Disclaimer: I don't own AMC's The Walking Dead or any of its characters, wishful thinking aside.
Authors Note #1: This is my fill response to a prompt posted on LJ at the TWD Kink Meme community: "Shane: Death Echo. Shane's spirit is a death echo reliving how he died in that field over and over every night." *Rated for: cannon character death, adult language, adult situations, angst, and maybe a hint of unrequited Rick/Shane love if you squint.
Warnings: This story will contain direct dialogue from the death scene in Season 2, episode 12: "Better Angels," which are italicized and quoted throughout the course of this fiction. – Obviously I don't own this material; it is being used for creative purposes in order to fulfill the premise of the prompt that the story is based on.
A Sonata for Icarus
"So this is where you planned to do it?"
It started with a gunshot.
No, that wasn't right. It was a knife. The same smooth edged blade he'd used at the quarry to fillet lake trout and whittle away chunks of fire wood while he was on watch had somehow made its way into Rick's sheath. It was the same one he'd lent to Morales, who'd then lent it to Jacqui, who'd eventually given it back to Jim under the mistaken assumption that it'd been his in the first place. - Ironically, the truth was he didn't know who the damn thing had belonged to either. He'd taken it off a dead man in the street outside the station before the town had been over run.
"It's good a place as any…"
The man had been lying face down on the pavement with a missing left arm, a chunk torn out of his right thigh, and a bullet hole drilled right through the back of his skull. Leon had been too busy puking his guts out into a thigh-high hedge of Indian Plum to tell him what had happened. And at the time he'd been too impressed with the fact that Leon had actually managed to hit what he'd been aiming at to pay much attention to the dead man currently slow cooking into the pavement not ten meters away from their own front door.
"At least have the balls to call this what it is… murder."
But in truth, he hadn't had much time to consider either because he'd only just started rifling through the poor bastard's pockets for some ID when a small horde of walkers had rounded the corner on the other side of the street and started running towards them. He'd yanked the knife and sheath right off the man's belt on pure reflex. Yelling for Leon to follow him as he'd stumbled to his feet and sprinted back towards the station. Already on the radio for reinforcements as half a dozen officers spilled out the front door and onto the station's front lawn, guns at the ready.
"You really believe if you walk back onto that farm alone, no me, no Randall…"
That was the last time anyone had seen Leon Basset. And to be honest there hadn't been much time to miss him either. Not before the entire world had gone to shit around them. He knew Lam had gone out to find him afterwards, shouting his name over the loud speaker and rolling through the back roads around the station for hours afterwards. He'd even had the Sergeants stuck on desk duty calling the man's cell and radio every five fucking minutes. But it hadn't done any good. Leon had been no where to be found and given the state of the town at that point, there just hadn't been the time or the man power to do anything more than they already had.
Lam hadn't lasted long after that. He supposed that he'd come to like Leon, or at least felt responsible for the rookie at any rate. Either way, he figured it said something when Lam refused to take another partner after been assigned to help FEMA evacuate the town. - It was a few days later that anyone heard heads or tails of him. He'd been in the station, writing up the paperwork on a looting suspect when he'd overheard one of the Linden County Sheriffs screamin' over the radio a few hours after the military barricades had been overrun. Hearing Lam's name being listed as one of the survivors before the transmission had suddenly cut off in mid-word. Devolving into a storm of static no matter how many times they tried to raise them. …As far as he knew Lam had never made it back to the station. None of them had.
"I want you to hush up!"
He remembered now, the gunshot had come after.
He gets confused sometimes, getting the order jumbled up here and there as the nights come and go. Once, twice, twenty, a hundred times… There isn't any sense to it; it isn't linear or even relative. Time doesn't flow right here. It fractured and broke, sending him splintering off into a thousand different directions. Pulling him apart piece by piece until there is nothing left but the anger and the hate. Ripping into him like wild dogs slavering over a carcass until the night suddenly ends and a new one rises up in its place. Finding himself inexplicably whole, standing amidst the backdrop of that terrible night just so the whole nightmare could rewind and start again.
Because the thing is, he never makes it past that night.
"You really believe they are going to buy whatever bullshit story you cook up?!"
The first time it happened he'd stumbled forward and cried out. Breathing in the lingering smell of burnt carbon and melted vinyl siding as the thick gloom of an unseen fire spread out across the clearing like phantom wisps of escaped atmosphere. He remembered how wrong it had seemed as he'd waved his hands first in front of his face and then Ricks. Choking on the thinning smoke as he'd screamed and tried to pull himself away. He tried to take his own gun, then Rick's. But it didn't do any good. He was just an echo, a spectre, or maybe even some sort of ghost. He couldn't change anything, at least nothing that mattered at any rate.
"That's just it, it aint no story. I saw that prisoner shoot you down. I ran after him. I snapped his neck. It ain't gonna be easy, but Lori and Carl - they'll get over you. They done it before. They just gonna have to…"
It was a blink and you miss it type of affair when he'd first appeared out of thin air in the middle of that field. Fingers clenched tight around his gut just like he'd been before Rick's face had floated overhead and everything had gone dark. Only this time he was whole, his clothing and skin unmarred by the blood and filth had that had been spilling out of his gut like water dribbling from a faulty hose only seconds earlier. His nose was unbroken, and hell, even his hair had grown back. Running thick, callused fingers through his mess of dark brown hair as he slowly took stock of himself.
"Why… Why now? I thought we worked this all out."
But then he'd realized where he was, and everything changed. This is when he lurched forward, calling out, the moon low and full behind him as the crickets and chickadees chirped in the long grass. But neither of them answered. He tried to stop them…he tried to stop himself, but nothing worked. It was like he was caught in a loop of film that was being played over again and again, and all he could do was watch.
And as much as he wanted to, he found that he couldn't look away. Because for a long moment, he didn't even fucking recognize himself.
Instead he watches his face ripple, the scent of hate and desperation so cloying and thick that he nearly chokes on it. Hearing Rick's pleading tones, and his angry ones. He cries out to warn him, Rick, himself, maybe even the both of them. But it doesn't do any good. He's too late. That moment has already come and gone, and now he's suffering for it.
"We tried to kill each other man. What you think? We just gonna forget about it all? We gonna ride off into the sunset together?"
But just as he is about to reach out, to push Rick away or maybe even hold him close, Rick simply melts away. Dissolving into a thousand different particles of light that lance through him the moment before the darkness takes him down. Throwing him back into the nothingness that exists between what he assumes is the sunrise and the sunset. Like the unknown force that brings him back night after night is just waiting for the moon rise.
"You're gonna kill me in cold blood? - Screw my wife. And have my children, MY children call you daddy? Is that what you want?!"
It took him longer than he cared to admit to realize he was dead. But even longer for him to come to terms with it. Because the truth is he'd never really bought into all that Mystic River, House on Haunted Hill revenge-type bullshit. He'd never been one to pray or go to church, to believe in such things as heaven and hell. He still doesn't to be honest.
He exists here, if you can call it that. It isn't linear or logical and it certainly doesn't make any sense. But he's here all the same. The ground is solid underneath his feet and his skin is firm to the touch. But he can't touch either himself or Rick, nor can he escape from the scene itself. He's caught here, kept tightly leashed by some invisible force, the same one that brings him back here every god damned night to watch the same thing happen over and over again.
Near as he could tell, he was fucking stuck. And god help him, but he'd give anything to be free of it, anything.
"That life won't be worth a damn. I know you… You won't be able to live with this."
He sees in double images now. It takes time to understand it. To differentiate between the past and the present, but eventually he gets the hang of it. He sees the clearing like it was the night it happened, and as it is in the present. And through the grace of that double vision, he watches himself rot and fade. Exposed to the elements and the scavengers as his clothing eventually washes clean of the blood and dirt and his ruined skin pulls taunt and sallow.
Eventually he just stops looking.
Months pass, maybe even years before he learns to see it differently. Before he starts to see that there are others sides to the moment, other angles and intricacies that he'd missed the first time around. He sees the desperation in Rick's eyes, the anger, and the pleading. And he sees the rage in his own, the horror, and that manic feeling that had bordered on a joy and despair as he'd contemplated what life would be like without him. …Without Rick.
He watched the moment where he'd wavered, where he'd started to lower his gun as something in Rick's voice had broken through. He wasn't exactly sure what it was, but it was something that he recognized, something that he remembered from the days before everything had gone to shit. Something good, right and appealing in a world that now harbored none of those things.
"What'chew know about what I can live with?! You got no idea what I can live with – what I live with! You wanna talk about what I can do Rick?! How about what you can do?! Here I am! Com'on man, raise your gun!"
It's almost beautiful, he realizes. He hadn't noticed it before, but it was. With the field stretching off into the distance like a roll of green-hued silk, a continuous patchwork of rippling grass and overgrown wheat backlit by the moonlight for as far as the eye could see.
But the feeling wasn't just reserved for the landscape. And as the nights trickled past, unchanging and inevitable he begins to see it more and more. It was all there, caught in the lines of Rick's face as the man pleaded with him. Present in the haunted, broken look that had settled in the back of the man's eyes the moment he'd pulled out his piece and told the man to raise his gun.
It was even there in the way Rick's expression had softened just before the knife flared between his fingertips. Rushing forward to rob him of something he'd never thought Rick could take. A single tear rolling down his cheek as his brother had twisted that knife inside him. Ripping through everything he had left and leaving him with nothing as the man's anguished screams echoed soundlessly through the clearing, shattering the heady calm.
"No. No I will not."
Some nights he wonders if he deserved it after all.
A/N: Thank you for reading, I hope you enjoyed! There will be one more chapter to this story. - Please let me know what you think! Reviews and constructive critiquing are love!
Glossary: A 'death echo' is a concept coined in the TV show "Supernatural." It is a cannon term created to describe the following: "a type of trapped ghost. The spirit is stuck re-enacting its death over and over in a loop. Sometimes the spirit can be shocked into moving on, particularly by someone with whom the deceased has an emotional connection." (Sourced from the Supernatural wiki.)
"Of all ghosts, the ghosts of our old loves are the worst." – Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. (from 'The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes.')