The Mathews household was quiet; it was two a.m., so it was reasonable to expect that all in the house should be safe in their beds, sound asleep and preparing for the new day. However, this was not so.

Shawn was down in the kitchen, sitting at a stool in the raggediest clothes he had with a small duffel bag on the kitchen counter full of his few possessions. He had been a guest in a foreign environment since his father had left and he was tired of being a guest. It was time to return to the roots that he knew.

Swallowing hard, Shawn stood up and grabbed his bag. He walked across the kitchen, quietly opened the back door, and slipped outside. As he slowly closed the door, his side began to hurt intensely.

"No, I can't think about the pain right now," Shawn whispered. "I don't want them finding out."

As he walked out of the backyard, Shawn fought to keep the tears from forming in his eyes; his father had bestowed the parting gift of a beating right before he had taken off and the pain hadn't gone away.

Of course, Shawn thought as he made his way down the street, Chet had been drinking to deal with the depression over Virna's sudden disappearance and he had taken the frustration out on the only other person home at the time. The pain in his stomach was getting worse and his arm was starting to ache.

It was suddenly feeling colder now and he was near a darker part of downtown. Shawn had to fight hard to keep from crying or puking all over the sidewalk; he had been struggling to keep the pain under control for the past two weeks by eating as little as he could and sleeping as much as he was able.

However, that kind of behavior had gotten him labeled by the Mathews family as lazy and ungrateful; the fight at dinner over his unappreciative behavior had been the breaking point. Alan and Amy had insisted that he eat more and do more after school besides homework and sleep and Eric, who always thought that he was helping, had insisted upon it. Cory hadn't even dared to speak against his parents.

Morgan, who was frustrated with the fact that another person was there taking up space, had sided with her parents and Eric; she had then made several remarks about how Shawn should disappear.

I'm so tired. Shawn thought as he suddenly stopped in front of a dark alley and gazed down it, only to see that there was a spot beside a large dumpster that looked big enough for him to sleep in. He sighed and slowly walked over to it; after a few minutes of sleep, he would get up and continue walking.

As Shawn knelt down, however, intense pain seared through his abdomen and he promptly threw up on the cold ground. He coughed, wiped his mouth, and lay down on the ground; the cold was soothing.

I'll just sleep for a little bit and then go to school. Shawn thought as he sighed and closed his eyes.


The alarm sounded and Cory Mathews woke up, immediately concerned when he didn't hear any movement or noise in his bedroom. He sat up and was shocked to discover that Shawn's cot was empty and his ratty duffel bag was also gone. There was a folded up piece of paper on top of the empty cot.

Worried that Shawn had gone to do something stupid after the blowup during dinner the night before, Cory quickly got out of bed and hurried over to the cot. He picked up the note and unfolded it.

Cory,

I don't fit in here and I've decided to leave to find my father. Tell your family that I'm sorry.

Shawn

Cory frowned and folded the note back up; he couldn't believe that Shawn had run away in the night.

A horrible feeling of guilt suddenly hit him; Shawn hadn't eaten or done a lot of anything except sleep and do homework ever since his father had skipped town and he had not wanted to ever socialize.

Knock-knock-knock.

"Cory, Shawn, time to get up and get ready for school!" Amy's voice suddenly spoke through the door.

Cory's eyes widened and he said nothing as the knock sounded again, "Cory, Shawn, if you two don't get up and downstairs in the next five minutes, I'll send Eric in to wake you," Amy stated more sternly.

"Mom, we're coming," Cory lied in a nervous voice, silently wondering what he was going to do now.

Footsteps moved away from the door and Cory let out a sigh of relief; he had at least five minutes to think of some excuse for Shawn not being in the bedroom all night. The window was closed…

Cory's eyebrow immediately raised as he walked over to the window and opened it; he could climb out the window, down the tree, and go look for Shawn without his parents having to worry about them.

Swallowing hard, Cory climbed out the window and bit his lip; hopefully, Shawn was safe and sound.


The sudden rain storm last night had flooded his garden, Mr. Feeny observed as he came outside in his pajamas, bathrobe, and slippers to check his garden before he got ready for yet another day of school.

A rustling sound caught his attention and George looked up just in time to see Cory, who was in a pair of sweats, a t-shirt, and socks, jump down on to the picnic table from a tree. Cory sighed and winced.

"Mister Mathews, you cannot possibly go to school like that," Mr. Feeny commented in a firm voice.

Cory cringed and climbed off the picnic table, "I was looking for Shawn," he confessed anxiously.

"Shouldn't Mister Hunter be up in your bedroom getting ready for school?" Mr. Feeny replied.

Swallowing hard, Cory struggled to think of something to say, but before he could think up a plausible alibi for Shawn, the back door opened and closed, "Cory Mathews, what are you doing out in the backyard in your pajamas and socks?" Alan's irate voice filtered outside. "Come inside right now."

Cory turned and saw his father standing there, "I was just saying good morning to Mister Feeny, Dad," he replied in a nervous voice. "I wanted to see if that sudden rain storm wrecked his garden at all."

"Actually, the flowers aren't that bad," Mr. Feeny cut in, suddenly realizing that something was very amiss at the Mathews household and Cory was trying to cover for Shawn. "I was actually just trying to calm my nerves about a visitor I am receiving after school today whom I haven't seen in a while."

Alan looked amused, "Speaking of school, Cory, where's Shawn at?" he asked, gazing at his youngest son with a look of concern on his face. "Didn't your mother tell you and Shawn to come downstairs?"

Cory suddenly looked panicked, "Dad, I can explain," he said in a nervous voice. "Shawn is not here."

"Of course he isn't," Alan replied in an annoyed voice. "Shawn's not outside in his pajamas and socks."

Silently praying that he wouldn't end up in deeper trouble than he was already in, Cory handed Alan the note that Shawn had left upstairs. Alan took the note, unfolded it, and immediately looked concerned.

"Shawn's run away," Alan stated as he skimmed the note. "He says that he had to go find his father."


Fighting the urge to swear, Sarah pulled her blue Jeep over to the side of the road and quickly shut the engine off; it was the second time that the car had experienced problems since getting into the city

Letting out a sigh, she took the keys out, grabbed her hiking backpack out of the front seat, and got out of the rust bucket that she had used ever since graduating high school. Luckily, her jeans, checkered sweater, oversized trenchcoat, gloves, and knee-high boots would keep her warm in this cold weather.

As Sarah looked around, she tucked a loose strand of her blonde updo out of her face and it was then that something strange caught her eye; something was lying very, very still in a nearby alleyway.

Swallowing hard, Sarah walked into the alleyway and her eyes widened as she neared the thing; it was a young man who looked very pale, unconscious, and soaking wet. Had he spent the night in the alley?

"Young man, can you hear me?" Sarah asked as she dropped her bag on the ground and knelt down next to the unconscious young man, immediately horrified to see that he was barely breathing. "Hello?"

Shawn could vaguely hear someone telling him to get up, but his body was too weak and his brain was too worn out to register anything more than the voice going into his ear. He just wanted to die there.

Sarah sighed, reached into her trenchcoat pocket, and pulled out a cell-phone that she only used when emergency situations arose within her career field. From what she could see, this kid needed help badly.

Her fingers quickly dialed 9-1-1 and while she waited, Sarah quickly removed her trenchcoat and covered the unconscious teen with it. It was the least she could do for him while she waited with him.

"Hello," Sarah said as she finally heard a voice. "I found a young man unconscious in an alley…"


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