After Small Town Hideout
CW: Slight homophobia, mentions past emotional and physical abuse and comfort picnics.
Van worked on Twenty-Two’s tap for the shower again, the old woman was starting to give him an uneasy vibe. He was glad that Thirty-Nine was there although quiet and just observed, the presence was very much accepted in Van’s eyes. His day was filled with minor fixes here and there and idle chat every once in a while. Once the room repairs were done, he went on a more relaxed pace.
He was repairing an old quilt for Paula and Chief Cherry had a favourite jacket that he wanted repairing. Gary’s wife had a few more things that she wanted him to patch up.
His work phone rang, he put it on speaker while he continued to work on the patch.
“Scorpius got a flat by Tom’s,” a local said. It was by Tom’s workplace at the Hardware store.
“Alright, I’m on my way. Twenty minutes,” he said and hung up. He continued to work on the patch, not bothering with explaining his actions to Thirty-Nine. His phone rang again and once more put it on speaker.
“No need to come down, Tom helped me out. Appreciated, Scorpius,” the local hung up. Van had learned that if it’s by one of his friends' workplaces they were going to help the local out so he doesn’t have to move.
An hour later his phone went off again, he memorized the speaker button and listened. “Scorpius, keep it down! You’re disturbing the locals!” Paula yelled.
“Sorry, I’ll sew a little more quietly,” Van said.
“Keep it down! I can still hear you!” He looked at the phone and put his hands down, “Much better,” Paula then hung up.
The rest of the day went without incident or calls, it was quite relaxing. Soon the others started returning and his shadow was then kicked out after a private talk with Jack.
“Strange guy,” Jack said coming back in, “busy day, Van?”
“Not really, although a few rooms have recurring problems.”
“Eighteen, Twenty-Two, Forty-Seven, Fifty-Six,” Van said and looked at the patch of the quilt he just finished.
“Hmm, what about him? Has he caused you problems today?”
“No, not really, why?”
“You heard what he said last night,” Jack said.
“He knows who we are and if he was going to do something about it he would have already, I don’t see why you are worrying over it.”
“Well, has he said anything? Mentioned what he was going to do?”
“Other than what he said last night, nothing new. Actually, he said nothing all day, just followed me around.”
“Probably looking for suspicious activity, don’t trust him.”
“Chances are he’ll tag along with one of you next. All I did was do some minor repairs and sit here and sew.”
“Fine but if he does hang around you tomorrow tell him nothing. Don’t even acknowledge him at all! I mean it.”
When morning hit, Van walked out ready to get a few of his ideas done. If Paula would let him, he stepped out of the room and looked at the police officer standing beside the door. ‘Off to a great start, they are going to nag me all day about this,’ he thought and bid good morning to him. He walked down the stairs and headed for the office.
Sid walked towards his work, the ‘cute one’ following close behind. ‘How is it that he’s always right? Always. He can just look at someone and know their entire plan for the day.’
“Rough night?” Sid looked back at the ‘Cute one’ and wondered if the two were on the same wavelength.
“Van said the same thing this morning before he left,” Sid continued to walk then, “you’re really not going to turn us in?”
“Scorpius is very convincing.”
“Is that what it was? That one line really did you in, huh?” Sid laughed but glanced back when he got no reply. “Well, well, the white flower can blush.”
“Is he normally quiet?” The rest of the day went on with him asking questions it ended when they walked back. Van was laying on a quilt with a basket beside him, Sid smiled seeing his friend finally enjoying the day.
“Hey, Baby we late or something?” Sid walked over all smiles.
“You are, just about gave up waiting.”
“Don’t ‘Sorry Sweetheart’ me, we agreed on a picnic. The least you could do was call to let me know you’d be late.”
“Will you ever forgive us, Baby? We tried to get here on time.”
“So we’re not the only ones running late,” Jack then came up with Tom. “Sorry, lost track of time.”
“That’s a lame excuse,” Van said sounding annoyed but his little smirk said otherwise. “Tom I left you a few sandwiches in the basket.”
“Why only Tom? You picking favourites now?”
“Cause I called him, was I the only one that remembered? You three are terrible,” Tom sat down taking out a foil-wrapped sub. Soon Sid and Jack started an argument on who was the worst. Van continued to sunbathe while Tom ate and watched the show.
“Isn’t this the quilt you were working on yesterday?” the officer sat down cautiously.
“Silent protest, Paula took away my sewing kit.”
“Did you agree on a picnic?”
“No, but there are some sandwiches there, help yourself.”
“You predict the future or?”
“No, Tom did call me,” Sid and Jack finally settled down and ate in peace enjoying the last bit of sun.
The next day Van worked on putting a mirror up while the officer tagged along, “Not sure if I got your name,” Van said as he checked his finished work.
“Never gave it.”
“Oh good, now I don’t feel bad about forgetting it,” his phone rang and he put it on speaker.
“Sorry to bother you but my power went out,” it was Ellannah, “mind if I drop the kids off with you.”
“He’s working with power tools all day,” the officer said. “He can’t put it off either,” he hung up the phone in what looked like silent rage. “The nerve of that woman,” he then went in a mumbling state while Van just watched since the guy wasn’t about to move from the doorway. He glanced to Eighteen and she was just shocked.
“Are you done?” Van asked and when the man looked confused he asked again.
“Oh, sorry,” he left the room quickly.
“How much do you want to bet that he wants me all to himself?” Van asked Eighteen and she looked mortified.
“You’re not bothered by it?”
“I hang around with Sid, I’ve gotten pretty used to it by now.”
“Disgusting,” Van shrugged and left the room happily.
“I’ve always dreaded seeing her,” Van said as he moved to his next repair.
“Who? The girl on the phone or that girl in there?”
“Hm, both now that you mention it.”
“Is it the stares or the kids?”
“The stares, it just reminds me of Ashlynn.”
“My ex-girlfriend,” he said as he worked on the front door to Nine.
“What was she like?”
“Why the sudden interest? You weren’t this chatty last time,” Van said putting up a guard.
“Sorry, you mentioned her a few times in your journal. And before you go off,” he said quickly, “I found it in your room while trying to track you and the others down.”
“There’s a lot I want to ask,” Van said looking at the man.
“What?” he asked when he didn’t go on.
“Waffles?” the officer was a bit dumbfounded but then laughed, remembering the question in one of the entries.
“God, that’s probably my favourite word from you. Belgian Waffle breakfast sandwich.”
“Your one of the fancy ones,” Van continued his work, “Ashlynn was kind and sweet, she loved glass figurines but she was a bit of a klutz. A bit forgetful too but always gentle and caring.”
The officer heard it all from Sid but this was nothing that he described. He had also done some digging on Ashlynn when he read about her. She was nothing like what Scorpius said and this bothered him. The door was soon done and they moved on to the second floor to room 39 where the medicine cabinet door fell off.
“What happened? What made her break it off with you?”
“Not sure, she didn’t say,” Van looked at the old door and wondered how he missed it. The wood was warped and rotted. “It was probably something I did wrong.”
“What did you normally do with her?”
“Back in school, I made her lunch, carried her books, helped her study and just talked to her about everything.” That wasn’t how Sid described it, she forced him to do her homework, guilt-tripped him into making her lunch and just passed him her bag while she talked with her friends.
“What about the dates?”
“The carnival was her favourite, but we would go out for a movie and dinner, sometimes a walk and ice cream on hot days or just hang around at home or the mall.” Those hot days would be a run, not a walk and the ice cream was solely for her, the movie and dinner she made it like a treat to him, the mall she made him practically empty his bank on buying useless things. He hated to go to the carnival for different reasons from his sister. The hang around home soon became permanent when they started to live together. He started to notice that Van was trembling.
“How often did she tell you she loved you?”
“Uh, every night?” Van lined up the new door and started from the top before moving to the bottom. He noticed his hands hadn’t stopped shaking, then saw a small red line on his right index finger.
“Has she ever hit you?” he rose his hand to get the band-aids but he saw that Van had flinched, he picked up the box, opened it and took one out. He unwrapped it and placed it to the side before turning on the water and adjusting the temperature. He gently took Van’s hand and ran it under the water to clean it, once he finished that he dabbed the face towel on his finger to dry it. He patched his still shaking hand and gently placed a kiss on the band-aid. “Sounds like she never took care of you properly. Has she ever done anything for you?” He received no answer but seeing Van looking trapped and scared was enough for him. “I’ll be back soon, going to get us something to eat.”
Van waited for the door to close before he fully broke down, he had tried so hard to bury those memories. ‘She left because I was weak, I should have just said that and left it there. Just weak and useless,’ he sat in silence for a bit longer before getting up and washing his face and getting back to work. He knew that sitting there wasn’t helpful, he needs to be helpful, sitting there was being useless, not doing anything was weak. He walked out and saw the officer setting up the newly made picnic table with food, Van went down and put his tools away, cautiously walking up to him.
“What are you doing?” Van asked.
“Ah, there you are, I was just about to get you for lunch.”
“Why out here?” Van asked still cautious.
“Just wanted to return the favour of yesterday's picnic, plus it's a nice day out we shouldn’t be inside all the time.”
The picnic soon turned to them just hanging out and playing cards for cookies and other snacks. Van played for his favourites and any that the others might like, but as it turns out he was terrible at lying that it was cute.
“Hey, Babe’s!” One look and Sid could tell that the officer was letting Van win. “Having fun without me?”
“Got bored of waiting for you, what do you expect us to do?” the officer said and folded.
“Well deal me in now,” Sid said and sat down beside the officer.
“Hold on, what are you betting? You can’t just come in here empty-handed.”
“Who said I was empty-handed?” Sid pulled out five chocolate bars and placed them on the table.
“Your call, Scorpius,” they both looked at him and then started to laugh when Van was already eating some of the cookies.
“I’ll sit this one out, I need to talk to Paula.”
“Alright, don’t be long, Baby,” Van got up and took the box of cookies with him to see his boss. “Should have known you’d pull something like that when you asked about his past.”
“So you figured it out, I just wanted to know what he thought of it. I didn’t mean to make him upset.”
“I’m just glad you told me and not Jack or Tom. Those two would have never let you near him again,” Sid and the officer started their game. “I remember your name now, it was on one of the papers Van showed us just before we stole that gem. Sen Norio, what made me remember was the short description.”
“Why did he write that down?”
“In case we met someone with that name so we know who to trust,” Sid said and saw that Van was making his way back.
“Why do you guys call him Van?”
“He was just like you, never gave us a name so we just opt to call him Vancouver, then it shortened to Van.”
“So all this time you didn’t know his real name?”
“No, we didn’t until the wanted posters told us. He told us he didn’t like his name because it sounded like he wanted to kill people.”
“It does! You try walking up to someone and say ‘Hey, my name’s Scorpius,’ and see if they run away screaming.”
“Has that really happened to you?”
“Yes, my stepmother gave me a different name to say to other people and I hated that one more.”
“Oh this is good, what was it, Baby?”
“Why do you call him that?”
“Don’t bother, we all have at least one.”
“Went through my entire list on Van, but nothing worked so I went simple with him. Jack is Honeybear and Tom is Sugar Dumpling.”
“All of you are Jewel Thieves to me.”
“Now that is cheating!” Sid blowup slamming his hand on the table.
“You want me to number you? Give you a rank?”
“Cheating and Lazy! Put some work into it! At this point, I’m calling you Pickled Sloth!”
“Uh oh, he’s mad,” Van laughed.
“Whoa! What’s with the names today?” Jack asked Tom was beside him looking at the three men. Jack dangled some ice cream in front of Sid. “After I went to the trouble of getting you a treat for behaving well this week. I’m starting to wonder.”
“No, sorry,” Sid then hugged Jack.
“He was getting mad because I won’t put any effort into names.”
“So what? We can be just numbers to you, I’m sure Van doesn’t even know what to call you but by your room number like everyone else here. Tom just doesn’t care and I know it doesn’t suit everyone.”
“But he wants to call us Jewel Thieves!”
“That’s because we are, now leave him alone,” Jack handed out the ice cream, “Sid, Van put all the snacks away when you're done, it’s also getting late so no more sweets after that.”
“Aw,” Van quietly said and wrapped up the cookies, after a peaceful chat Van and Sid picked up the snacks and headed for the room. Tom, Jack and Norio sat at the table still talking.
“You good, Baby?” Sid asked as they settled down on the beds, “Heard what happened earlier.”
“Hm,” Sid then got up and moved to the same bed and hugged him, “Knowing them they’re probably giving him a warning. I had to tell Tom and Jack about it when he saw me, would you believe it if I told you he asked what food you’d like? Then asked how he could fix it after making you sad, I mean unbelievable.” Sid gently ran his fingers through Van’s hair, “He was panicking too.”
“So you told him what to do?”
“Nope, just told him what you liked and he started throwing plans out. Guess I should have warned him when he started asking about her.”
“Did she ever love me?”
“From what we saw, no. She tried hard to push us away from you, good thing we are stubborn. Did you have a good day?”
“Yeah, it was good. The morning could have been better though.”
“I’m sure it could have but at least it wasn’t as bad as the other times we tried to tell you.”
“No, he defiantly had a better way of telling me. I’m sorry.”
“You’re good, just rest now.”