Santa Barbara, 1987
Friday afternoon was supposed to be an afternoon of freedom, not an afternoon spent worrying about an extra credit history project, since it was a class that neither boy needed extra credit for. Yet nine year old Shawn Spencer paced, back and forth the length of his kitchen, growing more and more bored by the second while Gus, his best friend, pored over his replica of the Roman Coliseum. The table was packed full of crafty things, which included a big box of Popsicle sticks and two giant bottles of glue (gel and regular), five tubes of glitter, long pipe cleaners in at least a dozen different colors, scissors (in two sizes), a whole tray full of markers and sparkly pens, puffy paints, three balls of yarn, little fuzzy puff balls in even more colors and one very large block of foam. His tongue stuck out while he worked, and Shawn could see as his hands shook slightly, nervous he might touch his masterpiece in the wrong place and bring the whole thing crashing down.
It was something that confused Shawn, why Gus always wanted to work on extra credit projects when he didn't even need the extra points. Who did school projects just for the fun of it? No kid in his right mind would, so Shawn concluded that Gus had been abducted by aliens. When he brought this to his father's attention, however, he was just told to stop complaining and go help with the boring project.
“Guuuuus,” Shawn whined as he picked up his pacing. “Can’t we go watch a movie now? We’ve been doing this for a whole hour already, and I’m boooored!”
Slowly and precisely, Gus lowered another stick onto his creation and pressed down with minimal pressure, a smile breaking the corners of his partly open mouth. “You mean I’ve been doing this for a whole hour,” he said without turning his head.
"Come on! You can do this on Sunday! Sunday is the best time for doing homework, it's a proven fact!" Shawn groaned loudly, throwing himself into the chair opposite his best friend. “Are you almost done, at least?”
Another perfectly placed wooden stick and a triumphantly whispered, “Ha!” was all Shawn needed to realize that, no, he wasn’t almost finished, and he was actually having a good time being boring. Typical Gus.
Gus wiped his fingers on the towel next to him and picked up another Popsicle stick. “There’s a lot of interesting stuff about the Roman Coliseum, Shawn. Did you know it was used for just about everything back in ancient Rome?” His head popped up, eyes bright with the wealth of information sitting on the tip of his tongue, just waiting for someone to give the right cues.
A roll of his eyes and an overly dramatic yawn, complete with patting his hand over his open mouth, was Shawn’s answer.
“You know, they had battles there," Gus continued, ignoring Shawn’s lolling head. "There were gladiators and huge wild animals and stuff.” This was something that peaked Shawn’s interest.
“You mean like ninja battles?” he asked excitedly, picturing men and animals alike robed in black, kicking and fighting with heaving crowds cheering in the background.
Gus huffed. “No, Shawn, like warriors with swords, fighting lions and stuff. It was so big that they could get up to 50,000 people to sit inside the Coliseum, and all those people would come to watch and…”
“Ooh! Then they watched zombie fights, didn't they?!” Shawn got up from his chair and started walking around with his arms outstretched, his eyes rolling back in his head and his tongue hanging out as he groaned in the most undead way he could muster up.
“There’s no such thing as zombies! We've already established that it’s totally illogical. Remember when the dump truck crashed?" Gus told him, getting peevish as Shawn shambled toward him, still groaning. He pushed him away, exclaiming, "Knock it off Shawn!"
Shawn snapped out of the zombie trance only to snatch up a bottle of glue, pointing it at Gus from between two hands. “Then they watched robots from outer space battle with laser guns!” Shawn made shooting motions with the glue bottle.
Getting restless, Gus shook his head and picked up another stick, setting doggedly back to work. “Whatever, I’m not going to explain it if you don’t care.”
Shawn stopped and smiled. “What about watching Shawn Spencer save Friday afternoon?”
Gus turned with furrowed eyebrows, figuring out too late just what Shawn meant before he was pinned to the ground, his box of Popsicle sticks dropping with him and scattering in a wide arc across the kitchen floor.
“Shawn!” Gus yelled, unable to keep the laughter out of his voice as he struggled to push him off. “I swear Shawn, if you mess up my project…!”
But the rest of his sentence was devoured by a fit of giggles and a trail of Popsicle sticks leading down the hallway.
Dark figures moved in front of the dim, artificial light, blurring their forms and obstructing Shawn and Gus’s view from behind their makeshift hiding place. Negotiations were supposedly taking place between the rival parties, but the sound of rising voices suggested just the opposite. As the arguing continued to grow more heated, Shawn tightened his grip around the now warm metal handle of his gun and flashed Gus an excited grin.
Gus, on the other hand, was starting to shake, taking deep breaths in through his nose and letting them out through puckered lips. Shawn rolled his eyes at his nervous best friend, but Gus just held his weapon tighter and continued to breathe.
Moving closer to the edge, Shawn peeked his head around their improvised fortress and tried to listen to the conversation, catching only a few snippets.
“…think you can just come here and expect…”
“…the end of you and your kind…”
“…without a fight!”
With a frustrated sigh, he elbowed Gus in the side, eliciting a muffled grunt and a death glare from his best friend, who was apparently practicing his Lamaze breathing techniques, should he ever need them. Shawn hoped he would be far, far away if that day ever came.
“Dude, you think you can quiet the spot on Darth Vader-impression breathing for like, one minute so I can hear what’s going on?”
This was clearly the wrong thing to say because Shawn was spitting in pain two seconds later when something hard struck his foot. He curled his toes under in a weak attempt to control the throbbing.
“Was that really necessary? What, do you have bricks in those things?” He brought his foot up and rubbed it on the back of his leg.
“Leave me alone or I’ll take out your left foot, too. I’m not kidding, Shawn,” Gus said as he raised his foot slightly off the ground to prove to Shawn he meant business.
Shawn backed off, holding a hand up in defense. “Oh, trust me,” he said quietly, putting an end to the conversation and Gus’s foot back on the floor.
Things had gone fairly back to normal over the past few weeks, neither man willing to bring up the “fight” that had almost wrecked nearly thirty years of unwavering friendship. Things had been put into perspective for Shawn after everything that had happened, even if he would rather pretend it hadn’t. It scared him to think that Gus would leave, that Gus would even think about leaving. Shawn was the one who left. Gus was supposed to always be there.
Even though things were “normal” again, Shawn was still feeling somewhat cautious in his approach to his best friend. It was getting easier every day, but that thought of Gus leaving would always linger in the back of his mind. It was something he did not enjoy dwelling on, yet it was just another thing he couldn't get his mind to turn off.
What would he do without Gus?
Again, this was one of those subjects Shawn liked to pretend didn't exist. Ever since high school, Gus had wanted some sort of job that would allow him to travel, or at least allow him to relocate somewhere for a while. He said it would be a good experience, build character. Gus wasn't like Shawn, the just pick up and leave, get out of town, run away type of person, but he was a bit of a dreamer when it came to certain things. And that was alright for Shawn, as long as those dreams stayed within a fifteen mile radius of Shawn's apartment. Yes, Shawn wanted what was best for his friend, but he wanted it to be what was best for him here, in Santa Barbara.
Gus could travel when he retired.
“…then we’ll fight to the death!”
Coming back to reality, Shawn’s grip faltered a moment as adrenaline coursed through his veins, his heart pumping with nervous exuberance.
This was it.
Gun raised, Shawn stole one last excited look at Gus, took a deep breath, and…
“Oh, come on!” Shawn cried, shoulders deflated. The lights flickered back on and he heard another "Cut!" in the distance. Throwing his head back, he let out a loud groan while some of the other movie extras glanced over and raised their eyebrows at him. This didn't change anything as Shawn just continued his ranting.
“I’m never gonna get to use this thing!” he moaned, flapping his plastic laser gun in front of Gus’s face. Gus just rolled his eyes.
“It’s not even real,” he said.
Shawn turned the gun over in his hands, then quickly lifted it up and pulled the trigger, hitting Gus in the eye with the tiny red laser beam. Gus jerked back and lifted his hands in front of his face as he let out a faint yell.
Dropping the gun back to his side, Shawn snorted. “It’s not even real, remember?”
Gus’s nostrils flared as he opened his eyes, squinting. “That laser is real, and you could’ve permanently damaged my retina!” he snapped, rubbing his eye with the palm of his hand.
“Relax, Gus, it didn’t even go near your eye.”
Shawn ignored the rest of Gus’s ranting about the spots in front of his eyes and the cost of eye surgery and looked around the set. As soon as the director had called “cut”, the quiet beach they were filming on became busy with activity. Men and women appeared out of nowhere, swarming the set, some with headsets, some with stacks of papers, some with tool belts, and some with props. An entire section of the Santa Barbara beach had been blocked off, a select few PAs running back and forth at the borders with security trying to answer the questions of curious passersby and simultaneously keep any and all trespassers off-set.
Plywood boards, platforms and a variety of other supports littered the sand, covered in everything from tall lights on stands, to fans, to back drops, to set pieces. And everywhere they turned, there were either men and women in shorts and t-shirts zooming around with equipment or talking at a rapid clip into their headsets, or cast members wandering around with sodas and bottles of water in white tunics or futuristic space wear in bright glittering purple.
Shawn pulled Gus back as two technicians rushed past them, looking down to make sure they wouldn’t trip over what seemed to be millions of wires scattering the ground. Huge lights were haphazardly placed all around the set, illuminating the night sky as well as the huge crane that held up a decent sized “space ship” over a poorly constructed replica of the Roman Coliseum. Outside the circle of tall lights, the beach was dark, as it should be at seven-thirty in winter, but the cordoned off section was lit so brightly it may as well have been midday.
"Well, one thing's for sure," Shawn muttered with a shake of his head. "They're not going to win any prizes for historical correctness with this movie."
Shawn still didn't get it. He had absolutely no idea why Gus was so excited about this movie, especially since just one good look around the set told him that it was going to be total crap. Because honestly – a spaceship and the Roman Coliseum? Or, well, what counted as the Coliseum for this production. Shawn didn't think the set designer (or anyone else for that matter) had spent as many hours researching the subject as he should have before he got started.
"Shawn, could you stop hating on the movie? There are plenty of people out there who think this is going to be a great film!"
And that was another thing that bothered Shawn about all this. Gus was so touchy when it came to this subject, constantly defending the movie, even though his friend was usually extremely picky about minor things like historical correctness. But not in this case, no.
As far as this movie was concerned, Gus was willing to overlook all those minor errors, like a Coliseum that looked like something a blind man had built in a hurry. And Shawn didn't even want to think about that casting call for extras that had brought them here. He wouldn't count himself a historian, but he was fairly certain that no matter how big the Roman Empire had grown, their legions hadn't consisted of people of all ages, races and, most of all, gender. Seriously. Shawn was willing to bet on that.
But Gus didn't care about any of it. Ever since he had heard that news broadcast on the radio that they were going to film the movie in Santa Barbara, he had been drooling all over the whole thing. Shawn could have taken the constant talking, and the Internet research for news, updates and spoilers. But seriously, this had stopped being fun the moment he had found out that Gus was blogging about the stupid movie. A blog that other people were actually reading and signing up to get updates for.
They had a reputation to lose. And maybe it was time someone tried to open Gus's eyes to the little fact that no matter how much he wished for it, this thing wasn't going to become the next Star Wars. Especially not since it was obviously trying to be the next Star Wars, with a healthy dose of Ben Hur put into the mix. Which, when it came down to it, was simply wrong.
“Dude,” Shawn said, nodding his head in the direction of the Coliseum, “the one we made in fourth grade out of construction paper and Popsicle sticks was more convincing than that thing.”
"You mean the one I made?" he shot back, looking as unimpressed by this argument as he had by the last six hundred and forty-three.
"It was a team effort, Gus!" Shawn whined, voice laced with mock indignation. "Someone had to eat all those Popsicles in the first place! My lips were stained for two days, in case you've forgotten."
"Whatever, Shawn," his friend said absently, no longer listening to what Shawn had to say. He turned to find what had caught his friend's attention and grinned.
Eliza Carlisle, this poor excuse for a movie’s leading lady, stood just a few feet away brushing back her long, blond curls as a middle aged man with jet black hair applied more makeup to her soft features. The shiny gold laces of her sandals were loosely wrapped up her thin, pale legs which were peeking through her white tunic.
She was cute, he thought as he watched her bat the makeup artist away with a harsh flap of her hand. He turned back to Gus with a smile.
“You like her?” Shawn asked, full of amusement at watching his friend squirm.
“What?” Gus snapped his head back around and looked at him. Shawn’s grin widened.
“You so like her,” he teased. Gus clicked his tongue against his teeth and scowled. “Dude, you should ask her out.”
Gus shook his head. “Whatever, she’s a highly respected daytime television star, Shawn. She was nominated for best supporting actress for her role on The Bold and the Beautiful, and,” he leaned in to say quietly into Shawn’s ear, “there’s been some speculation she’s dating one of the actors from General Hospital.”
Shawn furrowed his eyebrows. “Okay,” he said, lip curled up in disgust, “this whole 'knowing everything about soap operas' is really starting to creep me out. First the Spanish soap opera, now this? I'm losing faith in your manhood, Gus.”
“Don’t mock me, Shawn. Watching Daytime television doesn’t make me any less of a man,” Gus snapped, straightening out the hem of his tunic.
“So says the man in the skirt,” Shawn said, his lips pursing in only slightly exaggerated disappointment.
Gus' mouth opened, a retort pushing its way out of his mouth when:
“Hey, you guys!”
Shawn and Gus whipped around and found themselves face to face with someone whose belt-clipped walkie-talkie identified him as "PA number five". He pushed the microphone on his headset up over his too-high hair and away from his mouth, planting his hands roughly on his hips.
“Hey man, how’s…” Shawn began, cut off by a waggling finger just a few inches from his nose.
“Extras need to stay in their assigned location, buddy,” the PA said, waving his arms around to gesture the area they had been standing in earlier, over by the Coliseum.
Shawn glanced around. “Okay, first of all,” he said, holding up his forefinger to emphasize that he was making his first point, “I would have gone with something a little less personal, like ‘guys’ or ‘dudes’, because ‘buddy’ is just a little too-”
Forestalling the rest of Shawn’s comment with an impatiently upheld finger, Mr. I-think-I'm-important pressed his other hand to his ear. Shawn raised his eyebrows.
Pulling his microphone back down to his mouth, he pressed a button on the back of his walkie. "Go for Drew." He listened intently to the voice on the other end of the line. "Copy that, I'm flying in."
Shawn glanced at Gus and mouthed, "What is he--?" Gus just shrugged non-committally.
He turned back to them a moment later. “All right, save it guys,” he said, ushering them back towards the other extras. “Back to where you were, we’re rolling again in thirty seconds.”
Shawn and Gus stared after him as he walked away. “Dude cut me off in the middle of my first-of-all,” Shawn said, glancing at his forefinger.
Gus snorted. “Did you even have a second-of-all?”
“Minor details, Gus,” Shawn answered dismissively as the pair took their places behind one of the pillars just as the director was calling “Action!”.
Eliza Carlisle ran out from behind the camera and threw herself towards one of the actors, grabbing his arm and pulling on it.
“Constantina, you shouldn’t be here,” "Antonius" growled, gently shaking her.
“I can’t let you do this, Antonius! You don’t understand!” she wailed, taking a few steps back and turning to face the camera. “I love him! I won’t let you…”
She paused, clear frustration apparent in her features as she pinched the bridge of her nose.
Shawn noticed the director fidgeting in his seat as he whispered something to the person sitting next to him.
“Can we cut?” Eliza called, throwing her arms out.
A moment passed before “Okay, cut!” was heard around the set. Shawn huffed in exasperation. He was never going to get to fire his laser gun, and that was the only thing making this whole thing worthwhile at the moment.
Shawn could see the director clenching his fists on the sides of his chair before calmly asking, “Eliza, honey? What’s wrong?”
The blond brushed a stray hair from her creased forehead, clearly irritated by something. “Just…she’s in love with an alien?” she scoffed, the thought apparently distasteful. “I mean, what could Constantina and this…creature possibly have in common?”
Licking his lips, the director took a deep breath. “They don’t have to have anything in common, honey, it’s love at first sight. Can't we just leave it at that?”
“But this dialogue is atrocious! Who even talks like this?” She scooped up a small stapled pack of half sheets of paper, similar to the miniature versions of the script Shawn had seen many people carting in their back pockets. "I mean, look at this." She flipped to a page and held it up to the director. "It's garbage! It doesn't even make any sense!"
“Eliza, sweetheart, let’s just get through the scene, okay? I’m sure once you see it played back, it won’t be as bad.”
That didn’t seem to be enough to please the leading lady. "Ha, I honestly doubt that, Gabe," she said.
Gabe's cheeks suddenly turned a deep shade of purple (and Shawn could only imagine what his blood pressure was like at the moment). "Well, that's the way it's written here and that's the way we're going to perform the scene." Gabe slammed his hand on the arm of his chair, causing the person sitting next to him to jump from the noise. "This is how it's going to be done!"
"Not while I'm around!" With a swish of her long locks, Eliza Carlisle turned her nose up and stomped off in the direction of her trailer, voices calling out and a young man with a headset running after her as he yelled her name.
“Well that can’t be good,” Shawn said. His statement was met with agreement from Gus’s nodding head. He turned back to watch the fuming director.
And while Shawn hadn't brushed up on his lip reading skills since the high school winter formal debacle of 1994, he was pretty sure the director had just mouthed, "Oh, that can be arranged."
“S.B.P.D! Put your hands in the air and step away from the crate! Now!”
Detective Carlton Lassiter kept his gun and his gaze steady on the tall, dark haired criminal standing before him. He had been on a stake out for the past five hours, watching quietly (on his part) from the driver's side of the car he occupied with his partner, Detective Juliet O'Hara. Five restless hours, never taking his eyes off the manager of Big Al's Auto Repair. Barely 5’6 and no more than 150 pounds, not-so-big Al, whose real name was Alister McKinney, had made a deal with the devil, in a sense, allowing one of Santa Barbara's biggest and most dangerous gangs to use his company in their drug trafficking. Now he's asked the S.B.P.D. to help him out of the mess he's gotten himself into, which is why the head detective had been sitting outside the shop with his partner, waiting for the next drug drop off.
Lassiter stole a quick glance at his petite partner, a sudden sinking feeling dropping from his throat to his stomach. Gun still trained on the dark curly-haired criminal before them, he chanced one more glance and froze. Juliet was staring strangely ahead, forehead creased, her gaze thoughtful. Or worse, doubtful.
“O’Hara?” Lassiter whispered. “What is it?”
His partner was one of the best, Lassiter would never deny that. And he was slightly unnerved that she seemed unsure, though he would never admit that.
O'Hara tilted her head slightly, her upper lip curling. “I wonder if I could get Eliza Carlisle to sign my copy of Soap Opera Digest.” She looked at Lassiter, her face brightening. “She’s my favorite daytime actress.”
For the past five hours, stuck in the car with O'Hara's endless ramblings about some ridiculous alien movie that honestly made no sense to him, Lassiter listened. Listened to O'Hara talk about Facebook blogs, LiveJournal posts, and Myspace news updates, and the only reason Lassiter knew what these websites were was because the last seminar he attended was all about computer crimes linked to these social networking sites.
But he listened. Not because he wanted to, but because there was nowhere else to go. He listened to the new direction Eliza Carlisle's character was headed in on her soap opera; he listened to "how romantic" Eliza Carlisle's boyfriend on said soap opera was, especially on the couple's first anniversary where he whisked her off to a private island getaway (like any of that could ever really happen); and he listened to how excited O'Hara was when she found out they still needed extras for the movie set. And through all this mind-numbing talk, Lassiter never broke his concentration from the task at hand.
Yet right now, Lassiter, completely taken back by the most ridiculous statement he had ever heard his partner utter, did something completely un-Lassiter-like.
And with that, tall, dark and curly, who had apparently noticed the moment of weakness, took off through the back door.
"Damn it!” Lassiter cursed. He followed the suspect through the back door while his partner (who was quite possibly high on something illegal, he would have to go through her desk later) shot out the front door.
The alley behind the store was narrow and slick from an afternoon storm, and it took all Lassiter had not to fall flat on his face when he jumped a knocked-over trash can. Adrenaline pumped fiercely, yet he was still slowly falling behind the swift younger man. “Stop!” he yelled, his breath hitching as a pain in his side started splitting upwards.
Suddenly, like a bullet out of nowhere, a flash of pink, tan and blond raced in and threw a punch that could rival even himself, bringing curly long-legs down with a broken nose and a loud grunt.
Lassiter stopped where he was, slightly hunched with his hands on his knees, taking in air like he hadn’t breathed it for weeks.
Slapping a pair of flashing cuffs on their suspect, O'Hara looked up at Lassiter thoughtfully and asked, “I wonder if I can get her to give me some hair tips?”
Extra’s holding was extra crowded, and it was beginning to make Shawn feel uncomfortable. Everyone always told him he had no respect for personal space, which was partially true. He didn’t mind invading other people’s personal space, but he sure as hell minded when they invaded his.
Sidestepping a pair of overly enthusiastic teenagers, Shawn finally found himself and Gus a place to stand with just a few others in the area.
"I still can't believe we managed to get on the set of this movie! And as extras too!" Gus said enthusiastically.
"It's a good thing we're extras too. Just keep in mind that I'm here for the money, Brutus."
"Getting these kind of roles usually isn't so easy, Shawn. What happened to Mr. Oh-I've-Done-That-And-Then-Some?"
"Usually movies aren't as bad as this one, Gus. And for your information, I was an extra in a movie."
"Oh, really," Gus said. "What movie?"
Shawn suddenly clammed up, looking away and swiping a hand over his mouth as he mumbled something completely incomprehensible.
"I'm sorry, what was that, Shawn?"
"F'll'n'fr'Du'," he muttered again and tried to engage a passing PA in conversation, but was blown off by the speedy guy.
"Falling for Deux?" Gus repeated incredulously. "And you're on my case for It Came From Space To Conquer Rome? At least it's not a romantic comedy, Shawn."
"I was eighteen when I did that," Shawn said defensively. "I protest youthful stupidity."
"Mhm," Gus said, clearly not impressed.
Shawn's stomach suddenly started rumbling. “Man, did you see all that awesome food for the actors?” he asked with a hint of longing in his voice as he leaned up against the wall with his arms folded. “And all we get are some stinking pathetic sandwiches. They’re limp sandwiches, Gus! They’re barely the width of my pinkie!”
With a snort, Gus opened the brown paper bag he had carried into extra’s holding and whipped out two giant, hearty sandwiches and two juice boxes.
“Got you a pineapple juice,” he said, tossing over the small box along with one of the sandwiches. Shawn grinned.
“Dude, this is why you’re my best friend!” he said, ripping open the plastic of his sandwich and taking a huge bite. He groaned loudly in satisfaction.
“This is the best sandwich ever!”
“You know that’s right,” Gus agreed, biting into his own with a satisfied sigh.
A few minutes went by in silence, both men enjoying their lunches much to the displeasure of half the other extras in the room who could only stare longingly at them.
When they were finished making the other extras jealous with an excessive amount of satisfied groans and contented lip smacking, Shawn turned to Gus to ask, “So how long are we gonna keep this up? You know, this whole Roman extras thing?”
Gus shrugged. “I think it was for like a week or two? I don’t know, but it’s so cool. Did you see all the sound equipment? I would love to…”
Shawn nodded towards Gus but his attention had turned to the small group of extras to his left, who were speaking to each other in hushed voices.
“…yeah, and my camera was gone! Like, I just got it for my birthday, it was seriously the best camera at Target, too. My boyfriend is so pissed off, he spent his whole entire paycheck last week on it.”
“Girl, that’s so messed up, but yeah, mine is gone too. And I was talking to one of the other girls just before and she said that cute PA…you know, the really tall one? She said he was telling her that a bunch of other cameras, like the cast's cameras and stuff around the set, were going missing, too. I seriously should have just gotten one of those instant ones.”
The first girl shuddered at the statement. “Ugh, who even uses those anymore?”
A few extras missing some cameras wasn’t really that big of a deal, Shawn thought. In fact, with so many people in such a close space for so much time, it would be a wonder if someone didn’t lose something around this place. But cast members were also missing cameras? If it were just a few extras, he would let it drop, but this…
Shawn let out a stifled laugh. So there's a camera thief on set, hardly anything for a psychic detective to be worrying about. It wasn't like people were slaughtering each other willy-nilly around the place. Now that would be something to worry about.
“Shawn? Are you even listening to me?”
Shawn grunted when an elbow jutted into his side. “Dude, what the hell?” he cried, rubbing the newly sore spot.
Gus rolled his eyes. “So much for that conversation. What are you staring at?” He glanced over at the group of young women and rolled his eyes again.
“No, Gus, that’s not…”
“All right guys!” Shawn and Gus’s favorite headset guy, PA number five, was back in all his fluffy-haired, tool belt glory, and started ushering the extras towards the door with his clipboard. "Back to set, everyone, we're rolling soon. Get out there."
Snorting loudly, Shawn started whispering to Gus, "This guy's a real do--"
"Ouch!" A young woman suddenly fell forward, knocking Gus to the side as she clung to his arm.
"Oh gosh, I'm so sorry! I didn't mean to smack into you like that! I'm really sorry!" She turned back to her friend and gave her a hard stare, the other girl only smirking.
Gus helped her stand back up and shook his head, putting on his best smile. "It's all right miss, don't even worry about it."
The young woman blushed and glanced down at her feet. "I'm so embarrassed," she mumbled, straightening out her skirt.
While Gus continued flirting with the blushing young lady, her friend sidled up next to Shawn and sighed.
"She would never date if I didn't push her into it."
"Literally," Shawn mused. He smiled when Gus whipped out a business card out of his tunic (he didn't want to know why Gus had them on him--or where he was keeping them) and handed it to the girl.
"Yeah, well, she's a runner, and your friend has fabulous calves." She smiled at Shawn (who stifled a laugh) with raised eyebrows before walking back to her friend.
"Dude!" Gus came strutting over in what Shawn could only describe to others as his "Mac Daddy" walk. "Did you just see that?"
"Dude! I so did." The two continued towards their destination as Gus explained his run-in (literally) with the shy, raven-haired Natalie.
"We have a date Friday night," he stated triumphantly, his head held high.
Shawn clapped him on the back. "Way to go, Burton 'Calves-of-Steel' Guster. I guess this means you won't be asking out the leading lady, then?"
They passed PA number five and Shawn flashed him a huge grin and an overly enthusiastic wave only to receive a dirty look in response. Shrugging, he turned back to Gus.
"Please, Shawn. Eliza Carlisle's outta my league."
Shawn scoffed. "Don't sell yourself short, buddy, you could get a girl like her. Besides, those arm cuffs make you look totally ripped." He punched Gus playfully in the shoulder.
With a small jerk of his head, Gus smiled. "I've been going to the gym four times a week now."
"And it shows!"
The pair had almost made it back to their designated pillar, passing by the leading lady who was belittling her make-up artist. She slapped his hand away from her face and cried, "I should just do this myself! You're worthless!"
Shawn and Gus exchanged raised-eyebrow looks.
"High maintenance?" Shawn asked, voice low.
"Damn straight," Gus answered, his own voice mimicking Shawn's.
"Quiet on the set!" They heard the thunderous call from the assistant director and, instantly, everyone around the area began to cease movement.
Lights began to dim down again once they were safely behind their pillar, awaiting the director's call of "Action!" to ring out through the night air. Instead of the director's voice, however, Shawn and Gus heard a scream, punctuated by a loud crash as the sound of something large impacted the ground, glass shattering against a hard surface. The two jumped out from behind the pillar, Shawn making an unconscious effort to keep himself positioned in front of his best friend as the lights flickered back on, the whirring of panicked, confused talk and other loud voices trying soothe everyone around them.
Eliza Carlisle was huddled against the actor she called "Antonious", standing a few feet away from a very large black light that had fallen off its stand and was now dented, broken, and scattered across the sandy beach, as well as the hard surface it had been resting on. Shawn noticed two small bolts next to the stand the light had been attached to and tilted his head up towards the top of it. He let out a small, "Huh."
Thoughts were pushed aside for the moment, however, as Shawn focused on Eliza and the extreme freak-out attack she was now having. The director was trying his best to soothe her, but she wouldn't have any of it.
"Don't touch me!" she screamed, backing away and running her hands through her long, curly hair. "I was almost killed by a freaking C-Stand, and you want me to calm down?! I will not calm down!"
The director took a deep breath and Shawn wondered if he was counting to ten as the tint of red slowly dissolved from his cheeks. "Eliza, sweetie, the stand didn't even fall, the light fell. And it was at least, at least, seven feet away from you."
Eliza gasped, mouth wide open, appalled. "How dare you! It almost fell right on top of me!"
"But it fell backwards, in the opposite direction of where you were standing!"
"I will not be spoken to this way! I was almost killed and you want to belittle me in front of everyone! I can't believe I'm hearing this!"
Eliza started shaking then, sobbing, weeping openly against her co-star's chest. "Antonious" looked at the director for help while rubbing a reassuring, yet tentative, hand down Eliza's back.
"This is awkward," Gus muttered, breaking Shawn from the real-life drama unfolding before him.
"You're telling me buddy," Shawn agreed as he stole another look at the top of the light stand. He softly let out a breath before adding, "Especially since that light falling wasn't an accident."
Whiplash, he thought as Gus's head turned so quickly it was a wonder it was still attached to his neck and not rolling in the sand among the broken glass and mangled metal.
"What are you talking about, Shawn?" he asked suspiciously, turning back to the "crime scene" to look more closely.
"Someone tampered with the light. There are bolts from the top lying next to the light stand, there." He pointed and Gus squinted. "And the top of the stand is scratched, so someone was messing with it, loosening them up."
With a snort, Gus shook his head. "You've got to be kidding me."
"No, actually, I'm completely serious." Shawn nodded, smiling brightly. "You know what this means, right Gus?"
"Oh no, no Shawn. No. Don't even say it. I'm not even kidding."
But Shawn couldn't help himself. He clapped Gus hard on the shoulder, undaunted when his friend slapped his hand right back off.
"We've got ourselves a case!"
Disclaimer: All publicly recognizable characters, settings, etc. are the property of their respective owners. The original characters and plot are the property of the author. The author is in no way associated with the owners, creators, or producers of any media franchise. No copyright infringement is intended.