Paint it Black

By dragonnan

Action / Mystery

Call Me Mr. Glass

Dad was upstairs, finally. The old man was one step away from setting up a bunk in Shawn's bedroom as it was, so getting him to take a shower during the middle of his guard duty shift had taken some creative urging. A whole two weeks since the “incident” and Grumbles still wouldn't loosen the collar. Shawn had pointed out that his other senses were a lot stronger now in compensation for the one that was dragging behind the rest of the class. He didn't need to see how dirty his father was when the lining of his nose had just caught on fire. This, of course, had led to the observation that that comment had sounded way less perverted in his head. And about then was when his father had muttered something that even Shawn's “Superman” hearing hadn't been able to pick up and had stomped upstairs. Minutes later he'd heard the shower kick on and he'd taken that opportunity to flee.

After two banged shins, a stubbed toe, and an unexpected tonguing by a Shetland pony, Shawn was feeling his way along the fence in front of the neighbor's house. He could hear waves crashing to his left and could feel the heat of the sun on the top of his head – putting it between noon and six. Yeah, so he'd yet to perfect telling time by the length of shadows on the ground. Not that it was really helpful now anyway...

He stopped by eighth picket, holding on with his right hand. His legs were already feeling wobbly and with his equilibrium still untrustworthy he was questioning his choice to bolt.

The phone in his pocket played its five note chime so he braced himself against the fence while digging it out. And instantly he was hit with that same frustration all over again. It could be Gus, calling to tell him he was ready to “pick up the package” and that the “eagle had flown” along with an exaggerated wink. Or, it could be Abby checking in on him for the sixth time that day; she'd been extremely girlfriendy since his release from the hospital – not that he minded back rubs and hand holding and being spoon fed all of his meals... Okay, so that wasn't entirely truthful. In fact, there were only a couple of times where she'd needed to help him. Mostly she'd been trying to teach him how to get a forkful of mashed potatoes to his mouth without stabbing himself in the eye. It was only a little humiliating. Yeah, no worse than, say, watching his father do an all day hook-up with a sexy fish scientist.

Well that, at least, he wouldn't have to experience for the unseeable future.

The phone chimed a forth time and Shawn finally gave in and thumbed the corner before putting it to his ear.

“Hello?”

“Hey, Shawn,”

“Jules...” Of the six possibilities he'd had lined up on the other end of that call, Juliet was somewhere around number seven – behind Buzz and just before a very drunk Lassy.

“How are you doing?”

He went for casual, trying to press his butt against the fence so he could cross his ankles. He got as far as twisting his hips when the wobbles struck again. Instinct caused him to swing his arms out – one obeyed and nearly threw his phone away while the other, trapped in its sling, lit on fire at the sudden jerk. Juliet must have heard the hiss of pain when he braced himself enough to bring the phone back because she immediately repeated her question, this time with a lot more urgency.

“I'm fine-” He pushed out between his teeth, barely sparing the oxygen for the tight assurance. So leaning was out but he knew there was a bench about fifteen feet from the end of the neighbor's property.

Cramming the phone between his cheek and shoulder – feeling a sharp pull from his wound – he grabbed the fence again and started for his next resting place.

“Well just try to take it easy.” Jules – one of the few people he could take such cliched advice from. Well, and Abby. Did that count as two-timing?

“I'll have you know, I am the Wikipedia entry on taking it easy.” His foot skidded on gravel and he nearly lost the phone again until he got his balance. At his back he could hear footsteps – a pair slapping the ground in a regular rhythm. A few seconds later he was passed by what sounded like two joggers. He didn't miss the disgust filled mutter of “drunk”. Well that was a little harsh. He wasn't slurring or anything.

“Shawn, look, part of the reason I called... well...” As she spoke, Shawn took the risk of releasing the fence as he started to slide his feet across the sidewalk. Juliet breathed out through her pause as he felt his toe hit the soft edge of grass.

“Have you been able to remember anything of that night?”

He stopped, one foot on grass and the other on concrete. There was only one good reason for her to ask him that now.

“They set a trial date.”

He couldn't stand, unsupported, for long and before her next sigh he was on the move again – micro stepping towards the last known location of the bench.

“Two weeks from now.”

Crap. “That... that is fast. That's... What, is Johnnie Cochran representing them?”

“Shawn, Johnnie Cochran is dead.”

His shoulder was in agony now trying to hold his phone pinched at that odd angle. The multitasking thing was so not working. Grabbing the phone again and loosening the strain, he resorted to feeling the rest of the way with his feet – beyond relived when his shoe kicked the leg of the bench. During this mini drama, Juliet had continued to speak.

“Anyway, it's actually the DA that wants to push for a faster trial. Stanley has been out of the office a lot in the last few weeks for sick leave and I think that's part of the reason she's been so gung-ho about this. From what I've heard, there's still no word on whether or not she'll even be able to finish out the year.”

Shawn tipped his head back – barely remembering to shut his eyes to prevent further injury from the sun. He should have remembered his sunglasses.

“I thought the case was a slam dunk whether I testified or not.” He hoped he didn't sound bitter. He couldn't really help it though. He also hadn't answered her question. But then, she probably had her answer anyhow at this point.

“In all probability it is. They just want to be sure they have as much ammunition against these guys as possible.”

Yeah. Because a bullet in the brain wasn't enough all on its own. And how, exactly, would it go when he was asked if he could pick out his shooter in the courtroom? Was he supposed to get handsy with every face present or was random pointing preferred? 'Your honor, it's the menacing sounding dude on the right side of the room.' Granted, that all hinged on him remembering the event in the first place.

“Look, if I remember anything...” You'll be the first to know? That sounded like a brush off even in his head. He didn't mean to be snippy with Juliet. Especially not with Juliet. His dad? Heck yes – the guy more or less signed up for that abuse. Gus? To a lesser degree but he could defend himself if pushed too hard – even against an injured pal. Especially against an injured pal. Gus wasn't above fighting dirty.

“I'm trying, Jules.” He could afford the loss of some pride if it meant not alienating a friend. He was realizing how few of those he had when he truly needed them. It was bad drama at its best and he was fresh out of comic relief.

“I know you are.”

When he hung up, he slid his phone into his shirt pocket and slumped against the bench. He hadn't lied to Jules – he really was trying to remember. Mostly. The thing was, he wasn't sure how much he wanted to remember. He'd been told, as best as could be pieced together by people who hadn't been there, what had happened. But it was no different than a water-cooler chat about last night's episode of The Closer. It was exciting and would probably make a kick ass show, but it wasn't like he'd actually starred in the series. It was just a story.

He shivered though the temperature, he was sure, hadn't changed. Every so often he'd been getting chills – he'd like to claim they were psychic portents, but even Buzz would know they had more to do with the hole through his head. Nausea was next, nausea was always next, and he regretted his little Shawshank Redemption as he curled around the twisted rope of his gut.

More footsteps – more joggers that would see him as a well dressed bum. Puking wasn't going to help his cause.

“Shawn!”

Funny how that particular tone initiated hurling. He hoped there was no one in his line of fire as he evacuated the oatmeal and fruit he'd eaten only an hour earlier. No immediate screams so he had that much going for him. The touch on his shoulders caused a flinch even knowing who it was. He was far from used to unexpected contact – unexpected sounds. He had been trying to disguise his startle reactions but sometimes he couldn't prevent that sharp hitch in his shoulders – that gasp of breath.

A few more wet chugs in his throat brought up nothing more than air. Still, he remained curled over the arm of the bench until his inhaled breath no longer carried the urgent reflex to gag.

“You okay?”

“Fine.” He hissed back. His arm was in a sling, he had some fancy new ventilation in his skull and, oh yeah, he was blind! Clearly he was at the top of his game. But self-pity was for lesser wounds, ones that could actually be soothed with sweet treats – “we just heard 'ice cream' on our police radio and it happened to be Gus's snack time.”

Shawn spit a mouthful of foulness – his brain screaming to place that sudden memory. He couldn't see any images, but he heard his voice saying the words. It was getting to be really, really annoying.

He felt his father sit down beside him. He heard a rubbery thonk bump against the bench. He didn't fight it when hands tipped him up against the back of the bench. Weird how he could feel dizzy even without his vision.

“That was a fast shower.”

Even though his dad had released him again, his arm stayed across the bench behind his shoulder. He could feel its warmth on his neck.

“I didn't take a shower.”

Of course he hadn't. Of course not.

“You followed me.”

Maybe he should be pissed. He probably should be pissed. All he felt was the sun and the breeze and the ache spreading fast from his epic journey of fifty feet. Okay, he was a little pissed.

“Yep.”

Shawn twisted, trying to rub the back of his neck where the pain had begun to spike. He winced as his movements brought hurt to other places. A larger hand than his own settled at the base of his skull and gently started to knead. It hurt, just a little at first. But after some flinching and mumbles the massage seemed to help.

“So you were stalking me the whole time since I'd left the house, and yet, you couldn't be troubled to yell, 'hey Shawn, look out for the guy walking the Weimaraner!'”

Someone screeched near the waterline. Shawn tensed until he realized it was laughter.

“It was a Great Dane and I didn't realize the thing was that friendly until it was already jumping at you.”

And usually that wouldn't be a source of complaint, but a ninja mauling by a grizzly sized slobber yeti had nearly cost him the cleanliness of his underpants.

“You okay?”

Shawn snorted. “You asked me that already.”

His father rested his palm flat against the back of his neck. “I did.”

Shawn listened to the seagulls. They dipped close enough that he hear the wuff wuff of their wings lifting them through the air. He wanted to see them. He really wanted to see them.

“You don't happen to have a tic tac do you?”

The hand left his shoulder to make the sound of delicate clacks. His free hand was taken in a grip that was soft and a couple of the small mints were rested in his palm. They snapped their cold sweetness on his tongue when he tossed them in his mouth.

While he was occupied with breath refreshment, his father thumped something next to him.

“You left this at the house.”

His waving hand was caught again and guided towards a handle he recognized.

“Oh, that.” Yeah, that. As if leaving it behind hadn't been the whole point. He pushed at the rubber grip – tilting it away only to have it rock back when he released it. “It doesn't help.”

“Not if you don't use it.”

That, too, was also sort of the point. Not that he wanted to struggle for every step, but dragging that old man's cane everywhere he went just seemed to make things more difficult. The four, rubber tipped feet constantly caught on stuff and more than once he'd stumbled after catching his toe on one of them.

And also, it was an old man's cane.

“So you'd rather pull yourself along the edge of a fence than use something that's designed to help you balance?”

Awesome summation. The man could've been a detective. “Yes.”

“That's idiotic.”

“Your shirt is idiotic.”

He winced at that. His dad didn't comment on the obvious though.

He breathed out through his nose and tipped his face to the sky. Now that he'd made it to a destination of sorts, Shawn didn't know why it had seemed so important to escape. He was exhausted and he still had to make that long walk back. He could be listening to the ocean just as easily from the deck. Plus, there were beverages back at the house.

“What time is the appointment tomorrow?”

“Three – and no, you can't skip it.”

“I wasn't planning to!” He was, but that was his business. What could his doctor tell him that his eyes couldn't? His vision hadn't improved – there wasn't any to improve on in the first place. He was still getting headaches, but then he'd been told he'd probably have migraines for the next several weeks or even months. His right side was weak, his left side was shot, and his appetite was compromised by nausea. Unless Billy Crystal was waiting at the clinic with a Miracle Pill, he didn't see a lot of point in getting prodded for the sake of his health care premiums.

His head itched and he wished he'd remembered a hat. He was already sporting a dad do so may as well take it all the way. Really, the only benefit about the dusting of peach fuzz on his scalp was that he didn't have to worry about styling faux pas for a while.

“You look like you could use a nap.”

Apparently he'd closed his eyes.

“I could take one if you'd stop talking to me.”

His father snorted. “Your nose is already turning pink. Ten more minutes of this and it'll take a spatula to get you off this bench.”

And that was a bad thing? “So long as I don't have to walk.”

He wished he could at least start an argument. Funny how many of the things that cut a line in the sand between them had to do with his sight. His dad dating nymphomaniac banshees was one of the few that had remained open for tension; but even that one had lessened in recent years. The last hellcat had even gotten a scratch and sniff sticker of approval. Well, a Mr. Yuck face of tolerance might be a better analogy.

Shawn grabbed his cane and began to scoot to the edge of the bench. Things were starting to get a little too heavy in his brain. He'd left the house for a break from his thoughts but here he was, right back in that same rut again. He was right at the verge of touching that giant Dumbo taking up the majority of his thinking space – a pachyderm he had no intention of trying to identify with his hands. One blind man trying to figure out the odd shape in the middle of his head. Poor little Shawn thinks the tusk in his sweaty fingers is a handful of broken taillight – red shards that are the beginning of everything. He doesn't realize it's the bloodied pieces from his own skull. It isn't his future he's holding, it's the ruin of it.

He's on his feet for barely a second before his father's hands are braced around him. Such a violent tug of desires – to turn the support into comfort or to pull away. He hasn't dislodged the stone in his throat yet, though every day it feels bigger. If he allows his father to hold him, even to help, it just might slip free. So he shakes off the hands.

“I got it. Just... do me a favor and let me know if I'm about to step off a cliff or walk past the roasted peanuts guy, okay?”

There's a moment before his father speaks, a moment before his steps move to follow. It hadn't been meant as rejection, but in hindsight, that's probably what it had felt like. But whatever small hurt had come from him pulling away, it's left in the sand behind them.

“Sure thing.”

His father doesn't try to touch him, but he does walk by his side, matching step for limping step. By the time they get back to the house, he knows he'll have regretted his prison break far more than the thrill he'd felt when he'd thought he'd actually gotten away with it. But he also knows, now, that his dad doesn't plan to rub it in. He isn't seeking out pity but that doesn't mean he wants to be treated like a hopeless loser either.

And then his legs start to wobble and his father's hands are there, keeping him from a face plant and steadying him until he can brace himself up under his own strength. When the hands leave him again, he knows they don't move far – he can feel their heat near the middle of his back. He doesn't mind though, this time. There's a balance between them that they sometimes achieve. It won't last – it never does. But for now, they're doing okay.

It isn't perfect, but as Shrek said to Donkey, it will do.


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