Disclaimer: The television show 'Psych' and the characters of 'Psych' are not mine. This story intends no copyright infringement.
20 Father-son bonding moments in which father and son don't actually bond:
1) They say that fathers recognize their children right away, but to Henry, Shawn is just a pointy-headed, red-faced, squalling mini-monster plumped into his arms that he's scared of breaking. His wife lies exhausted on the hospital bed, beaming like a marathon runner who just crossed the finish line. "Isn't he gorgeous," she coos.
"Not really," Henry grunts. He softens at her glare. "I'm sure he'll grow up to be better looking," he says, consolingly.
He doesn't know how Shawn does it, being new-born and all. That should mean that he's got an empty stomach, right? But Shawn still manages to spit up on Henry. Great. Henry can already see how the rest of their relationship is going to shape up.
2) It might have taken Shawn over four months to actually smile at him, but he makes up for it by speaking, "Dad," as his first word.
Of course he has to go and wreck it by speaking, "Bad," as his second, and combining the two in a never-ending litany: "Bad Dad! Bad Dad!"
Henry's wife thinks it's hilarious. She tells him it's his own fault for always saying, "No, Shawn. Bad! Don't do that. That's bad!" But Henry has always stood by his belief that discipline has to start early, especially with the kind of kid he can already tell his son is going to grow up to be. Being called a 'Bad Dad' by his toddler son is a bit embarrassing, though. Especially at the annual SBPD picnic in front of his partner and his boss.
3) Of course Shawn couldn't start walking like all the other kids, no; he had to start climbing first. And then falling.
For the life of him, Henry cannot figure out how Shawn managed to get on top of the fridge, or how Shawn didn't hurt himself more when he tumbled off it - but still, his son's face is pale with pain, and Henry can't seem to get to the hospital emergency room fast enough. He thought it would be a landmark moment when Shawn started to take his first steps. Instead, he's too scared to be proud.
4) Shawn's mom is 'too sick and tired to get out of bed, honest honey, there's not enough aspirin in the world to make me mobile', so it's up to Henry to take Shawn to his first day of school ever.
On the drive over, Shawn is thrumming with excitement, face pressed up against the window. He's too excited to even talk.
Henry has this Plan where he's going to walk Shawn into his class, greet Shawn's new teacher, and make sure his kid will be all right. Then he'll hug Shawn goodbye and tell him to be good.
Instead what happens is: as soon as they're parked in front of the school, Shawn throws open the passenger door and yelps out a, "Bye Dad! See you later!" Henry is about to follow after him, to berate him and make sure that he gets to the right class and doesn't get lost along the way - when his pager buzzes. The number is an emergency one; Henry sighs.
Shawn's a smart kid. He should be all right on his own.
5) It's bring-your-kid-to-work day, which isn't a new experience for either Henry or Shawn; but still, Henry figures he should put in some extra effort or something since Shawn will have to give a report to his teacher about what he experienced at his dad's workplace. So he thinks he should take Shawn out in the squad car - though he won't run the sirens or the lights, because fun as that might be for an impressionable boy, it's also irresponsible and unsafe - maybe show him around the cells. Only Henry gets called out to a crime scene just after they get into the station, and he has to leave Shawn at his desk (because there is no way he's bringing his son into a domestic dispute where there have been gunshots sounded). By the time he gets back, Shawn has charmed all of his colleagues as well as half the convicts waiting to be processed. When Henry offers to take Shawn out for a spin in the car, Shawn shakes his head, points down the hall, says, "Officer Holston said she would fingerprint me! I'm going to go do that!" He takes off and leaves Henry behind to do the paperwork on his latest arrest; later on, at home, Shawn leaves inky black fingerprints on the walls and counter tops, and Henry is irritated enough to yell at him for the mess. Shawn pouts and says, "You suck." Which just figures, Henry thinks wearily.
6) So this one time, when Henry convinces Gus that fishing is fun, and then Gus convinces Shawn to come along on a fishing trip, and then Shawn actually catches something for once - which is a big achievement, considering that the kid barely knows how to cast a line, doesn't know how to entice passing fish with a twitching lure, has no technique when it comes to reeling the fish in - well, right then Henry could have said, "Gee, son! Look at that! Good job!"
Instead he grunted. "It's too small," he said.
Shawn's beaming grin dimmed in brilliance. "It's not that small," he said.
"It's too small," Henry repeated. "Throw it back."
He's not surprised in the least when Shawn pouts all the way home and refuses to go on another fishing trip for the next five months.
7) In retrospect, he probably should have told Shawn that all Shawn had to do was ask for help. It wasn't like he honestly expected the kid to know how to build something without even a little bit of supervision or instruction. But Shawn was old enough to ask on his own, and besides, Henry really didn't want a dog around. He knew who would end up taking care of it.
8) Shawn is supposed to be learning how to drive, but instead he's just sitting there, silent, gripping the wheel so tightly that his knuckles are white.
"You're not even going to start the engine?" Henry says, in the passenger seat with his arms crossed over his chest, tone sarcastic and mocking.
Shawn's lips thin.
"I don't have all day," Henry says. "Come on, Shawn. You said you wanted to do this. Let's go."
Wordlessly, Shawn takes the keys out of the ignition, unbuckles his seat belt, and gets out of the truck. Henry doesn't turn his head to watch as Shawn goes back inside of the house.
He probably shouldn't have started the driving lesson with an hour and a half lecture on why Shawn needed to Respect the Rules of the Road... though Henry wasn't going to regret making Shawn watch the 'safe driving or else' videos. It was better to see mangled and dismembered bodies being pulled from car wrecks than it was to be them.
9) Shawn's been weird all day, fluttering around the house, changing his clothes every few minutes, messing with his hair even more than usual.
Henry finally asks, "What the hell has gotten into you?"
Shawn grimaces. "I've got date tonight." He doesn't have to say he's nervous about it, because even someone less observant than Henry could tell that.
"Oh," Henry says. He goes back to reading the paper.
"That all you have to say? 'Oh'?"
Henry looks up at his floppy-haired son, and says, "What do you want me to say? Don't screw it up? Be a gentleman? Open all the doors for her?"
Shawn looks taken aback. He says, "Well, I was hoping you might let me take the truck."
"Not happening," Henry says, and that's that.
10) It's a hard thing when someone close to you dies.
Shawn thought about saying to his dad, "I'm sorry grandpa is gone."
But Henry was shrouded in grim silence, hulking in his seat on the deck chair, and Shawn decided that he should probably just leave, go over to Gus's, maybe spend the night. It wasn't like his dad needed him there. It wasn't like his dad needed him ever, at all.
11) Apparently Shawn is heartbroken, because he hasn't left his room or bathed for the last several days. Henry never went through this adolescent stage where True Love is so very important. He likes to think he was a more practical sort, even as a teenager.
But he sucks it up and tries to do his duty anyways, knocking on Shawn's door and calling, "You ever coming out?" There's no answer; he sighs. "Fine. I guess I'm coming in." He takes the lack of protest as tacit permission to push open Shawn's door, step inside of Shawn's room, and stand (uncomfortably, arms awkward at his side) in front of his son.
Shawn is curled up on his bed, looking morose, wearing a ratty t-shirt and faded sweatpants, his blankets slung around his shoulders and over his lap. His eyes are red-rimmed and he looks exhausted, as if he hasn't slept in days.
"You look like a mess," Henry says. "Who is she?"
"Huh?" Shawn looks up at him with slightly glazed eyes. "She who?"
"She - the girl - whoever it was that broke your heart."
Shawn manages to muster enough energy to give Henry a scornful look. "A girl? Seriously? You think I'd get all bent out of shape over a girl?"
Henry frowns. He feels a headache building in his brain. "Okay, then why the hell are you acting like this?"
"It's... well... it's Gus!" Shawn wails. "He says he doesn't want to be friends. He says he can't take it anymore!"
Henry scowls, crosses his arms over his chest, and reflects that he hasn't seen Gus around lately. "Why would he say something like that?"
"I don't know!" Shawn says. "It came out of nowhere. I was following him on his date with Cindy Shu and throwing things at his head, like I always do, when he turned around and pushed me into a wall and told me that I was out of line and that he wasn't ever going to talk to me again. And I mean, he says that just about every day - like when I trip him in the hallways, or get everyone to call him Big Head Burton - but I think he actually means it this time! He hasn't returned any of my calls!"
Henry stares at his son - his idiotic, impossible son - for a long moment. Then he shakes his head, slowly, turns, and leaves the room.
"Wha- hey! Aren't you going to give me fatherly advice?" Shawn calls after him.
Henry slams the door behind him. He figures that's eloquent enough.
12) Okay, so Henry probably should have known that it was a bad idea to mix Shawn with the great outdoors. The kid whined like a kicked puppy when his hair-gel ran out, so asking him to sleep in a tent was probably pushing it a bit. Still, would it have been so hard for Shawn to just sit around a campfire for an hour or two? Roast a hot dog or a marshmallow? Apparently so, by the way his kid is pounding on the outside of the truck door, yelling for Henry to hurry up with the keys, yelping, "Oh god! The mosquitoes!"
13) It's his high school graduation, and his dad is nowhere to be found.
Shawn scowls. Figures. Either his dad forgot about the big day entirely - which Shawn so does not buy, given his old man's freakish memory (not to mention the many, many signs and notices Shawn left all over the house) - or got called in to work a case.
This is what he gets, having a workaholic father. It's probably a good thing, in retrospect, that he never put himself out to become Valedictorian, even though the school counsellors wept when he started neglecting school, bemoaning the rapid fall of his formerly flawless 4.0 GPA - because if he had put all that work into it (though to be perfectly honest, it wouldn't actually have been a whole lot of work) only to have his own father not show up, it would be even more lame than this.
14) "Seriously? You're seriously going to do this?"
"You have the right to remain silent," Henry said, grim, shoving his son's arms behind his back and cuffing them.
"Is this some obscure bonding ritual to you?"
"Anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law. You have the right to have an attorney present during questioning." Henry ignored his son's date, brassy blonde and skimpily clothed, watching them large-eyed and intimidated.
"Come on, Dad. So I borrowed your truck. It's nothing I haven't done before!"
"If you cannot afford an attorney, one will be appointed for you." Henry tucked his son's head down and pushed Shawn into the back of his patrol car - perhaps with slightly unnecessary force. "Now shut up, you cocky son of a bitch."
Shawn glares up at him, jaw clenched and eyes flinty. He doesn't look like a petulant youth. He looks like he hates his father. "Gee, Dad," he says. "Just because she left you doesn't mean you should talk about Mom that way."
Henry slams the car door.
15) The day Shawn legally becomes an adult, he's nowhere near Henry.
He does send a postcard, however: sunny beaches, smiling sun-kissed people, boundless blue skies. The back of it reads, "Glad you're not here."
Shawn probably meant it primarily as a joking jab. But it's the first communication Henry's had with his son for over a year, and he feels the sting.
16) He hadn't even known Shawn was back in Santa Barbara.
Henry paces the length of the waiting room. Gus is still, watches his restlessness with dark, unreadable eyes.
"That damn motorcycle!" Henry bursts out, punches the wall, leans his forehead against it.
When they finally get to go in and see Shawn, Shawn is still out - pale from blood loss, swaddled in hospital sheets. Henry and Gus take their coffee breaks in shifts, so that one of them is always next to Shawn. When Shawn finally wakes up, it's Henry's turn to troop down to the cafeteria and grab caffeine; he hears his son's raspy, pained voice from down the hall and stands outside Shawn's hospital room door for a second, relief a palpable presence on his tongue.
He freezes when he hears Shawn say, weakly, "Guess my old man didn't care enough to come in after all, huh."
To hell with this. He knows Shawn's all right. He doesn't have to stick around.
Henry turns and leaves without waiting to hear Gus's reply.
17) Henry has to admit, Shawn looks good in a tux.
"No inspirational words, Dad? It's not every day your son gets married."
Henry grunts. "It's not a real wedding. I don't even know why I have to be here."
"Because it needs to be convincing," Shawn grins. "Now help me with my bow tie. I always strangle myself when I try to do it."
Henry rolls his eyes, but moves to help Shawn anyway. He says, "You know, you could figure out an easier way to catch your killer. One that doesn't cost the SBPD thousands of dollars footing the bill for this little shin-dig of yours."
"But that wouldn't be as fun," Shawn says.
Henry glares at him and knots the bow tie harder than necessary, listening with smug satisfaction to Shawn's pained yelp.
18) Chief Vick had been the one to suggest it, but even she had to admit that the whole debacle had been a mistake right from the beginning. Gus could have told her that - he'd spent his entire childhood and teen years front row centre in the Henry-and-Shawn Show, he knew nothing good would ever come of hiring both father and son as outside consultants on the same case.
Chief Vick's rationale had been something along the lines of the idea that of course it would make sense to put the father-son team together, that of course they would be able to crack it wide open between their shared expertise - that it might even serve as a way for them to gain a deeper understanding of one another, form an unbeatable team, maybe work together again in the future.
She hadn't counted on the fact that neither did well when told what to do by the other. That Shawn would seek to beat his father, that Henry would seek to subdue his son.
Of course the only logical way for it to end was for both of them to end up in separate jail cells. It was the only place they couldn't kill each other.
It all just gave Gus a headache.
19) Henry's been fighting off this cold for weeks, but it's a hardy virus and finally lays him low. He dimly remembers grabbing a bunch of his blankets and bringing them downstairs to watch television on the couch - and then a wave of hot nausea - and then puking all over his floor. He was too weak and shaky-shivering to clean it up, or even to stand, so he turned his head enough to avoid the smell and went back to sleep. I'll deal with it when I wake up, he thought to himself, delirious.
When he did wake up, however, the mess had been miraculously cleaned. His blankets were no longer sweat-soaked; actually, they smelled freshly laundered. A covered pot was on the coffee table in front of him, spoon on top of the lid; checking it out, Henry discovered home-made chicken noodle soup. His own recipe.
Shawn was nowhere to be seen. But still. Henry weakly grinned.
20) It's the Psych Agency's two year anniversary and Henry is throwing his son a surprise party. He's proud of his son for sticking with something for longer than six months - for being good at it, for doing good with it.
Still, surprise parties probably work a whole lot better when the guest of honour actually shows up.
The whole group of police officers and friends are gathered in the Psych Agency's main room, light music playing in the background, snack foods arrayed on all available flat surfaces. Henry had told Shawn to meet him here a half hour ago, and still, his son is nowhere to be found.
Carlton Lassiter is keeping him company, distracting him from getting irritated; when the phone rings and, before anyone can answer it, the call goes straight to voice mail.
Shawn's obnoxious voice echoes out to the crowd, "Howdy folks! I decided this psychic detective gig was getting old, so I hit the road early this morning! I'll probably come back into town in a few months. Maybe. I'll make sure to look all of you wonderful people up then!"
Everyone is muttering to one another, Juliet O'Hara looking shocked, turning to Gus for reassurances; Chief Vick almost dropping her daughter; Lassiter gape-mouthed. Henry feels tension gather behind his eyes, that familiar annoyance; and then - "Psych!" Shawn's voice still coming from the answering machine. "Geez, I can't believe you guys actually believed me. More than that, I can't believe you actually tried to surprise me."
All of a sudden, Shawn's voice is coming from two locations - the answering machine, and the doorway, where Henry's son stands clad in his brown leather jacket and rakish grin. "I am psychic, you know." He hangs up his cel phone, throws his arms up, and says, "Let's get this party started!"
After that little performance, there's no way in hell Henry's going to congratulate his son on a job well done. He lets himself smile, though.
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