Please note: One of the characters in this story might be considered a minor, depending on where you're from. The age of consent where I live is sixteen, which means he is only a minor in the sense that he still has to be under his parents' supervision.

Chapter 1

Daniel wasn't sure what exactly it was that had woken him up; whether it was the incessant beeping coming from beside his aching head, the nausea roiling through his stomach, the fact that every part of his body seemed to burn, or the argument taking place over his bed. He thought he recognised one of the voices, the louder one, but he couldn't place it at the moment. The pounding in his skull was too much, and he couldn't be bothered to think about who it was. Slowly, the noise of the two voices started to become words, and then full sentences.

"Mr. Mars, until the patient wakes up we can only speculate, but according to our examinations, that's exactly what happened." This voice sounded calmer than the other.

"How the hell does anyone rape a six foot four, hundred and ninety pound man?" This was the voice Daniel thought he recognised.

"As I said, we can only speculate, but I can't see anyone being a willing participant in what happened to the boy."

"Yeah, well, I'm not interested in having a queer for a son." The voice was more disgusted than angry now, and Daniel shuddered at the mixture of the old familiar feelings of fear and loathing coursing through him as he recognised the voice as his father's.

"Being raped does not necessarily make the boy a queer, as you so eloquently put it. To be honest, I don't know why you bothered coming down here if this is the extent of your concern for your son. I think it would be better if you left before he woke up."

Daniel didn't hear his father's reply as he slipped back into the blessed darkness waiting for him.

The next time Daniel woke up, the room was bathed in soft light as the early morning sun pushed golden rays through the slanted blinds in front of the window next to the bed. The machine next to his head was quiet now, and he assumed this meant he was getting better. He took a cautious look around the room and realised that his was the only bed occupying the space. He could feel the words he'd overheard earlier trying to push into his consciousness, and forcibly pushed them back down. Whatever it was, he knew he wasn't ready to deal with it. He was still trying to keep his mind safely blank when the door was pushed open allowing a tall, grey haired man to enter.

"I see you're back with us." Daniel recognised the voice from the night before.

The man continued as he picked up a chart hanging from a clip on the end of the bed. "I'm Dr. Williams. You were brought here to Southside General yesterday morning. Are you ready to answer a few questions?"

Daniel opened his mouth to answer, but only a dry croak escaped his lips. He cleared his throat and tried again. "Water?"

"Of course." Dr. Williams came up beside his bed and took a glass off the bedside table, placing the straw between Daniel's lips. After allowing him a few small sips, the doctor returned the glass to the table.

"What happened?" Daniel's voice was a bit steadier.

"Well, we have a general idea, but that's really what I needed to ask you. The police also wanted to speak to you once you're ready." Noticing the way Daniel's eyes widened at his mention of the police, Dr. Williams was quick to continue. "It's normal procedure to inform the police in a case such as yours."

Daniel didn't reply immediately, letting his eyes fall down to his hands where they were clenched together over the edge of the sheet on his chest.

"Am I going to be okay?" He queried, not looking up at the doctor.

"Physically, yes. It will take a while, but your body will heal completely. Emotionally, it's not so easy to say. From what we discovered during our examinations, you were beaten severely and also raped. The damage to the inside of your rectum is quite substantial, and will take a while to heal completely. Until then you will have to remain here."

Daniel's hands gripped even tighter to the sheet, until he felt as though his knuckles were trying to press through the skin. He shut his eyes, trying to keep the memories of what had happened from crashing over him, but they just kept coming, running behind his closed eyelids like flickering, technicolor snippets of a movie. He jumped at the feel of the doctor's hand on his shoulder.

"Daniel, do you remember what happened to you?"

Daniel shook his head almost violently. "No, no I don't ... I can't." He couldn't say it out loud, that would make it real. Dealing with the disjointed images running through his head was bad enough. Acknowledging what all those images meant would destroy him.

Dr. Williams looked down at the shaking boy in front of him. Not a boy anymore really. According to the details they had from his insurance, Daniel Mars was twenty six. Physically, he was a very large man, tall, broad-shouldered, strong. At that moment though, he looked much smaller than he actually was. He'd seen this type of reaction enough to know that pushing for an answer wouldn't accomplish anything at the moment.

Daniel was still in exactly the same position when Dr. Williams came back into the room almost an hour later. He felt as though he could physically keep the pain and anguish contained by twisting his body around it. If he let go for a second it would drown him.

He didn't look up as the doctor introduced the two police officers who had followed him into the room. He answered their questions regarding his name, age, residence and so on in a monotonous voice, trying to stick to one word answers. Once they started probing him about what had happened to him, he kept repeating that he didn't know or couldn't remember. He could hear that they were getting annoyed with his lack of cooperation, but at that moment he just didn't care. They eventually left him alone and after what felt like hours he slipped back into sleep, his body slowly relaxing back onto the bed.


Travis Davis made his way towards his usual bench, before dumping his bag and sinking down into the well-known curves of the weathered wooden seat. It was still early, he knew that the man he was waiting for wouldn't be there for another twenty minutes or so. Travis was always early, as he came here to the park every day directly after school. He'd been coming here for months now. He loved the softer sounds in the park, in comparison to the harshness of the city surrounding this place the park was a haven. There were children playing, young mothers chatting away, people walking their dogs, old men playing chess, joggers, cyclists and quite a few other people who just came to sit and look out over the small lake just like he did every day for an hour or two.

He was so lost in thought that at first he didn't notice the figure approaching down the path from the west side of the park. He finally saw movement out of the corner of his eye just as the man he'd been waiting for settled into the bench about twenty feet to his right. Travis sighed softly, feeling his heart expand and his lungs breathing more easily. For the first time in almost twenty four hours he felt as though everything was right in his world.

He could remember the exact day he'd first noticed the other man. It was on a Friday in mid August, and the wind had been howling through the city streets, almost pushing him towards the park. After he'd settled into his usual bench, he'd watched the wind playing around the almost empty park, ripping up small wavelets on the lake, bending flowers and grass in its way and ruffling the leaves in the evergreens like an adult messing up a child's hair. Autumn leaves in reds and browns and yellows were racing each other playfully around the park. He was following a mini twister of leaves with his eyes when he noticed the dark-haired man sitting on the bench not far from him. Something in the way he held himself caught Travis's attention, it was almost as though he was sitting too straight, too upright. There was a tightness in his shoulders, a tenseness to his entire frame. He wasn't sure what it was, but he'd spent the next forty minutes watching the man until he'd finally stood up and walked down the path and through the back gate of one of the houses flanking the park to the west.

He noticed him again on the following Monday, and then the next day and the next. Travis had no way of explaining what had happened; not even to himself, but in some strange way over the days and weeks that followed, the tall dark-haired stranger had become his anchor. He felt as though his whole life was a long drifting-away, and the only thing that kept him grounded was knowing that every day after school he would find him there, sitting on the same bench.

Travis looked over the other man, he didn't need to be subtle, as their separate benches were placed in such a way that he could observe the man without fear of being caught. The man was getting thinner, not unhealthy yet, but if he kept losing weight the way he'd been doing since Travis first noticed him, he'd soon become ill. His hair was also much longer than it had first been, reaching past his shoulders in thick, almost black waves. Not for the first time, Travis wished he had the courage to go and talk to the man, but he knew himself well enough to know that he'd never do it. If he'd been more like the rest of his family, he'd have no problem approaching the stranger, but then again, if he'd been more like them, he wouldn't have come here to the park in the first place. Travis was the middle child of five. His two older brothers and his younger brother and sister were vivacious, like their parents. The whole family was outgoing and had more friends than anyone could possibly need. They were all incredibly good-looking as well. His brothers and father were tall and slim, even his younger brother was taller than Travis who was two years his senior. His mother and sister were both petite and curvaceous. The whole family had thick blonde hair and eyes of different shades of blue, all beautiful. Travis, on the other hand, was short and skinny. He had mousy brown hair that flopped over his eyes and down his neck. Even his green eyes were almost non-descript, a sort of muddy, swampy colour that seemed to get lost in the paleness of his face. He was shy and reserved and hadn't had a real friend in the year since his sort-of boyfriend Dean had moved away. He was useless at sports and had to struggle to maintain an average above sixty percent in school. In comparison to the rest of his siblings who excelled at almost every sport imaginable and all had averages in the high nineties, Travis really was the odd one out. Even with his older brothers now both at university during the week, Travis was still just the middle child at home. He couldn't count the times that his mother called him either James or Peter; his two older brothers always there between them.

Travis sighed again as he realised the time; the man started to get up from his bench and then headed back towards the gate leading to his house. He felt his insides harden again as he disappeared from sight. A whole day before he'd see him again and be able to breathe once more.


Daniel made his way up the steps to his kitchen door and let himself into the quiet, empty house. He'd moved into the place almost seven months ago and apart from the furniture it still looked mostly empty. He hadn't bothered getting any paintings or rugs or anything else to make the house look more like a home since he'd moved in. His house was as empty as the rest of his life. He hadn't spoken to anyone except the cashier at the grocery store, the woman at the post-office and the kid behind the counter at the Chinese restaurant down the road since he'd moved here. He spent all his time upstairs in his study, working on code for various computer programs. Clients would e-mail him details of what they needed and make electronic payments once they received the finished products. All communication regarding specs would take place via the internet. If someone insisted on meeting him, he'd turn down the job. Luckily, his work was brilliant and his reputation excellent, so he never had a shortage of offers.

He made his way towards the fridge and poured himself a glass of cranberry juice before heading upstairs to carry on where he'd left off. His routine never varied. He'd get up at five every morning and put the coffee on before taking a shower. Once he was dressed he'd grab his first cup of coffee for the day and head to his study. At three-thirty he'd go to the park behind his house where he'd sit in the same bench for an hour before going back to the house and then up to his study again with a glass of juice. He'd finish by about one in the morning and go to bed, tired enough to sleep; most nights without the dreams. If he remembered he'd eat something somewhere during the day, but he often went without food for two to three days at a time. On Saturdays he'd go down to the grocery store and the post office to send off any finished work, and then back home via the Chinese place where he'd get a take-away. Back home he'd make himself comfortable in the lounge and then settle in to watch movies through the night and for most of the next day. He had a large collection of DVD's, and ordered new movies at least twice a month over the internet. It was a boring, monotonous existence, but it was safe and simple and filled with enough to keep his mind occupied. He wasn't happy – not that he ever thought in those terms any more – but he was dealing.