“Gus?” Shawn panted.
“Yeah, Shawn?” Gus replied, just as breathless.
“Do you remember when we were kids?”
Gus gave serious consideration to the effort—and, more importantly, heat energy—that would be required to answer the question, then decided that it was worth the possible distraction. “We were kids for eighteen years, Shawn. Can you be more specific?”
Shawn made an uncertain sound as his brow furrowed. Gus knew that if his friend was a computer, he would be on the verge of shutting down to protect himself from heat damage. Gus was tempted to do so himself, except that sleeping in this kind of heat would not be comfortable in any sense of the word. Especially here where they were more likely to be found by vultures than certified rescue personnel.
He thought about waving a hand to dismiss the question and decided that was way too much energy. “Never mind. Why?”
“Summer of '85. Do you remember that?”
“I'll take that as a yes.”
Distraction came, but not the kind that Gus had been hoping for.
Instead of forgetting about the heat, he had lost the thread of the conversation as his brain recalled the horrific summer of their youth when temperatures soared, reaching a record high of 109 degrees. Gus didn't know what the current temperature was, but he would not have been at all surprised to find out that it was close to—or higher—than that.
He could feel his tongue shriveling up from lack of moisture—which was doubly torturous since that missing moisture was leaking out of his pores in the form of sweat. If that had actually been doing anything to cool him down he wouldn't have minded, but it wasn't. Instead he was even more uncomfortable because he was sweating like a damn pig and it was too humid for the sweat to evaporate. It just clung to his skin, trapping in heat and giving him the impression that he might actually be melting.
Nature could be a cruel, cruel bitch at times.
So could the corrupt owner of a pet store who had been stealing pets and selling them to a cosmetics research and development lab for testing purposes.
It didn't help that Shawn had been completely wrong about said pet store owner. If he'd used his damn 'gift' and 'seen' that she was behind all of this, they wouldn't have trusted her and she wouldn't have been able to siphon their gas and send them on a wild goose chase that ended like with the two of them roasting to death along a road that ran straight through the middle of nowhere and was, apparently, never traveled on.
Oh, and it was in a cell phone reception barrens thanks to the hills that separated it from Santa Barbara and any other signs of civilization.
They hadn't really had many options—despite taking a good forty-five minutes to discuss their lack thereof—and now they were walking back along said road under a burning sun with no sign of shade or water or help in sight.
If they survived this, Gus was going to kill Shawn.
A small part of his brain noted that Gus had been present for all the meetings with their dog- and catnapper just like Shawn and he'd never suspected anything either. Also, as driver, Gus should have checked the gas before heading out of town, even if he had filled the tank up this morning. Gus shut down that little voice because it was wasting energy and not helping.
He didn't care if it might be right.
“Shouldn't we be thinking of cold things?” Gus asked when he remembered there had been a point to all of this talking.
Shawn gave him a Look. “Like, penguins and slushies and...” Shawn swallowed, voice getting fainter with longing. “Pineapple smoothies? Ungh,” he whimpered. “Guuuus!” He flailed a hand and hit Gus in the arm. “Why would you torture me like that?”
“Because that's what you're supposed to do, Shawn! Think of cold things to try and convince yourself you're not that hot.”
“That makes no sense, Gus. You're supposed to think of hot things so your brain is like, 'Oh yeah. That was way hotter than this right now. Man, I'm so glad I'm not stuck back in 1985 when it was really hot!'”
“How does thinking of hot things help? You're supposed to be distracting yourself.”
“And thinking of cold things you can't have does this? I don't think so.”
Gus wanted to retort, but the part of his brain interested in self preservation shut down his vocal cords. It was just too damn hot to be arguing—or doing anything but stumbling back towards civilization like a zombie hungry for a nice fresh brain.
He frowned and wondered where that particular thought came from, then gave up with a sigh. Now he was starting to suffer from delirium. Fantastic.
And then his ears started humming, like a very large fly, but not really. Delirium was now morphing into full-blown hallucinations. Any second now he was going to just fall over and lay there on the side of an abandoned road, weakly trying to crawl toward a salvation he'd never reach.
Unless he already had fallen and this was the hallucination.
Something grabbed his arm and he looked down to see it was Shawn's hand.
“Don't touch me,” he said weakly, trying to shake free. It was too damn hot to be touching. That and he was pissed at Shawn for getting them killed.
“Gus!” Shawn said breathlessly. “Gus, we're saved!”
Gus squinted at the road, but shook his head. He didn't see anything at all. “Shawn, you're hallucinating. There's nothing there.”
“Not yet! But there's going to be.”
Gus stopped walking and grabbed Shawn's arm when he tried to keep going.
“Shawn, it's the heat. You're hallucinating.”
“No, Gus,” Shawn said with a laugh, “I'm psychic!”
Gus stared, then shook his head and turned to start walking again. Shawn had cracked. The heat had fried his brain and it was now Gus' responsibility to try and get back and tell their story so Mr. Spencer had closure. And tell Lassiter and Juliet about that damn pet shop owner.
He'd probably end up testifying at the trial because this had to be full-on murder now and Gus would see justice for his friend. It was the least he could do.
Shawn caught up and Gus watched him with a frown when he realized Shawn was almost skipping—if in a sort of uncoordinated, seemingly drunk kind of way. He shook his head. Poor Shawn. Gus just hoped that the hallucinations would make this whole dying thing easier for Shawn.
Gus grimaced when he realized the humming was getting louder. He took a few more steps, then sighed and stopped walking. There was no more point in wasting energy. Instead he started searching his pockets for a pen and some scrap of paper on which to make a brief account of their demise and rewrite part of his will. Shawn, obviously, would not be inheriting anything.
He found his pen and a receipt from lunch and started to bend over partially to use his thigh as a desk when the dehydration and exhaustion took its toll and he nearly toppled.
Shawn grabbed him and they steadied each other.
“Gus, what are you doing, buddy?”
“Leaving my DVD collection to my sister. And making sure they know who to charge for our murders.”
Shawn laughed again and then clapped Gus on the back. That sent them both down to the ground, Gus wincing when the hard gravel and hard ground dug into his knees.
“Shawn, please let me write this while I'm still coherent or it won't be legally binding.”
Shawn just laughed harder. Gus tried hard not to think about the slightly manic edge to it.
Gus did his best to ignore Shawn—who was laying on the ground now, the little moisture he had left leaking out of his eyes as tears—and began writing. His handwriting was atrocious from the trembling, but still legible, he hoped.
He signed it, thought about asking Shawn to witness it, then decided that he wasn't legally able to do so and gave up, tucking it into his shirt pocket.
Then, he laid down, closed his eyes, and prepared to die.