-Santa Barbara, 1987-
“I didn’t even know great-aunt Carla! She smelled like cabbage!” Shawn complained, tugging at the small suit he was trapped inside of.
“Ah ha, there you go Shawn, giving yourself away.” The older Spencer said, glancing in the rearview. “You said you didn’t know her, but then you said she smelled like cabbage.” Shawn pouted at him in the mirror, arms crossed.
“I meant I didn’t know her enough to have to go to her funeral!”
“She was family, Shawn, and that means you have to go to their funeral, even when you don’t want to.” Henry turned back to the road, looking just as uncomfortable in his own rental suit. “People who barely know you are going to come to your funeral to.”
“I’m never going to die, dad.”
“If only, son…” Henry whispered, his boy already staring out the window at road construction. “If only.”
Even at 28, the doctors office made Shawn shiver. White walls, antiseptic hanging over everything, people staring at you with eyes that held nothing inside of them. The lack of color, and the feeling of fear and pain that tied itself around the building...He hated it. He hated almost everything about hospitals, except the lollypop he got when he left.
As Shawn walked into the room there was a cold feeling in his gut, like a change waiting for him within the colorless barriers of brick. He’d gotten a blood test a week ago, and usually they called with results, or mailed them, but not today. Today he’d gotten a solemn sounding nurse on the other end of his line, and a demand he come in that afternoon.
He knew something was off, and later on he might even he admit he knew what it was.
‘Psych’ didn’t have any cases today, they’d just closed the Chavez murder, and gotten Lassiter off on the charges. Shawn was feeling pretty good about himself, sauntering around and giving more daring smiles to the head detective. The sneers had been losing power ever since they’d met, but now they were weaker than ever before. So everything was working out perfectly for the ‘psychic’. Good work, best friend at his side, beautiful flirting buddy, his relationship with his father was steadily moving forward, and he was at the top of his game.
What could go wrong?
Shawn tapped his foot on bleached tile, his nervousness getting the better of him. Ears picking up bits and pieces of everything within 10 yards of him, eyes working out detail after detail. The downside to his ‘training’ rearing it’s ugly head yet again. The consultant swallowed hard, flopping back against the ugly, blue-gray chair and scratched absently at his arms.
After what could’ve been three weeks, a small, happy-go-lucky looking nurse waved at him. Engaged, he noticed immediately. “Mr. Spencer?” She was new, still unsure, but the nurse behind her gave her a small thumbs up and the woman seemed to gain surety. “Please, follow me this way.” Shawn obeyed without words, the strange feeling of wrongness keeping his gigantic trap shut for the moment.
“The doctor will be in to talk to you in just a moment.” ‘Peggy’ said, giving him one last plastic smile before scampering away and closing the door. Shawn glanced around, but everything was the same dull, government issue of the rest of the building. Off-blue chairs, white walls, small medical material ready for use around him. His foot was tapping again, hands a little sweaty when he flexed them. A monster in his throat, making his breathing just the bit more ragged.
Shawn hated being nervous, he hated not knowing for certain if what he thought was going to happen would, he hated hospitals. Tugging at his brown hair gently, trying to steady himself. Doctors appointments always made him this way; this deep dark feeling that something was about to happen, something that would change everything. He could practically taste it, like metal encasing his tongue. It had been there since he was a child, this insane nervousness that bordered on an attack everytime he went in for his check up. His father said he would grow out of it.
It could’ve been a year for Shawn before the doctor finally entered. ‘Doctor Wilson;Medical’ was his name, and he seemed have the bittersweet happiness of every specialist burnt into his features. “Mr. Spencer.” Wilson said, sitting down in front of him.
“Give me the bad news, doc.” Please don’t let it be bad news. “I can take it.” Please, oh God please don’t give me that look. Stop!
“I understand that’s a joke, Mr. Spencer.” Wilson cleared his throat, dark eyes giving him a puppy dog apology. Shut up. No, what’s happening? “But I’m afraid I do, truly, have bad news.”
The next moments passed in ringing, Wilson’s mouth moving, explaining, creating a bundle of ‘ifs’ and ‘buts’ and ‘maybes’, but all Shawn caught was the things he never wanted to hear, the words he didn’t expect until he was old with a hunchback.
“Incurable.” and “Dying.” and “One year.”
“Mr. Spencer.” It was like a gong in his mind, because so many things seemed to be falling apart right there in his hands. He lifted his eyes from his dirty sneakers to meet that damn puppy stare. “Mr. Spencer I’m very sorry, and we will do everything possible to give you as much time as we can and-”
“Woah, doc, give a guy a minute, huh?” The man flushed, nodding and standing up with his clipboard. The doctor was still staring at Shawn, and the psychic managed a pathetic little tilt of his lips. “C’mon, give a guy some credit. We’re on the first story and there’s nothing impressively sharp in here. I promise not to off myself.” The puppy-man nodded once, then took his leave out the door.
As soon as the cold, gray door swung shut Shawn crashed. Curling forward, in on himself, he took three deep, shuddering breaths. The life he loved so dearly turning to watered down putty in his palms, dropping out of his shaking grasp to the abyss of nothing opening under his feet. A cold slap in his face, and faces already seemed to be fading away from him.
Baby blue eyes and long blonde hair, giggles and naivety that could break your heart. Strength under it all that made him shiver, an almost love there within her goodbyes. More of a sister, a best friend, a could’ve been. All of swallowed by a fog there in his mind.
Dark brown eyes, darker skin and a disgruntled stare. Bemused smile, and startled laughter. Understanding that could never be matched, the one person he cherished more than anything in the world. Jerk chicken and pineapples in the fridge, and trust that could survive the zombie apocalypse. Someone Shawn would burn the world for fading away like dew in the afternoon, disappearing without warning.
A scowl, but love hidden within it. Lessons that gave him this life, the best intentions even if he hated them. A father and a teacher, followed by a mother and a protector. Both of them, holding hands as they were left in the dust of a car that couldn’t stop, careening towards a cliff. Then he passed a woman with strong shoulders, and an exasperated smile with hands on her hips. Short blonde hair ruffled by the gust his suicidal drive left. Staring at him as he flew past her, unable to stop him.
Finally the one he never expected to mean very much at all, too tall and too skinny. Salt and pepper hair and a frown perm-a-pressed to his face; but with eyes that dazzled almost everyone. Dancing with amusement when none showed, brightening with an idea he wouldn’t share, and sparkling when a case closed. Arms cross, badge shining in the setting sun of Shawn’s life.
Shawn was shaking, breathing hard and pressing his palms, hard into his eye sockets. Tears near breaking the barrier, but he couldn’t let them. Weakness now wouldn’t stand, because he wasn’t weak. Nor was he one to loiter in things that would dampen his spirits. He couldn’t let this blood disease stop him from living, at least not until the bitter end.
And he couldn’t watch himself take all those faces’ smiles away.
“Doc?” Shawn inched towards the door, but it was already flying open. He flailed backwards, eyebrows to his hairline as Wilson smiled sheepishly at him. “Hey, chill out…”
“Sorry...I could hear you nearing a panic attack and-”
“I wasn’t nearing a panic attack!”
“Alright, alright sorry…”Wilson said, hands up in surrender, still holding the clipboard. “So...I was thinking about your treatment options and…”
“Sorry Doc McMuffins,” Shawn flopped on the chair, looking far more calm then he felt. “But I’m about to be the barrier of bad news.”
“I’ve heard it both ways.” Shawn responded, plucking a lollipop from the dish and unwrapping it. “Anyways, treatment? I’m afraid I’m going to have to turn that down.”
“That’s extremely unwise-”
“I’m not a very wise person, doc.” Shawn shot back, pushing the candy into his mouth. “But I’m going to have to insist.”
“Your family is going to argue…”
“Not if they don’t know.” Shawn sat up straight, leaning forward to speak conspiratorily to the shell-shocked doctor. “No one but me, you, and the nurse who does all your work for you; and before you argue I totally invoke my rights here. You do what I want and keep your trap shut.”
“Mr. Spencer-Shawn...Please, this really isn’t a good idea. The treatment could give you a few months at least, and they might find more treatments in time to-”
“To what? Help me live as a bald, puking mess?” Shawn said, more force than he intended filling the words. “To keep me alive as a corpse, to make my family watch me shrivel up into a gigantic, blubbering...thing!”
“It won’t be-”
“Yeah, doctor, it will be.” Shawn bit out, leaning backwards and giving the man a hazel eyed glare full of agony. Pushing his hands up his face and through his hair, Shawn let out a lung collapsing sigh. “Please….”
“Of all the stupid things…” Wilson grumbled, glaring at the man. The glare soon fell into pity, though, as he also collapsed backwards into his own chair. “I can’t, actually, argue with you. So I’m agreeing, but I don’t like it!”
“You don’t have to.” Shawn smiled back, biting his candy. “Thanks, doc.”
“Alright, now let’s go over a few things.” Shawn groaned.
“Shawn?” Gus walked into the office to find his partner spinning in his chair, head tipped back and an expression he’d never seen on the man’s face before in place. “I bought take out?” Food always got Shawn out of his thinking, no matter what case it was. The fact that the Thai in his hands didn’t bring his friend careening at him gave the pharmaceutical salesmen an unsteady feeling in his gut. “Shawn!”
“Gus! Don’t yell. “Shawn rolled his eyes-and entire head- at his friend before flipping himself into a standing position and walking over to Gus with a giant smile on his face.
“How’d the doctor’s office go?” Gus asked slowly, watching his friend closely. Shawn stopped for just a second, something moving across his face to fast for the other to catch.
“Horrible.” Shawn made a face, “You know I hate hospitals.”
“Yeah, but why’d they call you in, instead of sending the results?”
“Oh, just wanted to tell me to lay off the sweets or something.” Shawn waved his hand without interest. “No big deal.”
“Of course I’m sure, buddy. “Shawn grinned. “Would I lie to you?” Gus raised his eyebrows. “Don’t answer that, just hand over the food.”
“The chief called me, send your phone was off.” Burton gave his best friend another confused look as shawn pulled his phone out and turned it back on. “We have a case, she says it’s pretty simple, but Lassiter and Juliet are too busy to take it.”
“Alright, cool, after we eat we’ll go in. Snatch us a bad guy, get home in time for Dancing with the Stars.” Shawn had somehow gotten one of the take out containers and was already digging in.
Gus frowned, opening his own food slowly. “You sure everything alright?”
“Great, Gus, everythings great.” Shawn gave him a sure smile, then stuffed chicken into his mouth.
Shawn looked at the board Buzz and put together, tilting his head and squinting as a millions little things popped out to him. He could’ve already solved it, everything was there, except his mind was wandering.
Wandering to a will, to funeral plans, to eventual goodbyes, and to a certain head detective.
He couldn’t concentrate, not with doc’s voice echoing in his mind. ‘One year.’ That’s all he had now, 365 days to fall in love, have a mid-life crisis, make his mark, grow old and wise, then finally die. That was the time given to him by his body, and he didn’t expect even one more day. He already had a job he loved, and he was almost certain he could make his mark with it. He could buy a bigger mike to have the midlife crisis, and wisdom was over rated.
Love. That was the one that got him. He wanted it, he wanted to hold someone and be held and make pancakes with them and laugh and be able to tell them everyday. He wanted that before he died. He wanted someone to remember him, no matter what, as the one they would love forever; but he didn’t have anyone. There was, after all, Abigail...but honestly, he knew he could love her, it just didn’t seem like his one true love. He wanted that, a true love before he died.
“Spencer.” Lassie growled, stomping into the conference room. “What’re you doing here?”
“Solving this case.”
“Slowly.” Lassiter snarked back, already walking inside. He gave Shawn a sideways glance when the obviously distant psychic made no comment. “It’s a drug ring.” Lassiter squinted, leaning forward and then those bright eyes lit up and he jabbed a finger at the board. “That’s your guy, Spencer.” Lassie smiled devilishly at him, sweeping away and back to Jules. Shawn blinked, ignoring Gus’s concerned stare. Lassie solved his case, before he even began putting it together. This was a first.
“Shawn, what’s going on?”
“I’m just off today, Gus. Don’t worry, I’ll get back on my game.” Shawn was barely paying attention to the words he was saying, his mind repeating the word over and over again ‘love.’ Like a mantra, a prayer, a want deep inside of him as he watched the two detectives walk out of the department with a file in hand.
“If you say so… “Gus mumbled, snatching the picture from the board and walking to Vick’s office. His partner already knew Shawn wasn’t going to be doing anything with this case, so the psychic show would have to wait until the next. “I’ll tell her you were to over come with psychic energy or something to come with…” The nagging worry in his friends voice made Shawn’s skin itch, but his mind was moving too fast for him to even reply.
‘Love’ it shouted, images of Lassiter flashing there. He’d had a crush on the detective for a while now, trying to help him secretly as he pushed to annoy the man. An image of smiling blue eyes, astounded stares, and shouts of annoyance making Shawn’s heart beat speed up. Lassiter. He could be the solution to the final problem, his long-time crush.
He could go for it. What did he have to lose now, after all?