Long Winding Road Trip Away From The Asylum Part Ten
Hope everyone's enjoying their week so far!
This was the first time Wren wasn’t reluctant to get out of the SUV. Door open as soon as they were parked on the highest road on the mountains, he gazed up at the snow blanketed peak, glowing with the filan kiss of dawn. An icy breeze washed over him, but he hardly noticed it as he glanced over to where Noah came to his side and took his hand.
A snowball struck Wren in the thigh and he jumped, a laugh escaping him as Reed bounded into the ankle deep snow. Leaning against Naoh’s side, Wren took in the sights while the other sub dropped onto his back in a space by the road and began to move his arms and legs, making a snow angel like he sometimes did with Jamie during winter when they visited Tracey’s.
Sometimes, she even joined them.
“This is...amazing, sir.” Wren walked toward the trees with Noah, bending down to pick up a handful of snow and let it melt over his fingers. The coolness brought a feeling of comfort he tried never to examine too hard. He’d never been all that interested in snow as a child, as far as he could remember, but maybe his subconscious recalled something special with his parents before they died.
Surviving in it because of Keiran was what stuck with him. Maybe it was strange, other parts of that event raised their ugly heads now and then in a way that wasn’t so pleasant. Most of all the damage to his memory and how difficult it could be to retain thing that had been so easy before.
The smile that had been on his lips since leaving the SUV faded.
“What is it, my boy?” Noah put an arm around his shoulders, turning Wren to face him. He studied Wren’s face, as though trying to read the answer there, brow creasing. “Talk to me.”
Taking a deep breath, Wren looked up into Noah’s eyes. “I’m afraid I’ll forget all of this. Or pieces. I know that must be frustrating and I try not to—or at least not to let it be an issue for anyone else unless I have to. Like when I forget if I’ve done a task I really need to do. But this...I don’t want to lose it.”
Noah nodded, kissing his forehead then nudging him a few steps away. He backed up, taking his phone from the pocket of his leather jacket. “That’s why we take pictures and get souvenirs. They can help.” He snapped a picture as Wren focused on him, then another, his warm smile immediately drawing one to Wren’s lips. “And if they don’t I’ll remember for you. I’ll tell you all the special things we did together. If you’ve forgotten, it’ll be like experiencing it all over again.”
That sounds...like what we’re sharing here won’t be over when we get back to The Asylum.
But Wren wouldn’t ask that of his Dom. He knew Jamie would need Noah once they both got back and he refused to get in the way. Besides, Jared would want to dive back into his work at the clinic and Wren was looking forward to helping him there, learning all he could so he could be an asset to his primary Dom.
Hearing Reed’s laughter as Lawson joined him making snow angels, seeing the simple joy in Noah’s gaze as he turned to take a few pictures of them, helped Wren relax into the moment and enjoy the now. He walked to the edge of the treeline, brushing his fingers over some branches so the snow drifted down from them.
A car horn sounded in the distance, cutting through the quiet stillness. Lawson rose from the snow, dusting off his clothes, then Reed’s. “We should probably get going, it sounds like the road out of here might be getting packed and we want to make sure we make it to the next campsite before dark.”
“That’s a good idea.” Putting away his phone, Noah crossed over to Wren, lifting him up in his arms, a move that was beginning to feel more natural. Brushing a kiss over Wren’s lips, Noah touched their foreheads together. “And I have a surprise for you.”
Curiosity pulled at Wren so much that he lost track of time even when they ended up stuck in traffic. Minds wandering over what the surprise could be, his gaze drifted over the cars around them. A jeep with a young couple, taking advantage of the standstill to makeout. What looked like half a dozen kids in a minivan that had canoes strapped to the roof, parents in the front seat taking turns reaching back and shouting. Behind them was a black van, one slightly familiar, but Wren couldn’t put his finger on why. The driver stared straight ahead, looking irritated and speaking to a passenger Wren couldn’t make out in the shadows.
With how slowly that lane was moving, there were a lot of dour faces. The lane Lawson had pulled into was crawling forward at a more reasonable pace, very few cars letting anyone in, but Lawson still checked his watch a few times, shaking his head and muttering about how he should have scheduled things better, which had Noah patting his arm and telling him not to worry. Quieter than usual, Reed observed the interaction, relaxing a bit when Lawson nodded and smiled at Noah. Reed unwrapped a large rainbow lollipop, wiggling his brows at Wren when he caught his eye and working his lips over it suggestively.
Cheeks heating, Wren shook his head at Reed, mouthing ‘Behave.’
Reed’s blue eyes took on a playful glint as he gave the candy a long lick.
Once they reached the turnoff toward the highway, the pace picked up until they were covering enough ground that Lawson didn’t hesitate hours later when Noah suggested stopping for lunch. Which turned out to be a very good idea, because Reed looked uncomfortable and became restless when he was forced to be still for too long. He didn’t complain, but it looked like he was being tortured by his seatbelt after a while and he turned a bit green.
The next stop after was just before the turnoff to a small town named Valley’s End. Wren frowned, exchanging a confused glance with Reed as their Doms got out, Noah getting behind the wheel and Lawson coming to Reed’s side and opening the door.
“We can keep going with them if you’d like, but I thought you’d enjoy another hike with me more. There’s a zipline set up and a river where we can fish for our dinner. You’re better at it than I am, so I’ll trust you to make sure we don’t starve.” Lawson went to the trunk, unloading a few supplies as Reed joined him. “What do you say?”
Shouldering on his backpack, Reed nodded slowly, meeting Wren’s eye as he turned in his seat. “I know Wren doesn’t love hiking, but I figured we could change that. He’s been having fun...haven’t you, Wren?”
Not wanting Reed to think the time they’d shared hadn’t been more important than any discomfort, Wren quickly nodded. “I have. And I do want to watch you fishing at some point, but Noah said there’s a surprise and if it’s here I don’t want to miss it.” He glanced over his shoulder at Noah. “We could all go together, then come back for the fishing and hiking. Maybe there will be real paths so I won’t get twigs and dirt all over me, but I think I’ve mastered cleaning it. More off my own clothes than yours, but I appreciate a challenge. And the knees of Reed’s jeans will be the most challenging of all.”
Reed snorted, leaning into the trunk with a crooked grin on his lips. “You’ve got some wear on the knees of your jeans too. How’ya gonna fix that?”
Heat crept up the back of Wren’s neck again, but he smiled back at Reed, not really minding the teasing. He loved seeing the other sub so happy and carefree.
Clearing his throat, Noah brought their attention back to him. “We could all go together, but I didn’t think Reed would want to. It’s practically a ghost town that’s supposed to be extremely haunted and—”
“Nope.” Reed backed away from the SUV and put his hands up. “You two go have fun with that. I’ll take my chances with the fish. Don’t let anything creepy follow you back.”
Arm around Reed’s shoulders, Lawson closed the trunk, then walked to the driver’s side. He nodded to Noah. “Take your time and enjoy yourselves. If it starts getting too late, we can make camp here.”
“Near the haunted town?” Reed frowned up at Lawson. “We’re going to have to discuss that, sir. As in I’m going to have to safeword and say ‘Hell to the no.’”
Noah chuckled. “That won’t be necessary. The next campground is a few more hours out. We won’t be too long.”
After grabbing the fishing gear he’d unloaded, Reed shot Noah a grateful look, then started out with Lawson, Noah keeping an eye on them until they were out of sight.
Then he patted the seat beside him. “Come ride shotgun. And not like you did that once with Jamie. No taking over until the cops get involved.”
Wrinkling his nose, Wren got out of the SUV, climbing in to sit where Noah wanted him. “I haven’t really driven since then, sir. I hope you’re not...still angry about that? It was wrong and I don’t blame you if you are, but…”
One hand up, Noah let him trail off, then shook his head. “No, I’m not still mad. I was teasing. Danger aside, I love that you have memories like that with Jamie. And I can’t wait for you to have new ones. Some like this, just enjoying life. We can’t erase who we are, but we can steal little moments like this and hang on to them tight. I’ve always found that can help when the road gets rough again.”
That made a lot of sense. Wren reached out, slipping his hand in his Dom’s as Noah drove until they reached the town he’d mentioned, parking at the end of a street that had only half of it paved, as though someone had started the project, then given up on it.
Or possibly run away.
If a horror movie wasn’t filmed here one day, it would be a waste. Wren made his way along the packed earth of the sidewalk, staring up at the buildings with their boarded up windows or curtains fluttering behind broken glass. He didn’t believe in ghosts, there was nothing scientific to lend credit to their existence, but the idea of them thrilled him.
Closer to the center of the town there was some life. A few people walked around, almost ignoring him and Noah completely. There was a restaurant with a ‘closed’ sign that looked like it was regularly used, a small grocery store which seemed to have the most activity, and an old fashion post office.
Further out, almost completely beyond the town, there were scattered houses along dirt roads, with signs leading to each one. A house where a family had been murdered and each member visited the rooms at night, where one could stay for the low price of fifty dollars—breakfast included. The home of the grandparents of a ‘famous serial killer’ Wren had never heard of. A well where a dozen school children had mysteriously fallen in over the span of twenty years.
“Where do you want to start?” Standing a bit behind him, Noah rested his hands on Wren’s shoulders.
Wren wanted to go to all of them, but one sign caught his attention. ‘Real remnants of Valley’s End’. The claim might be nothing but more fodder for tourists, but if any of it was real it would be a fascinating look into why the town had been abandoned. What it had been like when it had thrived.
As soon as he focused on the sign for a few minutes, Noah grinned and picked Wren up. “Gift shop it is.” He chuckled, giving Wren a light squeeze when he started to protest. “I know, it’s the artifacts that will hold your attention, but hopefully there’ll be something I can spoil you with. Then we’re going to the well. I want to find out what the story is there and why they didn’t make it safer after the first child died. It would serve them right if those kids haunted their asses.”
“I believe they might be exaggerating the story to draw interest, sir. I want to see it too and learn what the legend is. Do you think any of the stories are connected to one another?” Wren pushed open the front door of the house turned store, a bell sounding as they walked in. An older woman sitting in a rocking chair glanced up, but only smiled and nodded as they continued inside.
Stopping and lowering Wren to his feet in front of the first display, Noah shrugged. “It’s possible. A lot of towns like this were abandoned because whatever resource drew people to the area ran out. Or sometimes sickness or some other tragedy made them believe the land was cursed.”
The display in front of them made the latter seem quite possible. There was a plague mask in fairly good condition, along with other old medical tools that looked a bit more like torture devices. The next aisle had different clothes and toys that looked to be well preserved and well over a hundred years old.
At the back of the store were different kinds of displays. One held only muskets and swords that Noah spent a lot of time inspecting. There were some fancy dresses Wren was tempted to take pictures of to show Jamie, but the rocking stopped the second he took out his phone. He glanced over to see the old woman approaching, her brow slightly raised as though to let him know she didn’t approve.
He put his phone away, going to the next display. The one was behind a rope barrier, with a warning sign. His lips twitched as he looked at the doll in the glass display case.
White button eyes in the center of a black embroidered eye hole shape and an embroidered mouth in dark brown. Made of what looked like burlap, wearing a faded white robe, it was a simple design and probably taken very special care of by the child it was made for, though in modern days it would likely have even some adults drawing away in fear. Having it set up behind a glass like it posed an actual threat added to the whole aesthetic, but…
“It’s a shame to have it locked away like that.” Wren chewed on his bottom lip, staring at the doll. “Whoever made it...meant for it to be a symbol of their love.”
His Dom’s arm settled around his shoulders. “You never had many toys growing up, your aunt thought they were too hard to keep clean. I remember you telling me that.”
That was true, but it had never really bothered Wren back then. The toys wouldn’t have made him valuable to him. His skills had. “It’s not really a toy, sir. It’s an antique so giving it to a child wouldn’t be good. They wouldn’t be able to take proper care of it.” His lips twitched. “And it would probably give them nightmares.”
“Mhm.” Noah leaned close, speaking softly in his ear. “Do you want it?”
Taking a deep breath, Wren pictures the doll in his office, among the snowglobes featuring his favorite horror movies, each one carefully dusted off and polished regularly. He rarely asked for anything, but he tried to be more honest when he wanted things, knowing the pleasure it brought his Doms, as well as himself.
He brought his hand up to the one Noah placed on his shoulder. “Yes, sir.”
“Good boy.” Noah straightened. “We’d like to buy the doll.”
The old woman smiled a little, like she was pleased, but then shook her head. “It’s not for sale.”
From Noah's expression, he’d already caught on to the game. And was more than willing to play along, no matter how much she drove up the cost. He held up his hand before Wren could protest.
“Name your price.”
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