A Little Roughed Up at The Asylum Safe House - Part Six
After the way 2021 has started, all I can say is...
Did anyone else check out the small print for refunds? lol
Seriously, I hope everyone's starting off the weekend well! Looking outside, it's a beautiful sunny day here with a blanket of fluffy white snow, so I can't complain.
And I'm lucky enough to be on this journey with you, so there's that too!
**details for prizes at the bottom of each part, so don't forget to check it out!**
“You’re not going to catch your hair on fire, Danny. I promise.”
On the back step with a book of crossword puzzles he’d found lying around on his lap, Quint glanced over to where Jamie gently cajoled Danny to light the cotton ball coated in petroleum jelly with the flint and steel. The survival training was off to a slow start, the subs taking turns giving lessons under close supervision.
It probably would’ve gone faster if Danny and Pike were being taught separately, considering both learned in very...unique ways, but it certainly kept things interesting.
“He totally will if I empty out my lighter on the thing. Scootch back, I got this” Pike grinned, sitting forward from where he’d been leaning back against Seth, who’d laid out a blanket for them to sit on. His casted foot was propped up on a cushion at the moment, but over the past few days he’d grown fairly proficient at managing to get around with the thing and the pair of crutches Quint had taken out of the shed.
When Seth let him, in any case.
A soft smile on his lips, Seth swiped the lighter from Pike’s hand before he could take it apart. “If you have a lighter you use it, my pixie prince.” He pressed his lips to Pike’s rumpled blue hair. “The same goes for matches, but it’s good to know other ways to start fire if they’re either unavailable or run out. Let Danny try a few times until he’s comfortable with it, then you’ll have your turn.”
By Jamie’s other side, crouched next to the tree stump and pile of twigs Danny had gathered, Wren worried his bottom lip with his teeth as Danny hit the striker against the steel again. He managed a few sparks, but immediately jumped back, making it impossible for them to catch on anything.
“Maybe it feels awkward in his paws. He should take a break.” Reaching out, Wren pet Danny’s hair. “I have some of the biscuits Keiran made you. Would you like that? You’ve been a very good puppy.”
Shaking his head, Jamie bumped his shoulder playfully against Wren’s. “He’s not in pupspace now, goof. And he’s gotta get this right or Rhodey’s gonna beat his ass again.”
“Jared won’t let him, he still needs to heal from the last time.” Wren gave Danny a reassuring look when the other sub pulled up his hood and ducked his head. “Bark once if you want to stop.”
Danny inhaled slowly, then pushed up his sleeves. “No, it’s okay. I can do this. It’s just...I don’t like the sparks, they go everywhere and if they hit the wrong thing I might hurt someone. Maybe if you guys back up a bit I won’t worry so much?”
Both Jamie and Wren looked reluctant, but they gave Danny a bit of space. The sub stared at the cotton ball, then positioned the tools almost like Jamie had shown him, over an hour ago. He hit the steel too fast, making weak sparks that immediately died out.
Over by the edge of the clearing where he leaned against a tree, hands shoved in the pockets of his jeans as he stood guard, Dallas hesitated for a second before coming over. He took a knee next to Danny. “You’ll get better results and have more control if you slow down. You know how to do this, my boy. Don’t put so much pressure on yourself. Don’t worry about who’s watching or what might happen. Try to focus on the task and clear your mind of everything else.”
“But…” Danny lifted his gaze to meet Dallas’. “If this was really about surviving I’d have to think about how to find food and shelter and what to do if someone was hurt. And it would probably be raining and—”
One hand up to cut the sub off, Dallas shook his head. “If you’re with a group, those things can be split up between everyone. If you’re alone, the most important thing is staying calm and deciding what comes first. You’re learning these skills so they’ll come naturally.” He squeezed Danny’s shoulder. “With how many places you’ve managed to tuck yourself away in at The Asylum, finding shelter won’t be a problem for you. Now let’s make sure this won’t be either.”
“Yes, sir.” Another deep breath and Danny hit the striker against the steel, large sparks leaping forward and several catching on the cotton ball. He jerked back a little, but Dallas’ hand on his shoulder kept him from going too far. His eyes widened as a tiny flame grew, holding nice and steady with the petroleum to keep the cotton from burning out too fast. “I did it!”
Smiling, Dallas gave him a one-armed hug. “Yes you did. Now use a stick to move it under the branches so it spreads to the kindling.” Sticking close, Dallas watched Danny follow his instructions, his fingers twitching like he was tempted to take over when Danny’s hand shook and he almost dropped the burning cotton ball in the grass. He let out the breath he’d clearly been holding when Danny finally had the fire going. “Good boy. Did Jamie show you how to add more wood so you can make it bigger?”
Perking up, Jamie shook his head. “Not yet, sir, but I’ll do that now. We’re gonna work on boiling water so it’s safe to drink—me and Wren already got some from the river.”
Dallas smiled at him. “Thank you, Jamie. All that teaching at The Center definitely paid off. You’re very good at this.”
“Meh, music stuff is easier. But I kinda...got a lot of hands on experience.” Jamie rubbed his hands on his jeans, relaxing against Wren’s side as the other sub put a comforting arm around him. “I’d be happier if none of us ever gotta use this stuff again. It’s good to know, though. After the other night…” He gave Danny a level look. “Don’t ever scare me like that again.”
Moving a bit away from the fire as the flames began to sway in the breeze, Danny met Jamie’s eyes. “I won’t, I swear. And if it helps I can still...apologize.”
That got him a cheeky grin before Jamie brought his lips to Wren’s throat. “That’s okay, Wren already ‘apologized’ for you. A few times.”
“Oh, did he now?” At the top of the steps, guiding Noah, Jared lifted his brow at their subs. “You were right, my love, there was more behind our boys being so enthusiastic about going into the woods alone.”
Noah’s lips curved as he made his way down the stairs. His eyes were still unfocused, but he tended to follow voices well and seemed to be gaining the ability to track some movement. Dr. Chase had cautioned that it could take some time for his vision to return fully, and that there might be lasting damage, but the progress he’d made so far was encouraging.
“Well, I can’t very well punish them if I don’t see them breaking the rules.” Noah’s tone was light as stopped at the bottom of the steps with Jared. He tilted his head to one side. “I think I can see the orange of the fire.”
Pressing his eyes shut, Jared seemed to brace himself before he spoke. “No, you’re looking in the wrong direction. It will come, Noah.”
So far, Noah had been accepting of his limitations, and relatively patient with his healing, but there was some underlying fear everyone was avoiding so far. The man was an artist, it was the one skill he had that didn’t revolve around violence, and there was no telling what losing that might do to him.
But he didn’t appear all that bothered as he laced his fingers with Jared’s, bringing the other Doms hand up to kiss his knuckles. “I know, my love. Maybe it’s just the scent that made me think of it. Now where’s my little cat?”
“Right here, sir.” Jamie bounded to his feet, rushing to his Dom’s right side and plastering himself there, much like the feline inside who’d likely curled up on the armchair he’d claimed near the fireplace. Tipping his head back, Jamie smiled up at his Dom as Noah wrapped an arm around him. “We weren’t gone so long just fooling around, I was inspired by this bird me and Wren saw and I had to jot down some lyrics. I’ll sing them to you later if Danny will help me get some music composed to go with it. It’s about a crow—Wren said it wasn’t a crow, but I think he’s wrong and it’ll screw up all the rhymes if he’s not, so let’s just pretend.”
Noah chuckled, holding Jamie close as he continued to one of the old wood chairs Curtis had spent some time restoring over the past few days, making them more stable and staining them a rich blue color he’d found after digging through the supplies in the shed. Settling in, Noah drew Jamie onto his lap, earning himself a warning look from Jared that he didn’t see. “I’m looking forward to hearing it, my boy. It would be nice to have some music around this place. With how many people there are, it’s strange that it’s so quiet.”
“Not really.” Pike crunched on a piece of peanut brittle from a baggie Seth had taken out of his pocket and handed to him. “Even I’m not enough of an asshole to be all loud when there’s people all fu—messed up.” He yelped when Seth pinched his inner thigh. “What? I stopped myself!”
Lips twitching with amusement, Seth kissed Pike’s cheek. “Not with the first one you didn’t, but we’ll keep working on that. We wouldn’t want Jared thinking you’re completely wild.”
Relaxing into the chair Wren moved to Noah’s side, Jared glanced over at Seth, his tone mild. “We both know he’s a little wild, my man. But after the other night.” He winked at Pike. “Even I would give him a pass or two.”
There were a few, very audible, relieved exhales when the exchange passed with no shots fired. Jamie let out a happy sigh as Noah pulled him close for a long, slow kiss. The back door opened and Wren hurried up the steps to help Keiran bring out the first of the trays for the brunch he’d prepared for them all while Dallas lined up the two picnic tables. It was the first really nice day since they’d gotten here, not exactly warm, but comfortable. Rhodey and Avery being gone had kept everyone on edge at first and Quint had been prepared for a few blowups.
Instead, things were settling into a pleasant routine, allowing for this time to train. To recover.
And to do things like this ridiculous crossword that seemed to defy logic.
“‘They come in last. Three letters.’” Quint frowned as he braced his back against the railing, standing out of the way. He used the back of the pen to scratch along his jaw. “What in the world could that be?”
Jamie snickered as he straddled Noah’s lap, toying with his Dom’s curls. “If it said ‘they come last’ I’d say it was a kinky puzzle and the answer is ‘subs’.”
“That’s four letters.” A large jug of ice tea in hand, Wren held open the door from Curtis to pass with Reed on one side, and Ezran on the other, both looking like they wanted to lift him up as he tentatively made his way down the steps. Watching them, Wren spoke distractedly. “The answer’s ‘X,Y,Z’.”
Blinking, Quint stared at the puzzle, then laughed. “Clever man. That’s so obvious now it’s almost embarrassing. Thank you, Wren.”
Cheeks going a little red, Wren smiled back at him as he placed the jug on one of the picnic tables. “You’re welcome. And...don’t be embarrassed. Jamie’s answer was a lot more interesting, but what fits usually isn’t what most really think about. You have more important things on your mind like being a doctor and you’re good with people.” His brow creased slightly. “I have...a lot of space that’s empty and it always will be. My mind’s...different now. That’s okay, though. I know I won’t get better and I can accept that because I know those I care about still love me.” He stilled as if another thought had hit him, his gaze going to Noah. “You’ll get better, sir. You’re a lot stronger than I am.”
Rising up from his chair, Jared went to Wren, tipping his chin up with a finger. “This has nothing to do with strength. Your mind rewired itself in some ways, but you’re still my little raven. And Noah’s still very much himself. I’m very happy that you know how much you’re loved.” He leaned in to brush a kiss over Wren’s lips. “But you will learn to take a compliment. You are very clever.”
“Yes, sir.” Wren’s dimple showed a little as he gazed up at his Dom. “That I know.”
Jared chuckled, lifting Wren up into his arms. “Good boy. Now let’s have some of this pastry Keiran’s been so thrilled that you enjoy, I haven’t gotten a chance to try it yet.”
“Because you’ve been working very hard, sir and staying up so late going over Noah’s scans and Quint’s medical journals. If Keiran wasn’t putting skullcap in your tea, you likely wouldn’t get any sleep at all.” Wren tugged his teeth between his lips when Jared froze. “Umm...it’s a very low dose. Keiran’s very good with herbs.”
At the other side of the picnic table, Keiran’s face had lost all color. His throat worked as he set down the top of the tray he’d uncovered. “You’re not the only one, sir. It...it’s just to help you relax so you can let go at night. Rhodey said to make sure everyone’s well rested.”
“Oh, did he now?” Jared lowered Wren to his feet, motioning him toward Noah, who’d sat up, expression darkening. Rounding the table, Jared’s brow lifted when Dallas stepped in his path. “Step aside, my man. I won’t hurt your boy, but he will tell me, in detail, exactly who he’s been giving this tea to. And how much of the herb he’s been using. I need to make sure it won’t interact badly with any medication.”
Dallas didn’t budge. “That was already considered. Keiran was following orders. There’s no exceptions on missions. The focus is keeping everyone alive and that’s a lot harder when half our group—including you—tend to push themselves to exhaustion.”
Crossword book placed on the steps, Quint moved a bit closer to the tables, exchanging a look with Seth, who’d eased away from Pike and now stood in front of him like he might need to shield him if things took a turn for the worst. Curtis left Reed with his brother on another blanket, taking a similar stance, his muscles tense. Only Noah remained where he was, speaking softly to Jamie who’d positioned himself in a way that would make it very difficult for his Dom to pick him up and set him aside with his injury.
Which meant one less potential loose cannon to worry about, but there were plenty to defuse.
How the fuck did I forget we’re working with civilians?
“We’ll be preparing our own meals from this point on.” Jared gave Dallas a cold look, then glanced past him to Keiran. “You’ve broken my trust, my boy. I’m disappointed. I thought, after all this time, I’d earned more respect than this.”
From Keiran’s sharp intake of breath, Jared’s words had their intended impact. The sub looked like he’d taken a knife right to the chest. And the worst thing was, Quint couldn’t blame either man. Jared had a right to expect full disclosure, but Keiran’s training under Rhodey would leave no room for questioning commands the Dom gave him when lives were at stake. He’d likely been in situations where one moment hesitation led to consequences that had come close to breaking him. And very few mercs who kept their souls intact did that more than once.
This situation was even more complicated, because Keiran loved the people here. He’d believed he was doing the right thing.
A low growl escaped Dallas as he glanced back at his sub, then turned his focus to Jared, fist clenched at his side. “Don’t fucking start with him, my man. You can’t stop eating the food he prepares because he gave you some fucking sleepy-time tea.”
“Can’t I?” Jared’s brow rose. “Watch me.”
Dallas’ reaction was expected. Closing the distance between himself and Jared, he grabbed the other man by the front of the shirt, lifting his fist. With tensions this high among a group of men from a damn fight club, obviously it wouldn’t take much for things to come to blows.
But this wasn’t the club. It was a safehouse.
“Stand down.” Quint snapped the command at Dallas, not wasting time seeing if he’d obey before latching onto his wrist and jerking him away from Jared. Hopefully, the things Rhodey had taught his men included who was in control when they were at a safehouse not owned by their leader. He held back a sigh of relief when Dallas gave him a sharp nod, then went to stand by his sub. Turning to face Jared, Quint kept his tone level. “Sir, this is standard procedure with a lot of teams. You’re right, it would have been better if you’d been told. I’ll do my best to make sure you’re included in decisions like this from now on. You’re welcome to be present or have one of your subs present when food is prepared, but this is Keiran’s job. He handles rations.”
Jared held his gaze, expression unreadable. “If that is my only option, then I accept. Nothing will be made for me or mine unless I am there.”
“Sir, please…” Keiran shook his head when Dallas tried to hold him back. He dropped to his knees in front of Jared. “I should have told you, no matter what my orders were. I was wrong, so...so damn wrong. I swear I won’t do it again. I’m sorry.”
Some regret filled Jared’s eyes as he cupped Keiran’s cheek. “I know, my boy. But it’s too late.”
With that, Jared snapped his fingers, beckoning Wren to him as he started back toward the house. Wren’s eyes were sheened with tears, his usually graceful steps faltering as he quickly joined his Dom.
Scrambling to his feet at a word from Noah, Jamie took his Dom’s hand as Noah stood. His own face pale, Jamie kept his head down as he walked with Noah to the steps, following, rather than leading until he tripped over the first step and almost brought Noah down with him.
On the back porch with Matt, Lawson cut across the distance, steadying Noah while Matt caught Jamie by the back of his shirt. For what seemed like the first time, Matt didn’t take the opportunity to needle the other sub. His quiet words had Jamie giving him a shaky smile.
After Noah and Jamie were inside, Lawson joined the group, studying each person in turn as though that might fill him in on whatever he’d missed. Then he turned his attention to Quint. “From my understanding, you’re the one in charge while we’re here. I imagine you still answer to your Dom, with a few exceptions if they conflict with the mission.”
Seth moved to Quint’s side, putting a supportive hand on his shoulder. “Quint’s very good at his job, and I trust his judgment, so that would never be an issue. What are you getting at, my man?”
“You’re mercs. Not everyone here is and shouldn’t be handled like we are.” Lawson drew in a slow inhale. “I will tell you the same thing I’ll tell Rhodey when he returns. We’ve had to give up a lot of freedom because of the targets too many of us have on our backs. Don’t take away what’s left of it.”
Frustration crept along the back of Quint’s neck like the flames eating at the logs Danny had added to his little fire, quietly tending to it as though it would keep him from being pulled into the fray.
He kept his eyes on the sub for a moment even as he spoke to Lawson, keeping his tone as calm as possible. “Did you consider that when you took Matt in? When his home had been overtaken by the gang and both he and his brother were in danger? Or when Curtis was being kept away from his family? Where is the line, Lawson, because I’d really like to know. Every single one of you have made choices for one another, to protect each other. Sometimes, it’s fucking messy. Sometimes, it’s the wrong choice. But you’re a family and what makes you so strong, what’s gotten you through a life that can be goddamn brutal, is the knowledge that you’re willing to do whatever it takes to make sure you all make it to the other side together.”
Rubbing his hand over his mouth, Lawson exchanged a look with Curtis. His gaze went over to Matt, who’d settled in beside Reed, his expression softening as Reed rested his head on Matt’s shoulder. He lowered his hand to his side and nodded. “I understand your point, Quint. I can’t say I entirely agree with how some things are being managed, or that I’ll always like it. But I owe you a great deal of gratitude for saving my boy. For bringing us all here to eliminate further risks.”
“Same here.” Curtis went over to Dallas, patting his shoulder, then giving Keiran a little nudge as the sub rose to his feet. “And fuck it, if you drugging me is gonna have me sleeping that well, bring it on. Hell, next time, use the brownies.”
Cheeks blotchy, lashes wet, Keiran shook his head. “I won’t...I can’t…” His voice broke as Dallas pulled him against his chest. “He won’t forgive me, but...he’ll live. That matters. That’s all that matters.”
“Shh, I know, sweets.” Dallas stroked Keiran’s back. “He’ll forgive you, he was just taken off guard. Give him some time.”
Knowing Jared, it would take more than time to get past this, but Quint suspected most of his ire would be saved for Rhodey. As disappointed as Jared was in Keiran right now, he’d seen with his own sub how difficult maneuvering through this lifestyle could be. The decisions couldn’t be left with those lacking the experience to make them.
And, to be honest, Quint wasn’t sure he’d have made different ones. There were already too many uncertainties, too many chances of mistakes being fatal. If he hadn’t been so tired that first night…
Plate in hand as he loaded it up for Seth, another on the table for Pike, Quint stared at Keiran. “Did you... The night Pike and Danny went missing, did you drug my tea?”
Lips parted, Keiran quickly shook his head. “No. It wasn’t until after…” He trailed off, giving Dallas a helpless look.
Dallas exhaled roughly. “Part of why Rhodey made the decision is because you pushed yourself to the point that you weren’t alert. He doesn’t blame you, a lot of us have really shitty habits.”
Fair enough, but Quint hated that he’d been the reason Rhodey had decided on what some might consider extreme measures. He inclined his head, then brought the plates over to Seth and Pike.
As he bent down to hand them over, there was a strange noise, coming from the treeline. His brow creased as he looked over, identifying it a second too late.
A dog. Barking.
Snatching Quint’s gun from his holster, Pike tried to stand, letting out a panicked sound even as Seth looped an arm around his waist. Hushing him soothingly, Seth gently eased the gun out of his grasp.
Slow. Quint was getting too fucking slow. He gave his head a hard shake, striding forward and waving Keiran and Dallas into position to defend the group, taking note of how smoothly Curtis moved to fill in the blindspot at the far end of the house. Whatever challenges this group might face, he’d trust any one of them at his back and he hadn’t been able to say that about many of the men he’d worked with. Not for a long time.
Black wings rose from the trees, followed by a whistle and a ‘Come here, boy!’ in a voice that sounded very human, but wasn’t. There was a rustling in the bush before a fat little husky puppy ambled out, barking up at the bird, who circled above it.
Likely the same bird Wren and Jamie had seen earlier. Not a crow, but a raven—easy to mix up if one wasn’t familiar with the differences between them. This particular raven had extensive training that proved quite useful to his master in his particular field.
The first time Quint had met Bram the raven, he’d been a little out of it and fairly certain he was imagining things. As time went on, he’d found the bird’s presence comforting. He’d been almost as sorry to see Bram go as he was his master.
Just to make sure this actually was Bram, he whistled part of the song ‘Don’t Worry Be Happy’.
Bright and clear, the raven whistled the song back at him, and Quint grinned at Seth, who gave him a confused look. Having been undercover during the majority of his time as a merc, Seth hadn’t had the chance to meet some of the more valued members of their sometimes fucked up world.
But he’d finally have the pleasure.
Stephan was here.
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