To make up for my last Psych fic, this one isn't depressing. Crack-y, more like. In my defense it seemed like a good idea at the time, which was very early in the A.M. (it usually is.)
This...might be slash. Or maybe it isn't. You'll have to ask Gus. No slashers were harmed in the making of this story, and any resemblance to any real persons or fictional stories is entirely coincidental. (Really; I haven't read much in the way of Psych-slash at all.)
...Unlike Gus. Much to his chagrin.
Read Between the Lines
or, Slash and the Modern Psychic Investigator
Shawn raised his head just as Gus lowered his own, and their lips met as their hands stroked down the contours of one another's bodies, winding under clothing seeking the softness of skin. A soft but eager cry moaned from Gus's lips as he felt the fingers of his partner and best friend—
"What the hell IS THIS??"
"Shh, we just got to the good part, wait until you hear what word they use for—"
One of the annoying things about Shawn—high on the list, and it's a long list, make no mistake—is that he doesn't like to read. It's not that he dislikes reading; it's just that there's usually something else he'd prefer to be doing at any given time.
What makes this so highly annoying is that Shawn, when he wants to, can read faster than pretty much anyone alive. Not skimming or speed-reading, either; he gets every word, and he remembers them, too, or can if he tries, though he complains it gives him a headache.
To Gus, who's loved the written word since he was four, and doesn't have a chance of actually finishing all the books he'd like to read in his lifetime, this is monumentally unfair. Shawn only reads when it's necessary—such as when faking various professional experience, and he'd absorbed those philosophy texts well enough to get this close to getting the UCSB professorship, until it was discovered that St. Badger's College wasn't in fact an accredited institution, in Wales or elsewhere—or when he's bored enough to grab a magazine or a suspense thriller.
It takes Shawn about the same amount of time to go through the latest issue of Playboy and the latest Tom Clancy novel. Like so many things about Shawn, this worries Gus.
It worries him even more when he walks into the Psych office one afternoon and finds Shawn on the laptop, but instead of solitaire or porn there's only black-on-white text onscreen. And Shawn is gazing at this prose intently, passing his eyes down the screen and continuing to scroll.
Then he grins and snorts, and that's when Burton Guster makes his fatal mistake, one for which he will curse himself for long to come.
"What're you reading?"
—achingly slowly, the detective lowered himself to his knees before the—
It turns out that not all porn is created equal, or in visual format. Gus always thought written sex scenes were termed erotica, but this. Is porn. Really raunchy porn.
"No, seriously—women wrote this?"
"Unless you know a guy comfortable enough with his masculinity to call himself Our Lady of the Healing Cock..." Shawn glances over. "Never mind, I take it back, Mr. Bigkitty75."
"Shawn, any true gambler would get..."
It's not just raunchy; some of this stuff is downright perverted. Gus is suitable impressed, and wondering where one might go to hook up with some of these dirty, dirty girls.
That's before Shawn introduces him to the slash.
And the R.P.F.
And the R.P.S.
Which is when Gus begins to comprehend just how much trouble he's in. "Real Person Slash?"
"Oh yeah. Check this out," and Shawn clicks a bookmark and turns the laptop towards him.
It doesn't take Gus ten seconds to pick up the sticking point, scanning the text. "Shawn. That's your name."
"Shawn Spencer. That's you. You and...Lassiter?!"
It's not just that what's being described is anatomically unlikely and highly uncomfortable to contemplate; Gus reflexively crosses his legs just imagining it. He'd try not to do that much, but it's way too late for that. But it's at the police station, on top of Lassiter's desk, and the details—"How do they know about that paperweight?"
Shawn shrugs. "The writer must've done her research. Maybe visited the station. Or spent a lot of time looking at that photo in the paper when Lassie got the mayor's outstanding service plaque. All the articles about us are online, you know. Scanned and posted. There's a database. Where do you think they get this stuff? Wait, check this one out."
He doesn't want to. Over his lifetime Gus has gotten pretty good at reading one Shawn Spencer, and there's a diabolical gleam in said individual's eyes now that tells him, even before he glances at the screen, what he's going to find.
It's still a shock, though, to see his own name in purple on black. Gus stares. "I think...I'm gonna be... Are we seriously—"
"No, dude, we're just Frenching. We don't get to the bow-chicka-wowow until the sequel. Wait a sec, I got that, too—"
"Eight times in one night! It's awesome."
Gus wonders if that physical impossibility counts as a compliment. All the same. "This is libel! Shawn, how the hell can you read this?"
"Hey, it's totally flattering. Listen to this—'the handsome black man gazed into the bottomless pools of the psychic's vividly viridian irises.' Gus, are my eyes vividly viridian?" Shawn flutters his lashes imploringly. "What's viridian, anyway?"
"Viridian's green. And no. Your eyes are murk."
"The color of mud."
"Does mold usually grow in mud? Oh, wait 'til you hear her describe my abs—"
In two days Shawn's got a bookmark folder with over a hundred entries. And site passwords. And logins to special boards and blogs. Gus is starting to wonder if there's a 12 Step program for this stuff.
It wouldn't bother him quite so much except that it's all on his laptop. Every time he boots it up, some webpage or other pops up, and before he can alt-tab away he'll catch a glimpse—a hazard of being an inveterate reader: it's impossible not to read English put before his eyes. Only a single line, and that's always more than enough.
—as their tongues warred, Shawn thrust tenderly but passionately against the officer's toned—
Gus has A Talk with Shawn about it. Very calm and logical, explaining that the laptop is used for work-related purposes, and imagine if one of his, or their, clients happened to be looking over his shoulder at an inopportune time.
This works as well as might be expected. With two and a half decades of Spencerian acquaintance, one would really think Gus would've learned.
—Carlton caressed the consultant's naked back. "Please, darling," he whispered huskily, "let me show you the best thing I learned in the Academy"—
It's not on his laptop anymore.
Instead it's waiting for him on his desk at the Psych office, neatly printed in 11 pt. Times New Roman and stapled in the corner. Twenty-six pages.
The packet in the bathroom is thirty-two pages. The one in the drawer of his desk at Central Coast is a hefty forty-eight.
Gus burns them all. To hell with recycling.
They're back the next day, exact same places, exact same fonts, exact same text. He forgets who he's dealing with sometimes.
Paper costs money, and so do laser printer ink cartridges, and Gus is the one who orders both. He'd let them run out, except they have a business to maintain and they need the printer for that.
Though right now, Gus thinks, the printer might better serve by being suspended in the air by crane and dropped. On Shawn Spencer's head. From a height of no less than twenty feet.
Positive imagery is the key to victory. He learned that one at the SalesSuccess! picnic last year.
Gus is pretty sure the spokesman wasn't talking about this kind of imagery.
—Buzz's hot mouth closed around the hard, dark pearl of his nipple, and the psychic's partner's back arched as a groan of pleasure escaped his—
"Shawn, this is stupid."
"What do you mean?" Shawn's face is all injured innocence. "You're always trying to get me to read. And look, I'm reading! Incredible, no?"
"But it's idiotic! Even if I were that flexible—which I haven't been since sixth grade, and you know that—in the back seat of my company car? How can two grown men fit in the back seat of this car?"
He can't help it. He's a pathological reader. Shawn had left the printout on the dashboard, with the first page tucked into the steering wheel.
Now Shawn's studying the backseat thoughtfully. "Oh, we totally could. We'd just have to be close."
"Man, we are never, ever, ever going to be that close."
Shawn presses a hand over his heart. "You wound me, Guster!"
How wounded doesn't become apparent until the next day.
—dripping like maple syrup sap from the head detective's impressive Irish wood—
Gus barely snatches the page off Lassiter's desk in time, crumpling it in his fist as the detective approaches. "Dude, are you insane?" he hisses to his partner, rhetorically of course.
Shawn just smirks at him. Lassiter regards the pair of them suspiciously, clutching the convenience store robbery case files like he's more reluctant than usual to hand them over, Vick's orders be damned. "What are you two clowns up to now?"
"Nothing. Absolutely nothing," Gus says, and plants his heel on Shawn's sneaker, hard, before Shawn can get out the, "So what are you up to, Lassie? Twelve inches?" that Gus just knows is on the tip of his tongue.
He doesn't look Lassiter in the eyes. He hasn't been able to do that since the line about Carlton's incisively sparkling orbs, hewn from Irish sapphire, clear with the light of love.
Lassiter's only half-Irish anyway, damn it. And doing that with a badge has got to be breaking some kind of reg.
But these women don't know the detective. Or Gus himself, or Shawn. They most especially and obviously don't know Shawn. And not just that they're under the impression that psychic gifts make for an extraordinary sexual experience. That, Gus could buy, if Shawn really had any paranormal power. This, however, is completely unbelievable. "Your 'playful smile hides untold pain and anguish'?!"
"Of course it does," Shawn says. "Dude, I'm deep!"
"If you're deep, then the Psychmobile's a Mack truck."
"Hey, it's a Toyota. As Japanese cars go, it practically is a Mack truck."
The worst part isn't that Gus is becoming...inured to it. The shock value's worn off and he's not so quick to turn away, reflexes dulled by exposure.
The worst part is that occasionally he's forgotten to turn away altogether.
It's not just gratuitous sex. There are plots. Deep plots.
Deeply, deeply terrifying plots.
The third time he reads about himself getting run over, and Shawn drowns himself in grief, scotch, and Lassiter with a side-order of McNab, Gus goes to Shawn. He should know better, but there's no one else he can ask, and this is important. "Should we take this to Chief Vick?"
"They're planning to hit me with a car!" He's got pennames, but that's it. DNS WHOSIS look-ups haven't gotten him further than somewhere in Santa Barbara, and there's a lot of women living in Santa Barbara. It could be the brunette barista at the coffee shop. Or what about Theodora and Lindsey at Central Coast? Are they looking at him more closely than usual? Are they giggling behind their hands whenever Shawn comes charging into his work office, blazing about some case or other? Good God, is this why Amy blushes when he walks past the front desk? He thought she just liked his ties.
"They're not planning anything," Shawn reassures him. "It's just fic. Fic-tion, get it? Imaginary."
"Shawn, there are women in this city who want me dead."
"Oh, Gus," Shawn says fondly. "They don't want you dead. They just want me to experience the pure catharsis of soul-rending grief. And to have hot sex with Lassie."
What if it's someone at the station? All that inside information about Lassiter's desk—holy Moses, what if it's Juliet?
"Look! Here's one for you, Gus. I die, and you take it out on Lassiter."
"Yeah, see, there's a drug bust gone wrong and I get hit by a stray bullet, and since Lassiter was there, you blame him, so after the funeral you confront him in the parking garage and shove him up against his car and—"
"Okay, yes, great, I get it!" and Gus grabs the printout out of Shawn's hands and dumps it into the trash with a satisfying clang. The metal trash cans were so worth the extra five bucks.
After Shawn goes out to chase down more clues on the recent robberies, Gus fishes the first page out of the trash and checks the web address printed along the top. As soon as he's typed it in he makes sure to drop the paper back in with the others. Then he kicks the can over and picks it up again, so Shawn will notice the dent and won't remark on the different configuration of garbage.
Though he might guess anyway. Shawn's annoying like that.
Anyway, it's just to see if he can get any clues from the site about the writer's identity. Only an accident if he happens to hit page-down.
A couple dozen times.
And that isn't the glitter of tears in his eyes; it's the gleam of shock and outrage, because when he googles the author's email address, he finds a blog linking another email, and that address...traces to the Santa Barbara police station.
According to one of his recent TV shows, a demon can be revealed by saying the name of God in Latin. In hopes that fangirls work on similar principles, the next day Gus risks putting himself in Juliet's proximity. The second Shawn bounces off to bother Lassiter about the robbery case, Gus mumbles under his breath, "Slashersayswhat?"
"What?" asks Juliet.
"No, sorry, I wasn't paying attention," and Juliet politely puts down her paperwork to give her full consideration. "What is it?"
She's too nice. He has to be wrong about this; she's far too nice to want to knock him off, even for the sake of Shawn's cathartically soul-rending grief.
But then, you can't judge a book by its cute blonde cover. What if that's not a case report? What if she's got something else slipped between those file covers, the way Shawn used to hide his comics from his dad in his textbooks, and Gus himself used to conceal science journals from Shawn behind Hustler?
Time for a real man to grab the tiger by the horns. The bull by the tail. The fangirl by the keyboard. Whichever. "I was just wondering, Juliet, what do you think of slash?"
"Slash?" Juliet frowns. "You mean like those Friday the Thirteenth movies? I was into them when I was in high school, they're pretty dull now. Too unrealistic, the blood's always the wrong—"
"No, not slasher films—slash. Stories about—" and he might've actually said it, except that Shawn with better-than-usual timing reappears.
"I sense I'm about to solve your robbery conundrum," he announces with his usual astonishing modesty. "I'm seeing the robbers, money passing both ways—they're paying off the cashiers!" and they're busy with that the rest of the afternoon.
—"Give it to me, you blue-eyed Irish animal," Shawn cried wontonly, as he wrapped his sleekly wiry legs around—
"So, Chinese tonight?" Shawn asks behind him.
Gus jumps a foot in the air, fumbling for the mouse. "—I was just looking for the IP address—"
"Sure," Shawn says, plunking himself down on his chair and rolling it over to Gus's desk. "But you know, I wouldn't sweat it. This kind of craze always passes fast. Police psychics are so last year, and next up's the newest boyband. "
Gus desperately hopes that's an unfounded prediction and not a promise. True, Shawn's been busy enough with the robberies that he hasn't printed out anything but that one story in the last few days. But that doesn't mean much. "How can you say that? There were eleven new stories posted to the Psychiclove archive today! Just because you've got the attention span of a mayfly on Ecstasy—"
"And anyway, it's not Jules."
There are things Shawn says because he's trying to talk Gus into or out of or around something; then there are things Shawn says because they're true, and then he's pretty much never wrong. This is one of the latter, and Gus eyes him suspiciously. "How do you know?"
"Because she didn't react when I nearly kissed you today."
"Shawn, you didn't kiss me today. I think I'd remember that."
"Of course I didn't—I nearly did. When we were having lunch, and I shared my drink."
"That was my Coke! And that wasn't sharing—you had it behind your back, I was trying to get it back!"
"Yeah, and while you were trying, our lips were this far apart," and Shawn holds up two fingers. "Jules didn't blink. No blush, no sidelong stare, nothing. Officer Chaplin, however, went so red I thought her freckles were going to burn off."
"Officer Chaplin? Eleanor? With the orange hair? Who's almost as old as my Aunt April?..." Gus shakes his head, refusing to be distracted when there's more important things at stake. "It doesn't prove anything, anyway—what if Juliet's a you/Lassiter fan?
"Gus," Shawn says, preeminently logical, "she works with Lassie every day. Do you really see her writing about his strong yet sensitive mouth and the magnificent head detective's magnificent head—"
"...Maybe not," Gus allows.
"And besides, she didn't react when I almost kissed Lassie, either."
Gus doesn't snort the coffee he's drinking up his nose. This is because in seventh grade he learned how to entirely block his nasal passages when swallowing. It's an essential survival skill when one is friends with Shawn.
Disappointed, Shawn hmms the way he does when he's bored, like an idling engine. He's pulled the laptop over to his side of the desk, but there's no text onscreen, just a flash game. Gus times it carefully, one more sip and lower the cup, considering his options, and determining that Shawn has probably, hopefully, exhausted his. The time has come to parlay. "So, this is over?"
Shawn looks at him for a long moment. His eyes aren't really murk, Gus decides unwillingly. Rotting leaves, maybe. "Yeah, okay," Shawn says finally. "Your computer's delicate sensibilities are safe."
"Be nice. She's only a year old," Gus says, breathing a sigh of relief he's not dumb enough to let show. Tomorrow he can start worrying about what Shawn's next obsession will be. Today, they solved a case, they got paid, they brokered a slash truce. Tonight he can just relax with his best friend.
At least for the twenty minutes until Shawn gets bored of Court TV's Cops marathon—not enough public nudity in this episode—and goes to grab the remote, Gus shoves it out of reach, it cracks open on the floor and one double A rolls under the fridge, and after they argue for ten minutes over who's going to walk the eight feet to the storage closet to get a new battery, they conclude it's not going to happen.
The TV got switched off when the remote fell, and Shawn has a printout in hand. "I thought we were done with that," Gus says, settling back in his chair, not really as annoyed as he sounds. Resigned, that's it. Resigned to his fate.
"Just one," Shawn says. "It's short. Just a one-shot."
"So who is it? You and Lassiter? Threesome? Four-way? Five-way?" One of these days someone is going to manage one of those, he's sure. He doesn't want to think about with whom. They know quite a few other guys besides Lassiter and Buzz, great guys, some of them, but Gus doesn't want to think about knowing any of them like that. The one where he got...closer to Henry Spencer was scarring enough, thank you very much.
"Nah," Shawn says, "just two. O.T.P."
Shawn shrugs and starts reading. Not his usual exaggerated diction, but softer and lower. He has a good reading voice, when he wants to.
—The remote's put aside, the TV screen's dark, and they're sitting there alone in the Psych office, blinds drawn and just one lamp on in the corner. It's getting late enough that there's not much traffic on the street, and with the window cracked the sound of the ocean carries to them, past the asphalt and over the sand. The two armchairs are shoved together, movie theater-style, Gus in one and Shawn in the other, and their elbows on the adjacent arms keep bumping, casually, meaninglessly—
"—What is—who wrote this? How do they know—"
"Shh, just listen—"
—It's as comfortable as it always is, except something is different tonight. The glow from the streetlight cast through the blinds is the same, and so is the salt smell of the sea; but Shawn's voice is different. Not by much, but Gus knows his best friend better than anybody. And yet he's not sure what that change is, only that something has changed.
Shawn's eyes in the low light are dark—not bronze, not viridian, nothing so fantastic; they're a familiar hazel, an ordinary color, a color he's known most of his life. Shawn's watching him, with those ordinary eyes that see everything—that look's something he's known most of his life, too, except tonight it feels different. Like Shawn is seeing something in Gus he never noticed before, for all that he always notices everything—
—"Hey, Shawn," Gus says, lightly, like it's a joke, though it's not and he knows it, "what is this? Are you trying to tell me something?"
"Maybe," Shawn says.
And Gus says, "Good," and leans over between the chairs, and kisses his best friend.
And then, dude! Bow-chicka-wowow!