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Warning: Child abuse (non-sexual)

Crumbling Fortress

by sistersleep


Ryan ran.

Quick thudding footfalls echoing across dense carpet. His worn canvas sneaks with the slick slipping tread, his father's heavy and out of synch. Drowned out by cursing, heavy breaths, and the rush of blood in his ears.

Another slip as body slammed to a halt at the door. Close, sweaty palm on tarnished doorknob.

"Get your fucking ass back here!"

Whip whoosh of leather belt cracking uselessly through the resistance of empty air. Ryan could swear he felt the displacement, the breeze of it on the back of his damp prickling neck...

Door open fucking finally to see...Cyril, darting out of his way to let him go. His brother bought him time by slamming the door closed with the full push of his body behind it, putting up barriers as Ryan continued his mad dash. Ryan would have known without looking, even if he hadn't heard the slam. Because it was Cyril.

But Ryan heard the door slam back open with another bellow even as he grabbed wooden bed frame, old and rough, scrape of splinters in his calloused palm as he heaved himself up into the top bunk. The last place to go. Thudding creak of frame and mattress under his scuffed knees before he lunged into the corner. Shouts behind his exposed back feeding that animal fear as he scrambled into bed.

Father and brother's voices mixed.

"Get down you little shit! I told you, you come here and take your punishment! You earned it! You can't hide from me!"

"Leave him the fuck alone!"

Ryan turned fast, sheets tangling and not caring about it. Saw his pops, red-faced and with that heavy leather belt held waist-high in the ultra-tight grip of an equally red hand. Cyril had been thrown to the side, picking himself up in a shaky determined slide up the wall, using it for support. Ryan just...protected his back, scrunching into the corner, awkward and cramped against cool wall, pulling his legs up to form his last tight defense.

Pa O'Reily's head whipped to Cyril at his gruff young yell. "You stay out of this or you're next, you hear me?"

But that wasn't enough to keep Cyril back, and everyone knew it, so with the words came two heavy steps to Cyril and a quick backhanded slap like an afterthought across his jaw. Hard enough to throw his head back and stun him.

Their father not stopping with it, just continuing the movement to the bed. Swearing long and hard, growing even more pissed...but Ryan couldn't come down. Even if he knew it would be better in the end, less fuel to his father's fire.

Ryan was panting from his dash and pressing back to burrow into the corner as that belt swung up with the words. Sheamus gripped the frame and surged forward drunkenly as Ryan retreated back.

But it couldn't quite reach. Just the whip and sound of air half an inch from Ryan's arms clenched around his legs, keeping him in a tight upright ball, head down but eyes watching, heart thudding out of his chest joining the unfulfilled, furious thump of the belt to bed. Again and again. Bed shaking, air smelling like sweat and booze, and just that whiff of leather and the dirt of the city on Ryan's knees right under his nose.

Cyril was back up and still defiant. It was all just shouting in Ryan's ears. Too fast, too loud, and the words didn't matter. They never did.

Ryan just...couldn't come down. Frozen by that fear in the spot. Adrenaline rushing in his veins but keeping him locked, pulse turning to the beat of the terror and giving it flight. Even though this was an old dance, that stark visceral fear always felt sharp and new. Just an inch forward movement from Ryan...and what was going to happen wouldn't come to pass...

But his body couldn't move into that smack of the belt right in front of his face. The air practically stinging from it. Fast, furious, and right there. Lashing like a wall of promised pain. Each shake of the bed making Ryan clench tighter in on himself, white knuckled. Imbedded innate instinct overriding everything like logic and loyalty.

Until what he knew was going to happen, happened like clockwork.

Cyril...grabbed Sheamus's arm on the back swing - and got all of that rage turned on him.

Routine...that Ryan was too afraid to stop. Cyril got...a punch to the face since he had trapped the arm with the belt. Ryan winced with it...but his body relaxed a little. Couldn't help the feel of brief relief from that attention, the slight slow of the deafening rush in his ears. But his breath still left him in gasps, his heart still thudded...as that belt was freed and coming down on Cyril's back...the one who hadn't done anything wrong that day.

Ryan stayed stuck for the tick of another swing of the belt. Sounding...meaty and fulfilled this time. Loud solid crack as it was met broadly along its length.

Ryan's wince with it brought him forward this time. Until he moved that inch with his own scream torn from ragged breathless throat, finally joining theirs in the tiny room. His ties to his brother, his heart, finally overcoming that fear.

"Get the fuck off him!" Ryan took up Cyril's words...and left his safety to meet that whipped around glare himself this time.

Putting himself back in the middle again, where he belonged. But he couldn't stop moving or he would freeze again. Momentum and Cyril's shout keeping him lunging forward and down.

Into range.

The sharp impact of feet to floor made him bend and stumble.

The hit was so familiar when it came, felt before it was seen.

He knew he could take it. Old pain. Just new bruises.

But it didn't stop him from running every time.

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