It takes Ryan twenty minutes to jam clothes in a small bag. He adds his toothbrush and a selection of photographs, two of his favourite books, his notebook and a handful of pens. He takes the money he's been saving -- almost $100 dollars stuffed in an old tin -- and hides it at the bottom of the bag, then finally, picks up his guitar.
It's a last minute decision to take it, but Ryan rationalizes to himself that it's security of sorts, if they need to busk or have something to pawn. Mainly though, it's a comfort thing, and Ryan grips the handle as he takes a last look at his room. The bed is made, his school books stacked neatly, and in the middle of his desk, there’s a note to his dad.
He won't find it until much later today, maybe not even then, but he’ll find it eventually, and that's important, because the note contains vague explanations, and Ryan's final goodbye scrawled over one torn-out page.
Bag on his back and guitar case in his hand, Ryan clicks off the light and leaves the room. Carefully, he goes downstairs, avoiding the step that always squeaks and deliberately not looking into the den. It's cool outside, it won’t be for long, but the cold of the desert night hasn’t yet fled. Locking the front door, Ryan hesitates a moment then shoves the key in his pocket before looking at his watch. It'll be a good hour walk to get to Spencer, but it's the only way. The buses don't run this early, not here anyway, and taking a cab isn't an option.
Not that Ryan minds walking, he concentrates on the thump of his feet against the sidewalk and ignores the shadows that make the houses seem so unfamiliar, distorted with dark shapes. Head down, he plunges through the patches of shadow and listens to the distant barking of dogs, and from one house where a window suddenly spills light across the lawn, the wail of a baby. Ryan hurries past that one and increases his pace, his bag thumping against his back as he begins to run. Away from home or towards Spencer, Ryan couldn't say. All he knows is it feels good to sprint along the road, leg muscles burning as he leaves the suburbs, houses giving way to shops and offices and finally, when Ryan is panting for breath, the street that leads to the bus station.
Ryan slows and presses his hand against his side. Setting his guitar case down, he rubs his hand against his thigh and flexes his fingers, then picks up the case again. He begins to walk, past the 24-hour gas station and the café filled with workers coming off the late shift, coffee mugs close at hand as they eat dinner and pretend that night is really day. There's no sign of Spencer, but Ryan's not worried, not yet. The closer he gets, though, he can see that Spencer's not there, and all he can think is: what if Ryan's too late? What if Spencer couldn't get away?
Ryan looks around, double checking that Spencer isn't hiding beside the group of tourists that are sitting against the wall, laughing as they hold onto their tacky plastic casino cups, surrounded by bags. He's not there, or in the bathroom, or next to the woman who's tapping her fingers against the barrier, ear buds firmly in place.
He pushes panic back, because Spencer is fine. Ryan moves to the information board that's attached to one wall. He looks at each destination, far away places he's read about but never seen. When Spencer arrives they'll decide where to go together, pick a place and just go.
Ryan just needs to wait, because Spencer will come. He will.
Brendon runs away early on a Tuesday morning, as the sun rises and the first birdsongs fill the air.
At least he thinks that’s when it is. He knows he's taken twenty-nine showers, tried to sleep for thirty nights and seems to have spent days on his knees being forced to pray. So yeah, Tuesday, when the house is quiet, Brendon forces open his window and clambers down, feet slipping as he clings to the drain pipe and slides. He only falls once, that last jump from porch roof to ground where he lands awkwardly in the gravel and sprawls backward.
Biting back a gasp, Brendon looks toward the main door, but no one appears, and he scrambles to his feet, fear making him run despite the ache in his ankle and the torn skin of his palms.
He runs from the property, over the long drive and past the main gate, keeps running across roads, past grass and hard-packed dirt, sheer panic-fueled adrenalin keeping him going until he reaches town. It's a small place, one row of shops, each one deserted, the windows dark expanses of glass. It feels weird walking down the street, as if he's interrupting an area that's still asleep, but Brendon shakes off that feeling and keeps looking, needing a phone -- needing to call home.
It takes almost five minutes to find one. It's next to a small boutique and Brendon keeps his back to the display of dresses and hats as he picks up the receiver and puts in a collect call. When the operator comes on the line Brendon starts at the sound of her voice -- calm, level, professional, no scorn in it at all.
She repeats the number he tells her and Brendon crouches down, phone line pulled taut, his legs so shaky he can't stay standing up straight. Crouching, his ankle complains as it takes his weight, and the area he fell on reminds him loudly that it’s bruised—most likely bone deep.
Brendon closes his eyes. His mom sounds like always and all he wants to do is go home, smile sheepishly as he jumps onto the bathroom counter and hear her tut about his hands. She would clean them before applying Band-aids and a kiss to his forehead. It's what she’s always done -- patched up every hurt. Brendon misses her so much it's hard to breathe.
"Mom." It's all Brendon can say, anything else is trapped by how much he needs to go home.
"Honey, where are you? It's so early."
Brendon looks around and says, "I don't know."
"You don't know?" She sounds surprised and then there's a moment of muffled sound, and Brendon can imagine her motioning for his dad, telling him to pick up the other phone. "Brendon, sweetheart, aren't you at Shepard House?"
"I hate it there. They show me stuff, and say things, and...."
"It's all for your benefit." There's a dull thud, the sound of a door opening and closing and Brendon knows his mom will be in the kitchen now, leaning against the counter and looking outside, the way she always does when she's on the phone. "You have to understand that. We're doing it for you."
"I want to come home, please."
"I..." There's a hesitation, then his mom speaks again, her voice firmer this time. "You can come home with the program is complete, dad's going to phone Shepard House, they'll come get you."
"Please," Brendon says. "I'll be good."
"When you're cured, you can come home then. I need to go now, honey. I love you."
She hangs up and Brendon lets himself fall, sitting on the ground, the receiver hanging in front of his face. He wraps his arms around his bent knees and mumbles, "I love you too."
Spencer finally arrives when Ryan's been waiting almost an hour.
He's got a backpack on his back -- small and blue, like the one he used to use for school. Despite the way he walks into view, shoulders back and head held high, when Ryan greets him with a hug, Spencer feels tense, like he's holding himself together by force of will alone. This close it's also easy to see that he's got the remains of a black eye -- yellow and green bruises smeared over his skin -- and a split lip, the raw edges starting to scab. Along with fury Ryan feels at the sight, there’s relief. If they're being so careless now, striking where the results can be seen, Ryan knows running was the right decision for sure.
"Sorry I'm late," Spencer says, his face pressed against Ryan's neck. "Some of the others were awake, I had to sneak out."
"It's okay," Ryan says. "You're here now." He listens to the frantic beating of Spencer's heart, squeezes him one last time, then turns to the board, pointing at the list of names. "Any preferences?"
Spencer looks too, taking his time as he studies the list. "What about Chicago? It's a long way from here and you said the music scene was good."
"It is," Ryan says. At least, he's read that it is, and momentarily he imagines himself playing at a club, sharing his music with the world. Of course, it won't be that easy, nothing ever is, but Ryan feels better now they've a destination in mind, like things are starting to fall into place. "Chicago it is, we should get in line for tickets."
Ten minutes later the ticket office opens for business, the shutters rattling up with a crash of sound.
Seventeen minutes later and Ryan's standing at the counter, Spencer pressed close to his side as the gum-clicking clerk turns a terminal so they can look at the screen with its list of fares.
Twenty minutes later and Ryan realises no way they can afford tickets to Chicago, in fact, with the money he has they'll be lucky to get anywhere at all.
Twenty-one minutes later and Ryan looks at Spencer, neither saying a word as they turn and go.
"We need to vet the drivers first, no getting in if they give off bad vibes."
Ryan shrugs his bag further on his back then swaps his guitar to his other hand. They've been walking just over an hour and his t-shirt is damp, clinging to his back, as well as under the bag straps. Normally Ryan loves the heat, but today it's just another strike against them as they hurry along the streets, constantly looking out for anyone they know. "Most serial killers look perfectly normal."
Spencer gives Ryan a look. "Well, that's reassuring."
"I just meant, not all freaks show signs."
"Right," Spencer says. "And here I was expecting skinned bodies in the back seat, or gnawed bones hanging from the mirror."
"Too obvious, they always hide evidence of their despicable crimes in the trunk."
"Really?" Spencer says, sounding amused.
Ryan smiles. "Yeah, I've seen CSI. I'm telling you, always the trunk."
"Okay, fine. So we don't get into any cars with suspicious trunk leakage."
"Sounds good to me."
"Now that's settled, we should cut through here." Spencer indicates the parking lot of a McDonalds, and the scrubby bank behind it that leads to the highway. From where they're standing it's just possible to see the tops of trucks, their cabs flashing light from the sun and their trailers made hazy by rising heat.
"We'll be away from here soon," Ryan says, and while mostly it's relief, there's loss too, curled deep inside with his memories of home.
"You can still go back."
It's as if Spencer can read Ryan's every thought, but his wording is significant. You, not we, and Ryan changes direction, striding toward the parking lot. "Come on, the sooner we start the better."
Spencer grins. "Lead on CSI Ross."
The side of the highway is littered with trash -- ragged scraps of plastic, cigarette butts, and drinks cans faded by the sun. They're walking on brittle grass, more grey than green, and the air is filled with the choking scent of fumes. Ryan keeps his chin tucked down, breathing as shallowly as possible and flinches slightly each time a truck speeds past, making the ground shake and the air tumble through his hair. Despite his eyes watering from the thrown-up dust, Ryan feels dried out, throat scratchy, his tongue sticking to the roof of his mouth.
Licking his lips helps for all of a few seconds, but spit only goes so far, especially in the main heat of the day. Ryan licks his lips again and keeps on walking. His feet hurt and one of his socks feels wet at the heel, because even the most comfortable of shoes rub after walking for hours.
"The truck stop should be close," Spencer says. He's walking a few steps in front and Ryan watches the rhythmic flash of his ankles and feet, pale skin, tatty sneakers and white socks, one with a yellow band, the other blue. "We'll get a ride there for sure."
Ryan nods, hoping Spencer's right, because there's no way that they'll get one here, the traffic is going too fast for anyone to stop, even if they wanted to, they couldn't.
"One of the truckers will take us, we'll go to Chicago, see some shows."
"Get jobs and rent an apartment," Ryan says, verbalising the place he keeps safe in his head. "We'll put posters on the wall and find furniture, a sofa and book cases."
"And a small table, big enough for two."
"Yeah," Ryan says. "And beds, with beige covers and soft pillows."
"Or just one bed." Spencer looks over at Ryan, then away. "We could share. It'll be cheaper."
"Sensible," Ryan says and he reaches out, brushing his fingers over Spencer's arm. He stops walking when he realizes what the sign ahead actually says, shading his eyes with one hand he squints as he reads. "There's a sign, for the truck stop."
Spencer grins, relief obvious as he looks toward the sign then back at Ryan, a boost of energy making him bounce on his toes. "Come on, last one there buys water."
Which is no kind of incentive because it's not like Spencer has any money, still, Ryan's caught in the moment and starts to run, long legs propelling him forward and past Spencer as they follow the road off the highway. The truck stop is set back from the road, with its fast food restaurants, shops, and a service station. Best of all, there’s a long line of trucks and cars, their tickets away from this place.
Sitting on the a picnic bench, his leg bent and twisted to the side, Ryan looks at his heel. It's been rubbed raw, the skin all ragged edges, flesh oozing clear liquid. Ryan can feel it throb in sync with his heart.
"You need a Band-aid on that." Spencer's holding his bottle of water and takes another drink before putting it down. "Toilet paper won't cut it."
Ryan looks at the wad of paper he's taken from the toilets, he's sure if it's folded it'll be fine, but Spence's not backing down, just keeps looking at Ryan until he finally gives in and reaches for some change.
He doesn't say anything else, that Spencer is right or that they shouldn't be spending money they can't afford, because Spencer already knows, just takes the money and heads toward the shop without a backwards glance.
Left alone Ryan pokes at the reddened skin and wiggles his toes, making pain flair sharp and fierce. He pokes again then straightens, looking around at the parked cars. They're sitting in an outdoor eating area, the shops and fast food outlets at the back, picnic benches scattered over patchy grass. The garbage cans are full and a young family sits at a bench near some cactii, laughing and taking pictures of their children, two boys, dark haired and gap-toothed.
Ryan looks away before they see him watching, turning his attention to the old couple ambling along the sidewalk, holding hands, the winkles of their faces deepening as they smile. Ryan imagines their story: they're off to see their grandchildren, surprise them by arriving unannounced with arms full of gifts, and beaming smiles.
"I got the waterproof kind."
Ryan jumps when Spencer steps in front of him and holds up a box. Ryan takes it, looks at the front. "They've got Scooby Doo on them."
"They have," Spencer says. "They cost the same as the regular kind and I thought...."
"Good choice," Ryan says, knowing what Spencer had been thinking. He could remember Saturday mornings watching cartoons, lying on their stomachs, feet kicking in the air.
"Glad you approve." Spencer crouches down and untwists the lid of his water. "Stay still."
Ryan does, even though the cold water hitting his heel feels like daggers jabbing into his skin, but it doesn't last long, pain fading into an ache and Spencer is using the toilet paper to pat the surrounding skin dry, before carefully opening a Band-aid, stretching it across Ryan's heel.
"There." Spencer stands and puts the backing of the Band-aid and the paper into the trash, then sits down as Ryan pulls on his sock. The sock is all kinds of disgusting, completely soggy at the back, and Ryan grimaces as he tugs it up, then pulls on his sneaker, easing the back away from his heel as he pushes his foot inside.
"I was thinking," Spencer says. "If we stood on the on-ramp, people would have time to stop."
"We should have made a sign, but yeah." Ryan stands and picks up his bag, putting it on his back. It presses his t-shirt against his skin, cold and clammy, and Ryan shudders at the feel. His guitar is under the bench and he picks that up too, then follows Spencer as he heads for the road.
They pick a spot near the yield spot to the highway, far enough away people can stop. Not that anyone does, not for a long time.
Ryan stands just off the shoulder and sticks out his thumb, trying to look as non-threatening as he can. He doesn't smile, he leaves that to Spencer, who clutches his bag and holds out his thumb and always keeps smiling, even when it becomes increasingly strained. Ryan wants to tell him to stop, that it doesn't matter, the drivers will stop or they won't, it's got nothing to do with how wide Spencer can smile. He doesn't, because Spencer needs this. Needs to know that he's doing all he can.
An hour and forty minutes later a car finally slows then stops. Ryan feels excited, apprehensive, and thankful as the middle-aged driver stretches across the passenger seat, rolls down the window and looks outside.
"You boys haven't got a sign, where’re you wanting to go?"
"Chicago," Spencer says, and the man inclines his head toward the back seat.
"I'm going in that direction, jump in."
Spencer nods slightly and Ryan opens the back door. "Thank you."
The man closes the window, waiting until both Ryan and Spencer are settled. It's cramped, Ryan has to keep his guitar on his lap and his knees are jammed against the back of the passenger seat, his bag between his feet. The air is stuffy with old smoke and the artificial scent of roses from the palm tree-shaped air freshener that swings from the mirror.
Spencer sees where Ryan's looking and digs him in the ribs. "See, no bones."
"No bones," Ryan says, sharing a grin.
They pull into traffic then, and the man looks back briefly before pushing a CD in the player. "I hope you boys like Patsy Cline."
"Love her," Ryan says and settles against the seat, head back, watching the scenery as Patsy begins to sing.
It's Alan who picks Brendon up.
He arrives in a black estate car, the windows tinted dark, and when Brendon gets into the back, he notices the doors have no handles--no way to open the windows or get back outside. Not that Brendon cares; it's not like he has anywhere to go.
Sitting in the middle of the seat, he pulls up his knees and rests his forehead against the blood-spotted fabric of his jeans. He keeps his eyes open, but what he sees is another time, when he had a family, a home.
The car dips when Alan sits. He slams the door and presses a button, making all the locks click into place. He doesn't talk, hasn't since he arrived. He just hauled Brendon up by his arm--fingers digging in as he held Brendon upright--and steered him to the car. They set off, and a journey that took Brendon so long passes in minutes. They leave the just-waking town, its windows bright, a few early commuters wandering the streets. Turning onto country roads that wind and turn, they finally pass through the gate of Shepard House, wheels crunching across gravel as the car enters the drive.
They stop, and Alan steps outside, opens the door and then steps away, never once looking in Brendon's direction while ordering, "Go to your room and stay there."
Brendon gets out of the car, nods and goes inside. He walks fast, head down, feeling as though he's being watched all the time. Past the meeting rooms and kitchen, the counselling suit and up the stairs, past the bathroom until finally, he gets to his room. Brendon goes inside, and all he can do is stare, because it's been stripped bare. No covers on the bed, no pillows, no curtains, no clothes in the wardrobe, there're none of his things left at all.
There's hardly anything left of Brendon at all. He lies on the bare mattress and curls up on his side, cheek pressed against the surface, his hands tucked up against his chest.
He gets up again two hours later, stands and wobbles on his weak ankle . He examines his palms, bruises blooming under a raw criss-cross of cuts, still home to gravel and tinier, more insidious dirt. There's a piece of gravel stuck just under his thumb and Brendon hooks under it with his nail, prying the fragment free. It falls to the ground without a sound. He looks outside then, noticing the nails that have been hammered between window and frame. There's no one out there, just the usual expanse of grass and the long curving drive. It’s the road to freedom, except in Brendon's case.
It's enough to make Brendon angry, because this sort of thing happens to him all the time. He tries; he puts everything into making friends, works at being a good son, the best person he can be, It's never enough, though, and every time he only ends up back where he began.
So he always tries harder, smiles wider, finds better things to say, but still it's never enough. And now he's here, in this bare room and his body hurts and his hands hurt, but not nearly as much as he hurts inside, coming to the stark realization that there’s nowhere for him to go, nobody who will take him in. But that's okay, that's fine, because Brendon has the beginnings of a plan. He's spent his life fitting himself into places where he doesn't belong. He'll listen to Alan, pretend to take in what he says, act like the person they expect him to be. If he can be someone else, if he can change himself—at least the parts they see--maybe that way he'll get to go home.
Decision made, Brendon goes to the door, ready to find Alan and apologize, to vow it'll never happen again. Except the door is locked and no matter how long he knocks, how loud he shouts, no one responds. Eventually he accepts that all he can do is sit on his bed and wait, hands on his knees, feet on the floor, back straight as Alan’s shoelaces.
The sun sets and still no one comes. Brendon watches as the walls turn gold, red, a dusky maroon. He picks at the threads of his jeans, letting fragments flutter to the floor. Sitting cross-legged, he acts out a scene from Beauty and the Beast, using different voices for both Beast and Belle. He sings: church songs, pop songs, songs from musicals; belting out the words, taking them in until he feels less alone. He lists the full names and birthdays of all his family, reminding himself that there was a place where he belonged at one time.
When he can’t sit still any longer, he clutches his stomach and paces the room. When everything falls into shadow, when he can't hold it a moment longer, he pees against the wall in the corner, then wiggles out of his hoodie and his t-shirt, dropping the undergarment on the puddle in an attempt to conceal the mess.
His stomach growling, Brendon lies down and tries to sleep. Exhaustion finally claims him just as the first flush of daylight lightens the room.
"Wake up! Wake up, now!"
Brendon wakes up to the shout, then gasps when he's doused with freezing water. Shivering, he jumps to his feet, his heart racing, his mind confused.
"You disgust me! Your lack of control disgusts me!" Alan stands over Brendon, yelling directly in his face, each word accompanied by a blast of sour breath. "Not that I'm surprised: a filthy mind breeds a filthy body. If you want to rut like an animal why not piss like one too?" Grabbing Brendon's arm, Alan marches him to the corner and forces him to his knees. "Shall I treat you like a dog, rub your nose in it? Are you a dog, Brendon? You want to get on your knees and be fucked from behind, so why not treat you like that at all time?"
"No," Brendon manages to say, bent almost double, Alan's hand pressing against his shoulder, keeping him in place. He looks down at his sodden t-shirt -- there's a dinosaur on the front, purple with a long tail, his sister bought it for him while on vacation and she had smiled when she passed it over, laughing as he hugged her in thanks. Her hair had smelled of sunshine and her hands were soft and Brendon had put on the t-shirt right then, stripping off the old one and....
"Are you listening to me?!" Alan brings back his hand and strikes Brendon's face, an open-handed slap accompanied by a sharp crack of sound. "Look what you made me do! You push me too far, Brendon. Always defying, is that what you're doing Brendon? Acting out. Defying me, your family, your God? Is that why you've cultivated these shameful urges, because you want to be a rebel? You want to be special? Because you're not special. You're nothing, you're less than nothing. You're scum, the lowest of the low." Alan steps away then, breathing hard. "There's a bucket outside. Clean up this mess, scrub away your filth from the whole floor."
He leaves but Brendon can't move. Not at first, when his cheek, hands and knees throb from being thrown to the floor, being held there. His eyes prickle with tears, but he won't cry, he won't. Eyes squeezed tight, Brendon breathes deeply, deliberately, slowly -- then stands. Just outside the door is a bucket. It's filled with hot water and smells strongly of bleach. Through the milky water, Brendon can see the outline of a brush. He sets the bucket down, steels himself and puts in his hand. Immediately the bleach seeps into each cut on his palm, and Brendon can't help mewling with pain as he grabs the brush and crouches down.
He starts scrubbing at small bloodstains, twin spots showing where he was forced to kneel, the wood cutting into his bare knees, splinters poking at the skin, the scabs on his palms opening right up under the pressure. They're diluted by the water, pulled out in faint tendrils that Brendon keeps scrubbing until they're faded, faded, gone. He moves his t-shirt then, picking it up and dropping it in the bucket, then scrubs at the damp patch left behind. He puts everything he has into each movement, forward and back, a steady two-point rhythm that he maintains as he cleans the whole floor. When he's finished, Brendon's arms ache, the muscles engulfed in fire. Dropping the brush in the bucket, he sits on his bed, lifts up his feet and waits. Again.
Alan returns when the sun is high in the sky. He doesn't look at the floor, or Brendon, just says, "Go to the bathroom, you've got ten minutes to clean up," then leaves.
There's no one in the bathroom today. In fact, Brendon sees no one at all. Each bedroom door he passes is shut tightly and the only voices he hears are distant, muted, the sounds of the others getting lunch. While he's not hungry anymore, Brendon is thirsty and he bends over the sink, placing his mouth under the stream of water and letting it run over his throbbing cheek as he drinks. When his thirst is quenched, he straightens and looks at himself in the mirror. His eyes are nothing more than dark shadowed, his skin pale. There’s a bruise spread along one cheekbone and his hair is wet, pushed back off his face.
It's something Brendon hates to see – he’s too exposed, too raw, the marks on him are too telling. He looks down, at the cracked white tiles and forces a smile, looks back up at his reflection and assesses the change, because the smile means everything. If he smiles no one can see how he really feels.
"What do you think you're doing!?"
Turning at Alan's shout, Brendon takes a step back, striking his hip against the edge of the sink.
"The bible says, remove far from me vanity and lies. Vanity and lies, Brendon. I come here to offer you forgiveness, to allow you time to explain your wicked ways and what do I find? I find you flaunting the word of our God. Vanity is a sin, a sin which you seem intent to indulge in the most shameless of ways. Do you like how you look? Do you wish others to look upon your face and body and feel lust?"
"I was checking I was clean," Brendon says, attempting to explain. He tries to smile again, but it fades when Alan comes completely into the bathroom, shutting the door behind him.
"And now you attempt excuses and lies, like the serpent with its tongue of wickedness and untruth."
Brendon doesn't get to finish, his words cut off when Alan strides across the room and grabs hold of Brendon's shoulders, violently turning him around so he's facing the mirror, trapped between the cold porcelain of the sink and Alan's body.
"Tell me, what do you see? Do you find your eyes pleasing? The slant of your nose compelling? Do you look at your lips and imagine them around another man's cock?"
"Please, don't." Brendon tries to turn away, but Alan grabs hold of his jaw and chin with one hand, tightening his grip so Brendon is unable to move.
"Tell me what you see!" Alan is yelling now, his voice echoing throughout the bathroom, and Brendon has no choice but to look at his own face.
"Do you know what I see?" Alan asks, his voice lowering as he moves his head so it's close to Brendon's, so close he can talk directly into his ear. "I see someone who made his mother cry. Did you know that Brendon? Did you know she phoned and cried over the loss of her son? I see someone riddled with disease, someone who disgusts me, someone who loves his own face. And for what? How could anyone love something so ugly, so riddled with sin? Are you looking? Look closer!"
Alan yells this last and pushes Brendon closer to the mirror. All Brendon can see is his own face, how ugly he really is: his flaws and imperfections are so clear, so close, and he begins to struggle, wanting to get away.
"Do not defy me, Brendon, you will not win," Alan says, but Brendon keeps struggling, trying to twist his head out of Alan's grip. When he does manage to move, though, his lips brush against Alan's and suddenly Alan rears back and shoves Brendon away, making him fall against the sinks, barely able to get his footing before Alan brings back his hand and slaps him full force across the face.
"You harlot! You slut! Do not attempt your disgusting practices on me! I will not respond! You will not tempt me onto the road of sin and evil!"
Alan is breathing hard, his face red and his hands bunched into fists. Bringing one hand up to his face, Brendon carefully touches his finger-tips to his swollen face and starts to back away.
"Running will get you nowhere, you have nowhere to go, no one to run to. All you have is me, Brendon. I'll drive the sin from you, burn out those disgusting urges."
Frantic, Brendon looks toward the door, waits until Alan goes over to the controls of the showers and then runs. He grabs hold of the door handle and pulls -- the door won't open, no matter how hard Brendon tries.
"I think you need this." Icy calm now, Alan holds up a key. "Self-locking doors, you'll leave when I allow you to do so, when I've washed away your sin, because this time you kissed me. But what about next time? What if it's an innocent? A child? No boy child is safe around you, you have to see that. Admit to your sins, Brendon, let me help you. Take the path of our Lord."
"I didn't kiss you," Brendon says, because that's one thing he is sure of. It was an accident, nothing more, and he stands with his back pressed against the door, watching as Alan turns up the heat on the shower. The water hits the tiled floor and creates steam that fills the room, misting the mirrors and Brendon swallows hard, fear prickling at his neck as Alan deliberately takes off his watch, his shirt, exposing the sweat-matted hair on his chest and the defined muscles of his arms.
"You force me to this Brendon, to punish you, to scour the sin from your body because you must learn. You came onto me Brendon, the person who's here to lead you to redemption."
"It was an accident, I didn't mean to," Brendon says frantically, and when Alan starts to walk across the room Brendon turns and starts yanking at the door, yelling "Help! Someone help me, please!"
No one comes, and Brendon ducks out of the way when Alan reaches for him, but there's nowhere to hide. Within seconds Alan grabs hold of Brendon's arms, grip brutal as he drags him toward the shower. Fighting back, Brendon digs in his heels, but his shoes slide across the slick tiles and there's nothing he can do to stop himself being thrust under the water. Alan is too tall, too strong, and Brendon screams as boiling water hits his body, soaking right through his clothes.
Terror and pain give him strength and he lurches, desperate to get out of the cubical. He twists away from Alan--the feeling of his arm being all-but wrenched out of its socket preferable to the burning. He keeps twisting. When he feels Alan's grip loosen slightly, he barges forward, hitting Alan's body full force with his own. Yelling, Alan falls backwards, pulling Brendon with him, and they both end up on the floor, Alan under Brendon's prone body.
"You dare attempt to defile me like this! You dare touch me like a lover! With this you've gone too far!"
Brendon doesn't have a chance to move before he's suddenly flipped, his head hitting the floor as he finds himself on his back. His skin is screaming, raw from the burns, the feel of the floor too much too much too much and for a second he thinks he’ll black out. When he can focus again, Alan is kneeling over Brendon’s legs. Pain shooting through his head, Brendon fights for air, scrabbling against the wet floor as he feels his shirt being pushed up, hands at the waistband of his jeans.
"No. Stop. Please." He keeps fighting, struggling to get away but Alan is beyond all reason as he rips off the button to Brendon's jeans and pulls down the zipper.
"You think you're a real man, Brendon? I'll show you a real man," Alan growls, obviously hard as he moves so he can grind against Brendon's body. "I'll show you that defying me is sinful. I am a man of God, I am your light in the darkness of sin and depravity. I'm doing this for you, Brendon, showing how painful, how disgusting the act of sodomy can be."
"No!" The feel of fingers pushing under his jeans fuels his terror and Brendon twists violently to one side. It gives him enough room to throw a punch--one lacking any force, but enough that Alan's distracted. It gives Brendon an opening to pull himself back.
"Oh no, Brendon, you stay here. You'll stay here and be educated, and then pray to your God for forgiveness, to forgive you for your disgusting sin." Re-situating himself, Alan sits up slightly and tugs at Brendon's jeans so they're bunched around his hips. It’s then that Brendon acts. He throws himself back, gaining enough space to reach for Alan's arm, pulling it to his mouth. He bites, hard, keeps biting as he feels blood well into his mouth and Alan shouts with pain.
"You really are a dog, a dog that pisses and bites and wants to be fucked. I can do that, I can fuck you like a dog." Enraged, Alan pulls his arm back, tearing his flesh from between Brendon's teeth. "You drove me to this, remember that when I'm thrusting into you. Remember you drove me to these acts of sodomy with your sinful ways."
Brendon doesn't reply, just spits blood on the floor and prepares to fight because he's not going to let this happen, he's not. Gasping for air he forces himself to wait, painful seconds while Alan kneels. As soon as there's space between their bodies Brendon pulls himself back and jumps to his feet pulling up his pants.
"Do not defy me!" Alan stands too, and he's taller than Brendon, stronger, but right now that doesn't matter. What matters is that Brendon has fear on his side. He attacks, jumping forward as he pushes Alan toward the wall. Alan staggers, but doesn't go down, not at first, just makes a fist and lashes out, catching Brendon in the mouth.
Blood flows down Brendon's chin, into his throat, and this new pain is almost his undoing, but panic is better at providing focus than any distracting pain, and Brendon finds the strength to attacks again. This time Alan goes down, his head cracking against the sink as he falls to the floor. Shaking, Brendon prepares to jump away, but Alan doesn't move. Just lies still as a pool of blood begins to spread from under his head.
"No no no no no," Brendon says, and his hands are shaking as he staggers away, vomiting next to the shower, bloody bile being washed away with the now-cooling water. He stays there a moment, bent over, his whole body hurting, gathering up the courage for what he has to do. Spitting up more blood, Brendon finally goes over to Alan, bends over and looks for the key. He finds it after twenty seconds of looking.
It takes a minute to open the door, as his hands shaking while he attempts to fit key into lock. It’s another five seconds to go back and take Alan's wallet, a last impulse before Brendon runs. He’s almost overwhelmed by fear as he takes a final look back and sees that Alan has opened his eyes; he's struggling to stand.
It's one fifteen on a warm afternoon when Brendon leaves Shepard House for the second time. He never looks back, just keeps running, panic-stricken, in pain, and all too aware that he's totally alone.
Tags: my stories:bandom