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The Scarecrow

Chapter Text

"Oh, scarecrow, it ain't so bad
Just try and fit in this hollow man
'Cause you've traveled so far
From where it all began"

Slamming the door on its hinges, a tall, lanky individual fumed into apartment 2J.

"I can't believe Gustavo!" Came the oppressed rant of the sullen boy, worn out and upset from a private rehearsal with his producer gone sour. Chucking his backpack to the floor, the brunette hustled into the main dining area, viciously grabbing an orange from the decretory fruit platter resting on the counter, digging his fingernails into the rind and wringing the burnt peel from the orange's juicy flesh,

"He is so unfair! Nothing's good enough for that whale! I should just quit-ah…wait! That's just what he wants me to do! He's just waiting for the chance to get rid of me-he'll probably cackle like the maniac he is and send me packing to Minnesota all by myself while-"

"Woah, calm down James! What in the world are you talking about?" Kendall chirped from the bean bag he was snuggled in, the plush fabric enveloping him in a warm hug. "Oh and maybe you'd better take it easy on the orange."

Large caterpillar eyebrows rose along with the blonde's humor, certain that his friend filled with rage would come to his senses shortly. Promptly James did so, setting the half-peeled orange sheepishly on the counter, its contents practically unrecognizable mush.

"Ugh…sorry." James stole across to face his friend, arms vividly whirling about as he emphasized his case,

"I-I'm just frustrated!"

"With Gustavo?"

"Who else?" James sarcastically countered, brushing a lingering peel from his pant legs, "He's just-he's just so…ugh! I don't even know! He makes me want to scream!"

"I know the feeling." Kendall agreed, pulling his knee closer to his chest to get more comfortable in the lopsided bag of beans, "What happened this time?"

"Gustavo never recognizes the good things I do! I have talent, you've seen it!" Kendall nodded, allowing James to continue, "And no matter how hard I work or what I do, nothing ever impresses him! I can never win his approval."

Kendall recognized the bitterness sinking into his friend, realizing that their music coach's critiques were failing in their attempts to correct and improve the boy's talent and having the opposite and a very negative affect.

Leaning over, Kendall clapped him on the back,
"That's just Gustavo being…Gustavo. We've all experienced it before. Just brush it off. You don't need to care what the big man thinks of you so much."

"That's easy for you to say!" James exclaimed, "The man loves you!"

"What?" Kendall chuckled, returning to the comfort of his cushion, "I am so not his favorite."

James rolled his eyes to that statement which was obviously either a lie or Kendall was unfortunately very oblivious.

"Yeah right dude! You can get away with anything! Whatever you say, Gustavo listens." Kendall's thick eyebrows twitched in disagreement and James swiftly amended his unintended insult by offering, "I know it takes you a whole lot of work and groveling, but eventually you can wear him down and he'll listen to you. I guess it's because you're more of a challenge for him and you won't take no for an answer, huh?"

"That's right!" Kendall nodded, a smug grin slipping across his long chin while James just shook his head in mirth,

"I guess that's why we nominated you as our fearless leader." Instantly, Kendall tilted his head in confusion but James quickly waved it off,

"Never mind. I think I'm just a little upset…it's just the way-the way he treats you compared to me. It's so different."

"C'mon James…it's not like that." Kendall sat up a smidge, his responsibility to comfort emerging, "He thinks you're good, honest! What, with that smile of your's, your fancy back tucks during our concerts-besides the fact that no one else can carry those impressive wavering crescendos like you can! G-man know's that and Carlos and Logan do too."

"Yeah…well, he doesn't show it. Not the way he does to you."

"What are you talking about? Gustavo criticizes me more than all of you!" James bit his tongue, clearly disagreeing but politely offered,

"Maybe. But still…he at least see's your talent and acts like you're worth something to him. I feel like he could replace me any minute!"

"You know I wouldn't let that happen James."

"But that's just the point!" James reeled, "I don't want you to be the reason why Gustavo keeps me! I want him to keep me because he knows I'm good enough-no better than good enough!"

He tiredly slunk against the wall, breathing a sigh in defeat, running a hand through his hair as he slumped down over the coffee table.

"You know James," Kendall began delicately, "I don't get what Gustavo sees in me. I really like the gig we have; it's a whole lot better than I could ever imagine it would be. It almost makes me want to give up my dream of playing professional ice hockey, but hey, who knows about that?" Kendall, realizing he was getting off track, promptly switched the conversation back to the issue at hand,

"Learning the dance moves is the worst for me and hitting the higher notes tends to be a little difficult but you do both with ease. I get the majority of solos, I don't get why but I guess my voice just fits those parts. But let me tell you something James…now don't laugh at me, I'm really not one for all that mushy stuff but…I think you're amazing."

James glanced up, brushing a stray bang from his eyes, "Hahah yeah right!"

"No I'm serious! You are amazing and one of the most talented people I've ever met-and I'm not just saying that because you're my best friend." Kendall laughed, punching him lightly in the shoulder to which James winced, rubbing his tender bicep, glancing down while reveling in his friend's admission,

"You're the reason we came here in the first place! If it wasn't for you, none of us would have ever known that music is our calling! So…don't give up. I know it's hard sometimes and Gustavo can be a pain, but we can get through it. Alright?"

"You were always so great at inspiring speeches." James puffed, a smile cracking his depressed features. Kendall shrugged,

"Hey, as long as it helps, my work is complete."

"Yeah…thanks Kendall." James said, pushing himself off of the oak and glass-encased table, his palms leaving hand-prints on the clear surface.

"Don't mention it." Kendall called, turning around upon realizing that James was headed to the room the brunette shared with Carlos, "Hey, where are you headed?"

"The gym. I need to blow off some steam." James announced, creaking open the door of his room, overwhelming stress still piling on his mind. Packing his gear in his athletic bag, he ruminated over his current flaws-not learning the dance moves, being behind the beat on more than one occasion and slipping in homework.

"Momma Knight's going to kill me over my math grade!" James inwardly hissed, upset about his score because he had never scored so low on a test before, regardless of how dumb the public assumed the party king to be. And to make matters worse, he had gotten into another fight with the almighty Gustavo Rocque! There was little a diamond could do…except to shine brightly and at the moment, he was as dull as coal.

"One Fifty!" James yelled, heaving the heavy weight from his chest and onto its restraining bars, letting him rest on the burgundy work out bench. Observing his mental check list while his heart rate returned to a normal pace, James had already completed his series of exercises on the elliptical, the running machine, as well as weight training on the floor. And it was barely eight o'clock!

Realizing that the night was still young and the majority of his homework complete, James decided then and there that he deserved some fun, to relax and take it easy-mainly to take his mind off of things for a few hours.

Wiping the back of his hand against his forehead to remove the remnants of dripping balls of sweat that had previously been trickling down his face, James grabbed his bag and headed to the locker room. Quickly, he removed his soiled work out jersey, shorts and undergarments and stepped into the heated mist of a shower.

Washing the glistening sweat from his body and rejuvenating his hair to its silky brilliance with the use of a high quality shampoo and conditioner, James finally rinsed himself off and soon was outside of the enjoyable cell of bubbles and calming water vapor.

Wrapping a clean white towel offered by the gym for its members' use around his waist, James unlocked his storage locker, retrieving his change of clothes and hair products. His mind already made up on the location of the night's destination, James was determined to look as good as always if not a little better.

Whipping out a brightly colored bottle with large font and the blaring graphics of a large barracuda, he popped the top and refreshed himself with the light mist of the new addition to the Cuda Products, Ferocious Fantasy. Overdramatic names always delivered more 'umph' to a product.

After the slightly ginger-toned spray absorbed onto his perfect hair, James paused, preparing himself for a rite of passage included within the heart and soul of every Cuda fan. Posing in front of the mirror, he opened his mouth and commenced the mini commercial performed for the sole audience of Mr. James Diamond and empty bathroom stalls.

"Better Get 'Cha Cuda! Now in the delightfully fierce, 'Ferocious Fantasy' addition. Growl!" Holding up his fingers in a claw-like position, he emitted a mew towards his reflection in the mirror, shooting a glamorous wink and a caddy grin moments later. Without the slightest bit of shame, the teen soon slipped on a fresh pair of clothes and departed.

Returning to the flat, James stole inside the apartment, dumping his duffle bag on the kitchen counter.

"So…who's up for the club?" Two heads swiveled to meet him, noticing a healthy and warm aura emitting from the boy who had previously been in the pits of despair only hours beforehand.

"Sorry James," Kendall curtly said while hoping off of the bean bag he had not moved from since James left for the gym, "I already promised Jo that I'd take her out for sushi. I'm going to meet up with her soon-oh man!"

"What's the matter now Kendizzle?"James questioned, wondering why Kendall all of a sudden floundered about the room as if he was on fire.

"It's already 8:05! I'm supposed to pick Jo up in ten minutes!"

"Hahah serves you right! You've been playing video games all day; of course you'd forget something important like this." Logan suddenly called from his position at the kitchen counter, twisting around on the bar stool to laugh at Kendall's predicament, disturbing the small space crowded with books and pamphlets as he did so.

Shooting him a grim pout, Kendall ignored Logan in order to pay attention to more pressing matters such as scrambling with his shoe laces. Once the obstacle of the uncompromising laces had been overcome, the blonde sprinted over to the closet, pulling out a navy blue jacket. Propping up the hood, Kendall grabbed his wallet and in a few strides, he had popped out of the door, cheerfully calling,

"Catch ya later!"

Turning expectantly to the only person remaining in the room since his first compadre had deserted him and Carlos was already snoring on the couch in the living room; James fixed his pleading gaze onto the brainiac pouring over his studies.

His attempts to persuade Logan to join him on his fool's errand to the local club resting in the heart of Old Hollywood came to no avail. Logan gently refused,

"I can't." He sighed, rubbing the crevices of his tired eyes, "I've got an intermolecular analysis of the Recluse spider that is due for biology class on Monday." Tilting his head, Logan balanced his pencil between his index and thumb, pointing the object at his friend still standing near the doorway,

"As a matter of fact, you should be working on your's too. Want me to help you out with math? I know you've been having some trouble lately and since that's my favor-"

"What?" James suddenly cried, reaching the counter and gripping the edges in a panic, "How'd you know about that?"

Simply, Logan glanced at the prone form of Carlos sleeping on the couch, his chest gently rising and falling with each intake of breath. James hazel eyes trailed to where Logan had indicated and sharply rolled his eyes in slightly annoyance when he realized who the culprit of his secret was.

"Of course he would tell!" Logan's response to James's outburst was a light chuckle, rubbing his ear drum to calm the ringing due to the proximity he had been to his tall friend when he first began his argument,

"Don't get too worked up over it, he didn't mean to tell us that you did bad on the test. He was just amazed that he finally did better than one of the four of us on a test."

"So his C- beat my D+? What an accomplishment." James droned, leaning against the wall, staring down at his tan skinned friend who would get what was coming to him later. "Well I guess that isn't saying much….but at least that would explain why he told everyone."

Resolutely miffed at the tattle tale, James returned to his initial request.

"You know dancing's not my thing." Logan complained, turning his attention once again onto his work and officially signaling that he was from that point on not to be swayed.

"Don't give me that, you dance all the time!" James pointed out, much to Logan's displeasure, finding out that he had not attached better logic to his excuse.

"Well…yeah but James, I-"

"But nothing! It'd be fun!" James encircled Logan's neck with a forearm, playfully ruffling the shorter brunette's finely gelled hair, "A good break from studying and you know you need it."

"Yeah…you got that right!" Logan slowly admitted, pushing away James's arm with a smile, "But I've got to finish this….but hey-I'll make you a deal." Inclining closer in interest, James attention was transfixed on his friend's offer,

"I'll go dancing on Saturday with you if you let me help you with your math. Deal?"

The unselfish preposition touched James's heart, inducing him to once again bend down to ruffle Logan's hair amidst his shouts of disapproval,

"You're awesome, you know that?" Logan pulled away from the offending limb and shrugged his shoulders happily,

"I do what I can."

The bright student was about to return to his mound of homework yet his academic ventures were brought once again to a halt by his companion's actions. His finely arched eyebrows crossed in disapproval, watching as the lengthy youth headed towards the door, picking up a leather jacket hanging on the hall tree,

"You're still going?" James stuck his forearms through the dark fabric then hitched it up at the collar, meeting the eyes of his friend as he did so,

"It can't be helped."

"But James," Logan protested, "It can…you can just stay here and-" But the door handle was already twisted and James was gone.

Shuffling down the concrete steps of his shared apartment at the Palm Woods Hotel, James decided which direction he should take. Fortunately his destination was close by, only three blocks away and in prime walking distance. Positively, the brunette did not mind the distance, using it as a tool to influence his desire to sculpt his washboard abs. However, even if he did mind, James had no choice but to walk the distance for he had not been able to save up for a car yet so in truth, he really could not object to walking even if he wanted to.

Whistling while making his way down the street, kicking loose pebbles from his path, the tall pop star did not notice that he was not alone. An ominous sign of foreboding in the form of a vehicle slunk out of the darkness, gliding across the gravel with a low hush, following after the tall, lengthy figure soon swallowed by dusk.

Chapter Text

"All the space in between the soul and the seams
Maybe I wasn't made for this world"


Entering club Ivar off Hollywood Boulevard, the tall brunette was submerged beneath sonic waves emitting from the speakers hanging overhead, the r&b beats and hip-hop undertones overlapping and leaving a dazzling effect on the boy preoccupied with blinking away from the flashing strobe lights as he made his way through the venue. The raised dj platform was blaring, enticing the partiers already caught in the throes of animalistic swaying to continue, even promoting a few daring individuals to step up onto the platform and slide down the beams supporting the building's structure.

James chuckled quietly to himself, inhaling the scent of sweat, pheromones, plates of abandoned food intermingled with the evident draft of alcohol floating throughout the vicinity. How he had missed the night life- the girls, dancing, the parties…the girls!

Inwardly, he congratulated himself on choosing a well-respected club, noting that he had had the option of attending the 'Griffin' a few blocks to the East. However, that would have been a last resort due to the fact that his bipolar and demanding producer Griffin owned the chain of sophisticated clubs. In addition to possessing the successful branch of pop boy bands put under the authority of Gustavo, the aging man appeared to have dabbled with brand-name fashion and a strange line of perfume based in Napal. Dancing in an uptight place like that would have killed the party in an instant for the teen, plus the fact that Griffin or any staff member there could easily recognize him and would probably inform Gustavo about his little adventure-then ear-piercing screams would come and he would never hear the end of his supposed idiocy and carelessness.

Ah, worries aside, James was ready to have some fun. Appreciating the view of swirling dancers and those lounging about the relaxing couch area as he walked through the stream of passersby, James decided to grab a drink. Mind you, it was only a Shirley Temple-hey, can't a guy like something classy and adorably attributed to America's sweetheart of the 1930s?

Sauntering up to the bar, he slid onto a plush seat, the chair spinning slightly as his weight descended. Righting himself, he faced the bartender and ordered his drink. The bartender wordlessly collected his customer's money and imputed his order while James swiveled in his seat to enjoy the atmosphere. Against the distant walls of the modernly designed interior, James watched in fascination how colorful light schemes warmed the exposed rustic brick, trying to trace the patterns in his mind.

Receiving his drink, he slowly sipped the sparkling Sprite and cherry flavored beverage. Suddenly, his forearm was tapped. Glancing sideways in surprise, his dark hazel eyes lit up upon initial contact with a stunning ginger and a blonde girl clinging to her elbow.

"Can I help you ladies?"

"As a matter of fact, yes." Came the sultry reply, followed by the bubbling admission from the blonde, "We've been watching you for a bit and wanted to say hello."

"Well," James said, grinning ear to ear, "I'm glad you decided to stop by." However glad he appeared, the boy was also taken aback that the women were actually coming to him so willingly. Often, despite his good looks and unfailing charisma, he had to work hard to gain the attention of a lovely lady-and now he had two interested in him! Shows what Hollywood's like…or maybe it was just the mood of being in a club that revived and loosened ones nerves.

"Whatcha drinkin?" Came the unexpected question. James quirked an eyebrow at the girl who had issued it, before glancing down into his glass filled with a blushing liquid,

"Um..." Now it was his turn to be embarrassed, "A Shirley Temple."

Cupping her hands to her face, the blonde giggled while the ginger winked,

"Oh what a tough guy." Instead of being insulted or losing his cool, James promptly added,

"I'll have you know, it's one of the best items on the menu." Getting an idea in his head, he acted upon it without thinking, "Want to try?" Shoving the drink towards her, James waited for her to accept his offering.

"No that's alright," She politely declined by pushing the glass down from her lips to trail her fingers seductively around his neck, "I'm looking for something more potent."

Catching her drift, James inwardly pouted-oh, so they were only trying to hassle a drink out of him. Brushing his disappointment off, he cupped her hand, removing it from his shoulders and holding it between his palms,

"Look," He began, "Lady, I'd love to get you a drink, honest I would. But you see, there's a slight problem."

"What do you mean?" The red-head asked, closing the distance between herself and the attractive boy, eager anticipation lighting up her green eyes.

"Unfortunately for the both of us, I'm underage."

Visible disdain appeared on the woman's face, mirrored instantaneously by her blonde companion who lifted her nose in the air and stalked off,

"Sandy, I'll try over there." The ginger nodded in agreement and began to follow but was momentarily detained by the hold on her wrists.

"I know I can't get you a drink…but that doesn't mean you have to leave."

"Actually it does," She sniffed, tossing her amber curls over a shoulder, pushing against his hold on her while James replied indigently,

"Well excuse me; you can't blame a guy for trying-especially when you're just playing with him to begin with. But hey, would you like to dance?"

"In your dreams!" She retorted, tugging successfully out of his grip. In reality, James had released his hold on the devious woman, rather glad that he had not been swindled like a fool by the talented feme fetale she appeared to be.

Swaying on overly pronounced hips, she sailed away and was lost into the crowded lounge but not before she witnessed the brunette's ever-present smile while he smugly called out to her,

"I'll catch ya on the dance floor!"

Shrugging off his recent rejection, James settled for dancing, happily mingling and flirting with willing dance partners on the techni-colored floor. Soon enveloped in the haze of repetitive melodies and the flush of overheating bodies cramping around his volatile form, James cleared his head from all the stress of learning new dance moves by incorporating some of his very own, letting the music take control.

Before he knew it, hours had passed and there he was, enamored by the glow of the strobe lights and music pounding into the core of his being, pushing him onward. Until the point when the dance floor had become too hot and heavy for the tall figure to handle, he stumbled towards the nearest exit, desperate for fresh air to greet his sweat-battered skin encased in the confines of a black leather jacket.

Exhausted, James pushed open the large door leading to the conjoined alleyway often filled with smokers and those entertaining illicit affairs. Staggering a few paces from the entrance, he slumped against the rough concrete wall, fanning himself off with the jacket he had removed much to his relief.

Glancing at his watch, he groaned. How had it already reached one thirty? Time sure disappears during the moments you wish you could stretch and make last forever. Pushing off of the wall, instead of returning to the club, he stepped out towards the Palm Woods.

"Hey look, it's James!" Overhearing his name whispered from the corner of the alley, the brunette flicked his head a quarter of the way in the direction of the noise, not wanting to whirl around in fear that it was a mugger poised and ready to attack him.

In relief, he actually twisted fully around and beamed as the new comers he had recognized as familiar faces walked towards him at a fast pace.

"Hey guys! Were you just at the club?" Very much surprised to see them in that district of town, James watched as a pair of his classmates from the Palm Woods School for the Famous approached.

"Y-yeah," Came the cautious reply as one boy stepped closer to James, "We were actually just picking Chris up."

"Right!" The other eagerly nodded to solidify the answer, "He comes here a lot."

"Oh," James mused, digging his hands into his pockets, "I come here sometimes. If I knew that you guys would be here earlier, I'd have totally called you. Want to go back inside?" Suddenly, the prospect of gaining more friends who were willing to actually spend time with him, instead of his supposedly best friends who were too busy to hang out, appealed to the youth who gripped his fists in excitement.

However, the duo exchanged an odd glance before the first boy resumed speaking,

"We're just passing through. We have to get home soon."

"Yeah, it is pretty late," James admitted, "I might as well leave too. Well, I'll see you guys at school!"

"Hey, where're you going Diamond?" One of them asked, sprinting over to James side for he had begun to pull away from the conversation.

"Back to the Palm Woods-where else?" James laughed, wondering if they had forgotten that most of the kids who attended their school actually rented apartments at the combined facility.

"Uh, well…want us to give ya a lift?"

"Don't worry. It's only three blocks away. And besides, I was thinking of jogging so I'll get there in no time." Touched by their thoughtfulness, James waved his hand in the air, dismissing their offer. Upon receiving crestfallen and confused expressions which equally confused James as to why they were so discouraged by his refusal, he added,

"It's not like I don't want to drive with you guys…but Jared, your house is over in West Covina. I'd feel bad if you took me all the way down town in the complete opposite direction of your house, especially when my apartment is so close."

Despite this polite explanation, the boys did not appear to accept no for an answer. The other, a burly boy with the stature of an aspiring linebacker suddenly put a hand on James's shoulder, stopping him from taking another step, insisting that he come with them.

"Dude, thanks, but really-I'm fine!" James shrugged out of his hold, scowling slightly at his larger classmate's weird behavior. Suddenly his world was spinning and he saw stars erupting into his vision as he swayed on his buckling feet.

"I'm sure you're fine now." The sarcastic line reached his ears, while James realized that he had just been punched. Unknowingly releasing his hold on his jacket which crumpled to the grit and grime encrusted concrete of the back alley, James dropped to his knees in shock. Gripping his smarting chin, he gathered his balance, his instincts urging him to stand and pivot at the exact moment he got his bearing.

Fortunately James reactions were sharp, used to many changing courses and split-second decisions in order to keep choreographed moves up to the tempo of whatever song Big Time Rush was currently rehearsing. Upon pivoting, James unknowingly dodged a second fist gliding down towards his head. He side shuffled into Jared who shoved him roughly to the side and into the gorilla-like Tom.

James managed to hold his own decently in the minor scuffle, all the while shouting out questions as to why they were attacking him while he dodged their incoming blows. The only down flaw was his beautiful locks of deep chestnut brown which happened to flutter in front of his eyes at a perilous moment.

The next moment he was tackled and flattened on the floor, pinned down beneath the crushing weight of his adversary. Abruptly he gasped for breath as a heel dug sharply into his unprotected side.

"You have no idea how long I've been waiting to do this!" Punches rained down on him as James covered his head, his only option being to cower against the vicious onslaught. Enduring the frontal attack, James did not realize that they were moving into the second stage of this outmatched smack down by dragging him upwards by his perfectly combed hair, not even marred by hours of grinding in the club.

"Hey, watch the hair!" He cried but was soon silenced by a fist connecting with his abdomen, forcing him to curl over due to the loss of breath.

"Y'know James, that's one of the reasons I hate you."

"Huh?" James blearily asked, head bowed.

"You're so full of yourself, your hair and that stupid comb of your's."

"You-you…would be too…"He panted, straightening himself out and landing a punch of his own into the chest of Tom while Jared struggled to latch onto his arms, "I-If you had…if you had hair like mine!"

"But that's all you're going to be…" Tom uttered, issuing harsh blows with each word, enunciating his point of envious hatred, "A good-for-nothing" Wham! "Pretty boy!"

Dizzy, dehydrated from hours of non-stop action and now delirious due to one to many hits in the skull, both boys were able to grab James's failing limbs just as a third member joined their party.

"So you decided to show up Chris!" Jared cheerfully called to the stranger sporting a short blonde buzz who appeared from out of the gloomy alleyway, his face grim.

"Sorry, I got sidetracked in the club looking for this loser. Glad you found him."

"Thanks." Tom nodded, gripping James tightly and heaving him up, "He actually gave us a bit of trouble but I got it under control. Everything's going as planned."

"Perfect." The newcomer nodded, fishing a set of car keys out of his front pocket while heading towards a dingy truck which had unobservantly been parked within the margins of the alleyway before James had even stumbled out into the refreshing evening's air,

"You know what to do."

With meager resistance, the duo managed to stuff a noncompliant James into the back of their truck. It is to be noted that James did not go without a fight, using his large legs to his advantage in order to kick out at his intruders. However, this pampered, well-groomed pop star was no match for the gruff likes of henchmen in the making.

Being tossed into the back of the van like a sack of potatoes with an undignified shriek, James found himself grappling for the door for all he was worth. He pushed himself off of the grimy and dust-infiltrated floor bed of the car before being pushed off balance by the appearance of another figure bowling into him.

"Stay down!" Like hell James would. He fought even more desperately to reach the door but just as his fingers almost grasped the door handle, a single, loud beep signified his doom. The vehicle was locked, sputtering into ignition, flooring out of the alleyway, spraying pebbles and debris in its midst while James was stuck behind large metal frames. He was trapped. Stuck in the tight limitations of a white van only used by church groups caravanning to hospitable charity events or seen in petty-level crime chases, James was pinned to the floor by a daunting figure who was currently unbuckling his belt behind him.

Uncomfortable and utterly confused throughout the chaotic events orbiting around him as the featured center point, James glanced warily at the boy out of the corner of his eye, unable to fully view the other boy's actions due to his downward angle. An uneasy sensation crept into his lower stomach as scenes flashed across his mind, numerous possible reasons entering his head as to why his classmate was removing the specific article of clothing keeping his pants up.

Instead of initially assuming the worst, James acted as though the shedding of his companion's belt was an everyday occurrence, using laughter to mask his nervousness. Holding up his palms, James jokingly stated,

"Woah, woah, dude…I know I'm hot but c'mon, I never thought that you swung that way!"

"Tch!" The boy hissed through his teeth, "Stop being such a creep Diamond."

"I'm just saying, I'm not the one taking off my jeans." The brunette blithely pointed out, "So I really don't get how I'm being the creep here." In response, the boy wordlessly advanced on him, causing James to back up as much as he could in the minimal space, hitting the wall of the car before he knew it.

"I was only kidding! Please don't-ugh!" A squeal escaped his lips as he was flipped over onto his stomach by the large brute. Being unable to see what was going on; James began to subconsciously hyperventilate, fearing that his suspicion of Tom's desire to rape him was becoming real.

As he was being bent over, James dropped his shoulder blade to one side in order to gather a viewpoint of Tom's actions while simultaneously flinging his body wildly side to side to throw the heavier male off of him.

"Want me to help?" The driver offered, leaning over his headrest while balancing his chin on the apex of his forearms, noticing the commotion leading to what was about to occur.

"Nah, I can handle him myself!" Tom grunted above the lithe form of James who had begun kicking and bucking against his attacker, which the remaining individual in the passenger seat brought to attention,

"Hey the little brat is humping your leg!" Chris snickered, "You'd better let him have it if he wants it that bad!"

Blood rushed to the tips of his ears in embarrassed anger; the boy hating how crude his classmates were being when they obviously knew that James by no means was attempting to gain any pleasure out of this experience. However, James had more pressing matters to contend with for Tom was exerting his power by leaning his full weight onto James's back. The dark individual was pressing him awkwardly into a crouched position while the hefty teenager fumbled to latch onto his captive's long arms, dragging his rough palms down James's chest throughout the ordeal.

In reaction, James quickly clenched his eyes shut at the sensation, wishing that the man was not touching him and that he could just be back home in the Knight's living room playing video games with Carlos who probably just woke up from a long nap to realize that he was lingering in the wee morning hours of the next day.

Feeling a squeeze on his lower abdomen brought James quickly out of his daydream and into the present moment. His hazel eyes widened at the realization that this was really happening to him. Panic set in, setting his lungs on fire in their attempt to catch up with his racing heart. As the large palm ghosted over his vital regions, James squirmed violently in return; doing his best to heave the form off and away from his person.

In pent up desperation, feeling trapped and caged like a bound animal, he shouted,

"Stop! I-I don't want this. You can't-Tom-you can't rape me!"

Blinking open his eyes at the spiral of hysterical laughter spouting from the usually reserved Tom, the bizarre reaction unnerved James. The older boy suddenly clapped James harshly on the back in mock camaraderie,

"Oh, you wish freak! I can barely stand even touching you let alone imagine doing that! You're more perverted than I thought."

Left gaping, a bright flush washing over him at his wrong assumption, James inwardly sulked. He was not a pervert; after all, it was Tom who was making the typical moves of sexual assault-kidnapping, throwing his victim in the back of his car and driving off God-knows-where to dispose of his body in some remote location so no one would ever find the evidence.

In addition to the tell-tale signs of assault, James knew from all the criminal documentaries that Logan enjoyed watching on Thursday nights while tutoring Katie in science that many kidnappers sexually abused their victims regardless of gender. So then why should he, the most stunning man in the LA music industry, be an exception?

Caught in his mode of self-reflection, it was too late for James to realize that Tom was on the move. The burly student bound a now silently mortified James's wrists together with his belt, the hard leather chaffing against his skin, pulled tight and secured as the silver buckle punctured the material.

With nothing else to do but remain pinned and bound beneath the formidable hulk, James resigned to figuring out where he was and where his captors were headed. Realizing that the rapidly moving van was in the process of leaving the outskirts of Los Angeles, James easily deciphered his current location by staring out the window. He had a difficult time seeing as he was smashed against the dirty bed of the car but to remedy that, he tilted his chin to the side and glanced up at the sky whooshing overhead through the nearest window slit.

Minutes of vain searching, James caught a glimpse of a street sign while their car swung onto the ramp merging onto the I-101 freeway towards Pasadena. Bingo! He was so close to home that it was insanity! If he could only escape and alert the authorities…but that hopeful thought of freedom and escape came to a reeling halt as Tom shoved his shaggy brown head down, alerting his self-proclaimed boss,

"He's looking out the window!"

"It doesn't really matter," Chris murmured, indicating with a hand that Jared should flicker on his blinker to hover into the right lane.

"But Chris," Tom objected, attempting to convey his sense of logic once again, "If he can see out, can't people see him?" His awaited answer came slowly, by and by, as if calculated precision fell behind each phrase.

"Although it's so late and hardly anyone's out, it's better to not take chances." Musing over this thought, Chris responded while staring straight ahead, eyes on the map he was carrying while his left hand dug into his backpack,

"I was saving this for later but I guess this is as good a time as any." Satisfied with the particle he had dug up, the navigator tossed it back into the backseat,

"Here, use this." Tom caught the object with one hand then went about tying it around James's eyes, blocking his vision with a dark purple fabric, disrupting his hair further in the process,

"C'mon dude!" James could not help complaining, "This is the second time you've messed up my hair!" What he would give for his lucky comb, Cuda spray or the fanciful notion that he could enjoy a blissful summer surrounded by friends and loved ones back at the Palm Woods hotel or even in Gustavo's studio. Thinking of the overweight and bearded man, James felt a stab of guilt, realizing that his boss only had the best intentions at heart for his tall, enthusiastic and self-absorbed tenor. Despite having their arguments, James knew that deep down Gustavo respected him in his own manner. Much unlike these scoundrels who had no understanding of personal boundaries.

"I guess even Bandanna Man can't save you now!" Tom chortled to himself, giving the purple bandanna a tight tug to secure the blindfold around his prisoner's eyes. The blind and bound brunette bristled with anger, childishly snapping without thinking due to the insult towards his heroic alter ego,

"Yes he can, Bandanna Man can do anything! Just you wait, he'll fly in here at any moment and hit you so har-" His immature retort was silenced by an unexpected blow which disoriented the crown of shaggy hair, causing James to fall over in the car, landing sluggishly at Tom's feet.

"You're dumber than I thought…," Tom shook his head in disappointment. A cold jab fell over the front seat from the mastermind of the dark operation,

"I bet that's why his stupid Mexican friend has been getting better grades than this retard." James flinched upon hearing the insult directed both at himself and towards one of his best friends. However, he remained silent which was a new experience for the talkative and bold teen who usually had no qualms about jumping to defend the honor of his friends and normally left the perpetrator with bruises. Ignoring the contempt of their victim, Jared, who had been passively driving for the majority of the trip, joined their conversation by scoffing,

"You've got that right Chris-he even failed his Math exam today."

James groaned, forgetting that Jared was in his math class a few rows behind him. After a second to analyze how the boy had acquired this information, an astonished James jerked his head up to ask,

"Hey wait! How'd you know about that?" The driver paused, checking his speed before turning to face the boy bound in the backseat,

"I heard it from a little birdie." He winked playfully at James but then relented the information while returning his eyes to the black asphalt, "Actually, everyone knows James- thanks to Carlos who ran around shouting how he was smarter than you."

Frowning in displeasure, James inwardly vowed,

"Carlos! I'm going to pummel you when I get back!"

However, James vengeance had to be postponed.

"Alright boys, we're almost there!" Chris announced, instructing Jared to veer off the main road they were driving along in order to take a vacant dirt trail that was soon lost in a field of wheat.

The thin stalks brushed against the surface of the car, the branch-like straw scratching at the metal frame while filling the serene landscape with an eerie setting befitting the agenda of the night.

"Let's show this little prick that we mean business, boys!" Whoops erupted from every corner of the car besides from one doomed individual in the back seat.

"Yeah, we'll make him regret the day he messed with us!" Tom chimed, hoisting James up with little effort, shuffling himself and the package clutched between his bear-like arms towards the door in order to prepare their exit of the vehicle. A feral light gleamed in Chris's dark orbs, glinting harshly against his reflection wavering in the side view mirror attached to the car,

"No…"Before Chris finished his sentence, the hair on the nape of James's neck stood up as a sense of dread overwhelmed his prone and sightless figure,

"We'll make him regret the day he was born."

Chapter Text

"I think I took the wrong path
And I need to find my way back
They say you're never too far
To start it all again

Am I too far?"

The white van came to a screeching halt, the rocky gravel kicked up by churning wheels. The engine's life sputtered out like a candle in result of one hard twist to the keys stuck in the ignition. A cloud of dust and upturned asphalt settled upon the clearing like mist rising off a bayou as the automobile came to a complete stop.

The captive felt his breath hitch, nervous due to the sudden lack of movement and noise. His heart rate intensified, anxiety spurring on millions of gruesome ideas of what was about to happen to him following the stillness. The peculiar quiet gnawed on his bones and made him quiver, the gorgeous prisoner uncomfortably bound within a silence which threatened to last forever.

After what seemed like an eternity, the front car door suddenly swung open with a bang, the frame rocking on its hinges with a squeak. Chris emerged. The kick he shot at the door issued a wild scurry of rebounding metal throes towards the perpetrator who had dared to misuse the vehicle's exit device improperly-however the door received little attention from the boy bent solely on achieving his goal.

The curly headed youth gripped the white edge of the car door, stepped past it then slammed it shut, yelling for assistance to another teen who had appeared on the other side of the van.

"Bring out the package."

Said package was hauled out-a blind-folded James stumbling while being dragged out of his asylum by the roots of his auburn hair much to the handsome boy's dismay. Ungracefully tripping, after being towed forward from the back corner of the van, the detained individual slipped and fell from the ledge of the trunk.

Unable to stop his fall due to his hands being tied behind his back, James landed on the dirt. His breath left him as his shoulder compacted with the hard floor, the broad structure jutting out while his chin hit the ground mercilessly.

From his vantage point on the dusty terrain, James decided to gauge his surroundings. Through the thin fabric covering his eyes, the tan boy's hazel irises picked out fuzzy particles beyond the cotton strip, bringing the scenery into a bleary focus. His eyes soon absorbed the image of a desolate field, which in the sparkling daylight, this straw-threwn vast plain easily transformed into a great, wind-rippled expanse of pale gold.

The clumsy landing evoked chuckles from the two lackeys who hauled him up amid their banter, shoving him forward. Upon being erected, James ventured to inquire where he had been taken, trying to gain his bearings and scan what landscape he could although his vision was presently denied and majorly impaired by the swatch of purple cloth.

Without warning, a fist immediately collided with his jaw followed by the curt order to shut up. Insulted, James lapsed into silence, figuring it would be in his best interest to not annoy them any further or procure their wrath on his unprotected cheek.

Wordlessly, the group slowly proceeded through the field, the wheat stalks brushing past James long legs, a few strands even reaching up high to tickle at his elbows.

Of course, with any member of Big Time Rush around, there was bound to be adventure, mishaps and problems galore. And apparently the ominous procession was past due for an accident since no such difficulty had occurred in the past half hour - thus signaling that they were bound for another such occurrence to take place at any minute. And soon, true to custom, a clumsy situation speedily caught up with the unlucky teen tottering between two of his indifferent classmates.

On the march sloshing through the dim field, the blindfolded James tripped over an abandoned rake, sending himself into yet another sprawl, landing in a nearby vat of mud and expired tractor grease. Pushing the reeking mud from his limbs, the celebrity found that the dark liquid had stained his jeans, causing the lengthy boy to complain while heaving himself up from the mucky ground,

"Ugh, gross!"

"Stop being such a pansy!" Tom huffed, issuing the obsessive and self-absorbed pop star forward with a deft kick into the rear of the soiled item.

"Come on man, even you'd be upset!" James protested indigently, brushing slimy muck from the denim while he stumbled out of the pit, "Those were $160 Diesel jeans!" However, his protest in regards to fashion fell on deaf and uncaring ears. Spurred onwards by their unsocial behavior and consistent nudging, James began shuffling through the plain yet again.

Prodded into walking once more, the quartet of misery and purpose traveled silently across the flat and rocky soil. The night was still with a hot breeze whispering through the distant oak trees fringing the field. The giants' boughs were laden with leaves, curled and ready to snap only to gracefully glide to the floor and meet their ultimate demise at the feet of the very tree that bore their buds into existence. Pity that no one would ever see the bloom of the young spuds, their hope for life was decidedly dashed by nature. Their lives were futile- the older leaves knew, waiting for spring's touch to be retracted by the icy breath of a fast approaching winter.

All of a sudden the march was called to a halt.

Tom jerked the sightless James to a stop by the collar of his shirt, causing the captive to heel to his side while their leader analyzed the location the assembly had intruded upon. At the end of the dirt trail that the procession had taken, they had arrived in a small clearing, leaving the white van only meters off the main road, concealed within smashed yet high corn stalks of the vacant, neighboring acres.

The rushing of wind in the grass enveloped James's senses, his auditory track heightened due to his current lack of sight. Parting his lips in order to brush his tongue against chapping lips, the brunette inwardly wished that they were still moving.

The drudgery of marching across the barren field had served as a better distraction than he would have expected, the rise and fall of his converse-encased feet distracting the boy from realizing how nervous and weary he had become of the situation he had found himself in.

No longer being able to stand the silence, wondering if the groupies had just decided to take him to an abandoned field and leave him there as a huge prank, James attempted to call out to them,

"Hey guys, what are-ugh!" James careened forward, expecting to hit the ground again. Yet he let out a surprised yelp when he collided with a wooden stake which was directly positioned a pace from his body.

Tilting over to the side, his weight brought his gigantic but lithe form down easily for his bound hands were still unable to support his falling frame.

"You're so pathetic." An unforeseen kick to his stomach left him gaping as Tom continued with his insult,

"Aren't so handsome now are you, huh, James?" A foot landed on the base of his head, driving his skull into the muddy earth.

Spluttering clay and clumps of grass from his mouth, James coughed, trying to dislodge mud from his throat.

"Look at yourself," Tom sneered, "On the ground-your pretty boy face covered in mud." Mid-second cough, pressure began to build at the base of his skull; the shoe pressing his head even harder into the ground.

"Finish it up!" Chris barked, hands folded while studying the form crouched on the muddy earth, "We don't have a lot of time."

In understanding, Tom nodded, bending down to wretch James's head up by grabbing a handful of his chestnut brown locks. His tormentor tugged more firmly, pulling James's head back harshly, exposing his throat to the night sky. The boy's throat clenched with the effort of being strained, his back arching in an uncomfortable position as his lungs labored to maintain a steady pulse. The large athlete knelt down besides his prisoner, his warm breath puffing uncomfortably into the crook of his victim's neck,

"You know, I could easily kill you right now." A cold flat piece of metal slid up James's neck beginning at his collarbone, running across his Adam's apple and came to rest slightly below his jugular vein. Instantly, James knew what the offending object was: the steel blade of a knife.

"But that'd be too easy…" He inhaled sharply through his nose, very careful to not breathe heavily unless he were to accidentally nick it against the weapon as Tom almost casually explained,

"You're going to wish I just ended your miserable life right here. Too bad-this is only the beginning."

Without warning, the dark teen punctured the pale expanse of skin stretched out before his steel blade. However, the wound was strategically cut no deeper than surface level as to not dispatch the wretched youth then and there. But rather, the thin slice was constructed in order to make the bound child suffer for an extended period of time while making him realize just how poignant the trio stood as a threat to the unprotected pop star.

The poor, blinded boy let out a shill yell the instant the blade nicked his throat, a crimson trickle of blood soon escaping from the slit in the previously unmarred surface of skin. The dark liquid flowed down his creamy neck, seeping into the fabric of his shirt. The odd sensation of a sticky, warm liquid that was his very own blood currently oozing over his collarbone and dipping across his chest made him shudder, noting how he appeared like a macabre decoration, a disheveled yet still unbroken offering about to be sacrificed

Hearing Chris's orders, Tom instantly dropped James's head, allowing the injured teenager to slump to the ground. Although left sightless, James instinctively heard that Tom had moved away from his prone figure for a few moments, ordered to fetch some rope that Jared had set down while the other two began the final preparations for their future experimentation.

Taking the opportunity, James struggled up into a crouched position as quietly as he could then burst out of the clearing with all the speed he could muster.

"H-hey, grab him!" Shocked by the sudden change of events, Jared shouted from his standing position on top of a dislodged tree stump, viewing the quickly fleeing body of James as it swiftly disappeared into the field.

 Ragged breathing, thudding heart and pumping arms accompanied the tall brunette as he stretched his legs out, taking large strides to cover as much ground as possible. Often staggering or tumbling to the ground due to the lack of sight, he dauntingly pushed onward across the barren field.

Frustration consumed him. James was almost in hysterics due to the slow pace he was traveling at although he frantically tried to persuade his limbs to work harder. Usually, he was a much faster runner who was used to physical demands contributed to participating in soccer and ice hockey for a long portion of his young life.

"I've…I've-got to…get out of h-here."

Using his bound wrists to push past bushels of wheat, James prompted himself to sprint faster, afraid of what would await him if he were to be caught by the furious collection of his classmates who were chasing behind him and rapidly closing in.

The thought of being caught incited more thought of the same subject, evoking a cycle of hysteria to ensue and overtake the already weakened and bleeding individual. James's labored breath and heart rampant with fear soon took its toll as he blindly crashed through the field, sprinting for all he was worth. Not knowing where he was headed but determined, he continued racing; driven on by the sound of footfalls and a trail of cursing close behind.

Out of nowhere, a freight train collided into James's back. The force of the blow caused the pair to plummet to the ground due to the weight of Tom's body crushing his own. The brunette panted for breath, sucking air into lungs currently being squashed by the thighs of the man-child on top of him who was plowing him into the ground with a vice-like grip.

Not knowing what else to do, James formulated saliva at the roof of his mouth and spat it directly into his attacker's face. Tom's grip wavered slightly as the larger male instantly released an arm to remove the spittle that had landed across his mouth and the bridge of his nose.

Curling his mouth back into a snarl, Tom practically growled,

"Not a smart move tough guy!" Punches rained down on James's torso and unprotected face. The sickening crunch of cracking ribs and thudding pounds into flesh disrupted the cool summer night's stillness as faint moans snuck underneath the pauses between each strike.

"Enough!" Chris roared, eventually calling his minion off the helpless youth, leaving James's gasping like a fish out of water, his chest exploding in pain, "Time to tie him up!"

The team of thugs hauled James up, dragging the refusing teen, kicking and screaming all the way back to the clearing and the awaiting post.

 Upon arrival at the ominous stake, Tom and Jared grabbed his arms, pinning James to the wooden beam while Chris noiselessly wound a coil of coarse rope around him. Once he was secured to the pole, the self-proclaimed leader of this gruesome mission waved the others off. The boys silently obeyed his orders, backing up to stand behind their nominated mastermind.

All of a sudden, James's felt a presence besides him. A shiver ghosted down his spine as Chris planted a firm palm on James's chest, leaning his full weight onto his puppet still attempting to escape the desire of the puppeteer's strings.


Without further instructions, Tom wordlessly encircled their prisoner. He knelt down; unfastening the belt restricting James's bound wrists. Instantly, the jailbird began flailing about wildly in order to possibly injure one of his classmates. A surge of hope, the prospect of another endeavor to escape, erupted inside James's chest. His will renewed, he struggled afresh, knowing that this might be his last chance to flee the cruel fate apparently allotted to him.

However, James never even got his back off the pole. The thugs were prepared this time, precisely why Chris had planted his weight onto his victim's body, purposefully crushing his lithe frame to the stake until his buddies finally managed to recapture the arms flailing about. The duo successfully wretched James's arms backward, tying his wrists together painfully in a highly uncomfortable position behind his back, twisted avertedly at the elbows with a thin beam hoisting him up as if he were raised upon a crucifix.

Before he knew what has happened, the blindfold was ripped away, making James squint his bruising eyes, regardless of the fact that the area was pitch black with no trace of light to be found.

"Now the real fun can start!"

Laughter and resumed punches to his ribcage and torso greeted James whose pupils were still adjusting to the gloom.

What was the purpose of this selected beating? It could not have been some randomly chosen act of violence, could it? This could not have all been a mistake…no, it must have been planned, otherwise, wouldn't his classmates have not attacked him in the first place?

As he remained bound to the stake, James's brain sifted through numerous reasons as to why his perfect day had taken a turn for the very worst.

These were guys from his high school for the famous, the elusive Palm Woods School provided to anyone who was a child or teen actor in Hollywood with a booked manager. Maybe they were jealous? Of course, James reflected, most people were and why shouldn't they be? He was handsome, tan, had stunning hair and teeth, taunt and sexy washboard abs, smooth moves, luck with the ladies and his own music contract with the hottest band known to the L.A. music industry since the Backstreet Boys. All perfectly respectable reasons to be jealous, James concluded, grunting under the onslaught of a blow cuffing him on the side of his forehead.

But what else? There had to be an ulterior motive behind this physical sign of aggression. No one took such lengths if it was only a petty grudge…

"H-hey?" Blinking tears from his eyes due to the pain of a fist colliding with his nostrils, James tried once again to gain their attention, starting with the person he was most familiar with,

"Yo…Jared! Why-ugh-why…are you-doing this?"

The statement stopped the lean ruffian in his tracks, pausing his clenched palm on its course toward his classmate's diaphragm.

"What'd ya think Diamond?" Tom relentlessly did not let up, covering for Jared's lack of speech and mobility,

"You should know what I think of you!"

Taking the opportunity to beat James's into a pulp, Tom decidedly struck James in the jaw and abdomen continuously as he shouted, bitterness and anger heating his words,

"You…you're nothing but a pretty boy! A good-for-nothing faggot that has been handed the world on a silver platter. You-ungh-you don't deserve the opportunities you've received but of course you-"

"Oh-and you do?" James could not help but to retort, his eyes flashing beneath windswept and mud splattered hair.

"Shut up James!" Tom roared, digging his solid fist over and over into the center of James's chest, knocking him about like a rag doll while he seethed,

"The only reason why you're anything is just a slip chance of luck! And you know it too! It's a wonder that fat fool Gustavo hasn't booted your sorry ass out of his studio yet-you'd make a perfect bum starving on the streets of LA begging for loose change." A twinge of discontent began to rise up in James at the name of his manager. Although he was not always on the best of terms with the overweight, hip-hop wannabe, James would not tolerate anyone speaking ill of him. Calling the glamorous party king a bum was not a good idea either.

"At least I've got a manager! What do you have Tom? Oh that's right, nothing!"

The victorious light in James's shining hazel eyes slowly defused as Tom returned an insult of his own, this time, one very calculated and cutting to the point. Tom paused in his physical oration, placing his worn palms on his hips while leering at his bound adversary,

"You know…you're right James. I don't have anything, not yet. But you're not as great as you think you are. Don't believe me, do ya?" Chuckling to himself, he stepped closer to James, his eyes twinkling,

"You think you're a star? Pssh, what a joke! I heard you didn't even pass your audition in Minnesota! got a free ride out of Kendall! Hahah that's it, isn't it?"

Blood boiling, James felt a surge of rage and contempt surge at the back of his throat. His eyes snapped and he bit his lip. Tom just cackled, taking James's angry silence as a sign of the truth of his statement.

"Ya don't have anything to say about that…cus it's true, huh? How does that feel-knowing that the only reason why you're here is because someone else was better than you and decided to let you tag along?" He slid up against the pole, leaning on it as if nonchalantly chatting to an old friend,

"I bet you feel awesome, knowing that your best friend who wants to be a stupid hockey player is the one that got you signed in the first place? Heck, I'd be furious if I were you, always having to take a back seat to Knight, especially since he's Gustie's favorite and stars in your dream. Are you beginning to see the picture? You're dream is pointless."

"So…what? I-I know I'm not the star," James relented, eyes downcast yet a glimmer of a smile played at the corner of his lips as he answered Tom's haunting jibe meant to tear and depress, "But at least I'm getting to live my dream unlike you."

Tom's eyes lit up as he leapt off the stake, hand coiling and poised to strike James's square in the eye when suddenly, the large brute felt a hand brush against his arm.

"Let me have a try…to get our point across."

An iron rod appeared in the opposite hand of Chris who had found the rusty pipe amidst their trek across the field after their flighty prisoner.

"W-wait!" James suddenly scrambled for words but nothing he had to say would avert the avenger from his path of destruction as he approached the prone figured fidgeting nervously away from him and the steel club.

"Stop Chris-seriously, just stop. I don't…I-" A blood curdled scream broke whatever statement the boy had been attempting to project. His voice pierced the night as the iron pipe struck James's clear in the side, instantly breaking a few ribs in the process.

"You think you're so tough James…well, I'm going to prove that you aren't."

"I-I don't understand," James groaned, his head dangling forward in agony, his bound wrists the only support pinning his shuddering frame to the pole, "W-why are you…wha-urgh!"

Next, throughout Tom's jeering laughter at the animalistic sounds emitting from the subdued individual, Chris sent the rod flying into James's left shinbone, shattering it upon impact.

"What do you have to say now Diamond?" Cold metal covered with droplets of blood pistoned beneath James's chin, lifting his jaw obscurely high in order for hazel eyes to meet condescending blue chips of ice,

"Not too talkative now, are you James? C'mon...what do you have to say?"

James had nothing to say. Or if he did, it could not be formed in words due to the multitude of nerve receptors blocking all coherent thought from his mind. All the broken figure could muster was a whimper. The pain was too great, like nothing he had ever experienced or dreamed that he would ever encounter. The extreme ache of his torn ligaments and indented ribcage would not allow him to answer the demand of the boy who was capable of whirling the pipe with deadly accuracy.

"I thought so." Chris muttered, tilting James's chin slightly to the side, analyzing the faint scratches previously inflicted by gravel, "It's funny…silence and pain serve you much better than your obnoxious smile or hair ever did."

In return, James grit his teeth through the pain, lifting his sore facial muscles up in a grin just to spite his captor. Realizing that the grinning fool was trying to mock him, Chris scoffed while shaking his head slowly,

"You're a worthless, talentless piece of shit, you know that James?"

"Then…w-why," A cracked and hoarse voice practically whispered, "A-are you…trying so hard…to get…to get rid of me...i-if…I'm…worthless?"

"Hahah, you're a hoot!" Tom hollered, banging a fist down onto the incarcerated teen's back, "You keep on fighting no matter what, don'tcha?"

"I guess you deserve to know why we are doing this in the first place…" Chris mused, ignoring Tom's irritating interruption of his monologue by fixating clear eyes upon the broken body basically kneeling before him.

"It's not that I hate you James. Yes, I don't like you-not a bit, but it's not hate. No, hate is reserved for rivals and you are no such thing. Of course the antics you and your friends create annoy me but it's more the level of attention and adoration the four of you dogs receive that gets on my nerves. Everyone else, no matter how hard we work and regardless of our talent, are ignored in favor of you idiots from BTR. And I could no longer put up with it. Something had to be done," Chris turned slightly, glancing into the distance while deep in thought before bringing his pupils back onto his vertical toy,

"You're simply in the way James, nothing more than a bug needing to be squashed."

The iron staff rose slowly into the air and James knew then and there that that lead pipe quite possibly could be the final object he witnessed in this life time if everything in his existence were to suddenly grow dark.

"C-Chris…maybe we should stop." Jared speedily stuttered, a hand reaching beseechingly for the hard tube of iron clutched within his obsessive leader's hand, the blonde about to dispose the tortured creature permanently,

"I think-I think we're taking this too far."

"What?" Chris whirled on his companion, demanding as to why his subordinate should dare object to his strategy.

"Going soft right when it matters, eh, Jared?" Tom joked, prodding the thin boy in the chest with his elbow. Jared shoved him off, meeting Chris's frosty glare,

"You're a waste; I knew I shouldn't have picked you for this job."

Not wanting to invoke the wrath of the pipe-wielder, Jared held up his hands complacently,

"I'm just saying. Don't you think he's had enough?"

Inclining his head towards the figure tied to the stake, similar to a sheep before the slaughter, Jared brought the bound James once again to the forefront of the night's agenda. The brunette tensed up, instinctively feeling the weight of eyes coming to rest upon him, examining every blow, scratch, welt and open wound that the trio had inflicted upon him earlier in the evening.

"Enough?" The leader quietly uttered, his fingers clenching harshly over the moon reflected in the sleek metal of his preferred weapon of choice, "I'll show you enough!"

Catching this ominous phrase, James glanced up wearily before his captors, lungs heaving with effort as blood dripped from his nostrils, the slender and vaguely recognizable teen waiting for the next blow to finish him off for good. He no longer was disillusioned with the hope of supposed escape, resigned to accept whatever destiny God had decreed for his short-lived and rather unsuccessful life.

Almost calmly, James inhaled as the rough texture of Tom's hands descended on his head, gripping his face with both of his meaty palms. At first, the boy was taken aback at the jock's peculiar behavior until he understood that the hands fastened to his head were put in place to force James to keep his eyes open and witness the agony to be inflicted upon him in all the glory and splendor provided by the crisp summer night issued straight out of an old epistle.

Wave after wave washed over James, who still somehow managed to struggle against his attackers until he was beaten into utter submission. Blood, once again pouring from his first wound beneath his neck. The crimson liquid trickled also from a gash sliced above his right brow, flowing down to mar his vision. Cracked ribs, a shattered left shin, a punctured abdomen and collapsing breastbone consisted of James's major injuries combined with the entire expanse of his chest spattered with sickening bruises of purple and scarlet hues. The glimmering sheen of tears welled up at the rim of his eyes, threatening to spill over and disrupt the peace of a solid beating.

Peeling laughter broke out from behind him, most notably from that stupid oaf Tom who held his skull within his thick sausages. Shaking his head violently, James finally managed to escape Tom's hold on him to brush his tear-stained check quickly against his sleeve. If it was all he could do, James did not want to cry in front of these monsters. However, even that luxury was to be denied for suddenly, the situation came to a hurtling conclusion.

The iron bar, used also to beat the boy into a bloody pulp, roughly dug into James's shoulder blade, eliciting yet another shriek from the boy's raw lungs as metal seared into muscle. Reduced to tears, he cried out to the extent of both flesh and soul. Bitterly biting his tongue, he attempted to choke back his unrestrained sobbing.

James clenched his eyes, unwilling to see his captors' vicious faces which seemed to encircle him in a hideous center ring of jeering, ghastly clowns. The amusement provoked from his pain sickened him, forcing James to curl into himself as best he could in order to hide as much of his visible body and salty tears from his tormentors.

As luck would have it, he was to be left weeping in pain, bearing the shame of reacting to the torture in an unmanly fashion-allowing his enemies to see him in his weakest state, unable to even avoid crying for the sake of his pride. However, holding back his tears should have been the least of the self-indulged brunette's worries.

As soon as he had made certain that there were tears shining in his victim's eyes, Chris pressed himself close to James bound figure. Opening his eyes a crack, James gasped. Exerting himself despite creaking bones to stagger upright in order to flee from the offending object, James flinched away. But try as he might, a hand still managed to encircled about his throat and pull him close to whisper venomous words,

"I wonder how famous you will be now Diamond…I doubt you'll ever get to perform again, let alone make it out of this field alive."

The tight pressure surrounding his pale yet disfigured throat suddenly departed but compressed energy amassed and replaced the pressure in the haunting form of an expression worn by none other than the envious leader, an expression that was blank and cold yet retained a satisfactory gleam.

Ice met a forest of gold and bronze, the watery eyes of his captive the only light reflected in that expanse of land besides the pale moon slowly rising over the rolling hills, her face turned away from the onslaught occurring on the distant ground below her honey-toned orb.

"Let's go."

The earth became shrouded in a misty veil of smoke and shadow. Smooth as satin and dark as the velvet blanket of night, darkness enveloped the lone figure bound to the wooden stake, the cracked and bleeding form abandoned to await his horrific fate in the vast field of wheat.

Chapter Text

"Oh, scarecrow, oh, scarecrow
Is it really that bad?"

Minutes dragged on like hours, prolonging the eerie stillness that had fallen upon the darkened plain. Nothing moved save the rustling of the wind through golden wheat; hot air buffeting their thin stalks, tempting the dried roots to crack and be lulled to the ground by the gentle embrace of death.

Fed up with the maddening lack of sound, James picked up his head, tears intermingled with caked mud and drying blood, and let out a cry. His slender form quivered on his wooden pulpit, exposing his body to the night sky as wracked sobs soon drowned out his pleas for help, realizing with choked laments that no one could hear him and aid was not coming.

Slowly over the span of unholy hours and the rising moon overhead, his begging faded; his voice now raw and nothing more than a whispered plea behind unmoving lips. Sighing, James tilted his shaggy head up and leaned it back onto the width of the stake. Pale scales shifted over once bright pupils as his eyes closed as if in defeat.

Life threatening situations typically inspired meditations of one's state of being and such was the case with the young man. Besides the obvious wounds, his mind lingered to the ones his heart yearned for most. What were they doing? They must be worried out of their minds with panic and guilt. James saw the clear image of Kendall and Logan beating themselves up about refusing to go to the club with him that night and even poor, sleeping Carlos would wish he could have only not accidentally told the school about Mr. Diamond's arithmetic failure. However, at this point, they either were probably still asleep or if they had awaken and noticed his absence, they might be desperately trying everything they could to find him once again.

No…that would not be the case, James realized with sinking remorse. His friends would not know anything was wrong until the next morning for hadn't he told Logan not to wait up for him because he would be back around two or three o'clock? Naturally, no one was going to stay awake waiting to see if you had arrived home safely when you promised you would return at a specific time. And knowing Logan, he would believe him and expect him to keep his promise. Why did he have to be such an idiot! Inwardly James wanted to mentally punch himself but thought it would be better to not add to his increasing list of injuries, physical or not.

Then what was to become of him?

Blinking, thick lashes rose with the thought of death to gaze up into the stars and shining heavens above. Was this to be his last night on earth-to die alone by himself in a huge field where no one would be able to even find his rotting corpse? As depressing as the thought may have been, James was suddenly struck with a sense of peace with new found knowledge. He was not alone. Well, not completely.

"God," He breathed, finishing the rest of his thoughts silently for it strained his bleeding neck too much to speak above a whimper, "You're with me, aren't you?"

And there He was, watching his child bound upon the scorched earth, bitterly forsaken much like His very own son had been centuries prior. As if to prove this point, the hot wind stirred. Swirling about the base of the stake, the Breath wound its gentle course across the twisted shin, the bruising abdomen, the cracking ribs and the sliced neck to blow tenderly through auburn hair before joining the murky satin expanse of sky.

Comforted slightly, James breathed steadily, slowing his racing heart. He knew that his God was with him, watching him from above with eyes of compassion and mercy. A phrase from the ancient books of Psalms echoed in his ears, urging him to be reminded that the creator of the universe held him within His warm embrace and had a plan and purpose for his life.

"Everything is in Your control," He conceded wordlessly, "B-but God, I'm still…I'm still afraid. I don't want t-to die like this."

Bitterly, hot tears escaped the rims of his swollen eyes.

"Why God?" James inwardly screamed in frustrated agony, questioning how his God could allow something so horrendous to happen to him. Sure he made mistakes but he had always strived to obey the commands set in place by the Lord most high. Hadn't he always been taught at temple that God loved him and would take care of him? Was this a test, some sort of challenge he was supposed to endure? Yet even if it was, at the present moment he could not manage to find a moral within his dramatic tale whose chapters were nearing an end.

His soul groaning, James hung his head. The potency of his weeping strained his outstretched limbs which bore the majority of his weight from the ground. The rough fibers of rope cut into his tender flesh, reminding him that there still was more pain that could be thrust upon him. Suddenly, his chest heaved while his heart caved in, causing his frame to shudder with the exertion of holding his injured body up; exhaustion playing with his will power, the only thing forcing his failing bones to stand.

"What next God?" James finally clenched back tears streaming down his bloodied cheek by closing his gold-flecked irises to the world, "What else is there for me…but to die?"

The windswept plain held no answer or regret in its vicious demeanor. However, if he listened closely, James could have sworn he heard the soft hush of stars twinkling down at him, whispering to one another about the lone figure strung up as an offering to the silent night.

Stark blue moonlight and bottomless shadows stirring with the wind, as did the withering stalks protruding from the beveled ground, finally emerged into blinding day break.

Slipping in and out of consciousness due to his freezing limbs, James awoke along with the rising sun. Frost from the early morning dew settled across his battered body, coating him with a thin layer of darkened liquid consisting of grime and internal fluids.

The radiant orb mounting further into the solar realm ascended as rapidly as it had broken across the horizon in the faint phases of morning. Once evening had fallen over the uneventful day, James had to bitterly laugh for the expired time had elapsed into a warm, smoky afternoon that was almost pleasant. Yet tremors racked his body with the knowledge of what was to come with the swiftly approaching night.

The second surprisingly was not as heart shattering as that first gut-wrenching experience. Maybe that premonition was majorly due to the fact that James had resigned himself to the most obvious result pinpointed in his locked position. Wordlessly he shivered in the cold, his half-naked and bloodied flesh mottled beyond recognition as minutes, sinking their talons into any compacted substance, dragged mercilessly on.

Later, once again feeling the warmth of the sun unlocking his frozen joints and aching limbs, James shifted into a more comfortable position. Initially, the warm fingers hovering across scarred tissue brought a pleasurable sensation but as the sun began to climb higher into the clear blue sky, the heat intensified. The powerful flare blurred his vision as if he was peering into a mirage no matter which direction his hazel irises roved.

Squinting into the light, James's boredom got the better of him. With nothing to do but watch wheat stalks sway, he pursed his cracked lips together in an attempt to whistle.

Puffs of air eventually exhaled into low tones, his hot breath skimming over his parched tongue. An adrenaline rush hit him as the familiarity of singing reminded him of his passion in life. However his voice suddenly crackled; off tune, high pitched notes breaking painfully. The slash in his neck throbbed, his entire body soon to follow. Swallowing with a dry mouth, James felt his lips crack due to the lack of moisture. Painstakingly, his tongue slipped through the folds of his bleeding lips, pushing the pink organ against the thin layer of skin, attempting to soothe the wound despite the insufficient outcome.

Dehydrated, his tongue became stiff and as heavy as lead within the dry cavern of his mouth. In bereft, he allowed his head to hang, studying the rocks and loose particles of straw strewn upon the churned mud, the shoe-indented soil perfect evidence of what occurred the preceding night.

"Evidence," He thought, "Evidence that proves that it was real." His eyebrows furrowed, the dried blood crinkling with the motion as the helpless situation solidified that his fate was sealed.

His gaze settled onto the ground, staring as a trail of ants worked below him. Although the sun felt like it was slowly roasting him alive like a fat pig on a skewer, a sudden chill washed over him as the line of busy insects began to curiously transfer their chain upwards. Hundreds of black antennas atop skeletal abdomens could be seen crawling up the wooden beam, crossing over wood fibers, rushing forward in a mad fury. In mere seconds, James was covered in a swarm of the nasty creatures, grimacing as he felt their miniature pads scurry across his sun-baked and oozing skin.

The flapping of wings resounded moments later as a certain weight deposited itself in close proximity to his dirt-splattered head. Helpless, he stood transfixed as a large carrion bird flopped down on the wooden arm of the stake he was fastened to. Widened in shock and alarm, his hazel orbs shone with fear as his stomach made a disgusting lurch beneath his torso as the inky vulture opened it's ridged beak, poised for the kill.

Summoning his courage, James screeched at the top of his lungs, ignoring the searing pain of his dry orifice, solely fixated with jostling his bound limbs about as best he could in order to scare off the bird. Yet in a flash, the razor tipped bill struck, pecking at his bruising fingers.

As if surfacing from the depths of despair, the voiceless scream emitted from his suffering throat shook James from his graphic nightmare. Gasping and sputtering for breath, James trembled, horrified by the reality awaiting his once flawless body.

Timidly, he brushed off the gruesome concoction, focusing his vivid thoughts by scanning the horizon for any sign of life, hoping to catch a farmer or passing vehicle swerving across the winding road way. Although his destiny appeared hopeless, James had collected his bearings enough to realize that he was situated in a clearing which was connected to a dirt path that was an offshoot of the main road. The very same road upon which he was dragged against his will to this excruciating ordeal. However, there was no ray of light in this situation for it was close to the beginning of summer, not the ideal planting season for wheat-thus his single hope to be found once again crumbled before his staggering sanity.

The ache of long suppressed hunger began to gnaw away at the inside of his stomach, aching for any form of nourishment. As his mind drifted to the distant memories of buffet lines, countless Tuesdays filled with dinosaur chickens and macaroni and lazy afternoons simply chilling on the pool deck with guava fruit juice and strawberry smoothies, James's abdominal muscles clenched, signifying its protest towards the injustice of denying the growing teenage boy a proper meal.

As his impoverished stomach gurgled in displeasure, the brunette noticed that his blood had dried. The dark liquid had hardened to his flesh, consequently preventing the flow of his life source to continue to depart from his body. Even though this was a reassuring discovery, the blood was uncomfortably dry, sticking to his skin in large, itchy flakes, especially over the gaping hole lodged in his throat.

How badly he wished he could reach his neck to scratch the patchy clump of blood combined with misplaced weeds and dirt! On second thought, it would also be wonderful if he could manage to scrape off the mud that had caked across half of his face when it had been stomped ungracefully into the soggy marshes scattered about the field. That was his biggest discomfort besides his obvious wounds, the intolerable strain of peering between mud-encased eyelids which pulled painfully at the clay with every blink or tilt of the head. And with that conferment, he allowed his tired eyes to rest, closing swollen lids as a cool breeze gently passed over the valley.

Maybe the end would arrive sooner than he thought; there was no way for him to continue on in this fashion. Time would only tell when either dehydration, starvation or the extent of his injuries would catch up with him and snuff out his life. The scant escape routes fathomed in his head deleted themselves one by one as the daylight receded past the rolling hills of California, tucking away the light only to leave the victim pathetically swimming in darkness.

At this point, desperation had set in; relentless paranoia urging him to escape the reality that exhaustion would bring him. In pent up anger, a sudden burst flared up from his chest into the impending dusk. His brutalized roar startled a pair of crows which had been meandering about, snapping at dried husks, the only remains of the decaying stalks.

Livid anger coursed through James. Mortified by the obscure irony that he had indeed become a living scarecrow leveled him-but not so much as the fact that he could not even fulfill his role of scaring the sinew-guzzling fowl away. Heaving against his restrictions, the boy hollered until the dignified scavengers took to the sky. In satisfaction, he slunk against the supporting pole, relieved that he had managed to accomplish his duty.

Muffled grunts, a groan here and then there again minutes later, quietly echoed in the ashen clearing. Frustrated, James was tugging at his binding once again.

Struggling wildly against his bonds, he unwisely continued to exert large amounts of energy, a supply which he no longer possessed. Three days tied to a stake, the broken wood splintering into his back amidst enduring seeping injuries as well as the extremes of weather prompted by the sun and moon was a difficult feat to undertake, especially when coupled with the finalized results of a lack of fluids and malnourishment.

Grimly, he let out a stream of bitter chuckles as his thrashing decreased, replaced with the corroding sense that his classmates got what they wanted from him. Here he was, ending up as a nameless failure who might not even get the decency of a burial.

At this rate, death was certain. There was no denying that logical fact-it was the third night he had spent with no food or water. And to make matters worse, the sun had succeeded in shriveling his lean and sculpted body projecting gashes that had the vultures and decomposers already circling about.

Admittedly, James had never paid much attention to scientific theories or analysts, however he had seen enough specials on Animal Planet© featuring survival techniques to know that a person could survive seven days without food yet only five without water. Dawn would stretch her pale arms soon upon the third day and he could feel himself already slipping.

Without notice, a great barn owl startled James out of his calculations as it soared into the expanse of night, the magnificent creature's stark white wings blocking the light of the moon for a brief second as it hovered over the field. A phrase he remembered reading appeared in his mind as if he were reading it directly off the lilac coated parchment itself,

"The end of life bridges the gulf between two lives, making death a mere passage from one dwelling to the other-from twilight to morning."

The silent hope to sprout a glorious pair of wings and fly away through the star streaked atmosphere fluttered within his breastbone as James tried to follow the trail created by the bird of wisdom. However, as swiftly as the bird had appeared, the hope vanished, forcing the bronze child to admit that there was no more hope. Distraught, James breathed softly, swallowing the image of the moon behind irises that believed they would never open again to witness the light of day.

Chapter Text

"Oh, scarecrow, oh, scarecrow"

A lone, solitary figure peddled in the hazy light of the morning, the sun flashing off his metallic helmet in the gloom. His breath was only slightly labored as he pressed on, prodding himself to increase his pace down a winding, abandoned country farm road. Aspiring to secure a finalist place in a prominent upcoming bicyclist marathon, he was determined to amply prepare himself for the long distance race by frolicking through the uneven countryside.

Abruptly, a sudden dip in the gravel, followed by a pop and a whizzing sound filled the quiet, rustic setting. Unfortunately for the athlete, his prized vehicle had struck a decrepit pot hole, busting the tire. Grumbling, eyes as grey as the sea glanced around, searching for a suitable place off the main road in which to repair the punctured rubber.

Sighing, he let the walloping frame shutter besides him as he walked the ruined contraption to the side of the eroded asphalt. However, his intent to remedially rectify his aerodynamic cruiser veered the moment he noticed a dark red substance smeared on the pavement. Suddenly cautious, he wearily tilted his head upwards to glimpse around, observing how he was standing within a sector of up churned mud, surrounded by torn wheat stalks.

Something was not right.

His curious nature besting his heightened nerves imploring him to take flight, the bicyclist decided to venture a little further down the dirt path. The spokes of his bike bristled against the barely and bounced over disturbed stones as the man swerved along the minuscule trail only evident by crushed grass and smudged red stains marking the ground.

Without warning, his head shot up as a sound, low and hoarse, reached his ear,

"H-hey…" His eyes widened in shock, mortification riveting him to the spot as if his legs were rooted to the earth. His blue irises slowly trailed up the sagging form bound to the wooden stake, beginning at toes and the soles of the young man's feet which were black and raw.

The stout appendages poking through destroyed converse were covered with dirt, dust and shards of pebbles that had been lodged under the toe nails. His eyes horridly scanned up to a pair of legs, the left twisted at the kneecap, making the entire limb hang in an awkward position.

Crusty, dried blood hung from the remainder of the young boy's shirt which was hardly anything more than rags. From the skin that was visible, it is a mass of throbbing red, splattered with welts of deep, dark, graying purple bruises. The skin seemed thin and too far stretched, broken in multiple places, unable to cover the perforated muscle beneath.

As if arriving to a grisly conclusion, the pale eyes finally settled on a pair reminiscent of autumn, a faint and distant glow encased in the sunken orbs staring desperately back down at the lone bicyclist. Reeking mud had dried over the left side of the boy's face, causing his already disfigured form to appear even more grotesque.

Upon realizing that his jaw was unhinged, hanging wide open, the bicyclist quickly shut his mouth, biting his lips, nervous and appalled all at once.

He had to help this poor soul quickly but what could he do? If he brought him down in the wrong way, he could potentially injure the victim further. Clear blue eyes swimming, he opened his mouth multiple times, trying to find the right words to say but came up for loss.

Somehow, he rediscovered his voice. Quickly lowering his eyes and circling behind the restricted boy, he found the main obstacle keeping the child bound to the stake.

"Don't worry, I'll get you down."

As he worked in silence, he felt the boy's eyes glued upon him and every action he made, receiving the sensation that he appeared like a wolf hovering behind his prey.

"Okay…I'm going to release the belt." His only answer of recognition was a glazed look, and he took it as a sign of approval to continue.

"Stand as firmly as you can-otherwise you'll fall over." He helpfully warned as he began loosening the ropes. He ticked the belt buckle from the leather strap, tugging the opposing sides lightly apart, releasing the make-shift scarecrow from his permanent position.

The muscles in the young man's legs and thighs clenched, visibly flexing to support his weight yet the limbs began to shake because of the trauma forced on the abused and battered shins. Quivering, the boy collapsed, his left kneecap buckling under the pressure of standing on it for only mere seconds.

The bicyclist leapt to the side of the stake, splaying out his hands, wrapping the figure in his arms before they both hit the ground. A piercing shriek split the quiet morning air much to the bicyclist's alarm, causing him to gaze down and scan the boy for the source of afflicted pain.

The unknown boy cringed, gasping for breath in his arms. A sinking feeling of remorse flooded through his chest upon comprehending what had happened when he had caught the boy. The bicyclist's fingers had accidently wrapped around his torso and were now clinging to him, digging into his injured sides.

Immediately he released his hold, still supporting the broken figure draped across his chest, his arms loosely holding him in an embrace. It seemed then that impulse took control of the bicyclist's actions for a shushing sound came unbidden from his mouth as if he were a mother comforting a child,

"Shh, shh…I'm sorry, I'm so sorry. I-I didn't mean to hurt you!" He cradled the wounded head, stroking the disheveled hair gently as he continued reassuring the young man in his arms that he was safe now,

"Shh it'll be okay, everything will be fine. It's alright, I'm here." He felt sheepish for saying the things he did for after all, he had no idea who this boy was and why he had been so cruelly strung up to die. Although he did not know this man who was basically still a child, anger flushed through him that any person could be treated this insanely brutal. No one deserved this, no matter what the reason.

The sudden notion to hunt these awful human beings down possessed him, causing him to crouch up on his knees, bringing himself and his broken package forward. A soft moan erased that course of action from his mind.

"Sorry," He murmured quietly, tenderly lifting himself and the treasure in his arms into the air with one great exertion of strength. He had to get this majorly wounded, defaced yet surprisingly beautiful boy to a hospital as soon as possible. So that's what he would do. He would place this victim hanging onto the threads of life on his deflated bike and somehow, someway, get him to a hospital and give him the help he so desperately needed.

Tedious minutes expired until he reached his bike which was reclining on it's kickstand only meters away. He made his way over to the lightweight frame, one slow step at a time, breathing harder than he had expected he would have, realizing that the teen, although famished and nutritionally depleted, was still roughly close to his own weight if not even taller than he was.

Upon arrival, he hefted the boy into the space between the drop handlebars, his hands coming to rest limply upon the iron frame of the bike. He began to heave against the bars, pushing the duo along the crumpled path leading back to the main road through the maze of wheat.

"Hey," The boy careened his neck slightly to face his rescuer who had been attempting to gain the brunette's attention, "If you don't mind me asking,…what's your name?" The bicyclist rubbed the back of his head, running a hand awkwardly through his sunkissed hair, embarrassed slightly for how interesting the course of events had turned.

After moments of silence, he glanced back up, wondering why the boy had not said his name. Shock struck his heart again for how careless he had been-what if this unknown survivor could not even manage to speak! Fervently, he glanced worriedly towards the crossed metal bars and the unrecognizable figure fastened upon it, an apology already blossoming from his lips.

However instead of dismay, the first thing his eyes beheld was a genuine smile, brilliant in contrast to the marred and mutilated mask covering the boy's face.

"James…" Although the answer was faint and the voice was broken, the joy was audible in the cracked tone that held a light melody to it regardless of the effects no hydration had wrecked upon his vocal chords. The bicyclist beamed, a smile matching the sincerity of the man floundering on to his bike,

"I'm very glad to meet you James. My name is Michael." A low squeaking noise in the form of cracking laughter emitted from the disfigured boy who closed his eyes in content, heaving against the frame of the bike, resigned to his fate, knowing that he was in the good and capable hands of his personal guardian angel.

Chapter Text

"Oh Scarecrow"

Blinking into a sheet of white, a world of nothingness emerged, pure and clean. Somehow, this was not how he imagined heaven would appear. Creaking a swollen eye open, James fully awakened, realizing that he was not alone.

The forms of his sleeping friends, including Mrs. Knight, Kelly and even Gustavo, were sprawled about the cramped hospital room. Kendall was seated in a steel chair leaning up against a cross-hatched plastered wall, his mother softly resting her head on her son's shoulder. Gustavo lay across the room, slouched on the ground closest to the door. A cellphone was grasped loosely in his pudgy hand, the oily keypad appearing as if it has been quite overused in the past twenty four hours.

Kelly, Logan and Carlos were sharing a couch near to where the injured patient was stationed. Carlos sat sideways, stout legs hanging over the armchair, his back reclined heavily onto Logan who slumped backwards, his tilted head supported by the wall. Kelly remained in a position alike that of Mrs. Knight, using Logan's shoulder as a pillow.

Dazedly, James gazed downwards to examine his own bed and the state of his lingering corpse. A gruesome disturbance was promptly avoided as his breath hitched slightly in surprise, astonished to find a petite head cushioned on his crisp bed sheets, her chocolate brown curls fanning out, hiding her smooth cheeks with a curtain of hair.

There lay the youngest member of the Knight household sleeping besides his bed, her forearms folded on the edge of the mattress, the rest of her slender form kneeling below. One hand gently encased his own.

A warm smile escaped from behind his cracked lips; inwardly knowing that his assumption had been correct-Katie must have had a crush on him all along. Etching a mental note into his already frazzled and dizzy mind, James decided to let it go and not tease her about holding his hand when she woke up.

The thought was encouraging, pleasant to enjoy the compassion and serious concern emanating from the kid-sister of one of his best friends. Squeezing her palm only a smidgen tighter, he sighed, tilting his head back in order to gaze up at the ceiling of his room.

Before he knew it, his drowsy eyelids had closed and he was reliving his nightmare all over again. A high pitched beeping of a machine chirped close by, warning that his heart rate had fluctuated above the set limit of zone four and if James continued to allow his reflections to overwhelm his fragmented sanity, a medical practitioner would arrive out of unnecessary protocol.

Wearily James forced his eyes open, satisfied with banishing his harsh reality away at the expense of his exhausted cornea. Breathing a sigh mixed with contempt and relief, James once again sent a silent prayer skyrocketing through the universe, understanding that it had only been by the grace of God that he had been rescued by that lone bicyclist who had conveniently happened to take a detour on his journey that fateful morning.

Deviating away from his train of thought, golden irises flicked to a mahogany end table and a manila envelope situated upon a brass cork stand. His eyes widened as they scanned his name scrawled in a hastily written font.

Painfully lifting a bandaged arm, James reached for the letter. Gasping at the red hot pain that shot through his aching ribcage, he settled uncomfortably back into disproportionately stuffed pillows caved in by the weight of his upper torso.

Sliding a weathered thumbnail under the saliva-slicked slit, the letter opened. Joy alit his soul, the flamboyant emotion flowing through him with the discovery of the identity of the letter's issuer. Carefully studying each word that was indeed from his angelic savior, James seemed to clutch to the brief note for dear life,

"Dear James,

I'm sorry I could not stay to see your recovery; you know how tournaments are with deadlines and all that. Anyways, I'm so glad I pulled off to the side of the road that day. Well, I am a little put out because I only have a few days to get my bike repaired before my race next Saturday but I think that a popped tire is a small price to pay. Otherwise, I wouldn't have been able to find you.

You're probably wondering what happened and why you woke up here. To make a long story short, you passed out shortly after I got you down from that pole. I peddled as fast as I could, faster than I've ever raced in my life actually! It was difficult but I managed to find a hospital. After they finally agreed to see you, I told the staff as much as I knew about you, which was slim to none besides your name.

I'm glad you have good friends James. Because of their hard work, the police were able to identify you as the pop star who had gone missing a few days ago. I had no clue you were famous! Shows you how much I know, huh? Maybe I should pay more attention to celebrity gossip. Who knows when I'll have to save you again?"

A brief glimpse of the smiling blue-eyed man appeared, his lightly tanned face creasing about the corners of his mouth in a stream of chuckles that once again returned to a serious grimace,

"Either way, I hope you're doing well and continue to heal. Don't let this set back prevent you from achieving your dreams. I know you can do it, have no fear. It'll be hard but things will get better, I just know they will. I'll be rooting for you. And you know what, I'll even buy that silly CD of yours, how's that? Wishing you all the best.

Your friend, Michael."

Folding the letter slowly, James placed the precious manuscript within the broken beige covering. Tired hands lowered, allowing the letter to rest atop his chest connected to multiple tubes hooked up to various complicated machines. Fingers dotted by dozens of band-aids, ever so obstructed by gauze draping his battered forearms, clenched the note nonchalantly however unwilling to let the last fragment of his mysterious companion to escape his grasp.

Shifting to find a more comfortable position, James caught himself in the middle of a yawn. Glancing around at his collapsed friends, he noted that they would not be breaching consciousness any time soon. A doctor or nurse would not be making their rounds in his wing of the vicinity either for his monitors all revealed a steady heart rate, stable mental functions and a patient in no eminent danger despite punctured limbs and the fragile condition of his organs refusing to absorb vital fluids pumping through the clear cords trailing from a dangling IV bag.

Instead of growing impatient and feisty, James resolutely shut his hazel irises yet again. However a contemplative sigh did not grace his chapped, bleeding lips but chose to stretch into a wide smile. Inhaling deeply the scent of Citrus Pine-Sol and the pungent detoxification of bacteria, the lanky brunette's joy slipped into a visible display across his entire face.

Time heals all. And with the love and support of his friends, James's anxious heart became assured that he would eventually recover from the trauma inflicted upon his young and weary soul and in the far off and distant future, someday he would be enabled to pursue his dreams.

A dark fluttering of lashes allowed honey-tinged orbs to awake into glorious daylight. Eyes of hope and determination peered out the dusty shutters of the hospital window pane, gazing triumphantly towards the start of a new day and the favor awaiting the living scarecrow.