fearlessfan: (psych shawn & gus)
[personal profile] fearlessfan
Title: Pennsylvania
Fandom/Pairing: Psych/The Office crossover, Gus/Shawn
Rating: PG
Summary: Gus and Shawn are called in to Scranton, PA to solve a mystery.
Length: 10,200 words
Spoilers: Through the Season 5 finale of The Office, no spoilers for Psych beyond the general concept of the show.
Notes: Inspired by a prompt from the Festschrift Challenge, though it ended up being more focused on Psych than the Office. Thank you for the prompt!
Thanks: To Elizabeth, for reading this over so many times and giving me such valuable feedback and encouragement.


"Gus! You are being a total party pooper!"

"No, *you* are being a total lunatic," Gus says. "As usual."

Shawn walks over to Gus's desk and perches on the edge of it. "Stop being such a negative Nelly! It's Pennsylvania: Inspiration of Billy Joel songs and Jennifer Beals movies! The Empire State, the land of opportunity!"

Gus shakes his head. "That's New York and America, not Pennsylvania. Pennsylvania is the Keystone State. Or the Quaker State, but that's it."

"See, Gus? Right there. Right there, your love for the great state of Pennsylvania is shining through, and showing how right I was to say yes to this guy when he commissioned us for a week-"

"You said yes already?"

"-and offered to pay airfare, provide room and board, and all sorts of other stuff."

"And you already said yes?" Gus stands up.

"Yes, I already said yes," Shawn says, shaking a piece of paper at Gus. "I can recognize a golden opportunity when I see one!"

"Your life is a long string of decisions and events totally disproving that," Gus says, and snatches the piece of paper. "Scranton?"

"The city of brotherly love."

"That's Philadelphia."

"See, again, listen to all that Pennsylvania passion in your voice right now."

"I can't go to Pennsylvania for a week! First of all, what about our cases here?"

"There's nothing going on with the police department right now. Crime has taken a vacation, and so should we! Don't you think we're due for a vacation, or, as the Brits call it, a holiday?" Shawn asks, saying the last few words in an exaggerated (and awful) British accent. "Did you see the fee he's going to pay?"

"It doesn't matter."

Shawn points at the bottom of the page, at a number five times more than the Santa Barbara PD has ever paid them.

Gus opens his mouth and then closes it again, calculates how much of the rent this would cover, and remembers how much he's always wanted to see the Liberty Bell.

"You're thinking about the Liberty Bell right now, aren't you?"

"No," Gus says, and gives the paper back to Shawn. "And even if I was, what does it matter? I can't take a week off of work."

"Already taken care of."

Gus leans toward Shawn. "What did you do?"

"Do? I didn't do anything."

Gus glares at Shawn.

Shawn throws up his hands. "I, Shawn Spencer, did nothing to bring about the extra week or so of time off you're about to get. Now, renowned transplant surgeon Clarence Hofstopper, he might have done something."


Shawn shrugs. "Okay, okay, so there's a chance that I impersonated a transplant surgeon and told you boss that you're flying out to Pennsylvania to donate a kidney. A small chance. A teensy one."

Gus puts a hand over his eyes. "Oh my God."

"Gus, don't panic, this isn't a big deal."

"It's not? It's not a big deal? Just like it wasn't a big deal when you called and said my grandmother died? Three times?"

Shawn waves a hand. "I totally took care of that, man. Who knew your grandfather was such a ladies man?"

"Shawn! They're convinced I've got a grandfather going around killing his wives!"

"To be honest, you could use a little danger and mystery in your backstory, Gus. Chicks dig that."

"Like you would know. When's the last time you went on a date, Shawn?"

Shawn takes a surprising second to answer, long enough for Gus to feel bad about asking; Shawn's been weird about dating since his recent brief attempt with Juliet didn't work out. Before Gus can try to take it back, Shawn shakes his head and says, "That's completely irrelevant."

"This conversation is completely irrelevant, since there's no way I'm doing this. I have to call my boss," Gus says, reaching for the phone.

"Gus! Wait, wait, wait," Shawn says, grabbing the receiver the same time Gus does, so that they end up wrestling with it for a few seconds. "You have to let me make my final argument! Come on, man! And then I promise I'll let you call your boss if you want to."

"Promise?" Gus says, still gripping the receiver tightly.

"I swear on the soul of Carl Weathers," Shawn says.

"All right," Gus says. "But he's not dead."


"Really," Gus says. "Now come on, final argument."

"First of all, sweet financial payoff. Rent taken care of for at least three years-"

"Two months."

"Whatever. Or we could get that awesome pinball machine." Gus nods, and Shawn continues, "Second of all, at your other, super-lame job, you're going to get Todd the tool's sweet parking spot when you get back."

Gus leans forward. "Seriously?"

"I made a strong argument for your need for a close spot in the shade during your recovery, which I said would last several months. And described it so that only Todd's spot would do."

"That'll show him not to poach on my route," Gus says.

"Yeah it will! And third of all," Shawn says, pulling out of his back pocket the folded-up magazine cover of last month's issue of Freedom Rings, the magazine for all founding fathers fanatics, to which Gus has been a loyal subscriber for seven years. "Liberty Bell."


"This file is kind of suspicious," Gus says, closing the file and putting it on Shawn's tray table.

Shawn's wearing the same alert expression he's had since taking off in Chicago, his head tilted to the side. "Gus, do you feel that? I think the plane is leaning slightly - maybe not so slightly - to the right."

"Could be," Gus says. "But the file-"

"The plane might be leaning and all you say is, 'could be'?"

"Yeah, that's all I'm saying. Statistically, flying is the safest way to travel, Shawn. And we're in a small aircraft at a low altitude, so we're going to have to -"

"Stop," Shawn says, holding out a hand. "Stop right there. You lost me at small aircraft at low altitude, words most commonly followed with, 'was lost today, tragically ending thirty-two promising lives.'"

Gus doesn't have to look around the plane to check if Shawn's number is right, because Shawn is always right about things like this. Gus knocks his fist against the file on Shawn's tray table, and Shawn looks down at it but doesn't pick it up.

Gus opens it. "So, I'm thinking this dude might be a Russian spy."

"Gus, what are you smoking?" Shawn says, picking up the file. "We haven't pursued the Russian spy angle since the fourth grade."

"And who turned out to be right there?"

"Mrs. Dostoyev had a nervous breakdown and ended up at Misty Meadows. She wasn't a spy, Gus."

"That's what you say. I say we got too close and her KGB contacts pulled her out."

"And coming to work in her pajamas on that last day?"

"Was a clever ruse to cover her true allegiances, and give her an opening for extraction. I looked into this, Shawn. I've read several books on the subject. I'm very confident."

Shawn rolls his eyes and looks down at the file. "And why are you so confident about this guy?"

"I just don't like the looks of him," Gus says, noticing the flight attendant making her way down the center aisle, checking seat belts. He reaches over and folds Shawn's tray table back up, and Shawn's so busy staring at the picture that he barely notices.

"This guy looks like your garden variety suburban semi-hispter, generic office drone. Where are you getting Russian spy?"

"He fits the profile a little too perfectly, don't you think?" Gus asks, watching the flight attendant take her seat at the front of the plane and buckle in. "Like it's a constructed image."

"That's the whole thing about images, Gus. They're always totally constructed," Shawn says, and then goes into one of his typical tangential rambles; Gus doesn't listen to all of it, just waits for the telltale bump of the plane's wheels hitting the pavement.

When it comes, Shawn stops mid-sentence. "What was that?"

"That was us landing."

"We've landed? We're on solid ground?"

"Better than that," Gus says. "We're in Pennsylvania."

"Sweet," Shawn says, closing the file. He looks at Gus with the same watchful expression Gus recognizes from crime scenes, something Gus has caught him doing more than once in the last few weeks. As always, before Gus can work up the nerve to ask him about it, Shawn is back to his usual self. "Who's this Wilkes Barre this airport is named after, anyway? Was he a president?"


"So, where is this guy?" Gus hikes his carry-on bag higher on his shoulder, looking into the crowd of people leaning against the walls near their luggage carousel, a few of them carrying small signs with names on them.

"He'll be here," Shawn says, and then gets a thoughtful expression on his face. "Or maybe he's already here."

Gus looks through the few people carrying signs, but none of them have Spencer or Guster on them. "Why doesn't he have a sign with our names on it? I was looking forward to that sign."

"I know, me too!" Shawn says. "Though he doesn't need it since he knows what we look like."

"How does he know that? Shawn, you didn't -"

"No, I didn't put those pictures up on our website. But I still don't know why you're so self-conscious about that shot, you look very fetching in that orange!"

"I swear you convinced me to join the high school swim team just to get incriminating pictures."

'I will neither confirm nor deny that statement."

"Anyway," Gus says. "No one looks fetching in a Speedo."

"I don't know, I think Brad Pitt could probably pull it off."

Gus nods. "Yeah, but what couldn't he?"

"So true," Shawn says. "Even that ridiculous newsboy cap he's been wearing lately. Anyway, this guy e-mailed me yesterday -"


"Yes, again. I can't help it if I'm super likable and fascinating," Shawn says. "He said that he first found us by seeing a video of us on YouTube. You know, the one from that scifi convention thing, where I awesomely solved a kidnapping on-stage?"

"I remember."

"So he should be able to recognize us. The fact that he's not stepping forward makes me think that this might be a test."

"Of the psychic abilities you don't have?"

"Shh, he could be anywhere! Okay, let's think of the distinguishing characteristics we have - male, thirties," Shawn says, and Gus starts to scan the crowd while Shawn goes on. "He's a salesman, kind of uptight based on the language in his e-mails, totally into sci fi and comics - oh my God."

"What? Do you see him?"

"No, I just realized - Gus, this guy. He's you. The Pennsylvania Bizarro version of you."

Gus shakes his head and goes back to scanning the crowd.

"No, seriously, he's you! And I can use that to find him."

"Go right ahead. So to be clear here, you're looking for handsome, debonair, snappy dressers?"

"Right now I'm looking for a best friend who doesn't use the phrase 'snappy dresser,'" Shawn says. "Actually, I'm not looking anymore. I've got him."

Gus follows Shawn's line of sight. "No way that guy's Bizarro Me."

"Totally is," Shawn says in an apologetic way, patting Gus on the shoulder before making his way over to the tall, moon-faced man by the far exit.

"Is not," Gus argues, but picks up their bags and follows Shawn on his way, as usual.


Shawn approaches the man with fingers theatrically resting against his forehead, his face fixed in an earnest, thoughtful expression, and Gus knows from the way the moon-faced man's expression lights up that Shawn's got the right guy.

"I am sensing," Shawn says, squinting and looking up to the left. "That you are the person I am looking for."

"You are so right," the man says, nodding in a satisfied, slightly awed way. "I'm Dwight Schrute."

Shawn lets his hand fall away from his forehead. "Dwight. That's not a name you hear much anymore. It carries such a specific energy, to which you are perfectly attuned."

"Is that unusual?" Dwight asks.

"Very," Shawn asks. "But I'm guessing, based on the energy I'm picking up, that it's not your only unusual trait."

"You have no idea," Dwight says, and then looks at Gus. "And this is your sidekick, correct?"

"My name is Gus," Gus says, dropping their bags at Shawn's feet. "And I am not his sidekick. I am his partner."

"Then why were you carrying his luggage?"

Shawn steeples his fingers together. "My psychic abilities give me a somewhat delicate constitution, due to being so closely connected to the astral plane."

"And he forgot them," Gus says, kicking Shawn's bags closer to him.

Dwight gives Gus a sharp, disapproving look that reminds Gus that they are in some warped kind of service profession. "But that's why I'm here," Gus says, forcing a smile on his face. "I keep Shawn grounded, if you will, in the day-to-day realities of life."

"I'd be lost without him," Shawn says, patting Gus on the shoulder.

"Dynamic individuals need loyal, steadfast people to assist them," Dwight says, nodding. "The strong underpinnings of a charismatic figure are as important as the figure itself. I think you and I will have a lot to talk about, Gus."

"I’m sure you will,” Shawn says. “Now, shall we head to the hotel?”

“Oh, I’m not taking you to a hotel. I’ve got something better arranged,” Dwight says, nodding in a proud way as he leads them toward the exit.


“Dude, my room has all of these random pipes sticking out of the wall," Shawn says later, having crept into Gus's room after the 11PM curfew Dwight informed them was customary.

"You did request the Irrigation Room, Shawn."

"I thought he was kidding!" Shawn sits down in the hard-backed chair next to Gus’s bed and looks around the dim room, which is decorated entirely in red, white, and blue. “You were totally right to go with Americana. I can’t believe our rooms don’t have cable TV.”

“I’m not saying anything. This is me, sitting here, not saying anything about how someone should have done more research before agreeing to this,” Gus says, not looking up from his biography of George Washington, which he's been looking forward to reading ever since he packed it in his bag the day before. "Because maybe if he had, we would be holed up in a Doubletree or something like it right now, instead of a creepy old farmhouse."

“Don't tease me with mentions of hotel chains that leave warm chocolate chip cookies for you instead of weird-looking radishes."

"They were beets."

"Aren't they a kind of radish? Or is a radish a kind of beet?" Shawn snaps his fingers. "You know who I bet could tell me? Dwight's cousin Mose. Which means I'll never know, because that guy is super weird, and a little creepy. Like this house."

"Do you know what isn't weird and creepy? The complimentary bathrobes given out in the business suites of the Doubletree."

"True, but they're also not as awesome as our complimentary T-shirts." Shawn says, pointing at the one he's wearing, which reads, Nothing Beets Schrute Farm. "Hey, I've got to say, I love how well you heeded the curfew warning and got right in bed in your PJs even though it’s only 8PM for us.”

“I'll have you know that my PJs are very comfy. You’re just jealous because you forgot yours.”

“Actually, like most grown men outside of the 19th century, I do not wear coordinating pajamas,” Shawn gestures at his own outfit of T-shirt and boxer shorts. "It works for me. Haven't gotten any complaints yet."

Gus snorts, but doesn't say anything, mostly because Shawn is right. It does work for him. Gus watches as Shawn puts his feet up on Gus's bed, tilting the chair back onto two legs. Gus's first inclination is to reach out and steady it, or better yet push it back down to the floor, but he doesn't; Gus has gotten good at stifling first impulses where Shawn is concerned.

Shawn sighs. “I’m ridiculously wide awake right now and I think this guy expects me to go to sleep. What are we supposed to do?"

Gus puts his book aside. "We could get ready for tomorrow."

Shawn waves a hand. "Piece of cake."

"Have you ever actually worked in an office, Shawn?"

"Newsflash, Gus: we have an office. I'm there, like, all the time."

"I mean a real office, with an actual boss."

Shawn shrugs. "Sure, lots of times. There was the insurance company-"

"Where you left for lunch on your first day and never went back?"

"- the advertising company-"

"Where you took a girl out of the office on a coffee break and never went back," Gus says. "Do you see the pattern emerging, Shawn?"

"I absorbed plenty about corporate culture in those mornings. Also, I've seen Office Space at least two-and-a-half times." Shawn puts his hands behind his head, which pulls his T-shirt up, exposing a strip of skin above his boxer shorts.

Gus looks away quickly, reaching down to the floor the other side of his bed to grab the bag he left there. When he sits up with it in his hand, Shawn has pulled his T-shirt down with one hand, the other scratching the back of his neck.

"Let's go over the employees again" Gus opens up the bag and pulls out a modified Guess Who board game they'd been using at the office in the days before flying out to Pennsylvania.

Shawn grabs for one of the game boards. "Oh, man! I thought I forgot that!"

"You did," Gus says, shuffling the game cards and offering Shawn first pick, then taking one himself. Gus props the card up (ANDY BERNARD, a guy wearing a sweater vest and a bright, goofy grin) and goes about moving the character cards around on his board. All of the cards have had pictures of Dwight's coworkers taped over them, taken from the dossiers Dwight sent to them.

Shawn shifts his weight, balancing the game board in his lap. "Rock-paper-scissors for first question?"

"Let's do it," Gus says.

"You sound pretty confident for someone with a losing record."

"I've been playing possum. I'm about to strike. Brace yourself, Shawn."

"Consider me braced," Shawn says, holding up his fist in the universal gesture indicating the imminence of a serious rock-paper-scissors contest. "Don't get overly attached to paper, Gus. You love to play it, and I know you do, so-"

"No psychological warfare, Shawn."

"Fair enough," Shawn says, and shuts up. He wins anyway, of course.


Gus sets the alarm on his Blackberry to go off a little after six, but when it does, the alarm stops chiming before he can reach over to turn it off. Weird. He reaches out blindly toward the nightstand, refusing to open his eyes because his pre-trip sleep cycle alteration doesn't seem to have avoided jet lag at all. The knowledge that Shawn probably has it worse makes Gus's suffering marginally more bearable; the only thing Shawn did to prepare for the trip was try on suits from Gus's closet, assuming without asking that Gus would let him borrow some. Which he did, of course.

Gus has just found the edge of the nightstand when someone grabs his wrist and puts the Blackberry in his hand. "Here."

The only thing that keeps Gus from screaming right away is the small part of him that thinks that maybe, just maybe, it's Shawn sitting in the chair beside his bed, which would be weird but not scary-weird. When he opens his eyes, he sees Dwight sitting there, and that's definite scary-weird territory. A strange beet-farmer sitting in a dark room beside him, watching while he sleeps: Gus is pretty sure this is the scene where things turn violent in a horror movie.

"I wanted to speak to you alone," Dwight says.

"Okay," Gus says, tugging the sheets closer to his chin, as if the thin cotton will form some kind of protective barrier.

"Did you sleep all right?" Dwight sounds genuinely concerned, but Gus reminds himself that Kathy Bates sounded genuinely concerned when she asked James Caan things like that in Misery, and look how that turned out.

"I slept fine." Gus scoots up in bed so that he's sitting against the headboard. "The waking up didn't go quite as I expected."

Dwight nods. "You should consider changing your alarm chime. It took you at least forty-five seconds to wake up."

"Yes, that was definitely what I was referring to." Gus looks at Dwight, who's sitting there with circles under his eyes, no visible weapons, and pajamas that look just like his own. "What's going on, Dwight?"

Dwight sighs. "I have some concerns about today."

Gus remembers the way Shawn joked all through dinner, casually listening to Dwight's additional explanations of the people they'd meet in his office without writing anything down. "You don't have to worry about Shawn. He's good at what he does."

"Oh, that's not the problem." Dwight looks at Gus as if he'd just suggested the sky was green. "It's understandable that his abilities would cause him to act outside the norm. No, it's something else. I told you that the people at the office won't know that Shawn's a psychic, right?"

"Right," Gus says, a little worried that he's gotten so used to going along with Shawn's fake-psychic thing that adding another layer of deceit on top doesn't bother him at all.

"Not even my boss will know."

"And you're afraid you'll get in trouble or something? We could tell him."

"No, no, no." Dwight shakes his head and grimaces. "Michael wouldn't be able to keep it to himself. It's better that he not know. But it's hard - have you ever had to keep anything from Mr. Spencer?"

Gus has a long list of things he's never told Shawn, like:

-that he watched every episode of Joan of Arcadia;

-what happened between him and Colin, his roommate during his college term abroad in England; and

-that he's pretty sure Shawn is the only person in the world who understands him.

But Gus isn't about share any of them with Dwight, and so all he says is, "Sure I have."

"How do you deal with it?"

Gus shrugs. "You just do."

Dwight squints at him, unsatisfied.

Gus rubs a hand over his face. "Are you telling me you tell this Michael everything about your life?"

"Of course not," Dwight says. "I had a lengthy sexual relationship that-"

"Whoa," Gus says, holding up a hand. "No need for details. The point is, you don't tell him everything, so what's the big deal?"

"This is different. This has to do with the office, which is his domain, his sphere of influence. It's disrespectful of me to deceive him. You would never be disrespectful to Mr. Spencer, I'm sure."

"I guess that would depend on how you define 'disrespectful."

"Any situation falls into chaos without a strong leader." Dwight stares off into the middle distance. "As one great leader said, 'Democracy is beautiful in theory; in reality, it is a fallacy.'"

Gus turns over the George Washington biography on the nightstand; it feels like a betrayal to have George looking up at him during the conversation. Gus clears his throat. "You don't hear sentiments like that thrown around very often."

"No, you don't," Dwight says, the and isn't that a shame unspoken but clearly implied.

Dwight hasn't moved from his spot next to Gus's bed, and doesn't look like he's inclined to any soon; Gus is most definitely inclined to end this conversation as soon as possible. Gus sighs and says, "I guess it comes down to whether it's more important that you figure out what this Jim guy is up to, or that you tell Michael the truth. Which is it?"

Dwight's head snaps up. "We leave at 7:45. Breakfast is at 7:00. Mose is serving fresh-crushed beet juice. It's a delicacy."


Shawn can't believe it when Gus tells him the story in their rental car on the way to Dwight's office. "He seriously quoted Mussolini to you?"

"Most definitely," Gus says. "I think he might be a fascist."

"He is a little eccentric-"

"Aggressively so, I'd say," Gus says, making a right turn into a grim-looking office complex when the GPS lady tells him to. "And most definitely not Bizarro Me."

"I don't know," Shawn says. "Subtle changes are an essential element of Bizarro people. Like Evil Spock's goatee in that episode of Star Trek."

"Are you saying you think Dwight is evil? Or that fascism is subtle? Because I think World War II is a pretty negative indicator of the second."

"Dwight's not evil," Shawn says. "He's just a little . . . misguided. And really into irrigation."

"What he's really into is catching this Jim guy at whatever he's up to," Gus says, pulling into a parking spot. "You think this guy is harmless?"

"Totally," Shawn says. "All that's in the history is a series of office pranks, some of them pretty impressive. Half the reason I wanted to come was to figure out how he got Dwight's stuff into the vending machine. How awesome would it be to do that to Lassiter?"

Gus imagines it. "Pretty awesome."

"I know, right?" Shawn flips down the visor in front of him and pats his head, squinting at his reflection. Gus can understand the squint; he barely recognized Shawn when he came downstairs into the farmhouse kitchen, wearing one of Gus's older suits, his hair parted and combed into submission. "Whatever Jim's got brewing, we'll figure it out and stop it, because Dwight's the client. And then we'll go home and try whatever he was going to do on Lassiter."

Gus nods. "Should be big. Dwight says Jim's been all secretive and pleased with himself for weeks, that's a long time to be planning something"

Shawn nods, turning his head this way and that, still checking his reflection. "How's my hair?"

"Awful," Gus answers, because it is.

"Good." Shawn waves his hand in front of himself in a theatrical way, ending with his fist poised over his heart. "It's part of my character. The hair, and these."

Shawn reaches behind him to his suit coat, hanging on a hook in the backseat. He pulls out a pair of glasses with thick black frames and puts them on, along with his most serious expression.

"Those look like you lifted them twenty years ago from the Corey that was in Stand By Me."

"Feldman," Shawn says, and opens the car door. "How many times have we been over the two Coreys, Gus? I expect more from you."


Michael, the boss Dwight had been so concerned about, gathers the office staff in the conference room to introduce them. Gus eyes the room from his position by the doorway and recognizes the expressions on the employees' faces as only slightly less wary than those of the medical office staff he has to talk his way past on sales runs.

Instead of announcing their names right away, Michael starts with a dramatic pause, followed by, "What is efficiency?"

Dwight holds up a hand, which Michael ignores. "Anyone? Yes, Jim."

"Hotel rooms with kitchenettes that you can rent by the month."

"Jim, there's no need to make things up-"

"No, actually he's right," Meredith says. "My kid and I lived in one of those for a few months, you know the one down on Dover street, next to the AutoZone? They called it an efficiency."

"Okay, fine," Michael says. "But that's not the efficiency I was referring to. Efficiency means doing something quickly, rather than doing it well."

Toby winces. "I don't think that's actually-"

"Toby, just - stop," Michael says, shaking his head. "Efficiency is my topic today, because we have two efficiency experts here with us. They are going to find ways to make our office run more smoothly, and identify where we can trim the fat. Metaphorical fat, so our more pleasantly plump coworkers can breathe easy."

"But not too easy," Dwight says, staring down his coworkers. "No one is safe."

"Well, I don't know if I'd say - some of us are safe," Michael says, pointing at himself with a grin that loses its effectiveness when he follows it up by leaning over and stagewhispering to Shawn, "Right? I negotiated a deal with corporate, consultants can't just walk in and-"

"Okay," Shawn says, stepping in front of Michael. "Why don't we get to the introductions. My name is Shawn Spencer, and this is my partner, Burton C.E. Guster."

Gus steps forward. "Corporate efficiency is my middle name."

"You can call him Gus, and yes, we are efficiency experts," Shawn says, his hands clasped in front of him. "Our job is to look at what you do here at Dunder-Mifflin and see how we can do it better. Smarter. Faster. Yes, question in the back?"

Stanley lowers his hand, but doesn't look away from his crossword puzzle. "What do we have to do?"

Gus puts on his most ingratiating smile. "All you have to do is be yourself."

Shawn nods. "Just like those ABC After-School specials told you to."

"Ooh, I loved those," Kelly says. "Do you remember the one where the piano player's mean boyfriend slammed her hand in the piano? It was awful. I quit music class the very next day."

"Not sure if that was the point of the movie," Shawn says. "All you need to do today is go about your usual workday, which Gus and I will observe. We'll pull selected individuals into meetings to discuss the office in general and their role in particular. Don't attach any importance to being chosen, these selections have been made at random."


Of course the selections aren't random, but to give themselves some cover, they start with someone unlikely to be involved in whatever Jim is planning. Gus picks Creed because his picture on the improvised Guess Who game board reminded him of his high school history teacher, who gave him his first copy of Freedom Rings, and also because Creed sat through the initial conference room meeting with a friendly, if somewhat blank, smile.

"So," Shawn says, adjusting his glasses. "You are Creed Bratton."

"That I am," Creed says, and before the words are out of his mouth, the smile is gone. "Listen: they tried to get rid of me once before. They failed then, and you're going to fail now. So don't even try."

"Excuse me?" Gus looks over at Shawn, who's looking at Creed with a confused, but watchful expression.

"I'm just saying, I'm not going down easy. I'll take this whole place with me. You guys, too. Everyone has secrets. I know how to find them."

"Hey," Gus says, leaning back in his chair. "No need for threats-"

"It's not a threat," Creed says. "It's a promise."

Shawn and Gus look at each other, and then back at Creed.

Shawn is the one who finally says it. "Well, I think that about does it for today, Mr. Bratton."

"I thought it would," Creed says, standing. His expression turns from hostile to friendly as quickly as it had shifted before. "Have a nice day, you guys."

"Dude," Shawn says, once the door swings shut. "I don't think he was kidding! About either part! He genuinely threatened to take this place down and us with it, and he really does want us to have a nice day."

Gus considers for a second. "Coffee break?"

"Coffee break," Shawn says, with a nod.


The conversation in the kitchen comes to an abrupt halt when Gus and Shawn walk through the door, which is to be expected, but still feels pretty weird. Jim and Pam stand on one side of the kitchen, not touching but close enough that it's clear they're a couple, and Andy sits at the small table nearby.

"Carry on, everyone, carry on, we're just here for some coffee," Shawn says, opening the cabinets until he finds one with mugs. "These mugs okay for anyone to use?"

When Pam nods that they are, Shawn pulls down two and hands one to Gus

"Intermittent social breaks can improve workplace productivity by seventeen per cent," Gus says, when the conversation in the room doesn't pick up again on its own.

"See? So no worries," Shawn says, and turns to Pam again. "How's the coffee?"

"Good, I guess. Jim?"

"Yeah, it's decent," Jim says.

Shawn turns back to Pam. "Oh, you're not into coffee?"

"It's fine. Just decided on tea today," Pam says, gesturing with her mug.

"Celestial Seasonings, excellent choice," Shawn says. "Gus loves those."

Gus shoots a sharp look at Shawn, who's too busy pouring coffee and eight sugar packets in his mug to notice.

"Who doesn't love Celestial Seasonings?" Andy says, smiling at Gus while pushing aside the mug of coffee in front of him. "They're the best."

"All I see here is Lipton," Shawn says, picking through the basket next to the coffeemaker.

"Oh, I brought my own," Pam says, and then looks at Gus. "I can get you one, as long as you don't mind Cinnamon Apple Spice."

"I could go to the store and get you your own box of Celestial Seasonings," Andy offers. "No big deal. It'd be nice to get some fresh air. Just let me know."

"That's all right," Gus says, because he doesn't like tea much at all.

"Listen to Gus," Shawn says, his hand on Gus's shoulder, but leaning in toward Pam. "So selfless. Never wants to inconvenience anyone. But really, he'd love some tea, if you don't mind."

"No problem," Pam says, handing her mug to Jim. "Be right back."

"You're a lifesaver," Shawn calls out as the door swings shut. "She used to be the receptionist, right?"

"Yeah," Jim says. "She's in Sales now."

"How is she doing with that?"

Jim looks uncomfortable. "Pretty well, but I don't know if I should - do you know that we're engaged?"

"Are you? Congratulations!" Shawn turns when the door opens again behind him. "That was quick."

"Didn't have far to go," Pam says, dropping the tea bag in Gus's hand.

"Thanks," Gus says. "Jim was just telling us that you're engaged."

Pam looks at them. "That's not a problem, is it?"

"Not a problem at all," Gus says. "There's no data pointing to relationships impairing workplace efficiency."

"Well," Andy says, standing up and putting his hands in his pocket. "It's not a problem as long as your fiancée is faithful, and doesn't conduct a long, secret affair with a coworker, humiliating you in the process. Am I right?"

Andy looks around the kitchen with a strained come-on-who's-with-me grin, but all Gus sees on people's faces are pained expressions tinged with sympathy (Jim and Pam) and curiosity (Shawn).

"But that's probably not going to happen to you guys," Andy says, nodding toward Jim and Pam. "You two - I think you two are going to make it. And I think I am going to make it . . . over to my desk. Where I am going to get back to my work, which I will be doing very, very efficiently."

Andy gives Shawn and Gus each a thumbs up on his way out of the kitchen, leaving silence in his wake.

Pam shakes her head. "He's had a really tough year."

"Sounds like it," Gus says.

"I'll say," Shawn says.

Pam and Jim go back to their desks a few seconds later, leaving them alone in the kitchen, Shawn holding a mug of coffee, Gus a tea bag and an empty mug.

Gus holds up the tea bag. "What am I supposed to do with this?"

"Typically, I believe you place it in a mug of boiling water. Then you just wait for the magic to happen."

"Shawn, I don't drink Celestial Seasonings," Gus says, and then amends. "Unless I can't sleep. And then it's Sleepytime Vanilla. But only on very rare occasions."

"Gus the pharmaceutical sales rep-slash-detective doesn't drink Celestial Seasonings, but maybe Gus the consultant does," Shawn says, taking the tea bag out of his hand. He flips it over and reads the label, nodding as if it confirms something he'd been wondering about.

"What was that about?" Gus asks, taking the tea bag back and opening it.

"Just a little detective work. You'll see," Shawn says. "All will become clear in time."


They spend most of the day observing the employees at Dunder Mifflin, and the thing that becomes most clear to Gus is exactly how unsuited Shawn is to office life. A little after 2:30, Shawn pulls Gus into the men's room, his expression desperate.

"I think I'm allergic to this shirt," Shawn says, twisting his head one way and then the other. "It feels weird. Does it look weird? Is my skin discolored?"

Gus leans over and looks at Shawn's neck, close enough that he can smell the gel he put in his hair to get it to stay in place, and see a faint but healing cut from shaving on the underside of his chin. His neck looks fine.

Gus clears his throat and leans back. "You're fine."

"Are you sure?" Shawn runs a finger under the collar of his shirt. "Maybe I'm having an asthma attack."

"You don't have asthma. That's just what it feels like to wear a tie."

"It can't be. No one would wear ties if it felt like this," Shawn says, tugging the knot of his tie down.

Gus reaches over automatically and pushes it back up, straightening it in the process. It isn't until Gus steps back that he realizes Shawn's movements have stilled, the fidgeting of before gone,

Shawn gathers himself, gives a little shake. "This place is awful."

"It's not so bad."

Shawn's eyes practically bug out. "It's torture! It's so quiet, all you hear is the click-clickety-click of people's keyboards, and when you get a reprieve from the oppressive silence via conversation, it's always soooo boooooring," Shawn says, stretching the last two words out. "Oscar and Angela spent ten minutes arguing about the merits of mechanical versus traditional pencils. And I'm not even going to tell you how long Kelly was talking to Toby about cap sleeves-"

"I can imagine," Gus says, having spent twenty minutes trapped in the lunch room with Kelly listening to a recap of the most recent cycle of America's Next Top Model.

"How do they stand it?" Shawn asks, walking over to the sinks to check his reflection in the mirror.

Gus shrugs. "You get used to it."

"Impossible," Shawn says, but the thing is, Gus had. He spent years at the pharmaceutical company working his way up the ladder, all the while feeling a part of him - the part of him that goes to arcades, does a mean Michael Jackson impersonation, travels across the country as a fake efficiency expert - fade away. He'd figured losing that piece of himself was part of growing older, and had pretty much resigned himself to it, until Shawn pulled him into the fake psychic detective business.

Another thing Gus will never tell Shawn is how grateful he is to have gotten that part of himself back.

"I just realized - do you know what my hair looks like? Lassiter's." Shawn pats the top of his head and turns to Gus. "Put in some blue contacts, and I could be his younger brother. Mental note: I know what I'm going as this Halloween."

- - - -

Due to Shawn's allergic reaction to office life, they spend their mornings at Dunder Mifflin and their afternoons out of the office to "review their findings." Reviewing their findings usually involves a conversation in the car, like:

Gus asks, "So, did you figure it out yet?"

Shawn says, "I'm 90% there. Dude! Awesome idea alert: Let's go play laser tag."

And then they totally smoke a group of twelve-year-olds who had been playing as a team all summer.

While at the office, Shawn takes the lead in questioning most of the time because he seems to have an idea of what's going on, but won't share it with Gus.

"Well, Jim and Dwight have always had a . . . unique relationship," Phyllis says. "But I don't think either of them would do something to seriously hurt each other."

Phyllis considers for a moment. "Well, Dwight, maybe. But it would be because he didn't know any better."

"And what's Jim like?" Shawn asks.

"Oh, he's a good salesman. A good guy, too. He and Pam are engaged, you know."

"We heard," Gus says. "Does that cause any tension in the office?"

"No, not like before," Phyllis says, in the not-quite-reserved manner of a person who doesn't want to be considered a gossip, but loves telling other people's business. After a few seconds, she leans forward. "For years, Jim and Pam kept insisting that they were just friends, but it was obvious that Jim was in love with Pam for ages. But she was engaged to someone else."

Gus nods. "Like Leo and Isabel on Relativity."

"Well, not really," Shawn says. "Because they just met on an Italian vacation, they weren't friends for years-"

"-but the essential drama is the same, the whole being-in-love-with-someone-unavailable. By the way, since when did you watch Relativity? You tore me apart for watching that show in high school."

Shawn shrugs. "I maybe tuned in a few times after I caught you getting all choked up over it in high school-"

"I was not crying. I was coming down with pinkeye," Gus says, pointing an emphatic finger. He remembers where they are, and turns back to Phyllis. "I apologize for that. You were saying?"

Phyllis clears her throat. "Well, I don't know about this relativity thing, but it was pretty dramatic here at the office."

"How long were they friends for?" Shawn asks, leaning forward like the answer carries some kind of significance.

"Oh, a long time. Very close friends, too. Eventually they figured it out, and they got engaged a few months ago. Jim's been really happy, especially lately. Pam too," she adds, almost as an afterthought.

Shawn nods. "And what can you tell me about Pam?"

"She's fine. She's a nice girl, most of the time. When she's not stealing your clients," Phyllis says, almost under her breath. "But she makes Jim happy."

"Has she seemed different to you lately?" Shawn asks.

"She's been out sick a few times, but she seems happy enough," Phyllis says. "Can I ask you something? Why are you asking all of these questions about Jim and Pam? I thought you were going to ask me more about sales-"

"Oh, we were just getting to that!" Shawn closes his notebook with a flourish and gestures to Gus. "Gus will be taking the lead on all sales-related questions. I'm more of a big-picture guy. Gus, she's all yours."

Gus stares at Shawn. "Thank you, Shawn. So much."

"No problem, buddy." Shawn looks at Gus with an expectant smile.

Gus opens up his own notebook, which is blank except for a list of sites he wants to see in Philadelphia, which he drew up while he was circulating around the office earlier in the day. He looks up at Phyllis. "Let's see. Okay, how many out-of-office sales calls do you average in a week?"

"Oh, I'd say about three or four."

"Three or four," Gus repeats, writing it down in his notebook. "Very good. Very, very good."

He tries to come up with another question to ask. When he can't, he looks over at Shawn to give him a dirty look, but something about the expression on Shawn's face stops him short. It's not amused or gleeful the way Gus expects it to be, but somehow quiet, thoughtful.

Gus turns back to Phyllis. "So, uh - describe a typical sales call."

- - -

At night, they eat strange, beet-based meals that taste better than they have any right to, and take part in whatever activity Dwight has set up for the evening, like Sci-Fi/Fantasy Charades or building birdhouses.

Shawn's birdhouse comes out odd-looking, an off-centered square in the center where Gus's has a perfectly placed circle. Shawn stares at his birdhouse. "I'm going to give this to Henry, tell him it represents our father-son relationship."

Gus takes Shawn's birdhouse and moves it from hand-to-hand. "Non-traditional, but sturdy?"

"I was going to say lopsided and dysfunctional, but I appreciate your optimistic take on things, Gus."

Dwight insists on calling Shawn Mr. Spencer, treating him with something like awe. He never asks whether they've figured out anything about Jim, and Gus has realized that Jim is just a pretext, and Dwight's real motivation for getting Shawn out to Scranton was to spend time with him. He has plenty of non-Jim-related questions for Shawn.

"Do you have trouble relating to the rest of humanity?" Dwight asks over dinner on the last night of their stay at the farmhouse. "Do you find them weak?"

"No, I like people," Shawn says, an understatement if Gus ever heard one. Shawn doesn't just like people, he delights in them, even (maybe especially) people who aren't particularly fond of him.

Dwight nods in a thoughtful way. "So you adhere more to Charles Xavier's philosophy than you do Erik Lensherr's."

Shawn squints. "Uh-"

"Yes, he's more like Xavier," Gus says to Dwight, and then to Shawn, "I'll explain later."

"Thanks, buddy," Shawn says, placing a hand on Gus's shoulder. Instead of taking it away a moment later, he shifts his grip so that his thumb rests near Gus's collarbone. It's totally weird, a too-intimate touch that lasts way longer than typical guy-friend boundaries, and Gus knows that he should give Shawn a look or shake it off.

The thing is, he doesn't want to. Gus doesn't do anything, just focuses on Dwight, who is running through a list of questions he wrote out on a pad. "Have you given any thought to the origin of your abilities? Were you exposed to anything unusual?"

"Other than my father? No." Shawn's hand falls away from Gus's shoulder, and Gus tells himself that he's relieved.

"Oh, did your father have special abilities as well?" Dwight nods and scratches down a note on his pad. "I've always suspected that there's a genetic element."

"I'd say it's more nurture than nature," Gus says. "Shawn's father isn't psychic."

Dwight furrows his brow. "Did he expose you to some kind of radiation, or-"

"Not that I know of. I guess you'd say he encouraged the development of my abilities." Shawn places two fingers at his temple and closes his eyes. "Tell Mose not to bother with the cookies, we're full."

Dwight's jaw drops, and Gus turns around to see Mose's hand poised a few inches from the top of the cookie jar behind Shawn. Totally out of Shawn's line of sight.

"Wow," Dwight says, making more notes on his pad.

Later, after Dwight and Mose have gone outside to close up the barn, Gus asks him about it.

"Dude, how did you do that? They've never given us cookies after dinner before. How did you know? Did you see his reflection in Dwight's glasses or something?"

Shawn shrugs and stands up to move toward the living room. "There was burned pie in the garbage can earlier, so I figured whatever Mose had planned for dessert went badly. Then I saw Mose glance toward the cookie jar before he got up, and since he never eats the desserts he makes, I knew he'd be getting them for us. It's just about paying attention."

"If you say so," Gus says, but Shawn is right: Shawn is good at paying attention, at noticing things. Shawn used to be able to tell if he passed a test and how high Gus's grade would be by making eye contact with the teacher as she passed them back. It's something Gus has both relied on and been terrified of, especially as a teenager when there were plenty of things Gus wanted to keep to himself.

"You up for a rematch?" Shawn reaches for the Battleship game they found under Gus's bed earlier in the week, and have been playing most nights.

"Absolutely," Gus says, taking the game board Shawn offers him. "You know, time's almost up, Shawn. Do you have this thing figured out or don't you?"

"Patience is a virtue, Gus," Shawn says, picking up one of the ships and examining it before placing it on his game board.

"I've been patiently waiting for two days for an explanation of the complimentary luncheons you've had us provide. Cold cuts one day, hot dogs the next."

"I told you, Gus. All will become clear-"

"-in time, I know, I heard you," Gus says. "B-8."

"Hit," Shawn says, picking up a peg. "A-4."

"Miss. I like the way this game is going."

"We'll see," Shawn says. "Hey, did I ever tell you why Juliet and I broke up?"

Gus looks up at Shawn, who's staring at his game board like it's going to reveal something to him. Shawn may be good at picking up the details no one else sees, but one of the things Gus is best at is reading Shawn. Gus knows that Shawn's voice might be steady, but he's nervous. "No, you didn't."

"She said that she could tell I wasn't being myself." Shawn looks up at Gus with a prompting expression. "Are you going to bomb me, or what? Are you surrendering?"

"In your dreams," Gus says. "B-7. That's kind of a weird thing for her to say."

"I know, right? Also, hit. You sunk my Patrol Torpedo boat."

"The first of many."

"I'm digging your optimism here, Gus," Shawn says, examining his game board. "She said that it felt like I was trying to be someone I thought I should be, instead of just being myself. And then I said that I thought that was what being in a relationship was all about - isn't that what Jack Nicholson says at the end of As Good As It Gets?"

"I think so."

"Totally convinced Helen Hunt! But not Juliet." Shawn tugs at the neck of the green T-shirt he changed into when they got back to the farmhouse, and fidgets in his chair a bit. "She says that you should only be with someone who you can be yourself with. What do you think?"

Gus thinks that green is Shawn's best color, and that it's been fourteen years since the first time he recognized the strange pull inside him when Shawn is around as attraction. He thinks that he's gotten pretty good at dealing with it, at accepting things as they are, at not even thinking about how things could be different.

What Gus says is, "I think she's probably right."

"You do?"

"I do." This time Gus is the one looking at his game board for no reason.

"Okay then," Shawn says, as if Gus just decided something for him with that answer. "Noted. Also, C-9"

"Miss," Gus says.

"For the love of John Grisham, where are your ships? Did you pack them all in one little area? Or did you not put them all on there -"

"Shawn," Gus says. "I do not cheat."

"I know you don't, buddy," Shawn says, with a grin. "Your move."

- - -

The next day is their last one at Dunder-Mifflin, and Shawn has saved the interview with Jim and Pam for the end of the day, an hour before the office shuts down.

"So," Shawn says, gesturing toward Pam and Jim. "The lovebirds of Dunder Mifflin! I have heard a lot about you two."

"People are talking about us?" Pam says.

"All good things, all good things," Shawn says.

"That's nice to hear, I guess, but can I ask - why exactly are we having a joint interview?" Jim asks.

"Oh, we wanted to mix it up a bit on the last day, since we're about to wrap this whole thing up." Shawn makes a big show of uncapping his pen and writing something down in his notebook. "Okay, first question, when was the last time each of you spoke to a client?"

"This morning," Jim says.

"A few minutes ago," Pam says.

Jim looks at Pam. "Trying to show me up there, Beesley?"

"I can't hide how awesome I am, Jim. Thought you'd be used to it by now."

"Okay, second question," Shawn says. "Were you two friends before you got engaged? Phyllis mentioned that, is it true?"

Jim tilts his head in a curious way. "Is this question part of the consulting package, or-"

"You caught me." Shawn takes off his glasses and rubs the bridge of his nose. "I know this is outside the norm, but I've been having some relationship issues, and I thought maybe -"

"You're right, Shawn," Gus says. "This is outside the norm, and I think maybe we should step outside the room for a minute and discuss this."

"It's okay," Pam says.

Gus turns to Pam. "I appreciate your consideration, but-"

"So, you were friends?" Shawn asks, ignoring Gus.

Jim looks at Pam for a second, and sees something in her expression that makes him answer. "For a while."

"Were you like, 'casual say hi and catch up about each other's weekend' work friends, or more like best friends?"

"More like best friends," Pam says.

"And what made you take the leap beyond that?" Shawn twirls the pen in his hands, a nervous gesture Gus remembers from the last few seconds before final exams began in school. "It's a pretty big leap."

Pam looks at Jim. "It took a while. I mean, there was always something more there, even when we didn't want to admit it. And then we did. It wasn't easy, or quick-"

"To put it mildly," Jim says.

"Yeah," Pam says. "I don't know, it sounds dumb, but I guess it's just that eventually you know you have to do something."

"Doesn't sound dumb at all. Thanks for sharing that, it's really helpful," Shawn says, and puts his glasses back on, opens up his notebook. "Okay, one last question: when is the baby due?"

"January," Pam and Jim say in unison, and then look at Shawn in shock.


"Pam's pregnant? That's the big secret?" Gus asks, after Jim and Pam leave the conference room. It's after 5:30 and the office has grown quiet, the only sound Jim and Pam gathering their things and getting ready to go.

"That's it," Shawn says, shrugging out of his suit coat. "Is it just me, or is the AC busted in here? I'm dying."

"I'm fine," Gus says. "So, there's no big prank?"

"Unless you call the miracle of life a prank."

Gus watches Shawn walk over to the windows and try to open them, with no luck. "What was that all about, Shawn?"

Shawn tugs his tie down. "Getting confirmation of something I'd already figured out, mostly"

"I meant the stuff about their relationship, how they got together."

"That was about getting confirmation, too," Shawn says, unbuttoning the cuffs of his shirt and rolling the sleeves up.

"About what?"

"Gus," Shawn says, looking up. "You know what that was about."

Gus takes a sharp breath. "Shawn - "

"Listen, Gus. Just listen to me. I'm you're best friend, right? Who else knows that you've been reading Freedom Rings since you were seventeen, and that you're allergic to pine nuts, and that you watched Joan of Arcadia?"

"You know that I watched Joan of Arcadia?"

"Of course," Shawn says. "Seriously, who knows you better than I do? God is not an acceptable answer."

Gus doesn't even have to think about it. "No one."

"That's right. No one. So, just - give me a second." Shawn doesn't move, but the expression on his face reminds Gus of their flight out to Pennsylvania, of the way Shawn's hands gripped the armrests during takeoff, more scared than Gus had ever seen him when facing a gun.

"Okay, I'm listening," Gus says, because even though he's pretty freaked out himself, he'll do just about anything to take that look off of Shawn's face.

"All right. Good. That's good," Shawn says. "Very good."

Gus watches Shawn pace up and down the conference room once, twice, his face focused but no longer panicked. Eventually, he stops pacing, and his features are calm. "Gus, let me ask you something: what would have happened if the colonies hadn't rebelled?"

Gus isn't sure what he'd been expecting Shawn to say, but he knows it wasn't that. It takes him a few seconds to respond, even though he spends most of his life waiting for opportunities to talk about the Revolutionary era. "If they'd stayed with England, you mean?"

"Yeah, what would have happened?"

"I don't know, it's impossible to say. I guess we could have ended up like Canada," Gus says. "Canada never had a revolution like ours."

"Canada," Shawn says. "Who wants to be Canada?"

"They have an excellent health care system in Canada," Gus says. "And a very low crime rate, so-"

"Yes, all right, Canada is great if you want to live a healthy, long life."

"You're right, Shawn. That's horrible. What a nightmare."

"Nevermind. Back to the colonies," Shawn says, with an impatient shake of his head. "What were you saying the other night about the people who signed the Declaration of Independence? That they were pretty much signing-"

"-their own death warrants," Gus finishes, a little surprised that Shawn remembers. "Because what they were doing was essentially treason."

"But they felt they had to do it, right?" Shawn says, stepping closer to Gus. "They probably would have been fine as they were, but they knew they had to try something. They knew they wanted something more, and they were willing to take that huge risk. Right?"

"Right," Gus says, because he can't think of anything else to say; too much of him is overwhelmed by what Shawn is saying, what it means. He feels like a kid again in this moment, like a fifteen-year-old kid who's just figured out why he doesn't like any of Shawn's girlfriends, and is trying to figure out how he's going to stay Shawn's friend when he feels this way. Gus has spent a long time keeping that kid safe.

"And the thing is, Gus, we can be Canada. I know I just said some kind of negative things about Canada just now, but forget that, we can be Canada. We can. The car's all packed, we can go to Philadelphia and see the Freedom Bell-"

"Liberty Bell," Gus corrects.

"Liberty Bell," Shawn says. "And do all that stuff, the way we planned to, and we'll have fun. Then we can go back to Santa Barbara and things will go back to normal, and we'll solve crimes, and have awesome adventures, and things will be exactly the same. We can do that."

From the way Shawn's looking at him, Gus knows that Shawn believes this to be true. Shawn thinks that this conversation is just taking them to the edge of something huge, but Gus knows that it's actually pushed them off of it. Gus has always known this; it's why he's always avoided even the thought of it, let alone the mention of it.

There's no coming back. It's a thought that should be horrifying, but somehow it's not; somehow it makes Gus feel brave. It makes him not shrink back when Shawn steps even closer, so close that his face is all that Gus can see.

"But what I'm saying," Shawn says. "Is that I kind of want to start a revolution."

It's too corny to be funny and so Gus doesn't laugh, but he can't help grinning because the rush of affection he feels for Shawn in that moment is to big for him to contain. Too big for him to do anything but something he's wanted to do since he was fifteen, since before he understood what that desire really meant: he reaches out and touches Shawn, his hand on the side of Shawn's face, a gesture that isn't in any guy-friend handbook. A gesture that means something else.

"So, you're telling me you're on board? Because if not, I have to tell you, this is a pretty confusing rejection," Shawn asks, and before he can make another smart remark, Gus answers him for sure: he leans over and kisses him, and not a shy kiss either, but the kind he's always wanted from Shawn, and never thought he'd get.

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January 2013


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