This is a response to RockingPsych's challenge "Sick Day" over at psychfic dot com. The challenge was to "write a story about how one of the characters, any of them, gets sick, but they don't really want to admit it, or the others don't acknowledge it."
So here we go, it's my first Psych story, so please be kind ;-) Also, English isn't my first language, and while I was taught British English at school, years of TV and books screwed this up somehow and an occasional American spelling might find its way into the mix. Sorry about that.
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.
Author's Notes: I've taken some liberties as to Henry's age (which I simply don't know) and as I don't know anything about retiring ages for cops in California, I went with the assumption that he was around 30 when Shawn was born, making him 60 now (though to me he always seems younger).
Not Everybody Loves Surprises
It was the perfect gift. Well, it had to be, considering how long it had taken to pick it out. But of course there were many things to be considered, after all this was a special case. It couldn't be something lavishly expensive, first of all because as a matter of fact he wasn't rich, and secondly because that would have seemed inappropriate, considering their relationship was somewhat…distant. Okay, pretty distant, all things considered. But the times when he could have passed the whole thing by with a gift card were long gone, as well. Around twenty-five years gone by. So it had to be something in between cheap and incredibly expensive on the prize-range.
And of course it had to be something useable. No shoe-polishing set, no warm slippers, no ties, no knit socks, and he'd drop dead before he went out and bought a Hawaiian shirt anywhere. Shawn shuddered at the thought of presenting his father with something totally unusable. The look he imagined in Henry's eyes alone was enough to make him shy away from buying some random gift, and the endless possibilities of how Henry would use said gift to torture Shawn for years on end put a final lid on buying the first thing he came across.
Which was exactly the reason why Shawn had spent his spare time for all the past week browsing stores, browsing the net, and randomly driving by his father's house on the off chance that Henry might jump out onto the street and yell out his favourite birthday present. Well, it had been worth a try. And on one occasion Henry had indeed jumped out on the street and yelled at him, but that might have been due to Shawn driving his bike around the block for half an hour, lost in thought about The Birthday Present. Yes, The Birthday present. It had earned the capital letters with all the fuss that had been attached to it.
All right, so his father didn't turn sixty everyday, Shawn was ready and willing to admit that. And any other year he might have gotten out of worrying about presents by avoiding his father all day, making the obligatory call in the evening when the chances of Henry asking Shawn to come over were zero. After all, Henry himself had his own rules about birthday presents as well, as the 4 months belated gold watch had shown. Avoiding his fathers birthdays had worked fine for the past years, but this year Chief Vick had set an end to that.
Or, to be more precise, Chief Vick and his father's poker buddies. Seeing Henry's sixtieth anniversary approach, they had really had the incredibly stupid idea to throw a surprise party for Henry. A surprise party for Henry Spencer. Shawn didn't know whether he should laugh or cry. But they had thought it a good idea and once things had gotten into motion, there had been no stopping them.
Henry still had quite a number of friends on the force from his time on active duty. And his poker buddies had rounded up his remaining friends. Adding Shawn and Gus to that list, suddenly Shawn had found himself in the middle of preparations, with people calling him whether his father would prefer meatballs or chicken salad, what kind of dips they should bring along, would there be beer or should somebody organise a keg. Strangely enough, none of the food questions were pineapple-related, which Shawn found extremely disturbing, and nobody asked what they should bring Henry as a gift, either.
It led Shawn to two conclusions. The first was that he definitely needed to get a few pineapples for the buffet. The second conclusion was that everybody else was not as clueless as he was when it came to buying presents for his father, but then again not everybody was Henry Spencer's son. One of his poker buddies might give a gift certificate to Henry and receive a smile, a thank you and a pat on the back in return. Were it Shawn who handed over the gift certificate it would be cleaning out the garage and fixing the roof until he was sixty himself. Life wasn't fair.
But none of that mattered right now, because Shawn had found the perfect gift. He might have pretended not to be interested in all the lessons Henry had tried to teach him over the years, but some things had stuck. And in all honesty, there had been a time when Shawn had indeed enjoyed fishing himself, though he had never fancied his father's extensive fishing tours on the boat. But he definitely knew enough about fishing to know that the fishing rod which was currently disassembled, packed into an oblong box and strapped on his back, was a whole shot better than the fishing rods Henry owned. And it hadn't even cost a fortune. So what if he had had to take a two hour drive to get it at a wholesale dealership which sold the rods a whole lot cheaper than any store in Santa Barbara? It was the result that mattered.
Soon he'd be back, and with hours to spare to wrap the box, change his clothes, wait for Gus to fetch him and get to his father's house. His bike was rolling smoothly down the road, and Shawn took a moment to relax himself. As usual, it had all worked out in the end. He needn't have worried, but strangely he always did when Henry was concerned. He definitely didn't need another thing for his father to berate him for, the list was already far too long.
Suddenly, the bike underneath him began to stutter. Frowning, Shawn went off the gas, but the bike was already slowing without his doing anything. As he came to a stand on the side of the road, his eyes fell on the fuel gauge. Empty. Shawn wanted to yell, he wanted to scream and kick himself. Why hadn't he checked his fuel before he had started his way back to Santa Barbara? Now he was stuck here, on a deserted side road because he hadn't wanted to take the freeway. Chances that any cars would come by and take him along were slim, and if he walked he'd definitely be too late for his father's birthday. Just great. Really great.
As the engine gave a final stutter and then died, Shawn got up from his bike with a sigh and pulled out his cell phone.
Gus answered on the third ring.
"Don't tell me you didn't get the fishing rod. I will not come to the party tonight if it already promises to become another episode of Shawn and his Dad yelling at each other."
Shawn rolled his eyes. "Gee Gus, we can really be glad that somebody invented caller ID. Otherwise you'd have to wait for me to say something before you start yelling, and imagine how inconveniencing that would be."
"Did you get the fishing rod, Shawn?"
Shawn sighed. "Yes, I got the rod. It only needs a layer of wrapping paper, the it's ready to be handed over."
Gus waited for a moment, and when Shawn didn't offer an explanation for his call, he was forced to ask.
"Shawn, if you got the fishing rod, then why are you calling me?"
"Well, you see, there might be another little problem that needs overcoming."
"I ran out of gas."
The sigh that came out of the earpiece of Shawn's cell phone would have made any martyr proud.
"Where are you?"
Half an hour, maybe forty minutes, Gus had said. It took all of five minutes to find a place where he could stash his bike for the night. There was just no way he'd be able to get the bike into the little blue thing Gus called a car. He only hoped that his Dad would let him borrow the truck tomorrow to retrieve the bike.
Still at least twenty-five minutes left. Well, it wouldn't hurt to walk a bit into the direction Gus would be coming from. Not that he'd be able to cover all that great a distance, but Shawn guessed that Gus would appreciate the thought.
It hadn't been a really nice day so far, which might just ruin the plans Chief Vick and the poker buddies had made for a barbeque, but with the weather around this time of year one never knew. It might seem bright and shiny in the morning, only to cloud up around noon and rain cats and dogs in the evening, or it might be the other way around. Today, it had been cloudy and cold all day long, but even though the forecasters had promised the clouds to break up in the late afternoon, right now they were only seeming to get denser and darker.
As the first drops of rain hit Shawn on the nose, he tried to ignore them, telling himself that no person on earth could have so much bad luck in such a short span of time. A minute later, the sky opened its floodgates, and the heavy downpour had Shawn drenched within a matter of moments.
"This just can't be happening!!!", Shawn yelled, kicking randomly at stones on the side of the road as around him the raindrops danced on the concrete. "This can't be happening! Not today! No!"
And of course, there was nothing anywhere in sight under which he could have sought shelter from the rain. Nothing at all. Despite the leather jacket he always wore when on his bike, he could already feel the water soaking his shirt and jeans, and now it was definitely too late to put on his helmet again to at least keep his head dry.
With a loud and long yell, Shawn jumped up and down in frustration a couple of times, then he wiped the water out of his eyes, wiped his bangs off his forehead and continued walking down the road towards Santa Barbara. Walking or standing still didn't make that much of a difference right now, and if he kept walking then maybe he wouldn't get too cold.
Numbly, Shawn kept putting one foot in front of the other, walking on the side of the road, his head bent and making himself as small as possible, as he walked through the rain. One foot in front of the other, mumbling obscenities about Californian weather, his own stupidity for not checking the fuel, and his father for just making his day with The Birthday Present, until finally a small blue car approached, honking as the driver saw Shawn walking down the road.
"I can't believe you", Shawn said as he shifted uncomfortably in the passenger seat. "Plastic seat coverings?"
"It's a company car", Gus replied calmly, his eyes fixed on the road. "And you were drenched."
"Were? Still am drenched, thank you very much. The plastic is not really helping in getting me dry, you know?"
"What should I have done? Brought towels? Who is driving around with towels in their trunks?"
Shawn rolled his eyes and let his head fall back against the plastic-covered headrest. "I don't know, Gus. Californians? You know, in case they go to the beach? That trunk of yours scares me. I mean, plastic seat coverings?"
"They did come in handy today."
first aid kits? Car repair utensils? And, as if to mock me in my
dripping wet state, you drive around with a trunk full of water
bottles, but there's no single blanket or towel in sight?"
Gus drew a deep breath to calm himself. "This is California, Shawn. I wouldn't want the car to break down in the middle of nowhere in a Californian summer without water or any way to help myself."
Shawn chuckled. "First of all, I don't think you and little blueberry here ever left inhabited areas during the past year. And even if your car broke down somewhere in the great uninhabited hot place, which it never will because you never drive to any such places, the car repair utensils wouldn't help you any because you don't know the first thing about repairing cars. So in any case, all the contents of your trunk are going to help you with is to keep you hydrated and occupied in case your car ever breaks down."
Gus harrumphed in the back of his throat and kept his eyes firmly locked on the road, ignoring his dripping friend on the passenger seat.
But Shawn wasn't finished yet. "And what if we need the trunk for something…you know – trunk related? Like putting stuff in it? You've got it stuffed to the brim with emergency equipment, where do you put the stuff you need to transport?"
Gus' left eye twitched a little. "It's a company car, Shawn. Not a truck."
"Not that you use it to do company stuff all that often, anyway."
"Oh, and whose fault is that?"
"Not mine", Shawn said firmly. "I wanted to get a Psych company car, you were against it, if you care to remember."
"Shawn, you wanted to buy a bright red Porsche…"
"…for car chases and fast getaways. The perfect car for that."
Gus nodded. "Sure. And also, it's perfect for staying inconspicuous during stakeouts. Or for transporting things, given that the Porsche has such a large trunk to begin with. Not to mention that gas prizes are through the roof, and the Porsche is known to be one of the most economic cars in that regard."
"Well, if we'd had a Porsche, you could have been here to fetch me a lot quicker. I wouldn't have been drenched to the bone, and I wouldn't have had to spend an hour in fear of being devoured by a pack of mountain lions."
"Mountain lions aren't pack animals, they're solitary. And they generally don't attack people, we're not exactly in their scheme of prey. And besides, the speed limit also applies to Porsches, despite the general misconception of Porsche drivers."
Shawn frowned. "Gus, the least you could do is pretend to think for a moment before you come up with those facts. It's scary."
Gus only harrumphed in the back of his throat and kept his eyes focussed on the road. Shawn shifted uncomfortably in the passenger seat, his wet jeans bottom sliding back and forth on the plastic covering as if he was sitting on a waterslide. He only hoped Gus didn't have to take some abrupt turns, otherwise he'd be in danger of sliding off his seat. However, it might be fun to try this out on a serpentine road at some point in the future, if his mood were any better it promised to be fun.
"Can you turn up the heat a little?", Shawn asked after a few moments. "I'm cold."
Gus shook his head.
"Radiator doesn't work. I'll take the car to have it fixed first
thing Monday morning."
"What, Burton "Chop-Shop" Guster didn't have a spare radiator in his trunk which he could put in while waiting at a red light?"
"How would you like walking the rest of the way?", Gus asked in a tight voice.
"Well, it wouldn't matter all that much, seeing that it stopped raining the moment I got into the car. I guess getting me drenched was all the purpose this rain served. If I didn't know any better, I'd say it's all Dad's work. I don't know what he wants to punish me for, but it can't be that all this happens to me just because for once I want to buy him a birthday present. Even the weather is on his side!"
It was true. Only a few minutes after Gus had turned on the road and picked Shawn up, the rain had stopped as suddenly as it had started, and by now the sun was breaking through the clouds.
"Stop whining, Shawn. So you got a little wet, big deal. If you'd checked your fuel gauge earlier it wouldn't have happened, so stop blaming the heavens or your father for something that was in fact your fault."
"You'd speak differently if it were you who was carrying around the extra weight of at least fifteen galleons of water."
"I wouldn't have gotten wet on account of my owning a proper vehicle."
Shawn sighed. "You sound like my Dad. Stop it."
Gus shrugged. "You got the fishing rod. That's the thing that counts."
Shawn rolled his eyes. "Yeah. And with the luck I'm having, Dad will take one look at it and say 'Nice fishing rod, Shawn. Great idea, seeing that I already own two fishing rods myself, I'll just grow a third arm to use the new one'. He'll find something to belittle it. He'll probably be pissed at the surprise party anyway."
"No he won't. You wracked your brains for so long, and we both know it's a good present. Now stop whining, that won't make anything better. Happy thoughts, Shawn."
"Yeah, happy thoughts. Shower. Hot shower. Dry towels. Best friends who actually have towels in their car when they fetch their drenching wet friends. Happy thoughts."
"At least the thing with the barbeque might still work out", Gus said, ignoring Shawn's words.
Shawn didn't answer. He didn't really care about the barbeque or his father's party right now. All he wanted was to get out of his sodden clothes and under a hot shower, and then he'd be ready to face the world again.
Gus dropped Shawn off at his apartment building after another twenty minutes of uneventful and silent driving. Shawn hurried upstairs and began to get rid of his still dripping clothes as soon as the door had closed behind him. Shedding socks and shorts last, he stumbled into the bathroom, turned the shower on hot and let it run warm for a few moments before stepping under the spray.
Fragments of a moment later, he jumped out of the shower again with a loud yell, furiously chafing his arms. The water was icy, freezing cold as if somebody had just dropped a piece of iceberg into the water tank on top of his building.
Teeth rattling, Shawn tentatively reached out a hand and held it under the spray of water. Still cold. He checked the tap, but it was turned on "hot". Wrapping a towel around himself, Shawn opened the tap on the bathroom sink, but all that came out was cold water as well.
"What's next?", Shawn yelled with outstretched arms at the bathroom appliances. "Ice-cubes coming out of the shower-head? Icicles from the tab? What did I do to deserve this, can any of you tell me that?"
When no answer was forthcoming from any of the bathroom appliances of doom, Shawn grabbed another towel with a frustrated sigh and started rubbing his hair dry. At the rate things were going, he was in for an interesting rest of the day. He should have known that his father's birthday wouldn't become an easy day to get through, he just hadn't imagine it to be so darn cold.
By the time Gus arrived to fetch Shawn for the party, the fake psychic's mood had deteriorated rapidly. After the shower-debacle, Shawn had done his best to rub himself dry with the use of towels. It hadn't helped getting him warm, so he had wrapped himself up in jeans, warm socks and a sweater. Not appropriate to the weather outside, where the blue sky was by now mocking Shawn mercilessly, but he didn't care. He'd get through this day, with gritted teeth if he had to, but he'd get through the day.
Gus raised an eyebrow at Shawn's appearance as his friend opened the back door of the car, put the wrapped up fishing rod onto the back seat and then got into the passenger seat.
"Didn't I get the memo about the upcoming ice-age?", he asked as he pulled the car away from the curb.
"Very funny", Shawn said through gritted teeth. "Hot water boiler blew, so I couldn't shower after my little swimming session on the road this morning. I'm cold, and your radiator is probably still broken, so please just drive us to my Dad's place so that we can get this over and done with. I just want this day over so that I can crawl into bed and pretend it didn't happen."
He leaned his head back against the head-rest and closed his eyes. A tight ache was forming behind his eyelids, pulsing in time with his heartbeat. Just great, now he had a headache. With a groan, Shawn brought a hand up to cover his eyes against the bright afternoon sun and tried to ignore the pounding in his head.
"Shawn? Shawn, come on, stop playing unconscious. You won't get out of the party that way, believe me."
Slowly, Shawn opened his eyes and looked around. They were standing in the side street behind Henry's house, the place where all the party guests were supposed to hide their cars so that Henry wouldn't get suspicious when he got home. He didn't really remember the remainder of the car drive, meaning he must have dozed off. With a groan he undid his seatbelt and opened the door. As he sat up straight, the pounding in his head was back full force. Shawn groaned again and got out of the car, squinting into the bright sun.
"Drop it, Shawn. If I don't by your act, your father for sure won't buy it, either. It's your father's birthday, being there for the party can't be that bad."
"I'm going to tell you for the last time, Dad hates surprises."
"In normal life you might be right. But everybody loves surprise parties. You'll see."
"You would know it", Shawn mumbled as he got out of the car and took the wrapped fishing rod from the backseat.
"When will your father be back?"
"The poker-buddy-distraction-squad should have taken him for a celebratory trip to Santa Barbara's finest drinking establishments at four, with the purpose and clear instructions of distracting him, not of getting him totally drunk. I hope they'll keep that in mind. They are supposed to bring him back at six sharp."
Shawn checked his watch, then brought his hand up to massage his pounding forehead. Ten to six, which meant that all the preparations should be in place. Except for the barbeque in the back of the house. It would be pointless to start the fire before Henry was home, he'd see the smoke immediately and know that somebody was there. Or worse, he'd call the fire department because he thought his house was on fire. Too much planning had gone into the party to spoil the surprise now. Shawn had even agreed to lift his father's spare keys the day before, handing them out to Chief Vick so that the party preparation team could get into the house after Henry left. So much planning, stealth and sneakiness to prepare the perfect surprise party. Shawn just knew his father would hate it.
Shawn and Gus entered the house through the front door, and for a moment Shawn really had to hide his surprise. They had only had two hours to prepare the party and decorations, but whoever had been involved had done a thorough job. No balloons or confetti, obviously, and no silly party heads either. But the furniture had been moved slightly to accommodate the number of people who'd come, additional chairs had been brought into the room, the large kitchen table was standing against one wall, laden with all kinds of food, and through the open kitchen door Shawn could see Chief Vick and Larson, one of his dad's old friends, wrapping potatoes in tin foil and preparing meat for the barbeque. Former detective Ian McCall, a cop with whom Henry had worked for years, was standing next to the front windows, peeking out occasionally to announce in time when Henry's arrival was due. Everywhere, people were bustling to and fro, placing paper plates on the food table, rearranging chairs and armchairs, and carrying pots and bowls through the room seemingly randomly.
Shawn greeted some known faces, then placed the wrapped fishing rod on a table next to the sofa which already held a stack of wrapped parcels and envelopes – surely containing gift-certificates, Shawn thought sourly – then he went into the kitchen.
There he was greeted with a sight that, had his head not been pounding like mad and had his throat not started to feel scratchy and sore for the past minutes – he'd have enjoyed immensely. Next to Chief Vick and Larson, Carlton Lassiter was standing at the kitchen counter, wearing one of his father's aprons over his shirt. He had a knife in his hand and was cutting onions into ring, tears running down his face.
Putting on a good humoured face just for the sake of it, Shawn stepped up behind Lassiter and forced himself to grin.
"Lassie! Fancy seeing you here!"
Lassiter turned around, his usual look of annoyance on his face as he eyed Shawn.
"Spencer. So kind of you to finally turn up for your own father's party preparations."
Shawn cocked his head. "Oh, but I wouldn't want to rob you of your chance to finally show your emotions, Lassie. I hadn't known you were so sensitive. But of course, how much those poor onions must suffer simply for our nourishment, it's a heartbreaking thought."
Lassiter's jaw clenched and he started to say something, but Shawn had already turned away, walking towards Juliet who was wrapping a fish in tin foil. But he just couldn't resist to start singing, just loud enough for Lassiter to still be able to hear.
"Don't cry for me Lassie-fahace…the truth is the onions love you…"
He chuckled when he heard Lassiter mumble something that sounded likestrangle him, but didn't pay any mind to him. He was just about to say hello to Juliet when McCall's voice called out from the living room. "They're coming!"
Everybody immediately put down what they were holding, Lassiter quickly got rid of the apron, and as quickly and silently as possible, they all filed into the living room where they grouped together around the sofa so that Henry wouldn't see them immediately.
A shadow appeared in front of the door, and while Chief Vick was silently shushing everybody Shawn heard his father insert his key into the door. It swung open, then Henry's gruff voice mumbled "But I'm sure I locked up when we left", only to be cut off by a thundering "SURPRISE!!!" shouted by the twenty people in the room.
Henry stopped, just inside the door, and Shawn noticed that his right hand was straying near his hip, where his gun had always been when he had still been on active duty. With narrowed eyes Henry scanned the room and Shawn only waited for the outburst and the yelling, silently counting down in his head, when suddenly the strangest of things happened.
As the meaning of what was going on in his house was sinking in, Henry Spencer actually smiled. He was still smiling when Chief Vick came up to him, offering her congratulations. And he was still smiling as all other people, his former colleagues from the force, his poker buddies and friends, crowded around him, offering handshakes, hugs and congratulations. Shawn couldn't believe his eyes.
His father hated surprises, he hated not being in the know and not being in control of things. And now more than twenty people had come into his house uninvited, in his absence, had moved furniture, had rummaged around in his kitchen and had invaded Henry Spencer's sacred privacy in unimaginable ways, and he was smiling? Smiling? Shawn didn't have his own key to his father's house, but Henry was smiling because suddenly there was a bunch of uninvited strangers in here?
Suddenly Gus was at his shoulder, grinning widely. "Come on Shawn, let's say hi to your dad, then you can retreat into a corner and grumble all you want because you were wrong about him hating the party."
Shawn shot his friend an icy look, but went over to the small group of people around Henry anyway. He waited until everybody had finished their congratulations and went off to start the barbeque until he made himself noticed.
"Happy Birthday, Dad."
Henry turned towards
his son and watched him with a raised eyebrow for a few moments. "And
that explains how the people got into my house. I knew I had locked
"Hey, why do you suspect me?"
"Because you're the only one who knows where I keep my spare key, Shawn."
"They are policemen, Dad. They have weapons. I had no chance but to give them what they wanted", Shawn said with his hands raised, palms up, in a gesture of innocence. "Besides, just for the record, I told them numerous times that it was a bad idea. But they wouldn't listen to me. So there's no way you can blame this on me."
Shawn realised that his voice had become a little testy, but right now he didn't care. He desperately needed to get something to drink, then maybe his throat would stop hurting so badly.
Henry shrugged. "I actually like the idea. And now I've got to look after the barbeque. Steven said he brought a whole salmon for steaming, I need to see that they get it done right."
And with that, Henry turned around and vanished into the kitchen. Shawn rubbed his temples, then he shook his head to clear it and went in search of something to drink.
Shawn really tried to enjoy himself that evening. He really tried. But it just didn't work. Everybody seemed only too keen to come up to him and say "I told you so". Yeah, right, so he had been wrong about his father hating the surprise. Big deal. No need for everybody to come up to him and rub it in, one after another.
Besides, he felt like shit. He had lifted two aspirin from his father's medicine cabinet earlier and downed them with a large glass of water, but it had done little to alleviate his headache. He had tried to eat a little earlier, but by now his throat felt raw, and merely the smell of the rare steak had turned his stomach, so he had left it be. And he was still cold. He didn't think beer would be a good choice of beverage under those conditions, so he stood in the corner of the living room, nursing another large glass of water and watching the other people in the room.
They all seemed to have fun. Even Lassiter seemed to amuse himself, although he kept throwing dark glances at Shawn every now and then, rubbing at a spot on his shirt. It hadn't been Shawn's fault, really. And it hadn't been deliberate, either. Earlier, as he had been in the kitchen to get some water, Juliet had asked him to bring a glass of wine along. He had poured the wine and had turned around when suddenly he had felt a little dizzy, just as if he had gotten up too fast. Next thing he knew he was looking into the enraged face of Detective Lassiter, who was trying to wipe the growing red wine-stain from his shirt. Shawn had tried to apologize, but Lassiter hadn't even listened properly. And he hadn't believed the part about Shawn feeling dizzy, either.
Well, at least his Dad seemed to have fun. He was standing next to the food table, bottle of beer in his hand, talking and laughing with some old friends from the force. Gus was talking animatedly with some people Shawn vaguely recognised as his father's friends. Pharmaceutical talk for sure. Shawn sighed and took another sip of water, wincing as his throat hurt upon swallowing.
Shawn turned his head to see Juliet standing next to him. In any other situation he'd have appreciated her seeking him out, but right now he was in no mood to have yet somebody else point out that he had been wrong.
"I'm not moping. I think I'm coming down with something, so I don't want to mingle to spread the infection."
Juliet chuckled. "Gus told me about your little problem this morning. It didn't sound too bad."
Shawn shrugged. "Yeah, well. It wasn't too bad for Gus, after all his car remained dry. Me, I wasn't so lucky."
He raised his glass to take another sip of water, but suddenly had to cough. Managing not to spill anything, he straightened up only to find Juliet grinning at him.
"Not bad, but not totally convincing, either."
"Maybe I should just go home."
Juliet frowned. "You wouldn't do that just to be right in the end, would you?"
"What do you mean, just to be right in the end? I'm not feeling well."
Juliet sighed. "Shawn, for days you've told everybody who wanted or didn't want to hear it that your Dad would hate the surprise party. That he'd hold you responsible for it and be mad at you. He didn't, and now you're grumpy that you were wrong. If you go home now just because you can't admit that you were wrong, he's surely going to be absolutely mad at you. Why is it that you want him to be mad at you?"
Shawn shook his head angrily. "I don't want him to be mad at me. I'm just not in the mood for this right now, all right? I've got a killer headache and my throat feels as if I'd swallowed razorblades. I'm just going to sit down somewhere and try to not stop people from enjoying themselves."
"See, you're moping."
Shawn shook his head and walked over to Gus. His best friend no longer was talking with his dad's old friends, instead he was standing there with a plate in his hands, trying to decide between the meatballs and the chicken salad.
"The chicken salad was made by a seventy-two year old vegetarian, if that helps you making your choice", Shawn said as he stepped up to Gus.
"Can't be feeling too bad if you're already joking again."
"Well, as it seems to be the mutual conclusion that I'm moping and can't possibly have caught a serious illness out there in the rain and cold, I can as well make an occasional joke."
Gus rolled his eyes and
started heaping meatballs and dip onto his plate. "There's steak
out on the barbeque, it's really good."
Shawn shook his head. "No thanks, I'm not hungry. Gus, would you mind if I take a little nap in your car?"
"What? You can't be serious. Shawn, it's half past seven. You're never in bed before midnight. You don't do naps. And even if you did, you have an own bed, here in the house."
Shawn sighed. "I know, I just…forget it, all right. I'll just go…somewhere."
"All right", Gus said with a shrug that clearly said "suit yourself."
Not really knowing where to go, Shawn strolled into the kitchen. Some of his father's friends from the force just came in from the back porch, plates with steaks in their hands. Just seeing and smelling the half-done meat, Shawn felt the bile rise in his throat and he bolted from the room into the corridor, praying that the bathroom was empty.
It was, blissfully, and just in time Shawn knelt down in front of the toilet and lost what little he had eaten earlier. Heaving dryly, he stayed just where he was for a few long minutes, waiting for his body to slide back under his control. He was shaking, sweat was running down his face, and it didn't help any that somebody had spilled beer on the mat in front of the tub. The smell assaulted his nostrils just as the heaving had stopped, and promptly Shawn started retching again.
Five endless minutes later, Shawn shakily climbed back to his feet, flushed the toilet and started running the water in the sink. Splashing cold water on his face was a blessed relief, but he knew it was only temporary. He was definitely getting sick, no matter what everybody else said.
Just as Shawn was about to turn around and leave the bathroom again, the door opened and Larson stood in the doorframe. He took in Shawn's shaky and pale appearance, the stench of vomit and beer in the air, and grinned widely.
"Henry", he called back into the hallway. "Seems your son can't hold his liquor." He turned back towards Shawn. "Should hold off of the beer if you can't handle it, kid."
"Yeah, whatever", Shawn mumbled, rubbed his face dry with a towel and squeezed past Larson into the corridor. Lying down in his old room didn't sound all too bad right now. He'd surely be able to sleep despite the music and the sounds of twenty-something people celebrating in the living room. To be honest, he'd probably be able to sleep through an air-strike right now. But just as he turned towards the stairs, his father's voice called out from the kitchen.
"Shawn, come here for a moment!"
With a sound that was half-sigh, half-groan, Shawn turned on the spot and walked into the kitchen. Things could hardly get much worse, could they?
His father was standing near the door with a man Shawn hadn't seen before. Upon his son's arrival, Henry waved Shawn over.
"Gone a bit too hard on the beer I hear?"
Shawn just rolled his eyes.
"Well, Richard had car trouble, that's why he's late. I want to get him some of the salmon before it's gone. Could you bring the crab salad he brought into the living room? If you think you manage in your condition, that is."
Shawn just nodded wordlessly, and as Henry led Richard out onto the porch Shawn grabbed the bowl of salad and turned towards the living room. Crab salad was Henry's favourite food, Shawn distinctly remembered that one of his poker buddies had promised to bring it along. So Richard was a poker buddy. Not that Shawn particularly cared right now.
Shawn balanced the bowl with his hands and barely avoided a near-collision with some tipsy ex-cops who chose just that moment to come storming into the kitchen as if they were about to storm a bank that was being robbed.
Dizzily, Shawn pivoted on one foot to avoid a head-on collision, but he bumped into one of the cops with his shoulder, stumbled forward and saw in slow-motion as the bowl slid out of his hands. He tried to make a grab for it, but his hands didn't feel like his own anymore, and he could only stand by and watch as the bowl crashed to the floor, spreading crabmeat, sour cream and little green spots of parsley everywhere.
Shawn looked up at the angry growl only to find the two cops gone, but his father standing there, towering over Shawn and the crab salad mess on the floor. That was more like the look Shawn had expected to see on Henry's face at the beginning of the surprise party, but right now it was focussed solely on Shawn, and on Shawn alone.
"What exactly is your problem, Shawn?"
"I didn't drop it on purpose, Dad", Shawn mumbled wearily. He didn't really have the energy to get into lengthy explanations right now, and his father surely would not believe him anyway.
"No, you never do anything on purpose, Shawn." Henry's voice was getting louder now. "Everybody has put such an effort into this party, remarkably nobody has told me anything about your help in all this, you've merely been moping sourly in a corner for the entire evening, trying to bring everybody else down, and as that hasn't worked now you start throwing the food around? Just what is wrong with you, can't you just let everybody else enjoy an evening without you standing in the spotlight?"
Shawn drew breath to respond, then decided that he really didn't know what to say, and sighed.
"Now how about you get a broom and a mop and clean up that mess you made before people start treading it around the house."
"Sure", Shawn mumbled and headed off towards the garage. Henry looked after him, a bit astonished at his son's lack of putting up a fight as he usually did, but then he went out to look after Richard and the salmon again.
Shawn stomped towards the garage, not really knowing whether he was angry or not. Actually he was not. There was no space for being angry right now, not while he was feeling like shit. It definitely wasn't getting better, and as nobody seemed to believe him that he could possibly have gotten sick after being soaked in the rain for half an hour, he'd just search for a way to make a silent exit as soon as he had cleaned away the crab salad.
Shawn opened the garage door and started looking for the broom and the other cleaning utensils which his father normally stored behind the door. But the room was too dim, and his head was too heavy and still pounding, and his legs weren't really willing to move just now. Surely the crab salad could remain on the floor for another few moments while he tried to get his strength back.
Shawn slid down the wall and sat on the floor. He pressed his cheek against the cool concrete for a moment and closed his eyes. He'd get up in a moment and get the cleaning utensils. Just a moment, until his head cleared.
Just a moment
Then everything went black.
The garage was hot. Had somebody put the barbeque in here? But no, the barbeque was fixed in position, that couldn't be. But then why was it so hot? He had been so cold all day long, why was he so hot now? Wasn't there anybody who could open a window? Or a door, if he was still in the garage. But there had been so many people in the house, surely somebody could open a window.
He wanted to reach up to get rid of the warm sweater, but he couldn't move. He panicked. What was going on here? Why couldn't he move? Where was he, and where was everybody else? Where was his Dad, and Gus, Juliet and Lassie? The Chief? Somebody, anybody who could make the heat stop. It was driving him crazy.
But there were voices, weren't there? He couldn't make out what the were saying, or who was talking, but if there were voices then he wasn't alone, was he?
But why weren't those voices helping him? Couldn't they see that he was burning up?
And then he was cold. From one moment to the next, his world of heat and pain turned into a world of ice and shivering. Who would do something like this? He really had tried his best not to ruin the birthday, he had gotten a really good present for his dad, and he had tried to stay away from the others at the party so he wouldn't ruin their mood. But then he had dropped the stupid crab salad and everything had become unbearably hot, and now everything was just so cold and that couldn't be normal and why was nobody helping him and where was he and what had happened and why was it getting so dark…so cold and so dark…so dark
The next thing Shawn became aware of was an enormous pounding in his head. He didn't quite know where he was, and a little disconcerted by this he struggled to open his eyes.
Even though the room was half-dark, the little light only served to increase his headache. And the fact that he recognised the room immediately only confused Shawn even more. How had he ended up in his old bedroom in his father's house? With leaden arms he lifted the blanket covering him and peered underneath. And, come to think of it, how did he end up in bed, wearing a pair of his father's pyjama pants and one of his father's t-shirts?
The last thing he remembered was his father's birthday party. He had felt a bit under the weather after his adventures in the rain, and he had a vivid memory of dropping the bowl with his father's favourite crab salad, but the rest was…fuzzy, to say the least. With a low groan, Shawn drew back the blanket and collected his strength in an attempt to get out of bed.
As if on cue, the door to the room opened. "And where do you think you are going, Shawn?"
Shawn for the life of him couldn't think of a possible answer to that, so he sank back into the mattress and watched as his father approached the bed and placed a tray on the bedside table.
"What happened?", Shawn said, horrified at the croaking sound that came out instead of his usual voice. It sounded strangely stuffed, probably due to the fact that he only now realised that his sinuses were completely blocked.
Henry sat down in a chair next to the bed – since when was a chair standing beside the bed in his old room? – and without saying a word placed a hand on Shawn's forehead. With his other hand, Henry pulled the blanket Shawn had removed earlier back up to his shoulders. Shawn was surprised, to say the least.
"Dad?", he croaked.
"Well, at least your fever seems to have gone down."
Henry sighed and poured a glass of water before facing his son again. "The fever you got after taking a little walk in the rain yesterday."
Yesterday? What was happening here?
"Now Shawn, I want you to drink this. You need to hydrate, you haven't drunk anything in hours."
Before Shawn could even search his foggy brain for a possible response to that statement, there suddenly was a hand on the back of his head and his father was propping him up and brought the glass of water to Shawn's lips. After taking the first sip, Shawn greedily downed the entire glass. He hadn't even noticed how thirsty he had been.
When he had finished, Henry helped him lie down again, rearranged the blankets and put the empty glass away.
"I want you to drink some more while you're awake. There's also tea."
Shawn just didn't understand what was going on here. From the bits and pieces he could recollect of the previous day, he had probably crashed his father's birthday party. Yet there had been no yelling and no accusations so far, and Henry was behaving extremely odd. There was only one explanation Shawn could think of.
"Am I dying?"
His dad didn't laugh, and neither did he explain what had happened. Instead, he sighed and rubbed the bridge of his nose with his index finger.
"What do you remember of last night?"
Shawn shrugged. "Barbeque. I spilled wine over Lassie's shirt. I dropped the crab salad. You yelled."
Henry sighed again. "That's all?"
Shawn nodded, immediately regretting the motion as his headache got worse.
Henry wordlessly took a thermometer from the bedside table, shook it a few times, then unceremoniously stuck it in Shawn's mouth.
"Keep it under your tongue for two minutes."
Shawn wriggled the thermometer around in his mouth, then looked up at Henry and raised his eyebrow. Henry sighed again. Since when did he do that so often?
"After you dropped the salad I told you to get a broom and mop to clean up the mess. When you didn't come back after a few minutes I went to look for you. Found you leaning against the garage wall, shivering and barely conscious, running a fever. I called Gus and we brought you to bed. Which is when I got to know about your little walk in the rain, by the way. And keep that thermometer under your tongue, Shawn."
Shawn, who had moved the thermometer to be able to swallow, rolled his eyes and readjusted it. Henry nodded and continued.
"Half an hour later, I checked in on you and your fever had gotten worse. 103° and rising. So I called off the party and Gus and I tried to get your fever down with cold compresses."
Shawn frowned. Had Henry just said what he thought he had? He had called off the party, the party which he had enjoyed immensely? Just bloody great, he'd never hear the end of that one.
"Sorry", he rasped out, which immediately got him another sharp look for dislodging the thermometer.
"It's all right", Henry said and turned to fill another glass of water.
Shawn couldn't quite believe what he had just heard. He had to be dying, there was no other explanation for Henry to off-handily brushing off the abrupt end of his birthday party.
Henry reached out and pulled the thermometer from Shawn's mouth. He checked the temperature and nodded with another small exhalation of breath. "101°. It's definitely gotten down."
"How high was it?"
"Well, about an hour after I sent everybody away, your fever spiked. Seeing that you were already at 103° before, it wasn't a pretty thing. You had a seizure, Shawn. And your fever was so high that we had to put you in a tub with cold water to get it down. Luckily for you, somebody brought a whole bag of ice for the drinks. I'd have been pretty pissed if I had to clear out my ice box to cool the water down. The fish in there weren't meant to be in the water again."
"Sorry", Shawn mumbled again, at a loss for something to say, though the mere thought about sharing a tub with the bodies of frozen fish was a little disconcerting.
Henry forced a smile and shook his head at the same time, and his behaviour was more scary than anything Shawn had seen in a long time.
"You didn't do it on purpose, so there's no need to be sorry, Shawn."
Shawn frowned. "Wow, it must have been pretty bad for you to say that."
"Shawn, you had a seizure due to a dangerously high fever. Of course it was bad. Worse than just bad. It definitely wasn't a fun way to spend the evening. I wanted to bring you to the hospital, but the doctor said all they could do there would be to monitor you, as well."
"I called doctor Miller when your fever spiked. He was here for over an hour after we brought your fever down, and he said you could as well stay here if somebody was there to monitor you as long as your fever didn't go up to 104° again."
Doctor Miller had been their family doctor for as long as Shawn could remember, but like his father he had retired over two years ago. Seeing the frown on his face, Henry smiled.
"He's only living two blocks away. He was here faster than any ambulance could have been."
Right now, Shawn decided, all that was a bit much to take in. His head was hurting, his mind was foggy, and he was getting tired again.
"Downstairs, crashed on the couch. I told him to get some sleep, he was close to passing out."
Henry didn't look as if he had gotten much rest, either. There were dark shadows under his eyes and he radiated exhaustion.
"Maybe you should get some sleep, too. I'll be all right, I think."
Henry nodded. "Yeah, I probably will. Oh, and Gus brought your death trap here this morning."
"How did he do that?"
Henry shrugged. "I gave him the truck to get it. It's no big deal."
No big deal, sure. Henry didn't give the truck to others. The last time Shawn had wanted to borrow the truck, he had had to win a game of chess against his father.
"Hey, Gus wanted to do something for you. I guess he felt a little guilty because he didn't believe that you were getting sick. As did the others. O'Hara, the chief, even Lassiter."
And Henry, judged from the look on his face.
Shawn attempted a shrug. "I'd probably have made a big fuss about being left in the rain even if I hadn't gotten sick. Story of my life, boy who cried wolf and all that."
"The people who matter still should be able to tell the difference, though", Henry said, and Shawn understood it as the apology that it was meant to be.
"Go get some sleep", Shawn said.
Henry nodded and got up from the chair. "There's water and tea, and I'll be back in an hour to check on your fever again. Call if you need anything."
He walked towards the door, but turned around before he opened it. "Oh and Shawn?"
"Thanks for the fishing rod."
Shawn frowned. "How did you know that it was from me?"
"Shawn, there were pineapples on the wrapping paper."
"Oh, right. You're welcome."
"It's a good rod. How did you know?"
"Sometimes I do listen to what you tell me."
Henry smiled. "Really? You could have fooled me."
"One of my biggest talents."
"We're going to try it out once you're up and about again, how about that?"
Shawn smiled. "Sounds good."
"Well, I'll let you get some rest then. Just one more thing."
"What's that?", Shawn asked, his eyes already dropping close again.
"You were right. I normally hate surprises."
"And the party?"
Henry shrugged. "Well, you only turn sixty once. And there were quite a number of people whom I hadn't seen in a long time. I think once every sixty years I can stand a surprise. But not more than one per day, so think about that the next time you think about getting sick during a party."
"Will do. Good night, Dad."
But Shawn's eyes were already closed and he was fast asleep.