WARNING: Spoiler (a really tiny one) for "Bounty Hunters!"
Author's Note: Well, this is it. A big thanks to all of you who've reviewed, and also thanks to those of you who read but didn't review - I appreciate the time you took to read my little story. And now, here's the epilogue, winner of the cheesiest ending award.
Shawn rolled out of bed, groaning at the time. Honestly, who gets up at 11?
He trudged to the bathroom and flicked on the light, blinking blearily at the reflection in the mirror.
Even six months after he'd been dumped in front of the Santa Barbara Police Department, Shawn was still thankful every time he looked in the mirror and saw himself looking back. Some of it had taken time - that damn dye had proven to be extremely permanent - but by now pretty much everything was back to the way it'd been before he'd been taken. The piercings had all healed closed, and his perfect tan and perfect hair were both once again back to their full swoon-worthy states.
He'd gained a bit of weight back so he wasn't quite so cadaverously thin, though he was still quite a bit lighter than he'd been before the month in the basement. That was probably due to the running. Strangely, Shawn had decided that he actually liked the daily (twice daily?) jogs that his captor had forced on him, and he'd kept up with it. He found a nice run actually settled him and helped him think. Who knew?
Everything that could get back to normal was back to normal. Which just left the tattoos.
Shawn glanced at his arms as he stripped off his t-shirt and turned on the shower. Once he'd finally gotten out of the station, he'd pulled out a mirror and taken a close look at the ink on his arms, memorizing every detail. Though Shawn had never felt the need to get a tattoo himself, he could appreciate the time and artistry that had gone into the images on his skin. Mostly they were animals, everything from exotic creatures like sharks and lions to the truly fantastic like dragons. Every last one was etched into his arm in loving detail, interspersed with heavy swirls of color that shouldn't have looked right but somehow managed to balance the whole thing out.
Shawn was still kind of ambivalent on the whole tattoo issue. On the one hand, he had been permanently marked (some would say scarred) against his will, and that pissed him off to no end. On the other hand, they were kind of cool, and Stokes (because once he thought about it, who else could it have been but the tattoo artist whose family had left him?) had obviously taken great care in creating them.
Even though they were neat, Shawn tended to keep them covered. Long-sleeved shirts were the norm for him now, even in sunny Santa Barbara, otherwise he got a lot of weird looks. Usually, Shawn liked any kind of attention, weird or otherwise, but this was different. This was people judging him because of something he had nothing to do with, something that had been done to him. So, long sleeves it was.
Sometimes the tattoos came in handy (he'd actually gone into a biker bar and no one'd hung him by his ankles!), but most of the time, it was easier and less stressful to just keep them covered.
That was a new feeling - Shawn had never worried about what was stressful and what wasn't before, but now...something was different. Not a lot different, of course, Shawn hadn't completely changed, but sometimes, when he was at his dad's or when he and Gus were working a case or when he was at the station with Lassie and Juliet and the Chief...sometimes there was just the slightest hesitation. Sometimes there was just the tiniest hitch in his stride, in his breathing, in his easy smile, when he looked at someone he'd known for years and some tiny part of him wondered if he could ever really completely trust them again.
That was what Stokes had wanted, that uncertainty. He'd wanted Shawn to know what it was like to have the people you thought you knew turn on you because of the way you looked.
Stokes had told him so.
The letter had been waiting for him when he'd finally gotten home, after spending hours in the police station writing down everything he remembered about his time in captivity. It was postmarked that day from the local post office, but Shawn knew that Stokes was long gone, and he didn't bother telling anyone about the letter. It wouldn't help them find him, and whoever he showed the letter to would insist on actually reading it.
Shawn didn't want anyone else reading the letter. It wasn't that it taunted him or revealed intimate details about him or anything like that. No, the letter was strangely polite and distant. Even so, when Stokes asked if Shawn liked the tattoos, when he said that he was very proud of what would end up being his last, greatest work, Shawn actually felt a kind of strange kinship with the man. Stokes had somehow managed to do just what he wanted: Shawn got how he felt, and that created a sort of…understanding. Having anyone else read the letter seemed wrong.
Turning off the water, Shawn got out of the shower and toweled himself dry. He brushed his teeth, whipped his magnificent mane into unparalleled perfection, and got dressed. Today's long-sleeved shirt was dark blue, dark enough that not even a hint of the tattoos would show through. The Chief had called him in on a case, and he tried to keep those little reminders covered when he was in the station. Not all of the police knew what had happened. Not all of them would understand.
There had been some changes around the station after the Spencer kidnapping fiasco, as it had come to be called, the first of which was a week-long seminar on humane treatment of suspects that had been mandatory for all police employees (including consultants). It had actually been Lassiter's idea. Though he'd seemed blasé at the time, the whole situation had really unnerved the head detective. He didn't understand how he, with his years of training in observation and looking beyond the obvious, hadn't seen who Shawn was from the moment he'd brought him into the station. He was also more than a little disturbed by the way he'd treated Shawn. By the time the consultant was ready to go home after filling out the required forms, large, ugly bruises had bloomed on his face and chest, and both of them were courtesy of Lassiter. A month with a kidnapper, and Shawn didn't have a single bruise. An hour with Lassiter, and he was black and blue.
It was probably that realization that had finally gotten Lassiter to start organizing the seminar.
Shawn smiled to himself. He was proud of Lassie - the guy had been really hard on himself after what'd happened, but he was a better cop because of it. The head detective was doing his best to stop seeing only the surface of the people he brought in, and he was much more careful in the handling of suspects.
Of course, sometimes Lassie still got a little carried away with suspects who looked particularly tough or dangerous. That was to be expected - no one changes overnight. When he did, though, Shawn would just roll up his sleeves. That was all it took to remind Lassie not to judge a book by its cover.