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Author's Chapter Notes:

And we're at the end of this journey. Thank you, everyone, for reading this far. Thank you for the reviews, if you left them; thank you for your attention if you didn't. It's un-Psych-like depressing enough that I didn't know what anyone would think of it - I don't know what I think of it myself - so I'm just happy someone read it, in spite of what it is.

 


Santa Barbara Airport was small, only a single terminal. Juliet waited by the security checkpoint, watching the early morning travelers pass.

He was wearing a suit, gray double-breasted with a matching silver tie, and his hair slicked back; she almost missed him, would have if there had been more of a crowd. Moreover, he was clean-shaven, which rendered him practically a stranger. He looked older for it, responsible: an important salesman on the way to an important sale.

But his grin when he saw her was the same grin, and he ducked out of the line to join her by the water fountain.

"I gotta give your detective skills more props," he said.

"It wasn't that hard," Juliet said. "Dave Bowie? Seriously, Shawn."

"No one believes anyone's dumb enough to pick an alias that obvious," Shawn replied. "Works every time."

She nodded, trying to remember if there had been any names that ridiculous working for those criminals the Whisper had taken down. "We got to the hotel in time last night," she told him. "Set up an ambush, snared two thugs hired to clean the place out. The charges against them might not stick, but if they inform on their bosses, that's worth more to us anyway. And we got Kladinski cold, doesn't matter what lawyers they bring to bear."

He nodded. "Awesome."

"Shawn..." She didn't want to slap him; she wanted to punch him. She wanted to knock him out, and drag him back to the police station, and lock him in a holding cell. Or handcuff him to her desk. Or just sit on him. If she'd been only a second slower, getting out of that pantry... "You weren't even wearing a bullet-proof vest."

"Wouldn't have helped," he assured her cheerfully. "Kladinski's trademark is three shots to the head, point-blank. Makes sure there's no question afterwards."

"Was," she corrected. "His trademark was. He's not going to be shooting anyone else ever again."

"Which is great. But I got a plane to catch, Jules, so..."

"What are you doing in Dallas?"

Shawn shrugged. "You'll see. You're keeping a database, right?"

"Shawn..."

"You want my autograph? I could use someone else's handwriting. How about Tom Cruise's? Or, I know, Lassie's!"

"When will you be coming back?"

His smile didn't fall, didn't fold; but it froze, and there was nothing in his eyes, absolutely nothing, void like the vacuum of outer space. She didn't see his lips move when he said, "I'm not, Jules."

"But...ten years, Shawn, you told me, if you weren't over it by now..."

"You can sell the house. Please, sell the house. Give it to charity, or whatever. I know I should deal with it, but I can't. Sorry."

"Shawn, please--"

"I can't. Thought maybe I could. I can't." Shawn closed his eyes. "Eighteen years ago, the year 2000. June fifteenth, I'm standing here. There--" and he pointed blindly to a triangular tile on the floor, six feet away. "Standing there, I've got a ticket to Atlanta, layover in Colorado. I won it in a lottery, fireman's ball down in Summerland. My duffel bag's checked, I've got a book for the flight, on page twenty-three of a Rex Stout I haven't read; I'm ready to go. I'm waiting in line at the security checkpoint, and Gus comes running up, in a pinstripe suit and this tripping purple tie--it's one o'clock on a Thursday afternoon, he's got work, what the hell is he doing here?

"I'd left my lucky Yankees cap in the backseat of his car. He found it, heading out on his new route, he found it and he drove out to the airport to drop it off, just caught me. And I said," he affected a terrible southern belle accent, "'Oh, thank you, Gus, whatever would I do without you?' And Gus said, 'No idea. You just better get my ball signed by Andrew Jones.' Which I did, but I never gave it to him, there was this girl, Cindy, curly auburn hair, major Braves fan. And she was double-jointed. I told Gus I lost it in a poker game, though he never believed me..."

Shawn opened his eyes. "That's how it is. Everywhere, anywhere around town. Always. I can wall it off sometimes, when I'm not here. I can be someone who doesn't remember--someone else. But being here...I don't forget. Not anything. I can't."

Juliet lowered her head, looking at that tile where no one stood today. "I'm sorry."

"Hey, not your fault." He hugged her, same as before, but quicker.

When he let her go, she wiped her eyes, said, "So--good luck."

"Yeah," he said. "Thanks," and he smiled. It showed in his eyes again, brighter than the emptiness. He turned away, towards the gates.

"Shawn," she said, and touched his shoulder, not clasping his arm, but the brush of her hand was enough to stop him. "What you've been doing. Your father, Gus--they'd be proud."

For a moment he stood there, one step from her, not looking back. Then he said, "I don't care." Taking his ticket from his pocket, he entered the checkpoint. The guard waved him through the security arch without incident; he collected his briefcase from the x-ray's conveyor belt and headed toward the first gate, and she lost him in the crowd.

 

the end



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