To cope with the long wait for The Madness Underneath, I am going to write some Shades of London fanfiction. Okay? Okay.
Disclaimer: I do not own The Shades of London.
I groaned and turned over.
The alarm was shut off by a girl with long hair. "Bloody thing," she murmured to herself. I made an acknowledging grunt, and pulled my pillow over my head. That was the last thing I remembered before falling into the clutches of sleep again.
A phone rang, the obnoxious ringtone obviously Boo's, and I sighed as I heard her answer it. My sound-shield pillow had fallen to the floor, and I uncomfortably stretched to get it. I could feel my healing wound tightening from the action.
I paused, my prize in hand, and glanced over at the Shade who still occupied my and Jazza's room despite the copycat Ripper being long gone. She was trying to whisper; she got ten points for effort.
"Didn't he say where he was going? No note?"
I looked at Jazza, who was still asleep. I pulled the pillow up with me and softly beat it with my fists to get it comfortable again. In the dim brightness of too-early-AM, Boo moved to the window. She met my eyes and attempted a full smile, but her expression was tight from whatever the person on the other end was saying. Her eyes then scanned the street.
"No, he's not. What? Why would he be here to see Rory?"
My brow furrowed. Well, that hurt.
"All right. I'll be over soon, yeah?" she said and then pressed the 'end call' button. I yawned, and proceeded to ask who it was, and what was wrong. A sinking feeling had appeared in my stomach.
She bit her lower lip, and then sighed. "It was Callum," she began to explain and bent to the ground to pick up a shirt and a pair of rumpled skinny jeans. She stripped down to her underwear, not ashamed at all in a Boo-like fashion, and began to change. "Stephen…Well, he just took off."
I frowned, my urge to sleep slinking away to the back of my mind. After the modern-Ripper incident was over and done with, and after my Bristol stay where I had to convince everybody that I was not a few fries short of a Happy Meal even though I felt like I was, the Shades had managed to convince their superiors and some other Official People that it was safe for me to resume contact with them and vice versa. Boo had told me that Stephen had to pull more than a few strings to do so, and I was thankful. Being a human terminus alone was not fun, but when you had the Shades, it was all fine and dandy. More or less.
The point is that Boo told me that Callum said Stephen was acting different. Stephen had always been "different"; using humongous vocabulary words and taking things way too seriously and being brilliantly smart; but, now, he was different-different.
Boo had not elaborated upon how the commanding officer of the Shades was different, so I kept my questions to myself.
"Can I come?"
Boo paused in her tugging of the jeans to get them past her thighs. "Rory…," her voice suddenly taking on a condescending tone, like how Stephen usually spoke to me.
"Boo, please? If Stephen…" What did she mean by take off? Packed bags? Just spontaneously disappeared? "He wouldn't just disappear, would he?"
"Callum said not to be worried-"
"Apparently he is if he called you."
We were speaking in hushed whispers, but Jazza still joined the world of the awake. "What's wrong?" She eased herself up and looked at me and Boo. "My alarm didn't go off again, did it?"
"Nah," I shook my head. "I," I glanced over at Boo. "We couldn't sleep, and-"
"-were going out to get some food," Boo finished for me. "Might as well, yeah? Sunday and all."
Jazza, who was probably half-asleep, just unsuspectingly nodded. However, her expression sort of fell. "Don't worry, Jaz," I said. "We'll go do something together later, okay?" She smiled, and nodded more eagerly this time, before allowing her head to drop back to the pillow. She was asleep again a few moments later.
I raised an eyebrow at Boo, who sighed and told me to get dressed and to meet her downstairs. She walked by me, already deep in thought.
Ducking away from the brisk winds, we walked up the high-class stairs to the door that was the entrance to the flat Callum and Stephen shared. Boo walked with purpose, and I was just attempting to not trip over myself or do something that, with my luck, would hurt the ripped-by-the-Ripper wound. The door was unlocked, and I saw Callum stop pacing just as I entered.
"No offense to you, Ror, but why-"
"She insisted," Boo cut him off. "So he just left? Nothing?"
Callum shrugged. "I was about to fall asleep in my room last night when I heard the flat's door open and close. I told you how he's been acting odd and everything. At the time, I just thought that he might've gone walking or to get a quick drink. You can check his room if you need to. Everything's there except for his uniform, wallet, and keys." He rubbed his forehead. "The stupid bast - I wouldn't be this worried if - Rory, where are you going?"
I walked past him to the room in the hallway he had indicated to in his rant. I opened the closed door, and I could hear the two remaining Shades' footsteps behind me as I entered.
My mind, even though it was still early in the morning, was racing. I would've been proud of myself if the situation wasn't so confusing, or slightly dire. The bed was made, there were no piles of clothes on the floor, and the closet doors were closed. It was basically the opposite of the rest of the flat. I wandered over to the bedside table where there was a notepad, a pen, and Stephen's regular cell. In neat script, there was today's date written down. All three of us focused on this; it wasn't intimidating, or even out of the ordinary. But, there was something about it…This was Stephen. What would Stephen-
"There's just that and his phone," Callum finally said and scratched the back of his neck. "I also called someone on the force, to see if they had heard anything, but they said no. He only came by the station to help with something last night and that's it."
"What's so special about today?" Boo asked, apparently deciding to ignore everything Callum had just stated, and ask her own questions. "It's a Sunday. It's too early for church, yeah? Is he even religious?"
"I recall last year that he acted moody around this date. I only remember that because we fought and actually started throwing things," he said and then added a "Well, I did" to Boo's skeptical expression.
"Is there a cemetery around here?" I continued to look down at the date. Stephen's clean writing stared back. There was a smeared dot of ink.
"Why?" Callum asked just as Boo replied. There was, in fact, a cemetery; it was easily reachable by Tube and with a bit of walking.
I glanced around, and then brushed by Callum and Boo back to the living room.
"Rory, what are you doing?"
I looked at the table near the threshold, and there was a wallet.
"Can I borrow some money? Just in case? Please?" I looked at the two. Callum eyed me before giving a questioning look to Boo. She shrugged, and then he reached past me to get the aforementioned wallet. He handed me a small amount, and I was thankful for the foresight to bring an Oyster card and my cell.
"Rory," Boo grabbed my arm, "do you know where he is?"
I stared at the both of them. Callum was examining my expression, as if he could extract the exact information he needed. I wondered if they would be this worried if this was pre-Ripper. Probably not.
"I think so," I said, and then rushed for the door. I threw it open and ran down the steps, leaving them speechless. A pretty grand exit if I say so myself.
The Tube ride and walking went by fairly quickly. I texted Boo and Callum, once more assuring them that their only terminus knew what she was doing. I glanced up at the sky, and saw that it was persistent in staying mundanely cloudy and grey. It seemed cloudier than usual; the humidity was awful.
With my dark hair being played with by the wind, I breathed in deeply and walked past the iron gates. I called Stephen's name, looking around. There was no-one: no people sitting on the benches scattered about, and no people walking among the varying gravestones.
I followed the meandering cobblestone path, looking for a tall male wearing a striped sweater, scarf, and jeans. Only when I began panicking that maybe I was mistaking, and that I recalled Callum implying that he was wearing his uniform and not regular clothes, did I see him.
I bit my lower lip. He was hunched over on a bench in a far corner of the cemetery: police sweater and helmet and all. I began walking towards him, having no idea of what I was going to say. Comment on the weather? Hug him? My brilliant brainstorm from earlier apparently disappeared somewhere on the Tube ride and walk.
Stopping a few yards away, I crossed my arms. His helmeted head was in his hands; and his shoulders were shaking. Barely shaking, barely moving, but the movement was noticeable.
He stiffened, but didn't look up. I scanned the area once again, and saw that there was another entrance. Beyond some bushes in front of said entrance, I could see the reflective panels of a police car.
"Rory?" he tried to discreetly wipe at his eyes, and reassume that deep superior tone he seemed to carry like an accessory whenever he was in uniform or around me, but it was obvious what was wrong.
I stepped closer. "Hi."
"What…What are you doing here?" he barely met my eyes. His nose was faintly red.
I took another step, avoiding his question. "Callum and Boo are freaking out, you know."
"Why?" he wiped at his eyes again, apparently giving up at the idea of being unnoticeable.
"Gee, I wonder why," I finally moved to sit next to him, mindful of the space between us, which was taken up by his bright police jacket. "You drop off of the face of the earth for twelve hours-"
"You know why, don't you." He laughed, a sharp and humorless laugh; he nodded his head in a general direction, as if trying to indicate the entire area. "I did this last year, too. I left while Callum was calming down from a fight. I suppose he assumed I was doing the same, then."
When he had first told me about his sister, and his suicide attempt, there was an unspoken part that I detected: We never speak of this again. He had trusted me with the story, with something no-one else knew, and I was sure that he had not planned on it ever being a future conversation topic.
"Were you two close?" The words shot out of my mouth and clumsily entered the air between us without my permission.
Stephen noticeably exhaled. "Very. We-" he paused.
I pulled out my vibrating phone and looked at the ID.
"Who is it?"
Stephen looked at me, his eyes dark from the shade of his helmet's brim. "Aren't you going to-"
"Nope," I pressed the 'end call.' "He can wait."
An expression of confusion clouded his face, but it immediately cleared to indifference. "But, yes, we were close," he looked away for a moment before meeting my eyes again. "It's just that, before she…"
He nodded. "Before that, she began to not be very-" His voice cracked. He swallowed and looked up to the sky. "Why'd you come, Rory?"
You know how, with some people, you just seem to expect them to be strong? You can't imagine them being anything that is defined as weak. They are like the rocks you cling to when everything is pretty much going downhill. Was this Stephen breaking like he had before; was this what Callum had meant by him being "different"? A small part of me instantly filled with a deep, going-to-drag-me-down feeling.
Stephen removed the helmet and clenched it in his hands, his knuckles becoming white. His thick black hair was sweaty, sticking to his pale skin, and the question of just how long he had been sitting in this cemetery crossed my mind. On the anniversary of his sister's death, he was sitting here, alone. I know that he doesn't speak to his family, Boo had said.
I shrugged. "I don't exactly have fantastic people skills, but I admit that you look as if you need a friend." I rubbed a spot on my arm as a lone rain drop fell.
He glanced over at me, and then up at the sky again with his brow furrowed in thought; like he had never experienced rain, or the idea of someone actually wanting to comfort him, before. My phone buzzed once more, and I half-slid it out of my pocket. There was a text from Boo, asking if I had found him. I managed to type a simple 'Yes' and press send before Stephen began again.
"She had begun to party more and more. We were, basically, growing far apart. And then she died, so she was the farthest away from me she could be." His voice was low, and he gestured to the cemetery again. "She's buried at my family's plot, which is too far away to get there and back unnoticed. So I just come here." Stephen's eyes focused on me, and, specifically, the hand that was still over my pocket. "If you need to go-"
I shook my head. "It's Sunday. No classes."
We sat in silence. At one point, he wiped his glasses on his sweater, and inspected the lenses. He wiped them again before being satisfied.
"What was her name?" I questioned. Was this good conversational territory or not? Should I have resorted to talking about bunnies? Gossip about the possibility of Callum and Boo? Of course, these questions and the possible consequences of my voiced question did not appear until the words were spoken aloud.
Stephen abruptly stood up, and placed the helmet back on his head. "Come on. We need to get you inside." I followed suit, sort of surprised by the sudden movement and the intense wave of guilt I felt at crossing the lines he had drawn. He draped the too-large jacket over my shoulders, as if it was meant to be an unspoken apology. I wrapped it around me, and was thus swallowed up in fluorescent green as rain drops began to fall in quick succession. Stephen scanned the cemetery one more time and murmured something that sounded like a good-bye before ushering me to his car with one of his hands on my back.
I wanted to ask what was the exact reason he left last night, and to ask why he had written the day's date down, because you'd think he had memorized the anniversary's date, but I wisely kept my mouth shut as he shooed me into the back of the vehicle. It was now fully drizzling, and I stared out of the window as he began to drive. London passed by in a rainy, monochromatic blur.
"You're okay, right?"
He turned the car onto a street I recognized that led to Goodwin's Court, and slowed it down. He shifted as much as he could in the seat and looked at me. His gaze seemed to soften; soften just the tiniest degree, mind you, but that one look managed to warm me all of the way down to my drenched toes in the converse I had worn. "I'm okay."
Sorry if Stephen or anybody sounds sort of out of character. I wasn't sure how to write this. XD Anyway, I hope that you liked it, and thanks for reading! -MythScavenger