SUMMARY: pre-series AU; one terrible night changes young Shawn's entire life

Prompt: For the lj user="angst_bingo" prompt 'depression'

Warnings: Mention of a violent incident and post-traumatic fallout from same, including anxiety with depression and implied agoraphobia, and unsympathetic response to the depression by a major character, including scenes of verbal domestic abuse

Author notes: Henry is pretty mean in this fic, though I've given him a reason to be; I don't usually think of him so badly. The angst comes not only from the aftermath of the life changing incident for all involved, but in the life that's left unlived, that of the carefree Shawn Spencer we know.


The Joker: Tell me something, my friend. You ever dance with the devil in the pale moonlight? - Batman (1989)


Shawn loved his mother. She was warm hugs and indulgent smiles and a gentle presence in his life, unlike his father's rougher approach to parenthood; Madeleine always stepped in when Henry became too harsh in his discipline of Shawn.

Shawn loved his father in a more distant fashion. He knew Henry cared about him, but the man was obsessed with honing Shawn's eidetic memory and analytical skills and had already decided Shawn was going to follow in his footsteps and join the police force. Shawn had other ideas. He'd be a rodeo clown before he became a cop.

Shawn loved his best friend Gus, though he'd never say it out loud. He loved movies and TV shows and comic books and cycling and camping out in the backyard.

For a teenager, life was pretty good. Until that night.

Shawn and his parents went out to dinner. Madeleine had salad and Henry had steak, and Madeleine only let Henry quiz Shawn about the other patrons until their meals arrived. Shawn had a double portion of ice cream for dessert. It was like every other family outing.

On the way back to the car they were held up by a masked robber.

It was like 'Batman', when Bruce Wayne's parents were killed by a mugger – possibly Joe Chill, or maybe the Joker, if you preferred the new Tim Burton version of the canon.

Except his parents didn't die – and that Shawn didn't become Batman.

His father survived, though he was never quite the same afterwards. Weeks of sick leave followed by desk duty – the latter being even more of an affront than the former. Being hurt was one thing, but being prevented from doing his job – Henry was pissed at the world, and he took it out on his family.

Shawn's mother was physically unhurt. However the experience left her traumatised and she rarely left the house afterwards. She would only counsel clients by telephone – and after a while she stopped doing even that, feeling like a fraud. Shawn heard her weeping whenever she thought he wasn't around. Soon even the tears stopped as she sank into a deep depression.

Shawn took the verbal abuse his father threw at him without flinching. Yet he couldn't stand to have it heaped upon his mother, so sometimes he would goad Henry into such a rage that Henry would leave the house, as he always did when he got too angry. It was one thing in his favour that he never raised a hand to Shawn nor to Madeleine.

"You're a freaking psychologist," Shawn heard his father scream one night. "Why can't you heal your goddamn self?" Shawn wanted to get out of bed and intervene but he was exhausted. He was plagued by his own nightmares of that terrible night, had flashbacks of his father's blood on his hands as he tried to keep him alive until help arrived. His photographic memory had never seemed like such a curse. He never mentioned it, because his father was in no mood to care and his mother was too broken to help.

"Hey, I'm sorry," Shawn heard his father say at last over his mother's sobs. Shawn closed his eyes and slept, though without a nightmare in which the Joker killed his father.


"Just get over it," Henry snapped a few weeks later at breakfast, where Madeleine was staring at a bowl of cereal. "I was the one who got shot and I'm fine."

Shawn thought that 'fine' was not the word for it, but he kept silent, knowing his father had to leave for work soon anyway.

Madeleine also said nothing and suddenly Henry tossed his mug across the kitchen to shatter against the wall. Her shoulders moved involuntarily as she ducked in response, but she showed no other signs of being aware of her surroundings.

"Dad," Shawn said angrily, getting to his feet, ready to defend his mother. He'd had to grow up a lot in a short space of time. It was he who had put breakfast on the table, he who did the laundry when Madeline hadn't the energy to accomplish it, he who did the grocery shopping.

"I'm going to work," Henry said and left, slamming the kitchen door behind him.

A tear rolled down Madeline's cheek and Shawn moved to stand behind her chair, putting his arms around her as best as he could.

"It's okay. I love you," he said desperately. Tears ran down his own cheeks, not that he'd ever acknowledge them.

When Gus came round a few minutes later, he picked up the broken pottery and mopped the entire kitchen floor, and washed up all the breakfast things while Shawn sat with Madeleine. Shawn flipped through the TV channels, keeping up a running commentary of his opinions on everything from soap operas to cartoons to infomercials. He didn't want her to feel alone.

"You want to catch a movie?" Gus asked later when Madeleine was asleep.

"I can't," Shawn said wistfully. "I have to go and get groceries."

"I'll come with you," Gus said and Shawn was grateful.


Another month went by until the night Shawn was awoken by the sound of broken glass. He leapt out of bed and ran downstairs in a panic. A broken lamp lay on the lounge floor. Madeleine was sat on the floor behind the sofa, weeping. Henry stood, shirt unbuttoned, dishevelled, yelling.

"Take your damn pills," he shouted.

"They don't help," she screamed back.

"Dad," Shawn said, and Henry pointed one finger at him.

"Stay out of this, Shawn. Madeleine, for the love of God, pull yourself together." Henry tugged at his hair in frustration. "Why are you punishing me? You blame me for getting shot? Is that what this is? You want to hurt me?"

Shawn stepped in closer. "That's enough," he snapped.

Henry shoved him away. Shawn stumbled but caught his balance.

"I'm sick of this being all about you," Henry said to Madeleine. "Now get up of the floor and take your damn pills, go to bed, and sleep off this tiresome act you lazy whore."

Shawn saw red. He'd never imaged his father could ever talk about his mother that way. He barely remembered throwing the punch, just his father sprawled on the floor afterwards.

"Shawn," Madeleine said in a choked whisper. She held out her arms and Shawn went to her. She held onto him tightly, the way he used to hold onto her when he was scared.

Henry got to his feet, rubbing at his jaw.

"Get out," Shawn said, his voice cold and hard. Yeah, just like Batman's would be. No room for anger. Just deadly seriousness. "Go pack a bag and get out or I'm calling the cops."

Henry, defeated, left without a word. He wouldn't want to be embarrassed in front of his colleagues – hell, he'd probably had enough of living with them anyway.

Shawn didn't let go of Madeleine until the front door closed behind Henry. Then he called Gus, who came straight over. It was Gus's father who drove to the hardware store and brought and fitted new locks on all the exterior doors. It was Gus's mother who said she'd help out with the groceries so Shawn could concentrate on his studies more. And it was Gus who made jokes to lift Shawn's spirits when Shawn wondered if it might be nice to crawl into a deep dark hole like the one his mother seemed to be taking refuge in, a place removed from all the world's hurts.

Shawn got two jobs outside school hours and studied his ass off the rest of the time he wasn't sleeping or showering or doing the housework. Madeleine could manage more for herself as time went on. Shawn took her out to dinner when she'd vacuumed the whole house and mopped all the non-carpeted floors. She wore one of her work suits and put on make-up and looked like the woman she'd been before the shooting.

"I'm proud of you," he said.

"I'm more proud of you, Goose," she said, the first time she'd used the affectionate moniker for him since the shooting. "And I'm sorry you're suffering for my problems."

Shawn shook his head. "I want to take care of you," he said. He was almost fifteen now, almost a man.

They were both terrified on the walk back to the car, clutching at each other's hands, remembering the last time they'd eaten out. When they made it safely back to the car, Shawn suddenly started laughing at the insanity of it all and Madeleine laughed too.


Shawn enrolled in the police training academy as soon as he was eligible. One day he would be a cop, just like his father had always wanted. The irony sat heavily on his shoulders but Shawn couldn't afford to let it keep him down.

"He's top of his class," Gus told his parents one night over dinner.

"You don't sound pleased for him," his mother said.

Gus shrugged, staring at his mashed potatoes. "I miss the old Shawn," he confessed. "The one who used to climb trees, and make up nicknames for me, and come to the movies with me. He's always busy, always so serious."

"He's a responsible young man," his mother said. "You should be more like him."

Gus bit his tongue, remembering the sort of things his parents had used to say about his best friend.


Shawn never did become Batman, but he did become a highly skilled officer, which was the closest to being a superhero he'd ever get. Perhaps it was because his tragedy hadn't been as terrible as Bruce Wayne's, maybe it was tragedy that made a person heroic.

"Why'd you become a cop?" Lassister asked one day as they sat in his car, staking out a coffee shop.

"It's in the blood. My father was a cop, you know that," Shawn replied, using the binoculars to watch the window of the store.

"That's it? No visions of heroism? No tragic backstory?" Lassiter leaned his head back on the headrest, sunglasses glinting in the afternoon sun.

"This is real life," Shawn said. "Not a comic book, Lassiter."