Characters: Dee, Ryo, Others.
Setting: After the manga.
Summary: Searching for a missing witness, Dee finds himself in the last place he’d ever want to be.
Word Count: 1878
Written For: Challenge #032: Phobia at fandomweekly.
Disclaimer: I don’t own FAKE, or the characters. They belong to the wonderful Sanami Matoh.
As far as Dee was concerned, this was his worst nightmare come true. Well, maybe not quite his worst, that would involve losing Ryo, but definitely right up there in the top two, and it was his own stupid fault he was here. He’d been the one who’d said they should split up, each taking one of the locations their terrified witness might have fled to, because they needed to find her fast, preferably before Schroeder’s people could track down and silence her. As lead detective, he’d been the one to hand out the addresses, sending Ryo, Drake, Ted, and JJ to different parts of the city, each with a couple of uniforms as backup.
Stupidly, he’d kept this one for himself because it was the least accessible, an old farmhouse at the end of a narrow track, and as the only one of their number with a motorcycle, he’d figured he could get there more easily, not to mention faster, than anyone else. Even more idiotically, he hadn’t brought backup because the 27th didn’t have any motorcycle units attached to it and borrowing a couple from another precinct would have taken time and paperwork.
The house had been in the witness’s family since it had been built a couple of hundred years earlier, before the city had spread out this far, but no one had lived there since her grandparents died just over twenty years ago. According to her parents, who had been placed under police protection, she’d visited the house regularly as a child, and Dee had thought it was just possible she might have gone there to hide because she associated it with safety. That seemed like a bad joke now; in the list of the many things this rundown old heap definitely wasn’t, safe would be number one. A strong breeze would probably knock it down.
Parking his bike out of sight behind the house, Dee had entered through the back door, which was hanging off its hinges. He’d begun his search on the ground floor, moving cautiously from one empty room to another, finding nothing but dead leaves, old graffiti, and a few bits of broken furniture. After checking a closet in one of the rooms and finding it empty, he’d been on his way back to the hall, intending to search upstairs next, when there’d been an ominous cracking noise and before he could move, the floor had suddenly collapsed beneath him, dumping him unceremoniously in the cellar.
With a groan, he’d levered himself into a sitting position and assessed the damage. The fall had momentarily knocked the breath out of him, but his ribs felt okay. He was definitely going to have a few bruises, and his left ankle was a bit sore, but nothing seemed to be broken. All things considered, his situation wouldn’t have concerned him too much if he’d been alone; it was just his bad luck that he wasn’t.
Hearing a dry, slithery sound, he’d pulled his flashlight from his jacket pocket, thankful that it hadn’t been broken during his fall, and switched it on. All around him something was moving; he could see sinuously writhing forms in the shadows among old sacks and stacks of wood, and Dee broke out in a cold sweat, heart hammering inside his chest, his skin crawling.
Dee could honestly say there wasn’t much that truly terrified him, but for as long as he could remember, he’d had a serious phobia when it came to snakes, and now he was surrounded by them. He had to get out!
Scarcely daring to breathe, he rose slowly to his feet, wincing slightly at a stab of pain from his ankle, and cast the beam of his torch around until he spotted a short flight of steps leading up to what had to be the cellar door. He inched his way cautiously across the dirt floor towards it; his nerves were screaming at him to run, but he had no idea what kind of snakes these were, they could be venomous and some of them were so close that if they struck at him they wouldn’t miss. They appeared sluggish though; it was early February and Dee knew snakes were cold-blooded, hibernating throughout the winter months.
His hands were sweating; Dee wiped one clammy palm dry on his pants leg then switched the torch to that hand so he could dry the other the same way. In the back of his mind he thought how strange it was that his hands could be so wet when his mouth felt as dry as the Sahara. Fighting back panic with every step he took, his breath coming in shallow gasps making him light-headed, his hands numb and tingling, he kept going, wishing he could shut his eyes so he didn’t have to look at the snakes, but needing to see where he was going. If he were to accidentally tread on a snake…
It seemed to take an eternity before he reached the steps, grateful to see they were made of cold concrete and devoid of snakes. With a sound somewhere between a whimper and a sob of relief, he leapt up them, grabbed the handle of the cellar door, and pushed.
Nothing happened and a chill ran down his spine as he realised it must be locked from the other side. He was trapped, locked in with the snakes! Panic exploded inside him! Dee beat and kicked frantically at the door, slammed against it with his shoulder over and over, using all the strength he could muster, all the time shouting and screaming for help, until his legs finally gave way and he collapsed onto the top step, panting for breath and utterly exhausted. Leaning against the wooden door, shaking uncontrollably, cold dread filled him as he absorbed the full horror of his situation. He was going to die here, trapped and alone except for the snakes! No one would ever find him down here!
No, that wasn’t going to happen, and panicking wasn’t helping. He needed to pull himself together and think things through.
He took a slow, deep breath, trying to calm himself enough to focus. Okay, he could phone for help. Dragging his phone from his pocket, he turned it on.
For a moment blind panic welled up inside him again, but he forced it back down. So he couldn’t call for help after all; it didn’t matter. The rest of the squad knew where he’d gone; when he didn’t return, they’d come looking for him. All he had to do was wait. He stood up again on the topmost step, his back pressed against the door to put as much distance as possible between himself and the dreaded snakes. Keeping his torch aimed at the steps in front of him, he concentrated on steadying his breathing, repeating over and over to himself that it would be okay, someone would come to save him; he just had to keep calm and be patient.
In another part of the city, the witness had been located and was now under protection. The rest of the search party returned to the precinct, except for one.
“Has anyone heard from Dee?” Ryo asked as he and his colleagues congregated in the squad room. The other detectives shook their heads. Pulling out his phone, Ryo pressed speed-dial, only to be told the phone he was calling was switched off or out of range. Snatching up his jacket, he headed back to his car and drove out to the farmhouse Dee was supposed to be checking. He had to leave his car by the side of the road and follow the narrow track on foot, but when he reached the house he soon found Dee’s motorcycle out back, his helmet hanging on the handlebars. He had to be around here somewhere.
“Dee?” he called, squeezing past the rickety back door.
In the cellar, Dee blinked. That sounded like Ryo’s voice!
“Ryo? I’m in here! Help!”
A heavy door on the opposite wall rattled, drawing Ryo’s attention to it. He reached it in half a dozen strides, and after a few minutes’ struggle managed to draw back the rusty bolts at top and bottom, swinging the door open. Dee all but fell into his arms, clinging to him and babbling, barely coherent. “Oh thank God, I feel like I’ve been trapped in there forever, I was beginning to think I’d never get out!”
“What happened? Did someone lock you in?”
“No.” Dee’s voice was muffled against Ryo’s shoulder, his arms so tight around his partner that Ryo started to worry his ribs might give out. “I fell through the floor, and when I tried to get out, the door was locked. Ryo, the cellar… it’s full of snakes! They’re everywhere down there, hundreds of them!”
Ryo tightened his arms around his lover; he was well aware of Dee’s snake phobia and could only imagine how the other man must have felt trapped, surrounded by the creatures that scared him more than anything in the world. Like all phobias, it didn’t matter that Dee’s fear was largely irrational; that fact didn’t make it any less real. “It’s okay, you’re safe now.” Ryo swayed gently, rocking Dee as if they were slow dancing to unheard music, gradually feeling his partner begin to relax against him.
“Sorry for being such a wimp.”
“You’re not. If I’d been trapped somewhere with a lot of spiders…” Ryo trailed off, shuddering. “I’m sure I’d have been even worse.”
Dee huffed a weak laugh as they continued to sway. “You’re only sayin’ that to make me feel better. I’ve seen you deal with spiders. Nerves of steel.”
“One spider on its own I can just about handle, as long as it’s not too big. More than that and I start to freak out. A whole cellar full and I don’t know what I’d do, and I hope I never have to find out. Come on; let’s get out of here. Will you be okay on your bike?”
“Yeah, I will now. Thanks, babe.”
“Any time. You’d do the same for me.”
“In a heartbeat. I’ll give you a ride to your car and you can follow me back to the station.” Slowly Dee loosened his arms from around Ryo and took a step back, smiling weakly.
Ryo smiled back and twined his fingers through Dee’s; hand in hand, they started towards the back door.
“Hey, I forgot to ask; did you find our witness?”
Ryo nodded. “Drake did; Angela Moretti is safe.”
“That’s good to hear.” Dee pulled the door out of the way, accidentally yanking it right off its hinges. “Oops, didn’t mean to do that.” He dropped it on the floor, where it splintered into several pieces.
“Don’t know your own strength,” Ryo teased.
“Oh please, the whole place is falling apart. Except for that fuckin’ cellar door. That’ll still be standing when the rest of the house has crumbled to dust.” Dee stepped through the empty doorway, drawing the cold air deeply into his lungs. The sooner he got away from this place the better. Next time they had to search somewhere like this, he was gonna send someone else!