Day One Million, I'm Still Down Here, God
Water beads drizzled, unimpeded, off the back of his scalp. His shoulder ached without a sling to support his arm. He held it crooked across his chest as he felt around for the tap, ending the spray and wiping off his face before grabbing the metal rim of the shower door and carefully stepping out.
He used his feet to test the placement of the rug, not needing another slip on wet tile. Letting go of the shower once he was stable, he bent forward until he could get his hand on the sink and inch his way on still shaky legs to the towel folded nearby. Turning to brace his lower back against the sink, he one-handed scrubbed the wet from his body before wrapping the damp towel around his waist and slide stepped, arm waving before him, towards the door.
He dressed in he bedroom, making sure to run his hand down his chest to check that the buttons were on the front and not the back. Several times now he'd put his clothes on backward or inside out and it was always embarrassing to have either his father, Gus, or Abby notice his wardrobe malfunctions.
With the tags torn out of his t-shirt he had no idea if it was on right, though Abby had offered to sew a button on the inside seam to help him out. He'd brushed it off earlier but didn't quite know why. But with the button up shirt over the top he supposed it didn't really matter. Of course, he had no idea if the shirts clashed or not...
Maybe just the t-shirt then...
But then he was back to the original problem.
He couldn't care less if his shirts actually matched, but he hated the thought that he was being pitied for it. Poor blind man can't even dress himself. Poor blind man can't cross the street without someone holding his hand. Poor blind man can't eat without stabbing his lip with his fork.
Buttoning his shirt right up to the collar, he reached for his sling. It wasn't there. He was positive he'd left it on his pillow but now the soft velvet he'd been expecting to feel was gone. Pulling his legs up on the mattress, he felt across both pillows, slipped his hand beneath them, and even felt along the top edge were his bed met the wall. Nothing. Irritated now, he moved his investigation back to the main part of the bed, swearing with growing frequency and volume when his luck remained just as dismal.
If he could see... He squashed that thought and moved back to the pillows, first feeling across them and then flipping them off the bed completely in anger – ignoring the clatter of something toppling. He knew his temper loss wasn't helping but frustration had been short fused and swallowed too many times to hold back any longer.
“DAMN IT!” The shout felt good but the sling didn't magically whisk into his hand and the following seconds started a throb in his temples. Next to go off the bed was his blanket, though it bunched around his legs and he had to kick at it for some moments before dropping down on the center of his stripped mattress. When he rubbed his forehead it was warm and sweaty.
Crap. No way dad couldn't have heard his tantrum even if he'd been outside mowing the lawn. Shawn scooted back and let his head rest against the wall. Too much activity and his body was paying for it. His heart pounded and even that pissed him off. He was so tired of being tired.
He heard the floor creak as his father stepped into the room. Shuffling – soft – must be in his socks. Probably the ones with the holes in the heel. A grunt and joint snap as his father bent.
Shawn reached out after a second, his hand moving back and forth until something soft pressed into it. He felt his cheeks heat up and he barely managed to mutter out gratitude.
“You want some help...”
“I got it.”
He was tired of help.
Everybody wanted to help, no matter how simple the task was. He was sick of the attention – not the fun kind that he normally sought out but the kind that left him feeling useless and weirdly ashamed. His father had been going for the win as worst offender – constantly fussing like a momma chicken over her wayward brood. It was against the typical grain and it had bypassed unsettling in a way that made Shawn wish for a little aggravated yelling to balance things out. The only one worse was Abby, especially this last week. She was just so... clingy.
His blindness was the big purple monkey in the room that everyone either wanted to talk about or ignore completely. He preferred the latter though, having discussed it so many times with so many people he wanted to body check the next person who brought it up. The next person to start off a sentence with “How are you feeling?”
Not that he knew what to offer as an alternative topic. He just couldn't stand the constant fretting. He didn't have to see to feel it humming around him – worry wasps that hovered over his skin, vibrating at a frequency that made his teeth ache.
His father, another vibrating hovering creature, hadn't moved since passing him his sling. Shawn huffed as he worked the contraption back on, chewing his tongue and tightening his eyes as he wrestled his arm through the opening and got it settled on his shoulder. No doubt that pops had been just waiting for the chance to take over if the operation had been in danger of failing.
“Hand me my socks?” No way had they survived the destructive moment and he wasn't in the mood for another search.
Rather than go for the easy find in the dresser, his dad walked first towards the door, and then across the room to the closet. When he came back, not only did he have the wayward socks but the pillows and blankets too, which he slid behind Shawn's back before creaking back towards the door.
“Abigail called. She's coming over in about twenty minutes.”
Shawn had one sock halfway worked over his toes. Turning his head to the comment he thought through what to say, but only nodded instead. Abby hadn't been over to see him since three nights ago when she'd played Backdraft with their dinner. Not that she didn't call every day – he was right about her being clingy, she just wasn't present.
Getting the second sock on, Shawn scooted to the edge of the bed and dropped his feet down. Feeling out the surface, he came across his dad's old man slippers. He wasn't sure whether to be grateful or irritated by the overprotectiveness but he still pushed his feet into them – accepting that the rubber soles were better traction than the cotton of his socks.
The walk down the stairs, as always, took some time, though he was grateful that if he had to have an arm in a sling, it wasn't the one needed to brace against the wall since there was a fairly deadly opening into the kitchen on the other side.
His father handed him the metal cane when he reached the ground floor and he didn't bother arguing this time. Thumping towards the living room, he used both the clunky cane and his left foot to feel for obstacles. The doctor had promised a slenderer cane once the bruises on his legs healed some more. Not that he wasn't still hinting for a seeing-eye mastiff. And once he got his sight back he could rock the whole Turner and Hooch vibe. Without the whole dog dying at the end of the movie of course.
It struck him that he didn't know what day it was. But then, he often didn't know what month it was so that wasn't too shocking. Not knowing what time of day it was, as in day or night, was more difficult to get used to. So far his best guide was standing by the window to feel the heat from the sun. Not that it always worked – rainstorms threw that off a bit.
Finding the back door was uneventful and he barely noted his father saying lunch was nearly ready as he stepped out to the deck and hung a right towards the far railing. He listened to the clomp of his feet against the worn wood, and then tipped his face up at the breeze that slicked cool across his eyelids.
Forgetting to pay attention, he tangled up the base of the cane with something on the deck and hopped wildly to catch his balance, free arm releasing the cane to shoot out and crack against the outer wall. Knuckles scraped but he was able to keep on his feet, breathing hard through the vertigo.
He could hear his father inside the house, though the steps were crossing the floor fast towards the back door. Feeling his cheeks getting hot, Shawn felt around for his cane, finding the rubber head by luck and wrenching at it viciously until he finally freed it from whatever it had snagged on. Something rocked after he yanked it loose, the toppling clatter of wicker on wood identifying the object as one of the deck chairs.
He turned away from the door as it opened across from him.
“Nothing to see here,” he swallowed around the words and smirked before coughing out the stickiness in his throat. “Strong wind. Blew it right over...”
Steps followed by scrapes as the chair was righted.
“You've got a choice of turkey or ham.”
“Ham. But only if I can have cheese too. And no bacon, you always make it too crispy. And mayo. And mustard but the yellow kind not that schmancy poo poo junk.”
An irritated grunt was a more familiar response. “Anything else, your highness?”
“Chocolate banana smoothie?”
“You have a choice of water or ginger ale.”
Shawn grimaced. “Fine. Chocolate milk it is.”
He made compromises but only on his terms and with the sigh and retreating steps he knew he'd bartered the old man down to what he'd wanted in the first place. Not that he'd have turned down a smoothie but better to shoot high.
Lassiter had been forced to abandon his tail of Rollins after two days. Reduced to drive-bys of the apartment on his off time, he knew that the man was still living there but not what he was up to beyond that. According to the guy at the pawn shop, he hadn't been back there again after that single visit. Not that baldy was Mr. Trustworthy but with no justification for subpoenaing the video footage from the shop's security cameras, he had to take his word for it.
Vick had been firm after discovering his surveillance. The man was innocent. Knock it off or risk a write up in his file. Whatever her thoughts on the issue he wasn't privy but she'd made it clear where the SBPD stood with regards to Rollins. Case closed.
Back to robberies and reports and red tape, Lassiter drank the last of his coffee and immediately wished for more. O'Hara, sitting a short distance away at her desk, looked as frustrated as he was about the politics in their latest case. Never easy when the wheels of justice where gummed up with lawyers. Especially when one of those lawyers was the father of the criminal cooling his heels in lock up. At least until daddy got his precious boy freed on some sort of fabricated technicality.
His partner sighed and he glanced up as she pushed away from her desk. Excellent! She was probably going for coffee too which meant... He held out his cup as she started past. “Hey, get me a cup t... O'Hara?”
Nothing. She just kept going like he'd been speaking to the wall. Damn it! “McNab!”
Long limbs moved the young man across the floor like a lab scrabbling wet paws on tile. “Sir?”
Lassiter held up his cup and after a brief second of waiting for the light to dawn, McNab caught on and smiled, taking the mug. “Three creams four sugars?”
“You got it. Leave on my desk.”
“Yes sir!” God if the rest of the station could dredge up that much enthusiasm for even the most menial task no criminal in the city would stand a chance.
O'Hara was easy to catch up to. She didn't have his stride for one and with her expression her destination was easy enough to deduct. He was at her side by the time she reached the fitness room. She'd been hitting the track pretty hard lately and while he supported fitness and health her timing could be better.
“I assume you finished that report?”
“Carlton, not now.” Irritation and a glare that might make a rookie shiver wasn't much impact when the woman he had to answer to could bust them both down to traffic duty on a whim. He preferred not to give her excuses. He opened his mouth-
“I said not now!” Okay so her glare could be a little scary at full strength. Of course, intimidation had a funny way of pissing him off. His finger rose to point.
And her nail adorned index skewered him mid chest. “Look! I have been at my desk for the last five hours – I skipped lunch, I've got a Charley horse in the back of my neck, and the only thing I want to do is return the circulation to my butt before the tissue starts to die!” He swore there was a pop of skin as she released the talon from his flesh and he resisted the compulsion to rub at the crescent puncture he swore was there.
“Now,” O'Hara gave him another foot of space as she reached for the door, “you can either get out of my way... or you can join me. And don't tell me you haven't been thinking about a few laps yourself.” She smirked.
It made his fingers twitch to leave his own report incomplete on his desktop but there was a desperate tweak to his partner's expression that made this the easier choice.
“Fine. But later, you're coming with me to the range. Your aim has gotten a little shoddy and you could use a few hours brushing up.”
He got a glare but he also got agreement. And without further argument he followed her inside.
Shawn had escaped again, though he'd made certain his warden was fully occupied with the newspaper behind the bathroom door. All he'd needed were a few minutes to limp out the door and away from the house to feel the relief of being out from under steady scrutiny. He'd brought the damn cane with as well but only to prevent a sequel to the last prison break. More Shawshank Redemption than Death Race though without the touchy hands. Dad made a passable Warden Norton.
Squeak, clup, squeak, clup
He'd gone the other way this time and avoided the Great Dane, Harold or Barry or something, it's been hard to hear Mrs. Nusbaum calling to her young elephant over the barking.
Fewer houses in this direction with the sidewalk giving way to a long beach to the right and a bluff on the left. More sounds of excited screams and laughter with the surf filling in the cracks – flowing over the top like bubbly icing.
He was making better distance this time, hoping to reach the loose pile of boulders and driftwood where teenagers held bonfire parties almost every night over summer break. Dad hated it but for Shawn it was a series of memories about his first hangover, his first kiss involving tongue, listening to music that both dad and Gus wouldn't have approved of, and getting inspired to pierce his ear when one of his random and fleeting bonfire friends had his lobe punctured right then and there by an inebriated pal wielding a safety pin. Shawn, of course, being not a fan of either blood or STDs, had chosen the more sanitary conditions of a mall kiosk.
He reached the end of the sidewalk faster than he'd planned and stumbled hard when his left foot caught in the sand dusted grass. His cane swept out and kept him from tumbling but it was an awkward sprawl of limbs for a second or two before he could gather all his bits together and hope he'd avoided any ogling.
Barely a step away from the sidewalk and he was already realizing the complication of his path. He couldn't anticipate any of the surface changes – lumpy grass a far cry from the smooth cement. Even his memory was no help because the sand shifted daily and what he saw in his mind wasn't what his feet encountered. Three more times he stumbled before bracing his knees and gripping his hand tight around the cane handle. He realized, with a thump of dry fear in his throat, that he was stuck.
He could call for help... somewhere distant there were still voices on the wind. But they were a ways distant now and would they even pay attention to him? And was he so stuck that he was okay with the embarrassment of being rescued from the scary grass?
“You alright there, son?”
The slight rasp of the voice out of the blank air was close enough to make him jump – he still wasn't doing a good enough job of really focusing on his hearing to know when people were creeping up behind him and honestly, he figured people should be watching out for him rather than the other way around.
“Awesome.” He waved to the open air before quickly grabbing at his cane again as he wobbled. His feet weren't planted well and he didn't dare shift them in case he went all the way down and became trapped forever on the beach. Well at least he had the bum look going – though Abby was already threatening to hire a sheep shearer.
His rough voice laughed though it didn't exactly sound mean. Definitely amused. But the point was, he laughed.
“Need a hand?”
Shawn smirked. “I never turn away applause.”
Not commenting on the comment, the other man moved closer until his hand wrapped around Shawn's elbow. “Little rough right here – just lift your feet high.”
Shawn could feel the roughness of the man's skin – calloused like his dad but the hands were slightly smaller. The man was a bit taller than him and from his movements, a bit more slender. They only needed a few steps before they were back on the sidewalk.
“Thanks man.” As soon as he was released, he struck his hand out in the open air. “Shawn.”
Grip returned in a short shake. “David. David Martin.”
Shawn began the trek back along the known part of the path. “You here for the scenery or just to rescue gorgeous psychics in distress?”
David chuckled, his footsteps placing him about two feet behind Shawn, his pace relaxed, heels dragging just a bit across the sidewalk. “Staying with some friends at their beach house for the summer. Thought I'd come down by the ocean for a bit for some fresh air. How about you? You live around here?”
Shawn slowed as his legs began to throb a bit. Angling towards where he knew a bench was resting, he felt around with his toes until they brushed the metal foot. Positioning himself so he wouldn't miss the seat, he lowered his butt to the painted metal.
“I'm staying with my dad for a few weeks but I have an apartment in town.” He felt the man move past him before he, too, sat down on the bench. The smell of oil and grease lifted from the man's clothing.
“You're a mechanic?” Usually he'd make that a statement but without visuals he still wasn't quite ready for leaps.
“...No, I uh... I'm just fixing up an old car for my buddy.” Why that made him uneasy Shawn didn't know, care, or want to pursue. He was tired and it was past time for his pain medication. He could already feel the sting in his skull that was the start of another migraine. He wanted to get back to the house before it got too bad which meant saying goodbye to his new pal.
Shawn rubbed his fingers across his eyebrows. “Yeah, no... just headache. Look, I need to head back. Nice meeting you though.” His fingers clutched the cane as he pulled himself back to his feet. David stood too and Shawn could feel the pressure of his fingers brush next to his sleeve.
“You sure you don't need a hand getting back?”
Shawn wouldn't turn down a piggy back ride but asking for that from a stranger probably wasn't the best way to start a relationship. “I'm good. Just... could you make sure I'm pointed towards that row of bungalows near the cluster of palm trees?”
“You're good to go man.”
David seemed content to lounge on the bench so Shawn tipped his fingers once and headed back.
By the time he reached the house he was nearly stumbling and didn't complain when his father met him on the sidewalk out front to half carry him the rest of the way.
“Friend of yours?” Not a reprimand, yet. But the suspicion was comforting in its level of predictability.
“Some guy. Saved me from the Sarlacc.” He could hear the smack of wind that the reference left behind as it coasted over his father's shiny scalp.
“What did the doctor say about you taking off like that?”
And there it was...
He was inside and headed for the couch before realizing his father was still standing at the door. Shawn sighed and gave in to the extra exertion to round up the old man. He knew he'd been ignored when he thrust his hand into his dad's face to feel that his gaze was facing back towards the sidewalk.
“Hey-Shawn!” Wiping away the dirty digits his father spit at the taste of the one pinky that had lodged in his mouth.
“Are you spying on my rescuer?”
“I'm not spying.” Door hit the frame as his dad moved back into the house and beelined for the fridge. Two clanking bottles of unknown identity turned out to be cream soda as Shawn took a trusting sip at what was shoved in his hand. A second later, two pills were added to his afternoon snack and he downed them without pause.
“Then you were leering. Look, dad, if you want to meet this guy we'll have him over for burgers. But just so long as we order from Chubbies, I don't think you can afford a lawsuit.” The couch caught his butt and there was only a small wince before he slumped down and let his cane tip to the floor.
The growl was pitch perfect irritation as his father righted the walking tool and squeaked springs as he sat across from him. “First of all, my burgers are just fine. The only one who ever bitches about the lack of topping choices is you. Secondly, I have no interest in meeting some random beach bum just because two seconds worth of interaction has turned him into Gary Cooper-”
Shawn frowned. “The gay neighbor in American Beauty?”
“That was Chris Cooper. Look, I could care less who you make friends with just...” some shifting around and a swallow before his dad clacked his bottle on the coffee table. “Just be careful, alright?”
It was hushed enough that Shawn didn't feel the desire to mock the overprotectiveness this time. Dad, not waiting for even a nod, cut apart the weird silence by turning on the television and ending whatever else they might have discussed by bumping the volume.
After a few mellow seconds of letting the floaty medication carry his mind a few inches left, Shawn decided he didn't care about the odd moment between them. Instead, he settled in to listen to the sports highlights.
Five minutes later, he was dreaming.