Black Fire

by Julnick

| 6 | 7 | 8 | 9 | 10


Chapter 6 [Top] [Next]

In the car, David pulled out a cell phone. "He's a friend," he said, "He's scene friendly, and he won't ask questions. And...he'll do it cheap."

"I don't have any money," Evan insisted stubbornly.

"I'll pay for it."

"No!"

"Evan..." Evan realized that this man was the first person to call him by his name in months. He blinked.

"I hate doctors, I don't need to, just let me go, I'll be fine." He was feeling trapped and panicky.

"He's a nice doctor. He'll take good care of you. I'll stay with you, you need care. I'm not letting you back on the streets like this."

Evan tugged at his seatbelt nervously, watching the streetlights pass. "I don't want to go to a doctor..." He tried to get angry, but David's gentleness was disarming and all he could feel was fear.

He listened as David dialed a number and spoke to someone on the other end.

"...He's a kid. I found him on the street... No, I know.... No... It's a long story. He needs help. He's got an infected cut, and I think he might have broken something in his hand. Maybe his wrist... I don't know... Just don't... I know... Okay. Thanks, Rick."

*****

They pulled into the parking lot of a wide, one-story building with multiple entrances marked with hanging placards naming the practitioners within. Another car was already parked near one of the entrances. David pulled up beside it and turned off the engine. Evan felt his stomach knot.

"It'll be okay," David said softly. He gave Evan's forearm a light squeeze then got out of the car. Doggedly maintaining steady breaths, Evan stepped out onto the pavement and looked around.

A man had emerged from the other car. He was slightly shorter than David and he didn't look at all like a doctor, Evan thought. He was young. His brown hair was cut short and frosted at the top. Though sleep-tousled, it still held some of it's gel-spiked form. He wore a small diamond stud in his left ear and was dressed in slightly loose jeans and a body-hugging, white T-shirt. He glanced at Evan. His eyes were hard to read. It made Evan more uneasy. David put a light hand on Evan's back.

"Evan, this is Rick."

The man smiled, showing even, white teeth. "Hi, Evan," he said. His voice was soft and melodic. "I'd shake your hand, but David thinks you broke it."

Evan swallowed and managed a mumbled "Hello."

"Let's go inside," he said, shaking a key loose on a ring.

He opened the outer door onto a wide hall paneled in dark, rough wood. David and Evan followed him to the end of the hall, past a glassed-in courtyard, to another door. The brass plaque beside it read Helios Clinic. He unlocked it and flicked on a light. Evan glanced around the waiting room.

It was carpeted and furnished with wood and upholstered chairs. In one corner was a small, low table covered with children's books and large legos. Between some of the chairs were small square tables with magazines scattered on them. In an alcove by the door was a small counter with a sink, a coffee percolator and a water cooler. Along one wall was the biggest aquarium Evan had ever seen. Strange, colorful fish swam amidst green, swaying plants, anchored in the gravel on the floor of the tank. It hummed and bubbled softly in the quiet room.

This was not the kind of doctor's office he was used to. He was used to cold tile floors, disinfectant, white coats... Evan felt a hand on his shoulder and pulled his gaze away from the aquarium. David guided Evan ahead of him as they followed Rick through another door and down a narrow hallway. Soft watercolors hung on the walls at pleasant intervals. There was a scale at the end of the hall where they stopped. Rick turned to Evan.

"Take off your shoes, please."

Evan's stomach was still twisting, but he kept the panic under control as he toed off his boots and stepped onto the scale as the man indicated. He stared at his feet as the doctor adjusted the weights on the balance. Then there was a light touch under his chin.

"Look straight ahead."

The bar was brought down gently to the top of his head. He straightened as much as he could. Rick lifted the bar and motioned for Evan to step down.

"How old are you, Evan?"

Evan opened his mouth, then glanced at David. "Sixteen..."

Rick nodded and gave him a slight smile. "Come in here."

He led the way into a room to the left. It was large and pleasant. The floor was carpeted. There was an oak desk against the far wall beside a large window. There were several chairs near the desk and there was a large, broad-leafed plant in one corner. Bookshelves lined one wall, and several framed photographs and framed diplomas decorated another.

Evan followed Rick to the desk and seated himself nervously in one of the chairs at the doctor's indication. David sat in another, and Rick sat in the one at the desk, facing the two of them.

"So," he said in his soft voice, fixing Evan with grey-green eyes. "How long have you been on the street?"

Evan shrugged, trying to count the days, but they had blurred together. "I don't know, not very long..."

"Did you prostitute?"

Evan flushed, remembering the alley. He could feel David's eyes on him. He didn't answer.

"Did you use protection?" Rick asked gently.

"I didn't let anyone fuck me," he responded, trying to be angry, but it came out sounding childish and fearful.

"Okay." Rick reached out and took Evan's left wrist, turning it palm up. He studied the wound. "How did this happen?"

"I fell on some glass in an alley."

"Were you cut anywhere else?"

Evan hesitated. "My knee."

Rick released Evan's wrist and pointed to his right hand. "And how did that happen?"

Evan started to answer then stopped, looking at David uncertainly. David was watching him, his eyes showing a hint of concern. Evan took a deep breath. "I hit a wall," he said quietly. He expected questions, but Rick took it in stride.

"Is that when you hurt your wrist, too?"

Evan glanced at it. "No, that was a couple days before... I fell..." He looked at David.

"At a party," David added quietly. Rick's eyes flickered to David, something was said between them in that glance that Evan couldn't read. He shifted nervously.

"Are you hurt anywhere else?"

Evan shook his head.

"Okay, Evan. I need to look at your knee and I'd like to examine the rest of you to make sure you're okay. You'll have to get undressed, is that alright?"

Evan's heart began to thud, but he nodded mutely.

Rick gave him a reassuring smile. "You'll be fine. We need to go into an exam room, now. Okay? Would you like David to come?"

Evan glanced at David. "Is that okay?"

"Sure, Evan. Whatever makes you comfortable."

*****

The examination room was more like what Evan had been expecting but still different. It had a hard, white floor, one wall was lined with cabinets, counters and drawers. Various containers were lined neatly along the back of the counter. There was a sink in one end. But on the opposite wall was another of the pastel watercolors. And a window in the far wall was draped with pale, rose-colored curtains. The floor was cold on Evan's bare feet. He glanced at Rick.

"I'd like you to take off your shirt and your jeans, you can leave your underwear on," he said.

Evan blushed. "I..." He licked his lips, nervously. "I don't wear underwear."

"Oh." Rick chewed his lip thoughtfully for a moment. "Okay, just take off your shirt for now. Do you need help?"

Evan shook his head. He began to pull his shirt off and faltered, unable to use his right hand. Both men looked away casually, murmuring softly to each other about their own business. Evan swallowed, and gratefully struggled out of the free from pity or sympathy. He balled the cloth nervously against his belly and held it out Rick took it from him and set it aside, nodding toward the examination table. Evan climbed up and sat on the end, the paper crinkling under him. David leaned against the wall near the door.

Rick touched Evan's neck gently, probing. Then brought a stethoscope out of one of the drawers and checked his lung sounds and heart from the front. But when he moved behind Evan he stopped. Evan looked at him. The man's eyes were focused intently on Evan's back. Evan felt a gentle touch trace one of the still painful lines.

"Who did this, Evan?" Rick asked, nodding David over. As David looked, Evan saw his jaw tighten.

"My Master..."

"What is your master's name?"

Evan was silent. Rick moved back around to face him.

"What is his name, Evan," he said firmly. Evan clenched his teeth and stared back into the green eyes.

Rick took a deep breath and changed tactics. "Is that why you ran away?"

Evan shook his head.

"Why did you run away?"

Evan didn't answer.

Rick sighed. "Okay." He finished with the stethoscope and set it on the counter. "Lie back for a minute."

He probed Evan's belly gently, then let him sit up again. David remained in the corner behind Evan, he hadn't spoken a word.

Rick pulled a cloth gown out of one of the drawers. "Take off your jeans and put this on so I can look at your knee. We'll leave while you change."

"No," Evan said quickly, suddenly not wanting to be alone. "It's okay, you can stay..." He unbuttoned his fly and shoved down his jeans, stepping out of them. Rick was handing him the gown, just as he heard David's voice from behind him.

"Evan, turn around please." Evan felt a wave of sick fear, but he turned slowly to face David. He expected the man's eyes to rake over his naked body, but David's gaze never left his face. He heard Rick hiss. And there was a light touch at his hip.

"Did your master do this as well?" Rick demanded, his tone had grown sharp. Evan flinched.

"Rick..." David's voice was calm and even but Evan heard the warning in the word.

"Yes," Evan said softly. The anxiety that had begun to fade now thrummed through him once more.

"Does it still hurt?" The question was softer now.

"A little," Evan admitted, blushing.

"You can turn around." Rick handed him the gown and he slipped it on.

"Wait," said David behind him, and he felt deft fingers tying the back.

"Hop back up," Rick said, "I'll be right back."

He returned a moment later with a rolling goosenecked stand, with a large, round magnifying glass in the center of a circular light. He pushed it up to the table and leveled the magnifying glass in front of the wounded knee, then pushed it to the side.

"I need to give you a shot so I can clean this out without hurting you."

Evan felt his belly drop. "No! Please... I don't want a shot. You can just clean it. I can handle it."

"Evan..."

"No! Please!" Evan heard his voice rising frantically.

David was at his side in a breath and had a hand on his back. "It's okay, Evan... We won't do anything you don't want."

Rick looked uncertain. "Evan, it's going to hurt much worse to clean it than it will to get a shot..."

"No... Please..."

Rick looked at David. Evan, sensing a power struggle, turned his pleas toward David. "Please, don't make me..."

"It's alright," David said softly, keeping his eyes on Rick. There was some kind of communication happening between them, and Evan knew his fate in the next five minutes depended on the outcome of that silent argument.

Rick sighed finally. He pulled a stool from the side of the table, then began taking instruments from drawers and setting them on a tray, along with gauze and a dark bottle. He looked pained.

He set the tray on the stool, pulled another stool from the corner of the room and swung his leg over it, rolling it close to the foot of the table. Then he pulled on latex gloves, soaked some of the gauze with the liquid in the bottle and wiped gently at the wound. Evan felt as if fiery needles shot up his leg. He gave an involuntary jerk and gasp. Rick looked up at him.

"Sorry," Evan murmured, abashed. He tensed against the pain reflex as Rick touched him once more. He cringed, gritting his teeth and clawing at the sides of the table.

Rick made a soft noise and leaned back abruptly. "David, this is barbaric." His eyes focused on Evan's. "I'm not doing it this way. You can take the shot, or you can leave it the way it is. If you don't get it cleaned out, you'll get sick. You'll end up in the hospital with a needle *taped* into your arm. And you'll consider yourself lucky if you don't gangrene and lose your leg."

"Rick!" David said sharply.

Tears welled up in Evan's eyes and spill down his face. He felt trapped and panicky.

Rick ignored the reprimand. "Are you going to take the shot?"

Evan began to shake, the tears falling fast, he hugged his belly, fighting the icy grip that was rapidly tightening around his gut. He felt David's arm around his shoulders, the warmth of his body. Heard his voice, gentle in his ear.

"It will only take a second, then it will be over. Evan... It's okay... Close your eyes, hon. Just take a deep breath and it will be over..."

Evan felt something wet his skin, then wipe it dry. Then a sharp pinch. He yelped.

"It's over, Evan," came the voice in his ear. "All finished. No more pain. Calm down, baby. It's okay."

Gradually, he was able to take hitching breaths, and the tears slowed. David was stroking his hair, still holding him against his chest. Evan looked at Rick.

The man looked tired and sad, and Evan felt a pang of guilt. "I'm sorry..." he whispered.

Rick reached out and laid a hand on Evan's thigh. "It's all right, kid, you're alright now."

Evan desperately hoped David wouldn't let him go, but he resolved himself not to ask.

Rick began to ask light questions. Evan's favorite restaurant. What he liked to eat. Had he ever been to the amusement park, what were his favorite rides? Evan answered them automatically, feeling the fear subsiding as his mind focussed on the mundane. David continued to hold him.

After a while, Rick picked up a metal instrument and touched it to the wounded knee.

"Feel that?"

Evan shook his head. Rick expanded the area of touches until he was satisfied everything he needed to work on was sufficiently numb, then he swung the magnifying glass in front of the wound and began to work.

"At least you had the wits to fall on *green* glass," he muttered, his brow knit in concentration.

Evan said nothing.

Once the knee was cleaned and bandaged, things progressed similarly with Evan's left hand. Perhaps with a little less drama over the shot. Evan watched Rick extract the bits of glass and gravel with fascination. He felt nothing, it was like watching it happen to somebody else. Rick scrubbed the wound out with dark liquid, then bandaged it as well. He looked like he was about to say something, then stopped. He licked his lips.

"You need anti-biotics, those are badly infected."

"Give him pills," David said quickly.

Rick grimaced. "I don't have any here, you'd have to fill a prescription..."

"I'll pay for it." Evan looked at him in surprise.

"And..." Rick continued as if David hadn't spoken. "He's a runaway."

"I'll watch out for him."

"Can I see you in the hall for a moment," Rick sounded irritated. Evan watched, wide-eyed, as the two men went out and closed the door.

*****

"I'll make sure he takes the pills."

"What if he runs again? You can't watch him night and day for the next two weeks..."

"He won't run..."

"Give me a break, David. He's scared to death and totally loyal to his fucking master. I'll lay good money on him being back with the bastard by the end of the week."

David looked unhappy. "We can't put him through all that a third time..."

"I'll make it fast. If he runs, David..."

David sighed heavily.

*****

When they came back in, Evan saw that David's expression was grave. He reached up and ruffled Evan's hair. Rick looked uneasy, too. It gave Evan a very bad feeling...

"Evan," Rick said gently. He took a deep breath. "I need to give you one more shot."

Evan felt his jaw tighten and his stomach clench. He swallowed.

"You need anti-biotics for the infection, and I can't give you pills. It will be really fast. It's going to hurt a bit, but I'll make it as easy as I can, okay?"

Evan couldn't stop the helpless tears that came to his eyes. Resigned, he nodded mutely.

"I need to give it in your hip." Evan winced, feeling the lingering soreness there. Rick noticed his expression. "I'll find a place that isn't bruised..." He looked at Evan for a moment, then said, "Why don't you stand up and face David, he can hold you if you want."

Evan nodded, tears still sliding down his face. He did as he was told. David wrapped him in a firm embrace. He noticed that his head didn't even reach the man's chin. There was a moment of silence in the room, broken only by the sound of Rick's preparations. Then Evan felt the gown lifted, and spot swabbed and dried, then a sharp pain. He gritted his teeth.

Then there was a new sensation, an ache as he felt the fluid forcing it's way into his flesh. He whimpered and David's arms tightened around him.

"It's alright," David murmured. "Almost finished."

The needle came out so quickly Evan didn't have time to flinch. He felt the spot wiped with some cotton, then Rick put a band-aid over it and dropped the hem of the gown.

He touched Evan's back briefly with his palm. "Why don't you get dressed now, Evan."

*****

Rick studied Evan's right hand.

"So you hit a wall... Can I ask why?" Evan hesitated and was saved from answering when Rick sighed. "Never mind." He manipulated Evan's fingers gently. "Can you make a fist?"

Evan made a sincere effort, shuddering with pain. Rick touched his arm.

"Alright..." He began to work over Evan's fingers and hand. Evan gritted his teeth, trying not to jump or pull back too obviously. Finally, Rick let him go and looked at David. "Well... Everything seems to be where it's supposed to be, but I'd like an x-ray."

"Can you do that here?" David asked.

Rick chewed his lip. "I could take it myself... It's been a long time... I don't usually deal with broken bones. I might miss a hairline fracture. What time is it? Maybe I can call in a favor."

"It's four-thirty. But, I'd rather not take him to the hospital." There was another of the silent exchanges past Evan's head. He waited, heart thumping. He hated hospitals.

Rick, sighed. "David, you *so* owe me. Jen is going to kill me."

"Thanks, Rick."

Evan felt a wave of relief.

Rick pulled his cell phone from his belt and dialed. He put it to his ear and fixed David with a hard look. David said nothing, just rubbed small, slow circles on Evan's back.

*****

Jen was an attractive woman, who looked to be about David's age. She arrived with her strawberry-blonde hair tied in a disheveled pony tail and wearing old jeans and a faded sweatshirt. And she, it turned out, was indeed unhappy. Rick flinched at her glare. But her smile to Evan was warm and friendly.

The lab was in another part of the building. She unlocked it and took Evan inside, taking the x-rays with brisk professionalism. She talked to him cordially for a few minutes while the film developed, then carried the black sheet with her as she guided Evan back to the clinic.

Rick and David met them in a different room than the one they'd been in before. This one had a lightbox in it, which she jammed the x-ray onto and flicked on. Evan looked, fascinated, at the skeletal image of his own hand. He felt David's hand on his shoulder.

Jen tapped the image with a pink fingernail. Rick was studying it carefully. "Yeah, I see it," he muttered. "What about this?" He pointed to another spot on the x-ray. Jen frowned and looked more closely.

"Well, guess you didn't need me after all, did you?"

Rick cast her a sideways glance. "Sorry..."

Jen shook her head and gave Evan a good-natured smile. "You broke your hand, Evan..."

*****

Evan slumped into the passenger seat of David's car and thumped the cast against his thigh. It itched already.

David was talking to Rick in the parking lot. Evan tried to listen to what they were saying, but he was too exhausted. He curled up in the seat and closed his eyes.

*****

Rick dragged his hand over his face wearily. "You should take him to a shelter, David... You can't just take home every stray you run across in your life."

"Would you take him to a shelter?"

"Yes," Rick said firmly, meeting David's eyes for a moment. Then he let his gaze slide away. "Okay! No, I wouldn't... But Jesus, David. What are you going to do with a *kid*?"

"Find out who his master is for one thing," David said darkly.

Rick snorted. "Yeah, when you find that out, let me know, too."

David nodded.

"I think he's been a runaway for a long time, David. Just a feeling. He hasn't been well cared for."

David looked over at the boy in the car. "He doesn't look starved..."

Rick's expression was serious. "He's not healthy. Physically or emotionally. Are you sure you know what you're taking on?"

"I'm not dumping him in a shelter, Rick. *Or* back on the street..."

Rick's mouth closed with a click of teeth. "I never suggested that," he said tightly.

"I know," David rubbed his eyes with one hand. "I'm sorry. It's been a long night.

"Yeah... Well... Good luck. Am I going to see you on Friday?"

"I'm not sure. I'll see how it goes with this kid."

"Yeah," Rick muttered and shook out his keys. "Goodnight, David."

"Goodnight, Rick. And thank you."

The doctor shrugged and disappeared into his car. David sighed and turned to his own door. He opened it and got in to find Evan asleep in a ball on the seat beside him.

*****

Chapter 7 [Top] [Next]

Evan woke with a start. He was in a bed. His heart began to pound and he flung himself out of it and onto the hard wood floor. For a sickening moment he thought he was back in Master's house, but as he got his bearings, he realized that the dimly lit room was not familiar. The only light bled through the drawn shades on a large window across from the bed. The door was closed. The bed he'd been asleep in had white sheets and a black comforter. There was a nightstand to one side with a lamp on it, a dresser in one corner and a bookshelf across one wall. A large, black and white photograph of a mountain range decorated another wall.

Evan swallowed, the events of the previous night coming back to him in surreal detail. He glanced down, he was still in his own clothes. His boots were set neatly beside the bed. He fingered his collar at his belt absently then felt a stab of sadness and loss. He put on his shoes and opened the door onto streaming sunlight.

He was in a single, large room, one wall was lined with bay windows. On his left, a black, leather living room set formed a loose semi-circle around a glass and chrome coffee table, centered around a large entertainment center. Television, stereo equipment, speakers. To his right was a small kitchen, separated from the rest of the room by a bar-style counter. A dining table sat under one of the windows near the kitchen. There were three doors other doors. Two along the same wall he'd just come out of and one on the same wall as the kitchen. He guessed by the peephole that that was the front door. A hallway led down to his left beyond the living room.

David, sitting at the dining room table, working on a laptop computer, glanced up at him as he stepped into the large room. The floor was a warm parquet of light-colored wood. Very different from the darkly varnished hardwood floors of Master's apartment.

"Good morning," David said. "Sit down..." He indicated the other chair at the table.

Evan walked slowly to the table and eased into the chair. David rose and went to the kitchen, returning with a bowl of cut up fruit, a bowl of cereal and a carton of milk.

Evan looked at the food. He didn't feel hungry. "No, thanks..."

"Eat," David said firmly.

"I'm not hungry."

"You owe me," David said, his tone was gentle but the words rankled. Evan glared at him.

"Then stop doing me favors," he said angrily.

"Eat."

Evan picked at the fruit and ate a few pieces, then glowered at David. David said nothing, just reached across the table and pushed the cereal closer to Evan. Evan ground his teeth, but the fruit had awakened his hunger and his stomach gnawed at him. He poured some milk onto the cereal and began to eat silently.

David turned back to his computer and the quiet tapping of keystrokes was the only sound in the room for several minutes.

When Evan finished, he pushed the bowl away and watched David for a moment. David typed for a few more seconds then stopped and glanced up at Evan.

"Do you want more?"

Evan shook his head.

David nodded slightly and closed the laptop. He folded his hands on the tabletop and looked at Evan intently. "Where are your parents, Evan?"

"Dead," he said bitterly.

"I'm sorry." David was quiet for a moment. "When did they die?"

"When I was fourteen."

"Who raised you?"

"Nobody. I ran away from the foster home, I raised myself." Evan felt the old anger burning in his belly. He knew it was in his eyes. He knew this man hadn't earned his hatred, but he couldn't stop it from coming through.

David took a deep breath. "How long were you with your master, Evan?"

Evan looked away, pained. "Almost two years..."

"Did he know how old you were?"

Evan tightened his jaw and didn't answer. He could feel David's eyes on him. He stared out the window at the cityscape. The silence lengthened.

"Yes," Evan said finally, angry with himself for giving first.

"What was his name, Evan?" The tone was infinitely gentle, but Evan bristled.

"Master," he said sharply.

"What did his friends call him?"

Evan opened his mouth then his mind flashed back to his final night there. Master's friends... David must have seen something in his expression because he reached out and put a hand on Evan's arm.

"It's okay, never mind," he said. He looked thoughtful for a moment. "Evan, you can stay here for as long as you like. I'd like you to stay. But I'm not offering you a free ride, you'll have to pay your way."

Evan's stomach clenched. "I don't have any money..." But he was certain the man wasn't talking about money.

"No, I don't mean with money." Evan's jaw tightened. "I mean with work. You'll pick up after yourself, you'll help with the cooking and the cleaning up. And you're going to finish your education if you're going to stay here."

Evan gave him a hard look. "I'm not going back to school..."

"You can work on your GED. From here. You will *not* go out without permission, and you *will* follow my rules."

Evan glowered, but the offer was better than any of his other options.

"Yes, sir..." he said sullenly. He waited for the rest, but it didn't come. Later, he decided, it would come later...

*****

The first thing David did was give Evan some twine to tie his collar to his belt loop so that it would lie flat against his hip. The second thing that he did was set a sheet of paper and a pen on the table in front of Evan.

"I want to know what it means to be a sub. Write it down. Everything."

Evan glared at him. "Are you collaring me?"

"No," David said evenly. "I'm educating you. I told you your education was one of the conditions of staying here. Right?"

"I know how to be a sub," Evan said darkly.

David looked him straight in the eyes. "No, Evan. I really don't think you have any idea what it means to be a sub."

"I bet I've been one longer than you have," he snarled.

"I wouldn't lay money on that, Evan. I'm not a sub, but I don't think you've ever been one either... A victim yes, a bottom maybe, not a submissive. I don't even know if that's what you want."

"How the hell would you know? You don't know shit about me." Evan's voice rose slightly, his breath had become short and quick.

David shrugged placidly. "Just guessing. Write it down and we'll see if I'm wrong..." He turned away and went into the kitchen.

Evan ground his teeth and turned to the paper.

He sat for a while, sulking. Finally, he clenched his teeth and looked up at David. "Okay," he said, angry. "I'm not a sub."

David came back to the table and sat down. "Why do you say that?"

"Because I'm not submissive. I don't beg, I don't grovel, I'm not a fucking spineless..."

"Is that what you think it means to be a sub?" There was no condemnation in David's voice, just mild curiosity. "When is your birthday?"

"The twelfth of September."

"That's in a month."

Evan shrugged. "I don't celebrate my birthday."

"Why not?"

Evan shrugged again. "I just never did..."

David sighed and tapped the paper. "Write down what it means to *you* to be a sub. Not to anyone else."

Evan thought about it for a while, then began to write slowly.

*****

David looked over the neatly lettered essay. Then he looked at Evan. Evan squirmed.

"This is really what you think?"

"Yes..."

"This is all about the dominant's needs and desires. What about what the sub wants?"

"Subs don't have wants."

David stared at him for a long time. "The sub's wants are ultimately what controls the relationship."

Evan looked skeptical. "No they aren't. The sub's wants mean nothing. The sub's place is to please the dom."

David was quiet for a moment. "The sub's place is to find a dom whose desires match his own. As it is the dom's responsibility to find such a sub. Ultimately, the sub's desires control the scene."

Evan snorted.

David's eyes were intent on his face. "Why did you leave your master, Evan?"

Evan was quiet, he studied the tabletop vigorously, fingers working at the leather of his collar. "I failed, I was a bad sub," he said finally, softly.

David stared at him for several moments. "That's not possible," he said flatly. "If he forced you to run away from him, he failed, not you. A dominant who drives his submissive to the streets has failed in the worst way. And a dominant who must beat a child into submission to satisfy his own urges is not a dominant at all. He is a coward and a fool."

David's voice had grown sharp. Evan expected to feel angry at the words, but he didn't, he felt only deeply sad and depressed.

"He was my Master," Evan whispered, feeling tears rise in his eyes. David was suddenly by his side, pulling him to his feet and leading him to one of the armchairs where he sank down and pulled Evan onto his lap and into his arms.

"I know," he said gently as Evan curled up on David's lap. "You'll find a new master. I promise." He stroked Evan's hair. "And when you do, you'll know your own power and he'll know it, too. And you will know how amazing and worthy you are of all the respect and love and loyalty he will show you."

The words didn't make sense, Evan couldn't wrap his mind around them, but the tone was soothing, comforting. He allowed the aching tears to slide silently down his face and squirmed down deeper into the warm embrace.

The were both quiet for a very long time. Finally, Evan sighed. "What will I do until I find him?" he asked in a small voice. He felt very lonely and very lost.

David's hand smoothed Evan's hair. "You'll live. You'll learn who you really are. You'll make real friends. You'll heal."

"But what if I fail? Who will catch me? No one will save me..."

David was silent for a moment. "What do you mean?"

"If I fail... If I do something wrong... If I'm bad... No one will stop me, I'll fall and no one will catch me, I'll get hurt again, I'll... I can't be on my own..."

"You're not, hon. You're with me... You're sixteen, Evan. No one expects you to be on your own." There was a silence. David shifted slightly to look into Evan's face. "What did your master save you from, Evan. What are you afraid will happen?"

Evan didn't answer, his gut was tight and aching. He struggled to breathe. Old pain was creeping into the corners of his mind and filling his belly with ice.

"It's okay, Evan," David pressed gently. "No one will hurt you here. You're safe. I will protect you. Rick will protect you. You'll meet others who will protect you. You're not alone anymore. Even if you fail, we won't let you be hurt. We won't let you hurt yourself... Is that what you're afraid of?"

Evan nodded slightly. He couldn't explain it, now. Maybe not ever. He felt nauseous. He knew they couldn't protect him. They wouldn't want him if he failed and he'd be alone.

David changed tactics slightly. "Evan... How can I help you? What do you need me to do to keep you safe?"

Evan gave him a strange look. Then thought about it. "Punish me," he said softly.

David looked at him. Finally, he said, "What kind of punishment?"

"Real punishment," Evan said, confused. "When I'm bad. So I'm not bad anymore. So that I can't fall..."

David said nothing for a long time. Then, softly, "Evan... I don't think you're bad. Maybe you behave badly sometimes. Mabye you've done things that were bad. But I don't believe that in your heart you are bad."

Evan swallowed. "I am. I feel it inside. I'm mad and I hate people... Everyone... I want them to hurt..." He choked on the words, feeling a sudden rush of shame, he didn't want to be touched, he felt filthy. He squirmed against David's arms, but David tightened the embrace.

"Look at me, Evan." There was cool authority in the voice and the hardness of tempered steel. Evan let himself relax into the blissful simplicity of following an order and turned his face toward David's. The deep blue eyes seemed to look through him, into his soul. He swallowed, uncomfortable, but unable to look away. Finally, David spoke.

"I don't see evil, Evan. I see fire..."

*****

Chapter 8 [Top] [Next]

As he stepped out of the elevator, David cringed at the music pounding along the walls of the narrow hall. He wrestled his key into the lock and shoved the door open.

Evan was perched on a hardwood barstool he'd dragged across the large room and set in front of the bay windows. The only light came from the soft glow of a floor lamp near the fireplace. Evan's reflection in the dark glass glittered with the lights of the city beyond. David caught his expression just as the final line of the song echoed in his ears.

"See the young man sitting in the old man's bar. Waiting for his turn to die..." The final chords dissolved into silence along with the reprimand on David's tongue. He crossed the room and turned off the stereo. The quiet settled with a tangible weight on the room. He swallowed, wanting to find the right words but uncertain they existed. "Evan?"

The boy didn't move. His expression did not change. "I'm going out tonight," he said finally. His voice was cold and soft.

David felt the old, tired fist tightening on his gut. He took a deep breath for the battle. "We've had this discussion. You don't go out without me. You don't go out after ten."

Evan didn't move. "You can't stop me."

David sighed. "You've made that abundantly clear, but if you continue to break the rules of this household..." David hesitated. "There will be consequences."

Evan gave him a sidelong glance. "What are you going to do?" he asked a slight sneer curling his lips. "Spank me?"

David gritted his teeth. "When you came here I told you that you were welcome to stay under certain conditions."

Evan's face darkened. "I meet your fucking conditions," he said coldly. "I clean, I shop, I do your fucking homework assignments."

David's voice hardened as well. "Watch your mouth, young man. I also said that you would abide by my rules. Whatever I may decide they are. And one of those rules, I seem to recall, has to do with you not going out alone, at night."

Evan glared at him for a long time. Over the past six weeks, his gratitude to David for taking him off the street had ceased to outshine the increasing chafing of rules and responsibilities. And a driving force from deep within pushing him, pushing the rules, pushing David. After several long moments of silence, Evan said shortly "Try and stop me."

David's eyes flashed with a hot anger Evan had seen only once before. That first night, six weeks ago, when he'd seen those marks of Master's displeasure on Evan's body. Evan stiffened, slightly afraid, but quickly stoked the quiet rage that would harden the fear into strength and purpose. He slid off the stool and brushed past David, directing himself toward the front door.

A strong hand caught his upper arm and turned him roughly. Evan's eyes widened. He tried to pull away but David caught his other arm and pulled him toward the dining table. He was unceremoniously tumbled into one of the chairs. Struggling to burn his rapidly growing anxiety into hatred, he pushed himself up and glared at the man standing before him.

David looked down at the angry young man, arms crossed over his chest, face impassive. "Where are you going?" he asked with frightening calm.

"Out," Evan spat.

David raised his eyebrows. "No," he said firmly.

Fear and fury warred in Evan's stomach. That force that he didn't completely understand, that he could never fully pull into the light, only watch flicker around the corners of his consciousness pushed again, hard. "Fuck you," he snarled, shoving himself out of the chair and past David once more. But David's hand caught his arm again, only this time, the other hand came down hard across the seat of his jeans.

Evan felt a tidal wave of emotions crash over him, spinning him. He stared at David who had abruptly let him go and was looking startled and uneasy. His voice was shaky as he spoke, "Go to bed now, Evan. We will talk about it in the morning."

Evan just blinked, too stunned to close his mouth. He let his gaze fall to the floor and his hand drifted behind him. Confused, fearful but with a great, hopeful certainty, he felt himself sink to his knees, settling down on his heels, bowing his head. "I'm sorry, sir," he whispered.

Then David was holding him, pulling him to his feet. "No, no, Evan..." he murmured, pain in his voice. "I'm sorry, hon, I'm sorry... Don't do this."

Evan froze for a moment, confused, as David turned his face to meet his eyes.

"Honey, I'm sorry, Evan. You don't have to do that. I'm not going to hurt you."

Evan blinked. Suddenly, crushing pain made him gasp, then before he could catch his breath, rage born of hurt misted his vision. He fought violently in David's grasp. His mind barely registered David's soft voice as the strong arms held him. He gritted his teeth, furious strength surging through his body. "Let me go..." he hissed.

"Evan..."

"Let me go. Let me GO!"

With a final, wild shove, he was free. He stumbled backward, chest heaving. David watched him, his eyes sad, but he made no move toward the boy. Evan felt tears begin to rise and grasped the brass key on the scrap of leather lace around his neck. With the last vestiges of reckless power he ripped it loose, the leather biting into his skin before the knot gave and he flung it down.

"Don't follow me," he said, his voice a hoarse whisper. "Don't touch me, don't follow me..."

*****

Chapter 9 [Top] [Next]

Evan found himself running again. Through the alleys, in and out of the shadows, until his mouth tasted like copper and his lungs burned.

But deeper than that pain was a dull ache in his belly and an ache in his chest, an ache that had become so familiar. He was tired. He was tired of running and tired of hurting. He didn't want to cry anymore. He wiped at his tear-streaked face with his sleeve as he slowed to a walk.

He came out of the end of the alley onto a well-lit street. He glanced around to find his bearings, then turned purposefully, shoving his hands into his jeans pockets and headed for the place he knew he could get what he wanted. What he needed.

*****

Soon, the quiet hum of motors and whisper of tires of passing cars became whispers of distant voices and strains of music.

Evan followed the lights and the sound. He watched the people who began to pass him on the sidewalks. Laughing, drinking. He passed the mouths of alleys, heard sounds he didn't want to remember. But he was back. Back in the world that appreciated him, the world that he knew, that he could control, that made sense.

He flashed his ID at the bouncer who didn't give him a second look and slipped into the pulsing darkness. His mouth twisted and he glided between the bodies, raking his eyes over them, feeling their eyes move over his.

He found a corner where he could see the dance floor and was still for some time, letting the pounding music numb him, dipping into the old erotic, predatory language of desire and arousal that had gone unused all his time with David.

Eventually, he made contact with one he liked. Their eyes moved over each other, assessing, seeking and finding what they wanted. The man separated himself from the other he'd been dancing with and wove through the bodies separating himself and the boy.

Evan flattened his back against the wall and cocked his head, looking up at the man from under his lashes. The larger man set his hands on the wall to either side of Evan's face and bent close, his lips brushing Evan's ear.

"Looking for somebody?" his voice was a low rumble under the pulse of the music.

"Some *body*," Evan murmured in response.

The man raised an eyebrow, a twinkle of amusement in his dark eyes. "Any *body* in particular?"

"Oh yes," Evan purred. Letting his tongue trace the tips of his teeth as he pushed himself away from the wall, narrowing the distance between their bodies, his eyes on the bulge in the front of the tight levis. "I'm *very* particular." The man gave a hunter's smile and snaked his fingers into Evan's belt. Evan brought his eyes up and raised an eyebrow. "Buy a boy a drink?"

*****

Evan picked up his second drink and turned back to the dance floor. Suddenly a hand gripped his shoulder painfully and hauled him around. He looked up into the face and a curse died on his lips. The glass fell from his suddenly numb fingers and an icy cold radiated out from his heart, quickly spreading to the farthest reaches of his senses.

"Where ya been, boy?" The easy drawl was laced with terrifying, calm cruelty.

Evan choked on an answer. "Master..." he gasped out, finally. He winced as the man's hand wound into his hair and yanked hard.

"Think you can run away from me?" Evan looked into the man's chiseled face and wanted to throw up.

"Sir..." He tasted blood as the back of Master's hand crashed across his mouth. Master's other hand, still in Evan's hair, pulled hard, dragging Evan through the dark bar and toward the back of the club. Evan stumbled to keep up with the long strides. His breath was coming in short gasps. Fear gripped his chest, constricting his lungs.

Then they were outside, the air was cooler, fresher. Evan glanced up to see a slice of stars between the buildings that sided the alley before his face was shoved hard into the brick wall. Stunned and dizzy, feeling warm blood cool quickly on his skin, Evan didn't struggle as Master's free hand worked on his belt buckle, then unbuttoned his jeans.

Gathering his senses, Evan tried to squirm away, but Master put a hand in his back shoving him hard against the unyielding wall and knocking the wind from him. Evan gasped. He scrabbled to get his hands between his body and the bricks, fighting to draw air into his lungs. Evan felt rough hands tugging his jeans over his hips.

"I gave you far too much slack. I should have done this a *long* time ago," Master hissed in Evan's ear. Still reeling from the blows, panic began to rise in Evan's chest. He struggled to free himself from the vice-like arms that caged him between the wall and the body of a man twice his size. Master snaked one arm around Evan's throat and squeezed, the other hand went to his own fly.

Despite the pressure on his throat, Evan fought wildly, but the man's grip on him was too strong, and the chokehold effectively cut off any chance at screaming. His muscles were weakening and his lungs ached for air. He felt Master's hot skin, hard against his, pushing into him. Tears of terror and helplessness spilled down his cheeks.

Suddenly, Evan heard another voice behind him. Very close and strangely familiar.

"Hello, Master..."

The grip around Evan's throat loosened and Evan slid to the ground gulping air. His head was spinning and aching and he was sure he was going to vomit. He crawled backward in the dirt and gravel of the alley floor. When he finally was a good six feet from Master's feet, he looked up and saw a second man standing behind Master, holding something at his throat. A car passed on the street beyond and Evan saw a glint of steel in the stranger's hand. Master stood very still.

The stranger turned to look at Evan, the bleeding glow of a streetlight lit the grey-green eyes.

"Go home, Evan. Go to David." There was a frightening intensity in the command. Evan, shaking and gasping, staggered to his feet, pulling up his jeans. With a final look at the shadowy figure, he turned and ran.

*****

When his mouth tasted like blood and he thought he would faint for need of oxygen, he finally stopped running. He stumbled to his knees on the empty sidewalk and coughed violently until his throat spasmed. He retched into the gutter.

When finally he could breathe, he fell over onto his side and curled into a ball. The reality of what he had so very narrowly escaped hit him hard and abruptly. For a moment he couldn't draw breath then he sobbed. The tears ran onto the sidewalk filling his sinuses with the smell of damp cement until his nose began to run. He sobbed violently until his belly and sides ached and his throat was raw. But, finally, the tears slowed, then stopped. The wrenching sobs faded. The terror eased.

Painfully, Evan uncurled and pushed himself up. He sniffed miserably and glanced about. There was a storm drain six inches from his left boot. He looked at it. Then his hands went to the collar on his belt and unbuckled it.

He looked at the narrow strap, running the black leather through his fingers then he closed it in a loop and knelt in front of the drain. Carefully, he pushed the collar into the dark maw and between the bars of the grate. He hesitated for a moment, then opened his fingers, letting it fall into the blackness.

Steel bands tightened around his lungs, more sobs wrenched their way from his throat. He slid down onto his knees in the gutter, wrapping his arms around his belly and lowering his forehead to the cold metal bars of the grate.

"Master... Master... Master..." he sobbed until it became a mantra of desperate sorrow. Of pain that leached the heat from the final, lingering embers in the darkest corners of his soul. "Master..."

*****

Evan didn't look up as the footsteps approached and stopped a few feet behind him. He was curled up on his side in a doorway, studying the dirt in the cracks in the cement. He waited for the pain of a heavy boot in the ribs, but it didn't come. As the silence lengthened, dull curiosity began to gnaw at him. Painfully, he turned his head to look over his shoulder. He was pinned by intense grey-green eyes.

For several moments, Evan couldn't look away. Then finally, he pulled his gaze around and pushed himself up to sitting. He tried to find something biting to say to the young doctor, but he couldn't. And not only because the man was his rescuer. Evan felt broken inside. Dead. He couldn't find his anger.

Rick took a few steps closer and sank down into a crouch. He reached out gently and turned Evan's face toward him. Gentle fingers brushed his cheekbone and he jerked back, swallowing. The rough bricks had not been kind to his face. A, now dry, smear of blood across the back of his hand bore silent testimony to that wound.

Carefully, Rick tilted Evan's chin up and touched the darkening bruises on his neck.

"Can you swallow?"

Evan tried and nodded.

"Take a breath for me," the tone was gentle but commanding. Evan slowly drew air into his lungs, cringing as his ribs moved. Concern narrowed the doctor's eyes. Evan softly touched his chest and winced.

Rick gave Evan a questioning glance, then carefully lifted the hem of the boy's shirt. Evan closed his eyes and sighed, wincing again, then hissed softly as the doctor's palm pressed lightly against his ribcage.

"Deep breath," Rick murmured.

Evan gritted his teeth and inhaled, pain stabbed his chest under the doctor's hand, but he filled his lungs, holding his breath for a moment before Rick nodded and pulled his hand away. The doctor rose, looking weary, and reached down.

Evan looked at the offered hand, then into the face above it. He shook his head.

"Come on, kid. You're not sleeping on the street tonight."

The soft voice tore at Evan's breath, he swallowed the sudden ache that tightened his throat. "I haven't got anywhere to go," he muttered, scuffing the sole of his shoe against the cement.

"You're going back to David."

Evan risked a glance at the man, his expression was set and unreadable. His voice was emotionless.

"Can't..."

"Why *can't* you?" The emphasis was subtle, but patronizing. Evan felt a slight spark of annoyance and snatched at it, coaxing it.

"Fuck off." The words lacked the heat he would have liked, but they were comforting. A familiar landmark in a strangely empty emotional wasteland.

Rick raised an eyebrow. "You go to David or you come home with me and the cops pick you up as a runaway. Choose."

Evan stared at him, grinding his teeth. He couldn't even work up a good scowl. He was just tired. Very tired, he realized. His mind seemed to be working more slowly than usual. He took a moment to examine the phenomenon with detached interest. Then eased himself back onto the ground and curled onto his side. He shook his head again.

"Can't go home..." he sang softly. A wave of anguish broke over him and he closed his eyes, riding it until it receded again into the barren waste.

*****

Chapter 10 [Top] [Next]

David walked to the door, feeling slightly numb and not sure what he really expected to feel. Evan's abrupt entrance into his life had been a sudden and heavy weight on his mind and heart. He was torn between wanting to help and wanting to have back the freedom of being young himself.

He opened the door and the surge of relief and dread that overwhelmed him did nothing to clear his quandary. Evan stood half in the shadows, arms folded over his chest, his face a mask of disinterested defiance. He bared his teeth slightly, managing to turn the wince into a dark glare as Rick's hand tightened on the nape of his neck, and he was pulled into full view of the doorway.

The conflicting emotions within David fell mute before the dark shadow of horror as the right side of Evan's face and throat became visible. David reached for him, but he flinched back angrily, finally raising his eyes. David stared into the grey eyes, searching for a name to the sudden cold that came over him when he met that gaze.

"David..." Rick pushed Evan through the doorway and followed him, gently guiding his friend away from the door and closing it quietly. David still watched Evan, but the man's eyes were now narrowing thoughtfully, his face drawn tight with worry. "He's fine... He's going to take a shower..." Rick's voice was low and even. Far too calm, David realized, suddenly pulling himself from his own thoughts.

"Yeah," he said. "That's good." He watched Rick take the boy into the bathroom, then walked to the kitchen and set his palms on the countertop to stop the shaking. He closed his eyes and cursed softly.

The shower hissed to life, muffled behind the bathroom door, then Rick let himself out and closed the door again behind him. David opened his eyes and watched the other man approach him warily.

"Who did it?" His voice sounded oddly flat to his ears.

Rick's eyes narrowed. "His throat or his face?"

"His eyes..." Old grief suddenly tightened his chest. God, not again... "Was he...?"

Rick opened his mouth and said nothing, working his jaw for a moment. "I don't think so. I don't...think it went that far." He nodded toward the table. "Let's sit down. I need a drink." He rounded the counter and pulled glasses and a bottle from one of the high cupboards. David stared at him until Rick shoved him with his elbow. "So do you. Sit down."

*****

David stared down into his glass. The sharp, icy cold that had gripped him before had begun to thaw as the alcohol burned his throat and spread numbing warmth through his belly. He took another swallow of whiskey, it felt only mildly warm and smooth going down his throat, then Rick was beside him, lifting the glass from his fingers.

"When you stop coughing on it, it's time to stop." He gave a slight smile and settled back into the chair across the table. David gave the bottle a last glance then focused on Rick.

"What happened?"

They'd both sat in silence for a long time, David unready to hear what Rick knew, and Rick lost in his own thoughts. Now, with the alcohol providing a pleasant, cottony barrier against the sharper edges of emotions, David waited for the blow.

Rick stared at nothing for several more seconds. "He was playing cute with some guy then I lost him. I thought they might have gone into the alley, but I couldn't get to the door fast enough."

David's face had darkened. "Do you know the guy?"

"It wasn't the guy." Rick's voice had taken on a strange, detached quality.

"Who was it?"

"It was him."

David stared, his chest felt tight again, he didn't want to ask. He didn't want to know. "Who?"

Rick's eyes focused abruptly on David's face, they glittered as hard as polished stone and his lip curled away from his teeth in a feral smile that chilled David's gut.

"Him..."

*****

They both jumped as a muffled crash reverberated through the bathroom door. Rick gave David a questioning glance, even as he was shoving himself to his feet and moving toward the bathroom. He had a two step head start on David, who had regained it with his longer stride by the time they reached the door. The shower was still running but there was no other sound.

Rick thumped the side of his fist on the door. "Evan?" He waited a breath. "Open the door, Evan. Now!" The doorknob rattled ineffectually in his grip. He bared his teeth and cast a glance back at David whose face was set and determined. "Sorry..." he muttered, and threw his weight into the door.

Wood splintered and Rick stumbled into the misty room. The cool air poured in behind him, thinning the steam, but it was still thick enough to obscure all detail more than vague shapes and shadows. Something crunched under his boots as he made his way forward, breathing slowly. The air was so hot and moist that it was almost viscous, choking his lungs. He could hear the water streaming from the shower head. And he heard David's footsteps crunching behind him. Nothing else.

He stepped to the edge of the tub and a veil of steam whispered out of his way. Evan stood very still. Shards of glass created strange eddies in the water running off his body. The streams poured over his head and face, running into his eyes and his mouth. He made no effort to step out from under the spray. Through the rivulets, he watched Rick without emotion.

Rick held the boy's gaze and smoothly raised one foot over the edge of the tub, settling his weight cautiously on the slick fiberglass surface. Glass grated, setting his nerves on edge. He took a breath. "Don't move."

Evan did not respond as Rick lifted him out of the glass, staggering back slightly, trying to adjust his grip on the slippery body. Then David was beside him with a towel, taking the weight off his arms as he rebalanced himself. As David carried Evan into the bedroom, Rick reached into the spray to turn off the taps. He snatched a towel off the back of the door and scrubbed the water off his skin, shivering in his wet shirt despite the temperature of the bathroom. The glass glittered, a thousand shining beads scattered across every surface of the bathroom. Rick took a deep breath and crunched through them, banging the soles of his boots at the doorjamb to free any shards. Then, he walked slowly toward the bedroom already regretting what he had yet to do.

*****

Evan was huddled against the headboard of the bed. David was on the far side of the bed, facing the boy. He was obviously giving the kid enough space to feel safe, Rick noted as he entered the dimly lit room. Rick approached slowly and sank to a crouch beside the bed, close enough to touch Evan's leg. He let the boy look down at him for several seconds before he spoke.

"Evan, I need to talk to you about some things... They might be hard to talk about, or embarrassing. Do you want David to stay? Or would you rather he wait in the other room?"

Rick felt a stab of pain in his chest as he saw a flicker of deep, primal fear in the dark, grey eyes before they dulled again to lifeless slate. Evan's shoulders twitched in an almost imperceptible shrug. David glanced at Rick then began to rise.

"I'll be outside, okay Evan?"

The fear flashed again, this time Rick saw the quick draw of breath and adrenaline tense Evan's body. "No!" The word was soft, but desperate and it froze David as effectively as it cut Rick's heart.

"Okay," David said gently, easing himself back onto the bed. Evan studied him for a long moment then turned his eyes back to Rick.

"What do you want to know?"

Rick tried to hold the boy's gaze then let his drop to the floor, suddenly unnerved. He grasped at clinical detachment and took a deep breath before looking up again. This time, his eyes were steady. "Please tell me what happened, tonight."

A ghost of a smile played at Evan's lips and his eyes became distant. "You were there... You tell me..."

"I saw a man trying to rape you."

The smile vanished, muscles quivered along Evan's jaw and he began to shake his head. The movement was small, abrupt, desperate, but the eyes were still unfocussed and empty. "That's not what happened."

Rick waited. He was aware of David, barely in his peripheral vision as he studied the boy. He could almost heard the slow, concerted breaths. He took one of his own, and another. Whatever control had slipped in Evan, the boy was regaining it. He smiled again and focused abruptly on Rick.

"I'm his."

Rick's voice came out slightly husky. "Where's his collar, Evan?"

The grey eyes darkened with fiery hate so quickly that Rick blinked and caught and fought back a physical flinch. He sank into the darkness in his own belly and felt his own rage harden into obsidian resolution.

"Was there penetration, Evan?" The hate still filled the boy's eyes, but it was weakening against something else. "Did his penis touch your anus?" Evan flinched away, his gaze shifted rapidly about him, but avoiding falling upon either man. His breath was coming in short violent breaths. He pressed his back to the headboard, pulling his knees up close. He would hyperventilate in seconds.

"Stop it."

Rick jumped at the sharp command and gathered himself carefully before letting his gaze slide sideways.

Evan's eyes went wide and his breath became hitching gulps which were at least slowing his intake of air. He stared at David, for the first time since Rick had met him, looking very much the child that he was.

David took a slow, deep breath and let it out. "It's okay, Evan. Breathe, please. We just need to know so we can be sure you aren't hurt."

Evan closed his eyes and flinched away from something he found in that darkness. Rick watched miserably as Evan's face crumpled then was hidden, tucked into his arms, hunching over his knees in a protective ball. The boy's voice was muffled, but the words were clear.

"He didn't... He touched me... But he didn't..."

"No penetration?" Rick asked gently.

Evan shook his head, face still buried. "No... He tried, but... You were there. I couldn't stop him..." Then he raised his face and stared into Rick's eyes. "I couldn't stop him."

The tears began silently, but soon became a soft sobbing keen. Rick eased himself onto his knees and slowly reached out to stroke Evan's hair. David touched the boy's shoulder lightly then pushed himself off the bed. He pantomimed "tissue" over Evan's head and Rick nodded slightly.

He watched Evan fight the grief; fight the tears, his body taut, the anguish soft, leashed. But, he could say nothing. He could do nothing but sit beside him. Offer his physical presence. There was nothing else. He knew. Nothing else could touch that yawning chasm of blackness inside. Evan was on his own, to walk up to the edge of it, to let it pull him in, protected only by a faith that he would come through the other side. That there even was another side. Rick's gaze fell. Strength of faith that he, himself, had never found.

*****

"Rick?"

"We're not going there, David."

David smiled faintly, but it didn't touch his eyes. "You don't know where I'm going..."

"You should smack his ass,"

David blinked. "Well, it wasn't there. And, I am not going to 'smack his ass." He pulled Rick down onto the couch beside him to stop the restless pacing. Rick squirmed, but David wrapped an arm around his shoulders. "I'm not going anywhere near his ass for a while."

"I didn't mean tonight." Rick scowled.

"Besides, he's not a child; he's a young man with a strong sexual identity..."

"A fucked up sexual identity..." Rick interrupted.

David raised an eyebrow at him. "I'm going to smack *your* ass in a minute."

Rick fixated on the windows. "You can't," he said smoothly, "you're not my master."

"I'm your best friend, that outranks master any day..."

A ghost of a smile pulled at Rick's lips. "Does it..."

David pressed his lips to the other man's hair for a moment. "Alright," he said softly. In a flurry of movement, he grabbed Rick's arm and began pulling him over his lap. Rick squawked a protest and flung himself onto the floor and out of reach.

David laughed softly as Rick glared at him. "Be quiet, you'll wake him."

"And spanking me *won't*?" he growled. A shadow of old pain flickered across his face and David felt the answering twinge in his belly.

"I'm sorry."

"I told you we aren't going there." He bent his knees and rested his forearms on them, his expression darkening again. "I should have slit his throat."

David was quiet for a breath. "You're not a killer."

Rick pressed his lips into a thin line. "No," he said reasonably. "But, I think I could have lived with myself on this one..."

David said nothing. Rick crossed his legs and folded his arms over his chest, studying the floor.

"God damn you," he said abruptly, his eyes focusing on David. David raised his eyebrows.

"Do I get to know why I'm being damned?"

"You got me involved. Now I'm all... attached."

"You mean you *don't* think I should dump him in a shelter?" David said mildly.

Rick glared at him. "No," he replied in an equally mild tone. "I think you should smack his ass."

David rolled his eyes toward the ceiling and let his head fall back against the couch cushions. He studied the high, white tiles for a while.

"I *know*, David. So do you."

David was silent for a while longer before bringing his gaze back down to meet Rick's. "I thought we weren't going to go there."

Rick gave him a tight smile. "Yeah." He rose and grabbed his coat from the chair. "I gotta get home. Work tomorrow."

David stood, reaching out for his arm. "Where are you staying now?"

Rick stared at him.

"I ran into Vincent, he said you two broke up. Three weeks ago."

The smile grew brittle as Rick slipped the restraining hand and shrugged into his coat. "Yeah."

"I thought you were serious."

"Haven't we had a long enough night, David? Let's get really trashed this Friday and I'll tell you all the glorious, gory details of my failing sex life. Then we can go clubbing and see if we can't get ourselves fucked raw before coming home to our empty, useless lives and telling each other that it's all okay because we still have each other, and friendship is what really counts in life... Hell, you've got a houseboy, now, you can even have him come in and shovel it out when we're finished."

For a moment, David could only stare at him, too stunned to react. Rick spun and walked toward the door. David took a breath and suddenly the emotion of the evening broke loose in a hot fury.

"Freeze." The word was not loud, but it carried the strength and power of righteous anger and natural confidence of a dominant who knows he will be obeyed. Rick stopped three steps from the door. David could see his shoulders moving slightly as he breathed. Heavy, angry breaths. "Turn around. Now."

Rick ground his teeth, scowling at the floor. Regret over his words only heated his anger. He felt tears of fury and frustration and helplessness and sadness threatening to overwhelm him. He didn't want to cry. Not here. Slowly, he obeyed, forcing his gaze up to meet David's then, flinching, pulling it away.

"I'm sorry."

"You are so lucky..." David stopped, knowing he was about to let his temper take him into dangerous territory. He rethought his words. "Are you trying to hurt me or looking for a beating?" Rick felt the tears rise and began to turn away. David raised his voice very slightly. "Look at me!" Rick winced.

"I can't do this, David! Not tonight! Jesus Christ! I'm sorry. I didn't mean to be bitchy. Please, let me go."

"Come here."

Rick sighed and gave in, letting the tears spill down his face. Slowly, he walked back to his friend and bowed his head. "I'm sorry."

"Where are you staying tonight?"

Rick hesitated. "I don't know, yet." He couldn't look up as the silence became painful.

"I don't even want to know," David said finally. "How you keep your job is beyond me. Do you want the couch or the bed?"

"I'm not kicking you out of your bed, David."

"I offered the couch, and we can share the bed, dummy. Come here." He pulled Rick against him, hugging him firmly.

"I don't have any of my things," Rick protested weakly into his friend's shirt. Then he jumped as David's palm landed sharply on the seat of his jeans. He pulled back, glaring at David's smiling countenance.

"You can use my things, and you still have some work clothes left in my closet." Rick just rubbed his bottom and scowled. "I told you I was going to smack your ass," David said cheerfully and turned toward the spare bedroom. Rick stared after him, amazed yet again at David's ability to accept a resolution and move on without another thought. Must be a dominant thing, he thought, still rubbing the stinging palm-print. They didn't have the lasting reminders of their displeasure to contend with.

*****

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Chapters 11 - 15


~ Julnick

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