Title: Don't Open Pandora's Bag
Rating: T / Australian M.
Warnings/Spoilers: Will deal with Shannon's assault. There will be swearing. If you're good with the show, you should be fine with this. Spoilers for the entire series.
Summary: Two months after the series finale, everything starts to come to light. Shannon's about to have a shit day; Lawson's going to have one too; Josh is still pissed off and not being subtle; and everyone else gets thrown into the mix.
A/N: Show is not mine.
This is un-betaed though I have been fretting over it for months. It will be mostly focused on Shannon's assault, but will feature everyone and some plot. I'm trying to keep relatively close to canon, therefore Shannon/Lawson will be fairly prominent. (Also: I am sympathetic to all the characters, so please don't assume the worst of anyone. *g*)
I will be attempting at least weekly updates, though this may vary as we get further into the fic, my chapters become less ahead, I get picky, and uni tries to take over my life. Reviews are always appreciated, whether purely squee or constructive.
Don't Open Pandora's Bag
Shannon Henry woke. With a start, she pushed herself up off her pillow and gazed blearily around the bedroom. She could just make out the shape of her wardrobe and drawers as the first few streaks of morning light crept in through the window. She glanced at her alarm clock. Five thirty-three. They had the later shift today and there were still three hours before her alarm was due to go off.
She frowned, wondering what had woken her, but then the banging on the door started again and she knew she had her answer. She dropped back face-first into the pillow, bunching the corners between her fists.
She was going to kill whoever had stolen her sleep.
The knocking continued and she pushed herself up again and rolled out of bed with a growl. Her feet landed softly on the carpeted ground and she rubbed her eyes as she stumbled out of her room and down the stairs, continuing to declare death on the person at her door.
"I swear to God, Stella, if this is because you left your keys at home again, I'll-"
She yanked open the door blinds to come face to face with Josh's forehead pressed against the window, eyes wide and staring innocently at her.
"-What the hell, Josh?"
Josh frowned seriously and knocked on the door a few more times. "Hey, Shannon," he said loudly, though he'd clearly been aiming for 'whisper'. "Can I come in?"
She just stared at him for a few moments. He stared back before reaching out and softly knocking again.
With a rough sigh, she opened the wooden door and pulled him inside, a whiff of stale alcohol entering her nose as he stumbled past her and into the lounge room. She closed the door behind him, taking a few moments to catch her breath and to try to settle herself because she was fairly certain killing a Senior Sergeant would not look pretty on her CV.
Then the sound of the kitchen tap turning on reached her ears, closely followed by a glass smashing on the floor.
Fuck it. She wouldn't have a career anyway if she died from lack of sleep.
She strode into the kitchen to see Josh kneeling on the floor, futilely attempting to gather shards of a brown mug into his hand. She closed her eyes briefly, before pulling out the dust pan and brush from beneath the sink and pushing Josh out of the kitchen. She quickly cleaned up his mess, dumping the glass in the bin and chucking the pan and brush back beside it before shutting the cupboard doors.
She stood back up, moving out of the kitchen, and turned to find Josh sitting slouched on the couch arm, watching her. Soft eyes, relaxed. His hands were resting between his legs, a half-smile on his face. "I like your shorts," he offered, gesturing at them.
Glancing down at the short navy stubbies that left little to the imagination – although, Josh didn't really have to imagine, did he – she rolled her eyes and ran a hand roughly through her hair. Ever the charmer. "Why the bloody hell are you here, Josh? I was sleeping."
He rubbed a hand over his mouth. "I was thinking…" he started, that strange little half-smile still perched upon his lips. He stood up from the couch and took a few calm steps towards her.
"Bad sign," she said warily, swallowing as he continued towards her. He only stopped when there was less than a foot between them.
"Not always," he said softly, looking down at her. He lifted a hand towards her hair, fingers carefully bending as though he were a little boy reaching to capture a butterfly.
"Oh, tonight I think it is." She took a step backwards, flinching slightly as her lower back hit the kitchen bench. Her breath quickened as he stepped closer. "Josh-"
"Shhh," he murmured, placing his right index finger against her lips. She froze at the gesture. Taking this for permission, Josh slowly lowered his head and gently pressed a kiss into her bare shoulder, the warmth brushing the spot between her thin white singlet strap and her neck.
"Josh, I-" She tried to move away but the kitchen bench kicked into her back again. Josh moved upwards, kissing her neck this time, and she braced her hands against his chest. "Josh, don't."
He continued to trace kisses up her neck, lowering his hands to rest on her hips. Shannon's breath rate was increasingly rapidly. This was too familiar; this was not what she wanted. "Josh, get off."
He paused for a moment, his hands still on her hips, fingers lightly digging into skin where her top had ridden up. A frown quickly crossed his face. "Shan, I-"
She'd had more than enough. "Get off," she yelled and shoved at him. Josh's head shot up at her tone and he stepped back quickly, watching her with wide-eyed concern.
She could feel the panic rising, her rapidly beating heart jumping into her throat along with it, and closed her eyes, trying to control it and her shallow breathing. Deep breaths, slow breaths, come on, come on. Don't go back there. She swallowed fervently, trying to get past the block in her throat.
It took a few moments, but finally she could feel the air pull deeper into her lungs, allowing her to almost think again. She opened her eyes and stared at the floor, both hands clammy yet tightly gripping the bench behind her.
"Shan-" Josh began, but she shook her head sharply, interrupting him, and he stopped. She didn't – couldn't – look at him.
"Shannon, I'm-" he tried again.
"Go have a shower," she ordered, still refusing to look at him.
"I-" This time he cut himself off. Out of the corner of her eye, she watched as he dropped his hands and they dangled helplessly.
There was silence for a moment, before he sighed and shuffled past her, heading to the stairs. She listened to his footfalls as he made his way up the stairs and then into the bathroom, the door closing firmly behind him.
Then, as the water started, she slowly, unsteadily, sank to the floor, leaning her head back against the bench wall. She closed her eyes again and continued to focus on trying to calm her shaking body.
Twenty minutes later, the water shut off, and a few minutes after that, Shannon heard the bathroom door open. She stared for a few more moments out at the river, before standing up from the couch. As she listened to Josh clomp down the stairs, she moved to the kitchen cupboard, opening it and pulling out two glasses. She flicked the tap on and filled them as Josh rounded the corner.
He'd put on the clean clothes she'd gotten out, and now had the bottom of the black The Herd t-shirt stretched between his hands. He stared at it, frowning. "Hey, is this my shirt?" he asked, squinting at it.
Shannon smirked as she took a sip from her glass. "Probably. It was at the very bottom of my wardrobe."
His frown deepened at the remark – whether from the perceived insult to the band or him, she wasn't sure – but he let the shirt go, moving to the opposite side of the bench. "And the shorts? They don't look like mine."
She raised her eyebrows over her glass and swallowed the water, while mockingly widening her eyes. "Well, that's because they're Lawson's."
He stared at her for a few moments, then shrugged. "Well, if he gets to wear my girlfriend, s'pose it's fair I get to wear his shorts." Shannon tensed at the comment, her shoulders rising, and she pressed her lips tightly together. Josh threw a half-smile at her, which promptly faded as he took in the expression on her face. He sighed, running his left hand through his hair to flick the water out, then placed it on the kitchen bench, resting his weight against it. He glanced down, noticing the glass. "That for me?"
Shannon waved her hand forward in the universal sign for 'Go ahead' and watched as he grabbed the glass, quickly sculling the water and placing it back down. When he looked up again, his eyes had softened and his mouth was clamped firmly shut. There was silence for a bit, then Josh exhaled, a harsh stream of air escaping his lips. "How'd you forgive him, Shan?" he finally asked, twisting the glass around on the bench.
She opened her mouth and took a quick breath, before letting it go when she realised she didn't know what to say. What could she say? She'd chosen to and that was… that was it. So she shrugged before crossing her arms, leaning back against the fridge and raising her glass. She took another drink.
"No, seriously. My best mate fucked my girlfriend. Where do you even start?"
"Hey, at least they thought you were dead." She threw a taut smile at him, before glancing back into her now-empty glass. Shit, that was a bit more obvious than she'd meant to be.
Josh raised his eyebrows. "Bitter."
"Maybe a little."
They stared at each other for a few moments, before Josh sighed. "So?"
For Christ's sake. "Well, I hear a round of fisticuffs helps."
Josh just looked at her, frowning, the irritation all but written across his face. Yeah, well, she was irritated too. "Shannon."
She threw out her arms in exasperation as she shifted from the fridge and shoved her glass onto the sink. "I don't know what you want me to say, Josh," she said as she turned the tap back on and roughly rinsed the glass with hot water. "He thought you were dead. I wasn't really up for supportive girlfriend of the month-"
"He said you needed space."
She looked up and gazed at him, before shaking her head and grabbing his glass. "Oh, told you that, did he." It shouldn't have surprised her – it didn't, really – but somehow it still managed to shit her off.
"He was worried," Josh said, as he straightened back up and watched as she brusquely dried the glasses and put them back in the cupboard, slamming the doors shut. "We all were, you know."
"Uh huh." She stood for a moment and stared at the doors before turning back around and half-crossing her arms. She rested her chin in her right hand, fingers curled over pursed lips, and sighed, trying to figure out just how to phrase it. She shook her head and rubbed her face briefly with both hands, before holding them out to him, palms up, as though showing him that this was all she had. "Look, Josh. I forgave him. We're still dealing with it, but I chose to. It's up to you whether you're going to or not. Okay?"
He gazed steadily at her, then nodded. "Yeah."
"Okay. Then get on the couch and I'll get you a pillow. It's too bloody early for this shit." She spun around and left the room, leaving him to decide whether he was going to listen or not.
When she was returned, he was sitting on the couch, staring contemplatively at the coffee table. She dropped the pillow and a faded floral sheet beside him and turned around to leave. He caught her wrist as she turned and she paused. "Shan…" he started, then trailed off.
She kept looking towards the steps and waited. He pulled the shit; he had to make the move. He rubbed her wrist gently and she sighed, but turned back to face him. He looked up at her, eyes earnest.
"I'm sorry about that stuff before. I was drunk; I don't know what I-"
What a load of- "Bullshit. You do. You wanted to get your own back."
His mouth dropped open slightly but then he closed it and his eyes and grimaced. "Yeah, you're right. You're right. Doesn't mean I'm not sorry."
She nodded briefly and gave him a short tight smile. "You're buying brekky."
He nodded back. "Deal."
"I'll wake you in the morn- well, in a bit." And with that, she pulled out of his grasp and rubbed her neck, before turning and padding up the stairs.
Lawson Blake looked down at his watch and started tapping his foot. For Christ's sake, a turtle could move faster than this. His Nana could have moved faster than this, and she spent the last ten years of her life with a walker, going half the speed of a turtle while being three times as drunk. He glanced down to his left. "Seriously, Charlie, do I have to be here for this?"
Charlie looked up from where he was kneeling, poking through the bottom of Christian's locker, and rested his left arm on his raised leg. "You know locker searches need two people so that they have a witness."
Lawson crossed his arms and leant against the wall. Regs, yeah, he knew; he hadn't got to Senior Sergeant just by being pretty. "Yeah, but why not you and Kerry?"
"'Cause Kerry's the superintendant. And the superintendant expressly told me to do it and to keep it away from her cos 'the shit jobs are what my minions are for, yeah?'." Lawson raised his eyebrows, almost disbelievingly, as he watched Charlie actually do the little air quotation marks. "And since you're next in line, which I guess makes you my minion, you know what that means?"
Lawson rolled his eyes, and mockingly raised his hand to the thinker's pose on his chin, cocking his head thoughtfully. "Shit job time, Sir Minion Leader?"
"Shit job time," Charlie repeated affirmatively. He stood up and dusted his hands. "Next!"
At his words, Stella and Christian staggered into the locker room laughing. Both stopped when they noticed their bosses, Christian's eyes widening dramatically at his open locker.
"Oi, you're here early," Lawson said, frowning in slight bemusement at the two of them. Neither of them were frequently late but Stella, especially, was not known for her early arrivals.
"Yep," Stella nodded lazily as Christian slowly moved towards his locker.
"My ordering system!" he cried, hands clasped to the side of his head in horror. "You messed up my ordering system!"
Charlie's forehead furrowed and he looked confusedly at Lawson. He was pretty sure Christian was one of the least ordered people he'd ever worked with. "Joke," Lawson mouthed silently back.
Stella stared dejectedly at them. "Seriously? Locker inspections?"
Lawson sighed, and crossed his arms again, leaning back against the wall. He shrugged – he didn't entirely disagree with her; albeit, mostly because it was a job he'd been stuck with as the sidekick. Charlie sent him a cautionary look but nodded at Stella. "Mandated from on high, Stella, you know that. There was warning."
Stella shook her head as she moved to her own locker and opened it, glancing over the contents. She pulled out her joggers and sniffed them before shrugging. "Dunno why. They're not going to catch anyone."
Charlie grinned. He put his hands on his hips, tapping lightly on the right one, and rocked back on his heels. "That so."
Stella swung around to face him, raising her arms suddenly and gesturing with her shoes. "Seriously! Anyone dumb enough to keep their shit in a cop station – especially after a warning – would be too stupid to get into the force."
"You'd hope," Christian added as he shut his door. "Find anything incriminating?" he asked, drawing out the last word like a kid who was reading it for the first time.
"Nah, just some smelly socks in yours, Christian," Lawson said, tapping his nose. He wrinkled said nose as Christian threw one of the socks at him. He was fine with stinky socks - truly - but only if they were his own. Even Shannon's were barely tolerated. But, as she'd pointed out more than once, hers were fresh daisies compared to the three-week-old sunbaked tuna sandwich level stench of his and so, if she could handle his socks, he didn't really have a leg to stand on and was going to deal with hers.
But she was his girlfriend; Christian was not. Lawson tossed the sock back.
"Bet you had fun digging through my knickers, Charlie," Stella said, dropping her shoes on the ground and directing a cheeky grin at him.
"Didn't know you wore any, Stella."
"Wouldn't you like to know, though," she said with exaggerated wink. Lawson squinted at her - he really didn't need that image. "So who's next?" Stella asked, as she turned back to her own locker and pulled out a pair of black socks.
"Shannon," Charlie replied, as he eyed the locker in question.
Lawson shifted his attention to the locker as Charlie opened it, but he spoke to the other two. Time for answers. "So why are you here so early?"
"Stella dared me to a race," Christian started as he kicked off his street shoes and sat down. He began pulling on his left jogger. "Bet me twenty bucks I couldn't beat her."
Lawson looked at Stella, who merely wriggled her shoulders and grinned in response. He huffed a laugh and glanced back at Christian. "Weren't you the one saying Michael was an idjit for competing with a girl?"
There was a short pause at the name, before Christian jumped in with his jogger-clad left foot now metaphorically in his mouth. "She's not a girl; she's Stella."
Stella turned and frowned at him. "Sometimes I don't know whether to hug you or hit you, Christian." She returned her gaze to Charlie who was now staring deep into Shannon's locker. "So, Charlie. Anything saucy in there? Naked pictures of Lawson, maybe?"
Naked pics of- Hang on. "Oi, watch it, Stell," Lawson said, glaring at her.
"No. You're all really boring people," Charlie interrupted dryly. Stella and Lawson both blinked at the joke. Charlie straightened up. "Ooh, hang on," he said as he reached into the back of the locker.
"What is it?" Stella asked as she raised herself up onto her tippy toes. Lawson quirked an eyebrow at her, eyeing her up and down. She was on the other side of the room, at a right angle to Shannon's locker; tippy toes would do nothing to improve that view. She just pulled a face back at him.
Charlie spun around, brandishing a little pink bag at them.
"Really, Charlie?" Lawson asked with a sigh. He was going to get curious over that?
"What? It's not her shampoo – that's the other bag."
Just how long had it been since Charlie'd had a girlfriend? "It's really not obvious what that is to you?"
"Ooh, is it her porn stash, Lawson?" Stella asked.
Lawson shook his head and sighed again. "Bloody kids, the lot of ya. Stell, you telling me you don't have one of these?" he asked, waving his hand at the bag.
Stella glanced back at the bag, frowning, before realisation quickly flooded her face. She sat down on a chair with a grin and started pulling on her socks. Lawson nodded, satisfied that at least one member of his team wouldn't have to be sent back to Year Six. Christian watched her, then glanced at Lawson, before returning his gaze to the bag. His eyes widened. "Oh!"
"What?" Charlie asked.
"It's her period stash."
Even better: there were two members of his team who had managed to avoid repeating sex ed.
Charlie looked askance at the bag, as though it were a baby about to poo on him. "And how do you know that?" he asked, frowning at the bag and Lawson.
"Annie has one too," Christian shrugged.
"Wasn't asking you, Christian."
Lawson scratched his head in disbelief at the question. He'd thought Charlie had figured it out months ago. Y'know, when he'd told them to stop. "She's my girlfriend. You've never had to buy tampons for your girlfriend?"
Charlie, apparently ignoring the present tense of the girlfriend statement, didn't respond; he just continued staring at the bag.
Stella laughed at him. "Aww, Charlie, you can buy tampons for me if you like," she said as she bent over, tucking the ends of her shoelaces into her joggers.
Charlie rolled his eyes. "Sure, Stella, but you'll have to buy me dinner first."
Lawson smirked, but his attention was drawn to Christian when he looked up from his shoes and started frowning as something seemed to cross his mind. "Hey, Stell, so how does that work when you've got a girlfriend? Do you buy stashes for each other?"
Stella shook her head. "Nah, I'm not picky with brands – we just end up sharing. End up having to buy a shitload though cos the timing always works out the same. Fight club every month."
"Ouch," Christian said, nose wrinkling. Lawson had to agree.
So did Stella. "Yep."
Charlie hummed to himself as he stared at the bag. "So, Stella's not picky. But is Shannon?"
Lawson stopped smirking at the other two and stared at him. "What?" The hell sort of question was that.
"What brand does Shannon use?" Charlie asked, his hand hovering over the zipper.
Lawson just looked at him, eyebrows raised. He couldn't be- "Seriously?"
"Twenty bucks says Lawson's wrong," Stella whispered to Christian. It was one of the worst whispers ever attempted because Lawson certainly heard it loud and clear. He threw a glare at her. She just grinned back.
"Aww, I'll support you, Boss-man," Christian said at normal volume. "You're on, Stell." They shook on it.
"So?" Charlie asked, smirking back at Lawson.
Lawson sighed as he glanced at all three of them. They were betting over his girlfriend's tampons. They were betting over his girlfriend's tampons. Was this what life had come to? "Really, Charlie, thought there was too much of a stick up your arse for this."
Charlie waited. Christian drummed with invisible drumsticks. Stella had her hands clasped behind her head like she was relaxing at the beach.
Lawson could have shot them all. "You shits. It's Kotex. She uses Kotex."
Charlie nodded. "Let's see then." He put the bag back in the locker briefly, then stretched his arms out and cracked his fingers – grinning all the while - before picking up the bag and slowly, dramatically pulling back the zip and peering inside. Lawson sidled up to him and looked in the bag too.
He felt his heart stop dead.
"Well?" Stella asked after a few moments, watching them with eyes wide open, an expectant grin on her face.
"Not a tampon stash," Charlie pronounced abruptly, quickly zipping the bag up again. Lawson held very still, willing his body to give nothing away.
"Aww," Christian pouted.
"Eh, no worries," Stella said, nudging him, "we'll just ask her later. Now, c'mon, we racing or what?" And with that, she stood up and dashed out the door. Christian hopped after her, rapidly trying to tie his neglected right shoelace.
"Hey, no fair!"
Charlie and Lawson tensely watched them go, waiting till they were out of hearing range. Once he was certain they were gone, Lawson hurriedly turned back to Charlie and the bag. "Open it," he ordered.
Charlie did so quickly and they both stared silently into the bag. It wasn't overly large, and it held a few items with some room to spare. The most prominent were a couple of clear plastic containers. One seemed to hold a collection of nail clippings; another had a couple of small wooden sticks coated in dried blood and skin scrapings. The third held a couple of pieces of short wiry hair.
"Is it just me," Charlie started, "or does this look kinda like a-"
"Yeah," Lawson said roughly through the lump in his throat. He didn't want to hear the words; he couldn't hear those words, not in relation to- But then, he couldn't deny it either. He dug into the bag with his right hand and – and his hands were not bloody shaking, thank you – he pulled out a USB drive. "Yeah, it does."