Gus is wearing his special lucky writing socks. He's got a nicely chilled bottle of artesian well water and a steaming soy mocha latte close at hand. His tablet PC is all set up, with tabs in Firefox open to Wikipedia, thesaurus.com and Write or Die.
He used to write in his office at Central Coast Pharmaceuticals, but the Psych office is also a good place to work, at least when Shawn's not around. There are just too many distractions at home for Gus to get any writing done there. It's not really logical, especially since Shawn pimped out their office with a big-screen plasma TV, a Wii and an X-Box... but it's Gus' system, and it works for him.
It's a little after four in the afternoon on an overcast Sunday in Santa Barbara, and Burton Guster, aka Bigster89, is going for the Yuletide Early Uploaders Gold Star.
Gus has always been a nerd. Gus was a nerd before nerds were cool. He holds strong opinions about dubs vs. subs, Marvel vs. DC, and whether it was justifiable that Xander Lied. He believes in his heart that Han shot first, that Time Lords are asexual-- with an exception on alternate Thursdays for the Fourth Doctor and Romana-- and that Ben Sisko could take down Picard or Kirk any day of the week.
Gus has signed up for Yuletide every year since 2004, when this one feminist lady comics blogger on his RSS feed posted a link to a 1602 story. It was really good; a lot better than the Star Trek or Transformers fanfiction that Gus used to read on Usenet back in high school (and okay, sometimes he would write it, too. He still doesn't think his OMC in that one story was a Gary Stu, even if he was the first Andorian to ever graduate from Starfleet Academy). He was a little nervous about writing a story for someone he didn't even know... but the challenge just seemed so well-organized, which is the kind of thing Gus just can't resist. Four years later, it's kind of a tradition.
Gus usually doesn't have time to write extra stories, and pinch-hits aren't his thing either. He doesn't work well under that kind of pressure; he likes time to review canon and really consider the details of the request before he starts writing. He always sends his stories through at least two rounds of beta, though-- and he always, always uploads at least three days before deadline. For Yuletide 2007, he got a gold star and an incredibly cool Ladyhawke story. It totally rocked, except for the part where he couldn't really tell anybody about it without them looking at him like he was a crazy person. And Gus already gets his full FDA-recommended daily allowance of being looked at like a crazy person just from being best friends with Shawn.
Alone in the office, Gus brings up the Yuletide website and checks to see how many people have already submitted their stories. He's going to upload his tonight, and he's going to get a gold star. He might even be in the top 100 uploads, because he's just that awesome.
Gus bites his lip expectantly, waiting for the page to load. He already can't wait to read the story that someone's writing for him. He was a little disappointed that all the X-Men spinoff fandoms were ruled ineligible this year; he was hoping to get someone to write him something about Scott Summers' incredibly dysfunctional relationship with Emma Frost. But, being a guy who has spent half his life trying to herd a hypothetical dozen or so hyperactive cats, Gus' final sympathies are completely with the moderators.
This year, Gus ended up requesting movieverse Transformers, Casino Royale (Judi Dench may be an older lady, but she is fierce), something for xkcd, which he never would have thought of unless someone else had nominated it, and-- oh, speak of the hypothetical, hyperactive devil!-- Shawn leans in, peering over Gus' shoulder at the screen. "Whatcha doin'?"
He must've seen the lights on in the office and come in the back way, damn him. Gus flinches and tilts the monitor of his laptop away, knowing it's probably pointless. If Shawn got even a glimpse, there's no way this is going to end well.
"Ooh, Yuletide!" Shawn points. "You're doing that again this year?"
"What?" Gus freezes. There is no way Shawn knows about Yuletide. He's not-- he just isn't that kind of nerd. He's the exact opposite of every kind of nerd Gus is. He always has been.
Gus, like all right-thinking people, prefers subs to dubs. Of course Shawn prefers dubs, because he's got the attention span of a crack-addled Shiba Inu puppy. If he has to read subtitles, he loses track of the story in about three minutes, and after that it takes two minutes or less before he starts translating the dialogue himself, What's Up Tiger Lily style. And then Gus has to beat him with a couch cushion.
Gus also prefers Marvel to DC. And of course, when Shawn's not mocking comics for being nerd-bait or getting confused about whether Aquaman is a member of the Avengers (he's not, and don't cross the streams, Shawn) he leans towards DC's iconic legacy heroes, rather than Marvel's more realistic characters. For Shawn, it's all about the capes.
And finally, Gus has always believed that if Xander really respected Buffy, he would've given her all the relevant information, and trusted her to make the right decision armed with the facts. Of course, if he ever sat down with Shawn long enough to explain the the whole situation in context, he just knows that Shawn would be on Xander's side. It all worked out for the greater good, right?
Shawn is just like that.
"Shawn, how do you know about Yuletide?"
"Shawn? Who's Shawn?" Shawn says, voice rising into a falsetto. "Perhaps you mean: AerynsGirl44?"
"You did NOT," Gus says. "You absolutely did not."
"I absolutely did not what?" Shawn hops up to perch on the edge of Gus' desk. Which he can easily do, because Gus actually keeps his desk neat instead of buried in takeout menus, action figures and unidentified things made in China that he won at the skee-ball arcade. "Spend the last seven years building up a complex and convincing alternate identity as a forty-three-year-old insurance adjuster and internet fangirl from Schenectady, all in order to write you a really awesome Ladyhawke story? ... No, I didn't," Shawn admits, grinning. "But wouldn't it be awesome if I did?"
"Shawn, that's really not funny." Gus slumps back in his chair. Sometimes, even to himself, Gus sounds like those people you see at the park, talking to their dogs like they're going to develop the ability to understand human speech if their owners just repeat themselves enough times. Shawn loves those people, especially if they're hot women and he can convince them that he's reading their maltoodle's golf-ball-sized mind.
"I did email her and tell her we were biffles, though." Shawn adds. "She asked me to do a special Gus-beta!"
Of course, he pronounces it betta, which is just wrong, and speaking of betas, of course all the great ideas that Gus had for implementing his own beta's suggestions are beginning to vanish, one by one. Right out of his head. He can practically see his gold star disappearing into the distance along with them. The mental image is accompanied by the disappointed fanfare you get when you lose at Space Invaders. Boop-boop-blaaaaargh. Gus sighs and presses the heels of his hands into his temples. "Biffles?"
"BFFs, man! I wanted to make sure some random fanfic person--" Shawn kinda rolls his eyes when he says fanfic person, giving the phrase the same sort of baffled, superior but ultimately accepting lilt that he gives so many other confusing concepts, like mortgage payment or inside voice-- "wasn't gonna give my BFF a story with dangling participles or, or misplaced apostrophes in it!" Shawn gives Gus a punch in the shoulder. "I know how a misplaced apostrophe can ruin your whole non-denominational holiday season."
"Well, there's just no excuse for it! The rule for determining if an apostrophe is required is extremely simple--!" Gus gets sucked in, just for a second. Then he remembers that rogue punctuation is not the issue here. He crosses his arms and resumes glaring. "Shawn. Stop it, seriously. I'm trying to work, here. I have to finish this story."
"Please, the deadline is twelve days, twenty-one hours and fourteen minutes away! Which gives you plenty of time to thank me for my killer beta job on your Ladyhawke story. You know Aerynsgirl mixed up 'then' and 'than' at one point, and I caught it," Shawn brags. "Oh! And she asked me how I wanted to be credited, in her author's notes or whatever? And I told her she didn't have to, and she said I was so nice and it was so sweet of me to care about your Yuletide present, and did I want anything? So I thought about it..."
"Oh God." Gus covers his face with his hands.
"And she wrote me a rockin' scrapple where the Baroness from G.I. Joe has secret sexy makeouts with Roxy from Jem!" He lurches back, teetering on the edge of the desk as he simultaneously plays a truly, truly outrageous air guitar riff and tosses a huge mane of imaginary Eighties hair. "Freeeeow!"
"It's called a drabble," Gus says. He's still facepalming. He remembers that G.I. Joe/Jem drabble; he saw it when he went to check out his writer's livejournal, after the authors' names went public in January.
It actually was kinda hot.
Shawn's riff evaporates, and he gives Gus a betrayed look. "Yeah, whatever."
"Hey, wait a second." Gus lifts his head, eyeing Shawn suspiciously. "How did you even know who was writing for me? It's supposed to be secret."
"Well, that is kind of a long story. It involves Detective Lassiter's email account and--"
"I changed my mind. Don't tell me." Gus holds up both hands. "Just make that be one of the things you never tell me."
"Your loss!" Shawn says, but he lets it go, wandering over to the Wii and starting it up. "Come on, Gus, take a break. I'll let you be Princess Peach!"
"I don't have time for Super Paper Mario, Shawn. I have to finish my story! It needs an ending, and the one I have now is unsatisfying. It just... stops."
"Make them kiss!" Shawn says, navigating through the Wii menus.
"What?" Gus stares. "How is that supposed to-- Shawn, you don't know what characters I'm writing. You don't even know what fandom I'm writing!"
"Does it matter? Make them kiss, the end! Doesn't all fanfic end like that?"
"That is insultingly reductionist," Gus mutters. Shawn can be such a Philistine. Gus tries not to take it too personally, most of the time. He can understand why sometimes Shawn needs to be the normal one in their friendship, the one who doesn't care about comic books or spelling bees or fanfiction. Shawn is hardly ever the normal one, anytime, anywhere. Still, it can get on Gus' nerves. He scowls, trying to not listen to the tempting trills of the Super Paper Mario intro theme, and raises his voice. "Just for your information, Shawn, not all fanfic is about making characters kiss in an implausible manner."
Shawn laughs. "Could have fooled me, Mister all I want for Christmas is Navarre/Isabeau smoochies."
"I did not say 'smoochies!'" Gus protests. "And Navarre and Isabeau are in love, Shawn, they don't just suddenly kiss. Impromptu kissing is a stupid plot device," he adds. As defensive as he is about fanfic, the prevalence of shippy fic (especially the kind where people just suddenly kiss) is actually one of his pet peeves. Sometimes people are just friends, and that's the way it is, no matter how you feel about it. "People don't do that."
"Do what now?" Shawn says from his seat, cross-legged on the floor in front of the plasma TV. He's way too close to the screen, and his shoulders are jerking this way and that as Mario bops and jumps around the screen.
"Kiss people! People don't just randomly kiss other people, especially friends or co-workers! And if a person did randomly kiss somebody that they'd never previously expressed any romantic interest in, then it would be totally awkward. Awkward and weird," Gus insists. "It would not be sexy or romantic, and they would be very unlikely to reciprocate."
"This is one of those things you've thought too much about, isn't it?" Shawn says, pausing his game. He glances over at Gus, his eyes glittering with reflected light.
"This is one of those things I feel strongly about, yes," Gus says, ignoring Shawn and focusing hard on his story notes. Actually, if he did make them kiss-- No. No, he is not going to take Shawn's dumb story advice. That would be wrong.
He expects Shawn to start up his game again, but instead Shawn comes over and starts messing around with things on Gus' desk. Gus ignores him for as long as humanly possible, but finally he has to look up.
Oddly, Shawn is just staring down at his own hands. He's got Gus' stapler in one fist and his tape dispenser in the other, and he's making them do an elaborate dance and then bonk into each other, like a couple of mountain goats knocking heads, or-- no, Gus realizes. He's making them kiss.
"Shawn, stop anthropomorphizing my office supplies," Gus says. He tries to sound irritated, because he is irritated. Really. Shawn is irritating. But he can't help smiling, because it's kind of ridiculously adorable, too, and how does Shawn always do this to him, always? And Shawn puts his hands down on the desk, tape dispenser and stapler still clenched in his oddly white-knuckled fists, and he leans way over towards Gus--
--and this (like fanfiction) is something that Gus spent a lot of time thinking about in high school, a lot, but never-- He never let himself write a Gary Stu and he never let himself get too invested in the possibility of this, because there are some things that you just can't have, no matter how much you want them--
--and if Shawn is only doing this to make a point about the plausibility and usefulness of surprise kissing as a plot device, Gus is going to post his suicide note on fanficrants and then jump into traffic--
--and he reaches out for Shawn, knocking over his mocha in the process, and the lid pops off and Gus' coffee spills across the desk and starts dripping onto Shawn's shoes, but Shawn doesn't back off--
--and Gus slides his hand up Shawn's arm and cups the back of his neck and pushes his tongue into Shawn's mouth, and Shawn makes a squeaky, breathy, weirdly hot noise, and still doesn't pull away, not even a millimeter--
--and Gus has the sneaking suspicion that his Early Uploader Gold Star is toast--
--and he is kissing Shawn, and Shawn is kissing him.