Other characters, character death, general lecturing. Post Devil's Trap.
You may not have some evil archdemon hunting you, but neither do you have scriptwriters to pull your broken ass out of the twisted wreckage when you get picked up next season. Wear your fracking seatbelts, people.
Jean Cameron knew something bad had happened before she put the grocery bags down on the kitchen table. It was barely ten in the morning and the vodka was out and open.
She screwed the cap back on, and even as she did so, her hands started to shake. It was useless. She took the cap back off again.
"Rick?" she called, her voice bright and normal and a-okay. "Are you home?" Are you here? Are you alive?
There was no answer. She hadn't expected one. But he was here. Rick's Jeep wasn't in the driveway, but that wasn't unusual. Hopefully it was still at the station and he'd gotten a ride home with someone still sober.
She put away the groceries.
"The kids are at school," she called out again. Meaningless and chock full at the same time. They won't see. Go ahead and drown yourself. They're safe for a few hours. "Did you eat?"
The groceries didn't take long enough, and there was no more excuse to delay. Jean took the vodka with her as she paced through the house looking for her husband.
She found him ensconced exactly where she expected, in his big overstuffed recliner in front of the ridiculously huge TV downstairs. The TV was off, and his eyes were closed. She kissed the top of his head. "You're late."
He was supposed to get off shift at six in the morning, so when he wasn't there when she woke her heart had started thrumming its automatic fear ritual. Wife to a cop for ten years and it hadn't changed. They lived in a small town, a quiet, good town and still she knew the constant fear and worry for her husband's safety that every cop's wife lived and breathed.
So the open vodka bottle on the kitchen table was a bad sign, but maybe not as bad as if it hadn't been there at all.
She put the bottle on the table beside the chair and climbed into his lap. His arm went up and over to accommodate her, as if on automatic, and settled around her chest. He hadn't shaved, and he stunk of sweat and metal and vodka. She snaked one arm behind him, her shoulder under his arm, her face in his neck.
Sometimes he wouldn't tell her. Sometimes he must have thought it was better she didn't know. It usually came out anyway, weeks or months later, after countless pointless arguments over nothing, both their tempers wearing thin and brittle for the pain he thought he could keep from her. Protect her from.
Not this time, though.
"Semi versus Chevy, out on Route 116." He took a swig from the bottle. "Guess who won."
Oh, sweet Jesus. She looked up and wiped away the tears leaking from the corners of his eyes.
"Anyone we know?"
The tiniest of movements, Rick shook his head. "Out of state plates. Still working on the ID."
Small mercy there. Easier for her and the rest of the town, but Rick's over large heart never seemed to make that distinction.
He wiped his face with his free hand, the one not gripping her tightly. "No, thank God. Two guys in their twenties, maybe. One older. It was hard to tell." Jean grimaced, and tried to pull herself even closer to him. "Christ, I hate picking up body parts."
The worst was almost over. She knew what was coming next.
"Why don't people wear their fucking seatbelts?"
"I don't know, my love." If I could make them, I would. If only so that you didn't have to pick up after them. If I could save you that much, I would.