A/N: I hope you all know how Hungry Hungry Hippos is played, or else this probably won't make any sense. If not, you should probably refresh your memory of the game, haha.
Also, "You Can't Handle this Episode" is the episode in which Shawn finds out that Abigail is going to Uganda, but Juliet is unaware that that happened at the time of this fic.
I still don't own Psych, Shawn, Jules, or anything else. (I DO actually own a game of Hungry Hungry Hippos, but alas, I did not invent it.)
Juliet's never thought much about what it would be like to lose one of her brothers. After their father left, and her mother's various boyfriends moved in and out before Lloyd, the theme of her family life had just been loss. She'd never had much room to dwell on what the expansion of that loss would feel like, if one of her brothers were to walk away too.
Tonight, that had changed.
Tonight, all that Juliet can feel is loss.
It takes her a long time to do the processing paperwork for Ewan. She finds herself having to constantly stand up and take breaks, walking aimlessly around the mostly-empty station. In the end, it takes her much longer than processing paperwork normally would, but she's almost grateful for that. It's a relief to find that she's the last one in the station by the time she finishes up.
She drives home slowly, lost in thought. She still can't get her head around what Ewan did. After all the lessons he'd taught her when she was a little girl—the lessons that made her want to be a cop—it just doesn't make sense. And it breaks her heart. She'd never expected her brother, her hero, to let her down like that.
She hasn't cried over Ewan's betrayal yet, but she knows it's coming. Once she gets home, there are no more distractions, and she knows she won't be sleeping tonight. Sooner or later, the full force of his betrayal is going to hit her, and it's going to be messy. Chief Vick has given her tomorrow off, and Juliet can't decide if that's a blessing or not. It might be good to go to work, get her mind off Ewan, since she's surely got a long night ahead of thinking about nothing else. But then, who knows how she'll feel in the morning. Maybe the loss won't weigh quite as heavily by then.
But she doubts that.
Juliet is still lost in thought as she arrives home, not noticing the figure sitting on her porch until she's walking up to her front door.
"Shawn!" she says, noticing him at last.
"Hey, Jules," he says, quite normally, as if it's not out of the ordinary to be sitting on her porch in the middle of the night.
"What are you doing here? It's late!"
Shawn shrugs. "Thought you could use a distraction. And I brought a pineapple, in case you were in need of delicious flavor."
In any other circumstance, she wouldn't have wanted to see anyone. Especially Shawn. Especially now, now that things have been so weird between them, what with Shawn and Abigail, and Shawn's suspicions about Ewan, and then those suspicions being correct. But she isn't going to sleep tonight, and Shawn is here, and he clearly still feels guilty, probably for being right, and if she lets herself think about it, the comfort that the distraction of Shawn provides is probably exactly what she needs.
She shouldn't want the comfort of Shawn. She knows it. He isn't hers to want. But she looks at him, and for a second, it seems like something like nervousness flashes in his eyes, as though he's not really sure she's going to let him in. She sighs. "Come on in," she says, unlocking the door and pushing it open.
Shawn follows her, slowly, into her house, balancing the aforementioned pineapple on what appears to be a stack of board games.
"Whatcha got there?" she asks, tossing her keys on the coffee table and turning on the lights.
He sets the stack of boxes on the coffee table too. "I thought we could play a game," he says, "come see!"
He grabs the pineapple off the stack of boxes and heads off towards her kitchen as she comes over to look at the games. She can't help feeling her heart softening a little as she thinks about the gesture. She can tell Shawn is worried about her, but she appreciates him not pushing her, instead just showing up, so she won't be alone. Maybe it's the psychic in him that just knows what she needs, but she can't stop the little thrill that goes through her when she thinks about him going to the Psych office, picking out the games, and then coming to wait for her. It just means a lot, to think about him going out of his way like that.
She catches herself, realizing she's been quiet a moment too long, and looks at the games Shawn brought.
"I didn't even know they had Val Kilmer Scene It!," she calls to him.
"They don't," Shawn says cheerfully, coming in from the kitchen, the pineapple somehow already sliced and arranged on a plate. He looks at the Val Kilmer box lovingly. "I do. Gus and I made it. Only, he never lets us play 'cause we know all the answers, which he says is cheating."
Juliet looks at him. "Doesn't that also mean we can't play?"
"Not at all, Jules, it technically just means you can't beat me," he argues.
She smiles, and it feels good to smile. "Not happening. Pick something else."
He laughs. "I sensed you might say that. I also brought '80s Monopoly and Hungry Hungry Hippos."
"I'm not sure I've got a whole game of Monopoly in me tonight," she says, though the thought of Shawn staying there with her for as long as a game of Monopoly takes is tempting her more than she wants to admit. "But Hungry Hungry Hippos I can do."
Shawn's eyes light up. "We'll have a tournament!" He says. "But just so you know, I absolutely crush Gus in this game."
For the next hour, they sit on the floor around the coffee table, playing game after game of Hungry Hungry Hippos, Juliet matching Shawn's victories game for game, each game somehow getting more and more heated as they frantically try to catch the marbles. They keep trading off victories and Juliet is losing count of how many games they've played, so she finally calls for a tiebreaker.
If Juliet had stepped back for a second to think about the situation, she would have laughed. The air is charged with a kind of energy she can't quite place, and they're not even teasing each other anymore, both just focusing all their energy on the game. Shawn wins the penultimate marble, and then there's only one left, and it's anyone's game.
They both push their hippos a little too hard for the final ball and it goes flying off the game board. Shawn leaps up to catch it, but it evades him, instead pinging against a cheap picture frame on a shelf on her wall, knocking the frame over, which he somehow does manage to catch in time, before the marble is landing back on the board, rolling directly into the mouth of the pink hippo that Juliet is still holding open.
"Did you see that? That was unbelievable!" she cries, standing up, her fists in the air.
"Oh please, Jules," he says, "you couldn't have done that without me! It's half my victory!" But he's laughing, and then in the next moment, without even thinking about it, it seems, he grabs her hands, twirling her around.
They collapse, laughing, onto the couch, and it occurs to Juliet that not only has she not thought about Ewan in at least an hour, but also, this is the most fun she's had in ages, the most at home she's felt in a long time.
When they finish laughing, they're quiet for a moment, and Juliet is still flooded with the warmth of laughing with Shawn. She glances over at him, and he's not looking at her, but his cheeks are flushed, matching hers, and she knows, somehow, that he feels the warmth too.
They stay quiet for a few long moments, and Juliet feels the energy in the room shift a little. Suddenly she remembers that it's late, and she's here, alone, with Shawn, and suddenly things feel a lot more serious than they did moments before.
When she glances over at Shawn again, it occurs to her that he is a lot closer to her on the couch than she thought he was. When did that happen? For a second, she gets a little nervous. But all he does is reach over, not even looking at her, and takes her hand in his. Before she can even say anything, he starts talking.
"You know," he says, "I don't have any siblings."
He's still not looking at her; he's got the faraway look in his eyes that she's only seen on rare occasion, like the moment he realized Yang had kidnapped his mom.
"Gus is the only brother I've ever had," he continues. "I've never had anyone else that was even close to a brother. He just is my brother, in everything except blood. Well, we did try to make a blood pact together once, when we were eight, and I think my dad's still a little mad about that one, but," he shakes his head. "Anyway, don't get me wrong, Gus—," he pauses for a second, laughing a little in more of an uncomfortable than an amused way.
He swallows. "Gus was there for me, when my mom left. He was. But…he wasn't on the inside, you know? He wasn't living in my house, he wasn't raised by my dad. Well, not full-time, anyway." He smiles a little, scratching at the stubble on his chin.
"Shawn-," she says, unsure where this is going.
He turns to face her, while his thumb rubs patterns on the back of her hand, almost unconsciously. He still doesn't meet her eyes.
"My point is," he continues, "that Gus was—is—the closest person to me. And in all the ways that mattered, he's my brother. I look up to him like a brother, and I always have, and you…can never tell him that."
He looks up at her playfully for a second, then looks down again, his expression turning serious again. "But the thing is, he's not literally my brother. He didn't always understand the family stuff. Partially because I didn't always tell him, but also because he wasn't living it. He wasn't stuck under that roof the way that I was."
He stops again, but this time looks up into her eyes. "What I'm trying to say is this: Gus isn't—technically, at least—my brother. But if he betrayed me, somehow…Jules, it would kill me. I think I'd lose my mind. So I can't imagine what you're going through, this thing with Ewan, but I know if it were me, I'd be so angry and-," he shakes his head. "Just so hurt."
"Shawn." She says softly.
He's still looking at her, directly into her eyes. "Look, Jules, all I'm saying is, I know it's…a lot. This Ewan thing, it's going to be hard for a while. But, well. I'm here. Okay? I'm here."
She smiles at him softly, feeling tears start to well up in her eyes, but she doesn't want to cry right now, so she keeps her mouth shut, afraid that if she opens it, she'll unleash the floodgates.
Shawn's still looking at her, his expression soft and gentle. "You're…" he pauses, opens his mouth and then closes it again, looking a little flushed, almost bashful. "Uh,…really important to me," he finally finishes, but Juliet isn't at all sure that that's what he had wanted to say.
She nods, thoughtfully, but doesn't say anything in return. Shawn is really important to her, too, after all. More important than she's ready to admit. And tonight, here, with the game and with the way he's still holding her hand so gently, so tenderly, it feels like home. It's safe and familiar and comforting, while also new and different from the way things between her and Shawn have always been. She wants more of it. The way that things felt tonight, this could be the way that coming home is, at the end of a long day, just pineapple and board games and Shawn twirling her around the room.
But, she remembers suddenly, pain seizing her out of nowhere, that it can't be that way. Shawn still has Abigail, and he is here comforting her as a friend, and that is all that this can be.
Shawn's still holding her hand, his eyes full of concern since she hasn't said anything, and it hurts. She looks up at him, and it's her turn to not quite say what she wanted to say. "Thank you, Shawn," she says, "I really needed this tonight."
It's not a lie, but it's not quite the whole truth, either. She needed him tonight, and the comfort he's brought her makes her wonder how she can ever go another night, particularly another night like this one, without him. But he's still not hers, and so she tries to swallow the lump of pain in her throat, the one that makes her want to keep holding Shawn's hand until morning comes, and maybe then he'll just stay, maybe then this thing can last.
"Anytime, Jules," Shawn says, giving her a half smile. Before she can even register it, he brings their joined hands to his lips, brushing a kiss on the top of her hand.
Immediately, he looks horrified, realizing that he's accidentally taken things a step too far, and he lets go of her hand, his face reddening and his eyes flashing wildly around the room. It endears Juliet to him more than she thought possible, Shawn being a gentleman, the way he's mortified at how his sweetness and care for her causing him to go just a little overboard, not that she minded.
They're quiet for a beat, the air thick with tension, and then Shawn clears his throat. "I, uh, should go," he says, "you probably want to get to sleep. Gotta rest up for the next Hungry Hiungry Hippos tournament. I won't go easy on you next time." It's a lame attempt at a joke, but it makes her smile, Shawn being too flustered to make a proper attempt at humor. His mouth is still hanging open just a little, like it does when he is trying to process something he can't quite wrap his head around.
"I think I've proven myself more than up to the challenge," she says, keeping her tone light.
He nods, closing his mouth, and lifts the stack of games off the table. He's about to turn to leave when she stops him, putting her hand lightly on his arm. She can't just let him go without saying anything, not when he's been so vulnerable with her and brought her so much comfort.
"Shawn," she says, "thank you. I mean it. This was…you were so great tonight." He smiles.
"I'm just…," she continues. "Really grateful. It really meant a lot, you coming here, and talking to me, and everything."
It's not enough. It doesn't convey at all the depth of her gratitude, how much she wants him to stay at that moment and never leave, but it has to be enough, for now. They're both clearly not ready to say all the things they'd like to, but for now, these little moments are just enough to get by on, never quite satiating them, but not leaving them entirely starving either.
Shawn simply nods, and she opens the door, letting him out into the night, ignoring the urge to pull him back in. Once he leaves, she heads back into the living room, taking the nearly empty pineapple plate into the kitchen to wash it.
As she dries the plate, going to put it into the cupboard, a folded scrap of paper catches her eye, lying on the white tile countertop next to the cutting board where Shawn had cut the fruit earlier.
As she picks it up, something falls out of the fold, dropping on the wooden floor with a ping.
A white Hungry Hungry Hippos marble.
She smiles, turning back to the paper, instantly registering Shawn's messy scrawl. "Last one's yours," it says. "You win."
She shakes her head, smiling. Shawn hadn't been in the kitchen since he'd cut up the pineapple, so he had to have left it then, before they'd even opened the game, just to make her smile, privately, later on.
She had lost a lot tonight, there was no question about it. The loss of her trust in Ewan was going to sting for a long time. "And yet," she thinks with satisfaction, unable to stop herself from smiling as she turns out the kitchen light and heads towards her bed, her hand still clutching the note, "I did win. I did indeed."
A/N: Thanks so much for reading! I had a lot of fun writing this one. Shawn is probably a little softer than he normally would be, here, but also it's my fic so is that a surprise at all?
Would love to hear your thoughts in the reviews! Thanks again so very much for taking the time to read this!