Kevin walked cautiously around the hallways to his locker. He hadn't seen his brother Brian all day, but that wasn't unusual. Brian's classes weren't near his. He hoped that Brian wouldn't be too angry that he hadn't told him earlier what he'd been planning. He probably wouldn't be, though, as Brian was the one pushing Kevin to get out of their house any way he could. Their stepfather, Gary, was getting more and more violent and Brian wasn't sure how long he could keep him from Kevin.

Jason peered at him a few lockers away and nodded slightly. Jason was Kevin's new best friend and savior. A modern day knight in shining armor, minus the shining armor, if you will. Jason had been following Kevin around since the beginning of the school year and interrogating him as to why he never smiled or why he didn't seem to ever be having any fun. Kevin was annoyed at first. What business was it of his why Kevin wasn't smiling or having fun, anyway? But the taller brunette wasn't backing down. Kevin pushed back his dark blonde hair and thought about their early days.

Jason was new at the school in the beginning of the year and lived with his sister nearby. He immediately latched onto Kevin, who wasn't at all happy about this new development. He had his own trouble to watch out for and didn't have time for a new friend. His brother was almost dead from the nightly beatings at home coupled with the daily beatings at school. And his stepfather showed no signs of letting up. Neither did that asshole, Matt Henshaw. He and Ryan Trevors bullied Brian mercilessly, but the older brother refused to do anything about it. Brian had learned from experience that fighting back in any way prolonged the pain. So he took it.

And Kevin felt so guilty about that. He knew that Brian was taking as much of Gary's wrath as he could so that the younger brother wouldn't have to. In fact, Kevin knew Gary didn't just beat Brian. But his older brother refused to talk about what went on between himself and their stepfather, so Kevin couldn't do anything about it.

And at school, there was Jason. He always asked what was wrong and never accepted Kevin's offhanded replies. He looked at Kevin like he was reading into him. Once day last week at lunch, Jason pulled Kevin into the parking lot and threw him into his car. They silently drove off to a scenic lookout point and Jason then pulled Kevin out of the car and up against a tree.

"I know damn well you and your brother are being abused by your stepfather and you are going to tell me what the hell is going on with you!"

Kevin, shocked, immediately broke down into tears and sobbed into his friend's chest, relating everything that had been happening to them since their mother died of lupus two and a half years ago, when Kevin was fourteen. When he finished, he looked up into Jason's eyes expecting to see revulsion. Instead he saw sadness and compassion.

"I know how you feel," Jason said sadly, letting Kevin off the tree and pulling him to sit down on a nearby rock. "Why do you think I live with my sister?"

"Why?" Kevin sniffed, wiping his hazel eyes of their tears.

"Because my father liked to 'give me away' to his friends and my mother didn't do anything to stop him."

"She knew?" Kevin's eyes grew wide.

"Oh yeah," Jason said. "My sister was much older. She's actually my half sister. Different father. Lucky." Jason's dark eyes narrowed. "She suspected something weird was going on when I turned five, but she was in college and my mother assured her I had ADD. The doctors doped me up on Ritalin for a few years, which didn't help."

Kevin listened to his friend in fascinated horror. No wonder Jason didn't give up his quest for answers. He was familiar with the signs.

"When I was ten," Jason went on, "Gina, that's my sister, was established in a legal firm practicing as a family law attorney. She fought for custody of me and had a private detective case our house. A year later, she won me, and my parents were in jail. I've lived with her ever since."

"Oh my God," Kevin whispered.

"When I saw your face that first day, I knew you could understand me all too well," Jason said. "I just had to break through to you."

"I don't know what to do," Kevin cried. "Brian can't hold out much longer and he's been begging me to run away, but I can't leave him."

"He's asking you to save yourself," Jason said. "And then he'll get out, too. Kevin, he's not leaving until you do."

"Where would I go?"

"Home with me," Jason said without batting an eye. "Gina already knows about you. In fact, she said if I can't bring you home by the middle of next week, she's sending someone from social services."

"Why didn't you let that happen?"

"I have friends who went through that," Jason shuddered. "Social services is a last resort as far as I'm concerned." He then smiled at Kevin warmly. "Besides, I wouldn't be able to see your bright shining personality everyday if I let them take you."

Kevin shook his head and brought himself back to the present. Today was the day he left with Jason. He'd already packed his stuff into his friend's car at lunchtime and left Brian a note. He only hoped his brother would get out as soon as he read it. Jason had asked him if he wanted to ask Brian to come with them, but Kevin knew Brian would refuse to go anywhere until he was sure Kevin was out. Brian had used himself as a human shield for too long to do otherwise. Kevin would ask Gina to send in social services tomorrow, as that might be the only way to save his brother from Gary. That pig. Kevin hoped fate was fair and got the man someday.

Too bad Brian didn't have someone like Jason in his life. He looked over his shoulder again and saw Matt and Ryan walking to their class. This was the period they had science in Brian's class. He only hoped his brother was already there.

Jason caught his eye again in silent question and Kevin shrugged. His brother's only hope was that Kevin get safely out of the house. Jason closed his locker and sauntered over to Kevin's area. Kevin closed his locker, too and they left to get Kevin settled into Jason's house.