Characters: Connor/Lester, various others
Rating: PG (note, part 3 is NC-17)
Words: 5,486 (25,340 total)
Disclaimer: Not mine, as nice as it would be
Spoilers: Set in season 3, assumes knowledge of season 2
A/N: Very sincere thanks to fredbassett, for betaing this for me so thoroughly in such a short time!
Summary: Lester has been having headaches, and they're getting worse.
“Headache?” Connor queried from his place on the sofa.
Lester quickly stopped rubbing at his temples, brushing an imaginary troublesome hair out of the way with one hand and casually picking up a stray pen with the other.
“No. Why do you ask?”
Connor laughed out loud. “Do you have cat DNA somewhere in your family tree? 'Cause that's what cats do when you catch them doing something they shouldn't; they pretend that they weren't doing it at all by licking their paw and looking all innocent'.”
“Having never owned a cat, I assure you that I have no idea what you’re talking about.” Then after a moment's pause, he pre-empted Connor's next thought. “And just so we're clear: no. We're not getting a cat. If the combined efforts of all my children have failed to persuade me about pets, then you may as well give up now.”
“Are you sure? There are all kinds of studies showing the benefits of cat ownership. They're very relaxing, and they lower your blood pressure...” Connor grinned.
“If you really wanted to lower my blood pressure, you would stop pestering me and let me get on with my work.”
Connor smirked. “S'okay, I don't actually want a cat. We've already got two pets, and they're way more interesting. You really should put your glasses on, though. You always get really grouchy when you have a headache.”
“Don't be ridiculous, Connor, I'm not grouchy, I'm just... busy.” Lester tried to glare at Connor, but all he got in return was an amused and disbelieving look. He sighed, subconsciously pinching the bridge of his nose.
Connor took that as a signal to put aside the gadget he had been playing with. He walked over to where Lester was sitting, and massaged Lester's shoulders gently.
“Better?” he asked.
Lester immediately felt the muscles in his neck begin to relax under Connor's gentle efforts. “Do you have any idea how much damage an untrained masseuse can do?” he groused. The self-indulgent part of him was tempted to let Connor continue, but the pile of work he still had to do had refused to get any smaller all evening, much to his irritation.
“I'm not trying to adjust your spine, you know. I'm just trying to get you to relax before your headache gets bad enough that you end up completely insufferable. So shush.”
“Shush?” Lester echoed, sounding thoroughly put out.
Connor just 'mmm hmm'd in response.
Connor's fingers brushed a sensitive nerve on the back of Lester's neck, sending a spike of discomfort down his spine. Lester flinched and made a sound of displeasure, loud enough to cause Connor to stop.
Connor sighed quietly, removing his hands from Lester's shoulders. With one hand he caught Lester's chin, turning his head slightly to the right. With the other he reached over Lester's left shoulder and snagged his reading glasses from the top of a pile of paperwork. He held the glasses out, looking at Lester pointedly.
Lester promptly shook his head.
“They're not helping. They haven't been helping for weeks. I do better without them.”
“No you don't.” Connor unfolded the glasses and propped them carefully on Lester's nose. “If they're really not working properly, then you need to get your prescription checked. We can go to the optician on Saturday.”
“That’s completely unnecessary,” Lester protested, already suspecting that it was futile. One look at Connor confirmed it; he was wearing his determined face. Lester harrumphed. “At least book ahead this time. I refuse to wait in their queues one second longer than absolutely necessary.”
“Yes sir, Captain, sir,” mocked Connor.
Lester turned back to the laptop screen, massaging his temples again. He wasn't sure what was more exhausting... The headache or Connor's persistent helpfulness.
The optician’s appointment was a tedious twenty minutes of reading oversized letters and numbers from charts, and having various complicated pieces of machinery adjusted around his head, then the optician had the nerve to confirm Connor's diagnosis. Lester's prescription had indeed changed since his last eye test.
“There's absolutely no need to look so smug,” Lester complained as they left the small shop. The optician’s office was located at one end of a large shopping centre, requiring them to weave in and out of a continuous flow of pedestrians.
“Not smug,” Connor protested. “Pleased. Now you don't get to say 'not tonight, honey, I have a headache' any more.” Connor gave Lester a cheeky grin, which was met with a very deliberate eye roll. Connor gestured towards the shopping centre food court. “Do you want to get lunch before we go home?”
“From one of those bacteria vendors? Absolutely not. After making me sit through that interminable exam, the least you could do is take me to a decent restaurant.”
It was Connor's turn to roll his eyes.
“I take it you have somewhere in mind?”
“The Thai place we went to the week before last did a very nice Tom Yum. If they're open for lunches then perhaps we...”
Connor's phone chose that moment to ring, causing him to jump. He fished it out of his pocket. A vague conversation ensued, mostly consisting of ‘yep’s and various prompts for directions before Connor hung up.
“Anomaly?” Lester asked, barely a second before his own phone beeped the arrival of a text message, confirming his suspicion.
“Yeah, about ten minutes away... Oh...” Connor faltered, then bit his lip. “We won't have time to go via home... Do you want me to call a taxi? Or you can wait here, and I can pick you up on the way back home after the anomaly is locked, if you'd rather?”
Lester considered his options. He didn't want to wait at the shopping centre any longer than strictly necessary. The bustle of the other shoppers was doing nothing for his newly-forming headache. Eventually he settled on a plan.
“I'll drive you, and wait in the car. I left some CDs in there last week, so I'll listen to those while you're off doing whatever it is I pay you to do. That is, assuming you haven't swapped my music for that awful rubbish you were playing last week?”
“You'll just have to take that chance,” Connor teased, grinning and walking on ahead, leaving Lester to catch up.
Connor had never had much call for an opinion about beavers, as animals went. He held no special antipathy toward them, but wouldn't have described himself as an aficionado. The small, beaver-like creatures that came through the anomaly though, running about in pairs and chasing each other like buck-toothed puppies, could only really be described as 'cute'.
“Palaeocastor. Oligocene era. They're pretty much harmless, unless you're into gardening. They burrow,” Connor called out to the various soldiers and team members. Everyone had immediately fallen into the 'surround and contain' strategy they almost always employed when an anomaly disgorged multiple small, fast creatures.
Becker looked despairingly at Connor, then addressed the rest of the team. “You heard him, we've got to get this lot back before they go to ground!”
Several minutes of somewhat chaotic chasing ensued, during which Connor managed to fall over at least three times and got himself thoroughly dusty in the process. The soldiers were somewhat more successful, capturing and repatriating several of the creatures. Connor set up the locking mechanism and leaned back on his haunches, unconcerned about the dirt. His front was already quite filthy, a little more wouldn't do any harm.
“Connor, any chance of sending any of our unwanted residents through this one?” Becker asked, walking over to the spot where Connor had settled. “Lester keeps pestering up about trying to return more of the high-maintenance creatures back to their own times. He says he doesn't want to keep feeding them.”
“Um...” Connor ran through his mental list of the stranded creatures in their care. “Yeah, the Mesohippus would be pretty close to the right time period. It'd take a while to get it sedated and brought up here though, wouldn't it?”
Becker nodded, then gestured towards the anomaly. “A couple of hours, probably. Is it going to stay open that long?”
Connor pulled out his portable detector and pointed it at the glistening shards of light spinning in the air behind Becker. He watched the numbers on the readout dart around for a few moments.
“Yeah, it should do. I mean, we can't really predict how long they're going to stay open for certain, but this one's strong. Really strong, actually, the magnetic field is one of the most powerful we've seen in months. That normally means they hang around for ages... Just don't leave anything metallic around unless you want to lose it.”
“Good,” nodded Becker, before he turned away and started talking into his radio.
Connor looked at the detector again for a moment, confirming his original statement, then switched it off and dropped it back in his pocket. He leaned back watching as the remaining soldiers set up a search perimeter, just in case any palaeocastors had slipped by unnoticed. Once everything was underway, Becker came back to where Connor was resting.
“You can head off. This lot is contained and the clean up is underway. And if you leave Lester waiting for you much longer he'll go spare.” Becker actually went so far as to smirk at that, which made Connor blush.
“What makes you think Lester is waiting for me?”
“His car was in the parking lot. Yours wasn't.”
“Oh, right.” Connor blushed even further. He and Lester had given up the earlier attempts to hide their living arrangement, but Lester preferred not to draw attention to it.
Becker cleared his throat and tilted his head in the direction of the aforementioned car park.
“Go on, then. Before he calls to tell me off for keeping you too long.”
Lester's car was pretty obvious, once Connor left the cover of the trees. Becker was right, he hadn't exactly been subtle about parking. Connor couldn't see Lester through the window, though, which surprised him. The windows were tinted, so it wasn't always possible to see the occupants, but normally there would be a person shaped shadow behind the glass.
His concern grew as he got closer to the vehicle, and was able to confirm that Lester was neither in the passenger nor the driver's seat. The back window had been wound down half way.
Connor peered through the slit. Lester was reclined across the back seat, arm resting over his eyes to block out the light.
“Lester?” Connor asked, concerned.
Lester raised his arm a very small amount, and squinted at him. “Migraine,” he muttered, voice kept deliberately low. “I fully intend to write a strongly worded letter to that optician. Their tests seem to have done more harm that good.”
“Are you okay, do you need something? The guys always have a first aid kit handy, they'd probably have some painkillers or something...”
Lester shook his head very slowly, likely trying not to disturb his head too much. “I think it would be best if we just went home. Quietly.”
Connor nodded. “Quietly, yep. I can do that. One quiet trip home coming up.” Connor darted around to the driver's seat, pulling the door shut behind him, then immediately wincing at the sound it made. “Sorry!” he apologized.
Lester sighed, but remained silent.
“Are you hungry? Or thirsty?” Connor asked in a stage whisper, “My mum always made me drink heaps of water when I got a headache.”
“It's not dehydration, Connor, it's a migraine. I need to go and lie down in a dark, quiet room for a few hours.”
“But you haven't even had lunch!” Connor fretted, then immediately cringed at his volume. “Sorry!” he whispered, under Lester's irritated glare.
Their shared bedroom was upstairs, and it seemed to Connor that Lester was having trouble making the trip. Connor hesitated briefly, then approached Lester and wrapped a very careful arm around the small of his back to support him.
Lester was less than enthusiastic about the gesture, sighing audibly.
“I'm fine, Connor, I don't need molly-coddling. Go make yourself something to eat. Quietly. And don't disturb me for anything less than an imminent apocalypse, understood?”
Connor withdrew his arm and nodded mutely. He watched Lester's slow progress towards the stairs for a few moments, then took himself into the kitchen to see what he could find to eat that wouldn't disturb his ill-tempered partner.
There wasn't much in the house that Connor felt safe cooking. Their fridge was always quite well stocked, but Lester tended to purchase ingredients with particular recipes in mind. Connor really didn't feel like getting yelled at for eating the last such and such, which would invariably end up being a vital component of whatever it was that Lester had decided to prepare. Connor eventually settled for cheese on toast, which he heated in the small toaster oven. He set the timer and went to start his laptop.
He typed the word 'migraine' into the search bar, and began to read.
When Lester eventually came down a few hours later, rubbing lightly at the sensitive spot on the back of his neck, he found Connor deeply engrossed in his laptop screen. The small plate covered with bread crumbs was the only sign that he had moved at all. Lester came up behind his quietly, making just enough noise to ensure that he wouldn't startle him. Apparently it wasn't enough though, because when he put a hand on Connor's shoulder, Connor just about jumped out of his skin.
“Lester!” he said loudly, once the wild surprise in his eyes relaxed, then he immediately cringed. “Sorry,” he whispered. “I should have... Do I still need to whisper?”
Lester gave a tiny, indulgent smile at that, and shook his head. “No, I'm fine now. The pain has passed, although something to eat wouldn't go amiss.”
Connor nodded, then chewed his lip. After a moment, he made a decision. Lester raised a surprised eyebrow as Connor's arms wrapped around his neck, pulling the two of them close together. Lester wrapped his own arms around Connor's back, seemingly confused and a little stiff in the gesture.
“What's this for?” Lester asked, his voice soft. Connor exhaled a little huff of air, then responded, his voice muffled from the proximity.
“I was getting worried. There was this website, and it was saying that migraines can be a symptom of tumors, or sometimes brain damage, or sometimes even worse, especially if you don't normally have migraines and then you do and it's a really bad one, and that sometimes by the time it gets to the migraine part it's already too late to do anything about it because...”
Lester interrupted Connor by pulling back a short distance and kissing him, a technique he'd discovered several weeks ago, and had since employed frequently whenever Connor got lost in one of his runaway sentences.
“Connor, it was a bad headache. It was probably triggered by stress from the eye tests this morning. I'm fine now. You're being a hypochondriac. A vicarious hypochondriac at that.”
“Are you sure? You're still looking pale.” Connor fretted. Lester nodded.
“I am feeling quite well now. Aside from the aforementioned hunger. Have you left me anything to cook for dinner, or will I have to order a takeaway?”
Lester had expected that sleeping away most of the afternoon would have resulted in insomnia that night but he was proved wrong when 9:30 pm came around and he was already too tired to think about doing anything other than curling into bed and sleeping. His fatigue had still not waned the next morning, and he had to mentally order himself out of bed once the alarm sounded.
Connor was still worried, that much was evident, but he seemed to be keeping his concerns to himself. Lester was quietly thankful for that. The truth of the matter was that he was a little concerned about his state of health too. He had been getting his eyes checked every few years since he was a teenager, but it had never brought on more than a slight tension headache.
He continued to dismiss it as stress-related whenever anyone commented, placing the blame on late reports and recent creature incursions, or various ministerial political machinations, but luckily most ARC employees were smart enough not to comment.
The week passed in a blur of fatigue and background noise, and while none of his headaches reached the same pitch that the one at the anomaly site had, they never really faded completely. By Friday, Lester had even relinquished driving privileges to Connor.
“Really? You want me to drive?” he had asked enthusiastically. It wasn't the first time Connor had been allowed to drive Lester's car, but it was still a very unusual occurrence.
Lester didn't have to feign fatigue to answer. He was just about ready to fall asleep where he stood.
“Yes, Connor, I want you to drive. You are capable, I assume?”
“Well yeah, obviously, but...” Connor narrowed his eyes suspiciously. “You're getting another migraine again, aren't you?”
Lester sighed, allowing his tiredness to leak through. “No, Connor, this isn't a migraine. I'm just tired, and as you so helpfully identified last week I'm using the wrong glasses, so I've been dealing with eye strain above and beyond the general incompetence I have to contend with every day. Just... drive us home. Tomorrow I can pick up my new reading glasses, and everything will be as it ought to be.”
Connor looked unconvinced, but took the keys and let them into the car.
“Hey, if I'm driving, does that mean I can pick the radio station?” he asked, hopefully.
“Don't push your luck, Connor.”
Picking up anything from the optician near the shopping mall on a Saturday morning was a trial in itself, but given the discomfort of the previous week, Lester was willing to brave it. There were people everywhere, their movement so erratic and unending that it left him feeling dizzy. Frustratingly, Connor didn't seem fazed by the crowds in the slightest, which Lester put down to a combination of youth and general obliviousness.
He was in and out of the optometrist as fast as humanly possible, leaving Connor trailing behind him as he headed straight back towards the exit.
“Hey,” Connor called, jogging up behind him and catching his arm. “How about later we try for lunch at that Thai place again? We might even avoid being interrupted by another anomaly this time around.”
“Fine,” Lester agreed, barely avoiding a collision with a young woman pushing a pram and talking on a mobile phone. In truth the continuous flurry of people was starting to make him feel nauseous, but food had proven to be a good motivator for Connor, who would otherwise choose to wander in and out of the shopping centre's various electronics and home entertainment shops for hours.
Finally they reached the door to the car park, and Lester made a beeline for his car. He gave a quiet sigh of relief when he got close enough for the security system to beep its recognition.
“Is everything okay? Only you were almost running back there, and you never run.”
Lester scowled, opening the car door. “The place was utter chaos. If I'd gone any slower we would have been caught in an undercurrent, swept away into a GAP or French Connection or something equally distasteful.”
Connor looked over his shoulder at the main doors of the shopping centre, then looked back at Lester, confused.
“It's barely even gone 9:30, the place was almost deserted... Are you sure you're okay? Do you want me to drive?”
Lester rolled his eyes. “Hardly. Get in the car, Connor. You're blocking traffic.”
Connor played at his lower lip, but did as instructed.
Lester found driving to be far more relaxing. He could just watch the car in front of him, follow it as it adjusted direction to cater for the curves in the road, speed up and slow down in time with it. It was almost soothing.
“Red light.” said Connor.
Lester spent a moment letting that thought filter through.
Connor seemed to feel quite strongly about it. “Red light, Lester. Lester, stop! You've got a red light!”
He blinked, turned his head slightly, and suddenly there was a car coming towards him. Instinct kicked in and he twisted the wheel, but he knew without thinking that it wouldn't be enough. There was a screech of tyres all around and a deafening chorus of horns, and in a panicked instant Lester floored the accelerator enough to fly out of the way of the orange Volvo headed for a side-on collision. He swerved away from the rest of the vehicles, his own car thumping heavily as it came off the side of the road onto the verge.
Lester took a gulp of air, letting everything catch up to him.
“What the hell did they think they were doing? They almost drove straight into the side of the car! Idiots could have killed someone. Did you catch their number plate? They should have their license revoked!” Lester was gripping the steering wheel like a vice to control the adrenaline-induced shaking of his hands. He looked back over his shoulder, where a few of the other cars had pulled over as well and the remaining traffic began to return to a more even rhythm. One of the cars seemed to have swerved into a roadside substation and knocked down the chain link fence, but there didn't seem to be anything much more serious or dramatic than that. He looked forward again when he felt a shaky hand place itself over his own.
“There was a red light... You drove straight into oncoming traffic. I... I don't know...” Connor's voice was breathy and small.
Lester looked at him, noticed how pale he was and how rapidly he was blinking. He was about to argue the point, tell Connor that he was mistaken, when Connor's earlier words – 'red light' – finally filtered through. He exhaled, looking again over his shoulder at the junction they had just come through. It did have traffic lights. He didn't remember seeing traffic lights when he was going through.
“I... I must have been distracted. Maybe I'm more tired than I thought. I...” He trailed off, too many thoughts vying for his attention. He focused on Connor's hand instead, which was still resting on top of his own. “We should check if anyone was hurt...” he said eventually.
Connor nodded. “Yeah, okay, just... Give me a minute. You gave me a bit of a fright back there. Always figured it'd be a T. rex or something which finally got me, not running a red light.”
“I didn't even see it...” Lester murmured, not sure if he was saying it for Connor or for himself.
Lester massaged his temples again, then quickly placed his hands back on the desk again to avoid drawing attention to himself. The words were practically swimming on the page, and the new glasses were doing absolutely nothing to help. It almost felt like they were making things worse.
He put his pen down just a little too roughly and sighed, counter-productively earning himself a concerned glance from Connor who playing console games on the television set.
“Did someone break something expensive?” Connor asked, still mostly engaged in the game but still casting his eyes over at Lester every few seconds.
“Yes, they...” Lester trailed off, feeling an overwhelming tiredness wash over him. He leaned back in his chair and closed his eyes. “Yes, but that's not the problem. I think they must have given me the wrong glasses this morning, because they're not working. I must have been given someone else's pair.” He took the offending articles off, and placed them on the table in front of him.
A sudden silence fell on the room, and Lester opened one eye far enough to see that Connor had pressed pause on his game, a man in futuristic-looking red armour frozen on the television screen, only partially exploded. Connor stood up, tossing the controls absentmindedly on the sofa and coming over.
“They checked them pretty carefully before they handed them over,” Connor pointed out. He took a quick detour into the dining room, returning a moment later dragging a chair to Lester's desk and sitting in it.
He looked hesitant for a moment, before speaking again.
“I was thinking how you've been under a lot of pressure lately, and how you said a couple of times that your headaches might have been stress related? And you're still having them even though the glasses should have made them go away, so maybe they really are stress related, and since sitting here doing reports isn't really going to help you relax, because even when you can read them properly they irritate the daylights out of you...”
“Connor, whatever it is you are trying to say, please just say it. I'm not in the mood.” Lester interrupted, letting a hint of his frustration leak out into his voice.
“Right, yeah sorry. I was just thinking, it's Saturday. And tomorrow's Sunday. We should go away somewhere, you and me I mean, go somewhere quiet and out of the way for the weekend, and you can relax and de-stress, and I'll drive, obviously, because, well, because of the whole thing this morning, but... It might be nice, and it's not like it can make you feel any worse...”
Lester gave the suggestion serious consideration. The idea of taking a break was intoxicating even without the added bonus of his young lover's accompaniment. But he also knew that their’s wasn't the kind of work that normally allowed for spontaneous getaways. Even planned getaways tended to fail miserably. He looked down at his stack of papers, and came to a disappointing conclusion.
“I appreciate the sentiment, but this paperwork really does need to be finished.”
Connor looked downcast for a moment, before he perked up a bit, having no doubt had a promising thought.
“You said yourself that you were having trouble reading them... So what if we took all the reports with us, then when we get there we can find some place nice and quiet, and I'll read them out to you. You have zero eye strain, and we still get to have a quiet, relaxing time away.”
“These reports are classified, you don't have the clearance to read them out to me.”
“I promise I'll forget everything in there as soon as I finish reading them. Please?” Connor looked at him so earnestly then that Lester felt his resolve crumble. He sighed.
“We absolutely must be back by four p.m. tomorrow. I have no intention of starting the working week under-prepared.”
Connor's smile all but split his face in two.
“Great! I'll go pack a few things, and you'll want to sort out what papers you need to bring, and then we can pack the car and go. I'll even call ahead and make a booking so we don't need to worry about where we will be staying. It'll be brilliant, trust me. You won't regret it!”
Lester was quite relieved to find that Connor was right. He couldn't bring himself to regret it at all.
Connor had been right in another respect, as well. Despite Lester’s dislike for being a passenger in his own car, the drive out to the country brought with it a soothing feeling of serenity. The soft dip and rise of the rolling hills combined with the uncluttered landscapes lulled him into a restful state. Lester leaned his head back against the leather seat and, unusually, rolled down the side window to smell the clean, chill air.
Connor was also being blissfully quiet. He was presumably counting Lester's presence in the car with him as a victory unto itself, and was probably unwilling to do anything to endanger his plans until they were much closer to their destination. Lester hadn't paid a lot of attention while Connor had been packing for the trip, but he had noticed a large rug and something which looked suspiciously like a picnic basket being loaded into the car boot before they had left. The basket itself was of particular concern, because while Connor was a traditionalist when it came to 'things one does when one is holidaying in the country', his ideas of appropriate picnic food were very different to Lester's.
The car turned a corner in the road, and a small town came into view. It barely even deserved the title, having only a half dozen roofs amongst it, and those were thoroughly dilapidated. It looked like someone had put it there by accident. Aside from the road and a string of high-voltage power lines, there was nothing else man-made for miles on either side.
Lester's first thought was at the foolishness of building even one house so close to that type of power lines, let alone a whole town. The constructions were almost guaranteed to drop the value of any property significantly, both as an eyesore and as a source of electromagnetic radiation.
As they drew closer and Lester was able to pick out details in the houses, he came to the conclusion that many of the buildings would old enough to predate such concerns. A recent loss in property value would also explain the town's current state of disrepair.
“Do you mind if we stop for a toilet break?” Connor asked, tilting his head in the direction of the town. Lester furrowed his brow in disapproval.
“There? If they're even large enough to have public facilities, and I stress the 'if', then you'd probably end up catching some sort of venereal disease from them. One I do not wish to catch secondhand from you. Can't you wait until we get to somewhere that isn't quite so...” He gestured towards the town, implying that its objectionable nature was best expressed by simply looking at it. Lester considered it a fair assumption, as he was feeling increasingly nauseous the closer they got.
Connor laughed. “I've gone in worse places. Much worse. And I'm still around. I promise I'll only be a minute.”
Lester huffed his disapproval, but didn't reply. Instead he turned to the open window, breathing the outside air deeply to try to calm his temperamental stomach. While he had been feeling fine just a few moments ago, he was now feeling decidedly unwell. He was over-warm, and he was getting a feeling of pins and needles all over. He was even started to feel dizzy, which was patently absurd. He'd never suffered from car-sickness in his life.
“Connor, could you pull over for a moment?” he asked, his voice a touch breathier than he'd intended it to be. The air from the open window caught and carried his voice though, so Connor didn't seem to notice.
“Yeah, just a little way ahead. It's okay, I won't make you get out, you can stay in the car. You can even wind the windows up so that the local diseases don't get you.” He looked over at Lester then, a cheeky grin slipping from his face after a few seconds. “Lester, are you... You're looking kind of pale...”
“Here, Connor. Pull over here,” Lester said, his physical discomfort growing every second.
Connor nodded quickly, flicking the indicator on and pulling to the side of the road.
“Are you...” Connor began to ask, but Lester didn't hear the rest. He scrabbled at the door handle, all but falling out onto the gravel where the car was parked.
It hit him like a brick wall. What had been a general discomfort suddenly turned serious. Lights sparked in his vision, degrading into swirling patterns of black and white, like static on an analogue television set. His ears filled with a sound that was part ocean waves and part passing train, and he couldn't tell which way was up. He felt something hard with sharp edges smack against his right shoulder, and then everything went dark.