I wasn't able to participate in the Secret Santa this year so this was written to make up for it. I hope you enjoy!
Author's Chapter Notes:
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.
“Grans!?” Shawn's voice preceded his barreling run to the house. Gravel underfoot slid him past the steps, forcing a flailing skid before he could dart back and up onto the deck – nearly losing it again on the stairs. Hurtling the last one, he tugged open the French doors and made three steps into the kitchen before a shocked voice shouted from the other side of the table.
“Shawn Henry Spencer! You get back outside and wipe those feet, young man!”
Without a pause he whirled back towards the door, grasped the frame, and hopped from one foot to the other as he shed his dust coated footwear. Gus was still on his way towards the house, eyes rolling at the sight of his cowed best friend. Ignoring the amused disdain, Shawn finally stumbled free from his sneakers to rush back inside once more.
“Grans!!” The slipping and sliding of his stocking feet on the hard wood floor likely saved the elderly woman from being pancaked as Shawn pounced on the tiny form and grasped her about the waist, spinning once before carefully settling her back to earth as though she were made of china.
“Shawn!” Her hand lightly smacked his shoulder. “Don't think you can get your hands on my life savings by giving me a stroke!”
Shawn grinned, the expression growing conspiratory as the older woman beamed up at him from her five foot height.
“You two haven't eaten yet, have you?” Not really a question so much as a warning. One knew better than to line the stomach with anything other than water on a Christmas Day when Grans was cooking.
Gus entered the house just as she asked the question; his shoes, of course, already removed and neatly placed next to the door.
“-Haven't had anything since dinner last night,” Shawn interrupted, “this case we're working is so intensive we've barely slept this week.” He threw in a pout on top of that, once more ignoring his friend, who groaned in disgust behind him. Okay, so the last case had involved a parrot that had mysteriously stopped talking (apparently it hadn't cared for the new brand of bird seed), and the only reason he and Gus had missed sleep had been because of a three day Pokemon Go binge.
His grandmother, of course, didn't buy it for a second. Thankfully she'd never been the type to sell him out. “Well, it's a good thing you showed up just as I was getting ready to start the potatoes.”
On cue, Gus's eyebrow lifted in hungered interest. A priest would break a fasting vow for a taste of Grans's pan-roasted spuds.
Bouncing on his toes, Shawn leaned over the curly silver scalp as his grandmother laid out a mountain of red skinned potatoes on the table. Nearby, resting in a bowl, were two sticks of softened butter, whipped in her secret seasoning mixture that she hadn't even shared with her son. Speaking of, Henry entered the kitchen; glass of spiked nog in hand.
“Oh, hey, Shawn. Didn't know you were here yet.”
Gus's eyebrows climbed his forehead. “Really?”
Henry's drained his glass. “I was in the dining room, with Lassiter, setting the table.”
Shawn's lips crinkled at the domestic image of the two men tweaking the placement of knives and forks. “I didn't need to know that.”
A stunning blonde edged into the kitchen behind Henry – though not the face Shawn had been scoping for. “Marlowe! How's the first lady of the SBPD?”
Juggling Lily to one hip, Marlowe accepted a glass of creamy egg nog from Henry. “I'm great! It's been a really good year for all of us.” She wrinkled her nose at her daughter when Lily swatted towards the glass of nog. “Not a chance, kiddo! Not until you're sixteen!”
Shawn lifted an eyebrow. “Really? Dad let me try my first beer when I was eight.”
Henry huffed. “Try? Kid, you snuck that beer from your uncle Jack and spent the rest of the night hung over the toilet.”
Grans appeared from behind her grandson to smack Henry's elbow. “Maybe you should have been keeping a closer eye on your boy!” She winked at Shawn, who grinned at the flush on his father's neck.
She, then, gave him a light smack against his belly. “By the way, where is your lady? I didn't fly over two-thousand miles just to cook dinner for you ingrates.”
“Uh...” Shawn glanced at Gus, who shrugged back. His fingers dragged through his hair. “Well, she and Chief Vick's family were planning to leave San Fransisco this morning but she probably hit traffic...”
“I'm sure she's fine.” Gran smiled and patted his cheek before turning back towards Henry. “Wasn't there something you were taking care of, dear?”
Shawn bit off a smile at the way his father's eyes widened before he turned towards the door. “The ribs. Be right back!”
Still chuckling after his pops, Shawn, turned back to the delicious preparations happening before him.
“Sweetie, do I look like Julia Child?”
Shawn blinked at his grandmother. “Huh? Don't be a burnt raspberry strudel, Grans. You're half her size and I can totally understand your accen-OOF!” Damn, her elbow was sharper than Gus's! He thought she might have punctured an organ with that one.
“Don't start that Tom foolery with me, young man, now instead of staring, grab a knife and start slicing these in half. They should have been in the pan ten minutes ago. Marlowe, perhaps you could start mixing the batter for the biscuits. It will need to rest while the potatoes are baking.”
Shawn smiled, then lifted the blade and stared down the unexpected work while trying to ignore Gus chuckling behind him. Then he grinned when he heard his friend squeak, followed by Grans's voice.
“Did you think you were getting a free meal? I don't think so! Now how about you get started on those beans?”
Shawn looked back to see Gus scowling and rubbing his earlobe. Watching until the old woman left the kitchen, presumably to abuse kittens or small dogs, Gus returned Shawn's look.
“Dude, I think she pierced my ear!”
Shawn squinted, looking more closely at the lobe. “Hmm... well I've got an old earring you can borrow.”
Snorting, Gus walked back to his bowl of beans. “No thanks, you can keep those teenage angst cooties to yourself.”
Shawn turned back to his potato chopping as Grans reappeared, all traces of her evil elf self tucked behind the curtain as she beamed up at him. “Now make sure you slice those evenly. Try to keep all the pieces the same size.”
Gus snorted behind him. Shawn knew something snide regarding his cooking skills was about to burst from his friend's backstabbing mouth so he tried to beat the throw. “Gus said he hates beans!” He winced at letting his lip get away from him before he could come up with something slightly more clever. Not taking the bait, Grans tipped her head back to evaluate the single potato Shawn had managed to butcher.
“I think you both need to pay attention to what you're doing and stop pestering one another. Burton, dear, how about you join me on the porch and let Shawn concentrate.
A wide smile spanned Gus's face as he hoisted the beans and followed the diminutive woman out into the sunshine. Shawn glared after him. “Traitor.”
Left to his own devices, Shawn mumbled as he chopped – making an actual effort to divided the potato halves perfectly. He was just starting on his third spud when fingers tickled his ear.
“Dude, I will cleave a digit if you try for a wet willy-”
“Oh, is that a fact?”
So that wasn't Gus, apparently. Dropping the knife before spinning on his heels, Shawn was all teeth at the woman behind him.
“You look miraculous!”
Juliet twisted a blunt smile as Shawn leaned in – both of them eyeing either side of them for watchers before meeting each other's gaze.
“Eskimo kiss.” Whispered Shawn before rubbing nose tips.
Giggles broke past their smushing and Shawn nearly toppled as monkey arms wrapped his leg.
“Woah!” Lily had her pudgy arms clamped around his shin.
“Up!” Petite demand even though her grip on his leg remained just as tight.
“Hi, Babycakes!” Juliet knelt down beside her Goddaughter and pried her fat little hands from Shawn's pant leg. “Can I have a kiss kiss?”
Shawn crossed his arms. “What about my kiss kiss?”
Rising with the toddler in her arms, Juliet gave Shawn a peck on the end of his nose.
“Okay, who left their filthy sneakers on the deck? I just refinished that!” The Chiefly shout preceded Lassiter's entrance. Into the kitchen where he immediately smiled at the little girl hugged in Juliet's arms.
“Well hello Lily Lady! Wanna come to daddy?”
“Da!” Arms out to her father, Lily almost launched herself from Juliet's hold before she could be passed to Carlton. “How's daddy's favorite girl, huh?”
Shawn turned back to the sink and fished out another potato from the pile. “I'm fine, thank you.”
For his effort he got a copyrighted glare. “Har, har. By the way, you scratch my counters, you can eat outside.”
“Please.” Shawn halved the potato and reached for another, “You know this used to be my house? Gus and me already made our marks on this place.”
“Please tell me you didn't pee on anything.”
Shawn waggled his eyebrows in response.
Pitching an eyeroll towards the sarcasm, Carlton made his way over to his wife – unabashedly kissing her neck while she stirred ingredients.
The door opened again and Henry reappeared – clicking barbecue spattered claspers. “Shawn, your grandmother would like to know if you've finished with those potatoes yet.”
Shawn tilted his head at the mound in front of him. “Uh...”
While Henry was working through his ten billionth sigh since the birth of his only child, Juliet nudged against her fiance'. “Don't worry – I'll help.” She smiled as she quickly chopped through three spuds and started on a fourth.
Still working on the same potato, Shawn tipped his chin at the woman beside him. “Hey – I thought Chief Vick was coming with you.”
Juliet rolled one shoulder. “Oh, she wanted me to tell everyone that she won't make it. The Mayor is raising a stink about having both the Head Detective and police Chief out of town at the same time so she and Richard are taking Iris to Pier 39.”
“Dammit, that sounds way more fun!” Shawn sawed his way through his next potato; wincing as the blade slipped and sheared a half inch strip from the side of the vegetable. “Well, you and I will just have to throw another party when we get back home, yeah?”
Juliet grinned. “Sounds like a plan, Stan.”
A hard knock on the porch door pulled Carlton away from his wife and through the living room. Over the Elmo and Patsy rendition of “Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer”, Shawn heard Winnie Guster's voice as she and Bill rounded out the holiday gathering. Shawn still thought it bizarre that they were willing to break bread with the same crew that had arrested them a few Christmas's prior. Maybe wouldn't hurt to check Winnie's fruitcake for explosives...
“Burton? Are you here, sweetheart?” Winnie flustered into the kitchen; arms piled with food and gifts – Bill behind her and just as burdened.
Shawn was more than happy to drop his cold potato and grab the stack of deliciousness from Ma Guster.
Two seconds later, the screen door slammed open and Gus invaded – forehead rumpled. “Do I smell fresh gingerbread?”
Shawn was already rooting in the cookie tin when Gus slid a glare his direction. “Oh no you did not.”
Tin clutched tightly to his chest, Shawn crammed a little boy cookie between his teeth. One cookie leg was still jutting from his lips when Gus tried to rip the tin from his hands, only for Shawn to double down and snag a handful of the tiny pastry people to fill his cheeks. It took the combined effort of both Henry and Ma Guster to separate the two boys and send them back to their tasks – both of them glowering at one anther in between shooting hungry stares at the confiscated tin.
“Son, I wouldn't want to in your shoes if Grans catches you spoiling your dinner.” Count on the old man to put the kibosh on lingering thoughts of cookie theft.
Juliet, meanwhile, had worked her way through better than half of the remaining potatoes. “How is it I got stuck with your job, Shawn?”
Slipping in behind her to kiss her neck, he opened his lips against her skin, ready with a reply, when she pulled away to face him – knife at a threatening angle. “I swear, if you tell me it's because “you're so much better at it than me, babe” I will shave three layers of epidermis. I'm not kidding.”
Swallowing those exact words while building a face that insisted he'd never ever say such condescending words, Shawn eased the short blade from her fingers, one digit at a time, to resume his neglected duty. “Sweetie, you really have been spending way too much time with Lassipuss.” He kissed her fingers before letting her go – smiling when she swatted his butt on the way to check on said partner.
Another fifteen minutes, and three sliced fingers later, Shawn finally finished his laborious efforts; getting the last half a potato, face down in the tray of butter, just as Grans reappeared to check up on him.
“Well don't just stand there, looking for praise, get them in the oven!” Unlike Henry, though, Gran's words were said with a chuckle.
Laying foil over the top, only burning one knuckle, Shawn got the pans of potatoes on the oven racks and then grabbed an icy beer. “Want one?” He held a bottle towards the older women – only for her to shake her head.
“Sorry, honey, not this time of day. I drink that now and I'll be passed out before we serve dinner!” She chuckled again before giving her grandson a strong hug. “Oh, I've sure missed you. I was so sorry we weren't able to see you much, during the holidays, when your Grandpa was still alive.”
Shawn's hug, back, got a little tight.
Eventually Grans let him go and headed back outside to check on the rest of the meal. Shawn swiped his sleeve across his eyes before moving onward to the sounds of sudden uproar in the living room.
With the game on, most of the gathering's male population had clustered around Lassie's 52 inch flatscreen. Pops still held a messy pair of claspers in hand – a thick layer of sauce making a threatening roll down the handle and towards the rug just underfoot. Near the door, Gus and Bill looked as though they'd paused on their way in – Bill still had one hand on the door and Gus had a platter of Gramma Guster's famous jerk chicken – the spicy bloom wafting over the milder scents of browning butter and roasting spuds.
Winnie pushed in behind her husband – giving the television a hard side-eye before relieving her distracted son of his burden. “First we forget this in the car and now you're just going to let it get cold while you stare at this nonsense? Not on my watch!”
Not enough of a distraction to break up the testosterone. At least, not until Grans reappeared with her fingers already crooked to latch on to the first available earlobes. Shawn and Gus immediately clapped hands over their vulnerable ears and shuffled backwards towards the kitchen. Henry, however, was a little too old and slow to outpace his cranky parent.
“Henry David Spencer, get your neglectful butt back outside and take those ribs off of the grill before they turn to charcoal!”
The only ones left lingering in the living room were Lassiter and Marlowe – the former with a sleepy infant against his shoulder. The game had finished moments earlier and was now just interviews and preening players so Marlowe switched to the channel airing the annual Yuletide Log. The return to Christmas music brought a return of the holiday mood and Shawn sang under his breath through “White Christmas” as well as “Santa Baby”.
Forty minutes later, the potatoes were finally finished. Both the ribs and jerk chicken had been kept warm and were now being laid out on platters along with sprigs of random greenery to break up the field of meat colored meat. Food began to appear from, it seemed, every cabinet of the house. Deviled eggs with a dusting of paprika, obligatory cheese and crackers, and a Jello mould shaped like a wreath – wiggly interior crammed with walnuts and chunks of pineapple. Meat and potatoes joined the spread as well as cookies, bars, and a rich fruitcake filled with enough booze to fell a moose.
The final touch was Marlowe lighting the candle spiked centerpiece.
Henry leaned against the doorjamb alongside his son – shoulders brushing. The wait felt a bit awkward but both Winnie and Gran had agreed to a prayer before diving into the feast like wolves. Never one to waste a moment when a room full of people had their eyes shut, Shawn reached for a cookie – his fingers colliding with Gus reaching for the same cookie. While Winnie began speaking about the Heavenly hosts, Gus hissed about hellfire and condemnation.
“Please – like the devil is gonna rise and smite me over gingerbread!” Hissed back with double the hiss.
“Jesus Himself will smite your ass, Shawn!” Mostly mouthed retort coupled with fingers twisting the skin on the back of his hand.
Open mouthed silent yowl as Shawn pinched back – a full on pinch battle erupting as Winnie began to wrap up the sermon – their tiny war snapping to a stop as both Henry and Lassiter elbowed the two of them just as Gran opened her eyes. Her glare, though, instantly settled on the two of them – though Shawn still spotted the tiny quirk on one side of her mouth.
And then the wolves proceeded to pounce.
Plates filled and cookies distributed, Gus and Shawn were back on friendly terms; giggling as their gingerbread men made valiant journeys across their plates, battling mounds of potatoes and jiggling Jello, only to be devoured by Yetis for their trouble.
Soon enough, stomachs were filled and plates were cleared – only sweets, eggnog, and wine still remaining to be nibbled and sipped.
Overfed bodies draped around the house – the Lassiters still at the table with Winnie, Gran, and Juliet while Henry, Shawn, Bill, and Gus spread out on the couch and stuffed chairs. Stuffed to the gills and feeling the start of post-dinner slumber, Shawn still didn't miss a beat when the cell phone on the coffee table rang.
Lassiter stood before the second ring and went for his phone; fingers just grazing the casing when Shawn snatched the cell out from under him. "Shawn Spencer, psychic, what's your favorite color?"
"Spencer, knock it off!" Bellowed Carlton as he grabbed it back.
Shawn snickered – getting a fist bump from Gus while Lassiter turned his back on both of them.
“Chief Lassiter... Oh, hey! ...well that's great! ...yeah, they're here.” he glared over his shoulder – rolling his eyes at Shawn's stretched wide grin – before mouthing 'Chief Vick says hi'.
The conversation went on a few more minutes before Lassiter hung up again. “Karen called to say Merry Christmas to everyone!” General announcement dispensed, he returned to the table for another glass of wine.
Nestled against his father, Shawn's eyes were losing the fight to stay focussed.
“S'weird.” He murmured; hooking fingers into a throw pillow to drag it against his chest.
“What's weird?” Henry's wine glass was still half full – easily the most sober person in the room aside from Grans.
“Being here. You know...” he wove one droopy hand in a lopsided circle, “in Lassie's house.” He shrugged and snorted. “You know, I almost miss the fish.”
His dad huffed a spent laugh. “Yeah. Me too.”
Hunkered deep in Lassiter's overstuffed recliner, Gus phapped his lips at the two of them. “Are you kidding me right now? Nobody misses a bunch of dead fish carcasses. I warned you not to have two slices of Ma Guster's killer fruitcake, Shawn.”
“Three slices.” Shawn slurred back. Not to mention two beers, a glass of eggnog, and about five of the rum filled truffles Marlowe had set out after dinner. Worth it.
“Enjoy your IBS.”
Shawn let that one go rather than engage in an energy draining dialogue about computers and what they had to do with sad tummies, although, he did log the query for when he was capable of consciousness once more.
“I can see your brain spinning from here. IBS as in irritable bowel syndrome; not IBM.”
“How about IBS “as in” itsy bitsy spider.” Shawn mocked back.
“That doesn't even make sense.”
“Your sweater doesn't make sense.”
“My mom made this sweater, Shawn!”
“Hey, hey, hey...” Grans, still at the table, had a voice that carried past the squabble. “You two better behave or you aren't getting stockings in the morning.”
Slumping back in a truce, the both of them let the laziness of post-dinner drowsies take over once more. Already snoring on his end of the couch, Henry's shoulder made for a comfortable pillow as Shawn leaned into him. His blinks became longer and longer – focus narrowing on the fire while Lassie added another log.
They still had gifts to open later that night. A tackle box full of vintage fishing lures for his Pops and a Gold Package pass at GoKart Racer for himself. Maybe he'd invite Lassie and Marlowe to go with – in spite of the fact that Lassiter considered go-kart a gateway to bootlegging.
More than enough time to hammer out those details, though. For now, he was content to slumber. Comfortable amidst this group of friends and family. Not to be too schmaltzy but, in all manner of truthfulness, this was the best Christmas gift he could ever hope for.
Well... that and one more rum truffle.
IBM be damned.