Daphne was the first to receive the phone call, but Velma had been the first of the gang to arrive on the scene.
A look of stone was etched across her features, refusing to let any emotion in as the fire-fighters scrambled to contain the blaze and the paramedics scrambled to stabilise their patients’ body as they loaded him into the ambulance and transport him to the emergency wing.
Velma rode with the patient to the hospital, making sure to keep Daphne informed at every stage of the journey via phone.
The patient briefly stirred, and begged Velma to come closer so he could whisper a haunting truth in her ear. Velma immediately contacted Daphne to share what she had learned, knowing it would break her just as much as it had shattered the life of her friend.
Daphne knocked the door frantically on Shaggy’s front door, doing a few extra push-ups and rubbing her knees like they had heated blisters. She was eager to get a move on.
Finally, the door opened, Shaggy scratched the pits of his arms, his eyes barely registering with the person in front of him. His facial hair had grown by a couple of inches overnight, making him look far bushier than his usual appearance cared to look.
“Daph? Like, it’s eight o’clock, that’s no time for me to be up. Me and Scoob have our snacks at ten sharp; every other hour beforehand is our siesta”
“It’s Fred, his dad…he tried to kill him this morning” Daphne began.
Shaggy paused, he pondered, and he darted back inside, shaved the few extra inches of hair off his chin, pulled on his brown pants and green t-shirt, and woke his Dane Scooby Doo up.
“Come on, Fred needs family” he said, grabbing Daphne’s hand
“Somehow I think family is his least favourite word right now” said Daphne.
Arriving at the hospital, Shaggy asked the doctors where Fred Jones had been stationed.
Easier asked then answered.
There were numerous Fred Jones, some of them even had middle names like Quincy, and Shaggy had to end up describing Fred and showing the nurse photos of him and the gang on cases to get some traction.
All the while Daphne huddled closer to Scooby, gently stroking the back of his long smooth brown fur with her right hand, her eyes gazing into his big bright pupils, she reached into her pocket and pulled out a Fred Jones sock puppet, placing it on Scooby’s left paw.
“Could you do me a favour and bring Fred to life for me? I know he isn’t really dead, but I just need him in this room with us right now”
“Ree rizz Rang, rooks rike rhe riminal ripped through ror ringers”
“You can say that again” Daphne muttered.
“Ree rizz rang…” Scooby began again, delighting Daphne that he’d taken her literally.
Finally, Shaggy got word on where Fred had been transferred to, and told Daphne to get a move on with Scooby in tow.
They made their way to Ward HB 18, Velma was waiting for them.
“Like, how is he Velms?” asked Shaggy.
“He’s going in for emergency surgery, they estimate he’ll survive, but they’ll have to place him in one of those medically induced comas” she explained.
“Why did his dad try to blow him up?” Daphne asked.
“Yeah, like, how do you know it was him?”
“Fred told me he’d received a note, It was in his handwriting, it was also laced with an explosive ink that reacts to the words and self-destruct code uttered by the person reading the note out” Velma replied.
“How does that work if you DON’T read it aloud?” asked Shaggy
“Gullibility, Fred has it in spades, that and Plot induced stupidity” Velma added.
“Something about this doesn’t sit right, we know Professor Huh is a criminal, but he went to bat for us, helped clear our names, and in exchange all he wanted was his freedom, and Fred gave it to him, and then he goes and repays him with this?”
“You know something? It could have just been his way of trying to reach Fred with a sincere, heartfelt letter, since leaving a video message would mean the feds or Fred could deduce his last port of call, and self destructing the letter probably wouldn’t have caused half the damage it’d done if Fred hadn’t read it right next to the Mystery Machine, which was loaded with fresh fuel” Velma explained., trying to spin this is as little more than a tragic misunderstanding and accident.
“You’re saying Fred’s at fault here?” Daphne angrily snapped, flaying her arms wildly, her fists clenched, looking to make physical contact with a wall or anything and even any one.
“I’ll take care of this” said Shaggy, escorting Daphne away, leading her to a row of seats in the waiting area.
Scooby looked through the hopelessly out of date magazine, using the hands on the Fred sock puppet to flip the pages, showing Daphne outdated ads for hotels off a distant coast that had long shut down.
Daphne appreciated the history lesson, but felt like Fred needed to be taught one.
“He’s impossible” Daphne said.
“Who? Fred? You’re assuming a lot, we haven’t gotten his side of the story yet” Shaggy cautioned.
“It’s just how I know him, like a kid at Christmas, he’s so eager to open his present and see how thoughtful someone is of him that he doesn’t consider the journey that person’s been on, a journey, while good in intention, is paved to heck and back”
“Aw, you know him; do I detect a little crush on your end?” Shaggy teased, he and Scooby pinching Daphne’s cheeks.
“I don’t know, sometimes he could be so short with me whenever I did something impulsive, he wanted to keep me under control. As much as I like him, I don’t think I could be brought to heel like that”
“”You rike romeone, ret rhem ree” Scooby replied.
“Yeah, take it from me, in my experience relationships are a real ball and chain” Shaggy said.
“Reah, Rall Rhey Ro Rs Range Ru” Scooby spoke, again using the Fred puppet as an out.
“What if you could be with someone and resist the urge to change? To stay a free spirit?” Daphne asked.
“I think two free untamed spirits together can make for a wild party, but there comes a time everyone’s gotta keep their cool” said Shaggy.
“Keeping cool ain’t all that simple” said Daphne, peeling the Fred puppet off of Scooby’s paw and playfully chewing it, venting her frustration like an animal.
“A little salt?” she said, holding out her hand.
“Uh uh, we are reserving our pinch for the king size subs they serve up in this joint’s kitchens”
Daphne tossed him a Scooby snack from her pocket.
“Sold” he said, tossing her his small package of salt, which she poured over the head of the half torn sock, she swiftly chewed down on it.
“You’re not just a free spirit; you’re the kind of wild and crazy spirit that’ll spend a thousand years haunting someone’s hill”
“Only a thousand? What’ll I do for eternity?”
Shaggy elected to get more hypothetical.
“Gee, let me think, spend it with all the friends you meet that end up passing on? Sorry, I’m no good at this”
Daphne seized her moment.
“You mean something like a permanent relationship? A marriage even?”
“Didn’t you hear what Scooby said? What I said? Relationships change you”
“”We as a team all have a relationship to some extent, it’s always been something that goes beyond conventional friendship between the four of us, but our bond runs so much deeper than that, you said it yourself earlier Norville, Fred needed family…and right now I do too. Because it’s my favourite word to use around you and Scoob. You’re my family””
“Oh no, you’re not pressing this whole girlfriend act on me again, bad enough a relative isn’t around for it this time” Shaggy protested, folding his arms.
“It wasn’t an act then, it isn’t an act now” Daphne replied
Anxious, Shaggy tried to shift a couple of goalposts, veering back to the subject at hand.
“We’ll help Fred cope with life past this point, as a family, his family, the only one he can really depend on”
Daphne gave Shaggy an affectionate look, her bewildering eyes causing tension knots to wrap around the pits of Shaggy’s stomach.
Their body temperature rose simultaneously, Shaggy broke into a sweat, but Daphne, while considerably warmer, remained composed, she leaned forward further, Shaggy knelt down as she pressed her body against his.
Scooby looked away, occasionally glancing back to check if reality wasn’t collapsing on his owner.
To the contrary, Shaggy soon got used to the weight of this new world, and , with his arms wrapped warmly around Daphne’s thin shoulders, brought it closer to him, his legs rose up in response to this most rosy of invitations to paradise.
Velma swiftly walked in to deliver an update on Fred’s condition and found the two locked together tightly in a pitch of pure passion.
“If you’re quite done, Fred’s stable, he should be waking up in a couple of days”
“Relieved?” Shaggy asked of the bedazzling red head in front of him, who was now gently resting her head on his chest.
“I think Fred’s gonna feel real lousy when he wakes up and learns about, well, this”
“Ah, so you reckon he does like you?” Shaggy said to Daphne.
“He loves that I like him, but I’ve often wondered if he loved me back or liked me enough to just enjoy my company, guess we’ll never know now”.
“Yeah, like, you’ve made your mind up…and changed mine, about a lot of things, somehow that kiss made all the difference. Don’t know how, but I’m totally spell bound, maybe there’s some kind of magic to this after all”
“You ready to take a ride with this spirit? I’m free if you are” Daphne replied.
“We can take this ride slow or just as fast as this day’s been, so long as we keep our cool”
“Now now Norville, you know such things aren’t so simple” Daphne said
Shaggy planted a smooth kiss on her lips upon completion of the sentence.