Disclaimer: All publicly recognizable characters, settings, etc. are the property of their respective owners. The original characters and plot are the property of the author. The author is in no way associated with the owners, creators, or producers of any media franchise. No copyright infringement is intended. (Even this disclaimer is property of the managers at Psychfic.) This is a crossover with Angel, but no real knowledge of it is needed to understand this. I'm a little nervous about characterization, here, so constructive criticism is greatly appreciated. I tried to post this on Psychfic as well, but couldn't get it formatted right, so here it is. Two parts, second half will be posted within a week. Again, forgive my semi-colon addiction. I can't help it.
Shawn sees her as she comes in through the bar door; he’s only half a drink in yet so he’s not slurring his words yet and his judgment is still perfectly clear, and he checks her out unabashedly. She’s somewhere in her twenties, with jeans that might as well be painted onto her generous curves and heeled boots that add an extra swagger to her hips as she walks. Her shirt is well-tailored, tightening around her waist and opened a few buttons at the top to show off her undeniably appealing neckline. She has a blunt nose and wide lips, smooth skin that’s coated in a glorious golden-brown summer tan. She saunters up to a stool and drops into it, tossing her stylish purse down on the table in front of her. The girl’s used to all eyes being on her and it shows, but the way she keeps her head straight rather than tossing the bar a haughty look just screams small-town diva who’s been chewed up and spat out by a big town. She probably went to L.A. the instant her feet hit the ground, and found that she had trouble standing on her own without her parents’ money holding her up. But there’s more depth in her eyes than just the weariness of a princess tossed in among the rabble – she moves almost like some of the cops Shawn knows, confident not only in her beauty but in her ability to take out anyone who looked at her wrong.
She crooks a finger at the bartender, places an order, and scruffs a hand through her hair – thick brown curls with attractive highlights, and if the purse weren’t a knockoff and the shoes weren’t department bought, Shawn would have thought she’d had a professional makeover that morning.
Intrigued, bored, and lonely, he takes his drink and gets up, crossing the floor so he can slip into the seat beside her. “New to town, huh?” he asks.
She looks up, flicks her eyes over him, and smiles tightly, lips together. “Passing through,” she says, and thanks the bartender as her drink is delivered. She turns her body just a bit from Shawn, but the dismissal is clear.
Unfortunately, he can be persistent when he wants, as much with potential dates as with cases he wants in on. “So where are you from? No – don’t tell me: small town, not far from L.A. Prom queen, left immediately after high school…”
“Good guess,” she says, not sounding impressed. “It’s also true for, what, seventy percent of California? If you’re trying to dazzle me, you’re going to have to work a lot harder than that, buster.” She has very expressive eyebrows; they form triangles over her eyes every time she places extra emphasis on a word.
“Only because you were living up the cliché. For the record, I think you can do much better than acting,” Shawn finishes. No reaction. She sips her drink and twists to survey the bar, free hand rubbing at the back of her neck. “You’re waiting for someone?”
“Eventually,” she answers. “Not sure who, yet.”
And, cue introduction. “Well, you’re in luck! Shawn. Shawn Spencer.”
Her eyes give him another appraisal. “I’m gonna have to let you down easy, buddy. A year ago, sure, I’d be thrilled to meet someone like you. The hair, the designer stubble, the actual use of color in your wardrobe… it’s nice, and, any other time, I’d be happy to give it a try and see if I could break you of your double-layered polo habit, here. But I don’t have a lot of time right now.”
Shawn frowns down at his shirts for a second, then looks up at her suspiciously, searching for a badge or the hint of a gun. “Tell me you’re not on the job.”
She takes it the other way, squawks, “What?”
He winces. “No, no, not like that. You’re way too classy and selective for that. I have this tendency to meet girls when they’re on stakeouts. It happens. Well, once. I’m not…” he raises a hand vaguely towards his temple… “I’m not getting the ‘detective’ vibe from you, but I thought I’d check.”
“Vibe?” she repeats. He starts to arrange his features into an ‘Oops. Did I say that?’ expression, the preface to his psychic explanation, but she just shakes her head. “No, I’m not a detective. But I am here on business, and then I’m leaving, for good, so, skedaddle.” She gives him a toothy smile, and even with the sarcastic edge, it’s stunning.
“Hey, even if you’re not sticking around, it can’t hurt to meet some new people, huh?”
“Trust me, Shawn Spencer, you don’t want to be the person I’m here for, okay? It’s this thing with doors. One closes, one has to open and all that jazz, so I have to find a door, and the problem is that I’m having trouble picking a new door because I’ve been that door, you know, and so I can’t help but feel sorry for the next door, since, honestly? Being an open door isn’t all that great!”
“O-kay. You do know that made no sense, right? I’m not holding it against you; I’m an expert in nonsense, but I thought you should know.”
“Never mind. I’m going to ruin somebody’s life, so get lost before it’s yours.”
“Wow. Okay. Not a detective… I don’t suppose you’re a psycho criminal who’s going to try to kill me later, because you’d be amazed how often that happens to me.”
She smirks, but this time it’s almost soft. “Believe me, I know.”
He’s making headway, and it’s about time. “Good! So, let me buy you a drink.”
And, just like that, he’s back to square one. She huffs, reaches into her purse, and brings out a pen, then snags a napkin and starts scribbling. “Here, look. You can have my number. Give me a call some time.” She uses her radiant smile again, downs her drink, drops a bill on the counter, and starts to glide off.
Shawn glances down at the napkin, then at her retreating back. “Hey, wait!” he scrambles for his wallet, pays for his own tab, and shoves both wallet and benumbered napkin into his pocket as he jogs to catch up with her just as she’s leaving. He walks beside her as she heads down the alley beside the bar. “We haven’t gotten to the best part! See, the best part is where I get to buy you a drink, and then we talk and get to know each other, and share our darkest secrets, and then when the night is over I’ll say something like, ‘Well, it was nice to meet you; shame you’re leaving,’ and you’ll say, ‘Yeah, Shawn, I had a really great time, and you’re awesome and funny and handsome, and I actually really like the polos, so we should totally get together for dinner before I leave town.’ And so we’ll have dinner, and after dinner we’ll argue about who’s going to pay, because you’re a modern girl but I’m trying to be chivalrous, and then we’ll settle on splitting it, and by then we really like each other, and so maybe one thing leads to another, and…”
She’s stopped and turned to face him, her head angled and a line appearing between her brows as she regards him, but she hasn’t stopped him and she isn’t running away anymore, so he finishes, “And doesn’t this sound like a great plan? We’re hypothetically already having a great time!”
“I don’t have time for dinner,” she says. “Although, if I did, I’d totally let you pay. And it would be some place nice, too, because, hey, you’re lucky I’m even eating with you – hypothetically. But, look, I don’t want to… You seem… It’s not… Oh, you’ll do.”
And then she takes two quick steps and she’s kissing him, hands in his hair and teeth clacking against his with the suddenness, her body warm as it’s pressed against him, and he puts his hands on her waist to draw her closer and leans into the kiss, her mouth moving hungrily, almost desperately, and it does occur to him that he’s standing in an alley making out with a girl he just met, but weirder things have happened to him. (A lot, actually.) Her mouth is hot and he can taste her sour amaretto on her breath, and the night is going pretty good if he dares say so himself.
When she pulls back, he feels something like a static shock, and his lips are tingling, and he smiles at her and breathes, “Or, we could skip the dinner. That’s okay, too.”
She looks at him, all sad dark eyes, and puts her hand on his shoulder and says, mostly to herself, “Last one, had to make it count.” Then she quirks one corner of her mouth upward gloomily and says earnestly, “I’m really sorry, Shawn.”
And she walks away, and he’s left standing there, slightly winded, with her gloss staining the sides of his mouth and the air cold where she used to be, and he calls after her, “So, I’ll call you!” just as she vanishes around a corner.
He doesn’t call. He means to, but then there’s this freakin’ awesome case he and Gus land, and that sucks up all of his attention and he doesn’t have a lot to spare pursuing Miss Spontaneous Kissy-Face for a couple of days, even though he does want to follow up on that. He’s completely okay with the occasional trampled metaphor and cryptic dodging if it means he gets the random hot smooches, too.
Ironically, it happens in the middle of his newest he/she/it/they-dunnit! vision at the police station. He’s standing on the top of Lassiter’s desk, because it amuses him to watch the detective turn various shades of purple as the pseudo-psychic leaves muddy sneaker-prints all over important paperwork. This vision has made him go ‘mute’ just because he decided it would be amusing and he’s playing a game he calls psychic charades, which is a lot more fun when Gus isn’t at a conference and is rather standing there with all the answers, but Buzz and Jules are really enthusiastic and some of their guesses are just plain hilarious.
He’s trying to figure out how to mime ‘the gardener was stalking her and he did it when he found out she got engaged to her boyfriend’ when the room decides to buck beneath his feet and then spin itself around suddenly, colors blurring together. He winces for real this time, the heel of his hand coming up to his head, and Juliet offers, “He hit his head! Headache! Concussion! Um… brain freeze! Hat hair!”
“Hat hair?” Chief Vick echoes incredulously, and Shawn sees Juliet blush prettily just before there’s another needlepoint pain driving into his brain just behind the ocular cavity, and he groans out loud. “Mr. Spencer?” Vick prompts, and he decides he really ought to get closer to the ground in case he really falls over.
He puts his foot back to use Lassiter’s chair as a stepping stool, and then the vertigo swells up and a supernova explodes behind his eyes and his heel slides right off of the edge of the chair and the pain ignites just seconds before he cracks his head on the wall, his teeth snapping closed hard, and then he’s a twitching, shuddering mass on the tiled and not particularly clean floor of the Santa Barbara Police Department.
He can hear himself gasping, and, embarrassingly, whimpering as the images assail his brain. Heat like fire travels up his skin, and he can see a girl with dyed red hair, copper highlights catching in the streetlamps, can sense her fear, can smell lingering metal and see the attacker; the attacker has honest-to-goodness fangs, god, and yellow eyes and a scrunched nose, there are deep ridges on his forehead and Shawn can taste ash and old blood, so strong it makes him want to gag, and the girl’s broken her wrist and he can feel it, and the address drops into his head like he’s known it all along, and some instinct has him screaming it out, and he comes back to reality just in time to hear himself say, “—god, oh, god, oh holy crap, oh, my head, you have to go, you have to hurry, you have to help her, he’s going to kill her, you have to… oh god, my head.”
He sucks in a wheezing breath and remembers where he is, lying on the floor with one arm flung out as if to anchor himself to the world and every single officer in the vicinity staring at him, with expressions that run the range from confused to concerned to annoyed to freaked out. The back of his skull his throbbing and he’s bitten his tongue, but he just licks his lips and fixes his eyes on the Chief and says, “Did you get the address?” He is surprised to find his voice is shaking, and only then does he notice that the rest of him, too, is trembling with aftershocks that just won’t stop. He forces himself to sit up, and Juliet puts her hand on his shoulder and helps him, nervous and worried, her lips thinned into a grim line.
Chief Vick’s jaw is sagged open, but then she snaps it shut and anger flashes in her eyes. “Mr. Spencer, this is going too far—”
“Did you get the address?” Shawn demands. She starts to respond, but he cuts her off frantically. “You have to get someone over there before he kills her! You don’t have long, m-maybe ten, uh…”
“All right,” Vick says, watching him cautiously. “I’ll send someone over.”
“Her name’s Susanne,” Shawn supplies as Vick talks into her radio. “She’s a software engineer. Her hair’s red, but I think it was originally kinda brownish. She’s wearing a blue sweater and her socks don’t match – one is lime green and the other is white with purple stripes. She has clay under her nails; I think she potters. Um, pots? Potteries? Jules, help me out, what’s the verb for ‘makes pottery’?” He would probably sound more like his normal self if he didn’t still sound so strained, his voice an octave higher than it usually is.
“Shawn…” Juliet begins.
“I thought you couldn’t see the future, Spencer,” Lassiter says, and even his customary doubtful tone is laced with something – not concern, exactly, but wariness, and a bit of bemusement.
“I don’t,” Shawn answers honestly. “This has never happened before.” He brightens. “On the plus side, maybe I’m just hallucinating!” He grins at everyone, and their frowns deepen.
Vick finishes on the radio and says, “Mr. Spencer, I want you to get checked out by a doctor.”
He waves a hand sloppily and almost bops Juliet on the nose. “Nah, I’m fine now.”
“Mr. Spencer, you just suffered what looked like a seizure, so I don’t want to hear it.”
“I’m fine. I have a bruise, but no concussion. Not only will I be able to tell you how many fingers you hold up, I can tell you before you hold them up.” He gives her a charming, smug grin, and she puts her head to the side humorlessly, but she also gives a bit. “Seriously. Now. I need some painkillers. There are some in Lassie’s second drawer if that helps. I need some water. And then I’m going home.”
“I don’t think so! You’re insane if you think we’re letting you ride your bike right now,” Lassiter scoffs. To save face, he quickly concludes, “You’d just crash it, and then I’d have to fill out the paperwork.”
“At the very least, I’m calling Mr. Guster to take you to your apartment,” Vick tries to compromise, shooting Lassiter an admonishing look for his last comment.
Shawn shakes his head. “No use. He’s in a conference, his phone will be off.” He struggles to his feet, and Juliet and Buzz both help him to straighten up. “Thanks,” he tells them, prodding the back of his head gingerly for the bruise.
“Then I’m calling your father. Someone needs to watch you.”
Shawn cringes. “You can’t! It’s against my contract!”
“You don’t have a contract, Mr. Spencer.”
“It’s an unwritten contract. Implied. We have this silent agreement, Chief, and one of the statues of that agreement is that you don’t call my father.”
“Statutes,” Buzz corrects under his breath.
“What did I say?” Shawn asks. “But the fact stands. Don’t call my dad on me. I’m thirty! Don’t be a tattle-tale-ing used piñata. I just need a little nap.”
Vick nods reluctantly. “You’re sure this has never happened before?”
Shawn shrugs helplessly. “It’s possible that the spirits are being especially insistent. Or, I might be wrong.” He’s not panicking, which is weird on its own, but he’s decided to reserve all judgment until after he’s determined what’s going on, because right now he can’t see any preferable outcome, so he’s going to wait until he knows which direction the bad news goes in. Then he’ll freak out appropriately. “If I’m staying, I need to go to the break room couch. I might want to pass out, and I don’t want to on the floor. It’s a back thing; just not good for my spine,” he confides.
Nobody knows quite what to do, so he ends up in the break room after swallowing two Advil from Lassiter’s Spencer-is-here-today stash. Juliet escorts him quietly, and when he lies down she brushes his hair back and her face is drawn and then he slips off into sleep still looking up at her distraught face.
Vick shakes him awake moments later and says, “They found her. Her name’s Susanne Fielding. She’s all right. The assailant got away, but he was shot twice. She’s safe.” Her hand is still on his shoulder. She sounds hesitant. She sounds tired.
He says, “Oh.”
He says, “The Jennings murder. It was the gardener.”
She nods. She says, “Tell the spirits to back off my psychic a bit.”
He’s not headed for a straightjacket. He didn’t have a seizure. Susanne is alive when she would have been dead.
Lassiter gets roped into driving him home, and he is silent the whole time. When he gets there, Shawn locks the door, takes off his jacket, and throws up. He rinses out his mouth when he’s done with dry heaves that leave him shaking he stares at his reflection and says, “Huh.”
He thinks about static electricity in the warm air of Santa Barbara. He thinks about doors.
He thinks about almond-flavored alcohol and ‘I’m really sorry, Shawn,’ and he fishes out the napkin that he never read. Cordelia Chase is scrawled on it, and her number. He dials.
It rings twice before he gets a recording that says, “We’re sorry. The number you have entered is incorrect. Please hang up and try again.” He recognizes her voice, though, so he waits. He is rewarded one minute later, when she says, “Hi, Shawn. If you’re listening to this, then I feel extra guilty, because it means you’re a guy who actually calls, and that’s pretty rare. I know you want answers, but I can’t meet you, so this’ll have to do. See, I’m actually kind of dead. Or, not kind of. Just dead.
“Let me explain.”
She talks. She tells him about her visions of people in danger. She tells him how she got them from a man who loved her, a man who died. She tells him about demons, about vampires and witchcraft and werewolves and shape shifters, about a great force she calls The Powers That Be (Shawn’s ‘spirits’ by another name) and about the people she worked with. She tells him how she died, skipping over the details, and how she came back, first to deliver a message to her old boss, and then to pass on the visions. To open a new door. She tells him he should contact the man who was her boss – who is not actually a man, but rather a vampire turned heroic crusader – and she leaves him contact information.
She finishes with another apology, and, “Someone has to do this. It was me, and now I guess it’s you. I’m really sorry.”
It’s the longest voicemail answering message ever. He hangs up before the beep, tosses his phone onto his couch. He sits down.
He starts laughing, and isn’t sure how to stop.