Set anywhere you want between Shules becoming a thing and the series finale. Also? We're no medical experts, so you probably want to take everything in here with a grain of salt. You've been warned.
Big shoutout to veggiewoppa for her help in sorting out a sticky plot point.
Standard disclaimers apply.
Big shoutout to veggiewoppa for her help in sorting out a sticky plot point.
Standard disclaimers apply.
The blur of a row of trees coming up fast in front of him was mixed with a disorienting blur of lights as the vehicle sped through the darkness.
The man in the seat next to him was yelling, and there was a sound like thunder, and he jerked the wheel to the side at the very last second. He felt his head slam into the window on his left at the same moment as an overwhelming explosion accompanied by the grating screech of metal brought everything else to a standstill.
It was early on a Tuesday morning as Juliet walked into the station. There was nothing to set the day apart as anything other than normal - although it was a newer normal than she'd been accustomed to less than a year before. But now… now her life was much different, and she still wasn't sure she'd ever get used to it.
Her partner was already at his desk when she arrived, and she gave him a small nod of greeting as she put her things away. "Any news?" she asked. She didn't have to expand on her question. No one had to clarify their questions on that case any longer.
With a grim expression, he shook his head. "Sorry, O'Hara. I wish I did."
She sighed and nodded, straightening her shoulders. She'd known deep down that answer would be the one she'd get, but she'd had to ask. It had become a habit of hers - practically a coping routine at this point - to check on the case every morning. The answer probably would never change at this point, but it could at any given moment, and she owed it to Shawn to ask every day on the chance that it had.
Carlton was watching her with concern etched across his face. "Are you okay?"
She shrugged. "Why wouldn't I be?" It wasn't an answer, and they both knew it.
"Did you see the news this morning?" he continued to press.
As a matter of fact, she had. She had wanted to avoid it, knowing what was most likely going to come any day now, but it was a morbid curiosity of sorts that had drawn her to the front page of the local news website when she'd woken up that morning. Six months to the day after… that day, it was long overdue to happen - as much as she didn't want it ever to happen. She swallowed down her emotions. "Yeah… I did."
Her partner sighed. "We have to find a way to nail that guy, O'Hara," he said firmly. "Ruiz should never have walked."
"I know," she replied. She swallowed again - it wasn't helping. "He's the one behind what happened - I know he is - but we've never had any proof of… what he did."
"We'll get him, O'Hara," Carlton said then. "One way or another, he'll screw up, and we'll be waiting when he does." The cell phone on Carlton's desk started to ring on the tail end of his declaration, and he grabbed it and glanced at the screen. He frowned, then hit the button to answer the call. "McNab, why are you calling me? You're supposed to be on vacation."
Juliet couldn't help her small smile at that. Carlton was the last person on earth to be lecturing anyone else about doing something work-related during vacation.
His tone got her attention as strongly and abruptly as if someone had physically grabbed her head and forced her to look at her partner. Carlton's eyes carried a mix of shock, relief, and… something else Juliet couldn't quite interpret. She raised an eyebrow in question even as she tried to squelch any hopeful feelings. The call could be about any one of a dozen things, but there was something about his expression…
"Thanks, McNab. We'll be right there." Carlton was already on his feet as he ended the call. He looked over at Juliet as he grabbed his blazer from the back of his chair.
She wanted to ask the question, but she found her voice sticking in her throat as she tried.
"Spencer's been found."
"Is… is he…"
"He's alive," Carlton replied gently.
The air left her lungs in one relieved breath.
"He's headed to the hospital." Her partner rounded his desk and started for the door, and she hurried to catch up to him. "The doctors should have more information by the time we get there."
Juliet nodded, hearing the words and trying to process them even as she tried to accept the news. It had been so long, complete with so many false sightings and clues that led nowhere, that she almost couldn't believe it now that it was actually happening.
But it was. Buzz had found him, and he was alive.
Shawn was coming home.
He'd barely started the car when O'Hara had launched into a barrage of questions. He'd noted her silence inside the station when he'd given her the news, but he hadn't been worried. He knew his partner, and he also knew what Spencer meant to his partner. He didn't fully understand it, but he knew it was there. And now, he observed with satisfaction that he'd been right.
"What happened?" she asked as she clicked her seatbelt into place. "Where was he? Is he okay? Did he say where he's been all this time? Did he -"
Lassiter cleared his throat as he checked his mirrors and then backed the vehicle out of its parking spot. "McNab was on his way out of town," he told her, "and he spotted a familiar figure on the street corner. Turned out to be Spencer."
"What?" O'Hara asked in confusion. "But why was he on the street? Has he been there all this time? How did we miss him?"
"Don't know yet," Lassiter sighed. "Apparently…" he paused as he searched for the right words. "O'Hara, according to McNab, Spencer was… unresponsive when he was picked up; that's the main reason they're at the hospital."
"Wait." O'Hara shook her head slightly as if trying to clear it. "What do you mean 'unresponsive'?" She frowned.
"I mean exactly that." Lassiter pulled out of the lot onto the main street, flicking on his lights and siren. He didn't care if he technically should use them or not. He was getting to the hospital, and no morning rush-hour traffic was going to stand in his way. "McNab said Spencer didn't recognize him; it was as if Spencer didn't even know where he was."
O'Hara bit her lip and sat back in her seat, staring out the windshield. Lassiter chose not to push the issue any further right then. They'd be at the hospital before long, where they would hopefully get answers from the doctors. In the meantime, he held back the rest of the report McNab had given him over the phone. It would do his partner no good for him to worry her more on the drive to the hospital; they'd have more information once they arrived anyway.
His call with McNab had been a quick briefing, punctuated by the mournful whine of the ambulance siren as the officer had followed behind the emergency vehicle. Spencer had been wandering down a side street, for all appearances looking like a homeless person trying to find his next meal. When McNab had approached him, the officer had grown more certain it was Spencer, only the other man had had no idea who McNab was. Spencer had been coherent enough to acknowledge someone was speaking to him and to agree to go to the hospital, but he was clearly suffering from some kind of trauma.
Lassiter clenched his jaw. They'd found Spencer, but the strange edge to McNab's voice over the phone hadn't been lost on the head detective. Between that and the way O'Hara had looked when he'd told her the news, there was only one driving thought in Lassiter's mind now: he needed answers. Finding those was the only thing that mattered right now.
Spencer had been recovered safely, and now Lassiter had a new target: the criminals responsible.
"I'm sorry, detectives; I wish I had better news."
The words rang in Lassiter's head as he strode down the hallway to Spencer's room, directly behind O'Hara and followed by McNab.
"I'm hesitantly hopeful, but you have to understand, Mr. Spencer has been through a lot."
When he and O'Hara had arrived at the hospital, McNab had been waiting for them by the nurses' station. Apparently the doctor had ordered any visitors to wait until she and her team had finished getting Spencer settled and doing their preliminary exams. The disclaimer was that, even then, they might not know what was going on with the patient, and there would most likely be more tests to be run and results to be analyzed. Thankfully, none of the medical team thought Spencer was in any danger, but they were going to have their hands full trying to figure out what had happened to him.
Lassiter nodded to the uniformed officer who was already stationed outside of Spencer's room, glad to see that his orders had been so quickly followed, then stepped past him. McNab swung the door shut behind them after they entered.
The detective swallowed. The doctor had told them what to expect, but it was still a shock to walk into the room and actually see the man in the bed.
Spencer was a shell of his former self, everything a contrast to what it had been before he'd disappeared. His hair was long and ragged, and he had a scruff of a beard growing along his chin. It appeared that someone - perhaps Spencer himself - had made an attempt at a haircut and a shave, but six months of unkemptness were definitely showing. He was wearing a hospital gown, one of those flimsy pieces of fabric that everyone hated, so there was no way to judge what he'd been wearing when he'd been found. Lassiter made a mental note to ask McNab about that later as what the doctor had told them about Spencer's condition replayed in the head detective's mind.
"He's suffered a head injury," the woman had explained, "and that seems to be contributing to his amnesia. It's hard to say what happened, specifically," she'd added when Lassiter had pushed for more information. "I'll have to do some more tests, but he has injuries that look only a few months old and are consistent with him having been in a car accident. If that's the case, then that could have easily caused his head injury." She'd paused and sighed. "And… there are other injuries my exam uncovered."
There had been something to her tone of voice that had prompted Lassiter to step closer to O'Hara. It was a good thing he had because, in the next minute, he put a hand on her back for support as the doctor continued.
Her tone had been detached and clinical, and, as soon as she'd continued, Lassiter had understood why she had to be. "He also has injuries consistent with… physical abuse over a period of time, perhaps months. Nothing newer than a month or so, but someone was systematically hurting him. Repeatedly. I can't say why, specifically, but, based on what you've told me, I'm sure we both have the same suspicions. The x-rays also show clear indications that his wrists and ankles suffered severe, extended bruising - and his left wrist also shows a recently healed fracture. There is quite probable psychological trauma associated with his condition besides just the physical factors. Not to mention malnutrition and the exposure that life on the streets would have meant."
"Will… will he recover?" O'Hara had asked.
The doctor had sighed. "It's hard to say. Brain injuries can be tricky, and everyone's different. Just because one patient regains all of their memories and returns to how they were before, others don't. We'll just have to watch him and hope for the best."
With his own sigh, Lassiter turned his attention back to the present.
His partner was currently standing beside Spencer's bed, holding his hand. "Shawn? Shawn, it's me. It's Juliet… Jules," she tried again. Lassiter could hear her voice crack ever so slightly, although he didn't say anything. That was the last thing she'd want right then.
Spencer's eyes were darting back and forth around the room, and Lassiter noticed the wild look that was starting to set into the other man's expression. He put his hand on O'Hara's arm, even as she stepped back with the realization that Spencer was getting more upset the more she pushed.
Just then, there was a squeak as the door opened. Lassiter glanced over to see Guster rush inside. Spencer looked that way as well, and Lassiter caught the flicker of even more panic settling in as Spencer looked out into the hallway. The detective frowned. The only thing in sight was the uniformed officer guarding the door. Lassiter wasn't sure what had scared the other man so much, but something definitely had.
"Shawn!" Guster exclaimed. "I got here as soon as I could! I couldn't believe it when Buzz called me! I -" He broke off as he took in everyone's expressions. "What's going on?" he asked slowly.
"Gus," O'Hara started, taking a deep breath, "you see -"
Guster swallowed. "What's wrong with Shawn?"
O'Hara put a hand on Guster's arm. "He's had a head injury, Gus. Right now, he doesn't know who he is… or who we are. The doctor said -"
"No," Guster said firmly, shaking his head. "No. This is Shawn. We're best friends; he wouldn't just forget me."
In the bed, Spencer fidgeted and pulled Guster's attention back to him.
"Shawn!" Guster exclaimed, moving closer. "Tell them!"
If it were possible, Spencer's brow furrowed even more deeply than before. He blinked at Guster, his expression still blank and now doubly panicked. His throat worked, although no words came out, and he shook his head over and over. Meanwhile, the noises from the machines hooked up all around him were starting to increase in volume and insistence.
Guster's face crumpled, and he looked over at O'Hara in desperation. "He… he really doesn't know me."
The door to the room swung open then, and the doctor stepped back inside. Her face was stern as she took in her patient on the bed and the visitors gathered around him. "Folks, I need to ask you to leave," she said, although her tone left no question that it was anything but an order. "He's getting too excited."
"But -" Guster tried.
The woman fixed him with a glare. "Out."
Guster's shoulders slumped, and he nodded.
Her face softened. "I'm sorry, but this is what's best for Mr. Spencer right now. When he's a little calmer, you can come back in, but he needs his rest." She waved her hands at them. "Now go on. There's a waiting area down the hall if you want to stay."
As they filed out, Lassiter glanced behind him one more time, taking in the way Spencer was slumped against the pillows. The doctor was fiddling with one of the machines next to the bed, but the patient was now staring straight ahead again, ignoring anything else going on in the room. The detective felt something in his gut clench. This wasn't right. Even though the other man was - more often than not - a pain in the neck, he was also always joking about something and generally full of life and smart-aleck remarks. This man in the bed was not Spencer, at least, not the Spencer that Lassiter knew. Lassiter silently swore to himself that he was going to find the person responsible, whatever it took.
Just as they made it to the waiting area where the doctor had directed them, Lassiter felt his phone vibrating in his pocket. He pulled it out and answered it practically in the same motion. "Detective Lassiter."
The others watched him as he listened to the caller. A moment later, Lassiter nodded. "Thanks. We'll be there shortly." He turned to the others as he ended the call. "A pair of hikers called in a car wreck outside of town," he said. "Given the current situation with Spencer, responding officers thought we should take a look. It's registered to a Fred Walker, who's a known associate of -"
"Timothy Ruiz," O'Hara finished with him, her face growing set in determination.
Guster's eyes widened at that name. "That's the guy Shawn was supposed to testify against!" he exclaimed. "Do you think that has something to do with why he's like… that?" he asked, tilting his head in the direction of Shawn's room.
"Let's go check it out," O'Hara continued before Lassiter could say anything further. She inclined her head in question. "Do you want to come with us, Gus?"
Guster shook his head in response. "No, I'm staying," he said, motioning toward the chairs. "Henry still hasn't made it here yet, and I'm not going to let him hear about Shawn's condition from anyone else." He lifted his chin as if in defiance of the emotions they could all hear behind his voice. "Besides, they'll let us go back in eventually, and I want to see Shawn as soon as they let me."
"Okay," O'Hara said with a small sigh. She glanced to Lassiter then back to Guster. "Call us if anything changes?"
He nodded seriously. "Of course."
He'd lost track of how long he'd been there. At first, he'd thought he was doing okay figuring out hours and days passing, but now… now he'd been in this dark hole so long everything had started blending together in one long blur.
He'd tried to stay positive. His friends would be looking for him when he didn't show up at the station as planned. But as time dragged on, he was starting to find it harder to stay positive. And that would have been hard enough if all his captors had done was to keep him tied up with just periodic visits to deliver food. At least, if that had been the case, he could have passed his time entertaining himself by quoting movies or whatever else he could think of to fill his days.
But no, apparently that would have been too easy.
Shawn hadn't recognized the man who'd brought him to this place. The guy had rung his doorbell and snatched him before Shawn could even think of leaving any clues for the others. At first, when the man had dumped him in this basement, Shawn had been at a loss to figure out why he was even there.
Unfortunately, that confusion had soon been allayed.
He'd been working at the handcuffs around his wrists, trying to get loose, when the first person he'd seen since waking up had opened the trapdoor. The man had smiled at him evilly as he descended the ladder, his footsteps echoing around the basement.
That was when all of the pieces had come together. Shawn had immediately recognized the man; he didn't even need the subsequent threats and sneering smile to tell him how much trouble he was in.
"Thought you could just testify and get our boss sent away just like that, huh?" came the cold chuckle. Shawn had felt his stomach clench as the other man cracked his knuckles. "They said to hold you here and keep you alive - for now. But nobody said nothing about not having a little fun. And after the trouble you caused us?" he'd snorted. "Besides, gotta set an example for anybody else who might wanna cross us."
All Shawn could do was hope Lassie and Jules were looking for him - and hold out until they did.
And he'd tried. He really, really had. Somehow, he'd endured the man's fists during that first encounter, even though he hadn't been completely sure he could. After that… after that, the days and nights had run together in a continually shifting schedule of darkness, light, pain, and periodic times when his captors would bring him a plate of cold food and some water. It wasn't as often as he'd have liked, and he had to learn to deal with long periods of hunger and thirst, but apparently they weren't going to let him starve to death. At times, though, specifically when he was pulling back into a small corner of his mind to try to shut out the pain being inflicted by his captors, he'd wondered if it would be better just to let himself go. It would make the pain stop forever, and, during those times, that temptation was strong.
But then he'd think about the others who he knew without a doubt were looking for him. Lassie and Jules and Gus and his dad and Buzz… They'd find him; he just knew it. Maybe they'd show up the next minute and rescue him - and what would they think if they arrived to find he'd given up? He couldn't do that; he couldn't let them down.
And so he'd found a way to survive, somehow, even though at times it seemed impossible.
But as the ordeal dragged on with no end in sight, he'd started to wonder just how worth it the struggle really was.
He didn't even know much of what was going in the outside world, even beyond the fact that he had no idea of the passage of time. He'd lost track of how many times they'd brought him food, and, honestly, he couldn't even be sure that was a regular occurrence so he couldn't set his mental clock by it. There was no news, no way to tell what was happening in the dark basement that hid all signs of daylight and the passing of time from him. Other than knowing that Ruiz's gang had taken him to keep him from testifying, that was all Shawn knew about anything beyond the constant intervals of torture.
He could only assume they hadn't actually killed him yet because they needed to make sure the trial would be postponed - and possibly keep him as a bargaining chip in case their plan didn't work out.
By the time they'd come down one day and ordered him up the ladder and outside into a car at gunpoint - stumbling along and blinking in the sudden sunlight that was bright even at dusk - he was fully and completely lost in every way but one: he still knew, deep down, his friends were still out there, somewhere, looking for him.
"What have we got?" Carlton was demanding before he and Juliet had even come up beside the crime scene unit processing the vehicle.
Juliet was only half-listening as she surveyed the scene. They were about half an hour outside of the city, in a wooded area that was pretty much deserted. Although a narrow strip of asphalt ran through the trees, there were no structures or traffic signals around. It was an unkempt road that was only periodically used by campers and hikers, which explained why no one had happened upon the accident scene until that morning. The car they'd come to see had run off the road and into the bushes a few yards from the pavement, where it had hit a tree almost head-on.
"Well," the man Carlton had addressed was saying when Juliet turned her attention back to the others, "looks like this has been here for a while."
The technician - Roberts, Juliet remembered suddenly - gestured to the car. "The poor guy in there has been gone for at least a six to eight weeks. Maybe more. It's hard to say right now, and we can't identify him currently because of decomposition. Once the coroner does the autopsy, we'll know more. Whoever was driving when it crashed seems to have been luckier than he was," he continued. "The only question is where that person went and why they didn't call for help." Then Roberts bit his lip. "I know this is probably related to Shawn's case," the man started.
His words reminded Juliet of how her boyfriend was always talking to anyone who would listen; sometimes she forgot how well he actually knew most of the SBPD.
"How's he doing?" Roberts asked.
Juliet swallowed as Carlton responded for her. "He's alive," the head detective said. "Beyond that, we don't know yet."
The technician nodded sadly, then one of the other techs who was examining the vehicle turned and waved at them.
"Detectives!" the woman called. "You need to see this!"
Juliet, Carlton, and Roberts hurried over to the vehicle, Juliet's nose wrinkling at the smell coming out of the open car door. There was a closed up body bag lying on the ground near the vehicle, but that wasn't what the woman who had beckoned them over wanted them to see. She pointed at a dark object that was lying on the floorboard, where it would have been obscured by the passenger's leg while the body was still in the car.
"Run that serial number!" Carlton barked, having taken in the black semiautomatic pistol immediately. "I want to know everything about it from owner to how many bullets it's fired recently!"
Roberts and the woman both nodded quickly, then Carlton looked over at Juliet. "Let's go. The car had to be coming from farther up the road that way." He tilted his head to indicate away from the direction the car was more or less facing.
Even through the numbness that had been constant for the last few hours, Juliet still kicked herself for not having thought of that first. She followed her partner back to their vehicle, where she barely had time to shut her door all the way before Carlton threw the car into reverse. He accelerated into the movement as the wheels caught on the gravel alongside the road, then shifted into drive and hit the gas again.
They traveled in silence for a few minutes, then Juliet noticed out of the corner of her eye as Carlton shifted to look over at her. "You good, O'Hara?"
She couldn't help the small smile that came to her at the quick way he'd asked the question. "Yeah, overall," she replied. "I just… I can't help but wonder why any of this happened. I mean… not that I ever wanted Shawn to be anything but okay, but where has he been all this time? If somebody took him, then why has he suddenly reappeared now, this long after he was taken? Did they let him go? Did he escape? And why was he on the street? And why can't he remember anything?" She bit her lip at the end of her outburst. She almost didn't want to ask her last question, but it was there nagging at her mind along with all of the others. Sighing, she looked back at Carlton. "And what happened to him while he was gone?" she asked, swallowing down tears.
Her partner nodded slowly as he glanced at her, then turned his eyes back to the road ahead. "Well, we can't say for sure what happened yet. There's no point in worrying over what might have happened until we have more answers."
Before Juliet could respond, she noticed where a dirt drive diverted from the road ahead. It was hidden by low-hanging tree limbs and adjoined the pavement at such an angle that it would have been easy to miss if she hadn't been looking in just the right direction. "There!" she exclaimed.
Carlton had seen it, too, and he spun the wheel to take the sharp turn, barely slowing down as he did so. Juliet put her hand up against the side of the car to brace herself; she heard the tires grinding for purchase, and then they were speeding down the driveway.
Neither of the detectives spoke, but Juliet couldn't help wondering if they would find anything helpful at the end of the path they were now following. She knew it was worth checking out, and there wasn't much else around for miles as far as she knew. This made as much sense as anything else at this point in their investigation. But, try as she might to ignore it, there was still a nagging feeling of worry that they would never find out what had happened to Shawn.
Up ahead, the trees parted rather suddenly to reveal an old cabin standing at the end of the drive. There was no one to be seen, and no cars in sight. For all intents and purposes, the place was deserted.
Juliet had her door open as soon as Carlton parked the car, and she scrambled out before he'd cut the ignition. She rounded the hood of their vehicle and then stood still, looking around for any signs that they weren't there alone. Nothing but birdsong met her ears.
"O'Hara!" That tone of voice meant Carlton had found something.
He was crouching on the other side of their car, and she hurried to join him. Pointing at a spot on the ground, he raised an eyebrow at her. "There was more than one car here recently," he said, indicating the tire tracks in the dirt. "It's been so dry lately, they haven't been washed away."
She nodded. "We need to get CSU up here to process these," she said.
Carlton glanced over at the cabin, then, "O'Hara," he said.
Following his gaze, she took in the front of the house. The windows were dark, and, from where they were now standing, they could see the front door was hanging slightly ajar.
"Watch my back," her partner said, then he unholstered his weapon and crept for the steps to the small porch.
Juliet grabbed her own gun and followed behind Carlton as they approached the front door. He glanced over at her and raised three fingers to count down, then they moved after he'd reached "one."
Pushing the door open, Carlton rushed inside with Juliet close behind. The place was constructed as one large room, so it didn't take them long to clear any potential hiding places. There was enough sunlight coming through the windows that they were able to see well enough to take in all of the features of the small structure's interior.
There were no signs of life anywhere in the room. Although there were several tin dishes stacked in a sink along one wall and a balled up blanket on a well-worn couch, nothing else indicated that there had been anyone in the place for a long time.
"Well," Juliet said, taking in their surroundings, "Someone's been here, but not recently. Any ideas?"
"We'll get CSU to process the place as well," Carlton said with a nod. "Whoever was here left something behind. We just need to find it."
In the next moment, they both jumped as a tinny ringing interrupted them.
Juliet let out a breath as she realized it was her partner's phone.
Reaching to pull the device out of its case on his belt, Carlton checked the caller ID. "It's McNab," he announced as he put it on speaker. "McNab! We're about three miles from the scene of the accident," Carlton told the officer. "There's a dirt driveway that leads up to a cabin; we think this is where Spencer was being held. Send a crime scene unit to process this place. Now," he added.
"Yes, sir; will do," Buzz's voice came through the speakerphone. "Also, I was, ah, calling because I have some news for you, sir. Just sent you a file. I was able to get footage of the traffic camera set up on the only intersection leading up to that part of the woods," he said.
"And?" Carlton prompted.
"And you're going to have to see this to believe it," Buzz replied.
The hospital room was quiet, punctuated only by the various sounds coming from the machines around him.
The man in the bed stared ahead at the wall, not even noticing as he rocked slightly back and forth on his pillows.
He felt trapped. Trapped in the uncertainty he found himself in. Trapped in the empty void where he knew his memories should be but weren't.
Those people who had been in his room earlier had made it seem like he should know them. They certainly seemed to know him. They kept calling him… what was it?
Yeah, Shawn; that was it. Was that his name? It certainly didn't feel like his name. But, then again, nothing felt normal right then. He supposed, though, that probably was his name. He had no reason to think it wasn't. Shawn… he'd have to get used to that. Then again, he'd have to get used to a lot of things now. He just hoped this uncertainty and fear that he felt lurking in the back of his mind wouldn't be part of those things.
He knew he'd felt safe with the tall man who'd stopped to talk to him on the street. The man had been so happy to see him that… Shawn (that was still kind of weird) had felt a twinge of guilt to admit he didn't know who the man was. And then there had been all of the lights and the loud noises and all of the poking and the prodding, and he'd been utterly exhausted even before all of those other people had shown up.
And then… that man. The one standing outside of the door. There was something about him that was all at once comforting and yet terrifying. He wasn't sure what it was, because he… just… couldn't… remember why. Somewhere deep inside, he felt like the uniform was supposed to be reassuring, but there was something else…
His head felt fuzzy, and he vaguely remembered the doctor having put something in the thing that was hooked up to his hand. He absently rubbed at the medical tape that held the needle in place. It hurt his head to think too hard, and so he just sat back and stared quietly at the wall. It didn't hurt to do that. Not much, anyway. As long as he lay still and quiet, the pounding and fog in his head settled to somewhat a manageable level.
Shawn shut his eyes and settled back on the pillows. He took a deep breath and then let it back out. Maybe all he needed was a good nap. Maybe he'd wake up and everything would be back to normal; he'd know who he was, who those other people were, and what had happened to put him here.
He lay still and let the constant beep of the machines make everything else fade away…
The creak of the door opening pulled him out of the restless sleep he'd just managed to achieve. He cracked one eye open to see the uniformed police officer who had been outside of his room stepping quietly inside.
Shawn immediately felt his heart rate speed up as he watched the man whose back was still turned to the bed and the room as he glanced up and down the hallway. Something was wrong. Shawn just knew it.
Something wasn't right.
When the officer turned toward the interior of the room, Shawn's stomach dropped so suddenly he thought he might throw up. Until just then, Shawn hadn't had a chance to get a good look at the man's face, but now… now…
Now a sudden barrage of memories came back so suddenly his head felt like it would explode on him. He remembered it all with such startling clarity that it felt as if he were right back in the midst of everything once again.
The knock on his door… that officer he'd seen around the station before but never actually talked to smiling and asking him to "please come with me, Mr. Spencer; it's an emergency" and then escorting him to the cruiser waiting in the driveway… The officer - that officer who was now standing in the doorway of Shawn's room - pulling a gun the minute they were in the car and ordering him to turn over his phone and handcuff himself or else…
That's why he'd disappeared without a trace, why he hadn't been able to leave a single clue for his friends. And then the cop had threatened to hurt Gus if Shawn didn't do what he was told, and he'd known the man could get to Gus before Shawn himself could so he'd had no other choice.
And then they'd driven up to a little cabin in the mountains, a cabin that Ruiz's gang was using as a hideout, where they had kept Shawn for all that time… He knew why he'd been taken; that much was obvious, even without anything his captors had said. Ruiz's gang had been trying to stop the trial, and what better way than to kidnap one of the prosecution's best witnesses?
Shawn groaned and clenched his hands to either side of his head as the memories continued to flood back. He could hear the machines starting to speed up in their urgent worry for what his heart rate was doing right then. He wasn't sure he could take the emotions that were being stirred up as he recalled what had led him to where he was now.
There were still huge gaps in his memory, though… He couldn't have recounted to anyone what had transpired during those months that he'd been missing. It was all one huge empty blank that he couldn't fill in no matter how hard he tried.
The next thing he remembered after the oddly vivid memory of the sensation of cold metal closing around his wrists was being in that other car, speeding along down a deserted stretch of road, being exhausted, hungry, and in pain all at once and realizing with absolute certainty that he couldn't let the vehicle get to its destination. He'd been in the driver's seat, a man he couldn't remember seeing before in the passenger seat - with a gun pointed at Shawn's head.
Shawn's chest went cold as he recalled the exact moment he'd made the decision to drive into that tree. Beyond that, though… beyond that, he couldn't remember much at all. Very very vaguely, he saw himself wandering down the road, trudging along with one foot in front of the other and nothing but pain all around him, but that was it. Where he'd gone after that or what he'd done, he couldn't say.
It felt like so much crashing over him all at once, but all of those thoughts flashed through his mind in the span of moments. Then a harsh chuckle jolted Shawn's attention back to the present. Shawn looked back up and realized the officer had seen everything playing out on his face.
"You think you're so clever, don't you?" the man asked, his voice low and chilling. "You've been pretending like you don't remember, but I know you do. I can see it in your eyes. You're just holding out until I'm not around." He shook his head, a sly smile twisting his mouth upward as he reached into his jacket pocket. When he pulled his hand back out, there was a syringe grasped in it.
Shawn swallowed. Regardless of what was in the needle - or even if there was nothing at all - it didn't matter. He reached for the button to call the nurse, but the man was next to him in an instant, grabbing his hands and holding them firmly in an iron grip.
"But I'm not worried," he told Shawn, that same icy smile still spread over his face. "I'm going to make sure you never tell anyone what happened."
"Spencer! Thank God you answered!" Lassiter's voice came through the line the minute the elder Spencer had answered the phone. "Please tell me you're still at the hospital."
"What?" Henry blinked in surprise and looked over at where Gus was slumped in a chair, a magazine resting on his lap where it had fallen when he'd nodded off a little while before. The younger man hadn't budged at the sound of Henry's phone ringing. "Of course I'm here. What's going on?"
"Just get into that room now! O'Hara and I are on our way, but we're still a few minutes out."
Henry was on his feet and heading down the hall past the nurses' station before the detective had even finished his sentence.
"We found evidence that a cop was in on Spencer's disappearance," Lassiter continued in explanation.
Henry felt his blood run cold. "You're kidding."
"I wish I was. Just don't let him out of your sight!"
Tires squealed in Henry's ear, but he wasn't even paying attention to the phone call any longer. His entire focus was fixed on the door of Shawn's room.
Henry hadn't been able to see Shawn yet; he'd arrived at the hospital after the doctor had kicked everyone out of the room. And as much as he'd tried to get in there to see his son - his son, whom he hadn't seen in six entire months - the doctor had been unrelenting. They could go back in to see Shawn in a little while, once the meds had kicked in and calmed the patient down a bit more. Which was fine, Henry supposed; he did understand the need to keep Shawn calm right then, based on everything Gus and the doctor had relayed to him.
Understand, yes, but accept? It made his blood boil to think of what those… those… animals had put Shawn through. If Henry ever got his hands on any of them…
And now Lassiter was telling him there was a cop involved? Henry clenched his jaw. Just wait until he got his hands on the people responsible.
He didn't even register that the call had disconnected as he reached Shawn's room, the phone now clenched unheeded in his hand. The door was slightly ajar, and Henry didn't even slow down. He put his shoulder up and barged through it, growling somewhere deep in his throat as he saw the uniformed figure standing over his son with a syringe raised.
The look on Shawn's face would have been all Henry needed, but he also caught the officer's last words, and that was more than enough to send him charging across the room. He grabbed the threat by the shoulder and spun him around, then slammed a solid right hook into the man's jaw.
The officer shook his head dazedly, then attempted his own punch back in defense. It was slow, and Henry easily ducked aside. By this point, he was seeing red, and he landed another blow squarely on the man's nose. Something cracked under Henry's fist, and blood immediately followed. After that, one more punch sent the man reeling to the floor, where he lay unmoving in a heap.
"Shawn!" Henry ignored the throbbing in his hand as he rushed to the bed.
His son looked up at him, and Henry's heart clenched at the expression on Shawn's face. It was a combination of relief, fear, pain, and near-surrender - something he'd never wanted to see in the eyes of anyone he loved.
"Dad?" Shawn gulped.
Henry nodded, wrapping his arms around his son and holding him tightly. His son felt so frail beneath his arms, and Henry was almost afraid to put any pressure into the gesture. Memories of holding Shawn when he was little - when he'd fallen off his tricycle or when he'd lost his favorite teddy bear - came to mind, and Henry closed his eyes and let out a breath. He could feel Shawn letting out a breath, too - this one hesitant and shuddering.
"Shhh, Shawn, just rest," Henry said soothingly. "It's okay. It's over now."
A gasp came from behind Henry, who let go of his son and turned to see Gus standing wide-eyed in the doorway. Gus looked from Henry to the unconscious cop on the floor, then looked back at the two Spencers. "Did you kill him?" he gulped.
"No," Henry growled. He more than half-wished he had, but he wasn't going to say that out loud to Gus. Not in front of Shawn, at least.
A woman in a white doctor's coat was right on Gus's heels, and she did not look happy. "Stay right where you are," she ordered. "I've already called security."
"No need," came a third voice in the doorway, and the doctor turned to see Lassiter rushing up to join them, followed closely by Juliet.
Thankfully, the doctor looked relieved to see the newcomers. "Detective Lassiter," she said with a small sigh of relief. "Can someone please tell me what's happening here?"
"It's a long story," Henry said, turning back to Shawn. His son gave him a tired smile, which Henry returned warmly. "But the important part is it's over."
Chapter End Notes:
We happen to have an extended version bouncing around in our heads, so we'll eventually be expanding on some of what was in here. However, we hope you enjoyed it in the meantime, and we'd love to hear what you thought!! Thanks for taking the time to read. :)