"…Hey, buddy." Shawn leaned more of his weight back into the corner of the closet. Talking took a lot more effort now than it did ten minutes ago. And effort was tiring.
"Shawn!" Gus' relieved tone was almost comforting to Shawn. Gus cared. He was going to rescue him. "Are you alright?"
Shawn swallowed, then whispered, "Define…alright."
Gus' voice suddenly switched to Henry's, and Shawn barely took notice. "Shawn, where are you, son? Are you safe?"
"You're on speaker," added Gus.
Suddenly, someone with a voice very similar to the chief's, yelled, "Someone get a trace on this call! Now!"
"I'm… I'm in a closet," said Shawn, still not opening his eyes. His little safe haven was cold and quiet. He could rest.
"A closet?" asked Henry. "Shawn—"
"Is—is Lassie with you?" asked Shawn. His breathing was slowing and he felt a great deal heavier. Shawn's heart stuttered in his chest, and he cracked his eyes open, panicked. What was going on with him?
"Spencer! What the hell were you doing at a sketchy cab station?"
That was Lassiter, no question about it.
"In my defense… I didn't know… it was sketchy… at the time," said Shawn, trying desperately to catch his breath. He felt his eyes drift shut again. "Lassie… you—you met my kidnappers.."
There was silence on the other line, followed by a hissed curse word that Shawn barely caught.
"Do you know why they took you, Shawn?" asked Vick.
"Something…" whispered Shawn, shifting uncomfortably in the corner. "Something about money. At the station."
Shawn heard Lassiter and Vick talking to the others, but Shawn didn't have the strength to listen. He sank further back into the wall, his head starting to fall to his shoulder.
Shawn jolted upright, his eyes flying back open. His head burned. He gripped the phone with a shaking hand and pressed it back to his ear. He'd been so, so close to unconsciousness. "Sorry," he whispered.
"We know what they're after," said Lassiter. "We've got the five mill—"
"Son, you said you were hurt," said Henry suddenly, interrupting Lassiter.
"Mhm," mumbled Shawn. Shawn's eyes were closed again. He didn't remember closing them.
"Shawn!" Henry nearly shouted. "Stay with us, kid! Now, where are you hurt?"
"M'head," slurred Shawn, feeling his head tilt dangerously close to his shoulder again. He mentally shook himself again. "I'm…. I'm really tired."
"No, Shawn! You have to stay awake!"
Shawn's eyes opened. That wasn't his dad's voice. Not Gus'. Not Lassiter's. Not even the chief's. His breath hitched.
Juliet paused, then said, "Yeah, Shawn, it's me."
A mix of emotions trailed through him, enough to cause a sharp stab of pain in his head. Shawn took a sharp breath, pushing even further back into the wall. He was hit by such a strong wave of vertigo he almost dropped the phone. "Anytime you guys… you guys wanna come rescue me," said Shawn as the pain began to subside and he leaned back into the corner, "would… would be good."
"Where are the people who took you?" asked the chief suddenly.
Shawn paused, trying to work up the courage to speak. He felt his eyes shut again. "I'm not sure. One—one of them is looking… for me."
"We've got a trace on him!" an unfamiliar voice shouted. Dull relief coursed through Shawn's veins. He wanted to say something, but the words didn't come. He felt himself slipping down the wall as his body felt very, very heavy.
"—hear that, Shawn?" asked Gus. "We're coming for you, buddy!"
Shawn's head slowly fell to his shoulder again but he didn't have the strength to lift it. He knew he should open his eyes. He knew what would happen if he didn't. He could vaguely hear someone trying to get his attention, but his hand was pulling away, the phone no longer by his ear.
After what seemed like only a moment, Shawn jolted at a voice. Voices were yelling. Shawn's eyes shot open and he quickly realized he had just momentarily passed out. But how long was he out?
And what happened to the phone?
Dazed, Shawn fumbled with his hands along the closest floor, looking for where he dropped the device.
Until he realized what it was that woke him up.
The door to the apartment he was hiding in burst open, and Shawn heard the voices clearer now.
"—hiding in one of these damned rooms, isn't he?"
"I've already searched the others, it's got to be this one."
"This is why I shouldn't have left you in charge, Trent! Useless! Completely useless!"
Shawn felt the floor creak underneath their weight, and he froze, terrified. They were walking toward the closet. Shawn clamped a hand over his mouth, trying to be completely silent. He pushed as far as he could into the back of the closet, pulling himself as tight as possible.
The footsteps stopped outside the closet door. Shawn's heart hammered in his chest and thudded in his ears, making his head throb viciously. He pressed harder into the wall, his eyes wide.
Another step closer.
"He's inside the closet."
Shawn's heart dropped.
The doors were shoved open, daylight streaming in and nearly blinding him. Shawn threw up an arm to protect himself from the glare.
"You son of a bitch," growled the man, reaching down and grabbing Shawn's arm, dragging him out of the closet, throwing him to the floor of the apartment. Shawn grunted as he landed on his side, the transition jarring his already unsteady vision.
Shawn lifted his head, realizing the man he knew as Javier picked up his cell phone from the floor of the closet. His face was contorted in rage.
But it was nothing compared to his boss.
Shawn was lifted and thrown against a wall with a speed his mind could barely register. His back hit the wall, jarring his cramped muscles, and making his head throb viciously. A hand was at his collarbone and a face dropped into his vision, two eyes that were black with fury staring into his.
"You," spat the man, shoving Shawn further into the wall with the force of the word. "What. Did. You. Do."
"I—" began Shawn in a hollow voice, but the man pulled him abruptly from the wall and slammed him hard back against it. A strained cry escaped him as Shawn clenched his teeth, his head throbbing with an intensity he'd never experienced before.
"Did you call them?" the man demanded, shaking Shawn when Shawn didn't respond. "Look at me!" Shawn reluctantly lifted his head, opening his eyes against the sharp pain at his temples. "The cops. Did you call them?"
Shawn took a shuddering breath, cringing through another wave of pain. He swallowed hard and said, "N-no."
"He's lying!" hissed Javier, somewhere behind the man.
"N-no…signal," whispered Shawn, trying to keep his eyes open, hoping the man would buy his lie.
"Is there signal in here, Trent?" asked the man, his eyes never leaving Shawn's.
After a pause, Trent answered, "Well, no, his phone doesn't have signal here."
The man pinning Shawn glared at Shawn, seeming almost reluctant to release him. He finally did, and Shawn fell back against the wall.
They bought it.
Relief coursed through his veins.
Until the men heard the shouting.
Dozens of distant voices were yelling out, somewhere in the lower floors of the apartment building. Shawn felt relief hit him even stronger, ready to shut his eyes and relax.
The SBPD was there.
He was going to be fine.
It was over.
"Get him up!" hissed the man, and Shawn's eyes shot open as he felt Javier and Trent yanking him painfully to his feet, the room swimming in his vision. Shawn cringed as pain stabbed behind his eyes. The man suddenly crossed the room and went to the window, breaking it with his elbow. He turned to his partners. "Come on, there's a fire escape. Get him out of here."
Shawn was roughly shoved toward the window. No, no, begged Shawn. He dug his heels into the floor, tugging against the grips the men held on his body. Both men increased their strength, and Shawn stumbled, reluctantly allowing the men to drag him toward the window.
"No—!" screamed Shawn through his teeth, trying to yank his arms out of their grasp, but suddenly felt a sharp blow to the back of his head, sending his vision into sudden darkness. When he blinked his eyes open again, he was in front of the window.
The boss was on the other side of the window, standing on the rusting fire escape, reaching out. He grabbed Shawn's jacket and pulled, but Shawn threw out an arm against the wall of the apartment, holding onto it as the man continued trying to tear him out of the room. Shawn grunted as the muscles in his arms screamed.
"Stop fighting!" demanded the man, yanking harder, making Shawn's arm buckle and he fell forward through the window, his back striking the metal railing of the fire escape. Shawn screamed as pain erupted in his side, but a hand was suddenly clamped over his mouth, muffling his cry. He tried to push himself up, but was suddenly lifted by the back of his jacket and an arm was around his neck, forcing him to bend a painful angle.
The men started down the narrow staircase, the man and Shawn behind them. Shawn's staggered vision made him incredibly unclear of just how high up they were. He saw the street, and flashing lights of the squad cars pulling up at the apartment building sway in his vision.
That voice was unmistakeable. Shawn blinked rapidly, trying to clear the blurriness from his vision and examined the ground. There she was.
Juliet was running up the fire escape.
Shawn struggled against the man holding him, trying his best to get out of the choke hold. The man abruptly stopped, tightened his hold and yelled, "Back up! Get back up!"
Shawn tripped over the stairs behind him as the men retreated, running away from the cops ascending the stairs. Shawn desperately tried to get his feet underneath him, but the man was going too fast. He was dragging Shawn with him, the arm around his neck crushing him.
Everything was suddenly a blur. A gunshot went off, followed by an agonizing cry of pain. Shawn was thrown as the man holding him was attacked.
"We've got them!" exclaimed an officer.
Shawn hit the ground hard. He tried pushing himself up, but suddenly, Juliet was at his side.
"Shawn!" she cried, kneeling next to him, her hand traveling gently behind his head. Shawn lifted his eyes, meeting hers. He tried to respond, but he was too tired. Too heavy. He shut his eyes.
"Shawn!" exclaimed Juliet, gently shaking him.
He didn't open his eyes.
Shawn jolted upright. He blinked his eyes repeatedly but… he couldn't see anything. Darkness. Nothing.
He turned his head, looking for Juliet. She wasn't there. It was only darkness.
Shawn tried to sit up when he realized something terrifying.
He was sitting up.
In the corner.
In the closet.
Heart threatening to rip out of his chest, Shawn whipped his head around, ignoring the burning pain in his head. Four walls. Cool air.
He'd been asleep.
He was still in the closet.
It had all been a dream.
"Shawn! Please, Shawn, answer me!"
The phone. The phone was still in his nearly-numb hand, still by his head.
"J-Jules—?" Shawn choked out.
"Shawn, thank god!" he heard the relief coat her words. "I've been trying to talk to you for the past fifteen minutes—"
Shawn shut his eyes, leaning his head against the wall. He'd been saved.
It felt so real.
"Shawn, what happened?"
"I—" he whispered, terribly out of breath. "I think I passed out."
Shawn picked his head up off the wall, a sudden realization dawning on him.
That was it.
He may have missed that detail, but his subconscious hadn't.
The fire escape.
There was a fire escape.
Kicking himself for not noticing something so blatantly obvious, Shawn pushed off the back of the wall, his cramped muscles protesting at the movement. He grunted through his teeth, his face contorting in pain.
"Shawn?" came Juliet's urgent voice.
"I… I think I know… a way out…" whispered Shawn. Just speaking those words alone deemed to be too much for him. His lungs seemed unable to draw in a proper amount of air. Shawn took shallow breaths as he struggled to keep his balance as he picked himself up. He reached for the door, and slid it open. Light burned his eyes and he shut them against it.
Wasn't Jules mad at me? thought Shawn suddenly. He hadn't spoken to her since… since she asked him to move out.
Since she asked for space.
"We're on our way," said Juliet, interrupting Shawn's thoughts. "You're in Lennox Apartments. It's a run down apartment building that got shut down a few years ago," said Juliet quickly. "No one's decided what to do with the building so it hasn't been touched."
Did she forget she was mad…? wondered Shawn blearily as he dragged himself slowly out of the closet, feeling a pull at his chest, hating the idea of leaving his safe haven. He crawled to the other side of the room, leaning against the wall. Just that movement was enough to drain his strength again.
"Shawn, talk to me!" said Juliet suddenly.
Maybe she's forgiven me, thought Shawn, and the coherent half of his mind suddenly snapped, Don't be stupid. She's trying to save your life, moron. Then she'll go back to screening your calls. "Jules, I…" said Shawn suddenly, thinking maybe he should apologize. Maybe he just hadn't apologized enough. But he stopped his words short, hearing loud commotion down the hallway.
The men were coming.
"What is it?" asked Juliet desperately.
Shawn reluctantly pushed himself away from the wall, and using his free hand, pulled himself up by the window sill. It was a slow process. Once he was leaning against the sill, close to panting, he looked through the dirty glass. Sure enough, there was a fire escape. He'd noticed it when he first came into the apartment, but it didn't register in his screwed-up mind. At least his subconscious was paying attention.
"Talk to me!" whispered Juliet desperately, and Shawn realized he hadn't spoken for a while. Or answered her question. But talking was difficult—it used energy and air and Shawn was running low on both.
He lifted himself higher. He looked outside. He was about four floors up. He was in the side of the building, and next to the street below was a vast forest. Shawn cautiously looked behind him, checking to make sure he was alone, the movement angering his headache and reawakening his vertigo. He grasped the window sill firmly, seeing spots before his eyes. Don't pass out now, he begged himself. He opened his eyes and checked the apartment. He was still alone. He sighed and turned back to the window.
Shawn raised his arm, feeling his balance tilt slightly. He didn't want to do this. It was going to alert them.
But he didn't really have much of a choice.
Shawn broke the window with a jab of his elbow, just as Javier and Trent's boss had in his dream. The glass shattered and rained down on the sill. And just as Shawn expected, he heard shouting and heavy footsteps in the distance. They weren't on his floor.
But they soon would be.
Juliet yelled something, but Shawn didn't hear it. He'd pulled the phone away from his ear to use both hands to hoist himself onto the window, swaying dangerously. He carefully placed a hand over to the other side of the window, grasping at the brick of the building, and dragged himself forward. He felt a sharp pain in his knee, and with a gasp, realized he'd just kneeled on a shard of broken glass. Grimacing, he lifted his legs over the glass with caution, perching himself on the sill, and looked down.
The metal floor of the staircase seemed only three feet below him, but that was much more of a feat when it was moving. Shawn blinked, but his vision kept swaying. Colors melted in with each other making it hard to distinguish what he was seeing. Taking a breath, Shawn pushed himself off the ledge, hoping the ground was where he thought it was.
Turned out he was wrong.
It was more like six feet, and Shawn fell fast, coming dangerously close to catching his head on the railing. He hit the ground, throwing his hands up to cushion the blow to his head…
Forgetting that he was holding the phone.
Out of the corner of his vision, Shawn saw the small device fall through the steps of the fire escape, and plummet to the ground.
"Damn it," he hissed, turning his head toward the ground. It was a long way down.
He had to keep moving.
Shawn grabbed the railing, and pulled himself up, feeling twice as heavy as he did a few minutes ago. Back on his feet, he leaned against the rusting railing, panting. He was so tired. No, it was more than tired. Exhausted. His heart thrummed in his chest.
Holding the railing tightly, Shawn descended the stairs, shutting his eyes when the movement increased his nausea. His movements felt sluggish and uncoordinated. His attempt to rush down the stairs felt like he was trying to run underwater, like some outward force was determined to fight him. At his painfully slow pace, Shawn descended almost ten more steps, when…
Shawn whipped around, seeing Javier's head poking out of the window Shawn had escaped from. Tripling his speed, probably only moving from a snail's pace to a sloth's, Shawn stumbled down the staircase, holding onto the metal rail with so much force his knuckles were white. He stumbled passing the third floor, his heel missing the next step, and Shawn fell forward, barely catching himself on the railing. Shawn let loose a cry and paused, trying to catch his breath. He held on for dear life, wanting to let go so, so badly. He just wanted to fall straight into oblivion. He wanted to sleep. To feel nothing. No pain. No fear.
Shawn reluctantly lifted his head and looked behind him. Javier was running after him, his heavy footsteps shaking the entire staircase. The boss was climbing out of the window. Trent was mysteriously absent.
Ignoring his pain, ignoring the fact that the world was spinning, Shawn sprinted down the steps, groaning through the pain, keeping a hold on the rail, his vision a blur. He took step after step, stumbling his way down the rusty stairs.
Shawn blinked repeatedly, trying to clear the blur. His adrenaline was helping but it still wasn't easy to see.
He passed the second floor.
Halfway down to the first floor, Shawn felt the metal beneath him shutter. It took him a split second to realize what happened, his eyes darting to where the metal was fixed to the wall. The rust had eaten through the metal.
It was going to break.
Pushing himself to go faster, Shawn ran down the steps, but didn't get far enough. The metal snapped off, and Shawn fell the ten feet to the ground.
He didn't remember the fall. Just the impact. Pain exploded in his side and knee, as they absorbed most of the landing. He cried out, throwing his hands over his head, luckily cushioning the blow, so as not to further his concussion. He hit the ground and slid off the broken fire escape, rolling on the concrete, feeling bruises forming along his right side, the pain in his head nearly enough to paralyze him.
Coughing and roughly pushing himself off the ground, dazed, Shawn waited for the world to stop spinning. He heard the two men yelling behind him and Shawn's heart and mind somehow gained enough of a sense to get him to keep moving. He stumbled over his hands and knees, feeling sharp, fresh pain in his side and knee but he didn't stop. Don't think about it, he told himself firmly, focus.
Shawn ran forward, blindly heading in whichever direction was right in front of him. That was all he was capable of. His legs felt like lead. His head was pounding hard, strong waves of pain lacing through his veins and pulsing behind his eyes, and it took much effort just to keep his eyes open.
Shawn vaguely heard his own staggered breathing as he stumbled forward, trying to move fast but he could have been at a crawling-pace for all he knew.
His world was suddenly enveloped by different shades of green and brown, and a fragment of a memory suddenly came back to him. There was a forest behind the apartment building. He must be heading inside it. Shawn sighed internally, blinking rapidly, feeling his vision start to slowly piece itself back together. He made out the trees around him, twisted roots and branches on the floor and Shawn begged himself not to trip.
He didn't know how long he staggered into that forest, but he heard the men shouting in the distance behind him. Oh, come on! thought Shawn angrily. His eyes flicked around the forest, tiredly trying to pick a direction.
"Now, Shawn, what do you do when an assailant is chasing you?"
His last kidnapping. Shawn's father's words echoed in his head. That memory could help him now just as it did then, right?
"Zig-zag, Shawn! Never go in a straight line! A straight line is the shortest distance between two people!"
That was right. Shawn took a sharp turn, heading in a new direction. But… wait a minute. His dad's lesson taught him what do do when an assailant was chasing him. Not two. Shawn sighed. Did the zig-zag rule still apply?
Shawn's vision was suddenly spotty again, and he stumbled into a tree beside him, cringing as it woke the pain in his side. He pushed himself off the trunk, panting, not allowing himself to rest. He had to get away.
And then he heard something beautiful.
The calls were faint. Somewhere far behind him. But they were there. Shawn almost smiled, so overjoyed. The cops were there. He was going to be rescued.
They were there.
As he stumbled to a stop, ready to turn back and follow the voices of the officers, Shawn realized his stop was far too abrupt for his mind to register. An intense wave of vertigo struck him, sending him falling to the size, narrowly missing another tree trunk. He hit the ground, crying out, his head spinning so violently he couldn't move. Shawn took short, fast breaths, and tried to push himself up, but his arms wouldn't respond.
"Help," he whispered, feeling strength drain out of him. He leaned his head back on the ground, his eyes falling shut without his consent, and he was suddenly falling into black, silent nothingness.