Guess what? I'm still alive!
It's been a crazy year, right? I hope you all are staying well and healthy in these strange times.
This is actually the last chapter of this story! But I've actually already started a sequel - if anyone is interested? Seriously, let me know if you would read the sequel because that'll help me decide whether I should post it!
Thank you so much for hanging in there and for all the reviews, faves, and follows. This is for you.
Also - who's watched Psych 2 the movie? Thoughts? It made me so happy!
Thank you all so so so much!
"You know, I'm really going to miss the food here," Shawn stared at the bottom of his pudding cup. Compared to the disgusting fare Crow rationed out, every meal was like a feast.
"Trust me, once we re-introduce you to home cooking and decent restaurants, you are not going to," Juliet commented, leaning back in her chair.
He glanced at her and found the slight hint of sorrow in her smile.
The more time he spent away from Crow and the gang, the more it sank in just how much of life he had missed. The world was a plethora of possibilities that he never had.
"Come on, the pudding is pretty good, right?" Shawn held up the cup, not wanting Juliet to be sad. "I mean, you can't mess up pudding; it's a semi-liquid semi-solid substance of pure deliciousness."
He was rewarded with a genuine smile this time as Juliet got up to join him at the window overlooking the park beside the hospital.
"I'm surprised you got pudding, I heard it all went missing under very suspicious circumstances." Juliet's shoulder bumped his good one as she leaned against the windowsill, the contact sending warmth radiating through him.
"Well," Shawn glanced at her, noting the way her bruises were fading away to healthy skin. "I struck a deal with the pudding thief: pudding for my silence."
She turned sharply, soft blonde curls bouncing around her face. "You know who it was?"
Shawn grinned. "It was Collins."
"The nurse?!" Juliet gasped. "No way. How do you know?"
"He taps his fingers against his thigh when he's nervous and he starts doing that whenever someone mentions the Great Pudding Mystery. He's dating a girl who works in the cafeteria, which gives him access, and he has a sweet tooth. He's the one."
"You've met him once, maybe twice. How could you possibly know all that?"
"Trust me, I'm psychic." Shawn was distracted, watching a cloud drift across the sky. "Hey, doesn't that cloud kinda look like my dad's forehead? See the wrinkles?"
"Shawn!" Juliet groaned, the sound rich with amusement.
"Come on, Jules, just look at it," Shawn tugged on her hand. He wanted to make her laugh; there was no sound more beautiful in the entire world.
Juliet shook her head with resignation and looked up. Her hand went to her mouth, a poor attempt to cover her smile. "Oh my god, it does look like his forehead!" She started laughing and Shawn beamed at the sound, wishing the moment would last forever.
They both spun around, Shawn trying to fight the panic that surged as he found a tall, imposing-looking officer at the door.
"Lassiter!" Juliet smiled. "Shawn, meet my partner, Carlton Lassiter."
Shawn wasn't a huge fan of that word: partner. He also was really not a fan of the gun at the tall man's hip, nor the serious look on the man's face mixed with a hint of nervousness. This officer was not bringing good news.
"Good to meet you," Lassiter stepped forward, sticking out a hand stiffly.
"Lassie!" Shawn masked his anxiety with a huge smile. "It's a huge honor to meet you. You don't mind if I call you Lassie, do you?"
"Great! Lassie it is," Shawn shook his hand vigorously. It's fine. We're fine. For some reason he couldn't quite pull his gaze away from the gun.
"Please don't …" The detective grimaced.
"I love the name Lassie, your family has great taste. Something about it just gives me warm fuzzy feelings… Hmm, I'm getting images of a great fluffy boy dog who loves to stick his head down wells..." He was rambling now, trying to distract himself from the way the man's right hand constantly twitched to his hip. This was a cop who used his gun frequently
"I really prefer…" The man's face reddened subtly and Shawn kept the intentionally goofy grin pasted on his face while struggling to hold down the rising tide of panic in his being. Why do I always have to play with fire?
"Lassiter!" Juliet intervened pointedly, subtly grabbing Shawn's good hand and squeezing it gently, the motion making the panic recede "Is everything set for Shawn to go home? Henry called us like five times asking when he can take Shawn."
The police had insisted that Shawn needed to have police protection until they were sure they had rooted out every member of the crime ring and placed them safely behind bars.
Detective Lassiter's gaze snapped back to Juliet. "Can we have a word?"
Juliet tensed noticeably, telling Shawn that she had finally also realized that the head detective did not have good news for them.
"Of course. One second, Shawn." Her smile didn't meet her eyes.
"Sure," Shawn returned the fake smile and looked back out the window.
Looking down at the park, he saw a kid playing with his dad, the two kicking a soccer ball back and forth as they slowly made their way across the field. The duo was pretty bad, the both of them kicking too far or off the mark and then running all over to get their wayward ball and kick it horribly again.
They were the epitome of precious normalcy.
A sudden deep ache hit Shawn. Regardless of being found and free, he could never go back to the life he had before his abduction.
He knew that any moment now Juliet would come and tell him that the FBI had made a deal with Crow. They had tried to hide the possibility from him but he had easily pieced it together.
Looking back at the father and son in the park, Shawn watched as they disappeared into the tree line.
He couldn't get the last twelve years of his life back. So much had been taken away from him. So much had been lost.
But it didn't mean that he couldn't find his life again. If Juliet could find him, Shawn could find himself too. And nobody, not even Crow, was going to get in his way.
"Hey Shawn." Juliet slipped back into the spot next to him. "I… I have some bad news, I'm really sorry…"
"Crow made a deal with the FBI," Shawn finished for her, not looking away from the park below.
Her sharp intake of breath told him he was right.
"How did… never mind. Are… are you okay?" Her hand rested on his.
She sighed beside him. "Shawn..."
He stared intently down at the empty field.
"We're not going to let you do this alone. You have your family, your friends, the whole police department, me…"
Shawn finally turned from the window to look at Juliet. "I know."
Then he smiled, a true smile that was born from the hope he found before him.
Thank you all so much for the amazing ride of this story! It was so fun to explore and play with and I truly treasure you taking the time to read this story, as well as all the beautiful reviews you have left. You all are the best!
Stay safe, my friends! And let me know if you'd be interested in reading the sequel!