“Welcome back, sleeping beauty.”
Lassiter grunted in affirmation.
“You don’t remember?” Lassiter asked with a frown. He watched as Shawn struggled to his feet in the dim light, pulling away from where Lassiter had a firm grip on his arm.
“Hey... hey! Take it easy!” Lassiter chided quietly, releasing his arm. “You need to sit down.”
“Why?” Shawn asked in confusion.
“You don’t remember?”
“Would you stop saying that?!” the younger man exclaimed, waving his arms.
“OW! Son of a--!” Shawn gasped in pain, gripping the arm Lassiter had just let go of.
“That’s why,” Lassiter replied dryly.
“I’ve been shot...” Shawn whispered in awe, staring down at the makeshift bandage covering the upper portion of his right arm. It was already soaked through and blood was dripping down the length of his arm sluggishly.
“You’ve said that already.”
“What? No, I haven’t.”
“Yes, you have,” Lassiter sighed from where he was still sitting on the dirt floor, his back against the wall.
“You’ve been in and out of consciousness for a while now,” Lassiter replied grimly. “You managed to crack your thick skull on something when we were thrown down here.”
There was a pause as Shawn sorted through the information.
“Great...” he said slowly. “I’ve been shot, probably have a concussion, and Lassie-face here hasn’t been keeping me awake...”
“Not for lack of trying,” Lassiter scoffed in defense. “It’s not my fault you refused to stay awake.” He squinted into the dark when Shawn didn’t respond.
“Hmm...?” came the weak response as Shawn stumbled across the space to the far wall.
Far being a relative term, it couldn’t have been more than eight feet from the wall Lassiter was sitting against. Lassiter frowned, barely able to see Shawn in the low light as the younger man felt his way along the wall, following the circumference of the room. With each passing moment, he could hear Shawn’s breathing become more and more erratic.
“Spencer?” Lassiter asked tensely, concern creeping into his voice. Shawn was in serious danger of--
Scratch that, he was hyperventilating.
“Spencer!” Lassiter snapped when Shawn began laughing hysterically. He weakly slapped the wall a few times then slid down it, still giggling.
“What’s so funny?” Lassiter asked carefully.
“Life!” Shawn exclaimed with a large laugh.
“And Karma!” Shawn continued, ignoring him. “It’s a bitch!... After all that...”
There was a pause as Shawn drew a shaky breath.
“After all that...” his voice cracked despite the giggles. “After surviving all that... I’ll still end up dying in a god damned hole in the ground!” Shawn shouted the last few words bitterly, his laughing turning to sobs as he crumpled over.
“What the hell is wrong with you, Spencer?” Lassiter growled, trying very hard not to let himself panic at the younger man’s distress. He had never seen Shawn react like this. “Are you claustrophobic?”
Shawn laughed hollowly.
“No, I’m not claustrophobic,” he replied in a flat voice. “I just have this... issue... with dying in holes in the ground,” Shawn spat in a voice devoid of hope, making Lassiter’s stomach churn in apprehension. Shawn fell unnaturally silent.
“They’re going to find us, you know,” Lassiter attempted to reassure him awkwardly.
“Spencer! They’re going to find us!” Lassiter snapped. The younger man slowly lifted his head.
“No, they’re not...” Shawn slurred. “And even if they do, what’re they gonna do..? Can’t pull us out, and negotiations aren’t gonna work...”
What the hell is he talking about?
Lassiter grunted in pain as he struggled to his feet, ignoring the sharp stab of pain from standing on his twisted ankle, and shuffled over to where he thought Shawn was. He hissed in annoyance when he hit his head on the low ceiling, then lowered himself down as best he could, using the wall for support.
“Shit...” Lassiter muttered. From his now close proximity, he could clearly see the way Shawn was slumped forward, his injured arm hanging limp as he stared off into space with glazed eyes. The heat that was pouring off his skin set off alarm bells in the head detective’s mind.
“Spencer, your wound is getting infected,” he said softly.
“Why does that surprise you?” Shawn replied in an odd voice.
“You need to keep pressure on the wound,” Lassiter tried again, irritation and concern growing. Shawn shrugged slightly, pulling his arm forward to quickly and mercilessly tighten the makeshift bandage with a grunt.
“It’s not that bad. I’ve had worse.”
“Right,” Lassiter commented with a roll of his eyes. “You’ve been shot once before.”
“Once?” Shawn laughed like Lassiter had told him the best joke in the world. “Dude, don’t you remember last year?”
“No...” Lassiter said slowly, trying to figure out was talking about. “Remind me.”
“Marky and I were caught in that firefight? Got stuck in that podunk hospital for what... six weeks?”
Dread settled in Lassiter’s gut.
“Spencer... who’s Marky?”
“Dude,” Shawn said with an incredulous look. “He’s sitting right over there--” He hissed in pain when he attempted to lift his injured arm to point across the room.
“Jesus, Spencer! Now it’s bleeding again,” Lassiter snapped quietly, grabbing ahold of his arm to apply pressure again to the wound.
“Gah!” Shawn gasped in pain as Lassiter pressed down hard. He turned his head to look at Lassiter with clear, though pain filled, eyes.
“Lassie, when did you get here?”
Lassiter kept still as Shawn stirred into consciousness again. At first, he had done his best to keep Shawn rooted in the present and out of his hallucinations, but about the third round of consciousness in, Lassiter had come to two realizations: 1, trying to keep Shawn in the present was futile, and 2, Shawn might not be hallucinating. At that point, Lassiter had decided his time was better spent making sure the other man didn’t bleed out... and figuring out where the hell Shawn actually thought he was.
“Popeye?” Shawn slurred.
Hallucination... or memory, Lassiter thought, recognizing the name of the person Shawn thought he was in his less than lucid state.
“How are you feeling, Spencer?” he grunted.
“Crappy,” Shawn slurred in response. “Head’s pounding but not too hungry, though. Did they actually decide to feed us?”
Lassiter filed that information away with a surprised raise of his eyebrows.
“Yeah,” he responded after a moment. “What do you remember?”
Shawn hadn’t answered that question yet, usually snapping out of it before Lassiter had the chance to ask or Shawn had the chance to respond.
“We were... We were twenty kilometers from the border...”
Lassiter held his breath as Shawn frowned in thought.
“Twenty kilometers...” Shawn gave a hollow laugh. “Twenty kilometers from safety and friendlies and they caught us and threw us in this goddamn hole.” He looked around with eyes bright with fever. “Can’t have been down here long though... no beards...”
“They, uh... let us shave.”
“Yeah right,” Shawn snorted. “If they gave us a blade, Cutter would’ve sliced them up like pigs for slaughter.”
“Uh huh...” Lassiter murmured, adding the name ‘Cutter’ to his mental list of information he had acquired from his sessions questioning Shawn.
“And what border were we twenty kilometers from?” he asked carefully.
Shawn shot him a suspicious look. Lassiter’s eyebrows shot up when Shawn spat something at him in a language that sounded a lot like Russian then yanked his injured arm away from Lassiter’s grip with a gasp of pain.
“How long have we been down here?”
Lassiter opened his eyes at the rasped question and lifted his head from where it was resting heavily against the wall. He glanced down at where Shawn was lying on the ground, legs propped up across Lassiter’s bent knees in an attempt to prevent the rapidly approaching shock from setting in.
“A while,” Lassiter responded softly, not looking at his watch. He didn’t want to cause the dying man to panic.
Shawn was going to die if they weren’t found soon.
“You don’t have to sugarcoat it for me, Lassie,” Shawn gasped in a whisper.
Lassiter frowned in concern as Shawn’s weak laugh turned into a gasping attempt to regain his breath.
“M’fine... m’fine...” Shawn mumbled once he had caught his breath to some degree, briefly closing his eyes in pain. Lassiter felt sick. There was nothing he could do for the ‘psychic’ detective. He had given up his attempt to gain info hours ago. There hadn’t seemed to be a point.
What use was having information on Shawn if the man was going to die?
“...I really didn’t think I would end up dying in a hole anyway...” Shawn commented absently. Lassiter sat up to check his eyes: he was lucid.
“All this time, I figured I would die in a blaze of glory... hell, I’d have even taken a car crash...”
There was a pause.
“Anything but this...” Shawn whispered. Lassiter remained still, the only movement coming from the bloody pus mixture that leaked from Shawn’s wound under Lassiter’s unwavering grip.
“I suppose... it doesn’t matter now...” Shawn said, staring at the dark ceiling a few feet from his head.
“We didn’t find out until later...” he began in a breathy whisper. “They kept us in that hole for nearly four months...”
Lassiter’s eyes widened.
“They probably would have tried to keep negotiating longer, but winter was coming on quick... it was so fucking cold at the end...”
Shawn grimaced at the memory, shivering involuntarily.
“Got pneumonia... all of us did... Well, other than Frank, he died pretty early on...”
“They let his body rot for a month before they removed it,” Shawn commented hollowly. Lassiter stared at him in horror, at a complete loss for words.
“Took me years not to smell it every time I closed my eyes... even now, I’m not even bothered by the smell of a corpse.”
Lassiter blinked slowly. He had never really taken notice before, usually Gus’ dramatic reactions to even the mildest of crime scenes distracted them from Shawn. But now that he thought about it, he couldn’t recall a single time where Shawn had been visibly affected by the smell... or even the sight of a dead body.
“We knew what to do...” Shawn’s voice was weaker now, his eyes half closed as he spoke. “We were trained. We did... did everything we could... to stay sane...”
“Spencer,” Lassiter said softly as Shawn fought for breath. The younger man shook his head ever so slightly.
“No... I’m fine,” Shawn said, taking a deep breath, or at least as much of one as he could manage.
“Lassie... at the end... I was so sure we were going to die...” Shawn smiled slightly, turning his head to look at Lassiter. The head detective felt as though he had just been sucker punched when he saw the single tear that trailed down Shawn’s cheek.
“They asked me... what... what I would do,” Shawn gasped. Lassiter could feel his entire body strain in effort to breathe.
“I said... I... I said if we got out.... If... then I’d... do my..... best to forget...”
“I... said I’d... forget all of... it.. the... training,” Shawn paused, laboring for breath as he grinned faintly up at Lassiter. “I swore... that... that I’d live my life... doing everything... I’d been... been trained not... to...”
He closed his eyes as he took a shuddering breath, a smile still on his face.
“And... when they... when they came for us... I quit... took... took my bike... did... whatever I wanted... sleep in late... never... be serious... have fun...”
Lassiter vaguely felt a smile spread on across his own numb face.
“Every... time.. you guys would... get all pissy at... at me... it just... meant I was... was that much... further... from that... godforsaken... hole in the ground..”
“You did well then.” Lassiter was surprised by the quiet words that tumbled out of his mouth in a rough voice. Shawn opened his eyes, meeting his for a brief moment before the smile slipped from the younger man’s face.
“I... I don’t--” Shawn’s eyes widened as he struggled for breath but couldn't find it. “I... I don’t...”
“Don’t what?” Lassiter asked softly, already knowing the answer.
“...want to die... die here...”
Tears slid down the younger man’s cheeks.
“I’m sorry,” Lassiter said helplessly.
“S’not... your fault... Lassie...” Shawn insisted, his voice stronger. “You were just... doing your job... I was the one... who wanted to... confront them...”
“You didn’t know they’d panic and shoot you and lock us up down here,” was Lassiter’s numb, automatic reply.
“I... had a feeling...”
“Right, the ‘spirits’ told you,” Lassiter scoffed quietly, enjoying how normal it felt to roll his eyes at the other man.
Lassiter’s eyes snapped to Shawn’s, who was staring at him with a serious expression. He ought to have been elated, finally having had Shawn admit he wasn’t psychic... but all he felt was a sudden punch to his gut as the reality of the situation came rushing back.
“They’ll find us,” Lassiter whispered hoarsely. He didn’t even know who he was trying to convince anymore, him or the man who was lying on the ground, dying.
“Sure... Lassie...” Shawn rasped with a sad grin. “Eventually... they’ll find us.. but not--”
“Damnit, Spencer! Hold on!” Lassiter snapped in a panic. Shawn’s skin was becoming more and more ashen by the second, his pulse weaker. “Just do what you’re told for once, you gigantic pain in the ass!”
“Sorry...” Shawn whispered. “It’s been... fun... Lassie... you’re... a good... cop... good... friend...”
“Gonna... miss... that...”
Shawn’s weak chuckle dissolved into rapid gasps as his body fought for the oxygen it didn’t seem to be able to get. Lassiter watched in numb horror as Shawn’s eyes widened so far that he could count each vein, the younger man’s back arching off the ground, mouth open as he gasped for breath.
The quick little breaths became faster, more desperate, until they seemed to just stop altogether... and Shawn’s eyelids drooped shut.
Lassiter vaguely recognized that the wetness covering his cheeks were tears.
He didn’t care...
He just didn’t care.