A Life You Don't Live Is Still Lost by Elfgirl
FeatureSummary:

In the midst of a nightmarish wait, with an agonizing decision hanging over his head, Henry learns some truths about his son he never imagined. It's not the life he wanted for Shawn, it's not the life he envisioned...but has it really been a waste?


Categories: Season Characters: Gus, Henry, Other, Shawn
Genres: Angst, Drama, Hurt/Comfort
Warnings: Sensitive Material, Tear Jerker
Challenges: All It Takes Is A Bullet
Challenges: All It Takes Is A Bullet
Series: None
Chapters: 6 Completed: No Word count: 21546 Read: 31406 Published: July 26, 2007 Updated: September 16, 2007

1. Chapter 1 by Elfgirl

2. Chapter 2 by Elfgirl

3. Chapter 3 by Elfgirl

4. Chapter 4 by Elfgirl

5. Chapter 5 by Elfgirl

6. Chapter 6 by Elfgirl

Chapter 1 by Elfgirl
Author's Notes:

Disclaimer:  Psych and all related characters and trademarks are the property of USA and the creators of said show.  The author makes no claim on any said characters and trademarks.  No money is exchanging hands, and suing me would seem to be in direct contradiction of the spirit of the show, so all in good fun, right?

Psych is quite possibly the most lighthearted, least-angstiest show I've ever seen.  So what did I do?  I beat the ever-loving crap out of its main character and piled angst on with a trowel.  Do they have support groups for this kind of thing?  Rated for language and possible somewhat disturbing imagery.  May be a deathfic, may not, haven't really decided.  Concrit is always welcome...I hope you enjoy!

 “Mr. Spencer, it’s been three weeks. His condition isn‘t improving, and at this point…I‘m sorry, but there‘s nothing more we can do.”   A perfectly even voice, pitched low with just the right amount of gentle sympathy.   “I know it’s going to be difficult, but it’s really time you start thinking about…what decisions you’re going to make.”  A perfectly placed hand on his shoulder, squeezing with just the right amount of pressure to convey understanding and condolence.   

He barely resisted the urge to break every one of the doctor’s fingers.  Slowly. 

“With your permission, I’d like to send one of our social workers up to speak with you about--”  

“Just send the papers.”  His own voice, always low and just a bit gruff, now sounded as though the words were being scraped out over sandpaper.  He didn’t look up from the pale face his eyes had been fixed on every waking moment for far, far too long, but he felt the body standing behind him stiffen.  “That’s what you want, isn’t it?”   

“Mr. Spencer, I really think--” 

“It doesn‘t matter what you think,” he interrupted, his tone soft and reasonable--which somehow only highlighted the underlying threat in his words.  “Get out of here and send the damn papers.  I’ll--” He swallowed hard, his voice suddenly failing him. “I’ll think about it,” he murmured, the words coming out in a choked rush that ordinarily would have had him sneering at such a display of weakness.    

The doctor sputtered for a few moments, before hastily exiting the small, dark room.  Once again, a blanket of heavy silence descended on the room’s two occupants, broken only by the cold, impersonal beeping of a heart monitor and the reptilian hiss of the ventilator.  Henry leaned back in the surprisingly comfortable chair some compassionate nurse had rustled up for him the first week and finally took his gaze away from Shawn’s face.   

His son’s skin seemed almost translucent under the harsh light of the single lamp at the head of the bed, ashen and colorless, bruise-dark circles standing out starkly around sunken eyes.   Shawn had lost a startling amount of weight despite the IV pumping necessary nutrients into his body, and one of the nurses had said a feeding tube would soon be an option. 

Except Shawn’s doctors weren’t talking to him about feeding tubes.    

Gus?  Gus, what the hell? It’s three in the morning!” 

Mr. Spencer, it’s Shawn!  You’ve got to…you’ve got to come.  Please, you’ve got to come.” 

Henry had always known this, this thing his son had going at the SBPD was going to come back and bite him in the ass.  But not like this…never like this.  He’d thought it would just end like all of Shawn’s other escapades--with his boy peeling out of town on that deathtrap he called a bike, possibly with law enforcement and a few angry husbands/boyfriends/fathers on his trail.  Shawn would drift around the country for a few months, pick a spot, and start the whole reckless, irresponsible cycle all over again. 

It was not supposed to end like this.

 “What happened?  Damn it, Gus, talk to me!” 

“I’m sorry…I’m so sorry.  They said it was all right, Shawn just wanted to look.  Just a quick look, he promised!  I couldn’t do anything…I’m sorry, Mr. Spencer.  He pushed me out of the way—I tried to drag him down with me, I swear I tried!  They said it was all right.” 

It hadn’t even really been Shawn’s fault.  The restaurant Shawn had led the police to in an effort to shut down a money laundering ring had been declared clear.  It had been a stupid, rookie mistake by one of the detectives under Lassiter, and Shawn had paid for it.  Paid for it when some two-bit thug had decided taking out the ‘psychic’ that had busted him was worth more than trying to escape.   

According to the witness reports, his son had never had a chance to do more than shove Gus out of the line of fire, taking four bullets before Lassiter subdued the assailant.  One in the shoulder, one in the side, two straight to the chest.  By all rights, Shawn should have died then and there.   

Mr. Spencer, your son’s heart stopped three times on the way to the hospital.  He made it to surgery, but you need to prepare yourself—it doesn’t look good.” 

It was only Detective O’Hara’s and Gus’s on-the-spot efforts that had kept Shawn alive long enough for paramedics to get to him.  They’d kept him alive. Henry would never be able to find the words to tell them how grateful he was to them—not if he tried for a hundred years.  Keeping Shawn from bleeding out on the floor had not negated the fact that he’d taken four .38 Specials to the upper torso, though.    

“The bullets missed the heart, but not much else.  Shawn suffered damage to his lungs, liver, and small intestine.  We had to remove part of the intestine, as well as reinflate the right lung.  The next twenty four hours are critical.” 

Massive blood loss. 

Severe lacerations to the liver. 

Kidney damage. 

Shattered clavicle. 

So began a nightmarish parade of vigils in the ICU waiting room, his son’s best friend beside him, waiting to hear if Shawn was going to make it through.  Three surgeries, and every time he had seen it in their eyes—they weren’t expecting Shawn to live. Henry’s entire world had narrowed to the sickening surge of hopefeardread each time a doctor approached him, the crush of desperate thankfulness each time he realized he’d get to see his son alive at least one more time.  It seemed all he knew now was the false brightness of fluorescent bulbs, the stench of blood and sickness no amount of antiseptic could completely cover, and Gus’s endless, broken apologies for something he could not have prevented. 

And Shawn, fading away right before his eyes.      

In the past three weeks, Henry had all but moved into the ICU, watching with growing despair as his boy stubbornly clung to life, but failed to get any better.  Too much blood loss, too much organ damage…just too much.  The last surgery had seen him sink from unconsciousness to a coma, and his damaged lungs had seemingly given up the ghost.  The respirator was doing Shawn’s breathing for him.   

And now the doctors were asking him to turn it off. 

To take away life-support. To allow his son, his child to die. 

It wasn’t supposed to happen like this.  Fathers were not supposed to bury their sons.  He couldn’t believe that with all the cases he had taken, all the times he had put his life on the line, it should be Shawn who went first.  It was impossible.  Shawn’s entire existence seemed to belie the very idea of death.   

Damn it all, they were just starting to get back to some semblance of a relationship.  He was just starting to be a part of Shawn’s life again.  No matter how reluctant he acted, he’d been secretly overjoyed to find some common ground with his son again. He’d thought he had been given another chance to fix things, to help Shawn finally realize all the potential he held.  How could that be over? 

Sighing softly, Henry glanced over at the clock hanging by the door, wincing as he noted the time.  Five in the morning.  Gus would be arriving soon, allowing Henry a couple of hours for a much-needed shower and maybe some real sleep at home.  Between him, Gus, and Detective O’Hara, they’d managed to arrange it so that there was always someone sitting with Shawn.  Henry was a well-decorated ex-cop and Shawn had dated five women on the nursing staff in the past…minor details like visitation hours were overlooked. 

Given the fact that Shawn had actually been dating two of the women at the same time, Henry really couldn’t fathom why his history with the nurses worked in their favor, but he wasn’t going to complain.  That was just the way things apparently worked in Shawn’s world. 

Slowly, he reached over and let one hand rest on Shawn’s forehead.  “You really stepped in it this time, didn’t ya’ kid?”  He let his fingers card lightly through his son’s hair.  “I finally got a hold of your mom tonight.  She’s in China, if you can believe it….some kind of traveling art history tour.  Apparently left her laptop in Italy and couldn’t get cell reception at the monastery they were staying at.  Surprise, surprise, huh?  At least you come by it honestly.  She’s catching the first flight out of Beijing.  Said to tell you she…well, she said to tell you she loves you, and she’ll be here soon.” 

Henry had been prepared to be furious with his ex-wife, once he had finally gotten into contact with her.  He’d been ready to scream, rant, and rail at her for being so far out of touch.  It hadn’t lasted beyond the explanation of what had happened to their son.  In those few moments, the anger, hurt, and rancor simply drained away, and she wasn’t his ex, or the flighty woman he’d been struggling to track down for almost a month.  She was the mother of his child and they had talked for nearly two hours while her tour manager made arrangements to get her back stateside, comforting each other (however awkwardly) and assuring each other that Shawn would be fine, their boy would pull through. 

It would destroy her when she found out the doctors’ prognosis.     

Henry leaned back in the chair and scrubbed his hands over his face, pressing against his eye sockets until he saw little bursts of color behind his closed eyelids.  God, he was tired.  He couldn’t quite remember when he had last caught anything more than a few hours’ sleep in his own bed.  Mostly, he’d been existing on catnaps in the very chair he was currently occupying, and copious amounts of the hospital cafeteria’s crappy coffee.  Intellectually, he knew he was on the verge of burning out entirely.  He needed real sleep, real food, and real time away from the constant stream of well-wishers from the precinct.  Their strained, pitying worry was almost more than he could bear. 

Even as the thought occurred to him, he brushed it aside.  Maybe, maybe, when Shawn’s mother arrived, he would take more than a quick break.  Maybe he would go home, take a shower that lasted longer than five minutes, cook a real meal.  Maybe he would sit down on his couch, and somehow the answer to what he should do would magically fall into his lap.   

Maybe Hell would freeze over. 

How was he supposed to make this choice?  He’d nearly keeled over when he’d been informed he was the one Shawn had named as his Power of Attorney.  Shawn trusted him to make the necessary decisions, to know what his wishes would be and carry them out.  Despite all that had passed between them, Shawn trusted him with that.  And he had no idea what he was going to do.   

He knew what he wanted to do--he wanted to tell the doctors to take their prognosis and shove it up their collective ass.  How could they expect him to just give up on his son like that?  To just…let Shawn go like that?  Yet, was that what Shawn would want?  To be kept alive by machines?  To slowly wither away into a mere shadow of himself, while his friends and family watched?   

It frightened Henry more than he would ever admit to think that the answer was probably no.   

He couldn’t do this.  He couldn’t— 

“Um…hello?”   

Henry’s hands dropped from his face and he sat up ramrod straight in the chair, his eyes snapping towards the door of Shawn’s room.  It took him a bare instant to assess and categorize the person standing in the doorway, nervousness fairly radiating from the thin frame.  It wasn’t a doctor, or any of the nurses on duty.  It wasn’t anyone Henry had ever seen before, as a matter of fact.   

“Who the hell are you and what are you doing here?”                          

 

End Notes:
So, here's the thing.  I like to write the types of stories I like to read...in case you haven't noticed, for me that means angst and whumpage in liberal doses.  I have kind of a serial idea in my head in which various people from Shawn's past (ie before the show) keep showing up in the hospital room and giving Henry (or Gus, or Juliet or whoever) new and interesting insights into Shawn--'cause I think the character has the potential to be much more complex than is hinted at on the show.  I have in my mind a list of people from lots of Shawn's 57 previous jobs that I think would be fun, but I was wondering...anyone around here have any suggestions of people/situations they'd like to see explored from Shawn's past?  Funny, angsty, weirdly OOC...I'm taking all applicants.  I've got my whumpage and my angst, so I'm happy ;) 
Chapter 2 by Elfgirl
Author's Notes:

Wow, I'm flattered by the comments on this...thank you so much!  I hope this is equally enjoyable, though some of the focus is off Henry this time.

Disclaimer:  Psych and all related characters and trademarks are the property of USA networks and the creators of said show.  The author makes no claim on any of said characters and trademarks and no money is exchanging hands.  I'm just playing in the sandbox and promise to return all toys in mint or near-mint condition.

 

“Who the hell are you and what are you doing here?” 

 The man standing in the doorway winced at Henry’s harsh tone, but Henry merely lifted an eyebrow, waiting for an answer.  The intruder shifted nervously from foot to foot for a moment, looking for all the world as if they couldn’t decide whether to come in or run back down the hall.  Then, the figure’s eyes darted to the bed, and all the tension melted away, replaced by a posture of pure misery. 

“Oh, Shawn…oh baby boy, what did they do to you?” the stranger moaned…in a distinctly feminine voice.  Henry sat up a little straighter in the chair, his brow furrowing as the figure stepped further into the room and he was at last able to get a clear look. 

What he’d thought was a man turned out to be a tall, rangy woman with short, ash-blonde hair shoved up under a battered New Orleans Saints baseball cap.  Her blue jeans and plain white t-shirt were rumpled, as if she’d slept in them, and a small coffee stain decorated the hem of the untucked shirt.  She was what might have politely been termed a “handsome woman,” about Henry’s own age, with blunt, squarish features. Her deeply lined skin had achieved the leathery brown, baked-in tan of a lifetime lived outdoors.  Her eyes were a startling cornflower blue, and Henry was a bit disconcerted to realize they were brimming with tears.  The stranger lifted one hand to her mouth, a tiny, muffled sound that was half a sob, half a groan escaping her as she stared at his son’s prone form. 

“Ma’am?” he questioned yet again, and finally the woman turned to look at him.   

“Oh!  Oh, I’m so sorry.”  Hastily, the woman dashed her hands across her eyes, taking a deep breath as she composed herself.  “I don’t know what I was thinking, just barging in like that…that sweet little thing at the nurses’ station told me you’d still be in here.”  She spoke with a deep southern accent, a hint of a Cajun twist on her pronunciation.  The woman stepped to the side of the bed, offering a calloused hand for Henry to shake.  “I’m Yvette…Yvette Barrett.”   

Automatically, Henry reached out and shook the proffered hand, but something in his expression must have relayed his continued confusion.  ‘Yvette’ shook her head sharply. “Excuse me; of course, you don’t know me from Adam.  My husband, John, he owns a specialty construction company down t’Louisiana…Barrett’s Mardi Gras Universe.” 

Mardi Gras Universe.  Why did Henry even bother asking anymore? 

“You must be Shawn’s father,” Yvette continued softly.  “Spittin’ image of you, he is.  Shawn worked for us, oh, ‘bout ten years back.”  As if speaking his name had brought her attention back to Shawn, Yvette’s face crumpled, tears welling up in her eyes again.  “My oldest daughter lives in Santa Monica…she heard about the shooting on the news a couple weeks ago—after all those arrests were made.  I-I didn’t want to believe it was our Shawn.” 

Our Shawn? 

“I’m so sorry, I know it’s early.  My husband’s sick, and I could only take today to fly out here…my return flight leaves at ten.  I’ll leave if you want me to, but…John and I…we owe Shawn everything.  He was so good to us.” Her voice broke on the last word.  “I’d like to sit with him a while…” Yvette trailed off, looking up at Henry hopefully.     

What could he say to that?   

Silently, Henry indicated the chair on the opposite side of the bed from him, one which was usually occupied by Gus these days.  Yvette shot him a strained, watery smile, and pulled the offered chair close to the head of the bed, sitting down gracefully and gently gathering one of Shawn’s hands in her own.  She pressed Shawn’s hand to her chest. 

“Baby boy, how could anyone do this to you?” Yvette whispered, so softly, Henry wasn’t sure he’d been meant to hear.  “They…the new reports, they said he’s still listed as critical…how bad—“ she continued, more loudly. Yvette glanced up at Henry too quickly for him to school his features, and she must have read the answer in his eyes.  Her own eyes widened briefly, then she squeezed them shut, shaking her head.   

Henry didn’t bother to offer any empty words.  He was too busy trying to keep his own emotions in check…he didn’t have energy left to try and make a stranger feel better.  He settled more comfortably in his own chair, content to watch the woman across from him as she watched his son.  It occurred to him that he ought to have been more suspicious…after all, what proof did this woman have that she had known Shawn other than her word?   

It was hard to argue with the genuine sadness that shone out of her eyes, though, or the warm affection that accompanied every word and gesture directed at Shawn.  No, there was little doubt in Henry’s mind that Yvette Barrett was exactly what she said she was.  It amazed him, though, that anyone would take a day away from a sick loved one to fly across the country just to see an old employee.  Just what kind of relationship had Shawn had with these people? 

Henry really didn’t know much about Shawn’s life outside the times he had drifted back to Santa Barbara after high school.  Their relationship had been…strained…at that point, even more so than it was now.  Henry wasn’t proud of it, and more and more often in the past year he’d found himself wishing that he had done things far differently—but the past was the past.  Shawn himself rarely spoke of the places he’d been or the people he’d met, and Henry had always just assumed his son had spent those years bumming from one dead-end job to the next, living by the seat of his pants.   

“To this day, we’ve never met anyone like Shawn.  Bounced into John’s office with a copy of our want ad…barely out of high school, nothing but the clothes on his back and that godawful motorcycle to his name, and trying to make out like he was an expert in construction.  Lord, he spun such a tale—my John couldn’t decide whether to throw the boy out on his ear or laugh his head off.”  Yvette’s soft voice broke Henry out of his musings, and he couldn’t help an indelicate snort of amusement.  Yeah, that sounded about right. 

“I don’t think John ever figured out how Shawn talked him into hiring him.”  Yvette smiled fondly, her expression wistful.  “Best thing that ever happened to us.  I thank God every day that he came into our lives.”  

Henry raised an eyebrow at that.  “Meaning what, if you don’t mind my asking?” he replied, more than a little curious.  He could think of many ways that people had described his son to him over the years, but he couldn’t ever recall anyone calling Shawn the “best thing that ever happened” to them.   

Yvette glanced up at him again and her smile widened.   

Shawn tossed the last can of gold spray paint aside, standing back to survey his work.  He grinned broadly as he took in the end-results of six hours of work…the dragon head had turned out exactly how he’d pictured it in his mind.  The streaks of glittering gold paint were the crowning touch on the fiberglass flames spewing out of the lizard’s mouth—the float would look awesome in the parade.   

Still grinning, he glanced at the clock on the wall of the industrial-sized storage shed that made up the Barrett’s’ workshop, slightly surprised to note it was after nine in the evening.  Hah, not only had he finished the job, he’d stayed over to get it done.  How was that for responsibility?   

Except he’d missed happy hour at the Crab Shack down the street.   

Shawn’s grin faded a bit, but he shrugged philosophically.  He’d just have to make up for it during tomorrow’s happy hour.  He took a final look around his workspace, making a few half-hearted attempts to clean up, before jogging to the sliding door entrance and snatching his helmet off a hook beside the door.  He whistled softly to himself as he made his way up the short gravel drive that stretched between the shed and the Barrett’s’ house, where his bike was parked.   

 The Louisiana night was pleasantly balmy, the brutal heat and crushing humidity of summer still a few weeks away, and Shawn savored the feel of the warm wind brushing against his face.   

Algiers had turned out to be a good stop, all around, though he certainly hadn’t intended on staying as long as he had.  Low on gas and lower than low on cash, it was sheer desperation had driven him to reply to John Barrett’s ad in the local paper, having been turned down at literally every other place in town that was hiring.  He didn’t know the first thing about Mardi Gras supply businesses…but he figured he knew a thing or two about throwing a kickass party.  And what was Mardi Gras but the Holy Grail of parties?  Therefore, he was clearly an expert and perfectly suited to whatever demands Barrett’s Mardi Gras Universe might have.  Or so he’d managed to convince John.   

Probably hadn’t hurt that Yvette had heard his stomach rumbling all through the brief interview.  Shawn wasn’t above working the ‘I’m cute and pathetic, please feed me!’ angle every now and again.   

As it turned out, the job really was something he was good at…his float designs were fast becoming the most popular in stock, and he’d already found subtle little ways to increase productivity using the available equipment.   

All right, retro-fitting the two forklifts to be drag racers wasn’t necessary for productivity, per se, but it certainly boosted morale.  And Shawn was pretty sure that gash on Eddie’s face wouldn’t even scar.   

The point was-- he liked it in Algiers.  The job would probably keep him entertained for at least another couple of months, his co-workers were interesting enough, and the Barretts had turned out to be good people.  Yvette invited him over for dinner at least once a week, teasing him about being too thin and calling him ‘baby boy’ in her faintly Cajun accent, and John seemed to take a lot of his suggestions about the business seriously.  It was nice to be listened to every once and a while.  He might even call Gus and have his mail forwarded here for a little bit.   

As he reached the end of the drive, he noticed that the light was still on in the front room of the house, where the Barretts kept their office.  Through the big bay window that faced the drive, Shawn could make out Mrs. Barrett hunched over her husband’s desk—her shoulders shaking in a manner that suggested the woman was crying her eyes out.  Shawn froze for a bare instant, his helmet dangling loosely from one hand.  Then, almost before the image finished registering in his mind, he was racing forward. 

He ran up the short set of steps to the Barrett’s’ split-level house, barging through the front door without even bothering to knock.  The helmet was dropped on a small bench in the front hall, and he nearly skidded through the archway that separated the office from the foyer. 

“Mrs. B?” he questioned as the older woman’s head shot up, a startled cry echoing in the office.  Shawn skidded to a halt in the center of the office, suddenly awkward in the face of Yvette’s swollen eyes and wet face.  He hated it when women cried.  He hadn’t dealt with it well in high school, and even three years later the sight made him feel like a useless adolescent.  It didn’t help that Mrs. Barrett reminded him almost painfully of his mother in the way she treated him.  “Mrs. B?  What’s wrong?” he said softly. 

“Shawn!” Yvette gasped, swiping futilely at her eyes.  “Gracious, child, you gave me a fright!”  She half-rose from the chair, furiously trying to piece her composure back together. 

Shawn’s eyes flicked around the room almost of their own volition. 

Pile of bills on the corner of the desk. 

“Is this about the forklifts?  ‘Cause I swear I can put them back the way they were, easy.” 

Official-looking envelope from the bank Shawn knew held the loan on the business, lying open near the stack of bills. 

“Three days…a week, max.  Well, maybe two.  I think I might need to run into town for a part.” 

Second official-looking envelope lying open in front of where Yvette was sitting, the large letters of the return-address proclaiming it to be from the Kimmel Cancer Center at Johns Hopkins. 
 

Oh…oh crap.  

Lightning fast, the pieces fell into place.  The Barrett’s’ trip up north about a month ago…John’s increasingly haggard appearance over the past few weeks…his reliance on Shawn and the rest of the crew to get jobs done that he ordinarily would’ve seen to himself...a couple of instances where their paychecks had been a day or two late.  Shawn took a deep breath, clenching his fists slightly.   

“Shawn, honey, I don’t care about the forklifts…wait, what did you do to the forklifts?” 

“Nothing!”  Shawn replied quickly, forcing a look of wide-eyed innocence.  “Nothing at all.”     

“Oh…well…I’m sorry, baby boy, but now really isn’t a good time--”   

“Yeah, no, no, I know,” Shawn interjected, and Yvette paused, blinking at him in surprise. “I mean—“  Shawn paused, tilting his head.  Logic dictated that now was probably a good time to get the hell out of Dodge.  He had enough money saved up to last him for a few weeks, and Gus had been bugging him to come and visit…or at least find some place closer to California.  The Barretts were obviously in serious trouble, and it was probably only a matter of time before they had to start letting people go, anyway.  He was only twenty-one, for chrissakes…what could he possibly do to help them?  Their daughter was a few years older than him.  Caroline was in the middle of grad school, but she could just come back from Washington or wherever she was and help her parents. 

“Mrs. B…can I talk to you for a minute?” 

“I don’t know what I would have done without him.  Shawn moved in with us while John was going through chemo…God, he said he’d let us pay him in gumbo so we could keep more of our crew on for longer, those first few weeks.”  Yvette reached up and dashed a few tears from her eyes.  “He practically took over the business…kept everything running, got all our orders filled, balanced the books.  Took to it like a duck to water…John just had to show him how to do something once, and it was done right every time after.  And I never saw someone who could read people so well…our customers used to say he knew exactly what they wanted before they even opened their mouths. He saved our business…goodness, he quadrupled our business before it was done.  Diversified our products in ways John never would have thought.  Have you ever heard of  Party Gras brand frozen margarita mix?”   

Dumbly, Henry nodded.  He had a box of the Banana-Rama flavor sitting in his freezer at home.   

Yvette grinned proudly.  “Shawn’s idea…his recipes.  He let us market them, and the lawyer said he could’ve taken three times the royalties he does—but he said he wanted to make sure John could retire ‘in style’. The Pineapple Passion flavor line paid for our son’s college.”  She sighed softly. “And he took such good care of me and John.  Drove us to appointments, got John’s prescriptions filled…took this old woman out dancing when things got to be just too much.”  She laughed, though the sound was edged with more tears.  She raised Shawn’s hand to her lips and kissed the back of it.  “An angel.  An angel sent from God, I truly believe that.”   

Henry, quite frankly, was sure his jaw had to be hanging open in shock.  Shawn had done all that?  Without being asked? 

“Mrs. Barrett, are you sure you have the right Spencer?”  Henry asked, though he really didn’t mean it.  Yvette’s smile turned knowing.   

“The boy old who showed up in our office ten years ago was a fine young man.  A fine young man.  Heavens, if my Caroline had been five years younger when Shawn showed up in our lives…” Yvette shook her head.  “He gets back in touch every few years, lets us know how he’s doing…and Shawn has his flaws, but he’s still a fine young man.  One any parent would be proud to call their son.  I can’t imagine that’s changed much in only a couple of years.”   

The muscles of Henry’s jaw clenched in the face of Yvette’s far too knowing expression.   

“We had a lot of talks, Shawn and I, while he was living with us.  Shawn can talk about anything and everything for hours on end can’t he?  I always thought what he had to say about you was the most interesting, though.”   

Henry’s gaze skittered away from the woman’s, focusing on Shawn’s lax features again.  Unconsciously, he reached up and brushed some of the hair from his son’s forehead.  “I’ll bet he had interesting things to say about me,” he muttered.   

“He adores you.”   

The words were spoken gently, but with unyielding conviction.   

Henry jerked to face Yvette again, a disbelieving laugh erupting from his throat before he could stop it.  “Lady—my son thinks a lot of things about me, but ‘adoration’ hasn’t been on the list since he was six.” 

“He does.  He idolizes you, whether he even knows it or not.  So much of what he did…what I imagine he still does…it was all for you.  Your attention, your approval…he craved it so much, Mr. Spencer.  He wanted…he wants so much for you to be proud of him.”   

A thousand responses leapt to Henry’s mind—many of them variations on a theme of this woman needing to mind her own damn business.  That how he felt about his son was between him and Shawn.  That pride needed to be earned.  That he would be proud of his son, he would approve of his son when he earned it. 

When he was a responsible, upstanding adult, who used his abilities to help people… 

When he was the sort who would stick around for an old couple in their time of need, just because he had skills that could help them and they had been kind to him. 

When he was the type who would give up his free time to drive a sick man to the doctors, and be a friend to that man’s wife when she needed it most. 

When he was the kind of man who could take on the very real, very complex problems of the business world and come out more than on top. 

When he was someone who took the abilities he had been born with, the training Henry had forced on him, and used them to create a way to help people, however unorthodox his methods were.   

“I-I am proud of him.  He’s my son…I’ve always been proud of him.”   

“And I believe you’ll still have the chance to tell him so,” Yvette replied quietly.  She stood slowly and bent down, so that her mouth was level with Shawn’s ear.  “You’re stronger than this, Shawn.  You didn’t give up on John…and we’re not giving up on you.  You can beat this.  We love you, baby boy.”  She straightened slightly, and then moved to plant a soft kiss on Shawn’s forehead.  “You can beat this,” she repeated.  Then, with a final, sad smile to Henry, she quietly turned and left the room.   

And Henry reached over to lay his hand over his son’s, where it rested on the cold sheet.                      

End Notes:
Huzzah....one down, four or five to go.  Hmmmm...shall we hear from Gus or Jules next?
Chapter 3 by Elfgirl
Author's Notes:
Disclaimer:  Third verse same as the first.  I am in no way associated with the rightful owners of Psych, or any characters and trademarks thereof.  No money is exchanging hands, and I would appreciate it if I was not sued.

It was exactly sixty-seven steps from the third floor elevator at Santa Barbara Mercy General to the swinging doors of the ICU. From there, it was twenty-three steps to the nurses' station, beyond which it was a mere ten steps to room 302. Shawn's room. Gus had never noticed things like that before. Before he found himself desperate for any sort of distraction from where he was actually going. Before the harshly lit hospital hallway had become the longest and most taxing distance he had ever traversed. One hundred steps, and he had walked them too many times to count in the past few weeks.

He walked them quickly today, silently rehearsing the arguments he had spent over three hours crafting at home the night before. It was Saturday, Gus had the entire weekend off, and he was bound and determined that one Henry Spencer was going to go home and get some real sleep. His best friend's father had basically refused to budge from the ICU since Shawn's last surgery almost five days ago. Gus and Juliet had managed to convince him to go home a few times to get cleaned up and catch a few precious hours of sleep, but Gus knew the older man had to be reaching the end of his rope. The elder Spencer had been running on sheer willpower for days now, and Gus was afraid the man would soon collapse under the strain. Gus wasn't going to let that happen. He wouldn't fail Shawn like that.

Not again.

"*Building is clear, repeat, building is clear. Perimeter secure.*"

"There, see? C'mon! I just need to check one thing out. Five minutes, tops. Ooh, and let's see if we can get some of that cheesecake with the little chocolate chips."

"Shawn, you just had half the Santa Barbara PD bust down their door...they're not going to sell you cheesecake."

"Says you. Now come on, there's Jules."

Gus stopped just outside the door to his best friend's hospital room, and closed his eyes, trying to shake free of the memory. This was his fault. No matter what anyone said, no matter what anyone else believed, Gus knew it was his fault Shawn was lying in the Intensive Care Unit. Maybe he wasn't responsible for the building being mistakenly called clear...maybe he couldn't have stopped the gunman from going after Shawn.

But he damn well could have kept Shawn from being shot.

He'd seen it coming, that was the kicker. He'd seen Shawn's eyes dart over to the small supply closet, half hidden by an overburdened coat rack. He'd seen realization, and then panic fly across his friend's face and felt the prickle on the back of his neck that screamed MOVE! Even before Shawn had shouted, had lunged at him, Gus had known that something was wrong and they needed to get out of the way.

But he hadn't been fast enough.

"Gus, get down!"

To his dying day, Gus knew he would never forget the sensation of Shawn's body slamming into his as that closet door flew open, the feel of Shawn's hands frantically shoving him down. A bellow of pure rage had rung out through the restaurant as the gunman they had somehow missed boiled out of the supply closet, and Gus had tried, he had tried to pull Shawn down with him as he fell to the floor. He'd tried. The fabric of Shawn's jacket had slipped over his questing hands, though...and the angle at which they'd been standing ensured his friend hadn't been able to get down himself in time.

He'd never forget the sound of gunfire, so close over his head he could have sworn he'd felt the heat of the bullets.

One.

Two.

Three.

Four.

Each shot like a clap of thunder in the small space. Each shot striking his best friend's body with deadly accuracy. The sight of Shawn's body jerking backwards with each shot had haunted Gus's dreams for weeks now. The scarlet patches of blood blooming on Shawn's chest painted themselves across Gus's vision time and time again, every time he closed his eyes. Over and over, he saw Shawn's face, blood already bubbling out from the corners of his lips as he fell backwards onto the hard floor.

Gus didn't remember very much of what had happened afterwards.

There were vague impressions of Lassiter screaming something, of the thud of another body hitting the floor. If he concentrated, he could sort of remember Juliet crashing to her knees beside him, her frightened, tear-filled voice shouting at him to help her. He remembered pressing his hands futilely over the holes in his friend's body, trying to apply pressure, trying to stop the flood of crimson. It was a mess of jumbled images and sensations, though, and he honestly didn't want to fully recall his desperate bid to save Shawn's life.

Things had only really become clear when he had found himself standing on the curb outside the restaurant, the screech of the ambulance's siren fading into the distance as it raced away with Shawn inside. He'd looked down at his hands, and realized they were covered...absolutely coated with blood. Blood had soaked the front of his shirt, the leg of his pants. He'd looked at it, and all he could think was that he was going to have to call Shawn's father. He would have to call Henry Spencer and tell him that he hadn't been fast enough. He hadn't been strong enough. He hadn't been able to pull Shawn out of the way, and now Shawn's blood was all over him.

"What the--hello? Who is this?"

"M...Mr. Spencer?"

"Gus? Gus, what the hell? It's three in the morning!"

"Mr. Spencer, it's Shawn! You've got to...you've got to come. Please, you've got to come!"

Gus had barely managed to choke out an explanation and a plea for Shawn's father to meet him at Mercy General before the reality of what had happened finally caught up with him. The next thing he knew he was sitting on the curb with his head between his knees as McNabb of all people comfortingly rubbed his shoulder and urged him to take slow, deep breaths. The smell of drying blood had risen up from his hands and clothes and suddenly breathing was secondary as he'd lurched to his feet. He only managed a few, halting steps away from McNabb before he promptly lost everything he had eaten that day.

It wasn't one of his finer moments, but Buzz had just stood beside him, holding him up and subtly warning away anyone who had any ideas about approaching him. McNabb had personally driven him to the hospital in his patrol car, and even stuck around to get Gus some clean scrubs and see him settled into the Emergency waiting room before he'd been called back to the crime scene. Henry had arrived moments later.

And so began the first act of the never ending nightmare that had become his life.

With a sigh, Gus finally squared himself up and stepped through the door into Shawn's room. It still hit him like a punch to the gut, seeing Shawn like this. There was something fundamentally wrong about Shawn Spencer being so pale and still. The snake-like hissing of the ventilator that was doing Shawn's breathing for him sent chills up and down Gus's spine, even though he knew it was keeping his friend alive. It was not something that was supposed to happen to Shawn. None of this was supposed to happen to Shawn.

Gus wished like hell that he could say Shawn was looking better...but the truth was his friend had been getting steadily worse. There was almost no color at all to his skin or lips, save the hard flush of scarlet at his cheekbones that heralded the low-grade fever that Shawn had been battling for almost two weeks now. He'd lost too much weight, and his face had taken on a pinched look, as though his skin was stretching too tightly over his bones.

Gus licked his lips lightly, before clearing his throat. Henry looked up from where he had been staring at Shawn's face, and Gus winced at how haggard the older man looked. Whether Henry wanted to admit it or not, he had about hit his limits. Henry Spencer may have been one of the strongest, most stubborn men Gus had ever known...but he wasn't as young as he used to be.

"Hey," Gus said softly. Henry inclined his head in greeting, before returning his attention to Shawn. Gus stepped closer to the bed and sank down on the chair pulled up opposite Henry, setting the small duffel bag he was carrying on the floor beside him. He was fully prepared to stay overnight if that was what it took to convince Henry to go home...at least for the night. "Any change?" he asked, though he could tell from the expression on Henry's face that there was no good news.

He just wasn't expecting it to be as bad as it was.

"His lungs are filling again," Henry said softly.

Working on a pharmaceutical route, one couldn't help but pick up a few things about the medical field. More than just about anyone save for Henry and Shawn's doctors, Gus knew just how much damage his friend had sustained.

The shoulder and side wounds had been relatively minor. Yes, Shawn's clavicle had been reduced to little more than shards, but his orthopedic surgeon had been fairly sure that with therapy, Shawn would regain most of the use of the limb. The shot to his side had done some damage to the small intestine, but had at least passed clean through Shawn's body. It was the damage Shawn had taken to the chest that was the worst.

The only reason Shawn had lived through the shooting was the fact that his left lung had escaped damage. The right had completely deflated, and required intensive surgery to repair.

Except the repairs weren't holding.

Twice now, they had had to go back in and try to get the stitches to hold...but each time they had been unsuccessful. Twice now, Shawn's lungs had begun filling up with blood and body fluids, slowly stealing Shawn's ability to breathe. Despite the antibiotics they were pumping into Shawn, infection had set in, worsening the fluid buildup. Gus wasn't stupid. Everything else--if Shawn had survived the surgery, then his chances were good for making a recovery. If they couldn't get his lungs to stay clear, there was nothing else to be done.

"Damn...they're operating again?" Gus asked worriedly, plucking nervously at the folds of his khakis. A stillness came over Henry, and Gus suddenly felt something cold settle in his stomach. "Mr. Spencer?"

"They're--they don't think it would help. Dr. Mahoney was in early this morning. He wants...he thinks I should..." Abruptly, Henry leaped from the chair and strode angrily over to the window. The older man braced his hands firmly on the windowsill, leaning his forehead against the glass and breathing deeply.

Gus politely ignored the spectacle of Henry Spencer struggling to control his emotions, and turned back to Shawn.

Henry didn't have to complete the sentence. Gus knew what the doctor had asked Henry to consider.

They didn't want to operate again. They wanted Henry to just let Shawn...no. No, Gus refused to even consider it. Shawn was the most alive person Gus had ever known. Shawn was supposed to be invincible, damn it!

"Shawn's mother is getting in sometime tonight...probably closer to tomorrow morning. I--I should be the one to pick her up and bring her here. We have to talk...we have to decide--" Henry spoke softly, as close to uncertain as Gus had ever heard him. And beneath it all, so faint that only someone who knew him very, very well would have been able to detect it, there was the beginning trembles of fear.

"Mr. Spencer, you need to go home. Just for today," Gus said gently. "I'll stay here with Shawn." He bit his lip a moment, then pushed just a little harder. "You need to get some sleep in a real bed." He held his breath, waiting for the explosion that usually accompanied anyone trying to tell a Spencer--any Spencer--what to do.

Instead, Henry suddenly seemed to...diminish. His shoulders hunched, and as he turned around, for the first time since Gus had met him at the age of six--Henry Spencer looked like an old man.

Henry scrubbed one hand tiredly over his face. "I know," he conceded quietly. "I know...I'm no good to anyone like this. I know that. I just..." His gaze slid over to his son's face, and for one brief instant, all the masks and walls dropped, and Gus wanted to look away from the raw pain he saw in the older man's eyes. "I can't lose him, Gus. Not now...not like this."

In the space of one breath to the next, the moment was over, and the vulnerability Gus saw in Shawn's father vanished, as if it had never been there. Henry straightened again, his face hardening with strength Gus had come to associate with the man. The pain disappeared, masked again with a lifetime's worth of efficiency.

"I'll stay, as long as you need me to," he said again. "Juliet said she'd be down later tonight. We can handle things for a little while."

For a moment, Henry looked torn. Good sense finally won out, though, and Henry reluctantly nodded. "I'll have my cell on me at all times. You call me for anything, understand?"

"Yes, sir," Gus replied quickly, sitting up a little straighter in his chair. God, twenty-odd years he'd known the man and Henry could still make him feel like a little boy.

It took Henry only a few moments to gather together the small toiletry bag and change of clothes he'd taken to keeping in Shawn's room. Once he had all his things together, he moved to stand next to the bed, staring down at his son. A strange look passed over his face, one Gus couldn't identify and judging by the intensity, didn't care to. Then, Henry laid his hand briefly on Shawn's forehead, taking a deep breath.

"I'll be back later, kid," Henry said quietly, "I'll be bringing your mom, too. Gus, keep me updated."

"Will do, sir," Gus said. With a final, long look at his son, Henry turned and left the room.

Gus breathed a soft sigh of relief as the elder Spencer vanished into the hallway. He'd honestly thought it was going to be much harder than that to convince Henry to leave for a little while. It scared him, quite frankly, to see Shawn's father like this. He knew Henry loved his son fiercely--anyone with eyes could see that. Well, anyone who wasn't Shawn. Gus was unused to seeing the man so open with his concern and caring, though. It worried him. It was as if Henry was trying to get out everything he'd always kept so carefully reserved...before it was too late.

If what the doctors were saying was true, though--that may well be the case, soon.

"Shawn, man, you can't do this. You gotta fight this off. Everyone's pulling for you...Vick put McNabb in charge of calling down here for daily updates 'cause the precinct was tying up the hospital phone lines every day. The nurses are fighting over who gets to give you your sponge baths. I know how much you like to be the center of attention--wouldn't you like to be awake for all this?"

The hiss of the ventilator was his only answer.

"Your dad's going off the deep end, man. I've never seen him like this. Juliet looks like she hasn't been sleeping...even Lassiter asked me how you were the other day. You'll have a field day with that, won't you?" Gus and stood up to move around the end of the bed, settling in the far more comfortable chair Henry had vacated. "Damn it, Shawn, if you don't wake up I'm going to redecorate the office. Eggshell and Taupe as far as the eye can see. And I'll throw out all your action figures. Even Boba Fett."

A small, childish part of him actually expected that to have some effect. Gus swallowed hard, and finally took his friend's limp hand, not caring that Shawn would be mortally offended by such a display.

"You can't die, Shawn. I don't care what the doctor says...you've got to beat this. What am I supposed to do without you, huh? You're always telling me how much my life would suck if you weren't around. Well, you win. You're right, okay? It would."

A lump rose in Gus's throat at that thought. He couldn't even begin to imagine his life without Shawn Spencer as a part of it. Shawn had been his best friend practically his whole life...in many ways they were closer than brothers. How was his world supposed to be whole without Shawn in it?

He complained. He yelled. He got irritated. He dragged his feet. He did everything possible to make it look like Shawn dragged him along on his escapades kicking and screaming...but the truth was, when it really counted, he'd follow Shawn anywhere. He always had. He needed Shawn...sometimes he was sure he needed Shawn far more than Shawn needed him.

Now it looked like Shawn might actually leave him...and it was his fault. He should have been faster. He should have realized what Shawn was doing sooner.

He should have pulled his best friend down, too.

That was what friends did, right? They watched each other's backs. They protected each other.

"You can't do this," Gus repeated softly.

He couldn't lose Shawn, either. Not now...not like this.

The soft sound of a throat being cleared startled him out of his thoughts, and his gaze snapped to the doorway. What he saw very nearly sent him diving for the call-button on the side of the bed.

"Uh--hi. Can I come in?"

 

End Notes:

The relationship between Shawn and Gus interests me to no end on Psych...I mean, honestly, who would let their best friend drag them into half the crap that Shawn gets Gus into?  I really think they balance each other, though...Shawn needs Gus's admittedly more level-headed nature, and Gus needs Shawn's influence to keep from being a total stick in the mud.  In a lot of ways, it's a really perfect relationship.  I'm a little iffy on Gus throughout this chapter...the companion piece to follow in which Gus meets someone from Shawn's past should explain any strangeness and tie things up nicely for anyone who thought he was a little OOC...but I would like to point out that the poor boy *has* been through a lot of trauma.  I think some major guilt and the possibility of losing someone that he has for *whatever* reason, stuck with practically his whole life would mess with Gus's head a little.

Plus which, I like messing with their heads...so nyah ;)

Chapter 4 by Elfgirl
Author's Notes:

Heyas,

Once again, thank you for the responses to this!  I'm loving your reviews...glad you're enjoying.

Gus froze for a few precious seconds, his mouth working soundlessly. His left hand spasmed slightly, automatically reaching for the call-button on the side of Shawn's bed. The man standing in the doorway tilted his head.

"Dude, are you okay?"

Gus squeaked.

"Hey, man, sorry...I didn't mean ta' freak ya' out or nothin'." An alarmed look spread across the man's features and he stepped into the room--ducking slightly to get through the door.

Gus squeaked again.

If a Hell's Angel biker got drunk in the forests of Washington state and ended up having a one-night stand with a local Bigfoot, the man standing before Gus might have been the result nine months later. He was easily six and a half feet tall...maybe even a few inches over, and he looked nearly as broad as he was tall. The man had to be solid muscle. He was dressed in jeans that had long ago seen better days and an open black leather vest over a faded band t-shirt with a logo Gus couldn't quite make out. The name of the band included the words "rat," "death," and "poison" though. Thick blond hair trailed in a braid down his back, held back by a black bandana, and he sported a wild beard mountain men everywhere would have sighed with envy over. And nearly every inch of exposed skin was covered with intricate tattoos.

The man licked his lips and stepped still farther into the room. "Look, I'm really sorry...the nurse said it was okay if I came down here--she said you guys have been bending all sorts of rules for visitors. I know I shoulda called or somethin', but I just got in this mornin'--" the man's voice, deep as thunder and twice as booming, trailed off as he stepped close enough to get a clear view of the bed. "Aw, Spence," he muttered softly. "Ah, hell." The man pulled his bandana off and raked one hand back over his hair.

Nervously, Gus scooted closer to Shawn--and the call button. "Who are you?" he questioned as calmly as he could.

The man turned dark brown eyes on Gus and sighed heavily, stuffing the bandana into the back pocket of his jeans. "Right, right, sorry. Name's Sam Richards." The man stuck out one beefy paw of a hand for Gus to shake.

Gus squeaked again.

But he managed to shake the man's hand, figuring that if some criminal they had busted in the past had hired 'Sam' to kill them, the man probably would have done something by now. He even managed not to wince too hard at the man's grip.

"Spence...er Shawn was a friend a' mine a while back. We worked together for a few months in Santa Fe." He focused back on the man lying between them. "Damn...I saw on the news--I knew he was bad off...but damn." Sam trailed off and his shoulders slumped.

Upon closer inspection, Sam wasn't quite as intimidating as his first impression.

Well, no, scratch that...the man could be passing out kittens, puppies, and lollipops covered in rainbows to little children and he would still be intimidating as hell.

However, despite his appearance, Sam's eyes were kind, and his face spoke of a ready smile. Gus was surprised to realize the man was younger than he'd first thought--probably around his and Shawn's age...five years older, tops. Silently, Gus racked his brain, trying to think if Shawn had ever mentioned hanging out with any leather gangs on his many travels. He knew his friend had spent several months in New Mexico...some time right after his parents' divorce, after he'd helped his mother move into her new house.

"Um, you want to sit down or something?" he asked finally, relaxing fractionally back into his seat. In answer, Sam let a battered black suede backpack fall to the floor with a muffled thump, and gingerly sat down in the chair Gus usually occupied when both he and Henry were sitting with Shawn.

"Thanks, man. You must be Gus, right?"

Gus couldn't hide his surprise, and Sam chuckled softly under his breath. "Spence talked about you a lot--he's got a hell of a lot 'a stories start off with 'when Gus and I.' Don't believe half of 'em, but he sure can talk a good game."

Despite himself, Gus smiled ruefully. Yes, if there was one thing Shawn could do, it was talk. After a moment, he took his hand entirely away from the call-button. So Shawn hung out with big, scary, should've-been-a-pro-wrestler, biker dudes and now some of them were dropping by. Only on Planet Shawn. One did not spend almost thirty years being Shawn's best friend and not learn when to just 'roll with it,' though.

"So, you and Shawn worked together, huh? Where at?" Gus knew most of the many, many jobs Shawn had held since leaving high school, but there were a few blank spots in his knowledge. He knew Shawn had briefly worked as a paralegal in Santa Fe ('briefly' there having the meaning of 'until lunch on his first day, when someone figured out he had none of the education, experience, or licensure to be a paralegal'). Still, and although he knew he was stereotyping horribly, he couldn't quite imagine Sam Richards working in a lawyer's office.

"Place called Dyeing Rites in downtown Santa Fe," Sam replied shortly, and Gus blinked in confusion.

"A...funeral home?" he hazarded, and was surprised when Sam burst out laughing.

"Hell, no! Tattoo and piercing studio. Spence was with us, oh, about three months, I guess."

Gus gaped. "A tattoo parlor? Shawn worked in a tattoo parlor? People let Shawn Spencer come at them with a little...needle-gun-thing and put permanent pictures on their skin?" That Did. Not. Compute. Shawn didn't have the patience to be a tattoo artist. And what kind of person went to a tattoo guy who didn't have a single tattoo?

Sam snorted contemptuously. "You kidding me? Spence ain't got any tattoo license."

Gus sighed in relief.

"He did the body piercings," Sam continued.

Gus loved Shawn like a brother, and trusted him far more than actually made sense given the kind of hijinx that usually ensued when one trusted Shawn Spencer. The idea of Shawn coming at him with anything sharp enough to pierce flesh, however, just left Gus with a vaguely sick feeling in his stomach. Absently, he wondered if there really was anything out there Shawn hadn't tried his hand at, at least once.

"Did a lot of our art, too--flash pieces, customs. Our regulars'd wait for weeks to get an appointment with him to draw stuff out." Sam shook his head in admiration. "Boss was real upset to see him go. We all were." Sam pressed his lips together briefly, turning his eyes back to Shawn's pale face. "I just can't believe someone would want to--Jesus." Sam's expression turned somber as he let his dark eyes roam over the various tubes and machines Shawn was hooked up to. Finally, the man looked back at Gus. "Spence--we all liked him down at the studio. Good man. Good friend." Sam's voice got a little husky at the end, and his simple declaration touched something that had been curled up tight and hurting in Gus's chest for almost a month, now.

"The best," he agreed softly. Sam looked up sharply at Gus's tone, and the man's face seemed to soften.

"How're you holding up?" he asked in a surprisingly gentle voice. "None a' my business, I know--but I feel like I know ya', Spence talked about you so much."

"I'm fine," Gus stated quickly, his standard answer to the question he had been asked so many times by so many people. It wasn't true, of course, but he was so, so tired of trying to tell the people around him how he really felt. After all, the only people who might possibly understand were Henry, Juliet, and maybe Lassiter.

Henry had pushed aside his efforts to apologize with increasing ire, until Gus was afraid to even bring it up. Juliet was so worried about Shawn, Gus couldn't bear to put her under any more stress. Lassiter...well, Lassiter was Lassiter. Gus wasn't about to try and have a heart to heart with the man. He'd been assured, over and over again, that it wasn't his fault. That he couldn't have done anything to keep Shawn safe. That Shawn certainly wouldn't blame him...but Gus couldn't bring himself to believe it.

Sam raised an eyebrow, and then his eyes flicked to Shawn's face. "No you're not," he said matter-of-factly.

Gus was taken aback. "Excuse me?"

Sam crossed his arms over his massive chest, leaning back in his chair. "Dude, every person down at the shop put in for time off once we heard what'd happened to Spence. Boss had to have us draw straws to see who got to actually come up here. My wife, Janie...she cried for two hours straight when I told her. We knew him for three months."

The man shot Gus a significant look and narrowed his eyes slightly. Gus's brow furrowed as the man's entire demeanor seemed to shift. "From what the news story said, it was the SBPD who said it was safe to go into that place...you don't believe that was your fault. So let me guess...you should've been able to keep the whole thing from happening? Shoved him out of the way, ducked earlier...something. Am I right?" Gus's eyes had gotten steadily wider as Sam spoke, and the man smiled, shrugging a bit. "I'm finishing my psychiatry doctorate this year...gonna open up a private practice. Spence helped me with the business plan."

Where the hell did Shawn find these people?

"And maybe it goes a little deeper than that." Abruptly, the bluntness softened into sympathy. "Man, I haven't spoken to Spence in years--but don't you dare think he'd blame you for this. Or that it wasn't absolutely worth it to him."

Something snapped inside of Gus. "Worth it? Worth it?" he sputtered. "Shawn's dying...he--" Stricken, Gus shut his mouth with an audible snap, biting down so hard on the inside of his cheek he was sure he'd be tasting blood any moment.

Oh, God, Shawn was dying.

Gus froze as the coffee and bagel he'd eaten for breakfast suddenly threatened to make another appearance, and the blood started roaring in his ears. Shawn was dying. The doctors thought he was going to die. They wanted Henry to hasten him dying.

Shawn was going to die.

He was going to die and it was Gus's fault. And this man...this stranger had the nerve to come in and tell Gus that it was 'worth it' to Shawn? Like Shawn would somehow have been happy taking four bullets in an effort to protect Gus? What the hell?!

"Hey, hey, hey, take it easy, man. Deep breaths." Sam's concerned voice cut through the storm brewing in Gus's head, and he turned a venomous glare on the man. What right did this person have to come in here and talk like this?

"What do you know, anyway?" Gus choked out, angry with himself for losing his composure in front of a stranger, Shawn's friend or no...but even more angry at Sam Richards.

To his surprise, Sam merely slouched comfortably in the chair, and smiled.

Shawn slurped contentedly on a mango and pineapple smoothie from the vendor down the street as he bounced through the wide glass doors of his latest place of employment. Immediately, the ear-shattering strains of Disturbed's "The Game" enveloped him, the music turned up to such a level that he could feel the bass line thudding in his chest. He wrinkled his nose a bit...it must have been Jimmy's turn to pick the music for the day. Not that it mattered, since Shawn didn't have a turn to pick the music anymore.

You pop one Tears For Fears CD in and you were branded for life. It wasn't fair.

Sucking the last bit of tropical fruity ambrosia through his straw, Shawn glanced quickly through the appointment book at the large glass and chrome desk that took up most of the foyer. Seeing that he had no one scheduled until later that afternoon, he flashed a smile at the customers waiting on one of the two leather couches in the lobby and proceeded through the beaded curtain that separated the studio proper from the greeting area.

He'd talked his way into some pretty interesting gigs in the past six years, and at twenty-four had already done and seen more than most people did in an entire lifetime. So far, though,
Dyeing Rites took the cake. He couldn't even imagine what Gus would say if his best friend knew Shawn was working in a tattoo parlor. Not that he was handling any of the actual tattooing...but he'd pierced more than a few interesting body parts in the past three months. Apparently the acupuncture clinic he hadn't known required actual experience was experience enough to handle giant needles that put permanent holes in people.

Who knew?

He liked the place, though. Some of the people had taken a little getting used to, but he'd found some good friends in his boss, an ex-Marine named Chris Garcia, and Sam Richards, one of the artists. Despite the fact that he looked like the last person that should be working in a place like
Dyeing Rites, he was well-liked in return by the staff and the customer base. His own artwork was much prized by many of the 'regulars,' and he'd gotten a bit of a reputation for being the man to see for excellent custom designs.

His mother had always encouraged his gift for drawing, but he wondered if she'd ever envisioned his talents being put to such a use?

Eh, she probably got a kick out of it.

He tossed his cup in a trash can as he passed, bouncing lightly on his toes in an attempt to get a glimpse over the solid wood dividers that formed the walls of Sam's cubicle to see if his friend had a customer. The giant of a man was indeed hunched over his counter space, but there was no one else in the cubicle with him. Silently, though it was hardly necessary given the volume of the music echoing through the studio, Shawn crept up behind his friend, leaned in close to his ear and--

Let out a startled grunt as he suddenly found himself in a headlock.

"Ugh--dude! No fair!" he squawked, beating ineffectually against the massive forearm wrapped around his throat.

"Teach ya' to sneak up on people," Sam muttered, amusement dancing in his voice. He gave one more squeeze, reached up with his free hand to mess with Shawn's carefully styled hair for good measure, and let go.

"Hey, hey, hey, watch the hair...do you have any idea how long it takes to make it look like I don't spend any time on it? Just because
you don't appreciate a good 'do, Mr. Grizzled McGrizzyson." Shawn plastered an affronted expression on his face, making a show of smoothing imaginary wrinkles from his t-shirt. Sam rolled his eyes.

"So what's the what?" Shawn asked, nodding pointedly at the thick sheaf of papers Sam had been looking at so intently. He boosted himself up to perch precariously on the top edge of one of the dividers, one leg hanging down on either side.

Sam spun around in his chair to glare up at Shawn, though there was little real heat in his gaze. Shawn grinned back unrepentantly. Sam shot another look at Shawn's foot, which was dangling a few inches above Sam's bottles of ink (though nowhere near the sterilized equipment), and Shawn quickly drew the offending appendage up underneath his body in an awkward curl that shouldn't have been possible given the fact that the edge he was sitting on was less than six inches wide.

"Business proposition the boss just got from that place that opened down the street last year. Imagos? Anyway, they wanna buy Chris out." Sam flicked his long ponytail over one shoulder. "He's passing it around ta all a' us, see what we think."

"And what do we think?" Shawn asked curiously. In answer, Sam tossed the stapled packet of papers up at Shawn, laughing shortly when Shawn almost fell off the divider in an attempt to catch it. He scanned the packet quickly, his eyebrow climbing higher and higher with each item, until he looked up incredulously at Sam.

"Riiiiight...and just where did this 'Mr. Castillo' acquire the pictures of Chris strangling kittens in front of wheelchair-bound children? 'Cause that's about the only reason I could think of that Chris'd take this load of crap."

Sam nodded sagely. "That's what I thought, but I wanted ta' check with you first."

"Spencer! How many times have I told you to stay off the damn walls?! I ain't paying for it if you fall and break your neck." Shawn startled at the booming voice that suddenly rang out even over the music, nearly doing just that, but managed to recover. He cheerfully held the pack of papers aloft and waved them at the owner of the tattoo parlor, who was glaring at him from the doorway of his office in the back of the studio.

"You gonna take this lying down?" Shawn hollered back. The gesture Chris shot back was answer enough, and Shawn laughed delightedly.

"That's the spirit! We'll send the competition packing, or we'll choke their rivers with our dead!"

Sam shook his head, a small smirk tugging at his lips. "I don't think it'll go that far, Spence," the man said evenly. Shawn shrugged and winked at him.

"I was watching 'Spartacus' last night."

"Ah. Oh, hey, before I forget...your mom called here this mornin'. Said she couldn't get you at your apartment and you need ta' check your messages on your cell. Sounded kinda important."

Frowning curiously, Shawn dug said cell phone out of his jeans-pocket, rolling his eyes a little as he noted that it had indeed been turned off. He activated the device and quickly accessed his voicemail, surprised to find that he had over a dozen messages from his mother. A little kernel of unease unfurled in his stomach. Had something happened to one of his parents?

His face darkened as his mother's worried voice came through on the first message. Something had indeed happened.

"Damn it," he murmured, leaping down from the divider to land in Sam's cubicle. He shut the phone off in mid-message, not needing to hear the rest of them. He had enough to know what he had to do. "I gotta go," he said to Sam.

"Well, ya' don't have a customer 'til two...I think Chris'll let ya' off if--"

"No, no, no, I've got to
go. Away. Back to California," Shawn interrupted, snatching a pad of paper and a pen up from Sam's counter. "Like, yesterday."

"Huh?" Sam said, confusion marring his features. Shawn began rapidly scrawling a note out on the paper.

"It's Gus. His grandma had a heart attack last night...she's had heart problems for years. Last time I talked to him, he said she was going downhill fast. He's gonna need me."

"What, you gonna put in for some time off?"

"No can do, I'm gonna go stay with Gus--don't know how long. Listen, tell Chris to take my two week notice out of my last paycheck, and then can you fake my signature well enough to sign what's left over to my landlord? I think that'll cover breaking my lease. Damn, and I was so sure I was gonna be able to actually get my deposit back this time." He finished writing and shoved the scrap of paper into Sam's hands. "There's the address where I'll be staying...if I give you my keys, could you and Janie clean out my apartment and store my stuff until I can get it sent somewhere?"

"Uh, yeah, no problem," Sam said dazedly. Abruptly, though, he shook his head and grabbed Shawn by the arm. "Whoa, Spence, hang on a sec...you can't just pull up stakes and leave!"

"Why not?" Shawn asked, genuinely puzzled. "I've got enough for gas to Santa Barbara...Gus'll let me borrow his clothes 'til I get my stuff sent up. I'll be a total fashion victim for a couple weeks, but that's beside the point."

"Spence!" Sam interrupted, tightening his grip slightly on Shawn's elbow. "You're seriously gonna just walk out that door and leave everything ya' own to drive up ta' Santa Barbara for God knows how long? No job, no apartment up there, nothin'?!"

Shawn waved a dismissive hand. "I'll sleep on Gus's couch." Gently, he pried Sam's fingers off of his arm. "Dude," he said, his tone suddenly something very different than Sam had ever heard coming from his mouth. "It's Gus."

With that, Shawn clapped a friendly hand on Sam's bicep, turned around, and fairly ran back out onto the street, where he'd parked his bike.

"Never saw him again," Sam finished. "Boss about blew a gasket when I told 'im Spence had up and quit, but he got over it. Spence still drops a postcard to the studio every year or so, let's us know he's not in jail or somethin', asks about everyone." Sam snorted and shook his head slightly. "I couldn't imagine livin' my life like that--just pullin' up whenever I felt the need."

The man's face turned serious again. "An' he definitely felt the need, there."

Gus was speechless. He remembered the exact days Sam had been talking about. He'd been in his early twenties, his grandmother had been very old, and very sick for a very long time, and none of that had done anything to lessen the absolute devastation he'd felt at her passing. He'd been especially close to his mother's mother, all his life.

He had no words to describe the relief he'd felt when, the night after his grandmother had suffered her fatal heart attack, Shawn had shown up on his doorstep. His best friend had been exhausted, covered in road dust, and carrying nothing more than his helmet and the clothes on his back, and Gus had thought he'd never seen a more welcome sight. With Shawn by his side, the crushing grief had somehow lessened. As strong as he and his father had tried to be for his mother, Shawn had been for him, giving him someone to lean on, someone to break down in front of with no guilt or discomfort. For one of the very few times in their lives, Shawn had been the anchor Gus clung to.

"Never even crossed Spence's mind to do anything but be there long as ya' needed him," Sam continued, breaking Gus's train of thought. "I couldn't understand it at the time...Shawn's a good guy, the best, but he ain't one I'd ever peg for runnin' towards responsibility, y'know? Took me a while ta' figure out. Thought back to all those stories he told about ya', all the times he'd talk about ya'. Wasn't that he suddenly changed all his priorities...it's just that you were already at the top a' that list. Always had been. And I imagine ya' still are."

Gus swallowed hard at the man's words, suddenly unable to meet Sam's eyes. To his surprise, Sam leaned over the bed, his massive arms easily reaching across the mattress, and clapped Gus on the shoulder. Again, the man's speech pattern shifted into something gently professional, and for a moment Gus could imagine the mountain of a person being an excellent therapist.

"You really think it occurred to him to do anything but make sure you were safe? You really think he'd resent you? Blame you for this? Or want you to blame yourself?"

Gus knew that few people outside of their parents and maybe Juliet understood why he considered Shawn his best friend. On the outside, Shawn was an immature nuisance at best, and an absolute sponge at worst. He knew people had a hard time understanding why he continually followed Shawn's lead, let his friend drag him into situation after situation.

Yet, when the chips were really down, when push really came to shove...Shawn had always come through for him. When it really counted, Shawn had never once let him down. In his own (admittedly often disastrous), completely Shawn-ish way, he'd always looked after Gus, had his back no matter what. Gus knew without having to think about it that had the situation been reversed, he'd have gladly taken the shots for his friend. Did he really think Shawn would do anything less?

Sam must have seen something easing in his expression, for the man sat back in the chair, regarding Gus a moment longer before standing.

"I've got to get going...think I've overstayed my welcome, and I gotta call everyone an' let 'em know what's goin' on. Listen, man, I don't care what those docs say...Spence ain't done raisin' hell, yet. He'll come back to ya'." He leaned down and gripped Shawn's wrist for a moment. "Ya' hear that, Spence? You ain't allowed ta' check out 'til I get ya' in my chair...I told ya' I would if it was the last thing I did. We're all pullin' for ya', bro." Sam straightened, picking his backpack up off the floor. "Thanks for lettin' me sit with 'im. I'd like ta' come back tomorrow if ya' don't mind. I gotta be headin' back to Santa Fe in the afternoon--but I wanna see him one more time."

"Huh? Oh, no, no...I'm sure that will be fine. Thanks for stopping in...and thanks for telling me all that," Gus said sincerely. Sam smiled at him and tipped him a salute with two fingers to his forehead. Then, with one final look at Shawn, the man turned and left the room, his footsteps echoing loudly down the hall even as he'd vanished from sight.

Gus slumped back in the chair, raising both hands to rub at his eyes and rake back over his skull. "Man, Shawn...you sure know how to pick 'em," he muttered. He slowly reached down to the overnight bag down by his feet, and withdrew a few notes on his latest route that he needed to go over. Before he turned his attention to the papers, though, he let his eyes linger on his best friend's face.

For the first time since the shooting, he was able to do so without feeling the white-hot stab of guilt.

 

 

 

End Notes:
And next up...Juliet's reaction.  I'm a bit torn, though...how many of you would like to see a flat-out Shules slant to this story?  I think the two would make a really cute couple, though I'm not sure Juliet's the character Shawn's 'going to be falling in love' with this season.  I've got two versions in mind for Juliet's encounter with Shawn's past--one very definitely Shules, one more just friends...which would you guys prefer?  Suggestions are always welcome.  Thanks!
Chapter 5 by Elfgirl
Author's Notes:

Hey everyone!

As always, thank you for the reviews and input.  I'm trying to walk a ridgepole with this chapter (kudos to anyone who understands that particular bit of regional vernacular) and Juliet's head was surprisingly difficult to get into.  Hmmmm...may have to go and re-watch season one for the next bit (oh, chore!) just for character reference.  Concrit is always welcome...I hope you enjoy!

disclaimer: the author makes no claim on Psych, or any registered trademarks and characters thereof. No money is exchanging hands and I politely request that the owners of Psych not sue me. 

She couldn't get the feel of blood off her hands.

They thought she was taking this so hard because she felt guilty. They thought she was taking it so hard because she thought she could have done something to prevent it. They thought she was questioning her every action leading up to that horrible, horrible moment when gunfire had echoed through the dining room of that damn restaurant. They thought she was beating herself up over it.

They were wrong.

Well, mostly. Juliet O'Hara did feel guilty...and she wished with all her being that she had been able to prevent what had happened. Unlike Gus, though, Juliet knew there was nothing she could have done and had actually taken that knowledge to heart. Eventually, the guilt would fade...it wasn't eating her alive the way it was Gus. It hadn't been her who had called the building clear, it hadn't been her who allowed Shawn and Gus into the place prematurely, and it certainly hadn't been her who had missed the hiding place of that psycho. She'd been on the other side of the room when it had all gone down. There was nothing she could have done.

It was just--she couldn't get the feel of blood off her hands.

"Gus, look out!"

"Gun! Gun! Gun!"

"What the hell?! Everyone down!"

"Building is not secure, repeat, building is not secure!"

"SHAWN!"

It had all happened so fast. One moment, it had been just another crime scene, and they had all been waiting for Forensics to come in and do their thing. She had been surreptitiously watching their resident psychic and his partner wander around the large dining area of the restaurant, secretly just waiting for Shawn to go into one of his 'fits.' She'd had her own theories about this case, and she had been eager to see if what she thought matched up with Shawn's unique spin on things.

She'd been standing at just such an angle that she had seen Shawn's eyes dart between Gus and something to the left of them, seen the expressions of realization and panic chase themselves across his features. Then, all hell had broken loose. Shawn had lunged at Gus, pushing the other man as hard as he could, and Juliet had been reaching for her gun even as she knew she'd never be able to get it up in time. Shawn had never had a chance.

She hadn't frozen, had followed protocol to the letter, covering her partner while Carlton moved into position to fire at the attacker. Inside, though, she'd been screaming. Four shots, each of them striking Shawn's unprotected body with heartrending finality. She wasn't sure if she'd ever be able to stop hearing the grim echo of those shots...not until Shawn was all right again.

She was running over to the fallen men almost before she even registered that Carlton had handled the situation, his expert shots blowing the gun out of the perp's hand, and striking a disabling blow to the kneecap. She'd flung herself down beside Shawn, blanching at the sight of the damage.

He'd been shaking all over, the color already draining from his skin. Bright red froth had bubbled at the corners of his lips...and there was so much blood. So much blood.

"Officer down! Officer down! We have a man down in here! Get a goddamn ambulance!" She'd barely registered Carlton's harsh voice barking into his radio, instead focusing all her attention on Shawn. Gus had stumbled to her side a bare instant later, shaking almost as hard as Shawn was.

"Gus, help me!"

She'd grabbed his hands, pressing them against the wounds in Shawn's shoulder and side, ignoring the ragged moan the action had torn from Shawn's bloodied lips.

"Keep the pressure on. You hear me, Gus?"

"J-Julsss?"

"Don't try to talk, Shawn. You'll be fine. We've got you...we've got you." She'd ripped her jacket off, folding it into a large pad and pressing it as hard as she could against the gaping red stains spreading across his chest. Shawn had given one more agonized groan before falling terrifyingly limp.

"No, no, nononono...damn it Shawn, don't do this!" Gus's broken plea echoed in her ears, and God she had wanted to join him.

"Stay with us, Shawn." She'd known he couldn't hear her, but she couldn't stop the words. "Please...please, please, please..."

Her entire world had narrowed to the spreading pool of blood around the body of her friend, all of her being focused on slowing the rivers of red that were running out of Shawn's body...keeping him with them long enough for help to arrive. Her hands had been covered, her clothes drenched.

Weeks later, she still couldn't erase the feel of it from her hands--hot, sticky, and so, so red.

Juliet had never seen a partner, seen a friend go down in the line of duty.

Shawn might not have worn a badge or a uniform, but Juliet--along with a good portion of the rest of the SBPD--had stopped making the distinction long ago. He was one of them. He was a comrade, a partner. He was a friend. He was someone she cared about, and to see him just lying there, so pale and still--it cut her to her very core every time. She didn't know how to deal with it, and she wasn't ashamed to admit that.

It had affected all of the precinct, but her, Gus, and Shawn's father most of all. Gus and Henry Spencer had been a given, but she'd actually been surprised by the depth of her own reaction. She thought she'd been prepared for this. It was something all cops had to be ready for, after all. It was a dangerous job. She knew that. She thought she had been ready. Until she'd felt the rush of blood against her hands--until she'd fought that grim battle to keep someone she cared about from dying right in front of her.

Juliet paused outside the swinging doors that would grant her entrance to the ICU, taking a moment to compose herself. She knew she was worrying Carlton, though her partner would never admit it aloud. She was worrying the chief, and she was worrying Gus. She wasn't sleeping or eating properly, hadn't been for a couple of weeks now. She was spending every spare moment at the hospital, switching shifts with Gus and Mr. Spencer so that Shawn was never alone, and it was starting to tell on her. She'd been bleary and unfocused at work lately, and could only offer thanks to whomever was listening that the criminals of Santa Barbara had been mercifully quiet lately.

Everything had been so quiet, lately.

She took a deep breath and stepped through the doors, trying to ignore the little twist that she felt in her stomach every time she did so. Santa Barbara Mercy General was clean, well-lit, and well-run. Juliet still thought it reeked of sickness, fear, and hopelessness. Especially the ICU ward.

Shawn didn't belong in a place like this. Hell, no one belonged in a place like this...but definitely not Shawn. Shawn Spencer was so vibrant, so energetic, so unrelentingly alive every moment of every day. She couldn't reconcile that image of her friend with the one she was confronted with every day, now. It just wasn't right.

She moved quickly down the short hallway to Shawn's room, nodding and offering a half-hearted smile to the nurses and orderlies she recognized. As she stepped into Shawn's room, she was relieved to see Gus sitting by the bed by himself. Gus had mentioned something about trying to convince Shawn's father to take a day off the night before, and she was glad that the older man had apparently taken Gus's advice. She understood how terribly worried Mr. Spencer was about his son, but the older man wasn't going to do anyone any good if he ended up in a hospital bed right beside Shawn.

Gus looked up from a sheaf of papers in his lap as she entered, raising his hand in a slight wave. Immediately, Juliet noticed something...different...about Shawn's best friend. Ever since Shawn had been shot, there had been a kind of nervous tension enveloping the man, sparking in his eyes everytime he looked at his injured friend. His every word and gesture had spoken of terrible, terrible guilt--the kind of guilt that burned a person up from the inside out. The kind of guilt that both she and Mr. Spencer had privately been afraid was going to drive Gus over the edge if the worst should happen.

Sometimes, she wondered if Shawn had any idea how important he was to so many people.

As Juliet looked at him, though, she realized that he seemed...calmer. There were still lines of tension across his forehead and around his mouth, dark circles under his eyes, but the air of crushing guilt around him seemed lighter. She quirked an eyebrow, wondering what had changed in the past twenty-four hours. Immediately, hope kindled in her heart as she realized what the likely reason was.

"Is Shawn any better?' she asked quickly, biting her lip in hopeful anticipation.

She knew she had been wrong, though, when Gus's face fell. His shoulders slumped into a posture of defeat, and Juliet felt her stomach clench.

"No...no, the doctors were talking to Mr. Spencer early this morning. His lungs are filling up with fluid again," Gus reported, his matter-of-fact tone at odds with the flash of pain she saw in his dark eyes.

Juliet bit her lip, forcing back the sting of tears that rose in her own eyes through sheer willpower. She knew what that meant. It was the second time it had happened, and she honestly didn't know if Shawn's body could take another surgery.

"He's barely responding to the antibiotics, and...and the doctors don't want to go in again," Gus continued, his voice dropping to a whisper on the last sentence. Juliet gasped.

"But if his lungs are filling up...Gus, no!" Her gaze flew to Shawn's face, and tears welled up in her eyes again, a few spilling down her cheeks before she regained control of herself. "No," she said again, desperation in her whisper. "Isn't there anything they can do?"

"If the antibiotics could just knock out this infection...whatever's leaking in his lung could maybe heal up enough to--it'd take him a long time to recover, but he could--there's a chance..." Gus trailed off and shook his head miserably. "He's not going to get better, Juliet. He's not...if the medicine was going to work it would've worked by now." Gus looked like he was about to throw up and without thinking, Juliet made her way around the bed, laying a comforting hand on his shoulder and squeezing.

"But there's a chance," she whispered. "There's still a chance."


"He can't breathe for himself right now. They want Mr. Spe--Henry to turn off the ventilator."

Juliet's hand flew to her mouth, a small, choked noise working its way from her lips. Gus wearily scrubbed his hands over his face. "I don't know, I just--"

"Mr. Spencer won't give up on him," Juliet interrupted, her voice firm and unyielding. "He's fighting, Gus, I know he is. We just have to give him more time."

"I want to believe that, Juliet. I really do. I know he's fighting...Shawn doesn't know how to do anything else. I just don't know if he can win." He slumped back in the chair, his expression melting into desolation.

"How long have you been here?" she asked gently. Gus gave a rueful smile.

"Since about seven this morning. You wouldn't believe who dropped in to see Shawn."

"Knowing Shawn? I wouldn't rule anything out. It's past two...have you had anything to eat, yet?"

Mutely, Gus shook his head. Juliet smiled down at him, and the edges of it were only a little tremulous. "Why don't you go down to that cafe around the corner? Take a break? I'll sit with him...and we can figure out how we're going to divide up tonight when you get back. When's Mr. Spencer coming back?"

"Hard to say...he finally got in touch with Shawn's mom. She's flying in tonight...he was going to pick her up at the airport and bring her straight here." Juliet's mouth compressed into a grim line at the thought of what Shawn's parents would likely be talking about. The train of thought was interrupted, though, when Gus sighed. "Lunch does sound good. Do you want me to bring you back anything?"

"Coffee would be nice. That caramel blend, if they have it today."

"All right...I'll be back in about an hour. Call me if anything comes up."

Juliet nodded her assent and sank down in the chair by the bedside as soon as Gus vacated it. She waved at the young man as he left the room, and then gently picked up Shawn's hand, lightly stroking the back of it with her thumb.

"You've got to be all right, Shawn. You can't leave them...you can't leave us. The station wouldn't be the same without you. Even Carlton misses you...don't you want to tease him about that?"

God, what she would give to see one of Shawn's ready grins, hear his laughing voice calling her 'Jules'.

"I miss you, too. I know you wouldn't want to miss an opportunity to milk it for all it's worth." She'd even be willing to let him, if he would just wake up. As it had been for the past three weeks, though, there was no flicker of movement beyond the steady, mechanically-induced rise and fall of his chest. Juliet squeezed his hand a little harder.

She'd known many guys like Shawn Spencer in her lifetime--handsome, charming, quick-witted. They'd flocked to her like moths to the flame, never looking beyond her blonde, blue-eyed beauty and figuring her for an easy target. She'd always got a great deal of satisfaction in sending them packing. She'd thought Shawn to be no different--the man flirted with anything with a pulse, and she'd long ago learned to be wary of the smooth-talking charmers. To her surprise, though, she'd found hidden layers beneath Shawn's admittedly flashy surface.

Even knowing him as long as she had, she still wasn't entirely sure he was really a psychic. Carlton seemed so sure he was playing them all, and she'd see something in his eyes sometimes when he was flailing around in the throes of a 'vision'...something almost frighteningly intelligent and calculating. It should have made him seem even less trustworthy than her initial impression had indicated...but somehow, it didn't. Beneath the con-artist charm was real kindness, she knew that. She'd seen him work--he genuinely was interested in helping people, even if he'd never admit it. So really, who cared how he got the results? The point was, he got them.

She'd found a good friend in Shawn Spencer. In him and Gus, truth be told. She was glad she had met them, glad she got the chance to work with them.

That said, though, she wasn't blind to this--thing--simmering between her and Shawn. Shawn flirted shamelessly, yes, but Juliet had noticed a shift in his attentions towards her lately. Whereas all the other charmers she'd ever known in her life had only been interested in one thing, Shawn was different. She honestly didn't know if his flirtatiousness was just an aspect of his overly gregarious nature, but she didn't think she was mistaking the gleam of real interest in his eyes when he talked to her these days. Or the flashes of genuine respect and caring.

If she was honest, she was pretty sure the same was reflected in her own gazes.

They were building towards something, she knew. Their relationship was reaching that point where they would have to decide if they wanted that little seed of chemistry between them to blossom and grow, or just gently smooth away into a deep and lasting friendship. She thought she knew which way Shawn wanted it to go, but she was less sure about her own feelings. She cared about him, yes, but she wasn't sure she wanted to risk her heart on someone with such an admittedly...unstable history. Shawn seemed to chafe under serious responsibility and she was aware enough to know that she wouldn't be able to change that without also altering the parts of his personality that made him the person she cared about in the first place.

It was a dilemma...and yet, it was one she couldn't bear the thought of not seeing through to its conclusion. Whatever happened between them, Shawn had brought something into her life that she desperately didn't want to lose. She didn't want to lose him, and she shuddered to think what would happen to Gus or Mr. Spencer if Shawn should die. God, how could this have happened? It wasn't fair! Shawn had done nothing but try to help people...what had he done to deserve this?

She sucked in a deep, unsteady breath as the telltale wetness rose in her eyes again. She was just managing to force the tears that wanted to fall back when a soft noise at the doorway made itself known on her senses. She glanced up, thinking it was Gus having forgotten something, and her brow furrowed at the sight of the people standing uncertainly at the threshold of the room.

"I'm sorry...can I help you?"

End Notes:
Yeah, so, my het 'ship of choice is Shawn/Juliet, but I actually kinda hope they don't every go that route on the show (helloooo, resolving of unresolved sexual tension has been the almost universal kiss of death on TV shows!)...so I'm kinda trying to play the will they/won't they angle here...not sure how successful I was, but I like the way this turned out. 
Chapter 6 by Elfgirl
Author's Notes:

Hey everyone!

Yeah, sorry, not dead...it's just I'm a teacher, and the new school year started with a bang.  Updates may be a little slow in coming, but hopefully there won't be anymore month long waits!  Many thanks to those of you who have reviewed

Disclaimer:  The author makes no claim on Psych or any registered characters and trademarks thereof.  This story is all in fun and no money has exchanged hands.  Please don't sue. 

"I'm sorry...can I help you?"

The two people standing in the doorway gave no sign that they had heard her, instead staring fixedly at Shawn. Brow furrowed in confusion, Juliet automatically began cataloging the two, trying to figure out who they were. They were a study in contrasts, and an odd-looking pair because of it. The woman was short and petite, with smooth, mocha-hued skin and inky black hair done up in intricate braids. She was cute, rather than pretty, something about her suggesting mischief. The man was pale and blonde-haired, towering over his companion by more than a foot. He had the slightly awkward, gangly look of someone who had never really learned what to do with their limbs, but his eyes were sharp and intelligent, his face kind. The easy way with which the man's arm was slung around the woman's shoulders, as well as the matching gold bands on their fingers, quickly identified their relationship to each other--but gave no indication as to what they were doing in Shawn's room.

Juliet half rose from the chair, and the movement seemed to break the spell that had held the two strangers. The woman's hands flew to her mouth, her eyes instantly filling, and a strangled gasp worked its way from her throat. The man's arm tightened around her shoulders, but he looked no less shaken than her.

"Oh, my God!" the woman whispered, and suddenly her knees seemed to buckle.

"Case!" the man shouted, moving to wrap his other arm around her waist, allowing his wife to slump against him. Instantly, Juliet's questions flew out of her head as her natural instinct to help took over.

"Here, bring her over here," she barked, rising fully from the chair and making her way around the foot of Shawn's bed. She pulled the other chair away from the bedside, indicating that the man should help the woman over to it. He obliged quickly, practically carrying her small frame over to the chair. The woman sank down gratefully onto it, her complexion ashy under the dark tones of her skin, and her companion dropped to his knees beside her.

"Casey? Baby? You okay?" he asked gently, reaching up to grip one of her hands. To Juliet's surprise, the woman wrenched away from her companion's touch, leaning forward to rest her hands on the rails on the side of Shawn's bed.

"You moron!" she growled, gripping the metal rail so tightly her knuckles turned white. She glared at Shawn's prone form, her eyes coal-dark with fury. "You stupid son of a bitch!"

"Casey!" the man gasped, as Juliet's mouth fell open in shock.

"You promised! You promised you'd be all right! You swore you wouldn't get hurt! You jackass, you promised!" With that, the woman, Casey apparently, threw herself back in the chair, letting go of the rails to bury her face in her hands. Her companion wasted no time in kneeling down next to her, gently wrapping his arms around her and drawing her close to his chest. "He promised," Casey whispered again, her voice thick with unshed tears.

Juliet was frozen, shocked by the display, the intensity of the grief and worry she could hear in the woman's words.

"Do-do you want me to call a nurse?" she asked finally, half moving towards the call button anyway. The motion was forestalled, though, when Casey abruptly shook her head, drawing away from her husband's embrace, though maintaining a tight grip on one of his hands.

"No...no, I'm all right. It's just...Jake, I'm fine." she murmured shakily, fixing her dark eyes on Shawn's face again.

"What about--" the man, Jake, began, but Casey cut him off.

"I'm fine," she stated, her tone leaving no room for argument. Jake looked as though he wanted to argue anyway, but reluctantly subsided.

"If you're sure," Juliet said, still not convinced that the woman shouldn't be checked out by a doctor.

"Thank you, but really...I'm all right. Sorry, we didn't mean to upset you." The woman offered Juliet a watery smile as her husband rose from the floor to stand beside the chair, dropping one hand comfortingly on her shoulder.

"No, no, no problem. Just glad you're all right. Um, I don't mean to be rude...but I wasn't expecting any visitors today and--"

"Ah, crap, we're so sorry. Here we are just barging in...I mean, the nurse said it was all right, but--" Jake trailed off, looking thoroughly embarrassed. "We're friends of Shawn's. Um I'm Jacob...Jake Chandler, and this is my wife, Casey." Jake smiled down at the top of Casey's head as he introduced them, his hazel eyes softening with love. Casey glanced up, returning the smile, before she turned her attention to Juliet.

"You wouldn't happen to be Detective O'Hara, would you?" she asked curiously, and Juliet startled slightly.

"Yeah, actually. Juliet O'Hara...how did you know?"

In answer, Casey grinned slightly, wiping quickly at her eyes. "Shawn and I talk online sometimes...he's mentioned you. You fit the description." She declined to elaborate on what sort of description Juliet fit, and Juliet wasn't about to ask. Casey sighed heavily, reaching up to rub the bridge of her nose.

"Shawn and Case go way back and I got to know him when we went on vacation a few years ago," Jake continued. "He was best man at our wedding...well, the first one." Jake paused, and he and his wife shared a small, private chuckle. Casey reached up to run her fingers over a colorful, hand-woven bracelet around Jake's wrist, and Juliet noticed a matching one adorning her own.

"It's sort of complicated," Casey interjected. "Shawn and I ran a business together in Memphis several years ago." Oddly, the woman blushed a bit, and Jake smiled fondly down at her. "Then we met up again after Jake and I got engaged, while we were on vacation in Costa Rica. Shawn was working on this river rafting tour called Aquablanca...God, I couldn't believe it when I first saw him sitting in the raft. Anyway, long story short, he kind of got us lost on the Pecuare River for a few days. We found a new tributary and ended up in a little tribal village...great people."

"We managed to show up right in the middle of some festival they were having. Awesome parties! Shawn talked the village shaman into marrying me and Casey about the third night we were there. It was incredible," Jake added enthusiastically. "Especially since none of us could understand a single word we were saying to each other."

"Kind of made the church wedding at home seem a little boring," Casey agreed. "Dancing naked around the bonfire was much more fun than that reception at the hotel." Her eyes widened as she suddenly seemed to remember to whom she was talking. "Uh--"

"It was to bless us with a fertile marriage," Jake muttered sheepishly. "But I think Shawn got more blessings than we did."

Juliet honestly didn't know what she could say to that.

"Is...is it okay if we sit with him a little while? We drove all the way from Vancouver as soon as we found out...we heard the whole story on the news a couple days ago." Casey's exterior calm trembled a bit, and Juliet saw a flash of terrible pain in her eyes--something more than what Juliet might have thought would be felt for just a friend. She couldn't say 'no' to such a depth of emotion...not that she'd been considering throwing the couple out anyway. Their worry was too genuine for them to be anything other than what they said they were, and if Gus was right...Juliet thought that many more people would soon be making their way to this room.

"Of course. Shawn's friend, Gus, went out to get some lunch...I could go join him if you'd like some privacy," Juliet offered. Immediately, though, Casey and Jake were shaking their heads.

"That's all right, you don't have to do that," Jake said, as his wife nodded emphatically.

"I'd actually like to here a little bit about Shawn's job from someone who works with him. Somehow, I think the versions I'm getting are a little...embellished?" Casey added, a fond smirk twisting her lips. She shifted in her chair slightly, reaching over to gather one of Shawn's hands up in her own.

"Baby, you want something from the vending machines? Water? Juice?" Jake asked solicitously, prompting another grin from the small woman.

"A Pepsi would be good," she answered, rolling her eyes a little when her request garnered a raised eyebrow from her husband. "All right, fine, caffeine free. Christ on a crutch, Jake, you can't expect me to just go cold turkey."

"I can and I do," Jake replied, leaning down to drop a quick kiss on the woman's cheek. "Detective O'Hara? Can I get you anything?"

"No, I'm fine. Thank you, though," Juliet replied, puzzled by the odd exchange. Jake nodded and squeezed his wife's shoulder once more, before quickly turning and striding out the door. Casey chuckled ruefully as he exited the room, shaking her head.

"We just found out we're pregnant...I'm about six weeks along, and Jake's freaking out," she offered after a moment, apparently picking up on Juliet's confusion. "He's turned into a total control freak over anything I put in my mouth."

"Congratulations," Juliet said sincerely, and Casey smiled sadly.

"Thank you. Jake and I...we want Shawn to be the godfather. I was just getting ready to call him with the good news--then that story about the money laundering ring down here came on the television. God, when they said Shawn had been hurt...I knew this whole thing was dangerous. He tried to act like it wasn't, but I knew." She paused, taking a deep breath before focusing on Juliet with a startling, intense gaze. "How bad is he, Detective? The news stories all said he was still critical, but...he's going to be okay, isn't he?"

Juliet bit her lip, Gus's earlier words echoing in her head like thunder. Like the gunshots that had done this to her friend. How much should she tell? Somehow, she didn't think Henry Spencer would appreciate Shawn's condition being spread around as general knowledge...but these two people seemed to genuinely care about Shawn, and they lived so far away. Didn't they deserve the chance to make their final goodbyes?

Casey seemed to read into Juliet's silent hesitation, realization dawning across her features. Her face crumpled, new tears gathering in her eyes, before she visibly steeled herself. "I'll believe it when I see it," she said softly, her voice cracking slightly. "Shawn's strong. He's one of the strongest people I've ever met. He...don't count him out. Don't ever count him out."

"We don't," Juliet murmured, without really meaning to. "I don't."

"He talks about you, a lot. I'm glad he has such good friends looking out for him." The change in subject caught Juliet off-guard somewhat, and she glanced up to find Casey watching Shawn with an incredibly soft look.

"You two are close?" Juliet couldn't help asking, though it was obvious that the other woman cared for Shawn deeply. In answer, Casey laughed softly, the sound slightly rough with tears still threatening to fall.

"First man I ever fell in love with," she said softly. At Juliet's surprised look, Casey shrugged a bit. "We were together while we were in Memphis. Graceland By Night Tours...I don't know why we didn't end up in jail. Good times, though. Jake knows...hell, the only reason I even met Jake was because Shawn and I broke up and headed off in opposite directions. Best thing that ever happened to me. But Jake knows Shawn's always going to be...special to me." She looked up, again pinning Juliet with the intensity of her gaze. "He's changed so much...for the better. And I know a lot of it has to do with this--the job he does. The people he helps. The people he works with. You."

Nervously, Juliet chuckled, tucking a stray strand of hair behind her ear. "I don't think anything could ever really change Shawn Spencer."

"Really now?"

Shawn sighed heavily as he watched the last of his current group of 'tourists' attempt to navigate the stretch of ground between the backdoor of the famed Graceland estate and the security wall that would be their exit point. He'd known from the start that this guy was going to be trouble...after all, who the hell showed up to an only-illegal-in-the-sense-that-it-was-completely-against-the-law tour in a neon green t-shirt after specifically being told to wear black? Thank goodness Shawn always carried extras for just such occasions. He winced as the man in question tripped over his own two feet for what had to be the fifth time. Much more of this and the guard dogs would take an interest, no matter how good the sausages Shawn had left them with earlier were.

"Oh for the love of---Larry! Dude! You're killin' us here. Serpentine, man, serpentine!" Shawn hissed loudly. The man acknowledged him with a vague wave...of only one finger. "Now that's just uncalled for." Shaking his head, Shawn glanced behind him, assuring himself that no guards had yet been alerted to their presence.

Of all the various jobs, schemes, and situations he'd landed himself in, Shawn had to admit that Graceland By Night was probably in the top five. It was thrilling, fun, and best of all, he knew it would drive his father into a stroke if Henry Spencer ever found out that his only son was spending his nights breaking into a national landmark. Shawn very carefully Did Not Think About how often his more...outlandishly risky ventures coincided with a particularly bad spell in his relationship with his father.

Besides, like it was Shawn's fault security was a joke? It wasn't like he was hurting anything. He was just giving the true Elvis fans a chance to get up close and personal with their Holy Ground. He was providing a service to the discerning Fanboys and Fangirls, making money,
and he'd had a lot of fun. It was win-win, as far as Shawn was concerned. Even if Shawn was starting to get the feeling that the challenge of his latest career was wearing thin.

"I told you he was going to be trouble."

Boredom aside, after all, this job had an entirely unexpected, and incredible side-benefit.

Pasting a grin on his face, Shawn turned to face his partner-in...okay, yes, crime...a delightful co-ed by the name of Casey Markus. Casey had started out as just a partner in his admittedly mad-cap idea...someone who knew the area and the right places to pick up people interested in their brand of 'tour'. Two and a half months later, they were living together, renting a modest one-bedroom house, and Shawn was pretty damn sure he was in love. Casey was almost as much of a gypsy at heart as he was, and one of the few people he'd run into who actually seemed to understand his need to be constantly moving, learning, trying new things. It was one of the first things that had attracted him to her.

Casey was standing a few feet from the door the group had exited only a few minutes before, watching Larry's dubious progress with a disgusted frown. Shawn slung his arm around her shoulders and tried to summon a convincing level of confidence to his voice.

"He'll be fine...look, he's almost to the tree. Everything locked back up?"

"You know it," Casey answered, apparently willing to let the argument go in the face of yet another successful wrap-up. Really, it was criminal how easy this gig had turned out to be. Pun not intended. The young woman smiled up at him, but Shawn saw hesitance in the smile...something not quite right that had been following Casey around for a few days now. It was starting to get to the point that Shawn thought he might actually have to sit down and try to...talk about it.

"Hey Shawn...you ever think about what you're going to do after this?" Casey asked suddenly, as the two began making their own way towards the lone tree that would allow them to boost themselves over the security wall (and really...who let a tree get that big near a security wall?).

"Hmm? Well, I thought we might stop at Luigi's and get some of that awesome lasagne, and then hit Blockbuster on the way home," Shawn answered distractedly. Larry had fallen again, and Shawn could hear the man cursing up a storm. Not good, definitely not good. The dogs would probably be done with those sausages by now. Silently, he grabbed at the straps of the backpack Casey was carrying, pulling it off of her back quickly and unzipping it.

"No, I mean, after
this. I mean, you're not going to break into Graceland every other night for the rest of your life." Despite himself, Shawn snorted.

"Case, you know I don't think like that. The rest of my life? C'mon! Why try to plan things out like that?" Shawn was genuinely confused. Neither of them lived their lives with any sort of plan. He knew for a fact that Casey hadn't stopped moving around the country since she'd graduated high school...same as him.

"Well, what if you kinda
had to?"

Larry took a final tumble, crying out in pain.

"Aw, man," Shawn muttered, smacking his forehead with one hand as the relative silence of the night was broken by the sound of several dogs barking. "Guess we run for it tonight," he continued, reaching into the depths of the backpack and closing his hand around the smooth cardboard of a small box of Milkbones. Larry stumbled to his feet and headed for the tree at a flat-out run, as several large, dark shapes came tearing out of the shadows from the north side of the estate.

"Shawn wait--"

Shawn yanked the box out and scrabbled for the edges to open it...then suddenly froze as he realized that Casey apparently hadn't just picked up Milkbones at their drugstore stop right before the tour.

"Um...I'm late," Casey said lamely, reaching up to twine one of the many braids she wore her hair in around one finger.

"Late?" Shawn repeated dumbly, staring at the home pregnancy test currently clutched in his hand. "Like...
late late?"

The barking grew louder, interspersed with several deep, menacing growls.

"Oh my God!" Larry screamed.

"Yeah,
late late. Like, a week and a half late." Casey shifted from foot to foot, looking more nervous than Shawn had ever seen her.

"Someone help me!" Larry screamed again, the noise followed by a muffled thud as his body hit the ground.

"What...but...how?" Shawn couldn't stop staring at the box in his hands, at the picture of the stupidly smiling woman on the front, the large pink 'plus' size emblazoned over her head.

"Shawn, Jesus, do I really have to draw you a picture?"

"Oh God, my leg! My leg!"

"Well, no, but...we were careful!"

"Aaaarrrrrrrrgggggghhhhhhh!"

"Shawn, I'm--oh, shit." Casey's eyes widened, staring at something to left of and behind Shawn. Slowly, Shawn turned around to find one of the larger guard dogs slowly advancing on them, earlier goodwill towards Shawn apparently forgotten with the last of the sausages. The thing was growling low in its throat, and Shawn didn't remember those teeth looking quite that...big. And sharp. Thinking rapidly, Shawn did the most sensible thing he could think of.

He screamed like a girl.

Then he threw the only available weapon he had as hard as he could at the dog's nose.

Then he grabbed Casey's hand and ran like hell.

"Shawn! That was my pregnancy test!"

"Less talking, more running, less talking, more running!"

The two of them pelted for the tree that was their only avenue of escape, the sounds of the dogs quickly growing louder behind them. They skidded to a halt under the tree what seemed like only seconds ahead of the dogs, and Shawn boosted Casey up into the branches so hard he might as well have thrown her. Pulling himself up to straddle the lowest branch, Shawn barely waited for his girlfriend to clear the wall before literally leaping over it himself, landing in a controlled roll that nonetheless knocked the breath from his lungs.

Knowing that someone would no doubt have been alerted to the presence of intruder by the ruckus of the dogs, the two raced up the side street where Shawn had parked his bike, barely taking the time to shove helmets over their heads before they were speeding away into the darkness.

"Someone? Anyone? Owwwwww," Larry moaned.

Two hours, one stop at an all-night drugstore, and five of the most harrowing minutes of Shawn's life later, Shawn and Casey were both nearly wilting in relief as the tiny 'negative' sign swam into view in the ridiculously little (in Shawn's opinion) test window. They'd laughed, they'd hugged, and then they'd had really great celebratory sex on the kitchen table.

Shawn was pretty sure there was something ironic about them celebrating not being pregnant that way...but it was
really great sex.

Four hours, one stop at an all-night drugstore and five of the most harrowing minutes of Shawn's life later, Shawn was stuffing an envelope with enough money to cover his half of the rent and bills for the next month, scrawling a simple "I'm sorry" on said envelope, and sneaking out to the garage where his bike was with only the clothes on his back, his wallet, and a small overnight bag he'd dropped in the front hall closet and never bothered to unpack from a weekend getaway they'd taken last month, while Casey slept on down the hall in their shared bedroom.

Casey Markus was smart, funny, cute, and there was the aforementioned really great sex. He loved her. He did. He'd said those all important three words and he'd really meant them. It was just...tonight had opened his eyes to the fact that they really had nowhere else to go except--where they thought they had been heading for a few terrifying minutes. Kids. Rings. A
future. And much as he loved Casey...he wasn't ready for that. He wasn't ready for her to be the last person he was ever with. More than that, he wasn't ready to settle down, to put down roots. To have something permanent. He was only twenty-six for crying out loud! Tonight had scared the crap out of him, and even though it had also seemed to scare the crap out of Casey--surely she'd want those things from him eventually.

What he was doing was cowardly, it was wrong, and it was far less than Casey deserved...but he couldn't help it.

He'd been feeling the urge to move on for a while now, anyway. Graceland had lost most of its charm, and he was actually pretty sure that they were living on borrowed time as far as not getting caught went. It was still fun...but he'd gotten all the challenge out of it he could. Really, the only thing that had been keeping him was trying to decide if he wanted to ask Casey to come with him, wherever he was heading next.

He was relatively certain the fact that the answer hadn't immediately popped into his head was answer enough.

So involved was he in his thoughts that it took him almost a full five seconds to realize that the garage door was already open. He blinked, rather stupidly, at the sight of Casey standing next to her beloved old Camaro, frozen in the act of shoving a large duffel bag into the back seat. Casey stared back at him, a deer-in-the-headlights expression painted across her face.

"What the--you were just going to
leave? Without even talking to me? What the hell?!" Shawn burst out, conveniently forgetting for a moment that such was exactly what he was doing. Casey's mouth worked soundlessly for a few seconds, before her eyes flicked to the helmet and knapsack dangling from Shawn's hands.

"Whoa, whoa, wait a minute...I don't think you get to claim the moral high ground when you were about to do the same thing!" she shot back, steping away from the car and planting her hands firmly on her hips. Shawn took a reflexive step backwards, distance always being preferable when there were angry females involved, shaking his head.

"Yeah, well...you were trying it first!"

"I so was not...all you have is a backpack! You were waiting 'til you were sure I was asleep!"

"Oh please, like it doesn't take at least half an hour to get this door up without making a sound? You totally--wait, how did you even get out here without me hearing?"

"Climbed out the bedroom window and came around through the side yard." Abruptly, Casey sagged against the side of her car, reaching up to rub furiously at her eyes. "God, Shawn, listen to us," she mumbled. "What are we doing?"

Shawn dropped his knapsack and helmet on the floor and moved over to stand beside the young woman, reaching up to pull her close to his side. She came without resistance, burying her face in the crook of his neck and shoulder. "Arguing about who was leaving who first?" Shawn suggested flippantly. Casey laughed a little, winding her own arms around his waist.

"This past week...I've been so worried, trying to get up the courage to go get that test. If I really had been....I'm not ready for that. I'm not ready for any of it. I don't want it, yet. But that's what we're heading for. So I guess...we're really leaving each other?" she asked softly. Shawn sighed, tightening his hold on her.

"I love you, Case. I do." Casey raised her head enough to look him in the eye, smiling softly.

"Just not enough to stay," she said gently. "I know. I love you, too."

"Just not enough to stay," Shawn repeated, and an understanding passed between them. "Where are you headed?"

"I dunno. I've got a friend who lives in Vancouver...she's always bugging me to come and visit. Maybe I'll swing through Portland and see my mom. You?"

Shawn shrugged. He had options. Gus would always let him crash on his couch for a few days...or he could take up his mother's offer to come and stay with her in New York. It'd been a while since he'd seen the Big Apple. Strange...this was one of the most serious relationships he'd ever had. Wasn't he supposed to be sad over it ending? He was, a little...but mostly he was just excited over the possibilities of new beginnings. That, more than anything, told him they were making the right decision. He leaned down and kissed her softly. "You stay in touch, okay? Let me know if you need anything."

"You too. Don't go disappearing off the face of the planet."

"You know, I'll bet you I can see more of the country than you can in six months," Shawn said playfully. Casey grinned at him, hooking her fingers into his belt loops.

"Bet. What's the stakes?"

"Winner buys the loser pineapple smoothies next time we see each other?"

"Deal. Be prepared to lose, Spencer." She smiled wickedly at him. "Now...since we're both leaving, think it would be horrible of me to run back inside and grab the cash I left on the dresser for rent and bills?"

"No...but only if we agree it's not horrible of me to run back in and grab the envelope I left on the kitchen counter." Casey laughed softly, shaking her head.

In short order, the money was reclaimed, Shawn had gone back through the house and gotten a few more things from the bedroom, and the rest of their true valuables were boxed up in Casey's car to be mailed to respective friends for safekeeping until they got permanent addresses. With nothing left to say, and everything to look forward to, they pulled out of the driveway in their respective vehicles for the last time, and drove off in opposite directions.

After a round of really great goodbye sex on the hood of Casey's car.

"My girlfriends all thought I was insane. They couldn't understand why I wasn't angry or hurt or depressed. Then again...Shawn's the only one I've ever met who really understood the way I was living my life." Casey glanced up at Juliet, a strange, knowing smile dancing on her lips. "It was like this...thing inside of me. And no matter how hard I tried, I could never quite reach it to make it go away. Moving around, finding new places and new people...that was the only thing that helped. It didn't matter whether or not I liked the places and the people I was with. I had to move on. Had to. Then I met Jake. And the thing just--disappeared. All of a sudden, it was like I'd found where I belonged, like this place had just been waiting for me the whole time. I mean, my God...when I thought Shawn and I might have had an--accident, I was terrified. Completely terrified. Then when I found out Jake and I were expecting...well, I'm still terrified. But I'm happier than I've ever been in my life. When Shawn and I met back up in Costa Rica, he said he could hear it in my voice, how I'd changed. I didn't believe him." She leaned forward, brushing the backs of her fingers against Shawn's cheek.

"I believe him now...because I hear the same thing in his voice when we talk. I can't even describe it, but I know he finally found his place. He found the place in his life where he just fits. Doing this, being back here with his friends and family...he finally fits. You don't know what it's like to find that, after so many years of always looking for it." Casey paused in her musings, finally looking up at Juliet, who was utterly speechless. "You don't know how much you have to do with it. He's changed, he's changed so much. He's finally being who he's supposed to be...and I'm so glad he got to that place. Even if...even if--it'll be all right, because he found what he was looking for, all those years. He found who he was looking for."

Casey fell silent again, going back to just watching the rise and fall of Shawn's chest, the dampness in her eyes the only sign that betrayed her outward calm. As much as she wanted to break the silence, Juliet couldn't think of anything to say. She had a thousand questions she wanted to ask the young woman in front of her, but the words were lodged in her throat, as the other woman's words echoed in her head.

"You don't know how much you have to do with it."

"He's changed so much...he found what he was looking for. He found who he was looking for."

She'd never bothered to wonder why Shawn had stuck around in Santa Barbara for so long when everything in his history suggested that such a long period of stillness was a complete aberration. She'd never wondered what had changed for him, why he was breaking his pattern after so long. The quiet conviction with which Casey had spoken, though, the depth of emotion in her voice as she spoke of spending years on end searching for a place to belong...was that what Shawn had really gone through? And if so, had that journey really at last come to an end for him?

"You don't know how much you have to do with it."

Silently, Juliet sent yet another heartfelt plea winging to the heavens and whoever might hear it, another prayer on the tail of hundreds of others. Shawn had to get better. He had to beat this. He had to come back to them.

They had too much to talk about for this to be the end.

End Notes:
All right, slowly wrapping this baby up.  I've two choices for next chapter...obviously, Lassy needs to take a turn in the hotseat, but I've also got a bit of an interlude wherein the erstwhile Mrs. Spencer makes her appearance and she and Henry have a few words about their son.  Any suggestions?
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