Amber informed me that Season Four starts on Sunday, and I promised her some old-school Shawn and Kyle, with unresolved sexual tension. She and I totally enable each other. ^_~ Carol totally wacked me upside the head with this one. So, here it is-- not as upbeat as I wanted it to be, but after rewatching the last episode of S3, it was hard to be cheery. Still, I tried. And, bonus, boys!sleepover. Yay.
Enjoy, Amber-darling. I would dearly love comments from anyone else, as well. My muse and I are complete 'hos. *sigh* Unbeta-d, and written in roughly an hour and a half, so please excuse any errors. ^_^
"All along the watchtower, princes kept the view,
while all the women came and went, barefoot servants, too
Outside in the distance a wildcat did growl,
two riders were approaching, the wind began to howl."
-Jimi Hendrix, "All Along the Watchtower"
And Princes Kept the View 1/1
by Meredith Bronwen Mallory
"For the last time, Dad," Kyle said, his exasperation palpable despite the fact he had almost placed his entire head in the refrigerator in the tireless quest for more root beer. "It's not a 'sleepover'-- *girls* have sleepovers. Shawn's just spending the night."
Tom Baldwin frowned ever so slightly, shaking his head as he finished checking the locks on the backdoors. His wife was already upstairs in bed, asleep or dozing while Jay Leno interviewed inhumanly stupid people on the Vegas Strip. Tom himself would be up in a minute to change the channel to a late night show he could actually stand, as soon as he finished his routine lock check. Both his wife and son did not hesitate to correlate this procedure with the anal retentive nature of Tom's job, but it made the older man feel better all the same. Lock check, a glass of milk, and then up to bed. Assuming he could get to the milk, as Kyle was still rooting around in the fridge.
"Are we safe from the bad guys?" Shawn teased, climbing the basement stairs to lean carelessly against the threshold. "All quiet on the western front, Uncle Tommy?"
"He does this every night," Kyle said, finally emerging with an arm full of Pepsi and Root Beer cans. He nodded towards Shawn, and then towards the impressive collection of potato chips and cheesy poofs clustered on the table. "Get the rest of the goods, will you?"
"If I have to," Shawn sighed dramatically, loading up on the snack food even before the words were out of his mouth.
"Tell Dad we're not having a sleepover," Kyle said, sliding narrowly between his cousin and the kitchen counter. "He thinks we're gonna paint our nails or something."
"I'm just spending the night, Uncle Tommy," Shawn said in an eerie echo of Kyle, sounding deeply offended. "No nail polish or chick flicks involved."
"Oh, *Leonardo*," Kyle swooned theatrically. "I get so sick of that-- I swear to God, every girl in the west hallway has a picture of him in their locker."
"It's a sickness," Shawn said sadly, flicking his gaze over the younger boy. "Though you do that pretty well..."
"Shut up, asshole," Kyle returned, attempting to balance his load of carbonated beverages and kick his cousin in the shin.
"No roughhousing," Tom reminded the boys, mostly out of habit. He took a deep swig of milk-- straight from the carton, since there wasn't much left-- and turned off the kitchen lights. "Don't stay up all night, either. Your Mom'll kill me."
On cue, the boys chorused, "Whose Mom?"
"Both of them," Tom mourned, mussing his son's hair as he passed. "I'm serious-- lights out by one."
"Yeah, yeah," Kyle said, attempting to armlessly fend off the attack on his hair.
"No promises," Shawn added, following the lanky young man down the stairs, ruffling Kyle's hair as well. Tom watched them go for a moment, before turning out the hall light and climbing the stairs. There were a few moments of muffled conversation, before the chaotic sounds of screaming and climactic music signaled the start of a movie. Wincing, Tom hoped the sound wouldn't carry all the way up the stairs.
"This is lame," Shawn said much later, frowning at the television. Both boys had progressed from sprawling on the couch to sprawling on their sleeping bags even closer to the screen, occasionally wrestling each other for possession of the barbecue chips. Outside, a nest of crickets under the basement window tried in vain to make themselves heard over Independence Day. "Like the alien technology just *happens* to be compatible with Windows OS."
"Nothing is compatible with Windows," Kyle said, stretching just enough to place his empty pop can on the coffee table. "Mac is the way to go."
"You can't game for shit on a Mac!" Shawn scoffed, finishing off his can as well. He cast a cursory glance over the cans clustered on his side of the low table. "I think I'm ahead."
Rolling over, Kyle reached in the mini-fridge and retrieved new drinks-- cola for his cousin, and a root beer for himself. He popped the tab and began drinking as if he hadn't just downed a solid dozen already. "Well," he said, clinking cans with the older boy, "someday, we'll do this with beer, and then we'll see who the real lightweight is." Shawn made a vague noise of disbelief, masterfully turning away for a moment to hide his yawn. On screen, Jeff Goldbloom was yelling 'go faster', and Will Smith was hooting about the fat lady. Kyle took Shawn's distraction as an opportunity to scrub ruthlessly at his own eyes, blinking hard. Aside from the flickering illumination of the screen, the only light in the basement was the yellowing bulb above his dad's shamelessly unused tool bench, and dim glow of the computer's screensaver, which proudly proclaimed "SHAWN & KYLE F-ING RULE". Added to the minor infraction of messing with his dad's computer, the cable clock blazed numbers far in excess of one in the morning. Kyle scratched under his shirt, having reached the stage of sleep deprivation in which all colors seemed to take on new and strange dimensions.
"You think the government really has crap like that stored away? Aliens and stuff?" Kyle asked, resting his chin in his hands. Shawn rolled over on his belly, chewing a potato chip thoughtfully.
"Let's put it this way," he said after a minute, "I don't think little bug-eyed gray aliens are out there abducting people and doing unauthorized prostate exams or whatever, *but*," he raised a finger, "if the government was hiding stuff like that from us, I wouldn't be surprised."
"So, in other words," the younger cousin smirked, "you're a puss who won't commit."
"Oh, come on," Shawn said, flicking chip bits at his friend, "what's so fascinating about human asses? Don't tell me you buy all that Area 51 shit."
"I dunno," Kyle drawled, blowing his long brown bangs out of his face, "I just wonder, is all. It's a big universe."
"King of the understatement," Shawn said, turning his attention back to the final moments of the film. "You should have gotten a horror movie. Something with a few more hot girls."
"Hot girls in horror movies always die," Kyle seemingly deep in contemplation of yet another empty root beer. "It's like a law, or something, if you have sex in a horror flick--"
"You're gonna die," Shawn finished, popping the tape out and tossing it aside. He began flipping late night cable channels with a speed that made Kyle's eyes hurt. "You know, Mr. Seyer would say that's Puritan influence extending into modern day America."
"Exams are over, brown-noser," Kyle groaned, "I don't even want to think about school for the next three months."
"Well, I might have to think about it," the other boy snorted, "the parents want me to get a chemistry tutor over the summer. Senior year prep and all that."
"Sucks to be you," Kyle confiscated the remote and began shuffling through the video games with one hand, the other rearranging cords with eerie precision.
"I'm gonna open the window-- it's hot," Shawn climbed up on the couch, displacing pillows as he went. "Anyway, Mom and Dad are all hyped up about getting into a good school," he lowered his voice, mimicking the tenor of his father, "'college sets the tone for the rest of your life, son.'"
"Oh, please. You're kidding."
"Not," Shawn insisted, working the window latch loose. "Though you'll never guess what college did for Kevin Baker."
Kyle looked up, still trying to decide between Classic Arcade Games and Hot Rod Racers, "Kevin *who*?"
"The asshole down the street-- my mom is friends with his. He graduated a few years ago."
"Oh, yeah. Football player."
"Anyway," Shawn grunted, having at last subdued the window. "He's gay now."
"Bull shit!" the younger boy claimed with a derisive hoot, "I call no way."
"I call 'way'," Shawn said seriously, pulling at the neck of his t-shirt. He sat down with his back against the couch. "He was at the Memorial Day picnic with his boyfriend." At Kyle's questioning look, he elaborated, "Skinny blond dude-- a swimmer. Dad was freaked."
"Maybe you should list that as a reason not to hustle you into higher learning," Kyle smirked, sliding up to sit at his cousin's elbow. "Weird."
"Yeah," Shawn said, tipping his head back against the cushions. Discomforted by the distant look that came over his friend's face, Kyle tossed a game controller roughly into the blond boy's lap.
"So, are we gonna play, or are we gonna play?"
The crickets had little competition by four-- the almost bell-like sound of their song easily trumping the static from the abandoned T.V. Kyle woke to a field of navy blocking his view, frowning as he shoved the shirt off his pillow. He was sprawled on his back on Shawn's sleeping bag, half-buried under the horrid orange and brown afghan his mom usually kept folded on the back of the couch. The navy thing turned out to be Shawn's Homework Never Killed Anyone, But Why Risk It? t-shirt, which the older boy had apparently discarded despite the chill now pervading the basement. Kyle's own feet were freezing and, apparently, draped across Shawn's thighs. His cousin was currently using the appendages to prop up the novel he was reading.
"What are you doing?" Kyle asked blearily, staring at the hollow of Shawn's throat.
"Reading," Shawn murmured distractedly, "since my host pooped out on me." Kyle squirmed on the sleeping bag, reaching underneath his shoulder to discover one of the video game controllers practically embedded in his arm pit.
"Aren't you cold?" he asked, fingering his cousin's shirt. It smelled strongly of the ocean-spray stuff Shawn's mom always bought for him. "What are you reading?"
"No, and The Dead Zone by Stephen King," Shawn said, not looking up as he turned a page. Underneath an empty bag of chips, Kyle could see two Dean Koontz novels resting by Shawn's hip, no doubt also pilfered from his dad's shelf on the other side of the basement.
"How long have you been up?" he asked, eyeing the thickness of all three books.
"All night, Sleeping Beauty," Shawn smirked. "Door to December was too weird for me-- Phantasms was all right. Dean Koontz wishes he was Stephen King."
"You are so weird," Kyle said, surprised at both himself and his cousin-- neither one of them had attempted to change their odd positions. In fact, Shawn shifted his left foot a little, to better support the bulk of the novel he'd already worked his way through.
"Isn't that the one about the psychic guy?" Kyle asked, able to make out the black-and-red roulette wheel emblazoned on the cover. When Shawn shifted a little, he was also able to see the skulls grinning out from the pair of dice.
"Yeah-- he's in a coma for six years, and he wakes up able to see the future," Shawn said, finally looking up. "So, I've got an existential question for you."
"You asked me an existential question earlier-- about the aliens."
"Man," Kyle groaned, "it's four in the morning. Your big words hurt me."
Shawn threw one of the small couch pillows. "Whatever. Here's my question. If you could save the world from a terrible war or nuclear holocaust by killing one man, would you do it?"
"Damn, Shawn, that's depressing."
"That's what the book is about."
"I don't care-- it's fucking depressing." Kyle said, staring up at the basement ceiling. The off-white paint was cracked and yellowing in places, looking disturbingly like a the lines on a palm, or a fortuneteller's tea leaves. He threw an arm over his eyes. "Besides, you had logic problems with the alien abduction theory-- what about free will?" His skin was crawling, but that was just because the basement was cold and Shawn couldn't be bothered to put his stupid shirt on. "Couldn't you just convince that person that they were going to destroy the world if they continued the way they were?"
"People who really believe stuff aren't that easily swayed," Shawn said in an oddly adult voice. "I mean, some people are so convinced that way they believe is right... they wouldn't care if the world were destroyed or not."
"I guess," Kyle said uncomfortably.
"So, would you?"
"Hey, you copped out on the alien question--," Kyle managed through a tight throat, "I don't have to answer yours."
"Easy, man," Shawn said, patting Kyle's ankle in an oddly comforting motion. "It was just a question."
"That tickles, asshole." The younger boy drew the afghan fully over his lap, gazing at some point far over his cousin's head.
"Wuss." Shawn smiled, attention fully back on the plight of John Smith, teeth worrying his lower lip. For minutes that seemed to slide past like lifetimes, Kyle watched him from beneath half-closed eyes, aware of each line and shadow of his best friend's face. The work bench light had dimmed and, even though a little breath of predawn was creeping through the window, he was still surprised Shawn could read in washed-yellow illumination.
"Besides, real life doesn't work that way," Kyle said, seemingly between one endless breath and another. Shawn looked up questioningly. "Black and white; good and evil," Kyle rushed on, "real life doesn't work that way. No aliens, no set future. No one-man lynch pin who can change everything."
"Probably not," Shawn nodded, offering a small smile. "Most of the time in history, one dictator just gets replaced by another. And if we get ever get abducted by aliens, I'll eat your smelly gym socks."
"Deal," Kyle said, sighing heavily.
"Oh, go back to sleep," Shawn said with fond irritation. "You already crapped out once-- it doesn't matter now."
"At least I won't be lying to my dad-- I did sleep." Kyle settled in, careful not to move his feet, and closed his eyes. He pulled Shawn's t-shirt over his face to block out the growing sunlight, and the palm-lined ceiling hovering above it all.
The lines remained in the darkness behind his eyes, though-- they followed him down into that shallow, hyperaware sleep that always comes with long nights and too much caffeine. Kyle's dreams jumped and quivered like a run of old film, images distressingly sharp. The world was divided by an enormous wall-- a gray wall of cement and bones that did nothing to block out the wail of those it excluded. Somewhere, Shawn was strumming on his vintage guitar, singing "All Along the Watchtower" in his hopelessly off-tone alto. Kyle was looking for him, running along a wall that would never end. He looked down into his own hands and saw the skull dice from Shawn's mass-market paper back and knew he was dreaming. Knew it, and was not comforted, because the wall was high and he could not tell if Shawn was on the inside or out.
*puppy dog eyes* Comment? Please?