Unbeaten

by Ivor Slipper

Chapter 17

Was this what death was like? Some form of total blackness?

I'd not really thought about what happened when you were dead. I'd thought and talked about killing myself a few times in recent months, but not thought about afterwards. I'd listened to the sermons in church when I was younger about being good in order to go to heaven, and I'd believed them – once upon a time. Then I'd come to think of them as being just an adult fairy tale. I'd also had the fear of being buried while still alive and that was frightening.

Well, I'd definitely not been good according to my ma and pa and the beliefs of their church, so if I was dead then I wouldn't be going to heaven. And this blackness sure didn't seem like heaven should be according to what I'd been told. It should be sunshine and green fields and flowers and perhaps a little stream trickling over some rocks. So this wasn't heaven and that wasn't really a surprise.

On the other hand neither did it seem like my more logical destination – hell. That was supposed to be hot and fiery and full of souls in torment, but this was quiet.

So maybe I was in that in between state I'd read about somewhere, but what was that called? Oh yes, 'limbo' that was it. But I couldn't think if that was where you went while they decided if you should go to heaven or hell, or if you stayed there forever. That could at least explain the blackness, but I'd no idea how long I'd been here – hours, days, weeks, years? Did it really matter though?

Then I thought I felt something and that surely couldn't be right if I was in limbo? But there it was again, just faintly, a light touch on my lips, slightly damp. And there was a sound too and a feeling in my mouth and throat – someone was pushing something into my mouth but it didn't really have substance. It wasn't like Troy's dick when I took that into my mouth and sucked it, nor even like his tongue when we kissed and his and mine danced in delight while jockeying for position. And then I heard a voice, although it was very faint and seemed to come from a long way away.

"I think he's coming round."

That voice sounded familiar and then there was another one that I didn't recognise.

"I'm sure I saw his eyelids flutter."

I felt that touch on my lips again and somehow I knew that the touch was another pair of lips and those belonged to Troy. So, unless we'd both been killed, I couldn't be dead, but where was I?

I heard another noise. It wasn't made by either of the previous two voices and it seemed to echo in my head. Nor was it words, just a noise.

And then I opened my eyes. I automatically blinked as the view looked all wrong. There were heads looking down at me, or so it seemed as there were rafters visible above them. I adjusted my eyes to look downwards and as I did so I felt that touch on my lips again, but this time there was nothing being pushed into me. When I managed to refocus I saw firstly the top of a head and as it moved it became Troy's forehead and then his eyes starting to sparkle before finally his mouth with his lips puckered.

"Adam, you're back! Thank goodness – you've had us worried for a while."

"Wh..at.... happ...en..ed?"

I must have tried to move as the heads in my vision started to swim around.

"Don't move yet. Just stay still."

That was Troy and then his lips came down to meet mine and he kissed me – very lightly and gently. I let out a little groan and opened my mouth. Troy came back and kissed me again, but not so lightly;this time his lips lingered My mouth opened a little further and I felt a tongue wiping round my lips – but it wasn't mine, it was his and it felt so good. I sensed my brain was slowly beginning to start functioning again.

"Were you giving me the kiss of life?" I half whispered to Troy. He nodded and I could see tears starting to form in the corners of his eyes.

"Why? What happened?"

"What do you remember?"

I hesitated for a few moments trying to recollect my thoughts.

"I remember we were in the mall and Mike & Kyle forced us to go with them – here I guess – and my pa was waiting and then you and I were stripped and then pa was whupping us both with his belt. Kyle was holding me in position and Mike was holding you."

I stopped, replaying that in my mind.

"What happened next?" Troy asked.

I was aware there were other people around, but I was in a sort of bubble with just Troy – the others were looking on from outside as far as I was concerned. I tried to concentrate and think back.

"There was a lot of noise suddenly and........"

"Yes?"

"Kyle let go of my hands and I think I wanted to try and get the gun, but I must have been too slow 'cos I heard gunshots and then I raised my head and........That's it, I don't know anything else."

"Makes sense. It seems Kyle decided you'd look good with a broken nose and was aiming a punch there just at the moment you raised your head. As a result that punch landed on your chin and you were knocked out."

"How long for?"

"Almost five minutes I reckon. That was why we was worried about you and I was trying to bring you round."

"So, what did I miss?"

Troy sighed deeply and another voice spoke from above, one that I recognised.

"Quite a lot, Adam."

I looked up at the person who had spoken and recognised Office Rudigger, although she wasn't in a police uniform. It also suddenly occurred to me that I was naked from the waist down. I glanced down, but my privates were apparently covered by Troy who was leaning over me – yet the last time I'd seen him he was also without skinnies or underwear which meant that those people looking down at me could see his bare ass!

"Troy, are you exposing yourself in public?" I said with a giggle.

"He was, but he isn't now. He's got a blanket in a strategic place." Officer Rudigger replied for him. "Do you feel like you can sit up now?"

Someone handed her another blanket which she held towards me.

"You can put this round you, although I wouldn't be seeing anything I've not seen before."

She held the blanket towards me and I went to slide backwards and sit up. As I did so I felt a pain in my butt and recalled what Pa had done. Troy simultaneously moved backwards and then sideways before crawling on his knees to come and sit beside me. I noticed him wince as his butt made contact with the floor. Someone from behind helped me to sit up and Troy put his arm round me, pulling me into a hug. I could see he'd been crying by the tear streaks down his cheeks and I knew they weren't all due to the whupping he'd had.

For the first time I became aware of activity a few feet away from where I was. There was a crowd of people, some evidently police and some EMT. Officer Rudigger knelt down on the floor beside me.

"So you heard a lot of noise and gunshots and then nothing?"

"Nothing, until Troy......"

She chuckled. "Yes, he was very concerned about you. Told us he had his lifesaver badges and would take care of you."

"Wasn't gonna let anyone else kiss him!"

"Okay, let's get serious here," said Rudigger with a little smile on her lips, "You boys can do your thing later once we've cleared up this mess."

"Okay, I'll behave – and so will he." Troy responded.

"Right. It was very, very fortunate that I happened to be driving into the mall parking lot at the very time you two were being marched across it. I recognised you, not sure I would have them on their own. But I was off duty and on my own, so I decided to watch and see what was going on before doing anything. When I saw you two being shoved in the back of the van I knew there was a problem. I spotted another kid who seemed to be trying to follow you without being noticed...."

"That must have been Carlos" I interrupted. "He did realise something was wrong."

"I didn't know if he knew you or what, but he had a cell in his hand and he got close to the van before he called someone. As the van moved off I drove alongside him and asked if he'd called the police. He said he had and given them the description and the licence plate. I told him to call them again and say that Rudigger was following. I was busy trying to keep close to them and not lose sight of the van as it exited the car park. It wasn't until later that I could call in and suggest that we shouldn't intercept for now, but let me follow for a while as I was in my own car, so they shouldn't suspect. That was agreed and I followed them here, keeping the station informed of where we were.

"Wow, we really were lucky, 'cos if you hadn't been following...."

"Yeah, and if the cops had tried to stop them who knows what that asshole Mike would've done." Troy added.

"Where is Mike? And Kyle? And my Pa?"

I hadn't thought about any of them until that moment. I heard a noise from across the other side of the room; looked over and saw Kyle. He was sat in a chair, head bowed, and I could just make out that his hands, lying in front of him and along his upper legs, were in handcuffs. That seemed somehow appropriate considering how our wrists had been bound. And yet at the same time I felt a tiny, tiny bit of sympathy for him. He'd always appeared to be somehow in awe, or maybe fear, of Mike and followed his every wish. Jeeze, he'd even sucked him off - and I bet that wasn't just once either. Mike made use of people and if they wouldn't play by his rules they became an enemy – as Troy had. Just then I felt a twinge of pain in my jaw and that little bit of sympathy disappeared as quickly as it had come.

But where were Mike and my father?

A voice to my left said, "I think we've stabilised him. Now we need to get him to the ER."

I looked to where the voice had come from and saw a couple of EMT guys and a pair of cops loading someone onto a stretcher before picking him up and moving towards the door. Someone else was holding a bag that was full of something that I guessed was being transfused into whoever it was. As the stretcher passed I strained to try make out who was on it. Somehow it didn't look big enough to be my pa.

The stretcher having passed us and reached the door I looked back to where it had come from – by the table over which Troy and I had been stretched, half naked, a short while before. There on the floor was a person. I knew it was a person even though the top half of him was covered by a blanket to obscure his face. But it was evident it was a person because sticking out below the blanket were a pair of denim clad legs and a pair of work boots. I knew those boots. I should do – I'd cleaned and polished them often enough.

So I'd answered my own questions before anyone had responded – or if they had I'd been too wrapped up in what my eyes were telling me to hear what they'd said.

"Pa's dead?"

Troy hugged me tight. "I'm afraid so, Adam."

"How?"

It was Officer Rudigger who answered my question.

"When reinforcements arrived we managed to creep up to the building and peer inside without anyone seeing us. From what we could see there was no sign of any firearms, so it was decided we would call them on the bull horn, let them know they were surrounded and had nowhere to go and, if necessary, wait them out. That plan changed when we heard your father start whipping the pair of you. We couldn't let that happen so it was decided we'd rush the place expecting that our surprise arrival would cause everyone to freeze."

"What went wrong?"

Troy had eased his hold on me while Officer Rudigger had spoken. Now he hugged me tight once more and spoke himself.

"When everything kicked off Mike let go of me and made a dive for the gun. I was hurting too much to react quickly and I couldn't see clearly 'cos I was crying. I'm sorry, Adam."

I kissed his cheek. "Troy I ain't surprised. You've never been whupped and Pa wasn't holding back I can tell you."

"But I might have been able to get the gun."

"And then it would probably have been you on the stretcher or the floor. But if Mike went for the gun, how come Pa ended up getting shot?"

Troy had started to sob so now I was hugging him as much as he was hugging me.

"If Mike recovers enough to talk, and tells the truth, we might get to know exactly the sequence of what happened," said Office Rudigger. "At present, we can only surmise. Either Mike got to the gun and your father was trying to get it from him, or your father had got to it first and Mike was trying to take it from him. From the very brief glimpse I saw they both had their hands on it and a couple of shots were fired. Luckily they went into the ceiling, but of course our officers opened fire and both Mike and your father were hit – your father fatally, I'm afraid Adam."

I don't think the fact that my pa was dead really struck me until that point with the word fatally. He was gone – dead. I'd never have to see him again. No, wait – I'd never see him again. I ought to feel something. Sad, sorry, upset or maybe even happy, but I just felt numb. And then realization dawned and the tears started to flow.

My pa wouldn't have been trying to get the gun to shoot me or Troy. He'd been trying to get it to stop Mike doing that. I'd hated him to varying degrees for many years now and seemingly he had hated me ever since he'd found out I was gay – and yet....... When the chips were down, despite calling me a faggot and saying only a short while ago that because of me his line was going to end, he'd tried to save my life and sacrificed his own in doing so. Great sobs were coming from me now. I was distraught and feeling very guilty at what I had done.

I was vaguely aware of a commotion at the door and then two people burst through the crowd around us. Officer Rudigger quickly moved aside and Mr C knelt down beside Troy while Mrs C knelt beside me. Troy and I were both enveloped in teary hugs. Perhaps it was going to be alright I told myself.


It took a while before we were able to leave the old house. One of the EMTs came over and checked on my condition. It was suggested that I should go to the ER for an

x-ray, but all I wanted to do was leave this place and go home. Yes, Troy's house was now very definitely my home and as far as I was concerned his parents were my parents and the word 'foster' was irrelevant. And yet, my real pa was lying dead on the floor a few feet away from me. It was really all too much to take in and I started crying again.

Troy and Mrs C helped me pull myself together and stand up. I was a bit wobbly on my feet at first and Troy was hugging me as we walked out of the door. I half turned round and glanced back at the old building. It had been good to Troy and me, giving us a meeting place. It had been where Troy gave himself wholly to me for the first time. It had been where I'd run to in desperation only to have my life turned on its head by the kindness and love of his parents.

But now those good memories were being swamped by feelings of sadness and perhaps even a little guilt. Had I been too selfish in seeking to please myself? Should I perhaps have given in to my father's demands and confessed my sins in front of the congregation at church as he and my mother had wanted? If I'd done that everything would have turned out differently. Pa would still be alive and in a month or so from now I'd probably have been able to leave home once I turned sixteen.

Could I, should I, have done that? My thoughts were interrupted as I stumbled on a piece of concrete on the ground. Troy's grip on me tightened,

"I've got you Adam and I'm never going to let you go."

That single sentence cleared all the doubts and confusion from my mind. I'd made the right decision when I fell in love with Troy Connelly and everything else was irrelevant.


The police were in the process of putting up crime scene tape and a couple of officers were trying to keep a small crowd of onlookers at bay. That was just as well as although I'd managed to get my boxer briefs and skinnies back on, poor Troy had to exit with a blanket wrapped round his sensitive regions. Office Rudigger walked with us to the car and we all made a point of thanking her for what she'd done, which she said was only her duty. Maybe that was so, but if she hadn't happened to have been coming into the car park at that time it would have taken a lot longer for the police to locate us even with Carlos calling in the van description and licence. Indeed, if it hadn't been spotted before it turned onto the gravel track that led to the old house..... well,I didn't want to think about that.

As soon as we got home Troy and I headed for his bedroom. Once we got in there I shut the door behind us. Troy still had the blanket wrapped round him. I told him to take it off and lie on the bed; I needed to see what my pa had done to him.

I struggled not to cry when I saw his butt. Pa had only hit him twice with the belt, but you could hardly tell that as the second must have landed directly on top of the first and it was on the crease – the place I knew from experience was the most painful. Troy heard me let out a little moan.

"Is it bad?"

"He sure made 'em count. Do you wanna look?"

Troy thought about it for a few seconds and then clambered off the bed to stand in front of the mirror on his wardrobe. He twisted enough to see his butt and whistled at what he saw.

"Fuckin' hell, Adam. How did you ever manage to take fifteen licks like this – and not just one time, but over and over. A couple more and I'd have been begging him to stop."

I walked over and hugged him to me.

"He was trying to break you Troy. Maybe he was trying to prove to me that you were weak. I don't know. Look......."

I managed to undo and push my skinnies and my boxer briefs down to my knees, lifted up my polo shirt and turned to show him my butt. I knew what he'd see. I'd also been hit twice but my two stripes were well apart.

"Yeah, I see the difference, but I don't understand."

"Neither do I Troy and I'm never going to find out. I've no idea what was going on in his warped brain. One minute he wants to cause me and you pain, but the next, apparently, he tried to save us from being shot. It makes no sense."

"I guess no father wants to see his child killed."

"I think that must be the answer, Troy. Now get back on the bed and I'll put some Arnica on your butt. It won't do a lot for the pain, but it should help with the bruising."

He did as I asked and I gently applied some of the cream to his butt. When I'd finished he insisted on doing the same to me. When he finished I suddenly realized

something. On the journey back from the old house Troy and I had sat quietly in the back seat simply holding hands. I'd been thinking back to what had happened and no doubt Troy was doing the same. His folks had left us in peace and after we'd got home we'd come straight up here.

"Hey, Troy, we need to get you dressed and go downstairs."

"Can't we just stay here and cuddle?"

"That'd be nice, but we need to tell your parents exactly what happened. They must have been worried......but how did they know where we were, or even that Mike & Kyle had taken us?"

"Shite! You're right as usual."

Troy got off the bed and slowly walked towards his wardrobe, gently rubbing his butt as he did. Halfway there he stopped and turned toward me.

"I don't think I can wear skinnies."

"I'm damn sure you can't. I'm not putting mine back on. It's gotta be shorts for comfort and I don't think you'll want to try wearing your boxer briefs under them as they'll cut you in just the wrong place."

"Free-ball then?" Troy managing a little grin.

"Of course!"

Troy found a pair of shorts for each of us and once we'd got those on we headed downstairs.

We found his parents sitting at the kitchen table. Troy walked over to his mom and gave her a hug and a kiss, before walking round to hug his father. Mrs C looked at me as I stood there awkwardly, unsure what to do. She pushed back her chair, got up and walked across to me before enveloping me in a hug and giving me a kiss.

"Never be afraid to kiss me Adam. I've told you before – I love both my boys."

That started me crying again, but before I knew it we'd been joined by Troy and Mr C in a group hug. After a while we pulled apart and I tried to dry my eyes. When I'd managed that – sort of – Mr C pulled me to one side.

"Adam, we realise that you've just suffered a major trauma and the effects of that can hardly have set in as yet. I just want you to know that you can talk to either of us at any time, or if you'd prefer we can arrange for you to see a counsellor."

I was a bit stunned. "Thanks, Mr C. I don't think it has all sunk in as yet and maybe talking about things with someone at some point will help. In fact that's why Troy and I came down now 'cos we realized we hadn't told you exactly what happened."

Troy cut in. "I'm sorry, mom."

"Why Troy?"

"For disappearing upstairs like that when you must have been desperate to know exactly what had happened."

She laughed. "Well, you couldn't really sit there and talk with just that blanket around you, so I understand you wanting to go and put something on. And anyway, from what I saw earlier I'm not sure you'd want to sit."

Troy grimaced. "It hurts, mom – but Adam's survived a lot worse than I got. And we know we were very lucky. Guess though I'd prefer to lie on the settee, so shall we go in there?"

"Do you boys want something to eat and drink?"

That was a fairly silly question. We'd always manage something. So with us two carrying glasses of soda and his parents with cups of coffee on a tray that also held some cake and crackers, we made our way to the family room. They each sat in an armchair while I sat on one end of the settee. Troy positioned himself lengthwise along it, on his side, with his head resting on my left thigh. It meant I could hold his hand or run my fingers through his hair which normally would have seen me getting hard, but this afternoon was different. We told them everything we could remember. I let Troy do most of the talking, adding little bits here and there. His folks mainly sat and listened, occasionally asking questions.

When we'd got to the point where I'd come round after being knocked out, I asked the question that had been bugging me.

"How come you got there so quickly?"

Mrs C gave a little chuckle.

"You can thank some of your friends for that. After Carlos had called the police he came back into the mall to find his mother. As he did so he ran into Hannah and Maddison and told them what had happened. Maddison decided to call here to let us know what had happened and of course Jeff immediately called the police to try and find out further details."

"I did," continued Mr C, "but they couldn't, or wouldn't, tell me much. They took my number and said they'd call as soon as they had any information. But we felt helpless just sitting here doing nothing, so I suggested to Alicia that we should get in the car and drive around to see if we could spot you. Stupid I know, but at least we'd be doing something."

"That's right," said Mrs C picking up the account, "we didn't need to be here and just being out looking saved us sitting here having horrible thoughts of what might be happening to you."

Their armchairs were stood next to each other and I'd noticed that they were holding hands as each almost took it in turns to speak.

Now it was Mr C's turn. "We'd been driving around, more or less aimlessly, for some minutes, when I had a sudden thought. I don't know if it was some sort of inspiration, but I decided to go and check out the old house where we found you that Sunday and just before we arrived there I got a call from the police to say that you'd been found and where you were. So we were only a few minutes away."

Well, that explained how they got there so soon. We sat and talked some more, but something was bugging me to the extent that I wasn't really paying much attention to the conversation.

"Adam, are you alright? Do you need to go and lie down?

Mrs C was kneeling in front of me with her hands on my knees as I suddenly came back to the here and now.

"Oh, sorry Mrs C. I was sort of lost, trying to decide about something. I think I ought to go and write to my ma."

"I'm sure she'd be pleased to hear from you Adam. I know she reacted very badly when you ran away, but, at the end of the day, you are her son and you've lost your father while she has lost her husband."

I excused myself and went up to our bedroom. Troy kissed me but made no attempt to follow me for which I was grateful as this was something I needed to be alone to do. After several attempts leading to either ripped up sheets of paper or sheets that were wet from my tears, I finally ended up with something I was half happy with.

Dear Ma,

I just wanted to let you know that I am truly sorry about what happened today. I know you must be grieving deeply at Pa's death.

We have had our differences and I know I haven't turned out to be the son either of you wanted, but I'm afraid I can't help what I am – even if you both thought I could.

I thank you for bringing me into this world and for caring for me for many years. It appears Pa cared for me still, deep down, and I can only hope that you do too.

I would like to come to his funeral and pay my respects – please say that I can.

Adam.

I put it in an envelope, went downstairs and got a stamp from Mrs C before asking Troy to walk with me to the nearby mailbox.

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