Long Winding Road Trip Away From The Asylum Part One
Yes, the story continues!
“I need to get you a real dog.”
The beat of the music in the club almost drowned out the words. Inside the DJ booth at least the sound was somewhat muffled, but Wren glanced at the time on the wall clock at every chance, the passing time bringing him closer to relief from the noise. He enjoyed music.
Just...not this loud.
How can anyone focus on anything…?
The wood stool Wren perched on creaked as his gaze searched the club. The security cameras, Rhodey doing his rounds, slipping through the shadows beyond the thick crowd while communicating with Avery, who watched over everything from above. And Noah. Noah was right there. Nothing could get too close with his Dom standing there.
He considered the comment, cocking his head as he petted Danny’s soft hair, enjoying the way he unselfconsciously curled up half under the soundtable, resting against Wren’s calf. The other sub seemed to find Noah’s presence comforting too. And the petting. He’d had a strange day and it made Wren happy he could give him something to make it a bit easier. Maybe a string wasn’t much, but it had helped Wren once.
“I like visiting Tracey’s dogs. They wouldn’t be happy here, they wouldn’t have as much space to play and leaving them in the loft while we work wouldn’t be fair. Danny doesn’t need much space. And he’s…” Wren lifted his gaze to Noah’s, his lips quirking. “Club-trained.”
Amusement filled Noah’s eyes and a laugh escaped his lips as he bent down to kiss the top of Wren’s head. “A joke that didn’t involve anything gruesome. I didn’t think you had it in you.”
Wren frowned, glancing at Danny, who appeared to be in a peaceful zone, not really listening to them. That was good. He gave Noah a serious look. “It bothers him, so I try not to. Sometimes I forget—maybe you could remind me? Jared does, but he’s not here. I remembered that.” Of course he’d remembered. He pressed on, trying to make sure he got all the information to his Dom that he might need, a bit flustered now that he’d gotten off track. “Rhodey jokes in a way that will be hard for Danny, he’ll have to get used to it. Do you think he can? I should have thought of that when ‘the plan’ first started. It was supposed to be Reed at first, but—”
Holding up a hand, Noah crouched down a little and cupped Wren’s cheek. “I’ll give you a heads up if your humor starts getting dark around him, but I don’t think you can do much to prepare him for Rhodey.” His lips curved into an incredulous smile. “I don’t even know what to make of that. Not sure I want to try to figure out how that happened. Or why.”
Noah was always strange when it came to his uncle. But that was all right. If he was confused, Wren could clear it up for him. He wasn’t always good with people, but he understood some things. He smiled at his Dom. “Rhodey’s very good in bed, sir. Jared said so. He also said he’s well hung and it runs in the family. He hasn’t slept with Rhodey in a long time, so I’m assuming experience—”
This time, Noah stopped Wren with his hand directly over Wren’s mouth. “Information I didn’t need, my little bird. Thank you. Danny wanted a good, hard fuck. Next time, just go with that.”
Groaning, Danny curled up a little tighter, tugging at the hood of the huge hoodie he was wearing so it covered his entire face. “You can talk about gruesome stuff instead if you really want. I don’t mind.”
Now Danny was the one being strange. Wren reached into his pocket, taking out the small baggie full of treats Keiran had given him. He brought one down to the space under the hood. “Here you go, puppy. Have a treat, you’re probably hungry.”
Chuckling, Noah straightened, then rubbed the back of Wren’s neck. “Don’t stay up too late after closing, I want you to get a good night’s sleep. We’ll pack in the morning and head out in the afternoon.”
Wren fed Danny another treat when the crunching stopped from the first one. He peered up at Noah as his Dom stepped out of the booth. “Tomorrow is too soon, sir. There’s no way you’ll be able to prepare everything you need.”
“We will be able to manage just fine.” Noah gave him a level look. “You’re not going to talk your way out of this, my boy.”
“Okay.” Wren nodded to Noah, turning to the table, where there was a notepad stuffed by the soundboard. The door clicked shut, signalling his Dom’s depart. Flipping through the notepad, past several song ideas both Jamie and Danny had jotted down, Wren found an empty page and carefully tore it out. Page on the closed notepad he balanced on his knee, he took a pen from his breast pocket and started a list.
Reasons why I should not go on a road trip:
“What are you doing?” Danny sat up a bit, pushing the hood off his face. His eyes widened. “But Noah said you can’t talk your way out of it.”
Wren inclined his head. “I’m not. But a well worded list of reasons is perfectly acceptable. I’m sure that’s what he meant. He’s a very busy man, this is faster than debating the issue. The list needs to be very thorough.” And not sound like he didn’t want to be there with Noah. Or...be there for Reed. He inhaled slowly. “I’ve never been on a road trip. My lack of experience will only slow them down.”
Forearm on Wren’s knee, chin rested on it, Danny gazed up at him. “The car won’t go any slower because you’ve never done this before, Wren.”
“You’re not being very helpful.” Wren scratched out the first line. This list was going to be messy. He’d need to make a rough draft, then a good one. Maybe he should just do it on his phone, except...he’d given it to Noah, too tempted to use it to make Paris’s life a living hell. “You should be telling me how common car accidents are. Or the dangers of the wildlife we might come across. Or how poor the water quality is in different areas.”
Danny gave him a sympathetic look. “I would, but I think you should go.”
Still not helpful. Wren shook his head, bringing his attention to the paper.
Reasons why I should not go on a road trip:
̶1̶.̶ ̶I̶ ̶h̶a̶v̶e̶ ̶n̶e̶v̶e̶r̶ ̶b̶e̶e̶n̶ ̶o̶n̶ ̶a̶ ̶r̶o̶a̶d̶ ̶t̶r̶i̶p̶ ̶a̶n̶d̶ ̶w̶i̶l̶l̶ ̶s̶l̶o̶w̶ ̶e̶v̶e̶r̶y̶o̶n̶e̶ ̶d̶o̶w̶n̶.̶
1. A smaller vehicle would require less fuel and be better for the environment.
2. I can’t...
Banging at the door broke through the silence that had been very useful in keeping his focus where it needed to be. Of course, the dance club shouldn’t be silent right now, while people were trying to move to the nonexistent music.
Glancing at the soundboard made it obvious the playlist had ended. Wren shot whoever was at the door an apologetic smile and began a new one. Things would be winding down soon, but the fast tempo seemed to satisfy the members. He got a vague thumbs up before the tall, lanky sub rushed back to the dance floor.
Now, where was I?
Absently looking toward the bar, Wren frowned as he saw Reed filling several shots. Five lines up in front of him, five lines up in front of Tay. Visibly counting down, Reed took the first shot in time with Tay. Then the next. And the one after that.
Standing a few feet away, Sin watched them with his arms folded over his chest.
When Reed refilled the shot glasses, he stepped forward.
Oh, this isn’t good.
“Stay.” Wren stood, patting Danny’s head, sure he’d be okay for a bit in here since everything was set up. A real dog wouldn’t be, but Danny was good as a puppy. And when he wasn’t a puppy.
Sometimes, he wasn’t so good.
The taunting smile Reed gave Sin made it clear he wasn’t in a submissive mindset. And that beating the Dom hadn’t been enough for him. Ever since Sin’s casual relationship with Garet had come between Garet and Reed’s brother, Reed had been determined to make the Dom pay. Garet had decided to remove himself from the entire situation and focus on getting his certifications in auto mechanics, likely tired of the low pay and horrible treatment at the auto shop where he’d been working under-the-table—which Lawson had been trying to talk him out of for a long time.
But things were...messy, as Coal would say. Wren almost wished Rhodey’s son was here now. The teen had a unique way of reading situations. He was brutally honest, like his father, but not as far removed from all the personal ‘drama’ Rhodey tended to avoid.
Sin and Reed had played a few times and their interactions had fulfilled something for Reed until he’d found a new connection with Jared. Wren liked that better. His Dom took special care of Reed, whereas Sin played around with all the available subs and didn’t tend to spend much time beyond aftercare with any of them.
Except for Tay. But Tay wasn’t his sub, he was more like his ward.
Like Reed was to Noah.
And he wouldn’t take Reed toying with Tay well at all.
Which is probably the point.
“That’s enough, Tay.” Sin snapped his fingers when Tay looked ready to protest. “You’re on shift tonight. You brought the orders from the kitchen. Go back to the main bar and make yourself useful.”
Tay blinked, like he wasn’t quite sure what to make of Sin giving him direct commands when he was usually so easygoing. But then he glanced between Sin and Reed and gave a quick nod. “Yes, sir.”
“Oh, this should get interesting.” Off to Wren’s left, Paris took a sip from his martini glass as he watched Tay dart off into the crowd. “Don’t you just love how Reed spices things up? I’d be annoyed at him taking all the attention, but it’s been boring around here.”
Of course, Paris didn’t know half of the happenings in the club. Wren was part of making sure rumors didn’t spread online when things did happen. And he was very good at his job.
Still, Wren didn’t like Paris. He wasn’t going to have him or his Dom killed—Keiran seemed to think that wasn’t necessary—but give him five seconds with any form of technology and Wren could make sure the man didn’t aggravate anyone he cared about ever again.
“Paris?” Wren paused by the other sub’s side. “How’s your credit score?”
Paris frowned at him. “Pristine. Why?”
“Don’t talk to me or any of my friends.” Wren held Paris’ gaze. “Or it’ll be one, but the least, of your worries.”
Letting out an affronted sound, Paris stepped in his path. “What do I have to do to make it clear I’m not afraid of any of you? Don’t threaten me. I’ve walked over pathetic people like you my whole life.”
Not surprising. But it did help with how Wren’s Doms said he should think his actions through before he did anything. He nodded to the other man. “Thank you. Now I have even more reason to ruin the few things that matter to you.”
“You dispicable little freak.” Paris grabbed his arm, sneering at him. “Try it. I’ve heard about you. You’re a criminal. I know people. I can—”
“Get your hand off him before I show you how a real criminal can get away with spilling a whole lot of blood.” Pike brushed his lips close to Paris’ ear, a butter knife in his hand, pressed to the side of Paris’ neck. “Want me to show you what I learn in my special brand of finishing school? I’ve never tried it, but I’m a visual learner.”
Paris jerked his hand back, holding perfectly still. His face was red, his eyes searching the dance club, like someone might come save him.
A few of the subs he’d gotten close to hovered, but none stepped forward.
There were a lot of secrets here. But one thing no one could hide.
The core ran things.
Those who stood against them?
Didn’t last here long.
“I want my Dom. I won’t cause any trouble, okay?” Paris pressed his eyes shut, a single tear spilling down his cheek. “Just let me go.”
“Coward.” Pike stepped back, jutting his chin, eyes narrowed as Paris practically ran to the gym doors. He met Wren’s eyes. “Bullies are always fucking cowards.”
From Wren’s experience during the brief time he’d been in public school before his aunt decided to homeschool, bullies held all the power. But he was grateful for Pike’s help. It reminded him of prison. In a good way.
The people Noah had watching over him always made things very simple. Like Pike just had.
But he saw a flash of uncertainty in Pike’s eyes as he glanced toward Quint, who hovered close. Pike handed the knife to the other sub. “I’m sorry, I know you hate me doing shit like that. I couldn’t help it. That fucker deserved it.”
“Watch your language.” Quint tugged Pike close, pressing his lips to his forehead. “It’s not how I’d prefer you to handle things. But I can’t fault the urge. You let him go. I’ll consider that progress.”
“Yeah?” Pike flashed Quint a huge grin. “I like that. I am trying.”
Leaving the two subs with the very unique dynamics to themselves, Wren moved closer to where Reed faced off against Sin.
Sin put his hand on Reed’s shoulder. “What’s going on with you? I thought we were cool.”
Brow raised, Reed looked down at Sin’s hand. “You really think you should be touching me now? No one is allowed on this side of the bar, sir. Step back and order, or fuck right off.”
“Is this a test?” Sin’s eyes narrowed. “I could demand an apology.”
“Try it.” Reed jerked away, nodding to someone who shouted out for a few beers. “I made you tap out once. I can do it again.”
Looking torn, Sin took a step back. He shook his head. “No, I don’t think I will. I hate seeing you like this. Whatever I did...fucking let me know and we can work it out. Until then? I’ll stay away.”
Letting out a bitter laugh, Reed nodded. “I wish you’d done that with my brother and the only person he’s ever let close. You thought him walking in on you and Garet in a place they were sharing would be cool? What the actual fuck is wrong with you?”
Eyes going wide, Sin shook his head. “Reed, Garet told me they didn’t have anything serious. Ezran was with other people when they roomed together in college.”
“He was honest about it. And he didn’t have Garet walking in on them.” Reed glared at Sin. “This lifestyle is complicated. You know that. How could you…” He groaned, turning away from Sin. “Go away. I can’t deal with this shit right now.”
Hesitating, Sin held up a hand, then let it fall to his side. He inclined his head, then turned, heading out.
Wren joined Reed behind the bar, filling a few orders until the press of the crowd around the bar eased up. When last call went over the speakers he stepped back as Reed passed, going to the dance floor and moving with the music. Every time a Dom came close, Reed glared at them until they backed off.
And if his dismissal wasn’t enough, Noah standing on the edge of the crowd, catching each one's eye made it clear he wasn’t to be pushed.
Well after closing, Shea came for Danny, bringing him upstairs. Hopefully to Noah’s loft, where he’d been invited to stay in the spare room until his own loft was ready for them to move in. It would be safer.
Cleaning the dance club, then the gym, Wren almost forgot his list. He went back for it before heading up, pausing by the room that was once his to hear Shea speaking softly to Danny.
“Yes, I talked to Rhodey. I’m not upset… No, I talked to Jacks too. The call must’ve cut off before you told him everything.” Shea paused. “I wasn’t expecting to see you. He’s fine.”
A low, deeper voice. Rhodey’s. “I know he is. You’re here.”
“So are you.”
“Good. Then we’re understood.”
Continuing to the master bedroom, Wren stripped of his clothes and put them in the hamper. He climbed into the bed, under the cool sheets, wishing he had his phone. What if Jared had called? Or Jamie?
The door opened, Noah moving quietly.
Wren closed his eyes. His Dom wanted him to sleep. He hadn’t finished his list.
In the morning he would. Then he could stay here and...wait. Until everyone came back.
But morning came and nothing changed. Noah had him get dressed. Brought him out to the SUV that had already been cleared by Rhodey for the trip.
“I don’t…” Wren glanced back at the club from the middle seat. “I didn’t pack yet.”
“We’re going to the grocery store.” Reed slumped on his seat beside Wren. “Apparently this needs all our input.”
A...grocery store? Wren shook his head. He hadn’t been to one since he was very small. His aunt always ordered her groceries and he’d done the same once he was on his own. Why would anyone go into a physical store?
In the front seats, Noah and Lawson spoke quietly.
“I have the grill I bought when I was planning on a camping trip.” Noah sounded wistful, like he wasn’t sure that would ever happen now. “We can get some meat and keep it chilled in the cooler.”
Lawson sighed. “Yes, but it won’t keep for long. I showed you the stops on the map. There’s no need to get everything at once.”
The conversation continued as they walked into the store. Noah led them to the meat aisles, pushing a cart. “We can’t make too many stops in insecure areas.”
“They’re grocery stores, Noah. No one knows we’re taking this trip.”
“That you think that is hilarious.”
“That you’re getting ribs is ridiculous. You don’t know how to cook them. Be practical.”
Leaning heavily against a freezer full of pre-made meals, Reed rubbed his hand over his face. “How about we get some liver? Be ironic and all that shit.”
The two Doms glanced over at Reed. Then the argument changed.
“Should he even be doing this?” Noah reached into the cart, taking out the pack of chicken legs Lawson had put in. “He was drinking last night.”
Lawson put the chicken legs back in. “He rarely drinks much and only the doctors will know. Either way, he needs to be on a good diet. I know how to cook these.”
“You didn’t when I met you.”
“I didn’t know how to do a lot of things back then. Including open a car door. Do you want to go back to the SUV and test me on that too?” Lawson audible ground his teeth, tossing a thing of Italian breadcrumbs into the cart. “Admit that you’re scared for him and let me help. He wants to do this. If he changes his mind, I’ll be with you, telling him it’s okay. That she might have other options. But if we’re doing this, I’m not fighting you every step of the fucking way.”
Wren took over with the cart as Noah strode off toward the fruits and vegetables, grabbing things at random. He put his hand over a pack of oranges.
“He...he’ll need his strength.” Noah’s gaze went to Reed, who’d drifted off to the self-serve candies. “It’s not just the procedure, Law. That man abandoned him. And used his daughter’s illness to hurt him again after...so much bullshit. I don’t know how to help him, God fucking help me. She’s a little girl and I understand him wanting to help her. But...I want to keep any of this shit from touching him and I can’t do both.”
Picking up the oranges, Lawson put them in the cart. “No, you can’t. We don’t know if he’ll be approved as a donor. He needs to do the test. And yes, him drinking last night wasn’t the best idea, but he doesn’t do that often. He’s healthy. And he needs to do this.” Lawson grabbed Noah’s shoulder, giving him a hard shake. “They won’t let him if he’s not a good fit. If he is? We take care of him after. If he isn’t...we do the same.”
After all the medical books he’d read, Wren was able to go over Reed’s habit and was able to make a very basic judgment. Many nights at the club, Reed didn’t drink at all. His prefered high was his candy, which was its own issue, but even that wasn’t really excessive.
He was a healthy young man. And saving his sister would...mean a lot to him.
Wren didn’t want to go on this road trip. He couldn’t help think of the risk his presence would add. And how exposed he was. And how far away from the one place he felt safe he would be.
But if him being there would help in any way?
His time with Keiran had given him some knowledge that might be useful. He rarely applied it to himself, though he tried, but he did apply it to Danny. Danny’s issues with food were from the Hollywood lifestyle. He wasn’t odd like Wren. He didn’t care about textures. He didn’t care if food smelled too strong, or was bland and gritty.
He continued down the fruit aisle, picking up some strawberries. “Reed likes fruit. And...it’ll be good for him. We’ll need to stop a lot to get fresh things, but I can make sure no one’s following us...because of me.” His brow creased. “I should have put that on the list.”
“I already thought of it, my little bird.” Noah wrapped his arms around Wren from behind. “You spend a lot of time with Keiran and he knows what everyone likes. You’re right.” He sighed. “You’re both right. We need to make the stops to make sure he’s eating right. And hope he already has been enough to be a good candidate.”
Lawson met Noah’s gaze. “He doesn’t have many issues with food. Yes, he eats a lot of sweets. But he’ll eat a good meal first. And he’s been asking about what he can do to be able to help his sister. So if we can spend the next week getting him on the right track? I think it’ll be good.”
“Okay...so let’s focus on that.” Noah frowned as Lawson grabbed a pack of bacon. “Seriously?”
A wry grin twisted Lawson’s lips. “We’re not putting him on a diet. Just improving his options.”
Leaving the cart, Wren joined Reed at the candy section, watching him fill a bag of yogurt covered nuts. He took Reed’s hand, squeezing lightly. “Are you scared?”
Reed looked up. His throat worked as he put down the scoop. “Fucking terrified. And I don’t know how the two of them are gonna be through all this.” He pressed his eyes shut. “I’m...really glad you’re coming with us. Thank you.”
And just like that, Wren took one last look at his list.
Mentally tore it to shreds.
Then pulled Reed close.
“Now that I know you need me?” He took a deep breath. “There is nowhere else I’d rather be.”
Lifting his head, Reed’s eyes teared. “How did you fucking miss that? You...you are one of the few people I know who will stay. But...I thought that meant only at The Asylum. And...I wouldn’t blame you for that. If I were you? Leaving would freak me the fuck out.”
Well...yes. It did. The Asylum had become so secure, Wren didn’t mind not having to look beyond it. Everything that mattered was right there. He could do what he had to without ever leaving.
Or...he’d believe that, anyway.
Those he cared for weren’t locked in place, though. Things happened and he couldn’t stay in his protective bubble. He trusted Noah to know what would be safe for him. Even if...even if it didn’t feel so safe at the moment.
Even in the grocery store, where everything was too bright and voices echoed around him. Random conversations. People he didn’t know going about their business.
He couldn’t ignore Reed’s words, though. He might not be good at a lot of personal things with people, a lot of it confused him, but he knew this man. What he’d been through. The people who should have been there, who’d abandoned him.
I am here. Now. And...I can keep being here.
Putting his hand over Reed’s, he glanced at the bags of candy he held. “I’m coming. And yes, it freaks me out, as you would say. But what’s worse is knowing how many kids with dirty hands touched that.”
“Hey, I got all my vaccines.” Reed winked at him. “And my last blood tests gave me the all clear, if things get kinky.”
Wren’s brow raised. He looked over to where Lawson and Noah were arguing over paper or plastic plates.
“Paper can be recycled.” Lawson put a pack in the cart. “And it’ll take up less space.”
Noah took the pack out of the cart. “Plastic can be cleaned. And it’s studier. less chance of getting burns.”
“Why not bring regular dishes then?”
“Sure, let’s do that.”
“I agree. We’ll have space without the two generators you’re trying to stuff into the SUV.”
“Those aren’t optional. And one is solar powered.”
“Then bring that one.”
“The weather doesn’t look good.”
“Then bring the other.”
“We’re bringing both. And we don’t need marshmallows if you’re worried about space.”
Lawson practically growled. “Reed loves marshmallows. Did you forget this is about him?”
“Oh shit.” Reed’s eyes went wide as he sprinted into the other isle.
Wren followed, joining the other sub in keeping their Doms apart. He stared up at Noah, who glared at Lawson, his hand gripping the sleeve of Wren’s sweater as though it was the only solid thing he had to hold onto.
In that moment, Wren saw things clearer than he ever had.
He was afraid to go on this road trip. It was something new. With so much uncertainty.
But Noah needed him.
And maybe, finally, he’d be able to repay the debt that was unspoken between them.
Somehow, it came to a debate between paper and plastic.
“If we can bring our own plates, that would be best, sir. Sirs.” Wren looked between the Doms. “Anything sturdy, we can wash. There’s no waste. And...if we’re using an SUV, I can figure out how to pack everything to make enough room.”
Lawson held his gaze for a moment. Then put all the plates back on the shelves where they belonged. “That’s a very good idea, Wren. Thank you.”
“It is.” Noah pulled Wren close, letting Reed take the cart. “When we get home, me and Lawson will let you know what’s needed for the trip. Some diplomatic input would make this whole process easier.”
Was that what they were expecting of him? Because...he’d never been good at that.
He was good at calculating the odds. And these ones? He’d never bet on. Both sides were too uncertain.
Coming up to his other side, Reed tossed a container of lollipops into the cart. “Good luck.”
Thanks. I’m going to need it.
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