Cain walked quietly beside the nurse, his face drawn as they twisted and turned deeper into the ribs of the hospital. He had been called early that morning...
He's ready to leave now, the nurse said conversationally, her rounded eyes glancing at him sideways, He wouldn't tell us his name, or anything else for that matter. But we couldn't just send him away without anyone to escort him. I checked his phone while you were asleep...your name was the only one in the address book. Are...are you his brother, perhaps? Her lips twisted into a knowing smile.
No, Cain said curtly, I'm his boyfriend.
Her smile faded instantly...
* * *
Isaac was curled up on his side, the dark jacket pulled around his shoulders and the worn jeans that hung from his hips seemed out of place in the sterile white atmosphere. His eyes were closed, lids toned a faint shade of purple against his otherwise pale face. Even though he was asleep...he didn't look at rest.
Isaac, Cain muttered, resting a hand on the younger boy's shoulder and shaking it gently, Isaac, wake up. It's time to go.
His eyes opened slowly, almost as if he hadn't really been asleep, but simply waiting. Cain glanced at white bandage that was wound around his wrist, stretching nearly up to his forearm. He shifted, uncomfortable with how similar it looked to the bandages that had been on his own wrists after the time he'd accidentally cut too deep. Cain had never liked hospitals. The lights gave him headaches and the only reason people were there was to brace for bad news.
The younger boy closed his eyes again and carefully propped himself up on his elbow, swinging his legs over the side of the hospital bed and simply sitting there for a few seconds. I told them not to call you, he said quietly, I didn't want to be...trouble. Cain ran a hand over his face, suddenly feeling very tired as he sat down next to the younger boy and laced his arms around him, pressing his face into the crook of his neck. You could never be trouble, Isaac.
Did your father do this to you?
Isaac felt a shock of panic. His...father? No, it hadn't been his father. It was his family, coming back to give him what they thought he deserved. Raymond's words slowly leaked back into his thoughts. You come down tomorrow night, no escorts, nobody forcing you...you do this freely, and then we'll leave you alone.
No, Isaac said wearily, he never touched me.
He felt Cain's arms stiffen around him, the older boy's lips pressed into a thin line as he pulled back and stood, taking Isaac's unbandaged wrist and gently pulling up off the bed. Isaac followed without complaint, Cain's arms winding around his shoulder, holding him closer as they walked. Cain didn't believe him...he really thought that his father had broken his wrist. Isaac leaned into him, allowing himself to be supported as they passed the front entrance of the hospital.
Go ahead, then...let him think that.
It was a hell of a lot better than the alternative...
Cain's car was parked in the lane reserved for the fire engines, the tires skewed and resting on top of little black tar marks. Isaac felt his chest squeeze as Cain opened the door and helped him inside. Wincing as the door shut and the older boy walked around to the other side. He must have really been worried...
Isaac suppressed curling his lip in disgust as he leaned back against the seat and closed his eyes. He didn't want to be trouble...and yet, here he was, being more trouble than he was worth. They drove back to Cain's apartment in silence, the older boy's grip tightening on the wheel when they passed Isaac's house. Isaac stared out the window at the peeling picket fence and a crabgrass infested lawn, knowing it was probably the last time Cain would allow him to see it.
He wondered if his father would notice...
At the apartment, Cain left all the lights off, immediately leading Isaac into the small half-bathroom attached his bedroom. He sat Isaac down on the lip of the bathtub, mutely kneeling on the floor in front of him and taking his wrist in his hand. I'll be careful, he muttered, picking once at the edge of the bandage before peeling it back like the layers of an onion. The strange look in Cain's eyes deepened once the bandage was off...even Isaac had to admit...it looked terrible.
The skin was purple ringed with fading lines of healing yellow, the purple blending into an even deeper shade of black around where the nurse had set the bone back into place. His fingers looked swollen, and his skin felt tight; it was difficult to close his hand into a fist. Cain ran his own slender fingers over the bruises carefully, his eyes tired as he rewound the bandage and pulled Isaac against his chest.
Are you alright?
Isaac smirked, Fine...just tired.
Cain pulled back, brushing the hair from Isaac's face as he stood, taking the younger boy up with him. You'll sleep here, he said quietly, looking Isaac directly in the eye to make sure what he was saying was clear, I don't want you back at that house...not alone at least. Don't tell anyone your staying with me. We don't want to get the police involved, right? He smiled tightly, pressing his lips to the younger boy's slowly. Isaac closed his eyes and leaned into him...
...he seems pretty nice. It...it'd be a shame if anything happened to him...right?
* * *
Isaac stepped lightly, his footsteps swallowed up by the soft fibers of the carpet. He moved quietly, eyes occasionally drifting to Cain's figure, still buried under the covers and fast asleep. He pulled his jacket over his bare chest, wincing as his wrist shifted into an odd angle. It was probably best not to think about that...chances were he'd be coming back with a lot worse after tonight.
He waited until he was at the front door before putting his shoes on, forgetting his socks in his haste to leave as quickly and quietly as possible. His footsteps echoed back to him the moment he stepped from the foyer of the complex, filling his lungs with the cold night air and his ears with the sounds of the city at night. He felt better now that he was back on the street. The headlights of the passing cars illuminating his face from under his drawn hood.
He walked automatically, his feet taking him down the familiar side streets and alleyways that he had wandered freely just weeks before. He slowed and eventually stopped as he neared his house, staring up at the closed windows with their drawn curtains and feeling a rush of cold relief that he'd never be suffocated by those walls again. It was as he had guessed...this father didn't even notice his absence.
He passed the school, running a hand along it's chain-linked fence the way he had done with Raymond whenever they'd skipped class together. He closed his fingers around the links and stared hard at the school as he thought of Raymond...that night he'd pushed him down. God, he'd looked like shit. They'd started their family so they could feel like they belonged to a group. Chances were all of them had fallen into it now. The family wars, fights that easily lasted until the morning, the drugs, the smoking, the sex. Everything and anything Isaac had been trying to get away from.
Quietly, he moved on.
The last place he stopped was a gutted out alley lined with brick apartments and boarded up windows. This was the heart of his families territory, and he felt his stomach turn as he stepped inside. There was still traces of blood on the sidewalk from Isaac's first punishment. The very one that Cain had fatefully interrupted. Isaac stood over the blood stain and stared down the alley, hands sliding into his pockets to block out the cold. He could see them now, their silhouettes outlined near the back of the alley, every last one of them waiting for him to get just one step closer.
He leaned forward...
The younger boy hesitated, his head throbbing, Go away.
Cain stepped closer, his feet were bare, the clothes he'd been sleeping in ruffled and wrinkled from the restless night. His eyes were dark against the midnight, his gaze never straying from Isaac's back as he moved closer. Why are you doing this? he asked quietly, sounding more tired that Isaac had never heard. Cain stopped a few yards away, his arms folded over his chest to block out the cold. He must have left the apartment in a hurry, forgetting his jacket in his haste.
It really wasn't your father, was it?
Isaac swallowed and shook his head.
Why are you going back? Cain pressed, his brow furrowed. He didn't understand. Isaac had worked so hard to get away from his family, why would he go back now? Did they threaten you? Cain muttered, sliding closer to the younger boy's shivering frame. He could see them now, too. Their bodies shifting in the lamplight a good one hundred yards down the alley. They were waiting for him.
Cain's lips turned upward in a grim smile, realization hitting him hard. Isaac wouldn't care if they threatened him. He'd probably laugh and take whatever it was they had to offer. So long as it was himself they were punishing he didn't mind. Such a little masochist... Did they threaten me? Cain asked quietly, noticing the shiver that ran through Isaac's frame. He took one last step, wrapping his arms firmly around the younger boy from behind and pressing him tightly against his chest. Mouth pressed tight over his ear...
They can't touch me, Isaac.
Yes they can, he muttered, eyes cast down.
Nope, Cain chuckled, they won't lay one finger on me...you know why? Families have an affinity for it. They know when someone is weaker than them, they know just the right buttons to push. They can't touch me, Isaac...because they know I'm stronger than them.
Isaac was silent.
Cain turned him around and kissed him gently, They can't touch me. And I won't let them touch you. We've won, Isaac. Let's go home. He dropped his hand to the younger boy's own, lacing their fingers together as he took a step backward, away from the alley, one step closer toward the warmth of his home. Isaac hesitated, glancing over his shoulder one last time...
His family watched him leave...their silhouettes shifting in the light, eyes drawn and bloodshot and strained...but made no move to follow...
Thank you, Isaac breathed, pressing his forehead to Cain's shoulder.