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The Curious Case of that Time with the Thing

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Of course Spencer saves Gus from the evil clutches of Mrs. O'Reilly (white hair, twinkling eyes, World's Best Nana! mug, stains that were not delicious homemade red sauce on her sturdy apron, butcher's knife). He bursts through her lace-curtained kitchen door, gun drawn, just in the nick of time.

Or, okay, so Lassie bursts through her lace-curtained kitchen door, gun drawn, just in the nick of time, but Shawn is no more than three steps behind him. Well, behind Jules. And McNabb. And Officer O'Reilly (no relation). And Lt. Hagopian. And that guy everyone calls Hey You because no one can remember his name, not even Shawn; the guy might as well be wearing a red shirt and preparing to die in the first fifteen minutes of the episode, although he has made it as a nameless face in the crowd shots of Shawn's life for over two years, so maybe Shawn should mentally upgrade him to the rank of Bridge Drone, but--

"Police!" Lassie shouts, and Mrs. O'Reilly turns. The knife flashes and reflects rainbow glints from the suncatchers dangling in the bay window above the sink, where tiny pots of herbs grow and an even tinier Mickey Mouse figurine waltzes with a miniature Minnie. "Freeze! Drop the weapon! You're under arrest!"

Oh yeah, points for originality there, Lassiter.

Mrs. O'Reilly freezes. Her eyes twinkle at Lassie from behind her gold, semi-rimless glasses. She looks like Mrs. Claus, if Mrs. Claus was like, a black widow spider. Shawn kind of wants to ask her for a cookie, but he doesn't think he'd like the taste of arsenic, and anyway what he really wants, what he really really wants, is Gus.

Gus, who has a cut and a bruise on his temple. There's a shattered ceramic angel on the floor next to the chair where Mrs. O'Reilly has got him all tied up. His striped button down, all sorts of shades of pink stripes alternating with white and silvery gray lines, is open. He'd left the office wearing a silver tie; it dangles over the edge of the sink like it's trying to escape.

There's a trickle of blood on Gus's chest.

There's blood on the blade of the knife, too. It drips down, slowly, and makes a splashy red dot on the white tile floor.

Gus is alive, which is good; very good, because the alternative would be very, very bad. Shawn takes a step closer to him but the kitchen is full of people, all of them in his way, most of them pointing guns. He might be stressed out and having issues with a very strong urge to get to Gus, hustle him out of Mrs. O'Reilly's kitchen, and never let him out of his sight again, but Shawn's not stupid. He's not going to walk in front of what is essentially a firing line.

Especially since on the other side of the line, there's a crazy lady wielding a weapon only slightly less intimidating than your average cleaver.

As if to prove the wisdom of staying out of the way, Mrs. O'Reilly screeches,"You'll never take me alive, coppers," just as Hey You starts to lower his weapon. She lunges, knife flashing in the warm, afternoon sunshine. Shawn looks at her, looks at Hey You, looks at Gus, and sighs.

He makes his move fast and sneaky, crashing into Hey You, who topples forward, misses being impaled on the butcher's knife by centimeters, and takes down Mrs. O'Reilly. The force of the impact slides them both across the floor, into the cabinets, against which their heads crack loudly.

Lassie, Jules, McNabb, Officer O'Reilly (no relation), and Lt. Hagopian stare at the heap of Hey You and Mrs. O'Reilly lying motionless on the floor. Shawn says, "Oops, minor miscalculation; I totally thought that guy had a slightly lower center of gravity." He steps over them. "Hey, Lassie, do you think you could cuff Nana before she wakes up and decides to kill...that guy, him, whoever he is, with her bare hands?"

The cops fly into action. Lassie barks orders. Jules says, "Gus? Gus? Can you hear me?" Shawn bumps her out of his way, gently, with his hip, and taps his fingers on Gus's cheek.

"Burton Guster, don't think you're getting out of going to school today," he says sternly. "I know you were just out too late with your friends last night. That boy Shawn is nothing but trouble."

"But Mom, he saved my life," Gus mumbles, eyes still closed, and Shawn cups his cheek. Gus has stubble coming in, prickly and sharp against the palm of Shawn's hand. Gus almost never has stubble and it's like a testament to the fact that Shawn saved him, yeah, but only after a whole day of Gus being missing; twenty-four long, Gusless hours of Shawn's life.

Jules has Gus's wrists and ankles untied, and the paramedics are trying to move Shawn out of their way. He steps aside and lets them help Gus up. He trails them out of Mrs. O'Reilly's chaotic kitchen, and he rides with them in the ambulance. He doesn't hold Gus's hand because if he did, Gus would probably think he was dying, but he makes sure their pinkies touch on the gurney.

"Nothing but trouble," Shawn says, when they make the third left turn after the two rights, which means they're pulling up to the hospital.

"He's my best friend," Gus slurs. "He's. Shawn." His hand is a little shaky when he moves it, fumbling, to cover Shawn's, but it's warm. It's strong but soft, and very familiar. Shawn grew up with that hand; he knows it like he knows his own.

He turns his palm up so he can hold Gus's hand after all. It's okay, so long as Gus doesn't think it means he's dying. Shawn draws a new line for hand contact equals fatal injuries at kissing Gus's knuckles or something. There has to be a next level of freak-out, after all.

The ambulance stops. The paramedics open the doors and Shawn scrambles out of their way so they can wheel Gus into the emergency room. Jules is waiting by the door, her eyes soft, the corners of her lips turned down. She touches his arm and Shawn smiles at her, tucks her hand into the crook of his elbow and strolls into the ER like they're out for a night on the town.

"Swami Spencer knows all, sees all, solves all and saves all," he tells her, as doctors come rushing to Gus's gurney and hustle him off to a curtained area. A security guard glares at Shawn when he tries to follow. "That's my new catch-phrase. I'm going to have it painted on the windows at the office. I think it'll sell, don't you?"

"Gus is going to be fine," Jules says gently. A nurse carries a stack of Gus's clothing out of the cubicle and puts it in a plastic bag. The shirt is crumpled up, so Shawn can't see the blood spot near the third button anymore, but he could draw a diagram of it, if necessary. It's shaped like Iceland.

"Swami Spencer," Shawn reminds her, pointing to himself. "I see...that Gus will get six stitches, go home in the morning, and never get so much as another bruise until he's 103."

"That sounds pretty boring," Jules says, smiling.

"You make an excellent point that I'm going to ignore in favor of making my own excellent point, which is, Gus," Shawn says. "Now, if you'll excuse me, I'm going to go tell that Rent-A-Cop they've got my childhood friend, first love, and longtime partner in there, so he'd better stand aside or I'll go through, around, or over him."

Jules raises her eyebrows. "It's not nice to lie, Shawn."

Shawn blinks at her. "Who's lying?" he says, and goes to talk his way back to his best friend's side.


Once Gus has gotten his stitches (six), some drugs (Tylenol 3), and the phone number of a nurse who was clearly impressed with his nicely-muscled chest and long eyelashes ("That's illegal," Shawn hisses, taking it from him and ripping it up), Shawn calls Henry.

"Gus is fine, but I need you to take me to pick up his car. It's at this murdering old grandma's house." Shawn slouches against the wall and listens to his dad rant for a minute. Five minutes. At seven minutes, Henry starts to run out of steam, so Shawn thinks it's safe to interrupt. "Yes, yes, no, I saved him, I did too save him, six stitches."

Henry doesn't say anything for a long time, while Shawn walks up and down the brightly-lit hallway outside Gus's room. Gus's nurse, the one with the phone number, walks by and smiles at him. He smiles back; she may be a predator, but judging by the circles under her eyes, her slightly unkempt hair, and her messy scrubs, she isn't having an easy night either. Aside from the whole number thing, she was nice to Gus. She was very careful when she washed the blood off his temple. She deserves for her night not to suck.

"I hope you're starting to think twice about this psychic business," Henry finally says. "It's a lark, I know. You're good at it anyway, I know that too. But it could end up costing you Gus, Shawn. Are you prepared to deal with that?"

"I'm not prepared to quit," Shawn says. He walks back towards Gus's room, pokes his head through the door. Gus is sleeping, sacked out like a baby. He's snoring a little, quiet and gently, like he's too tired to put a lot of effort into it.

"And if Gus quits?"

Shawn says, "Gus can quit, but he won't. It's not like quitting would help him get rid of me."

"Until you decide it's time to run away to Borneo again," his dad says dryly.

Shawn thinks about that. He's not planning to run away to Borneo; he isn't that person anymore, he's pretty sure. But if he did, "I wouldn't run away to Borneo alone," he says. "Gus would come with me now. I think."

"Of course," Henry says, and sighs. "Listen, I'll come get you. But please, Shawn, please. Try not to break Gus, all right? He's a good man. I love him like another son. I'd like for him to stay in one piece."

"I won't break him," Shawn says, watching Gus's fingers twitch as he dreams; chasing rabbits, Shawn will tease him later, when all of this seems kind of funny. "Gus will be okay. I swear."

"You'd better make sure of it," Henry says, and hangs up. Shawn flips his phone closed, and walks back into Gus's room. He sits in the chair next to the bed and closes his eyes. He hasn't slept in almost 36 hours. He's so tired, part of him wants to crawl right into the hospital bed with Gus and sleep for a week.

"I'll wait until you're home," he tells Gus. Then he gets up and heads back out into the hallway to find Gus's nurse and fix whatever it is that's ruining her night.


It's dark and the streets are quiet when his father picks him up. Henry doesn't talk to Shawn as they drive back to Mrs. O'Reilly's house, where a cop car sits across the driveway and lights are on inside; Shawn recognizes Lassie's voice as he climbs out of the truck.

"I can't believe he's still here," he says. "He's probably so crabby right now. Someone should go in there and tell him to take a nap."

"Be my guest," Henry says. "Am I done here?"

Shawn turns back to the truck, leans against the passenger side door. "Yeah," he says. "Thanks, by the way. I know Gus will appreciate the cookies when he wakes up."

Henry grunts, puts the truck in gear. "If you haven't eaten them all before then, Mr. McGreedy," he says. "Call me if Gus needs anything."

Shawn takes a step back, slaps the car door lightly with the palm of his hand. "Only if it's Gus that needs something?"

"Well, I don't want to hear about the needs of pop starlets or guys named Stefan," Henry says, pulling away. "Good night, Shawn. Be careful."

"Stefan? As if." Shawn says to the truck's tail lights before he pulls out his phone. My friend Trieste needs a mani-pedi, he texts Henry, then he turns around and trudges toward the house. Nothing says pick-me-up like poking at Lassie.

At least, nothing says it with quite the same menacing scowl.


"Get out," Lassie says, when Shawn sidles into Mrs. O'Reilly's kitchen. "Out, out, out."

"Okay," Shawn says agreeably, and he sidles back out again, waits until Lassie's back is turned, and comes back in.

"For God's sake, Spencer, didn't I just kick you out of here?" Lassie asks when he turns around and catches Shawn lurking right behind him.

"...I just got here," Shawn says, wide-eyed. "Are you okay, Lassie? Does someone need a nappy-nap?" He turns to McNabb, makes a sad, sleepy face. "I think someone needs a nappy-nap."

McNabb nods, then says, "Uh, sorry. I didn't. I'm gonna." He looks left, looks right, and slinks out the back door.

Lassie is an unhealthy purple color. "I think someone could spend a night in the drunk tank," he says, silky and dangerous. "I'm sure Guster wouldn't mind taking a cab home from the hospital in the morning."

"Please," Shawn says. "Never ask a guy who works with antibacterial anything about either drunk tanks or taxis, trust me, I've seen what happens. You don't want to make Gus cry, do you, Lassie? You like Gus. You like us."

"I occasionally find your partner's presence tolerable," Lassie says, looking constipated. "But not yours. You, I just can't stand."

"Me and Gus are the best things to happen to your department since the Chief," Shawn says, comfortably certain of that much, at least.

Then he waits.

Lassie stares at him.

"I'm waiting for a good comeback?" Shawn prompts.

"I don't have the energy for this right now," Lassie says, looking pissed off and bewildered. "McNabb!"

McNabb pokes his head back through the door. He was totally eavesdropping. He is not stealthy. "Yes sir?"

"You're in charge here," Lassie says. "Make sure nothing gets messed up. Nothing. Not a thing, you understand? I want this woman in jail a long, long time."

"Because he loves me and Gus," Shawn says, smugly. "You hear that? It's like he declared how much he wants us around from the top of the Golden Gate Bridge or something."

"Or something," Lassie agrees. He grabs his suit jacket and walks out the back door, stopping on the little porch to take off his paper crime scene booties.

Shawn follows him, lurks some more, hands in his pockets.

"I don't have time for this, Spencer," Lassiter says. "Why don't you go play games with someone your own mental age? Oh right, all the kindergartens are closed this time of night."

"Har-de-ha," Shawn says. "Man, you slay me. Did you ever think about taking this show on the road, Lassie? Shawn and the Gruff Detective. Hilarious. Audiences would eat us up like hotcakes. But anyway, I wanted to say thank you."

Lassie straightens up slowly, and glances at Shawn. He looks like he's slightly bewildered, but trying hard not to show it. "Thank me?"

"For believing me in time," Shawn says. "Not everyone with a gun and a badge would go with a psychic to Mrs. Claus's house because of a cat hair on a scarf at a murder scene."

"Is this a joke about my paranoia?" Lassiter asks, warily, like he thinks he's a wild animal being tricked into eating out of a predator's hand or something.

"This is about saving Gus," Shawn says patiently, and holds out his hand for Lassiter to shake. "As in, thanks for doing it."

"Ah," Lassie says, still looking at him funny. But then, just as Shawn is about to drop his hand, Lassie reaches out and shakes it. "Send Gus my best wishes," he says, only a little awkwardly, and even when he lets go of Shawn's hand, it's not like he's doing it because he just realized Shawn is actually a slimy tentacle beast from the great beyond.

Shawn smiles and says, "I totally will."


"Rise and shine, love muffin," Shawn coos to Gus early the next morning, while Gus's doctor, two nurses, and an orderly look on. "Wakey-wakey, eggs and bakey."

Gus's lashes flutter. He smacks his lips, frowns, makes a tiny, unhappy noise. Shawn pats his hand and croons good mornings and endearments, as sickeningly sweet as can be, but it hurts a little to watch Gus crawl out of his exhausted, drugged sleep.

"Where am I?" Gus croaks. "Shawn?"

Shawn hooks his fingers between Gus's. "You're at the hospital. Mrs. O'Reilly shaved your chest a little close. You remember?"

"The cat weighed thirty pounds," Gus says, finally opening his eyes and focusing them blearily on Shawn's. "Thirty pounds."

Out of the corner of his eye, Shawn sees the doctor and nurses exchange concerned glances. He says, "No, really, the cat weighed like, a lot. One of those Maine Coons, you know? Big. Huge. Can we have a moment alone, please?"

Normally, Shawn is certain, no doctor would allow herself to be shuffled out of a patient's room. But since Shawn helped the nurse find a missing earring (in her street shoes), her license (jacket pocket), good coffee (not at the cafeteria) and a new boyfriend (muscular, good eyelashes, not as cute as Gus) last night, he gets their moment alone.

"I told them we were going to be getting married as soon as it was legal again," Shawn says to Gus, quiet and fast. "So they'd let me stay and stuff. Don't blow our cover. Okay, you can come back in now!"

"...Married?" Gus says, and Shawn says, "Don't worry, baby, we'll find a way. Hey, you want to go home and get some good sleep?"

That clears some of the fog out of Gus's eyes. "Egyptian cotton," he says, dreamy but in a good way. "Down."

Shawn beams at the doctor. "See, he's good to go!"

Dr. Nami eyes him, then gives Gus a quick exam, asks him a few questions. Gus wants to keep talking about his thread count, but she gives Shawn the go-ahead to take him home anyway. Maybe Gus just looks like the kind of guy who normally goes on about color schemes for hours; oh wait, he is.

"Gingham," Gus says dreamily as Shawn fills out his discharge papers, and then an attendant brings them a wheelchair for Gus to ride out in. "No," he says. "No, N-O, no, Shawn."

"C'mon, it's a sweet ride," Shawn says, patting the seat. "Get in, we'll go cruising for sweet young things."

"I don't cruise," Gus says.

"You do today," the burly attendant-guy says. His nametag reads Alphonse, and he looks like he could bench press Gus one-handed. Gus looks up at him, and up, and up, then allows Shawn to assist him into the wheelchair.

When he's comfortable, Shawn sits in his lap.

"Off!" Gus says, pushing at him, but Shawn just twines an arm around his neck and gives him a smacking kiss on the cheek.

"Alphonse doesn't mind, right?" he says, then twists to look at Alphonse (wedding band and engagement ring on his left hand. The engagement ring has a rainbow of colored stones; between that and the sheer, muscular size of him, Shawn is pretty sure Alphonse doesn't mind), who nods, willing to oblige.

"If a nurse or doctor tells you to get down, I'll make you," Alphonse says, but Shawn is willing to bet no one will say a word. Not with a big softie like this guy wheeling them out. Seriously, he's got one huge, sweet smile plastered on his face. Shawn would almost feel bad about being a bastard, if he wasn't getting a ride out of the hospital on Gus's lap for it.

"Tally-ho!" he says. Alphonse starts pushing the chair and Gus groans a little but puts his hands on Shawn's hips to anchor him, and they're off.

There are a lot of smiles coming their way in the corridors leading out to the main entrance. Shawn beams back, jokes with Alphonse, says, "Relax, you're almost home," quietly in Gus's ear.

Gus doesn't say a word, but he sighs and relaxes. Shawn will take him home to sleep and make him soup, and get him settled to snuggle on the couch with all of his Tivo'd episodes of Ghost Cat, and all will be right with the world.

Or, well, right enough.


Gus tries to tell Shawn which keys to use to get them into his apartment. Haha, as if Shawn needs his help.

"Gus, I could get into your place with a broken toothpick and a smile," he says, turning the key in the lock, twisting it to just the right angle; he knows that sometimes it gets jammed.

"I'm kind of creeped out by you now, Mr. Sketchy," Gus says.

"Don't be silly, Gus, you're way too tired for a good creep out right now," Shawn says, standing back from the door and gallantly waving Gus in. "How can you run, how can you flail; where will you find the energy for a good bout of high-pitched screaming? Save it for when you're feeling better, that's what I say. Are you going in?"

Gus glares. "I'm thinking about it," he says, but he doesn't look like he's thinking about it. He looks like he's just going to lean against the wall all night.

"The building will not fall down without your broad and attractive shoulders to hold it up, Gus," Shawn says patiently.

"You think my shoulders are attractive?" Gus perks up a little. "I have been working out, switching up the old routine, you know."

"I don't know," Shawn says. "My favorite workout is the cookie cram. That's where you do as many reps of cookies to your mouth as you can in fifteen minutes. It keeps me young. Now come on, get inside. You may be feeling like a champ right about now, but I haven't slept in two days, and I can hear your bed singing to me."

"You're not sleeping in my bed," Gus says, warningly.

"Hello Shawn, long time no see, why don't you come and sleep in me," Shawn sing-songs. "Why, thank you, Gus's bed, don't mind if I do."

"Gus minds!" Gus says, and he swaggers (okay, staggers with character) through the door and makes it as far as his couch before collapsing into a heap.

"Shawn and Gus, Shawn and Gus, come on in and bond with us," Shawn sings, tugging at Gus's arm to get him back on his feet. "Those are your sheets, by the way. Oh, those temptatious, high thread count sirens!"

"I think I'll just...sleep like this," Gus says. He's folded sideways against the arm of the couch. His feet are still on the floor. He'll wake up crampy, and Shawn will have to hear more "Shawn, why would you let me do that?" than "Shawn, my scar from Nana Evil itches." Not on, Guster. Not on at all.

"Lay your head on my shoulder, Gus, and sleep sleep sleep, no need for counting sheep. That's a pillow song. You better listen, Gus. Pillows can be nasty when you resist them."

"You are no MC, Shawn," Gus says, around a jaw-cracking yawn. "Your rhymes are whack."

"My rhymes are dope!" Shawn glares down at Gus, offended. "Fine, see if I care, you lame critic of genius. I'm going to go crawl into your bed and if you're not coming with me, I guess that means I can do whatever I want, right?"

Gus cracks one eye open warily. "Shawn, you wouldn't."

"Ohhhh, yes I would," Shawn says. "Mattress trampoline, here I come!"

Gus looks agonized. "Shawn. Shawn. Mattress trampoline can only lead us back to the ER. Is that what you want?"

"The question you should be asking yourself is, is that what you want?" Shawn says, patting Gus on the shoulder. "Because I want to touch your ceiling with my head. And then next, maybe I'll..."

"What?" Gus asks, sitting up straighter. "What next?"

"Roll around naked under the duvet but on top of the sheets," Shawn says, nodding. "Bare-ass, Gus. All my bits, right there on your stuff." He stops, thinks about this. "And not in a sexy, fun-times way. I haven't showered in almost--well, let's just say it's been a while, Gus. Think about it."

Gus groans and holds out his hand. Shawn worries that pulling him to his feet will tug on his cut in a painful way, but clearly Gus is not getting up alone, and Shawn doesn't want him sleeping on the couch. Snuggling, yes, later, when Gus is feeling better. But sleeping, no. They work together to get Gus on his feet with the minimum of wincing, groaning (Shawn), and pain (Gus), and stagger toward the bedroom.

Gus is already in pajamas; he keeps a pair in the trunk of the car just in case ("Psycho," Shawn said. "Traveling salesman!" Gus defended), which came in handy with this whole hospital deal. It's easy enough to just throw back the covers, catch him as he's about to teeter and fall, and push him onto the mattress. He makes a happy sound, carefully settles his head deeper into the pillow, and lets Shawn cover him up and gently tuck the blankets around him.

Shawn strips off his jeans (stiff) and socks (...actually unspeakable), and heads for the bathroom with some of Gus's clean underwear and a t-shirt.

"Shawn," Gus says, when he's almost out the door. Shawn looks over his shoulder, eyebrows raised, and finds Gus looking at him from under sleepily half-closed lids. "You're coming back, right?"

If this were one of Gus's anime flicks, Shawn would melt, ooze over to Gus's bedside, and stay there in a happy puddle forever. Gus could pour coffee on him in the mornings, like watering a plant.

Reality sucks, so all Shawn can do is smile and say, "Always."


After taking a quick shower, Shawn feels human again. He puts on the boxers and t-shirt he'd brought in with him because much as he'd love to just crawl in between Gus's delightful sheets naked as the day he was born, it might freak Gus out.

This is not the time for that. Shawn is willing to give Gus at least a couple days of rest and recovery before springing nudeness and lewdness on him.

He has a toothbrush in a travel case in Gus's medicine cabinet. He uses it and swishes some mouthwash around, staring at himself in the mirror. He looks tired. His hair is flattened to his scalp in some places and sticky-up in other places. He has circles under his eyes and his cheeks look puffy; too much being awake, too much caffeine and sugar. He looks like he maybe needs a couple days of recovery time for himself.

Whatever; he's just going to bed.

To Gus's bed.

He crosses his eyes at his reflection, spits into the sink, and heads back to the bedroom. At some point, Gus must have fumbled for the light switch; it's dark and quiet, and pleasantly cool. He crawls up onto the mattress and collapses face first into the pillow, and almost startles himself right onto the floor when he hears Gus say, "Thanks."

"It's my job to get you out of the trouble I get you into," Shawn says, rolling onto his side and looking at Gus, picking out the sharp edges of his profile against the softer darkness of the room.

"You better believe it is," Gus says sternly, but Shawn has known him for more than 20 years, and he doesn't need to be able to see Gus's face to know that he's smiling.

"I believe it," Shawn says, and like a kid on a date in the 1950s, he oh so casually shifts his arm out, yawns, shifts again, until the back of his hand brushes Gus's arm.

Gus presses against his hand, just as casually, and Shawn falls asleep like that, smiling.


In the morning, when he wakes up, it is actually closer to afternoon.

Gus is already out of bed. Shawn smells pancakes; Gus's special chocolate blueberry pancakes, to be precise. For a moment he wallows. He enjoys the soft sheets, the pleasantly firm pillow, the smell of Gus and laundry detergent and pancakes. Then he gets up, stretches, scratches his stomach under Gus's t-shirt, adjusts himself in Gus's boxers, and wishes he could live like this at home.

Of course, the only way to do that would be to move Gus in with him. He wonders if he could do it without Gus noticing. It'd be easier to just stealthily move in with Gus, of course, but where's the challenge in that? Where's the fun?

He heads for the kitchen. "If you're warming up syrup right now, I'll kiss you," he calls, and turns the corner just in time to see Gus with a little plastic bowl of in his hands, fresh out of the microwave; excellent.

"Back, beast," Gus says, thrusting the syrup out like a shield. Shawn dodges, feints, tricks Gus (why has he never learned that when Shawn goes left, he's always really going to go right?) and kisses him right on the mouth.

For a second, neither one of them moves. Shawn had actually meant to get Gus's cheek and steal the syrup, but he missed (that's his story, and he'll stick to it). Then Gus's lips part, and his mouth is cool (juice) and tangy (orange), and Shawn kind of wants to crawl inside him and never come out.

He kisses Gus more deeply, paying attention to everything, every detail, until it's almost like not paying attention at all. This way, whether Gus shoves him or holds him, Shawn has options; he can dig into his memories and treasure everything, or tell himself he needs to experience it again and again because he didn't quite get it last time.

Gus fumbles the syrup bowl onto the counter and opens his arms, wraps them lightly around Shawn's waist. Gus holds him, and Shawn smiles against his mouth, beams, really, and backs him against the counter. He leans into Gus just right, feeling the warmth of his body through layers of clothes, feeling his strength and solidity the way he has for almost all of his life, from right inside Gus's space.

"This isn't like, I don't know, like making out with Han Solo, right?" he asks, when he breaks the kiss because one of them needs to breathe and he's pretty sure it's him.

Gus looks dazed. It could be the concussion. It might be lust. "More like that soap opera where the dude made out with his stepsister," he says.

"Oh." Shawn leans back a little. The kitchen seems much, much colder even just a couple inches away from Gus. "Do we have moral objections to that?"

Gus licks his lips, eyes Shawn's mouth, and says, "Actually, our parents never got it on, so I think this is cool."

Shawn sighs in relief and goes back to leaning against Gus, careful of Mrs. O'Reilly's close shave. He tucks his head against Gus's neck and says, "Gus."

Gus tightens his arms around Shawn's waist, hands sliding so that his thumbs are underneath the t-shirt, bracketing the valley at the base of Shawn's spine. "Yeah?" he breathes, and how did Shawn go so long without succumbing to his delicious, manly charms?

"Pancakes are burning," Shawn says, and he kisses Gus's cheek, laughing, when Gus curses and pushes him away.


Later, they sit on the couch with plates of pancakes and (reheated) syrup, with a blanket spread across their laps. Their shoulders are pressed together. They're watching all the stupid cartoons that Gus has saved on his Tivo, and it's just like hanging out, except Shawn thinks he's going to give Gus a blowjob later, after he's done eating pancakes.

On the TV screen, a roadrunner is causing all kinds of disaster for a poor, wily coyote. Pianos land on heads and Shawn winces, gives Gus's bruised temple a gentle, syrup-sticky kiss.

"I'm buying you a harness and leash, by the way," he says, going back to his plate.

Gus drops his fork into a pool of syrup. "Shawn."

"It'll be tasteful," Shawn says. "God, these are good. Listen, don't complain, I promised my dad that I wouldn't let you get broken, and I'm going to follow through."

"With fetish gear?" Gus says, horrified. "Shawn."

"When a guy like my dad asks what your intentions are, you can't just blow him off," Shawn says, forking up the last bite of his pancakes. "He asked me to make sure I didn't get you broken, and I promised him I wouldn't, and that's the end of it. Can you give him the recipe for these pancakes, by the way? I'm always meaning to ask."

"They're Bisquick, blueberries, and chocolate chips," Gus says. "Did you just propose to me with fetish gear?"

"You have to stop saying fetish gear like that," Shawn says. He turns a little, leaning back, so he can look into Gus's wide, surprised eyes (not that surprised, really). "But if I did, would you say yes?"

Gus looks at him, and he looks back; at the bruise and cut on Gus's temple, at his dark eyes and long lashes, at his fine web of laugh lines and everything else about him that is so familiar and so totally vital to Shawn's daily existence.

"I think I already did," Gus says, thoughtfully. Shawn nods, beaming so hard his face hurts, like the sun is actually trying to shine through his cheeks.

"It would have been pretty useless to say no," he says. "Unless you wanted to break my heart or something. I wouldn't recommend that, though. You'd just have to put it together again anyway."

"I don't think you need to worry," Gus says. "In fact, if I had to guess, I'd say things are all good." He smiles, slow and sweet, and leans forward to kiss Shawn like it's something they've been doing since 1987. Then he turns back to the cartoon, and Shawn puts his plate on the coffee table and slithers down underneath the blankets, and yeah, it's all good, better than good; it really, really is.