When Shawn was seven years old, he snapped his fingers for the first time and everything changed.
Shawn was lounging, half asleep in the afternoon light, when he heard the words "robbery" and immediately perked up. He grabbed the remote, turning up the volume and watching as the lovely Ms. Katie Sanchez (professional, dark hair in a tight bun; always made sure to pronounce her vowels with extra crispness) motioned to the wrecked bank behind her, smoke pouring out the windows and fire trucks doing their best to contain the blaze, and told the world that the biggest heist in Santa Barbara history had just been committed.
He was already out the door and calling Gus before she got past the 'o'.
"Come on, Gus, it's a jewel heist. You love jewel heists!" Shawn followed Gus into his office, sun filtering through the blinds and giving everything that nice healthy California glow. Gus spun back around, face still firmly set at 'determined to not fall for this again'.
"No, Shawn, I love jewel heists on TV. Not when they involve three dead guards, millions of dollars in diamonds, and the police chief specifically telling you not to touch this one because it's too dangerous. These criminals are serious, Shawn, and I'd rather keep on living, thank you." Gus crossed his arms and tried to stare Shawn down.
It wasn't like it was that big of a heist. Okay, so it was. But Shawn was already fifty-seven percent sure he knew who it was. He just had to get a look at the secondary crime scene to be sure, which was proving to be a lot more difficult than he'd expected.
"Gus, it's the biggest heist in Santa Barbara history. We gotta take this one."
"We don't have to do anything." And with that Gus started for the door.
"Gus, you're coming with me," Shawn called triumphantly, throwing the door open to Gus' office.
"Coming with you where?" Gus was weary, obviously he still hadn't gotten over their road trip. It had been fun and informative and seriously, he needed to move on.
"I'm taking you on a little vacation."
Gus narrowed his eyes. "Why is it I don't trust you? Oh, that's right, because the last vacation we took I ended up in Mexico with no pants."
"That was just the one time and it was completely by accident. Rosa seemed like a nice girl."
"She was a thief Shawn."
"Okay, a nice thief."
"She was a thief that stole my wallet by stealing my pants."
"Okay, fine, Rosa was a bad person, can we move on to the fact that I'm taking you on a vacation that does not involve crossing the border if that'll make you happy?"
"Gus, you know deep snow drifts scare me. And I get frostbite easily."
Gus hesitated, seeming to think about it. Shawn tapped a foot impatiently.
"All right. But I'm driving," he finally said, relenting. Shawn smiled brightly and threw an arm around Gus' shoulders.
Shawn directed Gus toward El Camino, the twisting road that snaked up most of the coastline and went everywhere. After a few miles, he got Gus to stop for fountain drinks and snack cake goodness ("I'm impulsive, I didn't think to bring food. Plus, snack cakes are the food of the gods. You can't say no to little Debbie's Gus.")
Gus woke up around mile marker one hundred twenty-seven.
"I can't believe you fell for it again."
Gus glared at him, sullen. "You are a horrible best friend."
Shawn frowned at him and threw a hand to his heart. "You wound me Gus."
"Well, you are. What kind of a person knocks their friend out, twice, and steals their car, twice?"
"I don't think it's technically stealing if you're still in it."
"C'mon Gus, you and I both know you're going to thank me for this in the end. It's not every day you get to see history in the making."
"We're not going on a vacation, are we?"
Shawn turned down the road to the bank, and a multitude of cop cars, news vans, and curious public came into view.
"Not exactly, no." He gave Gus a crooked smile, trying for charming but Gus knew all of his tricks and only grew more sullen.
"We're going to work another case, aren't we?"
"It's the biggest jewel heist in Santa Barbara history!" Shawn exclaimed.
Gus just looked at him.
"They have cool forensics gizmos!"
Gus remained unperturbed.
“Like a 3D gauging tool for taking trajectory measurements down to the micron,” Shawn continued.
"I’m not sure I believe you, but we’re here and there’s at least a forty percent change you’re not actually making that up. So I’m going to give you ten minutes and after that we’re leaving," Gus replied, still eyeing him suspiciously but his interest was totally piqued.
Shawn smiled to himself, it was totally made up but ten minutes was all he needed.
The next few weeks passed by in a rush. He was booked, working his own cases and those the police threw his way, mind whirling with five people's lying habits and the imprint of the O'Brian corporations layout stuck in his head for at least a week. It was one case after the other and relying on his “psychic” powers wasn't always enough, sometimes he had to help it along a bit, which is where the reset button came in.
It wasn’t like he was reckless or using it to look up the lotto numbers (he’d tried one time and the universe had a funny way of saying ‘fuck you Shawn that’s selfish’) and it wasn’t like he didn’t know his limits. They were little jumps, tiny bunny hops of time really that only left him a little dehydrated, maybe a little nauseous. Nothing worse than the time-travelling equivalent of a hangover.
But if Shawn were honest with himself, he'd say he was going a little crazy from having so many memories competing with each other.
But when had he ever mean honest with himself anyway, honesty was for chumps.
Ben Folds was playing on the radio and Shawn was lounging, enjoying the day off (he deserved it after all his hard work, three cases solved in as many weeks? Damn good showing if he did say so himself). He was comfortably settled, sprawled on the sofa, snack foods already gathered and remote within easy reach. A knock at the door interrupted his mid-air cheeto catching (a popular sport, he was reigning champ of course).
Shawn jerked, looking at the door curiously. Gus was working today.
The cheeto hit him in the head.
Another louder and much more incessant knock sounded. "Alright, I'm coming," he called, shoving the bowel onto the coffee table.
He took the easy way, hopping over the sofa and reaching the door in three seconds flat, swinging it open, grin already plastered on his face. "I didn't think they started selling girl scout cookies this early but-" he stopped and stared.
Lassiter was on his doorstep, dirt streaking his face in dark patches, his shirt ripped along the shoulder, tie gone and a button missing. There was blood on his collar and the edge of his sleeves, rolled up to the elbow but still not enough to conceal the dark crimson spatters. He didn't even have his jacket.
He stumbled forward, one hand fisting in Shawn's shirt for balance.
"Lassiter? What-what happened?" Lassiter's face was pale beneath the dark grey and black dirt-that-was-really-ash, his eyes impossibly round, the dark blue standing out and catching Shawn off guard.
He looked utterly lost.
"It's gone," he finally ground out, voice hollow and unbelieving.
Shawn herded Lassiter in, settling him on the couch, the giant sofa garish and disconcerting around the usually button-downed detective. He had always seemed ten times larger, taking up space and demanding attention, but now all that cop swagger and toughness was gone.
Shawn set on the coffee table across from him and asked, as gently as he could, fearing the answer, "What's gone?"
"The department. They blew up the whole damn building."
And Shawn didn't even think about it, he just closed his eyes and snapped his fingers, the sight of Lassiter sitting in front of him, unguarded and broken, burned against the inside of his eyelids.
There's the familiar bright white-hot sensation and his skin tingled, then pricked, finally heating up but not quite burning. Good. He still had plenty of time to work with.
The last thing he heard was that echoing snap, hollow and distant, and it was already fading by the time the vertigo kicked in.
A knock at the door roused Shawn from his half doze, forcing him to abandon his rather comfortable position on the couch. It wasn't every day he got to watch bad horror films, gorge on Cheetos, and generally be dead to the world. He'd taken a self-imposed break, a hiatus from the hectic life of being Santa Barbara's top reigning psychic (beating out Wonderful Wanda and even Crazy Eddie, who carried a hip flask, had a lazy eye, and was prone to talking to walls and fire hydrants, but had somehow managed to hold onto the spot for years now. Shawn still couldn't understand that one.)
He'd been working too many cases lately, the department getting more and more crimes full of interesting clues and juicy leads. Shawn couldn't say no (not that anyone specifically asked him to help, well except that one time, but Jules only wanted to use him as bait, so that one so didn't count). Bank robberies, jewel heists, not-dead dead husbands, missing paintings, and Shawn's personal favorite, the Michael Manners embezzlement and counterfeit money scam. He still had the article (they even named him and everything).
All of which was of no consequence, because he was being interrupted from quality relaxation time here.
He flung the door open to see Lassiter, looking flushed, peeked, and a little wild around the eyes. There was dirt smudged along his cheek, his tie was loose, canted sharply like whoever'd put it on was either very drunk or a sailor on a very rough stormy day. There was blood on his collar and the edge of his sleeves, rolled up to the elbow but not enough to conceal the dark crimson spatters. He didn't even have his jacket.
For a split second, he sees Lassiter sitting on his sofa, his face cracking open with undisguised shock, but before he can even blink, it's gone.
"Lassie, what-" But Shawn didn't have time to finish his sentence before Lassiter grabbed his shoulder and tugged, hard.
"You're coming with me. Now." His eyes were hard edged, demanding, and Shawn couldn't protest. "There's a bomb in the department and the man holding the trigger wants to talk to you."
Trees and sidewalk blurred by, the police siren whirring cheerfully above him, making sure no one thought twice about getting in front of the car pushing eighty. Shawn looked out the window, mind racing.
"How can you take your phone off the hook and not even once check your cell. We've been trying to reach you for god knows how long and the time it took me to get out here and back-"
"I get it Lassiter. How was I supposed to know some nutjob would try to blow up the police department?"
Lassiter glared at him, making Shawn swallow nervously.
"You're the self-proclaimed psychic, Spencer." Lassiter spit the word 'psychic' out like a curse, visibly disgusted, his lip curling and eyes narrowing slightly…and Shawn realized, just like that, that Lassiter blamed him, irrationally but undeniable.
He didn't respond. There was nothing he could say.
The cool glass beneath his forehead wasn't much of a reassurance as they drove on, Shawn unable to stop himself from counting the seconds until they got there. He pulled his phone out again and tried to call Gus.
Still no answer.
It took them twenty-three minutes to get to the station. Usually it took forty-seven. Lassiter pulled up, slowly, parking a block down to avoid the panic.
The scene that greeted Shawn was utter chaos, the type of which he'd never seen before. News cameras and serious reporters littered the surrounding area; family and curious bystanders thronged the sidewalks, street, lawn, everywhere, pressing into the orange-bright barricades and demanding to know what was happening. The streetlights flickered overhead, not that they were needed, the camera flood lights casting sharp shadows and crisp harsh white light everywhere. Mostly, it hurt Shawn's eyes.
Shawn expected them to shove a headset and cell at him (it's what happens in the movies) but instead he got a microphone and the glaring lens of a camera for News Twelve. Katie, showing off too white teeth and dressed in the light brown suit (usually reserved for every third Wednesday) was in his face instantly.
"Excuse me, you're psychic Shawn Spencer, did you know this was going to happen? Did the criminal really call for you?" Shawn's surprised, eyes still glued to the orange-yellow flames trailing along the department's left wing, where the interrogation rooms were. The front is relatively unscathed, the broken glass twinkling like deranged fallen stars on the pavement the only sign of trouble.
Lassiter's at his side suddenly, though Shawn hadn't even noticed he'd left, shoving the camera away and yelling at the reporters that it’s a restricted zone for a reason, for the love of all that is holy, how did you even get in here, how can you call yourselves reporters.
It barely registered on Shawn's peripheral, he's too busy looking at the scene: tire marks next to the green Mazda in the parking lot, empty space surrounded by scattered debris, a mask and gloves…looks like the other guy took the getaway car. Which meant whoever's in there didn't plan on blowing themselves up, which meant there's a chance.
"Hey Lassiter, are they going to give me a phone or what? Unless you want me to yell at the guy, though I don't think he could hear me too well from this distance. That's some thick concrete you guys got, strong foundation."
Lassiter turned, still hustling the reporters out, his brow furrowed in confusion. "I told you to go to the operations tent."
Shawn shrugged. "I got distracted." Taking a quick look around, he caught the sight of a beige monstrosity of a tent. It was pretty hard to miss. "Oh, look, there it is."
He pushed the tent flap open, feeling all of eight years old again and asking his father why he had to sleep in a tent when the camp had perfectly nice cabins for the other troupes, only to be told, gruffly, that he'd better learn to rough it now cause the world isn't peaches and sunshine, son. That he'd better suck it up and learn how to make a proper bedroll and cinch knot.
A table was set up in the center, piled high with files, photos, and enough coffee to keep an army on its toes for a week. Vick was at the front, motioning at a whiteboard with a grainy picture of a smallish man, hooded, no defining features besides sporting a crooked nose from the looks of it.
He'd barely been in there five seconds before the hot and stuffy air caught up to him, the heavy nylon of high-duty camping tents everywhere blocking out the cool California breeze and probably making everyone irritable and short-tempered. Not good if he's supposed to talk to this guy about not blowing up a building.
Jesus, he's going to talk to this guy about not blowing up a building.
"I think I need to sit down," he mumbled, making a grab for the nearest chair and missing.
Vick looked up at the sound of his voice, far too much hope in her eyes.
"Mr. Spencer," she said evenly, calm, motioning him over, "tell me you've been briefed. And you should know the only reason, the only one, that you're here is because he asked for you. I don't want you thinking this is going to be a season pass to anything close to this type of mayhem again." The other officers shuffled, not saying anything. Huh, Buzz wasn't here.
"Hey, where's Buzz?"
"Take a guess Spencer," Lassiter said behind him, having just entered, steathlike and far too quietly.
Shawn swallowed, hard, mouth suddenly too dry.
"That guy really has a bomb?"
"Strapped to his chest and everything," Vick replied, crossing her arms.
"Well, he's certainly not going to win any points for originality." Shawn surveyed the table, casually walking around it in slow measured steps. Subtlety was key.
"We're not sure why he wants-"
Wait, a crooked nose…
Shawn gripped the table, one hand flying to his head. He let out one cry of pain, like his head was about to split open, then fell to his knees, leaning his forehead against the table. It's not a big show, there's no time for it.
He lifted his head up, bright-eyed and trying to look like he'd had a revelation.
"It's Dorian Manners! I named his brother as the embezzler in the O'Brian case a month ago. And the jury convicted Michael last week. And he hasn't made any specific demands yet. Except for calling me here," he paused, taking a glance around, all eyes on him. Good. "Am I right?" A charming smile was all it took to get shuffles and a few murmurs of amazement from the guys in those stylish FBI windbreakers. Always fun to have a new audience.
Vick stood there in silent surprise for a moment, before ordering John and Sam, new to the force but good at research, to find everything on the Manners brothers that they could.
"I really should stop being surprised by this," Vick said, voice cutting through the low din that had followed his psychic act.
"So...when do I talk to him?"
"Before you get into this, there's some things you need to know. He has twelve officers in there and all the guns they have on them, plus those in lock up if he gets the keys-"
"Or just breaks the door open. I've been telling you, we need better security-" Lassiter interrupted, anger underlining his words and making Vick pause. Looked like Lassiter's policies weren't implemented very often. Interesting.
"Be that as it may," Vick continued, sending Lassiter a harsh glare, "Mr. Spencer, don't say anything to set this guy off. Listen to what the negotiators tell you, say what they tell you, and do not, under any circumstances, make him angry. You got that?"
Shawn saluted, he couldn't help himself. Vick rolled her eyes and pointed at two of the new people. The dark-haired man had a casual air about him, easy going, even if he kept glancing at the woman beside him side-long. She was a little uptight, hands twittering in rhythms along her leg subconsciously. "Spencer, I'd like you to meet the negotiators the FBI has ever so kindly lent us. Matt Flannery and Emily Lehman."
Neither of them offered their hands, Shawn didn't feel like handshaking himself at the moment. He'd never really been into the whole thing really, more of a high fiver.
Matt looked Shawn up and down, then glanced back to Vick. "Alright, now that the introductions are over, we'd better get on with the actual negotiating part." He started for the tent flap, one hand ghosting to Emily's lower back, gently guiding her in front of him. Shawn made a mental note, but didn't say anything. There was no need, at least not yet.
Shawn followed them out of the tent and to where they'd set up their own base camp just a few feet over, full of lots and lots of high tech equipment he'd never seen before.
"Oh, look, everything's so shiny." He reached for one of the headpieces, only to be swatted at by Emily.
"Touch the equipment and I'll kill you," she said, smiling sweetly and securing her own headset.
"Somebody hasn't been getting laid lately," Shawn threw back, smirking as her and Matt's eyes both darkened slightly. She opened her mouth to retort, glaring, but Matt cut her off.
"Alright, I want you to listen to me. This guy is going to try to manipulate you. He's going to try to get you do what he wants. If he asks for something, food, cash, a pony, whatever, you gotta clear it with us first before you go making any promises, or my partner really will kill ya," Matt said, holding out a black regular looking phone.
Shawn nodded and took the phone. Matt pulled up a seat across the table, leafing through the papers they had and checking on the...phone tap it looked like. Emily stood next to him, arms crossed and still glaring. Probably wasn't such a good idea to get on her bad side. Too late now.
She looked to Matt, who nodded once in response.
"Okay, you're on."
The dial tone buzzed in his ear once. Twice. Then he heard the sound of fabric rustling and the clearing of a throat before Dorian finally spoke.
"Took you long enough, psychic."
Shawn looked at Matt and Emily in surprise. Emily made a twirling gesture with her finger, telling him to keep the guy talking. So he did.
"You set my brother up."
Shawn blinked, baffled.
"Don't play stupid, Shawn Spencer, yeah I know your name, you're a real big shot in town now for finding the jewel thief. But my brother didn't do it! You made it look like he did it then threw your fake psychic act just so you could get away with it yourself."
"Now wait a minute, if I had millions of dollars worth of diamonds stashed somewhere, would I still be hanging around here? No, I'd be in Baja."
Shawn noticed Matt writing something down in large bold letters. Emily went to him, leaning over his shoulder. She whispered something in his ear, but Shawn didn't catch it. He 'hmm-ed' in response, and held up the sign.
It read: Make him talk about his brother. Evidence? Shawn mouthed a 'duh' back at them.
"Maybe…maybe you're biding your time," Dorian said, voice strained and going a little high-pitched.
"For what? Christmas, Easter, the Rapture? My visions have helped solve cases for the police for months now. Face it, your brother was a criminal. And you holding the whole police department hostage? Not really helping your case."
"It got your attention didn't it?"
"So do hot dog stands, you could have just held one of those up. Or, dude, you could have talked to the police. Or me if they didn't listen. I have an agency, it's in the yellow pages. I mean, sometimes the cosmos can be a little vague in what it sends me."
"I talked to them, they said you'd never been wrong, why would you be now with so much evidence against him. Didn't matter that he had an alibi, they couldn't fact check it so they told me to just accept the fact that I didn't know my brother as well as I thought I did."
Shawn's palm was getting sweaty, the phone slippery in his grasp. His mouth felt too dry all of a sudden. There was no way Michael didn't do it. No possible way. Every single thing led back to him. The dog, the ripped jacket, the witnesses, everything. He couldn't have been wrong. He couldn't.
"It's easy to plant evidence, Shawn Spencer. It happens all the time."
"If the evidence was planted, I'd know," Shawn growled, defenses rising.
"Because you're a psychic," Dorian mocked back sharply, cruel.
"How else would I know your partner took off in your getaway car," Shawn countered. Emily's eyes widened in surprise, while Matt's eyebrow crept into a questioning arch, but neither said a word.
There was a moment's pause, nothing but Dorian's quick, heavy breathing on the other end of the line.
"Admit you set the whole thing up and escort my freed brother into the building or this place gets blown sky high. You have an hour," he finally said, low and full of dark promise.
Dorian hung up and static hissed like a death sentence in Shawn's ear.
"'Or this place gets blown sky high'? He really is unoriginal. I can think of at least five much more cooler ways to say that," Shawn mustered up weakly, trying for cheerful but it sounded flat and hollow even to him.
"He's only going to be satisfied if I'm the one that gets arrested for it," Shawn said, sitting on the table, swinging his legs in long lazy circles.
"He wants his brother exonerated first and foremost. You getting caught for the crime is just petty revenge for being the one to put him behind bars in the first place. That's not what he's really after," Emily said, leaning on storage boxes stacked five high. She clutched a coffee cup, rotating it back and forth between her hands. Matt sat in his chair backwards between Shawn and her, tapping a pen to his chin.
Shawn stared at the floor, concentrating,
"I could go in there. Trade myself for-"
"No, not happening. He's not going to trade that many hostages just for you. And certainly not if his brother's still in jail," Emily replied, her face stern, determined.
Shawn shrugged. "So we get his brother out of jail, get him to walk out, and then arrest both of them."
Emily gapped at him. "You can not be that naïve?" She glanced at Matt, surprised and questioning. "He's not just going to walk out of there, Mr. Spencer. He's going to want a van and some reassurance that we won't follow him. He's not stupid."
"So, talk him out of it. Isn't that what you guys do?"
"Well, yeah, but-"
"Look, Shawn," Matt said pointedly, cutting Emily off. "We can't just send you in there. It's a powder keg, and I mean literally. There's no telling what could set this guy off, and you being there might just do the trick if he realizes we're not going to give him what he wants. He blows the bomb, he at least gets you along with everybody else. It's too big a risk."
One of them…it had to get a lot worse before he'd do that, his body still jangled from that morning. He'd been doing it too much, going back too far, too often. There was only so much his body could take before it started shutting down, rebelling, and-
His phone rang, playing In The Air Tonight in it's tiny buzzing voice. Shawn pulled it from his pocket, surprised and relieved.
"Jesus, Gus, I've been trying to call you for the last hour, what gives man-"
"Dude, get down to the police station right now. You remember Dorian, that guy with the bad breathe, he's holding the department hostage and I'm the negotiator-"
"Shawn, listen to me."
"I mean, sure, they didn't pick me, he'd only talk to me and it's crazy but still so totally awesome. I get one of those cool headsets and everything."
"I'm already there."
"What? No you're not, because I'd have seen you by now."
"I'm in the building Shawn."