A Little Roughed Up at The Asylum Safe House - Part One
For those waiting for the next part in this new journey, I couldn't keep you waiting too long.
So here we go.
Thank you for sticking around. This kind of journey isn't easy. But it's worth it!
This safehouse being used was the worst possible twist of fate. Quint hesitated at the bottom of the wood steps he’d sanded and stained two summers ago when he’d been here last. The place was in good condition. Putting it on the list of potential destinations for the core to hole up had made sense, but ever since he’d gotten here with the first small group, all he could think of was the last team he’d brought. His team. Men he’d worked with for years.
Every single one now dead.
Not his first huge loss, but it had been more gutting because he’d selected all of them. Trained a few. Within these walls he’d put them back together after a brutal mission went sideways. Where he stood now he’d said goodbye to them, one after another as they were all reassigned.
Over a decade as a merc and he should know better than to let anyone too close. Hell, Jared and Seth had tried to nail the point home repeatedly in the military if only to make him a better doctor, stop him from delaying treatment to offer comfort. A personal touch that wouldn’t stop the bleeding.
He’d gotten better at that at least, gained enough of an edge to survive the harsher realities of the life he’d found himself part of. And no one had ever died here.
There’d been a few close calls, though.
Glancing over his shoulder, Quint smiled as Rhodey gently eased Reed’s sleeping form into Curtis’s arms. By Curtis’s side, Lawson held their other boy close, the quad forming into a protective unit in such a natural way there wasn’t much need to worry about them. Both Doms were decently trained and would react quickly to any threat.
Rhodey moving away from them without looking back made it obvious he felt the same.
Next came Noah on a stretcher carried by Jared and Seth, two of the core’s more vulnerable subs keeping pace at either side, shivering a bit as the breeze picked up, washing the chill air from the ocean over them. Quint made a mental note to pull out the collection of jackets, hats and gloves he’d packed away. The climate here was colder than anything they were used to, sometimes even in the summer. Without knowing where they were going, no one beyond the initial group had been able to prepare, and even then he hadn’t been able to give them much time to do so.
Leading the way up the stairs, he tapped in the code to unlock the front door, holding it open so his own Doms could pass. “There’s two bedrooms on this floor. Bring Noah to the bigger one, second door to your left at the end of the hall.” Any medical equipment that might be needed to monitor him would fit in there easily, while still giving plenty of space for his men to bed down. He turned his focus to the next group. “The second bedroom is just over here, off the great room. There’s three separate beds, but you can move them together however’s most comfortable for you.”
“Thank you, Quint.” Lawson slowed, looking around the hall which still gleamed and held the scent of the lemon cleaner Quint had used to freshen up the place when he’d arrived, getting rid of the worst of the dust and doing his best to make it as welcoming as possible. The Dom gave him a thoughtful look. “Noah mentioned you had an apartment in the Ukraine somewhere and you hadn’t been stateside in over a decade. From the sounds of it, that was never much of a home. Why didn’t you stay here?”
Lips curving, Quint met the Dom’s eyes. He couldn’t blame Lawson for wanting to get a read on their approximate location to regain some sense of control, but this wouldn’t be much of a safehouse if he let too many people know where to find it. He hadn’t been lying to Noah. This wasn’t stateside.
No need to narrow down where it was though. He trusted the man, but like most of the mercs he knew, Quint had a strict policy of making sure his secrets couldn’t be exposed with the right amount of torture.
With this Dom, though, he had to choose his words carefully. The man was very good at reading people, hearing the things that remained unsaid. Quint kept his tone casual as the group moved through the great room, boots and sneakers sounding softly on the thick carpet. “The cell signal in this area is patchy, staying here for any length of time if I wanted assignments wouldn’t have been practical, sir.”
From the look in Lawson’s eyes, that little tidbit already had his mind working, but he simply nodded, placing his hand on the small of Matt’s back to guide him into the room after Curtis.
Sneakers on bare wood squeaking to a stop brought Quint’s attention around to where Danny stood, his expectant gaze fixed on the door. He tugged his bottom lip between his teeth as Rhodey came in with Dallas and Avery, closing the door behind them.
“Sir, I need my phone.” Danny swallowed audibly as he approached Rhodey, as though well aware whatever connection he now had with the Dom wouldn’t get him any special treatment, but he still had to ask. “I need to find out where Jacks is. And Shea. They should be with us.”
Rhodey shook his head as he slowed, brushing his hand over Danny’s hair. “They’re safe, my boy. We couldn’t get a hold of them in time to bring them here, but I’ve made sure they’re protected.” He brought his hands to Danny’s shoulders when the sub glanced toward the door as though tempted to bolt. “Look at me, smalls. We’re too far from anywhere you could get to on foot, so get that out of your head right now. Next time I make a supply run, I’ll try again.”
The expression on Danny’s face had guilt and regret twisting in Quint’s guts. He appreciated Rhodey not laying the blame on him, or pointing out that it had been Quint’s idea to bring as much of the core here as possible. That he was the one who’d failed to make contact with either of the sub’s Doms when he’d been arranging transportation for the others he’d gotten from The Asylum. His priority had been extracting Curtis from his assignment and picking up Matt in Seattle. With Jacks still in L.A and Shea trailing his client’s team bus across the East Coast, there’d been no feasible way to even get them alone to relay a pick up point.
In a week or two, once the buzz had died down about Noah having been successfully taken out of commission, another attempt could be made. Rhodey keeping things vague was for the best. The sub wouldn’t find the details reassuring.
“You should have left me behind.” Danny drew away from Rhodey, glancing over at Quint. “Why didn’t you leave me there? I could have waited for them. I could have—”
Inhaling slowly, Quint held up a hand as he cut the other sub off. “You’ve already been connected with Matt and you’ve been seen around the club with Rhodey. I’m sorry, Danny, but you’re an easy target. I didn’t want to risk it and we both know Jacks and Shea would rather you be here and safe, than alone at The Asylum.”
Danny’s lips parted. “But you said...” Tears glistened in eyes that had gone a bit distant, as though the other sub thought back and realized he’d assumed they’d be here. And Quint had let him. “I’m not that important. I don’t want to be. Please just let me go home, I won’t say anything—I don’t know anything.”
The muscle in Rhodey’s jaw hardened as he put his arm around Danny, bringing him firmly against his chest. It didn’t take a genius to figure out he disagreed with Quint’s call to convince the sub to come.
It had seemed so fucking simple at the time. He thought he knew who the team was.
Maybe he’d been wrong.
But Rhodey’s next words surprised him. “You’re allowed to miss them, smalls. What you’re not going to do is ignore reality.” He ran his hand down Danny’s back, catching his wrist when he tried to slip away again and turning his arm to expose the scar where the tracker had been sliced out from under his skin months ago. “Sure, this was being in the wrong place at the wrong time. It could have been for other reasons. You being Jamie’s friend. You being so fucking high profile you’d have a nice big funeral, news coverage, your sweet face on the covers of magazines reminding us that we failed to protect you. Is that what you want for your Doms?”
Danny paled, staring up at the Dom. “No, sir.”
“Rhodey.” Speaking quietly, Jared approached from the end of the long hall, brow raising slightly at Rhodey’s hard look. “He’s an intelligent young man, we both know he won’t do anything rash. Danny, go see if Keiran needs any help in the kitchen.”
“Yes, sir.” Danny hesitated, wetting his bottom lip with his tongue as he backed up a pace and lowered his gaze. “I don’t want that for my Doms, sir. But they don’t know where I am. They don’t know if I’m okay and that’s not fair to them. I can’t just accept that.”
Tipping Danny’s chin up with two fingers, Rhodey held his gaze. “But you will. I never promised anything would be fair, Fievel. I promised I’d keep you in one piece.”
A mixture of hurt and confusion ghosted through Danny’s heterochromia eyes, but to his credit, he didn’t move until Rhodey jutted his chin to dismiss him. The sub padded quietly down the hall, into the kitchen, where Quint could hear Keiran’s warm greeting. Rhodey’s other sub would find a way to distract Danny.
Leaving Quint in the very uncomfortable position of deciding whether he should get between Rhodey and Jared. Hopefully before the underlying tension between them snapped and left one hell of a mess to clean up in a house that was supposed to be... Well, safe.
“What the hell was that?” Jared made a disgusted sound, stepping closer to Rhodey. “That boy isn’t like your other subs. He and Jamie lived sheltered lives—without any sense of normalcy or security they could count on. Without people who genuinely cared for them. It’s already a struggle for them to trust they have that now and you’re taking it away from him.”
Rhodey folded his arms over his chest, bracing his shoulder against the wall. “I don’t want him to be like my other subs, but he is mine. Let me worry about how to manage him. If he needs to be cuddled, feel fucking free.” He gave Jared a level look. “How’s my nephew?”
“Sleeping.” Jared’s eyes narrowed as Rhodey nodded sharply, then pushed away from the wall and headed toward the front door. “This discussion isn’t over, Rhodey.”
“Then have it with someone else. I have work to do.”
The door opened and closed quietly, leaving Quint standing alone in the hall with Jared, whose icy blue gaze had turned sharp enough to draw blood.
He brought his focus to Quint. “You lied to that boy to get him here, didn’t you. You of all people should damn well know better.”
Quint winced, but didn’t shift his gaze. His Dom was right, their own history gave him a unique perspective on Danny’s situation. The thing was, he wasn’t that young man anymore. He’d lived a whole life around decisions that had been made for him. He loved Seth, so he understood his choices.
It had never been more obvious that Jared didn’t. Not fully.
“Was it a lie of omission? Yes. I couldn’t guarantee I’d be able to have them meet up with him here. I’d hoped to. I still do.” Quint fought not to let the disapproval in Jared’s eyes hit too hard, but he could only bury his submission so deep with a man he’d always wanted to give it to. “Sir...would you have left him there?”
Rubbing his hand over his eyes, Jared sighed. “No. I would have dragged him out of there kicking and screaming if necessary. And Jacks and Shea wouldn’t expect any different. That doesn’t make this situation any easier to swallow.”
That was true. Quint smiled at his Dom, doing his best to lighten the mood. “I can see Rhodey’s methods not pleasing you, sir. Especially with a sub you’d practically claimed yourself.”
Jared’s brow shot up as he lowered his hand to his side. “You can do your job perfectly well after I beat your ass. Don’t tempt me.” His gaze snapped toward the kitchen at the harsh clang of what sounded like a dozen pots and pans hitting the floor. “Jesus, what now?”
They didn’t have to wait very long as they cut across the hall to get the answer.
“Pike, don’t eat the flour raw, that’s disgusting. Joder, who the hell stuffed all the pots under here like this?” Keiran’s tone was rough with agitation. “Danny, please help Pike check the supplies for more sugar. I put it on the list, there’s no way we can get a whole month with this many people with just one bag.”
As Quint and Jared reached the kitchen, Danny made a strangled sound from under the table. “A month? But—”
“It won’t be a month, that’s what we planned around for the worst case scenario.” Quint shot Danny a bracing smile, bending down to help Keiran pick up the scattered cookware. “We’ll need fresh fruits and vegetables long before then. And I don’t want to see what Keiran will throw at me if I make him ration more than he’ll already have to.”
Pike looked up from where he was transfering a bag of flour to a large, clear plastic container, the white powder dusting his cheeks. “Wait…ration? I don’t like the sound of that. There’s already nothing to eat and I’m fucking starving.”
Without a breath of warning, Jared crossed the kitchen, looping his arm around Pike’s waist and bringing him over to the sink. He pinned Pike against the counter, taking advantage of Pike’s shout of surprise to pour a thick gob of dish soap over his tongue.
Hand firm under Pike’s jaw, Jared held his mouth shut, easily restraining him despite his struggles. “Two minutes. Count yourself lucky I didn’t decide to add up all the times you’ve disrespected myself and every single one of the Doms who watch over you with that mouth of yours.”
Not that Quint could fault his Dom for drawing some hard lines with Pike—the sub could test the patience of a saint—but...that was part of his charm. Standing back while Pike was disciplined, his eyes tearing, pleading with Quint to help him, was worse than any torture Quint had ever endured.
What if Jared was being harsh because he subconsciously blamed Pike for what had happened to Noah? Holding his breath, Quint watched the clock on the wall, even tick of the long, thin hand like a needle piercing deeper into his skin.
He managed to stay where he was. Reminded himself Jared was a good Dom. A tough one, but not unreasonable. He looked back at Pike, giving him an encouraging smile when the other sub finally stopped fighting and accepted the punishment for what it was. Something he could learn from. A reminder that he could do better.
“There we go. You may spit.” Jared turned Pike over the sink, waving Quint to him. “Help him rinse out his mouth, but don’t coddle him. He knows better.”
Nodding, Quint went to Pike’s side, turning on the water and patting Pike’s back as he gagged, filling his mouth with water and spitting repeatedly. As Jared took a seat at the table, Wren slipped into the kitchen, looking around and seeming to quickly assess the situation. He went to the counter, picking up the kettle, waiting until Pike was finished before approaching the sink to fill it.
“Would you like some tea, sir?” Wren glanced over at Keiran, who was sitting on the floor in front of the cupboard, re-organizing everything.
Jared’s sub would’ve done a much better job at putting everything in order, but Quint had been in a hurry to make things here as comfortable as possible when their injured parties arrived. He’d let Keiran pack anything from The Asylum kitchen he thought they’d need, since there had only been the barest necessities here before. While Keiran had been sent out to secure the area with Dallas, Quint had Pike do the unpacking.
Another mistake to add to the list. Not that Pike hadn’t done his best, but expecting him to meet Keiran’s standards was no different than what Jared had pointed out about Danny and Jamie. The core came from so many different backgrounds, any attempt to treat them the same as he would a group of mercs under his command would fail.
Clearly having already gotten his answer from Jared, Wren began to take a few mugs out of the cupboard. “Would you like one as well, Quint? Everything seems to be going all right. It would be good for you to relax for a bit. We need our doctors well rested.”
“Yes, thank you, Wren. That would be very nice.” Quint brushed his fingertips over Pike’s cheeks, drying his tears and speaking for his ears alone. “Are you okay?”
Sniffing, Pike gave a quick nod. “Yeah, I’ll live. But don’t tell Seth, he’ll be so fu—friggin’ pissed. And I don’t wanna stress him out.”
Right now, Quint was less worried about Seth’s reaction to Pike’s fairly predictable behavior than he was about how he’d react to Jared being the one who’d punished him. He could never tell what would set his Doms off, but he did know their truce was...precarious.
If Jared and Rhodey were already butting heads, Jared and Seth wouldn’t take long to get under each other’s skin.
“He won’t be angry as long as he sees you making an effort.” Quint smiled a little as he watched Wren crouched down by the table, unwrapping a piece of string from Danny’s wrist and putting it around his neck. “Why don’t you go get your sketchbook and come sit at the table while I see if I can get you a few snacks so you won’t be scared that you’re going to go hungry here.”
Pike rubbed his wrist under his nose. “Okay, but...you don’t gotta worry about me. I was just being a punk. I’m sure I’ll survive, it just...kinda sucks. All of this. I ain’t gonna make things harder on you, I swear.”
Even though it didn’t make any sense, the last thing Quint wanted was for Pike to shift into self-sufficient mode. Taking care of the other sub was one of the few pleasures he allowed himself, but it was hard to express that without encouraging Pike to be a complete brat. It might be a bit twisted, but he loved catching Pike before he mouthed off, or got himself in trouble. Loved being trusted by both Seth and Pike to watch over him on that level. It was almost like Wren’s need to make sure everything was clean and polished and he tended to every one of his Dom’s needs.
But this wasn’t things or tasks. This was a young man who was precious to Quint. And maybe he was disobeying Jared now, but he couldn’t resist picking Pike up and carrying him over to the table, sitting and holding the other sub in his lap. He cupped Pike’s cheek. “Listen to me. You’re allowed to be a mess over this entire situation. You’re allowed to fixate on small details, because you can’t even begin to absorb the bigger ones. I was trained to deal with having my entire life upended in a moment. You weren’t.”
“I have you.” Pike rested his head on Quint’s shoulder, his gaze following Wren across the kitchen as he prepared the tea, then served it along with a plate full of cookies and crackers and cheese Keiran had arranged on a small tray. He seemed to relax a bit when Wren took a seat beside Jared, idly petting Danny’s hair and feeding him a cookie. “This will never end, will it? I started something and...it doesn’t matter if I didn’t really understand what I was doing. I should have. And so many people are paying for it. Saying I’m sorry isn’t enough.”
Quint wrapped his arms around Pike, brushing a kiss over his rumpled blue hair. “Maybe not, but you’ve done a lot to prove you want to fix it. You risked your life for Curtis. You chose a side. That means something, my sweet little brat.”
The edge of Pike’s lip quirked. “How do you make being a brat sound like a good thing? We both know I drive everyone else nuts.”
“You keep things interesting. I think, if we’d never come here, they would’ve gotten bored all wrapped up in silly drama.” Quint kissed the sensitive skin just behind Pike’s ear. “Sometimes, I think people don’t see how good they’ve got it until they face the kinds of challenges that are our whole reality. They assume what they have will always be there and we know it might not be. That the people we love could be taken from us in the blink of an eye. Finding love and really trusting it? It’s not easy. But we see how lucky we are and we’re willing to fight for it, rather than against it, every step of the way.”
“I love you, so damn much.” Pike curved his fingers around the collar of Quint’s shirt, looking into his eyes. “Thank you for loving me. All of me, even when I’m impossible.”
“You’re never impossible.” Quint let out a soft laugh, brushing his fingers through Pike’s hair and giving it a little tug. “The last time I was here, it was with a dozen mercs. I was in charge of all of them. The youngest one, Malcolm, was just a bit older than you, but he’d been training since he was very young. A child soldier who was pulled out of a warzone. He was always trying to prove himself. When I first started working with him I woke up a few times to him standing at the end of my bed with a knife in his hand. I’d pretend to sleep, giving him a chance to decide what he’d do next.”
Pike’s eyes widened. “What did he do?”
Picturing the young man, hair shaved down to nothing, light brown skin marred with scars, his smile almost a shock whenever he felt safe enough to share it, Quint felt the pang of his loss. “He put the knife away and went back to bed. And he told me about it every morning over breakfast. One of my guys, Zack, asked me a few times why I didn’t just take him out. He offered to do it until we finished a mission and Malcolm took a bullet for him. After that, I think he’d have slit my throat himself if I’d ever suggested it.”
Fingertips brushing Quint’s throat, Pike studied his face for a moment. “They’re...all gone, aren’t they? You cared about them, and you lost them all.”
Quint exhaled roughly. “I cared about them as part of my team, but I knew it was inevitable. I’m not there anymore. I’m...not as good at letting go.” He put his hand over Pike’s. “I couldn’t with you.”
“I promise, you’ll never have to. I’m in this for good, Quint. I love you. And I know when people say that, sometimes it doesn’t mean anything. But I haven’t said it a lot and I never say it for nothing.” Pike gave Quint’s collar a little tug. “Because of you I’m a better person and I want to keep being that. You believing in me means everything.”
There was nothing Quint could say that could express how much it meant to hear that. He hugged Pike tight, swearing to himself he’d protect Pike as he became the man he was meant to be, despite all odds. The world could be so cruel, people so selfish, and not everyone came into it on a level playing field. Pike had grown up needing to survive among the worst kinds of people and still somehow believed in something good.
Whatever Quint had to do, he’d make sure this young man, one who’d been put in his path for all the wrong reasons, would thrive with him and their Dom at his side.
Steady footsteps approached and Quint looked up as Seth came into the room. Without pause, Seth came to them, laying his hand on the small of Pike’s back. He frowned as he brushed his thumb over Pike’s bottom lip. “What happened?”
Holding his breath, Quint did his best not to look over at Jared, who he could feel watching them. He didn’t expect Pike to lie to their Dom, but if he said the wrong thing, the uncertain peace could be torn apart.
Pike gave Seth a shaky smile. “I was bad. You taught me better and…” He shifted his gaze to Jared before lowering it. “Thank you for reminding me of that, sir. I know you have a lot to deal with and you shouldn’t have to put up with me too. But you took the time to correct me and…” Tone uncertain, like he just realized he might’ve revealed too much, Pike met Quint’s eyes. “That was good. I...needed that.”
Tightening his hold on Pike, Quint nodded, glancing up at Seth. “You’d be proud of him, sir. He took his punishment well.”
All right, so that was up for interpretation, but this was Pike they were talking about and he really hadn't done that bad, considering.
Seth’s lips thinned, but he nodded as he stroked Pike’s hair. “Good boy. Next time I hope someone will let me know. You’re still learning and I want you rewarded for your accomplishments, rather than just torn down for not being who others expect you to be.”
The last made it very clear Seth wasn’t talking about Pike at all. He watched Jared with Wren as though searching for...something. But Quint wasn’t sure what.
“Seth.” Jared’s tone was level. Calm. “I hope you know me better than that. However I feel about you, I’d never take it out on your sub. Pike is part of the core. I am showing him what that means. All the Doms here will if you let them and he’ll be better for it.”
At first, Seth’s whole bearing tensed, as though he was braced for a fight. But then he closed his eyes and nodded slowly. “I do. But he’s not like your boys, my man. And he...I need him to know he’s not paying for things he had no part in.” He gave Quint a sideways look. “Don’t tell me you haven’t considered the same. We all know why we’re here. I won’t have Pike feeling like he has to apologize every damn minute for choices we all made. His signature was put on something controlled by people with much more power than him. How long will he have to pay for that?”
“He doesn’t. Not with me.” Jared patted Wren’s shoulder as he finished off his tea and rose to his feet. “If he still feels like he does, that’s something you’ll have to deal with, with him.” Tone distant, Jared headed toward the large, ground floor bedroom. “Noah’s coming to. I want things calm for him. Whatever issues you have? Keep them out here. He needs time to feel like he doesn’t need to keep fighting and I won’t let anyone close who makes him unsure about that.”
Seth let out a cold laugh. “I’m not the one you need to keep away from him, in that case.” He pulled over the chair Jared had vacated, tugging Pike into his lap. “What is it you always say to me? That he does? Focus on your own household and I’ll focus on mine. I’ll let this slide, but I’d consider very carefully how well your boy would do if I decided to step in with his discipline.”
Standing by his Dom’s side, Wren blinked, looking stunned and probably wondering what he’d done to make Seth want to ever punish him.
But Quint was well aware that the Doms weren’t discussing Wren.
“Tread carefully, my man.” Jared nudged Wren toward the bedroom. “I was trying to help your sub. If you’d rather I not, I won’t. You’re right. That kind of guidance can’t be reciprocated at the moment. But Jamie’s been in this lifestyle for years.”
“Has he?” Seth’s tone took on a chill it hadn’t had until Jared began training him as a Dom. “My apologies. I couldn’t tell.”
Jared held Seth’s gaze for a moment before disappearing into the room with Wren. Standing, Quint went over to the counter to take over peeling potatoes for Keiran. Nothing he could say would make this situation any better and he wouldn’t waste his time trying.
But his Dom knew him too well. He felt Seth’s eyes on him as his Dom spoke. “Say what’s on your mind, my boy. I know Pike deserved to be punished. He knows it. But I was here and there’s not a fucking reason anyone could give why I wasn’t told about it. Tell me he’d accept me punishing Jamie or Wren that way. That Noah would.”
Hands braced on the edge of the counter, Quint sighed. “No, sir. They wouldn’t be okay with it.”
“Next time, you come find me.” Seth hushed Pike when he started to protest. “Jared may be your Dom as well, but he’s not Pike’s. And there’s too many complications. Pike isn’t paying for what people blame him for again and again. Don’t tell me that’s not what this is. I see where I stand and I can take it. I will have better for you. And for him.”
Before Quint could answer, Rhodey strode into the kitchen, drawing his attention. “Reed’s in a lot of pain. I know you said his procedure doesn’t come with many risks, but I won’t have him fucking suffering for helping someone.”
“He won’t, sir.” Quint waited for Seth’s nod, simply because he needed to know his Dom understood his place in everything. Either way, he didn’t pause for more than a few seconds before he joined Rhodey in the hall. “We had to move him sooner than is advisable. I know his medical history, he doesn’t like taking a lot of medications, but I don’t care how tough he is. He needs them.”
“Curtis is here, so he’ll have a harder time talking his way around them.” Rhodey lowered his voice as they approached the room. “But if he does manage it, do what you’ve got to do. Call me in if you need reinforcement.”
Going in ahead of Rhodey, understanding that the Dom didn’t plan to press the matter yet, Quint moved around Reed’s bed with his most pleasant smile on his lips. “How are we feeling? I hope you like the room?”
“It’s fine.” Reed pressed his hand to his side, dampness glistening around his eyes as he visibly struggled to hide his pain. “No one needs to make a big deal about this. I’m okay. Tell Curtis he has a job to do and he should go.”
Quint picked up Reed’s chart, reading over all the details he’d memorized, doing his best not to react to Curtis’s head snapping up or the way Lawson put a soothing hand on his shoulder. Switches were something new to Quint, and he was still learning how to understand how they fit in the lifestyle. He didn’t question their place, but he had a hard time seeing how a sub could give in fully without wondering if their Dom could take what they needed to surrender. With Rhodey, it was simpler. The way the Dom took charge, Dallas being more submissive made sense.
With Lawson, Quint expected him to stand with an equal, but as time passed, he saw how the man had to take the weight of the relationships he was in. How he sometimes struggled with Noah to be the one who took control over Curtis.
To Quint, he could wait and see from day to day where Curtis stood and respond appropriately.
His sub was clearly still struggling with that. Taking control where he shouldn’t have to.
“Curtis’s job is here.” Lawson spoke up when Curtis jerked away, pacing to the window. “Reed, you know he would’ve stayed if he could.”
Dropping his head back on the pillow, Reed let out a rough sound. “Sure. But he couldn’t and I don’t want him forced to because I’m fucked up. I did this. I knew it would mess me up. Like I said, I’m good.”
Hesitating by the edge of the bed, Curtis looked to Lawson, as though needing his support to approach their sub and tell him what he needed to hear. “Reed, I love you. I’m here now. There’s nowhere else I’d rather be.”
Reed let out a bitter laugh. “Yeah? Nowhere else like going ‘undercover’ with your family? Trying to ‘fix’ everything? Rhodey told you that wouldn’t work and you kept trying. I love you too, but don’t fucking lie to me. You were willing to die for this more than you were willing to live with me. And I’m not okay with that. Not yet. I might be one day, but I need you to stick around before I even go there. Because you don’t. It’s not just me and I’m tired of fucking with my own head and pretending I’m seeing shit all wrong. Your first instinct is to take off and...it hurts, Curtis. I forgave you because bad stuff happened, but that didn’t fix anything.”
“No, it didn’t.” Curtis laid his hand on the edge of the mattress, his gaze fixed on Reed. “But I meant every word I said to you. I want you in my life. I want forever with you. And I’ll do whatever I have to so I can prove it.”
Reed slammed his fist into the mattress, his whole body jerking with pain. “I heard you! You back from this mission and you told Lawson you wanna talk to Vani and convince her you can get in touch with your people. Then you ask me why I didn’t say anything like I don’t fucking know you. You’d have come back. You would’ve stayed just long enough to make you leaving hurt even more.”
One look at Curtis made it obvious nothing he could say would resolve things, and Reed was at risk of doing himself serious damage. Quint filled a needle with a painkiller that would help Reed sleep, waving Curtis back from the bed. “No one is going anywhere for the next few weeks, let’s leave it at that. My patient needs to rest. This discussion can wait.”
“That sounds good.” Matt slid up on the bed next to Reed, wrapping an arm around him. “Don’t puke on me. You’ve gotta chill, man. Everything’s gonna be okay.”
Frowning, Quint looked at Reed’s chart again. It had been over an hour since either Seth or Jared had checked on him, but Seth had made a note of him being sick since they’d gotten here. Which could be stress, but moving Reed so soon after surgery also put him at risk for infection.
He glanced over at Lawson. “If he’s sick again, come get me. If you’re all too tired to stay up with him, let me, Jared, or Seth know.”
“We will, thank you.” Lawson moved up behind Curtis, rubbing his shoulders. “I don’t think any of us will get much sleep tonight.”
What was meant to be some kind of reassurance really wasn’t, but Quint simply nodded, stepping out of the room and closing the door. He massaged the back of his neck, doing his own mental check-in. Since he’d been informed of the situation and taken action, it had been over forty-eight hours. He was running low on sleep, but not more than he could manage. During his residency, he’d managed almost twice as much.
In warzones? He’d often lost count.
One look at him and Seth directed him up to the bedroom they would share with Pike to get some sleep. With Pike cuddled up in his arms, it was easy to sink into that sweet zone of nothingness.
Hours later, he woke to low voices. Felt around the empty side of the bed where the sheets had gone cold.
Still half asleep, he stumbled down the steps. It had been a long time since he’d been the lead on a mission with this much uncertainty. He still wasn’t, but his mind went over every misstep as he took in the argument between the Doms.
Pike was gone. With Danny.
The phones had been locked away in a safe.
That didn’t matter.
Quint walked out the front door of the house, searching the darkness.
Two of the men in his care were out of reach. One of whom he’d tried to convince not to do something like this. But he thought back on what Pike had said to him. He wanted to be a better man. And helping Danny would make him feel like he was.
He went to the safe still open on the kitchen table. Leaned down and inspected the small scratches around the keyhole. Neither Pike or Danny could pick locks.
Reed wouldn’t have had the strength to get out of bed to help them.
There was only one person who he hadn’t considered since he’d gotten here. One who hadn’t spoken a word. Who he knew was dealing with something he wasn’t prepared to share yet. Lifting his gaze, Quint met Ezran’s eyes.
“I told you to leave me behind.” Ezran lifted his chin, the bruises on his throat reminding Quint why he hadn’t hesitated to force the young man to join them. “I’m not gonna help you force anyone else to be where they don’t want to.”
Quint stepped up to Ezran, putting a hand on his shoulder. “I don’t know what happened to you. I will find out. But, if it means anything, I won’t blame you if they die out there in the fucking cold. You’re a child. You don’t know better.” He tried to use his words to convince himself and failed. Pike was out there. And he wouldn’t find any forgiveness if he didn’t find him alive and well. “Go to your room. And stay out of my fucking way.”
There had been a list of people Quint knew he couldn’t abandon at The Asylum. Danny had been one of them. Ezran another when he’d returned with injuries he refused to let Quint look at, claiming he’d lost a fight in one of the underground clubs he frequented. Quint didn’t have the chance to look too deep into his claims, but he didn’t need to. The wounds didn’t fit. Neither did the reaction to him wanting to look at them.
But as he stepped onto the porch and the cold hit him, he couldn't focus on that.
Pike was out there, wanting to fix something that had always been out of his hands.
With Danny, who was desperate to get a hold of his Doms.
Either they’d both end up lost in the cold, hopefully not too far to be found before it did some real damage…
Or they’d find a cell signal. Manage to tell Jacks and Shea exactly where they were.
Along with anyone else who was looking.
And Quint wasn’t sure which would be worse.
As always, comments welcome! At the end of each month when a serial like this is running, I'll choose one commenter to send merch from The Asylum to win a special prize pack including an Asylum Blanket!
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