Paint it Black

By dragonnan

Action / Mystery

Every Season Has

This was a new sight. Thought he'd seen it all with regards to the faker, Lassiter was stuck trying to find a response to the visual presented by Spencer and his ever present partner. Gus was walking ahead of his friend, speaking nonstop though they were still too far for any of the words to be heard. Shawn, following immediately behind, had his left hand on Guster's shoulder.

Conditioning had made their appearance at a crime scene unexpected. Spencer's infirmity and resultant mood spiral had made this little cameo a novelty. Weeks since he'd seen either one of them. Closer now, Lassiter could hear the rapidly spoken instructions guiding Spencer over the wet rocky path.

A few missteps, quite a few actually, but the grip on Guster held tight and kept him from a fall. The circle of cops, Lassiter noticed, had all turned from study of the scene to staring at the two approaching men. Irritated himself to be caught out in a lack of focus, Lassiter griped at the group to get back to work and be snappy. Then, leaving them behind, he walked towards the duo to offer a personal greeting.

“What the hell are you two clowns doing here?”

Spencer, of course, grinned widely. “Lassie! Gus, can't you just taste the love in the air? Told you he'd want us here!”

Guster, smart enough to appear nervous, frowned in response. “Trust me, Shawn, he does not want us here.”

Shawn snorted. “Gus, don't be Shia LaBouf's left hand. Of course Lassie wants us here! I can feel his need radiating off him like microwaves. And suddenly I want a Hot Pocket.”

Lassiter could feel the stupid saturating past his hairline along with moisture from the light rain. Knew he should have used a more potent hair product that morning. Another few minutes of this and he'd be commandeering the foil wrappers from Officer Nick's Reese's stash to make a protective hat.

“Fine, you go get a Hot Pocket. Meanwhile I've got a body that needs my attention.”

He could still hear them as he stalked away.

“Oh, is it Jessica Biel? Gus, is it Jessica Biel?”


Not much of a dressing down. Lassiter was off his game or coming down with a serious case of COPD if his attempt to run them off hadn't even included threats.

“Dude, I think he was smiling when he left.”

“Really?” Proving habit stronger than circumstance, Shawn tried to peer around his arm before Gus, suffering from the same malady, slapped him down.

Not one to abide a sting to his pride or flesh, Shawn whapped back, instigating a minor scuffle with neither one coming out the winner. The spat was broken up by a roaring “CUT IT!” from a certain Head Detective.

“Quick, tell me everything you see.”

Do what? That bullet must have taken more than sight if Shawn thought his best bud ready and willing to caress icky, bloated corpse with his innocent eyes. Icky, bloated, and naked corpse no less.

Aptitude for mind reading occasionally scary in its accuracy, Shawn nudged him with a punch to the lower back. “Come on! Man up and get closer!”

Gus twisted away from those pummeling knuckles and did his best not to make a fist. “You man up! How about you go over there instead!”

“Uh, hello, hard to visions without vision! We went over this on the way here!”

“You said you wanted to come here because you were craving funnel cakes!”

“No, I said if we were coming here we could also get funnel cakes.”

“I don't see any vendors, Shawn!”

“Well I don't see anything at all!”

And what had begun as a familiar and comfortable hissing exchange became a painful return to their current reality; the sting of it worse than a slap to the face by Thor's hammer. Shawn 1 Gus 0. He had a feeling he wouldn't be getting any funnel cakes.

Fingers once more tight on his shoulder, he proceeded on towards the crime scene. CSU crab walked and crouched – cameras spitting out white light that reflected against the powder of fine rain. Further away, Lassiter was speaking to a group of officers and, for that second, paying them no attention at all.

Shawn, impatient, rapidly smacked the flat of his hand against Gus's bicep. “Come on, come on, come on!”

Gus shook off his hand. “I got it, okay? Just relax!” Yeah, he could do this. He'd faked being a psychic before. Briefly. Granted it'd been to impress his Uncle Burton but even the cops had more or less bought it...

“Gus!”

“Dude, I said I got it!” Buddy in tow, he crept along the far edge of the scene, eyes locked on everything except the pasty mound of rigor stiff flesh at the center. The flowers sprouting from a row of ornamental pots, while fragrant, weren't enough to mask the heady perfume of day old death. The only comfort was that the stench seemed to be getting to Shawn just as much, nose scrinching up in a furrow.

“Dude, is this what crime scenes always smell like?” He whispered.

Still not looking at the body, Gus knelt beside a shiny in the grass and nearly sent Shawn into a face plant as he pulled him down with him. Moving some grass aside with a pen, he finally identified the object.

“What? What did you find?” Shawn started to reach forward only to be blocked by Gus's hand.

Shaking his head, Gus sat back on his heels.

“I think I just solved the case.”


Grass made barely a sound under smooth soled footwear, especially with much louder sounds close by. Gus's breathing, for example. Still, Shawn knew when Lassiter's stomp had taken him within poking range.

He waited. Waited for the in-drawn suck of air and the little hint of cinnamon breath preceding the tirade in development.

“Spe...”

“I HAVE AN ANNOUNCEMENT!”

Another wait. Anticipation was a tool as useful as a flip comb and twice as elegant. For this, sight would help but wasn't absolutely required. Besides, he had Gus. He leaned to the right with a whisper from the side of his mouth so soft bats would have struggled to hear it.

“They all looking?”

The response back was just as soft. “Yup.”

Showtime.

“I sense this man was murdered!” Full on spastic hijinks shelved in favor of safety zone regulations – no good putting on a half-time show if he tripped over one of the dancing girls – Shawn kept to the basics with one hand to his temple. He wished he felt better about the limelight. He'd been so convinced this would make it all feel normal again. Complete trust in Gus, he hadn't been surprised his buddy had tripped over the evidence so fast. One of the reasons he insisted on trying to make a scene before CSU got too handsy with the evidence.

He opened his mouth again. It was there. It was all there just waiting to spill. Unveil the criminal, get back at least a bit of respect for his skills... save his job...

But...

But he hadn't done anything. It had been Gus. It had all been Gus. And while stealing the scene was second nature to him there was something about it, this time, that made him feel kinda... sick.

He couldn't do this.

Shuffling now. They were waiting. They wouldn't wait long and even as he thought that, Lassiter started to growl.

“Spencer...”

“You know what? I'm... I'm not the guy you should be hearing from.”

Fingers yanked him off point and even shook him a little. “What are you doing?”

Palm up and out to block the hissy spatter. Murmur rising up around him he suddenly wished for a gavel to bang. And a desk. And some bad ass robes. He turned towards the fast breaths.

“I'm making this nice. Just... trust me.”

Straightening up, his hand lifted again, this time facing out.

“My associate... and the best investigator I've ever known. And my best friend. Burton Guster will now tell you the identity of the killer.”

“Shawn!” The fingers got pinchy this time as they dug into his arm, this time pulling him so hard his feet pinwheeled to keep him upright. “Dude, what the hell?”

“Would one of you get on with it!?” Lassie, never one for patience, was clearly at the gun drawing stage.

Shawn turned enough to get his hand on what he hoped was Gus's shoulder. “It's okay. Come on, man. This is your time.” And with a little push, and the feeling of loss mixed with pride, he stepped back.

He could imagine Gus, standing on a little mound of earth with all those officers staring at him. Overhead the clouds would be gray, but just starting to break apart given the bit of heat he could feel from sunbeams sneaking through. His buddy hadn't spoken yet, still fidgeting he was sure. Arms straight at his sides while he gulped and twitched and, by now, had probably glared behind himself a few times. Shawn grinned.

And then those deep, cleansing, breaths. Delicate phaps – the sound of fingers striking one another as Gus shook the tremblies out of his hands. And he was ready.

“Hello. I-I have an announcement to make.”

Shawn could hear more shuffling along with Lassie's not quite muffled “Dear God...” He also felt something else. The absolute certainty that his friend had looked back again. Only, instead of glaring, the look was no doubt closer to panic. Smiling in return, Shawn gave a thumbs up and a whispered encouragement. “You can do this, buddy.”

Another rustle and the snappy crack of vertebra as Gus straightened.

“I know who the killer is.”


Odd for them. Weird. Strange. Baffling... even. Bizarre. Yeah, bizarre.

Not one word. No asking what they should have for lunch from Gus. No random observations about hair and how that impacted all areas of life from himself.

More of the same when they arrived at the office. He assumed it was the office. He was pretty sure it was the office. Gus would have a tough time replicating the exact ratio of cinnamon to sugar to cardamon that the churro cart guy used in his signature treat. Funny thing, the ability to determine the components of a recipe didn't translate into an ability to cook it.

For the first time the glorious smell of spicy fried yumminess didn't draw him all grasshopper to honey. Hand in place on his seeing-eye Gus, he listened to his steps change from the scraping drag on concrete to the squeaky creak of hardwood. He let go just past the door. Here, at least, he could find his way around without help.

He passed his desk. Passed the TV. Passed the coffee machine, no need for burned knuckles Part Two. He walked until he felt the temperature change. Reaching up, he placed his hands flat against the glass.

Warm. If he stood that way long enough, he swore he could see the light.

He listened to papers crinkle and drawers slide open. Gus was being incredibly proactive with his desk tidying.

“You were pretty badass today.”

Drawers slid shut again. Tap, tap, click, tap.

“Yeah.”

A whole word. This felt like backwards progress. Shawn rubbed his shoulder. Still hurt even a month after he'd taken off his sling. He dropped his fingers and held them out towards the the window again. Knuckles bumped their way up the wood frame until they found the slick glass. The boardwalk was only a few feet from the office. Beyond it, the sand stretched out bumpy and soft until it met the ocean. What time was it? Was the sun starting to set? Or was it early in the day still?

He wanted to see it. He wanted to see it more than he wanted anything in the whole world. He could feel the panic bubble in his throat starting to grow and he breathed hard, holding it down. He wanted to see! Please, God, please!

“Why did you do that?”

The lurch forward bashed his nose against the glass; Gus sneaking up like a ghost in slippers. The panic shriveled at the gentle question, terrifying with proximity.

“You know that thing you always say when you're trying to impress clients? Something about getting your bells on? Well now I'm thinking that's a good idea.” Chest rub to make sure his heart hadn't actually thrust itself into his sternum before he felt around for one of the recliners. “And why did I do what, Burton?”

Playing stupid. He could do that like a magician. Sure, there were times he legitimately didn't have an answer for something. For example, what meercats ate for breakfast. Turducken? Or what five times eight was. But in this instance, he not only knew the what, but the why.

The smack of lips gave away the depth of wrathful indignation for the use of a moniker only mothers, uncles, and the occasional hot woman were permitted to utter. Only seconds before his own less than flattering name would be weaponized against him. Middle, bequeathed by a father who thought to christen his baby boy both with his career and his nom de plume. Shawn Henry Spencer was considered the height of curses in every way the term applied.

“Admit it, you thought it was fun, right?”

“Fun? Bungee jumping while someone stands behind you with a knife on the rope? I was scared out of my damn mind! I am not Gladys Knight, Shawn!”

“What, you're saying you'd rather be a Pip? Really? Come on, you're the one that found the diamond earring. You're the one with the sweet cocoa globe filled with more celebrity trivia than US Weekly. You're the one that knew about Diana Hayes and the tragic death of her husband and you are the one that remembered she'd been wearing that same pair of earrings at a press conference two weeks ago. It was solid work. I couldn't take that away from you, man.”

He couldn't tell if the snort was the flattering kind or the kind that was followed with an eye roll. Yeah, okay, so Shawn had been the one to sew the quilt of random observations together. Much as Gus hadn't wanted to look at the body, after a very intense, and fast, discussion, he'd done it. More so, he'd recognized the man. Apparently he was a butler or bodyguard or something. Hunching it up, Shawn was convinced Hayes had murdered her husband and that her butler, bodyguard... associate... had been putting the screws to her. Yadda, yadda, she hadn't wanted to pay and he hadn't gotten to live. Toss in a dead weight, according to Gus's estimating skills, of about two hundred and thirty pounds and Benny Blackmail wasn't budging from where he'd fallen. Hoping to slow the cops on identification, Hayes had stripped the guy buck and pitched his wallet.

Sure, 90% hypothesis... until Lassie and Jules had busted the murderess at the airport with a ticket to Europe.

“Are you giving up, then?”

Gus had moved while Shawn was thinking, his voice seeping from the left now. He wedging himself deeper into the chair. “Giving up? What?” Weak, trying to play the brush off when his heart wasn't in it. That was exactly the problem though, wasn't it.

“I...” He rubbed his palms against the arms of the chair. “I just need some time. I just... just want to sit here for a little while, okay? Just a little while.”

A hand on his shoulder. “Yeah, okay.”

Gus knew. He needed some time. Time to feel the space. Time to imprint smells and sensation long ago set in stone. But today... today those smells, those sensations were different. They had an added resonance. It was like Christmas when all the gifts had been opened and hugged and played with. When the food had all been eaten and the dishes washed and put away. When the needles had fallen from the tree and it was time to accept that they couldn't just keep that sparkling beauty in the living room forever.

The smell of pine would linger even after it was gone.

It had taken longer, this time, for him to accept that it was over. But today had made it plain, even to a man without sight.

Gus would give him a few minutes more. Gus would give him the rest of the day if that's what he wanted.

Because they both knew, after the lights had all been turned off, after the door had been closed and locked, that would be it. There would be nothing left. When they left this place tonight, he wouldn’t be coming back.


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