Paint it Black

Some Sort of Window to the Right

Shawn hadn't moved from the couch in hours, no reason to, being alone and without anyone to impress. He may not have been consulting anymore but Chief Vick hadn't seen the need to can his father, yet. Fewer hours than the initial agreement, his dad put in about three days a week, most of them half days or less. What he did at the station... well, Shawn had no clue. His guess leaned towards glorified secretary, too easy to imagine his father inducing tears from hardcore detectives over spelling errors on their reports.

The television was on, cycling through news, game shows, sitcoms, and back to news. His fingers slid along the slick cover of a magazine. Sports Illustrated, Home & Garden... he had no way of knowing. He'd never read again. He'd never imagined how much he'd miss that. His touch moved to the bottom of the stiff cover, felt the edge of the mailing sticker affixed there. He dug his nail beneath the edge, peeling it away until he heard the soft tear. He sighed and pushed the publication away. It slipped from the cushion and struck the floor, pages fluttering crisply until it settled.

With nothing else to pluck at, his fingers moved next to the nearly healed wound below his throat. He couldn't help himself, two fingers rubbing along the rough scab. He could still feel the trailing end of one stitch poking from the left side. He'd been told his body would absorb them. He still struggled to believe that. They felt like fishing line; how perfect was that? No doubt gave dad yet another boasting point about the validity of his favorite sport. Figures the old man would be into maiming innocent creatures for fun.

He wanted to turn the sound down on the TV again but an earlier toss of the remote towards the table had been a little too much like a baseball pitch ending in a foul to left field. Where it was, even his father probably wouldn't be able to figure out.

Suddenly, desperately, he wanted out of the house. Wanted to be anywhere else. His free hand spasmed on the arm of the couch before squeezing tight. And where, exactly, would he go anyhow? He breathed through the adrenaline surge, shaky and anxious as it very slowly ebbed.

He was controlling his panic, mostly, but it still sat close against his chest. He fought the twitchy aftermath by searching for an item to clutch. Anything. He didn't want to move from his corner – didn't want to admit to the security he took from keeping the couch arm and back pressed against him.

Tap tapping fingertips felt along the soft beads of nubbed material coating the aged blanket stuffed between his thigh and the cushion. Chewed fingernails dragged over the rougher fabric of the couch towards the table. Wood, cool and gritty with toast crumbs leftover from breakfast. Smooth plastic of his juice cup. He curled his fingers back and slid his hand back to rest on his leg.

News had gone to sports highlights. Dad would be home soon. He could wait. Sure, he'd just wait.


Henry sighed as he locked the door at his back. His toss of the keys was more habit than aim but the clank meant they'd reached the counter without incident. Black as a cave, again. Not unusual when he'd been living alone, there was an eeriness to entering a dark house knowing someone else was wandering inside. Someone with no clue he was in the dark because the dark was all he knew.

The light over the sink was good enough to brighten the kitchen. Still heavy with shadows, he could at least see his own hands as he opened the fridge. Beer or water, not often a tough choice but this time of the evening one beer would be two and two would put lead in his exhaustion. Tired enough on his days off with Shawn barely sleeping, he didn't want to leave the kid alone all day only to make an early night of it. Never imagined he'd replay the fall of 85' when Madeline had been out of town for three months and he'd been running himself ragged between work and home. Shawn couldn't be left alone and without the Gusters helping out by letting Shawn stay at their place after school, Henry wouldn't have known what to do. As it was, more than once he'd been forced to swing by the school and pick up his son. Station mascot to card sharp within the first week, the kid had endeared himself to the officers on Henry's shift.

He wondered if it wouldn't do Shawn some good to spend some time at the station again. He'd made one attempt, a week ago, to get back into his life. When Gus had brought him home again, Shawn hadn't said a word – only asked what was for dinner before heading to the living room. And as he'd done damn near since the start of this whole tragedy, Henry had kept his distance. Hadn't pressured, hadn't suggested. But maybe... maybe a little prodding was exactly what was required.

The open fridge door was starting to chill his arms. Settling on a bottle of water, Henry let it heave shut once more as he turned towards the living room. More dark, he could barely see Shawn's form on the couch. He was sitting, body hunched over his knees and the glow of the television lighting up the left side of his body. Whatever was on the screen flickered from deep red to blue to soft green. The sound was turned low, a mutter the dissolved words and made his footsteps easy to hear as Henry crossed into the room.

Shawn turned his head – his eyes moving in a slow drift towards the steps. “Hey.”

Henry held off a groan as he sat beside his son, springs giving beneath him with a familiar and homey squeak. Shawn wriggled to regain his balance and tugged at the blanket beside him – pulling it partway across his lap.

Leaning forward, Shawn glided his hand slowly across the coffee table until his fingers brushed the bottle of Sprite he'd been drinking. Henry watched while he took a sip. “You eat yet?”

A dribble of soda streaked down his chin and Shawn wiped it away with his sleeve before capping it and returning it to the table. “Wasn't really hungry...” Though the suddenly growling stomach made that comment a lie.

Henry chuckled. “Pizza?”

The tiniest return of a smile. “Hawaiian?”

Of course. He couldn't find the cordless phone at first glance so he reached around Shawn's back to flip the switch on the lamp.

Bright light scattered into the room. Shadows sank back, mysterious shapes became known possessions, and with a jerk, Shawn suddenly gasped.

Henry had no chance to move when Shawn's hand grasped out and caught his sleeve. Eyes wide open, shocked, he shook his head. “That didn't...” He gulped.

“Shawn?”

Breath shaky, his son tugged at the arm in his grip. “Dad... do... do that again.”

The desperation he saw overrode worries of another panic attack – it wasn't fear in the fingers clinging to his arm. It was hope.

He could feel his pulse slamming in his temples. Knowing exactly what Shawn wanted, Henry was forced to stand and reach with his other hand, left trapped in tight fists. Stretching, he gripped the bell at the end of the chain and clicked off the light. He waited. In that span of seconds, he was nearly as terrified as he'd been when he'd looked down a rocky hill and had seen his son, bleeding and unconscious, halfway to the bottom.

Shawn didn't urge him, his breathing a giveaway to his own tension. He couldn't pray, not with a mind still crippled by the agony his son had been dealt. He begged without direction – a plea to the dark. A plea against it. He knew he could stand forever with his fingers pinching that tiny chain. To hope but not know. Was that better than knowing without hope?

He pulled the chain.

Shawn didn't move. Starting to feel some pain from the awkward lean, Henry knelt in front of the couch instead – pulling his sleeve free to take both of Shawn's hands in his. He stared into his son's face.

“Kid?”

Breath whooshed out. Shawn closed his eyes, squeezed them tight. Then, slowly, they opened. And with another thick breath, he turned towards the lamp.

“Dad...”

Henry felt the hands squeeze his own tightly.

“Dad I...” His mouth quirked, a tremble of lips that twisted up into choking laugh, “I can see it...”

Henry couldn't respond. He sucked in a breath of his own. When it released, his eyes brimmed.

Unspeaking, he pulled his hands free and, reaching up, he cupped his son's face. He wasn't surprised at the feel of wet beneath his touch. Thumbs brushed at the small drops.

Moments later, Shawn's eyes trailed back to the light. Unblinking, he stared.

“I can see it.”


3 Months Later

Shawn pushed at the plastic rim of his glasses, again. Thick, black, and in desperate need of a skull and crossbones center of mass; less Buddy Holly territory and more Charlie Sheen. Major League era. However, he suspected that even an infusion of tiger blood wouldn't be enough to make this look hot.

He opened his eyes wide, staring at the text on the screen as it blurred out again. Pain through his head didn't help. Migraine, like a deadbeat roomie that crashed at his apartment and ate all his chips and stayed up till 4am playing Final Fantasy with the volume set on Van Halen.

Rubbing his eyes waylaid by the inch of glass impeding the attempt, the hooked the Ben Franklins with one finger and clunked them to his desk. Attempt number two didn't exactly clear things, his view even blurrier without the hated aid, but the dark was nice.

A few blinks and an attempt to read without help, eyes squinting to slits before he gave up and snatched the glasses again.

On the other side of the room, Gus tapped and tapped and slurped coffee and tapped some more. Oh, and sighed. A lot.

“One lamp, Shawn.”

“Really? Dude, it's like-”

“It is not like the surface of the sun in here.”

Shawn snorted. “I wasn't going to say that.”

“You've said it four times since lunch.” Standing, eyes locked on his buddy, Gus walked to the switch on the wall.

Shawn lifted one eyebrow.

Gus tipped back his head.

“You'd really go there, with me at this delicate point in my healing?”

Gus licked his tongue across his front teeth, clearly thinking about it. “Yes.” Reenactment of nuclear fallout ala Terminator, he'd swear on a copy of Zoobooks that he felt the blast strip the flesh from his eyeballs. In this case, he felt his scream was completely justified.

Across the room the front door slammed open hard enough to chip paint where the knob smacked the wall. The scream that had been fading to a hiss shrieked to full boil a second time.

“Jeez-Spencer! Dial it down for the love of all that's holy!”

Eye peek spotted the fuzzy haloed man tower followed by a shorter fuzzy form with blonde hair. Oh.

He knew that voice even if the detective looked like a big, blobby... blob. Granted, that's what everyone looked like until they were within about two feet of him and that was when he was wearing his glasses.

“What's up, Lassie?” He leaned to smile at the woman next to the tall fuzz. “Hi, Jules.”

He might not see her smile back but that was one thing he could hear perfectly in her reply. “Hi, Shawn.”

His smile drifted towards a leer.

Gus, clearing his throat much like a cat horking on belly fur, decided the flirtation portion of the day was over with and forced them back to the world of pressed suits and oiled penny whistles.

“Something we can help you with?”

Fuzzy Jules became less fuzzy Jules when she pushed around Lassie to bring both herself, and her purpose, into focus. Shawn liked when he could multipurpose words.

Way better though? He could see her face.

“Vick asked us to stop by and pick you up. There's a case she thought... Well, she was wondering if...”

Shawn folded his hands. She was cute when she was flustered. And that soft focus halo his crapped out vision produced really sold the Vivien Leigh, Vaseline across a camera lens, view of her sweet sweet features.

“Oh for crying out...” Not remotely flustered, though cute in a baby hedgehog sorta way, Lassie also made himself unfuzzy and dared breach the five foot mark into the office.

“The chief has a pity case which means we get to play babysitter for a day. In or out, it's your choice but,” finger made a threatening point that drifted back and forth between the two younger, handsomer, men, “you are under my watch so you so much as bedazzle one step out of line and I'm locking you in my trunk...” words choked off and blue eyes snapped wide on two faces as Juliet gaped at her partner.

Shawn swallowed and smiled widely in return. “No can do, Lass, I have a note from my daddy that gets me out of all vehicular travel that doesn't involve a side car or a tiny goat pulling a wagon.”

The quickly assembled joke didn't erase the discomfort all around but it got a pass in general for that very reason. He filed that bitty detail about milking the shame heifer before the well ran dry, simultaneously patting himself on the back for his clever metaphor mixing, and decided to follow Gus's aborted lead by hauling Nelly by the hair back to the alter.

“So, what, somebody lose their collection of antique vaaaah-zes?”

Still strung out on his remorse, Lassiter lifted his eyebrows before lifting his eyes, shrugging as he crossed his arms and leaned back against the desk behind him. “Nah, some guy hung himself in his motel.”

Gus frowned. “The Chief wants to bring us in on a suicide?”

Lassiter tipped his head. “Like I say, it's a pity case.” Standing then, he tugged his jacket straight and headed towards the door. “Look, come or don't but CSU is waiting for us to show up so if you're tagging along then move your ass.”

Juliet gave Shawn another smile, the tight lipped kind that said everything from “I'm sorry my partner's an ass” to “that shirt makes your biceps look hot”, before following Lassiter towards the exit.

Granted, not quite the vitriol as his previous threatening invitation but Shawn only needed a moment to exchange a nod and hand clap with Gus before they both rose with a happy bounce and smooth upward glide respectively.

“Hey Lassie, bet I call murder before you do.”

Lassiter snorted, beating Shawn to the door in a single long stride – Shawn allowing the win rather than hustling for a shoulder war. His shoulder was exempt from wars for the next three months. Six, depending on how many pity dinners he could wring from his father.

“Not really a bet, Spencer. You'd call murder on a stolen cockatiel.”

Shawn grinned as he pulled the door shut behind him. “Winner buys Del Taco.”

Lassiter jammed on his sunglasses.

“You're on.”

Slipping into the back seat of the sedan, Shawn carefully pulled the belt across his lap – maneuvering the shoulder belt beneath his arm. “For the record, I like extra pico de gallo.”

No response from Lassiter. Not verbal anyhow. Shawn was impressed that the detective could offer that gesture while backing the vehicle out of of the lot.

Less hostile than her partner, Juliet turned in her seat. “We're glad to have you back, Shawn.”

Grin going from mocking to Cheshire cat, Shawn turned towards his own partner and nudged his arm.

“See that, Gus? Told you she liked me. Later? We're playing Spin the Bottle.”

He didn't miss the smudge of blush before Juliet managed to get turned around again. On the other side of the car, Lassiter muttered something obscene.

Sitting back, Shawn let the world outside the car fill his vision. His muddy, blurred, glorious vision.

Yeah. It was good to be back. It was damn good.


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