A/n: Yes, I'm still working on my ch fics. Fear not, I haven't forgotten! BHBK just ate my brain today--because of this song. The song I used in this short little piece is Willie Nelson: You Were Always On My Mind. You should check it out on youtube, it's a very good song. It just shoved BHBK down my throat when I listened to it, and I had to write to get those two out of my head. That's all.
Shawn's hands clenched and unclenched on the steering wheel, the palms beginning to slick with sweat. He couldn't believe that Bret had called him, especially since he'd went into retirement, finally putting a lifetime of demons to rest. Bret's voice on the phone that night had told Shawn he'd clearly had too much to drink, but his words, even laced with liquor had seemed so sincere. The two of them had traded simple apologies, and a brief hug, and had agreed their past was behind them. But apparently, Bret had not felt those few words enough and through his skewed mindset he had asked Shawn to meet him when the company was in Houston the next week. So, Shawn had driven from San Antonio, and now found himself parked in a space outside a tiny coffee shop. The evening was late, shadows hanging around outside, and there wouldn't be much time for second thoughts. According to the small sign on the door, which Shawn was squinting at, the shop closed in a half an hour. Glancing back at the digital numbers on the dash clock, he knew the seconds were quickly passing by, just like all those years had in between.
With a sigh, Shawn drew a hand over his ponytail, and stepped out of his truck. His cowboy boots clicked against the black top, and he swung the door shut. He wished he could still the nerves tangling in his belly, as if he had never sat down and talked with Bret before, but he couldn't do much about them. Bret had just seemed like such a mess on the phone, as opposed to his usually composed and stoic self, and Shawn only hoped this conversation wouldn't be as hard as he had imagined it to be when he was uselessly trying to fall asleep last night.
Shawn walked the few paces to the door, and stopped. His hand rested against the metal bar, both ready and unready to push it open. His eyes scanned the small space through the glass door, and saw that the place was nearly deserted. A young woman with skin the rich color of the drinks she made, stood leaning boredly against the counter, playing with the sparsely funded tip jar. One patron sat near the large front window, glasses slipped down on her nose, as her fingers tapped mutely away at the keys of her laptop. Then, in the back corner was the man Shawn had came to see. Bret was leaning a little over the table, his face tilted up, eyes moving over the abstract artwork hung over the table. After a small quirk of his eyebrow, Bret turned to his coffee, bowed his head towards the cup, and blew at the hot liquid.
Shawn pushed the door open, startling at the dainty jingle of a bell that signaled his entry. His face warmed with a blush as Bret looked up from his cup, and offered a small smile. Shawn nodded curtly and moved towards the barista who had straightened up and was not so subtly tapping a finger on the lid of the tip jar. She gave him a wide smile that was almost creepy, and Shawn was almost worried that she had recognized him, and was going to pull him over the counter or something. With little chuckle at the thought, Shawn glanced up at the signs displaying various types of drink and pastries, and their ridiculous prices. After much contemplation and confusion over what was what, and wondering why it seemed like it was written in French or something, he just asked for a plain coffee. He flashed a smile at the barista as his hand gripped the foam cup, and he stuck a generous tip into her jar.
He moved slowly towards the table in the corner, hoping not to drip or spill the steaming drink all over himself or the floor. He made it to the table safely and sat down, taking the plastic lid off the cup to let it cool a bit. Bret smiled warmly, and pulled something out of his shirt pocket. It was a napkin, and when Bret unfolded it there was a perfect, wonderful looking cookie.
"I saved one for you." Bret said quietly, pushing the napkin and its special occupant over to Shawn. "Chocolate chip, I know they're your favorite."
Shawn played with the corner of the napkin, touched at the simple gesture, and genuinely surprised that Bret remembered. Shawn swallowed hard, and broke off a piece of the cookie, and slipped the morsel between his lips.
Shawn chewed the piece slowly, letting the sweet, chocolate, flavor move over his tongue. He tried to avoid Bret's eyes, the soft brown ones that he used to gaze into so often, the ones he used to love. Shawn coughed, suddenly feeling his throat close up on him. He sipped at the coffee in hopes of not choking on the cookie, and grimaced when the black drink burned his lips. Bret laughed a little.
"Are you okay over there?"
"Uh—yeah I think so." Shawn licked his lips. Bret snagged a napkin from the metal holder on the table, reached across, and dabbed at a drip that had trickled down Shawn's chin. Shawn's cheeks turned rosy once more, and he shifted in his chair, and plucked at a button on his shirt. "So Bret…you didn't call me here to share cookies and coffee, did you?"
Bret played with the rumpled napkin in his hand. He sighed, and chewed at his lip, trying to find some words. Between the years he'd said a lot of them, and all wrong, and now that they were here he couldn't find enough to make a meaningful sentence.
"I was afraid I'd choke up like this, Shawn." Bret finally got out, his voice low, his eyes trying to hold onto Shawn's flitting ones.
"Just say whatever you need to say Bret, I'll listen, and then…we can both go on about our lives." Shawn picked a pink sugar packet off the tiny holder on the table, tore it, and dumped the glittering crystals into his coffee, even though he didn't drink it that way. He waited for Bret to speak, watching the Canadian as his aging, yet still nimble fingers fidgeted with the napkin more. The filament-like tissue ripped. Shawn grabbed another sugar packet, and accidentally dropped the whole thing into the cup, gaining a small laugh from Bret.
"I'm sorry I'm making you so nervous Shawn."
"It's like we're strangers or something." Bret said, and after the words had sunk in, the small smile dropped completely from his face. Shawn cast his blue-eyed gaze into his lap, and kept it trained on the split-ends of his hair, as he twirled and tugged at a few strands.
"Here." Bret said, and he slid something else across the table. Shawn picked it up. It was a disc in a white envelope, with a clear window across the front. The plain silver front of the disc winked at Shawn as he turned it around to look at the writing, black magic marker scrawled in a way only Bret could. It said simply 'For Shawn'.
"It says everything I want to say to you. I just…I can't Shawn."
Bret scooted his chair back, and stood. Shawn looked up at him finally, and caught his eyes. Their sight met one another, each seeing emptiness in the other that neither man wanted to acknowledge. Bret moved past Shawn, his hand brushing against Shawn's shoulder, and squeezing only for a moment. Shawn stayed seated at the table, staring down at the disc. He heard the tinkle of the bell over the door of the café, but he didn't look up to watch Bret leave.
After what seemed like such a long time, Shawn moved from the spot he seemed frozen too. He left the coffee on the table, and the cookie with the little nibble out of it, and the empty sugar packets. He would have cleaned up the mess, but his heart was racing, and he was afraid that another moment there would find him crying. He remembered to turn to the barista before he left, giving her a little nod, and barely managing to turn away from her before the tear slipped over his cheek. Outside, Shawn wiped it away on the back of his hand, and climbed into his truck, and started it. He sat there for a few more moments with the engine running, gingerly touching the cased CD as though it was porcelain. The envelope crinkled as he opened it and slipped the circle out, and fed it into the player.
The soft flutter of piano keys drifted from the speakers, and Shawn knew the song even before the words came. His eyes filled with tears, and when the distinctive voice of Willie Nelson met his ears singing slow and heart-felt, the tears fell.
Maybe I didn't love you
Quite as often as I could have
And maybe I didn't treat you
Quite as good as I should have
If I made you feel second best
Girl I'm sorry I was blind
You were always on my mind
You were always on my mind
Shawn's trembling hands curtained his face. The hot tears slipped against his palms and through the fingers as he wept.
And maybe I didn't hold you
All those lonely, lonely times
And I guess I never told you
I'm so happy you were mine
Little things I should have said and done
I just never took the time
But you were always on my mind
You were always on my mind
The barista moved towards the door, and changed the sign from "Open" to "Closed". She leaned against the glass, watching the man in the truck as he wiped his eyes. She shook her head and went to the table Shawn had left, and cleaned up the mess: The still full coffee, the empty sugar packs, the cookie with the missing corner—chocolate chip—Bret had remembered that. To her it meant nothing, and she tossed it all in the garbage. Outside the man in the truck peered through his windshield, his piercing cobalt eyes lost under twin seas, the gaze in them far, far away. In the truck cab the song began to fade down to the end. In Shawn's hand he held his cell phone, his fingers thinking of opening it to call a name he wouldn't have expected to have programmed into it mere months ago, but a name that would forever be programmed into his heart. Shawn took a deep breath as the song whispered away, and he looked down at the tiny screen on his phone. Shawn closed his eyes, and pressed a button.
The song started over again, just as Shawn had directed it to with the push of his finger. The piano played softly under the words, words which seemed to be spoken in a voice different from the singer.
You were always on my mind
You were always on my mind.