At 7:38 on a Sunday morning, someone knocked on his door. Actually, pounded was a better description. Shawn grumbled and stuck his head under his pillow. He was far too hung-over to deal with this. The pounding persisted, however.
“Nobody here but us chickens.”
More knocking. His neighbor's dog was going crazy.
“Mister Spencer, if you don't open this door I am authorized to come in and get you.”
What the hell? He hadn't broken any laws lately, at least as far as he was aware. Unless all those unpaid parking tickets counted...
“OKAY, fine, I'm coming! Geez.” After a few moments scrambling, he opened his front door to find a tall dark-haired man in a non-descript black suit, surrounded by several equally non-descript flunkies.
“Whatever it was, I didn't do it.”
The man was unamused. “Mister Spencer, I'm an agent of the government agency known as SHIELD. I'm here to offer you an.... opportunity.” There was a sour look on his face, like the words left a bad taste in his mouth.
The remainder of the conversation happened over several industrial-sized mugs of coffee as Agent Lassiter laid his cards on the table. Apparently this agency, whatever it was, was looking for people with special talents, and Shawn's particular gift had landed him on their radar. (He could almost hear his father's voice in his head, nagging him about keeping a low profile.)
“So that's it? Sign my life away for a chance to change the world?”
“More or less.” Lassiter snatched the coffee cup from his hand and finished the drink before Shawn could protest.
“Tempting.” It really was. He'd been pretty much drifting since high school, and there wasn't much tying him to this place. Except for the one thing he couldn't stand to leave behind.
“Can I just... ask for one small favor?
Gus was busy packing his sample case later that morning when he felt the familiar tickle in the back of his mind.
I'm busy, Shawn. What do you want?
Dude. He could practically see his best friend's stupid grin. You are never gonna believe this.
They ended up making him a SHIELD medical liaison, despite his protests that he didn't actually have any formal medical training. Apparently his near-encyclopedic knowledge of every medication created in the past twenty years was qualification enough. Any further comment on the matter was summarily dismissed as he shook hands with Captain freakin' America.
Director Fury, meanwhile, was looking over Shawn's file. It should not have been possible for someone to glower that effectively with only one eye.
“You'll need some toughening up.” He said to Shawn. “It's not going to be easy.”
Shawn agreed eagerly, which set Gus on edge, because Shawn was his best friend in the world and gifted in a lot of ways, but he was also the laziest person he'd ever met. Apparently it took the promise of impending superhero-dom to get him anywhere near an exercise regimen.
By the time the newest Avenger, code-named Psyon (“Did you let him choose his own name?”) was ready to make his public debut, Gus had nearly worried himself sick.
I still think I should get to fly.
You do enough damage on the ground.
As it turned out, his worry wasn't entirely unfounded.
“Sorry to drag you all the way down here at this hour, Guster, but he won't let anyone else near him.”
Gus could hear Shawn whining from across the hangar. “Ow! Unhand me, you philistines!”
He'd been hanging out with Thor too long. And Gus was almost entirely certain he had no idea what 'philistine' actually meant.
He'd been trying to steel himself for the worst, but he still drew in a sharp breath as he got close enough to see the damage. The green and blue body armor they'd kitted Shawn out with was shredded in various places, and there were the beginnings of some spectacular bruises on his exposed chest. Judging by the surrounding hubbub the rest of the team was similarly battered, but Gus only had eyes for Shawn.
“Boy, what the hell are you doing?”
“Gus! You're here!” Shawn unceremoniously snaked an arm around his waist and rested his head on his stomach. “Save me.”
Gus sighed. “If I agree to check you out, will you stop making a scene?”
Shawn sniffled. “Maybe.”
Still muttering under his breath, Gus examined him as best he could, finding no serious damage other than a few deep-ish cuts.
“Stop being a baby. You really should get these stitched up.”
Shawn leaned against him again. “You're supposed to kiss 'em and make it all better.”
“We're in public, Shawn.” He looked over Shawn's head to where Clint and Natasha were pretending not to stare at them. Natasha seemed amused, though her expression was as inscrutable as ever.
He was pretty sure no one missed the affectionate ruffle he gave Shawn's hair.
When he had time to stop and think about it, which wasn't very often, it always surprised him just how much their lives hadn't changed. They still got up early on Saturdays to watch cartoons. (They were halfway through The Real Ghostbusters, because Shawn had somehow made it his personal mission to educate Steve on the particulars of 1980s pop culture.) They still had regular arguments about whose turn it was to wash the dishes and take out the trash, and Shawn still curled up against him like a lost puppy when they slept together. All this made it easier to cope with things like the extra muscle on his boyfriend's body, or the fact that he really didn't deal well with hurting people.
He bundled Shawn off back home after he'd gotten patched up, curtly telling Lassiter they could debrief him in the morning. (“Why Agent Lassiter, I never knew you cared.”) After he shoved him in the shower for several minutes and wrapped him up in his snuggliest pajamas, they curled up under the covers together.
“How bad was it?” he asked, running his hand through Shawn's hair.
He shuddered. “Bad enough.”
And all Gus could do was hold him tighter, because he's the only one who knows the secretly sensitive kid Shawn used to be. The one who hid his tears for a week when his pet rabbit died and didn't even get out of bed for three days after his mom left town.
A few weeks later, they were invited to tour the newly rebuilt Stark Tower, and Tony Stark's CEO/ex-assistant/better half poured him a cup of tea while Shawn followed Tony around like an awestruck teenager.
“It doesn't get any easier,” she told him gently. “But you learn to live with it.”
And he believed her, because she was one of the few people he knew who understood how it felt to fear for someone's life and be intensely proud of them at the same time. And if he was any judge of character, she also knew how it felt to love someone beyond reason and still occasionally want to punch them in the face.
That was about the time he had to go corral Shawn because he was making Tony and Bruce both nervous. (“Seriously, kid, I like you but you're like a bull in a china shop. Shoo.” “They disproved that saying on Mythbusters! I thought you were a scientist.”)
Gus was starting to lose track of how many world-saving shenanigans, ruckuses and fracas the Avengers had gotten themselves into. They were a couple of months into the whole superhero and sidekick gig (Gus felt he could wear that label with some pride now, even if he didn't actually get to go on missions) when Shawn got a text from his mother.
“Are you even supposed to be giving this number out?”
Shawn frowned unexpectedly and threw the phone across the room, where it fortunately landed on the bed. “It doesn't matter.”
“What...?” Gus frowned himself as Shawn shouldered his way past him and out of the room. He retrieved the phone from the bed and checked the messages.
He understood when all the text said was call your father.
It took a while to convince Shawn and even longer to wrangle a few days of personal leave from SHIELD, but eventually, on a “rare doom-free day,” as Shawn put it, they stood together on the front porch of Shawn's childhood home.
“I never thought I'd be back here.”
“It's for the best.” Gus squeezed his hand, gave him a peck on the cheek and pushed him forward. Shawn was still giving him an annoyed look as he knocked on the door.
The screen door opened a crack.
“Hi, Dad. I'm back.”