They were thirteen when Shawn gave him the first one.
Ms. Miller's class was by far the most boring for Gus. The holocaust was interesting and all, and the Romans were cool, but Gus found history class generally depressing. Which was why he's so glad that he had it with Shawn sitting by his side. His best friend always made things fun, he lightened the mood after an hour of seeing skeletons walking through the concentration camps.
Thankfully, the week's chapter was all on Egypt. But Shawn had Susan Lee teach him origami yesterday, so random paper birds kept making their way onto Gus' desk. He continued to knock the birds to the floor while simultaneously trying to take notes on Hatshepsut. Finally, the sixth crane had the message 'Open Me' on its beak. It was a bit of a struggle trying to unravel the folded paper without ripping it, and Gus was somewhat scared, not knowing what Shawn had hidden in the folds. Gus looked over to see his friend staring intently at his open text book, and now he was more curious than ever.
Gus got morning detention for disrupting the class when he fell out of his chair and knocked over the desk. The paper crane was buried at the bottom of the shoe box that held his baseball cards. Shawn slept over that Friday, and they had their first kiss while playing Nintendo in Gus' room.
Dude, Susan asked me out! Don't think I'm gonna take her up though, she's not really my type.
And yeah, I didn't know I had a type either. Apparently I do, my subconscious decided to fill me in on this little fact the night before.
By the way, I've got a crush on you.
They were eighteen when Shawn gave him the second.
The funeral went off without a hitch... Well, as un-hitch like as a funeral can go. Shawn refused to let go of Gus' jacket sleeve, something he found both touching and strange. Shawn was naturally a touchy-feely sort of guy, most likely because he grew up without a whole lot of physical contact. But Shawn was never clingy. He was much too independent for that. Gus just assumed that Shawn needed some form of comfort, and he quite obviously wasn't going to get it from his father.
The elder Spencer practically refused to look at his son. Gus couldn't help the anger that rose inside every time he saw Mr. Spencer avoid Shawn's gaze. He knew the man must be going through a difficult time with his ex-wife's passing, but that was no reason to treat Shawn like he didn't exist.
Shawn seemed reluctant to part ways after the funeral, but hugged Gus good-bye with a determined face. The car ride home was silent, with his parents shooting worried looks at Gus in the back seat. He gave them a weak smile to let them know he was fine.
Once he was in his room, Gus carefully striped off his suit. Jacket temporarily hung on the back of his chair, then shoes, put back in the box and on the floor in his closet. Pants were placed onto the hanger, dress shirt next. Then Gus picked the jacket back up and put it on the hanger with the rest of the suit. As he was doing so, he felt something he didn't remember being in his jacket pocket. After some searching, he found a crumpled up piece of yellow paper. It joined the five-year-old paper crane.
Never leave me, ok?
They were nineteen when Shawn gave him the third.
It was barely a week after Shawn's birthday and Gus was almost a full year into college. There was nothing about the day that would have given away the night's events. It was a perfectly normal morning, afternoon, and evening. He went to class, met Shawn for lunch, who complained about his father bothering him about joining the academy, then came more classes, dinner also with Shawn, studying and homework.
At two in the morning, Gus found himself staring at his ceiling, wondering why he was awake. Something was wrong, something had woken him up, but he had no idea what. It was a chilling feeling, knowing that there was something amiss and not having a clue what it was. But Gus knew it, he could feel it deep in his mind.
Gus started when he felt a sharp edge against his cheek. In the moonlight he could make out a small square, a folded up piece of paper, on his pillow. He didn't want to think about how Shawn broke into his house.
I know you're going to be more than pissed, but I can't stand this place anymore. It's just my dad, and you're so busy with college, and all the memories here. I just had to leave.
I'll call you as soon as I get to where ever I'm going.
I'll miss you.
They were twenty-seven when Shawn gave him the fourth.
Gus hadn't seen Shawn in almost a year, only getting a call every week from a cell (if Shawn had one at the time) or a payphone. He bitched Shawn out a couple of times about all the collect calls, but never told him to stop. It was a price he was more than willing to pay. So far, each call had never lasted less than two hours, something else he had to pay for, and something else he really didn't mind.
When they talked, Shawn kept them on mundane topics. How's your job going? Anything new in town? You haven't got a new best friend, right? Any hotties keeping you warm?
He answers all of Shawn's questions, but doesn't get to ask many of his own. Why did you leave me again? What are you doing out there? Are you alright? When will I see you again?
Shawn never tells him much, but he did say last time that he was leaving Chicago, so Gus might not get a call from him for a while. This happened every time Shawn decided to leave another state, it always took a while for him to find a place to settle. But that was almost two months ago and now Gus was starting to worry. Shawn didn't just completely lose touch with him for a month and a half, he always did something to make sure Gus knew he was fine. He knew Mr. Spencer never really heard from Shawn, but he was getting desperate enough to ask the man to go all detective-like and find his son. Shawn would be pissed for quite a while, but at least he'd know the other man was fine.
Finally, the day he'd made up his mind to talk to Mr. Spencer, Gus got a postcard from San Jose, Costa Rica. After the wave of relief washed over him, Gus' anger took hold...and his curiosity. How the hell do you go from Chicago to Costa Rica?
I know, I know. You can smack me the next time I'm around, promise. I won't even whine about it. I guess nostalgia just bit me in the ass and I had to get away. Another country seemed like a good idea.
And dude! I'm a river rafter! Out in the wild, man against beast, me against nature! How bitchin' is that? The monkeys here are almost as creepy as the raccoons back home though... I swear one of them's stalking me...
They're almost thirty when Gus finds the fifth.
After growing up with Shawn and all the years he's known the crazy man, you would think nothing could startle him anymore. But it was one hell of a shock when he came home from work and found Shawn snoring on his couch. He was tempted to wake him up, smack him like Shawn promised he could three years ago. But there were dark circles under his eyes and the way his body sagged into the cushions makes Gus decide to let Shawn sleep.
It's been almost four years since he's seen his best friend, but Shawn hasn't changed much at all. Maybe a little skinnier, something he'll have to fix, maybe a little more tan, and maybe a little older. Shawn doesn't seem to age like the rest of the world, he still looked about twenty-five, despite how tired he seemed. No wrinkles or anything of the sort, only laugh lines around his mouth.
He's used to Shawn's coming and going by now, but that didn't keep him from hoping Shawn would stay this time. It's always hard when Shawn moves on again, and Gus has to be satisfied with only hearing the man's voice. He wants his friend to stay with him, be with him again, so maybe they can go back to being more than friends. A voice isn't enough for him when he'd rather have the person, have the body. He couldn't touch a voice.
As Shawn slept, Gus went to the back of his room, top shelf of his closet, and pulled out an old shoebox, looking for the notes buried under the baseball cards. Before he could open it, a yellow sticky note on the cover diverted his attention.
You're an adorable little pack rat, you know?
By the way, I love you.