Chapter 5: Home: Fallout/Knocked Down

Simon closed his eyes as he lay in the backseat, listening to the two men arguing outside. Neither man raised their voices angrily, but the frustration was there none the less. Benat stood by his case.

"The boy can't go to hospital! No valid identity card, what his father's put in place, and-."

The other man, whom Simon still couldn't see clearly, said calmly, "Let me try. Why wouldn't they-?"

"Do you want to visit the penitentiary? If the boy does get admitted, you'll be arrested for-."

"Surely, the father hasn't taken it-."

"He has! I need to get Simon back there before things get worse." The other man started to say something, but Benat continued, "Take this. Believe me; Gabriel Tam can make things worse, no matter who you think you are. I need to take him home – now!"

Benat returned to the car, slamming the door harder than usual. "Are you trying to kill yourself, Mr. Simon?" the driver asked. "If not, you're giving your father good reason to …." His voice trailed off.

"Benat, who were you talking to?" Simon knew he was chancing it, that Benat would say nothing. He was mistaken.

"No one," he answered. "Rest while you can. I'm sure your father will lock you in the basement for this."

Simon remembered being carried into the house as Benat said, "Sir, in all honesty, I believe-."

"I don't pay you for beliefs, Benat. Take him to his room. I'll send for a doctor I can trust."

That was it, nothing more. Simon heard his mother sob, then silence. He fell to the bed, Benat taking care to tuck him in after removing his shoes. He hadn't felt this much pain since he read the first letter from River. He cried at that thought, causing more aches to wrack his body.

"Shh, shh, Simon," Lucinda said in a rushed voice. "We'll mend you proper, I swear."

He sensed Benat's presence still. "I'll get the med kit," the other man said, his voice sounding slightly different from before. Simon kept his eyes closed as Lucinda, and then Benat did the best they could to tend to his numerous wounds until the doctor arrived.

"These are the prescriptions," the disembodied voice said. "Change the bandages regularly. He may or may not get full use of his hands again – depends on the extent of the nerve damage." There was a clicking of the tongue in disapproval. "You might want to consider him a lost case, Gabriel. A boy who willingly seeks out such-."

"You won't file a report, right?" Gabriel asked.

The doctor continued, "Of course not. Maybe this mandatory bed-rest will force him to focus on the state of things. If not…" The two men continued talking, their voices growing distant as they left the room.

Simon felt a soft hand against his face. He smiled inwardly, thinking it was Lucinda. Opening them, he was surprised that it was his mother.

"How could you do this?" she said withdrawing her hand now that he was alert. "How could you drag poor Gael into your scheme and…and…try to kill yourself? What do you hope to accomplish? Do you want your father or me to die of grief? Are you that selfish to take what was supposed to be a wonderful evening and ruin it like this? I'm just glad the others left before news of this came back."

He looked her in the eye, not surprised at where her priorities lay. Simon didn't know what to say, so he said nothing. She injected him with something – that didn't surprise him, either. She slapped him across the face before leaving.

Gabriel returned, locking the door behind him.

"Can't go far, Father," Simon said, looking at the ceiling again. He noticed so many patterns the shadows made and wondered what River would have had to say about that – the invisible paintings created on a blank wall that had more character and warmth than his parents right now.

"What the hell were you thinking? Did you think I wouldn't know about your little rendezvous? Did you think…? Did you think at all?'

Simon smiled. "I think not."

Gabriel looked down at him and backhanded him on the same side his mother had slapped him earlier. "You will pay for this, Simon. I promise you."

Simon woke to loud voices downstairs. Lucinda's was pleading, his father's was angry and the other was … He thought he recognized it from the other night.

"I just wanted to come by and see if the boy was all right, that's all," the man said. "After all, he did save my life and-."

"And what kind of stranger goes into an alley, never mind a red-light tenement area?" Gabriel said.

"A shepherd goes to where he finds the needy," the other man said. "May I at least see the young man and thank him?"

Lucinda's voice was high-pitched. "He needs his rest! The last thing he needs is someone-."

"Lucinda, leave us."

Simon tried to listen to the two men, but heard nothing outside of a door slamming. Soon, he heard stomping up the stairs, a key turn and saw the door open. "Father?" he asked, apprehensive about the expression on his father's face now.

"What did I tell you about talking to strangers? And to a shepherd of all people! Don't get your hopes up. There's not a prayer's chance that someone like him would or could rescue someone like you." With that, Gabriel took out a syringe and Simon's heart filled with dread.

Simon opened his eyes only to see no change in the lighting. The space around him was smaller than he liked, preventing him from stretching out completely. He sighed. "The basement just as he promised."

He took minor comfort that there were blankets and a pillow. No working light, he discovered. So, he was in the dark in more ways than one –what else was new?

Something was being shoved aside, he heard. A key turned in the lock and the closet door opened. It was Lucinda, with a couple of pills in one hand and a cup of broth in the other. "Lucinda?" he said relief in his voice.

She said nothing in response as she fed him the pills. He chewed them, regretting it instantly, then opened his mouth to offer proof that they were gone. Once he had, she looked down and away from his as she waited for him to empty the cup. Simon reached out for her, but she closed the door on him.

The routine continued like that for who knew how long. Simon had to be creative to take care of 'other needs' and wished he had his room back. At least there, he could breathe.

The only changes in the routine came when Mother came by to inject him with something. It was after one such visit that Simon found himself plunging into darkening madness. He cried out, screaming for anyone to help him until his voice grew hoarse.

"Be quick," Benat said. "He'll be back soon."

"I thank you again," the other man said softly. That was all Simon heard as he surmised that he was back in his bed, in his room, in less pain than he was a while ago – whatever 'a while' was.

He would have sworn he heard another set of feet shuffling about the room, maybe Lucinda's, but he couldn't tell. He questioned his hearing among several other things. Simon didn't know if the doctor came by for a follow-up checkup or not. He didn't know if he still had bandages on or if he did in the first place.

Simon stirred fitfully, hyperventilating despite himself.

"Relax, son," the other man's voice whispered in his ear. "We'll get you out of here one way or another."

He tried to open his eyes to see this person promising hope. Instead, he opened his eyes only to find a hand covering them, the voice again whispering him to relax, to rest. Simon gave in. At some point, the voices were gone.

Simon took inventory of recent events as best as he could recall them. He was still sore, still healing, and as much as he dreaded it, still dependent on the prescription provided. And now, he was sitting out in the garden with Park and Lucinda working nearby. Unlike previous times, the two of them worked in silence, not saying anything to him or each other. Simon wanted to cry. What he'd give for one of Park's jokes or Lucinda's 'lectures' right now.

Even Benat seemed to be more laconic than usual. He had taken over Lucinda's chores in bringing up the meals to him, of releasing the restraints that kept Simon in bed. The young man was tempted to shout at Benat to get any kind of response.

His parents….his parents were worse, Simon thought. They said more with their eyes than they did with their voices. Again, it was tempting to yell at them, to get anything, aside from a needle, from them. Instead, the only voice he heard was his own and that was when he cried.

It was Simon's first meal with his parents since the dinner party. There wasn't much in the way of conversation until meal's end.

"What are we going to tell the Friedlichs about attending their banquet, dear?" Regan asked. "Next w-."

"Tell them we'll be there," Gabriel said, cutting her off. Regan smiled, relieved.

Simon chanced it. "Mother, may I….?"

"Perhaps, sweetheart" she said dismissively.

Simon beamed. Two words. Two words more than he could remember, even if he knew in his heart of hearts there wasn't a bit of sincerity in them. "Father?"

"We'll see," Gabriel said coldly. "Go to your room."

Simon recognized the look his father gave to his mother and had no intention of being there any longer than he had to be. He did what he was told, relishing the few words he elicited. Simon paused at the top of the stairs and smiled. He said softly, "You'd think I was Cinderella or something." The thought brought out a chuckle, which in turn prevented Simon from hearing his father's silent approach.

"You think you've won something, son?"

Simon turned quickly, too quickly perhaps as he felt a wave of dizziness come over him. "I- Father….I'm-. Please? I won't say anything, not a word. I promise." Gabriel stared at him silently.

"I don't know how you expect me to get better if all you're going to do is lock me away or strap me to a bed. Heaven forbid someone doing something like that to River." He knew the moment he said it, the moment he slipped, he'd pay for it.

Gabriel lashed out so suddenly that Simon didn't have a chance to react.

Simon fell down the lacquered wood stairs, amazed that he didn't break his neck – or at least he hoped not. Going through the motions of a self-check as best he could, he confirmed his one hope. That was all he had time for as he heard his mother scream from the other room and saw out of the corner of his eye, Lucinda and Benat running towards him. Then his world turned black.

Maybe they were right. Maybe he was crazy after all.

Simon was relieved to not find himself in the basement again, but regretted the restraints that made it all the easier for his mother to misuse the needle. He vaguely recalled the doctor's visit as Gabriel explained how the boy 'fell' down the stairs. Simon vaguely recalled Benat warning him to stay silent and still if he wanted to live, had vaguely imagined voices that weren't there or footsteps of ghosts who were impotent.

He sighed. If River was here, she'd have called him a 'boob' or something. Simon smiled at that thought. Fine, if it was silence that guaranteed safety, well then he'd do just that. Besides, if he could conjure up the memory of River in his mind, he wasn't entirely alone.

Gael had snuck into his room once, while his parents were entertaining. How she picked the lock was beyond him. She seemed aware of the straps that held him down covered by the blankets that weighed him down. Gael started to loosen one of them then stopped.

"My parents are trying to persuade your folks into letting you go to the Friedlichs. I told them how I'd be a 'proper date of a spy' for you." She chuckled at the little joke. "I need you there. You need to be there, Simon. Someone will be waiting for you."

Simon heard footsteps approaching. Gael quickly put the blanket in place and hid in the closet just as the door opened. Instead of hostility, Simon thought he sensed…

"Ms. Gael," Lucinda's voice whispered.

The door closed again, leaving Simon to silence, shadows and tormented sleep.

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