When it seems they're heading for the final curtain
Good deduction never fails, that's for certain
The worst of messes
—Duck Tales Theme Song
Juliet O'Hara sat calmly in the waiting area of the emergency room, filling out paperwork and waiting for Carlton to call her back. She had left him a message that simply said he should get a hold of her when he could, and she was grateful that her voice hadn't jumped around or that she hadn't said more, worrying him before they were able to talk. She tried to decide how to tell him about what had happened while she ticked boxes in the Medical History portion of the forms. It was almost one o'clock in the morning, but she wasn't at all hungry, even though she'd forgotten her planned late dinner entirely when she'd picked up her phone four hours earlier and Gus had started to talk.
Her phone started to vibrate and she flipped it open without glancing at the display. “O'Hara,” she greeted slowly. Speaking slowly helped keep everyone calm—it was something most cops picked up on very quickly.
“Juliet. What's wrong?”
She set her pen down and closed her eyes, smiling a little at Carlton's clipped tone; of course he had heard what was in her voice in her message, and he'd known what it had meant. “Shawn's okay,” she said, making that the first thing he heard, and then amended that: “He's going to be okay.”
She heard him exhale very softly, and could picture him closing his eyes as well. “From?” he asked.
She opened her eyes and shook her head helplessly, trying hard not to laugh exasperatedly, or hysterically, or at all. “Don't laugh. I mean, not that you would, but... he has a head wound. They're stapling the back of his skull right now.”
“And that's hilarious because...?”
She pressed her lips together for a moment and glanced at Gus, who was worriedly trying to peek underneath a thick bandage on his forearm. “Shawn and Gus were in a shipyard,” she began, and Gus rolled his eyes. “They were investigating pirates.”
“Smugglers,” Gus corrected, in a long-suffering voice. “Long Shawn Silver is the one that kept insisting they were pirates.”
“Right,” she said. “Um... at approximately seven-thirty tonight, they were searching one of the boats; one of the suspects saw them, launched the boom at them, and when Gus said, 'Duck!', instead of... of getting down... Shawn said... 'Where?!' and it... quacked him in the back of the head.” That was it—she had to hold the phone slightly away from her face so that Carlton wouldn't hear her squeak with the effort to hold on to her giggles. She'd thought she could hold on, but her terror at Gus's frantic call hadn't yet left her, and hearing Carlton's steady voice made her miss him, and want his no-nonsense presence, and she was so exasperated, and anxious, and relieved, that she had to finally let it out and either laugh or cry. She made eye-contact with Gus and held up the phone, her eyes pleading while one hand covered her mouth.
Gus sighed and took her phone. “Lassiter, it's Gus. ...yes, she's just a little shook up—they won't let her see Shawn yet. ...Very sure. He was only unconscious for a few minutes, and he was more upset about getting blood in his stupid hair than the smugglers making a break for it. The Chief and a bunch of others are down there now, and we know who at least one of them is, so some black and whites are heading to his last known address.”
Juliet had managed to calm herself down and drink the rest of the water in her nearby bottle, and she gestured for her phone back. “It's me,” she said. “Sorry about that. It's been a really long day and—”
“It's fine, just take care of yourself,” Carlton said. He paused. “I really wish I could come out, but I'm in the middle of a big case that's just about to break, and if everything's ultimately going to be fine—if Shawn's okay and both of you are safe, I can't really justify—”
“I understand,” she said quickly. “Really. I just wanted to let you know what happened, and that he's okay, and... I just wanted to hear your voice. When do you think we can see you?”
“I'm not sure.” He sounded disapproving, and she could easily imagine him frowning. When he sighed, she could see him rubbing the spot on his forehead between his eyes. “It depends on what happens with this case. Even if you came here, I'm not home much right now. I can let you know.”
“All right, I will.” He paused. “When you see Shawn, tell him he's an idiot. No—make fun of his hair for me. Tell him he's going to have a scar and it's going to be bald there forever.”
“He deserves it. 'Where!'” he mimicked. “Only Shawn I-Love-Bunnies-And-Ducks Spencer would get cracked in the back of the head on a smuggler's ship because he got excited about being a goddamn pirate. Guster should get a mental check for going into business with him. Or hazard pay.”
Juliet glanced at Gus. “Carlton says you should get hazard pay for following Shawn around.”
Gus made a face at the bandage on his arm. “Oh, I'm putting in for it. And I'm the one that does the Psych finances: I'm getting a bonus, and it's coming out of his smoothie fund.”
Lassiter had almost responded that he shouldn't be so reckless, but that would have been the definition of wasted breath, especially to her, when she'd been sitting in a waiting room and worrying about his dumb ass for going on five hours. He was sure Henry would spend the next week or so reading him the riot act, but Shawn had gotten uncommonly good at tuning out his father over the years. Despite becoming quite... close... with both Juliet and Shawn in the last few months, Lassiter wasn't sure what his place was when it came to serious scolding; there was no way he wasn't going to say something, though. Not when she'd started with he's okay, indicating that something worrisome had happened, and then switched to he's going to be okay, meaning he wasn't, at least not yet, and it had taken several minutes for Lassiter to feel like he could fully unclench his jaw again. Shawn was so overconfident of himself, and so stubborn, and so foolhardy, yet he hated to be told all of those things, probably because he knew all of it, but didn't care. Or maybe he just didn't like being reminded that there were people who cared about him so much that the only possible response to his antics was to yell at him and tell him he was an idiot in lieu of shaking the living shit out of him. The next time he saw them there would definitely be at least a little yelling. In the meantime...
“Good morning, Santa Barbara Custom Gifts,” a female voice greeted. “Can I help you?”
“Yes,” he said. "I'm calling from out of state, but I have a—uh—a friend. In a local hospital there." He cleared his throat. "I need to know if you can deliver something today."
“Yes sir, we certainly can,” she said. “What did you have in mind? We have two different fully customizable balloon and flower bundles—”
He briefly considered sending Shawn balloons that said something like #1 Private Dick Head, but he would probably enjoy that too much. “No, no—do you have candy?”
“It doesn't really matter,” he said. “Just a lot of it. A colossal amount, if you have it.”
“Well, we have a two-pound box of peanut clusters, or a three-pound box of caramel turtles. Or, if you mean really colossal, we have a ten-pound tub of Gummy Bears.”
Shawn, shouting across a crowded airport baggage claim: If I took a bite out of God's head... “That'll do,” Lassiter said. “And I need a stupid card.”
The girl paused. “Sir?”
“A stupid card,” he repeated. “Something juvenile, immature—the more moronic, the better. The sort of get-well card someone in junior high would appreciate.”
“Ummm...” she trailed off, and there was a short pause while she presumably looked around or checked a database. “We have Stewie Griffin, 'I demand you feel better immediately' on the cover, 'So that I may kill you later' on the inside.”
He didn't know who Stewie Griffin was, but that sounded just about perfect. “That will work,” he said.
“Name of the recipient?”
There was another pause, wherein he could faintly hear a keyboard. “Any message for the inside of the card?”
He told her. “And this will be delivered today?”
“Yes, sir—before three o'clock at the latest.”
He gave her his credit card information, hung up, rubbed his eyes. He'd been awake for almost thirty-six hours, and his dark and cool bedroom was calling to him, but he had found in the last few months that the king-sized bed he'd gotten just after his sister's wedding was far too empty when he was the only one in it. Twenty minutes later he was idly comparing prices for flights to California, though he didn't book anything just yet.
Henry finally left around nine, just after official visiting hours started and they finally let Juliet come in. Gus had come with her, but he'd left almost immediately, saying something about bringing Jules coffee and some food, while she gripped Shawn's hand and gave him the sort of look that he couldn't quite look at—the one that was furious and glad and full of love, filling him with the sort of shame his dad's nagging had never once been able to incite. She really didn't look that great—her hair was limp and there were brown circles under her eyes, she was pale and was pressing her lips together, probably to stop them from trembling—and she very clearly didn't give even a tiny shit, which meant that he'd really scared her.
“I'm sorry,” he said before she could speak, and kissed her hand. “I'll hit the deck any time anyone says 'duck' ever again, I promise. The next time we hit the petting zoo I'm doing the Crawly Gator all over Quack Corners.”
She closed her eyes and sighed, then shook her head with them still closed. “Shawn,” she said, very tiredly.
The place where he'd been hit was super annoying, achy and bruisey and throbby and itchy, but he managed to sit up a little off the back of the bed and reach for her other hand. “I'm really sorry,” he said again. “Really. I don't love ducks more than you. I don't even love Kit-Kats more than you. I don't even love my hair more than you.”
That did it; she laughed, and he smiled, even though it hurt, because that was at least a good hurt. “I love you too,” she said. “I don't like getting calls like that, you know. All I was looking forward to was some Thai and a bubble bath, and then Gus calls me, and all I can get out of him is 'Shawn' and 'blood' and 'unconscious' and—”
He winced. “I need to tell him sorry too. Maybe I'll spend a couple of days chilling and riding with him on his route to keep him company. I'll even let him pick the music. Do you think he would notice if I replaced all of his CDs with The Hoff's Night Rocker?”
Juliet snorted. “I really, really hope so.” Shawn thought she approved of his willingness to let someone watch over him for a while as well. He gave her hands a squeeze and then turned on his side to rest his cheek on the pillows. She stood and pulled up the blanket for him. “I called Carlton,” she told him when he was comfortable.
He lifted his head again. “Really?”
“Of course. He would want to know that you're okay.”
“He wouldn't even know anything happened unless you told him.”
Jules gave him another look, this one a little impatient. “He would want to know right away, just like the rest of us would. Gus said the only reason he didn't call him himself is because he thought he'd be asleep, and Gus wanted to make sure you were going to be okay before calling anyone but me.”
“I thought he was still working around the clock on those Publix robberies ever since one of the clerks was shot.”
“He is, but Gus didn't know that. I left him a message and he called back when he was able to check his phone. But that's not the point—wouldn't you want to know if something happened to him?”
He thought about Lassie being shot, or assaulted with grits, whatever those were, and cringed a little. “Yeah. I would. What'd he say?”
She paused, slipping on the sort of grin she brought out when something was funny but slightly mean, and she wasn't sure if she wanted to say it. He held a hand up, palm toward himself, and beckoned her on with his fingers. “He said... you're going to have a scar and the back of your head is going to be partly bald for the rest of your life.”
Shawn's mouth dropped open. “How rude,” he said, in his best Stephanie Tanner. “It will not. I'll wear a weave if I have to. Wow, that's low, even for Lassie. When are we seeing him next? His ass is going to have a scar.”
Juliet snorted. “We said we'd figure it out once he can close those robberies and you're better. See, there's another reason to stop being such an idiot—if you die, you'll never get to top him.”
“Why do I always pick the most inopportune times to enter rooms?” came Gus's voice.
Shawn looked over to see him standing in the doorway with two cups of coffee. “Hi, buddy,” he greeted, trying on a grin. It didn't make his head hurt too much, so he widened it. “Great timing, as always.”
“No, Shawn, that was distinctly bad timing.” Gus sighed and came further into the room, offering one of the cups to Jules. She smiled at him in thanks and sipped, making only a small grimace of disgust at the hospital cafeteria taste.
“At least it wasn't me this time,” Shawn pointed out. “I think you'll agree I've been stellar at keeping TMI stuff on the DL.”
“I'm going to go print you a gold star.”
“I'd rather get a congratulatory smoothie.”
“How about a congratulatory kick in the ass?” Gus offered. “I happen to have a surplus of those ready.”
Juliet's phone vibrated, and she set her coffee down. “I'll be right back,” she promised, and went out into the hall. She was back in almost immediately, looking even more drawn that before. “I'm sorry, Shawn, I need to go,” she said. “Chief Vick says they got all four of the smugglers Gus told her that you sensed, but she won't let me come in until I get some sleep, so I'm going to go do that.” She smiled, a cracking-ice sort of smile. “So that I have energy to tear them each seven new holes.”
“Seven is lucky,” Shawn said, approvingly. He blew her a kiss. “Bye, I love you, you're terrifying.”
“Thank you, Shawn. Gus, Vick would like you to come in at some point today—not now—” she added pointedly “—to give your statement on what happened last night, and to identify the man that caused Shawn to nearly fracture his skull.”
“Got it,” Gus said, settling into one of the chairs against the wall. Shawn smiled and laid his cheek more comfortably against the pillow and closed his eyes, hearing the TV go on as he fell asleep.
He was awake again almost three hours later, when one of the nurses brought him a get-well package that had just been delivered. Gus thanked her and brought a large bucket over to Shawn's bed. “Oooh, what is it?” Shawn asked.
“Ten pounds of Gummy Bears,” Gus said, looking as if he couldn't decide whether to be impressed or disgusted.
“Wow,” Shawn said appreciatively. “That is one barrel of bears. Who's it from?”
“Dunno, but they spelled your name wrong.” Gus unstuck the card from the top of the bucket and held it out.
“What!” Shawn made a face at the cursive, hand-written Sean Spencer on the envelope. “At least they didn't do the version with the U. But who would send me that many gummies and not know how to spell my name?” He ripped it open and pulled out a card with the evil baby from Family Guy on the front. He flipped it open and flicked his eyes to the initials at the end, and then he understood. Then he read the message and started to laugh.
You are a ducking moron, Spencer. Did you even quack the case? —CL
He showed the card to Gus, who rolled his eyes and started to pry off the top of the Gummy tub. “This never would have happened if you didn't assume everyone else in the world goes into thralls of ecstasy over fowl,” he grumped.
Shawn thought about that, and then he grinned—this one was too perfect to pass up. “Ha ha,” he piped, a la Nelson Muntz. “This never would have happened if we had gone to Macon, Georgia.”
“Oh my god,” Gus said, holding his head.