Charles found him huddled in the back of his closet, in the dark, behind a pile of jeans and tank tops. He tried to speak soothingly to him as he played the flashlight’s beam over the floor, trying to figure out the drug of choice this time. He found two empty syringes and quickly snapped the safety caps into place over the exposed needles. Finally, he caught sight of the baggie and bottle of lemon juice in the corner.
“Oh, Pickles. Speedballs again? We talked about this,” he said tiredly. Pickles whimpered and hid his face from the light. Charles pointed the beam away and sat down on the stone floor in front of him. “Pickles, it’s me. It’s Charles, and you’re safe.”
“No, dude, they’re out there,” Pickles answered hoarsely. “I saw them. I saw them all; they came in through the windows.”
“Well, there’s, ah, no one there now. I’m here now; you know I’ll protect you,” Charles said firmly, placing his hand on Pickles’s shoulder.
Pickles looked up now, met his gaze. His pupils were pinpoint; how was he still conscious? “I ain’t goin’ back out there. Don’t make me.”
Charles shook his head. “You don’t have to. We can, ah, stay right here till you feel safe. I’ll stay with you.” He scooted over, leaned back against the wall next to him, still rubbing his shoulder. “I’m right here, and you’re safe.” He turned off the flashlight.
In the darkness, Pickles huddled against him like a child, practically in his lap, his face pressed into the pleats of Charles’s suit. “Don’t let ‘em in here, Charlie.”
Charles murmured his assent and wrapped his arms around the redhead, rubbing circles across his back. He listened as Pickles’s breathing steadied, letting his eyes adjust to the dark until he could make out the shapes of boxes and piles of junk in the closet. He leaned his head back against the cool stone wall behind him and entertained the fantasy that maybe he could just curl up for a nap right here for the afternoon and no one would bother him or create another disaster for him to mitigate.
Pickles sighed into his shoulder and mumbled something about “fuckin’ planets.”
Charles roused himself. “Pickles, what came through the windows? What did you see?”
He felt the shudder go through Pickles’s entire body before he answered. “Darkness, dude. And bodies. And there was this one big guy, with long, white hair, and he opened his mouth, and blood poured out. And I could see these planets behind him. He was talkin’, but I couldn’t understand any of it, and that’s when I ran in here.”
Charles felt his veins go icy, and it had nothing to do with the cold tile they were lying on. He tried not to instinctively tighten his grip around Pickles.
“But it was the drugs, right? It was a hallucination, right, dude?” Pickles asked against his chest.
“Of course,” Charles lied. “Just a hallucination.”