. What he had taken as all part of some kind of strange outfit with the collar and bare chest wasn’t just a fashion statement. The boy’s hands were actually bound together. As Ted looked closer at the boys hands he could see him cringing away slightly in embarrassment.
“Here, boy, want me ta see if I can get you outta those things?”
He slowly approached a bit closer and waited; something warned him he needed to move gentle and slow with this startled deer of a boy. He could almost see the pulse in the boy’s throat hammering a too rapid beat, and Ted tried to project a soothing presence to the panicked lad. Finally, the boy nodded his head yes.
Ted crouched down to the still kneeling man. “Lemme see here. What happened to you anyway, son, Strip-o-gram gone wrong or what?”
He tried to keep it light, but the more he looked at the boy, the worse the feeling in his gut got. The pale skin was dirty and scraped, but beneath it Ted saw a multitude of old bruising and far too much blood, old and new. And with the boy’s head bowed, he could see the hunched shoulders were striped and bloody…
Deciding he could only tackle one problem at a time, Ted took a closer look at the restraints. He saw that the boy's cuffs were held together with a pressure link with a latch. It would be nearly impossible for the wearer to open them, but unsnapping them was child's play for anyone with two unrestrained hands.
As soon as he’d been released, the boy let his arms fall boneless to his sides. He looked to be in shock. And Ted realized he was now shivering. A situation Ted saw was not helped by the fact that the begrimed, slightly freckled feet that poked out from beneath too big army fatigues were bare.
“Listen here, boy, you got any clothes? It’s freezing here.” Ted scanned around the parking lot and spotted the boy’s bag. “Whatcha got here? A feller’s gotta have some clothing on. It’s damn near winter…”
Grabbing it up, Ted pulled out the scruffy T-shirt and flannel.
“Here ya go, boy. Something to cover ya with.”
He started to help the boy, but as the kid stood, he jerked nervously away from Ted. Cowering back just a bit, he gingerly put on the T-shirt, like any movement hurt.
With the boy now standing, Ted was surprised at just how tall he was. Having only previously seen him cringing and curled in on himself on the ground, fully upright he at least matched Ted’s six foot. But height was all he had; as the boy dressed, Ted’s sharp eyes didn’t miss how painfully thin he was, well past the point of healthy.
Ted’s eyes bulged a bit at the glint of nipple rings on the boy, but heck, it took all kinds, and right now Ted was more concerned with the hundred and one bruises and scars decorating the boy than with any particular kinks.
Next, Ted passed him the flannel shirt. Again, the movements as he slowly drew the shirt on were slow and screamed of pain.
The boy’s mouth twisted as if to speak, but not a sound escaped. Ted wanted to scratch his head. He didn’t need or want any trouble, and this kid had trouble stamped all over him.
Sighing, he said, “So, boy, what’ll it be? I can’t just leave ya here. Do I call the cops? The medics? Your family? Do you have somewhere to go or someone else I could call? I need to make a decision here.”
“Please…” The one scraped whisper broke the boys silence. Begging seemed hauntingly familiar to him, Ted thought, dismayed.
“Please, no cops. I’ll do anything…”
In an instant the boy had dropped to his knees. Ted stepped back in shock to avoid the kid’s outreached hands as they grappled for the zipper to his fly.
“Whoa’ there, son. Jesus, slow down. I ain’t… I don’t... That ain’t gonna happen. I could be your father.”
Rebuffed, he watched as the boy seemed to crumple in on himself, falling back on his heels head bowed. Silent tears rolled down his cheeks, and he could feel the caged desperation leaking off the youth, but he made no further protests or offers. Even his hitched breath seemed to compress sound, like he had been punished in the past for speaking out of turn.
“What about your family?” Ted asked.
The boy again only shook his head.
“Well, I can’t just leave ya here like this.”
He was feeling at a loss until the boy managed to choke out a shuddered whisper, “J-just n-need to leave town.”
“What, are you in some kind of trouble? The feller who tied you up?” Ted asked, mercifully misunderstanding.
The boy nodded before again looking down.
Ted beat his tired ball cap against his leg. He didn’t want to get involved, but something told him the boy wouldn’t be safe, or possibly even alive, if he didn’t do something. As he gazed down at the battered, hunched shoulders, a fierce surge of protectiveness came over him.
“I hope I ain’t gonna regret this, but probably I will…” He scratched his head again absently as he continued to look down at the boy. “I suppose I could take ya with me along the way for a bit, just till you’re out of range of this feller... You ain’t no criminal are ya?”
The boy shook his head.
“I’m on route to California, but I ain’t signing up for you for the whole way, ya understand, just till you’re safe.”
He could hear the boy’s breath hitch with emotion as he nodded his head vigorously in agreement; it seemed anywhere away from here was fine with him. A hand surreptitiously crept up to wipe tears away. Ted pretended not to see the not so covert move. Ted sighed; he couldn’t wait to shake the dust of this town off his boots.
“Well, first I gotta grab me something ta eat. You wanna come with?”
The boy was instantly on alert again, shaking his head no, no, no. He backed away from Ted as if he might force him to come.
Trying for calm, Ted made a placating gesture with his hands and gently said, “Okay, okay then, no problem.”
As the boy stopped retreating, he tried another tack. “So maybe you should just wait outside my truck. I’d let ya in, but I really can’t.” Walking slowly, Ted led the limping boy over to his truck. “You just wait here. I won’t be long.”
The boy nodded absently at that, a somewhat deflated slip to his shoulders, but said nothing. He seemed resigned to waiting, expected it even. Troubled but unsure what else to do, Ted headed toward the diner. As Ted walked down the long gap between the parked semis, he took a last look back and saw how the slight figure had crouched down, practically huddled under the front wheel of the semi to await Ted’s return. Ted was torn by the forlorn broken tableau the boy presented, and his heart wrenched a little more. Without any conscious thought, he turned on his heel immediately and headed back.
“Oh, what the fuck, stay in my cab. Just don’t fuckin’ touch anything or I’ll have ta kill ya.”
The boy’s eyes opened wide with shock. Ted just chuckled.
“I’m just kidding, kid. Climb in. If you want to lay down, my rack’s in the back. Otherwise, take the passenger seat, and like I said, don’t touch a thing. I’ll be back as soon as I’ve grabbed a bite.”
: : :
Dean climbed up into the passenger seat of the big rig and looked around. The homey interior smelled of tobacco and sweat and leather and felt like safety to Dean. A palace. Ted had swung the door shut and tapped the side panel in temporary farewell. Dean was alone.
Safe. Away. Dean focused on the words. Dean had vague memories of somewhere warm and bright with sun and sand. Building sand castles with Sam, Sammy, looking after him in the bright sun, glowing with happiness, so carefree. Caring for the energetic little boy as they discovered what shapes they could make with the things they found discarded at the beach…. Sam… Dean‘s breath hitched. Oh god, Sammy.
He nodded his head vigorously as his hand dashed up to wipe more tears away. California or anywhere other than here would be fine by him. The man, he didn’t even know his name, he was going to take care of him, for a while at least. For long enough. Long enough for Dean to maybe rest, sleep a bit. That would be enough to stay ahead of them. Stay free.
Dean felt suddenly exposed and vulnerable in the face of the man’s kindness. How long had it been since someone had been kind to him?
As exhaustion slipped over him, Dean tried to nestle into the leather chair and get comfortable. He didn’t know how long he’d have to wait for the man, but waiting was something he knew.
: : :
When Ted returned and opened the door, he found the cab empty.
Surprised, he glanced around but didn’t see the boy outside anywhere so he swung himself up fully into his seat and glanced back to survey the sleeping cubby. The bed was untouched. It seemed like the boy had caught another ride. Then he noticed a slight movement at the passenger side floor.
The boy had managed to wedge all six foot something of himself down into the cramped floor area. He was curled tightly in upon himself, and clutched his battered duffel as a pillow.
Ted sighed and wished the boy had used the bed. Would’ve been a lot more comfortable than where he was now. But he decided that he needed rest more than he needed a better location, so he started the big rig up and got on the road. Despite the motion and rumble, the boy didn’t stir.
Ted set the sandwiches and drink he’d bought for the lad on the console tray and reached back into his sleeping bunk; he twitched a blanket out from the rack and draped it gently over the sleeping figure.
Dear lord, what had he gotten himself into with this one?
: : :