Stefan is given an odd gift. Stashley fic.
He was caught in the middle of a series of meetings, contract signings, and recording.
Walking through the door of his new flat - the down payment good and well paid by his signing bonus - he laid his keys on the table next to the door before removing his jacket. Sinking down into the couch, he didn’t even notice the other presence in the room until he turned and was face-to-face with another person. “FUCK!” Stefan screamed, jumping up quicker than he ever had before. Scurrying to the other side of the room he shouted again, “Who are you?!” though the other man hadn’t moved an inch. Kneeling on the floor, head just barely tilted upward, and in just a small pair of boxer briefs. He didn’t say a word, but held his arm upward toward Stefan, who was now slowly moving closer in order to read the small slip of paper he had attached to his wrist.
Stefan sighed quietly. George was the owner of the record label he had just signed a contract with, along with his mate Dru. He knew George was into the black market, but he never expected him to give him a gift… especially a gift such as another person. He then knew exactly what this man’s purpose was, as if his lack of clothes shouldn’t have given him a clue to begin with. “For fuck’s sake,” Stefan said, “I’m not even gay.” He thought he heard the man snicker a laugh, but he was likely imagining it. Stefan pulled his phone from his pocket, quickly dialing a number he was all-too familiar with the past few months. “George, why did you buy me a slave?” There was a deep laugh at the other end of the phone, “Thought you might enjoy the gesture. You’re stressed.” Stefan rolled his eyes solemnly, “And adding another person to my household will help reduce my stress how?” George stopped laughing, “Christ, Stefan, just fuck him and get over it. He eats nutrition cubes, I’ve left a bag in your kitchen. Handful a day, he’ll be alright. Yeah?” Stefan furrowed his eyebrows at the idea of feeding another human being cubes, like dog treats. “Yeah, alright.” And the line was dead.
Stefan stared at the man before him, sick to his stomach at the entire idea of owning another person. This is so fucked up, he thought to himself. “What’s your name?” he asked quietly. The man lifted his head slightly to look him in the eye, “Ashley, sir.” Stefan winced at the title, “Stefan. My name is Stefan, not sir. Nice to meet you, mate.” Ashley seemed confused, but didn’t exactly let it show on his face. He was expressionless, but his eyes were the saddest thing Stefan had ever witnessed in his life. This was going to be hard.
“You don’t have to kneel in the floor, Ashley, you can come sit on the sofa.” Stefan told him, “I’ll grab you some clothes, maybe some of my older things will fit you…” Ashley did as Stefan said, getting up from the floor and sitting next to the spot Stefan had just left. He waited patiently for Stefan to bring back the clothes he’d promised, hoping that it wasn’t a joke. Embarrassing attire was the least of his problems, he thought, having been humiliated entirely by his past owners. He tried to push the thoughts aside as Stefan came back into the room. “These may be a little tight,” Stefan told him, “You’ve got more muscle than me.” He handed Ashley the clothes: a simple pair of jeans and a black and green t-shirt. He sighed with relief that it wasn’t a humiliating costume or women’s clothing. Stefan caught the sound he made, looking at him with confused eyes. “Anything wrong?” Ashley shook his head, “Th-thank you, Stefan.”
“What the hell are these?” Stefan asked loudly from the kitchen later that night. Ashley was still sitting in the same spot on the sofa, but he turned his head toward the question. Stefan was holding the bag of nutrition cubes, and Ashley quickly made his way to the kitchen to stand in the doorway. Stefan pulled two of the cubes out, popping them in his mouth, before coughing and spitting them out just as quick as they’d gone in. “These taste like shit,” he said, making Ashley smile slightly. Stefan walked over to the trash bin, three seconds away from throwing the bag of cubes away when Ashley spoke up. “P-please?” he asked, his voice cracking, knowing he shouldn’t have spoken out of turn. “Please what?” Stefan asked, not understanding. “I- Sorry, I shouldn’t have spoken.” Ashley apologised, “I just… please don’t starve me. Please, I’ll do anything.”
Stefan almost dropped to the floor from dizziness at the request, tears stinging at the corners of his eyes. “I would never, Ash. I was… I was throwing them away because you don’t have to eat this shit. You can have real food. Anything you want.” Ashley’s eyes widened, “You’re sharing your food with me?” Stefan shook his head, “You’re not an animal, mate. I’m not feeding you cubes of… whatever that was. C’mon, we’re going out.” Ashley was confused… confused didn’t even begin to cover it. He could sit on the furniture, wear normal clothing, speak freely, and eat actual food? Ashley thought he’d died and gone to Heaven, but his guard was still up. “We’re going out… in public?” Ashley asked quietly, cowering slightly when Stefan turned around, expecting to be struck for speaking. “I’m not going to hurt you, Ashley.” he said quietly when he realised the reaction, “We’ll go out for food, yeah? Just don’t tell anyone who you are exactly… just, please.”
Ashley nodded obediently, and out the door they went.
Ashley walked two steps behind Stefan at all times. He wondered where exactly they were. He thought it was London, but he couldn’t be sure. He hadn’t freely walked around London since before he was a slave, when he was just a boy. Looking around curiously, he noted the names on all of the buildings, the road signs, and the crunch of brown leaves under his feet. “What type of foods do you like?” Stefan asked him casually, slowing down so that Ashley was now walking beside him. “I… Anything. I don’t know of any foods I like.” Ashley admitted, so used to nutrition cubes that he couldn’t imagine eating anything else. “When is the last time you actually ate?” Stefan asked him, eyes locked with Ashley’s. “I don’t remember.” Ashley said quietly. Stefan’s stomach was in knots, shaking his head slightly out of anger. He took Ashley to a cafe and ordered him soup and extra breads, along with a soda. Stefan got the same for himself and walked over to the table where he’d told Ashley to sit. “As much as I’d like to see your reaction to a burger, I think soup will help ease your stomach back into more solid foods.” Stefan told him, sitting one of the bowls and pieces of bread in front of him. Ashley nodded weakly, not completely understanding what Stefan was telling him. He was too preoccupied with the amount of salivating his mouth was doing once he’d laid eyes on the food.
Stefan could have sworn Ashley was having an orgasm as he put the first spoonful of soup in his mouth, a small squeak of a noise escaping him as he tasted it. Stefan couldn’t help but grin at him, suddenly having a new appreciation for his life as he watched his new friend discovering soup for the first time. Soup. The most boring of all the foods. It was gone in a flash, bread, soda and all, and Stefan decided he wanted to know more about him. “How old are you, Ashley?” he asked curiously. “22, s-Stefan.” he said, almost slipping on his name. “Me too,” Stefan smiled, “Do you have any questions for me, at all?” Ashley’s eyes hit the floor, almost looking like he was shaking. “What is it, Ash?” Stefan asked him, brushing his hand over Ashley’s in the most non-gay way he could manage. “Will I be… punished… for being allowed food?” Ashley asked quietly, though there was no one around to hear. Stefan wanted to throw up. He wanted to take him outside, tell him to leave and be free and never take shit from anyone again. But he couldn’t. Ashley had nowhere else to go. “Of course not, Ashley. I would never do that to you.” Stefan explained, “You’re safe with me, ok? I promise.”
Ashley couldn’t understand the game Stefan was playing. He’d had owners before who liked to play nice with him, and then beat him later to remind him of his place. He’d had owners who liked to pretend he was their companion. They would treat him normally in public for a short amount of time, and then lock him in the basement or closet for a week once they were tired of the game. But none of them had ever promised that he was safe. This was new to him. A tremor of fear ran through him at the thought that maybe, just maybe Stefan was only promising safety because he didn’t think there was anything wrong with abuse. But he tried to push the idea to the back of his mind. He had to try to see the bright side of things.
By the time they made it back to Stefan’s flat, it was getting late. Ashley stood awkwardly in the living room waiting for instructions when Stefan reappeared with a set of pyjamas. “You can sleep in this room,” Stefan told him, nodding toward the back hallway to advise Ashley to follow him. “It’s small and the bed is kind of shit, but it’s all I’ve got at the moment. Want to try it out?” Ashley slowly walked over to the bed, sitting down on it with a huge smile across his face. “Have you had a bed before?” Stefan asked curiously. Ashley shook his head, “Not since I was very young.” Stefan smiled at his enthusiasm, lightly resting his hand on Ashley’s shoulder, hoping to comfort him or show him he was safe. Just when he was about to let him know where the toilet was, he felt Ashley’s hands tugging at his pyjama bottoms. “Whoa, Ashley,” he said, trying to stay calm, “I was just… I didn’t mean…” Ashley’s head cocked to the side, confused, “You don’t want me to pleasure you?” Stefan backed away further, shaking his head. “I’d never make you do that… plus, I’m straight. I like women, you know?” Ashley nodded, pretending to understand. “I’m going to sleep now,” Stefan said, and Ashley nodded. Stefan didn’t bother closing the bedroom door all the way, but heard Ashley’s voice as he began to walk away. Peaking his head back in the door, Ashley repeated himself. “Y-you’re not going to lock the door?” he asked, eyes pleading for something Stefan couldn’t understand. “You can lock it from inside the room, if you’d like?” he said, confused. Ashley clarified, “You’re not afraid I’ll run away?” Stefan had to stop and think of the best approach to answering the question, but came up short. “You can leave if you want, Ashley. I’m only afraid you have nowhere else to go. You’re safe here, if you’d like to stay.” he said, leaving the room once again.
Stefan crawled into his bed, a million thoughts surging through his brain as he tried to sleep. He listened out for any noise or movement from Ashley, but he never did. Good, he must be sleeping. I’m sure he needs rest. He couldn’t even imagine what Ashley had been through, and he wanted to ask but didn’t want to bring back bad memories for him. There was never a moment in his life where he didn’t have food, a roof over his head, a family, or a bed. He couldn’t even begin to understand. It seemed like days later he finally fell asleep, his thoughts being put to rest.
Stefan woke up once in the night, around 5 in the morning and realised he needed the toilet. Stumbling across the room, he walked down the hallway, noticing that Ashley’s light was still on. He knocked lightly before peaking his head in the door, Ashley curling up in a ball at the end of the bed as if he was expecting punishment. “I’m s-sorry, Stefan, I was only resting my eyes.” Stefan didn’t understand, “Are you having trouble sleeping?” Ashley looked around the room, confused, “I- I didn’t know I was meant to be sleeping?” Stefan sighed slightly, “I’m so sorry, Ashley, I should have clarified… you can sleep, as much as you want. Please, get some rest. Alright?” Ashley nodded quickly, taking it as an order. “You can turn out your light if you’d like, but you don’t have to.” Stefan told him, before slipping out of the room. Resting his head quietly on the wall outside Ashley’s door, he silently cursed at himself for not being more aware of his feelings.
The thought of Ashley sitting there for the last six hours in fear, trying to stay awake, made him sick. Running back down the hallway, he doubled over the toilet, the contents of his stomach coming up.
This is too much.
4 hours later, Stefan was awake for the day. He tried to avoid making too much noise as to not wake Ashley, but wanted to make breakfast too. He couldn’t think of anything completely liquid for breakfast, so he went with yogurt, eggs and juice, saving out Ashley’s bit to make later once he woke up. Ashley’s door was still slightly ajar so he decided to have a peak, finding him completely passed out on the bed, but without any blankets on top of him. It was better than nothing, Stefan knew, so he was grateful. He had to get going to the studio, so he decided on leaving a note.
I’ve gone to work. I left out yogurt and juice for you for breakfast, but you should eat as much as you’d like. There’s plenty of food in the ice box and the pantry. Get as much rest as you need, please. There are books, magazines and the telly if you get bored. Here’s some money if you need anything, there’s a Tesco on the corner if you’d like to buy something. I’ll be home around 6.
He hoped the note wouldn’t freak him out too much, or that he wouldn’t over-analyze it. But he knew he would. The day was long knowing that Ashley was at the flat by himself, probably scared shitless in a place he didn’t know. He made a mental note to start bringing him to the studio, at least then he could keep an eye on him. But maybe Ashley didn’t want that… he would have to ask.
Arriving back at the flat once he was done working, he walked in to find the money and note sitting exactly where he left them that morning. The juice and yogurt were gone, and the dishes from both plus everything that had already been in the sink were all washed and put away as far as Stefan could tell. He walked toward Ashley’s room, knocking quietly against it. “Can I come in?” Stefan shouted. “Y-yes, Stefan. Yes.” Ashley said back. He opened the door and found Ashley sitting on the neatly made bed, doing nothing as far as he could tell. “Sorry, were you sleeping? Did I wake you up?” Stefan asked, but Ashley shook his head. “Were you bored all day? Sorry about that, I suppose you could come to work with me if you’d rather.” he told him. Ashley hesitated before speaking up, “May I ask a question?” Stefan hated that, “You can always ask me anything. You can say anything you want.” Ashley nodded, “Thank you. What is your j-job?” The stutter made it clear to Stefan that Ashley wouldn’t be freely speaking or asking questions anytime soon, but he answered anyway. “I make music,” he said simply, “Do you listen to any music?” Ashley smiled but caught himself, going back to his normal stance, “I like music, yes. But I don’t get to listen to any.” Stefan smiled, “You can be happy, Ashley. If you want to smile or laugh, please do it. It makes me happy when you’re happy.” Ashley gave him a small smile back, “Is there anything you’d like me to do, sir… Stefan?” Stefan frowned slightly, “No, actually you’ve done too much already by cleaning. I don’t expect you to do that at all. I’ll pay you for it, yeah?” Ashley’s eyes went wide, “P-pay? Why would you pay me?” Stefan shrugged, “You did something nice for me, you deserve something in return.”
Ashley didn’t understand the concept of reciprocation. All his life he’d just known doing, doing, doing for others with nothing but pain and suffering in return. So when Stefan handed Ashley two £20 notes, he was so overwhelmed that he began to cry. “Are you alright, Ashley? Have I upset you?” Stefan asked frantically, sitting down beside him. “I’m sorry!” Ashley insisted, “Don’t hit me. Please. I’m sorry.” Stefan backed away from him slightly, “I would never hit you, Ash. What’s wrong?” Ashley smiled at him, “You called me Ash.”
Stefan smiled back.
It was the most human thing Ashley had said to him yet.
“I- You gave me money, in return for a service. No one has ever done that before.” Ashley told him, “Are you sure? I don’t need it… if you’d like it back…” Stefan shook his head, “No, please keep it. Tell you what, if you clean the flat when it needs it, I’ll pay you. And you can save up and use your money on anything you want. Clothes, food, music, books, anything. Does that sound alright?” Ashley nodded frantically. “I haven’t got work tomorrow, would you like to buy some clothes? You’re probably uncomfortable in those. It’ll be my treat.”
Shopping for clothes was something Ashley had only dreamed about. He never thought it would become a reality for him in his entire life. When Stefan knocked on his door the next morning, he was beyond ecstatic. A smile on his face, he opened the door to Stefan looking a bit confused. “It’s 11, mate, you alright?” he asked. Ashley nodded, “I’m sorry… I didn’t mean to sleep late… I- Are you mad?” Stefan smiled, trying to lighten the mood, “Of course not, just checking you’re feeling alright. Sleep as long as you want.” Ashley stood awkwardly, like he wasn’t sure what he should do. After another moment he finally spoke, “I… Can I use the toilet?” Stefan looked at him, wide-eyed. Had he not used the toilet in 2 days because I never told him he could? He fumbled out of his way, “It’s just there mate, use anything. Take a shower too if you’d like, there’s shampoo and soap.” Stefan told him, shooing him toward the bathroom. Twenty minutes later he made his way from the bathroom, Stefan could hear.
He’d picked out more clothes for Ashley to wear, walking to his room to give him the new things, when he realised Ashley was sat stark naked on his bed. “Whoa, mate, here’s your clothes,” Stefan said, tossing them onto the bed beside him, leaving the room. “But you don’t want…?” Ashley started to ask. “Put the underwear on, at least,” Stefan said before giving him a moment, turning around to face him again, “Ashley, why did you think I was going to make you have sex with me?” Ashley shrugged as he pulled the jeans on, “You said we were to shop for clothes today, and you said if I did something nice for you…” Stefan stopped him, frowning, “Ashley, no. I’m not a rapist. Do I seem like a rapist?” Ashley raised an eyebrow, “But if you own them, it’s your choice.” Stefan was nearly sick all over himself, “That’s not true, Ashley. Anyone who forces any person to have sex with them is a rapist. There’s no argument.” Ashley didn’t understand, but if there was no argument then he thought he should keep his mouth shut about it.
He didn’t know whether or not he should be scared of Stefan, still waiting for his bad side to come out. Part of him was terrified that Stefan’s bad side was horrific, something that would eventually leave him dead. But he hoped he was wrong…
After stuffing themselves with breakfast, they left the flat. “It takes a while to get to the good shops,” Stefan explained, “Have you been on a bus before?” Ashley shook his head, “Are we in London?” Stefan laughed slightly, “Yeah, mate. Sorry, I should have mentioned.” Ashley nodded understandingly, “Why do you call me your ‘mate’?” Stefan laughed out loud at his question, making Ashley frown slightly. “It’s a good question, don’t be sad about it,” Stefan said, “It just means you’re my friend. We’re friends, right?” Ashley smiled at the title, “Friends. Yeah.” Stefan found himself wanting to hug him, but refrained as to not scare Ashley. Or himself. A bit later, they found themselves walking around trying to find a shop suitable to buy clothes from. Ashley was so overwhelmed with all the new things he was experiencing that he was physically dizzy. Eventually they found a small shop that sold minimalistic mens clothing, simple tops, simple jeans. Stefan guessed his sizes compared to his own, and sent him in the fitting room with an armful of things to try on. “Let me see them after you get them on,” Stefan told him, praying to God that they fit him correctly. He looked Ashley over, skinny jeans and v-neck top and nodded, liking the hipsteresque monster he’d created. He let Ashley pick a few colors of each and a few variations of clothing before they left the shop, four bags worth in their hands. “You need shoes,” Stefan reminded him as they went into a new shop, “See anything you like?” Ashley looked around, eventually stopping at a pair of tie-up Vans, glancing at the price tag before passing by them. “Did you like these?” Stefan asked him, picking the Vans up. “I haven’t got enough for them,” Ashley said, shrugging. Stefan asked one of the clerks for Ashley’s size in them, not giving him a chance to protest. “Told you, my treat,” Stefan said as he purchased them.
Taking the bus back to the flat, they walked the few minutes between the bus stop and Stefan’s house. As it came into view, Stefan could see someone sitting on his front steps, only taking him another second to realise it was Dru. “Shit,” Stefan said, “Shit, shit, shit.” Ashley slowed down, frightened by Stefan’s change in mood. “Did I do something wrong? I’m sorr-” Stefan interjected what he was saying, “No, you’re alright. That’s my mate Dru, just there. Act normal, like you are… just follow what I tell him, yeah?” Ashley was confused, but nodded. “We’re friends, remember?” Stefan reminded him, giving a small smile.
“Dru, how are you?” Stefan grinned as they walked up together. “Alright, mate. Who’s this?” he asked, referring to Ashley. “This is Ashley,” Stefan said, nodding to him, “A friend of George’s, he’s staying with me for a bit. Just moved here.” Ashley had no idea who George was, but nodded and smiled accordingly. “Nice to meet you,” Dru said, seeming skeptical, “Thought we’d work on that song, get some takeaway.” Stefan agreed and unlocked the door to his flat, “Definitely, man.”
Stefan’s face felt hot with worry. Dru was his best friend, but he didn’t know howto go about telling him there was a “slave” living in his flat with him. Dru would likely understand and help him out, but the general fact of telling him scared the crap out of him. Sitting in the living room, Ashley clearly felt more out of place than usual with Dru there. They were all squashed together on the couch, Stefan, Ashley, then Dru. “So where are you from?” Dru asked Ashley, who seemed caught off guard by the question. “Um, I… Reading.” he finally blurted out. Stefan tilted his head slightly, wondering if that was true. “You play video games?” Dru asked him, and he shook his head, seeming confused about what video games even were. 20 minutes later, Stefan and Dru were playing Xbox while Ashley watched. He seemed to like it, smiling every so often when Dru would beat Stefan at a game. “Mate! I wrecked you!” Dru grinned in victory at Stefan, then sticking his hand up to high five Ashley. Ashley moved away quickly, cowering in the corner of the couch, “Don’t! Please…”
And Stefan had some explaining to do.
“I was just gonna high five you, man,” Dru said, “Sorry.” Ashley was still shaking, just barely moving to sit normally again. “Its alright, Ash,” Stefan said reassuringly, “Dru, can I talk to you for a minute?” Dru nodded, following Stefan to the kitchen.
“What the hell was that?” Dru asked, holding his arm out to point toward the living room. “I should’ve told you before…” Stefan shook his head, “You know how George is in on the black market?” Dru nodded warily, like he’d already figured it out. “Ashley is a slave… a sex slave. Or he was.” he blurted out. Dru shook his head, “I can’t believe it. That’s fucked.” Stefan agreed, nodding, “I’m trying to show him I’m not going to hurt him, or starve him, or rape him, or…” Dru waved his hand for him to stop talking, “Yeah, I get it.” Stefan frowned. “I can’t believe he got you a male slave,” Dru laughed. “This isn’t funny, Dru! Don’t laugh!” Stefan nearly shouted, making Dru back up. “Mate, its all good. I know it isn’t funny but he’s safe here, everything is fine now.”
Dru was right, and Stefan knew that.
Ashley was in the best position of his life. Things would be fine.
After a few more minutes in the kitchen, they went back out to where Ashley was sat alone on the couch. “Sorry again,” Dru apologised, “I didn’t know.” Ashley seemed confused, “Why are you sorry? Are you… Have I done something wrong?” Stefan frowned, “No! Not at all, Ash. I told Dru about your situation.” Ashley seemed confused, saying simply “My situation? I’m a slave… being a slave is my life.” Stefan sat down, resting his head in his hands. Dru, standing beside him, gave him a pat on the shoulder. “I should get home. I’ll see you tomorrow, mate.” Stefan nodded without looking up. “Nice meeting you, Ash.”
Ashley sunk back into the sofa, not sure of what he’d done to upset Stefan. He hoped the beating wouldn’t be too bad… Stefan is a small guy, surely it won’t hurt too much. Stefan finally lifted his head up, looking directly at Ashley. Stefan’s eyes were puffy and red, cheeks wet from the apparent crying he’d been doing. “I’m so sorry, Ashley. I’m sorry that your life has been this way. If I could go back and change it for you… I would absolutely.” Stefan said, a few more tears falling from his eyes, “I know it’s hard for you to understand. You’re not a slave, Ashley. Not anymore.” Ashley had never been so confused in his life. “Stefan… c-could you tell me what you need? Please. I don’t understand.” Stefan shook his head, confused. “What do you mean?” Ashley’s eyes were locked to the floor, “I can be your companion, I’m trained for that. I can pleasure you, or obey what you ask me to do. Please tell me what you need.” Stefan moved over to sit beside him, “Ashley, I need you to understand that you’re a human being. I’m sorry I’m so… I’m so frustrated. I want to help you. I want you to know you’re free now. You can leave, if you want. Or we can work on this together.”
“I can leave?”
Stefan couldn’t deny the sinking feeling in his chest at the question, but he nodded anyway. “You can leave, if that’s what you want to do. Or you can stay, and I’ll help you get on your feet. We can get you a therapist, to help with your bad memories. And we can get you a job, so you can make money and live on your own. It’s your choice. You have choices.” Ashley had no other reaction besides nodding, “Thank you… I’d like that.”
Stefan had never smiled so wide in his life.
A few days passed, Ashley was slowly becoming more comfortable around Stefan. By now he felt confident that Stefan wasn’t going to hurt him, which made it much easier to open up to him. The morning Stefan caught Ashley returning a bottle to the kitchen from his bedroom, he had to ask what was up. “Do I want to know why you’ve been sneaking bottles to your room every night? They’re empty… for decoration, you know.” Stefan asked with a chuckle. Ashley was bright red, looking nervous. “I… It helps me sleep. Having something beside me.” Stefan frowned, “I didn’t know you were having trouble sleeping.” Ashley gave a shrug, “It’s not so bad, if I have something there. It keeps the nightmares away.” Stefan sighed, “I just wish you wouldn’t sleep with something breakable. You could accidentally cut yourself.” Ashley nodded, understanding, but dreading the loss of sleep he knew he’d encounter by giving it up. Stefan changed the subject, not wanting to make him feel uncomfortable. “Did you want to go to the studio with me today?” he asked, and Ashley seemed excited as he agreed. Stefan didn’t live far from it, but still Ashley seemed so intrigued by all the buildings they passed. “Are you really from Reading? Like you told Dru?” he asked him. Ashley smiled brightly, “Yes, that’s true. I was born there.” Stefan had so many questions he wanted to ask, but didn’t even know where to begin. “How did you… I mean, your parents… how did you end up away from them?” Stefan asked cautiously. Ashley didn’t say a word as they kept walking. “Sorry, I shouldn’t have asked.” Stefan said. Ashley turned to look at him momentarily, “I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to ignore you. There was a house fire when I was young… my parents died. I don’t remember much, but it wasn’t long after that I was put into slave training.” Stefan shook his head, “I can’t believe there’s such thing as slave training, it makes me sick.”
At the studio, it seemed to be a joy of Ashley’s to be in a place that wasn’t Stefan’s. It seemed to put him at ease, smiling easily as he sat down in the chair beside Stefan with the sound board in front of him. “Would you like to hear a song?” Stefan asked him, and Ashley seemed amazed that he would share his music with him. Skipping through a few before settling on one, he decided on one of his old songs called Did You Wrong. Ashley let out a laugh, “This is you singing, Stefan?” Stefan nodded, wondering why Ashley was laughing. If the kid who was deprived of music hated it, maybe Stefan had been overestimating his ability. “It’s amazing… incredible. All of it.” Ashley said, harboring more emotion in that moment than Stefan had seen in all the time he’d known him. “Thanks, Ash,” Stefan said, “Here, listen to anything you want. Just use this to click the next button and new songs will play.” Ashley tried it out, amazed when it actually worked. Sorting through, he had a mixture of reactions to the songs. So far Stefan could tell he wasn’t a fan of screamo, which wasn’t a surprise, and seemed to like songs with piano especially. Stefan got to work using headphones, at a constant pace for the better part of the day. It was nearly time to call it a day when Stefan asked if Ashley was hungry. “A bit,” he said, and Stefan knew he was lying, probably starving. “Sorry I’ve bored you all day,” he told him. Ashley seemed incredulous, “Bored? This has been the best day of my life…” Stefan didn’t know how to feel about the statement, but leaned in closer to Ashley. “Can I give you a hug?” he asked, and Ashley nodded.
It was the first time Ashley had been touched in a non-violent way for as long as he could remember.
Days passed and Stefan wondered if Ashley was still having trouble sleeping without something in bed with him. Anytime he asked, Ashley always told him he was sleeping fine, but Stefan could slowly see him starting to look more and more tired every day. Stefan couldn’t work out how a bottle, or another inanimate object, could help him sleep. He assumed it boiled down to possession, or maybe something to remind him he was awake after having a nightmare. He didn’t have the slightest idea. When the night came that Ashley was actually screaming bloody murder in his sleep, Stefan knew he had to find some way to help. Running down the hall and into his room, he found Ashley writhing on the bed. “Ashley! Wake up!” Stefan shouted, kneeling on the floor beside him. “Wha- Stefan?!” Ashley asked frantically as he woke up, clinging to Stefan’s arm that was now draped over his chest from attempting to wake him. “Yeah, mate, I’m right here.” Stefan said, allowing him to squeeze his wrist once more before letting him go. Stefan could clearly see that Ashley was shaking, it was obvious it must have been a terrifying dream. “You’re alright, Ash. You’re here with me.” Stefan told him in a quiet voice. Ashley nodded, falling back down against the pillow. “Will you be able to fall back asleep?” Stefan asked him. “Not likely,” Ashley muttered sadly, voice quivering slightly. “Would it help… I mean, if I slept here? Or will that make it worse?” Stefan asked, not sure if he was overstepping his boundaries. “Better,” Ashley admitted, “But you don’t… have to.” Stefan shrugged, “Fuck’s sake, you have to sleep. Move over a bit.” Ashley did, and Stefan laid out in the empty spot, trying his best not to touch Ashley’s side with his arm. “What was it about? The dream?” Stefan asked quietly. Ashley hesitated, but eventually gave in and began to tell him. “One of my previous owners… he liked to hurt me, torture me. I don’t know how long he kept me, but I was tied up almost the entire time… he had endless whips and chains, ropes… anything he could choke or beat or rape me with. I have bad dreams about it almost every time I sleep…”
Overwhelmed wasn’t even the word for what Stefan felt. He wanted to cry for him, but that wouldn’t help anything. “I’m so sorry, Ashley. People can be so cruel.” he finally said, “I… just please know that I would never let that happen to you.” He could feel Ashley nod beside him, glancing over to see a few tears rolling down the side of his face. Stefan couldn’t help himself and slowly grasped Ashley’s hand in his, squeezing it slightly as Ashley understood and responded to the gesture.
“Thank you for being my friend, Stefan.”
They slept in the same bed for 4 nights in a row, Stefan not giving in until he could actually hear Ashley’s struggle. He was slowly beginning to tell Stefan more stories about his past, but not nearly all of them, he was sure. Stefan didn’t have the heart to tell him that he was even starting to have bad dreams about it, too. He’d hoped the worst was over; Ashley was actually trusting him, and he seemed happy. When Stefan came home and heard Ashley singing along to one of his Queen CDs, he was bursting with happiness. Ashley, however, thought he would be mad. “Stefan! Sorry- I’m so sorry, I wasn’t thinking. I didn’t ask you-” Ashley babbled, shaking slightly as he continued to beg with every step Stefan took toward him. Stefan was disappointed, but not at Ashley. At himself, more than anything, for there to still be a doubt in Ashley’s mind that he would hurt him. Stefan sat beside him, pulling Ashley in with his arm, finally making him stop his begging. “I’d never be mad, Ash. You’ve got a great voice, did you know that?” Ashley shook his head, “No, I don’t.” Stefan grinned, “You’ve really got no idea, have you? Can I take you to the studio tomorrow?” Ashley didn’t understand why, but agreed anyway.
“I’ve written this song, it doesn’t fit with Dru’s voice… he raps, you know. Rhymes. I think your voice would work really well-” Stefan began, when Ashley interrupted. “You want me to sing? In one of your songs?” he asked, completely beside himself. Ashley was amazed that Stefan thought highly enough of him to want his voice in a song, he couldn’t believe it. “The song is a joke - my music, the music I do now, is comedy. Its supposed to be funny,” Stefan explained, “So the lyrics are a bit ridiculous. Its called Friends For Never.” Ashley smiled, “Can I see? The words?” Stefan handed over the lyric sheet to him, wary that Ashley may not understand the humor. A minute later, Ashley was nearly rolling in the floor from laughter. “This truly is ridiculous!” he smiled, “I’ve never laughed like this!” Stefan smiled, happy that he’d made Ashley happy. He’d never felt that before, not with anyone. He couldn’t believe how entirely devoted he was to Ashley’s well-being while only knowing him for such a small amount of time. “Do you think you can sing the parts?” Stefan asked, “Go in the booth, just there. Give it a try?” Ashley was nervous, but nodded anyway and obeyed what Stefan was asking of him. Reading over the lyrics once more, he tried singing a few lines, but stopped himself. “I… it doesn’t sound right. I’m sorry.” Ashley said, leaning his head down. “That’s ok, you can try again if you want. We’ve got all day.” Ashley nodded and tried a few more times, but just simply couldn’t get his voice to sound like it did the day before when Stefan said it sounded nice. “I’m sorry, Stefan… maybe I’m not r-ready?” Stefan nodded understandingly, “You’re alright, Ash. I’ve got a million other songs I’m working on. Maybe later,” he smiled reassuringly.
He wasn’t lying. He truly was behind in his work, between taking care of himself and Ashley, things were a bit slow for him music-wise. He knew George would be pissed, but he still had months to put together pieces for a CD.
After a few long days at the studio, Stefan was walking home, looking forward to his weekend off. He’d felt strange all day, a bit worried and sick, but he couldn’t work out why. Just a bug, maybe, he thought to himself. Once he was on his doorstep walking up to the door, he realised exactly why he’d had a bad feeling all day. “Please… no! Please!” he heard a muffled voice shouting from inside his flat. Unlocking and pushing the door open at lightening speed, Stefan rushed through the flat, trying to find where the voice was coming from.
It was Ashley’s bedroom.
Stefan had never been so furious in his life when he found Ashley curled into the corner of his bed, half torn shirt and the seam of his jeans torn open, with George looking at him in sick delight while fidgeting with the fly of his dress slacks. “You fucking prick! Get out of my fucking house!” Stefan screamed, pushing him away from the bed, “What do you think you’re doing?!” George seemed taken aback, “I buy you such a pretty little gift and you won’t let me play with it?” Stefan pushed him again, “You sick fuck! He’s a human being, he’s my fucking friend. Don’t you dare ever touch him again, you absolute monster.” George smirked, “Such lovely words for me after all I’ve done for you, Stefan.” Stefan jumped in his face, “You’re fucking done, George. Its all over. You’ve got enough work out of me to cover the bonus, now I don’t want to ever see you again.” George looked at him in disbelief, “You honestly think you can get rid of me? You forget, I bought this piece of trash for you. You brought him to my studio, let him touch my equipment, you fuck.” Stefan curled his hands into fists, “Leave or I’m calling the police. He’s not done a thing wrong, you’re the fucking criminal here. It’ll all be over for you, George. Think about it.”
George pondered the loose agreement, eventually nodding.
“I hope you enjoy the little prick,” George said, zipping up his fly, “You’ll find he’s not worth it.”
Stefan watched as George went out the door, and he locked it up behind him. He knew it wouldn’t be the last time he’d have to deal with George, but for now it was better than nothing. He walked quietly back into Ashley’s room, looking him over, still curled up and frightened on the end of the bed. He sat down, wrapping his arms around him, Ashley’s head finding Stefan’s chest as he began to cry. “It’s alright, Ash. I’m here now.” Stefan said quietly, “Did he hurt you?” Ashley nodded, crying a little harder at the question. Stefan didn’t know how to properly comfort him, hoping that holding him would make him feel the slightest bit better. He wanted to ask - ask what that bastard did to him, how he could make him feel better. Anything. He would do anything. But every time he opened his mouth, nothing came out. Minutes passed, a dozen of them, before Ashley made any movement. Lifting his shirt over his head, Stefan could clearly see the marks. It looked as though he’d been whipped, but with what, he couldn’t tell. He had multiple burn marks covering his hips, which also bore scratches from gripping hands and digging fingernails. Ashley ran his hand through the back portion of his hair, bringing attention to the bare patches, that looked to be yanked out. Stefan couldn’t breathe, not even slightly, until Ashley turned to look at him. “Ashley…” he whispered, moaned almost, “When did he… how long was he here?” Ashley shook his head just barely, “Hours.” Stefan had never heard a sound come out of his mouth quite like the one that escaped him. “I should have been here…” Stefan insisted, “I should have fucking been here, Ash. I’m so sorry. So fucking sorry.”
George hadn’t raped Ashley, but the damage was done.
Stefan only hoped it hadn’t wrecked Ashley completely.
Stefan had all intentions of fixing Ashley’s wounds up the night of the George incident, but incidentally they both fell asleep too quickly to remember. Stefan forced his eyes open the next morning, lying on his back, but his arm was just barely placed across Ashley’s stomach. He moved it away awkwardly, trying his best not to wake him in the process. Slowly making his way off the bed, he went straight to the loo, gathering peroxide, bandages, ointments, and anything else that seemed like it would come in handy. He made breakfast for them both, oatmeal and fruit, when Ashley appeared from his bedroom. “Breakfast,” he murmured as if to remind himself what it was, “Thank you.” Stefan nodded, sliding a bowl toward him. They ate in silence, a feeling of tension falling over them as they finished up. “I was… we need to clean you up, Ash. So the cuts don’t get infected.” Stefan told him quietly. “I never cleaned my wounds before, what’s different?” Ashley said bitterly. It sparked something inside Stefan that he couldn’t quite pinpoint, but he thought it may have something to do with the fact that Ashley sounded like a normal, pissed-off, human being. “I’m sorry, Ashley,” Stefan said, just barely audible. Ashley looked at him, guilt written all over his face, “I don’t mean to take it out on you.” Stefan knew. He nodded and led them down the hall to his bedroom.
“You can stay in my room, for a bit. The bed is more comfortable.” Ashley didn’t argue, simply sat down, waiting patiently for Stefan to tell him what needed to be done. “Lay on your stomach,” Stefan told him, pouring a bit of peroxide onto a cotton pad, “Sorry if this hurts. Just tell me.” He carefully swiped the liquid soaked material across the cuts created from whatever he’d been whipped with. He twitched slightly at first contact, but got used to it after that. “What did he use?” Stefan asked, hardly above a whisper. “Belt… buckle.” Ashley said, no emotion apparent in his voice. Stefan winced, closing his eyes with a deep exhale, and continued onto the burns. He used a generous amount of ointment, rubbing it onto the first patch of raw skin when Ashley groaned loudly. “Shh,” Stefan cooed, “Just give me another minute. Promise.” The bruises on Ashley’s hips were the worst part, visually. There wasn’t much Stefan could do besides grab an ice pack and insisted that Ashley alternate it between both sides. “Thank you, Stef.” Ashley said as he began to fall asleep. Stef.
“My first owner was a woman,” Ashley was telling Stefan around a week later, “I was eleven when I was first sold. I didn’t understand at first, she treated me like her own child in the beginning. Until she raped me the first time, then I understood she was just as sick as all the ones I’d heard about.” Stefan was listening intently, trying not to miss a single word while Ashley was being this open with him. “Looking back now I realise she was just a pervert, liked teaching little boys things that little boys shouldn’t know yet.” Just a pervert, Stefan cringed. ”My second owner was a man. I’d always heard that men preferred fresh meat… they want you to be reluctant. Like they’re the only one you would let have them.” Ashley explained, “He was the same, just like all of them. I was thirteen, I was just starting to… develop. He had a kink for pubic hair, he loved that I was just getting it. He’d shave me to make the hair grow back thicker then pluck them all out, just to put me in pain. He got off on it.” Stefan nearly gagged, almost wanting to ask Ashley to stop telling him. But he knew this was important for him to let out.
“After that I was owned by another woman. She was so repulsive… her body, her smell, her actions. She beat me every day because I couldn’t get hard for her, and started slipping drugs into my food. It made me hot, burning up, but she got what she wanted, and it made me beg.” Ashley told him, “I think I became addicted to it, to what she put in my food, because I was sick for weeks after she returned me. But I got beatings for that too.” Stefan’s nausea level was rising every few words. “I had an owner nickname me cocksucker once. He… well, raped me, with something I’m not sure I want to explain to you, all because I forgot to respond to the name.” The sick was just there, just at the bottom of Stefan’s throat, threatening to make an appearance. He rubbed Ashley’s back gently, as if for support. “I had an owner recently though, he was a real charmer,” Ashley snickered, “He let me eat soup with him, watch films, stood up for me.”
Stefan grinned, “You’re my best friend, Ash. You know that?”
Ashley nodded, “I hope.”
It felt like weeks since Stefan had done anything besides spend time with Ashley in his flat… until he realised that it really had been weeks and that he had to get back on the ball. All of his own equipment was at his parents house, but he didn’t want to explain Ashley’s situation to them just yet. For all his mum knew, Ashley was just an old friend that was staying with him a few days. He was scared she would figure it out before he got a chance to tell her properly. She would be heartbroken, and something inside Stefan made him want to fix Ashley before she had a chance to be. It was like he was challenging himself to it. The problem was that he couldn’t leave Ashley on his own…. well, Stefan knew he could but he wouldn’t, in absolute fear that George might show back up. Dru was the only person that came to mind, he was the only person Stefan could trust, especially with something so important. So he called him up and asked if he would mind hanging around with Ashley for the day. “I’ve got to work a bit today,” Stefan explained to Ashley, “Don’t be mad, I asked Dru to come keep you company while I’m out. That ok?” Ashley didn’t seem thrilled, “It’s ok, Stef, I can stay here alone,” he insisted, “Dru… I don’t know him. It’s just, it makes me nervous.” Stefan was glad to see Ashley expressing his concerns rather than keeping them bottled up. “Do you trust me, Ash?” he asked him quietly. Ashley didn’t hesitate, “Of course.” Stefan fought a smile, “Dru would never hurt you. I’d never ask you to be near someone I thought would do anything bad to you. Right?” Ashley agreed. He knew Stefan knew what he was talking about. There was a knock at the door and Stefan answered it, Dru sliding in the door before greeting Ashley.
“Hey Ashley,” Dru said, giving him a warm smile. “Hi,” Ashley said back shyly. Stefan grabbed his jacket, ready to leave, before mouthing off a laundry list of things he felt Dru should know. “There’s money just there, on the counter, if you go out. There’s plenty of food though, it’s… I mean, it’s up to you two. Just be careful, and…” Dru stopped him, giving a loud laugh, “Stef, mate. Grown men, remember?” Stefan laughed and nodded, “Sorry. See you later, Ash. Alright?” A nod and he was gone, Dru and Ashley standing awkwardly in the living room. “I’m gonna give it time for him to get where he’s going, then we can go out,” Dru said, amused, “He’s really protective, you know? I bet you haven’t left the flat since the shit with George?” Ashley shook his head. “I figured as much,” Dru said, “We should go get some grub, show you around London a bit. Sound good?” Ashley was trying to find the words to speak, to tell Dru that he didn’t want to disobey Stefan, to tell him that he didn’t want to be put in danger by going out, until he remembered that it was Stefan. He wasn’t his owner, he was his friend. “Yeah, good.”
“George is such a stupid fuck,” Dru said to Ashley after he’d explained in very little detail what George had done to him, “I’m so glad to be out from under him. Such a terrible idea to work for him.” Ashley agreed, “Didn’t seem very nice.” Dru chuckled, “You think? Only decent thing to come out of our time with him is you, mate. You mean a lot to Stefan, you realise?” Ashley didn’t realise, not entirely. Part of him still believed that Stefan was just being nice, just letting Ashley be part of his everyday life, because he had to. “I… do I?” Dru tilted his head to the side, “You don’t see it?” Ashley didn’t know what he meant, so he just stared. Dru laughed. Ashley noticed Dru laughed a lot, but it didn’t make him feel inferior. Not like he was used to. “I’ve heard you’ve got quite the voice box, yeah?” Dru asked him casually. It took Ashley a moment to realise what he meant, and he nodded. “Stefan thought so. I don’t hear it.” Dru didn’t push it, he knew Ashley was already getting used to a lot. “I’m gonna take you for pizza. When’s the last time you had pizza?” Dru asked. Ashley swallowed hard at the thought of it, “Not since I was young.” After waiting at the restaurant for nearly twenty minutes, a pizza was brought to their table. Dru dug in, while Ashley simply sat there staring at it, like it was going to disappear any moment. Dru smiled at him, “Eat, kid.” And he definitely did, nearly swallowing four slices whole, biting back small whimpers as he ate furiously. Dru was sort of half in awe and half disheartened. No one should get this excited over pizza, Dru thought, but grinned anyway.
Later that night when Stefan got home, Dru and Ash were sat on the sofa attempting to play video games. “Thanks so much, Dru,” Stefan told him for the billionth time, “See you later, mate.” Dru shooed him toward the couch, a sort of don’t worry about it, before Stefan sat down next to Ashley. “Everything alright, Ash?” he asked, leaning closer into him, physically centimeters away from having his head leaned on Ashley’s shoulder. “Yeah, Dru’s lovely,” Ashley told him, “Are you tired?” Stefan nodded, finally giving in, leaning against him sleepily. “You know, I’ve never asked you… what’s your sexuality, Ash?” Stefan asked curiously, realising moments later that it could have been a bit weird considering their current position. Ashley didn’t answer right away, giving it some thought. “I don’t think I could judge a person on their gender. If someone is good, a nice person, it doesn’t matter what they’ve got between their legs, so much.”
Stefan didn’t understand why his heart fluttered.
When January 3rd rolled around, Stefan could tell that Ashley had something on his mind. He never knew whether or not he should pry with Ashley. It could have been his bad memories bothering him, or maybe he just felt like having something particular for dinner but felt too ungrateful to ask for it. Stefan talked to Dru about it and he insisted that Stefan should just ask. Ashley trusted him enough to tell him, no matter what it was. Ashley had been spending a lot of time in his room the past few days, so much that Stefan waited half the day for him to come out of his room and he never did. He knocked quietly, “Ash, can I please come in?” He didn’t hear anything at first, eventually hearing a quiet okay. He was sat on his bed with a book, Stefan sat down beside him carefully, as if he hadn’t already disturbed him. “What’s wrong, Ash?” Stefan finally asked, “You seem sad lately.” Ashley made a short snorting noise, “I’ll be fine.” Stefan furrowed his eyebrows, “That’s not fair, Ashley. I want to help you.” Ashley looked guilty, the way he did every time he knew he’d offended Stefan. It wasn’t his fault how Ashley’s life had been, but he was the only one close enough to be bitter toward. “It’s my birthday tomorrow, that’s all,” Ashley said quietly, “I just didn’t want to… I mean, I felt bad. I wasn’t going to tell you.” Stefan grinned, “Tomorrow’s your birthday?! That’s all it was?” Ashley nodded, glad that Stefan was having a positive reaction. Ashley’s birthdays had always just been a mess of pain. He’d missed most of them, not knowing what day it was because he was locked in a basement. And even when he knew, it was just a reminder of how unimportant and useless he was. “I didn’t want you to think I was expecting anything…” Ashley said quietly, “I’m not at all.”
Dru came over early the next morning, long before Ashley ever woke up. By the time he rolled out of bed, he walked into the kitchen to find a very party-esque scene. Balloons, a cake lit up with candles, party hats, and Stefan and Dru standing with grins on their faces. “Happy Birthday!” they both shouted as he looked over the room, tears coming to his eyes. No one, ever in his life, had done something so nice for him. He didn’t know how to begin thanking them. “Cake for breakfast innit,” Dru said, cutting a piece out and handing it to Ashley on a plate. He took a bite of it, letting out a small moan. Stefan had gotten used to his reactions to food by now, not even acknowledging it, but Dru had a laugh. “Thank you, Stef, Dru. So much,” Ashley said, “So much.” They both just shrugged. It was their best friend’s birthday after all, what else were they to do? “We’ve got a gift for you,” Stefan said, smirking, “It’s not… I mean, you deserve more, of course. But we think you’ll like it.” Ashley didn’t move, “Gift?” Dru nodded. “Gift,” he repeated, like he wasn’t used to the word, “Birthday gift. Okay.”
When Stefan returned to the room holding a small, fluffy puppy, that was almost too much for Ashley. He stared at him, then the puppy, then back at Stefan. “She’s yours,” Stefan told him, smiling. “Mine,” he said, as if trying to register it in his brain, “She’s mine?” Stefan and Dru both nodding, grinning ear-to-ear. Stefan handed her over to Ashley, who immediately put her on the ground and knelt down in front of her, petting her tiny head. “Are you alright with having a pet?” Dru asked him. He was still staring at her with delight, scratching behind her ears, “She’s beautiful.” Stefan and Dru took it as all the approval they needed. “I got her a collar, and a leash, so you can take her on walks.” Stefan told Ashley, showing him both of the items. “Can we go now?” Ashley asked, an excited hint to his voice. “Sure, Ash,” Stefan said, “We thought we might go to the park today?” Ashley had never been to a park before, not completely sure what to expect, but he agreed anyway. “What do you think you’ll name her?” Dru asked Ashley as they all walked down the pavement. He shrugged, “I’ll have to see what she likes.” Ashley was half-expecting Dru to explain to him that’s not how animals work, but he didn’t. Ashley thought the park was just about the most amazing place he had ever been in his life. He tried his hardest to memorize the way to get there and back, hoping to go again soon. The puppy responded so well to Ashley already because of how much attention he paid her. Ashley leaned in slightly as they walked, draping an arm around Stefan’s waist without Dru noticing.
“You’re incredible,” Ashley told him quietly, “She’s perfect. Thank you.”
“Ash, what do you think of trying to sing for me again?” Stefan asked Ashley one day after he got home from working. Ashley shrugged his shoulders from where he was sitting, across from Stefan. “I’ve got a bit of material down but it needs something… just an extra something to jump start the sound.” Stefan explained further, “I really think your voice would be great, Ash. I could really use the help, if you don’t mind.” Ashley straightened himself up in the chair, “Of course, Stef. Anything.” Stefan smiled appreciatively, hoping that was the answer he would get. “Can we go for dinner?” Ashley asked him, “I’ve not spent any of my money… your money. I’d really like to pay.” Stefan thought about it for a few minutes, as if he would ever say no to Ashley. “Sure,” he said brightly, “If that’s what you want, we’ll do it.” Just as they began to get themselves together to leave, Ashley’s puppy waddled up, whining. “Hi, gorgeous,” Ashley cooed, leaning down to pick her up, cuddling her in his arms.
Stefan’s heart ached at the sight. He still didn’t recognise the feeling.
“Have you decided what to name her yet?” Stefan asked him after they’d finally left the flat. Ashley shook his head. Sadly, almost. “She won’t respond to anything I’ve tried.” Stefan patted Ashley on the back lightly, “It’s alright, mate. Maybe try the names a few more times?” Ashley looked Stefan over before insisting, “No. Cocksucker, remember?” Stefan winced immediately, “You’re right, you’re right.” Ashley had tried a dozen names already, at least. Halo. Duffie. Jetta. Mooney. Babe. They weren’t the best names, but he wanted it to be something cute. Something natural. And every time she did something adorable, a new name popped into Ashley’s mind. He didn’t want to push it, he knew how he felt being forced into nicknames, and even an animal should have at least a tiny bit of input into their name. They made it to a restaurant finally, something Stefan told Ashley was a little more exotic than the things he’d tried so far. “They’ve got sandwiches, as a backup,” Stefan reminded him as they looked over the Japanese menu. Ashley couldn’t place half of the food names or ingredients, eventually asking Stefan to order him something he thought he might enjoy. “This place is a little over the top, sorry,” Stefan apologised, “I wasn’t really thinking.” Ashley shook his head, nudging Stefan’s hand on the table, “Hey, it’s fine. You don’t always have to think.” Stefan smiled, nodding when they both heard a crashing noise across the room.
It was a waitress who had accidentally dropped her tray of food. Neither of them thought much of it until they heard a man shouting at the girl, cursing her out for dropping his food. “I can’t believe this! They hire such imbeciles to work at restaurants these days!” the man continued shouting above her. “What’s his problem?” Stefan said quietly, both him and Ashley getting up to walk over. “Calm down, man, it was an accident,” Stefan said as they both helped her pick up the pieces off the floor. “When your only job is carrying plates she should be able to manage!” the guy continued on. “Don’t put her down,” Stefan said, “That’s really unnecessary.” Ashley picked up the last plate and placed it on her tray, giving her a warm smile as he did so. “Thank you,” she said quietly, eyes red like she might have been on the verge of tears. “Hey, don’t worry about it,” Ashley said, “He’s a jerk.” She smiled at him before ignoring the guy who was still shouting, now arguing with Stefan, and walked away. They went back to their seats, now even more over the restaurant than before. They didn’t want to cause the girl any more trouble so they stayed. She seemed fond of Ashley, something that Stefan found to be a little more than slightly annoying, but he was still supportive. “She’s cute,” Stefan said, “You should ask her out.” Ashley smiled goofily, “She’s beautiful. But I’m fine how things are now.”
“Thanks for dinner, Ash,” Stefan told him as they walked back to the flat, “That was really nice.” Ashley grinned, his hand very loose on Stefan’s lower back, “That’s the least I could do.” Stefan shuddered slightly to the touch, surprising himself. He ignored it as best he could, but still found himself thinking about it as he sat on the floor playing with the puppy later that night. “Aw hey, little bit,” Ashley said to her as he walked into the room, and she yapped. “Little Bit?” Stefan suggested, smiling. Ashley continued on in his high-pitched, puppy-only voice, “What do you think of that, Bits?” She yapped again, walking over to him, attempting to jump in his lap when he sat down.
“Bits it is, then.”
The flat Stefan lived in was the first one he had ever had to himself. He had lived at home with his parents up until the point, and living with your family usually means you get used to each other’s habits, especially by the time you’re in your 20s. You know what to expect from them and their routines, but now Ashley hadn’t been around very long and was especially hard to understand. He didn’t have a routine or any obvious habits that Stefan could notice. So when the day came that Ashley caught Stefan wanking, it wasn’t exactly expected. And though Ashley was his best friend, that didn’t save him any embarrassment from the situation.
It was Tuesday, Stefan always worked during the week, and left home fairly early in the morning and normally didn’t return until late in the evening. Ashley woke up, rubbing the sleep out of his eyes, laying there for a while thinking how much he wanted to finish the book that Stefan had let him borrow. Leaning over to look beside his bed, the book wasn’t there. Crawling out of bed, he walked down the hall to Stefan’s room to try to find it. He didn’t even realise what he was looking at in the beginning, Stefan laid flat, blanket half covering his legs with his hand furiously rubbing himself off. “ASH! Shit, what are you doing?!” he shouted, covering himself up quickly. Ashley didn’t know what he was doing, too stunned to even remember. “I- uh, I was…” he blabbered, “I was looking for the book you let me borrow. So…” Stefan sighed loudly, understandingly annoyed at the situation, fishing around for his underwear that were hidden somewhere under the blanket. “Could you leave, please?” Stefan asked him. Ashley obeyed. He didn’t know what else to do. In his experience, anything sexual was a right, something that he’d never known to be shameful when he witnessed the behavior in others. At the same time, anything sexual for him was painful and humiliating because that’s all he’d ever known. He didn’t understand Stefan’s reaction, but for the first time in weeks he felt fear. Of what, he wasn’t sure. Maybe of Stefan hurting him, or getting rid of him, which would be worse. He retired to his room, closing the door and sitting on the edge of the bed. He could vaguely hear Stefan leave his room and get in the shower, then later a quiet knock on his door.
“Ash, you in here?” Stefan asked as he slowly opened the door. Ashley looked at him sadly, not knowing exactly what to say. “You can laugh, if you want,” Stefan said, giving a small smile, “Sorry about that.” Ashley tilted his head to the side, reminding himself of Bits when she was confused, “You’re not m-mad?” Stefan shook his head, “Of course not. Are you mad at me?” Ashley shook his head, smiling slightly, “For touching yourself? No, I’d never be mad at you for anything.” Something about Ashley putting it into words made the blood threaten to rush exactly where he didn’t want it, but he changed the subject. “Studio?” he asked, grinning at Ashley who immediately nodded. Walking through the flat, Ashley grabbed the leash and called out. “Bits? C’mere, Bits!” and she ran out happily from behind the chair in the living room. Out the door they went and straight to the bus. Ashley really never got tired of doing anything with Stefan, it was always a new and fun adventure somehow. Even if he’d experienced it before. As they sat down on the bus, Stefan spotted someone he knew and waved them over. “Alright, mate,” the guy said after they’d been introduced. He didn’t even catch his name. Ashley felt uncomfortable - out of all the friends Stefan had, he’d only met Dru. Something about that didn’t sit well with him, the more he thought about it. Was Stefan ashamed of him?
It was something that stayed on his mind all day. Surely he wouldn’t want me to record if he didn’t want anyone to know, Ashley thought to himself. But he couldn’t be sure.
Later that night, Ashley found himself outside Stefan’s bedroom door, knocking slowly until he heard him speak. “Can’t sleep?” Stefan asked him from where he was laying on the bed. “Yeah,” Ashley said, laying down next to him. They laid there in silence for a while, but Ashley could tell Stefan’s breath wasn’t steady enough for him to be asleep already. “Are you ashamed of me, Stef?” he asked quietly, staring up at the ceiling. Stefan flipped onto his side, looking at Ashley in disbelief, “Ashamed of you? Why in gods name would you think that?” Ashley shrugged, “Its just that I’ve not met any of your friends, apart from Dru.” Stefan laughed like it was the most ridiculous thing he’d ever heard, “Because you mean more to me than any of my other friends, Ash. I thought that was obvious.” Ashley smiled slightly, turning to face Stefan, “You actually mean that?” Stefan laughed, “Of course,” then hesitated slightly. “You… I mean, I just… can I?” he stuttered out, leaning in toward Ashley. He just barely tilted his head to nod when Stefan smiled and connected his lips with Ashley’s softly. The sound Ashley made was a blatant mix of a whimper and a soft moan, which made Stefan deepen the kiss slightly, brushing his hand against Ashley’s hipbone. He could feel the scars, the slightly deepened and damaged skin from burns, but somehow Stefan had never experienced anything more perfect in his life.
And it was a new beginning.
The next morning Stefan woke up with arms around him, his face buried in Ashley’s chest as he felt the rise and fall of his breaths. It took him a moment to remember the night before - Ashley’s question, and the kiss. He smiled to himself thinking of it, but turned to a frown as he let his thoughts take over. I’m not gay, at least I don’t think so. Am I leading Ashley on? …Am I bisexual? I don’t know how this works, Stefan thought to himself, Did he really want me to kiss him or was he just being nice? He tried to reason with himself that, sure, Ashley was his best friend and also incredibly sweet, but not so much that he would kiss him if he didn’t want to. He felt Ashley move a little, waking up slowly before smiling down at Stefan. “Hi,” he said, tugging on one of Stefan’s curls very lightly. “Did you sleep well?” Stefan asked him, smiling shyly. Ashley nodded, “Everything alright, Stef?” He bit his lip before admitting, “I’m not sure. I’m a bit confused.” Ashley furrowed his eyebrows, looking a little hurt. “Do you regret it?” Stefan shook his head, “No, not at all, Ash. I’m just… I’ve surprised myself. Really surprised myself this time.” Ashley understood, after all, one of his first memories of Stefan was of him saying for fuck’s sake, I’m not even gay, when he’d realised that Ashley was a sex slave. “We’ll work it out,” Ashley told him, positioning himself close to Stefan’s face, “You want to…?” Stefan nodded, “Always. Always want.” Their lips met once again, Stefan’s stomach flipping at the contact. He couldn’t contain himself, smiling into it as Ashley gripped his arms around Stefan’s torso, bringing their bodies so close they were touching. Maybe I just like it because it’s new, Stefan thought to himself, a low groan forming in his throat when Ashley’s hand “accidentally” slid across the front of his pyjama bottoms. Or maybe not.
After a bit more kissing, a bit more touching, Stefan crawled out of bed and decided to make breakfast. Ashley followed in tow, sitting in the kitchen as Stefan sorted through the cupboards. “Want anything particular?” Stefan asked him, looking in the fridge as if he was at a loss for what to cook. “Some eggs, please,” Ashley said, walking over to him as he began mixing the eggs into a bowl. He wrapped an arm around his waist, chin resting on Stefan’s shoulder from behind. Stefan felt butterflies in his stomach. Fucking butterflies. “I could get used to this,” Stefan mumbled, leaning his head back slightly against Ashley’s, his eyes closing as he savored the feeling. “Me too,” Ashley giggled, “Can we watch a film today?” Stefan leaned back, kissing Ashley on the cheek, “Of course.” Stefan could feel Ashley’s grin against him, “Can we get some red vines and fruit pastilles?” After Ashley’s short amount of time with Stefan, he’d developed the biggest sweet tooth and loved any fruity sweets. He was a total sucker for them, and Stefan couldn’t deny how sexy he’d always found Ashley’s sweet, tangy breath against him from it while they watched the telly.
Surely nothing that feels this right can be wrong?
They were off to Tesco, bringing Bits with them on the leash. She was always just as eager to leave the flat as Ashley was. Ashley knew he could go out and do anything at any given point, but he never left unless he was with Stefan. He felt safer that way. Maybe Bits will turn out to be huge and can attack if anyone bothers me, Ashley thought, Ha ha, yeah right! As she lead them down the street excitedly, Ashley’s hand brushed over Stefan’s. He wasn’t sure at first if he was ready for any sort of PDA, all of this was so new to him. And vague looks and glares of bypassers would annoy him to no end, but he did it anyway. Ashley’s hands were much stronger than his, overall he was much more muscular than Stefan, but it made him feel safe and at ease in the situation. As they walked into Tesco, Stefan nearly ran straight into Dru. “Oh shit, hey!” Stefan grinned. “Nice one, knocking me over!” Dru laughed, “What are you lads up to?” Ashley had wandered straight over to the sweets, and Stefan thought he would take the opportunity to tell Dru all the things he’d missed out on. “Just watching some films at the flat,” Stefan said casually, “I, um… Dru, me and Ashley are sort of, together now.” Dru laughed, “You think I didn’t notice you lot holding hands?” Stefan breathed out, relieved that Dru seemed ok with all of it. “It’s just happened, I mean… today. Am I crazy?” he said, laughing slightly. Dru shook his head, “No, mate. I didn’t know you liked guys, until the first time I saw you with Ash.” Stefan shrugged, “I didn’t know either, mate. Surprised myself.”
Dru patted him on the shoulder in a brotherly sort of way, “Just be careful, Stef. Like him because you like him, not because you want this to be another normal thing he needs to experience.”
Stefan had never thought of it that way.
As Stefan and Ashley got back to the flat they got comfortably back into their pyjamas, sitting down on the couch as Ashley began munching on his sweets. Stefan usually took ages to pick out films for them to watch as to avoid violence or too much sexual content. He’s not a child, Stefan reminded himself, It’s not a big deal. He just didn’t want to be rude or to upset Ashley. He ironically pulled out his Hard Candy DVD and put it in, knowing full and well that it had both of the aforementioned topics. Ashley smiled and pulled out a red vine, fishing it into Stefan’s mouth as he bit the end of it. He laughed slightly, grabbing another from the bag Ashley had in his lap. Half way through the film, once the plot had finally laid itself out, Ashley began to seem genuinely interested. “He was a child molester?” Ashley asked, and Stefan nodded. “And she’s caught him? Amazing,” Ashley said, snickering a laugh before going back to his more serious stance. “Sometimes I wonder how I wasn’t killed,” Ashley admitted, “There were times I wasn’t fed for weeks all the while being beaten, raped. I don’t know how I managed.” Stefan frowned, his stomach churning at the thought. “C’mere,” he said, pulling Ashley closer to him, his head now resting on Stefan’s shoulder, “You’re the strongest person I know, Ash. So inspirational.” Ashley turned his head up to look at Stefan, his mouth just barely touching his shoulder. Stefan caught his gaze, leaning down to kiss him softly. “I mean it, Ash.” Ashley snuggled back into him, “Are you ok with this now?” Stefan nodded, “Of course. Sorry, sorry… this morning I was just, it was confusing.” Ashley nodded, understanding. Stefan leaned his chin down on the top of Ashley’s head, squeezing his middle as he did so. “Mr. Ashley Horne, can I be your boyfriend?” Stefan asked. Ashley nodded simply, “Yeah. I’d like that.”
The day finally came that Stefan decided he wanted to film a video for the new group he had put together of him, Dru and Ash. It had been a few weeks since he’d been getting Ashley into recording and he was gradually starting to listen to a lot of the same music as Stefan. The three of them had Stefan’s parents flat to themselves all day to film, filming themselves dancing and drinking Breezers. Ashley seemed like a little kid he was so excited, watching back some of the footage from Stefan’s camera while laughing. “We look ridiculous,” he said, the biggest grin on his face, “People will watch this?” Stefan nodded and winked, “Maybe. Only cause you’re so good looking.” Ashley gave him a smirk, leaning over to kiss him as they sat at the kitchen table. Dru walked in after changing his shirt, mid-yawn, “Oh, jeez! Stop that.” Stefan smiled, “You’ll have to get used to it eventually, you know.” Dru snorted a laugh, “You’re always together, I think I’m used to it by now. Plus, it works in my favor, both my best friends are always happy cause they’re getting laid.” Stefan and Ashley glanced at each other, Stefan blushing slightly before Ashley excused himself to the restroom. “We’ve not really… you know, yet. Haven’t had sex yet.” Stefan admitted to Dru. “Seriously?” Dru asked, “What have you been doing then? You’re way too smiley all the time, mate.” Stefan shrugged, “Nothing, chilling out together. Kissing, just that.” Dru laughed, “You don’t actually know that you like men, then?” Stefan blushing slightly again, “I’m pretty sure, mate. I want to fuck him… I want him to fuck me.” Dru’s eyes widened slightly, “Yeah, alright. I guess you do know.”
As they walked home later, Dru was meant to stay the night at theirs so they could drink a little. It was pitch black out, far past midnight. Ashley had never been out in London at night before, even with Stefan or Dru. As they walked up to Stefan’s flat, they could see someone standing near his door, dressed in all black. A closer look revealed that it was George. Stefan moved Ashley behind him and Dru, as if to protect him. “What the fuck do you want, George?” Dru asked him harshly as he began to move closer to the three boys.
“You’re joking, right?” Stefan spat out angrily. George shook his head, eerily slow, “You actually thought you could all get away with this? You fuck me over don’t expect any retaliation?” Stefan opened his mouth to argue, but nothing came out when he saw George pull a knife from his pocket, casually letting it hang from his hand as it sat by his side. “What do you want?” Dru repeated, stepping a little closer to George. “I want the slave, I told you.” he said simply, “I could put him to good use, with all that money I spent on him. He’s mine, after all.” Stefan’s skin crawled at the tone in George’s voice, the things he was saying. Speaking about Ashley as if he were an object. “I told you I’d call the police, George. I fucking meant that.” Stefan said, not caring about the knife anymore. “But they’d have to find me first,” he reminded him, “And if you called them, Stefan, I think you know your little whore here would be long dead by the time they got to me.” Stefan was doing his best to sort out a plan in his head, but his mind was so fuzzy that he could hardly even stand anymore. Could they run, all three of them? Would they make it to safety before George caught up? Would that just piss him off enough to kill all of them? Stefan was so caught up in his thoughts that he hardly registered George lunging toward him, grabbing him by the throat and pulling him away from Dru and Ashley. “STEF!” Ash shouted, jumping out to grab him, as if it would help. The knife was to his throat. All he could do was helplessly look at his two best friends with mixed feelings. Do I want them to help me? Stefan thought to himself, Maybe he’ll kill me and let them go. He could clearly see Ashley shaking, tears running down his cheeks.
“I’ll kill him,” George said, “Just come with me, slave. Then he’ll go home safe.” Stefan tried to twist out of his grip, only to make him press the knife closer against his skin. “Ash… don’t.” Stefan barely squeaked out. Dru tried to reason with him, “C’mon George, you’re better than this. Just let Stefan go. We’ll pay you back.” George shook his head, “What would be the fun in that? I want that slave, not the money.” Ashley didn’t know what to do. Stefan was telling him not to move, but every inch of his body was telling him to go with George so that Stefan would be safe. “Don’t, Ash… don’t.” Stefan begged, sounding strangled from the device against his throat. Tears were pouring down Ashley’s face still, “Stefan, please… please… I can take it. Let me go with him. I can take it.” Dru didn’t seem to know what to do, which scared both Stefan and Ashley. Dru was usually the logical one, the one to go to for all the answers. But not this time. “Just… here, I’ll go. I have to, Stefan.” Ashley said, walking closer to both of them. Stefan’s head and shoulders were down as soon as George let him go, tears falling as he looked back up at him, “Ash.” Ashley didn’t know what to do. This was the only logical explanation in his mind. “I- I have to, Stefan. I love you, do you hear me?” Ashley said as George began to pull him to his car, throwing him harshly into the back seat. “ASHLEY!” Stefan screamed, running toward the car as it sped off.
He fell to his knees, collapsing in tears in the middle of the street.
“I’m calling the police, Stef,” Dru said softly, kneeling down beside him, “Right now.” But Stefan didn’t hear him. He couldn’t process what had just happened to him, to his boyfriend. “What if its too late?” Stefan croaked out, the question followed by an exasperated cry. “Don’t say that, Stef,” Dru said calmly as he put the phone to his ear, “My friend and I need help, our best friend has been kidnapped.” It was all Stefan heard before he nearly passed out, cheek-to-pavement as he hyperventilated. He never, ever, in a million years thought George would pull something like this. And they were calling the police. George’s words flashed through his head, that he would kill Ashley before they could ever find him. Stefan’s head was dizzy. “Let’s go inside, Stef,” Dru said, a sad tinge in his voice, “We can wait for the police to get here.”
Stefan didn’t move. He couldn’t make himself.
The night George took Ashley was hell, for both Stefan and Dru. The police were at Stefan’s flat past 5AM getting all the information they could. It was a whole new playing field when they realised they had to tell the cops that Ashley had been a slave in the past. They were surprised, to say the least, but seemed compassionate for Stefan and the pain he was in. George couldn’t be too terribly hard to find, they all said, because he owned a business in London and would have to eventually go to one of the offices or studios. He would be arrested, thrown in prison, but there was no guarantee for Ashley. They promised they would get him home safe.
Stefan didn’t believe them, of course. But they promised anyway.
Dru stayed the night, sleeping on Stefan’s sofa, but Stefan didn’t sleep a wink no matter how long he laid in bed. All he could wonder was what George had done to Ashley, what he would do. He couldn’t believe he’d ever trusted George at any point in his life. The moment he finally drifted off, his sleep was cut short almost immediately by a nightmare. Ashley, tied up in George’s basement, being beaten and worse. He couldn’t pretend to be okay anymore, the dream just reminded him how urgent the situation was. He jumped up from his bed, running to the toilet and let all the bile come up. He couldn’t stop the tears from coming no matter how hard he fought it, sobbing as he collapsed on the floor. He didn’t care how pathetic it looked, and felt. He didn’t know how long he’d laid there, but eventually Dru came in. “Mate, get up,” he said, “Don’t do that… just don’t.” Stefan lashed out, “What the fuck do you mean?! How could I not be upset?” Dru sighed, helping him up from the floor, “You have to be strong, Stef. For Ash. Curling into a crying ball on the floor ain’t doing anything for the situation.” Stefan glared at him slightly, though he knew he was right. It was 9 in the morning by then, Stefan finally accepting the fact that he probably wouldn’t sleep a wink until they found Ashley. He tried to keep in constant contact with the police, calling them every few hours for updates. He tried to remain optimistic when every time he called, they had no news, no new updates on the situation. “I’m making breakfast, Stef, and you’re gonna eat.” Dru told him, not giving him much of a choice. He nodded and sunk down into the sofa, staring at the walls like they were of interest to him.
He could see George, in his flat, mixing a drink at his bar with that sick smirk on his face that he always seemed to have. Stefan never noticed it before… not before all of this. But now he saw it, thinking back. Stefan tried to place every possible hiding spot in his house from memory, thinking of all the places he could be keeping Ashley. Stefan knew, though, that George wouldn’t take Ashley to his home. He had him at some other location, doing god knows what. He still couldn’t believe that Ashley had done this for him - something that Stefan would have easily given his life for. For Ashley to be free, and safe, with Dru. With anyone. His thoughts were interrupted by Dru laying a plate in his lap, with eggs and fruit. “Eat up mate, I’m not taking no for an answer. You’ve thrown up everything in your stomach.” Dru said, sitting down next to him. Stefan shrugged, simply getting up and walking to the kitchen. “Stefan, I swear to god-” Dru started on him, nearly shouted, but was cut short by Stefan coming back to sit beside him. In his arms he held the bag of nutrition cubes that Ashley had been equipped with when he was first bought to Stefan’s flat. Dru gave him a confused look, but eventually understood. “It doesn’t feel right,” Stefan said quietly, “Here with my best friend having breakfast while he’s suffering.” Dru couldn’t possibly argue with him because he knew he was feeling the same way, just didn’t want to admit it to himself that this was really happening. “I’m sorry Stef… it’ll work itself out, I promise.” he said sadly, setting his food aside, popping one of the nutrition cubes into his mouth the same time as Stefan.
Stefan was trying his hardest to think… to think of anywhere that George had taken him before, somewhere private enough to hold someone captive, but somewhere that wasn’t too terribly personal to him. Anywhere. It took him a few hours, sorting through every memory he had of George. Studio? No. Guest house? Couldn’t be. Vacation home? He doubted it.
It took him a few more moments, a moment of sudden realisation washing over him.
He had it.
Stefan had never done anything so quick in his life, running across the room to pick up his phone. He rang the police, quickly telling them as much information as he could about the spot he was thinking of. They seemed skeptical because he didn’t have a lot of information, but he asked them to look into it. “Please call me if you get a lead,” he begged, “Please.” Stefan was surprised he hadn’t thought of it sooner - it was somewhere that George mentioned very briefly to him one night when they were out drinking together. Stefan asked George, in his inebriated state, if he ever felt uncomfortable bringing women home with him when he lived in such a nice house with such expensive things in it. “Fuck no,” George laughed, “I don’t bring slags to my house, I’ve got a place to take them. It’s a room I rent in East London near the market, a bit run down but no neighbors to hear or see anything. You get me?” Stefan remembered. George was likely to not remember telling Stefan that and it sounded like, if he had to guess, the perfect place to bring a sex slave to torture. Stefan felt like a fool not thinking there was something strange about George telling him that before. God knows how many women he’s hurt, Stefan thought to himself, cringing. Stefan was torn away from his thoughts when his phone rang, jumping at the sound. “Hello?” he asked after quickly answering, “You’ve got an area? Are they going to check them all? Yes, thank you — Can I come to the site, in case its the right one? Great, thank you.” Stefan jumped up, making Dru get to his feet as well. Stefan put on his shoes, grabbing a set of clothes from Ashley’s room, just in case.
Dru seemed to understand what was happening even though Stefan had told him next to nothing about the George’s room, what he told the police, what the police said when they called him back with information. They were off to the location they’d given him over the phone, taking the tube to Dru’s before he drove them to the address. None of the officers were there yet when they arrived. They didn’t want to fuck up any sort of operation they had going, so they sat in the car (im)patiently waiting their arrival. “What do you think he’s done, Dru?” Stefan asked softly, near tears, “What if he’s…. you don’t think he’s killed him, do you?” Dru sighed, trying to hide it from him. “I don’t know, Stef. I wish I did.” Stefan nodded, as if saying fair enough, and continued looking out the window. Eventually the police strolled up, undercover cars, undercover clothes. One of them walked up to Dru’s car, knocking at the glass, startling Stefan. “Shit,” he mumbled, rolling the window down. “We’re thinking this is the place. Bad news is we have to check each and every room until we figure out if they’re here. You can step out of the car, but stay close.” Stefan nodded, a dull look on his face. He didn’t know what he would do if they didn’t find him. This felt like his only hope at getting Ashley back.
They followed close behind the officer, going through an alleyway and down a side street a bit before seeing the set of rooms, doors all aligned. Stefan could see others strategically placed around the building as to watch in case George was in fact there and decided to make a run for it. They gave a three minute warning before busting in the first door, finding nothing. “They’ll go to the other end and try there before they try any of the closer ones,” the office explained to them quietly, “Anyone in surrounding rooms are more likely to get scrambled by the noise and try to run, so they try farther away to save a bit of time.” Stefan nodded, not truly caring what the man was telling him. He just wanted it to be over with, for them to find Ashley safe and sound so Stefan could bring him home. They tried one, two, three more rooms, and nothing. They would go in, take about a minute to check around it, then file on back out. Another room, nothing. And another.
Stefan was losing hope. He was close to crying again, despite the fact that he was standing there with a stranger who would think he was mental. They pushed their way into the next room, taking a few seconds to get themselves in before he heard it. “We’ve got something!” he heard one of them shout. Stefan didn’t give anyone time for a reaction of any kind, simply bolted up the stairs to where they were. He’d never moved so fast in his entire life. Surely something was better than nothing, he thought. In the split second before he rounded the corner into the room he worried that something wasn’t him because it was just a body, but he continued on nonetheless. Peaking into the room, he could see the officers surrounding the bed. He couldn’t see, not a thing, not what or who was on the bed, what condition they were in. “Move!” Stefan shouted, trying to get through them. He was hardly ready for what he found, the black and blue, bloody mess of flesh that was Ashley’s body. But yet, he was so relieved. So relieved, he couldn’t believe it.
“Stef?” he mangled out, “Oh god, Stefan…”
“Ash?” Stefan said softly, crawling onto the bed as two of the officers worked on untying his hands and feet from the bed, “Ashley, I’m so… oh god, I’m so sorry.” Ashley vaguely shook his head, “It’s okay, Stef. Not your fault.” Stefan wanted to hold him, wanted all these people to leave so he could dress him and take him home until he was well again. But they wouldn’t leave, they just kept talking and looking around the room, and said they would have help for Ashley soon. “I want to go home,” Ashley said weakly. Home. Stefan went limp at the word, loving so much that Ashley had a place to call home, and with him of all people. “He wants to go home,” Stefan said loudly to the man who kept telling him about the medical help on the way. “He needs to be checked out-” Ashley let out a small sob, interrupting him. “-Just a few hours at the hospital, then he can go home. Alright?” Stefan didn’t want to agree, but he did. “Ashley, baby, they’re gonna give you medicine so you won’t be in pain, okay? And fluids, you’ve lost a lot of fluids I’m sure…” Stefan explained to him, still trying his best not to touch Ashley too much before he knew the extent of the damage, “Ashley, you’ll have to tell them, alright? Tell the doctors what he’s done. You’re safe, I promise.” Ashley made a guttural sound deep in his throat, “Safe.” An ambulance showed up after what seemed to be ages, three medics piling out with a stretcher ready for Ashley’s beaten body. It took Stefan’s eyes a moment to adjust, realising then that Dru had been standing beside the bed. “Hey Ash,” he said softly, “I’m gonna pick you up, alright? Take you down to the medics.” Ashley nodded, whimpering as Dru’s arms slid around his back and legs, picking him up bridal style. “Be careful, Dru,” Stefan almost whispered, but he already knew he was doing the best he could. The medics gave him an IV of fluids immediately, but nothing yet for his pain. Stefan sat beside him, gripping Ashley’s hand on the way to the hospital. They had a sheet over his body, from the shoulders down. Stefan hated it. It made him feel like Ashley was meant to be dead.
At the hospital things only became worse, from Stefan shouting at one of the medics for what he considered to be “rough treatment” which, in the medics defense, could have been almost anything at that moment. Then Ashley was crying, sobbing, when they took him away from Stefan to go into the emergency center. And Stefan was fighting to go back and find him, Dru having to hold him back. Stefan searched for a nurse and begged, “Please let me go back, I’m all he has. He’s not good with strangers, do you understand? He’s gonna be scared out of his mind.” She seemed hesitant, but walked him back anyway. Something about Ashley’s eyes looked hollow when Stefan first saw him alone in the room, but quickly brightened as he caught sight of Stefan. “Hey Ash,” he said sweetly, curling up in the chair beside his hospital bed, “Its okay, I’m here.” Ashley reached over, squeezing his hand as if telling Stefan that he was scared. “They’re here to help, alright? Don’t worry, I’m right beside you.”
Stefan tried not to focus on Ashley’s wounds. It made him dizzy enough to see the black eye he bore on his face, so severe that his eye looked bloodshot. The doctor came in promptly, introducing himself, being as nice as he possibly could. Stefan was sure the doctor had been filled in on Ashley’s background, there was no way he had the time or patience to be this thorough with all his patients. “If you’d like, Ashley, I can give you a physical exam and sort of, connect the dots here. If you don’t want to talk about it. Or, you can tell me what to look for, if you feel comfortable enough.” Ashley hesitated, looking over at Stefan carefully before agreeing, “I can tell you.” Stefan gripped his hand a little tighter as he began to tell the both of them.
“H-he burnt me, first. He lit cigarettes and put them out, on my hips and… down there.” Stefan winced, tears coming to his eyes. If this was the first thing, Stefan was scared to know what happened next. “He kept whipping me… he whipped my feet, I- I think they were bleeding. And he used a bigger whip, on my back and legs.” Ashley continued, “He kicked me… my ribs. My ribs, I think. He choked me… you know, his hands on my throat and inside.” The doctor seemed to be trying his best to seem like it was all okay, that they were normal injuries for someone to have, while Stefan was silently crying. “Was there any other sexual assault involved, Ashley?” he asked, and Ashley bit his lip, nodding slowly. “There- he didn’t use lubrication. I… I mean… it hurts, there. Torn, maybe.” he said sadly, a hint of embarrassment in his voice. “Don’t be ashamed, Ashley. Its not your fault this happened to you.” the doctor told him, and Ashley nodded. “What we’ll do is keep you on fluids for the next few hours since you’re dehydrated and you’ve lost a lot of blood. We’ll give you morphine in the IV for the pain, clean up your cuts and get you home. Okay, Ashley?” he told him, and Ashley forced a small smile, agreeing with the plan.
“It’s not your fault, Ash.”
Hours passed and it was finally time to take Ashley home. Stefan decided there was no way he’d be able to get Ashley into the jeans he’d brought for him, far too many cuts and burns for him to be able to wear them comfortably. After a trip down to the hospital’s gift shop, he returned with a pair of baggy pyjama bottoms. Very carefully helping him put them on along with his shirt, they began the task of getting him back to Stefan’s flat. Ashley stepped down from the bed to sit in the wheelchair, but cried out in pain as he did so. “Ash! Ash, are you alright?” Stefan asked, helping him sit back down to the bed, “Be careful.” Ashley tilted his head down, “I forgot the cuts on my feet.” Stefan hadn’t looked at them yet, had completely forgotten. “Shit, I’m sorry, Ash,” Stefan said, kissing his temple, “I’ll get Dru to pick you up, yeah?” Dru did, carefully picking him up and helping him sit in the wheelchair. Driving him home with the instructions of keeping him in bed for the next few weeks, they repeated the process of Dru carrying him inside when they made it back to Stefan’s. Straight to Stefan’s room, straight into the bed. Stefan had yet to really thank Dru for everything he was doing, hugging him tightly as he said he was leaving. “Thanks for everything, Dru. Come round tomorrow?” He agreed, saying he would be over in the afternoon.
“Are you hungry, Ash?” Stefan asked him, knowing good and well that he had to be. Ashley nodded. He looked pitiful, it made Stefan’s heart ache to look at him. He felt so fucking sorry that this happened to him, and all to keep Stefan safe. He knew Ashley loved when Stefan made him soup, so he made some tomato and cooked up three grilled cheese sandwiches, quickly taking them back to his room for Ashley. “Th-thank you, Stef.” Stefan furrowed his eyebrows at the stutter, “Are you still scared, Ash?” Ashley didn’t know what to say. He didn’t want Stefan to worry about him, and it certainly wasn’t him that he was scared of. He didn’t answer, but Stefan crawled into the bed beside him, his arm sliding around his waist. “I’m here, you’re alright,” he whispered, leaning in to kiss him as soft as he could manage. Ashley leaned back into Stefan as he began eating one of the sandwiches, savoring the feeling of being back with him. He’d thought for sure that he would never see Stefan again, especially so soon. “You must have worked really hard to find me, it was quick,” Ashley said, smiling slightly. Stefan frowned, “It was hardly quick. They were looking for you all night, made me and Dru stay here because we were in danger. Neither of us slept. It took me all morning to figure out that George told me about the rooms, the one where he kept you.” Ashley looked at him, confused, “He’s taken others there?” Stefan nodded slowly. “I- I didn’t tell the doctor everything, Stef. I only told him the things that needed to be fixed, the cuts and burns and… there.” Stefan frowned, “Do you want to talk about it?” Ashley thought about it before shaking his head, “Maybe another time. I just want to be here with you.”
That was when all the nightmares started.
Apart from the first few nights Ashley lived with Stefan, he’d always been fine sleeping through the night as long as he had something or someone next to him, whether it was Stefan or Bits… or a bottle. But after George took him, nothing seemed right. Stefan was asleep in his bed with Ashley, arm draped around him, as close as they could have been. But still Ashley began screaming, flailing. “Wake up, Ash,” Stefan said loud, but gently. He woke up after a moment, sweating and shaking, and began to cry. “You’re home, Ash. He can’t get you now.” Stefan said quietly, stroking his hair in a comforting manner. “I- He… he could.” Ashley choked out, “What if he comes back? And hurts you this time too?” Stefan shook his head, “He’s probably in jail by now, Ash. He won’t be back, I promise you.” Ashley didn’t know what to believe. Stefan said that before, when George broke into the flat. That he was safe now, wouldn’t be hurt again. But he did get hurt.
“I understand if you blame me,” Stefan said quietly, “Its my fault, really.” Ashley disagreed, “It was my choice. I wanted you to be safe.” Stefan didn’t know what to say. He had a lot of friends in his life, a lot of family, but he couldn’t think of a single one who he thought would willingly go with someone who would torture them just so he would be safe. “Stop thinking so loud,” Ashley said, amused. Stefan smiled, leaning in to kiss him, “Sorry. You’re so beautiful, Ash. Such a beautiful person.” Ashley smiled, but gave him a confused face. “Can I ask you something, Stef?” Stefan nodded, “Anything.” Ashley hesitated, “I heard you speaking to Dru, and you told him how we haven’t, um… had sex, yet. Was he right? That you don’t know yet?” Stefan tried to remember back to the conversation, biting his lip nervously. “No, Ash. I… I mean, I absolutely want to be with you. After you’re all healed, shiny and new I really want… I want us to. If that’s what you want as well.” Ashley smirked, kissing him on the cheek swiftly.
“I can’t wait.”
Ashley was healing well, the cuts and welts on his feet were almost healed up and his black eye was gone. He still had a lot of bruises and unhealed cuts on his back and legs, but it wasn’t so much that his clothes couldn’t cover it. “I’m dying to leave the flat, can we please go out?” Ashley asked Stefan after nearly two weeks had passed. “Yeah, of course. If you’re feeling well enough.” Stefan told him, excited that he was looking forward to being out and around people. He’d feared that Ashley would be too scared after he healed up. “Can we go to the shops and look at clothes?” Ashley asked him, grinning to persuade him. “I could use some new clothes, yeah…” Stefan smiled. “Can we bring Bits with us?” Ashley asked, but Stefan shook his head. “Probably shouldn’t,” he said, “Can’t bring her in the shops.” He agreed, “Right.”
After they took the bus and got into Central, they walked to all the usual shops they went to. Ashley had a wad of money he’d saved up over time from here and there, and bought himself new jeans and shoes. He couldn’t help but notice a lot of people staring at him… he wondered if they somehow knew what happened to him. Or maybe he was going mental. “Oh my god, that’s them!” Ashley heard a younger girl say loudly behind them. Confused, he looked at Stefan, who was also looking back at the girls with a strange expression. “Hello,” he said, confused. “Hi,” one of them said shyly, “You’re f-from The Midnight Beast, aren’t you?” Stefan grinned, “Yeah, that’s us. You alright?” Her and her friends grinned wildly, “Can we take a photo with both of you?” Stefan nodded and looked over to Ashley, tilting his head as if to ask if he was comfortable enough for it. Ashley shrugged, standing on the end with the three girls between him and Stefan. They smiled wide for the camera and the girls asked for hugs from them afterward. “Thanks very much, nice seeing you,” Ashley told them before they walked away, which took Stefan by surprise. “You’re quite good at that,” he said, “Meeting fans, I mean.” Ashley looked at him skeptically, “Not quite! You didn’t tell me we have fans!” Stefan laced his fingers with Ashley’s, “Mental, isn’t it? I didn’t know we had enough to be recognised on the street!” This was a whole new ball game for Ashley. He never thought even Stefan took him seriously in his singing, so a whole slew of girls liking their group was beyond weird to him. “We’ve gotta tell Dru,” Stefan said, still on a high from being recognised for the first time.
Instead of taking the bus back to their neighborhood, as they walked down the street Stefan asked if he would mind stopping into Sainsburys with him. Ashley didn’t know what the shop was, but went in with him, looking at all the different foods. Stefan grabbed a few ready-made sandwiches, some drinks and crisps, and they were off after he paid for them. “I know we didn’t bring Bits, but I thought we’d go to the park,” Stefan smiled, “A new park, not the usual one.” Ashley was beyond excited, he loved everything about going to the park. It was so beautiful, so peaceful even with all the different people out doing their different activities. Everyone paid attention to what they were doing rather than what others were up to, and it gave him time to think. And if Stefan wanted to take him to a new park, it must be even better than the old one. As they walked, Stefan adjusted the bag he was carrying so that he could hold Ashley’s hand, smiling over at him as he grabbed it. “I can’t get used to it,” Ashley admitted shyly, “Being treated so nicely. Your hand feels like electricity through my whole body.” Stefan squeezed it slightly, leaning in to kiss him on the cheek quickly. They made it to the park, sitting down under a big shady tree to hide the blaring sunlight. “You hungry, baby?” Stefan asked, cringing slightly at his use of baby. It slipped out effortlessly, he really couldn’t complain. Ashley nodded and they enjoyed their food while people watching, all of the joggers and some boys playing football over across the field, the kids playing tag. “I really like having you here, Ashley,” Stefan said lightly, “You’re the best thing to ever happen to me, I’ve always wanted to tell you that. I meant it when I said you’re inspirational.” Ashley blushed slightly, “I’m only inspirational because of what you’ve done for me, what I’ve become with you.” Stefan never thought of it that way, but still disagreed, “You were incredible the first second I met you.” Ashley grinned, leaning in to kiss him eagerly.
“I love you, Ash. I’m in love with you.”
Ashley bit his lip lightly at what Stefan was telling him. In all his life he never thought someone would be in love with him. Not Stefan. Not anyone. “Are you sure?” Ashley said, finally letting up on chewing his lip. Stefan laughed loudly, “I tell you I’m in love with you, and you ask if I’m sure?” Ashley shrugged slightly, “I- I just never thought…” he muttered, but didn’t finish what he was saying. “You never thought what? That I’d love you?” Stefan asked, incredulous. Ashley nodded with sad eyes as he looked at him. “That… Ashley, that hurts. It physically hurts me to know that you don’t think you’re good enough for someone to be in love with you.” Stefan said, leaning in to catch his lips. Ashley melted into it, like he might have been coming to terms with the new information, but gave the same sad look when he pulled away. “I just… there’s a lot you don’t know about my past, Stef. I want you to know, I want you to understand.” Ashley said, struggling with his words, “I really… I want to be able to tell you about my past owners. To tell you what they did to me. And what they should have but didn’t, and for you to still love me. And still want to have sex with me, not just crawl next to me in bed and tell me it’s all okay.” Stefan was confused, had he been treating Ashley unfairly? “Because I know it’s okay now, I know when I’m with you that it’s all alright. You don’t have to try to fix what they did, because you already have.”
Stefan said nothing, simply got up from where he was sitting, throwing his rucksack back on. He reached a hand out, helping Ashley up gently and kept his hand intertwined with his as they began to walk. Ashley didn’t need to ask. He already knew. A bus ride later, they were outside of the flat, Stefan tugging on Ashley’s hand until they were in his bedroom. Stefan smiled, a genuine grin across his face as Ashley sat down on the bed. They both took their shoes off, Stefan kneeling on the bed beside Ashley now. Slowly, slowly. Stefan removed Ashley’s jacket, leaning in to kiss him deeply as he did so. Ashley tugged at his hair before reaching down to pull Stefan’s shirt off, his mouth finding Stefan’s neck. He let out a soft moan, realising this was the first time for any of this. They’d never undressed each other, never kissed anything that wasn’t each other’s lips or cheek. Stefan loved it - he loved that it was happening this way. He decided he wouldn’t change it for anything in the world at that moment. “Always thinking so loudly,” Ashley muttered against his ear. Stefan laughed… giggled, almost. Ashley’s hands were now at the button of his jeans, Stefan’s breath caught in his throat. Like it was just settling in that he would have him, they would have each other in just a few moments time. And they were off, as he began to pull Ashley’s jeans down his legs. Stefan pulled his own underwear off, a small sign of trust and confidence for him. He knew that Ashley was more used to being naked in front of others, no matter the circumstance, but he wanted him to understand that he would never treat Ashley the way that he’d been treated in the past.
Ashley moved further back onto the bed, splayed out flat as Stefan slowly positioned himself between his legs. Ashley began to panic, sitting up slightly, “You- I… Are you s-sure?” Stefan laughed slightly, “I want to.” Ashley seemed nervous, and Stefan could tell that out of all the pleasure he’d given other people - in a lot of ways - Ashley had never been pleasured himself. Stefan leaned up to kiss him, slipping his tongue in Ashley’s mouth gently while tugging down his underwear slowly. Ashley sighed into the kiss before Stefan leaned down into his lap easily, carefully lapping his tongue up and down his length. Ashley made a sound that Stefan had never heard from him before, a low, almost surprised moan. “Lay down, baby,” Stefan said quietly, “I want to see you.” And he did. He watched Ashley’s every move, every facial expression, every bit of ecstasy he could see as Ashley discovered the feeling. Stefan didn’t want it to end too quickly, eventually letting up on his efforts. “Incredible, Stef,” Ashley sighed, kissing him hard on the mouth. Stefan was kneeling above him, and Ashley spread out just slightly, clearly expecting Stefan to take control. “Will you, Ash? Make love to me,” Stefan said, gulping at the forwardness of the question. Ashley could hardly fathom the question, he couldn’t imagine anything better than Stefan making love to him. But he would certainly give it a go. They switched places, Stefan now spread out on the bed, arching up into Ashley as he kissed him more passionately than he ever had before. Stefan reached over and grabbed the lubrication that was on his bedside table, putting a bit in his hand and rubbing it slowly over Ashley’s erection. “Oh, Stef,” he moaned at the touch, “Tell me if it hurts, okay? Please tell me, Stefan.” He waited for Stefan to agree. “I love you,” Ashley said, their foreheads touching slightly, kissing once more, “So much, Stefan.” Stefan sighed at the initial feeling, the stretch of Ashley slipping into him. Ashley was going so slow, so gently that it hardly bothered Stefan. “Love you, Ash,” Stefan moaned slightly, “Always love you.”
Stefan had never felt so important, so useful in his life as he watched Ashley’s face understand that this was sex. Not whatever he’d done for his owners. “Beautiful,” Stefan muttered as Ashley sped up the tiniest bit, “So beautiful, Ashley.” He smiled, leaning down to kiss Stefan, their bodies totally and completely in rhythm with each other. When Ashley let his hand slip down to Stefan’s dick, he heard a whole new set of moans and whimpers from him. “Really- I’m gonna, Ash,” Stefan stuttered out, “Almost.” Ashley slowed down, going just so, so slowly, which confused Stefan until he felt the difference. “Please,” Ashley breathed, kissing Stefan’s neck, “I want to watch you, Stef.” It was all Stefan really needed, completely taking him over the edge. Ashley watched in awe, in absolute lust as Stefan had his orgasm. It was so sexy, so gorgeous to Ashley, seeing Stefan writhing in pleasure underneath him and knowing that he’d caused that. Hardly five seconds later, Ashley was shaking as his orgasm took him over as well. “Oh god, Stefan,” Ashley panted, kissing him as he rode out the last of it, lying down beside him when he finished.
Nothing more needed to be said.