Sequel to Exposed.
"We've come to the end of our time together." Cole twirled the knife between his hands, staring down at him. His head tilted, eyes narrowing in thought as he traced the scar from Shawn's gunshot wound. He tore his eyes away from that spot to meet Shawn's gaze. "Goodbye, Shawn."
And Shawn felt the knife plunge into his chest.
"No!" Shawn gasped as he shot up in his bed. His eyes flew from one side of the room to the other, but all he could see was the last scene from his nightmare, the light glinting off the knife as Cole stabbed him, Cole's eyes narrowing as Shawn cried out. Slowly, the images from the dream bled away until he could see where he was. Home. He was home, safe, not in the cabin with Cole. He shuddered out a sigh, his head drooping as he rubbed his hands across his face.
He was safe.
He laid back down, turning away from his alarm clock. He didn't need to look to know he hadn't been sleeping for long. It was his routine. Lie in bed for hours on end, begging his weary mind to find the reprieve it so desperately needed, only to grab an hour of sleep here…a half hour there.
He was so exhausted. Whenever he did manage to drift off, his mind played back images from his time in the cabin or took one of those memories and weaved a brand new terror that felt just as real. He couldn't even escape when he was sleeping.
He had to move. The room felt like it was closing in on him, the sheets like they were strangling him. He slid carefully to the edge of the bed to stand, his feet padding quietly as he walked slowly down the hallway and into the kitchen.
He parted the blinds on his window to search the darkness outside, cataloguing the neighbor's vehicles and looking for any human-shaped shadows. Usually he could catch the moonlight glinting off the vehicle of his protective detail, but Shawn had asked for it to be removed. It had been five weeks since he had gotten out of the hospital, and Cole hadn't come back for him yet. He would, but not when they were still on high alert. For now, though, enough was enough. Shawn couldn't take them following his every move. Bad enough he couldn't even leave Santa Barbara—a part of the deal the DA had insisted on—his every move had to be shadowed? Besides, it was usually Juliet, Lassiter, or Buzz who watched over him, and on top of Buzz having a wife he needed to spend time with, they each needed to be rested for their shifts.
It was unusually still out; there were no soft breezes teasing the tree branches, no wind chimes breaking the silent monotony of night. Nothing moved, nothing made a sound. It was oddly fitting, like the world was holding its breath as it waited for the other shoe to drop. After the cruel turn life had taken, the scales had suddenly tipped in Shawn's favor—not only had he survived the things Cole had done to him, but the people he cared so much for had forgiven him and welcomed him back with open arms.
He couldn't help but wonder when the support they offered him would be ripped away.
His eyes swept the landscape once more before he turned away, satisfied there was nothing lurking in the dark, and headed to the bathroom. He looked down at the sink, his jaw clenching and unclenching before he found the courage to look at his reflection in the mirror. Dull eyes rimmed with purple shadows stared back at him from a pale face, angry red scars crisscrossing his body.
A knife pressed into his skin, cutting him as Cole chuckled at his pain…
He shook his head against the memory before he brushed a finger across the knotted scar on his shoulder. Why Cole had chosen to stab him there, in the same exact place Shawn had been shot, he didn't understand. It confused him, unsettled him. He hadn't died when he'd been shot there, so why stab him in the same place and assume it would be enough to kill him? Granted, it almost had been, but…He just didn't know.
He pressed his lips together as he turned away from the mirror. One look over his shoulder was all it took for the next memory to overwhelm him.
He watched as Cole started to walk back to him, his eyes falling on the whip that dangled loosely in his hands.
"Unfortunately for you, Shawn, this means we'll be finishing soon. Much sooner than I had planned."
Blow after blow fell on his back, until his skin tore; but Cole continued, his anger lending him more strength and a frenzied need to cause every ounce of pain he could. He continued…until Shawn was numb. Finally, finally numb.
The monster in the mirror was him.
His knees grew weak and he shot his hands out to catch himself. The dull thump of his cast hitting the sink tore him out of the flashback. Dazed, he looked down, blinking away the moisture in his eyes to see clearly. Juliet and Gus had covered the cast with messages and drawings one of the days he'd been napping, their deliberately light comments and laughter waking him before the nightmare that had just started could trap him in its clutches. Those messages weren't what held his attention now, however. It was his father's only contribution to the cast that he stared at, a drawing of something that had a special meaning for the both of them.
Shawn twisted his arm, rereading the messages Juliet and Gus had written across his cast. He chuckled at one of the comments, shaking his head and blinking back tears. He didn't deserve them or their support. Never had.
His father walked into the hospital room, pausing as he studied him. Shawn kept his eyes fixed on the cast, embarrassed that his father was seeing him this emotional. Not that it was anything new, the last week had been…rough, to say the least. He cleared his throat, swiping his good hand across his eyes as Henry sat in the chair by the bed. He heard the cap pop off the end of the marker and looked up in surprise. He watched, speechless, as Henry grasped his arm and drew seven dots. It only took a moment for him to understand. Orion. It was the first constellation his father had ever taught him.
When he was finished, Henry looked back up, his eyes locking on his son's. He didn't say anything, didn't need to; he just wrapped his hand around the back of Shawn's neck and pulled him forward, their foreheads resting against each other. Shawn closed his eyes, struggling to breathe evenly as his father finally spoke.
"I'm proud of you, son. Never forget that."
The memory of those words was enough to push back the dark memories that plagued him, if only temporarily. He turned away from the mirror and started the shower. He had a busy day ahead of him.
Shawn hesitated outside the police station later that morning, his knuckles turning white with the tight grasp he had on the door handle.
"Are you ready for this?" Gus asked.
Shawn inhaled sharply through his nose and jerked his head in a nod. Another moment of hesitation and a glance at Gus, and he swung the door open to step inside quietly. It was such a contrast to the way he used to enter, when he strode enthusiastically into the station, calling out greetings to each person he passed or arguing with Gus about the finer points of 80's pop culture. Now he found himself trying not to draw too much attention to himself, more focused on where he was walking than on the people he was passing.
He had reached the top of the stairs when the busy humming of the station suddenly faded away. His head shot up, his gaze flying from one officer to the next as they stared at him in stunned silence. He shifted uncomfortably, shrinking under the weight of their stares, searching almost desperately for a pair of blue eyes that would offer him the courage he needed. Juliet, however, was nowhere in sight.
He scratched his eyebrow, unconsciously using the hand still encased in the cast. The eyes focused on him followed the movement, and he felt his fingers start to tremble. He hadn't expected them to welcome him back as if nothing had happened, and he'd been correct. Juliet, Lassiter, the Chief, Buzz, and Woody were the only people from the department who had taken the time to visit him. The get well cards that Juliet had circulated around the station had come back pitifully sparse, something that Shawn had expected. Gus, on the other hand, had been furious.
The rant had taken Shawn by surprise, Gus bursting out of his chair to pace the hospital room as he vented his frustration and confusion over the officers' attitudes. The officers had searched frantically for Shawn, Gus assured him, and he didn't understand why they were withdrawing their support for him now. Shawn had looked away from Gus and out the window of the hospital, turning the get-well card over in his hands as he waited for Gus to stop speaking.
"Their concern was rooted in pity, Gus," he said once Gus grew quiet. "They felt guilty, seeing me with Cole; felt guilty because they couldn't find me. They pitied me for what was happening. They didn't forgive me. There's a difference."
The surprise he had seen on Gus' face made him wonder if he shouldn't have said anything; especially when Gus continued to look strangely at him throughout the rest of the day.
The Chief's voice was a welcome interruption, pulling him from his thoughts and causing the officers to quickly return to their duties. She gave the two of them a small smile, holding the door to her office open for them.
"Chief," Shawn said, his greeting echoed by Gus. They entered the office and Shawn couldn't help but search the station once more for Juliet.
The Chief moved to sit in the chair behind her desk, gesturing for them to take their seats as well. She folded her hands together and stared at Shawn in concern.
"What have you got for me, Chief?" He asked, trying to avoid the inevitable questions about his health. There was no need to dwell on what had happened. He was fine.
"I told you I was going to help, Shawn," Gus said, glaring at him.
"I told you" Gus interrupted, speaking slowly, "that I was going to help."
Shawn narrowed his eyes at his friend, but Gus didn't back down. "Fine," he said, a small smile playing across his lips as he turned back to the Chief. "What have you got for us?"
Gus dipped his head and Shawn felt a sudden swell of gratitude. After everything, his best friend was still by his side, still supporting him. He wasn't sure he would ever be able to tell Gus how much that meant to him.
Karen had picked up a case file and was tapping it against the desk, using the exchange between the two friends as an opportunity to study Shawn. He met her scrutiny head on, lifting his eyebrows until she finally passed over the folder. He frowned as he flipped it open and started reading.
"A robbery? Really? I'm sure I heard there was an unsolved murder from a week ago that I could help with."
"You will be taking the robbery," Karen stated firmly, leaving him no room to argue.
He ducked his head to finish looking at the file before he handed it to Gus. "I need…" He trailed off, suddenly uncomfortable. He'd long since passed being able to demand anything from the department. "I'd like to see the crime scene."
Karen nodded. "Of course. I'll have Buzz escort you."
The room fell into silence after she left, Gus completely focused on the case file, and Shawn tapped the arms of his chair in impatience, idly scanning the station again. His heart jumped when he finally saw Juliet, and he pushed to his feet quickly, mumbling an explanation to Gus as he left the room to hurry to her side.
"Hi," she breathed as he bent down to brush a kiss across her cheek. "I'm so sorry we weren't here before your meeting. We had to go see the M.E."
"It's fine," he murmured back as she slipped her hand into his.
He nodded at Lassiter before his attention was caught by the crime scene photos spread across the board. He tilted his head as he studied the pictures of the victim, wincing at the bruises and blood that covered the body. The man had been beaten to death.
Shawn couldn't seem to look away, even if the sight of the gruesome pictures made his breath come in short, quick gasps.
Did the man know he was going to die? Did the person who had inflicted those wounds on him tell him from the very beginning that he was going to be killed? That he was nothing but a pawn to get revenge?
"Shawn?" Juliet tugged at his arm, worry tingeing her voice.
The spell broke, and he looked down at her. "Did you find that note with the body?" He nodded at the board, clearing his throat when his voice came out raspy. The note was written in ink, small letters printed carefully on a white piece of paper. "Come out, come out, wherever you are…" it read.
"Yes," Juliet said, turning to study the note in question. "We don't know who it's referring to."
Shawn flinched at the Chief's voice. He hadn't even noticed her come up behind him. "Yes?" He asked, turning to meet her gaze.
"McNab is ready."
He nodded, glancing back at Juliet.
"See you soon. Good luck," she said.
"Thanks, Jules." The pictures drew his attention again, and he squinted, head ducking forward as he tried to get a better look.
"Now, Mr. Spencer."
The sudden annoyance that swept through him at her command took Shawn by surprise; after all, it wasn't the first time the Chief had gotten sharp with him. It was, however, one of the first times he was being kept from a case because she didn't think he could handle it. She didn't trust his persistent claims that he was fine, that he was ready to start his community service.
He nodded at her, avoiding her gaze as he walked away.
So be it. If he had to prove he was ready to return to work by taking the robbery, then he would. No big deal. He could do it—he would do it, with no problem.
Because he was fine.
AN: I want to thank you all once again for your wonderful support for Exposed. I have been working very hard on this story, and am very excited to begin sharing it with you. I hope it will be worth the wait!