After everything that had happened recently, what with finally meeting Mr. Yin only to lose him as well as breaking up with Abigail, the last thing Shawn Spencer needed was an alien invasion in downtown Santa Barbara - disgusting aliens who wore human skin and farted a lot to boot. But there they were and it seemed that the only person capable of saving the day was a fake psychic detective and his best friend (okay, there was the police, but Lassiter was too busy denying the existence of aliens to concentrate on the real threat). That is until the dynamic duo split up to hunt down the main boss which Shawn had the honor of bumping into in an empty construction site and while running away from him (and quite possibly screaming like a little child) literally stumbled into the open doors of an innocent-looking blue police box that wasn't so innocent-looking on the inside. Equally not innocent-looking was the skinny man in pinstripes and sneakers who had outrageous hair and eyes like a mad man who called himself the Doctor and nearly kicked the intruder out until Shawn (correctly) inferred that he was being chased by an alien in a human's skin and the Doctor was also not human and definitely not wearing someone else's skin and was a fan of mysteries and also possibly a fan of delicious flavors and yeah the little blue box was not only bigger on the inside than the out but a spaceship of some kind. And then the Slitheen that had been chasing him roared its way into the console room and the next hour went by in a blur as the Doctor and Shawn worked together to send the Slitheen back into outer space where they belonged, not on Earth stealing people's skins for laughs.
It was dark by the time Shawn followed the Doctor back to the TARDIS which was still sitting unnoticed in an alley, which was pretty surprising considering the crime rate skyrocketing since the fake psychic opened shop several years back. That's when the Doctor made his offer: just one trip. One trip and he'd show Shawn Spencer any place and any time . . . and then send him back home in the blink of an eye so no one would notice he'd been gone long. It was the offer of a lifetime, and the look on the Doctor's face suggested it was a onetime offer and he didn't do this just for anyone.
Shawn took one last look in the direction of the Psych office before looking back at the Doctor, framed in the police box's doorway by a faint blue light, and thought about his job and Gus and the police department and spending another Saturday night alone. He grinned. "Let's do this." He followed the Doctor's light footsteps into the interior of the TARDIS without looking back, and the sound of the ship dematerializing could be heard all over the city.
After all the initial culture shock over being in an interdimensional ship that flew through time and space and could also think for itself, Shawn was finally asked where he wanted to go.
"Anywhere, anywhen," the Doctor reminded him, darting around the controls like an excited chickadee.
So Shawn decided on the future ("Preferably a future with jetpacks and flying cars and pillows that comb your hair while you sleep") and that is how they ended up spending what was meant to be a relaxing trip into the world of tomorrow being kidnapped by a bunch of anti-technology guerrillas who threw them into a dark dungeon cell while impounding the TARDIS, threatening to burn the box to a crisp if they didn't reveal their boss' name (because naturally everyone has a boss) by sunrise. It was cold and wet and smelled suspiciously of asparagus and Shawn regretted not bringing his windbreaker with him. So he inched up to the Doctor on the narrow hard bench they were sharing and tried not to think about how nice the Time Lord smelled compared to the overwhelming pee scent around them. Or the fact that he hadn't seen a single flying car before being imprisoned. And definitely not how much he wished the Doctor would stop mumbling into his damn magic wand thing and at least make an effort of sharing the warmth of his brown duster for just one minute.
"So what, is that your magic wand that's gonna get us out of here?" Shawn asked, all the while scanning the room for some sort of escape route. So far, nothing was really setting off any mental pings. Damn.
"Sonic screwdriver, actually. And hopefully it will, if I can get the right frequency on it." The Doctor concentrated heavily on the task in hand, fiddling around with the delicate controls of the screwdriver until the tip of his tongue was peeking out from his teeth in frustration.
"Right. Screwdriver that is also sonic. I'm guessing my local Home Depot wouldn't have that." Another thing to ask Gus about in-depth once he got home. "What were those guys anyway? Isn't it a bit far into the future to be total Luddites?"
"You'd be surprised how far the fear of progress goes with your kind." He grunted as a soft beep sound emitted from the screwdriver - not what he was looking for. "And judging by the papers I saw on them before we were so kindly thrown in here -"
"They're all planning on bombing some special ceremony for the first android mayor of this town. Some kind of bomb designed to take out only people with special implants." Shawn couldn't help but smirk a bit when the Doctor looked up in surprise. "Hey, some of us do this for a living."
The sound of the cell door drawing open like the mechanics of it hadn't been properly cleaned in years had Shawn's eyes swinging around to see who it was. And then two big buff men in futuristic sweatervests and holsters carrying bulky blasters came in and took them by the forearms to drag them into the hallway. He barely registered a plastic clattering noise over the sound of the Doctor's thinly veiled threats-as-insults-as-noises-of-exasperation at their captors. Shawn was about to point out the inherent hypocrisy in carrying weapons when they were supposedly anti-tech but found that their blasters were very handy as clubs as well before falling on the floor, falling against the Doctor's already out cold form. Shawn noted for a brief second that the skin on the back of the Doctor's neck was oddly cool before blacking out.
Shawn woke up to one of the ridiculous looking burly men standing above him, pressing the head of a cold blaster rifle into his forehead. He soon figured out he was strapped to a gurney with no realistic way of getting free, in a room that looked like a reject hospital room from the movie House on Haunted Hill (the remake with Geoffrey Rush and the lady from Heroes, not the original), and that he wasn't the only one getting the special house treatment of a hard board at his back and leather straps digging into his ankles and wrists; he could move his head enough to see the Doctor was just coming to on a gurney beside him, making horrid moaning noises that could wake the dead.
"Yeah, that's a good idea, scare them off enough with those noises and maybe they'll think you're a zombie." Shawn winced as his personal bully boy pressed down a little bit with his gun.
"Wasn't my plan of action to be honest but I'll keep it in mind next time," the Doctor said casually, throwing a long glance around the room. "Another cozy little cottage they've thrown us into, I see."
"You slept in and missed the free continental breakfast," Shawn said, noticing for the first time the actual design of the blaster and trying to make sense of it.
"At least I won't miss the big inauguration, right boys? What with all those big fireworks you lot are planning to shoot off at it?" The Doctor grinned as it became clear he wasn't supposed to know that. And that's when three things happened: Shawn noticed that there were different settings on the guards' guns; the guard above the Doctor had his set to a different one that the guard beside him; the Doctor's guard fired into the Time Lord's skull, sending a pulse of electrical currents through his body. The scream that came out of his mouth was full of pain and was a sound Shawn would soon not forget.
"Your time for talking is over, Time Lord," the guard snarled and positioned the business end of his gun in a more vulnerable spot - right about the Doctor's two hearts. Well, Shawn didn't know about the two hearts thing, but he did know a direct shock to the system like that wouldn't do anyone any good. And there he was, lying uselessly underneath layers of harsh leather straps, writhing against his bindings as if convulsing like a seizuring snake would get him loose. He looked over and saw the Doctor wasn't looking too hot, and that only caused him to panic further.
"Listen to me," the Doctor said through gritted teeth. Beads of sweat were trickling down the man's face. "Do whatever you want with me, but let Shawn go. He's only human, he has no idea what is going on. Let him go and I can help you pull off this assassination attempt smoothly cause with the plans you have now, you're gonna blow the whole thing. There's no way it won't not work if you keep on doing what you're doing. And believe me, every authority in this jurisdiction will be after you once you do, I'd bet my best pair of Converses on it."
Shawn was about to say something like maybe antagonizing their ideas isn't the best strategy until he saw the two guards share a confused look - and then watched as one of them began working on the medieval workings holding Shawn down to the gurney. "We will send the human back to his cell," he said roughly. "The Time Lord we will keep."
The last glimpse Shawn got of the Doctor before being pushed out of the torture chamber and back to his jail cell was the Time Lord giving him a pitiful look, as if he was sorry he had brought the man from Santa Barbara along for the ride in the first place. Of course, that would be a silly think - the Doctor invited him for one trip around the universe, he didn't just push his way inside and declare himself companion for life. Did he? Right, that was a no. Still, the hideous feelings of doubt nagged at his usually sharp mind as his guard (who refused to reveal his name or even his favorite color despite numerous inquiries) shoved Shawn unceremoniously into his cell, loudly locking the door behind him.
He fell onto the hard bench and sighed. This was the worst vacation he had ever been on. Worse of all, he was pretty sure the Doctor was going to be used and then killed like so much tissue paper - and all for a couple of kooks bent on blowing up everything just because they voted an android for mayor. And then there was the no flying car business, and the icky smells that put the seedier sides of California city life to shame. If this was the future, Shawn was glad he probably wouldn't be around to really see it.
"This sucks," Shawn said to no one in particular - and then he saw, in the sparse light from the barred window behind him, something glinting on the dirt floor. Something that was the Doctor's sonic screwdriver.
Seconds later, Shawn was suddenly very grateful for the Doctor's nimble little fingers as the frequency on the screwdriver that had been set seconds before it was dropped was enough to set the entire door into a quivering mess of spilled metal that quickly cooled into frozen slag. He nimbly stepped over the mess and found himself back in the sterile hallways that dominated wherever the hell here was.
"So," Shawn once again said to no one in particular, "this sucks. What do I do now?" He remembered where the TARDIS was parked - but he didn't have a key. So much for that strategy. He eyed up the sonic screwdriver as if it would give him any answers; of course, the screwdriver had none. So he slipped it into a back jean pocket, figuring he was better relying on himself that some bit of alien tech he didn't fully understand. Then he remembered that horrible look in the Doctor's eyes as he was being carted off, and he realized he pretty much had to do anything possible to prove to the alien man that he was worth keeping around.
So he began lurking around to see if he could find his way back to where he'd last seen the Doctor. Naturally, this involved a lot of hiding at the sound of footsteps into abandoned hallways and at one point using of the ol' sonic to loosen the bolts on a air grate so he could hide in the vents while a bunch of important looking men passed by, stomping along while talking loudly of their plans as if no one could hear them.
By the time he had begun opening random doors to see if the Doctor was inside, Shawn was sore and covered in an unmistakable layer of dirt and grime that also had a funky smell to it. One of them led to a broom closet; Shawn had the common decency to grab something that resembled a dangerous looking broom and an official looking jacket to wear as a sort of cover if he got caught, which was always inevitable with him. Another door led to a room of cots on which several people were sleeping; Shawn took great care to be extra quiet as he closed that door. A random door had thrown his sense of direction off completely, as it led into nothing but strong winds and blue sky. He managed to take only a quarter-step out onto thin air before yelping and stepping back, falling flat on his ass as the door closed in front of him. Lesson learned. Sadly, this city had a better air quality that back home - at least that was something the future had going for it.
Holding out his purloined broomstick as if it would actually defend him, Shawn moved on to another door and opened it with more caution that he had the others. He didn't want to step into some freaky dungeon of hacksaws and lasers and whatever the hell they had in here. As the door breezed open under his touch, the sight that lay within wasn't just amazing, it was near impossible. Like the Doctor's TARDIS, it was clearly bigger on the inside that the outside. It also seemed to be holding a tiny supernova, encased in a glass sphere and surrounded by a circular console of glowing buttons and tiny screens like some sort of high-tech museum exhibit. The stellar mass crackled with unreleased energy, and the air inside the room felt supercharged; Shawn could feel every hair on his body slowly rise up in response, causing him to grip his broomstick harder in response.
"Okay, I am officially out of my league here," Shawn admitted, feeling rather small in the face of so much energy. Then he noticed a familiar brown-suited man who had somehow got himself frigging chained to the console and was waving at him with an odd joviality like he wasn't anyone's prisoner.
"I see you got yourself out of that cell easily enough," the Doctor said cheerfully. "Don't suppose you couldn't hand over the sonic screwdriver, I don't fancy being tied up to a stellar explosion waiting to happen any longer than I have to, there's a good lad."
Shawn dumbly handed over the screwdriver and watched as the Doctor made short work of his bindings. "Is this thing dangerous?" he asked when he finally found his voice.
"Oh, of course," the Doctor said, as if he was inferring the exact opposite. "Man-made supernova meant to act as a mini-bomb, take out the entire city. That's why they don't care much about using some technology if it means wiping it out in the long run. They won't be around long enough to see how it ends," he added, and the tone of his voice became coldly serious.
"So do you actually have a plan on how to get rid of this giant ball of trouble then?" Shawn asked.
The Doctor grinned. "Nope!" Then he tossed back the sonic screwdriver to Shawn. "Keep an eye on that, will you?"
"Right. Enough power to blow up an entire city and then some in the hands of lunatics who are looking to go out with a bang and you have no plan." Shawn shrugged. "Sure, why not?"
"What, are you going to tell me you've become an expert at defusing a supernova now?" The Doctor punctuated his words with lighthearted stabs of the air via sonic screwdriver. "Oh, nice - err - rake you've got there."
"It's a broom," Shawn pointed out, feeling foolish. He wasn't used to that at all. He watched the Doctor move towards the controls, intent on figuring out the blasted thing once and for all. A dark shape moved up from the other side of the room - there was another door, Shawn thought briefly before everyone's favorite guard showed up and sent another wave of currents through the Doctor via the back of his neck. Face caught in a look of surprise, the Doctor stumbled forward before falling to his knees, half-conscious and clearly in pain.
"I don't think so," the guard chuckled, grabbing the Doctor by the scruff of his neck like he was only a rag doll in his hand. "Did you think you would get rid of us so easily with your Time Lord treachery?"
"Hey!" Shawn's shout was enough to grab the guard's attention. "Are you guys really that stupid? He's the only one who can fix your stupid weapon and you're going to kill him?"
The guard shrugged. "Yeah, I guess that is stupid." He aimed his gun at Shawn and flicked the setting to something sinister looking. "That's why I'm going to kill you instead. He likes you a lot, so seeing your dead body should be enough reason to keep his greasy little fingers working for us and no one else."
Shawn gulped. His plan (or lack thereof) was backfiring painfully. "But you can't kill me! I'm important too!"
"You are?" Naturally, the guard looked unconvinced.
"Yeah." He looked over at the Doctor, who was fighting unconsciousness from the shock to his system, and his heart sank. This wasn't what he had in mind. Seeing a 900-year-old dimension wanderer in pain wasn't his idea of a good time, especially one who had better hair than he did. "I'm his assistant! I, um, hold his beakers and his calculators and stuff. He can't work without me. Total mess around the old lab without any help."
The Doctor looked up, which was a feat indeed considering the guard was still holding onto his neck. "That's right," he croaked. "I'm rather a pair of butterfingers without Shawn here to help out."
"See?" Shawn said to the guard, ignoring the nervous flutter in his chest. "Dude needs me. So why don't you go off and do guard things while we take care of your giant ball of explodey stuff?"
The guard looked like he'd rather be bashing both of their heads in, but a moment of clarity won the day. "Very well." He dropped the Doctor onto the ground and left the room back the way he came.
As soon as the door closed, Shawn had already sprinted to the Doctor's side, naked fear etched across his face. "You all right?" he asked stupidly.
The Doctor looked up at him with a pained impish grin and the fluttering sensation got worse. "I'll be right as rain in a moment. Well, except for the fact that we're right smack dab next to a controlled explosion and if we don't help them destroy the city they'll happily kill us for our troubles. But other than that, I'm fine."
"Oh good, here I thought we were in serious trouble," Shawn deadpanned. "So, what do we do now?"
"Well," the Doctor said, drawing out the single word like it was far more complex, "we have to get rid of this thing here. And then we have to warn the mayor-elect that there are people trying to kill him - wait, are you volunteering for that bit, is that why your hand is up?"
Shawn lowered his hand. "Um. Yes. I am all for warning city officials their lives are in danger. Totally my forte if I had one. Well that and quoting from grossly unappreciated eighties' movies during inappropriate moments."
"Good decade, the eighties. Can't say I loved the clothes all that much but there you have it." The Doctor gave Shawn's shoulder a light touch as he pulled himself quickly up into a standing position, and Shawn soon followed as he realized being face-to-crotch with him was really really awkward.
"If I give you detailed instructions on how to get out and get to the mayor's office, can you remember them?"
"Of course. I've got memory like an elephant." Shawn failed to mention it was only his visual memory that was like an elephant.
"And you'll get there before the guards notice you're missing, no distractions?"
"What? Of course!" He was a professional after all.
"No side trips to any holographic floating food trucks either?"
"Of course n- wait, what?" Okay, maybe not.
"Just go!" He didn't know if it was the irritation in the Doctor's voice or the fear of having the both of them shot, but Shawn rocketed out of there before realizing the Doctor had never given him the directions. Whoops. Also, he still had the sonic screwdriver. Double whoops. And there was no going back without getting them into trouble. Triple whoops?
The frequency on the screwdriver helped out a lot, though, as it enabled entrance into a previously locked stairwell and into a circular elevator that went sideways; Shawn's stomach made several flips as the lift zigzagged its way to the ground floor. Luckily for Shawn, the front entrance - which looked like an innocent enough office set-up - was apparently all out to lunch (probably at one of those holographic floating food trucks, lucky them).
As the doors opened at the sound of his footsteps, Shawn cast one look back over his shoulder to where he'd come from and took a moment to wonder how in the hell the Doctor managed to stay alive in the universe without an assistant around to save his handsome ass. And then something akin to a high-tech klaxon started going off and Shawn shot out of their like a . . . well, you know. After all, whether you're a private eye or a time/space traveler, there's always an awful lot of running to do.
Shawn had the mayor-elect and his aides and his security team on his heels as he strode purposefully back into the building where he had been kept locked up, and they were being followed by the police and the local media and a large group of citizens who were very much not anti-technology and wanted to see who the hell was trying to kill their soon-to-be-leader. He had all of this pressure at his back who had heard his story and believed him (authorities always came around to his views eventually, he was just that darn charmingly persuasive) and as they pushed their way through the hallways, it was obvious that there was really no way for the anti-tech group to hide.
But even with all this excitement around him, when Shawn and the mayor and their little immediate group of men with questions and big guns made it into where the controlled explosion in a glass ball was, when everyone else's breath was stolen away by the initial sight of the manmade supernova, there was one person who saw first the Doctor surrounded by a half-circle of guards with guns, a very important scientist-type standing above him with a gun to his head, and this was what stole his breath away, seeing the Time Lord who had run around the TARDIS console room with such energy as he talked about the wonders of the universe now forced to his knees with eyes closed and all energy drained from his demeanor.
They didn't even know each other for an entire day and yet Shawn was falling hard for the mad man with a box. Only he wasn't running away from this. The Doctor wasn't someone who needed saving or needed to be protected from the monsters of the world. It intrigued Shawn, made him want to follow this alien man to see what next thing he would inevitably show to him, made him want to see what other surprises lay hidden up the sleeve of his time-worn brown duster. And, well, other places.
So without warning Shawn marched up to the scientist holding the Doctor hostage, didn't so much as blink when he raised the weapon to chest-level (well, maybe a miniscule twitch, but nothing more) and gave him his best you talking to me? look. "Listen here, you pseudo-Bill Nye the Science Guy crazypants - because let's face it, who else wears blue lab coats anymore - the jig is pretty much up. In fact, the jig has up and run out of town on the next bus to Nowhereville, that's how up it is. We've got you cornered, twinkle toes, and none of your scarily impressive men with their big shiny guns is gonna change that. So why don't you just give up now and let go of your hostage and this town peacefully before we put the hurt on you?"
Behind him, the mayor and his men made faint noises of approval. One thing was for certain: the town's first android mayor was the kind of guy to talk softly and carry a big metal stick that shocked people (kind of like the same metal stick his security staff tried to hit Shawn with they first met).
The scientist (whose jacket helpfully read 'Dave') was not impressed. "I have half a dozen men right here who could kill you all in seconds," Dave said. He kept the business end of his gun aimed firmly at Shawn's faintly fast-beating heart. "What makes you think you're going to be putting the hurt on anyone?"
Shawn smirked. "We have bigger guns." And then the mayoral big guns stepped up and surrounded the guards and it became pretty obvious that their guns were . . . well, pretty damn big. Bigger than the others' toys. "And I believe this silly pissing match is over, don't you think gentlemen?"
"Men," the mayor said, "arrest them all."
"But not the guy on the floor," Shawn quickly added, trying to look as official as possible in his vintage David Bowie tee. "He's with me." And then, as the mayor took charge of the situation and the authorities made short work on the armed guerrillas, Shawn had the sense of mind to drag the barely conscious Doctor out through the back exit where things were relatively calmer, propping him up against the nearest wall. The human cursed under his breath as he tried to revive his Time Lord companion; for someone who did this kind of a thing on a regular basis, he was spending a god awful time blacked out or incapacitated.
"Doctor?" Nothing. "Hey, Doctor, you in there?" He snapped his fingers on both sides of the Doctor's hearing and still silence. "Doctor?" There was obvious worry in his voice now. "Hey dude, it's all over now, you can get your alien butt back in motion now, okay? And the rest of you too, I wasn't just focusing on your butt for any special reason."
"Shawn?" The Doctor's eyes popped open and it was enough to send Shawn reeling back in surprise. His tired face spread into a wide smile. "Look at you, Mister Spencer saving an alien world of the future from danger, acting like you own the place."
Shawn acted as if he hadn't totally acted like a frightened little baby and shrugged it off. "Yeah, some guy was supposed to show me the sights and ended up being unconscious the whole time, worst vacation ever."
"Maybe next time, you should suggest some time more safer then."
"Maybe next time I'll just ask for being two hours into the future." He wrinkled his nose. "Although on second thought, that doesn't seem like it would work. Perfect time for something extremely unnatural to happen."
"Like a Cybermen invasion of Santa Barbara, that kind of thing?"
"Cyber-what? Is that like Cyberdyne Systems? Because I'm not ready to go full cyborg just yet."
"What?" The Doctor laughed. "Oh goodness no. Oh, Cybermen are far worse. You'll see." He managed to shake off the last dredges of unconsciousness as he stood up, seemingly ignoring Shawn's look of what the crap do you mean, worse?, grinning all the while. "Get that look off your face, we have work to do!"
"What, you think that supernova is going to get rid of itself?"
"Well . . . I was kind of hoping it would. Science isn't my strong suit." That was, Shawn thought to himself, Gus' field for a good reason. "So, um, how do we get rid of it?"
"Drop it into the nearest black hole with love and precision. And the TARDIS, of course." And then the Doctor set off into a complicated explanation of how they were going to use the TARDIS' tractor beam to pull it into the vortex with it then drop it into a black hole without being sucked into it themselves and loads of scientific details that made Shawn's head spin. He did, however, manage to get the gist of the thing.
"So," Shawn said as he followed the Doctor back into the now vacant room holding the unused super weapon, "we're going to basically tow it into the sky and then drop it into a hole like a cosmic game of basketball?"
The Doctor flinched a bit at Shawn's wording, but nodded anyway. "Yep!" he said, popping the 'p' at the end in such a way that it instantly became Shawn's favorite tiny mouth sound ever made.
"I'm very good at towing things home," he said more to himself than to Shawn, and once again Shawn felt out of the loop. He wondered for the nth time what the Doctor had been doing before dropping anchor in California all by himself.
And then the running started up again, and there was no time to think about the past, just the pressure of the Doctor's hand in his and whether or not this would last long enough to matter.
They had literally stolen the supernova, wrapped it up like a tidy package in the TARDIS' tractor beam, towed it through the monstrous swirls and storms of the vortex, and dropped it into a gaping black hole before riding away back into the general safety of the vortex before the TARDIS could be pulled in. Even after watching the whole thing unfold on the scanner screen, after having to hold onto the railings for dear life as the TARDIS swayed and buckled on its path past the black hole, Shawn still couldn't put into words how immense and terrifying and thrilling the whole thing was but he did know he really wanted to do it again really soon.
And then moments later, as they were drinking what the Doctor called 'celebratory tea' in the kitchenette (Shawn drank it without complaint because it was banana tea and he could dig that), the TARDIS landed with a gentle bump ten minutes after leaving Santa Barbara the first time, albeit now in the alley behind the Psych office, sometime after nine in the evening.
Shawn followed the Doctor's flapping coat back into the console room and saw the familiar scenery on the scanner and stopped dead in the doorway.
"One trip, remember?" the Doctor said, noticing Shawn's sudden halt.
"Yeah, of course." Shawn shrugged. "Offer of a lifetime. Just surprised, that's all." He laughed. "All in the blink of an eye. Gus and Dad probably haven't even noticed I've been gone for - what, ten minutes?"
"Yep." There he went again with that popping sound. "But I'm sure someone out there noticed that tonight a man named Shawn Spencer was completely unaccounted for during a whole ten minutes. Wasn't in any coffee shops or seeing any films or taking a nap - he just wasn't there."
"Don't people notice when you disappear without warning? Or is the loud grating sound usually a dead giveaway?" Shawn asked. He was only half kidding around.
The Doctor shrugged casually. "I leave without a trace. That's just what I do." The look in his eye told a different story - one less cheerful. "Still, you should run along to your friends and family. Enjoy the night while it's still young."
Shawn didn't move. He was too damn stubborn to. "Yeah? Where's your family?"
The saddest smile he had ever seen crossed the Doctor's face. "Oh, they're all gone. But don't you worry about them, go on home and have a good life solving crimes, yeah? Being all clever and smart and whatnot, pretending to be psychic-"
"I am totally psychic," Shawn couldn't help but interjected.
"You could read the words on my psychic paper when I showed it to you," the Doctor countered. "Ergo, not psychic. A bit of a magician maybe, but not psychic." He grinned. "What, are you still here?"
"You could meet my friend Gus. You guys could talk about medicine and drugs and smart stuff." Shawn took a few steps forward. "The police force here - I know some of them, I think you'd like them. Well, maybe not Lassie, he's pretty ridiculous most of the time. And Juliet is -" he stumbles over the mention of her but continues, "Well she's just Juliet, and there's my dad and -"
"Sorry, I don't do domestic things," the Doctor said quietly. "Maybe next time."
Shawn smiled "You're a terrible liar." He laughed. "I guess I'd better get moving then. Santa Barbara's a pretty dangerous place after dark. Y'know, murders and thefts and crimes."
When the Doctor turned his back on him to open the doors, Shawn knew his time was up. He managed to not look back at the Doctor before walking through the open doors of the TARDIS. He didn't look back, even as he heard the doors shut behind him and the now familiar sound of the old blue box disappearing into the night air like a memory.
For a few seconds he stood there, taking in the sight of the back of the Psych office with new eyes, letting the sounds of the city slowly filter back into his hearing. It had been fun, sure, being in the future and saving people he would never meet again and running around with a 900-year-old alien who didn't look a day over thirty-seven and wore a brown pinstriped suit like a boss. He looked back to where the TARDIS had been and a feeling like regret took hold of him, which was odd as he wasn't the type to regret much of anything.
He thought about calling Gus and telling him about everything that had just happened, but he literally couldn't mentally drum up the words that could describe it. At least nothing intelligent or coherent. So naturally, them being brain twins and all that, Gus called him and Shawn spent the next half hour in his office explaining to Gus why he disappeared after running after the Slitheen thing and also how he managed to meet a real live alien and not spend the rest of his life as a spaceman like he said he wanted to be in third grade.
"I said I wanted to be a lot of things when I was in third grade - spaceman, cowboy, president, writer, elephant man - it doesn't mean I really wanted to do them all."
"I just can't get my head around it," Gus said, disbelief more than apparent on his face. "Some guy with no name who calls himself the Doctor and is hundreds of years old and flies around in a blue box that's bigger on the inside and can travel through the fourth and fifth dimensions - which, may I remind you Shawn, is near impossible - and fights crime throughout the universe - he invites you into his box - "
"TARDIS," Shawn corrected.
"What does that even mean?"
"I didn't bother to ask." Oops.
"Anyway," Gus continued, "he invites you into his TARDIS for a trip into the freaking future where you guys beat up evil scientists and literally drop a supernova into a black hole to save the world, and you just left him?"
"Yeah." Shawn sank back into his chair. "I just left him."
"Did you even try inviting him to stay the night?"
"I told him he could meet you. Maybe that was a bad id - ow!" Shawn winced as one of the couch pillows ended a crash course from Gus' hand to his head, bouncing off him and onto the floor. "He said he doesn't do domestic."
"We are not domestic, Shawn," Gus pointed out. "You're not even domestic with your dad."
"Yeah, did not bother telling him that." Shawn leaned forward in his chair. "But seriously, what's wrong with me?"
"That's what I'd like to know."
"And now he's gone forever."
"Yep. Never gonna see him again."
"Seriously, he had the most amazing hair. And this cool brown coat - he said he got it from Janis Joplin - and he wears sneakers with his suit. How wild is that? I tried doing that in college but sadly the look never caught on."
"Wait; is he impossibly skinny and possibly manic?" Gus shot a look over Shawn's shoulder. "And keeps bouncing around whenever he's standing still?"
"Err, yeah, I guess. Wait, why?"
"Because there's some guy standing outside our front window who looks exactly just like him."
A still moment passed in which Shawn and Gus just looked at each other like they couldn't believe what was happening. And then they pushed their chairs clean out of the way in a mad rush to the front door, which Shawn got the honor of opening.
The Doctor stood in the light of the office, grinning like a mad man. "Hullo!"
"You must be the Doctor," Gus said politely as Shawn seemed to be uncharacteristically speechless. "I'm Shawn's friend, Burton Guster. You can call me Gus."
"Gus!" The Time Lord laughed. "You're the chap who knows about medicine and drugs and smart stuff. Shawn's words, not mine." He looked over at Shawn and his grin widened. "Remember me?"
Shawn cleared his throat and tried to look casual. "Oh yeah, it's only been like forty-five minutes since you left."
The Doctor blinked. "How do you know I'm not someone pretending to be the Doctor to gain your trust?" he said in a disarmingly low voice. "How do you know I haven't drugged up the real Doctor and stolen his memories?"
Shawn didn't even bat an eye. "You're wearing the same clothes since last time I saw you - same coat covered in dust along the end, same tie you spilled banana tea on with the same stain, your shoes still have the traces of dirt and lead dust from the prison cell, and your hair still looks like you covered it in pomade then ran through a hurricane with the same off-center swoop of hair at the front."
"Brilliant!" The Doctor clapped Shawn on the shoulder with one hand. "And here I thought you were just a handsome face." And before anyone could respond to that bit of ho yay, the Doctor had brushed past the both of them and made himself comfortable in their waiting room, stretching out on the couch like a humanoid praying mantis in a suit.
Gus turned to Shawn. "I'm . . . going to order some Chinese food. Have fun." And then he scurried into the back office, leaving Shawn alone with the Doctor. He should have known Gus would do that; he wasn't good at confrontations or anything which required it being painfully awkward.
Shawn ended up pulling up a chair next to the couch, naturally seating himself inches from the Doctor's scuffed off-white sneakers. He didn't bother telling him something like 'no feet on the furniture', mainly because he did it all the time and it wouldn't be fair. "So what, is there another alien invasion coming over the horizon we should know about?"
The Doctor pretended to look hurt. "Oi! Maybe I'm just here to be friendly!"
"You said you didn't do domestic," Shawn couldn't help but point out. "Lemme guess - visiting a guy you just dumped off a quarter of an hour ago and lying on his couch doesn't qualify as domestic?"
"Of course not," the Doctor said. "It's just a friendly call on an old friend?"
"We're not old friends, we're barely acquaintances." Shawn leaned back as much as he could comfortably in his chair. "We've only known each other for a day."
"We saved a city together," the other man said quietly. Shawn could hear the heavy touch of over nine hundred years in each word.
"Yeah, we did, didn't we?"
The Doctor grinned. "You never told me how you convinced the mayor to follow you back to the lab."
Shawn did that thing with pressing his fingers to his forehead in an effort to look mystic. "Surprisingly enough, the people of the future are more susceptible to claims of being psychic than I thought possible. I told them I had seen the entire operation in a vision and unless they wanted their city to turn into a giant smoking crater by sundown tomorrow they should really bring all their available police officers and follow me. And then I walked out."
"And they followed!" He clapped. "That really is brilliant! So, where to next?"
"Excuse me?" said both Shawn and Gus, who hadn't really ordered food but just stood in the next room with the phone in his hand, wondering at what point the Doctor would try to snatch away his best friend back off planet Earth. He walked back in, looking like he would give the Doctor holy hell if he did one single thing wrong (never knowing how much it reminded the Time Lord of a certain human mum who had once slapped him for being stupid with her daughter, great woman was she).
"Did I do something wrong?" The Doctor sat up and looked at both men in surprise.
"How long did you wait until you decided to hop forward in time and see me?" Shawn asked. His chest felt tight, as if he had been betrayed. "Not very long, right? Maybe you thought forty-five minutes was enough time to say goodbye to my whole entire life before I just up and left again for good?"
"Right." The Doctor resembled an intruder in unwelcome territory. He moved to get up. "I didn't think that would work."
"I have a job. And family."
"And a best friend who would be very angry if you just took him away," Gus said, and it probably would have sounded cooler if he didn't look embarrassed at his own words.
"Dude, we just got done saying we weren't domestic and then you go and say that."
"Shut up! I'm trying to help you out!" he shot back.
"He's trying to take me away in his ship, not marry me."
"Definitely not that," the Doctor added quickly. He seemed the type to leave more people at the altar than walk them down the aisle. He stood up. "Maybe I should go."
Gus crossed his arms. "Yeah. Maybe you should." And with that, Shawn watched the Doctor walk out without speaking a single word, not even to say goodbye. A million unsaid things built up in his throat. He lowered his head into his hands as he heard the door close, feeling stupider with each passing second.
"You all right?"
Shawn swallowed. "Honestly? Not really. No."
"Yeah, I didn't think so." Gus sighed. "Shawn Spencer, you are the biggest idiot I have ever known in my life."
At that point, a lot of small things happened in quick succession: someone opened the front door; Gus grabbed Shawn by the shoulders and somehow managed to get him standing; he then pushed him out the now open door until Shawn was standing on the sidewalk. Having been literally thrown out of his post-Doctor funk, Shawn looked up to see Gus standing in the doorway of their office building, arms crossed again and looked considerably pissed off.
"What's the deal, Burton?" Shawn shouted. "You didn't even give me enough time to go boneless on you!"
"That doesn't work on me anymore!" Gus shouted back. "And you'd better stop being an idiot and go after him!"
"I thought you didn't want me to!"
"I thought you were smarter than this!" Gus couldn't manage shouting without looking embarrassed. "He came back for you! Yeah, he's kind of a jerk and you'll probably end up getting lost on some alien planet because of him, but he came back!"
"He didn't even think about it!" Shawn was now grabbing at his hair and pulling it in frustration. "He kicked me out of the TARDIS then changed his mind without thinking about it at all!"
"What, and you've never done that? You're like the king of making rash decisions!"
"Why are you defending him? You don't even like him!"
Gus looked uncomfortably smug as he answered. "I said I didn't want him taking you away. Naturally, I'm coming with you."
"Well, that makes sense - wait, no it doesn't!"
"Face it, Shawn; someone has to look after you while you're out voyaging across the universe. Might as well be me." Gus shrugged as if he made these kinds of decisions on a daily basis, which was probably closer to being true than either of them realized. "Besides, I wanted to be an astronaut before you did."
"Did not." Still, Shawn's shoulders slumped forward in defeat. "He might not even be there anymore."
"Trust me," Gus said. "He will be."
He was. By the time Shawn and Gus walked into the back alley behind their beloved office, carrying an over-stuffed suitcase each. Shawn had left a letter and the keys to the building in his dad's mailbox, hopefully explaining enough to cover his ass for a short time; Gus called in some of his stored-up vacation time and told his office he'd be gone for a week - he was out traveling and wouldn't be reachable by, well, anything. Shawn's heart practically leaped out of his chest when he saw the TARDIS still standing there like it was waiting for him.
And there was the Doctor, sitting at an oddly casual angle on top of the TARDIS, legs pointing every which way over the side of the tall box. His silhouette stood out against the light of the moon in a very striking way.
"Shawn," Gus whispered, "please tell me you guys aren't - well, you know."
Shawn said nothing.
"Um. No. Not really."
Gus shook his head. "You need to find yourself an uncomplicated relationship that doesn't involve alien life forms."
"Love you too, dude." Shawn wondered how long it had taken Gus to notice. Probably not long at all.
It was then that the Doctor finally noticed them. He looked down from his perch, light hitting the frames of his glasses. Even at the angle he was at, he looked terribly lonely. He was a man in desperate need of a Snuggie, a cup of hot cocoa, and a weekend marathon of Law and Order.
"You came back," he said simply.
Shawn nodded. "You didn't leave."
The Doctor shrugged. "I thought I'd admire the moon for a bit before I disappeared again." He peered over his glasses at what was in Shawn's hand. "Is that a suitcase?"
"Me and Gus, dude. We're coming with you."
"But - I - um." He was at a loss for words. Then he shrugged. "Why not?"
Shawn and Gus took several steps back as the Doctor practically bounced off the top of the TARDIS, landing smartly on the ground without so much as a stumble. Clearly, the Time Lords were a race of skinny hyperactive gymnasts, which probably explained why they didn't see many of them in California - too busy having sugar fueled tumbling sessions across time and space.
The only thing better than seeing the Doctor again, knowing they would be traveling together again soon, was Gus' reaction when he walked into the TARDIS and saw for himself that it was bigger on the inside that . . . you know. Gus pretty much let out a girlish scream before fainting in Shawn's predictably outstretched arms (he had a feeling something like that would happen).
He looked up and managed to catch the Doctor's eyes. Shawn shrugged. "He's such a newbie," he said non-chalantly.
The Doctor grinned. "I'm sure we'll make a seasoned time-traveler out of him yet."
Shawn would have bet major money on the fact that, if Gus hadn't woken up when he did, he probably would have kissed the Doctor just then. It was probably for the best, in retrospect. He was a terrible kisser when nervous.
For all of the first dates that Shawn have ever been on went - because being kidnapped and near killed really did not count in his book - few could ever hope to top spending Christmas battling cyberpunk-looking Cybermen in Victorian England, or riding above Westminster Abbey in a giant hot air balloon next to a madman who thought he was the Doctor and his too-good-looking-NOT-to-be-invited-for-one-trip-in-a-real-TARDIS companion Rosita (although judging by the looks the two of them kept exchanging during the duration of their trip, Shawn had a feeling that was never going to happen).
While snow fell lightly on Christmastime London, the Doctor stood at the open entrance of the TARDIS while inside Jackson Lake marveled at the inner workings of a real time/space machine, smiling to himself a smile that no one else saw except for Shawn. There were few things that escaped his eyes lately, like the locked door to his old companion's rooms, the sticky notes of long-gone reminders on the fridge door, the look in the older man's eyes when he looked at the human who had lived thinking he was someone else.
As he was about to rejoin Rosita and his son for Christmas dinner, feeling like he had had enough adventure for now, Jackson invited the three of them to join him to eat and celebrate the holidays together. The Doctor looked like he was about to say no, but some pointed looks and coughing that may or may not have hidden words like SAY YES ALREADY from both Shawn and Gus pretty much changed his mind.
Somehow, while Gus is bragging to Rosita about his job and the Doctor is fiddling around merrily in the Tethered Aerial Release Developed In Style, Jackson Lake manages to ask Shawn a series of questions about what the real Doctor is like. Shawn tries to tell him he hasn't known him long, but Jackson points out he's known the Doctor longer than he has - even for someone who has lived with his memories for years - and Shawn has to concede the point to him. So he starts telling Jackson about how he met the Doctor and eventually Jackson asks him a question than even gives the great fake psychic detective pause.
"I - I have lived in the footsteps of the Doctor for a long time," Jackson said with weighted words, "and I have seen through his memories and how he travels with so many humans over the years. They fall away from him, or they fall in love, or they die and yet he keeps bringing them in."
"Actually, he was alone when I met him," Shawn pointed out. "And it was hard enough to convince him to take me along for just one ride." He didn't bother mentioning the Slitheen; being chased around Cybermen seemed enough alien encountering for one night.
"It must be so hard to keep falling in with us mere mortals," he said. "Us who live and perish in the blink of a god's eye. I cannot help but wonder what has happened to him to make him so distrustful."
Shawn shrugged despite himself. "I figure he's a grown man, he can take care of himself."
"Can he?" Jackson shook his head. "I believe he needs someone. That lifestyle of his is so dangerous; he needs a person by his side to make sure he's safe, that he doesn't do something he'll regret."
"Yeah?" Shawn grinned. "I thought you said you didn't know the Doctor that well."
Jackson allowed himself a smile and a small laugh. "Yes, well, I've been living as the Doctor for a bit of time now - I think I fancy myself an expert."
Shawn and Jackson passed the time by talking about the strange and exotic outfits of the Doctor's past selves ("You gotta respect a man who runs around in velvet and white ruffles.") while drinking tea (Shawn was slowly getting used to the taste) and were eventually interrupted by a scandalized Time Lord who overheard them discussing his immediate previous self's aesthetic and managed to tear himself away from the basket of the non-TARDIS to argue about his personal choice in ear size.
"Dude, you had potatoes on both sides of your face!"
"I had the best hearing of my life then, thank you!"
"When you have ears like satellite dishes, it's not hard."
"It could be much worse, I imagine," Jackson cut in. "You could have worn one of those terrible neckties that are so popular now days - some kind of bow tie."
"Bow ties are cool!" the Doctor and Shawn said in unison. Then they started laughing at each other and it felt a bit like the ending scene of a cheesy sit-com where the world as it peace and they can gratefully fade to black knowing they cast will live happily ever after when the credits start rolling.
Later that night, Shawn would end up racing the Doctor and Gus through the snow back to the TARDIS and losing to the long-legged Time Lord. He ran up, panting, to the doors and demanded a recount even though Gus said you couldn't recount a race, so he asked for a redo instead.
"Next time," the Doctor promised. He grinned. "But you still won't be able to out-run me!"
"All right then," Shawn said. "Where to?"
He didn't really need to hear the answer. Anywhere, anytime; the universe was free to explore and filled with impossible things and endless adventures waiting to be taken by the throat by three enterprising young men. And, of course, plenty of running and mysteries galore. Who knew what would happen next?
And then the Doctor said they'd go somewhere with real working hover cars, and Shawn and Gus started squealing and hopping up and down like excited little boys as the TARDIS faded away noisily into the night air.