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There was a tapping on the window that startled Joel out of his own little world. Looking out , he saw the smiling face of his best friend Ahren. Hurrying across his room, Joel slid the window open and Ahren climbed through, embracing Joel in a strong hug after steadying himself.

"Are you doing okay?" Ahren had asked, pulling away and giving Joel a once over. He'd recieved a message from Joel, their distress word. Joel would hardly use the word, whereas Ahren would use it for as little as his favourite team losing a match.

"I, uh.. I'm fine. He didn't touch me." Joel sighed, sitting on the edge of the bed. His father was rather old fashioned and believed in physical discipline. Joel had been living in fear everyday since his mother died almost four years ago.

"W-What happened, then?" Ahren dreaded what he might have heard next.

"Nothing, Ahren.. I just had to talk to you." Joel patted the free space on the bed beside him. He had locked his bedroom door, even though he was sure his father was out.

Ahren moved to sit down, having realised from Joel's tone of voice that it was serious. "Shoot." He said softly.

Joel took a deep breath, turning to face Ahren. "I, uh.. I want to get out. I want to leave this town, and I want you to come with me."

___________________

"Joel, this is crazy." Ahren whispered, "We can't steal a car."

"It's not just any car, it should be mine. Now shut up and keep watch." Joel was currently under neath his mother's black mustang, working on it. It had been sitting in the garage since she died. His father would never get any use out of it, couldn't even look at the thing. Ahren had sighed,passing a wrench to Joel when he asked before going back to keep an eye out.

The spent the next few minutes in silence, nothing but clangs from under the car every so often. But then Ahren was running from the window, whispering "He's home! Joel, he just pulled up."

Ahren was crouched behind the car, whereas Joel pulled himself completely underneath the body of the car, out of sight and held his breath. The wrench! Ahren crouched and made his way around the car as they heard the engine of Mr. Birch's car cut off in the driveway. Ahren dived for the wrench, and scurried behind a cabinet just in time for Joel's father to enter the garage. From where he hid, Ahren had a perfect view of Joel hiding under the mustang. His eyes were wide and focused on Ahren as his father walked straight past both of them and through the door leading into the kitchen.

Joel slid out from under the car as the door shut, his heart beating rapidly. He looked to where Ahren stood, the fear that had been strong just a few minutes ago dissipating at the sight of him. Joel began to smile, taking the wrench from Ahren's hand and setting it aside.

Ahren smiled, linking their fingers together. This was a normal thing, it was the form of comfort that relaxed Joel most. Well, it was when it came to Ahren. But Joel didn't need to be calmed, just Ahren being in the same room calmed him enough.

"Thank you," Joel said softly, his face heating up.

You see, Joel had a problem. A problem that could potentially ruin everything. He liked Ahren. Had done for years. Hell, you could even call it love. Ahren made him happy, made him feel like even though things were bleak right now, he had bright things ahead of him.

Joel doesn't know what makes him do it, maybe the look he's getting from his best friend has something to do with it, but who knows. Because next thing he knew, he and Ahren's faces were mere centimeters apart. But Ahren wasn't moving away, he was looking straight into Joel's eyes, his own showing so much affection. And then they were kissing. It was a soft, curious kiss more than anything else, but it still made the butterflies in Joel's stomach go crazy. Joel opened his eyes, finding Ahren staring straight back, looking almost nervous.

"Ahren, I-"

The door had opened. The two jumped apart as Mr Birch came through, his expression changing from that of a blank one to a mask of pure hatred. Joel's blood turned cold, "Go." He said to Ahren, trying to remove all emotion from his voice as he stood in front of him, in an effort to protect him.

Ahren looked at him worriedly, "Go, Ahren!" Joel gently shoved him towards the door as Mr. Birch roared "What is going on here?!"

It was all a blur. Ahren saw Mr. Birch advancing on them, felt a hard shove in his side and heard Joel cry out in pain.

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It wasn't until that night Ahren heard from Joel. He'd been sitting in his room all day, unable to eat or sleep he was so worried. So when at half twelve that night his phone buzzed, he was overcome with relief.

You're still up for this, right? The text had read.

For leaving with you? Of course.

The response was almost immediate. Open your window.

Ahren let out a small chuckle of disbelief, pulling open his curtains and spotting Joel perched on one of the branches of the tree just outside, with a wide smile. He slid the window open as wide as it would go, giving Joel a hand in before closing it. "Why didn't you just come to the front door?" Ahren asked with a laugh, going in for a hug.

"Didn't think your parents would be too happy with me turning up at this time." He said softly, returning the hug.

Now in the light, Ahren got a proper look at Joel and gasped. All around his right eye was bruised and swollen, and he was standing with a slight hunch. It looked like he might've had a slight problem breathing, too.

"It's not as bad as it looks." Joel tried to reassure him, but winced while going to sit down.

"Joel, holy shit. Did he hurt you anywhere else?" He asked hesitantly

"My ribs and back hurt, but I don't think it's anything serious." He smiled as though nothing was wrong, and that almost reduced Ahren to tears.

"Can I take a look? Just to make sure?"

Joel froze at that, but slowly began to remove his jacket. Straight away, Ahren noticed bruising around his wrist, like he'd been grabbed. Joel winced as he raised his arms to pull his t-shirt over his head. When Ahren caught sight on the bruising on Joel's torso and back, along with a few scrapes, he let out an involuntary gasp and his eyes filled with tears. Joel just stood there, a weak smile on his otherwise exhausted face. Ahren reached his hand out for Joel's, the other going to rest on his cheek as he examined his black eye.

"I'm not letting you go back there. I don't care if that's where the car is or whatever, we'll find another way out." Ahren whispered. They had the same conversation every time Joel turned up on Ahren's doorstep injured. "You can stay here."

"Ahren, I just want to be rid of him. That'd only make things worse." Joel sighed, squeezing Ahren's hand reassuringly. "I want to be gone by Saturday."

It was Thursday night, that was soon. Ahren's shock must have displayed on his face as Joel hastily added, "You don't need to come with me, you know. I just wanted to let you know so we could say Goodb-"

Ahren was shocked by his own actions, but cut Joel off by kissing him. The hand that was on his cheek slid around to the back of his neck when Joel began to kiss back just as enthusiastically. Ahren pulled back with a shy smile on his face a few moment later, his cheeks heating up. "I'd follow you to the end of the earth, you idiot."

____________________

The car's fixed. Start packing.

Joel sent that text at roughly 7pm on Friday night, a rush of excitement flooded through him as he started throwing everything he needed into a bag. He pulled the money he'd been saving out of the hole in the mattress and waited.

At 20:13 on the dot, Joel had been checking the time almost every minute, there was a knock on his window. Joel jumped up from his bed, excitement bubbling in his stomach. He ran to the window and let Ahren in, a grin on his face. He all but pulled Ahren in the window, capturing his lips in a kiss because he was so happy.

They pulled away a few minutes later, essentially tangled around one another. They were both panting lightly, Ahren adjusting the backpack on his bag and pulling his hood down to reveal his now bleach blonde hair. Joel gasped, running his fingers through the soft hair. He rested his forehead against Ahren's, letting out a deep breath. "You're beautiful." He murmured.

Ahren blushed, sliding his hand into Joel's curly hair. "You ready to get out of here?"

"Never been more ready for anything in my life." He grinned.

"Let's get going, then."

Joel picked up his duffel bag from his bed and the car keys from his desk. Ahren intertwined their fingers as they crept down the stairs. Joel's father was in the living room, they could hear him snoring from half way down the stairs. They entered the kitchen together, and Joel found a scrap of paper on the kitchen table. After quickly finding a pen, he scrawled HEY, I'M GONE and pulled open the door leading into the garage.

"Get in the car, I'll push it out." Joel passed the keys to Ahren, who climbed into the driver's side as Joel opened the garage as quietly as possible. He went around the back of the car as Ahren eased the handbrake off, the car rolling forward gently as they were on a gentle slope. Joel got behind the car and pushed as Ahren steered the car onto the main road. They thought it'd be best to start the engine down the road a little as to not wake up Mr. Birch and risk being caught.

Ahren turned the ignition and fired the car up, a large smile on his face. He pressed his foot to the clutch and switched gears. Joel caught up and jumped into the passenger's side. Ahren floored it, and they sped out of the neighbourhood with their hands linked on the middle console.

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They'd been driving for a good few hours before they pulled into the side of the road, and by now, headlights from other cars were scarce. Joel had been cracking jokes and laughing louder than Ahren had ever seen him. It was nice seeing him so happy, it was refreshing. They'd have to stop for gas soon, running on almost empty wasn't a great idea.

"We'll have to stop for the night soon," Ahren sighed, rubbing his eyes. He'd been driving since they left and was beginning to get tired. Well, he was past the point of being tired, but he wasn't complaining.

"Want me to take a turn and you can get a bit of sleep? I'll pull into the next motel we pass." Joel asked, turning the radio down and angling himself to face Ahren, who let out a yawn and rubbed at his eyes much like a sleepy child. Adorable.

Ahren smiled, unbuckling his seat belt. "Are you sure? I don't mind driving for a while longer."

"Take a break, I'll drive." Joel rest his hand on Ahren's thigh, noticing that Ahren bit his lip as he stared down at the hand. He looked to Joel and nodded, Joel smirked lightly in return. They quicky swapped seats, Ahren going around and Joel climbing over the console in the middle. Within a few minutes of driving, Ahren had fallen asleep in the passenger's side, snoring lightly.

Joel stuck to his word, pulling in to the next motel he saw, even though he really wanted to keep driving. This place didn't look too great, and the more distance he put between himself and his old home, the better. Nonetheless, he woke Ahren, who stayed in the car as Joel got them the room, going back for the boy who had fallen sleep yet again and carried him bridal style to their room. It didn't bother Joel that they had a double bed, he really just wanted to lie down. Today had been hectic, but still one of the greatest.

Joel lay Ahren on the bed and went back for their bags. After returning to the room and dumping their bags by the door, he turned the shower on and stripped down, shocked at just how hot the water had gotten in such a short space of time. Regardless, he climbed in and stood, adjusting to the temperature of the water. It was relaxing, really. He ran his hands through his hair, wetting it. He sagged against the wall, letting out a sigh. He really was exhausted.

After a few moments, he heard a creaking and what sounded like the shuffling of feet.

"Joel?" Ahren had squeaked from the other side of the shower curtain. "Can I.. Can I join you?"

Joel took a deep breath, trying to calm himself. In the calmest voice he could muster, he replied with, "Yeah, Ahren." Softly. He wasn't even sure if Ahren had heard him until the shower curtain was pushed aside and in climbed his bestfri- He didn't know what to call Ahren anymore. Boyfriend sounded appealing, but they hadn't had time to talk about the subject.

"You all right?" Joel asked softly, feeling no where near as awkward as he probably should have.

"Yeah, I just woke up and wasn't sure where you were." Joel nodded at this, his eyes drawn to a droplet of water that had fallen from Ahren's hair and was now making its way down his cheek. His eyes followed it until it ran over his lips, and only then did he look back up at Ahren, who looked rather amused. "Are you okay, though?" He sighed.

"Me? I'm fine, why wouldn't I be?" He beamed, although the look Ahren gave him told him he didn't believe him.

"There's something up, Joel." Thanks to the steam and the close proximity of Ahren's body, it was suddenly brought to Joel's attention just how hot it was. He sighed, hanging his head under the stream of water, only looking up when he felt Ahren's hand in his own.

Deciding it was now or never, Joel figured it was a good time to get everything off his chest. "I like you, Ahren. Have done for years."

Ahren rolled his eyes, "We established that when you kissed me, I think. And we've also established that I like you too." He had a cheeky smirk on his face. Joel let out a sigh of relief, laughter following. Somewhat gingerly, he leaned forward and pulled Joel into a kiss, letting out a quiet gasp when his back was pressed against the cold tile of the wall and Joel's warm body pressed against his front. Joel had pinned him to the wall as they made out like horny schoolboys. In fact, they were in there so long the water went cold.