Crawl Back in Bed, it isn't Morning Yet
He hated being alone. Like, really hated it. Hated when he couldn't hear the sound of breathing nearby or the soft brush of feet against the floor. Even his dad and that disturbing hovering habit would be okay.
To hear nothing... see nothing...
It didn't work, anymore, to pretend he was sitting in a room with the lights off. Even with the lights off at night there was always something – nightlight or digital clocks or even the neighbors porch light. Just a glow. Any glow. Anything. He'd never really been afraid of the dark but now he couldn't stop those fears from nestling in his chest.
He craved the familiar sounds because it was the ones he didn't know that made his skin crawl. Leaves scraping down the roof tiles were monsters he'd never quite tucked away from his childhood. 3D made imagining these horrors so much easier now, as if his own mind wasn't up to the task of forming tried and true like blade laden fingers or the new and improved shadow specters spinning webs from the ceiling and groaning through the floorboards. How could he believe that ghosts weren't real when he could hear them all around him?
The doorknob squeaked and his feet whipped to the floor. Fight and flight clashed and left him frozen, the knowing no competition for the could be on the other side of the door.
Knowing didn't mean shit if the could be turned out to be Michael Meyers.
The jiggle became a short creak of hinges, ending with a hard, rattling smack of the door slamming against the wall – no time for screaming as the hard breaths of his father preceded his footsteps first entering, then pausing as the door was kicked shut again. Hands were full and from the rattle of heavy paper he had at least two bags of groceries.
“Wow, dad, you actually have a list or did you just sweep the shelves as you walked down the aisle?” Did his voice squeak? He hoped his voice hadn't squeaked...
“That's funny, Shawn. I seemed to remember that the reason I had to go to store in the first place was because you complained about every food item in the house.”
“Not every item...”
“You don't like two percent milk because you claim it tastes like sweaty gym socks. You refuse to eat the bread because the seeds get stuck in your teeth. You don't like any cheese that isn't imported and aged at least a year. You think baby dill pickles are offensive to your masculinity. Do I need to involve your comments about the canned tuna or can I put the groceries away now?”
“You know how I feel about albacore in fresh spring water.” Seriously, who even bought regular tuna outside of feline enthusiasts? Unless Henry had a secret herd of strays he was renting out the garage to there was no reason for slipping standards.
Actually, he hoped the place hadn't become a haven for the flea-ridden because the last thing he needed to have waking him up at three a.m. would be the romantic yowls of cat lovers boning on the roof.
Steps came his way and he pushed himself up a bit, wincing at the pressure of using one hand.
Plastic crinkle and a shoosh of air and a small weight dropped into his lap. Anticipated but it still caused a tiny jerk – his hand feeling across the smooth wrapper to identify a bag that either contained M&Ms or Skittles. Or possibly Reece's Pieces. He shook the bag before bringing it to his nose. Spree candy – not on his mental list but it would have been, his mouth watering at the fruity blast that seeped through the plastic.
“Thanks!” Of course the thanks became a grunt when his single hand couldn't breach the three levels of security clearance required to access the chewy treats. Knuckles brushed his own as the bag was tugged away – a plasticy rip and a burst of tangy sweetness flooding his nose as the opened bag was settled back into his paws. He was careful to keep the open end up as he fished out a handful of candy. The tartness made his eyes squint but it was a good tartness – a roar of flavor he'd not experienced a whole lot since his release from medicated jail.
Speaking of medicine.
“Hey, what time is it?”
His dad's voice carried from a slight distance – muffled. Probably had his head in a cabinet. “Three-thirty. You have another half hour before you need your pills.”
So said the guy without the throbbing temples. Not just his head, his whole body was stiffening again after sitting for so long. But standing wasn't any better – walking a joke even with his four footed walking stick. He was supposed to be doing daily exercises, and he was, but only when Abby was there to help. Physical therapy with the potential of leading to a personal massage – that he could do. Embarrassing invasion of personal space by his overprotective and critical parent? Never going to happen. Not even with the threat of permanent disability.
Couldn't get more permanent than it already was.
“Well how about a-” Cold, wet cloth pushed into his free hand. He hadn't even heard the old man creep up on him and he'd be damned if he let him know how much that had startled him – covering the little girl shriek with a high pitched cough. His thanks was more mumbled this time as he pressed it against his forehead. He heard the steps retreat, wondering how he'd missed the camel clomp of sneakers thudding, first on wood, and then on the carpet in the hall. Rustling resumed as groceries were dispersed throughout the kitchen. Shawn snacked on his fruit treats and idly wiggled his sock covered toes.
He felt like an idiot – a child shivering under the blankets at the tree branches clicking his window. The moment he'd heard his father moving about – natural, known sounds – he'd actually begun to feel sleepy. It was hard to sleep when his ears were in a steady search for sounds. For threats.
How could he be convinced the nightmare was over when he couldn't open his eyes and see the safety of his own room?
His jaw was starting to ache from chewing – no surprise as he'd been shoveling the chewy snacks in his maw one after the other. It was only the hot ripple in his belly, creeping up his chest so much like the first threatening tremor of a magma driven eruption, that dropped the bag from his fingers. Multiple plap, plap, plaps of scattered soft candy as his right leg swept to the floor.
“Dad...” Lips clamped, acid coughing up into his throat. Whistling from the other room now, Shawn hadn't even known his father knew who Radiohead was, much less had a rough grasp of their music. The off tune reinterpretation of Karma Police added just the right ambiance to the full body spill to the floor as Shawn made one heroic lunge towards the first floor bathroom – and smashed his ribs against the coffee table he'd forgotten was there.
His father's startled yell came about the same time as the Dante's Peak event he'd been hoping to outrun. All those poor villagers – they never stood a chance.
He'd become very skilled at puking his guts out in the last few weeks. Maybe not something to brag about. That's what Gus had hissed at him in a sorta wet spray when he'd expounded on his prowess slung over a toilet seat to anyone in earshot. Granted, it may have been for phrasing it that way. Gus was always so particular about how his best friend embarrassed him in public.
While never his favorite activity, he was sorry to have missed the technicolor waterfall his father was currently enjoying. His own mind painted a scene with brilliant reds and greens, sapphire blues and orangey yellows, grapeity purples... Not quite so much Rainbow Brite, it felt more like the county fair scene in Stand By Me.
He knew the table had saved him from face planting in his Crayola hued masterpiece and for that he was willing to overlook the new bruise to his midsection. He'd avoided hitting his head which meant he'd also avoided another ER visit. He was glad of this because a crazy crowded hallway packed with screaming dying masses was grand mal overload for his newer, flinchier self.
“Just let it happen. It's almost over...”
The pom pom thing had never fit his father – far more inclined to instruct him on his aim, even while blindfolded. Insert ironic laugh. And yet, the old man was going for the soft pitch instead.
Another full body lurch, shoulders hitching forward around the choked gag, dribble of acid joining the rest of the slaughter. Drowning calf sounds as he went against his father's advice and tried to call the game before realizing they were going into extra innings. How many of those damn things had he eaten anyhow?
Ans on and on the gentle rub of a firm palm on his back, working circles into his muscles as he strained out another yack of bitterness. He wanted to slump over his shaking arms – gut, rock tight and drawn up into his chest, every convulsion making it harder to stop, slippery slope that forced tears of pained effort down his cheeks. Healing bruises ached afresh, throbbing down his spine and tailbone where rocks had dug craters in his flesh. His knees ached from kneeling, his chest from the pressure of lying across the table. He was ready to give up when finally, finally, the helpless urge began to fade – swallows and breaths and a frantic whine melting together as his dad helped him to sit up, and then lean back against the base of the couch.
“I'll be right back. I'm just going to grab you some water.”
Shawn nodded, holding apology for when his dad returned.
Though not the worse part of an up chuck party – that belonging to the event itself – the after party, stale mouth flavors while waiting for a bottle of Scope and handful of Aspirin, rated up there as a very close second. Setting one hand to the floor for balance, something he lost frequently these days even when sitting, he felt the rubbery squishiness of a fruit snack under his palm. Though the catalyst to his recent purging, he didn't hesitate to stick the soft sweetness between his teeth to replace that sour bile flavor with anything else. He immediately began searching for more.
He'd recovered three, two lime and an orange, before his father's steps brought the old man back in time to bat the fourth snack from his fingers.
“Here, swish out your mouth and quit eating those damn things before you puke again.”
“And then what, spit it on the floor? Not that it isn't already...” His dad took his fingers and guided them to a small bucket. “Oh.”
He swished and spit as instructed, then lounged back with the water bottle as his dad took the bucket back to the kitchen and returned with something that stank like fake lemons. Better than something that stank like vomit though, he supposed.
“Sorry...” His fingers tapped the plastic lip of the bottle, his head tilting as he followed the sounds of scrubbing – the snap of joints – the small grunts as Henry knelt to clean the floor.
“Not your fault, kid.”
Well true... though he could have eased up on the chow down – could have moved faster towards the bathroom...
No, dad was right. It wasn't his fault.
It was his dad's fault. After all, his father was the one who'd bought him the candy and he was also the one who'd insisted on keeping the four hundred pound coffee table at a perfect tripping angle. He was also the one withholding medication that controlled both the nausea as well as the drilling migraine – tied to some archaic script that set limits on dosage as well as a timetable for when said dosage could slip and slide down his gullet and stop the torture for another five hours.
Sitting on the floor had stopped being fun about three seconds into his knees first touching down, so Shawn tapped reached the bottle forward until he felt it touch the table – scooting it forward several inches to make sure it wouldn't topple off again. Then he swung his arm backward and gripped a couch cushion, glad when his father gave him the extra leverage to actually get his butt off the floorboards.
While he was still twitching around so that the least amount of bruised area was under pressure, his dad grabbed his water bottle and pressed it into his hand. And then he was abandoned when the phone rang.
Settled as well as he could be, Shawn now found himself stuck with a new problem. While he couldn't watch television he could still listen to it and he needed to extract the remote from wherever it was hiding. Which meant putting down his water. Which meant leaning half off the couch to set it on the floor. Which meant either risking a smashed nose or an encore performance from ten minutes ago.
There wasn't a lot of water left, maybe he should just chug it...
“What can I do for you, Detective?”
Safe money was on Juliet; Lassie hadn't been given to status calls past the first week and those had been to find out how the whole memory thing was coming along. Not one to accept a no answer he'd bulldogged until ole' dad had pilfered the phone and laid into the man.
“Shawn's okay... no. No, not yet.”
Same questions. Same answers. TV had lost its attraction in the last few minutes, sleepiness replacing the desire for entertainment. Even without his medication he had a hard time staying awake for any length of time. It was the dark.
“What are you trying to say?”
His father's half of the phone conversation became abruptly tense, the silence afterward spreading through the whole house. Floorboards creaked as Henry walked through the kitchen – too slow to be anything other than pacing.
Shawn pushed up a little more – his hand accidentally pressing down on the remote – the blast of sound as the TV flipped on making him jump and swallowing whatever else his father was saying.
“Dammit...” Digging the thing out from under his leg, he fumbled with one hand until he could get it facing the right way, feeling his way towards the power button at the top and breathing out at the sudden silence.
“No, I'll tell him. Thank you, Juliet.”
Well that confirmed the caller anyhow. But not the topic of their chat. And the soft curse after his father said his goodbyes only raised the hairs on Shawn's neck.
Not an immediate answer, only the shift of feet on wood. Shawn tilted his head, what Gus had begun referring to as swiveling his antenna, while listening for any sort of response. Finally he heard a long breath and then his dad moved across the kitchen. Not, Shawn frowned, back into the living room.
The refrigerator door opened with the sound of bottles clinking together. A scrape of something being removed from a glass shelf and the fridge door shut again with a soft WHUMF. Feet walking back across the floor. Now the clatter of the dish washer door and the bump of plastic. By the time he heard the clunky splash he'd put together that his dad was pouring a glass of iced tea laden with cubes. At least he hadn't gone for alcohol.
Sounds repeated themselves in reverse as the pitcher of tea was returned to the fridge and then he finally heard the steps carrying themselves back towards the couch.
The cushion dipped as his dad settled beside him. Lighter clinks as he took several swallows of tea followed by a clunk as the glass was set on the coffee table.
“-Jules. I know.” Shawn tapped his ears though he had no idea if his father was looking at him.
Another gentle shift of the cushion. Dad wasn't known for being twitchy so it set off the early warning system that he seemed to be jumping out of his skin.
“Holy crap, Chief Vick is preggers!”
He felt the whole couch jerk with his father at the sudden shout.
“What? No – Shawn...”
“Lassie grew a ZZ Top beard-”
“Gus streaked the station!”
“Shawn- Shawn!” Firm hand wrapped around his arm and demanded his scrawling attention – diversion – whatever it was he'd been attempting to lighten the tension and rid the room of the weight that seemed so much heavier without the ability to focus on visuals.
A few seconds that passed with a sigh and another shift. He noticed that his father hadn't released his arm yet.
“Detective O'Hara wanted to know how you're doing.” The hand squeezed briefly before letting go. Shawn frowned towards the direction of his father's voice, recalling what he'd heard of the conversation.
“No, she wanted to know if I'd remembered anything.”
The couch moved as his father leaned forward – glass making a small sound as he lifted it from the table for another sip, and then leaned back again.
The anger was hot, fast, and burned off his tongue like acid.
“You think I haven't been trying to every damn day!?”
He felt the tremor in his body as he thrust out his hand, luck or instinct shoving away the hand his father had been reaching towards him.
“Shawn, I know it's hard...”
“Let me guess, you want me to close my eyes, right?” The anger was worsening, a shifting sickness of fear, frustration, and a giant surge at the injustice – the unfairness of it all.
“I can't remember! I hear – bits... and pieces of things and none of it makes sense! All I remember is that one minute I'm talking to Gus in the car and the next I'm waking up blind... the last thing I remember seeing is...” He chuffed, the outburst draining out into an exhausted laugh. “I remember a peace sign.”
He picked at his sling, finding a loose thread to toy with.
“A peace sign?”
He sniffed, rubbing his nose. “Yeah.”
His father hummed and Shawn could imagine his head nodding.
“What color was the sign?”
Shawn knew this sort of interrogation and it pissed him off. Still, his quota for furious squalling had been met so he let it pass and shrugged the shoulder that wasn't on fire. “I dunno... yellow? It was getting dark but...”
Blast of chilled air, roaring tires, hurt, hurt, hurt, have to move – move now!
“It... it was getting dark...” When he'd been driving with Gus, it had been the middle of the day. He pushed – like every memory that had seeped up from the molasses in his head. He actually did close his eyes, squeezing them tight, fingertips almost burrowing into his skull to physically drag the slipping vision back. He let out a gasp – it was sooo close!
And then it skittered away.
He yelled, sharp, as it was lost again.
Black, black, black, everything was black. And not the good black like dark chocolate and Gus and the chicken at Kingstons.
He wanted to see. He was desperate to see and the never ending dark was like claustrophobia – tight, cramped panic in the back of his throat that was getting harder and harder to bury. He sniffed again and wrapped his hand around the back of his head – hating the prickly feel of barely there hair. He would not cry. Not in private and sure as hell not in front of his father.
It was close but a few shaky breaths were starting to help bring him out of a place that was as unfamiliar to him as Juliet's bedroom.
Okay, maybe not a comparison he should have made and not just because those two places were as far removed as Gus was from a date with Nikki Flores.
His father's hand pressed against his knee and he let it rest there without slapping him away this time. There was still enough filtered anger that would have let him feel satisfaction by the act, but there was a greater part of him that just wanted to get over the nauseating emotional upchuck.
He was quite tired of vomit in all its forms.
One last sniffle and he felt around for the bottle he'd lost track of some time ago.
“Here.” Familiar feel of his hand guided and the plastic was wrapped in his fingers.
“Thanks.” Rusty response was liquefied and he swallowed until the water was gone, letting his dad take the empty bottle again.
Now he wished his father would leave. This was why they didn't do emotions. Nothing good ever came from a blow out. Especially now when storming out had been removed from the table. Leftover outrage and creeping embarrassment mixed about as well as hot sauce and tequila and had the same effect on his gut. Acid reflux was the bitch slap he didn't need punctuating the evening.
Here goes. Whatever Henry had to say it was guaranteed to make everything worse. The man wasn't gifted with subtlety or tact and Shawn was embarrassed enough without the apology dressed as hemming and hawing and something about the circle of life.
“Dad...” - “There was another reason Detective O'Hara called.”
So apology was shelved for later. But that didn't matter now with the return of stomach moths fluttering up and down his diaphragm. He said nothing – waiting for his father to continue. When he did, it was bandage ripping fast.
“John Rollins is being released from prison tomorrow. His partner, MacQuarrie, is taking the fall for the whole thing.”
Shawn forced his hand to his side to hide the tremble. Rollins. One half of the team responsible for kidnapping him. Shooting him. Leaving him for dead. Lassie had interrogated both men and had been certain Rollins was the mastermind – MacQuarrie's Rubik's cube not exactly colored on all sides.
And Shawn understood, then, why Juliet had wanted to know if his memory had come back.
Because without his version of events, they couldn't stop this from happening.
And in twenty four hours, the man that had attempted to murder him... would walk free.