I originally planned to enter this into the Halloween challenge, but A) this story is going to be longer than I planned and there's just no way it'll be done in time, and B) I cannot for the life of me find a way to include the "haunting we will go" theme into this story. It just won't fit.
But I've decided to go ahead and start posting this story now, because...well... I just felt like it. So enjoy. :-D
Disclaimer: I do not own Psych, nor do I own any of its characters, settings, trademarks, or related material. Psych and all related materials are the property of their respective owners. The plot and original characters of this story are my intellectual property. I am not associated with Psych, its creators, or any involved parties, nor am I associated with any other media franchise. No copyright infringement is intended.
***UPDATE: ...Well... I guess this is simultaneously how you know you've made it as a writer and how you know that you're being publicly shamed for not finishing what you start. I apologize for not finishing this sooner, but I thank all of you for your support. I still can't believe anybody bothered to read this in the first place! For those of you have been eagerly waiting for the next installment... This story will *not* be a WIP forever. It *will* be finished. You have my word.
...And thank you for the banner. I'll try not to let you down.
The title of the story, by the way, is borrowed from a U2 song. The song has absolutely nothing to do with Gaslighting or pretty much anything else in this story, but the title sure has a nice ring to it. (There's actually a much longer story behind why I chose the title, but it's boring and I know you don't want to hear it. :-D )
I'm trying to keep this story as canon as possible---which I know is weird, given my general preference for AU Psych stories---and I have it listed as both Pre-season and Season because...well...you'll see why.
Shawn gasped as his head burst from beneath the black water, his lungs on fire and his chest heaving for breath, sucking in oxygen with a fierce hunger before the cold hand snatched his ankle and yanked him beneath again. His legs churned furiously, trying to push himself upward and kick her back down into the water at the same time. His arms ripped through the lake water, his hands clawing their way up toward the night sky and sending choppy rippling waves all across the surface of the water. His head broke through again and his mouth gaped open as he took another shuddering, desperate breath. He could see a searchlight in the distance, a strong whitish beam cutting through the darkness, and he wanted to scream for help but didn't have the air.
Am I going to die here? he thought.
"I hope not," he heard himself say in a wheezy, strangled whisper as his body continued its struggle to reach the shore.
Would You Believe...1995?
"Cam?" Shawn whispered into the darkness.
"I'm here," came his girlfriend's voice from the telephone receiver.
He breathed a quiet sigh of relief. "I wasn't sure you'd pick up."
"I'll always pick up," Cam said. "I'll always be here for you, Shawn."
"I'm sorry for being so quiet. My dad...he doesn't like for me to stay up late."
"What you're trying to say is that he doesn't like me."
Shawn nodded even though he knew she couldn't see him there, laying back on his bed with the telephone cord entwined in his fingers. "I guess so, yeah. But he doesn't really like anyone anymore, and he definitely doesn't like me, so you shouldn't take it too personally."
"I don't," replied Cam, and Shawn could picture her twisting a lock of her long, golden-blonde hair. Hair so gold it looked like shiny metal---and of course, the ridiculous amount of hairspray she used kept it stiff and unmoving like metal, too.
"Good." Shawn nodded again. "I would hate to lose you. I care about you so much."
"Me, too. These past three months have been the best of my life."
Shawn smiled. "You're so easy to talk to."
The sound of her laughter was like a silvery bell tone coming over the slightly static-y sound of the telephone. "It's just because I'm a good listener. You talk whether anyone listens or not."
His smile grew into a grin. "You're right, I do. Hey, can...can we meet up again?"
"Sure. When and where?"
"Maybe tomorrow, after school? Could you come to the park? I think there's supposed to be a concert there or something. It might be cool to go."
"Yeah, you mean that local talent thing? That sounds fun."
"Yeah, that's it. Can you come?"
She paused for just a second, and Shawn held his breath. "I think so," she said, "but I'll have to ask my parents to make sure. I'll let you know when we're at school tomorrow."
"Okay," Shawn replied, quickly covering the receiver with his hand as a heaved a sigh of relief and remembered to suck in another lungful of air before continuing, "Sounds good."
Cam laughed again. "Can you believe that in just six months, we'll be official Leland Bosseigh graduates?"
"No, I can't. I don't like thinking of that, because then I'll have to leave you."
"Leave me?" Shawn could hear the stress and horror in Cam's voice. "Leave me? Shawn, why would you have to leave me?"
"I don't want to leave you," he said quickly, in the most reassuring tone possible. "But, if we go to separate colleges..."
"Where are you going to college? I'll go with you."
"Oh, well, I guess I'd just be going to UCSB or something. Pretty much anywhere with a Criminal Justice degree will do, I guess."
"You just said 'I guess,' like, a million times in that sentence, Shawn."
Shawn frowned. "Only twice."
Cam's sigh sounded like a blow of static over the telephone connection. "Okay, fine. UCSB it is. Go Gauchos! Yay Santa Barb!"
Shawn could hear the sarcasm in her voice, but tried to stay upbeat. "You know, if you wanted to go somewhere else, you should. I mean, you're so much smarter than me. You could go to LA or Sacramento or something. I mean, it really isn't that far. We could do the long-distance thing, you know? Right? I mean, we could make that work, couldn't we?"
"Shawn, you just said---"
"Yeah, I know, I said 'I mean', like, a million times in that sentence." Shawn huffed in frustration.
"Shawn, don't get mad at me. You have no reason to get upset over what I just said. If you don't like the things I say, maybe you should just break up with me now and get it over with, so you don't have to worry about college or long-distance or whatever!"
Shawn wanted to curl up and die. His heart pounded in his chest as a sickening feeling welled up in his stomach. "No no no! Cam! No! I love you! Don't---"
Suddenly, he heard a quiet creak coming from the hallway. His voice dropped to a whisper. "I think my dad's up. Stay on the line."
He held his breath again, trying to stay perfectly still, and waited. He heard another creak, and then another. His dad was definitely awake and moving about, and any minute he'd walk in and catch Shawn on the phone with Cam and then---
Shawn heard the bathroom door squeak shut, and he breathed his second huge sigh of relief for the night. As stealthy as he could be, he whispered into the phone, "Okay, I just heard him go into the bathroom. I think we're safe."
"I don't think so, kid," said Henry as he threw Shawn's bedroom door wide open.
Shawn flinched at the sudden brightness of the yellowish hallway light streaming in like the morning sun. "Dad!"
"Really, Shawn? You fell for the bathroom door trick? I thought I heard voices from in here. How long have you been making these secret phone calls? Huh?"
"J-just tonight, Dad, really!" said Shawn. His shaking hand caused the telephone to tap against his head, his only reminder that he was still on the line with his girlfriend.
"I'm hanging up now," Cam's voice said, filtering through the increasing static and into his pounding ear. "I'll definitely meet you tomorrow for the concert. See you at school."
Then the line went dead.
Henry's hand snatched the receiver away and slammed it back down into its cradle. "I trusted you, Shawn! I told you, when you were twelve and I let you put a phone in your room, that you couldn't make any calls after 9."
"Dad, I'm not twelve anymore! I'm almost a high school graduate!"
"And what did I tell you about this girl?"
Shawn hung his head. "That I'm not supposed to be seeing her."
"Or communicating with her at school or at home."
"And why not?"
"Because she's bad for me..." Shawn's head jerked up and he stared his father in the eyes. "But why, Dad? Why is she so bad? She's been such a good friend to me!"
"No, she hasn't, Shawn! Can't you see it? Your grades have taken a nosedive---"
"Getting a B in algebra isn't a nosedive!"
"It is when you've been getting A's since you were five! And what about Gus? Huh, Shawn?"
Shawn swallowed hard, pushing himself to continue holding his gaze against the intensity of his father's stare. The look he called The Cop Stare. The look that broke dozens---maybe millions---of hardened criminals in the interrogation room. The stare that Shawn begged his father to teach him, but Henry had refused---The Cop Stare cannot be taught; it's got to be earned. And Shawn, apparently, had never earned it.
"What about Gus?" Shawn asked, trying to keep his voice even and innocent against Detective Spencer's Cop Stare.
"When was the last time Gus came over to the house?" Henry asked, his voice equally level and with an edge in it sharp and hard enough to cut a diamond.
"I don't know. Maybe a couple weeks ago?"
"Shawn, you know exactly when Gus came over last."
Shawn couldn't do it anymore. He gave in. He crumbled under The Cop Stare, like he always did. Like everybody always did. Once again, he hung his head. "For my birthday party," Shawn whispered.
"Two months ago."
"And when was the last time you called Gus on the phone?"
Shawn hesitated a moment to think.
Henry didn't wait. "You last called him three weeks ago. You asked him about a homework assignment, made small talk for two minutes, and then hung up."
"You timed my phone call?! Seriously, Dad?"
"Don't backtalk me, Shawn!"
Shawn's lip quivered and his eyes stung, but he willed himself not to cry. He was too old to cry. Not here. Not now. Not with him watching. He wouldn't give his father the satisfaction. "So what? So I don't talk to Gus as much anymore. What does that matter? It's my life. I get to choose my own friends, don't I?"
"Yeah, but the only friend you choose is that stupid girl!"
"She isn't stupid!" Shawn shouted. "She's an amazing girl. She's smart and funny and talented, and I love her!"
"Shawn, do you ever hear yourself when you talk about her? You sound like a drug addict! You shut everything out of your life except for her! It's not healthy!"
Shawn took a deep, shaky breath. "I'm not an addict."
Henry scoffed. "That's all you have to say for yourself?" He glanced at the clock on Shawn's bedside table. "It's one o'clock. Get some sleep. We'll talk more later." Then he grabbed the phone and yanked it from the wall, tearing out the jack and knocking the alarm clock over. He carried the phone under his arm like it was a basketball or something as he trudged out of Shawn's room, slamming the door shut behind him.
After Shawn heard his father's door closing hard enough to make the walls shake, he grabbed his pillow and clutched it against his chest, hugging it with his arms and pressing his face deep into the warm cotton.
Then he began to cry.
Also, any ideas for cool chapter titles are welcome!