A/n: I had to start this. I know I probably should just concentrate on Clean Up, but this was fighting to get out. If I didn't write it, my brain would have honestly exploded and I did not want to deal with the mess that would make. I do enough cleaning during the day, thanks.

Like the summary mentions, there's going to be mind-control theme here. But there will also be: Conspiracy theories, confusion, vagueness, flashbacks, a transvestite, violence, and angst. You know-all those wonderous things.

I hope you enjoy it!


GAMBIT

Saturday, June 25th – The Funeral

I was in the passenger's seat of my mom's old pick-up truck. She was driving, taking us down this winding country road. The windows were rolled down, the warm summer air refreshing against our faces. It was beautiful out. The sun was directly overhead, the sky was impossibly blue, and the few clouds present were those large fluffy ones that resembled cotton balls. Everything was perfect.

Mom was laughing at something I had just said. But I couldn't hear her. In fact, I couldn't hear anything. Not mom, not the radio, not the truck engine—I couldn't even hear my own voice. It was completely silent.

And that was strange. I should have been able to hear something

The next thing I knew, mom was leading me through a field of tall grass and purple flowers. I had no idea where we were or where we were going. Regardless, I followed her, keeping a hold of her hand. She looked over her shoulder several times to grin at me. Her auburn hair floated around her face like an angel's thanks to the light breeze, and her emerald green eyes were as warm as the sun. I smiled back at her.

Then, I was suddenly lying back on a hard and cold surface. It was dark wherever I now was, except for right above me where a blinding white light was shining straight into my eyes. I squinted against it, but didn't complain. I was too tired to. Too disoriented.

My thoughts were moving too sluggishly for any of them to make sense. Things were really hazy… It had become increasingly hard to keep my eyes open, so I just let them fall shut. Sleep was quick to overtake me.

Before I fell completely unconscious, however, I felt my mom kiss me gently on the forehead and—

X

My alarm clock blares loudly, waking me up with a start. My eyes snap open and I immediately wince at how bright it is in my room. But I guess that's what I get for leaving my blinds open. Then again, what business does it have being this light out at seven in the morning anyway?

I don't know. Don't really care, either, to be honest. That damned alarm clock just needs to shut up.

Grumbling, I reach over to my nightstand to slam the alarm off. (It's a wonder I haven't broken it yet with how violently I treat it). Then I drop my arm over my eyes and continue to lie there without moving. I know I should get up and start getting ready, but I can't bring myself to. Not yet. Just…not yet.

The dream I had last night was strange.

I can't really remember it. Hazily, I recall riding in mom's truck and walking with her through a field, but that's it. Oh, wait—there was a really bright light, too. Though, maybe that has more to do with the brightness of my room right now than anything else. Probably. Either way, the dream was strange. But having strange dreams isn't anything new for me. Especially not since I got the concussion.

With a sigh, I push myself up into a sitting position. If we're going to be there on time, I really do have to get going. Not that it takes me a long time to get ready—it's that I have to get dad moving and make sure he stays moving. He's probably not even up yet. Or else he hasn't slept at all. In any case, he won't have gotten out of bed. Things have been…off with him lately.

It's more than understandable with what's happened this past week.

I spend a moment thinking about it, staring down at my hands without really seeing them. But when my vision starts to blur, I shake my head hard to quickly get rid of those thoughts then jump up from my bed. Bad move in retrospect. Abrupt movements like that and recent concussions do not mix. I have to grab onto the edge of my nightstand to keep myself upright as my vision swirls with black and my head starts to throb.

Once my vision comes back to normal, I let go off the nightstand to reach up to the back of my head. The several stitches there are rough against my fingers, the skin around them still tender. That's what I get, though, for skateboarding for the first time last weekend when I have no proprioception or core stability (something my gym teacher loves to point out to me nearly everyday). The stupid thing went flying out from beneath me and I ended up cracking the back of my head on the corner of a cement bench. Thanks to the resulting concussion, I don't remember it actually happening, nor do I remember the trip to the hospital to get the stitches. But mom said some memory loss is normal, so I'm not that concerned about it.

I have other things—more important things—to be concerned about.

Sighing again, I let my hand drop back down to my side and start walking out of my room. As I head down the hall towards my parents' room, I can't help but notice how quiet it is in the house. It's been like this for the past week and I really don't like. It's not normal.

It will never be normal again.

I rap on the door twice before I open it and walk in. There would have been no point in waiting for a reply. Dad's barely spoken more than a sentence at a time since the crash…

He's awake, but still lying in his bed. Just like I knew he'd be. The large, dark circles under his bloodshot eyes tell me he didn't sleep again last night. I feel my chest tighten painfully as I watch him from the foot of the bed. He doesn't show any sign that he's noticed me standing there. His eyes are locked on the eight-by-ten picture on his bedside table. Involuntarily, I glance at it, only to quickly look away again when it makes my chest—my heart—hurt even more than it already does.

"Dad," I say hoarsely. I clear my throat then try again. "Dad, it's time to get up."

He doesn't reply. He hardly replies to anything I say anymore.

I stare at him, swallowing thickly. "C'mon," I say. My voice comes out in almost a whisper. "We've got to get ready…"

Dad still doesn't say anything to me, but he shifts slightly and lets out a long shaky breath. It might not be much, but it's a response, which I've rarely gotten out of him in the last few days. I give him a nod that I'm pretty sure he doesn't even see then leave his room to head to the bathroom.

Careful not to hit my stitches as I wash my hair, I shower quickly. When I'm done, I just as quickly dry myself off with a towel before throwing on a clean pair of boxers and a white undershirt. I don't bother looking in the mirror at all; I already know what I'll see.

Auburn hair like hers. Green eyes like hers. Only, the grief in them won't be like hers. No—that will be like dad's. I can't remember a time when mom's eyes held anything other than glowing warmth and happiness.

Once I'm done in the bathroom, I go back down the hall to check in on dad. He hasn't moved an inch since I left to get a shower. I exhale sadly and then go over to sit next to him on the edge of the bed. Dad slowly drags his eyes away from the picture on the nightstand to look at me. I try to give him an encouraging smile, but from the blank way he stares at me, I can tell I failed. Miserably.

"Dad, you really have to get up," I say as kindly as I can. "We have to be at the funeral parlor by ten and—"

Dad winces horribly at my words. Then, he shakes his head and slowly starts to sit up. I shift over on the bed so he has room to swing his feet to the floor. He doesn't make any effort to stand up, though. He just rests his elbows on his legs and puts his face in his hands. Tentatively, I reach out to touch his shoulder, but the instant I do, he flinches from me.

"Don't, Simon," dad hisses roughly. "Just—don't." With another shaky exhale, he picks his head up from his hands and then gets to his feet. He doesn't once look at me as he begins walking towards the door. "Go start the coffee," he tells me before disappearing down the hall.

I don't move right away. Instead, I spend a minute or two staring down at the floor. It's not until I hear the shower turn on that I finally stand up, carefully keeping my eyes off the picture of mom in her wedding dress. I don't want to be reminded more than I already am about how pictures are the only way I'm ever going to see her smile again.

As I walk towards the kitchen, I feel my chest get tight once more. I take a few deep breaths to keep myself calm. To keep myself from breaking down. I can't do that. Not when dad's acting the way he is.

I hear the shower shut off halfway through making the coffee. A few seconds later, I hear dad's bedroom door close with a loud bang. I bite the inside of my cheek at the sound, but continue fixing his cup. In the past week, I've done this so much that I've become a pro at it. I just wish I could do more for him than this.

But I can't.

X

The funeral goes by in a blur. As does the burial.

A lot of people showed up. I didn't know most of them seeing as they were friends or colleagues of mom. A few of her cousins came, but that was pretty much it for family. Neither mom nor dad has any siblings, and both their parents passed away when I was still in elementary school.

Dad hasn't said anything since he told me to make the coffee. I didn't expect him too, but everyone else seemed to. I noticed the way they all lingered when they came to offer their condolences to us. They would tell dad and me how sorry they were and what an awful tragedy it was. Then they would pause and look at dad expectantly. But when dad didn't respond once—or even acknowledge them—they frowned and walked away, glancing back at him uncertainly as they did. It's like they wanted him to either act completely normal or break into hysterics.

Which just proved that none of them knows dad. If they did then they would realized this is how he deals with things—by shutting himself down to the point where no one can get in, no matter how hard they try.

The only person who could ever get in was mom.

I talked to people. Not that I remember who I talked to or about what. Like I said, it all went by in a blur. I don't even remember driving to the cemetery. But I must have since dad's car is here and I know he couldn't have driven it himself.

Though, now that I think about it, I do vaguely remember passing the high school on the way here. Mainly because of all the cars in the parking lot got me thinking about what today was besides the funeral.

I missed my graduation.

I don't care. This was more important than that.

Dad and I are the only ones left in the cemetery now. Everyone else left a while ago. Exactly how long ago, I'm not sure. It's definitely been over an hour, though. Probably even longer than that. The sun is well past its noon position, which is where it was when we arrived here. Not that it really matters what time it is…

I continue to stare at the asymmetrical headstone in front of me—the one I had to pick out and design because dad just couldn't face doing it. Just like I had to do the rest of the funeral arrangements this week.

Maybe that's why I'm no longer taking this as hard as dad is. Because I've had no choice but to accept she's gone. Don't get me wrong, it still hurts more than I'd ever thought something could hurt and I'm still sad as hell. But I've controlled my grief—I've had to. If I hadn't, things would have fallen to pieces. Especially with the way dad's been since we heard about the plane crash.

Choking back a sob, dad abruptly whirls around and starts walking away. Concerned, I look over my shoulder at him to see that he only made it halfway back to the car before he had to stop. He has his face in his hands again and his shoulders are shaking with how badly he's crying. My heart and throat clenches painfully at the sight. It's heartbreaking, seeing him like this.

I give one last glance back at the headstone, saying a final goodbye to mom, before I turn and go over to dad. I try putting my hand on his shoulder again, hoping this time he'll let me comfort him. But the moment I touch him, he roughly shrugs me off and begins to head towards the car without a word. I'm left standing there with my hand stretched out, staring miserably after him.

I want to breakdown and cry, something I haven't done since Tuesday right after I learned mom had been killed. But I can't do that—I just can't. I have to be the strong one now that she's gone. For dad and myself.

I promised her I would be.

With a deep breath and a resolute nod to myself, I start towards the car to take dad and I back home.