A/N: Ok first let me start by saying it is very late here so I have not edited this chapter, but I wanted to get it up for y'all. I'll read it over tomorrow and make any corrections that I find.
Now, here is the long anticipated sequel to A Threat From Within. I was not going to have this as the sequel just yet, my plan was to do a book with Yoder and Ally. It would be about the five months before Clay's death and dealing with the five months afterwards. Those five months afterwards were going to focus on the guys and how they are dealing with it and how they are trying to find him. Clay's birthday would have happened, little moments here and there. However, so many people have been messaging me about the sequel so I figured I would write it at the same time as the Yoder/Ally one.
So if you would like to read the in between parts, you are more than welcome to. You can read it after reading this book even if you wanted. They aren't connected in the sense that you'll have no idea what is happening in this book. Anything that happens in the Yoder/Ally book that is mentioned in this book will be explained away as if it is something that happened in the background. So you'll still have the information, just not the joy of reading about it first hand.
Summary: When the team finally discovers that Clay is alive, it becomes so much more than a race against the clock to save him. The threat from within Bravo has been growing, but it is not the only threat that Clay is facing. After six months of being held captive he is faced with a whole new threat. Only this time the threat lives within his mind. His eidetic memory had been a blessing many times in his life, only now it was his ultimate enemy. There was no escaping it, no peace from the constant reminders of what he went through. Can Jason save his son before he is lost to them forever this time? Can Bravo protect Clay from the outside threat and that of his own mind? And just how will the guys react when they discover the huge secret that Jason, Yoder, Full Metal, Blackburn and Mandy had been keeping from them. When the lines in the sand are drawn, just what side will the men of Bravo stand on? Clay's or Vic's?
Story Warnings: Mentions of past torture, mentions of past rape, rape aftermath, violence, swearing and PTSD.
Jason laid down in his hammock looking at the photos on his phone. They were on their way back from a mission along the Russian border. It was a success and no one got hurt, but even that victory couldn't put Jason in a good mood. Six months, that's how long his oldest son had been missing. Six fucking months. Him, Yoder, Full Metal, Blackburn and Mandy had all been working their asses off to find Clay. To catch any clue as to where they had taken him or who was fully involved. They knew the players, but they hadn't gotten anything out of them that would be actionable. They hadn't even caught Vic talking to anyone about it. He was staying radio silent, telling them just how confident he was in what they had done. He wasn't worried about any location they had been to within the past six months and considering they had basically been all over the place, that wasn't helpful.
Jason missed him deeply. He wanted his son back. He wanted to be able to get eyes on him and know that he was still alive. He knew he wouldn't be ok, not for a long time, but he would be able to see that he was breathing and he would get him through whatever trauma he had experienced. He just needed to find him. He knew Clay was counting on him, counting on them, to find him and he was failing his child. It was killing Jason to keep waking up each day and not know what was happening to Clay. What had happened to his son while he was safe sleeping. Was he even still alive? Could they be searching for a body, for a ghost? Jason hated not knowing, he hated not knowing if his own son was alive. He also hated lying to the majority of his team.
They were still keeping what they knew quiet. It wasn't about trust, it was about not knowing how his teammates would react. He knew without a doubt that Trent and Brock would be able to keep their composure, but he also knew that they would be more distant with Vic. That sudden distance could make Vic suspect something was up. It was a risk that Jason wasn't willing to take. As for Sonny, he would instantly react and change completely towards Vic. He wouldn't be able to contain his anger and that would most definitely scare Vic off. And Ray, Jason honestly wasn't sure if Ray would believe them. He had brought Vic in, took him under his wing and they were as close as they could be. It would be hard for Ray to see Vic as anything other than his protege, especially if they had no solid proof. All they really had was Clay's gut, his letter, they didn't have any physical evidence and Jason knew logically they shouldn't be suspecting Vic. They had nothing to point that he was involved in anything that had been going on with Clay before any of this. All they had was circumstantial at best, at worst, they were just taking it out on the new guy. Jason believed in following your gut and everything in Clay's had been screaming that it was Vic. That Vic started to social media page, that Vic had been behind the prank, that Vic had gotten someone to poison him. That Vic had drugged and filmed his rape only to post it online. That Vic had been the one to help get him kidnapped and in whatever hell he was currently trapped in. If Clay believed it, then Jason was going to believe his son. He didn't care what he had to do, he was going to defend it until his dying breath.
Part of Jason was envious of the guys. They could all mourn and move on. The rest of them that knew though, they were trapped in limbo. They couldn't mourn the loss of Clay. They couldn't move on, they were trapped in this unknown world where they had to pretend like everything was ok, when nothing was. They were struck having to face the reality that every second they didn't find Clay, he was out there being hurt. It was their own form of torture and Jason knew it was wearing on all of them. He would go through it for the rest of his life if it meant his son was alive and they were able to find him. All he wanted was his son, that was it.
Jason was pulled out of his thoughts when Davis called out to him. He snapped his eyes away from his phone and looked over at her. Out of everyone on Bravo, he felt the worst about lying to her about Clay. Her and Clay were close, it happened naturally, but also because they were both Sonny's best friend. The end result was the two of them having a close bond. With Davis though, Jason always counted on her and her skills when they were in the field. If there was anyone he could trust with this, it would be her. The only thing keeping him from telling her was the fact that she would keep this quiet. She would risk her friendship with everyone on the team if it meant she could bring Clay home. Jason couldn't bring himself to hurt her that way. To force her to make that level of a sacrifice. Clay would agree with him, Clay would agree that Sonny was going to need her and he needed her to not be involved in any of this.
"Sorry, ya?" Jason said, as he put his phone away.
"I know you're tired, but there's a video call trying to come through from the Upper Brass. There's a Sergeant Briand with the seventy-fifth Ranger Regiment, Third Battalion, he's requesting to speak to you and only you." Davis said, slightly confused as to why a Sergeant with the Rangers would be so adamant about speaking with Jason.
"The Rangers? Why the hell do they want me?" Jason asked, just as confused.
"No idea, but they have been going through the channels just to speak with you. They said they would only talk to you. Blackburn has informed the pilot and they are going to just circle until we know what is going on."
"Alright, let's get everyone up. Something is going on and chances are we aren't going home." Jason said, as he pushed himself up.
Davis gave a nod before she headed off to start waking everyone up. Jason ran his hands over his face. The exhaustion was starting to take a toll on him. He hadn't been sleeping well, not for the past six months. Once he knew that Clay was still alive, he had been having this balancing act of keeping up the appearance that he knew Clay was dead and making sure nothing that belonged to Clay disappeared. He hadn't signed over any of the trusts that were left for his kids. He also knew Ray hadn't because he was still hurt by the apparent suicide. Jason would normally be pissed, but right now it was working in their favor. He also had the death certificate as being his legal parent from the adoption. He hadn't submitted it to his bank. As far as the world knew, Clay was alive. His truck still was in his name, his house, he was getting the money from his book sales. When they found Clay, everything was going to be there for him. He wasn't going to have Clay coming back from whatever trauma he was going to be going through, and not have anything that was his. He wasn't going to be coming back to nothing. He would be coming back to his life, exactly how he left it. Jason had moved into the house so he could keep it in good standing and clean for whenever Clay would get to come home. He got Clay's bedroom professionally cleaned. He tossed out his mattress and bought him a new one. He even bought some sweatpants, t-shirts and zip up hoodies in a few different sizes just in case Clay had lost weight since he was being kept. He would be able to be comfortable in clothes that would fit him. Jason had everything ready, he just needed his son now.
Pushing off from his hammock he went over and grabbed some coffee first, he had a feeling he was going to need it. He made his way over to where the others were gathering around. All of them were confused as well, but they were hopefully going to get answers soon enough. Blackburn pulled one of their monitors over to a group of crates that were working as a table. On the screen was a man in full military gear standing outside somewhere. It was night from what they could tell, but they didn't recognize anything around him.
"This is Sergeant Brian. Sergeant, Master Chief Hayes and Bravo Team." Blackburn started, before he went and joined the others so he could see the screen fully.
"Sergeant, what is going on?" Jason asked.
"Hello Master Chief Hayes. I apologise for the unexpected call. My team was sent on an operation here in Asmara, Eritrea. We were to eliminate a money chain that was believed to be financially supporting the rebels spread out throughout Africa. We were expecting to find drugs or guns, but instead we walked into a human trafficking ring."
The feed kept flickering and the guys knew the connection was rough where they were. They were hoping the connection wouldn't go out before they discovered why the Sergeant was so adamant about talking with Jason.
"What I am about to tell you will be shocking, but we have gone through the documents here in the facility and have confirmed his identity. One of the captives is your son, Petty Officer Clay Hayes."
In a single second Jason was no longer exhausted. His whole body was vibrating with energy, and energy to get to his son. He had been waiting for six months for this very moment. For the moment where he would finally find his son and now that it was here, he wished he could jump through the screen. He wasn't even thinking about that Clay had been held captive for six months by human traffickers. All he could focus on was that his son was coming home.
"What are you talking about? He's dead." Ray was instantly saying.
"We need to see him." Yoder spoke up before anyone had another chance to say anything.
They had been working their asses off to try and find Clay and now by pure blind luck, they were actually going to see him. Clay had been found and it wasn't even by them. Yoder didn't care who had found Clay, all he wanted was for his brother to be found and brought back home.
"The connection isn't too good out here. I'll bring you inside to him and hopefully the feed won't cut out. First though, I'll send you my coordinates as to our exact location. We will also stay here to ensure everyone is safe. We've secured the facility and handled any tangos here. We don't know if more will appear. We've been able to remove the other captives and have them taken to the closest hospital. However, Petty Officer Hayes, won't allow anyone to go near him. My team and I will stay here until you arrive."
"What do you mean he won't let anyone near him?" Full Metal asked.
Sergeant Briand spoke as he headed into the facility. "He has what I would call a panic attack if anyone gets too close. We've been trying, but he won't let us. We've shown him our military ID, but we're not getting anywhere. Based on the paperwork he's been here for just over six months now and has been very popular with the clients. Blonde hair and blue eyes are very rare down here and often go for a higher price."
"You're a group of big men that he doesn't know." Brock said.
"How far are we?" Jason asked Blackburn.
"About four hours. I'll have the pilot turn us in their direction."
"I got it." Mandy said, knowing that Blackburn would want to see Clay.
They all watched the screen as Sergeant Briand made his way down the different hallways and finally arrived at the entrance to the room holding Clay. They could see a few soldiers standing outside of the door, still armed and ready to protect Clay should something happen. The sight of it warmed their hearts. They couldn't be there right now for Clay, but a whole team was there to protect him until they would be able to. At the sight of Clay, Jason's whole heart dropped into his stomach. The room was about the size of a jail cell, it was dark, and filthy. He could pick up old blood on the walls and floor, there was a thin disgusting mattress on the left hand side of the room. What had the tears building in his eyes though, was the sight of Clay. He was sitting curled up as tight as he could be in the right hand corner of the room. There was a collar around his neck and a chain going from it to the middle of the room on the floor. They could see he was naked and he was just filthy. He was covered in dirt and old blood. From what they could see he was trembling horribly. His beard was unshaven and his hair was long. He was covered in bruises from what litter they could see through the guck on him.
"Oh my god." Ray said softly in complete horror at the condition that Clay was in.
"How close can you get?" Jason asked over the emotions building in his throat.
"Just this far. If you talk loud he might hear you."
"Clay, son, can you hear me?" Jason said, loudly, but Clay didn't show any indication that he did.
The guys all tried, but they were all met with nothing.
"Why can't he hear us?" Sonny asked, worried about what that could mean.
"He might have some damage done from blows to the head or it could just be dirt. He's filthy, he could have dirt built up in his ears. Sergeant, I need you to get closer. I need a better look at his body to start assessing injuries." Trent said.
"That's not going to go over well." Sergeant Briand warned.
"I know, get as close as you can, but pull back if he gets too worked up."
Trent didn't want to cause Clay any further trauma, but he also needed an idea as to what he was looking at. There was no telling what was wrong with him. He needed to make sure he had everything he would need so he could keep Clay alive until they reached a hospital. Sergeant Briand moved closer and they could already see Clay's shaking was picking up. They needed to be there. They needed to get to their brother and make him ok again.
"It's ok Clay. I'm not going to hurt you, I'm not going to touch you. Your team is coming, your dad is coming." Sergeant Briand said, as he slowly made his way into the room.
Clay started to talk, but it was in a completely different language, one none of them spoke.
"What language is that?" Jason asked to anyone.
"He hasn't spoken English yet. One of the newer captives that had only been here for a week told us that their owners don't like it when you speak English. Said it was a rule, just like a bed was only used for making money. You stayed on the floor like a dog, they were even given food and water in dog bowls. He's speaking Tigrigna. We've been using a phone to translate, but we don't know if he understands English or not." Sergeant Briand explained, as he had to stop walking, Clay couldn't do it anymore.
"I'm going to kill every last one of these fucking bastards." Sonny growled out.
"Most are already dead. We do have some of the Johns in custody. I've spoken with my Commander and he's going to allow you all to take it over, given the special circumstances. You'll be fully briefed and have everything we do. Commander Blackburn, if you get in touch with Commander Shin, he'll have everything for you. We did not get our target, which was the head of the snake. He wasn't here, we suspect he got word and went into hiding." Sergeant Briand said.
"I'll be in touch with him in a few moments. I appreciate it Sergeant." Blackburn said, knowing that all of the guys would appreciate being able to take over. This might not be fully Navy, but with Clay being there, it made it their jurisdiction and they were not about to let this go to anyone outside of DEVGRU.
"What is he saying?" Brock asked, as Yoder had pulled it up on his phone to see.
"He's repeating something." Trent commented.
Yoder took in a shaky breath before he spoke. "He's saying Dad will find me. I have to wait for Dad. He keeps saying it over and over again."
"He knows if he moves locations it would be harder for anyone to find him. He thinks we've been looking this whole time." Ray said with gut wrenching regret.
They hadn't been looking for him. They all believed that he had killed himself after the rape. He had no idea that they didn't even know he was missing. Jason, Yoder, Full Metal, Mandy and Blackburn all looked at each other. They had been looking for him. They had been doing everything they could to find Clay and it still wasn't good enough. Someone else had found him, and it was all by dumb luck. Jason didn't care though, he would take the dumb luck because it was going to bring his son home. They would need to break it to the guys soon, but that could wait until Clay was taken care of.
"It's ok, he'll understand. And now we know the truth, we'll go get him and get him better." Vic said, as he placed a comforting hand on Ray's back.
Clay being found was an unfortunate situation. Vic had been hoping that Clay would die over there or get moved around so much no one would find him. Ash had said it was the perfect place because no one would go looking for him in Eritrea and there was no reason to have Seals within that part of Africa. It tended to be the Army that went over there and none of them would be looking for Clay. It had worked beautifully for the past six months and now they would need to find a way to eliminate Clay for good. Vic wasn't worried though, his hands were practically clean in all of this. No one would know he was the one filming Clay's rape. No one would know he was the one that drugged him. No one would know he knew exactly what was going to happen to Clay and where he was going. None of this tied directly to him, it all tied back to Ash and General White.
The last six months without Clay had been glorious to Vic. He was able to learn Pashtu and that was making him a real asset to the team. Yoder also knew it, but he was choosing to ignore Yoder as being a member of Bravo. He was just another obstacle that was in his way, but soon enough he would be getting rid of him too. He was going to be running Bravo, he just needed to get a few people out of his way first.
"It's hard to tell from here, but he's got some badly bruised ribs, they could be broken. I can see three broken fingers, his left cheek is swollen, he might have a broken cheekbone. He's extremely thin, we're going to need to be very careful moving him. He'll be malnourished and his eyes are bright yellow, he hasn't seen sunlight in six months. His bones will be brittle and we could bruise him by just holding him tightly. He could also have problems with lack of strength in his muscles from not being used. We also need to be careful of his right thigh, it's going to be more sensitive with the scar tissue. He's got a long road." Trent said.
"Closest military hospital is Ghana, it's a four hour flight." Blackburn commented.
"Can he make it that far?" Sonny asked Trent.
"We don't have a choice." Trent simply said.
The feed started to go in and out again and Sergeant Briand spoke. "We're gonna lose each other. I'll send you our coordinates and we will stay here on guard."
"Thank-you Sergeant, we will be there within four hours." Blackburn said.
Just before the feed cut out Clay started to say something else and Yoder was able to pick it up. When the screen went black they all turned to Yoder to see what Clay had been saying.
"Call me Ishmael. Some years ago—never mind how long precisely—having little or no money in my purse."
"What the hell is that?" Sonny asked, confused and worried that maybe Clay had lost his mind.
"It's the opening line to Moby Dick. He's reading." Yoder explained.
"He knows it off by heart?" Vic asked.
"His mind remembers everything he reads, hears and sees. He's always been like that. He reads a book once, and he knows it off by heart." Yoder explained before he looked at Vic and continued. "Which is good, because of his memory he'll be able to remember things from the rape and who obviously took him, even if there were drugs in his sytem."
Yoder couldn't believe how calm and cool Vic had been throughout the past six months. He was acting like he had done nothing wrong and if Yoder didn't trust in Clay's gut, he would have thought Vic had nothing to hide. Clay had fully believed that Vic was behind all of this. He wrote a letter stating if he was dead it wasn't an accident and Vic had to have been involved. Yoder was going to be making sure everyone involved in this paid the price and if it was up to him, it would be the ultimate price.
"How the fuck did this even happen? We were told he was dead. We buried him. So how the fuck did he end up in some human trafficking ring?" Sonny demanded with pure rage flooding through his voice.
Six months, six months he had mourned the loss of his kid brother, his best friend. And the whole time he was trapped in a human trafficking ring in Africa. They got played, someone had done this to them and he wanted to know who. He wanted them dead and he was going to make sure of it.
"Someone in the Upper Brass has to be behind this. It's the only way to fake a death. Someone had to put the paperwork through, falsify a coroner report and death certificate. Plus a funeral and burial. This goes way up the chain." Ray commented.
"We will find out everyone involved in this. Right now, the main threat is this human trafficking ring. We need to find everyone involved in it and make sure no one is going to be going after him. Human traffickers don't tend to care about captives that escape, but they do if they are making them a lot of money. From the sounds of things, Clay is a very valuable ticket to them. They could try and take him back." Full Metal said, switching gears.
The very last thing they needed to do right now is tell the team what they already knew. They needed to focus on the immediate danger to Clay and that was this trafficking ring.
"Davis, Mandy, start pulling everything you can find on this trafficking ring. I want to know all of the players. I'll be in touch with Command and inform them of what we have just discovered. The rest of you, get ready you are going in full gear. I am not taking any chances with this trafficking ring. We don't know who they are or how deeply connected they are. Trent, make sure you have everything you need, including anything for a special litter so you can properly transport him. He's probably going to be too weak to walk. We will make sure there is a cot set up here and I will call the hospital and inform them that we will be coming in hot." Blackburn ordered.
"I still want to know what the fuck happened." Sonny growled.
"We all do, but right now we need to focus on getting to Clay and keeping him safe until we can get him back home." Davis said, hoping to calm Sonny down some.
"Come on Son, you can help me get the cot set up for him." Trent offered. He knew Sonny would feel better if he was doing something. They couldn't do much for Clay right now, but they could make sure everything was ready for when he was back with them.
Sonny just simply gave a nod and he headed off with Trent. Brock went over to let Cerberus out, no doubt about to tell him that Clay was alive. Cerb hadn't been the same since Clay's apparent death and Jason was worried they would need to find a replacement for Cerb. He was getting harder to deal with, not even listening to Brock at times. It was dangerous in the field for all of them if Cerb wasn't going to do as he was told. Hopefully now he would be better once he got eyes on Clay. Ray headed off to call Naima and let her know about Clay and the change in plans. Mandy, Davis and Blackburn headed off to deal with the reports and see what they could dig up. Vic headed off to be on his own and Jason kept his eyes on him to see if he would pull out his cell phone, but he didn't. Yoder and Full Metal went over to Jason and they all spoke softly so no one would hear them.
"Either he isn't involved in this or he's a psychopath." Full Metal commented and they all knew he was talking about Vic.
"He doesn't seem worried at all. He must know that there is nothing to tie him to any of this. Our only shot at getting him is catching him talking about it with someone else." Yoder said.
"Vic is going to be the harder one to get. His hands are clean in this. He wasn't the one to turn Clay's alarm off, he wasn't the one that kidnapped him, he wasn't the one that faked his whole death. There won't be any evidence we can use to tie him to Clay's death. Our best chances are getting him for the earlier attacks. Find a way to tie him to the social media page, the rape, even Clay's poisioning. We need something that we can leverage over him to get him to turn on the others and to get who raped Clay." Jason supplied.
"We'll get it. We won't stop until we do. We now know where Clay is and we're going to get him. He can finally start to heal. We'll bring him home Jase." Full Metal promised.
"You're fucking right we are. We'll get to him and start getting him healthy." Jason said with pure determination in his voice.
"He's got a long road though. He might never be able to come back to the team." Yoder said carefully. He wasn't sure how Jason would feel about Clay not being able to be active again. To him, Clay was his brother and he loved him no matter what. But Jason and Clay's relationship was intertwined so much with them being on the same team, it would be hard for Jason if Clay could never come back.
"I don't care about that. He doesn't have to ever go back to work. He could spend the rest of his life sitting on the beach and writing if that is what he wants to do. I just want him healthy and alive, that's all I care about."
He didn't care what Clay did with his life. If he couldn't work anymore for physical or mental reasons, he would still love him. He would still be there for him no matter what. He would help Clay figure out what he wanted to do. He would help him figure out something that would make him happy.
"Right now the only thing that matters is getting to him and getting him to the hospital. We take it one step at a time." Full Metal advised.
They didn't need to worry about whether Clay could return to work or not. They needed to keep their mind focused on getting to him and getting him to a hospital. That was all that mattered right now. Both Yoder and Jason agreed and the three of them went to join Blackburn. Mandy and Davis with their reports. They were going to find out who was running this trafficking ring and they were going to make sure it was shut down for good and every single person that was involved was taken out. They would get justice for Clay no matter what.
It was four and a half hours later when bravo was finally pulling up to the facility that was holding Clay. They immediately took notice of the Rangers that were stationed around the entrances to ensure they didn't get snuck up on. It made the guys all feel better to know just how serious they were taking things. They got out and were immediately greeted by Sergeant Briand. He held his hand out and Jason easily took it.
"It's nice to meet you in person, though I wish it was under better circumstances." Sergeant Brian said.
"I appreciate everything you and your men have done for my son."
"I got an eighteen year old son that just enlisted. I would hope there was someone that would do the same for him should a situation call for it."
"How is he?" Jason asked, as they all headed inside.
"He's the same. He's still talking, but it looks like he's reciting something."
"Moby Dick. He has an eidetic memory. Reading makes him feel better." Yoder supplied.
"We've been trying to talk to him, get him to drink something. So far nothing. Our medic is ready to jump in should you need it."
"Thanks, but I got two medics. We'll be able to handle him and it might be a smoother transition for him." Jason said politely. He didn't want to insult anyone that had been protecting his son for the past five or so hours.
"No worries. He's right in that room. I'll have my men pull back and give you some space with him. What frequency are you on?"
"Eighteen." Ray answered.
"I'll have my guys switch so if something pops off you'll have enough time to get him out."
"Appreciate it." Jason said with a nod.
"Thank-you, he means a lot to us." Sonny said with deep emotion to his voice. He was just barely holding back the tears and the guys knew they would be falling soon enough.
Sergeant Briand moved his men away as Jason led his own men towards the room that was holding Clay. They had seen the video feed so they knew what to expect, but seeing it in person only broke their hearts more. Jason stopped them right in front of the doorway, much to the other's annoyance.
"I know you all want to see him, but gotta do this slow. Too many of us and we risk making him worse."
"Jase is right. Our top priority is getting him out of here. I think Jase, Cerb and Trent should just go in." Yoder said.
"You don't want to go?" Trent asked, surprised that Yoder would be happy to stay out here. Yoder had known Clay longer, that was his kid brother more so than theirs.
"I would love to be in there. But you have six levels now on me. You're practically a doctor and he needs a doctor."
He wanted to be in there with Clay. He wanted to hold him and let him know that everything would be ok. But he also knew that Trent had been putting all of his grief into learning and taking more medical classes. If Trent quit the Navy right this second, he could walk into any ER and be an ER doctor. He could easily take the exam to get his medical license. Clay needed all of the medical skills that he could get and that was Trent right now.
"Let's send Cerb and Jase in first, then I'll go once you get him calm." Trent advised.
Jason gave a nod and took the leash from Brock. Cerb had been pulling and fighting to get into the room so he could get to Clay. The problem was, they had no idea how Clay would react to Cerb, to any of them.
"Pull up the translator. He was most likely tortured whenever he spoke English. It might take a while before we get him talking normal again." Yoder advised.
Jason held his phone up with the translator app already loaded up. They had no idea how Clay even learnt the local dialect, but they could worry about that later. Jason walked into the room as he spoke gently.
Jason was expecting some type of response or reaction from Clay, but there was nothing.
"Talk louder Boss. We don't know what is wrong with his hearing." Trent advised.
"Clay." Jason called out louder this time and that got a reaction.
Clay stopped talking and his whole body tensed. Jason bet down to Cerb and spoke to him. "Go slow."
Jason let Cerb go and Cerb went slowly over to Clay, making sure that Clay saw him before he reached him. Everyone was holding their breath to see how Clay would react to Cerb. They didn't know what type of damage was done internally or mentally to Clay. There was a chance he wouldn't exactly remember all of them. He knew he had a dad and that he would come for him, but that didn't mean he remembered everyone or who exactly his dad was. Cerberus went slow, but once he was close enough he nudged Clay's chin with his snout. Slowly Clay raised his hand and reached out to gently touch Cerb's fur. He pulled back slightly once his fingers touched Cerb's fur, it was as if he wasn't expecting to feel something. As if Cerb was a figment of his imagination. Cerb whined and wiggled closer. Clay touched him again, but this time when his hand didn't go through him, he went and wrapped his arm around him. Cerberus was instantly curling up into Clay and nossiling his nose into his neck.
"Cerb, ናይ ሓቂ ኢኻ." (You're real.)
"Son." Jason tried again, but this time he bent down so he was at Clay's eye level. He also made sure he spoke loud enough so Clay could hear him.
Clay looked over at the sound of Jason's voice and instantly tears were building in his eyes.
"Hi Son, you understand me?"
Jason was hoping that Clay did. That the trauma didn't rewire his brain somehow to make English non-existent. Clay gave a small nod and that was all Jason needed to know. He couldn't sit here any longer and not touch him. He moved slowly, closing the gap between them and he was beyond relieved when Clay didn't flinch or pull away from him. Jason wrapped his arms around Clay and Clay curled up against Jason's chest with Cerb still in front of him.
"መጺእካ." (You came)
"Of course I did. It's going to be ok, you're gonna be ok. I love you." Jason couldn't stop his own tears from building in his eyes. He was finally getting to hold his son again. He was finally getting to save him and make sure he was safe. He knew it was going to be a very long and exhausting road, but they could finally start making that journey now.
Clay finally allowed the tears to escape as Jason wrapped his arms around him. He couldn't believe this was actually happening. He had been dreaming about this moment, about being able to feel Jason's arms around him. To feel safe again, for it to be over. He thought he was going to die in this hole and no one would ever find him. They had actually found him, he was gonna get to go home. He wrapped his arms tighter around Cerb and buried his head into his fur.
"It's gonna be ok Son, I promise." Jason said, as he continued to hold onto Clay and offer him whatever comfort that he could.
Trent slowly walked into the room with a blanket. He made sure to stay in Clay's line of sight and once close enough he bent down before he covered Clay's lower half with the blanket to offer a bit of privacy.
"Hey Kiddo, can you hear me ok?" Trent asked gently.
"ስቕ ኢልኪ" (You're quiet.)
"Is this better?" Trent tried at a louder tone. He was now talking above a normal level, closer to yelling. He was very worried about Clay's hearing and what was going on. It could very easily be dirt, but it could also be trauma from repeated hits to his head. Clay gave a small nod as his breathing hitched from his tears.
"We're gonna get you out of here, but first I have to look you over before we move you. I know you are in pain, I am going to go very slow. I'm not going to touch any bruised area right now. I just want to assess, get an IV into you and listen to your lungs. Is that ok?"
Clay gave a small nod. He knew it would hurt, everything hurt, but he also knew that Trent could make the pain go away.
"Is there anything that hurts a lot? A spot where the pain is really bad?" Trent asked. He wanted to be aware of it, but also so he could make sure he didn't cause Clay any further pain.
"ሰለፈይ ካብ ቅድሚኡ። ወትሩ እዩ ዚጐድእ ።" (My thigh from before. It always hurts.)
"Ok, I'm not going to touch it. I'm going to listen to your lungs first, ok?"
Trent was worried that something could be wrong with Clay's thigh. They had used graphs to repair the damage from the bomb. Those injuries would compromise his leg with repeated trauma to it. Based on the bruising on his legs, Trent knew they didn't hold back. Clay gave a very small nod and Trent moved slowly so he could listen to Clay's lungs. He immediately could tell they were in bad shape. His asthma was in full effect and Trent suspected it would be worse than ever due to his living conditions for the past six months. They could both hear the wheeze every time he took a breath in. Trent was worried though he had pneumonia to go with it. They sounded really bad and because of his bad they sounded, he was worried about giving him any pain medication right now. Once they were in the hospital he could, because they would have the equipment in case he went into respiratory distress. There wouldn't be anything he could do for Clay in the air. Trent was really hoping they could do this without morphine, because he was not looking forward to intubating Clay again. That was terrifying enough the first time, he wasn't looking to repeat the experience.
Jason continued to hold onto Clay as Trent worked as quickly as he could on Clay. He knew by the clenching of his jaw that Trent was pissed and worried. Clay needed a hospital and he needed one now.
"Ok, he's got some broken ribs that we need to be careful with. Let's get him on the litter and then I'll get an IV into him." Trent said, finally moving back.
"Trent." Sonny said.
Up until this point the guys had all been quiet. Even if Clay couldn't hear them, they didn't want to cause him any added stress. They stayed quiet and allowed Jason to comfort Clay as the tears continued to pour down his face and Trent worked on making sure he would survive the flight to the hospital. Trent looked over and saw Sonny holding out bolt cutters so they could get the chain leash and collar off of Clay. Trent grabbed them and turned back to Clay, speaking as he did.
"Let's get these chains off of you Kiddo."
None of them expected the panic that Trent's words brought to Clay. He was instantly curling into himself as he spoke at a rapid pace.
"ኣይፋሉን ። ጸኒሖም ኪቕጽሉ ኣለዎም ። እዚ ሕጊ እዚ ነቲ ሕግታት ኣይትጥሕስን ኢኻ። ዋናይ ነዚ ፈሊጥዎ ኺጽለል እዩ። ንፉዓት እንስሳታት ንመላግቦታቶም ኣይትንክይዎን እዮም። ንፉዕ እንስሳ እየ።" (No, no they have to stay on. They have to stay on. It's a rule, you don't break the rules. My owner will find out and he'll be mad. Good pets don't touch their leashes. I'm a good pet.)
All of the guys felt like they had just been hit in the stomach with a sledge hammer. They knew Clay was going to have mental problems after this, but to hear himself call someone his owner, to call himself a pet, it was heartbreaking. It brought tears to all of their eyes, including Full Metal. Yoder couldn't take it anymore. He couldn't stand here while his little brother was in this much pain and turmoil. He made his way into the room and bent down on Clay's left side, putting his back to the wall.
One word, just one single word, had Clay turned his head to look at Yoder.
"When we first met I was a man that was happy to just be. I was gay and in the closet and content with it. I had accepted that people weren't going to be happy about me being with men. But then you came into my life. This young kid full of potential, someone who didn't just see the world, but saw through it. You made me want more out of life. You made me want to be happy and not just content. And any battle I faced, you stood right there with me. You are the bravest person I have ever met. I know you're exhausted. I know you are in pain. I know you are scared. I just need to ask you to be brave one more time for me and then I'll be the brave one and you can be scared. You can spend all day curled up in bed and I will read you a hundred books if that is what it takes to make you not so scared anymore. We can go to your home, curl up on the couch and eat our way through a gallon of chocolate chip cookie dough ice cream. Can you be brave for me, just one more time?"
Clay couldn't stop the tears at all at this point. He knew what Yoder was going to ask of him, but he was terrified. They did horrific things to him if he went against the rules and he didn't want that to happen again. Everything hurt so bad, he couldn't take more pain. But he also wanted to be home. He wanted his own things. He wanted to hear the sound of the ocean. He wanted to be home and the only way to do that would be to leave this place.
"We will protect you. I promise Firecracker. No one is ever going to lay a hand on you again. All you have to do is close your eyes for me and stay still. Can you do that for me little brother?" Yoder asked calmly. He knew he couldn't push Clay. He just needed to get him to see that he was gaining a lot more by being brave right now. If he could get him to see that he could be home, far away from all of this with the leash off.
Clay took a few shaky breaths before he slowly closed his eyes. Jason rubbed his hands up and down Clay's arms as he spoke.
"Good, you're doing really good."
Trent moved and with the encouraging words from both Yoder and Jason, he was able to cut the chain leash and collar from Clay's neck. His neck was deeply bruised from the chain and Trent knew it was going to take months to heal properly. He was also worried about any internal damage, but he would need a scan for that.
"You did it, you did really good Firecracker. Let's get you home." Yoder said warmly as Clay's shaking picked up.
Trent went and grabbed the litter that Full Metal and Brock had put together. They got it down on the ground and Trent made sure everything was in the right spot before he gave a nod to Jason.
"Ok Son, we're going to get you out of here. I'm going to pick you up and place you down on the litter. We have a truck right outside that will take us to the airport. Are you ok for me to pick you up?"
Jason didn't want to cause any further harm or scare Clay anymore than he already was. He didn't want to have any sudden movements and cause Clay to have a panic attack. Only when Clay gave a nod did he move and very gently picked him up bridal style and placed him down onto the litter. The scream that escaped Clay's mouth at te movement did not go unnoticed by any of the men. Once he was on his back, Clay was instantly trying to move off of it.
"You pick the position Clay. What way can you lie without it hurting too bad?" Trent said, looking to save Clay some pain.
Jason and Trent both went and helped Clay to roll over so he was on his left side. Clay's hand instantly went to his right thigh and they all knew it was bothering him a lot more than they would like it to. He was going to need scans and hopefully everything that was wrong with it could heal with time. Trent added more blankets to help keep Clay warm. His skin was freezing despite the fact that they were in one of the hottest countries. Full Metal and Sonny both walked into the room so they could carry the litter. Sonny went to Clay's head so he could talk with him and make sure he was alright for the short trip to the car.
"I'm right here son, I'm not going anywhere." Jason said, holding his hand out for Clay to take if he wanted.
Clay weakly took Jason's hand in his own as both Sonny and Full Metal lifted the litter off the ground. The sudden movement caused Clay to groan from the shockwave of pain that went through his body.
"Sorry Little Buddy." Sonny instantly said with deep remorse to his voice.
They moved together, being extra careful not to cause any sudden movements to Clay and increase his pain level. They went slow and when they finally reached the truck they were all relieved to be getting Clay in it. They carefully got Clay's litter into the back of the truck where he would be for the rest of the drive to the airport. Jason was immediately getting in and sitting down next to the litter so Clay could still hold onto him. Cerberus also jumped up and curled up as close to Clay as he could get.
"There's only room for two more back here and I need Yoder with me." Trent said. Knowing that Yoder would not only be able to help medically, but also keep Clay calm.
"I'll drive." Ray instantly said.
There was no point in arguing. Trent needed to be back there to take care of Clay and Clay needed Yoder. It was just that simple to him. They all filed into the truck, Ray making the point in thanking the Rangers and making sure they had what they needed to get home safely. With that squared away Ray started the truck and headed for the airport. It wouldn't be taking Clay home, but it would be taking them one step closer to getting Clay home. All they could do now was pray that Clay made it to the hospital.
A/N: Alright, so what do you think? What are you expecting to happen with Clay and Vic? Is there anything you'd like to see within this sequel? Let me know and I'll see what I can do!