Trigger Warning: (as usual) mentions of physical and sexual abuse.
Jason couldn't help the feeling of dread as Devyn emerged from his room Monday morning. While the kid looked good in his khaki slacks and dark green polo shirt, Jason sensed a change in the kid. He was stiff and lifeless.
There was no fire in his eyes when he saw Devyn at breakfast that morning, even as Brad seemed to want to get a rise out of the kid, taunting him that his hair was messy, his shirt was wrinkled. Devyn had quietly smoothed down his sun-kissed locks and gone to change shirts without so much as an annoyed glare at his step-brother.
Jason caught Chris and Trent eyeing the kid oddly too, but no one said anything about it. Sam had arrived with the backpack from the office, and Devyn slung it over his shoulder, looking to Jason.
Jason's eyes rested on the backpack for a few seconds, wondering what exactly Brad had put in it last night. He really needed to figure out what to do. Maybe he could just go to the police and tell them what he knew now. Would they find evidence in Brad's office? Would the recording on his phone be enough?
"Ready to go, then?" Jason rose from his seat, cutting off his musings until later, when he had time to figure things out.
Jason noticed that the kid's hand hovered over his sore ribs still as they walked to the front door.
"You okay?" he asked as they walked to his Ford Explorer.
Devyn just nodded, shrugging. ^I'm fine.^
Jason grunted. "Big surprise there," he mumbled under his breath. "I'm just asking 'cause you look like your ribs are still bothering you. I thought they were better yesterday."
Jason pointedly stared at the kid as he settled in the seat stiffly. When he still hadn't started the car, Devyn looked up at him, and Jason just raised his eyebrows, waiting for a response.
^I slipped. In the bathroom. Bumped my side. That's all.^
Jason wasn't at all convinced, but he didn't know what else could have happened. The kid had been safely locked in his room all night. He was sure of it.
"Fine." He started the car.
Jason and Devyn rode in silence for most of the drive. Jason kept glancing at the backpack at Devyn's feet.
"So, how long have you been Brad's pack mule?" Jason asked as he pulled into the parking lot of the apartment complex.
Devyn's blue eyes shot to him, widening in shock.
"Drugs? Right?" Jason nodded to the pack on the floor.
Devyn's hand tightened on the strap.
"He uses you to carry his drugs to his dealers, doesn't he?" Jason guessed, as Devyn's eyes cast to the ground, flitting out the side window. "That way he can't get caught carrying the drugs. You do. He's set you up to take the fall if anything goes wrong."
Devyn's other hand grabbed the door handle, but Jason was faster, catching Devyn's arm.
"Look, Devyn, I'll take you to the police. You can show them what's in the bag, explain--"
^Fuck you! You don't get it!^ Devyn yanked his arm out of Jason's grasp, and Jason gaped at him in shock.
He was sure the kid would take him up on the offer. A way to get out.
^They'll just say I'm trying to set Brad up.^ Devyn ran his fingers through his blond hair, his anger deflating quickly to resignation. ^My word is worth shit around here. Brad is golden.^
"Yeah, but I could tell them--"
^You have family?^ Devyn cut him off.
Jason startled at the abrupt change in conversation. "Y-yeah, my dad. Why?"
^You say anything, and your dad will suddenly die of a heart attack or something.^
"What?" Jason gasped. What the hell was the kid saying? That Brad was capable of ... murder? What the hell?
^With no proof, no evidence, but our word, they won't be able to do anything to Brad, except piss him off again. And he won't be happy. Your dad, my grandmom--^
Devyn swallowed hard and added, ^Michael.^
"Shit, Devyn, Brad wouldn't--" Jason started automatically, but even as he said it, the dread began to sink in. If Brad was capable of dealing drugs and ignoring that his charge was being physically abused, and probably hitting the kid himself, how big a step was it to believe him capable of murder too? Fuck, Jason breathed, banging his head against the headrest.
Devyn yanked the door open and was out before Jason could react.
"Devyn!" he jumped out of the SUV.
But the kid just kept stalking toward the door. Jason raced to catch up. He managed to meet up with the kid as he stepped on the elevator.
"Fine," Jason growled at the scowl that Devyn pierced him with. "I'll figure something else out. We'll drop off whatever you have in there and go home."
^Just drop it,^ Devyn worded silently.
"No, I don't want you to get hurt again," Jason insisted.
For a second, he saw a flicker of something pass the boy's stoic, emotionless features. ^He won't hurt me,^ Devyn finally mouthed.
"But the last guy, Haskins--"
Devyn's deep blue eyes betrayed his fear at the mention of the man's name. ^He's different. These others don't hurt me like that.^
A minute later, the elevator dinged and Devyn was stepping out into the hallway, leaving Jason frowning at his words. Devyn knocked on the door, glancing at Jason.
^I'll see you in an hour.^
"A hour?" Jason frowned. "I know what's up now, you don't have to stay here and pretend to be tutored..."
^Yes, I do.^
"No you don't, just hand over the bag and let's go--"
Devyn smiled at him, a little sadly. ^It's just an hour. It's fine. I promise.^
The door opened and a rather tall man smiled down at Devyn. "Hey, Devyn. Right on time. Come on in."
^An hour,^ Devyn's lips formed the words distinctly.
Devyn stepped forward before Jason could stop him, sliding into the apartment. Marty Pollinger slid his hand over Devyn's shoulder.
"Hey, don't worry, I've got a great lesson planned for today. We'll see you later," the man smiled, apparently very much into the charade. And Jason wondered suddenly if Brad was worried about Devyn being watched by the police. Maybe that's why Devyn had insisted on staying, to continue the illusion that he was actually being tutored. If he left too quickly, anyone watching him might be suspicious.
"Fine," Jason finally conceded through gritted teeth at Devyn's nod, and narrowed his eyes at the 'tutor's' grin as he went to close the door. "An hour."
He needed to figure out a way to get some evidence. Something the police couldn't ignore. He couldn't help glancing around the parking lot as he made his way back to his SUV, wondering if perhaps someone was watching them.
He slumped back into the front seat of his car, pulling out his phone. He still wanted to call the psychologist, but somehow that didn't seem as important right now. Now that he knew Brad was using Devyn to transport drugs and apparently didn't care if the 'supplier' Haskins hit the kid, there was no way he'd be able to get Devyn away to see a shrink until he took care of Brad first. He banged his head against the headrest a few times in frustration.
He glanced back at the video he'd taken last night; well, audio, really, since you couldn't see anything. Maybe if he could get one of Brad's dealers on video...
Jason smiled to himself as he rode back up the elevator, humming pleasantly. In the last hour, he'd started to work out a plan that might get him some evidence on Brad's shady dealings. And maybe, once he worked it all out, Devyn would cooperate with him, especially if they had evidence to back up his story.
He sauntered down the hallway, feeling rather giddy and pleased with his plan. He knocked, waiting only a couple minutes before Marty opened the door and Devyn stepped out.
"Hey, kid," Jason smiled, not surprised by the sullen look on the boy's face. Jason absently slid his hand to the kid's neck to guide him toward the elevator.
He paused. Something wasn't right. His fingers threaded through the blond locks. Why was his hair damp?
"Why is your hair wet?" he snapped, his brows furrowing suddenly, fury quickly rising at the reasons the kid might have gotten his hair wet. And none of them were good.
"Things got a little messy is all," Pollinger grinned, slapping Devyn's shoulder jokingly.
"What? Did you 'fall' into the fucking experiment?" Jason snapped irritably.
Devyn's eyes widened at Jason's curt tone.
To his surprise, Pollinger just laughed. "No man, he's fine." And Jason cast a wary eye at the man he knew was a drug dealer. "The eruption just got messy," Pollinger grinned. "It exploded all over the counter and stuff, got in our hair, too. So he showered."
Jason watched the 'tutor' grin at Devyn, who just nodded his agreement. Jason didn't know what to think as he watched the door close to the apartment. What experiment had they been doing that had gotten that explosive?
Wait. What the hell was he thinking? The man wasn't a real tutor. There wasn't any fucking experiment, right?
"What the hell happened in there?" Jason demanded.
^Like he said, it just got messy,^ Devyn said dully.
Devyn just looked at him with the dead eyes that he'd stared at him with all morning. He turned silently and walked to the elevator.
"But he isn't even a real tutor! So what got messy? Did you really something really explode?"
Devyn forced a chuckle. ^Yep. He showed me his volcano.^
"A volcano? Really?" Jason eyed him increduously.
Devyn shrugged. ^Got to do something for an hour.^
"So he's exploding volcanoes? Isn't that a little juvenile?"
Devyn sighed as he sagged against the wall next to the elevator. ^Who cares? Let's just go.^
"Devyn!" Jason grabbed the kid's arm, as he moved to step onto the elevator. "What's going on?"
^Just take me home,^ Devyn sighed. Then his hand moved to his chest, circling it, 'Please,' he signed.
"Fuck," Jason muttered as they stepped on the elevator, watching the kid's slumped shoulders and stiff movements.
Jason fumed in silence for most of the ride home. Devyn's head leaned against the window, watching the passing scenery without interest.
As they pulled in the driveway, Jason cut off the engine. When Devyn grabbed the door handle, Jason put his hand on Devyn's thigh to stop his exit. Devyn jumped at the touch, and Jason yanked his hand back.
"Devyn, please," Jason begged. "Talk to me. Tell me what's going on."
Devyn's liquid blue eyes rose to meet his for a second before the boy turned away, grabbing the backpack.
"Come on, kid," Jason pleaded. "I can help you if you tell me. Tell me what Brad's done, tell me what Sam's done, what Haskins did. Anything."
Devyn climbed out of the car, and Jason noticed his hand was trembling as he pushed the door closed.
"Write it down, even," Jason pushed as the kid walked away. Jason sighed as he shoved open his own door and followed the kid inside.
Jason watched as Devyn silently handed over the backpack to Sam as he always did.
"Hey, Devyn," Jason caught up to the kid as he was heading towards the stairs like he did every time he came home, disappearing to his room for--
Shit. Jason's heart plummeted, and he felt like he was going to be sick. Devyn took a shower every time he came home from one of his 'tutors'. Oh, God, no.
"Shit, shit, shit!" he cursed. Fucking messy experiment, my ass!
He nearly doubled over as nausea swept over him. Fuck, he'd delivered the kid to the man's door. He'd believed Devyn when he said the others didn't hurt him like Haskins. But, fuck, the kid didn't actually say they didn't hurt him at all--Jesus Christ, they were probably hurting him worse. Devyn had known what he was walking into and was so scared of Brad that he wouldn't disobey. Oh, God, did Brad know what the tutors were doing? Had he--?
Jason raced to the kitchen and vomited in the sink. Fortunately, it was the side with the garbage disposal.
"Jason," Trent came up behind him, looking worried. "You okay?"
Jason stared into the now empty sink, taking the glass of water in his shaking hand that Trent offered, his heart aching but not knowing what to do about it. He wanted to demand the kid tell him, drag his ass out of the house right now. But, Devyn refused to talk to him. He knew the kid would refuse to admit anything.
His gut told him he should take the kid and get out of here--now-- but he had no proof of anything except snippets of conversations and strong suspicions. And with Devyn not talking...
"Shit," Jason cursed under his breath, turning back to the kitchen, trying to calm down. "I think something's really wrong. I think--"
"Jason," Chris's voice snapped sharply, interrupting him, and Jason's head popped up to see the man glancing frantically toward the foyer. "Just let it go, okay?"
Jason stepped closer, narrowing his eyes. "Let what go?"
Jason glared at the two men, suddenly realizing that they both had to know everything that had been going on in the house, and not just have suspicions like him and Lyle. How could they not? They couldn't be that blind. But they had been silent.
"Are you telling me that you know something's going on with Devyn and those 'tutors', and you've never said anything?" Jason accused in a low growl.
Chris's eyes narrowed as he leaned on the counter toward Jason. "What the hell do you expect us to do? We're felons, on parole--who the hell is going to take our word over a respectable businessman anyway?"
"And we don't want to end up like Kieran," Trent sighed softly.
"What?" Jason started. He tried to process what the man was saying. "Like Kieran? He had an accident."
Chris rolled his eyes. "Yeah, right. That man kept his motorcycle in pristine condition. It did not malfunction on 'accident'."
"What are you saying? That Brad--"
But hadn't Devyn just insinuated the same thing, that Brad was capable of such things? And here Chris was implying that Brad had attempted to kill Kieran...
"Shh!" Trent hissed. "We're not saying anything! Fuck, we don't know anything! Just shut up."
Jason took in the look of agitation in the eyes of both men. Shit, they didn't work for Brad out of loyalty; they worked for him out of fear. They wouldn't just keep quiet, they would outright lie for Brad if he told them to. And Brad probably had.
"Well fuck that, I'm not on parole. I'm going to the police. I'll--"
"Tell them what?" Chris sneered, keeping his voice quiet, even as his eyes darted toward the foyer. "That you think Brad is abusing his step-brother? Just a couple night ago, you just told them that the kid fell into a table. And now you're going to go tell them Brad hit him?"
"No, Brad didn't, but he let the guy--"
"Oh, yeah, Devyn's 'tutor' did it, even better," Chris rolled his eyes.
"Fuck you! They're doing more than just hitting him!" Jason growled at the man. "I know they are!"
"No one is going to believe you," Trent countered.
"Devyn can tell them--"
"Don't you get it?" Trent said tightly. "Devyn's already tried, years ago." Jason felt his heart fill with dread as his suspicions were confirmed.
"How the hell did no one realize what was happening to that kid?" Jason snapped.
Both men looked down guiltily, and Jason saw the sad looks of remorse emanating from their shifting stances.
"Shit," he groaned, "You fucking lied to the police about it--when they came to check out Devyn's accusations all those years ago." Jason felt his voice grow cold, hard. "Devyn needed you, you assholes. He was a fucking kid! Still is!"
"You fucking let a thirteen year old kid--maybe younger--get beat up, and... and... worse," he stammered, "and you did nothing?" Jason was nearly shaking with rage.
Jason at least noticed that the men looked severely pained by his accusations. Shit, they should be. Trent looked like he might start crying.
"Jase, please, you have to understand--"
"I don't understand any of this!"
"Calm down," Chris warned with another glance toward the foyer. "You can't let them hear you."
"I don't fucking care," Jason snapped. "I'm getting Devyn and taking him out of here now."
Trent grabbed Jason's arm before he got out of the kitchen. "Man, think about what you are doing," he practically begged.
"Get the hell off me," Jason growled.
"No, I'm trying to stop you from doing something stupid," Trent insisted.
"How is saving that kid from being..." he lowered his voice and sneered in Trent's face, "...from being fucking raped by those assholes Brad calls 'tutors' doing something stupid?"
Chris gasped at Jason's bluntness, and Trent straightened. "Because Brad will win. To put it bluntly, you're going all in and you don't even know what your hole cards are."
"Just slow down, okay?" Trent said. "All I'm saying is: think about it first before you show your hand. If you go off half-cocked without thinking this through, Brad will destroy you--and Devyn too."
Jason glanced between the two men, who looked like they were going to be sick. Maybe they were worried about their own hides, but they did also seem to be a little concerned about what would happen to Devyn should Jason make accusations without proof.
He ran his hand through his hair. "Damn it, you're right. I need to plan this a little," he finally agreed. And he had thought about what to do earlier, but now it had become even more urgent, knowing that all the 'tutors'/drug dealers were probably treating Devyn like their own personal whore, and not just the Haskins guy. But then he eyed both of them. "But when it comes down to it, you two better promise me that you will be there for that kid. He doesn't seem to hate you so--"
Chris scoffed, "Yeah, right."
"No, he hasn't mutilated you in any of his sketches, so I figure he doesn't hate you too much, anyway."
"What?" Chris choked.
Jason allowed a small smirk to appear on his lips. "You, Trent, Lyle, me--none of us are in his sketches, probably because we haven't hurt him like ... like the others have."
Trent and Chris stared at the tile floor.
"Jase, listen, we're sorry, okay," Chris breathed. "We should never have lied back then, but we were scared--"
"How the hell do you think that thirteen year old boy felt?" he snapped back. "Don't you think he was scared, too?"
Trent and Chris exchanged somber looks, the corners of their eyes starting to glisten. Jason just stared at them, forcing them to see what they'd done to the kid with their silence.
"Fuck, Jase," Trent breathed finally. The man looked resigned to his fate.
"Damn it," Chris muttered, and he seemed to accept that his turning a blind eye wasn't going to cut it anymore.
"Good," Jason mumbled. "Now let me figure out what to do."