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What's Gus Got To Do With It?

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1986

 

Gus was sitting on the beach, just close enough to the water that when the tide rushed in it ran over his legs and hips. Shawn darted past, lifting his knees high to get over the waves. Gus threw up his arms to deflect a faceful of salt water that sprayed his way. He glared at Shawn, but he only laughed, bending to get his hands in the water so he could splash Gus properly.

It was Mr. Spencer's first day off in weeks and in a rare moment of generosity, he'd agreed to bring Shawn and Gus to the beach. Gus thought maybe he was trying to make up for Shawn’s mom leaving again. Even though it was the second time she had moved out of the house, Gus still couldn't wrap his mind around it. What kind of fight could a mom and dad have that was so bad that one of them would just go away?   His mom told him that not everyone was as lucky as he was, but he still didn't really understand. All he knew was that asking Shawn resulted in a sad, pinched expression that he didn't like. So Gus resolved himself to be silently supportive. That's what being a best friend was about, after all.

The tide rolled out again and Gus dug his fingers into the sand, picking up a handful. The waves rushed back in and he squeezed his fingers tight around the sand, but the water stole most of it away. He opened his hand to see what was left just as Shawn bounded up, splashing water everywhere, and washing the remaining sand away.

“Gus, Gus! Go out in the waves with me!”

“You better not dunk me, Shawn,” Gus warned him as he got to his feet.

“I swear on Castle Greyskull,” Shawn promised, offering Gus his hand. Gus rolled his eyes, but took his friend's hand anyway. Swearing on He-Man was serious business after all.

They moved out past the first break of waves, pushing off the sandy floor as they rolled past. Gus liked the buoyant feeling when they timed their jumps just right. The next set of waves were higher and Gus got a mouthful of seawater for his trouble.

“Maybe we should go back,” he sputtered. Shawn laughed, his bangs plastered flat against his forehead as he float-bounced over the next wave.

“C’mon Gus! The danger is half the fun!”

A huge foaming wave crashed over them both and Gus lost his grip on Shawn’s hand. When he surfaced, they were suddenly much further from the shore than the moment before. Another swell hit them and instead of pushing them back in, it dragged them further out. Gus floundered, his toes barely scraping the sand. The water was deeper out here and he couldn't touch anymore.

“Shawn, I think we should go back.” Gus turned a circle in the water, panic rising when he couldn't find his friend. “Shawn?!”

Something grabbed his shoulder and Gus shrieked. He spun around and found himself face-to-face with Mr. Spencer. His right hand was gripping Gus’ shoulder and he had Shawn by the scruff of his neck with his left. He looked mad.

“What are you boys thinking, getting out this far? There's a dangerous undertow in this area!”

“Undertow?” Gus asked.

“Rip currents that'll drag you under and drown you.” Mr. Spencer answered. “Now how do you think your mom would feel if I had to tell her that her son drowned on my watch?”

“It was Shawn's idea!” Gus blurted, pushing past the guilty feeling he got at Shawn’s betrayed expression.

Mr. Spencer sighed. “Of course it was. C’mon, boys, we're going home.”



Present

 

“Shawn, why are we sneaking around a warehouse at two in the morning? I should be in the middle of my REM cycle right now!”

“First off, I don't know what Michael Stipe has to do with anything,” Shawn answered as he peered out from behind the shipping container they were currently concealed behind. “And B: shhh! Are you actively trying to get caught?”

“It stands for Rapid Eye Movement,” Gus shot back, but he lowered his voice nonetheless. Shawn had that wild-eyed look he got when he'd been focusing on a case to the exclusion of everything else. “It's a stage of sleep. When was the last time you got some?”

“Gus, I listen to Losing My Religion every morning while I brush my teeth, I can't believe you don't know this.” He chanced another peek around the corner and then grabbed Gus by the wrist, dragging him along as they darted across the concrete floor to a new hiding place.

“You still haven't told me what we're doing here.” Gus yanked his hand back.

“I figured out that encoded email we found was about shipping times. Our smuggler should be arriving…wait for iiiiiit...now!”

Like magic, as soon as Shawn finished speaking, there was the squeal of metal as the garage door on the far side of the warehouse opened. An SUV rolled in and three men climbed out. One of them was slight and well-dressed in a three piece suit, but the other two were hulking bodyguards, and Gus saw the metal glint of guns in their hands before he ducked back behind the shipping container.

“Uh, Shawn? Did you happen to call Lassiter and Juliet before you dragged me out of bed?”

Shawn's smug grin faded. “Dammit, I knew I forgot something. I thought I left the stove on.”

“You don't even cook, Shawn! I swear--”

“You're late,” boomed a voice from somewhere behind them and Gus let out a startled yelp. Luckily, Shawn seemed to have anticipated it and clapped his hand over Gus’s mouth a split-second before, stifling the sound. He gave Gus a reproachful look. Gus thought seriously for a moment about biting him.

“I did not come here for a lecture on punctuality,” replied Three Piece Suit in a clipped British accent. “I came for the exchange. Is everything prepared?"

“‘Course it is,” snapped the second man, who Gus now realized hadn't been behind them at all, but had come out of an office on the same side of the warehouse as their hiding place. “This ain’t my first time at the rodeo.” There were footsteps and Shawn released Gus, leaning further out from behind the shipping container, ostensibly to get a look. Gus resisted the urge to yank him back, knowing from experience that Shawn would probably cause a ruckus and get them caught.

“Gus, there's diamonds!” He hissed.

Before Gus could formulate a response that fully expressed how much he did not want to be witness to a diamond smuggling ring, there was an outraged shout.

“This isn't even half of what I was promised!” cried British man.

The second man didn't even get a chance to explain. There was the sound of a brief scuffle and then two loud gunshots that echoed through the warehouse.

Gus screamed. Unfortunately Shawn was still watching the scene unfold and wasn't there to stop him this time. He ducked back behind the shipping container, eyes wide.

There was a long moment of silence. Shawn and Gus stared at each other, frozen.

“What,” said the Brit, his voice sounding even more nefarious than before, “the bloody hell. Was that?”

Footsteps moved slowly in their direction.Shawn was casting his eyes around the room, frantically trying to find a solution to the mess they were in. When he met Gus' eyes, it was clear he didn't have one.

“Run!” Shawn turned and pushed over the stack of shipping containers and then he was behind Gus, shoving him along. There was a shout of surprise from one of the bodyguards as the boxes fell on top of him, but Gus didn't turn to see. For once in his life, he was 100% in agreement with his friend.

“The ladder!” Shawn urged and Gus didn't hesitate, grabbing the first rung and scrambling up towards the catwalk. There was a whizzing sound and something dinged off the metal just above Gus’s hand, sending sparks flying.

“Shawn! They're shooting at us!” He yelled. “I cannot believe you pulled me out of bed to get shot at! Again!”

“Buddy, I promise you it was not part of the gameplan,” Shawn retorted. “Now move !”

Gus did. He reached the top of the catwalk and hauled Shawn up by his arm. Below, the bodyguards were taking aim again. Shawn grabbed his elbow and they sprinted along the walkway as the gunmen fired another volley of shots. Gus actually heard the tear of fabric as one ripped through his suit jacket.

“Stop, you stupid lugs!” yelled the Brit, “You'll bring the whole police department down on us.”

Seconds later, they shoved through a doorway and tore down the fire escape steps. They kept running down the alley past another three warehouses before it became evident they weren't being chased. Gus threw himself back against a wall, gasping for breath and Shawn stumbled to a stop in front of him.

“Look at you, dodging bullets like a pro! Very Danny Glover.” Shawn managed between gasps for air. He was still moving, pacing, pupils blown wide with adrenaline.

“That makes you Mel Gibson,” Gus pointed out. Shawn wrinkled his nose.

“Well that's no good. Besides, Glover never would've screamed like a girl over a couple gunshots--”

“It was not girly!” Gus protested and Shawn skidded to a stop and quirked an eyebrow. He was grinning.

“C’mon, Gus-Gus…” he trailed off, his gaze catching somewhere around Gus’s stomach, expression going from teasing to terrified in the blink of an eye. He took a sudden step forward into Gus’s space. Gus automatically tried to back up, but there was nowhere to go with the wall behind him.

“Oh my God, did they hit you?!” There was a ripping noise as Shawn wrenched his jacket off, reaching out to feel the lower left side of his stomach. His hands were warm and insistent. Gus's breath hitched as Shawn’s fingers pressed just above his hip bone, searching for injuries.

When he didn't find any, Shawn’s face sagged with relief. He looked a hundred years old. “You're okay,” he said in a dazed voice. His fingers clenched in the fabric of Gus's second-best blue dress shirt. “You're okay,” he repeated and then, inexplicably, he was leaning even closer…

Shawn's mouth was soft against his, almost platonic, but for the slight pressure behind it and the way Shawn's hands were still clutching at him like a lifeline, probably wrinkling his clothes. It couldn't have lasted more than a few seconds at most before Shawn jerked away with a gasp. His eyes were wide and startled; he looked almost as shocked at himself as Gus was. He made an aborted moment with his hand, like he'd been about to touch his lips and then thought better of it.

“Shawn, what the hell--”

“I know you love historical reenactments, Gus, but don't you think this is taking things a bit too far?” Shawn scooped up his jacket from the ground and showed it to Gus. There was a small bullet hole through the front and back in the same place. “Frankly, you're way too short to be George Washington, so maybe lay off the getting shot at.”

Gus stared at him, but Shawn was smirking again. There was no indication that the last thirty seconds had even happened.

“I’m one and-a-half inches taller than you!” He finally pointed out. Shawn smirked, but it was the fake smile he gave to other people. Seeing it directed at himself made Gus's stomach clench.

“It's barely an inch and you know it. Anyway, I better call Lassie and let him know I've had a vision.” Shawn tossed him his jacket and took a few steps away, pulling out his phone.

Gus was starting to wonder if maybe he'd hallucinated the whole thing. Maybe he'd hit his head in the escape and the resultant brain damage was bad enough that it was giving him delusions. He needed to call his doctor about an MRI, if that was the case. Head injuries were not something to scoff at, after all. He wasn’t going to dwell too much on why his brain would present him with delusions of getting kissed by his best friend. Brain damage could be funny like that.

“Hey, Lassie! It's your favorite person!” Shawn sing-songed into the phone, half-turned away. As he spoke, he absent-mindedly scrubbed a hand over his mouth and Gus inhaled sharply. Shawn's eyes snapped up to meet his and his hand dropped to his side. They stared at each other for a long moment before Lassiter’s tinny shouts broke the spell. “Uh, yeah, sorry. I had a vision. There's been a murder at the storage facility near the pier. Warehouse eight, two point-blank shots to the chest.” He ended the call without even trying to wind up the head detective and shoved the phone in his pocket.

“C’mon, let's get out of here before SBPD shows up.” Shawn didn't look at him, so Gus swallowed down the urge to demand an explanation and followed him back to the car without arguing.

 

*

 

It was almost four in the morning by the time Gus dropped Shawn off at his apartment and made it home. He was almost delirious with exhaustion. As soon as he shut the door behind him, Gus dropped his ruined jacket on the floor and collapsed onto the couch. He didn't even take his shoes off, and he was asleep before his head hit the cushions.

Any thoughts about what had happened were going to have to wait until morning.

 

*

 

Morning came all too soon. A sharp, insistent rapping at his front door jolted him to awareness, interrupting his rather pleasant dream of relaxing on a beach completely devoid of police officers, murderers, or fake psychics. As soon as he opened his eyes, he groaned as the aches of a night spent on the couch caught up to him. Why hadn't he just walked another 15 feet to the bedroom?

The knocking still hadn't ceased and Gus hauled himself upright, glaring at the door like it was the person he knew was responsible. According to his watch, it was only eight in the morning; he'd gotten less than four hours of sleep. Still, he reluctantly got to his feet and unlocked the door, swinging it open with a scowl.

Shawn looked like he hadn't so much as glanced at a bed since Gus had dropped him off at his apartment. He was still wearing the same rumpled clothes from the night before, and he had dark circles under his eyes. He hesitated in the doorway, like he wasn't sure he was going to be invited in. Suddenly, Gus's headache and the twinge in his neck were the furthest things from his mind, as his brain presented him with a technicolor replay of exactly what had happened last night.

Shawn's gaze flicked from Gus's face down to his wrinkled trousers and the shoes he was still wearing. He glanced back up with a pained grin. “Dude, did you sleep on the couch?”

“I was tired, Shawn. Somebody thought it was a good idea to go hunting for diamonds in the middle of the night.” Gus stepped aside to let Shawn into the apartment because regardless of how he felt about what had happened, he couldn't stand to see that uncertain look on his face for another moment.

“Well, I hear they are a girl's best friend,” Shawn replied. “Or are they forever? I forget.”

“Shawn.”

“I brought you a pineapple smoothie, doesn't that make up for it?” He waved a Jamba Juice cup in Gus's face.

Gus snatched it from him, pleased. “It's a start.”

“So!” Shawn clapped his hands together, clearly making an Angela Bassett-level effort to get his groove back. “Lassie’s at the crime scene, but he hasn't connected the murder to our case yet. It won't be long until he does, so I suggest we make like a tree and get outta here.”

He was already turning back towards the door before Gus found his voice, and when he did, even he wasn't expecting what came out of his mouth.

“Hang on. Don't we need to, uh, talk about this?”

Shawn had gone very still, one hand hovering, outstretched towards the doorknob. His back was to Gus, so he couldn't see his expression, but when he spoke, his voice was light.

“Talk about what, Gus? How I just handed you a perfectly serviceable Back to the Future reference and you didn't take even a moment to appreciate it? Honestly, I haven't gotten a lot of sleep lately, so it's the best I can do--”

“Shawn,” Gus interrupted before he could start on some sort of Michael J. Fox-themed tirade that would completely derail the conversation. “You know that's not what I'm talking about.”

Shawn's shoulders tensed. “Okay, fine. But it's not a big deal. Can we just move on?”

“Not a big deal? Dude, you kissed me!” Gus exclaimed. Shawn shrugged, but still didn't turn around. “Will you look at me when I'm talking to you?”

Shawn spun around, throwing his arms up dramatically. “I'm sorry I laid one on you when I thought you'd been shot. Won't happen again. Now can we go?” His expression was painfully blank, but he was fidgeting like he wanted to run. It reminded Gus of the night after high school graduation when he'd shown up at Gus's parents house at three in the morning and chucked pebbles at his window until he came outside. He hadn't said much, but he hugged Gus too long and tight before he left. That had been the last time Gus had seen him for almost six years. Gus realized with sudden clarity that if he pushed this now, he was risking Shawn disappearing again, maybe for good.

He sighed, resigning his questions to the back burner. At least for the time being. “I'm not going anywhere until I have a shower and change of clothes.”

Gus saw a flicker of relief in Shawn’s expression, and then he was back to his normal, jovial self. “Fine, but I can't be held responsible for what I eat out of your cabinets while I'm waiting.”

Gus shrugged. He'd hidden the Cocoa Puffs where Shawn would never find them, and everything else was fair game. “Give me fifteen minutes.” He left Shawn rummaging through the refrigerator and headed for the bathroom.

As soon as he closed the door behind him, Gus leaned against it and scrubbed his hands over his face. He couldn't get the kiss out of his head, and the fact that Shawn was refusing to talk about it was driving him crazy.

What exactly had been the intent behind it, anyway? Was it just a weird reaction to adrenaline or was Shawn attracted to him? Did Shawn even like men like that? Gus racked his brains, trying to think of times his best friend might've given him some indication and now that he was thinking about it, yeah, it made sense. Shawn did constantly flirt with Lassiter. And Buzz. Even Woody, sometimes. Not to mention, Gus could remember times as far back as junior high where Shawn had mentioned how good-looking other guys were. Tyler Cromwell had been Shawn’s chem partner sophomore year and Gus had spent a semester wondering if he'd been replaced, he saw his friend so infrequently. Had they been dating? Gus had never taken any of it seriously. He wasn't sure whether to be mad at Shawn for never saying anything outright or at himself for being a crappy friend.

None of it mattered anyway. Shawn had promised not to do it again, and Gus certainly wasn't going to instigate a repeat. It could be one of those things they just moved on from without comment, like the time Gus had bloodied Shawn's nose in a fight over Leila Simmons, Gus's 6th grade girlfriend.

Thus resolved, Gus quickly finished showering and changed into fresh clothes. He felt much better as he went back out to the living room, already thinking about suggesting they get jerk chicken for lunch.

Shawn was asleep on the sofa, the empty Cocoa Puffs box on the floor next to him. His lips were moving soundlessly, presumably talking as much in dreams as he did in real life. He looked so young when he was sleeping, not performing for once in his life.

Gus was struck by a sudden wave of fondness. Even though things had gotten weird last night, Shawn was easily one of the most important people in his life. He couldn't believe that he'd worried for even a minute that someone like this could break them apart.

Finally, he moved forward to wake his friend. As much as Shawn probably needed the sleep, he needed to solve the case more. He'd be furious if Gus let him sleep and Lassie got one up on them.

Gus reached forward and curled his hand around Shawn's shoulder, giving him a gentle shake. Shawn groaned and pressed his forehead against the back of Gus's hand. The casual, unconscious affection made Gus's stomach twist up.

“Five more minutes,” he mumbled without opening his eyes.

Gus poked him in the ribs. Shawn yelped, his eyes flying open as he flailed to get away. He fell off the couch and popped back up, pointing an accusatory finger.

“You betray me in this way? E tú, Burton?”

“You ate all my Cocoa Puffs.”

“I can't help it. You might say I'm cuckoo for them. Besides, you didn't hide them very well.”

“You're incorrigible.”

“This is hardly the time to be making supercilious accusations about my character.”

“The word you're looking for is scurrilous, Shawn.”

“I've heard it both ways. Now can you focus? There's a murderer on the loose!”

He bounded towards the door, energy and spirit seemingly restored, and Gus dutifully followed behind.

 

*

 

They didn't stop at the police station first, like Gus expected. Instead, Shawn gave him meandering directions that led them to a clapboard house a few miles from the warehouse.

“Where are we?”

“This is the home of last night's murder victim, Lucas Martinelli,” Shawn answered as they climbed out of the car. “The police have been by to inform his wife of his death, but they haven't questioned her yet. I'm hoping we've got something of a Wanda-Otto situation and she'll give us some dirt.”

“You really think it's a good idea to harass a woman who is probably still grieving?” Gus asked.

“You think Lassie would be more sensitive?” countered Shawn.

“Point.”

“Here's hoping she's Jamie Lee Curtis,” Shawn said, pressing the doorbell.

“You're only saying that because you want to be John Cleese.”

“You know that's right.”

The door opened just a crack. “Can I help you boys?”

Shawn put on his most disarming grin. “Mrs. Martinelli, my name is Shawn Spencer. I'm the resident psychic for the SBPD. This is my partner, you can call him Al. May we come in and ask you some questions?”

Mrs. Martinelli eyed them suspiciously. “If you're a psychic what do you need to ask questions for?”

As usual, Shawn was unfazed. “I'm at the whims of fate, Elise,” he said, waving his hand in an elaborate gesture. “Sometimes the answers you give me can trigger a--oh god!” Shawn grabbed his head and staggered back into Gus, who automatically caught him by the elbows.

Mrs. Martinelli opened the door another inch. “Is he alright?”

“He's fine. He's just having a vision,” Gus answered, giving Shawn a shake that was slightly rougher than necessary.

“Gah! Elise! Did your husband know you were seeing someone else?” Shawn slumped further against Gus, like the fake vision had drained all his energy. Gus staggered a little under the warm weight of him and he saw Shawn stifle a smirk.

The widow’s eyes widened. “Who told you that?” She opened the door all the way, her hand on her hip.

Shawn pulled away from Gus and straightened up. “The spirits, ma’am. The spirits.”

She nodded, all traces of disbelief wiped from her expression, and ushered them inside. Shawn winked at Gus and followed her. Gus took a breath, curling his fingers into his palms and trying to ignore how cold he suddenly felt.

 

*

 

Mrs. Martinelli turned out to be a huge help and soon they were headed back to the car, Shawn with a spring in his step and Gus trudging behind. They climbed into the Blueberry and Gus glanced sideways at his friend as he started the car.

“So. To the police station?”

“Gus, don't be that one person who doesn't clap during the guitar break in Space Oddity,” Shawn chided, “we're going back to the crime scene.”

“What could we possibly find there that is more helpful than literally witnessing the murder?” demanded Gus.

“Maybe nothing.” Shawn admitted, “but also maybe something. At the very least, Lassie-face will be there to bother.” He sounded gleeful.

Gus tightened his hands--carefully at ten and two--around the steering wheel. The leather creaked in protest. “You get way too much joy out of tormenting that man.”

“What can I say? I like my men like I like my coffee: tall, Irish, and constantly furious.”

“So you do like men?” Gus heard himself say. He didn't dare look at Shawn, opting instead to stare out the window so hard it was probably giving him eye strain.

Shawn laughed, but it was hard and forced. “It isn't obvious at this point? I guess I haven't been clear enough, maybe I should start wearing a sandwich board that says 'flamingly bisexual.’ I really thought your observation skills were of a higher caliber than that.”

Gus tsked. “Shawn, c’mon. It's not like you've been super open about it.”

“And seeing how you're reacting now, I'm super glad I finally decided to!” Shawn shot back in a faux-cheerful voice.

“What's wrong with how I'm reacting?” Gus protested.

“Gus, man, you can't even look at me.”

Immediately, Gus looked over, but Shawn was staring unhappily out the passenger-side window. He sighed and pulled the car over to the side of the road. Shawn still didn't look at him, even when he killed the engine and prised his fingers off the steering wheel.

“I don't care if you're bisexual, Shawn.” Gus said. His ears were burning and his stomach was twisted into an uncomfortable knot, but he soldiered on. It wasn't often that Shawn let people past the wise-cracking persona, but Gus was inexplicably one of those trusted few, and he wasn't going to let his friend down. “If I've been weird, it was just because I didn't expect...that. But, dude, you're my best friend. That means I'm gonna be happy for you whether you decide to be with a man or a woman. But please don't date another kleptomaniac, that first edition Wonder Woman comic was worth more than your bike.”

Finally Shawn’s gaze slid over to meet his. There was a ghost of a smile playing at his lips. “Hey, I didn't know. I just thought she had a shopping addiction.”

Gus let out a breath he hadn't realized he was holding. “Yeah, alright. Are we cool?”

Shawn met his eyes and Gus thought he still seemed wistful, but then he smiled and offered his fist. “Dude, we're always cool.”

Gus bumped his knuckles against Shawn's. “You know that's right.”

 

*

 

To say Lassiter was displeased to see them was an understatement. As soon as they ducked under the police tape and approached, he was stomping towards them shaking his head.

“Uh-uh, Spencer. No way are you and your little buddy disrupting my murder investigation.”

Shawn pouted, sidling right up to the detective’s side. “Aww, but Lassie, who called to tell you Timmy fell down the well in the first place? And look at you, you came running. What a good boy!” He reached up and patted Lassiter's perfectly coiffed hair.

“Guster, if you don't get him off of me, I will not be held responsible for what I do to either of you,” snarled Lassiter through gritted teeth.

Gus grabbed the collar of Shawn's shirt and tugged him back, which resulted in a minor slapfight that Lassiter finally interrupted with a put-upon sigh.

“Don't you jokers have anything better to do? What about that jewelry store B&E the Chief put you on?”

Shawn smacked Gus’ shoulder once more for good measure and then spun to face the head detective. “Lassie, you remembered! You do care!”

“Spencer--”

“However, I'm getting some very strong psychic vibrations that our cases are entwined. Like Demi Moore and Patrick Swayze around a pottery wheel.” Shawn lifted his fingers to his temple, squeezing his eyes closed. “Ooh, steamy…”

Lassiter crossed his arms, absolutely radiating skepticism. “You think your case and the murder are connected?”

Shawn's eyes flew open and he stepped right into the detective’s personal space, so close that their noses were almost touching. Gus shoved his hands into his pockets, resisting the urge to pull Shawn away again. “I'm sure of it, Lassikins.”

Lassiter was the first one to step back. “Fine. Bring me some actual evidence and you're on the case. Until then--”

Shawn’s hand shot to his temple again. “The car that left here immediately after the murder had British licence plates. BD47...Xanadu?”

Lassiter scoffed. “I don't have time for this.”

“Olivia Newton-John?” Gus guessed.

Shawn pointed at him, grimacing. “So close, but no cigar. Don't let me dowwwwwwn, Gus!”

“Electric Light Orchestra!” shouted Gus like a game show constant.

“Yes! That's it. BD47 ELO!”

“How'd you know that? There are no exterior cameras.” Lassiter demanded.

Shawn gave him an enigmatic smile, lifting his hands towards the ceiling and wiggling his fingers. The effect made him look less like a psychic, and more like a background cheerleader in Bring It On (a  movie which Gus would never admit he quite enjoyed for fear of Shawn's mockery).

Lassiter looked to Gus, who shrugged. Mumbling curses under his breath, the detective pulled out his notepad and scribbled down the number.

“I'll check this out. If it's legit, then--and only then, you can join the investigation. Now get out of here before I have you arrested for trespassing on a crime scene.”

“Love you too, Lassie! Maybe one day you'll actually take me up on that dinner date.” Shawn said, walking backwards towards the Echo.

“I would rather eat a live gerbil,” Lassiter shot back, but Gus thought he looked slightly amused. He frowned and followed Shawn back to the car.

“So what, are you gonna date Lassiter? Really Shawn? I know I said I would support you, but ew .”

Shawn laughed. “That's not nice, Gus, he's a very striking man--”

“If you like leprechauns,” Gus muttered, not entirely sure why he was being so surly.

“--but alas, it's not to be,” Shawn continued blithely. “Our friend Detective Lassiter is 100% hetrosexual man-candy.”

“Then why do you keep flirting with him all the time?” Gus asked.

Shawn looked at him like he'd grown a second head. “Do I need a reason? It's fun, Gus, that's reason enough.”

Gus sighed and started the car. “I'll never understand you, Shawn.”

“I take that as a compliment.”

 

*

 

“So while Lassie is off chasing the license plate lead, I suggest we go talk to the friend Elise told us about. I don't think she actually knew about the diamond smuggling, but she definitely knew her husband was more than a warehouse manager. I'm betting this Marv character can fill in the blanks,” Shawn said, gesturing for Gus to take a right. “What I don't understand, though…why would someone name their kid Marv ? Doesn't that make you think of the creepy guy from Home Alone ?”

“You know how I feel about that movie, Shawn. Those 'pranks’ were incredibly dangerous!”

“Dude, I can literally hear the air quotes in your voice, that's impressive.”

Gus shot a glare at his friend, but Shawn was preoccupied, tapping away at his phone screen. “Anyway, how can you be so sure that Marv will know anything?”

Shawn flashed him a blinding grin. “Because while you were ranting about the seventh--no, eighth best John Hughes movie, I googled him. According to his LinkedIn profile, he's been a salesperson at Luxury Larry's Discount Diamonds, aka the jewelry store we’re already investigating, for three months.”

“That is a pretty solid lead.” Gus admitted.

“Thank you. Now. Pull over at this food truck so we can get chili cheese fries first.”

 

*

 

Shawn was still licking cheese off his fingers when they pulled up to the jewelry store fifteen minutes later. Gus stared at him, appalled by Shawn’s table manners, even after two decades of friendship. When Shawn glanced up and caught him looking, Gus flung a wad of napkins at him and practically jumped from the car, feeling oddly caught out.

A few seconds later, Shawn followed. He shoved the used napkins in his jeans’ pocket and narrowed his eyes at Gus like he was a particularly puzzling clue. Gus avoided his eyes, turning to look at the display in the jewelry store window.

“Let's get this over with.”

The door chimed as they walked inside. A narrow face popped up from behind one of the display cases, salesman's smile firmly fixed in place.

“Can I help you gentlemen?”

“Oh, I sure hope so!” Shawn said fingers curling around Gus’ elbow and pulling him towards the counter. “My name is Shawn Spencer, and this is my partner, Burton Guster. We're looking for engagement rings.”

Gus, who had already done a double-take at Shawn using his real name, did another. “Say what?”

The jeweler's eyebrows rose in polite confusion, but Shawn's grin didn't waver.

“I know I said we couldn't afford rings right now,” Shawn murmured just loud enough for the man across the counter to hear, “but I also know how important it is to you, so we're gonna make it work.” His hand slid down from Gus’ elbow to entwine their fingers.

Gus could hear his heart pounding in his ears and chose to interpret it as anger. Still, there must be a good reason Shawn was lying, so he forced a smile and kept his voice level. “That's...so thoughtful of you...dear.”

The jeweler's expression softened. “I'd be glad to help you. My name is Marv. Now, did you have a particular style you were interested in?”

“Oh, I'm not particular,” Shawn answered. “But my fussy Gussy here is. Extremely so. Do you maybe have anything in the way of a bedazzled Green Lantern ring?”

Gus jabbed his elbow into Shawn's ribs. “I think I'll speak for myself, sweetie .”

“Sounds great,” Shawn wheezed. “Is there a restroom I could use while you ladies discuss?”

Marv frowned, pointing towards the back of the store and Shawn scampered off, presumably to trespass and search for clues. Gus sighed internally, turning back to Marv.

The jeweler was watching him with a skeptical look on his face. “Why on Earth would you want to marry that guy? Excuse me for saying, but he's kind of an ass.”

Gus bristled. Sure, he was angry with Shawn, but that didn't mean some complete stranger got to trash talk him.

“First of all, if you have to start a sentence with ‘excuse me for saying,’ you probably shouldn't be saying it in the first place. I'm sure your mother taught you that. Secondly, that's my best friend you're talking about--”

“I thought he was your fiancé?” Marv interrupted.

Gus barely hesitated, covering his slip with a roll of his eyes. Shawn's constant dishonesty seemed to be rubbing off on him. Great. “He's that too. Haven't you ever heard that the most solid marriage is one where you're also best friends? I can't think of anyone in the world who understands me better than Shawn does.”

“Okay, okay, I'm sorry!” Marv held his hands up in a conciliatory gesture. “I overstepped.”

“Damn right you did,” Gus sniffed. “I don't know how you sell anything if you insult your clientele like this.”

“As I said, I'm very sorry, Mr. Guster,” repeated Marv. “It won't happen again.”

“Good.”

“Now, would you like to peruse our selection?”

“Actually,” Shawn chimed in, reappearing from wherever he'd been lurking, “I think we should take our business elsewhere, don't you, Gus?”

Gus looked straight into Marv’s eyes. “I agree. Let's get out of here.” He grabbed Shawn's hand and dragged him out of the shop, ignoring Marv’s protests.

He slammed his car door a little harder than necessary, his irritation with Shawn warring with his genuine anger at the jeweler. He didn't say anything as he turned the key in the ignition and started the drive back to the Psych office.

Shawn, never good with long silences, fidgeted in his seat, drumming his fingers on his knee, cracking his knuckles, and shooting Gus tiny concerned glances when he thought he wasn't looking. He lasted a full five minutes before he finally spoke up.

“You're mad at me.”

“Oh, so you do pay attention to my emotional state. Good to know, I’d started to think it was irrelevant to you.”

Shawn looked stung, but only for a moment. “What'd I do this time?”

“Engagement rings, Shawn, really?”

“Dude. My googling came up with a laundry list of petty crimes and misdemeanors on his record. Do you really think it would've been a good idea to go in there and announce we were with the cops?” Gus hesitated and Shawn pushed his advantage. “He wasn't gonna say anything to any kind of detective. We needed a cover story.”

“And it just had to be that we were getting married?” Gus demanded.

Out of the corner of his eye, he saw Shawn's eyes widen in realization. When he noticed Gus looking, his expression went completely blank. “Oh. You are still mad about last night. I thought you said we were cool.”

“We are cool,” Gus protested. He could feel the tips of his ears getting warm. “It has nothing to do with that .

“Then why is this a big deal?” Shawn asked, flinging his arms wide. “We've done the fake couple thing a million times and you've never complained before.”

Gus sputtered, trying to come up with a good response, but Shawn was right. Finally, he sighed and shook his head. “You should've told me before we went in that you were gonna give a fake story.”

Shawn tsked. “Okay, whatever.” He clearly wasn't buying Gus’ explanation, but Gus didn't have anything better to offer.

The last five minutes of the drive were completely silent, made even more obvious by how still Shawn was in the passenger seat. Gus’ stomach started twisting into knots again. If they kept this up, he really was going to end up with the ulcer he always accused Shawn of giving him. He needed some space, from his friend and the case, so when they pulled up in front of the office, he made no move to get out of the car.

“I think I better go do my route,” he heard himself say. “I've missed it the last two days. Meet you back here in a couple hours?”

Shawn nodded, but he wasn't looking at Gus. Again. “Sure. Gotta get that sweet, sweet pharmaceutical cash.”

“You know that's right,” Gus agreed, but Shawn didn't even crack a smile. He hopped out of the car and tapped the roof twice, while still avoiding eye contact.

“See ya, buddy.”

As he drove away, Gus watched Shawn's figure recede in the rearview mirror. He felt uneasy. His optimism from the morning was completely forgotten, and he couldn't help but wondering if things were ever going to go back to normal.

 

*

 

Gus finished his route in half the time it usually took him, barely focused on his presentations, and then he threw his case in the trunk and headed back to the beachfront. He walked into the Psych office hoping that Shawn would be there, and that he hadn't taken off in the face of all the recent awkwardness.

“Heyyyyyy buddy!” Shawn said, popping up from underneath Gus’ desk. “What're you doing here, I thought you were on your route?”

“What are you doing under my desk?” Gus asked, ignoring the question.

“It's my thinking space, I come here to think.”

“Shawn.”

“It's true, Gussie Bear! And in utilizing my thinking space, I just realized that the list of numbers I saw on Marv's desk match up to dates and times that our victim was meeting to fence the diamonds. What do you think about that!” He jabbed the air for emphasis and Gus’ narrowed his eyes at the piece of red licorice Shawn was holding.

“Are you stealing out of my Red Vine stash?”

Shawn blinked. “Nooooo….” He took a slow bite of the candy and chewed it, considering. “Pretty sure this is a Twizzler.”

“I don't like Twizzlers, Shawn!”

“There you go. Can't possibly be yours!” Shawn exclaimed in an irritatingly logical voice. “Also, who doesn't like Twizzlers?”

“Me.” Gus answered, stepping close to Shawn and snagging the bag of Red Vines he was unsuccessfully trying to hide behind his back. He scowled, but it was more to hide the relief that Shawn was back to his normal, wisecracking self. The quiet, almost hurt Shawn of the past day was unfamiliar and he didn't like it. Last time he remembered Shawn acting anything like this, he'd stolen a car and then run away to Bolivia a month later.

“Duuuude, didn't you hear what I just said about judgey Marv the jeweler?”

“He had a list of the same shipping times as Lucas, which means they were definitely working together to smuggle those diamonds.”

Shawn nodded. “There's more. Along with the shipping dates were price estimates.”

“How much they were selling the diamonds for?” Gus ventured.

“Bingo. And the estimates on Marv’s list were significant lower than what I saw on Lucas’ clipboard last night at the warehouse.”

“Lucas was giving Marv different estimates and pocketing the extra cash!”

“Or pocketing the extra diamonds.”

“You think Marv found out and had him killed?” Gus asked.

Shawn shrugged. “It's definitely possible he hired the British dude, but we still have to find him.”

“How are we gonna do that?”

Shawn plopped down in Gus’ chair and kicked his feet up on the desk, ignoring the glare Gus shot him. “I haven't thought that far ahead yet,” he admitted. “But we deserve a break. I don't know about you, but I'm starving.”

“I could definitely eat,” Gus agreed.

“Great! My dad invited us over for dinner!” Shawn sprang out of the chair and headed out the door without checking to see if Gus was following (he was). “And I gotta say, whatever other criticisms I have of the man, he can grill the hell out of a steak.”

Gus had kind of been hoping for something a little less stressful than an evening under Henry Spencer's too-keen gaze, but apparently Shawn had snaked his keys sometime in the last thirty seconds and was already in the driver's seat, starting the car. Gus allowed himself an exasperated sigh and a glance heavenward before he climbed into the passenger seat and buckled in.

 

*

 

Dinner was strange. Shawn babbled on as usual, pop culture references and snarky comments about his childhood, but Henry wouldn't be baited. He just looked back and forth between his guests with a calculating look in his eyes. Gus was honestly living in dread of the moment a loose thread on his loafers or something gave the man the piece he needed to solve the puzzle. Either that or he would crack under the pressure of the elder Spencer's eyes boring into his head and spill everything himself. He was just about to excuse himself to the restroom to hide out for the rest of the meal when Shawn's phone rang.

“Hell...o?” Shawn grinned. “Lassie! You missed me, huh?” He propped his elbow up on the table and grinned. “What's up?”

“Shawn, what have I told you about cell phones at my dinner table?” Henry barked.

Shawn put a hand over the mouthpiece. “It's exceedingly...lewd?”

“Rude!”

“Fine, fine.” He shoved back from the table and got to his feet. “Lassie, gimme a sec to go in the other room. My dad doesn't approve of taking work calls during dinner. He was singing a different tune twenty years ago, lemme tell you…” Shawn was still yammering on to a presumably annoyed Lassiter as he strode out of the kitchen. Gus scowled after him until he heard the front door close.

“So,” Henry said, pushing his plate away and folding his hands on the table, “what the hell is going on with you two?”

Gus started. “What? Nothing. Absolutely nothing is going on with us. How are you?”

Henry stared at him silently. Gus could feel beads of sweat forming on his forehead. This must have been what it was like to be in an interrogation room with the man.

“I, uh. That is to say…” Gus deflated. “How'd you know something was wrong?”

“Gus, please. You've been jittery since you got here, Shawn hardly touched his food, and neither have you. Oh yeah, and he called me a couple hours ago begging to have the two of you over for dinner to ‘be a buffer or something.’”

“He said you invited us over!”

Henry shrugged. “I did, after he asked me to. That's downright honest, by Shawn standards. Now, do you want to tell me what's wrong?”

Gus jabbed at a green bean on his plate. He could feel Henry's eyes on him, but he couldn't manage to look at him. “We had rough day yesterday.”

“That sounds like an understatement, Guster. My son seems to be under the impression that whatever it is will be the straw that breaks the camel's back.” Henry paused. “He's convinced you're finally gonna leave him.”

Gus looked up swiftly. “He's the one who always leaves. Not me.”

Henry sighed, tossing his napkin down on the table and leaning back in his chair. “Gus, c’mon. You're the only person Shawn has never left. Do you think anyone else has a stack of postcards from all over South America in their closet shoebox?” He paused, scrubbing a hand over his head.

“I know my son is not an easy person to love; he inherited that trait from me. But I went years without talking to him and my life is poorer for it. I'm just now getting the chance to make amends. I don't want to see that happen to you too.”

Gus traced the grain of the table with his finger. “Do you remember that time you had to swim out to get me and Shawn before we got caught in an undertow?”

Henry snorted. “‘Course I do. I've never seen two kids who got into so much trouble.”

“Sometimes I feel like I'm back there in that water.” Gus finally looked up. “And I really don't want to drown.”

Henry opened his mouth to respond, but before he could, Shawn popped back into the kitchen.

“Gus, we gotta go.”

“We haven't even finished eating yet!” Henry protested.

“Yeah, well, our prime suspect was just murdered, Dad,” Shawn snapped. “We're gonna have to skip dessert.” He was halfway back out the door when he stopped, but didn't look back. “I'm sorry,” he added quietly. He vanished into the hallway and Henry looked over at Gus.

“Just...talk to him, alright? You two have been joined at the hip since you were knee high. Don't let something stupid come between you.”

Gus nodded, not trusting himself to speak. He avoided Henry's gaze as he got up to follow Shawn to the car.

 

*

 

If Shawn had heard any part of Gus’ conversion with his father, he didn't give any indication. The drive back to the jewelry store was mercifully quiet and Gus stared out the window thinking about riptides and ocean waves.

Lassiter and Juliet were waiting for them at the crime scene, wearing gloves and somber expressions.

“Sorry to pull you away from your dinner, guys.” Juliet said, “But since this is the jewelry store you were investigating, we thought it was important to have you on the scene.”

Shawn smiled disarmingly. “Aw, Jules, here I was thinking you just called me here because you missed my symmetrical face and perfect hair. It's okay to stare.”

Lassiter snorted and Gus was inclined to agree. Thankfully, before Shawn could continue his flirtation, the head detective held up an evidence bag and brought them back to the task at hand.

“More importantly, the slug we pulled out of Marv Morrone’s chest appears to match the one we retrieved from the Lucas Martinelli crime scene,” he said. “So it looks like you were right and these crimes are connected.”

Shawn beamed at him, holding up his iPhone. “Sorry, could you please repeat that? I'd like to get it on record.”

Lassiter stalked away without another word, leaving them alone with Juliet. Shawn shoved his hands into his pockets and looked at the floor. Gus picked some imaginary lint off his jacket. Juliet put her hands on her hips, studying them.

“Is everything okay?” She asked suddenly. Gus frowned, wondering why he subjected himself to such observant friends.

Shawn laughed, but he sounded defensive when he answered. “Everything is better than okay. It's great. Maybe even hunky dory.”

“Hunky dory is the same as okay,” Gus pointed out before he could stop himself.

“No, Hunky Dory is the second best Bowie album, which makes it better than great.”

Juliet didn't seem to be buying it either. “Look, Shawn--”

“I better get in there and start sensing,” Shawn interrupted. “That is what you called me here for, right?” He swanned away and Gus shot her an apologetic look before following.

He found Shawn standing over the body, eyes narrowed in concentration. Gus avoided looking at the corpse, but he couldn't ignore the metallic scent of blood. His stomach turned, the meal Henry had cooked for them threatening to make a reappearance.

Lassiter was off to the side, tapping his foot impatiently. “Is this gonna take all day, Spencer? Crime scene cleanup is already on the way.”

Shawn circled the body, leaning closer, but not touching. “I'm sensing there were surveillance cameras that should've caught this whole thing on video.”

“Key word there is ‘were.’” Lassiter replied. “Looks like all the tapes were taken and probably destroyed by the assailant. Whoever they are, they aren't stupid.”

Shawn nodded. “I would still like to see the security set-up. Get a reading off whatever equipment is left.”

Lassiter rolled his eyes, but waved over an officer. “McNab! Take Spencer and Guster here to look at the surveillance closet. And then bring me a cup of coffee!”

“He likes an extra shot of espresso if he's having it in the evening.” Shawn stage-whispered to Buzz as he led them down the hallway.

“He wasn't kidding when he called it a closet,” Gus observed when he saw where they were going. “That room is tiny.”

“C’mon Gus, don't be a Cainotophobic Carrie.”

“The word is claustrophobic, Shawn.”

“I said what I meant.”

“Can you guys take it from here?” Buzz asked. “Detective Lassiter gets a little...impatient waiting for his coffee.”

“Sure thing,” Shawn said distractedly, already halfway into the tiny room. Gus followed, mostly because he didn't want to stand in the hallway alone.

It was a tight squeeze. Gus was acutely aware of Shawn's shoulder pressed warmly up against his. Shawn didn't even look over at him, though, his eyes darting from screen to screen, and then down to the controls on the desk.

“Why would a security system have a joystick?” He asked, gesturing at the black plastic piece of equipment in the middle of the keyboard. “Playing some Frogger after hours?”

“It probably moves the cameras,” Gus guessed. He reached forward and pushed the joystick to the right and the image on the far left screen panned in the same direction.

“I wanna try!” Shawn exclaimed, smacking Gus’ hands out of the way. He pressed a button below the joystick and then used it to turn the camera connected to the middle screen and zoom in on Lassiter, who was searching the back office.

Gus slapped Shawn's hand off the joystick and grabbed it back, pressing the button again to switch to the next camera.

“Huh, that's weird. This camera is stuck.” He pointed at the third monitor, frozen pointed at the jewelry counter.

Shawn's eyes narrowed and he looked between the second and third monitor a couple times. His mouth thinned and Gus could feel the way his whole body went tense with some sort of realization.

“What is it? What do you see?”

Instantly, Shawn’s expression cleared. “All I see is a waste of a perfectly good gaming setup. They don't even have a guard in here most nights, what is the point?”

“Well, the cameras are probably automated at night, so they still pan the whole store.”

Shawn nodded, more himself than anything, and threw open the door. He took off down the hallway without another word, leaving Gus staring after him. A moment went by, then another, and Gus shook off his bewilderment and followed.

“...and you've got a chunk of lettuce in your teeth” Shawn was telling Lassiter when Gus emerged from the hallway. He intervened before the detective could do something he'd have to arrest himself for.

“Shawn. Can I speak with you for a minute?”

“Sure, buddy. What's up?”

“In private?” Gus insisted, eyeing Lassiter suspiciously. Shawn rolled his eyes, but followed Gus back into the hallway without arguing. “You saw something on those cameras, didn’t you?”

“Yes, Gus, I saw a jewelry store.”

Gus punched him in the shoulder. “Don’t be cute. You know what I mean. I’ve seen your ‘it’s a clue’ face a million times.”

“I don’t think it’s relevant to solving this murder. Also, ow.”

“Shawn, you don’t get to withhold clues until you think they’re important.”

“Dude, have you been paying attention? That’s pretty much all I do!”

“Not to me,” Gus said and there must have been something in his tone because Shawn’s expression softened.

“Look, can we do this somewhere else? It’s late, there’s nothing else here for us. I say we go back to the office, make a game plan for tomorrow, and call it a night.”

Gus sighed. “Fine. But don’t think I’m going to let this go.”

“I won’t. They don’t call you Bullheaded Burton for nothing.” Shawn smirked and walked back out onto the sales floor without waiting for a response.

“No one calls me that, Shawn.” Gus yelled after him. “Shawn!”

 

*

 

Back at the office, Shawn got out the dry erase markers. “Okay, what do we know?”

“Two victims, Lucas and Marv were both involved in a diamond smuggling ring and both were shot and killed at point-blank range.”

“Good nut-shelling as usual, Gus, but we need more to go on.” Shawn scribbled down the information and then tapped the marker against his bottom lip. “There’s also the discrepancies in the ledgers they both kept.”


“Yeah, but obviously Marv isn’t our killer because he’s dead now too.” Gus pointed-out.

“That is a...compelling argument.” Shawn agreed with a yawn. He snapped the cap back onto the marker. “Well, I guess we should give up for tonight. We’re both too tired to get much further on this without a good night's sleep.”

Gus shook his head. “Hang on a second, you still didn’t tell me what you saw on those surveillance cameras.”

Shawn heaved an exasperated sigh. “Gus, I told you already, it’s not important to actually solving the crime.”

“Why don’t you want to tell me?” When Shawn didn’t answer, he took a step closer, getting well into his friend’s personal space. “I’m not leaving here without an answer.”

“Then I guess you’ll just be sleeping at your desk, because I’m not telling.” They were nose-to-nose, but Shawn didn’t back down an inch. Gus’ temper flared. It had been two very long days and he was sick of Shawn's attitude.

“You’re acting like a child! Partners are supposed to share everything with each other. When you dragged me into this whole circus, it was not part of the game plan that you were going to actively lie and hide things from me.”

Shawn scoffed. “You and your plans. Always organizing and trying to strategize for every eventuality. Not everything goes according to plan, Gus! Lying and hiding things is kind of my bag, okay?”

“What the hell are you talking about?”

Shawn shrugged, all of the fight abruptly going out of him. He tried to back up as much as he could with the whiteboard behind him, and didn’t make it far. He was very pale and Gus could see him calculating the odds of different exit attempts, but he was cornered. An odd look flickered across his face and disappeared before Gus could interpret it.

“I lie to you all the time. How’s that information impact your day-to-day game plan, partner ? Does it mess it up?” Suddenly, Shawn was right in his face again, close enough that Gus could feel the warmth of his breath on his face. “You wanna know what really having your plans screwed up looks like? Try waking up one morning at fourteen years old and realizing you’re totally in love with your best friend and you can never tell him. Don’t tell me that I’m not following your plan; I’ve spent more than a decade doing everything I can to keep from ruining it.”

Gus stumbled back a couple steps, his eyes going wide. “What--? Are you kidding me?”

Shawn gave him a thin smile, but didn't answer the question. “I should probably go. If you still want to help me finish this case, meet me back here in the morning. Eight o’clock. If not…” he shrugged, breaking eye contact to stare at the floor, “I guess I understand that too.”

Gus couldn't think of anything to say, so he watched mutely as Shawn slipped past, grabbed his helmet and practically bolted out the door. He was still frozen in place when the roar of Shawn's bike shattered the late-night quiet. The rumble of the engine faded into the distance before Gus could move again. He walked on shaky legs to his desk chair and collapsed into it.

Shawn couldn't really be in love with him, could he? Sure, he'd kissed Gus last night, and things had been exceptionally tense since then, but the idea was preposterous. He'd had more girlfriends, boyfriends, and flings than Gus could count using both hands and feet. What about the way he flirted with Abigail Lytar, or Juliet, or Lassiter? Surely that wasn't the behavior of someone who had spent the better part of their life pining after one person.

But if it was? How exactly was Gus supposed to handle that? He wasn't gay, man-crushes on Ferris Bueller and Han Solo notwithstanding. Shawn was his best friend in the world, and the thought of that changing was the absolute worst thing that Gus could think of. He kind of wished that Shawn had never said anything at all.

Immediately, he felt guilty for thinking that way. If this was all true, then Shawn had been living with it, and dealing with it alone for a long time. Getting it out there had to be a relief, even if it also brought them to the precipice of destroying a lifelong friendship. His stomach turned at the thought that Shawn might put distance between them, or worse, disappear completely. It was unthinkable.

Gus shook his head and got to his feet. His head was pounding and he was so tired he wanted to go to sleep right at his desk. Sitting in the dark and dwelling on Shawn's surprise confession was not doing him any favors. It might not even be true; it certainly wouldn’t be the first time Shawn had made something up for the mere shock value, or to redirect attention. Gus would come back in the morning, and they could have an honest conversation when they weren’t sleep-deprived and emotional. Thus resolved, he locked up the office and headed home, making a conscious effort to ignore the horrible looming pit in his stomach.

 

*

 

When Gus’ alarm started going off the next morning, he very nearly didn’t get out of bed. Despite his exhaustion, last night hadn’t been anymore restful than the one before. He’d only managed to sleep in fits and starts, having snatches of dreams that didn’t make any sense and filled him with trepidation. Then he remembered that Shawn was expecting to meet him at the office and he sat up so fast he nearly fell out of bed.

Gus was usually meticulous about his morning routine, but he skipped the shower and only brushed his teeth for 30 seconds instead of his usual 90. He was out the door and into the car in record time. If he drove a couple miles over the speed limit, no one else would be any the wiser.

The blinds were still shuttered when Gus arrived and, to his surprise, the office was still locked. There was no way Shawn was here; his tendency to forget to lock doors was absolutely intrinsic to his personality. The moment that changed, Gus would know that the end times had truly come.

He let himself into the office and started a pot of coffee. If Shawn had actually managed to get to sleep, Gus wasn't going to call and wake him up before he was ready. There was always paperwork to work on around the office, and it usually went undone when Shawn was around to distract him. He felt uneasy, of course he did, but what else could he do but wait?

An hour and a half later, Gus had finished the pot of coffee, and a three month backlog of case files. He was starting to get worried. He pulled out his phone and punched the speed dial for Shawn. It went straight to voicemail.

“Dude, where are you? I've been waiting for you at the office all morning. Call me.” Gus ended the call and tossed his phone down on his desk.

It was completely normal for Shawn to ignore phone calls. He lost his cell more than David Hasselhoff got outsmarted by his car. And wasn't outside the realm of possibility that he was still going to show up. It certainly wouldn't be the first time he'd arrived hours late with an offering of food and a complete bewilderment at why Gus was so annoyed.

But they'd also never had a fight like they'd had last night before. The last twenty-four hours had been the most uncomfortable their friendship has ever endured, and that included the time Gus slept with Stacy Whittaker and Shawn pretended he didn't know about it.

If Shawn had decided to run again, he would be long gone by now. Gus couldn't imagine he would leave without closing the case, no matter how bad things had gotten. Maybe he'd stopped by the police station.

“I swear to God, he is paying for my gas this week.” Gus muttered to himself as he grabbed his keys and headed back out to the car.

 

*

 

Shawn wasn't at the police station. The clock on the wall behind Juliet said it was almost eleven.

“Sorry Gus,” she said with a shrug. “Last time I saw him, he was with you.”

“I think that might be the last time anyone saw him.” Gus replied, tamping down on the worry that was starting to creep up on him.

“Do you have any reason to believe something is wrong?” She asked, her voice gentle. “I'm not trying to be harsh, Gus, but disappearing for hours at a time is not all that unusual for Shawn.”

“We had a fight,” Gus blurted. “A big one, last night, right before he left. He said he'd meet me at the office this morning.”

Juliet's expression grew even more sympathetic. “Maybe...he just doesn't want to see you right now? Give him some time.”

He shook his head. “No, he had a vision at the jewelry store. But he wouldn't tell me what it was, and we argued.”

“Maybe it didn't have anything to do with the case,” she suggested. “They're pretty random, sometimes.”

Intellectually, Gus understood that she was trying to be analytical, but he couldn't shake his feeling of foreboding. “You don't get it. Something is wrong.”

“Unless you have some sort of evidence that he's in trouble, my hands are tied for 24 hours.” She put a hand on his shoulder, trying for reassuring. “Don't worry, Gus. I'm sure he'll turn up soon.”

Gus tsked at her and jerked away, walking down the corridor out of earshot. He pulled his phone out of his pocket and started scrolling through his contacts. His finger hovered over Henry Spencer's name. If he called Shawn's dad and it turned out he was wrong, Shawn would never let him hear the end of it. He pressed the call button.

“Good morning, Gus,” Henry answered on the second ring, “to what do I owe the pleasure?”

“Have you heard from Shawn since dinner last night?” Gus asked in a rush.

There was silence on the other end of the line. “No…” Henry finally replied. “I thought he was with you.”

“He was, but now I can't find him.” Gus heard Henry suck in a breath and backpedaled. “But I'm sure everything is fine, he probably just left his phone somewhere.”

“Gus…” his voice took on the tone he used when he was mad at his son. Uh oh.

“Don't worry about it, Mr. Spencer, I'm sure he'll show up anytime now.” Gus hung up the phone before he could say anything else. He gripped the phone tight and took a couple deep breaths.

“Guster, what are you doing here?” Suddenly Lassiter was standing in front of him. He cocked his head to the side. “You don't look so good.”

“I think something happened to Shawn.”

Lassiter’s eyes narrowed. “What exactly do you mean?”

“He's not answering my calls and no one has seen him since last night.”

“Guster, you know that's not enough to go on, especially with someone as flighty as Spencer.”

“But he--” Gus protested, but Lassiter barreled over him.

“Listen, I don't really have time for this. I'm trying to get a subpoena to get the backup copies of the surveillance film from the jewelry store and the security firm is giving me hell…”

He kept talking, but Gus wasn't listening anymore. Suddenly, he remembered Shawn’s particular interest in the broken camera on the sales floor, compared to the one watching the office he'd snuck into earlier that day...

“Oh my gosh, the murderer saw Shawn!” He blurted out.

Lassiter stopped mid-sentence. “What the hell are you talking about, Guster?”

“We went to the jewelry store before the second murder,” Gus admitted, “and I think Shawn figured out that he got caught on the security video that the killer stole.”

“Why didn't you mention this earlier?” Lassiter demanded.

“If they have video of Shawn, they would've seen you too,” Juliet chimed in. Gus turned and saw she had followed him down the hallway, clearly more worried than she wanted to let on. “He would've warned you.”

Gus shook his head. “The camera that should've seen me was broken. Shawn must've realized they only knew about him.”

“So he picked a fight with you so you would let him leave Psych alone,” Juliet picked up the thread of the story, continuing to the conclusion that Gus had already reached. “He must've gone after the killer by himself.”

“Why in God's name would be do that?” Lassiter growled. Juliet looked at Gus, her eyes full of pity. He swallowed past the lump in his throat.

“He did it to protect me.”

“Lassiter, O’Hara, Guster; my office now!” The chief shouted, sticking her head out into the hallway.

Guys exchanged a glance with the detectives and followed them into the chief’s office. His stomach was twisting itself into knots. When he saw the grave look on Vick's face, it started to feel like the knots were constricting his lungs.

Chief Vick closed the door and pulled the blinds shut before turning to face them. “People, we have a situation.” Her eyes lingered on Gus and then she turned away, going to pick up a DVD off her desk. “This was delivered to the station sometime in the last half hour. One of our officers found it on the steps in an envelope addressed to the SBPD.”

“What is it, Chief?” Lassiter asked impatiently.

She sighed. “A ransom note.” Before any of them could ask any follow up questions, she slid the DVD into her computer’s disc drive and turned the monitor to face them.

Gus shook his head, like maybe sheer denial of what he was seeing would make it less true. But the picture on the screen was unmistakable.

It was Shawn.

 

*

 

Juliet gasped, clapping both hands over her mouth. Even Lassiter looked concerned.

“Karen, what in the hell--”

Gus sank down into one of the chairs in front of the chief’s desk, his eyes glued to the screen.

Shawn did not look good. He was bound to a chair with thick ropes tied around his waist, arms, and legs. There was a cut under his left eye, sluggishly trickling blood, and his cheek was bruised, already starting to turn colors. His eyes were glazed over, but whether it was drugs or pain, Gus couldn't really say.

“Heyyyy,” he slurred, peering at the camera, “This is the Real World: Santa Barbara confession booth. I'm Shawn and I hate my current roommate. He totally pistol whipped me!” Shawn winced his chin dropping to his chest. “Sorry, that's probably in poor taste. It’s my defense mechanism.”

He looked up again, straight into the camera. “Gus, man, I'm really sorry. You were right about this whole psychic detective thing. Bad idea. Just...do your thing, go on your route. I'm sure you'll find your bliss…”

“Jesus Christ, do you ever stop taking?” an unfamiliar voice demanded from offscreen.

Shawn looked past the camera. “Not really, no. I've been told it's one of my most annoying personality traits. But you know, chicks really dig the open and honest conversa--”

“Shut the fuck up!” The other man barked, stepping into frame. He was wearing a black ski mask and holding a gun. He jabbed the muzzle under Shawn's jaw and the his eyes fluttered shut, throat bobbing as he swallowed. Gus gripped the arms of his chair so tightly the wood creaked.

“Shutting up.”

“Now,” the man in the ski mask said, turning to the camera. “Your precious psychic is clearly alive, more or less in one piece. If you want him back, you're gonna have to pay. Half a million dollars, delivered by a civilian in a briefcase, to the trash can on the north side of the sidewalk in Midtown Park.” He shoved the gun up under Shawn's chin again. “You have 24 hours or I'm gonna paint the wall with his brains.”

The video cut off and both Lassiter and Juliet immediately started talking.

“What are we gonna do?”

“Chief, you know as well as I do that we cannot negotiate with kidnappers.”

“What are you talking about, we can't just refuse ! Shawn is in serious trouble!”

“O’Hara, I want to help him too, but if we deliver the money, he kills Spencer anyway and--”

“Will both of you shut up?” Gus shouted, springing to his feet. The others stared at him in surprise. “We have to figure out where he is.”

“Guster, we don't even know who took him!” Lassiter pointed out.

“Okay, but there are clues in the video,” Gus’ heart was pounding, but his mind was completely clear. “That voice. He was obviously faking an American accent.”

“How could you possibly know that?” Lassiter challenged, folding his arms over his chest.

“You're kidding, right? He sounds like Michael Caine in On Deadly Ground.

Juliet wrinkled her nose. “That's a terrible movie. Did you actually sit through the whole thing?”

“I didn't want to, but Shawn loves Steven Segal.”

Chief Vick pinched the bridge of her nose. “Can we please focus?”

“As soon as Guster stops throwing out ridiculous theories. Why would the perp fake an accent?”

“Actually, it makes sense,” Juliet said thoughtfully. “Remember the plate number Shawn gave you to run? Those were British plates.”

Vick turned to Lassiter. “Do we have anything on the plates?”

“Not yet, Chief, but I've got a liaison in London looking for vehicle registration as we speak.”

She nodded. “Good. In the meantime, I want any and all other leads you can manage to find regarding Mr. Spencer's whereabouts. I'm going to go speak to the accounting department about getting together some money in case we need to proceed with a sting operation.” She started towards the door, but before she got there, it burst open and Henry Spencer stormed into the room.

“Karen, where the hell is my son?” He demanded. “I get an ominous call from Gus and when I come down here to find out what's going on, McNabb tells me you're in some secret emergency meeting!”

Vick sighed. “Henry, I need you to remain calm. We received a ransom video. It appears to be related to his current case--”

“A ransom video ? Are you saying that my son has been kidnapped on your watch?”

The chief drew herself up to her full height. “Mr. Spencer is a grown man and a contract consultant. I am doing everything in my power to ensure his safe return, and I do not need you lashing out at me because you're worried.”

Henry tensed like he was going to argue, but he took a deep breath and reined himself in with what looked like a concerted effort. “I'm sorry, Chief. What can I do to help?”

She shook her head. “Henry, you're a civilian and emotionally compromised by this situation. You cannot be involved in the investigation.”

“Emotionally--!” Mr. Spencer exploded. “Gus is emotionally compromised by this situation. Juliet is emotionally compromised by this situation. I suspect even Carlton,” he gestured to Lassiter, who frowned, but didn't contradict him. “Shawn is one of our own and he's damn likeable, for some reason. If you banned everyone who was emotionally compromised by the case, you'd have to ban the whole damn precinct, yourself included.”

Gus glanced between them. Usually, he wouldn't bet against Karen Vick, but the only person who could out-stubborn Henry Spencer was Shawn Spencer. Vick broke eye contact first. “ Fine. You can go over the video with Mr. Guster, see if you can find any more clues on the tape. You'll report directly to Detective Lassiter, you understand me?"

Henry clasped his hands together and nodded. Apparently satisfied, she turned to the two detectives. “O'Hara, see if you can find any witnesses to the kidnapping. Lassiter, get me that vehicle identification and then start working on a warrant.”

“You got it, Chief.”

And then suddenly, Gus was alone with Mr. Spencer. He clapped a hand on Gus’ shoulder.

“You okay, kid?”

“Not remotely.”

“Yeah, me neither. Let's find this son-of-a-bitch, alright?”

 

*

 

Henry and Gus watched the video three more times. Gus felt worse and worse with each review, and not just because he wasn't seeing any more clues. He couldn't stop thinking about last night, and how he'd just let Shawn leave . All because he was afraid of dealing with what Shawn said. Now he wasn't sure if it was even true, or if it had been a shocking lie designed to get Gus to let him go. It hardly mattered. He had taken it for truth in that moment, and he had reacted like a coward. The knowledge that Shawn might've needed his support, and he had withheld it sat heavy in his gut.

“Gus! Focus!” Henry snapped. “We aren't going to find him if you just sit here all zoned-out!”

Gus looked up. Something must have shown in his expression, because Henry immediately backed down.

“Hey, I'm sorry. I know you're worried sick too.” He put an arm awkwardly around Gus’ shoulder. “But you can't let it eat at you. Use it to fuel your determination. We'll get him back, son.”

Gus shook his head. “It's my fault he was alone to even get kidnapped. I shouldn't have fought with him. I shouldn't have let him leave.”

“We both know that you can't make Shawn do anything he doesn't want to do,” Henry reminded him. “Besides, it you'd been with him, we would probably be looking for both of you right now.”

“I guess.”

“I know. Now let's watch again, and see if anything else strikes us.” Henry started the video again and Gus blew out a frustrated breath, trying to focus.

“What I don't get is why he's telling you to go on with your life,” Henry mused. “Does he really think you won't do everything in your power to find him?”

“Wait a minute! He didn't say to go on with my life, he said to go on my route !” Gus grabbed the mouse and clicked back a few seconds in the video. Euphoria bubbled up in his chest and he started laughing. “I know where he is!”

He jumped to his feet and ran out of the office, Henry Spencer hot on his tail. Gus skidded to a stop in front of Lassiter’s desk and slapped his hands down on top of it.

“Lassie, I figured it out, I know where he is. C’mon, we gotta go.”

Surprisingly, Lassiter didn't ask any questions, or argue. He stood up and threw on his blazer, glancing between them. “Nice work, Guster. What's the address?”

“Well, I don't know the exact address,” Gus hedged.

Lassiter's brow furrowed. “I don't follow.”

Gus bounced in the balls of his feet. “Shawn gave me everything I needed, he knew I would figure it out. But he was being watched so he couldn't give me his exact location. Maybe he doesn't even know. But he knows what he's close to.”

“We can't send in SWAT to an unknown location, Gus.” Lassiter said. His tone was uncharacteristically gentle, and the pity sparked his temper.

“It's a good lead, Lassie. Let's just go check it out, and once we find the exact place, then we can call SWAT.”

Lassiter hesitated. “Vick will never approve me taking you...wherever it is you want to go.”

“So don't tell her.” Henry interjected. “I'm all for following procedure, but the best cops know when to throw procedure out the window and act on instinct.”

Lassiter looked like he was considering it, but before he could say anything, Juliet approached the desk, her posture exaggeratedly casual. It was clear she'd been listening in.

“Detective Lassiter, I think I have a lead on a potential witness on the other side of town. It might be... prudent to take Gus with us, just in case it's someone involved in Psych’s investigation.”

Henry cleared his throat, loudly.

“Obviously, Henry should come too, because of…” she floundered.

“His interrogation expertise!” Lassiter proclaimed, catching on. “Great idea, O’Hara! Guster, Henry; meet us at the car in five minutes.”

Henry clapped him on the shoulder. “Good man, Carlton.”

Lassiter gave him a rare smile. “Your son may be a daily pain in my ass, but we'll get him back.”

 

*

 

Gus directed Lassiter to the warehouse district. They were only a few blocks from where they had witnessed the murder that set this whole thing in motion. He gestured for Lassiter to take a left at the next intersection. As they came around the corner, Henry burst out laughing.

“What's so funny?”

He pointed at the doctor's office on the corner, then elbowed Gus. “Go on your route. I'm guessing Dr. Bliss is one of your clients?”

Gus smiled weakly. “I made the connection when he said find your Bliss.’”

Henry shook his head. “Damn kid can be brilliant when he wants to.” He jabbed a finger at Gus. “Don't you dare tell him I said that.”

“Guys, don't get too excited,” Juliet cautioned. “We may be in the right area, by but we still don't know which of these warehouses Shawn is in.”

Lassiter grunted in agreement. “Stay here. O’Hara and I are gonna take a look around.” He hit the button to lock the back doors, ignoring Henry and Gus’ protests. The detectives climbed out of the car and crossed the street, skirting the side of Dr. Bliss’ office and disappeared around the corner.

Gus banged his fist on the window, frustrated. He felt Henry’s hand light on his shoulder

“We're close, Gus. You did good.”

Gus didn't answer, staring out the window at the sidewalk. Panic was starting to creep back into his throat, making it hard to breathe. All the worst possible outcomes were flashing before his eyes. What would he do if something happened to Shawn? The thought was unbearable.

“Hey, hey, hey. Gus. You gotta breathe!” Henry's voice broke through his thoughts and Gus’ eyes snapped open. He hadn't even realized he'd squeezed them shut. The sidewalk swam into view and Gus’ gaze zeroed in on red spattering on the concrete. Oh, God was that blood?

No, not blood. Broken off pieces of Red Vine. Gus grabbed the door handle and yanked at it ineffectively.

“Gus, what are you doing?” Henry gripped his arm, trying to get him to sit back in his seat.

“Do you have your Swiss?” Guys asked, turning abruptly to him.

Henry eyed him warily. “Of course I do. Why?”

“Give it to me.”

“Gus…”

“Give. It. To. Me.” The blood was rushing too loudly in his ears, but he could still tell his voice was coming out uneven and wrong. Henry looked at him like he'd never seen him before, but he handed the knife over without another word.

Gus flicked out the screwdriver tool and wedged it into the gap under the door handle. He smacked the butt of the tool with the flat of his hand like he'd seen Shawn do before, and the handle popped off.

“Gus!” Henry exclaimed, wrenching the tool out of his hand. “What in the hell are you doing?”

Gus ignored him, squeezing his index finger into the newly created hole. He fished around until he found the cord connecting to the outside handle, hooked his finger around it and yanked. The door opened with a pop and Gus was up and out of the car without looking to see if Henry was following.

He bent and picked up the licorice off the ground. There was a trail of them meandering down the sidewalk and to the door of a building just down the street. Like breadcrumbs, a trail they were meant to follow. Gus crept forward, his only thought getting to Shawn as soon as possible.

Gus approached the door and was just reaching out to try the doorknob when Henry caught up to him.

“Gus, hold on!” He hissed, “we need to go get Juliet and Carlton.”

“I'm not waiting around for however long it takes the Chief to call in a team. Every minute we wait, Shawn is in more danger.” He gave Henry an apologetic look. “You can either come with me or not, but I'm not leaving him here.”

Henry gave him the sigh he usually reserved for his son, but he didn't leave. “Let's get on with it, then.”

Gus eased the door open and they slipped silently in. They found themselves in a long, dark corridor. Taking a deep steadying breath, Gus pressed forward, a hand on the wall to guide himself. After walking about fifty feet in the darkness, he ran out of wall as the hallway opened up into a large space. There were indistinct voices somewhere ahead, but it was impossible to tell how close they were in the darkness. Gus fished out his phone and turned on the flashlight function.

They were in a massive storage room, filled with crate pallets stacked up to the high ceiling. The flashlight cast shadows that looked strange and menacing, but it didn't appear that there were other people in the room.

Henry tapped two fingers hard on Gus’ shoulder and pointed to the opposite side of the room. There was a door on the far wall, light visible at the bottom of the frame.

“That must be where the voices are coming from,” he said in an undertone.

Gus nodded and they started to make their way across the room, taking pains to be as quiet as possible. Every footstep on the concrete floors echoed, and he was sure they were going to get caught. But finally they reached the door, without anyone bursting out and confronting them. They were close enough now that the voices in the other side were clear.

“I'm telling you, man, I'm not worth a half million dollars to anybody,” Shawn was saying in the voice he used when he thought he was being reasonable. “Just make another little snuff film asking for like, a hundred bucks. Maybe two, if you're lucky.”

“A snuff film is when you kill someone on camera,” a second voice pointed out. Sure enough, Gus recognized it as the British man from the diamond smuggling ring.

Shawn paused. “Huh. Okay, maybe not a snuff film. I'm just saying, though, you gotta ask for less money. I probably owe Gus alone half a million smackers. Not even getting into the money I borrowed from my dad's safety deposit box without asking.”

“You're very tiresome, do you know this?” The British man asked.

“ Yeah, I get that a lot,” Shawn said cheerfully. “I think my best friend may never speak to me again after the fiasco this weekend has been.”

The Brit chuckled. “Please. We both know I'm going to kill you, irregardless of whether I get the ransom money or not.”

“It's ‘regardless.’” Shawn interjected. There was a meaty thwack and Shawn swore.

“I'm tired of your prattling. Maybe if you shut up, you'll live just a bit longer.”

Shawn groaned something incoherent, but Gus was tired of sitting around listening. He turned to Henry. “What do we do?”

Henry scoffed. “You're the one who dragged me in here!”

“I didn't drag you,” Gus hissed, “I told you you didn't have to come.”

“I can't do this with you right now.” Henry snapped back.

“Fine. I'm going in. I'll be a distraction and you can sneak up from behind.” Without waiting to see if Henry was on board with his admittedly shaky plan, Gus threw open the door and stepped into the room.

The kidnapper spun around, taken off guard. Shawn beamed up at Gus from behind a bloody nose. “Buddy! You found me! And they say I'm the detective.”

“Flattery will get you nowhere, Shawn. What were you thinking, running off by yourself?”

“Hmm, maybe something along the lines of 'I really don't want Gus to get shot because of me!’” Shawn countered.

The Brit pulled out his gun and pointed it at Gus. “Are you really having this argument right now?” he asked disbelievingly.

“See dude, you totally ruined my not-getting-Gus-shot plan.”

Gus raised his hands in surrender, glaring at his friend. “I'm rescuing you and you're criticising my methods? You sound like your dad.”

Shawn gasped. “Gus, how dare you! Never compare me to Henry, that's my one rule!”

“Enough!” cried the kidnapper. “Go sit down over there.” He gestured with his gun to a chair near Shawn. Gus did as he said, sitting down next to Shawn. The kidnapper turned to face them, gun still trained on Gus.

“Listen, sir--”

“Ian,” Shawn chimed in. “His name is Ian, which is an excellent name for a British villain, don’t you think?”

“Like Ian McKellan.” Gus offered.


“Ian McShane.”

“Ian McDiarmid.”

“Cill-IAN Murphy?”

“Shawn.”

“Ian McGregor?”

Gus rolled his eyes. “It’s Ewan, and he plays good guys.”

“I’ve heard it both ways.”

“Jesus Christ!” Ian exclaimed, “Shut the bloody hell up or I will shoot you both!”

There was a moment of silence and then…

“Ian Somerhalder?” Shawn said in an undertone. Gus bit the inside of his lip, trying to hide his answering smile. It was so good to have Shawn back again, even if they were currently being held at gunpoint.

Ian-the-kidnapper was staring at both of them like he was trying to decide what to do. It clearly had not been part of his plan to suddenly have to deal with a second captive. Gus smiled at him reassuringly.

“Look...Ian. I’m sure that the police will contact you about the ransom any time now. I am not police affiliated and I think it would be in everyone’s best interests if you just collected your money and went on your way.”

Ian laughed. “Oh sure, I’m supposed to believe that the police don’t know you’re here? They just let you see the only copy of the ransom video and then let you leave to get your boyfriend without backup?”

“He’s not my boyfriend,” Shawn piped up. Ian sneered at him.

“And he’s got backup,” Henry added. The kidnapper spun towards the new voice and Henry clubbed him upside the head with a two-by-four. Ian went down like a bag of bricks and Gus immediately jumped from his chair and set to work on Shawn’s bindings.

“I cannot believe you, Shawn, honestly.” His hands were shaking as he fumbled with the ropes. “You could’ve gotten yourself killed!”

“I didn’t think I’d get captured,” Shawn admitted. “But when I did, I knew you’d find me.” Gus stopped what he was doing, looking up in surprise at the sincerity in Shawn’s voice. They stared at each other for a moment and then Shawn looked away.

Henry cleared his throat. “I, uh, I’m gonna go get Lassiter and O’Hara,” he said awkwardly. “You’ve got this handled, right Gus?”

He left before either of them could respond and Gus went back to untying Shawn. The quiet was brutal. Usually, Shawn could be trusted to break the silence, but he seemed more interested in studying the floor at the moment. Gus sighed.


“Look, it’s been a really weird couple of days,” he began, “Can we maybe--”

Shawn held up the one hand that Gus had managed to free, cutting him off. “If you’re gonna finish that sentence with the phrase ‘talk about this,’ I’m gonna have to respectfully decline.”

“You’re being ridiculous.”

“Okay, look, maybe a conversation is in order, but can it wait?” Shawn said. “I’m tied to a chair, we’ve got three unconscious Londoners, and if I’m guessing correctly, a very pissed-off head detective--”

“Three?” Gus echoed, pausing in freeing Shawn’s left hand. “Ian was the only one here!”

Shawn’s eyes widened. “No…the henchmen were here too! Where are they?”

“I’m not a henchman,” one of the two big men that had been with Ian at the murder scene stepped through the door. “And I’m not interested in monologuing like my idiot boss.” With startling speed, he pulled out his gun and fired a shot directly at Gus, who was still kneeling in front of Shawn.

It all happened too fast for Gus to process. One minute, he was staring at the barrel of the gun that was about to kill him, and the next moment something shoved him roughly to the side, and he hit the floor hard, smacking his head on the concrete. His vision greyed out for a moment and he thought he might throw up. He shoved himself up on one elbow, ignoring the way the world went slightly dark at the edges and looked over at Shawn.

Shawn was slumped forward in the chair, arms free, but still tied at the waist and feet. His left hand was pressed over his right shoulder and blood was running from between his fingers. Their eyes locked and Shawn grinned. “You alright, buddy?”

“Not for long.” Gus swung his head around to look at the henchman, who he’d all but forgotten about. The man raised his gun to fire another shot and Gus squeezed his eyes shut, bracing for the bullet. He wished he had gotten a chance to talk with Shawn.

The bang of the gunshot made him flinch, but it only took a second for him to realize he wasn’t dead. Gus opened his eyes. The gunman was sprawled on the floor and Juliet stood over him, pistol drawn. “Gus, are you okay?”

“Shawn’s been shot,” he managed and then everything went dark.

 

*

 

Gus slowly blinked awake. He was sitting in the passenger seat of the Blueberry watching the scenery flash past. Must’ve nodded off. He turned to look at Shawn, who was in the driver’s seat.

“I don’t think this is a good idea, Shawn.” he said, but Shawn only grinned.

“It’s my best idea yet. You have to trust me.”

Gus looked out the windshield at the cliff’s edge they were careening towards. Beyond, he could see the Pacific Ocean sparkling in the sunlight. “You couldn’t fly when you jumped off the garage roof at ten years old and you can’t fly now.”

“Watch me!” Shawn crowed, pushing his foot all the way down on the gas pedal. The Blueberry whined in protest as it shot off the edge of the cliff at full speed. Gus clapped his hands over his eyes, not wanting to see their inevitable plummet into the sea.

“Gus, look! We’re flying!”

“Gus!”

“GUS!”

Gus jerked awake with a gasp. Juliet was crouched above him, her hand on his shoulder. His head throbbed in pain and he blinked up at her, disoriented. Something had happened… “Where’s Shawn?”

“It’s okay, Gus, the ambulance is on it’s way.”

“Shawn!” he insisted, trying to sit up. She pushed him back down, gently but insistent. Her suit jacket was pillowed under his head and it was much nicer than the concrete. He relaxed, despite himself.

“Don’t move, Gus, you took a pretty solid blow there. Mr. Spencer is with Shawn right now, we’re gonna get you guys taken care of.”

“Is he okay?”

Juliet bit her lip. “Let’s just worry about you right now, okay? How many fingers am I holding up?” Her hand swam into view, but Gus shook his head, ignoring how it made his brain feel like it was rattling around in his skull.

“Just a concussion. Is Shawn okay?”

“He will be.” she said, but he was too tired to tell if it was a lie or not.

“He has to be,” he mumbled, closing his eyes. “I can’t be okay if he isn’t.”

If Juliet made any response, Gus didn’t hear it. The last forty-eight hours had taken their toll and the last thing he registered before he drifted off was the far-away sound of sirens.

 

*

 

The next time Gus woke up, everything was much clearer. Instead of a concrete floor, he was lying on a crisp white bed. There was an IV in the back of his hand, and the walls were mint green. He was in the hospital. Henry Spencer was dozing in the chair next to the bed, baseball cap pulled low over his eyes. It didn’t escape Gus’ notice that there was space for another bed on the opposite side of the room.

He was parched. The horrible headache had mostly abated, but Gus’ tongue felt like sandpaper in his mouth. He glanced around for a call button and succeeded in knocking it off the bed to crash on the linoleum. Henry jerked awake with a shout.

“What--oh. Gus, you’re awake.” He picked up a cup full of ice chips from the side table and offered it to Gus. “I bet you’re thirsty.”

Gus took the cup gratefully and started crunching his way through the ice. “Where’s Shawn? Is he okay?”

Henry took off his cap and rubbed a hand over his head. “He’s in surgery now. Unfortunately, the shot wasn’t a through-and-through, so they have to remove the shrapnel before it does any muscle damage.”

Gus nodded, not trusting himself to speak.

“I didn’t call your parents. I know they’re on vacation and I thought you’d be upset if I had them fly back early over a concussion. I know how your mother worries.”

Gus nodded again. He wanted more information on Shawn, but he couldn’t seem to get his voice to work. Luckily, Henry seemed to understand.

“He’s been in surgery for about an hour. They estimated it would take around two hours. He didn’t lose a lot of blood, so it’s a considerably easier procedure.”

Finally, Gus found his voice. “So he’s gonna be okay?”

Henry smiled. “Yeah, Gus, he’s gonna be okay.”

Before Gus could think of something else to say, a nurse appeared in the doorway. “How’re you feeling Mr. Guster?”

“LIke someone took a sledgehammer to my temple,” he muttered. She laughed.

“Yeah, that’s a pretty common feeling after a major concussion like yours.” She approached the bed and shone a flashlight in both of his eyes. “You really just need some more rest. We’re gonna keep you overnight for observation, just in case.”

“Will Shawn be back soon?” he asked.

The nurse hesitated. “I’m not really supposed to talk about other patients--”

“He’s my son’s partner, Lisa,” Henry chimed in. “He’s probably on more of Shawn’s emergency paperwork than I am.”

“Oh!” she gave Gus a warm smile, “Yes, he’ll be out of surgery very soon. We’re going to want to keep him overnight as well, make sure his procedure was successful.”

“Of course.”

“And since he’s going to have minimal function in his right arm and you have a head injury, we need to have someone on hand to drive you both home when you are released,” Lisa added. “Should I just list your father-in-law here?”

Gus felt his face getting hot. “Oh, uh...yeah, that’s perfect. Thank you.”

She only stayed a few more minutes, checking his vitals and adding notes to his chart. Throughout the whole process, Gus could feel Henry’s eyes on him. The silence after she left lasted only a few moments before he asked the question Gus had been waiting for since yesterday.

“Is that what’s been going on with you two this weekend? Some sort of romantic misunderstanding?”

Gus frowned. “We’re not a couple.”

“Oh, I know that,” Henry chuckled. “Believe me, if Shawn had gotten you to agree to date him, everyone would know about it.”

“What are you talking about?”

“I thought you knew. The kid’s been in love with you since the two of you were still playing with matchbox cars.”

“Oh,” Gus said stupidly. It didn’t seem like nearly enough, so he opened his mouth again. “We still play with matchbox cars. We have a weekly race with all the classic movie cars on a track we built at the office.” Not his best rejoinder, but Gus had had a rough weekend. He deserved some slack.

Henry sighed. “I get it. I’m probably the last person in the world you want to discuss this with, so let me say just one more thing.” He leaned forward in his chair until Gus couldn’t avoid his eyes. “Shawn has never talked to me about any of this, and he probably never will. That said, I know with complete certainty your friendship is the thing he values most in this world. It’s not a consolation prize for whatever else he might want. Don’t let that change over something he can't help feeling.”

Gus wanted to ask what he was supposed to do if he did want things to change, but he wasn’t sure he was ready for that level of introspection, let alone a heart-to-heart with Henry Spencer. Luckily, the nurse reappeared at that moment, pushing a wheeled hospital bed.

“Shawn!” Gus exclaimed, almost involuntarily, when he caught sight of his friend’s face.

“He’s still asleep,” Lisa said. “The anesthesia will probably keep him under for another few hours.”

He looked pale, but not deathly so. His right shoulder and arm were wrapped in bandages and he was wearing a nasal cannula, but he looked better than Gus expected. Something unclenched in his chest and he sank back against his pillows.

“Mr. Guster, you’ve got a couple more visitors in the hall, if you’re feeling up for it.” the nurse added. He nodded and she walked back to the door and waved them in.

Juliet appeared first, holding a balloon bouquet and looking relieved. “Gus, I’m so glad you’re doing okay. I brought you guys some balloons; I know Shawn likes doing helium voices, so I thought they would be better than flowers.” She looped them around the table leg, glancing over at Shawn. “How’s he doing?”

“They said he’d be asleep for a little longer, but they got all the shrapnel out of his shoulder.” Henry offered.

She beamed at him. “That’s good to hear. Are you feeling better, Gus?”

“I’m okay,” he answered. “It would’ve been much worse if you hadn’t gotten there when you did.”

“She wouldn’t have had to get there so quickly if you had just stayed in the car like I told you.” Lassiter butted in.

“Carlton!”

He raised his hands in a placating gesture. “Sorry. You did alright, Guster. Please , never do anything like that again.”

“I didn’t mean to worry you, Lassie.”

“I wasn’t worried!” he sputtered, “There’s procedure for these things. I thought I only had to worry about breaches like this with Spencer!”

Gus shrugged, but he didn’t apologize. He had realized a long time ago that he would never apologize for the things he did for Shawn. Lassiter huffed a little, but Gus could detect the hint of a smile.

“Glad to hear you two idiots are going to be alright.”

 

*

 

Lassiter and Juliet stayed for a while, but Shawn still hadn’t woken up by the time they left. Buzz came by with a tupperware container full of fresh pineapple his wife had cut up. Even the Chief stopped by, though Gus still wasn’t sure if her purpose had been to reprimand or wish them well. Shawn slept through it all. He was still asleep when the nurse came and gently coaxed Henry away to the cafeteria in hopes of getting him to go home and sleep while visiting hours were closed.


“I’ll be back bright and early in the morning,” he told Gus. “They said if you’re both fine after exams tomorrow that you can come home.”


Gus nodded. “Thanks Mr. Spencer. For everything.”

“You boys mean a lot to me,” he replied gruffly, patting Gus’ shoulder. “Take care of yourselves, would ya?”

It was a relief when he finally left. Gus was glad he’d been there, and he was glad for all the other people who had showed up, but he was exhausted and had a lot to think about that needed to be done alone.

Gus turned gingerly onto his side to sleep. He could see Shawn in the other bed, his chest rising and falling as he breathed. He mumbled a little and Gus smiled. After years of sleepovers, road trips, and all-nighters at the office, it was a familiar sound. It was soothing, this reassurance that Shawn was going to be just fine, and it wasn’t long before Gus dropped off to sleep as well.

 

*

 

“Gus?” Shawn’s voice was raspy, but immediately recognizable and Gus’ eyes snapped open. “Are you awake?”

“I am now,” Gus sighed. He fumbled for his watch on the side table. 3:23 am. “How're you feeling?”

“Like I got kidnapped and then shot,” slurred Shawn. “Man, what do they have me on? I feel floaty.”

“Morphine, Shawn. You had to have surgery,” Gus held back his natural impulse to rail at Shawn's stupidity. It was very late, and they were supposed to be in recovery. “You probably should go back to sleep. You’ll feel better in the morning.”

“You'll still be here when I wake up? Shawn asked in a very small voice that made Gus’ chest hurt. He took a moment to collect himself before he answered.

“Yeah, Shawn. I'll still be here.”

 

*

 

When Gus woke up the next morning, Shawn had already been carted off for his post-op exam. As soon as the nurses realized he was awake, they gave him a cursory exam of his own and started on discharge paperwork.

The rest of the morning passed in a flurry of activity. After Gus finished his discharge paperwork, there was insurance paperwork, and the accident report Lassiter had been so considerate to leave during his visit the day before. Henry found him sitting in the waiting room, filling out all the forms and sat down across from him.

“Feeling better this morning?”

“Much.” Gus agreed. “Have you heard any updates on Shawn? He was gone when I woke up.”

“He's getting post-op instructions right now--don’t worry, I already got you a copy,” he continued when Gus started to rise out of his chair. “They said he'll be discharged in the next half hour.”

They lapsed into silence. It wasn't exactly comfortable--the conversation from last night was too fresh in Gus’ mind for that--but it was companionable. Henry picked up a copy of US Weekly and Gus went back to his paperwork. He was trying to figure out how to file a workers comp claim for Shawn's surgery, but he wasn't too worried about it being denied. He'd put Shawn as a dependent on his health insurance years ago.

The waiting room door opened and Gus looked up, expecting Shawn, but it was Juliet. She smiled when they made eye contact and came to sit next to him.

“Ian Jameson confessed to the murders. He killed Lucas because he shortchanged him, and Marv was just a loose end. He'll be taking a plea bargain for both charges, as well as the kidnapping. Neither he or his cronies will be seeing daylight for a very long time.”

“Good.” Gus felt much more like himself today, but he didn’t think he was ready to let go of his anger at the people who had hurt Shawn quite yet.

“Listen, Gus…” she glanced over at Henry, still engrossed in his magazine, and lowered her voice. “I'm really glad we got Shawn back, but you've gotta be more careful, okay? We could've lost both of you yesterday.”

“If something had happened to Shawn, you would've lost both of us, either way.” He answered, stunned to realize it was true.

Juliet looked less surprised than he felt at the revelation. “Yeah I know, he's the Mulder to your Scully. As your friend, I understand completely why you did it. But as police officer, I have to tell you to never do that again.”

“Mulder and Scully end up together.” He felt compelled to point out. Juliet's grin widened and she patted his knee before getting to her feet.

“Don't worry, Gus. In real life, that's more fun than the will-they-won't-they part.”

She left him sitting there with his mouth hanging open, wondering why everyone else apparently knew what he'd been blind to for so long.

 

*

 

Shawn appeared fifteen minutes later, his right arm in a sling and butterfly bandages on his face. Gus hung back and let Henry fuss over his son while Shawn pretended to be annoyed by the attention. He caught his eye and grinned at him and Shawn gave him a hesitant smile in return, maybe still a little uncertain of where they stood.

Gus had to catch a ride with the Spencers because the Blueberry was still at the station. He squeezed into the middle seat of Henry's pickup and Shawn clambered in after, making an awkward effort not to lean into him while also keeping his injured shoulder away from the door. He sat with stiffly perfect posture for all of five minutes, before he fell asleep, his head dropping onto Gus’ shoulder, puffing out warm breath against his collarbone. Gus curled his fingers into his palm and resisted the urge to brush Shawn's hair back out of his face. Henry made a noise that sounded like a chuckle, but Gus didn't look over, too afraid of what might show on his face.

Apparently, the ordeal had been more taxing than Gus had thought, because he dozed off too, only rousing when he heard the truck ignition switch off. He lifted his head from where it had been resting against Shawn's and blinked at the familiar sight of the white and red Spencer house through the windshield.

“I thought you were taking me back to my car.”

Henry snorted. “Burton William Guster, do you think I'm going to let someone with a recent head injury drive themselves home to an empty apartment? I thought you were supposed to be the smart one in this partnership.”

Gus sighed, but didn't bother arguing. Going home alone did sound unappealing, even if it would've given him some more time before he had to address the elephant in the room. Said elephant mumbled something in his sleep and nuzzled closer, sending goosebumps racing down Gus’ spine.

“Shawn, wake up. We're home.” Gus poked him in the forehead and Shawn's brow wrinkled.

“Ugh.” He batted Gus’ hand away. “I'm up, I'm up.”

Gus poked him again. “The pins and needles in my shoulder say otherwise.”

Shawn opened his eyes and smirked up at him. “Fiiiiine. Don't want you to have to amputate.” He sat up with a groan and opened the door. “Who wants to watch Pretty in Pink ?”

“I thought that was your go-to sick movie,” Gus protested following him up the steps and into the house.

“It's a comfort movie, Gus, there's a difference. It works to comfort in all situations, not just illness.” He plopped down on the couch, wincing when he bumped his injured arm.

“Careful.” Gus said, sitting down to his left. “You literally just got out of the hospital.”

“Well yeah, why do you think I wanna watch my comfort movie?”

Henry was watching them from the doorway, an amused smile on his face. “Gus, you think you can babysit for a while? I told Maddy I'd take her to dinner.”

“Mom's back in town?” Shawn asked, leaning forward like he was going to get up. Gus pulled him back down by his uninjured shoulder. “Does she have another job at the SBPD?”

“You know, sometimes parents want to check on their son after he gets shot,” Henry retorted. “But I imagine Karen will make both of you sit down with her for a session.”

Shawn jutted his lower lip out in a pout. Henry's weird fond smirk reappeared. “She'll come back with me after dinner, kid.” He tipped his head at Gus. “I'm sure she'll be glad to hear you're okay, too.”

“We'll be fine here,” Gus said. “Enjoy your dinner.”

 

*

 

By the time Henry left, Shawn had managed to set up the DVD player one-handed before collapsing back on the couch next to Gus. He pointed the remote at the television and started the movie. Gus was still trying to figure out the best way to start the conversation they needed to have, so he made no protest.

They watched in silence for a while. It was nice; the routine of a favorite movie at the Spencer house was as ingrained in Gus’ memories as his own family traditions. It didn't hurt that the couch was ridiculously comfortable. He was halfway to nodding off in the middle of Jon Cryer’s lip syncing when Shawn broke the silence.

“I always thought she should've ended up with Duckie.”

Gus answered without thinking. “Duckie’s kind of obnoxious, though.”

There was a long pause. “Yeah, I guess.” Shawn said quietly.

Gus’ heart sank. He had the distinct feeling that he'd screwed something up. From the corner of his eye, he could see Shawn clutching a throw pillow to his chest, staring at the screen with an intensity usually reserved for a particularly challenging crime scene. Without thinking too much about what he was going to say, Gus picked up the remote control and paused the movie. Molly Ringwald stared at him, unimpressed.

“Hey!” Shawn complained. “I was watching that.”

“You're not Duckie, Shawn.”

Shawn answering smirk was completely devoid of humor. “No? Excellent lip syncing skills, funniest person in the room , and the one with the best hair? Sounds pretty on the nose.”

“You know what I mean.”

“It's because you wanna be Duckie, huh? I always knew you and Jon Cryer were kindred spirits.”

“I don't want to be Duckie,” Gus protested.

“It's okay, Gus. I'm willing to overlook Two and a Half Men if you are.”

“That's not--”

“I mean, it has been on the air for what, five years now? Somebody must be watching it, no matter how terrible it is.”

Gus was losing control of the conversation. This always happened when Shawn didn't want to talk about something. He had a remarkable ability for diversion, but Gus wasn't going to allow it this time.

“I said I don't want to be Duckie!” He repeated, raising his voice to be heard over Shawn's sitcom-based ranting.

“Join the club,” Shawn mumbled, quietly enough that Gus suspected he wasn't supposed to hear it. “You can be Molly Ringwald then,” he added at his normal volume, “unless you really want to be Andrew McCarthy, but I still think he's kind of a dick.”

Gus felt his temper rise. “Stop miscasting me in 80s movies! I don't want to be Molly Ringwald, I don’t want to be Andrew McCarthy, and I didn't want to be Whitney Houston either! But you forced me into it.”

It was enough of a digression that it halted Shawn's self-defensive rambling. “Excuse me?”

“Why did you push me out of the way of that bullet?” Gus demanded. Shawn looked completely bewildered.

“I told you; I have a standing ‘don't get Gus shot’ plan. Isn't that a good thing?”

“Yeah, but you did get shot! You could've been killed!”

“Yeah, but you weren't.” Shawn spoke slowly, like Gus was stupid. It was terrifying how little sense self-preservation Shawn seemed to have sometimes.

“You don't get to prioritize my safety over your own!”

For a split second, Shawn looked completely vulnerable, like he didn't know what to say for once in his life. It passed quickly and that infuriating smirk was back. “Wait, did you just call me Kevin Costner?”

Gus blew out an annoyed breath. “Can you be serious for one second?”

“That doesn't sound like me.”

“Shawn!” Gus’ voice finally tripped over into shouting. “We have to talk about this.”

“Alternatively, we could not do that.”

“Listen,” Gus said. He suddenly felt very tired. “I know heartfelt expressions of emotion are not your thing, but I really need you to be honest with me.”

“Okay, I admit it. I'm totally the one who broke the leg off your limited-edition Michelangelo action figure when we were ten. I was trying to use him to spin-kick Shredder even though you told me not to.”

Gus sighed. “First off, duh. You were the only person I gave permission to touch it. Secondly, you know that's what I'm talking about. I want you to be honest with me now, as adults. About stuff that actually matters.”

“I try to be.” Shawn murmured.

It was true, Gus realized. When it really it came down to it, Shawn always told him the truth, even if it wasn't necessarily pleasant. He was constantly telling white lies--and occasionally more outrageous stories--to everyone else, but he didn't lie to Gus. That’s why this whole thing had been so unpleasant; it wasn’t like Shawn to keep him in the dark.

“Then tell me the truth now: did you mean what you said when we fought the other night?”

“Guuuuuus,” Shawn whined. “This is, like, the last conversation in the world that I ever wanted to have with you.”

“Why?”

Shawn’s eyebrows shot up, incredulous. “Oh, sure, because there's nothing awkward about finding out your best friend has been secretly in love with you since you were both virgins who couldn't drive. Why wouldn't we want to have that conversation? Next we can talk about my tense and painful relationship with my father!”

Gus processed that. “So you didn't just say it to get me to let you leave alone?”

Shawn looked stung. “I wouldn't do that. Besides, if I was going to tell you a lie, it would probably be one less likely to irreparably damage our friendship.”

“Then why did you say it?”

“I dunno!” Shawn admitted, throwing up his uninjured hand. “Sometimes I just say things without thinking about it.”

“You're gonna have to give me more than that.” Gus insisted.

Shawn made a face like he was being forced to eat vegetables, but he soldiered on. “Part of it was to get you to let me leave, but I also kinda figured you weren't gonna want to see me after the case ended anyway, so what was the harm? Least I could get it off my chest…” He trailed off, looking away.

“What made you think I wouldn't want to see you?”

Shawn scoffed. “Gus, buddy, no offense, but you didn't react super well to the whole kissing fiasco.”

“There's been a lot going on!” Gus said defensively. Shawn gave him a bleak smile.

“Yeah, there has. Maybe we should just Marty McFly this whole weekend.”

“What do you mean?”

Shawn shrugged, but his shoulders were too stiff for it to have the intended effect. “We could just pretend this whole thing never happened.”

“Oh, c'mon dude, that's--”

“No. Listen.” Shawn looked directly at him, his eyes all green and earnest. “You’re my best friend and I'm seriously the luckiest guy in the world to get to have that. Everything else is peanuts. As long as that doesn't change, we can just go back to normal, you don't have to--”

Gus held up a hand. “Shawn, it's my turn to talk.” His heart was racing and for once in his life, he had no idea what he was going to do next. He opened and closed his mouth a couple times, trying to figure out how to express all the realizations of the past three days. It was about that point he realized he was terrified. He squeaked uselessly.

Shawn let him flounder for a few moments, amusement and anxiety warring in his expression. “Sooooo, are you gonna actually utilize your turn with the talking stick or…?”

Gus made a noise of frustration and surged forward, smashing his lips against Shawn's, cutting off whatever he was going to say next. Shawn made an “mmph!” of surprise, his good hand latching onto Gus’ forearm. Gus took this as encouragement, turning his head and pressing in to deepen the kiss.

He was delighted to discover how right it felt. Gus had been resisting thinking about how great the first kiss had been, in an attempt at self-preservation. This one was even better. Even with a haze of exhaustion over everything, and having to be mindful of the sling, Gus really enjoyed kissing Shawn. It was a relief; he had halfway been afraid that he was manufacturing attraction because it would make his life easier. Realizing that it wasn't the case made him practically giddy.

It came to an end far too soon for Gus’ liking.  Shawn managed to get his free arm between them and gently pushed him away.

“Uh.” It was a rare occurrence, Shawn struck speechless, but here he was staring at Gus with huge eyes. “Not that I'm complaining, but, um, what was that ?”

“It's not just you,” Gus said in a rush. “It's probably never been just you. But I didn't know, until you kinda forced me to think about it this weekend.”

“You're sure about this?” Shawn asked, his usual veneer of uber-confidence stripped away.

Gus could feel his ears burning in embarrassment, but he held Shawn's gaze. He deserved that much. “I've never been more sure of anything.”

Shawn looked like he wanted to believe him, but he was clearly as freaked out as Gus was about this whole thing. “I'm not exactly Mr. Reliable. You're not afraid that I'll get bored and skip town again?” He asked the stuffed bass on the wall behind Gus, his voice small.

Gus shook his head, grabbing Shawn's wrist. He grinned reassuringly. “Shawn, I'm afraid because of you every day. You terrify me.”

Shawn started to pull his hand back, but Gus tightened his grip, holding firm.

“Let me finish. You do things, take me places, put me in situations that scare the hell out of me. But there's literally nowhere else on this planet I'd rather be. And if that means following your stupid ass on some insane cross-country trip to find yourself, I would be happy to do it.”

A slow smile crept across Shawn's face. “Oh yeah?”

“Yeah.”

“Did you practice that speech in the mirror? It was very good. Like, When Harry Met Sally -level.”

“No, actually. That may be the first time I've ever improvised a speech in my whole life.” He squeezed Shawn's hand. “I'm sorry it took me so long to figure everything out.”

Shawn tapped a finger on his chin, pretending to think about it. His eyes were shining with undisguised joy, which somewhat ruined the effect. “I could probably forgive you…but only if you're willing to make the kissing a regular part of our routine.”

Gus smirked, pushing Shawn back against the couch cushions and swinging a leg over to straddle his lap. Shawn’s eyes went gratifyingly huge. Gus laughed, leaning in until their lips were brushing. “You know that's right.”

 

*

 

Three Weeks Later

 

“I can't believe you wrecked my car, Shawn.” Gus said.

They were leaving the station after another successful (well, mostly successful) case. Shawn skipped down the steps, swinging his arms. He was clearly enjoying his recent clean bill of health. At the bottom of the stairs he spun and grabbed Gus’ hand.

“I'm sorry about your car, Magic Head, but it was hardly my fault. We were just doing some renaissance tailing--”

“Reconnaissance.”

“--how was I supposed to know the stolen goods were on the back of the truck, and unsecured at that?”

Gus shook his head. “You can look at someone's shirt collar and tell me how many siblings he has, but throw a tarp over a giant wheel of cheese and you're fooled.”

Shawn ignored this, gripping his hand more insistently. “Besides, even if I had hypothetically known it was there, maybe I assumed the bad guys knew better than to brake so suddenly. Or that a wheel of cheese surely couldn't do that much damage to a study car like the Yaris.”

Gus rolled his eyes, but laced their fingers together anyway. “Uh huh.”

Buzz happened to walk by just then, his near-permanent grin widening when he clocked their hand-holding. “Good work today, guys! It's good to have the Santa Barbara Cheese Smuggler off the streets.”

Shawn adopted a fake-humble expression.  “We do it for the people, Buzz. Now get outta here and enjoy that spa weekend with the wife! Gus will come by to feed Professor Cating tomorrow.”

The patrolman didn't even ask how Shawn knew, just gave them a cheery wave and headed out to the parking lot. Gus shook his head again. Turned out that even dating Shawn, he was still constantly exasperated with him. It was comforting, in a way.

None of their friends or family had reacted to the news with any surprise, even Gus’ parents  (though Joy had since told him they were a little wary of the arrangement). Even Lassiter was unsurprised, his expression simply darkening in I-had-hoped-this-day-would-never-come flavored horror.

Gus wished at least one person had been taken off guard by the new relationship. It had taken him fifteen years to figure it out. People could've at least pretended to be shocked.

“Anyways, I sweet-talked the chief into expensing a rental for you while the Blueberry's in the shop.” Shawn interrupted his train of thought, dragging him under the shade of a nearby tree and crowding him up against the trunk. He ducked in for a short, sweet kiss and then grinned. “Think of it! You could get a Redberry! Or, dare I suggest, a Pinkberry!”

“You just want a smoothie.” Gus accused.

“Let's be honest, it would be weirder if I didn't want a smoothie right now.”

“Alright, you can buy me a smoothie to apologise for wrecking my car.”

“Oooooor we could go to IHOP for breakfast!” Shawn exclaimed, his eyes lighting up.

“It's 12:45.”

“Brunch then!”

“You just want to order food with a stupid name because it makes you laugh.”

Shawn pretended outrage. “How dare you! The Rooty Tooty Fresh and Fruity is a breakfast staple and I will not listen to you disparage it like this.”

“It's just pancakes with fruit.” He gave Shawn a look that he knew from years of use expressed exactly how crazy he thought his friend was and how unlikely he was to fall for any of it. “They didn't exactly reinvent the wheel.”

Shawn’s expression softened into fondness. It was a relatively new addition to Shawn’s innumerable facial expressions, one that was reserved for only Gus. He'd didn't think he'd ever get tired of seeing it.

“Don't worry, mi amor, I will get you some of those Groucho Marx glasses like in the commercial. Then you too can enjoy the deliciousness of the Rooty Tooty without embarrassment.” He yanked Gus against his side and planted another smacking kiss on his temple.

Gus rolled his eyes. “Yeah, it's the pancakes that embarrass me.” He hooked his arm around Shawn's waist and ignored the triumphant fist pump it elicited. “How are we getting there? Since, y’know, my car is totaled and all.”

Shawn beamed at him. “My motorcycle of course!”

“Uh-uh, Shawn! No way. I have never ridden a motorcycle and I never will.”

“A month ago, you would've said the same thing about riding--”

“You know what?” Gus cut him off abruptly. “I'll do it if it means you never, ever finish that sentence.”

Shawn cackled and dragged him towards the bike. “C’mon, I got you a personalized helmet and everything.”

It was a pretty cool helmet. Gus sighed, taking it and weighing it in his hands. “This is the last time I let you talk me into something crazy.”

“Dude, we both know that isn't true.” He climbed on the bike and gave him an expectant look. “You coming?”

Gus climbed on the bike behind him, wrapping his arms around his waist. “Suck it, Shawn.”

“You suck it.”

“Buy me breakfast and I'll think about it.”

Shawn's surprised burst of laughter was the last thing he heard before the rumble of the engine drowned everything out. Which was just as well, since Gus screamed like a little girl for the whole ride.


Whatever. The danger was half the fun, anyway.