Author's Note: What happened at the end of Awake's finale? Who knows? It's an ending open to countless interpretations and theories, but of course there is only one true answer. However, since Kyle Killen is not going to tell you, here's my take on how things might've gone in the second series (something that may still happen). Slated to run to 10,000 words, Aftermath will be broken down into five chapters. You do the math. Will it have a conclusive ending? Maybe. Here's chapter one anyway.
Set shortly after the closing moments of Turtles All The Way Down, Michael finds himself trying to adapt back to life with BOTH Hannah and Rex whilst looking for some answers.
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Michael Britten was a man convinced he was living a dream. But now it was a figurative dream, not a literal one and the difference was staggering. After what had seemed like months of doubt and indecision over whether his wife or his son had survived a fatal accident, the man had woken up to discover he had them both. He had them both. It was so beautiful and wonderful a thought that he almost wanted to cry. But, as he found out, life went on. After a quick shower, dressing and tooling up for work, Michael kissed Hannah goodbye for the day and began ferrying Rex to school. As they drove, Michael began voicing his main questions.
"Rex, this is going to sound a little weird, but did we have a car accident a while back?" The teenager's initial response before anything else was to roll his eyes.
"You know I used to think you were joking when you first started asking me that?"
"What does that mean?"
"The doctors said you'd have some memory loss after the accident."
"So, I was hurt pretty bad, huh?" Rex's expression morphed into a frown. He turned to look at his dad.
"You were hurt pretty bad? Dad, me and Mom almost died that night. You only had a concussion and a few scratches." Michael was relieved to hear how favourable the outcome in this reality had been. Nobody died. What a damn relief.
"You're both okay now though right?"
"Well yeah. We're doing even better now you caught the dirt bags who forced us off the road that night."
"So you remember arresting him?"
"Yeah. I also got my boss and Hawkins's boss, right?" Rex was looking concerned yet again.
"Dad, you literally just did that, like three days ago. Is your memory really THAT bad?" Michael could see his son was not ribbing him at that moment; the boy was genuinely worried about him. The man responded by putting a hand on the side of the teenager's face and gently stroking his cheek as they halted at some traffic lights.
"I'm sorry, kiddo. I've been having some pretty scary dreams lately; they kind of leave me confused on the facts from time to time."
"It's fine. Even senile, you're better than any other dad out there." They exchanged smiles. Michael removed his hand as the lights began to change. His focus fell back on the road ahead.
"Yeah, you're not bad either."
Michael was slow in approaching his desk that morning. He saw both Bird and Vega cutting around the office, both of them in street clothes. He did not want to greet the wrong man. Vega, who was conducting some photocopying, turned and clocked Michael first. The younger man raised his hand and offered a short wave to him. Michael regarded Bird for a moment as his old friend sat at his desk sipping coffee before crossing the room to Vega.
"Morning, Michael. How did you sleep last night?" The rookie detective inquired as he grabbed the stack of documents from the machine.
"Yeah, okay. What's all that stuff for?" Michael said gesturing at the stack. Vega shrugged.
"Statements for the trial." The older man shook his head.
"The indictment trial for Captain Harper, Kessel and Hawkins? Surely you remember that; you made the arrests after all." Michael nodded in a way to suggest he had only just remembered it. Efrem rolled his eyes before shouting across the room. "Hey Birdman!" Bird glanced up from his screen to return Vega's gaze. "Rainman's all confused again! Come help him put the pieces together!" Were they all friends now? Who was his partner? Even as Bird slowly lumbered over at his own pace, Michael was still unsure.
"Hey, Michael. How you doing?" Bird said offering his hand. The two men shook hands firmly.
"I'm doing good, Bird."
"Yeah, must be a big relief to see those bastards finally get what's coming to them. And, you know I just wanted to say I'm sorry." Michael frowned at the unexpected apology.
"You know, for doubting you all those months back when you told us someone had caused the accident deliberately. For all your memory problems, you're still one of the best damn cops I've ever seen. So it's good to have you back full-time man." Full-time? Had he been away for a while trying to recover? How many of the cases he remembered from the two realties had he actually solved here? He could chalk up the Westside case as a definite win for himself. Something suddenly occurred to him when looking at Vega and Bird's interaction.
"So, you guys are partners, huh?" The man observed. Vega seemed impressed, Bird less so.
"So your memory is getting better. That's a good sign. Maybe in a couple of weeks I can even stop calling you Rain man, eh?"
Michael had to admit, things around here made a certain kind of sense when regarded through a supposed memory issue. The rest of the day was a gentle introduction for the man to his own recent history. He had been temporarily suspended from duty following the accident, owing to memory losses. Despite this and his family being in the hospital, Michael had assisted at the department part-time, helping Bird and Vega close almost every case he remembered solving between the other two realities. According to notes, this would be his first day back as a fulltime law enforcement officer. Everything here in this world appeared to be legitimate and above board in Michael's opinion; there was as of yet no glaring errors or flaws in this reality's composition. He was hopeful it would stay that way.
"So, Michael, how does it feel to be back in the saddle as it were?" Doctor Graves asked his patient as they sat in his Downtown office. Doctor Julian Graves, as the man discovered, was his therapist whom he had been seeing since the accident. He was a wizened, but immaculately groomed and professional man who supported an incredibly thick beard as well as very sociable manner. His office was dominated by the scent of lavender and the colour purple. Michael, despite having not really 'met' Graves, considered him a far more relaxed and open individual than either Doctor Lee or Evans. His ability to beat Evans in the sociable, caring department was particularly impressive. It made Michael feel like he could relax a little in the man's company.
"Yeah, it feels great, Doctor. I finally feel like I've got my life back to where I want it to be." Graves nodded, offering his companion a smile of agreement. The man removed his glasses.
"You know that's exactly how I feel too, Mike." Graves said with an expression that said he was genuinely pleased for his patient. "You seem so much more secure sitting here now than you did at the outset of your treatment. I believe you were right when you said that all you needed was to solve the Westfield enigma. Now that you have and that particular chapter of your life is behind you, things will only continue to improve from now on."
"So what happens now?" Michael inquired as the older man put his glasses back on. Graves shrugged.
"I think it's safe to scale back on our weekly meetings to just once a week now. That will only deal with the nightmares you're having and how we can help reduce their impact on your performance. I think that, given a period of six to eight weeks, we should no longer have any reason to see each other again. How does that strike you, Mike? Good?" Michael could not help but smile as he answered.
"That sounds perfect, Doctor."
Michael returned home to find Hannah waiting for him in the lounge. She smiled at him lovingly as they approached one another. "Hey." She greeted him before they embraced and kissed briefly. "How was your first day back?" Michael nodded in an assured manner.
"It was great. It felt great to be back there."
"That's good to hear. Have they assigned you a new partner yet?"
"No, not yet, but they say they're working on it." He offered her a smile, something she was so glad to see on his face again. It had been a while for her. She nodded at her husband's positive attitude in approval.
"Well great. Rex is upstairs. I think he wants to talk to you." Michael frowned.
"I thought he was going to Emma's after school today."
"So did I, but I came home from work and he was just up in his room. When I asked him what was wrong, he didn't want to talk to me." Michael's frown instantly gave way to total surprise.
"He didn't want to talk to YOU? So what makes you think he wants to talk to me? If he and Emma broke up…"
"No, I don't think it's that serious. I think he's still a little scared about leaving you alone." Michael did not understand what his wife was referring to.
"Have I been less than my usual charming self lately?"
"You've only just started acting like yourself again. It's been really hard for both of us, but especially Rex. He still blames himself for what happened." The man was baffled by the notion.
"But I proved Hawkins ran us off the road that night. I proved it." She nodded.
"Yeah, you did and that helped, but Rex thinks if he hadn't been distracting you that you might've been able to avoid the collision."
"Haven't you told him it wasn't his fault?"
"He wants to hear it from you." Michael's frown returned, this time with far greater intensity.
"You mean, I haven't told him it's not his fault?"
"You haven't been communicating all that well recently Michael." The man nodded in partial understanding of what might have transpired in the last few weeks. What he needed to do from here though seemed pretty straightforward.
"Right. I'll go set the record straight."
Rex was sat at his desk, studying for what appeared to be his French vocabulary exam, when his father knocked on the open door and wandered in.
"Hey." Michael said standing by the doorway. The teenager looked briefly over his shoulder.
"Your mother tells me you cancelled your plans with Emma after school today…because of me. Want to tell me what's on your mind, kiddo?"
"I have to study." Rex muttered, hunching further over his books as he did so. Michael closed the door behind him.
"Your mother also said you wouldn't talk to her about what was wrong. What's up with that?" His query was met with a stony kind of silence.
"So, you won't talk to your mom, you won't talk to me and what, you won't even talk to EMMA either? Is it really that bad?" Again he found himself mired in silence. He tried a more direct approach. He walked forward and perched himself on the edge of the desk. He reached out and put a hand on top of his son's, squeezing it. "Hey, whatever you think you did, it's not your fault. And if you feel guilty about me, forget that too. I'm better now. I'm back. Everything'll be fine again, I promise." Rex looked up from his text to the man holding his hand with a look that meshed shame with embarrassment. He bit down on his bottom lip.
"I was scared I broke you for good."
"You did nothing. It just took a while to get everything back where it was supposed to go." Whether it was something in the tone of voice his father used or whether it was something else entirely, Rex suddenly started talking fervently.
"I couldn't talk to you, not really. It was like you didn't know who I was. It's only been the last week that you've come back around. It freaked me out so much. And Mom kept saying you were going to get better, that you'd come back to us and I didn't believe it for months." Michael shut him up before he could say anymore. He leant down and embraced the teenager in his arms. Rex reciprocated his actions instantaneously.
"I'm back for good, okay? This time I'm not going anywhere. You did nothing wrong, none of it was your fault. I still love you as much as I ever did. Everything's fine and we're a family again." As he finished articulating that powerful sentiment, he released his son. Rex looked lifted of any self-inflicted burdens he may have brought on himself in the aftermath of that moment. Michael therefore made a recommendation. "Call Emma and invite her over. I know you want to see her. It's fine with me if you guys come up here and 'study' for a few hours and I'm sure your mother will agree." Rex let out a long sigh of relief, flashed the man a grateful smile and then nodded.
"I'll call her right now."
"So not only back to being a super cop, but also a super husband and father on the same day? Mr Britten, have you been playing us all along?" Hannah asked as she lay cuddled up with her husband on the couch later that night. Since Emma had arrived, Rex had all but dropped off the face of the Earth.
"Wouldn't that be convenient?"
"Seriously though, Michael, what you did with Rex today, how well Doctor Graves thinks you're doing, you've really come back to us. I'm so glad to have you back." She kissed him on the lips. Michael returned the favour with interest before offering a verbal response.
"Yeah, me too."
Michael Britten was a man who did not understand what was happening to him at that moment. Had he been asleep, delusional or simply suffering from amnesia? Could any of those things truly explain how he had arrived at this point, reunited with his family and still known as the man who had avenged a malicious attempt on their lives whilst weeding out police corruption? But what question Michael mostly found himself considering was, did any of that really matter? He had what he had wanted since this nightmare began some six months ago; he had his family back in its entirety. He no longer had to choose or force himself to find answers to difficult and unwanted questions. He no longer went to bed at night wondering who he would find waiting for him when he woke up; they were both here with him. They were both here. Did it matter if all of this was a little too convenient, a little too neat an ending for his story? The man said 'no' to that question. Despite all the trauma and all the heartache, in the end, for better or worse, Michael Britten had won. He had them back and he had won. Nothing else mattered, not now.
He finally had everything he could dream of…and more.