"Dammit kid, get the fuck back here!"
By the age of sixteen, Jason was more or less used to hearing these things being yelled out as he took off running, not looking back until the silence was his only follower. At that age he was small, thin, weak- just getting used to the rigors that living on the streets would encompass. However, one thing had worked out in his favor so far. He was fast.
It was routine, ever since he had left home at the age of fourteen, surviving two winters in the city which were a feat he was more than proud of. He had so far made it in a world that his old man had said he'd only last minutes in, alone.
Easy... easy. Breathe. Not too fast.
He reminded himself of these things as he approached a stranger holding a cigarette to his mouth, leaning against a wall that served as the opening to an alleyway just outside the neighborhood bar. Each step was careful, quiet. His fingers grasped the very edge of the man's billfold, which had worked its way halfway out of the man's pocket. Though just as he gave it a tug, the worst case scenario happened.
The cigarette dropped. The man turned around, yelling. And Jason was RUNNING.
"Goddamn kid, I fuckin' swear!"
Jason's eyes didn't leave the alley in front of him as he sprinted down it, the man in hot pursuit behind him. He took one sharp turn after another, just like he would have in any other case. He wasn't thinking... just running.
"Fucking kid, you think you can run!?"
The man yelled out, causing the hair on the back of Jason's neck to rise... he was close. Anybody else would have given up... wouldn't they? He didn't even get his wallet! Why was he bothering chasing, and how the hell was he keeping up?
He didn't have time to think about it all. Suddenly he felt a hand snatch the hood of his sweatshirt, yanking the rest of him back forcefully. Before Jason could get his head straight on the situation, he felt the back of it strike the brick wall. His eyes grew wide as hands moved to pin his shoulders to the surface. Looking up he saw the silhouette hovering over him, looking him in the eye.
The man looked to be in his early twenties, dark hair and brown eyes. He was dressed in street attire no different than Jason's, certainly no cleaner nor newer. Of average height, the man wasn't built, though there was no questioning he had the upper hand in any fighting scenario that came into Jason's head.
"What the hell do you think you're doing, kid?"
The man snapped, his tone commanding enough to make Jason flinch. He turned his head to the side, refusing to look at the stranger. His jaw tightened, not saying a word. His eyes widened again as the man pulled him away from the wall, only to push him back into it again forcefully. Jason grunted in pain as it sent a wave of pain down his back, his head starting to ache from the first time.
"I...I was hungry." Jason mumbled.
"Speak up!" The man snapped, tightening his grip on the boy's clothes causing him to flinch.
"I said I was hungry!" Jason yelled, "I have to fucking eat, y'know!"
The man should've knocked him out, right then and there. He should've dragged his ass to the cops and had him thrown in jail overnight for minor theft. Instead, nothing happened. Jason's head turned to meet the stranger's stare with a frown.
"What the hell do you think you're doing?"
"But I already answ-"
"No! Out here. On the streets. What is a kid like you doing out here?" The man demanded.
"I don't know what you're aski-"
"Fucking tell me! What, are you some runaway punk? Did you think you'd last out here? Don't you think you should be getting home before your folks find out your ass is gone?" He snapped.
"I can't fucking go back, he'd kill me! What makes you think you know a damn thing about me!?"
Jason yelled, glaring back at the stranger. His voice had wavered, letting fear be evident in it. This was yet another time he expected to feel his face be punched in, yet the man didn't move. He just pinned him there deeming him unable to run.
"...how long have you been out here, kid?"
"I dunno... two years, give or take."
The man sighed. He looked off to the side before his eyes returned to Jason's.
"Listen, kid... I'll give you twenty bucks if you don't run when I let go. Got it? No cops, twenty bucks. Just hear me out... sound like a deal?"
To that, Jason nodded. After all, twenty dollars went as far as two to three weeks, if he stretched it far enough. Upon nodding, the man's hands relaxed their grip on his shoulders. The man's hands went into his pockets, pulling out a pack of cigarettes and a lighter. He slipped one past his lips and lit it, offering one to Jason. Though he shook his head the man insisted, pulling one out and putting it in his hands, handing the lighter to him.
"So you wanna live on the streets, huh?"
"Yeah... what's it to you?"
Jason muttered. Lighting the cigarette he breathed in, coughing abruptly as the smoke filled his lungs. The man snickered as he watched.
"I hate to break it to ya, kid, but you aren't going to last out here alone. Hell, you won't make it to your twenties if you keep it up. There ain't no life for you, digging around in the trash alone. You need somebody to support you. A place you can go back to. People you can trust to get you out of a bind."
"I told you. I'm not going back home."
Jason replied adamantly. To that, the man laughed.
"I never said you were, kid. But I know a place. A place where street kids like you go. A roof of sorts over your head. Meals, clothes, you name it. You've just gotta help out and pay your dues. Hell, nobody's gonna tell you what to do, other than that. How's that sound?"
...Too good to be true is what Jason thought. He took another puff of the cigarette, this time letting the smoke escape through his lips.
"Where the hell is this place, then? How many people are in on it? I don't have any cash, what do you mean 'pay my dues'?"
"Whoa, slow down, kid. By the way... you got a name?"
The man asked.
"...Jason. Who the hell are you?"
He muttered back. To which, the man laughed.
"I like your spirit, kid. The name's Adam. Why don't you let me show you, it'll all make sense if you see it."
Jason replied. He hadn't found anything else as promising, after all... he'd check it out, and if it didn't seem right he'd bolt. Just like always.
"Hey. You said you'd give me twenty bucks, right?"
"I did say that, didn't I?" Adam replied, dropping his cigarette butt.
"C'mon, kid. I'll give it to you when we get there."