When Shawn was five years old, he marched into his father's den, flip-flops-a-floppin', and announced, "I'm going to marry Gus."
Still reading his newspaper, his father didn't even twitch. "That's ridiculous, Shawn. Gus is a boy."
"But that's who I wanna marry," Shawn protested.
His father allowed the paper to droop slightly so that he could peer over the top. "Well, it's illegal in the state of California, Shawn, so I'm afraid that I can't allow it."
Shawn scuffed his feet. His flip-flop slipped off. He stubbed his big toe. Everything was stupid. "Then I'll go somewhere else!"
"Where?" his father laughed.
"I don't know where," Shawn said. He pouted. "Someplace I can marry Gus."
His father folded the paper carefully, put his elbow on his knee, and then leaned forward to chuck Shawn under the chin. "Then I suggest you do some research, son."
Shawn stomped out of his father's den, one flip-flop-a-floppin', and marched into his mother's office. He put his chin on her desk, and stared at her elbow.
"Hey, mom," he said.
She put down a manila folder and looked him in the eye. "What can I do for you, Goose?"
"I wanna marry Gus," Shawn said.
Something happened to her face, like she was happy and sad at the same time. "Oh, Shawn," she said. "Aren't you a little young to be making those kind of decisions?"
"Technically," Shawn said, rolling his eyes toward the ceiling until it hurt and he stopped, "yes. I think I need you to sign a permission slip or something?"
His mom hugged him suddenly, and Shawn squawked a little in surprise. She kissed his forehead. Shawn wrinkled his nose, but secretly didn't hate it that much.
"You're a good boy," she said. "Now go play in the street or something, Goose. Your mom's got work to do."
Gus was late getting to the Psych office from his second lame-o boring-ass job, which was his first fatal mistake.
Gus knew better than to leave Shawn alone with his girlfriends when Shawn hadn't already vetted said girlfriends and been involved in every step of the dating process. Hadn't Gus learned anything over the years?
"So, Vanessa," Shawn said, staring at the pretty young thing seated next to him. Her eyes: luminous. Her skin: flawless. Her demeanor: sweet. Too sweet. There was something rotten in the state of Vanessa. There had to be; Gus was only attracted to crazyhead wackaloons.
"It's great to finally meet you, Shawn," Vanessa said.
"You've been dating Gus for how long now?"
Vanessa smiled. She had very white teeth. "Three weeks."
"Wow, that's -- that's great," Shawn said, then looked at his hands with a soulful expression of deep inner conflict, as if the universe were making him choose between Cheetos and Fritos.
"Is something wrong?" Vanessa asked.
Shawn wiped away a single perfect tear. "No, nothing's wrong. It's just great to see Gus interested again after what happened with his last relationship."
A wrinkle formed between Vanessa's shapely eyebrows. "Gus told me that he hasn't dated anyone in a long time."
"Oh, I mean, technically, I guess he hasn't," Shawn said. "He didn't go on many dates with his wife while he was married."
"Married?" Vanessa said.
"Yeah, he was married for ten years -- wait, didn't he tell you?" Shawn gasped. "Oh, no! I've said too much!"
"No," Vanessa said, her hand over her soon-to-be-broken heart. "He never said anything --"
"I'm not surprised," Shawn said, patting her shoulder. "It was a sordid affair. Why, Gus could hardly bring himself to tell me about her, and we've been BFFs since the end of the Carter administration!"
"I can't believe this. I had such a good feeling about him," Vanessa said.
"He is a handsome devil, and such a good catch," Shawn agreed.
Vanessa's luminous eyes sparkled with unshed tears. "He really is. I wanted him to meet my parents."
"There, there," Shawn said. "It's not your fault that you were entangled in his web of deceit."
Vanessa wrinkled her nose. "Wait, I though you were his best friend?"
Shawn nodded and backpedaled. "I am. I'm not proud of what he does. I just don't know how to quit him."
"Hey, everybody," Gus called. He moonwalked into the office and presented Vanessa with a small bouquet of pink posies. "How's my favorite girl today?"
Vanessa looked at the flowers, growled something with an inhuman Zuul voice, and flung the posies back at Gus's face. "I can't believe you'd do this to me, Burton Guster!"
She stomped out of the office as fast as she could with her stacked platform heels. Gus went after her.
"Vanessa? Wait, what's wrong? I'm sure I can explain --"
Shawn whistled his way out the back entrance to the Psych office, and rode his bike over to the SBPD. He'd challenged McNab to a rousing game of bocce as payment for the tango lessons, and it was time to collect.
After dinner, when Gus went to the bathroom to brush his teeth ten times, Shawn eased into the Gusters' living room. He knew from TV that you were supposed to ask the father of the bride for permission, although Shawn didn't know why. It seemed stupid to ask Gus's parents first, since they'd probably tell Gus before Shawn could ask him and ruin the surprise, like they did last week with Shawn's plans to take Gus to Space Mountain for his sixth birthday.
Apparently you needed an adult to fly across the country. Who knew?
Mr. and Mrs. Guster were watching some boring TV show called 60 Minutes.
"Ahem," Shawn said, clearing his throat.
"Bless you," Mrs. Guster said absently.
"Ahem," Shawn said again. When he had their attention, Shawn said, "Can I ask you a question?"
"You may," Mrs. Guster said.
Shawn had written down what he was going to say. He'd started with his palm, but it had gotten smudged when he washed his hands for dinner, so he improvised.
"Um. I really, really like Gus. Like, a lot. I like Gus this much," he said, holding his arms as wide as they could go, then pulling his arms back in to read the words that went past his elbow. "So, um. I respectfully ask for Gus's hand in marriage," Shawn said, twisting his arm so he could read all of it. "Will you give your blessing?"
"You mean that you want to marry Joy?" Mrs. Guster asked, looking confused.
"No," Shawn said. "I wanna marry Gus."
Mr. Guster leaned forward in his La-Z-Boy. "Why do you want to marry Gus, young man?"
Shawn shrugged. "Because he's my best friend?"
"Isn't he precious," Mrs. Guster said in the same tone Shawn's kindergarten teacher used when he ate paste.
Mr Guster chuckled. "Well, you're both a little young for marriage, Shawn. Why don't you ask us again in twenty --" Mr. Guster said, glancing at Mrs. Guster, "-- make that twenty-five years."
"Okay," Shawn said.
The bathroom door opened. A moment later, Gus was staring at Shawn around Mr. Guster's La-Z-Boy. "What are you doing, Shawn?"
"Nothing," Shawn said, because Gus didn't like it when Shawn talked to his parents. "Let's play with your Castle Greyskull."
Shawn waited until after they played with the fortress on Eternia, ate ice cream, played some more, brushed their teeth, and went to bed before he asked Gus. They were head-to-feet in Gus's bed. Shawn liked it at the Guster house. Nobody made him remember stuff before dinner or to get dessert, which was awesome.
"Hey, Gus," Shawn said.
"Will you marry me?"
Gus wriggled onto his side, and bumped Shawn's knees. "Why?"
"Because if we get married, we can be best friends forever," Shawn said.
"Okay," Gus said.
"Cool," Shawn said. He closed his eyes and pushed his face into his pillow.
Gus yawned, and said, "Aren't you supposed to give me a ring?"
"You're a boy," Shawn said.
"Boys get rings, too," Gus protested. "My dad has one."
"Okay, okay! I'll get you a ring," Shawn said. "Now shut up and go to sleep."
"Can we play with Snake Mountain at your house tomorrow?" Gus asked.
"Okay, but I get the microphone," Shawn said.
Gus left his date alone at the bar to go to the bathroom, which was his second fatal mistake. The bathrooms were single-occupancy. Gus never took less than nine minutes when he was in there, and Shawn only needed two minutes to wreak havoc. Maybe two and a half.
"Hi," Shawn said, sitting down on Gus's still-warm barstool. "I'm Shawn. You're Lucy, right?"
Lucy shook his hand reluctantly. Her hand was cold and damp from her bottle of Stella Artois. "Yeah?"
"Gus has told me all about you," Shawn said enthusiastically.
"Um, it's only our second date," she said.
"And you're just as adorable as he said you were," Shawn said, and sadly, it was true. Blonde, with these Heidi braids, and a smattering of freckles across her pert little nose.
Shawn decided that she was a performance arsonist based upon no evidence whatsoever.
"Okay," Lucy said. "You're kind of creeping me out."
Shawn was still holding onto her hand. He let go abruptly. "Sorry. I just saw you over here, and I had to introduce myself."
"I'm sure Gus will be back any minute, so --"
"I'm sorry if I'm being weird," Shawn said, laughing a little. "It's just that I've been best friends with Gus for almost twenty-five years now, and I want nothing but the best for him. I hope you two crazy kids hit it off now that he's got a new lease on life."
"A new lease on -- what are you talking about?" Lucy asked.
Shawn sighed. Lucy seemed kind of awesome, and he almost felt bad for what he was about to do.
"He gave us quite a scare a few months ago. Came down with this rash. We were worried that it was Lyme disease for a while. Fever, headache, fatigue. Then he started losing weight." Shawn pinched his thigh, and then tugged sharply at some leg hairs until tears welled in his eyes.
Lucy was wide-eyed. "And?"
"Ah," Shawn said dismissively, sniffing deeply and wiping at his eyes with the hem of his polo. "He's fine now."
"What was it? What did he have?" Lucy asked.
Shawn waved his hand. "It's fine. A few more penicillin shots, and the syphilis will be all cleared up. Thank god they got it before the dementia stage, am I right?"
Lucy stared at him. "You're joking."
"Please, he's my best friend." Shawn stared at her. "But you seem like a nice girl, and I thought you should know."
"Thanks, I think," Lucy said. She gathered her jacket and purse. "Look, I'm just going to go. Will you tell Gus that I got an urgent phone call and had to leave?"
"Sure," Shawn said. "I'll console him when it turns out that you're washing your hair for the next five years."
Lucy kissed his cheek, and for a fleeting moment, Shawn kind of felt like a jerk.
When Gus finally got back from the bathroom, he looked around for his date. "Hey, when did you get here?"
"Couple minutes ago, why?"
"Did you see where Lucy went?" Gus asked.
Shawn pursed his lips and put his fingers to his temple. Gus smacked down his hand on reflex. "Cute blonde, freckles, wearing a green blouse?"
"Yeah, that's her," Gus said.
"Took off a minute ago. She got some kind of urgent phone call," Shawn said. He snagged her abandoned Stella and took a sip. "She didn't give me any details, man. Sorry."
For a moment, Gus was buying it, but then his eyes narrowed and his nose flared in a full-on Judd Nelson.
"I can't believe you, Shawn. Erica? Robin? Jacqueline? Vanessa? And now Lucy?"
"Gus, what?" Shawn said in his most innocent tone.
"Cockblocking, that's what," Gus said. "Oh, yeah, I said it. Cockblocking cockblocker!"
"Gus!" Shawn gasped. "Do you kiss your mother with that mouth?"
"Don't even start with my mom, Shawn," Gus said. "A man's mother is sacred, you know that. And you know what else? You have cockblocked me for the last time."
And with that shocking announcement, Gus yanked his coat from underneath Shawn's ass and stomped out of the bar.
Gus was speed walking down the street. Shawn jogged after him, wishing that he'd invested in a Segway or perhaps a Vespa in order to make the chase scene more dramatic.
"To be fair, you dumped Jacqueline because she said that Jan-Michael Vincent had a face like a duck," Shawn called out.
"I'm not talking to you, Shawn!" Gus said.
"Gus. Gus!" Shawn said. "Come on, you can't blame me for this. I'm just trying to protect you from all the psychotic women to whom you are bizarrely attracted. And I called dibs on you when we were five!"
Gus stopped and spun on his heel. "Say what?"
"I asked you to marry me, and you said yes," Shawn said breathlessly, finally catching up.
"We were five," Gus said. Then he smirked a little. "Contrary to popular belief, the state of California doesn't recognize common law marriages, Shawn. This means you don't get half of my stuff."
"You claim me on your taxes," Shawn said.
"Still doesn't count," Gus told him.
"And besides, I already have half your stuff," Shawn pointed out.
"That's not helping your case, Shawn."
"Your parents told me I could ask for your hand in marriage again in twenty-five years. I think I've been more than patient."
"You told my parents?" Gus squawked.
"Of course I did," Shawn said. "You're the one."
Gus gaped at him. "I'm the what?"
"The one who got away, only you didn't get away. You remained close and yet tantalizingly out of reach!"
Skepticism began to steal over Gus's face, and so Shawn pulled Gus behind a palm tree and kissed him. And then kissed him. And kissed him again, just in case Gus thought this was some kind of double-dog dare.
Gus opened his eyes, blinked a few times, and then tried to be cool about touching his mouth by concealing it with a thumb-swipe to his nose. "You'd better be serious about this, Shawn."
Shawn produced a ring he'd created from a Wacky WallWalker and some Krazy Glue. "More serious than I've been about anything since the creation of the Cheetara fan club."
"You know that's right."
"Gus," Shawn said. "Hot Lips Hackensack, will you go steady with me?"
Gus glanced over his shoulder, and then held out his hand. "Based upon what I know of your tenacity regarding my person, I see no alternative but to accept."
Shawn slid the WallWalker onto Gus's ring finger. "Oh, good, because I pretty much didn't have an exit strategy after the heartfelt declaration of my true love."
"Now you're pushing it," Gus said.
"I want my Princess Bride moment, party pooperpants," Shawn said.
"Please. I'm not having Lassiter and Juliet arrest you for harassment," Gus said. "That's as close to an 'as you wish' as you're gonna get."
"Awesome," Shawn said. "I like you so much that I'm not even going to argue about why I'm Buttercup in this scenario."
"Probably because you're pretty much a Humperdinck in this scenario, Shawn."
"You wound me, Gus. I am wounded in the heart," Shawn said. "Your parents aren't going to invite me over for dinner ever again, are they?"
"Nope," Gus said.
Shawn shrugged. "I can live with that."