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You Say My Brain's Bleeding Like It's a Bad Thing

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Shawn is supposed to go to the hospital, but because this is Shawn, he instead decides to flee the scene because there's a Corey Feldman marathon on TV: The Goonies, The Lost Boys and Stand By Me. Thankfully, Gus has the presence of mind to go check up on him. (And yes, perhaps he actually goes to see if Shawn has stolen his favorite purple tie again, not that Shawn would willingly wear a tie on any occasion, at least not a purple one with vertical stripes running down it, but he likes to steal the ties and use them in various games he comes up with, like Pin the Tail on The David Hasselhoff or Pineapple Slingshot across the office.) Anyway, what's important is that Gus makes it to Shawn's apartment in time to see his best friend wave manically at him, offer him a jar of marshmallow creme, and take a nosedive into the living room carpet.

"Shawn!" Gus yells, but Shawn doesn't move, not when Gus kneels by him, not when he shakes him by the shoulders, not when he flicks him on the nose or threatens to mess up his perfectly groomed hair. Shawn doesn't speak. He doesn't even flinch. He just lies there, looking pale, silent. Dead.

Gus has never been so scared in his entire life.

*

It turns out that Shawn has a subdural hematoma, and if Shawn were awake right now to ask about it, Gus would be telling him that, , Shawn, a hematoma is not some women's disease, or something to do with FEMA, or the supreme degree of awesomeness that the state of his hair has been elevated to; it's bleeding in your brain and it can kill you, Shawn.

Of course, Shawn isn't asking those questions, because this is something that can kill him, and he's being wheeled off to the OR so that the surgeons can drain the fluid and relieve the pressure building in his head. Right now, it feels like there's pressure building inside Gus's head too, something ready to burst, a dam breaking right inside of him, floodgates opening, spilling. He wipes the tears off of his cheeks. Shawn would laugh at him for crying; Shawn would pinch his cheek and say, "Who's my big girl?" and laugh some more as Gus smacked his hand away. Shawn would try to get the entire waiting room to break out into song, maybe "Total Eclipse of the Heart"—but Gus needs to stop thinking about what Shawn would do or say, because all it does is remind him that Shawn can't do or say anything now, that the precious hair his friend loves so much, possibly even more than pineapple itself, is being shaved away so that the neurosurgeon can slice open his skull.

Gus holds himself together long enough to catch Mr. Spencer's arm when he barges in; he shoves the shards of himself into a makeshift hold while he keeps Shawn's father from beating any medical personnel who fail to have an update on his son's condition into a bloody pulp. When the doctors leave the two of them alone, though, quite possibly to call Security, Gus's makeshift hold falls apart, imaginary Shawn's mockery be damned. Tears pour down his cheeks again, and Mr. Spencer is forced to stop yelling at people so he can keep Gus together like a whole person, not just half of one.

"Hey," Henry says, roughly giving Gus a hug and sitting him down in one of the waiting room chairs. "He's going to be okay. You know—you know Shawn. He's going to be just fine."

Gus might be more inclined to believe it, if Henry's voice wasn't shaking so damn much.

*

By the time the doctors come out, Lassiter and Juliet have shown up. Gus isn't sure who called them. He isn't really sure about much, how long he's been sitting here or what he should be doing or what he will do, if that surgeon comes out with a "We did everything we could" speech. Gus doesn't know how he will deal with that, if he can deal with that.

He does know what Shawn would be thinking, can hear it, whether he wants to or not.

Dude, watch that guy PROWL, Shawn says in his head as Gus watches Lassiter pace around the nearly empty waiting room. Like a panther. Hisssss. Imaginary Shawn's fake hissing is awful. Gus wants to turn it off, turn him off, but he can't. He turns to Juliet instead, three chairs away and all nervous energy, pulling apart her cell phone and then piecing it back together again. Hey, Gus, check it out. She's doing that whole stress exercise thing again . . . awww, that's sort of sweet. She's stressed out all because of little ole me . . . because she loves me, Gus, you can't have me to yourself. Only, isn't the phone supposed to be a gun? Pretty sure last time it was a gun.

Uh, Shawn? Juliet can't just wave a gun around, not in the middle of a waiting room. They'd call the cops. And, for the record, you're delusional. This whole thing you have for Juliet, clearly one-sided.

Then why did she ask me to go skinny-dipping with her that one time? Or get me flowers on Valentine's Day?

You sent those flowers to yourself, Shawn. And what Juliet asks you to do in a dream does not constitute reality.

Well, maybe YOU don't constitute reality.

I—what?

Anyway, you can't call the cops on the cops, can you? That'd be pretty silly. And I think Juliet waving her gun around might be just what the doctor ordered. Everyone in here, they're all stressed out, right, thinking about their loved ones dying or whatever . . . they wouldn't be stressed out anymore!

They'd be terrified and running for their LIVES, Shawn.

Exactly! They'd be far too busy to be worried about anyone else.

Gus almost rolls his eyes, until he remembers he's essentially arguing with himself. This has always been what it's like with Shawn. Even when Gus was at college and Shawn was travelling around doing his various fifty-seven other jobs, he could hear his best friend in his head, arguing with him about every stupid little thing. He never minded it before . . . it was like a holdover, something to get him by until the next random postcard or odd phone call he'd get from Argentina or Kansas or wherever. But now, not knowing if he was ever going to talk to the real Shawn again . . . if this imaginary Shawn was the only one he'd ever have to listen to, argue with, ever—

The surgeon comes out and everyone stands up.

Gus can't blame the doctor for taking an almost immediate step backwards. Between Lassiter, Juliet, and Henry, it looks like the wrong news will met with extreme and armed disapproval. Gus isn't sure what he himself looks like, not that it matters. None of it matters because the doctor is talking, he's saying—

"—went very well. He's not out of the woods yet, but I'm optimistic—"

Mr. Spencer closes his eyes and covers his mouth. Lassiter says, "Thank God," and Juliet tears up a little. Shawn, being Shawn, says Sweet! I'm awesome!

Gus doesn't do anything. He's still waiting.

The surgeon says that Shawn can't have visitors yet. He's in post-op right now, and when he gets transferred to the ICU, visitors may become a possibility. The surgeon assures them that Shawn's "hanging in there" and then he goes away. He actually says that, "hanging in there."

Dude, Shawn says in his head. Hanging in there? Hanging in where, exactly? Hanging on the noose? Hanging with Mr. Cooper? Are doctors even allowed to talk like that, Gus?

Gus doesn't respond, out loud or in his head. Juliet gives him a worried look as she sits down next to him. "Didn't you hear him, Gus?" Juliet says. "Shawn made it through surgery. He's going to be okay."

But that isn't what the doctor said, not really, and Gus won't be able to believe it until Shawn talks to him for real.

*

Gus doesn't know where Mr. Spencer is. He has the sneaking suspicion that he may have gone somewhere private to cry, although this almost doesn't compute in his head (Spencer men don't cry, Shawn whispers bitterly. Not that this is true—Gus has seen Shawn cry before, although probably not as many times as Shawn has seen Gus cry. It's those damn Sarah McLachlan Animal Cruelty Commercials. They get him every time.)

Gus has never seen Henry Spencer cry, and he has no interest, at all, in that particular experience.

Juliet's down in the cafeteria getting coffee for everyone, and both Buzz and Chief Vick stopped by briefly to check in, but they left twenty minutes ago, leaving Gus alone with six-month old tabloids and one stone-faced, silent detective.

Gus doesn't know what to say to Lassiter. Honestly, he's a little surprised that Lassie's still even here.

Of COURSE Lassie's here. He loves me. Everyone loves me.

Everyone does NOT love you, Shawn, Gus says, though this is probably a lie. Though most people want to murder him at any given moment, people do love Shawn. He has this inexplicable charm. Gus never thought Lassie was one of them, though. Lassiter has always been pretty firmly on the die-Spencer-die side of the cosmos.

Gus means to ask the detective about it politely, wondering if there's some official reason that the man's still here waiting, but what comes out of his mouth is more of an accusation: "What are you even doing here, Lassiter?" As if it's Lassiter's fault that Shawn is here at all, that he's silent and half-bald and maybe even dying.

Well, maybe it is, at that. If Shawn hadn't tried so hard to prove Lassiter's innocence, if he hadn't gotten involved, if Drimmer hadn't pistol-whipped him in the middle of Lassiter's living room . . .

Gus. That's not Lassie's fault, man. You can't blame him for that.

And Gus doesn't. Not really. He's just . . . he's so . . .

Lassie hasn't answered his question. His jaw is clenched so tightly, Gus wouldn't be surprised if he's shattered all his teeth by grinding them together. There's an expression on his face that Gus doesn't quite know how to read, that on somebody else's face he might interpret as guilt . . . but Lassiter can't feel guilty for Shawn getting hurt . . .

. . . just like Henry Spencer can't cry. These things aren't supposed to happen.

"Hey," Gus says, leaning forward a little towards the blue-eyed detective. "No one blames you, you know, for what happened before. I mean, Shawn, he's always, well, he's always just—"

"Spencer," Lassiter interrupts, practically seethes, "is an idiot."

Okay, that's kind of harsh, Shawn protests instantly. I mean, zany, sure. Outrageous, I'm okay with. Maybe ridiculous . . . ridiculously AWESOME! But idiot? Excuse me, who got voted Mr. Brilliant in the sixth grade?

You're the only one who voted, Shawn.

. . . semantics.

Lassiter shakes his head. "First he gets himself kidnapped by that worthless excuse for an officer and then he mouths off to that same man who's holding him hostage with a gun—"

Gus winces a little. Shawn could never keep his mouth shut, never. Everyone told him it would get him killed someday, from his father to his teachers to random strangers to Chief Vick. Hell, even Gus has told him that before. Your big mouth's going to get you killed, Shawn. Don't expect me to cry for you when you get yourself dead.

Dude, who dies from getting SMACKED with a gun? That is so completely made of lame. I would never die so . . . uh . . . lamely. Lamely? Get a reading on lamely, anyone? Anyone?

Lamely is an adverb, Shawn. And you can die. Anyone can die.

Lassiter is still yelling, which is beginning to frighten one old woman in the corner of the waiting room. Lassiter pays her no mind. "And if all that wasn't bad enough, Spencer decides to just run away, ignores the paramedics' recommendations so that he can, what? Watch television?"

"Corey Feldman marathon," Gus corrects absently. Lassiter glares at him.

"Who the hell is Corey Feldman?"

LASSIE! You wound me!

Even Gus is a little surprised that the detective doesn't know who Corey Feldman is. Of course, this is Lassiter. He probably only knows movies that have Clint Eastwood or John Wayne in it.

"Why wouldn't he just go get his head checked out, like any sane person would do? Of course, disregarding the fact that Spencer isn't remotely sane, or even intelligent, competent, mature, grown-up . . ."

Okay, Lassie, jeez. I think we get it.

Lassiter sighs and stares at his large, strangely empty hands. Gus is so used to seeing a gun in them; it's odd to see them with nothing but air. "Why did he have to get involved?" Lassiter asks quietly.

"Shawn can't not get involved," Gus tells him. "That's just his nature."

Lassiter shakes his head. "I asked him on the case. Both of you."

Gus almost smiles. "Trust me, Detective. Even if you hadn't asked us to join the investigation . . . can you imagine Shawn, Shawn, passing up the chance to clear your name? He'd brag about it for months. He'd probably say your life belonged to him or something. If you'd told him not to get involved, he would only have signed up that much quicker."

Lassiter snorts softly, conceding the point. "Yeah," he says. "Yeah. That sounds just like Spencer."

Gus nods, looking down at the ground. Lassiter shouldn't blame himself for what happened. "I should have checked up on him sooner," he confesses quietly. "I should have made sure he went to the damn hospital." I should have been checking up on my best friend, not my damn favorite tie. If I hadn't gone over, if I hadn't found him . . .

"It's not your fault, Guster. You probably saved his life."

Gus shakes his head. That's not necessarily true, and anyway, does it matter? "One of these days . . ."

One of these days I won't get there in time. One of these days, Shawn's insanity is going to get him killed, and I won't be able to stop it.

"Not today, Gus," Mr. Spencer says. Gus looks up, surprised. Sneaky like a ninja; I TOLD you, Gus! The older Spencer stands above him, eyes just slightly red, a cup of coffee in his hand. Juliet, hovering nervously, is two steps behind him with three more cups.

Gus takes the coffee almost absently from her, and then looks back at Mr. Spencer, whose eyes are still locked on him. "Mr. Spencer," he says and doesn't know how to finish.

Henry Spencer just nods. "Today's not that day," he says firmly.

*

When Shawn gets transferred to ICU, Mr. Spencer is, of course, the first one to see him. Gus comes in afterwards, walking in hesitantly, like he's approaching the lion's den. He's not exactly sure what he's so afraid of seeing.

Shawn's awake, which surprises him. He's extraordinarily pale and, though smiling, looks completely wiped out. Whether this is from the day's events, the surgery, or spending five minutes alone with his father, Gus isn't quite sure. It really could be any or all three of these things combined.

"Hey," Shawn says, waving half-heartedly. His entire head is wrapped up in white gauze. Even from the doorway, though, Gus can easily tell where part of his hair has been shaved away. Shawn doesn't look too upset, so he probably hasn't put it together yet. Freakish genius or not, no one's brain works a million miles a second after they wake up from a craniotomy.

Gus steps into the room and gingerly sits down on the chair next to the bed. Shawn, whose been flipping through the channels at warp speed, looks at him disgustedly. "Did you know that at least half of these night nurses are men?" he complains. "What's the point in having brain surgery if you're not going to get bathed by hot women in skimpy little nurse's outfits with names like Jessica or Tiffany or Crystal? Crystal? What's your reading on Crystal? Too stripperish?"

Gus glares at him. "The point," he says, "in having brain surgery, Shawn, is so that you don't die."

"Dude. Have you been practicing talking in italics again? Man, if they made an Olympic Sport for Awesome-Italics-Emphasizer, you would get Gold, hands down, every time. Even Christopher Walken's got nothing on you." Shawn pauses, thoughtfully glancing out the window. "Though, Walken doesn't really talk in italics, does he? He more randomly emphasizes every other word in . . . I don't know, what do you think? Courier? Verdana?"

"Shawn."

"I'm feeling pretty strong about Wingdings."

"Shawn." Shawn shuts up, either surprised by Gus's outburst, or, more likely, too tired to continue deflecting. The circles under his eyes make him look five years older. Gus doesn't like seeing them there, doesn't want to see his best friend so pale and almost fragile. He'd give his left arm for Shawn to grow up sometimes, but that frenetic energy, that reckless enthusiasm he has for everything, it's what makes Shawn Shawn. It scares the hell out of Gus that he almost lost that.

"Dude," he says. "You almost died, and all you can talk about are font types? Really?"

"I was also talking about hot nurses. You're the one who distracted me."

"Shawn."

Shawn drops his head back to the pillow with a sigh. "Man, what do you want from me? I'm not dead, okay? I wouldn't just die on you like that. When I go out, it's totally going be from saving the whole planet from a deadly asteroid that's hurtling a bazillion miles an hour."

"This isn't Armageddon, Shawn, and you are not Bruce Willis."

"Clearly," Shawn says. "Bruce Willis is, like, bald now. I plan to die with all my hair."

Gus makes a special point of not looking at Shawn's head.

"What?"

"Nothing," Gus says. It's not worth it right now. They have other things to talk about, more important things, before the ICU nurse comes back to kick him out. "Listen," he says, "if we're going to continue this whole Psych thing—"

"If?" Shawn sits up abruptly, like someone flipped a switch. Clearly, the movement costs him. Gus feels a little guilty as Shawn leans back into his pillows, squeezing his eyes shut and wincing. Gus wonders if he should get a nurse, but Shawn opens his eyes before he can make up his mind. "What do you mean, if?" Shawn asks, swallowing a little.

"What do you mean, what do I mean?"

"You can't quit Psych!"

"You almost died, Shawn!"

"That's no excuse to leave!"

"The hell it's not!"

"Okay, how does that make sense?"

"You almost died, Shawn!"

"No one's going to let me forget that . . ."

"Shawn—"

"I get it, okay? I get it." Shawn crosses his arms and scoots lower in his bed, somehow managing to looking petulant, exhausted, and just the tiniest bit scared all at the same time. He takes a deep breath, eyes focusing on the window instead of on his best friend. "I get it, Gus," he says softly, still looking away.

Thank God, Gus thinks, but all he says is, "Good."

Shawn's always acted as though he was immortal . . . and he's so damn good at lying, sometimes Gus even wants to believe it . . . but no one's immortal, no one.

I'm not ready, Shawn.

"But you can't quit Psych," Shawn says, bringing Gus's focus back to his friend. "You love Psych. I know you do." Which is true, Gus does love Psych. More importantly, however, Shawn loves Psych. This is easily the longest job he's ever held in his entire life, and he likes it, and he's good at it, and this is the closest to peace that Shawn may ever find. Gus has no intention of taking that away from him, not ever. He wants his friend to be happy. But this . . . this can't happen again. Not like this.

I'm not ready, Shawn. I don't ever want it to be that day.

"Then there's got to be some ground rules," Gus tells him.

"Gus. You know how I feel about rules."

"Shawn."

Shawn sighs. "Fine, fine. I'm being good, because I almost kicked the bucket, pushed up daisies, met my maker, bit the big one—"

"Rule Number One," Gus says, cutting him off. "Absolutely no antagonizing men with guns."

"You know I'm never going to be able to follow that. Is it my fault that so many bad guys are so ridiculously stupid?"

"No insulting men with guns, Shawn!"

"But the correct term was divined."

"Shawn!"

"Sheesh, okay, fine. You're like a little dictator."

"I am nothing like a dictator, Shawn."

Shawn clearly doesn't agree, but he doesn't continue the argument. "I promise to . . . um . . . try and not insult the big bad men with their big bad guns. Happy?"

"Rule Number Two—"

"There's another one?"

"When the paramedics say that you should go to the hospital to get checked out, even for a minor injury, even when there is a Corey Feldman marathon or any other television program that you want to watch, you will go straight to the hospital. You will not pass Go. You will not collect two hundred dollars."

"Monopoly talk, Gus? Really?"

"Do you understand and agree to these rules as I have laid them out?"

Shawn appears to think about it. "What if I run away from the scene before the paramedics tell me I have to go the hospital? I'm not really breaking Rule Number Two then, am I?"

Gus glares.

Shawn sinks further into the bed. "Okay, fine," he says grumpily. "I agree to get checked up at the hospital for any minor injury, even if it's just my broken heart. I can't believe I missed that Corey Feldman marathon."

"You own all those movies, Shawn."

Shawn blinks at him. "So?"

Gus shakes his head. He doesn't say anything for awhile, just watches Shawn watch him. Shawn's eyes are starting to blink slower now. "Dad was pissed," Shawn says, half into his pillow.

"He was just worried," Gus tells him.

"Didn't sound worried. Sounded pissed."

"That's just his way of worrying," Gus says, thinking of Lassiter in the waiting room. "Everyone was real worried about you."

Shawn grins sleepily. "I bet Jules professes her undying love to me when she comes in," he says. "Brain surgery's sexy."

Gus laughs. "You're delusional."

"Even Lassie probably thinks I'm sexy."

"Now I know you're delusional. You need to get some sleep."

"Not sleepy," Shawn says even as his eyes close. Gus can't help it; he reaches out and holds Shawn's hand, reassured by the warmth of his skin, the proof that blood is still flowing in those veins. Shawn doesn't open his eyes. "Didn't mean to scare you," he mumbles.

"You never do," Gus says quietly, and it's not an accusation; it's just Shawn.

Shawn's breathing starts to even out. Gus is sure he's asleep, figures he should go out to the waiting room, tell Lassiter and Juliet he isn't up for any more visitors. He starts to pull his hand back and then just can't quite do it yet. He was so scared for so long . . . he just isn't quite ready to leave. He'll wait until the nurses kick him out.

He squeezes Shawn's hand just slightly, and Shawn's eyes flutter open. "Go back to sleep," Gus says, but Shawn shakes his head. He looks incredibly serious.

"Tell me the truth," Shawn says solemnly.

Gus stares at him, confused. "What?"

"How bad is my hair, really?"

Gus starts laughing, then starts crying. Shawn calls him a big girl.

But he smiles when he says it and he never lets go of Gus's hand.