It was a dark and stormy night at a derelict castle in the middle of nowhere.
Of course it was.
Shaggy shivered, his breath rattling in his chest. He was soaked down to the skin from his latest run in with the Moat Monster, and so far hadn't had the chance to break away and get new clothes. Of course the castle had no heating system - the owner still used wall sconces for their original intended purposes - and it felt like none of the windows actually had glass, given how cold and damp the place was (but somehow mold was growing in that hideaway space on the third floor...? Huh. Strange).
The taller teen gasped at the sound of something heavy shuffling above their heads, slow and purposeful with each clump of dust it displaced - then burst into a coughing fit, the strain of deeper breaths and musty air too much for his waterlogged lungs. A chorus of 'shhhs' greeted him from the rest of the gang, and Scooby rushed over to let him bury his face in his (also damp) fur.
Three sets of eyes rose to the ceiling, desperately hoping that the Moat Monster wouldn't notice the sharp, hacking noises coming from below him. Movement above stilled, and Shaggy shook with the effort it took to muffle his wheezing. A handful of creaks signaled the monster's path had changed.
And it had moved along with them.
There was a sharp tug on his arm, and a sharp hiss to "Move, c'mon!" before he was pulled down the hallway, tripping over the soggy carpet. The sounds above followed them in a dreaded ever-quickening tempo, until the very ceiling was shaking with the weight of the creature's footsteps as it overtook them.
Fortunately, it was on a different floor - but the gang had seen firsthand the secret passages that wove through the castle like countless veins. Fred, Daphne, and Velma split to check the doors - which ones were locked, which could hide them, which ones they could lock themselves - while Shaggy collapsed against Scooby, rasping for breath and shaking. Badly.
"Rit's rokay, Raggy. Remember, rhallow reaths, rit's rokay." The Dane kneaded his paws into his owner's back with a worried expression. Normally, whenever they got wet in a case, they were able to get him a new change of clothes without any trouble, but now... well, now there was a good chance of him getting very very sick. And while the family genetics meant he healed quickly, ran quickly, and ate quickly (thank you, near-superhuman metabolism), it also meant that illness was very, VERY quick to set in, and would only get worse the longer the affecting symptoms went untreated.
Like now, for instance.
"Reddy, re reed ro reave. Raggy's rot roing roo rood."
"Not now, Scooby," the blonde said, as he struggled to shove the door back onto the over-crowded closet of cleaning supplies. "We gotta find somewhere to hide, and fast."
"Yeah, and it would be a lot easier if you two chickens would get up and help us," Velma grumbled. "What's the excuse now, stomachache? The plague?"
"Rut ruys, Raggy's really rot reeling rell. Re's reverish, and ris reathing roesn't round right."
"Well, the sooner we solve this mystery, the sooner he can go empty a fridge." Fred tugged on a door, only to end up on the ground, doorknob in hand. "Damn it, aren't any of these doors unlocked?"
"Guys, guys! I got one open!" Daphne cried. She pocketed her make-up tools, and turned to face them as she opened the door with an elegant flourish. "Voila."
Everyone went wide-eyed and frozen at the sound, and looked up. The redhead slowly pivoted on her heel, and came face to... chest with the monster that filled the doorway like a slimy green Krampus. The creature ducked down, squeezing its massive form through the doorway, webbed claws clenched so tightly over the aging wooden door they could spot the splinters popping free of their constraints. It towered over them, snarling with massive, glistening teeth, eyes gleaming with madness.
Oh, this was NOT good.
It was at this moment that Shaggy caught his breath enough to eat his own shoe.
"Like, cough, leave it to Daphne to lockpick the wrong door, heh," Shaggy wheezed.
And just like that, the spell was broken. The Moat Monster bellowed a war cry as he stepped forth, more than ready to tear these teenagers apart like wrapping paper...
...only to stumble over the damp, lumpy carpet and plow face-first into the floor.
"RUN WHILE HE'S DOWN, GANG!! WE CAN STILL LURE HIM TO THE TRAP, COME ON!"
Freddy and the girls tore off down the hallway, leaving Shaggy and Scooby behind to try and stumble after them.
"Raggy, rome on, ret up!"
"Like, I'm tryin', Scoob, I'm tryiaaaaAAAAUUUUGH!" As Shaggy tried to get his feet under him again, the masked menace wrenched his leg BACK with an unsettlingly strong CRRRRACK that rang out in the hall, bringing tears to the lanky teen's eyes."Oh god, oh god, oh go-ho-hod, I think he broke it, oh god..."
"RAGGY, ROOOO!" Scooby yowled, before he did something that most would find unexpected for the normally placid and/or skittish Great Dane: he snarled, and leapt forward to attack the monster.
Fortunately for him, his teeth sank into an unprotected part of the costume - one that tore easily through the rubber suit into flesh and bone. The creature's growls rose into horrified screams as the flesh of his arm tore open, and he loosened his grip enough for Scooby to pull his best friend free.
Shaggy was in a daze, and tried to pull himself up to stand - only to fall onto Scooby's back, his vision turning vague and hazy from the pain. He sobbed. "Oh God, oh god, oh god, oh god..."
"Raggy, ron't rorry, I rot rou. Rust reep reathing, okay?"
"RAAAAAAARRRRRGGGHH!! YOU FUCKING KIDS!!! I'LL KILL YOU FOR THIS!!!"
"OH GOD OH GOD OH GOD OH GOD OH GOD I DON'T WANNA DIE!"
"Rold on rieiAAAAAAAIIIIGGHT!!" Scooby howled when the monster swiped at him, catching the very tip of his tail, and took off down the hallway, Shaggy as his panicked, near-delirious rider, and the Moat Monster quick behind them.
This would not end well.
Shaggy, meanwhile, was trying not to fall off and make things worse. He was constantly cycling between panic from the monster, pain blossoming outward from his leg (please not his ankle, please not his ankle, he needed that to walk with), a harsh hacking sensation erupting from his lungs causing him to almost pass out in the feverish vice gripping his lungs tight, and then panic again when he inevitably caught sight of the monster following close behind. Sometimes, he managed to do something right and catch onto a loose decoration or piece of furniture - at one point his fingers caught the edge of one of the creepy knights lining the hallway, and heard more than saw the resulting crash and shriek of frustration.
Needless to say, it was remarkably satisfying.
Scooby ducked underneath a table, and he shivered down into his fur as they skidded out from the other end and down a dead-end hallway. Without any hesitation, Scooby dove for the closest door, and Shaggy felt his skin burn as his - well, whatever-it-was - shifted them through another door further down the way.
The only problem being that there were no doors behind the Moat Monster looming in the hallway entrance. The doors were only in front of him.
Of course they were. Seriously, what gods did they piss off in the last life to warrant having this kind of karma?
Fortunately for them, the monster took the time to gawk at this impossibility rather than to catch up. This was when the rest of the gang decided to stumble to a halt out of one of the secret passageways, drawing the creature's attention to them for a change.
The hungry duo skidded to a stop in one of the older rooms - a study of some sorts, but well-lit if nothing else - to catch their breath. Scooby rolled his owner onto the closest sofa/couch/divan? thing before barricading the door shut behind them with a variety of heavy objects. They both froze at the sound of shattering glass, and screams from the rest of the gang, but were reassured by the distant, dissonant footsteps. At least the others had gotten away unscathed.
Shaggy sighed in relief, then buckled over as his lungs twisted in his chest. His breathing burned as though he had inhaled a concentrated faceful of 'Eau de Ghost Pepper,' and every time he tried to gulp in air, it felt like more left his body than it came in. He faintly registered the rhythmic thumping on his back as Scooby, but in his delirious, sickbed haze he kept mistaking it for his heartbeat; when his dog stopped, he whimpered and set off again, terrified of dying because his heart had pulled away.
Thank gods, Scooby understood the why. Dogs really were the best thing in the world.
"Of rourse re are, Raggy," Scooby huffed. "Ronestly, is it really a rurprise?"
Oh, like he had said that out loud?
Eh, there were worse things to say. Like that time he told Samantha Mckinnon he was looking for someone less pushy and more relaxed about the intimate stuff, like Jeremy Forsyth, and ended up being called 'Swishy' by the dance team for the rest of the semester. Not that Jeremy Forsyth wasn't attractive, because he was actually really suave, and did you see him when he played Danny in 'Grease,' because he had and hoo boy, was he a looker. He also looked like he would have been the BEST cuddler, and smelled like cinnamon apples in the fall, and that reminded Shaggy that oh hey, we haven't made apple cobbler in a while, did you remember when we did that and added chili flakes and vanilla ice cream to the plate, because man that was freaking incredible, and... and...
He was rambling. Gods, he was so tired.
"Rey Raggy? I'll re right rack, rokay? I'm ronna rind rome rood ror rou. Ron't rove." A warm blanket was tucked around him, and he squinted towards Scooby with heavy eyes.
"Like, Scooby Doo? Where ya goin', buddy?"
"Ro rind romething rot ror rou ro eat. Rokay?"
"Y-yeah, sure. H-how are ya gonna get outta here though, Scoob?"
"Oh. Like, be c-caref-" Shaggy broke into a hacking cough, feeling like he was trying to swallow sandpaper, and curled inward. Scooby patted his arm.
"I rill re." And with that, the Great Dane scuttled out the window, shimmying quickly out of sight along the wall.
And he was alone, shadows dancing at the edges of his eyes.
After that, everything that happened was a blur; the teen couldn't tell how much time had passed since Scooby left. He felt himself fading in and out of awareness, with the sound of the storm outside filtering through. And something... else? It-It sounded like someone whispering.
"- shouldn't be doing this..."
Shuffling, the swish of cloth on stone. Mumbling, barely anything to make out except a few words here and there.
"- think... better..."
"- no time for... Vincent -"
Vincent? Who was - OW!
Something sharp pricked his side, and Shaggy erupted into a coughing fit. The voices softened, but continued on, hoping his sickness would cover their words entirely.
"- just... groundwork, that's..."
"- like at Grimwood's-"
Grimwood? What was a grimwood?
"- never agree to -"
"Do not presume to doubt me."
Thunder. Lightning. Rain.
Finally, Shaggy spoke up. "H-hello? L-like, is s-someone there?"
"Do it now. Or we'll never have the one we need."
"...very well." Something flooded through the area where the sting occurred. His whole body prickled, every hair standing on end. He felt like he was floating, but that was impossible. Wasn't -?
Shaggy feels like lightning is shooting through his bones and burning out his eyes. His flesh is on fire, his muscles have been drenched in liquid nitrogen, his brain is jello.
Something is happening to him - he is changing. There's someone chanting in the background, stern and resounding and he can't quite make out the words -
He feels like he's disconnecting from his body, drifting away from it but still tethered at the wrists, someone screams (is it him? he can't say for sure) and a figure darts before his gaze. It looks like a lunar moth, or a golden butterfly.
What's going on?
Then all feeling stops, and he falls back into the senseless void.
When he wakes up, he's in the hospital, swathed in an absurd amount of bandages. There's a heavy weight over him. Scooby? Blankets? Never mind, it's both - but Scooby's not on his legs for a change. And...
His dad is slumped over in a nearby chair.
Oh, that's not a good sign.
Usually, if Shaggy suffered an injury while on a case that required a trip to the hospital - stitches or a sprained something-or-other were the most common- his stepmom Marjorie would be the one to pick him up or fuss over him (which was nice, if he was honest about it). His dad was usually too busy at the police station to bother with this sort of thing - for him, at least.
Shaggy can't really move his right leg all that well. He remembers a cracking noise, and crying from the pain. His chest hurts. There's a stabbing pain on his left side, and a throbbing at his temples. His throat feels like sandpaper, his eyes buzzing in place. And his skin feels too... tight. Like when he burned himself making spaghetti when he was six, and the scar tissue was pink and angry looking.
Did... did someone set him on fire?
But no, that wasn't right. Shaggy had been lying on a couch/divan/whatever thing, and the room was damp. He had been left alone with the door barricaded. He had been... alone...
The teen takes a deep breath and tries to sigh despondently, but ends up bent over double in another coughing fit. There's the jangling thump of something sliding off the bed, and the squeal of cheap plastic skidding back against the linoleum floor. A too-hot hand rubs his back, and the bed whirs as the back shifts him into a sitting position.
When it finally ends, he leans back and sees his dad's face for the first time. There are deep bags underneath his eyes and he looks too thin. He hasn't been eating much. But that's not what causes Shaggy to recognize that something REALLY really bad must've happened to him.
It's the look of worry and profound relief in Sam's eyes that does it.
Then it's the tight, too-too-close hug the beatnik receives that makes his ribs creak like Scooby tap-dancing on his chest that tells him he probably got a little too friendly with the Reaper this mystery. A bawling Scooby tries to crawl back onto the bed, but ends up shoved off for his trouble by this stranger who is wearing his dad's skin and pretending to care for a change.
It's only when Shaggy wheezes, close to blacking out again, that his dad eases back. Scooby finally succeeds in clamoring back onto the hospital bed (sending his dad a dirty look for the pushing) and floofs his pillow while he rubs a bony hand over his chest. His fingers stumble over the heavy bandages. "L-like," he wheezes, then settles into shallow breaths, "like what happened?"
"You were struck by lightning."
A new voices intercepts the brief moment of affection, and the doctor steps into the room. She's very tall from this angle, and her necklace has an unusual wait a second did she say fucking LIGHTNING?!?!
"Language, Mr. Rogers." Oops. He must be on some of the good drugs, then. "And yes, you were struck by lightning. Several times consecutively, in fact - which is very strange, considering you weren't wearing any metal at the time."
Shaggy stutters as she glances over his vitals. "S-S-several - I was hit by - consecut-"
"Yes, yes you were. But by the looks of it all, you appear to have taken no permanent damage except for dermatological scarring, likely permanent. You should consider yourself very lucky." She didn't notice the incredulous looks that statement incited from the room's occupants.
"If I'm understanding this correctly," his father starts in, voice hoarse (from disbelief, or disuse?), "my son contracts pneumonia, breaks three of his fingers -" Wait, really? When did that happen? "-has his ankle twisted and his leg snapped in HALF by a LUNATIC -" So he DID hurt his ankle, he knew it, "- gets stabbed in the side by... something, gets hit by lightning multiple times in a ROW, ends up in a coma for three weeks -"
"I WAS IN A COMA FOR THREE WEEKS?!?"
"- and you consider that LUCKY?!?" The doctor glances at the haggard man, giving him a Look over the edge of her glasses, before taking down two notes and moving to the other side of the bed.
"Commissioner Rogers, your son is expected to make a full recovery, with no lasting brain damage, paralysis, life-threatening infections, or major complications, save for the fact that he may have some trouble getting back into running after that cast comes off. That sort of miracle happens once in a blue moon for a patient, especially considering the list of injuries he came in with. Don't be so scornful towards your fortunes, lest you lose them."
That shuts him up real quickly, and the doctor finishes her notes in peace, making minute adjustments to the saline bags drooping above Shaggy's head. The teen clears his throat.
"Was - was I really in a coma?" His voice sounds so quiet; he feels like a nine year old again. She straightens up, and gives him a look that's as close to tender as it seems she can manage.
"Yes, Mr. Rogers, you were. In all honesty, we did not expect you to live long enough to make it to surgery for your leg. You have very... interesting luck, to say the least of your situation."
Shaggy nods weakly, trembling in place as she finishes her examination. She replaces one of the bags and drifts away to add her notes to the clipboard dangling from the wall nearby.
"If you need anything else, simply press the button to your left. We are aware of your metabolic condition, so for the meantime, you will be scheduled for hypercaloric parenteral nutrition - fed through an IV drip," she clarifies, " until you are deemed fit for release, which, now that you are awake again, should not be beyond ten days at the most. Your lungs are still weak from the pneumatic infection, and your leg is healing well. More importantly, I believe that the rest of the medical team wishes to examine you in further detail - we have never had a case like yours before, where the patient emerges almost entirely unscathed."
"Yay, a tube," Shaggy groused. The doctor gave him the Look. "Like, s-sorry."
"I understand this is a lot to process, so I will leave you to your thoughts. I imagine you have much to discuss between the - three of you," she finishes, taking note of Scooby staring at her from the bed. "If you need anything else of me, simply ask for Dr. Gahl."
She slips beyond the glass doors (glass doors means ICU, holy shit he really did almost die), and was gone.
Shaggy looks everywhere else but his dad's face, that almost-breath look that means he wants to have a Talk with him about something, and notices the cards littering the table next to him.
And the flowers.
And the balloons.
And the - oh, that is so cruel. He has never wanted chocolate so badly in his whole life. Or food in general, but it's just lingering there by the window in stacks, and he wants it.
"It'll still be there when you get unhooked from those." His dad breaks in, giving a generously sour glance to the Great Dane by his side. "We've made sure of that."
"I rave randards, rou row."
"Yeah, yeah, tell that to the decimated boxes of Wimblebruts." Shaggy gags at the mention of them (one food brand even he won't touch - Scooby isn't fond of them, but hey, food is food), and his father looks a little sheepish. "It's the thought that counts, after all."
"Was it uncle Gaggy?"
A huff of laughter. "Garfield always did have the strangest tastes."
"Like, you can, wheeze, say that again."
Quiet, again. There's the faintest sound of raindrops pittering against the windowpane.
"S-so, like, where's Marj and Sugar?"
"At home. Marjorie didn't want Maggie to spend all of her time here. Too young for this sort of hospital drama. As soon as we knew you would be alright, that you wouldn't - wouldn't, um... well, she's been home for most of the time. They come up every couple of days to check in on you. Most of those cards are from Maggie, in fact. She wanted to make sure you had plenty to wake up to. Though, given how many came from your friends, she didn't need to worry so much."
Shaggy snickers. "Yeah, I um.. actually, I didn't think the gang would get so many for me. Maybe like, three or four, but-"
He looks up and immediately knows he's made a mistake. His smile falls at the raised hackles on Scooby's neck, and his father's deep-set, all-too-familiar scowl (but it's not aimed at him for a change, he doesn't understand).
"Like, did they try to match Shuggy card-for-card?"
"Or did they get our class to get some of the cheapo fifty cent ones you can get at the Dollar Deals on 53rd and Oaten?"
"Raggy." Scooby's face shuts him up, his denial wilting in the face of his dog's snarl. "Rey ridn't rare enough ro even risit and race re ronsequences."
"Wh-what? What do you mean? Dad, what's Scooby talking about?"
"They're not allowed to see you two anymore. Ever."
"B-but... they're our friends, this must be some kind of-" Shaggy yelps when his father's fist slams down on the metal edge of the bed, wincing away from his voice.
"THEY TRIED TO BLAME YOU FOR THIS!" Shaggy tries to speak up, but it's Scooby who wraps a paw around his mouth and motions for him to listen with hard, dark eyes. "When I came to arrest Beeman for the crime, they tried to tell me you had bailed on them when he tried to throw them off the goddamn balcony! The only reason we managed to find where you were at all was because Scooby regained consciousness after their trap sent him AND that scum into a FUCKING CHANDELIER, AND TOLD US WHERE TO FIND YOU WHEN WE WERE RIPPING HIM OUT OF THE SUIT TO PUT HIM IN HANDCUFFS! IF WE HADN'T FOUND YOU WHEN WE HAD YOU WOULD HAVE DIED, NORVILLE! AND THEY... they..."
His father falls back, and his face twists into something torn, mournful. He takes a deep breath, and it shudders out into a horrifyingly vulnerable sob.
It frightens him.
"They would have taken you away from me, and I would have never known. I would have blamed y- I would have - it..." Another sob. "I would have let you die, and I can't... I don't want to lose you again."
Again? What did he mean, again?
But that thought evaporates away in the face of his dad falling against him, and Shaggy doesn't think back on it for a very, very long time. The older man clings to his too-thin form, and he feels a dampness spreading along the collar of his hospital gown. He hesitantly pats his back.
He's not sure what to think, anymore.
It's Scooby who speaks up again, after a few minutes. "It's rue, Raggy. I'm... I'm rorry."
Now his eyes are wet, and his skull is buzzing. He feels strangely disconnected from everything. "Did - did anyone come by?"
The Dane looks away, embarrassed. "Raphne rame ry, rut... I rort of rased rer away. Rhe ras rying a rot. I reel rad. Rer rarents are raying ror rhe rospital. Ro ray rorry ror all rhe ress and rother..."
His words dissolve into a wordless mush, and Shaggy lets himself fall apart against his dad. He buries his head into the crook of his neck and cries. He hates it when he's right.
Nothing good had come from this.
Nothing good at all.