Whumptober Day 21 & 24 - risk being cut open (just to taste something sweet)
[ bleeding through the bandages | pressure | blood-matted hair | flashback | revenge ]
Grocery shopping for the household is a two-people affair, and as the most responsible out of them all Thyme is always on supermarket duty. Her partner changes depending on who’s available, and they each have their faults: Drifter doesn’t know what edible food looks like, or his definition of edible is much vaguer than anybody else’s, Occam couldn’t be dragged out of the apartment by a wild horse and Shrike is a child, meaning their assistance in terms of carrying groceries is limited at best, although they are the best company out of all of them.
Shin may be a little bit awkward, but he never complains and he’s happy enough to trail after her and carry all the bags: he’s become her favorite pick by default. Being unlikely to sneak five pounds of candy corn in the cart gets you a lot of privilege around there.
(It’s a little depressing that Drifter and Shrike are equally likely to succumb to such a whim.)
It doesn’t mean he doesn’t have his own idiosyncrasies, though. It just means they’re less blatant.
“Okay, cabbage is next on our list— what does Occam want with a cabbage—”
When no reply is forthcoming, Thyme glances away from the shopping list and finds that Shin is no longer tailing her. She’s lost him at the other end of the aisle, in front of the first aid display. Blinking, Thyme joins him, cart squeaking on the floor as she backtracks.
He’s holding a small box of band-aids featuring the cast of some cartoon show she doesn’t recognize. The way he stares at the colorful characters, you’d think he’s trying to bore a hole right through the cardboard.
“Jaren would buy those for me, back… y’know. Before.”
It’s always Jaren, rather than my dad. A kind of distance that always makes a tight knot of something incomprehensible writhe in Thyme’s stomach.
“Are you… alright?”
With vacant eyes and a thoughtful twist on his lips, Shin shrugs her concern off. “I always got scrapes and stuff as a kid while playing, and I was the biggest crybaby, but he always had those stupid cartoon band-aids— I used to hate them. I thought they made me look like a baby. But they did make me better.”
It’s the most she’s heard Shin share about his distant, mysterious past in the three years they’ve lived together, two of those with a kid. Everything she knows about him she has learned through either Drifter’s strategic information sharing or Occam’s mean-spirited digs that never have any kind of context attached to them.
There’s nothing surprising about this reveal, though. Shin is the kind of man who runs around at night beating criminals up like some kind of twisted Batman LARPing: it makes sense that he was a scrappy kid. Although the thought of him tearing up at every bump and bruise is both hilarious and tragic in its own way. She wonders if he built up his pain tolerance getting beaten up by bigger, meaner people all his life, or if he just got better at keeping the tears in.
For a moment it seems like this is as much as he’s going to say. Thyme waits silently for Shin to get to his actual point.
“Shrike probably never had anybody give him cartoon band-aids for his scrapes,” Shin says eventually, still staring at the box as if he can’t bear looking at anything else.
And, suddenly, Thyme gets it.
“Better grab a few boxes,” she notes, off-handed in the way one must not look straight at a cat if one wishes for it to get close enough to pet. “God knows the kind of mess they’ll get themself into on the playground.”
Shin grabs half the display. To be safe.
Drifter watches the man — mid-twenties, greasy-haired with eyebags that look like bruises, limping in a way that screams danger like a cornered animal baring its teeth — duck into the bathroom of the bar and thinks, fuck, that guys is not going in there to do cocaine. He just doesn’t have the profile of a cocaine aficionado.
Because this is the kind of bar where people who duck into the bathroom on their own are as likely to come out high as they are to come out holding a gun, especially people who look like this man does, Drifter gets up from his spot at the counter — the guy he came here to meet isn’t coming anyway — and follows after the stranger.
The men’s bathroom is only slightly brighter than the main room thanks to its much smaller size, and the single blue neon set above the cracked mirror still struggles to dispel the dimness. Makes it harder to do drugs there. Makes it harder to do anything there, if Drifter is honest with himself, but he doesn’t choose his bars for their respectability.
He’s not sure he could find his way around his own underwear in that lighting, but the guy bent over the sink is impossible to miss. His stringy hair falls in his face, covering some of the lines of stress already etched in his face. He looks young; he’d look even younger without the stubble on his cheeks, which has Drifter amend his earlier impression to twenty-something, possibly a particularly mature teenager. The bouncer definitely isn’t scrupulous enough to check for the IDs of people who look like they belong here, and the guy definitely fits the bill.
He also looks like he’s about to hurl.
“Had too much to drink?”
The guy’s grip tights on the edge of the sink and he looks at Drifter like he’s considering punching him in the face for the simple crime of opening his mouth. It’s a look he’s very familiar with.
“What do you want?”
Holding his hands up in a placating manner, Drifter stops a few feet away. “Hey now, brother, I’m just askin’. Expressing concern for my fellow man and all that.”
The guy turns back to the open faucet and cups his hand under the flow of water, splashing some on his face. Most goes down his shirt instead and he looks like the effort of letting go of the sink for this manoeuvre took everything he had left out of him. He sways on his feet slightly.
Acting on instinct — the instinct of someone who cannot keep his nose out of other people’s business — the Drifter breaches the distance between them and grabs the man’s shoulder to stabilize him. He gets a mean look for his trouble then, when he doesn’t let go immediately, a pathetic attempt at making him, if that’s the intent behind the limp flop of a hand against his forearm.
The fabric under his fingers feels damp and warm in a way fabric has no reason to be.
“Like hell you are,” Drifter says, although that is none of his business. He pushes a little harder against the shoulder, keeping pressure on what is starting to feel a lot like a nasty stab wound, and is only a little surprised when the guy’s knees buckle under him. He catches himself on the sink, but only just.
“Let me go,” he snarls, like a wild dog somehow able to form coherent speech.
And then, before Drifter can give some kind of answer, the man knees him in the stomach and promptly slips on the tiles and passes out.
As far as first meetings go, it’s not Drifter’s worst.
Occam’s door handle turns, slow and quiet, in the manner of someone trying to sneak somewhere they know they shouldn’t be.
A mere handful of years ago, Occam would have immediately reached for the taser they keep on their bedside table. Their modus operandi when it comes to home intrusion has always been “electrocute now ask questions never”. Unfortunately, Shrike learned to unlock doors very early into their stay with the roommates and it simply does not do to turn fifty thousand volts on one’s adopted child.
Instead, they roll over in bed, turn off their phone, and watch silently as the door cracks open to reveal a slumped silhouette.
“Occam,” whispers the raspy voice of the Renegade, the Man With The Golden Gun, the most fearful vigilante this side of the Rockies. He sounds like a kid coming to their parents’ room after a nightmare. “Can I sleep with you tonight?”
“It’s three a.m, Malphur.” But that’s only an observation, not a judgment of the quality of his demand, and out of pity for Shin’s elongated stay on the couch Occam adds, “Get in.”
It’s not the first time Shin crashes in their bed since giving his up to Shrike, although he usually prefers Drifter’s. Occam is not good at sharing with people they’re not actively sleeping with — not that this is a difficult category to qualify for.
Shin closes the door behind him, staggers over to the bed and crawls on top of the covers fully clothed. He smells like alcohol, like he took a swim in a brewery. Occam grumbles as Shin curls up next to them, but their bed is hardly cleaner and it’s too late to do anything about it, anyway. They’ll just get him to do the laundry in the morning. In the meantime he makes for a convenient heat pack in the cold room.
They shift, trying to get comfortable around that invasion of their space, and throw an arm over his shoulders. Their hand settles in his hair out of habit.
It feels… sticky.
“Sorry. Just got home, didn’t feel like a shower.”
“What is this?”
Shin pats a clumsy hand over theirs. “Mh, blood I think. I kinda got punched into a pool table.”
This gives Occam pause.
“Shin,” they say slowly, “Do you... have a head wound?”
He grunts, burrowing his face into the pillow. Apparently Shin is intent on going to sleep now, head trauma be damned.
Occam considers doing the same, but—
(They kind of like Shin, when it comes down to it)
— they don’t fancy waking up next to a corpse in the morning. Sighing, they reach over Shin to grab their phone and turn it back on.
Google: how to take care of someone with a concussion—
Sam is used to picking up strays. Dogs, cats, the occasional raccoon and neighbor’s kid — he can’t resist a good pair of puppy eyes.
Full-grown man? That’s a new one.
The guy’s barely responsive. He’s walking, kinda — Sam is carrying more than half his weight, but the fact that he can put a foot in front of the other is its own miracle. He looks like he went a round against a combine harvester, beaten half to hell as he is.
Sam gives him a glance as he’s holding the guy up with one hand and trying to unlock his door with the other. It’s hard to make up his face in the porchlight, especially with all the blood, but the dude looks young. Not young enough to go around picking up fights he can’t win, though, and he doesn’t smell drunk enough for it either.
The other man makes a faint sound as Sam jostles him past the door frame and into the house proper. Sam hits the light on his way in, considers the couch (pristine despite everything) and then drags the guy all the way to the bathroom to dump him in the tub. No reason getting his couch bloody for a complete stranger and possible criminal after all.
And it puts him closer to the first aid kit anyway.
“Oh, good, you’re conscious.” Sam rolls up his sleeves and glances at the man feebly trying to sit up in the bathtub. He dusts off his old Drill Sergeant voice. “Don’t move.”
The man stops instantly, more on instinct than anything. Good. It means it’s working. Taking out some cotton and antiseptic, he kneels next to the tub.
“My name’s Sam. You’re in my bathroom.”
“What’re you doing?”
The confusion seeps out of the man’s voice, leaving only an exhausted kind of wariness as his eyes drift half-shut. Definitely a criminal, then, Sam thinks. No one else would be so chill about being half conscious in a stranger’s bathtub. “Cleaning your wounds. What’s your name?”
A beat. Then, “... Shin.”
“Okay, Shin. Stay still.”
He dabs the cuts across Shin’s forehead with the cotton ball. To his merit, the other man bears it with some grace, hissing through his gritted teeth but not flinching away from the alcohol. Still, Sam tries to be careful, wiping away the worst of the blood so he can assess the damage. He holds the other man’s chin between two fingers and gently tilts his face sideway to check his other profile. Shin’s eyes fly open — well, eye, singular. The other one is starting to swell too much to open.
“Well, good news is you should keep some of your good looks,” he says wryly. “But you are gonna need stitches.”
“That’s fine,” Shin replies faintly.
Sam gives him a concerned look. The other man stares back with a dazed air, blinking owlishly. Sam grabs the pocket light from the kit and shines it in his eyes matter-of-factly.
This time, Shin flinches back. “What’s that for?”
“Checking for a concussion. Among other things. Any trouble breathing? Chest pain?”
Shin groans, weakly lifting a hand to prod at his chest. “No more than usual,” he says, still squinting though now it seems to be more due to pain than the light, “But I don’t have any broken ribs. I’d know.”
Turning to grab his sewing kit, Sam muses, “Get a lot of these, huh?”
By the time he turns back around Shin has managed to sit up somewhat straight. He says nothing — the guy can hold on to whatever dignity he has left if it makes him feel better — and hands him an ibuprofen and a glass of water. It won’t do much, but it’s better than the alternative
“Oh no, I don’t—” A pointed look shuts him up. “I’m warning you, I get weird on painkillers.” Sam doubts a mere ibuprofen is going to make the man loopy, but he let it slide. Despite his protest Shin swallows the pill obediently and lets Sam lean into his space and set to sewing the cut on his face shut.
The guy doesn’t react to that, either. He just sits there quietly, even though the painkiller hasn’t taken effect yet. Sam wonders at that pain tolerance for a moment. He knew guys in the army who’d start bitching for much less.
“So. What’s a guy like you doing passing out in alleyways?” He asks, more as an excuse to keep the guy talking than anything else. He hasn’t checked him properly for a concussion yet and he’d rather not have to deal with an unconscious criminal in his bathtub.
“A ‘guy like me’?”
A shrug. “A random guy. You don’t look like you’re in a gang.”
“You don’t carry a gun and you’re not dead. I’m not a pro, but I feel like if this is some kind of… gang conflict or whatever, they wouldn’t have let you off that easily.”
Shin reaches behind his back with one hand. There’s a click, loud in the silent bathroom, the unmistakable sound of cocking a gun. Sam tenses up, feeling as if a gallon of freezing water was dumped over his head.
“Okay, scratch that, you do have a gun.” His body thrums with a surge of adrenaline but he wills his hands to remain steady as he continues to very carefully sew the guy back up. “You’re gonna use it?”
A wry chuckle escapes the man. There’s a thump, his arm falling back against the wall of the tub, and when Sam risks a glance down his hand is limp in his lap, with the gun held loosely between his fingers.
“God, no. What kind of patient would that make me?”
“A very rude one,” Sam agrees, voice tight with nervous energy.
The silence stretches for a moment before Shin says, “Sorry. Didn’t mean to freak you out.”
Sam ties the thread, cuts it, and says, “It’s fine.”
He rises to his feet and stares down at his handiwork. Clearly the injuries go lower than the face, but he’d have to bend over the edge of the tub to get to them and he’s left that kind of back-breaking work behind years ago.
“Think you can sit on the edge here?” He asks. He keeps his voice level, not overly commanding in case the guy takes offense to it. He hasn’t kept a gun inside his house since leaving the army. If Shin decides to get antagonistic, there’s nothing he can do about it.
And people who go around at night getting themselves beaten to a pulp in alleyways are not known to not be antagonistic.
Shin grunts. “Sure thing, doc.”
He grabs the edge of the tub and heaves himself up, stumbling forward before he manages to maneuver himself into a sitting position, his feet planted wide on the tiled floor to keep his balance. His hands, hanging between his legs, are bloody and bruised, the knuckles beaten raw. There’s blood speckled over the leather of his boots. And he’s still holding the gun. His grip is loose but comfortable — confident. That’s a man who knows how to use the weapon he’s carrying.
That’s anything but reassuring. Sam will take an idiot over a decent shooter any day.
“Not a doctor,” he says absently. If the guy gets violent he can always stab him with a scalpel. That always works. “Can you take off your shirt, please?”
Shin, having opened his mouth to reply, stammers for a moment. “W-What?”
“Your shirt. You’re clearly bleeding through it, so. Off.”
His blush is visible even through the drying blood on his skin, turning his ears red. Cute. He lifts his hands with a wince, looks down in surprise when he finds his fingers already occupied with a gun, frowns, and — with movements that speak of great pain hidden by spite and dignity alone — finally puts it away. Sam exhales, relieved.
He watches the other man struggle with his shirt for a moment, stuck with it over his head, before stepping in and helping him out of it. Shin, when he’s finally freed from the fabric, looks halfway between embarrassed and too weary to care about it.
At least he’s not as bad off as Sam had assumed. He’s got a few shallow cuts over his chest, and bruises for days, but nothing that will require more stitches. A few packs of ice, maybe.
“What kind of job has you bringing strangers home like that?” Shin asks, voice too dry to be anything but an attempt to distract himself from the pain.
“At my age, I don’t have that many options available,” he quips, grabbing more antiseptic.
“I don’t believe that. You’re hot.”
“Well. Thank you.” Shin’s blush darkens, like he hadn’t meant to say that out loud. “But I’ll have you know I’m a school nurse.”
That feels like dangerous information to give to an armed criminal, but once again, he’s armed, so Sam reluctantly says, “Last City Junior High.”
“Shut up. My kid goes there.”
That gives him pause. He bites down on his instinctual reply — you have a kid? — and scrounges up for an appropriate response to that.
“You’re not setting much of a good example for your kid,” he says lightly.
“Oh, they’re not really mine. They’re kind of my roommates’? They found the kid so now we get to keep them, I guess.” Sam hums, wiping the last of the blood off the guy’s torso. Well, he’s more blue than not, but at least he’s somewhat clean. “Like, literally. Found them in a dumpster I think. Drifter must be blackmailing someone to keep CPS off our ass, because there’s no way that’s the proper adoption process.”
For the second time in less than an hour Sam finds himself fighting to keep his face level and his hands steady. The other man, oblivious to this, prattles off.
“And anyway their mom’s a lesbian and I’m very much not a woman, so it would be a little hard for me to— I should have led up with that. Not that there’s anything wrong with being a lesbian, you know, I mean. Girl, am I right? And boys. Man, everybody is hot.” At Sam’s prolonged silence he seems to realize what’s coming out of his mouth. He makes an uncomfortable noise at the back of his throat. “Is it too late to tell you I react badly to painkillers?”
“You did mention that, yeah.” Sam pats him on the chest lightly, trying to avoid the worst of the bruising. “I’m going to… grab you a few ice packs.”
He escapes to the kitchen before Shin can make him question his life even more.
A criminal in his bathtub, he can deal with. A potential kidnapping criminal with an illegal child… That’s a little more difficult. He eyes the landline from the square of light cast off by the fridge, and ultimately decides against it.
No problem has ever been resolved by calling the cops on it and he’s sure it won’t start now.
Sam comes back to the bathroom holding every ice pack he owns and finds Shin standing in the middle of the room. A little unsteady, but still more than he’d expect from anyone who was nearly unconscious not an hour ago.
“Where are you going?”
Shin picks up his shirt and puts it back on gingerly, as if every single movement hurts. It’s probably the case.
“I already intruded enough,” he says. He glances at Sam through his lashes. “Thanks, for the— you know. The medical stuff.”
“You shouldn’t walk around town in that state,” Sam says. He’d rather not offer his couch to a criminal with a gun and a potential child locked in his basement, but he will if he has to. He also doesn’t want all his efforts going to waste because the guy went and got himself shanked in another dark alley. And anyway if he keeps the guy in place he might be able to pull some more info out of him about that child of his.
“I can handle myself,” he says, as if he’s not currently covered in his own blood.“Unless you want me to stay?”
The look he gives Sam says he’d very much like to stay — and probably not on the couch. But it’s offset by his tone of voice, kind of dryly defeatist, like he knows Sam won’t say yes.
And indeed, he doesn’t.
“I like my men looking a little less dead,” and on the other side of the law, he doesn’t add.
“That’s what they all say.”
Sam lets out a chuckle, amused despite himself, and offers Shin one of the ice packs. “Take this at least. You’re gonna feel it in the morning if you don’t get the swelling down.”
Shin salutes him with the ice pack before leaving. Sam is left with a bathroom that looks a little like a crime scene, the man’s hoarse voice hanging in the air between them.
Thanks again. See you around.
God, he hopes not.
Weeks later, he’s almost forgotten the event. Then he waits with Shrike for one of their guardians to come pick them up after they got detention for fighting another student—
(They’re always late, the teen says with a laugh, even though they’re so many of them. I think they draw straws on whose turn it is this time.)
But when the usual beat-up truck comes to a screeching stop into the parking lot, it’s not a woman who comes out of it.
It’s a very familiar man, looking beat up within an inch of his life just like he did the first time, although in an entirely different way.
“You,” Sam bites out.
Shin freezes, one leg out of the car, and offers him a shaky smile. “Hi?”
“Hey, has anyone seen Shin?”
Thyme looks up from her tea to Occam, standing over the toaster with a thoughtful look on their face. She backtracks through the morning, but— no, she doesn’t remember seeing Shin cleaning the bathroom this morning, which is usually where he can be found on Sunday mornings since they established the ‘no blood where the kid can see it’ rule. She glances at Drifter, who shrugs. No Shin in the apartment today.
“Okay. I’m eating the last pop tart then.”
“Your funeral,” Drifter replies cheerily.
The microwave dings, announcing that the plate of lasagna Drifter has decided to warm for breakfast is done. Simultaneously, their doorbell rings, and Thyme would nearly have missed it if not for the way her two roommates immediately reach for weapons they do not have on them. That’s the ‘no gun where the kid can reach’ rule.
She downs her cup of tea and moves towards the door. There’s a bat propped up against the wall, and in case this isn’t one of their neighbors coming to tell them their missing roommate is currently covered in blood and sleeping it off in a dumpster, she takes it.
What she sees in the peephole nearly makes her lose her grip on it.
She opens the door to her coworker, also known as Shrike’s school nurse, also known as Samuel Fletcher, holding up a battered Shin and wearing a look of weary amusement.
“Good morning, Thyme,” he greets politely before she can utter a word. “I’m sorry for intruding upon your morning like that, but I believe this one is yours?” And he shrugs a little in emphasis as he says that, to gesture at Shin.
The man grumbles faintly and cracks open an eye before waving weakly. “Hi Thyme.”
“Hi Shin.” That explains why she hasn’t found a bloody sewing kit in the sink for a while now: he must have been getting his stitches from someone else. “Sorry for the bother, Mr Fletcher. I hope he hasn’t been—”
The nurse waves her concerns away. “Don’t worry about that. And please, call me Sam.”
“Well, Sam, would you like some coffee?”
“No thank you, I’ve got to go. Cicada has morning practice.” He transfers Shin to her more delicately than she would have in his position. “Have a good day, Thyme.”
She mumbles some pleasantries back and watches him leave, Shin a deadweight in her arms. His presence felt like a fever dream: once he turns the corner of the corridor she’s not sure he ever was there at all. She had never seen him outside of the diner’s kitchen before, she realizes. Somehow this part feels weirder than the actual act of carrying Shin home. God knows that happens on a weekly basis.
Speaking of which, Thyme shakes herself and drags her half-unconscious roommate to the couch.
As soon as she dumps him on the beaten up cushions, Shin struggles to a sitting position — she lets him, if only because she can’t be bothered to put up a fight at 8 am — and says,
“Occam, is that one of my pop tarts?”
Her other roommates, wandering into the living room, bites pointedly into his Wildlicious Wild Berry™ and glares down at Shin. “I don’t know, Shin, is that the fucking schoolnurse?”
Shin bares red teeth at them. Eager to get away from their usual arguing, Thyme takes a step back and heads for the kitchen—
Stopping dead in her tracks when she spots droplets of red on the floor. Her eyes follow the thin trail to the front door, then dart back down as she assesses herself. Her sleep shirt is slightly damp on the side she held Shin, and when she touches the dark fabric her fingers come away ever so slightly red.
“Shin,” she says, cutting through his and Occam’s squabbling, “You’re bleeding over my couch.”
“Impossible, Sam stitched me up.”
She gestures mutely to the drops of blood on the floor.
“Oh. Oh, shit, I must have reopened something. Sorry, Thyme.”
Glancing at the closed door of Shrike’s room, Thyme purses her lips. She’s in no way a nursemaid, but she’s not about to call Sam back on a sunday morning for pro-bono work on her stupidest roommate.
“Let me get the first aid kit.”
Drifter, leaning on the kitchen doorway, takes a bite of his lasagna. “I’ll grab the mop.”
Jaren Ward did not have a carrying permit, but he did own a gun. It was a heirloom revolver handed down to him by his own grandfather, and despite being a staunch pacifist he would put a great deal of time and care into the weapon’s upkeep. The gun was never meant to be used. There wasn’t even any ammunition inside the house. It was, at best, a beautifully polished paperweight.
Shin remembers watching his father go through the process of dismantling, cleaning and putting the revolver back together dozens of times. He used to be fascinated by it: the smooth, well-practiced movements, the multitude of pieces, the smell of gun oil, the gleam of the barrel. A child’s love for glittering, forbidden things. He remembers most of all asking if one day his father would teach him how to shoot it, and Jaren had replied Perhaps, if you want me to, but not with this gun, and answered Shin’s demand for clarification with an infuriatingly ellusive you won’t understand until you’re older.
He never got to give Shin that explanation: by the time he was twelve, Jaren was dead, and he carried all his secrets to the grave.
Still Shin held on to that revolver. It’s the only thing he took from his childhood home, hiding it in pieces in the lining of his jacket through countless foster homes, both a grim memento and security blanket. And he thought about it, often while staring at the ceiling of yet another borrowed room in a stranger’s house.
Would his father still be alive if he had carried a gun that day? Most likely not. But what could be the point of a weapon you cannot wield, of taking care of something so pointless as a gun with no bullets?
It took until the first time he put the revolver back together for him to get an idea of what Jaren had meant all these years ago. He held it in his hand, whole for the first time in half a decade, and thought, this is not a gun you are meant to be careless with.
Perhaps it was due to how… mythical the gun had become in his mind over the years, a mystery to unravel, one last connection to the family he has lost. But when Shin baptized it the Last Word, he also vowed to never use it unless he did not have any other choice — and he never did. Of the eight bullets he bought that very first time, none have ever been shot. Whether or not that was what his father had meant he will never know, but he hopes to be following the spirit of the law, if not the letter.
Today, though, he stares at the unconscious form of his ward — his kid — and thinks—
There is another choice. Another path. And he will not take it.
Dropping the empty gun he borrowed off one of the guards during their advance through the facility, Shin leaves Thyme and Drifter to tear the restraints off Shrike and unholsters the Last Word. Its weight is not a comfort, but it does settle something in him, and when he turns to the scientist cowering in a corner his mind is calm and quiet. Focused. Ready to put an end to this once and for all.
“Shin,” Drifter says, a note of warning in his carefully-neutral voice.
A glance above his shoulders shows him that Shrike’s unconscious form is slumped over Thyme’s back, her aluminum bat forgotten as she holds on to them as if they might disappear into thin air. Shin jerks his head towards the door.
“Occam won’t wait around forever.”
“I’ll be right behind. I just need to do some cleanup.” He turns his attention back to the scientist. “Better not stick around. Wouldn’t want ‘em to wake up now.”
A pause, and then twin footsteps head for the door.
There’s blood sticking to his face, and a pulse of pain around his thigh where a bullet grazed him and took a chunk of flesh with it. Shin focuses on those feelings, breathing slowly. Somewhere in the distance, an alarm starts to ring.
“Are there any others?”
The scientist starts, as if they had been hoping Shin had forgotten their existence.
“People who know about Shrike.”
“Sh- oh, Subject 2-8?” Shin’s fingers shift around the Last Word. He can hear the scientist swallow, throat clicking. “N- no, it’s just… It’s just this facility.”
Shin points the Last Word at the scientist. It’s in mint condition. The hammer rings loud in the silence when he cocks it.
(After this, Shin will set fire to the place. Make sure nothing about his kid gets out ever again. It’s a promise, to make up for the one he is about to break.
For now, though, he looks at the two roads open to him, and does not choose the most merciful.)