My sweet Dare. You can do it. Just don't over think it. I double-dog dare you...
A person would think that a man named Dare would walk a little bit on the wild side throughout his life. Those assumptions would be wrong. The only son of Philip and Marie, Daren 'Dare' Brooks has lived a quiet, solitary life. He was raised on his father's ranch and still works there to this day.
In spite of his imposing appearance, a height of six feet seven inches and broad shoulders, Dare is quiet and thoughtful. He's methodical in his work with horses and cattle. For Dare, it's easier to be around animals than humans. It always has been.
When Dare was a kid he was very shy and never made any lasting friendships. He's always been on the periphery of life; from child, to teen, to adult.
I dare you to go talk to them. Go make some friends, Dare.
The only real excitement he's ever seen is a short stint on the local rodeo circuit. His mom got him into that hoping it would help him become less of an introvert. He gracefully bows out of it eventually. It wasn't that he isn't any good at it. He did pretty well for himself in the arena with roping and bull riding. There were just too many people for him to be comfortable. Dare's never been good with people.
When he was nineteen his mom died of cancer. There was no one to push him outside of his comfort zone then. His dad was and is as content to stay on the ranch as Dare is.
Now he's twenty-six years old and he's still that same shy, polite boy who works the ranch, goes to Cowboy church on Sundays with his dad, comes straight back home to be with the animals.
He has a bloodhound named Molly and a cat that was his mom's that he adopted when she died. The cat's name is Clementine, Clem for short.
Nothing spectacular about Daren. So how did he get the nickname Dare? There's nothing spectacular about that either. His mom, when she was still alive, shortened it to Dare. She would call him 'my sweet Dare' all the time. The name stuck.
And when she was trying to get him to break out of a shell he's never been able to break out of, she'd tell him 'I dare you' when she was trying to get him to do one thing or another. She'd dare him to do simple things like go play with those kids, try that new sport or go talk to the girl she thought he liked. Sometimes that worked. Most of the time it didn't.
My sweet Dare. I dare you to be daring. I dare you...
Out in the country life is slow. It's perfect for Dare. There's a routine to follow, things that need doing that are necessary. Dare likes routine. It's hard for him to process everything when it goes too fast. Unless it has to do with the livestock or any of his pets, Dare needs time to think things through before he acts or reacts to them.
The only time he gets off of the ranch anymore is for Cowboy church or to go in to the grocery store. The closest grocery store is just over forty miles away. He usually takes his truck for that. The Cowboy church, a hub for all the small towns and ranches in the area, is about twenty miles away. The horses go to church with him.
Every Sunday, as long as the weather's good or there isn't a crisis on the ranch, his dad and him put on their best jeans, boots and western shirts and ride in to Cowboy church on their horses. They sit in the back pew through services, then Dare waits at the horses until his dad has said all of his hello's and how do you do's.
When his dad gets back over to him, they mount up and ride. Every Sunday is the same. Every Sunday they cross the highway and take the same dirt roads back to the ranch. When they get to their long dirt drive, Molly always runs out down the road from the porch to meet them.
They get there and Dare can already see Molly lumbering their way at full speed. Dare has raised Molly from a pup. She likes to be wherever he is but is also resigned to stay put when he tells her to.
This particular Sunday, there's a shiny, sleek car on the dirt road. Its cleanliness looks out of place on the ranch. This particular Sunday, no matter how far to the shoulder of the road he and his dad get, the car seems to be heading straight for them.
A big piece of metal coming right for them? Of course the horses spook. Dare's mount whinnies and canters sideways. He looks back and sees the mount his dad is on rear up and throw him. His dad hits the ground hard. For a man of almost seventy, it's not good for him to hit the ground that hard.
Dare spins around and dismounts, running for where his father lays in the brush. "Dad?"
"I'm all right son. Just got my head jarred pretty good is all." His dad says. "Help me up."
Dare is in the process of helping his dad up when he feels a prick in the back of his neck. He reaches back there and pulls something from his skin. Upon close inspection, it looks like a dart. It takes Dare a moment to process this.
"What's that?" His dad asks.
"I don't know. It's..."
The world shifts sideways and Dare stumbles back into the tall grass to get his bearings. What the hell just happened? It felt like the earth beneath his boots moved. His hands claw at the grass and press into the ground just to reassure himself that the world is still beneath him. Gravity still works.
He has to force himself to think through what just happened. A car. The horses. His dad. Molly. Molly is in front of him licking his face. How did she get here to quickly?
Philip has reached down to put a hand in Dare's short, sandy blond hair. "Son?".
The car. There's never a car on this road unless someone is specifically coming out to see his dad. Something isn't right.
Dare looks up to his dad just as he hears gunfire. There's a hole in his dad's brow, blood is trickling from it. Another hits his dad's chest and Philip goes down again. Dare's heart feels like it stutters in his chest.
He can't process this. It's too much.
I dare you, my sweet Dare. I dare you to get up and do something.
Dare tries to push himself up but falls back to the ground. He tries again and the world feels like it's swaying back and forth.
Time seems to shift again. Dare is up on his feet, hauled up by someone, or maybe there's more than one person. His wrists are bound behind his back and he's being led to a car. He vaguely hears Molly barking and growling.
"He's even bigger up close. They're gonna love working with him."
"Pretty too. Guys back at the compound are gonna have fun with him." Dare feels a slap against his shoulders. "Ain't that right, pretty boy? Gonna have some fun."
"Ketamine's already doing its thing. His mind is getting fucked up."
Again, time moves. It moves just in time to see the trunk door slam shut on him, shrouding him in darkness.
His mind gives in to whatever is pulling him under then. The dark hurts less than the light.
* * *
When Dare wakes up enough to take note of his surroundings, his mind is still a groggy haze. It's like he's in a dream, a horrible, terrible dream. He's in a wooden box about the size of a coffin. There are wooden walls all around him. He's so big that he barely has an inch of room to move on all sides.
His hands are still bound behind him, his arms numb from being pinned between his back and the wooden bottom of the box.
One of the more unnerving things is that he's naked. Why is he naked? When did his clothes come off? He's never been naked in public before, if this can be called public. What's happening?
There's the rumble of a motor and the occasional bump and shift that happens with driving on a road. He's in a vehicle. Was he kidnapped? Do people his age and size get kidnapped?
Dare can hear his own breath coming quick as panic spikes. His heartbeat is thudding loudly in his ears. He has to consciously make himself breathe slow, calm down.
He tries to push at the top of the crate with his feet. With so little room he can't get much purchase and it doesn't even creak at all.
He tries to shift to his side so he can work the bindings at his wrists free. There's no room for him to be on his side. So he just lifts up as much as he can and works on his bindings in short increments of time. They don't budge and he's just tiring himself out.
I dare you to get through this.
His mom's voice, always present in his mind to get him to the next thing, to help him do the things he needs to do whether he wants to do them or not.
Since she died, he's always felt her with him. Like she's his guardian angel.
"Help." He whispers to her, as if she can hear him. He hopes she can hear him.
His thoughts turn to his dad. Did that really happen? Everything happened so fast. His mind was playing tricks on him. Maybe it didn't...
No. He would never dream up something like that, even drugged. Dare loves his dad too much for that. Damn it. What's happening?
His eyes fill with tears and he starts crying. It's okay to cry right now. No one is watching. It's just him in this box. He can cry and he needs to cry.
"Help." He says again, hoping his mom is listening, hoping he's not as alone as he feels.
My sweet Dare. I dare you to get through this.
* * *
Whatever drug they gave him is potent. Dare sleeps again. And again. One time when he's awake he feels the box he's in hefted up and moving. He tries to figure out if he should say something to whoever is out there, let them know he's in here. Are they friend or foe?
"Damn, he's heavy. Must be a big son of a bitch." One of the men says.
Then there's another voice. "Yeah, he's tall. Been working on a ranch his whole life so he's built like a brick house."
"Do you know what they're gonna do with him? Thought the Mistress liked twinks."
The Mistress? Twinks? Dare has no idea what these things mean.
"I think her interests are expanding. She's been asking for specific types of pets to fuck with. I think she's building herself a whole nest of pets. No idea what the plan is here." The box is set down none too gently. "She just asked for someone big and built. This guy was easy. Saw him at the grocery store a few months back, learned his routine."
Someone has been following him for months. That realization is shocking to Dare, who's never stepped outside of his comfort zone, who's always toed the line and never been in any trouble. Now he's in a whole heap of trouble.
There's a laugh. "The ones who have a routine are always the easiest to get. When did you get him?"
"Coming home from church."
Someone laughs again. "Well praise Jesus!"
Their voices fade away. These men are definitely not gonna help him. He hears the rolling door of the back of a van slide shut. Eventually another motor starts and he's moving again.
Could he have done something there? Should he have said something? Should he have tried to get out? Dare's a strong guy. He could probably take two men if he isn't drugged.
This is the problem Dare has always had. He takes too long to think about things before he does them. His dad is, or was, the same way. His mom was always the one who pushed them forward. Now Dare doesn't have either of them.
His thoughts start to spiral.
Don't let yourself get down in the dumps. I dare you to rise above it. I dare you to move past it. I dare you to be daring.
Even though his eyes are still puffy with tears, Dare almost smiles. He can rise above it and move past it. He just has to think a little quicker next time, be better prepared. Dare can come up with a plan before anything else happens. He can do this.
He can be daring.