The Lucky Ones
He was used to getting home later than this, the lights off and Velma already in bed. Fumbling in the dark to set the keys to the Mystery Machine down before heading into the bathroom to peel his clothes off and get a good look at the damage. Clean himself off and if the clothes were too damaged, pitch them in a garbage bag till he could deal with them. Hiding them in whatever else might be in the garbage (hell, he once dumped them in a McDonald’s dumpster. He hated now to think of somebody finding the bloody rag his shirt had been and thinking maybe somebody had met a bad end).
Tonight, he’s not so lucky. Not at all.
He and Scooby are able to slide in sneakily enough, and the door doesn’t slam. Keys on the table, still tip toeing, because the bedroom light is on and he can just make out a glimpse of Velma, folding clothes and putting them away in drawers. Keeping things neat and tidy.
Now for the hard part.
He doesn’t bother to wait till he gets to the bathroom to peel off his shirt, because the fabric is clinging to spots where the blood has scabbed, making it even more painful than it already is. He wants it off, wants to be in the shower already, hot water pounding away the pain, washing away the blood before he gets a good look at the damage and starts to go to work.
He slides the green shirt off (and is thankful it’s one of his newer ones. He couldn’t bear losing an old one to some nasty creature) and can feel various scabs coming lose with the shirt. He finally gets it over his head and carelessly tosses it aside, leaving his jeans till he gets into the bathroom. But he kicks his shoes off outside the door before he quickly steps inside, the harsh light of the fluorescent bulb nearly blinding after the dark. Scooby settles outside by the door, his head between his paws. As if he’s waiting to make sure there’s no permanent damage to his master.
It’s a shock for a second, to hear the shower running, but it makes Velma smile. It means that Shaggy’s home from work safe and that she doesn’t have to try and wait up worrying about him again.
She tells herself it’s not worrying, really. But some nights, when he’s a bit later than normal, she feels a gnaw in her gut, a sensation she dreads. As if it’s trying to warn her of something. To look for something else.
Daphne once told her if a girl has that feeling, she’s worried her man is cheating on her, but Velma blew the redhead’s assessment off quickly. Shaggy loves her and would never cheat on her.
Besides, there’d be signs, right?
The crime solver in her sends her out into the hall that connects living room and the door to the bedroom. In the doorway to the kitchen is a piece of fabric and the brunette scolds herself immediately. She’s dropped one of the dishrags, possibly one of the clean ones fresh from the laundry. Moving past Scooby, she reaches out and snatches it up. Surprised to see, in the dim light cascading from the bedroom that there are dark splotches on it.
What has Shaggy been doing?
In his mind, there is nothing better to coming home to fresh, warmed by the dryer towels after a hunt. With maybe the exception of seeing Velma curled up in bed, a mystery novel open on her bedside table. That always seems to remind him what he’s fighting for.
Sliding the towel around his waist, he moves from bathroom to bedroom, with ease. Dressing quickly into a pair of well worn pajama pants, he’s not surprised that Velma’s moved from the room.
At least not until she’s in the doorway, his shirt in hand.
“Wanna explain this?” She demands.
Much later on, once they’re laying in bed and the night is still, she asks him if there are others that do what he and Scooby do. He will be honest and tell her yes, and also tell her that some hunters don’t live very long.
“You’re one of the lucky ones.” She will say.