This is Broken
by Alexa Snow

Max is broken when Keith finds him, and probably has been for a long time.

Keith's a cop, and when he comes home after a particularly grueling shift to find a young homeless kid huddled under a thin blanket on his front porch, it's all he can do not to sigh and order the kid into his car and take him to the nearest shelter.

Instead -- maybe because he's tired and hungry, maybe just because the kid's got something about him, a cringing acceptance like a dog that's been kicked so many times that it will never be a surprise again -- Keith unlocks the door and pushes it open.

"Come on."

The kid just stares at him blankly, then glances down at his lap.

Keith can see him shivering. "Come inside and get warm," he says. "You hungry?"

Another glance, then the kid nods. Hesitates for a minute before getting to his feet and stumbling inside, then waiting in the foyer.

Keith leads him into the kitchen and gets him sat in a chair, turns up the heat, and pulls out some leftover beef stew from last night. There's plenty for two, even when one of them's a half-starved shivering kid who wolfs it down like he hasn't eaten in days.

When the food is gone and the kid's relaxed some, Keith looks him over. Rumpled brown hair, sharp green eyes. Dirty, but Keith thinks just from looking at him that he's clean in the way that matters.

"What's your name?"

The kid clears his throat. "M-maxwell," he says, hoarsely. Maybe he's sick, maybe he just hasn't talked for a while.

"How long have you been on the streets?"

Maxwell shrugs slightly, pulls the blanket tighter around his shoulders. "Months. A year?" He's shivering again, and Keith thinks there might be some of Andy's clothes upstairs in the second bedroom -- he hardly ever goes in there. He hasn't seen his son in... a long time. Too long. His ex-wife and her prejudices.

"How old are you?"

"Nineteen." Max almost whispers it, but he rubs his head like he's confused. "I... I used to be nineteen."

That's a hell of a surprise -- kid doesn't look a day over sixteen.

"You want a shower?" Keith asks, because there's not much he can do for this kid and if he's gonna take him to one of the homeless shelters in the morning, he might as well do things right tonight.

Brief hesitation, then Max nods. It's like one of those psychological things, Keith thinks -- Pavlov's dog. Ring the bell and the kid nods.

He takes Max upstairs and turns the shower on, hot. Sets a clean towel on the side of the sink. "There you go." Kid's already dropped his blanket onto the floor, is stripping off his cheap sweater and the shirt underneath it in one. He's damned skinny underneath the clothes, and there are bruises on him in places Keith doesn't like the look of.

While Max showers, Keith goes into the extra bedroom and looks in the drawers, finds a pair of jeans and a shirt that'll probably do. He finds a wool blanket on the top shelf of the closet and puts that over the other coverings on the bed. Sheets might not be the freshest, but somehow he doesn't think Max is going to care.

The water shuts off, and after a minute Max reappears in the hallway, towel wrapped around him and clutching his armful of filthy clothes.

"I can wash those for you," Keith offers, reaching out to take them, and the kid cringes back. He holds his hands out, showing that he's no threat. "Hey, it's okay. I'm not gonna hurt you."

Max looks embarrassed, and tentatively holds out the clothes.

Keith gestures at the bedroom. "Clean clothes for you in there. I'll be right back."

Kid's standing in the doorway when he comes back upstairs, wearing the clothes like they're too big even though they fit fine. He looks exhausted.

"Go get some sleep," Keith tells him.

The kid's hand creeps around the back of the door, and Keith can see the thin shoulder shift as the kid feels the inside handle.

"There's a lock," Keith tells him, waiting for Max to move back out of the way so that he can show him. "Right there. I'm not gonna come in."

Max nods again, and Keith figures the best thing he can do is walk away into his own room, so he does. "If you steal anything, I'll find you," he warns, then shuts his door and gets ready for bed. He's asleep about ten seconds after his head hits the pillow.

He wakes up, startled, some time later when he hears his doorknob turn. He's sitting up in bed and reaching for his bedside drawer before he remembers the kid -- Max. Who's standing in the doorway, silhouetted by the pale light in the hall, rubbing one hand against the opposite upper arm.

"You okay?"

Barely-visible shrug, and then Max comes over and slides between the sheets.

Keith's so surprised that he doesn't say or do anything for a minute. Kid's cold, which doesn't make sense until he realizes that he's also naked. Keith's own body, warm, jerks away instinctively, from the cold and the shock and the sudden surge of raw desire that rushes through him.

Desperately trying to sound calm, Keith says, "You want to sleep in here? I can go in and sleep in the other bed, if -- " But all that earns him is a quivering armful of Max, pressing close.

"Shh," Keith says helplessly. "It's okay." He tries to ignore his erection, but then Max shifts and damn it, the kid's got one too.

"I'll be good," Max whispers, sliding a hand between them and cupping Keith, making him groan softly. Kid sounds lost and scared and so damned young...

Max might be the one who's broken, but it's Keith whose skin he crawls in under. Because as it turns out, this isn't one of the ways in which Keith is strong.