Long Winding Road Trip Away From The Asylum Part Fifteen
To all who celebrate, Merry Christmas!
The plan was to have tow more parts before ending this one, but I decided to make this one longer instead.
We will continue with the new short, 'The Safehouse' next week, along with the announcement to the winner of this months giveaway.
There was something different in the darkness now. Almost as though a window had been opened and the suffocating heaviness of all that had happened was...not quite gone, but the weight was evened out. Wren wasn’t so afraid it would crush him.
On the bed, Noah lay with the covers tangled around his waist and thighs, his light blue hospital gown hanging off one arm like he’d wrestled it off in his sleep. The thick, defined muscles of his chest and shoulders rose in a gentle rhythm with each breath, only the gauze taped to the left side and the monitor keeping track of his pulse showing that he’d been injured at all.
If he could, he’d be concealing that as well before long. Doing too much, too fast, unless there was someone there to stop him.
Rhodey wouldn’t. His focus would be on keeping Noah alive and safe and mercs didn’t slow down. They couldn’t. Their lives, the lives of whoever they protected—or needed to take down—depended on them always moving forward. Always pushing to the limits of what would be unreasonable to expect from anyone for long.
At The Asylum things were like that sometimes. Fighters were definitely hard to keep out of the ring, and none of them led the kinds of easy lives that came with long recovery. But Jared’s job had always been to draw the right kind of lines. To know how much those he tended to could take and when they needed to stop.
His word was law and very few ever challenged him.
Except Noah...but this time would be different.
It had to be.
“Should we let him sleep?” Jamie approached the bed first, lifting a hand toward Noah before he hesitated and glanced over his shoulder at Jared when their Dom joined him. “I thought there’d be all kinds of tubes and stuff, but...there’s practically nothing. I was preparing myself for...worse.”
Lips thinned, Jared’s gaze trailed over Noah’s still form, his ice blue eyes assessing. “He still has his IV and the heart monitor, so they’re not completely incompetant. Since the plan was for him to leave in the morning, this is just to make sure his pulse remains strong and there’s no obvious setbacks. Not that it’ll matter one way or another if he refuses further treatment.” He nodded to Jamie. “Let’s rid him of that notion, shall we?”
Nodding back, Jamie smoothed the thick, dark curls from Noah’s brow. He leaned in, brushing a kiss over his husband’s lips. The edge of his own curved slightly. “You’re in so much trouble, sir.”
A few steps back, Wren bit hard into his bottom lip to hold back a smile. It wasn’t often they had to outnumber Noah, but the times they did were like a very high stakes game where no one had to lose. They only needed to remind Noah every single one of them was all in.
Brow creasing, Noah shifted in Jamie’s direction, opening his eyes, then closing them again. He lifted his hand, touching Jamie’s shoulder, sliding his fingers up the side of his neck before cupping Jamie’s cheek. “You’re supposed to be on a flight to somewhere beautiful. I knew Jared would get you past the worst of it—maybe give you something to settle you.” His tone was soft, as though he wasn’t quite awake. Maybe he thought he was dreaming. “Then you’ll see so many beautiful places and tell me all about them. It’ll be different now, you’re not a product anymore. You're a man with amazing talents who knows there’s so much more out there.”
“Can we put a raincheck on that, sir? Because it sounds perfect. Except I want you and Wren with us when we go. And I hope you’ll be able to see it too.” Jamie’s voice broke a bit at the last. He kissed Noah’s lips again. “We can get through this, whatever it is, but only if you don’t hold back.” He continued, speaking barely above a whisper. “Please don’t hold back anything that could hurt you, sir. I can’t lose you.”
Shaking his head, Noah started sitting up, moving to lift Jamie into his arms. He made a frustrated sound when Jared blocked him, pressing him back into the pillows. “You can’t keep him from me, Rhodey. You brought him here, now get out of my way.”
For a second, Wren held his breath, unsure if Jared would be hurt that Noah didn’t know it was him.
Instead, his Dom let out a soft laugh and bent down, speaking with his lips against Noah’s cheek. “Try again, tiger.” Jared smiled when Noah stilled, tilting his head slightly as though locked onto every word. “I won’t keep our boy from you, but you’ll damn well lie there and let me take care of you now. Jamie, go climb up on his other side. Careful for the wires. Wren, turn on the overhead light, my boy. I need to see what I’m working with.”
Crossing the room, Wren flicked on the lights, catching Jamie’s eye as he carefully slid onto the bed next to Noah. Braced up on one arm, Jamie’s gaze trailed Jared as he headed over to the attached bathroom, where he folded up the sleeves to his dark grey shirt, then washed his hands. He pulled on a pair of disposable gloves from the dispenser, returning to Noah’s side with steps that sounded softly, yet steadily across the floor, as though to keep Noah aware of his movements.
When Jared peeled back the bandage on the left side of Noah’s chest, Jamie’s expression tightened. He slipped his hand into Noah’s, not budging, looking like he was holding his breath.
“Not too much of a hack job, but Quint would be horrified by these stitches. You’ll have a very pretty scar.” Jared spoke in a tone that was almost teasing, but there was some tension in his shoulders, deepening the fine lines along his lips and eyes. “I’d thank you not to cut it quite so close next time. An inch and that bullet would’ve gone straight through your heart.”
Noah remained still as Jared replaced the bandage. “They were aiming for Lawson’s head, my love. You would’ve done the same.”
At that, Jared cupped Noah’s cheek. “Yes. And you’d be the one here, telling me the same thing.” He ran his thumb back and forth over Noah’s lips. “Open your eyes. Tell me what you haven’t told the other doctor. There’s nothing in your chart about hitting your head, but I need to know if there’s any pain.”
Throat working, Noah nodded, then opened his eyes. “Nothing I can’t deal with. They won’t let me leave if I still need heavy medication to manage the pain, so I had them stop giving it to me.”
“Hmm.” Jared pulled a penlight from his pocket, shining it into Noah’s eyes. “And your vision? Is it gone completely or do you detect some light?”
This time, Noah drew away slightly. “We shouldn’t be talking about that here, my man. If I can walk out the front doors without looking like I took too much damage, hopefully we won’t be such a tempting target. If anyone finds out—”
“Noah, you will listen to me.” Jared took a firm hold of Noah’s jaw, looking deep into his unfocused eyes, penlight dropped on the edge of the mattress. “Rhodey would have made sure your room wasn’t bugged. He will get us all out of here safely. Let him do his job. And let me do mine. This could simply be post-op blindness, but that usually resolves after a few hours. You need a CT scan and you are not leaving this hospital without one.”
Coming up around the bed, Wren moved close to Jamie, taking his hand as they watched their Doms in what seemed like a soundless battle of wills. There had been times in the past that moments like this were part of a scene, two powerful men who craved control pushing against one another until surrender was too enticing to resist. The passion between them burned hot and fierce and Wren loved being part of what they shared.
But this wasn’t one of those times. And the outcome depended on Noah accepting defeat.
Something he’d been incapable of once.
They’d all come a long way since then. Wren could only hope it would be enough.
Finally, Noah laughed, shaking his head. “There’s no point arguing with you now, is there? I know you’re right, Jared. I do. And I can feel our boys, fucking terrified I’ll fight you on this. I want to, but not because I’m a pigheaded asshole.”
Jared’s lips slanted. “But you can be, my man. And it doesn’t make any of us love you any less. I understand how your mind works. You want to protect everyone else and there’s usually no harm in that, within reason. This time, there may be.” He slid his arm around Noah’s shoulders, pulling him into a gentle hug. “It’s not a sacrifice I’ll let you make. Not your sight if I can do anything about it. And most definitely not your life.”
For a few moments, Noah was quiet. Backing up a bit, he kissed Jared’s lips. “We do it now, then. I won’t have any of you here any longer than necessary. Rhodey might be able to keep you safe, but for how long? It’s just him and Avery.”
“Oh?” Jared made a sound of affront. “So I’m not able to defend myself and our boys?”
Exhaling roughly, Noah lowered his brow. “That’s not what I meant.”
“Me and Wren aren’t completely helpless, sir. We’ll stick close and keep an eye on things. Wren can do his surveillance thing and I can make sure he stays on track and doesn’t drink too many Red Bulls.” Jamie glanced over at Wren, giving him his best ‘Toppy’ look. “How many have you had today?”
Wren’s lips parted. “None. I only went to the gift shop with Rhodey to get some clothes so I don’t look like...me.” He brought his hand up to his head, realizing he’d lost his hat at some point, which made the disguise pointless. “I was going to ask Rhodey for some when I started on the intel he asked for, but I wouldn’t have any more than I need.”
“You won’t have more than the recommended amount, my little raven.” Jared drew his phone from his pocket, then sent a text. “I’ll see how soon we can get this done—I’d have preferred it be handled hours ago, but you’re in no condition for me to spank you for it now, tiger.” He gave Noah’s cheek a light tap, earning himself a soft growl as Noah grabbed his wrist and claimed another kiss. Visibly relaxing, Jared spoke against his lips. “I hate that you put me in the position where I have to sit back like a worried husband, wringing my hands and waiting for someone else to tell me about your condition.”
Reaching over, Jamie curved his hand over the wrist Noah still held. “I’ll show you how, sir. Pacing helps.” He took a deep breath. “And knowing you and Wren will be there. And convincing myself my husband is practically indestructible.”
Jared smiled at Jamie, inclining his head. “I believe that is a lesson you’d do very well teaching me, my boy.” He eased back as Noah released him, keeping a close eye as Jamie curled up in Noah’s lap, stroking his arm and resting his head on the right side of Noah’s chest. Settling in the chair by the bed, he motioned Wren to him, his lips quirking as Wren did his best to smooth the wrinkles from the ridiculous fabric of the T-shirt Rhodey had dressed him in. “You’ve had quite the adventure, my little raven. This attempt at a disguise tells me Rhodey was feeling out of sorts, but found some comfort in taking care of you. Do I have to let him know you won’t be one of the subs he gets to collect?”
Quickly shaking his head, Wren held still as his Dom lifted his shirt, inspecting a bruise he’d hardly noticed, which must have come from when Noah shoved him to safety. “I don’t want to be collected, sir, but I’m certain he doesn’t see me that way. With Danny it was different, he’s something new for Rhodey and I think it’s good for him, he needs an experienced Dom and I really hope Rhodey will get along with Shea and Jacks and teach them all the things they don’t know. Not that I’d dare criticize a Dom, but there are moments…” His cheeks flushed at the stunned look Jamie gave him. “I thought… He didn’t tell you?”
Rubbing his hand over his mouth, Jamie seemed to struggle to absorb the information, making the answer a very clear ‘No’. “We’ve kept things really light whenever we talked. I...I know Danny said he was happy for me, but part of me felt a bit guilty about going without him. And it wasn’t even about singing with Berney, I knew Danny didn’t want to go to L.A and the music really isn’t his style anymore. But it reminded me of when Trevor and I got to perform with the band Danny loved and he was so upset. I didn’t mean to make it so he didn’t feel comfortable talking to me about anything.”
“I don’t think he wasn’t comfortable talking to you, I think he just wasn’t ready to talk about it at all.” Wren rested against Jared as his Dom pulled him down to sit on his thigh. “He will when he sees you again. A lot happened at The Asylum while you were gone. Paris…” His jaw tightened as he considered the harm the other sub had done. “He was bragging about how he connected you with Berney and how close you two are now. He’s a horrible person, Jamie. You need to be careful with him.”
Jamie made a face. “I figured as much. He gives me Trevor vibes, but I didn’t think about it too much until after we left and it was kinda like… I had to be cool with him because he did set things up, and his Dom holds a lot of sway at the club. That kind of thing is normal in the industry. I hate it, but I’ve gotten so used to it I just kinda go with the flow.”
The shift in topic seemed to be exactly what both their Doms needed, because the tension in the room had faded. One arm wrapped around Jamie’s waist, Noah spoke into his hair. “Is he close enough to Berney that it will impact your projects with him? I know you really want this—and I’m assuming part of it was put on hold since you’re here—but I don’t want you indebted to someone like that.”
Jamie snorted, tipping his head back to look up at Noah. “No way. If Berney catches wind of any assholery from Paris, he’ll cut him off.” He jumped as Noah pinched his inner thigh. “Hey! That should be an exception to the rules! If Wren says Paris is bad, you know he’s gotta be really bad. And he’s messing with Danny, so I have to bury him.”
Shaking his finger at Noah, whose lips had curved into a wicked grin, Jared seemed to realize Noah couldn’t see him and let out a disapproving sound. “None of that. We have enough on our plate, and we’ll deal with the sub when the time comes. I agree with Jamie, Paris doesn’t have any real influence with Berney, so it’s not a concern. Berney was very understanding when I told him we had to leave because of a family emergency. What’s been produced so far will get the project off to a good start and even I can see the appeal in it. Both Jamie and Berney’s fans will be eager for more.”
The conversation continued, revolving around the music and what had happened in L.A. Any regret over Jamie and Jared having to cut things short was eliminated by how clear they made it that other than their quiet moments alone, the whole experience had been draining. It might be strange for a new threat being almost a relief, but Wren understood the feeling. A lot of the time it was almost like bracing for the next blow. Once it came, the next step could be taken. The damage could be assessed and repaired.
And, most importantly, they’d gotten to the other side. Alive.
Rhodey came into the room an hour later with Dr. Lorne, who gave Jared certain privileges that would allow him to be present during Noah’s scans, so long as he let Dr. Lorne take the lead and did no more than consult.
At first, Noah didn’t react to the discussion between Jared and Dr. Lorne, but to anyone who knew him, it was clear he was on edge. He didn’t trust the man.
That changed when someone else spoke up, who Wren hadn’t even seen come into the room.
“The timing worked out well for you, Patrick.” A lazy smile on his lips, Seth slid Noah’s chart from Jared’s hand, looking it over. He glanced up at Dr. Lorne. “With how well your son has done with his training, I had every reason to send him on the mission to Russia, but I thought you’d like to keep him doing something safer stateside for a bit longer. I’m flattered that Vani put so much trust in me—yes, I know it’s because she’s been trying to get me on her team for a long time, but I do so like being rewarded with some good, old fashion power.”
Dr. Lorne’s eyes narrowed. “Leave him out of this, Seth. You and I both know keeping anything from Vani has consequences.”
Leaning in close, Seth lowered his voice. “So does breaking patient confidentiality. He’s my patient now and you’ll keep your damn mouth shut, or I’ll make you wish you had.”
Audibly grinding his teeth, Dr. Lorne looked like he wanted to keep arguing. But in the end, he simply gave a sharp nod. “I’ll go make sure the equipment’s set up.”
The second the door closed behind him, Jared exhaled roughly, latching onto Seth’s arm. “Thank you, my man. I never thought I’d be happy to see you. I’ve reconsidered that notion.”
Seth gave Jared a crooked grin. “That’s good to hear. And you can thank your boy for getting in touch with Quint. My boy is very good at managing difficult situations and bringing in the right people for the job.”
Arm around Wren’s shoulders, Jared gave Seth a dry look. “He’s still mine. I won’t let you take him from me again. But that he is mine is why Wren felt safe reaching out to him.”
The clash between Jared and Seth was very different than the ones between Jared and Noah. For a second, Wren understood Danny’s instinct to find the closest place to hide. A glance in Jamie’s direction made it clear he felt the same, but the other sub just curled a bit closer to Noah instead.
Noah let out a soft laugh. “How about the two of you have your pissing contest over Quint at the safehouse. Not to make this all about me, but I’d be grateful if you could focus on fixing my brain first.”
Jared gave a sharp nod, then reached out his hand. “Jamie, I want you and Wren to stay here. Will you keep an eye on them, Rhodey?”
“I will.” Rhodey stepped up to the side of Noah’s bed, closing his eyes for a moment, bringing his hand close to Noah’s shoulder before pulling back. “Noah, I’m fucking pissed you kept this from me, but I need you to know...it doesn’t matter. You are no less to me even if this can’t be fixed.”
Noah nodded slowly. “I know. But I didn’t keep it from you, Uncle. I trust you to care for those who matter most. I. Trust. You. I wasn’t able to talk to you alone, so I did what I believed I had to.” The edge of his lips slanted. “We’ve managed to regain some control in this situation and I can deal with that.”
Before Noah would let Jamie go, he claimed a deep kiss, whispering to Jamie as he explored his face with his fingertips, then touched his hair and pulled him close to hold him. In the end, Jared had to lift Jamie from Noah’s arms, passing him to Rhodey before he helped Seth roll Noah’s bed out of the room.
It wasn’t long before Jared returned to the room. After that, time seemed to slow, Jared taking Jamie’s advice and pacing while Rhodey held Jamie, stroking his back and speaking to him softly. Wren tried to distract himself by taking out his laptop and searching for the men who’d shot Noah, but it was more challenging than he’d expected. Not only was he distracted, but the mercs were practically unknown. It seemed like they’d both been recruited straight out of the military, with nothing during their service to even indicate they’d be of interest.
Which was the catch. Most mercs were pulled in because they were exceptional. Some even because they’d broken either the wrong or the right rules. It was rare that a merc was chosen simply because they’d take the money. They had to have the skills to make them worth something.
And that was where Lawson and Noah had gotten lucky. A skilled merc wouldn’t have missed, no matter how good Noah was. They would’ve made sure the target was dead.
He shivered as he thought back on Kovit, who’d left him and Keiran in the snow, assuming Wren was gone because of the headshot. If Keiran had moved at the wrong time, they both would have gotten a few more bullets. That hadn’t been a mistake, so much as arrogance.
Kovit had been good. Very good. But he’d let the mission get too personal.
Which was the only reason Wren was still alive, but they were dealing with a new kind of enemy. One much too unpredictable. One he was afraid none of them knew how to fight.
And one they couldn’t even begin to yet.
When Seth came back to the room without Noah, everything seemed to freeze. He looked to where Jamie was snug in Rhodey’s arms, his tanned skin gone pale. Without thinking, he cut off Jared’s pacing and wrapped his arms around his Dom’s waist, closing his eyes as Jared held him close.
“Noah...had a tumor. A small one, but the surgery caused several blood clots to form around it, which was what caused him to lose his sight.” Seth held up a hand when Jamie gasped and Wren opened his eyes to stare at him. “We did a biopsy of the tumor. It’s not that big and it was benign. We were able to access it through what’s called a keyhole surgery.” That part seemed to be for everyone else’s benefit by the immediate understanding in Jared’s eyes. “There is some swelling, but since we were able to remove the entire tumor and all the blood clots, we’re optimistic about his chances of a full recovery. I will tell you that if he’d been moved without detecting this, there would have been serious repercussions. The tumor was stable. It looks like it was there for a long time and the growth was very slow. This could have caused a reaction that would have changed that.”
Jared’s grip tightened around Wren even as he watched Rhodey stand with Jamie in his arms. Sucking in a harsh breath, Jared met Seth’s gaze. “Will this...this kind of surgery can have...an impact. What should we expect, going forward?”
Approaching Jared, Seth hesitated for a moment, then crouched down in front of him as Jared sat heavily with Wren in his arms. “You know the answer to that, my man. We won’t know until he wakes up, but his vitals are stable. I brought in Dr. Chase for the surgery. He’d gone into hiding after treating Wren, but Quint found him. His conditions for doing this were that I help him disappear again. I made sure he’ll have a nice, easy life from here on. There were a lot of people who wanted to take him out for saving Wren. I made sure he’ll never have to worry about that again.”
Something inside Wren broke as he thought of all the lives he’d destroyed by simply being alive. He shook his head, pressing his face against Jared’s shoulder. “I’m sorry. This isn’t right. Noah would be okay. Everyone would be okay if I wasn’t—”
“Shh. No, my little raven. I won’t have you thinking that way.” Jared’s fingers dug into his shoulders, tight enough to leave bruises, but it grounded him. “You threatened some horrible, powerful people. And that’s not a bad thing. Keeping you alive makes it harder for them to do what they do. If not for how much I love you, how important you are to so many? That would be more than enough.” He tipped Wren’s chin up, holding his gaze. “And this time, it was Lawson who was the target. You didn’t do this, but you did make sure we were in a position to minimize the damage. We didn’t know about the tumor. It could have done more damage if Noah had gotten in the ring. If he’d fallen the wrong way and hit his head. I don’t like that he was shot, but this is a damn blessing in disguise.”
Jamie lifted his head from Rhodey’s shoulder. “It’s brain surgery, so he can’t be moved, right? He has to stay here? He won’t like it, but we’ll make him. I’ll make him. I’ll...deny him sex for however long it takes so he won’t die. Just tell me and I can do it. I just...I need him to be okay.”
Smiling fondly at Jamie, Seth shook his head. “I’ll know more when he wakes up, but I think moving him tomorrow will be fine. He’ll need to take it easy for awhile. He’ll have to accept his limits and his sight might not return for weeks. Even months. Dr. Chase believes it will return, though. So long as he takes the time to heal and doesn’t do himself any more damage. The nerves around where the tumor was are fragile. He could lose his perception of color or depth. Which might be temporary, but it will take time to know for sure.”
More silence. Wren didn’t know about anyone else, but he kept going back to what he knew of Noah. How unlikely it was that he would give himself that time. How difficult it would be to force him to if he felt anyone else was at risk.
And he would. The safehouse was a good idea, but there were too many in the core who wouldn’t be there who...probably should be. If Noah knew they were close, that they were protected, he wouldn’t have the need to keep fighting.
But there was also the risk that came from each person brought there. How hard it was to avoid exposure with every single one.
The next day that was all Wren could think of as the two ambulances were procured to move Noah and Reed without drawing too much attention. He could hardly breathe until they got to the remote air strip where they would get onto a private plane and brought to a safehouse that Rhodey wouldn’t share the location of.
His throat tightened as he watched Lawson, standing a bit away from everyone, staring at his phone before handing it to Rhodey, who’d taken everyone else’s. The Dom looked on the verge of taking one hit too many. He’d been there for Reed. He’d been steady and solid, just like everyone expected him to be.
But at that moment it was clear he was reaching his limit. He needed the kind of support no one could give him except for the men he loved, even though he’d accepted he couldn’t reach out to the two who weren’t with him.
After Reed and Noah were secured on the plane, Quint came to Wren’s side as he stood back while several of the Doms moved off to discuss what came next.
Wrapping his arms around Wren when he didn’t give into the urge to pull away, Quint kissed his cheek. “You don’t even know what you set into motion when you called me. I don’t want to spoil the surprise, but it’s a good thing, Wren. It’s what our people need, whether they know it yet or not. I didn’t ask. I didn’t wait for anyone to tell me it would be okay. Those are the choices I was trained to make and you knew that. If nothing else, I’m grateful you trusted me enough to do that.”
Relaxed into Quint’s hold, Wren nodded. “It’s...so much. I’d want to give everyone...everything. But I know I can’t.”
“You did, though, my man.” Quint turned Wren to face his and cupped his cheeks. “Hear what I’m saying. Really hear it. I know when my men need their team. Ours do. Every single one of them. It’s my job to make things happen and I did.”
Wren’s lips parted. He looked at Lawson again, seeing how distant he seemed from the other Doms. The shadows under his eyes. How he looked like he was on the very edge of his breaking point. “All of them? But...there were reason and they made sense and—”
Letting out a soft laugh, Quint nudged up his chin with a finger. “All. But don’t say anything yet. We have several Doms here who don’t like giving up control. Sometimes, not giving them a choice is the only way.” He made a soft hushing sound when Wren shook his head. “Again, you don’t need to worry about that. It’s why I’m here. I was where you are once. My whole life was dictated by giving up too much control. And I had to take just enough of it back to survive.” He touched his forehead to Wren’s. “If I do this right? You’ll never need to be here. I’m relearning how to accept what I need, but I find peace in giving what I can. It doesn’t look like what you or any other sub would be comfortable with. I’m okay with that. Let me have this, Wren. For us both.”
There was something sad about what Quint had revealed. Knowing he was one of Jared’s subs, that he’d been there so long ago and could have had the kind of submission that meant never having to hold so tight to that kind of control.
From the sounds of it...that was lost to him. He could take it in small parts, but he’d been on his own for too long. The world had shown him complete surrender was out of reach. Even a taste would take either Seth or Jared pushing him over a ledge he would never truly release. His time with Noah must have been difficult, because Noah would have found a way to make him forget he was clinging to anything at all.
He wouldn’t let himself get back there. He couldn’t.
And, damn it, that knowledge made Wren hurt for the other sub. He wanted the Doms to prove him wrong, but also...didn’t. Because Quint’s job was the only reason they were able to get on that plane and go somewhere that most of them would be okay.
On the plane, Jared gave Jamie some medication to keep him calm when Noah not waking sent him into a panic. A sedative was put into the IV still attached to Reed when he started shivering violently, even while insisting he was fine.
They got off the plane in the middle of nowhere and were moved onto several SUVs, one driven by Rhodey, one by Seth, and the last by Quint.
A long drive, then trees pressing so close to the doors, they scraped against the windows. Once they reached the clearing, they couldn’t see the house, but there was a familiar sound. An ax cutting wood.
“That’s good, my boy, but try again. Don’t hesitate and you won’t have to hit it twice.” A soft rumble of laughter, Curtis’s voice deep and warm. “Don’t give me that look, city boy. I was taught this with the assumption it might be limbs one day. Thankfully, it never was. We need to keep things nice and warm for our men and I’ll keep correcting you until you get it right.”
Matt made an aggravated sound. “There’s a shit ton of wood. I heard the plane, then the cars on the road. I won’t freak out, so stop fucking holding me back.”
Glancing toward the part in the trees as they emerged, Curtis smirked. “I wasn’t, you look fucking hot, all sweaty, holding that ax, but if you wanna ruin the image for our men, do what you’ve gotta do.” He grabbed Matt around the waist with one arm before he bolted, slipping the ax out of his hand. “Gently, my boy.”
Eyes glistening with tears, Matt gave a firm nod, gaze locking with Lawson's. He started forward slowly as Lawson stopped short.
Before anyone else could say a word, Lawson rushed forward, lifting Matt into his arms. “I shouldn’t want you here, but I did. I do. I hoped you could have some normal with your brother, but I missed you, so damn much.”
“I wanted normal for him, but not for me. I only ever wanted you.” Matt wrapped his arms around Lawson’s neck. “When Quint told me I’d have to walk away from everything, not contact anyone, and get here without knowing when you’d come, I didn’t hesitate. I never will, Lawson. I know where I belong. You gave me that.”
Beyond them lay a huge house, surrounded by trees, mountains in the distance, some capped with snow. Wren stopped at the edge of the path, pressed against Jared’s side. Behind them, Noah was on a stretcher, sedatives keeping him under as Quint and Seth carried him. Reed was being carried by Rhodey while Avery stuck close to him, gun drawn, keeping watch.
Not the kind of life most would dream of, but Matt was right.
They didn’t hesitate to step into it because of what it held.
More than a dream.
A reality full of love. A future none of them had ever been promised.
But one worth waking up to.
Every single day.
****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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