Blood and Gin

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Chapter 13

Stephan sat at the tables, cheek on his arm as he absently doodled in his notebook. He hadn’t felt like sitting through class, so here he was. The sun felt nice on his skin. It warmed him. The light breeze kept the sun from being too warm, but it also nipped through his thin shirt, making him shiver a little. What he wouldn’t give for Ross’s leather jacket right now. But Ross was in class. The Vice Principle had told the fighters in no uncertain terms to stay in class or get kicked out.

He checked his phone. Still another thirty minutes till lunch. He pressed his forehead into the paper. He should have stayed in class. Cutting class alone was boring.

“Well, well, well. What do we have here?”

The snide, cutting voice coming from behind him made Stephan roll his eyes. In school, despite him and the fighters getting a bad rap, they were not technically part of the “bad kids” crowd. Because the bad kids, as bad as they thought they were with their drugs, hook-ups, and general delinquency, had homes to go to at the end of the day. And one only had to see the bad kids standing too close to the fighters to see which group was posturing and which was a real threat.

The leader of the faux bad kids was a senior named Liam. He made it his personal mission to annoy the fuck out of Stephan. He could feel Liam standing behind him, but he didn’t look up from his notebook.

“Hey, faggot, look at me when I’m talking to you,” Liam hissed, and Stephan could have laughed. Instead, he kept ignoring him.

“Hey, fag, think you’re too good for us?” One of Liam’s lackies.

“Absolutely,” Stephan replied without hesitation, finally looking up to the boy that was standing across from him. He flicked his gaze towards Liam, who was slowly turning purple with rage. “No matter how sweetly you ask, no, I’m not going to suck your dick. Now leave. You’re annoying.”

As soon as the words were out of his mouth, he felt his collar get grabbed as Liam hauled him off the bench and into the air. He looked down into Liam’s face that was dark with rage, and shame. He smirked, his gaze going to the fist that Liam was clutching by his side. “Do it. I fucking dare you,” he taunted.

He saw Liam think about it. Saw the yearning in the bully’s eyes to punch Stephan, just once. Because that’s all he’d get before Ross killed him.

Then he surprised Stephan and decided to risk it. Damn it. How would he explain the bruise to Jasper?

The fist never landed though, and instead Liam howled in pain. Stephan smiled at Ross over Liam’s shoulder. Ross’s face was calm, but his eyes had that gleam. The gleam that meant that he was fully prepared to kill.

“Hey Liam. Whatcha doing?” He asked, casually, as if he didn’t have Liam’s arm in a painful twist and Stephan’s feet weren’t dangling in the air.

“Nothing. We want nothing to do with your filthy twink.” Liam spat at him, dropping Stephan.

Stephan landed heavily on his feet, then tipped over, landing on his ass. It didn’t hurt, but it wasn’t comfortable. Ross loosened Liam the second his hands were off Stephan. Liam spat at Stephan, and growled at his lackies to disperse. Ross squatted in front of Stephan, who rubbed the back of his neck.

“You good, beautiful?” Ross asked, his voice gentle, his hand going out to cup Stephan’s chin. He tilted Stephan’s face this way and that, satisfied that Stephan was okay. His fingers caressed Stephan’s cheek and Stephan closed his eyes.

“Come on, stand up. Aren’t you cold? Here.” Ross helped him up, draping his leather jacket over Stephan’s shoulders.

Stephan cuddled into the jacket, sitting on the bench again. Ross sat on the table, his long legs stretched out next to Stephan. Stephan rubbed the edge of the table, debating with himself.

“Dev was at Friday’s fight,” he said softly.

Ross’ gaze snapped to him as his whole body tensed. “Dev? The GPA? Really?”

“Yeah. He was in the audience, wearing a mask. I wouldn’t have recognized him if we hadn’t made eye contact.”

That had been the most humiliating moment of his life, and he had a lot of those. Seeing those cold brown eyes where he never, ever expected to had sent a shiver down his spine, and bile to his throat. For the most part, he had accepted what he was. Nothing more than an expensive possession. But that didn’t mean he wasn’t still capable of shame. And nothing was more shameful than being caught sitting on Jasper’s lap by the one person he had grudging respect for outside his family. He had been so impressed by Dev’s level-headedness when he was giving Jack first aid. To see him at the Ring had been shocking. Was he there for entertainment? Was he just like the others after all?

“Why was he there?” Ross demanded.

Stephan shrugged, still not quite sure himself. “He said he was doing reconnaissance. Since many members are part of the rich people circle he’s in, he wanted to get a better idea of the players involved.”

Ross frowned. “Why?”

“He wants to get us out.”

Ross huffed a breath, in both amusement and frustration. “Elle said something about that.” He slatted Stephan a look. “You talked to him? When?”

“Secret. He’s making a plan to destroy Jasper and the districts by attacking their income sources.” Listening to him talk, Stephan had felt both hope and despair. Hope at the slim possibility that he could get out. Despair because this boy knew nothing about his world. Nothing at all.

“Ambitious. Do you believe him?”

Stephan shrugged. “Doesn’t matter, now does it? He can’t do it. So why get my hopes up.”

He didn’t meet Ross’s gaze. He didn’t want to tell Ross about the other thing Dev said. That Stephan was integral to his plan. Because Stephan was a weakness.

He felt the prickling in his throat and eyes at the thought. Dev wasn’t wrong. It just hurt to be reminded that he was the weak link. He always had been. There was nothing the fighters wouldn’t risk for him. And that was something Jasper knew, and sometimes capitalized on. The deep mark on his back tingled with the memory of how Jasper had used him to punish the fighters for a bad night. He closed his eyes.

“Love, it’s okay. Shh. Come here.”

He felt Ross lift him up and onto the table. Ross laid him out on the table, his head on his lap. Ross smiled down at him, wiping his cheeks tenderly. Stephan managed a smile. “Sorry,”

“Why are you sorry, baby?” Ross asked softly.

“You always have to take care of me.”

Ross leaned down, kissing his forehead. “Believe me, it’s my pleasure. I couldn’t bear for something to happen to you,” he murmured, stroking back Stephan’s bangs.

Stephan looked up into Ross’ hazel gaze, looking down at him with all the love he didn’t deserve, and he made a decision. He didn’t care what it cost him. He would get the fighters out. He had sold his soul long ago, but the fighters, they had a chance to get out. At happiness. He closed his eyes against the tears forming, exhaling slowly. He’d do whatever it took to get them out. He had to. He loved them too much for them to stay in the darkness with him.

He felt Ross’s lips on his forehead again, his fingers in his hair, and slowly he felt himself relax again. He felt himself falling asleep. He was always safe with Ross.

Ross looked down at Stephan, who seemed to have fallen asleep. Good. The dark circles under his eyes worried Ross. He smiled, brushing his fingers through Stephan’s hair. The boy’s hair was soft under Ross’s callused fingers. It felt so good. Usually, he was so careful about touching the beautiful boy. Every touch, ever glance, he gentled for Stephan and Stephan alone. With everyone else he was rough and harsh. But with Stephan, he was gentle. The boy needed someone in his life to treat him gently.

Without thinking about it, Ross leaned forward, brushing a kiss against Stephan’s lips. He felt Stephan’s smile against his kiss, felt the little hand move to caress the back of his neck as Stephan returned the soft kiss.

He lived for these stolen moments. These little moments where he felt free and Stephan was safe. He smiled against Stephan’s lips, sucking on them gently, before straightening again. He settled back, closing his eyes. If Dev was offering to get them out, then Ross would do whatever it took to do it. He didn’t care about anything except his friends. Nothing was more important than giving them a chance at happiness. He opened his eyes, looking down at Stephan, whose hand he now held. He lifted it to his lips. Whatever it took. He’d get Stephan, Jack, and Elle out. Even if it cost him his life.

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