The more times Shaun checked his phone for the time, the longer the car journey seemed to take.
Two more minutes passed before they arrived back at headquarters. Tether and Visionary had been speaking to each other, talking about how much time off he’d be getting in order to heal up and what he could do in the meanwhile. Shaun relegated himself to listening to music for the entire journey, staring out of the tinted window until they arrived at headquarters. They poured out of the car and made their way through security and to the equipment room. Before they went inside, Visionary was in the lead and turned on her heels, causing Shaun and Tether to stop mid-stride.
She smiled beneath her mask, that much was clear. “When you’re done returning your equipment, you two just return home when you’re ready.”
“What, really?” Shaun said, his voice surprising to hear from the perpetual silence before.
“Yes. Consider your duties done today and yourselves dismissed.”
Tether. tilted his head up slightly. “What about the rest of today, like the schedule or-”
“Don’t worry about it.” Visionary cut him off. “I’ll handle all of that. Tether, you need to go home to begin healing. You’ve both done extremely well today and it’s getting late.”
Shaun raised an eyebrow, asking curiously. “Are we in trouble? It seems like just when we got back, you wanna send us home quickly.”
Visionary shook her head courtly. “No, of course not. Neither of you have done anything wrong and this went a lot better than previous encounters with Doppler. Doppler normally disables several agents before leaving. It’s extremely rare to actually be in a position where he retreated.”
Tether nodded. “Yeah, dude’s got a proven track record of wrecking face.”
Shaun took a moment to consider. “Yeah, I can see it. So we’re just good to go?”
Visionary nods again. “No tricks. You’re free to go home.”
Shaun waited a second, then shrugged. “I won’t look a gift horse in the mouth.”
Tether nodded. “Yeah, thanks.”
Visionary nodded, and turned to enter the women’s equipment room.
Tether turned to the door as well. When Shaun didn’t immediately come inside, he propped the door open with his uncasted arm, turning to him. “I’ve only got one arm, man, I’m not using it to hold this door open forever.”
Shaun waited a moment, then reached for his belt. After he unclasped it, he walked over to Tether and held it out. Tether glanced down at it, then brought his foot to block the door whilst he grabbed the belt with his now free hand.
“Can you put this away for me? I’ve just gotta go do something.”
“Yeah, sure man. Something up?” Tether asked, glancing over Shaun through his goggles.
“Nah, I just forgot something in the training room. I’ll catch you tomorrow, alright?”
Tether nodded. “Yeah, sure man. Take care.”
Shaun nodded, and turned to leave. Tether went into the equipment room, pushing it open with his shoulder. He dropped the belt down on the first bench he walked past, shooting a quick glance behind him.
“Guess if he doesn’t wanna tell me what’s up, he doesn’t have to. Could lie a little better though.”
Tether shrugged, figuring that there was little else he could do, and began to work on getting his armour off from around his cast.
Shaun walked down the corridors. People had begun to grow thinner in numbers at this time, sparsely meeting anybody along the way. A few nods were given to the people that walked past, though he hadn’t said hello or dispensed any other pleasantries. He was making his way, at a ponderous pace, to the training room as he said he would. He hadn’t left anything there, but it was the least filled room in the evening in his experience. Along the way, he grabbed a bottle of water from a vending machine and cracked it open, taking a single swig from between when he got it, and when he shoved open the training room doors.
The room was empty, barren of life or movements. A brief memory came across his mind, of when he was trying to catch Spectre before as his eyes glanced over that particular spot in the room. He stepped inside, pausing as he heard a large creak in the floorboard, then walked to the far end of the room. Fingers fished into his leather jacket’s pocket, retrieving some ear buds, and hooking them into the slot on his phone. He swapped the phone from hand to hand as he shifted his way around his coat, stripping himself off it before discarding it against the wall that was facing him now.
He turned, pushed his back to it and hooked up the buds to his ears, before sliding down until he sat on the hard floor. After browsing through his phone for a moment, he made sure he was hooked up to the NFU’s wifi and then started to look through movie streaming websites. After finding a link for Legend, he shuffled enough to get himself a little more comfortable before pressing play, and watching the opening sequence.
“It’s been what, a few weeks now and I’m still not sure. I said I’d give this whole thing a try and it’s been kinda cool but… It’s just not what I thought it might be. I don’t know what I even expected doing this. I didn’t think this through and I think I kinda played into somebodies hands doing this. Like Sage or whoever the hell this Head Director is. Messenger? I don’t know. All I know is, I probably should have thought it through.”
“Not to mention, it’s not like we actually win. Sure, we go out and grab a few Eldritch and haul them into a van to take them god knows where, but we faced Jolly and Visionary told me he had to get away, more or less. Then Doppler, and he got away as well. I mean, I can’t feel bad about it. I shouldn’t feel bad, but I still feel responsible for letting it happen to Alex. Maybe if I wasn’t there, Doppler would have gone easier on him. Then again, maybe I sorta helped out more than I think I did. I don’t know. It’s not like I can see into the future or anything.”
Shaun rubs the back of his head, turning his head to the side. He doesn’t look as he continues speaking.
“It’s just so fucking weird. Everyone thinks I’m supposed to be this big… thing. Yeah, okay. I don’t want to admit that I’m probably stronger than everyone, and I can’t be hurt. They can guess, but they don’t know it, but I know it. And even then, that’s all I’ve got. I’m like… the hammer that’s looking for nails. People think you can just punch all your problems away. How’s all this strength gonna help me talk to somebody, or pick a career, or know what I’m gonna do in five years time?”
He hung his head slightly.
“Y’know, I feel powerless. People expect a lot from me, but what can I do? I can’t protect people when they need it. I can’t just hit people, I’d end up killing them or breaking a lot of stuff. I don’t even want to fight. Somebody gets hurt, and I just don’t wanna hurt people. Nobody seems to realise that I might be able to throw a house into space if it all stayed together, it doesn’t mean I want to.”
Shaun picked his head up.
“But nobody I know really gets it, they don’t get it. They’ll think I’m whining or just being miserable, that I don’t appreciate it. Yeah, I do, I just don’t really have the desire to use it like other people. Up until I started here at the NFU, I’ve never really thrown a punch before. I’ve never used my powers, if you can call them that. Not on purpose. I’ve never lacked control, and I’ve never not been able to control them. So what am I worried about?”
The training dummy Shaun had been talking to for the past ten minutes still hadn’t responded.
“Hey, don’t look at me like that.” Shaun frowned, speaking in a mock tone. He reached over and lightly slapped the dummy on the head, barely causing it to move. “I spill my soul out to you and you look at me with that wooden face like that. Grow up.”
A feint snicker echoed from the other end of the room.
Shaun turned to face whoever it was, with a look of concern. On the other end was a fairly tall man, who was fairly tall and thin in the same way Alex was. He looked in his thirties, with long black hair slicked back and some neatly arranged, recently shaved facial hair. His skin was olive, and he wore a baggy grey shirt and black tracksuit bottoms. He took a few steps forward in his white trainers, which looked as if they’d been recently bought.
“Sorry, didn’t mean to interrupt you.” His accent had slight hints of a Greek accent, and he was very soft spoken. “Do carry on.”
“How long have you been standing there?”
“The last minute.” He said. He walked quite quickly, for somebody who was walking casually. “I believe we’ve yet to meet. Introductions are in order”
He extended his hand out. “Giles Mavros. Here, they call me Impetus, when I’m on duty.”
Shaun shook his hand. “Shaun Larson.”
“A pleasure.” Giles said, smiling. “It’s quite late. Do you know what time it is?”
Shaun reached for his pocket, but his phone was resting on his coat. “Not off the top of my head.”
“About quarter past one in the morning.” Giles said, finally breaking off the handshake with a single firm motion. “I can see you have things on your mind. That would explain it. You are restless?”
“Kinda.” Shaun said, rolling one of his shoulders. “A few things on my mind, I guess. Nothing really important. I thought I’d take my mind off it, watch a film or two, stream some Netflix on my phone to pass the time.”
“Uh-huh. You are like my father then. Hard to talk about feelings, dismisses them, then they become a problem. You’re a proud young man, I imagine.”
“I wouldn’t say that.” Shaun glanced over Giles for a moment. “Why are you here, anyway? You on a night shift?”
Giles nodded, looking around as he spoke. “A lot of the time. I suffer from insomnia. Maybe, it happens after I was Fartouched, a side effect of my powers. Too much energy inside of me to get to sleep. Maybe the thought of the Farside made it so it’s hard for me to sleep. I don’t really know, so I do double shifts and night shifts when I’m not on duty in the day.”
“Yeah. Not a lot of people know this, but I don’t actually need to sleep. I can go without it without any problems. Same with eating. My body kinda tells me I need to do both, but if I don’t there’s no problems.” He explains. Giles nods. “I should have seen you around by now, though?” Shaun asked, walking over to his coat. He knelt down, grabbing his phone and tucking it into his pocket. “I mean, it’s kinda strange for you to just appear here.”
“Mmm. True.” Giles took a step back, and turned to the side. “Not many people want to admit how things work here, but everyone knows how it works. You see, not all agents are equal. Not all of us are equal, us with powers.”
“Uh-huh.” Shaun nodded, tucking his headphones into his pocket.
“Some are stronger, some weaker. Some are just not useful when it comes to a fight. People like Visionary, Grandmaster even. They’re what you call the ‘first response’. They go out and deal with the problems. Now, if what I’ve heard of you is right, Shaun, you’re not going to be first response.”
“So what will I be?” He replied.
“You’ll be what I am. We’re the ‘second response’. If the first response can’t handle the situation and they need some real firepower, they call me in to sort out the problem. We do our normal patrols, sure. But if something big happens, somebody really powerful, you and I’ll be sent in. Because we can deal with them whilst others can’t.”
“That’s a bit arrogant, don’t you think? You’re kinda making it out that we’re both just above everyone else.”
“Do you honestly believe you’re like everyone else?” Giles shifted his footing.
“My powers don’t change that I’m like everyone else.”
“In this case, in this place your powers change everything. You’re not an agent because you’re a nice guy.”
Shaun paused. “You know what I meant.”
“I did.” Giles said. “I’m sorry if I seem a bit brash. You have to be realistic though. If they had to send you between apprehending a small time crook or fighting a Hecatonchire Eldritch, they’d send you to fight the Eldritch.”
Shaun didn’t respond.
“But you don’t want to admit that. You’re proud, you sell yourself short or don’t want to admit it. That’s really interesting.”
“We’ve just met and all, so this whole psychoanalysing thing isn’t the best first impression to give.” Shaun said, deadpan.
“Maybe not. I just like to get an idea about people.” Giles takes a quick glance to Shaun’s jacket. “Shaun, I’m going to get some fresh air. Would you join me?”
Shaun blinks for a second. “Yeah, okay.” He said with a shrug.
“Do you need your jacket?” Giles said, already turning to leave.
Shaun just started to walk beside him, and Giles didn’t wait for him to decide before they started walking together. “I’m good.”
“Good.” Giles said, with another smile.
They meandered through the barren corridors, devoid of all but the people on the night shift. When Giles opened the doors to the back entrance. The midnight air was cold and crisp, hitting them quickly with a soon permeating coldness. Shaun glances to the night sky, and for once it was totally clear. He could see the glisten of stars in the sky, a swathing scape of the void above.
Before them, Giles was leading them to a small area beyond the tarmac smoking area, past some cars that were parked, and onto a small astroturf pitch enclosed in a wire mesh cage.
“I come out here to train, but the cold air makes me think a bit better.” Giles said, stretching his arms out.
“It’s pretty nippy tonight.” Shaun said, glancing around. A spotlight hung above on the far corner, illuminating the area with fake light.
“Keeps the blood flowing.” Giles turned to Shaun, twenty paces from where he stood. “Well, Shaun. I want to try something, if you don’t mind.”
“Okay.” He responded, nonchalantly.
“Tell me about yourself. What can you do?”
Shaun paused for a second. “I’m really strong, and I’m really tough.”
“You are, but you’re also wrong. What can you really do?” Giles asked. “You’re more than just really strong and really tough. Do you think anybody would be as strong as they are if they were just good at one thing? Do you think Sovereign started out as powerful as he was, or do you think he looked at what he could do and thought he could do more?”
“Well, being strong and tough is all I can do.” Shaun states, frowning slightly. “There’s not much else. I hit as hard as I need to, and I’m never not strong enough, and nothing can hurt me.”
“Let’s use that hammer and nail metaphor you used before.” Giles pointed to Shaun. “You’re looking at the end which whacks in the nail. What about the end that pulls a nail out? What about throwing the hammer, or using it to weigh something down? Shaun, you are powerful, but you’re not creative.”
“Everyone keeps telling me that.” He says, shaking his head.
“I overheard that you’ve never really used your powers. I doubt you’ve even tried to be as strong as you really are, hoping that you’ll be able to do it at a push, when the time is right. And if that never comes?”
Shaun didn’t respond.
“You don’t admit how powerful you are because you have no idea. You’ve never pushed yourself. Have you ever once exerted yourself?”
“It’s impossible to exert myself. I never tire-”
Giles cut him off abruptly, a passion flaring in his voice. “No, Shaun! Mentally exert yourself. Find a limit in yourself and push. Do something else with your powers. You’ve never used them, how do you even know what you can and can’t do?” Giles raised both his hands, almost shrugging. “People aren’t afraid of what you are now, but what you can become. Everyone, everyone has a limit. Yours isn’t physical, and it isn’t throwing a punch. Or maybe it is? How do I know? How do you know?”
Again, Shaun didn’t respond.
“Is that why you don’t use your gifts? Are you afraid that you don’t have those limits?”
Shaun narrowed his eyes. “No. I’m not afraid. I just don’t think I need to go any further. I’m the fuckin’ Farside Juggernaut and everyone wants me to go above that? Is nobody satisfied with just what I am right now?”
“You know, as strange as it is to say, I think that’s why you’re the perfect person for your powers. The best person to give power to, is the person who doesn’t want to use it. A lot of people could learn from you. But, you need to learn that it’s okay to use what you have. Shaun, there’s nothing wrong with fighting, or even hurting somebody, if you’re doing it for the benefit of everyone else. Sometimes, there’ll be somebody who you can’t talk to, or an Eldritch destroying everything. Are you going to worry you might hurt somebody when somebody is killing everyone around you?”
“No, I- It’s not like that.” Shaun says, hesitantly. “I didn’t ask for this. Everyone expects too much of me. They think I’m ready to hurt, to kill, because I have the strength to do it.”
“For a boy who’se so strong, you complain about the world on your shoulders too much.”
Shaun had nothing to say back to that.
“You’re meant to be strong enough. Start being strong about who you are.”
Giles raises one of his hands.
“My powers were simple. I can create a barrier of solid kinetic energy around my body. Don’t ask me how you can make kinetic energy solid. If I knew, I’d be a rich man.”
To demonstrate, a glassy shell began to encase around his entire body. It coated him like a second skin, and all colours inside of it began to distort and change, the colours entirely inverse within the force field in the second it took to manifest. His face looked more like a mask than anything, and his mouth moved when he spoke, a little too mechanically.
“Shields me from attacks, even dampens the inertia on my side of things. It can be broken, but I can be hit by a car just before it gives way.”
The barrier begins to fade away, much quicker than it appeared.
“If it was just a suit of armour, I wouldn’t be the second response.”
He extends his arm out to the side. The barrier appears again, but this time only on the palm of his hand. His barrier’s palm begins to expand outwards, manifesting as a large hand about half as big as he was tall, taking about a second again.
“It has to be around my body, but this way, I have a shield. And I can protect others, make cover to protect them from gunfire.”
Shaun nodded, watching curiously as the field vanished again. Giles clenched his fist now, and pointed it to Shaun’s direction. A field began to cover over his hand and fully manifested. Giles waited a second to properly show Shaun, before the shell coating just his fist launched from his arm like a projectile. It struck Shaun in the chest, but it wasn’t strong enough to knock him off his feet. Once it left its mark, it vanished upon impact. It did make Shaun frown, lowering the tone of his voice.
“It was a demonstration. It wouldn’t hurt you. But I can launch off my barriers and hit people from a distance. It gives me something to do when I’m not close to my enemy. It’s not as strong as it could be. A lot of the kinetic energy is used to launch it, and it loses some before it gets to you.” Giles begins walking forward. “But knowing I could discharge it, let me discover another application.”
Shaun folded his arms. “Alright.”
“When I’m punching somebody, I can launch the barrier when my fist hits them. Not only do they get hit with my fist, but I also transfer the kinetic energy of the barrier into them. Shaun, do you mind if I show you?”
“You’re gonna hit me again.” Shaun said, unfolding his arms.
“I’d like to. It’d be interesting to see how tough you are.”
Shaun shrugged. “Fine, do you want me to resist it?”
“Please don’t.” Giles said.
Shaun nodded. Giles waited a second before he brought his fist back. Unlike before, Giles made his fist coat up to the elbow in that inversely coloured shell, just in time for him to land a swing properly.
The fist slammed into Shaun’s chest. At that moment, Giles shunted it forward like it was a projectile, and all the kinetic energy stored into it amplified the punch into something that launched Shaun off his feet in a peeling blow. Shaun flew through the air from one side of the football length pitch to the other, hitting the ground and tumbling just before he came into contact with the mesh fence. It bulged out to absorb the last bit of the impact, where Shaun sat on the floor with his arms spread out.
Shaun sat for a second, before he muttered to himself. “Fuck me.” He stood up and checked his clothes, no worse form wear from the impact, and patted his chest.
Giles observed him, a surprise curiosity on his face. “Not a scratch by the looks of it.” He started to walk over to where Shaun was now, and as his feet came down he coated them in a barrier. When he pushed his foot down after that, he uses the shunt of kinetic energy to push him forward, turning steps into strides and moving over to Shaun faster than even most athletes could manage. Shaun was watching him at this point, and mentally taking note.
They shared a glance, and Giles began to laugh under his breath. “Damn. No sell.”
“Nothing ever sells on me.” Shaun said, shrugging. “How strong was that?”
“One of my strongest. It can send somebody through a wall. But this is my point. You saw me move just now, another use of my powers. Do you get what I’m trying to tell you?”
“Yeah, yeah.” Shaun said, slightly worn down by the constant message. “Find other ways to use my strength.”
“Yes. Exactly that. I think, everyone says the same, but they expect you to come up with all the ideas.”
Shaun nods. “Pretty much. It doesn’t help, at all.”
“Right. Let me help you.” Giles said. He starts to pace from side to side as he explains, making hand gestures to emphasise his points. “Because nobody helped me when I was learning this. I learned it all the hard way, and you need to save some time. What exactly are your powers? Are you just strong to hit things, to lift things?”
Shaun thought about it, folding his arms. “I don’t know. I’m just as strong as I need to be. I’ve done some leaping before to move from one spot to another. I did this big clap thing to clear away from fog, misty stuff before.”
Giles nods, flecks of intensity in his voice. “Good! A good start, Shaun. Let’s start with that first thing, the leaping. Would you show me?”
Shaun nodded, and stepped a few times to the side. He pushed his foot down, and vaulted himself a quarter of the length of the football pitch ahead. When he landed, he staggered a little on his feet, not used to the balance needed, and got his bearings quickly. He turns, and repeats it again, landing next to Giles with a slight wobble. Giles has a flash of inspiration on his face, picking at one of the hairs on his growing beard.
“So you can put strength into your legs. Shaun, by the looks of it, you can put as much strength to any part of your body as you want. Everything you do with your body to move uses muscles. Your punches, your kicks, your running. Even your breathing. I’m assuming that you never thought of it like that.”
Shaun shook his head. “Well, no. Not really. Yeah, I guess we learned about it in science but it wasn’t… So, what, you’re saying I can do anything quicker, stronger?”
“Most things. Have you never done any physical exercise classes?”
Shaun shook his head again. “No. They didn’t think it’d be fair on the other students. My parents sorta agreed to it.”
“Hm.” Giles rubbed at his chin some more. “That does make sense. Running is just moving muscles in your legs. You’ve had no practice though. Shaun, I want you to run from this end to that end.” Giles pointed, showing Shaun the smaller length of the pitch. “Do a length for me, at normal speed.. Jogging.”
Shaun looked to the end and seemingly complied, giving a nod and submitting to the instruction. He rolled his shoulder and jogged from one side of the pitch to the other. He stood in front of Giles, who nodded at his return.
“Good. Do it again, but sprint this time. Just a normal sprint.”
Again, Shaun turned and set off. He ran at a heightened pace, what seemed to be a sprint. He was careful not to throw himself into the wire on the other end and slowed down just before reaching the side, then bolted back to Giles’ side.
Giles was watching carefully and smiled as he watched him. “Now, I want you to go faster. You felt how fast you were going before, the difference in speed between a sprint and jog. This time, go that same difference in speed, except to your sprint.”
“Faster?” Shaun said, incredulously.
“It’s all muscles, Shaun! All muscles.” Giles grabbed him by the shoulder, giving him a shake. “Push more strength into your running. Make yourself go faster. It’s nothing you’ve felt before, so I can’t tell you how to do it. But, just do it. Long length, this time.”
With a hesitant nod, Shaun broke off from Giles’ grasp and turned lengthways. He rolled his neck from side to side, without any of the joints popping and hopped on his feet, to loosen himself up. He took a second, mentally trying to grasp what was being asked of him, and broke out into a sprint.
He went no quicker than before for the first second. He had to will himself to go a bit faster, and he felt his legs start to move quicker. His strides were longer, and each bound felt like it had more force, beyond the natural movement. In all his life to this point, he’d never even bothered to try, so he had no idea it would work. What he thought was his running limit, he surpassed twofold by the time he hit the other end of the pitch.
Shaun stopped at the end and glanced down at his feet. A mental second wind struck him, as if he’d always felt this tired and inhibited, a veil draped away from his senses. He had never known anything different, even if it was merely how to run quicker.
“Woah. I didn’t know I could do that.”
An idea reeled in his mind, and he turned on his heel. He could feel the movements needed to go faster, a new familiarity that was starting to settle in his mind. He looked up to Giles, and with a slight smile he pelted himself down the length of the field.
He was next to Giles in a second flat. He carried on beyond Giles for another second.
Giles brought up his barriers as an instinct, flash coating his body in inverted colours as he guarded his face and torso with his arms. Shaun had left a hole in the wire mesh as he tore through it, intending to stop next to Giles but unable to think quickly enough to alter his momentum and force himself still. Shaun kept going until the upper half of his body carried on when the lower half attempted to stop him, and he rolled over several times before stopping on the floor next to a car.
Using his barriers, Giles made his way over to Shaun at a much quicker rate, his movements fluid and controlled. He offered a hand to Shaun who grabbed it and helped himself up.
“Shaun, are you- that’s a silly question. Of course you are.”
“I’m good, I’m good. Aw, shit.” He said, looking at the hole he made. His face dropped, going slightly white. “Fucks sake.”
“Wires can be fixed and broken. Ignore them. That, was impressive. You’re starting to realise now, aren’t you?”
“Yeah. Shit, yeah! That was me.” Shaun said, pointing to the hole. “I did that. I ran that fast. Wow.”
“That was a good sixty yards. You crossed it in a second.”
“That’s-” Shaun had to think for a second. “-how fast is that?”
“About a hundred and twenty miles an hour.”
“Fuck off.” Shaun said in disbelief. “A hundred and twenty miles an hour?”
“You seem surprised. Let me tell you what I think, Shaun.” Giles reached over, and dusted a bit of dirt off Shaun’s shoulders. “Even if you’re that quick, your mind isn’t that quick. You could probably go much faster, but you can’t react quickly enough. At some point, your brain might not be able to even comprehend how quick your legs will be moving. Not to mention, stopping is a problem, isn’t it?”
“I guess so.” Shaun glances to the hole. “Turning corners won’t be easy, either.”
“No. It might help to study some physics, to understand what your body is doing. But this is what I meant before! People have been so afraid of what you can be, that they didn’t let you explore what you could be. You’ve never ran before. You’ve never hit anybody, you’ve never lifted weights or thrown anything, you’ve never had that opportunity. People are so stupid sometimes, you know?” Giles spreads his arms out. “They told me the same thing, to push yourself and learn techniques, but they never tell you what exactly you need to do. I guess everyone is different, but if nobody will let you run or use your body, then what’s the point? What are you going to learn if they tell you the same thing over and over.”
Shaun nodded. He wasn’t sure if he felt adrenaline, or something else right now, but it felt good.
“Let’s stay for a bit out here. The running thing, is very good. But you’ve never ran, you don’t know how to control your movements. You need to practice, get up to speed. Everyone else has had years for this. This’ll be a good start. We’ll spend tonight doing a few things. First, a bit of running. Then we can look at jumping if we have the time.”
“Why do you want to help me?” Shaun asked, folding his arms. “What’s your motives?”
“You’re a colleague.” He said, giving Shaun a nod. “And let’s be honest. There’s a good chance we’re going to be second response sometime. If we ever have to fight together, I want to know that you have an idea of what you’re doing. At that point, your fucks up reflect on me as well.”
Shaun blinked, then nodded. “Wow, okay. Well, sure. Whatever. Good enough of a reason for me.”
Giles nodded. “And let’s try not to make any more holes. The first one’s okay though. It happens.”
Shaun shrugged. “I’ll try not to.”
“Good.” Giles said, starting to walk back. “We’ve got about six hours, roughly. Let’s not waste a moment.”
Shaun checked the time on his phone, tucking his hand into his pocket as he waited for his ride home. The morning air was dull, and the skies had suddenly swept to a grey mass of clouds overnight, a nondescript screen covering the heavens. He watched the various people make their way inside the building, though there was only a few to leave from the night shifts previously. Giles was working through the day, so they’d already said their goodbyes for the time being.
It was unusual, but Shaun hadn’t felt so good in a long time. He felt as if he actually did something today, that he hadn’t been dormant of all things. It dawned on him how different he felt, like his body had actually worked for the first time. His movements felt a little sharper, clearer, and there was no doubt he felt a little bit more confident in himself. Today felt good.
He saw Yuhong approaching with a slight look of confusion, and Shaun waved her over with a smile. Today, she wore a striped black and white top, black jeans, and black high heels, and she approached with a smile and a bow of her head.
“Shaun, you’re here early today. Isn’t it your day off”
“Kinda. Yeah, day off” He raised an eyebrow and shrugged slightly. “Stayed overnight. Going home now.”
“Overnight?” She asked curiously. “Did you get any sleep?”
“No. I’m fine, don’t worry about it. But thanks.”
Yuhong waited, then nodded confidently. “Very well. See you tomorrow, Shaun. Have a good day.”
They smiled to each other, and Yuhong disappeared into the building.
A voice called from ahead, in the car park. Shaun saw his driver signalling him over, and he walked forward. He took a step before he felt a vibration in his pocket, and familiar words gracing his ears. He fished his phone out of his pocket and checked the screen.
I want you to breathe me. Let me be your air.
Let me roam your body freely. No inhibition, no fear.
How deep is your-
Josh Home. He answered and brought it to his ear.
“Oh, hello Shaun.” Josh’s mother, Mary. “How are you today, dear?”
“Oh, hey Mrs. Watkins. I’m pretty good, you alright?” Shaun asked with a tone of concern, still walking to the car.
“I’m not bad Shaun, thank you.”
“Is… everything okay?”
“It’s fine, it’s just, well. Josh has been acting a bit strange lately.”
“Uh-huh. Strange how?”
“When he’s come home from school, he just goes straight up to his room. Doesn’t even say a word to me, he don’t. ”
“Sounds like normal Josh to me.”
“Aye, but. He’s been refusing to eat his food, and he’s been in a foul mood when I’ve actually had chance to speak to him. School have called, sayin’ he’s been missing lessons as well.”
“That’s a little bit out there for him.”
“If you’re not busy today, can you come over and talk to him? You’re his best friend, Shaun, you might be able to talk some sense into him.”
Shaun paused for a second. “Yeah. Tell you what, I’m on my way home. I’m gonna have a shower, get something to eat, then I’ll come over. Okay?”
“That’ll be fab, Shaun. I’ll make sure kettle’s boiled when you get round.”
“Ace. Gotta go. See you in a few, Mrs Watkins.”
“See you in a bit, love.”
Shaun hung up.
He put the phone in his pocket and grunted, giving a nod to the driver and patting him on the shoulder. They both got into the car, and Shaun got himself comfortable. He pulled out his ear buds and jacked them into his phone and just one in his left ear, and turned down the volume.
He rolled down the window a bit, and the driver gave him a nod. The car rolled into motion, and Shaun began to wonder what was going on at home. He’d bee so caught up in work that he’d been going less and less to sixth form with each weekly rota he’d been put on at the NFU.. It’d been long enough since he had to deal with something outside of work, though something unexpected didn’t seem to bother him as much as what could potentially be the problem.
Shaun watched outside the window and began to count the scenery, recalling the route that was becoming more and more common as time went on.