Shawn Mathews is in an abusive relationship, spurning all attempts to help him until his lover almost beats him to death.
Doctor Gene Collins understands what Shawn has gone through, so after the beating he takes the young man under his wing, trying to help him to regain control of his life and live without fear.
In the process, each man learns it is possible to care for someone and that caring can lead to healing--for both of them.
"No, Jared, no! I'm sorry," Shawn cried out, staggering away from the vicious backhanded slap. Unable to defend himself against the much larger and very drunk man, he collapsed, whimpering, on to the bed in the motel room they called home at the moment. His whimpers turned to sobs as he tried to scoot his way across to the floor at the other side of bed. He needed to get the bed between him and his lover.
Jared was having none of that. He lunged, caught hold of Shawn's arm, and dragged him back, slamming him down on the center of the bed, holding him there with one hand, his other one fisted while he shouted, "I told you what would happen the next time you did that. You ignored me, so now you're reaping the consequences." The fist landed solidly on Shawn's shoulder as he tried to curl into a protective ball.
"I... Mr Spitzer said... it was just going to be a bit of overtime because it was a rush job then I could go home."
"Yeah, right. Same song, different chorus. Where were you really?" Jared grabbed him again, pulling him to his feet, and raised his fist.
A loud knock on the motel room door, followed by, "Police. Open up," stopped Jared's intentions in mid-stride.
"Now what?" Jared growled as he went to open the door.
"Sir," the officer said, looking into the room but remaining on the walkway outside, "we had a report of shouts that sounded as if someone was in trouble." His glance landed on Shawn. "Are you all right, sir?"
Shawn sank back down on the edge of the bed, his mouth dry with fear. He licked his lips and tasted blood, ran the back of his hand over his mouth, looked at it and frowned. "I..." he managed to whisper, shaking his head.
"Do you need help? Did this man"--the office nodded at Shawn--"do that to you?"
"Yes," Shawn mumbled. "I mean, no. I fell and..."
"Do you mind if I come in to check you out?"
"I'm okay. Honest. I just... right now I just want to get out of here."
The officer beckoned for Shawn to join him, saying, "If he hit you and you want to press charges..."
"No." Shawn staggered to his feet. "I just..."
Jared started toward him, stopping when the officer ordered him to remain where he was. "I was only going to help him," Jared protested, his voice slurring.
"Be that as it may, you're to stay clear of him." The officer waited, watching as Shawn made it from the bed to the door, before asking, "Do you have somewhere else you can go, sir?"
Shawn started to shake his head and thought better of it as it made him stumble into the edge of the doorframe. He peered past the officer to see white-haired Ms Johnson, the motel owner, standing a few feet away. "Can I...?" he managed to say.
Ms Johnson's mouth tightened even as she cast a look of pity at him. "I have a vacant room across the parking lot in the other building."
"Thank you," Shawn whispered. For a moment he glanced back to Jared, his heart dropping at the look of rage on his lover's face. Taking a deep breath, Shawn turned and walked away, following Ms Johnson when she crossed the lot.
She told him to wait by the door, left, and came back a minute later to hand him the room key. "I don't care how much he had to drink or how often he comes back the way he is right now, he has no right to hit you," she said acerbically, casting a dire look in Jared's direction.
The police officer joined them, asking again if Shawn was certain he didn't want to press charges.
Shawn carefully shook his head. "I asked for it," he muttered before thanking Ms Johnson and unlocking the room door.
"No one asks to be hit," Ms Johnson growled, receiving an emphatic nod of agreement from the officer. "As far as I'm concerned, he's out of here."
"No. Please. I'll... I'll get my things in the morning and leave. It wasn't his fault. I was late and... Please..." He looked pleadingly at her.
She sighed. "All right, for now. But come morning if you change your mind, I'll kick him out." She turned to the officer. "And I'm calling you to come back me up if that happens."
"Call me either way. If Mr..." He looked questioningly at Shawn.
"Shawn Mathews," Shawn muttered.
"If Mr Mathews" the officer continued, focusing his gaze back on Ms Johnson, "decides to get his things, I want to be here, just in case. Understood?" He looked sternly at them both.
"Yes, sir," Shawn said, backing into the room, hoping they'd go and leave him alone now. They did, and as they walked away, Shawn heard Ms Johnson say, "He didn't deserve to be hit. He's the one who should be doing the hitting, as often as the boyfriend comes back here drunk as a skunk."
Shawn closed the door quickly, locked it, and crossed to the bed falling back on it. I did deserve it. I asked for it. I should have called to let him know I'd be late. And now I have to face the consequences... again.