Pools Of Venetian Blue

The panic set in barely seconds after Carole hung up the phone. It took her five minutes to pack enough clothes to last her a week, her hands shaking the entire time like her veins were filled with electricity. It wasn't until she zipped her small suitcase shut and dropped it by the front door that it even occurred to her to call her husband.

"Ms. Hudson?"

Carole snapped awake, sitting up so quickly that she was fairly sure she pulled a muscle in her shoulder. She winced, trying to stretch out the cramps in her spine from dozing off in one of the uncomfortable hospital waiting room chairs. Claire Burnham was standing in front of her with a red portfolio clutched in the crook of her arm.

"Did you sleep here last night, Ms. Hudson?" asked Ms. Burnham.

"Um," Carole said, rubbing her left eye with the heel of her hand. "No, I – I just got in early."

Ms. Burnham frowned at her wristwatch. "It's six-thirty."

Carole sighed with a grim smile. "There's a bedbug infestation at my motel."

The social worker cringed. "Well, I brought you coffee," she said, holding out a paper cup. "It's from the cafeteria so it's probably terrible, but it's better than nothing."

Carole thanked her and took a long gulp, raking her fingers through her hair in the hopes that it might make her look a little less bedraggled (it didn't).

Ms. Burnham pressed her lips together for a moment, her fingertips tightening briefly around the red folder. "I have the results of your DNA test."

Carole sat up immediately, her heart leaping into her throat.

Ms. Burnham sat in the chair beside her. "It came back positive. There's no doubt; he's your son."

The air rushed from Carole's lungs so quickly that it made her dizzy, and she had to brace her elbows on her knees until the roaring in her ears finally died down. Her vision was blurry, and she was struggling to keep her lip from trembling. She swiped a shaking hand over her eyes. "Can— can I s-see him?"

Ms. Burnham nodded. "Soon," she said gently. "We need to go over a few things first."

"Can't it wait?" Carole asked. She didn't notice her voice crack. "Please."

"I'm sorry. It won't take long," Ms. Burnham promised.

Carole swallowed, taking a deep breath and sitting back again in the rigid plastic chair. Her back, still stiff from sleeping, popped loudly in the early morning quiet.

Ms. Burnham let the file fall open in her lap, the words too small for Carole to read herself (and either way her eyes were still swimming). "Okay," Ms. Burnham exhaled. "Finn was brought in to the hospital six days ago for a gunshot wound to the chest—"

Carole's eyes flew open, her stomach clenching. "Gunshot wound?!"

"He's going to be fine," Ms. Burnham said quickly, holding up a hand. "It'll take a little while for his organs to fully recover from the damage, but he'll be okay. The bullet missed his heart."

Carole shook her head, feeling like her brain had been knocked loose. "Why was he shot? Who shot him?"

"He hasn't been willing to tell us, but from what I can tell, drugs were most likely involved."

Suddenly, the blood seemed to rush out of Carole's head, as if it had all abruptly given in to gravity. Not again.

"D-drugs – what kind of drugs?" she forced herself to ask.

Ms. Burnham's expression was pitying, and Carole wanted to vomit.

"The toxicology report found mostly heroin in Finn's bloodstream, along with alcohol and trace amounts of cocaine. Dr. Thompson also found evidence of at least three years' dependency."

Carole nearly dropped her coffee. Every muscle in her body felt weak and inadequate as she rested her head in the cup of her free hand. "Oh my God…" she whispered.

"He's going through some pretty severe withdrawal right now, but he's young. He'll pull through in a few days," Ms. Burnham said kindly, though her tone completely failed at being reassuring.

"C-Can I see him?" Carole pleaded, her heart thudding violently against her ribs. "I need— I need to see him."

Ms. Burnham sighed, but nodded. "We can go over the rest later." She stood up, folding the file shut again. "Come with me."

All the way up to the third floor, Carole barely breathed, unable to keep her fingers from nervously twisting around each other as she stood in the elevator. She fiddled with her wedding ring, wishing Burt was here, but at the same time… she was glad he wasn't. He would have made things too cramped.

Ms. Burnham led the way out of the elevator and down a corridor, underneath a sign announcing that they were entering the Urgent Care unit. Ms. Burnham was talking, but Carole couldn't hear anything except her own heartbeat.

Finn could briefly remember being shot. He could recall the quick flash of light from the gun in Joey's hand, and Kayley's shrill scream, and the wet pavement rushing up to meet him head-on. He remembered the dull ache in his chest and the strange calm that followed as the buildings overhead grew fuzzy. He hadn't seen Kayley or Joey leave, but they must have run off, terrified of the police sirens drawn to the sound of the gunshot still echoing in Finn's ears. He remembered dizzily trying to push himself up, knowing he had to get away from the flashing blue lights suddenly lighting up the alley, but the movement made the blood pump out of his chest even faster, and everything had gone black.

That had been nothing.

Whatever was happening to him now was far worse than having a bullet lodged in his left lung. He couldn't lie still, but every move he made sent painful bolts of electricity through his nerves, all the way to his fingertips and toes. There were millions of bugs crawling along his flesh underneath his skin, and everything was hot-cold-hot-cold-hot-cold without relief. He couldn't breathe without his lungs burning up inside his ribs and the stitches over where he'd been shot digging into his chest like claws.

He kept trying to turn over onto his side, curl up and wrap his arms around his abdomen as his organs rotted inside him, but after he'd ripped out his IV drip and tried to leave the hospital without telling the doctors, they'd put straps on his wrists and ankles and now he could only lie on his back with his arms at his sides.

He'd be fine so long as he got a hit soon.

He just needed a little hit. A gram or two would get him back on his feet.

There was a weird clacking sound in his ears, and it took him a moment to realize his teeth were chattering. He curled and uncurled his fists, his nails digging into his palms as his blood vessels burned up. There was a cold sweat pooling in the small depression between his collarbones, he could feel it but he couldn't get rid of it.

God, his head hurt.

He really needed that hit.

"Finn." A hand gently shook him, making him jump. "Finn. You with me?"

The social worker from earlier was standing next to his bed, looking down at him with something like pity. His brain was filled with squirming insects and he couldn't quite remember her name.

"Finn, you have a visitor," she said, her fingers firmly gripping his shoulder.

He blinked, swallowing. When he opened his mouth, his tongue felt like sandpaper and was still coated with the acidic taste of vomit from last night. He didn't think he'd slept at all.

"Did you hear me?"

The woman's hand squeezed a little too tightly. His skin was about to burst open like a piñata and let the rest of him collapse and splash and ooze and fall apart across the floor. He coughed, swiping his dry tongue over his dry lips.

"K-Kayley?" he forced through his teeth, shivering too much to speak properly. He felt his ribs go rigid. Maybe Kayley had come to make sure he was okay. She'd do that for him. She wasn't like the rest of the people he knew.

The woman shook her head. "We found your mother."

A sharp stab of jagged pain cut through his stomach as a laugh jumped out of his throat. "My mom's d-de-dead," he said, his lungs shuddering with the chill.

"Her name is Carole," she countered as if he hadn't spoken. "She's waiting outside. Will you let her come in?"

He was pretty sure there was something wrong with his eyes. They wouldn't focus and one of them felt like it wasn't opening all the way.

"Finn. Will you let her come in?"

His brain was writhing inside his skull and the only thing he could scramble together enough thought to say was a hitched and stammered "W-Whatever."

A few seconds skipped ahead like a scratched record, and then there was an unfamiliar woman standing next to him. He squinted at her, tiny spots flickering and making it difficult to see clearly, but going by her clothes she wasn't a cop, a social worker, or a nurse. He didn't know what she was.


His lungs stuttered and he coughed, a harsh and jagged hacking noise that made his eardrums rattle and his throat feel like it was bleeding. He tried again to roll onto his side, but the shackles pulled at his wrists.

"Are— Are you okay?"

That was a stupid question. Finn swallowed the bile in his mouth and blinked, trying to clear his vision enough to see who she was, but beads of sweat collecting on his forehead rolled down and ran into his eyes.

He was pretty sure he wasn't supposed to be breathing this fast.

Why did she know his name?

The muscles in his abdomen spasmed, and he flinched, his lungs heaving.

"Why is he strapped down?"

"He pulled out his IV and tried to run off," answered the social worker. "We have to keep him restrained for his own safety. It's just until the worst is over with."

"How long will that be?"

Finn couldn't hear very well. There was pressure building up in his ears as if he was rapidly losing altitude and everything sounded like he was listening from underwater, but from what he could make out, the unfamiliar woman sounded… scared.

Why should she be scared?

"Probably a week or so. Maybe two. It depends on how heavily he's been dependent in the time since his addiction started. We'll only keep the straps on until tomorrow morning, though. Walking around will make him feel better."

The woman's hand brushed over his arm, making the bugs under his skin scatter like roaches, up his shoulders and into his chest, and Finn jerked back.

"I-I'm sorry," she said softly. "I'm sorry."

Why was it so hard to breathe?

Finn's hands curled into fists, his nails almost cutting into his palms as his fingers clenched, and his wrists pulled at the straps. Every pore of his skin was icy-hot, wrapping him in the agonizing sensation of boiling alive.

"Can't you give him something?" the stranger pleaded. "Make it easier?"

"The doctor says his system needs to be flushed. He's on as much pain medication as they're willing to risk."

It's not enough, Finn wanted to shout, but his jaw was clenched so tightly that he didn't think it could open, and his tongue felt swollen and numb. He just wanted this to be over. He needed to get out of here.

After a short while, exhaustion seemed to finally settle into his brain, the corners of the room slowly fading dark. The last thing he heard before he sank into unconsciousness was the strange woman repeating promises he didn't understand.