Friday Flash Fics — Drew

Today’s Friday Flash Fics is a bit odd, and charmed me on a couple of levels. I couldn’t resist going for something spec fic (as usual), and then I remembered a recurring dream I’d had a few years ago, and this happened.

Wings

Drew

Keegan lay in the new grass for a long while, eyes closed, waiting for the ache in his stomach to stop, and for the tears to dry on his cheeks. When he couldn’t hear them anymore, he opened his eyes and braced himself, pushing himself up on his elbows and waiting for the pain to come. It did, but it wasn’t quite as bad as he thought it might have been.

“They’re gone,” he said, hating how relieved his voice sounded. How cowardly.

Then he realized he was alone.

“Drew?”

Keegan scrambled to his feet. There were their backpacks, and his hat, all of which had been dropped when Bradley and his gang started shoving them around and Keegan realized things were moving past “bullying” into something… worse.

“Drew!” he called.

Drew didn’t answer, of course. He hadn’t spoken yet, not since he’d been found at the edge of the lumberyard last winter, alone and naked and obviously traumatized. He’d written the word down when someone from youth services had given him a pencil, and he’d come to stay with the Raymonds after that.

Bradley and his friends must have taken him.

Keegan tried to think. There was really only one place anywhere near here.

He started running, slipping a little in the spring rain that started to fall.

*

Keegan had vowed to take care of Drew as best he could, the moment he’d seen an all too familiar adrift look in Drew’s brown eyes. He didn’t tell his foster parents the first time he woke up to find Drew wrapped around him in the bed, but he did tell Drew he should be careful not to get caught.

Drew nodded, apparently understanding.

They weren’t sure if Drew could speak but just wouldn’t, but he wasn’t deaf, and when it became clear he could write, they ended up going to school together after the winter break. They placed Drew in the same grade—they were both seventeen, though Drew didn’t seem to know his birthday. He didn’t seem to remember much of anything he should already have been taught, but he picked things up quickly enough, and Keegan was a patient teacher.

But that look in his eyes, and the way he almost clung to Keegan didn’t go without notice.

Bradley and his pals were always assholes, but they seemed to reach new heights just at the sight of Drew. Keegan didn’t get it. Drew was handsome, curly hair and brown eyes, and in the simple clothes his foster parents got for him, it was obvious Drew was certainly strong enough to take care of himself if anything came of it, but Bradley took an instant dislike to him, and the comments began. The whispers. Then shoves.

He got in trouble for it, of course, if anyone saw it happening. So then he and his buddies got more subtle.

School was always like that: they said they were “zero tolerance,” but so often that meant “see no evil.”

Then the thunderstorm had happened, and it had all come to a head. Sudden, and incredibly loud, the booms had obviously terrified Drew, and he’d curled up right there in the classroom, trying to cover his ears. When Keegan had gone to his side, Drew had flung his arms around him and held on as if his life depended on it, and Keegan had just held him, waiting it out, feeling him shake and stroking his curly hair and telling him it would be okay.

Most of the class weren’t assholes. They had all guessed something really bad must have happened to Drew, and it wasn’t like the story of where and how he was found hadn’t been circulating school since he’d arrived, and given that the police and youth services couldn’t seem to find Drew’s family, it was all the more mysterious. But for Bradley? Every strange thing about Drew just gave him new ammunition, and cringing from a thunderstorm was the icing on the cake.

Not to mention anyone with eyes caught on how much Keegan cared. That part was maybe not a total surprise, but it wasn’t exactly how Keegan had wanted to come out at school. If ever.

Two weeks later, they were walking home together after school, and Drew had reached out and taken Keegan’s hand. When Keegan had paused, Drew had tugged, just enough to get him moving, and then taken him off their path home and into the park.

He led Keegan to an oak tree, and pressed Keegan’s hand against it, looking at him with those brown eyes and a kind of hopeful, questioning glance.

“I don’t think I get it,” Keegan had said.

Drew smiled. Keegan loved those smiles. Forgiving. Accepting. Drew shrugged, and they turned to head home.

And there was Bradley and his friends, waiting.

Angry.

*

Keegan was drenched by the rain by the time he made it. He heard voices outside the old building, and bit his lip.

Okay, he thought. Now what?

Not for the first time, he wished he was one of those big, tough foster kids so often represented in fiction. But he wasn’t. He was just Keegan, and today, that hadn’t been enough to stop Bradley and his asshole friends then, and it wasn’t like it would be now.

Laughter came from inside, and it was the kind of laughter that made the hair on the back of Keegan’s neck stand on edge.

Enough or not, he had to do something. He eyed the building. It had been a house, and then a café. On the edge of the park, the No Trespassing sign was ignored by pretty much everyone his age, as well a town drunk or two.

Another chorus of laughter, and then Keegan caught Bradley’s loud voice declaring “Get a picture!” and Keegan climbed in through the window with the broken boarding the city got tired of replacing every week.

They were in the large room that had been where the café tables and chairs were, and being so loud he didn’t have to work too hard to sneak. He came around the corner to the archway and froze.

They’d taken Drew’s pants and shirt and even his shoes and socks, and they’d tied something—a scarf?—around his eyes and bound his hands in front of him with what looked like duct tape… Drew was standing near the far wall, and Keegan could see he was shaking, his head lowered.

Bradley was flanked by his two friends, one of which, Jonah, was holding up a phone, ready to take a picture.

“Smile!” Bradley boomed, and his two friends laughed.

Keegan threw himself at Jonah, and the phone went flying the moment he rammed into Jonah’s back.

“What the fuck—?” Bradley said, before he realized what was happening.

The scuffle barely lasted a minute. Jonah was down, but only because they hadn’t heard Keegan coming. In almost no time at all, Bradley had Keegan in a headlock and the other guy, Tom, was helping Jonah stand up.

“He broke my fucking screen!” Jonah said, picking up his phone.

Keegan felt a surge of triumph.

“Get his pants,” Bradley said. “I think we’ll get a shot of both of them.”

Keegan’s mind filled with a kind of panicked white noise when Jonah and Tom’s hands started pulling at him. He tried to thrash, but it didn’t do much.

Then it happened. There was a kind of snapping sound. Jonah and Tom let go, and even Bradley’s tight grip around Keegan’s neck loosened a bit.

“What the fuck…” Bradley’s voice was shaking.

Keegan shoved as hard as he could, and broke free from Bradley’s grip. He stumbled, but kept his feet under him, and started to cross the room. He’d grab Drew and they’d run…

He stopped at the sight.

Behind Drew, spreading out like wings, were… branches. It was like watching one of their boring science class movies, where time was sped up and they saw a seed turn into a whole flower, but the branches were growing out from behind Drew, and…

They started to bud.

“What the fuck…” Bradley said again. “What the fuck!”

Drew’s blindfolded face turned to him, and Bradley took an actual step back. And then he yelped.

Keegan turned, and something tangled around Bradley’s left boot. It looked like vines or something. They were covered in bark, and it almost looked like they were growing right out of the old wooden floor of the café…

Tom and Jonah started freaking out, and Keegan saw the same thing was happening to them. Both of them had vines growing up thick around their feet and ankles.

Keegan looked down at his own feet. Nothing.

Oddly calm, he walked over to Drew. “It’s me,” he said, and Drew’s blindfolded face turned his way. He pulled the blindfold off, and gasped.

Drew’s eyes were the rich green of fresh grass or new leaves…

The branches were growing right out of his shoulder blades. The buds were unfurling. Bright green leaves soon lined them. Wings, Keegan thought. Drew has wings.

He looked down at Drew’s hands. The tape was tight, and looked cruelly done. “Let me get this undone.”

“Help us!” Bradley shouted, and Keegan glanced back for just a second. The vines were half-way up their bodies now, wrapping around their waists. Bradley was beating at them with his hands, ineffectually, and as Keegan watched, his left hand got stuck and was soon buried in the tangle of twisting wood.

“That’s you,” Keegan said, looking back at Drew. “That’s you doing that, right?”

Drew nodded.

“Don’t kill them,” Keegan said, staring into those incredible green eyes. “Please.”

Drew blinked, but he nodded again.

Behind him, Keegan heard the crackling, snapping sound slow down, and then stop. He glanced back, and saw three terrified faces looking back at him, each wrapped from the chest down in the thick twists of vine.

“Help,” Tom breathed the word. “Keegan?”

“We need to get this off your wrists,” Keegan said, ignoring him. He found the edge of the tape, and tried to peel it back, but it was too tight and too stuck. Finally, he remembered his Swiss army knife and dug it out of his pocket. It took some time, but he managed to cut away the tape enough for Drew to pull his hands apart.

Keegan found his clothes, and helped him pull on his pants and socks and shoes, but he held the shirt uselessly. Drew’s branch-like wings moved gently, as though there were a breeze in the room.

“You can’t just leave us here,” Bradley said.

“I totally can,” Keegan said, walking Drew past them.

“I’m not sure how you’re going to fit through this,” Keegan said, once they got to the window.

Drew looked at him, then closed his incredible green eyes, and took a deep breath. Keegan tried not to stare too much at what that did to Drew’s chest, but he more or less failed until he realized the wings were curling up again, folding back in, each leaf shrinking back to a bud, and then each bud disappearing into the branch, and then the branches themselves shrinking back.

That science class movie was being rewound.

Drew opened his eyes. They were brown again. Keegan handed him his shirt, and Drew slid it on.

“They’re not going to find your family, are they?” Keegan said.

Drew shook his head.

“Well,” Keegan said. “Mine are gone too. And the Raymonds are great. We’ll figure it out.”

Drew leaned in, and kissed him.

Keegan was grinning when they pulled apart.

Drew slipped through the window. Once they were both through, Keegan reached out and touched his shoulder.

Drew turned.

“I thought dryads were girls,” he said.

Drew shook his head.

“When we get home, I’m giving you a pencil and you and I are going to have a long talk.”

Drew mimed putting on a backpack.

“They’re in the park still.” Keegan sighed. “We should go get them. They’ll be soaked.”

They started walking. After a few steps, Drew took his hand.

Yeah, Keegan thought. We’ll figure it out.

 

 

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