Twig, Stan, Gavin, Comfort

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“Hey, you.”

Twig jumped, having not expected anyone to come out from behind the fucking bushes in front of the house, and definitely having not expected it to be Stan. He was getting comfortable, clearly. “Uh. Hey, Stan. Didn’t know you were coming by today.” Gavin would have told him. He’d never let Stan come here—whenever he or Owen had had to talk to his caseworker, they’d gone down to his office.

“Surprise inspection. Got to make sure you’re not being abused by your big brothers.” Stan smiled. “Or that you’re not stealing from them. What’s in your bag?”

“Just my stuff,” Twig said, stepping half an inch back, towards the door. Owen and Gavin were both in the house, but Twig felt stupid crying to them for help. It was just Stan. Twig had dealt with him just fine for a year.

“Yeah? And what’s that on your neck?”

Shit. Twig pulled his shirt up, but it had a low collar and wasn’t going to hide the hickey Dante had given him. “Birthmark.”

“Bullshit, it’s a bruise. Come with me, my car’s around the corner. I need to report this.”

And, Twig thought, do an inspection to make sure he didn’t have any other bruises anywhere. He felt cold, and was wishing he had a jacket on in the sun. “I’m actually on my way to meet some friends,” he said. “And I’m going to be late for the movie.”

“Too bad, your friends will wait. You’re coming with me if you don’t want…”

The door behind Twig opened. “Stan, I thought that was you,” Gavin said, voice ice-flat. “Good to see you.”

“Hey there, Mr. ven Sancte,” Stan said. “Just doing a surprise inspection.”

“Right. You’re going to stop talking to Twig and get off my property before something unfortunate happens.”

“I’m his caseworker, I’m supposed to talk to him,” Stan said, spreading his hands. “And in my experience, people who try to prevent kids from talking to social workers are usually the bad guy.”

Gavin put a hand on Twig’s shoulder. “You okay, Twig?”

“Yeah,” Twig said, nodding. He really didn’t want this to escalate into Gavin being in trouble. “I’m fine, really. Nothing’s happening.”

“Good.” He handed Twig some car keys. “Go get in the car, I’ll drive you to the mall.”

“I can take the bus…”

“I know.” Gavin stepped around him, getting right up in Stan’s business. “You can take your inspection and shove it up the shithole that passes for your ass,” he informed Stan. “You and I both know you have no right to be here or your car would be in my driveway, not around the corner. You’d better drive very fast on your way back to your office if you want to get there before I’ve finished explaining to your supervisor why you will never come to this house again.”

“You think you can just do whatever you want because you’re rich?” Stan laughed.

“Yes. And if that doesn’t work, I’m also willing to call Owen out so he can threaten physical harm, which he was going to do before I told him I’d handle it.”

“You’re going to lose access to the kid,” Stan said, making Twig’s heart jump. He couldn’t.

“Not before you lose your job,” Gavin promised. “Get lost.”

Stan got lost, grunting as he turned around and stalked off. Gavin watched him go. “You okay?” he asked again.

Twig nodded. “Yeah. Just a bit surprised. I didn’t think he’d do that.” He’d thought that Stan was done.

“Neither did I, I’m sorry.” Gavin smiled. “Next time I’m going to let Owen beat the shit out of him. Come on, I’ll take you to the mall.”

Twig felt like he should be embarrassed that he needed Gavin to fight his battles for him, because he didn’t, he’d never needed anyone to fight anyone for him. But…

But it was nice not to have to fight. It was nice that someone would do it for him. It made Twig feel…comfortable. And safe. And loved.

So Twig got into the car, letting himself feel those things, because they were good things.



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