Shawn exited the school, dragging his backpack behind him, shoulders hunched and head hanging down as he made his way across the school yard to the road where Henry waited in his cruiser. The picture presented was the very definition of 'dejected'.
He was also, notably, alone in his misery, his ever-faithful partner-in-crime missing from his side.
Well now this was unusual, Henry thought as he waited and watched. He scanned the schoolyard, wondering if Gus had fallen ill and been picked up earlier.
Shawn's glum parade ended on the sidewalk and Henry gave up the search for the moment to look at him. A tug to open the back door and Shawn slid in, his book bag released to the floor, Shawn draped morosely across the seat. He was facing forward, but otherwise almost laying flat out, limbs left to sit where they'd landed in the slumped sprawl that had been Shawn's entrance. His fog of depression did not prevent him from buckling in, but he offered no greeting or explanation for his very uncharacteristic mood.
Henry watched him in the rearview mirror for a moment, listened to the weighty sigh of emotional surrender to whatever fate might have in store, and tilted his head.
There was no immediate response.
Annoyance was Henry's first reaction, but a second's thought clued him into the fact that Shawn wasn't ignoring him. He was just that deeply entrenched in his abject pathos.
“Shawn,” Henry repeated, adding volume to pierce the veil of melancholy surrounding his son.
Hazel eyes flicked upwards from under bangs that needed trimming.
It wasn't challenging so much as resigned and Henry's eyebrows arched upwards. He hadn't seen Shawn this down in the dumps since Chairman Meow's, uh, departure.
“Okay,” Henry said, turning off the engine and shifting in his seat so he could rest an arm on the seat back and more fully face his audience. “What's wrong?”
Shawn's eyes went back to his knees and he moved his shoulders in a minute shrug.
Henry rolled his eyes.
Shawn all but flinched and Henry winced. Flinching at a best friend's name was never a good sign.
“Nothing,” Shawn repeated, but it was almost a whisper and Henry had the horrible feeling that tears weren't far behind.
He knew Gus hadn't been kidnapped or killed or otherwise ripped painfully from Shawn's life. Henry would have heard the call over the radio.
Which meant that it was something between Shawn and Gus.
“Does Gus have a ride home?” Priorities had to be taken care of and it was Henry's responsibility to make sure that Gus made it home safely today as it was his turn to drive the boys home.
Shawn nodded and a single tear slipped out as he sniffled.
“Oh hell,” Henry cursed, turning to face forward again. He was tempted to drive home and let Maddie deal with this, but then he remembered that she was assisting the department on a high-profile case and wouldn't be home until after dinner tonight.
Damn it all.
Henry sighed and pinched the bridge of his nose as regular sniffles continued to issue from the back seat.
“Shawn, what happened?”
“Nothing,” Shawn repeated.
“Damn it, Shawn, you're . . .” He couldn't bring himself to say it so he took a different, less specific approach. “This is not nothing. Now spill.”
Henry was on the verge of calling it quits and heading down to the station when a soft, “Gus is never going to speak to me again,” finally broke the silence.
Henry frowned and tuned back around. “What? Why?”
Shawn shrugged again, wiping at his face unsuccessfully.
“Shawn, Gus is your best friend. You're practically attached at the hip. Hell, if it wasn't for the fact that he's black and you're white, people would think you were brothers. Some people probably do anyway. Now what did you do that's so bad that it makes you think that Gus is never going to speak to you again?”
Shawn frowned, eyes focusing on Henry from under brows lowered in a scowl. “What makes you think it was me?” he asked grumpily.
Henry almost sighed in relief. If Shawn was grumpy then the tears were over with.
“Because Gus is not the kind of kid to stop talking to his best friend for no reason at all. And since Gus isn't speaking to you that implies that you were the cause of the rift. So, what did you do?”
Shawn scowled for another long moment while he digested the logic presented to him.
Then he sighed, face relaxing, voice switching back to mopey gloom. “I don't know what I did.”
“Come on, Shawn.”
“No really, Dad!” Shawn protested, sitting forward, hands gripping the seat back in front of him. “I don't know! We were at recess and I asked him to come play dodgeball because we needed to beat Danny Mickelson's team and he just got all grumpy and said no and now he's not talking to me!”
And suddenly it was all clear.
“I see,” Henry said. “Shawn, when you asked Gus to come play dodgeball what was he doing?”
Shawn shrugged. “I don't know. Reading or something boring probably.”
“Close your eyes.”
Shawn exhaled a put-upon groan. “Daaad!”
Shawn complied, though it was not happily.
“Okay. Now what was Gus doing when you asked him to play with you?”
Shawn's face scrunched up in concentration.
“What was he reading?”
“Um . . . Boxcar children.”
“Was he enjoying it?”
“Yeah,” Shawn said, not having to think about that one. Gus loved the Boxcar children. The one he'd had today was actually one he'd read already.
“And when you asked him to play, what did he say?”
“Um . . . No?”
“What did you do then?”
Shawn opened his eyes and blinked, not understanding the question.
“Did you let him go back to his book?” Henry clarified.
Shawn looked down, understanding slowly beginning to creep in. “Not really. But we really needed him, Dad! Danny Mickelson's team is-”
Henry held up a hand to stop the explanation.
“Shawn, you weren't listening to him. That's why Gus is mad at you.”
“How would you feel if he ignored you?”
Shawn deflated back into his boneless splay over the seat. “He did that. For all the rest of recess. And class all afternoon. And then he called his mom to come pick him up.”
Henry nodded. ”And how did it feel?”
“So now that you know what's wrong, what are you going to do about it?”
Shawn pondered this for a second. “Wait for him to forget he's mad at me?”
Henry shrugged and faced forward, turning on the car. “Well if you're willing to wait, then I guess that's one way to handle this.”
Shawn sighed dramatically. “I don't wanna wait, but what else can I do?”
“Well,” Henry said as he checked his mirrors and pulled away from the curb, “you could try apologizing. And in the future, pay attention to Gus.”
Shawn repeated the sigh. That sounded like it sucked as much as waiting until Gus forgot he was mad.
~ * * * ~
Gus hadn’t spoken to him in over a week.
True, he had spent the first three days after their Big Fight avoiding the Psych office on the off chance that he might encounter him there, pretending nothing had happened and hadn’t braved calling him until the end of the fourth day, but that was beside the point. Gus still hadn’t answered any of those calls, and there had been a considerate amount. The morning (okay, okay, fine, afternoon) of the fifth day he’d started pestering Juliet for advice. Thus far she’d been busy and generally unhelpful. Today, however, she was trapped in the station doing paperwork, and he planned on being relentless.
Lassiter groaned, loudly. “Spencer, go away. Figure out how to make up with your boyfriend on your own. This isn’t O’Hara’s problem, and it sure as hell isn’t mine and I want nothing to do with it.”
Shawn pouted, lofting the coffees he’d brought in the inevitable event of this kind of reception. “You won’t even help me for a Triple Chocolate Grande Mocha with a nice, big dollop of whipped cream?”
Lassiter’s eyes flicked between the dark red coffee cup and Shawn’s face, obviously weighing the delectable treat in his hand against having to suffer through his irritating questions. His lip curled and he snatched the coffee out of his hand, skulking off toward his desk. “Just stay away from me!”
“Traitor!” Juliet called after him, glaring.
Shawn grinned ingratiatingly and held up the remaining cup. “Piña colada white mocha for you.”
She eyed him for a moment longer and then plucked the cup out of his grasp. “Fine. Let’s talk.” She distributed the pile of files into a basket and then sat down, looking up at him expectantly.
“Right.” He coughed, shifting awkwardly on his heels. When he was silent for another long moment, Juliet rolled her eyes, taking another sip of her coffee.
“While you think about that, I’m going to do some work. Let me know when you’re ready to get over yourself,” she said, starting to sift through the mountain of paperwork on her desk. At his desk Lassiter snorted and Shawn moved closer to Juliet’s desk, a flush creeping up his cheeks.
“Hey now. That’s not very helpful, Jules. I come to you looking for guidance.”
“Why don’t you ask the spirits?” Lassiter cut in, a nasty smirk on his face.
Shawn's mouth opened to respond to that but Juliet wasn't interested in cleaning up blood so she used those lovely confrontation diffusion skills they taught at the academy and broke in before it could escalate.
Looking up at the psychic, gaze sharp, she said, “Then ask for it, Shawn. Stop trying to get what you want without doing what you need to.”
Shawn shot a glance at Lassiter and moved even closer, bending and looking her in the eye. “Please. Can we talk about this somewhere else?”
She scrutinized his face for a moment before standing up and brushing past him. “Come on.” He followed quickly after her, purposely avoiding looking over at Lassiter’s desk. The moment they walked out the front doors of the station onto the steps Juliet looked at him, crossed her arms, and said, “All right, now talk, Shawn.”
He shoved his hands deep into his pockets and started down onto the sidewalk, his gaze asking her to follow, cool shadows sliding over his figure. “Gee, Jules, I kinda like this domineering thing you’ve got going on.”
She stopped abruptly, body turning back toward the station. “Don’t make me go back inside, Shawn.”
“Okay, okay, sorry,” he said, catching her by the arm. “Just—” He sighed heavily, raking his hands through his hair. Why was she making this so difficult? “I guess I screwed up.”
Juliet’s eyebrows shot toward her hairline. “You guess?”
His shoulders hunched, hands springing up defensively. “Okay! I screwed up. I really, really screwed up. Gus is pissed at me for the first time in…I don’t know, years, and I think he might actually take this job in New England. New England! I can’t let him—”
“All right, stop right there. That is the kind of thinking that’s gotten you in trouble, Shawn,” she cut in. “First off, if Gus moves to New England it’s not going to be ‘because of you.’ Secondly, you trying to control his life and interfering with his priorities is what got you in this mess in the first place.”
“That’s what I don’t get,” Shawn shot back, frustration lacing his voice. “Why is that job his priority? Psych is doing well enough for both of us! He doesn’t have to keep that lameass boring job!”
Juliet sighed, pulling her sunglasses down over her eyes as they emerged from beneath the shade of the trees and into the sunlight. “Shawn, most people can’t live the way you do. There’s comfort in a boring job. Just because you don’t understand and don’t live the way he does doesn’t mean that you can disregard his concerns. Do you hear what I’m telling you?”
Shawn kicked sullenly at the sidewalk. “All I wanted was some advice, Jules, not a character study. If I wanted to get a lecture on my unreliability I would have gone to see my Dad.”
Juliet caught him by the arm, pulling him to a stop as she tugged off her sunglasses. “Don’t, Shawn. Don’t do that. In order to solve the problem you need to be able to see what the problem is. I’m sorry if that’s more reality than you’re willing to deal with, but if you want to fix things between you and Gus you have to be able to see where he’s coming from, okay? That means you actually have to listen to what he’s telling you, because knowing Gus, he’s told you exactly what the problem is. Now. What did he say to you during the fight?”
Grudgingly, and because her hand was still clamped around his arm, her blue eyes pinning him in place, he tried to remember. His hand flexed as he resisted the urge to bring it to his temple and he closed his eyes.
“He said…he said that I don’t listen to him. That I don’t take him seriously and that I…ignore his feelings and obligations in favor of doing what I want to do. I don’t respect him or his job and I…I care more about the cases than I do him.” Shawn deflated; it hurt to remember that conversation. He’d heard it the first time—it’d been hard not to—but he’d almost blocked it out in a way at the time. He hadn’t wanted to hear it, hadn’t wanted to believe it. Remembering what had been said and really hearing the words was just…
“Shawn.” Juliet’s hand squeezed his arm gently and he opened his eyes, swallowing against the sudden tautness of his throat.
“God, I’m such an asshole,” he mumbled.
“You were,” Juliet corrected him, her expression sympathetic for the first time. “You’re going to fix it now.”
“Fix it, right.” He swallowed again, slipping out of her grasp and looking away toward the street, arms crossing over his chest. “So what do I do?”
She put a hand to his back, gently getting him walking again. “Well, first things first, you have to get him to talk to you again. I think the best way to do that would be via phone. You want to let him do this on his terms. So call him and tell him you’re sorry and that you’ve realized what a jerk you’ve been being and that you want to make it up to him. Tell him you want it to be on his terms though and ask him to call you when he feels up to it.”
“But I’ve done that,” Shawn protested. “He still won’t talk to me!”
Juliet shook her head. “No, you’ve gone through the motions. Gus is perceptive enough to know when he’s getting a real apology and an apology that’s just supposed to be the quick-fix band-aid on his gaping wound. You’re actually feeling it for real now, and that will come through. Trust me.”
Shawn sighed and nodded. “Okay, apologize and tell him I want to make up for it. Then what?”
Juliet smiled and nudged him with her elbow. “Then you make it up to him.”
~ * * * ~
“I am such an idiot!”
Six hours later found Shawn pacing the length of the Psych office, clenching the squeezy frog from his desk rapidly in his right hand, hair standing on end from the number of times he’d run his hands through it.
“What the hell is wrong with me? Acting like some fourteen-year-old girl waiting for her first boyfriend to call? UGH.” He chucked the frog across the room and it bounced off of the wall behind Gus’ desk, hitting his desk lamp with a clang before tumbling to the floor at his feet. He glowered at it. “This is because I asked a woman for advice about man problems isn’t it? I’m acting like a girl because this is what a girl would do. God, I am such an idiot!”
“You have your moments.”
Shawn jerked to attention, eyes snapping toward the doorway. Gus stood there, still dressed in his work clothes, arms crossed loosely, feet at attention and, for the first time in his life, Shawn didn’t know what to say to his best friend. “Gus,” was what finally slipped free. His heart throbbed in his chest in an almost panicky way, his throat slowly going dry.
“I got your message,” Gus said, stepping inside. His eyes drifted around the room and Shawn’s arms came up awkwardly, crossing over his chest.
“Oh, like you didn’t get the first twenty-si—” He cut off with a small, strangled noise, hands clenching around his arms and lips going white as he pinched them together. “Sorry. That’s… Good, that’s good. I’m glad you decided to—” He gestured awkwardly between the two of them. “—you know.”
Gus nodded, adjusting the lamp on his desk back into place and glancing at him. Shawn grimaced. “Sorry. Accident. I was—” He waved a hand at the frog and shrugged sheepishly. “Nerves.” Gus looked back down at the desk, adjusting the pad of paper and then the pencil holder and then a figurine.
“So you get why I was angry now?” he finally asked.
Shawn flinched. “Yes. And…” His shoulders hunched. “You had every right.” Gus’ eyebrows rose in his direction but Shawn was finally talking and he knew if he stopped now it would probably never come out. “Look, I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to make you second to the cases. I don’t get your attachment to the pharmaceuticals job but that’s no reason for me to undermine it or to ignore the fact that it’s important to you. If it’s…if it’s important to you it should be important to me. So I’m sorry. I’ve been acting like an ass and I’m sorry.” He sucked in a shaky breath and looked up, meeting Gus’ eyes. “You’re my best friend, dude. I respect you more probably than anyone in the world and I’m sorry I was treating you like crap. Let me try to make up for it.”
“Thank you,” Gus said quietly. “I appreciate that.”
They were quiet for a long moment, not looking at one another, the lights of a car sending sliding bars of light across the walls. Shawn coughed and said, “So, uh. Jerk chicken?”
A smile cracked on Gus’s face. “You know that’s right.”
Shawn’s arms came down, a breath of relief slipping out. “Your car?”
“Please, Shawn. Like I’m going to ride your motorcycle.”
Shawn grinned, snatching his jacket off the back of his chair and sliding it on. “Someday, Gus.”
“Not in this lifetime,” he said. Shawn held out an envelope offhandedly as he approached and Gus raised an eyebrow, accepting it with care. “What’s this?”
He shrugged, checking to see if his keys were in his pocket. “Gotta start somewhere.”
Gus tucked the envelope inside his coat with a small smile and as Shawn stepped outside the office, said casually, “Juliet helped you with this, didn’t she?”
Shawn grinned sheepishly. “That obvious?” He put his hand in his pocket, digging around for his phone. “Hey, actually, give me five minutes and I’ll meet you in the car, okay?”
Gus nodded. “Sure.”
When he had started toward the car, Shawn dialed his number three speed dial and lifted the phone to his ear.
“It worked,” he said, glancing out the front window. “You’re a genius and a scholar and not a gentlemen but I seriously owe you one, Jules.”
Juliet was smiling when she said, “So you two are finally talking again?”
“We’re going out for jerk chicken. I’d invite you, but, you know. It would be awkward to involve you in the kiss and make up part of our lives together,” he said, fiddling with a loose thread on the hem of his jacket cuff. “But I’d be glad to take you to dinner some other time—”
“Shawn,” Juliet cut him off gently. “I don’t think so. But you’re welcome.”
“It would be purely out of gratitude, Jules, pinky swear!” he said, glancing toward Gus to see him bobbing his head along with what he guessed was some un-head-bobbable form of music. He smiled.
“No, Shawn. Have a good time with Gus. Don’t do anything stupid. I’ll talk to you later.”
He sighed theatrically and said, “Fine, fine. I’ll talk to you later.” He paused for just a second and then added quietly, “I mean it though, Jules. I owe you.”
She smiled. “Good night, Shawn.”
~ * * * ~
A day and a half later, Gus sighed as Shawn ran ahead of him outside the entrance to Montello Spa, grabbed the door and swung it open with a deep bow. Shawn had insisted on accompanying him for the treatment "to make sure everything was up to par”. As soon as he was inside, Shawn zipped ahead again, Gus trailing along behind him toward the reception desk.
“Appointment for Napoleon Stone,” he told the brunette behind the desk.
“All right, someone will be with you shortly, Mr. Stone,” she said, gesturing toward the waiting area.
“Shawn!” Gus whispered fiercely as they moved away from the desk, “Couldn’t you have just used my name instead of some weird alias?”
Shawn tipped his head back, whispering over his shoulder, “Gus, you’re getting the celebrity treatment. You need an alias to preserve your privacy! You deserve it!”
Gus straightened a little, smoothing a hand over his shirt. “You’re right. I am.”
“Yeah, that’s right buddy,” Shawn said, clapping a hand to his shoulder.
Giving him a look out of the corner of his eye, Gus said, “But next time I want a cooler alias. Napoleon, Shawn? Really?”
“Hey, it was good enough for Denzel.” He shrugged casually.
Gus frowned. “Denzel? You lie.”
“Gus, I’m offended. I would never lie about Denzel.”
Suspiciously, Gus asked, “What movie?”
“Heart Condition. From 1990,” Shawn told him promptly.
Gus punched him in the arm. “Nobody remembers that movie, Shawn! If you’re going to pick an alias, pick a good one!”
A woman with caramel colored skin leaned out of the etched glass door next to the reception desk and flashed a gleaming white smile at them. “Mr. Stone?”
Gus’ eyebrows rose and Shawn answered quickly, “Yes, this is him. Take good care of him okay? Don’t use eucalyptus, he’s allergic, and make sure you give him plenty of time to change, he likes to take his time.”
“I’m not allergic, Shawn!” Gus hissed.
“Yeah, but you don’t like the smell,” Shawn hissed back. “They won’t ignore it if they think it might land you in the hospital!” He turned back to the woman with a broad smile. “Mr. Stone would also like chamomile and jasmine tea. And make sure nothing’s too hot, ninety-six degrees is—”
“Thank you, Shawn,” Gus grit and moved forward, flashing his best smile at the woman. “I’m sure everything will be perfect.”
She smiled and stepped back to open the door to allow him through. “We’ll take very good care of you, Mr. Stone.”
“Enjoy, buddy!” Shawn called. Gus shot him one last Look before the door swung shut behind him.
Shawn sighed and turned back around to scrutinize the small waiting room. There were exactly four chairs, one small side table, and three magazines, all of them copies of WE. Clearly these people didn’t keep anyone actually waiting in the waiting room. Or if they did, they were particularly insidious in trying to maximize the amount of tension their clients were experiencing before their appointments. This was going to make occupying himself for two hours difficult at best.
Behind him, the door chimed softly and he turned. His eyebrows perked up as a pretty girl with a slightly frizzy red plait hanging over her shoulder walked in, a large box clutched in her arms. The Sharpie scrawl on the side identified it as Batch 26-A-4009, Stimulating Soul Scrub and Soothing Spine Smoother. His eyebrows arched at the excessive alliteration—and the fact that those two descriptions seemed to be mutually exclusive—but he immediately moved in to help. Just because she had to carry it didn't mean she'd named whatever was inside. “Whoa, you need help with that?”
She grinned at him and said breathlessly, “Thanks, but—”
“Stefanie!” The receptionist stood up, gesturing the woman forward. “You’re here, great. You can just take them right back.”
Stefanie grinned again and winked at him. “Thanks anyway.”
Shawn smiled and watched as she disappeared through the etched door. That smile only grew when his gaze landed on the receptionist as she reseated herself behind the desk.
He leaned casually on the counter and after a surreptitious glance at her name placard, said, “So, Maggie. I don’t suppose you have any free trials or anything like that.”
She glanced up at him, obviously unimpressed and leaned forward lowering her voice. “Number one; that was pathetic, even for someone like you. Number two; you just hit on another woman right in front of me. Are you completely dense?”
Shawn assumed an expression of mock outrage. “I did no such thing. I would never even think about hitting a woman. My parents raised me better than that.”
That managed to pry a smile out of her—almost.
“Either way, I’m not interested in someone who so obviously lacks the ability or desire to commit,” she said and flashed him a sardonic smile.
“I find that assertion totally and completely o…ffen…si…Jules? Lassie?” Shawn stared as the pair of detectives joined him at the reception desk faces fixed into professionally grim expressions. “What are you doing here?”
Lassiter scowled at him. “What are you doing here? Spirits send you some vibrations a little late in the game?”
Shawn frowned. “Hey, I resent that remark, and I’m not even one-hundred percent sure what you’re talking about. I happen to be here for Gus.” Pursing his lips, he glanced between the two of them and then added, “So seriously, what’s going on?"
When Lassiter deliberately turned to the receptionist and said brusquely, “Were you working October tenth, fourteenth, or seventeenth?”
Juliet sighed and looked at Shawn. “We’re investigating a series of suspicious illnesses from this spa and Day-Glow Spa not far from here,” she explained. “Six people have gone to the emergency room from these places in the last month.”
Shawn was immediately alarmed. “Clients?”
Juliet shook her head, holding out a hand. “No, some of the masseurs.”
He breathed out a sigh of relief. “Jeez, Jules. Gus would kill me if I sent him to a place where the clients were getting sick. Come to think of it, he would probably kill me if he found out some of the masseurs had been getting sick…”
“I’m sorry, I can’t allow you to do that,” Maggie said, her voice suddenly sharpening. “We have several clients in the middle of sessions right now.”
Lassiter glared at her, pulling his badge off his belt and waggling it in her face. “This shiny hunk of metal says I don’t care. I want to speak to the masseurs. Now.”
Maggie stood, her jaw clenching. “Let me find Michelle, the owner. You can take it up with her.”
“Thank you,” Lassiter retorted. “I will.”
Juliet shot her partner a dirty look as the receptionist disappeared through the etched door. “Carlton.”
“What?” he said defensively. “She was giving me lip!”
She rolled her eyes. “Carlton.”
“Stop saying my name like that, O’Hara. I’m doing the job and I’m doing it my way. You don’t like it, maybe you should focus a little more so you can impose your will on me.” He sent a pointed look directly at Shawn and Juliet’s eyes narrowed at him.
“Are you implying that—”
“Excuse me, can I help you detectives?” An older woman preceded Maggie out of the back, crisply and cleanly dressed in a lavender skirt suit, her pale gray eyes sharp and shrewd. The only thing about her that detracted from the polished professional look was the gaudy pendant hanging from a silver chain around her neck. It was huge and ornate and belonged in another century entirely. If not in a jeweler's smelting pot somewhere.
“Yeah,” Lassiter said, “We need to—”
Juliet flashed one of her sweetest smiles at the woman and said, “I’m sorry. My name is Detective Juliet O’Hara and this is my partner, Detective Carlton Lassiter. We’re investigating the illnesses of your masseurs.”
Michelle nodded and said, “That’s very good. I want to know what happened to my people and who, if anyone, is responsible. This is a terrible thing to have happen.”
Shawn cut in with a raised hand. “Excuse me, sorry, I don’t mean to interrupt this whole wonderful Q & A thing you’ve got going on, but could someone fill me in? What illnesses?”
Michelle’s gaze cut up and down him, once, twice, stridently. “Who is this?”
Lassiter grimaced, huffing out a sigh and Juliet explained indulgently, “This is Shawn Spencer. He works with the department on occasion as a consultant but he is currently not working—he’s here with a friend.” She added the last part with a pointed look at him.
Shawn ignored it. “I’m psychic,” he added breezily. “This case intrigues me because I didn’t pick up anything about any illnesses or crime centering around your business when I contacted you to get my friend his appointment.”
A snort from Lassiter was ignored as Michelle scrutinized Shawn once more, even more closely this time. “Psychic, you say. Hm. In any case, what the detectives are here inquiring about is the illness of three of my masseurs, all of whom fell ill within a few days of one another. So ill that they found themselves in the ER.” Her stern expression softened momentarily into one of concern as she added, “One of my most popular masseurs, Westley, is still in the ICU. I want, no, need to know what’s happening to my people.”
“Then we need to speak to all of your employees,” Lassiter told her.
With an apologetic expression, Juliet added, “The sooner the better, ma’am.”
Michelle sighed and nodded, moving toward the reception desk. “All right, if you think it’s necessary. Maggie, we’ll need to draw up some certificates for the clients.”
“Yes, ma’am,” Maggie said, sitting and starting to pull things up on the computer.
Shawn’s eyes widened as Lassiter and Juliet headed for the door and he immediately intercepted them, blocking the door. “Wait, wait, you’re just going to barge in there? While these people are in the middle of massages? Naked and vulnerable?”
“Spencer,” Lassiter growled.
Juliet’s gaze softened. “Shawn.” She caught his arm, trying to gently direct him out of the way and he resisted, planting his feet even more firmly.
“You can’t go back there, Jules,” he said, gaze suddenly pleading. “Not yet. Come on. An hour and a half. Would an hour and a half kill you? Anyone else? I doubt it. You can wait, right?”
“Spencer, get the hell out of the way or so help me—”
Shawn pressed up against the door as Lassiter tried to pull it open, shutting it with a sharp bang. “Lassie, please! Seriously, you can’t do this guys. Gus will freak. An hour and a half, that’s all. Just an hour and a half,” he pleaded, focusing the majority of his puppy-dog face on Juliet.
She shook her head, looking as though it pained her to have to tell him no. “Shawn, I’m sorry. I understand that this isn’t a great time for this to happen with everything that’s going on between you two, but this is a police investigation and time is of the utmost importance. You know this.”
“But Jules,” he pled as Lassiter yanked on his arm, forcefully dragging him away from the door. “This is the future of my friendship with Gus we’re talking about! You’ll be dooming twenty-five years of manlove!”
“I’m sorry, Shawn. You’ll just have to explain to him what happened,” she said, firm but apologetic. “Now move.”
“Or,” Lassiter said brightly, reaching for his belt. “You can continue to not move, thus impeding an official police investigation and I can arrest you!”
The grin that accompanied Lassiter's presentation of his handcuffs had Shawn giving him a wary, sweeping glance.
“I'm sorry, Shawn, but technically, he's right.” Lassiter shot her a look for her phrasing which she ignored. “Please don't give him a reason.”
He groaned like a man dying and finally allowed Lassiter to haul him away from the door, the detective looking quite disappointed as he sent Shawn stumbling into the center of the room. As they disappeared into the back he moaned, “Gus is going to kill me.”
~ * * * ~
"Shawn! What the heck is going on!?" Shawn flinched at the sound of Gus voice and turned to see him storming out of the back room wearing just a small towel wrapped around his waist, fist clutched at where the corners met over his thigh. A few other patrons in towels followed meekly behind him, gazes avoiding everyone and anyone. "I thought you said there were no cases!"
Shawn let out a heavy sigh, running his hands up his face before putting his hands together in front of him and meeting Gus’ eyes. "Gus. Dude. There is no case. I have nothing to do this. I swear on the grave of Chairman Meow. This is all Lassie and Jules."
"Your dad got rid of Chairman Meow before she died, Shawn,” Gus said, attempted to cross his arms and nearly lost the towel around his waist. He glared at Shawn as though it were his fault.
“So?” Shawn argued. “Chairwoman Meow would still have a grave by now!”
“Unless she was cremated,” he shot back.
Shawn’s jaw dropped. “Gus!”
“Stop it, Shawn!” Gus said, cutting him off with a jab of his finger. “Stop changing the subject! You said there was no case.”
"Dude, I had nothing to do with this,” Shawn said, expression sobering. “I had no idea they were going to be here, I swear. I haven’t even talked to Juliet since Tuesday! You can check my phone records.”
Gus glared over the top of his nose and Shawn did his best to stifle a laugh. Worried as he was it was hard to take a man in a towel barely large enough to cover his downstairs seriously. "You better not have, Shawn. You promised me. You promised me there would be no cases, no interference, none of the psychic stuff while I was doing this. You promised."
"I know, Gus," he insisted, nodding. "And I didn't, I swear. I had nothing to do with it. Okay? I'll get you another appointment. Somewhere better."
"Mm-hm," Gus gave him a critical up-and-down.
That was when Lassiter poked his head out of the back room, smirking, and said, “Hey, Spencer. I’m not going to wait all day for the spirits’ input. Move it or lose it.”
Shawn flinched as he felt the power of Gus’ glare increase ten levels.
Lassiter grinned smugly and disappeared.
“Call me when you’ve made the appointment, Shawn,” Gus said and then turned and stormed out.
~ * * * ~
Shawn was a little more than peeved when he joined the detectives in the back. “Dude, what the hell is your problem?”
Lassiter glanced up, an innocent expression plastered across his face. “What are you talking about? No problems here, Spencer.” Beside him, Juliet’s eyes narrowed and the curly haired masseuse they were talking to blinked at him.
“Who’s this?” she asked and for a split-second, Shawn’s anger vanished. She sounded like Betty Boop. And she had the same questionable taste in jewelry as the owner of the salon. It was a different color, but even someone unschooled in jewelry—not that Shawn was such a person thanks to a month working in a jewelry store in New Mexico-- could tell that it was made by the same . . . uh, jeweler. Someone needed to find the person responsible for those earrings and that necklace and put them behind bars where they couldn't hurt any more innocent bystanders.
“Carlton, what did you do?” Juliet demanded, her hands moving to her hips.
“I didn’t do anything!” he exclaimed, still maintaining the innocent expression.
“Gus is pissed off because he thinks I knew you guys were going to be here!” Shawn said, aiming the explanation at Juliet. “It was bad enough before Lassie came out and basically confirmed his suspicions!”
“Carlton!” Juliet exclaimed, a rebuke in her voice.
“Oh, come on,” Lassiter protested, finally breaking the façade. “He makes my life miserable all the time, it’s about time for a little payback!”
“Dude, you’re screwing around with my friendship. I’ve never done anything to mess with your personal life. Don’t screw with Gus,” he said, mouth thin. Lassiter continued to stare at him and he turned to Betty Boop.
She grinned shyly, brushing a finger along the bottom of the massive wire work dangling from her ear. “Thanks. Jewelry is one of my hobbies. I like working with my hands.” She rolled her eyes. “Probably obvious since I'm a masseuse.”
He nodded. “Uh huh. How long have you been dating Michelle? Month and a half? Two months?”
Betty Boop gawked at him, her eyes going wide. “How did you know that? We haven’t told anybody!”
Shawn waved it off. “Psychic. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have a spa reservation I need to go make.”
~ * * * ~
A rare cloud cover had crept over Santa Barbara the next morning, bringing along with it a chilly edge to the air. Shawn leaned against the window frame in the middle of the Psych office, one hand tucked into the pocket of a red hoodie, the other holding the office phone to his ear.
“No. No, you can’t use eucalyptus,” he was saying. “Mr. Hobbes is highly allergic. The best scents would be lavender or maybe vanilla. Yeah. Peppermint would be acceptable. He likes Jasmine and chamomile tea and if you have honey—excellent. That’s perfect.” There was a pause as Shawn listened to the person on the other end of the line and then: “Fantastic. Yes. Thank you, you too.” He glanced up as the front door of the office opened, recognizing Gus’ sound without being able to explain exactly how.
Punching the END button on the phone, he spread his hands. “Gus! I wasn’t expecting you in today!”
A frown flickered across Gus’ face as he searched for him. “Yeah, I forgot a disk I need in my desk.” He paused in the second doorway, giving Shawn another suspicious once over. “What are you doing?”
Shawn waggled the phone innocently. “I was making a call. What are you doing?”
Gus rolled his eyes at the question, but seemed satisfied that Shawn wasn’t up to anything untoward. He crossed the office to his desk, pulling open a drawer to fish out a purple jewel case. Shawn watched out of the corner of his eye as Gus slipped the disk into his briefcase, running his fingers over the soft buttons of the phone before sliding it onto the cradle. Gus kept focused on his things, no small talk, no curious glances, and Shawn knew he was still a little resentful about the interruption yesterday.
He cleared his throat. “I made you a new appointment—Olympus Massage Parlor. I checked your PDA to make sure there were no conflicts.” As soon as the words left his mouth he grimaced. Gus probably wouldn’t like that.
He looked a little surprised rather than angry though. “Okay. Thank you.”
“I put it in your PDA too,” Shawn said and sat forward, encouraged by the agreeable reception. “Three hours.”
Now Gus looked impressed and Shawn allowed himself a pleased grin.
He smiled back, temper clearly softening. “Thanks, Shawn.” He gathered up his briefcase and started for the door, glancing at his watch. Shawn got to his feet and Gus’ head turned. “I’ll see you later, okay?”
Shawn ignored the sharp pang in his gut at the unspoken request to be left alone and said blithely, “Yeah, sure. I’m just going over to Dad’s now. He said I had to clean the grill or he wasn’t going to make us dinner anymore.”
Gus relaxed and said, “Better get that cleaned then or we’ll be in trouble.”
Shawn grinned and lifted his hand in response to Gus’ own wave, the grin falling away as soon as he was out of sight. He slumped into his desk chair, pushing his hands into his hair. “This sucks.”
~ * * * ~
Fifteen minutes later Shawn strode in through the back door of his dad’s house calling, “Dad, I need an alibi!”
Henry jerked where he sat on the couch, his head whipping around so fast the glasses perched on his nose nearly went flying. “Shawn! How many times have I told you not to come busting in here like that?” And then, as Shawn slipped into the kitchen, his words seemed to register. “You need a what?”
Shawn bent, peering into the fridge. “An alibi, Dad. For the next couple hours.”
He chose a Coke before strolling back out to the living room, snapping it open and immediately slurping off the overflow. Henry was glaring at him from the couch. “What the hell do you mean you need an alibi?”
Shawn rolled his eyes, flopping down into one of the armchairs. “Relax, Dad, it’s for Gus, not the police.”
Henry eyed him for a minute longer and then said, “Why on earth do you need an alibi to give to Gus?”
Sighing, Shawn took another swig of the soda, his fingers playing with the leather seams of the chair. “He’s mad at me and I’m attempting to get back in his good graces. I told him I was coming over here because you were forcing me to clean the grill so he wouldn’t think I was going to be stalking him on his route.” His head rolled to the side. “So what’s for lunch?”
Henry’s eyes narrowed. “You want lunch and an alibi, you can go do exactly what you told Gus you were going to—clean that grill.”
Shawn groaned and slumped down even further in the chair. “I should have seen this coming!”
His father smirked and said, “Yeah, kid. You should have.”
~ * * * ~
Shawn let out an explosive sigh, leaning against the grill and wiping the sweat from his forehead with the back of his wrist. “This is child abuse.”
Henry snorted and sipped at a glass of lemonade. “Please. You were raised like a prince. This couldn’t even be considered manual labor. Suck it up.”
“Seriously, Dad. I really don’t think I can stomach the ‘starving, dying children in east Cleveland whose parents beat them every night with bats covered in rusty nails’ spiel. Not while I’m scrubbing your grill.”
“All right. No lecture. Tell me what’s going on between you and Gus.”
Shawn turned back to the grill, putting the steel brush back to the bars and starting in on it with fierce concentration. Henry stayed silent. When the eyes on the back of his neck started to burn little twin holes, Shawn finally cracked. “I’ve been treating Gus like an ass—trying to control what he’s doing and ignoring what he wants and he finally got sick of it. I didn’t do it on purpose. Well, I did, but—I mean. I just— I didn’t do it to control him. I wasn’t trying to—” He paused in scrubbing, breathing hard. “He’s up for a promotion. In New England.”
Henry’s voice was quiet, almost sympathetic when he replied, “And you don’t want him to go.”
Shawn went back at the grill with renewed ferocity. “Of course I don’t want him to go! We’re business partners! It snows in New England! He hates the cold!” The brush snagged and popped out from between the bars, Shawn cursing as the sharp bristles slit open the side of his hand. “Dammit!”
Henry immediately snatched his hands away from the grill. “Don’t get it all over the grill!” He sighed as blood began to fill the hand Shawn held cupped against it. “Nice work, kid.”
“Gee, thanks, Dad,” Shawn snapped.
The comment was ignored, Henry’s hands gently drawing him toward the door. “Come on, let’s get this mess cleaned up.”
~ * * * ~
Shawn hissed as his hands were guided under the stream of water from the kitchen faucet, blood mingling with it and flowing down the drain in thin red tendrils. Henry peered at the wound when it was clear, turning Shawn’s hand awkwardly to look. “Doesn’t look deep.”
Shawn winced as he stuck it back under the water and then jerked sharply as he began to rub with the pad of his thumb. “OW! DAD! OW—STOP!”
Henry glanced up, annoyance flickering across his face. “You cut it on that damned steel scrubber. It has to be cleaned out.” Shawn cursed again, squirming in his grip and Henry muttered, “Don’t make me get the soap, Shawn.”
“Oh yeah, because you’re one to talk,” Shawn retorted, flinching and gritting his teeth as Henry swiped his thumb over the cut one final time. He turned, tearing a paper towel off of a nearby roll and folded it up, pressing it to the now slowly oozing cut. “So what is it you’re doing to make things up to Gus?”
Shawn’s cheek twitched as he pulled his hands away from his father. “I got him an appointment at a spa. Actually two of them now. It was Juliet’s idea. If it hadn’t been for the two of them, the whole thing might have blown over already.”
Henry’s eyebrows rose. “Oh? How’s that?”
He adjusted the paper towel as it began to soak through and sighed. “Gus’ appointment was yesterday and the two of them showed up talking about some masseuses getting sick or something and then they cleared out the place to question the employees. That was bad enough but then Lassiter just ices the cake with a stupid comment about my helping them out. Gus was...well, he wasn’t happy.”
Henry’s arms folded over his chest and he leaned back against the counter. “You practically asked for it with all the bullshit you put Carlton through.”
“No, no, that was a low blow.” Shawn shook his head, a dark gaze on his hands, his mouth drawn tight. “It would have been one thing if he’d just been screwing with me, but he was screwing with my friendship with Gus. That’s off-limits.”
“Would you rather have him undermining your work? Tarnishing what little respect you’ve managed to scrape up?”
Shawn shifted, shaking his head slightly. “No, but…” He breathed out sharply. “Why the hell couldn’t he embarrass me in front of a girl instead of trying to destroy twenty-five years of friendship?”
“It’s more effective to hit where it hurts,” Henry pointed out.
“Yeah.” Shawn sighed and rubbed a hand over his face. “I just have to fix this. If I can show him, then it’ll be fine.”
“Gus is a realist. Promotion or not, fight or not, the two of you are still going to be friends. It certainly won’t hurt to suck up a bit though,” he said, a smile twitching at the corner of his mouth.
Shawn glanced out the window to the abandoned grill. “So does the battle wound get me off the hook?”
Henry shook his head, smirking openly. “Nope. You're halfway done. You can be done in time for your afternoon smoothie run.”
~ * * * ~
Olympus Massage Parlor lived up to its name with tall, white pillars lining the inside walls, and fields of green grass and blue skies overlooking a painted Parthenon in between. The waiting room was more spacious than Montello’s had been and there were two other people in the waiting room calmly filling out paperwork and skimming through a magazine as they waited to be beckoned in for their appointments. Shawn had put on a crisp white shirt (still unbuttoned to the third button) tucked into a pair of straight, dark blue jeans and looked, for Shawn, reasonably professional as he strode in ahead of Gus, flashing a smile at the receptionists. “John Hobbes, for two o’clock.”
“All right,” one of the women said, pulling out a clipboard and clipping a pen beneath the clasp, “Just fill out this paperwork, Mr. Hobbes and someone will be out with you shortly.”
“Thank you.” Shawn scooped up the clipboard and turned to Gus. “Where do you want to sit?” he asked brightly.
“Shawn, as much as I appreciate what you’re trying to do, I can fill out my own paperwork,” Gus said, reaching for the clipboard.
Shawn clutched it possessively to his chest. “Well of course you can, but you don’t have to.”
Gus sighed and let his hand fall, gesturing to a few nearby chairs. “Over here.”
Shawn beamed at him and sat down to fill out the paperwork. He managed to get three questions in before he had to look up. “Dude, they seriously need to know all this stuff?”
“It’s a form of medical procedure, Shawn. The more information the better. You know, it would be easier if you would just let me fill it out.”
“No. Just sit back and relax Gus. That’s the whole point of this. I can fill out a little paperwork.” He set back to work and Gus’ mouth curved in a small smile. He did appreciate that Shawn was trying so hard to get this right. He might as well take advantage of it while it lasted. Smiling to himself, he leaned back in his chair and closed his eyes.
A moment later, they opened again. “Are you sure you don’t need me to take care of the medical history? I mean, it should be accurate, Shawn. You can’t just make it up.”
Shawn rolled his eyes, shooting him an exasperated look. “Dude, I can handle it. I practically am your medical history. Just relax, would you?”
He had a point.
“Okay, if you say so,” he said, leaning back into the chair again.
“I do,” Shawn insisted, putting pen to paper again.
Gus let his mind wander.
~ * * * ~
When he had finished filling out the paperwork, Shawn nudged Gus’ arm and his eyes opened slowly. “Hm?”
Shawn’s mouth twitched. “I just need a few of your John Hancocks.” He held out the clipboard, pointing to the first with the nib of the pen. “There.” Gus signed with a much looser scrawl than his typical meticulous signature. He stifled a smile and flipped to the next page. “Here.” Another loose signature. He flipped to the last page. “Then sign and date here." When that was done he plucked the pen out of Gus’ grasp and said, “In a matter of minutes, you’ll be drifting off into a blissful land of relaxation.”
Gus swatted at him half-heartedly. “Just go turn in the paperwork, Shawn."
Shawn grinned and got to his feet, paging through the forms again to double check that he’d filled everything he needed to out as he moved toward the desk.
“All set, Mr. Hobbes?” one of the receptionists asked at his approach and he smiled at her.
“Oh, I’m not Mr. Hobbes. I’m just his assistant. But yes, I think so.” He handed over the paperwork and said in a stage whisper, “Mr. Hobbes is—”
He froze at the sound of a familiar voice.
“This is starting to get ridiculous. Four sick masseurs from this salon as well?” He turned, horrified, to see Juliet shaking her head at Lassiter.
“No,” he whispered. “Nononononono.”
Over in the chair against the wall he saw Gus’ brow slowly begin to furrow as Lassiter replied grimly, “We need to find out what’s going on and we need to find out now.”
He lunged toward the detectives, hissing fiercely, “What are you doing here? Are you stalking me?”
Juliet looked surprised to see him. “Shawn. What are you—?”
Out of the corner of his eye he saw the furrow in Gus’ forehead continue to deepen and he whispered, “You have to turn around and leave, now.”
“Why would anyone want to stalk you, Spencer?” Lassiter retorted disdainfully. “And we have to do no such thing. We’re on official police business.”
Gus’ eyes began to flutter and he grabbed one arm each. “Please,” he begged, “You have to leave—duck out of sight or something—or Gus is going to—”
He flinched as Gus said quietly, “Or Gus is going to what, Shawn?”
His hands came up placatingly as he turned sharply to face his best friend, expression pleading. “Gus, this is not my fault. I had no idea they were going to be here. I—”
“You were planning this the whole time, weren’t you?” he asked, voice even and far too controlled. “The clothes, making sure I didn’t have anything to do with making the appointment, filling out the paperwork…you planned the whole thing to get me to come along on this case.”
“No, Gus, that’s not what happened. This is just a stupid coincidence, I didn’t plan anything.”
“A coincidence. Right. This from the man who claims there are no coincidences,” Gus shot back.
“I’m serious, Gus! I didn’t know they were going to be here!”
Gus buttoned up his suit coat with careful, brisk movements, his expression flat. “Whatever, Shawn. If you want to investigate the case this bad, be my guest. Just leave me out of it.”
“Gus! Gus, no, wait!” Shawn followed after him, trying desperately to get him to listen. “Gus, please, I didn’t—”
“Spencer, don’t you want to give us a hand?” Lassiter called and Shawn turned back with a venomous glare.
“I shut off incoming calls from the psychic network, Lassie, handle it by yourself,” he snapped in return and pushed through the glass door after Gus.
~ * * * ~
Gus had made good time across the parking lot, strides long and purposeful and Shawn had to practically sprint after him to close the distance between them. “Gus! Gus, wait up!”
He stopped only when Shawn’s hand slammed the car door back into place, turning a glare on him. “What, Shawn? Need a ride to the next crime scene?”
“This was not on purpose!” Shawn insisted. “I swear, I had no idea they were going to be here.”
Gus’ arms crossed over his chest, his chin tilting up angrily. “Shawn, this is exactly what made me mad in the first place. I could care less if you want to work cases, it doesn’t matter to me. It’s a business, that’s what you do. What I care about is that you’re always lying to me about them!”
“Dude, I’m not lying—”
“No, Shawn. Listen to me. I’m all for working cases. We’re in a business together and that’s how it works. I don’t want to be tricked into helping you investigate them though. I want you to ask me. I’m an equal partner in this, Shawn, and I want to be treated as such. Just ask me when you want to go investigating, don’t concoct these elaborate set-ups to trick me into coming along with you. Sometimes I’ll tell you no, but sometimes I’ll tell you yes. I want some respect, Shawn, or I want out.”
Shawn swallowed hard. “I’m trying, Gus. I really am. This wasn’t supposed to be a trick. Lassiter and Juliet weren’t supposed to show up. I need to put a bell on Lassie or something, I guess,” he muttered darkly. “Look, I’ll make another appointment. Somewhere else. It can’t happen again, right?”
Gus inhaled a deep breath and then released it, nodding. “Okay. Okay, Shawn. But if you do this one more time…”
“I won’t, it’ll be perfect this time. I swear.” Shawn drew a little cross over his heart with his fingers and really, really hoped he wasn’t wrong.