Jared looked down at the limp man in his arms. He was a decent runner, but no average human, especially one as underfed and haggard as this one, was a match for a werewolf. Jared could spot the dark bags and protruding ribs from miles away, even without his heightened vision. He almost felt bad for tasing the man and dragging him to the precinct, but a thief was a thief and he had a job to do even if it was nearing two in the morning.
As Jared walked back towards the convenience store where his car was parked, he marveled at how light the man was. He was barely sixty kilos and that was Jared being optimistic. He got to his car and slipped the unconscious man into the passenger seat of his car, buckling him in before sliding into the driver’s side. It didn’t take long to get to the station and the man was still out cold. When Jared picked him up again, bridal style out of a flash of sympathy, the man whimpered and moaned in his sleep. Jared couldn’t make out the words he mumbled although he thought he heard a couple ‘no’s, ‘back’s, and a word beginning with ‘th’.
“Hale,” Natalie Hopkins called out as he entered. “Where’re my bagels?”
“Hopkins,” Jared nodded. “I caught a thief.”
Natalie raised a brow and followed Jared to the holding cells where Jared laid the man down on an empty bench. The only other person in the cell, and the precinct for that matter, was a bored seventeen year old who was caught red handed trying to break into the house of one of her teachers with a backpack full of rotten eggs, spray paint, and homemade stink bombs.
Jared dug through the man’s pockets, extracting only a packet of Skittles that raised eyebrows.
“He was stealing Skittles,” Natalie drawled.
“It’s the only thing he managed to get away with. Dropped some sandwiches, water bottles, and packets of beef jerky when he crashed into me,” Jared replied.
The teenager looked up from her chipped nails, “He looks like hell.”
The two officers nodded in agreement.
“So, when’s my mom getting here? And can I have my phone back?”
“She said in another thirty minutes and not yet, kid,” Natalie replied with a sigh. She gave Jared a tortured look that made him laugh.
The girl groaned and flopped on the bench, drawing her knees up and tapping her feet, “I’m so bored. Can I have those Skittles? And I’m not a kid.”
“You are sitting here and suffering with me while we wait for Scrawny to wake up,” Natalie ordered after denying the teenager the stolen candy, pointedly calling her kid again, and receiving another groan with a couple choice words in response.
Jared smirked, “Can’t handle a rebellious teenager? You were just like her, Nat.”
“Hopkins,” Natalie corrected. “We are at work, Hale. And I was nothing like her.”
With a roll of his eyes Jared walked out of the holding cell behind Natalie and closed the lock. He flopped onto the nearby chair and kicked his legs up to cross his ankles on the desk. Natalie rolled her eyes at him and sat down on the edge, next to his boots.
“If you two are gonna fuck, don’t do it where I can see or hear it, please,” the girl in the cell drawled.
“Just for how annoying you are, I’m actually considering it…” Natalie growled.
Jared laughed, “I love you, Nat, but not in a million years.”
“I said considering, Jare. You’re missing a vital X-chromosome.”
“Wait. You’re a dyke?” the kid sat up to stare in shock. The two officers looked at the teenager who surprising blushed and stuttered, “I, sorry, I, my parents…”
Natalie waved off the stumbling, “It’s fine, kid. Not the worst thing I’ve been called but yes, I am a dyke. Do you have an issue with that?”
Jared hid a grin when he saw the teenager’s eyes light up.
“No!” she denied. “I just…um.”
Jared couldn’t hold back anymore. “Nat, you’ve just become her role model.”
Natalie frowned as the teenager flushed and looked away.
“Homophobic parents, sweetheart?” Jared asked the kid.
She nodded slowly, still refusing to look at the two officers.
Natalie blinked before slowly saying, “So…if I ever have to deal with stubborn juveniles I just need to tell them I’m a dyke?”
Jared burst out laughing. It was then that a low moan sounded and all eyes went to the previously unconscious man.
He sat up slowly with a groan and blinked his eyes open blearily. It took him a moment but when he saw Natalie and Jared and then the bars of the holding cell, the man scrambled to his feet.
“Please let me out,” he begged, hands clenching around the cold bars. “Please, I have to-I can’t-I—”
Natalie was off the desk and in front of the raving man in an instant. “Calm down,” she ordered.
“I can’t,” the man keened. He pulled at the bars as if he could break them but his efforts were in vain. His legs gave out beneath him and he collapsed onto his knees on the floor, still holding the bars. “Please,” he croaked.
Jared walked over and crouched down until he was face level with the man. In the harsh white light he could see him more clearly. His hair was greasy and dark, almost black but not quite. He had a healing bruise around his neck, bones prominent in an unhealthy way, a slightly crooked nose, a couple weeks’ worth of facial hair, and chapped pink lips. He had pretty eyes. They were a pale green that glistened seemingly naturally, like the fire glass Luna Joanne obsessed over, with a ring of a darker green around his pupils that were blown wide with fear and anxiety. With a bit of meat on his bones, nice long shower, and swipes of a razor across his face, Jared was certain that the man would have had to fend of multiple suitors.
“Will you answer our questions?” Jared asked. “The more you cooperate the faster you could get out.”
The smaller man bit his lip before nodding.
“What’s your name?” Jared asked.
“Chris,” he whispered, his voice cracking. He cleared his throat and repeated, “Chris. Christopher Lennon.” His voice was soft and almost lyrical, if shaky and unsure, but Jared counted that towards the man, Chris, being afraid.
Natalie was jotting down Chris’ answers behind him for the report they’d have to do later.
“I’m Jared Hale,” Jared returned, trying to ease Chris if only a little. Chris nodded but didn’t say anything else. He looked impatient. “How old are you?”
Chris blinked, “Twenty… I think.”
“You think?” Natalie questioned immediately.
Chris shrunk into himself, shoulders hunched. “I’m…I was left at the doorsteps of an orphanage and no one knows who my parents were or anything.”
He was lying, Jared was sure of it. Not about his age or uncertainty about his age, but the part about the orphanage.
“You’re going to want to tell us the truth,” Natalie told him, having caught the lie as well.
Chris glanced up at her and then his eyes widened when he looked a bit above her head. “Shit. Shit, shit, shit. Please you have to let me go. I’ll do anything you say, but please. Just give me ten minutes.”
Natalie was about to speak but Jared beat her to it, “Where do you need to go so badly?”
Chris swallowed, “…Home. I… someone’s waiting for me. They’re… I can’t leave them alone without warning. Please. I’ll come right back, I promise, I just, I have to let them know.”
Jared looked over to Natalie who immediately warned, “Hale, don’t you even think about it.”
“Nat, I’ll go with him,” Jared said, ignoring her order.
They held a staring contest for a few minutes before Natalie groaned, “You are too much of a teddy bear. Fine. But you both have thirty minutes. That’s it. And you owe me a week’s worth of paperwork.”
Jared grinned and got to his feet, opening the cell door and pulling out his handcuffs. Chris’s face scrunched in confusion for a moment but when he realized what was happening, he jumped to Jared and didn’t show the slightest hint of resistance as he offered his hands to get cuffed.
“Thanks, Nat. We’ll be right back,” Jared called out as he ushered Chris out of the cell. The teenager was watching but Jared noticed she was much more interested in Natalie than him or Chris.
“Hopkins!” Natalie corrected as he left with Chris.
Chris slid into Jared’s car and directed Jared on where to go. He was sitting on the edge of his seat, eyes fixed on the passing city out the window. His teeth were dug deep into his bottom lip, fingers clenched tightly, and feet jumping in place. He stopped Jared in front of a bunch of old storage units.
“Here?” Jared questioned. “You said you were going home.”
“This is home. For now,” Chris replied, eyes locked onto one unit that was considerably less maintained than the others. The red pain on the metal door was chipped and pealing, the walls stained and vandalized.
Chris looked down at his cuffed hands and looked to Jared. “Can you… just for a bit? I don’t want them to…”
Jared pursed his lips. He knew what Chris was trying to ask but Jared was already in a lot of trouble for bringing Chris out here.
Chris looked up at him with big pleading eyes that flickered to the storage unit before returning to Jared.
Jared heaved a sigh. This dark haired man was going to be the end of him and they’d only met an hour or so ago. “I’ll remove the cuffs but if you run, I will use necessary force to restrain you. Running’ll only do more harm than good. You won’t get away from me.”
Chris nodded and grinned up gratefully at Jared when he unlocked the cuffs. He didn’t even rub his wrists like most people did after they’d been released from the confining metal, only got out of the car, tripping over his feet in his haste. Jared was quick to follow close behind.
Chris went up to the storage unit and knocked on the metal several times in a pattern. Jared registered shuffling, a pair of light feet slapping against the floor, and then a returning pattern.
The smile that formed on Chris’ face was one of unadulterated relief, happiness, and affection. It made Jared wonder just who was hiding inside the dilapidated unit.
Chris walked over to a pile of garbage bags and moved them around until he uncovered a rusty crowbar. Jared grew tense, hand going to his stun gun but he lowered his guard when Chris wedged the tool under the door to the unit.
“Back up,” Chris called to the person inside. More shuffling and then Chris was using all his strength to pry open the door.
“Let me help,” Jared said, moving down to put his hands over Chris’. Chris started and was about to refuse but he nodded and let Jared lift the door high enough for them to curl their fingers under the metal and pull up.
The second the metal door was at Jared’s hips, Chris let go and ducked inside. Jared followed not a second later, ready to pursue the smaller man, but he stopped dead in his tracks when Chris fell onto the floor on his knees, arms open wide for a kid clearly not more than the age of three or four to jump into, crying out, “Daddy!”