“What the hell are you doing, Spencer?”
It was the first thing to come out of Carlton’s mouth when the exam room door closed behind them. The four of them—Spencer, O’Hara, Guster, and himself—were alone now, and he still wasn’t entirely certain what was going on.
Spencer was swinging his legs off the edge of the exam table. He grinned. “One stone, a whole lotta birds, Lassie.”
“Please make sense.”
Guster was just sort of standing there, but O’Hara was pacing. As much as she could pace in the small space, anyway. He supposed two steps each way still counted.
“Look, I know we got you out of there, and you’re welcome by the way,” Spencer said. “But that wasn’t the point. It just turned out to be a good time to enact a much larger plan.” He made a sweeping gesture.
“A plan for what?”
“For everything! Don’t you get it? Hazel’ll show up, and I’ll ask her to, you know, read me or something because obviously no doctor’s going to find anything wrong with me—”
“That’s debatable,” Carlton hedged.
Spencer shushed him. “It’s perfect! I’ll ask her if she can sense any connection to the spirit world, any psychic anything, and she won’t, cause I’m not, and then I’ll have corroboration. Something’s happened! My powers are gone! I go out there with her and tell the press, and it’s sad, and I’m sad, but I hope I can still use the skills I’ve learned to help the city, bla bla bla, and they have a new story and they stop bothering you.”
Carlton was already shaking his head. “No. No no no. You are not going to do something this...drastic just because...we need the press to refocus.” He wasn’t comfortable wording it any other way. He didn’t know what was going on in Spencer’s scrambled brain.
“Lassie, come on. It’s not just that, and you know it. I mean yeah, because of...stuff, this is a good time to do something. But I’ve been kinda...tossing ideas around, I guess.”
Carlton let out a breath and narrowed his eyes in confusion. By now they’d all known him long enough that he didn’t have to actually ask for Spencer to get the message he should fill in the blanks.
Spencer got it, but he hesitated. He exchanged glances with his fiance and his best friend before he went on. His energy level dropped a notch or two and he continued a little more seriously.
“Look...we let it rest a while, you and Jules start Gus and me back on some easy cases, test the waters, and eventually everybody forgets about it and we’re back to just doing our thing but we’re legit. You know, ‘isn’t that the guy who used to be psychic?’ That’s the idea.”
It didn’t make sense. Shawn Spencer lived off of attention. Being in the spotlight. Doing detective work somewhat legitimately wouldn’t give him nearly as much of that; Carlton would know.
“Why?” he asked.
Spencer smiled uneasily and reached out to O’Hara. Her pacing slowed to a stop and she took his hand.
“Because...because if I do this Jules can stop lying. Once we get through the weird transition phase, anyway. And I know that won’t be easy. But eventually she won’t have to lie for me anymore. And Gus won’t lose sleep at night over legality issues, and you can hire us without worrying about ruining your no-nonsense reputation. This is best for everybody.”
“What about you?” O’Hara said, finally speaking up. “Are you sure?”
“We talked about this, sweetheart. I’m good with this too. It’s great! I can bring home relatively legitimate bacon! Why do you keep asking?”
“Because I love you.”
And Spencer loved her. That was the reason.
Carlton could understand that. He just never thought he’d see such an act from Spencer.
“You will hire us, right?” Guster was asking.
“It doesn’t matter, Gus,” Spencer said. But he was looking at O’Hara.
Carlton couldn’t answer, because he badly needed to clear his throat. They were interrupted by commotion out in the corridor, and it gave him the cover he needed as he turned away to crack the door and glance out.
It was McNab, escorting Hazel down the hallway. He’d followed them here to help fend off the reporters that were still hovering in the lobby and outside.
Carlton warned Spencer they were on their way, and the fake psychic immediately launched full swing into performance mode. By the time the door burst open again his eyes were wide and he met Hazel’s confusion with his own mock panic.
“Hazel!” he cried. “Thank goodness you’re here.”
“Shawn, what have you gotten yourself into?” she retorted.
“I don’t know! That’s the problem. That’s why I need you. I can’t feel the spirits, Hazel! This has never happened before! Not without the influence of decidedly illegal drugs, anyway.” She gave him a strange look, and he paused. “Okay, that came out wrong. Wasn’t my fault. We got drugged. Me and Lassie and Gus and Woody that one time. We were victims! Super long story.”
O’Hara snorted, Guster made an uncomfortable noise, and Carlton crossed his arms unhappily. “Get to the point, Spencer,” he growled.
“Yes! Right. Something’s wrong with me, Hazel! I need you to tell me where the spirits have gone!”
“I’m not psychic! I’m a witch.”
“Yes, but I know you, Hazel. I wouldn’t trust anyone else.” Spencer looked around surreptitiously. “See, there’s more to it than that. Recently things have been...weird.”
She eyed him skeptically. “Weird?”
“Yes! Wierd. In the old days the spirits just gave me the answers, you know? That’s how it started. But then...time went on, and it wasn’t that way anymore. They showed me other things. Like where to look, and the how and why of everything. Like they were trying to teach me something. How to see things other people didn’t see. But I never thought they’d just leave!”
Carlton realized Hazel was a test run. This was the story Spencer would tell the press. This was how he was going to sell the loss of his “powers” and still eventually be taken seriously as a real investigator.
It was ridiculous, but it just might work. Then again, he’d come to expect no less from Spencer.
“Shawn, are you tryin’ to tell me you think your spirits taught you how to catch murderers and then flew the coop?” Hazel questioned.
“I don’t know! Maybe. I hope not. As much as they’ve taught me, I still can’t do as much without them! I can’t communicate with the dead, with victims. Justice will be slower! Probably. Maybe. Or maybe this is just a hiccup. Can you tell if you sense anything? If I still have a connection? Will they come back? You’ve got to help me out, Hazel.”
She studied him a moment longer and threw up her hands. “Fine! I’ll see what I can do.”
This was really happening. Eight years of this, of this job in this town and being ‘psychic,’ and Shawn was about to step out there and end it all.
He told himself there was always the backup plan. He could always claim later that his powers had returned if it didn’t work out. It’d be even more risky to try, but the option was always there, right?
No no no. That was stupid. He was doing this for reasons. Real reasons. Jules and Gus and Lassie and Lily and…
Even Henry would sort of be getting something out of it. Maybe he’d get to be proud.
Shawn would still have everything else. His friends and Jules and his life, and helping people. He’d still be able to help people.
“I’m sorry, Shawn, but I don’t think your spirits are coming back. You’re reading as normal as they come,” Hazel told him. As expected. Also as expected, a doctor looked him over after and told him there was nothing wrong with him.
There was still a decent gaggle of reporters outside the hospital. It was time. Gus was looking uneasy and Jules kept squeezing his hand. Lassie kept giving him strange looks, like he couldn’t figure out if this were really happening either.
They were halfway down the corridor, Hazel in tow to help with the press announcement, when Henry Spencer pushed through the doors at the end of the hallway.
“Dad?” Shawn asked.
They met him in the middle. Henry shoved his hands in his pockets and glanced at Hazel, and kept his answer vague.
“I uh...I wanted to be here,” he said.
“Yeah…” Shawn trailed.
And crap, now he’d have to be sure he could talk before he went out there. Or maybe not. Being a little choked up would sell it, and Henry never had to know it wasn’t all acting.
“How long have you been planning this?” Carlton asked her. Juliet had fallen behind when she noticed him back here, hovering inside the main doors. Shawn was conversing quietly with Hazel and Gus, nearly ready to go out there.
“Since Thursday night?” Juliet answered.
“Why does that sound like a question?”
“I’ve known since Thursday night.”
“So you don’t know if he’s really been thinking about something like this for a while?”
She shrugged. “I can’t say for sure...but I believe him. It’s Shawn, Carlton. He’s impulsive, but...this is different.”
They watched the doors open. They watched Shawn walk out with Gus and Henry; watched the reporters swarm him. Juliet wanted to be out there with him but they’d agreed the initial announcement should remain separate from the department. They’d go out there in the end, to get him and Gus to car and support him as friends, but this was something he had to do on his own.
The news feed on a television in a corner of the hospital lobby switched over to the footage coming from outside. Carlton gave the television a glance before he focused again on what he could see through the glass doors.
“If he would do this for you, I don’t suppose I can argue with you marrying him,” he said.
“It wasn’t just for me.”
Carlton snorted, though not unkindly. “Of course it was, O’Hara. He may have spared a thought for Guster and me, but he wouldn’t be out there right now if he didn’t want to make you happy.”
Juliet shook her head and smiled. “I’m not saying I disagree with you...I’m just saying don’t sell yourself short. He could have procrastinated on this for years. He could have drawn the reporters off back at the house some other way. You know he could have. He could have done anything.”
Now he really looked at her. “What are you getting at?”
She fidgeted with her hair and let out a breath, debating how much she should say. “Carlton...he did this now because of what happened. Not just because of the media interest. Not just because it was the best time and he still wants to be able to make money and...stop relying so much on other people. Stop lying. All of that’s true, and I love him for it. You’re not wrong…”
“He wouldn’t stop talking about how much better it would be for you, Carlton. How the last thing you need right now is more stress and you’ve always wanted the ridiculous charades to stop anyway. How if he did this he could still work with us but you’d be able to run the department the way you really want to. It was really important to him.”
He made a face. “You’re just saying that…”
“I’m not! Look, I know you two may never really talk about it—or anything, really—and I guess that’s okay, but...I don’t know. I guess I thought you needed to know. Especially right now.”
Carlton needed to know the family that had formed around him wasn’t only there because of some pack effect. He needed to know she wasn’t the only one who cared about him as much as she did. Because sometimes, and more often this week than ever, it seemed maybe he got it. But other times it seemed he didn’t quite understand.
It might make a difference and it might not, but at least he didn’t dismiss it again.
When they made it back to the house the only extra vehicles left on the street belonged to Lauren Lassiter, Karen Vick, and Lassie’s mother. There was another burst of chatter about the way the press announcement had gone, because once inside any mention of Shawn’s powers having never been real in the first place would have to be canned until they they left.
“They were eating it up!” Shawn said again. “This is gonna be great. Trust me, Lassie. You’ll look even better when Psych gets back out there. You’ll be the chief who gave us a chance to prove ourselves even without my powers. The press’ll love that too.”
“You’re keeping your name?” Jules asked.
“That’s still up in the air...we’re leaning toward yes. We have a legacy to maintain! We’ll just have to take the ‘psychic’ bit out of the private detective agency tagline.”
“I haven’t agreed to the name thing,” Gus protested.
Lassie huffed. “Just don’t think you’re getting any special treatment.You’ll have to go through the same screening process and follow the same procedures as any other consultants.”
“Hasn’t that always been the case?” Shawn asked innocently.
“I’m reiterating. I’m the chief. I’ll entitled to do that.”
Jules grinned a little as they got out of the car, and she leaned in close to Shawn. “The more things change…” she whispered.
But it was fine. It was good. Things weren’t right without Lassie being Lassie.
Inside, though, Lassie hung back in the entryway while the others filtered off to the kitchen looking for Lauren and her mother and Karen.
“Spencer, wait…” he said.
Jules let Shawn go to follow the others. She was still smiling, but now in a way that seemed maybe she knew something he didn’t. And what was that about? But then she was gone, and he didn’t have time to ask. He turned back to Lassiter.
“Yeah? What’s up, Lassie?”
“Nothing, I just…” Lassie shifted uncomfortably. His hands went to his hips for a moment and then his arms fell again.
“Thank you,” he said finally. “I...wanted to thank you.”
Shawn blinked. “Oh. I um...I mean sure, yeah, no problem, man. Don’t worry; it was mostly, you know, for Jules and all, but it’s gonna help you out too, so great. Awesome. I have nothing but good feelings about that. I mean, come on, you’re...some kind of family. Or something.” He motioned widely, encompassing, theoretically, everyone in the house. “Whatever we are, and—holy crap!”
He cut off and exclaimed because Lassie was hugging him. Lassie had initiated a hug. It was a willing Lassie-hug. Shawn returned it tentatively.
“Uh...dude? Lassie? You okay, man?”
“Spencer, for once in your life just shut up.”