PART 1: Captivity
Derek wakes up suddenly. He doesn't open his eyes, doesn't move his body, focuses on keeping his heart rate slow and even, breathing unchanged. He hurts: a sharp pain in one shoulder, throbbing waves of headache cascading over him with each surge of his blood. The other injuries are subsiding, but his body feels like it has been bounced down a rocky precipice, at the least. The skin on his face and shoulders is stiff with tacky blood. He nudges a couple of loose molars back into place with his tongue so they can begin to heal. The taste of blood is thick in his mouth, crusted under his nose. Ugh.
He doesn't know where he is, sorts through the information his senses are giving him. All he can smell is his own drying blood, and beyond that only mildew and damp laid over crumbling concrete. It is cold and humid, feels distinctly subterranean, so he must be in some kind of cellar.
He can hear another heartbeat nearby, fast and irregular, behind him as he lies crumpled on his side on the floor. Except for the low hum of appliances upstairs, he can't hear anything else.
He slits his eyes to the dark, blinks them Alpha-red, and is able to see faint shapes and shadows. He and the other heartbeat are in a small room, he can feel the size of it in the pressure of the stale air, the muted resonance of his breath.
Interesting: he can hear the other heartbeat, but cannot hear breathing.
Derek lies there for another minute, waiting to see if anything will change. He remembers yesterday’s fight, now. A group of hunters had jumped him in the Save Mart parking lot. Three or four, he thinks, although his memory is blurry. He had been shot several times (which explains the shoulder), tasered, wrapped in a net of wolfsbane-infused cord, and once he was down, simply beaten until he had lost consciousness. Fuck.
Quick as a thought, he rolls over and launches himself at the second heartbeat, not willing to wait any longer to see what's going on. He follows his eyes and his ears to a slightly darker shadow hunched in a corner, wraps his claws around slim, fabric-covered arms, flips the person over onto their stomach, wrenching their hands into the small of their back. The person under him gasps but doesn't scream, doesn't struggle after the first full-body jerk of a startle. Derek holds both wrists with one hand and wraps his other other around their neck, yanking it back, pricking his claws into delicate skin.
“What is going on here?” he growls menacingly. “Who are you?”
The person under him (the male person, Derek realizes, feeling irregular scruff against his forefinger, the sharp ridge of an Adam's apple) reeks of terror so strongly it penetrates the fug of mildew and old blood. The body under Derek's hot palms quakes, skin clammy and twitching. Derek growls again, tightening his grip, and is rewarded with a choked whimper, quickly stifled. He can hear the man breathing now, Derek realizes with satisfaction, harsh gasps straining for air as Derek's fingers slowly choke it off. He hovers over his captive, presses one knee into the small of his back, just under his restrained hands and gives him a little shake. “Answer me!”
There is a pained, panicked little whine, a thread of a sound, but that is all Derek gets. The heartbeat under his hands escalates further, beyond what he thinks should be safe for a human, erratic in both tempo and intensity. Derek is not interested in killing the man via heart attack. Yet. Not until he knows where he is, has more information with which to escape.
He loosens his grip from around the throat, dropping the pressure from fingers to his palm, and realizes that a stiff edge of leather is pressing against the side of his hand. Surprised, he delicately investigates the band: it encircles the individual’s neck, locked with a heavy buckle in the back, and a D-ring for a chain or a leash.
“Wait. Are you a sub?” he asks stupidly. He is unsurprised where there is no response.
He has the disconnected thought that this collar is far too tight. He cannot fit a finger between it and the cold skin it cuts into. The man’s breathing is so choppy and rapid now it seems he'll hyperventilate soon. Derek moves away a little, releasing his captive and rolling him over onto his back. “Hey-” he starts.
As soon as he is released, the man scrambles away, shoving himself into a ball in the corner, hands held out in front of his face as if to ward off blows.
“Jesus,” Derek breathes. “Listen, pup, I'm not going to hurt you, okay?” He feels faintly nauseous that he’s treated a sub as badly as he already has, and he momentarily regrets attacking blind, although it was a reasonable response given his situation.
Subs are... delicate. Special. To be cared for and cherished, whether they belong to you or not. At least, that's the way Derek had been raised, although he is aware that there are many in the world who feel that subs are little better than domestic and sexual slaves, tawdry and reviled, nearly viewed as disposable conveniences.
Whatever the reason behind the sub being locked in this room with Derek, whether by his own Dom or another, he clearly hasn't been treated well. Derek wipes his bloodied nose and mouth against the shoulder of his shirt, cursing the heavy, pervasive odor of iron and dirt that is dulling his sense of smell: anosmia feels more like being blind than actually being in the dark. He reaches forward and takes the man's hands, icy fingers long and fragile in his own. “Just breathe, okay? I won't hurt you.”
The man startles back, there is a dull thunk as his head connects with the concrete block walls behind him. Derek ignores it, keeps his hold on those fingers, strokes his thumbs across the delicate skin stretched over bony knuckles. He knows about panic attacks, although he's never witnessed one before, and he thinks that's what this is: the miasma of adrenaline and fear, the tachycardia, the ineffective gasps. He is suddenly absurdly worried for this unknown sub, all his Dom instincts vexing at him to fix it, take care of it, make it better. The rasping breaths suddenly begin to choke and gurgle, and the sub jerks one hand free to tear at his collar.
The noise is awful, whimpering and terrified. Derek wants to rip the collar off as well, but knows it is locked, that it will hurt the sub if he were to use his claws or his teeth. He lays his hand firmly across the man's chest. “Breathe with me,” he commands, slipping into Dom voice, eyes glowing red. It is a terrible breach of etiquette to use the voice on a stranger, without consent. But... desperate times and all that.
“Breathe in. Hold it. … two, three, four. Let the air out. Slowly. … three, four. Good. Good boy, you're doing so well.” Chilled fingers suddenly wrap around his wrist and forearm: the sub is clinging to him with both hands. Derek sighs in relief at this small sign of trust. “Let's do it again. Breathe in. Hold it.”
It takes more than fifteen minutes, Derek crouched protectively over the shivering figure in the corner, coaching him to take in deep breaths. His heart gradually stabilizes, slows down a bit, but his hands still cling tightly to Derek's forearm. “There,” Derek croons, finally. “There you are, I think we got past it. And you did so well. I know how frightened you were, and I'm really proud of you.” All the rewarding praises he'd heard throughout his childhood, from his Domme mother to his sub father fall easily into the darkened room. He wishes he could see the sub's features, but even Alpha eyesight requires some ambient light for such fine detail.
“You're such a good boy, you tried so hard.” Derek slides his hand up a leanly muscled chest, over the cruel collar, until one thumb can hook under the man's jaw and his fingers can sweep up the back of his head, sliding across softly bristled, closely shorn hair. The bones he crosses on the way are so delicate and knobbly that he thinks he must have a youth, rather than a full-grown man, and Derek's heart lurches to think of an innocent in such a terrible situation.
As soon as Derek's hand leaves its spot over the boy's heart and begins to travel, the sub pitches forward with a pained sound, dropping his head against Derek's chest. “Okay,” Derek said softly, rubbing his hand on the velvety stubble over a well-shaped head. “Okay, baby. You did so well, such a good job. Do you need to be closer?” He doesn't wait for an answer, since it is glaringly obvious, but just leans to the side until his back is pressed against a wall, sitting against it and spreading his legs to make room for the boy to curl between them, keeping his head firmly pressed against his chest.
It takes a few moments to settle them comfortably. The boy is long and lanky, seems to be as tall as Derek, but as small as he wants to huddle, Derek doesn't want him to be cramped in the morning. Eventually his face presses into Derek's neck, resting on his shoulder, back supported by Derek’s raised knee while his own knees are pulled in tightly to his chest, shins against Derek's opposing thigh.
Derek wraps his arms tightly around the sub, holding him close, swaddling and binding him with his body so that he will feel safe and be able to relax. He rubs his cheek against the boy's head and slowly runs his hands up arm and thigh, across surprisingly broad and bony shoulders, until the hitching breathing smooths out, the convulsive tremors abate and the boy's heart gradually slows into the distinctive tempo of sleep.
And if Derek uses his thumb to gently smear away the wet remnants of tears, feathering across thick long lashes and testing the slope of the boy's nose, well, there is no one there to judge him.