Long Winding Road Trip Away From The Asylum Part Eight
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Also, we don't have to be as careful about how...explicit things are. <g>
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And Happy Reading!
The SUV to the clearing to set up the tents was one thing. As dirty as everything was by the time all the supplies were carted over, Wren accepted this was, in part, a camping trip. Which meant eating around a fire that got soot everywhere, dirt caked shoes, and rocks under his sleeping bag if he didn’t position himself just right.
He stared at Noah from across the tent, where his Dom was changing from the black runners he’d worn at the mall, into the hefty black boots he put on whenever they were in the woods. Wren’s own boots—the ones he’d cleaned and polished that morning along with Noah’s—remained where Noah had placed them in front of him.
Finished tying his boots, Noah lifted his gaze, then his brow, glancing pointedly at Wren’s boots. “You’ll be more comfortable in those than sneakers, my boy.”
“I’m sure I would, sir. Except it just rained and someone should really stay here to build the fire and prepare the meat and the vegetables and heat up the sides Keiran made for us. I remember how to do it all from the training at your mother’s…” Wren scrambled for a good reason not to go traipsing through the trees for the soul purpose of ‘taking in the sights’. As beautiful as the area was, he could take in plenty from the SUV when they drove away. “By the time you’re back you’ll have a nice meal waiting for you. Doesn’t that sound perfect?”
Lips curving, Noah rose to his feet and crossed the distance between them. He lowered to one knee in front of Wren and began to unlace his sneakers. “I think it’s perfect when we do all that together. Just like we’ll do this together.” He leaned in to brush his lips over Wren’s. “You’ve been outdoors for training and when we were on the island. I know it’s difficult to believe you could be out here just for the pleasure of it, but I’m going to try to show you the wilderness is more than a place where you get much dirtier than you like and have to focus on survival.”
There didn’t seem to be any way around this, and from the expression on Noah’s face, it was something he really wanted to experience with Wren. Pleasing his Doms came naturally, but there was more to what Noah was asking. Not simply for his sub to obey him because he was the one in control.
But Wren wasn’t quite sure he understood what his Dom was expecting from him.
“It’s always about survival, sir.” Wren brought his fingers to Noah’s curls, skimming over them lightly, then drawing his hand back. As much as he enjoyed touching his Dom, he didn’t want to develop bad habits.
Catching his wrist, Noah brought his hand back, guiding Wren to comb his fingers through his hair. “I love it when you do that. There are no restrictions here, my little bird—except for you not spending all your time in the digital world and ignoring the real one. There are limits to that for you at home, and it will be no different here.”
Wren wrinkled his nose, moving his fingers down to a smudge on Noah’s cheek. “It will be different, sir. It’s much cleaner at home.”
“That’s true.” Humor came with Noah’s words as he put on Wren’s boots for him. “But a little dirt won’t kill you.”
It was tempting to come up with some very Danny-like rebuttal to that, but Wren wasn’t afraid of being in the woods. Or what illnesses could come from the bugs, or the water, or any amount of easily infected injuries he could sustain. Those would all give him a chance to use the skills he’d been gaining.
He just really did not like being dirty or messy. Except...under certain circumstances. He smiled a bit as he thought of Jamie, giggling and slipping away as Wren touched up his shirt with a lint roller before he could head off to the Arts Center in the morning with Noah.
“You’re going to make me late.” Jamie grabbed his wrist, turning and pinning him to the wall the second Noah stepped into the master bathroom to chat with Jared while the Dom showered. “Everything’s perfect, Wren. You take really good care of my clothes and I really appreciate that. Now let me kiss you and get you a little messy before I go.”
Wren relaxed into the kiss, groaning as Jamie teased him, tugging his shirt from where it was tucked into his slacks and toying with his belt. “That’s just mean. You’re going to get us in so much trouble.”
That impish smile against his lips made it hard to worry too much and Wren loved the rush he got from Jamie’s impulsiveness. It was unlike anything he’d ever had in his life, something unpredictable when he’d gotten so used to being able to read all the odds and control the outcome by limiting his world to code. To a digital world where he never had to let anyone closer than a screen.
With the three men in his life now, his world had expanded in a way he’d never expected. Each gave him something he hadn’t known he was missing. He couldn’t imagine his life without it anymore, whereas, at one point, he’d accepted all that he could hope for was that when he died in prison, it would be quick.
Slipping silently up behind Jamie, Noah raked his fingers through Jamie’s hair, tugging his head back and claiming a kiss for himself. “Call Danny. Have him open things up with Jacks. You’re going to finish what you started, my naughty little cat. Then Jared and I are going to take turns spanking your ass for taking what doesn’t belong to you.”
Heat filled Jamie’s eyes, the pulse at his throat visibly racing. “Yes, sir.”
The way Jamie tugged at his clothes left them impossibly wrinkled, and Wren wasn’t allowed to get a new outfit after—a consequence for him ‘tempting’ Jamie to misbehave. But for the rest of the day he’d had the reminder of one of the men he loved hands on him and that made it more than okay.
A pang of homesickness had Wren shifting closer to Noah as he slipped out of the tent after his Dom. He checked his phone, not really expecting a text because he knew Jamie had a packed schedule in LA. There was a short clip of Jamie walking through a hotel lobby with Jared at his side, Jamie blowing the camera a kiss before Jared stopped him from walking into a pillar and the video cut off.
Noah chuckled, putting his arm around Wren’s shoulders. “I believe Jared is going to need a vacation from his vacation.”
“LA is not somewhere he’d ever choose. But he did it for Jamie and that makes me very happy. Do you think they’re having any fun? Jamie likes getting nice rooms, so maybe there’s a hot tub and at the end of a busy day they enjoy it together. Then Jamie gives Jared a massage like he learned to on your honeymoon and Jared’s completely relaxed once he’s done and takes Jamie nice and hard the way he likes it. And Jamie falls asleep in his arms, but wakes Jared up by stealing all the blankets. He makes it up to him by bringing him coffee in the morning and being...his adorable self.”
The mental image eased away some of the longing, replacing it with what he’d hoped for between two men who couldn’t have less in common to begin with, but found some things as time passed. He rarely remembered all the details of the time when everyone else had thought Jamie was dead, his mind had fixated on finding him and proving them all wrong. But he remembered the music Jared had played. Old songs Jamie loved. The pain in Jared’s eyes before he closed them, swaying a little as though seeing Jamie dancing to it and wanting to move with him.
Noah smiled at him, then kissed the top of his head. “I can see it all, my little bird. And it helps take away some of the selfish need to have them here with us. I was mostly focusing on Jamie being able to put some more time into a career that’s had so many damn obstacles over the past few years. The invitation from that man...what’s his name again? Anyway, it proves Jamie can have everything he’s ever dreamed of, for as long as he wants it.”
“He still loves working at the Center, though…” Wren hardly noticed the mud under his boots as the images of what was happening in LA changed. Jamie seeing all he’d been missing, a lifestyle that had been his for so long, and deciding to stay. Deciding things at The Asylum were too much for him to handle. He shook his head. “There’s not as much for him in LA as there is in Anniston Falls. He can still have his music and everything he’s built. And he has you.”
Urging him forward to the edge of the treeline, where Lawson and Reed waited for them, Noah nodded. “And you, Wren. You give him plenty of reasons to be happier with us than back in a life that was so damn superficial. I know being separated from him is difficult, you two share something special. But remember, that doesn’t go away with distance. When you love someone, truly love someone? You build something that lasts.”
“Part of me knows that, sir.” Wren slowed, his gaze going to where Reed was holding out a twenty dollar bill and pointing at a tree while Lawson laughed and shook his head. Inhaling slowly, Wren glanced up at Noah. “Another part of me understands why Reed is so afraid when people leave. It never really bothered me. I expected it. I couldn’t miss what I didn’t have. Or…” He wrinkled his nose. “At one point, when I was alone before I met you? I...I missed gambling more than I missed a single person. None of the connections I’d had meant anything, but the rush of winning? That became…”
“An obsession. It was an addiction, my little bird. That's how they work. And I think it filled in for the bonds you should have been able to develop with people who love you. You couldn’t trust that, your aunt’s own addiction prevented it.” Noah gave him a little squeeze. “But you’re still able to have those bonds you missed out on then, now. I’d hoped for that when I sent you to The Asylum.”
The Asylum. A place Noah had dreamed would give a lot of people connections like that. And it had, but… “I wanted it with you. I knew I couldn’t have it. I accepted that. You were in control and...and that finally made me believe I could have a future. Any kind of future. I had no right to be anything but grateful. Still...there were times I would’ve rathered be back behind bars just so I could stay with you.”
Shaking his head, Noah slid his arm down Wren’s back, smoothly lifting him off his feet and into his arms. He touched his forehead to Wren’s as he held him close. “I don’t ever want to think of you being back there. I was fucking scared for you, every goddamn day. But you have me now. You have me and you can have everything else you need. Everything you want.”
Arms around Noah’s neck, Wren gave him a shy smile, not sure what to do with the flood of emotions washing over him. He knew Noah cared about him, but he wasn’t always sure of his place with his Dom. He had one, one that hadn’t been part of the plans after Noah had let him go, then found a sub that was much better suited to him. There was no way to look at the impact Noah and Jamie had when they walked into a room together, the way their love stood fast against so many challenges, and not understand how many layers there were to their relationship. Wren had never believed he could—or even wanted to—compete with that.
In the end, he didn’t have to.
Just to see the warm pleasure in Noah’s eyes again, Wren brought his hand up to brush over his curls. “I have everything I want.” The edge of his lips twitched. “Except permission to stay in the tent.”
Laughing, Noah kissed Wren again and shook his head. “No, you don’t have that.” He lowered Wren back to his feet and took his hand. His thumb caressed Wren’s inner wrist as they caught up with Lawson and Reed.
Well, mostly Lawson. Reed was up ahead, picking wildflowers and twining their stems together for some strange reason. Noah released Wren’s hand as he got into a debate with Lawson and began making hand gestures to go along with his argument for adding a sauna to the locker rooms.
From the lack of space and the fact that there were already so many renovations happening and this had never been brought up before, Wren had a feeling Noah was goading Lawson for the fun of it. The two men had a very strange relationship.
Jamie would probably say they needed to hash it out, then have hot, rough makeup sex.
Cheeks heating, Wren glanced back at the two Doms as he approached Reed’s side.
He’s not wrong.
“Hey hot stuff.” Reed grinned at him, tying a knot in the stems of two blue flowers. Somehow, he’d managed to get mud on his forehead and his hair was sprinkled with water, even though it wasn’t raining anymore. “You lost me fifty bucks, you know. I bet Lawson there was no way Noah would get you out of that tent until morning.”
That was a bit extreme. The sun hadn’t fully set yet and Wren would definitely come out to make and serve his Dom’s dinner. “You really shouldn’t make bets like that. I rarely refuse my Doms anything. If you’re going to gamble you should calculate the odds and—”
“Wren.” Noah’s attention shifted away from Lawson, a gentle rebuke in his tone. “Let’s change the subject.”
“Yes, sir.” Wren swallowed, bringing his fingers to his collar and shoving away the draw of what had once consumed his entire existence. He scrambled for a distraction. Any distraction. All he came up with was the flowers. “What are you doing?”
Moving further into the trees, Reed found some puschkinia, tiny flowers with light blue petals. That Wren remembered the name of the flowers brought a jolt of pleasure, making it easier to stay in the moment. So much of the knowledge he’d once considered useless had been erased after he’d been shot, and it was hard not to get lost in the holes in his memories. Even more so when he lost small bits of what happened day to day. He didn’t stress too much when he repeated a task, wiping down the counters twice, or polishing the same mirror wasn’t the end of the world.
But when he remembered something, no matter how insignificant it might seem?
It was a relief.
Reed picked a few flowers, adding them to his growing collection. “When I was younger, Tracey used to love going out in the woods around the house and bringing in wildflowers. She’d keep some in every room and I loved it. I started going with her. This was a bit after she started encouraging me to dress however I wanted.” He bit lightly into his bottom lip. “I wore a T-shirt with flowers all over it to school once and a bunch of the jocks said some nasty shit. It really got to me. I got home and changed into a black T-shirt. She knew right away something was up and asked me to come with her to pick flowers. While we were talking, she started weaving some flowers together. Noah showed up just as I was saying flowers weren’t for guys. She just gave me this look, then got Noah to lean down and put this flower crown on his head.”
For some reason, even though Wren never would have pictured Noah wearing flowers, it wasn’t that hard to imagine. He could see it, Noah not even hesitating because it would make his mother happy.
He brushed off a large, smooth stone nearby the best he could, settling on it to watch Reed continue to weave the flowers as he spoke.
Reed’s eyes went a bit distant, as though he was visualizing that day. “I didn’t say anything for a long time. Noah was just so...larger than life to me back then. Sometimes, he still is, but then...I was this puny kid, you know? Nothing about me seemed to fit with anything else. Or fit in anywhere. Tracey saying that was okay wasn’t always enough.” A soft smile curved his lips. “I finally said what I was thinking. That it was Noah and no one would dare make fun of him. He was too big and strong. Tracey didn’t miss a beat. She said there’s always someone bigger and stronger and if we let them stop us from living our best, most authentic life? We aren’t really living at all.”
“She’s very good at putting things in perspective.” Wren’s visits with Tracey were still rare, the extra security measures for him to go there weren’t practical when he didn’t much like leaving The Asylum in the first place. But he loved Noah’s mother. It was impossible to be around her, with how much she’d survived, and not leave feeling a bit more like nothing was impossible. “What did you do when she said that?”
Reed finished off what was now clearly a flower crown of his own. “I asked her to show me how to make one. The next day I wore it to school, along with another flower shirt. When the guys started teasing me this time, I ignored them.”
“And they left you alone?”
Snickering, Reed shook his head. “They knocked it off my head and started pushing me around. I hadn’t been training for long enough then to take them all on or anything, so I’m lucky I was able to get in a few hits and run away. Noah was so pissed when the school called him and he came in and saw me with a busted lip and all. I thought he was gonna beat up one of the kid’s fathers when the dude showed up and started making excuses. Then our gym teacher showed up. She was really cool. And she ran the football team all the guys were on. She brought me back my flower crown and told the guys if she ever saw it knocked off my head again, they were all off the team. Turns out her brother was gay and she was really pissed her guys would act like that.”
“But why not just kick them off the team?” Wren was tempted to do some digging and find those boys now. There were so many ways he could show them karma could be very patient.
Only, the way Reed shook his head kept him from pulling out his phone. “I think she hoped they were still young enough that she could influence them more if she kept them. Obviously, there was only so much she could do, but you better believe I went to school the rest of the year with those flowers. A few of the guys stuck up for me when I got teased, which was cool until I figured out nothing had really changed. They were doing it because they had to. Except for one guy. He came out as bi the next year. And...they turned on him once the gym teacher got a job at another school. He didn’t...make it.”
The story didn’t have the happy ending Wren had expected. He reached out, taking Reed’s hand, wishing he could erase the pain he heard in his voice. “I’m sorry. That must have been difficult. He was one of the people who hurt you, but he was hurting too.”
“Yeah, but…” Reed blew out a breath, squeezing Wren’s fingers before slipping his hand free and lifting the flower crown. He placed it on Wren’s head. “I always had the flowers. They meant something more after, you know? Whenever I saw them around the house. Those guys, and all the others who came after who tried to make me ashamed of who I am? They didn’t have that power anymore. Tracey, and Noah, they both gave me ways to hold on to it.” He began collecting more flowers. “I was thinking about that before. Feeling a bit crappy out of nowhere and...yeah. So I’m making flower crowns.”
Knowing Reed was going on this trip to donate part of his liver to a sister he’d never—and might never—meet, Wren had done some research. Even without the involvement of his heartless father, Reed would go through a range of emotions both before and after the surgery. Part of the reason both Noah and Lawson had insisted on coming.
And the reason Wren was here.
Slipping off the rock, Wren scanned the area, spotting some bright yellow flowers in a patch of grass a few yards away. “Can I help?”
Reed looked surprised at first, but then he grinned and nodded. “That would be really cool. I know it’s not your thing.”
“I don’t have an in the woods thing. Except for creeping around in them to avoid getting shot. Or thinking what horror movie they remind me of. It’s getting darker, so that will be much easier now.” Wren plucked a few of the flowers, making sure the stems were long enough for Reed to work with. “There are a few films that have managed to use daylight to create an atmosphere that still instills fear. It’s fascinating how they take away that feeling of safety and make you feel, in that moment, that nowhere is ever safe.”
Snickering, Reed shook his head, coming over and adjusting the flowers on Wren’s head. “The way your mind works is something I’ll never get used to, but I love it. Even more while you’re wearing this and are being creepy and cute all at once.”
Wren’s lips slanted. “You’re silly. I’m not cute.”
“You most certainly are.” Noah’s voice coming from directly behind him made Wren jump, giving him the very thrill he always craved from the books and movies he couldn’t get enough of. Hugging Wren to his chest, Noah handed Reed both Wren’s flowers, then a bunch he’d obviously collected along the path, perhaps thinking back on the very time Reed had told Wren about. He pulled out his phone, taking a picture of Reed among the flowers, then another with Wren. “Jared is going to love these. I know you don’t want him worrying about the surgery, Reed…” Noah straightened as Reed shot him a sharp look. “But I won’t lie to him if he asks me directly and any reassurance he gets that you’re in the right state of mind to follow through with this will be good.”
Focus on his flowers, Reed chewed on his bottom lip. “Okay, but if he does find out, make sure he doesn’t tell Curtis. If anything happens to him—”
“Nothing bad will happen to him, my boy.” Lawson crouched in front of Reed, cupping his cheek. “Vani won’t be easy on him, but she’ll keep him safe. Rhodey wouldn’t have let him go otherwise.”
Reed gave a slight nod, then tucked a small pink flower behind Lawson’s ear. “But no distractions.”
Framing Reed’s jaw in his hand, Lawson leaned in for a kiss. “For you? There will be plenty of distractions. Including seeing if you’re still crazy enough to walk into a freezing cold waterfall just because it’s there.”
A playful glint shone in Reed’s eyes as he put on his own flower crown. “You better believe it. And I have even more reason now.” His lips twitched into a slanted smile. “I have you to warm me up after.”
When Reed dashed off and Lawson chuckled, then chased him, Noah shook his head, walking at a much more reasonable pace with Wren. His fingers brushed lightly up and down along the length of Wren’s neck.
The sound of cascading water came before they reached the part in the trees, a rise of rocky earth before them, with a small waterfall sparkling in the last light of the sun. Reed had already stripped off his shirt and was kicking off his jeans, dodging Lawson’s feigned attempts to grab him.
“Isn’t it beautiful?” Noah wrapped his arms over Wren’s chest. The strength of his muscles around Wren, the heat of his body, made it hard to focus on the scenery. More so when Lawson abandoned his own clothes and pinned Reed to the rocks under the waterfall.
Looking away, Wren bit back a grin. “It would make a very interesting postcard, sir. Should we take a few pictures and send it to your mother?”
Noah huffed out a laugh, lifting Wren off his feet so quickly Wren had to scramble to catch the flower crown as it slipped off his head. A solid smack landed on his ass. “Cheeky sub. Do you know what I do with cheeky subs?”
“Yes, sir. I do live with Jamie too, you know.”
Another smack, this one harder, though it was clear Noah was trying to hold back a laugh as he carried Wren out of sight of the small waterfall. “I think it’s about time you get some first hand experience.”
Higher up the mountain, Noah brought Wren to a clearing before putting him down. He snapped his fingers and made the hand gesture for Wren to kneel. Not in mud, the earth had dried here, slightly warm through his jeans as he knelt.
He looked up at his Dom, who hadn’t moved. Hadn’t given him any instructions. Simply waited.
Taking a deep breath, Wren considered the games Noah enjoyed. Games he usually enjoyed with others. This time…
Wren wanted to be the one he played with.
So he met his Dom’s eyes. “Sir, if you’ve decided to see who can wait the longest before making a move…” His heart pounded in his chest as he forced himself to continue. “You will lose.”
Interest filled Noah’s eyes as he tipped Wren’s chin up with two fingers. “I don’t lose, my bold little raven. But in case you’ve missed it, I’ve already won.”
This was a curious game. Wren blinked up at Noah. “You have, sir? But how?”
Bending down, Noah held his gaze and whispered against his lips. “Because you’re mine.”
Blood thrumming low, Wren closed his eyes as Noah kissed him, stealing every last breath before he rose up and undid his jeans. He gripped Wren’s hair, brushing the hot head of his dick over Wren’s lips. A slight tug and he forced Wren’s head back, easing in, inch at a time until he hit the back of Wren’s throat. Then withdrew, just as slowly.
Wren whimpered, not sure exactly what he wanted, but the languorous movement was making a lie of his challenge. He struggled to find the discipline that he loved sinking into as a sub, to give over every bit of himself in any way his Dom wanted to take him.
It was hard not to offer more pleasure, not to taste that bead of precum forming at the slit of Noah’s dick when his Dom pulled out completely. He managed, barely, and Noah continued easing in and out as though he could continue the steady rhythm all night.
“Look at that beautiful mouth.” Noah let out a hum of approval. “I fucking love feeling it, just like this. I don’t think there’s any way I could enjoy it more.”
Another challenge, only Noah was so much better at this. Not waiting to be instructed as he usually did, Wren flicked his tongue over the head of Noah’s dick, the slick, saltiness making his own length throb as Noah filled his mouth, faster this time.
“Mmm, that was very nice.” Noah tightened his grip on Wren’s hair. “Keep that up and I’m going to strip you down in the dirt and fuck you, my boy. If you’d like to stay all nice and clean, you really shouldn’t tempt me.”
There was nothing else Wren wanted more at that moment. He used his tongue again, gazing up at Noah, ready to find new ways to beg.
It didn’t matter how dirty he got. Not right now.
I brought enough soap.
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