A/N: Sorry, y'all. A much, much longer delay than I had intended – the whole job/family/grad school combo is kicking my ass just a bit. Also, this chapter was extremely hard to write – definitely the hardest one by far…and possibly the last. I feel like I could end the story here but haven't decided yet. (Feedback will be much appreciated in that regard.) Anyway, Shawn and Gus have such an awesome friendship and I wanted to get them right. Hopefully I did. Standard disclaimers apply, etc. Thanks for your patience! -abby
Gus was not sure what to expect as he pushed open the door to Shawn's room, and hoped that he'd given Henry enough time to talk to his son alone. He couldn't wait any longer.
"Oh, god. Shawn," Gus murmured as he got his first glimpse of his lifelong best friend. He looks terrible. Gus felt his notoriously weak stomach roll at the sight of the various lines and tubes running into Shawn's frail body. He swallowed hard and turned away.
Henry had been lightly dozing at the bedside, but awakened when he heard Gus enter. He stood and put a reassuring hand on the younger man's shoulder. "Don't worry. He's going to be fine," Henry said softly, careful not to disturb his sleeping son. Gus looked doubtful, and Henry insisted. "He is."
Still unconvinced, Gus nodded slowly as Henry continued, "I hate to do this, because I told Shawn I'd be here when he woke up." He rubbed his aching forehead, pain and exhaustion evident. "But I could really use a decent cup of coffee. He'll be okay as long as you're in here," he told Gus with a sigh. "Can you stay for a little while?"
"Absolutely," Gus agreed emphatically. "I'm not going anywhere," he assured the older man. "Take as much time as you need."
Henry nodded his thanks, and glanced at his son again before quietly slipping out of the room.
Gus sat down in the uncomfortable bedside chair and settled in to wait. He had no intention of leaving until he talked to his friend. Even though he won't be able to say anything, Gus thought sadly. The very idea of his gregarious pal being totally mute - even temporarily - was disturbing. It's so wrong to see him like this.
It was getting late, and it wasn't long before Gus succumbed to the fading light and dozed. Unfortunately he was awakened almost immediately.
Though apparently still asleep, Shawn thrashed wildly in the bed. His head flopped from side to side, arms shaking, fists clenching and opening rapidly. The heart monitor was going haywire, and Gus knew it was only a matter of seconds before the nurses arrived. He's going to hurt himself before they get here, Gus thought frantically, and put a hand on either side of his friend's head to try and keep him from ripping out the ventilator. "Shawn! Shawn, calm down!"
Two nurses burst through the door just as their patient suddenly stilled. Shawn's heart rate began to stabilize, and his tense body relaxed. Gus hovered worriedly as the nurses quickly checked the injured man's vitals. "I think he just had a nightmare," one of them assured Gus with a comforting smile. "Pretty understandable after everything he's been through." She made a few notes on Shawn's chart. "Let us know if you need anything," she said to Gus as they made their way to the door.
Gus plopped back into one of the bedside chairs and sighed heavily. God, Shawn. You've got to stop scaring the hell out of me. I can't take it. His own heart slowed and eventually ceased hammering its terrified rhythm inside his chest. He was in the middle of attempting to find a comfortable position when he noticed that Shawn was stirring, but gently this time. Slowly the hazel eyes opened and as Gus watched hopefully, they groggily focused on him.
Gus knew his friend so well that he read Shawn's face as clearly as if the words had been spoken aloud. Buddy! Shawn's exhausted, pain-filled eyes lit up. I wondered where you were.
Gus smiled easily in return, pleased that his friend didn't seem to remember the nightmare. "Hey. I've been here all along, but wanted to give your dad a chance to see you first. He'll be back in a little while." He paused. "You scared me, Shawn. You scared us both," he said softly, referring to Henry. "Don't you ever do that again."
Believe me, Shawn thought, I don't plan to. He wondered, frustrated, how long he would be voiceless. This sucks.
Gus could see the annoyance in Shawn's expression and didn't need to wonder what was causing it. Suddenly he had an idea and stood. "Hang on, Shawn," he said, heading for the door. "I'll be right back."
Shawn busied himself with groping for the bed control and raising it to a more upright position as he waited on his friend to return. Less than two minutes later, Gus was back at Shawn's side.
"Here you go, buddy," Gus said triumphantly. He placed a tiny dry-erase board by Shawn's right hand, and gently placed the marker in his weak friend's thin fingers.
A faint smile drifted across Shawn's pale face, partially obscured by the ventilator. He fumbled with the marker for a minute, then managed to scribble a single word across the small white board.
Gus tilted his head and read aloud. "Thanks. Shawn, what are you talking about?"
Shawn quirked an eyebrow at his buddy's choice of words.
Gus rolled his eyes, an often automatic gesture when it came to Shawn. He was glad to have the opportunity to perform it again. "You know what I mean. Why are you thanking me?" For a brief instant Gus was back in Henry Spencer's den, holding on to his dying friend's hand and willing him to live. He was thanking us then too. God, Shawn. Don't do this. Gus took a deep breath and refocused on the present. Stop it. He didn't die. He's here, now, and he's going to be okay.
Shawn concentrated on writing another word below the first. "Phone," Gus read, then finally realized what Shawn meant. "You know it was me that called the house looking for you, then sent Lassiter and Juliet when no one picked up."
Yes! You saved our lives. You saved me. Shawn carefully nodded in confirmation. Thank you.
Gus smiled. "Anytime." He quickly frowned then clarified, "but not anytime soon. Because like I said, you scared the living hell out of me, Shawn. God. I thought you were dead, right there on your father's floor. I have never been so terrified in my entire life."
I know. I'm sorry, Shawn thought. And he was. I'm sorry for this whole nightmare. Suddenly he remembered something important and scribbled another word on his board.
"Laura?" Gus sighed. He had hoped to avoid that particular conversation until Henry returned. Or maybe forever. When he didn't answer right away, he could feel Shawn's keen eyes tracking his every movement.
Come on, buddy. Don't hold out on me. Shawn was ready to hear the truth. I hope.
"All right, all right," Gus put up his hands in surrender. He judiciously recapped the situation, taking care to gauge Shawn's reactions. When Shawn's heart rate quickened at the mention of his captor, Gus halted the explanation and put a gentle hand on his friend's arm. "They got him," Gus said reassuringly. "You're safe, Shawn. McCall's not going to be able to hurt you anymore."
I know. Shawn tried to calm down. He could feel Gus watching with concern as his heart rate continued to spike. The nurses will come if you can't settle down. You're okay, Shawn reminded himself. Don't freak out. Don't do that again. He'd had quite enough of losing control. Gus is here. I'm safe. It's over. God, it's all over. Shawn closed his eyes and tried to breathe slowly, fighting against the ventilator. Vaguely he felt a warm hand grab his and he clung to it gratefully.
Gus squeezed Shawn's trembling fingers as firmly as he dared. "Hey, take it easy," he soothed. Gus could identify the beginnings of another panic attack. He wanted to fix it, to do whatever he could to make Shawn feel safe. Change the subject. Suddenly he remembered something and forced a note of cheerfulness into his voice as he exclaimed, "Guess what I saw downtown yesterday?"
Shawn instantly knew what Gus was doing and was glad for the distraction. He fixated on his friend's words, concentrating on the familiar voice in an effort to control the terror. Gus is here. I'm okay, it's all okay. He opened his eyes and looked up questioningly.
"Over on Main there's a brand new smoothie shop. I stuck my head in and they have a specialty pineapple-flavored one, man. It looks really good."
Gus could see that Shawn was listening and felt his friend's fingers tighten around his own. Encouraged, he kept talking. "I'll get you one, buddy. Okay? As soon as they get you off these machines I'll bring you the biggest pineapple smoothie that place has. But you have to promise me something first, okay? Promise me." He looked down, meeting Shawn's bloodshot hazel eyes.
Shawn nodded resolutely, determined to do whatever it was that Gus wanted. He's my best friend. And he saved my life, it's the least I can do.
"Promise me that when I bring you that smoothie, that you'll drink every bit of it. That's all I want." And it was. Because in Gus' mind, if Shawn was drinking huge pineapple smoothies then everything was the way it should be. Everything was normal, and he had his best friend back. "Can you do that for me, Shawn?"
Gus fell silent and let Shawn think it over. After a moment, the injured man came to a conclusion. Yeah, buddy, Shawn decided. I can do that. For you. As he lay there, weak and tired and utterly helpless, Shawn slowly began to understand why such a simple thing was so important to Gus. As realization dawned, he looked at his friend and saw the tension and worry in his face. Shawn knew that he was the reason. It was the same look that had been etched on Henry's face for days - ever since Shawn woke up on the driveway, terrified and trembling in his father's arms.
Shawn hated that look. Even more, he hated being the cause.
He rolled his eyes up to Gus, who met his gaze unwaveringly. Shawn let go of his friend's hand and again fumbled awkwardly with the dry-erase marker before scrawling out three letters.
Gus beamed. At the look of pure, unashamed joy on his buddy's face, Shawn allowed his eyes to close. But this time it was overwhelming relief that washed over him, not fear. He could feel his heart rate returning to normal as he opened them again. With an effort, he clenched his hand weakly into a fist and lifted it slightly off the bed.
And Gus grinned - a wide, genuine, happy grin - as he gently bumped Shawn's fist with his own. Shawn found himself smiling too, as broadly as the ventilator would allow.
It was in that moment they both knew. Shawn was going to be just fine.