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Josh was curled into himself, scribbling something in a red spiral notebook, probably some lyrics, if Ian had to guess. The younger man was a musical genius, to say the least, and had been working almost nonstop to finish the next album, even though the band was on tour right now. "Wanna get a head start," the singer would say when asked why he did not relax for a while.

The truth was that Josh did not want to deal with the outside world right now. He just broke up with his slightly (read extremely) abusive boyfriend of two years. That man knew a secret that not even his closest friends knew. And if Josh had his way, it would remain that way. But Brandon had different ideas, constantly saying that he was going to leak out the information. Just the thought of that had sent Josh into tears on more than one occasion. This secret has the capability of destroying his and his band's careers, not to mention ruining Josh's personal life, not that it had not been put through hell these past couple of years already. His sister was still pissed at him for skipping many family events. His mother had been convinced that he was using again and when she and his other family and friends had confronted him, he had broken down and admitted his boyfriend was emotionally and physically abusing him. His mother and sister had been horrified, and his band and father looked ready to kill. It had been his father that eventually calmed him down, and they all demanded that he call and brake it off. Josh had tried to get them to let him meet Brandon and real life, but they had none of that. His mother said that she could not allow her baby boy to get hurt again, seeing his mother in tears had made him obey, he called it off that night.

Ever since then he had been getting calls about twenty times a day from the other man. Josh had tried everything to get him to stop. He had changed his phone number, blocked Branden's phone number, even tried to get the police involved, but nothing had worked. All of the men had been on edge this tour, with the constant phone calls and heightened security the men needed a break.

Josh's phone rang, but before Josh could pick it up, Ian got up and answered it with a, "he doesn't want to talk to you, fucking asshole," Ian blocked the number for Josh and handed his phone back to him.

"I swear to fucking god..." Josh was interrupted by his phone ringing again, he answered it. When he heard his ex-boyfriend's voice on the other end, threatening to give some photos to the media, he saw red. He threw his phone against the wall of the bus with a yell, breaking the object. He then grabbed his notebook and ran to his bunk, ignoring the concerned calls of his friends.

He was done. Done with being so scared, done having to fight his headspace all the time, just done.

Josh felt tears in his eyes; he tried to hold back the sobs threatening to take over his body. He felt his chest tighten and he could not breathe. He let out a cry that raked his entire body. Josh tried to take in a breath, but his lungs did not want to listen to him. His chest contracted painfully. Josh curled up the best he could in his unsettled state. One of his hands grabbed his chest trying to relieve some of the pressure there. It was not working! His vision blurred with a new round of tears, and his head spun. Uncontrollable sobs racked his body, and he could not control them. Not that he cared, he needed to get his breathing under control. He needed to calm down, damn it before his friends got too concerned and tried to intervene. They had already seen him have a few mental breakdowns in the past few months; they did not need to see him have another one. Josh unconsciously put his thumb in his mouth and sucked, it was not as good as a pacifier, but he left all of his pacifiers at Brandon's house, so his thumb would have to do for now.

Sucking on his thumb helped him calm down a little, and after a few minutes, he felt like he could breathe a little easier and his chest was not painfully tight. Josh coughed. On top of everything, Josh was sure he was getting sick. With all the stress he was under he would not be surprised, but he did not want to think about that right now. Josh just wanted to sleep. He curled up under his blanket with his back face toward the pulled curtain. He searched momentarily for his teddy bear. When Josh found him, he held the bear to his chest. He was grateful that the bear went literally everywhere with him and he had not left him at Brandon's house. That would have been too much, and he did not know how he would have made it through the past few months without it. His bandmates had made fun of his love for his teddy bear several times, asking Josh if he knew he was a little too old to be carrying around a stuffed animal all the time. They once even hid the bear in a hotel room back when they all had to share one hotel room, but they never did it again as Josh was nearly in tears, asking them where his teddy bear went and almost tearing the whole place apart looking for the thing. It had been Matt who broke, and he gave Josh an apologetic look as he handed the older man the bear. Josh had not talked to them for the rest that night.

He snuggled into the bear with a sniffle, using it to wipe away the remainder of his tears. Josh soon fell asleep snuggling his teddy bear and sucking his thumb.

...

Two hours later, Josh woke up. He felt horrible. His head hurt. His throat hurt. He was hot and cold at the same time. He coughed. Yeah, Josh thought he was a hundred percent sick. Josh pouted, he did not need to get sick right now. They had a performance in two days. Josh moaned, curling up a little more, wishing he could go home.

Josh made the decision to leave his bunk; he was not going to accomplish anything laying around. Plus, he felt the need to be close to someone right now.

When he entered the front of the bus, all eyes were on him. It was like his bandmates thought he was going to break down on the spot, which was fair. He just had a severe panic attack not even a few hours earlier. Josh swayed for a second before sitting right next to Matt on one of the larger couches. He held his bear to his chest and pulled his knees up to his chest, resting his head on them. God, he did not feel good.

Matt, Mike, and Ian carried on with whatever conversation that they were having before Josh walked in. As much as Josh tried to pay attention, he could not. He allowed his friend's voices to wash over him. He loved hearing the bounce in their tones, the crescendo and diminuendo. Josh smiled when he heard a vibrato in Matt's laughter.

He felt someone hit his shoulder. He jumped, curled up a little more, and let out a grumbled, "don't do that," to whoever hit him.

"Aww, cranky Joshy," one of his friends cooed at him, probably Ian. Josh groaned, he did not feel like being the butt of the joke right now.

"You think you need a Snickers, Josh," Mike asked, sarcastically smirking at the younger man.

"You're gonna need'a hospital if you don't shut up," he glared at Mike with glassy eyes, but it had all the effect on the older man as an angry kitten.

Mike ruffled his hair like he was a child, Josh pushed his hand away saying, "go away. '

"You're the one who left his bunk," Matt pointed out.

Josh glared at the younger man, and he was about to ask him whose side he was on when he felt a freezing cold hand on his forehead. Josh tried to bat it away.

"Stop pickin' on me," Josh whined.

"I'm not pickin' on you, Josh. Let me feel your forehead," Mike demanded.

"Why?" Josh asked with a sniffle moving his head back to try and stop Mike.

"'Cause I said so," Mike replied, not feeling like explaining to the younger man why he needed to touch his forehead.

Josh surprisingly did not try and fight Mike again. Josh once again felt all eyes on him. He held his bear closer to his chest, feeling shy with all the attention. Josh usually loved to be center of attention, but not right now. Not when he felt like he had been run over by a truck.

"Do we have a thermometer?" Mike asked no one imparticular.

Ian said that he was going to find it.

Josh blinked rapidly, trying to comprehend what just happened. One minute his friends were teasing him because of his crankiness; now they were all concerned. The shift did not make sense to him. He held back a whimper of confusion and held his teddy bear a little tighter to his chest.

Ian came back with a thermometer, "open, Josh," Ian said, gently. Surprising himself, he listened letting his mouth go slack; he allowed Ian to stick the thermometer under his tongue. He closed his mouth, waiting for the device to beep and Ian kept ahold of the end of it.

When the device did beep, Ian took it out of his mouth and winced when he saw the numbers.

"What is it?" Matt asked, concern in his tone.

"39.7," The older man answered. Josh groaned, no wonder he felt like crap. Josh let his head drop on his knees that were still up to his chest. He felt a gentle hand rub the back of his head. The young man did not try and pull back this time. He leaned into the cool touch.

"Do you want to lay down?" Matt asked the sick man.

"Not my bunk," Josh begged, he did not want to go back to his bunk, he wanted to be with his friends. He knew that his little side was interfering with his judgment, as it had a habit of doing when he was sick, or he had not had a chance to be little in a while, both of which was true right now.

"You don't have to go back to your bunk, Kid," Mike said. The poor kid was sick and confused; they would never demand that he went to his bunk when he was in this state. Why was Mike thinking of Josh as a kid?

"C'mon," Matt said, pushing the older man down so that his head was on his lap.

Josh groaned. It felt good to lay down in someone's lap. When Brandon was in a good mood, he let Josh lay in his lap, and when he was a kid (even now), he always laid his head in his parents' lap. But it seemed like his bandmates were treating him like a child, and as good as that felt he did not need anything else making him feel little, he was already trying to fight his little side as it was.

"I'm not a baby," Josh rasped, trying to sit back up, but Matt would not let him, keeping a tight hold on his shoulders.

"Says the man cuddling with a bear," Ian teased.

Josh buried his face in said bear, knowing he was not going to win any argument with the men right now.

"Don't pick on him right now," Mike said.

"Yeah," Ian came to sit next to Josh's bent up legs, "sorry man," Ian apologized, patting one of the younger man's legs.

Josh hummed something under his breath. He felt sleepy again, and Matt's fingers in his hair were not helping. Josh childishly tried to fight his sleep for a few minutes until Matt said, "go to sleep, man, we'll be here when you wake up," Josh looked up at Matt with begging eyes, "promise," Matt read his mind.

With that promise, Josh was able to fall asleep.

...

When Josh woke up for the second time that day, he was alone. At least he thought he was alone. It did not seem like he was in Matt's lap anymore. Josh did not feel anyone's fingers in his hair. The boy did not sense anyone beside him. Nobodies hand was on his leg. Josh whimpered. He did not want to be alone. The boy wanted his friends. He felt tears prick his closed eyes. He tried to cling to his teddy bear, but he did not feel him anywhere. Josh whimpered again. He needed his teddy bear. He bent his legs back and curled up again. He sucked on his thumb in his mouth. He needed his friends and teddy bear. Where were they? Josh felt the tears in his eyes fall down his face.

Suddenly someone was by his side, shaking him.

"Hey, Joshy calm down, Man," he heard Matt's voice. Matt, Matt was here. Josh opened his eyes and sat up, thumb still in his mouth.

"Hey, don't cry," Matt ran his hand through Josh's hair with one hand and with the other he wiped Josh's tears away, "what's wrong?" Matt asked the man as he buried his face in Matt's chest.

"Thought I was 'lone," Josh wined, "'n' don' know where teddy 's"

Matt was admittedly confused by his friend's behavior. Sure, he was sick, but he had seen his best friend ill before, and he never seemed this clingy. It was like dealing with a sick kid. Well, Josh has a lot on his plate, Matt reminded himself. He was not only going through a break up with a long time boyfriend, that longtime boyfriend abused him, and was now stalking Josh. Josh had been so paranoid these last few performances that Brandon was going to show up and try and hurt him again.

Matt could kill that man, he could not help but wonder how he or anyone else did not notice the abuse that went on for two years. Sure, there were bruises, but Josh said that he was just clumsy, which was very accurate; the older man had almost no coordination when it comes to anything that does not have to do with playing an instrument. He had nearly fallen on stage a few times, and Matt had seen Josh run into walls, then apologizing to the wall he ran into, several times; true he had been on drugs most of the times he ran into walls, but he had done it just a few days ago. Then there was the change in behavior, especially the last months in the relationship; Josh had become distant, and never wanted to hang out with them anymore, and he seemed scared and distracted when he was in the studio. Matt remembers that a week before the confrontation Josh had been joking around with them, it had been like they had the old Josh back, he had said that he thought he busted a rib after singing the highest, longest note that Matt had ever heard the older man sing; Ian had told Josh he had busted Ian's eardrums; Josh came out of the box and was about to say something sassy back to Ian, but when he looked at his phone, all the color had drained out of his already pale face. He had missed two calls from Brandon; Josh had run out of the room and apologized profusely when Branden picked up. That had been the last straw for the other three men; they had talked with Josh's family, and they knew they needed to get Josh out of whatever situation he had gotten himself into.

Back in the present Matt scratched Josh's scalp, and looked for the man's teddy bear while saying, "Mike and Ian just went to get you some medicine. We have to get you feelin' better before the concert on Friday," Matt finally saw the old teddy bear on the floor. Josh must have dropped it in his sleep, Matt picked up the toy and gave it to Josh; who immediately clenched it to his chest.

"Thanks," Josh said, finally dropping his thumb out of his mouth to wrap his arm around his teddy bear. Josh was still resting his head on Matt's chest. He was too comfortable to move. Josh knew he was giving into little space. But he did not want to fight it anymore. He had to he reminded himself. He couldn't let his friends find out. It was so hard, he thought. Too bad! A voice in the back of his head shouted at him. The voice scared him sometimes. It was the same thing that told him he deserved to be in a bad relationship with Daddy, Branden. It was the same thing that told him that he did not deserve to eat or that he needed to cut his body. He hated the voice, so why did Josh listen to it?

Josh and Matt stayed like this for a few minutes before Josh had a coughing fit. It had come out of nowhere, scaring both Josh and Matt. When he was done, Josh had tears in his eyes and was bright red. Matt rubbed his back and sang quietly in his ear.

Josh whimpered. He needed to lay down. But he did not wanna be alone. Even though Matt was right next to him. He needed someone to hold him. Matt shouldn't have to do that. Josh knew that. But he needed someone. So, he asked Matt in the sweetest voice he could while sick, "can I lay in your lap, please."

Matt was surprised by the question, sure the young man could be touchy-feely at times, sometimes worst that a drunk Ian, but he had never asked to cuddle with any of them. His touches where usually brushes of the shoulder, wrapping his arm around one of them, Josh had rubbed their backs on more than one occasion, the man was a well of hugs, always giving and ready to receive a hug.

Matt apparently took too long to answer the boy because Josh pushed away from Matt and said, "nevermind, I shouldn'ta asked."

Josh made a move to lay back down on his own, but Matt stopped him. Matt held onto Josh's shoulders and said, "of course you can, Buddy."

Josh smiled and made a small, happy noise that made Matt grin. Matt would do anything to keep that smile on the older man's face. Matt sat down and let Josh lay his head on his lap. Matt subconsciously played with Josh's hair while he texted Mike and Ian to tell them to hurry with the meds and food.

Matt sang lowly in his throat, one of their songs that did not want to leave his head, now he knew what Josh always complained about. "If you really want to hate one of your own songs either 1. make a music video or 2. go on tour with that song. You will hate it by the end, I promise you," Josh had said in some interview once.

"You gotta nice voice," Josh spoke up halfway through the song.

"Not really," Matt said, he knew the older man liked his singing voice, but Matt could not see why.

"Uh-huh," Josh argued, "I'mma give you more singin' parts in the next album whefer,w-whether ya like it or not," Josh tried not to let the lisp he gets in little space (while he was not entirely in it, he was far enough in for it to affect his speech and judgment) show, it was hard but he was mostly able to cover it up. Whatever he was not able to cover up he could blame sickness on.

"Feeling better?" Matt asked Josh. He had to, he was back to arguing with Matt for no reason.

"Uh-huh," Josh nodded, "can you sing mow-more, please?"

Matt chuckled, while Josh was not a rude person, he was not one to use please and thank you so much, "Well, since you asked so nicely."

By the time Mike and Ian showed up with the food and medicine, Josh was almost asleep again from Matt's singing and the younger man playing with his hair.

"Wakey, wakey Joshy," Josh heard Ian say, gently. Matt helped him set up.

Josh rubbed his left eye with his right hand and yawned. He heard his friends chuckle at him.

"Okay," Mike began, "let's get you drugged up so we can eat."

"And, yes you are eating. Don't even try and get out of it," Ian said in a firm tone.

Josh nodded, not feeling up to arguing with the men. He was not that hungry, but he knew that he needed to eat to feel better. So, he would eat as much as he could.

"Give me your hand," Mike said, ready to hand him a cold and flu medication that he and Ian got the younger man. Josh held out his hand and, without hesitation put the pills in his mouth. He accepted the bottle of water Matt handed him. He swallowed the tablets with the water and drank some more because of thirst.

Josh was sat at the table and food was sat in front of him. Josh frowned, his friends should not have to do this for him. He should not be so deep in headspace that he would allow his friends to do this for him. He shook his head and sat up taller, he crossed one leg over the other. Trying to mimic Big Josh. He dropped his teddy bear next to him. If it would not have looked too odd, he would have put his teddy back into his bunk. Not only that but he did not feel like he could part from it yet. Maybe after food.

Josh forced himself to eat every last bite of food, going against his little side crying that he was too full and that he would probably have a tummy ache if he ate it all.

Josh coughed, wincing at the dryness of his throat. He needed something to drink. He had already drunk all his water from dinner. He got up on slightly unsteady feet to get something to drink. The young man was tempted to ask one of his friends to get him something to drink, but he was big. He did not need someone to get him something to drink.

Matt watched his friend out of the corner of his eye. Josh had gone from being at least a little talkative and compliant to silent, and he had an agitated look on his face throughout the meal. He was probably just thinking about how to cover up the sickness for the concert, Matt thought, but he wanted to keep an eye on his friend anyway, something was off about the man that had nothing to do with his sickness.

When Josh moved to pick up his glass with fruit juice in it, all hell broke loose.

Josh was about to pick up his glass when the bus hit a pothole from hell that caused the whole bus to jump and caused Josh's hand to hit the cup. The cup fell to the ground and shattered on impact. Josh immediately tensed, he almost expected for someone to come up and hit him for breaking the glass. Daddy had done that more than once. He was even more clumsy in little headspace than he was in big headspace

"Hey, Josh," Matt said, noticing his friend's frozen stance.

"Josh, you okay?" Mike said, concern lacing his tone.

"Josh, it's no big deal. We'll just clean it," Ian reassured the younger man.

Josh's breathing picked up. He did not register his friend's voices. All he knew was that there were three people. They were probably mad at him. Of course, they are mad at you, the voice in the back of his head shouted at him. You had been stupid and broke the glass. Stupid boy, you're a stupid, bad boy. He felt tears in his eyes. He hadn't meant to break the cup.

Someone put their hand on his shoulder. Josh shrieked as if someone had burned him. He dropped down to his knees. The tears that had clouded his vision ran down his face. He picked up the glass shards, not noticing that the shards were cutting his palms. Sobs racked his slender frame for the second time that day. He felt his mental age plummet and there was nothing he could do. All of the fighting his little space had been for nothing. He let out another sob.

He felt someone grab his shoulders, he yelped and dropped the glass shards.

"I sowwy," Josh cried. He covered his face, not noticing the blood running down his hands and wrists. "I no mean it. Plea' don' hit me!"

"Josh! JOSH!" Josh heard his name being yelled. He cowered as much as the person who had his shoulders would allow him to. Please don't hurt me, please don't hurt me, Josh chanted in his mind. He did not want to be hurt anymore. He would be good.

"Joshy, we're not going to hurt you," Josh heard Matt say.

"Calm down, Josh, you're gonna hurt yourself," Mike said.

Josh had not noticed that he was fighting against Matt with all his sick body had in it. Josh stilled, not wanting to make anyone else mad.

"I sowwy," Josh continued to cry pitifully.

Matt pulled Josh close, not caring if Josh got blood on his clothes. It would not have been the first time.

"Josh shh, shh Joshy," Matt whispered in his ear. "Nothing can hurt you, Buddy. I promise. No one's gonna hurt you, Joshy."

Josh curled up into Matt. He clinched the front of the man's shirt and bent his knees up to his chest. When he bent his knees, he noticed something damp on his pants. He squirmed, not liking the feeling. When it dawned on him what it was, he gave a whimper and curled into Matt as much as he could. Trying to hide the wet spot on his pants.

"Let me see your hands," Mike was crouched down next to them and tried to appear as small as possible so that the older man did not scare Josh.

Josh whimpered as he suddenly noticed the pain in his hands, he did not want to let anyone see them. He let go of Matt's shirt and held them to his chest.

"Aww, don't be like that, Honey," Matt whispered in Josh's ear, "let Mikey play doctor for a little bit."

Josh whimpered but listened to the man holding him. When he showed Mike his hands, the man hissed.

"Go get the first aid kit, Ian," Mike ordered.

Ian appeared with the kit a few minutes later, he handed it to Mike and sat on the floor next to the ailing young man(?) he had no idea how one-second everything was normal and the next shit hit the fan. It was then that Ian noticed a wet spot on Josh's jeans, the spot could not have been made by the juice because it had been red, and the spots that the juice had stained Josh's jeans was now a reddish color due to the fact the Josh was wearing light blue jeans. It then became apparent to Ian that he could smell urine in the air. Josh had not, had he?

Ian needed to get Josh different clothes anyway, these clothes were already ruined.

As Ian left for the second time, Mike got started cleaning Josh's wounds. His hands were a bloody mess, to say the least. It would have been optimal to get Josh to the sink in the bathroom, but Mike did not see that happening. Aww Hell, the bus driver and whoever had to clean the bus tomorrow would be pissed at them anyway. There was no harm in getting a little water everywhere. Mike was careful not to step on any small glass pieces that he and Ian could have missed as he went to retrieve a bottle of water. When he got back, he ran the water over one of his friend's hands to clear it of the blood. Josh whimpered but stayed still as Mike looked for any glass pieces that could have stuck themselves in Josh's hand. Luckily, Mike found none. He patted Josh's hand with a paper towel to absorb the water and blood.

"Owwie," Josh wined, tears still streaming down his face.

Mike looked up at Josh with sympathetic eyes. He hated that he was hurting the young man.

"You're okay, Joshy," Matt said, rubbing Josh's back in soothing circles and he scratched Josh's scalp, trying to calm the boy down, so he did not start sobbing again.

Mike, as quickly and efficiently as he could, cleaned and wrapped Josh's right hand and repeated the whole process with the left.

Ian walked in with Josh's change of clothes just as Matt asked the question that had been on the tip of his tongue since Josh broke the glass, "Josh, how old are you?"

He got weird looks from his friends, but Josh curled up on himself and whimpered.

"Josh," Mike said, brushing the singer's black and blue bangs out of his eyes, "answer the question, please."

Josh sniffled but held up two shaking fingers.

Chapter Text

Josh held up two shaking fingers. His friends looked at each other, confusion written plainly on their faces. It was evident that the man in front of them was twenty-five-years-old, not a toddler, but given the way he was behaving, could it be possible that the young man thought that he was a small child. They decided not to think of that too much in depth; they had a silent agreement that they were going to talk to Josh when they could.

Ian pointed at Josh and mouthed, "he's wet," not wanting to upset his friend any more than he already was. Mike and Matt gave him raised eyebrows, but the stench of urine then became apparent to them.

"Okay, Buddy," Matt spoke softly to Josh, causing the kid to jump, "let's get you cleaned up."

Matt helped the sniffling boy up and led him to the bathroom that no one was really allowed to use, but in this case, they would make an exception. Josh stood in the middle of the small room that could barely fit the two men. Matt wet a hand towel, trying not to think about the fact that he was about to help his best friend clean... those areas. Also would not be the first time, but he thought that they had left that behind them.

Matt faced his friend and for the first time, took in the man's(?) pitiful state. Josh's hair was sticking up at odd ends, but it was also plastered to his forehead from sweating, his eyes were red and bloodshot, his cheeks were a rosy red with the fever, his wife beater (that had been white at one point) had spots of red on it from blood, and his jeans were ruined, to say the least.

The poor baby looked miserable.

Matt took the couple of steps that it took to be right next to his friend. When Matt began to wipe Josh's face to clean it of his tears, the boy whimpered and tried to take a step back.

Matt stopped him with a gentle hand on his arm, "it's okay, Baby," Matt whispered in a soothing voice. "No need to cry, we'll get you taken care of. Nothing to worry about, nothing to worry about."

But there was something to worry about, Josh thought. His friends just found out his biggest secret. After five years of hiding it, it was now out in the open. His friends should be disgusted. At least that's what Daddy said. Daddy said that anyone else who found out about his secret would hate him. That only Daddy could love both his little and big sides. No one else. His band would kick him out like they tried to do when he was on drugs, Daddy said. He tried to reason with himself that that had been a completely different time, with almost entirely different people. And he could not control this, he had a choice with the drug, not this. He could have tried harder, the voice told him. Who wanted a big baby in their band? But the band seemed to be taking it okay, Matt was cleaning his face, Mike cleaned and wrapped his hands, and Ian got him his clothes. That is only because they felt they had to. Once they were tired of taking care of him, they would get rid of him. Leave him all alone, like Daddy threatened to do so many times.

"L-let's get your pants off," Matt said after he ran the towel through warm water, added some soap, and took Josh's wife beater off. The man had not even noticed, too lost in his own head. Matt could only hope that the kid was not having any self-deprecating thoughts. With just a second of hesitation, Matt grabbed ahold of Josh's pant button.

See! The voice shouted, Matt is hesitating in everything, he does not want to help you.

Fueled by the voice, Josh pushed Matt's hands away and said, "Y-You don' have ta. I c'n do it."

Matt knew that the boy could not do it, his hands were shaking too much, and whatever headspace he was in he was barely able to stand in one spot, let alone being able to get his pants off and clean himself. But Matt raised his hands, turning to try and give the man some privacy. If Josh wanted to try himself, Matt would allow him to.

Josh thought that Matt turning was proof that the man did not actually want to help him. He shuffled a whimper. No one wanted to hear it. Josh brought his trembling hands to his zipper, that would be easier than the button. He was successfully able to pull his zipper down. He gave a little cheer in his head. Now came the hard part. Josh tried his best to still his shaking hands. But no matter how hard he tried, they would not still. Josh gave a sigh, he would have to try with his hands shaking.

"You okay, Josh?" Matt asked after hearing the sigh. He turned his head to look at Josh, he had his zipper down, which was progress, but his hands were still shaking like crazy.

"I-I fine," Josh said, then sniffled, more from sickness than anything else.

"Tell me if you need help."

Matt did not really mean that.

Josh grasped the button on his pants, but his fingers were shaking too much for him to maneuver it through the hole. Not to mention, his fine motor skills drop to oblivion when he is little and/or sick. He tried a few times to get the stupid button through the hole, but he couldn't do it! Josh wined. He felt fresh tears come to his eyes. He couldn't do it. He held his face in his hands and cried.

He almost immediately felt Matt by his side, rubbing his shoulder.

"Hey, hey Baby. Don't cry. I hate seeing you cry, " and that seemed to be all Josh was doing that day; it was breaking Matt's heart, "tell me what's wrong, Baby."

Why was Matt being so nice to him? He was just being a stupid baby. But Matt was calling him Baby (that felt nice), and he was offering to help him. Maybe Matt did want to help him. No!

"C-c'n't do it, Matty," Josh whined, looking at Matt through his fingers, Matt had a look of sympathy on his face, but he was also smiling.

Matt pulled Josh's hands away from his face, "there's my Baby," Matt cooed gently, "I'll help you," Matt offered.

Josh felt his chest contract, Matt had just called him Matt's baby. And as much as he liked the idea of being Matt's baby, he could not shake the thoughts that Matt and the rest of the band were just helping him because they felt like they had to.

"Don' h-haveta," Josh said.

Matt ran one of his hands through Josh's hair and smiled when he felt Josh lean into the touch, "I want to help you, Baby. We all want to help you. Don't ever let anyone or anything," Matt softly tapped the side of Josh's head, "tell you any differently."

Matt quickly got Josh's jeans and boxers off. He cleaned Josh's parts and thighs, that was already starting to turn red as quickly as he could. He used another towel to dry him off.

By the time Matt was done, Josh was shivering from the fever, and trying to warm himself up by wrapping his arms around his tummy.

"Let's get your clothes on, Baby," Matt said, already holding the hoodie Ian picked out for Josh.

Matt pulled the hoodie over Josh's head and helped the boy wrestle his long arms through the holes. Josh used the sink the help with balance as Matt helped him with his boxers and pants.

When Matt pulled up Josh's sweats, he took a step back to look at the boy. He looked much better, his eyes were no longer as red and puffy from being cleaned with a cold towel, though his cheeks still had a rosy glow to them, that would go away with the fever. Josh pulled up the hood, as he always did with any top with a hood. He liked the feeling of it on his head, he told Matt once when they were playing a game of twenty questions on the road.

Speaking of Josh's clothes, Matt had to admit that Josh looked adorable in his oversized clothing. The hoodie swallowed him, and they were lucky that the sweats had a drawstring, or they would not fit. Why Josh purposefully sometimes bought such big clothes, Matt did not know. Josh honestly looked like he went to play dress up in Dad's closet.

"Let's go see what Mikey and Ian are up to," Matt said, opening the door for Josh.

"K Matty," Josh whispered, rubbing his eyes. They were sore from all his crying.

Josh shuffled out of the bathroom. He waited until Matt was out and walking to go sit down to go sit down as well. Matt sat next to Ian on the large couch so that Josh could set next to him.

When Josh did sit down, he noticed that he was missing his teddy bear.

"Teddy?" Josh asked passed the fingers he unconsciously put in his mouth. He saw Mike get up to retrieve the abandoned toy.

"Fanks, Mikey," Josh smiled shyly, taking his teddy from Mike and holding him to his chest. Mike smiled back at the boy. He usually hated it when someone called him Mikey, but from Josh, at least how he is right now, he could accept it.

Josh leaned into Matt. Matt took the baby's weight easily wrapping his arm around the boy's shoulder, allowing the boy to cuddle into his side.

"Cuddly Baby," Matt said affectionately.

Ian informed them that they would be arriving at a hotel in about thirty minutes. Josh groaned, not liking the idea of having to leave the bus and having anyone but his friends see him. The groan had irritated his throat more than Josh thought it would. He coughed for a couple minutes. Matt patted his back, while Ian went to get the boy water.

After his coughing fit, Josh accepted the bottle from Ian with a "fanks, Ian."

"What, I don't get a cute nickname?" Ian asked, faking offense.

Josh seemed to consider the question while taking a sip of water. He smirked as he said, "Cassie."

The men chuckled at the response. Their sassy boy was still in there.

"Cheeky," Ian said ruffling the boy's hair.

...

As Ian said, they arrived at the hotel thirty minutes later. There was only one room available, not that the men minded that much, they had all had to share one hotel room too many times to count. Plus they were all exhausted. The day had been full of too many emotions and secret telling, the men needed a good nights rest, but they all needed a shower first. Matt still had on his bloody shirt, and none of them had taken a shower since yesterday.

Matt was hauled off to the bathroom as soon as they entered the room, Ian and Mike telling him that he needed a shower more than any of them. Matt tried to protest, but Ian and Mike were firm, saying that they would take care of Josh.

Speaking of Josh, the boy was currently laying curled up on his side, teddy bear held tightly to his chest, his thumb was in his mouth. His back was to the wall as if scared to take up too much space, which worried Mike and Ian. For all the time that the men had known Josh, he was not afraid to take up space, to be loud, and sassy. Hell, he was the front man to a band. It was almost easy to forget that beneath the boisterous exterior that there was a very sensitive and almost shy heart.

Josh closed his eyes, he wanted to go to sleep, but no one was in bed with him. Mike and Ian were on the other bed. Watching him like they were trying not to let it show. But it was obvious, even to the baby that his friends were watching him. He did not mind it. He liked knowing that the two men were watching over him, and he knew that when Matt got back, the man would watch over him too. But he still did not want to be in bed alone, he wanted to feel someone beside him. Daddy had punished him by leaving him alone and making him sleep in a locked crib too many times. Daddy knew that he feared to be alone. He was so scared that his friends and family would leave him if he did something bad. It was the perfect punishment, honestly. By the next day, Josh would have soaked his diaper, and his eyes would be red and bloodshot from crying so much. He never slept when Daddy locked him in the dark, scary room. Josh's tummy hurt at just the thought of the room and crib. He tried to not think of the room. Daddy was not here, and his friends would never do something like that to him. Would they?

Of course, they would the voice said. You're a bad boy, you deserve to be punished. Josh closed his eyes a little tighter. No! The boy fought back against the voice. He did not deserve it. What Daddy did was wrong, using his fears against him. His friends love him, they would not do that.

Daddy loves him too.

Josh was tired of the voice. The boy got up and walked over to Mike and Ian's bed.

"Hey kiddo," Ian greeted, looking up from his phone that he was pretending to play on, Mike did the same.

"Hi," Josh responded past his thumb, "umm, s-sleepy," Josh rubbed his left eye as if to explain how sleepy he was.

Ian smiled softly up at the baby, he knew what the baby was trying to ask for, so he opened one of his arms out wide and said, "Come here, Joshy."

Josh smiled and laid down next to Ian, curling up into the man. He had his head on Ian's chest so that he could hear the man's heartbeat.

Ian rubbed the boy's back. Josh sighed and closed his eyes. Soon he was lightly dozing against the man. He heard Matt coming out of the shower and Mike going in.

"How's he doing?" Matt asked, sitting at the end of the bed.

"He's been a handful," Ian said, sarcastically.

"Naw," Josh argued. He'd been good.

"Go to sleep, bud," Ian ordered. Matt chuckled.

When Ian went to take a shower, Josh whined, but he then latched on to Matt. Soon the baby was sleeping deeply.

...

When Josh woke up late the next morning, he noticed three things. He was big, Matt was holding him tightly in his sleep, and he really had to pee. He squirmed, trying to get out of Matt's grasp. Matt held onto him tighter, turning slightly, pressing against Josh's bladder.

"Fuck," Josh groaned, "Matt, you fucking octopus, let go."

Josh cursed the fact that Matt was a heavy sleeper, he knew that to get out of Matt's grasp he would need to wake him, but he did not want to wake Mike or Ian in the other bed. Why was Matt holding him in the first place, sure they had shared a bed multiple times, even as teenagers, that got them into some pretty awkward positions. But Josh did not even remember falling asleep next to the younger man. He did not remember checking in to the hotel last night. Where they even planning on staying at a hotel? Josh did not think so.

What happened last night?

Josh tried to blame his lack of memory on the sickness. He remembers feeling miserable yesterday. He felt a lot better today. His head and throat still hurt, and he was congested, but he felt like he could still play the concert tomorrow, unlike yesterday, where he wanted to go home more than anything else.

Josh decided not to think about that right now, He instead focused on how he was going to get out of Matt's hold before he pissed all over the place again. Again?

"Matt, c'mon man. Wake up," Josh pleaded, trying his best to shake the man from his position on the man's chest. Nothing was working,

"Having trouble?" Josh jumped as he heard Mike's voice, causing Matt to grip onto him tighter and subsequently press onto his bladder a little harder. Josh whined in the back of his throat, trying not to think about a punishment (read torture) that Branden liked to put him through that involved the man tying him to the bed and pressing on his very full bladder.

"Mike, help get him off of me," Josh told Mike. Mike could tell that they had the normal Josh back. He did not call him 'Mikey,' and the childlike spark in his eyes was gone. While Mike could not help but be a little disappointed that Josh was out of whatever headspace he was in the previous night, he could also not help but chuckle at the younger man's predicament.

"This isn't funny," Josh whispered, "I have to pee."

"Well, in that case," Mike turned and walked toward the bathroom like he was about to walk in.

"C'mon, please," Josh begged, pouting up at the older man.

Mike stepped back over to them, already moving to help as he said, "what, don't wanna piss everywhere," again (not that Mike would ever hold that incident against the man).

"I'm gonna piss on you if you don't help," Josh threatened. Mike rolled his eyes. Josh and his threats.

They managed to remove Matt's arms from around Josh's body, not without the other man stirring in his sleep. Not that Josh cared. Josh left his teddy bear on the bed as he ran to go to the bathroom almost missing Mike's call that they had to all talk when he got out. Talk about what? He was going to think about that in a second first, he had to pee.

He was too relieved to be able to pee that he did not notice the bandages on his hands until he went to wash his hands. What, why did he have bandages on his hands? He did not remember hurting himself last night. What happened? Why could he not remember anything? The last thing he remembers is falling asleep on Matt's lap, that had been in the middle of the day. What happened between then and now? Why was he in a hotel room and cuddling with his best friend? What did Mike want to talk about? He did not actually hurt himself again, had he? No, he could not have. He had not had those thoughts in a long time. Not since he was a teenager. He had not hurt himself, at least not on purpose, he knew that.

Suddenly all the memories came smashing down on him. He remembers breaking the glass, freaking out and trying to pick the glass up with bare hands, that is how he cut them. He remembered going deep into little headspace, and Mike cleaning and bandaging his hands. Matt asking him how old he was, and how is stomach dropped when he heard the question. He remembers holding up two shaking fingers.

Oh, God. He told his band his secret. Josh felt his breathing pick up. No, this could not be happening. He had not told his friends he was little. No, no, no.

That's why Mike wanted to talk to him. He wanted to talk about his little headspace. They would probably make fun of him for it. They would threaten to tell the media, the rest of his family and friends. Please no, please don't tell anyone else. Would they take advantage of him, maybe? That's all anyone else did when they found out. Branden used him for his own power trip and sexual gratification. Why did he still love that man?

He heard a knock on the bathroom door, "C'mon, Ramsay, other people need to use the bathroom," Mike's voice sounded irritated. He wanted to talk.

Josh locked the door that he had been in too big of a rush to lock before and shouted "go away" in a panicked voice.

Hearing the fear in Josh's tone had stopped Mike from calling him a dick, among other things.

"Josh, open the door," Mike ordered.

"I know why you want to talk," Josh said in such a low tone that Mike could barely hear him from the other side of the door.

"What's going on," Ian asked. He and Matt were looking at him with concern in their eyes for the man on the other side of the door.

"He locked himself in the bathroom, he's freaking out. He says he knows why we want to talk," Mike explained.

"I don't want to talk about it!" Josh shouted as much as his sore throat would allow.

"Locking yourself in a bathroom won't help with that," Ian tried to reason with him.

Josh felt his stomach tighten with anxiety. They were going to do something to him.

"Come on, Josh open the door! We just want to talk about a few things," Matt said, knocking on the door.

"No," Josh was not budging.

"Did you grab Josh's wallet last night?" Mike asked Ian in a hushed voice so that Josh could not hear them.

Ian nodded, Josh did not like not having his phone and wallet on him at all times. Mike retrieved the wallet and pulled out two of the few bobby pins that Josh always carries around with him. He sometimes got frustrated when he was trying to write, and his bangs fell into his eyes, or when it was windy and the same thing happened, so he would pin them back. When asked why he did not just get a haircut, Josh would respond by looking at you like you were the biggest idiot on planet earth.

Mike pushed both of the bobby pins into the keyhole of the doorknob and turned, easily opening the door. How Mike knows how to picklock a door, he would never tell. Let's just say that Josh was not the only one who did stupid things as a teenager. Mike was just lucky enough not to have gotten caught.

When Mike opened the door, he saw a blur of blue and black run past him. Ian caught Josh before he could make it to the door.

"No!" Josh shouted, "let go!"

He struggled against Ian as much as he could. But the older man was stronger than him under normal circumstances, and Josh was even weaker due to illness, Ian easily overpowered the man, holding Josh to his chest, so that the man did not hurt himself or Ian.

"Calm down, Bud," Ian said.

"No, let the fuck go of me!" Josh screamed.

"Josh, stop. You're going to get us in trouble," Ian said in his best disciplinarian voice. He could only imagine what anyone who could hear them outside the door was thinking.

Josh did not listen, struggling until he had a coughing fit. He hacked for a few minutes. In the end, he leaned into Ian, too weak to hold himself up. He gulped in breaths.

"Was that worth it?" Ian asked, "where were you trying to go anyway," he was not angry with the young man, he just wanted to know what was going through Josh's head.

"I'm sorry, I'm sorry," Josh rambled, "oh God, I'm sorry. Please don't tell anyone, please. I'll do anything. Please don't tell."

Ian looked at the other two men, searching for help, he did not know how to respond to that.

"Josh, Baby, we're not going to tell anyone," Matt reassured, rubbing the older man's back.

"I'm sorry. I shouldn't have forced that on you guys," Josh continued as if he had not heard Matt.

Matt grabbed ahold of Josh's shoulders, turning the man toward him, effectively cutting off Josh's rambling. "Josh, do you remember what I told you in the bathroom?"

Bathroom? Josh remember pissing himself and Matt taking him to the bathroom on the bus to clean him up, but it was fuzzy. He could not remember if Matt was mad about having to help him or not. He just assumed that he was. Who wanted to help their friend clean up their own piss?

"Josh."

Oh yeah, remembering what was said to him. He refused to make eye contact with the man as he tried to remember. Matt cleaned his face, told him there was nothing to worry about. Okay, maybe Matt was not mad at him.

"E-everything's okay?" Josh said though it sounded more like a question.

"What else?" Matt encouraged. Mike and Ian were standing close, ready to offer help if needed.

"Umm," Josh thought, Matt had not said anything else to him really, nothing he wanted to repeat. Then he remembered.

"I want to help you, Baby," Josh quoted, "We all want to help you. Don't ever let anyone or anything," Josh tapped the side of his head, much like Matt had done, "tell you any differently."

"Good boy," Matt praised.

"B-but, you shouldn't have to," Josh argued.

"Josh," Ian spoke up, "get this through your thick head, we want to help you. It has nothing with feeling like we have to."

"Plus," Mike spoke, "you're kinda cute when you're like that."

Josh blushed bright red, "It's not cute, it's freaky."

"You're adorable," Matt whispered, leaving no room for argument.

"We just wanted to talk about what all that was so we could help better," Mike explained.

"It's little space," Josh offered reluctantly.

"Which is?" Ian pushed while Matt led Josh over to one of the beds so he could sit.

"I-It's, uh," Josh tried to think of a way to explain it, he shook his left hand, "uh, have you ever heard of age play?"

"Yeah," all the men responded. They all had internet searches they were not proud of.

"Y-Yeah, it's kinda like that," Josh said looking at his lap, waiting for the round of questions that he knew was coming.

"Is it sexual at all?" Ian would ask.

Josh paled and shook his head. He knew that there was an entire group of people who liked sexual age play, but not him. "N-never liked that," Josh mumbled, "though Bran-" he cut himself off, too much information.

His friends did not question what Branden did, they could assume, but right now they did not want to talk about that monster. Not only did he hurt Josh as an adult, which was bad enough and would leave Josh with scars that would last a lifetime, but he also hurt Josh when he was like a baby.

"So," Mike said, trying to get the conversation off of that monster, "it's age regression?"

Josh nodded, "yeah."

They went on to ask what Josh needed.

Josh took a moment to ponder the question, "Uh, someone to take care of me," Josh shrugged. He looked at his friends that all had a look on their faces like they were telling him to go on. Rip it off like a bandage, he told himself.

"I wanna play with toys and watch kids' movies and shows. I want to use pacifiers and carry around Teddy. I want to be bottle-fed sometimes, and I want to wear diapers but only for pee. I want to be told what to do and have a bedtime, and I want to cuddle."

Josh clenched his hands into fists in his lap and looked down at his lap, bangs falling into his face. Waiting for rejection.

Someone's hands came into his vision, he looked up to see his friends looking at him with open, supportive faces.

"I think we can do that."

Chapter Text

"I think we can do that."

Josh felt a flood of relief wash over him. He could not help it when he jumped into Matt's arms, engulfing the younger man in a hug. He rested his head next to Matt's heart so that he could hear it.

"Thank you," Josh said, emotion in his voice. He buried his face in Matt's chest when he felt tears in his eyes. Matt smiled as scratched Josh's scalp and rocked him casually from side to side.

The men lingered like that for a few minutes, until Ian interrupted with a, "as much as I hate to intrude on the cuddle fest, Josh needs to get meds and bandages changed, and we need breakfast."

Josh whined, why did Ian have to bring him back to the real world? He did not want to be in the real world right now. The boy was just starting to feel the edges of his mind become blissfully fuzzy, and he was trying not to fight his little space. He was trying just to let go. But some habits were hard so break.

"C'mon, Josh. You're okay," Matt said. They were lucky that Ian had the forethought of bringing the first aid kit and the cold and flu medicine from the bus.

After Josh took medicine with little help from Matt Mike said, "come here, Josh."

Josh whimpered a little when Mike took off the bandages, it did not hurt that much, but it was enough. Mike apologized and quickly cleaned and rewrapped his hands.

"There we go, Kid," Mike said, patting Josh's shoulder.

While that was going down, Ian ordered room service for them. Josh would not feel like going out and facing the world, Ian knew. Poor kid had been through so much in the past not even forty-eight hours, not to mention the past two years. Life needed to cut Josh a break. But Ian did not foresee that happening.

About fifteen minutes later, they where all set up to eat. Mike and Ian were sitting at the desk, facing each other. Josh took the fake flower from the bedside table and set in between the men. Made it more romantic, the kid said.

The men chuckled, "go eat, Bud," Ian ordered, pointing to the table that Matt was setting at and had Josh's food set up for him.

Josh giggled, going to sit right next to Matt at the small, round table adjacent to the desk. They sat so that they would be able to see and talk to Mike and Ian if they so choose.

Josh went to pick up his fork so that he could do what he was told, but before he could, Matt snatched his fork away.

"Hey," Josh complained, "give it back or 'll steal yours," Josh would have never talked to Daddy that way, Daddy would have punished him for back talking. What Daddy wanted Daddy did, and there was nothing Josh could do or say about it. But these were his friends; they teased each other all the time. So it was okay, right?

Josh made a move to get his fork back, but Matt grabbed his wrist, being mindful of the bandages on his hand. Josh looked at Matt, fear in his eyes. Don't hit me, Josh begged in his mind.

But Matt did not hit Josh, he stabbed the fork into Josh's eggs and held the food to the kid's mouth. Josh let his mouth fall open, and Matt fed him the eggs and Matt let go of his wrist.

Josh chewed and swallowed slowly, "C-can I have my fork back, please, Matty?" Josh asked in a hushed tone as if afraid to speak too loud.

"Let me feed you, Baby," Matt said, already going to pick up some more food for the boy.

Josh let him.

When Matt finished feeding Josh, the baby was fully in little headspace. Josh watched as the men gathered up the dirty plates for the maid to pick up later. He remained at the table. Waiting for Mike, Matt, or Ian to say what they were going to do that day. If Josh had his way, they would spend the day off they had before one of the last concerts around the hotel. Maybe the bus. He just wanted to rest and be around his friends.

"Come here, Joshy," Matt said when he noticed the baby had not made a move to get up from the table.

Josh listened and walked over to were Matt was sitting on the bed. He looked down at Matt with questioning eyes and thumb in his mouth.

Matt laid down and motioned for Josh to lay down too. Josh happily obeyed curling up into the man's side. Resting his head on Matt's chest so that he could hear his heartbeat. Matt handed the baby his teddy bear and Josh held the toy close to his chest.

"I think we should just chill today," Matt said, running his hand through the baby's hair.

Someone turned on the T.V. and turned it on a children's show that not even Josh recognized. Matt smiled when Josh became absorbed in the show only gathering up enough awareness every once and a while to suck on his thumb.

Ian and Mike sat on the same bed that the others were laying down on. Ian rested his legs across Matt's, ignoring the man's protest and smiling at the baby's giggles, and he pulled out his phone to look up stuff for Josh.

"Start with clothes," Mike whispered so that Josh could not hear it.

Ian smiled and nodded. He looked up 'Adult onesie," he eventually came across a website that seemed to specialize in adult baby supplies. Ian looked up reviews for the website, not wanting to get scammed. All he saw was good reviews.

"Find anything?" Mike asked. Ian showed Mike his phone.

"I like the dinosaur one," Mike told him tapping on the image to show Ian the onesie. It had a Raptor, Triceratops, Stegosaurus, Brachiosaurus, and Pterodactyl that where vibrant blue, orange, yellow, and green with a white background and baby blue trim. Ian took a second to imagine the baby in the onesie, then put in in the cart.

He showed Matt, "cute," the younger man smiled.

He then looked at plain onesies.

"We should get him the pink one," Mike announced.

"I think he would kill us," Matt disagreed.

"He'd still wear it," Ian said.

Ian chuckled as the two continued to argue in a whispered voices as to not let Josh hear them. They wanted to surprise him.

Josh hated yellow, and Ian did not want to get him a dark color like the grey and black, and he knew that Josh would not want to wear pink or white. That left baby blue, mint, purple, and red. Ian considered it. He would go with red, one of the baby's favorite colors.

He went to the pacifier tap of the site. There was four per set but in all the color combinations there was at least one color the baby would not like. Aside from the combination of baby blue, navy, red, and green.

He let Mike and Matt look at his phone to see what he was going to get.

"I'll look at bottles and diapers," Mike told him.

Ian continued to look at clothing on the site, and Matt said that he would look at things later, Josh was too close to him and it would be easier for the baby to see what he was up to on his phone.

Mike went to the same website Ian was on. He found a bottle that would match Josh's dinosaur onesie and also a few plain ones that come in a pack. Before the man could worry about diapers, Josh noticed that they were all on their phones aside from Matt.

What were they up to? The baby wanted to know, so he asked, "what'cha doin', Cassie?"

Apparently, that was going to be a thing. Ian shook his head as he responded "Nothing, Buddy," still looking at his phone he was trying to decide between a cotton sleeper with sleepy moons stars on it and a fuzzy sleeper with little brown bears and a bear hood. He might just say screw it and buy both or ask Matt to buy one of them. He would probably ask him to buy the bear one. It was more expensive, but Matt did not have to know that.

He showed Mike the sleepers, and they whispered back and forth like a couple of teenage girls. Josh pouted when Ian showed Matt, but not him. That was not fair. Josh wanted to know what the men were talking about.

"I wanna see," Josh complained.

"It's nothing, Baby Boy," Matt said at the same time that Mike said that is was a surprise.

It couldn't be nothing and a surprise at the same time, Josh thought, the men were trying to hide something from him. Josh wanted to know what. It wasn't fair that his friends got to know, but not him.

Josh reached over to try and grab Ian's phone, but before he could, Ian said, "Joshua Ramsay," in a scolding voice. Josh recoiled as if he was hit. He pouted up at the man, the man in response looked back at the baby with a raised eyebrow, as if daring him to try it again.

Josh broke eye contact with the man with at muttered "meanie," he lied back down on Matt's chest and cuddled his bear closer to him. He knew that he could try and throw a fit, but every time he threw a fit with Daddy, Daddy hurt him in some way, rather be a beating or locking him in a room until his voice was raw from begging to be let out. "Please, Daddy, please. I be good boy. Please let me out, please."

Ian rolled his eyes, they would have to set up rules once they got back home.

...

The next day Josh was on stage, charming the audience. He had been completely big that day, giving Matt an opportunity to look around on the site Mike and Ian were looking around on yesterday. They asked Josh a little more about little space, he had been surprisingly open, which led him to tell them that he was forced to leave almost all his little gear, as he called it, at Branden's house. Josh had tried not to show how much this fact bothered him, but his friends knew. Josh tended to get attached to objects (Teddy, all of his instruments), and they assumed that the habit would only magnify in little space. Not to mention it took Josh five years to collect all of his little gear, and he was extremely proud of himself for being able to save up enough to buy the things that he had. Little gear was not cheap, as they now all knew. Mike, Matt, and Ian told the man that they would help him build back up the things he had. "You don't have to," Josh had protested. Man, would he be surprised, Ian thought.

They had all went a little overboard with the amount of stuff they bought Josh, especially when they heard that he had nothing now that he broke it off with Branden.

Ian was brought back to the present when Josh said, in a slightly disbelieving tone, "did you just say step on me?" he asked a girl (Ian assumed it was a girl). "I'm not usually one to kink shame, but how about no!"

"It's like the time someone gave you that doll," Mike said with a laugh.

Josh looked at Mike with fear in his eyes, he was forever despaired by that doll.

"Oh, no," Josh responded, but he had to fill time for whatever tech issue was going on, so he said, "do you guys wanna hear a creepy story?"

The crowd cheered.

"Okay," Josh breathed, trying to get the fear that caused his voice to go up a few octaves out, but nothing ever helped when he told this story, "so we were performing at a venue about a year ago," he pointed at Mike to ask him what it was called. The man had an almost scary memory when it came to where they performed. Mike gave the name of the place, "yeah, anyway, there was this girl... w-who, umm, she gave me this doll of me, that looked strangely like a voodoo doll" Josh paced around the stage, looking at the audience.

"That she had cut her own hair, dyed it blue, and glued it onto the doll," Josh went still then, he was standing in front and to the left of Matt, he looked straight ahead as he said, "darling if you are here, thanks for the doll. I-I don't need any more dolls."

"He already has a teddy bear," Matt said.

Josh pointed to the younger man as he walked back over to the mic stand, "shut up, you're not allowed to talk during performances" Josh told him.

"I'm really not," Matt said, sarcastically, bowing his head.

"That story in no way leads me to this next song," he said completely ignoring Matt.

Josh's singing was a little rough from still being sick, but the concert was still amazing and ended with Josh singing a solo "sensitive ballet" as he liked to call them, and he invited the fans to a slightly impromptu meet and greet that Josh had a habit to do at smaller concerts like this one. The only reason it was not completely impromptu was that his band and the crew knew of the habit, so they already had a spot picked out and set up outside. They were going to start charging Josh for the impromptu meet and greets, they all swore at one point.

It was nice to meet the fans, take pictures (Josh was in a phase where he was sticking out his tongue out in all the fan pictures. He said next tour he was going to glare at Ian in all the pictures).

A very nervous looking teenage girl came up to Josh and asked him to write two lyrics from "Lover Dearest" on her arm. She wanted to get a tattoo of them because she said that the song was currently helping her with her own drug addiction.

Josh smiled at the girl, tears in his eyes and said, "are you sure, my handwriting is horrible."

"Yeah, I'm sure," the girl said with a teary chuckle.

"Okay, what lyrics do you want?" he asked taking the non-toxic marker from her. He wrote, "My tongue's turning black, but I'll take you back.
You're still the best more or less, I guess," on her right forearm and, "Sometimes I think that the bitter in you, and the quitter in me, is bigger than the both of us," on the left, upon the girl's request.

They took a photo, in which Josh actually smiled, and he hugged the girl.

"Get better," he told her. She nodded as she walked off with tears in her eyes.

Josh had tears in his own eyes, but he wiped them away before they could fall. He walked back toward his band thinking about how amazing it was to know that his songs were helping another teenager with their own addiction.

His thoughts were shattered when he heard a painfully familiar voice shout, "Josh!"

Josh tensed, unable to breathe. This was not happening. This was not happening. His worst fear was not coming true. No, no. He was going crazy. He was just hearing things. Yeah, that was it. He was hearing things.

His band looked over to Josh, hearing someone calling his name. When they saw who it was anger burned deep within them, they tried to run over to where Josh was, security doing the same, but not before Branden slapped Josh across the face with enough force to send him to the ground.

Josh felt himself being picked back up by forceful hands. He cowered, even though Branden was the same hight as Josh, the man seemed to tower over the boy.

"No!" Josh shouted, causing more people to look at them.

"Shut up!" Branden shouted, anger seething in his tone.

"Let me go!" Josh shouted back, struggling against the muscular man with all his might.

"You've been a very bad boy," Branden whispered in his ear, causing Josh to still. "Daddy has to punish his bad boy."

"No," Josh sobbed brokenly. He felt his mental age plummet. He didn't want Daddy to punish him. He had not done anything wrong.

You left him, the voice said. You left Daddy. Now Daddy's coming to take what was his. And he is going to punish you for being a bad boy.

NO! Josh wanted Matty, Mikey, and Cassie. Where were they? He wanted them, not Daddy.

The band finally got over to Josh. They ripped Branden away. There was shouting, a lot of shouting and it scared Josh. Josh had to get away from the scary yelling. He took off in a random direction before anyone else noticed.

"Where's Josh?" Mike asked, panic in his voice. Security had shown up and was dealing with Branden. They were going to turn him over to the police. With all the video recording going on, he would at least be charged with assault. Although they said that they would have to stay over to talk to the police.

"I don't know, he was just here," Matt responded, he ran his fingers through his hair, not unlike a stressed parent.

"Uhh," the teenage girl that Josh was talking to earlier approached the men, "Josh went that way," she pointed to the direction that she saw Josh head.

"Thank you," Matt said.

"I'll stay here," Mike offered, "you guys go find 'em."

"Yeah, let's go," Ian said, hitting Matt's shoulder.

They headed off in the way the girl pointed.

It was not long before they reached a point where Josh could have gone one of two ways. The men stopped to catch their breath.

"Which way did he go?" Matt asked as he pushed his hair back to were it was before it fell into his eyes.

"I don't know," Ian said, shaking his head, why did Josh runoff in the first place. Sure he was scared, but he had to know that they had the situation taken care of, right. Josh had to know that they would not let the monster hurt him anymore. Ian could not help but think that they failed on that front. How did they not notice that Branden was there? How did security not notice? Ian shook his head. He did not need to be thinking like that. He needed to find Josh.

"We need to split up. Do you have your phone?" Ian asked Matt nodded.

Ian ran left, "Josh!" he shouted, hoping to get the kid's attention.

"C'mon, kid, where are you," he whispered to himself. He tried to keep the panic out of his voice. It was not working. Josh was just a baby. Ian had seen his eyes after he was hit. They held the same childlike spark that they held both times he had been little around him. The only difference was the fear in those blue orbs. Fear that should not have been there.

Ian was going to kill Branden.

"Josh!" Ian yelled one more time, ignoring the weird looks he got. He needed to find Josh.

Ian suddenly heard a sob. It was coming from an alley. When Ian walked into the alley the sight that met him broke his heart. Josh was curled into himself with his knees to his chest, he had his arms wrapped around his knees and was rocking back and forth as if trying to comfort himself. Josh was sobbing into his knees, sobs racking his entire frame.

Ian crouched down next to Josh and put his hands on his shoulders so that he could pull the baby into a hug. But when Ian touched Josh, the baby shirked and begged, "no Daddy, I sowwy. I be good. No huwt, plea," Josh tried to pull back, but Ian held frim. Ian pulled the sobbing bundle to his chest.

"Buddy, it's Cassie," Ian reassured, "Bran- Daddy's not here, Buddy. He can't hurt you. I won't let him."

Josh recognized Cassie's voice, "Cassie, Cassie," Josh cried into the man's chest, curling around him the best he could.

"Yeah, Buddy, Cassie," Ian responded, relief washed over him. He had Josh. "Oh, Joshy. You scared us so much. Why did you run off?"

Josh whimpered, he had not meant to scare anyone, especially not his friends. Josh was just so scared himself that he had to get away, so he ran. When the baby had realized that he had run too far and he did not know where his friends were, he started sobbing hard than he already had been. He hid in the alleyway hoping that his friends would find him before Daddy.

"I sowwy Cassie," Josh sniffled "I no mean it. I scawed. I sowwy, I sowwy."

"I know, Joshy. Shh, shh," Ian said, trying to comfort the baby to the best of his ability.

"Just, new rule, Joshy- when you are scared you find Matty, Mikey, or me. You are not to run away like tonight, understand."

"Yeah, Cassie. I sowwy," Josh agreed, trying to make Cassie happy.

"It's okay, Buddy."

Ian pulled out his phone and sent a quick text to Matt and Mike that he found Josh and he was going to take him back to the bus. They needed to be on the road tonight to make it to the interview the next morning, after that, they had one more concert then the tour was over. Ian had never been more happy to see a tour end in his life.

"C'mon, Buddy," Ian said patting the baby's back, "we need to get back to the bus." Mike and Matt said that they would meet him there.

"K," Josh replied in a whispered voice. With a lot of help from Ian, Josh was able to stand, but his legs were staking too much for him to walk.

Josh leaned heavily on Ian for support, but that make walking nearly impossible for the man, Josh was too tall for him to help walk by himself. He knew for a fact that he could pick Josh up, he had done it on a few occasions. The man had squirmed so much, yelling at Ian to let him go, but the boy ultimately laughed, and Ian would have to put him down because he was moving too much.

"C'mon, Buddy," Ian said as he lifted Josh up on his hip. The baby let out a squeak in surprise, not used to being picked up by anyone. The baby wrapped his legs around Ian's waist and arms around his shoulders. Josh rested his head on Ian's shoulder.

It was not long before Ian knocked on the bus door, not able to open in because of Josh lightly dozing on his hip.

Matt opened the door, looking not unlike a concerned mother when he saw Josh. Josh had his eyes closed, but Matt could tell that the baby had been crying. He eyes were so red and puffy. His nose was red, and he had tears and snot all over his face.

As Ian sat down with the boy, Matt went to go get a cloth to clean Josh's face with. By the time Matt came back, Josh was straddling Ian's lap with his head on Ian's chest. The baby had his teddy bear clutched to his chest, and his thumb was in his mouth.

As Matt cleaned Josh's face, Ian asked what happened with Branden.

"He's gone," Mike reassured, "he's in jail."

Chapter Text

Branden might be gone. He might be in jail. But his memory still lingered.

...

Josh was at Branden's home. He was sprawled out on the couch with his teddy bear to his chest and thumb in his mouth, trying to take a nap. The most recent album had been stressing him out. But it was almost done. They just had a few minor changes to make. Then, they would have to promo the album. Josh already had a few funny ideas about how to do that. One of them involved him making fun of Ian. Josh smiled at that idea. He loved picking on his friends. But they, unfortunately, liked to pick on him as well. There was constant banter going around the band, not that anyone's feelings ever got hurt. Josh loved that. It made him forget about Branden for a while.

Josh lived in fear that he would upset Branden. Break one of his rules. He never meant to break the rules. He tried to be a good boy. He wanted to be a good boy. To please Branden. But that was hard to do sometimes when the rules always seemed to change.

He heard the door open. Branden was home. Maybe if he pretended he was asleep, Branden would not notice him. Josh knew that he was being ridiculous. He had not even done anything wrong that day. Josh had been at the studio, and he answered all of Branden's calls and texts. Everything. He'd been a good boy.

Branden seemed to think that he had been a good boy too. When he passed the couch, he smiled down at the baby. He ran his hand through the boy's hair gently before going to the kitchen.

Josh smiled but felt tears enter his eyes. Why couldn't Daddy always be like that? Why did Daddy have to be angry sometimes? Why did Daddy have to hurt him? He snuggled deeper into his teddy bear and tried not to think about that.

Josh was brought out of his sleep by someone shouting his name.

"Wha'," the baby asked. He now had a pacifier in his mouth, he had a footie sleeper on, and Josh could feel a diaper as he sat up. Had Daddy changed him? Josh thought, confused. When he fell asleep, he was in his big boy clothes. Josh yawned and rubbed his eyes. He was still sleepy. What had woken him up?

"Josh!" Daddy shouted. He sounded mad.

Josh whimpered. What did he do? The baby could not remember doing anything wrong. Josh curled in on himself clenching his Teddy, trying to make himself as small as possible.

"Josh! Get over here!"

Josh obeyed as fast as his shaking legs would allow.

As soon as he made it over to Daddy, he grabbed the baby's hair making it impossible for the baby to move.

"You've been a bad boy!" Daddy yelled in his face.

"Wha'," Josh whimpered, and he sucked on his pacifier, trying to comfort himself. He did not know what he did. His lower lip quivered and tears clouded his vision. Daddy pulled his hair.

"Don't talk back," Daddy growled.

"I-I sowwy, 'addy," Josh whimpered. Curling up as much as Daddy's hand in his hair would allow. He did not know what he was apologizing for, but maybe Daddy would take it easy on him if he said sorry.

Daddy pushed him to the ground, hard. Josh landed on his side. All the breath was knocked out of him. The baby gasped and whimpered, curling up into a tight ball. He peered up at Daddy. Daddy was pulling off his belt.

Josh felt his breathing pick up. "No, Daddy! I sowwy," Josh sobbed. He did not want the belt. He didn't know what he did. What did he do? The baby scooted until his back was against the wall.

"Josh!" Branden yelled.

Josh cried, "No, no. No belt. Plea', Daddy," Josh cowered against the wall. The baby covered his head so that Daddy did not hit it. His head already hurt from Daddy pulling his hair.

Without warning, Josh felt the belt hit his back. It stung, bad. Josh gasped. Daddy hit him again, and again. Josh sobbed. It hurt!

"Sowwy," the baby whimpered. He wanted Daddy to stop it. Daddy, please. His back hurt. Josh could feel welts form on his back already. Josh tried to squirm away from his Daddy. If he could talk, he would have begged Daddy to stop. But his throat was too tight. Josh cried when Daddy pulled him back.

Daddy pulled Josh up. Daddy was breathing heavily and squeezed the baby's shoulders. That would leave bruises. Josh whimpered. He hoped Daddy was done. Daddy would cuddle him. Daddy would tell him that Daddy did not want to do it. But he needed to teach Josh to be good.

But Daddy was not done. He pulled Josh down the hall. No, no. Josh did not want to go into the room. The baby's tummy hurt, and his chest tightened.

"I sowwy, Daddy. No dawk, no dawk," Josh was terrified of the dark. He didn't want it.

Daddy threw the baby into the room and closed the door.

Josh landed on his back. Pain shot up his back. Josh sobbed and rolled over on his side he curled up and closed his eyes. Even if he opened his eyes, he would not be able to see anything. His diaper was all wet. He did not remember wetting it.

Josh sobbed. He did not want to be alone. He did not want to be in a dark room. Josh sucked on his pacifier. The baby would have clench his Teddy if he had him. But the baby left him in the living room. Josh wanted his teddy bear.

"'addy, 'addy. I sowwy, 'addy," Josh whimpered "plea' let me out."

"Hey, Buddy," he heard someone's voice. Josh whimpered and curled up more.

"It's time to wake up, Kiddo."

"Baby Boy, wake up."

Wake up? He was not sleepin'. He wished he was sleepin'. Then he would be able to get out of the room.

...

Ian was laying down on his side with Josh on his chest. He was holding on to the baby in his sleep. Matt was laying next to him, legs dangling off the side of the couch. Mike was sprawled out on the other couch.

Josh suddenly whimpered and tensed. "Naw, Daddy."

Josh squirmed, trying to get away from his nightmare. The baby's breathing picked up, and he started thrashing violently against Ian, immediately waking up the man.

"Josh?" Ian asked in a rough voice. He sat up in what little space he had.

The baby only whimpered and thrashed more. He started sobbing. It became obvious to Ian what was happening then, a nightmare.

Ian grabbed Josh, trying to prevent the baby from falling off the couch. Josh whined and tried to roll away from the hands holding him.

"Hey, Buddy wake up" Ian shook Josh. The baby only sobbed harder.

"What happened?" Matt was now setting up, having been woke up by the baby crying.

"He's having a nightmare," Ian said, concern in his tone.

"C'mon, Baby," Matt said, setting down on the floor next to the baby, "wake up, Baby Boy."

Josh stilled but did not wake up. Ian felt himself stop breathing.

"Hey Buddy," Ian whispered, rubbing his shoulder.

"It's time to wake up, Kiddo," Mike said, seeming to appear out of nowhere.

Josh whimpered and squirmed closer to his friends.

"Baby Boy, wake up," hoping that the baby would finally wake up. He ran his fingers through the baby's hair.

Josh opened his eyes and sat up. Eyes full of terror.

"Hey, Baby," Matt whispered, trying not to scare the baby more. He rubbed Josh's back.

Tears entered the baby's eyes. He held his arms out, wanting someone to hold him and chase away the remainder of the nightmare.

He was still scared. He knew that Daddy was not really here. Josh was with his friends. They would never hurt him. They would protect him. Josh knew that.

Ian pulled the baby into his arms, "everything's okay, Buddy."

Josh started to sob again, "didn' want it," Josh hiccupped.

"Didn't want what Baby?" Matt asked, sitting back up on the couch and rubbing his back.

"Daddy huwt," Josh cried, "didn' want huwt."

"Daddy's not here, Kiddo," Mike reassured the baby.

Ian rocked the baby from side to side, "don't think about him, okay Bud. Let's go back to sleep."

Josh soon fell back asleep. His friends sighed in relief, hoping that the nightmares for the night were done.

...

Josh was not in a good mood. He was in between headspaces, and he desperately wanted to be little. But they had an interview and a concert today, and he had no choice but to pretend at least to be big.

"Don't want to Matty," he complained to his best friend, crossing his arms with a pout. Wishing that Matt could get him out of this situation, the logical part of his brain knew that Matt could not.

"I know, Josh," Matt said walking up to the man, trying not to look at his cut lip and bruised cheek. He pushed Josh's hands away from his chest so that he could fix the boy's tie. "I'm sorry, but we have to. After the concert, you can be as little as you want, okay," Matt fixed the boy's hair, knowing he will annoy Josh. While Josh liked to have his hair played with while he was being comforted or trying to go to sleep, he hated other people messing up his hair or trying to fix it when he had to go somewhere.

"No Matty," Josh whined, pushing the man's hand away. He turned back to the mirror to fix his hair again. It was fine before Matty messed with it. He swiped his bangs to the right. There, that was better.

"Are you ready, boys?" someone walked into the room that Matt and Josh were sent to, to get ready for the interview.

"Yeah," Matt said, "c'mon, Josh your hair is fine," Matt physically pulled Josh away from the mirror and dragged him out of the room. Josh grumbled something under his breath. He fixed his jacket, glaring at the back of Matt's head.

They went to go set and wait for the interviewer. Ian was in between Josh and Mike, and they left a space for the interviewer and Matt was at the far end of the couch.

Josh bounced his leg, impatiently, he did not want to be here. He did not want to wait for anyone. The faster they got this interview over, the faster they could get to the venue and do the concert that started at seven thirty and ended at nine. And the faster he could be little. Josh sighed, he just wanted to be little.

The interviewer finally came out. She was a very pretty young woman, probably the same age as Matt. She had curly, brunette hair and bright green eyes. She smiled at the band but had a slightly concerned look when she saw Josh.

"I'm Megen," she introduced herself, shaking hands with all of them.

The interview was going good; even Josh had to admit. While he was quieter than usual, he liked this interviewer. She was trying to have a conversation with them. She was not just reading from a piece of paper.

"The last question, Josh I hate to ask but where did you get the bruise?"

Josh tensed, he suddenly did not like the interviewer that much anymore. He knew for a fact that people where recording and there was almost no way the someone did not upload it. She had to have seen the video.

"I-I don't wanna talk about it," Josh mumbled.

"Let's just say that it has nothing to do with any inband fighting," Ian backed Josh up, not liking the interviewer very much either.

After the interview, Josh almost ran away to the bus but remembered what Ian told him last night. He stayed next to his band, mind running a mile a minute.

Would people keep asking, probably? Would they keep asking about the video? Was there even a video? If there was, was it close enough for the audio to pick up on what Branden said to him? There would be questions about that. Why did he call himself Daddy? Why did he threaten to punish Josh? How would he answer that? No one but his friends and family knew that he was dating Branden. No one but them knew that he was gay. Everyone assumed that he was straight. How would the media react to it?

Tears entered his eyes as he entered the tour bus. He wiped them away angerly. He was tired of crying. That's all he had been doing for the past few days. He needed to be a big boy and deal with the world. Deal with the questions that people will ask him because of Branden.

Josh ran into his bunk, completely ignoring the calls of his friends. He did not want to talk to them. Josh wanted to be alone right now. He curled up in his bunk. His breathing picked up, not from panic this time, but from anger. Why did Branden have to ruin his life? He already practically stole two years of his personal life. Now Branden was invading both his personal and professional life. He was ruining Josh's entire life, and there was nothing he could do to stop it. Angry tears came to Josh's eyes. When Branden got out of jail, he would continue to stalk and harass him. He was so scared to get another phone. Branden would find his phone number, and the calls would start again. Branden would continue to threaten Josh about the photos. Branden is so mad that he was probably going to release the pictures now. Josh hit the top of his bunk. His hands were still hurting a little from cutting them, but they were not wrapped anymore. He hit it again, trying to release some of his anger, but it was not working.

Josh let out a scream, sobbing, and hitting the wall. He heard a crack. Josh felt excruciating pain that started in his hand and traveled up his arm. Josh gasped, and more tears flowed to his eyes, this time from the pain.

"Josh, what was that?" Ian asked.

"N-Nothing!" Josh lied.

It was something, and he knew it. He should tell his friends that he hurt his hand again, they had patched him up last time. But Josh could not help but be embarrassed. He had just thrown a temper tantrum and hurt himself because of it.

He had not meant to hurt himself, but still.

"Josh," Ian knew that Josh was lying to him, "Come on Josh," Ian pulled the curtain on Josh's bunk.

Josh sat up and looked toward at Ian, but he would not make eye contact with Ian. He held his hurt hand to his chest.

"Let me see your hand, man," Ian said holding out his own hand.

"You could buy me dinner first," Josh said in an attempt to be funny. Ian raised an eyebrow at him.

"I'll buy you dinner later. Give me your hand," Ian was going to regret saying that later. Josh may have a bad memory for most things (the lyrics to his own goddamn songs), but when someone promised him something, like food, he remembered it and would guilt you until you broke and fulfilled your promise.

Josh squirmed but held out his hand he hurt.

Ian gently took the younger man's hand and noticed that it was red and swollen. He squeezed lightly, and Josh whimpered.

"Squeeze my hand," Ian ordered. Josh tried to squeeze Ian's hand, but he could not without excruciating pain shooting up his hand.

Ian sighed, "C'mon, Bud," Ian walked to the front of the bus, not looking back to make sure that Josh was following.

"We need to go to the hospital," Ian said.

Matt and Mike sent a concerned look to Ian and Josh.

"Hurt my hand," he mumbled eyes glued to the ground.

...

The doctor said that he fractured his hand. The doctor had set and wrapped his hand and put a splint on it, saying that he did not need a cast. They were waiting for discharge papers.

"Sorry," Josh muttered under his breath, looking at anything but his friends.

"It's okay, Buddy."

"B-But," Josh tried to protest but could not think of the words to say. He played with his hoodie string with his hand that did not hurt. He refused to take pain meds yet, he still had a concert to perform, and he did not need to be loopy for that. No matter how funny it might be for his friends.

"What is it, Kid," Mike asked gently as to not stop the boy from talking. He had a habit of doing that when he was trying to express his emotions verbally.

"I-I threw a tantrum," Josh stammered, "'nd hurt myself."

Matt came to sit next to the boy, while none of them were happy with the boy right now, they knew that he did not mean it. Matt understood his anger, and he is surprised that Josh did not throw a temper tantrum earlier.

"Everything's okay, Joshy," Matt tried to reassure the boy. He wrapped his arm around his boy.

"N-No punishment," Josh curled into himself. He had not meant for that to slip out of his mouth.

Ian sighed. He knew what Josh thought when he said punishment, and it was not him sitting in a corner for a few minutes, then have a firm talking to. Josh would not be so scared of that. Not that Ian thought that he even deserved that punishment, he had enough today, enough these past few months. But he also knew that if Josh continued to throw temper tantrums, they would have to punish him. Not now, though.

"No, Baby," Matt said, pulling the boy to his side.

Josh sighed in relief relaxing into the younger man's side.

The doctor came back into the room.

"Okay, Mr. Ramsay, as soon as you sign that you are free to go," he handed the discharge papers to Josh and the boy struggled to sign it with his left hand.

"Don't forget if your hands get too cold, or you experience stiffness go to your regular doctor," Josh nodded.

Now they had to rush to make it to the event on time.

...

How Josh was able to put on a mask on stage was amazing yet concerning for Matt, Mike, and Ian because they had all seen the mask before off stage.

"One of my favorite things to do to, ya know, freak people out is something I dubbed the air french kiss," Josh gave an example of the air french kiss. The crowd screamed.

"Didn't you do that to an old man when you walked out of an elevator?" Mike asked, laughing at the memory of Josh coming into the hotel room that they were staying in that night, giggling like a psychopath.

"Yeah," Josh said, after thinking about it for a second.

"Well, this guy, he came into the elevator and looked at me like he'd seen a ghost. And I get it, I'm extremely pale. I do not go outside," Josh began, "then he shook his head, and I could practically hear him say," here Josh looked down at the ground, shook his head, and said in his best 'grandpa' voice, "kids these days," he switched back to his normal voice, "which I also understand. I'm like thirty meters tall, and I look like a depressed emo boy."

"Which at one point you were," Mike announced.

"True, but that's controlled by meds," Josh seemed to realize what he said then backtracked with a, "not anymore," to the audience, "I feel like I have to say that, not anymore," Josh chuckled awkwardly and continued, "anyway back to the grandpa. So, I was leaning back against the wall, once again depressed emo boy, hoping against all hope that I would exit before him so I could do something. And I did a little cheer in my head when he pressed, uh, six I think, and I needed to get off at like, four or five or something like that. Anyway not important, so throughout this whole elevator ride the grandpa was staring at me but was trying to make it look like he was not looking at me. Like he was giving me the side eye, looking me up and down," he gave an example of what that looked like.

"And I was like, am I that weird looking."

"Yes," Mike answered the rhetorical question.

"Shut up," Josh demanded, "or is he like judging me think in his head like, 'I would never let my grandson dress like that.'

"Then when I got off, right before the doors closed I gave him the air french kiss. And his reaction was the best thing I have ever seen in my life," Josh tried to hold back laughter as he told the next part, "his eyes got all wide in horror, and he pushed himself against the wall." Josh pretended to fall against an imaginary wall, eyes wide in mock horror, "like that, like he was trying to dodge the air french kiss. That's why I came into the room laughing like a crazy person."

"Because you get joy scarring an old man for the rest of his short life?" Matt asked, sarcastically.

"Wow, Matty. You've been breaking a lot of rules. We need to talk."

"That sounds like projection."

"No," Josh shook his head, "anyway let's get on to the next song, Celebrity Status," he said the name of the song in his rock star voice.

...

After the concert, the friends went on the bus and Josh could feel his mental age start to go down, and the thing that became apparent to him was the pain in his hand. The adrenaline from the concert dulled his pain to a manageable level. But now it hurt with all the adrenaline gone. A lot.

Josh whimpered and cradled his hand to his chest. It hurt. He wanted the hurt to go away.

"C'mere, Kiddo," Mike said. He had two of the pain meds the doctor prescribed Josh one hand and a bottle of water in the other. He helped the baby take the medicine by dropping them into his mouth and helping the baby take a few drinks of water.

"Let's go to sleep, Baby Boy," Matt said. He was already sitting on the couch. Matt was starting to forget what his bunk felt like, not that he was complaining. The baby walked over to Matt and laid his head in the man's lap. He closed his eyes. The pain medicine was already making him feel more relaxed, he was not one hundred percent sure what he was prescribed, but he did not care at this current moment. He was sleepy, and his pain was melting away. He snuggled into Matty's leg, he put he thumb from his uninjured hand in his mouth. He wondered where Teddy was. Josh remembered bringing him back down from the hotel, but now the baby did not know where he was. Josh did not have to wonder for long where his Teddy was as he felt someone brush his soft fur against his arm. He reached out and tried to grab his Teddy with his hurt hand, that did not hurt too much anymore, but whoever it was put Teddy against his chest. Josh hummed and held the bear. He felt someone's hand in his hair. He liked that. The baby sighed, content.

"Go to sleep, Baby."

Yeah, he should go to sleep.

Chapter Text

Josh wished that he could sleep right now, but there was too much activity going on around him. He was laying on the couch at the designated "band house" where all of the men lived when they were not on tour. Josh moved out when he got into the relationship with Branden. Branden said that he did not want Josh to live around so many men, it made him jealous. That should have been a red flag to him, but Josh was too in love to see it.

His mom and older sister were visiting right now. He has some more of the pain medicine in him, and it made him feel sleepy and out of it. Matt was playing the piano and purposely messing up cords just to get a reaction out of Josh.

"You know if you stopped getting all mad, he'd probably quit," his mother told him, fixing the comforter Josh was covered up in so that it covered her boy's arms. She sat next to him, placing her hand on his stomach.

"No he won't," Josh argued.

Matt then played the G7 chord, mixing the B with a B flat. "Matty, stop it!" Josh demanded, glaring at the back the younger man's head. He could practically see Matt's smirk. His bandmates and sister laughed at him.

Trying to calm her son down, Josh's mom asked, "what's he doing wrong, Josh?"

"Supposed to be a B, notta B flat. That's notta chord," Josh explained looking up at his mom, rubbing his eyes. He was sleepy.

"So, then we have Josh and his mother over here," Mike said, video camera out and recording.

"What are you doin'?" Josh asked, covering his face.

"I'm making a post-tour video," Mike replied.

Josh looked up at the older man, confused, "we don't do that."

"We do now," Mike said, turning the camera on Matt just as he played the B flat six chord, playing a B instead of a B flat.

"Matt!" Josh yelled, throwing his teddy bear at him, nearly hitting Mike, who had to move out of the way, but he ended up hitting Matt in the back.

"And Matt is annoying Josh by playing wrong chords," Mike explained with a small giggle just as Sara told Matt that they were putting the piano away.

Matt listened to the older woman. He bounced up from the piano and grabbed Josh's Teddy from the ground and held it to his chest like he had seen Josh do many times before. He walked over to the couch slowly.

"Gimme him back," Josh demanded, holding out his uninjured hand, not caring how childish he sounded. He was not in little space at all, but the drugs were making him feel loopy and out of it.

"Aww, but he's so fluffy," Matt said.

"Don't care. Give 'im back," Josh said, then he added "please," for good measure.

"Since you asked so politely," Matt said, handing the older man the bear. The man held his teddy bear to his chest, looking at Matt like he was daring him to try and steal his Teddy again. All the while Mike was recording the scene between his friends.

Josh's mom laughed asking, "do you remember where you got this?"

Josh shook his head. He did not know. All he knew that he has had his teddy bear since he was three. That is why he is so attached to the little teddy bear. He has had it for so long.

"If you can't tell, Josh is on a lot of drugs right now," Mike said, camera pointed at Josh and his mom.

"Not on drugs," Josh protested, "used to be, not anymore,"

"Yeah, not anymore," Josh's mom whispered to him, stroking his cheek. Josh looked up at her with glassy eyes, smiling, and leaning into her touch.

"Okay, pain meds," Ian said, Mike turned the camera to Ian's smiling face, "a lot of pain meds," Ian chuckled, and Matt nodded in agreement.

"Why are you on so many pain meds, Josh?" Mike asked, turning the camera back to him.

"Oh, I want to hear this story," Sara said, sitting at the piano bench so no one could annoy her little brother by playing chords wrong. Josh's mother and sister had not been told how Josh fractured his hand, just that he had fractured his hand. She wanted to know how her brother had hurt himself.

"Hurt my hand, Sissy," Josh said, holding out his right hand that was still in a splint.

"How did you hurt your hand, Bro?" his sister asked.

"Got angry," Josh muttered, barely audible, "punch the wall in my bunk. I heard a crack. It Hurt. Ian, Mike, and Matt took me to the hospital. Still performed that night."

"You've been getting angry a lot," Josh's mother remarked, fixing her son's comforter once more, "you got angry and broke your phone then you got angry and hurt your hand," at this point, his friends and sister were chuckling at the soft scolding he was receiving from his mother, "do we need to talk about that?"

Josh shook his head, "no, Mamma."

"Okay," Josh's mom was not sure she should believe him but decided not to comment further. If she needed to bring it up again, she would when Josh was in his right mind and not on pain medicine.

Josh's head lowered as he closed his eyes, before snapping his head back up. He opened his eye rubbing them and yawning. He was sleepy.

"Okay, Josh let's lay back and sleep," his mother helped him lay further back against the pillows. She covered him back up and tucked him in. Josh snuggled against his blanket, with his teddy bear still held to his chest, reminding her of when Josh was a little boy. When his mom kissed Josh's forehead he sighed and closed his eyes; he soon fell asleep to her playing with his hair and singing softly in his ear.

"Aw," Matt cooed as Mike mouthed 'that's all folks' to the camera.

...

When Josh woke up, he was deep in little headspace. He hoped that his mama and sissy was not here. Josh did not feel like pretending to be a big boy right now. If he had to, he would. But he did not want to. He wanted to be little. He wanted Matty, Mikey, and Cassie. Where were they?

Josh opened his eyes and sat up. He felt a dull pain in his hand, but it was not that bad. He could ignore it for now. He needed to find his friends. Josh did not have to search around for long. He looked at the other couch, Cassie and Matty were sitting there watching a movie.

Matt saw that he was up. He noticed that the baby was just that, a baby. Josh had a childlike spark in his eyes, and he was chewing on his teddy's ear.

"Hey, Baby Boy," Matt said walking over to the baby. Matt ruffled the baby's hair saying, "did you have a nice nap?"

"Yeah," Josh answered quietly with a nod, leaning into the man's touch. Josh looked around again, "where Mikey?"

"He is cooking lunch, Bud," Ian told him.

"We trustin' 'im," Josh asked cocking his head to the right.

Ian tried his best to hold back laughter, failing as he said, "be nice, Buddy."

"Is twue," Josh argued. And it was, the older man did not know how to cook very well. The only thing that he knew how to cook was spaghetti and mac and cheese.

"I heard that!" Mike shouted from the kitchen, causing the baby to jump. After a second Josh giggled, he knew that Mikey was not mad at him. He was just joking. Like Josh was.

"If you're not nice, you won't get your surprise," Matt threatened.

"S'pwise?" Josh questioned. His eyebrows furled, head cocking to the other side, "what s'pwise?"

"You'll find out after lunch," Ian said.

Josh pouted. He wanted to know what the surprise was. That was not fair. Everyone knew, but he did not. Why did his friends like to do that?

"Don't pout," Ian said smiling, ruffling the baby's hair.

"Naw," Josh pushed Ian's hand away. He continued to pout, and he crossed his arms. His right over the left, so he did not hurt his hand anymore.

Ian smirked, he reached over and ruffled his hair again.

"Naw, Cassie!" Josh whined, he tried to move Ian's hand again, but the man was somehow able to get the baby into a soft headlock. He gave the baby a noogie.

The baby struggled against the man, holding his right hand out so that Ian did not hit it. The man was stronger than Josh. Ian held on lightly, not trying to hurt the baby. Just trying to get the baby to laugh. Josh was trying to hold back his laughter. But he giggled when Matt started to tickle his exposed tummy.

"Naw, naw, Matty," Josh giggled trying to squirm away from the men. Now Ian stopped messing with his hair. Ian tickled his left armpit, "naw ticka."

Josh continued to giggle and struggle. Tears of laughter streamed down the baby's cheeks.

Mike entered the room, "what's going on in here?" the man asked with his arms crossed. His stance made him look like he was mad, but the small smile tugging on his lips told the baby differently

"Mikey, Mikey help me," Josh giggled, "no mow, plea'."

"Okay, boys I think that's enough," Mike said, going over to rescue the baby.

Once Josh was free he stood up on slightly shaking legs, and hugged Mike.

"Fanks, Mikey," Josh said, still giggling a little.

Mike smiled, rubbing the baby's back, "it's lunchtime, Kiddo."

The men and the baby went to the kitchen. They told the baby to sit down at the table and sat his food down in front of him.

When Matt sat down next to him Josh asked, "Matty, c'n you feed me, plea'," in the sweetest voice that he could.

Matt smiled and said, "of course."

After the boys were done eating, Mike and Ian chuckled because of all the food on the baby's face, "okay, Matty's not allowed to feed Joshy mac and cheese anymore," Ian chuckled.

Ian went to wet a cloth and wiped the baby's face. Josh squirmed impatiently with a pout. He wanted his surprise.

"Pouty baby."

"S'pwise?" the baby asked, "plea'."

The men chuckled.

"Close your eyes, Baby Boy," Matt said. Josh sent Matt a questioning look but obeyed.

The men helped the baby stand and led him over to his old room. Before Mike opened the door, he said, "No peaking," when he saw the baby open one of his eyes. Josh closed his eye and covered them with his left hand, not wanting to move his right one as it was hurting a little more. Plus he had his Teddy in his right hand.

Josh heard someone open his door. Hurry, hurry Josh thought. He wanted to see his surprise. Josh bounced a little on his toes. He wanted to see.

"Okay, Baby open your eyes," Matt told him.

Josh opened his eyes and blinked when he saw his surprise on the floor. It was little gear, not his little gear. That was at his Daddy's house.

Josh looked at Matty, Mikey, and Cassie. Tears entered his eyes. It was too much. His friends did not have to do this.

"What's wrong Baby?" Matt asked, concern in his voice.

"I-It's too much. D-Didn't hafta," Josh said, chewing on his thumb.

"Josh, for the last time, anything that we do for you, we want to do," Ian said rubbing the baby's back.

A few tears escaped the baby's eyes he rubbed his eyes. He was not sad. He was just a little overwhelmed by his friends' show of kindness.

"C'mon, baby," Matt said, "let's look at your stuff."

There was a lot of stuff. Josh decided to focus on the clothes first. If he could not be a musician (or a charming homeless man), Josh would be a fashion designer. He loved clothes. He has a whole notebook full of fashion designs that not even his friends knew about. The only person who knew about it was his sister, and that is because she walked in on him drawing in it when he was a teenager. She promised not to tell anyone.

There where two plain onesies, one in red and one in pink (because Mike would). There were also some printed ones. He liked the one that was white and it looked like a vest was attached to it (because Matt would). But right now he wanted to wear the fuzzy sleeper with teddy bears on it. It would match his Teddy.

He picked up the sleeper. There were other items too. Toys, diapers, stuff for diaper changes, pacifiers, bottles, sippy cups, etc. but Josh could not fouse on those right now, maybe in a few minutes, but not right now. It was too much.

"C-c'n I wear it, plea'?" Josh asked.

"Of course you can Baby Boy."

Josh smiled up at Matt.

Chapter Text

Josh smiled over at Mike, but he felt anxiety in his chest and tummy. He did not know when the tension started in the past week that they had been home, but he understood why. He did not know what to do in little space. Matty, Mikey, and Cassie had never been over any rules with him (aside from what Cassie told him when he ran off after Daddy hit him at the concert). Josh did not have a bedtime, did not know if they wanted him to have a bedtime, he did not know if there were rules against hitting or yelling (even though he knew he should not). He did not know. The baby did not know what the punishments would be. That is what really made him scared. He wanted to know what the punishments would be. He was so afraid of them. Daddy's punishments were torturous. Just thinking of them made his chest contract. Deep within him, he knew that his friends would never ever hurt him, not like Daddy did. But it still scared him; Josh could not help it. He was scared. He did not want to be a bad boy, but he did not really know how to be a good boy.

Mike seemed to notice that the baby was spaced out and too quiet, and the man asked, "is everything okay, Kiddo?"

Josh started when he heard Mike's voice, "I fine, Mikey," the baby lied past his pacifier. He did not know how to bring up his anxiety. He was overreacting.

"Are you sure?" Mike asked, not believing the baby. He was too quiet to be okay.

Josh felt his eye twitch. He already said he was fine. He was fine. Why didn't Mikey believe him? "I fine," Josh said, more harshly than necessary.

Mike was slightly taken aback by the baby's tone but decided to ignore it for now. He would keep an eye on the baby as he played with him.

Josh tried to focus back on the castle he was trying to build for Matty and Cassie. They had to go somewhere today. That was causing more anxiety within Josh. He had never been little with only one of the men with him. He loves Mikey, but he wanted Matty and Cassie too. He wanted all of the men now. Not having all of them made him nervous. Separation anxiety, he knew.

He looked at the time. They should be back in thirty minutes. He had to work on his castle now. He tried to push his fear into the back of his head. He was fine.

Josh stuck his tongue out, trying his best to focus on his castle. He moved slowly as he tried to stack the bright blocks. Matty got him these. He liked them, but his injured hand was still in a splint, so it made maneuvering the blocks hard. His doctor told him to move his hand around so that it did not get stiff. It was hard to move the blocks because his right hand still hurt a little and his fine motor skills were terrible when he was little. He had already broken the castle more than once, so he was being extra careful. Josh needed to finish the castle for Matty and Cassie. They were going to be home in thirty minutes.

Josh sang under his breath. Some lyrics that came to his head that would not get out. He needed to write them down and develop the song so the words would go away. They were going to the studio tomorrow. He would do it then.

"I follow you like toy soldiws, don’ you want love don' you want this, don' you look so shocked, this was not the way I p'anned it, I deserve a wittle more, wouldn' you say-oh, a-oh, a-oh."

He admitted that the lyrics were about Daddy. It was the only way he knew to get the sad emotions of what Branden was doing to him out. Then maybe it would not bother him as much.

Thirty-five minutes past and Matty and Cassie still were not home. Josh squirmed. His anxiety came back. Why wasn't Matty and Cassie home? They needed to come home.

"Mikey, where Matty an' Cassie," Josh asked.

Knowing that the baby got nervous when any of them were gone for too long, Mike answered, "they're going to be back soon, Kiddo," gently. He rubbed the baby's back. Josh leaned into the touch.

Josh nodded, trying not to let his anxiety take over. They would be back. They would be back. They would not leave. He thought to himself. They did not leave. He focused again on his castle.

Twenty minutes past and Josh gave a low whine in the back of his throat. He wanted them back home. They were supposed to be home now. Where were they? They would be back. They did not leave.

"Don’t you want love, don’ you fight back, now this will huwt less if you just submit so, how 'bout a wittle gwatitude, for what I say-oh, a-oh, a-oh," he sang under his breath, trying not to think about Matty and Cassie. They would come back.

Trying not to think about Matty and Cassie did not work, tears entered his eyes. Where were Matty and Cassie? He wanted Matty and Cassie. He wiped his eye. Josh was fine. He was fine. He would not cry. Matty and Cassie would be back. They would. They did not leave.

"Hey, Josh," Mike asked, concern in his voice "why are you crying?"

"Not cwyin'," Josh denied. He was fine.

"Josh, please tell me what's wrong," Mike said, rubbing the baby's shoulder. He was playing with the baby, but then Josh suddenly started crying. Mike knew that the baby had the habit of shutting out his emotions when he got overwhelmed.

"Nothin' wrong, Mikey," Josh denied again, he breathed in and out slowly, calming himself down. He sucked on his pacifier. He was fine. They would be back. They did not leave.

"Josh."

Before Mike could say anything else, Josh was to his feet and yelled, "I fine, Mike!"

Mike was taken aback by the baby's tone and words. He had never called him Mike in little space; it was always Mikey. Plus, Josh never yelled at them. Unless he was playing around, but not out of anger.

"Calm down, Kiddo," Mike told him raising his hands to try and soothe the baby.

"No! I fine!" Josh shouted.

Mike crossed his arms and raised an eyebrow. Trying to take an authoritative stance. "Josh," he said in a frim tone, causing the baby to freeze, "stop yelling. Calm down."

Josh felt his chest tighten. He did not know how to calm down. His breathing picked up. He wanted Matty and Cassie to come home. He wanted his chest to loosen, not to be so tight. He did not like the feeling. Why did he have the feeling in his chest? He did not want to. He wanted his friends. Where were they? He needed them.

Josh sobbed, stomping his foot, "I fine."

Suddenly the door opened, and Matt and Ian came into the house. "Sorry, we're late, we..." Matt stopped mid-sentence when he saw the situation that Mike and the baby were in.

"What's going on?" Ian asked, closing the door so that no one could hear them.

Josh's breathing picked up more, and he was starting to become angry again, "nothin'!" he shouted. He was mad at Matty and Cassie. They were late, and they caused his nervousness. They were late. Why didn't they come home on time?

"Josh, don't yell at us," Ian scolded.

"'s notta rule!" Josh yelled. He stomped his foot again. He cried.

"You are not throwing a tantrum, young man," Ian scolded.

"No, I not!" tears streamed down his cheeks.

"Baby, calm down," Matt said, rubbing the baby's back to try and calm him.

Josh tensed and pushed Matt away, hard. The man fell back, not expecting the push from the baby.

The baby sobbed, knowing he did something wrong. He suddenly got scared. He did not mean to push Matt. He rocked, anticipating a blow. He did not want to get hurt. He did not mean it. He was sorry.

Ian grabbed Josh by the arm, not enough to hurt (he would never hurt Josh) but enough so that the baby could not escape.

Josh's breathing picked up from fear. He did not want to go into the dark room. He did not want it. He sobbed, "I sowwy, I sowwy."

"You do not yell, and you do not push," Ian scolded, "now, you will face the wall for five minutes."

Josh whimpered and faced the corner. He did not know why he got so mad. Josh did not mean to push Matty. He was sorry. He sobbed and sucked on his pacifier. He squirmed and felt that his diaper was all wet. He did not remember wetting it. He was sorry.

"We fucked up," Matt whispered so that Josh did not hear him. The other men nodded. One of the first things that Josh told them was that he needed to be told what to do. That included rules, which they never made up for the baby. No wonder the baby seemed so anxious.

"We need to go over rules," Ian said, feeling guilty that they did not go over any rules.

Five minutes later Ian went to retrieve the baby from the corner. Josh sniffled as Ian explained once again why he was put in timeout.

"I sowwy, Cassie," Josh whimpered.

Ian pulled Josh into a hug, "it's okay, Buddy. Go apologize to Mikey and Matty."

Josh nodded. Josh walked over to the other two men; he looked down at the ground as he said, "I-I sowwy, Mikey 'nd M-Matty," he hugged them both.

"It's okay, Baby Boy," Matt told him, "we're sorry too."

Josh looked up at Matt with confusion written on his face. Daddy never apologized to him. He did not know why Matt was apologizing to him. Josh was the one who was a bad boy. He was a bad boy. He knew he should not yell or push, but he did it anyway.

Seeing the confused look on the baby's face Matt said, "we never went over rules with you, Baby," Matt pulled Josh down so that he was sitting next to him on the couch. Ian came to sit down on the couch too.

"We need to go over rules, now," Ian said.

Josh nodded.

"Okay, first off no hitting, pushing, or yelling," Matt started.

"I sowwy," Josh curled up into himself. He was so sorry. He did not mean it.

"All is forgiven, Baby," Matt told him, wrapping his arm around Josh's shoulders.

"Two, bedtime is at 11," Ian told him.

"Umm," Josh started but then closed his mouth. He should not interrupt the men.

"What is it, Kiddo?" Mike asked.

"W-What if I c'n't sleep," it was a real concern of Josh's. He had a hard time sleeping even in little space sometimes. It was not as bad as when he was in big space, but he still had trouble sometimes.

"Then you come to one of us," Ian told him.

"W-What if you's asleep," Josh said.

"We don't care, Baby," Matt reassured him.

"Three, you need to tell us when something is wrong," Mike told him, "and you don't lie to us."

They went over the rest of the rules that involved having to eat, no cussing, and being able to smoke but not drink (not that he even drank in big space). Then they said that a punishment would be a timeout, writing lines, or being grounded.

"Do you have any rules for us?" Ian asked.

Josh looked up at Ian like he had grown a second head. He never knew that his caregivers could be given rules. Caregivers did whatever they wanted.

"Anything, Baby?"

"Uhh, n-no yellin'," Josh stammered, "no h-hittin'."

The men nodded, sad that those were the first thing that came to the baby's mind. The baby just said that they had to love him always.

"We will always love you, Baby Boy."

Chapter Text

He loved Josh. Josh was his. Not those other men's. Those other men should not have Josh. Josh was his. And his only. How could this happen? Why did Josh reject him?

He was looking inside the home that Josh was now staying at with his bandmates. It was obvious that Josh was in little space. The baby was running around. One of the other men was chasing him. The curly-haired man was sitting on the couch with a small smile on his face, and the spiky-haired man was also smiling at his baby and the man chasing him.

Branden felt his heart rate pick up and his whole body tensed. This should not be happening. Josh should be with him. Josh was his. When the curly-haired man looked toward the window, he ducked down before he could see Branden. The curly-haired man closed the shades completely.

Branden's rage boiled over. How dare they keep him from his Josh. Branden went to his car to drive home.

How dare Josh reject him. Then, not even six months later, get his bandmates to care for him. That was Branden's job. Branden was supposed to care for Josh. Make him a good boy. Josh should be his good boy.

Josh was his.

Josh did not have the right to break up with him.

Branden suddenly remembered that damned phone call.

"B-Branden," Josh had stammered.

"What's up, Babe?"

"Uhh," Josh's breathing had picked up. Branden had heard a male voice in the background. He got angry, asking Josh who he was with. Branden had not known that Josh would be with another man. Josh had said that he was going to visit his family for a few hours. Branden did not like that but allowed it. Josh only had females in his family aside from his father. The voice that Branden heard was not Josh's father. It sounded like one of Josh's bandmates. Josh was going to be in so much trouble. He was not supposed to be with his bandmates, just his family.

"Josh," Branden said when Josh did not answer his question.

"I-I can't do this anymore, Branden."

Branden only got angrier. "What!" he yelled.

Josh whimpered almost silently, "I-I don't want to be with you anymore," Josh said after the same male voice talked to him in the background.

"Goodbye," Josh hung up the phone.

Branden had seen red, much like he did when he saw Josh at the concert, much like he did now. He threw one of the picture frames that had a picture of him and Josh in it. The photo had been taken early in their relationship. Josh had his tongue stuck out, his tongue ring visible. Branden was smiling at the goofy young man.

His goofy young man.

"If I can't have you," Branden said to the picture, "no one can."

Josh was his.

Branden was going to have him.

...

"Enough of your not so secretive photo taking," Josh told a man that he did not recognize. He put his hand over the camera and pushed the shorter man away from him and his friends. They were trying to have a nice break from the studio. The next album was turning out to be a pain. He should not have told the interviewers that it was going to be like one long song. He was trying to find a way to connect two of the song he wrote already. But he did not know how. Josh was getting frustrated.

Matt, Mike, and Ian told him they needed to take a break so that he did not become too mad at the songs.

But it was hard to take a break when someone was taking random photos of you. The man thankfully ran off when Josh pushed him away.

"Do you want to go back to the studio?" Matt asked.

Josh nodded, the photo taking dude making him upset. He needed to do something.

As they were walking back to the studio (taking a shortcut through an alley), Josh felt someone's eyes on the back of his head. His left hand came up to his head as if his hand could stop the feeling. Josh looked behind him. He did not see anyone behind him. He was just paranoid. They had heard of Branden being released from jail. Josh had been a little on edge because of this information. He was thankful he had not received any phone calls yet.

"You okay, Josh?" Ian asked, hitting the younger man's shoulder to get his attention.

"Yeah," Josh said, shaking his head, "just paranoid."

Even though Ian knew why the younger man was a little paranoid, Ian said, "why are you so paranoid?" while putting the man in a headlock and giving him a noogie.

"No, Ian!" Josh said, laughing. "get off of me!" he tried to pull the man off of him.

Mike and Matt chuckled standing to the side as the other two men had a power struggle.

Josh was eventually able to break free from Ian's hold. He faced Ian, holding his hands out, "get away from me, mother fucker" Ian lunged toward Josh who moved out of the way. He ran as fast as he could.

"No!" Josh screamed as the others chased after him, "go away, guys."

Unfortunately for Josh Matt was a much faster runner than him and caught up to the older man and tackled him, almost pushing him to the ground. Matt pinned Josh's arms to his sides.

"Why?" Josh questioned, struggling against Matt. Ian came up and grabbed Josh's feet to lift him up, "no, no," he squirmed, kicking his legs.

"Stop struggling," Mike said, chuckling.

"No, put me down, please," Josh giggled. He tried to get away from the men.

Matt and Ian looked at each other, mischief evident in their eyes. They pretended to drop the young man before they caught him again.

"No, no, no don't drop me, please," Josh said panic in his voice, grabbing onto Matt's arms so that he did not fall on his butt. When they caught him again, Josh got an idea, "ow! Ow! You're hurting me! Ow!" crocodile tears entered his eyes, "put me down, please," he whimpered with a pouting lip.

The men put Josh down, concern on their faces, hoping that they did not hurt the young man too much. Josh held his leg as if it was injured, then ran off as fast as he could to get away from his tormentors.

"You little shit!" Mike yelled.

They cased after the other man and continued to play fight.

"That was no fair," Josh said when they were done, reminding the three of them of little Josh.

"Why?" Matt said with mock questioning in his tone.

"Three against one," Josh whined arms flinging out.

The other men chuckled.

"On a scale of one to ten how little are you," Ian whispered in Josh's ear.

"Zero," Josh whispered back, elbowing the man in the stomach. Ian smirked reaching over to pull the younger man in a headlock, "no," Josh jumped away from Ian, "not again." He ran.

"C'mon, boys!" Mike said, "the studio's right here!"

Little did the men know that someone was taking photos of the interactions between them.

...

Later that night, Josh started getting phone calls and texts from people. He decided to ignore it for a while, needing to work on this song. The young man had the chorus down, but could not think of the first verse, but he had the musical transition down already from the last song. Josh huffed when he heard his phone go off again.

"Josh, answer your fuckin phone, dude," Ian ordered, becoming irritated with the constant ringing.

Josh saw that his older sister was calling him, knowing that he always somehow had at least a two-hour conversation with the older woman when she called, he got up to fill a bowl with water before he answered the phone. There was a puppy right across the street from the studio tied to a pole by the puppy's owners. As far as Josh could tell the owners were moving into the apartments across the street from the studio with nothing to protect her from the cold, and they never gave her water as far as Josh could tell, so every so often Josh would bring her water. He wanted to talk to the owners, see if there was anything he could do.

"Hey, Sis," he answered.

"Josh," his sister sounded a little upset, "why didn't you answer your phone."

"I-I was working," Josh said, not sure why his sister was so upset, "what's wrong?"

"You need to check Twitter," Sara answered as Josh exited the studio and ran across the street to the puppy.

"What's going on, on Twitter?" he asked placing the water right next to the squirming black lab puppy. The puppy barked at Josh happily and drank the water. "good girl," Josh whispered to the puppy petting her as he sat next to her, cringing as he felt her ribs. He hated it.

He put his headphone jack into his phone, putting one earbud in his ear so he could still hear his sister as he signed into Twitter. When he signed in, he saw a bunch of Tweets from fans asking if he was okay. Assuming that it was from his hand (that was finally out of the splint), he did not think too much of it.

"What's wrong?" Josh asked, confused. The puppy came to sit on his lap. Maybe he should steal the puppy. The guys would not be too mad. Would they?

"Didn't you see the pictures?" Sara asked.

"What pictures? What's going on?"

Sara sighed, she hoped that Josh would find the pictures first so that she did not have to explain it, "there is a rumor going on that the guys are... uhh," she did not know how to explain it, "the guys are... abusing you."

"What?" Josh shouted, and the puppy whimpered when she heard that loud voice, "sorry, dude," Josh apologized to the puppy, scratching her ear.

Bringing his attention back to his phone he said, "they're not," still trying to find the pictures his sister was talking about.

"I know, Josh," Sara said, trying to comfort her brother when she heard his breathing pick up.

"Who would start a rumor like that?" Josh asked. Wondering if his sister was trying to play a trick on him until he found the pictures that his sister was talking about on his Twitter feed. They were pictures of them messing around in the alley earlier in the day, but they were taken in a way that it looked like his bandmates were beating him.

"We were just messing around. Who took these photos?" Josh asked. The puppy whimpered, sensing the young man's distress. The man pet her, calming the both of them.

"I don't know, Josh, but you need to respond to it. Clear everything up," Sara told him.

"Yeah, yeah. I-I'll do that."

They hung up.

God, Josh did not want to deal with this. It was complete bull. The other men would never hurt him. They took care of his little side in a much better way than Branden ever did. They were his best friends. They would never beat him. How could people be so stupid?

"How do I even respond to such a ridiculous accusation? We were messing around, play fighting. NO ABUSE is going on. You know the saying 'boys will be boys,' yes that is what was going on. We were messing around. I want this stupid rumor to die down," he Tweeted.

The responses were immediate. People were asking him to explain the bruises on his face and his fractured hand. He knew that the rumor was not going to die down just because he wanted it to. People loved the drama too much.

"I fractured my hand because I got mad and punched a wall. The bruises are because my ex-boyfriend came to a concert and bitch slapped me. Yes, I am gay. Fans who recorded it has my permission to upload it. He is out of jail," he responded to the fans.

"My manager is going to kill me," he told the puppy that had not moved from his lap. The puppy licked his face, in a baby voice he said, "yeah, he's gonna kill me. Yeah, yeah," Josh giggled. He wished he could take the puppy home.

Suddenly he heard a voice with a very thick Chinese accent say, "hey, what you do!"

Josh jumped and stood, "I-I," he stammered.

"That my dog!" The Chinese man told him.

"Umm, d-do you need help with her?" Josh asked.

The man seemed to think about it for a second; anger seemed to melt off of the man. What Josh assumed to be his wife came down, they talked in hushed tones for a second, Josh furled his brow, waiting for the couple to get done talking. He looked down at the puppy, who was by his feet. It was like the puppy was his.

The man turned back to Josh, saying, "you watch her three weeks."

Josh took a second to comprehend what the man was saying to him, "I can watch her for one week," Josh said. There was no way that the guys would agree to have the puppy around for three weeks. Plus, by that time, Josh would be too attached to give her up.

The man nodded, "you watch her one week."

The man gave him the rope and a bag of puppy food. The couple walked off.

"Guess you're mine for a week, dude," Josh said, the puppy wagged her tail, looking up at Josh, "I'm in trouble," he sighed and walked back to the studio.

When he got back to the studio, all eyes were on him and the puppy.

"What did you do, Josh?" Ian asked, amusement in his tone.

"I kinda agreed to watch her for a week," Josh said looking at the ground.

"Kinda?" Mike questioned.

"Yeah," Josh said, he looked up at his friends, "I'll take care of her, promise."

Ian sighed, he knew that Josh would take care of the puppy. He loved animals too much not to.

"You better, Man," Ian said, pointing at the young man.

"I will," Josh smiled. He sat down on the couch with the puppy. She laid her head on his lap. Josh unconsciously pet the puppy.

Ian could see the tension drain from Josh's body. He had seen what was going on with Twitter when Josh went outside, but he did not know how to respond. He knew that the fans would not believe it if it came from Matt, Mike, or Ian. Luckily Josh had responded to the accusations, but because of the way Josh responded, Ian was waiting for a call from their manager. Which would make Ian's day, he and the other men did not care if some asshole "fans" did not want to listen to them anymore because Josh was gay. Ian knew that their manager would have different opinions.

...

Branden was looking at Josh's twitter, anger boiling within him. He meant to start the lie to try and do something to Josh, take some of his power back. But Josh did not seem to care too much. Coming back with two snarky remarks.

Branden wanted to hurt Josh, punish Josh for leaving him. He could not do that if Josh did not care. What could he do to make Josh care? He knew he had the photos, but he did not want to release them. Those where intimate moments between the men that only Branden and Josh should know about. That was a side of Josh that just Branden should know about, but Josh had to go and ruin that already.

Branden wanted Josh back. Josh was his and only his.

He would stop at nothing to have Josh back.

Chapter Text

"Nothing will stop me," Josh read in the letter from Branden. He tried not to let the offensive words bother him, not that it worked. Branden had been calling and sending letters to Josh for the past three months, just like Josh knew he would. Josh had tried to get a restraining order against Branden several times, but the police simply laughed at him. He heard one of them saying that "fags did not deserve to be protected" this had upset Josh all the rest of that day. He had not tried to get a restraining order again. The police did not want to help him. It was frustrating because Josh had a bad feeling that Branden was about to do something. Something bigger than just calling him or sending him letters.

Josh breathed in and out slowly, crumbling up the paper and throwing it away. It did not matter if he kept them anymore for evidence. It's not liked the police cared.

He heard the puppy, Bennie, that he rescued three months earlier whine. The couple had not even tried visiting her. As far as Josh was concerned, Bennie was his. She had chewed up the men's (mainly Josh's) shoes, dug holes in the backyard, destroyed a couch, and played in muddy puddles then laid in Josh's bed, and she had almost ripped Teddy apart (his crying was the only reason she let him go). He had potty trained, and leash trained her. He had begun to teach her basic obedience tricks. They had to take her to the vet to get dewormed.

All and all Josh loved and was attached to Bennie way too much to give her up. Bennie whined again, noticing Josh's upset.

"Hey, Ben," Josh greeted the pup, petting her head. Bennie leaned against his legs. Her presence calmed Josh. That was another thing when Bennie was not trying to destroy everything he loved; she helped with his anxiety. Helped him not freak out when Branden called him. She calmed him when he would have nightmares or panic attacks in big or little space (not that it happened that much anymore).

Josh scratched under her chin before turning his attention back to the fan mail. While he was scared that every note would be from Branden, he did not want Branden to control his life completely. He liked reading letters from the fans. He would not let Branden take that away from him.

Ian suddenly laughed, Josh looked at the man beside him with a questioning look. Ian handed him the letter. Josh chuckled at it too. Some of their fans should be comedians, Josh thought. He would go see them.

They continued to look through the fan mail for about an hour when Josh had the felt that he needed to be little. Well, he had that feeling all day, but he wanted to try and get some stuff done today, write some, and he could not do that while little. But now the feeling was more of a pull, a pull to be little.

Trying to ignore the feeling he continued to look through the mail. He did not notice when he put his thumb in his mouth until Mike was beside him, pulling his thumb out of his mouth. "I don't think the fans would appreciate slobber all over their mail," Mike said. Before Josh could whine at the loss, Mike pressed one of his pacifiers to his lips. Josh took the pacifier in his mouth and sucked on it. Mike went back to where he was sitting.

Josh felt his mental age go down little by little while sucking on the pacifier. The littler he felt, the more uncomfortable he felt in his big boy clothes. He was not a big boy right now. He should not be in his big boy clothes. He did not want to be a big boy. He whined. He wanted to be little now.

Bennie sensed the baby's distress. She ran over to Matt, knowing that he would help her Josh. She put her front paws on his knees and nudged the paper in his hands with her nose. The man needed to look at Josh, not the paper.

"What's up, Bennie?" Matt asked, putting the paper down to look at the puppy. Matt thought that she just wanted attention, as they were all absorbed in reading fan mail, and the puppy was a massive attention seeker. They joked with Josh that he was teaching the puppy bad habits. But the pup proved him wrong when she looked toward Josh. Matt followed her line of sight, immediately noticing the baby's discomfort.

"Good girl, Bennie," Matt praised the dog, petting her head. Maybe she earned a second dinner for tonight.

"Hey, Baby Boy," Matt said when he was next to the baby.

"Hi," Josh muttered, he pulled on the collar of his shirt. He did not like it.

"What's wrong, Baby?" Matt asked.

"No big boy clothes," Josh whined, tears coming to his eyes. He wanted to be in his baby clothes. He wanted to be little.

Matt gave the baby a small, reassuring smile, "then let's go get them off."

Josh mirrored Matt's smile and followed the man into his room. His room was mostly for his big side, as he did not like to be in his room when he was little. He needed to be around his friends. In his closet, he had one side for all of his big boy clothes, and on the other side, he had his baby clothes and diapers in a dresser. He had his toys in several medium-sized plastic totes depending on what they were. All cars in one, all stuffies (not including Teddy) in another, larger one, etc. Matt was tempted to buy a toy chest for the baby, but Josh seemed to like having the plastic totes.

"What do you want to wear, Baby?" Matt asked Josh, looking at the baby. Josh pursed his lips like it was the biggest decision of his life.

"Cassie din'sauw," Josh told Matt, pointing at the desired onesie.

"Got it, Baby," Matt said with a smile. Ian made the right decision when he bought the onesie. It was Josh's favorite thing to wear.

Matt grabbed the onesie and a pair of blue sweats that matched the trim. Josh would not have been happy if Matt put him in any other color of sweats. He would rather wear no pants; he told Matt once. Lastly, Matt grabbed a diaper.

Josh was sitting on the floor with Teddy on his lap when Matt turned to him. He kneeled down to the baby and helped him remove his long sleeve shirt.

"Lay down," Matt ordered, Josh obeyed, lifting his hips so that Matt could remove his jeans and boxers. Matt was glad that Josh was not embarrassed or shy anymore when the men would help him change. He used to blush bright red and hide his face. He would not tell them when he was wet, causing rashes. As it turns out, during changes, Branden would "play" with his private parts. Josh did not like that, he said, and while he knew that the men would not hurt him like that, he was still scared. Matt, Mike, and Ian were angry, how could Branden do that to the baby. That is when the men made having to tell them when he was wet a rule. Josh did not like the rule and broke it on purpose several times. But after being put in time out and writing lines a few times, he did not break the rule on purpose ever again.

Matt quickly taped the diaper around Josh's hips, put the onesie on, and pulled up the sweats. All the while Josh played with Teddy

"Good boy," Matt praised the baby for being good during the change. Josh smiled up shyly at the man.

"C'n I get caws, plea'?" Josh asked politely.

Matt nodded, and Josh got the cars from his closet before running into the living room.

It seemed that Mike and Ian were done reading the mail. They smiled at Josh when the baby entered the room. They loved how Josh was almost always happy and peaceful in little space. They had not seen Josh smile more than when he was little. It also seemed to help his big side as well. He was not as anxiety-ridden. He was calmer, allowing for him to open up to them, and for him to work better.

"Play, plea'," Josh asked the men.

"Of course, Kiddo," Mike said as Ian and he came down to sit next to the baby.

...

The men played with cars for a while before Josh became restless, so Ian suggested that they play hide-and-seek so that Josh could get out his wiggles and so that he could be tired for a nap.

Right now Mike was trying his best to hide from the baby. Josh was a surprisingly good seeker, always finding the men in not even ten minutes. This was especially true when Josh had Bennie by his side.

"Gotcha Mikey," Josh exclaimed when he finally found the man.

"Oh, man," Mike gave an overexaggerated whine. Josh giggled while Bennie barked and wagged her tail jumping up on Mike when he came out of his hiding spot.

"What are you thinking Bennie?" Mike said, sarcastically, pushing the puppy off his hip gently, "no more helping the baby."

Josh kneeled down to Bennie, "don' listen to 'im, Ben," the baby told her, petting her face. She licked Josh's hand, Josh giggled.

"You can help Baby," Josh whispered to Bennie.

"I heard that you little turkey," Mike ruffled Josh's hair.

Josh giggled again and ran into the living room, "found Mikey!" Josh exclaimed. The baby then yawned. He was a little sleepy. He wanted to keep playing, so he did not say anything.

"Count to ten Mikey," Matt told him when the older man entered the room after Josh.

Mike closed his eyes and started to count. Josh ran off to his room after telling Bennie to stay put. He slipped into his closet, making sure to keep it open a little so that he could see the outside light.

After counting to ten, Mike went off to find the other men and the baby. He found Mike and Ian easily, as they always hid in easy spots so that they could look for Josh. None of them liked the idea that Josh would be somewhere alone for too long.

"Hey, Ben," Mike called the puppy, she walked over to him wagging her tail.

"Go find Josh," Mike told her, the puppy wagged her tail faster. She knew where Josh was. She ran over to Josh's closet. Bennie watched as Mike opened the door to the closet, happy when she saw the baby.

"Gotcha, Joshy," Mike mocked Josh's earlier words.

"Hey," Josh whined when he saw Bennie, "you c'n't use Ben."

"But you can?" Mike asked.

"She my doggy," Josh pointed out (which was true), "only I use 'er."

Mike chuckled and shook his head, "fine, Kiddo."

"Found Joshy," Mike mocked Josh again as they entered the living room.

Josh giggled, "stop copyin'," he said, sitting on the couch. It was his turn to count.

"What are you going to do about it," Mike tickled the baby.

"Naw," Josh said giggling, "no ticka," Mike did not listen to the baby, tickling the baby until he fell over on the couch. Tears of laughter streamed down his face.

Bennie barked happily at Josh and Mike playing. She jumped on the couch wagging her tail rapidly.

Matt came over to the baby and started to tickle him too, "no, no Matty, plea'," Josh begged.

Josh looked over at Ian, who was on the other side of the room with an amused smirk on his face, "Cassie help me, plea'," he pleaded with the man before bursting into another round of giggles.

"Enough, guys," Ian said, "you're going to kill the baby."

Once Josh was free he hugged Ian as thanks for saving him. Josh yawned and rubbed his eyes.

"Sleepy?" Ian asked, scratching his scalp.

"Naw," Josh replied, but he yawned again.

"I think that yawn is saying something else, Sleepyhead."

"No sleepy," Josh argued. He wanted to keep playing hide-and-seek.

"Then why don't we just lay on the couch for a little bit," Matt suggested.

"No," Josh whined, rubbing his eyes with a pout, "hide-'nd-see."

"We can play after you wake up," Matt promised.

"It's not good for you to stay up when you're sleepy," Mike reminded.

"Fine," Josh pouted.

Ian led the baby to the couch and allowed the baby to lay in his lap.

"Teddy?" Josh asked, looking for his bear. Mike handed the baby his teddy bear and covered him up with a blanket.

"Night night, Kiddo."

Josh hummed something under his breath as he sucked on his pacifier and was soon asleep.

...

"Cassie, Cassie," Josh shook the sleeping man. Matty and Mikey had sent him to wake the man because they knew the man could not get mad at the baby. He was always cranky when he was woken up by someone. When Josh first got up, Matty and Mikey told him not to make too much noise, so he did not wake up Cassie.

Cassie groaned and opened his eyes, "what's up, Buddy?"

"Is time to wake up," Josh told him, "is dinner time."

"Okay, Bud," Ian said sitting up with a yawn, rubbing his eyes.

Josh ran to the kitchen, "he up," he reported back to Mike and Matt.

"Good job, Baby Boy," Matt said, "now let sit and eat."

"C'mon, Sleepyhead," Josh said to Ian. He did not want to eat without all the men at the table. It was rude.

"Coming, Mr. Sassy pants," Ian responded.

Josh giggled. Ian was grumpy when he was sleepy.

"Here, Baby," Matt held the food to Josh's lips for the baby to take a bite.

Dinner was over soon, and the men went into the living room to play. There was no running around after dinner because the men were worried that it would hype up Josh too much before bed.

Bennie laid down next to her food bowl on the floor as the men and the baby was playing with cars again.

"Bennie," Josh called over to her not even looking at her, "no second dinner," he rolled his car, beating Mike's car.

Mike gasped, eyes wide in exaggerated amazement, "okay, I think the kid is cheating," the man looked at Ian and Matt.

The other men chuckled as Josh said, "I no cheat. I good."

"Yeah, your car is just too fast to beat Mikey's," Matt told him, patting the baby's shoulders.

"Then I want to trade," Mike said holding out his car. Josh nodded and gave Mike his car.

They push their cars again, the results the same.

"I give up," Mike walked over to the couch with his arms in the air. He flopped down on the couch. Josh giggled.

"No give up," Josh told him, "is okay. You win next time," Josh promised.

"Somehow I doubt that," Mike said, but agreed to keep playing when Josh pouted at him.

At 10:30 Ian said that it was time for Josh to get ready for bed.

"Matty help?" Josh asked.

"Yep," Matt said popping the 'P.'

...

As Josh was getting ready for bed, Branden was planning something big.

Chapter Text

"Get the stick, Ben," Josh laughed as the pup ran as fast as she could when Josh threw a stick, "bring it back," the man ordered

Josh and Bennie were out on their morning walk. When he was little, one of the guys would come with him to make sure the baby did not get into any trouble. But when he was big, he liked to walk Bennie alone and bond with the puppy.

Right now Bennie ran back to the young man with the stick. They were at the park that they always went to when it was sunny outside. It took about thirty minutes to walk there, but it was worth it because the park was huge and no one used it around the time Josh and Bennie got to the park.

"Gimme that stick, Ben," Josh said with a broad smile as the puppy dodged him when he tried to reach for the stick in her mouth. She wagged her tail as Josh was finally able to take ahold of the stick. They wrestled for the object for a few seconds before Josh was able to retrieve and throw it again, but he did not throw it. Instead, Josh pretended like he threw the stick causing Bennie to run after nothing.

Josh laughed once again when Bennie took a confused stance. She looked back over at the man who was now waving the stick around in his hand. Bennie ran back to the man, barking as if asking him to throw the stick already. Josh listened and threw the stick as hard as his arm would allow. The game continued for a good thirty minutes, Bennie never seemed to grow tired of the game.

Josh was massaging his face (his puppy's antics were making him smile so hard his cheeks hurt) when he saw something out of the corner of his eye. Josh turned his head to see Branden standing a little over 30 meters away from him. Whatever smile that was still on Josh's face vanished, and he paled.

He felt his heart rate pick up as Branden started walking toward him. He was paralyzed in fear before he got enough sense to move, "c'mon, Ben, let's go home," he said in a rush. He put the leash back on his pup and ran as fast as he could, ignoring the whine the puppy gave.

Josh could hear footsteps behind him as he ran. He did not chance a look back. He already knew that Branden was chasing him. He did not want to risk his fear causing him to become paralyzed again. He just ran. Ran past the park. Ran across the street, ignoring angry honks. He just needed to get home. He wanted to be home. After several minutes, Josh's lungs started burning. He breathed in heavily. Why did they walk so far from home?

The footsteps sounded like they were getting closer. No! Josh pushed harder. Just get home. Just get home. He shouted at himself in his mind. If he got home, he would be safe. He would be with Matt, Mike, and Ian. They were safe. They would protect him.

But Josh could not run any faster, Branden caught him by the shoulders, pushing the man back against his chest. Josh felt something being placed over his nose and mouth. The man held his breath for as long as he could, but his lungs already hurt from all his running and he knew he could not hold it for long. Josh heard Bennie barking. Josh struggled against his captor. He kicked back trying the hit Branden's shins, but he was too weak. Suddenly he heard Branden groan and jerk forward. Branden loosened his grip enough for Josh to escape.

Josh fell to the ground breathing heavily, but whatever drug Branden used to cover his face was already making him feel dizzy. The world spun as he tried to get up, he did not feel good. Josh swallowed thickly, trying to push back the nausea in his throat. He heard a whimper. He looked over to see Branden towering over a whining Bennie.

Branden looked like he was about to kick the puppy again when Josh said in a weak voice, "no, get away from 'er."

Josh was on his hands and knees now, trying to crawl over to Bennie. He could not let Branden hurt his puppy. Bennie was his puppy. No one hurt her.

Suddenly Branden was over him, Josh whimpered. He tried to look up at Branden, but his vision was now all blurry, and he could not make out his face. Josh felt himself being picked up surprisingly gently by the other man.

"No," Josh whine lowly in the back of his throat. He did not want to go anywhere with Branden. He wanted to go home with Bennie. Where was Bennie? Was she okay?

Josh tried his best to squirm out of Branden's grasp, but the man held on tight, "it's okay babe. We're going home," Branden told him.

No. He did not want to go to Branden's house. Tears entered his eyes. He wanted to go home. He wanted Matt, Mike, and Ian. He wanted to watch the movie like they promised they would when he got back. Josh whined in the back of his throat. Tears streamed down his face. He wanted to go home.

Josh felt himself being placed gently in the back of a car. He was rolled onto his side and rope was tied around his wrist. Josh whimpered as he felt something being placed over his eyes, cutting off what little vision he had and sending him into a world of darkness.

"No, plea," Josh begged, shaking his head weakly. He did not like the dark.

"Shh, babe," Branden told him, "go to sleep."

Josh felt Branden put the rag back on his face. Josh feebly tried to resist, but it was too late. Nothing Josh could do would stop Branden. Tears continued to stream down his face as he gave into unconsciousness.

...

Matt was starting to become nervous; it had been over four hours since Josh left to walk Bennie. While the man liked to take Bennie on long walks, the longest he had ever taken her out had been for two hours. He tried to call Josh a couple of times, but he was not answering his phone. Which only added to Matt's nervousness. Josh always answered his phone, unless Branden was more bothersome that day.

"Would you calm down?" Ian told him. He did not want to admit it, but he was also a little worried as well. Something in his gut told him something was off. But Josh was a big boy right now. If he were not, he would have called one of them by now.

"Sorry," Matt apologized, "it's just..." he waved his hands in a circle, not able to articulate his worries.

"You're paranoid and overprotective," Mike finished his sentence.

"Yeah maybe," Matt responded.

"Josh is a big boy," Mike pointed out, "he'll be fine. He's probably hanging out with Georgie or something."

Matt nodded, trying to accept the reasoning. He has hung out with Georgie and his other friends several times in the past three months. Of course, he had, Georgie was his best childhood friend, they had known each other since they were five, much longer than Matt had. Josh was a big boy; Matt reminded himself. He did not need to tell them where he was going all the time.

They suddenly heard barking outside the door. It sounded a lot like Bennie. They looked at each other. The bark sounded pained. Matt got up and looked through the peephole of the door. Sure enough, there stood Bennie. Matt opened the door, looking around outside. Josh was nowhere to be found.

Matt looked around for a second longer, almost expecting for the man to jump out and scare him. He turned when he heard Bennie whine.

"Hey, Ben what's wrong?" Matt asked with concern in his tone. That is when he noticed that the puppy was limping. Matt kneeled down to the puppy, touching her hurt back left leg. Bennie yelped in pain and growled.

"What's going on?" Ian and Mike asked at the same time.

"I'm not sure," Matt told them, "I think Bennie's hurt."

"Where's Josh?" Mike asked, knowing that the man would never abandon the puppy, especially when she was hurt. How did she get hurt anyway?

The noise that Bennie released when she heard Josh's name was somewhere between a whimper and a pain filled yelp. It broke the men's hearts. What was going on?

"We need to get her to the vet," Ian said, pulling out his phone to call the vet.

"I'll call Josh," Matt said. Mike picked up Bennie gently, trying not to move her back left leg.

Josh's phone went to voicemail. "Josh, please answer your phone. Bennie's hurt. Where are you? Call back, please," Matt rambled. Matt tried, again and again, to call the man on the way to the vet. He did not answer.

Matt started to get more anxious. He had a bad feeling. Something was wrong, Matt knew it. He just did not know what.

"Josh, c'mon man," Matt muttered to himself.

"Nothing?" Mike asked. The older man was in the back of the car and was petting Bennie, trying to comfort the poor puppy.

"No, he's not answering," Matt said. Ian shook his head, his gut twisted.

Matt called again, this time Josh answered.

"Josh, where are you? I've been trying to call for ten minutes," Matt told him.

Josh whimpered, "help, Matty," he whispered.

"Josh, what's wrong?" Matt asked concern and worry deep in his tone.

"Branden got me," Josh sobbed quietly, "I'm in his car."

Matt was in shock, eyes wide. It took him a second for Matt to comprehend what Josh told him. How could that happen? How could he let it happen? Matt should have insisted that he go with Josh and Bennie that morning. This would not have happened if Matt was with him.

There was silence for a few seconds before Josh whimpered again, "he just stopped. Matty, you gotta help me," Matt heard the car door open. He heard an angry voice in the background.

"No, no, no," Josh shrieked, "let go! Matty, Matty help!"

The line went dead.

Matt stopped breathing. His eyes widened in shock. He could barely possess what he just heard. Josh... he did not want to think about it. Thinking about it would make it too real. Matt stared down at his phone as if waiting for Josh to call him back and tell him it was a prank. He would be in so much trouble, but it would be much better than the reality.

"What is it, Matt?" Ian asked looking over at the man for a second before parking in fornt of the vet's office.

"Josh... Josh," he mumbled, not able to say it.

"Josh what?" Mike asked.

"Josh's been kidnapped," Matt whispered.

There was silence for a second before Ian called the police.

...

Josh woke up with a terrible headache. He moaned, trying to open his eyes. His heart jumped into his throat when he could not see anything. His breathing picked up. No, no, no. This was just a nightmare; he was back in the dark room. He had to wake up. Branden did not have him. He was at home. He was with Matt, Mike, and Ian. Branden did not have him; he did not.

Josh tried to set up, but he hit he head on something. Josh gulped, trying to breathe slowly to quell his panic.

Josh reached up to feel the bars above his head. He tried to pull the top up on the crib he knew he was in but, as always, the top was latched. Josh grunted, pushing harder. He needed to get out. He felt around him, feeling more wooden bars around him.

Josh laid down and curled up on himself. How could Branden do this to him? Branden knew that the man was terrified of tight, dark spaces. When Matt, Mike, and Ian asked if he wanted a crib, he shook his head frantically. He did not want one. He did not like it. He did not like it.

Josh felt around on the mattress trying to find a pacifier he knew that Branden would put in the crib. He was not little, but he needed something to comfort himself with. He found one and put it in his mouth, sucking on it. Josh squirmed, trying not to think about it when he felt a diaper. Nothing happened. Branden did not like to play with him when he was asleep, Branden wanted to see the fear in Josh's eyes.

Suddenly the door opened and light flooded into the room. Josh shielded his eyes and took the pacifier out of his mouth. Josh did not want to give Branden the pleasure.

"Welcome home, Babe," Branden told him.

Josh's breathing picked up again, "I'm not home," Josh grunted.

"Don't be like that, Babe," Branden said, "I'm willing to forgive you for leaving me. I do not want to punish you anymore."

"No," Josh told him, glaring at him, "I want to go home."

"You are home."

"No, I'm not!" Josh yelled, anger and fear getting the best of him. Tears entered his eyes, "I want to go home!"

Branden opened the crib and pulled Josh out. Josh struggled against him, trying to get out of Branden's grasp. If he could get out the door, he could escape.

"You're still a bad boy," Branden said calmly. Josh froze, Branden was even scarier when he was calm.

"No," Josh breathed, tears streamed down his face. He was not a bad boy, he was good. He just wanted to go home.

Branden slapped him across the face causing Josh to fall to the ground. Josh sobbed and felt his mental age plummet. Branden picked Josh back up by the shoulders roughly, "don't talk back," he growled in the baby's face.

Jodh did not know what to do. He did not want Daddy to hurt him, "I sowwy, Daddy," Josh sobbed, "Plea', plea', plea' don' huwt."

"Will you be good?" Branden asked.

Josh sobbed again, and he nodded, "I be good boy," Josh promised.

Josh put his thumb in his mouth. Daddy did not like that, but he needed something to ground him.

"Don't, Babe," Branden's demeanor changed. He pulled Josh's thumb out of his mouth Josh lowered his head. He noticed a bandage on Daddy's arm. Daddy pressed the pacifier to Josh's mouth. Josh took it in his mouth gratefully and sucked on his pacifier. Branden led him out of the room.

Josh whimpered. He wanted to go home.

Chapter Text

Matt was furious. The men were in the police department later that day; Mike stayed behind to look after Bennie. Poor puppy was in pain, both physically and emotionally.

The reason for Matt's fury was the older detective in front of him. The older man was in his late 40s to early 50s he had salt and pepper hair and piercing green eyes. He was sitting on a roll chair behind his desk, and he had a smirk on his face that Matt and Ian would like to slap off. He was sitting so calmly, much unlike how Matt felt. How could he be so calm when Josh had just been kidnapped?

"He probably just ran off," the detective told them. He laid down the letters on his desk and walked off as if he expected for Matt and Ian to leave it like that. Well, not on Matt's watch.

Matt picked the letters from Branden back up, and he and Ian followed the man as Matt said, "how could you say that?" The older man stopped and regarded Matt with an annoyed look on his face. Matt continued, "you saw the letters, and you heard the call. Josh did not just run off. Branden kidnapped him."

"All I see from these letters is a stressor for someone to run off and the phone call as an excuse," the detective said, "last time I checked grown men could disappear if they want to."

He attempted to walk off again when Ian responded, "Josh would not just disappear," the man turned to face Ian, "he has friends and family, he has a career that he loves," he was a baby at times, "does that sound like someone who would run off like that to you?"

"No, but this is not the first time he disappeared, is it?"

Ian did not understand what the man was getting at for a second, but Matt understood as soon as the offensive sentence left the old man's mouth. Matt's face turned red, and his heart rate picked up, "Josh has not done drugs or run off in over ten years!" Matt shouted in the man's face. How dare the man say that? How did the man even know that? Josh had been sixteen when he was arrested, and the records were sealed. Josh had never told the full story to anyone, aside from his friends. This man should not know anything about Josh's past. It did not even matter right now. Josh getting kidnapped had nothing to do with his teenaged mistakes.

"Calm down, or I will have to escort you out."

Matt breathed and closed his eye, trying to calm down. He was still pissed when he opened his eyes, but not so mad that he felt like he would punch the man in front of him.

"What is going on out here?" they suddenly heard a very authoritative-sounding female voice coming from behind them. Matt and Ian turned around to see a short, petite blond haired blue eyed woman, who looked slightly younger than the man that they were arguing with, "I am Police Chief Rebecca Burke," she introduced herself to Matt and Ian, she held out her hand to the younger men who shook her hand.

"Now, what is going on here, Gentlemen?" she asked once again, crossing her arms, looking primarily at her detective.

"I was just explaining to Mr. Webb and Mr. Casselman why we could not investigate their friend running off," the detective explained.

The police chief did not seem to like the explanation, and before Matt or Ian could tell her anything she said, "in my office, Gentlemen," she walked toward her office, not checking to see if her detective or the younger men were following her. She held her office door open for the three men.

She indicated for Matt and Ian to sit down in front of her desk, leaving her detective to stand behind them. She sat behind her desk before she said, "Mr. Webb and Mr. Casselman, I want you to explain what happened to your friend please."

"Chief Burke, I am telling you there is nothing to worry about..."

"Detective Davis," she scolded with her eyebrow raised, reminding Matt a little bit of Ian when he scolded Josh (don't think about that). She waved for Matt and Ian to go on.

Matt and Ian explained everything to the chief that they explained to Detective Davis. Matt let her hear the phone call and let her read some of the letters. By the time Matt and Ian got done, the police chief looked angry.

"I want you and your other detectives to treat this as a kidnapping case, Detective Davis," she ordered.

"Chief," the man tried to make an excuse, but Chief Burke interrupted him. Standing to make herself look more intimidating, crossing her arms once again.

"You heard me. We do not know what happened, but all the evidence is pointing to a psychopathic ex-boyfriend kidnapping Mr. Ramsay," Chief Burke told him, glaring at him.

Her face softened as she turned her attention back to Matt and Ian, she sat back down before she said, "I sincerely apologize for my detective's behavior. You should go home, try to decompress, look after your dog, and inform us if you get another call from Josh. We will keep you in the loop."

"Thank you," Ian nodded.

She addressed them all, "you are dismissed, Gentlemen," the men got up to leave but before they could reach the door Chief finished, "I expect an update on this case by the end of the day, Detective Davis."

...

Josh whimpered, trying his best not to cry out as Branden hit his bottom over and over again with the belt. It stung painfully, and Josh knew that if he started crying Branden would stop. But he did not want to give Branden the pleasure.

Josh bit back another whimper and breathed in deeply as Branden hit him again. It's okay, Josh told himself, do not think about it. Go somewhere else, somewhere where Branden could not hurt him, and he is safe. Josh breathed out raggedly as more pain exploded on his backside. He did not want to know what it looked like. Actually, Josh knew exactly what it looked like; bright red, and the skin was more than likely flaking by now. Josh knew that he would not be able to sit comfortably for a week or possibly more.

Do not think about that, do not think about that, Josh chanted un his mind. Everythings okay, think about something else. Josh focused on a spot on the floor, right next to where Branden had Josh over his knee. The spot was tiny, and no one would have noticed it in passing. It was black or dark brown, Josh could not tell. Josh stared at the spot as if expecting for it to move, to run away much like Josh wished he could do himself. Losing himself by staring and thinking about the spot, Josh did not register the pain anymore, though he could still hear the whip of the belt, but it felt like it was coming out of a tunnel. Josh still jerked and he could hear himself whimper, but it did not sound like him. It sounded like someone else. It almost as if Josh was not in his body.

Like someone else was in his body and Josh was floating, just floating away, away from the pain and fear. Away from Branden and the belt. Away from whatever else Branden had in store for him. Away, away to somewhere where he was safe, and there was no more pain or fear. Away, away to home.

...

It has been two days since Josh had been kidnapped, the longest two days of Matt's life. There were times in Matt's life where he wished that he did not always have to look at Josh's face, primarily when they were on the road, and Matt had almost no choice but to look at his face. God, what he would do to take those thoughts back, what he would do to see Josh's face again, even if it was Josh merely telling Matt off for not being able to help him and keep him safe. At least Matt would know that Josh was safe, even if the older man did not want ever to see him again. That would be better, so so much better than laying in his bed and waiting.

What exactly was he waiting for? Matt could not help but question. For the police to get off their asses and investigate? That was not going to happen. Detective Davis, the lead detective on the case, seemed to have some sort of grudge against Josh. For shit that occurred ten years ago and when Josh was high. Something about Josh embarrassing him in front of his mentor or something like that. Once again, ten years ago. When Josh was a teenager. And on drugs. Not in his right mind. Yeah, that is who the guys had to deal with.

Chief Burke had been informed of the situation, and she promised Josh's parents that disciplinary action would be taken against Davis and that she would get a new team on Josh's case starting tomorrow.

Josh's parents. Matt closed his eyes as he thought about them. His mother was absolutely heartbroken. Crying as soon as she heard about the situation. How could this happen to her baby boy? Why did Branden want to hurt her baby? Matt could tell that Josh's father was also distressed, but he had to hold it together for his wife and daughters. He would grief in private.

Matt wished that he had half the strength that Josh's father had. Matt had been a mess these past couple of days. The phone call haunted him. He could tell his Josh was big, thank God, because when he is little, his voice tended to go up a few octaves. But he still called him Matty, he sounded so terrified. Begging for Matt to help him. What Matt would not get to be able to help Josh. Tears entered Matt's eyes, but he wiped them away with the back of his had. Matt would do anything to help Josh. But he could not. Not until he was found. All he could do is lay on his bed. And wait. And be strong.

...

After Branden's arm got sore, he put Josh in the crib and locked it. It was more like a cage, Josh thought distantly. Josh was starting to feel like he was in his own body again, not just some soul floating around in space. Did he have come back into his body? His body is where everything hurt, and his chest was too tight.

Josh tried to swallow, but he could not. Branden had not given him any food or water in the past... Josh did not know. How long had he been in Branden's captivity? It felt like months to Josh, but he knew that that was not possible. He would have died of dehydration by then. Josh tried to swallow once again, sooth the dryness and ache in his throat. But the more he swallowed, the more his throat hurt. What Josh would not do for some water right now. Even if it was in a bottle.

He had tried his best to push back his little side. He could not be that vulnerable in front of Branden. That would not end well for him. His little side was too defenseless to stop Branden, not that big Josh had many defenses against Branden, but he could at least control his emotions better when Branden would yell or when the other man would punish him. His little side would have cried earlier during the spanking and given into what Branden wanted. Josh could not give Branden what he wanted. Josh could not let Branden break him. Not again.

But it was so hard. Josh shook his head to stop the thought. No, no, he had to be a big boy. He had to be a big boy, at least until Matt, Mike, and Ian were able to get to him.

Matt, Mike, and Ian. God, he missed them. He wished that they could save him already. He wanted to be with them. Josh missed his mom, dad, and sisters as well. What he would not do to be able to see them again. Tears entered Josh's eyes. He wanted to see his family, all of them. But right now, he knew that he could not. Not until someone found him. All he could do is lay in this crib. And wait. And be strong.

Chapter Text

Matt was walking down the street, trying his best to get his mind off of Josh. Josh was the only thing that Matt had been thinking about these past few days, and it was driving him mad. He was hoping that the walk would clear his head, but it was just causing him to think more. Was he walking on the very ground that Josh got kidnapped on? What was Josh going through right now? What had Branden done to him? It had been four days; a lot could happen in four days. Was Josh cold? Was he hungry? He must be terrified. Was he little? What was there to comfort Josh? Josh did not have his Teddy. He left his Teddy at home on that day. Bennie refused to let the bear out of her sight. She carried it everywhere with her. Matt was not sure what to do for Bennie. She was in so much pain. Her leg was in a cast, so she was not able to walk well. She was not eating, which was not like her at all. Bennie was in a deep depression that Matt knew that she would only come out of when Josh came back home.

Matt was pulled out of his thoughts when he saw something out of the corner of his eye. He turned his head and saw a very tall man with back and blue hair running down an alley.

"Josh!" he shouted and ran in the direction he saw the man run. Hoping that he was not chasing a random person. He ran down the alley, but when he got to the end of the alley, he did not see anything. He looked from side to side, not understanding how that man could disappear like that.

He turned back around a little bit embarrassed that he chased after nothing. He needed to get some sleep. Matt jumped when he did turn around and almost walked into Josh.

Once he got over his shock, he hugged Josh. He noticed that Josh did not hug him back. He just stood there, arms stiffly at his sides. Matt pulled back and saw tears in Josh's eyes.

"Hey, Baby Boy," he wiped Josh's tears with his sleeve, "don't cry. You're safe."

"Didn' help me," Josh crocked, pulling away.

Matt felt like he punched in the gut.

"I'm so sorry, Baby Boy," Matt said.

"Naw," Josh told him stepping back when Matt tried to touch his face again, "didn' help. Needed help. Matty no help," Josh sobbed, "why Matty no help," he turned to run away from Matt.

"Josh!" Matt shouted as he ran after him.

Everything suddenly turned dark. Matt breathed heavily.

"Matty, you gotta help me," Matt heard all around him. Matt tried to look around for Josh, but it was too dark.

"Josh!" the man shouted, panic in his voice.

"No, no, NO!" Matt heard Josh scream, each no getting louder, "let go! Matty, Matty help!"

Matt covered his ears as Josh's voice got deafening.

"Matty, help! Please!"

...

Matt gasped as he sat up in his bed. He breathed heavily, as he tried to shake the remainder of the nightmare. Matt swallowed and rubbed his face with his hands.

"It was just a dream," he whispered to himself, "just a dream." That realization was bittersweet, on the one hand, Matt knew that Josh did not hate him. One the other Matt knew that Josh was still in Branden's captivity. Josh still being in Branden's captivity hurt worse than Josh hating him. At least Josh would be safe if he hated Matt as in his dream.

But no, Josh was at the hands of a sadistic sociopath, and there was nothing that Matt or the guys could do.

Matt shook his head; he needed to stop thinking about Josh. Thinking about him would only drive him crazy.

But it was nearly impossible not to think about him. He must be scared just waiting for someone to come save him. Knowing how the investigation was going, Matt knew that a rescue was not going to happen any time soon. The investigators had start all over as they were not able to trust anything that Detective Davis did, and wasn't that just a punch to the gut. They were starting the investigation over again four days after Josh was taken because of a guy with a grudge. Matt thought bitterly. There was a possibility that Josh could have been found by now, a slim one Matt knew, but there was still a possibility. Now, it would take even longer to find Josh, after four days of the police doing nothing. A lot could happen in four days.

Matt shook his head again. He needed to stop thinking.

The man pulled back his covers and moved quietly into the kitchen. He needed something to drink. He pulled out a bottled water from the fridge. He would have liked something stronger, but it was three in the morning, and they were going to go to the station later that morning to see if there was anything. "Harrass the fuck out of them," Ian had said late last night. Matt could not help but agree with the older man.

"Couldn't sleep," he heard Mike ask right behind him. Matt startled and defiantly did not make a high pitched squeaking sound as he turned to face the older man.

"Fucking scared me, Man," Matt hit the man on his shoulder and tried to get his heart rate to slow.

Mike nodded with a smirk, "I can tell."

Matt rolled his eyes and was about to step around the man to go to his room when Mike touched his shoulder and said, "Ian and I can't sleep either. We were just about to watch a movie."

The invitation was obvious, and Matt was about to turn it down under the illusion that he was going to sleep. But who was he kidding? He was not going to get any more sleep tonight even if he wanted to. Maybe watching a movie with Mike and Ian would not be that bad.

Matt nodded, allowing Mike to wrap his arm around his shoulder to lead him to the living room.

As soon as Ian saw Mike leading Matt into the room, his heart tightened. Matt had taken Josh being kidnapped the hardest out of all of them. The other men were taking it hard too, but Matt... Matt. Ian did not know how to describe it. He was not the type of guy to try and hide his emotions, and he always wore his heart on his sleeve, making it hard for the younger man to hide when he was suffering.

Ian pressed play on the movie. Matt watched it, but it was like he was not processing it. He was somewhere else, probably thinking about Josh like they all were.

About halfway through the movie, Matt spoke up, "I-I had a nightmare."

Ian paused the movie and turned so that he was facing Matt.

Matt swallowed thickly as he continued, "I was walking down a street, and I saw Josh running so I ran after him," Matt felt tears in his eyes and his throat became tight, "he ran down an alley, and I chased after him. When I caught up to him, he was crying. I tried to hug him and wipe his tears away, but he pushed back," he tried to blink back his tears, but more burned his eyes, "he said that he needed help, but I didn't help him. He sobbed and asked why I didn't help him. Then, he ran off. I tried to run after him, to apologize, but then it turned all dark, and all I keep hearing was that damned phone call," Matt finished. A few tears escaped his eyes.

Ian wrapped his arm around Matt's shoulder, trying to comfort the younger man. Matt leaned into the touch a little, "Josh's going to hate me," he admitted his biggest fear.

"What are you talking about, Matt?" Mike asked.

"I-I couldn't help him. He's going to hate me," Matt told them as if it was fact.

"Matt, there is no way in hell Josh could ever hate you," Ian told him, he saw disbelief in Matt's eyes, "who does he want to help him go to bed? Who does he run to when he has a nightmare? Who does he want to cuddle with all the time? Who does he always want to run song ideas by? Who does he want to hang out with on days off? Who is his best friend?"

Matt nodded. Everything that Ian said was true. Matt knew that Josh loved him in little and big space, but he could not shake the irrational feeling that Josh would hate him.

I few tears ran down Matt's face, and Ian pulled the younger man closer. Tears entered Ian's eyes too. Why did this have to happen? Why? To Josh of all people.

"We'll get Josh back," Mike promised.

"When?"

Mike sighed, he did not know how to answer that. Ian turned back on the movie, trying to not think about the question.

Soon, Ian hoped. Soon.

...

Josh groaned when he woke up. He felt miserable. His head was pounding; he was thirsty and hungry, he was cold, he was sore all over, and he was wet. Josh whimpered turning to block out the sunlight coming into the room through the windows. His head hurt really bad, and the light was not helping. He buried his face in his pillow, hoping that his headache would go away soon.

He felt around the crib to find a pacifier. When he found one, he put it in his mouth and sucked on it to try and comfort himself. He wished he had his Teddy to cuddle with.

Josh heard the door to the room open and heard Daddy's footsteps come closer to the crib. No! Josh thought to himself. Don't think like that; you cannot be little right now.

Why not? The voice in the back of his head asked. It would be easier to give in and be little. Just be little and make Daddy happy.

Tears entered his eyes, he did not want to be little, but it was getting so hard to fight back against his headspace. Maybe he should not try and fight it.

"Time to get up, Baby," Josh heard Da-Branden tell him. Josh felt his chest tighten, Branden should not call him Baby. He was Matty's Baby. Not Branden's. Just Matty's.

Josh turned onto his back to look up at Branden, but the light caused his head to pound harder. Josh whimpered and covered his face. Josh heard Daddy lower the bars of the crib.

"What's wrong, Babe?" Branden asked.

"Head an owie," Josh whined, wishing that Daddy would comfort him. That's what Matty, Mikey, and Cassie did when he had headaches. They would take him to his dimly lit room and cuddle with him until he fell asleep or his headache went away.

Branden picked Josh up and rocked him to try and calm him down. He knew that Josh gets headaches often.

Josh whimpered again as Daddy left the room and walked into the living room. It was brighter in the living room. Josh buried his face in Daddy's chest. He needed the light to go away. The light was hurting him.

"No mowe light," Josh cried, tears starting to stream down his face. His head hurt.

Daddy listened and shut the blinds and curtains. The room was dimly lit. That was better. Josh rested his head against Daddy's chest. He wanted to ask Daddy for water but when he did Daddy would make him go even longer without water, so he had to wait until Daddy give him water.

Daddy sat down on the couch with Josh on his lap. Josh squirmed a little, trying to get comfortable on Daddy's lap. But he could not get comfortable. His bottom still hurt from the spanking.

"Still, babe," Daddy ordered. Josh obeyed even though he did not want to listen.

Daddy told Josh to lay his head in his lap. After Josh did as he was told, Daddy reached to grab a baby bottle of water and removed the pacifier from the baby's mouth. Josh dank from the baby bottle greedily, but it was not enough.

Josh whimpered as Daddy removed the bottle from his lips.

"Mowe Daddy, plea'," Josh begged.

"Later, babe," Daddy told Josh.

Josh whined but accepted it. He rolled over to hide his face in Daddy's hip. His head still hurt, and he was going to see if Daddy would let him take a nap. But Daddy did not want him to. Daddy picked him back up and took him to the kitchen.

"Daddy," Josh whined, "sleepy," Josh rubbed his eyes as Daddy put him in a highchair. He did kind of like the highchair, though he did not want to admit it. He wondered if Matty, Mikey, and Cassie would get him one. Josh sighed quietly. He missed Matty, Mikey, and Cassie. He wanted to go home.

Daddy did not respond for a second, but he brought some food to him, "then I guess you don't want any food."

"P-plea' Daddy," Josh begged, he heard his tummy growl. Daddy had not given him any food, and his tummy hurt.

Daddy smirked at him and placed the eggs down on the tray of the highchair. Josh whined as he remembers the first time that Matty fed him. He wanted Matty and Mikey and Cassie. He missed them. Josh picked up his fork as tears entered his eyes. If he were with his friends, Matty would feed him, after they would walk Bennie, then they would come back and play. He wanted to do that. Josh did not want to be scared anymore. He wanted his friends.

Josh breathed trying to blink away the tears. Daddy would not like it if he cried for no reason. He did not want Daddy to the mad at him.

He ate a little, but he could not hold back the tears. He missed his friends. Daddy suddenly got up and stormed over to Josh. He took the food away and said gruffly, "what are you crying about?"

Josh whimpered and curled up into himself. He cried harder. The baby wanted to go home. His friends would not yell at him if he cried. They would hug him and scratch his scalp and tell him that everything that was okay. They would never hit him as Daddy looked like he was about to.

"Answer me, Josh," Daddy said calmly.

"I w-want my fweinds. W-wanna go home," Josh whimpered. He tensed as he closed his eyes. Anticipating a blow. His breathing started to pick up as Daddy did not do anything for a few moments. The stress got too much, he whimpered. Anticipation was almost worse than Daddy hitting him.

Josh opened his eyes once again and whimpered when he saw Daddy's face. He looked so mad.

"I sowwy, Daddy," Josh apologized, more tears streaming down his face. He did not want Daddy to be mad at him. He did not want Daddy to hit.

The apology only seemed to make Daddy angrier. Daddy took the tray off the highchair and ripped Josh out of it. He held the baby by the shoulders hard enough to leave bruises.

"You don't think about them," Daddy told him, "they don't love you like I do."

Josh knew that Daddy was lying, but he did not want Daddy to hit him, so he said, "I-I sowwy, Daddy. I-I no think 'bout t-them no mowe. I sowwy, Daddy. I s-sowwy."

Daddy slapped him causing Josh to fall to the ground, "don't lie to me," Daddy growled.

"I sowwy, Daddy. I no lie. I sowwy, I sowwy," Josh sobbed.

Daddy took off his belt.

"No, Daddy!" Josh shouted. He did not want another spanking. His bottom still hurt, "I sowwy, Daddy. No belt. Plea', plea," he begged.

"Shut up!" Daddy shouted, "unless you want more."

Daddy pulled Josh back up, but Daddy did not pull Josh over his knee or pull he pants down. Instead, he pushed Josh down on a chair. He bottom stung, and he sobbed. Daddy sat down in another chair right in front of Josh. He lifted up his right foot and hit it really hard with his belt.

Josh cried out and tried pulled his leg back, "no Daddy, no!"

Daddy hit his foot three times swiftly. Josh cried again. Daddy hitting his foot hurt worse than Daddy hitting his bottom. Josh curled up and tried to squirm away.

Daddy continued to hit his foot with the belt. He hit harder when the baby would try and squirm away. But when he cried, Daddy went a little easier on him. It still hurt, but he was still trying to sit as still as possible and cried hard.

Daddy took a break, breathing heavily. Josh did not like the silence. The silence made him more anxious. Daddy would hit him harder. He did not want Daddy to beat him anymore. His foot hurt.

Daddy hit his foot again the hardest he ever hit. Josh yelled and jumped. He squirmed but fell off the chair on to the floor. Josh smacked his head on the floor, hard. Josh sobbed as his head and ankle exploded in pain. He was able to prosses a popping sound coming from his ankle passed the ringing in his ears. Josh cried out in pain and tried to curl into a ball, but Daddy's hand on his ankle stopped him. Daddy kept hitting his foot, not caring that he fell down and hurt his head and ankle.

"Owie, owie," Josh cried holding the back of his head. He wanted to hold his ankle too, but Daddy had a frim hold on his ankle, "no mowe Daddy, plea'."

After a few more hits Branden stopped and let go of the baby's already swollen foot. Josh continued to cry, he hurt so much. His head and foot throbbed. He wanted the pain to stop. He wanted Matty, Mikey, and Cassie to appear and comfort him. No, don't think about them. Daddy's going to hurt more. No more, please.

Daddy hosted him back up and tried to make him stand, but his ankle hurt too much, and he felt dizzy. Josh swayed, but as soon as he put weight on his ankle, he fell back down on his hands and knees. He tried to swallow down the bile in his throat. He could not, and he threw up whatever food he was able to eat earlier.

"I sowwy, Daddy," Josh croaked when he was done. Daddy lifted him back up and walked him to the living room. He dumped the baby on the coach.

"Owwie," Josh whined. Josh held his head, and he felt a bump on the back of his head. He did not want to look at his foot. His ankle was probably swollen. He tried to move his foot up and down, but it hurt, and he could not move it. Josh moaned and closed his eyes. He felt sleepy, and he felt dizzy. He wanted to sleep. He rolled over to his side and curled up. Josh felt that his diaper was soaked, close to leaking. Josh whimpered again. He tried his best not to think about his friends and his home. Daddy would find out. He would hurt him more. No more hurt. Please, please.

Josh was dozing lightly when Daddy came back to the living room. Daddy pet his head like how Josh pet Bennie. Josh whined and curled up more. He did not want Daddy to touch him.

"I'm so sorry, Babe," Daddy apologized, he put his pacifier in the baby's mouth, "I don't want to do that. I have to teach you to be a good boy."

Josh whined. If Daddy wanted to teach him to be good, he would be like Matty, Mikey, and Cassie. Daddy would put him in time out, or have him write lines. Daddy would not hurt him. His friends would never hurt him. If he had the chance to go back to Matty, Mikey, Cassie he would be the best boy ever. He would never break a rule ever again. He wanted to go home so bad.

Josh was brought out of his thoughts when he heard Daddy said, "I think you need a change, Babe."

Josh did not like the way Daddy said that.

...

The guys woke up later that morning. Matt was laying on Ian's chest, and Mike was laying on his hip.

"We need to go to the station," Ian reminded as they all sat up and tried to stretch the aches and pains that happened after sleeping on the couch all night. Mike winced as he got up, his ankle hurt a little. He put in off to sleeping on it all night.

They quickly ate breakfast and drove to the station. Not saying a word to each other.

They were met with a friendly front desk woman, who had a sympathetic look when she saw how tired they looked.

"We are doing our best," the new officer told them.

"Can you please tell us something?" Matt asked with pleading, puppy dog eyes that he unintentionally taught Josh.

The young detective looked at them, "this is an open investigation," Matt thought that she was about to reject them again but she looked around for a second and said, "we went to Branden's house again, there was nothing. We are currently tracing where the phone call pinged. While that's going on, I have two detectives going to Branden's workplace. I believe that we are going to go to where the phone call pinged and look for evidence," the detective explained, "I promised we are doing everything that we can."

Matt nodded. They all just wished that the investigation could go faster. That they could have Josh come back home.

...

Josh whined as he was laid down in Daddy's bedroom. Daddy was about to change his diaper. He hoped that Daddy would not touch his privet parts. He hurt Josh enough that day. He did not need to do it. Please, please don't do it. Please.

Daddy slowly untapped his diaper and touched the outside rubbing it. Josh whimpered and sucked his pacifier. Don't think about it, Josh told himself. Don't think about it.

Daddy touched his private parts. Josh squirmed, "no," Josh moaned, trying to move away from his Daddy. But Daddy forcefully spread his legs and sent Josh a look that dared him to try and move again.

Josh breathed heavier as Daddy grasped his dick again and stroked it up down. Josh whined as he felt his dick getting hard, tears entered his eyes. His head hurt, and he was dizzy, and he couldn't move fast, and his ankle hurt, and he did not want Daddy to touch him there. Daddy please, please stop it. Don't want it.

Daddy rubbed his tummy, "it's okay, Babe," Daddy said in a soothing voice, "let Daddy make you feel good."

No, it did not feel good. It felt weird and wrong. Daddy should not do this. Daddy should just change his diaper. He should not touch him like these. He was just a baby.

Josh closed his eyes trying to block out everything. Nothing was happening. Daddy was not touching his private parts. He was somewhere else. Anywhere else he was cuddling with Matty, Mikey, and Cassie and watching a movie with them. He could feel Matty running his hands through his hair, Mikey was patting his back, Cassie would tickle his feet sometimes, and he would scrunch up his feet and giggle and tell Cassie to stop it. It was warm and nice, and nothing hurt. He was with his friends. He was safe.

Josh was brought back to reality harshly when Daddy squeezed his dick. Josh groaned and arched his back. Daddy pressed onto his tummy as it concaved. He breathed heavier as Daddy stroked harder and faster. The baby tried to dissociate, but he could not. All he could do was feel Daddy bring him closer. Josh sobbed as Daddy squeezed and twisted.

"Naw," Josh cried and tried to squirm away, he did not like it, but his body was reacting like he did like it. He didn't, he didn't like it. Daddy placed his hand on Josh's hip as he lifted his hips, his body needing more. Josh whimpered, confused. He knew he did not want it, but his body did.

"Calm down, Babe," Branden told him, gripping his hip, hard enough to bruise.

Josh groaned, he knew he was getting close. He did not want to. It made him feel icky after, then Daddy would want Josh to make him feel good. Josh did not want him to do it.

Josh's vision turned white for a few seconds. Josh moaned again. Now he felt more sleepy and dizzy. He just wanted to sleep.

Daddy helped him on his knees, "Daddy sleepy, please," he begged. He wanted to sleep, he did not want to please Daddy.

"In a second, Bade," Daddy unzipped his pants and took his dick out.

"No Daddy," Josh pleaded. He did not want to. Please.

Daddy pulled his hair, "you don't tell Daddy no," Daddy said as he shoved his dick down his throat.

Josh choked, and more tears streamed down his face. He sucked Daddy's dick like he was sucking on his pacifier or sucking his thumb. Josh could do this. He could. One more time.

The baby bobbed his head on Daddy's dick. Licking his shaft, knowing that Daddy liked how his tongue ring felt against his shaft.

A few minutes later, Daddy grasped his hair to take control back and thrusted in and out of his mouth quickly. Josh coughed and tried not to choke again.

A few seconds later Daddy groaned and came down his throat. Daddy held his head there, "swallow Baby," Daddy ordered. Josh obeyed.

Daddy put it back in pants before he placed the baby's pacifier back in his mouth. Josh lowered his head sucking his pacifier, feeling defeated. He was hurting. He wanted to go to sleep. He was so sleepy, and his head and ankle hurt, and his throat felt like it was on fire, and he felt terrible. He did not want to be hurt no more. No more, please.

"Dada," Josh hiccupped, Josh did not call Daddy Dada often, only when he had enough of the day, "sleepy, please Dada," he lifted his arms up. He needed to be held, even if it was by the man who caused all the pain.

"Okay, Baby," Daddy said, lifting him up, and bounced the baby on his hip. Josh whimpered and hide his face in the crook of Daddy's neck and closed his eyes. The baby was asleep before Daddy placed him in the crib.

Chapter Text

Detective Dana Moore sat at her desk late at night hoping that something would pop out to her as she looked through the case file of Josh Ramsay. She started at the beginning, as she and the three other detectives on the case did eight days earlier.

The first thing that they did was go to Branden Keller's house. There was nothing. It was like someone had not lived there in months. The furniture had layers of dust. So much so that one of their the detectives had trouble breathing and could not look through the house with the rest of them. There was not anything in the house to go on. Aside from the fact that Keller seemed like a neat freak, apart from the dust the place appeared like it would be clean. Everything had its place, and everything was in its place. It fit the profile of a control freak. The only odd thing they found was in a closet in a guest room. In the closet lay an adult-sized diaper with childlike print on it and a blue pacifier that seemed to be made for an adult sized mouth.

They asked Josh's friends about it, but they said that they did not know what those were about. She had sensed dishonesty but decided not to call them on it. If the adult-sized diaper or pacifier came up again, they would question it. It was probably some sort of fetish.

Next, they found out which cell tower the call from Matt to Josh pinged and visited Keller's workplace. Old workplace. As it turns out, Keller quit his job as a retailer four months ago. His boss said that it was not that big of a surprise. The boss always had a feeling that something in Branden was just "off" but he always gave Keller the benefit of the doubt. "The man did his job, and did his job good," his boss said. When Dana asked why it was not a surprise that Keller left the boss said, "the kid had always been off, ya know. He sat by himself, never really talked to anyone, he would sometimes talk to himself when he thought that he was alone, stuff like that. I was honestly surprised to hear that he had a boyfriend," here Dana had interrupted with a-

"Boyfriend, can you tell us about that?"

"Nothing to tell about the boyfriend," the boss shook his head as he had thought for a second, "his name started with a 'J' I think. James, Jake, Jesse..."

"Josh?"

"Yeah, Josh," the boss had smiled, "started about three years ago, I think, Branden could not stop talking about him. Would go on for hours about his eyes, 'blue as oceans,' he would say. He was apart of some band, and you could tell when he would go somewhere for that. Branden did not show his emotions often; sometimes it was like he did not have any," the boss had muttered the last part under his breath, almost like he was talking to himself, "anyway, he would have this sad look in his eyes for months. It was almost painful to look at."

"Did you know that they broke it off?" Dana had asked.

"Yeah," the boss had nodded, "that is when he turned weird. Ya see Branden was the unassuming type. Calm never got angry," the boss went on to explain that Braden had become more agitated. He had started to snap and people and things. He even once threw a cup at a young intern's head when she had not understood something with the computer system. That had been the end for the boss. He had given Branden an ultimatum, either get some help to get over his boyfriend dumping him or he was fired. Branden was fired later that day.

The breakup had been the trigger for the stalking, obviously, but Dana had a suspicion that being forced to quit his job had only further pushed him to kidnapping Josh. He had lost all aspects of control of his life. Josh, his job. It was just a matter of time before he snapped.

When they got the tower signal back, it was somewhere about four hours away from where Josh lives. They called the local police department and gave them the details of the case, and a case file. She sent two of her detectives to work with the local police a few days ago. They were back now but had nothing.

Keller did not have property there. No one has seen anything suspicious. No one recognized the picture of Keller.

Dana sighed, she was at the end of her rope. She was trying to keep this out of the media, as was Josh's friends and family. So far the press did not even know that Josh was missing, but she was starting to think that telling them that Josh was kidnapped might be the only option she has. Maybe it would draw Keller out. But there was another option that Keller would get nerves or even angry and do something stupid, possibly hurt Josh further.

Dana shut the case file. They would regroup tomorrow, go over the options, call the local PD. Tomorrow was another day, and maybe they would finally get a break.

Dana was brought out of her thoughts when she heard someone walking up behind her. She vegley recognized the footsteps, but it was not hard for her to assume who it was.

"What do you want, Davis?"

"You're getting too good at that," the older detective remarked, coming to set on her desk.

Dana glared at him, "what do you want?" she asked for a second time, hitting Davis' hand as he tried to open Josh's case file.

"Still working on the Ramsay case?" he asked.

"Sorry, I'm not going to let a personal vendetta or someone's sexuality prevent me from doing my job," she said as she took the case file and left. It was no secret amongst the police department that Detective Dana Moore was sickened by Detective Davis' behavior.

...

Twelve days. Twelve days Josh has been kidnapped. Twelve days of no sleep. Twelve days of worry and anxiousness. Of fear and distress. But most of all despair. The band was in complete despair. They could not do anything. They could not do anything to help Josh. They could hardly do anything to help each other right now. They mostly just kept to themselves now. They tried to help each other. But it was hard when they were all going through the same thing. It was not like on tour when one of them was having an off day, and the rest of the tried band tried to clear him up to clear him up. This was so much different. And none of them knew how to deal with it.

Mike was honestly tempted to search up "how to get over your best friend, who is also like your annoying little brother, being kidnapped by his psychopathic and sexually sadistic abusive ex-boyfriend" on Google and see what he gets. Or he could just look up "little brother kidnapped," but the details are important.

They were all sitting around the living room, not talking. Hoping for a phone call that would tell them that the police have found Josh. Not ever came.

Mike looked at the clock, 12:00 PM, it was time to feed Bennie. It was not like the puppy liked to eat that much anymore, but the vet said to try and keep to the same schedule that Josh had for her. She would eat when she got hungry enough.

"Lunchtime Ben," Mike said, hoping to draw the puppy out of wherever she was hiding. No sound came from Bennie, who usually went into the kitchen even if she was not going to eat.

"Hey, Bennie," Mike shouted, "c'mon girl," he walked over to Josh's room, knowing that the pup would more than likely be in there. Don't think about it being Josh's room, Mike thought to himself.

They had the door to Josh's room open, just like the day he was kidnapped. The kid's room was a mess like it usually was, bed unmade and clothes everywhere. They were going to have him clean up his room before they watched the movie they promised they all would watch. It would depend on how little he felt if he would actually listen or not.

Mike shook his head a little, he should be looking for Bennie, not reminiscing on Josh.

When he looked into the room, he saw nothing but the mess the younger man left behind. Bennie was not on his bed or beside it like she usually was. Trying not to panic at the sudden disappearance of the pup, he went to look for her out in the backyard. She probably just had to go potty. But she was nowhere to be found.

Mike went back inside and addressed the other men, "do you guys know where Bennie went?"

"She's not in Josh's room?" Ian asked, the name paining him at it passed his lips.

"No," Mike denied. Matt got up and walked to the back door and walking outside.

"I already checked out there, man," Mike told him.

"Did you see this big ass hole?" Matt asked, understanding how the older man could overlook it. Holes in the backyard had become normal in the past few months since they had Bennie. Josh had been worried about that, trying his best to break her of the habit before next May so that he and Matt could garden in peace.

"Fuck, no," Mike said, worry now more prevalent on his tone. The hole Matt was referring to was big. Big enough for Bennie to fit through easily and right by the fence.

"Okay, we have to find her, uh" Ian stated, "Mike and I will look for her around town. Matt stay here in case someone calls about her," he left out the 'or Josh' part, but the younger man understood it.

Mike had a good feeling as to where the puppy went, and after he grabbed his phone, he told Ian just that but said that they should still split in case he was wrong.

Mike walked down the same path the Josh always took Bennie on during their morning walks. It was peaceful this time of day with most people being at school or work. No matter the peacefulness, Mike's stomach still hurt. He was walking down the very path that Josh did right before he was kidnapped. Mike never thought that he could walk this side of town ever again let alone the very path that Josh walked on. But he had to find Bennie; Josh would kill them if they let anything happen to her in his absence.

Not even ten minutes of walking down the path and Mike saw and the little black lab puppy that he was looking for. Mike never thought that a dog could look so human, but the look in Bennie's eyes reminded him of Josh when one of them had to leave for the day. He was better about hiding it in his big headspace, but it was still obvious to anyone that knew he that he did not like the idea of being away from his friends for too long.

When he was in little space, it was more obvious. He would pout and look so sad that you would feel guilty for even suggesting that you had to leave for the day. In the case of Matt, he would sometimes start crying and cling to the man like a child on his first day of kindergarten. Even in big headspace, he would be more distressed about Matt leaving than Mike or Ian. Mike understood why he just hoped one day that the other men would as well.

Shaking himself from his thoughts, he walked over to Bennie and sat next to her. Mike sighed, "I miss him too Ben."

Bennie whined, and if Mike did not know any better, he would say she was crying.

"He's going to be fine," he reassured the pup wondering if she could understand him, "Josh is," Mike cleared his throat and wiped the tears that threatened to fall from his eyes," J-Josh is strong," Mike said, mostly to himself.

Mike rubbed Bennie's head. She whimpered and came closer to Mike.

"I'll be okay, Ben," Mike breathed, "we're going to get him back."

...

One of Daddy's friends was coming over later. He was a nice older man named Mr. Peter, at least that is what Josh calls him. Mr. Peter was a nice man, and he had a little of his own. He seemed to treat her better than what Daddy treats Josh. At least that was what Josh felt from hearing Mr. Peter talk about her. He kind of wanted to meet her, but he did not want to risk Daddy hurting her. Would Daddy hurt someone else little? Josh did not want to find out.

He was in Daddy's living room and trying his best to be quiet while playing with his toys. Daddy did not like him making too much noise, but he wanted to make it look like Josh was happy being here with Daddy.

Josh was not happy, and he wondered if he could ever get that across to Mr. Peter. Would Mr. Peter even help him? He was Daddy's friend.

Josh jumped as a knock on the door scared him out of his thoughts.

"I'll get it, Baby," Daddy said in a louder than normal voice. Josh stiffened at the use of the word 'Baby.' He did not like it when Daddy called him Baby. He was Matty, Mikey, and Cassie's Baby. That was it. And only Matty called him Baby. Cassie called him Buddy and Mikey called him Kiddo. That was the way Josh liked it. That was the way it was supposed to be. No one else was supposed to call him those nicknames.

Daddy opened the door to reveal Mr. Peter. The older man smiled down at him. Mr. Peter had a smile that reminded him of his grandfather. The baby looked at his Daddy for approval before giving a small, shy smile back. It was more of a grimace.

"Hello, Joshy," the old man greeted.

"Hi," Josh whispered, looking down at his toys. Don't be loud. Don't make eye contact.

"I have a little gift for you," Mr. Peter told him as he stepped closer to Josh and reached into his satchel.

Josh looked up at that and cocked his head to the left. He wanted his gift. He looked at Daddy, and he had a frown on his face. Josh looked back down at the ground. He knew that he was not going to get his gift from Mr. Peter, and he did not want to make Daddy mad.

"That's not necessary, Pete. Josh has plenty of toys and such," Daddy said, which was true. Josh had tons of toys, but he was not allowed to play with a lot of them. Daddy did not want to become spoiled. Not like at home. Matty, Mikey, and Cassie let him play with all his toys whenever he wanted to.

"I insist," Mr. Peter said, "a baby could never have too many toys," Mr. Peter winked at Josh.

Josh smiled up at Mr. Peter but cruled up when he saw Branden cross his arms and glared.

"I-it okay, Mistew Petew," Josh told him looking down at the floor. He wanted his gift. Josh pouted. Daddy was mean.

Mr. Peter chuckled and said, "no, Joshy, I insist," Mr. Peter sat down next to him. He reached into his bag and pulled out a blue stuffed puppy, "I thought that it matched your hair."

Josh nodded and hesitated to take the toy from Mr. Peter, "fanks Mistew Petew," Josh said. He did not care at that moment that Daddy would be mad. The baby liked and wanted the blue puppy. He was going to name him Matt.

While Peter was talking to Branden, he noticed little things about Josh's behavior. The baby had always been shy. He always had a bashful smile on his face, and when Peter would try to talk to him, he would squirm and hide behind his Daddy until Branden would convince Josh to talk. Now, he was not talking at all, not even to his Daddy. The baby looked almost sad and had a look of fear in his eyes when he looked at his Daddy. He was half-heartedly playing with his toys. When he had to move from one place to another, he would crawl instead of walk. That worried Peter; he did not crawl he always walked.

"Is Josh okay?" Mr. Peter asked Branden, "is he taking the move okay?"

"Yeah, he's fine," Branden said, looking at Josh out of the corner of his eyes, "I think he's just tired. C'mere Josh."

Josh looked over at his Daddy before he crawled over to Daddy with his blue puppy, "yeah, Daddy," he asked when he got over to his Daddy.

"Are you tired, Baby," Branden asked.

Josh was not really tired at all. He just got up a few hours ago, and he had at least two hours until he got sleepy enough for a nap. But being in his crib was better than being with Daddy. He tried to be in his crib for as long as possible because Daddy did leave it dark unless it was a punishment. He did not think that he did anything that would make Daddy punish him. But Daddy liked to punish him for no reason sometimes.

Josh weighed his options for a few seconds before he nodded, "sleepy Daddy."

Branden lifted Josh up onto his hip so that he did not have to crawl the whole way to his room. But once they were in there, he put Josh on his feet and held him by the shoulders. Josh whimpered as he was forced to put weight on his hurt foot.

Josh whined again as Daddy ripped Matt away from him, "when I tell you to do something, you do it," Daddy removed his hands from Josh's shoulders and watched as he dropped to the floor in pain, he smirked a little. He put the blue puppy in the closet full of toys.

Daddy picked Josh back up and placed him in the crib and locked it, "we will talk about this after Mr. Peter leaves."

Josh whimpered. He knew what 'we will talk' means. He did not want it. He did not want to be hurt. Please, Daddy, please.

He pulled a blanket over him and curled up, sucking on his pacifier. Daddy turned off the light and closed the door. The only light that was coming into the room coming from behind the closed curtains and blinds.

Chapter Text

9:30 A.M.

Branden sighed as he thought about Josh while sitting next to his sleeping baby's crib. He was not listening like he used to. He used to listen to everything that Branden would say. Now, Branden had the beat him to get him to do anything. Ever since Josh hurt his foot, he threw tantrums about everything. Even eating.

He remembered that it took him a while at first for him to listen. This was not at first. He should know better. He did know better, he just did not want to listen.

It was all because of his bandmates. They knew that Josh was a little and they convinced Josh that he was better off with them. That is why he broke up with him in the first place. They changed his Josh. Braden wants his Josh back. Just a little more time.

But he was getting desperate to have his Josh back. He felt the knife in his pocket. Not yet. Later. Maybe.

9:40 A.M.

Branden heard Josh moan as he woke up, "'addy," he mumbled past the pacifier in his mouth and rubbed his eyes with his right hand.

"Morning, Babe," Branden greeted his baby. He stood and unlocked the crib. He put his baby on the ground, Josh squirmed and got on his hands and knees. Josh crawled behind him and followed him to the living room.

Branden turned on the T.V. to the local news, apart of his morning routine, as his baby got out some of his toys. But not before looking at Branden to make sure it was okay.

Maybe his baby was learning, Branden thought as he nodded in approval.

Branden tuned into the T.V. and watched his baby out of the corner of his eye.

9:45 A.M.

On the T.V. Branden saw a photo of Josh from about a year ago. He turned up the volume.

"13 days ago, Joshua Ramsay, singer-songwriter of Marianas Trench was kidnapped exboyfriend, Branden Keller," a photo of Branden was put on next to Josh's. "The police are trying desperately to find the suspect and bring Ramsay home. If you see Keller, the police warn not to go near him as he is dangerous," here two different phone numbers, one saying Vancouver and one saying Quilchena came up, "If you see Keller or Ramsay, the Vancouver and Quilchena police ask that you call at (604) 555-1855 or (778) 555-4578 respectively."

"Now we are going to go to a press conference the Vancouver Police Department set up with Ramsay's friends and family."

It cut to show said press conference. It showed Josh's bandmates and family.

Josh, who was drawn to the T.V. when he heard his name, smiled as he saw his friends and family. It felt good to see them after so long. Even if was just through a T.V. screen. He wanted to crawl closer to the T.V. but stopped himself. Daddy would get mad if he crawled to the T.V. He just paid attention and let his mama's voice wash over him.

"Please," Josh's mom pleaded with tears in her eyes, "please help us find my son. He'smy baby boy," here Josh's mom broke down into tears.

At seeing his mom cry, tears entered Josh's own eye. He did not want to see his mama sad.

"Mama," Josh whimpered. He wanted to reach into the T.V. and hug his mom, tell her that everything was okay. He was right here. He wanted to right there so that his mama and other members of his family did not cry. Josh did not want his family to be sad. He wanted to go home, so they were not sad. He wanted to go home.

When Branden heard Josh say 'Mama,' he was brought out of the trance that the T.V. put him into. He turned off the T.V. and threw the remote across the room. He breathed heavily in and out as the emotion that he assumed to be anger overtook him.

How dare the police be looking for Josh. Josh was his and only his. That was why he took him, to show Josh that he was Branden's. That they were meant to be. Only them. No one would ever understand his baby the Branden did. No one would ever be able to love him the way Branden did. Josh was his.

They had no right to look for him. Josh was where he belonged. How dare that bitch stand in front of a camera and cry and beg for 'her baby boy' back. Josh was not her's, he was Branden's.

"Daddy," Josh whimpered, scared that Daddy was going to take his anger out on Josh. He whimpered again as Branden turned around to face him. Josh should not have said anything.

Branden stepped closer to the now shaking baby until he was towering over him. Josh ducked his head down and tried to hide his right foot. But Daddy did not hit him, instead, he reached down and hugged Josh.

"You're mine," Branden growled possessively in Josh's ear.

Josh whimpered. He was not Branden's. He was his family's, but he decided not to say that. Daddy was already mad, and the baby did not want to make him even madder. He hopped Mr. Peter would see the news today. Please, Mr. Peter, please.

So, Josh said, "yeah, 'addy, 'm yours."

Branden pulled back, pulled the pacifier out of Josh's mouth and kissed the baby hungry. When Branden pulled back, Josh did not like the look in his eyes.

10:05 A.M.

...

9:42 A.M.

Mr. Peter sat on his couch and rubbed his face. His poor little girl was sick with a fever. Poor thing felt miserable. She was taking a well-needed nap that she probably would not wake up from for a while.

"She will be fine," his wife told him.

"I know. I just hate to see her sick is all."

Mrs. Peter decided to turn on the T.V. to try and distract her husband. She flicked through the channels until Mr. Peter said, "wait, wait. Go back."

"What is it?" His wife questioned, flicking back through a couple of channels until he told her to stop.

On screen, they saw a photo of Josh. While Mrs. Peter never meet the young man in real life, she knew her husband had jokingly threatened to kidnap him and bring him as more than one occasion.

"...singer-songwriter of Marianas Trench was kidnapped exboyfriend, Branden Keller," a photo of Branden was put on next to Josh's.

Mr. Peter looked at the T.V. screen in shock. There was a no was that Branden was capable of anything like that. He would never hurt anyone much less Josh.

But there was that visit he had yesterday. From the brief interaction, he had with the baby yesterday he knew that something was not right. At first, Mr. Peter put it down to Josh being stressed by the move. But now that he thinks about it, there was a fear in Josh that Mr. Peter had never seen in a little before but has seen in a child many times. It was the look of fear that a child has when looking at someone that should be able to protect and love them. That is what he had seen is Josh.

How was that possible, Mr. Peter could not help but think. Branden would never hurt Josh.

"The police are trying desperately to find the suspect and bring Ramsay home. If you see Keller, the police warn not to go near him as he is dangerous. If you see Keller or Ramsay, the Vancouver and Quilchena police ask that you call at (604) 555-1855 or (778) 555-4578 respectively."

10:00 A.M.

Mr. Peter turned off the T.V., grabbed his jacket and car keys, and made a move toward the door. He could not battle with that what-ifs in his head. Not when there was a possibility that Josh was in trouble. He hoped that this was just one big mistake, but if it was not Mr. Peter did not want to be the reason that Josh got hurt merely for not reporting.

"I'll be back in a while," Mr. Peter told his wife.

"Where are you going?"

"To the police department," he answered, "I know where Josh is."

10:03 A.M.

Mr. Peter left for the police department.

...

10:13 A.M.

Detective Shawn Marshall of Quilchena hung up the phone to their tip line on the kidnapping of Josh Ramsay with a sigh. Maybe opening a tip line about a celebrity with a bunch of little teenage girls as fans was not the best idea. Do not get him wrong, he wanted to find the kid, and felt sorry after learning about his past and about him being abused for two years. It was honestly amazing that the man that the kid was able to do what he was doing with music and become as big as he had become. He just hoped that this was not the breaking point for Josh.

"Hello, are you Detective Marshall*?"

The Detective Marshall looked up to see a short, older looking male, mid to late fifties with snow-white hair and bright green eyes. The eyes seemed to hold worry in them that made Detective Marshall sit up a little straighter and pay attention.

"Yes, and you?"

"Peter Morgan, Mr. Peter if you will" he shook hands with the detective, "I was told to talk to you about information about Josh Ramsay."

"Yes, sit," the detective said, "what do you know, Mr. Peter?"

Mr. Peter sighed as he sat down, "Branden and Josh are at 1209 Westlake Dr. about thirty minutes from here."

Detective Marshall nodded as he wrote down the address, "and may I ask how you know this information?"

"It is my property," Detective Marshall looked up at Mr. Peter when the sentence left his mouth, "Branden said that he needed a place to stay after he was evicted from his house. I thought that he just fell on some hard times and I wanted to help him. Branden said that he and Josh would not be there long, just enough for them to get back on their feet."

"Were you aware the Keller and Ramsay broke up seven months ago?"

"Yes, sir. I thought that they got back together," Mr. Peter looked at the detective in the eyes, "I had no idea that any sort of abuse or kidnapping was going on until I saw the news this morning. I honestly hope that this is just some misunderstanding, but I cannot be sure until someone goes and checks. That is why I am here right now. I am worried about Josh and worried that allowing Branden into my property might have gotten Josh hurt."

"Thank you, Mr. Peter," the detective sighed he was going to hate this, "but you are technically an accomplice in the kidnapping of Josh Ramsay."

"Yes," Mr. Peter stood, knowing what was going to happen, and if Josh was truly kidnapped by Branden, he could not help but think that he deserved it.

10:34 A.M.

Mr. Peter Morgan was arrested for being an accomplice in the kidnapping of Josh Ramsay.

...

10:15 A.M.

Daddy laid Josh down on his bed. Josh whined and tried to squirm away. Daddy only put him on his bed when he wanted to play with Josh. Josh did not want to play the way Daddy did. It hurt, he did not want to.

"Stay, Babe," Branden told him. Placing his hand on his baby's stomach to settle him.

"No Daddy, don't want it, please," Josh whimpered. He did not want to play with Daddy. Someone, please help.

Branden pinned Josh arms above his head, "you do what I want," he growled in his baby's ear, "unless you want me to tie you up. Is that want you want, Babe."

Josh stilled, and whimpered, "no, Daddy, no," he did not want to be tied. Last time Daddy did that, he left Josh tied up for the rest of that day and into the next morning. Josh's wrist had been raw from struggling, and it hurt.

"Or maybe I can play with one of your friends," Josh whimpered and shook his head. Branden had learned that threatening his baby's friends was the best way to get him to be whatever he wanted to form Josh. Branden happily exploited the weakness.

"Maybe the one with fluffy hair and contagious smile," Branden finished the threat and smirked as Josh looked at him with horror in his eyes, and he shook his head vigorously from side to side.

"No, Daddy please," Josh begged, "Don' huwt Matty," Josh did not want Matty to get hurt, not like how Daddy has hurt Josh. Daddy could not do that. Not if Josh could help it. He would listen, he would be good. He would keep his friends safe.

"Will you be good?"

"Yes Daddy, I be good," he would do anything to keep Matty and the rest of his family safe.

"Good."

10:23 A.M.

Branden unhanded his baby and pushed back so that his weight was rested knees and shins. He undid the snaps of Josh's onesie and felt the outside of the diaper that was only a little wet.

Josh tried not to allow his breathing to pick up. He had to remain calm. If he could be calm, this would not be so bad. It would be okay. He would be okay. Breath. Breath. It's okay. Go somewhere else. Somewhere safe. Somewhere where Daddy was not removing his diaper to play with him. Somewhere with Matty, Mikey, and Cassie. Somewhere where nothing hurt. He was safe and happy.

The baby was abruptly brought out of his happy place when he felt Daddy enter him with one of his long fingers. Josh whined and tensed, it burned. Josh did not like it. Please, Daddy, stop. Josh tried to beg Daddy to stop, but it felt like his heart was in his throat. He could not breathe.

"Calm down, Babe," Josh heard Daddy say as he moved his finger inside him, "I'll only feel good if you calm down."

But it never felt good. It always hurt and felt wrong and Josh would feel dirty and sleepy after. He did not like it.

"Please Daddy," Josh begged when his throat loosened, "please stop, don' like it," Josh would do anything to get Daddy to stop.

"I'm just trying to make you feel good, Babe," Josh heard, as he felt a second finger enter him before he was ready.

Slow down, slow down Josh thought desperately, but did not dare say it out loud. Think of something else, Josh ordered himself.

Josh tried to go back into his own mind, but he could not. All he could do was feel as Daddy moved his fingers around inside of him. Stretching him far too fast and making everything burn.

Josh sobbed as his body exploded in pleasure. "No," Josh moaned, he should not like this. His body should not react this way. Josh felt his dick become hard as Daddy continued to rub the spot. No, no, no. Josh did not like this, his body should not like it. Stop, please. It was so confusing.

"No," Josh sobbed as Daddy started to stretch him again and grabbed his dick, "too much, Daddy," Josh whimpered, trying to squirm away.

Daddy took his fingers out of him. Daddy flipped him over and rearranged Josh so that his bottom was up in the air.

Josh felt his breathing pick up and tears started to stream down his face. No, please. It was too much too soon. Why couldn't he just keep his mouth shut?

Because you are a stupid baby, Josh heard the harsh voice in the back of his head say. Josh whimpered but knew that the voice was right.

The baby cried out and tensed as he felt Daddy's dick enter him. His heart was back in his throat, and he could not breathe. It felt like Josh was on fire. It hurt worse than when Daddy hit his foot or even when he hurt his ankle and head.

Josh tried to relax. It would hurt less. But he couldn't. It hurt too much. Josh sobbed loudly. Why did Daddy have to hurt him? Why couldn't Daddy be nice? Like Matty, Mikey, and Cassie.

Josh wanted Matty, Mikey, and Cassie. Josh wanted his friends to save him, bring him back home. He wanted to go home, not stay in this hell.

"Calm, Baby, calm," Josh wanted to hit Daddy for calling him baby again. He was not Daddy's baby. He was Matty's Baby. Matty would be a better Daddy than Branden was. He would not hurt Josh. He loved Josh. Same goes to the rest of his family.

Daddy paused for a moment, and Josh was able to relax slightly. But the second that the baby relaxed Daddy started moving in and out of Josh at a brutal pace. Tears streamed down the baby's face as he felt Daddy grab him again and stroked it at the same intensity as his thrusting.

Josh closed his eyes, once again trying to go into his head and float. But the baby was not able to do it. He could feel everything. Every thrust and pull. Every stroke on his dick that brought him closer to the edge. Every agonizing movement that made Josh wonder if he was being ripped in half.

Josh did not know how much time passed before Daddy whispered, "cum," in his ear, but was glad because he knew that playtime was almost over. Josh listened, and his vision turned white for a second.

1...2...3 Josh felt Daddy cum inside him.

10:47 A.M.

Daddy let go of Josh, and the baby collapsed into a heap on the bed. Daddy flipped Josh so that the baby was on his back. Josh let out a noise that between a whine and a sob. His bottom hurt. He would not be able to sit for a while.

Josh closed his eyes, content with letting sleep take him.

...

1:26 P.M.

Josh woke up from his nap and wished that he did not. Everything hurt, and he felt dirty. He wished that he could take a shower. A scolding hot one. One that would remove whatever layer of dirt that the baby had on his skin.

Josh whimpered as he sat up. He was right, it did hurt to sit. And he could not stand because of his ankle. Josh was completely defenseless.

Josh looked around the room, wondering if Daddy was in the room with him. Josh did not have to look for long to see that Daddy was in his closet and throwing some clothes out.

"What Daddy doin'?" Josh asked in a small voice, hoping that he did not anger Daddy somehow.

"We have to leave, Babe," Daddy explained.

"Why?" Josh knew why Daddy wanted to leave. He was scared that Mr. Peter was going to tell the police about what he was doing to Josh. So, he was going to leave before the police could come, and take Josh with him. Josh did not want to go anywhere with Daddy.

"Because of some people who want to take you away from me."

Josh did not know why he felt adrenaline run through his body, but he did. He blames adrenaline for the next word that came out of his mouth.

"I want them to take me away."

Branden stopped mid folding a shirt to put in his suitcase. He walked over to Josh and pulled him to his feet. Josh started to struggle, so Branden slapped him across the face as hard as he could. Josh cried out as he fell to the floor. But the baby stumbled to his feet, using the bed to help him stand.

"You are mine," Branden growled grabbing the baby's shoulders to keep him still.

Josh pushed back as he said, "no I not. I Matty, Mikey, and Cassie's. I not youws."

Branden saw red he reached into his packet in feel the knife that was still there.

"I'm your Daddy. No one else can have you."

"You no good Daddy!" Josh screamed, tears once again streaming down his face, "Matty better Daddy, " Josh would never call Matty 'Daddy' that name has been ruined. Maybe Papa.

"I wanna go home!" Josh just wanted to go home. He would do anything to just go home.

Branden had enough. If Josh was not going to be his, no one could have him. Branden pulled out the knife. Josh's eyes widened in horror, and his breathing picked up. More adrenaline ran through his body, making whatever pain disappear.

Before Josh could say beg or say that he was sorry, Branden swung with his left arm, aiming for the baby's throat. The baby tried to dodge the knife but fell to his right. He felt a searing pain that began in his chin, right below his mouth and ended above his collarbone. His hand came up to cover the wound. Within a few seconds, his hand was covered in blood and blood was dripping into the carpet beneath him.

Branden got on top of him and raised the knife high in the air before trying to bring it back down, but Josh grabbed his wrist. The two struggled for a minute before Josh was able to get the knife from Branden.

The baby stood on shaky legs and pointed the knife at Branden. Branden lunged forward, to try and get the knife again, but Josh lunged forward as well. Stabbing Branden to the stomach. Branden made a sound as Josh pushed the knife deeper and twisted.

Josh pushed Branden away and dropped the knife before collapsing himself. Josh felt dizzy but could not really feel anything. His legs felt numb, and his vision was starting to become black around the edges and he could feel blood oozing out of the cut in his neck.

Is this what it felt like to die?

1:36 P.M.

Suddenly Josh heard someone slam the door to the bedroom open. He looked over to see blurry figures enter the room. One of the blurry figures knelt down in front of him. She had red hair. He felt her run her hand through his hair and he could pick up on her saying that everything was going to be okay. Like Matty.

"M-Matty." Josh groaned in a quiet voice.

"I need a medic!" Josh heard someone shout.

Next thing Josh knows he is being reeled out of the house on a stretcher.

Then everything was dark, but Josh was not scared. He felt calm and peaceful. He did not hurt.

1:42 P.M.

"He's coding."

Chapter Text

"He's coding."

The paramedics rushed, desperately to save the young man the police just rescued from a horrible ordeal.

"Bag 'em!" the female paramedic ordered while grabbing the pads.

"Charging to 200 joules."

"Clear!" the bag was removed from the young man's face. His body convulsed as electroshocks shot to his heart.

"Nothing."

"Charging to 300 joules."

"Clear!"

Beep, beep, beep.

They sighed in relief.

"Get the blood flow under control."

"Carotid artery's nicked."

"Clamp 'em."

"Pulse is slowing."

He closed the artery as quickly as he could.

"He's coding."

"Beg 'em. Start chest compressions."

After a few minutes, "C'mon, big guy. C'mon."

Beep, Beep, Beep.

"Thank God."

...

As soon as Matt, Mike, Ian, and Josh's mom and dad heard that Josh was in Queen Victoria Hospital they packed into their cars and drove.

Three hours they arrived at the hospital and asked the receptionist about Josh.

"Joshua Ramsay," the young man repeated back to them, typing something on the computer, "seems like he is still in surgery."

"Still?" Ian and Josh's dad said at the same time.

"Surgery?" Matt asked.

"There seems to have been a few complications. I am sorry I can not give any more information. If you go to the waiting room, the doctor will be with you as soon as he can."

They listened.

Matt sat down next to Josh's mother, who looked like she was about to break down into tears. Matt wanted to offer words of comfort to the older woman, but he could not. Not when his throat was so tight that is was hard to swallow.

Matt looked around the room at his friends. Mike was in a corner isolated from the rest of them, looking deep in thought. Probably thinking of the surgery and what the complications were.

Why was Josh in surgery in the first place? What did that monster do to Josh? His sweet baby boy. He was in surgery because of what that monster did to him. He did not deserve that. He did not deserve anything that happened to him in the past two weeks. Why did that monster have to choose Josh? Why Josh? Why one of the sweetest, kindest, gentlest men that Matt knew? He may never get the answer to those questions.

Matt was not usually one to advocate for violence, unless it was against horrible keyboards, but he wished that he could beat that monster. Just one good hit. Like that monster did to Josh so many times. Maybe a little more. Perhaps he could get the guys in on it too. It should not be too hard.

Matt, lost in his plans of revenge, did not notice when the doctor walked into the room until he said, "family of Joshua Ramsay?"

"Yes," Josh's dad said, stopping his pacing alongside Ian, Good thing, Matt thought, it looked like the men were going to run into each other.

"I'm Doctor Jamenson, Joshua's doctor."

"It's Josh," his mother pointed out.

"Josh," the doctor sat down and motioned for the rest of them too as well. Mike came to sit next to Matt. Josh's dad and Ian remained standing.

"Josh came in with numerous injuries. To start off with the most severe his Carotid artery was nearly severed on his left side, most likely from a knife. We repaired it with surgery, and we gave him a blood transfusion. But I must tell you that he crashed once in surgery and twice on the ambulance ride here. And he is now in a coma. We do not know when Josh will wake up."

Matt looked at the doctor in horror. Josh's heart. Stopped three times. Josh died three times. And is in a coma. He was going to kill that monster himself when given a chance.

"What we are the most worried about now that he is stable," the doctor continued, "is the possibility of brain damage."

"Brain damage," Josh's mother repeated fear and concern in her tone.

"The Carotid artery supplies oxygen-rich blood to the neck and head," Dr. Jamenson explained like he was reading from a textbook, "With the amount of time Josh bleed, he is honestly lucky to be alive. With injuries like this, the possibility of brain damage is high because the brain is being starved of oxygen, and him crashing three times, that further starved his brain of oxygen. My prediction is that Josh will be profoundly brain damaged."

Matt looked at the doctor like he was insane. How could he make that prediction? Saying that Josh might be brain damaged was fair, even though Matt did not want to accept it, but to say that Josh will be 'profoundly brain damaged' was unfair. He was not even awake. How could he make that judgment?

"Profoundly brain damaged," Mike said, his tone portraying what Matt was thinking, "what do you mean?"

"The possibilities are endless. He could not be able to walk. May not be able to sing or talk. May not be able to play an instrument," the doctor looked at them all seriously, "you might want to look into a long-term care facility for Josh."

"With all due respect, Doctor," Josh's dad said the title like an insult, "you don't know my son."

"Plus, even if Josh was 'profoundly brain damaged' we would not just dump him somewhere," two weeks without his baby boy was enough. He would never abandon him, never play into his biggest fear.

"It was merely a suggestion," the doctor tried to defend himself.

Merely a stupid suggestion, Matt could not help but think. But he did not want to get into an argument with the man, so he let him continue.

"Next, there is a severe tear in the posterior tibial tendon in his right ankle," he must have seen the confused looks the family wore because he explained, "the posterior tibial ankle tendon is the tendon that connects the calf muscles to the ankle. We are thinking that Josh will need surgery to repair it. It seems that the injury happened a few days ago, and with the neglect, it has only gotten worse. I just need consent from Mom and/or Dad for the surgery to take place," he turned to Josh's mom and dad, "we can talk specifics later."

Matt did not want to think about how that could have happened. Too many possibilities, the next scarier than the last.

"Next," here the doctor sighed and took a moment, "we found evidence of sexual assault."

Matt wanted to say that he was surprised by that information, but he was not. Josh had woken up too many times from nightmares begging for that monster not to 'touch him there,' and begging for that monster to get off of him.

It was still painful to hear.

"What do you mean?" Josh's dad asked while hugging his wife. Hearing that Josh was raped by that monster had caused the dam to finally break in her eyes.

"There were bruises on his hips and thighs, and there was blood in the diaper we found Josh in," no one questioned why Josh was in a diaper, his parent too much in shock and his friends not surprised in the slightest, "we are waiting for the results of the rape kit."

"Lastly, Josh has multiple bruises, cuts, and scars consistent to long-term physical abuse. He is also malnourished and dehydrated, which is being corrected via IV."

Matt was done with all the medical talk. He just wanted to his baby boy. "When can we see him?" Matt asked.

"He is in ICU, so we can only allow two of you for five minutes," the doctor said, "once he gets put in a regular room, you will have to follow hospital visiting hours."

The first ones to go was Josh's parents, then Mike and Ian, then Matt.

...

Matt entered Josh's room slowly and was taken aback when he saw the prone figure laying on the bed. He looked so small, which was not a word that Matt would normally use to describe Josh. Even in little space, Josh had a larger than life personality. He always took up space. He was loud and boisterous. His sassy boy. But now, he looked venerable and weak. Words that should never be associated with Josh.

Two large mechanics were connected to Josh. The one that was tracking Josh's heartbeat, saying that yes Josh is still alive you don't have to worry, had several wires that connected to Josh under the blanket and hospital gown. The other had two long tubes, one blue and one white. Matt followed the tubes to see that they both attached to a smaller white tube and small gray box that read numbers that Matt did not understand. Finally, Matt saw a small white tube sticking out from the box and disappearing into Josh's mouth.

The doctor was right to say that Josh had multiple bruises. Just on his face, Matt could see that he had an eye that was swollen shut and an extremely bad bruise on his right cheek. It looked like Josh had been punched several times which would not surprise Matt in the slightest. On his arms, he had several hand-shaped bruises. Matt did not even want to know what other injuries his baby boy has.

Matt walked over to the bed and pulled up the blanket that was pooled around his hips to he chest, careful not to mess with the wires and tubes and the IV too much. The blanket was thin, too thin to protect the boy against the cold. Matt would bring a thicker blanket tomorrow. Josh was always cold. Josh once said, when the band was picking on him for being cold, that it was because he did not have blubber to protect against the cold, unlike them. Matt, in turn, had lightly pinched the little pudge that Josh had on his stomach and called him a 'chunky boy.' Josh had hit his hand away and giggled a little.

Matt smiled at the memory, but the smile was soon gone as he looked at Josh again. He was way too skinny, almost like his last year in high school. Josh had bee nearly fifty pounds underweight then. While it did not look that drastic, he had to be a few pounds underweight now. Before he was taken, Josh was finally starting to gain some weight that he had lost due to stress, and even then he was teetering on being a healthy weight and underweight.

"Oh, Baby Boy," Matt said, stroking Josh's left cheek, careful not to touch the bandage on his chin and neck. Whatever cut was below the dressing was going to scar. He was going to be insecure about that. Matt sighed, what if Josh would not even notice the scar. What if he was profoundly brain damaged.

"The doctor's talking a lot of stuff out there," Matt told him, "but you probably already heard about that from Mikey and Cassie, don't you?" Matt grabbed Josh's too cold hand, "just do me a favor, Baby Boy, prove him wrong," like he had done so many times before.

"Just wake up for us, Baby Boy," Matt blinked away the tears that entered his eyes.

Matt did not know what else to say, he looked at his watch. He had two more minutes left. He did not want to just sit there and not say anything. Matt knew that if Josh could hear him that he would not like for him to be silent. Josh would also hate for Matt and the others to leave.

Matt decided to sing a song that he would sing to Josh when putting him down for a nap or put to bed for the night.

"The dawn is breaking
A light shining through
You're barely waking
And I'm tangled up in you."

Matt remembers when the song first came out it was the only thing that he wanted to listen too. The band had to beg him to switch the song. Even now he liked to play the song over and over again, only getting away with it when he was in little space.

"I'm open, you're closed
Where I follow, you'll go
I worry I won't see your face
Light up again."

Tears entered Matt's as he could not help but think that the lyrics perfectly described his emotions and thoughts right now.

"Even the best fall down sometimes
Even the wrong words seem to rhyme
Out of the doubt that fills my mind
I somehow find
You and I collide."

Tears streamed down his face, and Matt slowly rubbed Josh's knuckles with his thumb.

"I'm quiet you know
You make a first impression."

Matt gave a wet chuckle. That described them to a tee.

"I've found I'm scared to know I'm always on your mind
Even the best fall down sometimes
Even the stars refuse to shine
Out of the back, you fall in time
I somehow find
You and I collide."

Matt felt a presence behind him. The man stopped singing and turned to see an older looking nurse, he read her name tag. Kimberly.

"That was beautiful," Kimberly told him in a matter of fact voice, "Mr. Ramsay is sure lucky to have you guys."

"We're lucky to have Josh," Matt replied with a smile, wiping his eyes and looking at his watch. He sighed, "I'm sorry Baby, I gotta go. I'll be back as soon as I can," he kissed Josh's forehead and turned to leave, head down before he remembered that he had something for Josh.

"Hey, Baby, I got Teddy for you," Matt laid the bear next to his baby boy's side, "bye-bye, Baby Boy."

The nurse watched the younger man's retreating back then said, "Baby Boy," she shook her head. She wondered how long that man had been hiding his feeling for the other man on the bed. She had seen it multiple times. Where neither side wanted to admit that they had feelings for each other, but they ended up living happily ever after.

Kimberly wondered when those two men would get their happily ever after.

The nurse turned back to look at the heart monitor when she heard it raise ever so slightly. She looked at Josh's vitals to see that they did increase slightly. Almost like he was stressed, she hummed. She would have to talk to Doctor Jamenson about this.

When she turned to leave she could have sworn that Josh had tears on his face.

...

Josh felt like he was floating. It felt good. He was not in pain anymore. He felt safe. The only thing that was missing was his family. That made him feel a little sad. Josh missed his family. He wanted them.

He felt a presence beside him. He looked but did not see anything. He was confused. Why did he fell someone beside him when no one was there. He whined. He wanted his family. Where were they?

He felt the presence leave and then two more to take its place.

"Hey kiddo," he heard someone say. It sounded like Mikey, but he could not see him anywhere. Where was he? He wanted to see Mikey. He wanted a hug and cuddle.

"Man," he heard someone else say. It sounded like Cassie. But he could not see him. Josh whined. He wanted to be with his friends. Not just hear their voices. Was he going crazy?

"Joshy. They're talking some bullshit out there," Cassie told him. Cassie should not say that word, Josh thought distantly, it was a bad word. Josh would never get away with saying that word.

"Profoundly brain damaged," Mike said with annoyance in his tone.

What were they talking about? Profoundly brain damaged? Who were they talking about? Him? Josh was not brain damaged. Who was saying that he was? Where was he?

"The doctor does not know what he is talking about," Cassie said. Josh did not know if he was talking to him or Mikey, but now things were starting to make a little sense. The doctor said he was brain damaged (the doctor was bad, he lied to his friends). So, he was in a hospital. He had been in a hospital before. It never looked like this. What was happening to him?

He was starting to get a little scared. He could not see anything. It was like he was sleeping. If he was asleep, he wanted to wake up. He wanted to see his friends and show them and the doctor that he was not brain damaged. He was fine. He just wanted to wake up.

"Wake up, Kiddo. When you're ready," Mikey told him.

He did want to wake up. Really bad, but he could not. Why couldn't he wake up?

"We gotta go, Buddy," Cassie said, "we'll be back tomorrow."

No! Don't go! He just got to hear their voices after what felt like months. He did not want them to leave. He did not want to be alone. He felt even more scared. Please, please don't go. Josh would do anything. Please.

Josh heard their footsteps go away. No, no. Come back. Please.

Josh felt tears enter his eyes when he felt someone else the room. They lingered around the door. After a few minutes, they walked over to were he was. He felt the person rub his cheek. He wanted to lean into the touch, but he could not move.

"Oh, Baby Boy," he heard Matty say. Matty! Matty was here. He would leave, would he? No! He could not. Please don't leave, Matty.

"The doctor's talking a lot of stuff out there," Matty said. He already heard that from Mikey and Cassie, and he did not want to listen to anymore. The doctor was a bad and a lair.

"But you probably already heard about that from Mikey and Cassie, don't you?" Yes, he did. No more talking about it! Matty was not allowed. It was bad!

Josh felt Matty grab his hand. That felt nice. It was warm. Josh did not notice that he was cold until now. Josh whined. He did not like the cold. He wanted a blankie.

Josh listened as Matty spoke again "just do me a favor, Baby Boy, prove him wrong."

Josh wanted to prove the mean doctor wrong. He just had to wake up. Mikey told him to wake up when he was ready. Maybe he just was not ready. When would he be ready?

"Just wake up for us, Baby Boy," Josh wanted to wake up. But he was not ready.

There was a pause in the conversation.

Then, Matty started to sing his favorite song. Josh listened. He loved it when Matty sang. And he really loved it when he sang this song.

As the song progressed, Matty started to sound sad. It sounded like Matty was crying.

No, don't cry. Please. Josh did not want his friend to be sad. Don't be sad Papa. Papa? That felt... right somehow. Matty would be a good Papa. And Papa's should not be sad, so Matty could not be sad. He could not.

He felt someone else come into the room, and Matty stopped singing. Josh whined, he wanted to hear the rest. But it made Matty sad, so maybe he should not sing all of it.

Josh heard a woman say that he lucky to have his friends. He was. They were the only ones who would put up with his craziness and his little side. And they never hurt him or yelled. They loved him. And Josh loved them.

"We're lucky to have Josh," he heard Matty say. Josh felt his chest contract. Thanks, Matty

"I'm sorry Baby," Matty sounded sad again. Why was Matty sad? Why was he sorry?

"I gotta go. I'll be back as soon as I can," he felt Matty kiss his forehead.

No, no, no, no! Josh felt tears in his eyes again. Don't leave. Please. Matty could not leave, please. Josh did not want to be alone. He was scared to be alone. Why did his friend leave him alone?

Josh was so lost in his own panic that he almost did not notice that Matty put Teddy next to him.

"Bye-bye, Baby Boy."

No, stay. Josh felt tears run down his face.

Papa stay.

Chapter Text

Ian looked down at the coffin of one of his bandmates, his friend, his little brother, his buddy. Ian swallowed down his tears. He had to be strong for the rest of his band. Was there even a band anymore?

Ian could not believe that Josh died. He survived through Branden, and he survived through having his carotid artery cut. Josh survived through everything. But it was an infection that killed him. The doctors did not catch it fast enough; they tried to save him. But it was too late.

Too late to save Josh.

Ian hated it. The last of Josh's days on earth had been suffering and fighting to just live. But in the end, Josh could not fight anymore. His body was too weak to fight the infection. Josh never got to know that he was safe, he was home. He died in fear, probably still thinking that he was still with Branden.

Tears finally started to fall down his face. Ian never got to see Josh's eyes again. He never got to hear his voice. The last time Ian ever heard his voice Josh said that he was going to be back in a few hours, he was going to walk Bennie. Something he did every day. That was the last time Ian saw Josh's eyes light up and smile. He loved taking Bennie out on walks. Josh was so excited to watch a movie with them. He got excited about such little things at times. Ian did not think that anything was going to happen that day. Nothing ever happened.

Ian wished that he could go back to that day. Tell him not to go, tell him to go a different route, go with him. If only he could. He would do anything to do that. Anything to save Josh from suffering.

Ian could not believe that his whole life could be turned upside down in under two and a half weeks. Two and a half weeks. That was it. It felt like months.

Ian could not look at Josh, just the coffin. Maybe if he did not look at Josh's died body, then it would not be real. Josh would show up and ask what was going on, or he would be at home and ask where they had been.

Ian knew that it would not work. He knew that Josh was dead. Nothing could change that. Nothing would bring Josh back. More tears fell down his face.

Josh was dead.

...

Ian woke up with a gasp. Breathing heavily.

It was just a dream, Ian thought to himself. That was it. A dream. A horrible dream.

Josh was not dead. He was in the hospital. He was still in a coma and did have an infection in the cut on he neck. But he was fine. The infection was being treated now. He was going to wake up any day now, and then they would go home. Then they would hopefully be able to get back to work, and everything would go back to normal. Forget the hell of the past two and a half weeks. Everything would be fine.

Ian tried to shake the nightmare away, but no matter how hard he tried all he could see was the coffin of his friend. He needed to see Josh, make sure that he was fine. He left the room he was sharing with Matt and Mike after he woke a note saying that he needed to visit Josh.

As he walked to the hospital, he thought about how lucky they were that the doctors allowed them normal hospital visiting hours. After a couple of days, the doctors and nurses noticed that Josh's vitals went up when they were away. It was like he could feel when they were there, and would become upset when they would leave. The doctors wanted to keep Josh as relaxed as possible, so allowed the family normal visiting hours. Ian was never so happy about Josh's separation anxiety as he was now, no matter how fucked that sounded.

When he arrived at Josh's room, he saw that Nurse Kimberly was there, checking Josh's vitals. She turned once she heard his footsteps, "I little early, Ian?"

"Yeah, I just needed to see him," Ian responded. Kimberly nodded, understanding.

Ian sat down next to Josh and grabbed the younger man's too warm hand gently. Poor baby had a slight fever that was being controlled by medicine via IV.

"Hey, Buddy," Ian said in a whisper, pulling up Josh's blankie up to his chest, somehow the blanket always ended up pooled around his hips or to his side.

Ian smiled as he remembered how the grey and blue fuzzy blanket came to be Josh's. About a month after they learned that Josh was little, Matt had let him sleep in his room after a nightmare and had given the baby the grey and blue blanket. The next morning Josh refused to let Matt have the blanket back, and soon it became obvious that is was the blanket was now the baby's blankie, and there was nothing they could do about it. When Josh was big he had said, "you gave my little side something warm and fuzzy and expected it back," as an excuse for stealing Matt's blanket.

"Had a bad dream about you last night," Ian was not sure why he was telling Josh this. If the baby could hear him, he did not need to hear about Ian's irrational dream. But he needed to get it off his chest somehow, and there was the possibility that Josh could not hear him.

Josh could tell the second Cassie entered the room. He was getting really good at being able to tell which of his friends were in the room just by their footsteps. The baby relaxed when Cassie took his hand and pulled his fuzzy up to his chest. He did not like it when the people who changed him would leave his fuzzy somewhere else on him. It made him feel cold. He did not like being cold. He wanted to be warm. He was happy to have his friends there because they made sure he was warm, and they talked to him and held his hand and would kiss he forehead and cheek. He loved his friends; he still wanted to see them and get a cuddle, but no matter how hard he tried, he could not wake up. It made him sad that he could not wake up.

Cassie started to talk about his bad dream. Josh died in his dream.

No, no. He was not dead. He was just sleeping. He wanted to wake up. Cassie sounded sad. Cassie should not be sad. Josh did not want Cassie to be sad. Josh felt tears burn eyes he wanted to wake up. He wanted Cassie not to be sad anymore. He wanted to wake up!

Ian suddenly heard Josh's heart monitor pick up from 75 BPM all the way up to 150 BPM and it was raising. He felt Josh squeeze his hand, and tears were falling from his eyes.

He was waking up.

"I need a nurse in here!" Ian shouted, not wanting to leave Josh's side.

When Josh heard Ian shout, he felt scared, but he still fought his way past the darkness until he could finally see light.

Soon Josh heard footsteps enter the room and they told Cassie to leave. No, no Cassie don't go, please. He wanted Cassie. He started to struggle when he felt hands on him. No, no one else but his family should touch him. He did not want all these people near him. It scared him. He wanted Cassie.

During his struggle, Josh noticed that he could not breathe. Something was in his throat. Josh whined and reached up to try and remove whatever was in his throat, but someone stopped his hand and pinned it to what felt like a bed.

"No, Josh," a female voice scolded him, "let it breathe for you."

Josh shook his head slightly. He did not want anything to breathe for him. He needed to breathe himself.

Josh sobbed when he felt hands try and pin him to the bed. 'Get off me!' Josh wanted to say, but whatever was in his throat did not allow him to speak. Josh sobbed again, feeling tears streaming down his face. Get it out.

"Josh, open your eyes," he heard a male voice say to him, "Open your eyes and look at me."

Josh tried his best to listen, but the lights hurt his eyes. The baby whined. It hurt. More tears streamed down he face, and he still tried to breath himself, but he stopped struggling as much. A few minutes later, he was finally about to open his eyes, and he looked at the doctor.

"I need you to cough so I can remove the ventilator," the doctor gripped the ventilator tube closest to his mouth. Josh listened and coughed as the doctor pulled it out of Josh's throat. When it was finally removed, Josh gasped and sobbed. He curled the best he could on his side.

"Ian," Josh sobbed, he wanted Cassie. He felt hands on him again, and he tried to shake them off, "no don' touch. No touchin'. Cassie! I want Cassie!"

Josh saw a blurry figure come next to the bed. He tried to squint to see who it was, but his eyes did not want to cooperate.

"Hey, buddy, Cassie's right here," Josh reached out with an uncoordinated arm. Cassie held on to his hand. That was good. He tried to pull Cassie toward him, but he was too weak.

Someone told Cassie that he had to go. Josh sobbed, "no. Cassie no go. Cassie stay, please."

Ian waved off the nurse trying to get him to leave. He could not leave Josh, not when Josh just woke up, and not when he was so upset.

"Cassie's not going anywhere, Buddy, okay, Cassie's staying, right here," Ian reassured the baby, running his fingers through his hair. "You need to calm down, Buddy, okay. I need you to breathe for Cassie. Breathe, Buddy, in and out."

Josh listen breathing slowly. He held Teddy close to his chest with one hand and grasped Cassie's hand tightly with the other. He was finally able to calm down.

"Cassie," Josh sniffled. He tugged on Cassie's hand wanting the man closer. Ian sat on the bed, making sure to avoid all the wires and the IV. Josh curled up into Ian's side, but his legs would not move that much. Josh did not think about that. It was okay. Cassie had him. Cassie was holding him. Everything was okay. He was safe. Josh relaxed entirely and buried his face into Cassie's side.

"Hey, Buddy, I need you to listen," Ian told the baby, who did not move, "can you listen for Cassie?" Josh sniffled and nodded. He would listen. He would be a good boy. Always.

"I need you to listen to the doctors. Be a good boy from them, okay."

Josh whined as much as his sore throat would allow. He did not want to listen to the doctors. They made his family go bye-bye. They lied. But he wanted to be a boy good for Cassie and the rest of his family. He would listen for his family. He nodded.

"Okay, Cassie," Josh said. It felt weird to talk. His throat hurt because of the thing that was just taken out of it, and it felt like something was on his face, right below his mouth and down to his neck.

"I need you to lay on your back, Josh," Dr. Jamenson told him.

Josh whined. He did not want to he was comfy, and he wanted to cuddle with Cassie, and he wanted to ask Cassie where the others were. He wanted all of his family. But he needed to be a good boy for Cassie. Josh allowed the doctor to help him roll over, but he kept a hold of Ian's shirt.

"I'm just going to ask you a few questions," Dr. Jamenson told him in the most gentle voice the doctor could manage.

Josh sniffled but nodded.

"What is your full name?"

"Joshua Ramsay."

"Full name."

Josh looked at the doctor, confused. He just told the doctor his full name. He looked at Cassie before repeating, "Joshua Ramsay," in a small voice.

The doctor sighed and wrote something down on his notepad. Josh scooted closer to Cassie. What did he do wrong?

"Josh doesn't have a middle name," Ian said.

"He doesn't?"

Josh shook his head. He does not have a middle name.

"You're his doctor, shouldn't you know that," Cassie sounded upset. Josh laid his head on Cassie's shoulder and rubbed his arm. He did not want Cassie to be upset.

"Josh," the baby looked at the doctor and noticed that the doctor wrote something else in his notepad, "where do you live."

"Vancouver."

"Do you know where you are now?"

"Inna hospital," he looked at Cassie for a confirmation, Cassie nodded.

"Do you know what town or city?"

"No," Branden never told him what city he was in. Was it wrong that he did not know?

"That's okay, Josh," Dr. Jamenson said, "with what you have been through, I do not find that surprising."

"When is your birthday?"

The questions continued like that, asking some basic personal questions, some math questions. What is 2 plus 2? What is 3 times 3? He asked some basic knowledge questions. Who is the Prime Minister? When is Thanksgiving Day? He got all of the questions right.

"Good job, Josh," the doctor praised, "okay, I am going to perform a small physical exam."

Josh squirmed a little. He didn't wanna be touched. Not by anyone but his family.

"Cassie," Josh whimpered.

"It's okay, Buddy," Cassie said kissing the top of his head. Usually, he would not show this much open affection toward Josh when in public, but right now Josh was little and upset, and he just woke up from being in a coma for four days before that he was kidnapped for two weeks by a monster. If he needed a kiss on the top of the head to calm down, then damn it, he would.

"No one can hurt you. I won't let anyone," Cassie whispered in his ear. Josh nodded.

Dr. Jamenson asked him to move his arms around, and he did so as much as he could without hitting Cassie in the face. The doctor then ran a pen down his arms, asking if he could feel it, he could.

"Good, good," Dr. Jamenson nodded, happy that there seemed to be no sign of brain damage, aside for slightly slurred speech and simple sentences, but that could be from being in a coma. Not to mention that Josh seemed terrified. Dr. Jamenson was going to have one their psychiatrists talk to him. See what they could do for him.

"Okay, know I'm going to ask you to move your left leg up and down, Josh. First, I am going to remove the blanket from your legs, okay," Josh nodded his consent. When his blankie was pulled up to expose his bare legs, Josh shivered a little. He was cold.

"Josh move your left leg up and down."

Josh tried to move his leg up and down like Dr. Jamenson said, but he could not. His breathing picked up as he tried again. He could not. Tears formed in his eyes.

"Cassie," Josh whimpered, looking up at the man with begging eyes like the man could help him move his leg." c'n't move it," he whined.

"Calm down, Buddy," Cassie said, holding Josh a little tighter.

"But, but," Josh started to breathe heavier, and they heard the heart monitor speed up.

"I know Buddy. I know," Cassie said, "we're going to get this figured out."

"One more thing, then I'll leave you alone," Dr. Jamenson told them.

Josh gulped but nodded.

"Can you feel this," he ran the pen up and down both legs. Josh nodded he could feel his leg, "that's a good sign, Josh. There is a possibility that this is a temporary matter."

The doctor turned and left the room.

After a few moments of silence, Josh spoke up, "Cassie?"

"Yeah, Buddy?" Ian asked.

"Where Matty and Mikey? And Mama and Dad?" Josh asked.

"I texted them, they are all on their way."

Josh nodded with a smile.

...

Later that day, Ian was standing outside Josh's room. He needed a small breather to wrap his mind around what he just learned. Josh was paralyzed from the waist down. The doctor thought that it may be temporary, and explained to them that the paralyzes were more than likely caused by lack of oxygen to the brain. They would have a physical therapist meet with him tomorrow, and they were going to run another MRI. For today they thought that it would be best for him to rest. That is what he was doing. He was taking a nap, and snuggling with Matt. He had been afraid to go back to sleep, thinking that he would have to fight to wake up again, but his exhaustion had won out. His poor buddy.

Ian suddenly saw two men in suits rushing toward him. They reached to open the door.

"May I ask who you are?" Ian asked

"We are with the Quilchena police department," they showed their badges, "we are here to question Mr. Ramsay about the death of Branden Keller."

Ian sighed, hasn't Josh been put through enough by that monster. He knew that Josh killed Branden. But he knows that Josh did it in self-defense, it was obvious to a blind person. How would have Josh gotten that cut?

The police entered the room, "we are investigating the death of Braden Keller," the shorter one said, "we need to ask Mr. Ramsay some questions."

"He is sleeping," Josh's mother said, "can't you come back another time?"

"It would be the best if we could question him now," the taller one said.

They all sighed, "hey, Josh," Matt said shaking Josh slightly.

Josh groaned, not ready to wake up, "no," Josh moaned.

"You gotta wake up for a minute, Dude, there are some people here who wanna ask you some questions."

"Wha'?" Josh moaned, sitting up a little more when he saw the men. He had been doing his best not to act little when his parents came in. But these men looked scary.

"We just need to ask a few questions about the events that led up to the death of Branden Keller."

Josh's eyes went wide, "death?"

"Yes, you did not know that he was dead?" the shorter one asked.

"No," he looked at his family.

"We were going to tell you when you felt better, Son," his father told him. Josh's knitted together but nodded.

"Can you tell us about what happened before the police came?"

"Uhh," Josh blinked rapidly, looking down at the blanket in his lap, trying to remember anything. He could not. He did not even know the police had come, "I-I," Josh shook his head, "I don't remember."

"Okay," the shorter one said, sitting down in a chair, "what is the last thing that you remember?"

"Uhh," Josh thought. He gulped, and his breathing picked up. His lower lip trembled.

"What is it, Joshy," Mike asked.

"B-Bran," Josh could not finish the name, he closed his eyes, "raped me."

Josh heard a gasp, it came from his mother, she left the room, "Mama," Josh crocked out, feeling tears in his eyes. His dad followed his mom. Josh looked at his friends, begging them not to leave. Please don't leave.

"Do you remember anything past that? A knife. Anything?"

Josh shook his head, hand coming up to touch the bandage on his neck. He did not know how that happened. He could not remember.

Why couldn't he remember?

Chapter Text

A lot of things were going to happen today. The doctor ordered an MRI and CT scan for his brain so that they could see if there was any further brain damage that did not affect his legs. And they were going to see what was exactly was affecting his legs. Then he was going to get an MRI on his ankle to make sure that it was healing. If his ankle was not healing, he was going to need surgery. Josh did not like that idea. He hoped his ankle was getting better. He did not want to have surgery. He wanted to go home with Matt, Mike, and Ian.

After all of the testing, he was going to have a little meeting with a physical therapist. She was going to check his legs out and see what she can do to help him walk again. If he could ever walk again.

Right now, however, Josh was sitting up in the hospital bed with holding Teddy on his lap. He could not sleep in the new room. He woke up at 3:15 in the morning from a nightmare. Branden had a knife in the dream and was trying to attack him. He had woken up in a cold sweat, and his heart monitor had been going crazy. Nurse Kimberly had come in his room to calm him down. Josh had asked her what she was doing back so soon, and she responded that she had to come back in because of one of the nurses that got sick, and she was going to work until six that night.

"You missed me that much?" Josh asked with a charming smile on his face.

"Notta chance, Honey," the ER nurse had replied, just as sassy as Josh.

Josh chuckled under his breath; she was going to be fun to be around while he was in the hospital.

"Josh," he jumped and squeezed Teddy a little tighter as he heard Nurse Kimberly's voice. Speak of the devil.

"Yeah?" Josh asked, wondering if he did something to make the older woman mad.

"You need to try and get some sleep, Hon," Kimberly told him.

"You've never heard of insomnia, have you," Josh cocked his head to the right. Josh winced as it hurt to move his neck too much.

"Excuses, excuses," Nurse Kimberly clicked her tongue, "Lay down and close your eyes."

Josh listened, holding Teddy close to his chest. Josh heard as Kimberly walked around the room to do whatever she needed to do.

Josh could not help but ask after a few minutes of silence, "when can I get out of here?"

"Eight times," Kimberly responded.

Josh hummed in question, cracking an eye open.

"You have asked that question eight time since you got up," the nurse stated, raising an eyebrow as she saw that Josh had an eye open. He closed his eye. "to answer, that depends on if your ankle needs surgery or not. If it does, you will have the surgery in two days, and you will leave when the doctor says that you can. If it does not, then you'll just need to be here for a few more days. Four at most," Josh opened his mouth to ask why, but before he could she continued, "because 1. The doctor wants to watch for more brain damage. 2. You need to have a few sessions with the physical therapist so that she can advise you to one where you live. 3. You need to speak with a psychiatrist so that he can advise you on what to do mental health wise."

"Okay," Josh knew that he was going to ask again, hoping that the answer would change. Hoping that someone would say that he could go home now.

"Get some sleep, Josh. You have a big day tomorrow. You do not want to be sleepy for that."

Josh gulped. He did not want to go to sleep. He was scared to.

"Do you want somthing to help you sleep?" Kimberly asked when Josh said that he was scared to sleep.

Josh opened his eyes and looked at her like she grew a second head.

"You need some sleep. You are saying things without realizing it," Kimberly said with a slight chuckle.

"It's not funny."

"I'm getting you some melatonin," she told him. She left.

Before she could enter the drug into his IV, Josh asked, "what if I can't wake up for today?"

"Then I guess the doctor will have to reschedule. You need your sleep. In my opinion, more than those tests."

Josh knew that Kimberly was not happy that the doctor had scheduled so much for one day. Josh did not like it either. It was too much. He was going to be in a tight space for too long. He talked to the doctor about his claustrophobia. The doctor said that if he became too scared, then Josh would have to tell them, and then they will see whatever other tests that they could do without putting Josh into a tight space.

Matt would be there with him. He would be okay.

Josh looked at the clock in his room, and it was 5:27 A.M. He had to be up at 10 A.M. to get to the first test at 10:30 A.M.

His family would be with him all day. He was going to be okay.

...

"Breathe, Buddy," Ian told him, rubbing his shoulder. Ian was rolling him to the MRI room.

"I'll tell you that next time you need to give blood, and freak out," Josh told him curling in on himself even more and picking at Teddy's fur. It was true that Ian had a big fear of needles. Last time Ian had to give blood, he held Josh's hand so hard that Josh was sure that the older man was going to break it.

"Sure, Buddy, sure," Ian responded. Josh gulped and held Teddy close as the doctor opened the door to the room that leads to the MRI.

"You are fine, Baby," Matt whispered in his ear, "we'll all be right here. Okay?"

"Yeah," Josh whispered nodding his head. Josh let go of Teddy with one arm, and took Matt's hand, not wanting to let go.

The doctor and a nurse helped him out to the bed-like part of the machine.

"The MRI is loud, do you want some headphones. We can play music if you want to."

"Music," Josh agreed, chewing on his thumbnail. He wanted to put it in his mouth, but he needed to be a big boy right now. He could not suck his thumb.

"What type of music do you like?"

"Soft rock," Josh answered.

"Okay, Josh, before I put the headphones on I want you to know this test is only going to last for thirty minutes. While the test is going on, try your best not to move. You can hold on to your friend's hand if you need. Are you ready?"

Josh looked towards Matt, who gave him a reassuring smile and squeezed his hand. Josh breathed slowly and nodded, "yeah."

"Okay, let's start," the tech put on the headphones.

Josh whimpered as he moved into the MRI. Josh held onto Teddy with one hand that was at his side, and he squeezed Matt's hand hard. Matty rubbed his knuckles and tightened his hold on Josh's hand. Josh's breathing picked up slightly.

"Okay, Josh," he heard the voice of the tech guy, "calm down a little breathe in and out slowly. We will not let anything happen to you."

Josh took in a big breath, held it for a few seconds and breathed out. He repeated the pattern of breathing a few times until his chest was a little less tight. He felt Matty rub his knuckles again. Everything was going to be okay. Papa had him. Papa would not let anything happen. Nothing could happen to him. Everything was okay. Papa was there.

Josh let the music wash over him. He took comfort in Papa's hand in his and music and holding onto Teddy and the knowledge that his friends were out there watching out for him.

Josh flinched when he heard, "you are doing fantastic, Josh. Can you try to move your legs? Remember that you do not need to get frustrated. Okay."

"Yeah," Josh said. He tried to move his legs, and they did move a little. About an inch off the bed. But it was hard, and he felt exhausted after he tried.

"That's enough, Josh," the tech said, "only five more minutes."

Five more minutes. He could do it. Josh squeezed Matty's hand. The man squeezed back then continued to rub his knuckles with his thumb. Josh breathed slowly.

The five minutes seemed to last forever, but it was eventually all over.

Josh breathed a sigh of relief when he was finally out of the machine. The nurse and the doctor helped him sit up. He felt Matt rub his shoulder when he was fully sat up. Josh leaned into the touch, and when the doctor, nurse, and tech stepped away, Josh reached for his Matty, needing a hug, Teddy's arm still in one of his hands.

Matt gladly accepted the hug, rubbing the baby's back and scratching his scalp. Matt rocked the baby back and forth slowly.

"You did great, Baby Boy," Matt whispered in his ear, not caring if someone could hear him. His baby needed and deserved comfort after that, "such a good boy."

Josh sniffled and buried his face into Matt's shoulder, drawing comfort from the man. He held Tedy to his chest with one arm and wrapped his hand around Matt's waist with the other arm. The baby felt safe and comfortable in Matty's arms. He wanted to cuddle forever and forget everything that has happened to him. But, unfortunately, the tech said it was time to see his ankle.

...

The other two tests went about as smoothly as one could expect from a claustrophobic man who is in the state of mind similar to a toddler. They did have to cut the CT scan five minutes early because he got too scared and felt the walls closing in.

"Matty, Matty get me out!" Josh had shouted with tears in his eyes. He almost called Matty Papa, but the baby was able to hold back. He did not know if Matty wanted to be called Papa, and he was around other people. He did not want anyone to know.

Josh had apologized for that, but both the tech and the doctor said that it was okay, they had the pictures that they needed.

Josh was now laying in bed with Teddy clenched close to his chest, hiding in Matt's side as the men tried to get him to eat some soup that Kimberly got him. Josh did not want to eat. He was sleepy, not hungry. The baby just wanted to sleep. Please.

"C'mon, Buddy," Ian told him, rubbing his shoulder, "you need to eat a little, then you can take a little nap."

"Wanna sleep," Josh whined with a sniffle, holding Teddy closer to his face "please."

"Josh," Matt addressed the stubborn baby, "do you want to get better?"

"Yeah," Josh whispered, coming out of his hiding spot a little to look at the man.

"Then you need to eat," Matt reasoned.

Josh sniffled again tears burning the corners of his eyes, "sleep," the baby just wanted to sleep. He was so sleepy. Please, Papa.

"How about this, Kiddo," Mike spoke up, "how about you take five bites, then you can take a nap."

Josh whimpered, knowing that there was no way that he would win the argument against the men. He sniffled and came out of his hiding spot completely and putting Teddy on his lap.

"Matty do it?" Josh begged the man, looking up at him with teary, puppy dog eyes.

"Of course, Baby Boy," Matt agreed. The man picked up the spoon and picked up some of the soup and fed it to the baby.

When Matt tried to feed him a sixth bite of food, Josh turned his head and whined, holding Teddy close again.

"Tummy full," Josh whimpered.

"Okay, Baby," Matt sighed, wishing that the baby would eat more. He was too skinny and needed to eat, but it was going to be a battle to get him to eat like he was before.

Matt wrapped his arms around Josh, "go night-night for a little bit, Baby Boy."

Josh put his thumb in his mouth and clenched Teddy closer to his chest relaxing back into Matty's side, and he said: "Wove you guys."

Matt, Mike, and Ian smiled a little, "love you too," they said, using their respective nicknames for the baby.

Josh yawned, hiding into Matt's side again. He was asleep not even a minute later.

...

When Josh and Mike went to the physical therapist, they were met with a bright smile by a young woman who could not be that much older than Josh. They also noticed a man that was in his early twenties, probably her assistant.

"Hello I am Jessica," she turned to the young man, "this is Spencer, he is my assistant," the man gave an awkward little wave. Josh waved back, holding Teddy in his lap, "and you are you, Joshua Ramsay, correct?" The therapist asked.

Josh rubbed his eyes; his nap was not long enough. He wanted to sleep some more, but Josh and his friends were told by the doctor that the police were coming back to talk to him again. Josh did not know how long that would last. Josh wanted to cry. He just wanted to sleep and cuddle.

Suck it up, the voice told him, it does not matter if you're sleepy. Stop being a stupid baby.

The voice was right.

"Yeah," Josh answered nodding his head.

"How are you feeling?"

Josh debated on how to answer that question. He could be honest and say he was tired but did the woman really care? He decided to be honest because he wanted to be a good boy.

"I'm tired," the baby said, trying to sound as big as possible. He did not want to sound like a baby. Josh needed to be a big boy.

"I won't keep you for long," the therapist told him. She turned to Mike, "can you wheel him up to the bed?"

Mike complied and wheeled Josh up the bed so that the baby's side was next to the bed.

"I'm going to grab you under your arms and help you on the bed, okay? Spencer is going to come to your side, and make sure you don't fall," Jessica nodded at Spencer, who took his place by Josh's side.

Mike did notice that Josh leaned away from the younger man and clenched the teddy bear harder. Mike hated that. Josh should not be scared of a much younger man who was a couple of inches shorter than him, and who honestly looked like a pipe cleaner with eyes. Mike could only hope that Spencer was stronger than he looked, in case Josh did fall. Josh did not need to be hurt anymore.

Josh gave the woman a distrustful look. He wanted to ask if Mike could help him on the bed, but he knew that Mike could not. The hospital staff did not want his friends to help him when he moved from a bed to the wheelchair or vice versa.

Jessica smiled at him, "don't worry. I have never dropped anyone," Josh gave a small smile but still looked slightly skeptical of the woman. The woman once again turned her attention to Mike, "I need you to pull the cair back when I get him on his feet," Mike nodded.

Jessica grabbed under Josh's arms with firm hands, "okay, 1,2,3," Jessica lifted the boy up easily. Spencer helped her turn Josh after Mike moved the chair out of the way. They got him on the bed.

"There was go, Josh," Jessica said, "today I just want to do a couple of exercises with you and explain them."

Josh nodded.

"Okay, first I'm going to lift your lower leg up and down. Tell me if you feel any pain," she did what she said she was going to do, lifting his left lower leg up and down. It did not hurt and all, but it did feel weird for someone else to move his leg without him doing it. After a few times, she gently let his leg down so that it could dangle.

"The hope in doing exercises like this is that it will strengthen the bond between the motor neurons from the brain to the leg," as she explained she began to massage his leg, "in a couple of sessions I will ask you to move your leg while I help, that will further strengthen the bonds. Then eventually I will want you to do these on your own, from there it will be between you and the physical therapist you choose, but they should try and get you to walk with assistance, then hopefully without."

Josh looked a little overwhelmed by all the information, right now it was difficult for the boy to even move his legs an inch off the bed. He could not imagine a time that he would be able to walk again. He worried one on his Teddy's ears.

Knowing that Josh was slightly overwhelmed, she said, "but for right now let's focus on what we are doing. So you may be wondering why this crazy lady who likes to talk way too much is massaging my leg," Josh chuckled at that. Jessica gave him a smile, "this is something that should probably happen about three or four times a day, we will do this at the beginning of the sessions, and your friends can do this too if they want to," she looked at Mike, who nodded. He would do anything that would help get Josh up and walking again.

"It will prevent your legs from becoming stiff if your legs become stiff any and all therapy we do won't matter."

Josh nodded in understanding.

"Next I'm going to do the same thing with the right leg. Now with this one, I need you to tell me if I hurt you, okay?"

Josh nodded, "yes, ma'am," he said.

"Jessica, Sweetheart," Jessica told him, "I don't need to be feeling old quite yet."

Josh chuckled, he liked this woman, he was still a bit weary about Spencer, but Josh knew that it was just because he was male and that it was unfair to be scared of him for no reason. The boy could not help it.

After Jessica was done moving and messaging his leg, she said, "I am just going to do two more excises that also qualify as stretches that we are going to do at the end of every session," Josh nodded, "Spencer and I will help you lay back, okay."

Josh gulped a little. He did not want a man to touch him. That was unfair. Spencer did not look like he could/would hurt anyone.

You're a stupid baby, the voice told him, not everyone is Daddy. Stupid, stupid baby.

Josh's breathing picked up at what it said. He wanted the voice to stop. Josh was not a stupid baby. He was just scared.

That makes you a stupid baby, the voice said, who would be scared when there was no danger. A stupid, stupid baby.

Josh felt tears enter his eyes; he blinked them away, he has no reason to cry. Nothing was happening to him. He was fine.

"Hey Kiddo," Mike addressed, Josh looked at him, "what's wrong?"

"N-nothing," Josh said, he could not let anyone know about the voice in his head, Mike and everyone would think he was crazy. He was not crazy. He was just unwell.

"Just l-lost in my head," the boy laid and felt very guilty. He lied and did not tell Mikey if something was wrong. He broke two rules. That was bad; he was a bad boy.

Jessica and Spencer helped him lay down on his back.

Jessica lifted his left leg, bending it at the knee so that his leg made an upside-down 'L.' She brought his knee to his chest, then placed it back down again, so that his knee was still bent and his foot was on the mattress. She repeated while explaining-

"This is once again to strengthen those motor neurons in the lower leg, and this also acts like a little stretch for the back of the leg. Stretching will be very important so that you do not become stiff. Tomorrow I will show your friend some stretches that he can do with you."

She repeated the process with the right leg; the only difference is that she did not let the foot touch the mattress.

"That's all is have for you today," she said, "tomorrow we will do a little longer, we will keep to 15 to 20 minutes twice a day for a while to get your legs used to moving again, okay?"

"Yeah," Jessica and Spencer helped the boy into the chair that Mike wheeled close to the bed.

"Thanks, Jessica," Josh and Mike said at the same time.

"No problem," Jessica smiled.

"T-Thanks, Spencer," Josh said, not making eye contact with the younger man.

Spencer smiled and nodded.

"You did awesome in there, Kiddo," Mike praised the boy, "You've done great all day, Kid. I think you've earned a little treat. Do you think Matty or Cassie will be able to convince the doctor to let you have a slushie?"

Usually, Josh would become very excited at the thought of a slushie. It was like ice cream to the baby because he could not eat ice cream without becoming sick to his stomach. But Josh did not react; he did not move at all. He stayed still, staring ahead blankly. This concerned Mike. He needed to talk to the baby, but he knew that he would not get the chance to once he was in the room. Mike saw a bench and headed over there with the baby.

"Hey, Kiddo," Mike said once he sat down on the bench with the baby in front of him.

"Hi," Josh said with his head down, Teddy clenched closely to his chest, like a shield.

"What's wrong?" Josh opened his mouth to say that he was fine, but Mike interrupted, "and don't tell me you are fine. I know you are not."

Josh looked down at his lap, not wanting to make eye contact with the man.

"Do you remember the rules, Kiddo?" Mike whispered so that no one heard him.

"Yes, sir," Josh said.

Mike smirked, whenever Josh thought he was going to get in trouble or when he needed to be reminded of the rules he would sometimes call Matt, Mike, and Ian 'sir'. It was from his childhood.

"What is it?"

"Gotta tell you when somethin' wrong," Jos told him, chewing on his thumbnail again.

"What's wrong, Kid?"

"I-I'm scared," Josh admitted, curling up. He was waiting for Mikey to call him a stupid baby and say that he had no reason to be scared.

"What are you scared of?" Mike asked, his heart breaking for the baby in front of him.

What was he scared of? That was a good question. He was scared of so many things. He was scared that Daddy would come back, that someone would hurt him, that someone would yell at him. He was scared that he would never be able to walk again, or that he would never be able to play music. He was scared of the future, of what people would say when they find out. Right now though, he was scared to go back to his room, to face the police, to face the past. He was scared to remember the thing that his brain was desperate to forget. He was just scared.

"What I don' wanna remember," Josh decided to go with.

"What do you mean?"

"The police," Josh said, "they want me to remember what happened before the police came. Before I ya know-" Josh made a gesture with his hand, "what if I don' wanna remember?"

"I'm so sorry, Kiddo," Mike said, running his hands through the baby's hair. He wished that he could take that away. But the truth was "you know you have to remember."

"Or I go ta jail," Josh whimpered, curling up as much as he could, holding Teddy tighter. He did not want to go to jail. He knew that he did not do anything wrong. He knew that he hurt Branden in self-defense. That was the only way that he would have hurt Branden, right?

"Yeah," Mike said, "I'm so sorry, Kiddo."

Josh gulped, "w-what if I don't wanna remember because I did it on purpose?"

Mike sighed, he knew that there was no way that Josh killed Branden just because he wanted to. Branden would have had to attack him for Josh to retaliate as he did. Josh had to believe that he life was in danger, and when Branden slashed his throat, Josh's life was in danger.

"I don't know, Kiddo," Mike said, Josh dropped his head, if Mikey did not know... tears burned in his eyes.

"But one thing that I do know is you," Mike poked Josh's chest. Josh looked up and rubbed his chest, "you never would've... hurt him if you did not have to, would you?"

A few tears streamed down his face he shook his head. He would not have.

Mike pulled the baby into a hug, whipping his tears away.

"I want you to go in that room, and prove to those cops that you did not hurt that monster on purpose," Mike said.

"B-But," Josh stuttered.

"No, but's or what-ifs, Big Guy, because I think, we both know that truth, even if you can't remember."

"Okay, Mikey," Josh cleared his throat and wiped the rest of his tears away.

...

The cops told them that they wanted to speak to Josh alone.

No, Josh thought, he did not want his friends to leave him all alone with the cops. He did not want that. He needed one of his friends.

"C-can one of them stay, please?" Josh begged, holding Teddy against his chest.

"One."

"Matty stay," Josh said.

"Okay, Baby," Matt said.

When the other two left the shorter one said, "I am going to do what is called a cognitive interview."

Josh cocked his head to the left in question.

"I'm going to ask you what you remember on the day that Keller died to see if you can remember what happened," the cop said.

Josh gulped, a lot of things happened that day. A lot of things that Josh never wanted to say aloud, especially to strangers.

"Whatever does not pertain to the death of Keller will never leave this room, understand?"

"Yeah," Josh nodded, hoping what he said was true.

"Close your eyes," the detective told him Josh listened, "take Matt's hand," he listened, "now whenever you feel scared, squeeze his hand and remember that it's just us, okay," Josh nodded.

"What's the first thing you remember when you woke up that day?"

"Um," Josh was transported back to that day, "he was staring at me," Josh said.

"What did it look like in the room?"

"It was dim," Josh said, "not much was in the room."

"What about Keller?"

"He looked like he was thinking, I don't think he knew I was awake until I called out for him."

"What did he do when you call for him?"

"He, um got me out of the cage."

"Cage?"

"I slept in there," Josh said, wondering how much he could give out without giving away that he was a little, "it was like a big crib. I d-didn't like it."

"Okay, what happened after that."

The questions continued similar to that, the detective sometimes asking him to explain things in more details. But when they got to Branden's room, Josh whimpered and squeezed Matt's hand.

"I don't wanna be here," Josh whimpered, "please."

"Just a little more."

"No," Josh said shaking his head, "it hurts, please."

"It hurts, what else?"

"I don't wanna," tears leaked down his face, "he says if I don't he's gonna hurt Matty."

Matt's eyes widened. That monster used Matt and probably the others, to get to Josh. To make Josh do what he wanted he wanted that poor baby to do. Who does that? If only that monster did not die. He just wanted one punch. Or 50, or more.

"So, you agreed, after he threatened Matt?"

"Yeah," Josh said, his breath hitching, now trapped back when Branden played with him.

"I don't," Josh whine, "oh God, I don't want it, please," more tears streamed down the baby's face. "Please, please stop it. I don't wanna be here. Please. I wanna go home," Josh squeezed Matt's hand, "I wanna go home."

Deciding that it was time for him to step in, "Josh, you are home, Baby Boy. You're not with him. Matty's right here. I'm not going anywhere," Matt rubbed his thumb across Josh's knuckles.

Josh breathed in and out slowly. He was fine. He was with Papa, not Daddy. Daddy was gone he could not hurt Josh ever again. Papa had him. Papa was never going to hurt him. He was fine.

"What happened after that?"

"I feel asleep."

"How did you feel?"

"Everything hurt," Josh whined.

"You woke up."

This was normally when Josh's memory went blank, but he was able to remember a little, "yeah."

"Can you describe the room?"

"There's a bedside table with some books and an alarm clock on it. It's bright. He has a light on."

"What is Keller doing?"

"Um," Josh licked his lips trying to remember, "h-he was throwing out clothes outta the closet."

"Why?"

"He said we needed to go. He said that we had to leave, that people would come to take me away. I didn't wanna stay with him. I-I told him that I wanted to go away," Josh explained.

"How did Keller react to that?"

"He was mad. He pulled me off the bed and grabbed me by the shoulders and said that I was his," Josh whimpered and curled up, "I'm not his. I don' wanna be his. I want Matty!"

"Hey, come back a little," the cop said, "what did Keller do after you said you're not his?"

Josh stopped breathing, then sobbed, clenching both his Teddy and his Papa's hand.

"Baby Boy, what did he do?"

"He pulled out a knife," Josh cried, "I'm scared. He's gonna kill me!"

Matt squeezed Josh's hand, "Baby, calm down."

"I don't wanna be here," Josh whimpered, "I wanna go home, I'm scared."

"What did he do with the knife, Josh?"

"He didn't say anything. He-he came after me. He cut my throat," Josh touched the bandage that was on the neck.

"There's a lot of blood," Josh whimpered, "I'm gonna die. I don' wanna be here. I don' wanna be here."

"I-I want Papa!" Josh cried, curling into himself as much as possible. He sobbed, completely blocking out the world. He was scared, and he did not want to remember anymore, but the memories continued to assault him.

Matt did not have the time to question who Josh was talking about when he said 'Papa,' he wrapped his arms around the sobbing bundle. Josh curled around him.

"Calm down Baby Boy," Matt said, rocking the baby back and forth slowly. He rubbed his back and scratched his scalp, "everything's okay, Matty's right here."

Josh sobbed hiding into his Papa's side, "Papa," Josh cried, unable to stop himself. It felt good to call Matty Papa.

It took a second for Matt to realize that Josh was calling him Papa. That was... odd. Not in a bad way. He just was not used to it, but he thought that he would be able to. It felt almost right.

"What the hell happened?" Ian asked as he and Mike rushed into the room and over to the bed.

"Josh remembers everything," Matt told him.

Josh sniffled, tears finally slowing. He cuddled deeper into his Papa's chest.

"Let's lay down, Baby Boy," Matt told him. Josh allowed the guys to help him lay down. Once he was laying down, he whined. He wanted to cuddle.

"Papa?" Josh whined out the word like a question.

"Right here, Baby Boy," Matt reassured the baby, laying down next to him. Josh buried his face into Matt's chest and held Teddy tightly to him and put his thumb in his mouth, sucking on his thumb.

Josh relaxed as he felt his Papa hold him tight and run his fingers through his hair.

He was okay. Daddy did not have him. Papa had him. Papa was holding him. He cuddled into Papa side more. He was okay.

Papa had him.

Chapter Text

Why did his friends have to go bye-bye? Josh could not help but wonder as he sat up in his room at 6:30 A.M. Tears streaming down his face. He wanted his friends. The baby wanted his Papa. After doctor Jamenson left after telling him all of them that he would need surgery on his ankle, Matty said that he did not care if Josh called him Papa. Matty liked it. He thought it was cute. Josh whimpered. He just wanted his Papa.

One of the nurses stole his Teddy. Josh did not know her name, but she was mean. She said that only a baby would carry around a stuffed teddy as he did. Josh's lower lip had trembled, he needed his Teddy. The baby had begged her not to take him. He told the nurse that Teddy was his and that she was stealing. Stealing is wrong. She did not listen. She left without changing his diaper. He was wet. He did not like that. He hoped that Papa would come early. He is supposed to come at 7.

You deserve it, the voice told him, if you didn't act like a baby she wouldn't have done anything.

Josh sobbed silently, rubbing his fuzzy against his face. No one wanted to hear a stupid baby crying.

Josh sniffled, trying to gain control of his tears. He could not. He needed his Teddy. He was wet, and he wanted a change. Most of all he wanted his Papa. The baby could deal without Teddy and with being wet if Papa was there.

"Papa," Josh whimpered.

"Baby, what wrong. What happened?"

Josh jumped has he heard his Papa's voice. He looked up at him with tear-filled eyes, "Papa," Josh sobbed. The reached his arms out to Papa; he needed to be held. He needed Papa to hold him.

When his Papa sat next to him and wrapped his arms around his shoulders, Josh buried his face in his Papa's side, one of his arms wrapping around Papa's waist. Ignoring Mikey and Cassie for now.

"What's wrong, Baby Boy?" Josh heard Papa ask as he rubbed his back.

"Teddy," Josh cried. He wanted his Teddy.

"What about him, Baby Boy?" Matt asked looking around for the little bear. He did not see it.

"She took 'im," Josh held onto his Papa tighter.

"Calm down a little, Buddy," he heard Cassie say. He felt Cassie pat his back soothingly. Josh breathed in and out, trying to listen to Cassie and calm down. He put his thumb in his mouth. He felt the bed dip, and someone rubbed his leg.

He was able to calm down enough to stop sobbing.

"Who took Teddy, Baby?" he heard Papa ask again.

"Nuwe did," Josh snuffled, "get 'em back, please."

He felt Cassie leave the room.

"Cassie gonna get him, okay Baby," Matt said, reassuringly. He could not believe that someone would take his baby's Teddy. Why did she do that? That nurse took a baby's Teddy. Sure, she did not know that Josh was a baby. But she took something that brought obvious comfort to Josh. How could someone do that?

"Hush now, Baby," Matt said, running his hands through his poor baby's hair.

"I want Teddy," Josh whimpered, more tears gathering in his eyes that soon slid down his face.

"Cassie's getting him, Kiddo," Mike reassured, rubbing up and down the baby's leg.

Josh sniffled again, hoping that Cassie would return soon with Teddy.

Luckily, Ian returned not even five minutes with the Teddy, "he was in lost and found," Ian told them before handing Josh the stuffed toy. The boy clinched the bear to his chest as if he was scared that someone was going to try and take him again. Please, no one take him. Teddy was his.

Matt's eyebrows came together. There was no way that Josh 'lost' Teddy, he was too attached to him right now to let Teddy out of his grasp. What was the nurse hoping? That some kid would say that Teddy was their's then take him home with them, no way.

"Fanks, Cassie," Josh sniffled, tears finally stopping now that he had his Teddy.

"Anytime, Buddy," Ian said scratching the back of his head.

"All better?" Josh heard Mikey ask.

Not everything was all better. Josh was still wet, and he was now thirsty because he cried so much, and he was tired because he cried so much and he was still weak. But he had Teddy back and his friends, that made all the little discomforts okay.

Josh nodded, coming out of his hiding spot a little, "yeah."

Knowing that everything with Josh was not all better, Matt asked, "do you need anything?"

"Umm," Josh bit his lower lip. He was tempted not to tell them. They already come to him crying, and they got his Teddy back, but he was always supposed to tell them when something is wrong and if he was wet. So he mumbled, "wet, 'n' thirsty, 'n' sleepy."

"I'll go get a nurse to change you, Buddy," Ian said, making a move to leave.

Josh's eyes widened, "no, she mean! She took Teddy" Josh shouted. He did not want the mean nurse to change him. He wanted one of his friend to do it. Preferably Papa.

"Josh, it won't be her," Ian said to pacify the boy.

"I don' want 'er ta do it," Josh sniffled.

"Who do you want to do it, Bud?"

"Papa," Josh told them, looking at his Papa with imploring eyes. "Please," the baby begged.

"You know we're not allowed to, Baby," Matt said.

"I won't tell, please," the baby begged.

Matt chuckled he knew that the baby would not "tell on them" for changing his diaper, but he also knew that the doctors or nurses would find out. At the same time, his baby was so scared that he knew that he could not deny Josh this one request. Much like he could not deny the baby's request for water.

"Okay, Baby Boy," Matt agreed with a nod.

"Fanks, Papa."

With a little help for Mike and Ian, Matt was quickly able to change Josh quickly.

"Good job, Baby."

"Papa," Josh whispered. Papa gave him a questioning look; Josh continued, "water, plea'."

Matt held his baby against his chest and accepted the cup of water that Ian handed him.

"There you go," Matt cooed, helping Josh put the straw in his mouth. Josh hummed as the water hit his dry tongue. He baby wished that the cup was a bottle, but he would have to wait until he got home for that. Speaking of home, he wondered how Bennie was. Last time the baby saw her, she was on the ground about to get kicked by Daddy again.

"Bennie?" Josh asked when he finished the water.

"She's at home," Cassie told him.

"Miss 'er," Josh pouted, hiding into his Papa's side once again. He did really miss Bennie. He just did not have time to think about her.

"I know, Baby Boy," Papa said, running his hand through the baby's hair, "I know you miss her; she missed you too."

"Wanna see 'er," Josh whined.

"We'll be home before you know it, Kiddo," Mike reassured.

"Mikey's right, Baby," Matt conquered, "Why don't we just lay down and go to sleep. You need to rest before tomorrow."

Plus it did not look like the baby slept at all the previous night at all. His eyes were red, and there were dark circles under his eyes. Poor baby was exhausted.

The baby nodded snuggling into his Papa again and held Teddy close to his chest, trying not to think too much of Bennie.

...

Josh woke up a few hours later, still half laying on Matt's chest. He was somewhere in between big and little space. Josh did not like it, wishing that his mind would choose to be big or little.

Josh made a noise and snuggled further into Matt, sighing in content when Matt held him tighter in his sleep. He felt himself slipping into little space. But then, Josh felt someone move beside him. It was not one of his friends. He knew when his friends were with him, and they all were, but Josh felt other presences.

Josh whined in the back of his throat, snuggling further into his Papa and tightening his hold on him and his Teddy. He wanted whoever the other people were in the room to go away. He just wanted his friends.

When it became apparent that they were not going to leave, he cracked open an eye. He saw that Mikey was awake, sitting in the corner of the room, looking at someone. Josh followed his line of sight so that no one knew that he was awake. He saw his mom and dad and felt a little guilty for thinking that he wanted them to go away. Josh did not want his parents to go away, although he did wonder where they had been for the past few days.

He opened his eyes further so that it is evident that he was awake.

When his mom saw that he was awake, she smiled at him.

"Hi, Mama," Josh mumbled, rubbing his eyes. He tried to sit up, but his Papa's hold on him was too tight, and Papa only held on tighter when Josh tried to move. Josh did not mind, snuggling further into his Papa.

Josh's mother could not help but chuckle slightly at the exchange and asked, "how are you feeling?"

Josh took a moment to consider the question before saying, "M-Matty's got me."

As long as his Papa had him, Josh would be okay. He was okay; he was fine. As long as Papa had him.

Chapter Text

Later that same day, right after lunch, Josh was more big than little, and the boy was not looking forward about what was about to happen. Kemberly told him that a detective was going to come to talk to him. She could not tell him what it was about. He was already cleared for the killing of Branden. It was self-defense. He had no idea what else the police could possibly want to talk about. What else was there to talk about? Branden died Josh did it in self-defense. Josh just what to have the stupid surgery on his ankle, go home, and forget that any of this happened.

Josh just wanted to forget.

The boy jumped when he heard a knock on the door. He gulped and looked at his friends and family. Matt took his hand from under the blanket and rubbed his knuckles. Josh squeezed Matt's hand.

"Uhh, c-come in," Josh said loud enough for whoever was on the other side of the door to hear.

A young woman in a feminine suit walked into the room. Josh did not know what to think of her. She had black hair and blue eyes, not unlike Josh's eyes.

"Good afternoon, Josh. I am Detective Dana Moore," the woman greeted the boy and extended her one of her hands to shake hands. The boy looked down at his lap, not saying anything. He knew that is rude to and he should not do it to a stranger. He would usually get in trouble, but everyone knew that he was not in the mood to talk to anyone but his family.

"I know that you don't want me here, so I will be quick," Ian stood so that the young detective could sit down, "I just need to ask one question about Peter Morgan."

At that, Josh looked up at the young detective with a question in his eyes, "Mr. Peter?" Josh asked. What did she want to know about Mr. Peter? Was Mr. Peter in trouble? Mr. Peter should not be in trouble. He was nice. He treated Josh good.

The detective explained that it was Mr. Peter's house that Branden held him in, but claimed that he did not know that anything was happening to him. The question was if Josh wanted to press charges against Mr. Peter.

"No," Josh answered as soon as the question left the woman's mouth. Mr. Peter should not get in trouble for what Branden did.

But at the same time, his father said, "yes."

It took Josh a second to process what his father said, but as soon as he did, he glared at his father and said, "I'm not pressing charges against Mr. Peter."

"Josh," his father said in a way that if Josh were a teenager, he would have rolled his at because he knew that the tone was about to lead to a lecture or a fight or both. Right now he would rather not have either.

"This 'Mr. Peter'," the older man said using quoting fingers around the title Josh gave the man, "is the reason you were kidnapped."

Josh looked at his father like he grew a second head. His voice raised a couple of octaves as he said, "no he's not. He did not know that anything was going on," not able to say Branden's name he flapped his left hand as a substitute, "would've kidnapped me anyway. Mr. Peter should not be punished because he was manipulated by that psychopathic bastard," by the time that Josh was finished he was breathing heavily, and the heart monitor was going crazy.

Matt squeezed Josh's hand as a way to tell him to calm down. Josh listen to Matt and breath in and out slowly, but before he could calm down completely his father replied-

"Someone needs to be punished."

Knowing that Josh was still fragile after everything Ian said, "isn't someone dying punishment enough," even though he did not like that Josh did not want to press charges, he could see why Josh felt the way he did.

"Mr. Peter is innocent anyway; he manipulated him. If anything Mr. Peter was a victim of him too," Josh took his attention from his father to Detective Moore, "I'm not pressing charges."

"Josh lets talk about this," his father told him.

"Dad," Josh said, annoyance plain in his tone, "as much as you don't like it I'm 25 years old, I'm an adult. I can make my own decisions. I'm NOT pressing charges against Mr. Peter, nothing that you can say or do will change my mind."

"Mr. Ramsay," the detective spoke before Josh's father could say anything else. Both Ramsay men looked at the detective, "Josh is an adult and the victim," on one missed how Josh flinched at the word 'victim' "and if he does not want to press charges that is what I will tell the prosecutor."

Dana made a move to leave, but the voice of the elder Ramsay stopped her "give us a couple of days to talk about this."

"There is nothing to talk about, Dad," Josh said, getting annoyed at the conversation. He just wanted to chill the day before the surgery and cuddle with his Papa. He did not want to argue with his dad.

"Josh," his dad sounded disappointed in his son.

"No!" Josh shouted at his father, finally breaking, "I am not pressing charges. I don't give a fuck if you don't fucking like it!"

Josh's father, forgetting for a second that Josh was not a teenager lifted his hand, much like he would have a little over ten years ago. Matt moved so that he was in between the father and son. Mike and Ian tensed and moved so that they could grab Josh's dad if he hit Josh or Matt. Josh did not notice the movements of friends, closing his eyes and flinched back so hard that he almost hit his hand on the wall.

Josh's dad froze whatever anger his had toward Josh dissipating, leaving a feeling of guilt to overcoming him, "Josh," his dad whispered.

"Go away," Josh said, emotions taking over his voice. Josh's dad listened and left the room, Josh's mother following.

"Are you okay?" the young detective asked the boy.

"We got him," Ian told her, extending one of his hands, she took his hand, "thank you."

Ian turned back to Josh and saw that the boy had tears in his eyes.

"Are you okay, Buddy?" Ian asked in a soft voice.

The boy shook his head, a few tears sliding down his cheeks, he hiccuped.

"C'mere, Baby Boy," Matt said hugging the boy. Josh buried his face into Matt's chest and cried. Matt rocked Josh from side to side and rubbed his back, "everything's okay."

"He wanted to hit me," Josh whimpered, rubbing his eyes.

"We would never let anyone hurt you, Kiddo," Mike promised as he handed Josh his Teddy, "never."

Josh sniffled, clinching the toy that he hid earlier. He knew that the guys would never let anyone hurt him, even if that someone was his own dad. But when his dad lifted his hand, Josh was transported back to a little over a week ago, and he saw Branden in front of him. He did not want Branden. He did not want anyone to hurt him. He snuggled into Matt's chest and hugged the man back.

Josh breathed in and out slowly, tears stopping. He was okay.

"Thanks, guys," Josh told the other men, pulling back from Matt's hold.

"Any time, man," Matt said.

...

A few hours later, the guys noticed that Josh was getting restless, squirming in his bed and looking around the room. At first, they thought that it was because he was nervous about the surgery. When they asked Josh why he was so restless, he responded with, "I've been inside for over three weeks. I'm starting to feel cabin fever."

Next time they saw Kimberly, they asked if Josh could go outside for a while. She seemed to consider the question for a second, but she could not resist Josh's puppy eyes. The nurse said that they could take him outside for twenty minutes.

The men helped Josh change into a different pair of warmer clothes and wrapped his blanket around him.

"C'mon guys," Josh whined when they tried to put a beanie on him, "I'm not going to freeze to death in 4-degree weather."

Mike ignored him and tried to put the hat on him again.

"Mike," Josh whined pushing Mike's hand away, "stop it. Go away, dude."

"You would be sad if I went away," Mike said, still trying to put the hat on him.

"It would be good to put the beanie on, Josh," the young man heard the nurse say as she entered the room.

Josh sighed, crossing his arms like a pouty child, "I can do it myself," he pointed out looking at Mike with sad eyes.

"I know," Mike said, finally able to put the beanie on the younger man now that he finally stopped squirming around.

"Was that so hard?" Ian asked with an amused smirk.

"Yes," Josh mumbled under his breath with a pout and arms still crossed.

"Let's go outside before they try to bundle you up some more," Kimberly told him with a small smile. The boy smiled at the nurse as she started to push him toward the door.

"Wait for a second," Matt shouted, "he doesn't have gloves."

"No Matty!" Josh shouted, "I'm warm enough!"

The small journey to go outside was full of Josh and Matt bickering about whether or not Josh needed gloves. "I'll put them under the blankie," Josh said.

"It would be easier to put gloves on, why do you have to argue?" Matt retorted.

"'cause," Josh folded his arms.

Mike and Ian chuckled at the argument between the men.

"You guys fight like an old married couple," Ian said, not the first time he compared the younger men to an old married couple.

"No, we don't," Josh denied while Matt blushed.

"Whatever you say, Joshy," Mike said, rubbing the top of Josh's head.

"Stop," Josh demanded as they stepped outside.

Josh turned so that he could see Kimberly and asked, "can I roll around by myself, please?" politely.

Kimberly nodded, "I need to get back to work," she said. She pointed at the other three and said, "twenty minutes."

They all nodded.

Josh suddenly felt a snowball hit his shoulder. He made a startled noise and looked around to try and see which of his friends threw the projectile at him.

Ian handed him a snowball and pointed at Mike. The man threw it and hit Mike in the chest. Mike threw a snowball back at them, managing to hit Ian in the face. The fight was on. Matt ended up joined Mike, and the men threw snowballs back and forth for a good ten minutes before they were stopped after Josh almost hit a doctor.

After the snowball fight, Matt finally won the argument about the gloves.

Josh laughed, "he still looks mad," Josh pointed out.

"That's what happens when you almost hit a man with a snowball when they are not apart of the snowball fight."

"Gimme another. I have a clear shot," Josh said looking down at the snow, not able to reach it, but with mischief clear in his eyes.

Ian poked his forehead, forcing Josh to look at him and sit straight, "don't. We don't need to get in trouble," Ian scolded.

Josh sighed, knowing that he could really hit the cranky doctor with a snowball not matter how funny it would be.

"It would be funny," Josh told him. Ian chuckled shaking his head at the younger man.

Josh checked he watch. He only has seven more minutes. The man sighed, wishing that he could stay out a little longer. He was used to going out on walks for 2 or 3 hours even before he got Bennie. Being cooped up in the hospital for a week was starting to drive him a little crazy.

The seven minutes passed by too fast.

"When can I come back outside?" Josh asked his friends.

"Soon, Buddy," Ian promised.

"When are we going home," Josh asked.

"Three or fours days," Matt answered without missing a beat.

"If the next question is about Bennie, I'm disowning you," Mike said, sarcastically.

Josh smirked.

"How's Ben?"

Chapter Text

"Goodbye!" Josh heard Spencer, who had become a friend to him in his last ten days at the hospital, shout.

"Bye, Spence!" Josh shouted back, not believing that he was once scared of the younger man. He waved behind him as Mike wheeled him to Walter (their van that the used to do tours with back in the Fix Me era). Once they were to the van, Matt helped him in by lifting him up and helping him balance as he stepped into the van. The boy's legs were getting better and better every day, and he could now lift them, which he is very proud of and he could tell that he friends were too.

Matt buckled him up, even though he could do it himself (not that he was complaining), and went around the van and jumped into the set behind the driver's side.

Ian, who was going to drive back home as he was the best driver out of the three that could drive, pointed at the younger and ordered, "don't poke me," in a serious tone.

Matt gave the most innocent face that he could. Then when the older man stepped into the driver's side seat, he winked at Josh. The baby smiled back at Matt sleepily, wondering how much Matt was going to annoy Ian throughout the trip home.

"We should be back home in about four and a half hours," Mike said then turned his attention to Josh, "take a nap if you need too," the man told the boy. Josh nodded, he was sleepy. It was only three days after the surgery on his foot, and the doctor told him that he would be tired for the next few days.

Josh squirmed around for a few seconds before he got comfortable and closed his eyes. He felt Matt lay his fuzzy on him. The boy cuddled into the blanket and held his teddy bear to his chest. He almost immediately fell asleep excited to be going home finally.

...

Josh mumbled something under his breath as he woke up. The boy opened his eyes and looked around. He noticed that he was not in the van as he thought that he would be but the boy was in his room. The boy looked around the room to see if his friends were with him. They were not. Josh saw the wheelchair that the hospital allowed them to take right next to his bed.

The boy pushed the covers away from him and sat on the edge of the bed, like how Jesica taught him. He placed his right hand on his bedside table and pushed himself to his left foot and with his right hand still on the bedside table he reached to put his left hand on the wheelchair arm. The boy made sure that the chair was locked then turned and sat down.

Josh unlocked the chair and wheeled it to the half-open door and pushed it the rest of the way open. He wheeled out of the room and did not hear anything. That was odd. Four men lived in this house, and there was almost always some sort of noise in the house. But there was none. The hairs on the back of the boy's neck stood up on end. There should be noise. The silence was scary.

"Matt, Mike, Ian?" Josh yelled, trying to get his friend's attention. There was nothing. No noise, no movement. Nothing. Not even Bennie made a sound. The boy felt he tummy twist. He gulped.

"Matty, Mikey, Cassie?" Josh yelled, wheeling into the living room looking around the large room. There was still nothing. The baby started to become scared. Why were his friends coming? They were supposed to come. Where were they? He wanted them.

"Papa?" not even that got a response. He felt tears in his eyes. Where was his Papa? He wanted his Papa and his friends.

He noticed red in the side of his vision, coming from the kitchen. He rolled into the room and screamed as soon as he saw what was in the room.

There was blood everywhere and his friends where... he could not think about it.

"Papa," he sobbed. His Papa was on the floor in a pool his own blood, but his head was missing. He cried harder as he looked at Mikey and Cassie and Bennie.

No, no, no, no, no. This was not happening. This is a nightmare. No, no, please. The baby needed his friends. The baby sobbed into his hands. He did not know what to do. The logical part of his brain told him to go to his room and get his phone. He needed to call the police. But he was too little and scared, and he could not move.

"Papa, Mikey, Cassie, Bennie" Josh cried, rocking back and forth and he sucked on his thumb, trying to comfort himself. This could not happen. No, no, no, no. Please, please. Let this be a nightmare. Please, let this be a nightmare. God, please. His friend was not...

The baby heard footsteps from behind him, but he did not register it. He was too much in his own grief. He only truly registered it when he felt a knife against his throat. His heart rate picked up. He knew who was behind him.

How was that even possible? He was dead. Josh killed him.

The baby did not struggle; his body paralyzed in fear. He felt a searing pain on his neck, but he did not care.

The baby welcomed the feeling of dizziness and the blackness that slowly filled his vision.

He embraced death.

...

Josh woke up with a sob. He curled up on to himself as much as possible. No. His friends and puppy. They were gone. Josh felt someone touch his shoulder. Josh flinched back and turned away from the touch and curled up more and sobbed harder. No, he did not want anyone. He wanted his friends and Papa. He needed them. Please, the baby needed his friends and Papa.

"Papa," he sobbed, not caring who might or might not hear him. He needed his Papa.

"Hey, Baby Boy," the hand touched him again, "Papa's right here, Baby," Josh sobbed harder and tensed as the hand forced him toward the sound of the voice. He did not know what to believe. The baby wanted his Papa so bad, but he did not know.

"Ohh, Baby. Open your eyes, Baby Boy. Papa's right here. Papa won't let anyone hurt you. Open your eyes, Baby Boy."

Josh listened to the voice and saw his Papa right in front of him. He looked to the right and saw Mikey and Cassie looking at him with concern in their eyes.

With the realization that it was just a horrible nightmare, tears entered his eyes, and he sobbed. He curled into himself and brought his thumb to his mouth. The baby felt his Papa bring him into a hug. He buried his face in his Papa's chest and cried openly.

Matt ran his fingers through the baby's hair and rocked him from side to side. He knew that the baby was having a nightmare before he woke up as he was struggling against the seatbelt, so Matt already unbuckled him, and Ian pulled over. They would catch up with Josh's parents later. Right now they needed to calm the baby.

"What happened, Buddy?" Ian asked the baby, turning as much as he could in his seat. He hated that he could not comfort the baby as Matt was doing, but he would do his best.

Josh answered the best he could, "nightmaw." as soon as the word left his mouth he cried even harder. Mike got out of the van and went searching in the back. When they left home ten days earlier to go to the hospital, Ian grabbed a few things and threw them in a bag without thinking too much. His blankie and teddy being a couple, but Ian also packed a pacifier, not thinking that Josh would not want to use it in the hospital as too many people were around. Mike was happy the Ian brought the pacifier as he grabbed the small comfort object and ran to the passenger side of the van. Mike handed Matt the pacifier and rubbed the baby's back trying to comfort the baby as well though it did not seem that he would ever calm down.

"Calm down, Kiddo. No one can hurt you anymore," Mike said as Matt pressed the pacifier to the baby's lips. The baby dropped his thumb and took the pacifier into his mouth, seeking comfort from it.

But the baby could not calm down as Mikey said. Every time he was close to calming down, images from the nightmare ran across his mind making him upset and scared again.

The baby wished that he could forget everything. The nightmare, the past two weeks, the past couple of years. He just wanted to forget and not be scared anymore. He had nothing to be scared of. Nothing. Mikey was right; no one could hurt him. Why couldn't his mind get that? He was in no danger. He was just being stupid. Josh took a breath and forced the nightmare into the back of his mind. It was not real. He should not be so upset by it.

Once he was calmer to the point that he was not sobbing, Matt asked if he wanted to talk about the nightmare. The baby shook his head. He did not want to talk about it. He did not want to cry anymore. He just wanted to forget.

"It would be good for you to talk about it, Baby Boy," Matt reminded him.

Josh knew that. But the baby did not want to. He wanted to sleep and cuddle with Papa. He wanted Mikey to keep rubbing and patting his back. He wanted Cassie to continue on the way home. But most of all he wanted to forget.

"No, Papa please," he begged, "no talkin' 'bout it. W-Wanna sleep. Please, Papa," Josh looked up at his Papa with tears in his eyes. He did not want to talk.

Matt sighed, looking at the older two men. The man knew that if he did not talk to Josh about the nightmare now, he never would. But at the same time, he did not want to upset the baby anymore. He has already been through so much. Not talking about one nightmare would not kill him, right?

"Okay, Baby Boy," Matt said, "go back night-night," he stroked the baby's hair as he cuddled deeper into his Papa's chest.

"Stay, Papa," Josh said, sounding scared that his Papa would not stay.

"Of course, Baby. I don't have anywhere else to go," Matt said.

Josh nodded, sucking in his pacifier and holding his Teddy close to his chest. He absorbed comfort from everyone around him.

The baby was able to fall back asleep a few minutes after Ian got back on the road.

...

The next time Josh woke up it was by someone shaking him. Josh grumbled and tried to snuggle back into his Papa. The baby was not ready to get up. He wanted to keep cuddling with his Papa.

He heard chuckling around him, "c'mon, Kiddo it's time to wake up."

Josh shook his head stubbornly and curled up closer to his Papa, "Papa."

"We're home Baby Boy," Matt told him, realizing that they should have lead with that.

Josh hummed and looked outside to see that, yes, they were at home and he saw he parent's car next to theirs. Josh smiled and clapped happily, "Inside, inside," Josh requested. "Bennie inside," he pointed to the home and looked at his Papa.

"Of course, Buddy," Ian said appearing next to the van with the wheelchair, "Let's go inside to see Bennie."

"Yay, Bennie."

The guys chuckled again and helped him into the chair. Matt wheeled him to the front door, happy that they did not have stairs that lead to the front door. As soon as they opened the door, he looked around to try and see Bennie, not even noticing that the rest of his family was there. When he did not see her, he pouted and shouted, "Ben!"

They all almost immediately heard the sound of paws on the laminate flooring of the hallway. She barked happily when she saw Josh, her whole body vibrating with excitement. She ran over to the baby and put her front paws on his knees. As soon as Josh touched her she jumped off of him, running around the living room and barking at everyone as if to say "Josh is home, Josh is home."

"I think she's a little excited," Sara whispered to her mother, who nodded and smiled.

Josh giggled at his puppy's reaction. The baby could tell that Bennie missed him just as much as Josh missed Bennie. That made Josh happy even though he wished that she would stop running around the room so that he could cuddle with her.

As if reading the baby's mind Bennie sat down right in front of him, placed a paw on his knee, then put it on the floor like she was telling him to get out of the chair and onto the floor.

The baby looked up at his Papa tugged on his sleeve to get his attention.

"Yes, Josh?" Matt asked, looking down at the baby and brushing the hairs out of his eyes. The boy needed a haircut badly, but it would take forever to convince him to get one as it always did.

"Down, P- uh M-Matt," Josh asked, turning a little pink when he noticed that he almost slipped up in front of his family and called Matt Papa. But they must have thought he turned pink because he had to ask for help to get out of the wheelchair because no one commented.

As soon as Josh was on the floor, Bennie jumped on him. Her body still vibrating in excitement at seeing her master after so long without him, but she made sure to avoid his foot that was in a blue cast. Josh must have gotten hurt like her. She did not like that he got hurt, but she could tell that he was hurt in was more than just physical.

Josh wrapped his arms around Bennie and hid his face in her fur. His heart felt like it was going to explode in happiness. He was finally home, with his family. He knew that he was safe, and he knew that no one could ever hurt him.

...

Knowing and believing are two very different things. Knowing is when you are aware of through observation, inquiry, or information. Believing is when you accept something as true. While Josh knew that he was safe as Branden was dead, he was home, and his family would never ever hurt him, his mind did not want to believe that. It still thought that he was in danger. Even around his family.

The boy jumped earlier when his mom dropped something. His heart had pounded in his chest, and his breathing had picked up. He had been scared. Scared because his mom dropped something and it made a loud noise. His mother had been sorry, apologizing for scaring him. He had apologized too. He should not have been frightened by that. He should not always feel that he was on edge. He should not feel like there was a had in his chest squeezing when someone got too close. He should not flinch at unexpected movements. He should act like he knew that he was safe, but he could not.

The psychiatrist at the hospital said that it was completely normal to have these type of reactions after trauma and that they would more than likely go away with time. Said that his brain simply had to get out of the flight or fight response that the boy had been in for the better part of two years.

Josh had asked what happened if his brain never relearned how to get out of the flight or fight response. The psychiatrist said that they would cross that bridge when they got there, but that still left Josh wondering what would happen.

He did not want to be stuck in this state forever. He did not want to be scared anymore. He did not want to jump at loud sounds. He did not want to flinch away from movements or touches of his friends and family. Josh loved them. He did not want scared of them.

Josh could tell that it made his friends sad when he would do that, and they would slow there movement and make it obvious that they were going to touch him. Josh thought that his family should not have to do that.

Josh wished that things could go back to the way that they were before and that he was not scared.

He petted Bennie, who was laying right beside him on his bed, asleep. Josh could not sleep, he was too scared that he was going to have a nightmare. The baby had a lot of nightmares at the hospital. He did not want to have another one. They just seemed to be getting worse and worse as time went on. The one he had in the car was the worst one yet. He did not think that he could handle one like that ever again.

Josh breathed out a shaky breath and curled up on his side as much as his legs would allow. He hugged Bennie and tried not to start crying again as he remembered the nightmare. It was stupid, really. He should not still be affected by a nightmare he had hours earlier, but he was.

Josh squeezed his eyes shut. He wished that he could forget that stupid nightmare.

He wished that he could forget everything.

Chapter Text

Josh was having another nightmare.

It was Sunday three thirty in the morning the week after coming home from the hospital when a scream ripped through the otherwise quiet house. The three other men all sat up in their beds and ran out to the hallway. They rushed down the hall and toward the distressed noises.

When they entered the room, they noticed that Josh was squirming around in the bed, kicking at the sheets as if trying to get away from something. Bennie was standing above the baby, licking his face and trying to calm him. It was not working. In his sleep, the baby was trying to push Bennie away not enough to hurt her, but enough to try and make her stop.

Matt hurried toward the bed with the unsettled baby in it. The man rubbed his back him and whispered soothing nothingness in his ear while at the same time guiding Bennie off the bed. She could come back on the bed later when the baby was calmer. Right now she was not helping.

Mike and Ian were off to the side not wanting to overwhelm the baby, and knowing that the best person to wake Josh up from a nightmare was Matt.

"NO!" Josh shrieked struggling against Matt the second the man touched him. Matt avoided the arm that came out to punch him.

Bennie jumped back onto the bed but did not touch him. She sat next to him as if she was trying to protect the baby. Bennie seemed to understand that her boy did not want to be touched, but there was no way that she would be on the floor while her boy was in distress. That was not how it worked.

"Joshy, Baby it's time to wake up," Matt whispered to the baby, not daring touch him again until he woke up.

Instead of calming down from Matt's voice like the baby usually did, he just cried harder legs coming out to kick at whatever was happening in his dream weakly.

Ian, realizing that Matt would not be able to calm Josh down on his own, came over to the bed and sat down on it.

"Hey, buddy," Ian started, "it's Matty, Mikey, and Cassie. C'mon Bud come back to us."

"You're safe, Kiddo," Mike joined in. This nightmare, it would seem, was not normal.

Josh's sobs quieted down to just whimpers, and it seemed like he would fall back into a somewhat peaceful sleep. But when Matt brushed Josh's bangs out of his face at the same time that Bennie lay back down beside him so that she pressed ageist his side the boy whine and tensed as if preparing for a blow, after a second Josh recognized that the touches were friendly and relaxed into them. The baby then opened his eyes to reveal his terrified, tearful icy blue orbs. Blue met brown as Josh sobbed again, reaching out toward Matt but at the same time placing a hand on Bennie.

It was normal for Josh to cry after a nightmare. All of the panic and sorrow from the dream coming to the surface and spilling over.

As usual, Matt engulfed the boy in a hug and rocked him back and forth and ran his hand through the boy's hair. Mike and Ian soon joined in the embrace, rubbing the boy's back to try and comfort him as well. Bennie nudged her way through the comforting hug as well and rested her head on the baby's side.

"I sowwy," Josh whimpered into Matt's chest once he was calm enough to speak. He reached over to his right side to pet Bennie, her soft fur calming him some more.

"Nothing to be sorry about, Buddy," Ian reassured.

"Woke you up," Josh whined. The baby was always waking the guys up because of his stupid nightmares. The only time that he did not was in the hospital, and that was only when Matt held him in his sleep. The baby wanted to ask if he could sleep in Matt's bed with him (because the man should not have to be displaced entirely out of his room) but he was too scared that Matt would say no.

"We don't care, Baby," Matt reassured.

Josh quietly sniffled and rested his head on Matt's chest. He knew that was true. His friends worried about him more than their own sleep, for whatever reason. A few days ago he would have pointed out that their sleep was more important than comforting him after every nightmare he had, but they always said that he was more valuable. The baby (or man) never believed them, but he did not feel like arguing with them at four o'clock in the morning, so he never brought that up anymore. The baby would merely apologize for waking them up. That was the least he could do.

"Let's go back to sleep, Baby Boy," Matt said, gently pushing the baby back down on his pillows.

Josh whined, "no leave," the baby whimpered. He did not want to have another nightmare and wake his friends up again, and he did not want to be scared or cry again.

"We're not going to leave you, Baby," Matt reassured the baby. They rearranged themselves so that they were all somehow laying on Josh's bed and Bennie was at Josh's feet.

All four of the guys and puppy laying on a queen sized bed to try and sleep for the second time at night was the norm for them now.

...

Josh woke up for the second time that day at ten in the morning, and he was deep in little space. The only one left in his bed was his Papa and his Bennie, and they were awake. The puppy was curled up by his side as if she was about to sleep, but her eyes were open and looking at him. Josh pet Bennie's head as a good morning and the pup leaned into the touch. The man was playing on his phone and did not notice that the baby woke up. Josh wondered momentarily how Papa had his phone. He could have slept with it in his pocket. Josh could feel the denim of Matt's jeans that told him that Matt did fall asleep with his phone in his pocket. Matt had a bad habit, that the others were trying to break him of, of sleeping if his day clothes and everything in his pockets.

Josh had no idea when the habit started for the man, but he remembers that he had it even as a teenager. One time when Matt was fourteen and Josh was sixteen Josh slept over at Matt's house a few days after being released from rehab and after a fight with his dad and the younger teen had asked where his phone was after sleeping with it in his jeans.

"Probably making love with your sheets," Josh had said, which earned him a slap upside the head, "hey, it's not my fault you have bad habits."

"Don't talk about bad habits," Matt had responded pointing at the cigarette in Josh's hand. Josh's response had been blowing smoke in the younger teens face.

Josh smiled at the memory wishing he could go back to that or maybe a time a little after that. When he was not craving as much.

"Morning, Sleepyhead," Matt greeted with a smile when he noticed that the baby was awake.

"Mownin' Papa," the baby yawned, rubbing his eyes.

"Wanna get changed? I think I smell some breakfast," Matt asked. According to Josh's therapist, they need to give Josh choices. He explained that Josh was under the control of someone and was powerless to stop them. He needed to feel like he was in control of his life. Matt was skeptical of that, mainly because of the face he was getting right now. Josh almost seemed to be overwhelmed with choices like the one Matt prompted him with. When he was given two or three options (do you want to watch Arthur, Handy Manny, or Super Why?), he was fine and could tell you what show he wanted to watch and would even say a show outside of the choices at times. But when even a broader set of options (what do you want to watch?) he got this look in his eyes. Matt did not know how to describe it as anything but overwhelmed. It was like the baby did not know how to process all of the choices or what they meant by the question at times (was it just T.V. shows or were movies included?) Even his big side seemed to get slightly overwhelmed by the general chooses, but his big side was better at hiding it. It was better to give both sides two or three choices, but the therapist insisted that broader choices would help him more. Matt had his suspensions of that, and the man was tempted to ignore him on that end.

Deciding to take control of the situation, Matt said, "let's get up and ready and then see what Mikey and Cassie are up to. Sound good?"

Josh nodded his head with a small smile, "yeah."

Matt picked up the boy, who was thankfully getting harder to pick up, and laid him on the floor so the man could change his diaper and change the baby into something comfier than a pair of thin flannels that Josh wore last night to bed. The baby had been big the night before and always refuses to wear a shirt to bed when big.

Bennie came to sit be her boy's head. Matt smiled when Josh lifted his long arms to touch the pup.

Matt pulled down Josh's pants and saw that the diaper he wore the previous night was soaked. Matt was surprised that the baby had not complained of that. Reword- Matt would have been surprised that the baby had not complained of that a little over a month ago. Now, not so much. Matt sighed in his head just as Josh was telling them when he was wet that monster has to rip that progress away from them.

The man quickly changed the baby's diaper, trying to ignore how the baby blushed and tensed and tried to distract himself by playing with Bennie. At least the baby was able to lift his hips up. At least the physical therapy was working.

"Do wanna wear dinosaurs, teddies, or suit?" Matt asked.

"Teddy," Josh said pointing at the fuzzy footie onesie. He liked that onesie. It was soft and warm like his fuzzy. Plus he could match his Teddy.

Matt helped the baby into the footie onesie and handed the baby his crutches. He was making leaps and bounds in physical therapy. His physical therapist, Dr. Hannah Martin, said that she wants him to use the crutches while at home or anywhere familiar that he would not be on his feet for too long. Dr. Martin was very pleased with the progress Josh made in such a short amount of time. She reassured him several times that he would be up and walking all by himself in no time. Though she did think that he would have a limp in his right leg, that was still in the cast. Josh was not happy with that prediction, but it was better than not ever being able to walk at all.

Josh used his crutches to stand Matt using what they dubbed as a 'safety hand' to make sure that he did not fall. Once he was to his foot he smiled at Matt as if to tell him 'look, Papa, I did it.'

Matt smiled back at his baby, "good job, Baby Boy," he praised ruffling his hair. The baby giggled and leaned into the touch.

"Mikey and Cassie," the baby asked. He wanted to be with them as well.

"Let's go get them, Baby," Matt responded picking up the baby's Teddy and fuzzy.

Josh smiled at the man and used his crutches to help him into the living room with Bennie right by his side. He right foot out in front of him slightly and his left foot to the ground and going through the motions of walking. He was not quite walking even with his left leg. His legs were too weak to walk on yet. He would be walking soon, Matt thought to himself. He would.

Matt allowed for his thought to wonder slightly as he traveled behind Josh to make sure that he did not fall. The man thought about his boy's smile. Josh's smile could light up an entire room if he allowed it. When he thought back over the past two years, he realized that the longer Josh's relationship with Branden went on the dimmer his smile got. That should have been the first sign that the relationship was not good. That monster was stealing away Josh's smile, and nothing was done about that. Well, Matt thought, hindsight is 20/20.

When he, Mike, and Ian learned that Josh was little and Josh realized that the men would take care of him, he smiled more. It was like he got the little spark back when he knew that he did not have to worry about Branden as much and that his secret was safe with them.

When Josh rescued (the guys jokingly say stole) Bennie things got even better for the boy. Bennie was like Josh's emotional support animal. She helped when he would get nervous or when he would have bouts of anxiety.

Now though, Josh only seemed to smile in little space, and Matt treasured every one of those now rare smiles. In big space, all of his smiles were fake. When he thought that he should smile, he did, and that was it he never smiled for any other reason. This broke Matt's heart. Josh used to be all smiles. Now the smiles were replaced with fear and anxiety for what was going to happen next.

That monster stole Josh's smile away. Matt was determined to get it back.

...

The next morning Josh was stood in front of a mirror, looking at himself. He touched the gash on his neck and winced. It did not hurt that much anymore. At least not physically.

But it was like a reminder of what he went through, and that was the last thing the man wanted right now. He wanted to forget everything, not that anyone or anything would let him. The therapist that he was about to go to always wanted him to talk about what He would do to Josh, what He would say, what it made him feel like when He would do those things. His friend wanted him to talk too, not as much as the therapist thankfully, but they wanted him to talk about nightmares and what would happen when he had a flashback.

No, just no.

He did not want to talk about it. It made him feel crazy. Josh should not see Him at times when it was his friends. Josh should not still feel the pain of the knife making contact with his skin. Josh should not. The man's mind should allow him to forget at least, but it did not.

His mind made him see things that were not there. Sometimes he would swear that he saw Him out of the corner of his eyes, but it would not be Him. It would be nothing. Sometimes He would manifest right in front of him even though he is dead. It made him feel crazy. He could not tell anyone. He would be marked as insane and sent to live in a crazy person's home and never see his friends or family again.

Perhaps you are crazy; the voice seethed in the back of his head.

There was that too making his feel insane.

"I'm not crazy," Josh mumbled under his breath as he clenched his eye shut. He could not stand to look at himself anymore.

Of all the places to try and stab He had to go for the face and neck. The part of the cut on his neck was not so bad as the part on his face. He could wear a turtleneck or a scarf to cover it. It was still cold outside and did not look out of place (Josh did not want to think about what would happen in the next few months as it got warmer.) The part on his face, however, was impossible to cover, even with makeup. Trust him he tried several times. It just managed to look like a line of raised skin and the amount of powder that it took to cover it did not look natural. So, Josh had to face the outside world with the cut on his face. The cut was not too disfiguring, thank God, but it still caused people to stare at him like he was some sort of freak. Like they knew everything that happened to lead up to the cut on his face. It was like a constant reminder that he was not the same man from a month ago and never will be.

Would a sane person see this? The voice asked. Josh had a strong compulsion to open his eyes. When he did, he saw himself in the mirror, but half of his face was missing.

Josh gasped and took a step back almost falling down, but he was able to steady himself on his crutches. He blinked three times hard and rubbed his eyes. When he looked at the mirror again, his reflection was back to normal.

"Don't do that," he whimpered. One part of him thought that he was genuinely insane to be talking to a voice in the back of his head like a schizophrenic. The other side of him just wanted the voice to stop.

I'm not doing anything. It's all you the voice told him.

Josh shook his head as if to dislodge the voice from his head. He knew that he should tell someone about that, but he was too scared that they would think he was crazy. He never told anyone about the voice, not even Matt knew about it. Josh was always afraid that people would thank that he was crazy and would not want to help him. Plus, his friends were already helping him so much. They should not have to deal with this too. He could handle it.

Josh suddenly heard a knock on the door. Josh jumped and felt his heart pound in his chest.

"Hey, Joshy you okay in there," he heard Mike ask. Josh breathed and swallowed down his panic. He leaned one hand against the sink and dropped his head and closed his eyes. It was okay. It was just Mike. Just Mike. He was fine. It was okay.

There was another knock on the door, and Mike said, "C'mon Kiddo, we need to get you to Doc. Michel."

Josh felt warmth in his chest at the nickname (his friends had started to call him by their respective nicknames for him all the time, and he loved it. It reminded him that he was safe) but at the same time, his stomach dropped. He hated going to therapy with Dr. Michel. He made him talk about things that he did not want to talk about, and Josh always left feeling worse than when he came in. Wasn't therapy supposed to do the opposite of that, Josh thought to himself.

But he said, "yeah, I'll be out in a minute."

"Okay, Kiddo but hurry up we're almost late."

Josh nodded to himself and took a second to put his head back on straight. He was fine. He was okay. The voice was wrong, and he was not crazy.

What he was Josh did not know. But he was not crazy. He could not be.

He just needed to forget.