A Little Roughed Up at The Asylum Safe House - Part Four
Planned to release this in the morning, but it's 2020 so...
Biting cold, then...nothing but a strange numbness. Pike inhaled roughly as he turned his face away from the slapping waves, giving Avery a shaky smile. The other sub was tough, but with how pale his lips were as he struggled to help Pike keep his head above water, he couldn’t keep this going for much longer.
“Go, Avery. Just a few steps and you can dry off a bit. Get warm.” Pike spat and coughed as his mouth filled with salty water. “Anything happens to you and I won’t have to worry about drowning, Rhodey will fucking gut me.”
Shaking his black strands away from his brow, Avery frowned at him, adjusting them both to give Pike a few more inches above the still rising tide. “Shut up.” He looked toward the rise of the embankment, hard to make out as thick clouds drifted over the full moon. “They’re going to find us any minute. Just stay awake. Think about all the baking Keiran’s going to do for you because he’ll be so relieved you’re okay. Fuck, I’d literally kill for some of his stew right now.”
Pike closed his eyes, letting out a soft moan. “That would be awesome. I’d even share, but only with you. Because you’re the best.” He snapped his eyes open as Avery gave him a hard shake. “I thought I’d hate you after everything that went down, but you’re...one of the coolest people I’ve ever met. Not just because you’re trying to save my life—”
“Not ‘trying’. I am going to get you out of this.” Avery shifted his grip under Pike’s arms. “Tell me something about you. Something...that no one else knows. If you’re talking, it’ll be easier not to give into the temptation to just...rest.”
Turning his head a bit, Pike held Avery’s gaze. The sub was tough, but he was still human and shit was...bad. Really bad. If he didn’t get out of the water soon, neither of them would make it. But one thing he did know about the other man was he wouldn’t give up until he was forced to.
And the person who could force him wasn’t here.
Nodding, Pike secured his free foot as solidly as he could so Avery didn’t have to fight against the tide so hard alone. He tilted his chin, avoiding the next wave. “Fine, but only if you do too.”
“Deal.” Avery lifted one hand, smoothing Pike’s hair back from where it had covered his eyes. “But you’d better make it good.”
Another nod, then Pike lifted his gaze to the slivers of the moon that shone through the gray clouds. “The longer I’m around the core, the more often I see Tracey and how she treats every single one of you like you’re special… I know my mother wasn’t like that. I don’t know if she really loved me, or if I was just...hers and not my father’s. Maybe that sounds stupid, but it helps a bit when I let myself think about it. She was…”
Even without closing his eyes, Pike could see her. Never a hair out of place, teeth gleaming white between lips that weren’t a harsh shade of red, but a shade that suited her...perfectly.
That was always the word he came back to when he thought of his mother.
A therapist would have a fucking field day with that.
“When I was little, all I could see was how perfect she was. Beautiful, always dressed in nice clothes that felt soft when she was close enough to touch. Compared to everyone else in my life then, she was the one person who cared about me, even if it was in the only way she knew how.” He let out a soft laugh. “When everyone else died and I was alone, I told myself she and my father suspected I was gay. And she accepted it. Even kinda liked it, because it meant she could share what she did love with someone.”
Avery grinned, his muscles tensing against Pike’s back. “I can see that. Having such a toxic asshole for a husband, she probably believed having a gay son meant you wouldn’t ever be like that.” His tone sobered. “And you’re not, but that was a choice you made. You could’ve gone the other way, it probably would’ve been easier.”
“It really would’ve been. But, like, I don’t think I’m a real good person or anything. I’m not the worst either. I got to meet my cousin and...he’s a good man.” Pike jerked as a wave hit him hard, turning his head as he fought to cough up the water and catch his breath. “A really good man. He deserves the amazing family he has now. That he shared y’all with me, even for a little bit? I’m real fucking grateful.”
“Don’t talk like that. We’re yours too and we’ll keep being yours after we get out of this.” Avery gave him a hard look. “Now it’s my turn. And I’m probably going to make you feel like shit, because my parents were awesome, even though they were mercs. If they hadn’t wanted out…” Pain filled his deep blue eyes. “I loved them so much. They made me believe I could do anything. The first time I worked with the silks, I was so scared to go too high. My dad tried to keep things light. He teased me about how much I liked climbing on everything, but I was scared of a bit of silk. My mom didn’t yell often, but she let him have it that day.”
A gust of wind, the clouds drifting away from the moon, and Avery’s damp, pale face practically glowed under the light. His eyes were a bit distant, his lips curving as though he’d gone back to relive the memory.
“My dad took my sisters to a big dinner the troupe was having to celebrate one show ending before we went back on the road. And my mom set up the silks and put on some music. She didn’t tell me to try again, she just started dancing and wrapping herself in them. Rising up, swinging and swaying, it was like watching magic unfold.” Avery met Pike’s eyes. “And I wanted to be a part of it. Once I got past my fear, it was...freeing. Even when I slipped, I’d catch myself because I’d see her, right there, ready to catch me if I fell, but believing I wouldn’t. And I still don’t. I screw up sometimes, but I don’t fall.”
Pike smiled, latching on to the last time he’d seen Avery on the silk back at The Asylum. It was always beautiful to watch, but after what Avery had told him, there was a whole nother level. Vision cloudy, he curved his fingers over Avery’s shoulder. “Don’t ever fall. She...she’d be so proud of you if she saw you now. I’m sorry you lost her. She sounds...like she was an amazing woman.”
“Pike, don’t. You have to keep fighting.” There was an edge of desperation to Avery’s voice, even as everything went dark. A brokenness Pike wished he’d never had to hear, but at least the other sub still had the strength to shake him. He’d be able to make it to the shore.
And knowing that...felt good.
This man, someone who’d stood by him in a way he’d never believed anyone would?
He deserved to get past this. Continue living and flying high in the silks.
Knowing he’d done everything he could for someone he hardly knew. Survive this with no regrets.
So long as he survived...Pike could deal with that.
“Tell Seth...he should let himself have the kind of life he wants for everyone else. For Jared and Quint and...me. I know he’ll always be a fighter, but...he can rest, too. Tell him he should let himself rest and be loved.” It was getting harder to talk, his words were slurred, but Pike needed the men he loved to have something in return for all they’d given. “Tell Quint he doesn’t get to take credit for me going with Danny, even if it didn’t end so great. He taught me to care about other people in a way I didn’t think I’d ever really understand. But this is me now. I cared. I want...I want him to be proud of me for getting here. For making the choice on my own.”
Arms wrapped around Pike, Avery shook his head. “I won’t tell them a fucking thing. That’s your job. You’re gonna hang on and you’re going to say all these things yourself. Pike...Pike!” He let out a broken sob. “Don’t you dare fucking die on me. I swear I’ll never forgive you. You weren’t supposed to fail. I won’t let you.”
There were voices in the distance. Someone was coming and it made it a bit easier for Pike to be okay with what Avery was saying.
He’d have to live to hold a grudge.
And so long as he did?
Maybe...it was okay to let go. Maybe it would be the very thing that made sure at least one of them got through this. Because of all the choices Pike had made, the wrong ones had gotten them all here.
This could be the right one that would get them home.
“I’ve got them!” Rhodey spotted Curtis in the distance, still too fucking far as the tide began to cover both Pike and Avery’s heads. Dropping his supplies on the edge of the embankment, he rushed into the water. Latched onto Avery and forced his boy’s fingers away from where they clung to the other sub. He carried him to dry ground, stripping off his clothes even as he tugged a blanket out of his pack. The coughing, the shivering, made air come a little easier. “There we go. That’s my good boy.”
Avery’s eyes were wild as he pressed his hand against Rhodey’s shoulder. “Sir, you have to go back for him. Don’t leave him there. I stayed with him, just like you asked, but you told me not to let him get hurt. I didn’t know what to do with this. No one told me what to do.”
Inhaling roughly, Rhodey nodded. “I’ve got him, my brave little viper. Hold the blankets close and don’t fall asleep.” Trusting his boy to follow his orders, Rhodey rose up, grabbed the tire iron he’d packed with his things, and plunged back into the water. Using his shoulder to brace Pike above the water as much as he could, he worked the metal under the rock, then jerked at it hard.
The damn thing didn’t budge. Probably a massive boulder, buried under all that sand. He pushed up to take a deep breath, shaking his head as Curtis started toward him, splashing into the water.
“Get Seth or Quint, we’re going to need them when I get him out.”
Curtis grabbed an axe from his own supplies. “Seth told me what to do if he was still trapped. I’ll do it, Rhodey. I’m not fucking losing him.”
Jaw clenched, Rhodey held Curtis’s gaze. “He’s out here because he disobeyed my commands. So did Danny. I can save him, without risking him bleeding out, but for fucking once today, can someone just fucking listen?”
Tossing the axe aside, Curtis gave a sharp nod, then took off running.
Another dive into the water. Rhodey felt along the rock, where Pike’s foot was trapped. Worked his hand into the hole, fingers brushing over fragile bones.
And snapped them.
The way Pike's whole body jerked almost made him laugh with relief, but he was a bit too big for anyone to drag out of the water if he fucking drowned himself. Slipping Pike’s foot out from under the rock, he stood, lifting the boy in his arms.
By the time he’d laid Pike next to Avery, Seth and Quint were there. They crowded in, Seth pumping Pike’s chest as Quint began stripping the sub down and covering him in blankets.
Taking off his shirt and tossing it aside, Rhodey dropped down onto the dirt and pulled Avery into his arms. His boy’s skin was still cold, but he was conscious, watching Seth and Quint work like looking away might kill Pike.
“Sir, I should have…” Avery shook his head, then pressed close to Rhodey’s chest, shivering violently. “I didn’t know the water would rise so fast. I knew you would come, but I waited too long.”
Curving his hand under Avery’s jaw, Rhodey pressed his forehead to his boy’s. Made sure he couldn’t look anywhere than right back at him. “No, you did exactly what you could, given the situation. Sometimes, the people we take care of fuck up. Danny and Pike fucked up, but we’re here for them anyway. And he’s going to live because of you.”
Some people would do the whole ‘knock on wood’ shit, but Rhodey hadn’t accepted Seth and Quint into the core for being bad at their jobs. Trusting Jared was easier, he wouldn’t have a single doubt if the man was here, but those two men loved Pike and he knew they wouldn’t stop until they had him back.
That moment before a man breathed again, before he moved and showed he was still clinging to life?
Was always the worst.
Ever since he’d found out Noah had been shot, that was the moment he saw. Along with all the times he’d used pain and threats to try to get through to the man when he was young and didn’t give a damn about anything. Noah hadn’t wanted to live. Not really. He’d dared Rhodey, again and again, to kill him.
But there had been something more. A part of Noah that desperately wanted to get out. To hang on. And when the choice to end it all before his nephew could do any more damage seemed so simple, he’d gotten a glimpse of it.
Until he’d asked for Jared’s help, he wasn’t sure if he’d been fooling himself.
Then he saw it. Like that first gasp of air.
And he didn’t have to keep fighting against Noah for him to become someone worth saving.
Noah started fighting for himself.
The retching cough Pike let out drew a sob from Avery, that he immediately cut off, burying his face against Rhodey’s shoulder.
Smiling, Rhodey rubbed Avery’s back and cuddled him even closer. “Is now a horrible time to say I told you so?”
“No, sir. I think it’s a perfect time.” Avery sobbed again as Dallas and Keiran rushed across the beach, dropping to their knees at Rhodey’s side. “I told Pike we’d have stew. I could almost taste it. I kept picturing myself in the galley at The Asylum when you’ve got all the stoves going and it smells so damn good. You let me do some simple thing I know you can do yourself, but it feels good to help. To be near you.” He lifted his gaze to Keiran, then Dallas. “And you come in and you grab some cookies and kiss my forehead. I kept seeing that, over and over. Then the moment Rhodey joins us and...I have everything. When I was with Pike and I thought I might lose him, I...I didn’t want to fail. But I’d rather fail than not come back to you. And it felt so selfish, but when he let go I couldn’t.”
Rhodey’s throat almost locked as he considered Avery making a different choice, even for a moment. He was hard on his men. Harder on Avery than anyone because it was the only way he knew to get him through the days when nothing was guaranteed. Through loving a man like him.
Looking from him to Avery, Keiran pulled out another blanket and used it to dry Avery’s hair. “Put your mask on first. They always say it on planes, and I hate it, but it’s true. You can’t help someone else if you’re not still hanging on.” He pressed against Rhodey’s side and brushed a kiss over Avery’s lips. “You can have stew. And cookies. And I’ll be baking so much you’ll be nice and warm. You fought hard, Avery. Now it’s our turn.”
The first time Rhodey tried to stand, with Avery in his arms, he almost stumbled. A weakness he couldn’t allow, but Dallas was right there to steady him.
“Deep breaths, rascal. We’re going to have a long talk about how to help other people the right way.” Curtis leaned over Pike as Quint finished wrapping the young man in several blankets. He kissed his cousin’s forehead. “I’d say I’m sorry Rhodey broke your foot, but I’m really not. I don’t want you fucking moving without me knowing where you are for a long time.”
Seth let out a shaky laugh as he lifted Pike into his arms. “I’d have prefered restraints, but I can deal with this.” He met Rhodey’s eyes. “I want to blame you for him being in this position, but I’m no fool. It could have happened at any time. We can’t protect them from everything. But you made sure your boy stayed with him. You got him back to me. So...thank you.”
Lips slanted, Rhodey inclined his head. “I’ll have you cursing me out and ready to shoot me again in no time, you can count on that.” His gaze went over Pike, and for a moment he saw Noah. Even Curtis, back when Noah hadn’t been sure letting him live wouldn’t do more harm than good. But both had proved themselves. And Pike wasn’t either of them.
With all he’d learned about the boy?
He’d given over power to the wrong people. And he’d be paying for that for a long time.
But now? He was giving it to the right ones.
Which had to count for something.
“It hurts…” Pike gasped in a breath that was almost a laugh. “You broke my foot. Thank you for that. It’s gonna suck, but...it hurts. I didn’t feel anything for a bit and…” He winced as Seth cuddled him even closer. Then ground his teeth. “I have pins and needles everywhere and this is good. So fucking good. Ow.”
They made their way back to the safehouse, and it was well into the next day before Rhodey moved an inch from Avery’s side. Leaving him with Dallas and Keiran, he found Danny, alone in one of the second floor bedrooms, curled up in a closet, wearing one of Rhodey’s hoodies.
His voice was barely a whisper when he looked up at Rhodey. “I’m not like your men. I’ll never be. I’m small and weak and scared. I need...to not be alone, and I know you’re there, but I don’t want to ask for too much. I want to be strong enough, but that’s never gonna happen.”
Bending down, Rhodey cupped Danny’s cheek in his hand. “It will happen. Because it’s part of life. Maybe not to the extreme of my life, but you’ve gotten through some pretty bad shit already. I’ve told you before, you hide and I like that. It’s clear, and it tells me what you need. Don’t try to be someone else, a lot of people love your cute little ass for exactly who you are. I know I do.” Not an emotion he should indulge in any more than he already had, but Avery had opened that door for him. Then Dallas. And now he couldn’t keep the damn thing shut. “You pissed me off. I’m going to punish you for it, but only if you still want to be mine. And you only have to agree to one thing.” He waited for Danny’s nod. “You never take yourself out of my reach. You can disagree with me, but you will fucking tell me. If you give a damn about me? Don’t stop fucking saying what you think I need to hear. I can be an asshole. I can be tough to deal with. But I eventually listen. Stick around long enough to make sure I do.”
Danny smiled and nodded. “I can do that, sir.” His smile faded. “But Shea and Jacks… I love them. Please don’t make me choose.”
“I won’t.” Picking Danny up, Rhodey brought him down to the bedroom Noah was sharing with his men. At the moment, his nephew was fast asleep. He’d woken in spurts, disoriented at first, his vision still not restored completely, but he’d been able to detect some light the last time Jared had examined him.
At the small desk, Rhodey sat Danny down and pulled out the stationary Noah had brought in his luggage, along with a pen.
He held out the pen to his sub.
His sub, from this point on, no matter what happened.
The boy wasn’t the only one who’d need to adapt, but Rhodey couldn’t wait to see how Avery would guide him. Or Keiran and Dallas. He wouldn’t take Danny away from Jacks and Shea, but…
Well, they better be okay with sharing. And him knocking some sense into them both.
Because someone as precious as Danny didn’t come along often.
And keeping him that way was worth the effort.
“You’re going to write them each a letter. And I will make sure they get them, along with instructions on where to go when they’re ready to join us.” Rhodey brushed his hand over Danny’s hair. “I will get them to you, my boy. I swear.” He bent down, whispering in Danny’s ear. “But when you’re done writing? I’m taking out the fucking belt. You are mine. And you will never put yourself in danger like this again. Those are my rules.”
Pen in hand, Danny looked up at him as he straightened. “Is it okay if they’re really really long letters? I...have a lot to say.”
Rhodey chuckled and inclined his head. “Make them as long as you need to. Your Doms will appreciate it.”
He watched Danny bend over the paper.
“And I’ll be right here. Waiting.”
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